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News Wrap: Netanyahu may have outright victory in Israeli election

In our news wrap Monday, voters in Israel went to the polls for an unprecedented third election in less than a year. Exit polls suggest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be near an outright victory -- but his main opponent, Benny Gantz, vowed to keep fighting. Also, Iraq’s caretaker prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, announced he is stepping down, worsening the country’s political power vacuum.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: Super Tuesday voting is tomorrow, but this is shaping up as marvelous Monday for former Vice President Joe Biden.

    Two former rivals will endorse him tonight for the Democratic presidential nomination. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar suspended her campaign today. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg dropped out Sunday.

    We will get the details after the news summary.

    The process of pulling U.S. troops from Afghanistan has begun. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said today that he has given the go-ahead to begin the initial withdrawal, under an agreement signed with the Taliban on Saturday.

    In Washington today, Esper said the U.S. will show good faith and lower troop levels to 8,600 from the current 13,000.

  • Mark Esper:

    This is going to be a long, windy, bumpy road. There will be ups and downs we will stop and start. That's going to be the nature of this over the next days, weeks and months. At end of day, the best path, if not the only path forward is through a political agreement between the warring parties.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, Afghanistan's government officials refused to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners, and the Taliban rejected further talks until they are released.

    Nick Schifrin will have more later in the program.

    In Israel, voters went to the polls today for the third time in less than a year, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be near an outright victory. Exit polls gave Netanyahu's political bloc 59 out of 120 seats in Parliament. That is two short of a majority. His main opponent, Benny Gantz, pledged to keep fighting.

    Netanyahu still faces an upcoming trial on corruption charges.

    A power vacuum in Iraq worsened today after caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced he is stepping down. His designated successor withdrew Sunday, blaming political leaders for blocking reforms. All of this follows weeks of deadly protests.

    Turkey's army has sent new reinforcements into Idlib province in Northwest Syria, after new clashes. Over the weekend, Turkey shot down two Syrian warplanes. Today, a Turkish soldier was killed. Children watched as Turkish convoys crossed into the area, while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Syria to pull back.

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (through translator):

    Those who have not learned their lesson and continue to threaten us with attacking observation points must come to their senses. If they do not retreat, they will have no heads on their shoulders.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, Greek border police battled Syrian and other refugees trying to cross from Turkey. At least one person was killed in a crossing attempt. Turkey is letting the refugees move in a bid to force more support from the European Union.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on whether Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, is lawful. A lower court has declared part of the landmark law unconstitutional, and called the rest in question. The Supreme Court's decision will likely come after the election.

    Two passings of note tonight: Jack Welch, the man who transformed General Electric into a global titan, has died. He took over at GE in 1981 and became one of the country's best-known corporate leaders. In retirement, his books and columns continued to attract a wide following.

    Jack Welch was 84 years old.

    And actor-turned-academic James Lipton died today of bladder cancer. He became a celebrity, hosting TV's "Inside the Actors Studio" for nearly 25 years. Actors and other Hollywood figures joined him before an audience of his students.

    James Lipton was 93 years old.

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