A seagull flies past pope Francis as he arrives for the Angelus noon prayer he celebrates from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sunday 5 January

Pope Francis announces first visit to Holy Land

Pontiff will travel to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan on May 24-26

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma for eight years, clings to his life.

Ariel Sharon in 'critical condition': Former Israeli Prime Minister's health deteriorates further as blood infection detected

The 85-year-old is experiencing multi-organ failure and has a blood infection, the hospital treating him has confirmed

Ayelet Zurer and Yair Lotan take the lead roles in the Israeli television thriller 'Hostages.

Hostages: The new Israeli thriller that promises to steal Homeland's thunder

The US version of the drama has been bought by Channel 4 and will go head-to-head with the Israeli original on BBC4 on Saturday nights

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon pictured in 2005

Ariel Sharon in 'critical condition': Former Israeli Prime Minister's 'life in danger'

The Israeli press are reporting that his family have been called to his bedside, as hospital confirms Sharon's medical condition

The News Matrix: Thursday 2 January 2014

Top JP Morgan staff earned £2.1m each

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon pictured in 2005

Ariel Sharon health: Former Israeli PM's condition deteriorates

The 85-year-old has been in a coma since suffering a devastating stroke in 2006

File: Palestinian children disembark their school bus and walk towards an Israeli checkpoint in East Jerusalem

Israel government 'tortures' children by keeping them in cages, human rights group says

The NGO called for Israel’s definition of torture to be changed after children were kept in outdoor holding pens during winter in a practice which had been going on ‘for months’

There are many positive lessons the Middle East could learn from Israel's treatment of its Christian population

The Israeli embassy responds to an article by Mira Bar Hillel

Clare Short could be arrested the next time she visits Israel, the country's defence minister has warned

Clare Short at risk of arrest in Israel, warns defence minister Moshe Ya’alon

Council for European Palestinian Relations that former International Development Secretary chairs has been outlawed in Israel

Netanyahu faces backlash after Israel releases 26 Palestinian prisoners

Prisoners receive heroes' welcomes on their return to the West Bank and Gaza with officials and jubilant relatives lining up to greet them

Israel and Lebanon exchange cross-border rocket and artillery fire in rare flare-up of violence

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commends his military for ‘quick and forceful’ retaliation

2013 - the year in review: It took his death, but the world came together for a moment for Nelson Mandela

Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel claimed that he couldn’t afford the trip. His absence reminded us of Israel’s closeness to the apartheid regime

Legislation which comes into force on 1 January will make it illegal for the owners of Berlin's estimated 12,000 private holiday apartments to rent them to tourists for short breaks

Rental ban to end Berlin’s reign as holiday lets capital

Berlin’s reputation as one of Europe’s coolest yet cheapest cities has boosted tourism by 275 per cent in only two decades. But Germany’s capital is preparing to turn its back on budget-flight visitors with new rules which will outlaw cut-price private accommodation.

Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman Gal Gadot laughs off critics calling her 'too skinny' for the role

The Israeli actress has started hardcore physical training in preparation for her part

Snow-covered Jerusalem

Postcard from... Jerusalem

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Day In a Page

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Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment