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Germany sends first plane carrying aid to northern Iraq
2014.08.16 03:35:26

Germany has begun sending aid supplies to northern Iraq where thousands of people have fled the Islamic State group, as it considers delivering military equipment as well.

The first plane set off for Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, carrying medicines, food and blankets and further aid flights were planned for the day.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the Reuters news agency, "this is just the beginning and we're working hard on sending further aid if necessary and it's becoming apparent that is the case."

In an interview with Germany's mass-selling daily Bild she said: "Generally, if a genocide can be prevented with German weapons, then we must help."

[Reuters]



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | Germany

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ICRC urges quick Ukraine-Russia accord on aid convoy
2014.08.16 03:34:15

The International Committee of the Red Cross has urged Russia and a wary Ukraine to agree quickly on getting supplies from a Russian aid convoy across the border to civilians in conflict areas of eastern Ukraine.

ICRC official Laurent Corbaz, currently in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, said on Friday the ICRC would itself deliver the aid to people and health centers in the region, scene of fighting between Ukrainian forces and breakaway pro-Russian rebels.

"We still need assurances from all parties to the conflict that our staff will be allowed to perform their tasks safely and with due respect for our humanitarian principles," he said.

In his statement, released by the ICRC in Geneva, he said the aid operation "will take some time" because of the logistical and security problems involved. [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Aftermath of a car bomb
2014.08.16 03:33:18

This video allegedly shows the aftermath of a car bomb that went off near a mosque while people coming out of Friday prayer in the rebel held town of Nimer in the northern Deraa countryside which killed at least 10 people killed and injured 20.

MWC cannot independently verify the content of this video.



Tags: Syria

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Gazans return to flattened homes
2014.08.16 03:22:45

Residents of a town in the southern Gaza Strip have returned home to find much of their belongings lying under piles of rubble.

Khuzaa was devastated by Israeli bombardment, as the military leveled whole streets and flattened mosques.

Hamas is insisting Israel pay the reconstruction costs, as the town's displaced wait for help.



Tags: Gaza | Israel

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EU ministers seek unity on arming Iraqi Kurds
2014.08.16 03:21:55

EU ministers will convene in Brussels on Friday in a meeting aiming to sanction the shipment of arms to Iraqi Kurds fighting the Islamic State group.

The unscheduled gathering comes after days of forceful demands by France, whose Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticized EU colleagues for remaining on holiday while besieged civilians were being killed in Iraq.

"When there are people dying... you have to come back from your holidays," Fabius said earlier this week, after writing a letter to EU foreign affairs supremo Catherine Ashton demanding an extraordinary meeting of ministers.

Germany this week pledged to work "full-speed" on the supply of "non-lethal" equipment such as armored vehicles, helmets and flak vests to Iraq.

Sweden, which is usually reluctant to participate in military missions, seemed open to a more rigorous response as well.

[AFP]



Tags: Iraq | European Union | Islamic State

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Britain 'alarmed' by reports of Russian military vehicles entering Ukraine
2014.08.16 03:20:02

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond voiced alarm on Friday at reports that Russian military vehicles had crossed into Ukraine overnight, saying it could have "very serious" consequences.

"I'm very alarmed by reports that Russian military vehicles may have crossed the border this morning ... If there are any Russian military personnel or vehicles in eastern Ukraine, they need to be withdrawn immediately or the consequences could be very serious," he told reporters at a European Union foreign ministers' meeting, apparently referring to media reports.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Britain

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Lebanon charged Syrians
2014.08.16 03:18:37

Lebanon charged 43 Syrians, including a commander whose arrest sparked five days of fighting between rebels and the Lebanese army, with "belonging to armed terrorist groups" and "seeking to establish an Islamic emirate".

A judiciary source on Thursday said 10 of those charged were in custody, among them 30-year-old Emad Gomaa, who had been a member of the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria, but recently switched allegiance to the self-declared group, the Islamic State.

His arrest this month prompted fighters in the town of Arsal on the border with Syria to seize a police station and take more than 30 police and soldiers hostage.

The ensuing five-day battle with the army was one of the worst spillovers of Syria's civil war into Lebanon. Security sources say dozens of militants and 19 soldiers were killed.

[Reuters]



Tags: Syria | Lebanon

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Jordan bank goes on trial for 'financing terrorists'
2014.08.16 03:02:44

Jordan's Arab Bank has gone on trial in New York accused of aiding terror by transferring support funds to the families of Palestinians who died in the conflict with Israel.

The families of several Americans killed in attacks by Hamas said the bank, which has a New York branch, was in violation of the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act when it served as a conduit for the money from a Saudi Arabian fund to the Palestinian families.

But the bank argued on the first day of the trial that it could not be connected to the attacks cited by the accusers.

Arab Bank lawyer Shand Stevens said the bank complied with US laws and that the Saudi Committee, as the source of the funds, was never named as a terror group by the United States.

If the court finds it guilty, the bank said such a ruling would place too much burden on the global banking system and its routine automatic transfers of trillions of dollars every day of money on behalf of clients not officially blacklisted.

[AFP]



Tags: Gaza | Israel | Hamas | Jordan

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Kurds launch offensive against Islamic state
2014.08.16 03:01:08

Kurdish Peshmerga forces, backed by the US, have been battling the Islamic State group who have led a brutal offensive capturing large areas of the country's north.

The group has seized several strategically valuable towns, including Mosul, and last week took control of towns in the Kurdish north.

In a renewed push to defend their territory, the Peshmerga are trying to recapture the towns and cities they've lost.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | United States

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Russian military equipment
2014.08.16 03:00:13

Lithuania's foreign minister said on Friday he had reports that 70 pieces of Russian military equipment had crossed the border into Ukraine during the night.

"We are very much concerned about the situation developing (in Ukraine) because, on the one hand, we are talking very much about this so-called humanitarian convoy but, at the same time, we see that escalation continues, and we have reports that during the night 70 pieces of military equipment again entered through the border," Linas Linkevicius told reporters as he arrived for an emergency meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Jihadist fighters in Iraq and Syria
2014.08.16 02:59:10

The United Nations Security Council is set to try and weaken self-declared jihadist fighters in Iraq and Syria by blacklisting six people and threatening sanctions against those who finance, recruit or supply weapons to the fighters, diplomats said.

A British-drafted resolution, obtained by the Reuters news agency, targets the so-called Islamic State group - an al Qaeda splinter group that has seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate - and al Qaeda's Syrian wing Jabhat al-Nusra.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity on Friday, said the 15-member council was expected to unanimously adopt the resolution.

The draft "deplores and condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist acts of [Islamic State] and its violent extremist ideology, and its continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law."

[Reuters]



Tags: Syria | Iraq

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Thousands gather to protest Gaza truce
2014.08.16 02:51:25

Thousands of people have gathered in Tel Aviv to protest the extension of a truce between the Israeli military and Hamas in Gaza.

Many are from southern Israeli towns along the border where rockets from Gaza often land.

They say the Egyptian proposal to secure a more permanent truce threatens their security.



Tags: Gaza | Israel | Hamas

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US commends Maliki for stepping aside
2014.08.16 02:49:44

The Obama administration has commended Iraq's incumbent prime minister for stepping aside, calling it a milestone that sets the stage for a peaceful transition of power that could unite Iraqis against the security threat from Islamic State group.

After initially struggling to stay in power, Nouri al-Maliki relinquished his post late Thursday to a fellow Dawa Party member, Haider al-Abadi, which Secretary of State John Kerry called an "important and honorable decision."

"We urge Mr. Abadi and all Iraqi leaders to move expeditiously to complete this process, which is essential to pulling the country together and consolidating the efforts of Iraq's many diverse communities against the common threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," Kerry said.

Kerry said the US stands ready to partner with a new Iraqi government to counter the Islamic State threat, "and we will encourage to their countries in the region and international community to do the same.

[Associated Press]



Tags: Iraq | United States

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Europe 'shot itself in the foot' with Russia sanctions
2014.08.16 02:44:48

The European Union has shot itself in the foot economically with the sanctions its has imposed on Russia over Ukraine, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday, calling for a rethink of policy.

"The sanctions policy pursued by the West, that is, ourselves, a necessary consequence of which has been what the Russians are doing, causes more harm to us than to Russia," Orban said in a radio interview.

"In politics, this is called shooting oneself in the foot."

Export-driven Hungary is heavily reliant on energy imports from its former Communist leader and early this year Budapest agreed with Russian power firm Rosatom to expand Hungary's only nuclear plant in a 10 billion euro ($13bn) deal.

Russia is also Hungary's largest trading partner outside the European Union, with exports worth 2.55 billion euros in 2013.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | European Union

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Syrian forces retook a key town
2014.08.16 02:43:16

Syrian government forces retook a key town on the outskirts of the capital Damascus after a months-long battle against rebels, a military source and state television said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group backed up the report.

"The army, with the cooperation of the National Defense Forces (militia), has accomplished its mission of restoring stability and security to Mleiha," the army command said in a statement on Thursday.

It added that troops carried out "a series of crucial operations killing a large number of takfiri (Islamic extremist) mercenaries who had barricaded themselves in the town."

The army said:

This is a tough blow to the takfiri terrorists who have begun to fall in the face of the successive blows dealt to them by the army.

Mleiha would now serve as a springboard for its bid to regain control of Eastern Ghouta, the army said. The region is considered to be an important rebel bastion outside Damascus that has long been in the sights of government forces.

State television broadcast live from Mleiha, showing streets with holes punched through homes by rockets and twisted metal from telephone line poles.

Mleiha lies southeast of the capital and has been a key flashpoint in fighting around Damascus.

[AFP]



Tags: Syria

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Gaza truce holding after shaky start
2014.08.16 02:22:28

A fragile ceasefire extension between Hamas and Israel has entered its second day, despite a rocky start which saw a flurry of rocket fire and air strikes.

Israeli jets hit the Gaza strip with four air strikes after the new truce came into effect on midnight, after alleged Palestinian rocket fire, which saw three missiles fired.

Palestinian security officials told the AFP news agency the skies fell silent at around 3:00 am (0000 GMT).

The Egyptian foreign ministry said both sides had agreed to extend the ceasefire for five days to allow more time for thorny negotiations.

Palestinian chief negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed said the delegations had reached "agreement on many points" concerning the lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza but needed more time to settle a number of remaining disputes.

Speaking to reporters in Gaza City, Hamas politburo member Khalil al-Haya said there was "still a real chance of reaching an agreement", but only if Israel "would stop playing with words".

[AFP]



Tags: Gaza | Israel | Hamas

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White House commending Iraq's incumbent PM
2014.08.16 02:21:19

The White House is commending Iraq's incumbent prime minister for stepping aside.

US President Barack Obama's national security adviser is expressing hope that the power shift "can set Iraq on a new path and unite its people" against a security threat from the Islamic State group.

Susan Rice also says the United States remains committed to a strong partnership with Iraq and its people. [AP]



Tags: Iraq | United States

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Ukrainian border guards have crossed border to inspect Russian aid cargo
2014.08.16 02:19:12

Ukrainian border guards have crossed the border into Russia to begin inspecting a Russian cargo of aid intended for humanitarian relief in eastern Ukraine, a border guard spokesman said.

The border guards would check the cargo on Russian territory at a point opposite the Ukrainian settlement of Izvaryne which is held by pro-Russian separatists, spokesman Andriy Demchenko said.

"Ukrainian border guards are there already in large numbers," he told Reuters.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Syrian forces dropped barrel bombs on Rastan
2014.08.16 02:17:43

Opposition activists have said at least 14 civilians were killed and dozens were injured after Syrian forces dropped barrel bombs on Rastan, 180km north of the capital.



Tags: Syria

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Israelis protest in Tel Aviv
2014.08.16 02:02:46

About 10,000 Israelis protested on Thursday in a Tel Aviv square against what they see as the failure of a five-week Gaza war to decisively halt rocket and mortar fire at southern towns bordering on the Palestinian coastal territory.

Many demonstrators were bused in from parts of Israel hardest hit by rocket barrages in the recent fighting, joined by supporters in the Israeli business hub that also came under rocket fire on a daily basis in the fighting since July 8. [Reuters]



Tags: Gaza | Israel

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