Sun, 26 Feb 2017 22:07:03 UTThe 35-year-old Christian, who owns a plumbing supply business in Egypt's troubled northern Sinai town of el-Arish, packed up a few belongings and brought his family to the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, joining hundreds of Christians fleeing a spate of sectarian killings last week. "Masked extremists, terrorists with a pistol, took him inside and shot him in the head," then dragged his screaming mother out to the street half-dressed and killed her husband. The killings, two of seven brutal slayings in recent weeks, come after a devastating IS suicide bombing at a Cairo church in December that killed nearly 30 people. The group's local affiliate recently vowed to step up a wave of attacks on the embattled Christian minority, pointing to a shift in tactics toward targeting Christians and their holy sites, which are less protected than the military and police installations that are their usual targets. Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population, have always been a favorite target of Islamic extremists. Rights activists say the displacement is a clear sign the government has failed to provide security for the embattled minority in Egypt's volatile northeastern corner, where they have faced threats before. "The security forces, they're all hiding and scared for their lives, scared to confront those people," he said, speaking from a Spartan room furnished with only a mattress in a rented apartment in Ismailia. Hundreds of troops have been killed, the army has razed hundreds of houses to stop alleged militant infiltration through tunnels from neighboring Gaza, and in 2014, el-Sissi declared a state of emergency and curfew after suicide bombings killed more than 30 soldiers.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 21:25:22 UT[...] Orly Weinstein, who heads the Health Ministry's division of government medical centers, told the prime minister's office Sunday that the Israeli government has only partially reimbursed hospitals for the treatments and that the hospitals can no longer bear the financial burden.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 21:21:04 UTJERUSALEM (AP) — The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees suspended a Palestinian staffer Sunday, a spokesman for the U.N. agency said as Israel alleged the employee was elected to a leadership position with the Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Chris Gunness of UNRWA said Suhail al-Hindi, the chairman of the UNRWA Palestinian workers' union in Gaza and the principal of a UNRWA elementary school, was suspended due to "substantial information" received by the agency.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 19:08:02 UTA representative of the Moscow-backed Syria opposition says opposition groups need to form a single delegation if they are to enter talks with representatives of the Damascus government in Geneva. U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura has invited opposition groups and representatives of the Syrian government to Switzerland in a fresh diplomatic bid to move toward a political solution to the six-year-old conflict in Syria. The United Nations envoy for Syria is meeting with Syrian opposition representatives separately in Geneva reflecting the struggle of opposition groups to form a united front in peace talks with the Damascus government. Syrian opposition activists say government warplanes are pounding a rebel-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs, killing at least three and wounding dozens.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 18:48:00 UTHabibollah Sayyari as saying the two-day maneuver will cover an area of 2 million square kilometers (772,000 square miles) in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean near the strait. Iran's navy routinely holds war games it says are aimed at improving its readiness against threats.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 18:13:04 UT(AP) — The father of a Navy SEAL killed during an anti-terrorism raid in Yemen is demanding an investigation into its planning and criticized the Trump administration for its timing. Bill Owens told The Miami Herald (http://hrld.us/2lTYhPB ) in a story published Sunday that he refused to meet with President Donald Trump when both came to Dover Air Force Base to receive the casket carrying his son, Chief Special Warfare Officer William "Ryan" Owens. The younger Owens, a 36-year-old married father of three, was the lone U.S. fatality in the Jan. 27 raid on a suspected al-Qaida compound. Approximately 16 civilians and 14 militants died in the raid, which the Pentagon said was aimed at capturing information on potential al-Qaida attacks against the U.S. and its allies. The White House says the raid was planned during the Obama administration, but the former president's aides have said he hadn't given the go-ahead because it would have been an escalation of U.S. involvement in the war-torn and destitute Arab country.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 18:07:38 UTBEIRUT (AP) — Government warplanes pounded a rebel-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs on Sunday, killing at least three and wounding dozens, Syrian opposition activists said, and President Bashar Assad's forces pushed ahead in Syria's offensive on the historic town of Palmyra held by the Islamic State group. The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media confirmed that troops are now a few kilometers (miles) away from the town, which is home to the UNESCO heritage site for which Palmyra is famous and which has already suffered massive destruction at the hands of IS. The Islamic State group has been under pressure in Iraq and Syria over the past months and the march toward Palmyra comes days after the extremists lost the northern town of al-Bab to Turkish troops and Turkey backed opposition fighters. [...] on Sunday, the United Nations envoy for Syria met with opposition representatives separately in Geneva reflecting the groups' struggle to form a united front in peace talks with the Damascus government.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 17:48:49 UTIraq's military does not release official casualty reports, but medics at front-line clinics provided figures on condition of anonymity. The sudden spike in casualty numbers mirrors what played out in Mosul's east as the fight moved from rural villages to dense urban areas. The soldiers that Maj. Ali picked up had been wounded when a mortar — fired from districts held by the Islamic State group — hit them along a route used by the thousands of civilians fleeing Mosul on foot in the days after Iraqi forces first punched into Mamun neighborhood on Friday. The nearest clinic was five kilometers (3 miles) away -- down bumpy dirt roads, crowded with people. On Sunday afternoon Iraq's special forces were still struggling to clear the Mamun neighborhood, bringing them back to a phase of grueling urban combat similar to the fight for eastern Mosul in early November when military attrition rates spiked. Iraqi forces at a base a few kilometers (miles) south of the front called in airstrikes to take out small units of two or three IS fighters who repeatedly managed to halt advancing Iraqi convoys. The bombs mostly caused light injuries but they disrupted operations and monopolized the finite surveillance capabilities available from Iraq's military and the U.S.-led coalition backing the Mosul fight. The blast killed him instantly, struck her in the back with mild shrapnel wounds and took a finger off her oldest brother's hand.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 13:52:54 UTNajib said the king's visit would strengthen ties between the two countries in fighting terrorism based on a strong belief in tolerance, moderation and comprehensive security of Islam, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. The kingdom is eager to attract investment as it diversifies its economy, including for its upcoming initial public offering of part of state oil giant Saudi Aramco.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 13:34:11 UTJERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's official Holocaust memorial has asked Amazon to stop selling literature on its site that denies the genocide of 6 million Jews during World War II and otherwise promotes anti-Semitism. Rozett says Sunday that Yad Vashem has approached Amazon before on the subject but the internet retailing giant insisted it would not halt sales of offensive and inciting material, citing freedom of information.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 13:27:52 UTJERUSALEM (AP) — A new poll shows that 67 percent of Israelis believe the government's policies in the Gaza Strip have worsened security. The poll was conducted by New Wave Research for Gisha, an Israeli advocacy group that pushes for greater movement by Gaza Palestinians.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 11:57:23 UTBAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi militarized police captured two neighborhoods on the western side of Mosul on Sunday amid fierce clashes with Islamic State militants, as thousands of people continued to flee the battle to government-controlled areas, security officials said. Iraqi forces, backed by aerial support by the U.S.-led international coalition, launched a new push last week to drive IS militants from Mosul's west, capturing so far the city's international airport and an adjacent military base. Iraqi authorities declared Mosul's eastern half "fully liberated" from the Sunni militants in January, three months after launching the operation to take back Iraq's second-largest city. According to the U.N. figures, about 750,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in their houses in western Mosul, one of several challenges expected to slow the advance of the Iraqi troops.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 11:25:19 UTTEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter Sunday to President Donald Trump, striking a somewhat conciliatory tone while applauding immigration to America and saying it shows "the contemporary U.S. belongs to all nations." [...] this letter, weighing in at over 3,500 words, comes as criticism of Trump over his travel ban affecting seven Muslim-majority countries including Iran mounts in Tehran. In the letter, published by Iranian media outlets, Ahmadinejad noted Trump won the election while he "truthfully described the U.S. political system and electoral structure as corrupt." Under Ahmadinejad's presidency, Iran found itself heavily sanctioned over the program as Western governments feared it could lead to the Islamic Republic building atomic weapons. Iran under current President Hassan Rouhani struck a nuclear deal with world powers, including the Obama administration, to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions.
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 11:01:15 UTA ministry statement late on Saturday gave no other details, but Egyptian officials explained that the postponement was made at the request of leaders of the tourism sector who warned that introducing the higher charges now — from $25 up to $60 — would further hurt the struggling industry as the off-season approaches. Egypt's vital tourism industry has been decimated after Islamic militants downed a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015, killing all 224 people on board.
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 20:56:27 UTCol. Faleh Hassoun, another member of the delegation, cast doubt on who was behind the attack, pointing out that only those with security clearance could access such an area. Bashar al-Ja'afari, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, pressed home the government's demand that the opposition denounce terrorism in the wake of deadly attacks against security offices in the central city of Homs earlier Saturday. Syria's envoy to the peace talks in Geneva says he demands that the opposition delegation denounce the attacks in the central city of Homs as terrorism, saying it is a test of their commitment to finding common ground. The twin attacks were among the best coordinated against government security offices, killing at least 32 including a senior officer of the feared Military Intelligence Services. Syrian State News Agency SANA is reporting that Islamic State militants in the country's central province of Homs have lobbed mortars at natural gas pipelines, putting some production lines out of service. The U.N. envoy for Syria is decrying a "tragic" string of deadly attacks by insurgents in the central city of Homs, and says he suspected "spoilers" would try to scuttle peace talks in Geneva. Staffan de Mistura spoke to reporters after the synchronized attacks Saturday left at least 32 people dead, and just moments before he hosted Syria's U.N. Ambassador, Bashar al-Ja'afari, for peace talks between the opposition and government. Syria's ambassador to the United Nations says the attacks against security offices in the country's central city of Homs are a message from the "sponsors of terrorism" to the peace talks. The twin attacks were among the best coordinated against the government security offices, killing at least 32 including a senior officer of the feared Military Intelligence Services. U.N. Syria envoy Staffan De Mistura is holding a third day of meetings in Geneva with government and opposition deleg
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 20:36:43 UTBEIRUT (AP) — In synchronized attacks, insurgents stormed into heavily guarded security offices in Syria's central Homs city, clashed with troops and then blew themselves up, killing a senior officer and at least 31 others, state media and officials reported. The swift, high-profile attacks against the Military Intelligence and State Security offices, among Syria's most powerful, were claimed by an al-Qaida-linked insurgent coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee. Details emerging of the Saturday attacks reveal coordinated attacks that used a combination of armed assault and suicide attacks to breach the security offices. According to state-affiliated al-Ikhbariya TV, at least six assailants attacked the two security compounds in Homs' adjacent al-Ghouta and al-Mahata neighborhoods, clashing with security officers before at least two of them detonated explosive vests. The Syrian security forces run a vast intelligence network that enjoys great power and operates with little judicial oversight. Rights groups and Syria monitors hold the various branches responsible for mass arrests, torture, extrajudicial killings and firing on protesters. Before Homs, he managed a military intelligence unit believed responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses. [...] government supporters hailed him as one of the country's best security officers, who "broke the back of the terrorists," a pro-government Facebook page posted.
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 18:15:21 UTSyrian State News Agency SANA is reporting that Islamic State militants in the country's central province of Homs have lobbed mortars at natural gas pipelines, putting some production lines out of service. The Oil Minister Ali Ghanim said the factory feeds the national grid with 6.6 million cubic meters a day but he added maintenance was underway to restore full operations. A Syrian opposition official says rebel forces are leading the fight against terrorism in Syria as representatives of the warring parties meet in Geneva in a fresh quest for a political solution to the conflict. Gen. Hulusi Akar made the comment on Friday during a visit to the border with Syria, after Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition forces captured the town of al-Bab from Islamic State militants. Syrian opposition activists say a second car bomb has exploded in a town just captured from Islamic State group militants by Turkish troops and Syrian fighters, leaving at least eight people dead. The U.N. envoy for Syria has kicked off his second day of meetings in Geneva aimed at reaching a political solution to end the country's devastating civil war. Turkey's state news agency Andadolu says the death toll from a car bomb near the town of al-Bab, just captured from Islamic State militants in northern Syria, has risen to 60. In the first attack, a suicide car bomb struck outside a security office in Sousian village, north of al-Bab, killing civilians lining up seeking permits to return home. The Turkish military said the soldiers were killed when an improvised explosive device went off but Yildrim called it a suicide attack that happened as the soldiers were on a road patrol. Turkey's news agency says a car bomb north of a town just captured by Turkish forces and Syrian opposition fighters from Islamic State militants has killed at least 35 people. Anadolu news agency says the explosion on Friday killed civilians and Syrian opposit
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 17:27:43 UTMOSUL, Iraq (AP) — The Iraqi advance into Mosul's western half slowed Saturday as combat turned to urban warfare and Iraqi forces met stiff resistance from the Islamic State group. Special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi said that his troops are "moving very slowly" and that IS fighters are responding with car bombs, snipers and dozens of armed drones. "The roads are random," he said, which makes it more difficult for his men to set up roadblocks to stop car bombs, a difficulty that foreshadows obstacles Iraqi forces expect to face in the narrow alleyways of western Mosul's historic district. A former Iraqi army lieutenant colonel and specialist in land-attack missiles, who used the nickname Abu Karim fearing for the safety of his family, spoke to The Associated Press by phone, describing a "deteriorating security and humanitarian situation" inside western Mosul. Abu Karim said IS fighters have been setting up checkpoints and storming homes to crack down on informants, meting out punishments for anyone carrying a mobile phone or found with an internet connection that include flogging, jail time, and fines. In a statement issued by the foreign ministry, al-Jaafari said the visit was to discuss cooperation in combating terrorism, adding, "The ties that bind are many, and the visit comes to restore bilateral relations to their correct course."
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 16:59:44 UTThe U.N. envoy for Syria is decrying a "tragic" string of deadly attacks by insurgents in the central city of Homs, and says he suspected "spoilers" would try to scuttle peace talks in Geneva. Staffan de Mistura spoke to reporters after the synchronized attacks Saturday left at least 32 people dead, and just moments before he hosted Syria's U.N. Ambassador, Bashar al-Ja'afari, for peace talks between the opposition and government. Syria's ambassador to the United Nations says the attacks against security offices in the country's central city of Homs are a message from the "sponsors of terrorism" to the peace talks. The twin attacks were among the best coordinated against the government security offices, killing at least 32 including a senior officer of the feared Military Intelligence Services. U.N. Syria envoy Staffan De Mistura is holding a third day of meetings in Geneva with government and opposition delegations in a bid to find a political solution to Syria's six-year war.
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 15:02:59 UTGENEVA (AP) — A top Syrian opposition leader hopes to persuade the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump that rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad share the same priorities with Washington when it comes to fighting the Islamic State group and containing Iran. Nasr al-Hariri, head of the negotiating team of the main opposition delegation in Geneva, also expressed support for the establishment of safe zones in the war-torn nation as the United Nations makes a fresh bid to settle the conflict. Speaking on Saturday in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, al-Hariri said members of Trump's team held multiple meetings with the Syrian opposition, which is backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, before and after he was elected to office with the purpose of finding common ground. The Obama administration mulled the idea of no-fly zones in Syria to protect civilians from Syrian government air strikes. Discussions of safe zones are taking place as the U.N.'s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura makes a new diplomatic effort to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict amid talks in Geneva.
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 14:48:20 UTUNIFIL is closely coordinating with the Lebanese army and troops are still on the ground to ensure there is "no violation" of the U.N. demarcated borders, said spokesman Andrea Tenenti. Israel's army said the dozens protesters crossed the international border, prompting troops to fire tear gas to disperse the crowd "and prevent further infiltrations into Israeli territory." Al-Manar TV, affiliated with Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah, said the t some people suffered shortness of breath because of the tear gas.
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 14:18:10 UTThe Rudaw news organization says Shifa Gerdi, a presenter and head of output for Rudaw, was killed in a bomb attack and cameraman Younis Mustafa was injured on the outskirts of Mosul in a statement to the Associated Press Saturday.
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 09:49:03 UTGo! and switched the radio from Iraqi folk music to fast, patriotic battle hymns as the vehicles sped up and weaved through the busy afternoon traffic. Using tips from Mosul residents, they are taking the lead in hunting down suspected Islamic State sleeper cells that have managed remain behind as Iraqi forces fight to retake the country's second largest city. Iraqi intelligence officials estimate dozens of IS fighters and sympathizers remain in hiding in eastern Mosul's more than 60 square kilometers (23 square miles) of dense urban neighborhoods. A handful of clothing shops have reopened and residents have begun rebuilding homes damaged by airstrikes, car bombs and small-arms fire. Besides the two suspects taken into custody in the Tuesday afternoon raid, Hisham and his men made four more arrests, including some as young as teenagers and a silver-haired man in his 50s. [...] we blew the house up on top of them. Under al-Maliki Iraqi security forces conducted raids inside Mosul and surrounding villages, arresting dozens of suspected militants at a time, in 2013 and 2014. "Right now we have the goodwill between the people and the security forces," said a Mosul resident and former officer in Saddam Hussein's military, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear for his safety.
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 07:51:04 UTBEIRUT (AP) — Homs provincial governor: Multiple explosions strike a security building in Syrian city of Homs, killing more than 20.
Sat, 25 Feb 2017 07:18:26 UTGAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinian authorities say three workers have died after inhaling toxic gas in a smuggling tunnel beneath Gaza's border with Egypt.
Fri, 24 Feb 2017 20:24:12 UTMOSUL AIRPORT, Iraq (AP) — As Iraqi ground troops pushed into western Mosul on Friday, the country's air force struck Islamic State group targets inside Syria for the first time in response to recent bombings in Baghdad claimed by the militants. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the Iraqi airstrikes in Syria in a statement, saying the border towns of Boukamal and Husseibah were targeted in response to recent bombings in Baghdad linked to Islamic State group operations there. Iraqi forces closely supported by the U.S.-led international coalition pushed into the first neighborhood of western Mosul and took full control of the city's international airport and a sprawling military base on the southwestern edge of the city, according to Iraqi officials. Most of those killed in the village of Sousian were civilians awaiting permits and an escort to return to al-Bab, a Syrian military commander in the city told The Associated Press. In Mosul, meanwhile, Iraqi forces pushed into the Mamun neighborhood and engaged in intense clashes with IS militants, according to an Iraqi special forces officer on the ground, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Both the Ghazlani military base and the airport will be key to the next steps in the daunting battle and will serve as a base of operations as Iraqi forces launch subsequent pushes into western Mosul, which is divided by the Tigris River into two halves.
Fri, 24 Feb 2017 19:24:53 UTBEIRUT (AP) — At least two attacks Friday near a Syrian town just captured by Turkish forces and Syrian opposition fighters from the Islamic State group killed more than 60, mostly civilians and including two Turkish soldiers, as the group retreats from one of its last remaining strongholds in northern Syria, Turkey's news agency and Syrian activists said. In a hallmark IS attack, a suicide car bomb went off outside a security office operated by the Syrian opposition in a village eight kilometers (five miles) north of al-Bab, killing 60 people. Most of those killed in Sousian were civilians who had gathered seeking permits and escorts to return to al-Bab, a day after it was liberated from the extremist group, a Syrian military commander in the city told The Associated Press. The Turkey-backed operations have aimed to create a safe zone along the border, deterring from its borders Islamic State militants as well as Kurdish rebels it sees as an extension of its own insurgent group. According to Mohammed al-Tawil, a leading Syrian opposition fighter north of al-Bab, a suicide attacker blew up his small pick-up truck outside a security office in Sousian village, about 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of al-Bab. In Geneva, the U.N.'s Syria envoy, Staffan De Mistura, held his second day of meetings with government and opposition delegations in a bid to move closer to a political solution to end the war. Nassr al-Hariri, the opposition's delegation head, told reporters he had insisted on a transitional government for Syria in line with earlier U.N. Security Council resolutions and said it was the opposition, not sitting President Bashar Assad, which was most fit to fight terrorism.
Fri, 24 Feb 2017 19:07:21 UTEL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — Suspected Islamic militants gunned down a Christian man inside his home in northern Sinai, officials and a priest said Friday, the latest in a string of sectarian killings there that has sent hundreds of Christians fleeing and raised accusations the government is failing to protect the community. [...] Egypt's Islamic State group affiliate, which is based in the Sinai Peninsula and which in December carried out a devastating suicide bombing against a Cairo church, vowed in a video earlier this week to step up attacks against the embattled Coptic Christian minority. The displacement underscores what many rights activists said the failure of the Egyptian government in providing the minimum level of security to the Christians in this volatile region of northern Sinai, where the military has been battling for years against militants. Youssef Tawfiq said his father Gamal, a teacher, was shot to death on Feb. 16 by two masked gunmen 200 meters (220 yards) from a heavily fortified army post in el-Arish. Hundreds of troops have been killed, the military has razed hundreds of houses to stop alleged militant infiltration through tunnels from neighboring Gaza, and President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in 2014 declared a state of emergency and curfew there after suicide bombings killed more than 30 soldiers. The northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, bordering the Gaza Strip and Israel, has been a battleground since 2011, when the region sank into lawlessness during the 18-day uprising that led to the ouster of longtime autocratic President Hosni Mubarak. Christians, mainly belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church, make up an estimated 10 percent of Egypt's population and have suffered decades of discrimination and attacks by Islamic militants.
Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:10:43 UTThe price increase comes as the country's vital tourism industry struggles to rehabilitate itself after a crushing blow in 2015 when Islamic militants downed a Russian airliner killing everyone on board.
Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:40:09 UTFarhadi, an acclaimed director whose film, "The Salesman," was nominated for best foreign language film announced January when President Trump's travel ban was initially issued that he would not be attending the ceremony in protest, even if exceptions were made for him.