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News Digest: Syrian hostage 'overwhelmed' after release

Peter Theo Curtis, the US journalist released this week by an al-Qaida-related group in Syria, emerged from his home with his mother, Nancy, and expressed wonderment at release efforts that had been going on during his two-year captivity.

"There have been hundreds of people, brave determined and big-hearted people all over the world working for my release. I am overwhelmed," he said. He had arrived on Tuesday after flying to the United States from Israel.

Rebel forces seize Ukraine port

Pushing west in a new offensive along Ukraine's strategic coastline, heavily armed Russian-backed separatist forces captured new territory yesterday, far from their previous battles with government troops.

The bold offensive along a new south-eastern front raised the prospect that the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea, which also would give them control over the entire Azov Sea.

After a third day of heavy shelling, which sent many residents fleeing, rebel fighters with dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles entered Novoazovsk, a resort town of 40,000 on the Azov Sea, the mayor told the Associated Press.

The separatist attack appears to have caught government forces off guard, and they were scrambling to build up defences yesterday.

Israel and Hamas declare victory

Both Israel's prime minister and Hamas have declared victory in the Gaza war – though their competing claims left questions over the future of their uneasy ceasefire.

Benjamin Netanyahu's comments, delivered in a prime-time address on national television, appeared aimed at countering critics of the war, with both hardliners in his governing coalition and residents of rocket-scarred southern Israel saying the war was a failure because it did not halt Hamas's rocket attacks or oust the group from power.

Masked Hamas militants carrying heavy weapons gave their own address upon the rubble of one destroyed Gaza neighbourhood, though their own major demands will not be addressed until indirect talks with Israel begin again in Cairo.

New exams for nurses who trained overseas

Nurses who trained outside Europe will do two exams instead of a supervised work placement as part of a new process assessing their eligibility to work in the UK.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said the new registration system, to be introduced this autumn, will ensure that the hundreds of nurses and midwives who trained overseas and wish to practise in the UK are assessed in a robust and objective way, in order to protect the public.

Britain rapped over lack of female representation

Britain is lagging behind Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar and Kyrgyzstan in its efforts to increase the number of women in politics, a damning report reveals today.

Women are dramatically under-represented at all levels of politics from the Cabinet to the town hall, and as a result Britain has tumbled to 65th in a global league table of female representation.

According to the Counting Women In study, David Cameron's arrival in office made no difference to the UK's downwards trend.

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