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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.



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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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Fragile ceasefire extension between Hamas and Israel
2014.08.16 01:51:29

A fragile ceasefire extension between Hamas and Israel entered its second day on Friday as the two sides in the Gaza conflict ponder Egyptian-mediated efforts to secure a lasting peace.

Egyptian mediators brokered the five-day extension to an existing truce to allow for further negotiations on a long-term ceasefire to fighting that has killed 1,962 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side since July 8.

The calm held throughout Thursday, after a flurry of Hamas rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes the previous night, even if great uncertainty persists on both sides about the future. [AFP]



Tags: Gaza | Israel | Hamas

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Maliki has stepped down
2014.08.15 04:56:25

BREAKING: Nouri al-Maliki has stepped down as Iraq's prime minister and given his backing to Haider al-Abadi as his successor, Iraqi state TV reported.



Tags: Iraq | Nouri al-Maliki

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Putin to establish military task force in Crimea
2014.08.15 02:38:12

President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he signed off on establishing a Russian military task force in Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine, but said the presence would not be too heavy or costly.

"The Defense Ministry prepared ... a separate program for the creation and development of military forces in Crimea. I approved this program," Putin said on a visit to the Black Sea peninsula.

"It will not be excessive, it will not be expensive."



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Crimea | Vladimir Putin

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In summary - key points from Putin's speech in Crimea
2014.08.15 02:36:45
  • More than 700 billion roubles to be forwarded to Crimea to create new jobs and update infrastructure.
  • Rehabilitation of repressed people, supporting three official languages: Russian, Ukrainian, Crimean Tatar.
  • We took a decision to have an embargo on western food.
  • This is not only a response to sanctions, but to support domestic products and open up to new markets.


Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Crimea | Vladimir Putin

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Putin vows to 'end bloodshed'
2014.08.15 02:24:56

"We will do everything in our power so that this conflict is ended as soon as possible, so that the blood can stop flowing in Ukraine."

Putin speaking during a visit to the Crimea region, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine earlier this year.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Crimea | Vladimir Putin

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Negotiations over convoy continue
2014.08.15 02:23:44

ICRC spokeswoman Anastasia Isyuk stressed Thursday that talks between the organization, Ukraine and Russia were continuing, but that she could not confirm where the Russian convoy was headed.

"The plans keep changing, the discussions are going ahead and we will not confirm for sure until we know an agreement has been reached. The practical details still have to be clarified between the two sides."



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Vladimir Putin addresses Duma in Crimea
2014.08.15 02:22:36
  • Local elections will be held in September
  • "Difficult work" has been done to transform Crimea
  • "Urgent measures" are being undertaken during Crimea's period of transition - including infrastructure issues such as transport.


Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Crimea | Vladimir Putin

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Rebel leader quits due to injury
2014.08.15 02:15:05

The leader of the pro-Russian separatist rebels in Ukraine's Luhansk region announced his resignation on Thursday, saying he was injured and could not carry on in his role, becoming the second senior rebel to quit in the space of seven days.

Russian state-run broadcaster Rossiya 24 broadcast the statement by Valery Bolotov, head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Ukraine to send aid to its eastern regions
2014.08.15 02:14:10

The Ukrainian government announced on Thursday that it was dispatching its own convoy of humanitarian aid to the region, but gave no details about what aid would be sent.



Tags: Ukraine

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Al Masri withdrew his forces
2014.08.15 02:13:17

The leader of a major rebel brigade, Abu Obaida Al Masri, gave his troops orders to withdraw from the town of Azaz.

According to activists in the area, Al Masri withdrew his forces to avoid fighting Islamic State (IS) fighters.

Al Masri's brigade is a member of Ahrar Al Sham, but activists say he has been distancing himself from Ahrar al Sham's central command and disobeyed direct orders on many occasions.

IS has recently been pushing from East Aleppo country side towards the west and has taken large parts of rebel territory.

Almost completely surrounded by the regime in Aleppo city and hit by IS attacks from the eastern countryside, rebels find themselves weakened, outnumbered and outgunned.

In the past days other rebel groups such as Soqour Al Islam brigades and even Al Qaeda's affiliate, Al Nusra Front, have been withdrawing troops from Aleppo.

In social media, IS members have been promising to take back the territories they lost to the rebels back in January when infighting broke out. Tweets and Facebook posts made by IS fighters have been promoting what they call "the return" and set the date to the coming month of September .



Tags: Syria | Islamic State

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