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


UN envoy says conflict likely if Palestinians fail to agree

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 20:54:15 UT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N.'s Mideast envoy warned Monday that if reconciliation talks between Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas fail there will most likely be "another devastating conflict." Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that "critical intra-Palestinian talks" are scheduled to open in Cairo on Tuesday. He said the Oct. 12 agreement between the rivals, aimed at restoring the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority's rule in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, started "a long road that could lead to reconciliation." But the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process warned of the consequences and likely conflict if the Hamas-Fatah agreement fails.

Syrian opposition leader quits ahead of new round of talks

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:12:22 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — A senior Syrian opposition leader quit his post Monday, a week before a new round of U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva. Riyad Hijab said in a statement that he is stepping down as head of the Syrian opposition's High Negotiations Committee after two years in the post. Hijab, a former prime minister under President Bashar Assad, did not give a reason for his decision but referred in the statement to attempts by foreign powers to carve up Syria into zones of influence "through side deals made without consulting the Syrian people," a reference to Russian-led cease-fire talks.

Hezbollah denies providing missile fired at Saudi from Yemen

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 18:41:08 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah on Monday categorically denied accusations that his group is sending weapons to Yemen or that it was responsible for an intercepted ballistic missile fired by Shiite rebels there at the Saudi capital, Riyadh. In a televised speech from Beirut, Nasrallah said such allegations were "silly" and "completely baseless." Saudi officials accuse Hezbollah and Iran of arming the Shiite rebels in Yemen, known as Houthis. Saudi Arabia has led an Arab coalition fighting the Houthis, with the support of Yemen's exiled internationally recognized government, since 2015 in a stalemated war that has exacerbated a growing humanitarian crisis.

Dozens support Algerian newspaper director on hunger strike

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:02:56 UT

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Dozens of Algerian journalists and human rights activists have gathered in support of a newspaper editor who has been on a hunger strike for a week. Hadda Hazem, the 61-year-old director of Al Fadjr newspaper, went on a hunger strike on Nov. 13 to protest what she calls Algerian authorities' attempt to stifle her newspaper by cutting advertising from public companies. Hazem claims to be a victim of a "political sanction" after taking a stand against a possible fifth term of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Hazem was present at Monday's support rally in Algiers and looked tired. She was unable to speak. Bouteflika, 81, has headed the country since 1999.

AP Interview: Scaramucci says don't rule out beltway return

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 14:57:56 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Anthony Scaramucci may be out at the White House, but the short-lived former communications director says his political career is not over. Scaramucci said in an interview that although he has not spoken to Trump in over a month, he talks to members of the president's inner circle "regularly" and sees himself working for Trump in the future. "I have very good relationships there still, and you have to remember we were a team for 18 months, and so we all had different roles. And so I'm still playing my role frankly. I'm an advocate for the president, media surrogate when I need to be," Scaramucci said. Scaramucci is in Israel this week as a guest of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, a U.S.

Israeli PM to discuss Iran, Hezbollah with France's Macron

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 14:51:29 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in early December to discuss threats against Israel from Hezbollah and Iran and "ideas to stabilize the situation in Lebanon." The prime minister told his Likud party at a meeting Monday that he spoke with the French president "at length" the previous day. Lebanon was plunged into crisis earlier this month by the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Hezbollah rival. Hariri recently traveled to France from Saudi Arabia, where he had made the announcement.

Iran, Lebanon reject Arab League criticism as tensions mount

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 14:29:04 UT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Monday rejected a harsh statement by Arab League foreign ministers condemning the Islamic Republic and its proxy Hezbollah, saying the tirade was "full of lies" and the product of Saudi "pressure and propaganda." State media quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as calling on Saudi Arabia to stop its "barbaric attacks" on Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been at war with Tehran-backed rebels since March 2015. He also called on Saudi Arabia to drop its boycott of the Gulf Arab nation of Qatar, which has warm ties with Iran.

Iran's supreme leader visits quake-hit area, urges more aid

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 13:56:49 UT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's supreme leader has visited the earthquake-hit region along the border with Iraq and urged more efficiency and aid for residents. The temblor killed over 530 people and injured thousands. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told residents in the worst-hit Kurdish town of Sarpol-e Zahab on Monday that he is not yet "content" with how the aid has been delivered. Khamenei praised the rescue and relief operations following the magnitude 7.3 earthquake, but said "officials should double their efforts." Iran is located on major seismic faults and experiences an earthquake per day on average. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam in southern Iran, killing 26,000 people.

Turkey says Kurds attack post in Syria, no casualties

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 11:03:45 UT

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's state-run news agency says Syrian Kurdish fighters have attacked a Turkish observation post in the northern Syrian province of Idlib with mortar rounds. There were no casualties. The Anadolu Agency says the attack occurred Monday near the Daret Azzeh region in Idlib, where Turkey is implementing a "de-escalation zone" to reduce conflict as part of an agreement reached with Russia and Iran. Anadolu said five mortar rounds were fired at the Turkish observation post. Turkey sent troops into Syria last month to set up observation posts in the border province that is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants.

World Food Program fears more Yemen deaths amid blockade

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 11:01:15 UT

CAIRO (AP) — The head of the World Food Program in Yemen said on Monday that millions of Yemenis face the risk of more deaths as aid deliveries cannot get to those in need because of the continuing blockade of the war-ravaged country by the Saudi-led coalition. Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from Sanaa, Stephen Anderson said it is "heartbreaking" that millions in Yemen depended on sustained access to humanitarian aid. Of a population of 26 million, some 17 million Yemenis do not know where their next meal is coming from and 7 million are totally dependent on food assistance.

Iraqi court opens way for Kurds to annul independence vote

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:54:40 UT

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's top court has paved the way for the self-ruled northern Kurdish region to step back from its controversial independence referendum and annul the vote's results that overwhelmingly backed secession from Baghdad. The Supreme Federal Court on Monday reaffirmed an earlier ruling that said the Sept. 25 referendum was unconstitutional and that its results are to be annulled. In the crisis that followed the vote, Baghdad had demanded the Kurds annul its results before negotiations could start between the Iraqi central government and the self-ruled Kurdish region. The referendum, though non-binding, was rejected by Baghdad and Iraq's neighbors. It was also criticized by the U.S. and the U.N.

15 dead, 10 hurt in a stampede for food aid in Morocco

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 22:56:28 UT

MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) — A stampede erupted while food aid was being distributed in a Moroccan village Sunday and at least 15 people died and 10 were injured, authorities said. The crush took place in Sidi Boulalam as a local association was handing out food at a local weekly "souk," or market, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The town is in Essaouira province, which abuts the Atlantic coast southwest of Casablanca. King Mohammed VI has given instructions that "all measures be taken to help the victims and their families," the ministry said. The king will pay for the hospitalization of the injured and burials of the dead, the statement said. Alyaoum24.

Arab League delivers harsh criticism of Iran, little action

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 21:14:02 UT

CAIRO (AP) — In a resolution long on criticism but short on concrete steps, Arab foreign ministers who met in Cairo Sunday delivered a tirade of criticism against Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, saying Tehran was destabilizing the region. They said they planned to "brief" the U.N. Security Council on Iran's destabilizing policies in the region, particularly its support for Shiite rebels in Yemen, with a view to submit at a later stage an anti-Iran Arab resolution. In what is perhaps the only concrete measure, the ministers said Arab telecommunications satellites would ban Iranian-financed television stations for what they said was their fomenting of sectarian and ethnic tensions and because they posed a threat to Arab security.

Police question Israeli leader over corruption accusations

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 19:56:09 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for about four hours on Sunday over a pair of corruption scandals surrounding the long-ruling Israeli leader. It was the sixth time police have questioned Netanyahu over the two scandals which have yet to threaten his rule but have chipped away at his public approval ratings. Police spokeswoman Luba Samri confirmed that investigators arrived at Netanyahu's official residence earlier Sunday. The first investigation reportedly concerns allegations that Netanyahu improperly accepted lavish gifts from wealthy supporters, including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

102-year-old survivor reunites with newly discovered nephew

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 19:04:51 UT

KFAR SABA, Israel (AP) — Eliahu Pietruszka shuffled his 102-year-old body through the lobby of his retirement home toward a stranger he had never met and collapsed into him in a teary embrace. Then he kissed both cheeks of his visitor and in a frail, squeaky voice began blurting out greetings in Russian, a language he hadn't spoken in decades. Only days earlier, the Holocaust survivor who fled Poland at the beginning of World War II and thought his entire family had perished learned that a younger brother had also survived, and his brother's son, 66-year-old Alexandre, was flying in from a remote part of Russia to see him.

Syria: IS militants defeated in last major stronghold

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 18:51:48 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Pro-government forces defeated the Islamic State group in its last major stronghold in Syria, state media and a monitoring group reported on Sunday, leaving the militants to defend just strips of desert territory in the country and a besieged pocket outside the capital, Damascus. Also Sunday, more than two dozen civilians were killed as government forces and rebels traded fire across fronts in Damascus and Homs, Syria's third largest city. The intensified violence is testing an accord by Russia, Turkey, and Iran to suppress fighting in Syria ahead of the resumption of political talks in Geneva between the government and opposition, set for Nov. 28.

Israel fires 'warning shot' amid Syrian border activity

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 17:51:29 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military says it has fired a tank shell into Syria as a "warning shot" after the Syrian military carried out construction along their frontier. The military says Syria violated the 1974 cease-fire agreement on the Golan Heights again Sunday by using heavy tools to fortify a military post in the demilitarized zone between the countries. It was the second such incident in as many days. On Saturday, the military said it complained to the United Nations peacekeeping force stationed on the Golan and also fired a tank shell as a warning. The incident comes as Israel has voiced concern about the growing presence of Iran and its proxy Hezbollah in Syria as the war there winds down.

Nick Cave plays Israel to 'take stand' against boycotters

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 17:04:38 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Nick Cave, the dark poet of rock, on Sunday accused the anti-Israel boycott movement of trying to bully musicians and said he was taking a "principled stand" by performing in the country. The Australian artist, known for music that can be both melancholic and uplifting, is popular in Israel and is set to perform a pair of nearly sold-out shows. At a news conference, Cave spoke about the pressure on artists by the international movement that seeks to ostracize Israel by lobbying corporations, performers and academic institutions to sever ties with the Jewish state. He said record producer Brian Eno had asked him three years ago to sign a boycott list.

Israel denies pardon for soldier who killed wounded attacker

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 16:24:21 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's president has denied a request for pardon by an imprisoned soldier who was convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker. A statement from President Reuven Rivlin's office Sunday says he rejected the request by Elor Azaria because it would harm the "resilience" of Israel's military. Rivlin said a chief value of the military was the "purity of arms," or the use of weapons with only necessary force. Azaria began serving an 18-month sentence in August. Israel's military chief later reduced the sentence by four months. Azaria was caught on video shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker. His case sharply divided the nation.

Israel PM says security must come first in any peace plan

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 11:45:43 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he has made clear to the U.S. that Israel's security concerns must come first as the White House tries to restart a peace process with the Palestinians. His comments came after Israeli news reports claiming to detail the peace plan under development. At a weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said "we heard plenty of speculation this weekend" about President Donald Trump's peace efforts. He then declined to comment, saying only that "my position on this plan will be determined according to Israel's security and national interests." Trump took office with hopes of forging what he calls the "ultimate deal" between Israelis and Palestinians.

Lebanon's PM Hariri says he will be in Beirut within days

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 05:21:58 UT

PARIS (AP) — Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri said he will return home in the coming days from where he will declare a political stance for the first time since making a strange resignation announcement from Saudi Arabia that unleashed fears of a crisis in Lebanon. Hariri and his family met Saturday with French President Emmanuel Macron, who invited the Lebanese leader to Paris to dispel fears that he was being held in Saudi Arabia against his will. Macron is seeking to calm tensions and avert a proxy conflict between Saudi-backed and Iranian-backed camps in Lebanon.

The Latest: France sees 'negative' foreign sways in Lebanon

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 19:49:26 UT

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on developments surrounding Lebanon's crisis with Saudi Arabia in the wake of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's resignation (all times local): 8:50 p.m. The French presidency says it is essential to protect Lebanon from "negative" foreign influences because the country needs a "strong state." A high official in French President Emmanuel Macron's office said Saturday that France aims to see Lebanon "regain its stability." The official didn't name any specific foreign countries allegedly interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs but said Lebanon should be protected from the "dangers that regional crises can pose to it." The official said France supports Lebanon's policy of "decoupling" itself from regional crises.

Egypt orders detention of prominent activist over protest

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 18:05:59 UT

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court has ordered a prominent activist to remain in custody pending trial on charges of participating in an illegal protest against the government's transfer of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a rights lawyer said on Saturday. Mahinour el-Masry, a rights lawyer herself and notable activist from the country's 2011 uprising, and another defendant attended Saturday's trial in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, said Taher Aboelnasr. The court ordered that they remain detained until it reconvenes on Dec. 30.

Egypt warns Ethiopia Nile dam dispute 'life or death'

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 15:24:08 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, for the second time in as many days, delivered on Saturday a stern warning to Ethiopia over a dam it is building after the two countries along with Sudan failed to approve a study on its potential effects. Ethiopia is finalizing construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, its first major dam on the Blue Nile, and will eventually start filling the giant reservoir behind it to power the Africa's largest hydroelectric dam. Egypt fears that will cut into its water supply, destroying parts of its precious farmland and squeezing its population of 94 million people, who already face water shortages.

Israel fires 'warning shot' after Syrian border construction

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 14:47:23 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military says it has fired a tank shell into Syria as a "warning shot" after the Syrian military conducted construction along their border. The military says Syria violated the 1974 cease-fire agreement on the Golan Heights Saturday by using heavy tools to fortify a military post in the demilitarized zone between the countries. In response, the military says it complained to the United Nations peacekeeper force station on the Golan and fired a tank shell as a warning. The incident comes as Israel has voiced concerned about the growing presence of Iran and its proxy Hezbollah in Syria as that country appears to be transitioning into a post-civil war reality, in which Israel says it will defend its interests.

Egypt opens Gaza border crossing for 3 days under PA control

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 13:59:35 UT

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Gaza's border crossing into Egypt ran Saturday under the Palestinian Authority's control for the first time in a decade, in a step forward for the Western-backed leadership's resuming of its functions in the Gaza Strip. Egypt opened the Rafah crossing point for three days on a humanitarian basis for the first time since the militant Hamas group ceded control of Gaza's crossings with Israel and Egypt to the West Bank-based PA. In 2007, Hamas wrested control of Gaza by force after winning legislative elections a year earlier, provoking an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that severely restricted the movement of most of Gaza's 2 million inhabitants.

Saudis summon ambassador from Germany over Lebanon comments

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 11:33:33 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Saudi Arabia's state news agency is reporting that the kingdom has summoned its ambassador to Germany for consultations following statements made by Germany's foreign minister in support of Lebanon. The Saudi Press Agency also says the kingdom will hand over a protest note to Germany's ambassador to Riyadh. SPA said the Saudis were referring to Sigmar Gabriel's comments earlier this week during a news conference with his Lebanese counterpart in which he criticized meddling in Lebanon's affairs. The agency said Saturday that Gabriel's statements were based on "wrong information" and "surprised" the kingdom.

Palestinians reject 'extortion' in face of US move

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 10:09:44 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Palestinian foreign minister says the Palestinians will not give in to "extortion" after a U.S. threat to close their diplomatic mission in Washington. In an interview on Palestine Radio on Saturday, Riad Malki said the Palestinians are waiting for further communication from the U.S. government. "The ball is now in the American court," he said. U.S. officials, citing U.S. law, said Friday that the Trump administration has put the Palestinians on notice that it will shutter their office in Washington unless they have entered serious peace talks with Israel. President Donald Trump has 90 days to make a decision. Malki said the U.S. move may be aimed at putting pressure on the Palestinians.

Russia again vetoes extension of chemical experts in Syria

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 02:26:14 UT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia again vetoed a U.N. resolution Friday that would extend the mandate of the expert body charged with determining responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria, dooming its operation and making it exceedingly difficult to hold anyone accountable for the deaths of hundreds of civilian victims. It was Russia's second veto in 24 hours of a resolution to keep the Joint Investigative Mechanism, or JIM, in operation. And it was Russia's 11th veto of a Security Council resolution dealing with Syria, its close ally. Russia cast its latest veto Friday night on a last-ditch resolution by Japan to extend the mandate for 30 days for further discussions.

Lebanon's PM Hariri leaves Saudi Arabia for France

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 01:16:23 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri left Saudi Arabia for France early Saturday, two weeks after declaring his resignation from the kingdom and sparking speculation that he was forced to do so. The surprise resignation announcement by Hariri on Nov. 4 plunged his country into turmoil and stunned the Lebanese, many of whom saw it as a sign the Sunni kingdom — the prime minister's chief ally — had decided to drag tiny Lebanon into its feud with the region's other powerhouse, the predominantly Shiite Iran. Lebanon still hasn't recognized his resignation. In his televised announcement, Hariri cited Iran and Hezbollah for meddling in Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. He also said he was afraid for his life.