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Syria: 40,000 displaced as fighting rages near Hama

Syria: 40,000 displaced as fighting rages near Hama Heavy clashes between rebels and government forces in past week have displaced thousands, mostly women and children.
Nearly 40,000 people, mostly women and children, have been displaced over the past week by fighting northwest of Syria's Hama city, the United Nations said on Tuesday. Since the rebel offensive began in the area a week ago, people have fled south and west to Hama city and neighbouring districts in Homs, Latakia and Tartous, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement. "Some internally displaced people are at risk of further displacement as the front lines continue to shift," it said. Rebels led by the hardline Tahrir al-Sham alliance - formed by a group that once fought as al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria - launched attacks on March 21 with the aim of retaking areas captured by government forces in 2016 and pushed into Hama city.  At least 10 different rebel groups batt…

Gaza: Israel's war drums are getting louder Israel is entertaining another round of fighting on the besieged strip.

Gaza: Israel's war drums are getting louder Israel is entertaining another round of fighting on the besieged strip.

On Friday, a senior member of Hamas's military wing, Mazen Faqha, was assassinated in the Gaza Strip by armed gunmen. It was an assassination tactic not seen in Gaza for at least a decade. Faqha was a leading member of Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades in the West Bank. In 2003, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in Israel for his role in planning attacks following Israel's assassination of Salah Shehadeh, then al-Qassam's leader. Faqha was set free in the prisoner-exchange deal that released Gilad Shalit in return for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in 2011. He was delivered from prison straight to the Gaza Strip, where he resided until his death. The timing and the tactic of Faqha's killing raise questions about the possibility of another conflagration between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian factions in Gaza agree unanimously that Israel…

US 'probably' involved in mass Iraqi civilian deaths

US 'probably' involved in mass Iraqi civilian deaths Top US commander in Iraq says 'fair chance' coalition air strike had role in scores of civilian killings in Mosul blast.
The top US commander in Iraq on Tuesday acknowledged the likelihood that the US-led coalition played a role in blasts in Mosul that killed many civilians this month, but said an investigation was under way and ISIL may also be to blame. "My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties... What I don't know is were they [the civilians] gathered there by the enemy? We still have some assessments to do," Lieutenant-General Steve Townsend told a Pentagon news briefing, speaking from Iraq.

The battle for Raqqa explained Unless there is an effective transition of power and a legitimate government in place, ISIL will continue to exist.

The battle for Raqqa explained Unless there is an effective transition of power and a legitimate government in place, ISIL will continue to exist.

Gaziantep, Turkey -  It has been more than a year and a half since the operation to retake Raqqa from the ISIL group was launched, but the offensive on the city still has not begun.  In fact, there seems to be a great deal of confusion internationally about whether the battle for Raqqa will be launched soon or not. On Friday, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that the operation to capture the city from ISIL will start within days. On Saturday, Russian defence ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said that the United States is unlikely to launch an offensive soon and called Le Drian's words "rosy slogans". Earlier last week, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the United States' closest ally in Syria , announced that it will launch the battle for Raqqa within two weeks. On Sunday, the SDF said  th…

Malaysia says Kim Jong-nam's body still in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia says Kim Jong-nam's body still in Kuala Lumpur Body of estranged half-brother of North Korean leader has not left the country, health minister says.
The body of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, murdered in Malaysia last month, is still in Kuala Lumpur, health minister Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said on Tuesday, after reports the remains would soon leave the country. Kim was murdered on February 13 after two women - an Indonesian and a Vietnamese - smeared supremely toxic VX nerve agent on his face at the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport, according to Malaysian police.

London gives N Ireland more time for power-sharing deal

London gives N Ireland more time for power-sharing deal Northern Ireland parties have "short window of opportunity" to avoid suspension of self-rule despite expired deadline.
The British government has given Northern Ireland's largest political parties extra time to form a power-sharing regional government, after a deadline to resolve their differences expired. The extension on Monday staved off the risk of a suspension of devolved power for the first time in a decade. James Brokenshire, Northern Ireland secretary of the United Kingdom, said the failure of the talks was "extremely disappointing", but he saw a "short window of opportunity" of several weeks for more talks. "I think there are a few short weeks in which to resolve matters," Brokenshire said shortly after the three-week deadline expired at 15:00 GMT. He did not explain on what basis more time would be given. While the law obliges him to call new elections, which would be the thi…

US-backed Syria forces resume fighting near Tabqa dam

US-backed Syria forces resume fighting near Tabqa dam SDF says Taqba Dam is not damaged and fighting will resume, but monitor casts doubt on whether engineers inspected site.
US-backed forces in Syria are resuming an offensive against ISIL fighters at a major hydroelectric dam, saying it is in no danger of collapsing amid conflicting claims over its integrity.  The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF) offensive was briefly suspended on Monday, a day after a senior Syrian government official warned that the Tabqa Dam had been damaged by US-led air raids and cited an increasing risk of catastrophic flooding. ISIL had also issued warnings that the dam could collapse "at any moment",  releasing pictures showing what it said was the structure's control room after it had been damaged by US air raids. The SDF, an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, paused operations for four hours on Monday to allow engineers to inspect the dam, a major target in their campaign t…