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Car bomb exploded in the rebel stronghold of Douma
2014.07.20 03:13:42

At least 10 people have been killed and dozens injured after a car bomb exploded in the rebel stronghold of Douma, a Damascus suburb, according to activists.

The bomb went off in a central market and damaged a hospital along with residential buildings.

The narrator in the video, purporting to show the aftermath, blames the Islamic State group for the attack.



Tags: Syria | Islamic State

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Buffer-zone
2014.07.20 03:00:37

Israeli soldiers in tanks and bulldozers dug in across a mile-wide strip of eastern Gaza on Saturday as Palestinian officials said military strikes had pushed the mostly civilian death toll past 300.

The military said its engineers were concentrating on an effective buffer-zone 2.5 km wide and were looking to destroy tunnels dug in secret by Hamas after the last major fighting there in 2012.



Tags: Gaza | Israel | Hamas

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Security zone around the crash site of MH17
2014.07.20 02:59:17

Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels have agreed to set up a security zone around the crash site of MH17, Ukraine's security service chief said on Saturday.

Internationally mediated talks "concluded with an agreement to set up a 20-kilometre security zone so that Ukraine could fulfill the most important  thing - identify the bodies (and) hand them over to relatives," Ukrainian Security Service head Valentyn Nalyvaychenko said.

[AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Syrian forces launch counter-attack
2014.07.20 02:58:12

Syrian government forces have launched a counter-attack to recapture a gas field seized by the Islamic State group, as the death toll from three days of fighting rose to more than 200, activists say.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said special forces launched an attack late Friday on the Shaer field in the central province of Homs and regained parts of it.

A Homs-based activist who goes by the name of Beibares Tellawi confirmed that troops were attacking fighters from the Islamic State group.

"The fighting today is mostly hit and run attacks," Tellawi said via Skype. "Large numbers of Assad's forces are attacking the field."

[AP]



Tags: Syria

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Israeli villages near the Gaza
2014.07.20 02:40:44

Army Radio is reporting that residents of Israeli villages near the Gaza border have been told to stay in their homes amidst reports of Palestinian fighters sneaking through tunnels, possibly disguised as Israeli soldiers.



Tags: Gaza | Israel

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Malaysia transport minister heads to Ukraine
2014.07.20 02:38:42

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai will fly to the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Saturday to ensure an investigating team gets safe access to the site of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

"We will want to ensure a safe corridor to the site," Liow told reporters. "... we sent a team to Kiev yesterday night. I will be leaving for Kiev tonight to ensure we have access to the site."



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Malaysia

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Three car bombs exploded
2014.07.20 02:37:43

According to sources in Baghdad, three car bombs have exploded in the city in the last hour. All targeted separate Shia areas.

In Dora, four were killed and 15 injured. In Baya, five were dead and 10 injured and in Jihad three were killed dead, and 13 injured.

UPDATE: Another car bomb has just exploded, this time in the Shia area of Kadhimiya. Three killed and 12 injured.

Total casualties so far: 15 dead and 50 injured.



Tags: Iraq

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Islamic fighters killed more than 100
2014.07.20 02:34:37

Islamic fighters have killed more than 100 Syrian troops, guards and workers as they captured a gas field in central Syria following daylong clashes, activists say.

Amateur video released by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed fighters walking among a large number of dead bodies that activists said were guards and workers in the gas field in the desert region of Palmyra.

The attack was the deadliest fighting so far between fighters of the Islamic State group and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The assault began on Thursday with a suicide bombing and an attack on army checkpoints near the gas field, according to an activist in the central province of Homs, who goes by the name Beibares Tellawi.

The fighters seized the field after fierce clashes with government forces, Tellawi said.

The Observatory said 115 people were killed.

[AP]



Tags: Syria | Islamic State

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Financial support of Hamas
2014.07.20 02:21:48

Reuters correspondent Nidal al-Mughrabi writes about how financial support to Hamas may have increased now that it's stepping up its fight with Israel.

Click here to read the full article on reuters.com



Tags: Gaza | Israel | Hamas

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Satellite images shows plume of smoke
2014.07.20 02:20:05

Satellite images show a plume of smoke left by the ground-to-air missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines flight 17.

Infrared sensors recorded the moment when the airliner exploded.

As US analysts sift through fragments of intelligence to try to pin down who fired the missile and why, and where it came from, they are running into difficult questions.

The US assessment, outlined by Ambassador Samantha Power at the UN Security Council on Friday, is that the airliner was "likely downed by a surface-to-air missile, an SA-11, operated from a separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine."

US officials said authorities were trying to determine who fired the Russian-made missile, whether Russian operatives aided in the attack and how the weapon arrived on territory held by Ukrainian rebels backed by Moscow.

Those determinations could be key to any international response to the downing of the plane that killed all 298 people aboard and sharply raised the stakes in Ukraine's conflict.

The American analysts have based some of their conclusions so far on technical data from advanced spy satellites whose principal use is to provide early warning of intercontinental ballistic missile launches.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Malaysia

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Potential need for more sanctions against Russia
2014.07.20 02:18:29

US President Barack Obama spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday about the potential need for more sanctions against Russia if it fails to take steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, the White House said.

"While agreeing to continue efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the current crisis, they reaffirmed their determination to remain in close contact as they consider what additional actions may be required," the White House said of Obama's call with Merkel.

"They emphasized that Russia bears a clear responsibility to deny separatists in eastern Ukraine continued access to heavy
weapons and other support from inside Russia," it said.

In their separate call, Obama and Cameron "reiterated the need to take further action if Russia continues to fail to take ... steps" to de-escalate the Ukraine conflict, the White House said.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Germany | United States | Barack Obama

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Video released by Hamas
2014.07.20 02:02:42

Video released by Hamas purportedly showed fighters from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas' military wing) running through tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip on Friday.

In another video released by Hamas, rockets were purported to be fired towards Israel on Friday.

The tunnels have been a key target in Israel's offensive on Gaza. Footage released by the Israeli army on Friday allegedly showed a tunnel being targeted in an airstrike.

The Associated Press could not independently verify the content, date or location of either video.



Tags: Gaza | Israel | Hamas

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Israeli ground offensive continues
2014.07.20 02:01:29

The Israeli ground offensive continues on Gaza for another night.

Tanks have been firing shells on Palestinian homes and families there say they're being hit.

At an emergency meeting, the UN Security Council says it's alarmed at Israel's response to rockets fired from Gaza.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will arrive in the Middle East on Saturday to try and find a solution to end the conflict.



Tags: Gaza | Israel

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US policy on Israel and Palestine
2014.07.19 08:39:22

Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, spoke about the continued failure of US policy on Israel and Palestine, and Washington's refusal to change direction.

"The US Senate voted today 100-1 on a very powerful rhetorical resolution saying 'we stand with Israel, Israel has the right to defend itself', without a word on the deaths of Palestinian children, not even urging calmly, cautiously their great ally to pull back just a little bit. It was an absolute endorsement of everything Israel is doing.

"At the request of the Obama administration, the Senate Appropriations committee just voted to provide Israel with an additional third of a billion dollars to add to the $3.1 bn that the US is already providing to the Israeli military this year.

"So the support is not only rhetorical but also in military assistance.

"Obama is probably privately worried, but I don't think he is even privately pushing Israel to curtail the massive human rights violations not least because he is very worried in the role Israel may play in scuttling a potential deal with Iran. Tomorrow is the deadline for six month interim deal between the US and its allies and Iran."

"I think the president is concerned politically if he puts any additional pressure on Israel regarding the Palestinians, Israel may respond by publicly mobilizing opposition against an agreement with Iran, which would turn the pro-Israel forces particularly in Congress against a very important foreign policy initiative that Obama wants to see go forward.

"The latest "peace talks" only repeated the exact same failed policy we have seen for the last 23 years. They need to completely revamp US policy towards Israel which would support international law, human rights and full equality for all, both Palestinians and Israelis, rather than a policy that supports Israeli domination."



Tags: Gaza | Israel | United States | Palestine

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United Nations failure
2014.07.19 08:36:59

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas criticized the United Nations on Friday for failure to effectively tackle the escalating crisis in Gaza.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry accused Erdogan of "incitement", saying it was ordering the return of diplomats' families and trimming staffing to a minimum.

Erdogan had accused Israel on Wednesday of terrorizing the region and likened an Israeli MP and member of the governing coalition to Hitler.

"The United Nations Security Council, an institution established on an unfair and problematic structure, deepens the problem of legitimacy by taking sides with powerful countries instead of the oppressed during critical incidents such as the recent developments in Middle East.

When we scrutinize the structure of the Security Council we see the fact that they have five permanent members and none of them is a Muslim country," Erdogan told the crowd after an iftar dinner.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Turkey and Palestine were working together to resolve the crisis by diplomatic means.

"We are aware of the inability of UN Security Council, but despite their incapability, we are working with our brothers at Turkish Foreign Ministry to carry out the current crisis to UN Security Council.

We are also working together on ways of taking this matter to UN General Assembly," he said.

Protesters continued to demonstrate outside Israel's Istanbul consulate on Friday night after Israel said it was reducing its diplomatic presence in Turkey.

[Reuters]



Tags: Gaza | Israel | Turkey

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Gaza Emergency Situation Report
2014.07.19 08:34:57

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has released their latest Gaza Emergency Situation Report, which covers the period from 17 July (1500 hrs) to 18 July (1500 hrs).

It puts the Palestinian death toll at 268, and says 59 of those are children, with 11 in the past 24 hours.

About 48,000 people are being hosted at UNRWA shelters, another 700 families are being hosted by relatives.

Read it in full here.



Tags: Gaza | Israel

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UN's aviation body
2014.07.19 05:57:15

The UN's aviation body on Friday said it did not have the authority to close global air routes, seeking to distance itself from responsibility after the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine.

Malaysia's transport minister said earlier that the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had shut the route after a Malaysian Airline jet was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people aboard.

"ICAO does not open or close routes. We do not have an operational role," said chief ICAO spokesman Anthony Philbin.

ICAO did issue a warning to airlines in April about flying over Crimea in the wake of the Russian invasion but it cited potential problems with conflicting air traffic controllers, not the risk of violence.

The warning was not an order but rather said "consideration should be given to measures to avoid the airspace". It did not issue a warning for eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting Ukrainian forces.

Malaysia said ICAO had approved the route but this appears to be a misreading of what the body does. ICAO issues advisories based on decisions taken by delegates rather than telling members what to do.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Evidence suggested that separatists had shot down the airliner
2014.07.19 05:56:15

Britain said on Friday that it was increasingly likely that separatists in eastern Ukraine had shot down a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 298 aboard.

A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said the evidence suggested that separatists had shot down the airliner with a surface-to-air missile fired from Torez, in an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The spokesman said in a statement:

We assess that, without compelling information to the contrary, it is increasingly likely that MH17 was shot down by a separatist missile.

Ten British nationals on the plane were killed, he added.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Britain

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Russia's UN ambassador warned the UN Security Council
2014.07.19 05:54:03

Russia's UN ambassador warned the UN Security Council on Friday against any attempts to pressure an investigation into the downing of a Malaysian airliner with 298 people on board over Ukraine.

There is a need for impartial, open investigation of what happened. Pressure should not be brought on this investigation, trying to prejudge its outcome with broad statements and insinuations that are unjustified in such a difficult situation.

Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Full independent and international investigation
2014.07.19 05:52:46

The UN Security Council demanded a full, independent and international investigation into the apparent shooting down of a Malaysian jet over Ukraine that killed 298 people on board.

Council members stood for a minute of silence in memory of those who lost their lives in Thursday's crash over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, at the start of an emergency meeting on the disaster.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Malaysia

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