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seattlepi.com: Middle East News from the Associated Press





 



Iraqi prime minister says operation to retake Tal Afar from Islamic State group has begun

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 04:26:30 UT

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi prime minister says operation to retake Tal Afar from Islamic State group has begun.



Israeli forces shoot, kill Palestinian after stabbing attack

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 17:03:55 UT

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces have shot and killed a Palestinian after he attacked Israeli policemen at a West Bank checkpoint, stabbing one of the officers. The Palestinian Health Ministry says the shooting took place on Saturday at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank. The assailant was identified as 17-year-old Qutaiba Zahran, who died at the scene shortly after being shot. Israeli medical authorities say the attacker stabbed an Israeli officer at the Tapuah Junction near Nablus City, wounding him slightly in the leg. The Israeli policeman was evacuated to hospital. Since 2015, Palestinians have killed 48 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shooting and car-ramming attacks.



Lebanon starts offensive to clear border of IS militants

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 15:25:15 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon's U.S.-backed army on Saturday launched its biggest military operation yet against Islamic State militants who in 2014 gained a foothold along the tiny Mediterranean country's border with Syria. The long-awaited campaign aims to defeat IS in the group's border enclave and put an end to a terror threat that has loomed over Lebanon. By the late afternoon Saturday, the army said it captured 30 square kilometers (12 square miles) and killed 20 IS militants. It said 10 Lebanese soldiers were wounded. Simultaneously, the Syrian army and its ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah group, are pushing to clear IS militants from the Syrian side of the border, in the western Qalamoun mountain range.



Car bomb kills 2 in Syrian government stronghold

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 11:57:39 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Activists say a car bomb has killed two people in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, a stronghold of President Bashar Assad's government. The pro-government Latakia News Network Facebook page says the car bomb was detonated at a checkpoint Saturday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the attack. The government has sought to present the country as slowly returning to normalcy after six years of war. It held a premier trade fair in the capital, Damascus, last week for the first time since 2011. But fighting is still underway in several parts of the country, and the attack in Latakia, which has been firmly under government control throughout the conflict, highlighted the lingering instability.



Lebanese army announces start of military offensive to clear Islamic State group militants from frontier with Syria.

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 03:59:19 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese army announces start of military offensive to clear Islamic State group militants from frontier with Syria.



US: Iraqi forces ready for next battle against IS extremists

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 03:18:57 UT

BAGHDAD (AP) — Senior U.S. military leaders said Friday that Iraqi forces are largely set for their next major campaign against Islamic State extremists after closing out the wrenching nine-month battle to retake the city of Mosul. Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said he sees the Iraqi assault on the IS-held area of Tal Afar "unfolding relatively soon." The upcoming fight follows weeks of Iraq regrouping troops and repairing equipment and weapons after recapturing Mosul in July. "I can't say that we replaced every single damaged or broken vehicle or rifle or machine gun," said Townsend, whose forces are aiding the Iraqi military. But, he insisted: "They'll be ready enough.



UN aid chief: War in Yemen causing famine, cholera

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 18:07:01 UT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief decried the "man-made catastrophe" in Yemen on Friday saying air strikes and armed clashes have increased dramatically, with millions of people facing the specter of famine and "the world's largest-ever, single-year cholera outbreak." Stephen O'Brien urged the immediate reopening of the airport in the capital Sanaa to civilians and the lifting of restrictions on commercial imports coming through the port of Hodeida, which handles some 70 percent of goods coming into Yemen. "The Yemeni people's suffering has relentlessly intensified," he told the U.N. Security Council.



Syrian army, Hezbollah allies attack IS near Lebanon border

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 17:15:47 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government forces and allied Lebanese militant Hezbollah fighters have captured several Islamic State positions on strategic hilltops along the Syrian-Lebanese border, a military outlet said Friday. The captures come ahead of an anticipated Lebanese offensive to clear the extremists from their side of the frontier. Separately, the Russian military said Friday that its aircraft are supporting a Damascus government offensive against the Islamic State group in a town in central Syria. The area taken includes several hilltops in the western Qalamoun mountain range on the Syrian side of the border, according to the Central Military Media outlet.



Saudi forces deployed in Yemen's port of Aden amid friction

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 14:58:49 UT

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni security officials say Saudi forces have arrived in the southern port city of Aden amid friction within the kingdom-led alliance there. The officials say the troops were deployed on Friday at the presidential palace, port, and airport. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk to journalists. They are the first special Saudi forces in Aden since a Saudi-led coalition in 2015 started fighting Shiite Houthi rebels to restore Yemeni President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi's internationally recognized government. After the Houthis overran the capital, Sanaa, the government became based in Aden as its temporary capital.



Rights groups urge Yemen rebels to free prominent activist

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 13:04:42 UT

CAIRO (AP) — International rights groups on Friday urged Yemen's Shiite rebels to free a prominent Yemeni activist who used social media to document the war that has ravaged his impoverished Arab country. Human Rights Watch said that Hisham al-Omeisy, a vocal critic of Yemen's warring parties, is being held without charges in an undisclosed location after he was detained on Aug. 14 in the capital, Sanaa. The New York-based group said al-Omeisy's family and lawyers have had no access to him. "Yemen more than ever needs activists like Hisham al-Omeisy to bring attention to the devastation that war, famine, and disease have wrought on the country and its people," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Mideast director at Human Rights Watch.



Clearing Iraqi cities of explosives may take decades

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 07:31:59 UT

BAGHDAD (AP) — The wires protruding from the small, misshapen stuffed animal revealed the deadly booby-trap tucked inside. For the people of Mosul, the sophisticated bomb was a reminder of how difficult it will be to return to homes littered with hidden explosives by Islamic State militants and dotted with the remnants of undetonated bombs dropped by the U.S.-led coalition that still could blow up. Washington at least is trying to ease a bit of the massive clean-up burden. On Thursday, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said for the first time that the American military will help contractors and other officials locate unexploded bombs dropped by the coalition. U.S.



US helping clear 'historic' amount of explosives in Mosul

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:28:30 UT

BAGHDAD (AP) — The wires protruding from the small, misshapen stuffed animal revealed the deadly booby-trap tucked inside. For the people of Mosul, the sophisticated bomb was a reminder of how difficult it will be to return to homes littered with hidden explosives by Islamic State militants and dotted with the remnants of undetonated bombs dropped by the U.S.-led coalition that still could blow up. Washington at least is trying to ease a bit of the massive clean-up burden. On Thursday, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said for the first time that the American military will help contractors and other officials locate unexploded bombs dropped by the coalition. U.S.



Israeli leader resists calls to criticize Trump

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 18:42:48 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister faced growing calls on Thursday to denounce President Donald Trump's response to the racially charged violence and anti-Semitic displays in Charlottesville, Virginia, even at the risk of angering the American leader. Benjamin Netanyahu has remained largely silent during the unfolding crisis in Virginia. While issuing a terse condemnation of neo-Nazis and racists, he has said nothing about Trump's apparent defense of the actions of white supremacists during last weekend's deadly violence. The muted response has upset a growing number of Israelis, who believe that Netanyahu has a special role to play on behalf of Jews overseas.



Syria claims business comeback with international trade fair

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 18:06:59 UT

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian government on Thursday opened the country's first international trade fair since war broke out in 2011, an event hailed by officials as a "victory" and a sign of renewed confidence in the war torn nation after years of war. The fair is being held in an area few kilometers (miles) away from the rebel-held eastern suburbs of Damascus. The proximity alone underlines Syrian President Bashar Assad's increasingly confident position following significant military gains on the ground in the past year. According to state-run media, participants from 43 countries are taking part in the fair, which is expected to last for 10 days and promises to attract investors mainly from allies like Russia, China and Iran.



Lebanon prepares for Syria's post-war construction windfall

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 18:04:38 UT

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AP) — The port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon wants the world to know it's ready for business. British safety managers are training local hires to operate heavy machinery and Chinese technicians are running diagnostics on two new container cranes that tower over the harbor, just 28 kilometers (18 miles) from the Syrian border. After six years of civil war in Syria, markets across the Middle East are anticipating a mammoth reconstruction boom that could stimulate billions of dollars in economic activity. Lebanon, as Syria's neighbor, is in prime position to capture a share of that windfall and revive its own sluggish economy.



Iraq government may prosecute those behind abuses in Mosul

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:47:36 UT

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Iraqi prime minister's office has acknowledged incidents of abuses perpetrated by the security forces against civilians in Mosul during the battle against the Islamic State group in the city. Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi says those found responsible have been referred to the country's judicial system, raising the possibility of their prosecution. Thursday's statement didn't elaborate. Al-Hadithi was referring to allegations reported by an Iraqi photographer for Germany's Der Spiegel magazine in May. The report alleged Iraq's Emergency Response Division — an elite force linked to the Interior Ministry — tortured and killed civilians in and around Mosul.



Egypt blocks access to website of group supporting media

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 16:00:28 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt has blocked internet access to the website of an international media watchdog that provides support for journalists and champions media freedoms. Reporters Without Borders, also known under its French acronym RSF, said on Thursday that users in Egypt have been unable to access its website since Aug. 14. RSF called on Egyptian authorities to provide an explanation as to the reason for the block. An Egyptian watchdog, The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, says that at least 135 other websites have been blocked in Egypt in a sweeping campaign that started in May against sites critical of the government and the so-called VPN sites that help users bypass the block.



Detained, ailing Iran opposition leader ends hunger strike

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 15:31:43 UT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The son of Iranian opposition leader Mahdi Karroubi, under house arrest since 2011, says his father has ended a hunger strike over his detention but remains in hospital. Mohammad Karroubi tweeted that his father decided to end the strike after authorities said that security guards could leave the inside part of the Karroubis' home. The guards remain on the premises, though, and Mahdi Karroubi is still officially under house arrest. The elder Karroubi led the Green Movement and street protests together with another opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, challenging then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2009 re-election.



Hamas militant killed by suicide bomber in Gaza

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 14:39:49 UT

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A suicide bomber blew himself up in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing a Hamas militant who was trying to stop the attacker from crossing into Egypt, Hamas announced, blaming an Islamic State sympathizer for carrying out the unprecedented attack. It marked the first time that Hamas, which has carried out dozens of suicide attacks over the years targeting Israelis, was itself struck in such an assault. The Hamas-run Interior Ministry said five other Hamas security forces and an accomplice of the bomber were wounded. The ministry described the assailant and his colleague as "ideologically deviant" — a term Hamas uses to describe members of the Islamic State group and other extremists.



Saudi Arabia reopens Qatar border for hajj pilgrims

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 14:09:32 UT

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday that it is reopening its border with Qatar to allow Qataris to attend the hajj, despite a monthslong rift between Doha and four Arab countries led by Riyadh that prompted both sides to trade accusations of politicizing the pilgrimage. The decision came after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held a surprise meeting with a Qatari royal family member whose branch of the family was ousted in a palace coup in 1972. Saudi state media broke the news overnight. Qatar did not officially comment on the deal until its foreign minister was pressed on Thursday by reporters during a briefing in Sweden, some 12 hours later.



Syrian actress who rallied crowds against Assad dies

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:28:52 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Fadwa Suleiman, an outspoken Syrian actress who took center stage at anti-government protests in the early days of the uprising against President Bashar Assad, has died after a struggle with illness, Syrian opposition groups and friends of the actress said Thursday. She was 46. Suleiman, who hails from Assad's minority Alawite sect, became a hero to many for taking a stand against his family's decades-old rule. Born in Aleppo, she often appeared at peaceful protests in the central city of Homs, giving speeches to inspire the crowds alongside local soccer star Abdelbasset Sarout who later became an armed opposition fighter.



UN envoy says Syria de-escalation zones 'so far positive'

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:19:04 UT

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. envoy for Syria says the declaration of so-called de-escalation zones has been "so far positive," and hailed a Russian initiative to help bring aid to besieged Syrians. Staffan de Mistura set no date for new peace talks in Geneva. He said "short" talks might be possible next month, while expressing hope for "substantial" talks in October. He also cited divisions among opposition factions. The envoy said 50 trucks reached the besieged town of Douma northeast of Damascus on Thursday, the first aid convoy there since May. That resulted from an Aug. 2 letter he received from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu promising Russian military "observation points" to facilitate movements within Syria. U.N.



Israel to release tycoon, adviser arrested for corruption

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:26:53 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police say a prominent billionaire businessman and a political consultant arrested this week on an array of charges will be released under restrictive conditions. Spokeswoman Luba Samri said Thursday that Beny Steinmetz, a Geneva-based diamond-mining magnate, and Tal Silberstein, a former adviser to the Austrian chancellor, reached an agreement where they will be released after their extended remand Friday. She did not elaborate on the terms of their release. The two were arrested on charges including money laundering, obstruction of justice and bribery following a joint investigation with Swiss and American authorities.



Israel destroys home of Palestinian who killed officer

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:33:24 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's military says forces have demolished the home of a Palestinian involved in attacks that killed a young female police officer in Jerusalem. It said troops early Thursday destroyed the West Bank residence of one of the attackers. Palestinians armed with an automatic weapon and knives assaulted officers on duty near Jerusalem's Old City in June. Staff Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka, 23, was rushing to respond to the initial attack when a Palestinian assaulted her with a knife. Israel says the demolitions are an effective deterrent. Critics say it amounts to collective punishment. Since 2015, Palestinians have killed 48 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shooting and car-ramming attacks.



Iraq asks UN to collect evidence to prosecute Islamic State

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:47:51 UT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iraq is asking the U.N. Security Council for assistance in collecting evidence to prosecute extremists from the Islamic State group for possible crimes against humanity. Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres circulated Wednesday that his government and the United Kingdom are working on a draft Security Council resolution seeking assistance. Britain's U.N. ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, said in March that the aim of a Security Council resolution would be to assist Iraq "with the difficult but crucial challenge of preserving the huge amount of evidence of Daesh crimes committed on Iraqi territory." "The crimes committed by the Daesh terrorist organization against civilians and destruction of infrastructure and archaeological sites in Iraq are crimes against humanity, which makes it important to bring its perpetrators from Daesh terrorist gangs to justice, in accordance (with) the Iraqi law," he said. If no letter is forthcoming, she said, the Security Council could act without Iraq's consent or it could refer the extremist group to the International Criminal Court, or the General Assembly could establish "an accountability mechanism" as it did for crimes in Syria in December.



Israel revokes Al-Jazeera reporter's press permit

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:20:29 UT

The Government Press Office said the remarks made by Elias Karram raise concerns about his ability to objectively cover the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nitzan Chen, the head of the press office, said the press card is revoked pending a hearing to clarify "whether or not he is part of the Palestinian people's resistance to the 'Zionist occupation', as he stated in the interview, and if so, how this affects his work as a journalist according to universal ethics." The Foreign Press Association, which represents journalists covering Israel and the Palestinian territories for international news organizations, said it is studying the decision and had no immediate comment. American viewers became familiar with Al-Jazeera after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when its golden-hued Arabic logo became synonymous with video messages by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Al-Jazeera was the first Arab satellite news channel to offer a range of views outside of the heavily censored state media in Arab and countries, and extensively covered the 2011 Arab Spring.



Israel said to have hit Hezbollah convoys dozens of times

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:18:00 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's former air force chief says it has carried out dozens of airstrikes on weapons convoys destined for the Lebanese Hezbollah group over the past five years. Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting during the six-year civil war in neighboring Syria, but has repeatedly said it will act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring advanced weapons.



Lebanon repeals 'marry the rapist' law

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 17:13:17 UT

The clause remains on the books in Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, the Palestinian territories and Syria, as well as several countries in Latin America and in the Philippines and Tajikistan, according to Human Rights Watch. Article 522 added that if the rapist marries the victim, criminal prosecution is suspended. "The repeal of article 522 is an important and overdue step to protect women's rights in Lebanon," said Bassam Khawaja, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch.



Syrian warplanes attack IS near Lebanon border

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:46:49 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian warplanes have bombarded mountainous areas controlled by the Islamic State group near the border with Lebanon. The Lebanese army has been preparing for an all-out attack on IS positions along the Syrian border for weeks, massing reinforcements and pounding the area with artillery shells and rockets.



Group estimates 34,000 gallons of oil spilled off Kuwait

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:34:57 UT

West Virginia-based SkyTruth says satellite photos from the day of the spill off southern Kuwait show it spread over a distance covering 131 square kilometers (50.5 square miles). Authorities in tiny Kuwait, an OPEC member home to the world's six-largest estimated oil reserves, said they discovered another leak on Tuesday.