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    John Kerry's spokesman said Wednesday the U.S. Secretary of State has raised concerns about "some of the rhetoric coming out of Turkey" suggesting U.S. is connected to a political movement the Turkish president blames for the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey, NBC News reported. 

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claimed loyalists of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania, are responsible for Monday's killing of Ambassador Andrey Karlov at an Ankara art gallery, Reuters reported.

    "It's a ludicrous claim, absolutely false, there's no basis of truth in it whatsoever," State Department spokesman John Kirby later reporters of rhetoric suggesting the U.S. supported the assassination "because of the presence of Mr. Gulen here in the United States."

    No motive has been released for why 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas, a member of Ankara's riot police, opened fire on the envoy. Senior Turkish officials don't believe it was a lone wolf attack. 



    Photo Credit: Burhan Ozbilici/AP

    Mevlut Mert Altintas shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. A Russian official says that the country's ambassador to Turkey has died after being shot by a gunman in Ankara.Mevlut Mert Altintas shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. A Russian official says that the country's ambassador to Turkey has died after being shot by a gunman in Ankara.

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    Hartford police officers visited a brave little girl in Hartford this morning who has been recovering after being shot in November and they brought Santa along for the visit.

    Police said the 10-year-old girl, Ariana, was sitting in her Branford Street home when gunshots rang out around 3:45 p.m. on Sunday Nov. 6 and a bullet struck her under her eye, police said.

    When officers responded to the scene, they found Ariana’s father putting her in a car, police said.

    [[407788525,C]]

    She was taken at first to Saint Francis Hospital, then transported to Connecticut Children's Medical Center.

    On Wednesday, police officers, as well as the Hartford Guardians, went back to the girl’s home, but this time it was for a positive visit. They brought Santa with them to meet Ariana and spread some joy.



    Photo Credit: Hartford Police
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    When a 13-year-old from North Haven saw a stranger in need, he jumped into action, and now the police department is recognizing his effort.

    Christian Mercado was riding the bus home on Monday when he saw a woman lying on the sidewalk on Quinnipiac Avenue. Mercado rushed off the bus as the next stop and ran toward the woman while trying to get the attention of passing drivers.

    The 66-year-old woman had fallen and had cuts on her nose and forehead. Mercado called 911 and police and paramedics responded.

    Responding officers wanted to reward Mercado for his concern and willingness to help a stranger. On Wednesday, officers dropped by North Haven Middle School and presented Mercado with a $250 gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods as a token of appreciation.



    Photo Credit: North Haven Police Department
    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

    North Haven police officers presented Christian Mercado with a $250 gift card at the North Haven Middle School on Wednesday.North Haven police officers presented Christian Mercado with a $250 gift card at the North Haven Middle School on Wednesday.

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    A former Michigan State University doctor — who has been accused of molesting dozens of patients, including at least one Olympic gymnast — was hit with a third lawsuit on Wednesday, NBC News reported. 

    Tiffany Thomas Lopez, 36, alleged in court papers that Dr. Larry Nassar repeatedly abused her under the guise of invasive pelvic treatments when she was a student athlete and that Michigan State staffers ignored her complaints.

    The suit, which also names Michigan State, is the latest legal blow for Nassar. He's been accused of violating girls and young women in more than 50 police complaints. He was charged last month with sexually assaulting a young girl at his home, and was just arrested on child pornography charges.



    Photo Credit: AP

    File - Dr. Larry Nassar appears during a video arraignment in Mason, Mich., Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.File - Dr. Larry Nassar appears during a video arraignment in Mason, Mich., Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.

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    More Americans than ever are being diagnosed with melanoma, and it's not just because doctors are better at catching it early, researchers told NBC News Wednesday.

    Despite warnings to stay out of the sun, use sunscreen and shun tanning beds, rates of the deadliest form of skin cancer have risen steadily since 2009, the team of skin experts said.

    "The current lifetime risk of an American developing invasive melanoma is 1 in 54 compared with 1 in 58 when we last reported in 2009," they wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association's JAMA Dermatology.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    A mole caused by melanoma skin cancer is pictured in this file photo.A mole caused by melanoma skin cancer is pictured in this file photo.

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    President-elect Donald Trump said the truck ramming attack at a Christmas market in Berlin is an "attack on humanity and it's got to be stopped."

    Trump made the comments in brief remarks to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida following a top-secret security briefing. He said the violence in Germany validates his assessment of Islamic-inspired threats.

    "Hey, you've known my plans all along and it's, they've proven to be right, 100 percent. What's happening is disgraceful," he said. 

    Trump condemned the Berlin attack in a statement on Monday.

    "ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad," he said then. 

    Asked on Wednesday about his statement that ISIS is targeting Christians, Trump said: "Who said that, when did, when was that said?"

    When a reporter said it was part of his statement, Trump responded: "It's an attack on humanity. That's what it is, it's an attack on humanity and it's got to be stopped."

    With Trump during Wednesday's remarks were his pick for national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, and his incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus.

    Trump also said he talked to President Barack Obama two days ago, but not since then.



    Photo Credit: AP

    President-elect Donald Trump, center, accompanied by Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, right, and retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a senior adviser to Trump, left, speaks to members of the media at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016.President-elect Donald Trump, center, accompanied by Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, right, and retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a senior adviser to Trump, left, speaks to members of the media at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016.

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    A mom left her two children in the car while she allegedly took her infant and tried stealing items from a Wal-Mart in Naugatuck, police said.

    On Tuesday, Naugatuck Police got a call about two children being left alone in a car at 4:38 p.m. Police said the two children around 3 and 7 years old. 

    Temperatures were in the 20s on Tuesday and police said the car was not running, according to the report. 

    Jennifer Sprague, 32, was located inside the Wal-Mart with her third child, where she was allegedly selecting items and trying to return them fraudulently, police said. 

    Sprague is charged with risk of injury, leaving a child under the age of 12 unsupervised, reckless endangerment and shoplifting. Her bond was set at $10,000. 



    Photo Credit: Naugatuck Police

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    A Kentucky mall says it plans to permanently ban a shopper who berated two Hispanic women in a racially-charged, expletive-laden tirade captured on video.

    The video, posted by Renee Bucker to Facebook and YouTube Tuesday night, shows a white woman chiding the shopper for bringing items to the cashier while a friend was checking out.

    "They can't act like the hero, they come here to live and act like everybody else," the woman is heard saying. "Get in the back of the line like everybody else does and be somebody. That's the way I look at it. You're nobodies, just because you come from another country, it don't make you nobody."

    The woman tells the two Hispanic shoppers to "go back to wherever the f--- you come from," and "speak English."

    "You’re in America. If you don’t know it, learn it,” she continued, and claimed taxpayers probably paid for the woman's items because "she's on welfare."

    Buckner's pastor, Pastor Timothy Findley, Jr., of Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center in Louisville, tell NBC News that after the video stopped rolling, according to Buckner, the woman continued "to just racially heckle these women, and made specific comments regarding Donald Trump 'fixing' this" and "making America great again."

    "We are aware of the video posted online [Tuesday] from inside JCPenney,” a mall spokesperson wrote on its official Facebook page. “Jefferson Mall strives to create a comfortable and convenient experience for all of our guests and we absolutely do not condone this type of behavior. We will work with JCPenney to identify this woman and, once identified, she will be permanently banned from Jefferson Mall, per our Behavioral Code of Conduct.” 

    Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he was "sad and disappointed to see conduct like this," and hopes the video prompts family discussions about "basic human values, dignity and respect" during the holidays.

    "As a country of immigrants, we must understand that we only move forward through peace, acceptance and embracing those who are different from us," Fischer said in a statement. "These are basic American values protected in our Constitution, values embraced in this welcoming, compassionate community.”

    Meanwhile, JCPenney said it is "deeply disturbed" by the incident and is asking for the public's help in identifying the two Hispanic women who were targeted so they could reimburse them for their entire purchase and "offer a sincere apology for their experience."

    "We are deeply disturbed by the incident that took place at our Jefferson Mall store, in which one customer made extremely inappropriate remarks to two other customers while standing in the checkout line," JCPenney spokesman Joey Thomas said. "We regret that innocent bystanders – both other customers and a JCPenney associate – were subjected to such discriminatory remarks. We absolutely do not tolerate this behavior in our stores, and are working with our associates to ensure any future incidents of this nature will be addressed quickly and appropriately."

    The video had been viewed more than 6 million times on Facebook, and had been shared more than 161,000 times, before it was taken down from the social media site Wednesday afternoon, according to NBC affiliate WAVE.


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    A man accused of fatally shooting a 24-year-old Groton man then fleeing toward Canada has been turned over to the Groton Police Department, police said Wednesday.

    Police had a warrant for the arrest of Dante Hughes, 30, for his connection to the fatal shooting of Joseph Gingerella on Dec. 11 outside Ryan’s Pub in Groton.

    On Dec. 13, Hughes was found trying to cross into Canada at the US/Canadian border. He was detained by Canadian authorities and turned over to the United States Marshals Service on Dec. 20.

    On Wednesday, Hughes appeared at Niagara County Court and waved extradition, according to police. He was turned over to the Groton Police Department and returned to Connecticut where he will be arraigned on a murder charge on Thursday.



    Photo Credit: Groton Town Police Department

    Dante HughesDante Hughes

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    A school bus will start picking-up and dropping off a 14-year-old New Haven student with cerebral palsy outside of his home Friday morning, a school district spokesperson said two days after NBC Connecticut was first to report about his family’s safety concerns.

    “I’d like to say thank you to you guys for taking the story on and making my story heard so that this could be taken care of in a timely manner,” Tania Bermudez said.

    After a personal visit from interim Superintendent Dr. Reginald Mayo and Chief Operating Officer Will Clark to the family’s home Wednesday afternoon, Bermudez shared the good news with her son Daniel, who attends Wilbur Cross High School.

    “Dr. Mayo was just here,” she told him, “your bus is going to be changed before you even go out on vacation.”

    Bermudez is relieved her son’s bus stop is moving back to where it was last year.

    “His cerebral palsy is getting kind of bad now,” she said, “so it was becoming a concern for him to be walking up and down the hill, even though he won’t admit it.”

    After Bermudez reached out to NBC Connecticut, our camera was rolling when Daniel’s bus dropped him off Monday afternoon at the bottom of the hill. According to his individual education plan, he should be transported “door-to-door.”

    “There’s plenty of room in the parking lot for the bus to turn around without a problem,” Bermudez said.

    That is something both Mayo and Clark observed during their visit.

    “After a thorough assessment and conversation, Mayo assured the family that their request will be accommodated and the issue will be resolved as soon as possible,” NHPS director of communications Mercy Quaye said in a statement.

    “District leaders take student safety very seriously and we are pleased that we were able to listen to the family's concerns and work towards finding an adequate solution for all parties involved."

    Daniel said he is looking forward to the change.

    “It’s better because that hill is of course a steep hill and it’s a long walk,” he said.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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    The shoreline is one of the most popular destinations in the summer. But one of the most popular shoreline towns is still debating whether it will allow short-term rentals.

    After a number of complaints about houses being rented out on Airbnb and VRBO, the Town of Stonington is hearing from both sides to make a decision on what they will and won't allow.

    Currently short-term rentals aren't allowed in Stonington.

    "It's going to affect the tourism in this area. People aren't going to go to the Days Inn. They're not going to a franchise hotel. They're going to go to Newport or one of the islands," said Bob Hannon, who lives on the Stonington side of Mystic.

    His short-term rental days were short lived. In 2015, Hannon said he got a notice of zoning violation.

    Renting to people through sites like Airbnb and VRBO help pay for renovations and flood insurance, Hannon said, adding it's an alternative when boutique hotels are full, and sends more business to local shops.

    "It's a nice way to introduce the community," he said.

    Hannon and a few dozen others are part of the Stonington Short Term Renters Association. It's a group trying to educate people about how sites like Airbnb and VRBO work and how it can help the community.

    He was one of more than 100 people Tuesday who voiced his opinion on short-term rentals to Stonington's Planning and Zoning Commission.

    His neighbor Paul Sartor was there, too. But he's on the other side of the fence.

    "Would you rather live next to a nice single-family home, or would you rather live next to a multi-family vacation rental," Sartor asked.

    He thinks the short-term rental concept hurts property values as well as local businesses.

    "If they don't have local residents that live year-round, who's going to support them in the winter time," he said.

    Other shoreline towns, like Old Lyme, know there are short-term rentals, but haven't heard complaints. So they don't have any regulations on the books.

    It's the same for the Town of Old Saybrook. The town planner said it's a beach community and short-term rentals come with the territory.

    Stonington's director of planning said he's still gathering opinions and the Planning and Zoning Commission will review the findings at their meeting on Jan. 17.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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    Dreaming of a white Christmas? Be careful what you wish for. 

    A "significant storm system" is expected to move through the northern Plains on Christmas Day, bringing whiteout conditions and driving winds that could make travel "very difficult to impossible," the National Weather Service said Wednesday. 

    Heavy snow is possible beginning Friday over most of Wyoming before moving east to the Dakotas and northern Minnesota over the weekend, the National Weather Service said.

    "It's going to be a pretty significant storm," said Ari Sarsalari, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel.



    Photo Credit: AP Photo/Darron Cummings

    Ken Perry and Stan Ly go for a run in Eagle Creek Park as snow falls Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Indianapolis.Ken Perry and Stan Ly go for a run in Eagle Creek Park as snow falls Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Indianapolis.

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    Fire tore through the old Amtrak train station at 51 Depot Road, in the Kensington section of Berlin, on Wednesday morning and destroyed everything inside.

    More than 50 firefighters from several towns responded to the station before dawn.

    [[407783825, C]]

    Fortunately, no one was inside, but one of the town’s most historic buildings might be a total loss.

    "It's sad to see it go," Mayor Mark Kacynski said. "The plan was to restore it all to some of it's former glory, so it's too bad."

    The depot first opened to passengers in 1900 and was active until earlier this year, when it closed to allow for a new facility being built as part of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Project, according to the Great American Stations web site.

    “It was a beautiful building when it was built and still inside," Mark Lewandowski, chief of Kensington Fire Rescue, said. "I’ve been in there, it had really nice wood furnishings. It was under the process of being restored to be a focal point in the community.”

    [[407730875,C]]

    As crews battled the fire, all service on Amtrak’s Springfield line was suspended, according to Amtrak’s district manager.

    Trains are now getting through, but the fire marshal said trains can pass by but cannot stop in Berlin.

    Officials from Amtrak said the Northeast Regional Train, 141, which operates between Springfield, Massachusetts and Washington, DC was delayed until 6:45 a.m. It was stopped, with 108 passengers onboard, until the fire marshal allowed the trains to pass through.

    No one was injured and no other trains were delayed.

    Travelers are advised to pick up their trains from New Haven.

    Mayor Kacynski said the main thing is that no one was hurt during the fire.

    [[407784475, C]]



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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    A few rain and snow showers will move through Thursday morning, perhaps adding a fresh coating of snow in some towns.

    Temperatures will be above freezing during the day, in the 40s, so roads will remain wet.

    Dry weather returns Friday, with a blend of sunshine and clouds.

    More rain and snow showers are likely Saturday, and some hill towns could pick up a fresh coating of snow on the existing snow pack. Temperatures will be near 40 Saturday, so roads should remain wet.

    Christmas Day looks dry with sunshine. Temperatures will be in the 40s.

    So what about a white Christmas? The only way that happens, is if the current snow pack lasts until Sunday.

    It turns colder for a brief period Monday, when temperatures will be reluctant to rise and highs should only be in the 30s.

    A more organized round of precipitation early next week will come from a cold front, on Tuesday, but it will be warm. With temperatures in the 50s, rain showers are expected.


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    Crews are working this morning to repair an 8 inch water main break in the area of 330 Market Street in Hartford, according to MDC spokesperson Kerry Martin.

    Martin says the break occurred at around 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

    Two local businesses, the Community Renewal Team and Goodyear Auto Service Center have been affected by the shutdown, according to Martin.

    Martin says that repairs will be taking place over the next few hours and are expected to be completed sometime between 7 and 9 a.m. this morning.

    According to Hartford Police, the road is not blocked off as of 4:30 a.m.

    Check back for updates.



    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

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    Expecting a package today? You're not alone — the U.S. Postal Service expects Thursday to be its busiest day for deliveries all year. 

    Thirty million packages are expected to be dropped off at homes and offices around the country, according to the USPS's projections. That's roughly one package per every 10 people in the United States, and it doesn't account for packages delivered by UPS, FedEx and other shippers. 

    The busiest projected delivery day comes three days after what USPS estimated would be its busiest mailing and shipping day. 

    It all caps off an exceptionally busy holiday period for the nation's post offices. 

    About 16 billion cards, letters and packages were projected to be delivered throughout the holiday season, which stretches from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve. That includes 750 million packages, up 12 percent from 2015.

    And it's not too late to get a package delivered before Christmas — the last day the USPS recommends you can ship packages by to make sure they arrive by Saturday is Friday, though you'll have to use the Priority Mail Express service.



    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News

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    Low-flying military planes and helicopters spotted over midtown Manhattan last week turned out to be part of a training exercise on safely airlifting the next president out of New York City, law enforcement sources say.

    The Federal Aviation Administration initially said that the U.S. military was conducting authorized flights over New York City last Tuesday with coordination of the federal body. The flyover of two Blackhawk helicopters and the military C-130 caused confusion: the city's Office of Emergency Management said it wasn't notified in advance by the FAA, and the NYPD was only given short notice. 

    Now law enforcement sources tell NBC 4 New York it was all part of a military training exercise -- an emergency relocation drill to figure out where a chopper could touch down near Trump Tower and move the president-elect and others out toward safety. 

    Retired Army Maj. Mike Lyons and a current military analyst says the mission may have also been looking at rooftops in the city that could help as possible evacuation routes.

    "Police and law enforcement have got to be creative as terrorists could be in recognizing that during 9/11 they weren't able to evacuate anyone from the rooftop," he said. "The first thing they are likely looking at is a possibility from Trump Tower."


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    The Russian hackers who targeted the Democratic National Committee was also employed by Russia's military intelligence agency to pinpoint and kill Ukrainian soldiers in 2014, according to a report released Thursday by a cyber security firm, NBC News reported.

    The company, Crowdstrike, was hired by the DNC to investigate the hack and issued a report publicly attributing it to Russian intelligence. One of Crowdstrike's senior executives is Shawn Henry, a former senior FBI official who consults for NBC News. The firm employs other veterans of the FBI and the National Security Agency, the government's digital spying arm.

    Co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch, who oversaw the research, told NBC News that the report is further evidence that "it wasn't a 400-pound guy in his bed," who hacked the Democrats, but Russian intelligence agencies. President-elect Donald Trump famously raised the possibility that the Democrats were hacked by an overweight man.



    Photo Credit: AP

    File Photo -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, arrives to hold a meeting of a committee on preparations for upcoming Victory Day in WWII, in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia, on Tuesday, April 5, 2016.File Photo -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, arrives to hold a meeting of a committee on preparations for upcoming Victory Day in WWII, in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia, on Tuesday, April 5, 2016.

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    The Red Cross is assisting after fire broke out at a home on Pleasant Road in Enfield this morning and burned the roof and the right side of the home.

    The fire department was alerted to a blaze at the single-family home just after 4:30 a.m., Mark Zarcaro, spokesperson for the Enfield Fire Department, said.

    The fire was deemed under control at 5:17 a.m.

    Officials said the home was being renovated and they are looking into whether a wood stove started the fire. 

    No one was injured. One person was home and was able to evacuate.



    Photo Credit: Enfield Fire Department

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    Under heavy Israeli pressure, Egypt on Thursday indefinitely postponed a planned U.N. vote on a proposed Security Council resolution that sought to condemn Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, diplomats and Western officials said, just a few hours before the vote was set to take place.

    The vote would have been one of the last opportunities for President Barack Obama to take a stand against Israeli settlement building after years of failed peace efforts, but doing so could re-ignite a dispute with a close ally in the waning days of his tenure. The delay also dealt a setback to repeated Palestinian efforts to censure Israel over its settlements.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had publicly urged the U.S. to veto the resolution, calling it bad for peace. "Peace will come not through U.N. resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties," he said.

    President-elect Donald Trump had also urged Obama to block the measure, issuing a statement nearly identical to Netanyahu's.

    "As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations," he said in a statement on Facebook. "This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.

    The U.S., as a permanent member of the Security Council, has traditionally used its veto power to block resolutions condemning Israeli settlements, even though it sees them as an obstacle to a peace settlement. But in recent weeks, the Obama administration had been especially secretive about its deliberations, which included what one official described as an unannounced meeting between Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this month.

    The U.S. had been considering a highly unusual abstention, potentially rocking U.S.-Israeli relations, officials said, though they wouldn't say whether Obama had made a final decision.

    Egypt, the Arab representative to the Security Council, circulated the draft on Wednesday. Several diplomats and Western officials said the Egyptians postponed the vote due to pressure from the Israelis. Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, was meeting with Arab League diplomats to review the text. Diplomats said there was no time frame for when the vote may now occur and said it could be put off indefinitely.

    The diplomats and officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

    An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, said Israeli diplomats had made the government's views clear "in various channels."

    The office of the U.N. spokesman later announced Thursday that the Security Council meeting has been postponed.

    The draft resolution, circulated by Egypt, demands that Israel stop settlement activities in the Palestinian territories and declares that all existing settlements "have no legal validity" and are "a flagrant violation" of international law.

    Ahmed Abu-Zeid, spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, told the SkyNewsArabia channel that "talks are still ongoing," on the draft resolution. He said the talks are taking place in New York and in Cairo at the Arab League headquarters, and that an "appropriate" decision will be taken, without elaboration. He didn't respond to phone calls.

    There was no immediate comment from the Palestinians.

    Israel has expressed concern that Obama, who has had an icy relationship with Netanyahu, would take an audacious step in his last weeks in office to revive the peace process, but U.S. officials have said he has nearly ruled out any major last-ditch effort to pressure Israel.

    A Security Council resolution would be more than symbolic since it carries the weight of international law. In the past, Obama has refused to endorse anti-Israel resolutions in the council, saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved through negotiations.

    Robbie Sabel, professor of international law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the resolution would have been "politically damaging" for Israel as it could have weakened its position when negotiating the settlement issue with the Palestinians.

    The U.S. and much of the international community consider Israel's settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem illegitimate and an obstacle to peace. Netanyahu rejects such claims, blaming the failure of peace efforts on the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel's Jewish identity.

    Trump's selection for ambassador to Israel David Friedman has long ties to Israel's settler movement.

    The Palestinians, and most of the international community, say that the growth in settlements is endangering the goal of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Netanyahu and Obama have repeatedly clashed over Israel's settlement policies.

    Trump, who takes office in less than a month, has indicated a more sympathetic approach to Israel and appointed an ambassador who has been a supporter of the settler movement.

    Nearly 600,000 Jewish settlers now live in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas the Palestinians want as part of their future state, along with the Gaza Strip. Israel captured those territories in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel annexed east Jerusalem, home to sensitive religious sites, in a move that is not internationally recognized, while the West Bank is divided between autonomous Palestinian zones and Israeli-controlled territory.

    Settlement construction has thrived under Obama's watch, despite his administration's constant condemnations, a sign of the limits of U.S. influence over its close ally. Obama has struggled to revive peace talks, which last collapsed in 2014.

    Frustrated by the lack of progress, Obama for more than a year had considered giving a major speech describing his vision for a future peace deal or, in a more aggressive step, supporting a U.N. resolution laying out parameters for such a deal.

    Although the goal would be to impart fresh urgency to the moribund peace process, either step would have been perceived as constraining Israel's negotiating hand while strengthening the Palestinians' argument on the world stage.

    A year-long wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence, which has tapered off in recent months but not halted completely, has further imperiled any peace efforts.

    Earlier Thursday, the Israeli military said forces shot and killed a Palestinian who was lobbing an explosive device at troops carrying out an operation in east Jerusalem. The forces were demolishing the home of a Palestinian who carried out an October attack in Jerusalem that killed a police officer and a civilian.



    Photo Credit: AP

    File Photo -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Center for American Progress, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Washington.File Photo -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Center for American Progress, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Washington.

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