From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE SOUTH 2021 MAY-JUNE"

    This file is attached to http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterEight/BeastThatCameOutOfTheSea.htm from “Beast That Came Out Of The Sea” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.
    This link will take you back to Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.
    Or return to King Of The South 2021 March-April or continue to King Of The South 2021 July-August.

KING OF THE SOUTH 2021 MAY-JUNE


    So as 2020 has passed do we know who the "King of the South in 2020" is?
    The phrase “king of the South” is found in the Bible in only one location — Daniel 11, which is also the chapter containing the most detailed prophecy in the Bible.    The first mention of this ruler is found in verse 5, where we find that “the king of the South shall become strong” and that “His dominion shall be a great dominion.”    Who was this king?    Who will he be in the “time of the end” spoken of in verse 40?    To answer these questions, we need a little background information.    One of the first considerations is the setting of this prophecy.    Daniel received the message in “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia,” which was 537 or 536 B.C. according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Daniel 10:1).    The prophecy of Daniel 11 begins with verses 2-4, which describe what would happen in the Persian and Greek Empires after Daniel was given this vision, and continues through “the time of the end” (verse 40).
    The Persian Empire refers to any of a series of imperial dynasties that were centred in Persia/Iran from the 6th century B.C. Achaemenid Empire era to the 20th century AD in the Qajar dynasty era.    Know that Ancient Persia is modern Iran.
    Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC) also called the First Persian Empire, in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great.    It ranges from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration (through satraps under the King of Kings), for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army.    The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires.
    By the 7th century BC, the Persians had settled in the south-western portion of the Iranian Plateau in the region of Persis, which came to be their heartland.    From this region, Cyrus the Great advanced to defeat the Medes, Lydia, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire, establishing the Achaemenid Empire.    Alexander the Great, an avid admirer of Cyrus the Great, conquered most of the empire by 330 BC.    Upon Alexander's death, most of the empire's former territory came under the rule of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Seleucid Empire, in addition to other minor territories which gained independence at that time.    The Iranian elites of the central plateau reclaimed power by the second century B.C. under the Parthian Empire.
    The Achaemenid Empire is noted in Western history as the antagonist of the Greek city-states during the Greco-Persian Wars and for the emancipation of the Jewish exiles in Babylon.    The historical mark of the empire went far beyond its territorial and military influences and included cultural, social, technological and religious influences as well.
    Despite the lasting conflict between the two states, many Athenians adopted Achaemenid customs in their daily lives in a reciprocal cultural exchange, some being employed by or allied to the Persian kings.    The impact of Cyrus's edict is mentioned in Judeo-Christian texts, and the empire was instrumental in the spread of Zoroastrianism as far east as China.    The empire also set the tone for the politics, heritage and history of Iran (also officially known as Persia).    The image below shows you the area for the "King of the South."
       
    So based on the above information I would acknowledge that the "King of the South" will come out of that area.
    As you may have noted that in 2019 I claimed that individual will be: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
    The reason was his image of the pentagram a Satanic symbol which is at the top of Erdogan’s Tek Devlet (One State) monument in Turkey, which is a pentagram, a satanic symbol, and believed in beheading, and Shriah Will Rise Again, religious education, Koranic courses, Arabic and Ottoman lessons, Islamization of all schools, sharia education and finally compulsory worship services in all schools
   
    Could Recep Tayyip Erdogan be the upcoming antichrist and may fit the description and then may not be the final antichrist.    The Bible tells us there are “many antichrists” (1 John 2:18); many believe there will be the single antichrist, and we are rapidly approaching the end of time as we know it, before the great tribulation begins.
    All of the antichrists have the same modus operandi (mode of operation).
    As Erdogan has tried to be a force in the South and has shown hints of hypocrisy along the way, and August 2014, he has steadily become dictatorial, and enacted laws to give him excessive powers.
    “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom, but he shall come in peaceably and obtain the kingdom by flatteriesDaniel 11:21.
    The Bible, in a number of instances, refers to the antichrist as the “Assyrian.”    A good part of Turkey was included in the Assyrian Empire, which also persecuted God’s people.
    “Therefore, thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Oh My people who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian; he shall smite you with a rod and shall lift up his staff against you, after the manner of Egypt.    For yet a little while and the indignation shall cease and My anger in their destructionIsaiah 10:24-25.
    “And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land and when he shall tread in our palaces; then shall we raise against him seven shepherds and eight principal menMicah 5:5.
    Erdogan announced, “The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the honor of 1.7 billion Muslims, not just Palestinians, and the Muslim world cannot wait to remain indifferent to the restrictions imposed on the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” which is situated on the historical Jewish Temple Mount.
    Erdogan’s real crimes are buying the Russian S-400 missile system for Turkey, refusing to accept US support for America’s Kurdish YPG allies and allowing Islamist fighters to pour over Turkey’s border into Syria along with a load of weapons, mortars and missiles.    Erdogan said Turkey will work with the Syrian people directly to help achieve peace in the war-torn country.    He went on to clarify this does not mean he is willing to work with the Syrian government.
    “Russia takes the necessary measures against a (possible) threat by Syrian regime in Idlib, and as Turkey, we are taking all kind of measures against radical groups in Idlib,” stated President Erdogan.    “We are also taking joint action with Russia if it is necessary.”    His remarks come almost a month after Turkish and Russian forces announced a demilitarized zone in the Idlib province.
    In December, President Donald Trump’s called Tayyip Erdogan that he was pulling U.S. troops from Syria has stunned Turkey and left it scrambling to respond to the changing battlefield on its southern border, and delivered a standard warning to the Turkish president over his plan to attack U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, in the course of the conversation Trump reshaped U.S. policy in the Middle East, abandoning a quarter of Syrian territory and handing Ankara the job of finishing off Islamic State in Syria.
    As many promote what Daniel 11:40-45 claims it represents the Northern King’s Conquests. [AS SEEN IN THE VERSES ABOVE THAT THE EVENTS ARE LOOKING AS IF RUSSIA - KING OF THE NORTH AND THE MIDEAST NATIONS - KING OF THE SOUTH ARE GOING TO BECOME ENTWINED INTO THE PROPHECY ABOVE IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE AND THE KING OF THE WEST HAS PULLED OUT OF THIS MESS WHICH I THINK TRUMP MADE THE RIGHT CALL PROBABLY DUE TO GODS INFLUENCE SO LETS SEE HOW IT UNFOLDS AND ALSO WATCH FOR NEWS THAT THE EUPHARATES RIVER DRIES UP ENGAGING THE KINGS OF THE EAST TO GET INVOLVED.].
    The following image below is seen at http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterSix/Psalm83.htm so you can tell by the verses above who are the countries today.
    So lets see what will happen in 2021 regarding the King of the South:

2021 MAY-JUNE


5/3/2021 Analysis: Prospects Fading, Turkey Hopes Lockdown Rescues Tourism Season by Canan Sevgili and Berna Suleymanoglu
FILE PHOTO: Russian tourists pause as they visit Ayasofya-i Kebir Camii or Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Istanbul, Turkey January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s tourism sector faces another lost season after a rapid coronavirus rise wiped out many early foreign bookings and prompted Russia, its top source of visitors, to halt flights and warn against travel this summer.
    In a last-ditch move to cut infections and save the season, President Tayyip Erdogan last week imposed a lockdown through mid-May in part, he said, so that European countries did not leave Turkey behind as they re-open beaches, restaurants and travel.
    The foreign cash that tourists spend is critical to offset Turkey’s heavy foreign debt, but revenues plunged 65% last year when the pandemic first hit.
    The tourism minister told Reuters that 30 million foreigners could arrive this year, twice as many as last, if the lockdown succeeds in lowering daily COVID-19 cases to below 5,000 from near 30,000 in recent days.
    But travel agents, associations and hotels said they fear this year will be little better than last after the virus wave briefly ranked Turkey second globally in new cases just as the season kicked off, before it dropped back to fourth.
    Some Turkish and Russian agents see a difficult few months until August, when they say the Mediterranean and Aegean hot spots and historic sites in Istanbul and elsewhere could fill up again.    Much will depend on last-minute bookings, they said.
    “The lockdown decision will probably not be able to save the season” because it was taken too late, said Cem Polatoglu, general manager at Istanbul-based Andiamo Tour.
    Even if the lockdown cuts daily coronavirus cases to below 5,000 by the end of May, as the government hopes, he said it takes time for countries to remove travel warnings “which means probably losing July too.”
    Coronavirus cases topped 60,000 last month, leaving Turkey’s top five tourist sources – Russia, Germany, Britain, Bulgaria and Iran – with travel warnings in place.
    Ankara said Moscow’s decision to halt most flights until June 1 blocked 500,000 tourists, compared to a total of 2.1 million Russians who came last year and some 6 million before the pandemic.
    The flight ban could be extended. Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said last week Russian operators should not sell tours even after June 1 until authorities decide.
    Yana Starostina, manager at Travelland agency in Moscow, said clients still want to go to Turkey but added she expects it won’t be possible until August.
    Turkey’s foreign and health ministers are set to visit Moscow on May 12 to discuss travel.
HIGH STAKES
    Mediterranean tourist hubs are trying to lock in bookings despite a shifting map of travel warnings, local restrictions and vaccine rollouts.
    Last week neighbouring Greece lifted quarantine restrictions on more virus-free visitors, while Turkey will ditch virus test requirements for travelers from Britain, China, Ukraine and some others by mid-May.
    Tourism accounts for some 12% of Turkey’s economy and was the hardest hit sector last year, even though virus-related curbs had been lifted by June.
    Turkey’s current account deficit ballooned to $37 billion last year when tourists brought in only $12 billion, down from a record $35 billion in 2019.
    Though arrivals were down 54% year-on-year in the first quarter, Tourism and Culture Minister Mehmet Ersoy said a sharp drop in coronavirus infections since April 21 was a hopeful sign that “drastic” lockdown measures were working.
    “As of June 1, we will open the tourist season and if we can reduce the number of daily cases below 5,000, we maintain our target of 30 million tourists this year,” he told Reuters.
    That sounds optimistic to others.
    Polatoglu of Andiamo Tour expects only 6 million arrivals this year and said roughly half of Turkey’s 12,000 tour agents are already closed, many unable to repay government loans meant to ease pandemic fallout.
    Bora Kok, sales manager at Bora Bora Boutique Hotel in Antalya on the Mediterranean, where tourism season usually starts in April, said the lockdown was overdue but welcome.
    “If Russian tourists do not come, there will be serious bankruptcies and potential layoffs,” he said.
    Erdogan’s government hopes the lockdown, a drive that has so far vaccinated 16% of the population, and a safe hotel certification program will propel last-minute bookings.
    Aegean-based Peninsula Tours has had no more than 20 early reservations per day through March and April in its Dalaman region, compared to about 300 last year, said regional manager Ali Kirli.    “Early booking has almost come to a halt.”
    Turkish Hoteliers Federation Chairman Sururi Corabatir told Reuters: “We had hopes for 2021.    But unfortunately the case numbers have not been at the desired levels.”
(Additional reporting in Ceyda Caglayan in Istanbul, Halilcan Soran in Gdansk, Poland, Andrey Ostroukh and Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow, and Ilona Wissenbach in Frankfurt; Reporting and writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

5/3/2021 Congo Declares End Of Ebola Outbreak That Killed Six
FILE PHOTO: An Ebola survivor who works as a nurse, gets dressed in a protective suit as he prepares to start his shift at an Ebola treatment
centre (ETC) in Katwa, near Butembo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo
    KINSHASA (Reuters) -The Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday declared the end of an Ebola outbreak that infected 12 people in the eastern province of North Kivu and killed six of them.
    The outbreak was contained using Merck’s Ebola vaccine, which was given to more than 1,600 of the patients’ contacts and contacts of contacts, the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said.
    The cases were genetically linked to the 2018-20 Ebola epidemic that killed more than 2,200 people; the second-highest toll recorded in the disease’s history.
    The latest flare-up emerged on Feb. 3 in the city of Butembo with the death of a woman whose husband had contracted the virus in the previous outbreak.
    The virus can remain in certain body fluids, including semen, of a patient who has recovered from the disease, even if they no longer have symptoms of severe illness.
    “I am pleased to solemnly declare the end of the 12th epidemic of Ebola virus disease in North Kivu Province,” health minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani said in a statement.
    “Despite the security context and the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapidity and efficiency of the response put in place by the government and its partners made it possible to defeat this pandemic in less than three months,” he said.
    The response was often hampered by insecurity caused by armed groups and social unrest limited the movement of health workers, the World Health Organization said in a statement.
    “Huge credit must be given to the local health workers and the national authorities for their prompt response, tenacity, experience and hard work that brought this outbreak under control,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Direct for Africa.
    “Although the outbreak has ended, we must stay alert for possible resurgence and at the same time use the growing expertise on emergency response to address other health threats the country faces.”
(Reporting by Jessica Agasaro and Hereward Holland;Writing by Hereward Holland;Editing by Bate Felix and Andrew Heavens)

5/3/2021 Syrian Court Selects Two Candidates To Appear On Ballot Against Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets with people during his visit to some factories and facilities in the
industrial city of Hassia in Homs, Syria in this handout picture released on May 3, 2021. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria’s higher constitutional court on Monday selected two obscure figures to appear on ballots standing against President Bashar al-Assad in a May 26 election which the West rejects as a farce that will hurt diplomatic efforts to end the civil war.
    From a list of 51 potential candidates, the court approved just three: Assad, former deputy cabinet minister Abdallah Saloum Abdallah, and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei, head of a small, officially sanctioned opposition party.
    Assad, who took power in 2000 on the death of his father who ruled for 30 years, has regained control of most of his country after 10 years of civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and drove more than half the population from their homes.
    Damascus views the election, for what would be Assad’s fourth seven-year term, as the governing system functioning normally despite the war.    The opposition and Western countries view it as a farce to keep Assad in power indefinitely and head off negotiations to end the conflict.
    Top U.N. officials said this month said the vote would not fulfil Security Council resolutions which call for a political process to end Syria’s conflict, a new constitution, and free elections administered under U.N. supervision.
    Assad has taken measures in recent months to ease public dissatisfaction fed by anger over eroding living conditions and a plunging currency, including raising state salaries, cracking down on currency speculators and bringing the official exchange rate closer into line with the black market.
    His opponents say some of the new measures, such as cheap loans, favour his politically and economically powerful allies, including members of his Alawite minority sect who dominate the state and security forces.
    On Sunday, Assad issued an amnesty waiving penalties on some draft dodgers, currency speculators, smugglers and petty criminals, which relatives hope could lead to the release of some civic activists detained in recent months.
(Reporting by Kinda Makieh in Damascus and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman Writing by Maha El DahanEditing by Mark Heinrich and Peter Graff)

5/3/2021 Israeli State Watchdog To Investigate Religious Festival Stampede by Ari Rabinovitch
FILE PHOTO: Emergency workers react upon revisiting the site where dozens were crushed to death in a stampede at
a religious festival, as the country observes a day of mourning, at Mount Meron, Israel May 2, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel’s government watchdog said on Monday it would open an investigation into the deaths of 45 people crushed in a stampede at a Jewish religious festival last week.
    State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said his office, which audits the government, would look into the circumstances surrounding the event at Mount Meron in the Galilee region.
    “I wish to announce today that I intend to open a special audit that will investigate the circumstances that led to this tragedy,” he told reporters.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also promised a thorough investigation but did not say what form it would take or who would oversee it.
    Israel observed a day of mourning on Sunday after one of its worst civilian disasters.    Six U.S. citizens were among the dead, along with two Canadians, a British citizen and an Argentinian.
    Englman’s office can examine and make public its findings, but cannot bring criminal charges.    Many in Israel have called on the government to form a higher-level committee with greater authority to investigate what happened.
    The comptroller’s office had several years ago labelled as hazardous the Mount Meron compound in northern Israel where the festival took place overnight last week between Thursday and Friday.
    But tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews thronged to the tomb of 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for the annual Lag B’Omer celebration that include all-night prayer, mystical songs and dance.
    At some point a large crowd pushed its way into a narrow tunnel and the 45 celebrants, including children, were asphyxiated or trampled.
    Questions have been raised as to whether the government and police were reluctant to limit the crowd size at the site so as not to anger influential ultra-Orthodox rabbis and politicians.
    At a memorial session in parliament on Tuesday, Netanyahu said: “We will examine in an orderly, deep and responsible manner all of the issues related to assemblies on the mountain, in the present and the past.”
    He said entry and exit procedures, police deployment and “above all the structural changes necessary at the site” would be looked into.
    Englman said he would investigate the actions of all groups leading up to and during the festival – “from the level of decision-makers to those in the field, including law enforcement.”
    For its part, the Justice Ministry has said it will look into whether there had been any police misconduct.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Mark Heinrich)

5/3/2021 War And Doubts Slow COVID-19 Vaccination In Disputed Yemen City by Mohammed Maresh and Anees Mahyoub
A man receives the AstraZeneca vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a
medical center in Taiz, Yemen April 23, 2021.REUTERS/Anees Mahyoub
    TAIZ, Yemen (Reuters) – In al-Thawra hospital in the disputed Yemeni city of Taiz, a nurse with no face mask or protective gear inoculates the few people who have shown interest in the COVID-19 vaccine.
    She picks an AstraZeneca vial from a cooler box, warms it with her hands and invokes the name of god before injecting the shot into a man’s left arm.
    Yemen has received 360,000 doses from the global COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme, yet many Yemenis seem reluctant to get inoculated on religious grounds, due to distrust of the vaccine, or because of the dangers of war.
    “We have received 70,000 doses in Taiz and we started the vaccination campaign on April 21,” Rajeh al-Maliki, head of Yemen’s health ministry in Taiz.
    “We can fairly say that there is very little interest … we have distributed around 500 shots since we started, it is less than we expected,” Maliki said.
    There has been a dramatic spike in infections in Yemen this year, straining a health system already battered by war, economic collapse and a shortfall in aid funding.
    The Iranian-aligned Houthi movement, which controls most of northern Yemen and parts of Taiz, has been battling the Saudi-backed government since 2014.    Tens of thousands have been killed and millions rely on aid to survive.
    Maliki and other doctors said many Yemenis, including medical staff, believe the vaccine would break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
    Checkpoints and snipers in the heavily militarised city make it impossible for many residents to reach hospitals, they said.
    People living in Houthi-controlled neighbourhoods have to travel around 50 km (30 miles) to avoid front lines and reach the main government-controlled hospital.
    “I got infected by coronavirus, I took natural herbs and spices that our ancestors used.    I was well again,” said Ali Abdou, a 55-year-old Taiz resident.
    “We work very hard with our bodies and it gives us strong immunity, one of us dies only when his time has come.    Those rare diseases only affect the rich and we are not among them,” Abdou said.
    Mohammed Muthana, another resident, said he will wait until officials and doctors take the vaccine before he can trust it.
    In al-Thawra hospital, doctor Sarah Damaj has been trying to convince Yemenis the vaccine is safe and does not break the fast.
    “People are afraid because there is a lot of misinformation out there, especially on social media,” she said.
(Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Giles Elgood)

5/5/2021 Israel’s President Picks Netanyahu Opponent Lapid To Form Government
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a speech to supporters following the announcement
of exit polls in Israel's general election at his Likud party headquarters in Jerusalem March 24, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel’s president on Wednesday chose Yair Lapid, a centrist politician and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strongest rival, to try to form a new government, but his path to success was still uncertain.
    Israel’s longest serving leader, Netanyahu, 71, has been fighting to hold onto office through four inconclusive elections since 2019.
    President Reuven Rivlin, in a televised address announcing his choice of Lapid, said the former finance minister had the pledged support of 56 of parliament’s 120 members, still short of a majority.
    “It … became clear that Yair Lapid has the possibility to form a government that will win parliament’s approval, but there are many difficulties,” Rivlin said.
    The most recent vote on March 23, held while Netanyahu is also on trial for corruption charges he denies, yielded no majority for the prime minister or for a loose alliance of rivals from across the political spectrum aiming to topple him.
    A 28-day mandate to put together a coalition ran out at midnight after Netanyahu failed to agree terms with potential right-wing partners, opening the way for Rivlin to assign the task to another member of parliament.
    Lapid also has 28 days to try to form a coalition.
(Reporting by Jeffrey HellerEditing by Rami Ayyub)

5/5/2021 Saudi Arabia, Iran Held Talks More Than Once In Iraq – Iraqi President by John Davison
FILE PHOTO: Iraq's President Barham Salih attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF)
annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has hosted more than one round of talks between regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Wednesday.
    Salih made his remarks during an interview broadcast live online with the Beirut Institute think tank.    He gave no more details.
    Diplomats hope the opening of direct channels between Iran and Saudi Arabia will signal a calming of tensions across the Middle East after years of hostilities that have brought the region close to a full-scale conflict.
    Baghdad hosted talks between officials from its two neighbours and mutual adversaries on April 9 in the only round of talks to have been previously reported.
    Asked how many rounds of Saudi-Iranian talks Iraq had hosted, Salih replied: “More than once.”
    Washington and Tehran have engaged in indirect talks in Vienna that seek to revive an international pact reached in 2015 that constrained Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief.
    Former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out the deal in 2018 and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran and its regional allies, increasing tension as Iran-backed militias attacked U.S. forces in Iraq and a series of attacks hit oil installations and tankers in the Gulf, where Washington counts Arab states such as Saudi among its close allies.
    The killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. air strike in Baghdad in January 2020 brought the region close to war.    Iran responded with limited missile strikes against a U.S. base in Iraq, the first such direct attack, but took no further action.
    Iraqis hope for a general regional detente that would allow their country to rebuild instead of being used as an arena for U.S., Gulf Arab and Iranian score-settling.
    Iraq is trying to rein in powerful Iran-backed militias and deal with a resurgent Islamic State – the Sunni hardline Islamist group that took over a third of Iraq in 2014 and was beaten militarily in 2017 by U.S. forces, the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters and Iran-aligned paramilitaries.
    “The war against ISIS (Islamic State) and terrorism cannot be won by (only) military means,” Salih said.    “We have succeeded in liberating our land with the help of our friends but terrorism remains.”
    He added that he wished to see a solution to the Iran-U.S. rivalry that has fuelled violence in Iraq.
(Reporting by John Davison; editing by John Stonestreet and Timothy Heritage)

5/5/2021 British Academic Sues UAE Officials Over Assault Claims
FILE PHOTO: British academic Matthew Hedges, who has been jailed for spying in the UAE, is seen in this undated
photo supplied by his wife Daniela Tejada. Photo supplied on November 23, 2018. Daniela Tejada/Handout via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – A British academic, who was detained in the United Arab Emirates two years ago on spying charges, has launched legal action against a number of senior officials from the Gulf state, accusing them of assault, torture and false imprisonment.
    Matthew Hedges returned to Britain in November 2018 after more than six months in detention after he was pardoned from a life sentence for espionage.    His release came after the UAE had released a video of him purporting to confess to being a member of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency.
    This week, lawyers for Hedges filed papers at London’s High Court against four UAE security officials, including the then head of State Security Public Prosecution in Abu Dhabi and the Commander in Chief of the Abu Dhabi police at the time.
    He is seeking damages for assault, false imprisonment and the intentional infliction of psychiatric injury.
    Neither the UAE government’s communications office nor the UAE foreign affairs ministry immediately responded to requests for comment on the case.    The UAE has previously said Hedges had not been subjected to any physical or psychological mistreatment during his detention.
    “On May 5th 2018, I was detained and tortured in the UAE,” Hedges said in a statement.    “Three years later, I am still waiting for the truth and justice.”
    He said the UAE authorities had refused to answer a complaint submitted to them through the British Foreign Office, while he also accused the UK ministry of not doing enough to clear his name.
    Hedges, a doctoral student at Durham University, was arrested at Dubai airport after a two-week research visit.    He was kept in solitary confinement for more than five months and the evidence presented against him consisted of notes from his dissertation research.
    This research focused on sensitive topics in the UAE such as security structures, tribalism and the consolidation of political power in Abu Dhabi.
    The claim form submitted by his law firm Carter-Ruck said Hedges expected to recover between 200,000 pounds ($278,000) and 350,000 pounds ($487,000) in damages.
($1 = 0.7183 pounds)
(Reporting by Michael Holden, Editing by William Maclean)

5/5/2021 Syria Says Israeli Raids Target Mediterranean Port Region Of Latakia by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
A view shows the damage inside a room after pre-dawn raids on the Mediterranean port region of
Latakia, Syria, in this handout picture released on May 5, 2021. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    AMMAN (Reuters) -Syrian air defences downed several Israeli missiles during pre-dawn raids on the Mediterranean port city of Latakia, the Syrian army said on Wednesday, a rare attack on the ancestral home region of the Syrian leader and close to a Russian air base.
    A Syrian army statement said aerial strikes soon after 2am hit several areas along the south west coast of Latakia.    One civilian was killed and six injured in one of the strikes that the army said hit a civilian plastics factory.
    “Our aerial defences intercepted the aggressors’ missiles and downed some of them,” the army communique said.
    State media earlier reported the Israeli attack also hit the town of Hifa, east of Latakia, and Misyaf in Hama province.
    The Israeli military declined to comment.
    Although Israeli strikes in the last few years have targeted many parts of Syria, they have rarely hit Latakia which is close to Russia’s main air base of Hmeimim.
    A senior military defector said the Israeli raid struck several areas in the town of Jabla in northwestern Latakia province, a bastion of Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s minority Alawite sect that dominates the army and security forces.
    Assad comes from Qerdaha, a village in the Alawite Mountains 28 km (17 miles) southeast of Latakia, where his father, the late President Hafez al-Assad, is buried.
‘SHADOW WAR’
    Israel has escalated in recent months a so-called “shadow war” against Iranian-linked targets inside Syria, according to Western intelligence sources, who say the strikes mainly target research centres for weapons development, munitions depots and military convoys moving missiles from Syria to Lebanon.
    Syria has never acknowledged that Israel targets Iranian-linked assets with its attacks and says Iran only has military advisers in the country.
    Iran’s proxy militias led by Lebanon’s Hezbollah now hold sway over vast areas in eastern, southern and northwestern Syria, as well as several suburbs around Damascus.    They also control Lebanese-Syrian border areas.
    Israel has said its goal is to end Tehran’s military presence in Syria, which Western intelligence sources say has expanded in recent years.
    Israel sent senior delegates to Washington last week to discuss Iran with U.S. counterparts.    The White House said the allies agreed on the “significant threat” posed by Iran’s regional behaviour.
    Israel has stepped up its warnings against what it would deem a bad new nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, saying war with Tehran would be sure to follow.
    Iran’s indirect talks with U.S. envoys in Vienna have been overshadowed by what appeared to be mutual sabotage attacks on Israeli and Iranian ships, as well as an explosion at Iran’s Natanz enrichment plant that Tehran blamed on Israel.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Tom Hogue and Lincoln Feast)

5/5/2021 Kushner Launches Group To Promote Arab States’ New Ties With Israel by Steve Holland
FILE PHOTO: White House Senior Advisor and son in law to U.S. President Donald Trump Jared Kushner walks
towards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S., December 23, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Jared Kushner is forming a group to promote relations between four Arab states and Israel, normalized under agreements he helped broker as a top adviser to his father-in-law former President Donald Trump, the group said on Wednesday.
    Kushner is founding the Abraham Accords Institute for Peace,” to work on deepening agreements Israel reached last year with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
    Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, is writing a book about his experience in helping broker the deals.    He will be joined in the new group by former U.S. envoy Avi Berkowitz and ambassadors to the United States from Bahrain, the UAE and Israel.
    Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban, a contributor to Democratic causes, was also listed as part of the effort in a statement by the group, which described itself as non-partisan.    The founders “intend to add additional Democrats to the group as well as international advisers from the region,” it said.
    The Arab countries’ agreements with Israel were opposed by the Palestinians, who say they violate pledges from Arabs not to make peace until Israel withdraws from occupied lands.
    President Joe Biden, a Democrat who defeated the Republican Trump in an election in November, has said he aims to strengthen and expand the agreements, a position he repeated on Tuesday in a phone call with the UAE’s powerful crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Graff)

5/5/2021 Militants Attack Oil Wells In Iraq’s North, Production Unaffected – Sources
A security member walks as flames and smoke rising from oil wells are seen in the distance at the Bai Hassan oilfield,
which was attacked by militants, close to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Iraq, May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed
    KIRKUK, Iraq (Reuters) -Militants using bombs attacked two oil wells at an oilfield close to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Wednesday, killing at least one policeman and setting off fires, the oil ministry said.
    Industry sources said the attack had not affected production. A statement from the oil ministry did not comment on production.
    The statement said one of the fires, at Well 177 at the Bai Hassan oilfield, had been put out and emergency teams were working to halt a second at Well 183.
    The militants attacked a nearby security post during the assault, killing one policeman and wounding three others, security officials said.
    One of the security officials said the attack on the post was meant to distract police and allow other militants to plant the bombs.
    The last attack on Bai Hassan oilfield, which was claimed by Islamic State, was on April 17, when militants used explosives to attack two oil wells without causing significant damage.
(Reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud; writing by Ahmed Rasheed, John Davison; editing by Andrew Heavens, Jason Neely and Louise Heavens)

5/5/2021 Clashes In Jerusalem Ahead Of Court Case On Palestinians’ Eviction by Zainah El-Haroun
An Israeli border policeman scuffles with an ultra-Orthodox Jewish settler resident during clashes amid ongoing tension ahead of an upcoming court hearing in
an Israeli-Palestinian land-ownership dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem May 2, 2021. Picture taken May 2, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The troubles erupt after the evening meal that breaks the Ramadan fast, when Jewish settlers, guarded by Israeli police, and Palestinians trade abuse on the streets of East Jerusalem.
    A long-running legal case, in which several Palestinian families face eviction from homes on land claimed by settlers, is at the heart of the confrontations during the Muslim holy month, with a key court session due to be held on Thursday.
    “Go back to Jordan,” settlers shout in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, a part of Jerusalem that Israel captured from its eastern neighbour in the 1967 Middle East war.
    “Racists” and “mafiosi,” Palestinians yell back.
    Over the past week, police in riot gear and on horseback have moved through Sheikh Jarrah, arresting Palestinian youths and using water cannon to spray foul-smelling liquid to disperse the crowds.
    Sheikh Jarrah sits just outside Jerusalem’s walled Old City, near the famous Damascus Gate.    The area includes many Palestinian homes and apartment buildings as well as hotels, restaurants and consulates.
    Damascus Gate saw nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in April over a dispute over access to the gate’s ampitheatre-style square.
    Palestinian medics said 12 Palestinians have been injured since Sunday in the latest clashes, with three requiring hospital treatment.
    Police said Palestinian protesters have thrown rocks and firebombs at them during the demonstrations.
    Sheikh Jarrah’s residents are overwhelmingly Palestinian, but the neighbourhood also contains a site revered by religious Jews as the tomb of an ancient high priest, Simon the Just.
    Thursday’s hearing at Israel’s Supreme Court may decide if the evictions ordered by a lower court are upheld, or if the handful of Palestinian families can appeal.
    Human rights campaigners say that if the Palestinians lose the court battle, it could set a precedent for dozens of other homes in the area.
    “They would have to kill us… that’s the only way we would leave,” Abdelfatteh Iskafi told Reuters.
    Nuha Attieh, 58, said she fears her family will be next if the ruling is upheld.
    “I’m scared for my home, for my kids, I’m scared about everything.”
    A group of eight Israeli settler families living across the road from the houses they claim say the area was Jewish in the past, and the Israeli court had “decided that we can get back our houses.”
    “This is a Jewish country.    They want to control it,” one of the settlers told Reuters on Tuesday, pointing at the Palestinians on the other side of the street.
    Giving only the name Eden, he added: “We have done nothing illegal.    Arabs came from Jordan 50 years ago and should go back.”
    The Palestinians say they have lived in Sheikh Jarrah since the 1950s, when they were re-housed there by Jordan after fleeing or being forced to abandon their homes in West Jerusalem and Haifa during fighting that surrounded Israel’s creation in 1948.
    The settlers who filed the lawsuit said they legally bought the land from two Jewish associations that purchased it at the end of the 19th century, the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said.
    A lawyer representing the settlers declined to speak with Reuters.
    The status of Jerusalem is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.    Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and most countries regard settlements that Israel has built there as illegal.
    Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, citing biblical and historical links to the city.
(Reporting Zainah El-Haroun and Stephen Farrell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Alexandra Hudson)

5/7/2021 Israeli Police, Palestinians Clash At Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa, Scores Injured by Rami Ayyub, Ammar Awad and Stephen Farrell
An Israeli policeman scuffles with a Palestinian in front of the Dome of the Rock during clashes at a compound known to Muslims
as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, amid tension over the possible eviction of several Palestinian families from homes
on land claimed by Jewish settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 7, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades towards rock-hurling Palestinian youth at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday amid growing anger over the potential eviction of Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers.
    At least 178 Palestinians and six officers were injured in the night-time clashes at Islam’s third-holiest site and around East Jerusalem, Palestinian medics and Israeli police said, as thousands of Palestinians faced off with several hundred Israeli police in riot gear.
    Tension has mounted in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with nightly clashes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah – a neighbourhood where numerous Palestinian families face eviction in a long-running legal case.
    Calls for calm and restraint poured in on Friday from the United States and the United Nations, with others including the European Union and Jordan voicing alarm at the possible evictions.
    Tens of thousands of Palestinians packed into the hilltop compound surrounding the mosque earlier on Friday for prayers.    Many stayed on to protest against the evictions in the city at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    But following the evening meal that breaks the Ramadan fast, clashes broke out at Al-Aqsa with smaller scuffles near Sheikh Jarrah, which sits near the walled Old City’s famous Damascus Gate.
    Police used water cannon mounted on armoured vehicles to disperse several hundred protesters gathered near the homes of families facing potential eviction.
    “If we don’t stand with this group of people here, (evictions) will (come) to my house, her house, his house and to every Palestinian who lives here,” said protester Bashar Mahmoud, 23, from the nearby Palestinian neighbourhood of Issawiya.
‘CALM DOWN AND BE QUIET’
    An Aqsa official appealed for calm on the compound through the mosque’s loudspeakers.    “Police must immediately stop firing stun grenades at worshippers, and the youth must calm down and be quiet!
    Israel’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the Sheikh Jarrah evictions on Monday, the same day that Israel marks Jerusalem Day – its annual celebration of its capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war.
    The Palestine Red Crescent ambulance service said 88 of the Palestinians injured were taken to hospital after being hit with rubber-coated metal bullets.
    One of the injured lost an eye, two suffered serious head wounds and two had their jaws fractured, the Red Crescent said. The rest of the injuries were minor, it added.
    A police spokeswoman said Palestinians had thrown rocks, fireworks and other objects towards officers, with some of the six injured requiring medical treatment.
    “We will respond with a heavy hand to any violent disturbance, rioting or harm to our officers, and will work to find those responsible and bring them to justice,” the spokeswoman said.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he “held (Israel) responsible for the dangerous developments and sinful attacks taking place in the holy city” and called on the U.N. Security Council to hold an urgent session on the issue.
    Violence has also increased in the occupied West Bank, where two Palestinian gunmen were killed and a third critically injured on Friday after they opened fire at an Israeli base, police said.    After that incident, Israel’s military said it would send additional combat troops to the West Bank.
‘PLAYING WITH FIRE’
    Sheikh Jarrah’s residents are overwhelmingly Palestinian, but the neighbourhood also contains a site revered by religious Jews as the tomb of an ancient high priest, Simon the Just.
    The spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the evictions, “if ordered and implemented, would violate Israel’s obligations under international law” on East Jerusalem territory it captured and occupied, along with the West Bank, from neighbouring Jordan in 1967.
    “We call on Israel to immediately halt all forced evictions, including those in Sheikh Jarrah, and to cease any activity that would further contribute to a coercive environment and lead to a risk of forcible transfer,” spokesman Rupert Colville said on Friday.
    Washington was “deeply concerned about the heightened tensions in Jerusalem,” said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter.
    “As we head into a sensitive period in the days ahead, it will be critical for all sides to ensure calm and act responsibly to deescalate tensions and avoid violent confrontation,” Porter said.
    The European Union, Jordan and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council have expressed alarm at the potential evictions.
    Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Jordan had given the Palestinian Authority documents that he said showed the Sheikh Jarrah Palestinians were the “legitimate owners” of their homes.
    Israel’s “provocative steps in occupied Jerusalem and violation of Palestinian rights, including the rights of the people of Sheikh Jarrah in their homes, is playing with fire,” Safadi said in a foreign ministry statement on Twitter.
    Israel’s foreign ministry said on Friday that Palestinians were “presenting a real-estate dispute between private parties as a nationalist cause, in order to incite violence in Jerusalem.”    Palestinians rejected the allegation.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Alaa Swilam in Cairo and Simon Lewis in Washington; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Edmund Blair, William Maclean and Daniel Wallis)

5/7/2021 Anti-President Somali Soldiers Begin Returning To Barracks
Somali military opposition soldiers from Hawiye clan parade as they move to their barracks after reaching an agreement with the
prime minister following clashes over the tenure of the president in Mogadishu, Somalia May 7, 2021. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
    MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Hundreds of Somali forces who back the opposition began returning to their barracks on Friday after reaching an agreement with the prime minister following clashes over the tenure of the president, a spokesman for the troops said.
    Somali lawmakers voted on Saturday to overturn the two-year presidential term extension they had approved last month after the violence stirred fears of all-out war between heavily armed troops for and against the president.
    A Reuters photographer and camera operator saw heavily armed troops moving on foot and in military vehicles in the capital Mogadishu on Friday afternoon, some returning to a military camp in the city.
    “We agreed to go back to our barracks after the prime minister ordered us yesterday.    So these forces are the ones who were fighting in the north of Mogadishu and the other forces are coming out and they are ready,” Major Diini Ahmed, spokesman for the opposition-allied troops, told Reuters.
    He told Reuters late on Thursday that the troops had agreed to return to barracks.
    The agreement to end the months-long standoff included demands that opposition-allied forces returned to barracks within 48 hours, that soldiers be apolitical, and a promise that soldiers who supported the opposition would not be penalised.
    Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble said he had supervised the reopening of the streets and removal of barricades as part of the agreement signed on Wednesday.
    “May our capital enjoy peace, security, stability and prosperity,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
    The crisis had raised fears that al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents could exploit a security vacuum if state forces split along clan lines and turn on each other.
    The dispute flared when, amid political wrangling between federal and regional authorities and the opposition, Somalia failed to hold an election in December for a new crop of legislators who were supposed to select a president in February.
    In April, the lower house of the existing parliament approved a two-year term extension for President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, although the Senate rejected it.
    Despite lawmakers unanimously rescinding their approval, some in the opposition remain sceptical of Mohamed’s stated willingness to step down and want him to immediately hand over power to the prime minister.
(Reporting by Feisal Omar in Mogadishu and Abdiqani Hassan in Garowe; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Alison Williams)

5/7/2021 Amnesty: Yemen’s Houthis Must Release Model Fearing ‘Virginity Testing’
FILE PHOTO: People shop at a market in the old quarter of Sanaa, Yemen April 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Amnesty International said on Friday Yemen’s Houthi authorities must halt plans for forced virginity testing and release an actor and model the human rights group says has been detained on “spurious grounds.”
    Twenty-year-old Yemeni Intisar al-Hammadi was arrested in February at a checkpoint in the capital Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthi group in Yemen’s six-year conflict.
    A judicial source previously told Reuters she had been charged with carrying out an indecent act and going against Islamic principles.
    “Intisar al-Hammadi has regularly appeared in photographs online including in social media posts, without a headscarf defying strict societal norms in Yemen,” Amnesty said.
    Yemen has consistently been at the bottom of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index.
    “Hammadi was arrested by plainclothes security forces at a checkpoint in Sanaa on 20 February,” Amnesty said.    “While detained, she was interrogated while blindfolded, physically and verbally abused, subjected to racist insults and forced to ‘confess’ to several offences, including drug possession and prostitution.”
    Amnesty said her lawyer was informed on Wednesday by a member of the prosecution team of plans to carry out a virginity test on her within days.
    Amnesty says forced virginity tests are a form of sexual violence amounting to torture under international law.
    “The Houthi de facto authorities have a deplorable track record of arbitrarily detaining people on baseless charges – to silence or punish critics, activists, journalists and members of religious minorities – as well as subjecting them to torture and other forms of ill-treatment,” said Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Lynn Maalouf.
    Houthi authorities did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
    Amnesty said Hammadi’s lawyer in April was approached by a gunman who threatened him and asked him to drop the case.
    The Houthi movement, which holds most of northern Yemen, ousted Yemen’s internationally recognised government from power in Sanaa in late 2014.
(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

5/7/2021 Exclusive-Saudi Arabia Wants To See “Verifiable Deeds” From Talks With Iran, Says Official by Ghaida Ghantous
FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – A Saudi foreign ministry official said on Friday that talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran aim to reduce regional tensions, but added it was too early to judge the outcome and Riyadh wanted to see “verifiable deeds.”
    The comments by Ambassador Rayed Krimly, head of policy planning at the ministry, were the first public confirmation from Riyadh that the rivals – who severed ties in 2016 – were holding direct talks.
    “As to current Saudi-Iranian talks they aim to explore ways to reduce tensions in the region,” Krimly told Reuters.
    “We hope they prove successful, but it is too early, and premature, to reach any definitive conclusions.    Our evaluation will be based on verifiable deeds, and not proclamations.”
    He declined to provide details on the talks, but regional officials and sources had told Reuters that the discussions were focused on Yemen and the 2015 nuclear deal between global powers and Iran, which Riyadh had opposed.
    Iraq’s president said on Wednesday that Baghdad hosted more than one round of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have been locked in a rivalry that has played out in proxy conflicts across the region, including Yemen.
    Krimly said Saudi policy had been explained “very clearly” by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who last month said that while the Sunni Muslim kingdom has a problem with Tehran’s “negative behaviour” it wanted good relations with Shi’ite Iran.
YEMEN WAR
    Tensions between Riyadh and Tehran have festered over the Yemen war, where an Iran-aligned Houthi group has increased attacks on Saudi Arabia. Strains between the two Gulf powerhouses also grew after a 2019 assault on Saudi oil plants that Riyadh blamed on Iran, a charge Tehran denies.
    Riyadh supported former U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision in 2018 to quit the nuclear pact for not addressing Tehran’s missiles programme and regional behaviour.    After Trump re-imposed sanctions on Iran, Tehran responded by breaching several nuclear restrictions.
    Global powers are trying at talks in Vienna to bring the United States and Iran back into full compliance with the deal. Saudi Arabia has urged them to reach a stronger accord.
    Riyadh and Tehran have also backed opposing sides in Lebanon and Syria, where Iran has supported President Bashar al-Assad.
    Gulf states have been alarmed by the rising influence of non-Arab Iran, Russia and Turkey in Syria, especially after Syria’s membership of the Arab League was suspended in 2011 over its crackdown on protesters at the start of the civil war.
    Krimly said recent media reports that the head of Saudi intelligence had held talks in Damascus were inaccurate.
    He said Saudi policy towards Syria remained based on support for the Syrian people, for a political solution under a United Nations umbrella and in accordance with Security Council resolutions, and for the unity and Arab identity of Syria. (Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Catherine Evans and Alex Richardson)

5/10/2021 Jerusalem Violence Leads To Hamas Rockets On Israel, Nine Dead In Gaza by Jeffrey Heller and Nidal al-Mughrabi
Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from
the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets toward the Jerusalem area and southern Israel on Monday, carrying out a threat to punish Israel for violent confrontations with Palestinians in Jerusalem.
    The Gaza health ministry said nine Palestinians, including three children, were killed “in a series of strikes in northern Gaza.”    It did not explicitly blame Israel for the deaths, in an area that has been a staging ground for militants’ cross-border rocket attacks.
    Rocket sirens sounded in Jerusalem, in nearby towns and in communities near Gaza minutes after the expiry of an ultimatum from the enclave’s ruling Hamas Islamist group demanding Israel stand down forces in the al Aqsa mosque compound and another flashpoint in the holy city.
    As Israel celebrated “Jerusalem Day” earlier on Monday, marking its capture of eastern sections of the holy city in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, violence erupted at the mosque, Islam’s third most sacred site.
    The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said more than 300 Palestinians were injured in clashes with police who fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas in the compound, which is also revered by Jews at the site of biblical temples.
    The skirmishes, in which police said 21 officers were also hurt, at al Aqsa had died down by the 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) deadline Hamas had set.
    Rockets fired from Gaza last hit the Jerusalem area during a 2014 war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the territory.     “The terrorist organisations crossed a red line on Jerusalem Day and attacked us, on the outskirts of Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech.
    “Israel will respond very forcefully. We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, our capital, our citizens and our soldiers.    Whoever strikes us will pay a heavy price,” he said.
    International efforts to stem the violence appeared to have already begun.    A Palestinian official told Reuters that Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, which have mediated truces between Israel and Hamas in the past, were in contact with the group’s leader Ismail Haniyeh.
    Israeli Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said that on Monday, at least six of the 45 rockets fired from Gaza were launched towards Jerusalem’s outskirts, where a house was hit. No casualties were reported.
    “We have started to attack Hamas military targets,” Conricus said in a briefing to foreign reporters, putting no timeframe on any Israeli offensive.    “Hamas will pay a heavy price.”
    He said Israel had carried out an air strike in northern Gaza against Hamas militants and was looking into reports that children were killed.
    “We had multiple events of rockets fired by Gaza terrorists falling short.    This might be the same,” Conricus said.
    Along the fortified Gaza-Israeli border, a Palestinian anti-tank missile fired from the tiny coastal territory struck a civilian vehicle, injuring one Israeli, he said.
    Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks.
    “This is a message the enemy should understand well,” said Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing.
VIOLENCE AROUND AL AQSA MOSQUE
    The hostilities caught Netanyahu at an awkward time, as opponents negotiate the formation of a governing coalition to unseat him after an inconclusive March 23 election.
    For Hamas, some commentators said, its challenge to Israel was a sign to Palestinians, whose own elections have been postponed by President Mahmoud Abbas, that it was now calling the shots in holding Israel accountable for events in Jerusalem.
    Recent clashes in Jerusalem have raised international concern about wider conflict, and the White House called on Israel to ensure calm during “Jerusalem Day.” [L8N2MX0K2]
    The Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem has also been a focal point of Palestinian protests during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    Several Palestinian families face eviction, under Israeli court order, from homes claimed by Jewish settlers in a long-running legal case.
    In an effort to defuse tensions, police changed the route of a traditional Jerusalem Day march, in which thousands of Israeli flag-waving Jewish youth walk through the Old City.    They entered through Jaffa Gate, bypassing the Damascus Gate outside the Muslim quarter, which has been a flashpoint in recent weeks.
    Police rushed the marchers to cover at Jaffa Gate after the sirens went off.
    Israel views all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern part that it annexed after the 1967 war in a move that has not won international recognition.    Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they seek in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
(Additional reporting by Stephen Farrell and Ali Sawafta; Editing by Ari Rabinovitch, Mark Heinrich, William Maclean)

5/10/2021 U.S. Names Ambassador Richard Norland As Special Envoy For Libya
FILE PHOTO: Libya's internationally recognised Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj meets with the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland and commander
of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) Gen. Stephen Townsend, in Zuwara, Libya June 22, 2020. The Media Office of the Prime Minister/Handout via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Monday named Richard Norland, U.S. ambassador to Libya, as the U.S. special envoy for the country, the U.S. State Department said, to lead diplomatic efforts for a negotiated political solution in the North African country.
    The appointment comes as the Presidency Council, which functions as Libya’s head of state for now, was chosen through a United Nations-facilitated process that also selected a new Government of National Unity that took office in March, replacing rival administrations in east and west.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk)

5/10/2021 South Africa’s ANC Threatens To Further Discipline Suspended Magashule
FILE PHOTO: Ace Magashule, the secretary general of South Africa's ruling African National Congress looks on as he appears at the
Bloemfontein high court in the Free State province, South Africa, November 13, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will further discipline top official Ace Magashule if he does not apologise for trying to retaliate against President Cyril Ramaphosa for his suspension, the president said on Monday.
    Magashule, one of Ramaphosa’s main ANC rivals, is currently suspended as secretary-general of the party over corruption charges.    In a letter last week, Magashule tried to retaliate by suspending Ramaphosa, claiming he had the authority to do so as secretary-general. His attempt failed.
    The public spat has exposed a bitter power struggle in the party of liberation hero Nelson Mandela, ahead of a leadership contest next year in which Ramaphosa is expected to seek re-election.
    Magashule is the most high-profile politician to be charged with corruption since former president Jacob Zuma, who is awaiting trial over an arms deal.
    Ramaphosa has staked his reputation on cleaning up the ANC’s image and cracking down on corruption, but his opponents accuse him of using the crackdown to sideline them.
    Ramaphosa told the ANC’s national executive on Monday that Magashule had no mandate to suspend him.    He said Magashule’s deputy Jessie Duarte would act as secretary-general, a powerful post in charge of the day-to-day running of the ANC, while Magashule was away from his post.
    Magashule has yet to respond to the comments. A close aide said he would not apologise because he believes what he did was legally correct.    In an interview with the public broadcaster on Friday, Magashule called the corruption charges against him flimsy and said he was being treated unfairly.
    Magashule was suspended in line with tougher rules for ANC members charged with corruption and other serious crimes, agreed by the party’s executive in late March.
    Ramaphosa said Magashule had to apologise publicly “within a set timeframe” or face “disciplinary procedures” in line with ANC rules.    He did not say what additional punishment Magashule might face.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning and Wendell Roelf; Editing by Tim Cocks, Toby Chopra and Giles Elgood)

5/10/2021 South Africa Warns Of ‘Vaccine Apartheid’ If Rich Countries Hog Shots by Alexander Winning
FILE PHOTO: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa receives the Johnson and Johnson coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination at the
Khayelitsha Hospital near Cape Town, South Africa, February 17, 2021. Gianluigi Guercia/Pool via REUTERS//File Photo/File Photo
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday that if wealthy nations hogged COVID-19 shots while millions in poor countries died waiting for them it would amount to “vaccine apartheid.”
    South Africa and India have been pushing for a waiver on some intellectual property (IP) rights for vaccines and medicines at the World Trade Organization.br>     U.S. President Joe Biden backed the proposal last week, though it may still take months to reach a deal.
    Ramaphosa called on South Africans to support the waiver in a weekly newsletter, saying vaccines should be “a global public good.”
    “It is about affirming our commitment to the advancement of equality and human rights, not just in our own country but around the world,” he wrote.
    “A situation in which the populations of advanced, rich countries are safely inoculated while millions in poorer countries die in the queue would be tantamount to vaccine apartheid.”
    Sub-Saharan Africa has administered the fewest vaccines relative to its population of any region, with roughly 8 doses per 1,000 people versus 150 doses per 1,000 people globally, according to the World Health Organization.
    Ramaphosa recalled that twenty years ago South Africa faced off against “big pharma” over efforts to import and manufacture affordable generic antiretroviral medicines to treat people with HIV/AIDS.
    “Years later, the world is in the grip of another deadly pandemic in the form of COVID-19.    And once again, South Africa is waging a struggle that puts global solidarity to the test,” he said.
    Ramaphosa said South Africa was one of only five countries on the African continent able to manufacture vaccines and that there was a need for new capacity to be built.
    South Africa has ordered enough COVID-19 vaccines for 46 million of its 60 million people via bilateral deals with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer. The J&J shots will be made locally by Aspen Pharmacare.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

5/10/2021 Israeli Military Suspends Drill To Focus On Possible Escalation In Violence
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at the Israeli Air Force pilots' graduation
ceremony at Hatzerim air base in southern Israel June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Israeli military said on Monday it was suspending for a day a major drill in order to focus efforts on preparing for a possible escalation of violence as tensions simmer with Palestinians in Jerusalem.
    Israel’s armed forces began on Sunday their biggest exercise in 30 years, codenamed “Chariots of Fire.”
    But following a situational assessment, Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Aviv Kohavi decided to suspend the exercise for the coming day and has instructed forces “to focus all efforts on preparations and readiness for escalation scenarios”, a military statement said.
    In Gaza, a spokesman for the Hamas militant group, said the leadership of a joint command of armed movements in the Palestinian enclave had given Israel “an ultimatum until 6 p.m. (1500 GMT)” to withdraw its security forces from Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound and the city’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
    Hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli police at al-Aqsa earlier in the day, and several Palestinian families face eviction from homes in Sheikh Jarrah claimed by Jewish settlers in a long-running legal case that has fueled tensions in Jerusalem.
    The Hamas spokesman did not say what action the armed groups would take if Israel did not meet the demand.
    Israel has also been beefing up forces in the occupied West Bank and around the Gaza Strip, where militants have fired several rockets at southern Israel since Sunday, to preempt any spread of unrest from East Jerusalem.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Jeffrey Heller)

5/10/2021 Qatar’s Emir Visits Saudi Arabia, Emir’s Office Says In Statement
FILE PHOTO: Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani attends the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 41st Summit
in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia January 5, 2021. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    CAIRO – (Reuters) – Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is visiting Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah on Monday evening and will meet the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the emir’s office said in a statement.
    The two Gulf leaders will discuss bilateral ties and regional and international matters of common interest, it said.
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

5/10/2021 Turkish Minister In Saudi Arabia For Talks To Mend Ties, End Boycott by Orhan Coskun
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gives a statement to the media after a meeting
with his German counterpart in Berlin, Germany, May 6, 2021. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/Pool
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s foreign minister arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday for talks aimed at overcoming a rift over the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul that led to bitter recriminations and a Saudi boycott of Turkish goods.
    Mevlut Cavusoglu was due to hold talks in the kingdom after years of tensions between the two regional powers, which are also at odds over Turkish support for Qatar in a dispute with its Gulf neighbours and over President Tayyip Erdogan’s backing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Saudi Arabia.
    Turkish officials had said Cavusoglu’s visit could include talks on possible sales of Turkish drones to Saudi Arabia, which they said Riyadh had requested.    The current violent clashes in Jerusalem may also overshadow the bilateral talks.
    “In Saudi Arabia to discuss bilateral relations and important regional issues, especially the attacks at the Al Aqsa Mosque and the oppression against the Palestinian people,” Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter upon his arrival in Saudi Arabia.
    Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is also visiting Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah on Monday evening and will meet the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to discuss bilateral ties and regional and international matters of common interest.
    Qatar has close relations with Turkey and may be facilitating the latter’s talks with Riyadh, after the two Gulf countries reached in January a breakthrough in a three-year-old dispute.    A statement issued by the emir’s office did not give further details.
    More than 300 Palestinians were wounded on Monday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said, as Palestinian protesters threw rocks and Israeli police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets outside al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
    Later in the day, the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said it had fired rockets into Israel, triggering warning sirens in Jerusalem and near the Gaza border, in an apparent response to the Palestinian injuries.
    Erdogan said on Saturday the ongoing clashes showed Israel was a “terror state,” and that Ankara was working to mobilise international institutions.    On Monday he spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh, state-owned Anadolu agency said.
    Cavusoglu’s trip was initially intended to focus on mending bilateral ties that soured when Khashoggi – a critic of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Prince Mohammed bin Salman – was killed by a Saudi hit squad in Istanbul in 2018.
    Erdogan said at the time the order to kill Khashoggi came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government, and a U.S. intelligence report released in February found Prince Mohammed had approved the killing – a charge Saudi Arabia rejects.
    The crisis prompted an unofficial Saudi trade boycott which slashed the value of Turkish imports by 98%. Saudi Arabia is also closing eight Turkish schools in the kingdom, Anadolu reported last month.
    Cavusoglu’s two-day visit follows Turkey’s talks last week with Egypt, another U.S.-allied regional power, also aimed at repairing troubled relations.
    A senior Turkish official said that the trade embargo and the conflicts in Syria and Libya would be discussed with the Saudis.    A Saudi request for Turkish armed drones may also be on the agenda, two Turkish officials said.
    Erdogan said in March Saudi Arabia sought to buy Turkish armed unmanned aerial vehicles.    Several countries have shown interest in the drones, which were used in conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
    A foreign diplomat in Riyadh said the Saudis wanted to use Turkish drones against Iran-aligned Houthi fighters in Yemen, and would discuss buying Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones.
(Writing by Daren Butler; Additional reporting by Marwa Rashad in London; Editing by Dominic Evans, Hugh Lawson and Mark Heinrich)

5/10/2021 UN Investigator Says He Has Evidence Of Genocide Against Iraq’s Yazidis By Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: Yazidi minority residents visit a cemetery for victims killed in past Islamic State
militant attacks, in Kojo, Iraq February 7, 2021. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani
(Refiles to remove extraneous note; no changes to headline or text)
    NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.N. team investigating Islamic State crimes in Iraq has found “clear and convincing evidence that the crimes against the Yazidi people clearly constituted genocide,” the head of the inquiry said on Monday.
    Karim Khan told the U.N. Security Council that the team, which started work in 2018, had also identified perpetrators “that clearly have responsibility for the crime of genocide against the Yazidi community.”
    The Yazidis are a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions.    Islamic State militants consider the Yazidis to be devil-worshippers.
    Khan, a British lawyer who will next month become the International Criminal Court prosecutor, said the intent of Islamic State “to destroy the Yazidi, physically and biologically, was manifest in the ultimatum that was repeated in so many different villages in Iraq – to convert or die.”
    Islamic State overran the Yazidi heartland in northern Iraq in 2014, forcing young women into servitude as “wives” for fighters, massacring thousands of people and displacing most of the 550,000-strong community.    In 2016 an independent U.N. commission of inquiry described it as genocide.
    Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Islamic State, and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney lobbied the Security Council, which then created the U.N. investigative team in 2017.
    They also pushed for the council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court or create a special court.
    “Evidence has been found, but we are still searching for the political will to prosecute,” Murad, who won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, told the Security Council on Monday.
    The U.N. team has so far identified 1,444 possible perpetrators of attacks against the Yazidis.
    Khan also said that from the team’s investigation into the mass killing of unarmed cadets and military personnel at Tikrit Air Academy in June 2014 “it is clear that the crime of direct and public incitement to commit genocide occurred.”
    The team has identified 20 people of interest and 875 victims remains from 11 mass graves from the Tikrit attack by the Sunni extremists against Shia Muslims.
(Reporting by Michelle NicholsEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool)

5/10/2021 Jordanians Protest Against Israel Over Al Aqsa Violence
Jordanians demonstrate to express solidarity with the Palestinian people, near the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan
May 10, 2021. The sign on the back reads: "Expel the ambassador, close the embassy". REUTERS/Muath Freij
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Several thousand Jordanians protested near Israel’s embassy in Amman on Monday, calling on their government to scrap its peace deal with Israel in the face of serious Israeli-Palestinian clashes around Jerusalem’s al Aqsa mosque.
    Riot police blocked roads leading to the fortified embassy complex to keep back demonstrators who gathered around the Kaloti mosque in the capital near the Israeli mission.
    “No Jewish embassy on Arab land!” protesters chanted.    Others clapped when they heard that the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip had fired rockets toward the Jerusalem area and southern Israel on Monday. [L1N2MX0BO]
    “Revenge…revenge…Oh, Hamas, bomb Tel Aviv!” they chanted.
    Jordan which established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1994, summoned the Israeli charge d’affaires in Amman on Sunday to voice the kingdom’s condemnation over what it said were Israeli “attacks on worshippers” around the al Aqsa compound, which is in the walled Old City of Jerusalem.
    King Abdullah, whose Hashemite family has custodianship of Muslim and Christian holy sites in East Jerusalem, said Israel should respect worshippers and international law safeguarding Arab rights. [L1N2MW060]
    Al Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest site, has been a focal point of violence in Jerusalem throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.    Tensions have been especially high due to the planned evictions of several Palestinian families from a neighbourhood in East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers.
    Most of Jordan’s 10 million citizens are of Palestinian origin. They or their parents were expelled or fled to Jordan in the fighting that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948.
    They have close family ties with their kin on the other side of the Jordan River in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

5/10/2021 East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah Becomes Emblem Of Palestinian Struggle by Rami Ayyub, Zainah El-Haroun and Stephen Farrell
FILE PHOTO: People hold Hamas flags as Palestinians gather after performing the last Friday of Ramadan to protest over the possible eviction of several
Palestinian families from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 7, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A putrid stench hangs over Sheikh Jarrah, a tiny neighbourhood of East Jerusalem where protesters are trying to prevent Israel evicting eight Palestinian families and letting Jews move in.
    Over the past week, Israeli police have repeatedly fired a foul-smelling liquid known as skunk water that lingers through the night to try to disperse the demonstrators.
    The standoff has seen violent clashes around the walled Old City and on Monday led to rocket fire by Gaza militants, drawing Israeli airstrikes on Gaza that health officials there said killed nine Palestinians.
    It has also made Sheikh Jarrah an emblem of what Palestinians see as an Israeli campaign to force them out of East Jerusalem.
    A tree-lined area of sandstone homes, foreign consulates and luxury hotels, Sheikh Jarrah lies about 500 metres (550 yards) from the Old City’s Damascus Gate.
    It is named after a personal physician to Saladin, the Muslim conqueror who seized Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187.
    Israel seized the Old City, and the rest of East Jerusalem and the adjacent West Bank, in a 1967 war.    It sees all Jerusalem as its capital, including Sheikh Jarrah, which contains a site revered by religious Jews as the tomb of an ancient high priest.
    Palestinians live in most of Sheikh Jarrah’s homes, but Israeli settlers have moved in to some of its properties, saying they were owned by Jews before the 1948 Israeli-Arab war that followed the end of the British Mandate for Palestine.
    Nabil al-Kurd, 77, is among the Palestinians facing eviction from the neighbourhood’s Othman Ibn Affan street after a long legal battle.
    “Israel will not be satisfied until it kicks me out of the house I’ve lived in almost my entire life,” he said.
    Half of his house taken over by Israeli settlers after a legal battle in 2009.    A wall now divides him and his family from the settlers, and his hopes of staying are pinned on Israel’s Supreme Court.
    Israel’s government has played down any state involvement, portraying it as a real estate dispute between private parties.
SETTLERS OUT!
    On Monday, Arab Israeli lawmakers were among protesters, some of them chanting “Settlers out!,” who faced off with several ultra-nationalist Israeli politicians along Othman Ibn Affan street.    Police kept them apart.
    The Palestinians have lived in Sheikh Jarrah since they were re-housed there in the 1950s by Jordan after fleeing or being forced to abandon their homes in West Jerusalem and Haifa during the fighting around Israel’s creation in 1948.
    The settlers who filed the lawsuit over Othman Ibn Affan street said they bought the land from two Jewish associations that purchased it at the end of the 19th century.
    A lower Israeli court found in favour of the settlers under an Israeli law that allows Jews to reclaim ownership of property lost in 1948.    No such law entitles Palestinians to do the same in West Jerusalem or other parts of Israel.
    “Our families came here as refugees.    It’s happening all over again,” said Sheikh Jarrah resident Khaled Hamad, 30.
    At a settlers’ house across the street, an Israeli said the Supreme Court had rewarded Palestinians by delaying a hearing on the case as tensions rose.
    “If anything they should have moved the ruling up,” said the settler, who gave his name only as Yaakov.
    The United States is among critics of the evictions, raising the prospect of them becoming a diplomatic liability for Israel.
    Anti-eviction protests have been held in Palestinian cities across the West Bank and by Arab Israelis in Haifa and Nazareth.
    Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi showed his support by coming to Othman Ibn Affan street. Support has poured out on social media.
    Salem Barahmeh, a member of the Palestinian youth movement Generation for Democratic Renewal, said Sheikh Jarrah was “mobilising young Palestinians in Palestine and all over the world.”
(Editing by Timothy Heritage)

5/12/2021 Israel, Hamas trade deadly fire by Fares Akram and Josef Federman, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – A confrontation between Israel and Hamas sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem escalated Tuesday as Israel unleashed new airstrikes on Gaza while militants barraged Israel with hundreds of rockets.    The exchange killed a number of militants and civilians in Gaza and at least three people in Israel.
    The barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip and airstrikes into the territory continued almost nonstop throughout the day, in what appeared to be some of the most intense fighting between Israel and Hamas since their 2014 war.    The fire was so relentless that Israel’s Iron Dome rocket-defense system seemed to be overwhelmed.    Columns of smoke rose from many places in Gaza.
    By late Tuesday, the violence extended to Tel Aviv, which came under fire from a barrage of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip.    A 50-year-old woman was killed.    The outgoing volleys set off air raid sirens across the city, and the main international airport closed temporarily.
    Hamas said it launched a total of 130 rockets, its most intense strike so far, in response to Israel’s destruction of a high-rise building in Gaza earlier in the evening.    The sound of the outgoing rockets could be heard in Gaza.    As the rockets rose into the skies, mosques across Gaza blared with chants of “God is great,” “victory to Islam” and “resistance.”
    One rocket struck a bus in the central city of Holon, just south of Tel Aviv.    Medics said three people, including a 5year-old girl, were wounded and the bus went up in flames.
    Since sundown Monday, 28 Palestinians – including 10 children and a woman – were killed in Gaza, most by airstrikes, health officials there said. The Israeli military said at least 16 of the dead were militants.
    Two women were killed by rockets fired from Gaza that hit their homes in the southern city of Ashkelon – the first Israeli deaths in the current violence.    At least 10 other Israelis have been wounded since Monday evening.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the fighting would continue for some time.    In a nationally televised speech late Tuesday, he said Hamas and     Islamic Jihad “have paid, and will pay, a heavy price.”
    “This campaign will take time, with determination, unity and strength,” he said.
    Even before the two Israeli deaths, the Israeli military said it was sending troop reinforcements to the Gaza border, and the defense minister ordered the mobilization of 5,000 reserve soldiers.
    Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, told reporters that the objective was to send a “clear message” to Hamas.
    Diplomats sought to intervene. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanded a halt to the “spiraling” violence, a U.N. spokesman said. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to the Israeli foreign minister to condemn the Hamas attacks and “reiterate the important message of de-escalation,” the State Department said.
    The barrage of rockets and airstrikes was preceded by hours of clashes Monday between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, including dramatic confrontations at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a sacred site to both Jews and Muslims.
Smoke rises after Israeli airstrikes Tuesday in Gaza City. HATEM MOUSSA/AP
[NOW YOU CAN SEE THE BIGWIGS CONDEMNING ISRAEL FOR DEFENDING THEMSELVES FROM THE REVIVED IRAN AND ITS BUDDIES FEEL THEY CAN INSTIGATE ACTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL SINCE JOE BIDEN HAS LET LOOSE THE WOLVES OF IRAN TO DO THEIR BIDDING AS THE GLOBALIST SOCIALIST ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT IS AT HAND TO DEAL WITH IT BECAUSE ISRAEL WILL DEFEND THEMSELVES FROM THEM.].

    As I believe we are in the times of Revelation 6:12-17 and the following is the information we need to heed as I have wriiten in my work that this started in 1948 when Israel became a nation and I released my book "The Alpha And The Omega" in 1995 with the start of the Age of Aquarius in 1950 and posed a 72 year period which will end in 2022 as you can see in the verses below are coming true.
Six World Views of Revelation Six verse 12-17
Matthew, Mark and Luke - Revelation Six verse 11-17
Matthew, Mark and Luke - Revelation Six verse 11-17 Continued

5/11/2021 Dozens Dead As Israel And Hamas Escalate Aerial Bombardments by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller
The brother of Palestinian man Ahmed Al-Shenbari, who was killed amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, reacts as mourners
carry his body during his funeral in the northern Gaza Strip May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
    GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Hostilities between Israel and Hamas escalated on Tuesday, raising the death toll in two days to 30 Palestinians and three Israelis, with Israel carrying out multiple air strikes in Gaza and the Islamist militant group firing rockets at Tel Aviv.
    A 13-story residential Gaza block collapsed after one of several dozen air strikes.    Late into the night, Gazans reported their homes shaking and the sky lighting up with near-constant Israeli strikes.
    Israelis ran for shelters in communities more than 70 km (45 miles) up the coast amid sounds of explosions as Israeli interceptor missiles streaked into the sky.    Israel said hundreds of rockets had been fired by Palestinian militant groups.
    For Israel, the militants’ targeting of Tel Aviv, its commercial capital, posed a new challenge in the confrontation with the Islamist Hamas group, regarded as a terrorist organisation by Israel and the United States.
    The violence followed weeks of tension in Jerusalem during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque, on the compound revered by Jews as Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.
    These escalated in recent days ahead of a – now postponed – court hearing in a case that could end with Palestinian families evicted from East Jerusalem homes claimed by Jewish settlers.
    There appeared no imminent end to the violence. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that militants would pay a “very heavy” price for the rockets, which reached the outskirts of Jerusalem on Monday during a holiday in Israel commemorating its capture of East Jerusalem in a 1967 war.
    “We are at the height of a weighty campaign,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks alongside his defence minister and military chief.
    “Hamas and Islamic Jihad paid … and will pay a very heavy price for their belligerence … their blood is forfeit.”
    Hamas – seeking the opportunity to marginalise Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and to present itself as the guardians of Palestinians in Jerusalem – said it was up to Israel to make the first move.
    The militant group’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said in a televised speech that Israel had “ignited fire in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa and the flames extended to Gaza, therefore, it is responsible for the consequences.”
    Haniyeh said that Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations had been in contact urging calm but that Hamas’s message to Israel was: “If they want to escalate, the resistance is ready, if they want to stop, the resistance is ready.”
    The White House said on Tuesday that Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself from rocket attacks but applied pressure on Israel over the treatment of Palestinians, saying Jerusalem “must be a place of co-existence."
    White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki opened her daily news briefing with a statement about the situation, saying that President Joe Biden’s primary focus was on de-escalation.
    The United States was delaying U.N. Security Council efforts to issue a public statement on escalating tensions because it could be harmful to behind-the-scenes efforts to end the violence, according to diplomats and a source familiar with the U.S. strategy.
    Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said Washington is “actively engaged in diplomacy behind the scenes with all parties to achieve a ceasefire” and was concerned that a council statement might be counterproductive at the moment.
    Israel said it had sent 80 jets to bomb Gaza, and dispatched infantry and armour to reinforce the tanks already gathered on the border, evoking memories of the last Israeli ground incursion into Gaza to stop rocket attacks, in 2014.
    More than 2,100 Gazans were killed in the seven-week war that followed, according to the Gaza health ministry, along with 73 Israelis, and thousands of homes in Gaza were razed.
PLUMES OF BLACK SMOKE
    Video footage on Tuesday showed three plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the Gaza block as it toppled over.    Electricity in the surrounding area went out.
    Residents of the block and the surrounding area had been warned to evacuate the area around an hour before the air strike, according to witnesses, and there were no reports of casualties two hours after it collapsed.
    People in other blocks reported that they received warnings from Israel to evacuate ahead of a possible attack.
    In Tel Aviv, air raid sirens and explosions were heard around the city.    Pedestrians ran for shelter, and diners streamed out of restaurants while others flattened themselves on pavements as the sirens sounded.
    The Israel Airports Authority said it had halted take-offs at Tel Aviv airport “to allow defence of the nation’s skies,” but later resumed them.
    Video broadcast on Israeli Channel 12 television showed interceptor missiles rising above the runways.
    The International Committee of the Red Cross urged all sides to step back, and reminded them of the requirement in international law to try to avoid civilian casualties.
    “The recent rockets in Israel and air strikes in Gaza represent a dangerous escalation of the tensions and violence witnessed over the past days in Jerusalem, including its Old City,” Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC regional director for the Middle East, said in a statement.
    Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service said a 50-year-old woman was killed when a rocket hit a building in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion, and that two women had been killed in rocket strikes on the southern city of Ashkelon.
    But the Israeli military said many of the rockets fired from Gaza had fallen short and wounded Palestinians, and that Israel’s Iron Dome air defences had intercepted the bulk of those that made it across the border.
    Violence has also ticked up in the occupied West Bank.
    Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian and injured another on Tuesday after they shot towards Israeli troops near the Palestinian city of Nablus, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Dan Williams and Ari Rabinovitch; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Nandita Bose and Steve Holland in Washington and Michelle Nichols in New York, and Stephen Farrell and Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Giles Elgood and Howard Goller)

5/11/2021 Turkey Says Dialogue On Disputes With Saudi Arabia To Continue
Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu meets with Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud
in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 11, 2021. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS
    CAIRO/ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey and Saudi Arabia will maintain dialogue to address their disagreements, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday, after discussing bilateral ties and Israeli actions in Jerusalem and Gaza with his Saudi counterpart in Mecca.
    Cavusoglu and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met for talks aimed at overcoming a rift over the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul that led to bitter recriminations and a Saudi boycott of Turkish goods.
    “I want to thank my brother Prince Faisal for his invitation and hospitality.    We held a very open and frank meeting and addressed some problematic areas in our relationship,” Cavusoglu told Turkish state news agency Anadolu, in televised comments.
    “We also discussed how to increase our cooperation in bilateral ties and in regional issues.    We decided to continue our dialogue and I invited him to Turkey,” Cavusoglu said.
    The two ministers also discussed the “aggression” of Israel, Cavusoglu said, after the Arab League condemned deadly Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip and called on the international community to move urgently to stop escalating violence that it blamed on Israeli actions against Palestinians in Jerusalem.
    “With the Saudi foreign minister, we didn’t just discuss our bilateral ties, but we also discussed the steps we can take within the OIC, Arab League and beyond,” he said, using the acronym for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.    “We also evaluated other regional issues.”
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Alaa Swilam in Cairo, Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

5/11/2021 U.N. Yemen Envoy Griffiths Tapped To Be U.N. Aid Chief – Sources by Michelle Nichols and Jonathan Landay
FILE PHOTO: United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths speaks during a news conference following talks
at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Germany April 12, 2021. John MacDougall/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – United Nations Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths has been tapped to become the world body’s new aid chief, several sources told Reuters on Tuesday, as the U.N. tries to avert several famines and help vaccinate the globe against the novel coronavirus.
    Griffiths will replace Mark Lowcock as the under-secretary-general and emergency relief coordinator. Lowcock, a former senior British aid official, took up the post in 2017.
    A U.N. spokesman declined to comment.
    Griffiths, a former British diplomat, will be the fifth British person in a row to hold the position.    However, diplomats said he was not the first choice by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to replace Lowcock and that another candidate was in line to take the job until last-minute issues last month arose.
    Griffiths has been trying to mediate an end to the conflict in Yemen for the past three years.    Before taking up that post he was the executive director of the European Institute of Peace.
    The six-year-long Yemen conflict has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and U.S. President Joe Biden has made ending it one of his top foreign policy priorities.
    But the latest round of talks failed to persuade opposing forces – backed by regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran – to back down, according to three sources familiar with the negotiations, including a U.S. official.
    The United Nations has been trying to avert looming famines in Yemen, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria and deliver aid in other conflict zones, including Syria, Libya, Somalia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Mali and Ethiopia’s Tigray.
    The United Nations is also working to look after many of the world’s 79.5 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally-displaced people with Syrians, Venezuelans, Afghans, South Sudanese, and stateless Rohingya from Myanmar leading that list.
    Most U.N. aid appeals are well underfunded.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Jonathan Landay, Marwa Rashad and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

5/11/2021 Blinken Calls Hezbollah ‘Threat,’ U.S. Blacklists 7 Lebanese Nationals
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media before a meeting with Jordanian Foreign
Minister Ayman Safadi at the State Department in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2021. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Tuesday called on governments worldwide to take action against Lebanon’s Iranian-backed militant group Hezbozllah, as the Treasury Department sanctioned seven Lebanese nationals it said were connected to the group and its financial firm, Al-Qard al-Hassan (AQAH).
    “The threat that Hizballah (Hezbollah) poses to the United States, our allies, and interests in the Middle East and globally, calls for countries around the world to take steps to restrict its activities and disrupt its facilitation networks,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on the action against the group, designated a terrorist organization by Washington.
    The Treasury Department said in a statement that it had blacklisted Ibrahim Ali Daher, who it described as chief of Hezbollah’s Central Finance Unit, as a specially designated global terrorist, accusing him of acting on behalf of Hezbollah.
    The United States also slapped sanctions on six others linked to AQAH, including a man it said was the financial director, Ahmad Mohamad Yazbeck, as well as Abbas Hassan Gharib, Wahid Mahmud Subayti, Mostafa Habib Harb, Ezzat Youssef Akar, and Hasan Chehadeh Othman.
    The Treasury accused the six men of using the cover of personal accounts at Lebanese banks to evade sanctions targeting AQAH and transfer $500 million on behalf of the U.S.-blacklisted firm.
    Officials in Hezbollah had no immediate comment.
    Tuesday’s move freezes any U.S. assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.    Those who engage in certain transactions with the designated individuals also risk being hit with secondary sanctions.
    “Hizballah (Hezbollah) continues to abuse the Lebanese financial sector and drain Lebanon’s financial resources at an already dire time,” Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in the statement.
    In Lebanon, a deadlock in Cabinet talks have worsened the country’s economic collapse.    Just 18 months have passed since mass protests against the Middle Eastern country’s political class brought down one government, and nearly eight more months since a huge explosion destroyed the port of Beirut and toppled the administration that succeeded it.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Lisa Lambert; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

5/11/2021 Syria Releases Hundreds Of Social Media Critics Ahead Of Election by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: A national flag depicting a picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad flutters at a checkpoint
in Douma, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, Syria March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Syria has freed more than 400 civil servants, judges, lawyers and journalists detained this year in a crackdown on social media dissent, a move seen by rights activists and former detainees as intended to win over public opinion ahead of presidential elections.
    Those released after being held under Syria’s cyber crimes law were among thousands freed this month under a general amnesty for currency speculators, drug dealers, smugglers and kidnappers ahead of the May 26 election that is expected to hand President Bashar al Assad a fourth term.
    Most of the freed social media critics were supporters of Syrian authorities’ handling of the uprising in 2011 that spiralled into a war that has killed hundreds of thousands.
    The amnesty excluded tens of thousands of Assad opponents and political detainees held for years without trial, many of whom are believed dead, rights groups say.
    “The auspicious timing of the release right before elections of a moderate loyalist camp … is to generate a facade of entertaining some form of dissent to further make elections look credible,” said Sara Kayyali, Syria researcher with U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.
    The group had seen an uptick in arrests for online activities in recent months to silence public disaffection over Syria’s economic crisis.
    Its economy is collapsing under the weight of war, sanctions and COVID-19, but public criticism of deteriorating living conditions is not tolerated.
    The crackdown under cyber crime law on mostly Assad supporters was intended to instil fear ahead of elections, according to two released detainees, who requested anonymity.
    None of those arrested had criticised Assad, a capital offence, and most were rounded up by security forces for online posts ranging from a “like” on a Facebook comment lamenting growing hardship and critical of the government to remarks decrying state corruption.
    Syrian officials were not immediately available for comment on the releases but the head of the journalists’ union, Musa Abdul Noor, had earlier confirmed that journalists had been held for social media comments on their personal accounts but not under another law that technically bans the arrest of journalists.
WELL-KNOWN FIGURES
    At least 60 of those released are well-known in their local communities, including senior police officers, judges and a senior customs inspector, state employed journalists, lawyers, university students, businessmen and women’s rights advocates, four detainees said.
    The releases were among steps taken in recent weeks ahead of the elections to influence public opinion, such as efforts to fight sky-rocketing inflation, and extending government grants to state employees in areas suffering from economic hardship.
    The interior ministry had in January warned that violators of the cyber-crimes law, which criminalises social media comments deemed to undermine the authority of the state, would face a minimum of six months in prison.
    The ministry said it would pursue people who leaked fake news to portals that “distort and sow confusion in public opinion.”
    Family members said Hala Jerf, a leading presenter on state television, Firyal Jahjah, a senior civil servant who serves as the head of a government inspection agency, and a prominent local journalist in Latakia province, Kenan Wakkaf, were among those released.
    “I will stay with you, the voice that believes truth is the highest value.    To corruption, I say you think you have shaken my resolve or maybe frightened me?    You have not even scared my boots,” Wakkaf said in a post after he arrived home.
    The majority of those released were not formally charged or put on trial, according to two released detainees who requested anonymity because they were warned not to speak publicly.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Maha El Dahan and Giles Elgood)

5/11/2021 Gaza Residential Tower Collapses In Israeli Airstrike, Witnesses Say
Smoke rises from a building after it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes amid a flare-up
of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Gaza May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    GAZA (Reuters) – A 13-storey residential tower in the Gaza Strip was hit by an Israeli air strike on Tuesday night and soon after collapsed, witnesses said, amid a surge in fighting between Israel and Gaza militants.
    The tower houses an office that is used by the political leadership of Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
    Residents of the tower and people living nearby had been warned to evacuate the area around an hour before the air strike, according to witnesses.    It was not immediately clear if the building had been fully evacuated, or if there were casualties.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

5/11/2021 Red Cross Urges All Sides In Gaza Conflict To Step Back
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators attend a protest following a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian
violence, in London, Britain May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on all sides in the conflict between Israel and Hamas-run Gaza on Tuesday to de-escalate the violence that has killed at least 30 people and reminded them of the rules of war.
    Israel intensified its air strikes on Gaza as rocket barrages hit Israeli towns for a second day in a deepening conflict in which at least 28 people in the Palestinian enclave and two in Israel have been killed.
    “The recent rockets in Israel and air strikes in Gaza represent a dangerous escalation of the tensions and violence witnessed over the past days in Jerusalem, including its Old City,” Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC regional director for the Middle East, said in a statement.
    “The International Committee of the Red Cross is issuing an urgent call for restraint and de-escalation,” he said.
    International humanitarian law prohibits direct and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, any attack must be proportionate, and all necessary precautions must be taken to avoid civilian casualties, Carboni said.
    Hostilities in densely populated areas are bound to result in an “unbearably high human cost” if principles are not upheld, he said in the statement issued minutes before a 13-storey residential tower in Gaza was hit by an Israeli air strike and soon after collapsed, witnesses said.    It was not immediately clear if the building had been fully evacuated or if there were casualties.
    Carboni called for “rapid, safe and unimpeded movement for ambulances” and for staff and volunteers of both the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the Magen David Adom Society in Israel.
    The Geneva-based ICRC is the guardian of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which set down international humanitarian law on the protection of civilians and other vulnerable groups such as former combatants.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Giles Elgood)

5/11/2021 Arab League, Turkey Condemn Israeli Actions In Jerusalem, Gaza
A Palestinian man gestures as he inspects a damaged building following an Israeli air strike,
amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Gaza City May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    CAIRO (Reuters) -The Arab League on Tuesday condemned deadly Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip and called on the international community to move urgently to stop escalating violence that it blamed on Israeli actions against Palestinians in Jerusalem.
    The violence began with confrontations between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces at al Aqsa Mosque, a compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in the heart of Jerusalem’s walled Old City.
    Israel carried out air strikes on Gaza, killing at least 28 people, after Palestinian militant groups based there unleashed barrages of rockets, some close to Jerusalem.    Two people have been killed in Israel from rocket fire.
    In a statement before the Arab League’s meeting, its chairman Ahmed Aboul Gheit said: “Israeli violations in Jerusalem, and the government’s tolerance of Jewish extremists hostile to Palestinians and Arabs, is what led to the ignition of the situation in this dangerous way.”
    The holy city has been tense during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with sporadic unrest and the possibility of evictions of Palestinians from homes in East Jerusalem claimed by Jewish settlers in a court case adding fuel to the friction.
    In a statement concluding their meeting, Arab League foreign ministers said they held Israel “fully responsible for whatever follows due to its crimes, which constitute glaring violations of U.N. decrees, international law and human rights law.”
    It called on international organizations including the U.N. Security Council to “immediately stop the Israeli aggression and provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian people and uphold their right to worship freely and safely
    The United Nations is working urgently to defuse tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, a U.N. spokesman said.    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, he said, was saddened by the increasing numbers of casualties on both sides.
    In light of events in Jerusalem, Egypt declared its “total rejection and condemnation of these oppressive Israeli practices,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told the League.
    The head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which held an emergency meeting in Jeddah, “praised the steadfastness of the Palestinian people stationed in the occupied city of Jerusalem and their response to the Israeli attacks on the holy sites,” Saudi state agency SPA reported.
    Turkey also condemned the Israeli air strikes.
    “The Israeli government must finally understand that it will not be able to suppress the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights and demands by using indiscriminate and disproportionate power,” a Turkish foreign ministry statement said.
    The Gaza health ministry said at least 28 Palestinians, including 10 children, had been killed.    Israel disputed that account, saying it had killed at least 20 Hamas fighters and that a third of the hundreds of rockets launched by militants had fallen short, causing Palestinian civilian casualties.
(Reporting by Nadeen Ebrahim, Mohamed Zaki, Aziz El Yaakoubi and Daren Butler; Writing by Nadine Awadalla and Aidan Lewis; editing by Mark Heinrich)

5/11/2021 Netanyahu Says Gaza Militants Will Pay ‘Very Heavy Price’ Over Rocket Fire
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a special cabinet meeting on the
occasion of Jerusalem Day, in Jerusalem, May 9, 2021. Amit Shabi/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that militants in the Gaza Strip will “pay a very heavy price,” after a day of Gaza rocket fire and Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian coastal enclave.
    “We are at the height of a weighty campaign,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks alongside his defence minister and military chief.    “Hamas and Islamic Jihad paid … and will pay a very heavy price for their belligerence … their blood is forfeit.”
(Reporting by Dan Williams; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Leslie Adler)

5/11/2021 White House Condemns Attacks On Israel, Calls For Co-Existence In Jerusalem by Nandita Bose and Steve Holland
Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched
from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Tuesday that Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks but applied pressure on Israel over the treatment of Palestinians, saying Jerusalem “must be a place of co-existence.”
    Violence erupted last Friday at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque amid growing anger over the potential eviction of Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers.    The clashes escalated on Monday.
    White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki opened her daily news briefing with a statement about the situation, saying that President Joe Biden had just received an update from his national security team and that his primary focus was on de-escalation.
    She said the United States condemned rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups, including attacks on Jerusalem, and that Biden’s support for “Israel’s security, for its legitimate right to defend itself and its people, is fundamental and will never waver.”
    “Jerusalem, a city of such importance to people of faith around the world, must be a place of co-existence,” Psaki said.
    U.S. officials in recent weeks have spoken candidly with Israeli officials about how evictions of Palestinian families and demolition of their homes “work against our common interests in achieving a solution to the conflict,” Psaki said.
    Biden has sought to rebalance U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians after his predecessor, Donald Trump, sided with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on all fronts.
    A senior administration official said Biden and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently completed an exchange of letters that began when Abbas sent Biden a letter congratulating him on winning the 2020 election.    Biden sent a response recently.
    “We won’t share details of the letter.    This is part of this administration’s ongoing outreach with the Palestinian leadership on a range of issues of mutual interest, including ongoing efforts to de-escalate violence and restore calm,” the official said.
    Psaki said the United States wants a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a goal that Trump did not aggressively pursue, saying it was the only way to ensure a “just and lasting peace” between them.
    “We believe Palestinians and Israelis deserve equal measures of freedom, security, dignity and prosperity,” she said.
    Trump said in a statement that Biden’s “lack of support for Israel is leading to new attacks on our allies."
    “America must always stand with Israel and make clear that the Palestinians must end the violence, terror, and rocket attacks, and make clear that the U.S. will always strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself,” the statement added.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Steve Holland; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Peter Cooney)

5/13/2021 Palestinian Authority Manipulates Media And International Leaders by OAN Newsroom
Masked Hamas militants wave green Islamic flags during a rally in Jebaliya refugee camp,
Gaza Strip, Friday, April 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
    Terrorist organization Hamas has continued to manipulate the media and world leaders while acting as the aggressor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Hamas is known to have the largest representation in the Palestinian legislature since the last election in 2006 and has recently gained abundant media coverage with a pro-Palestinian slant.    The group is famous for purposefully putting civilians in harm’s way in order to use their deaths as a publicity stunt for international sympathy and continue to do so today.
    A focal point of the recent conflict has been private land disputes in East Jerusalem.    This land is currently occupied by Palestinians and according to the New York Times, was legally sold to two Jewish trusts in 1876.
An Israeli missile flies down to hit a building in Gaza City, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
    The land was then captured by Jordanian forces in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and subsequently used to house Palestinian refugees before being recaptured by Israel in 1967.
    However, international leaders continue to misrepresent the conflict.
    In April, Joe Biden added to tensions by restoring $235 million in aid that President Donald Trump previously abolished.

5/14/2021 Israel Kills A Top Hamas Military Official by OAN Newsroom
Mourners carry the body of Bassem Issa, front, top Hamas’ commander in Gaza City and other bodies, during a funeral
of thirteen Hamas militants outside the mosque in Gaza City, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
    A member of Hamas’ military council, Bassem Issa, was eliminated by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in an airstrike.    The operation was carried out on Wednesday with both Hamas and IDF confirming the death shortly after.    This is the first time Hamas has openly confirmed the death of a senior military officer.
    The IDF said similar airstrikes have led to the deaths of other high ranking Hamas militants, including the commander of their Anti-Tank Missile Unit and their Military Intelligence Security Department.
    Israeli ground forces are moving into the Gaza Strip as Israel and Hamas continue to exchange rocket fire as well as heavy artillery fire.    The IDF confirmed Thursday, there are currently ground troops moving into Gaza from the northern border.
    Some 3,000 to 4,000 troops were reportedly amassed at the border with Gaza in recent days.    However, some reports noted this is not a full-on ground offensive and the IDF is still firing heavy artillery across the border.

5/15/2021 Palestinians flee heavy Israeli attacks in Gaza - Death toll rises; planes inflict heavy damage by Fares Akram and Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Thousands of Palestinians grabbed children and belongings and fled their homes Friday as Israel barraged the northern Gaza Strip with tank fire and airstrikes, killing a family of six in its house and heavily damaging other neighborhoods in what it said was an operation to clear militant tunnels.     As international efforts at a ceasefire stepped up, Israel appeared to be looking to inflict intensified damage on the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.
    The Gaza violence increasingly spilled over into turmoil elsewhere.
    Across the West Bank, Palestinians held their most widespread protests since 2017, with hundreds in at least nine towns burning tires and throwing stones at Israeli troops.    The number of Palestinians killed by Israel in the occupied West Bank has risen to 11, Palestinian health officials said.
    Within Israel, communal violence erupted for a fourth night.    Jewish and Arab mobs clashed in the flashpoint town of Lod, even after additional security forces were deployed.
    In Gaza, the toll from the fighting rose to at least 126 killed, including 31 children and 20 women, with 900 wounded, according to the Health Ministry.    The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, though Israel says that number is much higher.    Seven people have been killed in Israel, including a 6-year-old boy and a soldier.
    Israel called up 9,000 reservists Thursday to join its troops massed at the Gaza border, and an army spokesman spoke of a possible ground assault into the densely populated territory, though he gave no timetable.    A day later, there was no sign of an incursion.
    But before dawn Friday, tanks deployed on the border and warplanes carried out an intense barrage on the northern end of the Gaza Strip.
    Rafat Tanani, his pregnant wife and four children, aged 7 and under, were killed after an Israeli warplane reduced their four-story apartment building to rubble in the neighboring town of Beit Lahia, residents said. Four strikes hit the building at 11 p.m., just before the family went to sleep, Rafat’s brother Fadi said.    The building’s owner and his wife also were killed.
    “It was a massacre,” said Sadallah Tanani, another relative.    “My feelings are indescribable.”
    Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said the operation involved tank fire and airstrikes aimed at destroying a tunnel network beneath Gaza City that the military refers to as “the Metro,” used by militants to evade surveillance and airstrikes.
    “As always, the aim is to strike military targets and to minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties,” he said.    “Unlike our very elaborate efforts to clear civilian areas before we strike high-rise or large buildings inside Gaza, that wasn’t feasible this time.”
    When the sun rose, residents streamed out of the area in pickup trucks, on donkeys and on foot, taking pillows, blankets, pots and pans and bread.    “We were terrified for our children, who were screaming and shaking,” said Hedaia Maarouf, who fled with her extended family of 19 people.
Palestinians who fled their homes on the outskirts of Gaza City take shelter
at a school after heavy overnight Israeli missile strikes. KHALIL HAMRA/AP

5/16/2021 ISRAEL WILL DEFEND ITSELF AGAINST ANYONE WHO ATTACKS ISRAEL
AS YOU CAN SEE ABOVE RIGHT THE ROCKETS FROM GAZA BY HAMAS PROVIDED BY IRAN HEADING TOWARD ISRAEL
AND ON THE LEFT THE IRON DOME ROCKETS FROM ISRAEL PREPARING TO TAKE THEM OUT

5/16/2021 Israeli strike destroys Gaza media building - Rocket response includes attacks on politicians by Fares Akram and Lee Keath, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israel slammed the Gaza Strip with airstrikes on Saturday, in a dramatic escalation that included bombing the home of a senior Hamas leader, killing a family of 10 in a refugee camp – most of them children – and pulverizing a high-rise that housed The Associated Press and other media.
    The Hamas militant group continued a stream of rocket volleys into Israel, and one man was killed when a rocket hit his home in a suburb of Tel Aviv.
    With a U.S. envoy on the ground, calls increased for a cease-fire after five days of mayhem that have left at least 145 Palestinians dead in Gaza – including 41 children and 23 women – and eight dead on the Israeli side, all but one of them civilians, including a 6-year-old child.
    U.S. President Joe Biden, who has called for a de-escalation but has backed Israel’s campaign, spoke separately by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
    Still, Israel stepped up its assault, vowing to shatter the capabilities of Gaza’s Hamas rulers.    The week of deadly violence, set off by a Hamas rocket Monday, came after weeks of mounting tensions and heavy-handed Israeli measures in contested Jerusalem.
    On Saturday, Israel bombed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas’ political branch, saying the building served as part of the group’s “terrorist infrastructure.”    There was no immediate report on al-Hayeh’s fate or on any casualties.
    The bombing of al-Hayeh’s home showed Israel was expanding its campaign beyond just the group’s military commanders.    Israel says it has killed dozens in Hamas’ military branch, including senior commanders and fighters in the field, though Hamas and the smaller group Islamic Jihad have only acknowledged 20 dead members.
    Since the conflict began, Israel has leveled a number of Gaza City’s tallest office and residential buildings, alleging they house elements of the Hamas military infrastructure.    On Saturday, it turned to the 12-story al-Jalaa Building, where the offices of the AP, the TV network Al-Jazeera and other media outlets are located, along with several floors of apartments.
    “The campaign will continue as long as it is required,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech Saturday evening.    He alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building.    The military has accused the militant group of using journalists as human shields, but provided no evidence to back up the claims.
    In the afternoon, the military called the building’s owner and warned a strike would come within an hour.    The occupants evacuated safely.
    “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said.
We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza.”
    Mostefa Souag, acting directorgeneral of Al-Jazeera Media Network, called the strike a “war crime” aiming to “silence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza.”
A building housing various international media, including The Associated Press, collapses
after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Saturday. AP

5/16/2021 Pro-Gaza marches rise in Europe by Elaine Ganley and Boubkar Benzabat, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    PARIS – French riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons Saturday as protesters supporting Palestinians in the Gaza Strip defied a ban on marching in the French capital.
    Thousands of people marched peacefully in cities in France and elsewhere in Europe – including in London, Rome, Brussels and Madrid – to highlight the plight of the Palestinians.
    In Paris, protesters scattered and played cat-and-mouse with security forces in the city’s northern neighborhoods after their starting point for a planned march was blocked.
    Paris Police Chief Didier Lallement had ordered 4,200 security forces into the streets and closed shops around the kick-off point for the march after an administrative court confirmed the ban because of fears of violence.    Authorities noted that a banned July 2014 pro-Palestinian protest in Paris against an Israeli offensive in Gaza degenerated into violence to justify the order against Saturday’s march.
    Protesters shifted from neighborhood to neighborhood in Paris as police closed in on them, sometimes with tear gas and water cannons, and police said 44 people were arrested.    In a lengthy standoff, protesters pelted a line of security forces with projectiles before police pushed them to the edge of northern Paris.     “We don’t want scenes of violence. We don’t want a conflict imported to French soil,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

5/14/2021 Israel-Palestinian Violence Divides Democrats by OAN Newsroom
A Muslim worshipper takes part in Friday prayers at the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al-Aqsa Mosque
compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
    On Thursday, death tolls showed more than 100 people have died in Gaza and seven in Israel due to the exchange of rockets that have been fired at Israeli military targets and civilians by Hamas out of Gaza.    The continued conflict between Israel and Hamas has been testing Joe Biden and further exposing the Democrats’ divide on Israel.
    Statements released from Democrat lawmakers reinforced the idea that the party continues to have multiple leaders that defend Israel including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez.
    A statement tweeted by Menendez wrote, “the barrage of rocket attacks from Hamas are terrorism and no country should have to tolerate this kind of threat against its population.”
    House Democrats took to the Chamber on Thursday to voice their support for Israel as clashes erupted for a fourth night.    Some Democrat lawmakers also cited Israel’s efforts to minimize civilian deaths and the U.S. alliance with the country as reasons for their support.
    Republican lawmakers have criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent anti-Israel comments. She has since used this criticism in ads to fundraise for her campaign.
    Democrat mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang tweeted, “the people of New York City will continue to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere,” but he later went back on his support after he received major criticism from progressive Democrats.
    The division comes as a record from the Jewish Voting Library which showed roughly 75 percent of Jewish people voted for Biden.    However, Democrats’ anti-Israel rhetoric could result in a loss of support from members of the Jewish community within the U.S.

5/17/2021 Louisvillians join protest in support of Palestinians by Emma Austin Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    A few hundred people joined a global protest Saturday at Louisville’s Waterfront Park, sending a message of solidarity with Palestinians.
    In the midst of increasing Israeli-Palestinian violence in Gaza, Saturday marked the 73rd anniversary of Nakba, which means 'catastrophe,' named for the 1948 expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their home in East Jerusalem.
    One of the organizers of the Louisville rally, a University of Louisville student with Students for Justice in Palestine, said this year’s commemoration is especially important because of what’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem where dozens of Palestinian families are facing a risk of forced evictions.
    'This is not just a Palestinian issue; it’s a human rights issue,' said the student, who did not want to be named out of concern for her Palestinian family’s safety.    'This is a humanitarian thing, and as Americans, we do have a duty to speak up about this because our own tax dollars are funding the Israeli military.'
    At least 145 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have died since last Monday, when Israeli police stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site in Jerusalem, and multiple people were killed in Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip.
    Hamas, a militant group which controls Gaza Strip, has responded to Israeli attacks by firing numerous rockets into Israel, and Israel troops have continued with hundreds of airstrikes into Gaza.    The area is home to about 2 million Palestinians living under Israeli blockade and unable to leave.
    At the Louisville rally, organizers read the names of each of the people who have been killed over the past week, holding up photos of some of their faces.
    Demonstrators were led through chants under Big Four Bridge, calling out 'Free, free, Palestine,' and '5, 6, 7, 8, Israel’s an apartheid state.'
    Signs demanded to 'Stop U.S. funding for Israeli aggression in Gaza' and 'Free Palestine: End U.S. Aid to Israeli Apartheid.'
    Kentucky Rep. Attica Scott attended the rally, speaking into a microphone briefly to share her support with the crowd and encouraging people to call their Congress members.
    'We are anti-war, anti-oppression and anti-apartheid,' Scott said.
    As the rally ended after more than two hours, one of the organizers said she was encouraged by the size of the crowd.
    'It gives me hope that people do care,' she said.    'We can make a change.'
    The Associated Press contributed reporting.    Reach Emma Austin at eaustin@gannett.com or on Twitter at @emmacaustin.
A few hundred people join a global protest on Saturday at Louisville’s Waterfront Park, sending a message
of solidarity with Palestinians amid increasing violence. photos by Emma Austin/courier journal
Saturday marked the 73rd anniversary of Nakba, which means 'catastrophe,' named for the 1948 expulsion
of over 700,000 Palestinians from their home.    Saturday marked the 73rd anniversary of Nakba,
which means “catastrophe,” named for the 1948 expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their home.
[IT IS SAD FOR ME TO SEE THAT LOUISVILLE AND A FEW CITIES IN KENTUCKY HAVE GONE WOKE AND ARE DISSING ISRAEL FOR DEFENDING ITSELF FROM THE MOST VILE ENTITIES IN THE WORLD BUT THEN THEY HAVE NOT BEEN VERY MENTALLY STABLE THEMSELVES LATELY BUT I CAN GUARANTEE THAT 90% OF KENTUCKIANS ARE BACKING ISRAEL TO DEFEND THEMSELVES FROM AGGRESSION WHICH THE U.S. SHOULD FUND THEM BUT THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION HAS GONE TOTALLY GLOBALIST SOCIALIST ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT AGAINST THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB AND THESE ACTIONS TELL ME THAT SATAN KNOWS HIS TIME IS SHORT AND WILL DO EVERY VILE THING TO ACHIEVE HIS GOAL.].

5/17/2021 Prime Minister Netanyahu: Israel Is Targeting A Terrorist Organization by OAN Newsroom
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Israeli border police on Thursday, May 13, 2021 in Lod, near Tel Aviv
after a wave of violence in the city the night before. Jewish and Arab mobs battled in the central city of Lod, the epicenter
of the troubles, despite a state of emergency and nighttime curfew. (AP Photo/Yuval Chen, Yediot Ahronot, Pool)
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hopes the violence in Israel comes to an end, but doesn’t see it happening any time soon.    In an interview Sunday, he pointed out Israel was hit by unprovoked attacks by Hamas on Jerusalem Day with thousands of rockets fired on the country’s cities.
    Netanyahu noted, any country has a “natural right of self-defense.”    The prime minister added, if Hamas thinks it can just fire rockets then sit back and enjoy immunity then they are sorely mistaken.
    “We are targeting a terrorist organization that is targeting our civilians and hiding behind their civilians, using them as human shields,” he stated.    “We’re doing everything we can to hit the terrorists themselves, their rockets, their rocket caches and their arms, but we’re not going to just let them get away with it.”
    Netanyahu added, if 2900 rockets were fired on Washington or New York, critics would probably better understand his position.    He said Israel will continue to respond forcefully to attacks from Hamas for as long as it takes to restore security for his people.
    The prime minister confirmed Saturday that Israel has eliminated dozens of terrorists and seriously degraded the infrastructure of Hamas, including missile launchers and a vast subterranean tunnel network.    Netanyahu said Hamas is committing a double war crime with its indiscriminate attacks on Israel.
    “As always, Israel is doing everything possible to protect our civilians and keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way,” he stated.
    The Israeli military said more than 2,000 rockets have been fired by terrorist in Gaza this past week, around half of which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron-Dome Defense System.

5/17/2021 Israel Intensifies Airstrikes, Calculated Response Targets Hamas Infrastructure And Jihad Commanders by OAN Newsroom
An Israeli air strike hits a building in Gaza City, Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
    Israel has intensified its response to attacks from Islamic militant groups, unleashing a series of aerial assaults on Gaza City.    Israeli military officials said they have specifically targeted the homes of nine Hamas commanders who reportedly have gone underground.    This includes Yahiyeh Sinwar who is the terrorist organization’s top leader in Gaza.
    Hamas has been unrelenting, launching more than 300 rockets since Saturday from civilian areas in Gaza toward densely populated regions in Israel.    An Islamic militant rocket blasted a synagogue in southern Israel just hours before Sunday evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will continue to respond forcefully to attacks from Hamas for as long as it takes to restore security for his people.    He also confirmed Israel has eliminated dozens of terrorists and seriously degraded the infrastructure of Hamas, including missile launchers and a vast subterranean network known as the “terror tunnel.”
    Netanyahu also pointed out that Hamas is committing a double war crime with its indiscriminate attacks on Israel.
    “They’re targeting our civilians and hiding behind Palestinian civilians, effectively using them as human shields,” stated the prime minister.    “As always, Israel is doing everything possible to protect our civilians and keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way.”
    Hamas terrorist in Gaza have fired more than 3,000 rockets into Israel, in turn, killing at least eight people this past week.    The conflict erupted last Monday when Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem after Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protesters trying to prevent the eviction of eight Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem.

5/18/2021 Biden Administration Approved $735 Million Arms Sale To Israel – Sources by Patricia Zengerle
Israeli soldiers stand by an artillery unit as it fires near the border between Israel
and the Gaza strip, on the Israeli side May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s administration approved the potential sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, and congressional sources said on Monday that U.S. lawmakers were not expected to object to the deal despite violence between Israel and Palestinian militants.
    Three congressional aides said Congress was officially notified of the intended commercial sale on May 5, as part of the regular review process before major foreign weapons sales agreements can go ahead.
    The sale was first reported by the Washington Post.
    Congress was informed of the planned sale in April, as part of the normal informal review process before of the formal notification on May 5. Under U.S. law, the formal notification opens up a 15-day window for Congress to object to the sale, which is not expected despite the ongoing violence.
    The sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, made by Boeing Co, was considered routine at the time, before the start last week of the fiercest hostilities in the region in years.
    There were no objections at the time by the Democratic and Republican leaders of the congressional foreign affairs committees that review such sales, aides said.
    Asked for comment, a State Department spokesperson noted that the department is restricted under federal law and regulations from publicly commenting on or confirming details of licensing activity related to direct commercial sales like the JDAMs agreement.
    “We remain deeply concerned about the current violence and are working towards achieving a sustainable calm,” the spokesperson said.
    Strong support for Israel is a core value for both Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Congress, despite calls from a few of the most progressive Democrats to take a tougher stance against the government of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu.
    U.S. law allows Congress to object to weapons sales, but it is unlikely to do so in this case.    Because Israel is among a handful of countries whose military deals are approved under an expedited process, the typical window for objecting will close before lawmakers can pass a resolution of disapproval, even if they were inclined to.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool)

5/18/2021 Turkey’s Erdogan Condemns Western Powers For Inaction Against Israel
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives a statement after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Turkey, May 17, 2021.
Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan criticised Western powers for their lack of response to the violence between Israel and Palestinians, singling out Austria and the United States, which he said was “writing history with bloody hands.”
    Erdogan, a vocal defender of the Palestinians, has contacted world leaders in the past week, calling for solid action against Israel as the fiercest regional hostilities in years show no sign of abating.
    Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan criticised U.S. President Joe Biden’s approval of weapons sales to Israel.
    “i>You are writing history with your bloody hands in this incident that is a serious disproportionate attack on Gaza, which is leading to the martyrdom of hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.
    “You forced me to say this.”
    Biden’s administration approved on Monday the potential sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, according to congressional sources.
    Erdogan later turned to Europe, condemning Austria for flying an Israeli flag over the federal chancellery in Vienna on Friday.
    “The state of Austria is trying to make Muslims pay the price for the Jews it subjected to genocide,” Erdogan said.
    Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is firmly pro-Israel, had called the move a mark of solidarity amid the clashes.
    Israel pummeled Gaza with air strikes on Monday and Palestinian militants launched rockets at Israeli cities despite a flurry of U.S. and regional diplomacy that has so far failed to halt more than a week of deadly fighting.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Alistair Bell)

5/18/2021 France’s Macron Says To Work With Jordan, Egypt Leaders On Israel-Gaza Ceasefire
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a joint news conference with Sudan's Sovereign Council Chief General
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (not seen) during the International Conference
in support of Sudan at the Temporary Grand Palais in Paris, France, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/Pool
    PARIS (Reuters) -France’s president said on Monday he would work with Egypt’s president and Jordan’s king on a concrete proposal for a ceasefire and a possible path to discussions between Israel and the Palestinians.
    “For me there needs to be a process for a ceasefire as quickly as possible and construction of a possible path to discussions between the different protagonists,” Macron said at a news conference in Paris.
    “In the coming days we have decided to have a discussion with President (Abdel Fattah) al-Sisi and the King of Jordan to be able together to see how we make a concrete proposal,” he said without elaborating.
    Macron also said he would bring up the bombing by Israeli warplanes of a building that housed media outlets in Gaza when he speaks to Israel’s prime minister in the next day or two.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Chris Reese and Alex Richardson)

5/18/2021 How East Jerusalem Flashpoint Sheikh Jarrah Got Its Own Hashtag by Suheir Sheikh and Zainah El-Haroun
FILE PHOTO: A Palestinian resident reacts during scuffles with Israeli police amid ongoing tension ahead of an upcoming court hearing in
an Israeli-Palestinian land-ownership dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem May 4, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli police in riot gear pushed a Palestinian protester to the ground in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, a moment captured on the smartphones of people looking on.
    “See what they’re doing!    They’re beating up women!” Aya Khalaf, a Palestinian social media influencer, screamed in the background as she caught the May 9 incident on a live stream to her 187,000 Instagram followers.
    The scene is one of several shared on social media from the near-nightly confrontations between Israeli police and protesters against the expulsion of eight Palestinian families from the neighbourhood, which is claimed by Jewish settlers.
    The hashtag “#SaveSheikhJarrah” has gained momentum overseas, with British singer Dua Lipa and Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis among those expressing solidarity.
    In October last year, an Israeli court ruled in favour of settlers who say the Palestinian families are living on land that used to belong to Jews.
    Palestinians are appealing the decision at Israel’s Supreme Court.
    But a court hearing was delayed earlier this month amid rising tensions at Sheikh Jarrah – which lies just a few minutes’ walk from the Old City’s Damascus Gate, another recent flashpoint.
    Anger over the proposed evictions was a key factor behind tensions in Jerusalem over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which last week escalated far beyond the holy city into the worst hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians for years.
    Portraying itself as the defender of Palestinians in Jerusalem, the militant Islamist group Hamas launched a rocket assault on Israel, which hit back with multiple air and artillery strikes on Gaza.
    A week later, nearly 200 people have been killed in Gaza, including 58 children, Gaza’s health ministry said, and 10 people have been killed in Israel, two of them children, according to authorities.
    On Sunday in Sheikh Jarrah, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian driver who had crashed his car into a police roadblock, injuring six officers.
AREA COVETED BY BOTH SIDES
    A tree-lined area of sandstone homes, Sheikh Jarrah is named after a personal physician to Saladin, the Muslim conqueror who seized Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187.
    It also houses a site revered by religious Jews as the tomb of an ancient high priest.
    The settlers who filed the lawsuit say they bought the land from two Jewish associations that purchased it at the end of the 19th century.    Palestinians, who question the legitimacy of the settlers’ documents, have lived there since the 1950s.
    Standing outside a settler house that sits beside Palestinian neighbours, Yaakov, a religious Jew who gave only his first name, said: “This is traditionally a Jewish neighbourhood … the Jordanians and the UN settled Arab refugees in these houses, so if there are any settlers here it’s the Arabs who are living here.”
    Pessimistic about the chances of winning their eviction case in Israeli courts, Palestinian residents have turned to social media.
    “I now have around a quarter of a million followers,” said Mohammed El-Kurd, 23.    “I believe that these people are an electronic army.”
    In one scene that went viral, his twin sister, Muna, was filmed shouting “You are stealing my house!” at an Israeli.    “If I don’t steal it, someone else is going to steal it,” he shouted back.
    Instagram and Twitter were criticised by some social media users earlier this month after they noticed that posts documenting events in East Jerusalem were being deleted.    The social media platforms issued an apology, blaming technical errors.
    Israel captured East Jerusalem in a 1967 war, later annexing it in a move not recognised by most of the international community who regard settlements there as illegal.
    Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, citing historical and religious ties to the land.    Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
(Reporting by Suheir Sheikh, writing by Zainah El-Haroun; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

5/18/2021 Jordan’s King Says ‘Provocative’ Israeli Actions Led To Escalation - Royal Court
FILE PHOTO: Jordan's King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein reacts while meeting with European Commission President
Ursula von der Leyen (not pictured) in Brussels, Belgium May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Jordan’s king, in a call with the United Nations’ secretary-general, said the “recurrent provocative Israeli actions against Palestinians have led to the ongoing escalation, pushing the region towards more tension,” the royal court wrote on Twitter on Monday.
    King Abdullah said the “international community must shoulder its responsibility, move actively to stop Israeli violations in Jerusalem, aggression on Gaza,” adding that, “he has always warned against altering the historical and legal status quo in Jerusalem,” according to the royal court.
(Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Nayera Abdallah; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

5/18/2021 ‘It’s Going To Change Our Country’: South Africa Starts Vaccinating Over-60s by Akhona Matshoba and Shafiek Tassiem
A nurse talks to a man following his vaccination, as South Africa rolls out the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines to the
elderly at the Munsieville Care for the Aged Centre outside Johannesburg, South Africa May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
    KRUGERSDORP, South Africa (Reuters) – Hope and excitement gripped the Munsieville care home in the South African mining city of Krugersdorp on Monday, when people over the age of 60 were called to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for the first time.
    “It’s going to change our country for the better,” Caroline Nicholls, 64, a judge, told Reuters while waiting to get her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
    “I am very excited to finally be here today,” said Ellen Segope, 65, a pensioner who lives nearby.    In Cape Town, celebrated anti-apartheid activist and cleric Desmond Tutu was among those vaccinated.
    South Africa’s vaccination campaign has suffered a series of setbacks, delaying the point at which it can start protecting its elderly against the coronavirus.br>     In February, it ditched plans to use AstraZeneca’s vaccine because of data showing it had greatly reduced efficacy against the dominant local variant, and it temporarily paused use of Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) vaccine in a research study vaccinating health workers because of concerns over very rare cases of blood clots.
    But it recently signed large bilateral supply deals with Pfizer and J&J for a combined 61 million doses and had received the first 1 million Pfizer shots by Monday.
    “We do know that our people have been waiting for long for these vaccines, … but we are pleading for patience,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told a news conference.
    “We would have loved to have had the vaccines as early as January or December last year.    It was not possible, but now it is here.    Let’s make use of it,” he added.
    Wealthier countries like the United States and Britain started their vaccination campaigns in December.
    South Africa kicked off immunisations in mid-February, but the rollout of the J&J vaccine has been slow because it is being administered in a research study using limited stock to further evaluate its efficacy in the field.
    As of Sunday, roughly 480,000 health workers had been given J&J’s vaccine in the so-called Sisonke study.
    Mkhize said the country worst affected by COVID-19 on the African continent in terms of recorded deaths was aiming to vaccinate more than 16 million people in the second phase of its vaccination campaign, which started on Monday.
    Along with the over-60s, the government plans to vaccinate those with co-morbidities and workers deemed essential for economic activity in that second phase, which is expected to last until mid-October.
(Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Nick Macfie)

5/18/2021 Sudan Clears Final Hurdle For Debt Relief At Paris Conference by John Irish, Nafisa Eltahir and Aidan Lewis
French President Emmanuel Macron, Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Sudan's Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burha attend
the International Conference in support of Sudan at the Temporary Grand Palais in Paris, France, May 17, 2021. Christophe Ena/Pool via REUTERS
    PARIS (Reuters) -IMF member countries have agreed to clear Sudan’s arrears to the institution, France’s president said on Monday, removing a final hurdle to the African nation getting wider relief on external debt of at least $50 billion.
    Hosting a conference for Sudan in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron also kick-started the broader debt relief effort, saying his country was in favour of fully cancelling the $5 billion it is owed by Khartoum.
    Sudan is emerging from decades of economic sanctions and isolation under ousted former President Omar al-Badri.
    It had built up huge arrears on its debt, but has made rapid progress towards having much of it forgiven under the IMF and World Bank’s Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) scheme, which would reopen access to badly needed cheap international financing.
    A transitional military-civilian power-sharing government is trying to pull the country out of a deep economic crisis with inflation at over 300% and shortages of basic goods fuelled by a lack of foreign currency reserves.
    In order to reach the “decision point” that would unlock the HIPC process in June, Sudan recently cleared its arrears to the World Bank and the African Development Bank with bridge loans from Western states.
    The remaining step was to clear Sudan’s arrears to the IMF, which France confirmed it would facilitate through a $1.5 billion bridge loan, and for that loan to be covered by member state pledges.
    Those pledges were made during the Paris conference, paving the way for HIPC to proceed and boosting the prospects of broader economic reform in Sudan, Macron said.
DEBT RELIEF ‘SOON’
    Key recent reforms under an IMF monitoring programme, a requirement for HIPC, include lifting fuel subsidies and sharply devaluing the currency.
    “The reduction of Sudan’s debt that we are going to soon initiate is a first result of these reforms, and this trajectory … should be consolidated, both economically and politically,” Macron said.
    With arrears to multilateral lenders settled, Sudan can move forward to settling its estimated $38 billion debt to bilateral creditors.    Of the country’s bilateral debt, about half is with Paris Club members.    An additional $6 billion of its external debt is commercial debt, an unusually high proportion.
    Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a tweet that Italy and Germany had committed to clearing their shares of Sudan’s debt, which total $1.8 billion, according to IMF estimates. Norway’s ambassador to Sudan said on Twitter her country would cancel its debt, listed at $100 million.
    The HIPC process operates by consensus, whereby debt is restructured along similar terms for all creditors.
    Kuwait, Sudan’s largest creditor by far at $9.8 billion, said in a statement it would support debt “resolution” discussions.
    Saudi Arabia, another major creditor, has also said it will press strongly for a broad agreement on debt.
    China has reduced and forgiven some debt and will push for the international community to do the same, said Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokeswoman.
    The first part of the Paris conference was dedicated to promoting investment, with officials touting reforms in the banking sector and showcasing projects worth billions of dollars in energy, mining, infrastructure and agriculture.
(Reporting by John Irish and Matthieu Protard in Paris, Nafisa Eltahir and Aidan Lewis in Cairo, Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum, David Kirton in Beijing; Editing by Diane Craft, William Maclean, Hugh Lawson and Dan Grebler)

5/18/2021 Rwanda’s Kagame Says Relations Are On The Mend With France
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Rwanda's President Paul Kagame as he arrives to attend the International
Conference in support of Sudan at the Temporary Grand Palais in Paris, France, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
    PARIS (Reuters) – France’s acceptance in a report this year that it bore a responsibility for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda marked a “big step forward” in repairing relations between the two countries, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Monday.
    A commission established by President Emmanuel Macron concluded in March that France had been blinded by its colonial attitude to events leading up to the genocide and bore “serious and overwhelming” responsibility.    However, the nearly 1,000-page report absolved France of complicity in the killings.
    “When you talk about overwhelming responsibility … that means a lot,” the Rwandan president told France 24.    “This is a big step forward.    Maybe not forget (the past) but forgive it and be able to move forward.”
    Kagame has previously said the French participated in the genocide.    On Monday, the Rwandan leader said there was grounds for good relations between the two nations and that he hoped France would send an ambassador to Kigali.
    Kagame was in Paris for a summit on post-pandemic financing for African nations hosted by Macron.    The French president is due to visit Rwanda later this month.
    Asked if an apology would be a further important gesture, Kagame responded: “I think so.”
    Some 800,000 people were slaughtered, mainly from the ethnic Tutsi minority but also moderate Hutus, during the genocide.    Kagame, a Tutsi, has been the main power in Rwandan politics since his rebel army ended the slaughter by death squads loyal to the Hutu-led government.
    Ever since the genocide, critics of France’s role have said that then-President Francois Mitterrand failed to prevent the massacres or even supported the Hutu-led government.br>     Over the past two decades, Kagame has been feted as a saviour by supporters from Washington to the World Economic Forum in Davos, while also being accused of silencing dissenting voices at home.
    Earlier this year, Paul Rusesabagina, the hotelier depicted as a hero in a Hollywood film about the genocide and a vocal critic of Kagame, went on trial for terrorism-related offences.    Rusesabagina says he was abducted from Dubai, while Rwandan officials say he was tricked into boarding a plane.
    “What’s wrong with tricking a criminal?” Kagame told France 24.    “When you get him, where do you put him? In a court of law, I think that is ok.”
(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Alex Richardson)

5/18/2021 Israel-Gaza Conflict Rages On Despite U.S., Regional Diplomacy by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Rami Ayyub
Smoke and flames rise above a building during Israeli air strikes, amid a flare-up of
Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza City May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
GAZA/TEL AVIV (Reuters) -Israel pummeled Gaza with air strikes on Monday and Palestinian militants launched rockets at Israeli cities despite a flurry of U.S. and regional diplomacy that has so far failed to halt more than a week of deadly fighting.
    Israel’s missile attacks on the densely populated Palestinian enclave killed a top Islamic Jihad commander and left a crater in a seven-storey office building that Israel’s military said was used by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
    “The directive is to continue to strike at terror targets,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after a meeting with military chiefs.    “We will continue to act as necessary to restore peace and security to all residents of Israel.”
    The armed wing of Hamas promised more rockets in return: “The criminal Zionist enemy intensified its bombing of homes and residential apartments in the recent hours, and therefore, we warn the enemy that if it did not stop that immediately, we would resume rocketing Tel Aviv,” said spokesman Abu Ubaida.
    U.S. President Joe Biden, in a call with Netanyahu later on Monday, expressed his support for a ceasefire in the fighting, the White House said in a statement.
    “The President expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end,” it said.
    Rocket barrages, some of them launched in response to the killing of Islamic Jihad’s Hussam Abu Harbeed, sent Israelis dashing for bomb shelters. A synagogue was hit in Ashkelon and an apartment building in Ashdod.
    Gaza health officials put the Palestinian death toll since hostilities flared up last week at least 212, including 61 children and 36 women.    Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children.
    The Israeli military said militants had fired about 3,350 rockets from Gaza, and that Israeli air and artillery strikes had killed least 130 Palestinian combatants.
    With the fiercest regional hostilities in years showing no sign of abating, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged all sides to protect civilians.
    Israel had the right to defend itself, Blinken said. He also said he had not seen any evidence provided by Israel on suggestions that Hamas was operating out of a building housing media outlets – including the U.S.-based Associated Press – which was destroyed in an Israeli missile strike at the weekend.
    Late on Monday Hamas denied that it had offices in the building, known as al-Jala: “These are false allegations and an attempt to justify the crime of targeting a civilian tower,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum in a statement.
    Blinken and other U.S. officials put in calls to Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates on Monday, and a U.S. envoy to the region met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
    Egypt and U.N. mediators also stepped up diplomatic efforts, while the U.N. General Assembly will meet to discuss the violence on Thursday.     Despite the flurry of U.S. mediation, the U.S. administration approved the potential sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, and Congressional sources said on Monday that U.S. lawmakers were not expected to object to the deal. ISLAMIC JIHAD
    As Islamic Jihad mourned Harbeed’s death, Israel’s military said he had been “behind several anti-tank missile terror attacks against Israeli civilians.”    An Israeli general said the country could carry on the fight “forever.”
    At least seven Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza on Monday by evening.    Two died in the missile attack on the office building, which Israel’s military said was used by Hamas internal security.
    “My children couldn’t sleep all night even after the wave of intensive bombing stopped,” said Umm Naeem, 50, a mother of five, as she shopped for bread in Gaza City.
    Earlier on Monday, Israel bombed what its military called 15 km (nine miles) of underground tunnels used by Hamas.    Nine residences belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders in Gaza were also hit, it said.
    “We have to continue the war until there is long-term ceasefire – (one) that is not temporary,” Osher Bugam, a resident of the Israel coastal city of Ashkelon, said after a rocket fired from Gaza hit the synagogue there.
    Medics said seven people were injured in the rocket strike that hit the apartment building in Ashdod.
COMMUNAL VIOLENCE
    Hamas began its rocket assault last Monday after weeks of tensions over a court case to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the city’s al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    Palestinians have also become frustrated by setbacks to their aspirations for an independent state and an end to Israeli occupation in recent years.
    World concern deepened after an Israeli air strike in Gaza that destroyed several homes on Sunday and which Palestinian health officials said killed 42 people, including 10 children, and persistent rocket attacks on Israeli towns.
    The hostilities between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza have been accompanied by an uptick of violence in the West Bank, where the Palestinians have limited self-rule.    Alarmingly for Israelis, there have also been riots involving both Arab and Jewish mobs within Israel itself, and clashes in towns populated both by Jews and members of Israel’s 21% Arab minority.
    Police said an Israeli man died in hospital on Monday after being attacked by Arab rioters last week.     Israel’s president has warned that tension between Jewish and Arab Israelis could devolve into “civil war.”
    General strikes are planned for Tuesday in Arab towns within Israel and Palestinian towns in the West Bank, with posts on social media urging solidarity “from the sea to the river.”
    While the devastation in Gaza was likely to make it harder for Israel to expand its ties with Arab countries, Gulf states that opened ties with Israel last year are showing no public sign of second thoughts.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Rami Ayyub and Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Michelle Nichols in New York, Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman, Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; Editing by Timothy Heritage/Angus MacSwan, Peter Graff/ Hugh Lawson)

5/18/2021 Under Pressure, Biden Works For Ceasefire In Israel-Gaza Violence by Steve Holland and Patricia Zengerle
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the April jobs report from the East Room
of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden and aides worked behind the scenes on Monday pressing for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas amid what one source said was frustration over Israel’s bombing of a Gaza building that housed some news organizations.
    Biden is facing growing pressure from lawmakers in his own Democratic Party to play a more vocal role, but U.S. officials say he and his team have opted for a quieter effort, talking with Israeli officials and U.S. allies in the Arab world.
    “Our calculation at this point is that having those conversations behind the scenes … is the most constructive approach we can take,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
    Biden spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, their third conversation since the violence erupted.
    The White House said Biden “encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians” and that the two leaders “discussed progress in Israel’s military operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.”
    “The president expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end,” a White House statement said.
    Supporters of the Biden administration demanded quicker action.
    “We’re really frustrated that the administration is not moving with more urgency,” said Logan Bayroff, spokesman for J Street, a liberal pro-Israel lobbying group.
    Twenty-eight senators – more than half of the Democratic caucus – issued a statement on Sunday calling for an immediate ceasefire “to prevent any further loss of civilian life and to prevent further escalation of conflict.”
    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday he also wanted to see a ceasefire reached quickly.
    The Biden administration has increasingly relied on Egypt because of its influence with Hamas, whose rocket barrages into Israeli cities have prompted a fierce response from Israel and led to the biggest outbreak in hostilities since 2014.
    The administration would like to get on a glide path to de-escalation in coming days, leading to what a source familiar with the situation called a humanitarian pause in the violence to let relief assistance be delivered to Gaza and build a sustainable calm.
    The United States was believed to be preparing significant initiatives on Gaza humanitarian reconstruction, the source said.
‘IMPERATIVE TO RESTORE CALM’
    Biden has strongly defended Israel’s right to defend itself because of the repeated rocket barrages from Hamas, which the United States views as a terrorist organization.
    But the administration did not support Israel’s destruction of a Gaza high-rise that housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices.
    The Biden administration viewed the strike on the building as a major strategic mistake, particularly because it turned some public opinion against Israel in the United States, the source said.
    The Gaza building attack has prompted some Democratic lawmakers to call foul.
    “The increasing loss of civilian lives of Palestinians and Israelis is unconscionable and unacceptable,” said Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro.    “I’m particularly disturbed by the disproportionate bombing of the Gaza Strip, including the deaths of at least 92 women and children and the targeting of the Associated Press building.”
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that he had spoken to United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan about the urgent need to halt the violence in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.
    “The loss of life from this crisis is deeply saddening, and it is imperative to restore calm and end this conflict,” he said.
    The Biden administration has privately blamed the administration of Republican former President Donald Trump for breaking off communications with the Palestinian Authority in its zeal for a pro-Israel policy, believing that has contributed to instability.
    While Trump helped negotiate four normalization deals between Israel and Arab countries, he cut assistance to the Palestinians.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)

5/18/2021 Terror Group Hamas Calling For Mass Protests Against Israel by OAN Newsroom
A Muslim worshipper wears a Hamas flag during a protest against Israeli airstrikes
on the Gaza Strip. Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
    A series of mass protests are being orchestrated by Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and are expected to lead to even more violence across the region.    Calls to action have been flooding social media outlets. Protesters are calling on all Arab Israelis and Palestinians to take part in a strike against Israel.    This movement is being backed by both the terrorist organization Hamas as well as the Fatah.
    The strike looks to unite Palestinians on the West Bank in Gaza and those living within Israeli territory to march in protest of Israel’s air campaign in the region.    Israel has been actively working to eliminate the threat of Hamas in Gaza. As for the terrorist group, they have been continuously firing missiles into Israel, in turn, killing at least 10 Israelis thus far.
A Palestinian man inspects the damage of a house destroyed by an early morning
Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
    Israel’s airstrikes have targeted subterranean tunnels used by Hamas and their assets all throughout Gaza.    The terror group has been hiding within civilian populations.
    Hamas and Palestinian authorities are now looking to focus the Palestinian anguish towards Israeli forces through these marches.    Demonstrations have seemingly already begun starting with a smaller, yet similar, event that resulted in clashes with authorities just this past weekend.
    According to the New York Times, one of the organizers said the marches will begin at 2 p.m. local time in Gaza and the West Bank.    Areas with large Arab populations, such as Nazareth, were also listed.
    Likewise, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network is also calling on protestors from around the world to take part in the strike, which means movements in major western cities will likely take place.    Demonstrations on the ground in Israel are expected to be met with a major Israeli police and military presence.
    However, mass demonstrations of this nature have been seen before and the conflict occurring over the last few weeks indicates unrest and increased tensions.

5/18/2021 Israeli Navy Thwarts Hamas Attack On Military Vessel by OAN Newsroom
File – Israeli soldiers take their positions on board the Israeli Navy Ship. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    Israel’s Navy said it thwarted an attack by a militant wing of Hamas who attempted to use a remote-controlled submarine to disable an Israeli vessel.
    Al-Qassam Brigades, a Palestinian terror splinter cell, made claims on social media Monday that they had unleashed a “batch” of rockets at an Israeli battleship off the coast of Gaza.    However, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) diminished those claims.    Officials said Hamas militants were killed and their submarine was destroyed in the attack.
    The IDF also noted, Hamas modifies hobbyist RC submarines to carry explosive payloads up to 60 pounds.    Damage from an explosion of that size is minimal against an Israel battleship, but it gives Hamas a much needed “victory photo.”     Meanwhile, progressive U.S. lawmakers are taking aim at Israel over the ongoing conflict with Hamas militants in Gaza.
    In a tweet Sunday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (D) said the U.S. must take a hard look at the $4 billion in military aide it provides every year to Israel.    He also suggested the Jewish State may be committing human rights violations in it’s handling of the situation.
    This comes as the group of liberal lawmakers known as “the Squad” has been pro-Palestine as well as establishment Democrats claiming to back Israel.    New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) recently went as far as calling the country an “apartheid state.”

5/18/2021 In Gaza, U.N. Classrooms Become Dormitories As Palestinians Flee Conflict by Nidal al-Mughrabi
Sons of Palestinian man Ihab El-Attar, who, according to him, lost four members of his family when an Israeli strike hit their house
and injured him, play at a United Nations-run school where they take refuge, in Gaza City May 18, 2021. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
    GAZA (Reuters) – U.N.-run schools in Gaza look very little like places of learning these days in the midst of a conflict between Israel and Palestinian armed groups that is in its second week.
    Laundry is hung on makeshift washing lines, mothers scrub infants at bathroom sinks and classrooms have become dormitories with desks stacked up and blankets spread on the floor.
    For Palestinians crammed into this narrow strip of land, wedged between Israel, the Mediterranean and a small stretch of Egypt, there are few places to seek shelter from bombardment.
    So, many have fled to schools run by the U.N. refugee agency UNRWA, which estimates that 47,000 Palestinians are now camped out in the 58 education establishments it runs in the enclave.
    “We have quit without taking mattresses or anything.    We left the house as it is, and we escaped,” said Hassan Haboub, a father of nine whose family have made a temporary home in the four-storey complex of Gaza City’s Beach elementary school.
    “We have nothing but UNRWA,” said Haboub, whose family fled to Gaza when they became refugees in 1948 from Ashkelon, a city that lies north of Gaza’s border.
    Israeli airstrikes have pounded Gaza day and night since the conflict flared on May 10, while in Israeli cities, like Ashkelon, residents race for shelters or safe rooms, if they have them, every few hours or minutes to flee militant rockets.
    Nearly 450 buildings in Gaza, an enclave that is home to 2 million people, have been destroyed or badly damaged, the United Nations says. Most of the 52,000 who have been displaced are in U.N. schools, it says.
    Israel says it only hits legitimate military targets, gives advanced warning if it targets residential buildings that it says are used by militants and does everything it can to prevent civilian casualties.
    “Hamas shoots its rockets at Israel out of mosques, out of schools, out of playgrounds, out of built-up areas, precisely to make it more difficult for us to try and target them,” Mark Regev, senior adviser to Israel’s prime minister, told Britain’s LBC radio on Sunday.
HOMELESS
    U.N. officials say the destruction of residential tower blocks and other buildings has left thousands of people with nowhere to live in this 365 sq km enclave that is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet.
    “Yes, in some cases they warned them, they have protected their lives but they are homeless and need to completely rebuild their life,” Matthias Schmale, the director UNRWA operations in Gaza, told Reuters.
    He said even U.N. facilities had suffered some collateral damage. He pointed to a boundary wall of UNRWA’s complex in Gaza City which has fractured and cracked walls of offices, saying a blast struck a nearby road, sending lumps of concrete and part of a wrecked car flying into the facility.
    In Israel, militant rockets have slammed into residential and other buildings. While a national system sends warnings via sirens and social media, as well as on radio and television, it sometimes only gives people a few seconds to act.
    In one Israeli community near Gaza, a woman texted a friend saying she had received six alerts in one day and three in single night.    “Makes nine alerts in 24 hours,” she wrote before breaking off with the words: “Just now, one alert.”
    Israel says 12 people, including two children, have been killed in the conflict.    Palestinians put their death toll at 213, including 61 children.
    In the Gaza enclave, UNRWA said it had adapted many schools to cope with receiving displaced people after the last major conflict in 2014 between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that has ruled since 2007.
    Israel, the United States and European Union deem Hamas a terrorist organisation, a designation the group rejects.
    Ihab El-Attar, who usually lives in Beit Lahiya near Gaza’s border with Israel, fled his home to U.N. facilities three times before: in 2014 and during fighting in 2008-9 and in 2012.
    Once again, in 2021, he has sought shelter in a U.N. school.    This time, he said his house was destroyed in a bombardment that killed four members of his family – it was not immediately possible to verify details of that strike.
    “Every time there is a war, they drive us out,” Attar said, speaking from his latest shelter at Beach elementary school after his home was hit early on Friday morning.    “Four wars drove us out from the same house.”
(Reprting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Edmund Blair, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

5/18/2021 Lebanese President Seeks To Avert Crisis With Gulf Over Minister’s Comments
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's President Michel Aoun speaks during a news conference at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon
October 21, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon’s president said on Tuesday that critical comments made by the foreign minister about Gulf states did not reflect official policy, seeking to avoid further strain on ties with countries that have been Lebanon’s allies and donors.
    Mired in its worst economic crisis since a 1975-1990 civil war, Lebanon has lost the financial backing it once relied on from wealthy Sunni Muslim Gulf states, which are increasingly frustrated over the rising influence of Hezbollah, a Lebanese group backed by regional rival Shi’ite Iran.
    Lebanese Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe stoked tensions in a television interview on Monday, when he appeared to blame Gulf nations for the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
    “Those countries of love, friendship and fraternity, they brought us Islamic State,” he told Al Hurra without naming them.
    Wehbe said on Tuesday his comments had been misrepresented and President Michel Aoun, like Wehbe a Maronite Christian and also an ally of Hezbollah, said the minister’s comments were his “personal opinion” and praised “brotherly” ties with the Gulf.
    Saudi Arabia summoned Lebanon’s ambassador to the kingdom over the remarks, handing over a memorandum about what were described as Wehbe’s “offences.”
    The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council asked Wehbe to make a formal apology to Gulf states.
    Lebanese politicians also criticised Wehbe.
    Saad al-Hariri, the Sunni prime minister-designate now trying to form a cabinet and whose family’s wealth was built up in Saudi Arabia, said Arab support was vital.
    “As if the crises that the country is drowning in and the boycott it is suffering from are not enough,” he said.
    Crushed by debt, Lebanon’s economy has imploded, sending its currency into a tailspin.    A massive blast at Beirut port last August added to its woes, prompting the last government to resign.    It is now acting in a caretaker role.
    Months later, politicians in the fractious, sectarian system are still squabbling over new appointments.
    Western donors, led by France, which also previously bailed out Lebanon, want a cabinet of technocrats before releasing aid.
    Mass protests in 2019 had also called for sweeping out the old elite, many of whom have held top posts for years.
    Hariri, who like his assassinated father has led several cabinets, has yet to announce a new line-up in a country where the prime minister should be a Sunni, the speaker of parliament a Shi’ite and president a Christian.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Edmund Blair and Gareth Jones)

5/18/2021 Dubai Targets Over 5.5 Million Overseas Tourists This Year
FILE PHOTO: People are seen at the Cove beach Caesars Palace, amid the spread of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates January 31, 2021. REUTERS/Rula Rouhana
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Dubai expects to attract over 5.5 million overseas visitors this year, hopeful that new markets can help make up for the loss of visitors from key places where travel is restricted.
    Dubai had 5.5 million overseas visitors last year, when the tourism sector was pummelled by the coronavirus pandemic.    In 2019, 16.7 million tourists visited.
    Visitors from India, traditionally Dubai’s top source market, are largely banned from the United Arab Emirates due to the latest outbreak in the South Asian nation.
    Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, Dubai’s third biggest source market in 2019, has barred direct flights and requires travellers from the UAE to hotel quarantine.
    But Dubai Tourism Chief Executive Issam Kazim said visitor numbers from newer markets in Europe, Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) were performing well.
    “All of these markets will start to add up and hopefully fill the gaps and give us a much stronger foundation to build a confident rebound going forward,” he told Reuters at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.
    The Middle East city reopened its borders to international visitors last July and was a popular holiday spot over the New Year with many other global destinations shut off due to the pandemic.
    But the influx of foreign tourists coincided with a second wave of coronavirus infections across the UAE and led Dubai to tighten capacity restrictions on hotels and restaurants.
    Many of those restrictions were eased this week.
    Kazim cited a high rate of testing in UAE as the reason behind the rise in case numbers, arguing that the more people are tested the more infections will be uncovered.
    The number of infections in the country have now fallen from a daily peak of 3,977 in February to roughly 1,300.    Figures for each emirate are not disclosed by authorities.
    Dubai is also expecting Expo 2020, which runs from October to March after being delayed by the pandemic last year, to be a draw for many tourists who have never visited before.
    Expo organisers said before the coronavirus outbreak the event could attract 11 million foreign visitors, though Kazim said on Tuesday that the pandemic now made it difficult to predict numbers.
    In the UAE’s north, the smaller Ras Al Khaimah emirate expects 915,000 visitors this year, a 14% increase on 2020 but still down from 1.1 million in 2019.
    “I am cautiously optimistic that we will probably do better than that the way things are travelling but there is so much uncertainty,” Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority CEO Raki Phillips told Reuters.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell, editing by Ed Osmond)

5/18/2021 U.S. Tripoli Visit Shows Increased Libya Focus After Fighting
US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood meets with Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, in Tripoli, Libya
May 18, 2021. Media Office of the Prime Minister/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday sent its highest-level official to Libya since 2014 in what it called a signal of Washington’s increased focus on efforts to resolve the country’s crisis.
    Acting assistant secretary of state Joey Hood met Libya’s new Government of National Unity (GNU) head Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh and Presidency Council chief Mohamed al-Menfi.
    “The goal of the United States is a sovereign, stable, unified Libya with no foreign interference, and a state that is capable of combating terrorism,” he said at a joint news conference with Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush.
    The GNU’s appointment in March was accepted by both main sides in the civil war – and their foreign backers – in a move seen as representing the best hope for peace in years, though with many big obstacles remaining.
    Libya has had little peace since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, which splintered the country between armed groups who wielded power on the ground and eventually coalesced into two main factions in east and west that operated rival administrations from 2014 until this year.
    The U.N.-facilitated peace process, including a ceasefire and steps to resolve tangled economic grievances, has coincided with increased U.S. attention, evident in the appointment of its ambassador Richard Norland as U.S. special envoy to Libya.
    The GNU has a mandate to unify state institutions split by the years of warfare, improve government services and prepare for a national election in December.
    However, the risk of a return to fighting remains, with armed groups holding territory across the country, foreign mercenaries entrenched with allied Libyan forces along the frozen frontline and outside powers engaged from afar.
    Turkey, which in the war backed the U.N.-recognised government with military help, has kept its presence in western areas.    Mercenaries and air power supplied by Russia and the United Arab Emirates, according to the United Nations, are in eastern areas.
    On both main sides of the conflict, in eastern and western Libya, powerful figures have challenged elements of the GNU’s mandate or cabinet, and diplomats have privately called into question the likelihood of elections going ahead.
    “We oppose foreign fighters, we oppose proxy forces,” Hood said.
    “The agreement on an electoral roadmap for elections in December is very important,” he added.
    Hood is the latest in a parade of foreign diplomats and politicians visiting Libya since the GNU took office, representing countries that backed different sides in the war, with some reopening long-closed embassies.
    Mangoush said they had affirmed the need for the United States to support the GNU, particularly in creating the necessary conditions to hold elections.
    She said Libya had called on the United States to reopen both its Tripoli embassy and the consulate in Benghazi, where a 2012 militant attack killed the ambassador and three other U.S. personnel.
    The United States has been more vocal on Libya issues since last summer, when its military Africa Command issued statements about the presence of Russian military assets in the country.
    Since Joe Biden became president in January, its approach towards Libya has become more focused, diplomats from other countries involved in Libya have said.
(Reporting by Reuters Tripoli newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

5/18/2021 Egypt To Allocate $500 Million For Gaza Rebuilding Effort
Smoke and flames are seen following an Israeli air strike on a building, amid a flare-up
of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza City May 18, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt will allocate $500 million for rebuilding efforts in the Gaza strip following Israeli air strikes, the Egyptian presidency said on Tuesday.
    Israel bombarded Gaza with air strikes and Palestinian militants resumed cross-border rocket fire on Tuesday after a brief overnight lull.
    Nearly 450 buildings in the Gaza strip have been destroyed or badly damaged, including six hospitals and nine primary care health centres, the United Nations humanitarian agency said.    Some 47,000 out of 52,000 displaced persons had fled to U.N. schools.
    Egyptian companies will participate in rebuilding operations, according to the statement that followed a meeting between President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, French President Emmanuel Macron and Jordan’s King Abdullah in Paris.
    Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh thanked Sisi for his contribution and Egypt’s mediation efforts, which reflected the country’s “national commitment to the Palestinian cause.”
    Egyptian officials have worked to restore ties with Hamas, strained following the 2013 ouster of former President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, which share’s Hamas’s Islamist ideology.
    Haniyeh has since 2017 visited Cairo as Egyptian mediators brokered talks between Hamas and its rival Fatah.
(Reporting by Mohamed Waly and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Alison Williams and Giles Elgood)

5/18/2021 Analysis: Conflicts With Palestinians Rarely Leave A Scratch On Israel’s Markets by Marc Jones and Steven Scheer
FILE PHOTO: An Israeli shekel note is seen in this June 22, 2017 illustration photo. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration
    LONDON/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli-Palestinian conflicts rarely cause lasting damage to Israel’s markets, history shows, because investors both direct and indirect appear more interested in a resilient economy – and one currently bulging with tech money.
    Nights of rocket attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip and by the militants on Israeli towns, combined with a dip in global markets last week, did give Israel’s shekel and stock market their worst week since March, but the falls have already been largely recouped.
    Israel’s economy is a stark contrast to Gaza, where the U.N. development agency UNCTAD estimated in November https://unctad.org/news/israeli-occupation-cost-gaza-167-billion-past-decade-unctad-estimates that 56% of the population of 2 million people lived below the poverty line in 2017 after a decade of conflicts, and of restrictions on trade and movement that Israel says have been necessary to protect it from the Hamas militants who rule the Strip.    Egypt also maintains tight border restrictions, citing security concerns.    As the latest bombardments enter a second week, analysts say the periods of high tension of the last decade – November 2012, July 2014, September 2015 and March 2018 – show how little heed Israel’s financial markets pay to the conflict.
    Morgan Stanley’s economists found that credit spreads – the premium investors demand to hold an Israeli bond rather than an A-rated U.S. bond – did expand by 10-15 basis points in all those periods, but generally recovered within a month or two. Neighbouring Jordan and Egypt, whose key foreign tourism income is sensitive to regional tension, were also affected.
    This month, the Israel premiums have actually shrunk.
    “This is a bit surprising,” Morgan Stanley analysts said on Friday, “not only because of past precedent, but also as geopolitical risk premia in Israel were low coming into May.”
    Others say the resilience owes much to a record 5% current account surplus – worth $20 billion – as money gushes into Israel’s cutting-edge tech and pharmaceutical sectors, and gas discoveries reduce fuel imports.
    Israeli tech firms raised nearly $5.5 billion in the first three months of the year, over half the total for all of last year, and the Bank of Israel forecasts that the economy will grow 6.3% this year.
    The shekel, for its part, has been weakened by over 60 billion shekels ($18 billion) of quantitative easing by the central bank in recent months, which appears to limit its scope to fall further.
    “I think it (the shekel) would weaken if there was a risk of a serious war,” Trium Capital fund manager Peter Kisler said.    “But the thing is that it (Israel) has such a strong current account.”
Graphic: Israel’s strong current account and FDI – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/jznpnrnzqpl/Pasted%20image%201621003679995.png
NOT A MACRO STORY
    The Tel Aviv stock market has also been resilient.    It did fall during the previous flare-ups, but only did significantly worse than other markets during the 2014 ground war in Gaza.
    This time, Tel Aviv has actually outperformed the MSCI world index over the last week, and is within reach of a record high.
    And though rising inflation pressures are nudging up bond yields, those in major markets like the U.S. are going up faster, which means the closely-watched spreads are shrinking.
    “Basically the market is saying, this (conflict) isn’t a macro story,” said Leader Capital Markets chief economist Jonathan Katz.
    Graphic: Israel’s stock market during periods of high tension – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/xegpbdqrxpq/Pasted%20image%201621246310525.png
    It may have the potential to become one, though.
    The ratings agency Fitch says the fact that the fighting in and around Gaza has this time been accompanied by clashes inside Israel between Jews and members of the 21% Arab minority does present new risks, at a time when a fourth election in three years has again failed to produce a stable government.
    Furthermore, measures to deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have boosted Israel’s debt to 75% of GDP from 60%.
    S&P Global kept Israel’s AA- rating unchanged on Friday, expecting debt to level off now, though it acknowledged military spending could raise it further.
    “Pressure on the ratings could build if security and political risks tied to the current flare-up are protracted,” S&P said.
    Still, the investors who snapped up a whopping $17.6 billion in Israeli bonds on international markets last year – the second largest issuance among emerging economies – have seen no reason to change their minds.
    BOFA economist Mai Doan thinks markets are now well used to Israel’s difficulties.    “Usually what we find … is that the impact on variables such as bond yields and FX rates is temporary, and the fundamentals of the country do not change.”
($1 = 3.2712 shekels)
Graphic: Shekel barely flinched as troubles intensified – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/oakvekxowvr/Pasted%20image%201621090123624.png
Graphic: GeoQuant Israel risk gauges during peaks in conflict – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/qzjvqbokepx/Pasted%20image%201620990304233.png
(Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker in London)

5/19/2021 Netanyahu, Gaza Militants Vow To Fight On As Biden Urges ‘De-Escalation’ by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Rami Ayyub and Andrea Shalal
Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system fires to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip
towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, southern Israel May 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    GAZA/TEL AVIV/ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) -Israel and Gaza militants vowed to keep fighting after U.S. President Joe Biden urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek a “de-escalation” on Wednesday on the path to a ceasefire in the 10-day conflict.
    An Egyptian security source said the two sides had agreed in principle to a ceasefire after help from mediators, although details were still being negotiated in secret amid public denials of a deal to prevent it from collapsing.
    Palestinian health officials said that since fighting began on May 10, 228 people had been killed in aerial bombardments that have worsened an already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.
    Israeli authorities put the death toll at 12 in Israel, where repeated rocket attacks have caused panic and sent people rushing into shelters.
    Regional and U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire have intensified but so far failed.    Cross-border fire continued unabated after Biden’s latest call for calm, and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas and other militants vowed defiance.
    Netanyahu has repeatedly hailed what he has described as support from the United States, Israel’s main ally, for a right to self-defence in battling attacks from Gaza, home to two million Palestinians.
    But Biden put the Israeli leader on notice in a telephone call that it was time to lower the intensity of the conflict.
    “The two leaders had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
    “The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.”
‘QUIET AND SECURITY’
    In a statement released soon after her comments, Netanyahu said: “I am determined to continue this operation until its objective is achieved – to restore quiet and security to you, the citizens of Israel.”
    Netanyahu had earlier told a meeting with foreign envoys to Israel that “it is not possible to set a timeframe” for the operations, Israeli media reported.
    In response to Biden’s de-escalation call, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassam said those who sought to restore calm must “compel Israel to end its aggression in Jerusalem and its bombardment of Gaza.”
    Once that happened, Qassam said, “there can be room to talk about arrangements to restore calm.”
    The leader of Islamic Jihad, another Gaza militant group, said political talks “remain at a standstill.”
    “The only path towards freedom (is) to protect Jerusalem and people,” said Islamic Jihad chief Ziad Al-Nakhala.
    With Gaza rocket fire continuing into Wednesday night, a 72-year-old man was moderately injured when a rocket struck his house in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, medics said.
    In Gaza, the sounds of explosions roared at nightfall with heavy bombardments reported in the enclave’s centre and south.
    Hamas began firing rockets on May 10 in retaliation for what it said were Israeli rights abuses against Palestinians in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    The rocket attacks followed Israeli security police clashes with worshippers at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and a court case by Israeli settlers to evict Palestinians from a neighbourhood in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
    In a 25-minute attack overnight into Wednesday, Israel bombarded targets including what its military said were tunnels in southern Gaza used by Hamas.
    Some 50 rockets were fired from the enclave, the Israeli military said, with sirens sounding in the coastal city of Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv, and other areas.
    Around 4,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza since May 10, most of which have been intercepted by missile defences, the Israeli military said. Some 600 fell in Gaza, it said.
CRATERS AND RUBBLE
    Nearly 450 buildings in densely populated Gaza have been destroyed or badly damaged, including six hospitals and nine primary-care health centres, and more than 52,000 Palestinians have been displaced, the U.N. humanitarian agency said.
    “Whoever wants to learn about the humanity of the (Israelis) should come to the Gaza Strip and look at the houses that got destroyed on top of those who lived in them,” said university lecturer Ahmed al-Astal, standing by the rubble of his house in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
    The hostilities are the most serious between Hamas and Israel in years, and, in a departure from previous Gaza conflicts, have helped fuel street violence in Israeli cities between Jews and Arabs.
    The conflict has also spilled over to the Israel-Lebanon frontier and stoked violence in the occupied West Bank.
    Four rockets were launched towards Israel from Lebanon on Wednesday, the third such incident since the Gaza conflict began, the military said.    There was no claim of responsibility.
    In the West Bank, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian woman who the military said had fired a rifle at troops and civilians.    At least 21 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops or other incidents in the West Bank since May 10, Palestinian officials said.
    Gaza medical officials say the Palestinian death toll includes 65 children, and that more than 1,600 people have been wounded since the fighting began.    Israeli authorities say the death toll in Israel includes two children.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Aidan Lewis in Cairo and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Peter Cooney, Michael Perry, Timothy Heritage, William Maclean, Gareth Jones and Giles Elgood)

5/19/2021 U.S. House Democrats Offer Resolution Blocking $735 Million Israel Weapons Sale
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden is greeted by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib at
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Detroit, Michigan, U.S., May 18, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a resolution seeking to block a $735 million sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel, a symbolic response to conflict between Israel and Gaza’s ruling Hamas group.
    Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan and Rashida Tlaib were lead sponsors of the measure, which has at least six other co-sponsors including some of the most left-leaning Democrats in the House.
    They have been among lawmakers calling for a more concerted U.S. effort to stop the violence, including Israeli airstrikes that have killed dozens of civilians, most of them Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.
    Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration approved the potential sale of $735 million in weapons to Israel earlier this year, and sent it to Congress for formal review on May 5, giving lawmakers 15 days to object under laws governing foreign weapons sales.
    “At a time when so many, including President Biden, support a ceasefire, we should not be sending ‘direct attack’ weaponry to Prime Minister Netanyahu to prolong this violence,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.
    The resolution is unlikely to progress further in the House, where the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi controls which legislation comes up for a vote.    The chamber’s leaders have expressed support for the sale, with No. 2 Democrat Steny Hoyer telling reporters yesterday he backed it.
    The sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, made by Boeing Co, was considered routine at the time, before the start earlier this month of the fiercest hostilities in the region in years.
    Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress generally express strong support for Israel.    The country has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War Two, with Washington currently providing Israel some $3.8 billion a year in military aid.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

5/19/2021 France, African Leaders Push To Redirect $100 Billion In IMF SDR Reserves By October by John Irish
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron welcome Angolan President Joao Lourenco, accompanied by his wife Ana Dias Lourenco, for a dinner with leaders of
African states and international organisations on the eve of a summit on aid for Africa, at Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    PARIS (Reuters) -French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday a summit in Paris on Africa financing had agreed to work towards persuading rich nations by October to reallocate $100 billion in IMF special drawing rights monetary reserves to African states.
    Impoverished African economies must not be left behind in the post-pandemic economic recovery and a substantial financial package is needed to provide much-needed economic stimulus, African and European leaders concluded at a summit in Paris.
    In the immediate term, that meant accelerating the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and creating the fiscal breathing room for African nations, which will face a spending shortfall of some $285 billion over the next two years, the summit communique showed.
    The communique set out a two-pronged response based on addressing financing needs to support a sustainable, green recovery and the underpinning of private-sector-driven growth – but it was light on concrete commitments.
    “This is a new start, a new deal for Africa,” Senegalese President Macky Sall told reporters.
    International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Kristalina Georgieva said it was time to stem the “dangerous divergence between advanced economies and developing countries, especially (in) Africa.”
    Georgieva said the African continent’s economic output would increase by only 3.2% in 2021, compared with 6% in the rest of the world.
    Central to the talks was the question of how to reallocate IMF reserves (SDRs) that were earmarked for developed countries towards developing economies.
    World finance chiefs agreed in April to boost SDRs by $650 billion and extend a debt-servicing freeze to help developing countries deal with the pandemic, although only $34 billion was to be allocated to Africa.
    Macron said France had decided to redirect its SDRs and that there had been an accord to try to get rich nations by October to reallocate $100 billion to Africa.
    “Our work in the next few weeks will be to make the same rate of effort as France, starting with the United States of America, and I know all the work that we will have to do with Congress and the executive, but I am confident,” he told reporters.
    Georgieva pledged to come up with a new allocation proposal by August.
    “On the $100 billion, is it enough?    Let’s be very clear, no it is not enough.    We have a financial gap just to catch up with the impact of COVID for the continent of Africa of $285 billion," she said.    “It is genuinely an all-hands-on-deck situation.”
    “We have to make the private sector attracted to go into a risky environment by de-risking investments.”
    The summit was part of Macron’s efforts to recast France’s engagement in Africa, where it was once a colonial power, at a time when the continent faces a near $300 billion deficit by the end of 2023 while trying to recover from the downturn.
    The African Development Bank forecasts that up to 39 million people could fall into poverty this year, with many African countries at risk of debt distress because of the pandemic.
(Reporting by John Irish; Additional reporting by Richard Lough, Leigh Thomas and David Lawder; Editing by William Maclean and Peter Cooney)

5/19/2021 Silos And Saturation Salvoes: Gaza Rockets Bedevil Israel by Dan Williams and Nidal al-Mughrabi
FILE PHOTO: People look at a damaged car at a site where a rocket fired from Gaza landed, as
Israeli-Palestinian cross-border violence continues, in Ashkelon, southern Israel, May 16, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) – Named after slain Islamist commanders and fashioned mostly from makeshift materials in clandestine Gaza workshops, the rockets of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have long bedevilled a technologically superior Israeli military.The current cross-border fighting has seen a new tactic by the Gazan militant groups: mass-launches aimed at exploiting the statistical failure rate of Israel’s air defences and increasing the chance of causing casualties in its cities.
    The rocket fire has set off a near-incessant wail of sirens in Israeli communities near the Gaza border and prompted tens of thousands of residents to seek shelter.    Twelve people have been killed in Israel since the hostilities erupted on May 10.
    Israel has been heavily shelling densely populated Gaza, where officials say 219 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians. Israel says at least 160 guerrillas have been killed, among them rocket operators and manufacturers.
    According to Israeli officials, a Gaza arsenal of around 29,000 rockets or mortars before the violence began has now been halved.    Hamas and Islamic Jihad have not confirmed that.
    The factions’ promotional videos have shown rockets being pre-loaded into small silos for remote-launches – a means of keeping their operators protected from Israeli counter-strikes.
    Counter-strikes may also be delayed or called off against manned crews operating within residential areas, Israel says.
    The firing of as many as 140 rockets within a few minutes at Tel Aviv and elsewhere has “challenged our exceptional systems,” Ofir Akunis, an Israeli cabinet minister and ex-spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Army Radio on Wednesday.
    He was referring to the Iron Dome rocket interceptor, which, according to Israeli figures corroborated by U.S. military observers, has a 90% chance of shooting down rockets that radars show to be on trajectories that threaten populated areas.
    In quieter times, Iron Dome is programmed to fire two Tamir interceptor missiles at an incoming rocket, increasing the chance of interception to around 99%.    But an Israeli air force general said the Iron Domes were now mostly being limited to one Tamir per interception, meaning 10% of rockets may get through.
FACTORY-GRADE MISSILES
    “You don’t intercept 140 rockets with 280 (Tamirs).    It’s just too much,” the general told reporters at air force headquarters in Tel Aviv on Saturday.    He added that Israel was husbanding the missiles – valued at $50,000 each – but saw no supply problems.
    It has been 20 years since Gaza militants first fired rockets into Israel.    Those projectiles, named after the Syrian preacher Izz al-Din al-Qassam who fought against the British in colonial-era Palestine in the 1930s, were short-range and had warheads weighting a few kilograms.
    Hamas and Islamic Jihad proceeded to boost their arsenals with factory-grade missiles smuggled in through the Egyptian Sinai.    Cairo’s crackdowns have largely choked off that conduit.
    Now, Israeli and Palestinian sources say, the guerrillas use Iranian funding and instructions to produce rockets within Gaza that have ranges of 200 km (125 miles) or more, some with warheads carrying hundreds of kilograms of TNT and shrapnel.
    Iran does not publicly disclose details of its support to Palestinian and Lebanese armed groups opposed to Israel.    But the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said in a televised speech on Wednesday that Iran supports Palestinians’ fight against Israel.    “The Palestinians have emerged as a missile equipped nation,” said Hossein Salami.
    In 2020 Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the power balance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been transformed with Iranian planning and “divine guidance and assistance” after Iran had taken note of Palestinian lack of access to weapons.
    The arsenal often appears rudimentary.    One Hamas video shows rockets being made from disused water pipes.    A rocket that hit Beersheba, 50 km (30 miles) from Gaza, tumbled on a road after failing to explode, CCTV footage showed.
    Citing the same tracking data it used for Iron Dome interceptions, the Israeli military says that between 20% and one-third of the Palestinians’ rockets have fallen short within Gaza in the latest fighting, causing at least 17 civilian fatalities.
(Writing by Dan Williams, Additional reporting by Parisa HAfezi in Dubai, Editing by William Maclean)

5/19/2021 Facebook Running Special Center To Respond To Content On Israeli-Gaza Conflict by Elizabeth Culliford
FILE PHOTO: Streaks of lights are seen from Ashkelon as rockets are launched from the
Gaza Strip towards Israel, May 15, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Facebook Inc set up a 24-7 “special operations center” last week to respond to content posted on its platform about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and address any moderation mistakes amid violence in the region, the company said on Wednesday.
    Misinformation, hate speech and calls for violence about the conflict have circulated on social media platforms amid the deadly fighting.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue fighting against Gaza militants after U.S. President Joe Biden urged him to seek a “de-escalation” on Wednesday in the 10-day conflict on the path to a ceasefire.
    “This operations center allows us to closely monitor the situation so we can remove content that violates our community standards faster, while also addressing possible errors in enforcement,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of content policy, told reporters on a conference call.
    Facebook has previously set up similar operations centers to focus on situations like global elections.
    Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told Reuters that Facebook’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, and other executives had on Tuesday talked to Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.    Facebook executives previously met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz via Zoom, Politico reported last week.
    A Reuters fact-checking team has debunked images shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that falsely claim https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-gaza-child/fact-check-photo-shows-a-palestinian-child-mopping-up-cow-blood-in-his-parents-slaughterhouse-it-is-unrelated-to-the-current-violence-in-gaza-and-israel-idUSL2N2N627T to be related to the conflict.
    The New York Times reported on Wednesday that there has also been a surge of new groups formed on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned encrypted messaging service, by Jewish extremists for the purpose of committing violence against Palestinians.
    “As a private messaging service, we do not have access to the contents of people’s personal chats though when information is reported to us, we take action to ban accounts we believe may be involved in causing imminent harm,” a WhatsApp spokesman said.    “We also quickly respond to valid legal requests from law enforcement for the limited information available to us.”
    Social media platforms have also come under fire over allegations of censorship amid the conflict.    Last week, BuzzFeed News reported that Facebook-owned Instagram had mistakenly removed content about the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
    The Thomson Reuters Foundation also reported that Instagram and Twitter Inc had blamed glitches https://reut.rs/3ouaf0t for the deletion of posts mentioning the possible eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.
    On Facebook’s call with reporters on Wednesday, Bickert said the Facebook operations center was staffed by experts across the company, including native Arabic and Hebrew speakers.    Facebook, which is based in California, has been criticized in the past for lacking local language expertise and resources amid violent situations in other countries.
    Bickert also said Facebook had activated a feature for its third-party fact-checking partners – of which Reuters is one – to use keyword detection for grouping related content around the conflict.    She said it had been used in the past, for content about COVID-19, elections and U.S. and Australian wildfires.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by Kenneth Li and Matthew Lewis)

5/20/2021 Prime Minister Netanyahu: Israel Determined To Continue Operations Against Hamas by OAN Newsroom
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a briefing to ambassadors to Israel at the Hakirya
military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, Pool)
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled he has no plans of easing up on his response to Hamas attacks.    While speaking Wednesday, he said he appreciates America’s support, but is determined to continue Israel’s operation against the terrorist organization.
    This comes after Netanyahu spoke with Joe Biden Wednesday morning in an attempt to de-escalate the ongoing conflict.    However, the White House hasn’t indicated what a “significant de-escalation” would entail.
    “I am holding assessments of the situation and we are making decisions, we will continue the military operation as needed in order to restore calm to the Israeli citizens,” stated the Prime Minister.    “One other thing: I’m sure that all of our enemies around us see the price we are exacting for the aggression against us and I am certain that they will have absorbed that lesson.”
    Netanyahu said, for now, Israel is pursuing “forceful deterrence” against Hamas, but didn’t rule out further escalation if Hamas continues their offensive.

5/20/2021 Renewed Violence Over Gaza Despite Ceasefire Moves Gaining Speed by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller
A police vehicle is deployed as Palestinian demonstrators attend an anti-Israel protest,
in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank May 20, 2021. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma
    GAZA (Reuters) – Diplomatic moves towards a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gathered pace on Thursday after U.S. President Joe Biden called for a de-escalation, but Israel threatened to step up strikes on Gaza as Hamas rocket fire resumed after a pause.br>     After a senior Hamas official predicted a truce within days, an Egyptian security source – whose country has been mediating between the sides – said they had agreed in principle to a mutual halt in hostilities but details needed to be worked out.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled a 7 pm (1600 GMT) meeting of his security cabinet to discuss options.
    Rocket attacks on Israel stopped for eight hours on Thursday – the 11th day of hostilities – before resuming against communities near the Gaza border and the city of Beersheba.
    Israel continued air strikes in Hamas-run Gaza, saying it wanted to destroy the Islamist militant group’s capabilities and deter it from future confrontation after the current conflict.
    “We’re fully prepared to expand the campaign to whatever degree necessary.    We’re turning the clock back on Hamas and it won’t be able to recover,” Defence Minister Benny Gantz said.
    Since the fighting began on May 10, health officials in Gaza say 232 Palestinians, including 65 children and 39 women, have been killed and more than 1,900 wounded in aerial bombardments.    Israel says it has killed at least 160 combatants in Gaza.
    Authorities put the death toll in Israel at 12, with hundreds of people treated for injuries in rocket attacks that have caused panic and sent people rushing into shelters.
    Biden on Wednesday urged Netanyahu to seek “de-escalation” and a Hamas political official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said he believed a ceasefire would be reached “within a day or two.”
    But asked on Israel’s Kan public radio if a truce would begin on Friday, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said: “No.”
    Qatar-based Al Jazeera television reported that U.N. Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland was meeting Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar.    A diplomatic source said Wennesland was in the Gulf nation as part of intensified U.N. efforts to restore calm in Gaza and Israel.
    Israel carried out over a dozen air strikes on Gaza after midnight, targeting what it said was a weapons storage unit in the home of a Hamas official, and military infrastructure in the homes of other commanders from the group.
    Hamas-run radio said a woman was killed and four children wounded in one attack on Khan Younis in southern Gaza.    Witnesses said several main roads were also damaged in the air strikes.
    In the Gaza City suburb of Sabra, Amira Esleem, 14, and three family members were wounded in one Israeli attack, which she said caused parts of their house to collapse.
    “We were sitting on the sofa when a missile landed. There was heavy smoke and we couldn’t see anything,” she said from her hospital bed.
    Nearly 450 buildings in Gaza have been destroyed or badly damaged, including six hospitals and nine health centres, the United Nations humanitarian agency has said.    More than 52,000 people have fled their homes in Gaza, which is blockaded by Israel and Egypt.
    Israelis living in areas frequently targeted by rocket fire began their workday on Thursday without the usual sound of warning sirens.    But after an eight-hour break, the sirens blared again in southern Israel.
    Israel said some 4,000 rockets have been launched at it from Gaza, some falling short and others shot down by its Iron Dome air defences.
    Civilians on both sides are exhausted by fear and grief, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.    “People in Gaza and Israel urgently need respite from non-stop hostilities,” said Fabrizio Carboni, regional director for the Middle East.
DIPLOMACY
    Washington and several Middle East governments have sought an end to the violence through diplomacy.    The U.N. General Assembly was due to meet on the conflict on Thursday, but it was not expected to take action.
    The U.S. mission said it would not support a French call for a resolution in the 15-member U.N. Security Council, saying it believed such actions would undermine efforts to de-escalate violence.
    Any ceasefire is unlikely to address the fundamental issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    An international peace process aimed at creating a Palestinian state free of Israeli occupation and guaranteeing Israel’s security has been frozen since 2014.
    Hamas, regarded by the West as a terrorist organisation, has not been part of the mainstream Palestine Liberation Organization’s engagement with Israel, which led to interim peace deals in the 1990s and the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the occupied West Bank.
    The U.N. Human Rights Council said it will hold a special session on May 27 to address “the grave human rights situation” in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.
    Hamas began firing rockets on May 10 in retaliation for what it called Israeli rights abuses against Palestinians in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    The rocket attacks followed Israeli police clashes with worshippers at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and efforts by Israeli settlers to evict Palestinians from a neighbourhood in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
    The hostilities are the most serious between Hamas and Israel in years and have helped fuel street violence in Israeli cities between Jews and Arabs.
    The conflict has also stoked violence in the West Bank, where Palestinian officials said at least 21 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops or other incidents since May 10.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv and Andrea Shalal aboard Air Force One; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Aidan Lewis in Cairo; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Philippa Fletcher and Giles Elgood)

5/20/2021 Germany Wants Sustainable Truce Between Israel-Hamas: Merkel
FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany May 8, 2021. John MacDougall/Pool via REUTERS
BERLIN (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday defended Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket fire from the Gaza Strip ruled by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and said Germany was working to secure a sustainable ceasefire.
    “We stand for Israel’s right to self-defence and that’s why it is right that Israel is taking massive action,” Merkel said in an interview with the WDR public broadcaster.    “But on the other hand we want to contribute to diplomatic attempts to secure a long-term and sustainable situation in the region.”
    Merkel said that Germany had a “zero tolerance” policy against anti-Semitism after several attacks on synagogues that coincided with the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.    She added that any ceasefire would have to include indirect talks with Hamas, which rules the coastal strip.
(Reporting by Joseph Nasr and Paul Carrel; Editing by Alison Williams)

5/20/2021 Lebanese Scuffle With Syrians Voting Abroad In Support Of Assad
Pictures of Syrian President Bashar al Assad are seen on a bus in Beirut, Lebanon May 20, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Scuffles erupted on Thursday between Lebanese and Syrians, who were on their way to cast votes at their embassy in Lebanon in favour of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as polling abroad began before next week’s presidential election.
    The voters were driving in a convoy of cars and buses, waving Syrian flags and blasting pro-Assad songs on speakers, heading to the embassy on the outskirts of Beirut, when a group of Lebanese attacked their vehicles, witnesses said.
    The Lebanese smashed windows and burned their flags, snarling up traffic on the thoroughfare, the witnesses said.
    Lebanon’s relations with neighbouring Syria have often be fraught in the past. Syrian forces were deployed to Lebanon in the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, ending their 29-year presence in 2005.    Lebanon now hosts 1 million refugees from Syria’s own civil conflict.
    “They can go and vote and leave but carrying the Syrian flag here, that’s not right,” said one Lebanese protestor who asked not to be named. “This is provocation,” he said.
    Syrians abroad vote on Thursday before the May 26 election inside Syria, a vote Assad is all but certain to win.
    Assad, who took power in 2000 on the death of his father who had ruled for 30 years, has regained control of most of Syria after 10 years of fighting that has devastated the country.
    Syria’s government says the election shows the country is functioning normally despite the war.    The opposition and Western nations view it as a farce to rubber-stamp Assad’s grip on power.
(Reporting by Imad Creidi; Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Edmund Blair)

5/20/2021 Timeline – Hamas And Israel: A History Of Confrontation
A view shows the site of Israeli air strikes, amid Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza, May 20, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    (Reuters) – Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas are waging their most intense conflict in years.
    Here is a timeline of the some of the most important events in many years of confrontation.
1987 – Hamas is created at the start of the first Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.    Two years later, Hamas carries out its first attacks on Israeli military targets, including the kidnap and murder of two Israeli soldiers.
1993 – After years of violence, the first Oslo Accord, aimed at establishing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, is signed.    Hamas opposes the peace process, and seeks to derail it with bus bombings and gun attacks in Israel.
2000 – Israel and the Palestinians fail to reach a final agreement in the peace process at a summit in the United States in July 2000. Two months later,     Palestinian protests over a visit by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem – known to Jews as Temple Mount, because it was the site of ancient Jewish temples, and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary – develop into a Second Intifada.
2001-02 – Hamas carries out a series of suicide bombings in Israel, including killing 21 Israelis outside a Tel Aviv disco in June 2001, and 30 Jewish celebrants at a Passover seder dinner in Netanya in March 2022.    Four months later, Hamas’s military commander Salah Shehadeh is killed in an Israeli air strike, and Israel starts a siege of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
March-April 2004 – Israeli air strikes kill Hamas co-founder and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and co-founder and political leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, in Gaza within a month of each other.    The Hamas leadership goes into hiding and the identity of Rantissi’s successor is kept secret.
Aug. 15, 2005 – Israeli forces start a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, captured from Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war, abandoning settlements and leaving the densely populated enclave under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
Jan. 25, 2006 – Hamas wins a majority of seats in a Palestinian legislative election.    Israel and United States cut off aid to Palestinians because Hamas refuses to renounce violence and recognise Israel.
June 25, 2006 – Hamas militants capture Israeli conscript Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid, prompting Israeli air strikes and incursions.    Shalit is finally freed over five years later in a prisoner exchange.
June 14, 2007 – Hamas takes over Gaza in a brief civil war, ousting Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank.
Dec 27, 2008 – Israel launches a 22-day military offensive in Gaza after Palestinians fire rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot.    About 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis are reported killed before a ceasefire is agreed.
Nov 14, 2012 – Israel kills Hamas’s military chief of staff, Ahmad Jabari, and eight days of Palestinian militant rocket fire and Israeli air strikes follow.
July-August 2014 – The kidnap and killing of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas leads to a seven-week war in which more than 2,100 Palestinians are reported killed in Gaza and 73 Israelis are reported killed, 67 of them military.
March 2018 – Palestinian protests begin at Gaza’s border with Israel against its blockade of the enclave.    Israeli troops open fire to keep them back.    More than 170 Palestinians are reported killed in several months of protests, which also prompt fighting between Hamas and Israeli forces.
May 7, 2021 – After weeks of tension during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Israeli police clash with Palestinian protesters near the Al-Aqsa Mosque over a legal case in which eight Palestinian families face losing their East Jerusalem homes to Jewish settlers.
May 10 – After a weekend of sporadic violence, hundreds of Palestinians are hurt in clashes with Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa compound, Islam’s third holiest site.    After demanding Israel withdraw its security forces from the compound, Hamas fires a barrage of rockets from Gaza into Israel.    Israel hits back with air strikes on Gaza.
May 11 – The death toll mounts as the aerial bombardments continue. A 13-story residential building in Gaza collapses after being hit during an Israeli air strike.    Palestinian militants launch rockets deep into Israel.
May 12 – The United States announces it will send an envoy to the region.    Israel’s military kills a senior Hamas commander in Gaza during more hostilities.
May 13 – Israeli air strikes and militant rocket fire continue, and violence worsens in mixed communities of Jews and Arabs in Israel.    Synagogues are attacked and clashes break out in some towns.
May 14 – Israel uses warplanes, tanks and artillery against a network of Palestinian militant tunnels under Gaza in an operation that is followed by more Palestinian rocket salvoes.
May 15 – An Israeli air strike destroys a 12-storey tower block that housed international news media organisations, while Palestinian militants fire rocket salvoes at Tel Aviv.
May 16 – Several homes are destroyed by an Israeli air strike on the densely-populated enclave that Palestinian officials said killed 42 people, including 10 children, as rocket attacks on Israeli town persist.
May 17 – Israeli missile attacks kill top Islamic Jihad commander Hussam Abu Harbeed and hit a seven-storey office building that the military said was used by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.    Rockets fired by the militants hit a synagogue in the Israeli town of Ashkelon and an apartment block in Ashdod.
May 18 – The United Nations humanitarian agency says nearly 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or badly damaged, including six hospitals and nine primary-care health centres. Around 52,000 have fled their homes, with most sheltering in U.N.-run schools.
May 19 – Israel says around 4,000 rockets have been launched at it from Gaza, most intercepted by missile defences and some 600 falling within the enclave.    U.S. President Joe Biden urges both sides to de-escalate the violence.
May 20 – Both sides resume their attacks but ceasefire talks intensify.    Israeli authorities say 12 people have been killed so far in Israel and that it has killed around 160 militants.    Health officials in Gaza say 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children and 39 women, and more than 1,700 wounded.
(Compiled by Timothy Heritage and Philippa Fletcher, Editing by Mark Heinrich and Angus MacSwan)

5/20/2021 ‘Mama, Baba, Boom!’: Toddlers And Families Learn To Live With Gaza Bombardment by Nidal al-Mughrabi
Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike, amid Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza, May 20, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    GAZA (Reuters) – The Mashharawi family have already fled their home to a relative’s apartment in the Gaza Strip and are prepared for another dash at any time.
    For more than a week, since a conflict erupted with Israel, they have retreated each evening to the windowless corridor, with vital documents and other items packed and ready to grab.
    “Our life is full of fear. There is no safety at all,” said Mohammad al-Mashharawi, a father of triplets aged five and a one-year-old infant.
    Diplomacy towards a ceasefire between Israel’s military and Palestinian militants in Gaza has yet to deliver an end to the unrelenting exchange of fire, running through the day and night.
    Israeli air strikes and artillery fire as well as the militants’ rocket attacks often intensify after the sun sets.
    Over the border in Israel, sirens wail hours or even minutes apart in areas in range of the rocket salvoes, sending people dashing to shelters or “safe rooms.”    Where these are not available, some also use hallways and staircases https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/living-under-fire-israel-when-rocket-shelter-becomes-your-home-2021-05-18.
    In densely populated Gaza, there are fewer place to run.    Many of the 2 million people packed into this narrow strip of land are already refugees, whose families fled towns and cities now in Israel.
    Mashharawi and his family left their own home after a heavy bombardment.
    “I moved from my house to my uncle’s and I keep all my personal belongings ready so if there is a threat to our lives or around us, we can immediately move to another house,” said Mashharawi, 31, speaking in his uncle’s third-floor flat in a seven-storey block in Gaza City.
    They sleep on a mattress in the hall, which has no windows, to avoid the risk of flying glass from any blast.    Small bags next to the door contain their birth certificates and other key documents, jewellery, phones, laptops and some clothes.
NIGHTLY BARRAGE
    Gaza’s Housing Ministry says 16,800 housing units have been damaged, with 1,000 of them destroyed and 1,800 uninhabitable.
    Medics say 230 people have been killed, including 65 children, in Gaza during the conflict that began on May 10.    The U.N. humanitarian agency says six hospitals and nine primary care health centres have been hit.
    Israel puts its death toll at 12, including two children, in barrages that it says are among the most intense the country has ever faced. Residential blocks, synagogues and other buildings have been hit by the rockets.
    The Israeli military says it makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza and that it gives prior warning to evacuate residential blocks if they are targeted for what Israel says is military activity going on inside.
    Hamas, an Islamist group which has ruled Gaza since 2007, says such accusations are a pretext for collective punishment.    It says it is struggling to secure Palestinian rights against Israeli oppression.    Israel, the United States and European Union say the group is a terrorist organisation.
    Warnings can give Palestinians a couple of hours https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/taking-call-gaza-before-israel-takes-out-building-2021-05-14 or so to leave before a strike.    Once emptied, subsequent blasts have turned several multi-storey residential buildings into piles of rubble.
    Rana Mashharawi says her one-year-old daughter had been learning words like “mama” and “baba,” but has now added the word of an explosion – “boom.”
    At night, when blasts seemed the most frightening, she said their new bedroom in the hall felt like the safest place.    “If something happens, God forbid, we take our belongings and leave,” she said.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Additional reporting by Mohammad Shana; Writing by Edmund Blair)

5/21/2021 Israeli Media: Govt. Achieves Armistice With Hamas by OAN Newsroom
An Israeli soldier sits on top of a tank at a staging ground near the border with Gaza Strip, southern Israel,
Friday, May 21, 2021. A ceasefire took effect early Friday after 11 days of heavy fighting between Israel and Gaza’s militant
Hamas rulers that was ignited by protests and clashes in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
    The Israeli government agreed to halt its counter-terror operation in the Gaza Strip following days of rocket strikes from Hamas against Israel.
    According to the White House on Thursday, the Israeli cabinet negotiated a ceasefire with Hamas through Egyptian mediators with the sides “agreed in principle” to pause mutual hostilities after 11 straight days of fighting.
    “Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu informed me that Israel has agreed to mutual, unconditional ceasefire to begin in less than two hours,” announced Ezzat el-Reshiq, a member of the Hamas Political Bureau.    “The Egyptians have now informed us that Hamas and the other groups in Gaza have also agreed.”
    The ceasefire reportedly took effect in Israel at 2:00 a.m. local time.    Under the terms of the agreement, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it will resume the anti-terror operation if Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel.
    In Gaza, however, a Hamas official warned the terrorist organization will keep its hands on the trigger while threatening to strike back and continue resistance efforts.    In the meantime, the U.S. will continue working with Israel and Hamas leaders in an effort to reestablish peace in the Middle East.

5/21/2021 Israel And Hamas Both Claim Victory As Ceasefire Holds by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Jonathan Saul and Rami Ayyub
Palestinians hold flags as they stand at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as
Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel and Hamas both claimed victory on Friday after their forces ended 11 days of fighting, but humanitarian officials warned that the damage to Gaza would take years to rebuild.
    As Palestinians and Israelis began to assess the scale of the damage, one Gazan said his neighbourhood looked as if it had been hit by a tsunami.    “How can the world call itself civilised?” Abu Ali asked, standing next to the rubble of a 14-storey tower block.
    Palestinian officials put the reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars, while economists said the fighting could curb Israel’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Five more bodies were pulled from Gaza’s rubble, taking the death toll to 243, including 66 children, with more than 1,900 wounded.
    The Israeli military said an Israeli soldier had been killed as well as 12 civilians, and hundreds were treated for injuries after rocket salvoes caused panic and sent people as far away as Tel Aviv rushing into shelters.
    World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris said Gaza’s health facilities were in danger of being overwhelmed by the thousands of injuries.
    She called for immediate access into the Gaza Strip for health supplies and personnel.    “The real challenges are the closures,” she told a virtual U.N. briefing.
    Gaza has for years been subjected to an Israeli blockade that restricts the passage of people and goods, as well as restrictions by Egypt.
    Both countries cite concerns about weapons reaching Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza and led the rocket barrage.    Palestinians say the restrictions amount to collective punishment of Gaza’s 2 million population.
    Fabrizio Carboni, regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross, echoed WHO’s call for urgent medical supplies, adding: “It will take years to rebuild – and even more to rebuild the fractured lives.”
    U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday that aid would be sent quickly to Gaza, but coordinated with the Palestinian Authority – Hamas’s Western-backed rival in the occupied West Bank – “in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal.”
DUELLING LEADERS
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a televised address to Israelis, saying the operation had damaged Hamas’s ability to launch missiles at Israel.
    He said Israel had destroyed Hamas’s extensive tunnel network, its rocket factories, weapons laboratories and storage facilities, and killed more than 200 militants, including 25 senior figures.
    “Hamas can’t hide anymore.    That’s a great achievement for Israel,” he said.
    “We eliminated an important part of Hamas’s and Islamic Jihad’s command echelon.    And whoever was not killed knows today that our long arm can reach him anywhere, above ground or underground.”
    Israel said Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups fired around 4,350 rockets from Gaza during the conflict, of which around 640 fell short into the Gaza Strip.    The Israeli military said that 90% of those that crossed the border had been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system.
    Iran, which does not recognise Israel but supports Hamas and says it has transformed the Palestinian fighters’ arsenal, said they had won a “historic victory” over Israel.    The Iranian Revolutionary Guards warned Israel to expect “deadly blows.”
    Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh cast the fighting as successful resistance to a militarily and economically stronger foe.
    “We will rebuild what the occupation (Israel) destroyed and restore our capabilities,” he said, “and we will not abandon our obligations and duties to the families of martyrs, the wounded and those whose homes were destroyed.”
    Haniyeh expressed gratitude to Egyptian, Qatari and U.N. mediators, and to Iran, “which has not given up on providing the resistance with money, weapons and technology.”
    Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Muslim states in a statement to “support the Palestinian people, through military … or financial support … or in rebuilding Gaza’s infrastructure.”
    Ezzat el-Reshiq, a senior member of the Hamas political bureau, told Reuters in Doha the movement’s demands included protection for the Al-Aqsa mosque, and for Palestinians threatened with eviction from their homes in East Jerusalem.
RAMADAN CLASHES
    The Israel-Hamas hostilities were set off on May 10 in part by Israeli police raids on the Al-Aqsa compound and clashes with Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    Thousands gathered there again for this Friday’s prayers, with many demonstrating in support of Gaza.
    Israeli police fired stun grenades towards demonstrators, who threw rocks and petrol bombs at officers, and Palestinian medics said some 20 Palestinians were wounded.
    The confrontations died down within about an hour, with Israeli police pulling back to the compound’s gates.
    Civilians on both sides of the Gaza border were sceptical about the chances for peace.
    “What is truce?    What does it mean?” said Samira Abdallah Naseer, a mother of 11 children sitting near the wreckage of a building near Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip.
    “We returned to our houses, and we found no place to sit, no water, no electricity, no mattresses, nothing,” she said.
    In a cafe in the Israeli port city of Ashdod, north of Gaza, student Dan Kiri, 25, said Israel should continue attacking Hamas until it collapsed.
    “It’s only a matter of time until the next operation in Gaza,” he said.
    The truce appeared to be part of a two-stage deal, with Cairo sending security delegations to Tel Aviv and the Palestinian territories to agree on measures to maintain stability.
    Egypt, which mediated the deal, discussed measures to avoid a resumption of the rocket attacks from Gaza and Israeli strikes on the enclave.
    A Western diplomat said Biden, who on Thursday made his first call as president to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, appeared to have played a key role.
    The biggest obstacle to securing a deal was concern from Israel and Hamas about the public reactions from their own side, and their opponents, if they accepted a ceasefire, two Egyptian security sources said.
    “In our negotiations with the two parties, we depended on the need for each of them to see the scale of the damage done to civilians, and we charged each party with its criminal and international liabilities towards civilians,” one of the sources said.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Jonathan Saul and Rami Ayyub; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York, Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem, Emma Farge in Geneva and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan in Cairo; Writing by Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Giles Elgood and Kevin Liffey)

5/21/2021 Palestinians, Israeli Police Clash At Jerusalem’s Aqsa Hours After Gaza Truce
Palestinians react as Israeli security forces throw stun grenade during clashes at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque,
known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli police fired stun grenades towards Palestinians who threw rocks and petrol bombs at officers outside Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, hours after Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire in Gaza.
    Police raids of the compound and clashes with Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan helped touch off violence between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, who after 11 days of fighting agreed to a truce early Friday.
    At noon, thousands of Palestinians gathered in the tree-lined compound surrounding the mosque for Friday prayers.    Many stayed on to demonstrate in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, cheering and waving Palestinian flags.
    An Israeli police spokesman said that some of the Palestinians gathered threw stones and petrol bombs towards officers who had been stationed along the compound’s gates.    The officers responded by dispersing them, the spokesman said.
    A Reuters photographer said police fired stun grenades towards the Palestinians.    It was not immediately clear what set off the clashes.
    The confrontations died down within about an hour, with Israeli police retreating to their positions at the compound’s gates.    Medics said 20 Palestinians were wounded, with two transferred to hospital for treatment.
    The compound, which sits atop the Old City plateau known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, or The Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as Temple Mount, is the most sensitive site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern section, including the walled Old City, as a capital of a future state. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is unrecognised internationally.
(Reporting by Jonathan Saul, Rami Ayyub and Ali Sawafta; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Giles Elgood)

5/21/2021 Iran Hails Palestinian ‘Victory’, Warns Of ‘Deadly Blows’ Against Israel
People gather during a demonstration to express solidarity with Palestinian people amid a flare-up of
Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Tehran, Iran May 19, 2021. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on Friday that Palestinians had won a “historic victory” over Israel, which the Revolutionary Guards warned to expect “deadly blows” after the 11-day Gaza conflict showed the power of the Palestinian arsenal.
    Iran, which does not recognise Israel, supports and arms the Islamist militants of Hamas, who rule the Gaza Strip while President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority controls Palestinian-populated areas of the occupied West Bank.
    Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group fired hundreds of rockets into Israel before Friday’s truce, killing a dozen civilians, although Israel said its “Iron Dome” defence system had shot the majority of them down.
    “Congratulations to our Palestinian sisters & brothers for the historic victory.    Your resistance forced the aggressor to retreat,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted.
    The Iranian Revolutionary Guards said in a statement: “The intifada (Palestinian uprising) has gone from using stones to powerful, precise missiles … and in the future the Zionists (Israel) can expect to endure deadly blows from within the occupied territories.”
    Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said a year ago that Tehran had transformed the military balance of power between Israel and the Palestinians.
    Iran on Friday displayed an Iranian-made combat drone that it said had a range of 2,000 km (1,250 miles), naming it “Gaza” in honour of the Palestinians’ struggle against Israel, state media reported.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

5/21/2021 Turkish Court Opens Latest Trial Of Kavala Over 2013 Gezi Protests by Ali Kucukgocmen
Lawyers and opposition lawmakers gather in front of the Justice Palace, the Caglayan Courthouse, as a Turkish court
began the re-trial of philanthropist Osman Kavala and 15 others over their role in nationwide protests in 2013,br> in Istanbul, Turkey, May 21, 2021. The banner reads: "Gezi cannot be judged!" REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) -A Turkish court began the re-trial of philanthropist Osman Kavala and 15 others on Friday over their role in 2013 nationwide protests, an expanding case that critics and even Ankara’s Western allies say aims to quash dissent.
    Kavala and eight others accused of organising the Gezi Park protests, which began in Istanbul, were acquitted of all charges in February 2020 but an appeals court overturned that ruling in January.
    Kavala, a high-profile prisoner who has been detained for three-and-a-half years, is also accused of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt.    Those charges were combined with the Gezi case in February.
    The judge on Friday requested the dossiers of another Gezi-related case against 35 members of a group supporting soccer champions Besiktas.    The court is deciding whether to merge the two cases after the fans’ acquittal from 2015 was overturned on appeal last month.
    Kavala told the court by video link that the bid to merge the two cases reflected a political strategy that seeks to ignore evidence.
    “Because merging different cases prevents focusing on actions, it is a useful method in political cases to create a perception,” he said.
    The court rejected a request for Kavala to be released from custody and set the next hearing for August 6.
    The European Court of Human Rights called in 2019 for Kavala’s release on grounds the detention aimed to silence him.    But Turkey has not abided the ruling despite repeated calls by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
    The United States also called for his release in February.
    Critics say Turkey’s judiciary has been exploited to punish President Tayyip Erdogan’s perceived opponents, especially under a crackdown after the 2016 coup attempt.    The president and his AK Party say the courts make independent decisions.
    “Each phase of this case is riddled with injustices, inconsistencies and illogical and unlawful procedures,” said a campaign group called Free Osman Kavala.
    The case of seven others who were abroad during the initial trial was joined again this month for the re-trial.
    Some of the defendants had also been acquitted in 2015 of charges related to the Gezi protests, meaning they are being tried over the same events for a third time.
‘SURREALIST FICTION’
    The Gezi demonstrations in the summer of 2013 started as a protest against the redevelopment of a park in Istanbul, a city with limited green space, and quickly spread across the country.
    Erdogan, then Turkey’s prime minister, dismissed the idea they were environmentally motivated and said they aimed to topple his government.    The defendants deny the charges against them.
    The indictment calls for life sentences without parole for the defendants, who are accused of attempting to overthrow the government and financing the protests among other charges.
    In response to questions from Reuters in March, Kavala said: “The claim that I planned, directed and financed the Gezi protests was an extremely fantastical one.”
    The allegations that he was involved in the 2016 coup attempt “much more absurd,” Kavala added.    “These are properly surrealist fiction.    They are impossible to falsify because they are not based on any evidence, concrete fact or reality.”
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Toby Chopra)

5/21/2021 Four Ethiopian Soldiers Convicted Of Crimes Against Civilians In Tigray by Ayenat Mersie
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopians fleeing from the Tigray region walk towards a river to cross from Ethiopia to Sudan,
near the Hamdeyat refugee transit camp, on the border in Sudan, December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Three Ethiopian soldiers have been convicted of rape and one of killing a civilian in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the government said on Friday, the first public statement that soldiers had been found guilty of crimes against civilians in the conflict.
    Twenty-eight more soldiers are on trial for killing civilians and 25 for acts of sexual violence and rape, the statement from the attorney general’s office said.
    Awol Sultan, the spokesman for the attorney general’s office, could not immediately be reached for comment for further details or whether the records would be made public.    Neither could military spokesman General Mohammed Tessema.
    Ethiopia’s government has come under increasing pressure to demonstrate accountability as reports of atrocities in Tigray mount.    The European Union has suspended budget support payments amid reports of brutal gang rapes, mass killings of civilians and widespread looting in the northern region.
    Conflict erupted more than six months ago between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that previously ruled Tigray.    Days after fighting began, forces from the neighbouring Amhara region to the south and Eritrea to the north sent in troops to support Ethiopian soldiers.
    The U.N. has said that war crimes may have been committed by all parties to the conflict.
    Ethiopia’s military and federal prosecutors are also investigating other instances of alleged crimes, including in the city of Axum, the statement said.    In February, Amnesty International said Eritrean troops killed hundreds of Tigrayan civilians there from Nov. 28-29 and described the incident as a potential crime against humanity.
    “The investigation indicates that a total of 110 civilians have been killed on these dates by Eritrean troops” in Axum, the government statement said, including 40 who were killed in home raids.
    The statement differed sharply from a statement earlier this month on the Axum killings.    On May 10, the attorney general’s office said preliminary evidence indicated 93 people were killed and that the “great majority” were TPLF combatants out of uniform.
    Friday’s statement, however, noted only that “some of these individuals might have been irregular combatants.”
    Suspects in the ongoing Axum investigation will soon be identified, the statement said, without providing detail on the level of cooperation from the Eritrean military, whose troops stand accused of the killings.
    Both Ethiopia and Eritrea denied Eritrea’s presence in Tigray for months despite dozens of eyewitness accounts.
    Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Saleh declined to comment on the report’s findings or on whether Eritrea had plans to start its own investigation into possible wrongdoing by its soldiers.
    Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Eritrean troops were committing human rights abuses in Tigray and urged Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to push for their withdrawal.
(Reporting by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Katharine Houreld, William Maclean)

5/21/2021 Algerian Police Swamp Capital, Quashing Protest
FILE PHOTO: Police officers block demonstrators during a protest marking two years since the start of a mass
protest movement demanding political change, in Algiers, Algeria February 22, 2021. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
    ALGIERS (Reuters) -A heavy police presence smothered central Algiers on Friday, effectively blocking a resumption of a weekly protest movement that the authorities have decided they can no longer tolerate.
    A Reuters journalist saw about 20 security forces vehicles in the city centre, six police sitting inside one as it stood by a cafe where people drank coffee at tables outside.    Nearby, police stood next to barriers closing off the side streets.
    One regular protester who gave only his first name Amarouche for fear of reprisals after a wave of arrests, had initially said he planned to demonstrate as usual.    But later on Friday he said he had not been able to.
    “It was simply impossible.    Too many police out there,” he said.
    Reuters on Friday afternoon viewed several parts of the capital where protests normally took place, but all were quiet – and with a large police presence.
    After bringing hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets in 2019 to oust a veteran president, the “Hirak” protest movement continued with weekly marches seeking to stop the army interfering in politics.
    The Interior Ministry said this month that any new protests would require an official permit that named the organisers and included start and finishing times.
    It appeared aimed at the leaderless, unorganised Hirak, which had stopped protesting in March 2020 when the global pandemic struck, but returned to the streets in February with thousands demonstrating each Friday since then.
    Two protesters who had returned to the streets in February, Ahmed Abdiche and Mohamed Badji, had decided before Friday that they would not try to march, expecting a crackdown, though both said it would not end their quest for change.
ECONOMY IN DEEP TROUBLE
    “Hirak will continue, whether through marches or other methods. But we will stick to peaceful ways,” said Abdiche.
    “Using force to stop our marches will change nothing because we are determined to achieve our goals and will not step back,” said Badji.
    Hirak’s 2019 protests represented a political earthquake in Algeria, posing the hardest test in decades to be faced by a ruling elite that had been in place since independence from France in 1962.
    President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced from office after two decades and numerous senior officials were jailed on corruption charges.
    However, protesters said the changes were largely cosmetic and sought a more thorough purge of the ruling elite and the army’s withdrawal from politics.
    The movement boycotted the election of Bouteflika’s successor, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, in December 2019 and a referendum he held on changes to the constitution in November 2020 that was passed with a dismal turnout of 25%.
    However, with the economy in deep trouble thanks to declining energy revenue and the global pandemic, and after some of Hirak’s immediate goals were met, many of its initial supporters have since decided to stop protesting.
    “The time has come to opt for dialogue and end this crisis.    Marching and shouting slogans won’t solve our problems,” said one, Ali Bachiri.
(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed, writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean)

5/21/2021 ‘Like A Tsunami’: Gazans Emerge To See The Damage After Fighting Ends by Nidal al-Mughrabi
A Palestinian woman puts her hand on her head after returning to her destroyed house following Israel-Hamas truce,
in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GAZA (Reuters) – After huddling at home during Israel’s 11-day bombardment of Gaza, the shock of seeing houses and other buildings destroyed after yet another conflict tempered Palestinian joy that this round of fighting was over.
    “It’s like a tsunami,” said Abu Ali, standing next to a heap of rubble that had been a 14-storey tower in Gaza City.
    “How can the world call itself civilised?    This is a war crime.    We are ruled by laws of the jungle,” he said on Friday, hours after a truce was declared.
    Commercial buildings, residential towers and private houses across the Palestinian enclave that is home to 2 million people were damaged or destroyed by the time Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas announced Friday’s ceasefire.
    Israel says air strikes hit legitimate military targets and says it did everything it could to avoid civilian casualties, including giving prior warnings when it was about to strike residential buildings that it said also had a military use.
    Gaza’s housing ministry said on Thursday, shortly before hostilities stopped, that 16,800 housing units were damaged, with 1,800 of those unfit for living and 1,000 destroyed.
    Palestinian medics said 243 people were killed in Gaza in air strikes that pounded the enclave day and night since May 10.
    Israel said 13 people were killed by barrages of rockets that slammed into homes, synagogues and other buildings.
    “We returned to our homes to find destruction,” said Samira Abdallah Naseer, whose two-storey house was hit by a blast.    “No place to sit, no water, no electricity, no mattresses, nothing.”
    Gaza now faces the task of rebuilding, after the fourth conflict with Israel since Hamas took control of the enclave in 2007, setting up a rival power centre to the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
‘WHO IS GOING TO PAY?’
    “Now we are back to the dilemma of Gaza reconstruction.    Who will carry it out, Hamas or the Palestinian Authority? And who is going to pay?,” said Emad Jawdat, a 53-year-old businessman.
    “Some people have still not been compensated for their losses in 2014,” he said, referring to last war with Israel that lasted 50 days.
    Gaza’s challenge is compounded by an Israeli-led blockade, also supported by Egypt which shares a short border with the enclave.    Israel says it imposes a blockade to prevent weapons reaching militants. Palestinians call it collective punishment.
    Palestinians have already received some pledges of financial help for reconstruction.    Egypt, which mediated the truce, said it would allocate $500 million for rebuilding.
    U.S. President Joe Biden said his government — which like the European Union and Israel calls Hamas a terrorist group – would work with the United Nations and others to marshall aid.
    Hamas says it is struggling for Palestinian rights against Israeli oppression.
    Gaza officials said this war caused damage worth $40 million to industry, $22 million to the power sector and $27 million to agricultural facilities.
    In the northern Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians who lived close to the border and who had fled to U.N. schools further south for shelter made their way home – piling belongings into cars and onto donkey carts and tractors.
    Trudging home along streets littered with potholes and past heaps of broken masonry from damaged buildings, some voiced relief they had survived – and even a sense of victory after a conflict with one of the Middle East’s most powerful armies in which militant rockets hit Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities.
Salwa Al-Batrwai and her family were returning home “as victors”, the 60-year-old said.
    “I will kiss the ground, because I made it out (alive), with my children.    I can’t describe the feeling,” she said.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Edmund Blair)

5/24/2021 Two-state solution getting lost in rubble - Latest violence makes deal more unlikely by Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – With the Israel-Hamas cease-fire now in place, Palestinians and Israelis are grappling with the grim toll – in lives lost, homes and hospitals destroyed, societal and individual psyches shattered.
    But experts say one major casualty has emerged from the rubble: the two-state solution – the creation of an independent Palestinian nation alongside Israel – which has been the North Star of a settlement to the decades-old conflict.
    It already was a damaged, neglected proposal.    The latest violence, which has wreaked far more devastation in Gaza than in Israel, has only highlighted its irrelevance, many former negotiators and Middle East observers believe.
    “It is the best option out there, but it may no longer be possible,” said Joost Hiltermann, an expert on the Middle East with the International Crisis Group, a conflict prevention organization.
    The best-case scenario now, some say, is a stalemate and return to the status quo.    The worst-case scenario: a onestate solution in which Israelis continue to expand their settlements and control all the levels of power while the Palestinians are increasingly marginalized, politically and economically.
    Some Palestinians believe one state could be a good outcome – if they are given full citizenship, including voting rights, and all the other benefits enjoyed by Israelis.    But few believe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other Israeli leaders would countenance that scenario.
    “That is unlikely in extreme,” Hiltermann said.    “The other possibility is that it becomes ... an apartheid situation, which some people say exists already today, but would then be formalized.”
    Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister, addressed the question last week at a forum hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.    “We are already in a onestate reality,” he said.    “The question is becoming increasingly: Is this reality going to turn into an apartheid state or a democratic state?
    He and others involved in previous peace talks say today’s dynamics do not bode well: emboldened extremists on both sides; dysfunctional and bankrupt leadership in     Israel and the Palestinian territories; and the absence of sustained U.S. engagement pushing the two sides toward peace.
    “There’s a need to reenergize something, because otherwise we are deteriorating in a slippery slope, without noticing, to one state,” Tzipi Livini, a onetime vice prime minister of Israel who led peace negotiations in 2008 and 2013, said at the Carnegie forum.    “And this is something we cannot afford.”
    For Israeli and Palestinian civilians whose lives were upended by the 11-day conflict, the most urgent questions are not one state vs. two.
    “We are traumatized, and it seems as if all our hopes, ambitions and dreams are over,” said Hesham Al-Tabbaa, 40, a Palestinian who lived with his family in Al-Jala Tower, which the Israelis destroyed last weekend amid assertions it was being used by Hamas, the militant Islamic group that controls Gaza.
    Osama Abu Safar, 38, of Gaza City said he would welcome a one-state solution if it meant Palestinians could have more stability and freedom of movement.    “We could build a port and an airport,” he said.
    Arielle Barokas, 25, of Tel Aviv said she has been living in fear for days as Hamas fired thousands of rockets toward Israel and she and her neighbors hunker in their homes or in nearby bomb shelters.
    “Every noise triggers me,” she said last week, before the cease-fire took hold.    “I’m so afraid of leaving my apartment that I’m not going to work.”
    With civilians still being dug out of the rubble, “I don’t think anyone is in the mood to talk about trying to understand the other side,” Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told USA TODAY in an Editorial Board forum.
    The conflict has allowed Hamas to capitalize on political disarray and disappointment in the West Bank after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas canceled legislative elections.    Abbas initially cut a deal with Hamas to give the group political representation in the West Bank but then feared his party would lose the vote entirely.
    Palestinians have been craving “a refreshment and renewal of their leadership,” Hiltermann said, and Abbas dealt a blow to those hopes.
    “There is no (peace) strategy on the Palestinian side ... because there’s no unified leadership,” Hiltermann said.
    The leadership vacuum “extends to the United States as the chief sponsor of the peace process,” Elgindy said.
    He and other experts say that under President Donald Trump, the United States openly encouraged Netanyahu’s expansionist policies and exacerbated the marginalization of Palestinians.    President Joe Biden has not brought much improvement, critics contend.
    Elgindy said Biden gave Israel a green light to respond to Hamas’ attacks even as its missile strikes caused scores of civilian casualties.    At the same time, the U.S. stymied a United Nations resolution calling for an end to the violence.
    “That’s literally the opposite of what a mediator and peacemaker does,” he said.
    The Biden administration insists it is deeply committed to seeking a broader peace.
    “We continue to believe strongly that the best path forward for Israel, for the Palestinians, is through two states,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week.    “That is the best way to guarantee Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state and the best way, of course, to guarantee that the Palestinians have the state that they’re entitled to.”
Contributing: Akram Elloh and Jotam Confino for USA TODAY; The Associated Press
Palestinians inspect their destroyed houses following overnight Israeli airstrikes
in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip on May 14. KHALIL HAMRA/AP

5/24/2024 Scion Of A Dynasty, Assad Rules Over Shattered Syria
FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad attend a rally in
Damascus January 20, 2012. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – President Bashar al-Assad, once seen as a reformer but viewed by his many foes as a tyrant after a decade of war and repression, looks set to extend his family’s dynastic rule of Syria further with an election on Wednesday.
    Branded “an animal” by the United States for gassing his people and a “great fighter” by Iran for resisting Washington and Israel, Assad, 55, is running for a fourth term.
    He faces no serious rival, and the Syrian opposition and Western nations view the election as a farce to rubber-stamp his grip on power.
    Assad’s years as president are defined by the conflict that began in 2011 with peaceful protests before spiralling into a multi-sided conflict that has fractured the Middle East country and drawn in foreign friends and enemies alike.
    He has stitched much of his state back together with the help of Russia and Iran, aided by the fact that his allies were always more committed to his survival than his enemies were to his defeat.
    That was evident in two “red lines” – one declared by an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that Assad must remain in power, and the other by former U.S. President Barack Obama over chemical weapons use.    Only Iran followed through.
    But Syria is an economic ruin.    His foes crow that he is “ruling over rubble” despite his success in war.
    In an official video in March, Assad said the fight for the economy and its tumbling currency is, “no less important than the military battle
    From the earliest years of the conflict, Assad set about crushing his enemies with single-minded determination that echoed the way his father, Hafez al-Assad, crushed insurgents in the early 1980s.
    Justifying his response to early protests, he compared himself to a surgeon conducting an operation.    “Do we say to him: ‘your hands are covered in blood?’    Or do we thank him for saving the patient?” he asked the Syrian parliament in 2012.
OOZING CONFIDENCE
    Assad’s supporters hail the surgeon, saying he saved Syria from foreign-paid jihadists bent on slaughtering religious minorities and dispatching militants to attack cities abroad.
    His opponents see him as a dictator who burned Syria rather than let power slip from his hands, smashing his cities with barrel bombs and filling his prisons with opponents.
    Assad often presents himself as a humble man of the people, appearing in films driving a modest family car and in photographs with his wife visiting war veterans in their homes.
    But he always seemed to ooze confidence, even when things looked worst for him, in the months before Russia joined his war effort in 2015, and when he publicly acknowledged that inadequate manpower meant he could not hold all of Syria.
    It is a trait recognisable to veteran Arab diplomats who before the war had said Assad’s “arrogant” manner had grated on older leaders of other Middle Eastern states.
    Activists and Western countries accused Assad of being responsible for chemical attacks like the sarin strike in Ghouta in 2013 that suffocated hundreds as they slept, of bombing hospitals, schools and marketplaces, mass killings and torture.
    He vehemently denied accusations of war crimes and abuse, sometimes saying the evidence had been fabricated, and questioning what he could gain by such evil.
    U.N. inquiries have presented evidence that Syria’s military and security services often hit civilian infrastructure, used illegal weapons and tortured and killed dissidents.
    It was accusations of chemical weapons attacks that brought limited Western air strikes against Assad in 2017 and 2018.    But his foreign enemies mostly avoided direct battle with his forces.
    It contrasts with the decisive military role played by his friends – Russia, Iran and Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah – through alliances made by his father, whose 30-year rule set in motion many of the dynamics that defined the reign of his son.
‘DAMASCUS SPRING’
    His father had groomed another son, Bassel, to succeed him.    But when Bassel died in a 1994 car crash, Bashar was transformed overnight from obscure London eye doctor to heir apparent.
    “He was like any other person: very humble, very nice, very modest because he was not supposed to be president,” said Ayman Abdel Nour, who knew him at university.     “So I didn’t know, and nobody knew, that that guy could become this man.”
    At first, on becoming president after his father’s death in 2000, Assad seemed to adopt liberal reforms, a period painted as “the Damascus spring
    He opened the rigid state-run economy to private companies, released hundreds of political prisoners, allowed free-speaking salons and made overtures to old rivals in the West.
    But it soon turned sour.
    His police were jailing dissidents within a year and economic reforms contributed to what U.S. diplomats described, in a 2008 embassy cable released by WikiLeaks as “parasitic” nepotism and corruption.
    As the elite flaunted their wealth, peasants were driven by drought from villages to city slums where the revolt against Assad would blaze in 2011. His father’s land reforms that had once secured their loyalty were long forgotten.
    The high point of Assad’s dalliance with Western leaders was the 2001 visit of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.    Two years later, when U.S. soldiers toppled Saddam’s statue on a Baghdad roundabout, Assad feared that they plotted a Syrian sequel.
    He opened the border to jihadists, Washington has said, in an effort to bog down the Americans in Iraq and make any new adventure impossible.    But Iraq’s civil war spawned the al Qaeda branch that became Islamic State, adding new fire and blood to the war for Assad’s state.
(Writing by Angus McDowall, Tom Perry and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Edmund Blair and Angus MacSwan)

5/24/2021 Egypt’s Sisi, Biden Discuss Gaza Cease-Fire, Reconstruction
FILE PHOTO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends the opening ceremony of floating bridges and tunnel
projects executed under the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden called Egypt’s President Abdelfattah al-Sisi on Monday and they discussed strengthening the Gaza ceasefire, urgent humanitarian aid to the strip and international efforts to rebuild it, the Egyptian presidency said.
    The two leaders also discussed ways to revive the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians after the latest wave of violence between the two sides, the presidency said in a statement.
    Egypt brokered the ceasefire, now in its fourth day after 11 days of hostilities.    Cairo will be a stop during the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region later on Monday.
    “Biden made clear his country’s determination to work to restore calm and restore conditions as they were in the Palestinian territories, as well as coordinating efforts with all international partners to support the Palestinian Authority as well as reconstruction,” the statement said.
    It was Biden’s second call to Sisi within days to discuss the conflict.    But this time, the discussion was expanded to bilateral relations and some regional issues, including Libya and Iraq.
    Biden and Sisi exchanged views on the giant Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile and Egypt sees as an existential threat, the presidency said.    Sudan is concerned about the dam’s safety and about regulating water flows through its own dams and water stations.
    The statement said “it was agreed to strengthen diplomatic efforts during the coming period in order to reach an agreement that preserves water and developmental rights for all parties.”
    Sisi and Biden also discussed human rights in Egypt and their “commitment to engage in a transparent dialogue… in this regard,” the presidency said.
    Sisi, who ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power in 2013, has overseen an extensive crackdown on political dissent that has steadily tightened in recent years.    He has said there are no political prisoners in Egypt and that stability and security are paramount.
(Reporting by Mohamed Wali and Nadine Awadalla; writing by Nayera Abdallah and Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Leslie Adler and Dan Grebler)

5/24/2021 Military Detain Mali’s President, Prime Minister And Defence Minister by Paul Lorgerie and David Lewis
FILE PHOTO: Mali's transitional President Bah Ndaw arrives at the Grand Palais Ephemere for the Financing of
African Economies Summit, at the Champs de Mars in Paris, France May 18, 2021. Ian Langsdon/Pool via REUTERS
    BAMAKO (Reuters) -Military officers in Mali detained the president, prime minister and defence minister of the interim government on Monday, deepening political chaos just months after a military coup ousted the previous president, multiple sources told Reuters.
    President Bah Ndaw, Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and defence minister Souleymane Doucoure were all taken to a military base in Kati outside the capital Bamako, hours after two members of the military lost their positions in a government reshuffle, the diplomatic and government sources said.
    Their detentions followed the military ouster in August of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.    They may exacerbate instability in the West African country where violent Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State control large areas of the desert north.
    Political instability and military infighting has complicated efforts by Western powers and neighbouring countries to prop up to the impoverished nation, contributing to regional insecurity.
    Ndaw and Ouane had been tasked with overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule after the August takeover, but they appear to have moved against the military’s control over a number of key positions.
    “The sacking of the pillars of the coup was an enormous misjudgement,” a senior former Malian government official told Reuters.    “The actions are probably aimed at getting them back in their jobs.”
    The military’s ultimate goal was not immediately clear. One military official in Kati said this was not an arrest.    “What they have done is not good,” the source said, referring to the cabinet reshuffle.    “We are letting them know, decisions will be made.”
    But Kati’s military base is notorious for ending the rule of Malian leaders.    Last August, the military took President Keita to Kati and forced him to resign. A mutiny there helped topple his predecessor Amadou Toumani Toure in 2012.
    Mali has been in turmoil ever since.    Toure’s departure triggered an ethnic Tuareg rebellion to seize the northern two-thirds of the country, which was hijacked by al Qaeda-linked jihadists.
    French forces beat the insurgents back in 2013 but they have since regrouped and carry out regular attacks on the army and civilians.    They have exported their methods to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger where attacks have skyrocketed since 2017.
    There had appeared to be some cause for optimism.    The transitional government said last month that it would hold legislative and presidential elections in Feb. 2022 to restore a democratic government.
    “It is regrettable, but not surprising: the arrangement agreed to after the coup last year was not perfect, but it was a compromise agreed to by all the major Malian and international stakeholders,” said J. Peter Pham, former U.S. special envoy for the Sahel, now with the Atlantic Council, told Reuters.
(Reporting by David Lewis and Paul LorgerieWriting by Edward McAllisterEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)

5/24/2021 Iraqi Asad Base, Where U.S. Forces Work, Attacked With Rocket – U.S. Coalition
FILE PHOTO: Military vehicles of U.S. soldiers are seen at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq January 13, 2020. REUTERS/John Davison
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s Ain al-Asad air base, which hosts U.S. and other international forces, was attacked with a rocket on Monday, but no one was hurt, a coalition spokesman said.
    U.S. Army Colonel Wayne Marotto, spokesman for the U.S.-led international military coalition, tweeted that initial reports suggested the attack took place at 1:35 p.m. (1035 GMT). He said the damage was being assessed.
    The United States accuses Iranian-backed militia groups of launching regular rocket attacks against its troops in Iraq.    There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s attack.
(Reporting by Amina Ismail; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

5/24/2021 Two Israelis Stabbed, Palestinian Assailant Killed In Jerusalem – Medics
Israeli rescue personnel work at the scene of a stabbing incident in Jerusalem May 24, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -A Palestinian stabbed and wounded two Israelis, one of them a soldier, and was then shot dead on Monday near a flashpoint area of East Jerusalem that has been the focus of Palestinian protests, emergency services said.
    Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service said two men in their 20s had been injured in the attack, one seriously and one lightly.
    Israel’s Zaka emergency service, which also sent a crew to the scene to handle the remains of any potential fatalities, confirmed the suspected assailant had been killed, after police said the attacker had been “neutralised.”
    The incident occurred near the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where the potential evictions of Palestinian families drew mass protests and helped spark 11 days of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants. [nL8N2MZ52V]
    The military said one of the wounded was a soldier.    Video posted on social media showed him, wearing an Israeli air force uniform, with a knife lodged in his back as he knelt on the ground and received treatment from medics.
    Tensions have been high in Sheikh Jarrah and at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, where Israeli police raids in recent weeks helped to trigger a military confrontation between Israel and Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist rulers.
    An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas held into a fourth day on Monday.    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to visit the region this week for talks with Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian leaders.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Giles Elgood and Gareth Jones)

5/24/2021 Suspect Faces Murder, Rape Charges In First Darfur War Crimes Case by Stephanie van den Berg
FILE PHOTO: Internally displaced girls ride donkeys during a sandstorm outside ZamZam IDP's
camp in Al Fasher, northern Darfur April 13, 2010. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
    THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Prosecutors on Monday accused a man of being a “feared and revered” militia leader behind a campaign of deadly raids in Sudan’s Darfur conflict, in the build up to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) first trial linked to the violence.
    The war crimes prosecutors said Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman was also known as Ali Kushayb, a senior commander of thousands of pro-government “Janjaweed” fighters during the height of the conflict between 2003 and 2004.
    Abd-Al-Rahman, wearing a face mask and a dark suit, did not speak as a court officer read out 31 charges against him including persecution, murder, torture and rape.
    He has yet to make a plea, though his defence team has argued in earlier legal filings that Abd-Al-Rahman is not the man known as Ali Kushayb, among other arguments.
    Chief ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the confirmation of charges hearing she would show that Abd-Al-Rahman had led attacks on towns and villages and was implicated in more than 300 murders and raids that forced 40,000 mainly ethnic Fur civilians from their homes.
    “The evidence shows that Mr Abd-Al-Rahman was a knowing, willing and energetic perpetrator of these crimes,” she told the hearing.
    “Feared and revered in equal measure as the ‘colonel of colonels’, he was a senior leader of the infamous Janjaweed militia in the Wadi Salih and Mukjar localities during the charged period,” she added.
    Darfur’s conflict erupted in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Sudan’s government, accusing it of neglecting the arid, western region.
    Khartoum mobilised mostly Arab militias to crush the revolt, unleashing a wave of violence that Washington and some activists said amounted to genocide.
    Abd-Al-Rahman, who surrendered in June last year to face an outstanding arrest warrant, is the first suspect to be tried at the international tribunal over the conflict.
    Sudan’s former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is facing ICC charges of orchestrating genocide and other atrocities in Darfur, was deposed in 2019 and remains in prison in Khartoum.
    Sudan is not a state party to the court but the situation in Darfur was referred to the Hague-based court by the United Nations Security Council in 2005.
    Defence lawyer Cyril Laucci said he intends to contest the ICC’s jurisdiction over crimes committed in Darfur because of issues with the UN referral.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

5/24/2021 U.S. Says Primary Focus On Lasting Gaza Ceasefire, Aid; Too Early For Peace Talks by Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed
Palestinians sit near the ruins of a building destroyed in an Israeli air strike in the recent cross-border
violence between Palestinian militants and Israel, in Gaza May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will focus primarily on ensuring that a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas holds during his visit to the region later on Monday, and work to get assistance delivered to the people of Gaza, a senior State Department official said.
    Washington has “every hope and expectation” that the ceasefire, brokered by Egypt and now in its fourth day after 11 days of hostilities, will hold, the U.S. official suggested in a call with reporters but said it was too early for wider peace talks.
    Blinken will travel to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Cairo and Amman through Thursday and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah and other top officials.
    U.S. President Joe Biden, in announcing the visit, said he had asked the top U.S. diplomat to make the trip following diplomatic efforts that sought to pause the worst outbreak in fighting between Israel and Hamas in years.
    “Our primary focus is on maintaining the ceasefire, getting the assistance to the people who needed,” the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, but repeatedly indicated that Washington believed it was premature to make an effort to kick start any longer-term peace talks.
    “The United States remains committed to the two-state solution…We are not wavering from that in any way.    It’s probably premature at this time to invite the parties to Washington or anywhere else,” the official said.
    Analysts say there is little chance of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and a key reason is the deep divisions within both societies.    On the Palestinian side these are between Hamas, which holds sway in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank and within Israel, which has held four elections in the past two years without producing a clear winner.
    The divisions on the Palestinian side even complicate efforts to get aid delivered to the people of Gaza, the enclave blockaded by Israel since 2007 and ruled by militant group Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the United States.    The U.S. official acknowledged the difficulty.
    “It presents significant challenges….We hope, eventually – to a reintegration to some extent of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza,” he said.    Palestinian officials put reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars in Gaza, where medical officials said 248 people were killed during the fighting.
    Beyond saying that he expected the United Nations to take the lead role on channeling assistance to Gaza, the senior U.S. official did not address in detail who would monitor the use of the aid on the ground to prevent civilian items such as pipes from being turned into rockets by Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell)

5/24/2021 Ethiopia Accuses United States Of Meddling Over Tigray by Giulia Paravicini
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopians fleeing from the Tigray region walk towards a river to cross from Ethiopia to Sudan, near the Hamdeyat refugee transit camp,
which houses refugees fleeing the fighting in the Tigray region, on the border in Sudan, December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia accused the United States on Monday of meddling in its affairs after Washington announced restrictions on economic and security assistance over alleged human rights abuses during the conflict in the northern Tigray region.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday the restrictions were meant to push the parties involved to settle the conflict that erupted in November. [nL2N2NA0M6]
    Thousands have died in the fighting that has pitted Tigray’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), against the Ethiopian federal government and allied forces from neighbouring Eritrea.
    Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said that if the U.S. restrictions continued, Addis Ababa “will be forced to reassess its relations with the United States, which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.”
    Ethiopia provides peacekeepers for African Union missions in the neighbouring nations of Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia.    It has also been a key intelligence partner of Western nations monitoring Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa.
    “The attempt by the U.S. administration to meddle in its [Ethiopia’s] internal affairs, is not only inappropriate but also completely unacceptable,” the statement from the foreign affairs ministry added.
    “What is even more saddening is the tendency by the U.S. administration to treat the Ethiopian government on an equal footing with the TPLF, which was designated as a terrorist organisation … two weeks ago.”
    Residents say Ethiopian troops and their allies have killed civilians and committed gang rapes. Ethiopia has denied widespread atrocities and said on Friday it had convicted four soldiers for killing civilians or rape and put 53 others on trial for the same crimes, although the court records were not yet public.
    The Ethiopian government has come under increasing pressure from the international community to demonstrate accountability as reports of atrocities in Tigray mount.
    The European Union has suspended budget support payments amid reports of gang rapes, mass killings of civilians and widespread looting in the northern region.
    Ethiopia has said the conflict in Tigray is an internal matter and that the restrictions are unhelpful coming ahead of national elections scheduled for June 21.
(Editing by George Obulutsa and Andrew Heavens)

5/24/2021 Erdogan To ‘Test Waters’ In Call With Top U.S. Execs This Week -Sources by Ebru Tuncay, Ceyda Caglayan and Jonathan Spicer
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives a statement after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Turkey, May 17, 2021.
Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan will meet executives from some 20 large U.S. companies on Wednesday to discuss investing in Turkey, three sources told Reuters, with one saying it was meant as a prelude to a June meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden.
    The sources, with knowledge of the May 26 conference call, said it was organised by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Turkish presidency’s investment office, the Turkish Embassy and the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB).
    An industry source said the call was being organised in anticipation of a planned meeting on June 14 between Biden and Erdogan on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, their first in-person encounter since the U.S. election last November.
    Another source familiar with the call said the U.S. government was not involved in planning the call.
    It was unclear which companies would attend.
    “It is a way to test the waters with U.S. companies, (a) kind of preliminary work prior to a face-to-face meeting with Biden,” the first source, who was from industry and like others requested anonymity, told Reuters.
    Ankara “wants the domestic and international audience to get the message that basically says Turkey is an important partner,” the person added.
    A fourth informed source said executives from Microsoft and Netflix would attend the call. Representatives of both companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    A U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman said via email: “This meeting is private and off the record, so we are not able to provide any details.”
    The Turkish presidency’s Investment Agency and TOBB declined comment.    The presidency, the Turkish Embassy in Washington and the U.S. Chamber did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Biden has kept his distance from Erdogan since taking office and, in a pivot from predecessor Donald Trump, his administration has criticised Ankara’s human rights record.
    The leaders have held only one call, on April 23, when the NATO meeting was scheduled and when Biden told Erdogan that the White House would call the Ottoman massacre of Armenians a century ago a genocide, a move that drew Turkish condemnation.
    A third source said top executives from the companies, including some chief executives, would be on the call during which Erdogan was expected to give a speech and take questions about investment and business in Turkey.
    The call was set for around 1500 GMT on Wednesday, the person said.
    U.S.-Turkish trade reached about $21 billion in 2019 and the NATO allies have said they aim to lift that to $100 billion.
    Yet there are hurdles including U.S. tariffs on Turkish steel and Ankara’s purchase of Russian missile defences in 2019, which prompted the Trump administration to oust Turkey from a consortium producing F-35 jets.
(Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

5/25/2021 Blinken Pledges U.S. Support To Rebuild Gaza, Prevent Return To War by Jeffrey Heller
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken shake hands as they
hold a joint news conference in Jerusalem, May 25, 2021. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged on a Middle East mission on Tuesday that Washington would rally support to rebuild Gaza as part of efforts to bolster a ceasefire between its Hamas Islamist rulers and Israel.
    But Blinken made clear that the United States intended to ensure that Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist organisation, did not benefit from the humanitarian aid – a potentially difficult task in an enclave over which it has a strong grip.
    Blinken began his regional visit in Jerusalem, where he held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.    The Israeli leader, speaking to reporters with the top U.S. diplomat at his side, threatened a “very powerful response” if Hamas renewed cross-border rocket strikes.
    The truce, brokered by Egypt and coordinated with the United States, began on Friday after 11 days of the worst fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel in years.    Now in its fifth day, it has been holding.
    “We know that to prevent a return to violence we have to use the space created to address a larger set of underlying issues and challenges,” Blinken said.
    “And that begins with tackling the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild.”
    The United States, he said, would work to rally international support around that effort and make its own “significant contributions,” to be announced later in the day.
    “We will work with our partners, closely with all to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance,” Blinken said about the group.
    Blinken will be in the region through Thursday, and will also travel to Egypt and Jordan.    In tandem with his visit, Israeli authorities allowed fuel, medicine and food earmarked for Gaza’s private sector to enter the territory for the first time since the hostilities began on May 10.
    Blinken, who said he hoped to rebuild relationships with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority, was due to meet Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank later in the day.
    Negotiations between Israel and the Authority collapsed in 2014, and U.S. President Joe Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump cut aid to the Palestinians while promoting a plan that would leave Israel in control of many of the settlements it has built in the West Bank.
TWO STATES
    But while Biden has said a two-state solution was the only answer to resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict, U.S. officials have suggested it was too early for wider peace talks.
    Israel is in political flux after four inconclusive elections in two years, and the Palestinians are divided by enmity between Hamas and Abbas, who holds sway in the West Bank.
    Blinken said he and Netanyahu discussed “other steps” that need to be taken by leaders on both sides to set “a better course” for Israelis and Palestinians.
    “As President Biden said, we believe that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely, to enjoy equal measures of freedom, opportunity and democracy, to be treated with dignity,” Blinken said.
    At least 253 people were killed in Gaza and more than 1,900 wounded, Palestinian health authorities said, during the fighting that saw hundreds of Israeli air strikes.
    The Israeli military put the death toll in Israel at 13, with hundreds treated for injuries after rocket salvoes caused panic and sent people as far away as Tel Aviv rushing into shelters.
    Commercial buildings, residential towers and private houses across the Gaza Strip, where 2 million people live, were damaged or destroyed by the time the ceasefire was announced.
    In Gaza, Palestinian officials estimated reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars.    Israel has blockaded the territory since 2007, in what Palestinians condemn as collective punishment.    Egypt also maintains restrictions on its border with Gaza.    Both countries cite security concerns for the measures.
    Israel says air strikes hit legitimate military targets and that it did its utmost to avoid civilian casualties, including giving prior warnings when it was about to strike residential buildings that it said also had a military use.
    The hostilities were set off in part by Israeli police raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem and clashes with Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    Violence between Arabs and Jews also erupted in some Israeli cities, and Blinken said he discussed the inter-communal unrest with Netanyahu.
    “Healing these wounds will take leadership at every level,” Blinken said, echoing Biden’s condemnation of what the secretary of state called “a shocking eruption of antisemitic attacks” in the United States itself.
(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed in Washington, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by William Maclean)

5/25/2021 Mali’s Former Coup Chief Takes Power After Military Arrests President by Paul Lorgerie and Tiemoko Diallo
FILE PHOTO: The new interim president of Mali Bah Ndaw is sworn in during the Inauguration
ceremony in Bamako, Mali September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Amadou Keita
    BAMAKO (Reuters) -Mali’s interim vice president, Colonel Assimi Goita, said on Tuesday that he had seized power after the transitional president and prime minister failed to consult him about the formation of a new government.
    He said elections would be held next year as planned.
    President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were arrested and taken to a military base outside the capital on Monday evening, prompting swift condemnation from international powers, some of which called it an “attempted coup.”
    The two men were in charge of a transitional government created after a military coup in August that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.    They were tasked with overseeing a return to democratic elections next year.
    The streets of Bamako were calm on Tuesday and two sources told Reuters that Ndaw and Ouane were still being held at the military base in Kati.    A spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said it was seeking access to check on the condition of those detained.
    The situation could exacerbate instability in the West African country, where Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State control large areas of the north and centre and stage frequent attacks on the army and civilians.
    Political instability and military infighting have complicated efforts by Western powers and neighbouring countries to prop up the impoverished nation.
    Goita, who led the August coup, orchestrated the detentions after two fellow coup leaders were dropped from their government posts in a cabinet reshuffle on Monday.
    In a statement read by an aide on national television, Goita said elections next year to restore an elected government would go ahead as planned.
    “The vice president of the transition saw himself obligated to act to preserve the transitional charter and defend the republic,” the statement said.
THREAT OF SANCTIONS
    Mali has been in turmoil since a coup to oust president Amadou Toumani Toure in 2012 coincided with an ethnic Tuareg rebellion in the north, which was then hijacked by jihadists linked to al Qaeda.
    French forces drove back the Islamists in 2013 but they have regrouped and expanded their reach to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
    Worried about the fallout of Monday’s detentions, the United Nations, European Union, United States and regional countries have all demanded the immediate release of the leaders.
    “Sanctions will be adopted against those who stand in the way of the transition,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, said on Twitter.
    A delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was expected to visit Mali on Tuesday.    ECOWAS played a key role in the formation of the interim government after the August coup.
    The problems in Mali are part of a recent democratic backslide in West and Central Africa, where strong military factions have taken control or presidents have extended their rule beyond their allotted mandates.
    Last month a military council seized power in Chad after the battlefield death of president Idriss Deby.    His son, Mahamat Idriss Deby, now runs the country and has promised a transition to civilian rule similar to Mali’s.
    But the opposition and civil society say the military holds too much power and fear Deby will not relinquish control.
    “There will be repercussions not just for Mali but for the region,” said J. Peter Pham, former U.S. special envoy for the Sahel, now with the Atlantic Council.
    He said Deby and others will be watching carefully and if they see a post-coup agreement not stuck to in Mali, there will be little incentive for soldiers who seize power to give some of it up.
    A Western official said that the example being set in Mali could complicate negotiations with the military rulers in Chad.
(Reporting by David Lewis, Paul Lorgerie, and Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Edward McAllister and Giles Elgood)

5/25/2021 Generation Crisis: Young Syrians Come Of Age In A Decade Of Conflict by Yamam al Shaar
Ghenwa, 21, a trainee flight attendant, sits in the backseat of her friend's car in Damascus, Syria, January 12, 2021. REUTERS/Yamam al Shaar
    DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Trainee flight attendant Ghenwa, engineering student Ali and electronic music DJ Jawad are among a generation of young Syrians to have come of age during the war.
    They live in the capital Damascus, which was spared the intense bombing raids that destroyed opposition bastions such as Aleppo but life for the twenty-somethings is far from normal.
    A decade of conflict, Western sanctions, a financial collapse in next-door Lebanon, and now, the global pandemic, have battered Syria’s economy and a currency crash has sparked shortages of essential goods like wheat and fuel in government territory.
    Economic hardships aside, their access to the rest of the world has also been severely curtailed, leaving them little chance of leaving the country for work or leisure.
    The freedom to travel was the main reason Ghenwa decided to train as an air hostess, having dropped out of university where she was studying architecture.
    “I’m Syrian and I can’t travel at the moment except through this opportunity,” said Ghenwa, who like the others who spoke to Reuters for this story used only her first name for security reasons.
    “It’s the only opportunity that makes me feel I can move faster … to feel the freedom of borders.”
    Away from her hometown, Sweida in southern Syria, Ghenwa has had to work multiple jobs to support herself, doing everything from working with children with cancer to modelling.
    She finds a sense of release with her friends who share a passion for electronic music.
    “We are hungry for happiness,” said 24-year-old Jawad, an electronic music DJ who returned in 2019 to a Syria he barely recognised, after spending the war years in     Dubai for safety.
Jawad, who studied business administration, says music is his escape from the harsh realities of the country he came back to.
    “It was a big shock, everything without lights … no electricity but despite all the exhaustion and sadness on people’s faces we have hope that everything will be fixed,” he said.
    Like Ghenwa, his dream is also to travel and see the world but as a young Syrian man, any hope of getting a visa to Europe is dashed.
    Unable to go on holiday to Spain, he watches documentaries about the country instead with his friends online, an escape from the less uplifting regular television news programmes.
    “It’s ironic,” he said.
    Yara, 33, a lawyer by day and a music DJ by night, lives alone with her parents after three of her siblings left to live abroad.
    She used to have a busy life between her work, yoga, cooking and her passion for music but now she says she can only manage one task a day.
    “Putting fuel in my car for example after hours of waiting in line,” she said.
    Yara preferred to stay in Syria throughout the conflict despite the dangers involved.
    “I didn’t like the way other countries were treating Syrians, so I didn’t want to lose the respect I have here, to get some pity from people who know nothing about us, even if that meant living my life in danger.”
    Yara was near the Damascus courthouse when a suicide bombing took place in 2017.
    “It was a horrible experience… to see your colleagues’ dead bodies around you and at the same time needing to help the injured and rush them to hospital.”
    Like Yara, 25-year-old university student Ali says he could talk for days about the things that affected him during the war.
    “There wasn’t a day that passed by without taking something from us,” he said.
    “It was a bad experience to live in a warzone for what is supposed to be the best ten years of your life.”
(Reporting by Yamam al Shaar, writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

5/25/2021 Job-Seeking Omanis Protest Again, Press Cash-Strapped Government by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Davide Barbuscia
FILE PHOTO: Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said gives a speech after being sworn in before the royal
family council in Muscat, Oman January 11, 2020. REUTERS/Sultan Al Hasani
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Groups of Omani protesters demanding jobs gathered on Tuesday in several cities for the third consecutive day, activists said, in the biggest challenge yet to the Gulf state’s new ruler.
    Social media postings showed a group of protesters holding a sit-in under a bridge in the northern city of Sohar.    Other protests were reported in several other towns, including Rustaq, Nizwa and Sur.
    Videos and photos showed security forces serving water to protesters, a change of approach from Monday’s demonstrations when police fired tear gas to disperse gatherings and arrested groups of protesters.
    Sultan Haitham, who acceded to the throne last year after the death of Sultan Qaboos, has had to bring in austerity measures to ease pressure on public finances at a time of low oil prices.
    The government did not comment on Tuesday’s protests. Oman’s state television showed the sultan chairing a meeting on youth employment.
    “The youth are the nation’s wealth, its unfailing resource … We will make sure we listen to them, sense their needs, interests and aspirations,” Sultan Haitham said.
    The economy of Oman, a relatively small energy producer with high levels of debt, is vulnerable to swings in oil prices and external shocks such as the coronavirus pandemic.
    The protests follow the introduction last month of a value-added tax (VAT) for the first time, one of a series of reforms aimed at ensuring the sultanate’s financial sustainability.
    Oman has pushed forward its programme of replacing foreign workers with Omani citizens to ease pressure on the job market but youth unemployment is relatively high at over 10%.
    “The authorities may choose to postpone the implementation of some of the planned fiscal measures to maintain socioeconomic stability, especially if oil prices rise enough to reduce pressure on the budget,” said Zahabia Gupta, an analyst at S&P Global Ratings.
    The International Monetary Fund has estimated Oman’s gross external debt will go down to around 112% of gross domestic product this year from 127% of GDP last year.
    Rachna Uppal, director of research at Azure Strategy, said Oman has committed to diversifying its income stream away from hydrocarbons but there are headwinds on the horizon.
    “The slow pace of reforms and increased austerity measures combined with the ongoing uncertainty over the pandemic is testing popular patience … if protests continue or spread wider, it could spook investors at a critical time for Oman,” she said.
    Markets so far appeared to have shrugged off the protests, with Oman credit default swaps – a measure of sovereign default risk – unchanged on Tuesday, according to IHS Markit data.
    “Seeing where oil prices are and Oman’s move early in the year to fund the deficit – it already raised $4.35 billion out of its $5 billion external funding need – there are no major concerns in the market” said Zeina Rizk, a fixed income fund manager at Dubai-based Arqaam Capital.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Giles Elgood)

5/25/2021 No Camel Rides In Tunisian Town As COVID Slowly Kills Tourism by Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall
A general view of the the Movenpick Resort and Marine Spa in Sousse, amid the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak, Tunisia, May 20, 2021. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui
    EL JEM, Tunisia (Reuters) – Two Bulgarian visitors stood in the ancient El Jem amphitheatre, one of Tunisia’s top attractions, alone apart from swallows flitting under stone arches — a sight foretelling another tourist season wrecked by COVID-19.
    The 3rd century structure, so symbolic of Tunisia that it features on the 20-dinar note, usually receives about 190,000 visitors a year, but in 2020 only 45,000 came, and so far this year it has been deserted most of the time.
    Over the past two weeks numbers have picked up a little after the government relaxed quarantine rules for package tours to salvage some foreign revenue from the summer high season, but they are still nowhere near where they were pre-pandemic.
    “There are no tourists and the beach is empty.    It is very sad,” said Tatiana Vasileva, one of the two Bulgarians.    She had arrived in Tunisia two days earlier and joined a tour to El Jem arranged by her hotel.
    In the plaza outside the amphitheatre, tourism businesses are slowly dying, as they are across the country, putting lives on hold and driving people into other walks of life.
    Aroussi Obay, 42, has invested savings into olive oil production to raise money while his antique shop idles.    His neighbour Nofal Zeid, 43, has delayed his wedding for lack of income from his El Hana cafe.
    “I have postponed all my projects, even my marriage,” said Zeid, who has laid off the few family members he usually employs in the summer season.
    But though days pass without a customer, he has laid each of the seven tables facing the amphitheatre with a bright red cloth and a bowl of oranges, ready for business.
    Tunisia, which is dependent on foreign help to obtain COVID-19 vaccines, is struggling with low stocks.
    It has been allocated 4.3 million doses through the COVAX scheme for poorer countries, but only 670,000 of them have arrived.    It has received some other doses through a separate agreement with Pfizer.
    As a result, only 800,000 people out of its population of 11.6 million have been vaccinated so far, offering little prospect of reducing infection rates enough to lure large numbers of visitors away from rival European destinations.
    Tourism Minister Habib Ammar would like to vaccinate workers in the sector quickly to reassure visitors.    “Unfortunately there is a problem with the vaccine stocks, which did not allow the implementation of this strategy,” he said.
DESERTED BEACHES
    Most tourists come to Tunisia for its long white beaches, but it also offers ruined Roman cities, cork forests, medieval mosques, Star Wars film sets and Saharan oases.
    Tourism normally accounts for about a tenth of the economy.    Its collapse after militants attacked a beach and a museum in 2015 caused an economic crisis, but the sector had been recovering before COVID-19 hit.
    Obay’s shop in El Jem is a trove of copper trays, African masks, rustic chests, replica Roman figurines, Berber rugs and prettily painted window shutters.
    “Before the pandemic I would sell several items a day.    Now days go by without any sale,” he said.
    Outside, a camel kneels, ready to give rides to tourists on its striped, padded cushions, but none come.
    “I’m eating into my savings,” said its owner, Fathi Bouzayan, 53, whose family have offered camel rides in El Jem for generations.
    The biggest nearby beach town is Sousse, where the Movenpick Resort & Marine Spa is employing only about half its usual 550 staff, its sales and marketing director Zied Maghrebi said.
    Along the brilliant turquoise coastal waters, mile after mile of resorts stand nearly empty, and in the Movenpick pool a single child twisted in the water, engrossed in a private game.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall, editing by Estelle Shirbon)

5/25/2021 Homs, Former Rebel Stronghold, Prepares To Vote
A poster depciting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is pictured near damaged buildings, ahead
of the May 26 presidential election, in Homs, Syria May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
    HOMS, Syria (Reuters) – At the entrance to Bab Tadmor, a neighbourhood of Homs that was once a rebel stronghold, an election billboard showing a smiling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hangs down the side of a bombed out building.
    Homs, 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Damascus, suffered severe damage during Syria’s ten years of war.    The city centre and several neighbourhoods were almost entirely destroyed after years of air strikes and barrel bombs, and still lie in ruin and deserted.
    “We say yes to Bashar,” the poster reads.
    On May 26, Homs will be voting in presidential elections for the first time since the war.
    Assad is all but certain to win, running against two obscure candidates in an election his opponents and the West view as a farce to rubber stamp his grip on power.
    On the road to Al Wa’er, the last neighbourhood to fall to government forces in May 2017, the government has put up posters encouraging voter participation.
    “Your vote in the ballot box is a bullet in the chest of the aggressor,” says one poster hanging against a destroyed building.
    In 2011, thousands of residents took to the streets of Homs in anti-Assad demonstrations in unprecedented acts of defiance, but security forces violently crushed the protests.    Rebel groups took up arms, and fighting spread throughout the city as civilians cowered in the basements.
    In her home in Al Waer, Om Ali, a 38-year old mother of six, recounts the suffering of those years.
    “We lived in our house, we could not go in or out as there was fighting,” she said.    “We survived on chickpeas and groats and water… it was a very bad situation for us.”
    During that time, Om Ali, who says she will vote for Assad, fled Homs for a short period when conditions became too dire, going north to Jarablus, a town along Syria’s northern border with Turkey.
    But while she was able to come back, many are not, for fear of reprisals.    Thousands of opposition fighters and their families also fled several Homs districts as one after the other fell back under state control, in what the government dubbed reconciliation deals.
    Those deals were criticised by the opposition and the United Nations as forced displacement of Assad’s opponents, often after months or years of siege and bombardment.
    Mohamed Khalaf, a car mechanic who left al-Waer for five years from 2013-2018, is also now back home.
    Having repaired his house and his shop, he too says he will vote for Assad in the hope that living conditions improve.
    “May be things will go back to what they were and God will help us with this economy,” he said.
    In the the staunchly pro-Assad district of Nazha, visitors are welcomed by a huge board displaying the images of men who died fighting for the army.
    Mohamed Shamlas, a tailor from another pro-Assad neighbourhood, Seteen Street, lost his son Ali in the war.
    A large poster of Ali, who died in 2015 fighting for the army, alongside images of the Syrian flag and the late president Hafez al-Assad, adorns Shamlas’s living room, where he sits playing his oud and singing a song praising the current president.
    Shamlas says he hopes there will be no more war.
    “We have to forget.    You have to live with me and I have to live with you.”
(Reporting By Firas Makdesi; writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

5/25/2021 Blinken Says U.S. Consulting With Israel Over Iran Nuclear Talks
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hold a
joint news conference in Jerusalem, May 25, 2021. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised on Tuesday continued close consultation with Israel about any potential U.S. return to a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
    After talks with Blinken in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped Washington would not sign back on to the deal, and that “whatever happens, Israel will always retain the right to defend itself” against any Iranian nuclear threat.
    Indirect talks between Washington and Tehran, which denies its nuclear programme is aimed at producing weapons, have been under way in Vienna.     Blinken, on a Middle East mission to try to shore up last week’s ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, said the United States would continue to strengthen its “long-standing partnership” with Israel.
    That, he told reporters, with Netanyahu at his side, “includes consulting closely with Israel as we did today on the ongoing negotiations in Vienna around a potential return to the Iran nuclear agreement.”
    To Israeli acclaim, U.S. President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal, deeming it too advantageous for Tehran, and reimposed U.S. sanctions.
    The Biden administration has since sought to assuage Israel which sees a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat.
    On Sunday, Blinken said the United States has not seen yet whether Iran will move to comply with its nuclear commitments in order to have sanctions removed even as the talks have shown progress.
    Israeli teams have held discussions in Washington with U.S. counterparts over the potential revival of the deal.
    “I hope that the United States will not go back to the old JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) because we believe that deal paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy,” Netanyahu said.
(This story refiles to correct spelling of Blinken’s first name in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller, William Maclean)
[NETANYAHU BEWARE OF A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING BECAUSE THE GLOBALIST SOCIALIST ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT IS IN PLAY NOW WITH ANTISEMITISM AND IT IS NOT THE GREAT EAGLE WITH TWO WINGS ANYMORE AND YOU WILL BEGIN SEEING THE SAME THING AS THE DEMOCRATS USED BLM AND ANTIFA WILL BEGIN IN YOUR COUNTRY.].

5/25/2021 As Gaza Truce Holds, Palestinians Treat Wounded Animals by Nidal al-Mughrabi
A man treats Palestinian Omar Shahin's horse, which was wounded during the Israeli-Palestinian fighting,
in the northern Gaza Strip May 24, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    GAZA (Reuters) – Palestinian animal welfare groups are tending to street dogs and cats wounded during the 11-day conflict between Hamas militants and Israel, which saw Gaza hit by hundreds of Israeli airstrikes.
    At least 253 people were killed in Gaza and more than 1,900 wounded, Palestinian health authorities said.
    The Israeli military put the death toll in Israel at 13, with hundreds treated for injuries after rocket salvoes by Hamas caused panic and sent people as far away as Tel Aviv rushing into shelters.
    Saeed El-Aer, owner of Sulala Society for Training and Caring for Animals, has been trawling Gaza’s streets looking for abandoned dogs and cats and providing them with medication, food and shelter.
    “We are still getting calls about cats and dogs wounded in the war, and we are still trying to reach them to help them,” he said.
    As soon as a ceasefire was reached last Friday after the worst hostilities in years between Hamas and Israel, Aer rushed to his animal shelter, built on a piece of land given to him by the municipality in eastern Gaza City’s suburb of Zeitoun.
    “I found all the dogs outside it.    The dogs were sad, afraid and terrified,” he told Reuters.    He said Israeli bombardments had shattered part of the exterior fence.
    “I was surprised to see a donkey dead and another horse wounded, who then died.    I found dogs wounded with shrapnel, and I am still treating them.”
    Gaza, home to two million people, now faces the task of rebuilding shattered infrastructure after the fourth conflict with Israel since Hamas took control of the enclave in 2007, setting up a rival power centre to the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
    In the northern Gaza Strip, shrapnel from an Israeli air strike which destroyed a nearby house also hit Omar Shahin’s stable, injuring three of his four horses.
    Shahin was unable to rescue one of his animals, Amira, a two-year old horse who died nine days after being hit by a missile fragment which caused a skull fracture and internal bleeding.
(Writing by Nidal Almughrabi, Editing by Jonathan Saul and Alexandra Hudson)

5/25/2021 Eritrean And Ethiopian Soldiers Detain Hundreds In Tigray by Giulia Paravicini and Katharine Houreld
FILE PHOTO: A burned tank stands near the town of Adwa, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 18, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers forcibly detained more than 500 young men and women from four camps for displaced people in the town of Shire in the northern region of Tigray on Monday night, three aid workers and a doctor told Reuters.
    The soldiers arrived at around 11 p.m. and loaded hundreds of people onto trucks, the humanitarians and the doctor said, citing witnesses’ accounts.    Several men were beaten, their phones and money confiscated, one of the aid workers said.
    One man who lives in one of the camps, and hid during the incursion, said soldiers broke in and beat men with sticks.
    “The soldiers surrounded our camp at night, broke the main gate and started to beat every man using sticks, they hit a 70-year-old and kidnapped a blind one.    Only from our camp, Tsehaye elementary school, 400 (people) were taken,” he said, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals.
    Ethiopia’s military spokesman, the head of a government task force on Tigray and the Tigray regional head did not return messages seeking comment.    Tewodros Aregai, interim head of Shire’s northwestern zone, told Reuters he had few details but confirmed “hundreds” had been taken.
    Eritrea’s Information Minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, said he saw no reason to “round up IDPs” and described the claims as propaganda by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s former political party, which has been fighting the federal government since November.
    Thousands of people have been killed since the conflict erupted, 2 million have been forced from their homes and 91% of the population of nearly 6 million are in need of aid, according to the latest report by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
    On Tuesday morning, dozens of relatives of those taken protested in front of the offices of the U.N. refugee agency, according to footage viewed by Reuters.
    Monday’s incident comes two months after the March 26 announcement by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that Eritrean soldiers would leave Tigray after repeated reports of major rights abuses, including looting, gang rapes, and mass killings of civilians.
    The Eritreans deny any rights abuses.    The United States has repeatedly called for the Eritreans to withdraw.
    The town of Shire hosts hundreds of thousands of people who have fled western Tigray, which is now being administered by the neighbouring Amhara region.    Ethnic Tigrayans say they are being driven out by Amhara forces.
(Editing by Giles Elgood)

5/25/2021 Exclusive-U.N. Tribunal For Lebanon Runs Out Of Funds As Beirut’s Crisis Spills Over by Stephanie van den Berg
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and Bahiya al-Hariri, the sister of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri,
pray at his grave, during the 16th anniversary of his assassination, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon February 14, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A U.N. tribunal set up to prosecute those behind the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has run out of funding amid Lebanon’s economic and political crisis, threatening plans for future trials, people involved in the process said.
    Closing the tribunal would dash the hopes of families of victims in the Hariri murder and other attacks, but also those demanding that a U.N. tribunal bring to justice those responsible for the Beirut port blast last August that killed 200 and injured 6,500.
    Last year the U.N. Special Tribunal for Lebanon, located outside of The Hague, convicted former Hezbollah member Salim Jamil Ayyash for the bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others.
    Ayyash was sentenced in absentia to five life terms in prison, while three alleged accomplices were acquitted due to insufficient evidence.    Both sides have appealed.
    The court had been scheduled to start a second trial on June 16 against Ayyash, who is accused of another assassination and attacks against Lebanese politicians in 2004 and 2005 in the run-up to the Hariri bombing.
    A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said he was aware of the court’s financial problems.
    “The Secretary-General continues to urge member states and the international community for voluntary contributions in order to secure the funds required to support the independent judicial proceedings that remain before the tribunal,” U.N. Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
    The funding shortfall comes as Lebanon faces its worst turmoil since Hariri’s assassination.    The country is deeply polarized between supporters of Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah and its allies and supporters of Hariri’s son, prime minister designate Saad al-Hariri, who declined to comment.
FINANCES “VERY CONCERNING
    “If you abort the tribunal, if you abort this case, you are giving a free gift to the perpetrators and to those who do not want justice to take place,” Nidal Jurdi, a lawyer for the victims in the second case, told Reuters.
    Scrapping a new trial would not only harm victims who waited 17 years for the case to come to court, but would undermine accountability for crimes in Lebanon in general, Jurdi said, adding that a letter had been sent to the U.N. expressing concern.
    It would be “a disappointment for the victims of the connected cases and the victims of Lebanon,” he said, appealing for international funding.
    “Lebanon needs full accountability,” he said.
    Created by a 2007 U.N. Security Council resolution and opened in 2009, the tribunal’s budget last year was 55 million euros ($67 million) with Lebanon footing 49% of the bill and foreign donors and the U.N. members making up the rest.
    “The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is in a very concerning financial position,” court spokeswoman Wajed Ramadan told Reuters.    “No decision has yet been taken on judicial proceedings and there are intense fundraising efforts going on to find a solution,” she added.
    The U.N. extended the mandate of the tribunal from March 1, 2021, for two years or sooner if the remaining cases were completed or funding ran out.
    Guterres warned in February that due to the financial crisis in Lebanon, the government’s contribution was uncertain and warned the court may not be able to continue its work after the first quarter of 2021.
    The 2021 budget had been trimmed by nearly 40 percent, forcing job cuts at the court, but the Lebanese government has still been unable to pay its share, according to U.N. documents.
    Guterres requested an appropriation of about $25 million from the U.N. General Assembly for 2021.    The General Assembly approved $15.5 million in March.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Samia Nakhoul and Laila Bassam in Beirut; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Nick Macfie)

5/25/2021 As Assad Tightens Grip On Syria, Many Refugees Lose Hope by Hams Rabah and Dominic Evans
Lara Shahin, a Syrian refugee from Damascus, is pictured at her home in Amman, Jordan May 22, 2021. REUTERS/Jehad Shelbak
    AMMAN (Reuters) – When Syrian refugee Lara Shahin fled Damascus at the start of Syria’s conflict she thought her family would be back within months to help rebuild the country.
    Nine years later, an election dismissed as a sham by refugees across the region is set to grant President Bashar al-Assad another seven years in power – further shredding her hopes of ever going home.
    Like millions of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey she has watched as Assad clung to power in the face of an uprising and devastating civil war which has left Syria economically ruined and too dangerous for them to return.
    “At the beginning when I used to talk about the future of Syria I used to say us young people are the future, we will go back and rebuild,” she told Reuters in the Jordanian capital Amman which has been her home since 2012.
    “But bit by bit I started losing hope… When we first came we got the keys of our home here and we were thinking in two or three months we will go back to Syria.    I am not lying if I say that this feeling is now shattered.”
    The 39-year-old entrepreneur runs a handicraft and cosmetics business supporting more than 40 women workers in Jordan, which has become “like my first country, not my second.”
    Her despair at returning is echoed by others in Middle East states which host 5.6 million U.N.-registered Syrian refugees.
    Fear of retribution as long as Assad stays in power, as well as the dire economic conditions inside Syria, mean there is little prospect of seeing their country soon.
    Many refugees dismiss Wednesday’s election as rubber stamping another term in office for Assad, who succeeded his father in 2000 and has extended the family’s 51-year hold on power, despite the 2011 uprising and civil war.
    “This is a farce, fooling nations and people,” said Abu Alaa, a 43-year-old farmer and father of 10 children from the Syrian city of Homs, living in a tent in northern Lebanon.
    “Someone who destroyed a whole country and fragmented it and made millions flee and destroyed Syria,” he said, referring to Assad.    “He has no longer a place in our hearts – why should we vote for him? He is a killer.”
LOST LEGITIMACY “WITH FIRST BULLET
    On Islambol Street in the heart of old Istanbul, one of many districts where the refugees have gathered, most coffee shops, jewellers, restaurants and butchers are run by Syrians.
    Few believe they will leave a city which hosts half a million Syrian refugees – just a fraction of the 3.6 million living across Turkey – or that conditions in Syria will improve.
    “It’s obvious that these are not impartial elections.    He will win, with or without elections,” said Hussam, a 36-year-old from the city of Homs, selling coffee, nuts and sweets.
    “In Syria everything’s getting worse.    There’s no bread, no food, everything’s expensive.    If Bashar al-Assad remains, things will get worse.”
    Forty-year-old Ahmed, who like most refugees asked only to be identified by his first name, left Damascus in 2012 after fighting erupted in outlying parts of the capital.
    But worse was to come.    “My sister died in the chemical weapons massacre, and I had a brother who was martyred in Jobar in Damascus,” he said in the fruit juice stall he runs.
    “They destroyed us for 10 years… they can’t be elected.”
    With his eldest child now studying at a Turkish school in Istanbul, he said authorities had welcomed Syrian refugees.    But conditions were not easy and few would choose to stay if there were a chance to return home safely.
    “The regime lost its legitimacy when the first bullet was fired on the first person who died in Syria,” said a 35-year-old university graduate who left his job in graphic design in Damascus and now sells sweets in Islambol Street.
    “If there were a democratic election, if someone was elected in a clean election by the people, not this theatre we are seeing – I would be the first one back,” he said.
(Reporting by Hams Rabah in Amman, Walid Saleh in Tripoli and Dominic Evans in Istanbul, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

5/25/2021 Secy. Antony Blinken: U.S. Committed To Israel’s Security And Providing Humanitarian Assistance To Rebuild Gaza by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
Blinken is en route to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
    U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised that the U.S. will help rebuild Gaza, following the recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
    During his visit to Jerusalem on Tuesday, he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.    Blinken delivered a statement confirming Washington’s efforts to ensure that Hamas will not benefit from the humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people.
    Had a very good meeting with Israeli Prime Minister @Netanyahu today.    I underscored America’s ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, and we discussed the importance of promoting peace, security, and dignity for all. https://t.co/z3qJbnwWSR pic.twitter.com/qog7mUKCrO
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 25, 2021
    The U.S. recently helped broker the truce between the terrorist group and Israel after 11 days of deadly fighting.    Blinken went on to discuss the main purposes of his Middle Eastern trip.
    “To demonstrate the commitment of the United States to Israel’s security to start to work toward greater stability and reduce tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem,” he stated.    “…To support urgent humanitarian and reconstruction assistance for Gaza, to benefit the Palestinian people, and to continue to rebuild our relationship with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority.”
    Netanyahu warned Hamas against breaking the ceasefire by assuring Israel would have a powerful response if the terrorists attacked.    He also urged the U.S. not to return to the Iran Nuclear Deal, which he suggests will allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
    Blinken is set to visit with Palestinian officials in the West Bank as well as with leaders of Egypt and Jordan.

5/26/2021 Syria’s Assad Votes In Former Rebel Town, Site Of Chemical Attack by Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Maha El Dahan
Asma, wife of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, casts her vote during the country's presidential
elections in Douma, Syria, in this handout released by SANA on May 26, 2021. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    AMMAN (Reuters) -Syrian President Bashar al-Assad voted on Wednesday in an election certain to extend his rule over a country ruined by war, casting his ballot in an ex-rebel bastion where a suspected chemical weapons attack in 2018 prompted Western air strikes.
    The government says the election shows Syria is functioning normally despite the decade-old conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million people – about half the population – from their homes.
    “Syria is not what they were trying to market, one city against the other and sect against the other or civil war.    Today we are proving from Douma that the Syrian people are one,” Assad said after voting in the former insurgent stronghold.
    However, in the southern city of Deraa, cradle of the uprising against Assad in 2011 and an opposition redoubt until rebels there surrendered three years ago, local leaders called for a strike.
    The election went ahead despite a U.N.-led peace process that had called for voting under international supervision that would help pave the way for a new constitution and a political settlement.
    Dismissed as fraudulent by his enemies, Wednesday’s vote is set to deliver Assad seven more years in power and lengthen his family’s rule to nearly six decades.    His father Hafez al-Assad led Syria for 30 years until his death in 2000.
    The opposition boycotted the vote and said Assad’s presidential rivals were deliberately low-key: former deputy cabinet minister Abdallah Saloum Abdallah and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei, head of a small, officially sanctioned opposition party.
    Addressing his critics, Assad said Syrians had made their feelings clear by coming out in large numbers.    “The value of your opinions is zero,” he said.
    The higher judicial committee said it would keep polls open until midnight due to high turnout.
    At Damascus University’s Faculty of Arts, hundreds of students lined up to vote, with several buses parked outside.
    “With our blood and soul we sacrifice our lives for you Bashar,” groups of them chanted before the polls opened, in scenes repeated across the 70% of Syria now under government control.
    “We came to elect President Bashar al-Assad…Without him Syria would not be Syria,” said Amal, a nursing student, who declined to give a second name for fear of reprisals.
    Officials said privately that authorities had organised large rallies in recent days to encourage voting, and the security apparatus that underpins Assad’s Alawite minority-dominated rule had instructed state employees to vote.
    “We have been told we have to go to the polls or bear responsibility for not voting,” said Jafaar, a government employee in Latakia who gave his first name only, also fearing reprisals.
DAY OF ANGER
    Douma, where Assad voted, is a Sunni Muslim town in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.    It was long a focus of defiance against Assad’s rule until it was retaken after years of siege and bombing that killed thousands of civilians.
    A suspected chemical attack in 2018 killed at least 50 civilians, one of several – mainly in the Ghouta area – that left hundreds dead.    The United States, France and Britain responded with air strikes on suspected chemical weapons sites.
    “Assad wants to send a message that Douma, one of the first areas that fell out of his control, is today secure and safe to cover up the election farce,” said Wael Alwan, a researcher from Douma who now works at Istanbul’s Syrian Jusoor think-tank.
    Sulaiman, a former militiaman who battled the rebels in Ghouta when they threatened Assad’s hold over Damascus early in the conflict, described Assad’s vote as “a final declaration of victory” against Islamist militants.
    In parts of Deraa in the far south, local figures called for a general strike to vent their opposition to the election.
    Former rebels in the area said there were several incidents of gunfire against vehicles carrying ballot boxes, and shops in many towns were closed.
    “All people reject the rule of the son of Hafez,” read graffiti scribbled across several towns in the south, the last part of the country to fall to Assad under Russian-brokered agreements, where former rebels still resist his rule.
    There was no voting in the northwestern Idlib region, the last existing rebel enclave where at least three million of those who fled Assad’s bombing campaign are sheltering, people took to the streets to denounce the election “theatre.”
    “It’s a day of anger, let’s participate and raise our voices in the squares of freedom to announce our rejection of the criminal Assad and his elections,” said one of the posters hung in a rebel-held town along the border with Turkey.
    In the northeast, where U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces administer an autonomous oil-rich region, officials closed border crossings with government-held areas to prevent people from heading to polling stations.
    They said the election was a setback to reconciliation with a Kurdish minority that has faced decades of discrimination from one-party rule and Arab nationalist ideology.
(Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi with additional reporting by Rodi Said in Qamishli and Khalil Ashawi in IdlibWriting By Maha El Dahan Editing by Dominic Evans and Mark Heinrich)

5/26/2021 US, Egypt Working Closely To Reinforce Gaza Ceasefire, Blinken Says by Aidan Lewis and Nidal al-Mughrabi
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks as he greets staff members of the U.S. Embassy
to Egypt, in Cairo, Egypt May 26, 2021. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) -Egypt and the United States said they would work together to reinforce a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Cairo and Amman on Wednesday on a regional tour.
    Egypt has longstanding relations with both sides in the conflict and played a key role in brokering the ceasefire after 11 days of violence, in coordination with the United States.
    “We’ve had in Egypt a real and effective partner in dealing with the violence, bringing it to a close, relatively quickly,” Blinken said, following a meeting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and intelligence head Abbas Kamel.
    The two countries were now “working closely together build something positive,” he said, adding that Egypt was vital to shared aspirations for Palestinians and Israelis to “live in safety and security to enjoy equal measures of freedom, opportunity and dignity.”
    Sisi told Blinken recent events reaffirmed the need for direct talks between the two sides with Washington’s involvement, according to an Egyptian presidency statement.    Sisi also discussed the issue in a video call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
    Blinken arrived in Egypt after stops in Jerusalem and Ramallah before flying on to Jordan, where he landed in the late afternoon.    On Tuesday, he pledged that the United States would provide new aid to help rebuild the Gaza Strip, including $5.5 million in disaster relief and nearly $33 million for the U.N. Palestinian aid agency there.
    He also said the United States intended to ensure that Hamas, which controls Gaza and is listed by Washington as a terrorist organisation, did not benefit from humanitarian aid.
    Yehya Al-Sinwar, the Hamas chief in Gaza, said the group welcomed Arab and international efforts to rebuild the enclave.
    “We will ease and facilitate the task for everyone and we will make sure that the process will be transparent and fair and we will make sure that no penny goes to Hamas or Qassam (the Hamas armed wing),” Sinwar told a news conference.
    “We have satisfactory sources of money for Hamas and Qassam.    A major part of it from Iran and part in donations from Arabs, Muslims and liberals of the world who are sympathetic to our people and their rights,” he added.
    Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh has been invited to visit Cairo for talks over rebuilding Gaza, Hamas sources said.
    Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza and has security contacts with Hamas, is likely to have a role in channeling aid, a senior U.S. State Department official said earlier.
    During the fighting, Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and its Sinai Peninsula in order to provide medical aid and evacuate the wounded.
    It also sent a security delegation to Israel and Gaza to reinforce the ceasefire after it came into effect on Friday.
(Reporting by Aidan Lewis and Mahmoud Mourad in Cairo; Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza Editing by Gareth Jones, Giles Elgood, William Maclean)

5/26/2021 Erdogan Calls On U.S. Executives For Better Ties With Turkey
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives a statement after a cabinet meeting in
Ankara, Turkey, May 17, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan asked several U.S. corporate executives for better ties in a call on Wednesday in which he again criticised the White House’s decision to call the 1915 Ottoman massacre of Armenians a genocide.
    Erdogan said U.S.-Turkey ties would nonetheless enter a “new era” after his face-to-face meeting with President Joe Biden set for June 14, their first since last year’s U.S. election.
    The video conference call, first reported by Reuters on Monday, included officials from Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft, Kellogg, PepsiCo, Cisco, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, according to a video aired on Turkish TV.
    Erdogan thanked companies that believed in Turkey and said he expects the United States to be more constructive, adding U.S. tariffs on aluminium and steel remain a problem.    He said they could cooperate in Syria and in Libya including in energy.
    “I believe we will make Turkey … a base for production and technology,” he told the executives via a translator in televised remarks.
    “Biden’s statement on the 1915 events has put an added burden on our ties, but I believe the meeting we will hold on June 14 at the NATO summit will be the sign of a new era,” he added.
    “By simplifying our incentive system, we will ensure investors can take advantage of incentives easier.”
    Biden and Erdogan have held only one call, on April 23 when Biden said he would call the massacre of Armenians a genocide, a move that drew Turkish condemnation.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Alistair Bell)

5/26/2021 No Camel Rides In Tunisian Town As COVID Slowly Kills Tourism by Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall
A general view of the the Movenpick Resort and Marine Spa in Sousse, amid the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak, Tunisia, May 20, 2021. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui
    EL JEM, Tunisia (Reuters) – Two Bulgarian visitors stood in the ancient El Jem amphitheatre, one of Tunisia’s top attractions, alone apart from swallows flitting under stone arches — a sight foretelling another tourist season wrecked by COVID-19.
    The 3rd century structure, so symbolic of Tunisia that it features on the 20-dinar note, usually receives about 190,000 visitors a year, but in 2020 only 45,000 came, and so far this year it has been deserted most of the time.
    Over the past two weeks numbers have picked up a little after the government relaxed quarantine rules for package tours to salvage some foreign revenue from the summer high season, but they are still nowhere near where they were pre-pandemic.
    “There are no tourists and the beach is empty. It is very sad,” said Tatiana Vasileva, one of the two Bulgarians.    She had arrived in Tunisia two days earlier and joined a tour to El Jem arranged by her hotel.
    In the plaza outside the amphitheatre, tourism businesses are slowly dying, as they are across the country, putting lives on hold and driving people into other walks of life.
    Aroussi Obay, 42, has invested savings into olive oil production to raise money while his antique shop idles.    His neighbour Nofal Zeid, 43, has delayed his wedding for lack of income from his El Hana cafe.
    “I have postponed all my projects, even my marriage,” said Zeid, who has laid off the few family members he usually employs in the summer season.
    But though days pass without a customer, he has laid each of the seven tables facing the amphitheatre with a bright red cloth and a bowl of oranges, ready for business.
    Tunisia, which is dependent on foreign help to obtain COVID-19 vaccines, is struggling with low stocks.
    It has been allocated 4.3 million doses through the COVAX scheme for poorer countries, but only 670,000 of them have arrived.    It has received some other doses through a separate agreement with Pfizer.
    As a result, only 800,000 people out of its population of 11.6 million have been vaccinated so far, offering little prospect of reducing infection rates enough to lure large numbers of visitors away from rival European destinations.
    Tourism Minister Habib Ammar would like to vaccinate workers in the sector quickly to reassure visitors.    “Unfortunately there is a problem with the vaccine stocks, which did not allow the implementation of this strategy,” he said.
DESERTED BEACHES
    Most tourists come to Tunisia for its long white beaches, but it also offers ruined Roman cities, cork forests, medieval mosques, Star Wars film sets and Saharan oases.
    Tourism normally accounts for about a tenth of the economy.    Its collapse after militants attacked a beach and a museum in 2015 caused an economic crisis, but the sector had been recovering before COVID-19 hit.
    Obay’s shop in El Jem is a trove of copper trays, African masks, rustic chests, replica Roman figurines, Berber rugs and prettily painted window shutters.
    “Before the pandemic I would sell several items a day.    Now days go by without any sale,” he said.
    Outside, a camel kneels, ready to give rides to tourists on its striped, padded cushions, but none come.
    “I’m eating into my savings,” said its owner, Fathi Bouzayan, 53, whose family have offered camel rides in El Jem for generations.
    The biggest nearby beach town is Sousse, where the Movenpick Resort & Marine Spa is employing only about half its usual 550 staff, its sales and marketing director Zied Maghrebi said.
    Along the brilliant turquoise coastal waters, mile after mile of resorts stand nearly empty, and in the Movenpick pool a single child twisted in the water, engrossed in a private game.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall, editing by Estelle Shirbon)

5/26/2021 Zambian President Bans Campaign Rallies To Stem COVID-19 Spread
FILE PHOTO: Zambia's President Edgar Chagwa Lungu addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General
Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
    LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambian President Edgar Lungu on Wednesday banned campaign rallies ahead of elections scheduled for Aug. 12, saying large gatherings risked spreading the COVID-19 virus.
    Lungu, a lawyer, is pitted against economist Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), whom he narrowly beat in the 2016 elections.
    Zambia, Africa’s no.2 copper producer, is the grips of an economic crisis after it failed to make payment of a coupon on one of its dollar bonds in November, dragging it into sovereign default.
    Opposition parties have pilloried Lungu’s handling of the crisis.    Last year, police shot dead two people after the main opposition party leader was summoned for police questioning over a decade-and-a-half old fraud allegation.
    Speaking at the launch of his own campaign in the capital Lusaka, clad in dark green jumper and cap representing the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) colours, Lungu told the hundreds of party supporters gathered that he would not hold public rallies, and expected opposition parties to do the same.
    “Therefore, in my capacity as Head of State and the government, I hereby direct the police service and the ministry of health to ensure enforcement of the COVID-19 pandemic health regulations and guidelines without fear or favour,” Lungu said.
    “What will it benefit you to be holding rallies, but then sacrifice the lives of our citizens and voters to COVID-19 and death?” Lungu said.
    Zambia’s COVID-19 positivity rate, which was around 1% for most of May, rose to almost 3% on Tuesday.    Active cases increased to over 900, from around 400 at the start of the month, according to the health minsitry.
    The southern African nation has recorded more than 93,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 1,200 deaths.
    Opposition leader Hichilema’s spokesman, Anthony Bwalya, told Reuters the party would go ahead with its campaign rallies, saying COVID-19 cases had subsided.
    “President Lungu is being hypocritical, because the gathering outside the conference centre where he launched his campaign was more like a rally,” Bwalya said.
    Zambians will be voting in presidential, parliamentary and local government election.    There are 16 presidential candidates, with Lungu and Hichilema the main contenders.
(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Mfuneko Toyana and Angus MacSwan)

5/26/2021 South Africa’s Ex-President Zuma Pleads Not Guilty To Corruption Charges
Former South African President Jacob Zuma, who is facing fraud and corruption charges, sings after his appearance
in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, May 26, 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s former leader Jacob Zuma pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering charges relating to a $2 billion arms deal when he was deputy president.
    Zuma, who was president between 2009-2018, faces 18 charges relating to the 1999 deal.    He has rejected the charges and says he is the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt by a rival faction of the ruling African National Congress.
    Zuma, who also faces a separate inquiry into corruption during his time as president, is accused of accepting 500,000 rand ($34,000) annually from French arms company Thales, in exchange for protecting the company from an investigation into the deal.
    “I plead not guilty,” he said, staring into space, after the prosecutor read out all the charges.
    Zuma’s defence team is calling for the recusal of state prosecutor Billy Downer, on the grounds that he has “no title to prosecute.”    The prosecution requested more time to make a response to that call, so it will not be dealt with on Wednesday but rather on July 19, said the presiding judge.
    Thales was known as Thomson-CSF at the time of the deal.    It has said it had no knowledge of any transgressions by any of its employees in relation to the award of the contracts.    Its representative in court also pleaded not guilty to the racketeering, corruption and money laundering charges the company faced.
    The National Prosecuting Authority filed the charges against Zuma more than a decade ago, set them aside just before he successfully ran for president in 2009, then reinstated them a month after he resigned in early 2018.
(Reporting by Tim Cocks and Wendell Roelf, Editing by Timothy Heritage, William Maclean)

5/26/2021 Biden Expected To Name Thomas Nides As Envoy To Israel – Source
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides (C) talks to South Korea's Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (R), as U.S. Ambassador
to South Korea Sung Kim listens on, during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul February 29, 2012. REUTERS/Lee Jin-man/Pool
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden is expected to nominate Thomas Nides, an experienced diplomat and Wall Street executive, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
    Nides’ appointment would follow a ceasefire reached last week after 11 days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, the worst clashes in years.
    The Biden administration had faced criticism for lacking high-level diplomatic representation in Israel during the latest conflict, and the White House then made completing the selection process a higher priority.
    It was not immediately known when Biden planned to announce Nides’ nomination but a person familiar with the matter said it would happen soon.
    The White House declined comment.
    Nides, currently working as a senior executive at Morgan Stanley, served as deputy secretary of state for management and resources in the Obama administration.
    His top competition for the job was Robert Wexler, a former Florida congressman with extensive Middle East experience.
(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Alistair Bell)

5/26/2021 Blinken Says He Discussed Egypt’s Human Rights Record With Sisi
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks as he greets staff members of the U.S. Embassy
to Egypt, in Cairo, Egypt May 26, 2021. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday he had a lengthy discussion with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about Cairo’s human rights record.
    Speaking to reporters in Amman after a flight from Cairo, Blinken also said he raised with Sisi the issue of Americans who have been detained in Egypt.
(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick, Daphne Psaledakis and Humeyra Pamuk)

5/26/2021 Jordan’s King Welcomes U.S. Move To Reopen Consulate In Jerusalem
Jordan's King Abdullah II speaks during a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at
Bayt Al Urdon, in Amman, Jordan May 26, 2021. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS
    AMMAN (Reuters) -Jordan’s King Abdullah told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday he welcomed the administration’s move to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, state-owned media said.
    Blinken however said a bit of time would be needed to carry out the move, which he announced on Tuesday during his maiden Middle East trip to consolidate a ceasefire that ended the worst fighting in years between Israel and Palestinian militants.
    The Jerusalem consulate had served as a de facto embassy for the Palestinians until former President Donald Trump shuttered it in 2019.
    Blinken was also quoted as saying that the Jordanian monarch, whose Hashemite dynasty has custodianship of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, had played an instrumental role in brokering the deal to end fighting.
    He further said that aid had started to arrive in the Gaza Strip as part of a drive to help reconstruction in devastated areas of the enclave, ruled by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-KhalidiEditing by Mark Heinrich)

5/26/2021 Qatar Pledges $500 Million For Gaza Reconstruction
A views show the site of an Israeli air strike carried out during the recent Israeli-Palestinian
fighting, in the northern Gaza Strip May 24, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Qatar will provide $500 million to help rebuild Gaza, the foreign minister said on Wednesday, following a ceasefire that ended the worst fighting in years between Israel and Palestinian militants.
    “Qatar announces $500 million in support for the reconstruction of Gaza,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said in a Twitter post.
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Alison Williams)

5/27/2021 Syria’s Assad Wins 4th Term With 95% Of Vote, In Election The West Calls Fraudulent
A poster depicting Syria’s president Bashar al- Assad is seen as supporters of of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad celebrate after the results
of the presidential election announced that he won a fourth term in office, in Damascus, Syria, May 27, 2021. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Syrian President Bashar al-Assad won a fourth term in office with 95.1% of the votes in an election that will extend his rule over a country ruined by war but which opponents and the West say was marked by fraud.
    Assad’s government says the election on Wednesday shows Syria is functioning normally despite the decade-old conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million people – about half the population – from their homes.
    Head of parliament Hammouda Sabbagh announced the results at a news conference on Thursday, saying voter turnout was around 78%, with more than 14 million Syrians taking part.
    The election went ahead despite a U.N.-led peace process that had called for voting under international supervision that would help pave the way for a new constitution and a political settlement.
    The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States said in a statement criticising Assad ahead of the election that the vote would not be free or fair.    Turkey, an Assad adversary, has also said the election was illegitimate.
    The win delivers Assad, 55, seven more years in power and lengthens his family’s rule to nearly six decades.    His father, Hafez al-Assad, led Syria for 30 years until his death in 2000.
    Assad’s years as president have been defined by the conflict that began in 2011 with peaceful protests before spiralling into a multi-sided conflict that has fractured the Middle Eastern country and drawn in foreign friends and enemies.
    “Thank you to all Syrians for their high sense of nationalism and their notable participation. … For the future of Syria’s children and its youth, let’s start from tomorrow our campaign of work to build hope and build Syria,” Assad wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page.
    Assad’s biggest challenge, now that he has regained control of around 70% of the country, will be an economy in decline.
    Tightening U.S. sanctions, neighbouring Lebanon’s financial collapse, the COVID-19 pandemic hitting remittances from Syrians abroad and the inability of allies Russia and Iran to provide enough relief, mean prospects for recovery look poor.
    Rallies with thousands of people waving Syrian flags and holding pictures of Assad while singing and dancing took place all day Thursday in celebration of the election.
    Officials have told Reuters privately that authorities organised the large rallies in recent days to encourage voting, and the security apparatus that underpins Assad’s Alawite minority-dominated rule had instructed state employees to vote.
    The vote was boycotted by the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces who administer an autonomous oil-rich region in the northeast and in northwestern Idlib region, the last existing rebel enclave, where people denounced the election in large demonstrations on Wednesday.
    Assad was running against two obscure candidates, former deputy Cabinet minister Abdallah Saloum Abdallah and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei, head of a small, officially sanctioned opposition party.
    Marei got 3.3% of the vote, while Saloum received 1.5%, Sabbagh said.
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam and Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

5/27/2021 Exclusive: Turkey Pushed NATO Allies Into Softening Outrage Over Belarus Plane, Diplomats Say by Humeyra Pamuk and Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: Flags of NATO member countries flutter at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
    WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Turkey pushed NATO allies into watering down an official reaction to the forced landing by Belarus of a passenger plane and the detention of a dissident journalist on Sunday, two diplomats familiar with the matter told Reuters.
    NATO’s 30 allies released a two-paragraph statement on Wednesday condemning the forcing down of a Ryanair flight to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich but did not include any punitive steps that Baltic allies and Poland had pressed for.
    The statement was also less strident than NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s public remarks.    He called the incident a “state hijacking” and “outrageous.”
    Ankara insisted that any mention of support for more Western sanctions on Belarus, and calls for the release of political prisoners there, would be left out of the text, the two diplomats said. Language threatening a suspension of NATO’s cooperation with Belarus was also removed, they added.
    Turkey’s motives were not immediately clear.
    Diplomats said Ankara might be trying to preserve ties with Moscow, Belarus’ closest ally, and maintain economic relations with Belarus via Turkish Airlines, which has daily flights to Minsk. Another possibility could be Turkey’s keenness to welcome Russian tourists this summer after the COVID-19 pandemic.
    A spike in coronavirus infections last month and a flurry of foreign travel warnings have wiped out many early bookings and raised prospects of another lost tourist season for Turkey, which relies on the cash inflow to fund its heavy foreign debt.
    The Turkish foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    A NATO official said: “The statement by the North Atlantic Council on Belarus was agreed by all 30 Allies by consensus.    We do not go into the details of discussions in the North Atlantic Council, which are confidential.”
    One of the diplomats said Stoltenberg had won the agreement of all allies, including Turkey, for the final text, published on NATO’s website, to avoid further public divisions.
UPSET
    Turkey’s insistence on a watered-down text upset a number of allies, particularly Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, which had pushed for tougher wording, the diplomats said.
    A third diplomat said Ankara’s pushback was mainly aimed at using a different wording to that of the European Union, which detailed proposals for sanctions.    These included a ban on the overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines, preventing Belarusian airlines from using EU airports and calling on EU airlines to avoid Belarus.
    Turkey is not an EU member, though it has been a candidate for many years.
    “Many allies were very frustrated with Turkey.    It was important for NATO to respond and it is not clear why Ankara should want to defend (Belarusian President Alexander) Lukashenko,” said a European diplomat present at the discussion.
    Turkey has become a more difficult partner in recent years for some NATO allies, clashing with France over Turkish policy in Libya, with the United States on Syria and with Greece over energy rights in the Mediterranean.
    Turkey has also bought air defence missiles from Russia, which NATO says is an adversary trying to destabilise the West.
    The United States and European Union have criticised what they see as a slide towards more authoritarian rule under President Tayyip Erdogan, especially since a failed 2016 coup.
    But Turkey, which has the second largest military in NATO and is in a strategic location between Europe and the Middle East and with coasts on the Black and Mediterranean Seas, is too big and important for the EU or the United States to ignore.
    Ankara has said repeatedly it supports NATO but that it has the right to pursue its own sovereign foreign policy.
(Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin; Editing by Gareth Jones)

5/27/2021 U.N. Launches Investigation Into Whether Israel, Hamas Committed Crimes by Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a news conference at the European
headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, December 9, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    GENEVA (Reuters) -The United Nations Human Rights Council agreed on Thursday to launch an international investigation into alleged crimes committed during the 11-day conflict between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
    The independent investigation will have a broad mandate to look into all alleged violations, not just in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, but also in Israel during hostilities that were halted by a ceasefire on May 21.
    Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, earlier told the council that deadly Israeli strikes on Gaza might constitute war crimes and that     Hamas had violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets into Israel.
    Israel rejected the resolution adopted by the Geneva forum and said it would not cooperate.
    “Today’s shameful decision is yet another example of the UN Human Rights Council’s blatant anti-Israel obsession,” Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement accusing the forum of whitewashing “a genocidal terrorist organisation.”
    Israel’s foreign ministry said its forces acted “in accordance with international law, in defending our citizens from Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket fire.”
    A spokesman for Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, called the group’s actions “legitimate resistance” and called for “immediate steps to punish” Israel.
    Israel’s main ally, the United States, said it deeply regretted the decision in the forum, where it has observer status and no vote.
    “The action today instead threatens to imperil the progress that has been made,” said a statement released by the U.S. mission to the U.N. in Geneva.
    By a vote of 24 states in favour, and nine against, with 14 abstentions, the 47-member council adopted a resolution brought by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations.
    European countries were split, with Austria, Britain and Germany voting against. France and the Netherlands abstained.
BACHELET ADDRESSES COUNCIL
    Bachelet told the council her office had verified the deaths of 270 Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including 68 children, during this month’s violence.    Most were killed in Gaza.
    Hamas rockets killed 10 Israelis and residents, she said.    Israeli authorities put the number of those killed by Palestinian attacks in Israel at 13.
    “Regrettably, the self-professed global champions of human rights continue to shield the occupier from global accountability, and literally provide arms and ammunitions for its widely reported war crimes and crimes of apartheid against the Palestinian people,” said Pakistan’s ambassador to the OIC, Khalil Hashmi, who was speaking on behalf of the OIC.
    The conflict flared after Hamas demanded Israeli security forces leave the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem following confrontations there with Palestinians, and later launched rockets towards Israel.
    The compound sits atop the Old City plateau known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, or The Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as Temple Mount.    It is the most sensitive site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Bachelet said “indiscriminate” strikes from rockets launched by Hamas constituted “a clear violation of international humanitarian law.”
    She said Israel’s strikes in Gaza caused widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure and fatalities.
    “Despite Israel’s claims that many of these buildings were hosting armed groups or being used for military purposes, we have not seen evidence in this regard,” Bachelet said.
    “If found to be indiscriminate and disproportionate, such attacks might constitute war crimes,” she added.
(Reporting and writing by Stephanie Nebehay; additional reporting by Dan Williams and Jonathan Saul in Jerusalem and Nidal Al-Mughrabi in Ramallah; Editing by Peter Graff, Edmund Blair and Timothy Heritage)

5/27/2021 France’s Macron Seeks Forgiveness Over Rwandan Genocide by Clement Uwiringiyimana
French President Emmanuel Macron and Rwandan President Paul Kagame walk on the Presidential Palace grounds
before addressing a joint news conference in Kigali, Rwanda May 27, 2021. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana
    KIGALI (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said he recognised his country’s role in the Rwandan genocide and hoped for forgiveness at a memorial in Kigali on Thursday, seeking to reset relations after years of Rwandan accusations that France was complicit in the 1994 atrocities.
    “Only those who went through that night can perhaps forgive, and in doing so give the gift of forgiveness,” Macron said at the Gisozi genocide memorial, where more than 250,000 victims are buried. Rows of skulls lie there in a mass tomb and the names of the victims are inscribed on a black wall.
    “I hereby humbly and with respect stand by your side today, I come to recognise the extent of our responsibilities,” he said, speaking against a background of French and Rwandan flags.
    The visit follows the release in March of a report by a French inquiry panel that said a colonial attitude had blinded French officials, who were close to the Hutu-led government of the time.    The report blamed France for not foreseeing the slaughter and said the government bore a “serious and overwhelming” responsibility.
    Rwandan President Paul Kagame praised the “remarkable, independent” report and said it had opened the door for normalising relations.    He also welcomed Macron’s speech, saying at a joint news conference later that “his words were more powerful than an apology.”
    Kagame said Macron was confronting racism and underscored Rwanda’s willingness to reset relations with France, saying “this visit is about the future, not the past … I want to believe today that this rapprochement is irreversible.”
    The report absolved France of direct complicity in the killings of more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus – an accusation that Kagame has sometimes made and a point Macron was careful to note in his speech at the genocide memorial.
    “The killers who stalked the swamps, the hills, the churches, did not have the face of France.    France was not an accomplice,” Macron said.
    During the first visit to Rwanda by a French leader since 2010, Macron also promised to name a new ambassador, the first accredited French envoy since 2015.    France had declined to appoint a new ambassador after Kagame accused it of complicity in the genocide.
    Rwanda’s finance minister, Uzziel Ndagijimana, also said he signed a 60 million-euro ($73 million) loan with France to finance access to vaccines and social protection.
RELIEF AND FORGIVENESS
    The streets of Kigali were quiet on Thursday, with none of the banners or flags that usually accompany a high-level visit.    Restrictions on gatherings due to COVID-19 remain in place.    But several Rwandans said they welcomed Macron’s speech.
    Genocide survivor Esther Mukakalisa, 59, lost her parents and siblings – her face still bears the scars of a machete attack.    She, her cousin and her neighbours watched the speech intently on television.
    “After hearing this speech of the French president, it touched my heart and I am very happy that the French acknowledge their responsibilities,” she said.    “I forgive France.”
    “As genocide survivors we have been taught to forgive; if the French are apologizing, we are also ready to forgive,” her cousin Ernestine Mudahogor added as she wiped away a tear.
    Egide Nkuranga, president of Ibuka, an umbrella body of survivors’ associations, told Reuters that Macron had shown “commitment to cooperation” by promising to arrest any genocide perpetrators found to be living in France.
    Kagame, a Tutsi, has been the main power in Rwandan politics since his rebel army ended the killings by death squads loyal to the Hutu-led government.
    Macron, who has tried to distance France from its colonial past, agreed in April to open the Rwanda archives of former president Francois Mitterrand, in office during the genocide.
    Shortly after that announcement, Rwanda released its own report that found France was aware a genocide was being prepared and bore responsibility for enabling it by continuing in its unwavering support for Rwanda’s then president, Juvenal Habyarimana.
    “French officials armed, advised, trained, equipped, and protected the Rwandan government,” the report concluded, adding that France covered up its role for years.
    When unknown attackers shot down Habyarimana’s plane, killing the president, it unleashed the 100-day frenzy of killings.
    From Rwanda, Macron travels to South Africa, where he will meet President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss COVID-19 and regional crises, including violence in Mozambique.
($1 = 0.8205 euro)
(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana in Kigali and Richard Lough in Paris; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Giles Elgood and Matthew Lewis)

5/27/2021 Libyan Townsfolk Hope Unity Rule Will End Their Isolation by Ahmed Elumami
FILE PHOTO: Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh is seen during a visit to Bani Walid
in Libya, May 20, 2021. Media Office of the Prime Minister/Handout via REUTERS
    BANI WALID, Libya (Reuters) – In Libya’s Bani Walid, flags of ousted autocrat Muammar Gaddafi still fly in some places and streets are ragged with neglect, but its residents have new hope for their town and country.
    During a recent visit by Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, head of a new unity government, people waved olive branches as his armoured motorcade passed through the town, which has long been isolated by political disputes.    Children raised two fingers in a ‘v’ for victory and peace.
    Dbeibeh was appointed in March, sworn in by Libya’s divided parliament after his selection via a U.N. talks process, a step widely seen as offering the best chance for peace in years – slender though it might be.
    His interim government replaced two warring administrations in eastern and western areas, and has brought an array of factional and regional interests into positions of power or patronage.
    It still faces huge challenges, including myriad armed groups on the ground, mistrust between communities and disputes over access to oil wealth.
    Those problems were evident in Bani Walid, where the legacy of a decade of fighting, isolation and division is carved into potholed streets and scorched, bullet-pocked buildings.
    “The city is marginalised and isolated and needs a lot of support,” said Abdel Fattah Jabara, a teacher and coffee maker in the city centre.
    As Dbeibeh’s column rolled into Bani Walid last week, the presence of the armoured vehicles of the Tripoli-based “444 Brigade” forces protecting him and government ministers underscored fears of violence.
    The fighters, wearing uniforms and balaclavas, had taken over every checkpoint from Tripoli’s suburbs to the outskirts of Bani Walid.
    When Libyans rose against Gaddafi in a 2011 NATO-backed revolt, Bani Walid was a stronghold for the ousted leader.    A year later, it fought off forces angered at the protection townsfolk gave a fighter accused of abuses.
    Those battles began Bani Walid’s decade of isolation – cut off from the main factions that had ruled most of Libya from the capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.
    Some buildings still have shell holes. Windows are shattered. Walls show scorch marks.    At the town entrance, Libya’s pre-revolution green flag flutters on a pedestal.    A poster of Gaddafi shows on a billboard.
    Roads are unpaved or full of holes. Weeds grow in abandoned buildings’ doorways and algae-covered pools of sewage stagnate near some apartment blocks.
‘WE NEED URGENT SUPPORT’
    Dbeibeh is the first leading government figure to travel the 180 hot kilometres (112 miles) from Tripoli into the hills of Bani Walid for almost a decade.
    His unity government has papered over internal problems with largesse – using Libya’s oil revenues to award contracts, repair infrastructure and start projects.
    In a carpet factory known before 2011 for high-quality natural wool products, spider webs and dust shroud idle spinning machines that stretch into the darkness.     Only a few still operate.
    “The factory needs support,” said Fatima Masoud, 50, who has worked there for 20 years.    “There is nothing in the city that can provide good salaries.”
    Dbeibeh promised a 70% pay increase for workers and money for upgrades, saying: “Bani Walid will not be an arena for war… We will create job opportunities for young people.”
    The focus on spending risks leave the unity government vulnerable as the eastern-based parliament challenges its budget, political analysts say.
    The opportunity for patronage and wealth could also discourage Dbeibeh from keeping his commitment to hold elections for a permanent government to replace his own, they say.
    But in Bani Walid, people welcomed Dbeibeh’s visit.
    “It’s almost lifeless in the city. We need urgent support,” said one resident, Ali Abulqader, at a students’ graduation ceremony attended by the prime minister.
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Timothy Heritage)

5/27/2021 U.S. Outraged By Violence Against Iraqi Demonstrators - State Department
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators face security forces during an anti-government protest in
Baghdad, Iraq May 25, 2021. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States is outraged that peaceful Iraqi demonstrators demanding reform were met with threats and “brutal violence,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Thursday.
    One person died and several were injured on Tuesday when Iraqi security forces fired live rounds in the air to disperse anti-government protests in central Baghdad, according to security and medical sources.
    Hundreds demonstrated in Tahrir Square, shouting slogans against Iran-backed militias and accusing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government of failing to answer for the deaths of dozens of activists shot dead in different parts of Iraq in recent months.
    “The United States is outraged that peaceful demonstrators who took to the streets to urge reform were met with threats and brutal violence,” Price said.
    “We welcome every effort by the government to hold accountable the militias, thugs, and vigilante groups for their attacks against Iraqis exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as well as for their assault on the rule of law.”
(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

5/27/2021 Syria Opposition Leader Says Assad Election To Worsen Country’s Plight by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: National Coordination Body (NCB) co-chairman Hassan Abdul-Azim visits a cemetery for Kurdish fighters
from the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Qamishli, Syria December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Rodi Said
    AMMAN (Reuters) – A “sham” election designed to prolong President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on Syria shows that only international pressure for a U.N.-backed peace plan can pave the way for democratic rule, a Damascus-based secular opposition leader said.
    Lawyer Hassan Abdul Azim of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change added that Wednesday’s vote would only worsen the plight of a country afflicted by hunger, poverty and an “authoritarian regime.”
    “This insistence on clinging to power does not bring stability,” Abdul Azim told Reuters in a phone interview, referring to acute fuel and food shortages and sky-rocketing inflation that has pushed most Syrians deeper into poverty.
    “These sham elections show the regime does not want a political solution and the situation will worsen,” said Abdul Azim, the committee’s general coordinator.
    “People are now dying of hunger.”
    Unrepentant, Assad says Syrians made their feelings clear by coming out in large rallies to support the election.    Addressing his critics as he voted, he said: “The value of your opinions is zero.”    Abdul Azim’s committee, whose leaders are based mainly in Syria, was set up in the aftermath of pro-democracy protests in March 2011 that spiraled into a devastating war that killed tens of thousands and displaced millions.
    It is a coalition of mainly outlawed opposition parties inside Syria bringing together liberals, leftists and nationalists who demand real democratic change.
    Syria’s political future, he argues, rests on major powers pushing forward stalled U.N. Security Council resolution 2254 that paves the way for a transitional government and free and fair elections under U.N. supervision.
    “It would be real elections with competing candidates and not ones whose results are known beforehand,” Abdul Azim said of peace plan, negotiated in 2015 in a rare show of unity among major powers.
    The prominent opposition figure spent several years in prison during the long decades of Assad family rule.
    Abdul Azim blamed the president for wrecking several rounds of Syria Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva since October 2019 that brought together the opposition and the government to draft a new constitution.
UNIFYING OPPOSITION RANKS
    Abdul Azim said the mainly domestic opposition parties made major strides in unifying their ranks this month by forming the broad based National Democratic Front (JOOD) coalition.    The grouping represents about 15 political parties from a wide spectrum of groups both inside Syria and outside.
    After security forces prevented them from holding a founding meeting in Damascus on March 26, a virtual meeting was held on May 18 that will hold a wider conference sometime between mid-June and the first half of July where it will approve its leadership structure, he added.
    Abdul Azim and his allies had earlier parted ways with other opposition figures over the nature of opposition to Assad, with Abdul Aziz and his partners advocating peaceful protests and rejecting foreign intervention and an armed insurgency.
    They later joined the Riyadh-based High Negotiation Committee that included the Istanbul-based based opposition backed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Western enemies of Assad who for years financed mainstream rebel groups.
    Abdul Azim said their meeting last week endorsed a political programme in line with the U.N. peace plan that would allow the return of millions of Syrians who fled or were displaced and have so far resisted returning for fear of reprisals.
    “We seek fundamental democratic change that ends the existing authoritarian regime with all its symbols,” he said.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Editing by William Maclean)

5/27/2021 Lebanon’s Central Bank Says Not Enough Reserves For Medical Supplies
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Lebanon's Central Bank building in Beirut, Lebanon, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s central bank said on Thursday that a system for importing subsidised medical goods could not be sustained without using its mandatory reserves and asked the relevant authorities to find a solution to the problem.
    Lebanon, which in the throes of a financial crisis that is threatening its stability, has been subsidising fuel, wheat, medicine and other basic goods since last year.
    In a statement issued after caretaker health minister Hamad Hasan said he had visited the bank asking for the release of funds for essential medicines to no avail, the central bank said it would not dip into its mandatory reserves to cover the $1.3 billion cost of the subsidised medical supplies.
    “This total cost that is required from the central bank as a result of a policy to subsidise these medical items cannot be supplied without touching mandatory reserves and this is what the board of the central bank refuses,” it said.
    Lebanon’s hard currency reserves have dropped alarmingly from over $30 billion before the financial crisis hit in late 2019 to just over $15 billion in March.
    The wider subsidy programme costs around $6 billion a year.
    Hasan had said on a local television programme last week that around 50% of required medicines were available but in the warehouses of importers awaiting payment.
    Lebanon, which is in political paralysis, deeply indebted and struggling to raise funds from potential donor states and institutions, has said money for subsidies will run out in May.
    The design and implementation of its subsidy system, which included long lists of non-basic items, has been criticised as wasteful by traders and consumers.
(This story corrects reserve figure in paragraph 5 to $15 billion, not million)
(Reporting By Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; Editing by Catherine Evans)

5/27/2021 U.S. Warns Of Further Action Against Ethiopia, Eritrea Over Tigray by Daphne Psaledakis and Patricia Zengerle
FILE PHOTO: A burned tank stands near the town of Adwa, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 18, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior U.S. State Department official warned on Thursday that Ethiopia and Eritrea should anticipate further actions from the United States if those stoking the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region fail to reverse course.
    Thousands have been killed and about 2 million people forced from their homes in Tigray after conflict erupted between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian military in November.    Troops from the neighboring Amhara region and the nation of Eritrea entered the war to support the government.
    The State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs Robert Godec told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the security situation in Tigray has worsened in recent weeks, adding all armed parties have committed atrocities.
    Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, and Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti did not respond to calls and messages requesting comment.
    The Ethiopian government has previously said that the conflict in Tigray is an internal affair; last week it announced that more than 50 soldiers were on trial for rape or killing civilians, although the records are not public.    Eritrea has denied any allegations its troops have been involved in atrocities.
    Both Ethiopia and Eritrea spent months denying the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray, before announcing two months ago the Eritreans would pull out.    On Monday night, both militaries carried out a joint raid on camps for displaced families in the town of Shire, witnesses said.    The incident prompted condemnation from the United Nations over the “arbitrary arrests, beatings and other forms of ill-treatment.”
    “Should those stoking the conflict fail to reverse course, Ethiopia and Eritrea should anticipate further actions.    It cannot be ‘business-as-usual’ in the face of the violence and atrocities in Tigray,” Godec said.
    On Sunday, the United States imposed restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia over alleged human rights abuses during the conflict in Tigray, and said it will bar current or former Ethiopian or Eritrean government officials it deems responsible for the crisis.    Eritrea already faces broad restrictions.
    Godec said that the United States is looking at a range of other sanctions, including under the Global Magnitsky Act and others targeted at individuals or institutions.
    Godec said that while the ethnic conflict in Tigray is the worst in Ethiopia, it is only one, citing attacks on ethnic Amharans, Gumuz and Oromo, as well as other violence.
    “The government’s response of mass arrests, media restrictions, human rights violations, and declining political space is fueling inter-communal rivalry and imperiling the national elections now scheduled for June 21,” Godec said.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Patricia ZengerleEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry)

5/27/2021 UN Rights Council Votes For Probe Into ‘Crimes’ Committed In Gaza Conflict
People sit near the rubble of their houses which were destroyed by Israeli air strikes during
the Israel-Hamas fighting in Gaza Strip May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah.
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations Human Rights Council agreed on Thursday to launch an international investigation into crimes committed during the 11-day conflict between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
    By a vote of 24 states in favour, 9 against, with 14 abstentions, the 47-member forum adopted a resolution brought by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations.
    “The draft resolution … is therefore adopted,” Nazhat Shameem Khan, Fiji’s ambassador who serves as current president of the Geneva forum, said after an all-day special session.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Edmund Blair)

5/27/2021 First Foreign Tourists In More Than A Year Land In Israel by Steven Scheer
Tourists wait next to a bus outside Ben Gurion International Airport after entering Israel by plane, as coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) restrictions ease, in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel, May 27, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The first group of foreign tourists in more than a year touched down in Israel on Thursday after the government began opening its borders following a steep drop in COVID-19 infections.
    Small groups of vaccinated foreign tourists – up to 30 people – have been allowed to enter as of last Sunday and the Tourism Ministry expects 20 such groups to come from countries, including the United States, Britain and Germany, under a pilot programme until June 15.
    The ministry then hopes to expand the number of groups and, in July, allow individual tourists.
    Shortly after 4 pm (1300 GMT), United Airlines flight 90 from Newark, New Jersey landed with 12 Christian pilgrims, men and women of varying ages, studying theology at the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.    They were welcomed by Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hakohen, who said: “You are the first of what I am sure will be many tourists returning to the Holy Land.”
    Led by Pastor Tom Zelt of the Prince of Peace Church, the group plans to visit Jerusalem, Nazareth, national parks and Christian sites, the Tourism Ministry said.
    “Israel is … healthy and vaccinated.    Everything is now safely open,” Farkash-Hakohen told the group.
    The country had closed its borders to foreigners at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.    A rapid vaccine roll-out that has vaccinated most adults has brought the number of active COVID cases to just 428 nationwide.
    This has paved the way for Israel to allow vaccinated foreigners to enter the country and revive its tourism sector, although officials remain cautious over potential new variants.
    Tourists are required to show negative PCR tests before flying and to take another test at Ben Gurion Airport after landing in Tel Aviv.
    Groups will also need to take serological tests at their hotel to prove they have COVID-19 antibodies.    They will need to quarantine until results come back, usually in a few hours.
    Tourism in 2019 hit a record high of 4.55 million visitors, contributing 23 billion shekels ($7.1 billion) to Israel’s economy, mainly via small and mid-sized businesses.
(Reporting by Steven Scheer. Editing by Jane Merriman)

5/27/2021 Germany To Atone For Namibian Colonial Horrors With A Billion Euros Of Projects by Nyasha Nyaungwa
FILE PHOTO: Human skulls from the Herero and ethnic Nama people are displayed during a ceremony in Berlin, Germany, August 29, 2018, to hand
back human remains from Germany to Namibia following the 1904-1908 genocide against the Herero and Nama . REUTERS/Christian Mang
    WINDHOEK (Reuters) -Germany has agreed to fund projects in Namibia worth more than a billion euros over 30 years to atone for its role in genocide and property seizures in its-then colony more than a century ago, a Namibian government spokesman said on Thursday.
    Thousands of Herero and Nama people were killed by German colonial forces between 1904 and 1908, after the tribes rebelled against German rule in the colony, then named German South West Africa.    Survivors were driven into the desert, where many ended up in concentration camps to be used as slave labour and many died from cold, malnutrition and exhaustion.
    Namibian presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari said a joint declaration outlining the agreement was made by special envoys of both countries on May 15, at the end of a ninth round of negotiations over the issue.
    In a brief text response to Reuters, Hengari said an official apology from Germany was expected, adding that “implementation modalities can only commence after the President has spoken to affected communities.”
    Herero paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro told Reuters the reported agreement was a “sellout.”
    The German foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Asked on Wednesday if a deal was close, a German foreign ministry spokesman said the minister had updated the cabinet earlier in the day on the status of the negotiations and that Germany was keeping to a confidentiality agreement with Namibia.
    An estimated 65,000 of the 80,000 Herero living in German South West Africa, and 10,000 of an estimated 20,000 Namas, are said to have died during the period.
    Namibian media reported earlier on Thursday that Germany had agreed to fund 1.1 billion euros of infrastructure, healthcare and training programmes that would directly benefit the affected communities.
    Rukoro, who unsuccessfully sued Germany for compensation in the United States, said the reported settlement was not enough for the two communities, which had suffered “irreversible harm” at the hands of German colonial forces.
    “We have a problem with that kind of an agreement, which we feel constitutes a complete sellout on the part of the Namibian government,” Rukoro told Reuters.
    Germany ruled Namibia from 1884 until it lost the colony during World War One.    In 1920 the territory was placed under South African administration, until 1990 when it gained independence.
    The German government has previously acknowledged “moral responsibility” for the killings, which a minister has described as genocide, but Berlin has avoided an official apology to ward off compensation claims.
    In 2015, it began formal negotiations with Namibia over the issue and in 2018 it returned skulls and other remains of massacred tribespeople that were used in the colonial-era experiments to assert claims of European racial superiority.
(Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa; additional reporting by Paul Carrel in Berlin; editing by Mfuneko Toyana, Philippa Fletcher and Catherine Evans)

5/27/2021 EU Military Training Mission In Mali To Keep Going For Now
FILE PHOTO: Malian soldiers of the 614th Artillery Battery attend a training session on a D-30 howitzer with the European Union
Training Mission (EUTM), to fight jihadists, in the camp of Sevare, Mopti region, in Mali March 25, 2021. REUTERS/ Paul Lorgerie
    LISBON (Reuters) – The European Union military training mission in Mali will continue for the time being despite the latest crisis in the West African country, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday.
    “They (the Mali military) are very much engaged in fighting all over the territory of Mali, and I don’t think it is going to help the country to stop this activity,” Borrell told reporters after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Lisbon.
    “But let’s see how things are going.”
(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee in Lisbon and Sabine Siebold in Berlin; Editing by Edmund Blair)

5/27/2021 U.S. Regrets U.N. Move To Launch Gaza Probe
FILE PHOTO: A Palestinian man lights a fire amid the rubble of his house which was destroyed
by Israeli air strikes during the Israel-Hamas fighting, in Gaza Strip, May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah.
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States said on Thursday that it deeply regretted a decision by the U.N. Human Rights Council to launch an international investigation into crimes that may have been committed in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
    “The action today instead threatens to imperil the progress that has been made,” said the statement issued by the U.S. mission to the U.N. in Geneva.
    The United States, which has observer status and no vote at the Geneva forum, did not speak in the all-day special session which adopted a resolution brought by the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation and the Palestinian delegation to the U.N.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay)

5/27/2021 U.N. Appeals For $95 Million To Help Palestinians For Three Months by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: Lynn Hastings, the Head of the humanitarian operations in the Occupied Palestinian
Territory, visits Gaza City May 22, 2021. REUTERS/Nidal al-Mughrabi
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United Nations appealed on Thursday for $95 million to help Palestinians over the next three months in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, after 11 days of the worst fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel in years.
    Lynn Hastings, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said the United Nations was currently looking at immediate aid needs and would then assess the longer term damage and how much might be needed for reconstruction.
    She said the appeal launched on Thursday was to address “very immediate needs,” such as food, health, medicine, medical supplies, quick repairs to infrastructure and cash assistance.    On top of the appeal, the United Nations has also already released $22.5 million from other funds to help meet needs.
    Separately, Qatar has said it will provide $500 million to help rebuild Gaza, while the United States pledged an additional $75 million in development and economic aid to the Palestinians in 2021, $5.5 million in immediate disaster relief for Gaza and $32 million to the U.N. Palestinian aid agency based there.
    Palestinian officials put reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars in Gaza, where medical officials said 248 people were killed during the 11 days of fighting.    Medics said rocket fire and a guided missile attack killed 13 people in Israel during the hostilities.
    A truce began on Friday.    The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas rules Gaza and is listed by Washington as a terrorist organisation.    Israel has blockaded Gaza since 2007, saying this prevents Hamas bringing in arms.
    “Maintaining predictable access for goods and staff to enter and exit Gaza is going to be critical to ensure a way forward in Gaza,” Hastings told reporters on Thursday.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

5/27/2021 Regional Bloc Holds Off On Military Response To Mozambique Insurgency
FILE PHOTO: Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi attends a signing ceremony following the talks with
Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia August 22, 2019. Sputnik/Alexey Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS
    MAPUTO (Reuters) – A bloc of southern African nations said on Thursday it will work to shore up Mozambique’s security forces as they battle an escalating insurgency linked to Islamic State, but made no mention of proposals for a military intervention.
    Members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including neighbouring South Africa, have favoured the idea of regional military action as the violence has worsened and the threat to regional stability has grown.
    Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi, however, has said in the past Mozambique should handle certain aspects of the response alone for reasons of sovereignty, and resisted suggestions of foreign boots on the ground.
    In remarks following a SADC meeting in the capital Maputo, Nyusi said leaders had concluded the summit with a clearer sense of the “concrete steps” that needed to be taken to quell the violence.
    “We adopted measures aiming to eliminate by its roots the terrorist actions through reinforcing the operational capacity of (Mozambique’s) defence and security forces,” he said, pointing also to plans to enhance border security and target the militants’ funding sources.
    The summit followed the capture of the key northern town of Palma in March, which killed dozens, displaced over 50,000 people and brought a $20 billion gas project by oil major Total to a grinding halt.
    The assault exacerbated already growing concern among regional neighbours about the insurgent group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
    Subsequently, South Africa said it would press for urgent military intervention in the conflict, while a leaked SADC document, which has not been verified, proposed sending a force of almost 3,000 soldiers to the country.
    SADC’s brief communique issued following Thursday’s summit however made no clear mention of military intervention.
    The summit had noted the progress in finding a lasting solution to the violence, considered the proposed regional response and agreed to convene another meeting in Mozambique by June 20, the communique said.
(Reporting by Manuel Mucari; Writing by Emma Rumney; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

5/28/2021 Israeli Troops Kill Palestinian During West Bank Clash, Palestinians Say
A Palestinian demonstrator throws a tire onto a fire during a protest against Israeli settlements,
in the Israeli-occupied West Bank May 28, 2021. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta
    NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) – Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian during clashes in the occupied West Bank on Friday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
    A few hundred Palestinians had gathered near Nablus in the northern West Bank to protest Israeli settlements.
    Some in the crowd, with their faces covered by masks, threw rocks at soldiers and burned tires, witnesses said.    Israeli soldiers opened fire, killing one man, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
    A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said they were checking the report.
    Tensions remain high in the region despite a ceasefire reached last week between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza that ended 11 days of fighting.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

5/28/2021 Lebanon’s Hezbollah Congratulates Syria’s Assad On Election Victory – Statement
Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad celebrate before the results of the presidential
election in Damascus, Syria, May 27, 2021. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
(Corrects majority in para 3 to 95.1%, not 91.1%)
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Friday congratulated Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on winning a fourth term in office, it said in a statement.
    “We hope that upcoming years will be a great opportunity for Syria to return to playing its natural and leading role globally and regionally,” it said.
    Assad won the election on Thursday with a majority of 95.1%.
(This story corrects majority in para 3 to 95.1%, not 91.1%)
(Reporting by Laila Bassam, writing by Alaa Swilam; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

5/28/2021 Syria’s Assad Wins 4th Term With 95% Of Vote, In Election The West Calls Fraudulent
Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad celebrate before the results of the
presidential election in Damascus, Syria, May 27, 2021. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Syrian President Bashar al-Assad won a fourth term in office with 95.1% of the votes in an election that will extend his rule over a country ruined by war but which opponents and the West say was marked by fraud.
    Assad’s government says the election on Wednesday shows Syria is functioning normally despite the decade-old conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million people – about half the population – from their homes.
    Head of parliament Hammouda Sabbagh announced the results at a news conference on Thursday, saying voter turnout was around 78%, with more than 14 million Syrians taking part.
    The election went ahead despite a U.N.-led peace process that had called for voting under international supervision that would help pave the way for a new constitution and a political settlement.
    The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States said in a statement criticising Assad ahead of the election that the vote would not be free or fair.    Turkey, an Assad adversary, has also said the election was illegitimate.
    The win delivers Assad, 55, seven more years in power and lengthens his family’s rule to nearly six decades.    His father, Hafez al-Assad, led Syria for 30 years until his death in 2000.
    Assad’s years as president have been defined by the conflict that began in 2011 with peaceful protests before spiralling into a multi-sided conflict that has fractured the Middle Eastern country and drawn in foreign friends and enemies.
    “Thank you to all Syrians for their high sense of nationalism and their notable participation. … For the future of Syria’s children and its youth, let’s start from tomorrow our campaign of work to build hope and build Syria,” Assad wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page.
    Assad’s biggest challenge, now that he has regained control of around 70% of the country, will be an economy in decline.
    Tightening U.S. sanctions, neighbouring Lebanon’s financial collapse, the COVID-19 pandemic hitting remittances from Syrians abroad and the inability of allies Russia and Iran to provide enough relief, mean prospects for recovery look poor.
    Rallies with thousands of people waving Syrian flags and holding pictures of Assad while singing and dancing took place all day Thursday in celebration of the election.
    Officials have told Reuters privately that authorities organised the large rallies in recent days to encourage voting, and the security apparatus that underpins Assad’s Alawite minority-dominated rule had instructed state employees to vote.
    The vote was boycotted by the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces who administer an autonomous oil-rich region in the northeast and in northwestern Idlib region, the last existing rebel enclave, where people denounced the election in large demonstrations on Wednesday.
    Assad was running against two obscure candidates, former deputy Cabinet minister Abdallah Saloum Abdallah and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei, head of a small, officially sanctioned opposition party.
    Marei got 3.3% of the vote, while Saloum received 1.5%, Sabbagh said.
(Reporting by Alaa Swilam and Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

5/28/2021 WHO Seeks Gaza Patient Access, Evacuations After Violence
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian doctor Marwan Abu Sada works in Shifa hospital in Gaza City May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GENEVA (Reuters) -The World Health Organization called on Friday for access to patients in the Gaza strip and free passage to evacuate them for medical treatment as health workers struggle to care for the sick and wounded after 11 days of violence.
    WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told a Geneva briefing that around 600 patients, including some with chronic conditions, needed to be referred outside of the Palestinian enclave since the start of the hostilities, but had been unable to due to crossing closures.
    “It’s very important that we help Palestinians get the care they need, especially helping them get treatment outside the Gaza strip,” she said.
    WHO has a presence on the ground, Chaib said, but was unable to confirm whether it currently had any access from the outside.    Other aid agencies have complained about limited humanitarian access and drug supplies.
    Dozens of health centres were damaged during Israeli bombings earlier this month, prompting the WHO to warn that facilities risked being overwhelmed.
    “The capacity of the health system to respond is completely crushed,” Helen Ottens-Patterson, MSF head of mission in Gaza, told journalists earlier this week.
    In an indication of the challenges ahead, she said that an MSF team had to “wade through rubble and glass” to access a ministry of health compound earlier this week.
    Aid workers have also raised concerns about a possible surge in COVID-19 infections after the latest violence, since many people displaced by bombings were crowded together for shelter.
(Reporting by Emma Farge and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

5/28/2021 Turkish Mobster’s Videos Targeting Top Politicians Draw Millions Of Views by Ali Kucukgocmen and Bulent Usta
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu speaks during a news conference in
Istanbul, Turkey, August 21, 2019. Ahmet Bolat/Pool via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – When Sedat Peker, a convicted Turkish mob boss, began posting videos on social media earlier this month in which he made uncorroborated claims of corruption, murder and drug running against top politicians, millions of Turks tuned in to watch.
    Among them was Can Gumusbas, a digital marketing specialist who has been following the Peker videos on his laptop at home.    The 27-year-old believes prosecutors should open an investigation into the claims.
    “If nothing is done, the idea of Turkey being a democratic state of law will become nonsensical,” he said.
    Alara, a public relations specialist who declined to give her last name, has also been glued to her computer screen.
    Like many viewers, she questioned the veracity of Peker’s allegations, but said one reason for people’s fascination was that the videos bypassed traditional media in Turkey, much of which is controlled by the state.
    “It reflects the times that we are in, because you have a mafia boss who is live-streaming … and he can talk about various things, his own topics without any filters,” Alara, also 27, told Reuters.
    The seven videos Peker has posted so far have been viewed more than 56 million times on YouTube.
    Some Turks see them as an embarrassment for President Tayyip Erdogan’s government, which has ruled Turkey for nearly two decades and vaunted its success in breaking ties between the state and mafia.
    Opposition parties have called for the resignation of Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, the main target of Peker’s rambling monologues, in which he speaks from behind a desk in a mixture of street jargon and political rhetoric.
    “You cannot handle this by going on screens and blathering,” said IYI Party leader Meral Aksener.
    Soylu has rejected accusations against him, which include extending Peker’s police protection after he left jail and warning him of a crackdown on his organisation, calling them “disgusting lies” and a plot against the country.
    Soylu filed a criminal complaint against Peker and said he was being targeted because of his fight against organised crime.
    Asked in a televised interview why millions had watched the videos, Soylu snapped back that millions also watched child pornography.
    Erdogan weighed into the issue on Wednesday and implied support for Soylu, telling parliament the government was chasing criminal gang members “no matter where in the world they run to.”
    Peker, 49, rose to prominence in the 1990s as a mob figure and was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2007 for crimes including forming and leading a criminal gang.    He has served several sentences in Turkey and has said he is now in Dubai.
    Reuters could not verify his current location.
    For investigative journalist Gokcer Tahincioglu, Peker’s videos feel like “live reporting from inside the gang” and should be taken seriously.
    “There is a confessor who is not anonymous and who wants to speak of his own accord.    Why shouldn’t he be heard?    He must be heard,” he told Reuters.
    Galip Dalay, a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, said the accusations could make life hard for Erdogan, who relies on cabinet members like Soylu to shore up support among nationalist allies in parliament.
    Removing Soylu could hurt the president’s political base, Dalay said, while leaving him in his post might be seen as a sign of weakness.
    “None of Erdogan’s options are easy.”
(Additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen and Mert Ozkan; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Mike Collett-White)

5/28/2021 Boat Carrying 200 People Capsizes In Nigeria by Garba Muhammad
An official of the National Emergency Management Agency stands as people gather around a truck carrying
bodies of the victims of a boat accident in Kebbi, Nigeria May 27, 2021 NEMA/Handout via REUTERS
    KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) – A boat ferrying about 200 people capsized in the northwestern Nigerian state of Kebbi on Wednesday but the number of casualties remains unclear, a state spokesman said.
    The wooden boat capsized near Wara, a town on the shores of Kainji Lake, part of the Niger River, said Yahaya Sarki, a spokesman the governor of Kebbi.
    It had about 200 passengers on board, coming from the neighbouring Nigerian state of Niger.
    “Bodies are still being recovered.    We can’t ascertain the number for now,” Sarki said.
    One survivor, Buhari Abubakar, said about 40 people have been rescued so far, though many of the other passengers, mostly women and children, are still missing.
    Five bodies were recovered as of Wednesday evening, though local people expect more to wash up in the coming days, said Qasimu Umar Wara, a Wara resident.
    “The boat was overloaded," he said.    “My brother is among those missing.    This is the worst boat accident that has happened in this water.”
    Many of the passengers were returning from a newly-discovered gold vein in Niger, Wara said.
    “They usually go there in the evenings and return to Wara in the morning,” he said.    “Most of them are petty traders, food vendors and the local miners.”
(This story corrects to clarify in paragraph 3 that boat left Nigerian state of Niger, not neighbouring country of same name)
(Reporting by Garba Muhammad in Kaduna; Additional reporting by Ardo Hazzad in Bauchi; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Alistair Bell and Angus MacSwan)

5/28/2021 Algerian Medics Fear New Infections As Borders To Reopen by Lamine Chikhi
An ambulance is parked outside the infectious diseases department at Boufarik Hospital, amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Boufarik, Algeria May 26, 2021. REUTERS/Abdelaziz Boumzar
    ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algerian medics fear next week’s reopening of national borders will trigger a new surge in COVID-19 cases despite health measures, as people living abroad rush home to see family.
    The borders have been mostly closed since the global pandemic struck in early 2020, marooning thousands of Algerians working overseas and separating families with dual nationality but helping to protect against a more serious infection rate.
    “I am afraid of a likely increase in cases after the opening. Risks are high because of the variants,” said Wafa, a doctor working at a private clinic in Algiers who asked not to give her family name when criticising state policy.
    Algeria, an oil producer, closed its borders and suspended flights in March 2020 when the global pandemic struck, only reopening them to humanitarian flights from France between January and March this year before another wave of infection began.
    In total, Algeria has registered 126,000 coronavirus cases and 3,300 deaths.    It will reopen the borders again on June 1 to flights from France, Tunisia, Spain and Turkey, but not to Gulf states where many Algerians also live and work.
    The government briefly decided to postpone the resumption of flights but then changed its mind, while adding additional restrictions.
    “We can open partially as long as we follow the conditions, including a PCR test and a five-day confinement upon arrival,” Mohamed Yousfi, head of Algeria’s infectious diseases organisation told Reuters.
    He warned that there was still a risk, however.    “We have found out that some persons who tested negative in France ended up being infected a couple of days after getting into Algeria,” Yousfi said.
    Foreign firms, including in the energy sector, have complained because they were unable to bring staff and even top managers into Algeria, according to a foreign manager who works in the oil sector and is based in Algiers.
    For thousands of Algerians stuck abroad, the government decision to partially reopen is a relief, even if some complained about having to pay to spend five days at an approved hotel in Algeria after landing.
    “It’s great news, more than a year blocked in France. Definitely happy to go home,” said Douadi Azouz an Algerian living in Lille, by phone.
    “It will cost big money as I must pay the PCR test as well as the five days at a hotel, but it doesn’t matter really,” he said.
    Algeria said the plan includes five daily flights from each country with which direct links were restored.    Algerians based in the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries were not happy to be excluded.
    “I am angry.    I am homesick.    Hopefully they will program a flight for us soon,” said Zoheir Cheikh, speaking from Dubai.
(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi, editing by Angus McDowall and Raissa Kasolowsky)

5/28/2021 Erdogan Inaugurates Major New Mosque In Heart Of Istanbul by Daren Butler
Newly built Taksim Mosque is seen at Taksim Square shortly before its inaguration in central Istanbul, Turkey May 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) -President Tayyip Erdogan inaugurated an imposing new mosque in Istanbul on Friday, fulfilling a decades-old goal and stamping a religious identity on the landmark Taksim Square in the heart of Turkey’s largest city.
    The Taksim mosque and its 30-metre high dome loom symbolically over a monument to the foundation of the Turkish republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, whose staunchly secular legacy has been eroded by nearly two decades of Erdogan’s rule.
    After performing Friday prayers with thousands of worshippers, Erdogan said completion of the mosque marked the culmination of a dream for Turks, and that the call to prayer would be heard there “until the end of time.”
    Erdogan told crowds outside the mosque that before building work started four years ago there was not even a prayer room at the site.
    “Worshippers were trying to pray here on top of newspapers, literally like a hen-house,” he said.
    Construction of the mosque began in February 2017 in a project championed by Erdogan, a devout Muslim, and his Islamist-rooted AK Party, but which was beset for decades by court battles and public debate.
    Officials on Friday shared on Twitter a video showing Erdogan in 1994, the year he became Istanbul mayor, pointing from the top of a building towards the area where he said he would build the mosque, the exact spot where it now stands.
    It is one of many construction projects with which Erdogan has left his mark on Turkey, including a huge hilltop mosque overlooking the Asian side of Istanbul. Last year he reconverted into a mosque the city’s Haghia Sophia, for centuries the world’s largest church before being turned into a mosque and museum in turn.
    Supporters of the Taksim project argued there were not enough Muslim places of worship close to one of the city’s busiest hubs.    Opponents saw it as a bid to impose a religious tone on the square, featuring a cultural centre dedicated to Ataturk which was demolished and is being rebuilt.
    The mosque complex, with two towering minarets, will be able to host as many as 4,000 worshippers and includes an exhibition hall, a library, car park and soup kitchen, state-owned Anadolu news agency said.
    Pro-government newspapers hailed the new mosque. Aksam’s headline mocked critics who fear creeping religiosity: “It looks great.    A mosque was built in Taksim and neither has sharia law come, nor has the republic collapsed,” it said.
    The inauguration also coincides with the date when protests began just 100 metres away in Gezi Park, before growing into massive protests against Erdogan’s government which spread across Turkey in June 2013.
    The Gezi protests began on May 28, 2013 after demolition work began in one corner of the park the previous evening, knocking down a wall and some trees, drawing a small group of protesters who camped out at the site.
    The anniversary of the protests is generally marked on May 31, when the protests escalated.    In June of that year, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in demonstrations against a plan to build a replica Ottoman barracks on Gezi Park.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans and Jane Merriman)

5/28/2021 Prosecutors Seek Jail For Istanbul Mayor For Insulting Election Board
FILE PHOTO: Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu speaks after being awarded with the German-Turkish
Friendship Award 'Kybele 2019' in Berlin, Germany, November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence for the mayor of Istanbul, seen as a possible challenger to long-time President Tayyip Erdogan, for insulting election authorities, state-owned news agency Anadolu reported on Friday.
    Ekrem Imamoglu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, was elected mayor of Turkey’s biggest city in June 2019 in a re-run vote after an earlier election was cancelled over allegations by Erdogan’s ruling AK Party of fraud.
    The prosecutors’ indictment calls for a 4-year sentence against Imamoglu for insulting Supreme Election Board members in a speech he delivered after the cancellation of the first round of elections in March 2019, Anadolu said.
    He was quoted by Turkish media as saying that the cancellation affected Turkey’s international standing and the officials who took the decision were foolish.
    Recent opinion polls suggest Imamoglu’s popularity has overtaken Erdogan, as the president battles the global COVID-19 pandemic and economic challenges, ahead of presidential elections scheduled for 2023.
    The indictment has been accepted and an Istanbul court will hear the case, Anadolu reported.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans)

5/29/2021 76 Bodies Recovered From Capsized Boat In Nigeria by OAN Newsroom
Rescued workers carry a victim of a boat accident in Kebbi , Nigeria, Thursday,
May 27, 2021. (National Emergency Management Agency/via AP)
    At least 76 people have died after an overloaded riverboat capsized in northeast Nigeria.    A burial ceremony was held on Saturday for victims of the fatal incident in the Kebbi region, which sent more than 150 passengers into the waters below.
    Authorities believe the boat capsized because of the amount of people on board, many of whom are believed to be traders traveling north to the markets there.    President Muhammadu Buhari called the mishap devastating, after the country’s inland waterways authority said only 20 people had been rescued and another 156 were still missing.
People attend funeral of victims of a boat accident in Kebbi, Nigeria, Thursday,
May 27, 2021. (National Emergency Management Agency/via AP)
    Recovery efforts reportedly persisted through Friday as survivors gave harrowing accounts of the event.    One survivor spoke of her friends who were lost at sea, stating she made every effort to help hold on to them before they were washed away.    “I lost my friends, they were saying ‘Maryam don’t let us die, Maryam don’t let us die’.”
    At least 22 people were rescued and taken to local hospitals where they were later discharged.    Authorities say they will be looking to review maritime laws to prevent another tragedy.

6/1/2021 Delegation Of GOP Senators Touchdown In Israel To Show Commitment To Strengthening Diplomatic Ties by OAN Newsroom
U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty gestures as he speaks during an interview with The Associated Press
in Jerusalem, Monday, May 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
    Republican lawmakers touched down in Israel to assess the damage from their recent conflict with Hamas.    On Monday, a delegation of three senators met with top Israeli officials.
    The senators, which included Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), touted the party’s unified support to help Israel rebuild its infrastructure and strategic position in the Middle East.
    “The eyes and ears of America is Israel,” stated Sen. Graham.    “You talked about the Five Eyes…they’re important allies, but nobody does more to protect America from radical Islam than our friends in Israel.”
    Sen. Cruz said he formed the group to see first-hand what the U.S. could do to help bolster Israel’s defense capabilities.    Additionally, he wants to see how the U.S. can coalesce the international community to rally behind our ally.
    “The enemies of Israel are the enemies of America and their enormous military benefits to the United States from our alliance, whether it is the Mossad sharing intelligence about Iran and the Ayatollah seeking to murder Americans and murder Israelis,” stated the Texas lawmaker.    “Or whether it is the incredible technological leaps and bounds that we get from missile defense that helps keep Americans safe.”
    This visit came more than a week after Israel and Hamas brokered a ceasefire to end 11 days of back and forth rocket attacks and on the ground assaults.    Democrat lawmakers and the Biden administration have given tepid responses to continuing support for Israel.
    Amid progressive calls, Joe Biden vowed to funnel money to Gaza aimed at helping rebuild the conflict torn region.    However, critics warned Hamas militants could get their hands on this money.
    “We’re very concerned about any monies that go to the Gaza Strip that are, quote, intended for infrastructure to be easily diverted by Hamas,” explained Sen. Hagerty.    “We need to avoid that at all cost…Iron Dome has done a fantastic job of protecting civilian life…I think our monies are far better spent supporting our ally and replenishing the Iron Dome.”
    Additionally, critics are pushing against the Biden administration’s efforts to reenter the Obama-era Iran Nuclear Deal as they believe it could damage U.S. relations with Israel.    They cited longstanding tensions between Iran and Israel since Israel came into the international arena in 1945.
    In the meantime, Sen. Hagerty is expected to meet with top Israeli diplomats in the coming days to discuss how to strengthen economic power in the region.    The former ambassador specifically wants to build off of the momentum of the Trump administration’s Abraham Accords, which laid a foundation of peaceful relations between Israel and several Gulf Arab States.

6/1/2021 Netanyahu Challenge To Legality Of Rival’s PM Bid Is Rebuffed by Dan Williams
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, delivers a political statement
in the Knesset ,the Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem, Israel, 30 May 2021.
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -A last-gasp legal challenge by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to thwart a bid by a rival rightist to head a new government was rejected on Tuesday as his opponents raced to seal a pact that would unseat him.
    Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s former defence minister, announced on Sunday he would join a proposed alliance with centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid, serving as its premier first under a rotation deal.
    They have until Wednesday midnight (2100 GMT) to present a final pact to Rivlin, who handed Lapid the task of forming a new government after Netanyahu failed to do so in the wake of a close election on March 23.
    Hoping to beat the deadline, Lapid, Bennett and other party leaders convened to clinch coalition agreements, sources briefed on the talks said.
    In a letter to the legal counsels of the presidency and parliament, Netanyahu’s conservative Likud said Lapid was not authorised to cede the premiership to Bennett.
    But President Reuven Rivlin’s office said in response that there was no legal merit to Likud’s claim because Lapid would be sworn in as “alternate prime minister,” second to serve as premier as part of the rotation.
    It accepted Likud’s argument that Lapid must provide the president with full details of the new government and not just announce that he has clinched a coalition deal.
    The Lapid-Bennett power-share may include other rightist politicians as well as liberal and centre-left parties.    Israeli media have speculated it could also court parliamentary backing from a party that draws votes from Israel’s Arab minority.
    That has prompted Netanyahu to accuse Bennett of imperiling Israel as it contends with internal Jewish-Arab strife over last month’s Gaza conflict, the moribund peace process with the Palestinians, and Iran.
DIVIDED COUNTRY
    Netanyahu, 71, is the dominant political figure of hisgeneration.    He was first elected prime minister in 1996 and he returned to power in 2009, holding the top office for more than a decade.    But he also faces a corruption trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust – charges he denies.
    A photo-shopped picture of Bennett in an Arab headdress, circulated on social media, prompted comparisons with attempts to discredit former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated in 1995 by an ultranationalist opposed to his peacemaking.
    An Israeli security source said Bennett had received parliamentary bodyguards on the recommendation of the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency due to the “atmosphere of incitement” against them.
    Lapid and Bennett have said they want to bring together Israelis from across the political divide and end hateful political discourse.
    “A country that is divided and violent won’t be able to deal with Iran or with the economy.    A leadership that incites us against one another harms our ability to deal with the challenges we face,” Lapid said.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Angus MacSwan)

6/1/2021 WHO To Start COVID-19 Vaccination In Houthi-Run North Yemen by Lisa Barrington
FILE PHOTO: A man receives the AstraZeneca vaccine against the COVID-19 disease
at a medical center in Taiz, Yemen, April 23, 2021.REUTERS/Anees Mahyoub
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The World Health Organisation will start COVID-19 vaccinations next week in north Yemen where the Houthi authorities in control have played down the impact of the pandemic, largely denying any outbreak there.
    Inoculations in parts of the Arabian Peninsula country run by Yemen’s Saudi-backed government began seven weeks ago, giving a boost to a healthcare system shattered by war, economic collapse and, recently, a shortfall in humanitarian aid funding.
    Houthi authorities, who control the capital Sanaa and most major urban areas in Yemen’s six-year conflict, have provided no coronavirus infection or fatality figures since a couple of cases in May 2020.    But numbers of confirmed cases in the rest of Yemen started to rise rapidly in mid-February.
    The WHO’s representative in Yemen, Adham Abdel-Moneim, said 10,000 vaccine doses arrived at Sanaa airport on Monday and were put into cold storage.
    Only healthcare workers would be given the shots at this stage, beginning next week, at the health ministry in Sanaa “under the control and management of the WHO,” he told Reuters on Tuesday.
    Yemen’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign began in government-held areas on April 20, using a first shipment of 360,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine from the global COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme.
    A batch of 10,000 of those doses intended for Houthi-run areas had been caught up in wrangling between parties over how it would be administered, according to humanitarian aid sources and Yemeni officials.
    The emergency coronavirus committee of the internationally recognised government, based in south Yemen, has recorded 6,742 coronavirus infections and 1,321 deaths so far, although the true figure is widely thought to be much higher as the war has restricted COVID-19 testing and reporting.
    Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday Houthi authorities have suppressed information about COVID-19 and undermined international efforts to provide vaccines in areas under their control.
    “Since the start of the pandemic in Yemen in April 2020, Houthi officials have actively spread disinformation about the virus and vaccines,” the rights group said in a report.
    The Iran-aligned Houthi movement ousted the Saudi-backed Yemeni government from the capital Sanaa in late 2014.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

6/1/2021 Gun Attack On Ugandan Ex-Army Chief Kills Daughter, Driver - Military
Forensic experts secure the scene of an attempted assassination on Ugandan minister of works and transport General Katumba Wamala,
in which he was wounded and his daughter and driver killed, an army spokeswoman and local media reports said,
in the suburb of Kiasasi within Kampala, Uganda June 1, 2021. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa
    KAMPALA (Reuters) – Gunmen opened fire at a car carrying a Ugandan government minister in an attempted assassination on Tuesday, wounding the former army commander and killing his daughter and driver, the military and local media said.
    Four attackers on motorcycles sprayed bullets at a four-wheel drive vehicle carrying General Katumba Wamala, the minister of works and transport, in the Kampala suburb of Kisasi, local television station NBS reported.
    President Yoweri Museveni condemned the attack, blaming it on criminals, terrorists and “pigs who do not value life.”    In a Twitter post, he said that authorities already had clues in the case, and the criminals responsible would be defeated.
    Images circulating on social media showed Wamala with his mouth open, in apparent distress beside the car and his light-coloured trousers splattered with blood.
    Police investigators later combed the area, poring over bullet holes in the car’s windows and body and casings on the ground.
    The private NTV Uganda television broadcast social media footage of Wamala speaking in hospital.    Referring to his daughter, who was in the car with him, he said: “I have survived, we have lost Brenda… The bad guys have done it, but God has given me a second chance.”
    Army spokeswoman Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso told Reuters: “There was a shooting involving him … he is hurt and he’s been taken to the hospital, his driver was killed.”
    A government official said a local resident was also shot and wounded in the incident and was in hospital.
UNSOLVED KILLINGS
    Wamala once served as head of Uganda’s police, which over the years has been accused of human rights abuses by rights groups, including arbitrary arrests and torture of opposition activists.    The police deny carrying out rights abuses.
    There have been several unsolved assassinations and mysterious deaths of high profile officials in the east African country in recent years that have fuelled speculation about perpetrators and their motivations.
    Victims have involved a lawmaker, a senior police officer, the country’s top public prosecutor, senior Muslim leaders and others.    Nearly all were committed by gunmen on motorcycles.
    The attempt on Wamala’s life took place in the same suburb in the capital where in 2017 gunmen on motorcycles sprayed bullets at a vehicle carrying a senior police officer.    That police officer, Felix Kaweesa, was killed alongside his bodyguard and driver.br>     In 2019, the government installed a CCTV camera system on main roads in Kampala and other big towns to curb such high profile homicides and other major crimes.
    But many Ugandans have complained the CCTV network has not helped police solve a lot of killings involving opposition activists and even ordinary Ugandans.
    Former opposition MP Latif Ssebagala told reporters he hoped the incident would prompt investigators to look afresh at the unsolved killings.
    “This is very unfortunate because when you see that even those who are guarded, even those who are in military attire are not feared, can be attacked, then that will explain that the entire country in terms of security is lacking,” he said.
(Writing by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by William Maclean)

6/2/2021 Turkey’s Erdogan Woos Egypt, Gulf States In Push To Repair Ties
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives a statement after a cabinet meeting in
Ankara, Turkey, May 17, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey hopes to maximize its cooperation with Egypt and Gulf nations “on a win-win basis,” President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, as Ankara works to repair its strained ties with Cairo and some Gulf Arab nations after years of tensions.
    Ankara’s ties with Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been strained over several issues, from opposing positions on political Islam, the Libyan conflict and the eastern Mediterranean to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi hit squad at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
    Turkey has in recent months been pushing to repair ties with the estranged regional powers.    It sent a delegation to Cairo for talks and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held talks in Riyadh with his Saudi counterpart.
    “Our desire is to use these opportunities for cooperation at the maximum level and improve our ties on a win-win basis … The same situation is valid for all Gulf countries too,” Erdogan told state broadcaster TRT Haber.
    “We have serious potential for cooperation with Egypt in a wide spectrum of areas from the eastern Mediterranean to Libya,” he said, adding he “loved” the Egyptian people.    “Therefore, we are determined to restart this process.”
    As part of the efforts, a Turkish delegation held talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo last month in the first direct contact between the regional rivals in years, after they fell out following the Egyptian army’s toppling of a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president close to Erdogan in 2013.
    Separately, Ankara has toned down its criticism of the Khashoggi killing amid an informal Saudi boycott of Turkish exports.    Cavusoglu said after talks in May with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan that the two countries would maintain dialogue.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)

6/2/2021 Recession And Violence Among COVID Side Effects In Africa, Report Finds
FILE PHOTO: A police officer detains a man during a patrol as a nighttime curfew is reimposed amid a nationwide coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) lockdown, in Pretoria, South Africa, January 9, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
    DAKAR (Reuters) – Much of Africa may have been spared the death toll that COVID-19 brought to other regions, but it now faces recession, growing violence and higher unempoyment because of the pandemic, a report said on Wednesday.
    “The global economic shutdown has driven Africa into recession for the first time in 30 years, with severe repercussions for unemployment, poverty, inequalities and food insecurity,” said the 2021 Ibrahim Forum Report.
    It was released ahead of the annual conference this weekend of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which promotes good governance in Africa.
    African countries implemented strict travel restrictions and robust contact tracing when the outbreak began, potentially saving millions of lives, the report said.
    But Africa was the only continent where incidents of violence rose over the course of the pandemic.    Mob violence rose by 78%, while more than 90 people were killed by security forces implementing lockdown restrictions, the report said.
    Conflict resolution and counterinsurgency efforts were scaled back, opening doors for extremist groups to capitalize on the outbreak by filling gaps left by the state.
    “COVID-19 has already been integrated into the propaganda of groups like Al Shabab and Boko Haram, to help justify their cause,” said Camilla Rocca, Head of Research at the foundation.
    “They want to paint themselves as service providers, with Al Shabab, for instance, opening clinics and the Islamic State branch in [Democratic Republic of Congo] providing medicines,” she said.
    A recovery strategy needs to emphasise the creation of sustainable jobs, the report said.
    One solution would be for Africa to develop a vaccine manufacturing industry, which could produce jobs across different sectors and fulfill a dire healthcare need.
    “Harnessing the lessons from COVID-19, our continent can build a more sustainable, self-reliant and inclusive future,” Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-British billionaire at the helm of the foundation, said in the report.
    “[But] Africa’s youth, who are the future of our continent, must be at the heart of the plan.”
(Reporting by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Edward McAllister and Giles Elgood)

6/2/2021 Western Sahara Independence Leader To Leave Spain Soon Amid Diplomatic Row by Inti Landauro and Joan Faus
People hold placards as they protest against Brahim Ghali, president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and Secretary General of the Polisario Front
(Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro), outside Spanish High Court in Madrid, Spain, June 1, 2021. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
    MADRID (Reuters) -Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali, who has been treated for COVID-19 in Spain for more than a month, was to leave the country within hours, a Spanish diplomatic source and a source close to Ghali said late on Tuesday.
    The Western Sahara independence movement leader was planning to fly to Algeria from Pamplona at 1:40 a.m. local time on Wednesday, the second source said.
    “It doesn’t make more sense that he remains in Spain,” Spain’s Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos told 24h TV channel.    He said Ghali entered Spain on humanitarian grounds and he no longer needed that aid.
    The Algeria-backed Polisario Front is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, which was a Spanish colony until the mid-1970s and is claimed by Morocco.
    Ghali’s admittance in April to a hospital in the northern Spanish city of Logrono infuriated Morocco. Perhaps in retaliation, Morocco last month appeared to relax border controls with the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, resulting in a sudden influx of migrants to the Spanish autonomous city.
    Spain’s High Court earlier on Tuesday turned down a request for Ghali to be taken into custody, saying the plaintiffs in a war crimes case against him had failed to provide evidence he had committed any crime in the preliminary hearing.
    The court said Ghali, who participated in the proceeding remotely from the hospital, was not a flight risk.
    Moroccan authorities have been informed about Ghali’s planned departure, the Spanish diplomatic source said.    The Algerian government was not immediately available for comment.
    Ghali and other Polisario leaders are accused by human rights groups and Western Sahara individuals of genocide, murder, terrorism, torture and disappearances, a court document said. He denies any wrongdoing.
    Shortly after the court decision, Spanish government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said she expected diplomatic relations with Morocco to return to normal within hours.
    Despite her optimism, the decision not to detain Ghali was likely to anger Morocco.
    Rabat said on Monday that the hearing against Ghali was important to show “the real face of the Polisario.”
    Morocco said its dispute with Spain was no longer simply about Ghali but also the larger issue of what it sees as Spanish disrespect over the Western Sahara issue.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro, Guillermo Martinez, Clara-Laeila Laudette and Joan Faus in Madrid, Vincent West in Logrono and Ahmed El Jechtimi in Rabat; Editing by Nathan Allen, Angus MacSwan, Giles Elgood and Cynthia Osterman)

6/2/2021 Morocco To Readmit Unaccompanied Minors From EU
FILE PHOTO: Luna Reyes, 20, a member of Spanish Red Cross, embraces and comforts a migrant Sub-Saharian as he refuses
to be deported to Morocco after he crossed the border swimming from Morocco to Spain, at El Tarajal beach, after thousands of migrants
swam across this border during last days, in Ceuta, Spain, May 18, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/File Photo
    RABAT (Reuters) – King Mohammed VI has instructed Morocco’s government to facilitate the re-entry of all unaccompanied but identified Moroccan children who are in the European Union illegally, the government said on Tuesday.
    Last month thousands of people crossed into Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta from Moroccan territory, escalating a diplomatic dispute between the two countries.
    Morocco’s foreign and interior ministries said in a statement that although Morocco had already worked with EU countries to ensure the return of minors, procedures in some countries had delayed their return.
    The statement appeared to be a response to reports in Spanish media that Morocco was not taking back migrants in line with previous cooperation agreements.
    Most migrants who crossed into Ceuta were immediately returned to Morocco, but hundreds of unaccompanied minors remain.
    Morocco is angry at Spain’s decision to take in Western Sahara independence leader Brahim Ghali for medical treatment without informing Rabat.    Last month it appeared to relax border controls with Ceuta and recalled its ambassador to Madrid for consultations.
    It said on Tuesday that the issue of migration was being used to distract from what it called the “real causes of the current political crisis with Spain,” referring to Madrid’s position on Western Sahara.
(Reporting by Ahmed El Jechtimi in Rabat; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Giles Elgood)

6/2/2021 U.S. Envoy To U.N. To Visit Syria Border Ahead Of Russia Showdown by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: New U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield holds a news conference to mark the start of the U.S.
presidency of the U.N. Security Council for March, at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will visit the Turkish border with Syria this week ahead of a likely showdown with Russia in the U.N. Security Council over the extension of a cross-border humanitarian aid operation.
    Thomas-Greenfield will visit Turkey from Wednesday to Friday, meeting with senior Turkish officials, U.N. agencies, aid groups and Syrian refugees, senior officials with the U.S. mission to the United Nations said on Tuesday.
    Thomas-Greenfield will “convey the United States’ strong support for humanitarian access into Syria and the U.S. commitment to the people of Syria,” said one U.S. official.
    “Nothing could be more urgent than continuing to provide life-saving aid through the cross-border mechanism … This has grown even more significant and more dire,” the U.S. official said.
    The 15-member Security Council first authorized a cross-border aid operation into Syria in 2014 at four points.    Last year, it reduced that access to one crossing point from Turkey due to opposition from Russia and China over renewing all four.
    Another showdown is likely over the renewal of the mandate for the operation, which expires on July 10.    A resolution to extend council approval needs nine votes in favor and no veto from any of the five permanent members Russia, China, the United States, France and Britain.
    Several council members, including the United States, are pushing to expand the cross-border operation.
    “Nothing else can deliver the amount of aid in the frequency needed to support vulnerable populations in northern Syria,” said the U.S. official.
    U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock appealed to the Security Council last week not to cut a cross-border aid “lifeline” to some 3 million Syrians in the country’s north as Russia questioned the importance of the operation.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)

6/2/2021 U.S. Senator Expects U.S. To Send More Funds For Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’
FILE PHOTO: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) speaks during a U.S. Senate Budget Committee hearing regarding wages at
large corporations on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 25, 2021. Stefani Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A senior U.S. senator said on Tuesday he expected Washington would quickly authorize as much as $1 billion for Israel to replenish its Iron Dome missile defense system after clashes in May with Hamas.
    “There will be a $1 billion request coming to the Pentagon this week from the (Israeli) defense minister to replenish the Iron Dome and a few other things, to upgrade the system,” Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters in Jerusalem.
    A senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Graham met with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz during a trip to Israel.    The committee oversees spending including foreign military aid.
    Graham said Iron Dome had saved thousands of lives during last month’s rocket attacks, and predicted Israel’s request would find favor with both President Joe Biden and Congress, which is narrowly controlled by Biden’s Democrats.
    “There’s been a big dustup over the last engagement between Hamas and the State of Israel in the United States, but I’m here to tell you that there’s a wide and deep support for Israel among the Democratic Party,” Graham said.
    Biden has said he would replenish Iron Dome, which helped Israel fend off most of the more than 4300 rockets fired from Gaza during the conflict.
    Israel and Hamas began a ceasefire on May 21 after 11 days of the fiercest Israeli-Palestinian hostilities in years, with nearly 250 people dead, all but 13 of them Palestinians.
    Israel’s fierce response drew criticism from some Democrats, but Israel generally enjoys strong support in Washington from both parties.    Congress routinely approves large sums on military funding for a country seen as a solid U.S. partner in an unstable region.
    Israel’s Defense Ministry said Gantz would meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday in Washington for a discussion on issues including Iran and military aid.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Writing by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Howard Goller)

6/2/2021 Report: Iran Re-Supplies Hamas With Thousands Of New Rockets by OAN Newsroom
Palestinians stand among the rubble of a building that collapsed after it was hit by airstrikes during an 11-day war
between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel, in Maghazi, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
    The Ayatollah regime in Iran is reportedly sending thousands of new rockets to its terror proxy Hamas.    A report by Iranian state media Fars News Tuesday cited a top Hamas official who said factories and workshops in the Gaza Strip are producing new rockets for future attacks on Israel.
    Hamas leaders stressed their war against Israel will “last forever.”    However, Western intelligence officials have suggested Hamas is not capable of producing rockets on its own and key elements as well as technology must be provided by Iran.
    Meanwhile, Iranian officials are reportedly calling for more attacks on Israel.
    “Our brothers in Palestine are already planning to govern Israel’s lands and acting wisely,” stated Gen. Esmail Ghaani, commander of the Iranian Quds Force (IRGC).    “They could have hit a lot of Israeli infrastructure, but they didn’t because it will not be long before they will use that infrastructure themselves.”
    Israeli officials said they are ramping up the efforts to contain the Iranian aggression and curb malicious activities by its terror proxies.

6/2/2021 Prime Minister Netanyahu Warns Of Possible Friction With U.S. by OAN Newsroom
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a political statement at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament,
in Jerusalem, on May 30, 2021. (Photo by YONATAN SINDEL / POOL / AFP) (Photo by YONATAN SINDEL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has forewarned tensions with the U.S. as Joe Biden continues to appease the Iranian regime.
    “If we have to choose…between friction with our great friend the United States and the elimination of the existential threat, the elimination of the existential threat is increasing,” he asserted.    “It all must be done, all, to ensure that under no circumstances will Iran arm itself with nuclear weapons.”
    On Tuesday, the Prime Minister appointed David Barnea as the new chief of the intelligence agency Mossad.    He also declared that Israel will take a tougher stance on Iran and any others who works with the Ayatollahs.
    Netanyahu went on to express his firm opposition against the Iran agreement that the Biden administration has been pushing for.
Kamala Harris and Joe Biden is photographed in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
    “I hope that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have the strength of character to tell the angry anti-Israel left in their party to tell them no,” he declared.    “Tell them we’re going to maintain our historic alliance.”
    Netanyahu also expressed hope for the U.S. to honor its commitments of the mutual alliance to deter Iran’s ongoing aggression in the Middle East.

6/3/2021 Israel’s Opposition Declares New Government, Set To Unseat Netanyahu by Maayan Lubell
FILE PHOTO: Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, delivers a statement to the press before the
party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem May 31, 2021. Debbie Hill/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s opposition leader moved closer to unseating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he officially told the country’s president that he has reached agreements with political allies to form a new government.
    About 35 minutes before a Wednesday midnight deadline, the centrist Yair Lapid told President Reuven Rivlin in an email: “I am honored to inform you that I have succeeded in forming a government.”
    Rivlin, attending Israel’s soccer cup final at the time, congratulated Lapid by phone, according to his office.
    Lapid’s main partner is nationalist Naftali Bennett, who would serve as prime minister first under a rotation between the two men.    Lapid, 57, a former TV host and finance minister, would take over after about two years.
    Their coalition government would comprise a patchwork of small and medium parties from across the political spectrum, including for the first time in Israel’s history a party that represents Israel’s 21% Arab minority – the United Arab List.
    It would also include Bennett’s Yamina (Rightward), centre-left Blue and White, headed by Defence Minister Benny Gantz, the left-wing Meretz and Labour parties, former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party and New Hope, a right-wing party headed by former education minister Gideon Saar, who broke away from Netanyahu’s Likud.
    But the fragile new government, which would command a razor-thin majority in parliament, was only expected to be sworn in about 10-12 days from now, leaving slight room for Netanyahu’s camp to try and abort it by turning lawmakers over to their side and vote against it.
    Israeli political analysts widely expected Netanyahu to try every possible political manoeuvre to make this happen, seizing upon Yamina members who are unhappy about joining forces with Arab and leftist lawmakers.
    “Calm down.    Netanyahu’s still prime minister for a few more days until the confidence vote and he’s going to fight every inch of the way to deny the new government its wafer-thin majority.    This is still very far from over,” Anshel Pfeffer, political analyst for the liberal Haaretz newspaper, wrote on Twitter.
    Netanyahu, who has yet to respond to Lapid’s announcement, controls 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, almost twice as many as Lapid’s Yesh     Atid party, and he is allied with at least three other religious and nationalist parties.
‘GREAT HOPE’
    During a 12-year run in top office, Israel’s longest serving leader has been an often polarising figure at home and abroad.
    Netanyahu, 71, has sought to discredit the Bennett-Lapid alliance, saying it would endanger Israel’s security – an allusion to efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear programme and manage ever-fraught Palestinian ties.
    Lapid, a centrist, was given the task of forming a governing coalition after right-wing Netanyahu failed to do so in the wake of a March 23 election. He campaigned under a pledge to “return sanity” to Israel, focusing on Netanyahu’s corruption trial on charges which he denies.
    “This government will work for all Israel’s citizens, those who voted for it and those who did not.    It will respect its opponents and do all it can to unites and connect all parts of Israeli society,” Lapid said on Twitter.
    The new government, if it is sworn in, will face considerable diplomatic, security and economic challenges: Iran, the moribund peace process with the Palestinians, a war crimes probe by the International Criminal Court and economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.
    A source involved in the coalition talks said the proposed new government would try to retain consensus by avoiding hot-button ideological issues such as whether to annex or cede occupied West Bank territory that Palestinians want for a state.
    Bennett has said that both sides would have to compromise on such ideological issues in order to get the country back on track, with government debt at 72.4% in 2020, up from 60% in 2019 and the deficit jumping to 11.6% in 2020 from 3.7% in 2019.
    “This is a night of great hope,” Gantz, who will remain in office under the coalition agreements, said on Twitter as he set out on a trip to     Washington in the aftermath of 11 days of fierce fighting with militants in Gaza last month and as world powers press on in reviving a nuclear deal with Iran.
    An end to Netanyahu’s tenure may bring reprieve from unprecedented domestic political turmoil, Israel has held four elections in two years – but major shifts in Israel’s foreign policy appear less likely.
    After Lapid’s announcement, a few dozen activists from the protest movement against Netanyahu broke out in cheers.    “He’s finished, he’s finished, yalla Bibi, go,” they chanted outside a bar in Tel Aviv, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.
    “We’re hopeful for this change for a better future for this wonderful state,” said 27-year-old student Eran Margalit.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams and Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem and Rami Amichay in Tel Aviv; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Grant McCool)

6/3/2021 Millions In Syria Face Disaster If Aid Crossing Is Shut – UN by Tuvan Gumrukcu
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield talks to a rescue worker as she visits the Cilvegozu border gate, located
opposite the Syrian commercial crossing point Bab al-Hawa, in Reyhanli, Hatay province, Turkey, June 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tuvan Gumrukcu
    REYHANLI, Turkey (Reuters) – Millions of people in northwest Syria face disaster if the United Nations fails to approve an extension of cross-border humanitarian operations next month, a senior U.N. aid official said on Thursday.
    Some 3 million people, many of them displaced by fighting elsewhere in Syria during the decade-long conflict, have sought shelter near the border with Turkey, outside the control of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
    Access for cross-border aid from Turkey was reduced last year to just one crossing point after opposition from Russia and China – permanent Security Council members – to renewing other crossings.    A new showdown is likely next month when the operation’s mandate must be renewed.
    “It’s going to be a disaster if the Security Council resolution is not extended.    We know that people are really going to suffer,” said Mark Cutts, U.N. deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis.
    “Our expectation from the council is that they put the needs of the civilians first,” Cutts told Reuters at an aid supply centre in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli.    “In northwest Syria you have some of the most vulnerable people anywhere in the world.”
    Currently around 1,000 U.N. trucks a month enter Syria at the single crossing point of Bab al-Hawa to deliver food, medical supplies and humanitarian aid, trying to meet the needs of four out of five people in northwest Syria.
    “This is their lifeline,” U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters on a visit to the area.    “Over the last year and a half some members of the Security Council succeeded in shamefully closing two other crossings into Syria.”
    “Bab al-Hawa is literally all that is left … If it is closed it will cause senseless cruelty.”
    Announcing an additional $240 million in funding for Syrians and their host communities, Thomas-Greenfield said she was also willing to work with Russia to find ways for aid to be delivered “cross-line” from Syrian government-controlled areas.
    Russia, which supports Assad, has accused his Western opponents of ignoring the role that could be played by supplies brought cross-line from Damascus.
    “We have spent more than one year negotiating on both sides to have both cross-line and cross-border aid,” Cutts told the U.S. envoy in a briefing near the border.
    “Despite all our efforts, we have not managed to get a single truck cross-line.    This is not for a lack of trying from the UN side, but rather because it is a war zone.”
    In addition to the difficulties over restricted access, the aid operation was starved of cash, he said.
    “What we really need is to scale up funding.    We need more access, not less.    Take that back with you to the United Nations Security Council,” Cutts told Thomas-Greenfield.
(Editing by Dominic Evans and Frances Kerry)

6/3/2021 Netanyahu, Battling For Political Life, Attacks Deal To Unseat Him by Jeffrey Heller
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on his mobile phone during a special session of the Knesset whereby Israeli lawmakers
elect a new president, at the plenum in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem June 2, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday fought back against an agreement by his political opponents for a government of left-wing, centrist and right-wing parties aimed at unseating him.
    Netanyahu, facing the prospect of an end to his 12-year run as premier, said on Twitter “all legislators elected by votes from the right must oppose this dangerous left-wing government,” and he targeted historic Arab participation in the coalition.
    The right-wing leader mounted the social media attack the day after centrist politician Yair Lapid’s announcement, about 35 minutes before a Wednesday night deadline, that he had succeeded in forming a governing coalition.
    Under the deal, nationalist Naftali Bennett, 49, a former defence minister and a high-tech millionaire, would become prime minister and hand over the post to Lapid, 57, a former TV host and finance minister, in about two years.
    A parliamentary session, in which the government can be approved by a simple majority, could be up to 12 days away, far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman, a member of the new coalition, said.
    With parliament’s Speaker, a Netanyahu loyalist, widely expected to try to ward off any legislative attempts to hold the vote earlier, the prime minister could use the period to try to twist arms.
    The coalition agreement capped a March 23 election in which neither Netanyahu’s Likud party and its allies nor their opponents won a majority in the legislature.    It was Israel’s fourth national ballot in two years.
    The governing lineup comprises a patchwork of small and medium parties from across the political spectrum, including for the first time in Israel’s history one that represents its 21% Arab minority – the United Arab List (UAL).
    On Twitter, Netanyahu – who once drew accusations of racism by urging his supporters to get out and vote because “Arabs are flocking to the polls in droves” – highlighted the new alliance’s links with UAL leader Mansour Abbas.
    Netanyahu posted an old video clip of Bennett saying that Abbas “visited terrorist murderers in jail” after a 1992 attack in which Arab citizens of Israel killed three soldiers.
    Spokesmen for the United Arab List did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
DIVERSE LINEUP
    Members of the prospective government have little in common other than a desire to oust Netanyahu, who is also on trial on corruption charges.    He denies any wrongdoing.
    The roster includes Bennett’s Yamina (Rightward), centre-left Blue and White, headed by Defence Minister Benny Gantz, the left-wing Meretz and Labour parties, former defence minister Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party and New Hope, a right-wing party headed by former education minister Gideon Saar, who broke away from Likud.
    Political analysts expect Netanyahu to try to pick off what one described as “low-hanging fruit,” seizing upon Yamina members who are unhappy about joining forces with Arab and leftist lawmakers.
    “We launched the move, but we haven’t completed it.    There will be 12 days that won’t be easy, and in the end, there will be a government,” Lieberman said on Channel 13 TV.
    Netanyahu controls 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, almost twice as many as Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, and is allied with at least three other religious and nationalist parties.
    During his tenure as prime minister, Netanyahu has been a polarising figure at home and abroad.    His rivals have cited the criminal charges against him as a main reason why Israel needs a leadership change, arguing that he might use a new term to legislate immunity to shield himself.
    A source involved in the coalition talks said the proposed new government would try to retain consensus by avoiding hot-button ideological issues such as whether to annex or cede occupied West Bank territory that Palestinians want for a state. Bennett has in the past advocated annexations.
    “This government will focus mainly on economic issues,” Lieberman said.
    Perhaps the most immediate test for a new administration is passing the budget, an issue that has toppled coalitions in the past.
    Due to the prolonged political deadlock, Israel is still using a pro-rated version of a base 2019 budget that was approved in mid-2018. There may be some big budgetary shifts since the government is without ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that seek state funding for religious institutions.
    The new government, if it is sworn in, will face other considerable challenges. As well as Iran and the moribund peace process with the Palestinians, it also faces a war crimes probe by the International Criminal Court and economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell, Dan Williams, Stephen Farrell, Rami Ayyub and Ari Rabinovitch, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

6/3/2021 Syria Receives First Shipment Of Russian Shots – Report
FILE PHOTO: Syria's President Bashar al-Assad addresses the new members of parliament in
Damascus, Syria in this handout released by SANA on August 12, 2020. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
(Removes reference to Assad’s vaccination following Interfax correction)
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Syria has received a first shipment of Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Thursday, citing the Syrian ambassador to Russia.
    Ambassador Riad Haddad did not say how big the shipment was but said the vaccine was now being administered to the public after doctors and the country’s senior leaders were among those to get the first shots.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alison Williams)

6/4/2021 Israel Arrests Prominent Hamas Commander by OAN Newsroom
Palestinian look at Hamas masked gunmen parade with Qassam rockets through the streets
of town of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, May 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Yousef Masoud)
    Israeli intelligence has detained a top Hamas commander amid lingering security threats.    The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed they arrested Sheikh Jamal-Al Tawil on Wednesday after receiving information on his whereabouts from the Israeli Security Agency.
    Al-Tawil is responsible for Hamas operations in the Judea and Samaria region.    This comes amid ongoing threats by Iranian terror proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, despite a recent ceasefire.
    Shortly before his arrest, Al Tawil was openly calling to annex the Jewish State and expel or destroy its residents.
    “Our brothers the murabitun, who pray in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and its courtyards, you and all the alleys in Jerusalem now have a shield and a sword,” he stated.    “The shield protects the nation of Islam, our honor and that of our women, and it protects our steadfastness, and you now have a sword that kills anyone who deludes himself and thinks that he can attack our free women and our holy places.”
    According to the IDF, Al-Tawil recently organized riots, incited violence and reestablished Hamas headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

6/4/2021 Nigeria Says It Suspends Twitter Days After President’s Post Removed
FILE PHOTO: Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari poses before the opening session of the Summit on the
Financing of African Economies in Paris, France May 18, 2021. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria said on Friday it had indefinitely suspended Twitter’s activities, two days after the social media giant removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists.
    Information Minister Lai Mohammed said the government had acted because of “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
    Mohammed did not spell out what form the suspension would take or give more details on the undermining activities.    His ministry also announced Twitter’s suspension on Twitt https://twitter.com/FMICNigeria/status/1400843062641717249er.
    When asked about the details of the suspension, a ministerial aide told Reuters: “Wait and see how things will turn out.”
    Twitter is investigating its “deeply concerning” suspension of operations by the Nigerian government, and “will provide updates when we know more,” the company said in a statement.
    Twitter’s website and app continued to work in Nigeria’s capital Abuja and commercial hub Lagos on Friday.
    On Wednesday, the U.S. tech firm said Buhari’s post threatening to punish groups blamed for attacks on government buildings had violated Twitter’s “abusive behaviour” policy.
    In April, the information minister reacted angrily when Twitter chose neighbouring Ghana for its first African office.    He said the company had been influenced by media misrepresentations of Nigeria, including reports of crackdowns on protests last year.
    Demonstrators calling for police reform had used social media to organise, raise money and share alleged proof of police harassment.    Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, tweeted https://twitter.com/jack/status/1316485283777519620?s=20 to encourage his followers to donate.
    In the protests’ wake, Mohammed called for “some form of regulation” on social media to combat “fake news.”
    A spokesperson for Airtel, one of Nigeria’s largest mobile carriers, on Friday declined to say whether the company had received any government directives about the suspension.
    MTN, the largest mobile carrier, did not respond to calls and a message seeking comment.
(Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja; Additional reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas and Paul Carsten in Abuja; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Andrew Heavens and Jonathan Oatis)

6/4/2021 Pressuring Junta, France Suspends Joint Military Operations With Malian Forces by Tangi Salaün
FILE PHOTO: Colonel Assimi Goita, leader of Malian military junta, attends the Economic Community of West African
States (ECOWAS) consultative meeting in Accra, Ghana September 15, 2020. REUTERS/ Francis Kokoroko/File Photo
    PARIS (Reuters) -France said on Thursday it was suspending its joint military operations with local troops in Mali as part of efforts to pressure the military junta there to restore a civilian-led government.
    Mali’s military arrested interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane last week and pressured them to resign, derailing a transition to democratic elections after another military coup last August.
    Former vice president Assimi Goita, a colonel who led the August coup and last week’s revolt, was declared president on Friday.
    West African regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union have suspended Mali from their organisations and threatened sanctions. [nL2N2NJ38M]
    “Pending these guarantees, France, after informing its partners and the Malian authorities, has decided to suspend, as a precaution and temporarily, joint military operations with the Malian forces, as well as national advisory missions that benefit them,” the Armed Forces Ministry said in a statement.
    French forces will continue to operate in the country separately and the decision will be reassessed in the coming days, it added.
    A spokesman for the Malian army declined to comment on what he termed a political matter.
    France, the former colonial power, has more than 5,000 troops waging counter-insurgency operations against Islamist militants in Mali and the wider Sahel, an arid region of West Africa just below the Sahara desert.
    Militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have strengthened their foothold across the region, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.
    While France has hailed some success in recent months, the situation is extremely fragile and Paris has increasingly grown frustrated with no end in sight to its operations.
    Speaking to the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday the latest power grab by the junta and any sign it plans to negotiate with Islamist militants could lead to a French withdrawal.
    “I passed them the message that I would not stay alongside a country where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or transition,” he was quoted as saying.
(Reporting by Tangi Salaun in ParisAdditional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Paul Lorgerie in BamakoWriting by John IrishEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)

6/5/2021 Biden Admin. Meets With Israeli Defense Officials by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, right, hosts a bilateral meeting with Israeli Defense Minister
Benny Gantz, left, at the Pentagon in Washington, Thursday, June 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
    This week, Joe Biden deployed Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to keep the peace with Israel. Officials say the U.S. is standing tall in its support for Israel and its strategic position in the region.
    “We are committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge.    Reassuring that Israel can defend herself against regional threats such as those posed by Iran, its proxies and terrorist groups,” said Austin.    He added that the Biden administration fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the rocket attacks that have been deployed indiscriminately by Hamas and other Gaza based militants against Israeli civilians.
    This comes as the Biden administration has continued to find its footing when dealing with relations associated with Israel, as shown during the Israel-Hamas conflict.
    During the 11 days of violent conflict, progressives called for Biden to shift focus away from the U.S.’s longstanding relationship with Israel and instead help Palestine re-rebuild its infrastructure.    Eventually, to appease demands from the far-left, the Biden administration made several concessions by committing to send humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in Palestine.
    Critics argue by not cracking down on organizations like Hamas it is only empowering the terrorists and helping to boost the reputation of financial backers in Iran.    They say by adding these concessions with efforts to revive the controversial Obama-era nuclear deal, the power dynamic is likely to shift in the Middle East.
    Additionally, critics warn the move could strain America’s relationship with Israel, as could give rivals like Iran more power.    Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz argued it’s imperative for the international community to help them squash attacks from rivals who are hell-bent on the destruction of Israel.
    These very days, Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons and continues to arm militias throughout the Middle East.    Let me be clear, Iran is first and foremost a global and regional problem, and it is also an existential threat to Israel, as its own leaders openly declare,” stressed Gantz.
    However, GOP lawmakers including Tennessee Sen. Bill Hagerty (R), believe Biden will follow the calls of the American public to continue backing Israel.    Additionally, they hope the pro-Israel majority will drown out the anti-Israel stance of a minority of progressive Democrats.

6/6/2021 Burkina Faso attack kills at least 100 by Sam Mednick, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    NIAMEY, Niger – Gunmen killed at least 100 people in a northern Burkina Faso village, the government said Saturday, in what was the country’s deadliest attack in years.
    The attack took place Friday evening in Solhan village, in the Sahel’s Yagha province, government spokesman Ousseni Tamboura said in a statement blaming jihadists. The local market and several homes were also burned down in the area toward the border of Niger, he said.
    President Roch Marc Christian Kabore called the attack “barbaric.”
    This is the deadliest attack recorded in Burkina Faso since the West African country was overrun by jihadists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State about five years ago, said Heni Nsaibia, senior researcher at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
    “It is clear that militant groups have shifted up gears to aggravate the situation in Burkina Faso, and moved their efforts to areas outside the immediate reach of the French-led counter-terrorism coalition fighting them in the tristate border region,” he said.
    No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
    Despite the presence of more than 5,000 French troops in the Sahel, jihadist violence is increasing.    In one week in April, more than 50 people were killed in Burkina Faso, including two Spanish journalists and an Irish conservationist. More than 1 million people in the country have been internally displaced.
    A local who did not want to be named, fearing for his safety, was visiting relatives in a medical clinic in Sebba town, approximately 12 miles from where the attacks occurred.    He said he saw many wounded people enter the clinic.
    “I saw 12 people in one room and about 10 in another.    There were many relatives caring for the wounded.    There were also many people running from Solhan to enter Sebba. ... People are very afraid and worried,” he told the Associated Press by phone.
    The government has declared 72 hours of mourning.
    Islamic extremists have been increasingly staging assaults in Burkina Faso, especially in the region that borders Niger and Mali.
    Last month, gunmen killed at least 30 people in eastern Burkina Faso near the border with Niger.
    Burkina Faso’s ill-equipped army has been struggling to contain the spread of jihadists.    The government enlisted the help of volunteer fighters last year to help the army, but the volunteers have incurred retaliation by extremists who target them and the communities they help.
    Mali also is experiencing a political crisis that has led to the suspension of international support.    France has said it is ceasing joint military operations with Malian forces until the West African nation’s junta complies with international demands to restore civilian rule.
Despite the presence of more than 5,000 French troops in the Sahel,
jihadist violence is increasing. AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

6/8/2021 Israel Says Gaza Tower That Housed AP Doubled As Hamas Electronic Warfare Site
FILE PHOTO: Gaza tower housing AP, Al Jazeera collapses after missile strike in Gaza city, May 15, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s military said on Tuesday that a tower block in Gaza housing the U.S.-based Associated Press which was destroyed in an Israeli air strike was also used by the enclave’s Islamist rulers Hamas as an electronic warfare site.
    Israel’s destruction of the 12-storey tower, which also housed Qatar-based media group Al Jazeera, during last month’s fighting with Hamas and other militants drew international condemnation and calls by Israel’s main ally the United States to protect journalists.
    The al-Jalaa building in Gaza City had been evacuated after its owner received advanced warning of the May 15 strike.    But the AP says it has received no evidence of a Hamas presence that posed a threat, and has called for an independent investigation.
    AP executives met Israel’s ambassador to Washington and the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, on Monday to discuss the building’s destruction.
    “Israeli authorities maintain that the building housing our bureau was destroyed because of a Hamas presence that posed an urgent threat.    We have yet to receive evidence to support these claims,” the AP said in a statement.
    “AP continues to call for the full release of any evidence the Israelis have so that the facts are public.”
    In a statement, Erdan reiterated an Israeli claim that the building housed Hamas military intelligence, saying its personnel there were “developing an electronic jamming system to be used against the Iron Dome defense system.”
    Israel’s Iron Dome interceptors shot down most of the more than 4,300 rockets fire from Gaza during the 11-day conflict, during which Israeli air strikes and Gaza rocket fire left more than 250 Palestinians and 13 in Israel dead.
    The Israeli military said the purpose of the strike “was to curtail these enemy capabilities, including destroying special equipment, and preventing their use during the operation…The strike was designed to collapse the building in order to ensure the destruction of the special means.”
    Erdan said Israel did all it could to avoid civilian harm.
    “AP is one of the most important news agencies in the world and Israel doesn’t think that AP employees were aware it was being cynically used in this way by Hamas for a secret unit,” he said.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub, Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

6/8/2021 Palestinian Officials Arrive In Egypt For Talks Ahead Of Planned Meeting
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian group Hamas' top leader, Ismail Haniyeh speaks during a protest to express solidarity with the
Palestinian people amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Doha, Qatar May 15, 2021. REUTERS/Hussein Sayed
    GAZA/CAIRO (Reuters) -Palestinian leaders, including Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and a delegation from President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, arrived in Cairo on Tuesday for separate talks with Egyptian officials that aim to reinforce a ceasefire with Israel.
    Haniyeh’s visit came in response to a special invitation from Cairo, in advance of a broader meeting of Palestinian factions that could begin as early as next week, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said.
    Jibril Rajoub, a senior figure from Abbas’s Fatah movement, which dominates the Palestinian Authority that exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was also expected to meet Egyptian officials, Palestinian and Egyptian sources said. Abbas has been invited to Egypt.
    The Palestinian and Egyptian sources did not say whether the delegations from the rival Palestinian groups would meet each other.
    Egypt has played a major role in the brokering of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group which rules Gaza, after 11 days of conflict erupted on May 10.
    More than 250 Palestinians were killed in hundreds of Israeli air strikes on Gaza during that conflict.    Rockets fired by Gaza militants killed 13 people in Israel.
    Haniyeh and Egyptian officials will discuss cementing the truce with Israel as well as reconstruction plans for Gaza, Qassem said. Egypt has said it will allocate $500 million for the reconstruction.
    Egypt has tried in the past to foster cooperation between Palestinian factions, which it sees as important for wider efforts to promote peace in the region.
    Hamas seized Gaza from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in 2007 and the two factions have been in a power struggle ever since.
    During a meeting of his cabinet in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said he hopes Cairo’s mediation will “close the page on (internal) division (and) help our people in Gaza … in a way that enhances our national unity.”
(Reporting by Nidal Al Mughrabi and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Writing by Nafisa EltahirEditing by Gareth Jones, Peter Graff and Angus MacSwan)

6/8/2021 Lebanon’s Hezbollah Chief Nasrallah Reassures Supporters Over His Health by Laila Bassam and Maha El Dahan
FILE PHOTO: A woman sits near a poster of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, during an event marking
Resistance and Liberation Day, in Khiam, near the border with Israel, southern Lebanon, May 25, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah reassured supporters that he was well on Tuesday after coughing episodes during his last speech caused concerns about his health.
    “A human being is a human being, you get sick or tired sometimes,” Nasrallah said in his first televised appearance since he coughed his way through a speech on May 25, when he said he was suffering from allergies and nothing serious.
    Referring to social media rumours suggesting he had a grave illness, he said: “Some people killed us off and some started looking for a successor.    I reassure them.”
    Nasrallah has led the Iran-backed, armed Hezbollah movement for nearly three decades, turning it from one of Lebanon’s many civil war militias into a group of regional influence.
    “There are some people who expressed their love and distributed bread and salt and wrote and called and I reassure these,” Nasrallah said.    “I cherish their love and thank (them) all.”
    Nasrallah made his comments while delivering a speech on Lebanon’s financial crisis and political deadlock.
    He urged politicians to urgently form a new cabinet and said, without providing details, that Iran could alleviate his country’s economic problems if a “courageous” decision was taken.
    Lebanon’s financial meltdown is escalating, with shortages of basic items such as food, fuel and medication worsening amidst political deadlock.
    “We, Hezbollah, can go to Iran and negotiate with the Iranian government and buy shipments of fuel,” Nasrallah said.
    The purchases, he said, would be made in Lebanese pounds and would not require long waits for the central bank to approve dollar allocations.
    “These scenes of humiliation, people should not bear,” he said referring to long fuel lines in recent weeks.
    Lebanon’s financial situation is complicated by the political deadlock as prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and President Michel Aoun squabble over naming ministers.    Aoun is an ally of Hezbollah.
    A new cabinet is needed to enact reforms that could unlock foreign aid.
    “Those responsible for government formation need to listen to people’s voices and look with pain at the cars queueing up for fuel and the loss of electricity and medication,” Nasrallah said.
(Reporting By Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; Editing by Alex Richardson, David Gregorio and Timothy Heritage)

6/9/2021 Morocco Says Madrid Seeks To ‘Europeanise’ Its Crisis With Rabat
FILE PHOTO: Migrants stand on the beach in Fnideq, close to the Spanish enclave Ceuta, in Morocco, May 19, 2021. REUTERS/Shereen Talaat/File Photo
    RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco’s foreign minister on Wednesday accused Spain of trying to turn a political crisis between the two countries into an EU problem by focusing on migration and ignoring the root causes.
    The row blew up in April after Spain admitted the leader of the Western Sahara independence movement, Brahim Ghali, for medical treatment without informing Rabat, which regards the disputed territory as its own.
    Morocco then appeared to relax border controls with Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta on May 17, leading to an influx of at least 8,000 migrants.
    Since then Spain and Morocco have traded accusations of violating good neighbourliness, with Spain saying Morocco used the migrants while Rabat says Spain acted in connivance with “adversaries” of its territorial integrity.
    “Spain tries to Europeanise the crisis in order to derail attention away away from the deep causes” of the dispute, Moroccan foreign minister Nasser Bourita told a news conference in Rabat following talks with Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto.     Spain “cannot fight separatism at home and encourage it in its neighbour,” he said, refering to independence movements in Catalonia and other Spanish regions.
    Morocco’s ties with the EU were good, Bourita added.
    Ghali’s Algeria-backed Polisario Front is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, a territory once held by Spain and under Moroccan control since the 1970s.
    The United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991, with Morocco controlling about four-fifths of the territory.    The truce included the promise of a referendum on its status, but that has not taken place due to disagreements over how it should be carried out and who would be allowed to vote.
    In Madrid on Wednesday, Spanish foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said Spain supported a solution to the Western Sahara conflict in line with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
    “Spain’s position…will not change because it rests on inalienable principles – the defense of multilateralism and the respect of international legality,” she told members of parliament.
    Bourita’s statement came as the European Parliament plans to discuss a draft resolution that says Morocco used minors and migrants in the dispute with Spain.
    At the height of the migrant influx in Ceuta, the European Union expressed solidarity with Spain, saying that the enclave’s border was a European border.    Repeated waves of migrants crossing from Africa into Europe have been a prime concern for the bloc for several years.
    Ghali left Spain for Algeria on June 3 after spending more than a month in hospital.    He departed after appearing remotely in a hearing with Spanish high court on a war crimes case.    The judges allowed him to leave the country.
(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi in Rabat, additional reporting by Landauro Inti in Madrid, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

6/9/2021 Iraq Releases Iran-Aligned Commander Arrested On Terror Charges
Qasim Muslih, who commands the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) is seen after being released in Kerbala, Iraq June 9, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq has released an Iran-aligned militia commander arrested in May on terrorism-related charges after authorities found insufficient evidence against him, in the latest blow to government attempts to rein in armed groups.
    Security forces arrested Qasim Muslih, an Iran-aligned paramilitary leader who operates mostly in Iraq’s western Anbar province and is from the southern holy city of Kerbala, on May 26.
    The military had said the charges were terrorism-related but did not give details.
    Security officials told Reuters at the time the arrest was linked to attacks on U.S. forces stationed in Iraq.    Some media and analysts said it was because of Muslih’s alleged involvement in the killing of peaceful pro-democracy activists.
    Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has placed himself publicly in opposition to Iran-backed militias and parties, and Muslih’s arrest was a major attempt to rein in their power.
    His release without prosecution is a blow to those efforts and one of a number of unsuccessful attempts to crack down on armed groups.
    The two most high-profile moves against Iran-backed factions – the arrest of Muslih in May and the detention in June 2020 of fighters allegedly involved in rocket fire against U.S. targets – have each resulted in no prosecutions and all those arrested being released.
    On both occasions, heavily armed militiamen have stormed Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, where foreign embassies and government buildings are located, threatening the prime minister.
    Muslih commands the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in Anbar province and leads his own faction within the organisation.
    The PMF is Iraq’s state paramilitary grouping that includes mostly Shi’ite Muslim factions and is dominated by Iran-backed groups.    Muslih is seen by Western and some Iraqi officials as being aligned with Iran.
(Reporting by John Davison and Baghdad newsroom; Editing by Catherine Evans and Nick Macfie)

6/9/2021 As War Destroys Yemen’s Present, Museums Struggle To Preserve Its Past by Abdulrahman Al-Ansi
Statues are seen at the yard of the National Museum in Sanaa, Yemen June 2, 2021. Picture taken June 2, 2021. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
    SANAA (Reuters) – A bronze statue of the main god of the kingdom of Saba, located in what is now the Yemeni province of Marib, lies in a dark and fortified room of the Sanaa National Museum.
    The piece was made by a man named Hawtar Athat in the first half of the sixth century BC.    It has been lucky enough to survive the latest war in Yemen.    Many other artefacts have not.
    The Sanaa museum miraculously escaped years of bombing by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their war against the Houthi group.
    “Other areas around the museum were targeted and that led to the destruction of some artefacts and to cracks in the walls of the building itself,” said Ibrahim al-Hadi, the museum’s director.
    Most of the collection was moved to safe rooms in the museum when the Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015.
    Collections of Arabian swords, rifles and helmets, some decorated with gold, are packed in boxes and covered with sheets. Two bronze lions from the pagan kingdom of Qataban, restored at the Louvre in 2008, are snarling at the dark.
    “This storeroom is a model,” said Abdullah Ishaq, an expert working with the museum.    “It has been set up with scientific, modern and international standards.”
    But Yemen’s museums, the richest in the Arabian peninsula, are a reminder of the toll that war has taken on the country’s cultural heritage, often eclipsed by civilian casualties and the dire humanitarian situation.
    In the disputed city of Taiz, nature has combined with conflict to leave the historic National Museum building in ruins.
Charred manuscripts, burned shelves and shattered glass are scattered inside. Acacia trees have taken root and helped to tear down the walls.
    “Shelling destroyed the buildings … the collection was looted and fires burned down storerooms,” said Ramzi al-Damini, the Taiz museum director.
    The Yemeni General Authority for Antiquities and Museums has started working with the Global Heritage Fund to restore parts of the buildings.
    But the museum has already lost around 70% of its collection, even though some stolen artefacts have been recovered from local markets and volunteers have brought back other pieces.
    “We know that many of those articles have been smuggled outside Taiz and even abroad.    It is not easy to get them out of Yemen, only powerful people with international connections can do that,” said Ahmed Jassar, director of antiquities in the Taiz museum.
(Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Giles Elgood)

6/9/2021 Egyptian Firms Plot Return To Libya As Rebuilding Efforts Begin by Ahmed Ismail
FILE PHOTO: Libyans are seen through a Kingdom of Libya flag during a celebration rally in front of the residence
of Muammar Gaddafi at the Bab al-Aziziyah complex in Tripoli September 13, 2011. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian firms are eyeing a revival of business in Libya where a new government is starting work to rebuild the nation on Egypt’s doorstep that was shattered by a decade of fighting and chaos.
    Before 2011, when Libya slid into conflict, the oil-producing nation was a lucrative market for Egyptian exporters, contracting companies and workers.    It was particularly attractive for businesses involved in food and construction.
    With a new U.N.-backed unity government in place, Egyptian firms are looking at reconstruction opportunities to make a return, although executives say security and logistical issues, alongside a fragile economy, still present hurdles.
    Egyptian food products are already widely available in Libyan shops, with exports of $55 million in the first quarter.
    But Hani Berzi, chairman of Edita Food Industries and head of Egypt’s Food Export Council, told Reuters that such a level was well below the potential.
    “They should be three times as high.    Libya is the closest market to Egypt.    We should be controlling this market,” he said.
    Before 2011, a quarter of Libyan construction material imports came from Egypt, said Walid Gamal el-Din, president of Egypt’s construction materials export council, a level he said Egypt could expect to regain as the Libyan market revives.
    Libya, an OPEC member with about 7 million people, was also once a major draw for migrant workers from Egypt, which has a population of about 100 million.    But tens of thousands of Egyptian expatriates fled after 2011 as Libya descended into chaos.
    Libya’s authorities are working on a new visa system for workers that will be based on skills, said Hamdi Imam of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, a move that could see migrants return in large numbers again, generating fresh remittances for Egypt.
    Libya is already Egypt’s top export market in Africa for building insulation materials and its second biggest market for marble exports, said Kamal Al Desouki in the construction materials department at the Federation of Egyptian Industries.
    “We aspire to this for all the other sectors,” he said.
FRAGILE RECOVERY
    Signs of Libya’s economic recovery are emerging.    Exports of Egyptian engineered products, such as household appliances, rose 45% to $19.5 million in the first quarter over a year earlier, said Sherif Al-Sayyad, chairman of Egypt’s Export Council for Engineering Industries.
    But peace in Libya remains fragile. The interim government faces a huge task of bridging a deep divide that opened between east and west Libya, as well as smoothing over tribal rivalries.    It has to prepare for elections planned for the end of 2021, leaving little time to put an economic recovery plan in place.
    “The reconstruction plans and projects have yet to be clarified,” said Medhat Stephanos of Titan Cement Egypt.
    He said cement was still being exported to Libya but faced high transport costs.
    Alongside logistical challenges, Egyptian firms may also have to contend with strong competition when the recovery does gather steam, particularly in western Libya, the most densely populated part of nation.
    Egypt and the United Arab Emirates backed eastern based Libyan forces during the conflict.    Qatar and Turkey, a rival for Egyptian construction, food and other exporters in Middle East markets, backed western factions, based in the capital Tripoli.
    Cairo is now seeking to build ties with Tripoli’s interim government and is preparing to reopen its embassy there.
    Edita Food’s Berzi said diplomatic efforts were positive but that authorities should also help Egyptian exporters cope with obstacles they faced in Libya, such as exchange rate risk.
(Additional reporting by Ehab Farouk; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Edmund Blair)

6/9/2021 Israeli Parliament To Vote Sunday On New Coalition Government by OAN Newsroom
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony showing appreciation to the health care system for their
contribution to the fight against the coronavirus, in Jerusalem, Sunday, June 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    Israel’s parliament is slated to vote on a new governing coalition at the beginning of next week.    According to the parliament spokesman on Tuesday, the vote will take place on Sunday, potentially bringing an end to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure.
    The vote would also mark the end of four elections held in the country over the last two years.    The new coalition would be sworn in the same day it’s approved, if it obtains the 61 votes needed from the 120-member parliament.
Leader of the Israeli Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid gives a statement at his party’s office at the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament,
in Jerusalem on June 7, 2021. (Photo by Menahem KAHANA / AFP) (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)
    Opposition leader Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party announced on Twitter, “the unity government is on its way, for the good of the citizens of the State of Israel.”    This comes after Netanyahu’s efforts to persuade members of the new coalition to defect have proven unsuccessful.
    Should Netanyahu be removed as prime minister, reports say he’ll likely still play a prominent role in Israeli politics.

6/11/2021 New Israeli Government Seals Coalition Deals As Netanyahu Era Approaches Its End by Ari Rabinovitch
FILE PHOTO: Naftali Bennett, Israeli parliament member from the Yamina party, gives a statement at the
Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, June 6, 2021. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The new Israeli government set to end Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure as prime minister signed its final coalition agreements on Friday, pointedly including term limits.
    The coalition of parties from far-right to left is expected to focus mostly on economic and social issues rather than risk exposing internal rifts by trying to address major diplomatic issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, will be succeeded on Sunday by a coalition that includes for the first time a party from Israel’s Arab minority.
    Under a power-sharing agreement, Naftali Bennett, of the ultra-nationalist Yamina (Rightwards) party, will serve as prime minister for two years.
    Bennett on Friday said the coalition “brings to an end two and a half years of political crisis,” although it was unclear how long the coalition’s disparate elements would hold together.    He will then hand over to Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party.
    Among the agreements outlined by parties in what Lapid described as a “unity government” are:
* Limiting the prime minister’s term of office to two terms, or eight years.
* An infrastructure push to include new hospitals, a new university and a new airport.
* Passing a two-year budget to help stabilize the country’s finances – the prolonged political stalemate has left Israel still using a pro-rated version of a base 2019 budget that was ratified in mid-2018.
* Maintaining the “status-quo” on issues of religion and state, with Bennett’s Yamina party to have a veto.    Possible reforms include breaking up an ultra-Orthodox monopoly on overseeing which foods are kosher, and decentralizing authority over Jewish conversions.
* An “overall plan for transportation” in the Israeli- occupied West Bank.
* A general goal to “ensure Israel’s interests” in areas of the West Bank under full Israeli control.
* Allocating more than 53 billion shekels ($16 billion) to improve infrastructure and welfare in Arab towns, and curbing violent crime there.
* Decriminalizing marijuana and moving to regulate the market.
($1 = 3.2529 shekels)
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Nick Macfie)
[IF YOU HAVE READ MY COMMENTS ON ISRAEL AND ITS FUTURE CHANGES WHICH WILL NOW SOON COME TO LIFE MANY PROPHECIES OF THE BIBLE AND WE ARE NEARING THE END OF THE 72 YEARS I PROMOTE OR 6 - 12 YEAR PERIODS FROM 1950 TO 2022.].

6/11/2021 Algerian Rulers Aim For Return To Established Order With Election by Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed
People fix electoral panels ahead of the legislative elections, in Algiers, Algeria June 5, 2021. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
    ALGIERS (Reuters) -Algeria’s president and the generals backing him hope Saturday’s parliamentary election will mark an end to two years of upheaval, but in the capital’s steep, winding streets few people seemed enthused.
    While thousands of candidates rallied supporters at official campaign events for an election that moderate Islamist parties aim to win, the low turnout in recent national votes has underscored public scepticism for the process.
    “I won’t vote because nothing will change. Nothing at all,” said Khadidja, a woman in a facemask and pink headscarf speaking near a wall plastered with election posters.
    The vote comes weeks after the security forces stamped out the last demonstrations by a mass protest movement that erupted in 2019 and forced veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office and prompted official promises of change.
    On Friday Amnesty International said the arrests of two prominent journalists, Khaled Drareni and Ihsane El Kadi, as well as opposition figure Karim Tabbou, were evidence of “a chilling escalation” in the clampdown on dissent.
    Looming behind the political manoeuvring and public unrest is the largely closed, state-run economy.    Foreign currency reserves have fallen by 80% since 2013, as energy revenues declined, pushing state finances towards disaster.
    Any economic collapse in Algeria, a regional military power, Africa’s biggest country and with a long Mediterranean coastline, could endanger stability beyond its own shores.
    Though Bouteflika’s replacement Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected president in 2019 and an amended constitution was approved in a referendum last year, many Algerians believe the security and military establishment still retains real power.
    The establishment believes replacing the old president, parliament and constitution, coupled with the jailing of numerous Bouteflika cronies, is the best way to end the biggest crisis in decades, said a former senior official.
    “The election is another effort to gain some popular legitimacy with the aim of building a new political map,” said Abdelhak Bensadi, a political science professor at Algiers university.
    Supporters of the leaderless ‘Hirak’ protest movement point to an increasing security crackdown on dissent and dismiss Saturday’s election as a charade.    They want a more thorough purge of the ruling elite and the army to quit politics.
    They also boycotted the election of Tebboune, which had a turnout officially recorded as only 40%, and last year’s referendum that brought only a quarter of voters to the polls.
BOYCOTT
    “A parliament elected by the people guarantees the country’s exit from previous scenarios,” election authority head Mohamed Chorfi said this week.
    To encourage higher engagement, Tebboune has urged young people to compete for parliamentary seats and the government gave $2,255 to each candidate younger than 40 for electioneering costs.
    In the aftermath of the Hirak protests, the old established parties that have long dominated Algerian politics may struggle to hold onto voters.
    With Hirak supporters likely to boycott the vote, it leaves the way clear for other parties.    Moderate Islamist groups hope this will let them gain a majority of seats and secure a role in Tebboune’s next government.
    “I decided to stay and work hard to change the political system,” said Zakaria Cherfaoui, a candidate for the Islamist al-Adala party.
    The new government and parliament will face an immediate series of challenges after years of failing to diversify the economy away from its reliance on falling oil and gas sales.
    New laws to encourage investment and reverse the decline in the energy sector have struggled to make any impact as an ever-changing carousel of ministers have moved in and out of office.
    Bouteflika’s efforts to stimulate the private sector only added to the rampant corruption that helped fuel the Hirak protests.    Meanwhile any attempt to put state spending on a more stable trajectory by cutting lavish social benefits could spark a new wave of popular unrest.
(Writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

6/11/2021 Erdogan’s Summit With Biden Clouded By Bitter Disputes by Orhan Coskun and Dominic Evans
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) meets with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan
at Beylerbeyi Palace in Istanbul November 22, 2014. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – No stranger to rocky relations with Washington, President Tayyip Erdogan holds his first meeting with President Joe Biden next week overshadowed by bitter disputes and by the new U.S. president’s cool tone towards Turkey.
    Erdogan had to wait three months after Biden’s inauguration for their first contact, an awkward phone call in April when Biden said he was recognising the 1915 massacres of Armenians in what is now Turkey as a genocide – infuriating Ankara.
    For the Turkish president, who relied on a close personal relationship with Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump to iron out crises, the new approach from the White House – more critical and more distanced – has been a source of frustration.
    Ahead of Monday’s meeting in Brussels, when they will address disputes ranging from NATO member Turkey’s purchase of Russian arms to U.S. support for Syrian fighters deemed terrorists by Turkey, Erdogan said ties with the Biden White House have been more strained than with any U.S. president of the last 20 years.
    “We will of course ask him why U.S.-Turkey relations are at a tense stage,” Erdogan told an interviewer in early June, saying he worked with three previous presidents and “did not experience such a tension with them.”
    Topping the list of disagreements at their talks on the sidelines of a NATO summit will be Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence batteries.
    Washington says the S-400s would compromise the defences of U.S. stealth F-35 jets if deployed alongside them.    It has thrown Turkey off the F-35 programme, cancelled Ankara’s order for 100 planes and seeks to replace Turkish firms that had been making jet parts.    Turkey wants more than $1 billion compensation.
    The United States has also sanctioned Turkish defence industry officials over the S-400 deal.    Rejecting U.S. concerns, Turkish officials say they will keep the equipment and have called for a joint examination of the issue.
    “It is not possible to take a step back on these matters that are Turkey’s national security issues,” one senior Turkish official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    That leaves little prospect of a breakthrough, even though the two sides have kept talking.
    “Turkey wants to negotiate how it could use the S-400s, whereas the Americans want to negotiate how Turkey can get rid of the S400s.    Which means there is no common base for negotiations,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of the German Marshall Fund research group in Ankara.
AFGHAN PLAN CHALLENGED
    The Biden administration has stepped up criticism of Turkey’s human rights record, seeking the release of businessman Osman Kavala, who has been detained three years while on trial in connection with 2013 anti-government protests, a case which critics say is emblematic of Turkey’s crackdown on dissent.
    The response from the normally pugnacious Erdogan has been muted, in part because he is anxious to attract U.S. investment and help rebuild economic growth which has been battered by the global COVID-19 pandemic and a slumping currency.
    One area where Erdogan had hoped to showcase a central Turkish role in the NATO alliance was in Afghanistan, where Turkey offered to guard and operate Kabul airport to secure access to the country after the U.S.-prompted NATO withdrawal.
    That plan may be scuppered by a challenge from the Taliban who, after two decades of fighting Western-led troops, say Turkey must leave along with other NATO forces.
    “At best, cooperation on Afghanistan can help maintain the illusion of a positive agenda,” said Nicholas Danforth, of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, saying it would help their “dysfunctional relationship” muddle on.
    Still, there are areas of common ground including efforts to reach a political solution in Libya and opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
    The Turkish lira firmed on Friday on hopes of progress at the talks, where Ankara will propose reviving several joint dialogue groups with Washington.
    “Why shouldn’t a nice period with Biden start at the NATO summit?” said a senior official at Turkey’s presidency.    “Will it be an easy meeting? Not very much, but nobody is without hope either.”
(Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Giles Elgood)

6/11/2021 Exclusive-UN Official Accuses Eritrean Forces Of Deliberately Starving Tigray by Katharine Houreld and Giulia Paravicini
A woman carries an infant as she queues in line for food, at the Tsehaye primary school, which was turned into a temporary shelter
for people displaced by conflict, in the town of Shire, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    ADIGRAT/ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters) – The northern highlands of Ethiopia became a global byword for famine in the mid-1980s, when drought and conflict combined to create a disaster that killed as many as one million people.    Now hunger is stalking the Tigray region again, and a senior UN official alleges that starvation is being used as a weapon of war.
    More than 350,000 of Tigray’s nearly 6 million people are living in famine conditions, according to an analysis by United Nations agencies and global aid groups first reported by Reuters on Thursday.    Nearly 2 million others are one step away from such dire deprivation, they said.    Ethiopia has disputed these estimates.
    Fighting since November between Ethiopia’s government and the region’s ousted ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has displaced more than 2 million people.    The conflict broke out just before the main harvest, with each side blaming the other.     The neighbouring country of Eritrea and the next-door Ethiopian region of Amhara sent forces in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.
    In some of his strongest public comments to date on the crisis, the UN’s top humanitarian official, Mark Lowcock, accused Eritrean forces of “trying to deal with the Tigrayan population by starving them.”    In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Lowcock said Eritrean soldiers and local fighters are deliberately blocking supplies to the more than 1 million people in areas outside government control.    “Food is definitely being used as a weapon of war.”
    Ethiopia’s government, the United Nations and aid agencies have delivered food and other help to some 3.3 million Tigray residents since March, according to the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.    But most of that aid is going to government-controlled areas, Lowcock said.
    Eritrea – which fought a brutal border war against Ethiopia in 1998-2000, when the TPLF dominated the central government – didn’t respond to questions for this article.    Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel has previously said accusations that Eritrean soldiers are blocking or looting aid are “fabricated.”
    The Ethiopian military, the prime minister’s office and the head of a national taskforce on Tigray did not respond to requests for comment on Lowcock’s remarks.    At a June 3 news conference, Abiy’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, dismissed accusations that the country’s defence forces are using food as a weapon as baseless and politically motivated.
    Mitiku Kassa, head of Ethiopia’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission, which manages the government’s crisis response, accused the TPLF, the former ruling party, of attacking food trucks and aid personnel, but didn’t respond to a request for examples.    He told reporters on Wednesday that more than 90% of people in Tigray had been provided aid.    “We don’t have any food shortage,” he said.
    The UN, however, has said it has received reports from local Tigrayan officials of more than 150 people starving to death.    Lowcock said he believed many more had died but could not provide a figure.    He is already seeing echoes of the “colossal tragedy” of the 1984-85 famine in Ethiopia, he said.    “It’s not outlandish … to think that could happen (again) if action to tackle the problem doesn’t improve.”
    In the fertile lands of western Tigray, farmers abandoned fields full of sorghum, teff and sesame to escape the violence, Reuters reporting shows.    Some residents accused Amhara forces of stealing their crops and livestock, or chasing them off their farms.    In northern and eastern Tigray, farmers told Reuters that soldiers from Eritrea had torched their crops and grain stores, and slaughtered oxen needed for ploughing.
    An estimated 90% of the harvest for 2020 was lost, according to the UN’s analysis.    Some farmers said they were now eating the seeds they needed to plant the next crop.
    Gizachew Muluneh, spokesman for the Amhara regional administration, told Reuters that Amhara forces would never steal crops, livestock or block aid.
GROWING NEED
    In the paediatric ward of Adigrat General Hospital, about 30 km from the Eritrea border, Adan Muez huddled beneath a warm blanket in mid-March, his skeletal frame too weak to lift up his head and eyes closed despite the chatter around him.
    The 14-year-old used to be “strong as a lion,” his uncle Tadesse Aregawi said at the boy’s bedside, as Adan laboured to breathe.    But when he was admitted earlier that month, he weighed barely 14.9 kilograms, or 33 pounds – about a third of the normal weight for his age.
    The family had spent more than three months hiding in a cave to escape Eritrean soldiers, who they heard had been killing and raping people, Tadesse said – charges denied by the Eritrean government.
    They survived on a handful of roasted barley per day; six other people from their village of Tsasie died of hunger and illness while in hiding, Tadesse said.
    “When we came back to the village, there was nothing left – no cattle, no food, no water.    Someone donated clothes to us,” he said, a coat hanging off his skinny frame.
    He said the family had received food aid only once since then – 20 kilos of wheat for 10 people.
    Like many malnourished children, Adan had a complicating health issue – he has a gastric ulcer that makes it hard to digest some food, including certain types of grain, his medical records showed.
    On May 4, the hospital referred him to another facility in the regional capital, Mekelle, a doctor at Adigrat told Reuters.    Adigrat had run out of the fortified milk used to treat malnourished children.    But doctors in Mekelle could find no record of Adan’s admission.    Reuters was unable to reach the family to find out what happened to him.    Officials at Adigrat hospital say they don’t know what happened after Adan’s discharge.
    Information on the extent of malnutrition in Tigray is spotty.    Healthcare facilities were heavily damaged in the fighting, and many are barely functioning.    Soldiers block main roads for weeks at a time, and much of the region still has no functioning cell phone service.
    Figures collected by the UN children’s agency UNICEF and shared with Reuters offer a rare snapshot of the worsening crisis.
    In March, 1,187 children were treated for “severe wasting” at hospitals covering about a third of Tigray.    That’s about the same number who would have been treated in the entire region before the war, UNICEF said.    In April, the number rose to 1,723.    In May, it reached 2,931.     The international medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which runs mobile clinics in some remote rural areas, said it had seen “alarming” levels of malnutrition.    About 19% of children visiting its clinics in May were malnourished, MSF told Reuters.
    More than 4% were suffering from the most severe form of malnutrition and could die without care.
AID BLOCKED, LOOTED
    Hunger is a perennial threat in Tigray, a heavily agricultural region prone to drought and locust plagues.    Its population is overwhelmingly ethnic Tigrayan.    The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s government for almost three decades until 2018, when protests swept one of Africa’s most repressive regimes from power.    The TPLF then retrenched to its home region.    In November 2020, the federal government drove the TPLF from the regional capital and installed a new interim administration in Tigray.
    Most people are subsistence farmers whose stone houses dot carefully terraced fields.
    Nearly a million were already dependent on food aid before the conflict between the federal government and the TPLF began.    The number in need of emergency food has now soared to 5.2 million, or 91% of Tigray’s population, according to the UN World Food Program.     The government refused to let aid convoys into the region for the first five weeks of fighting, citing safety concerns.    Although access has improved since December, weekly reports from OCHA show swathes of Tigray remain out of reach.
    Persistent clashes have blocked access to many rural areas, according to the UN.    By the end of May, OCHA had recorded some 130 incidents of aid agencies being turned away at checkpoints and of staff being assaulted, interrogated or hindered from working in the region, Lowcock told Reuters.    He said Eritreans were “clearly” responsible for 50 such incidents and men in Ethiopian military uniforms for 50 others.    Volunteer militiamen from Amhara were responsible for 27 incidents, he said.    Tigrayan opposition forces also hindered operations on at least one occasion.
    At least 10 aid workers have been killed in the conflict, Lowcock said. They include an employee of the Relief Society of Tigray – a partner of the U.S. Agency for International Development – who was shot dead on April 28 in the central Kola Tembien district.    The U.S. Embassy released a statement on May 20 saying Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers had reportedly shot him.
    “According to eyewitnesses, he clearly identified himself as a humanitarian worker and pleaded for his life before he was killed,” the statement said.    Neither the Ethiopian military nor the Eritrean government responded to Reuters’ questions about the killing.
    Ethiopian soldiers and their allies from the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) were still turning away aid vehicles at checkpoints and assaulting and detaining aid workers in the northern, central and southeastern zones of Tigray this month, according to 11 internal UN reports reviewed by Reuters and interviews with five aid workers.
    The region’s justice bureau head, Abera Nigus, a Tigrayan, said the issue of food-aid access was being discussed at weekly meetings between the military and the interim administration in Tigray.    For the past two months, he said, he has repeatedly raised problems with Eritrean soldiers blocking food trucks along the road between two major towns, Axum and Adwa, with no results.
    “The food blockage is not an accident – it is very purposefully done,” Abera said.
    Reuters sent detailed questions to government officials in Ethiopia and Eritrea about obstructions to food supplies but did not receive a response.
NEXT YEAR’S CROP IN PERIL
    Abebe Gebrehiwot, deputy head of the Tigray interim administration, told Reuters that Eritrean soldiers were now preventing farmers from planting the next crop, while Amhara regional forces were blocking the transportation of agricultural supplies, such as seeds, into Tigray.
    “It is not Ethiopian national defence forces that campaign against farming, it is the Eritrean defence force.    The other challenge is coming from Amhara region militia or special forces,” Abebe told Reuters in a text message.    “We are on good terms with the Ethiopian military force.”
    But a senior Tigrayan regional official told Reuters that both countries’ militaries were chasing farmers from their fields.
    “This is the case for the past month – primarily Eritreans but also Ethiopian forces.    They say, don’t plough. Go away,” he said.
    Eritrean and Ethiopian officials didn’t respond to questions from Reuters.    Billene, the Ethiopian prime minister’s spokesperson, has previously denied that farmers are being prevented from going about their work.
    In the town of Ziban Gedena, in northwestern Tigray, Eritrean soldiers had burned 150 houses, killed 300 civilians, looted or slaughtered 90% of oxen and livestock, burnt and stolen harvests and set fire to animal fodder, according to notes from a UN briefing after a June 6 visit.    Continuing harassment from Eritrean forces meant that no one was plowing the land for the next crop, farmers told aid workers.
    Many villages on the main road to Adwa are deserted, and no work on the land is taking place, a report from an aid agency noted last week.
PROBLEMS IN THE WEST
    The UN’s warning of famine conditions did not contain an assessment on western Tigray, now under the control of Amhara regional forces who claim the area as their own.    The UN said it didn’t have sufficient data from there.
    Driving through the area in March, Reuters saw fields of damaged crops left to rot.    Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tigrayans have fled the area, many saying they were driven out by Amhara forces, including a part-time militia known as Fano.
    Mizan Berhanu, 23, said he left the town of Division in March, finding shelter at an overcrowded school in Shire, a town 150 km to the northeast, to where many from western Tigray are fleeing.
    “Fano and Amhara police were robbing everyone’s cows,” he said.    “Anyone who followed them was shot at.”
    Gizachew, the Amhara regional spokesman, said western Tigray was now part of Amhara.    He rejected the accusations that Amhara forces had taken grain or livestock.    “Amhara forces are not robbers,” he said.    “They are keeping people from TPLF dangers.”    Neither Fano nor Amhara police responded to questions from Reuters. Fano has previously denied looting.
    Few of the new arrivals in Shire could find space in the crowded classrooms; even the space under trees had been taken. The town is hosting over half a million people, according to the UN’s analysis.
    Local authorities said they are unable to feed them all.
    At a gathering of farmers at the agricultural office in Shire in March, representatives from nearby districts told Reuters that their crops had been torched, their ploughing oxen stolen and the seeds they would have planted burnt or eaten.    Most were supporting relatives who had fled violence elsewhere.
    “The children are coughing and getting diarrhea. We eat once a day,” said Mekonnen Lake, an Ethiopian Orthodox priest from central Tigray, who has 13 displaced relatives living with him. Half his harvest had to be abandoned due to fighting, and the half he had gathered in was burned, he said at the meeting.
    “I think about killing myself, but it is forbidden as a priest,” he said.
(Katharine Houreld reported from Adigrat and Giulia Paravicini from Addis Ababa; Additional reporting by Dawit Endeshaw and Silvia Aloisi; editing by Alexandra Zavis and Janet McBride)

6/12/2021 Low Turnout As Algerians Vote In Parliamentary Election by Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed
Electoral workers with protective masks are seen at a polling station during the
parliamentary election, in Algiers, Algeria June 12, 2021. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
    ALGIERS (Reuters) -Algeria held parliamentary elections on Saturday that the ruling establishment hopes will turn a page on political unrest amid a crackdown on dissent, but even by mid afternoon few people had voted.
    Two years after mass demonstrations forced a veteran president to step down in Algeria’s biggest political crisis for decades, the authorities are still struggling to quell the protest movement.
    Saturday’s vote followed a presidential election in 2019 and a referendum on an amended constitution last year, but many Algerians still think real power is wielded by the army and security forces.
    Polls closed at 1900 GMT and results are expected on Sunday.    The election authority said only 14.5% of voters had cast ballots with four hours left to vote.    By comparison, some 33% had voted with three hours left to vote in the 2019 election, when final turnout was 40%.
    President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said decisions were made by the majority of those who voted, regardless of turnout.
    “This election is a new step to build a new Algeria,” he said after voting outside the capital, Algiers.
    Schoolteacher Ali Djemai, 33, started queuing early to cast his vote in the city.    “We hope the next parliament will be a force pressing for change that the majority want,” he said.
    But in the Kabylie region, often a focus of political opposition, riot police guarded polling stations where activists sought to burn ballot boxes and some voting centres closed early.
    The “Hirak” protest movement that forced Abdelaziz Bouteflika from the presidency two years ago wants to oust the old ruling elite and stop the army interfering in politics.    It sees any elections before that as a charade.
    “Elections will not give the regime legitimacy, and repression and arrests will not stop the people’s peaceful revolution,” said Samir Belarbi, a prominent Hirak figure.
    Though the government publicly welcomed Hirak as a movement of national renewal and jailed senior former officials, police also cracked down on it with arrests.
ECONOMIC CHALLENGE
    The parties that have dominated for decades were damaged by corruption charges against Bouteflika’s allies, creating space for independents and moderate Islamist parties to seek more votes.
    “There is a real chance for change.    We need to be focused and patient because a system change won’t happen overnight,” said Mohamed Mouloudi, a candidate for Al Bina Islamist party.
    At a central Algiers cafe, 42-year-old post office worker Djamel Badir said the election would change nothing and he would not vote.    “Our parliament is powerless,” he said.
    Parties that gain a strong position in parliament are likely to be part of Tebboune’s next government, which faces a looming economic crisis.
    Foreign currency reserves have dropped by four fifths since 2013 as energy revenue fell and successive governments have failed to diversify the economy or spur strong private sector growth.
(Writing by Angus McDowallEditing by Mike Harrison, Helen Popper, William Maclean)

6/12/2021 Algerians Vote In Parliamentary Election by Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed
    ALGIERS (Reuters) – Polls opened in Algeria on Saturday for a parliamentary election that the ruling establishment hopes will turn a page on two years of political unrest, but which many voters are expected to ignore.
    President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has called for a high turnout, but there has been little public enthusiasm for voting in recent elections, with many Algerians convinced real power is wielded by the army and security forces.
    At a polling station in a primary school near Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad’s office in central Algiers, three policemen stood guard.    A few minutes before voting began, five people waited outside to cast their ballots.
    “We hope the next parliament will be a force pressing for change that the majority want,” said Ali Djemai, a 33-year-old school teacher.
    But at a cafe nearby, 42-year old post office worker Djamel Badir said the election would change nothing and he would not vote.    “Our parliament is powerless,” he said.
    The election takes place against the backdrop of political upheaval, after the leaderless “Hirak” protest movement led to the ousting of veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2019 and the fall of many other senior officials.
    The Hirak wants a thorough purge of the ruling elite and the army’s withdrawal from politics, and says any elections that take place before those goals are met can be nothing but charades.
    Though the ruling elite has publicly welcomed Hirak as a movement of national renewal and jailed some senior figures from Bouteflika’s circle, authorities have also cracked down on the movement with arrests.
    The old main parties that have dominated for decades – the FLN liberation front that won Algeria’s independence from France and the RND party – were damaged by the corruption charges against Bouteflika’s allies.
    That, and the expected boycott by Hirak supporters, may leave the way open for independents and several moderate Islamist parties to do better than in previous votes.
    Polls are officially scheduled to close at 1900 GMT, though in some previous elections they have been kept open later, and results will be announced on Sunday.
    Parties that gain a strong position in parliament are likely to be part of Tebboune’s next government, which will face a series of tough challenges with Algeria’s economy facing crisis.
    Energy revenue, long the mainstay of a closed, state-controlled economy, has fallen hard in recent years and foreign currency reserves have dropped by four fifths since 2013.
    Recent governments have repeatedly promised reforms to diversify the economy and spur private sector growth and new investment, but they have failed to deliver.
(Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Frances Kerry)

6/12/2021 Israeli Guard Shoots Dead A Knife-Wielding Palestinian Woman, Police Say
Members of the Israeli forces approach a woman lying on the ground at the site of a security incident
near Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, June 12, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli security guard shot and killed a knife-wielding Palestinian woman at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, police said.
    There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials about the incident, which took place at the Qalandiya crossing near the city of Ramallah.
    Police said the 28-year-old woman approached the crossing and “ran towards the forces while holding a knife
    “A civilian security guard who recognised what was happening called on her to stop several times,” a police statement said, adding that when the woman continued to move forward “the security guard then fired several bullets.”
    Police distributed a photograph of the knife they said she was carrying.
    Israeli-Palestinian violence flared last month in 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.    A fragile ceasefire is largely holding, though tension remains high.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Helen Popper)

[MARK THIS DAY AND THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES AS A POINT IN TIME WHEN FUTURE PROPHECY WILL COME OUT TO INFLUENCE THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL.].
6/13/2021 Israeli Parliament Approves New Government, Removes Netanyahu As Prime Minister by OAN Newsroom
From the left, Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Israel’s new prime minister Naftali Bennett
hold a first cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    Israel’s parliament has voted to form a new government, bringing an end to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure.    On Sunday, Netanyahu was removed from the leadership role by vote.    This, presenting an end to a political stalemate that has seen four elections in two years.
    As it stands, the prospective new government holds a one-seat majority in the parliament.    It was decided the leadership role would be shared between two separate party leaders.
    Each leader will hold a term of two years over the next four years.    Naftali Bennet, who heads the Yamina party, will take office until Sept. 2023.    Thereafter, he will hand over leadership responsibilities to Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting of the new government at Chagall State Hall
in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. (ABIR SULTAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
    However, Israeli citizens have offered up mixed reactions ahead of the vote.    Erez Goldman, an Israeli in Jerusalem stated, “it’s a sad day today, it’s not a legitimate government.”
    He also said he found it sad that almost 86 of 120 seats in the parliament, the Knesset, belong to the right-wing.    “They sold their soul and ideology, and their beliefs to the extreme left-wing just for one purpose…hatred of Netanyahu,” commented Goldman.
    Despite his removal as prime minister, Netanyahu is expected to remain a prominent figure in politics as the new opposition leader.

6/13/2021 Netanyahu Out, Bennett In As Israel Marks End Of An Era by Jeffrey Heller and Maayan Lubell
Head of Oposition Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gesture following the vote on
the new coalition at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Benjamin Netanyahu’s record 12-year run as Israel’s prime minister ended on Sunday with parliament approving a new “government of change” led by nationalist Naftali Bennett, an improbable scenario few Israelis could have imagined.
    But the razor-thin 60-59 vote of confidence in a coalition of left-wing, centrist, right-wing and Arab parties with little in common except for a desire to unseat Netanyahu, only underscored its likely fragility.
    Addressing parliament before Bennett was sworn in, a combative Netanyahu said: “If we are destined to go into the opposition, we will do so with our heads held high until we can topple it.”
    That will happen, 71-year-old Netanyahu added, “sooner than people think.”
    The new government, formed after an inconclusive March 23 election, largely plans to avoid sweeping moves on hot-button international issues such as policy toward the Palestinians, and to focus instead on domestic reforms.
    Palestinians were unmoved by the change of administration, predicting that Bennett, a former defence chief who advocates annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, would pursue the same right-wing agenda as Likud party leader Netanyahu.
    Israel’s longest-serving leader, Netanyahu was prime minister since 2009, after a first term from 1996 to 1999.
    But he was weakened by his repeated failure to clinch victory in four elections over the past two years, including a vote in March, and by an ongoing corruption trial, in which he has denied any wrongdoing.
    Under the coalition deal, Bennett, a 49-year-old Orthodox Jew and high-tech millionaire, will be replaced as prime minister by centrist Yair Lapid, 57, a popular former television host, in 2023.
    With his far-right Yamina party winning only six of parliament’s 120 seats in the last election, Bennett’s ascension to the premiership as the head of a kaleidoscope of parties was a political jaw-dropper.
    Interrupted by non-stop shouts of “liar” and “shame” from Netanyahu loyalists in parliament, Bennett thanked the former prime minister for his and achievement-filled service on behalf of the State of Israel.”
    But little love has been lost between the two men: Bennett once served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff and had a rocky relationship with him as defence minister.    In the run-up to the new government, Bennett spurned Netanyahu’s call to join with him, rather than with Lapid.
    On the international stage, with his polished English and booming baritone voice, Netanyahu had become the face of Israel.
    He resisted international calls for Palestinian statehood he described as a danger to Israel’s security, while forging formal relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan and decrying Iran’s nuclear programme.
BIDEN CONGRATULATES
    U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated Bennett, Lapid and the rest of the new cabinet and said he looked forward to working with Bennett to strengthen the “close and enduring” relationship between their two countries.
    “My administration is fully committed to working with the new Israeli government to advance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region,” Biden said in a statement.
    Both abroad and at home, Netanyahu has been a polarising figure.    Often referred to by his nickname Bibi, Netanyahu is loved by his supporters and loathed by critics.
    His opponents have long reviled what they see as Netanyahu’s divisive rhetoric, underhand political tactics and subjection of state interests to his own political survival.    Some have dubbed him “Crime Minister” and have accused him of mishandling the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout.
    Addressing parliament, Bennett echoed Netanyahu’s call for the United States not to return to the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and world powers, a deal abrogated by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.
    “Renewal of the nuclear agreement with Iran is a mistake, an error that would again grant legitimisation to one of the darkest and violent regimes in the world,” Bennett said.    “Israel will not allow Iran to equip itself with nuclear weapons.”
    Thanking Biden for his “years of commitment to Israel’s security,” and for “standing by Israel” during fighting with Hamas militants in Gaza last month, Bennett said his government would pursue good relations with U.S. Democrats and Republicans.
    “The government will make an effort to deepen and enhance our relations with both parties – bipartisan,” Bennett said.
    Bennett has drawn anger from within the right-wing camp for breaking a campaign pledge by joining forces with Lapid – and an allegation from Netanyahu that he defrauded the electorate.    Bennett has said another election – a likely outcome if no government were formed – would have been a disaster for Israel.
    Both Bennett and Lapid have said they want to bridge political divides and unite Israelis under a government that will work hard for all its citizens.
    Their cabinet, which met for the first time late on Sunday, faces huge foreign, security and financial challenges: Iran, a fragile ceasefire with Palestinian militants in Gaza, a war crimes probe by the International Criminal Court, and economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.
    Bennett listed as priorities reforms in education, health, cutting red tape to grow businesses and lower housing costs.    Coalition leaders have said it would pass a two-year budget to help stabilise the country’s finances and maintain a “status quo” on issues of religion and state.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Jeffrey HellerEditing by William Maclean, Jane Merriman, Frances Kerry and Andrew Heavens)

6/13/2021 Hope, Anger And Defiance Greet Birth Of Israel’s New Government by Stephen Farrell
Head of Oposition Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Prime minister Naftali Bennett shake hands following the vote on
the new coalition at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Following are reactions to the new government in Israel, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER
    “We’ll be back, soon.”
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
    “On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet.    I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations.”
NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, SPOKESMAN FOR PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS
    “This is an internal Israeli affair.    Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”
BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER
    “With all due respect, Israel is not a widower.    Israel’s security was never dependent on one man. And it will never be dependent on one man.”
CHUCK SCHUMER, U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER
    So, there’s a new Administration in Israel.    And we are hopeful that we can now begin serious negotiations for a two-state solution.    I am urging the Biden Administration to do all it can to bring the parties together and help achieve a two-state solution where each side can live side by side in peace.”
FAWZI BARHOUM, HAMAS SPOKESMAN
    “Regardless of the shape of the government in Israel, it will not alter the way we look at the Zionist entity.    It is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back.”
DAPHNA KILION, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM
    “I think it’s very exciting for Israel to have a new beginning and I’m hopeful that the new government will take them in the right direction.”
EREZ GOLDMAN, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM
    “It’s a sad day today, it’s not a legitimate government.    It’s pretty sad that almost 86 (out of 120 seats) in the parliament, the Knesset, belong to the right-wing and they sold their soul and ideology and their beliefs to the extreme left-wing just for one purpose – hatred of Netanyahu and to become a prime minister.”
(Reporting by Stephen Farrell, Editing by William Maclean)
[DO NOT WORRY NETANYAHU THE GOD OF ABRAHAAM, ISAAC AND JACOB IS IN CONTROL AND WILL SEND YOU TWO INDVIDUALS TO TAKE ON THESE PEOPLE AS PROPHESEID AND THEN LATE A SAVIOR AS THE PROPHETS HAVE STATED AND YOU WILL BE SURPRISED OF WHOM THAT WILL BE.].

6/13/2021 Biden Welcomes New Israeli Government, Reaffirms Security Support by Susan Heavey
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chats with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, following the vote for the
new coalition at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States remained committed to Israel’s security and would work with its new government after Israel’s parliament ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister on Sunday.
    In a statement that made no mention of Netanyahu, Biden welcomed the new government coalition led by nationalist Naftali Bennett and sought to reaffirm U.S.-Israel ties.
    The White House said Biden spoke with Bennett on Sunday “to offer his warm congratulations.”
    Biden “expressed his firm intent to deepen cooperation between the United States and Israel on the many challenges and opportunities facing the region.    The leaders agreed that they and their teams would consult closely on all matters related to regional security, including Iran,” the White House said.
    “United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel’s security,” Biden said in an earlier statement.    “My administration is fully committed to working with the new Israeli government to advance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region.”
    By contrast, Biden did not speak to Netanyahu for nearly a month after the U.S. president took office on Jan. 20.
    U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken also issued statements welcoming their counterparts in the new Israeli government.
    Bennett, a former defense minister and a high-tech millionaire, won by a thin 60-59 majority vote, and the coalition of left-wing, centrist, right-wing and Arab parties is likely to be fragile.
    Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, vowed to return to power soon.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and David Shepardson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Daniel Wallis)

6/13/2021 Jordan Ex-Royal Court Chief Faces Trial Over Alleged Monarchy Plot by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: General view showing empty streets, during the nationwide curfew for two days, amid fears of a rising
number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Amman, Jordan October 9, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
    AMMAN (Reuters) -Jordan’s military court will start the trial next week of a former royal court chief and a minor royal on charges of agitating to destabilise the monarchy, state media said on Sunday.
    Prosecutors last week referred to court the case of Bassem Awadallah, an ex-royal court chief and finance minister who played a big role in the drive to liberalise Jordan’s economy, and Sherif Hassan Zaid, a distant relative of King Abdullah.
    They were arrested in early April when former heir to the throne Prince Hamza was placed under house arrest over allegations that he had liaised with foreign parties over a plot to destabilise Jordan, a close U.S. ally in the Middle East.
    State media said Awadallah and Zaid were formally charged with agitating to undermine the kingdom’s political system and acts that threaten public security and sowing sedition. The two charges carry up to 30 years in prison, judicial sources said.
    Proceedings against Prince Hamza, who along with Awadallah had been under investigation for some time, were later dropped after he pledged allegiance to King Abdullah.
    A charge list published in state media said Hamza, the half brother of King Abdallah who was stripped of his title nearly two decades ago, gave his blessing to Awadallah to lobby in Western capitals and Riyadh in his goal to accede to the throne.
    Awadallah is among the closest economic advisers to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a matter that complicated the judicial investigations, according to officials familiar with the affair.
    Amman turned down Riyadh’s request to hand him over, they added, without elaborating.
    King Abdullah said after the affair came to light that sedition had been quashed, describing it as the most painful "because it came from both inside the royal family and outside it.”
    The intrigue exposed the first serious rift within Jordan’s ruling Hashemite family in many years and shook the image of the country as an island of stability in an unpredictable region.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-KhalidiEditing by David Goodman, Gareth Jones and Frances Kerry)

6/13/2021 Explainer-Who’s Who In Israel’s New Patchwork Coalition Government by Ari Rabinovitch
Party leaders of the proposed new coalition government, including United Arab List party leader Mansour Abbas, Labour party leader Merav Michaeli,
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett, New Hope party leader Gideon Saar,
Yisrael Beitenu party leader Avigdor Lieberman and Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz pose for a picture at the Knesset, Israel's parliament,
before the start of a special session to approve and swear-in the coalition government, in Jerusalem June 13, 2021. Ariel Zandberg/Handout via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s new government, due to be sworn in on Sunday, consists of a hodgepodge of political parties that have little in common other than a desire to unseat veteran right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    The coalition spans the far-left to the far-right and includes for the first time a small Islamist faction representing Israel’s Arab minority.
    It is expected to focus mostly on economic and social issues rather than risk exposing internal rifts by trying to address major diplomatic issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Here are the people who will be leading the new government:
NAFTALI BENNETT – PRIME MINISTER
    Bennett leads the ultranationalist Yamina (Rightwards) party that champions Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.    He made a fortune in Israeli high-tech before entering politics in 2013.    He served in previous Netanyahu-led governments, most recently as defence minister.
    Now Bennett says he is joining with opponents to save the country from a period of political turmoil that could otherwise see a fifth election in just over two years.    A plan he has floated to annex much of the West Bank seems unfeasible, given his new partners.    He opposes the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
    Under the coalition deal, Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years and until he is replaced by Yair Lapid.    He will be the country’s first leader to wear a kippah, a skullcap worn by Orthodox Jews.
YAIR LAPID – FOREIGN MINISTER
    Lapid heads the centrist Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party and was the architect behind the new government.    His party is the biggest in the coalition but he agreed to share power with Bennett to secure a parliamentary majority.
    He quit his job as a TV anchor in 2012 and formed his own party, running on the promise to ease financial pressures on the middle-class.    He also seeks to end many of the state-funded privileges enjoyed by ultra-Orthodox Jews, a long-running source of grievance to many secular Israelis.
    He initially served as finance minister before moving to the opposition, which he led until Sunday.     Lapid will serve as foreign minister for two years and then take over as prime minister until the end of the government.    If it lasts that long.
BENNY GANTZ – DEFENCE MINISTER
    Just two years ago Gantz, a former military chief heading the centrist Blue and White party, was the opposition’s best hope to unseat Netanyahu.
    But he agreed to join Netanyahu in a “unity” government, a decision that angered many of his supporters.
    He will be a part of the new coalition, remaining in the post of defence minister.
AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN – FINANCE MINISTER
    A far-right immigrant from Moldova who lives in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, Lieberman has been a political wildcard over the past decade.    He has joined Netanyahu governments, including as defence minister, but also quit.
    As finance minister he will have to rein in a budget deficit that ballooned during the coronavirus crisis.
    He has also said he will try to change the status-quo between the government and Israel’s politically powerful ultra-Orthodox minority, which is a mainstay of Netanyahu’s outgoing government.
    The ultra-Orthodox community has low participation rates in the workforce and relies heavily on government handouts while focusing on religious studies.    Lieberman has said he will work to integrate them more into the economy.
GIDEON SAAR – JUSTICE MINISTER
    Saar was Netanyahu’s main rival within Likud, but Netanyahu did his best to keep him out of the spotlight and away from the highest-level portfolios.    Frustrated, Saar launched a failed leadership bid then spun off his own party.     As head of the New Hope party, Saar will be bumped up to justice minister, where he will oversee the legal system and become a member of the security cabinet.
MANSOUR ABBAS
    Abbas’s small United Arab List will be the first party in an Israeli government to be drawn from Israel’s 21% Arab minority – Palestinian by culture and heritage, but Israeli by citizenship.
    He split with other Arab politicians who prefer to remain outside government and cast aside differences with Bennett and other right-wingers to tip the scales against Netanyahu.
    Abbas is expected to serve as a deputy minister in the prime minister’s office. He aims to negotiate a big increase in government spending in Arab towns and villages.     But his presence is a potentially destabilising factor. He has been criticised by Palestinians for agreeing to support an Israeli government while Israel continues to occupy the Palestinian territories.Addressing these tensions, Abbas told the Italian daily La Repubblica on Friday:     “There will be difficult decisions to be made, including security decisions.    We have to juggle our identity as Palestinian Arabs and citizens of the State of Israel, between civil and nationalistic aspects.”
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem. Additional reporting by Giulia Segreti in Rome. Editing by Stephen Farrell, Angus MacSwan and Jane Merriman.)

6/13/2021 Erdogan Says He And Biden Must Leave Troubles Behind At NATO Meeting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Jonathan Spicer
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives a statement after a cabinet meeting
in Ankara, Turkey, May 17, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) -Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he and U.S. President Joe Biden must use a meeting on Monday to move on from past troubles, including a bitter dispute over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles.
    Before travelling to Monday’s NATO summit in Brussels, Erdogan said he expected an “unconditional approach” from Washington when he sat down with Biden for their first face-to-face session since last year’s U.S. elections.
    He said he would also raise the White House’s recognition of the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the then Ottoman Empire as “genocide,” a move which had infuriated Ankara, and the U.S. removal of Turkey from an F-35 fighter jet programme.
    The Turkish president, who relied on a close personal relationship with Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump to iron out past crises, has been frustrated by the more critical and distanced approach from the new U.S. administration.
    Erdogan had to wait three months after Biden’s inauguration for their first contact, an awkward phone call in April when the U.S. president informed him of the genocide-recognition plan.
    “We need to put Turkey-U.S. ties on the table first-hand,” Erdogan told reporters at Istanbul’s airport on Sunday.
    “There was a lot of gossip internally and externally, so we need to talk about how we can leave these troubles behind, what we can do and what we will do.    Turkey is not just any country – it is an allied country.”
UNCONDITIONAL APPROACH
    The cooler ties between the two NATO members underline an array of disputes including over U.S. support for Syrian fighters deemed terrorists by Turkey and more vocal U.S. criticism of Ankara’s human rights record.
    “An ally country taking such a stance on an issue that has nothing to do with NATO, the issue of Armenians, has disturbed and upset us.    It is not possible to go on without reminding (Biden of) this,” Erdogan said.
    Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces in World War One, but denies the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute genocide.
    The United States cancelled the sale of 100 F-35s to Ankara after the S-400 purchase in 2019. Erdogan has accused Washington of breaking promises over the alternative U.S. Patriot missiles.
    “Unfortunately there is a Turkey that has realised its promises and a United States that has not kept its (promises) or abided by the contract,” Erdogan said of the programme.
    “We must see an unconditional approach from the United States, without any ‘buts’, that will add to the cooperation and strength of NATO,” he added.
    Washington says the Russian S-400s are incompatible with NATO defences and the F-35 fighter jets, concerns Ankara has rejected.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Jonathan Spicer; Editing by David Goodman and Andrew Heavens)

6/14/2021 Exclusive: NATO Approaches Qatar To Seek Training Base For Afghan Forces After Withdrawal by Rupam Jain, Alexander Cornwell and Sabine Siebold
FILE PHOTO: NATO soldiers inspect near the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail/File Photo
    DUBAI/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Security officials under NATO command have approached Qatar to secure a base that can be used to train Afghan special forces as part of a strategic commitment after foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan, three senior Western officials said.
    After two decades of war, forces from 36 countries involved in NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan are set to pull out of the country in coordination with a U.S. troop withdrawal by Sept. 11.
    “We are holding talks to earmark a base in Qatar to create an exclusive training ground for senior members of the Afghan forces,” said a senior Western security official in Kabul.
    The official, whose country is part of the U.S.-led NATO alliance in Afghanistan, requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak with journalists.
    An integral part of Resolute Support has been to train and equip Afghan security forces fighting the Islamist Taliban, which was ousted from power in 2001 and has since waged an insurgency.
    “We have made an offer but it is for authorities in Qatar to decide if they are comfortable with NATO using their territory as a training ground,” said a second security source based in Washington DC.
    A third source, a diplomat based in Kabul, said bringing “Afghan special force members to Qatar for about four to six weeks of rigorous training” was under discussion.
    Qatar’s government and NATO’s communications office did not respond to questions about the proposal to use the Gulf state as a base for training Afghan forces.    The Afghan government also did not repond to a request for comment.
UPSURGE IN FIGHTING
    Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces, mainly from NATO countries but also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops left in Afghanistan.
    The final exit of foreign forces comes amid a surge in fighting between Taliban fighters and Afghan forces in several provinces.
    Fears the Taliban could over-run Afghanistan’s battered security forces, which have relied heavily on NATO support, intelligence, and logistics – particularly U.S. air support – have been heightened in recent weeks as the militants have launched major offensives, seizing districts and overrunning military bases.
    Earlier this month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was “looking into how we can provide out-of-country training for the Afghan Security Forces, especially the Special Operations Forces.”
    Qatar, an energy-rich Gulf state has been home to the Taliban’s political office since 2013.    In recent years, this has been the only known venue where authorised representatives of the hardline insurgent group have held talks with U.S. officials, representatives of NATO, international rights groups and Afghan government officials.
    Two sources said the United States, Britain and Turkey were among the NATO countries ready to send a force to train Afghans in Qatar.
    A Taliban spokesperson said the group was not aware about NATO’s plan to train Afghan forces in Qatar.
    “In the case of Afghan soldiers who receive military training abroad… If peace is established then maybe the well-trained should be hired to serve Afghanistan but if they come and fight against us and their nation, then of course they will not be trusted by us,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson.
(Additional reporting by Orooj Hakimi in Kabul, Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad, Robin Emmott in Brussels; Editing by Alex Richardson)

6/14/2021 New Israeli Government Faces Tension With Palestinians Over Jerusalem by Jeffrey Heller
Israel's President Reuven Rivlin sits next to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid as they pose
for a group photo with ministers of the new Israeli government, in Jerusalem June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu handed over power in Israel on Monday to new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett but remained defiant as the patchwork government faced tensions with Palestinians over a planned Jewish nationalist march.
    Minutes after meeting Bennett, Netanyahu repeated a pledge to topple the new government approved on Sunday by a 60-59 vote in parliament.
    “It will happen sooner than you think,” Netanyahu, 71, who spent a record 12 straight years in office, said in public remarks to legislators of his right-wing Likud party.
    Formation of the alliance of right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties, with little in common other than a desire to unseat Netanyahu, capped coalition-building efforts after a March 23 election, Israel’s fourth poll in two years.
    Instead of the traditional toasts marking Bennett’s entry into the prime minister’s office, Netanyahu held a low-key meeting there with the former defence chief, who heads the nationalist Yamina party, to brief him on government business.
    “Sour, grumpy, not stately – Trump-like until the final moment,” Yossi Verter, a political affairs commentator, wrote in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.
    The government was already facing a sensitive decision over whether to approve a flag-waving procession planned for Tuesday by Jewish nationalists through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.
DAY OF RAGE
    Palestinian factions have called for a “day of rage” against the event, with memories of clashes with Israeli police still fresh from last month in contested Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and in a neighbourhood of the city where Palestinian’s face eviction in a court dispute with Jewish settlers.
    “This is a provocation of our people and an aggression against our Jerusalem and our holy sites,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said.
    The Hamas Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip warned of the possibility of renewed hostilities if the march goes ahead, less than a month after a ceasefire ended 11 days of cross-border hostilities with Israeli forces.
    A route change or cancelling the procession could expose the Israeli government to accusations from its right-wing opponents of giving Hamas veto power over events in Jerusalem.
    Israeli police were due to present their route recommendations to government officials on Monday.
    Deputy internal security minister Yoav Segalovitz said past governments had stopped nationalists visiting Muslim sites in times of tension.
    “The main thing is to consider what’s the right thing to do at this time,” he told Israel’s Kan radio.
    Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, to be the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
    Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in a move that has not won international recognition after capturing the area in a 1967 war, regards the entire city as its capital.
FOCUS ON ECONOMY
    With any discord among its members a potential threat to its stability, Israel’s new government had hoped to avoid hot-button issues such as policy towards the Palestinians and to focus on domestic reforms and the economy.
    “I think the milestone to look out for is the budget,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute.    “If within 3-4 months this government will pass the 2021-22 budget then we can expect this government to serve for at least two or three years.    Otherwise, the instability will continue.”
    Palestinians held out scant hope of a breakthrough in a peace process leading to a state of their own.    Talks with Israel collapsed in 2014.
    “We don’t see the new government as less bad than the previous ones,” Shtayyeh told the Palestinian cabinet.
    Under the coalition deal, Bennett, a 49-year-old Orthodox Jew and tech millionaire who advocates annexing parts of the West Bank, will be replaced as prime minister in 2023 by centrist Yair Lapid, 57, a former television host.
    Lapid, widely regarded as the architect of the coalition that brought down Netanyahu, is now foreign minister.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

6/14/2021 The Trauma Helpline Taking Calls From Gaza During Conflict And Beyond by Zainah El-Haroun and Stephen Farrell
Trauma helpline counselors in Ramallah receive calls from Gaza after the 11-day conflict with Israel, in Ramallah
in the Israeli-occupied West Bank June 09 , 2021. Picture taken June 09, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – The distressed caller was on the line from Gaza when an explosion drowned out his voice and the line suddenly went dead.
    For counselors at the Sawa 121 (One-to-One) Palestinian helpline in Ramallah, it is a grimly familiar end to calls in times of conflict, most recently during the 11-day hostilities between Israel and Hamas in May.
    “You don’t know if they’re still alive or not,” Sawa co-founder Ohaila Shomar told Reuters at her call centre office in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.
    “This is the most difficult thing. We keep thinking about them and what happened to them.”
    Sawa – “Together” in Arabic – fielded around 37,000 calls during the May violence, twice its usual workload, with concerns such as safety, missing children and unexploded bombs added to the helpline’s usual pleas for help with domestic abuse, child protection and mental health problems.
    Some callers were seeking shelter during Israeli airstrikes or used Sawa’s free line to pass messages to their family because they had no phone credit, counselors said.
    An Egyptian-brokered truce on May 21 ended the fighting which saw 253 Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes and 13 people in Israel killed by Palestinian rockets and missiles, medical officials said.
    Jalal Khader, director of Sawa in Ramallah, said that although the fighting has stopped, the real support work is only just beginning after four wars between Israel and Gaza militants since 2008.
    “It’s as if the trauma and crises that they went through during the previous wars came back again because they’re living the same crisis that they’ve lived through before,” said Khader.
    Relying on funding from humanitarian organizations including Médecins du Monde Switzerland and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), Sawa will continue to provide emergency post-war support for another six months.
    Staff are limited to answering the phones for a maximum of 20 hours a week to prevent counselor burnout, but Sawa official Noor Nazzal said the gratitude of callers made a difficult job worthwhile.
    “When we leave and hear the feedback that they give us – how much you gave me relief, how much you reassured me and gave me hope for life, this gives us the motivation to offer something even better and continue with our work,” she said.
    Sawa website: www.Sawa.ps
(Reporting by Zainah El-Haroun and Stephen Farrell in Ramallah, Writing by Zainah El-Haroun; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

6/14/2021 Naftali Bennet Sworn In As Israel’s New Prime Minister by OAN Newsroom
Israel’s new prime minister Naftali Bennett raises his hand during a Knesset session in Jerusalem Sunday, June 13, 2021.
Israel’s parliament has voted in favor of a new coalition government, formally ending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s
historic 12-year rule. Naftali Bennett, a former ally of Netanyahu became the new prime minister (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    Israel has sworn in a new prime minister following the removal of Benjamin Netanyahu who was ousted following a 60 to 59 vote on Sunday.    Naftali Bennett was confirmed as the new leader, marking the first new prime minister in a record 12 years.
    “It’s pretty sad that almost 86 in the Parliament, the Knesset, belongs to the right-wing,” stated Erez Goldman, a resident of Jerusalem.    “And they sold their soul and ideology and their beliefs to the extreme left-wing just for one purpose: hatred to Netanyahu.”
    In his last speech as prime minister, Netanyahu denounced Joe Biden’s Iran policies and also called out Bennet by claiming he would be too weak to stand up to Washington.
    “Regrettably, he doesn’t posses the international standing, he doesn’t posses the credibility, he doesn’t have the capability, he doesn’t have the knowledge,” Netanyahu stated.    “And above all, he has not the government nor the word that allow him to truly object to the nuclear deal.”
    Netanyahu vowed to return to power while dismissing the new coalition as a “dangerous government.”    Bennett, a former defense minister and Betanyahu protégé, will be leading the most ideologically diverse government in Israeli history.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to right-wing opposition party members a day after a new government
was sworn in, at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
    Israeli citizens have long called for Netanyahu’s ousting amid an ongoing corruption trial in which he has denied any wrongdoing.    However, citizens offered mixed reactions as hundreds of Israelis gathered in several areas across the country.
    “I feel like I earned my country back again because for the last year, with lots of wonderful people, we’ve been in the streets demonstrating against a prime minister that there is a very serious indictment against him,” stated protester Sharon Hudeland.
    In the meantime, Netanyahu is expected to remain a prominent figure in politics heading the Likud Party as the new opposition leader.

6/14/2021 Israeli Nationalists March In East Jerusalem, Prompt Palestinian ‘Day Of Rage’ by Rami Ayyub
FILE PHOTO: Youths wave Israeli flags during a parade marking Jerusalem Day amid Israeli-Palestinian tension
as they march along the walls surrounding Jerusalem's Old City, May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Nir Elias/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Far-right Israeli groups will march in and around East Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday in a flag-waving procession that risks igniting tensions with Palestinians in the contested city and rekindling violence between Israel and Gaza militants.
    Assailing the march as a “provocation,” Palestinian factions have called for a “Day of Rage” in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas have warned of renewed hostilities if it goes ahead.
    “We warn of the dangerous repercussions that may result from the occupying power’s intention to allow extremist Israeli settlers to carry out the Flag March in occupied Jerusalem tomorrow,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Twitter.
    An original march was re-routed to avoid the Old City’s Muslim Quarter on May 10 when tensions in Jerusalem led Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas to fire rockets towards the holy city, helping set off 11 days of deadly fighting.
    Israeli rightists accused their government of caving into Hamas by changing its route.    They rescheduled the procession after a Gaza truce took hold.
    Tuesday’s march, due to begin at 6:30 p.m. (1530 GMT), poses an immediate challenge for new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who took office on Sunday and brought veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s record-long rule to an end.
    Bennett’s internal security minister approved the march on Monday.
    A route change or cancellation of the procession could expose Bennett’s patchwork coalition to accusations from Netanyahu, now in the opposition, and his right-wing allies of giving Hamas veto power over events in Jerusalem.
    “The time has come for Israel to threaten Hamas and not for Hamas to threaten Israel,” prominent far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir said on Twitter.
    An official route for the march has yet to be announced.    Israeli media reported that police will allow participants to congregate outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate but will not let them cross through it to the Muslim Quarter, which has an overwhelmingly Palestinian population.
    Tensions are sure to be high whether or not the route is changed. Palestinian protests were planned for 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) across the Gaza Strip, and Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction have called on Palestinians to flock to the Old City to counter the march.
    The Israeli military has made preparations for a possible escalation in Gaza over the march, Israeli media reported, and the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem prohibited its employees and their families from entering the Old City on Tuesday.
    Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, to be the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
    Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in a move that has not won international recognition after capturing the area in a 1967 war, regards the entire city as its capital.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Howard Goller)

6/14/2021 Egypt Upholds Death Sentence For 12 Senior Muslim Brotherhood Figures
FILE PHOTO: Muslim Brotherhood's senior member Mohamed El-Beltagi sits behind the bars during
a court session in Cairo, Egypt, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s highest civilian court on Monday upheld death sentences for 12 senior Muslim Brotherhood figures over a 2013 sit-in which ended with security forces killing hundreds of protesters, judicial sources said.
    The ruling, which cannot be appealed, means the 12 men could face execution pending approval by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.    They include Abdul Rahman Al-Bar, commonly described as the group’s mufti or top religious scholar, Mohamed El-Beltagi, a former member of parliament, and Osama Yassin, a former minister.
    Many Muslim Brotherhood figures have been sentenced to death in other cases related to the unrest that followed the military’s ousting of Brotherhood president Mohamed Mursi in 2013, but the Court of Cassation ordered retrials.
    Rights groups have documented a sharp rise in the number of executions in Egypt, with at least 51 carried out so far this year according to Amnesty International.
    “Instead of continuing to escalate their use of the death penalty by upholding death sentences following convictions in grossly unfair mass trials Egyptian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions,” Amnesty said in a statement.
    Monday’s ruling relates to a mass trial of hundreds of suspects accused of murder and incitement of violence during pro-Brotherhood protests at Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo in the weeks after Mursi’s overthrow.
    In September 2018, an Egyptian criminal court sentenced 75 people to death and issued varying jail terms for more than 600 others. Many defendants were tried in absentia.
    Forty-four of those sentenced to death appealed to the Court of Cassation.    Thirty-one had their sentences changed to life in prison, while death sentences were upheld for 12 others.
    A final defendant, the senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam el-Erian, died in prison in Cairo in August 2020. Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, died in prison in 2019.
    The court also upheld jail terms for many other defendants including a life sentence for Mohamed Badie, leader of the outlawed Brotherhood, and a 10-year jail term for Mursi’s son Osama, the judicial sources said.
(Reporting by Haitham Ahmed; writing by Mahmoud Mourad; editing by Aidan Lewis, William Maclean and Grant McCool)

6/14/2021 Biden Backs Effort In Congress To Repeal ‘Forever War’ Authority In Iraq by Patricia Zengerle
FILE PHOTO: U.S. soldiers are seen before a handover ceremony of K-1 airbase from U.S.-led coalition forces
to Iraqi security forces, in Kirkuk governorate, Iraq March 29, 2020. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration said on Monday it supported an effort in the U.S. Congress to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that allowed the war in Iraq, boosting lawmakers’ push to pull back the authority to declare war from the White House.
    “The administration supports the repeal of the 2002 AUMF, as the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations,” the administration said in a policy statement.
    The U.S. Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress.    However, that authority has gradually shifted to the president as Congress passed AUMFs that did not expire – such as the 2002 Iraq measure, as well as one that allowed the fight against al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
    A handful of members of Congress have been pushing for years to repeal, and possibly replace, the authorizations.
    The administration statement said Biden is committed to working with Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations are repealed and replaced with “a narrow and specific framework” to ensure the country can continue to protect itself.
    The House of Representatives is due to vote this week on the legislation to repeal the 19-year-old Iraq war authorization, which was introduced by Democratic Representative Barbara Lee.    There was no immediate word on when the Senate might consider it.
    Lee has long sought to hold presidential military powers in check.    She was the only member of Congress to oppose the AUMF passed days after the Sept. 11 attacks, saying it provided too much of a “blank check” to allow the president to pursue military action.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

6/14/2021 Macron Says Turkey’s Erdogan Wants Foreign Mercenaries Out Of Libya
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron during a bilateral meeting, on the sidelines of
the NATO summit, in Brussels, Belgium June 14, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said he had received assurances from Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan that he wanted foreign mercenaries to leave Libyan territory as soon as possible.
    “We agreed to work on this withdrawal (of foreign mercenaries).    It doesn’t just depend on the two of us.    But I can tell you President Erdogan confirmed during our meeting his wish that the foreign mercenaries, the foreign militias, operating on Libyan soil leave as soon as possible,” Macron told a news conference at the end of a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels.
    Macron was speaking after his first face-to-face with Erdogan in more than a year as tensions between the two NATO allies worsened especially over the conflict in Libya.
    Turkey deployed troops to Libya under an accord on military cooperation signed with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), helping it repel an assault by forces from eastern Libya.    It also sent thousands of Syrian fighters to Libya.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Richard Lough)

6/15/2021 At Least 15 Killed In Somalia Suicide Bombing Claimed By Militants by Feisal Omar and Abdirahman Hussein
An ambulance carrying wounded from a suicide bombing attack at a military base arrives
at the Madina Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia June 15, 2021. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
    MOGADISHU (Reuters) – At least 15 people were killed on Tuesday in a suicide bombing in the Somali capital that targeted recruits who were lined up outside an army camp, a Reuters witness who counted the bodies at Madina Hospital said.
    Officials at the hospital confirmed that the bodies were those killed in an attack at a checkpoint outside the General Degaban military training camp in Mogadishu.
    Al Shabaab’s radio Al Andalus said the Islamist group’s fighters carried out the attack.
    Al Shabaab, which wants to unseat the government and impose its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law, frequently carries out such bombings.
    Dozens of people crowded outside Madina Hospital searching for their missing relatives.
    “My son is dead.    I have seen with my eyes.    Many boys perished.    They were asked to come for recruitment and then bombed.    The government is still hiding other casualties,” said Amina Farah, sobbing into the arms of family members.
    Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
    Army recruit Ahmed Ali, who was struck in the head by shrapnel, told Reuters at the hospital: “The place was overcrowded with new recruits and soldiers when the blast occurred.”
    Military officer Odawaa Yusuf Rage had told state media earlier on Tuesday at least 10 new recruits had been killed and 20 others wounded when a suicide bomber detonated explosives.
(Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh, Writing by Maggie Fick, Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Edmund Blair)

6/15/2021 Sudan Says Progress Made In Peace Talks With Rebel Leader
FILE PHOTO: Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North chairman Abdelaziz al-Hilu addresses delegates after signing a declaration of principles between
Sudanese Transitional government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North in Juba, South Sudan March 28, 2021. REUTERS/Jok Solomun
    JUBA (Reuters) – Sudanese authorities adjourned talks on Tuesday with the most powerful rebel leader from the country’s south, saying they had agreed on more than three-quarters of a framework peace deal.
    A deal with Abdelaziz al-Hilu’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) would be a big step in efforts to resolve decades of internal conflict in Sudan following the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
    Some rebels from the south and from the troubled western region of Darfur signed what was meant to be a comprehensive peace agreement last year.
    But al-Hilu, who has control over significant forces and territory from his stronghold in South Kordofan, held out, as did the leader of the most active Darfur group, Abdel Wahed el-Nur.
    Earlier this year, the SPLM-N and Sudan signed a declaration of principles to guarantee freedom of worship and separate religion from the state — a key demand for al-Hilu.
    That paved the way for peace talks that have been held over recent weeks in the capital of neighbouring South Sudan, Juba.
    Sudan’s ruling council, formed under a military-civilian power-sharing deal after Bashir’s ouster, cited the lead negotiator at the talks as saying all but four out of 19 points had been resolved.    A senior SPLM-N official said more than three-quarters of a framework deal had been agreed.
    SPLM-N spokesperson Mohammad Kuku declined to give details on the points of disagreement, saying consultations would continue ahead of the next round of talks.
    SPLM-N operates in an area inhabited mainly by minority Christians and followers of indigenous beliefs, who had long complained of discrimination at the hands of Khartoum and Bashir’s Islamist regime.
    Bashir had ruled Sudan for 30 years until he was removed by the military following mass demonstrations against his government.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Denis Dumo; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Peter Graff)

6/15/2021 Israeli Nationalists March In East Jerusalem Under Heavy Police Presence by Stephen Farrell and Rami Ayyub
A Palestinian demonstrator uses a sling to hurl stones at Israeli forces during a protest over a flag-waving
procession by far-right Israeli groups in and around East Jerusalem's Old City, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El
near Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank June 15, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Thousands of Israeli far-right nationalists marched in a flag-waving procession through East Jerusalem on Tuesday, an event that risked reigniting tensions with Palestinians and posed an early challenge to Israel’s new government.
    Last month, Israeli-Palestinian confrontations in contested Jerusalem helped trigger 11 days of cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group.
    On Tuesday, Israeli police in riot gear and on horseback cordoned off areas leading to the walled Old City’s flashpoint Damascus Gate, clearing the area of Palestinians.
    Dancing and singing “the people of Israel live” the crowd of mostly religious Jews, carrying blue and white Israeli flags, then filled the plaza in front of the gate, usually a popular social gathering spot for Palestinians.
    “Take a good look at our flag. Live and suffer,” one marcher, a megaphone in one hand and a cigar in the other, shouted in Hebrew at Palestinian merchants on the other side of police barriers erected on an East Jerusalem street.
    Police were expected to prevent marchers from going through Damascus Gate, the main entry to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, which is also home to shrines sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.    They were to take a peripheral route instead, to Judaism’s sacred Western Wall.
    “Jerusalem is for all religions, but Jerusalem is in Israel.    And in Israel, we must be able to go wherever we want, with our flag,” said marcher Doron Avrahami, 50, channelling right-wing frustrations with police restrictions.
    Assailing the march as a “provocation,” Palestinians called for “Day of Rage” protests in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank with memories still fresh of confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    “We warn of the dangerous repercussions that may result from the occupying power’s intention to allow extremist Israeli settlers to carry out the     Flag March in occupied Jerusalem,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said.
    Before the marchers arrived at Damascus Gate, thousands of Palestinians congregated nearby and at least 17 were injured in clashes with Israeli police firing stun grenades, the Palestine Red Crescent ambulance service said.
INCENDIARY BALLOONS
    Several hours before the event was due to start, incendiary balloons launched from Gaza caused several fires in fields in Israeli communities near the border with the Palestinian enclave, witnesses and the Israeli fire brigade said.
    Such incidents had stopped with the ceasefire that ended last month’s Israel-Gaza fighting.
    Hamas warned of renewed hostilities over the march, testing the mettle of the new Israeli government of Naftali Bennett, which approved the procession though along an amended route that appeared designed to avoid friction with Palestinians.
    Bennett heads a far-right party, and diverting the procession could anger members of his religious base and expose him to accusations he was giving Hamas veto power over events in Jerusalem.
    Wedensday’s march was originally scheduled for May 10 as part of “Jerusalem Day” festivities that celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.
    At the last minute, that march was diverted away from the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, but the move was not enough to dissuade Hamas from firing rockets towards Jerusalem.
    Sitting on a bench outside the police cordon, Khalil Mitwani, a 50-year-old Palestinian, said of the marchers: “They are making a big problem in Jerusalem.    All the people here want peace – why make problems here?
    Diplomats urged restraint by all sides.
    “Tensions (are) rising again in Jerusalem at a very fragile & sensitive security & political time, when UN & Egypt are actively engaged in solidifying the ceasefire,” U.N. Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said on Twitter.
    He called on all parties to “act responsibly & avoid any provocations that could lead to another round of confrontation.”
    Israel, which occupied and later annexed East Jerusalem in a move that has not won international recognition, regards the entire city as its capital.    Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state that would include the West Bank and Gaza.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub and Stephen Farrell, Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Editing by Jeffrey Heller, Timothy Heritage and Mark Heinrich)

6/15/2021 Algeria’s FLN Remains Biggest Party After Election
Algeria's election authority head Mohamed Chorfi speaks during a news conference to announce the results for
the country's legislative elections in Algiers, Algeria June 15, 2021. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
    ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria’s FLN, long the country’s biggest political party, won the most seats in Saturday’s parliamentary election, the head of the electoral authority said on Tuesday.
    Fewer than a third of registered voters took part in the election, which the long dominant establishment had seen as part of its strategy to move beyond two years of mass protests and political turmoil.
    The protests that erupted in 2019 demanded the ousting of the ruling elite, an end to corruption and the army’s withdrawal from politics.    While authorities praised the demonstrations as a moment of national renewal, they also cracked down with arrests.
    “The dynamic of peaceful change that was launched (with the protests) is being strengthened,” electoral authority head Mohamed Chorfi said, referring to the election.
    The FLN’s 105 seats were far short of the 204 needed to secure a majority in the 407-seat parliament, with the Islamist MSP winning 64 seats, another former ruling coalition party, the RND, winning 57, and independent candidates taking 78 seats.
    However, most of the elected members of parliament are expected to support President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s programme, including economic reforms.
    Islamist parties had hoped to benefit from the unrest of the past two years of protests that pushed the veteran president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, from office and led to the jailing of numerous senior officials.
    But the biggest difference from previous elections was the much larger number of independents winning seats in parliament, with Islamists retaining about the same share as previously.br>     The leaderless “Hirak” mass protest movement boycotted the vote, as it had the 2019 election that installed Tebboune in place of Bouteflika.
    Hirak has said any vote that takes place while the current establishment remains in place, and while the army interferes in politics, cannot be fair.
    While elections before Hirak’s rise had higher official turnout figures, they were still often marked by a large number of abstentions.
    The make-up of the new parliament is expected to shape the next government, which will face a looming economic crisis with Algeria having spent more than four fifths of its foreign currency reserves since 2013.
(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed and Lamine Chikhi, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Mark Heinrich)

6/15/2021 Outgoing U.N. Yemen Envoy Hopes Oman Peace Efforts ‘Bear Fruit’ by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, gestures during a news
conference at Sanaa Airport, in Sanaa, Yemen May 31, 2021. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Outgoing U.N. Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Tuesday that after three years of trying to broker an end to the conflict in the Arabian Peninsula country, “the parties have yet to overcome their differences.”
    “I hope very, very much indeed … that the efforts undertaken by the Sultanate of Oman, as well as others, but the Sultanate of Oman in particular, following my visits to Sanaa and Riyadh, will bear fruit,” Griffiths told the 15-member council during his last briefing. Griffiths is set to become the U.N. aid chief next month.
    An Omani delegation visited Yemen’s capital Sanaa last week and met with the leader of the Houthi group, Abdulmalik al-Houthi.    Oman recently stepped up efforts to back U.N. shuttle diplomacy and met with Saudi officials several times in a bid to persuade both parties to agree on a ceasefire deal.
    “We don’t know what’s the outcome of this visit,” Griffiths told reporters after his council briefing.    “I’m going to be in Riyadh tomorrow, where I believe we will hear more from the Omanis themselves.”
    A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Iran-aligned Houthi group ousted the country’s government from Sanaa.    The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system.    Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government is now in Aden, though Hadi is based in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
    “Yemeni men, women and children are suffering every day because people with power have missed the opportunities presented to them to make the necessary concessions to end the war,” Griffiths told the council.
    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is yet to appoint Griffiths’ successor, but some diplomats said front-runners were the European Union ambassador to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, and former British diplomat and former U.N. Somalia envoy Nicholas Kay.
    Gutterres’ choice of a replacement for Griffiths has to be approved by the 15-member U.N. Security Council.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, additional reporting by Aziz El YaakoubiEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

6/16/2021 Israel Strikes Hamas Sites Over Fire Balloons, Challenging Truce by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Rami Ayyub
A still image from a video shows buildings in Gaza as seen from a warplane before an
air strike June 16, 2021. Israeli Defence Force (IDF)/Handout via REUTERS
    GAZA/TEL AVIV (Reuters) -Israeli aircraft struck Hamas sites in Gaza on Wednesday after incendiary balloons were launched from the Palestinian enclave in the first such attacks since a fragile ceasefire ended 11 days of deadly fighting last month.
    The violence poses an early test for the government of new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose patchwork coalition came to power on Sunday on a pledge to focus on socioeconomic issues and avoid sensitive policy choices towards the Palestinians.
    An Egyptian-mediated truce that halted fighting between Israel and Gaza militants did not immediately appear to be threatened by the flare-up, with the overnight Israeli airstrikes giving way to calm by morning.
    There were no reports of casualties on either side.
    The overnight violence follows a march in East Jerusalem on Tuesday by Jewish nationalists that had drawn threats of action by Hamas, the ruling militant group in Gaza.
    Israel’s military said its aircraft attacked Hamas armed compounds in Gaza City and the southern town of Khan Younis and was “ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist acts emanating from Gaza.”
    The military said the strikes came in response to the launching of balloons laden with incendiary material, which the Israeli fire brigade reported caused 20 blazes in open fields in communities near the Gaza border.
    A Hamas spokesman, confirming the Israeli attacks, said Palestinians would continue to pursue their “brave resistance and defend their rights and sacred sites” in Jerusalem.
    But analysts suggested Hamas refrained from firing rockets around the march and after the Israeli strikes to avoid an escalation in Gaza, which was devastated by May’s aerial bombardment.
    “It (the ceasefire) is very fragile. The current calm may give the Egyptians a chance to try and cement it,” said Talal Okal, an analyst in Gaza.
    Israel’s Army Radio reported that Israel had informed Egyptian mediators that direct Hamas involvement in the balloon launch would imperil long-term truce talks.    Israeli officials did not immediately confirm the report.
    Hours before the overnight strikes, thousands of flag-waving Israelis congregated around the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City before heading to Judaism’s holy Western Wall, drawing Palestinian anger and condemnation.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Additional reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Edmund Blair)

6/16/2021 Israeli Military Confirms Gaza Air Strikes
A field on fire is seen after Palestinians in Gaza sent incendiary balloons over the
border between Gaza and Israel, Near Nir Am June 15,2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Israeli military said its aircraft attacked Hamas armed compounds in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday in response to the launching of incendiary ballons from the territory that caused fires in fields in southern Israel.
    In a statement, the military said that it was “ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist acts emanating from Gaza.”
    The attacks, following an Israeli nationalist march in East Jerusalem that angered Palestinians, were the first launched by Israel and Gaza militants since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ended 11 days of cross-border fighting last month.
(Editing by Jeffrey Heller)

6/16/2021 American Press Left Out Of Biden Meeting With Turkish Leader by OAN Newsroom
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center left, greets U.S. President Joe Biden, center right, during a plenary session
during a NATO summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Monday, June 14, 2021. (Brendan Smialowski, Pool via AP)
    Joe Biden’s first meeting with his Turkish counterpart was overshadowed by its lack of transparency.    Members of the American press are still looking for answers after getting shut out of a bilateral meeting between Biden and Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels on Monday.
    Some reporters took to social media to express their frustration while noting they were excluded from the event for more than an hour.    On the other hand, Turkish media was allowed in while American media was not given an explanation for getting shunned.
    When U.S. media was finally let in to the meeting, Biden didn’t share details on what was discussed.    The incident has sparked concerns about Biden’s commitment to transparency and freedom of the press.

6/17/2021 Gulf Nations: Any Iran Deal Must Bar Ballistic Missile Development by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this April 10, 2021 file photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency,
President Hassan Rouhani, second right, listens to head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi while
visiting an exhibition of Iran’s new nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP, File)
    Foreign ministers from a group of Arab nations are calling for Iran’s ballistic missile program to be included in ongoing nuclear talks.
    During a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh on Wednesday, the diplomats agreed Iran must be barred from developing high-precision ballistic missiles in exchange for economic concessions.    The Arab nations also said they should be included in the talks as well.
    This comes as Joe Biden is leading indirect talks to revive the failed 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and European nations.    The Gulf Council added, any deal with Iran must be fully verifiable.
    “The Ministerial Council stressed the need for the joint committee’s negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file currently in Vienna or any other negotiations with Iran to address Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region,” stated Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council.    “And its sponsorship of terrorism, sectarian militias and the Iranian missile program, including ballistic and cruise missiles and drones in one basket.”
    The Gulf nations also called on Iran to avoid violating United Nations resolutions and take unilateral steps to reduce violence as well as hostilities across the Middle East.

6/17/2021 Hamas Chief Meets Party Leaders In Morocco Visit
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian group Hamas' top leader, Ismail Haniyeh speaks during a protest to express solidarity with the
Palestinian people amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Doha, Qatar May 15, 2021. REUTERS/Hussein Sayed
    RABAT (Reuters) – Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh will meet Morocco’s main opposition party on Thursday as part of a visit to build support for the Palestinian cause despite the country’s recent diplomatic accord with Israel.
    Haniyeh arrived in Morocco on Wednesday and met the Islamist PJD, the biggest party in the governing coalition, and will hold talks with several other main parties during his four-day visit.
    On Thursday he is meeting PAM and Istiqlal, two of the main opposition parties, with other party meetings scheduled before he leaves on Sunday.
    The trip comes after King Mohammed VI in December agreed to improve Moroccan relations with Israel as part of a deal with the United States that also included American recognition of Rabat’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
    In Morocco, the visit is seen as a way to balance ties with Israel and the Palestinians, and to demonstrate that despite its more friendly relations with Israel, Rabat still supports Palestinian independence hopes.
    On Tuesday, King Mohammed congratulated the new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on forming a government.    The king, who holds ultimate power in Morocco, backs a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital.
    With parliamentary elections looming in September, Moroccan political parties are also seeking to show support for Palestinian rights after protests last month against the warmer ties with Israel.
    After Hamas sharply criticised Morocco for the deal with the U.S. and Israel, Haniyeh’s visit underscores an effort to lobby for wider support following last month’s Gaza conflict.
    Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Dine El Otmani gave a reception for Haniyeh on Wednesday in his capacity as PJD leader that featured Palestinian flags and music.
    Otmani said King Mohammed had promised that Moroccan efforts to entrench sovereignty over Western Sahara would not be “at the expense of the Palestinian people.”
    Gaining international recognition for its sovereignty over Western Sahara, where the Algeria-backed Polisario Front movement has been seeking independence for decades, is Morocco’s overriding foreign policy goal.
(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, additional reporting by Nidal Al Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

6/17/2021 Zambia’s Founding President, Kenneth Kaunda, Dies Aged 97 by Chris Mfula
FILE PHOTO: Former President of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda speaks during the funeral ceremony for former
South African President Nelson Mandela in Qunu December 15, 2013. REUTERS/Odd Andersen/Pool/File Photo
    LUSAKA (Reuters) -Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding president who led his country for 27 years and championed Africa’s struggles against apartheid and HIV/AIDS, has died at the age of 97.
    “KK”, as he was popularly known, was being treated for pneumonia at the Maina Soko Medical Centre, a military hospital in Lusaka.
    “On behalf of the entire nation and on my own behalf, I pray that the entire Kaunda family is comforted as we mourn our first president and true African icon,” President Edgar Lungu said in a message on his Facebook page.
    Authorities declared 21 days of mourning for the liberation hero who ruled from 1964, after the southern African nation won its independence from Britain, until 1991.
    Although Zambia’s copper-based economy fared badly under his long stewardship, Kaunda will be remembered more for his role as an anti-colonial fighter who stood up to white minority-ruled South Africa.
    He shared a loss experienced by countless families in Africa when his son Masuzyo died of AIDS in 1986, and he began a personal crusade against the disease.
    “This is the biggest challenge for Africa.    We must fight AIDS and we must do so now,” he told Reuters in 2002.
    “We fought colonialism.    We must now use the same zeal to fight AIDS, which threatens to wipe out Africa.”
    As leader of the first country in the region to break with its European colonisers, Kaunda worked hard to drag other former colonies along in Zambia’s wake towards majority rule.
    In 1991, he was forced to hold the first multi-party elections for 23 years, which he lost to long-time foe, trade unionist Frederick Chiluba.
    Though he was widely admired as a warm and emotional man, the voters judged he had overstayed his welcome in office and mismanaged the economy.
THE UNEXPECTED ONE
    Kenneth David Kaunda was born on April 28, 1924, the youngest of eight children of a Church of Scotland minister at Lubwa mission in the remote north of the country.
    Known also by his African name of “Buchizya” – the unexpected one – he did menial jobs to earn school fees after his father’s death.    He worked as a teacher and a mine welfare officer and entered politics in 1949 as a founder member of the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress.
    In his early days of anti-colonial agitation, he cycled from village to village preaching majority rule.
    A 1963 landslide victory for UNIP, which had broken away from the ANC five years earlier, led to Kaunda becoming prime minister of Northern Rhodesia.    At independence in 1964, he became president of the new Zambia.
    By the time he lost power, Kaunda’s popularity had slumped and hardship gripped most of his 11 million people as the price of copper, the country’s main export, plummeted.
    After 27 years of lecturing fellow Africans on how to build an independent nation, he was confronted by misery in his own backyard and anger among his usually easy-going people.
    A June 1990 doubling in the price of maize meal, the staple food for most Zambians, sparked a three-day riot in which 27 people were killed, 150 injured and hundreds arrested as the army moved in.
    The same month, an army lieutenant forced his way into a state radio studio and announced that Kaunda had been overthrown, sending people rushing into the streets of Lusaka cheering.
    The coup turned out to be a fiction and the lieutenant was arrested, but the public reaction had shown how low Kaunda’s popularity had sunk.
WEEP IN PUBLIC
    Kaunda was not ashamed to weep in public and had a unique speaking style, emphasising key thoughts by repeating whole sentences, his trademark white handkerchief in his left hand.
    He espoused an ideology of “humanism” mixing Christian ethics, traditional African values and socialistic principles.
    In foreign affairs, Kaunda was a high-profile figure among the seven southern African states which led the fight against apartheid, and he let Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) make a home-in-exile in Lusaka during the three decades it was banned in South Africa.
    Kaunda also played a major role in Mozambique’s independence talks in 1975, Zimbabwe’s in 1980 and Namibia’s in 1990.
    Despite accusations of corruption against his UNIP party, he won credit for bending with the winds of political change and preferring peaceful transition to violent confrontation.
    He was philosophical about his defeat in 1991.    Urging unity and peace, he said in a broadcast: “Those who go into opposition are still an active catalyst for good government, indeed an integral part of good government.”
    In 1996, Kaunda tried to make a political comeback, but he was blocked when Chiluba forced through constitutional amendments which declared the former “Father of the Nation” a foreigner because his parents came from Malawi.
    He was arrested in December 1997 and charged with treason following a coup attempt by junior army officers two months earlier.    He was detained in a maximum security prison but later placed under house arrest until the state dropped the charges.
    After his son and political heir Wezi Kaunda was murdered in October 1999, Kaunda announced his withdrawal from domestic politics to concentrate on halting the spread of AIDS through his Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa Foundation.
    Apart from Masuzyo and Wezi, Kaunda and his wife Betty had six other children – four boys and two girls.
    In his later years he led a quiet life, mostly staying at home and only occasionally appearing at state functions.
    In a rare public appearance in September 2019, at the age of 95, he spoke out strongly against a wave of attacks in South Africa against foreigners from other African countries.
    “Our brothers and sisters in South Africa should remember that these same people they are treating with cruelty are the same people who were comrades in arms in fighting the brutal apartheid regime,” Kaunda said.
(Editing by Tim Cocks and Andrew Heavens)

6/17/2021 Roadblocks Upend Palestinian Family’s Life In East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah by Suheir Sheikh and Ammar Awad
Orthodox Jewish youth stand next to an Israeli police barricade in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood where Palestinian families face possible
eviction after an Israeli court accepted Jewish settler land claims, in East Jerusalem June 6, 2021. Picture taken June 6, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – For months the world has watched a political eviction drama unfold between Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents of a tiny barricaded road in East Jerusalem that has become a microcosm of the long-running conflict.
    But while the cameras focus on the confrontations between police horses and protesters in Othman Ibn Afan Street, for 15-year-old Tala Abu Diab each day is a reminder that the quiet side street she grew up on has turned into a fear-filled obstacle course.
    Twice a day the young Palestinian schoolgirl has to present her papers to the armed Israeli police stationed 24 hours a day at roadblocks both ends of her street, waiting for permission to go to and from her home.
    “Our life is not a regular life anymore, I cannot go outside to see my friends nor can they come in to see me,” Abu Diab said.
    “If they allow them in, which they rarely do, they stay for 30 minutes before clashes start to happen … so my friends have to leave the neighbourhood.    That has affected me, I do not see people anymore except for family members.”
    Israeli police say the roadblocks and restrictions are to prevent friction between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, who have already moved in to some of the homes on the street.
    Those barriers were upgraded to concrete after a Palestinian motorist rammed into them at high speed a month ago.    He was shot dead by the police stationed there, six of whom were injured.
    The tension arises from a long-running court case in which Jewish settlers seek possession of Abu Diab’s home and others in a case that has drawn international attention and near-daily protests.
    An Israeli court ruled in October in favour of settlers who say the Palestinian families are living on land that used to belong to Jews in territory that Israel captured in a 1967 war and later annexed in a move not recognised internationally.
    The Palestinians, who question the legitimacy of the settlers’ documents, have appealed the ruling.    Israel’s Supreme Court is expected to hear the case on Aug. 2.
    While the political and court dramas play out, Abu Diab says she and her sibling increasingly feel confined to the street.
    “It’s affected my mental health,” said Abu Diab, whose school is 15 minutes away.    “If I leave, they harass me and when I come back, they harass me.    It is very hard.”
(Writing by Rami Ayub and Stephen Farrell; editing by Grant McCool)

6/18/2021 Exclusive: U.S. Suspects 4,000 Cases Of Fraud In Iraqi Refugee Program – Documents by Jonathan Landay and Ted Hesson
FILE PHOTO: An Iraqi interpreter enters a house during a patrol with U.S. army Alpha Company 1-64 Armored
in the neighborhood of Adl in Baghdad November 7, 2007. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. authorities pursuing a sweeping fraud investigation suspect some 4,000 Iraqis of filing fraudulent applications for resettlement in the United States as refugees, and they are re-examining cases involving more than 104,000 others, according to State Department reports reviewed by Reuters.
    More than 500 Iraqis already admitted as refugees have been implicated in the alleged fraud and could be deported or stripped of their U.S. citizenship, according to one document sent to members of Congress.    It said there was “no indication to date that any of these 500+ individuals have ties to terrorism.”
    The probe – one of the biggest into refugee program fraud in recent history – is fueling reservations among some in Joe Biden’s administration as they debate whether to create a similar program to assist Afghan refugees as American troops withdraw after 20 years of war, U.S. officials told Reuters.
    The reports show the investigation is more far-reaching and serious than U.S. officials have disclosed since announcing in January a 90-day freeze of the Iraqi “Direct Access” refugee program. The suspension, which in April was extended indefinitely by the State Department, followed the unsealing of an indictment accusing three foreign nationals of fraud, records theft and money laundering.
    A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the scope of the investigation and internal government deliberations, but said the fraud scheme did not affect security vetting of refugees.
    “The discovery, investigation, and prosecution of individuals involved in the scheme demonstrated the U.S. government’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of the program while upholding our humanitarian tradition,” the spokesperson said.    “Those who would seek to take advantage of America’s generosity in welcoming the most vulnerable people will be held accountable.”
    The spokesperson did not give a timeline for the investigation, but said the agency would work “as quickly and thoroughly as possible” to complete the review and make any necessary security changes.
    Sponsored by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, the “Direct Access” program was authorized by Congress four years into the 2003-2011 U.S. occupation of Iraq and the sectarian bloodletting it unleashed.    The program aimed to speed resettlement in the United States of Iraqis endangered by working for the U.S. government.
    Under pressure from lawmakers of both parties and advocacy groups, the Biden administration is considering a similar program for Afghans facing Taliban retribution, according to a State Department official, a congressional aide and a lawmaker.
    But there “are a lot of reservations” about expediting the resettlement of Afghans as refugees in the United States, said the State Department official, citing the problems with the Iraqi program.
    The official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, referenced challenges to verifying employment history and other background information “in unstable environments.”
    Representative Jason Crow, a former Army Ranger who founded a bipartisan group pressing Biden to evacuate at-risk Afghans, said State Department officials told him the problems with the Iraqi program “have given people pause” about creating one for Afghans.
‘MASTER LIST’ OF SUSPECTS
    The Iraqi program suspension froze the processing of more than 40,000 applications covering more than 104,000 people – 95% of them in Iraq – and all are being re-evaluated, according to one State Department report reviewed by Reuters.
    Officials have built a “master list” of “companies and cases with suspected fraud as identified by the investigation,” it said, adding that it includes more than 4,000 individuals, none of whom have been allowed to travel to the United States.
    The State Department reports, the unsealed indictment and court documents do not categorically state the alleged scheme’s purpose.
    But a State Department investigator’s federal court affidavit suggested applicants were paying for pilfered case files that helped them pass the screening process and consular interviews and “potentially secure admission to the United States … when that would not otherwise have occurred.”
    The indictment unsealed in January accused the suspects of stealing the digital case files of more than 1,900 Iraqis, including highly confidential information such as work histories, military service, accounts of persecution, security check results and proposed U.S. consular interview questions.
    “Resettlement is a very scarce and valuable and lifesaving commodity,” said Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, a refugee resettlement agency.    “People … are going to do anything they can to access it.”
    The program had shortened the process for Iraqi groups “of special humanitarian concern” to obtain U.S. refugee resettlement, dropping a requirement that they first obtain referrals from the United Nations refugee agency.
    Eligible applicants include Iraqis inside or outside Iraq in danger because they worked for the U.S. government, as well as certain family members.    Iraqis who worked for U.S.-based media outlets and humanitarian groups or organizations that received U.S. government grants or contracts could also apply.
    More than 47,570 Iraqis have been resettled in the United States through the program, according to one State Department document.
    Admissions slowed to a trickle under Republican former President Donald Trump, who set refugee admissions for this year at a record-low 15,000 before leaving office.
    The alleged fraud ran from February 2016 until at least April 2019, according to the indictment.    The investigation began in February 2019, a State Department document said.
    James Miervaldis of No One Left Behind, a nonprofit that helps U.S.-affiliated Iraqis and Afghans immigrate to the United States, said it is not known how many have been killed, but they number in the hundreds.    Most of the threats were from Islamic State remnants and Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militias, he said.
    “There are still many Iraqis reaching out to us for help,” Miervaldis said. (This story refiles to correct garbled byline)
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Mary Milliken and Daniel Wallis)

6/18/2021 Amid Pandemic, Number Of People Forced To Flee Homes Has Risen, Says U.N. by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan refugees walk to a school, where a temporary shelter is installed, to receive medical assistance and
humanitarian aid from the Colombian Red Cross, in Arauquita, Colombia March 28, 2021. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez/File Photo
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – The number of people forced to flee their homes due to conflict, persecution and human rights abuses has doubled in the past decade to reach 82.4 million at the end of last year, the United Nations said on Friday.
    “In the year of COVID, in a year in which movement was practically impossible for most of us… 3 million more people have been forcibly displaced,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told Reuters.
    Nearly 70% of those affected are from just five countries – Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar – according to the annual report on forced displacement by the U.N. Refugee Agency UNHCR.
    “Trends have unfortunately continued.    So if we had to work to update the figures… for the first six months of 2021, we will probably see a further increase from that 82.4 million,” said Grandi.    Around 42% of those displaced were children.
    He said the increase in those uprooted from their homes was partly fueled by new flashpoints, including northern Mozambique, West Africa’s Sahel region, and Ethiopia’s Tigray, along with flare-ups in long-running conflicts in Afghanistan and Somalia.
    The United Nations is also preparing for a likely further displacement of civilians in Afghanistan after U.S. and international troops leave the country in September, Grandi said https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/un-readies-more-displaced-afghans-after-troop-withdrawal-2021-06-14 earlier this week.
    Amid a rise in populism and nationalism in global politics, Grandi called on world leaders to “stop demonizing people” that are forced to move.
    “To say that the only way to address this population flow is by building walls or pushing people back at sea is morally despicable or unspeakable.    These are human beings,” Grandi said.    “Whatever the motive for the flight or for the movement human beings deserve full dignity like everybody else.”
    Former U.S. President Donald Trump took a hardline approach on border security and immigration.    Grandi, who recently visited Washington, praised new President Joe Biden’s pledge to “restore a U.S. asylum system that is both effective and humane.”
    “It’s very important that that pledge is carried out,” he said.    “The attitude that I heard in Washington is people that are in need of international protection will be given international protection, but we must make the system more effective otherwise abuses will happen, numbers will skyrocket.”
    The UNHCR report found that in 2020 just 34,400 refugees were formally resettled globally – one-third of the previous year.    They were resettled in the United States, Canada and Europe.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

6/18/2021 Palestinians Cancel Deal For Near-Expired COVID Vaccines From Israel by Ali Sawafta and Rami Ayyub
FILE PHOTO: A Palestinian labourer who works within Israel or its settlements in the occupied West Bank, is vaccinated at
an Israeli facility at Shaar Efraim crossing from Israel to the West Bank, March 8, 2021. REUTERS/ Ammar Awad
    RAMALLAH, West Bank/TEL AVIV (Reuters) -The Palestinian Authority (PA) cancelled a deal on Friday to receive soon-to-expire COVID-19 vaccines from Israel after an initial Israeli shipment showed an expiration date sooner than had been agreed, the PA health minister said.
    Israel and the PA announced a vaccine swap deal earlier on Friday that would have seen Israel send up to 1.4 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses to the PA, in exchange for receiving a reciprocal number of doses from the PA later this year.
    The doses were due to “expire soon”, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said in a statement announcing the deal.    The PA said they had been “approved in order to speed up the vaccination process” in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
    “They told us the expiration date was in July or August, which would allow lots of time for use,” PA Health Minister Mai Alkaila told reporters later on Friday.
    “But (the expiration) turned out to be in June.    That’s not enough time to use them, so we rejected them,” she said.
    The PA cancelled the deal over the date issue, a PA spokesman said, and sent the initial shipment of around 90,000 doses back to Israel.
    Bennett’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Rights groups have criticised Israel, which led one of the world’s swiftest vaccination campaigns, for not doing more to ensure Palestinian access to doses in the West Bank and Gaza, territory it captured in a 1967 war.
    Israeli officials argue that under the Oslo peace accords, the PA health ministry is responsible for vaccinating people in Gaza and parts of the West Bank where it has limited self-rule.
    The vaccine deal was among initial policy moves towards the Palestinians by Bennett, who was sworn in on Sunday and replaced veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
    Around 55% of eligible Israelis are fully vaccinated – a coverage rate largely unchanged by this month’s expansion of eligibility to include 12- to 15-year-olds.
    Some 30% of eligible Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, home to a combined 5.2 million people, have received at least one vaccine dose, according to Palestinian officials.
    According to a poll released on Tuesday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 40% of Palestinians are willing to take the vaccine once it is available, while 35% say they and their families are not willing to get vaccinated.
    The Palestinians have received vaccine doses from Israel, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates and the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative.
(Reporting by Rami AyyubAdditional reporting by Ali Sawafta in RamallahEditing by William Maclean, Timothy Heritage, Frances Kerry and Giles Elgood)

6/18/2021 New Joint Force To ‘Crack Down On Insecurity’ In Sudan
FILE PHOTO: General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo,attends the signing ceremony of the agreement on peace and ceasefire in Juba,
South Sudan October 21, 2019. He is currently deputy head of Sudan's sovereign council. REUTERS/Samir Bol/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s military has announced plans to create a joint force to “crack down on insecurity” and assert the state’s authority in the capital and nationwide as an economic crisis and regional tensions plague a fragile transition period.
    The announcement was made in an order from General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, that was published late on Thursday.
    Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, is head of the Rapid Support Forces which will be part of the new force with the police, armed forces, General Intelligence Service and “representatives” of rebel groups and the public prosecutor, the order said.
    In a speech this week defending reforms meant to tackle a deep economic crisis and stabilise a political transition towards elections, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said there was a danger of chaos or civil war fomented by loyalists of the previous leadership.
    The latest of those reforms was the removal of fuel subsidies last week at a time when annual inflation has risen to 379%, causing a public outcry.
    Sudanese authorities have warned about “gangs and criminal groups” which they blame for disturbances in the capital, Khartoum, in recent days.
    Sudan’s Darfur region has seen an uptick in deadly violence, as has the country’s eastern region, since the installation of a military-civilian power-sharing government in mid-2019.
    A peace agreement signed late last year called for the integration of rebel groups into a unified national army which has not yet begun.
    U.N. special representative Volker Perthes told a news conference he was concerned about the delay, adding that he considered the police to be best suited to protect civilians.
    Dagalo’s Rapid Support Forces, which emerged out of the janjaweed militias in Darfur’s conflict of the early 2000s, are viewed with mistrust by many in the country.
    The force announced on Thursday would be formed “immediately,” under the leadership of sovereign council member General Yasser al-Atta, according to the order.
    Dagalo also ordered the signatory rebel groups to get their members under control and designate gathering places.    Many rebel troops had moved towards Khartoum as their leaders joined the government following the singing of the agreement.
(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Nafisa Eltahir, editing by Timothy Heritage)

6/18/2021 EU Sets Out Potential Criteria For Lebanese Sanctions: Document by John Irish and Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: Gebran Bassil, leader of Lebanon's biggest Christian bloc, speaks during a parliament
meeting at UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Lebanon May 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Criteria for European Union sanctions being prepared for Lebanese politicians are likely to be corruption, obstructing efforts to form a government, financial mishandling and human rights abuses, according to a diplomatic note seen by Reuters.
    Led by France, the EU is seeking to ramp up pressure on Lebanon’s squabbling politicians after 11 months of a crisis that has left Lebanon facing financial collapse, hyperinflation, electricity blackouts, and fuel and food shortages.
    The bloc, which has been holding technical discussions on possible measures for the last month, has yet to decide on which approach to take, but foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is due in Lebanon this weekend and will report back to foreign ministers on Monday.
    As many senior Lebanese politicians have homes, bank accounts and investments in the EU, and send their children to universities there, a withdrawal of that access could help focus minds.
    Paris says it has already taken measures to restrict entry for some Lebanese officials it sees as blocking efforts to tackle the crisis, which is rooted in decades of state corruption and debt, although it has not named anybody publicly.
    The EU first needs to set up a sanctions regime that could then see individuals hit by travel bans and asset freezes, although it may also decide to not list anybody immediately.
    The note, which also outlines the strengths and weaknesses of taking such a measure, focuses on four criteria.    It begins with obstructing the establishment of a government, the political process or the successful completion of the political transition and then turns to obstructing the implementation of urgent reforms needed to overcome the political, economic and social crisis.
    Financial mishandling, which would target people, entities or bodies believed to be responsible for the mismanagement of public finances and the banking sector, is also a core criteria as is the violation of human rights as a result of the economic and social crisis.
    “It might be argued that the lack of political responsibility of the leadership in Lebanon is at the core of a massive implosion of the economy,” the note reads, referring to the possible human rights criteria.
    “This has led to significant suffering and has affected the human rights of the population in Lebanon.”
    Such diplomatic notes are common in EU policymaking, circulated among EU diplomats and officials, although they are not made public.
    The note also says an “exit strategy” proposing benchmarks for establishing whether the sanctions regime has served its purpose as well as for renewing or lifting individual designations should also be put in place.
    How quickly sanctions could be imposed is still unclear, but with political divisions continuing to worsen, the bloc is likely to press ahead before the summer holiday period.
    There are divisions among the 27 EU states over the wisdom of EU sanctions, but the bloc’s two main powers, France and Germany are in favour, which is likely to prove pivotal.    A larger group of nations has yet to specify their approach.
    Hungary has publicly denounced EU efforts to pressure Lebanese politicians.
    A senior European official told Reuters Paris had set its sights on sanctioning powerful Christian politician Gebran Bassil, who is already under U.S. sanctions.
(Writing by John Irish; Editing by Giles Elgood)

6/19/2021 Israel Says Iran’s Raisi Extreme, Committed To Nuclear Programme by Maayan Lubell
FILE PHOTO: Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a campaign rally in Tehran, Iran
June 15, 2021. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Saturday condemned Iran’s newly-elected president Ebrahim Raisi, saying he was its most extreme president yet and committed to quickly advancing Tehran’s nuclear programme.
    “Iran’s new president, known as the Butcher of Tehran, is an extremist responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iranians.    He is committed to the regime’s nuclear ambitions and to its campaign of global terror,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Twitter.
    A separate statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Raisi’s election should “prompt grave concern among the international community.”
    Israel’s new government, sworn in on Sunday, has said it would object to the revival of a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and its arch-foe, Iran.
    Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat.    Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
    Toeing the policy line set by the administration of Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the foreign ministry said: “More than ever, Iran’s nuclear program must be halted immediately, rolled back entirely and stopped indefinitely.”
    “Iran’s ballistic missile program must be dismantled and its global terror campaign vigorously countered by a broad international coalition.”
    Raisi, a hardline judge who is under U.S. sanctions for human rights abuses, secured victory as expected on Saturday in Iran’s presidential election after a contest marked by voter apathy over economic hardships and political restrictions.
(Reporting by Maayan LubellEditing by Mark Potter)

6/19/2021 UAE To Suspend Entry From Three Countries, Dubai Updates Travel Protocols
FILE PHOTO: People wear face masks amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the
Global Village in Dubai, United Arab Emirates November 17, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will suspend travellers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Namibia from entering the country on national and foreign flights, effective 23:59 p.m. on Monday, June 21, state news agency WAM reported on Saturday, citing a statement by the     General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).
    The GCAA said the restrictions would also include transit passengers, with the exception of transit flights travelling to the UAE and bound for those countries.
    Cargo flights between those countries and the UAE will continue, as usual, the statement added.
    It said the restrictions were being introduced to limit the spread of COVID-19.
    The GCAA added that exemptions to its decision include: UAE nationals, their first-degree relatives, diplomatic missions, official delegations, business jets – after getting prior approvals – and golden and silver residency permit holders, in addition to those who work essential jobs.
    Those who are exempted will still have to take a PCR test at the airport and enter a mandatory 10-day quarantine.
    Separately, Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management said on Saturday it would allow travellers from South Africa, who have received two doses of a UAE-approved vaccine, to enter Dubai starting from June 23, WAM said.
    Travellers from India, who have valid residence visas and have received two doses of a UAE-approved vaccine, will also be allowed in the emirate.
    Meanwhile, travellers from Nigeria must only present a negative PCR test taken 48 hours prior to departure and will also undergo another PCR test on arrival in Dubai, WAM added.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Omar Fahmy; Editing by Mark Potter)

6/19/2021 Israel Says COVID-19 Vaccines Rejected By Palestinians Were Safe by Maayan Lubell
FILE PHOTO: A Palestinian labourer who works within Israel or its settlements in the occupied West Bank, is vaccinated
at an Israeli facility at Shaar Efraim crossing from Israel to the West Bank, March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – COVID-19 vaccines delivered by Israel and then rejected by the Palestinian Authority (PA) over their expiration date were fine, the Israeli health ministry said on Saturday.
    Israel and the PA on Friday announced a vaccine swap deal that would have seen Israel send up to 1.4 million doses of the vaccine made jointly by Pfizer (PFE.N) and BioNTech (22UAy.DE) to the PA in exchange for receiving a reciprocal number of doses later this year.
    But soon after the announcement, the PA cancelled the deal and said it had sent an initial shipment of around 90,000 doses back to Israel.    The     PA’s Health Minister Mai Alkaila said the delivery showed a June expiration date, sooner than the July-August date that had been agreed.
    The “vaccine delivery transferred to the Palestinian Authority yesterday was perfectly in order,” the Israeli health ministry said in a statement.    The dates were known and agreed to by both parties, it said.    “The vaccines delivered to the Palestinians are identical in every way to the vaccines currently being administered to Israel’s citizens.”
    Some 30% of eligible Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, home to a combined 5.2 million people, have received at least one vaccine dose, according to Palestinian officials, from shipments supplied by Israel, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates and the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative.
    Many Palestinians voiced outrage on social media to Friday’s deal, criticizing their leaders for accepting doses that were near expiration date.
    Rights groups had criticised Israel, which led one of the world’s swiftest vaccination campaigns, for not doing more to ensure Palestinian access to doses in the West Bank and Gaza, territory it captured in a 1967 war.    Palestinians in East Jerusalem are covered by Israel’s healthcare providers and are included in its vaccine drive.
    Israeli officials argue that under the Oslo peace accords, the PA health ministry is responsible for vaccinating people in Gaza and parts of the West Bank where it has limited self-rule.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Mike Harrison)

6/19/2021 EU Warns Lebanon’s Leaders Of Sanctions Over ‘Home-Made’ Crisis by Dominic Evans
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's President Michel Aoun speaks during a news conference at the presidential
palace in Baabda, Lebanon October 21, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – The European Union’s foreign policy chief told Lebanon’s leaders on Saturday they were to blame for the country’s political and economic crisis and some could face sanctions if they continue to obstruct steps to form a new government and implement reform.
    Speaking after what he called a “frank exchange” with President Michel Aoun, Josep Borrell said he was bringing a firm message that the country stood on the edge of financial collapse and politicians could not afford to waste more time.
    “The crisis Lebanon is facing is a domestic crisis. It’s a self-imposed crisis,” he told reporters after talks with Aoun.
    “It’s not a crisis coming from abroad or from external factors.    It’s a home-made crisis, a crisis done by yourselves.”
    Lebanon’s currency has lost 90% of its value.    More than half the population are living in poverty and struggling with rampant inflation, power blackouts and shortages of fuel and food.
    The crisis has been exacerbated by political stalemate, with Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri at loggerheads with Aoun for months over forming a new government capable of introducing reforms which could unlock desperately needed foreign aid.
    “We stand ready to assist,” Borrell said.    “But if there is further obstruction to solutions to the current multi-dimensional crisis in the country, we will have to consider other courses of action as some member states have proposed.”
    “The council of the European Union has been including other options including targeted sanctions.”
POSSIBLE SANCTIONS
    The possible sanctions are part of an effort by some EU states, led by France, to ramp up pressure on Lebanon’s fractious politicians after nearly a year of gridlock.
    An EU diplomatic note seen by Reuters showed that criteria for the sanctions under preparation are likely to be corruption, obstructing efforts to form a government, financial mishandling and human rights abuses.
    The bloc has yet to decide on which approach to take.    Borrell will report back to foreign ministers on Monday after his talks in Beirut, where he was also due to meet Hariri, the speaker of parliament and the caretaker prime minister.
    Paris says it has already taken measures to restrict entry for some Lebanese officials it sees as blocking efforts to tackle the crisis, which is rooted in decades of state corruption and debt, although it has not named anybody publicly.
    While politicians bicker, funds still bleed from the country’s Central Bank to support a fuel and food subsidy programme which costs $6 billion a year and which ministers say Lebanon can no longer afford.
    Foreign reserves have halved in less than two years and the bank urged the caretaker government on Wednesday to approve a plan to ration the subsidies and target people in most need.
    Borrell said the country had to form a new government, agree a reform programme, and reach an IMF loan deal.    Once that deal was reached, the European Union was ready to look at providing “significant amounts of money” in loans and assistance.
    “Lebanon needs an agreement with the IMF and there is no time to waste,” he said.    “You are at the edge of the financial collapse.”
(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Frances Kerry)

6/21/2021 Iran Set To Stay On Hardline Course After Raisi Win, Saudi Commentators Say
FILE PHOTO: Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a campaign rally in Tehran, Iran
June 15, 2021. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The election of a hardline Iranian president has so far been met with silence from Saudi Arabia, but commentators in state-controlled Saudi newspapers forecast little change in Iran’s foreign policy as security hawks tighten their grip on power.
    Most Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates which is also at odds with Iran, offered congratulations after judge Ebrahim Raisi, an ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who wields ultimate power, emerged the winner in Friday’s presidential election.
    “After Ebrahim Raisi’s win we do not expect any important changes in foreign policy since it falls under the supreme leader, and the (nuclear) deal being negotiated by (incumbent President Hassan) Rouhani’s team in Vienna will go through,” wrote Abdulrahman Rashed in Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat daily.
    Riyadh and its allies are eyeing the talks between global powers and Iran to revive a 2015 nuclear pact that Washington quit in 2018 and which Gulf states opposed for not addressing Tehran’s missile programme and support for regional proxies.
    Analysts said progress in Vienna would determine momentum in direct talks between Riyadh and Tehran launched in April to contain tensions that have festered over the Yemen war and which grew following a 2019 attack on Saudi oil plants.
    “Reconciliation with Iran is possible but within a pragmatic political framework…,” said Ali al-Kheshaiban in an op-ed in Al Riyadh newspaper.    “The language of moderation and equivalence is the only political language capable of curbing Iran.”
    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in April said Riyadh wanted good ties with Tehran, adopting a more conciliatory tone as he tries to balance long-held animosity with economic considerations and bridge differences with Washington over how to tackle Tehran’s regional behaviour.
    President Joe Biden, who has demanded Iran rein in its missile programme and end support for proxies, withdrew support for a military campaign led by Riyadh in Yemen against the Iran-aligned Houthis, who continue cross-border attacks on the kingdom.
    Saudi commentator Khaled Suleiman, writing in Okaz daily, said Washington was “turning its cheek” to Iran and should avoid making “free concessions” that embolden Tehran.
(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous, Editing by William Maclean)

6/21/2021 Israeli Foreign Minister To Pay First Visit To UAE Next Week -Statement
Israeli alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives to attend the first weekly cabinet
meeting of the new government in Jerusalem June 20, 2021. Emmanuel Dunand/Pool via REUTERS
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel’s top diplomat will travel to the United Arab Emirates next week in the first official visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf state since the two countries established diplomatic relations last year.
    Yair Lapid, who was sworn in last week under a new government, will be hosted by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan from June 29-30, the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.
    “Minister Lapid will inaugurate the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General of Israel in Dubai.”
    The UAE, along with Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, began normalising relations with Israel last year under accords brokered by then-U.S. President Donald Trump.
    The deals angered the Palestinians, who have long relied on Gulf and Arab support in their quest for statehood in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Gaza and East Jerusalem.
    Lapid’s visit will be his first abroad as foreign minister.    He and new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett forged a patchwork coalition that ended the record-long tenure of veteran prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spearheaded Israel’s deals with the four Arab countries.
    Netanyahu had planned to visit the UAE ahead of a March 23 election but cancelled the trip amid a dispute with Jordan.
    In a side deal to opening relations with Israel, the UAE secured Washington’s approval to purchase U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.    President Joe Biden has since proceeded with that deal following a review.
    Business relations between Israel and the UAE have flourished, and the two countries signed a major tax treaty on May 31.
    “Relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates are important, the fruits of which benefit not only the citizens of the two countries, but the entire Middle East,” the foreign ministry said in its statement.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

6/21/2021 Dubai’s Latifa Seems To Have Degree Of Freedom – Lawyer For Campaign Group Says
Sheikha Latifa, daughter of the ruler of Dubai, is seen at the Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport terminal in Madrid, Spain,
in this undated picture obtained from social media by Reuters on June 21, 2021. Instagram @shinnybryn/via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – Sheikha Latifa, one of the daughters of the ruler of Dubai, appears to be enjoying an increasing degree of freedom and is travelling, a lawyer for the group which campaigned for her freedom told Reuters on Monday.
    “We are pleased to see Latifa seemingly having a passport, travelling and enjoying an increasing degree of freedom, these are very positive steps forward,” David Haigh, co-founder of the Free Latifa campaign said.
    “I can also confirm that several of the campaign team have been contacted directly by Latifa,” Haigh said.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Alistair Smout)

6/21/2021 Ethiopians To Vote In What Government Bills As First Free Election by Dawit Endeshaw and Ayenat Mersie
Taxi drivers stand in front of campaign banners of the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and Birhanu Nega, head of the Ethiopian Citizens
for Social Justice party, hours before Ethiopia's parliamentary and regional elections, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 20, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Ethiopians voted on Monday in national and regional elections that the prime minister has billed as proof of his commitment to democracy after decades of repressive rule in Africa’s second-most populous nation.
    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, 45, oversaw sweeping political and economic reforms after his appointment in 2018 by the ruling coalition.    But some rights activists say those gains are being reversed and complain of abuses in a war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, charges the government denies.
    Abiy said last week the vote would be the “first attempt at free and fair elections” in Ethiopia, whose once rapidly growing economy has been hit by conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Results of the vote could reverberate beyond Ethiopia.    The Horn of Africa nation is a diplomatic heavyweight in a volatile region, providing peacekeepers to Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.    It also is one of the world’s biggest frontier markets.
    In the capital, voters began to arrive shortly before polls opened at 6 a.m.
    “Our hope is those we voted for will bring development,” said security guard Sisay Kebede, 50, after he cast the first ballot at his polling station.    Eight others waited in the cool morning air.
    Abiy’s newly-formed Prosperity Party is the frontrunner in a crowded field of candidates mostly from smaller, ethnically-based parties.    Billboards with his party’s lightbulb symbol adorn the capital.
    Former political prisoner Berhanu Nega is the only other prominent candidate not running on an ethnic ticket.    But his Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party has struggled to attract support outside cities.
    During the last election, the ruling coalition and its allies won all 547 seats.    This time, more than 37 million of Ethiopia’s 109 million people are registered to vote, choosing from 46 parties for parliament.    The electoral board says more candidates are running this time than in any previous vote.
    Not all parties are taking part.    In Oromiya, Ethiopia’s most populous province, the largest opposition parties are boycotting over alleged intimidation by regional security forces.    Officials did not return calls seeking comment.
    Problems with voting registration and simmering ethnic violence have delayed voting in a fifth of constituencies.    A second round of voting will take place in September.
    No date has been set for voting in Tigry, where the government has been fighting the region’s former governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, since November.    The United Nations says some 350,000 people face famine there.
‘ALMOST A DEMOCRACY’
    Drinking a beer in the capital Addis Ababa, retired civil servant Yohannes Asrat said he had seen both force and rigging during elections in his lifetime but hoped Monday’s vote would be different.    “We’re almost a democracy,” he said.
    Abiy’s reforms include lifting a ban on dozens of political parties and media outlets, releasing tens of thousands of political prisoners and easing restrictions on political gatherings.
    But Fisseha Tekle from rights group Amnesty International said the government was still quashing dissent using a revised anti-terrorism law and new hate speech legislation that can lead to prison terms for online content.
    “The government is using these laws to arrest people and keep them in prison for a long time,” Fisseha said.
    In the capital, many construction projects have paused as growth has slowed in what until recently was one of Africa’s fastest expanding economies, leaving tattered sheeting covering skeletons of unfinished buildings.    Many voters are more concerned about reviving the economy than democratic reforms.
    Abiy has promised to bring in foreign investment and speed up electrification by filling a giant $4 billion hydropower dam on the Blue Nile, stoking tension with Egypt and Sudan, which fear the Nile water supplies they rely on might be interrupted.
    But annual inflation is now about 20% and growth is forecast at just 2% this year after topping 10% before the pandemic.
    “The cost of living is increasing,” said shopkeeper Murad Merga, whose window was adorned with ruling party posters.    But he remained upbeat:     “Everything will be fixed step by step.”
(Writing by Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Edmund Blair)

6/21/2021 Israel Allows Some Gaza Exports, One Month After Truce
A truck carrying clothes for export is seen at Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah in the
southern Gaza Strip, June 21, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    GAZA/TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel allowed a limited resumption of commercial exports from the Gaza Strip on Monday in what it called a “conditional” measure one month after a truce halted 11 days of fighting with the Palestinian enclave’s Hamas rulers.
    Gaza border officials said the easing of Israeli restrictions would last two to three days and would apply to agricultural goods and some textiles.
    Israel keeps tight controls Gaza crossings, with support from neighbouring Egypt, citing threats from Hamas.    The Israeli restrictions were intensified during the May fighting, effectively halting all exports.
    But with the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire largely holding, Israel said some exports would be allowed out through its territory as of Monday morning.
    “Following a security evaluation, a decision has been made for the first time since the end of (the fighting) to enable … (the) limited export of agricultural produce from the Gaza Strip,” COGAT, a branch of Israel’s Defence Ministry, said.
    COGAT said the measure was approved by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government and was “conditional upon the preservation of security stability.”
    Egypt stepped up its Israel-Hamas mediation last week after incendiary balloons launched from Gaza drew retaliatory Israeli air strikes on Hamas sites, challenging the fragile ceasefire.
    But with that flare-up having ebbed since early Friday, some workers in Gaza voiced hope that the easing of Israeli restrictions would last, and potentially be expanded.    Some 10,000 people in Gaza, home 2 million people, work in textiles.
    “This could be a start … today we exported clothing, and tomorrow, maybe something else,” said Gaza truck driver Ismail Abu Suleiman, 55, who transports export-bound goods to Israel’s Kerem Shalom border crossing.
    Gaza’s agriculture ministry said farmers had lost $16 million due to the restrictions on exports.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv, Editing by William Maclean)

6/21/2021 End Of Yemen Quagmire? Saudi-Led Coalition, Houthis Near Peace Deal by Aziz El Yaakoubi
FILE PHOTO: A girl walks past a tent at a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs)
in Marib, Yemen April 5, 2021. Picture taken April 5, 2021. REUTERS/Ali Owidha/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Yemen’s warring parties are thrashing out terms for a peace deal that would extricate Saudi Arabia from a costly war and help alleviate a devastating humanitarian crisis, two sources close to the talks and a Houthi official said.
    Talks between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis are focused on steps to lift a blockade on Houthi-held ports and Sanaa airport in return for a promise from the Iran-aligned group for truce talks, the sources said.
    Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi made a commitment to an Omani delegation that visited Sanaa this month to enter into ceasefire discussions immediately after the blockade is lifted in line with the latest proposal from U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths, they said.
    The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital, Sanaa.
    The war has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and pushed the country to the brink of famine.    The Houthis have been attacking Saudi infrastructure with armed drones and ballistic missiles.
    One of the sources said Riyadh was open to a deal but “would need some additional guarantees from Oman and Iran,” both with close ties with the Houthis.
    If an agreement was reached, it would be the first breakthrough in U.N.-led efforts to end the war since stalled peace talks were last held in Sweden in December 2018.    It would also hand Joe Biden’s administration a foreign policy win and ease tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
    U.S. envoy Tim Lenderking and Griffiths visited Riyadh last week where they met Saudi, Yemeni and Omani officials to push for an agreement.
    The Houthis’ chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters the group wanted to ensure reopening access to Sanaa airport and Hodeidah ports “without impossible conditions or other measures that would restore the blockade in other forms.”
    “After that, we will discuss a comprehensive ceasefire which should be a real halt of hostilities, not a fragile truce, and that would include the exit of foreign powers from Yemen to facilitate political negotiations,” he said, adding the timing of foreign forces withdrawing would be subject to negotiation.
    The coalition and the Saudi government did not respond to requests for comment.
    Saudi Arabia, which launched direct talks with its foe Iran in April, will want security guarantees as its long border with Yemen leaves the kingdom vulnerable to turmoil in the Arabian Peninsula nation where multiple factions are vying for power and militant groups still have a presence.
    Riyadh may also need to maintain some military presence in Yemen, particularly in the south where the Saudi-backed government and a separatist group have been locked in a power struggle despite being nominal allies under the coalition.
SECURITY GUARANTEES
    More talks are expected between Omani and Saudi officials this week, the sources said.
    Oman, which shares borders with Yemen and has long pursued a neutral foreign policy in regional disputes, hosts several Houthi leaders and has lent its weight as a regional facilitator to the negotiations.
    A nationwide ceasefire deal would end the most violent aspects of the war — coalition air strikes on Yemen, Houthi cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and fighting in gas-rich Marib, the recognised government’s last northern stronghold.
    This would pave the way for political negotiations on a transitional government but the process could prove arduous as the war has spawned parallel conflicts among many tribal leaders and warlords who have built powerful and independent militias.
    The separatist Southern Transitional Council, trained and armed by the United Arab Emirates, is still pushing for independence for the south despite a Saudi-brokered fragile power-sharing deal between them and the Saudi-backed government.
    Riyadh, where military spending has increased by billions of dollars over the past years, will welcome an exit from a war which Abu Dhabi quit in 2019 amid increasing Western criticism and rising tension with Iran.
    Biden has taken a tougher stance against Saudi Arabia and the kingdom wants to manage that relationship and focus on attracting economic investment as it pivots away from its dependence on oil.
    “The Saudis have been pressed on their backheels and no longer have forward ambition in Yemen,” said Kristin Diwan at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
    “They need the baseline: an enforceable agreement to end Houthi rockets and incursions into the Saudi homeland, and some assurance of Yemeni independence from Tehran,” she said.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Alison Williams)

6/22/2021 Officials Count Ballots After Ethiopia’s Election, New Fighting Reported In Tigray by Dawit Endeshaw and Maggie Fick
Staff members from the National Election Board of Ethiopia and observers count casted ballots at a a polling station after the
Ethiopian parliamentary and regional elections, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia June 22, 2021. REUTERS/Maheder Haileselassie Tadese
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Officials in Ethiopia counted ballots on Tuesday after a parliamentary election billed as the first free vote in the country’s history but marred by an opposition boycott, war and reports of irregularities in some areas.
    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hopes the national and regional elections will show the success of democratic reforms he launched after being appointed by the ruling coalition in 2018.
    But the vote also reflects a messy reality in the country of 109 million people.    Authorities could not hold polls on Monday in four of Ethiopia’s 10 regions, according to the election board. Voters in one of those regions, Sidama, went to the polls a day late on Tuesday, due to logistical problems.
    War has displaced 2 million people in the Tigray region, where Abiy sent troops last November to battle regional authorities that once had dominated the federal government in Addis Ababa.
    Residents said new fighting had flared in recent days north of regional capital Mekelle.    The Ethiopian military denied reports that fighters loyal to the former regional ruling party had entered several towns in the area.
    In a tweet on Tuesday, Abiy wrote: “All sections of society have gone out to cast their vote in our nation’s first free and fair election.”
    Late on Monday, he said in a statement: “Democracy is not built in a day.    We are laying it brick by brick.”
    Almost all polling stations in the capital had finished counting ballots, an electoral board spokesperson told reporters on Tuesday.
    Abiy’s newly formed national Prosperity Party is widely forecast to defeat the fragmented opposition of dozens of mostly ethnically based parties.    The ruling coalition and its allies won all 547 national parliamentary seats in the last election under Abiy’s predecessor six years ago, when Ethiopia was one Africa’s most repressive countries.
NO VOTING IN TIGRAY
    Though the prime minister won the Nobel prize in 2019 for making peace with neighbouring Eritrea, his international reputation has been tarnished since conflict erupted in Tigray, where he sent troops after accusing regional authorities of attacking army bases.
    The United Nations says a famine is looming after fighting between Ethiopia’s military and the region’s former governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). No date has been set for elections in Tigray.
    On Tuesday, an airstrike in the town of Togoga killed several people and injured 43, including a 2-year-old, about 25 km (16 miles) south of Mekelle, a doctor told Reuters.
    The main road north out of Mekelle has been closed for two days, a resident of Adigrat, a city to the north, told Reuters by phone.
    Tigrayan regional forces entered parts of Adigrat on Tuesday morning, before more Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers came back into the city, the resident said.
    A senior member of Tigray’s interim government, which was appointed by the federal government, said forces loyal to the TPLF had in the past 48 hours entered the towns of Wukro, Hawzen and Agula, all to the north of Mekelle.    There is an Ethiopian federal military base in Agula.    It was unclear if the Tigrayan forces were still there, the official added.
    Those reports were “fabrications”, Colonel Getnet Adane, a spokesperson for the Ethiopian federal military, told Reuters by phone.    The spokesperson for the prime minister and the head of the government’s emergency task force on Tigray did not respond to messages and phone calls seeking comment.
    Getachew Reda, a former senior official under the TPLF, mocked the election in a tweet, saying the Tigrayans had captured prisoners of war as a gift for Abiy’s “coronation as #theNakedEmperorofEthiopia.”
    There were no reports of major outbreaks of violence in parts of the country that did vote, although a spokesperson for the Oromiya regional government said two security officials and one local official were killed in an attack by an armed group.
    The opposition alleged some irregularities. Opposition leader Berhanu Nega said his Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party (Ezema) had filed 207 complaints after local officials and militia in Amhara region and in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, blocked party observers.
    Opposition observers were reportedly chased away from many polling stations in two regions, board chief Birtukan Midekssa told reporters late on Monday.
(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw and Maggie Fick, Additional reporting by Ayenat Mersie and Giulia Paravicini, Writing by Maggie Fick, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Jonathan Oatis)

6/22/2021 U.S. Blocks Websites Linked To Iranian Disinformation – Source
A screen grab from alalamtv.net shows a notice saying the website has been seized by the
United States government as part of law enforcement action, as seen June 22, 2021. REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) -The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday blocked some three dozen websites, many of them associated with Iranian disinformation activities, a U.S. government source said, adding an official announcement was expected.
    The source in Washington spoke after notices appeared earlier on Tuesday on a number of Iran-affiliated websites saying they had been seized by the United States government as part of law enforcement action.
    Iranian news agencies said that the U.S. government had seized several Iranian media websites and sites belonging to groups affiliated with Iran such as Yemen’s Houthi movement.
    Some sites later started to display as normal.
    The website of the Arabic-language Masirah TV, which is run by the Houthis, read:
    “The domain almasirah.net has been seized by the United States Government in accordance with a seizure warrant … as part of a law enforcement action by the Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement and Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
    The site quickly opened up a new, working website at www.almasirah.com.
    Iran’s Arabic language Alalam TV said on its Telegram channel: “U.S. authorities shut down Al-Alam TV’s website.”
    A U.S. Justice Department spokesperson had no immediate comment.    Two U.S. government sources indicated that the Justice Department was preparing an announcement on this issue.
    The notices appeared days after a prominent hardliner and fierce critic of the West, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected as Iran’s new president and after envoys for Iran and six world powers including Washington adjourned talks on reviving their tattered 2015 nuclear accord and returned to capitals for consultations.
    Notices also appeared on websites of Iran’s English-language Press TV and Lualua TV, an Arabic-language Bahraini independent channel which broadcasts from Britain.
    “In what seems to be a coordinated action, a similar message appears on the websites of Iranian and regional television networks that claims the domains of the websites have been ‘seized by the United States Government’,” Press TV said on Twitter.
    Last October, U.S. prosecutors seized a network of web domains which they said were used in a campaign by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to spread political disinformation around the world.
    The U.S. Justice Department said then that it had taken control of 92 domains used by the IRGC to pose as independent media outlets targeting audiences in the United States, Europe, Middle East and Southeast Asia.
    The semi-official Iranian news agency YJC agency said on Tuesday the U.S. move “demonstrates that calls for freedom of speech are lies.”
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah, Mark Hosenball and Dubai Newsroom; writing by Lisa Barrington; editing by Mark Heinrich and Richard Pullin)

6/22/2021 Sudan Asks U.N. Security Council To Meet Over Ethiopia’s Blue Nile Dam
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river
Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan asked the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday to meet and discuss a dispute over a giant dam being built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile, a government statement said.
    Ethiopia is pinning its hopes of economic development and power generation on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), while the two downstream countries – Egypt and Sudan – are concerned about it and seeking a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam.
    Egypt relies on the Nile River for as much as 90% of its fresh water and sees the dam as an existential threat.    Sudan is concerned about the operation of its own Nile dams and water stations.
    Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi called on the Security Council to hold a session as soon as possible to discuss GERD and “its impact on the safety and security of millions of people,” the government statement said.
    In a letter to the council head, she called on him to urge Ethiopia to stop the “unilateral” filling of the dam “which exacerbates the dispute and poses a threat to regional and international peace and security,” the statement added.
    Ethiopian officials did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
    Sudan and Egypt had already agreed this month to work together on all levels to push Ethiopia to negotiate “seriously” on an agreement, after African Union-sponsored talks remained deadlocked.    The two countries called on the international community to intervene.
    Earlier this month, Arab states called on the Security Council to discuss the dispute and Ethiopia’s plans to go ahead with the second filling of the dam this summer even without an agreement with Sudan and Egypt.
    Ethiopia rejected the Arab League resolution in its entirety, its Foreign Ministry said.
    The country previously rejected calls from Egypt and Sudan to involve mediators outside the African Union.
    Sudan said earlier in June that it was open to a partial interim agreement on the multibillion-dollar dam, with specific conditions.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

6/22/2021 Dozens Of Congo’s Rebels Lay Down Weapons In The East
Congolese Mai-Mai rebels who surrendered their weapons to government officials stand in a formation in Kitchanga, in the
Masisi territory of North Kivu province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo June 21, 2021. REUTERS/Djaaffar Al Katanty
    KITSHANGA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Dozens of militia fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo have laid down their weapons and surrendered, the first to do so since President Felix Tshisekedi announced martial law to tackle worsening security in two eastern provinces.
    Around 140 men from various local armed groups sang and clapped as they handed themselves in to authorities during a ceremony in Congo’s North Kivu province on Monday. Around 70 weather-beaten weapons, mostly rifles, were also turned in.
    Congo’s mineral-rich east has been convulsed with conflict since the official end to the country’s second civil war in 2003.    More than 120 armed groups are now fighting for control of the region’s land and natural resources.
    “Being in a rebellion means stealing, harassing the population and destroying the environment of the population,” said 28-year-old Jean-Paul Ndagije, who fought with the Nyatura rebel group.
    “That is why we bush commanders have decided to take our children out of the bush to embrace a better life.”
    Tshisekedi declared a state of siege in early May in response to a two-year surge in violence across the region.
    But deadly attacks have increased since then, according to data collected by the Kivu Security Tracker, which maps unrest in the region.
    “We will continue to track down these armed groups wherever they are entrenched,” the military governor of North Kivu Constant Ndima told reporters.
    Some conflict analysts say increasing the army’s power is unlikely to address the root causes of the bloodshed, pointing to a long history of problematic behaviour documented among troops.
    In a blistering report published last week, the United Nations said that sexual violence perpetrated by government troops in Congo’s east could amount to war crimes.
    The report also accused Congolese troops of diverting weapons to armed groups and smuggling cocoa from abandoned farms into neighbouring Uganda.
    While visiting the region last week, Tshisekedi said that a mafia had developed within the army and police, propped up by a “law of silence.”
    “There is a lot of scheming undermining our security forces,” Tshisekedi said.    “It developed at the same time as the mafia here, the same mafia in the army, in our institutions.”
(Reporting by Djaffar Al Katanty; writing by Hereward Holland; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

6/22/2021 Sudan’s PM Calls For Unified Military After Tensions Surface by Khalid Abdelaziz
FILE PHOTO: A Sudanese national flag is attached to a machine gun of Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) soldiers
as they wait for the arrival of Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the military council and head of RSF,
before a meeting in Aprag village 60, kilometers away from Khartoum, Sudan, June 22, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s prime minister called for a unified national army on Tuesday in a bid to protect a fragile political transition, amid tensions between the military and the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
    “The big question today is will Sudan exist or not exist,” Abdalla Hamdok said at a press conference, decrying “worrying” divisions between and within civilian and military factions.
    Sudanese sources told Reuters that Hamdok is concerned in particular about a widening split between the army and RSF in recent weeks, and the potential for conflict if it continues.
    Hamdok’s comments are his most explicit to date in attempting to influence the military partners he has shared power with since the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019.    His cabinet serves under the Sovereign Council, headed by General Abdelfattah al-Burhan of the armed forces with RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo serving as Burhan’s deputy.
    In a statement circulated at the news conference, Hamdok called for the RSF’s integration into the armed forces, pending agreement between leadership of both forces and the government.
    Security sector reform was a national issue that needed civilian involvement, he said.
    Bashir gave the RSF official military status, but it remains separate from the armed forces.
    Sudan’s international allies, as well as some internal rebel groups, have pushed for the RSF, which grew out of Darfur’s janjaweed militias, to be integrated into the national army.
    Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, frequently complains that he and his forces have been demonized.    He has made public statements rejecting the integration of his forces.
    Both the army and RSF have released statements denying any conflict.
    In central Khartoum, barriers were erected this month around the armed forces’ headquarters.    The RSF has separate facilities in Khartoum and in other parts of the country.
    Last week, Hamdok warned of the possibility of civil strife fomented by loyalists of the former regime.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Aidan Lewis, William Maclean)

6/22/2021 U.N. Expert Says Eritrea Has ‘Effective Control’ In Parts Of Tigray by Emma Farge
FILE PHOTO: A burned tank stands near the town of Adwa, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 18, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – Eritrea now has “effective control” of parts of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, a U.N. human rights expert said on Tuesday, calling for troops to withdraw and for a prompt investigation into abuses, including the abduction of refugees.
    Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, was addressing the Human Rights Council a day after he presented a report that described violations by Eritrean troops in Tigray, including summary executions and the abduction and disappearance of Eritrean refugees there.
    Eritrea sent troops to Tigray after the Ethiopian military launched an offensive in November in response to attacks on federal government bases by regional forces.    Eritrea denied for months that its troops were in Tigray, but later acknowledged their presence while denying they were responsible for abuses.
    “According to information that I have, Eritrea has an effective control over the Tigray region…especially in the two camps: Hitsats and Shimelba,” Babiker said, referring to camps in Tigray that house refugees from Eritrea.
    The United Nations has said Eritrean refugees were attacked and abducted from the camps by armed men suspected to be Eritrean troops.
    “The whereabouts of refugees who remain missing is really a matter of great concern,” Babiker said, calling for a full investigation by an independent body into these allegations.
    Eritrea’s foreign affairs ministry responded on Tuesday to the report with a lengthy statement in which it said that the Geneva-based council had targeted Eritrea for more than a decade through politically-motivated and flawed reporting.
    The ministry said allegations of sexual violence and other war crimes by Eritrean forces in Tigray were baseless.    In comments on Monday, the Eritrean delegate told the forum that the Special Rapporteur’s role should be abolished.
    During the debate, other countries including the United States criticised the presence of Eritrean troops and referred to “credible reports” that Eritrea was forcibly returning Eritrean refugees to their homeland.
    Fighting since November between Ethiopia’s government and the region’s ousted ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has displaced more than 2 million people.
    Eritrea agreed to withdraw its troops from Ethiopian territory along their mutual border, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in March.
(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Peter Graff)

6/22/2021 Explainer-Untangling The Crisis In Libya
FILE PHOTO: A fighter loyal to Libya's U.N.-backed government (GNA) fires a mortar during clashes with forces
loyal to Khalifa Haftar on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya May 25, 2019. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Germany and the United Nations host an international conference on Libya in Berlin on Tuesday.    On the agenda will be political progress there, national elections scheduled for December, and the withdrawal of foreign fighters.
    Members of Libya’s transitional Government of National Unity headed by Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah are due to attend as well as world powers and regional players.
    The last time such a conference was held, Libya’s warring factions were fighting in the capital.    Now, a truce has held since October and all sides have publicly accepted the unity government and planned elections.
    However, big challenges remain.
    What’s behind the conflict?
    Libya’s fault lines surfaced a decade ago as local groups took different positions in the NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.
    An attempted democratic transition slid out of control as armed groups built local power bases and coalesced round rival political factions, seizing control of economic assets.
    After a battle for Tripoli in 2014, one faction moved east and set up a parallel government and institutions.    It recognised Khalifa Haftar as military chief as he began a long campaign against Islamist groups and other opponents in Benghazi.
    As Islamic State gained a foothold in Libya and migrant smuggling to Europe surged, a U.N.-backed agreement led to a new government in Tripoli – but eastern factions spurned the deal.
    Instead Haftar consolidated control of the east and his Libyan National Army (LNA) swept south in early 2019 before attacking Tripoli with backing from the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt and blocking oil exports.
    Turkey helped the Tripoli government repel the attack last year, leaving the frontline between Misrata and Sirte, halfway along the Mediterranean coast near oil ports.
    How did political progress come about?
    After Haftar’s offensive collapsed, figures in east and west camps negotiated a resumption of oil exports and the United Nations brokered a ceasefire.
    Meanwhile, the U.N. selected 75 Libyans to hold political talks on a roadmap.    They agreed to replace the two rival administrations with an interim government to oversee the run-up to elections on Dec. 24.
    The talks participants eventually selected a three-man presidency council headed by Mohammed al-Menfi, with Abdulhamid Dbeibeh as prime minister in a process publicly backed by all countries involved.
    The long-divided, eastern-based parliament approved Dbeibeh’s government in March and both the old rival administrations officially transferred power to it.
    Will there really be elections in December?
    Menfi, Dbeibeh and other members of the unity government have repeatedly vowed to go through with the election but there are obstacles – and private doubts about everybody’s commitment.
    Neither parliament nor the U.N. talks participants have agreed a legal basis for elections and some people want a referendum to take place first on a new constitution.
    Meanwhile, myriad armed groups – some led by potential candidates in the election – still hold power on the ground, raising questions about whether a vote could be free and fair.
    Privately, diplomats and analysts have also queried whether Dbeibeh or the old parliament really want elections that would push them from power.
    What are the other reasons for concern?
    The U.N.-backed roadmap calls for the unification of the military under Menfi’s presidency council.    However, the parliament did not ratify either the council or the roadmap.
    So far the presidency council has steered clear of trying to assert control over the armed forces – a move that would likely trigger a confrontation with Haftar and possibly the parliament too.
    In the west, armed groups continue to jostle for position and to assert their control over local areas and some state institutions.    Abuses by fighters in both east and west have underscored the armed groups’ continued power.
    Some terms of the October ceasefire have not been met.    The foreign mercenaries, sent by outside powers to bolster their local allies, remain entrenched especially around the frontline areas of Sirte and Jufra.
    Their presence delayed the opening of the main coast road across the frontline linking the divided halves of the country.    On Sunday Dbeibeh finally declared it open.    But eastern forces said he had acted unilaterally and kept their side shut.
    Meanwhile, parliament has blocked Dbeibeh’s proposed budget – affecting his ability to win support for the unity government by improving state services and distributing largesse.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall and Aidan Lewis; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
[I want to remind all that it was Barak Obama as president of the U.S. who bypassed Congress and went to war with Libya because Gadaffi caused the Oil price rose to $104 a barrel and gasoline up to $4 to $6 a gallon and he killed him due to that, but what he will not admit is that issue caused the Arab Spring in that Gadaffi was one of the 12 princes who own all the Oil in the Middle East and these 12 princes are the generations from the son of ABRAHAM by the way of his Biblical story of concubine Hagar who had a son name Ishmael.    What Obama caused was the uprising of the Arab Spring was the creation of ISIS who came to attack the consulate in Libya where they killed the Consulate and 3 America soldiers while Hillary Clinton could not get out of bed to protect them, but the real sin of Obama is his actions is what caused ISIS and it took Trump to clean up his mess and stopped ISIS and bring about the ABRAHAM ACCORD, which I expect the Biden administration will screw that up before you know it.].

6/23/2021 Medical Official: Air Strike Kills At Least 43 In Ethiopia’s Tigray by Katharine Houreld
A woman is taken to Ayder Referral Hospital, in Mekelle, after an airstrike in Togoga, Ethiopia's
Tigray region June 22, 2021. Picture taken June 22, 2021. Tigray Guardians 24 via REUTERS
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - An air strike killed at least 43 people in the town of Togoga in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on Tuesday, a medical official told Reuters, after residents said new fighting had flared in recent days north of the regional capital Mekelle.
    Ethiopian military spokesman Colonel Getnet Adane did not confirm or deny the incident.    He said air strikes were a common military tactic and that government forces do not target civilians.
    The bomb hit a market at around 1:00 p.m., according to a woman who said her husband and two-year-old daughter had been injured.
    “We didn’t see the plane, but we heard it,” she told Reuters on Wednesday.    “When the explosion happened, everyone ran out. After a time we came back and were trying to pick up the injured.”
    The woman said the market had been full of families, and she did not see any armed forces in the area.    “Many, many” people had been killed, she said.
    Reuters could not independently verify her account. She and other sources asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.
    The medical official confirmed at least 43 fatalities, citing witnesses and first responders.
    A spokesperson for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the head of a government task force on Tigray did not respond to requests for comment on the incident.
    News of the airstrike came as Ethiopian officials counted ballots from national and regional parliamentary elections held this week in seven of the nation’s 10 regions.
    No voting was held in Tigray, where the military has been battling forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s former ruling party, since November.    Security concerns and problems with ballot papers also delayed voting in two other regions.
    Residents reported that TPLF forces had entered several towns north of Mekelle in the past three days, withdrawing from one of them within hours.
AMBULANCES BLOCKED
    The official and two other health workers helping with the response in Togoga told Reuters on Wednesday that Ethiopian soldiers were blocking the main road from Mekelle to the town and preventing ambulances from reaching the scene.
    “Patients are dying right now,” said the official.
    He said two ambulances had been able to reach the town via a back road late on Tuesday but did not have the necessary equipment and were not being allowed to leave.
    He said the teams had counted at least 40 dead at the scene, three people had died overnight, and there were 44 critically wounded patients needing treatment.
    Another medical worker said around 20 health workers in six ambulances had tried to reach the wounded on Tuesday but soldiers stopped them at a checkpoint.
    “They told us we couldn’t go to Togoga.    We stayed more than one hour at the checkpoint trying to negotiate.    We had a letter from the health bureau – we showed them.    But they said it was an order.”
    Military spokesman Getnet denied that the military was blocking ambulances.
(Additional reporting by Ayenat Mersie and Giulia ParaviciniEditing by Toby Chopra, Peter Graff and Catherine Evans)

6/23/2021 Deadly Landmine Legacy In Tripoli Shows Stakes Of Libya Talks by Ahmed Elumami
A damaged house is pictured in Tripoli, Libya June 9, 2021. Picture taken June 9, 2021. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – The death of Sadeeq Ferjani from a booby trap left by fighters in his home in southern Tripoli is a reminder of the deadly stakes at play in Libya as international powers meet in Berlin to discuss the crisis.
    Sadeeq, then 39 and planning to marry, went with three neighbours to check on damage after a bout of fighting last summer.    He was taking photographs with his phone when he stumbled over a wire.
    “Suddenly a huge blast was heard,” said his brother, Ismail, 37.    “I’m told that Sadeeq immediately passed away from his serious injuries.”
    A 14-month assault by Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) on Tripoli capped a decade of chaos and violence since the overthrow of Muammar Gadaffi.
    Though the main factions stopped fighting soon after the LNA withdrew in June, and a new unity government was installed that represents the best hope of peace for years, the danger of renewed conflict persists.
    Nowhere is that danger more apparent than in southern Tripoli, where Haftar’s forces, including many foreign mercenaries, left a lethal legacy of concealed explosives that have killed scores of people trying to return home.
    Landmines have been hidden in homes and streets, concealed in apparently innocent items like toys and household appliances intended to lure in the unwary.    Haftar representatives could not be reached for comment but they have previously denied placing explosives in civilian areas.
    The Ferjanis live in Wadi al-Rebea, the site of clashes that have left a landscape of torched cars, shelled houses and destroyed shops.    Along their street, “Beware of mines” is written on walls and fences in red paint.
    However, after living as displaced people elsewhere in the capital, the Ferjanis needed to move home.
    Unable to afford the rent in Tripoli, Ismail and his family still had little choice but to move back to an annexe they built to his own house next to that of Sadeeq – surrounded by farms and houses where each step could trigger a blast.
    Sadeeq unluckily took that fatal step, adding his name to the list of civilian casualties.
    In Ain Zara district, Abdul Rahman al-Arifi, 25, drove back to the family home last summer with his mother, Fawzia, to assess the damage.
    Arifi, along with his parents and five siblings, had left Ain Zara, abandoning their belongings, the month Haftar began his assault when a missile hit the building next to theirs.
    Turning down a dirt road to buy a bottle of water, the car drove over a mine.    Arifi came to half an hour later, his eyes swollen and body numb.
    He staggered out of the car and found his mother lying in the road, her face smashed, a leg severed and her stomach ripped open.    “She cried a little and then passed away,” he said.
    A passer-by helped him get to hospital where he was admitted to intensive care and treated, over several weeks, for shrapnel injuries to his eye, his jaw, his neck, his leg, his hands and his stomach.
    When Arifi sits with his father and siblings, they keep saying, over and over: “We lost our mother
    The Berlin conference will discuss political progress in Libya, national elections scheduled for December, and the withdrawal of foreign fighters.
    But the peace process faces many challenges which could lead to it unravelling and renewed warfare.    Meanwhile, myriad armed groups still hold power on the ground.
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami, writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

6/23/2021 Libya Berlin Talks Target Elections And Removal Of Foreign Forces by Humeyra Pamuk
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a video message by Secretary-General of United Nations Antonio Guterres (not pictured) at the
beginning of the 'Second Berlin Conference on Libya' at the foreign office in Berlin, Germany, June 23, 2021. Michael Sohn/Pool via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) -Libya’s interim prime minister on Wednesday asked for international help to withdraw foreign fighters from Libya as he addressed international talks in Berlin aimed at shoring up the peace process.
    The talks are focused on harnessing international support to ensure a planned election goes ahead in December and on the vexed issues of withdrawing foreign fighters and unifying the country’s fragmented armed forces.
    Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, who was appointed to lead a unity government in March via a U.N.-faciliated process, told the Berlin meeting that insecurity jeopardised the transition.
    “There are security concerns over the political process based on the direct and armed control of mercenaries in some areas, the presence of military forces with political dimensions… and the presence of some terrorists,” he said.
    Speaking before the start of the talks, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the participants wanted to “ensure international support is there.”
    Standing alongside him, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Libya must hold its planned elections. “We share the goal of a sovereign, stable, unified and secure Libya, free from foreign interference,” he added.
    Helped by the United Nations, Libya has over the past year made swift progress in addressing a decade of chaos and violence that at one stage threatened to escalate into a full-scale regional conflict.
    Rival administrations in the east and west of the country that had been at war with each other agreed a ceasefire and accepted the formation of Dbeibeh’s unity government.
    However, big risks persist with questions over all sides’ commitment to the elections, and with the continued presence of myriad armed groups backed by outside powers.
    Dbeibeh called on Libya’s parliament to approve an election law to allow the December vote to go ahead and to pass his government’s budget.
    “Unfortunately, we have not yet seen the necessary seriousness from the legislative bodies,” he said.
    Wednesday’s meeting follows a previous conference in Berlin early last year that set out political, military and economic tracks to resolve a decade of chaos and violence since a NATO-backed uprising ousted Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
MERCENARIES
    The political progress emerged in the wake of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar’s failed 14-month assault on Tripoli, as a new frontline solidified near the coastal city of Sirte.
    Haftar was backed by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt.    The Tripoli government was supported by Turkey, which ultimately helped it repel the assault.
    Despite the failure of his Tripoli offensive, Haftar remains powerful and last week deployed his Libyan National Army (LNA) in the south, declaring the closure of the border with Algeria.
    The two sides’ October ceasefire called for the withdrawal of all foreign mercenaries by January. However, they remained in place and both sides argue over which group should leave first.
    The LNA is supported by mercenaries brought by Russia’s Wagner company, as well as from Sudan, Chad and Syria, a U.N. panel of experts report has said.
    The former Tripoli government, which was internationally recognised, had support from Turkish regular forces in Libya as advisers, and from allied Syrian fighters.
    Ankara argues that as its forces were invited by the internationally recognised government they should not be put in the same category as other foreign forces in Libya.
    Two diplomats said France had prepared proposals for a sequenced withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya that was discussed with both Turkey and the United States.
    However, any agreement still faced obstacles.    “It is unrealistic to assume that Turkey will ever leave Libya again.    They set up military bases here.    Same for Russia with its Wagner mercenaries,” said another diplomat.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Joseph Nasr and Andreas Rinke in Berlin, Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli, John Irish in Paris and Tuan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean)

6/23/2021 Nepal’s Top Court Removes Most Of Cabinet In Blow To Caretaker PM by Gopal Sharma
FILE PHOTO: Nepal's Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, also known as K.P. Oli, puts on a new face mask during
his speech before a confidence vote at the parliament in Kathmandu, Nepal May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
    KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Nepal’s Supreme Court delivered a fresh blow to embattled communist Prime Minister K.P.Sharma Oli by removing 20 recently appointed ministers, pending a ruling on whether a caretaker premier can make such sweeping cabinet changes.
    “This is an interim order and the court will give its final verdict later,” court official Bhadrakali Pokharel told Reuters on Wednesday, a day after the decision by a two-judge bench.
    With the Himalayan country struggling to contain a deadly second wave of coronavirus infections and beset by political turmoil, Oli lost a vote of confidence in May as a result of factional infighting within his Communist Party of Nepal (UML).
    Oli dissolved parliament and ordered fresh elections for November, while staying on as caretaker prime minister until the elections are held.
    The Supreme Court is set to begin hearing dozens of petitions on Wednesday challenging Oli’s dissolution of parliament.
    In a bid to hold onto power and ditch opponents within his own party, Oli ealier this month dropped most ministers from his cabinet, and named 20 replacements, who were mainly members of a junior coalition partner.
    The ministerial appointments had been “against the spirit of the constitution,” the Supreme Court judges said, as Oli was only a caretaker prime minister.
    The court’s removal of the 20 ministers means the cabinet is left with just five members, including the prime minister.
    “The prime minister had completely disregarded the constitution in making the appointments … the court has applied a brake to this,” petitioner Dinesh Tripathi said.
    There was no immediate comment from Oli but his aide Rajan Bhattarai said the government would comply with court order, though he described it as “politically incorrect.”
    While Nepali politicians are locked in a power struggle the coronavirus continues to spread, with levels of testing and vaccination both woefully inadequate.    Still, official data suggested that the second wave probably peaked in May.    Some 3,703 new infections were reported on Tuesday, compared with a daily peak of 9,305 reported on May 12.
(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

6/23/2021 WFP Says Communities On Verge Of Starvation In Madagascar After Drought
FILE PHOTO: The World Food Programme (WFP) Executive director David Beasley attends a news conference on the food security
in Yemen at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Communities in Madagascar are on the verge of starvation, with women and children walking for hours to reach food after the worst drought in four decades devastated the south of the island, the World Food Programme said.
    Acute malnutrition has almost doubled over the last four months, the WFP said, with more than a quarter of people suffering in one area.
    “I met women and children who were holding on for dear life, they’d walked for hours to get to our food distribution points,” David Beasley, WFP executive director, said in a statement.
    “There have been back-to-back droughts in Madagascar which have pushed communities right to the very edge of starvation.    Families are suffering and people are already dying from severe hunger,” he added.    Beasley blamed climate change for the crisis.
    WFP said $78.6 million was needed to fight the crisis.
    “Families have been living on raw red cactus fruits, wild leaves and locusts for months now,” Beasley said.
    Bole, a mother of three from Ambiriky, in southern Madagascar, who also is caring for two orphans after their mother died, told the agency that to survive they relied on cactus leaves for their meals.
    “We have nothing left.    Their mother is dead and my husband is dead.    What do you want me to say?    Our life is all about looking for cactus leaves again and again to survive,” she said.
(Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Alison Williams)

6/23/2021 Libya’s Foreign Minister Sees Progress On Removal Of Foreign Mercenaries by Humeyra Pamuk and Angus McDowall
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a video message by Secretary-General of United Nations Antonio Guterres (not pictured) at the
beginning of the 'Second Berlin Conference on Libya' at the foreign office in Berlin, Germany, June 23, 2021. Michael Sohn/Pool via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) - Libya’s foreign minister said on Wednesday international powers had made progress at talks in Berlin on the removal of foreign fighters from the country, although a final communique from the U.N.-backed conference specified no concrete new measures.
    Libya has had little stability since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising against then head of state Muammar Gaddafi, but a U.N.-led peace process brought a ceasefire last summer after fighting between rival factions paused and then a unity government.
    Wednesday’s meeting in Berlin aimed to make progress on removing mercenaries and other foreign forces from Libya, months after the ceasefire called for their withdrawal, as well as on steps towards securing a December election.
    “Hopefully within coming days mercenaries (on) both sides will be withdrawn,” Libya’s Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush told a news conference following the talks, without giving details.
    A senior official at the U.S. State Department said Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in Libya, had reached an initial understanding to work towards a target of pulling out 300 Syrian mercenaries from each side of the conflict.
    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also said he believed there was an understanding between Russia and Turkey on a step-by-step withdrawal of their fighters.    “This will not mean that everybody will take their mercenaries back overnight,” he said.
    Reuters could not immediately reach Turkish and Russian officials at the talks, which were also attended by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, for comment.
    Moves towards a political solution in Libya accelerated after eastern commander Khalifa Haftar’s 14-month assault on Tripoli collapsed last summer.
    A frontline solidified around the coastal city of Sirte and a formal ceasefire was agreed in October.    In November, the participants in a U.N. peace dialogue set a date for elections and agreed to create a new interim government.
    Addressing the Berlin meeting, Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, who was appointed in March, called on Libya’s parliament to approve an election law to allow the December election to go ahead and to pass his government’s budget.
    “Unfortunately, we have not yet seen the necessary seriousness from the legislative bodies,” he said.
MERCENARIES
    Although Libya has made swift progress in addressing a crisis that threatened to escalate into a full-scale regional conflict, major risks persist with myriad armed groups holding power on the ground.
    Haftar was backed by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt in his Tripoli offensive.    The internationally-recognised Tripoli government was supported by Turkey, which ultimately helped it repel the assault.
    Despite the failure of his offensive, Haftar remains powerful and last week deployed his Libyan National Army (LNA) in the south, declaring the closure of the border with Algeria.br>     The two sides’ October ceasefire called for the withdrawal of all foreign mercenaries by January.    However, they remained in place and both sides argue over which group should leave first.
    The LNA is supported by mercenaries brought by Russia’s Wagner company, as well as from Sudan, Chad and Syria, U.N. bodies have said.
    The former Tripoli government had support from Turkish regular forces in Libya as advisers, and from allied Syrian fighters, the Turkish government has said.
    Ankara has said that as its forces were invited by the internationally recognised government they should not be put in the same category as other foreign forces in Libya.
    A second State Department official said it was unrealistic to think a full withdrawal of foreign fighters from Libya would come overnight and that it would be a phased approach.
    “Getting at what we think is one of the key de-stabilising elements, the presence of these foreign fighters, Syrians, Chadians, Sudanese, that is an important first step and it’s not something we had before,” the official said.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Berlin and Angus McDowall in Tunis; Additional reporting by Joseph Nasr and Andreas Rinke in Berlin, Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli, John Irish in Paris and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by William Maclean and Nick Tattersall)

6/24/2021 Autopsy Shows Head Blows In Death Of Abbas Critic, Palestinian Group Says by Ali Sawafta and Yosri Al Jamal
Demonstrators react to tear gas during clashes with Palestinian security forces at a protest following the
death of Nizar Banat, a Palestinian parliamentary candidate who criticised the Palestinian Authority and died after being
arrested by PA forces, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    RAMALLAH/HEBRON, West Bank (Reuters) – A Palestinian activist who died in the custody of President Mahmoud Abbas’s security forces on Thursday took blows to the head, a Palestinian rights group said after conducting an autopsy, adding the wounds indicated “an unnatural death.”
    The family of Nizar Banat, a well-known critic of Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, said PA forces broke into his house in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron overnight and hit him repeatedly with a metal rod before arresting him.
    A PA spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the autopsy findings of the PA’s Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR).    The PA had earlier declined to comment on the circumstances of Banat’s death.
    Earlier, hundreds of angry Palestinians marched towards Abbas’s presidential compound in Ramallah to demand he resign over Banat’s death, which drew calls by the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and the European Union for a transparent investigation.
    Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, an Abbas appointee, ordered the formation of an investigation committee into Banat’s death that he said would include the PA’s ICHR.
    But in a sign of public distrust with the PA inquiry, ICHR said it would lead its own investigation.    ICHR conducted an autopsy with the family’s permission, and announced its initial findings on Thursday night.
    “The autopsy showed injuries represented by bruises and abrasians in many areas of the body, including the head, neck, shoulders, chest, back, and upper and lower extremities, with binding marks on the wrists and rib fractures,” the ICHR said.
    “The preliminary autopsy results also indicate … an unnatural death, but determining the principal cause of death, from a clinical point of view, requires waiting for laboratory results from tissue samples,” it added in a statement.
    Palestinians renewed protests in central Ramallah later on Thursday. Some clashed with security forces who threw tear gas and stun grenades to disperse them.
‘NO ANOMALY’
    Banat, 43, was a social activist who had accused Abbas’s PA of corruption, including over a short-lived COVID-19 vaccine exchange with Israel this month and Abbas’s postponement of a long-delayed election in May.    Banat had registered as a parliamentary candidate for that contest.
    Abbas regularly arrests his critics, human rights groups say, and has ruled the PA by decree for well over a decade.
    “The crushing death of activist Nizar al-Banat shortly after his arrest by the PA is no anomaly.    PA security forces have for years systematically arbitrarily arrested, mistreated & tortured critics and dissidents,” said Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch.
    The PA rejects accusations it is corrupt and that it arrests people for their political views.    It also denies torture.
    Hebron Governor Bakri said in a statement that Banat’s arrest was on the orders of the PA attorney-general.
    Banat’s family told Reuters that PA security forces broke into their house in the middle of the night, pulled Banat from his bed and started to beat him.
    “They hit him on his head with iron bars, which they had used to open the windows,” Banat’s cousin, Hussein, 21, said.    “They beat him continuously for eight minutes.    If you came to arrest him, take him. Why the brutality?
‘SHOCKED’
    The U.S. State Department said Washington was deeply disturbed by Banat’s death and called on the Palestinian Authority to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation.
    “We have serious concerns about Palestinian Authority restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression by Palestinians and harassment of civil society activists and organizations,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
    The United Nations Middle East peace envoy, Tor Wennesland, said on Twitter he was alarmed and saddened by the death, and also called for a transparent investigation.
    The European Union delegation to the Palestinians said on Twitter it was shocked and saddened, adding a “full, independent and transparent investigation should be conducted immediately.”
    The PA exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, home to 3.1 million Palestinians.
    On Monday, Banat, who had 100,000 Facebook followers, condemned PA officials as mercenaries over the COVID-19 vaccine exchange deal, which the PA swiftly cancelled.
    Banat planned to run for the Palestinian parliament on May 22. Abbas called off that election, citing Israeli controls over Palestinians in East Jerusalem.    Opponents say Abbas cancelled the vote to avoid losing to Islamists, something he denies.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Yousri al Jamal in Hebron and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Peter Graff, William Maclean and Giles Elgood)

6/24/2021 Rastafari Scorn Of Western Medicine Fuels Jamaican Vaccine Hesitancy by Kate Chappell and Ina Sotirova
FILE PHOTO: Children eat peanut butter sandwiches during the Sabbath service, at The School of Vision, a Rastafari community
in the Blue Mountains, near Kingston, Jamaica, on June 19, 2021. Picture taken June 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ina Sotirova
    ST ANDREW, Jamaica (Reuters) – At a Rastafari farming community high up in the hills above Jamaica’s capital, dreadlocked locals gather at the temple to worship and celebrate with Bible readings and traditional drumming and chanting.    No COVID-19 protocols are in place.
    This isolated community of around 100 people called the School of Vision has so far escaped the ravages of the pandemic.    They credit traditional medicine, like root wine and herbs such as neem, bitterwood and ginger, for helping fend off the virus, and do not want to take the vaccine.
    Jamaica has reported around 16,800 infections and 350 deaths per 1 million people, according to statistics compiled by Reuters – lower than many other countries in the region.
    But lockdowns to keep the spread in check have taken a toll on the economy, and in particular on the tourism on which the Caribbean island relies, and authorities are keen to secure and roll out vaccines to return to normality.
    One challenge they face is scepticism of vaccines, which is widely shared among Jamaica’s Rastafari, who tend to distrust Western medicine and institutions, partly due to a long history of racial injustice.
    “There is some danger in (the vaccines) and that is why I am not taking it and not encouraging it,” Dermot Fagon, 66, the dreadlocked priest of the School of Vision, told Reuters.    He said he feared it would allow authorities to track people via a microchip, a conspiracy theory that has spread in other parts of the world, too.
    Although the School of Vision itself is small and fringe, Rastafari – who account for around 5-10% of Jamaica’s nearly 3 million inhabitants – have an outsized influence on society.
    Prominent Rastafari reggae and dancehall artists like Spragga Benz and Cocoa Tea have voiced skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccines, influencing their large followings on social media.
    Only 32% of Jamaicans said they would take a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a recently published Gallup poll – one of the highest vaccine hesitancy rates worldwide and far below the around 60-70% that World Health Organization experts have estimated is needed to achieve herd immunity.
    Jamaica’s government is aware of the Rastafari community’s doubts, and prepared for the reality that not every Jamaican would take the vaccine, Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan told Reuters.
    “Herd immunity can be achieved without having all those populations vaccinated,” he said.
SKEPTICISM
    The Rastafari movement developed in Jamaica in the 1930s after a prophecy that a Black man would be crowned king in Africa and Haile Selassie was subsequently made Ethiopian Emperor.
    Blending Old Testament Christian prophecy and pan-African political consciousness, Rastafari philosophy and lifestyle became famous around the world through Bob Marley’s reggae songs.
    Fagon says he took to the mountains outside the capital Kingston years ago to avoid the ills of modern Western society, which Rastafari refer to as ‘Babylon,’ and live a more natural, harmonious life.
    “We don’t like the synthetics,” Patrick Barrett, a popular reggae artist known as Tony Rebel, told Reuters, adding that food was his medicine.    “I would prefer the natural order of things.”
    Jahlani Niaah, a lecturer of Rastafari studies at the University of the West Indies, said “average Jamaicans have more skepticism” because of Rastafari mistrust.    Other groups like evangelical churches are also advising against the vaccines.
    Authorities have so far only fully vaccinated some 57,000 people – not even 2% of the population – as they have struggled to obtain the necessary supplies.
    For some Rastafari, it’s all just a tall tale.
    “It is a false alarm,” popular reggae artist Worin Shaw, 44, known as Jah Bouks, told Reuters.    “They are fabricating a lot of things, government and scientists.    It is a money-making thing you know.”
(Reporting by Kate Chappell in Kingston and Ina Sotirova in St Andrew; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

6/24/2021 Child Soldiers Carried Out Burkina Faso Massacre, Say U.N. And Government
A view shows damaged buildings and huts at the site of an attack in the village of Solhan, in Yagha province
bordering Niger, Burkina Faso June 7, 2021. Burkina Faso Prime Minister's Press Service/Handout via REUTERS
    OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – A massacre in northeast Burkina Faso in which more than 130 people were killed this month was carried out mostly by children between the ages of 12 and 14, the United Nations and the government said.
    Armed assailants raided the village of Solhan on the evening of June 4, opened fire on residents and burned homes. It was the worst attack in years in an area plagued by jihadists linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda.
    Government spokesman Ousseni Tamboura said the majority of the attackers were children, prompting condemnation from the U.N.     “We strongly condemn the recruitment of children and adolescents by non-state armed groups.    This is a grave violation of their fundamental rights,” the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said in a statement on Thursday.
    Despite interventions from U.N. peacekeepers and international armed forces, attacks by Islamist extremists continue unabated across West Africa’s Sahel region, including neighbouring Mali and Niger.
    Local officials in Burkina Faso’s north, where jihadists control large areas, said child soldiers have been used by Islamist groups over the past year, but this month’s attack was by far the highest profile case.
    It represented a new low for the impoverished West African country that since 2018 has seen a sharp rise in attacks on civilians and soldiers.
    Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 1.2 million are displaced, UNICEF said, many of whom have been forced into makeshift camps dotted across the arid north, east and centre.    Over 2,200 schools have been closed – about one in ten – affecting over 300,000 children.
(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; writing by Edward McAllister; editing by Giles Elgood)

6/24/2021 Lasers And Flaming Torches Light Up Battle Over New Israeli Settlement by Ali Sawafta and Rami Ayyub
Palestinian demonstrators hold torches during a night protest against Israeli settlements
in Beita in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, June 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    BEITA, West Bank (Reuters) – In a fusion of the modern and the medieval, green laser beams and flaming torches light up the night sky in a remote part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as Palestinians wage a battle to stop a new Jewish settlement.
    The “Night Disruption” protests south of Nablus are aimed at halting the rapid growth of a settler outpost that began in early May and is now home to 53 Israeli families on what the Palestinians say is their land.
    Israeli troops have shot dead five Palestinians during stone-throwing protests since Givat Eviatar was set up, Palestinian officials said.    The Israeli military did not comment on fatalities, but said troops used live fire only as a last resort.
    The army has deployed soldiers during the night-time demonstrations, as well as at Friday protests in the nearby village of Beita which have lasted several months.
    During the night protests that began last week, burning tyres have engulfed settler homes in acrid smoke.
    “We come at night, we light up the mountain, to send them a message that they can’t have even an inch of this land,” said one masked Palestinian this week.    He lit fires while others flashed laser pointers to dazzle the settlers in their homes.
    The Israeli military said it faced “hundreds of Palestinians throwing stones, lighting fires, burning tires and throwing explosives” at its troops.
    “The large number of violent rioters endangers the lives of Israeli civilians and a military force has been deployed to provide protection,” it said in a statement.
    Protests against an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood were one factor behind 11 days of hostilities between Israel and Gaza militants in May in which over 250 Palestinians and 13 in Israel were killed.
SETTLER OUTPOST
    The settlers named the outpost after Eviatar Borovsky, an Israeli stabbed to death in 2013 by a Palestinian at a nearby road junction. The outpost has been built up and evacuated three times since then.
    But it was set up without government authorisation – which makes it illegal under Israeli law – and presents an early test for new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
    Bennett was once a senior leader of the settler movement and heads a far-right religious party.
    But he sits precariously atop a new coalition that spans the political spectrum from far-right to far-left, making sensitive policy decisions on the Israeli-Palestinian difficult.
    The Israeli military issued an order to evacuate the outpost on June 6.     But that was under Bennett’s predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Bennett replaced on June 13.
    The evacuation order has since been postponed, the Israeli military said, and Bennett has not said if he plans to implement it.
    A spokesman for Bennett’s office declined comment, but the settlers are intent on staying on what they call “Eviatar’s Hill” and Palestinians call “Jabal Al-Sabih” or “The Morning Mountain,” because the sunlight strikes it early.
    “They won’t drive us away from here.    This is our homeland, this is our forefathers’ land.    We love the land, we want to be here, we know they come out of hate,” said Eli Shapira, a 30-year-old teacher and father of four.
    As construction proceeds, some settler families live in caravans.    Some roads are already paved, and others are lined with electricity cables.
EAST-WEST CORRIDOR
    More than 440,000 Israeli settlers live uneasily among some 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank, land that Israel captured and occupied in a 1967 war but which Palestinians say is the heartland of a future state.
    The Palestinians and most countries view Israel’s settlements as illegal under international law.    Israel disputes this, citing historical and biblical links to the land and its own security needs.
    Palestinian officials say the new outpost would help create an unbroken east-west line of Israeli settlements through the northern West Bank, cutting the territory in half and rendering Palestinian statehood unviable.
    The site lies 30 km inside the West Bank in fertile olive and grape-growing territory for Palestinians around Nablus.
    Nearby there are many hilltop Jewish settlements, whose residents want to extend their territory.
    “Israel is a strong country and not only will we not be weakened, not only will terrorism not scare us or make us flee from our homeland – we will build more and more,” said Yossi Dagan, head of the Shomron Regional Council representing settlements in the area.
    On Sunday Israel’s military rejected an appeal by the settlers against evacuation, saying the outpost “undermined security stability” in the area.
    The settlers have until Monday to appeal to the Supreme Court, a military spokesman said, although the decision over the evacuation ultimately rests with Bennett.
    Moussa Hamayel, Beita’s deputy mayor, said they had heard reports that the outpost might be dismantled.    But he was sceptical.
    “We don’t trust their promises, not until we see (the outpost) completely empty,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Rami Amichay; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Mike Collett-White)

6/25/2021 Rastafari Scorn Of Western Medicine Fuels Jamaican Vaccine Hesitancy by Kate Chappell and Ina Sotirova
FILE PHOTO: Children eat peanut butter sandwiches during the Sabbath service, at The School of Vision, a Rastafari community
in the Blue Mountains, near Kingston, Jamaica, on June 19, 2021. Picture taken June 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ina Sotirov
    ST ANDREW, Jamaica (Reuters) – At a Rastafari farming community high up in the hills above Jamaica’s capital, dreadlocked locals gather at the temple to worship and celebrate with Bible readings and traditional drumming and chanting. No COVID-19 protocols are in place.
    This isolated community of around 100 people called the School of Vision has so far escaped the ravages of the pandemic.    They credit traditional medicine, like root wine and herbs such as neem, bitterwood and ginger, for helping fend off the virus, and do not want to take the vaccine.
    Jamaica has reported around 16,800 infections and 350 deaths per 1 million people, according to statistics compiled by Reuters – lower than many other countries in the region.
    But lockdowns to keep the spread in check have taken a toll on the economy, and in particular on the tourism on which the Caribbean island relies, and authorities are keen to secure and roll out vaccines to return to normality.
    One challenge they face is scepticism of vaccines, which is widely shared among Jamaica’s Rastafari, who tend to distrust Western medicine and institutions, partly due to a long history of racial injustice.
    “There is some danger in (the vaccines) and that is why I am not taking it and not encouraging it,” Dermot Fagon, 66, the dreadlocked priest of the School of Vision, told Reuters.    He said he feared it would allow authorities to track people via a microchip, a conspiracy theory that has spread in other parts of the world, too.
    Although the School of Vision itself is small and fringe, Rastafari – who account for around 5-10% of Jamaica’s nearly 3 million inhabitants – have an outsized influence on society.
    Prominent Rastafari reggae and dancehall artists like Spragga Benz and Cocoa Tea have voiced skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccines, influencing their large followings on social media.
    Only 32% of Jamaicans said they would take a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a recently published Gallup poll – one of the highest vaccine hesitancy rates worldwide and far below the around 60-70% that World Health Organization experts have estimated is needed to achieve herd immunity.
    Jamaica’s government is aware of the Rastafari community’s doubts, and prepared for the reality that not every Jamaican would take the vaccine, Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan told Reuters.
    “Herd immunity can be achieved without having all those populations vaccinated,” he said.
SKEPTICISM
    The Rastafari movement developed in Jamaica in the 1930s after a prophecy that a Black man would be crowned king in Africa and Haile Selassie was subsequently made Ethiopian Emperor.
    Blending Old Testament Christian prophecy and pan-African political consciousness, Rastafari philosophy and lifestyle became famous around the world through Bob Marley’s reggae songs.
    Fagon says he took to the mountains outside the capital Kingston years ago to avoid the ills of modern Western society, which Rastafari refer to as ‘Babylon,’ and live a more natural, harmonious life.
    “We don’t like the synthetics,” Patrick Barrett, a popular reggae artist known as Tony Rebel, told Reuters, adding that food was his medicine.    “I would prefer the natural order of things.”
    Jahlani Niaah, a lecturer of Rastafari studies at the University of the West Indies, said “average Jamaicans have more skepticism” because of Rastafari mistrust.    Other groups like evangelical churches are also advising against the vaccines.
    Authorities have so far only fully vaccinated some 57,000 people – not even 2% of the population – as they have struggled to obtain the necessary supplies.
    For some Rastafari, it’s all just a tall tale.
    “It is a false alarm,” popular reggae artist Worin Shaw, 44, known as Jah Bouks, told Reuters.    “They are fabricating a lot of things, government and scientists.    It is a money-making thing you know.”
(Reporting by Kate Chappell in Kingston and Ina Sotirova in St Andrew; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

6/25/2021 Honduras Becomes 4th Country To Open Embassy In Jerusalem by OAN Newsroom
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, back ceright, and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, speak as
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, front second right, and Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales sign agreements between
their two countries at the prime minister’s office, in Jerusalem, Thursday, June 24, 2021. (Heidi Levine/Pool via AP).
    Honduras has officially inaugurated its embassy in Jerusalem. President Juan Orlando Hernandez signed agreements with Israel on Thursday as Honduras relocates their embassy.
    This came after Donald Trump, the 45th U.S. President, announced he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in 2018 with Guatemala, Kosovo and Honduras soon to follow.
    “Mr. President, Honduras under your leadership stands consistently with Israel in the international institutions when it is not always popular and sometimes it comes with a cost,” stated Israeli Prime Minster Naftali Bennett.    “And this is evidence of the friendship and the willingness to take action, including paying a price, and I want to thank you and the public in Honduras for this support.”
    Most countries’ embassies remain in Tel Aviv due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

6/25/2021 Pride Parade Fills Tel Aviv Streets As COVID-19 Curbs Creep Back
People take part in an annual gay pride parade in Tel Aviv, Israel June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern
    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Rainbow flags billowed in the Mediterranean breeze as revellers poured onto Tel Aviv’s streets on Friday for the city’s annual Pride parade, though some voiced concerns over a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
    Israel’s rapid vaccination drive enabled the sea-side march to go ahead after being cancelled last year over coronavirus concerns. An estimated 100,000 attended.
    “It’s still surreal.    It’s so crazy to see so many people outside, and the music, and happiness … I’m still getting used to it,” said Mor Eliezri, 26, one of a minority of marchers wearing a face mask.
    Over 55% of Israel’s population is vaccinated, new COVID-19 infections have plummeted and the country has eased most health restrictions.
    But a recent uptick in cases attributed to the highly-infectious Delta variant prompted health officials on Friday to mandate masks indoors again and recommend they be worn during large outdoor events – specifically mentioning the pride parade.
    “There is a sense in Israel that everything is done, COVID is behind us.    But it seems it’s not … will it ever end? I’m not so sure,” Eliezri said.
    As crowds waved blue-and-white Israeli flags emblazoned with hearts and danced through the streets, some said the hardships endured during the pandemic had made them less afraid of a new outbreak.
    “We overcame so many things, and we can overcome this too.    It’s the reality of the world today,” said Maayan Sharet, 33.
    “If we have (to) lockdown for a while, we’ll find a way to do it happily, and get back to life.”
(Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

6/25/2021 Palestinian Mourners Call For Change At Funeral Of Abbas Critic by Yosri Al Jamal
People attend the funeral of Palestinian critic Nizar Banat, who died after being arrested by Palestinians Authority's
security forces, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma
    HEBRON, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian mourners called on Friday for a change of government as they marched through Hebron for the funeral of one of President Mahmoud Abbas’s most prominent critics, who died after being arrested by security forces.
    Thousands of people accompanied Nizar Banat’s coffin through the streets of the occupied West Bank city, many of them chanting “The people want the fall of the regime” and “Leave, leave Abbas
    Some waved Palestinian flags and others the flag of Hamas, Abbas’s Islamist rivals in Gaza.    Protesters also gathered in Ramallah and outside East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
    Banat’s family said Palestinian Authority (PA) forces broke into his house in the city in the early hours of Thursday and hit him repeatedly with a metal rod before arresting him.
    He suffered blows to the head, the PA’s Independent Commission for Human Rights said after conducting an autopsy.
    Abbas’ Palestinian Authority said it would hold an inquiry, but has not commented on the accusations.    Its governor for Hebron, Jibrin Al-Bakri, said Banat died when his health “deteriorated” during his arrest.
    Abbas’ popularity has plummeted since the 85-year-old was elected president in 2005, with many Palestinians facing economic hardship and complaining of widespread corruption.    He has ruled the PA by decree for over a decade.
    Making its first statement since Banat’s death, the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which Abbas chairs, said the PA inquiry would be impartial and that it would announce its findings at the earliest opportunity.
    But the PLO called on Palestinians “and especially the family of the martyr, Nizar, to assume national responsibility … and not allow anyone to politicise this issue and divert it from its national, humanitarian and legal track.”
    Banat, 43, was a social activist who had accused Abbas’s PA of corruption, including over a short-lived COVID-19 vaccine exchange with Israel this month and Abbas’s postponement of a long-delayed election in May.
    Banat had registered as a parliamentary candidate for that contest.
    Human rights groups say Abbas regularly arrests critics.    A Human Rights Watch official said Banat’s arrest was “no anomaly.”    Abbas denies the accusations.
    The United States, the United Nations and the European Union called on the PA to conduct a “transparent” inquiry into Banat’s death.
    Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, urged Palestinians to rise up and “put a final end to the widespread violation by the (PA) against the freedoms and rights of our people
    Abbas and the PA, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, reject accusations they are corrupt and that they arrest people for their political views.    They also deny torture.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Writing by Rami Ayyub,Editing by Andrew Heavens and Timothy Heritage)

6/25/2021 Three MSF Employees Killed In Ethiopia’s Tigray, Aid Agency Says
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) emergency co-ordinator Maria Hernandez, killed by unknown assailants in Ethiopia's Tigray region, is seen in
unknown location in this image released by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on June 25, 2021. Medecins Sans Frontieres/Handout via REUTERS
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Three employees working for the Spanish branch of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) were killed by unknown assailants in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the medical charity said on Friday.
    MSF-Spain lost contact with a vehicle carrying the team on Thursday afternoon, it said in a statement.    “This morning the vehicle was found empty and a few metres away, their lifeless bodies.”
    “We condemn this attack on our colleagues in the strongest possible terms and will be relentless in understanding what happened,” the statement said.
    It identified the victims as emergency co-ordinator Maria Hernandez, 35, from Madrid, assistant co-ordinator Yohannes Halefom Reda, 31, from Ethiopia, and their Ethiopian driver Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael, also 31.
    They are among at least 12 aid workers reported killed since fighting broke out in November between Ethiopia’s military and forces loyal to the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The conflict has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 2 million.
    Ethiopia’s foreign ministry sent condolences via Twitter, but said it had been urging aid agencies to secure military escorts in the area.    The ministry said TPLF forces were active in the town of Abiy Addi where the attack occurred.    MSF did not confirm the location.
    A TPLF spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
    Spain’s foreign ministry said it was engaging with the aid agency and the Ethiopian government on the attack.
    “A heartfelt hug to the family and colleagues of Maria … who has been murdered in Ethiopia where she was helping the population,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wrote on Twitter, also sending condolences to the families of Yohannes and Tedros.
    The U.S. State Department called for an independent investigation of the killings and said the Ethiopian government “ultimately bears full responsibility for ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers.”
(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw in Addis Ababa and Graham Keely in Madrid; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)

6/26/2021 Turkish Police Fire Tear Gas To Disperse Pride March In Istanbul
    A demonstrator reacts as police officers prevent them to gather for a Pride parade, which
was banned by local authorities, in central in Istanbul, Turkey June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd that gathered for a Pride parade in central Istanbul on Saturday, detaining some of those seeking to take part in an event banned by local authorities.
    Reuters TV video showed police in riot gear pushing and dragging people, some waving rainbow flags as they assembled for the event in a side street off the city’s central Istiklal Avenue.
    Some 20 people, including a photo journalist, were detained, according to media reports.
    Turkish authorities have repeatedly banned Pride events in recent years.    Before then, thousands of people used to take part in the parade on the Istanbul street.
    Turkey has long been a candidate to join the European Union but its accession process has been languishing for years amid tensions over a variety of issues including human rights.
    On Thursday, a majority of European Union leaders vowed to continue combating discrimination against the LGBTI community in a joint letter amid a standoff with Hungary, whose parliament last week approved a bill that bans the distribution of material in schools deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change.
(Reporting by Mehmet Emin Caliskan, Umit Bektas and Dilara Senkaya; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Mark Potter)

6/26/2021 Palestinian Authority Deploys Forces During Protest Against Critic’s Death
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – The Palestinian Authority (PA) on Saturday deployed security forces to confront protesters who took to the streets of Ramallah in the West Bank after one of President Mahmoud Abbas’s biggest critics died in custody.
    Nizar Banat had been arrested by PA forces who broke into a relative’s house where he was staying in the early hours of Thursday and hit him repeatedly with a metal rod before arresting him, according to Banat’s family.
    Banat’s death has sparked three days of protests in the occupied West Bank and calls from the international community for an inquiry.
    On Saturday, Palestinian security officers were sent to the scene for the first time, Reuters video showed.
    The officers, some wearing riot gear, some in plain clothes, clashed with protesters, according to witnesses.    There were no official figures on how many people were arrested or injured.
    Witnesses said officers fired tear gas and used clubs to hit unarmed protesters and also journalists.
    The spokesman for the PA security services, Talal Dweikat, said the committee investigating Banat’s death had begun its work and urged people to wait for the results.    He did not comment on Saturday’s violence.
    Banat, 43, was a social activist who had accused Abbas’s PA of corruption, including over a short-lived COVID-19 vaccine exchange with Israel this month and Abbas’s postponement of a long-delayed election in May.
    Banat had registered as a parliamentary candidate for that contest.
    The crowd marched through streets waving Palestinian flags and pictures of Banat and calling for an end to Abbas’s 16-year rule.
    “We want a total political reform that will truly reflect the interests of the people,” said protester Esmat Mansour.
    Human rights groups say Abbas regularly arrests critics.    A Human Rights Watch official said Banat’s arrest was “no anomaly
    Abbas and the PA, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, reject accusations they are corrupt and that they arrest people for their political views.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Christina Fincher)

6/26/2021 “Kanal Istanbul” Project Kicks Off With Bridge Construction by Daren Butler
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony of Sazlidere Bridge over the planned
route of Kanal Istanbul, in Istanbul, Turkey June 26, 2021. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday launched a $15 billion canal project intended to relieve pressure on the busy Bosphorus Strait by laying the foundations of a bridge over the planned route.
    Critics of what Erdogan dubbed his “crazy project” when he revealed it a decade ago question the viability of a waterway running 45 km (28 miles) through marshland and farms on the western edge of Istanbul, and say it will damage the environment.
    “We view Kanal Istanbul as a project to save Istanbul’s future,” Erdogan told a ceremony.    “We are opening a new page in the history of Turkey’s development.”
    Construction workers poured cement into the foundations of the 1.6 km bridge as a crowd waved Turkish flags.    Erdogan said the canal would take six years to complete.
    The government says it is increasingly hazardous for tankers to wind their way between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara down the congested Bosphorus, which divides the European and Asian halves of Istanbul, a city of 15 million people.
    Already 43,000 ships pass through every year, far more than the 25,000 the government considers safe, causing longer and longer waiting times.    By 2050, it is estimated that number will rise to 78,000.
    Nevertheless, a survey suggests most citizens oppose the project, as does Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and the opposition CHP party, to which he belongs.    Critics say it would destroy a marine ecosystem and endanger some of the city’s fresh water supply.
    Senior bankers told Reuters in April that some of Turkey’s biggest banks were reluctant to finance the canal due to environmental concerns and the investment risks.
    Russia is also concerned that the canal might not be covered by the 1936 Montreux Convention, which restricts the passage of non-Black Sea states’ warships through the Bosphorus.
    Imamoglu had dismissed Saturday’s ceremony as a face-saving stunt for a project that has been slow to materialise, partly due to economic difficulties.    He said the bridge was part of a highway project unrelated to the canal. ($1 = 8.7493 lira)
(Reporting by Daren Butler)

6/26/2021 Sudan To Cut Government Spending, Increase Social Spending
FILE PHOTO: A man counts notes after receiving the new Sudanese currency at a central bank
branch in Khartoum July 24, 2011. REUTERS/ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah//File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan will cut its government spending and increase social spending, the cabinet said on Saturday, after completing a raft of rapid economic reforms this month that threaten to compound pressures on the majority of the population.
    Earlier this month, Sudan fully removed subsidies on car petrol and diesel, and in February it devalued its currency and began a policy of a flexible managed float.
    Last week it eliminated its customs exchange rate, used to calculate import duties, as the final step in a devaluation of its local currency.
    The country will cut costs of external official trips by 50%, reduce fuel quotas for government vehicles by 20%, sell all surplus government vehicles and cut embassies’ budgets by 25% among other measures, the cabinet said on Saturday after three days of closed meetings.
    The government will expand the registration of a family support project called Thamarat or Fruits to include three million families or about 15 million people within two months, it added.
    Through the program financed by the World Bank and other donors, Sudan is paying out monthly cash allowances to these families to ease economic pain.
    The new measures include increasing the budget of another program that was meant to provide cheap food commodities from two billion Sudanese pounds ($4.51 million) to 10 billion pounds ($22.54 million).
    The government will pay a monthly grant of 10 billion pounds to all state workers, not subject to taxes, starting from July 1.    Most of the grant will be allocated to the lowest grades of workers.
    It also promised to review the salary structure and to apply a new improved one starting from the fiscal year 2022.
    Sudan is emerging from decades of economic sanctions and isolation under ousted former President Omar al-Bashir.
    It had built up huge arrears on its debt, but has made rapid progress towards having much of it forgiven under the IMF and World Bank’s Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) scheme, which would reopen access to badly needed cheap international financing.
    The IMF said on Tuesday it has secured sufficient financing pledges to allow it to provide comprehensive debt relief to Sudan, clearing a final hurdle towards wider relief on external debt of at least $50 billion.
($1 = 443.6642 Sudanese pounds)
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Chris Reese)

6/27/2021 Sisi Makes First Visit To Iraq By Egyptian Leader In Decades
Iraqi President Barham Salih receives Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi at Baghdad
International Airport in Baghdad, Iraq June 27, 2021. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily
    CAIRO (Reuters) -Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrived in Baghdad on Sunday, becoming the first Egyptian head of state to travel to Iraq since former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.
    The conflict ruptured diplomatic ties between Iraq and Egypt but relations have improved in recent years with many senior officials from both countries exchanging visits.
    Sisi’s visit to Iraq is part of a summit between Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, the fourth round of talks meant to strengthen security, economic, trade and investment cooperation between the three Arab countries.
    Jordan’s King Abdullah arrived in Baghdad shortly after Sisi and was also received by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Iraqi President Barham Salih.
    The United States has been urging Iraq to boost ties with Arab nations to counter the Iranian influence in the country.
    Last year Kadhimi, Sisi and Abdullah held a summit in Amman and were due to hold another one in Baghdad in April but it got delayed because of a train crash in Egypt that left more than 95 people dead.
    In recent years, Iraq had signed cooperation deals in the energy, health and education sectors with Jordan and Egypt.
    In February, Egypt signed 15 agreements and memoranda of understanding in various sectors, including oil, roads, housing, construction and trade.
    Iraq is also planning to build a pipeline that will connect the southern city of Basra with Jordan’s Red Sea port of Aqaba.    It is meant to export 1 million barrels per day of Iraqi crude to Jordan.
(Reporting by Amina Ismail; Editing by Toby Chopra)

6/27/2021 Retired Israeli Supreme Court Chief To Head Inquiry On Lethal Stampede
FILE PHOTO: Ultra Orthodox Jews look at stairs with waste on it in Mount Meron, northern Israel,
where fatalities were reported among the thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage for
annual commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance, April 30, 2021. REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A former president of Israel’s Supreme Court was appointed on Sunday to head its state commission of inquiry into a stampede at a Jewish pilgrimage site in April that killed 45 people, among them U.S. and Canadian citizens.
    Retired Chief Justice Miriam Naor will be joined on the panel by Rabbi Mordechai Karelitz, a former mayor of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish city of Bnai Brak, and retired Israeli army general Shlomo Yanai, a courts spokesman said in a statement.
    Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews thronged to the Galilee hillside tomb of 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on April 30 for the annual Lag B’Omer festival that includes all-night prayer, mystical songs and dance.
    During the ceremony, part of the crowd surged into a narrow tunnel and 45 men and boys were asphyxiated or trampled to death.    Israeli media said at least six of the fatalities had U.S. citizenship and two had Canadian citizenship.
    Ordering the inquiry last week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said it would help safeguard other mass-attendance events in Israel, which has sites sacred to Christianity and Islam as well as to Judaism.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Catherine Evans)

6/27/2021 Fighting In Yemen’s Marib Heats Up Again, Say Sources
FILE PHOTO: Ali al-Nehmi, 70, sits with his grandchildren in their hut at a camp for internally
displaced people (IDPs) in Marib, Yemen April 5, 2021. Picture taken April 5, 2021. REUTERS/Ali Owidha
    ADEN (Reuters) – Fighting between Yemen’s warring parties in the gas-rich Marib region, the recognised government’s last northern stronghold, intensified late on Saturday, three sources said, at a time the United Nations and United States are pushing for a peace deal.
    The Iran-aligned Houthis, who have been battling a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia for over six years, have been trying to seize Marib in an offensive described by Washington as the most serious threat to efforts to achieve a truce.
    Battles had abated as diplomatic efforts ramped up in recent weeks, but three pro-government Yemeni sources said tens of fighters from both sides were killed in fighting after a fresh Houthi assault that was met with intense coalition air strikes.
    Houthi-run Al Masirah television channel said coalition warplanes conducted 13 strikes late on Saturday.
    “The fighting continued until the early morning,” one of the sources, a local official, said.    “They are the heaviest in weeks.”
    Marib, which hosts some 1 million internally displaced people, has become the focal point of a war that has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and pushed the Arabian Peninsula nation to the brink of famine.
    The conflict, widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been in military stalemate for years with the Houthis holding most big urban centres.
    The warring parties have been thrashing out terms for a U.N.-led proposal to remove restrictions on Houthi-held ports and Sanaa airport to alleviate a dire humanitarian crisis and for a ceasefire that is needed to revive political negotiations last held in late 2018.
    The Houthis, whose hand would be strengthened in any future talks by taking Marib, have insisted the blockade be lifted before any truce talks.    The coalition wants a simultaneous deal.
    The military alliance intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from the capital Sanaa.
    The Houthis, who have repeatedly launched cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities, largely intercepted, say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Frances Kerry)

6/27/2021 Israeli Foreign Minister To Meet U.S., Bahrain Counterparts On Sunday
Israeli alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives to attend the first weekly cabinet
meeting of the new government in Jerusalem June 20, 2021. Emmanuel Dunand/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will meet his U.S. and Bahraini counterparts in Rome on Sunday, Lapid’s office said, the first face-to-face diplomatic contacts for a senior member of the new Israeli government that was sworn in two weeks ago.
    Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates normalised ties with Israel last year, a deal brokered by the previous U.S. administration.    Lapid is due to visit UAE on Tuesday and Wednesday.
    The Israeli statement did not provide details on the agenda of the separate talks Lapid planned to hold with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani during his one-day visit to Italy.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Catherine Evans)

6/27/2021 Antony Blinken Meets With Israeli Foreign Minister For Reset From Trump, Netanyahu Era by OAN Newsroom
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also called
the Holocaust Memorial, on June 24, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (D) met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Rome on Sunday.    Reports said the meeting took place to focus on moving past the Benjamin Netanyahu era.
    This comes as the Biden administration is reportedly preparing to bring back the Iran nuclear deal.    Although the new Israeli government has said it’s still opposed to the Iran deal, they say they want to be softer in opposition.
    Netanyahu formerly riled the Obama administration by coming and speaking to a joint session of Congress against the deal in 2015.    However, with Netanyahu out as prime minister after numerous deadlocked elections, the Biden administration said it’s hoping to start anew with Israel.
    “I look forward to working with you to widen the circle of peace in our region that is the best way to bring stability and prosperity to the Middle East,” said Lapid.
    “We will discuss a range of issues which concerns Israel, including strengthening our ability to defend ourselves, working to minimize conflict between us and the Palestinians while making life better for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
    Both sides agreed to deepen U.S.-Israeli dialogue amid ongoing threats to destroy the Jewish State by Iranian-backed terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
[I THINK NETANYAHU SHOULD COME HERE AGAIN AND GIVE OBAMA AND BIDEN ANOTHER EARFUL.].

6/27/2021 Israel Tells U.S. It Has Serious Reservations About Iran Nuclear Deal by Humeyra Pamuk
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid
in Rome, Italy, June 27, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    ROME (Reuters) -Israel has serious reservations about the Iran nuclear deal being put together in Vienna, new foreign minister Yair Lapid told his American counterpart, as he pledged to fix “the mistakes made” in U.S.-Israeli relations in recent years.
    In their first face-to-face meeting since Israel’s new government was sworn in two weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Lapid had a very positive and warm discussion, according to U.S. officials.
    The main topics were the nuclear deal and Israel’s normalisation accords with Gulf Arab states, as well as humanitarian aid to Gaza and the status of East Jerusalem, a topic that helped fuel the latest wave of violence between the Israelis and Palestinians in May.
    “Israel has some serious reservations about the Iran nuclear deal that is being put together in Vienna.    We believe the way to discuss those disagreements is through direct and professional conversations, not in press conferences,” Lapid said in brief remarks ahead of the meeting in Rome.
    Iran and the United States have been holding indirect talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers that imposed restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting international sanctions.
    The United States, under former President Donald Trump, abandoned the deal and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions, prompting Iran to respond by violating many of its restrictions.
    Blinken told Lapid that Washington would remain in close contact with Israel over the Iran negotiations, U.S. officials said.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a nationalist atop a cross-partisan coalition, has hewed to the opposition of his conservative predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, whose caps on projects with bomb-making potential Israel deemed too lax.
    Netanyahu’s particularly close ties with Trump followed an acrimonious relationship with his predecessor Barack Obama, which some critics said had alienated Democrats and compromised U.S. bipartisan support for Israel.
    Biden, since taking office on Jan. 20, has repeatedly expressed Washington’s support for Israel but has been more measured in his approach than Trump.
    Lapid acknowledged the need for repair.    “In the past few years, mistakes were made. Israel’s bipartisan standing was hurt. We will fix those mistakes together.”
    Blinken also reiterated to Lapid Washington’s concerns over Israeli attempts to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and the status of the city’s al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, U.S. officials said.
    Blinken also conveyed to Lapid the necessity of getting humanitarian assistance into Gaza, where 250 Palestinians were killed and scores of buildings were destroyed last month by Israeli air strikes.
    Biden has worked to repair ties with the Palestinians and abandon what they said was the one-sided U.S. policy towards the conflict. His administration has pledged to resume hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance and work toward reopening the Palestinians’ diplomatic mission in Washington.
    Israel’s normalisation agreements with various Arab countries were also discussed.    In his opening remarks, Blinken said he hoped more participants would join.
    The UAE and Bahrain established ties with Israel last year in U.S.-brokered deals called the Abraham Accords, becoming the first Arab states in more than a quarter of a century to break what had been a long-standing taboo in the region.
    Lapid, who also met in Rome with Bahrain’s foreign minister, Abdullatif Al-Zayani, is due to visit the UAE on Tuesday and Wednesday.    Lapid described the accord as historic and said, “I hope it will be the first of many.”
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Rome; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)

6/27/2021 Biden, Israeli President Rivlin To Discuss Iran, Israel Defense Needs by Steve Holland
FILE PHOTO: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the president's residence
in Jerusalem April 5, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/Pool/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden will meet Israel’s outgoing president, Reuven Rivlin, at the White House on Monday for a broad discussion about U.S. efforts to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal and Israel’s formation of a new government.
    The meeting takes place just weeks after Naftali Bennett took over as Israel’s new prime minister, replacing Benjamin Netanyahu. U.S. officials are working on setting up a meeting between Biden and Bennett in coming weeks.
    Biden’s meeting with Rivlin comes amid concerns in Israel and Arab capitals about U.S. efforts to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal because of fears a resumption of the accord may eventually allow Tehran to acquire atomic weapons that would leave them vulnerable to Iranian intimidation or military threat.
    U.S. attempts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, after then-President Donald Trump abandoned it in 2018, have been slow to make progress with Tehran insisting the United States lift all economic sanctions.
    A source familiar with the Biden-Rivlin meeting said Biden is expected to tell Rivlin that the United States and Israel share the same objective, that Iran not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, and that Biden would stress U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
    The two leaders are also expected to discuss Israel’s 11-day war with Gaza.    The United States has pledged to resupply Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which got heavy usage during the Gaza conflict.
    Rivlin is to leave office on July 7 after a seven-year term, with Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog taking over as Israeli president.
    Rivlin is on his final foreign trip as president.    He will meet officials at the United Nations in New York and congressional lawmakers in Washington.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

6/28/2021 U.S. Carries Out Air Strikes Against Iran-Backed Militia In Iraq, Syria by Phil Stewart
FILE PHOTO: The Pentagon building is seen in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. October 9, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States said on Sunday it carried out another round of air strikes against Iran-backed militia in Iraq and Syria, this time in response to drone attacks by the militia against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq.
    In a statement, the U.S. military said it targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq.    It did not disclose whether it believed anyone was killed or injured but officials said assessments were ongoing.
    Iraqi militia groups aligned with Iran in a statement named four members of the Kataib Sayyed al-Shuhada faction they said were killed in the attack on the Syria-Iraq border.    They vowed to retaliate.
    The strikes came at the direction of President Joe Biden, the second time he has ordered retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed militia since taking office five months ago.    Biden last ordered limited strikes in Syria in February, that time in response to rocket attacks in Iraq.
    “As demonstrated by this evening’s strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
    The strikes came even as Biden’s administration is looking to potentially revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.    The decision to retaliate appears to show how Biden aims to compartmentalize such defensive strikes, while simultaneously engaging Tehran in diplomacy.
    Biden’s critics say Iran cannot be trusted and point to the drone attacks as further evidence that Iran and its proxies will never accept a U.S. military presence in Iraq or Syria.
    Biden and the White House declined comment on the strikes on Sunday.    But Biden will meet Israel’s outgoing president, Reuven Rivlin, at the White House on Monday for a broad discussion that will include Iran and U.S. efforts to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal.    Those efforts have raised serious concerns in Israel, Iran’s arch-foe.
    U.S. officials believe Iran is behind a ramp-up in increasingly sophisticated drone attacks and periodic rocket fire against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq, where the U.S. military has been helping Baghdad combat the remnants of Islamic State.
    Two U.S. officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Iran-backed militias carried out at least five drone attacks against facilities used by U.S. and coalition personnel in Iraq since April.
    The Pentagon said the facilities targeted were used by Iran-backed militia including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada.
    One of the facilities targeted was used to launch and recover the drones, a defense official said.
    The U.S. military carried out strikes with F-15 and F-16 aircraft, officials said, adding the pilots made it back from the mission safely.
    “We assess each strike hit the intended targets,” one of the officials told Reuters.
    Iraq’s government is struggling to deal with militias ideologically aligned with Iran which are accused of rocket fire against U.S. forces and of involvement in killing peaceful pro-democracy activists.
    Earlier in June, Iraq released Iran-aligned militia commander Qasim Muslih, who was arrested in May on terrorism-related charges, after authorities found insufficient evidence against him.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington, John Davison in BaghdadEditing by Matthew Lewis)

6/28/2021 Gaza Reconstruction Clouded By Dispute Over Israelis Held By Hamas by Nidal al-Mughrabi
Palestinians spend their time at a United Nations-run school in Beach refugee camp,
in Gaza City, June 24, 2021. Picture taken June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GAZA (Reuters) – Reconstruction of Gaza after last month’s fighting between Israel and Hamas is being held up by a dispute over the fate of Israelis long held by the Islamist group and a lack of clarity over how to prevent it from accessing aid funds, officials say.
    The Gaza government says 2,200 homes were destroyed and 37,000 damaged by Israeli shelling during 11 days of cross-border exchanges.    Rebuilding those dwellings and wider Gaza infrastructure will cost some $500 million, the government says.
    Egypt and Qatar, which helped broker a May 21 truce, have pledged $500 million each for reconstruction in the Palestinian enclave, two-thirds of whose 2 million residents rely on aid.
    Israel says that can proceed only if it makes headway in efforts to recover two soldiers missing in action in a 2014 Gaza war as well as two civilians who slipped separately into the enclave.
    “It’s reconstruction in exchange for progress on the missing,” a senior Israeli official told Reuters, declining to specify what Israel – which has declared the two missing soldiers dead – would consider “progress.”
    Hamas, which has not detailed the four Israelis’ condition, says talks about them must be based on a swap for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, not aid.    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has long opposed releasing jailed Palestinian militants.
HAMAS ACCESS?
    With the ceasefire largely holding, Israel on Monday began allowing fuel into Gaza for the first time in weeks, after easing up import and export restrictions on the Strip last week.
    But the prospect for aid has been complicated up by Israel’s demand – supported by U.S. President Joe Biden – that the funds not be used to arm Hamas.    Israel says Hamas bears blame for investing money in its military build-up rather than Palestinian welfare.    Hamas denies this.
    The Biden administration also wants to involve internationally-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Gaza reconstruction.    But Abbas has not wielded clout in Gaza since losing control of it to Hamas in a brief 2007 civil war.
    Hamas – deemed a terrorist group by the West – has pledged not to touch donor money.    One of its appointees, Deputy Minister of Public Works and Housing Naji Sarhan, said mediators were months away from coming up with a workable funding mechanism.
    Sarhan, who has taken part in Cairo-based talks, said rubble from the May fighting would be cleared by the end of July and that “within three months, I think, we will see the start of the reconstruction of Gaza, especially the buildings and the roads infrastructure.    This is what we are hearing.”
    Sam Rose, officer in charge of Gaza affairs for the U.N. aid agency for the Palestinians, UNRWA, told Reuters last week that the agency launched a $162 million campaign for early recovery plans, including humanitarian assistance to displaced families.
    Asked when rebuilding could begin, Rose said: “I can’t give you a time frame right now.    It depends upon facts beyond our control.”
    For people like Mohammad Ghabayen, who has been living in a U.N.-run school since his house was hit by an Israeli air strike in May, the uncertainty was agonising.
    “What is going to happen to us?    What is going to happen to my children?” he said.
(Editing by Peter Graff)

6/28/2021 Blinken Pressures Israel To Take Softer Stance On Palestinian Groups by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Rome, Sunday, June 27, 2021.
Blinken is on a week long trip in Europe traveling to Germany, France and Italy. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
    The new Israeli government and Joe Biden signaled that they are willing to give concessions to Hamas terrorists, in turn, downplaying President Trump’s accomplishments.
    On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Rome while looking to turn a new page at the pair’s first in-person meeting since Israel swore in its new government. In praising the alliance between the two countries, Lapid also noted disagreements amid ongoing negations regarding the Iran nuclear deal.
    “We will have disagreements, but they are not about the essence, they are all about how to get there,” he stated.    “We want the same things we sometimes disagree about how to achieve.    Israel has some serious reservations about the Iran nuclear deal that is being put together in Vienna.”
    Blinken downplayed President Trump’s Abraham Accords by telling his Israeli counterpart they do not apply to Palestinian groups and Israel should open separate talks with the Palestinian authority to discuss their disagreements directly.
    “I think we’ve also discovered or perhaps rediscovered that as important as they are, as vital as they are, they are not a substitute for engaging on the issues between Israelis and Palestinians that need to be resolved,” noted the U.S. Secretary of State.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Rome, Sunday, June 27, 2021.
Blinken is on a week long trip in Europe traveling to Germany, France and Italy. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
    Israeli diplomats said their new government may be willing to give some concessions to Arab radicals.
    “I look forward to working with you to widen the circle of peace in our region, that is the best way to bring stability and prosperity to the Middle East,” Lapid continued.    “We will discuss a range of issues which concerns Israel, including strengthening our ability to defend ourselves, working to minimize conflict between us and the Palestinians while making life better for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
    The sides agreed to deepen U.S.-Israeli dialogue amid ongoing threats to destroy the Jewish State by Iranian-backed terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
[AS YOU CAN SEE ABOVE THE DEMOCRATS ARE TRYING TO DESTROY THE ABRAHAM ACCORD TO INFLUX THEIR ANTICHRISTIAN AND JUDAIAC VALUES ASSOCIATED WITH IT AND WITHOUT NETANYAHU IN CHARGE THEY MAY GET AWAY WITH IT UNLESS THE ISRAEL AND ARAB NATIONS STAND UP TO SAVE IT AND IN THAT CASE THAT MAY LEAD TO THE ENTITY SEEN IN DANIEL 9:27 IN THE NEAR FUTURE.].

6/28/2021 Tigray’s Former Rulers Back In Mekelle, Ethiopian Government Declares Ceasefire by Katharine Houreld and Giulia Paravicini
FILE PHOTO: A view shows a street in Mekelle, Tigray region of northern Ethiopia December 10, 2018. Picture taken December 10, 2018. REUTERS/Maggie Fick
    AMBA GIORGIS, Ethiopia (Reuters) -The former governing party in Ethiopia’s Tigray region said on Monday it was back in control of the regional capital Mekelle, and the government which ousted its leadership late last year declared a ceasefire with immediate effect.
    Seven residents in downtown Mekelle reported seeing rebel troops in the city for the first time since they were driven out by government forces in November, and several witnesses described scenes of jubilation in the streets.
    “The capital of Tigray, Mekelle, is under our control,” Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters by satellite phone.
    Ethiopia’s government said it had agreed to a ceasefire following a request from the interim regional administration in Tigray, which Addis Ababa appointed after ousting TPLF forces.
    “This unilateral ceasefire declaration starts from today June 28, 2021 and will stay until the farming season ends,” a statement released by the federal government late on Monday read. Ethiopia’s main planting season lasts from May to September.
    Reuters could not immediately establish whether the ceasefire was discussed with the TPLF.
    The Ethiopian prime minister’s spokesperson and the military’s spokesperson did not respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment.    The TPLF could not immediately be reached for comment on the ceasefire.
    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had spoken with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and was “hopeful that an effective cessation of hostilities will take place."
    “It is essential that civilians are protected, humanitarian aid reach the people in need and a political solution is found,” Guterres said in a statement.
    Eyewitnesses in Mekelle told Reuters that after rebel forces surrounded the Martyrs’ Memorial Monument, some civilians entered the streets to celebrate.
    Fireworks briefly lit up the sky, they said.
    Some of those gathered chanted “Abiy is a thief!,” while others sang songs honouring the TPLF and waved the group’s red and yellow flag.
    Monday’s developments followed recent reports of an escalation in fighting between government troops and the TPLF outside Mekelle.
    Last week, residents reported that TPLF forces had entered several towns north of Mekelle, although in at least one case they withdrew within hours.
    On Tuesday, an air strike killed over 60 people in the town of Togoga, to the northwest of Mekelle, a medical official told Reuters.
    Colonel Getnet Adane, Ethiopia’s military spokesman, said last week that only combatants, not civilians, had been hit.
    The attack was one of the deadliest reported incidents in months in a region where the government had said most major fighting ended last year.
(Additional reporting by Dawit Endeshaw and Ayenat Mersie in Addis Ababa and Maggie Fick in Nairobi; Writing by Maggie Fick and Alexandra Zavis; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

6/28/2021 U.S. Troops Come Under Fire In Syria After Strikes Against Iran-Backed Militias by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a joint news conference with Italian Foreign Minister
Luigi Di Maio (not pictured) in Rome, Italy, June 28, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. troops came under rocket fire in Syria on Monday, but escaped injury, in apparent retaliation for weekend U.S. air strikes against Iran-aligned militia in Syria and Iraq.
    A U.S. military spokesman said U.S. forces were attacked by multiple rockets but did not provide details.
    “There are no injuries and damage is being assessed. We will provide updates when we have more information,” said Colonel Wayne Marotto.
    Sources in Deir al Zor, in eastern Syria, said that an Iranian-backed militia group had fired a few artillery rounds in the vicinity of al Omar oil field, which is controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
    The rocket fire underscored the risk of escalation and the limits of U.S. military firepower to restrain Iran-aligned militias that Washington blames for a series of increasingly sophisticated drone strikes against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq.
    Hours earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the White House had defended the U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria on Sunday as a way to tamp down on the risk of conflict.
    “We took necessary, appropriate, deliberate action that is designed to limit the risk of escalation, but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message,” Blinken told reporters in Rome.
    Iraqi militia groups aligned with Iran in a statement named four members of the Kataib Sayyed al-Shuhada faction they said were killed in the attack on the Syria-Iraq border.    They vowed to retaliate.
    But it was not immediately unclear who fired the latest salvo at U.S. forces.
    Iraq’s government, wary of getting dragged into a U.S.-Iran conflict, had condemned the U.S. strikes on its territory and said it would “study all legal options” to prevent such action being repeated. Syria called the strikes a “flagrant violation of the sanctity of Syrian and Iraqi lands.”
    Iraq’s military issued a condemnation of the U.S. strikes.    The Iraqi and U.S. militaries coordinate closely in a separate battle in Iraq, fighting remnants of the Sunni extremist group Islamic State.
    It was the second time President Joe Biden had ordered retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed militia since taking office five months ago.    He ordered limited strikes in Syria in February, that time in response to rocket attacks in Iraq.
    Two U.S. officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Iran-backed militias have carried out at least five drone attacks against facilities used by U.S. and coalition personnel in Iraq since April.
    Biden’s administration has been looking to potentially revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.    The attacks underscore how Biden aims to compartmentalize such defensive strikes, while simultaneously engaging Tehran in diplomacy.
    White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Iran was a bad actor in the region who supported “extremely problematic behavior” but defended the diplomatic outreach as a way to deny Tehran a nuclear weapon.
    Biden’s critics say Iran cannot be trusted and point to the drone attacks as further evidence that Iran and its proxies will never accept a U.S. military presence in Iraq or Syria.
    Iran called on the United States to avoid “creating crisis” in the region.
    “Certainly what the United States is doing is disrupting security in the region, and one of the victims of this disruption will be the United States,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday.
(Reporting Phil Stewart in Washington; Additional reporting by by Humeyra Pamuk in Rome, Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Steve Holland in Washington, Suleiman Al-khalidi in Amman and John Davison in Baghdad; Editing by Howard Goller)

6/28/2021 IMF Says Africa Urgently Needs Vaccines To Halt Repeated COVID Waves
FILE PHOTO: A man receives a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the
Masaka hospital in Kigali, Rwanda March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – COVID-19 infections in Africa will likely exceed previous peaks within days, underscoring an urgent need to accelerate vaccine supplies and financing to the region, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Monday.
    Georgieva said in a blog posting with IMF Africa Department director Abebe Selassie that sub-Saharan Africa, already with the lowest vaccination rates in the world at less than 1% of the population, again risks having its health care systems overwhelmed without immediate action.
    “Without significant, upfront, international assistance – and without an effective region-wide vaccination effort – the near-term future of sub-Saharan Africa will be one of repeated waves of infection, which will exact an ever-increasing toll on the lives and livelihoods of the region’s most vulnerable, while also paralyzing investment, productivity, and growth,” Georgieva and Selassie wrote https://blogs.imf.org/2021/06/28/sub-saharan-africa-we-need-to-act-now.
    “In short, without help the region risks being left further and further behind,” they said, and added the longer the pandemic ravages Africa, more dangerous variants of the novel coronavirus will emerge to threaten the rest of the world.
    The IMF officials urged wealthy nations to more quickly share their vaccine stockpiles with Africa through the COVAX initiative, saying that a goal should be to deliver a quarter of a billion doses to the region by September.
    Vaccine manufacturers should shift supplies to Africa, while the African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team should be financed at an estimated $2 billion, which would allow an option for the group to execute an optional contract for 180 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, Georgieva and Selassie said.
    They also called for the removal of cross-border export restrictions on raw materials and finished vaccines to help ensure that South Africa and India can reach full production capacity.
(Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Barbara Lewis)

6/29/2021 Undeclared Conflict? America’s Battles With Iran-Backed Militia Escalate, Again by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army soldiers look at an F-16 fighter jet during an official ceremony to receive four such aircraft
from the United States, at a military base in Balad, Iraq, July 20, 2015. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani/File Photo/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s latest strikes against Iran-backed militia in Syria and Iraq were not the first nor likely the last of his young presidency.
    For some of Biden’s fellow Democrats, the crucial question is: does the pattern of attacks and counter-attacks amount to an undeclared conflict?
    If it does, they say, there is a risk that the United States could stumble into a direct war with Iran without the involvement of Congress, an issue that is becoming more politically fraught after two decades of “forever wars.”
    “It’s hard to argue, given the pace of attacks against U.S. troops and, now, the increasing frequency of our responses, this isn’t war,” Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat who leads a key Senate foreign relations subcommittee, told Reuters.
    “What we always worry about is that the United States slips into war without the American public actually being able to weigh in.”
    The two countries came close to the kind of conflict Democrats fear in January 2020, when the United States killed a top Iranian general and Iran retaliated with missile strikes in Iraq that caused brain injuries in more than 100 U.S. troops.    That followed a series of exchanges with Iran-backed militias.
    In the latest round, U.S. fighter jets on Sunday targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one in Iraq, in what the Pentagon said was a direct response to drone attacks by militias against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq.
    On Monday, U.S. troops came under rocket fire in Syria in apparent retaliation, but escaped injury. The U.S. military responded with counter-battery artillery fire at rocket launching positions.
    “A lot of people suggest that the term ‘forever war’ is just emotive, but it’s actually a decent descriptor of the kind of strike we saw again (Sunday): no strategic goal, no endpoint in sight, just permanent presence and tit-for-tat strikes,” Emma Ashford, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, said on Twitter.
SALAMI-SLICE APPROACH
    The White House has stressed that Sunday’s air strikes were designed to limit escalation and deter future militia operations against U.S. personnel.
    They were also legal, according to Biden.
    “I have that authority under Article Two and even those up on the Hill who are reluctant to acknowledge that have acknowledged that’s the case,”     Biden said, referring to part of the U.S. Constitution that lays out the powers of the president as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
    Brian Finucane, a former official with the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department, said the current administration – like others before it – do not see the episodes as part of an ongoing conflict.
    He called it a “salami-slice” approach.
    “They would characterize these as intermittent hostilities.    We had one strike back in February and then the 60-day War Powers clock essentially was reset,” said Finucane, now at the International Crisis Group.
    He drew a comparison to the tanker wars with Iran in the 1980s, when the Reagan administration viewed “each round of fighting as sort of a closed event.”
    But experts say that view does not take into account that Iran-backed militia are waging a sustained – and escalating – campaign against the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
    Michael Knights at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy cautioned that the militias’ use of drones appeared increasingly dangerous, employing GPS guidance and precisely targeting U.S.-led coalition intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, and missile defenses.
    “In quantity and quality, Iraqi militia attacks on coalition points of presence in Iraq are increasing.    Unless deterrence is restored, U.S. fatalities are increasingly likely,” Knights said.
    Beyond pushing the United States out of the region, the militias’ secondary goal is to signal to the United States, the Iraqi government and others their mastery of more advanced weaponry, like the explosive-laden drones, said Phillip Smyth, also at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
    “They live on some of the covert actions that they’re doing,” he said.
    Members of Congress are currently working on repealing some of the war authorizations that presidents from both parties have used to justify previous attacks in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.
    But that wouldn’t necessarily prevent Biden or any other U.S. president from carrying out defensive air strikes.
    After he was briefed by Biden’s national security team, Murphy said he remained concerned. U.S. troops were in Iraq to battle Islamic State, not Iran-aligned militia.
    If Biden is wary of going to Congress for war powers, then perhaps he needs to heed Americans’ skepticism about interventions in the Middle East, he said.
    “If Congress had a hard time authorizing military action against Iranian-backed militias, it would largely be because our constituents don’t want it.    And that’s what’s missing from this debate,” he said.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; additional reporting by Jonathan Landay and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mary Milliken and Sonya Hepinstall)

6/29/2021 Israeli Foreign Minister In UAE On First Official Visit
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
(not pictured) in Rome, Italy, June 27, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    DUBAI/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel’s foreign minister landed in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday in the first official visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf state since the two countries established diplomatic relations last year.
    During the two-day visit, Yair Lapid is set to inaugurate Israel’s embassy in Abu Dhabi and its consulate in Dubai, as well as sign an agreement on economic cooperation, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said.
    Lapid posted on Twitter a picture of himself during take-off, calling the visit “historic.”
    The UAE, along with Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, began normalising relations with Israel last year under the Abraham Accords brokered by then-U.S. President Donald Trump and which marked a strategic realignment of Middle East countries against Iran.
    Tuesday’s agreement will be the 12th between Israel and the UAE since then, Haiat said.
    Lapid is also set to visit the site of Expo 2020 Dubai, a world fair opening in October where Israel has built a pavilion.
    Lapid’s plane transited through Saudi airspace. Riyadh, although not having normalised relations with Israel, last year opened its skies to Israel-UAE flights.
    The UAE formally opened its embassy in Tel Aviv, temporarily located in the Tel Aviv stock exchange, to little fanfare this month.
    Israel’s Abu Dhabi embassy is also in a temporary location.
    “We are planning for it to be a big one, an important one,” Haiat said.    “For the time being we are talking about three diplomats.”
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Dan Williams; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and John Stonestreet)

6/29/2021 Lebanon’s Government Raises Fuel Prices Amid Violence, Roadblocks
FILE PHOTO: Cars stand in line at a gas station as they wait to fuel up
in Damour, Lebanon June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s government raised fuel prices on Tuesday, after agreeing last week to effectively cut fuel subsidies, a move aimed at alleviating crippling shortages but which will increase the pressure on impoverished consumers.
    The average price of 95-octane gasoline was set at 61,100 Lebanese pounds ($40.58) per 20 litres, an increase of 15,900 pounds, or 35% higher, the energy ministry said in a document.
    Diesel prices were set at 46,100 pounds, up 12,800, or 38%, the document showed.
    Lebanon’s central bank said on Monday it would start giving credit lines to import fuel at 3,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, a weaker rate than the 1,500 pounds previously offered under the subsidy programme.
    However, dollars were changing hands at about 16,700 pounds on Tuesday on the parallel market, one market participant said.
    Lebanon is in the throes of a financial crisis described by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern history.
    Motorists have been queuing for hours to get barely any gasoline for the past few weeks often leading to violent squabbles.
    Sporadic roadblocks across Lebanon, with a few protesters blocking roadways by burning garbage containers, have spread in the past few days as frustrations have grown, according to a Reuters witness.
($1 = 1,505.7000 Lebanese pounds)
(Reporting By Maha El Dahan; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

6/29/2021 Tigray’s Former Rulers Back In Mekelle, Ethiopian Government Declares Ceasefire by Giulia Paravicini, Katharine Houreld and Dawit Endeshaw
FILE PHOTO: A view shows a street in Mekelle, Tigray region of northern Ethiopia
December 10, 2018. Picture taken December 10, 2018. REUTERS/Maggie Fick
    AMBA GIORGIS, Ethiopia (Reuters) – The former rulers of Ethiopia’s Tigray region said on Monday they were back in control of the regional capital Mekelle after nearly eight months of fighting, and the government which ousted them declared a unilateral ceasefire with immediate effect.
    Residents in downtown Mekelle reported seeing rebel troops in the city for the first time since they were driven out by government forces in November, and several described scenes of jubilation in the streets.
    The developments marked a dramatic turn in a conflict that has killed thousands of people, displaced more than 2 million and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine.
    They followed recent reports of an escalation in fighting between government troops and the Tigray’s former governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), outside Mekelle.
    “The capital of Tigray, Mekelle, is under our control,” Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesperson, told Reuters by satellite phone on Monday night.
    Ethiopia’s government said it was declaring a ceasefire following a request from the interim regional administration in Tigray, which Addis Ababa appointed after ousting TPLF forces.
    “This unilateral ceasefire declaration starts from today June 28, 2021 and will stay until the farming season ends,” the federal government said in a statement late on Monday. Ethiopia’s main planting season lasts from May to September.
    Reuters could not immediately establish whether the ceasefire was discussed with the TPLF.
    “Until all our enemies leave Tigray, we will fight,” Liya Kassa, another TPLF spokesperson, said in an audio statement posted late on Monday on the Facebook page of the party-affiliated Tigrai Media House.
    Eritrea to the north and the neighbouring region of Amhara to the south both sent troops into Tigray to support Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government after it accused the TPLF of attacking military bases across the region in early November.
    The Ethiopian prime minister’s spokesperson and the military’s spokesperson did not respond to telephone calls and messages seeking comment.    The TPLF could not immediately be reached for comment on the ceasefire.
    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had spoken to Abiy and was “hopeful that an effective cessation of hostilities will take place."
    “It is essential that civilians are protected, humanitarian aid reach the people in need and a political solution is found,” Guterres said in a statement.
    The U.N. Security Council is likely to meet on Tigray this week at the request of the United States, Ireland and Britain, diplomats said.
FIREWORKS AND CELEBRATIONS
    Witnesses in the city told Reuters that after rebel forces surrounded the Martyrs’ Memorial Monument, some civilians entered the streets to celebrate.
    Fireworks briefly lit up the sky, they said.
    Some of those gathered chanted “Abiy is a thief!,” while others sang songs honouring the TPLF and waved the region’s red and yellow flag.
    Earlier on Monday, residents reported seeing government soldiers pack up vehicles and withdraw from positions they held in Mekelle.
    The U.N. children’s agency accused Ethiopian government troops of dismantling satellite equipment in UNICEF’s office in Mekelle on Monday.
    “This act violates UN privileges and immunities and the rules of International Humanitarian Law regarding respect for humanitarian relief objects,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.
    The government did not respond to a request for comment on the accusation.
    Last week, residents reported that TPLF forces had entered several towns north of Mekelle, although in at least one case they withdrew within hours.
    On Tuesday, an air strike killed more than 60 people in the town of Togoga, to the northwest of Mekelle, a medical official told Reuters.
    Colonel Getnet Adane, Ethiopia’s military spokesman, said last week that only combatants, not civilians, had been hit – an assertion refuted by doctors.
    The attack was one of the deadliest reported incidents in months in a region where the government had said most major fighting ended last year.
(Dawit Endeshaw reported from Addis Ababa. Additional reporting by Ayenat Mersie in Addis Ababa and Maggie Fick in Nairobi; Writing by Maggie Fick and Alexandra Zavis; Editing by Mike Collett-White, Robert Birsel)

6/29/2021 Police, Palestinians Clash As Israel Begins Demolition In Jerusalem’s Silwan by Ammar Awad and Zainah El-Haroun
A Palestinian woman uses her mobile phone as she walks near Israeli security force members during clashes with Palestinians which erupted
over Israel's demolition of a shop in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem June 29, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel demolished a Palestinian shop in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan on Tuesday, triggering scuffles between police and protesters who accused authorities of discriminatory enforcement of building permits in the holy city.
    Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in a 1967 war, for a future state.    Israel deems all of Jerusalem its capital – a status not recognised internationally – and has encouraged Jewish settlement of predominantly Palestinian areas.
    A bulldozer escorted by Israeli police flattened Harbi Rajabi’s butchers shop in the neighbourhood which is overlooked by the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest shrine in Islam and the most sensitive site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    The shop is one of at least eight properties that residents said were slated for demolition.    The residents say many have been there for decades, even from before 1967.    The authorities have earmarked the land for a park and say the shops and homes have been built illegally.
    Mahmoud Basit who runs the butchers told Reuters 14 family members depended on income from there.    “We have no other way to support our families,” said Basit, who added he would have to look for new work from scratch.
    Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Arieh King said “around 20” buildings in Silwan – which Israel refers to by its Hebrew name Shiloach – had received demolition orders. Around another 60 buildings there were in violation of Israeli zoning laws, he told Reuters.
    Palestinians in Silwan say it is near-impossible to get building permits.    They see the demolitions as designed to drive them from Jerusalem.    Disputing this, King said the municipality had approved hundreds of new Palestinian homes in Silwan.
    Palestinian medics said 13 people were injured in Tuesday’s confrontations in Silwan.    Police said two officers were hurt by stone-throwers and that three people were arrested for disorderly conduct and assault.
    The municipality had given Palestinians until June 28 to dismantle the structures themselves.    King said the land would be cleared to make way for the park and public buildings, adding that Silwan’s biblical links made it “an important historical site.”
    Nader Abu Diab, who also received a demolition order, lives in fear of the knock on the door from municipal inspectors.
    “My grandchildren ask me questions and I can’t answer them.    They’re children.    What can I tell them?    That they’re going to demolish our home?” Abu Diab, 55, said.
    His brother, Fakhri Abu Diab said he applied seven times for an Israeli permit to expand his home in Silwan “but it was always rejected.”    He added that over a hundred Palestinians could become homeless if the current round of demolitions continues.
    The future of another East Jerusalem neighbourhood, Sheikh Jarrah, was one of the flashpoints at the heart of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants last month.
(Reporting by Ammar Awad and Zainah El-Haroun; Editing by Alison Williams)

6/29/2021 Tigray Forces Seize Regional Capital, Say Ethiopian-Led Troops Are On The Run by Giulia Paravicini and Maggie Fick
FILE PHOTO: A woman carries an infant as she queues in line for food, at the Tsehaye primary school, which was turned into a temporary
shelter for people displaced by conflict, in the town of Shire, Tigray region, Ethiopia, March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    GONDAR, Ethiopia (Reuters) -Tigrayan forces said they had Ethiopian government troops on the run around the regional capital Mekelle on Tuesday after taking full control of the city in a sharp reversal of eight months of conflict.
    People in Mekelle, where communications were cut on Monday, said the incoming Tigrayan fighters were greeted with cheers.    There were similar scenes on video footage from the northern town of Shire, where residents said government-allied Eritrean forces had pulled out and Tigrayan forces had entered.
    “We are 100% in control of Mekelle,” Getachew Reda, spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters on Tuesday.
    There had been some fighting on the outskirts of the city, but that was now finished, he said, adding that he could not confirm the report from Shire.
    “Our forces are still in hot pursuit to south, east, to continue until every square inch of territory is cleared from the enemy.”
    The ousted TPLF was reestablishing itself in Mekelle and people could walk about again in the streets, he said, declining to be drawn on whether Tigray would now seek independence after a bitter conflict that often targeted civilians.
    Reuters was unable to verify his comments because phone links to Mekelle and the rest of Tigray were down.    The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire on Monday but has not publicly addressed TPLF claims to have taken back Mekelle.
    The fighting in Ethiopia’s northern region has killed thousands of people, displaced two million and brought hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine.
    The United States said atrocities should end immediately and warned Ethiopia and Eritrea that Washington would be watching closely.     “We will not stand by in the face of the horrors in Tigray,” said Robert Godec, acting assistant secretary of state for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs.
UNILATERAL CEASEFIRE?
    House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Greg Meeks said that if the disaster in Tigray is not abated, “we could witness one of our closest and most powerful allies in Africa march toward civil war and, eventually, a state collapse.”
    U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Monday he hoped a political solution would be possible.    Diplomats said the U.N. Security Council would discuss Tigray this week.
    It was not clear if other parties to the conflict would accept the ceasefire.    The Ethiopian military spokesman, Eritrean information minister and Amhara regional spokesperson all said they were unable to comment.    Getachew said the ceasefire was a “joke” and hundreds had been killed on Tuesday in fighting near the border with Afar region.    Reuters was unable to confirm the fighting independently.
    Over the next few days, TPLF forces will go after troops allied to the government from the neighbouring Amhara region – in the south and west – and from the neighbouring nation of Eritrea in the north and northwest of Tigray, Getachew said, adding they would cross borders in pursuit if necessary.
    On Monday evening, when phone links to Mekelle were still open, residents said soldiers had disappeared from the streets and TPLF forces had entered the city.    Residents greeted them with flags and songs, witnesses said.
    Getachew urged the international community to force the government to allow food and aid into the region, accusing Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of blocking it.
    A spokeswoman for Abiy and the head of a government taskforce on Tigray did not return messages seeking comment on food blockages or Getachew’s other comments on Tuesday.    The government has previously denied blocking food aid and said it provides the majority of food.    The U.N. has previously said that soldiers blocked food from TPLF-controlled areas.
    On Tuesday, residents said Eritrean forces could no longer be seen in Shire, a large town at the junction of several main roads.
    “There’s not a single Eritrean in town,” one resident of Shire told Reuters.    He sent a short video of residents crowded onto vehicles, beeping wildly and waving a large gold and red Tigray flag.
    Another resident in Shire told Reuters “Overnight there was a massive movement of Eritrean troops from Axum, Shire to Sheraro direction.” Sheraro is close to the Eritrean border.
FAMINE AND RIGHTS ABUSES
    Ethiopia is awaiting results of national and regional parliamentary elections held on June 21.    Voting was only held in three of the nation’s ten regions due to insecurity and logistical problems.
    No voting was held in Tigray where the TPLF, an ethnically based political party that dominated Ethiopia’s national politics for nearly three decades, has been battling the central government since early November.    It made major territorial gains in the past week.
    The fighting has been punctuated by reports of brutal gang-rapes and mass killings of civilians. At least 12 aid workers have been killed.
    At least 350,000 people are facing famine and 5 million others need immediate food aid, the United Nations has said – the worst global food crisis in a decade.
    Last week, an Ethiopian military airstrike on a crowded market killed at least 64 people and wounded 180 other people.    Doctors said women and children were among the dead and wounded and that Ethiopian troops prevented ambulances from reaching the scene for more than a day.    The military said all the victims were combatants.
(Maggie Fick was reporting from Nairobi; additional reporting by Dawit Endeshaw in Addis Ababa;writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by Catherine Evans, Philippa Fletcher, William Maclean)

6/30/2021 Red Cross Reveals That Children Held In Northeast Syria Prisons by Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: A general view of al-Hol displacement camp in Hasaka governorate,
Syria April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho/File Photo/File Photo
(Corrects 2nd paragraph to make clear that ICRC did not say all 60,000 people are associated with ISIS fighters; adds new 3rd paragraph)
    GENEVA (Reuters) - Hundreds of children are incarcerated in adult prisons in northeastern Syria, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday, disclosing their plight as inmates for the first time.
    The children, mostly boys, have been removed to prisons from al-Hol, a desert camp run by Syrian Kurdish forces for 60,000 people from more than 60 countries, the aid agency said.    Most are women and children who fled there after Islamic State’s last enclaves collapsed two years ago.
    Local authorities have said that many are associated with Islamic State fighters.
    “Hundreds of children, mostly boys, some as young as 12, are detained in adult prisons, places they simply do not belong,” Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC regional director for the Middle East, told a news briefing.
    The ICRC made 36 visits to places of detention across Syria last year, the only agency with such access.    It requires private talks with inmates on their treatment and conditions, but its confidential findings are shared only with the authorities.
    It has access to some places of detention in northeast Syria – a Syrian Kurdish-controlled area – a spokeswoman said, declining to give details.
    The ICRC also renewed its appeal for countries to repatriate their nationals from the al-Hol camp and keep families together, “as international law requires.”
    Carboni, who has visited al-Hol four times in the past two years, said: “I really can’t get used to seeing so many children behind barbed wire.”
    The ICRC runs a field hospital and provides food and water at the sprawling site.    Medical needs remain huge, with a rise in resident children dying last year, including some from preventable conditions, Carboni said.
    UNICEF said eight children under 5 years old had died at the camp last August, half from malnutrition-related complications.    The other deaths had been due to dehydration from diarrhoea, heart failure, internal bleeding and hypoglycaemia, the U.N. children’s agency said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alex Richardson)

6/30/2021 Ethiopia PM Says Army Quit Tigray As No Longer ‘Centre’ Of Conflict by Dawit Endeshaw
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrives for the inauguration ceremony of the Meskel square, marking
the last election rally he will hold in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed acknowledged government troops had left Tigray’s regional capital Mekelle after months of fighting, saying it was because the city was no longer the “centre of gravity for conflicts.”
    Another government figure said the troops could return in weeks if needed – the first statements by federal officials since Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces took the city this week in a major turn of events in the conflict.
    But a spokesman for the TPLF called Abiy’s comments a “lie,” saying that government troops lost and were forced to leave Mekelle.    He also said government-allied Eritrean troops had not withdrawn from the region as an Ethiopian official had claimed.
    Abiy’s government has been battling the TPLF since late last year, when it accused the then-governing party of Tigray of attacking military bases across the region.
    The government declared victory over the TPLF after driving its forces from Mekelle at the end of November, but clashes have persisted since in areas outside the regional capital.
    People in Mekelle, where communications were down on Wednesday, said two days earlier that incoming Tigrayan fighters had been greeted with cheers.    There were similar scenes in Shire in northern Tigray on Wednesday, after Eritrean troops had left and Tigrayan forces had entered, residents said.
    “When we entered Mekelle seven or eight months ago, it was because it was the centre of gravity for conflicts,” Abiy told state media on Tuesday in a video posted on his website on Wednesday.
    “It was the centre of a government.    A centre for known and unknown resources.    But by the time we exit, there is nothing special about it except that there are some 80,000 people, and those who loot people … It has lost its centre of gravity in the current context.”
    But TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said Ethiopian forces were forced to withdraw.
    “The fact that he’s claiming to have withdrawn from Mekelle is an absolute lie.    We bested them in their own game.    They lost,” Getachew told Reuters on Wednesday.
    Reuters could not independently verify the conflicting accounts with most communications to the region down.
    Abiy’s government has come under mounting international pressure to bring an end to the conflict, which has been punctuated by reports of brutal gang-rapes and mass killings of civilians.    At least 12 aid workers have been killed.
    Abiy acknowledged in a speech to parliament in March that atrocities including rape have occurred and pledged that any member of the Ethiopian army who committed crimes against civilians would be held accountable.
RESPONSE “WILL BE HUGE
    At least 350,000 people are facing famine and 5 million others need immediate food aid, the United Nations has said – the worst global food crisis in a decade.
    “If it is required, we can easily enter Mekelle, and we can enter in less than three weeks,” Redwan Hussein, spokesman for the Ethiopian government’s task force for Tigray, told reporters.
    He also said that forces from neighbouring Eritrea, which residents and aid workers accuse of carrying out abuses against civilians, had withdrawn from the region.
    But Getachew said that was also incorrect, adding that the Eritreans were gathering in the north and northwestern parts of Tigray in “defence posturing.”
    Eritrea, which sent troops to Tigray in support of Abiy’s government, denied for months that its troops were in Tigray, but later acknowledged their presence while denying they were responsible for abuses.
    Eritrea’s information minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
    Eritrea fought a brutal 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia, when the TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s central government, and it regards the TPLF as a mortal foe.
    The Ethiopian army warned Tigray forces against reorganising, saying its response “will be huge.”
    “To those who said they might reorganise, they won’t pass an inch,” Lieutenant General Bacha Debele said.    “If they try to provoke, our response will be huge and it will be more than the previous one.”
    U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Monday he hoped a political solution would be possible.    The United States said atrocities should end immediately and warned Ethiopia and Eritrea that Washington would be watching closely.
    “We will not stand by in the face of the horrors in Tigray,” said Robert Godec, acting assistant secretary of state for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs.
(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Additonal reporting by Maggie Fick in Nairobi; Writing by Nick Macfie and Alexandra Zavis; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Giles Elgood)

6/30/2021 Worsening Power Cuts Show Depth Of Sudan’s Economic Challenge by Khalid Abdelaziz
FILE PHOTO: Sudanese residents shop in a bazaar in Khartoum, Sudan, May 4, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – For 17-year-old Wa’ad, frequent power cuts in Sudan’s capital have meant struggling to revise for secondary school exams by candlelight on many nights.
    The increasingly frequent blackouts which often last all day are hitting families and businesses in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities already facing 380% inflation and shortages of petrol, bread and other imports.
    They have piled pressure on a transitional government that has won international praise for economic reforms and on Tuesday secured a deal for extensive debt relief, even as living conditions have continued to deteriorate.
    After inheriting an economy in crisis with extremely low foreign reserves, the government has no immediate solution for the problem, one official told Reuters.
    Authorities cannot import enough fuel or pay for maintenance and spare parts for power stations, said the government official, who asked not to be named.
Sudan’s poorly resourced hospitals have not been spared as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic.    Officials have acknowledged that outages have caused oxygen shortages and deaths.
    Only about one third of Sudan’s nearly 45 million population has access to power, but demand for highly subsidised electricity is growing by an average of 11% yearly, faster than most African nations, according to a 2019 World Bank report.
    The country faces an average deficit of 1,000 megawatts, said Osman Dawalbeit, general manager at the government-owned Sudanese Electricity Holding Company, noting rising fuel costs.
    The energy minister said in March that Sudan’s power stations, designed to produce 4,000 megawatts, were operating at just 45% capacity.
    About half of Sudan’s electricity comes from burning fuel and half from hydropower.
DEFICIT
    This year the government reduced subsidies for higher energy consumption levels as part of economic reforms monitored by the International Monetary Fund.
    But Dawalbeit said the price of power remained far below production costs, contributing to problems in financing fuel supplies, maintenance and new power stations.
    Uncertainty surrounding the dam Ethiopia is completing on the Blue Nile has meant that Sudan has had to reduce its hydropower production, contributing to the deficit, he said.
    The debt relief deal announced on Tuesday means Sudan should be able to unlock several billion dollars in new financing that could help ease the foreign currency crunch.
    Sudan last year signed a deal with General Electric aimed at increasing power generation by up to 470 megawatts. It is also seeking to increase imports from neighbours Egypt and Ethiopia.
    Longer term, renewables may provide an answer.
    “The future of electricity production in Sudan is in renewable energy, particularly solar and wind,” said Dawalbeit, adding a five-year plan to launch renewables had received funding to start in six months.
    Sudan is engaging private sector partners from the United States, Germany, France and Turkey, Dawalbeit said. Solar power projects have been initiated in the cities of Alfasher, Aldeain, and Dongola, he said.    The country imported its first wind turbine earlier this month.
    In the meantime, however, residents continue to suffer.    Temperatures reaching 45 degrees Celsius (113°F) during the hottest months have pushed many to their limits, unable to use fans or air conditioners.
    Wa’ad said of the outages: “I am worried that they will cause me to fail my exams and not get into university, which is my life’s dream.”
    Salma Mutasem, another student revising by candlelight, said: “The natural state is the power being out, every other day.”
    Mohamed Omar, who owns an appliance repair shop in Khartoum, says he can only open on the three days he has daytime power.    “We are suffering huge losses, and I’m facing difficulty paying rent and my employees’ salaries,” he said.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Mohamed Nureldin in Khartoum; Additional reporting and writing by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Janet Lawrence)

6/30/2021 Turkey Says In Talks With Russia On Extending Syria Aid
FILE PHOTO: Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu arrives to attend the G20 meeting
of foreign and development ministers in Matera, Italy, June 29, 2021. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey is in talks with Russia and other members of the United Nations Security Council on the extension of a cross-border aid operation into war-torn Syria, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, less than 10 days before the mandate expires.
    Millions of people depend on the humanitarian aid currently funnelled from a single border crossing in Turkey into northwest Syria, an arrangement authorised by the U.N. Security Council.    Officials have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if the mandate is not renewed.
    Speaking alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Turkish resort of Antalya, Cavusoglu said the mandate, which expires July 10, should be extended.    Ankara would continue to work with Moscow on a political solution to Syria’s crisis and the maintenance of an existing ceasefire in the north, he added.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)

6/30/2021 Criticism Of Palestinian Security Forces Raises Pressure On Abbas by Rami Ayyub and Ali Sawafta
Palestinian police officers stand guard during a protest over the death of Nizar Banat, a critic of the Palestinian Authority,
in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, June 26, 2021. Picture taken June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Pressure is mounting on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over his security forces’ handling of protesters demanding his resignation since one of his biggest critics died in custody.
    The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem said on Tuesday it was “deeply disturbed” by reports that protesters had been intimidated and beaten by plain-clothes officers, and the United Nations condemned what it called “totally unacceptable” attacks.
    The security forces have denied deploying officers in civilian clothing against protesters.
    But the criticism of the Palestinian Authority (PA) by such important international backers extends the already long list of problems facing Abbas, 85, after 16 years in power.
    The family of Nizar Banat, a prominent critic of the PA who died in detention on June 24, said security forces broke into his house in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron and hit him repeatedly with a metal rod before arresting him.
    A Palestinian rights group said after conducting an autopsy that Banat had suffered blows to his head.
    The PA has declined direct comment on the circumstances of Banat’s death but, offering his condolences, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on     Tuesday the judiciary would “ensure application of the law against all those found guilty.”
    The death has led to days of protests in the West Bank and clashes between demonstrators and security forces.
    “We are deeply disturbed by reports that non-uniformed members of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) harassed and used force against protesters and journalists over the weekend,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy said.
    The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory said one of its rights monitors covering protests in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday was among dozens of people who had been attacked in a “totally unacceptable way.”
    “The attack, by persons in civilian clothes, included punching, the use of pepper spray, and attempts to steal a phone being used to document events,” it said on Facebook.
    Talal Dweikat, spokesperson for the Palestinian security forces, said such reports were “not true.”
    “This is dishonourable talk.    There were no security personnel in civilian clothes.    Why would (they) wear civilian clothes?,” he told the Ramallah Mix broadcaster.
    His office declined requests by Reuters for comment.
    The PA says it has investigated Banat’s death, and Shtayyeh has urged Palestinians not to politicise the case.
PROBLEMS PILE UP FOR ABBAS
    Abbas’s popularity has plummeted since he was elected in 2005, according to opinion polls.    He has ruled by decree for over a decade and the PA faces widespread allegations of corruption, which it denies.
    Peace talks have been stalled since 2014, and Abbas has faced criticism for continuing to coordinate with Israel on security issues.    Opponents say this enables Israel’s occupation of West Bank territory that it captured in 1967.
    Anger deepened this year when Abbas cancelled planned elections.
    Criticism of the security forces’ methods has mounted since Banat’s death and Abbas’s Fatah party has accused Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas and other rival political factions of being behind them.
    Aseel AlBajeh, of the rights group Al-Haq, said she was confronted by men in civilian clothing who pushed her and took her phone when she was filming Sunday’s protest in Ramallah.
    “You feel completely unsafe because you don’t know if the person next to you, dressed in completely normal clothing, is going to beat you up or not,” AlBajeh, 26, said.
    “It is painful.    As Palestinians, we have two struggles: one against an occupying power in Israel, and the other against an authoritarian regime.”
    The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said reporters had been “prevented from covering events and threatened by plain-clothes forces.”    It demanded the PA “prosecute those who assaulted journalists, and bring them to justice.”
(Editing by Stephen Farrell and Timothy Heritage)

6/30/2021 Defence In Jordan Trial Asks Court To Invite Prince Hamza To Testify by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: Jordan's Crown Prince Hamza bin Hussein delivers a speech to Muslim clerics and scholars at the opening ceremony
of a religious conference at the Islamic Al al-Bayet University in Amman, Jordan August 21, 2004. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji
    AMMAN (Reuters) -Jordan’s Prince Hamza is among 25 witnesses who have been asked to testify by the defence team of a former confidant of King Abdullah who is on trial on charges of agitating to destabilise the monarchy, the defence’s lawyer said on Wednesday.
    Mohamed Afif told Reuters it would be up to the court to decide whether to call Prince Hamza, the king’s half-brother, as a witness.
    “The final decision is up to the court, this is the court’s jurisdiction and it has the final word on whether it will summon these witnesses or not,” Afif said.
    The court will respond to the defence’s request in a session on Thursday, Afif said, after submitting a list of 25 potential witnesses on Wednesday.
    Among them are Prime Minister Bisher al Khasawneh, two princes, a cabinet minister and several minor royals, he said.
    The trial began last week behind closed doors, with authorities saying that the proceedings were secret due to the sensitivity of the case.
    The scandal shocked Jordan when it surfaced in March, because it appeared to expose rifts within the ruling Hashemite family that has been a beacon of stability in a volatile region in recent years.
    Hamza, the estranged prince at the centre of the trial, was accused of liaising with parties with foreign links to undermine the authority of the king.
    He avoided punishment in April after pledging allegiance to the king, defusing a crisis that led to his house arrest.
    Charges against the two defendants, Bassem Awadallah and Sherif Hassan Zaid, include agitating to undermine the kingdom’s political system, acts that threaten public security and sowing sedition.    Both have pleaded not guilty.
    If convicted, they could face up to 30 years in prison.
    Some legal experts and civic activists have questioned the legality of a trial where the main defendant Prince Hamza has not been charged.    They say the special court is not independent of the judiciary and lacks the standards of a fair trial.
    The authorities have said the trial process is fair.
    Officials say the prosecution evidence shows that Hamza wanted Awadallah to use his close relationship with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to seek support for Hamza’s bid to become king.
    Awadallah, who challenged a conservative establishment opposed to his liberal policies and has close ties to senior U.S. officials, promised to lobby on Hamza’s behalf in Western capitals and Saudi Arabia, according to the charge sheet.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Toby Chopra and Mike Collett-White)

6/30/2021 Israel Seeks To Extend New Gulf Ties To All Middle East, Says Lapid by Lisa Barrington
Israeli alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a news
conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, June 30, 2021. REUTERS/Christopher Pike
    DUBAI (Reuters) - Israel’s new foreign minister said on Wednesday his landmark visit to the United Arab Emirates was just the start of a road to wider peace in the Middle East, reaching out to Arab states still wary of normalising ties.     Yair Lapid, the first Israeli cabinet minister to visit the Gulf state since the countries forged ties last year, also reiterated Israel’s concern about the Iran nuclear deal being negotiated in Vienna.
    The trip comes amid unease in Israel and Arab capitals about U.S. efforts to re-enter a 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and world powers, which then President Donald Trump quit in 2018 in a move backed by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies.
    “This visit isn’t the end of the road to peace, it is just the beginning,” he told reporters.    “Our hand is outstretched … I hope this visit is the first of many and that together with our new friends we continue to make history in the entire region.”
    The UAE and Bahrain normalised ties with Israel under so-called “Abraham Accords” brokered by Trump’s administration, creating a new regional dynamic based on mutual concern over Iran and Islamist groups. Sudan and Morocco followed suit.
    Lapid declined to comment on whether Israel was coordinating with Gulf states over Iran, saying he did not want to “embarrass” his hosts by remarking on a neighbour while in the UAE, but noted his country was worried about the nuclear deal.
    Gulf states have called for a stronger deal of longer duration that also addresses Tehran’s missiles programme and support for regional proxies that Iran has denied giving.
    During his two-day visit, Lapid inaugurated Israel’s temporary embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai.
    Israel and the UAE said they had begun talks on a free trade agreement in a statement carried on state news agency WAM.    They have previously signed agreements on tourism, investment and cooperation in fields from energy to technology.
    Lapid told WAM Israel-UAE trade in the ten months since normalisation exceeded $675 million and he expected more deals.
    The UAE has said the accords, which challenged a decades-old allegiance to the Palestinian issue as a major driver of Arab policy, would ultimately benefit the Palestinians.
    Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas condemned Lapid’s visit, saying it happened while Israeli authorities destroyed a Palestinian-owned shop in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and that Palestinians seek for a future state.
    “Normalisation agreements will encourage the occupation (Israel) to escalate its aggression against our people,” Hamas said on Tuesday.    Israel said the shop had violated zoning laws.
    On Tuesday UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed told Israel’s Walla news site: “I believe that sooner or later Israel should resolve the Palestinian problem.    This not only harms Israel’s image, but is also liable to raise doubts as to its future.    This is a big challenge for you.”
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; additional reporting by Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv, writing by Ghaida Ghantous, editing by William Maclean and Philippa Fletcher)

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