Iraqi state TV says government forces have begun a military operation to recapture Tikrit from the Islamic State group.
The Iraqi army and Shi'ite militias have for weeks been closing in on Tikrit, a main IS stronghold in the country, and now they hope to retake the city.
Syrian rebel forces in Aleppo have rejected a UN envoy plan for a freeze in fighting in the northern city.
At least 19 Christians who were taken captive by Islamic State militants in northeastern Syria have been released, activists say.

Bomb blasts kill 37 people in Iraq

In a series of attacks in and around Iraq's capital, 37 people have been killed.
The Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie, has been handed a fourth life sentence in prison by an Egyptian court.
Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas has been declared a "terrorist" organisation by an Egyptian court, taking ties between the two to a new low.
Iran believes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's efforts to abort a nuclear deal are fruitless.
Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas has been declared a "terrorist" organisation by an Egyptian court.
Graffiti artist Banksy has released a video of him purportedly travelling to the Gaza Strip and leaving his social commentary artworks on buildings.
The self-proclaimed Islamic State group has released a video in which militants in Iraq are seen destroying ancient artefacts.
Allegations of fiscal misconduct at the private and state homes of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are to be investigated.
Syria's refugee crisis is approaching a "dangerous turning point", says UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

Jihadist executioner 'unmasked'

West Londoner Mohammed Emwazi has been identified as being the Islamic State group's "Jihadi John", according to the Washington Post and the BBC.
West Londoner Mohammed Emwazi has been identified as being Islamic State's "Jihadi John", according to the Washington Post and the BBC.
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