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The Slow, Sad Journey Home for Victims of Malaysia Airlines Tragedy

(EINDHOVEN, The Netherlands) -- The bodies of victims from last week’s Malaysia Airlines crash are headed home, being flown to the Netherlands as the Dutch government declared a day of national mourning.

Meanwhile, the black boxes from MH17 were delivered to the U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) headquarters at Farnborough, a spokesman told ABC News. Investigators expect to be able to download the info from the recorders within 24 hours. There is no significant damage to them.

Ukraine prepared a departure ceremony at the airport in Kharkiv for the passengers and crew of Flight17, which was shot down Thursday with 298 people on board, most of them Dutch citizens.

Sixteen bodies left aboard a Dutch C130, with an Australian C130 carrying an additional 24 bodies, authorities said.

The people of the Netherlands await the arrival of the bodies at Eindhoven Airport, the second-largest airport in the Netherlands. Church bells will ring across the country, five minutes before the two military planes touch down. Then a trumpet will sound, signaling the arrival of the planes. There to meet the planes will be the relatives of the victims and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as well as King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.

Following the arrival of the victims' remains will be a minute of silence. A motorcade will carry the bodies to a military facility where authorities will work to identify the bodies, a process that could take months to complete.

Transport of the remains will continue for at least three days.

Wreckage from the aircraft fell on territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists who have been battling the Kiev government since April.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials presented evidence Tuesday that they say shows the plane was shot down by a Russian-made SA-11 missile, and that Russia “created the conditions” behind the shoot-down.

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton, in Australia for the International AIDS Conference, said that the people who shot the plane down are just as responsible even if they didn’t intend to shoot down a civilian flight.

“The people who did it and the people who made it possible for them to do it by giving them this weaponry, which could only have been used in an illegal way, do not in any way diminish their responsibility because the people they killed were different from the people they thought they were killing,” Clinton said.

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Two Ukrainian Jets Shot Down, Defense Ministry Says

iStock/Thinkstock(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Two Ukrainian military jets were shot down in the Donetsk region of the country Wednesday, the Ukrainian defense ministry said.

The planes were identified as Sukhoi-25 fighter jets. The fate of the planes' pilots was not immediately known.

It happened at 12:30 p.m. Ukraine time (5:30 a.m. ET). Defense ministry did not state what kind of weapon was used to down the jets.

The Sukhoi-25 are single seat combat fighter jets. That same type of jet was shot down by a missile July 16.

The shoot down of the jets came in the same rebellious eastern part of the country where Malaysian Airlines flight 17 was shot down, killing 298 people on board. The MH17 flight was believed to have been shot down by a BUK anti-aircraft missile system.

Shortly before word of Wednesday's shoot-down came, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt told ABC News that he's very concerned Russia has not stopped the flow of heavy weapons into eastern Ukraine where ethnic Russians are trying to break away from Ukraine.

Fighting is currently taking place on the outskirts of Donetsk, one of the separatists last strongholds.

“We are very concerned that Russia has not pulled back on the flow of heavy weapons,” Pyatt said. “What needs to happen is Russia needs to stop sending weapons and fighters across the border.”

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Cockpit of Malaysia Airlines Plane Remains Unguarded Amid Pleas to Preserve, Protect Evidence

(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Fields with wreckage from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane remained completely unguarded Tuesday amid international calls for the evidence to be protected and secured from looters.

A team of international experts was on their way to the rural Ukrainian town of Donetsk to examine the crash site first hand, but until then, the plane wreckage remains out in the open.

One field, miles from the main crash site, was littered with debris and completely unguarded, reported ABC News' Kirit Radia.

Another clearing had the remains of the cockpit of the plane, with pilots' bags, flight plans, and maps scattered throughout, open to the elements as well as looters.

Both sites had several pieces of metal that appeared to be burned and had small holes--which would inevitably be important to investigators because they may give clues about the nature of the surface-to-air missile that was used to shoot down the plane.

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What Happens When Online Dating Meets the Middle East

iStock/Thinkstock(RAMALLAH, Palestine) -- Dating is hard, but it's even harder if you're trying to meet someone in the capital of a war-torn region like Palestine, according to excerpts from a new blog called PalesTINDER.

The Tumblr page posts singles' conversations from the dating apps Tinder and Grindr, revealing that there really is no escaping the area's political tensions amid attacks in Israel and the Gaza Strip-- even if you're just trying to spark a conversation.

"It started as my roommate and I were sitting on the couch like, 'Let's see what's happening on Tinder,'" Caitlin Kent, 26, told ABC News from Ramallah, Palestine, where the San Francisco native works at a summer camp.

But Kent said she was shocked by the "racist" responses she got when other users learned she lived in Ramallah, and decided to gather screenshots of similar conversations her friends in Palestine had, and posted them on a blog.

Now the excerpts, which Kent says are all from her or her friends' personal conversations, are gaining traction online, highlighting how even something innocent like an online chat can spiral into heated political discussion.

In one conversation, someone claiming to be from Tel Aviv, Israel, refuses to visit Ramallah because he says he doesn't want to be killed. In another, someone assumes the other party is a Hamas supporter because she is in Palestine.

Yet another conversation brings up Romeo and Juliet -- a way to justify an Arab and a Jewish person speaking to one another.

The dialogue can go both ways, as tensions have been high between Israelis and Palestinians for decades.

Kent, who blurred names and faces before she posted the snapshots online, said the blog isn't designed to shed light on what dating life is like there, but just serves as further proof of how divisive the Middle East has become.

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Irish Cafe Bans 'Loud' American Tourists

iStock/Thinkstock(WATERVILLE, Ireland) -- "Loud American's [sic]" strike again. A café in southern Ireland was spotted proudly displaying a sign that read, "No bus/coach or, loud American's [sic]. Thank you."

The photo started receiving national attention after Maurice Campbell posted it to Twitter.

"I was a bit taken aback," Campbell told ABC News. "I mentioned it to them and said it was a very strange sign, and he [the owner] just sort of looked at me."

Campbell was vacationing in Waterville, a village on the Ireland southern coast below Killarney when he came upon Peter's Place Café and the sign.

"It seems like a guy who is running a place very much in his way, and he serves who he wants to and that’s the way of it," Campbell said. "I would have thought if it said no Africans, it would have caused a very different sort of trouble. It's a bit much."

Campbell, who resides in Northern Ireland, was especially surprised by the sign since that area is heavily reliant on tourism.

"What surprised me is that nobody from the local community had asked him to take it down, because, goodness, it's not a very welcoming thing when people are traveling around," he said. "We're all very happy to see Americans come – so many of you have origins of some sort in Ireland – and we like you to come spend your dollars. You're as welcome as are the flowers in May. So it's not good to see somebody putting something like that up."

There are probably very few businesses that would publicly share the café's sentiment in a country that has welcomed a record number of American visitors in 2013, and is on pace to surpass that for 2014, according to Tourism Ireland. Ireland hosted more than one million American visitors who spent about $1 billion in 2013, and American tourists tend to stay longer and spend more than the average tourist.

"The United States continues to be one of the strongest markets for tourism to the island of Ireland. 2013 was a record year for American visitors to Ireland – even surpassing our previous best year of 2007," Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons said in a press release. "We are determined to ensure the success continues."

Locals share that sentiment, with Niall O'Driscoll tweeting out in response to Campbell's photo, "Sorry you had to see that. I'm from Cahersiveen, the town before Waterville, and we welcome all Americans loud or quiet."

Peter's Place Café did not immediately return ABC News' request for comment.

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Kerry Says Egyptian Cease-Fire Plan Still Workable

State Department photo/ Public Domain(CAIRO) -- Secretary of State John Kerry said his first full day of meetings in Cairo to discuss a resolution to the Israeli-Hamas violence was “constructive,” but there were no immediate signs of any progress towards a cease-fire.

As he has for the past few days, Kerry reiterated that the United States believes that a proposal released by Egypt for an immediate end to hostilities is the best way forward, and that only Hamas is left to sign on to that plan.

“While we still obviously have work to do, it’s also clear to me from each of the parties that I’ve met with that there is a framework available to end the violence. And that framework is the Egyptian initiative that has been put forward,” Kerry said on Tuesday.

The secretary made those remarks while addressing reporters at the Egyptian presidential palace, where he met with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

Kerry, dispatched there by President Obama, also spoke in more urgent and descriptive language than he has in recent days about the humanitarian crisis facing residents of Gaza, many of whom cannot move out of danger, despite Israeli warnings to do so.

“We have watched the humanitarian crisis in Gaza grow worse day after day: people losing their homes, all of their possessions, their access to food and water, their entire way of life,” Kerry said.

He added that the loss of lives on both sides of the border was unacceptable and that he would be working for the “next days” to help Egypt, a key broker in the talks between Israel and Hamas, achieve a lasting cease-fire agreement.

“For the sake of thousands of innocent families whose lives have been shaken and destroyed by this conflict on all sides, we hope we can get there as soon as possible,” Kerry said.

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Malaysia Airlines Wreckage 'Significantly Altered'

(KHARKIV, Ukraine) -- Wreckage from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine has been “significantly altered,” international monitors told ABC News, as remains of the victims arrived in territory held by the Ukrainian government.

Major pieces of the front of the plane appear to have been cut away, said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the group observing the crash site. Earlier, investigators observed someone using power tools to cut into the wreckage.

Rebels have said they had to move and alter big pieces to get at bodies and body parts. But the OSCE said what they saw was a “very invasive” altering of the wreckage.

In a field in pro-Russian separatist territory, the crash site has remained completely unguarded.

A train full of victims of Malaysia Flight MH17 arrived Tuesday at an interim destination on its way west.  A Soviet-made locomotive pulled windowless, refrigerated box cars into Kharkiv, where a C-130 was waiting to transport the human remains to the Netherlands.

The black boxes from the downed plane were handed over to Malaysian officials Monday.

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Inside the Gaza Tunnels that Israel Is Trying to Destroy

@IDFSpokesperson/Twitter(JERUSALEM) -- Israel is determined to destroy or cripple Hamas' tunnel system that reaches into Israel before ending its military offensive.

So far, the Israeli military has "exposed 23 Hamas tunnels with 66 openings throughout Gaza," the Israel Defense Forces tweeted Tuesday.

The IDF said that the tunnels "are made for kidnapping and murdering Israelis. That's why we are destroying them."

Hamas has twice used the tunnels to infiltrate Israel over the past weeks, including one foray in which fighters were dressed as Israeli soldiers. And in 2006, an Israeli soldier named Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and dragged into Gaza through a tunnel and held hostage for five years.

The tunnels, which can transport people and military supplies, begin in Gaza and open into Israel. They were built by Hamas beginning in 2006, when the organization gained control of Gaza and sought to build an underground infrastructure to infiltrate Israel.

Footage of the tunnels can be seen in propaganda video distributed by Hamas, showing armed and masked members of the organization marching underground through a dimly lit shaft.

Built into a soft and sandy ground that is easy to dig, the tunnels are large enough to fit an adult with room to walk or for a cart on rails.

"Imagine a mining tunnel from an old movie," Arthur Hughes, a retired United States ambassador and scholar at the Middle East Institute, explained to ABC News. "The tunnels between Gaza and Israel are like mine shafts. They are supported by wooden beams and are large enough for you to walk through them."

Hamas built Gaza's tunnel openings into civilian homes and other civilian areas, like schools.

"Hamas has put the tunnels in populated civilian areas," Philip C. Wilcox, a retired American diplomat and president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, told ABC News.

It is the threat of Hamas operatives using these tunnels to cross into Israel that prompted Israeli soldiers to search for and destroy tunnel openings in areas of Gaza with concentrated civilian populations.

"Inevitably there will be civilian casualties wherever the tunnels are," Wilcox said.

More than 600 Palestinians and 29 Israelis have been killed since the violence began on July 8.

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Fast Food Items Pulled from Menus in China After Meat Scandal

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- McNuggets and other popular items are disappearing from menus at McDonalds, KFC and other fast food restaurants in China after a major supplier of beef, chicken and pork was shut down for allegedly violating numerous safety regulations, including mixing in chicken and beef parts that were months beyond their expiration date.

Shanghai Husi Food Company has been shuttered this week after a TV report captured footage of the alleged violations. The company supplies meat and chicken to McDonald’s, Burger King, Papa Johns and Yum Brands, the owner of KFC and Pizza Hut, in China.

Following the TV report, the China Food and Drug Administration announced on its website that it had shut down Shanghai Husi Food. In addition, inspectors would look at processing sites and meat sources in five other provinces and would “severely punish” violators.

Shanghai Husi Food is owned by OSI Group, an Illinois-based food-processing company. According to their website, the company has been supplying McDonald’s in China for 22 years and Yum Brands for six years.

The video footage captured by Dragon TV showed workers touching meat with ungloved hands, picking up meat from the factory floor and throwing it back to the processor. The report also showed workers mixing two weeks out-of-date chicken meat into fresh meat to make Chicken McNuggets. It showed the workers using frozen beef that was allegedly seven months beyond its expiration date, reportedly already green and odorous.

McDonald’s and Yum Brands have released statements saying they had stopped using meat from Shanghai Husi Food and started investigations. Both companies apologized to the public.

The statements also said their restaurants may face a shortage of certain products. Yum Brands identified its KFC sausage and egg burger and a spicy roasted burger. McDonald’s did not specify any products.

Starbucks has removed its chicken and apple paninis from cafes in Shanghai because the meat came from Shanghai Husi Food, Starbucks said.

The company also supplies fast food chains in Japan, and McDonalds has taken McNuggets off the menu of its 1,700 restaurants in Japan.

OSI Group released a statement on its official website apologizing and stating that the company believes the health violations to be an isolated event, but it said it took full responsibility for the situation. The statement said the company has formed an investigation team and is cooperating with the government agencies.

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Will There Ever Be Justice for Malaysia Airlines MH17 Families?

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As international investigators descend upon the crash scene of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine this week, a massive effort to bring the perpetrators to justice will get underway.

Thousands of miles away, the families of the victims wait for the bodies of their loved ones and any news about the effort to find out what happened to the plane and who shot it down.

Depending upon the evidence collected by investigators, the effort could result in a Special Ops-aided manhunt, an international tribunal or a Ukrainian court case, according to experts.

Senior intelligence officials told ABC News that while Kiev is fingering a "Russian team" as the culprits, the U.S. hasn't confirmed the perpetrators' nationality, unit or precise military affiliation beyond being pro-Russian separatists.

"It takes time for information to flow up," one senior official monitoring the effort told ABC News.

If Ukrainian Separatists Fired a Missile at the Plane

If the evidence shows that Ukrainian citizens shot down the plane with a missile, then Ukraine will be responsible for prosecuting them, according to Michael Newton, law professor at Vanderbilt University Law School.

"To the extent that the crimes were committed on Ukrainian soil, the Ukrainians have primacy for prosecutions there," he said, pointing out that though the separatists are Russian-backed, they are Ukrainian citizens who were fighting against the Ukrainian government on Ukrainian soil.

The challenge for Ukraine will be gathering enough credible, specific evidence to charge individuals, potentially with murder or negligent homicide under Ukrainian law.

"You'll have to build cases," Newton said. "We've seen some reporting of these radio intercepts, and I'm sure there is radio chatter that's not public yet."

If Russia Aided Separatists

The separatists' ties with Russia complicate the legal case, according to Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council.

"What you have now is the Ukrainian government has an incident fomented by all accounts by an external state, so Russia is clearly culpable if it's proven this weapon was provided by them, it aided a group that's carried out a terrorist attack," Berman said. "So there's obviously a huge legal conundrum beginning to unfold, which is what can you actually hold them accountable for?"

If evidence proves that Russia aided the individuals who carried out the attack, Russia could receive sanctions from the rest of the world, he said.

If Russian Citizens Fired the Missile

If there is concrete proof that Russians perpetrated the attack, Ukraine could go after them specifically.

"Early information indicates that there were in fact Russian military people assisting in training and working with missile batteries. That makes it a whole different problem," Newton said.

In that case, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia could be charged or Putin could hand over the perpetrators, likely to an international tribunal.

The senior U.S. official agreed, saying that if and when they are identified "the most likely scenario" is that a case could be made before an an international tribunal, probably at The Hague in the Netherlands, which also is the country where MH17 originated from.

"It's unlikely they'll be handed over to anyone by the Russians or separatists" to face justice, the official speculated.

Any individuals found responsible for the attack could potentially be prosecuted for international war crimes if prosecutors can show they intentionally targeted civilians.

"It's a war crime to intentionally target you'd have to prove that they knew it was a civilian airliner," Newton said.

The model for an international tribunal would be for war criminals who committed crimes against humanity in the Balkans war of the 1990s, U.S. officials said. In that case, American special operations forces were involved in capturing many fugitives from those tribunals, according to those involved in that manhunt.

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Israeli Soldier Missing After Weekend Attack in Gaza

Hemera/Thinkstock(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) -- An Israeli soldier is missing following an attack on an armored vehicle in Gaza over the weekend that left six other soldiers dead, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on Tuesday.

In a statement, the IDF said Sgt. Oron Shaul, 21, of the Golani brigade, "is the soldier whose identification process is yet to be completed."

The combat soldier is now believed to be in the hands of Hamas, which triumphantly claimed that an Israeli soldier had been captured after Sunday's attack. The group did not say whether the soldier was dead or alive.

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Britain's Prince George Turns One Year Old

JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- One year ago on Tuesday, the world was waiting for news from Buckingham Palace on the birth of the next British heir to the throne.

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, delivered -- literally -- and gave birth to a healthy baby boy, his Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.

Now Prince George, as he's called, is a near-toddler who's taken his first steps, met a bilby named after him, and traveled across the world to Australia and New Zealand with his mom and dad.

“He's got a good pair of lungs on him, that's for sure,” George’s father, Prince William, has said of his first-born son.

The royal family marked George’s first birthday by releasing two official photos on Monday showing George fascinated by a butterfly exhibit, accompanied by his mom and dad.

The images were shot on July 2 at the Sensational Butterflies exhibit at London's Natural History Museum by John Stillwell of the Press Association wire service in the U.K. Stillwell also took the photo released Saturday of George, dressed in overalls, taking steps on his own at the exhibit.

On Tuesday, the Royals are celebrating with a family birthday party for Prince George. Kate's parents and two siblings, Pippa and James, are expected to attend, along with Prince Harry, George's uncle, and Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter and one of George’s godparents, as well as her husband, rugby star Mike Tindall. George's paternal grandparents, Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall, are on vacation in Scotland.

Jamie Lowther Pinkerton, one of George's godparents and the long-time private secretary to his parents, was seen arriving at the family's home at Kensington Palace Tuesday with a birthday present in hand.

Kate made a visit to Buckingham Palace, the home of George's great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, early Tuesday afternoon. The Palace got into the spirit of George's birthday with a rendition of Happy Birthday played outside the Palace Gates.

In addition to the official photos, Kate and William, both 32, issued a statement to mark their first son's first birthday.

"We would like to take this opportunity on George's first birthday to thank everyone over the last year, wherever we have met them, both at home and overseas, for their warm and generous good wishes to George and our family," they said.

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John Kerry Arrives in Cairo to Broker Ceasefire as Israel/Gaza Fighting Rages On

US Department of State(CAIRO) -- As fighting in between neighboring Israel and Gaza rages on, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo with a mission to try to stop the bloodshed, but his first task is to get the many stakeholders in the region to agree on what would even constitute a ceasefire.

Kerry came to Cairo because Egypt has been a key mediator between Israel and Hamas, the governing body of Gaza, which the United States and Israel consider a terrorist group. Egypt also released a proposal for an immediate ceasefire without conditions on either side, something Israel accepted but Hamas rejected.

Kerry is in Cairo now, rather than earlier in the conflict, partly because of the mounting civilian casualties on both sides of the Israel/Gaza border, but especially since Israel began its ground invasion of Gaza on Thursday.

"We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel's appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself," Kerry said just before a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon late Monday night.

"But always in any kind of conflict, there is a concern about civilians," he added.

Ban was more vehement in laying blame on the Israelis, also urging them to let up on trade and travel restrictions in Gaza so that Hamas, he said, won’t have to resort to violence.

"I understand that Israel has to respond militarily, but there is a proportionality and most of the death toll is Palestinian people," Ban said.

PHOTOS: Israel Launches Ground Operation Against Gaza

Sunday was the bloodiest day so far in the Israel/Gaza crisis, with the Gaza Health Ministry reporting hundreds of deaths, many of which the U.N. said were civilians, and the Israel Defense Forces announcing the highest number of Israeli soldiers killed in the conflict thus far.

Earlier Monday as Kerry was en route to Cairo, a senior State Department official said that the U.S. had very few expectations for the next few days and that the primary objective was about getting the various players in the ceasefire negotiations on the same page, including Egypt, Qatar and Turkey, where Hamas' exiled leadership is based, and Israel.

"It's very complicated and it may very well take several days to get this done," the official said. Hamas has previously called for preconditions for a ceasefire agreement, including the release of prisoners in Israel and a re-opening of Israel-Gaza border crossings.

Kerry is scheduled to meet with Egyptian officials on Tuesday, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby.

A second official said Kerry was best equipped to meet with parties on the ground at this time, versus continuing to communicate via phone, because the United States is the only stakeholder that shares good relationships with all the governments involved, except Hamas.

"It's really only the Secretary of State who can come in and have close relationships with all the parties and who can get them all on the same page," the official said.

Kerry is expected to stay in Cairo through Wednesday morning, but officials said he would make changes to his schedule, and add additional stops in the region as warranted.

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US Warns Americans in Yemen to Leave Now

Brent Stirton/Reportage by Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The United States government is warning Americans in Yemen they should leave the country in response to an "extremely high" security threat, "due to terrorist activity and civil unrest."

"Terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), continue to be active throughout Yemen. The U.S. government remains highly concerned about the possible attacks on U.S. citizens (whether visiting or residing in Yemen), and U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests," the travel warning says. "An ongoing risk of kidnapping exists throughout Yemen."

In addition to the terror threat, the State Department warning said, "Demonstrations continue to take place in various parts of the country and may quickly escalate and turn violent."

"U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, and to exercise extreme caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration," the warning says.

A U.S. intelligence official did not immediately respond to requests for more information from ABC News, but one person briefed on intelligence in the region said the terror aspect of the warning could be related to perceived threats against Westerners at potential targets including shopping malls in Yemen and other Gulf nations.

Top U.S. officials have said that of al Qaeda's affiliates, AQAP is among the greatest threats to the U.S. homeland. One of its members, Ibrahim al-Asiri, is believed to be a master bomb maker, implicated in several bomb plots. Last week the State Department announced it had added a Norwegian-born bomb maker and member of AQAP to its designated terror list.

Last September another al Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabab based in Somalia, attacked neighboring Kenya's Westgate Mall, killing dozens.

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Malaysia Airlines' Black Boxes Handed Over to Investigators

Courtesy of ABC’s Tanya Stukalova(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) -- The two black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane that left 298 people dead were handed over Monday to Malaysian officials.

News media looked on as the transfer of the boxes was made late Monday. Earlier, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said independent investigators will be given safe access to the debris site.

"In recent days, we have been working behind the scenes to establish contact with those in charge of the MH17 crash site," Razak said. "That contact has now been made. Under difficult and fluid circumstances, we have been discussing the problems that have occupied us all: Securing vital evidence from the aircraft, launching an independent investigation and above all recovering the remains of those who lost their lives."

In a statement, Razak said he had spoken "to Alexander Borodai, who is in command of the region where the tragedy occurred."

Razak said that the bodies of the 282 people recovered, currently in the Ukrainian city of Torez, will "be moved" by train to Kiev, where Dutch officials will take them.

"The train will depart this evening...and will be accompanied by six Malaysian members of the recovery team," he added. "The remains will then be flown to Amsterdam on board a Dutch C130 Hercules, together with the Malaysian team. Following any necessary forensic work, the remains of Malaysian citizens will then be flown home to Malaysia."

"I must stress that although agreement has been reached, there remain a number of steps required before it is completed," Razak added. "There is work still to be done, work which relies on continued communication in good faith. Mr Borodai and his people have so far given their co-operation."

Moments before Razak's announcement, President Obama had called on Russian President Vladimir Putin "to compel" Russian-backed separatists to stop interfering with the probe.

Obama, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House, said Russian-backed separatists needed to allow investigators to recover bodies. He said they had previously fired their weapons in the air when investigators approached the scene and have tampered with evidence.

"Russia, and President Putin in particular, has a direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation," Obama said.

The president also said that if Russia continued to support violence against the Ukrainian people, it would face further isolation from the international community. He said he hopes to see the dispute settled diplomatically.

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