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Kurdish forces make more gains against Islamic State
2014.08.26 02:51:08

Kurdish forces have advanced overnight to the outskirts of Zumar, about 15 km west of the Mosul Dam as part of a push to retake the Syrian border crossing of Rabia, Kurdish officials say.

Peshmerga special forces who retook the Mosul dam last week have been fighting Islamic State group fighters in the vicinity of the dam, and have pushed through two other towns held by the fighters to reach Zumar, our correspondent said.

"If the Kurds manage to take Zumar they will disrupt a main IS supply line and route from the group's base in Mosul," she reported.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State

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Russia urges West to engage with Assad
2014.08.26 02:48:17

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday urged Western and Arab governments to overcome their distaste for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and engage with him to fight the Islamic State group.

"I think Western politicians are already realizing the growing and fast-spreading threat of terrorism," Lavrov said, referring to Islamic State advances in Syria and Iraq.

"And they will soon have to choose what is more important, a [Syrian] regime change to satisfy personal antipathies, risking deterioration of the situation beyond any control, or finding pragmatic ways to unite efforts against the common threat."

In comments likely to irritate Washington, Lavrov said the US had made the same mistake with Islamic State as it had with al-Qaeda, which emerged in the 1980s when US-backed Islamist insurgents were fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

"At the start the Americans and some Europeans rather welcomed [Islamic State] on the basis it was fighting against Bashar al-Assad. They welcomed it as they welcomed the mujaheddin who later created al-Qaeda, and then al-Qaeda struck like a boomerang on September 11, 2001," Lavrov said.

"The same thing is happening now," he said, adding that the US had only started fighting the group after it began rampaging across Iraq and approaching the capital Baghdad.

[Reuters]



Tags: Syria | Islamic State | Russia

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Iran's PM meets top Shia leader
2014.08.26 02:27:03

Iran's PM meets top Shia leader of Iraq as Tehran tries to grapple with the increasing threat of the Sunni armed group Islamic State.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | Iran

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Germany rules out reengaging with Assad due to IS threat
2014.08.26 02:25:18

Germany says it has no plans to rekindle ties with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has has no diplomatic contacts with the country because of the threat posed by the Islamic State group.

"The regime of President Assad has committed unbelievable injustice in every form during the civil war that has been raging for 3-1/2 years. Nearly 200,000 people have died," spokesman for the German foreign ministry, Martin Schaefer, told a government news conference on Monday.

"To be honest it is very difficult to imagine that all this can be ignored in the name of Realpolitik, that one says, now we have ISIS, which is worse than Assad, so now we have to get into bed with the one that isn't quite so bad," he added.

"This is too simple. I am not aware of any thoughts or deliberations, whether in the fight against [the Islamic State group] or otherwise, about working with the regime of President Assad," Schaefer said. "I am not aware of any political or diplomatic contacts between Germany and the Syrian government."

[Reuters]



Tags: Syria | Islamic State | Germany

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Abbas to appeal to UN to end Israeli occupation
2014.08.26 02:04:21

The Palestinian leadership is to make an appeal to the international community to set a deadline for Israel to end its occupation of its territories, a senior official told has told the AFP on Monday.

The Palestinian leadership is preparing "to go to the UN Security Council to enforce an end to the [Israeli] occupation," senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Wasel Abu Yusef told AFP.

Labor minister Ahmad al-Majdalani also said the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas was "working towards... holding an international conference to set a timetable for an end to the occupation," he told AFP on Sunday.

Neither official gave any details on when the Palestinian demand would be presented.

In the event of a likely veto by the United States at the Security Council, the Palestinians would consider fast-tracking an application to become party to the International Criminal Court, Abu Yussef said.

"If the US uses a veto, then we still have the ICC card," he told AFP.

The move comes as Palestinian and world leaders continue to push for a halt to seven weeks of bloodshed in Gaza, and seek a more permanent end to violence between Israel and Hamas.

[AFP]



Tags: Gaza | Israel | Hamas

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Dempsey: We will act if Islamic group threatens US
2014.08.26 02:03:05

Gen. Martin Dempsey has said that once he determines that the Islamic State group in Iraq has become a direct threat to the US homeland or Europe, he will recommend the US military move directly against the group in Syria.

But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that right now, he still believes that the group is still more a regional threat and is not plotting or planning attacks against either the US or Europe.

So far, the Obama administration has restricted its military action

Speaking on a military plane en route to Afghanistan, Dempsey said: "I think [the Islamic State] has been so brutal, and has wrapped itself in a radical religious legitimacy that clearly threatens everybody I just mentioned, that I think they will be willing partners." [AP]



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | United States | Syria

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Syria warns US against unilateral airstrikes
2014.08.26 02:01:54

The Syrian government says it must be involved in coordinating any air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria, after the US said it was considering extending the fight against the group into Syrian territory.

Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, said air strikes alone would not be adequate to deal with Islamic State, which has taken control of large areas of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

Moualem also said neighboring states needed to exchange intelligence with Syria.

[Reuters]



Tags: Syria | Islamic State | United States

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Moscow's plan to send a second aid convoy
2014.08.26 02:00:41

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday expressed his "extreme concern" about Moscow's plan to send a second aid convoy to the east and the alleged crossing of Ukraine's border by Russian armored vehicles.

"Ukraine's head of state expressed his extreme concern about the breaching of Ukraine's border by Russian armored vehicles and Russia's intention to send a so-called 'humanitarian' convoy again to Ukraine," Poroshenko's office said after a telephone conversation with EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy. [AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Israeli troops edge closer to Gaza border
2014.08.26 01:52:06

Israeli soldiers and tanks were deployed on Monday morning near the Gaza border amid continued rocket and mortar strikes on southern Israel.

The Israeli military said 117 rockets and mortars were launched on Sunday, nine of them intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome system. Israeli media reported on Monday rockets were launched towards Tel Aviv.

Thousands of homes in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or damaged in the conflict. Nearly 500,000 people have been displaced in the territory of 1.8 million where Palestinians, citing Israeli attacks that have hit schools and mosques, say no place is safe. [Reuters]



Tags: Gaza | Israel

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Syria FM: Syria is ready to cooperate against terrorism
2014.08.26 01:51:14

Holding a press conference in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that Islamic State had a close cooperation with Turkey.

"They were welcomed in on the red carpet in Turkey," he said, adding that Islamic State was acquiring weapons through Turkey.

He also said that Syrian government was ready to coordinate with the countries in its region and the international community to "fight against terrorism".

He added cooperation was possible if the West proved that it was moving in another direction in its policy towards Syria.

Neighboring countries need to exchange intelligence with Syria, he also said.



Tags: Syria | Islamic State

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Drones strike target in northern Iraq
2014.08.26 01:50:20

The US has used aircraft and drones to strike targets in northern Iraq to try to rein in Islamic State militants, who have seized a large swath of territory in the region, the US army has said.

"US military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in support of Iraqi security force operations, using attack and remotely-piloted aircraft to conduct two airstrikes in the vicinity of Arbil and Mosul dam," a statement from Florida-based US Central Command said, referring to ISIL, one of the acronyms by which the Islamic State is known.

"One strike destroyed an ISIL humvee near the Mosul Dam and the other strike destroyed an ISIL armed vehicle near Arbil. All aircraft exited the strike area safely," it said.

[AFP]



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | United States

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Second aid convoy into Ukraine
2014.08.26 01:48:34

The Kremlin announced plans on Monday for a second aid convoy into Ukraine, heightening tensions on the eve of crunch talks, while fresh clashes raged along the border and around the main rebel-held city.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said troops were battling a contingent of "10 tanks and two armored personal carriers" flying rebel flags that had crossed a southern part of the border with Russia and was heading towards the government-held city of Mariupol.

Some 120 kilometers to the north, AFP journalists also witnessed heavy fighting raging to the south of Donetsk, the main rebel bastion, a day after separatist leaders said they had deployed tanks and artillery to the area. [AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Memorial service for James Foley
2014.08.26 01:33:00

The Kurdish regional government organized a memorial service for James Foley, the freelance journalist and cameraman killed by the Islamic State group after almost two years in captivity in Syria.

Members of the Kurdistan Journalist Syndicate, university students, lawmakers and diplomats gathered at the Sami Abdulrahman park in central Erbil to pay their respects, laying flowers and lighting candles for the slain US journalist.

Addressing the mourners Azad Hamad Amin, the head of the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate, said Foley was "martyred, killed in a vicious act of terrorism."

The Islamic State posted a video on the internet on Tuesday showing his murder, saying it was in retaliation for US airstrikes in northern Iraq.

Foley was kidnapped on November 22, 2012 while covering the Syrian uprising.

[AP]



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | United States | James Foley

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IS fighters captured a major military air base
2014.08.26 01:29:57

Islamic State fighters captured a major military air base in northeastern Syria on Sunday, eliminating the last government-held outpost in a province otherwise dominated by the group, activists and state media said.

Tabqa airfield _ home to several warplane squadrons, helicopters, tanks, artillery, and ammunition bunkers - is the third military base in the area to fall to the extremists since last month.

Those victories are part of the Islamic State group's aggressive push to consolidate its hold on northern and eastern provinces, while also expanding the boundaries of its self-styled caliphate straddling the Syria-Iraq border.

[AP]



Tags: Syria | Islamic State

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Pro-Russian separatists paraded captured
2014.08.26 01:27:26

A top rebel commander on Sunday taunted the Ukrainian government after pro-Russian separatists paraded captured Ukrainian troops along the streets of the eastern city of Donetsk, just as independence day celebrations took place in the capital, Kiev.

"Kiev said that on the 24th, on the Independence Day of Ukraine, they would have a parade.

Indeed, they did march in Donetsk, although it wasn't a parade," said Alexander Zakharchenko, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.

"Soldiers of the armed forces of Kiev walked along the main streets of Donetsk. What Poroshenko planned has taken place," he said.

The rival demonstrations on Ukraine's 23rd anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union underscored the bitter divisions in the country after five months of fighting.

[AP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Israel closes Gaza's Erez crossing
2014.08.26 01:08:26

Israel says it has closed the Erez border crossing between Israel and Gaza, after it was struck by a rocket fired from Gaza.

Three people were injured.

The crossing is used by journalists, aid workers and Palestinians with permits to leave or enter Gaza.



Tags: Gaza | Israel

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Netanyahu warned the bloody offensive would continue
2014.08.25 12:14:05

Israeli air strikes pounded Gaza Sunday, killing at least 16 people, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the bloody offensive would continue as long as necessary.

One of Sunday's air strikes killed Hamas financial official Mohammed al-Ghul as he was traveling by car in Gaza City, Israel's army said in a statement. Gaza medics confirmed the death.

A later strike on northern Gaza killed a mother and four children from the same family, medics said, as the day's death toll reached at least 16, including six children.

[AFP]



Tags: Gaza | Israel

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Zarif denies Iranian soldiers fighting in #Iraq
2014.08.25 04:20:00

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has denied in Baghdad Sunday that any of his country's soldiers are in Iraq to help battle a the Islamic State group.

"We are cooperating and working... with the Iraqi government and with the Kurdish government in order to repel this very serious, atrocious group," Zarif said.

"But we do not believe that they need the presence of Iranian soldiers in order to do this task," he said at a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari.

There have been reports of Iranian forces fighting in Iraq, and despite Zarif's denial, evidence including the death of an Iranian pilot and the presence of several Iranian Su-25 warplanes points to a more direct military role by Iraq's Shia neighbor to the east.



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | Iran

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Israeli airstrike kills Hamas finance official
2014.08.25 04:17:53

Israel has said it had killed a top Hamas financial official in an airstrike on Gaza City, as it continued a policy of targeted assassinations against the Palestinian group.

Mohammed al-Ghul, "was an important Hamas actor who dealt with transferring funds to build terror infrastructure in Gaza, such as tunnels, and was a key target," Israeli army spokesman Major Arye Shalicar said.

The airstrike targeted a car in Gaza City, killing Ghul, the army said. Palestinian medics in Gaza confirmed his death.

[AFP]



Tags: Gaza | Israel | Hamas

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Foley killing an 'utter betrayal': British foreign secretary
2014.08.25 04:16:59

Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Sunday that the killing of US journalist James Foley by a man speaking with an English accent was an "utter betrayal of our country".

There is growing concern in London that British passport holders who travel to fight in Iraq and Syria could return to commit attacks on British soil.

The Islamic State group posted a video on Tuesday in which a masked militant with a London accent is seen executing Foley, who had been missing since his capture in Syria in 2012.

The Sunday Times newspaper, citing unnamed senior government sources, reported that intelligence services MI5 and MI6 have identified the fighter suspected of killing Foley but the sources did not divulge the suspect's name.

"It is horrifying to think that the perpetrator of this heinous act could have been brought up in Britain," Hammond wrote in an article for the paper.

"It is an utter betrayal of our country, our values and everything the British people stand for."

Britain has ruled out sending ground troops into Iraq to fight the Islamic State group, but it is sending equipment to Kurdish peshmerga fighters who are fighting - such as body armor and night vision equipment - and offering humanitarian assistance.

[AFP]



Tags: Iraq | Islamic State | United States | James Foley | Syria | Britain

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