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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…

US-backed forces capture Tabqa airbase from ISIL

US-backed forces capture Tabqa airbase from ISIL SDF take military airport from ISIL in northern Syria, close to country's largest dam that may be in danger of collapse.
A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters has captured a strategic airbase from ISIL in northern Syria in the first major victory for the group since the US airlifted the forces behind enemy lines last week.  The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Sunday that they captured the Tabqa airbase, 45km west of Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group's de facto capital in Syria. SDF forces were also battling for the nearby Tabqa dam, held by ISIL, which was forced out of service on Sunday after its power station was damaged. Earlier this week, US forces airlifted SDF fighters behind ISIL lines to allow them to launch the Tabqa assault, and on Friday the alliance reached one of the dam's entrances. SDF forces were within 10km of Raqqa from the north, and ai…

Prosecutors seek arrest of ex-president Park Geun-hye

Prosecutors seek arrest of ex-president Park Geun-hye Former president accused of bribery, leaking government information, and abuse of power, in scandal brought her down.


South Korean prosecutors have sought an arrest warrant for impeached President Park Geun-hye, they said, days after questioning her over the corruption and abuse of power scandal that brought her down. Park, 65, had her removal from office confirmed by the country's top court earlier this month, ending her executive immunity, and her prosecution has been a key demand of the millions of people who took to the streets to protest against her. The former president is accused of multiple offences including bribery, leaking government information, and abuse of power in the scandal.

Mass graves in Ireland: A long history of Church abuse

Mass graves in Ireland: A long history of Church abuse When infant remains were found in a former home for unwed mothers last month, it didn't come as a surprise to everyone.
When human remains were discovered in a septic tank in Tuam, in western Ireland, last month it didn't come as a complete surprise to everyone. The unearthing at the site - a former home for unmarried mothers - was the result of a government commission charged with investigating claims of abuse by religious orders. Excavations uncovered an underground structure where human remains were found.  Local historian Catherine Corless had initially uncovered details of a mass grave at the home run by the Catholic Church affiliated Bons Secours, where, according to her, up to 800 infants born to unmarried mothers had been unofficially buried in a disused sewage tank. But a 2014 email sent by Bons Secours' PR representative Terry Prone to filmmaker Saskia Weber dismissed the need for an investigation into the s…

UK targets WhatsApp encryption after London attack

UK targets WhatsApp encryption after London attack Minister Amber Rudd calls messaging encryption 'unacceptable', says security services must have access to that content.
The British government has said its security services must have access to encrypted messaging applications such as WhatsApp to prevent violent crimes. UK media reports have suggested that the man behind an attack in London last week sent an encrypted WhatsApp message moments before killing four people by ploughing his car into pedestrians and fatally stabbing a policeman. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on Sunday it was "completely unacceptable" that police and security services had not been able to crack the heavily encrypted service.

"You can't have a situation where you have terrorists talking to each other - where this terrorist sent a WhatsApp message - and it can't be accessed,"

Gaza-Israel border shut after Mazen Faqha killing

Gaza-Israel border shut after Mazen Faqha killing Hamas closes northern Gaza crossing 'until further notice', as it reflects on Mazen Faqha's killing, blamed on Israel.

Hamas authorities have shut the Gaza border with Israel after the killing of a senior commander, which Hamas blamed on "Israel and its collaborators". The rare measure reflected Hamas' shock after the killing of Mazen Faqha , who was found shot dead at the entrance of his Gaza City home late on Friday. Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum on Sunday announced  (Arabic) that the Beit Hanoun checkpoint, which faces the Israeli crossing of Erez in the north of the Gaza Strip, would be closed until further notice. "In light of the humanitarian situation, only the residents of Gaza with humanitarian cases will be allowed to return to Gaza via the Beit Hanoun checkpoint," Bozum said. Bozum confirmed that Hamas security services were investigating the circumstances of Faqha's…

Coalition says it hit Mosul site where civilians died

Coalition says it hit Mosul site where civilians died Coalition says it struck area in west Mosul where officials say scores of civilians were killed by aerial bombardment.
The US-led coalition bombing ISIL positions in Iraq has admitted that it carried out air raids last week at a location in west Mosul where officials and residents say scores of civilians were killed. The acknowledgement on Saturday came hours after the United Nations said it was "stunned" by the reported deaths of civilians in suspected coalition air raids in Mosul's ISIL-held al-Jadida district on March 17. "An initial review of strike data ... indicates that the coalition struck (ISIL) fighters and equipment, March 17, in west Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties," the US military's Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement on Saturday. The coalition said it had struck the area "at the request of the Iraqi security forces" and was inv…

Nicolas Maduro seeks UN help to ease medicine shortages

Nicolas Maduro seeks UN help to ease medicine shortages President Maduro asks for support to 'treat economic and social injuries' as country suffers severe medicine shortages.
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has asked the United Nations for "help" boosting medicine supplies as he struggles to combat crippling shortages. "I've asked for support from the UN to help treat economic and social injuries that have hit our people caused by the economic war and the sharp fall in petroleum prices," Maduro said in a televised appearance on Friday. He did not provide any details about the request except to say that the UN has the expertise to normalise the supply and distribution of pharmaceutical drugs in the country. But just acknowledging that Venezuela needs outside help is a telling sign of how deep in crisis the country, sitting atop the world's largest petroleum reserve, has fallen. The country is suffering from triple-digit inflation as well as…

US judge grants asylum to Singapore teen blogger

US judge grants asylum to Singapore teen blogger Amos Yee, accused of insulting the island's late leader and religious groups, was jailed for weeks in 2015 and 2016.
A Singaporean teenage blogger who was jailed twice for his online posts insulting his government was granted asylum to remain in the United States, an immigration judge in Chicago ruled. Amos Yee was jailed in 2015 for four weeks for hurting the religious feelings of Christians and posting an obscene image as part of his attacks on the island's late leader Lee Kuan Yew - whose son Lee Hsien Loong is now the prime minister. He was jailed again in 2016 for six weeks for insulting Muslims and Christians in a series of videos posted online, but critics claim the real reason was to silence him. Judge Samuel Cole issued a 13-page decision on Friday, more than two weeks after Yee's closed-door hearing on the asylum application.  "Yee has met his burden of showing that he suffered past persecution on account of …

Republicans withdraw healthcare bill in blow to Trump

Republicans withdraw healthcare bill in blow to Trump Short of support from fellow Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan pulls legislation meant to replace Obamacare.
Republicans in the US House of Representatives, short of support from their own party, have withdrawn a healthcare bill drafted to repeal and replace "Obamacare". House Speaker Paul Ryan said he recommended that it be withdrawn because he did not have the votes to pass it, and President Donald Trump agreed. Just a day earlier, Trump had demanded a House vote and said if the measure lost, he would move on to other issues. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that "we were very close" and tried to blame Democrats for the failure to pass the legislation - even though his Republican Party controls both the House and the Senate. "We were just probably anywhere from 10 to 15 votes short," Trump said. "With no Democrat support we couldn't quite get there." He also said he was surpri…

James Jackson charged with murdering Timothy Caughman Baltimore resident with 'intent to kill as many black men as he could' plunged sword into 66-year-old Timothy Caughman.

James Jackson charged with murdering Timothy Caughman Baltimore resident with 'intent to kill as many black men as he could' plunged sword into 66-year-old Timothy Caughman.
A white supremacist who stabbed a 66-year-old black man to death with a sword in New York has been charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime. James Harris Jackson, who killed Timothy Caughman on Monday, was charged on Thursday after he told police that he had hated black men for at least 10 years. "His intent was to kill as many black men here in New York as he could," prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said as the 28-year-old was arraigned. "The defendant was motivated purely by hatred." Caughman was bent over a rubbish bin around the corner from his home, gathering bottles, when Jackson plunged a two-foot sword into his chest and back and walked off, prosecutors said.

Hosni Mubarak walks free after six years in jail

Hosni Mubarak walks free after six years in jail Lawyer says ex-president, recently acquitted over alleged role in protester deaths during 2011 uprising, is free.
Egypt's ousted president Hosni Mubarak left a military hospital on Friday where he had spent much of his six-year detention, his lawyer said. Mubarak had been cleared for release earlier this month after a top court finally acquitted him of involvement in protester deaths during the 2011 revolt that ousted him. "Yes," his lawyer Farid al-Deeb told AFP news agency when asked if Mubarak had left the hospital on Friday. Mubarak was accused of inciting the deaths of protesters during the 18-day  He was sentenced to life in 2012 in the case, but an appeals court ordered a retrial which dismissed the charges two years later. Egypt's top appeals court on March 2 acquitted him of involvement in the killings. In January 2016, the appeals court upheld a three-year prison sentence for Mubarak and his two sons on corr…

London police: Eight arrests over Westminster attack

London police: Eight arrests over Westminster attack Police identify British man as assailant and arrest eight in probe into deadly attack near UK parliament.
The suspect of a deadly attack outside the UK parliament in London was British, Prime Minister Theresa May said, as police arrested eight people after several overnight raids across the country. Police named the man as Khalid Masood on Thursday, saying he had a string of criminal convictions. Masood, 52, was born in Kent to the southeast of London and had been most recently living in central England, London police said. "Masood was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack," a police statement said. "However, he was known to police and has a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH [grievous bodily harm], possession of offensive weapons and public order offences." He had not been convicted previously for any…

US general: Russia may be supplying Taliban fighters

US general: Russia may be supplying Taliban fighters

 The top US general in Europe said on Thursday he has seen growing Russian influence on the Afghan Taliban, and raised the possibility that Moscow was helping supply the fighters. Russia has been critical of the US over its handling of the war in Afghanistan - now in its 16th year - where the Soviet Union fought a bloody and disastrous war of its own in the 1980s. But Russian officials have denied they provide aid to the Taliban, which is contesting large swaths of territory and inflicting heavy casualties, and say their limited contacts are aimed at bringing the group to the negotiating table. "I've seen the influence of Russia of late - increased influence in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban," Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, who is also NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.