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Preview: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Middle East Middle East News from the Associated Press


Iraqi officials: Separate bombings kill 10 people in Baghdad

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 13:58:12 UT

The Baghdad attacks mainly targeted civilians and though there was no immediate claim of responsibility, they bore all the hallmarks of the Islamic State group in what are apparently efforts by militants to distract from the Iraqi forces' major offensive in the northern city of Mosul. The casualty toll for Friday's attacks was provided by police and hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Bombing on Cairo road to pyramids kills 6 Egyptian police

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 13:34:04 UT

CAIRO (AP) — A bombing on a main Cairo road leading to the Giza pyramids killed six police and wounded another three on Friday, the deadliest attack on security forces in the capital in more than six months. The bombing, near a mosque on a wide avenue often used by tour buses, hit a police checkpoint, smashing several cars and blowing the windows out of police SUVs. A shadowy group called Hasm, or "Decisiveness," which the government suspects is linked to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, claimed responsibility for the attack. The government floated the Egyptian pound last month and slashed fuel subsidies, steps that were welcomed by the IMF and the business community but caused a spike the price of many goods, worsening the economic plight of ordinary Egyptians.

Facing evacuation, West Bank settlers remain defiant

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 12:48:55 UT

With the Dec. 25 evacuation date approaching, Israel's pro-settler government is scrambling to find a solution, fearing a repeat of the violent showdown between extremist settlers and Israeli security forces that took place on this same wind-swept hilltop a decade ago. The outpost became a symbol of settler defiance after the partial evacuation a decade ago sparked violent clashes between residents and allied activists on one side and security forces on the other. In 2014, Israel's Supreme Court ordered Amona to be evacuated, after it determined the outpost was built on private Palestinian land, giving the government until this Dec. 25 to tear down the outpost's 50 trailer homes. The Israeli leader has been forced to find a balance between appeasing his settler constituents and maintaining the integrity of Israel's Supreme Court, which often comes under attack by hard-line legislators accusing it of ruling unfairly against settlers. [...] Amona was dropped from the draft bill after a coalition partner refused to support legislation that would violate the Supreme Court decision. The Palestinians and the international community consider both settlements and outposts illegal or illegitimate and an obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state. [...] the Israeli daily Haaretz newspaper reported that some 1,000 officers are expected to be deployed and that 200 restraining orders are set to be issued to keep away potentially violent Jewish extremists. Israeli media aired footage showing police officers staging an evacuation exercise at a training base where a mock Palestinian village served as a stand-in for Amona.

Authorities ID Ohio officer who fatally shot Emirati suspect

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 12:35:33 UT

HUDSON, Ohio (AP) — Authorities in Ohio have released the identity of the Hudson police officer who fatally shot a United Arab Emirates citizen who police say fled after causing a crash on the Ohio Turnpike. Doran is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting, which made headlines in Alameri's native country on the Arabian Peninsula.

Egypt's state-run news agency says Cairo explosion kills 6 police

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 09:41:02 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's state-run news agency says Cairo explosion kills 6 police.

Iraq prepares for new fight against post-Mosul IS

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 07:27:39 UT

BAGHDAD (AP) — With the Islamic State group's "caliphate" seemingly nearing its downfall in Iraq, the country's security agencies are preparing for a different fight against the militants, shifting away from ground offensives to a focus on intelligence work, surgical airstrikes and a higher level of cooperation with the West. The new strategy is designed to counter an expected move by the Islamic State group away from holding territory and back to a more classic role as a dispersed, underground terror organization after it loses Mosul, its last major urban center in Iraq. [...] the militants are laying the groundwork for a strategy of hiding in remote areas, carrying out attacks in Iraq and abroad and resorting to organized crime to bankroll operations, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said. Longer term, they said, the fight against post-Mosul IS can only succeed if the border with Syria is secured and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad addresses longtime grievances by Iraq's Sunni Arab minority that fueled support for the militants. Six officials — four from intelligence agencies and two from the Interior Ministry's counterterrorism agency — described the planning in interviews with The Associated Press. "Tough days await our intelligence and security agencies when they start fighting a different Islamic State," predicted Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi security analyst. Iraq is negotiating with several Western companies to buy surveillance equipment to monitor the long desert border with Syria, the officials said. The intention is to prevent attacks by sleeper cells and stop Western militants from returning home. A glimpse of what could be in store came in October when IS fighters and suicide bombers, believed to come from sleeper cells, attacked the oil city of Kirkuk, killing at least 80 people.

The Latest: Turkey sends 300 more troops to Syria border

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 00:28:32 UT

Turkey's state-run news agency says 300 commandos have deployed to the border area with Syria. Anadolu said Thursday that the commandos would join Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield, which aims to drive Islamic State militants and Kurdish forces out of a strategic area of northern Syria. The Syrian government has dismissed calls for a cease-fire, as its troops press their offensive on the rebel-held enclave. Lavrov says the Syrian army suspended its advance Thursday to allow some 8,000 civilians to leave the city in a convoy spreading across 5 kilometers (more than 3 miles). Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Thursday that a statement from the United States and five other Western powers raising the threat of additional sanctions against the supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad was "cowardly." In a joint statement Wednesday, the leaders of Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Canada and the U.S. called for an immediate cease-fire in the Syrian city of Aleppo and said they were "ready to consider additional restrictive measures against individuals and entities that act for or on behalf of the Syrian regime." Jan Egeland provided no details about how the aid might get in or where it would go in eastern Aleppo, where President Bashar Assad's forces have made recent inroads to recapture areas from opposition fighters. Syrian opposition activists say Islamic State militants have seized territory near Palmyra, home to famed Roman ruins. The Palmyra Coordination Committee, another opposition group, says IS advanced from the south and north, capturing government checkpoints and a number of small villages, and approaching gas fields and grain silos. The IS-run Aamaq news agency posted a video of four captured government soldiers. Turkey's presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said Thursday there was "intense diplomatic activity" in order to bring about a cease-fire and the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Russia says Aleppo combat suspended, residents say no let-up

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 00:20:49 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Russia said the Syrian army was suspending combat operations in Aleppo late Thursday to allow for the evacuation of civilians from besieged rebel-held neighborhoods, but residents and fighters reported no let-up in the bombing and shelling campaign on the opposition's ever-shrinking enclave. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking in Germany after talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, said military experts and diplomats would meet Saturday in Geneva to work out details of the rebels' exit from Aleppo's eastern neighborhoods, along with civilians who were willing to leave the city. Lavrov said the Syrian army suspended combat action late Thursday to allow some 8,000 civilians to leave the city in a convoy spreading across a five-kilometer (three-mile) route. Other residents reported warplanes firing from machine guns at rebel positions and artillery shells falling in the remaining rebel-controlled districts. The rebel defenses have buckled amid the wide-ranging government offensive, which opened a number of fronts at once and was preceded by an intensive aerial campaign. Footage by the Syrian military showed intensive shelling of Bustan al-Qasr, a frontline neighborhood that links the rebel-held eastern and government-controlled western parts of the divided city. The people had been trapped in a facility that was originally a home for the elderly and included mentally and physically disabled patients, as well as injured civilians who had sought refuge there.

UN Syria envoy say time may be right for negotiations

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 23:09:58 UT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia's announcement that Syria was suspending combat operations in Aleppo may mean the time is right to restart negotiations for a peace deal, the U.N. envoy for Syria said Thursday. "Perhaps now is the time to actually look seriously at the possible renewal of looking at when how we can have political discussions, because there is an awareness that military victory is not peace because peace has to be won separately," de Mistura said following a closed-door Security Council session on Syria. Security Council action on Syria has been repeatedly blocked by Russia and Western diplomats continued to search for ways around the veto that Syria's close ally enjoys as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

A lethal mistake leads to a harrowing ambush in Iraq's Mosul

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 19:51:51 UT

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — As Iraqi forces advanced toward the al-Salam hospital in Mosul earlier this week, encountering only light resistance from Islamic State fighters, commanders decided to seize the facility instead of sweeping the neighborhoods along the road leading to it. First came the suicide car bombs, and then the hospital was surrounded by hundreds of militants firing bursts of heavy machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades. "When we reached them, they barely had any bullets left," a special forces officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters. Col. John Dorrian, a coalition spokesman, said the strike was carried out at the request of Iraqi ground forces and the hospital was hit because IS fighters were using it to fire down on Iraqi troops. In all, more than 20 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the battle, and a handful of armored Iraqi vehicles were captured by IS, the special forces officer said.

MSF: Jordan closure blocked 70 Syrians from life-saving care

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 18:33:48 UT

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Seventy severely wounded Syrians, including 16 children, have been prevented from getting life-saving treatment since Jordan closed its border with Syria six months ago, an official from the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said Thursday. Government spokesman Mohammed Momani said Thursday that Jordan allows "critical cases" to enter the kingdom for treatment and also permits medical supplies to be sent to Syria.

Rights group says US may be complicit in Yemen 'atrocities'

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 17:25:51 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Human Rights Watch on Thursday called for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia over the war in Yemen, and said the United States might be complicit in "atrocities" by supplying bombs. "The Obama administration is running out of time to completely suspend U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia or be forever linked to Yemen wartime atrocities," Human Rights Watch researcher Priyanka Motaparthy said. The Human Rights Watch report released Thursday included findings from an investigation into an air raid in Arhab, a town north of Sanaa, on Sept. 10 that killed 31 civilians, including several first responders, and wounded more than 40.

IS calls for attacks on US bases in uneasy island of Bahrain

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 17:14:42 UT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Islamic State group is calling on its followers to launch attacks in Bahrain and to target American military personnel stationed on the tiny island ahead of a visit by the U.S. defense secretary. The appeal came in a video that also urges militants to attack the Sunni-ruled island's Shiite majority, amid a wide-scale government crackdown on dissent. "The muzzles of your weapons should not miss those American bases where from military aircraft took off to pour their flames on the monotheists in the territories of Islam," the militant adds. Late Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in Manama issued a security message noting that "extremist groups have issued broad calls for action by their supporters against the government of Bahrain and (the) U.S. military." In a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday, Bahrain's government said it "remains vigilant against terrorist activities and extremism." "The government is fully committed to community cohesion and upholding the principles of reconciliation and tolerance, and will not allow the disruption of that cohesion and peace to go unchecked," the government's statement said.

Egypt's president says economic reforms are no 'picnic'

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 16:23:57 UT

El-Sissi blamed the weakened economy on the years of unrest unleashed by the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years. Since coming to power, el-Sissi has relied on billions of dollars of assistance from Gulf Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia. In the address Thursday, el-Sissi returned to the theme of religious reform. Since toppling President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 and launching a crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group, el-Sissi has presented himself as a bulwark against Islamic extremism.

UN scrambling for land to shelter displaced outside Mosul

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 16:19:45 UT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. is scrambling to find enough land to shelter those displaced by the fighting to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group as humanitarians brace for the exodus of as many as 700,000 people from the city, an official said. [...] the choice is theirs. In order to solve the problem, he said, the U.N. is now considering building camps closer to the city which has the advantage of allowing displaced people to simply walk in. "Because the camp capacity has now more or less reached its limit, we are now planning to use the fact that the front lines have gotten closer to the city to try and build camps much closer to the city so in the event of a mass outflow, these camps would act as buffers," Geddo said.

Turkey's leader renounces foreign currencies to boost lira

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 16:02:31 UT

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey's leader has renounced foreign currencies in favor of the ailing lira currency in keeping with his appeal to Turkish citizens to do the same, his spokesman said Thursday, as a new measure was unveiled to help struggling businesses. Erdogan called on Turkish citizens to convert savings held in foreign currencies into gold and Turkish lira to help boost the ailing currency, which recently dropped above 3.5 lira per dollar, the weakest exchange rate in more than a decade. The Turkish lira has been struggling in a year marked by political instability, including a failed coup attempt in July, bombings by Kurdish and Islamic State militants, and yo-yoing relations with the European Union and the United States.

Amnesty calls for release of jailed Egyptian photojournalist

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 14:53:13 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Amnesty International has urged Egyptian authorities to release a photojournalist jailed for more than three years in what the London-based rights group calls a "politically motivated" case. Amnesty deputy director Najia Bounaim says Abu Zeid was tortured while in police custody and had no access to lawyers during his interrogation.

Egyptian authorities arrest son of ousted president Morsi

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 14:27:02 UT

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian official says security forces have arrested the son of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The state-run news website Al-Ahram reported the arrest, saying Osama is accused of inciting violence.

Iraq's parliament speaker says airstrike killed civilians

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 13:53:33 UT

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's parliament speaker says an airstrike targeting the Islamic State-held town of Qaim near the Syrian border killed and wounded "dozens" of civilians, and that he is holding the Iraqi government responsible. "The airstrike hit unarmed civilians in shopping centers in Qaim and caused the killing and wounding of dozens of them," speaker Salim al-Jabouri said in a statement late Wednesday, calling the incident a "crime" and saying the perpetrators should be punished. The Defense Ministry's media office said jets carried out separate strikes on two homes where up to 65 IS fighters had gathered, based on "accurate intelligence from our sources in the region."

UAE police head to US after Ohio police killing of Emirati

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 12:53:04 UT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A state-owned newspaper in the United Arab Emirates is reporting that Abu Dhabi investigators are heading to the U.S. after police in Ohio shot dead an Emirati. Authorities say Alameri, a student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, was shot once in the head Sunday by police after fleeing a car crash on the Ohio Turnpike and fighting with an officer.

Israel police say knife-wielding Palestinian shot and killed

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 07:54:46 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police say security forces have shot and killed a knife-wielding Palestinian at a West Bank junction. Police spokeswoman Luba Samri says an 18-year-old Palestinian disembarked from a bus at the Tapuach Junction, north of Jerusalem, and approached border policemen stationed there in a suspicious manner on Thursday.

Assad supporters see domino effect in Aleppo government win

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 06:17:23 UT

A rebel defeat in Aleppo, Syria's largest city and once its commercial center, would reverberate across the war-torn country, where opposition forces continue to hold out in smaller, scattered areas. [...] rebel strongholds have surrendered to government forces in quick succession, forging truce deals with Assad's troops that have allowed fighters safe passage to the rebel-held northern province of Idlib. In Aleppo, rebel factions that had held out for four years finally buckled last week under the pressure of a massive air campaign that took out all remaining hospitals, and a suffocating siege that has seen medical and food supplies running dangerously low. By Wednesday, Syrian troops and allied militiamen had seized control of three-quarters of the territory the opposition controlled, leaving the rebels boxed in, mostly in the southern part of their ever-shrinking enclave. "A defeat in Aleppo will leave the Syrian opposition at a dead end, not just because it will have lost its most important piece of real estate, but because the remaining rebel strongholds are of little use as platforms to reverse the tide of war," wrote Aron Lund, a fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Middle East Program. By contrast, in western Aleppo, schools, businesses and government institutions continued to function, albeit with intermittent interruptions. In government-controlled parts of the country and on social media, Assad supporters are already touting the Aleppo advances as an overall military victory by Assad in the war.

2 Hamas militants killed in tunnel collapse

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 21:24:12 UT

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza says two of its members were killed when a military tunnel they were working on collapsed in the territory near the border with Israel. Tunnels are designed to store weapons and to infiltrate Israel to carry out attacks.

Iraqi forces face fierce IS attacks after new Mosul push

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 21:13:12 UT

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — Significant Islamic State group counterattacks in southeastern Mosul inflicted heavy losses on Iraqi forces overnight after a new push deeper into the city this week, according to an Iraqi Army officer. The Iraqi government has not publicized the casualty figures for government troops and paramilitary forces fighting in Mosul and elsewhere in northern Iraq. Last week, the U.N. said in a report that nearly 2,000 members of the Iraqi forces were killed last month, but after coming under fire from the media arm of the Iraqi military, it announced it would discontinue publishing casualty figures for Iraq's security forces. Backed by the U.S.-led international coalition, Iraqi government troops and paramilitary forces launched the campaign in October to dislodge IS from Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city and the last major IS urban bastion in the country. Progress on the ground in Mosul has been slowed by heavily armored IS car bombs, snipers and networks of tunnels that allow the fighters to move without being seen by U.S.-led coalition aircraft.

Syrian government advances despite rebel cease-fire offer

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 21:09:56 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's government ignored a rebel cease-fire proposal for Aleppo on Wednesday as its forces captured new neighborhoods around the city center and squeezed some 200,000 tired and frightened civilians into a shattered and rapidly shrinking opposition enclave. Facing a punishing and brutal defeat, rebel factions proposed a five-day cease-fire for the eastern parts of the city to evacuate the wounded and civilians wishing to flee. The Syrian government and its ally Russia have rejected previous cease-fires for the war-torn city, keeping up the military offensive that has forced rebel retreats and displaced at least 30,000 civilians in the past 11 days, according to U.N. figures. Syria's state news agency reported that 12 people were killed by mortar and rocket fire landing in western Aleppo. If Aleppo — the country's former commercial hub — is captured by government troops, it would be a turning point in the conflict, putting the five largest cities in Syria and the coastal region back under state control. The proposal called for the immediate evacuation of 500 seriously wounded residents and for allowing civilians wishing to leave to head to rural northern Aleppo province, where there is almost no government presence. The display of diplomatic unity appeared timed to build support for the rebels' proposed ceasefire, though White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the statement was not in response to any existing proposals to address the violence, but was drafted to demonstrate "clear, unified, international support" for a diplomatic arrangement to reduce bloodshed and allow humanitarian aid to flow. On Tuesday, Syrian government forces captured Aleppo's centrally located al-Shaar neighborhood, securing about 45 square kilometers (17 square miles) of the besieged enclave less than two weeks after launching their ground offensive. According to the Observatory, 369 civilians, including 45

The Latest: Assad says Aleppo battle changes course of war

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 21:03:03 UT

Assad did not directly address a rebel cease-fire proposal for war-torn Aleppo, where pro-government forces have seized most of its rebel enclave in a ferocious, two-week ground assault. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations acknowledges that diplomacy has failed the people of Aleppo — but says Russia is largely at fault for blocking humanitarian aid and cease-fire efforts. Syria's state news agency is reporting that 12 people have been killed by rebel shelling of government-controlled parts of Aleppo city. Syrian media and an opposition monitoring group say government troops and allied militias have continued to advance in eastern Aleppo, pushing their way south of the ancient quarters of the city. The announcer said government and allied forces now control the district, which lies along the airport road and houses one of the city's main water stations. The government's ground offensive was preceded by an intensive bombing campaign that knocked out medical facilities and left the civilian population in eastern Aleppo reeling from the onslaught. The proposal calls for the immediate evacuation of 500 seriously wounded Aleppo residents and for allowing civilians wishing to leave to head to northern rural Aleppo province, where there is almost no government presence. The Syrian government says Israel has launched several surface-to-surface missiles that hit near a military airport west of Damascus, triggering a fire. The official news agency SANA says the missiles were launched early on Wednesday from inside the "occupied territories" and fell within the perimeter of the Mezzeh military airport on the western edge of the capital. Syria's state media and an opposition monitoring group say that Syrian troops and their allies have captured more ground in Aleppo's Old City, gaining a new hold in the heart of the divided city. The state SANA news agency says that the Syrian forces in the early hours of Wednes

AP Explains: What next after the downfall of IS in Sirte?

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 20:13:31 UT

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — The Islamic State group this week lost the city of Sirte, its only foothold in Libya, essentially ending its ambition to expand its self-styled "caliphate" into the North African nation, at least for now. [...] that victory only opens the door for Libya's multiple armed factions to turn on each other in a new showdown. A U.N.-brokered peace deal was reached a year ago, trying to establish a unity government to end the chaos that has plagued Libya since the ouster and death of longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi in a 2011 civil war. [...] the country remains divided roughly between east and west, there is still no effective government and rival factions and militias — each side with backing from foreign countries — threaten a new chapter of violence. With Libya in chaos, it appeared there was nothing to stop the group from expanding and building a stronghold just across the Mediterranean Sea from Europe. The militants imposed a brutal rule in Sirte much like in Iraq and Syria, committing out atrocities, taking sex slaves and carrying out beheadings of Christians and migrants. The neighboring city of Misrata, home to some of Libya's strongest militias, led the fight to drive out IS, feeling threatened by the extremists next door. Al-Qaida-linked extremists already have bases in Libya's vast desert regions, building ties with local tribes. The force is backed and armed by neighboring Egypt, which sees Hifter as its ally in a fight against Islamic militants. The militants, under an umbrella group called the Benghazi Shura Council, were allied with Islamic State group fighters in the eastern city, along with fighters from Ansar al-Shariah, the al-Qaida-affiliated group blamed in the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. The U.N.-brokered peace deal created a Presidency Council, a unity government and an advisory body called the Advisory Council.

Egypt activist says she was arrested in NGO funding case

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 19:47:43 UT

According to Belal, the prosecutor questioned Soliman over allegations she received foreign funds to harm the national interests and evaded taxes. The move comes as human rights advocates complain of being increasingly targeted by authorities with legal procedures, as part of a larger crackdown on dissent. Since the 2013 military ouster of elected Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, authorities have jailed thousands of people, mainly Islamists but also leading secular and liberal activists.

In West Bank, Fatah vote shows politics an old man's game

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 19:39:14 UT

Most of those elected to top positions were in their 60s and 70s, signaling that politics under octogenarian President Mahmoud Abbas is an old man's game and that it is unlikely that fresh ideas on winning statehood will emerge from this group of veteran loyalists. Many have given up on trying to break into what they see a closed political system, especially at a time when there's no realistic path to ending Israel's half-century-old occupation. The stagnation comes at a time of mounting Palestinian fears that the incoming U.S. administration of Donald Trump might embrace or at least tolerate Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands sought for a Palestinian state. Hasan Faraj, head of the Fatah youth wing Shabibeh, lobbied hard before the party convention to ease minimum age requirements for candidates for the decision-making Central Committee and a second-tier group, the Revolutionary Council. Fatah once dominated the Palestinian national movement, but has lost ground over the years to the Islamic militant group Hamas. For some, Fatah has become a lost cause, an impression reinforced during the recent party conference, which brought together more than 1,300 delegates at Abbas' government compound in the town of Ramallah.

WHY IT MATTERS: Rebel-held Aleppo on the brink of collapse

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 19:30:48 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — With rebel defenses crumbling in eastern Aleppo, President Bashar Assad is on the brink of regaining full control of Syria's largest city and one-time commercial center. Holding the city is seen as key to overall victory in the Syrian conflict, and a defeat in Aleppo would be a crushing blow to the rebels. Landmarks have been used as bases for fighters and damaged in the conflict, including the 11th-century Umayyad Mosque, where a minaret collapsed in 2012; the 13th-century citadel and the medieval marketplace, where fire damaged more than 500 shops in its narrow, vaulted alleyways. Syrian government forces and their allies have regained control of three-quarters of the rebel enclave in recent days, and eastern neighborhoods continue to surrender in quick succession.