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US blacklists individuals in Iraq and Syria
2014.08.19 04:38:14

The United States has announced that it is blacklisting two rebel leaders in Iraq and Syria, including the Islamic State spokesman, following similar actions by the U.N. Security Council last week.

The State Department said on Monday that it was adding the two men, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani and Nusra Front member Said Arif, to its list of 'Specially Designated Global Terrorists."

The move aims to weaken the Islamic State - 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, Nusra Front.

The label imposes a travel ban on them, and freezes any assets they may hold in the United States.

A parallel move from the US Treasury Department also prohibits US firms and people from dealing with the men. [Reuters]



Tags: Iraq | Syria | Islamic State | United States

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Iraqi army spokesman
2014.08.19 04:36:48

Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi army spokesman, said that Kurdish peshmerga troops and Iraqi security forces, have dismantled at least 170 bombs around Mosul Dam, as they try to retake the area from the Islamic State fighters. He said more bombs remain to be detonated.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State

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Kurds will take part in talks on new Iraq government
2014.08.19 04:02:01

Kurdish officials will take part in negotiations on forming a new Iraqi government, the outgoing foreign minister said on Monday, signalling the possibility of improved ties with the central administration.

Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters a final decision on whether the Kurds will end their suspension of participation in the government would come later.

Outgoing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had been locked in disputes with the Kurds over budgets and oil.

Zebari said Kurdish forces had pushed out Islamic State fighters and recaptured Iraq's biggest dam with the support of US air strikes near the facility.



Tags: Iraq

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Attack on a refugee convoy
2014.08.19 04:01:03

At a regular press briefing on Monday, Marie Harf, a US state department spokeswoman, has commented on the attack on a refugee convoy in eastern Ukraine that, according to Kiev government, killed dozens:

"We strongly condemn the shelling and rocketing of a convoy. It was bearing internally displaced persons in Luhansk - this is the one you were asking about, right? -- and express our condolences to the families of the victims. Sadly, they tried to get away from the fighting and instead became victims of it. All sides must take every precaution to protect innocent lives. We are unable to confirm reports of who was responsible for the shelling and rocketing. We are looking into that."

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States

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Mosul Dam
2014.08.19 03:50:20

Michael Stephens, deputy director at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies spoke about the significance of Mosul Dam.

"Mosul Dam controls a lot of the water going into Baghdad, and it is one of the main water collection points for northern Iraq. It also produces hydro-electric power so it is of big strategic importance.

"The Islamic State group are focused on securing water and food in any area they attack. It's in line with the group's strategy of trying to control bigger areas of infrastructure, so they can declare that their operation is working.

"They decided that they wanted something that gives them more leverage.

"Rather than destroying it the question is would they maintain it properly: i.e. keep electricity and water services running for the population? They wouldn't blow up the hand that feeds them. But there are questions as to the groups suitability to maintain it.

"For the Peshmerga the significance is less strategic. It is more an issue of pride. They were clearly struggling and needed support.

"[New Prime Minister] Abadi is trying to show power by ordering the retake of the dam."



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State

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Ukraine conflict causes its July industrial output to plummet
2014.08.19 03:48:20

Ukrainian industrial production fell in July at its steepest rate since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, as months of conflict between government forces and separatist rebels took its toll on Ukraine's industrial heartland.

Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels have been fighting since April in the heavily industrialized eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, a conflict that has destroyed infrastructure and disrupted supply networks.

July's output fell 12.1 percent from July a year ago, accelerating from a 5 percent drop in June, the state statistics service said on Monday.

Production fell 28.5 percent in Donetsk and 56 percent in Luhansk in July from last July, the state statistics service said.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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#Gaza death toll rises above 2,000
2014.08.19 03:36:30

The death toll in the war-torn Gaza Strip rose above 2,000 on Monday, the health ministry said as more people injured in over a month of fighting with the Israelis succumbed to their wounds.

According to a ministry statement, a total of 2,016 people were killed and another 10,196 wounded.

Among the dead were 541 children, 250 women and 95 elderly men, it said.

The toll, which had stood at 1,980, jumped up after a number of people died from their injuries in hospitals across Gaza, as well as in Cairo and Jerusalem where they had been taken for treatment.

Medics also retrieved another body from under the rubble in the battered Shejaiya district east of Gaza City, where it had lain for more than three weeks, the statement said.

Separately, the Israeli army confirmed that five of 64 soldiers killed in combat had died as a result of "friendly fire".

[AFP]



Tags: Gaza | Israel

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Kurds retake Mosul dam as US and UK step up involvement
2014.08.19 03:35:18

Kurdish fighters backed by US fighter jets have retaken the country's largest dam from the Islamic State group (IS), as the US and Britain step up their military involvement.

The recapture of Mosul dam marks the biggest prize yet clawed back from IS since they launched a major offensive in northern Iraq in early June, sweeping Iraqi security forces aside.

US President Barack Obama told Congress that the "limited" airstrikes he has authorized on Iraq to retake its largest dam from IS protected US interests there.

Highlighting the stakes at hand, Obama said:

"The failure of the Mosul dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger US personnel and facilities, including the US Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace."

[AFP]



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | United States | United Kingdom

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Rebels deny shelling refugee convoy
2014.08.19 03:33:15

A senior rebel leader has denied on Monday separatists were responsible for a deadly missile strike on a convoy carrying refugees from the east Ukrainian city of Luhansk.

Earlier a Ukrainian military spokesmen had accused separatists of firing Grad missiles at the convoy, resulting in an unknown number of casualties.

Andrei Purgin, deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic said rebel forces did not have the military capability to conduct such an attack.

"The Ukrainians themselves have bombed the road constantly with airplanes and Grads. It seems they've now killed more civilians like they've been doing for months now. We don't have the ability to send Grads into that territory," he said.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Gaza Donor conference
2014.08.19 03:18:56

Norway says International donors will meet to pledge funds for the reconstruction of Gaza as soon as a lasting ceasefire is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We cannot expect the international community to finance reconstruction once again" without prior conditions, Norwegian Foreign Minister, Boerge Brende said in a statement.

In particular, he called for an end to the eight-year-old Israeli blockade of Gaza and for security guarantees for civilians on both sides of the border.

"Keeping people hemmed in and on the brink of famine will not guarantee the security of Gaza's neighbors," he said.

Brende, whose country heads the international coordination committee for aid to the Palestinians said the funds raised under the aegis of Egypt and Norway will be released to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

[AFP]



Tags: Gaza | Israel | Norway

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Britain's expanding role in Iraq to last months
2014.08.19 03:16:44

Britain is stepping up its role in Iraq beyond a humanitarian mission and the involvement is set to last months, Defense Minister Michael Fallon said in comments published on Monday.

"This is not simply a humanitarian mission," Michael Fallon said in comments run in The Times newspaper.

"We and other countries in Europe are determined to help the government of Iraq combat this new and very extreme form of terrorism that ISIL (Islamic State) is promoting."

Speaking to RAF pilots and other service personnel during a visit to an RAF base in Cyprus, the British defense minister said "there may well now be in the next few weeks and months other ways that we may need to help save life (and) protect people and we are going to need all of you again," The Guardian daily reported.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | Britain

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Rebel missile hits refugee convoy in east Ukraine
2014.08.19 03:15:28

A convoy of buses carrying refugees from the east Ukrainian city of Luhansk was hit by rebel missile fire on Monday resulting in an unknown number of casualties, Ukrainian military spokesmen said.

"Terrorists fired Grad missiles at a convoy of refugees from Luhansk near the areas of Khryashchuvatye and Novosvitlivka... we are waiting to hear how many died," a spokesman for the military operation in the east said.

A spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic said she had no information about the case.

A rebel news outlet, however, said that separatists and Ukrainian forces had exchanged heavy artillery fire where the buses had been traveling.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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UN helps three couples wed in war-torn #Gaza
2014.08.19 03:03:04

The United Nations has helped three couples wed in war-torn Gaza on Sunday.

Amid the destruction in the region, dozens of displaced friends and relatives joined the couples in a colorful ceremony in the southern town of Rafah.

The joint wedding took place at a school operated by the United Nations which has been used as a shelter for people displaced by the fighting.

The ceremony was organized by the UN, which paid for the celebration and gave each couple some gifts, including a mattress and some clothes.

The weddings were welcomed as a message of hope by Khader Mubarak, director of the UN school in Rafah.

[Associated Press]



Tags: Gaza | Israel

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White House: Obama authorized US strike on Mosul Dam
2014.08.19 03:01:42

The White House said that President Barack Obama had informed Congress that he authorized US air strikes in Iraq to help retake control of the Mosul Dam, which it said was consistent with his goal of protecting US citizens in the country.

"The failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, threaten US personnel and facilities - including the US Embassy in Baghdad - and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace," the White House said in a statement.

"These operations are limited in their nature, duration, and scope and are being undertaken in coordination with and at the request of the government of Iraq." [Reuters]



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | United States | Barack Obama

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Russia says 'certain progress' achieved at talks on Ukraine
2014.08.19 03:00:25

Russia's Foreign Ministry says 'certain progress' was achieved during talks on ways to end the military conflict in eastern Ukraine, despite clashes continuing.

The ministry said in a statement on Monday all parties agreed to continue talks in the same format to prepare 'concrete proposals' for the heads of government in Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Germany | France

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Syrian jets bombarded positions of IS
2014.08.19 02:59:19

Activists say Syrian jets have bombarded positions of the Islamic State group in the northern province of Raqqa as the self-declared jihadists close in on the last army base in the region.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported intense clashes on Monday between troops and Islamic State fighters on the edge of the villages of Ajil and Khazna. It said there were casualties on both sides.

The Tabqa air base is the last position held by Syrian government troops in Raqqa province - which is mostly under the control of the group.



Tags: Syria | Islamic State

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Fighting is still ongoing for the Mosul dam
2014.08.19 02:45:42

Despite reports on social media stating that the Kurdish forces have retaken the Mosul dam altogether from the Islamic State group, sources say that the fighting is still ongoing.

Iraq's largest dam was captured by the armed Sunni group earlier this month. Sunday's military operation, largely aided by US air strikes, aims to retake control of the government facility in northern Iraq.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State

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Ukraine talks 'difficult' but 'some progress': Steinmeier
2014.08.19 02:41:13

Ukraine crisis talks in Berlin on Sunday were "difficult" but made "some progress", German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after meeting with his Ukrainian, Russian and French counterparts.

"Difficult talks, but I think and I hope that we have made some progress on certain points", the German minister said after a five-hour meeting with Russia's Sergei Lavrov, Ukraine's Pavlo Klimkin and Laurent Fabius of France.

"Despite the difficult climate, we have registered some progress", a French diplomatic source echoed. The nature of the progress wasn't disclosed by either Steinmeier or the French source.

The meeting's participants will report back to their respective heads of government and "possibly decide on Monday or Tuesday in which form we can resume today's discussion", Steinmeier said. [AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Germany

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Japanese man may have been detained in Syria
2014.08.19 02:38:34

Japan is looking into reports that a Japanese man may have been detained, possibly by fighters in Syria, the foreign ministry said.

The government was still trying to confirm through the Japanese embassy in Damascus the reports that surfaced over the weekend, such as online posts showing a man being captured, allegedly in Syria, a spokeswoman said in a statement.

His identity, why he was there and other details are not clear.

The Japanese government has warned against travel in Syria, where fighting has been ongoing between Syrian government forces and the Islamic State group and other rebels that control northern Syria and parts of Iraq.

[AP]



Tags: Syria | Islamic State | Japan

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Israeli soldiers clash with Palestinians
2014.08.19 02:22:37

Israeli troops are reported to have raided the homes of three Palestinians suspected to have been involved in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, triggering clashes with locals in Hebron of the occupied West Bank.

Sources say that the homes of at least two of the suspects were demolished during the raid.

Israeli media reported the home of Marwan Kawasme was surrounded by Israeli security and military personnel, as were neighboring homes. The activity took place in Daerat alser, which is in the Hebron vicinity.

Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aisha from Hebron are believed to have kidnapped and killed Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.   

The orders for the kidnapping were allegedly given by Kawasme’s relative, Hussam Kawasme, who was arrested on July 11, as he was attempting to flee into Jordan.



Tags: Gaza | Israel | West Bank

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