From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE SOUTH 2018"

    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.

KING OF THE SOUTH


Click here to see in Psalm 83 of the countries surrounding Israel in the past and the present.


2018

    Depiction of the emblems of Ishtar (Venus), Sin (Moon), and Shamash (Sun) on a boundary stone of Meli-Shipak II (12th century BCE) as seen below is where I believe the "star and crescent" symbol that originated for the God called Sin and is found on many of the King of the South countries flags.
    Scholars associate the star and crescent as an iconographic symbol with the religion of Islam based on authoritative accounts around the 15th century B.C., which is Turkey today, and by popular extension, the Islamic world.
    It develops in the iconography of the Hellenistic period (4th–1st centuries BCE) in the Kingdom of Pontus, the Bosporan Kingdom and notably the city of Byzantium by the 2nd century BCE.    It is the conjoined representation of the crescent and a star, both of which constituent elements have a long prior history in the iconography of the Ancient Near East as representing either Sun and Moon or Moon and Morning Star (or their divine personifications).    Coins with crescent and star symbols represented separately have a longer history, with possible ties to older Mesopotamian iconography.    The star, or Sun, is often shown within the arc of the crescent, also called star in crescent, or star within crescent.
           
The above are the flags of Pakistan, Libya, Turkey, and the symbol of Islam

ISLAM IS DIVIDED UP INTO TWO SECTS AS SEEN ABOVE, WHICH TODAY WE CALL THEN SUNNI AND SHIITES

    So after the above history lession lets see what is up with the Kings of the South in 2018.
   
To the image above left is the pentagram a Satanic symbol which is at the top of Erdogan’s Tek Devlet (One State) monument in Turkey,
and to the above right is the inverted 5 point star, which is a pentagram, a satanic symbol.    There is no difference between the two symbols
.

7/26/2017 ERDOGAN ERECTS STATUE IN TURKEY, WILL BEHEAD NONWORSHIPERS
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the first anniversary of Turkey’s failed coup, said that beheading is coming to Turkey and all who betray him.
    Turkey’s Primary Judge in the Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice Development Party), Hayrettin Karaman, wrote an article for Yeni Safak titled Shriah Will Rise Again, reported shoebat.com.
    Karaman was quoted as saying, “Compulsory religious education, Koranic courses, Arabic and Ottoman lessons, Islamization of all schools, sharia education and finally compulsory worship services in all schools.”
    Erdogan was quoted also as saying, “If Parliament passes a bill on resuming executions (beheading) in Turkey, I will sign it.”
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan
    Could Recep Tayyip Erdogan be the upcoming antichrist, the last antichrist of the latter days?    We can’t be certain, although he very well, thus far, fits the description.
    It wasn’t that long ago that Barack Hussein Obama fit many of the descriptions of the antichrist.    He may, or may not be the antichrist.    Erdogan may, or 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 Prime Minister, Erdogan mandated reforms to return the properties of Christians and Jews, which were seized by the Turkish government in the 1930s.    He consistently swayed in and out of humanitarianism and reform, ordering the demolition of the Monument to Humanity, which had been dedicated to encourage Armenian and Turkish relations.
    Overall, Erdogan promoted Democracy during his early political career, but there have been hints of hypocrisy along the way.
    Since Erdogan’s election to President of Turkey in August 2014, he has steadily become dictatorial.
    On the anniversary this month of the attempted coup d’etat last year, Erdogan enacted laws to give him excessive powers.    He also erected a monument depicting Tek Devlet (One State) and he stated in his speech that he will decapitate traitors.
    Erdogan came on the political scene in Turkey in the name of peace; but it turns out he and his main Fatwa Judge, Hayrettin Karaman, have already imposed sharia law, it will be mandated in the schools, and the opposition will be beheaded.
    All of this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?    “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.
    This, in fact, is a very good description of Erdogan, in that he was barred from entering politics initially, due to an earlier conviction and incarceration, but the law was changed, which allowed him to run for office.
    The Word of God tells us that the antichrist will behead those who refuse his mark on their right hand, or forehead, and who refuse to worship him.
    “I saw thrones and they sat upon them and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God, who had not worshiped the beast (antichrist), neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4.
    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 on Sunday, “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.”
    Actually, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is situated on the historical Jewish Temple Mount.    Palestinian Muslims just shot and killed two Israeli police officers by smuggling guns onto the Temple Mount.    The entire Muslim World is now protesting because Israel placed metal detectors at two entrances to the Temple Mount for security purposes.
    These maniacal people don’t want security; they want to be able to smuggle more guns to the Temple Mount and continue killing Jews.
    Israel is actually being extremely condescending with the Muslims.    They should kick Muslims off the Temple Mount permanently – and out of Israel permanently because they are a menace to society; always killing people, stoning people, beheading people, burning people alive, burying people alive, etc.    Factually, they don’t deserve to live on the face of the earth, but we do not exact judgment.    The Bible says,
    “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the LordRomans 12:19.
    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.

12/4/2017 SAUDI ARABIA SAYS LEBANON DECLARES WAR
    In a televised statement from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon Saad al-Hariri tendered his resignation from office, citing Iran’s and Hezbollah's political over-extension in the Middle East region and fears of assassination.    Iran vehemently rejected Saad Hariri's remarks and called his resignation part of a plot by the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia to heighten Middle Eastern tensions.
    Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad al-Hariri suddenly announced his resignation as Prime Minister, which was broadcast from Saudi Arabia on Saturday.    He said during his speech that he resigned because of a plot to assassinate him.    Even his guards were stunned by al-Hariri’s resignation.     Hezbollah, a faction of Shi’ite Muslim terrorists, actually has two ministers in Lebanon’s Parliament and Hezbollah militants are also powerful in Lebanon.    It could very well be that al-Hariri feared for his life and anticipates a coup by Hezbollah terrorists, who are allied with Iran.
    An Iranian official, Ali Akbar Velayati (Shi’ite), met with al-Hariri in Lebanon and after their meeting, al-Hariri cancelled his appointments and left immediately for Saudi Arabia.
    After his meeting with al-Hariri, Velayati then announced from Beirut Iran’s (Shi’ites) victories in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
    A number of interesting things have happened suddenly throughout the Middle East simultaneously, which may all be linked together, leading up to a major war of Biblical proportions, fulfilling last days Bible prophecy.
    Amidst al-Hariri’s resignation, Houthi Muslim terrorists, Shi’ites and allies of Iran, launched a missile near the capital of Saudi Arabia (Sunni Muslims) from Yemen on Saturday.
    Saudis said the missile, which was intercepted, was made in Iran and they see this attack as a declaration of war.
    American propagandized media have been publishing reports that Islamic State terrorists are defeated, annihilated in Syria, suggesting we can all calm down now.
    As long as Iranian Shi’ite terrorists exist and Hezbollah and other terrorist groups like Houthi Shi’ite Muslims remain alive on the earth, no one in the world is safe.    The idea that Muslim terrorists have been defeated to any large degree defies Bible prophecy and it will not happen until Christ returns, after the seven-year great tribulation.
    According to Bible prophecy, the antichrist (Muslim Mahdi – messiah) will rise up from a small group, according to Daniel’s prophecies.    It is interesting to note that the Shi’ite Muslim terrorists are far outnumbered by the large majority of Sunnis.
    According to Islamicweb.com, Shia, or Shi’ite, Muslims are about 7.5 – 11 percent of the Muslim population, so mostly Sunni and a few other small factions make up the remaining 89 – 92.5 percent.
    The Prophet Daniel wrote this about the antichrist of the last days:
    “After the league (a seven-year peace treaty – a Biblical “week”) made with him, he shall work deceitfully, for he shall come up and shall become strong with a small peopleDaniel 11:23.
    The antichrist will come to power in the last days with a “small” people, according to Daniel’s prophecy.
    How do we know that the antichrist is the Muslim Mahdi (messiah)?
    “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark on their right hand, or on their foreheads, that no man might buy or sell, except he who has the mark, the name of the beast, or the number of his name.    Here is wisdom.    Let him who has understanding county the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is six hundred, sixty-sixRevelation 13:16-18.    (The beast (antichrist) will establish a cashless society and only those bearing his “mark” will be able to buy or sell.)
    “I saw thrones and they sat upon them and judgment was given unto them, and I saw the souls of them who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God, who had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or on their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand yearsRevelation 20:4.    (Those who refuse the “mark” of the “beast” will be “beheaded.”).
    Who “beheads” people? Muslims, Muslims, MUSLIMS!
    Iranian, Hezbollah and Houthi Shi’ites are stirring up strife right now in the Middle East and they are among the relatively small group of Shi’ites, but they are also very strong, so we need to keep our eyes on the situation.
    According to Bible prophecy, we are definitely living in the last days, so what is happening now could be very significant prophetically.

1/2/2018 Pence’s office says VP’s visit to Israel remains in plans
    Mike Pence’s office said Monday that the vice president still plans on visiting Israel this month, despite a delay in the schedule.
    Pence had been scheduled to visit during the week of Jan. 14, but Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Monday the visit was no longer on its schedule for January.    Later Monday, Pence’s deputy chief of staff, Jarrod Agen, said the visit was still on.    The official reason for the delay was the Senate tax vote.
    There has been regionwide uproar over President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

1/4/2018 Trump warns that Palestinians may lose American aid money
    President Trump suggested the administration might cut off aid money to the Palestinian Authority, asking why the United States should make “any of these massive future payments” when the Palestinians are “no longer willing to talk peace.”
    Trump tweeted that “we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.    They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue … peace treaty with Israel.”
    Trump infuriated Palestinians when he announced late last year that the United States would consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move its embassy there.

1/8/2018 20 groups to be denied entry to Israel over boycott calls
    Israel on Sunday identified 20 activist groups to be banned from entering the country over their calls to boycott the Jewish state.    Israel has enacted a law that would ban any activist who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.”

1/15/2018 U.S. plans to cut money to U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees
    The Trump administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, cutting the year’s first contribution by more than half or perhaps entirely and making additional donations contingent on major changes to the group, according to U.S. officials.
    President Trump hasn’t made a final decision but appears more likely to send only $60 million of the planned $125 million first installment to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

1/16/2018 Israel slams Palestinian leader over anti-Trump speech
    Israeli leaders slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday for a fiery, invective-filled speech against Trump, in which he proclaimed the U.S. role as arbiter of the Mideast conflict was over, attacked the administration’s envoys and described Israel as a colonial conspiracy.
    Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Abbas had “lost his senses” and had given up on the prospect of peace in favor of confrontation with Israel and the United States.

1/23/2018 Pence says U.S. Embassy to move to Jerusalem by end of next year
    Vice President Pence told Israel’s parliament Monday that the U.S. Embassy will move to Jerusalem by the end of 2019.    He received a rousing ovation as he pledged to barrel ahead with a plan that has set off weeks of unrest.    Pence’s speech drew an angry denunciation from Palestinians.

1/31/2018 Palestinians vent at Americans at trade meeting in West Bank
    Palestinian protesters disrupted a meeting between U.S. officials and a Palestinian trade group in the West Bank on Tuesday, shouting at the American participants and pelting their vehicles with tomatoes.
    The incident came amid rising Palestinian anger over the Trump administration’s handling of the Middle East conflict.
    Many Palestinians were outraged by President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

2/11/2018 Israel launches ‘large-scale attack’ on Iranian targets in Syria
    An Israeli fighter jet, under fire from Syrian anti-aircraft batteries, crashed Saturday as Israel mounted a heavy military response to what it said was the incursion of its airspace by an Iranian drone.
    Two Israeli pilots were injured, one seriously, after abandoning their F-16 over northern Israel while taking part in what the Israeli military called a “large-scale attack” on at least a dozen Iranian targets in Syria.

2/12/2018 Trump questions Israel’s interest in peace deal, cites settlements
    President Trump questioned Israel’s interest in making peace with the Palestinians in an interview published Sunday, spotlighting its West Bank settlements as a complicating factor in Israel Hayom.    Trump also cast doubt on the Palestinians.    His comments about Israel mark rare criticism from a president who has sparred with the Palestinians while forging warm ties with Israel.

2/14/2018 Israeli police urge indictment of Netanyahu in corruption cases
    Israeli police on Tuesday recommended that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on bribery and breach of trust charges in a pair of corruption cases.    Netanyahu rejected the accusations, which included accepting nearly $300,000 in gifts from a pair of billionaires.    He accused police of being on a witch hunt and vowed to remain in office.

2/20/2018 Israel successfully tests advanced missile defense system
    Israel says it has successfully tested the country’s advanced missile defense system capable of defending against ballistic missile threats outside the atmosphere.
    The Defense Ministry says Monday’s successful mission test of the Arrow-3 interceptor is “a major milestone” in Israel’s ability to defend itself “against current and future threats in the region.”

2/24/2018 U.S. Embassy in Israel expected to move to Jerusalem on May 14
    The United States plans to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on May 14, Steven Goldstein, undersecretary of State for public diplomacy, said Friday.    May 14 is the day Israel proclaimed independence in 1948.

3/20/2018 Palestinian leader calls U.S. ambassador a ‘son of a dog’
    The Palestinian president on Monday called the U.S. ambassador to Israel a “son of a dog” in an angry rant against the Trump administration, signaling trouble for an expected U.S. peace proposal. In an address, President Mahmoud Abbas pre-emptively rejected the peace proposal.

3/20/2018 U.N. rights chief blocked from speaking on Syria
    The U.N. human rights chief has been blocked from speaking to the Security Council about the situation in Syria after Russia, backed by China and others, protested that the U.N. body charged with ensuring international peace and security should not be discussing human rights.
    At Monday’s council meeting that was to be addressed by High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, Russia demanded a vote on whether the meeting should be held.    The meeting was canceled.

3/21/2018 Trump, Saudi crown prince discuss Iran nuclear deal
    The future of the Iran nuclear agreement loomed over talks Tuesday between President Donald Trump and the young leader of Saudi Arabia.
    Suggesting that he may take steps to kill the nuclear deal, Trump told reporters that “Iran has not been treating that part of the world or the world itself appropriately,” and “a lot of bad things are happening in Iran.”     Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman declined to comment.

3/31/2018 Israeli troops fire on Palestinian protesters in Gaza, killing 15
    Thousands of Palestinians marched to Gaza’s border with Israel on Friday, and 15 were killed by Israeli fire during the protest of a border blockade.
    It was the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas.

4/2/2018 Israel rejects calls for inquiry into violence at Gaza border
    Israel’s defense minister on Sunday rejected international calls for an investigation into deadly violence along Gaza’s border with Israel, saying troops acted appropriately and fired only at Palestinian protesters who posed a threat.    Fifteen Palestinians were killed and more than 700 wounded in Friday’s violence near the Israeli border, Palestinian officials said.

4/4/2018 Israel vows to continue tough response to Gaza protests
    Israel’s defense minister said Tuesday that the military will not change its response to Hamas-led mass protests near Gaza’s border with Israel.
    Avigdor Lieberman spoke near Gaza, where 18 Palestinians were killed Friday by Israeli gunfire.    On Tuesday, a 25-year-old Gaza man was killed by Israeli gunfire near the border fence, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.

4/5/2018 Mossad chief ‘100% certain’ Iran seeks to build nuclear bombs
    The head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is “100% certain” that Iran remains committed to developing a nuclear bomb and believes the international community must change or scrap its nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic.    Yossi Cohen delivered his assessment in a closed meeting with senior officials, according to a person at the meeting.

4/6/2018 Arabs ask U.N.’s leader to order investigation of Gaza killings
    Arab ambassadors on Thursday urged the U.N. secretary-general to launch an investigation into the killing of 18 Palestinians during a march last week protesting a decade-old Israeli blockade of Gaza.
    After the deaths last Friday, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, blocked the Security Council from issuing a statement that would have authorized the secretary-general to conduct an independent investigation.

4/7/2018 Israeli troops kill 7; hundreds injured in Gaza border protest
    Israeli troops killed seven men Friday in the second mass protest in as many weeks along Gaza’s volatile border, as Palestinians torched piles of tires to create a smoke screen to block the view of snipers.
    Friday’s deaths brought to 29 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire over the past week.

4/9/2018 ICC says Israel, Hamas acts on Gaza border may be war crimes
    The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court raised concerns Sunday that Israel and Hamas may have committed war crimes during violence in the Gaza Strip.
    Fatou Bensouda’s office expressed “grave concern” over the shootings of Palestinians by Israeli troops.    Her office said that Israel’s “violence against civilians” may constitute war crimes.    But she also said “the use of civilian presence for the purpose of shielding military activities” could be a war crime.

4/9/2018 Trump assails Syria’s alleged chemical attack -President blames Putin, blasts ‘animal Assad’ by John Bacon, USA TODAY
    President Trump lashed out Sunday against an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces on civilians, ripping “that animal Assad” and laying blame for the Syrian president’s power on Russia, Iran and even President Barack Obama.
    Trump’s tweet storm came hours after the White Helmets, a civil defense force in rebel-held areas of Syria, claimed that entire families were gassed to death Saturday night in Douma and East Ghouta.    The group, which put the death toll at more than 40, said many residents were hiding in cellars, suffocating from poison gas.
    Syrian state media said Sunday rebel forces led by the Army of Islam had agreed to leave Douma within 48 hours as Syrian leader Bashar Assad tightened his grip on rebel strongholds around Damascus.
    “Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” Trump said on Twitter.    “Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world.”
    The attack came less than a week after Trump, speaking about Syria, declared: “I want to bring our troops back home.”    A day later, however, the White House signaled that a U.S. withdrawal from Syria is not imminent.
    On Twitter on Sunday, Trump demanded that the area be opened up for medical help and verification of a chemical attack, which would constitute a war crime.    He called the attack another “humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever.    SICK!
    Trump blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran for providing support to Assad.    Trump also blamed Obama for allowing Assad to cross his predecessor’s “state Red Line in the Sand.”    If Obama had acted years ago, Trump said, the Syrian crisis would have ended long ago and Assad would have passed into history.
    The United Nations Security Council on Monday will hold an emergency meeting on the suspected chemical attack, reports the Associated Press.
    Reuters says the U.N. Security Council will meet twice on Monday to discuss “international threats to peace and security.”

4/11/2018 Israel says slain Gaza journalist was militant with Hamas group
    Israel’s defense minister said Tuesday that a well-known Gaza journalist who was killed by Israeli gunfire over the weekend was a member of Hamas, an allegation denied by the militant group and the journalist’s family.
    Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman provided no evidence to back up the claim.    Yasser Murtaja died from a gunshot wound while filming a protest near the fence with Israel on Friday.

4/14/2018 1 killed, hundreds hurt as Palestinians clash with Israelis
    Thousands of Palestinians staged a mass protest on Gaza’s sealed border with Israel for a third consecutive Friday, as part of a campaign to break a decade-old blockade of their territory.
    Israeli gunfire from across the border fence killed a 28-year-old Palestinian man and wounded at least 223, Gaza health officials said.
    The death brought to 28 the number of protesters killed in two weeks, with more than 1,500 wounded by Israeli fire since March 30.

4/14/2018 Trump orders US strikes on Syria over chemical weapons - UK, France join in response to Assad regime by Tom Vanden Brook, Gregory Korte and John Bacon, USA TODAY
    President Donald Trump on Friday night said he ordered precision missile strikes against the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in a coordinated attack with U.K. and French allies.
    Trump said the strikes were intended to deter the use of chemical weapons such as the attack last week on civilians in the Syrian town of Douma, and that the U.S. was prepared to continue the attacks until the Syrian regime stops using chemical weapons.
    The action comes almost a week after rebels in the beleaguered nation claimed Syrian forces under Assad killed more than 40 men, women and children in a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma.
    “The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children writhing in pain and gasping for air,” Trump said in a hastily arranged, eight-minute nationally televised address at 9:01 p.m.
    Syria has denied using chemical weapons.    French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday “we have proof” chlorine gas was used by Assad’s regime.    The internationally respected Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was scheduled to begin its investigation in Syria on Saturday.
    Trump, in the days after the attack, described the Syrian president as “that animal Assad” and ripped Russia and Iran for supporting him.    Trump was further agitated when a Russian official promised that U.S. missiles would be shot down and the base or ships from which they were fired attacked.
    “To Iran and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of men, women and children?” Trump said.
    He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of reneging on a 2013 promise to ensure that Assad would discontinue his chemical weapons program.
    “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace,” he said.    “Hopefully someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran, but maybe not.”
    Trump had telegraphed the attack in a series of statements and tweets throughout the week.
    Russia has denied the use of chemical weapons in Syria, accusing Britain on Friday of staging a fake attack in Douma.    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said images of victims of the purported attack were staged with “Britain’s direct involvement, without providing evidence".    Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, Karen Pierce, dismissed Konashenkov’s claim as “a blatant lie.”

4/15/2018 Pentagon touts U.S. airstrikes in Syria - Will set chemical weapons program back ‘for years’ by Doug Stanglin, Gregory Korte and Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY
    In a largely uncontested attack, U.S., British and French forces unleashed 105 missiles on three Syrian chemical weapons facilities early Saturday, leveling at least one building and setting back the country’s chemical weapons program “for years,” Pentagon officials said.
    The strikes targeted three areas of Syria: a scientific research center near Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs, and a storage facility and command post near Homs.
    Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, told reporters Saturday that the weapons used in the operation were a mix of sea- and air-launched missiles fired by U.S., British and French forces and “successfully hit every target.”
    The goal, he said, was to hit the “very heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons program by targeting its research, development and storage facilities.    The strikes came one week after reports of a grisly chemical attack in the town of Douma that killed more than 40 people.
    “This is going to set the Syrian chemical weapons program back for years,” McKenzie said.
    Syrian forces fired 40 surface-to-air missiles during the operation, mostly after the attack was over, he said.
    “They were largely ineffective and increased risk to their own people,” he said.    “None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses.”
    He also said there was no indication that Russian air-defense systems were employed during the attacks.
    McKenzie said there were no initial reports of civilian casualties in large part because the operation was planned to be carried out during the night.
    “We weren’t trying to kill a lot of people,” he said.
    President Trump, in a Saturday morning tweet, called the nighttime attack a “perfectly executed strike” and proclaimed, “Mission Accomplished!
    Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said late Friday that that the operation was “a onetime shot” but did not rule out further attacks.
    Syrian President Bashar Assad announced his country would respond to the strikes but offered no details.
    “Could not have had a better result.    Mission Accomplished!” President Trump.

4/15/2018 USA TODAY ANALYSIS - Attack won’t weaken Assad, alter ISIS strategy by Jim Michaels, USA TODAY
    The strikes on Syria’s chemical warfare facilities Saturday will not weaken Bashar Assad’s brutal grip on power, which has been expanding in recent years, or change the U.S. strategy of defeating the Islamic State, U.S. officials and analysts said.
    The U.S. strike was not designed to “depose” Assad or draw the U.S. into the Syrian civil war, Dana White, the Pentagon spokeswoman said Saturday.    “This operation does not represent a change in U.S. policy,” she said.
    But U.S. officials said the operation was effective in sending a message to the Assad regime about the use of chemical weapons and damaged the nation’s chemical capabilities.    “It was a successful mission,” White said.
    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this year’s strike was more damaging than a similar attack the U.S. military conducted last year and will have a lasting impact on the regime’s ability to produce chemical weapons.
    “They will lose years of research and development data, specialized equipment and expensive chemical weapons precursors,” Mattis said.
    Saturday’s strike, conducted with French and British forces, employed 105 missiles and other weapons at three chemical weapons facilities.    Last year’s strike involved 59 missiles.
    “This has dealt them a very serious blow,” Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said.
    But the chemical weapons capabilities, while effective in terrorizing civilians, were not critical to the regime’s recent military successes.
    Assad’s regime has been steadily expanding control over the country in the past couple of years, relying heavily on Iran-linked ground forces and Russian aircraft to regain territory from rebels.    Assad’s own military has been depleted by seven years of civil war.
    U.S. officials say Saturday’s attack was designed to avoid collapsing Assad’s regime, which could provide an opportunity for the Islamic State or other radical groups involved in the civil war, or draw responses from Russia or Iran, which are supporting the Assad regime.
    “We specifically identified these targets to mitigate the risk of Russian forces being involved,” said Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
    The U.S. also warned Russia about the airspace that the U.S. military would be using through a military communications channel it has been utilizing to avoid mishaps.
    Neither Russia nor Iran would have a motive for attempting to retaliate, as their objective is to support Assad, and his regime was not threatened by the strike.    The U.S. military has about 2,000 troops in Syria, mostly in the northeast of the country, where they are supporting a local alliance of militias battling the Islamic State.    The U.S. is not supporting any of the rebel groups fighting the Assad regime.
    “This is more about his use of chemical weapons than it is the outcome of the war,” Andrew Tabler, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said earlier this week.

4/21/2018 Israeli fire in latest Gaza border protest kills 4 Palestinians
    Israeli soldiers firing from across a border fence Friday killed four Palestinians, including a 15-year-old boy, and wounded more than 150 others, health officials said the shooting came as several thousand people in the blockaded Gaza Strip staged a fourth round of weekly protests on the border with Israel.

4/28/2018 New wave of violence in Gaza at border fence leaves 3 dead
    Hundreds of Palestinians converged on the Gaza Strip’s border fence with Israel on Friday, trying to burn through it before drawing heavy Israeli gunfire in some of the worst violence in five weeks of protests.
    Three Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded.

5/1/2018 Netanyahu: We have proof Iran cheated on nuke deal by John Bacon, USA TODAY
    Tens of thousands of secret files and other evidence prove the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is “based on lies and Iranian deception” and should be thrown out, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday.
    Netanyahu, in an address televised across Israel, said Iran lied when it said it never sought to develop nuclear weapons, and it then cheated by failing to reveal all its weapons program information to an international watchdog charged with monitoring the deal.
    “Even after the deal was made, Iran continued to preserve and expand its nuclear know-how for use at a later date,” Netanyahu said.
    President Trump has said he will announce within the next two weeks the fate of the deal.    He has repeatedly blasted the agreement and has demanded that changes be made to tighten rules governing Iran.
    Trump, speaking at a White House news conference minutes after Netanyahu spoke, expressed solidarity with the Israeli leader.    He also would not dismiss the possibility of negotiating a new deal — an option Iran rejects.
    “In seven years that deal will have expired, and Iran is free to go ahead and develop nuclear weapons.    Seven years is tomorrow,” Trump said.    “I am not saying what I am doing, (but) it’s a horrible agreement.”
    The deal, struck between Iran and six world powers — the U.S., Britain, Russia, France, China and Germany — was negotiated by the Obama administration.    The deal led to easing of a broad range of economic sanctions placed on the Shiite nation.
    Netanyahu, who bitterly opposed the deal, spoke in English, a clear sign he wanted to present his case to an international audience.    He said “half a ton” of evidence proves Iran has not been faithful.    He said the deal gives Iran a clear path to building a nuclear arsenal in the future, and Iran has always planned “at the highest levels” to continue to work on the program.
    “This is a terrible deal,” Netanyahu said.    “In a few days’ time, President Trump will make his decision. ... I am sure he will do the right thing, the right thing for the United States, the right thing for Israel and the right thing for peace in the world.”
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with Netanyahu in Israel on Sunday, accused Iran of “behaving worse” since the deal.
President Trump, meeting March 5 with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says he will announce the fate of the Iran deal soon. GETTY IMAGES

5/5/2018 Dozens of Palestinians wounded in 6th weekly Gaza protest
    Black smoke from burning tires mixed with streaks of tear gas fired by Israeli forces Friday as several thousand Palestinians staged a sixth weekly protest on the Gaza-Israel border.
    At least 70 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire, the lowest toll since the protests began in an attempt to break the Israelis’ blockade.

5/10/2018 Netanyahu meets Putin amid new round of Syria strikes
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow on Wednesday to meet with President Vladimir Putin and discuss military coordination amid airstrikes in Syria blamed on Israel.
    Netanyahu said he was eager to discuss ways of “solving crises and removing threats in a thoughtful and responsible manner.”

5/11/2018 Israeli warplanes strike ‘dozens’ of Iranian targets in Syria
    Israeli warplanes attacked “dozens” of Iranian targets in neighboring Syria on Thursday after an Iranian rocket barrage on Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, according to their militaries.    It is the most serious military confrontation between the two enemies since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

5/14/2018 Bolton: U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is ‘reality’
    As the U.S. Embassy in Israel is set to be moved to Jerusalem in a Monday ceremony, President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, called the controversial decision a “recognition of reality."
    Bolton said Sunday that relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv will “make it easier” to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
    “If you’re not prepared to recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel ... then you’re operating on a completely different wavelength,” Bolton told ABC’s This Week.

5/15/2018 Ceremony for embassy stirs Gaza violence -U.S., Israel blame Hamas for killings by Ari Plachta and John Bacon, USA TODAY
    JERUSALEM – More than 50 Palestinians were killed Monday in mass protests along the border with Gaza while Israel celebrated the U.S. Embassy’s contentious move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
    The demonstrations have gone on for weeks and reached a violent apex as Israel marked 70 years since the Jewish nation was established.    Palestinians annually mark their resulting displacement on Nakba Day, or the Day of Catastrophe, on May 15.
    The Gaza Health Ministry said 55 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,200 wounded Monday in border clashes with the Israeli military, making it the deadliest day of violence with Gaza since 2014.
    “This disproportionate and illegal use of lethal force against unarmed civilian protesters is criminal,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
    Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, blamed Gaza’s Hamas leadership, saying the Islamic militant group encouraged Palestinians to breach the border fence.    He said several such efforts had been repelled, and the military was committed to ensuring that communities on the Israeli side were not overrun.
    White House spokesman Raj Shah blamed Hamas for the deaths, saying the group was “cynically provoking” the Israeli response.    He said Israel has the right to defend itself and called Monday “a great day for Israel and the United States.”
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who condemned the embassy as an “American settlement outpost,” called for three days of mourning.    British Prime Minister Theresa May was among Western leaders calling for “calm and restraint” on both sides.
    The embassy move to Jerusalem outraged Palestinians who long hoped to create a capital for themselves in the city’s eastern sector.    Israeli and U.S. officials were determined not to let the violence diminish the celebration.
    “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital,” President Trump said in a message played at the dedication ceremony.    “For many years, we failed to acknowledge the obvious.”
    Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to Trump, and the president’s daughter Ivanka were part of the U.S. delegation attending.    Kushner, whose grandparents survived the Holocaust, drew a standing ovation when he mentioned Trump’s announcement last week that the United States would withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran, Israel’s sworn enemy.
    “The United States stands with Israel because we believe, we know, that it is the right thing to do,” he said.
    David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, presided over the dedication ceremony and said the embassy move keeps a “promise we made to the American people.”
    “Within the confines of Jerusalem, every man, woman and child becomes part of something more than themselves,” Friedman said.    “Shalom, peace, is the inseparable sister of truth.”    Near the ceremony, more than 500 demonstrators clashed with Israeli forces, and police made at least one arrest.    Demonstrators chanted, “Jerusalem is ours!
    Safa Yasin, 19, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, said the embassy move “cements Israeli control over Jerusalem” and shows disregard for the rights of the Palestinian people.
    “We stand in solidarity with all Palestinians,” he said.    “The ones in Gaza right now especially.”
    Some Israelis came out in support of the embassy.    Among the supporters, who were separated by a police barrier from protesters, was Elisha Haas, 74, an Israeli professor of biophysics at Bar Ilan University.
    “I came here to say thank you to President Trump,” Haas said, adding that he has no sympathy for the Palestinians shot along the border.    “I don’t care how many are killed because they are using these protests to terrorize Israel.    The despair of Gaza is fake news.”
    Practically speaking, little was changed by Monday’s formal move.    The U.S. consular compound in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona will become the temporary embassy.    Most of the 850 embassy workers in Tel Aviv will not move until a new embassy is built.
    Still, the symbolism is not lost on the Palestinians.    In the West Bank, several thousand people gathered in the center of Ramallah, while hundreds marched to the Qalandiya crossing on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where protesters threw stones.
    Since weekly Great March of Return rallies began in March, more than 100 Palestinian protesters have been killed and more than 2,300 wounded.
    “We are adamant to return, no matter what happens,” Ahmad Abu Artema, spokesperson for the Great March.
    “This disproportionate and illegal use of lethal force against unarmed civilian protesters is criminal.” Palestinian Foreign Ministry.

5/16/2018 All sides now need to show leadership and courage.”    Alistair Burt, United Kingdom’s minister for the Middle East - Palestinians bury dead amid Israel backlash - Two more killed as thousands mourn by John Bacon and Jane Onyanga-Omara, USA TODAY.
    Palestinians buried their dead Tuesday as global condemnation intensified against Israel one day after Israeli troops killed scores of protesters and wounded thousands more along the Gaza border.     Two more Palestinians were killed Tuesday in clashes with Israeli soldiers in Gaza’s al-Bureij refugee camp.    Protests were smaller and generally quieter than Monday, with funerals drawing the biggest crowds as thousands mourned and waved Palestinian flags.
    In Gaza City, hundreds attended the funeral of 8-month-old Leila al-Ghandour, who died of tear gas exposure, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.    The child was one of 59 Palestinians killed in Monday’s clashes with the Israeli military along the fence line, the deadliest day of violence with Gaza since 2014.
    Michael Lynk, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territory, condemned Israel’s response to the largely unarmed demonstrators.
    “This blatant excessive use of force by Israel — an eye for an eyelash — must end, and there must be true accountability for those in military and political command who have ordered or allowed this force to be once again employed at the Gaza fence,” Lynk said.
    The U.N. Security Council met to discuss the violence, but wrapped up for the day without taking action.    Nikki Haley, the American envoy to the U.N., blamed Hamas for the violence and credited Israel with acting with restraint.
    A ceremony Monday formally moving the U.S. Embassy in Israeli to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv outraged Palestinians. Haley, however, said the move was no excuse for violence.
    “The Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy,” she said.
    In South Africa, thousands marched in Cape Town and the government recalled its envoys to Israel.    Turkey recalled its ambassadors to Israel and the U.S. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel called Israel’s response unacceptable, adding “firing live rounds on protesters is shameful.”
    Germany was among nations calling for an independent U.N. investigation, although Chancellor Angela Merkel said she “understands Israel’s security needs."    Alistair Burt, the United Kingdom’s minister for the Middle East, said Monday’s events were “shocking” and “extremely worrying.”
    “The U.K. remains committed to a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital.    All sides now need to show real leadership and courage,” Burt said in a statement.
    Doctors Without Borders, which said its medical teams were “working around the clock” to treat many of the wounded, said the “Israeli army must stop its disproportionate use of violence against Palestinian protesters.”
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the use of force.
    Palestinians began a series of protests six weeks ago dubbed the Great March of Return.    More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in clashes since the protests began.    Hamas Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, called for an “Islamic intifada” or uprising, in response to the deaths.
    Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, with protesters east of Gaza City, vowed that the protests will continue.    “Our message today is the Return March and siege-breaking is going on,” he said.    “The massacre, the Israeli occupation committed against our ... youths will only increase our steadfastness.”
    "This blatant excessive use of force by Israel — an eye for an eyelash — must end, and there must be true accountability for those in military and political command who have ordered or allowed this force to be once again employed at the Gaza fence.”    Michael Lynk, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territory.

5/23/2018 Syrian forces celebrate retaking all of Damascus from rebels
    Syrian government forces raised their flag over the Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus on Tuesday as state media promoted what it said was the “liberation” of the last parts of the capital from rebels and Islamic State group militants.
    Police motorcycles flying the flag roared into what was left of the neighborhood in a show for state media, and soldiers raised the government’s standard from the roof of what is now a shell of a building.
    The ceremony was meant to assure residents that Damascus was secure for the first time since protests broke out against President Bashar Assad in 2011, leading to the civil war.

5/25/2018 Israel defense chief plans 2,500 new West Bank settler homes
    Israel’s defense minister said Thursday that he will seek approval next week to fast-track construction of 2,500 West Bank settlement homes this year.    The announcement was likely to further increase tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
    Avigdor Lieberman’s office said in a statement that he aimed to fulfill a commitment to expand construction.

5/31/2018 Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers say cease-fire reached with Israel
    Gaza’s Hamas rulers said Wednesday they had agreed to a cease-fire with Israel to end the largest flare-up of violence between the two sides since a 2014 war.
    Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said militant groups in Gaza will commit to the cease-fire as long as Israel does.
    Israeli Cabinet Minister Arieh Deri told Israel’s Army Radio, “If it will be quiet, we will respond with quiet. … If they release the reins there will be a very painful strike,” he said.

6/1/2018 Israel to invest in neglected Palestinian areas in Jerusalem
    The Israeli government on Thursday unveiled what it billed as a groundbreaking program to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in long neglected Palestinian neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.
    The “Leading Change” program aims to reduce the huge social gaps between the Palestinian neighborhoods and the Jewish western part of the city.
    The program will invest 2 billion shekels, or $560 million, in education, infrastructure and help for Palestinian women to enter the work force.

6/20/2018 White House Mideast team holds talks with Jordanian king
    President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, kicked off a swing through the Middle East on Tuesday, meeting with Jordan’s king to lay groundwork for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.    Kushner and White House envoy Jason Greenblatt met with King Abdullah II.

6/29/2018 Airstrikes pound southern Syria, causing thousands to flee
    Airstrikes pounded rebel-held areas in southwestern Syria on Thursday, killing at least 17 civilians in an underground shelter and driving thousands from their homes, as scores of displaced people protested near the Israeli- occupied Golan Heights, demanding international protection.
    The Syrian government pressed ahead with its offensive to reclaim the strategic region that extends along the border with Jordan and the Golan Heights, that until recently was part of a U.S.-backed and negotiated truce.

Commentary
    The God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, knew 2500 years ago that Islam would come against Jerusalem in the last days and states, “Men shall dwell in it (Jerusalem) and there shall be no more utter destruction, but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.    And this will be the plague with which the Lord shall smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem: their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes and their tongue shall consume away in their mouthZechariah 14:11-12.
    Some are claiming that the creation of the neutron bomb by Samuel T Cohen invented it in 1958, who was Jewish is what the above verse represents, and this is demeaning to God who does not need that to protect Jerusalem and his people against Iran, Syria, Gaza and Lebanon who want to annihilate Israel, as a law was passed on July 18, 2018, declaring “Israel the National Home of the Jewish People” are really going to be pissed off.
    And of course, U.S. President Donald Trump on December 6, 2017 announced they will be moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, as the Capitol of Israel and Ancient Bible prophecy is unfolding before our eyes.
    On November 8, 2017, activity in Lebanon to be significant prophetically, and the recent statements made by Salami seem to confirm that.    The Muslims in Iran and Lebanon are Shia, or Shiite, and Shias make up only about 7.5 – 11 percent of the Muslim population, a small faction of Islam, the antichrist: “After the league (the seven-year peace treaty referred to in Daniel 9:27) made with him, he shall work deceitfully, for he shall come up and shall be strong with a small peopleDaniel 11:23.    In Daniel 9, that a seven-year (referred to as a Biblical “week”) peace treaty will be signed between Israel and the antichrist, but the antichrist will break that treaty in the “middle of the week” (seven years), which refers to a three and a-half year time period: “He will bring sacrifices and offerings to a halt."    Daniel 9:27 and great tribulation begins (Revelation 6 – 20).
    So the big question is when will the rapture occur, the saints are going to be caught up (Isaiah 26:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) to be joined with Christ, or perhaps just prior to the signing; either way, the seven-year peace treaty that will be signed between Israel and the antichrist (assumed tobe the Islamic Mahdi [Arabic for messiah]) marks the start of the seven-year great tribulation, and the Lord has promised that those who are worthy, will escape the wrath to come (Luke 21:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:9).
    This particular threat made by Iran may not lead to the Gog Magog War (Ezekiel 38), but the events occurring in the Middle East right now will lead up to that war, because combined Bible prophecies confirm to us that we are living in the last days.
    “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He comes, shall find watching.    Verily I say unto you that He shall gird Himself and make them sit down to meat and will come forth and serve themLuke 12:37.
    Salvation is offered to everyone who repents of sin and receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior; unless a person crosses a line with God, to the point of becoming reprobate (Romans 1:21-32; Hebrews 6:4-6).    Now is the time of salvation for everyone; tomorrow, or even the next hour, could be too late.

7/10/2018 Israel shuts down primary Gaza crossing over border violence
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the immediate closure of the main cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip on Monday in response to Palestinians launching incendiary kites and balloons into Israel.
Netanyahu vowed to use a “heavy hand” against Hamas and said more steps would be taken.
    Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the move “a new crime against humanity.”

7/18/2018 Israel places new limitations on cargo crossing into Gaza Strip
    Israel placed new restrictions on its only cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday in response to continued Hamas hostilities, even after it agreed to a cease-fire ending 24 hours of intense fighting.
    Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel will cease transferring gas and fuel through the Kerem Shalom crossing until Sunday but will allow food and essential medication to cross.    Commercial cargo was suspended last week.

7/22/2018 Hamas accepts cease-fire after massive Israeli Gaza strikes
    Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers said Saturday that they had accepted a cease-fire ending a massive Israeli onslaught after a soldier was shot dead, once again pulling the sides back from the brink of a full-fledged war.
    Israel and Hamas have fought three such wars over the past decade, and Hamas agreed to the cease-fire under heavy Egyptian and global pressure.

7/23/2018 US, Europeans, Israel evacuate Syrian White Helmets to Jordan
    The Israeli military in coordination with its U.S. and European allies evacuated hundreds of Syrian rescue workers known as the White Helmets from near Israel’s volatile frontier with Syria, in a complex and first-of-a-kind operation.
    The evacuees, who were hemmed in from one side by advancing hostile Syrian troops and from another by militants affiliated with the Islamic State, were transported to Jordan.

7/25/2018 Low-tech war leaves Israeli farms scorched - Flaming kites, balloons fuel ecological disaster by Yardena Schwartz, Special to USA TODAY
    KIBBUTZ NAHAL OZ, Israel – Living in this desert farming community a half-mile from the Gaza border for more than 40 years, Dani Rahamim has seen his fair share of dry seasons and the long-running conflict’s effect on daily life.
    Still, nothing could prepare him for this summer, in which he has lost 320 acres of wheat to fires sparked by flaming kites and balloons launched into Israel from Gaza.
    Standing in his blackened field sprinkled with ashen eucalyptus trees, their limbs cut off and their leaves fallen, he picks up a sprig of wheat that turns to dust.    “The wheat fields burn fastest because they’re already dry,” he says.
    In charge of irrigation at Kibbutz Nahal Oz, the 64-year-old Israeli farmer worries that his already-dry sunflower fields will be next as the smell and sight of another fire nearby burns even more land.
    Since March 30, protesters in Gaza have launched thousands of kites and helium balloons laden with explosives, Molotov cocktails and other incendiary material over the border into Israel. The resulting fires have burned nearly 8,000 acres, most of it agricultural fields and nature reserves.    Thousands of animals have suffocated, said a spokeswoman for the Nature and Parks Authority.    Some species have lost their natural habitat.
    The conflict, in short, has created an ecological disaster.    Ecologists predict a full recovery could take years.
    The damage has surpassed that of the 2010 Carmel Forest fire, which Israel required the help of nearly a dozen other countries to extinguish.
    The damage that protesters have caused is not only hurting Israelis but also Gazans themselves.    The wheat from Rahamim’s fields could have fed people in Gaza.
    Indeed, much of the flour Israel delivers to Gaza in the form of daily humanitarian aid comes from the wheat fields in burning border communities, says Alon Eviatar, a Gaza security expert and former adviser to Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.    According to Israel’s Tax Authority, farmers have suffered more than $3 million in damage, most of it from wheat crop losses.
    Before the eruption of violence on the Gaza border, Eviatar says, Israel was delivering 900 truckloads of daily aid to Gaza, including food, medicine, infrastructure materials and other supplies.    Since the protests began, only a third of that aid has made its way in each day.    The helium used to fill those balloons has been siphoned from Gaza’s hospitals, depriving the medical system of another resource.
    Some of the kites and balloons also have led to blazes within Gaza.    In May, protesters set fire to Israeli pipelines carrying gas and oil into Gaza – which already has a severe energy shortage – causing an estimated $8 million in infrastructure damage.
    Almost half of Israel’s land along the Gaza border has been affected by the fires.    Firefighters wrestled with 26 fires on Tuesday alone, including one at a preschool playground.    Hamas, the militant Islamist party that rules Gaza, has called on Gazans to continue the tactic and is supplying the kites and balloons.
    According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, Israeli forces have killed 150 Palestinians and wounded more than 15,000 since protests began.    Israel has defended its use of live fire as necessary to prevent thousands of rioters from breaching the border.    Israel says many of the casualties were Hamas operatives, a claim Hamas has confirmed.
    Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005.    In 2006, Hamas was elected to lead the government, and in 2007, it took control of the territory in a bloody battle with the rival Fatah party.    The West Bank and Gaza remain divided.
    The U.S., European Union, Canada and other governments consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
    Israel has found ways to counter rockets from Gaza, most effectively with its Iron Dome interception system.    Yet Israel has struggled to find a solution to the kites and balloons.
    “It sounds like a joke, but it’s not,” Eviatar says.    “We’re talking about a new kind of weapon.”
    Noga Gulst, who lives in a kibbutz near Gaza, calls the fires “more frightening” than rockets.
    “With the missiles we have warnings,” she says.    “With the balloons and kites, you never know when they will fall and where they will fall.”
    Israel’s military is using drones to intercept the balloons and kites.    Yet that doesn’t prevent the fires.
    This month, in an effort to pressure Hamas, Israel closed the border crossing which serves as Gaza’s primary terminal for commercial goods.    Palestinians set fire to that crossing three times in May.    Hamas called the closure a “crime against humanity.”
    Over the weekend, Hamas and Israel had some of the heaviest exchange of fire since the 2014 Gaza War.    On Friday, an Israeli soldier was killed by Hamas snipers, followed by Israeli airstrikes on dozens of Hamas targets.
    Rahamim, the farmer, disagrees with Israel’s reaction to the desperation in Gaza.    He believes his government should ease restrictions on Gazans and negotiate a long-term solution to the humanitarian situation there.    “Most people in Gaza want to live a normal life, but they are hostages of Hamas.”
   
Above left “Most people in Gaza want to live a normal life,” says Dani Rahamim, whose fields have been devastated.    PHOTOS BY YARDENA SCHWARTZ FOR USA TODAY
and above right shows where Rahamim has lost 320 acres of wheat to the flaming weapons launched across the border.

7/25/2018 Israel shoots down Syrian jet as tensions between foes rise
    Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet it said had breached its airspace.
    The Israeli military said it monitored the advance of the Syrian Sukhoi fighter jet and shot it down with a pair of Patriot missiles after it penetrated Israeli airspace by about 1.2 miles.
    Syria’s military, however, said one of its jets was targeted by Israel over Syrian territory as it flew sorties against Islamic State militants.

7/28/2018 Gaza officials: 2 Palestinians die, dozens hurt in border protest
    Gaza health officials said two Palestinians were killed and dozens injured by Israeli fire at a weekly border protest Friday.
    The Israeli military said it opened fire after Palestinians damaged the border fence.    The Gaza Health Ministry said a 14-year-old died from a gunshot to the head. Earlier it said a 43year-old man was killed.
    Over 80 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

8/3/2018 Egypt trying to broker broad truce between Israel, Hamas
    Egypt is trying to broker a cease-fire deal between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers that is to pave the way for Gaza’s reconstruction and an eventual prisoner swap, senior Hamas officials said.
    Repeated cease-fire deals over the years collapsed, but there were signs of possible momentum toward a new agreement, after weeks of escalation along the Gaza-Israel frontier.

8/11/2018 2 Palestinians killed as violence erupts amid Gaza cease-fire
    Violence erupted at the Gaza border Friday after the territory’s militant Hamas rulers and Israel appeared to be honoring a cease-fire that ended two days of intense violence.
    Israel’s military said no rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel overnight, and it conducted no airstrikes in Gaza against Hamas targets.
    On Friday evening, however, two Palestinians, including a paramedic, were killed by Israeli fire at a Hamasled protest along the border, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.

8/25/2018 Trump administration yanks aid from Gaza and West Bank
    The Trump administration will revoke more than $200 million in economic aid for the West Bank and Gaza, the State Department announced Friday.    The department said it would redirect the $200 million to “high-priority projects elsewhere.”

9/2/2018 Palestinians slam US for ending funding for UN refugee agency
    The Palestinians on Saturday condemned the U.S. decision to end its decades of funding for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, accusing the Trump administration of trying to remove sensitive issues from the negotiating table.
    The announcement raised new questions about the viability of any future U.S. peace plan. Friday’s decision cut $300 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which serves millions of Palestinian refugees across the region.
Peace Now Director Shaqued Morag with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, September 2, 2018

ABBAS SUPPORTS TRIPARTITE CONFEDERATION WITH ISRAEL AND JORDAN
    The US State Department announced over the weekend that the US will cease funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
    [In 2016, the United States donated $368 million to the agency, and $350 million in 2017, but has cut around one third of its contributions for 2018.    In January 2018, the United States withheld $65 million, roughly half the amount due in the month, again creating a financial crisis for UNRWA.    Belgium and Netherlands plan to increase their contributions to UNRWA.
    In August 2018 the United States stopped giving aid to UNRWA, the reason was they are using the money to train Palestinians refugees to attack Israel.]
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas complained that the US is determined to “completely destroy UNRWA,” which he said provides aid to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, during his meeting with Peace Now Director Shaqued Morag, Meretz MK Mossi Raz (a former Peace Now Director), and Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova, who all met with Abbas on Sunday in Ramallah.
    Protesters will be quick to say the Palestinians will starve and languish because of President Trump; they will trash him miserably over this withdrawal from UNRWA.
    The Palestinians’ oil rich brothers could stop funding quite so much terrorism throughout the world and give a little “Sadaqah” (Arab word for charity) to their fellow Muslims.    They would perhaps let them die first.    Nothing takes away from their “jihad” (“holy war” = terror) money.
    Those who have been supporting Palestinians from non-Muslim nations have to keep supporting them, or they all might just drop dead.    Muslims aren’t going to give up their jihad/terror money for anything, because the Quran demands it (Quran 2:224, 2:216, 3:56, 3:151, 4:74, 4:76 …there are over 100 verses promoting jihad = terror)
    Finally, we have a president in America who is able to think logically and rationally.    That comes by the power of Almighty God, whose name President Trump glorifies – publicly – unlike any president before him.    That’s why he steps out of the puppet-president mold, friends, and that’s exactly why the b>antichrists Liberal Democrats hate him because he is bringing the word of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob back to the forefront, that had been stifled for the last 8 years of the Obama administration.
    Abbas told Morag that US administration officials Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt asked him recently about his opinion of a “confederation with Jordan,” reported The Times of Israel.    “I said, Yes, I want a three-way confederation with Jordan and Israel.    I asked them if the Israelis would agree to such a proposal.”
    Now that the money is leaving, it seems Abbas has suddenly changed his mind about not agreeing to peace proposals – without two states!
    President Donald Trump is most capable of making a deal, as he stated frequently during his presidential campaign.
    Many followers of Bible prophecy are looking for the prophetic and monumental seven-year peace treaty (Daniel 9:27) to begin between a Muslim leader and Israel, which will mark the beginning of the seven-year (Biblical “week”) great tribulation.    Historically, battling nations have made peace agreements after wars conclude; but they have also been signed before wars get started.
    God’s watchmen are also looking for signs of the commencement of the Gog Magog War against Israel (Ezekiel 38), instigated by the north country (Russia today), allied with Persia (Iran today), Libya and the ancient area of Ethiopia (which compassed a greater area than Ethiopia covers today).
    The Times of Israel reported that Jordan’s King Abdullah recently warned Trump about the possibility of a one-state solution, according to a Channel 10 report last month, citing French sources.
    “Many young Palestinians don’t want a two-state solution anymore, but would rather live together with Israelis in one state with equal rights for all…The result will be that Israel will lose its Jewish character,” Abdullah reportedly told Trump.    Trump reportedly then replied, “What you say makes sense…the prime minister of Israel in a few years will be called Mohammed.”
    Actually, he is called the antichrist (three and a-half years into the great tribulation – Daniel 9:27).
    If that sounds funny, know this, that is exactly the antichrist’s tactic.    He plans to entice Israel into such a community with the “people of death” (Isaiah 28:15-18).
15Because you have said, We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we are in agreement.    When the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, For we have made lies our refuge, And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”
16Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.”
17Also I will make justice the measuring line, And righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place.”
18Your covenant with death will be annulled, And your agreement with Sheol will not stand; When the overflowing scourge passes through, Then you will be trampled down by it.”
    She'ol, in the Hebrew Bible, is a place of darkness to which all the dead go, both the righteous and the unrighteous, regardless of the moral choices made in life, a place of stillness and darkness cut off from life and from God.
    Albeit, God Himself has a Final Solution of sorts already planned (Zechariah 14) for His beguiled people.
    “The Lord shall be King over all the earth (when He returns with His saints to fight the Battle of Armageddon).    In that day there shall be one Lord and His name shall be one…Jerusalem shall be raised up and inhabited in her place from Benjamin’s Gate to the place of the First Gate and the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananeel to the king’s winepress.    The people shall dwell in it and no longer shall there be utter destruction, but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabitedZechariah 14:9-11.
    “And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet; their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouthsZechariah 14:12.
    The Jewish Prophet Zechariah described when Israel became a nation again!    God Almighty; the epitome of love, taking the penalty for our sins at the cross; yet the epitome of wrath – when people just won’t listen!    The point here is that according to all of the latter-day prophecies combined, we are on the cusp of eternity, folks, and the world’s cup of iniquity is overflowing.    Don’t be deceived by peace agreements; get right with God while there is still an opportunity.    Read God’s Holy Word and find out for yourself how prophecies thousands of years old have been fulfilled, hundreds of them, and see how some should be fulfilled shortly, according to the prophetic signs detailed in God’s Holy Word.
    “When they shall say, Peace and Safety, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape1 Thessalonians 5:3.
    Salvation is offered to everyone who repents of sin and receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior; unless a person crosses a line with God, to the point of becoming reprobate (Romans 1:21-32).    Now is the time of salvation for everyone; tomorrow, or even the next hour, could be too late.

9/3/2018 Pentagon decides not to release $300 million in aid to Pakistan
    The Pentagon says it has taken final steps to cancel $300 million in planned aid to Pakistan (Another Islamic country).
    The move reflects the Trump administration’s dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s commitment to assisting the strategy for pressuring the Taliban.

9/3/2018 Ukrainian city remembers Jews on major Holocaust anniversary
    The city of Lviv is commemorating the 75th anniversary of the annihilation of its Jewish population by Nazi Germany.
    Recipients were honored Sunday with 75 glass keys modeled on a synagogue key.    The commemoration comes amid a larger attempt to revive memories of the Jews who were once an integral part of life in the region.

9/9/2018 US redirecting $25 million in aid for East Jerusalem hospitals
    The Trump administration says it is “reprogramming” $25 million in aid for East Jerusalem hospitals in favor of “high-priority projects elsewhere.”
    The move announced Saturday is part of a review of U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority and in the West Bank and Gaza that was ordered by President Donald Trump.
    Palestinians called the decision “an act of political blackmail.”

9/15/2018 Israeli troops kill 3 Palestinians, including boy, in Gaza Strip
    Three Palestinians, one of them a 12-year-old boy, were killed by Israeli gunfire Friday as thousands of protesters gathered along Gaza’s perimeter fence with Israel, health officials said.
    The Gaza Health Ministry said at least 80 Palestinians were wounded by gunfire, six in serious condition.
[They are sending their children into harm attacking Israel, and they were also hiding in the UNRWA supposed housing for Palestinian refugees and using it to fire missles at Israel.    They deserve no pity for their actions.]

9/16/2018 Syria state media: Israel fires missiles at Damascus airport
    Syrian state media reports Israeli attacks on Damascus International Airport overnight.
    Israel has fired missiles at Damascus International Airport, Syrian state media has reported.
    An unnamed military source told Sana news agency on Saturday evening that the Syrian army had confronted an Israeli missile attack.
    Sana quoted the source as saying that Syrian air defenses had managed to shoot down a number of the incoming missiles.
    The news agency posted a video of a small explosion in the night sky on a backdrop of city lights but provided no further details of the attack.
    AFP's correspondent in Syria's capital of Damascus heard a loud blast late on Saturday, followed by several smaller explosions, the news agency reported.
    The Israeli military declined to comment on the reports but has said it would use military action to prevent weapons transfers to its enemies.
    Earlier this month, a senior Israeli military official said the army had struck more than 200 targets in Syria, focusing on Iranian weapons and other targets.
    In late August, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would take "strong and determined action against Iran's attempts to station forces and advanced weapons systems in Syria."
    His statement came days after Iran and Syria signed a deal for military cooperation.
    Tehran has provided steady political, financial and military backing to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he fought back against a seven-year uprising.

9/17/2018 Leaders of Ethiopia, Eritrea sign peace accord in Saudi Arabia
    Leaders from Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a “peace agreement” Sunday during a summit in Saudi Arabia, yet another sign of warming ties between two nations that have faced decades of war and unease.

9/21/2018 Why the ‘Jordanian Option’ Won’t Die. A confederation of the West Bank and Jordan is once again under discussion. Is it such a bad idea? By Shmuel Rosner, Contributing Opinion Writer
    TEL AVIV — In January 1968, only a few months after Israel conquered the territory on the West Bank of the Jordan River, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol received a memo.    The reasonable way to deal with the newly occupied territory, wrote the memo’s author, a professor named Benjamin Akzin, was to join it to Jordan, the country from which it was taken during the 1967 war.
    Akzin’s memo, which is recounted in a new book by the historian Yoav Gelber, was one of the first articulations of what is known as “the Jordanian option.”    It’s still alive today.
    Last month, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority reported that the Trump administration had recently presented him with a peace deal based on a Palestinian confederation with Jordan.    Both Mr. Abbas and the Jordanians rejected the proposal.    But don’t expect the idea to go away.    For 50 years, the idea that the solution for the West Bank must include Jordan has proved resilient.
    The long-forgotten 1968 memo explains why.    An agreement with Jordan might not be stable, wrote Akzin, but one with the Palestinians would be even less so.    Plus, a contract between two established states is preferable to a contract with a state that doesn’t yet exist.    With Jordan, Israel can trust arrangements such as demilitarization of certain areas.    If Jordan breaches the agreement, there are sanctions that can be used to ensure a return to compliance — the kind of sanctions that only a real country comprehends.
    Since 1967, Israel hasn’t been able to identify a Palestinian leadership that can be trusted to keep the peace and maintain order.    Likewise, Israel doesn’t really believe that a tiny Palestinian enclave trapped between Israel and Jordan could be economically viable.    And so it has always hoped that Israel’s eventual separation from Palestinians will include a guarantee of — to put it bluntly — adult supervision.
    The “Jordanian option” is much more mainstream than Israel publicly admits.    Even Shimon Peres, the foreign minister who forged the Oslo accords with Yasir Arafat 25 years ago, did not believe that a stand-alone Palestinian state was a good idea, recounted Avi Gil, Mr. Peres’s longtime confidant, in a recent book.    “He never abandoned the idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation,” writes Mr. Gil. (Disclosure: I am the editor of Mr. Gil’s book, as well as Mr. Gelber’s.)
    What exactly would this confederacy entail?    There are many versions of this idea, but most suggest that the Palestinians get something that is less than a fully independent state, while Israel gets a partner that is more than an unreliable Palestinian neighbor.    To achieve this, Jordan takes over some parts of the West Bank, keeps its role as guardian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, and becomes the political and economic center of gravity for Palestinians who live on both sides of the Jordan River.    The Palestinians will be the citizens of a confederated Palestine, or Jordan.
    The Jordanians oppose the idea of confederation, and so few Israeli leaders are willing to publicly promote it.    But from time to time their true colors show.    A decade ago, Gen. Giora Eiland, Israel’s national security adviser in the early 2000s under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote several influential articles in which he preached a return to the “the Jordanian confederation option of years past.”    Ayelet Shaked, an influential minister from the right-wing Jewish Home party, has likewise envisioned a future in which parts of the West Bank would be linked to Jordan.    A few days ago, Gideon Saar, a former minister and a powerful figure in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, spoke about the possibility of a “link in the future between an Arab autonomy in Judea and Samaria and the Kingdom of Jordan.”
    And, of course, there are the reports that the Trump administration, led by Jared Kushner, is also pushing the Jordanian option.    Though the Israeli government flatly denies it, at least one report said the idea came from the Israelis.
    The Jordanians aren’t the only ones skeptical of the Jordanian option.    The Palestinians are, too.    A poll published this month found that about two-thirds of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza reject the idea.    The great opposition to the proposal, wrote the pollster, Khalil Shikaki, “is probably due to lack of trust in the U.S. team and due to a Palestinian suspicion that the idea aims at pre-empting the goal of establishing a Palestinian state.”    The Palestinians have a point.
    The “Jordanian option” hasn’t stuck around because Israelis love the idea of handing over the historically and religiously significant territory on the West Bank of the Jordan River to Jordan.    Indeed, many Israelis would be devastated to see some of their holiest sites ruled over from Amman, Jordan’s capital.    But the other options have ultimately come to seem even worse: Military occupation of the West Bank is not a permanent solution, even though it has proved more stable than many outsiders assumed it would.    Jewish Israelis will never agree to the idea of a Jewish state being replaced by a single state to be shared equally with the Palestinians.    The other much-discussed option, a “two-state solution” with a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel, seems less likely than ever, as the multiple attempts to achieve it have demonstrated.
    Is a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation currently viable?    To be honest, it is not.    Jordan vehemently rejects this idea, not wanting to be destabilized by a large new population of Palestinians.    The Palestinians, for their part, still hold on to their dream of a state of their own.    And among the international community, where the two-state solution is still orthodoxy, the idea is dismissed as a ploy of right-wing rejectionists.
    And yet, look at the situation in the Middle East right now.    We are marking the 25th anniversary to the Oslo accords, the much-celebrated deal that never produced the much-anticipated peace.    Meanwhile, we are preparing to hear more details about the Trump administration’s plans, plans that are being devised by people who say they are ready to strip away the “false realities” around efforts to bring peace in the Middle East.    Given all of this, the idea of Palestinian-Jordanian confederacy does not seem less viable than the other unviable ideas.    And it’s certainly no less durable.

9/27/2018 Nearly 400,000 ‘excess deaths’ caused by South Sudan war
    South Sudan’s civil war has caused nearly 400,000 “excess deaths” since fighting erupted in late 2013, a new report funded by the U.S. State Department said Wednesday after years of uncertainty.
    The report by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine estimates that “violent injuries” caused about half of those 382,900 deaths.

9/28/2018 Palestinians say seven killed as Israeli troops fire on Gaza protest
A relative of a Palestinian who was killed during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, reacts in Gaza City September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GAZA (Reuters) – Israeli soldiers shot dead seven Palestinians, including two boys, who were among thousands of people who thronged to the fortified Gaza Strip border on Friday as part of weekly protests launched half a year ago, Gaza health officials said.
    Israel’s military said its troops resorted to live fire, and an air strike, after explosive devices and rocks were thrown at them and to prevent breaches of the border fence from the Islamist Hamas-controlled enclave.
    Gaza health officials said 505 people had been wounded, 89 of them by gunshots.    They identified the dead as males, two of them aged 12 and 14.    The boys’ families could not immediately be reached for comment.
    At least 191 Palestinians have been killed since the Gaza protests began on March 30 to demand the right of return to lands that Palestinian families fled or were driven from on Israel’s founding in 1948, and the easing of an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade.
    Hamas said Friday’s protest also marked the 18th anniversary of the launch of the last Palestinian revolt against Israel.
    A Gaza sniper has killed one Israeli soldier and incendiary devices flown over by Palestinians using kites and helium balloons have set off fires that destroyed tracts of forest and farmland in Israel.
    Israel accuses Hamas, against which it has fought three wars in the last decade, of having deliberately provoked violence in the protests, a charge Hamas denies.
    More than two million people are packed into Gaza, whose economic plight is a focus of so-far fruitless U.S.-led efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, stalled since 2014.
(Reporting by Saleh Salem; Editing by Kevin Liffey, William Maclean)

9/28/2018 World Court: Palestine files complaint over U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu stand next to the dedication plaque of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem,
after the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The International Court of Justice on Friday said it has received a complaint from the “State of Palestine” against the United States, arguing that the U.S. government’s placement of its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem violates an international treaty and it should be removed.
    The ICJ, known as the World Court, said in a statement Palestine argues the 1961 Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations requires a country to locate its embassy on the territory of a host state.    While Israel controls Jerusalem militarily, its ownership is disputed.
    In December, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the American embassy in Israel relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the new embassy opened in May.
    The Palestinian suit requests the court “to order the United States of America to withdraw (its) diplomatic mission from the Holy City of Jerusalem.”
    The ICJ is the United Nations’ venue for resolving disputes between nations.    Palestine was recognized by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012 as a non-member observer state, though its statehood is not recognized by either Israel or the United States.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; editing by Diane Craft)

9/28/2018 Qatar says regional security alliance with U.S. at risk with Gulf dispute by Yara Bayoumy
FILE PHOTO: Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani attends a side,
event at the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A proposed regional security alliance bringing together the United States, Gulf allies, Egypt and Jordan, is at risk of credibility if a Gulf dispute is not resolved, Qatar’s foreign minister said on Friday.
    Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of backing their archrival, Iran, and supporting terrorism.    Qatar denies the charges and says the boycott impinges on its sovereignty.
    The United States has tried, without success, to mediate in the dispute.    It is an ally of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, and Qatar is home to a major U.S. air base.
    The Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) is meant to serve as a bulwark against Iran and extremism, Washington says.    But it is unclear how it can get off the ground given the dispute.
    “Regarding the alliance and the creation of the alliance, by ignoring the GCC rift, we don’t think that, even if it’s initiated, that it will be initiated effectively,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in New York.
    “There is a serious challenge among the states and we need to address this challenge, in order also to prove the credibility of this alliance.    And we believe there’s an opportunity over here,” he said.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Gulf allies, Egypt and Jordan earlier on Friday where they discussed MESA, in which a “united GCC” was emphasized.
    “The secretary and the foreign ministers had productive discussions on establishing a Middle East Strategic Alliance, anchored by a united GCC, to advance prosperity, security, and stability in the region,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
    The United States was planning to host a summit in October to discuss the plan, but that has been pushed back several months.    A senior administration official has said Washington was still planning to hold the summit at a later date.
    Speaking to Reuters earlier this week, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, called the MESA proposal “very encouraging” and one that “indicates American commitment to the region, its allies and it’s extremely important in a very unstable international system.”
    But he added that the Gulf dispute was on the “back burner”, suggesting there were not active diplomatic efforts to resolve the rift and that it would not affect MESA.
    “Qatar crisis is on the back burner.    It has nothing to do with our ability to present a united front and be a pro-active part of a bigger alliance led by the United States,” Gargash told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by John Irish; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

9/30/2018 Syria foreign minister tells U.N. country is ready for refugee return
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem speaks during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, told the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday that the country was ready for the voluntary return of refugees who fled during the more than seven-year conflict.     “We welcome any assistance with reconstruction from those countries that were not part of the aggression on Syria,” he said.    “The countries that offer only conditional assistance or continue to support terrorism, they are neither invited nor welcome to help.” (Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

10/1/2018 IMF lifts UAE growth forecasts on oil, state spending by Andrew Torchia
FILE PHOTO: International Monetary Fund logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington D.C., April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund lifted its forecasts for economic growth in the United Arab Emirates because of expectations that oil production and state spending will rise.
    The Arab world’s second biggest economy is now likely to expand 2.9 percent this year and 3.7 percent next year, Natalia Tamirisa, IMF mission chief to the country, said late on Sunday.    Gross domestic product grew 0.8 percent in 2017, preliminary UAE data shows.
    In April, the IMF had predicted GDP would expand 2.0 percent this year and 3.0 percent next year.
    A deal among global producers to cut oil output was eased in mid-2018, letting the UAE start raising output.
    Meanwhile, rebounding oil prices have given the government more money to spend; on Sunday, the UAE cabinet approved a 17.3 percent rise in the UAE federal budget for 2019 compared to this year.
    This may compensate for sluggish growth in the private sector, which faces rising interest rates as U.S. monetary policy tightens and has also been hit by slumping property prices.
    “Non-oil activity remains subdued amid continued corporate restructuring, real estate overhang, and tightening financial conditions,” Tamirisa said in a statement after annual consultations between the IMF and the UAE.
    Last month, S&P cut its credit ratings for two Dubai state-owned companies, saying weakness in the Dubai economy had reduced the government’s ability to provide financial support to the firms if needed.
    Tamirisa’s statement urged the UAE to monitor liabilities related to government enterprises more closely.    Debt problems at Dubai state companies in 2009 triggered a financial crisis which nearly caused Dubai to default on its debt.
    Tamirisa told Reuters, however, that Dubai government finances were not at present a source of concern.
    The ratio of Dubai’s public debt to GDP is manageable at 30 percent, not high by international standards, and is expected to rise only moderately in the next couple of years as Dubai prepares to host the Expo 2020 world’s fair, she said.
    Tamirisa also noted Dubai state firms had been restructuring and in some cases deleveraging, which left them more able to manage risks. “We do not expect pressures on Dubai finances.”
    Plunging property prices helped to trigger the Dubai crisis of 2009, but Tamirisa said current UAE property price falls still looked fairly moderate from a long-term perspective.
    She noted that since the crisis, authorities had taken steps to limit risks to the banking sector from property lending, and many measures were working well.    “Overall, risks are manageable.”
    The UAE’s consolidated fiscal deficit, including individual emirates as well as the federal government, is expected to remain stable at about 1.6 percent of GDP this year and turn to a surplus next year, the IMF said.
(Reporting by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/1/2018 Turkish PMI hits lowest level in nine years, gas prices jump
FILE PHOTO: Newly built business buildings are seen in Sisli district in Istanbul, Turkey, October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ISTANBUL/ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish manufacturing activity hit its lowest level in nine years in September, contracting for the sixth consecutive month, a business survey showed on Monday, reinforcing a bleak economic picture as the country tackles a lira crisis.
    The currency has lost some 37 percent of its value against the dollar so far this year over concerns about President Tayyip Erdogan’s grip on monetary policy and a diplomatic rift with the United States.
    The lira weakness has driven inflation to its highest level in nearly 15 years and state energy company Botas on Monday raised natural gas prices sharply for the third consecutive month, energy sector sources told Reuters.
    The government has responded to the crisis by cutting its growth forecasts for this year and next as a slew of economic indicators point to a sharp slowdown.
    The manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 42.7 in September from 46.4 a month earlier, remaining under the 50-point line that separates expansion from contraction, a panel from the Istanbul Chamber of Industry and IHS Markit said.
    That was the lowest level since March 2009 when the index fell to 37.0, according to IHS Markit.
    It said the decline was driven by a slowdown in output and new orders, the panel said, which in turn caused scaling back in employment and purchasing activity.
    The lira weakness was central to challenging business conditions and contributed to increasing inflationary pressures, with spike in input and output costs, it said.
    “There was little respite for Turkish manufacturers in September as business conditions remained challenging to say the least,” said Andrew Harker, associate director at IHS Markit.
    On Monday, state energy company Botas raised natural gas prices by 9 percent for residential users and 18.5 pct for industrial users, energy sector sources said, adding that electricity prices could also rise.
    Almost a third of Turkey’s total 293 billion megawatt power production came from natural gas power plants in 2017.
    Botas increased gas prices for residential use by 9 percent and by 14 percent for industrial use in both August and September.
    Turkish consumer price inflation jumped to 17.9 percent in August, its highest level in nearly 15 years.
    Istanbul inflation data will be announced on Monday ahead of the release of nationwide data on Wednesday.
(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans)

10/1/2018 Turkey’s Erdogan says United States has taken wrong path
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan with his wife Emine are seen in a car as they arrive in Berlin, Germany, September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday the United States had taken the wrong path by threatening and using blackmail instead of dialogue, and said that it was impossible for any country to trust it.
    In a speech at the opening of parliament, Erdogan said the United States had lost credibility by engaging in trade wars globally.    Ankara and Washington have been embroiled in a diplomatic spat over the trial in Turkey of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson.
(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker, Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans)

10/1/2018 Turkey’s president accuses American pastor of having terror ties by OAN Newsroom
    Turkey is refusing to cave to U.S. demands calling for the release of an imprisoned American pastor.
    During a parliament address, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused pastor Andrew Brunson of having dark ties to terror groups.
    He added, he will continue to push back against the Trump administration’s order to release Brunson despite increased pressure.
    His remarks come as U.S. sanctions have starved the Turkish economy in hopes of prompting the pastor’s release.
    President Trump has slammed Brunson’s detainment, calling the allegations against him “baseless.”
    Brunson is expected to appear in court on Friday, October 12, 2018.
FILE – In this Wednesday, July 25, 2018 file photo, Andrew Craig Brunson, centre, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina,
who had been jailed in Turkey for more than one and a half years on terror and espionage charges,
arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey where he was put under house arrest as his trial continues. (AP Photo/Emre Tazegul, File)

10/1/2018 Palestinians, Arabs stage strike over Israel’s Nation-State law by OAN Newsroom
    Palestinians recently staged a strike in solidarity with Arabs living in Israel over the country’s so-called Nation-State law.
    On Monday, officials said schools and businesses shut their doors in parts of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.
    Leaders of the Arab community called for the strike amid outrage and public protests over the legislation.
    The law declares Israel as the historic homeland of the Jewish people and declares Hebrew as the official language.

10/2/2018 Lawyer of U.S. pastor says to appeal to top Turkish court for his release
FILE PHOTO: U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released
from the prison in Izmir, Turkey July 25, 2018. Demiroren News Agency/DHA via REUTERS/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – The lawyer of an American Christian pastor on trial on terrorism charges in Turkey said he will appeal to the constitutional court on Wednesday to seek his client’s release.
    The case of Andrew Brunson, whose next regular court hearing is on Oct. 12, has become the most divisive issue in a worsening diplomatic row between Ankara and Washington that has triggered a punishing regime of U.S. sanctions and tariffs against Turkey.
    “We will appeal tomorrow to the Constitutional Court to lift the house arrest,” lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt told Reuters on Tuesday.
    The evangelical pastor is charged with links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey for a failed coup attempt in 2016.    He has denied the accusation – as has Gulen – and Washington has demanded his immediate release.
    On Monday, President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was determined to fight, within legal and diplomatic frameworks, “this crooked understanding, which imposes sanctions using the excuse of a pastor who is tried due to his dark links with terror organizations.”
    Halavurt said he did not expect the constitutional court to make a ruling before the Oct. 12 hearing, “but we want to have completed our appeal before (then).”
    Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for two decades, has been detained for 21 months on terrorism charges and is currently under house arrest.
    Donald Trump, who counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters, has become a vocal champion of the pastor’s case.
    The U.S. president believed he and Erdogan had agreed a deal to release him in July as part of a wider agreement, but Ankara has denied this.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Daren Butler and John Stonestreet)

10/2/2018 Erdogan urges Turks to report price hikes, says government will raid stores
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech as he attends the official inauguration
of the Cologne Central Mosque in Cologne, Germany, September 29, 2018. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
    ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called on Turks to report unusual price hikes in stores, saying it was the government’s responsibility to raid the inventories of these stores if necessary.
    “I call on my people: If there are unusual price differences in markets or elsewhere, report these to the municipality immediately,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his ruling AK Party.
    “Wherever there are serious fluctuations in prices or stocks, it is our responsibility as the government to raid their stocks and do what is necessary,” he said.
(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker, Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans)

10/2/2018 Palestinians, Arabs stage strike over Israel’s Nation-State law by OAN Newsroom
    Palestinians recently staged a strike in solidarity with Arabs living in Israel over the country’s so-called Nation-State law
    On Monday, officials said schools and businesses shut their doors in parts of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.
    Leaders of the Arab community called for the strike amid outrage and public protests over the legislation.
    The law declares Israel as the historic homeland of the Jewish people and declares Hebrew as the official language.
A Palestinian man walks in front of closed shops during a general strike in protest of the recently passed
Jewish nation state law in Israel in the old city of Nablus in the West Bank, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
    Residents have spoken out following the tension.     “Jerusalem should stay out of this strike because it is facing a dangerous situation.    All people who are on strike should come to Jerusalem because it needs visitors.    The strike harms Jerusalem and allows the (Israeli) settlers to come to Jerusalem during their holidays and move around freely.” — Adeb Metwali, resident of Jerusalem.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set up committee to address concerns and it is set to convene again this month.
    This comes as recent polls found that just over half of voters support the legislation.

10/3/2018 Reuters Exclusive: Saudi Arabia, Russia agreed in Sept to lift oil output, told U.S. by Olesya Astakhova and Rania El Gamal
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih during the inaugural session ceremony
of the OPEC Ministerial Monitoring Committee in Algiers, Algeria September 23, 2018. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo
    MOSCOW/DUBAI (Reuters) – Russia and Saudi Arabia struck a private deal in September to raise oil output to cool rising prices and informed the United States before a meeting in Algiers with other producers, four sources familiar with the plan said.
    U.S. President Donald Trump has blamed the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for high crude prices and called on it to boost output to bring down fuel costs before the U.S. congressional elections on Nov. 6.
    The deal underlines how Russia and Saudi Arabia are increasingly deciding oil output policies bilaterally, before consulting with the rest of OPEC.
    The sources said Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih and his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak agreed during a series of meetings to lift output from September through December as crude headed towards $80 a barrel.    It is now over $85.
    “The Russians and the Saudis agreed to add barrels to the market quietly with a view not to look like they are acting on Trump’s order to pump more,” one source said.
    “The Saudi minister told (U.S. Energy Secretary Rick) Perry that Saudi Arabia will raise output if its customers asked for more oil,” another source said.
    Originally, the two countries had hoped to announce an overall increase of 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Saudi-led OPEC and non-OPEC Russia at a gathering of oil ministers in Algiers at the end of September.
    But with opposition from some in OPEC, including Iran which is subject to U.S. sanctions, they decided to defer any formal decision until a full OPEC meeting in December.
PERRY LOOPED IN
    Since then, Reuters has reported that Riyadh planned to lift output by some 200,000 bpd to 300,000 bpd from September to help fill the gap left by lower Iranian output due to the sanctions.
    Russian output rose 150,000 bpd in September.
    “I would expect Russia’s oil production will hover at around 11.4 to 11.6 million bpd until the end of 2018 and may increase further to 11.8 million bpd later on in 2019,” a source at a major Russian oil company said.
    Russian produced 11.36 million bpd in September, up from 11.21 million bpd in August, Energy Ministry data showed.
    Perry was made aware of the Saudi-Russia plan to lift output before the Algiers gathering, meeting with Falih three times in September and Novak once.    The three did not meet together.
    Perry’s spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes did not comment on details of the talks but said the energy secretary, “continues to be engaged with leaders from other major oil producing nations and remains confident in their ability to boost output if needed.”
    She said Perry had in recent meetings “impressed upon his counterparts that keeping supply up is important for the global economy.”
    Oil prices rose to $85 a barrel this week as buyers of Iranian crude wound down their purchases to meet the terms of U.S. sanctions on Tehran.
    Sources said Riyadh would help fill that shortfall because buyers needed replacement supplies.    Saudi Arabia has spare capacity to produce oil at a higher rate and holds a large volume of crude in storage.
    At the same time, Saudi Arabia is keen to maintain unity among the so-called OPEC+ alliance, a group comprising OPEC states, Russia and several other producers that has agreed on output curbs.    That’s because it may need to change course and seek the collaboration of OPEC+ for any future production cuts.
FOOTBALL DIPLOMACY
    In the run up to the private deal with Russia, Falih flew to the United States during the second week of September where he and fellow Texas A&M University alumnus Perry attended a football game in College Station, Texas.
    Falih then held official talks with Perry in Washington on Sept. 10, the U.S. Energy Department has said.
    Perry flew to Moscow two days later to meet Novak, while Falih also met Novak in Moscow a day later.
    Perry told Reuters during his Moscow visit that Saudi Arabia, the United States and Russia had enough capacity between them to compensate for the loss of Iranian supply over the next 18 months.
    After Moscow, Falih and Perry met again in Vienna where they attended an event in the Austrian capital, sources said.
    “Perry was aware that Russia is going to ramp up oil output,” a third source familiar with talks said.
    It was at this point that Falih and Novak discussed announcing a 500,000-bpd increase at the Sept. 23 Algiers meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC countries.    The plan did not materialize, with any formal decision deferred until a regular OPEC meeting in Vienna on Dec. 6.
    “Saudi Arabia is not going to flood the market and risk a price crash.    Saudi Arabia has to work with other producers and see what are they doing, who is raising exports and to which market,” another source said.
(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington; editing by Richard Mably and David Clarke)

10/3/2018 Amid currency’s freefall, Yemen gets cash injection from Saudis
    Yemen’s Central Bank is getting $200 million from Saudi Arabia to shore up its reserves, sparking concern for the humanitarian crisis.

10/3/2018 Turkey to hold summit with Russia, Germany, France to discuss Syria by OAN Newsroom
    Turkey is set to hold a joint summit with Russia, Germany and France to discuss solutions to the Syrian conflict.
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the remarks while speaking to parliament Tuesday, saying the summit will likely happen in the coming weeks in Istanbul.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks as he opens the new mosque in Cologne, Germany, on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
    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.
    Over 400,000 Syrians have died and 11 million have fled their homes since the civil war began over seven years ago.

10/3/2018 Gaza youth killed in border protest-Palestinian health officials
The mother of a Palestinian who was killed during a protest near the Israeli Erez crossing, reacts at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GAZA (Reuters) – A Palestinian teenager was killed on Wednesday when a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a border protest hit him in the head, Gaza health officials said.
    A Gaza health ministry spokesman said the incident had occurred close to the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip and that 24 people had been wounded.
    An Israeli army spokesman said about 1,000 Gazans had gathered near the border, close to the Erez passenger crossing, and hurled rocks and other objects at troops and burned tyres.
    Troops used anti-riot means, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and, when necessary, live fire, he said.
    At least 193 Palestinians have been killed since protests began in Gaza on March 30 to demand the easing of an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade and the right of return to lands that Palestinian families fled or were driven from on Israel’s founding in 1948.
    During this year’s protests, a Gaza sniper has killed one Israeli soldier and incendiary devices flown over by Palestinians using kites and helium balloons have set off fires that destroyed tracts of forest and farmland in Israel.
    Israel accuses the Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza and which has fought three wars against Israel in the past decade, of deliberately provoking violence during the protests.    Hamas denies the charge.
    More than two million people are packed into Gaza, whose economic plight is a focus of so-far fruitless U.S.-led efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, stalled since 2014.
(Reporting by Saleh Salem, writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Gareth Jones)

10/4/2018 Syria’s Assad: ‘Understanding’ reached with Arab states
    President Bashar Assad told a Kuwaiti newspaper that Syria has reached a “major understanding” with Arab states after years of hostility over the country’s civil war.
    Assad doesn’t name the Arab countries but says Arab and Western delegations have begun visiting Syria to prepare for the reopening of diplomatic and other missions.

10/4/2018 Exclusive: Saudis seek wide-ranging deals with South African arms firms by Joe Bavier
FILE PHOTO: Military vehicles are on display at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) expo at the
Waterkloof Air Force Base near Pretoria, South Africa, September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Bavier
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is in talks with South Africa’s major arms manufacturers and is considering taking an equity stake in the struggling state-owned defense firm Denel, the head of the Saudi state defense company told Reuters.
    Saudi Arabian Military Industries’ (SAMI) chief executive Andreas Schwer said he expected to conclude the first partnership deals with South African companies by the end of the year, though he would not identify those initial partners.
    South Africa’s Department of Public Enterprises, which oversees Denel, acknowledged the talks with SAMI but said it was too early to give details of any potential partnership arrangement.
    The Paramount Group, a privately held South African company, has already said it is in talks with Saudi authorities.
    “To make it clear, we are in discussions with all major South African companies, not only Paramount, not only Denel,” Schwer said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
    South Africa’s defense industry once played a major role in the country’s economy, but more recently it has suffered from the impact of a squeeze on defense spending globally and a weak home market.
    Saudi Arabia is the world’s third largest defense spender behind the United States and China with an estimated military budget last year of nearly $70 billion.
    Since 2015, the Gulf state has been fighting a war against the armed Houthi movement in Yemen in support of the internationally recognized government there.
    With little local manufacturing capacity, however, it has long been forced to import the bulk of its military hardware.
    The Saudi government is now seeking to develop its own domestic defense industry with the goal of localizing half of its military spending by 2030.    Schwer said SAMI aimed to have all its foreign partnerships in place by the end of next year.
    “We are in discussions with the South African government in order to identify opportunities to set up strategic partnerships which could include an equity investment from our side into Denel.    It’s not decided yet, but it’s one option,” Schwer said.
STRUGGLING INDUSTRY
    Over 60 percent of Denel’s revenues come from exports.    But the company has been grappling with a liquidity crunch after becoming embroiled in corruption scandals during the presidency of Jacob Zuma.
    “We hope to get access to their technology.    They have to commit to transfer their technology to Saudi Arabia and to build up together with us local capabilities, not only manufacturing but also engineering,” Schwer said.
    He said those same conditions would apply to all of SAMI’s partners, and in return Saudi Arabia would offer preferred or exclusive market access to companies.
    Denel did not pay senior staff their salaries in full this month.    Labor unions say it is critical that Denel receives financial support – either via additional government guarantees or a capital injection.
    A Denel spokeswoman said she was not aware of the discussions with SAMI and the Saudi government.
    “Denel would welcome any country that looks at South Africa for procurement of defense material,” the spokeswoman Vuyelwa Qinga, wrote in an emailed response to Reuters’ questions.
    President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Saudi Arabia in July and subsequently announced that the Saudi government pledged to invest at least $10 billion in South Africa.
    Department of Public Enterprises spokesman Adrian Lackay said there had been discussions between SAMI and various state bodies about Saudi Arabia’s interest in defense technology.
    “But at this stage it would be premature and speculative for the DPE to attempt to provide details of any specific transactions,” he said.
    A United Nations arms embargo imposed on South Africa’s apartheid government in 1977 forced the country to produce all its own military hardware.
    By 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected president, the industry employed over 100,000 people.    But defense spending has steadily declined and just 15,000 work in the sector today, a trade association official said earlier this year.
    “In the beginning, we will pump in lots of additional capacity into South Africa to expand the capabilities and capacities in order to serve our needs and, yes, progressively we will build up capabilities here in the kingdom,” Schwer said.
    He said even though the Saudis were pursuing the partnership to build their own domestic industry, the end result for South Africa would be a much bigger defense industry.
(This story corrects to clarify that Paramount stated it was in talks with Saudi authorities, did not specify SAMI)
(Reporting by Joe Bavier. Editing by Jane Merriman)

10/4/2018 Germany, Israel agree Iran must never have nuclear weapons: Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) gestures as she speaks during a joint news conference
with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Germany and Israel agree that Iran should never be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons but they differ on how to achieve this goal, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    “We are very convinced and strongly share Israel’s position that everything must be done to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.    Where we are not always united is on the path to this goal,” Merkel said.
    She added that Iran’s military presence in Syria and Lebanon was a threat to Israel.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Writing by Joseph Nasr in Berlin; Editing by Paul Carrel)

10/4/2018 Israel reinforces troops outside Gaza as border protests enter seventh month by Jeffrey Heller
FILE PHOTO: A Palestinian protester covers his head with a model of the Dome of the Rock during clashes with Israeli troops
near the border between Israel and Central Gaza Strip August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel said it was reinforcing troops around Gaza on Thursday as a precaution against Palestinian border protests now in their seventh month, and threatened the enclave’s ruling Hamas Islamists with a “very harsh” response in the event of attacks.
    The Israeli statements did not appear to herald any imminent offensive in Gaza but suggested stronger action at the frontier to foil any further Palestinian attempts to breach Israel’s security fence during the demonstrations, which began in March.
    Israeli army gunfire has killed at least 193 Palestinians since, Gaza medics say.    An Israeli soldier has been killed by a Palestinian sniper.    Tracts of Israeli land have been burned up by incendiary materials flown over the border by kite or balloon.
    Israel accuses Hamas of orchestrating the mass-mobilizations to provide cover for attacks and distract from Gaza’s economic plight, allegations it denies.    Hamas seized control of Gaza from Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007 and has since fought three wars with Israel, most recently in 2014.
    “If Hamas thinks that as a consequence of this distress it can attack Israel, it will be making a very big mistake.    Our response will be harsh, very harsh,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters alongside visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
    The Israeli military said it had “decided on wide-scale reinforcements in the southern command in the coming days and the continuation of a determined policy to thwart terror activity and prevent infiltrations into Israel from the Gaza Strip.”
    Israeli media said the new deployment included Iron Dome rocket interceptors, indicating concern that Hamas or other armed factions could attempt cross-border launches.    The Israeli military declined to confirm or deny those reports.
    In an interview published on Thursday in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth daily and Italy’s la Repubblica newspaper, Hamas’s Gaza-based leader Yehya Al-Sinwar was quoted as saying that “a new war was not in anyone’s interest” but “an explosion was unavoidable” unless the “siege” on Gaza was lifted.
    Citing security concerns, Israel and Egypt maintain tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods along their borders with Gaza, a policy that the World Bank says has brought the enclave of 2 million people to economic collapse.
    Netanyahu accused Abbas, with whom his peace talks stalled in 2014, of “greatly aggravating” the situation in Gaza by withholding funds for its civil servants and infrastructure.
    The cuts are widely seen as an attempt by Abbas to press Hamas to implement a power-sharing agreement that would give the Palestinian Authority a measure of control in the enclave.
    “Abu Mazen (Abbas) meddles in every way in the U.N.’s attempts to alleviate the distress in Gaza – including now, including today,” Netanyahu said.
    Merkel, whose 24-hour visit does not include the Palestinian territories, said she would seek to discuss Gaza with Abbas.
    Gaza protesters demand an end to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade and rights to lands that Palestinian families fled or were driven from on Israel’s founding in 1948.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Joseph Nasr in Berlin;Editing by Richard Balmforth)

10/5/2018 Lebanese Christian clash overshadows Hariri optimism on new government
Lebanese Foreign Minister in the caretaker government Gebran Bassil getsures as he talks
during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s leading Christian parties clashed on Friday over how power should be divided in a new unity government, casting doubt over Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri’s prediction that one will be agreed soon.
    Five months since a parliamentary election, there is no sign yet of the concessions sought by Hariri to allow the formation of a government that can set about badly needed economic reforms.    Politicians are warning Lebanon faces economic crisis.
    Hariri said on Thursday the government would be formed within a week to 10 days because the economy could not tolerate further delay. He called on all sides to make concessions.
    But there was no compromise on Friday from the two leading Christian parties: the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces (LF) party.    Their rivalry is seen as the main obstacle to a deal.
    At a news conference, FPM leader Gebran Bassil said he wanted the government formation accelerated, before reiterating a government blueprint that is at odds with the LF’s demands.
    Bassil said the FPM bloc should be allotted six seats in the cabinet of 30 ministers.    In addition, President Michel Aoun, the FPM founder and his father-in-law, should get five.    Citing the election results, he said the LF should get three.
    In a sharply worded response, the LF said Bassil – Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister – is not “the one who sets the criteria” for the government formation.    This was up to Hariri and Aoun, it added.
    The LF says the election result entitles it to one third of the Christian representation in government.    The LF nearly doubled its seats in the 128-seat parliament to 15.    The FPM and its allies form a bloc of 29 MPs.
    Asked if there was a “glimmer of hope,” as Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was quoted as saying this week, Bassil said: “I don’t like to create artificial optimism for the people.”
    The standoff reflects decades-old rivalry between Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea, enemies in the 1975-90 civil war.
    Lebanon’s political system allots government seats according to sectarian quotas: half of the seats go to Christians and half to Muslims.    The May 6 election produced a parliament tilted in favor of the Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah and its allies, who together won more than 70 seats.
    There has also been tension over Druze representation.    Walid Jumblatt has demanded all three of the cabinet seats reserved for his sect.    Aoun is meanwhile demanding one for his Druze ally Talal Arslan, also a Hezbollah ally.
    The IMF wants to see immediate and substantial fiscal adjustment to improve the sustainability of Lebanon’s public debt, which stood at over 150 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2017.
    Last month, Lebanese Eurobonds suffered their worst shock in a decade, adding raising pressure on Beirut to reform.
    While expressing general concern about the state of the economy and growth, policymakers have repeatedly said the Lebanese pound – pegged at its current level for two decades – is stable and underpinned by high foreign currency reserves.
(Additional reporting by Tom Perry, Ellen Francis, Laila Bassam; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/5/2018 Saudi crown prince dismisses Trump remarks about reliance on U.S.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
    ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman dismissed remarks by Donald Trump in which the U.S. president said he had warned the king he would not last in power “for two weeks” without U.S. military backing and demanded he pay up.
    “I love working with him.    You know, you have to accept that any friend will say good things and bad things,” Prince Mohammed said in a Bloomberg interview published on Friday.
    “We believe that all the armaments we have from the United States of America are paid for, it’s not free armament.    So ever since the relationship started between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, we’ve bought everything with money,” Prince Mohammed added.
    Trump made the comments at a rally in Mississippi on Tuesday.    Despite the harsh words, the Trump administration has had a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, which it views as a bulwark against Iran’s ambitions in the region.
    Trump made Saudi Arabia his first stop on his maiden international trip as president last year.
    Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter and the de facto leader of OPEC, which has been criticized by Trump for high oil prices.
(Reporting By Stephen Kalin; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

10/6/2018 3 Palestinians, including a teen, killed during Gaza border protest
    Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy, as thousands of people protested Friday along the fence dividing the Gaza Strip and Israel, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.    The ministry said 126 protesters were wounded by live fire.
    The Israeli military said about 20,000 protesters participated, throwing explosive devices and grenade.
[The boy might not have been shot if the cowardly Palestinian had not held the boy up in front of him to save his on life.]

10/6/2018 Turkey’s Erdogan tells ministers to stop using U.S. firm McKinsey
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP)
during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he had ordered his ministers to stop receiving consulting services from U.S. firm McKinsey, after the deal came under fire from the main opposition.
    Last month, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also Erdogan’s son-in-law, announced that Turkey had decided to work with McKinsey as part of efforts to implement a new medium-term economic programme.
    Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), this week accused Erdogan of siding with U.S. firms at a time when relations with Washington have been hit by the detention of a U.S. evangelical pastor in Turkey and other issues.
    “This person (Kilicdaroglu) is trying to corner us by asking questions about a consultancy firm that has been paid in full to help our economic management,” Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party.
    “In order to not give him that chance … I told all my ministers to no longer receive consultancy from them (McKinsey).”
    McKinsey was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

10/6/2018 Erdogan vows to ‘finish’ Kurdish militants in Iraq to avenge dead soldiers
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets members of parliament from his AK Party in Ankara, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday vowed to “finish” Kurdish militants in Iraq’s Sinjar and Qandil regions to avenge eight Turkish soldiers killed in a bomb attack in southeastern Turkey earlier this week.
    On Wednesday, eight Turkish soldiers were killed and two were wounded after a roadside bomb in the southeastern province of Batman was detonated by outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.
    Speaking to members of his ruling AK Party at the start of a two-day summit in the outskirts of Ankara, Erdogan said the PKK would pay the price for the eight soldiers.
    “Do we have eight martyrs?    Then let those terrorists know that they will pay the price for this with at least 800,” he said.    “We will finish them by going into their dens, their holes.    We will end them in Sinjar and in Qandil.”
    The comments marked Erdogan’s strongest warning of a potential offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq in recent weeks.
    Turkey has in recent months carried out strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq, especially its stronghold in the Qandil mountains, but warnings of a ground offensive into the area had largely died down following the June elections.
    The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union, has waged an insurgency against the state since Turkish the 1980s.
    Violence in the largely Kurdish southeast has worsened since the collapse of a ceasefire in 2015 and the government has carried out widespread operations to capture the militants in Turkey as well.
    Over the past two days, Turkish authorities have detained 137 people over suspected links to the PKK in operations across the nation, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Editing by William Maclean)

10/7/2018 Palestinian gunman kills two Israelis in West Bank: Israeli military
An Israeli military vehicle is seen at the entrance of Barkan industrial park that is adjacent
to the settlement of Barkan following a shooting attack, in the occupied West Bank October 7, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    BARKAN, West Bank (Reuters) – A Palestinian gunman shot dead two Israelis and wounded a third on Sunday in an industrial park next to a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military said.
    The assailant, the military said, had worked in a factory where the shooting took place.
    Israel’s national ambulance service said a man and two women were shot in the attack in the Barkan industrial area, where nearly 5,000 Palestinians are employed in Israeli-owned businesses.
    A military spokesman, in a conference call with foreign journalists several hours after the incident, said the man and one of the women had died of their wounds.
    The other woman shot in the incident was taken to hospital, where doctors said her injuries were not life-threatening.
    “This was a serious terrorist attack,” the military said in a statement.    It identified the gunman as a 23-year-old Palestinian from a West Bank village and said he was still at large.
    Surveillance camera footage broadcast on Israeli television showed a man armed with a rifle fleeing down stairs and running away from the factory.
    Barkan industrial park is next to the settlement of Barkan and was established in the early 1980s.
    Most countries consider settlements that Israel has built on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war as illegal.    Israel disputes this.
(Reporting by Rami Amichay and Jeffrey Heller; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Susan Fenton and Andrew Heavens)

10/7/2018 Netanyahu says will meet Putin soon on Syria security coordination
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem October 7, 2018. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin soon to discuss security coordination over Syria, amid friction with Moscow over Israel’s air operations.
    Netanyahu made the announcement at a cabinet meeting, without citing a specific date for the talks with Putin. Russia said on Tuesday it had upgraded Syria’s air defences with the S-300 missile system, after accusing Israel of indirect responsibility for the downing of a Russian spy plane by Syrian forces as they fired on attacking Israeli jets last month.
    Israeli officials have said the new system could be defeated by Israel’s stealth fighters and possibly destroyed on the ground, and they have pledged to press on with efforts to prevent military entrenchment by arch-enemy Iran in Syria.
    But since the Russian plane was shot down, there have been no reports of Israeli air strikes in Syria.
    The apparent pause has raised speculation in the Israeli media that Israel was either holding back at Russia’s request or paused the attacks over concern they would fuel tensions with Moscow – the Damascus government’s main military backer.
    Netanyahu said he had spoken by telephone with Putin “and we agreed to meet soon to continue the imporant security coordination between our armed forces.”
    “Israel will constantly act to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria and transferring deadly weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” he said, referring to the Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim group allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

10/8/2018 10/8/2018 Friend says Saudi journalist killed at consulate in Istanbul
    A friend of a prominent Saudi journalist who went missing in Istanbul said Sunday that officials told him to “make your funeral preparations” as the Washington Post contributor “was killed” at the Saudi Consulate.
    A Turkish official separately told the Associated Press that authorities believe Jamal Khashoggi was slain at the Saudi Consulate, while another said it was a “high probability.”
    Saudi officials have denied allegations that Khashoggi was killed at the consulate, calling them “baseless.”

10/8/2018 Oil drops below $83 on expectations Iran will maintain some exports by Alex Lawler
FILE PHOTO: Pump jacks operate in front of a drilling rig in an oil field in Midland, Texas
U.S. August 22, 2018. Picture taken August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – Oil dropped below $83 a barrel on Monday, pressured by expectations that some Iranian oil exports will keep flowing after the U.S. reimposes sanctions, easing a strain on supplies.
    Two companies in India, a big buyer of Iranian oil, have ordered barrels in November, India’s oil minister said on Monday.    The Trump administration is considering waivers on sanctions, a U.S. government official said on Friday.
    “One way or another, it looks as though India is going to take some Iranian crude,” said Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix, adding that the development was helping oil to “retrace some of the price surge we saw last week.”
    Brent crude, the international benchmark , was down $1.38 to $82.78 per barrel at 1041 GMT.    It hit a four-year high of $86.74 last week.
    U.S. crude was down $1.14 at $73.20.
    U.S. sanctions will target Iran’s crude oil exports from Nov. 4, and Washington has been putting pressure on governments and companies worldwide to cut their imports to zero.
    “This is one of the single biggest supportive factors for crude,” said analysts at JBC Energy of the U.S. re-imposition of Iran sanctions.    “Having said that, it may well be that we are already in the most supportive phase coming from this change and the effect will soon begin to ease.”
    Oil also dropped as investors focused on rising output from other producers, such as top exporter Saudi Arabia, to compensate for lower Iranian supplies which have fallen further in October according to export data.
    Saudi Arabia said last week it plans to raise production in November from October output of 10.7 million barrels per day (bpd), indicating Riyadh will be boosting its supply to the highest ever level.
    “Chatter that Saudi Arabia has replaced all of Iran’s lost oil” is weighing on prices, said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.
    Concern that the U.S.-Chinese trade war could slow down economic growth and hit oil demand also weighed on the market, traders in Asia said.
    Oil has been supported by concern that the Iranian export loss will leave a thinner margin of unused production capacity to deal with supply shocks.    The bulk of spare capacity is held by Saudi Arabia.
    These concerns remain.    Innes warned that limited spare production to deal with further supply disruptions meant “the capacity is quickly declining due to Asia’s insatiable demand.”
(Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein; editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith)

10/9/2018 Syria offers amnesty to deserters and draft dodgers
FILE PHOTO: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attends an interview with Russian television channel NTV,
in Damascus, Syria in this handout released on June 24, 2018. SANA/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Syrian government has announced an amnesty for men who deserted the army or have avoided military service, giving them several months to report for duty without facing punishment, it said on Tuesday.
    The fear of conscription, and potential punishment for ducking it or for desertion, is frequently cited by aid groups as one of the main reasons refugees give for not wanting to return home.
    In a decree issued on his social media feeds, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the amnesty covered all punishments for desertion inside or outside Syria.
    Men inside Syria will have four months to take advantage of the amnesty while those outside will have six months.
    Under Syrian military law, deserters can face years of prison if they leave their posts and do not report for service within a set amount of time.
    Syria’s conflict began in 2011 after mass protests against Assad’s rule, eventually leading to half a million deaths and drawing in world and regional powers.
    Many soldiers deserted, some to join the rebels and others to escape the fighting.    More than half the pre-war population fled their homes.    About 5 million went abroad and millions of others were displaced within Syria.
    While the amnesty covers desertion, it does not cover fighting against the government or joining the rebels, who are regarded by the Syrian government as terrorists.
    In the past three years, Russian and Iranian military support has helped Assad regain control of numerous enclaves held by anti-Assad rebels or jihadist militants, ending fighting in many areas.
    After a Russian-Turkish deal to avert an assault on the last major opposition stronghold, in the northwest, it is unclear if there will be significant new military offensives soon.
    Lebanon says 50,000 Syrian refugees, among the more than a million it says are on its soil, have gone home voluntarily in assisted returns this year.
    However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says conditions have not yet been fulfilled for mass refugee returns.    Speaking in Beirut in August, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said refugees were concerned about conscription, as well as other issues such as the lack of infrastructure.
(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

10/9/2018 Turkey detains 90 over alleged links to Kurdish militants by Gulsen Solaker
Supporters of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) gather for a protest after Turkish police
detained 90 people over suspected links to outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in Diyarbakir, Turkey October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish police detained 90 people on Tuesday over suspected links to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels, the government said, and the main pro-Kurdish party decried the arrests as a politically motivated crackdown.
    The operation across eight provinces was continuing, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
    The arrests come days after President Tayyip Erdogan warned he would replace any mayors elected in next year’s local elections if they were deemed to have links to terrorism.
    Erdogan accuses the main pro-Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), of links to the PKK.    The HDP denies this and says it is unjustly targeted by the government.
    More than 140 HDP members had been detained over several days, the party said on Sunday.
    Ninety-four of 102 municipalities in Kurdish-majority cities and towns are now administered by trustees, rather than their elected mayors.    Authorities removed those mayors, elected in the last municipal elections in 2014, in the security crackdown that followed an attempted military coup in 2016.
    “Elections are nearing,” Erdogan said at a meeting of his AK Party (AKP) over the weekend, referring to the March 2019 local vote.    “If those involved with terror come out of the ballot box, we shall appoint trustees without delay.”
    One prominent HDP lawmaker, Garo Paylan, said the arrests were politically motivated, and were part of the AKP’s campaign strategy for the 2019 election.
    “The AK Party has started its local election campaign from Diyarbakir by detaining journalists, politicians and theologians,” Paylan said on Twitter.    Diyarbakir is the largest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
    The autonomy-seeking PKK, deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and Europe, has waged an insurgency against the state since 1984.    Violence across the southeast escalated after the collapse of a ceasefire in 2015.
    Turkey has in recent months conducted regular strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq, especially the insurgents’ stronghold in the Qandil mountains, where Ankara has also threatened to carry out a ground offensive.
    The PKK killed a Turkish soldier and wounded four others in a missile attack on Tuesday on a military post in Turkey’s Cukurca region, the local governor’s office said. The missiles were fired from northern Iraq, it added.
(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by David Dolan/Mark Heinrich)

10/10/2018 US student detained in Israel over alleged support of boycott
    In a groundbreaking case, Israel has detained an American graduate student at its international airport for the past week, accusing her of supporting a Palestinian-led boycott campaign against the Jewish state.
    Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old U.S. citizen with Palestinian grandparents, landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Oct. 2 with a valid student visa.    But she was barred from entering the country and ordered deported, based on suspicions she is a boycott supporter.

10/11/2018 U.S. student appeals Israeli entry ban over boycott by Ori Lewis
U.S. student Lara Alqasem (C) appears at the district court in Tel Aviv, Israel October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    Tel AVIV (Reuters) – An Israeli court on Thursday heard the appeal of an American student against a decision to bar her entry to Israel, even though she had a study visa, over alleged activities supporting an international boycott campaign by pro-Palestinian groups.
    The case has touched off a debate in Israel over whether democratic values have been compromised by a 2017 law that bars the entry of foreigners who publicly support anti-Israel boycotts, and if a hard line against the student would ultimately harm the country’s image.
    Lara Alqasem, 22, was accepted into a graduate program at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University – which has called for her to be let in – and was issued a student’s visa by the Israeli consulate in Miami.
    But on arrival at Tel Aviv’s international airport last week, she was refused entry by officials who cited her role as president of a small local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida.
    Its activities, the government said, included a campaign to boycott Sabra hummus, made and sold in the United States by a company partially owned by a firm in Israel.
    Alqasem, who is of Palestinian descent, has been held in a detention facility at the airport since and appealed to the Tel Aviv District Court against plans to deport her.    She did not speak to reporters during the session.
    The government argues that groups such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that want to isolate Israel over its occupation of territory which Palestinians seek for a state are anti-Semitic and aimed at its destruction.
    “The time has come for some national pride here,” Interior Minister Arye Deri said on Army Radio just before the hearing, calling the entry ban justified.
    In court, a lawyer for Alqasem said she stopped her activities in the Students for Justice group months before the anti-boycott law came into effect, effectively voiding the decision to ban her.
    “Visa cancellation should be done only in exceptional circumstances and this is not such a case,” said the attorney, Yotam Ben-Hillel.
    At an earlier hearing, Alqasem pledged not to take part in boycott activities while in Israel and said she did not intend to visit the West Bank, her attorneys said.
    But Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Twitter on Wednesday that Israel would reconsider the ban only if she declares she made a mistake in the past and believes support for a boycott is “illegitimate.”
    The judge said he would issue his decision soon, without specifying a date, and ordered Alqasem returned to the airport holding facility.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

10/11/2018 Rocket sirens in Israeli communities false alarm: army
FILE PHOTO: Israeli bulldozers work on a position on the Israeli side of the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip May 15, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Rocket alert sirens that sounded on Thursday in Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip were a false alarm, the Israeli military said.
    “The IDF’s (Israel Defense Forces) Iron Dome aerial defense system launched one interceptor following a false identification.    No launches were identified from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory,” a military statement said.
    Earlier, Israeli Army Radio had reported that the Israeli military was engaged in increased activity near the border with the Palestinian enclave.    An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the report.
    There have been no rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian militants in the Hamas Islamist-run Gaza Strip since Israel and Hamas agreed on a truce on Aug. 9 which ended the latest fighting in a series of brief cross-border flare-ups.
    Qatar has been driving to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza in a bid to prevent any escalation in violence.    Doha has announced it would provide $150 million in emergency aid to the poverty-stricken strip and paid for fuel delivered through Israel.
    Egyptian efforts to mediate a long-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel has so far shown little progress and Palestinians have continued to hold protests at the Gaza-Israel border which often turn violent.
    Israeli troops have killed at least 195 Palestinians and wounded thousands since the protests began in March, Gaza medics say, and one Israeli soldier has been killed by a Gaza sniper.
    Citing security reasons, Israel and Egypt maintain tight restrictions on their borders with Gaza, a policy that has deepened economic hardship in the territory of two million Palestinians.
    The Gaza protesters are demanding that Israel lift its blockade and the right to return to lands that Palestinian families fled or were driven from on Israel’s founding in 1948.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/12/2018 American student asks court to allow her entry into Israel
    An American graduate student who has been held in detention while fighting an expulsion order over her involvement in the boycott movement against Israel asked a judge in Tel Aviv on Thursday to allow her to enter the country to begin her studies.
    Lara Alqasem, 22, is to remain in detention until the verdict.    The judge gave no indication which way he would lean or when he would decide.

10/12/2018 U.S. ‘hopeful’ on pastor’s release, unaware of a deal with Turkey by Lesley Wroughton and Humeyra Pamuk
A car carrying U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson enters the Aliaga Prison and Courthouse complex in Izmir, Turkey October 12, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is hopeful that American pastor Andrew Brunson who is on trial in Turkey could be freed at a Friday court hearing, but the State Department said it was unaware of any deal with the Turkish government for his release.
    NBC News and The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the United States and Turkey had reached an agreement in which some charges against Brunson would be dropped and he would be released at the hearing or soon after.
    In addition to the U.S. State Department, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at a briefing, declined to confirm any deal, but he voiced hope for Brunson’s release.
    “We remain hopeful that with the court proceeding tomorrow that Turkey will see its way clear and free this good man who is guilty of nothing and who has been incarcerated for several years in Turkey unjustly,” Pence said.
    “President Trump, our administration, has made it clear that we will continue to stand strong until pastor Brunson is free and back home in the U.S. with his family and his church,” added Pence, a devout Christian who has worked to free Brunson for the last two years.
    Two senior administration officials said there was no deal with Turkey for Brunson.    “We’re hopeful but it’s a fluid situation,” said one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
    Four U.S. Senators, including Republican Lindsay Graham and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, released a joint statement saying Brunson’s release would “help improve U.S.-Turkey relations for the long-term.”
    “The United States and Turkey are NATO allies and have a number of mutual concerns regarding regional security and stability,” the senators said.    “It is time that we close this ugly chapter in our relations.”
    The case against Brunson, an evangelical preacher from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, has become the flashpoint in a diplomatic row between Ankara and Washington, triggering U.S. tariffs and sanctions against Turkey and condemnation from President Donald Trump.
    Brunson was jailed in October 2016 and transferred to house arrest in July.    In court on Friday, the prosecution is expected to introduce two new secret witnesses, but Brunson’s lawyer Cem Halavurt said their testimonies were not germane to the case.    Brunson is facing terrorism charges, which he denies.
    The Brunson case has grown into the biggest of several disputes between the NATO allies and has been one of the factors in a 40 percent slide in value of the Turkish lira this year.
    Late on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said releasing Brunson would be the right thing for Turkey to do.
    NBC cited sources as saying that under an agreement U.S. officials reached recently with Turkey, Brunson would be released after certain charges against him were dropped at his next court hearing.
    The Post said the deal included lifting U.S. sanctions, some already imposed and others threatened.    Charges against Brunson would be reduced and he would be sentenced to time served or be allowed to serve any remaining term in the United States, the Post said, citing U.S. officials and people close to the case.
    The Turkish lira firmed on the report.
    Despite pressure from the Trump administration, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has insisted that he has no sway over the judiciary and that the courts will decide on Brunson’s fate.
    A Turkish official declined to comment on the deal, citing the ongoing judicial process.
    The American pastor is charged with links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey for a failed coup attempt in 2016.    Brunson has denied the accusation – as has Gulen – and Washington has demanded his immediate release.    Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999.
    Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Humeyra Pamuk; Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mary Milliken, Leslie Adler, David Alexander and Cynthia Osterman)

10/12/2018 World oil market ‘adequately supplied for now’: IEA by Christopher Johnson
FILE PHOTO: Oil pours out of a spout from Edwin Drake's original 1859 well that launched the modern petroleum
industry at the Drake Well Museum and Park in Titusville, Pennsylvania U.S., October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – Oil markets look “adequately supplied for now” after a big production increase in the last six months, but the industry is coming under strain, the West’s energy watchdog said on Friday.
    The International Energy Agency said in its monthly report that the world’s spare oil production capacity was down to 2 percent of global demand, with further falls likely.
    “This strain could be with us for some time and it will likely be accompanied by higher prices, however much we regret them and their potential negative impact on the global economy,” the Paris-based organization said.
    Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other exporters such as Russia agreed in June to raise output as the market appeared increasingly tight.
    The price of global benchmark Brent crude has risen from around $45 a barrel in June 2017 and peaked at over $85 this month on bullish bets by speculators.
    OPEC, Russia and others such as U.S. shale companies had increased production sharply since May, the IEA said, raising global output by 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd).
    Overall, OPEC had boosted production by 735,000 bpd since May as Middle East Gulf producers such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE more than compensated for declining output in Venezuela and Iran, which is facing U.S. sanctions from next month.
    Supply from Iran during September dropped to a two-and-a-half year low, the IEA said, as customers continued to cut back in the run-up to new sanctions, which start on Nov. 4.
    Iranian output fell to 3.45 million bpd, it said, down 180,000 bpd month-on-month.    Iranian oil exports in September fell to 1.63 million bpd, down 800,000 bpd from recent 2Q18 peaks, the agency estimated.
    “The decline may deepen significantly ahead of U.S. sanctions – and subsequently as final cargoes are delivered,” said the IEA, which advises major oil consumers on energy policy.
    But the outlook for world oil consumption is faltering, the IEA said as it cut its forecast of global oil demand growth by 0.11 million bpd for both this year and next to 1.28 million bpd and 1.36 million bpd respectively.
    “This is due to a weaker economic outlook, trade concerns, higher oil prices,” it said.
    OECD commercial stocks rose by 15.7 million barrels in August to 2.854 billion barrels, their highest level since February, on strong refinery output and liquefied petroleum gas restocking, the IEA said.
    It added that OECD inventories were likely to have risen by 43 million barrels in the third quarter, the largest quarterly increase in stocks since the first quarter of 2016.
    “The increase in net production from key suppliers since May of approximately 1.4 million bpd, led by Saudi Arabia, and the fact that oil stocks built by 0.5 million bpd in 2Q18 and look likely to have done the same in 3Q18, lends weight to the argument that the oil market is adequately supplied for now,” the IEA said.
(Reporting by Christopher Johnson; Editing by Dale Hudson and Alexander Smith)

10/12/2018 Seven Palestinians killed in border protests: Gaza health officials by Saleh Salem
A wounded Palestinian boy is evacuted during a protest calling for lifting the Israeli blockade on Gaza
and demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border fence in the southern Gaza Strip October 12, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    GAZA (Reuters) – Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians on Friday in protests along Gaza’s border, Gaza health officials said.    Israel said its troops had shot a group who broke through the fence with a bomb and attacked an army post.
    The Palestinian deaths bring to around 200 the number of Gazans killed since the border protests began on March 30, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures.
    Gaza medics said that, in addition to the seven dead, around 140 others were wounded.
    The Israeli military said that the demonstrators, numbering around 15,000, had been “hurling rocks, explosive devices, firebombs and grenades” at Israeli troops and at the fence.
    Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col Jonathan Conricus tweeted that one group had “detonated a bomb on the Israel-Gaza border fence,” allowing around 20 people to climb through the hole.
    He said around five of the group had then launched an organised attack against a military post inside Israel and all had been killed by the troops.
    The Palestinian protesters are demanding an end to an Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the narrow coastal strip, which is home to around 2 million Gazans.    They also seek the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948.
    Israel accuses the Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, of orchestrating the protests along the border fence to provide cover for attacks and to distract from Gaza’s economic plight.    Hamas denies the allegations.
    The Israeli military has been criticised by Palestinians and international human rights groups for its lethal response to the protests.    It says its troops have used “riot dispersal means” and have fired “in accordance with standard operating procedures.”
    One Israeli soldier has been killed by a Palestinian sniper during the weekly protests, and tracts of Israeli land have been scorched by incendiary kites and balloons.
    Hamas seized control of Gaza from Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007 and has since fought three wars with Israel, most recently in 2014.
    Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, addressing a conference in Istanbul from Gaza, said on Friday that Hamas was seeking to reach understandings with several parties, including Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations.    He expressed hope that the efforts “could lead to calm in return for breaking the siege.”
(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Andrew Heavens)

10/12/2018 Israel, Syria to reopen Golan crossing on Monday: U.S. envoy to U.N. by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at a press briefing at
U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Israel, Syria and the United Nations have agreed to open the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Friday.
    Haley said in a statement that the opening “will allow U.N. peacekeepers to step up their efforts to prevent hostilities in the Golan Heights region.”
    The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has been monitoring operations in a demilitarized zone established in 1974 between the Israeli-occupied Golan and the Syrian sector, but the peacekeeping mission was disrupted by Syria’s civil war.
    Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war and fought Syria again on the strategic plateau in a 1973 conflict.
    “We look to both Israel and Syria to provide U.N. peacekeepers the access they need as well as assurances of their safety.    We also call on Syria to take the necessary steps so UNDOF can safely and effectively deploy and patrol without interference,” Haley said.
    Military police from Russia, a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have been patrolling on the Syrian side of Quneitra.
    Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited the Israeli side of the crossing on Sept. 27.    He said then that in the past, traffic through Quneitra mainly comprised shipments into Syria of apples grown by Druze farmers on the Israeli-controlled Golan – and the entry of brides for partners on both sides of the armistice line.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)

10/12/2018 Political rift in Ivory Coast raises concerns for 2020 by Aaron Ross and Ange Aboa
FILE PHOTO: Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara (R) and new Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly pose for pictures
in the Presidential Palace in Abidjan, Ivory Coast January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon/File photo
    ABIDJAN (Reuters) – After more than a decade as allies, two of Ivory Coast’s largest political parties face off in local elections on Saturday after an acrimonious divorce that is making Ivorians nervous ahead of a presidential poll in 2020.
    The alliance struck in 2005 between President Alassane Ouattara’s RDR and former President Henri Konan Bedie’s PDCI was meant to dominate for generations and help heal the political rifts that led to civil war three years earlier.
    But the pact that propelled Ouattara to presidential election victories in 2010 and 2015 collapsed last month as the parties bickered over whose candidate should be in pole position next time round.
    Now, both the RDR (Rassemblement des Republicains) and PDCI (Parti Democratique de la Cote d’Ivoire) are casting Saturday’s vote for hundreds of mayors and regional council seats as a test of strength heading into 2020.
    “Two years from the presidential election, this will allow us … to see how each political camp measures up,” said Mamadou Toure, a government and RDR spokesman.
    The local election campaign has been mostly smooth.
    Residents flocked to rallies on dusty soccer fields to see candidates tout their achievements and, sometimes, hand out envelopes stuffed with cash.    But some voters said the coalition split had heightened their concerns about a return to violence.
    And the recriminations are starting. Ouattara’s supporters have accused the PDCI of reverting to the tribal politics of Ivory Coast’s blood-soaked past.    The PDCI says Ouattara’s government is drifting toward authoritarianism.
    “The split doesn’t suit us,” Laminata Bane, a vendor outside an election rally in the economic capital Abidjan, said above the blare of pop music.    “We don’t want violence.    We don’t dare imagine that it’s even possible.”
    At stake is the stability of francophone West Africa’s largest economy and the world’s biggest cocoa producer, which is still recovering from a short civil war that led to Ouattara’s victory in 2010 over incumbent Laurent Gbagbo being confirmed.
BUSINESS BOOMING
    Under Ouattara, a 76-year-old former central banker and senior International Monetary Fund official, economic growth has averaged more than 8 percent since 2012, trendy shopping centers have proliferated across Abidjan and investment has poured into agriculture and infrastructure.
    Analysts say foreign investors such as agri-business giant Cargill or French conglomerate Bollore are keeping close tabs on the political situation, but there is little evidence they are cutting back on investment.
    In twin votes of confidence, the African Development Bank returned its headquarters to Abidjan in 2014 after moving to Tunisia when the first civil war broke out, and a U.N. peacekeeping mission withdrew last year.
    Still, progress remains fragile.    New business registrations rose 18 percent in the first half of this year but they had slumped in 2017 amid a series of army mutinies that raised concerns about long-term stability.
    The mutinies have stopped for now following multi-million dollar payments and buyouts that have cut the size of the army.
    But less bullish observers say mutinies, the vast stocks of weapons unaccounted for after years of conflict and social discontent over only meager improvements in living standards are all potential flashpoints.
    They also say a falling out between Ouattara and Bedie, who served as president from 1993 until he was overthrown in a 1999 coup, was perhaps inevitable.
    As president in the 1990s, Bedie, now 84, championed “Ivoirite,” an ethnically-tinged definition of Ivorian identity that led Ouattara being excluded from presidential elections in 1995 and 2000, won by Bedie and Gbagbo respectively.
    Ouattara’s family ties straddle the borders with Burkina Faso and Mali and the notion that some residents from the north of Ivory Coast were not true Ivorians was one of the grievances that sparked the first civil war in 2002.
    The political split this time comes amid accusations of broken promises.
    The RHDP (Rassemblement des Houphouëtistes pour la Démocratie et la Paix) alliance had intended to field a single candidate in 2020, all but guaranteeing victory since the RDR and PDCI are two of the three main parties in Ivory Coast.
    But the PDCI then accused the RDR of reneging on a promise to support its candidate in 2020.    The RDR denied it had ever promised as much.
‘RETREAT TO TRIBALISM’
    Since the breakup, RDR officials have accused the PDCI of again stoking ethnic divisions.    After Bedie delivered a combative speech last month to 500 Baoule chiefs in his home town, an RDR official accused him of “a retreat to tribalism.”
    “We have experienced the consequences of Ivoirite: interminable political crises with their corollaries of thousands of deaths,” Joel N’Guessan, an RDR vice president, said in a statement.
    In another speech to supporters on Monday, Bedie accused the government of trying to sow discord within the PDCI by backing challenges to the leadership by dissident members.    The PDCI, “cannot accept the lawlessness that this authoritarian regime wants to promote in this country,” he said.
    Further complicating the picture for 2020 is uncertainty over who will represent the RDR.    Ouattara has served the two terms mandated by the constitution and Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly and Guillaume Soro, head of the National Assembly and former rebel leader, have been cited as potential successors.
    But Ouattara said in June that a new constitution approved in 2016 cancels out the previous constitution’s term limits and gives him the right to stand again.
    RDR spokesman Mamadou Toure said Ouattara did not intend to run but he might reconsider if long-time rivals Bedie and Gbagbo, who is on trial in The Hague for alleged crimes against humanity during the 2010-11 war, were to stand – or if the stability of the country were threatened.
    Ouattara has acknowledged the concerns about the 2020 elections both within the business community and among foreign envoys based in the country.
    “I want to assure you … that the 2020 election will take place in excellent conditions,” he told business executives last month.    “I will personally see to it.”
(Editing by David Clarke)

10/13/2018 Turkey to transfer opposition Isbank stake to treasury: Erdogan
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a millitary ceremony in Isparta, Turkey October 12, 2018.
Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party will push through parliament a law transferring to the treasury the main opposition party’s shares in Isbank , Turkey’s largest listed lender, Erdogan said on Saturday.
    The Republican People’s Party (CHP) owns a 28 percent stake in Isbank, bequeathed to it by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic.
    Erdogan made the comment after pro-government newspaper Sabah reported earlier on Saturday that AKP was in the process of drawing up a draft law facilitating the transfer.
    “We as the AK Party will bring this issue to parliament.    Thankfully the MHP said it will give its support,” Erdogan told a rally in central Turkey’s Kayseri province, referring to his party’s nationalist allies.
    “God willing we will push this through parliament and secure the transfer of this stake to the Turkish Republic’s treasury,” he said.
    The AK Party has 290 seats in parliament and along with the MHP’s 50 seats has a comfortable majority needed to pass legislation in the 600 seat assembly.    The CHP has 144 seats.
    Isbank shares opened 2.4 percent lower on Thursday after Erdogan’s comments in the media that the treasury should take over the CHP stake.
    Erdogan has previously voiced concern about a political party controlling a large stake of a major bank and said authorities should look into CHP members serving on Isbank’s board.
    Turkey is due to hold local elections in March next year.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

10/14/2018 IS militants abduct scores of civilians in eastern Syria
    The Islamic State group stormed a settlement for displaced people in eastern Syria and abducted scores of civilians in the latest attack by the extremists on civilians, a U.S.-backed Syrian force and a war monitor said Saturday.    The area in Deir el-Zour province has been witnessing days of intense clashes between IS and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces amid bad weather and low visibility.

10/14/2018 Tale of two brothers reflects Syrian rebel unity and divisions by Khalil Ashawi and Tom Perry
FILE PHOTO: A rebel fighter from the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement takes position on a hill in Jabal al-Arbaeen,
which overlooks the northern town of Ariha, one of the last government strongholds in the Idlib province May 26, 2015. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi/File Photo
    ISTANBUL/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Brothers Abu Eliyas and Abu Yousef have fought at opposite ends of the insurgency against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
    One is a member of a rebel group that was once backed by the CIA.    The other is a jihadist in an internationally proscribed terrorist movement.
    Yet despite their ideological differences, they live under the same roof in rebel-held Idlib province and have fought on the same side against pro-Assad forces and Islamic State.
    “The important thing is we fight the same enemy,” said Abu Eliyas, 40, a member of the Turkey-backed Failaq al-Sham group.    “At home, we exchange military skills and information, and discuss the Syrian scene.”
    Abu Yousef, 27, belongs to the jihadist Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front.    He believes the brothers’ “points of agreement are greater than the points of division.”
    “We are members of one religion, one country and one goal”, he said.
    Their parallel journeys through the civil war that began in Syria in 2011 illustrate the complexities of sorting insurgents deemed “radical” from more moderate rebels.
    This is the task facing Turkey as it seeks to shore up a deal with Russia over Idlib, which is part of an arc of rebel-held territory at the Turkish border.
    The province is part of the opposition’s last big foothold in Syria and is effectively — at least for now — in a zone of Turkish influence under the agreement reached last month.
    Russia expects Turkey to bring about a separation of insurgents, with “radical” rebels to leave a newly created demilitarised zone at the frontline with government forces by Monday.    Turkey says the “moderates” can stay where they are.
    The Turkey-backed groups, gathered under the umbrella of the National Liberation Front (NLF), have said they will cooperate with Turkey’s efforts, despite some misgivings.
    The tougher part for Turkey is bringing the jihadists into line, particularly foreign fighters estimated to number in the thousands.    President Tayyip Erdogan has suggested Tahrir al-Sham is cooperating, though the group has yet to comment on the deal.
BATTLING ASSAD’S FORCES
    The experiences of Abu Yousef and Abu Eliyas show that the line between the “radical” and “moderate” rebels is not always easily drawn.
    Abu Eliyas is a trained lawyer with seven children who was working as a government employee when the conflict began.    He took part in the first protests against Assad in the brothers’ home town of Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria.
    “They were unforgettable days.    The feeling was very strange for us – that we are in Syria and going out in protest against the regime and the Assad family,” he said.
    Abu Eliyas took up arms with a Free Syrian Army group early in the conflict.
    After seizing the area, Islamic State militants destroyed his house in Deir al-Zor by rigging it with explosives and then blowing it up in what he described as an act of revenge.
    Abu Yousef, who is not married, was a student when the conflict began.    He joined Nusra Front when it first emerged in Deir al-Zor, drawn by what he saw as the piety of its members, including foreigners.
    Both fought Islamic State when it attacked eastern Syria in 2014 and went north with their family when IS conquered the area.    Once there, Abu Eliyas joined Failaq al-Sham, and cited its standing in Turkey as one of the attractions.
    Failaq al-Sham has ties to the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which mounted an uprising in the 1980s and is deemed a terrorist group by the government.
    Close to Turkey, Failaq al-Sham was also one of the recipients of aid channeled through a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency program that was shut down by President Donald Trump.
    Tahrir al-Sham has clashed several times with other rebels in the northwest, and crushed a number of foreign-backed factions.
    The brothers have always stayed out of these troubles, though enmity runs deep between the jihadists and some Idlib rebels.
    Tensions in Idlib have eased of late.    Rebels formed a joint “operations room” in anticipation of an offensive by Syrian government forces that had been expected until Turkey and Russia struck their agreement last month.
    Tahrir al-Sham, with which Abu Yousef fights, has widened contacts with other groups and been visiting their rivals, an official in a rival faction said.
RUSSIAN TRAP
    If it holds, the agreement between Turkey and Russia could stabilize the map of the Syrian conflict for some time to come.    Though Assad is still vowing to take back the area, an Idlib campaign without Russian support is seen as out of the question.
    Writing in the Wall Street Journal last month, Erdogan said “moderate rebels” should be part of an “international counter-terrorism operation” that would target “terrorist and extremist elements” and “bring to justice foreign fighters.”
    Abu Yousef sees a conspiracy to weaken the rebellion by dividing opposition forces.
    “The Russian-Turkish agreement is a tactic to finish off what remains of the areas held by the revolution,” he said.    “We must depend on ourselves, and nobody else.”
    Despite his faith in Turkey, Abu Eliyas is also worried.
    “Failaq al-Sham’s relationship with Turkey secured many benefits for the region … but we fear the Turks will fall into the Russian trap that aims to disarm Tahrir al-Sham,” he said.
(Writing by Tom Perry, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

10/14/2018 Congolese migrants flood home, Angola denies claims of brutal crackdown by Giulia Paravicini and Stephen Eisenhammer
Congolese migrants expelled from Angola push a rented bicycle to transport their children and belongings
along the road to Tshikapa, Kasai province near the border with Angola,
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, October 12, 2018. REUTERS/Giulia Paravicini
    KAMAKO, Democratic Republic of Congo/LUANDA (Reuters) – Congolese migrants and officials said dozens of people were killed this month in neighboring Angola in a crackdown on artisanal diamond mining, an accusation Angolan security forces strongly denied.
    Angola, the world’s fifth largest diamond producer, has launched an operation in recent weeks to clear tens of thousands of people involved in digging for precious stones in the northeast of the country in order to attract more private investment.
    Many of them are from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and hundreds of thousands of people have poured over the border into the Kasai region, border guards there told Reuters.     In interviews with Reuters, more than 20 Congolese migrants who crossed the border between October 4-12 described violence, looting and forced displacement by Angolan security forces as well as a local tribe called the Tshokwe.
    The worse of the violence, they said, occurred in the town of Lucapa, located some 100 km south of the border with DRC in the heart of the diamond-rich Lunda Norte province.
    Angolan security forces stormed the town, according to 15 witnesses, killing dozens of people, burning down homes, looting property and forcing people to leave.    Some of those people were legally residing in Angola, the witnesses added.
    “There was a lot of violence in Lucapa.    The military was shooting at us while Tshowke were killing people with machetes.    They jointly killed more than a dozen people,” said Victor Tshambapoko, 28, who worked as a diamond digger in the region.
    Reuters could not independently verify the accusations.
    Angolan Police Commissioner Antonio Bernardo, spokesman for the operation, denied there had been rights abuses by security forces, and said the only fatality he knew of was in a traffic accident.
    “We have no record of any burning of homes, much less reprisals and or assaults on anyone,” he told Reuters.
    “Angola and its government appeals to the common sense of the international community to realize that there is no underlying xenophobia, but only the legitimate normalizing of the socio-economic life of the country and national security.”
    Amadhou Kabaseke Taty, Kasai’s provincial director of the Congolese border agency (DGM) told Reuters that he believed there had been “serious violations of human rights” during the Angolan operation.
    “I am worried about the situation,” he said.    “Congolese people have been expelled in degrading conditions.    They have been molested, beaten and killed, especially in Lucapa, by the Angolan military police.”
FEARS OVER STABILITY
    Angolan President Joao Lourenco is trying to boost investments in his country and wean it off a heavy reliance on oil exports.
    Reforming the diamond industry is part of that drive, and “Operation Transparency” in Lunda Norte aims to reduce diamond smuggling and raise more revenues for state coffers from the lucrative sector.
    Several Congolese migrants who entered from Angola in recent days said the authorities there had given them an Oct. 15 deadline to leave.    Border guard officials said the Angolan operation began on Oct. 1.
    According to an internal DGM document seen by Reuters, 200,000 people crossed into Kasai region from Angola in the first 12 days of October.
    Border officials believe the true figure is higher because people also cross through the bush rather than checkpoints.
    The need to resettle so many people threatens to further destabilize Kasai, a region which saw widespread violence involving armed groups and government forces in 2016 and 2017.
    Security sources in DRC and Angola have already said they are concerned about heightened tensions in the area in the run-up to Congolese elections in December.
    A Reuters reporter in the Congolese border town of Kamako saw thousands of people making their way on foot and in trucks along the red dirt road to Tshikapa, the provincial capital of Kasai located some 50 km to the north.
    Exhausted men and women rested by the side of the road, washed in a river or picked fruit from giant mango trees to feed themselves on a journey that lasts up to a week.
    Many carried household belongings on their head, including plastic chairs, mattresses, animals and even ovens.    Some said they also had diamonds in their possession.
(Editing by Mike Collett-White)

10/14/2018 Syrian jihadists signal acceptance of Idlib deal
FILE PHOTO: A rebel fighter carries his weapon as he walks past the turret of a damaged tank at the
Mastouma military base, after they seized it, in Idlib May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria’s main jihadist group signaled on Sunday it would abide by the terms of a Russian-Turkish deal to prevent a Syrian government offensive on rebel-held Idlib the day before a critical deadline.
    Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist alliance spearheaded by al Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate previously known as the Nusra Front, said it had adopted its stance after taking time for “consultation.”
    Although it did not explicitly say it would abide by the deal, it said it would seek to provide security for people in the area it controls and that it appreciated efforts to protect that area, an apparent reference to Turkey.
    “We value the efforts of all those striving – at home and abroad – to protect the liberated area and prevent its invasion and the perpetration of massacres in it,” Tahrir al-Sham said in its statement.
    “But we warn at the same time against the trickery of the Russian occupier or having faith in its intentions,” it added.    The group also said it “would not forget” the foreign fighters who came to assist it.
    Idlib’s other main rebel faction, a Turkish-aligned alliance of groups known as the National Liberation Front, has already expressed its support for the agreement.
    The deal sets up a demilitarized zone running 15-20 km (9-13 miles) deep into rebel territory that must be evacuated of all heavy weapons and all jihadist groups by Monday, Oct. 15.
    Turkey has been working to persuade Tahrir al-Sham to comply with the agreement, which it arranged with the Syrian government’s main ally Russia to avert an assault that it feared would send a new wave of refugees toward its border.
    However, Tahrir al-Sham also said in its statement, issued via its social media channels, that it would not end its jihad or hand over its weapons.
    Idlib and adjacent areas are the last stronghold of rebels who rose against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011.    It is also home to an estimated 3 million people, more than half of whom have already been displaced at least once during the war.
    Last week Turkey said the demilitarized zone had been set up, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the zone was effective and no large scale military actions were planned in Idlib.
    Russian and Turkish troops will eventually patrol the zone, according to their agreement.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall; editing by David Stamp and Sandra Maler)

10/14/2018 U.S. student barred by Israel appeals to top court by Dan Williams
FILE PHOTO: U.S. student Lara Alqasem appears at the district court in Tel Aviv, Israel October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A U.S. student barred from Israel under a law against pro-Palestinian boycotters filed an appeal on Sunday with its top court, which suspended her deportation pending a discussion of the case.
    Lara Alqasem, 22, flew to Israel on Oct. 2 on a study visa but was refused entry by security officials who cited her role as president of a small local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida.
    In airport detention since then, she has been contesting the exclusion, with the backing of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, where she was due to begin a year-long master’s program on Sunday.
    On Friday, Tel Aviv District Court rejected Alqasem’s appeal to be allowed in.    On Sunday, her lawyers said she filed a dual motion to Israel’s Supreme Court to block her looming deportation and consider a last-ditch appeal for entry.
    “A stay has been issued against the deportation, and the appeal motion will be heard this week,” a court spokesman said.
    Her case has touched off debate in Israel over whether democratic values have been compromised by a 2017 law that bars the entry of foreigners who publicly support anti-Israel boycotts, and if a hard line against the student would ultimately harm the country’s image.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s stance was similar to other countries’ practices.
    “If … you’re virulently against America and you try to come into the United States, there’s a good chance you won’t be let in,” he told visiting Christian journalists.    “That’s also true of many of the European democracies.    It’s true of the democracy called Israel.”
    His government says Students for Justice activities included a campaign to boycott Sabra hummus, made and sold in the United States by a company partly owned by a firm in Israel.
    Israel sees such groups, and the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, not only as an attempt to isolate it over its occupation of territory which Palestinians seek for a state, but also as a campaign for its destruction.
    Alqasem, who is of Palestinian descent, stopped her activities in the Students for Justice group months before the anti-boycott law came into effect, has pledged not to take part in boycott activities while in Israel and did not plan to visit the West Bank, her attorneys have said.
    Israel’s Supreme Court rarely agrees to hear appeals over administrative matters ruled on by lower courts, Alqasem lawyer Leora Bechor said.    “It needs very unique circumstances,” she told Reuters.
    Bechor said Alqasem could have opted to fly back to the United States, but had chosen to remain in airport detention, where she had only intermittent access to phone communication and had been denied reading and writing materials.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

10/14/2018 Egypt minister sees no threats attached to China investment by Fransiska Nangoy and Ed Davies
FILE PHOTO: Egypt's Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr speaks during an American Chamber
of Commerce in Egypt luncheon in New York, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
    NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – Egypt is only accepting Chinese investments in projects that are mutually beneficial, its investment minister said on Sunday, amid growing scepticism in some countries about risks tied to ‘Belt and Road’ investments.
    The Belt and Road initiative is an ambitious plan to expand the trade corridor for the Asian giant to link Asia, Europe and Africa, pumping credit into building roads, railways and ports in a trillion-dollar infrastructure drive.
    Egypt and China had signed deals worth $18 billion as part of the Belt and Road initiative, Investment and International Cooperation Minister Sahar Nasr said in an interview on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meetings in Bali.
    Nasr said Egypt was only accepting mutually beneficial projects.
    “If we have more Chinese industries in Egypt, creating jobs for us, making us less dependent on certain imports and in fact exporting to Europe to Africa, its a win-win,” she said.
    Nasr said Egypt was taking care to diversify its source of financing, even within the same sector, noting that while China was involved in building a railway, locomotive and train carriages were being sourced from elsewhere.
    Malaysia, one of the top recipients of China’s largesse, recently suspended work on a $20 billion rail link between its east and west coasts with the Malaysian prime minister describing terms for the project as “damaging” to its economy.
    The Belt and Road initiative has also been met with growing scepticism in countries such as Sri Lanka, which have been saddled with debt that is difficult to repay.
    China’s vice finance minister Zou Jiayi on Saturday acknowledged debt issues with some of Belt and Road projects, saying the government would strengthen macro-supervision on the debt sustainability aspect of its overseas investments.
    The biggest foreign investors in Egypt are currently European countries, as well as the United States.
    Nasr said Egypt, which is undertaking deep reform after a 2016 deal with the IMF, was a bridge between Asia and Africa due to access to the Suez canal and trade agreements with the rest of Africa.
    She said China’s Belt and Road investments included energy projects, a railway, real estate and an oil refinery.
    The minister is targeting $10 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the 2018/19 fiscal year, up from $7.9 billion in the year ended June 2018.
    Nasr also said she wants local companies to invest more because “if the foreign investors don’t think the Egyptian investors are confident and reinvesting in Egypt it will be very difficult for me to bring in FDI.”
(Additional reporting by Yawen Chen; Editing by Richard Pullin)

10/15/2018 Saudi Arabia says will retaliate against any sanctions over Khashoggi case by Andrew Torchia and Arshad Mohammed
FILE PHOTO: Human rights activists and friends of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi hold his pictures during
a protest outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia on Sunday warned against threats to punish it over last week’s disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as European leaders piled on pressure and two more U.S. executives scrapped plans to attend a Saudi investor conference.
    Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist critical of Riyadh’s policies, disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.    Turkey believes he was murdered and his body removed.    Saudi Arabia has denied that.
    U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened “severe punishment” if it turns out Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, though he said Washington would be “i>punishing” itself if it halted military sales to Riyadh."
    “The Kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures, or repeating false accusations,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoted an unnamed official as saying.
    “The Kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the Kingdom’s economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy,” the official added, without elaborating.
    The Saudi Embassy in Washington later tweeted what it called a clarification, thanking countries including the United States “for refraining from jumping to conclusions” over the case.
    In a sign Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud may seek a diplomatic solution to the incident, he stressed the strength of Saudi-Turkish ties in a telephone call with President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, the Saudi press agency said late on Sunday.
    The king thanked Erdogan for welcoming a Saudi proposal to form a joint working group to discuss Khashoggi’s disappearance and said no one could undermine their relationship.
EUROPE SEEKS CREDIBLE INVESTIGATION
    Europe’s largest economies — Britain, France and Germany — said on Sunday they were treating the case with “the utmost seriousness.”
    “There needs to be a credible investigation to establish the truth about what happened, and – if relevant – to identify those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, and ensure that they are held to account,” the countries said in a joint statement.
    “We encourage joint Saudi-Turkish efforts in that regard, and expect the Saudi Government to provide a complete and detailed response.    We have conveyed this message directly to the Saudi authorities.”
    The statement, by Britain’s Jeremy Hunt, France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian and Germany’s Heiko Maas, made no mention of potential actions the countries might take.    Hunt later said that if Saudi Arabia were proven to be guilty, “we would have to think about the appropriate way to react in that situation.”
OIL PRICE WARNING
    In a column published just after the SPA statement, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya channel’s General Manager Turki Aldakhil warned that imposing sanctions on the world’s largest oil exporter could spark global economic disaster.
    “It would lead to Saudi Arabia’s failure to commit to producing 7.5 million barrels.    If the price of oil reaching $80 angered President Trump, no one should rule out the price jumping to $100, or $200, or even double that figure,” he wrote.
    Investor concern is growing that Khashoggi’s disappearance could add to a sense that Saudi policy has become more unpredictable under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is pushing social and economic reforms but has also presided over a rise in tensions between with several countries.
    A Gulf banker said the Khashoggi case, combined with other events, had become a significant factor for some potential investors.
    “It’s cumulative – the Yemen war, the dispute with Qatar, the tensions with Canada and Germany, the arrests of women activists.    They add up to an impression of impulsive policy-making, and that worries investors,” the banker said.
    Foreign capital is key to Saudi plans for economic diversification and job creation.
    But in response to Khashoggi’s disappearance, media organizations and a growing number of executives have pulled out of a Riyadh investment conference scheduled for next week, dubbed “Davos in the Desert.”
    On Sunday, JP Morgan Chase & Co said Chief Executive Jamie Dimon has canceled plans to attend the Saudi Arabian investor conference later this month.    Ford Motor Co said Chairman Bill Ford has canceled his trip to the Middle East, which included an appearance at the Saudi investment conference.
    JP Morgan Chase and Ford did not comment on whether the decision was related to concerns about the disappearance of Khashoggi.
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin still plans to attend the conference, but that could change, Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
WASHINGTON REACTS
    U.S. senators called for reactions ranging from boycotting an upcoming economic summit in Riyadh to ending support for Saudi military operations in Yemen.
    “If they lured this man into that consulate, they went medieval on him, and he was killed and he was chopped up and they sent a death crew down there to kill him and do all of this, that would be an outrage,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio told CNN’s State of the Union.
    “Just because they are an ally in an important mission, which is containing Iranian expansion in the region, cannot allow us to overlook or walk away from that.”
    Fellow Republican, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, appearing on “This Week,” called for “severe action” which he said would affect arms sales and involvement in Yemen.
    The Saudi stock market fell as much as 7 percent in early trade on Sunday, one of the first signs of economic pain Riyadh could suffer over the affair.    By close, it had recovered some losses, ending down 3.5 percent and losing $16.5 billion of market value.
    Senators have triggered a provision of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requiring the president to determine whether a foreign person is responsible for a gross human rights violation.    The act has in the past imposed visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials.
    Anti-Saudi sentiment in the U.S. Congress could conceivably raise pressure to pass the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, which would end sovereign immunity shielding OPEC members from U.S. legal action.
ACCESSING CONSULATE
    The crisis has polarized Saudis, with some blaming the nation’s enemies and others concerned about the direction the country is heading under Prince Mohammed.
    Prince Khaled al-Faisal, a senior member of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family and senior advisor to King Salman, has met Erdogan to discuss Khashoggi’s disappearance, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters without providing details.
    A Turkish official told Reuters on Sunday that the Saudis had said they would allow the consulate to be searched, and that this would happen by the end of the weekend, though he conceded to “flexibility on this date.”
    “But Turkey is determined on the subject of entering the consulate and carrying out a criminal inspection.    There is no alternative to carrying out this inspection.    Time is important in terms of evidence,” the official said.
(Additional reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Asma Alsharif in Dubai, Orhan Coskun in Ankara, Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Elizabeth Piper in London, Christopher Bing and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Jarrett Renshaw in New York, writing by Stephen Kalin, Arshad Mohammed and Phil Stewart; editing by Robin Pomeroy and Sandra Maler)

10/15/2018 Jordan and Syria reopen Nassib border crossing
A Jordanian policeman opens the gate of Jordan's Jaber border crossing checkpoint
near Syria's Nasib checkpoint, near Marfaq, Jordan, October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
    JABER, Jordan (Reuters) – The border crossing between Jordan and Syria officially opened to civilians and trade on Monday after being closed for three years.
    The Nassib crossing opened an 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), a border official at the Jaber checkpoint on the Jordanian side told a Reuters reporter.    By 11:15 a.m., the reporter had seen no traffic at the border other than one Syrian businessman and a group of Jordanian traders who crossed to the Syrian side.
    Jordanian state news agency Petra reported early on Monday that Jordan and Syria had agreed to open the border to all in a change from an earlier statement that normal traffic would not be allowed until a later date.
    “We are fully ready to receive passengers and transport of goods,” Imad Riyalat, head of the Jaber crossing, told Reuters.    “We expect the traffic to be slow now at the start, but in coming days we expect passenger movement to pick up.”
    The Syrian government retook the area around the Nassib border crossing with Jordan in July during a Russian-backed offensive to drive rebels from their stronghold in southwest Syria.    The civil war in Syria began more than seven years ago.
    The closure of the Nassib crossing in 2015 cut a crucial transit route for hundreds of trucks a day transporting goods between Turkey and the Gulf, and Lebanon and the Gulf, in multi-billion dollar annual trade.
    Since then, Syria’s only normally operating frontier crossing has been with Lebanon, which itself has no other functioning land borders.
    Opening the border will also be important for Lebanon, which relies on Syria for overland connections to all other countries because its only other frontier is with Israel, with which it has no ties.
    Syrian state television footage showed the Syrian side of the crossing as being virtually empty, with just a couple of vehicles present.    State news agency SANA said the logistical arrangements for opening the crossing had been completed.
    “A Jordanian citizen may leave for Syria in their own car or as a regular passenger.    Jordanian cargo is also allowed to leave for Syria according to the Jordanian-Syrian agreement,” Petra said on Monday.
    Petra said Syrians entering Jordan must first obtain security clearance from Jordanian authorities, as has been the case throughout the Syria’s war.
(Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Jaber; writing by Lisa Barrington in Beirut; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Jason Neely)

10/15/2018 Taliban attack Afghan army base, killing 17 soldiers, abducting 11
    The Taliban have attacked an army base in western Afghanistan, killing 17 Afghan soldiers and abducting 11 others, officials said Sunday.
    Ghausuddin Noorzai, the district chief in Pusht Rod, said another four soldiers were wounded in the attack, which began late Saturday and continued into Sunday morning.
    The Taliban claimed the attack, the latest in their near-daily assaults on Afghan security forces.    The Taliban have seized a number of districts across the country in recent years.

10/15/2018 Trump says ‘rogue killers’ may be behind Khashoggi disappearance by Tulay Karadeniz and Roberta Rampton
FILE PHOTO: Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi speaks at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London Britain, September 29, 2018. Middle East Monitor/Handout via REUTERS.
    ANKARA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday “rogue killers” may have been behind the disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ordered an internal investigation into the case.
    Trump said he had spoken with King Salman about Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi policies, and that he was sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately to meet the king and travel to other places as needed.
    Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago to get marriage documents.    Turkish officials have said authorities believe he was murdered there and his body removed.
    Saudi Arabia has strongly denied killing Khashoggi and denounced such assertions as “lies,” saying he left the building shortly after entering.
    “The king firmly denied any knowledge of it,” Trump told reporters.    “He didn’t really know, maybe – I don’t want to get into his mind but it sounded to me – maybe these could have been rogue killers.    Who knows?
    A Turkish official and a security source told Reuters on Monday that the authorities have an audio recording indicating that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, without providing further details.
    The official said evidence was being shared with countries including Saudi Arabia and the United States.
    The case has provoked an international outcry, with Trump threatening “severe punishment” if it turns out Khashoggi was killed in the consulate and European allies urging “a credible investigation” and accountability for those responsible.
WESTERN PRESSURE
    A joint Turkish-Saudi team was set to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi was last seen on Oct. 2.
    A Turkish diplomatic source said investigators would inspect the consulate on Monday afternoon, after delays last week when Turkey accepted a Saudi proposal to work together to find out what happened to Khashoggi.
    “It has been 13 days since the event, so surely proving some of the evidence might be difficult, but we believe we will obtain evidence,” the Turkish official said.
    A Saudi official, not authorized to speak publicly, told Reuters that the king had ordered an internal investigation based on information from the joint team in Istanbul.
    Asked when the public prosecutor could make an announcement, the official said: “He was instructed to work quickly.”
    Britain expects Riyadh to provide “a complete and detailed response” to questions over Khashoggi’s disappearance, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said on Monday.
    Saudi Arabia has responded to Western statements by saying it would retaliate against any pressure or economic sanctions “with greater action,” and Arab allies rallied to support it, setting up a potential showdown between the world’s top oil exporter and its main Western allies.
    King Salman and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on Sunday evening and stressed the importance of the two countries creating a joint group as part of the probe.
    Broadcaster CNN Turk reported on Monday that the Saudi team had arrived at Istanbul police headquarters.
ECONOMIC IMPACT
    The Saudi riyal fell to its lowest in two years and its international bond prices slipped over fears that foreign investment inflows could shrink amid international pressure.
    The Saudi stock market had tumbled 7.2 percent over the previous two trading days but rebounded 2 percent on Monday.
    Foreign capital is key to Saudi plans for economic diversification and job creation.
    But concern over the disappearance has seen media organizations and a growing number of attendees pull out of a “Davos in the Desert” investment conference set for Oct. 23-25, which has become the biggest show for investors to promote Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform vision.
    On Monday, a source familiar with the matter said Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman and BlackRock Chief Executive Larry Fink were pulling out of the summit.    Both companies declined comment.    CNBC reported that Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga would not attend either.
    Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which hosts the conference, has tentatively committed $20 billion to an infrastructure investment planned with Blackstone Group.    Prince Mohammed told Reuters last year that Blackstone and BlackRock Inc were planning to open offices in the kingdom.
    Bahrain called for a boycott of Uber, in which PIF has invested $3.5 billion, after its chief executive officer said he would not attend the conference.
    Similar campaigns trended on social media in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.    UAE businessman Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor urged a boycott of Virgin, which has suspended discussions with PIF over a planned $1 billion investment.
    Khashoggi, a familiar face on Arab talk shows, moved to the United States last year fearing retribution for his criticism of Prince Mohammed, who has cracked down on dissent with arrests.
    The former newspaper editor once interviewed Osama bin Laden and later became a consummate insider, advising former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal when he served as ambassador in London and Washington.
    A pro-government Turkish daily published preliminary evidence last week from investigators it said identified a 15-member Saudi intelligence team which arrived in Istanbul on diplomatic passports hours before Khashoggi disappeared.
    The Saudi consulate referred Reuters to authorities in Riyadh who did not respond to questions about the 15 Saudis.
    Asked if he had reviewed the purported recording of Khashoggi’s killing, Trump told reporters on Saturday: “I have not… We’ve all heard a lot about the audio.    Nobody’s seen it yet, so we do want to see it… we’re going to be seeing it very soon.”
(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy, Trevor Hunnicutt, Lesley Wroughton, Doina Chiacu in Washington, Rob Cox of Breakingviews, William James in London, Dominic Evans in Istanbul; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by David Dolan, William Maclean)

10/15/2018 Report: Saudi Journalist Died From Interrogation by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heads to his plane to depart for meetings with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman
in Saudi Arabia, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (Leah Millis/Pool Image via AP)
    America’s top diplomat is headed to Saudi Arabia where he hopes to find answers about the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip Monday comes after President Trump spoke with the Saudi king, who denied any knowledge about what happened to Khashoggi.
    The investigative journalist was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
    Sources say a Saudi report will outline Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong and was carried out without clearance.
    It was also cautioned that the report is still being prepared and things could change.

10/16/2018 Turkish foreign minister says no ‘confession’ from Saudis over Khashoggi
A member of security staff stands at the entrance of Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 16, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday that Turkey had “not received a confession” from Saudi Arabia regarding the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after he visited its consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago.
    At a news conference, Cavusoglu said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will bring more information on the issue when he arrives in Turkey after a visit to Saudi Arabia.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans)

10/16/2018 Ethiopia creates ‘Peace Ministry’ to tackle violence in sweeping reshuffle by Aaron Maasho
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses his country's diaspora, the largest outside Ethiopia,
calling on them to return, invest and support their native land with the theme
"Break The Wall Build The Bridge", in Washington, U.S., July 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Theiler/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s prime minister created a new Ministry of Peace and handed half the posts in his cabinet to women in a sweeping cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday as he sought to tackle a wave of ethnic violence.
    Abiy Ahmed – who has turned the region’s politics on its head with a string of reforms since being appointed in April – named new finance and defense ministers in an overhaul that left only four of the appointments unchanged.
    “The main problem in this country is the lack of peace.    This (peace) ministry will be working hard to ensure it prevails,” Abiy told lawmakers.
    About 2.2 million people out of a population of 100 million have been displaced by violence since last year, much of it between rival ethnic groups.
    The new peace ministry will be led by former parliament speaker Muferiat Kamil, and her office will oversee the intelligence and security agencies, the government said.
    Since his appointment, Abiy has made peace with neighbor Eritrea and presided over the partial privatization of key economic sectors such as telecommunications.
    The 42-year-old has also extended an olive branch to several rebel groups, promised to follow a policy of reconciliation and rein in the powerful security agencies.    Yet the changes have not stopped ethnically-charged violence, some of which escalated since he was named premier.
    Former construction minister Aisha Mohammed was named defense minister – the first woman to hold that position in the country.
    Ahmed Shide, who has previously served as a deputy minister of finance and a government spokesman, replaced Abraham Tekeste as finance minister.
    The economy has grown by nearly 10 percent on average for the past decade, official data shows, but the recent unrest has led to concerns over its long-term stability.
    Abiy merged ministries to cut the cabinet to 20 from 28 and for the first time handed half of the top jobs to women.
    He named new ministers of agriculture, culture and tourism, education, labor, mines, planning and development, revenue, science, trade, transport, urban development, and women’s affairs – a mixture of new names and reshuffled ministers.
    He kept Workneh Gebeyehu as foreign minister, Amir Aman as health minister and Seleshi Bekele as water and electricity minister, as well as Berhanu Tsegaye as attorney general.
(Editing by Duncan Miriri and Andrew Heavens)

10/16/2018 New evidence suggests Khashoggi was killed in Saudi consulate, according to Turkish official by OAN Newsroom
    Turkey remains convinced journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate after discovering new evidence.
    A high-ranking Turkish official told the Associated Press the joint inspection team has found “certain evidence” Khashoggi was murdered in the diplomatic outpost.
    The official is not authorized to speak publicly on the operation.
A view of the Saudi Arabia consul’s residence, in Istanbul, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Jamal Khashoggi disappeared
two weeks ago on a visit to the nearby consulate and Turkish officials fear Saudi officials
killed and dismembered the writer inside the mission. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
    This comes as the Saudi government is reportedly preparing a statement acknowledging Khashoggi died during a botched interrogation by low-ranking Saudi officials.
    In an earlier statement, President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish authorities will continue to seek the truth.
    “Right now, as you aware, as a result of our intense contacts the search process in the consulate has started,” stated the Turkish president.    “Yesterday there was an intense procedure underway until morning and it will continue — my hope is that we can reach conclusions that will give us a reasonable opinion as soon as possible.”
    This comes after it was reported a large truck was seen leaving the consulate and parking at a Saudi official’s home just hours after Khashoggi’s disappearance.

10/16/2018 Secretary Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia to press King salman about khashoggi’s disappearance by OAN Newsroom
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia, where he hopes to find answers about the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    Pompeo touched down in the city of Riyadh Tuesday morning to meet with King Salman.    His arrival comes just one day after President Trump spoke with the Saudi king about Khashoggi’s disappearance, which the king has denied having any part of.
    The Washington Post columnist was last seen two weeks ago entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday Oct. 16, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on Tuesday with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman over the disappearance and alleged
slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished two weeks ago during a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP)
    On Monday a Turkish forensics team was seen entering the consulate to look for evidence that may lead to answers about Khashoggi’s alleged death.
    A Saudi team later joined in the investigation as the two nations are working together to avoid hurting bilateral relations.
    “Turkey doesn’t want to damage the relations with Saudi Arabia, but on the other hand it doesn’t want to — if he was killed — let this barbaric crime stay unpunished,” stated Turkish foreign policy analyst Ozcan Tikit.    “Here is a very tiny line, not to damage relations, but also not to let the murderers stay unpunished.”
    It is still unknown if any evidence was found during Monday’s search.

10/17/2018 US says airstrike in Somalia kills about 60 al-Shabab fighters     The U.S. military on Tuesday announced its deadliest airstrike against the al-Shabab extremist group in Somalia in nearly a year, killing about 60 fighters.
    The U.S. Africa Command said Friday’s airstrike occurred near the al-Shabab-controlled community of Harardere in Mudug province in the central part of the country.    According to its assessment, no civilians were injured or killed, the statement said.

10/17/2018 Saudis ‘denied any knowledge’ - Trump, Pompeo promise answers on journalist by Deirdre Shesgreen and Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY
    President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “totally denied any knowledge” of what happened when Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing after visiting the consulate in Istanbul.
    “Just spoke with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate,” Trump tweeted.    “He was with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo … during the call, and told me that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter.”
    Pompeo met with Saudi Arabian King Salman and the crown prince in Riyadh on Tuesday.
    “Answers will be forthcoming shortly,” Trump said.
    U.S. resident and Washington Post contributor Khashoggi vanished two weeks ago while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.    Turkish officials said they have evidence Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the diplomatic compound, but Saudi officials called the allegations “baseless.”
    Pompeo will fly to Ankara on Wednesday to meet with Turkish officials, said Heather Nauert, the State Department’s chief spokeswoman.
    “During each of today’s meetings, the Saudi leadership strongly denied any knowledge of what took place in their consulate in Istanbul,” Pompeo said.    “My assessment from these meetings is that there is serious commitment to determine all the facts and ensure accountability, including accountability for Saudi Arabia’s senior leaders or senior officials.”
    “The government of Saudi Arabia owes the Khashoggi family and the world a full and honest explanation of everything that happened to him,” Fred Ryan, publisher and CEO of The Washington Post, said in a statement Tuesday.    “The Saudi government can no longer remain silent, and it is essential that our own government and others push harder for the truth.”
    Ryan supported the Khashoggi family’s request for an independent, international investigation.
    Turkish police searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul overnight Monday and announced Tuesday that the Saudi consul’s home in Istanbul would be searched.
    In Riyadh, Pompeo held short meetings with Salman and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir before sitting down with the crown prince, Saudi’s de facto ruler, inside the royal court.
    “We are strong and old allies,” the prince said after greeting Pompeo, according to a pool report from journalists traveling with the secretary of state.    “We face our challenges together – the past, the day of, tomorrow.”
    Some U.S. executives pulled out of an investment summit in Riyadh later this month because of the case. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plans to attend the conference.
    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the United States should “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia” and slammed the crown prince, known by his initials MBS, as a “toxic” figure.
    “This guy is a wrecking ball,” Graham said on Fox News Tuesday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. POOL PHOTO BY LEAH MILLS

10/17/2018 Palestinian rocket attack on Israeli city draws Gaza air strikes: military by Nidal al-Mughrabi
A member of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas inspects the scene of an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    GAZA (Reuters) – A rocket fired by Palestinian militants hit a house in the largest city in southern Israel on Wednesday, Israel’s military said, prompting Israeli air strikes that medics said killed at least one person in the Gaza Strip.
    The attacks came as Egyptian mediators try to negotiate a long-term ceasefire after months of violence along Gaza’s border with Israel.
    The rocket severely damaged the house in Beersheba before dawn, the military said.    The family living there managed to take shelter in a reinforced room after alert sirens sounded, said officials in the city about 40 km (25 miles) from the Gaza Strip.
    Another rocket launched from Gaza and aimed at central Israel fell into the Mediterranean Sea, the military said.
    Israel’s military said it then struck armed training camps in Gaza, which is run by the Hamas Islamist group, and also targeted a squad about to launch a rocket.
    Health officials in Gaza said at least one Palestinian was killed and five wounded.
“IRRESPONSIBLE”
    There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Beersheba attack, and in an unusual statement – with a nod to Egypt’s truce efforts – Hamas and other militant groups condemned the rocket strike.
    In a joint statement, Hamas and the other groups said they “reject all irresponsible attempts to sabotage the Egyptian effort, including the firing of the rockets” on Wednesday.    The factions did not specify who they believe might have launched them.
    Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said the rockets fired at Beersheba and central Israel, were mid-range and produced in Gaza.
    “Only two organizations have these specific rockets – Hamas and Islamic Jihad – which very much narrows it down as to who is behind it,” he said in a telephone briefing to journalists.
    Palestinian have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to an Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the narrow coastal strip, and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948.
    Around 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the border protests began on, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures.    Palestinian militants have launched incendiary balloons and kites into Israel and on occasion breached an Israeli frontier fence.
    A senior Egyptian delegation has been holding talks with Hamas in Gaza since Tuesday on a ceasefire with Israel and ways to end 11 years of division with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction in the occupied West Bank.
(Additional reporting by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

10/17/2018 Turkey tells Pompeo it can easily clear Syria’s Manbij of Kurdish YPG: minister
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greets Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu
before their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/Pool
    ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Turkey could easily clear northern Syria’s Manbij of the Kurdish YPG militia if the United States failed to do so, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
    Speaking to reporters at the airport in Ankara following a meeting with Pompeo, Mevlut Cavusoglu said the United States accepted that the agreement with Turkey to clear Manbij of the YPG had been delayed.    Erdogan met Pompeo earlier in the day.
(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Daren Butler)

10/17/2018 Israel’s top court weighs appeal by barred U.S. student by Ori Lewis
American student Lara Alqasem appears in Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem October 17, 2018 REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s top court weighed an appeal on Wednesday by a U.S. student facing deportation under a law against foreign pro-Palestinian activists who call for boycotts of Israel.
    Lara Alqasem, 22, flew to Israel on Oct. 2 on a study visa but was refused entry by security officials who cited her role as president of a small local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida.
    Alqasem’s case has touched off debate in Israel over whether democratic values have been compromised by a 2017 law that bars the entry of foreigners who publicly support boycotts over Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
    Alqasem, who is of Palestinian descent, has been detained at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv since being denied entry to the country.
    Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, where she was due to begin a year-long master’s program on Sunday, also urged the court to reconsider.
    At a hearing in Israel’s Supreme Court in Jerusalem, Alqasem’s lawyers said she was no longer active in the boycott movement and should be allowed in, the same argument made to a lower court that rejected her appeal last week.
    “Only someone who consistently and continuously calls for a boycott is somebody who should face a ban,” Yotam Ben-Hillel, one of Alqasem’s attorneys argued in front of the three justices.    “She made a commitment to the (lower court) that if she enters Israel, she will not call for a boycott.”
    The three justices hearing the case said they would deliver their ruling in writing.    Leora Bechor, another attorney acting for Alqasem said she was hoping for a swift verdict, possibly later in the day.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel’s stance is similar to other countries’ practices.    Israel’s government has said it sees boycott movements not only as an attempt to isolate it over its occupation of territory which Palestinians seek for a state, but also as a campaign for its destruction.
    Alqasem’s lawyers have said she stopped her activities in the Students for Justice group months before the anti-boycott law came into effect.
    Bechor said Alqasem could have opted to fly back to the United States, but had chosen to remain in airport detention to argue her case.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

10/18/2018 U.S. gives Saudis ‘few more days’ on Khashoggi probe; consulate searched again by Steve Holland and Bulent Usta
Turkish police forensic experts and Saudi officials are seen at the backyard of
Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir
    WASHINGTON/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday gave Saudi Arabia more time to investigate the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as Turkish investigators searched Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul for a second time in a hunt for clues.
    U.S. President Donald Trump met for less than an hour with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who gave the president an update on his talks this week with Saudi and Turkish officials about the Khashoggi case amid concern that the journalist was killed in the consulate after entering it on Oct. 2.
    Referring to the Saudis, Pompeo said he told Trump that “we ought to give them a few more days to complete” their investigation in order to get a full understanding of what happened “at which point we can make decisions about how – or if – the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Mr. Khashoggi.”
    “I think it’s important for us all to remember, too – we have a long, since 1932, a long strategic relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Pompeo told reporters after meeting with Trump, also calling Saudi Arabia “an important counterterrorism partner.”
    Turkish officials have said they believe Saudi journalist Khashoggi – a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist who was a strong critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – was murdered at the consulate and his body chopped up and removed.
    Shortly after the Trump-Pompeo meeting, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced he would not be attending a high-profile business conference in Saudi Arabia.
    “Just met with @realDonaldTrump and @SecPompeo and we have decided, I will not be participating in the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia,” Mnuchin wrote on Twitter.
    Pompeo told reporters that he made clear to the Saudis in his visit to Riyadh that “we take this matter with respect to Mr. Khashoggi very seriously.”
    “They made clear to me that they too understand the serious nature of the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi.    They also assured me that they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all of the facts surrounding Mr. Khashoggi and that they will do so in a timely fashion,” Pompeo added.
CONSULATE SEARCH
    Turkish investigators left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul early on Thursday after searching the building and consular vehicles, a Reuters witness said.    They used bright lights to illuminate the garden.    Earlier, they spent nearly nine hours in the Saudi consul’s residence along with Saudi investigators.
    The Turkish search, which used a drone, included the roof and garage.
    Khashoggi had gone to the consulate seeking documents for his planned upcoming marriage and has not been seen since.    Saudi Arabia has denied involvement in the disappearance.
    The incident has caused a global outcry but also poses a dilemma for the United States and other Western nations, which have lucrative business dealings with the authoritarian kingdom and count on it as a leading Middle East ally and opponent of their common enemy Iran.
    Saudi Arabia also wields significant influence as the world’s top oil exporter.
    How Western allies deal with Riyadh will hinge on the extent to which they believe responsibility for Khashoggi’s disappearance lies with Prince Mohammed and the Saudi authorities.
    Trump has shown no willingness to mete out harsh punishment to Saudi Arabia.    He said on Wednesday he did not want to abandon Saudi Arabia and needed to see evidence of any role by Riyadh.
    Trump, who has forged closer ties with Saudi Arabia and the 33-year-old prince in an effort to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East, has speculated without providing evidence that “rogue killers” could be responsible.
U.N. INVESTIGATION URGED
    Four prominent Western rights groups – Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders – urged Turkey to ask the United Nations to investigate the disappearance of Khashoggi.
    “U.N. involvement is the best guarantee against a Saudi whitewash or attempts by other governments to sweep the issue under the carpet to preserve lucrative business ties with Riyadh,” said Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
    European governments have expressed concern about Khashoggi’s disappearance but face a similarly delicate situation.
    Three senior ministers said they were pulling out of the high-profile investment conference in Riyadh later this month, joining a list of international officials and business executives to boycott the event.
    French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire cited concerns about the Khashoggi matter.    British trade minister Liam Fox followed suit, with his spokesman saying: “Those bearing responsibility for his disappearance must be held to account.”
    Dutch Finance Minister Wopka Hoekstra also scrapped plans to attend while the Dutch government canceled a trade mission to Saudi Arabia next month.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow did not have enough information about Khashoggi’s disappearance to justify harming ties with Riyadh.    His government would wait for details, Putin told a forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
    The New York Times reported on Wednesday that U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly convinced of Prince Mohammed’s culpability in Khashoggi’s killing but have not yet been able to collect direct evidence.    Saudi authorities did not immediately comment on the report.
    Turkish sources have said the authorities have an audio recording indicating Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.
    The pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper published on Wednesday what it said were details from audio recordings that purported to document Khashoggi’s torture and interrogation.    Khashoggi’s torturers severed his fingers during the interrogation and later beheaded and dismembered him, it said.
    Reuters has been unable to confirm the report with Turkish officials.
    Turkish pro-government newspaper Sabah reported last week that investigators had identified a 15-member Saudi intelligence team that arrived in Istanbul on diplomatic passports hours before Khashoggi disappeared.
    Prince Mohammed has painted himself as the face of a new, vibrant Saudi Arabia but has faced criticism including over the arrest of women activists, a diplomatic dispute with Canada and Riyadh’s involvement in the Yemen war in which air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition have killed thousands of civilians.
(Additional reporting by Umit Ozdal, Yesim Dikmen and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Istanbul, John Irish and Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris, Bart Meijer in Amsterdam, Alistair Smout and Kylie MacLellan in London and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Daren Butler and Stephen Kalin; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Will Dunham)

10/18/2018 Lawyers of U.S. student in Israeli boycott case claim “victory
American student Lara Alqasem appears in Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem, October 17, 2018 REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The lawyers of a U.S. student who was barred entry into Israel under a law against foreign pro-Palestinian activists who call for boycotts of Israel, claimed “victory” after the Supreme Court weighed in on the case.
    Lara Alqasem, 22, flew to Israel on Oct. 2 on a study visa but was refused entry by security officials who cited her role as president of a small local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida.
    “The Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for free speech, academic freedom, and the rule of law,” Alqasem’s lawyers said in a statement, which did not include details on the court’s ruling.
    Reuters was not able to immediately verify the claim.
(Reporting by Ori Lewis, Editing by Ari Rabinovitch)

10/18/2018 Israel steps up armored deployment on Gaza border
Israeli soldiers speak next to tanks as military armoured vehicles gather in an open area
near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    YAD MORDECHAI, Israel (Reuters) – Israel ramped up its armored forces along the Gaza border on Thursday in a daylight show of force, a day after a Palestinian rocket destroyed a home in southern Israel.
    With the deployment clearly visible from main Israeli roads near the Gaza Strip, senior Egyptian security officials met leaders of the enclave’s ruling Hamas to try to calm tensions.
    Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group quickly denied firing the rockets.
    Much may depend on the scope and intensity of a planned Palestinian protest at the border with Israel on Friday, where often violent demonstrations have been held over the past six months.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who convened his security cabinet on Wednesday after the rocket wrecked a home in the city of Beersheba, pledged to take “very strong action” if Palestinian attacks continued.
    Israeli leaders have said they will not tolerate rocket attacks or attempts, during the border protests, to breach Israel’s frontier fence with the Palestinian territory of two million people.
    A Reuters photographer counted some 60 tanks and armored personnel carriers at a deployment area near the border, calling it the largest number he has seen there since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
    In Gaza, a Palestinian official said the Egyptian delegation was also in contact with Israeli leaders to curb the current tensions.
    “The situation is delicate.    No one wants a war,” he said.
    “Palestinian factions are demanding an end to the Israeli blockade that strangled life and business in Gaza,” the official told Reuters.
    Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948.
    About 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the border protests began, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures.    Palestinians have launched incendiary balloons and kites into Israel and on occasion breached an Israeli frontier fence.
    More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the coastal enclave.    Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders.    Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border.
    In addition to sporadic incidents, Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the past 10 years.    The internationally-mediated peace process aimed at finding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all but moribund.
(Reporting by Amir Cohen, and Nidal Almughrabi in Gaza, Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Ori Lewis and Richard Balmforth)

10/18/2018 U.S. to merge Jerusalem consulate in to new embassy
FILE PHOTO: U.S. marines take part in the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will merge the U.S. Consulate General, which serves Palestinians, with its new embassy in Israel into a single diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday, drawing a quick rebuke from Palestinians.
    “This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations,” Pompeo said in a statement.    “It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.”
    U.S. President Donald Trump outraged the Arab world and stoked international concern by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.
    The consulate general in Jerusalem is the top mission for Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem for their capital.
    Pompeo said the United States will establish a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the embassy in Jerusalem to continue reporting, outreach and programming in the West Bank and Gaza as well as with Palestinians in Jerusalem.
    Senior Palestinian leader Saeb Erekat denounced the decision to eliminate the consulate as the latest evidence the Trump administration is working with Israel to impose a “Greater Israel” rather than a two-state solution.
    The decision has nothing to do with efficiency, Erekat said, “and a lot to do with pleasing an ideological U.S. team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes.”
    Pompeo said the Trump administration was committed to a peace effort between Israel and the Palestinians.     Palestinian leaders suspended ties with the U.S. administration after the embassy move and have thus had no official contacts with the consulate in Jerusalem.
    The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest disputes between Israel and the Palestinians and Palestinian leaders accused Trump of sowing instability by overturning decades of U.S. policy.
    Palestinians, with broad international backing, seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
    Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed, as its “eternal and indivisible capital,” but that is not recognized internationally.    The Trump administration has avoided that description, and noted that the city’s final borders should be decided by the parties.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Frances Kerry and Bill Trott)

10/18/2018 Saudi Arabia to blame intelligence chief in alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi by OAN Newsroom
    Saudi Arabia is reportedly going to blaming its top intelligence official for the alleged murder of Jamal Khashggi.
    According to reports, the Saudis plan to blame General Ahmed al-Assiri for the suspected murder at the Istanbul consulate.
    This comes as the kingdom’s latest move to distance its royal family from the atrocity.
Major General Ahmed Al Asiri attends a press briefing at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London, Britain. (REUTERS/Photo/Stefan Wermuth)
    Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence believes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could be involved with Khasoggi’s disappearance.    However, both the Trump administration and the Saudis have sought to alleviate tensions over the incident.
    “But, if you look at Saudi Arabia, they’re an ally and they’re a tremendous purchaser of, not only military equipment, but other things,” explained President Trump.    “So, they were an important ally, but I want to find out what happened — where is the fault?
    The president has also requested from Turkey any photo and video evidence of Khashoggi’s suspected murder.    President Trump suggested he will consider a policy response once he finds out what happened.

10/19/2018 Cameroon court rejects all petitions calling for re-run of elections
FILE PHOTO: Cameroonian President Paul Biya casts his ballot while his wife Chantal watches during
the presidential election in Yaounde, Cameroon October 7, 2018. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo
    YAOUNDE (Reuters) – Cameroon’s Constitutional Council on Friday rejected the last of 18 petitions calling for a re-run of an Oct. 7 election that the opposition said was marred by fraud, paving the way for results expected to extend President Paul Biya’s 36-year rule.
    The rejections clear all legal objections to the polls.    Nearly two weeks after the vote, no results have been announced but under national law authorities have until Sunday to do so.
    Biya is seeking a seventh term that would see him keep his place as one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.    The only current African president to have ruled longer is Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
    But allegations of voter intimidation, violence and ballot-stuffing cast doubt over the election, prompting the three main opposition candidates, and other prominent political figures, to call for the cancellation of results.
    “We reject in totality the results” of the elections, said Paul Eric Kingue, the campaign manager for opposition candidate Maurice Kamto, whose call for a re-run of the poll in seven regions was rejected late on Thursday.    “Paul Biya is not our president.”
    Candidates Joshua Osih and Cabral Libii asked for the results to be canceled and the election to be re-run.    The court rejected Libii’s appeal late on Tuesday because it said it was filed one hour after the deadline.    Osih’s appeal was rejected in the early hours of Friday morning.
    “We as Cameroonians should be ashamed of what is currently happening in front of this high jurisdiction we call the Constitutional Council,” Nkou Mvondo Prosper, President of Libii’s Univers party said.
    The elections went ahead with scattered instances of violence in the Anglophone South West and North West regions where a separatist insurgency is trying to split from Yaounde.    In those regions, which hold about a quarter of the country’s 24 million population, most did not vote for fear of violence.
(Reporting By Josiane Kouageu; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

10/19/2018 As Khashoggi crisis grows, Saudi king asserts authority, checks son’s power: sources
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, attends a banquet hosted by Shinzo Abe, Japan's Prime Minister,
at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, Monday, March 13, 2017.
To match Insight SAUDI-POLITICS/KING REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – So grave is the fallout from the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that King Salman has felt compelled to intervene, five sources with links to the Saudi royal family said.
    Last Thursday, Oct. 11, the king dispatched his most trusted aide, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, governor of Mecca, to Istanbul to try to defuse the crisis.
    World leaders were demanding an explanation and concern was growing in parts of the royal court that the king’s son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to whom he has delegated vast powers, was struggling to contain the fallout, the sources said.
    During Prince Khaled’s visit, Turkey and Saudi Arabia agreed to form a joint working group to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance.    The king subsequently ordered the Saudi public prosecutor to open an inquiry based on its findings.
    “The selection of Khaled, a senior royal with high status, is telling as he is the king’s personal adviser, his right hand man and has had very strong ties and a friendship with (Turkish President) Erdogan,” said a Saudi source with links to government circles.
    Since the meeting between Prince Khaled and Erdogan, King Salman has been “asserting himself” in managing the affair, according to a different source, a Saudi businessman who lives abroad but is close to royal circles.
    Saudi officials did not immediately respond to Reuters questions about the king’s involvement in helping to supervise the crisis.    A spokesman for Prince Khaled referred Reuters to government representatives in Riyadh.
    Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and leading critic of Prince Mohammed, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.    Turkish officials say they believe the Saudi journalist was murdered there and his body removed, allegations which Saudi Arabia has strongly denied.
    Initially the king, who has handed the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to his son, commonly known as MbS, was unaware of the extent of the crisis, according to two of the sources with knowledge of the Saudi royal court.    That was partly because MbS aides had been directing the king to glowing news about the country on Saudi TV channels, the sources said.
    That changed as the crisis grew.
    “Even if MbS wanted to keep this away from the king he couldn’t because the story about Khashoggi’s disappearance was on all the Arab and Saudi TV channels watched by the king,” one of the five sources said.
    “The king started asking aides and MbS about it.    MbS had to tell him and asked him to intervene when Khashoggi’s case became a global crisis,” this source said.
    Since he acceded to the throne in January 2015, the king has given MbS, his favorite son, increasing authority to run Saudi Arabia.    But the king’s latest intervention reflects growing disquiet among some members of the royal court about MbS’s fitness to govern, the five sources said.
    MbS, 33, has implemented a series of high-profile social and economic reforms since his father’s accession, including ending a ban on women driving and opening cinemas in the conservative kingdom.
    But he has also marginalized senior members of the royal family and consolidated control over Saudi’s security and intelligence agencies.
    His reforms have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, a purge of top royals and businessmen on corruption charges, and a costly war in Yemen.
    Khashoggi’s disappearance has further tarnished the crown prince’s reputation, deepening questions among Western allies and some Saudis about his leadership.
    “Even if he is his favorite son, the king needs to have a comprehensive view for his survival and the survival of the royal family,” said a fourth Saudi source with links to the royal court.
    “i>In the end it will snowball on all of them/i>.”
    Saudi officials did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.
MISCALCULATION
    Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance.    But the sources familiar with the royal court said the reaction from the United States, an ally for decades, had contributed to the king’s intervention.
    “When the situation got out of control and there was an uproar in the United States, MbS informed his father that there was a problem and that they have to face it,” another source with knowledge of the royal court said.
    The crown prince and his aides had initially thought the crisis would pass but they “miscalculated its repercussions,” this source said.
    Turkish officials have made clear they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, and two Turkish sources have told Reuters police have audio recordings to back up that assertion.
    U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican close to President Donald Trump, on Tuesday accused MbS of ordering Khashoggi’s murder and called him a “wrecking ball” who is jeopardizing relations with the United States.    He did not say what evidence he was basing the allegation on.
    Trump said on Thursday he presumed Khashoggi was dead but that he still wanted to get to the bottom of what exactly happened.    Asked what would be the consequences for Saudi Arabia, Trump said: “Well, it’ll have to be very severe.    I mean, it’s bad, bad stuff.    But we’ll see what happens.”
    Trump has previously said “rogue killers” may have been responsible and has ruled out cancelling arms deals worth tens of billions of dollars.    On Tuesday, Trump said he had spoken with MbS and that the crown prince told him he did not know what had happened in the consulate where Khashoggi went missing.
    The case poses a dilemma for the United States, as well as Britain and other Western nations.    Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter, spends lavishly on Western arms and is an ally in efforts to contain the influence of Iran.
    But in a sign of the damage, a succession of international banking and business chiefs, including IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, JP Morgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon and Ford Chairman Bill Ford, have pulled out of a high-profile investment conference in Saudi Arabia this month.
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday also abandoned plans to attend, as did Britain’s trade minister and the French and Dutch finance ministers, putting the event in question.
    Saudi officials have said they plan to move forward with the conference, scheduled for Oct. 23-25, despite the wave of cancellations.
    Neither JP Morgan nor Ford would elaborate on the reasons for the decision not to attend and did not comment on whether concerns about the disappearance of Khashoggi were a factor.
    Lagarde had previously said she was “horrified” by media reports about Khashoggi’s disappearance.    An IMF spokesperson did not give a reason for her deferring her trip to the Middle East.
TAKING CONTROL
    Before the king’s intervention, Saudi authorities had been striking a defiant tone, threatening on Sunday to retaliate with greater action against the U.S. and others if sanctions are imposed over Khashoggi’s disappearance.    A Saudi-owned media outlet warned the result would be disruption in Saudi oil production and a sharp rise in world oil prices.
    “Reaction and threats to the possible sanctions of the last 24 hours were still (coming) from the crown prince,” the businessman close to royal circles said on Monday.    “The king is now holding the file personally … and the tone is very different.”
    The king has spoken directly with Erdogan and Trump in recent days.    Both the king and his son met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he visited Riyadh on Tuesday.
    King Salman, 82, spent decades as part of the inner circle of the Al Saud dynasty, which long ruled by consensus.    In four decades as governor of Riyadh, he earned a reputation as a royal enforcer who punished princes who were out of line.
    Whether he is willing or able to resume that role in this crisis remains unclear, palace insiders say.    One source with links to the royal court said the king was “captivated” by MbS and ultimately would protect him.
    Still, there is precedent for the king’s intervention.
    He stepped in this year to shelve the planned listing of national oil company Saudi Aramco, the brainchild of MbS and a cornerstone of his economic reforms, three sources with ties to government insiders told Reuters in August.    Saudi officials have said the government remains committed to the plans.
    And when MbS gave the impression last year that Riyadh endorsed the Trump administration’s still nebulous Middle East peace plan, including U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the king made a public correction, reaffirming Riyadh’s commitment to the Arab and Muslim identity of the city.
    Despite these rare instances of pushback, several of the sources close to the royal family said that King Salman had grown increasingly detached from decisions taken by MbS.
    “He has been living in an artificially-created bubble,” said one of the sources.    Lately, though, the king’s advisers have grown frustrated and begun warning him of the risks of leaving the crown prince’s power unchecked.
    “The people around him are starting to tell him to wake up to what’s happening,” the source said.
(Reporting by Reuters correspondents; Editing by Nick Tattersall)

10/19/2018 Saudi Arabia Admits Death Of Khashoggi by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this Dec. 15, 2014, file photo, Jamal Khashoggi, general manager of a new Arabic news channel,
speaks during a news conference in Manama, Bahrain. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)
    Saudi Arabia admits journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in its consulate in Istanbul.
    In a statement on Saudi state TV, Saudi officials said an initial investigation shows Khashoggi died after a fight broke out between the journalist and people at the consulate.
    An investigation is moving forward and 18 suspects have been arrested.
    The Saudi crown prince dismissed his deputy intelligence chief as well as his close adviser, who oversees propaganda abroad.
    There is no word on where Khashoggi’s body is located, though it’s been rumored to have been dismembered and flown back to Saudi Arabia.

10/20/2018 Khashoggi died inside consulate, Saudis say - US lawmakers condemn assertion journalist was involved in ‘brawl’ by Kim Hjelmgaard, Deirdre Shesgreen and Christal Hayes, USA TODAY
    Jamal Khashoggi died during a “brawl” inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Saudi authorities claimed late Friday.
    The announcement, made on state TV and also released via the official Saudi Press Agency, comes more than two weeks after the missing journalist disappeared after entering the diplomatic compound in Turkey.
    Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested in connection with the case.    None was identified.    It is the first time the kingdom has admitted Khashoggi is dead.    The prosecutor said he died as a result of a “quarrel and a brawl,” a characterization that brought immediate condemnation from U.S. lawmakers.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the explanation given by the Saudis that led to Khashoggi’s death “absolutely defies credibility.”
    “The world deserves an explanation, and not from the Saudis,” he told CNN, adding that for too long they had been “i>given a pass” for “killing innocent civilians.”
    In a tweet, Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS. C., said: “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement."
    “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement,” he wrote.    “Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince.”
    Graham has been a strong supporter of Saudi Arabia, but the Khashoggi case has turned him into a critic.    He recently suggested Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was “toxic” and should be replaced.
    The White House was more equivocal.    “We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
    The development comes as President Donald Trump has shifted his thinking on the case and vowed “very severe” consequences for Saudi Arabia if it is proved to be behind Khashoggi’s murder.    It follows heavy criticism of Trump for appearing in recent days to prioritize the U.S. security relationship with the Middle Eastern country over what Turkish reports allege is an extrajudicial execution carried out by members of an assassination squad with ties to bin Salman.
    Trump said he wants to wait for Saudi Arabia and Turkey to conclude their investigations before deciding on what action to take.
    Earlier Friday, Turkish crime-scene investigators expanded their search for Khashoggi’s remains to a forest on the outskirts of Istanbul, Turkish media reported.
    His body has not been found.    Turkish security officials say they have audio and video evidence indicating he was likely dismembered inside the consulate.
    Saudi Arabia did not address that allegation in its statement, only saying the “brawl” led to Khashoggi’s death and a subsequent attempt to conceal and cover it up.    It vowed to “hold all those involved in this case accountable and to bring them to justice.”
    Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Saudi explanation “just isn’t credible, particularly since the story has shifted so much over the past days.”
    “i>The administration needs to push for a thorough and transparent investigation into Mr. Khashoggi’s death without delay,” he said.
    The ongoing revelations have led to speculation that there could be a shake-up in the Saudi royal family.
Surveillance footage shows a man identified by Turkish officials as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb,
a companion of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, outside the consulate Oct. 2. AP

10/20/2018 Israel delays eviction of West Bank Bedouin village
People celebrate inside the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar that Israel plans to demolish,
in the occupied West Bank October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday postponed the forced eviction of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, a government official said.
    The fate of Khan al-Ahmar has drawn international concern after Israel said it planned to raze the village, a ramshackle camp housing 180 residents.
    Its residents, backed by foreign activists who have gathered at the site, have been waiting for bulldozers to move in at any time after an Oct. 1 deadline from Israel for the villagers to demolish their own homes expired.
    “We will stay alert and be ready to face the raid until news (of the delay) is confirmed,” said Walid Assaf, a Palestinian Authority minister who is in charge of the settlements file.
    The expulsion plan had included relocation to an area about 12 km (seven miles) away next to a landfill.
    But an official in Netanyahu’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said an alternative relocation plan was being looked at, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
    “The goal is to fully exhaust negotiations and (examine) proposed plans submitted by various agents, including (those received) in the past few days,” the official said.
    On Oct. 17 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, said in a statement that eviction and demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar could constitute a war crime and the United Nations, European Union and rights groups have urged Israel not to raze the village, citing the impact on its community and prospects for peace.
    Israel, which has long sought to clear the Arab nomads from tracts of land between the settlements of Maale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, said Khan al-Ahmar was built without the required permits.    Palestinians say such documents are impossible to obtain.
    The Palestinians say razing the village’s tents and tin shacks is part of an Israeli plan to create an arc of Jewish settlements that would effectively cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, areas captured by Israel in a 1967 war.
    Most countries consider settlements built by Israel on land it captured in 1967 as illegal and say they reduce and fragment the territory Palestinians seek for a viable state.    Israel disputes this.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Adrian Croft and Alistair Bell)

10/21/2018 Netanyahu says West Bank Bedouin village eviction delay not indefinite
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday his decision to delay the demolition of a Bedouin village in the West Bank was a brief reprieve while efforts are under way to reach a relocation deal for its residents.
    Israel’s decision to raze the village of Khan al-Ahmar in Israeli-occupied territory has drawn international concern, including from the United Nations and the European Union.    The International Criminal Court prosecutor has said the eviction and demolition of Khan al-Ahmar could constitute a war crime.
    But an official in Netanyahu’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday the eviction had been postponed and an alternative relocation plan was being considered, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
    In remarks to reporters on Sunday, Netanyahu said the eviction would eventually go ahead.
    “I have no intention of postponing this indefinitely, despite reports to the contrary, but for a short time,” he said.
    “The amount of time we allocate for evacuating it under an agreement will be set by the security cabinet.    I will convene it today.    We will set (the timetable).    It will be short and I believe it will be done with consent.”
    Originally residents were to be relocated to an area about 12 km (seven miles) away next to a landfill in the Israel-occupied territory.    The authorities were expected to send in bulldozers in at any time after an Oct. 1 deadline for the villagers to demolish their own homes expired.
    Israel, which has long sought to clear the Arab nomads from tracts of land between the Jewish settlements of Maale Adumim and Kfar Adumim, said Khan al-Ahmar was built without the required permits.
    Palestinians, who lost an Israeli Supreme Court appeal against the evacuation, say such documents are impossible to obtain.
    The Palestinians say razing the village’s tents and tin shacks is part of an Israeli plan to create an arc of Jewish settlements that could effectively cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, areas occupied by Israel since a 1967 war.
    Most countries consider settlements built by Israel on land it captured in 1967 as illegal and say they reduce and fragment the territory Palestinians seek for a viable state.    Israel disputes this.
    The United Nations, the EU and rights groups have urged Israel not to raze the village, citing the impact on its community and prospects for peace.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/21/2018 Trump, Europeans call Saudi account of Khashoggi death inadequate by Jeff Mason and David Dolan
A Saudi flag flutters atop Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir
    ELKO, Nev./ISTANBUL (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump joined European leaders on Saturday in pushing Saudi Arabia for more answers about Jamal Khashoggi after Riyadh changed its story and acknowledged that the journalist died more than two weeks ago at its consulate in Istanbul.
    Saudi Arabia said early on Saturday that Khashoggi, a critic of the country’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had died in a fight inside the building.
    Germany called that explanation “inadequate” and questioned whether countries should sell arms to Saudi Arabia, while France and the European Union urged an in-depth investigation to find out what happened to the Washington Post columnist after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2 for documents for his marriage.
    Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi, a Saudi national and U.S. resident, was killed inside the consulate by a team of Saudi agents and his body cut up.
    The Khashoggi case has caused international outrage and frayed political and business ties between Western powers and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, the world’s No.1 oil exporter.
    Asked during a trip to Nevada if he was satisfied that Saudi officials had been fired over Khashoggi’s death, Trump said: “No, I am not satisfied until we find the answer.    But it was a big first step, it was a good first step.    But I want to get to the answer.”
    In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump said that “obviously there’s been deception, and there’s been lies.”
    Trump’s comments about the Khashoggi incident in recent days have ranged from threatening Saudi Arabia with “very severe” consequences and warning of economic sanctions, to more conciliatory remarks in which he has played up the country’s role as a U.S. ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of U.S. arms.
    He had earlier called the Saudi narrative of what happened to Khashoggi credible.
    Riyadh provided no evidence on Saturday to support its account and made no mention of what had become of Khashoggi’s body.
LATEST SAUDI VERSION
    As Saudi Arabia faced intensifying international scepticism over its story, a senior Saudi official laid out a new version of the death in which a team of 15 Saudi nationals sent to confront Khashoggi had threatened him with being drugged and kidnapped and then killed him in a chokehold when he resisted.    A member of the team then dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes to make it appear as if he had left the consulate.
    French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for a full investigation into the killing and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a joint statement with her foreign minister, said the Saudi account was not enough.
    “We expect transparency from Saudi Arabia about the circumstances of his death … The information available about events in the Istanbul consulate is inadequate,” the Germans said.
    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called into question the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.
    Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Riyadh’s explanations lacked consistency and credibility.
    Trump said it was possible that Prince Mohammed had been unaware of the circumstances around the death of Khashoggi, 59.
    For Western allies, a main question will be whether they believe that the prince, who has painted himself as a reformer, has any culpability. King Salman, 82, had handed the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to him.
    Trump, who has forged close ties with Saudi Arabia and the crown prince, said he was concerned that it was unclear where the journalist’s body is.
SEARCH FOR BODY
    According to the senior Saudi official, the Saudi team rolled up Khashoggi’s body in a rug, took it out in a consular vehicle and handed it to a “local cooperator” for disposal.
    One of the operatives then donned Khashoggi’s clothes, eyeglasses and Apple watch and left through the back door of the consulate in an attempt to make it look like Khashoggi had walked out of the building, the senior Saudi official said. Turkish investigators are likely to find out what happened to the corpse “before long,” a senior Turkish official said earlier on Saturday.
    Officials told Reuters in Turkey on Thursday that Khashoggi’s remains may have been dumped in Belgrad Forest adjacent to Istanbul, and at a rural location near the city of Yalova, 90 km (55 miles) south of Istanbul, Turkish sources say the authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting Khashoggi’s murder inside the consulate.    Pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, citing the audio, said his torturers cut off his fingers during an interrogation and later beheaded him.
    Trump said no one from his administration has seen video or a transcript of what happened inside the consulate.
    Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, tweeted in Arabic: “i>They have taken your body from this world, but your beautiful smile will stay in my world forever.”
    Saudi Arabia had previously denied that Khashoggi died in the consulate.
    But the Saudi public prosecutor said on Saturday that a fight broke out between Khashoggi and people who met him in the building, leading to his death.    Eighteen Saudi nationals had been arrested, the prosecutor said.
    Saudi state media said King Salman had ordered the dismissal of five officials, including Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court adviser seen as the right-hand man to Prince Mohammed, and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Asiri.
    The crisis prompted the king to intervene, five sources with links to the Saudi royal family told Reuters.
    The king also ordered a restructuring of the intelligence service, to be led by Prince Mohammed, suggesting the prince still retained wide-ranging authority.
    The dismissed official Qahtani, 40, rose to prominence after latching onto Prince Mohammed, becoming a rare confidant in his inner circle.
    Sources say Qahtani would regularly speak on behalf of the crown prince and has given direct orders to senior officials including in the security apparatus.
    The New York Times reported on Saturday, citing U.S. and Saudi officials, that Qahtani created the strategy behind the deployment an online army to harass Khashoggi and other critics of the kingdom on Twitter.
    People close to Khashoggi and the government said Qahtani had tried to lure the journalist back to Saudi Arabia after he moved to Washington a year ago fearing reprisals for his views.
    Asiri joined the Saudi military in 2002, according to Saudi media reports, serving as spokesman for a coalition backing Yemen’s ousted president after Prince Mohammed took Saudi Arabia into that country’s civil war in 2015.    He was named deputy chief of foreign intelligence in 2017.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Dolan; Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Stephen Kalin in Istanbul, Yara Bayoumi and Yeganeh Torbati in Washington, Marwa Rashad and Hadeel Al Sayegh in Dubai, Nadine Awadalla and Yousef Saba in Cairo and Thomas Escritt in Berlin; Writing by Chris Sanders; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Alistair Bell)

10/21/2018 Crown prince a reformer – but ruthless - Saudi defense minister in hot seat over Khashoggi by Kim Hjelmgaard, Deirdre Shesgreen and Hasan Dudar, USA TODAY
    He let women drive.    Saudi movie lovers are watching Hollywood blockbusters for the first time in more than three decades.    Foreign investment has flooded in.    In an ultra-conservative nation, he’s advocated for a return to a more moderate form of Islam.
    Yet there’s a disturbing side to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, say key lawmakers and Middle East experts: He has brutally and ruthlessly purged cabinet ministers, media titans, business leaders, human rights activists and even members of his own royal family.
    Now, the 33-year-old crown prince, the youngest defense minister in the world and effective ruler of one of the last absolute monarchies, is on the verge of collecting another ignoble accolade: a trusted U.S. ally who, if claims made by Turkish officials prove true, presided over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
    Some Middle East experts say Khashoggi’s violent death could prove to be the undoing of the crown prince.
    “Presumably the Saudi royal family has a decision to make: to save itself or to see Saudi Arabia become a pariah state,” said Sigurd Neubauer, a Washington- based Middle East analyst.
    His father, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, 82, is reportedly trying to reassert his own power as the kingdom grapples with the global firestorm sparked by Khashoggi’s slaying, according to Reuters.
    It all could mark an ignominious turn for the crown prince, known by his initials, MBS.    He has been hailed as a bold young visionary seeking to transform Saudi Arabia and cement his country’s power and influence across the Middle East.
    When he landed in the United States in March, the crown prince was given a rock star’s welcome from Washington to Silicon Valley.    He met President Donald Trump, along with Wall Street executives, celebrities and tech tycoons.    Among them: Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the billionaire owner of The Washington Post, publisher of Khashoggi’s columns criticizing the kingdom.
    MBS had many of America’s elite swooning.
    “(The crown prince) has done a lot of things we’ve wanted Saudi Arabia to do for a really long time. ... He’s taken the religious establishment out.    They’re not exporting Islamism,” said Danielle Pletka, senior vice president for foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a center- right think tank in Washington.
    But his rule came with a dark side, experts and royal family insiders say.
    Since becoming the oil-rich kingdom’s de facto leader and central policymaker in 2017, MBS has detained hundreds of Saudi nationals under the guise of an alleged anti-corruption crackdown, including more than 200 perceived opponents who were confined in one fell swoop at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh last year.    Many are still missing and thought to be held in secret locations without access to their families or legal advice.
    “We know he’s ruthless,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s cold-blooded policies in the Middle East have drawn criticism. AP

10/21/2018 Steven Mnuchin: White House Plans to Increase Contribution to Israel’s Infrastructure by OAN Newsroom
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin touts investment opportunities in Israel, especially for technology.
    During a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mnuchin says the White House plans to increase its participation in Israel’s infrastructure projects.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shakes hands with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
prior to their meeting at his Jerusalem office, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. (Gali Tibbon/Pool via AP)
    He adds Israel is a “great place for trade and other economic opportunities” and relations between Israel and the U.S. remain an important priority.
    The prime minister praised the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
    Netanyahu also claimed Israel’s relationship with the U.S. has “never been stronger” than it has under President Trump’s administration.

10/21/2018 Special police force deployed in Nigerian state of Kaduna: Buhari on Twitter
FILE PHOTO: Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the United Nations General Assembly
in New York, September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Ornitz/File Photo
    LAGOS (Reuters) – A special police force has been deployed to flashpoints in the northern state of Kaduna on Sunday in the wake of communal violence over the last few days that has killed 55 people, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Twitter.
    “The police have been authorized to do everything possible to restore calm,” he said in the tweet.
    The Kaduna state government imposed a 24-hour curfew on Sunday after violence broke out on the streets of the state’s capital city, also called Kaduna.
(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos and Garba Muhammad in Kaduna; Editing by Adrian Croft)

10/21/2018 Egypt extends state of emergency for three months
FILE PHOTO: Egypt's Housing Minister Mostafa Madbouly talks at Egypt Mega Projects MEED Conference
in Cairo, Egypt, December 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s parliament voted on Sunday to extend a state of emergency in the country for three months, prolonging the authorities’ ability to use special powers into 2019.
    Egypt first imposed a state of emergency in April 2017 after two church bombings killed at least 45 people, and has extended it at three-month intervals since.
    The renewal starting Oct. 15 was published in the official gazette last week, and required parliamentary approval within seven days.
    It allows security forces to “take (measures) necessary to confront the dangers and funding of terrorism and safeguard security in all parts of the country,” the gazette said.
    The state of emergency grants the authorities sweeping powers, allowing them to make arrests and crack down on what they call enemies of the state.
    Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly told parliament ahead of Sunday’s vote that national security needed to be balanced with the protection of public freedoms.
    Egypt’s security forces have been fighting a militant insurgency concentrated in North Sinai, and launched a major operation in the remote region in February.
(Reporting by Momen Saeed Atallah and Nashaat Hamdy; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Aidan Lewis, Richard Balmforth)

10/21/2018 Mnuchin says it will be harder for Iran oil importers to get waivers by Lesley Wroughton
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin speaks during a news conference at the G20 Meeting
of Finance Ministers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 22, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday it will be harder for countries to get waivers on Iran oil sanctions than during the Obama administration and dismissed concerns that oil prices could rise, saying the market had already factored in the losses.
    In an interview with Reuters in Jerusalem at the start of a Middle East trip, Mnuchin said countries would have to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil by more than the roughly 20 percent level they did from 2013 to 2015 to get waivers.
    “I would expect that if we do give waivers it will be significantly larger reductions,” said Mnuchin.
    He added: “Oil prices have already gone up, so my expectation is that the oil market has anticipated what’s going on in the reductions.    I believe the information is already reflected in the price of oil,” he said.
    His comments come two weeks before the Trump administration reimposes oil and financial sanctions against Iran after President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers, which aimed to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
    Iran’s oil exports could fall by as much as two-thirds due to the sanctions, straining oil markets.
    Mnuchin was adamant that countries would eventually have to cut imports to nil.
    “I don’t expect we will get to zero in November but I do expect we will eventually get to zero,” he said, adding, “There have been already very significant reductions in advance of this date.”
    His comments come as the administration actively considers waivers on sanctions it will reimpose for countries that are reducing their imports of Iranian oil.
    The administration withdrew from a deal over Tehran’s nuclear program in May and is unilaterally reimposing sanctions on Iran’s crude oil consumers after Nov. 4.
    The sanctions aim to force Tehran to stop its involvement in regional conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq and halt its ballistic missile program.
    Iran says it has abided by the 2015 nuclear deal, which was struck with five other world powers, besides the United States.
    While Iran believes that it can ward off severe economic damages from the U.S. sanctions for the remainder of Trump’s term, Mnuchin predicted a significant impact on its economy as major companies exit the Iranian market for fear of U.S. reprisals.
    “We have already begun to see the impact and my expectation is we will see a significantly larger impact once the sanctions go into place,” he said, “The economic squeeze will be very big over the next two years.”
SWIFT NEGOTIATIONS
    Mnuchin said the U.S. Treasury was in negotiations with Belgian-based financial messaging service SWIFT, that facilitates the bulk of the world’s cross-border money transactions, on disconnecting Iran from the network.
    Washington has been pressuring SWIFT to cut Iran from the system as it did in 2012 before the nuclear deal.
    Although the United States does not hold a majority on SWIFT’s board of directors, the Trump administration could impose penalties on SWIFT unless it disconnects from Iran.
    “I can assure you our objective is to make sure that sanctioned transactions do not occur whether it’s through SWIFT or any other mechanism,” he said, “Our focus is to make sure that the sanctions are enforced.”
    Mnuchin declined to give details of the talks with SWIFT executives.
    He said, however, that the Treasury Department would identify “as quickly as possible” banks that would be allowed to process transactions for humanitarian funding to Iran.
    “We want to get to the right outcome, which is cutting off transactions,” he said, declining to comment on which banks would be selected.
    Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called in August for a SWIFT-style system independent of Washington that would possibly keep the nuclear agreement with Iran alive.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Adrian Croft)

10/21/2018 Foreigners sell net $1.1 billion of Saudi stocks as journalist disappearance rattles investors by Saeed Azhar and Davide Barbuscia
FILE PHOTO: A Saudi money changer displays Saudi Riyal banknotes at a currency exchange shop
in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia July 27, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Foreigners sold a net 4.01 billion riyals ($1.07 billion) in Saudi stocks in the week ending Oct. 18, exchange data showed on Sunday – one of the biggest selloffs since the market opened to direct foreign buying in mid-2015.
    The selloff came during a week when investors were rattled by Saudi Arabia’s deteriorating relations with foreign governments following the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    Riyadh said on Saturday that Khashoggi died in a fight inside its Istanbul consulate, its first acknowledgement of his death after denying for two weeks that it was involved in his disappearance.
    A breakdown of the exchange data showed foreigners sold 5 billion riyals worth of stocks and bought 991.3 million worth.
    “The market started to price in a fundamentally different relationship between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.,” said Jaap Meijer, head of equity research, at Arqaam Capital.
    “We believe the U.S. will keep Saudi Arabia as its close ally given (amongst other things) the importance of the kingdom in the Middle East region and being the producer of 10 percent of the world oil supply.”
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that Saudi Arabia’s explanation of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a “good first step but not enough,” adding it was premature to discuss any sanctions against Riyadh over the incident.
    The comments were the latest from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump that appear aimed at censuring a killing that has sparked global outrage, while protecting relations with the world’s top oil exporter.
    The stock exchange data also showed Saudi individual investors such as retail investors and high net worth individuals sold a net 3.4 billion riyals worth of stocks during the week, however Saudi institutions bought a net 7.8 billion riyals worth of stocks.    Investors from other Gulf countries were also net sellers.
    Market analysts told Reuters last week that state-linked funds appeared to have mounted an operation to support the stock market after heavy foreign selling.
    The Saudi stock market is down about 4 percent since Khashoggi disappeared on Oct 2.    The market had already started to weaken before the incident as foreign funds slowed their buying after MSCI’s announcement in June that the kingdom will be included in its global emerging market benchmark next year.
    The Saudi index <.TASI> closed up 0.2 percent on Sunday after falling as much as 3.5 percent earlier in the session.
    Saudi Arabia’s foreign debt has also been pressured, with yields rising across the the country’s dollar bond curve.
    The yield on Saudi Arabia’s $5.5 billion bond due in 2026 and $6.5 billion note due in 2046 rose to record highs last week, according to Refinitiv data.
    Saudi credit default swaps, which investors buy as protection against default, rose to 100 basis points late last week for the first time since June, data from IHS Markit showed.
(Additional reporting by Tuqa Khalid; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

10/22/2018 Saudi official calls death a mistake - Foreign minister: Killers acted outside authority by William Cummings, USA TODAY
    Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said Sunday that a “tremendous mistake” was made when Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, and he pushed back against the idea that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was linked to the journalist’s death.
    Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News host Bret Baier that Khashoggi was killed in a “criminal” act committed by individuals operating “outside the scope of their authority.”
    “There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up.    That is unacceptable in any government,” he said.    He characterized the killing as an “aberration” that did not fit with the behavior of the Saudi regime.
    Al-Jubeir said investigators still don’t know the details of how Khashoggi was killed nor where his body is located.
    Khashoggi disappeared Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his marriage.    Video footage showed him entering, but no video ever showed him leaving.
    For more than two weeks, Saudi officials denied any knowledge of the journalist’s fate.    The foreign minister said Sunday that Saudi security forces originally filed a report that said Khashoggi left the consulate alive.
    King Salman ordered an investigation when contradictory Turkish reports emerged saying Khashoggi never left the compound.
    The regime said 18 people had been arrested in connection with Khashoggi’s death.    Al-Jubeir said those arrests were the “first step in a long journey.”
    “We are determined to uncover every stone,” al-Jubeir said, adding that Saudi Arabia will enforce “checks and balances” on the nation’s intelligence services to “ensure that something like this can never happen again.”
    Al-Jubeir’s defense on Fox aired the day after President Donald Trump accused the Saudis of lying about Khashoggi’s death, even as he continued to defend the crown prince’s leadership.
    Al-Jubeir denied that individuals involved in the death were tied to the prince.    He acknowledged that “there were pictures of some security officers who may have been part of his security detail from time to time.”
    But the foreign minister said that was normal and that security officers rotate among officials.
    “This was an operation that was a rogue operation,” he said.    “This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had.”
    The foreign minister became defensive when asked why it took Saudi Arabia more than two weeks to confirm Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, arguing that his government wanted to wait until it had the most accurate information possible.
    “These things take time.    You may want to look back at the issue of Abu Ghraib,” he said in a reference to the explosive 2004 scandal that exposed U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir says the killing of the Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi was part of “a rogue operation.” JASON SZENES/EPA-EFE

10/22/2018 Coalition airstrike targets mosque used by Islamic Stater
    The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group says an airstrike on a mosque in Syria targeted an insurgent command and control center and killed a dozen fighters.
    The coalition said in a statement that while the law of war protects mosques, the use of the building as a headquarters by IS caused it to lose that protected status.    The coalition said IS deliberately chose the mosque and repeatedly used it to plan and coordinate attacks on U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

10/22/2018 Palestinian stabs Israeli soldier and is shot dead: military
The dead body of a Palestinian is covered as Israeli forces gather at the scene of a
stabbing attack in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank October 22, 2018. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli soldier and was shot dead by the wounded man and other troops in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Monday, the military said.
    In a statement, the military said the incident occurred near the biblical Cave of the Patriarchs, revered by Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque, in the city of Hebron.
    The soldier was slightly wounded in the attack and opened fire, along with other soldiers, at the assailant, killing him, according to the military.
    Palestinians began a wave of knife and car-ramming attacks in the West Bank and in Israel in 2015, after peace talks with Israel collapsed.    Such incidents have become more sporadic.
    Palestinians want the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, to be part of an independent state along with the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/22/2018 Saudi, Russian oil output unable to compensate for Iranian crude: Zanganeh
FILE PHOTO - Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh arrives for an OPEC meeting in Vienna, Austria, June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian oil output cannot be replaced by other oil producing countries if Tehran is hit by sanctions by the United States in November, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh told the Ministry’s website SHANA on Monday.
    “As I have repeatedly said there is no replacement for Iranian oil in the market.    Saudi Arabia and Russia’s output is near their highest level ever and they have no spare capacity to pump more to replace Iran’s oil,” he told SHANA.
    Washington is pushing allies to cut imports of Iranian oil to zero and will impose a new round of sanctions on Iranian oil sales in November.
    But Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, has repeatedly said that its oil exports cannot be reduced to zero because of high demand levels in the market and has blamed U.S. President Donald Trump for an oil price rally caused by the sanctions on Tehran.
    “The market’s knowledge of this inability has raised the prices as the average price (of crude) … oil prices had slowed down the economic growth of most of the consumer countries, which is affecting the global economy,” he said.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by David Evans)

10/22/2018 Saudi Arabia has ‘no intention’ of 1973 oil embargo replay: TASS
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih addresses the gathering during India Energy Forum
in New Delhi, India, October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has no intention of unleashing a 1973-style oil embargo on Western consumers and will isolate oil from politics, the Saudi energy minister said on Monday amid a worsening crisis over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    “There is no intention,” Khalid al-Falih told Russia’s TASS news agency when asked if there could be a repetition of the 1973-style oil embargo.
    Top U.S. lawmakers turned their ire on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday and said they believed he ordered the killing of Khashoggi, although the Trump administration maintained a more cautious stance.
    Several U.S. lawmakers have suggested imposing sanctions on Saudi Arabia in recent days while the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, has pledged to retaliate to any sanctions with “bigger measures.”
    “This incident will pass.    But Saudi Arabia is a very responsible country, for decades we used our oil policy as responsible economic tool and isolated it from politics,” Falih said.
    “My role as the energy minister is to implement my government’s constructive and responsible role and stabilizing the world’s energy markets accordingly, contributing to global economic development,” Falih said.
    He said that if oil prices went up, it would slow down the global economy and trigger a recession.    But he added that with Iranian sanctions coming into full force next month, there was no guarantee oil prices would not go higher.
    “I cannot give you a guarantee, because I cannot predict what will happen to other suppliers,” Falih said, when asked if the world can avoid oil prices hitting $100 per barrel again.
    “We have sanctions on Iran, and nobody has a clue what Iranians export will be.    Secondly, there are potential declines in different countries like Libya, Nigeria, Mexico and Venezuela,” he said.
    “If 3 million barrels per day disappears, we cannot cover this volume.    So we have to use oil reserves,” he said.
    Falih said Saudi Arabia would soon raise output to 11 million barrels per day (bpd) from the current 10.7 million.    He added that Riyadh had capacity to increase output to 12 million bpd and Gulf OPEC ally, the United Arab Emirates, could add another 0.2 million bpd.
    “We have relatively limited spare capacities and we are using a significant part of them,” he said.
    Global supply next year could be helped by Brazil, Kazakhstan and the United States, he added.
    “But if you have other countries to decline in addition to the full application of Iran sanctions, then we will be pulling all spare capacities,” Falih said.
(Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Richard Pullin)

10/22/2018 Istanbul questions 28 more officials in connection with Khashoggi scandal by OAN Newsroom
    Istanbul has reportedly taken aside 28 more members of the Saudi Consulate for questioning regarding the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
    This is according to Istanbul’s chief prosecutor, who said employees were told not to come into work around the time of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
    In a recent Fox interview, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir claimed the kingdom’s crown prince was unaware of the journalist’s death.    Instead, he claimed Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue operation.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. (AP photo)
    “The individuals who did this, did this outside the scope of their authority — there obviously was a tremendous mistake made and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up,” said the foreign minister.    “That is unacceptable in any government, these things unfortunately happen.”
    The newest 28 members caught up in the probe are expected to give their testimony Monday.

10/23/2018 Global outrage mounts over killing - Rights group: Saudis have ‘repeatedly lied’ by John Bacon, USA TODAY
    A human rights group urged the global community to reject Saudi Arabia’s “attempted whitewash” in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as international outrage over the killing intensified Monday.
    Human Rights Watch rejected Saudi Arabia’s most recent explanation: that Khashoggi was killed when a brawl broke out at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
    Michael Page, the group’s deputy Middle East director, accused President Donald Trump of providing the Saudis cover for their “ludicrous explanations and obvious attempts to cover up the truth” behind Khashoggi’s killing.    The group called for a United Nations investigation.
    “Given how often Saudi Arabia has repeatedly lied to the world about Khashoggi’s disappearance and killing, there’s no reason to take seriously the results of its ‘internal investigation,’” Page said.
    The state-run Saudi Press Agency said King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who leads the Saudi government, called Khashoggi’s son to express their condolences.    Salah Khashoggi “expressed his sincere thanks,” the agency said.
    Surveillance video footage shows Khashoggi entering the consulate Oct. 2, but no video ever showed him leaving.    CNN on Monday published additional footage from that day revealing what a senior Turkish official described as a Saudi operative similar in appearance to Khashoggi.
    The operative, whom the Turkish official alleges was a body double, is seen leaving the consulate by the back door, dressed like Khashoggi and wearing what appears to be a fake beard and glasses.    The same man was later seen around the city.
    The senior official says the man was part of a cover-up to make it appear that Khashoggi left the consulate alive.    USA TODAY has viewed some of the footage but cannot verify what is shown.
    Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would reveal details of Khashoggi’s slaying in a speech Tuesday before his parliament.
    Khashoggi, a Saudi and contributor for The Washington Post, had drawn the ire of his government for repeated criticisms of the prince, of King Salman and of Saudi involvement in the war in Yemen.    Khashoggi disappeared after entering the consulate to obtain documents in preparation for his marriage.
    For weeks, Saudi Arabia denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate, saying he had left the consulate shortly after entering.
    Saudi officials finally acknowledged that Khashoggi died in the consulate but did not say what happened to his body.    Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir called Khashoggi’s death a “huge and grave mistake” and promised that those responsible would be punished.    He adamantly denied the Saudi leaders were involved.
    “This is a terrible tragedy,” Jubeir told Fox News.    “There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up.    That is unacceptable in any government.”
    Media reports have said Khashoggi was dismembered, a claim Jubeir said he could not confirm.    He said 18 people had been arrested in connection with Khashoggi’s death.    Jubeir said Saudi authorities have been working with Turkish investigators on the case.
    Germany halted arms exports to the kingdom in the wake of the scandal, with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying Sunday night that such sales could not take place in “current circumstances.”    France also called for an explanation of what happened to Khashoggi.
    The U.S. is Saudi Arabia’s largest source of arms imports.    Trump acknowledged “deception and ... lies” by the Saudis but told the Post he was unwilling to cancel a lucrative arms deal with the Saudis.    The kingdom, Trump said, would simply make the purchase from Russia or China.
    “Conducting business as usual with Saudi Arabia would give dictators across the globe the green light to murder critics with no accountability, as long as they have enough money to buy U.S. weapons,” said Page, of Human Rights Watch.
Police barriers surround the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia has admitted that Jamal Khashoggi died there. YASIN AKGUL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

10/23/2018 Turkey’s Erdogan says strong signs Khashoggi killing was planned
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting
at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that there were strong signs that the killing of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was planned and that he was killed in a “savage way.”
    Erdogan, who was speaking to members of his AK Party in parliament, also said he told Saudi King Salman that the Saudi consul in Istanbul was incompetent and that he was relieved of his duty and returned to his country.
    Erdogan added that the 18 people arrested in Saudi Arabia in relation to the killing matches Turkish intelligence on the matter.
(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Sarah Dadouch; Editing by David Dolan)

10/23/2018 Turkey’s Erdogan says to continue cooperation with nationalist party
FILE PHOTO: Devlet Bahceli, leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), gestures as he attends
his election rally in Ankara, Turkey June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s ruling AK Party will not form an alliance with the nationalist party for the 2019 local elections, but cooperation between the two parties will continue, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, after the nationalists pulled out of the alliance earlier.
    Erdogan’s AK Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) formed an alliance ahead of June elections, but have since been at loggerheads over a disagreement about the MHP’s call for an amnesty for some jailed criminals.    MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said his party would not seek an alliance in the 2019 local election, weakening the lira more than 3 percent.
    Speaking to members of his AK Party in parliament, Erdogan said he wanted to carry the alliance into the future, but added that it would run independently from the MHP in the March 2019 local election.    The lira firmed to as far as 5.76 to the dollar after his comments.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Editing by David Dolan)

10/23/2018 Rights group accuses Palestinian Authority, Hamas, of using systematic torture by Ali Sawafta
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, gestures during a
news conference in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Security forces of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and Gaza’s rival Hamas group routinely arrest and torture critics and opponents to try to stifle dissent, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
    Officials of the PA and Hamas denied the allegations of systematic abuse, made by the New York-based rights group, and said they were ready to investigate reports of mistreatment.
    In a report, Human Rights Watch said it documented more than two dozen cases of Palestinians detained by the PA or Gaza’s ruling Hamas Islamists “for no clear reason beyond writing a critical article or Facebook posting or belonging to the wrong student group or political movement.”
    Palestinian forces in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Gaza often put detainees into painful stress positions for prolonged periods – a practice similar to that which Israel has inflicted on Palestinians in its custody, the report said.
    “The habitual, deliberate, widely known use of torture, using similar tactics over years with no action taken by senior officials in either authority to stop these abuses, make these practices systematic.    They also indicate that torture is governmental policy for both the PA and Hamas,” it said.
    In the 25 years since Palestinians gained a degree of self-rule under interim peace deals, “their authorities have established machineries of repression to crush dissent,” the report added.
    In comments to Reuters, Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials denied any pattern of mistreatment.
    “We do not have a policy of torture.    This is a violation of the law,” said Eyad Al-Bozom, spokesman of the Hamas-run ministry of interior in Gaza.
    “We have taken action against officers who violated the law, including issues of torture.    Some were detained and put on trial, others were demoted,” he said.
    Major-General Adnan Al-Dmairi, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, said: “Arrests are being carried according to the law and we are committed to upholding the law.”
    The rights group, urging a cut-off of foreign aid to Palestinian security forces in the West Bank, said evidence it collected contradicted contentions that abuse occurred only in isolated cases and that wrongdoers were held to account.
    Human Rights Watch said it had met Palestinian intelligence services in the West Bank but was unable to accept a Hamas offer to come to Gaza because Israel refused to grants permits to HRW officials to cross into the enclave.
    In May, Israel revoked a work permit issued to Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s local representative, accusing the U.S. national of supporting a boycott against it, an allegation he denied.    Shakir challenged the decision in an Israeli court, and the case is continuing.
    Hamas, which advocates Israel’s destruction, wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.
    “As the Fatah-Hamas feud deepened despite attempts at reconciliation, PA security services have targeted supporters of Hamas and vice versa,” Human Rights Watch said.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

10/23/2018 Turkey demands to know who ordered ‘savage’ Khashoggi killing by Gulsen Solaker and Ece Toksabay
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the
Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey October 23, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday dismissed attempts by Riyadh to blame Jamal Khashoggi’s “savage” killing on rogue operatives, saying the person who ordered the death of the prominent Saudi journalist must “be brought to account.”
    In a speech to parliament about a case that has sparked outrage around the globe, Erdogan did not mention Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who some U.S. lawmakers suspect ordered the killing.
    But he said Turkey would not complete its investigation into Khashoggi’s death until all questions were answered.
    “Intelligence and security institutions have evidence showing the murder was planned…. Pinning such a case on some security and intelligence members will not satisfy us or the international community,” he said.
    “From the person who gave the order, to the person who carried it out, they must all be brought to account.”
    Erdogan said the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body were still unknown and he demanded Saudi Arabia reveal the identity of a “local cooperator” who purportedly took the body.
    Erdogan’s speech coincided with the opening of an investment conference which Western political figures, leading international bankers and company executives have boycotted because of the furor around Khashoggi’s death.
    The Washington Post columnist, a sharp critic of the crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, disappeared three weeks ago after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.
SAUDI VERSION
    Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the consulate by Saudi agents.
    Turkish sources say authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting the killing of the 59-year-old.    Erdogan made no reference to any audio recording in his speech.
    Riyadh initially denied knowledge of his fate before saying he was killed in a fight in the consulate.    That version of events was greeted skeptically by several Western governments, straining relations with the world’s biggest oil exporter.
    Erdogan said three operatives arrived in Istanbul the day before his killing on an apparent reconnaissance mission.
    The next day 15 people came to the consulate.    They included security, intelligence and forensic experts, and consulate personnel were given the day off.
    “Why did these 15 people meet in Istanbul on the day of the murder?    We are seeking answers to this. Who are these people receiving orders from?” Erdogan said.
    Representatives for the White House and the U.S. Department of State did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Erdogan’s remarks.
    Following the global outrage prompted by the journalist’s disappearance, U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments have varied from playing down Riyadh’s role to warning of possible economic sanctions.
    Trump has also repeatedly highlighted the kingdom’s importance as a U.S. ally and said Prince Mohammed was a strong and passionate leader.
    For Saudi Arabia’s allies, the question will be whether they believe that Prince Mohammed, who has painted himself as a reformer, has any culpability.    King Salman, 82, has handed the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to the 33-year-old prince.
    Trump spoke with Prince Mohammed on Sunday. He told reporters on Monday that he had teams in Saudi Arabia and Turkey working on the case and would know more about it after they returned to Washington on Monday night or Tuesday.
HIT-SQUAD
    CIA Director Gina Haspel was traveling to Turkey on Monday to work on the Khashoggi investigation, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
    On Saturday, Saudi state media said King Salman had fired five officials over the killing carried out by a 15-man hit team, including Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide who ran social media for Prince Mohammed.    Riyadh is also working with Turkey on a joint investigation.
    Erdogan spoke as hundreds of bankers and company executives joined Saudi officials at a palatial Riyadh hotel for the Future Investment Initiative, an annual event designed to help attract billions of dollars of foreign capital as part of reforms to end Saudi dependence on oil exports.
    More than two dozen high-level speakers have pulled out of the event following the outcry over Khashoggi’s killing.    Many foreign investors see a risk that the case could damage Riyadh’s ties with Western governments.
    Despite the furor, the world’s largest oil exporter says it expects to sign deals worth more than $50 billion in the oil, gas, industries and infrastructure sectors on the opening day with companies including Trafigura, Total, Hyundai, Norinco, Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes.
(Editing by William Maclean and Jon Boyle)

10/23/2018 Oil falls as Saudi Arabia reassures market on supply by Christopher Johnson
Flames emerge from a pipeline at the oil fields in Basra, southeast of Baghdad, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani
    LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia said it could supply more crude quickly if needed, reassuring investors ahead of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s crude exports that start next month.
    Benchmark Brent crude oil fell $1.51 a barrel to a low of $78.32, down 1.9 percent and below its 50-day moving average for the first time in two months, before recovering a little to around $78.35 by 1050 GMT.
    U.S. light crude dropped $1.27 a barrel to a low of $68.09 and then recovered to trade around $68.26, down $1.10.
    U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil begin on Nov. 4 and Washington has said it wants to stop all of Tehran’s fuel exports, but other oil producers are pumping more to fill any supply gaps.
    Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told a conference in Riyadh on Tuesday the oil market was in a “good place” and he hoped oil producers would sign a deal in December to extend cooperation to monitor and stabilise the market.
    “We will decide if there are any disruptions from supply, especially with the Iran sanctions looming,” Falih said.    “Then we will continue with the mindset we have now, which is to meet any demand that materialises to ensure customers are satisfied.”
    Falih said he would not rule out the possibility that Saudi Arabia would produce between 1 and 2 million barrels per day (bpd) more than current levels in future.
    The chief executive of Saudi Aramco, Amin Nasser, said it would take the kingdom only three months to reach its maximum production capacity of 12 million bpd if needed.
    The statements followed concerns that Saudi Arabia might cut crude supply in retaliation for potential sanctions over the Khashoggi killing.    Falih said on Monday there was no intention of doing that.
    Economist Intelligence Unit energy analyst Peter Kiernan said it would be self-defeating for Saudi Arabia to cut oil supply, as it would risk losing market share to other exporters while losing its reputation as a stable player in the market.
    Despite this, Sukrit Vijayakar, director of energy consultancy Trifecta, said markets were wary of the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil sector, estimating sanctions could impact up to 1.5 million barrels per day of supply.
    South Korea’s crude imports from Iran fell to zero in September, data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp showed on Tuesday.
    U.S. crude oil production has climbed by almost a third since mid-2016 to around 11 million barrels per day, and rising drilling activity points to further increases.
    Investors have been curbing their exposure to oil markets by shutting long positions in crude futures, with fund managers cutting their combined positions by 187 million barrels in the last three weeks, according to exchange and regulatory data.
(Graphic: U.S. crude oil production – https://tmsnrt.rs/2O16iMS)
(Reporting by Christopher Johnson in London and Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by Dale Hudson, David Holmes and Kirsten Donovan)

10/23/2018 Saudi consulate vehicle searched in Istanbul in Khashoggi investigation: CNN Turk
FILE PHOTO: Turkish police forensic experts arrive at a car park where a vehicle belonging to
Saudi Arabia's consulate was found, in Istanbul, Turkey October 22, 2018. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish investigators have found two suitcases and other items in a Saudi consulate car in Istanbul, as part of the investigation into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, broadcaster CNN Turk reported on Tuesday.
    It was not immediately clear whether any of the items belonged to Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Saudi national who disappeared after visiting the consulate in Istanbul.
    A Reuters witness said a Saudi team accompanied the Turkish investigators as they carried out the search in a car park where the vehicle was found in Istanbul’s Sultangazi district on Monday.
    Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the consulate by Saudi agents on Oct. 2.    On video footage he did not appear to be carrying belongings when he entered the consulate that day.
    The search of the vehicle in the car park has been halted and will resume on Wednesday morning, the broadcaster said.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Andrew Roche)


10/24/2018 Turkey-U.S. joint patrols in Syria’s Manbij to start soon: minister
FILE PHOTO: U.S. forces set up a new base in Manbij, Syria May 8, 2018. Picture Taken May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Rodi Said
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey and the United States will begin joint patrols in the northern Syrian Manbij area soon after training is completed within the next couple of days, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told state-owned Anadolu news agency on Wednesday.
    As agreed by the NATO allies in June, Turkish and U.S. forces have been carrying out patrols in Manbij independent of each other, but have been training in preparation to carry out joint patrols.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan)

10/24/2018 Israeli troops kill Palestinian man in West Bank raid: medical official
Relatives of Palestinian man Mohammed Basharat attend his funeral in the village of Taamun
near Jenin in the occupied West Bank October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Israeli troops killed a Palestinian man and wounded three others during a raid in a village in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, a Palestinian medical official said.
    The Israeli military said troops used live fire and “riot dispersal measures” after about 50 Palestinians threw rocks at them during an operation in the village of Taamun.
    Residents said the Israeli force entered several houses looking for Palestinians suspected of anti-Israeli activity.
    The dead man was identified as Mohammed Basharat, a 22-year-old university student who was shot in the chest, the medical official said.
    Israeli troops frequently carry out raids in the West Bank, including in areas under Palestinian civilian control where Israel retains overall security oversight under interim peace deals.
    Palestinians want the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, to be part of an independent state along with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
(Reporting by Ali Sawfta; Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

10/24/2018 Turkey won’t allow Greek interference in East Med activities: minister
Turkish research vessel Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa sails in the Bosphorus in Istanbul,
Turkey March 6, 2017. Picture taken March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey will not allow Greece to interfere in its activities in the eastern Mediterranean, its defense minister said, a few days after Ankara complained that a Greek frigate had harassed a Turkish energy exploration ship in the region.
    The issue of energy exploration in the region, along with a dispute over Greece’s maritime borders, have revived tensions between the NATO allies who are separated by the Aegean Sea.
    Turkey, Greece and the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government in Cyprus have overlapping claims of jurisdiction for offshore oil and gas research in the eastern Mediterranean.
    “Our warships are providing the necessary protection in the region.    We will never tolerate new harassment,” Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency in an interview broadcast live on Wednesday.
    He said no project was possible in the eastern Mediterranean without the involvement of Turkey and northern Cyprus, a breakaway state only recognized by Ankara.
    Anadolu reported earlier that the Turkish ship Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa was carrying out seismic research in the region last week when it was harassed by a Greek frigate until the Turkish navy intervened.
    A Greek defense source denied there was an incident but said the Greeks were monitoring the Turkish ship’s activity.    It seemed to be in an area claimed by the Greek Cypriot government for future hydrocarbons exploration, west of the island.
    Separately, Turkey warned Greece on Tuesday it would not tolerate a shift in Greece’s maritime border, drawing a sharp rebuke from Athens that it would decide when and how it exercises its sovereign rights.
    The statements from both sides came a few days after Greece’s former foreign minister said Greece planned to extend its territorial waters from six to 12 miles to the west of the country.    Turkey is situated to the east of Greece.
    “We have (taken) all kinds of measures.    I want everyone to know that we will not tolerate a fait accompli of any sort on this subject,” Akar said.
    “We are in favor of solving problems with talks and peaceful methods before they turn into a hot conflict in any way,” he added.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Mark Heinrich)

10/24/2018 China inks free trade agreement MOU with Palestine
Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan meets with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah
in the occupied West Bank October 23, 2018. Abbas Momani/Pool via Reuters
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China has signed a free trade agreement memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Palestine, China’s commerce ministry said on Wednesday in a statement posted on its official website.
    China’s Ministry of Commerce (MofCom) said the MOU was signed by the country’s vice commerce minister Qian Keming and Palestinian Minister of the National Economy Abeer Odeh, during Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan’s visit to Palestine.
    Both sides agreed to step up negotiations and try and reach an early agreement, according to MofCom.
    In 2017, the bilateral trade volume between China and Palestine hit $69.28 million, up 16.2 percent compared to the same year-ago period.
(Reporting by Engen Tham and Wang Jing; Editing by Michael Perry)

10/24/2018 Oil extends declines as Saudi Arabia commits to meet demand by Henning Gloystein
Oil and gas tanks are seen at an oil warehouse at a port in Zhuhai, China October 22, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices on Tuesday extended falls from the previous day, when crude slumped as much as 5 percent, after Saudi Arabia said it would make up for supply disruptions from U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s petroleum exports from next month.
    Front-month Brent crude oil futures were at $76.37 a barrel at 0031 GMT, 7 cents below their last close.
    U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $66.31 a barrel, 12 cents below their last settlement.     The dips came after Brent closed down 4.3 percent and WTI 4 percent in the previous session.
    Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said at an investment conference in Riyadh on Tuesday that despite expected supply disruptions from U.S. sanctions against Iran that kick in from Nov. 4, Saudi Arabia would step up to “meet any demand that materializes to ensure customers are satisfied.”
    “Oil prices fell substantially… as Saudi Arabia released assurances it could supply more to the global market,” Australia’s Rivkin Securities said.
    Beyond the pledge by Saudi Arabia, oil prices are also being weighed down by economic concerns.
    South Korea’s KOSPI-100 equity index <.KS100> has now fallen by nearly 19 percent over the past year, the fastest rate of decline since the financial crisis of 2008/09.
    The KOSPI-100 has correlated closely with the growth in international trade, given the South Korean economy’s strong export orientation, so the decline suggests a slowdown in global trade.
    In the United States, commercial crude inventories rose by 9.9 million barrels in the week to Oct. 19 to 418.4 million, industry group the American Petroleum Institute said on Tuesday.
    Morgan Stanley said “recent trends in refining margins, time spreads and inventories suggest a spell of weakness in oil markets.”
    Despite this, the U.S. bank said “we still see Brent reaching $85 per barrel by year-end” as Iran sanctions are expected to tighten markets toward the end of the year.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; editing by Richard Pullin)

10/24/2018 Saudi crown prince breaks silence on ‘painful’ Khashoggi case by Katie Paul and Ali Kucukgocmen
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the investment conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
October 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    RIYADH/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promised on Wednesday that the killers of Jamal Khashoggi would be brought to justice, in his first public comments since the journalist’s murder sparked international condemnation.
    Prince Mohammed told a major investment conference in Riyadh that Saudi Arabia and Turkey would work together “to reach results” on a joint investigation into the killing.
    “The incident that happened is very painful, for all Saudis… The incident is not justifiable,” the crown prince said on a discussion panel.    “Justice in the end will appear.”
    He described cooperation between Riyadh and Ankara as “specialdespite fierce criticism from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his aides.
    Hours earlier U.S. President Donald Trump, in his toughest comments yet, told the Wall Street Journal that the crown prince bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to the Saudi journalist’s killing.
    Trump said he wanted to believe Prince Mohammed when he said that lower level officials were to blame for the Oct. 2 killing at the Saudi mission.
    But he suggested responsibility lay higher up: “Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage.    He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him.”
    His comments heaped pressure on his close ally amid a global outcry over the journalist’s death, and came hours before Prince Mohammed’s appearance at the Saudi investment conference.
    A number of high profile business and political figures have pulled out of the conference over the death of the journalist, a prominent critic of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.
    Erdogan spoke to Prince Mohammed on Wednesday and the two discussed the steps needed to bring to light all aspects of the killing of Khashoggi, a presidential source said.
TURKISH CRITICISM
    An adviser to Turkey’s president said Prince Mohammed had “blood on his hands” over Khashoggi, the bluntest language yet from someone linked to Erdogan.
    Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the remarks by Trump and the Erdogan adviser but Prince Mohammed painted a different picture of relations with Turkey.
    “There are now those who are trying to take advantage of the painful situation to create divisions between the kingdom and Turkey,” he said.
    “I want to send them a message that they cannot do this as long as King Salman is here, and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is in Saudi Arabia and the head of Turkey, whose name is Erdogan … this division won’t happen.”
    Riyadh has blamed a “rogue operation” for the death of the prominent Saudi journalist and said the crown prince had no knowledge of the killing.
    The death of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, has sparked global outrage and threatened relations between Riyadh and Washington as well as other Western nations.
    For Saudi Arabia’s allies, the burning question has been whether they believe that Prince Mohammed, who has painted himself as a reformer, has any culpability in the killing, a possibility raised by several U.S. lawmakers
(Additional reporting by Marwa Rashad and Ezgi Erkoyun, Editing by William Maclean, David Stamp and Jon Boyle)

THE PRESIDENT OF FRANCE WANTS TO PUSH FOR A TWO-STATE SOLUTION FOR THE ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN PLAN
10/24/2018 President Macron calls on U.S. to release Israel-Palestine plan by OAN Newsroom
    Tensions are rising between the U.S. and France in regards to Israel relations.
    France recently sent message to the U.S., saying if President Trump does not release its Israel-Palestinian peace plan then the French will release a plan of their own.
    Over the past year, French President Emmanuel Macron has been eager to take action on the matter.    He claimed the Trump administration has had multiple unconfirmed dates for a two-state solution.
French President Emmanuel Macron, center, with Defense Minister Florence Parly, second left, visits a stand at
Euronaval, the world naval defence exhibition in Le Bourget near Paris, Tuesdsay, Oct. 23, 2018. (Benoit Tessier/Pool via AP)
    President Trump had stated recently that he would release a peace plan in the incoming months between the midterm elections and the end of the year.
    Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner, who has led the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, has been hesitant on setting an official date.
    President Macron has been putting pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since becoming the leader of France.
    Macron has consistently been supportive for a two-state solution involving Israel and the Palestinians, though he also called the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem a threat to peace in the Middle East.
    Moreover, Prime Minister Netanyahu places blame on Palestinians for the lack of progress in this agreement, saying they refuse to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state.

10/24/2018 Libya hopes rare Benghazi oil conference will mend rifts by Ayman al-Warfalli
Mustafa Sanalla, the chairman of state oil firm NOC, attends Benghazi International forum
and Exhibition of Oil and Gas in Benghazi, Libya October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
    BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Libya held a rare oil conference in the eastern city of Benghazi on Wednesday as its state oil firm NOC reached out to a region home to a parallel government backing a rival oil firm.
    The “Benghazi Oil and Gas Exhibition and Forum” is the first international business conference in Libya’s second-largest city since 2014 when it turned into a battlefield.
    Forces of Khalifa Haftar declared victory in July 2017 over Islamists, ending four years of fighting that destroyed parts of the port city.
    Hotels and Benghazi airport have reopened but several bombings killed dozens of people this year, forcing organizers to postpone the conference until security had improved.
    “Benghazi city will play a prominent and important role for the oil and gas sector in the region and probably the world,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in his opening comments, marking a rare public speech in Benghazi.
    He said he was working to improve conditions for oil workers who have staged small protests at some facilities recently, adding that Benghazi would get a staff training institute.
    An executive of U.S. oil services firm Schlumberger , a partner of NOC, said “the event will be very important to us and we are looking forward to interesting discussions.
    No major deals are expected at the two-day forum in the Tibesti hotel, which aims to promote an industry exchange and, more importantly, to appease complaints in the east about few government activities there, industry sources said.
    “It’s a political message to appease the east,” said the CEO of a Libyan oil service firm.    Some 68 companies took part in the event, according to organizers.
    NOC has had a rocky relationship with the Haftar and his leadership whose forces control much of east, including major oil ports.
    In June Haftar’s administration said it wanted to route oil exports from the key Ras Lanuf and Es Sider ports through a separate NOC based in Benghazi after its troops seized them back from a militia in a costly battle.
    Eastern factions have long accused the central bank in Tripoli of misspending oil revenue and allocating insufficient funds to the east.
    “I demand from Sanalla a fair distribution of oil revenues,” said Salem al-Fitouri, a senior member of a Benghazi group campaigning to relocate NOC headquarters there from Tripoli.
    “What happened today was that Benghazi proved to Sanalla that the city is not like Tripoli, a city of militias.    But Benghazi deserves more than holding a mere conference, exhibition or meeting,” he added.
    NOC has been carefully trying to stay out of Libya’s conflict stemming from the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
RIVAL ENTITY
    International oil buyers have stuck with NOC Tripoli, building on decade-long relationships.
    But calls for secession or at least autonomy remain popular in the east, known as Cyrenaica or Barqa in Arabic, where much of Libya’s oil wealth lies but which was long neglected by Gaddafi as a punishment for opposition.
    Libya’s government said in 2013 it was planning to move NOC’s headquarters to Benghazi to reverse Gaddafi’s decision to move the oil leadership to Tripoli from the eastern city.
    But the move was never implemented as Libya split into rival administrations in 2014 and fighting broke out in Benghazi.
    The east has it own central bank which has also been largely ignored by the international community like NOC east.
(Writing by Ulf Laessing; editing by David Evans)

10/25/2018 Ethiopia’s parliament approves Sahle-Work Zewde as first female president
FILE PHOTO: Sahle-Work Zewde, director-general of the United Nations Office at Nairobi, prepares to address delegates attending
the first United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Noor Khamis/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s parliament has approved senior diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde as the country’s first female president, proceedings on state television showed, cementing another shift in the country’s political system from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
    Sahle-Work is at present U.N. under-secretary general and special representative of the secretary general to the African Union.    She replaces Mulatu Teshome Wirtu, who tendered his resignation to parliament earlier on Wednesday.
    The president’s post is a ceremonial one in Ethiopia.    The prime minister, who is the head of state, holds executive power.
    “In a historic move, the two Houses has elected Ambassador Shalework Zewde as the next President of #Ethiopia.    She is the first female head of state in modern Ethiopia,” Fitsum Arega, Abiy’s chief of staff, said on Twitter.
    “In a patriarchal society such as ours, the appointment of a female head of state not only sets the standard for the future but also normalizes women as decision-makers in public life.”
    Last week, when the prime minister reshuffled his cabinet, he appointed 10 female ministers, making Ethiopia the third country in Africa, after Rwanda and Seychelles, to achieve gender parity in their cabinets.
    “When there is no peace in country, mothers will be frustrated.    Therefore, we need to work on peace for the sake of our mothers,” Sahle-Work told parliament after her approval.
    Teshome, who had held the office for five years, departed one year ahead of his term ending, saying he wanted to be part of change and reforms.
    Sahle-Work becomes the fourth president since the ruling EPRDF coalition came to power.
    Since his appointment in April, Abiy has presided over a raft of reforms that have turned the region’s politics on its head, including the pardoning of dissidents long outlawed by the government.
(Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Toby Chopra)

10/25/2018 Turkey says Russian S-400 systems installation to begin October 2019: Anadolu
FILE PHOTO: Russian servicemen drive S-400 missile air defence systems during the Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary
of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – The installation of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in Turkey will begin in October 2019, state-owned Anadolu news agency on Thursday quoted Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar as saying.
    Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems, which are not compatible with NATO defenses, has unnerved the United States and NATO member countries, which are already wary of Russia’s presence in the Middle East.
    Akar told Anadolu that selected personnel would be sent to Russia to receive training and return to work in Turkey, according to Hurriyet.    It was not clear where he was speaking.
    The United States has warned Turkey that going through with the purchase of S-400s could result in Washington imposing sanctions and halting other existing procurements, but Ankara has pressed on with the deal.
    Turkey has said that its Western allies, namely the United States, have failed to cooperate with it in its efforts to boost its defense capabilities, and that Ankara has had to look outside of the NATO to meet its needs.
    While pursuing S-400 project, President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey’s ties with NATO remain strong, and Ankara has sought to secure defense deals with other countries as well.
    Last year, Turkey signed a letter of intent with France and Italy to strengthen cooperation on joint defense projects.    As a first step, the Franco-Italian EUROSAM consortium and Turkish companies will look into a system based on the SAMP-T missile systems.
    Turkey is also buying Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets from the United States, but United States has warned that their purchase could be jeopardized if it does not drop the S-400 purchase plan.
    “There were some issues stemming from the S-400s, political and judicial developments, but the political and military conditions we have now do not cause concerns,” Akar told Anadolu.
    Akar said the F-35 program was continuing as planned, with the third and fourth jets to be delivered in March next year.
    Erdogan has previously said that Turkey would continue to pay its installments to procure the jets, but that it would look elsewhere if Washington decided to halt the delivery.
    Turkey and the United States have also held talks on the possible sale of a Raytheon Co Patriot missile defense systems as an alternative to the S-400 systems.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler and Mark Heinrich)

10/25/2018 UN Special Envoy to Syria, Syrian officials talk new constitution in Damascus by OAN Newsroom
    The United Nations Special Envoy to Syria is in Damascus to discuss a new Syrian constitution.
    However, during a meeting Wednesday, the Syrian foreign minister told Staffan de Mistura to “stay out” of the constitutional process.    The Syrian official stressed that the Assad government is not allowing any foreign power to become involved in the constitution as it is a “sovereign matter.”
    This comes after de Mistura said a new constitution should be a compromise to include interests of both the Rebels and the Kurds.
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem,
right, meets with U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday,
Oct. 24, 2018. Syrian state media said al-Moallem has told the U.N. envoy that the constitution is a “sovereign” matter
and Damascus will not allow any foreign intervention regarding it. (SANA via AP)
    “We had a long meeting with Foreign Minister Moualem and Deputy prime minister, and during this meeting we had a very frank and very intense exchange of opinions concerning the constitution committee and the political process in general,” explained Special Envoy de Mistura.
    Syrian officials said they will only agree to make changes to the existing constitution.    However, the opposition insists the document must be completely rewritten.

10/25/2018 Egypt’s PM envisages fewer civil servants, smaller cabinet by Yousef Saba
FILE PHOTO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) shakes hands after the swearing in of Mustafa Madbouly,
newly appointed Prime Minister, after Egypt appointed a new government on Thursday,
at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, June 14, 2018.REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s prime minister said on Thursday he was working on a government restructuring that envisages a smaller cabinet and fewer civil servants to cut red tape and lure foreign investment.
    Speaking at a U.S. business gathering in Cairo, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said Egypt’s major challenges lie in chronic bureaucracy and a high birth rate.
    Egypt, a leading regional ally of the United States, has been implementing deep reforms under a $12 billion IMF loan deal agreed in 2016 aimed at attracting foreign investment.    Under the IMF deal, Egypt devalued its currency and has been gradually cutting fuel subsidies in moves that have deepened poverty.
    The reforms have helped turn around the economy, with growth in the current fiscal year that began in July expected at around 5.2 percent.
    But experts say the country needs to undertake major government restructuring and to curb its population growth rate if it wants to cash in on the economic reforms.
    “We have a plan to reform the government,” Madbouly told U.S. businessmen.
    “We are working now through the ministry of planning and…the ministry of telecommunications to a structural reform of the government,” he said.    He added that he believed there was a need to cut the number of cabinet posts in the government and “at least 38 percent of employees in the public sector will be retired in the next 10 years.”
    “So this means at least 35-38 percent will be retired and our plan to replace them is very hard,” he said.
    Madbouly said that the restructuring proposals were linked to plans to move the seat of government to a new administrative capital under construction some 45 km (28 miles) east of Cairo scheduled for next year.
    Starting at the beginning of 2019, Madbouly said many government services will be available online.
    Madbouly, appointed in June after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi began his second term in office, also said that population growth in Egypt was another leading challenge.
    The country is already the most populous in the Arab world with nearly 100 million citizens and is expected to reach 128 million by 2030 if fertility rates of 4.0 births per thousand women per year continue, according to government figures.
    Madbouly said his government was working on a plan to curb the country’s birth rate.    “We don’t have any other option,” he said, without giving any details.
(Reporting by Yousef Saba, writing by Sami Aboudi, Editing by William Maclean)

10/25/2018 South Sudan frees five political detainees: intelligence agency
FILE PHOTO: South Sudan President Salva Kiir attends the signing of a peace agreement with the South Sudan rebels aimed
to end a war in which tens of thousands of people have been killed, in Khartoum, Sudan
June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
    JUBA (Reuters) – South Sudan freed five political detainees and prisoners of war on Thursday, although none appeared to be senior rebel officials, a category of captive whose release is required by a peace deal signed last month.
    South Sudan plunged into war two years after independence from Sudan in 2011 when a dispute between Kiir and then vice-president Riek Machar erupted into armed confrontation.    More than 50,000 people have been killed in the violence, and more than two million have been forced to flee their homes.
    On Thursday in Juba, a National Security official who did not give his name told reporters that the release of the prisoners was in line with the peace deal signed in September in the Ethiopian capital.
    However, according to a Reuters witness, the five men who were freed did not appear to be among the senior members of the main rebel faction led by Riek Machar, formerly the vice president of South Sudan.    Under the peace deal signed by the government and several rebel factions, senior officials of those factions should be released.
    There has been significant confusion recently over the fate of detainees, though the issue has long been a sticking point in successive peace deals that have failed to end the war.
    Some of the men who are still detained by the Juba government have been sentenced to death, including Machar’s former spokesman James Gatdek Dak.
    On Oct. 1 the president’s spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, told local broadcaster Radio Tamazuj that all political detainees had been released, under the terms of a separate agreement.
    Less than a week later, prisoners at the national security agency’s main detentions center, known locally as “Blue House,” disarmed guards and seized control of part of the center.    A detainee told Reuters the inmates taking action were political prisoners seeking freedom.
(Reporting by Denis Dumo, Writing by Maggie Fick, Editing by William Maclean).

10/25/2018 Sudan lifts partial ban on Egyptian imports: president
FILE PHOTO: Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir addresses the nation during the 62nd Anniversary Independence Day
at the Palace in Khartoum, Sudan December 31, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said on Thursday he was lifting a partial ban on the import of Egyptian goods, during a visit by his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
    In March 2017 Sudan banned the import of all Egyptian agricultural goods amid a range of disputes, including over land and accusations of political meddling.
    Tensions have since eased, and Bashir backed Sisi’s re-election earlier this year.
    “Today I signed a decision to lift the ban on the entry of Egyptian products to Sudan, to remove all obstacles to the movement of trade and people between the two countries,” Bashir told reporters.    The decision had immediate effect, he said.
    The value of Egyptian exports to Sudan stood at $550 million dollars last year, while Sudanese exports to Egypt stood at $103 million, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Wednesday.
    Sudan’s economy has been mired in crisis despite the lifting of U.S. sanctions one year ago.    It sharply devalued its currency earlier this month, part of a package of measures to tackle its economic troubles.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jon Boyle)

10/26/2018 Turkey’s Erdogan issues ‘final warning’ on Syria
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his AK Party
in Ankara, October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday issued what he said was a “final warning” to those who would endanger Turkey’s borders, saying Ankara was determined to focus its attention on Syrian Kurdish fighters east of the Euphrates.
    Erdogan, who was speaking to a group of provincial leaders of his AK Party in Ankara, said Turkey would focus its attention east of the Euphrates in Syria, rather than the Manbij area, citing the presence of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.    Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist group.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

10/26/2018 Turkey’s Erdogan urges Saudis to say who ordered Khashoggi’s killing by Ezgi Erkoyun and Ali Kucukgocmen
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting of his ruling AK Party
in Ankara, Turkey October 26, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged Saudi Arabia on Friday to disclose who ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, as well as the location of his body, heightening international pressure on the kingdom to come clean on the case.
    Erdogan said Turkey had more information than it had shared so far about the killing of Khashoggi, a prominent U.S.-based critic of powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that has pitched the world’s top oil exporter and pivotal Middle East strategic partner of the West into a serious crisis.
    The kingdom, Erdogan added, also must reveal the identity of the “local cooperator” whom Saudi officials earlier said had taken charge of Khashoggi’s body from Saudi agents after his killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
    Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said on Thursday the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was premeditated, reversing a previous official statement that it happened accidentally during a tussle in the consulate.
    The kingdom’s shifting explanations of what happened to Khashoggi when he entered the consulate to get papers for his divorce have stirred scepticism and calls for Saudi transparency to determine who was ultimately responsible for the murder.
    “Who gave this order?” Erdogan said in a speech to members of his AK Party in Ankara.    “Who gave the order for 15 people to come to Turkey?” he said, referring to a 15-man Saudi security team Turkey said flew into Istanbul hours before the killing.
    Saudi officials initially denied having anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance after he entered the consulate, before announcing that an internal inquiry suggested he was killed by mistake in a botched operation to return him to the kingdom.
    Riyadh says 18 people have been arrested and five senior government officials have been sacked as part of the investigation.    Prince Mohammed, Riyadh’s de facto ruler who casts himself as a reformer, has said the killers will be brought to justice.
    Erdogan said he had spoken with Prince Mohammed.    “I also told the crown prince.    I said, ‘You know how to make people talk.    Whatever happened between these 18 people, this dodgy business is among them.    If you are determined to lift suspicion, then the key point of our cooperation is these 18 people.'
WEST MULLS REPERCUSSIONS
    How Western allies deal with Riyadh will hinge on the extent to which they believe responsibility for Khashoggi’s death lies directly with Prince Mohammed and the Saudi authorities.
    The stakes are high.    Saudi Arabia is the lynchpin of a U.S.-backed regional alliance against Iran but the outcry over the murder has strained Riyadh’s relations with the West.    Dozens of Western officials, bankers and executives boycotted a major investment conference in Riyadh this week.
    Erdogan also said Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor was due in Istanbul on Sunday to meets its regional chief prosecutor.
    “Of course, we have other information; documents, but there is no need to be too hasty,” said Erdogan, who previously described Khashoggi’s demise as a “savage killing” and demanded Riyadh punish those responsible, no matter how highly placed.
    On Thursday, Saudi state television quoted the Saudi public prosecutor as saying the killing had been planned in advance and that suspects were being interrogated on the basis of information provided by a joint Saudi-Turkish task force.
    Turkish officials suspect Saudi security agents killed Khashoggi, 59, inside the consulate and dismembered his body.    Turkish sources say authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting the murder.
    Pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, citing the audio, reported that Saudi agents cut off his fingers during an interrogation and later beheaded him.
    U.S. CIA Director Gina Haspel heard an audio of the killing during a visit to Turkey this week, sources told Reuters, and she briefed President Donald Trump about Turkey’s findings and her discussions after her return to Washington on Thursday.
    It remains unclear what can be heard in the audio.    Officials from the CIA and Turkish intelligence declined to comment.
    However, a European security source who was briefed by people who listened to the audio said of the recording: “There was an argument at the beginning, they insulted each other, it then developed. (Saudis said)    ‘Let’s give a lesson to him’.”
    Among various versions of what happened to Khashoggi given by Riyadh, Saudi officials had said the columnist was either killed in a fight inside the consulate or died in a chokehold when he resisted being drugged and abducted.
    Khashoggi did not appear to believe he was going to die, the European security source said.
    In Moscow, the Kremlin said on Friday that Russia has no reason to doubt the statements of the Saudi king and crown prince that the royal family was not involved in the murder.
    Saudi King Salman assured Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone on Thursday that Saudi authorities were resolved to hold the guilty parties accountable and ensure “they receive their punishment,” the official Saudi press agency SPA said.
(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara, Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/26/2018 Saudi Arabia now says Khashoggi murder ‘premeditated’
A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside
the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
    DUBAI/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said on Thursday the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate this month was premeditated, reversing previous official statements that the killing was unintended.
    The death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has sparked global outrage and mushroomed into a crisis for the world’s top oil exporter and strategic ally of the West.
    The Saudi disclosure came after CIA director Gina Haspel heard an audio recording of the killing during a fact-finding visit to Turkey this week.
    The spy chief on Thursday briefed President Donald Trump on Turkey’s findings and her discussions, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participated in the meeting, the State Department said.
    Saudi officials initially denied having anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2, before changing the official account to say an internal investigation suggested he was accidentally killed in a botched operation to return him to the kingdom.
    On Thursday, Saudi state TV quoted the Saudi public prosecutor as saying the killing was premeditated, and that prosecutors were interrogating suspects on the basis of information provided by a joint Saudi-Turkish task force.
    “Information from the Turkish side affirms that the suspects in Khashoggi’s case premeditated their crime,” said the statement carried by state TV.
    Turkey and Western allies of Riyadh have voiced deep scepticism about Saudi explanations of the killing.
    Turkish officials suspect Saudi agents killed Khashoggi, 59, inside the consulate and cut up his body.    Turkish sources say authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting the murder.
    Pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, citing the audio, has said his torturers cut off his fingers during an interrogation and later beheaded him.
    The CIA’s Haspel heard an audio recording of Khashoggi’s death during a trip to Turkey this week, sources told Reuters.    It was not clear what could be heard.    Representatives for the CIA and Turkish intelligence declined to comment.
    “We have shared with those who sought additional information some of the information and findings that the prosecutor has allowed us to share,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters, without giving details.
    Among various versions of what happened to Khashoggi given by Riyadh, Saudi officials had said the columnist was either killed in a fight inside the consulate or died in a chokehold when he resisted being drugged and abducted.
    A European security source who was briefed by people who listened to the audio said of the recording: “There was an argument at the beginning, they insulted each other, it then developed. (Saudis said)    ‘Let’s give a lesson to him’.”
    Khashoggi did not appear to believe he was going to die, the source said.
INTELLIGENCE RESTRUCTURING
    How Western allies deal with Riyadh will hinge on the extent to which they believe responsibility for Khashoggi’s death lies directly with the prince and the Saudi authorities.
    Saudi Arabia has detained 18 people and dismissed five senior government officials as part of the investigation into Khashoggi’s murder.    Some were members of a 15-man hit team, many of them Saudi intelligence operatives, who flew into Istanbul hours before Khashoggi’s death, Turkish security sources say.
    Turkish police were investigating water samples from a well at the consulate on Thursday after initially being denied access, broadcaster CNN Turk said.
    King Salman, who has delegated the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to the crown prince, on Saturday ordered a restructuring of the general intelligence agency.
    Saudi state news agency SPA said on Thursday that Prince Mohammed had presided over the first meeting of a committee to carry out that restructuring.
    The prince promised on Wednesday the killers would be brought to justice, his first public comments on the matter.
    Khashoggi’s eldest son, Salah, and his family arrived on Thursday in Washington on a flight from Saudi Arabia, according to two sources close to the family.    One source said Salah Khashoggi holds dual U.S.-Saudi citizenship and had been under a travel ban.
    This week he held a meeting at the al Yamama Palace in Riyadh in which he and other family members received condolences from King Salman and the crown prince.
    A photograph of the meeting showed Salah staring coldly at the prince as the pair shook hands.
    Dozens of people stood vigil outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Thursday to demand justice.    Several carried cardboard images of his face and signs reading “Khashoggi’s friends.”    One, his hands painted red, wore a mask depicting the face of Prince Mohammed.
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has called Khashoggi’s murder a “savage killing” and demanded Riyadh punish those responsible, no matter how highly placed.
    The king assured Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Thursday that the Saudi government was determined to hold the guilty parties accountable and make sure “they receive their punishment,” according to the official Saudi press agency.
    Saudi Arabia is the lynchpin of a U.S.-backed regional bloc against Iran but the crisis has strained Riyadh’s relations with the West.    Dozens of Western officials, bankers and executives shunned a big investment conference in Riyadh this week.
    But striking a defiant tone, the crown prince told international investors at the three-day gathering on Wednesday that the furor would not derail the kingdom’s reform drive.
    “We will prove to the world that the two governments (Saudi and Turkish) are cooperating to punish any criminal, any culprit, and at the end justice will prevail,” he said to applause.
(Reporting by Asma Alsharif and Tuqa Khalid in Dubai; Ali Kucukgocmen and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara; Humeyra Pamuk, Mark Hosenball, Jonathan Landay, and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Mark Heinrich and Alistair Bell; Editing by Nick Tattersall and James Dalgleish)

10/26/2018 Oil falls on oversupply worries despite Iran sanctions by Christopher Johnson
A drilling rig of Austria's oil and gas group OMV is seen at their exploratory drilling site
near Maustrenk, Austria October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices dropped more than 1 percent on Friday, heading for a third weekly loss after Saudi Arabia warned of oversupply, while a slump in stock markets and concerns about trade clouded the outlook for fuel demand.
    Brent crude oil fell $1.12 to a low of $75.77 per barrel and was trading around $78.84, down $1.05, by 0950 GMT.    The contract is on course for a weekly loss of almost 5 percent.    It has fallen by more than $10 in the last three weeks.
    U.S. crude was $1.05 lower at $66.28, set for a 4.1 percent loss this week.
    “The energy complex is resuming its downward trajectory,” said Stephen Brennock, analyst at London broker PVM Oil.    “More of the same is expected in the near-term with sellers still very much on the prowl and intent on pushing prices lower.”
    A global collapse in equities has roiled oil markets this week as Wall Street had its biggest daily decline since 2011, wiping out all of this year’s previous gains.
    Financial markets have been hit hard by a range of worries, including the U.S.-China trade war, a rout in emerging market currencies, rising borrowing costs and bond yields, and economic concerns in Italy.
    There are also signs of a slowdown in global trade, with container and bulk freight rates dropping after rising for most of 2018.
    After many months of concern about shortage of supply ahead of U.S. sanctions on Iran, due to begin on Nov. 4, the oil market is beginning to be concerned about possible oversupply and inventories that are rising in many parts of the world.
    Saudi Arabia’s OPEC governor said on Thursday oil markets could face oversupply by the end of the year.
    “The market in the fourth quarter could be shifting towards an oversupply situation as evidenced by rising inventories over the past few weeks,” Adeeb Al-Aama told Reuters.
    Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said there could be a need for intervention to reduce oil stockpiles after increases in recent months.
    For now, however, the main focus in the oil market remains on U.S. sanctions and the impact they are having on Iran’s oil exports.    Washington has said it wants to reduce Iranian oil sales to zero, although this looks unlikely.
    Many buyers, including Iran’s biggest customer, China, appear to be falling in line, forcing Tehran to store unsold oil on tankers in the hope it can sell the crude once sanctions are lifted.
(Graphic: Iran oil exports already falling – https://tmsnrt.rs/2PkSYHU) (Reporting by Christopher Johnson in LONDON, Henning Gloystein in SINGAPORE and Aaron Sheldrick in TOKYO; Editing by Dale Hudson and Kirsten Donovan)

10/26/2018 President Trump imposes new sanctions on Islamic terror group Hezbollah by OAN Newsroom
    President Trump is blasting Iran for backing Islamic terror groups as he imposes new sanctions on Hezbollah.
    The president signed off on the legislation Thursday, describing the move as a way to starve Hezbollah of funding by cutting off its access to the global market.
    Under the new round of sanctions anyone caught doing business with the Iranian-backed regime will also be sanctioned.
    The president announced his decision at an event honoring the lives of 241 American servicemen killed by Hezbollah militants 35-year-ago in Beirut, Lebanon.
    “It was the single deadliest day for the Marines since Iwo Jima — the attack was carried out by Hezbollah, which Iran had been instrumental in founding a year earlier to advance its radical agenda and remain its main patron today,” stated the president.    “And we are doing a big number on Iran today if you haven’t noticed.”
President Donald Trump speaks at a reception commemorating the 35th anniversary of the attack on Beirut Barracks
in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
    This comes after President Trump pulled out of the Obama-era Iran Nuclear Deal, allowing him to restore sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
    Those actions seem to have hit their mark with Iran facing skyrocketing unemployment and high-levels of inflation.

10/27/2018 Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinian youths in Gaza, 1 in West Bank
    Israeli forces shot dead five Palestinian youths Friday, four in Gaza protests and one in the West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.     The bloodshed is likely to complicate the mission of Egyptian mediators, who intensified their diplomacy to prevent a full-blown conflict between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel.

10/27/2018 Turkey seeks extradition of suspects in Khashoggi killing
    Turkey on Friday intensified its demands for Saudi Arabia to extradite 18 suspects in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a call that is likely to be met with resistance from the kingdom and could escalate tensions between the U.S.-allied regional powers.
    The Saudi government has said it arrested and would itself punish 18 people for what it described as a rogue operation by officials who killed Khashoggi in the consulate.

10/27/2018 Palestinian militants agree truce after exchange of fire with Israel by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell
An explosion is seen during Israeli air strikes in the southern Gaza Strip October 27, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian militants said on Saturday they would halt attacks into Israel from the Gaza Strip after they fired the heaviest rocket salvoes across the border since August.
    The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, one of the armed groups that operates in Gaza, said it fired the rockets in retaliation for Israel’s killing of four Palestinian protesters on Friday.
    Israel in response struck dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday.     A spokesman for the militants said an Egyptian-mediated truce had been reached.
    “After contacts between the Islamic Jihad leadership and the brothers in Egypt it was agreed that a comprehensive ceasefire will begin immediately,” spokesman Daoud Shehab said.    “The Islamic Jihad will abide by the ceasefire if the occupation (Israel) does the same.”
    Egyptian security officials have been talking separately to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an attempt to restore calm along the border.
    An Israeli military spokeswoman declined comment on Shehab’s remarks and there was no immediate response from other Israeli officials.    Israel rarely acknowledges it has reached a truce with Gaza’s militant groups which it designates as terrorist organizations.
    Earlier, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus accused Syria and Iran of involvement in the rocket attack.
    “Orders and incentives were given from Damascus with a clear involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds force,” Conricus told reporters.    “Our response is not limited geographically.”br>     Israel regularly accuses Iran of aiding Gaza militants, but rarely levels the charge in connection with a specific rocket attack.
WEEKLY PROTESTS
    Shehab dismissed the allegation as “an Israeli attempt to escape its responsibility” for Friday’s protest deaths.
    There were no casualties reported from the heavy exchange of fire in either Israel or Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamist Hamas group.
    The Israeli military said it holds Hamas accountable for the events in Gaza.    It said its air force hit more than 80 targets including one used by Hamas as a headquarters, in response to more than 30 rockets launched into Israel.    There was no immediate comment from Hamas.
    The flare-up began after the four Palestinians were killed on Friday during weekly protests.    Israel said its forces were attacked with explosive devices and some demonstrators breached the border.
    Palestinians have been protesting along the frontier since March 30, demanding an end to an Israeli blockade and the right to return to lands from which they fled or were driven from when Israel was founded in 1948.
    According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 213 Gazans have been killed by Israeli forces during the protests. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper.
    About two million Palestinians are packed into the Gaza Strip which is in a deep economic crisis.    Israel says it keeps a naval blockade and tight control of its land crossings with the enclave for security reasons.
    Israel has struck scores of times inside Syria during the seven-year civil war there, at what it has said were Iranian targets or Teheran’s transfers of weapons to Hezbollah fighters.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a rare visit to Oman on Friday.    Israel and some Gulf states share an interest in curbing Iran’s influence in the region.
    Oman’s foreign affairs minister Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah said on Saturday the sultanate was offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestinians come together but was not acting as mediator.
    Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014.
(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by John Stonestreet)

10/27/2018 Oman offers help in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts: Oman minister
FILE PHOTO: Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Oman, addresses
the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
    MANAMA (Reuters) – Oman is offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestinians to come together but is not acting as mediator, Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the sultanate’s minister responsible for foreign affairs said on Saturday.
    Oman relies on the United States and efforts by President Donald Trump in working toward this “deal of the century” (Middle East peace), Alawi bin Abdullah told a security summit in Bahrain a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman.
    Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa voiced support for Oman over the sultanate’s role in trying to secure Israeli-Palestinian peace, while Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said the kingdom believes the key to normalizing relations with Israel was the peace process.
    Netanyahu’s rare visit to Oman came days after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid a three-day visit to the Gulf country and also met Omani leader Sultan Qaboos.
    Netanyahu was accompanied on Friday by senior officials, including the head of the Mossad intelligence agency and his national security adviser.
    Bin Alawi said “Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this, the world is also aware of this fact and maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same and also bear the same obligations.”
(Reporting by Katie Paul, writing by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by Alison Williams and Clelia Oziel)

10/27/2018 Bahrain says Gulf will remain ‘pillar’ of regional stability
FILE PHOTO: Bahrain Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa speaks
during a news conference in Manama, Bahrain, August 29, 2016. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo
    MANAMA (Reuters) – The Gulf Arab region will remain a pillar of stability in the Middle East, Bahrain’s foreign minister said on Saturday.
    Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa also told a security summit in Bahrain that a proposed regional security alliance bringing together the United States, Gulf allies, Egypt and Jordan would be “open to those who accept its principles.”
(Reporting by Katie Paul, Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/27/2118 Mattis says Khashoggi killing undermines regional stability by Idrees Ali
Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa walks with the U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis at the
inauguration of the 14th regional security summit "The Manama Dialogue" in Manama, Bahrain October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad l Mohammed
    MANAMA (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi undermined Middle Eastern stability and that Washington would take additional measures against those responsible.
    Washington Post columnist Khashoggi’s murder has escalated into a crisis for the world’s top oil exporter.    Saudi Arabia’s allies have reacted with outrage toward a country that is the lynchpin of a U.S.-backed regional bloc against growing Iranian influence in the Middle East.
    But Mattis also said U.S. respect for the Saudi people was undiminished, while Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said those behind the killing would be prosecuted in the kingdom and that the investigation would take time.
    U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants to get to the bottom of the case, while also highlighting Riyadh’s role as an ally against Tehran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of U.S. arms.
    “With our collective interests in peace and unwavering respect for human rights in mind, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a diplomatic facility must concern us all greatly,” Mattis told a conference in Bahrain.
    “Failure of any one nation to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most,” Mattis said.    He did not mention de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by name at any point.
    Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said Khashoggi’s killing was premeditated, contradicting a previous official statement that it happened accidentally during a tussle in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
    Saudi officials have also said he was accidentally killed in a botched security operation to return him to the kingdom.
    In his remarks at the Manama Dialogue security conference, Mattis went through a list of what he described as disruptive Iranian behavior – a message most Gulf allies will view positively since they share similar concerns about Iran’s increasing influence in Syria and Iraq.
    While these were some of the sharpest comments Mattis has made on the Khashoggi killing, he also said the two countries still needed to collaborate on stability in the region.
    “It’s hard to imagine that this administration in particular is going to change fundamentally how it views the role of the Saudis in terms of counterterrorism, in terms of counter-Iran,” said Dennis Ross, who served as top Middle East adviser to President Barack Obama in his first term.
    Foreign Minister Jubeir, speaking at the same conference, said Riyadh’s relations with Washington were “ironclad” amid what he called “hysteria in the media” over Khashoggi’s killing.
    In response to the killing, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week announced moves against 21 Saudis to either revoke their visas or make them ineligible for U.S. visas after the Khashoggi killing.
    “Our Secretary of State …will be taking additional measures as the situation is clarified,” Mattis said.
ALLIANCES
    Mattis said the presence in the Middle East of Russia – a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – could not be a replacement for the United States, whose “long-standing, enduring, and transparent” commitment to the region he reiterated.
    He said that it was important to end a 16-month-old dispute between Qatar and four Arab states that analysts say has weakened regional coordination against Iran.
    Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of backing their archrival, Iran, and supporting terrorism.    Qatar denies the charges.
    “The solving of internal debates among our GCC partners is vital for realizing this vision.    Without it, we weaken our security,” he said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council nations.
    Mattis said he continued to support partners in the region who were defending themselves against Houthi attacks in Yemen but also called for an end to fighting there.
    A Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015 has conducted frequent air strikes targeting the Iran-aligned Houthi group and has often hit civilians, although it denies doing so intentionally.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; additional reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Michael Perry and John Stonestreet)

10/27/2018 Saudi Arabia says it is beacon of ‘light’ against Iran despite Khashoggi crisis by Katie Paul and Idrees Ali
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir speaks during the second day
of the 14th Manama dialogue, Security Summit in Manama, Bahrain October 27, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad l Mohammed
    MANAMA (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and key ally Bahrain said on Saturday that Gulf states are playing a critical role in maintaining stability in the Middle East by combating Iran’s “vision of darkness,” as Riyadh faces its worst political crisis in decades.
    Saudi Arabia is the lynchpin of a U.S.-backed regional bloc against growing Iranian influence in the Middle East but the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. has prompted a global outcry and strained Riyadh’s ties with the West.
    “We are now dealing with two visions in the Middle East.    One is a (Saudi) vision of light … One is a (Iranian) vision of darkness which seeks to spread sectarianism throughout the region,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a security summit in Bahrain.
    “History tells us that light always wins out against the dark … The question is how do we defeat them.”
    U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday that the killing of Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi policy, undermined regional stability and that Washington would take additional measures against those responsible after announcing visa bans on 21 suspects in the case.
    “Failure of any one nation to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most,” Mattis told a separate session of the annual Manama Dialogue security conference.
    The long-planned event has been the focus of greater scrutiny this year after the killing of Khashoggi, with Jubeir questioned about how the case would affect Saudi Arabia’s credibility on foreign policy and security matters.
    He reiterated that Riyadh would bring to justice those responsible for Khashoggi’s death, saying they would be prosecuted in the kingdom, a day after Turkey demanded the extradition of 18 Saudis suspected of involvement in his murder.
    Jubeir said ties between Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, and the United States are “ironclad” and praised what he described as the “rational, realistic” foreign policy of the current U.S. administration.
    President Donald Trump has said he wants to get to the bottom of the Khashoggi case, while also highlighting Riyadh’s role as an ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of U.S. arms.
    Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Muslim Iran, which was not represented in the Manama conference agenda, have long been locked in a proxy war, competing for regional supremacy from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon to Yemen.
    Trump, who in May withdraw the United States from a 2015 international nuclear accord with Tehran, has strongly backed Saudi Arabia in its efforts to counter Iran’s influence.    The next wave of U.S. sanctions against Iran are due to come into effect on Nov 4.
    Iran, for its part, accuses Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of funding gunmen who attacked a military parade in Iran last month, killing 25 people, 12 of them members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.    Saudi Arabia and the UAE have denied any involvement.
    The Guards accused them of creating “plots and tensions
SECURITY ALLIANCE
    Bahrain’s foreign minister, Shiekh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, told the conference the Gulf bloc would remain a “pillar” of regional security and that a proposed security alliance grouping the United States, Gulf states, Jordan and Egypt would be activated next year.
    The Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) is meant to serve as a bulwark against Iran and extremism, Washington says.    But there has been uncertainty about how it can get off the ground given a protracted dispute between Qatar and four Arab states led by Saudi Arabia who launched a boycott of Doha in 2017.
    Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of backing their archrival, Iran, and supporting terrorism.    Qatar denies the charges and says the boycott impinges on its sovereignty.
    Mattis said that it was important to end the 16-month-old Arab dispute with Qatar that analysts say has weakened regional coordination against Iran.
    Jubeir said recent discussions in Saudi Arabia about a framework for MESA included Qatari officials and that the proposed alliance would not be affected by the diplomatic row.
    “It (MESA) is an alliance for security and prosperity for the region and will be open to those who accept its principles,” Sheikh Khalid said, adding that the alliance would also cooperate on economic issues.
    Gulf Arab foreign ministers also touched on Middle East peace initiatives, with Sheikh Khalifa lauding efforts by Oman, which hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday in a rare visit.
    Oman’s foreign minister, Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, told the forum that Muscat was offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestinians to come together but was not acting as mediator.
(Writing by Hadeel Al Sayegh and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/28/2018 Islamic State kills 40 US-backed fighters in eastern Syria
    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Islamic State militants killed 41 fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a main force combating the extremists in Syria, since Friday.    The IS-linked Aamaq news agency posted a video of six gunmen captured alive.
    SDF fighters have been on the offensive since September under cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition to capture Syria’s last IS-held pocket.

10/28/2018 With border open, Jordanians visit Syria for first time in years
A Jordanian man opens the door of his car in Damascus, Syria October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
    DAMASCUS/JABER, Jordan (Reuters) – Jordanians are flocking to the Syrian capital Damascus for the first time in years for tourism and trade after the reopening of a border crossing that had been closed through years of war.
    The border opened to people and goods on Oct. 15, restoring a route that had carried billions of dollars in trade for the region.
    “The first day that Syria opened up, I came.    This is my second time since then,” said Mahmoud Nassar, 62, a flight engineer from Jordan’s northern city of Ramtha.
    “This is a visit of tourism and of yearning for (Damascus),” said Nassar, who drove in with his father and son.    “The road is safe and there were no problems.”
    Syrian government forces retook the border region with Jordan from rebels in July during a Russian-backed offensive.
    The crossing had been closed since rebels captured it in 2015, though many are making the trip for the first time since 2011, when the Syrian conflict first erupted.
    The Jordanian side of the frontier was jammed with vehicles waiting to cross on Friday.    “What we see is the situation is good, things are fine,” said Razzan al-Hattab, a Jordanian waiting to cross.    “I love Sham (Damascus), so I wanted to be one of the first to try going in a tourist group.”
I WILL VISIT EVERY WEEK
    The closure of the border has hit both the Syrian and Jordanian economies.    “Before the border closed, our work was great,” said Jawad al-Zoubi, waiting to cross.    But for “the last seven years, we’ve not been able to pay school fees,” he said.
    Bahjat Rizik, in Damascus with his wife and son, said the last time he made the three-hour drive from Amman was before the war began.    He used to bring office furniture to sell in Syria and owned a gallery in the Yarmouk district near Damascus.
    “I will visit every week,” said Rizik, carrying bags of children’s clothes and spices with his family.    “God willing, we can get back to work.”
    Bilal Bashi, who runs a company selling abayas in Damascus, said he had seen more Jordanian tourists and shoppers since the crossing opened.    “No doubt there will be an economic (boost).    It will have a positive effect,” he said at the historic Souk al-Hamidieh market in the Old City of Damascus.
    Still, Raed Maseh, another Syrian trader, said the increase in Jordanian visitors had not had a real impact yet and hoped more people would come.
    The Syrian war further added to the strain on an already difficult relationship between Damascus and Amman.
    U.S.-allied Jordan provided support to some of the insurgents fighting President Bashar al-Assad.
    But diplomatic ties were not severed entirely and Syria’s relations with Jordan never turned as hostile as they did with some other regional states, notably Turkey which remains a major backer of the opposition.
    Intisar Murshid, the head of a Damascus hotel, said she received some 14 Jordanian guests on the first day the crossing opened.    They came to shop, work, or visit relatives.
    “For eight years we did not see Jordanians, very rarely.”
(Reporting by Kinda Makieh in Damascus and Mohammed al-Ramahi at Nassib crossing in Jordan; Writing by Ellen Francis; Editing by Tom Perry, William Maclean)

10/28/2018 South Africa’s Gordhan says anti-graft efforts face ‘dangerous fightback’ by Ed Stoddard
FILE PHOTO: Pravin Gordhan is sworn in as Minister of Public Enterprises in Cape Town, South Africa, February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Sunday that efforts to clean up corruption in state-owned companies (SOCs) faced “dangerous” resistance which threatened the country’s sovereignty.
    Gordhan, a former finance minister, has been tasked by President Cyril Ramaphosa with cleaning up SOCs such as power utility Eskom, which suffered misgovernance under former president Jacob Zuma.
    In an opinion piece in the Sunday Times newspaper, Gordhan said that new boards had started to address “the depth of corruption and criminal behavior that seems to have become endemic in these institutions.”
    “But the dangerous and unscrupulous fightback against our reform efforts continues.    If we allow this fightback to prevail, we risk losing our sovereignty,” he said, without naming who was behind the backlash.
    But in another context Gordhan did specify the Gupta family, a trio of wealthy Indian brothers widely accused of using their friendship with Zuma to siphon state proceeds or win contracts for their companies – allegations they and Zuma have consistently denied.
    Referring to state-run logistics and railway group Transnet, Gordhan said academics, which it did not identify, had found that at least 37 billion rand ($2.5 billion) was allocated by the company “toward tainted deals for the period 2012 to 2017.”
    “Of this, about 7.7 billion rand appears to have been paid illicitly in various forms to a number of firms linked to the Gupta network,” he wrote.
    No-one at Transnet was immediately available to comment.
    Officials representing the Guptas were also not immediately available for comment.
    “Over the past seven months, we have been piecing together the story of how are SOCs were repurposed to benefit a few, with repercussions for the rest of the country which has suffered financially,” Gordhan wrote.
    “The challenges facing SOCs are also structural, and cannot simply be solved with a cash injection.    Dismantling the destructive business-state patronage networks that have embedded themselves across public enterprises … will require time, difficult choices and bold action by leaders,” he said.
    Companies that have been caught up in the unfolding scandals have included accountancy KPMG, which has cut jobs in South Africa and lost business over work done for a company owned by the Guptas.
    Ramaphosa took over in February from the scandal-tainted Zuma after the ruling African National Congress party forced him from office and he has made the restoration of good governance and kick-starting a moribund economy his top priorities.
(Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

10/29/2018 Pasta and petrol: smuggling crackdown stirs dissent in Tunisia’s south by Ulf Laessing
A view shows a truck loaded with empty fuel containers at the edge of
Remada town south Tunisia, October 12, 2018. Picture taken October 12, 2018. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    REMADA, Tunisia (Reuters) – Tunisian Zubair Abdel-Moula lost his work selling smuggled fuel on the streets of a poor southern town after the government tightened controls with Libya to stop militants crossing the 460km (286 miles) border.
    The 32-year-old, who has never had a full-time job, now sits on a mattress blocking traffic in Remada’s main street with other unemployed protestors, demanding state jobs and aid.
    Tunisia started digging trenches and setting up monitoring systems provided by Western allies on the Libyan border in 2015.
    Routes that had been used for decades to smuggle cheap fuel, pasta and wheat from Libya to Tunisia, were also being used by Islamic militants and to transport drugs and arms.
    Officials say shutting the routes has helped prevent a repeat of attacks such as the one in 2015 when a Libyan-trained Tunisian shot dead dozens of tourists on a Tunisian beach.
    But the crackdown took the livelihood of thousands, many of whom have joined the protests.    The growing dissent is a worry for the government, the ninth since the Arab Spring and the 2011 fall of leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, as it clings to power.
    “We won’t go,” said Abdel-Moula.    “I don’t hope of things getting better.”
    Southern Tunisia sits on the oil and phosphate that drive the overall economy but the good jobs in those sectors rarely go to locals who often lack engineering skills.    The area around Remada is poorer than the capital Tunis, 600 km to the north.
    “The south provides everything for Tunisia.    There are foreign companies making money here but we locals can’t get jobs at oilfields.” said Abdel-Moula.
    Fellow protestor Abdullah used to spend his nights in remote borderlands buying fuel from Libyan truck drivers to sell in Remada.    Due to subsidies, the pump price of petrol in Libya is ten times cheaper than in Tunisia.
    With the crackdown, the work has become too dangerous.
    “I used to have a fuel (distribution) station with seven other families to buy (Libyan) fuel but it has become too dangerous,” said Abdullah, asking not to use his full name.
UNEMPLOYMENT
    Western countries have praised Tunisia as the only democratic success of the Arab Spring.    It transitioned to democracy after toppling long-serving leader Ben-Ali without triggering widespread violence or civil war.
    It has held free elections and in 2014 approved a constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights in contrast to autocratic systems and turmoil elsewhere in region.
    But the succession of governments since Ben Ali’s overthrow has been unable to resolve deep-rooted economic problems.    Prime Minister Youssef Chahed is fighting for survival with his coalition locked in a row about how to reform the economy.
    Investors have been scared away from North Africa by turmoil in Libya, inflation hit 7.4 percent in September, the highest since 1990, and the jobless rate is 15 percent.
    In the southern province of Tataouine, which includes Remada and much of the Libyan border, unemployment is 32 percent.
    “We have a problem with unemployment,” said Governor Adel Ouerghi.    “Most of our youth want to work (on oilfields) in the desert because salaries are high there.”
    Many Tunisians used to cross the border to work in Libya but now feel the country is too dangerous.
    “If the situation was stable 300,000 to 400,000 could find work there,” he said.
    Tunisia tolerated the smuggling for decades as a way to help the south which missed out on industries concentrated mostly in the north and eastern coast.
    Some 3,000 Tunisians have joined Islamic State and other extremists in Libya, Syria and Iraq, many of which came from the south or equally neglected central hinterland.
    But the chaos in Libya led to a spike in arrivals of militants, drugs and weapons, diplomats say, forcing the government to act.
    Libya’s state oil firm, NOC, was also keen for a crackdown.    It estimates the smuggling cost the economy at least $750 million each year.
    “We think most of the fuel goes to Tunisia and to Europe via Malta,” NOC said in a statement.    “Some local economies have become oriented around smuggling and this affects the fabric of communities who become dependent on criminal activity.”
    The smuggling has also caused fuel shortages in some Libyan towns, officials say.
    “It has been also agreed with other towns and tribes to disassociate all those involved in smuggling,” said Mustafa al-Barouni, mayor of Zintan, a western Libyan town.
ESCALATION
    Tunisian officials say it will be impossible to stop smuggling completely.
    The border can’t be sealed in mountain regions and some Tunisian guards, often related to smugglers, look the other way for a bribe, residents say.
    Fuel stalls seen by Reuters on the road between Remada and the provincial capital Tataouine were abandoned but some youths were still selling gasoline, even on the same street as the governor’s office.
    But for the protesters too many people have lost their livelihood.
    “Thousands of families depend on this,” said Salem Bounhas, secretary general of the powerful labor union UGTT in Tataouine.
    The protestors have threatened to escalate road blocks to cut off access to oil refineries unless the government finds them other work.
    The government has focused too much on closing borders without dealing with unemployment, said Chloe Teevan, a North Africa researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
    “Such policies are contributing to the rising disillusionment that has followed the revolution.”
(Additional reporting by Tarek Amara, Ahmed Elumami and Ayman al-Warfalli; Editing by Anna Willard)

10/29/2018 Woman blows herself up in central Tunis; nine wounded by Tarek Amara and Ulf Laessing
Workers clean the site of an explosion in the center of the Tunisian capital Tunis, Tunisia October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    TUNIS (Reuters) – A 30-year old woman blew herself up in the center of the Tunisian capital Tunis on Monday, wounding nine people including eight police in what the Interior Ministry called a “terrorist explosion.”
    Witnesses described a blast on the central Habib Bourguiba avenue where hundreds of police later cordoned off an area near the capital’s landmark Municipal Theatre and the French embassy.
    “I was in front of the theater and heard a huge explosion,” witness Mohamed Ekbal bin Rajib told Reuters. Ambulances could be heard rushing to the scene.
    Shops were shut on the avenue, usually one of the busiest streets in the capital and site of protests that toppled long-serving leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali at the start of the 2011 “Arab Spring” of regional revolts.
    The bomber had no previously known militant background, state news agency TAP said, citing the interior ministry.
    Tunisia, which is heavily dependent on tourism, has improved security since a series of militant attacks targeting tourists caused the near collapse of the sector three years ago.
    In 2015, 21 people were killed during a hostage siege in its national museum, the Bardo in Tunis, and a gunman killed 38 people on a resort beach.    The following year, militants tried to capture the town of Ben Guerdane near the Libyan border.
    There have been no attacks on that scale since then, but the economy has remained troubled and the authorities worry about militants who shelter in neighboring Libya.
    Tunisia is one of the few Arab democracies, and the only country to throw off a long-serving autocrat during the Arab Spring without triggering large scale unrest or civil war.
    It has since been credited with carrying out a democratic transition, holding free elections and guaranteeing fundamental rights in a new constitution.    But turmoil and militant attacks have scared off tourists and investors, worsening an economic crisis caused by a chronic deficit.
    Some 3,000 Tunisians have joined Islamic State and other jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria and neighboring Libya while dissent over unemployment has risen in recent years in southern and central areas.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara and Ulf Laessing; Writing by Peter Graff and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Janet Lawrence and David Stamp)

10/29/2018 Lebanon closer to government as economic pressures loom by Tom Perry and Laila Bassam
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a general parliament discussion
in downtown Beirut, Lebanon October 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri looked closer to forming a new national unity government as a major Christian party declared on Monday it would take part despite being offered an “unjust” share of cabinet seats.
    Hariri has been trying to form the new government since a May parliamentary election, with rivalry between the Lebanese Forces (LF) and President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) – both Christian groups – seen as the main obstacle.
    The delay has held up economic reforms that have been put off for years but are now seen as more pressing than ever.
    Lebanon is wrestling with the world’s third largest public debt-to-GDP ratio, stagnant growth and what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said are increasing vulnerabilities within its financial system.
    LF leader Samir Geagea said the ministerial portfolios offered to his party represented a “very big injustice” when compared with the size of its enlarged parliamentary bloc and the ministries offered to other groups.
    But the LF had nevertheless decided to take part “to continue to work from inside the government to achieve our goals,” he told a news conference.
    A government formed on this basis would be seen as a political victory for Aoun, an ally of the Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah, over his old adversary Geagea, Hezbollah’s most prominent opponent in Lebanon.
    The election produced a parliament tilted in favor of Hezbollah.    Together, Hezbollah and its political allies secured more than 70 of the 128 seats.    The group is proscribed as a terrorist movement by the United States.
    The LF nearly doubled its number of MPs, winning 15 seats.
    Government posts in Lebanon are filled according to a strict sectarian system: the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shi’ite Muslim.    Posts in the cabinet of 30 ministers must be split equally between Christian and Muslims.
HEZBOLLAH DEMANDS
    Hezbollah is expected to take control of the health ministry, the most significant cabinet post it has held, and to increase its number of ministers to three from two in the outgoing cabinet.
    The group also wants to see one of its Sunni allies installed as a minister in the new government of 30 ministers, two senior officials familiar with the matter said.
    Hariri, Lebanon’s main Sunni politician, has so far resisted this demand.    He lost more than one third of his seats in the election, several to Sunni allies of Hezbollah and its regional allies Syria and Iran.
    One of the officials said the Sunni issue may hold up a final agreement but would not derail it.    A second political source familiar with Hezbollah’s demands said there would be no government unless one of its Sunni allies became a minister.
    Hezbollah hopes the formation will be soon.
    “We are in the last phase and the period of serious anticipation,” Mohammad Raad, a leading member of the group, said in televised remarks.
(Reporting by Tom Perry, Ellen Francis and Laila Bassam; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alison Williams and Ed Osmond)

10/30/2018 Druze on Golan Heights protest against Israeli municipal election by Stephen Farrell and Suleiman Al-Khalidi
Druze Arabs on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights hold an anti-election protest
outside a municipal polling station in Majdal Shams, October 30, 2018 REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    MAJDAL SHAMS, Golan Heights (Reuters) – Hundreds of Druze Arabs, some carrying Syrian flags, gathered outside the gates of a polling station on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday, trying to block their townspeople from voting in municipal elections.
    Israeli police wearing helmets cleared a path for would-be voters outside the balloting center in Majdal Shams.    As protesters continued to prevent people from entering, police fired teargas to disperse the crowd.    No one was hurt or arrested.
    The town is the largest Druze community in the area of mountainous plateau that Israel captured from Syria in a 1967 war, unilaterally annexing it in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.
    “The Golan’s identity is Arab and Syrian,” chanted the protesters as they put a banner on the entrance reading: “No to elections.”
    Inside the building election officials sat in mostly empty rooms with blue ballot boxes bearing Israeli insignia.
    Some voters made it past the protest.
    “It’s my right to vote.    I’m free to choose the right person,” said one man as he emerged from the polling station carrying a child.    Glancing at the crowd, he refused to give his name.
    The Druze are a fiercely independent Arab minority who practice an offshoot of Islam.    Around 22,000 Druze live on the Israeli-occupied Golan.
    Israel, seeking to further integrate them, has offered citizenship but most Druze rejected it.    Many regard themselves as Syrian, even after more than half a century of life under Israeli rule.
    After an election eve town center meeting and march featuring dozens of rainbow Druze flags, the community’s elders issued a prohibition against candidates standing and people voting, threatening to make outcasts of anyone who took part.
    “Candidates and those who come to vote will have a religious and social prohibition put upon them,” said Sheikh Khamis Khanjar.    “What bigger punishment is there than this?
    Many Druze have enjoyed economic prosperity on the other side of the front line from their brethren in war-torn Syria.
    “When you are in a state that is giving you all your rights, why wouldn’t you vote,” said Sahar Said Ahmed as she watched the election eve protest in a town square dominated by the statue of a Druze leader who fought French forces during the colonial era.
    Outside the polling station Druze religious elders wearing their distinctive maroon and white caps urged youths not to confront the police.    One concern was that the issue of taking part in Israeli elections was dividing the community.
    “For more than 50 years Israel has been trying to sow disputes by divide and rule and it is happy at the differences that are surfacing,” said Moenis Abdullah.
(Writing by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

10/30/2018 Turkey rejects Syrian accusations over Idlib deal
FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron
attend a news conference at the Syria summit in Istanbul, Turkey, October 27 2018. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Turkey rejected on Tuesday Syrian government accusations that it is not meeting its obligations under an agreement to create a demilitarized zone around the insurgent-held Idlib region, saying the deal was being implemented as planned.
    The agreement forged in September between Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, staved off a major government offensive into the opposition-held region in northwest Syria.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin said after a four-way summit on Syria with Turkey, Germany and France on Saturday that Ankara was fulfilling its obligations in Idlib, which with adjacent areas is the last stronghold of the anti-Assad insurgency.
    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said in comments reported late on Monday that Turkey appeared unwilling to implement the deal.
    “The terrorists still exist with their heavy arms in this region and this is an indicator of Turkey’s unwillingness to fulfill its obligations,” Moualem said in Damascus, according to the official news agency SANA.
    Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissed the allegations on Tuesday, saying the agreement was continuing as planned.    “There are currently no issues in implementing the memorandum… Everything is going as planned,” Cavusoglu told a news conference in Istanbul.
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Turkey was doing its best to fulfill difficult obligations in Idlib, but that “not everything was going as it was planned.”    Russia did not see a threat that the agreement would fail, he added.
    On Saturday, the leaders at the four-way summit stressed the importance of a lasting ceasefire in Syria, and said a committee to create a new constitution should meet by the end of the year.
    Speaking to members of his ruling AK Party, President Tayyip Erdogan also said on Tuesday that Turkey would ensure a more active international role in Idlib after the summit.
    Peskov said Moscow would inform Syrian officials about the outcome of the summit in Istanbul.
    The Syrian government has vowed to recover “every inch” of Syria, including the Idlib region.
    The Turkish-Russian agreement established a buffer zone running 15-20 km (9-13 miles) deep into rebel territory that was to be free of heavy weapons and jihadists by mid October.
    The main jihadist group in the northwest, Tahrir al-Sham, gave a nod of approval to the Turkish agreement, but without explicitly saying it would abide by it.
    Cavusoglu also warned that if terrorists or radical groups in Idlib displayed a “different approach” to that of the deal struck between Ankara and Moscow, Turkey would intervene.
    Turkey has established 12 military positions in the northwest under a previous agreement with Russia and Iran, Assad’s other main ally.
    The United Nations warned that any major offensive into the Idlib region would cause a humanitarian catastrophe.    The region is home to around 3 million people.
(Reporting by Dahlia Nehme in Beirut, Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara and Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow; Editing by Tom Perry, Janet Lawrence and David Stamp)

10/30/2018 Turkey to launch operations east of Euphrates in Syria soon, Erdogan says
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan attends the official opening ceremony of Istanbul's new airport, in Istanbul, Turkey, October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey will destroy militants east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, adding that intervention there had begun and more extensive operations will be launched soon.
    Erdogan made the comments in a speech to members of his AK Party, two days after state-owned Anadolu news agency said Turkish forces had bombarded Syrian Kurdish YPG militia positions on the eastern banks of the Euphrates.
(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Daren Butler)

10/30/2018 UAE passes law to combat money laundering, terror financing
FILE PHOTO: United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan listens to closing remarks during the closing
ceremony of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Kuwait's Bayan Palace December 15, 2009. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates passed a law to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, it said on Tuesday.
    The law follows a decree by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
(Reporting By Tom Arnold; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/31/2018 Saudi prosecutor discusses Khashoggi case with Turkish intelligence: Demiroren agency
FILE PHOTO: Saudi public prosecutor Saud Al Mojeb leaves from Saudi Arabia's
consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Kemal Aslan
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor held talks overnight with Turkish intelligence officials over the investigation into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Demiroren news agency said.
    It said Saud Al Mojeb left his hotel shortly after midnight and went to the Istanbul regional offices of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT).    It did not say how long he stayed there before returning to his hotel.
    Khashoggi’s death has escalated into a crisis for the world’s top oil exporter, which at first denied any knowledge of, or role in, his disappearance four weeks ago.
    Last week Mojeb contradicted previous Saudi statements, saying Khashoggi’s killing was premeditated.    Riyadh says it has arrested 18 suspects, including a team sent to Istanbul hours before Khashoggi’s death, but has rejected Turkey’s call for their extradition.
    President Tayyip Erdogan, who has demanded more information from Saudi Arabia, said on Tuesday Istanbul’s chief prosecutor had asked Mojeb to disclose who sent the team from Riyadh which is suspected of involvement in the killing.
    The killing of Khashoggi, a critic of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has put into focus the West’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia – a major arms buyer and linchpin of Washington’s regional plans to contain Iran.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans)

10/31/2018 Jerusalem mayoral race narrows to religious and secular Jewish candidates by Dan Williams
A cut-out of Jerusalem mayoral candidate Ofer Berkovitch, 35, is placed next to his
campaign posters near a polling station in Jerusalem October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The race for mayor of Jerusalem, a role shaping Israel’s rule over the sacred city at the heart of its conflict with the Palestinians, will go to a run-off between religious and secular Jewish candidates, election tallies showed on Wednesday.
    Moshe Lion, a skullcap-wearing bureaucrat favored by two key members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightist cabinet, will face off against Ofer Berkovitch, the 35-year-old deputy mayor, after they came out on top of Tuesday’s five-man contest – but neither with sufficient votes to win outright.
    The ballot was held as part of nationwide Israeli municipal elections in which many candidates run as independents or on non-traditional party lists, making it difficult to gauge any broader political impact from the results.
    While Netanyahu’s own approval ratings are strong, a senior member of his party and cabinet who ran for Jerusalem mayor with his blessing, Zeev Elkin, came in third in Tuesday’s poll.
    The Jerusalem vote was largely boycotted by Palestinians who make up a third of the city’s population.    They live in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move that has not won international recognition.
    Many Jerusalem Palestinians complain of entrenched neglect by the Israeli municipality.    A Palestinian candidate who bucked the boycott by running for the administrative Jerusalem City Council failed to garner enough votes to get in.
    Both Lion and Berkovitch – whose second-round ballot is on Nov 13 – have vowed to appeal to all sectors of the city.    Neither is likely to break with Netanyahu government policy against ceding East Jerusalem for the Palestinians’ hoped-for future state.
    Trailing fourth in Tuesday’s mayoral election was Yossi Daitsh, the sole representative of ultra-Orthodox Jews who, by making up 36 percent of Jerusalem’s Jewish Israeli populace, might have been the biggest voting bloc.
    Instead, many ultra-Orthodox voted for candidates outside their close-knit community – a possible gauge of their assimilation in wider Israeli society where their welfare benefits and military draft exemptions are often resented.
    On the Jerusalem City Council, however, ultra-Orthodox lists took 14 of the 31 seats – the same presence as previously.
    Twenty-one percent of Jerusalem Jews are secular, while 43 percent are not ultra-Orthodox but of various less strict religious denominations.
(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Andrew Heavens)

10/31/2018 South Sudan rebel leader Machar arrives in capital, first time since 2016
South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar is welcomed after arriving at
Juba airport in South Sudan, October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Samir Bol
    JUBA (Reuters) – South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital Juba on Wednesday, according to a Reuters witness, more than two years after he fled the country after the collapse of a 2016 peace deal.
    Machar, the former vice president, fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016 after fierce fighting broke out in Juba, killing hundreds of people.    He later traveled to South Africa, where he was held under house arrest until earlier this year.    Last month he and President Salva Kiir signed a new peace deal in the latest attempt to end the five-year war.
(Reporting by Denis Dumo; Writing by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Maggie Fick)

10/31/2018 Secretary of State Pompeo calls for end to fighting in Yemen
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters during a news briefing
at the State Department in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Tuesday for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen and said U.N.-led negotiations to end the civil war should begin next month.
    In a statement, Pompeo said missile and drone strikes by Iran-allied Houthi rebels against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates should stop, and the Saudi-led coalition must cease air strikes in all populated areas of Yemen.
    Yemen is one of the poorest Arab countries and faces the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by a nearly four-year-old war that pits the Houthis against the internationally recognized government backed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the West.
    “The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” Pompeo said, using an acronym for unmanned aerial vehicles.
    “Subsequently, Coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen,” he added.
    The United States helps the coalition by refueling its jets and providing training in targeting.    Pompeo said last month that he had certified to the U.S. Congress that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were working to reduce civilian casualties in Yemen.
    Three-quarters of Yemen’s population, or 22 million people, require aid and 8.4 million people are on the brink of starvation.
    U.N. special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said earlier this month that the United Nations hoped to resume consultations between the warring sides by November.
    Both Pompeo and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis voiced support for the U.N. effort.
    Mattis, addressing a forum in Washington on Tuesday, defended U.S. efforts to help reduce casualties by the Saudi-led coalition and said all sides needed to take meaningful steps toward a ceasefire and negotiations in the next 30 days.
    Mattis added that the Saudis and Emiratis appeared ready to embrace efforts by Griffiths to find a negotiated solution to the conflict.
    “We’ve got to move toward a peace effort here.    And we can’t say we’re going to do it sometime in the future.    We need to be doing this in the next 30 days,” Mattis said.
    Pompeo said the consultations planned by Griffiths should start in November “to implement confidence-building measures to address the underlying issues of the conflict, the demilitarization of borders, and the concentration of all large weapons under international observation.”
    A cessation of hostilities and resumption of a political track would help ease the humanitarian crisis, Pompeo said.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Eric Beech and Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Peter Cooney)

10/31/2018 Aoun says Lebanon government row ‘not easy’, signals differences with Hezbollah
FILE PHOTO: Saad al-Hariri talks with Lebanese President Michel Aoun
in downtown Beirut, Lebanon November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday the differences blocking a deal over a new national unity government were “not easy” and signaled he was at odds with his ally Hezbollah over the last outstanding issue.
    Five months since an election, prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri has been unable to clinch a deal on the new government because of the competing demands of rival parties for cabinet seats that are parceled out along sectarian lines.
    A deal seemed close on Monday when a row over Christian representation was settled with the anti-Hezbollah Christian Lebanese Forces ceding ground to Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement, which is allied to Shi’ite Hezbollah.
    But Hezbollah, a powerful armed group backed by Iran, is pressing its demand for one of its Sunni allies to be given a portfolio in the 30-seat cabinet to reflect gains they made in the May 6 parliamentary election.
    Aoun, in a televised interview, said obstacles “are being created that are not proper and not justified.”
    Addressing the demand of the Hezbollah-backed Sunnis, he said: “This matter caused the delay, and this delay is a type of political tactic that is hurting our big strategy.”
    Aoun said the Hezbollah-backed Sunnis amounted to “individuals, not a bloc” and had gathered together “recently” to make their demand for a cabinet post.
    Hariri, Lebanon’s main Sunni leader, has ruled out ceding one of his cabinet seats to the Hezbollah-allied Sunnis.
    Another possible way out of the problem would be for Aoun to name one of the Hezbollah allies among a group of ministers allocated to him.    But Aoun gave no indication he was willing to do so in the interview marking the second anniversary of his becoming president – a post reserved for a Maronite Christian.
    Aoun said he wanted a strong prime minister, and not to weaken Hariri.
    Western-backed Hariri lost more than a third of his seats in the parliamentary election, many of them to the Hezbollah allies.
    Lebanon is dire need of a government able to make economic reforms that are seen as more pressing than ever.    The country is wrestling with the world’s third largest public debt as a proportion of the economy and stagnant growth.
(Reporting by Tom Perry and Laila Bassam; editing by David Stamp)

10/31/2018 Nigerian Shi’ite group says 42 killed when security forces fired upon protests by Garba Muhammad and Abraham Achirga
Mourners gather ahead of the burial of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, who were killed after security forces
opened fire during the Shi'ite group's protests in the capital Abuja this week, before their burial in Mararaba, Nigeria October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
    KADUNA/MARARABA, Nigeria (Reuters) – The movement of a jailed Nigerian Shi’ite cleric whose followers have repeatedly been targeted by the authorities said on Wednesday security forces had killed 42 of its members during two days of violent crackdowns on protests in the capital Abuja.
    Security forces opened fire with live ammunition on members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) who had marched in their hundreds to demand the release of their leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, jailed since 2015 when the army killed hundreds of his followers at his compound and a nearby mosque and burial ground.
    The IMN raised its death toll on Wednesday from the two previous days’ violence to 42 from an earlier figure of 25.    The toll included seven people who died of injuries received on Tuesday and 35 killed the previous day, said Ibrahim Musa, an IMN spokesman.
    On Wednesday evening, 20 bodies lay shrouded in white, awaiting burial in the town of Mararaba, some five miles (8 km) from Abuja, a Reuters reporter said.
    “I, as a Shi’ite today, I’m carrying my death certificate,” said Muhammed Ibrahim Gamawa, an IMN youth leader, at the burial site.
    “Under Buhari’s government any Shia in Nigeria is under threat and can be gunned down any day, any time, any minute,” he said, referring to Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari.
    “We are not safe, we are an endangered species in Nigeria.”
    A few hours earlier, in a bustling commercial area of Abuja, dozens of IMN members staged a short march.
    Security forces were absent.
    “We are ready to die for our Zakzaky!” and “Free Sheikh Zakzaky!” the marchers chanted.
    “Death to Buhari!    Death to America! Death to U.K!” they also cried.    Buhari’s administration has overseen the deadly crackdown on IMN over the past three years.
PROTESTERS
    On Monday, the army opened fire on the marchers on the outskirts of Abuja.    On Tuesday, the police shot at the protesters in the city center, issuing a statement later that day saying 400 IMN members were detained.    The statement did not mention any deaths.
    Police and army spokesmen did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on the updated death toll.    The army has said that three IMN members were killed on Monday.
    Zakzaky was charged in April this year with murder over the 2015 violence, after being held for more than two years.    Authorities ignored a court ruling during the period before he was charged that he be released, sparking protests from his followers.
    IMN protests have frequently been met with force.    In April, police fired bullets and tear gas during days of protests by IMN, wounding at least four protesters.
    After the December 2015 crackdown, Buhari accused the Shi’ites of creating “a state within a state”, though he also said civilian deaths could not be justified.    Since then, however, the government has remained largely silent on accusations it has used excessive force against the group.
    Around half of Nigeria’s 190 million people are Muslims.    Although virtually all of them are Sunnis, Zakzaky has attracted an estimated 3 million followers as a preacher of Shi’ite Islam since being drawn to that sect by the 1979 revolution in Iran.
    The repression of IMN and detention of its leader have drawn criticism from international human rights watchdogs and raised concern that the group could become radicalized, just as the Sunni Muslim militant group Boko Haram turned into a violent insurgency in 2009 after police killed its leader.
(Reporting by Garba Muhammad in Kaduna and Abraham Achirga and Paul Carsten in Abuja; Editing by Peter Graff and Gareth Jones)

10/31/2018 Saudi-led coalition masses troops near Yemen’s Hodeidah as pressure mounts to end war by Mohammed Ghobari
FILE PHOTO: A Shiite Houthi fighter stands guard at the site of a rally attended by fellows Houthis to mark Ashura and
the 4th anniversary of their takeover of the Yemeni capital, in Sanaa, Yemen, September 20, 2018. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo
    ADEN (Reuters) – The Saudi-led coalition has massed thousands of troops near Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, local military sources said on Wednesday, in a move to pressure Iranian-aligned Houthi insurgents to return to U.N.-sponsored peace talks.
    The United States and Britain have called for an end to the 3-1/2-year war that has driven impoverished Yemen to the verge of famine, raising pressure on Saudi Arabia as it faces a global outcry over the murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
    The military alliance of Sunni Muslim states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has deployed forces around 30,000-strong south of Houthi-held Hodeidah and near its eastern entrance, pro-coalition Yemeni military sources told Reuters.
    “Thousands of Yemeni soldiers trained by the coalition have been sent to the outskirts of Hodeidah in addition to modern weaponry including armored vehicles and tanks… in preparation for a big operation in coming days,” said one source.
    Residents told Reuters the Houthis had also deployed forces in the center of Hodeidah city, at the port and in southern neighborhoods in anticipation of an onslaught.
    The coalition and the Houthis have not commented on the military movements.
    The U.N. special envoy to Yemen is trying to salvage peace talks that collapsed in September, raising the risk of a renewed assault on the Red Sea city, the country’s main port and a lifeline for millions of Yemenis reliant on humanitarian aid.
    Envoy Martin Griffiths welcomed a call by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday for a cessation of hostilities ahead of U.N.-led negotiations scheduled to begin next month.
    Britain also backed an end to the fighting, which has killed more than 10,000 people, according to available U.N. figures.    Half the population of Yemen – some 14 million people – could soon be on the brink of famine, the U.N. says.
    “We remain committed to bring the Yemeni parties to the negotiations table within a month,” Griffiths said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
    He urged the warring parties to resume consultations on a framework for political talks and confidence-building measures such as supporting the central bank and a prisoner swap.
    Griffiths is hoping to announce a round of talks “as soon as he can but we’re not at that stage just yet,” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York on Wednesday.
DIRE SITUATION
    The Houthi official responsible for foreign affairs, Hisham Sharaf, welcomed Griffiths’ continued efforts but urged Western governments to take concrete steps to enforce a ceasefire to create “conditions conducive to peace far away from any pressure or dictates,” the Houthi-run Saba news agency said.
    The Western-backed Arab alliance intervened in Yemen’s war, widely seen as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, in 2015 to restore the internationally recognized government.
    But after seizing the southern city of Aden, the alliance has made no major gains in its war to unseat the Houthis, who hold the most populous parts of Yemen including the capital Sanaa.
    Aid groups warned of deteriorating conditions.
    “The recent increase in military activity in… Hodeidah threatens the security of our life-saving operations,” World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Herve Verhoosel said.
    The WFP has enough cereals to assist 6.4 million of the neediest Yemenis for 2-1/2 months, with the aim to reach 8 million, he added.
    Red Cross spokeswoman Sara Alzawqari said an estimated 3,200 families – some 22,000-28,000 people – were in need of basic necessities including food, water and shelter in Hodeidah, many having fled fighting in rural areas.
    The UAE and Saudi Arabia have said that taking control of Hodeidah would force the Houthi movement to the negotiating table by cutting off its main supply line.
    But a previous offensive on the city in June failed to accomplish any gains and the coalition halted the fighting to give U.N. peace talks in Geneva a chance.
    The talks were abandoned when the Houthis failed to show up, accusing the coalition of blocking their team from traveling.    The Yemeni government accused the group of trying to sabotage the negotiations.
(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Gareth Jones)

10/31/2018 OPEC oil output rises to highest since 2016 despite Iran: Reuters survey by Alex Lawler
FILE PHOTO: Flames are seen at the production facility of Saudi Aramco's
Shaybah oilfield in the Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – OPEC has boosted oil production in October to the highest since 2016, a Reuters survey found, as higher output led by the United Arab Emirates and Libya more than offset a cut in Iranian shipments due to U.S. sanctions.
    The 15-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has pumped 33.31 million barrels per day this month, the survey on Wednesday found, up 390,000 bpd from September and the highest by OPEC as a group since December 2016.
    OPEC agreed in June to pump more oil after pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to curb rising prices and make up for an expected shortfall in Iranian exports.    Oil hit a four-year high of $86.74 a barrel on Oct. 3 but has since eased to $76 as concerns over tight supplies faded.
    “Oil producers appear to be successfully offsetting the supply outages from Iran and Venezuela,” said Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.
    The June pact involved OPEC, Russia and other non-members returning to 100 percent compliance with output cuts that began in January 2017, after months of underproduction in Venezuela, Angola and elsewhere had pushed adherence above 160 percent.
    In October, the 12 OPEC members bound by the supply-limiting agreement lowered compliance to 107 percent as production rose, from a revised 122 percent in September, the survey found.
    This is the closest OPEC has moved to 100 percent compliance since the June agreement.
UAE, LIBYA
    The biggest increase has come this month from the UAE.
    Output in October rose by 200,000 bpd to 3.25 million bpd, the survey found, and could in theory rise further as the UAE says its oil-production capacity will reach 3.5 million bpd by the year-end.
    The second-largest came from Libya where production averaged 1.22 million bpd, the survey found, a rise of 170,000 bpd.    Libyan output remains volatile due to unrest, raising questions about the stability of current OPEC production.
    Saudi Arabia, after opening the taps in June and then scaling back its plans to pump more, supplied 10.65 million bpd in October, more than in June and close to a record high, the survey found.
    The kingdom, OPEC’s top producer, has indicated it is concerned about potential oversupply, raising the prospect that its next production adjustment could be to rein in output.
    OPEC’s second-largest producer, Iraq, also raised output in October.
    Iraqi supply could rise further if Iraq’s new government goes ahead with a deal reached by the outgoing administration and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to resume exporting Kirkuk crude to Turkey via the KRG.
    Angola, where natural declines at oilfields curbed production in recent years, boosted supply in October due to supply from a new field, Gindungo.    Output is still far below its OPEC target.
    Supply in Nigeria rose by 30,000 bpd.    Like Libya, Nigeria is not part of the OPEC supply-cutting pact because it often faces unplanned outages stemming from unrest.
    Output in Kuwait edged lower, the survey found.    The country had raised production in July following the OPEC deal, and kept it steady in August and September.
    Among countries with lower output, the biggest drop – 100,000 bpd – occurred in Iran.    Exports fell as returning U.S. sanctions discouraged companies from buying the country’s oil, although the decline was lower than some analysts expected.
    “Iran is going to come in above expectations,” said an industry source who tracks OPEC output, referring to Iranian supply in October.
    Production also slipped further in Venezuela, where a lack of funds for the oil industry because of the country’s economic crisis is cutting refinery operations and crude exports.
    Despite these decreases, OPEC output in October has risen to the highest since December 2016, the month before the supply-cutting pact took effect, according to Reuters surveys.
    Some of the extra oil has come from Congo Republic and Equatorial Guinea, which joined OPEC in 2018 and 2017 respectively.
    Before Congo joined, OPEC had an implied production target for 2018 of 32.78 million bpd, based on cutbacks detailed in late 2016 and Nigeria and Libya’s expectations of 2018 output.
    According to the survey, OPEC excluding Congo pumped about 530,000 bpd above this implied target in October.
    The survey aims to track supply to the market and is based on shipping data provided by external sources, Thomson Reuters flows data and information provided by sources at oil companies, OPEC and consulting firms.
(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Editing by Dale Hudson)

11/1/2018 Fake news network vs bots: the online war around Khashoggi killing by Jack Stubbs, Katie Paul and Tuqa Khalid
FILE PHOTO: A Saudi flag flutters atop Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir/File Photo
    LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) – On Oct. 20, Arabic-language website alawatanews.com published a report that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had been forced out of power.
    Citing the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), it said King Salman had signed a decree removing the prince “against the backdrop of growing pressure that accompanies the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
    The report was false.    The SPA has never published such an article, the wording and picture were lifted from a year-old royal court announcement about the removal of a former crown prince and MbS, as he is widely known, remains in his position.
    The story and the website that published it are part of a fierce information war being waged online over the killing of Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi government last seen entering Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
    Automated accounts known as bots have flooded social media in recent weeks, many of them promoting messages which support Saudi Arabia and are intended to cast doubt on allegations that the kingdom was involved in Khashoggi’s death.
    But another effort has also sought to muddy the waters more broadly, using fake news websites and associated bots to sow confusion about developments inside the Saudi government.
    Alawatanews.com is part of a network of at least 53 websites which, posing as authentic Arabic-language news outlets, have spread false information about the Saudi government and Khashoggi’s murder, a Reuters analysis shows.
    Investigators at Israeli cybersecurity firm ClearSky said a review of host-server addresses and registration details showed the websites were operating as part of the same network.    Many of them also have near-identical design layouts and web addresses, or have published the same or similar fake news reports.
    The alawatanews.com report, which said MbS had been replaced by his brother because of the fallout from Khashoggi’s death, was typical of those articles.    Another, published by a website called awwtarnews.com on Oct. 22, said an MbS aide had also been replaced for the same reason, which was not true.
    After being published online, the false news articles were shared on Twitter by automated bot accounts — many of which repeatedly posted links to multiple sites from the network.
    Twitter suspended the accounts shortly after receiving questions about them from Reuters.    Alawatanews.com, awwtarnews.com, the Saudi government and SPA did not respond to requests for comment.
    A person called Mohammed Trabay with a registered address in Egypt is listed online as the owner and operator of the majority of the 53 websites.    When reached by phone, a man who identified himself as Mohammed Trabay confirmed he was the owner of the websites but hung up when asked for further details.
    In subsequent emailed comments he denied any connection to the network and said he had not understood the questions when asked by phone.
    “Sorry, I can’t help you,” he said.    “I don’t have any relation with the sites you mention.”
SAUDI ARABIA’S ELECTRONIC ARMY
    The Saudi government initially said that it did not know what had happened to Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote columns for the Washington Post, when he disappeared after entering its consulate in Turkey.
    Under pressure to say more about Khashoggi’s fate, and following Turkey asserting that he had been killed, Riyadh later changed its version of events to say he had died in a fight in the Istanbul consulate.
    When that statement was also widely questioned, Riyadh offered a new explanation, blaming Khashoggi’s death on a premeditated “rogue operation” in which Saudi individuals exceeded their authority.
    U.S. President Donald Trump has said Saudi authorities staged the “worst cover-up ever” but has also made more conciliatory remarks that highlight Riyadh’s role as a U.S. ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a purchaser of U.S. arms.
    Online, the journalist’s death has served to show how governments and people are increasingly able to manipulate information and social media to further their political agendas, said Lisa-Maria Neudert, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, a department of Oxford University.
    “Setting up misinformation pages purporting to be real news, leveraging highly divisive and controversial current issues, and using fake accounts and personas to conceal the originators of attacks are somewhat of the ABCs of computational propaganda,” she said.
    At the center of Saudi Arabia’s online efforts is Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the Crown Prince who was hired in the early 2000s to run an electronic media army tasked with protecting Saudi Arabia’s image, according to a source with ties to the royal court.
    When Riyadh led an economic boycott against Qatar in June 2017, Qahtani was at the forefront of online attacks against the small Gulf state.    On Twitter, he urged Saudis to tweet the names of anyone showing sympathy with Qatar under the Arabic hashtag “The Black List.”
    Qahtani was sacked on Oct. 20 over allegations that he was involved in Khashoggi’s murder.    A senior Saudi official said he had authorized one of his subordinates to conduct what was meant to be a negotiation for Khashoggi’s return to Saudi Arabia. Qahtani did not respond to questions from Reuters at the time.
    Saudi authorities have not disclosed whether or not he is in detention and the status of his “flies,” as his electronic army is known, is unclear.    The Saudi authorities did not respond to a request for comment.
    Opponents of the Saudi authorities have also been active online.    Facebook and other companies identified a suspected Iranian influence operation in August which used a network of sham news sites and fake social media personas to spread disinformation, some of it targeted at Saudi Arabia.    Iranian officials have dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous.”
MYSTERY PERPETRATOR
    Twitter said it has removed large numbers of accounts for breaching its terms of use over the last two weeks, many of them originating from the Gulf region.
    “Targeted platform manipulation and coordinated spam are a violation of the Twitter Rules and we will continue to enforce our policies vigorously,” a Twitter spokesman said.
    Reuters has found such bot accounts and influential Saudi users repeatedly posting hashtags on Twitter including “Qatari intelligence kills Khashoggi” and “Saudi Arabia the greatest,” although it found no evidence Qahtani or the Saudi government controlled or directed those accounts.
    Saudi Arabia’s biggest online newspaper Sabq has also accused the international media, including Reuters, of using Khashoggi’s disappearance to try to undermine the government, and released a statement on Oct. 21 saying a fake news story was being circulated under its name.
    The websites identified by Reuters as spreading false news about the Saudi government have operated as part of the same network since 2017, said ClearSky analyst Ohad Zaidenberg.
    All bar three of the websites have been taken down, although it is not clear who dismantled the network, when or why, said Zaidenberg, who previously tracked online influence campaigns for Israel’s elite 8200 intelligence unit.
    But the sites which are still online, as well as archived copies of those which are now disabled, provide an insight into the network’s operations and aims — to undermine the official Saudi version of events and spread confusion around its government.
    “Saudi Arabia is considered to be one of the main powers in the Middle East.    Accordingly, many operators of fake news infrastructure target the Saudi Arabian audience with increasing frequency,” Zaidenberg said, adding that a perpetrator could not be identified at this stage.
    Web-hosting and support companies Hetzner, GoDaddy and Cloudflare all declined to give any information about the websites’ operator, citing client confidentiality.
(Additional reporting by Christopher Bing in WASHINGTON and Nafisa Eltahir in DUBAI; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

11/1/2018 Human rights in Morocco deteriorate in 2017-18: rights group
FILE PHOTO: A woman shouts slogans during a demonstration against the Moroccan court,
after the jailing of Moroccan activist and the leader of the "Hirak Rif" movement,
Nasser Zefzafi and other activists in Rabat, Morocco July 15, 2018. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal/File Photo
    RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco’s most influential rights group AMDH deplored on Thursday what it said was a surge in political and arbitrary detentions of human rights campaigners, journalists and social activists.
    In a report covering last year and the first half of 2018, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) said there had been serious violations in remote parts of Rif – a predominantly Berber area which has been shaken by protests – as well as Jerada, Zagora and other regions.
    “The numbers of political detainees surpassed those reported in the 1990s,” AMDH president Ahmed ElHaij told a news conference, noting that 1,020 are either detained or being tried for their involvement in or support for peaceful protests across the kingdom.
    The government did not immediately respond to the report, although human rights minister Mustapha Ramid has said Morocco is neither a paradise nor a hell for rights.
    In the wake of 2011 Arab Spring protests, Morocco adopted a new constitution enshrining freedom of speech, and promoting other rights such as the strengthening of an independent judiciary, and enshrining Amazigh – which is spoken by the Berber community – as a national language.
    But seven years on, AMDH said Morocco is letting slide the freedoms and human rights commitments promised to protesters.
    The state has dragged its feet on implementing its international commitments to fight torture, the 296-page report said.    As for civil liberties, AMDH drew a bleak picture citing a violent crackdown by the state on peaceful protests notably in the Rif.
    The Rif protests over economic and social demands erupted after the death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri in October 2016, who was crushed inside a rubbish truck trying to recover fish confiscated by police.
    Last June, a Casablanca court handed jail terms to 52 people over the Rif demonstrations.    Protest leader Nasser Zefzafi was sentenced in a first instance verdict to 20 years in prison.
    The Rif demonstrations, along with those in the mining town of Jerada in early 2018, have been the most intense since the unrest in 2011 that prompted King Mohammed VI to devolve some of his powers to an elected parliament.
    The report documented cases of the violation of press freedom which cost Morocco two places in the Reporters without Borders 2017 index where it ranks 133rd out of 180 countries.
    AMDH denounced the trial of local journalists including Hamid El Mahdaoui who covered the Rif protests.    It also called on the authorities to adopt a law protecting migrants and asylum seekers and to halt the deportation of migrants.
    Morocco is struggling with an influx of African migrants seeking passage to nearby Europe.
(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; editing by David Stamp)

11/1/2018 Turkey starts joint patrols with U.S. troops in Syria but strikes U.S. allies
A Turkish flag flutters on a military vehicle on the border of Manbij city, Syria November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Rodi Said
    ISTANBUL/MANBIJ, Syria (Reuters) – Turkish and U.S. troops began joint patrols in northern Syria on Thursday aimed at averting clashes between Turkey and Washington’s Kurdish allies, but Turkey pressed on with a new threatened offensive nearby to crush the Kurds.
    Turkish military advances into northern Syria over the past two years have put U.S. forces directly in the path of advancing troops from Turkey, Washington’s main Muslim NATO ally.
    The two countries have been working to avert direct confrontation, even as Turkey aims to crush the Kurdish YPG militia.    The YPG forms the main part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that Washington backs with arms, air support and around 2,000 special forces troops on the ground in the fight against Islamic State.
    To avert more fighting, the United States and Turkey agreed three months ago to hold joint patrols around the town of Manbij on the west bank of the Euphrates, under a deal that also saw Kurdish fighters withdraw from the city.
    But even as the joint patrols were due to begin this week, Turkey announced a new offensive against the Kurds on the opposite bank of the river, into territory where the SDF is backed by U.S. troops to fight against Islamic State.
    Turkey’s defense minister and the U.S.-led military coalition in Syria confirmed the start of the joint patrols in Manbij, about 30 km (19 miles) from the Turkish border, on Thursday.    Previously, U.S. and Turkish forces have held coordinated but separate patrols there.
    A Reuters journalist saw a convoy of six military vehicles, some flying the U.S. flag and others flying the Turkish flag, driving on Thursday about 20 km from Manbij city.
    The patrols are taking place along the dividing line between territory controlled by the SDF-allied Manbij Military Council and a Turkish-controlled area in northern Syria.
    However, the U.S.-Turkish cooperation in Manbij does not seem to have succeeded in averting what would be the first Turkish offensive across the Euphrates.
    Turkey has been firing across the border for five days in preparation for what President Tayyip Erdogan says will be an offensive soon to crush the Kurdish forces along the breadth of the Turkish frontier.
SDF SUSPENDS CAMPAIGN AGAINST IS
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group and SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel said Turkish forces shelled and fired on an area near the Syrian town of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border.    They said one girl died after being hit.
    On Wednesday, the SDF said the Turkish attacks had forced it to suspend its U.S.-backed campaign against Islamic State near the Iraqi border.
    On Thursday, the U.S.-led coalition spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan told Reuters in emailed comments that the suspension was still in place while talks continue.
    In the multi-sided conflict, Islamic State fighters have been driven from nearly all of the self-proclaimed “caliphate” they controlled in Syria and Iraq by a range of foes including the U.S.-led coalition, the Iraqi government, the Russian-backed Syrian government and Iran-backed Shi’ite paramilitaries.
    However, last week Islamic State fighters launched one of their deadliest attacks this year against the SDF.    The SDF says it lost 14 fighters; the Observatory says the death toll was much higher.
    Over the past two years, Turkish forces have already swept into Syria to push YPG fighters out of territory west of the Euphrates in two separate military campaigns.
    Past offensives halted at the banks of the river, in part to avoid direct confrontation with the United States.
    U.S. relations with Turkey, one of its closest allies in the Middle East for decades, have been strained almost to breaking point in recent months by differences over Syria and a range of other issues.
    U.S. President Donald Trump spoke on Thursday with Erdogan. The Turkish leader’s office said they stressed their determination to strengthen ties.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul, Rodi Said near Manbij and Tom Perry and Lisa Barrington in Beirut; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

11/1/2018 Saudi Arabia hosts rare visit of U.S. evangelical Christian figures
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmanin meets with a member of the delegation of American Evangelical Christian Leaders
in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 1, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held a rare meeting with American evangelical Christians on Thursday, as the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom seeks to open up more to the world and repair an image of religious intolerance.
    The delegation was led by communications strategist Joel Rosenberg and included former U.S. congresswoman Michele Bachmann, according to an emailed statement by the group, as well as heads of American evangelical organizations, some with ties to Israel.
    “It was a historic moment for the Saudi Crown Prince to openly welcome Evangelical Christian leaders to the Palace.    We were encouraged by the candor of the two-hour conversation with him today,” the statement said.
    The delegation also met Saudi officials including Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Khalid bin Salman, and secretary-general of the Muslim World League Mohammed al-Issa.
    A visit by such prominent non-Muslim leaders, who estimate they represent about 60 million people, is a rare act of religious openness for Saudi Arabia, which hosts the holiest sites in Islam and bans the practice of other religions.
    Some of the figures’ support for Israel, which the kingdom does not recognize, is also striking.    For instance, Mike Evans, founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team, describes himself on his website as “a devout American-Christian Zionist leader.”
    Saudi Arabia has maintained for years that normalizing relations with Israel hinges on its withdrawal from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war – territory Palestinians seek for a future state.
    But increased tension between Tehran and Riyadh has fueled speculation that shared interests may push Saudi Arabia and Israel to work together against what they regard as a common Iranian threat.
    Prince Mohammed, who in recent years has loosened strict social rules and arrested Saudi clerics deemed extremists, said in April that Israelis are entitled to live peacefully on their own land.    A month earlier, Saudi Arabia opened its air space for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel.
    Several members of the delegation, which met with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in the United Arab Emirates earlier in the week, have also advised U.S. President Donald Trump on faith issues.
(Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by James Dalgleish)

11/1/2018 WH: Pres. Trump Spoke With Erdogan About Syria by OAN Newsroom
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    President Trump speaks with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan about the ongoing crisis in Syria.
    The White House said the leaders spoke via telephone and had a great discussion on improving relations and working closely to resolve the Syrian conflict.
    Erdogan also offered his condolences to the U.S in the wake of the deadly synagogue shooting.
    The two leaders did not discuss the murder investigation of Jamal Khashoggi.

11/2/2018 Israeli official says Khashoggi death ‘despicable’, but Iran greater challenge
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli official on Friday called the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul “despicable” but said that cementing ties with Gulf states in the struggle against Iran was Israel’s overriding concern.
    In his remarks to radio station 102 FM, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz did not explicitly say whether his views were those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which has been reticent in commenting on the case.
    Asked about Khashoggi’s death, Steinitz said: "was a despicable action.    It’s worthy of all reproach.    This was a civilian, a journalist, not a terrorist.”
    He went on to say, however, that Israel’s struggle against Iran was more pressing.
    “We have a threat that can become an existential threat – the threat of a nuclear Iran, the threat of terror, the threat of spreading through Syria and Lebanon.    And Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, are our allies in recent years against the spread of Iran and against the Iranian nuclear threat,” he said.
(Reporting by Dan Williams and Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/2/2018 Turkey’s Erdogan: Khashoggi killing ordered at Saudi ‘highest levels’ by Ece Toksabay
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting
at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, October 30, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – The order to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in the Washington Post on Friday and he called for the “puppetmasters” to be unmasked.
    Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of the Saudi government and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul exactly one month ago on Oct. 2.
    Erdogan, in an op-ed piece in the newspaper, said he did not believe “for a second” that King Salman had ordered “the hit” on Khashoggi and he also refrained from directly accusing the crown prince.
    An adviser to Erdogan said last week that MbS, as the crown prince is informally known, had “blood on his hands” over Khashoggi’s killing, the bluntest comments yet from someone linked to Erdogan about Riyadh’s de facto ruler in connection with the death.
    The Saudi government initially insisted Khashoggi had left the consulate, later saying he died in an unplanned “rogue operation.”    Last week, the kingdom’s public prosecutor Saud Al Mojeb said the attack was premeditated.
    “No one should dare to commit such acts on the soil of a NATO ally again.    If anyone chooses to ignore that warning, they will face severe consequences,” Erdogan warned in the op-ed piece.
PUPPETMASTERS
    Erdogan accused the Saudi consul in Istanbul of lying “through his teeth” and the Saudi chief prosecutor of refusing to cooperate, stalling the process and not answering simple questions.
    Erdogan said there was more to Khashoggi’s death than just action by “a group of security officials,” he said.
    “As responsible members of the international community, we must reveal the identities of the puppetmasters behind Khashoggi’s killing and discover those in whom Saudi officials — still trying to cover up the murder — have placed their trust.”
    Earlier on Friday, another Erdogan adviser said the team that killed Khashoggi in Istanbul cut up his body in order to dissolve it for easier disposal, the newspaper Hurriyet reported.
    Yasin Aktay, who advises Erdogan and was a friend of Khashoggi’s, told Hurriyet that the body was disposed of by dismembering and dissolving.
    “According to the latest information we have, the reason they dismembered his body is to dissolve it easier.”
(Editing by Richard Balmforth)

11/2/2018 Militants kill seven Christians returning from baptism in Egypt by Nadine Awadalla
Policemen stand beside the microbus which carried Coptic Christians when
gunmen opened fire in Menyia, Egypt November 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Gunmen killed at least seven Christians who were returning from baptizing a child at a Coptic monastery in Egypt on Friday, officials said – the most serious attack on the minority in more than a year.
    Six of the dead were from the same family, and another 18 people, including children, were wounded, the Coptic Church’s spokesman said in a statement.
    Islamic State claimed responsibility for the ambush in Minya province in central Egypt, the militant group’s Amaq news agency said, without providing evidence of its involvement.
    “The jihadists targeted them with light weapons and killed 13 people and injured 18,” the group said in a statement released much later in the evening.
    “This operation comes as revenge for our chaste sisters that were arrested by the apostate Egyptian regime, and we promise more attacks to all who aid it.”
    Egyptian security forces on Wednesday night detained six women, including the daughter of former presidential candidate and senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater.
    The Muslim Brotherhood has denied any links to Islamic State.
    The attackers opened fire mid-afternoon on two buses near the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor in Minya, 260 km (160 miles) up the River Nile from Cairo, the church spokesman said.
    Footage posted on social media showed bodies inside a bus with apparent gunshot wounds.    Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the pictures.
    The attackers then fled, a witness at the monastery said.
    Local resident Hilal told Reuters he rushed to the scene after hearing about the attack and saw the militants on the road.
    “Some of us came to try and block the road.    There were three four-wheel drive vehicles and the militants opened fire … The militants wore white thobes and chequered head-dresses,” he told Reuters.
DARK TERRORISM
    Islamic State and affiliated groups have claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on Christians, including one that killed 28 people in almost the same spot in May 2017 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-security/he-said-he-was-christian-they-shot-him-says-son-who-saw-father-die-idUSKBN19B176.
    Egypt’s army and police launched a crackdown on the militant groups in February, targeting the Sinai Peninsula as well as southern areas and the border with Libya.
    President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he mourned the victims as martyrs and vowed to push ahead with the campaign.
    “I assert our determination to fight dark terrorism and to pursue the perpetrators,” he said on Twitter.
    Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Kuwait all condemned the attack.
    The European Union said it was a “stark reminder of the security challenges that Egypt is facing.”
    Egypt says fighting Islamist militants is a priority to restore stability after the years of turmoil that followed the “Arab Spring” protests in 2011.
    The public prosecutor said a team of investigators has been despatched to the scene of the attack.
(Reporting by Mohamed Abdellah and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Nadine Awadalla and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/2/2018 Gaza border protest more subdued as Egypt pushes for calm
A Palestinian boy reacts from tear gas fired by Israeli troops during a protest calling for lifting
the Israeli blockade on Gaza, at the Israel-Gaza border fence in Gaza November 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    GAZA (Reuters) – Crowds of Palestinians protested along the Gaza-Israel border on Friday but in fewer numbers and with less fury than has been seen for months as Egyptian mediators worked to lower tension along the frontier.
    Israeli troops wounded seven people when they opened fire on protesters but there were no fatalities, Gaza health officials said.    The Israeli military confirmed it had shot at them.
    Nearly 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during almost seven months of protests, according to Gaza figures.
    Palestinians say they are protesting against Israel’s blockade of the territory and in support of a right for Palestinian refugees to return to land lost during Israel’s founding in 1948.
    The weekly protests in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip began in March and at times have attracted tens of thousands of people.
    But on Friday, when Egyptian officials, who have been shuttling between Israel and Gaza, made a rare visit to the frontier, just several thousand showed up. Protestors still set fire to tires but fewer in number.
    The Israeli military, which usually says Palestinians attack the border fence during the protest, said that while there were indeed disturbances, much of the crowd kept their distance.
    A Palestinian official familiar with the Egyptian mediation said the goal was to end the protests and in return secure an easing of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.
    Israel accuses Hamas of orchestrating the demonstrations to provide cover for attacks and distract from Gaza’s economic plight, allegations it denies.
    Hamas seized control of Gaza from Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007 and has since fought three wars with Israel, most recently in 2014.
(Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/3/2018 Turkey expects to know on Monday if it has waiver for Iran sanctions
FILE PHOTO: Oil tankers wait to dock at Tupras refinery near the
northwestern Turkish city of Izmit, Turkey, June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said on Saturday that Turkey has received initial indications that it will be among eight countries to be granted a waiver from U.S. sanctions against Iran, but is awaiting clarification on Monday, NATO member Turkey depends heavily on imports to meet its energy needs and neighboring Iran has been one of its main sources of oil because of its proximity, the quality of its crude and favorable price differentials.
    “Initial information coming in is that Turkey will be amongst eight exempt countries.    But we don’t know for sure yet.    It will be clear on Monday,” Pekcan told reporters in Ankara.
    An industry source said last month that Turkey had already made efforts to cut its purchases ahead of the U.S. sanctions, but would prefer to keep up some level of Iranian oil imports.
(Reporting by Nevzat Devranoglu; Editing by Alexander Smith)

11/3/2018 Egypt’s Christians bury victims of latest militant attack by Sayed Shaesha
Mourners gather at Prince Tadros Church for the funeral of Coptic Christians who
were killed in an attack, in Minya, Egypt November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
    MINYA, Egypt (Reuters) – Thousands of Christian mourners prepared on Saturday to bury six members of the same family who were killed while returning from a baptism at a Coptic monastery in Egypt’s Minya province.
    Gunmen opened fire on Friday on two buses near the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor in Minya, 260 km (160 miles) up the River Nile from Cairo, killing seven people and wounding another 18, including children.
    The attack was claimed by Islamic State which, along with affiliated groups, has said it was responsible for several on Egypt’s Christian minority, including one that killed 28 people in almost the same spot in May 2017.
    Although Egypt’s army and police launched a crackdown on the militant groups in February, some of the Christian mourners blamed security lapses for repeated attacks against them.
    Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he mourned the victims as martyrs and vowed to push ahead with the campaign.
    “There is a mix of sadness and pain; sadness as these painful events are being repeated and pain because Copts are part of this homeland and part of its fabric,” Bishop Macarius, head of the Coptic diocese in Minya, told mourners at the Prince Tadros Church in Minya, tears streaming down his face.
    Crowds spilled over from the pews screaming, sobbing and praying over six white coffins and refusing an offer of condolences from security officials.
(Reporting by Sayed Shaesha, Writing by Amina Ismail, editing by Sami Aboudi and Alexander Smith)

11/3/2018 Netanyahu thanks Pres. Trump ahead of Iran sanctions for ‘historic’ decision by OAN Newsroom
    Benjamin Netanyahu thanks President Trump for imposing sanctions on Iran.
    In a message Saturday, from Bulgaria, the Israeli prime minister expressed his thanks to the president, calling the decision to restore U.S. sanctions on Iran ‘historic.’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting
at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, Pool)
    Netanyahu said, he has been calling for a full renewal against the Middle Eastern country, referring to the regime as ‘murderous’ and claiming it is ‘endangering the entire world.’
    Netanyahu thanked president trump in both English and his native Hebrew language.
    Netanyahu also added, the effects of the sanctions can already be seen, as the Iranian economy and currency have taken a dip.
    The re-imposed sanctions take effect Monday, and cover Iranian shipping, financial, and energy sectors.

11/3/2018 Erdogan says Turkey discussing Halkbank with U.S. after Trump call
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the
Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, October 30, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he and President Donald Trump had discussed Turkey’s Halkbank, which faces potential U.S. fines after an executive was convicted of taking part in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions.
    Erdogan gave few details but his comments come amid indications that Washington and Ankara are trying to mend relations which plunged into crisis this year, and he welcomed what he said was the start of negotiations over the bank.
    Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank has been one of the main points of disagreement between the two NATO allies, who are also at odds over policy in Syria and Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile defense system.
    A U.S. court in May jailed a Halkbank executive for helping Tehran get round U.S. sanctions.    The U.S. Treasury is also considering a fine against the bank.
    Halkbank denies any wrongdoing and Erdogan has condemned the court case as a political attack on his government.    Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak told Reuters in September he did not expect the bank to face a fine.
    The Turkish president said he and Trump discussed Halkbank in a call on Thursday and the U.S. president told him “he would instruct the relevant ministers immediately,” without specifying what the president had promised to do.    He said U.S. officials called Turkey’s Treasury and Finance Minister the next day.
    “Talks are underway about this issue.    It is very important that this process has begun,” Erdogan told a news conference in Istanbul.
    Last month a Turkish court freed a U.S. evangelical pastor who had been in jail and under house arrest for two years while he faced trial on terrorism charges.
    On Thursday, after weeks of delay, the two countries started joint patrols near the northern Syrian town of Manbij under an agreement aimed at avoiding direct confrontation.    U.S. troops are supporting Kurdish YPG forces in northern Syria, while Turkey has promised to drive the YPG from its southern border.
    Erdogan said he would meet Trump next week in France, where the two leaders are due to attend ceremonies marking the centenary of the end of World War One.
(Reporting by Irem Koca and Yesim Dimen; Editing by Dominic Evans and Ros Russell)

11/4/2018 Bahrain court overturns acquittal of opposition leaders
FILE PHOTO: Bahrain's main opposition party Al Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman
speaks to Reuters at the party's headquarters in Bilad Al Qadeem, west of Manama, October 28, 2014. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
    DUBAI (Reuters) – A Bahraini court on Sunday b>ordered life sentences for three senior opposition members, overturning a previous acquittal on charges of spying for Qatar in what an international rights group called a “travesty of justice.”
    A public prosecutor statement said the court sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of the opposition al-Wefaq group, and Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Alaswad, members of the same group, to life in jail for transferring confidential information and receiving financial support from Qatar.
    Bahrain’s public prosecutor had appealed a court ruling that acquitted the three senior leaders last June in a rare win for opposition figures who say they have been targeted by prosecutors for their political views.
    Sultan and Alaswad were tried in absentia.    Salman is already serving a four-year prison sentence for inciting hatred and insulting the interior ministry, after he was arrested in 2015.
    Along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, Bahrain imposed a boycott on Qatar last year, accusing it of supporting terrorism and cosying up to Iran.
    Qatar denies the charges, saying they are an attempt to undermine its sovereignty.
    Since the Bahrain authorities crushed street protests in 2011, demonstrators have clashed frequently with security forces, who have been targeted by several bomb attacks.    Manama says Qatar supports the unrest, accusations denied by Doha.
    “This verdict is a travesty of justice that demonstrates the Bahraini authorities’ relentless and unlawful efforts to silence any form of dissent,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
    “Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience who is being held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.”
    Alaswad, who has lived in London since 2011, has told Reuters that the public prosecutor used secret witnesses and a video from a Bahraini television channel which experts described as edited and incomplete.
    Courts in Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, last year dissolved al-Wefaq and National Democratic Action Society (Waad), accusing them of helping to foster violence and terrorism.
    Bahrain has barred members of dissolved opposition groups from running in parliamentary elections due to be held later this month.
    Wefaq, which has strong links to the country’s Shi’ite Muslim majority, and Waad, which is seen as a secular movement, have both campaigned for social and political reforms in the country, which is ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family.
(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Gareth Jones)

[THE ARTICLE BELOW IS THE FIRST ATTEMPT FOR ISRAEL TO CONTACT JORDAN ABOUT LAND DEALS AND BORDERS AND PEACE TREATYS]
11/4/2018 Jordan says Israel wants to discuss border land deals
FILE PHOTO: Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi speaks during a meeting with his
Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan said on Sunday Israel had asked for consultations on a special land deal agreed in their peace treaty that the Jordanian government wants to end.
    Under the peace treaty, two border areas were recognized to be under Jordanian sovereignty but gave Israel special provisions to use the land and allow Israelis free access.
    Jordan formally notified Israel two weeks ago it would not renew the 25-year deal over Baquora where the Yarmouk River flows into the Jordan River and in the Ghumar area in the southern Wadi Araba desert where Israeli farmers have large plantations.
    Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told Reuters after the decision the kingdom was waiting for Israel to invoke a provision in the peace treaty to hold consultations after giving notice before the deadline.
    Petra state news agency quoted government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat as saying Jordan had received the Israeli request but did not say when the discussions would begin.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged Jordan’s move and said his country sought to enter negotiations on the possibility of extending the arrangement.
    The 25-year special regime would be automatically renewed unless either of the parties notified the other a year before expiry that it wished to terminate the agreement.
    Safadi said the deal, which was signed in November 1994, had been conceived as a temporary arrangement from the start.    The kingdom had contemplated the move for a while before the Nov. 10 deadline.
    King Abdullah, who stressed the territories were Jordanian lands and would remain so, said the move was made in the “national interest” at a period of regional turmoil.
    Jordan is one of only two Arab states that has a peace treaty with Israel and the two countries have a long history of close security ties.    But the treaty is unpopular in Jordan where pro-Palestinian sentiment is widespread.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

11/4/2018 Saudi Prince Alwaleed: Khashoggi probe will exonerate leader
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal attends
the investment conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a top international businessman from the kingdom, said on Sunday that an official investigation into the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi will exonerate the country’s leader.
    On the Fox News program “Sunday Morning Futures,” he asked Saudi Arabia to make public as soon as possible the results of the investigation.
    Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of the Saudi government and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in early October.
    Prince Alwaleed told Fox News that an official Saudi investigation would show that the crown prince was not involved in Kashoggi’s killing.
    “Please let’s give some time for the investigation to finish,” he said.    “I ask Saudi Arabia now publicly, through your program, to have the investigation made public as soon as possible so whereby I believe the Saudi Crown Prince will be 100 percent vindicated and exonerated.”
(Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Lisa Shumaker)

11/4/2018 U.S. warns its citizens in Tanzania before anti-gay crackdown by Nuzulack Dausen
FILE PHOTO - A general picture shows the skyline of Tanzania's port cty of Dar es Salaam, July 12, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Emmanuel
    DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – The United States has warned its citizens in Tanzania to be cautious after the commercial capital Dar es Salaam announced a crackdown on homosexuality, a criminal offense in the country.
    In an alert on its website late on Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania advised Americans to review their social media profiles and internet footprints.
    “Remove or protect images and language that may run afoul of Tanzanian laws regarding homosexual practices and explicit sexual activity,” it said.
    The alert said any U.S. citizen who was detained or arrested should ensure the Tanzanian authorities informed the embassy.
    Dar es Salaam’s administrative chief Paul Makonda said on Wednesday that a special committee would seek to identify and punish homosexuals, prostitutes and online fraudsters in the city from this week.
    The foreign ministry said Makonda was voicing his own opinion and the planned crackdown did not have national government support.
    “The government of the United Republic of Tanzania would like to clarify that those are his own views and not the government position,” the ministry said in a statement.
    Last October, at least 12 men were arrested at a Dar es Salaam hotel in a raid on a gathering which authorities said was to promote same-sex relationships.
    President John Magufuli has cracked down on homosexuality since winning power in 2015, and a conviction for having “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” could lead to a sentence of up to 30 years in jail.
    Homosexuality remains taboo across much of Africa and gay people face discrimination or persecution, with rights groups often reluctant to speak publicly in defense of gay rights
.
    In 2016, Tanzania banned non-governmental organizations from distributing free lubricants to gays as part of efforts to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, even though some health experts warn that shutting down such outreach programs could put the wider population at higher risk of infection.
(Additional reporting and writing by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Editing by Catherine Evans and Adrian Croft)

11/4/2018 Qatar reshuffles cabinet, boards of Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Investment Authority
FILE PHOTO: Saad al-Kaabi, chief executive of Qatar Petroleum, gestures as he speaks
to reporters in Doha, Qatar, July 4, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon/File Photo
    DOHA (Reuters) – Qatar named the head of its largest bank as the new trade minister and restructured the boards of its state-run energy firm and sovereign wealth fund amongst other changes in a top-level shake-up on Sunday.
    It was the first government reshuffle in Qatar, the world’s top liquefied natural gas producer, since early 2016, but diplomats and analysts said the changes did not represent a significant shift in power in the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter.
    The tiny but wealthy country has been subject to a diplomatic and economic boycott by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt since June 2017.    They accuse Qatar of backing terrorism and cosying up to Iran.    Doha denies the charges and says the boycott aims to impinge on its sovereignty.
    Qatar’s ruler issued decrees outlining changes to the boards of Qatar Petroleum (QP) and Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the world’s ninth largest sovereign wealth fund with about $300 billion in assets.
    A cabinet reshuffle saw Qatar National Bank (QNB) CEO Ali Ahmed al-Kuwari appointed to a new portfolio which combined commerce and industry under one ministry.
    Saad al-Kaabi, the chief executive of QP, was named Minister of State for Energy Affairs and there were also changes to the justice, labor and social affairs, and municipality and environment ministries.
    Western diplomats and analysts did not see the shake-up as indicative of a shift in policy nearly 18 months since the start of the regional rift, which Qatar has weathered with new trade routes and amid higher oil prices that have helped it swing to a budgetary surplus this year.
    “The cabinet shuffle was expected to come earlier, but was apparently on hold as the country dealt with the blockade and now as the ramifications have been successfully dealt with it was time,” said Majed al-Ansari, an analyst and professor of political sociology at Qatar University.
    “It does not signal a change in policy or power shift in the government,” he said.
    It was not clear whether Kuwari would retain his post at QNB, the Middle East’s largest lender by assets.    The bank, which is 50 percent owned by the country’s sovereign wealth fund, did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
    QP’s Al-Kaabi, a U.S.-educated engineer, rose through the ranks to become chief executive in 2014 and also sits on the board of the Qatar Investment Authority.
    He has gained a reputation among executives of the world’s energy majors, such as Exxon , Shell and Total , as a reliable counterpart for energy projects that have made the tiny nation of 2.6 million people the biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) on the planet.
    Abdulla Abdulaziz Al Subaie was appointed minister of municipality and environment, a post seen as key to preparations for the country’s 2022 World Cup.    Subaie has served as managing director and CEO of Qatar Rail, which expects to launch Doha’s first metro line this year.
    A separate decree on Sunday appointed Mohammed Bin Hamad Al-Thani chairman of the Qatar Financial Markets Authority as part of a shuffle to its board of directors.
(Reporting by Eric Knecht in Doha and Rania El Gamal, Asma Alsharif, and Tom Arnold in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/4/2018 Erdogan says other countries cannot extract gas in Turkish, N.Cyprus waters
FILE PHOTO - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during
a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, October 30, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey will not allow the exploitation of gas reserves in Turkish and north Cypriot waters of the eastern Mediterranean, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.
    The eastern Mediterranean is believed to be rich in natural gas, and attempts to tap resources there have revived tensions between Turkey and Greece, which has a defense protection pact with the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government.
    Turkey and Cyprus have overlapping claims of marine jurisdiction and both plan to carry out exploratory drills this year.    Ankara only has diplomatic relations with a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island that is not recognized by other countries.
    Speaking at a ceremony to mark the delivery of a naval corvette and submarine, Erdogan said countries that thought they could operate in the east Mediterranean or Aegean seas without Ankara’s agreement were mistaken.
    “We will not accept attempts to extract natural resources in our country, Cyprus or in the eastern Mediterranean,” Erdogan said.
    Last month Turkey complained that a Greek frigate had harassed a Turkish exploration ship west of Cyprus.    Greece denied the charge and Cyprus accused Turkey of stirring up tensions.
    Breakaway north Cyprus, which is supported by Ankara, says any offshore wealth also belongs to its citizens, as partners in the establishment of the Cyprus republic in 1960.
    The island was split in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup.
(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Gareth Jones)

11/4/2018 Customs duties, competition hit Lebanese hopes for quick boost from open Syria border by Issam Abdallah and Jamal Saidi
Vehicles are seen at Masnaa border crossing between Lebanon and Syria,
Lebanon November 1, 2018. Picture taken November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi
    MASNAA, Lebanon (Reuters) – Lebanese exporters hoping to send their goods to the lucrative Gulf market through the reopened Syrian-Jordanian border are grappling with higher Syrian customs duties and competition from producers who have taken their place.
    The Oct. 15 reopening of the Nassib border crossing holds out the prospect of a much-needed boost for Lebanon’s economy, reviving a trade artery for the overland export of its fruit, vegetables and manufactured goods.
    But at the Masnaa border, where hundreds of trucks used to cross into Syria each day, there is no sign yet of traffic recovering to the level that existed before the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.
    “They are saying the crossing is open.    It is just talk,” said Mohamad Abdulrahman al-Bob, a fruit and vegetable merchant, speaking at his packing plant in the Bekaa Valley.
    “The security is there, but it’s taxes, taxes,” he said, explaining why he has yet to send his goods overland.
    “Nothing is clear.”
    The amount of goods he exports has halved from 2011 with all his exports today via sea or air.
    The Nassib crossing was reopened after the Syrian government defeated rebels in the southwest in a Russian-backed offensive.
    The Syrian government decided in September to increase customs duties on goods transiting through its territory, a decision aimed at providing support for Syrian seaports, state news agency SANA said.
    Lebanon’s caretaker economy minister Raed Khoury said he had held talks with his Syrian counterpart to urge a reduction of the five-fold increase in the level of customs being applied by Damascus.
    “Their response is that ‘We, as a country, suffered and the roads are destroyed’ and they want to rebuild the roads,” he told Reuters in an interview.    “Our response is that we, as a country (also) suffered from the problem in Syria.”
    Khoury said more negotiations were needed.    “This won’t happen quickly,” he added.
COMPLICATED TIES
    Lebanon’s ties with Syria are complicated by the state’s official policy of “disassociation” from regional conflicts.    While some Lebanese leaders are urging a full normalization of ties, others oppose this.
    Khoury said the two biggest problems obstructing a recovery of Lebanese exports are the competition from other countries and the fact that, cut off from export markets, many Lebanese producers had been forced out of business.
    Before the Syrian conflict, Lebanon exported around $800 million worth of goods via Nassib annually, he said.    Agricultural produce accounted for $200 to $300 million of the amount, with the rest being manufactured goods.
    He estimates that around 40 trucks are entering Syria from Lebanon, compared to 400 a day before 2011.
    The reopening of Nassib is seen as a rare chink of light in an otherwise bleak economic outlook.    The World Bank said that Lebanon would likely benefit from it in a report that revised down the 2018 growth projection to 1 percent.
    Revival of the export route can’t come soon enough for Wissam al-Samad, who owns a refrigerated warehouse stacked high with grapes.    “When Lebanese goods disappeared from the Gulf market, foreign products replaced them,” he said.
    “Work is down by half.”
(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/5/2018 Egypt says perpetrators of attack against Christians killed
    Egypt says security forces have killed 19 militants in a shootout, including the gunmen suspected of killing seven Christians in an attack on pilgrims traveling to a remote monastery.
    The Interior Ministry said Sunday the militants were tracked to a desert hideout west of the central Minya province, where Friday’s attack took place.

11/5/2018 More than 150 killed in weekend violence around Yemen port city
    Fighting escalated around Yemen’s port city of Hodeida, with more than 150 combatants killed over the weekend.
    Airstrikes and naval artillery pounded rebel positions around the coastal city on the Red Sea, where government- backed troops launched a major ground assault in an attempt to wrest it from dug-in rebels.
    Fierce fighting also erupted in the provinces of Bayda, to the south, and Saada, a Houthi stronghold in the north.

11/5/2018 Saudi Arabia tells U.N. it will prosecute Khashoggi killers by Stephanie Nebehay
President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia Bandar al Aiban attends the Universal Periodic Review of
Saudi Arabia by the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    GENEVA (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia told the United Nations on Monday it would prosecute those responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate, as Western states pressed it for a credible investigation.
    Bandar Al Aiban, the head of the Saudi government delegation at the first U.N. review of the kingdom’s record in five years, heard calls from more than 40 nations, including the United States, for a thorough inquiry and a string of rights reforms.
    He told the hearing that King Salman had instructed the Saudi public prosecutor to “proceed with the investigation into this case according to the applicable laws” with a view to establishing the facts and “bringing all the perpetrators to justice.”
    “As regards the passing of citizen Khashoggi, our country is committed to carrying out a fair investigation and all persons involved with that crime will be prosecuted in the justice system,” Aiban said at the end of the half-day session.
    Aiban gave no details on the status or whereabouts of the 18 Saudi nationals detained in connection with the case and repeatedly declined to answer journalists’ questions about them, saying: “The case is still under investigation, as you know…I think my statement was very clear.”
    Khashoggi’s sons on Monday demanded the return of the body of the Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi government, who disappeared at the consulate on Oct. 2.
    Saudi officials initially insisted Khashoggi had left the consulate, then said he died in an unplanned “rogue operation.”    The kingdom’s public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb later said he was killed in a premeditated attack.
    “We condemn this premeditated killing,” U.S. charge d’affaires Mark Cassayre told the Geneva talks.
    “A thorough, conclusive and transparent investigation carried out in accordance with due process with results made public is essential,” he said.
ARBITRARY ARRESTS
    Many Western delegations called on Riyadh to abolish the death penalty and the system of male guardianship over women, and to narrow the definition of “terrorism” in law so that peaceful critics are not prosecuted.
    France’s ambassador Francois Rivasseau called on Saudi Arabia to “immediate halt imprisonment and arbitrary arrests” of journalists and activists, and to guarantee freedom of religion.
    The Saudi delegation is due to report back on Friday on which recommendations from states it has accepted.
    Aiban, who is president of the official Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, said the kingdom was constantly striving to promote and protect human rights “driven by the honorable principles and provisions of Islamic sharia and the traditional values of our society.”
    Freedom of opinion and expression were guaranteed, but was limited by laws that protect the rights of others as well as the “prerequisites of national security and public order,” he said.
    Women had seen a series of reforms over the last five years, Aiban added.    Women were allowed to vote and stand as candidates in municipal councils and driving licenses have been issued to women since June.
    No Arab country raised the Khashoggi case.
    Egypt’s ambassador Alaa Youssef praised Saudi Arabia’s efforts to confront terrorism and radicalism, while Kuwait welcomed its creation of training centers for judges.
(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

11/5/2018 Israel sees desalination as Sea of Galilee’s savior by Dan Williams
Israel's Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Yuval Steinitz, walks in the
Sea of Galilee in northern Israel November 1, 2018. Picture taken November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    DEGANIA DAM, Israel (Reuters) – Some 2,000 years ago, Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee, according to the Bible.    Today, that doesn’t require a miracle.
    Long periods of drought and over-pumping have brought the lake low.    A reedy island has materialized at its southern edge, and will soon be a peninsula.    Holiday-makers and fishermen teeter over expanding boggy beaches to reach the waterline.
    The depletion imperils Israel’s biggest reservoir, starving the River Jordan and Dead Sea.    It also diminishes a landmark that rivals Jerusalem as a major draw for Christian pilgrims.
    Israel sees a solution in desalination, in which it is a world leader.    It plans to double the amount of Mediterranean seawater it processes and pipe half of it 75 kilometers (47 miles) to the Galilee.
    “We are doing this in order to save our nature, to fight global warming, to prevent the effect, the devastating effect, of global warming on the Sea of Galilee, and also to create a very significant water storage for the State of Israel,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who holds the cabinet water portfolio, told Reuters.
    Noting the lake’s significance to Christians given the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ miracle-working there, Steinitz joked: “If he is coming back, we will make sure that he will have to make a real effort to walk on the water once more.”
    Environmentalists welcome the move.    Last full in 2004, the Galilee has dropped six meters (18 feet).    It may be just weeks away from hitting a “black line” – 214.87 meters below global sea level – where it risk permanent contamination and pressure change from sediment.
    Israelis hope winter rains will hold that off until the first desalinated water is piped in, next year.
PRESSURE
    Preserving the lake would free Israel to offer Jordan more water under a 1994 peace treaty.
    “If there is irreversible damage done to the Sea of Galilee, to the Jordan, to this whole ecosystem, Israel’s enemies could use it against her,” said David Parsons, vice president of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, which oversees evangelical outreach to Israel.
    “It could also affect Christian tourism to the land.    It’s very good to see Israel taking responsible steps now to address this, finally.”
    Israel’s plan provides for piping in 120 million cubic meters annually.    Steinitz hopes to see that almost tripled in a cabinet vote next month.    Such capacity, he said, would replenish the Galilee by 2026.
    He predicted a small bump to consumers’ water tariffs, to help defray the $622 million infrastructure cost.
    Still, with a national election due in 2019 and an unusually wet winter looming, some worry the Galilee could be again neglected.
    “The vulnerability of this program is that the Water Authority has to continue to commit to maximizing desalination production,” said Gidon Bromberg, Israel director for the environmental group EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East.    “And that is a commitment that could change every year.”
    The authority’s director, Giora Shaham, sounded reassuring.
    “We need this water, not only for us but also for the Jordanians, because they are in very, very tough conditions now from the water problem point of view,” he said.
(The story restores missing word in 10th paragraph.)
(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Jeffrey Heller, Larry King)

11/5/2018 Nearly 80 school children kidnapped in Cameroon
FILE PHOTO: A Cameroonian elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) member walks past a burnt car while patroling in the city of
Buea in the anglophone southwest region, Cameroon October 4, 2018. Picture taken October 4, 2018.REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo
    YAOUNDE (Reuters) – Armed assailants kidnapped about 80 children from a school in western Cameroon before dawn on Monday, government and military sources said.
    No one immediately claimed responsibility for the abduction from Bamenda, a city in the English-speaking region where separatists are fighting to form a breakaway state.
    Secessionists have imposed curfews and closed down schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya’s French-speaking government and its perceived marginalization of the Anglophone minority.    A separatist spokesman denied involvement in the kidnapping.
    “In total 81 people were kidnapped including the (school) principal.    They were taken to the bush,” a military source told Reuters.
    Another source said that 79 of the kidnapped were children.    An army spokesman confirmed the abduction but declined to say how many were taken.    He said that it was most likely to have been carried out by separatists.
    A separatist spokesman denied involvement and blamed government soldiers.
    The separatist movement gathered pace in 2017 after a government crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.    One of the original gripes was that French-speaking teachers were being deployed to English-speaking schools in the Northwest and Southwest regions.
    Violence intensified in 2018, including during an army crackdown in which civilians were killed.    Many people have fled Bamenda and other centers to seek refuge in more peaceful Francophone regions.
(Reporting By Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Edward McAllister and Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Robin Pomeroy, Andrew Heavens and David Stamp)

11/5/2018 Host South Sudan to include Darfur rebels in Sudan peace talks
South Sudan President Salva Kiir addresses the crowds at the
John Garang's Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Jok Solomun
    JUBA (Reuters) – South Sudan will host peace talks in Juba next week between the government of Sudan in Khartoum and all Sudanese opposition armed groups, and will also include rebels from Darfur, a presidential adviser said on Monday.
    Sudan, which had previously accused its southern neighbor of stoking unrest in parts of its territory, agreed to mediation by South Sudan on Sunday, although only in its conflicts with rebels in the border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
    Independence for South Sudan in 2011 meant that many previously restive areas escaped Khartoum’s rule, except for South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where rebels kept up their fight.
    Tut Kew Gatluak, an adviser to President Salva Kiir, said the talks would now also involve rebels in Darfur, a region of Sudan along the border with South Sudan where rebels have been clashing with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s forces since 2003, although fighting has subsided in all the rebel regions in recent years.     “President (Salva) Kiir has invited all the armed opposition groups present in Sudan, whether in Darfur or in the two states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, to participate in the talks in Juba,” he told a news conference.
    The Khartoum government has unilaterally maintained a ceasefire with rebels in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan since 2015, and extended it in July.
    Sudan and South Sudan have long traded accusations of supporting rebels in each other’s territory, during wars in which hundreds of thousands of people have died.
    Kiir’s government and South Sudan’s main rebel group concluded a peace deal in September in Khartoum, with Bashir’s assistance, that was aimed at ending a civil war that had been raging since 2013.
    Gatluak said Kiir would play a reciprocal role in the negotiations between Bashir’s government and the Sudanese rebels, starting in Juba next week.
    Khartoum has said further peace talks under the aegis of the African Union are expected to take place in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in mid-December.
(Reporting by Denis Dumo; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

11/5/2018 Sisi hints Egyptian civil servants may not get wage increase this year
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a signing ceremony following a meeting with
Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia October 17, 2018. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) – President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi suggested on Monday that Egypt’s civil servants may not get a wage increase this year as the government needs money to build new classrooms in overcrowded schools.
    Egypt has already increased fuel, electricity and transport prices this year to help meet the terms of its IMF loan deal, leading to rare protests in May by commuters angry at the fare hikes.
    Speaking at the World Youth Forum conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Sisi said there was a need to build 250,000 new classrooms, which would cost 130 billion Egyptian pounds ($7.3 billion).
    “That’s a big challenge,” Sisi said.    “Tell me what to do.    How do I solve this?
    The government needs to find a solution he said, adding: “I’m going to say something difficult.    Make cuts in all the ministries.    I’m going to say something even more difficult.    We’re not going to give raises this year to employees in Egypt.”
    State employees in Egypt receive a raise at the end of every fiscal year, which runs from July to June.
    Egypt has been implementing tough reforms under its $12 billion IMF loan deal agreed in 2016 aimed at attracting foreign investment.
    Under the IMF deal Egypt also devalued its currency and has been gradually cutting fuel subsidies, putting tens of millions of Egyptians under strain.
(Reporting by Lena Masri; Editing by Susan Fenton)

11/6/2018 Turkey’s Erdogan says joint U.S.-Kurdish patrols near Syria border unacceptable
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a ceremony at a shipyard in Istanbul, Turkey
November, 4 2018. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that U.S.-Kurdish joint patrols near the Turkish-Syrian border were unacceptable and he expected U.S. President Donald Trump to stop them.
    Erdogan, set to meet Trump in Paris this weekend, told reporters he would discuss the patrols carried out by the United States and allied Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which would cause “serious negative developments” along the border.
    The patrols began in northern Syria last week with the aim of averting clashes between Turkey and Washington’s Kurdish allies, but Turkey pressed on with a new threatened offensive nearby to crush the Kurds.
(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Sarah Dadouch; Editing by Ece Toksabay and John Stonestreet)

11/6/2018 Gunmen kidnap 78 students in Cameroon’s restive northwest
    A governor in Cameroon’s restive northwest region says armed men have kidnapped at least 78 students from a Presbyterian school in Nkwen village.    Deben Tchoffo said Monday the school’s principal also was abducted late Sunday near Bamenda.
    Hundreds have been killed in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions in the past year, where violence has increased since a government crackdown.

11/6/2018 Turkey detains 24 as part of Islamic State financial probe
    Turkey’s state-run news agency says police detained 24 people as part of an investigation into the Islamic State group’s international financial dealings.    Anadolu says police also seized nearly $580,000, as well as euros, Turkish and Syrian currency.

11/7/2018 West Bank kin cheer first Palestinian-American woman in U.S. Congress by Rami Ayyub and Ali Sawafta
The uncle of Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress,
shows her picture on a tablet, in Beit Ur Al-Fauqa, in the occupied West Bank November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    BEIT UR AL-FAUQA, West Bank (Reuters) – Tuning into the news at dawn on Wednesday, the extended family of Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress, celebrated her victory in their home in the Israeli occupied West Bank.
    Tlaib, a Democrat, ran virtually unopposed in Michigan’s 13th congressional district, which encompasses southwest Detroit and its suburbs west to the city of Dearborn.    She previously served in Michigan’s state legislature.
    She has become “a source of pride for Palestine and the entire Arab and Muslim world,” her uncle, Bassam Tlaib, said in the small village of Beit Ur Al-Fauqa.
    With her win, Tlaib, 44, will become the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in the U.S. Congress.
    Alongside incoming Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, she will also be one of the first Muslim women to join the congressional ranks.
    “I’m going to speak truth to power,” Tlaib told the Detroit Free Press on election night on Tuesday.    “I obviously have a set agenda that’s not going to be a priority for the current president but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to push back.”
    Tlaib’s district is home to one of the largest Arab-American populations in the United States.    Her win highlights a wave of Palestinian diaspora candidates and activists who have embraced the Democratic Party’s progressive wing at a low point in U.S.-Palestinian relations under Republican President Donald Trump.
    In California’s 50th district, Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Palestinian-American who spent part of his childhood in Gaza and whose father served in the Palestinian Authority, was in a close race with incumbent Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, early results showed.
    “The success of [Tlaib and Campa-Najjar’s] progressive messaging on a wide range of issues, including Palestine, is reflective of a shifting public discourse that Palestine activists have played a role in shaping,” said Omar Baddar, deputy director of the Washington-based Arab American Institute.
CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM
    Under Trump, Washington has alienated Palestinians by recognizing contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the American embassy there, and by slashing U.S. funding of the U.N. body that aids Palestinians.
    Palestinians have broken off contact with his administration, which has promised to announce a peace plan soon for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    In the West Bank city of Ramallah and throughout the territory, Palestinians took a cautious view of the election news.
    “Change is incremental, and Palestinians in Palestine are intimately aware of that,” said Salem Barahmeh, executive director of the Ramallah-based Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy.
    “That said, Tlaib’s election is seen as a glimmer of hope in a very dark chapter in the Palestinian people’s history,” Barahmeh added.
    Bassam Tlaib, the candidate’s uncle, said she had “stood against Trump” at a time when “even our Arab leaders are unwilling to face (him).”
(Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Jeffrey Heller)

11/7/2018 Kidnapped children released in Cameroon, two teachers held by Blaise Eyong
FILE PHOTO: Parents await for news of their children at a school where 79 pupils were kidnapped in Bamenda, Cameroon November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Blaise Eyong
    BAMENDA, Cameroon (Reuters) – All 79 children and a driver kidnapped in west Cameroon were free on Wednesday, but a principal and one teacher are still being held by the armed men that took them, a priest conducting negotiations said.
    The group was abducted on Monday in Bamenda, a commercial hub of Cameroon’s restive English-speaking region, according to military and government sources.
    “Praise God 78 children and the driver have been released.    The principal and one teacher are still with the kidnappers.    Let us keep praying,” Samuel Fonki, a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, said.
    One other child had escaped earlier, he added.
    The priest did not say precisely when the children were freed, or whether any deal had been made with the kidnappers.    He had earlier said another 11 school children were kidnapped by the same armed group on Oct. 31, then released after the school paid a ransom of 2.5 million CFA francs ($4,400).
    Fonki and the Cameroonian military have accused anglophone separatists of carrying out the kidnappings, but a separatist spokesman denied involvement.
    The secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against Biya’s French-speaking government and its perceived marginalization of the English-speaking minority.
    Cameroon’s separatist movement turned violent in 2017 after a government crackdown on initially peaceful demonstrations by English-speakers.    The linguistic divide is a legacy of a former German colony in central Africa that was divided between allies France and Britain at the end of World War One.
    The attack on children, which recalled the 2014 abduction of more than 200 girls by Islamist Militant group Boko Haram in Chibok in neighboring Nigeria, was criticized by human rights groups.
(Reporting by Blaise Eyong; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

11/7/2018 After years in exile, an Ethiopian politician returns home with hope and fear by Maggie Fick
FILE PHOTO: Berhanu Nega, an exiled Ethiopian Ginbot 7 rebel leader speaks during
a Reuters interview at his office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – A year ago, rebel leader Berhanu Nega was coordinating attacks against Ethiopian soldiers from his base across the border in Eritrea and faced a death penalty at home.
    In September, he returned to Ethiopia to address tens of thousands of cheering supporters in a stadium in the capital, Addis Ababa.
    The journey of the mild-mannered former economics professor from exile to rock-star welcome says a lot about how much Ethiopia has changed in recent months.    He is the most high profile of dozens of political dissidents, former rebels, and secessionist leaders who have come home since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in April.    Their return has Ethiopians hopeful that the country of 105 million – Africa’s second most populous – can finally embrace democracy.
    There’s still a long way to go.
    The last two elections were decried by the opposition as shams following a messy poll in 2005, after which the government jailed popular opposition politicians like Berhanu.    The clampdown fueled unrest and demands for greater political and social freedom.    In recent years, the ruling EPRDF coalition cracked down even more harshly; security forces killed more than 1,000 protesters and jailed tens of thousands of people between 2015 and 2018, according to Human Rights Watch.    It also shut off the internet, sometimes for months at a time.
    “Seven, eight months ago the question was whether the country is going to survive or not, whether it’s going to explode into a civil war,” Berhanu, 59, told Reuters in a borrowed office in central Addis Ababa.
    But in April, the ruling coalition installed Abiy as the new prime minister.    The 42-year-old has promised to chart a new course and embrace multi-party democracy.    Such a transition would buck the trend towards authoritarianism in nearby countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, where leaders are jailing opponents and rolling back restrictions on term limits to extend their rule.
    Within weeks of Abiy taking charge, Berhanu ordered the armed group he led, Ginbot 7, to stop attacking Ethiopian troops and end its armed struggle.
    "Abiy’s arrival “was real change,” Berhanu said. “It did not take us a minute… We have no particular interests in violence.    We just said: ‘Are you serious, is this something you are committed to?    Yes, good, we are done’.”
    Ethiopia’s new leader, Berhanu said, “really has this mission of changing society toward what he believes the public deserves: to live in freedom and democracy.”
    Abiy’s chief of staff Fitsum Arega did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
HUNGER FOR FREEDOM
    Berhanu has opposed authoritarian rule for decades.    In the late 1970s he was active against the Derg, the brutal military regime that ruled the county.    That eventually landed him in jail.    After escaping to Sudan, he was granted asylum in the United States where he obtained a doctorate in economics.
    Back at home in 2005, he ran for municipal office in Addis Ababa.    Ethiopians, he remembers, “went out to vote until midnight, until 2 AM.”
    But the government led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a former rebel himself and the leader of a group that toppled the Derg in 1991, nullified the results.    The government then jailed Berhanu and other opposition candidates.
    After his release in 2007, he returned to his job as an economics professor at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.
    In 2014, he moved to Eritrea’s capital Asmara to work full time for Ginbot 7, which had moved from peaceful participation in the 2005 elections to “an all-inclusive struggle” that embraced violence as an acceptable way to bring change.    The ruling EPRDF became “more and more brutal” he said, suggesting that it would never leave power “through any kind of peaceful means.”
    In Eritrea, he says, he was relatively safe from threats from the security apparatus across the border.    He even traveled on an Eritrean passport and U.S. green card to visit his family in the U.S.    What he longed for during those years was the opportunity to have a leisurely conversation over coffee in Addis Ababa’s cafes.
    He still does.    Though he returned home to a hero’s welcome, he is following the government’s orders to exercise caution in public for his own safety.
    “I’m very restricted in my own movements,” he said.    “I am having a hard time living with (this).    This is the price we pay for now, but it should not last.”
    Abiy’s reform pledges have opened up some political space. As well as allowing politicians such as Berhanu to return home and hold rallies, the government has released thousands of political prisoners and in July removed three opposition groups from its list of “terrorist” organizations.    Not all former armed groups have laid down their arms – the Oromo Liberation Front, rebels who fell out with the EPRDF shortly after it took power in 1991, is arguing over disarming its fighters – but for the first time in years citizens are openly airing their views on the street and on social media without fear of arrest.
    Some in the ruling EPRDF worry that loosening the state’s iron grip has created a security vacuum.    Abiy warned recently that “lawlessness” was sweeping the country.
    Berhanu believes a certain level of disorder is inevitable.
    “At the macro level, change always generates this unsettled feeling.    There’s a lot of anxiety,” he said, referring to the ethnic violence that has displaced one million Ethiopians in the seven months since Abiy took office.
    “We are coming out of a regime not only known for its brutality but also for deliberately dividing society.”
LAST CHANCE
    In his speeches, Berhanu, who sports a salt and pepper beard, has urged calm and patience.
    His main message, he told Reuters, is that it is everyone’s responsibility to “work toward some kind of stability… a basic peaceful environment.”
    After that, he hopes, society can begin discussing how to change laws and rebuild institutions – critical tasks if elections, due in 2020, are to be credible.
    Then would come an even bigger question: Should the ethnic-based federal structure Ethiopia’s ruling coalition set up 27 years ago be dismantled in favor of “citizenship-based” politics?
    Berhanu and Ginbot 7 will play a big part in that debate according to one European diplomat.    It comes down to “Ethiopian nationalism vs ethno nationalism,” the diplomat said.    “Where do you put the focus: On the rights of the individual, the citizen; or on the rights of the group, the ethnic group?
    In his interview with Reuters, Berhanu began to talk about that question and then cut himself short.    “The long term political arrangement” is “too sensitive” to discuss now, he said.
    Though he projects confidence in front of supporters, he is weighed down by a “feeling of numbness” given the scale of problems facing Ethiopia.
    “We’ve screwed two changes,” he said, referring to 1974, when members of the military toppled Emperor Haile Selassie, and 1991, when rebels deposed the military regime.    “If we screw this one, then that’s it. I really don’t believe we have another chance.”
(Reporting By Maggie Fick; Edited by Simon Robinson)

11/7/2018 Saudi king shows support for heir on public tour despite Khashoggi crisis by Stephen Kalin
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, attends a banquet hosted by
Shinzo Abe, Japan's Prime Minister, at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan,
Monday, March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool/File Photo
    RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has embarked on a domestic tour this week with his favorite son, demonstrating his support for his chosen heir despite the crisis spawned by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    Roads were lined with Saudi flags and images of the king and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, when they arrived in the central region of Qassim late on Tuesday.    Distinguished figures greeted them and children offered flowers.
    The tour is the latest public outreach by the 82-year-old monarch, apparently intended to shore up the power of Prince Mohammed, known as MbS, who has taken over day-to-day rule but whose international reputation was battered in the month since Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
    State media said the king laid the foundation for new or planned projects worth $1.12 billion and ordered the release of some people from debtors’ prison in Qassim, a conservative province in the heart of the Arabian peninsula.
    “There is a lot of tension, fear and apprehension among Saudis in the aftermath of the Khashoggi affair.    So it’s a trip that reassures the various regions that the king is still in his place and he’s the highest authority,” said Madawi al-Rasheed, a London-based Saudi author critical of the Al Saud.
    Turkish officials have accused MbS of ordering Khashoggi’s murder.    U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested ultimate responsibility lies with the crown prince as de facto ruler.
    Saudi Arabia, which offered numerous contradictory explanations for Khashoggi’s disappearance, now says the U.S.-based Washington Post columnist was killed in a rogue operation.    MbS broke weeks of silence on Oct. 25 to vow justice would prevail.
    King Salman stepped in to defuse the situation.    He sent a trusted aide to Turkey last month, then fired five senior officials, including his son’s most trusted adviser.
    After weeks of lying low, the prince has now returned to the public stage.    He visited troops near the border with Yemen, where Riyadh is involved in a 3-1/2-year war, appearing in an online video on Monday with a soldier he called a hero.    In a ceremony at a Riyadh university, he laid the foundation stone for a planned nuclear research reactor.
    Greg Gause, a Gulf expert at Texas A&M University, said the domestic tour with his father did not indicate that the royal family is in the clear yet, only that “the king is confident that nothing is afoot right now.”
CIRCLING THE WAGONS
    The 33-year-old crown prince is on course to become the first Saudi monarch from a new generation in 65 years, following a succession of six brothers drawn from among at least 45 sons of state founder Abdulaziz ibn Saud, who died in 1953.
    But MbS’s rise has upended the system of rule in place for decades, in which successive kings sought family consensus and allocated powerful posts to their brothers and nephews.
    MbS consolidated his rule by stripping some of his most powerful cousins from positions of authority and locking some under house arrest.    Others were caught up in an anti-corruption crackdown and confined inside a luxury hotel for months.
    There have been signs since last week that some princes are being rehabilitated to foster family unity in the wake of the Khashoggi killing.    Last week, one of the king’s surviving younger brothers, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, returned from 2-1/2 months abroad where he had appeared to criticize the leadership.
    Two of the king’s nephews, detained last year, appear to have been released recently, with pictures circulating of them reuniting with family.
    Diplomats say the ruling family is “circling the wagons.”    But there is no indication King Salman is considering elevating another prince, either to replace his son or balance his authority by serving as his deputy.
    “MbS is not going anywhere.    The family is meeting and they will unite stronger behind himz,” said a senior Arab diplomat.    “There is no way back” after the king cleared MbS’s path to the throne by sidelining potential rivals last year.
    The king’s decision to put MbS in charge of restructuring the intelligence apparatus – a move aimed at addressing a purported cause of the Khashoggi crisis – indicates that the crown prince remains “untouchable,” the diplomat added.
    On Tuesday evening, as King Salman and MbS arrived in Qassim, north of Riyadh, to a stadium of cheering residents, online photos emerged showing Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd with his brothers and daughters in a residential setting.
    The images were the first of the prince, the son of a former king, since his detention, which the government never acknowledged.    It was not made clear whether he had reached a settlement with the state like other detainees who were subsequently released, or if his freedom is still restricted.
    Over the weekend, another of the king’s nephews, a brother of billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, was photographed at his ailing father’s bedside after being held for months over online criticism of the anti-corruption purge ordered late last year by MbS.
    The next day Alwaleed, who was among scores of top royals, businessmen and government officials held at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel as part of the sweep, went on Fox News to defend MbS in the Khashoggi crisis and the anti-corruption campaign.
    “I believe the Saudi crown prince will be 100 percent vindicated and exonerated,” Alwaleed said of his cousin.    Alwaleed’s own detention was “forgiven and forgotten,” he said.
(Editing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/8/2018 Tanzania frees two members of CPJ journalists’ advocacy group
FILE PHOTO: Tanzanian President John Magufuli leaves after inspecting a guard of honour
during an official visit to Kenya, October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo
    DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzania released two staff members of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Thursday, a day after they were detained and their passports seized, the South African Foreign Ministry said.
    Tanzanian Immigration Department spokesman Ali Mtanda said Angela Quintal and Muthoki Mumo were arrested for violating the terms of their visas by holding meetings with local journalists.    “They were supposed to get a separate permit for that,” he said.
    President John Magufuli’s government has been criticized by opposition politicians and international rights groups for what they say is growing authoritarianism and intolerance of dissent.    The government rejects the criticism.
    Quintal, a South African citizen, and Mumo, a Kenyan, were detained in their Dar es Salaam hotel room by immigration officers and taken to an unknown location in the country’s commercial capital, according to the CPJ.
    The two were freed on Thursday into the hands of South Africa’s diplomatic mission.    “They are safe and relieved that they are now with the High Commissioner of South Africa…Thami Mseleku,” South Africa’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
    Mtanda said Quintal and Mumo were free to stay on in Tanzania as long as they heeded the terms of their 90-day visa.
    Quintal works as the CPJ’s Africa program coordinator while Mumo is the group’s sub-Saharan Africa representative.
    The European Union said this week it would review its relations with Tanzania after an official in Dar es Salaam threatened to launch a crackdown on homosexuals.
(Reporting by Nuzulack Dausen and Omar Mohammed; Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Mark Heinrich)

11/8/2018 Wintry weather, diplomacy cool down Gaza border protests by Nidal al-Mughrabi
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian demonstrators are reflected in rain water after attending a protest calling for
lifting the blockade on Gaza, at the Israel-Gaza border fence in Gaza October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem/File Photo
    GAZA (Reuters) – A seasonal shift in the weather and intensified international diplomacy are prompting Palestinians mounting protests along Gaza’s border with Israel to rethink their tactics.
    Since the demonstrations started more than seven months ago, protesters routinely made attempts to breach Israel’s frontier fence and launched incendiary balloons and kites that have burned forests and crops inside Israel.
    Israeli forces have killed more than 219 Palestinians at the border protests, according to Gazan officials.    An Israeli soldier was also killed by a Palestinian sniper.
    The protests draw tens of thousands of people after Muslim prayers on Fridays.    But last week was the quietest so far, according to journalists who regularly cover the demonstrations.
    Smoke from burning tires wafting toward Israel provided a measure of cover for Palestinian youngsters approaching the barrier, but a wintry change in wind direction sent the thick black clouds back into Gaza and Israeli tear gas deeper into the crowd of protesters, forcing their retreat.
    Stepped-up efforts by Egypt to craft a long-term ceasefire between Gaza’s ruling Hamas group and Israel that could ease an Israeli blockade are also putting a damper on the protests.
    A ceasefire, said one official familiar with the talks involving Egypt, Qatar and the U.N., would include a gradual end to the rallies, or an agreement to hold them far from the fence, as well as an easing of Israeli restrictions on the movement of goods and people at the border.
    Organizers have made clear the protests would continue until the long-standing Israeli border restrictions were lifted.    Dubbed the “Great March of Return,” the campaign demands the rights to lands Palestinian families fled or were driven from during fighting around Israel’s founding in 1948.
    One protester, wearing a black mask, said demonstrators were weighing new ways to confront the Israeli military now that seasonal rains have begun.
    “We may use fire crackers, noisy horns and we will try to cut through the fence.    We will surprise them with things we will not make public now,” said the 23-year-old, who gave his name only as Hakim.
    One idea, he said, was to build a giant slingshot to launch rocks across the barbed wire barrier.
    A statement by a Palestinian group which claimed balloon launchings said it would allow time for diplomacy to work before escalating action again.
    “We will give a chance for an agreement to be reached that will ease the bitterness of the blockade imposed on our people,” said the Sons of Zwary group, named after a Hamas engineer killed in Tunisia in an alleged Israeli assassination.
    In the meantime, it said, it was preparing hundreds of incendiary devices.
    Daoud Shehab, of the National Committee supervising the protests, said five assembly areas were being prepared for winter.
    “We are placing plastic sheeting to cover large areas and we are also going to pave the ground where people usually gather,” he said.
(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/8/2018 Cameroon child kidnappers warned victims not to go to school
School children, who were kidnapped by armed men and released on Wednesday, are helped to get into a truck
by gendarmes in Bamenda, Cameroon November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Josiane Kouagheu/File Photo
    BAMENDA, Cameroon (Reuters) – Children kidnapped by gunmen in western Cameroon said their captors had warned them not to go back to school, recounting their ordeal as parents on Thursday packed up belongings from a boarding school now being shuttered.    Kidnappers freed about 80 school children and a driver in west Cameroon on Wednesday, but kept hold of a principal and one teacher, two days after snatching them in a school raid.
    The armed men had seized the kids on Monday in Bamenda – a green city nestled in the hills of western Cameroon and hub of the country’s troubled English-speaking region.
    The military and a priest involved in negotiations blamed the abduction on anglophone separatists, but a spokesman for the separatists denied this.
    “It was around 3 a.m. in the morning.    We were still sleeping, then we heard people shouting, some other people, some men, came and broke our door.    They told us: ‘come out.’    They were all dressed in black,” a 13-year-old boy told Reuters TV, recounting his ordeal.    He declined to be identified.
    Stopping children going to school is a favored tactic of anglophone separatists, who say schools are being used to spread government propaganda.
    “When they set us free, they said we should tell the other schools that they should stop, so no one goes to school,” he said.
    The secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against Biya’s French-speaking government and its perceived marginalization of the English-speaking minority.    The government has denied discriminating against them.
    “I am really, really worried,” a mother of one of the children said, before packing her boy’s things into a car.    “I know his education is not guaranteed because of the security (situation) … because I am not sure for his safety.”
    Cameroon’s linguistic divide is a legacy of World War One, after which the former German colony in central Africa was carved up between allies France and Britain.
(Reporting by Blaise Eyong, Writing by Tim Cocks, Editing by William Maclean)

11/9/2018 Exclusive: Mystery company named by murdered Maltese journalist is linked to power station developer by Stephen Grey and Tom Arnold
A boat sails past the medieval Fort Saint Angelo in Vittoriosa in Valletta's Grand Harbour June 17, 2012. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
    VALLETTA/DUBAI, (Reuters) – In February 2017, the Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote in her blog about a mystery company in Dubai called 17 Black Limited. She alleged it was connected to Maltese politicians, but offered no evidence.
    She was unable to discover who owned the company, and it remained unclear whether 17 Black had any significance.
    Eight months later Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb, prompting an international outcry.    No evidence has emerged that connects her death to any of her journalism.    But her killing did renew interest in her many different claims, leading to media reports about such subjects as banking regulation and Malta’s sale of passports.    Now Reuters and other media have begun to unravel another mystery, that of 17 Black.
    Two people familiar with the subject in Malta said a report by Malta’s anti-money laundering watchdog had identified Yorgen Fenech, the chief executive of a Maltese property developer, as the owner of 17 Black.    A third person familiar with the subject in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said account records at a bank in Dubai identified Fenech as the owner of 17 Black.    Reuters last month reviewed UAE banking correspondence that described Fenech as the owner and signatory of a 17 Black account at Noor Bank in Dubai.
    Fenech is a director and co-owner of a business group that won a large energy concession from the Maltese state.    In 2013, that group was granted the right by the Maltese government to build a 450 million euro ($517 million) gas power station on the island.
    When asked to comment, Fenech declined to say whether he owns 17 Black.
    The ownership of the company is significant because of another document, an email written in December 2015 by accountants for two senior figures in Malta’s government.    That email was discovered by Maltese financial regulators among documents obtained from the accountants’ firm, according to a person briefed on the investigation.    Its existence has been reported before and its authenticity has not been challenged.
    The two senior political figures concerned are Konrad Mizzi, who was Malta’s energy minister from 2013 to 2016, and Keith Schembri, the prime minister’s chief of staff. Mizzi conceived and promoted the idea of offering the power station concession.
    According to the December 2015 email, Panama companies owned by Mizzi and Schembri stood to receive payments from 17 Black for services that were unspecified.    The email said the Panama companies expected 17 Black to be a “main target client,” with payments of up to $2 million expected within a year.    The email made no reference to the gas power station energy scheme and there is no evidence the payments went ahead.
    It remains unclear why the Panama companies owned by two senior political figures expected to receive money from 17 Black.
    The December 2015 email was first published in April by the Daphne Project, a collaboration of news organizations, including Reuters, that has been carrying on the work of the murdered journalist.    In a response at the time, Schembri said that firms he owned had a business plan to earn money from 17 Black but that those plans did not go ahead.    He did not elaborate. Mizzi denied all knowledge of 17 Black.
    Schembri and Mizzi both told Reuters in October they had no knowledge of any connection between 17 Black and Fenech, or of any plan to receive payments connected to Fenech or the energy project.    Fenech denied making any plans to pay any politician or any person or entity connected to them.
    The Maltese firm of accountants that sent the December 2015 email, NexiaBT, said it could not comment because of client confidentiality.
    There is no suggestion that anyone connected with 17 Black was involved in Caruana Galizia’s death.    Three people have been charged with planting the bomb that killed her; they deny the charges.    No evidence has emerged publicly about who ordered the assassination.
    Mizzi, who is now Malta’s tourism minister, issued a statement through a spokesman saying he “reiterates that there is no connection, direct or otherwise, between him, the company or trust he held, and any entity called 17 Black.    Furthermore, he has no information relating to 17 Black.”
    In a statement to Reuters, Schembri said he had not heard that Fenech owned 17 Black.    He said he was not involved in the power station project and, asked if he had intended to profit from the project, said: “The answer is a categorical ‘No’.”
    Fenech said he and his companies “never had (or intended to have) any untoward business relation” with any politicians or politically affiliated individuals or entities.    "We have always and consistently run our operations in compliant, transparent and above-board fashion,” he said.
    Financial records identifying the owner of 17 Black were first discovered earlier this year by Malta’s anti-money laundering watchdog, the Financial Intelligence and Analysis Unit (FIAU), according to two sources briefed on its findings.
    Reuters reviewed UAE banking correspondence that summarized 17 Black’s banking activity in Dubai.    The documents stated that when 17 Black opened an account in June 2015 at Noor Bank in Dubai, the company declared it was 100 percent owned by a Maltese citizen called Yorgen Fenech.    The correspondence also said Fenech is the account’s sole signatory.
    The only “Yorgen Fenech” listed on Malta’s electoral roll and company register is the power station developer.
    In the spring of this year, the FIAU passed Fenech’s name to Malta Police’s Economic Crime Unit as part of a wider examination of energy deals conducted by the government.
    Malta Police said it was prevented by law from confirming whether it had received any information from the FIAU and whether any investigation was under way.    In a statement, the FIAU declined to comment on 17 Black because of “secrecy obligations” under Maltese law.
    A UAE government official, who was unwilling to be named, said UAE financial and law enforcement authorities were examining 17 Black’s activities after a request for assistance from Maltese authorities.    The official declined to elaborate.
    In July 2017, more than a year after Caruana Galizia had mentioned the Panama companies owned by Mizzi and Schembri in her blog, a Malta magistrate ordered a judicial inquiry into whether the companies involved any illicit activity.
    Opposition politicians in Malta and members of the European Parliament called for Mizzi and Schembri to be suspended from office while that inquiry was conducted.    The island’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, declined to do so.
    In May this year, another magistrate ordered that 17 Black’s activities should also be examined as part of the same probe.    The inquiry is currently stalled, pending a legal challenge made on procedural grounds by Mizzi, Schembri and others.    Both Mizzi and Schembri have said they would welcome testifying and disproving any allegations made against them before any inquiry.
    In a statement to Reuters this month, referring to the judicial probes, Kurt Farrugia, the prime minister’s spokesman, said that as the activities of 17 Black were under investigation, Muscat would “await the conclusion of this process and act accordingly. He has been consistent on this point.”    The prime minister, Farrugia said, did not know who owned 17 Black.
OLD FRIENDS IN POWER
    Before he became a government minister, Mizzi worked as a management consultant.    In September 2012, he became energy spokesman for Muscat’s Labour Party.    In January 2013, at the start of a general election campaign, Mizzi proposed an ambitious plan to reform Malta’s energy sector.
    Mizzi said the proposals, which counted on private investment to build a gas power station, would cut the country’s bill for energy generation by 187 million euros a year.    Muscat said he would implement the plan.
    Labour won the March 2013 election.    Muscat became prime minister and appointed Mizzi energy minister.
    Mizzi and the government proceeded with the energy plan, and several deals were struck by October that year.    One deal granted a concession to a private business group, selected from several bidders, to build and run the new gas power station. Under the selection procedure, Mizzi played no direct role in choosing the winner.
    The winning group – which included Maltese investors, Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR, and the German company Siemens – was set up in 2013 and called Electrogas Malta.    Fenech, the Maltese property developer, was a director and an investor.    The 450-million-euro Delimara power station was completed in 2017.
    Siemens declined to comment on whether Fenech owned 17 Black, or about Mizzi and Schembri’s potential business connection, saying “Siemens is not in a business relationship with the company.”    SOCAR Trading, the subsidiary of SOCAR involved in the power station project, said it “has no knowledge of the company 17 Black.”
    In July 2015, Mizzi bought a shell company in Panama called Hearnville Inc, registering his ownership via an anonymous trust in New Zealand, according to corporate records and public statements later made by Mizzi.    At the same time, Schembri acquired a Panama company, called Tillgate, also via a New Zealand trust.
    Schembri, a businessman, had known Muscat, Malta’s prime minister, since they were at school together in the 1990s.    Schembri became Muscat’s chief of staff in 2013. When he did so, he resigned his directorships of his Maltese printing and stationery business, but remained the owner.    Schembri said his position in the prime minister’s office gave him “no involvement” in the power station project.
    When Hearnville and Tillgate, the two Panama companies, sought to open bank accounts, they were asked to list their likely sources of revenue. Accountants acting for Mizzi and Schembri sent an email on Dec. 17, 2015, to a Panamanian law firm that was assisting the search for a suitable bank.    The email named 17 Black Limited and another company, Macbridge Limited, as the “main target clients” from whom banks could expect payments to Hearnville and Tillgate.
    Mizzi and Schembri were asked this month by Reuters if they had knowledge of the email before it was sent.
    Schembri replied “No,” without elaborating either about the email or what he knew of 17 Black.    Mizzi replied that he “did not see the alleged email you are referring to prior to its publication.”
    Asked about Hearnville and Tillgate, Fenech told Reuters that “neither I, nor any company/entity of which I am or have been involved in, have ever had (or had the intention to have) any relation whatsoever with the entities you mention.”    Asked to clarify whether he owned or had any relation to 17 Black, Fenech did not respond.
    Brian Tonna, head of NexiaBT, the accountancy firm that sent the email, said he was prevented by client confidentiality from commenting.    He added that the firm was cooperating fully with the authorities.
    The December 2015 email said both 17 Black and Macbridge were registered in Dubai.    Reuters found no trace of Macbridge.    The banking correspondence reviewed by Reuters indicated 17 Black was registered in the nearby emirate of Ajman and opened an account at Noor Bank in Dubai in June 2015.
    The person familiar with 17 Black’s arrangements in the UAE said 17 Black was a “flexi-desk company,” a business that could be created without a physical presence in the country. Around 9 million to 10 million euros went through 17 Black’s account at Noor in 2015, the person said, after which the account became dormant.    Reuters could not confirm those figures.
    The source said that most of the money paid into the 17 Black account had swiftly moved on to other entities, though it had retained a balance of about 2 million euros.    Based on the absence of evidence for the business purpose of these in-out transactions, Noor Bank froze the account in September, the source said.
    In a statement, Noor Bank declined to confirm any details of the bank account or its actions, saying it was “legally precluded from any unauthorized disclosure of confidential customer information” but always complied with any formal requests for information from authorities.
    Maltese financial investigators have traced two payments to 17 Black, according to a source briefed on the investigation and a draft FIAU report from 2017 seen by Reuters.    One was $200,000 sent to 17 Black on July 10, 2015, from Orion Engineering Group Limited, marked as provision of “manpower” in Qatar.    Orion is a Maltese company owned by Maltese businessman Mario Pullicino, according to the report and public corporate records.    Pullicino was also a company secretary of Armada Floating Gas Services Malta Limited.    Armada was set up in June 2015.    It provided a gas storage tanker for the new power station commissioned by Mizzi.
    Pullicino confirmed to Reuters making the $200,000 payment and said it was for work unrelated to the Malta gas project.    Speaking by telephone, he declined to provide further details of the transaction, 17 Black or its owners.    He said his company “has never paid any money to any politically exposed people.”
    Pullicino did not respond to further questions about whether he knew 17 Black was owned by Fenech.
    Another payment to 17 Black consisted of $1.5 million sent in November 2015 by Mayor Trans Limited, a Seychelles company with a bank account in Latvia, marked as for “financial advisory services.”
    Mayor Trans, according to public U.S. regulatory filings relating to that start-up, is ultimately owned by an Azeri citizen named Rufat Baratzada.    The address given for Baratzada in U.S. regulatory filings is a modest apartment in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.    Neighbors there described 51-year-old Baratzada as a former subway worker.
    His family, contacted at Baratzada’s new one-storey home at end of an unpaved road on the outskirts of Baku, said he was now working as a security guard on a construction site in Baku.    Reached by telephone and asked whether he owned Mayor Trans, Baratzada said: “If it’s me, it’s me.”    He declined to talk further.
POLITICALLY EXPOSED
    Through the autumn of 2015, the Panama companies acquired by Mizzi and Schembri applied to open bank accounts in Panama, Miami, Dubai, St. Lucia and the Bahamas, according to evidence assembled by Malta’s financial investigators from emails, obtained directly from the offices of Maltese accountants for Mizzi and Schembri, and detailed in the draft FIAU report.    Copies of the emails were also contained in the Panama Papers and shared with Reuters by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which first obtained the Panama Papers.
    According to those emails, opening bank accounts proved tough.    The biggest obstacle, the emails indicated, was that the ultimate owners were politicians.
    Financial institutions are obliged to take special care in handling customers designated as “politically exposed persons,” or PEPs – people entrusted with a prominent public function or their families.    Banks shy away from handling the money of PEPs if they are unsure about the source of it.
    The emails show that efforts to open accounts for the Panama companies of Mizzi and Schembri continued until February 2016.    That month Caruana Galizia and other Maltese media reported the existence of the Panama companies.    Mizzi and Schembri then commissioned audits of the New Zealand trusts they had set up to hold the shares of their Panamanian companies.    Both audits were conducted in October 2016 by an office of Crowe Horwarth accountants in Wellington, New Zealand.
    The firm declined to comment on questions from Reuters.    In notes attached to the audits published by Mizzi and Schembri, the accountants said that the audits were based on “sufficient and appropriate evidence.”    The audits stated the Panama companies had carried out no trading activities and that neither had a bank account.
    In March last year, 17 Black changed its name to Wings Development, according to the person familiar with 17 Black’s arrangements in UAE.    An official at Ajman Free Zone said Wings Development was still registered there but provided no evidence.    Reuters could locate no company of that name for comment.
(Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow and Jacob Borg of the Times of Malta in Valletta; Editing By Richard Woods.; This story is part of the Daphne Project, coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based group that continues the work of journalists silenced through murder or imprisonment)

11/9/2018 Qatar pays Gaza salaries to ease tensions; Israel says money’s not for Hamas by Nidal al-Mughrabi
Palestinian Hamas-hired employees receive full salaries for the first time in years,
in the southern Gaza Strip November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
    GAZA (Reuters) – A $15 million Qatari cash infusion was paid out to impoverished Palestinian civil servants in Gaza on Friday, offering Hamas a potential domestic reprieve though Israel said the money would not go to the enclave’s dominant Islamist group.
    Hamas’s political rival based in the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, has slashed Gaza budgets, beggaring tens of thousands of government employees.    That has helped stoke a half-year of bloody protests and occasional shelling exchanges across the border of Gaza, which Israel keeps under blockade.
    Palestinian sources said the Qatari payout, received on Thursday, was the first of a total of $90 million that would come into the Gaza Strip over the next six months with Israeli approval.
    Israel had previously agreed to the gas-rich Gulf Arab state donating money only for approved civilian construction projects or fuel in Gaza, worried that more fungible cash donations could reach Hamas, with whom Israel has fought three wars in a decade.
    “One day, I have no money to get food or medicine for my children – and now I will buy them food, medicine and clothes,” said Wael Abu Assi, a traffic policeman, outside a Gaza City post office where people queued to draw their salaries.
    “I am happy and will make my children happy.”
    Branded a terrorist group in the West, Hamas has been under years of embargo by Israel and neighboring Egypt.    Hamas authorities tax Gazans and its leaders said in the past they had received funds from other countries including Iran.
    Observers for Qatar were present at all 12 post offices across Gaza, a coastal enclave, on Friday to monitor the salary distribution process.    Employees had to present a copy of their identity card and be finger-printed.
    Qatar’s official news agency said the wealthy Gulf state’s donation would benefit 27,000 civil servants.    “The salaries for the others will be paid from local revenue,” it said.
BLACKLIST?
    A Hamas official said the 27,000 who would draw salaries on Friday and Saturday would include civil policemen.    Hamas has hired over 40,000 people in Gaza since 2007 but many appeared to have been excluded from the list of payees.
    “They told me they don’t have money for me,” one employee told Reuters on condition that he would not be named.    “Maybe Israel vetoed my name?
    Officials from Hamas, Qatar and Israel have been largely silent about the details of the Gaza payouts arrangement.
    But a member of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet played down their significance.
    “This is not money that is going to Hamas activities.    It is money that is going to the salaries of civil servants, in an orderly, organized manner,” Environment Minister Zeev Elkin told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM.
    Elkin accused Abbas, whose peace talks with Netanyahu stalled in 2014 and who is boycotting the United States because of its pro-Israel policies, of cutting salaries to “inflame Gaza, because he has not been successful on other fronts.”
    “The Qataris came along and said: ‘We are willing to pay this instead of Abu Mazen (Abbas), in order to calm Gaza down.’    What does it matter who pays it?” Elkin said.
    Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the executive committee of the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization, criticized the move.    “Arrangements through Qatar and elsewhere prolong the crisis of Palestinian division,” Abu Youssef told Reuters.
    Doha’s donation, as well as U.N.-Egyptian truce mediation and winter rains, have tamped down the violence at the border, where Gaza medics say Israeli army fire has killed more than 220 Palestinians since the protests began on March 30.
    Israel, which says its lethal force prevents armed infiltration, has lost a soldier to a Gaza sniper and tracts of forest and farmland to incendiary material flown over the frontier on kites or helium balloons.
    “This is one of the fruits of the ‘March of Return’,” Abraham Baker, a police officer who received a full salary, said, using the Palestinian term for the protests.
    The protest campaign demands the right of return to lands Palestinian families fled or were driven from during fighting around Israel’s founding in 1948.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Maher Chmaytell in Dubai; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/9/2018 EU observers say Madagascar presidential vote anomalies are marginal by Lovasoa Rabary
FILE PHOTO: An electoral commission official marks with ink the thumb of a voter after casting his ballot during the
presidential election at a polling centre in Analakely, Antananarivo, Madagascar November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Malin Palm/File Photo
    ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) – The head of the European Union’s observer mission to Madagascar’s presidential election said on Friday that any irregularities found so far were minor and unlikely to affect the results.
    Hery Rajaonarimampianina, seeking a second term and one of the three front-runners, complained on Thursday about the use of an invalid voter register, delays in opening of the polls in some places, intimidation and ballot-stuffing.
    But the EU’s chief observer Cristian Preda said they had not detected anything that would alter the result or call Wednesday’s vote into question.
    “We are in a good atmosphere.    The disputes are part of the democratic game… it’s normal, it’s human.    Disputes must be handled by the law enforcement bodies,” Preda said.
    He however noted that the lack of a cap on campaign spending by the candidates had put some at a disadvantage, without providing any names.
    In an irony in one of Africa’s poorest countries, the result of the first round of voting could hinge in part on which of the three front-runners — all wealthy men — spent the most money campaigning for the contest.
    “In 2013, the European Union recommended capping candidate expenses and in future reports, there will still be this recommendation,” Preda said.
    Voters are eager to get a winner who will tackle the impoverished Indian Ocean island’s many problems including unemployment and corruption.
    The poll pits Rajaonarimampianina against former president Andry Rajoelina, who has claimed victory already, and another former leader Marc Ravalomanana.    The contest has drawn a total of 36 candidates.
    Because of the unusual high number of contestants, few expect an outright winner and the poll is widely expected to go into a second round.    This would involve only the two top candidates and would be held on Dec. 19.
    Observers and Malagasy are hoping for the second peaceful election since the upheaval of 2009, when Ravalomanana was forced out of office by protests led by Rajoelina in what international organizations such as the African Union said was a coup.
(Writing by Duncan Miriri, Editing by William Maclean)

11/8/2018 Oil just did something it hasn't done in more than 30 years (hint: it isn't good) by Mark DeCambre
    A jolt lower for oil since peaking in October has helped crude futures to carve out a bearish record.    That is even after U.S. benchmark oil on Thursday fell into bear-market territory, defined as a drop of at least 20% from a recent peak.
    West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled lower on Friday, marking its 10th consecutive decline and matching the longest skid for the contract since a similar stretch from July 18-July 31 1984, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
    Bespoke Investment Group pegs the losing stretch as the longest skid since at least 1983 (see chart below), noting that “there has never been a streak of more than 9 straight days where crude oil traded down on the day.”
    What’s behind the downturn?
    Rising production and a softening in U.S. oil sanctions on Iran, that included waivers for big crude importers like China, which helped to contribute to a whipsaw lower for oil prices.    Indeed, just five weeks ago, oil futures had put in their highest prices in years.    Lingering concerns about the global economy and expectations for sluggish corporate earnings in the future also have added to the downbeat mood in the oil industry.
    That atmosphere has lent itself to a downdraft in stocks, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) the S&P 500 index (SPX) and the Nasdaq Composite Index (COMP) all trading lower Friday, and indexes in Europe, like the pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 Index (XX:SXXP) and China’s Shanghai Composite Index (CN:SHCOMP) also in the red.
    Meanwhile, January Brent crude (UK:LCOF9) also was in decline and flirting with its own tumble into a bear market.    Brent oil was down more than 19% from its recent October peak.

11/8/2018 The oil rout just became a bear market for U.S. crude by William Watts, MarketWatch
    WTI crude falls from nearly 4-year high to bear territory in 5 weeks.
    In a volatile turnabout, the U.S. crude benchmark fell into a bear market Thursday just five weeks after hitting a nearly four-year high.
    West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery CLZ8, -1.32% on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell $1, or 1.7%, to settle at $60.67 a barrel, marking its ninth straight losing session and the lowest close since March.    The finish left U.S. oil down 20.6% from its Oct. 3 peak, meeting a widely applied definition of a bear market as a pullback of 20% from a recent high.
    October marked a reversal for the crude-oil market, which had rallied sharply in 2018, with gains fueled in part by fears that the Trump administration’s renewal of sanctions against Iran, bottlenecks in U.S. shale-oil producing regions and strong domestic economic growth would tighten the oil market.    WTI hit a nearly four-year high above $76 a barrel on Oct. 3, while Brent crude LCOF9, -1.09% the global benchmark, topped $86 a barrel.    Brent is off more than 18% from its recent high.
    Signs that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, and its allies, particularly Russia, had boosted production in anticipation of the sanctions.    Earlier this month, the White House granted waivers to eight countries, including some of the biggest buyers of Iranian crude, to allow them to temporarily continue imports.
    WTI is clinging to a gain for the year, up 0.5% in 2018, according to FactSet, while Brent is still up 6.1%.    Thursday’s close below the bear threshold means the bull market ended on Oct. 3, halting a 324-day run that began on June 21, 2017, according to Dow Jones Market Data.    The bull market was the longest since a 350-day run that ended on Jan. 28, 2015.
    After falling into bear territory, oil won’t enter a bull market until it rises 20% from its bear-market low.

11/9/2018 Suicide car bombers kill at least 22 in Somalia by Abdi Sheikh
Smoke billows from the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
    MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Suicide attackers set off two car bombs at a hotel in Mogadishu on Friday, killing at least 22 people, police said.
    The militant Islamist group al Shabaab, linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Hotel Sahafi, which is near the headquarters of Somalia’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
    Hotel guards and CID officers opened fire after the blasts, police added.    Then, about 20 minutes later, a third explosion from a bomb placed in a three-wheeled “tuk-tuk” vehicle near the hotel hit the busy street, witnesses said.
    “Four militants who attempted to enter the hotel were shot dead by our police and the hotel guards,” police captain Mohamed Ahmed told Reuters.
    “Two other militants were suicide car bombers who were blown up by their car bombs.    The third car was remotely detonated.    So in total 28 people died, including the six militants.”
    Abdifatah Abdirashid, who took over the Sahafi from his father after he was killed in a militant attack in 2015, was among those who died in Friday’s attack, said Mohamed Abdiqani, a witness at the hotel.
    “i>The militants who entered the hotel compound faced heavy gunfire from the hotel guards.    Abdifatah Abdirashid, the hotel owner, and three of his bodyguards died,” Abdiqani said.
    A Reuters photographer at the scene saw 20 bodies of civilians and burnt-out minibuses, motorbikes and cars.
    Abdiasisi Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s spokesman for military operations, said the group had singled out the Sahafi for attack because of its association with the government the Islamists want to overthrow.
    “We targeted it because it acts as government base. Government officials and security forces are always in the hotel,” he told Reuters.
    Somalia has been engulfed by violence and lawlessness since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in the early 1990s.
(Additional reporting by Feisal Omar; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Andrew Roche)
[Its a laugh that these militants believe that if they give their lives for Aallah that they will go and have a virgin orgy are fools and I have to believe that the devil in hell is laughing at them when the true God sends them there.]

11/10/2018 Lebanon’s Aoun vows to find solution over government impasser
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese President Michel Aoun is seen at the presidential palace
in Baabda, Lebanon, November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Saturday a solution would be found to a political row that is blocking the formation of a new national unity government more than six months after a general election.
    “The matter requires bravery and patience to reach the end, but we will find the solution because waiting is a waste of time,” a statement from the presidency cited Aoun as saying.    Aoun said no effort would be spared to resolve the problem.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

11/10/2018 Death toll from Somalia hotel attack rises to 39
A general view shows the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
    MOGADISHU (Reuters) – The number of people killed when suicide bombers and gunmen struck a popular hotel in Somalia’s capital has risen to 39 from the initial 22, police said on Saturday.
    Guards at the Sahafi hotel and the adjacent CID office opened fire after two suicide car bombs went off on Friday afternoon, A third explosion from a bomb placed in a three-wheeled “tuk-tuk” vehicle near the hotel also hit the busy street.
    “We have confirmed 39 civilians died and 40 others were injured in yesterday’s blasts,” said Mohamed Hussein, a police officer in the city.
    “The death toll may rise because some people are still missing.”
    The militant Islamist group al Shabaab, linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Hotel Sahafi, which is near the headquarters of Somalia’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
    Somalia has been engulfed by violence and lawlessness since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in the early 1990s.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

11/10/2018 Turkey gave Khashoggi tapes to European nations, Erdogan says by Ezgi Erkoyun
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his
AK Party (AKP) in Ankara, Turkey, October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey has given recordings related to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi to Germany, France and Britain, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, seeking to maintain international pressure on Riyadh over the Saudi journalist’s death.
    Khashoggi, a critic of de facto Saudi ruler Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate last month in a hit which Erdogan says was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
    His killing provoked global outrage but little concrete action by world powers against Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and a supporter of Washington’s plans to contain Iranian influence across the Middle East.
    Speaking as he left Turkey to attend World War One commemorations in France alongside President Donald Trump and European leaders, Erdogan said for the first time that the three European Union states had heard the recordings.
    “i>We gave the tapes.    We gave them to Saudi Arabia, to the United States, Germans, French and British, all of them.    They have listened to all the conversations in them.    They know,” Erdogan said.
    CIA director Gina Haspel heard an audio recording of Khashoggi’s death when she visited Istanbul, two sources told Reuters last month.    A senior Saudi envoy was also played a recording, a source said.
    Erdogan did not give details of the contents of the tapes on Saturday but two sources with knowledge of the issue have told Reuters that Turkey has several audio recordings.
    They include the killing itself and conversations pre-dating the operation which Turkey subsequently uncovered, the sources said.    These had led Ankara to conclude from an early stage that the killing was premeditated, despite Saudi Arabia’s initial denials of any knowledge or involvement.
    Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb has since said Khashoggi’s killing was planned in advance, although another Saudi official said Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the specific operation.
    One source familiar with the recordings said that officials who heard them had been horrified by their contents. One of Prince Mohammed’s top aides, Saud al-Qahtani, featured prominently in them throughout, sources said.
    Last month two separate intelligence sources told Reuters Qahtani gave orders over Skype to Khashoggi’s killers at the consulate.    Qahtani did not respond to questions from Reuters at the time. Saudi state media said King Salman sacked him and four other officials over the killing. There was no indication that any of the suspects were detained.
WHO KILLED KHASHOGGI?
    Erdogan did not repeat on Saturday his accusation that the operation was ordered by Saudi leaders.    However, he called on Riyadh to identify the killer, saying it must have been a member of a team that arrived in Turkey hours before Khashoggi’s disappearance.
    “There’s no need to distort this issue, they know for certain that the killer, or the killers, is among these 15 people.    Saudi Arabia’s government can disclose this by making these 15 people talk,” Erdogan said.
    Erdogan also accused Mojeb – who visited Istanbul to discuss the investigation with his Turkish counterpart and inspect the Istanbul consulate – of refusing to cooperate.    “The prosecutor came to Turkey to make excuses, make things difficult,” he said.
    During his visit, Mojeb revealed no information to Turkish authorities, a source said, but instead asked for Khashoggi’s mobile phones which the journalist had left with his fiancee before entering the consulate.
    Erdogan repeated a demand for information on the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body.    An adviser to the president has said the body was cut up for disposal, and Vice President Fuat Oktay has called for an investigation into reports that it was then dissolved in acid.
    A Turkish official said last week that Saudi Arabia sent two people, a chemist and a toxicologist, to Istanbul a week after Khashoggi’s Oct. 2 killing to erase evidence, calling it a sign that top Saudi officials knew of the crime.
    Saudi Arabia has said members of the team which was sent to Istanbul, and returned shortly after the killing, have been arrested along with three others.
    Following a meeting on Saturday in Paris, Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed that Saudi authorities needed to shed full light on Khashoggi’s murder, a French presidency source said.
    They also agreed that the matter should not be allowed to cause further destabilization in the Middle East and that it could create an opportunity to find a political resolution to the war in Yemen, according to the official.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Dominic Evans and David Stamp)

11/10/2018 Lebanon’s Hezbollah insists on government demand, warns Israel
Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters
via a screen in Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – The leader of the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah insisted that one of its Sunni allies be given a portfolio in a new Lebanese cabinet, and indicated it would be ready to go back to square one in negotiating a government if necessary.
    In a televised speech on Saturday, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also warned Israel that his Iranian-backed group would respond to any attack on Lebanon and urged his country to withstand diplomatic pressure over its rocket arsenal.
    Hezbollah’s demand for one of its Sunni allies be given a portfolio in the new Lebanese government is at the heart of a row that has obstructed a final agreement six months since a parliamentary election.
    The formation of a new government is necessary before any moves can be made towards fiscal reforms which the International Monetary Fund said in June are needed immediately to improve debt sustainability.
    Hezbollah says one of its Sunni allies must be represented in the government to reflect their election gains.
    But Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri, who is Lebanon’s main Sunni politician and enjoys Western backing, has ruled out allocating any of his cabinet seats to them.
    Lebanon’s political system requires government positions to be allotted along sectarian lines.
    Nasrallah said rejecting a Sunni ally from its “March 8” camp amounted to exclusion of a section of Lebanese.
    “We were sincere when we spoke of a national unity government.    There is no national logic, or moral logic, or legal logic … for anyone in Lebanon to come out and say ‘it is forbidden for the March 8 Sunnis to be represented in the Lebanese government,” Nasrallah said.
    “If it is forbidden, come let’s talk again from the start,” he said, adding: “We don’t want conflict, or tension, or escalation.”
    President Michel Aoun vowed earlier on Saturday to find a solution to the problem.    Though a political ally of Hezbollah, Aoun has sided with Hariri in the row.
    Hezbollah, groups and individuals that support its possession of weapons won more than 70 of the 128 seats in the May 6 parliamentary election.
    Hezbollah is proscribed as a terrorist group by the United States.    The group last fought a major conflict with Israel in 2006, since when it has grown militarily stronger as a major participant in the Syrian war.
    Nasrallah said Israel had recently tried to increase pressure over the group’s rocket arsenal and to create “a state of intimidation and threat that if this matter is not dealt with, it (Israel) will deal with it.”    Israel had used “the Americans and even some European states” in this effort, he said.
    “I say to Lebanon that it must bear this level of diplomatic pressure,” Nasrallah said.    “Any attack on Lebanon, any air strikes on Lebanon or bombardment – we will certainly respond,” he said.
(Reporting by Tom Perry and Laila Bassam;; editing by David Stamp)

10/10/2018 Turkey’s President Erdogan says may meet U.S. President Trump in Paris
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a ceremony as he is flanked by top officials and army officers at the
mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, marking Ataturk's death anniversary, in Ankara, Turkey November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he may meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Paris during the commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.
    “When we go to Paris, we will try to secure an opportunity and we will realize a bilateral meeting,” Erdogan said ahead of his departure.
(Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

11/10/2018 Iraq and Saudi Arabia agree to work together to stabilize oil markets
FILE PHOTO: A worker walks at Rumaila oil field in Basra, Iraq, November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/File Photo
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq and Saudi Arabia agreed on Saturday to work together to stabilize oil markets, Iraq’s Oil Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said, without giving further details.
    During a meeting in Baghdad, Iraq and Saudi Arabia’s oil ministers also discussed an electricity grid connection between the two countries to meet Iraq’s power needs, he said.
    The Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih also met Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
    Iraq currently pumps around 4.6 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, second only to Saudi Arabia in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.    The bulk of Iraq’s oil is exported via its southern terminals, which account for more than 95 percent of state revenue.
    Earlier this week, Iraq’s Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said the country plans to increase its oil output and export capacity in 2019, with a focus on the southern oilfields, and is close to reaching a deal with international companies.
    The country is targeting production capacity of 5 million bpd in 2019, with average exports expected to reach around 3.8 million bpd.
    On Thursday, the United States granted Iraq a 45-day exemption from sanctions which it reimposed on Iran.    The exemption will allow Iraq to continue purchasing natural gas electricity from Iran.
    “This relief gives Iraq time to start taking steps towards energy independence,” a video published on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq’s official Facebook page said.
(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Kirsten Donovan)

11/11/2018 Trump discussed Khashoggi response with Turkey’s Erdogan: White House official by Steve Holland
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
    PARIS (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan discussed how to respond to the killing last month of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, a White House official said on Sunday.
    The conversation took place during a Saturday dinner with heads of state gathered in Paris to mark the World War One Armistice centenary.
    Khashoggi, a critic of ruling Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was murdered at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate by a team sent from Riyadh.    Saudi authorities have acknowledged that the killing was premeditated, but his body has not been found.
    Erdogan revealed on Saturday that audio recordings of the killing had been given to the U.S., French, German and British governments, adding that the operation had been ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
    Trump expects to form a “much stronger opinion” by next week on Khashoggi’s killing and Washington’s response, he said on Nov. 7 – adding that he was working with Congress, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to establish who bore responsibility.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; writing by Laurence Frost; editing by Richard Lough)

11/11/2018 Explainer: Why are Iraq’s Kirkuk oilfields so important? by John Davison and Dmitry Zhdannikov
FILE PHOTO: Flames emerge from flare stacks at oilfields in Kirkuk, Iraq October 18, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani/File Photo
    BAGHDAD/ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Iraq’s oilfields in the disputed Kirkuk region have taken on new significance after the United States restored oil sanctions against neighboring Iran.    Washington is pressuring Baghdad to resume exports that stopped last year.
    Iraq aims to raise its export capacity to 8.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in the coming years from less than 5 million bpd currently, 1 million of which could come via Kirkuk.    But that resumption is not just a question of turning the tap back on.
WHY IS KIRKUK SO IMPORTANT?
    Volume and revenue.    The halting of exports from Kirkuk stopped nearly 300,000 bpd flowing out of Iraq towards Turkey and international markets – causing a net revenue loss of some $8 billion since the stoppage last year.
    Most of Iraq’s exports come from southern fields, but Kirkuk is one of the biggest and oldest oilfields in the Middle East, estimated to contain about 9 billion barrels of recoverable oil.
    The United States also sees Kirkuk as an option to help offset global shortfall in oil supply caused by its sanctions on Iran, which forbid purchasing Iranian oil.
    Washington has pressured Baghdad to suspend all shipments of oil to Iran and resume flows from Kirkuk to Turkey, industry sources say.
WHAT HALTED EXPORTS, WHAT OBSTACLES REMAIN?
    Exports have been on hold since October 2017 when Iraqi government forces took control of Kirkuk from the semi-autonomous Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq, in response to a referendum calling for Kurdish independence.
    The Kurds had controlled Kirkuk and its oilfields after Islamic State militants drove the Iraqi army out in 2014, and Kurdish forces in turn ejected the militants.
    Resumption of exports from Kirkuk depends on negotiations between Baghdad and the Kurds.
    The pipeline Baghdad once used for exports via Turkey was wrecked by Islamic State – leaving only one working pipeline, built and controlled by the Kurds.    Iraq’s government must use that, or build a new pipeline.    It is considering both options.
WHO CONTROLS THE KIRKUK OIL FLOWS?
    On paper, Baghdad. But if Iraq decides to use the Kurdish pipeline to export oil, it needs to negotiate.
    The Kurds will likely seek a greater share of Iraqi state oil revenue in return.    Baghdad might also have to contend with Russia’s Rosneft , which bought the Kurdish section of the pipeline last year.
WHEN WILL KIRKUK EXPORTS RESUME, AND HOW MUCH?
    As soon as Baghdad and the Kurds reach an agreement – hence U.S. pressure to do so.    If no deal is reached, Iraq will have to build the new pipeline, which could take around two years.
    The Rosneft pipeline has been upgraded to a capacity of 1 million bpd, which could accommodate a current 400,000 bpd coming from other oilfields in Kurdistan, plus the 300,000 bpd that would come from Kirkuk, Kurdish authorities say.
    Iraqi authorities say they still need to feed local refineries – where Kirkuk’s current output is being diverted – so even if exports from Kirkuk resume, they won’t exceed 100,000 bpd at first, meaning total exports via Kurdistan would be only 500,000 bpd.
    That would be smaller than peak Kurdish exports of 700,000 bpd before the failed referendum and not enough to help Turkey cut its reliance on Iranian oil.
DO U.S. SANCTIONS AFFECT IRAQ’S OIL SECTOR?
    Iraq and Iran were exchanging only small volumes of oil before the new sanctions – around 30,000 bpd in each direction, including from Kirkuk – but Iraq’s economy as a whole is highly dependent on trade with Iran.
    Iranian gas supplies feed Iraqi power stations, for example.
    Washington has given Iraq a waiver for Iranian gas as well as food items, but says this is only temporary, causing uncertainty in Baghdad.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; writing by John Davison; editing by Jason Neely)

11/11/2018 Saudi Arabia in talks to cut oil output after U.S. waivers hit prices by Rania El Gamal and Dmitry Zhdannikov
FILE PHOTO: Flames are seen at the production facility of Saudi Aramco's Shaybah oilfield
in the Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia May 22, 2018. . REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo
    ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is discussing a proposal that could see OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers cut output by up to 1 million barrels per day, two sources told Reuters on Sunday, as the world’s top oil exporter grapples with a drop in crude prices.
    The sources said any such deal would depend on factors including the level of Iranian exports after the United States imposed sanctions on Tehran but granted Iran’s top oil buyers waivers to continue buying oil.
    Riyadh was surprised by the waivers granted to customers such as China and India, a move which hit oil prices, at least three industry and OPEC sources told Reuters.
    Now Saudi Arabia wants to act to prevent a further slide in prices which fell below $70 a barrel on Friday, and is leading discussions on cutting oil output next year, the sources said.
    Under a deal set to expire at the end of the year, OPEC and non-OPEC producers agreed to curb output by around 1.8 million bpd.
    But producers ended up cutting more – partly due to unexpected outages in Venezuela, Libya and Angola – and so agreed in June to limit cuts to the agreed level, meaning restoring about 1 million bpd in output.
    OPEC and its allies will meet in Vienna on Dec. 6-7 to decide on output policy for 2019.
    “There is a general discussion about this (cut).    But the question is how much is needed to be reduced by the market,” one of the sources said ahead of a meeting by a monitoring committee in Abu Dhabi on Sunday attended by top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia.
    “No one expected the waivers.    Saudi Arabia wants to at least put a floor under oil prices.    No one wants a free fall in prices,” the source added.
    Kazakh deputy energy minister Magzum Mirzagaliyev told reporters in Abu Dhabi that he understood Saudi Arabia was suggesting using August-October output levels as a baseline for determining cuts.
    Brent crude on Friday fell 47 cents, or 0.7 percent, to settle at $70.18 a barrel.    It lost about 3.6 percent on the week and has shed more than 15 percent this quarter.
    Washington gave 180-day waivers to eight Iranian oil buyers – China, India, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece, Taiwan and Turkey.    This group takes as much as three-quarters of Iran’s seaborne oil exports, trade data shows.
    The U.S. administration has vowed to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero and U.S. President Donald Trump has put pressure on Saudi Arabia to raise output to cool the market.
    Iran’s crude exports could fall to little more than 1 million bpd in November, roughly a third of their mid-2018 peak.    But traders and analysts say that figure could rise from December as importers use their waivers.
    Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said last month the kingdom would pump 11 million bpd in November, up from 10.7 million bpd in October.
    He also said there could be a need for intervention to reduce oil stockpiles after increases in recent months.
    U.S. sanctions on Iran are aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs as well as its support for proxy forces in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.
(Additional reporting by Maha El Dahan, Stanley Carvalho, Tuqa Khalid and Nafisa Eltahir; editing by Jason Neely)

11/11/2018 Street battles rage in Yemen’s Hodeidah, civilians caught in crossfire by Mohammed Ghobari
FILE PHOTO: A shipment of grain is unloaded at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen August 5, 2018. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo
    ADEN (Reuters) – Street battles raged on Sunday in residential areas of Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, forcing medical staff to flee the largest hospital, as Houthi insurgents tried to repel forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition.
    Residents said they saw bodies of seven civilians killed in clashes in southern suburbs, with both sides using mortar shells, anti-aircraft guns and assault rifles in the fight for the Houthi-held city, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.
    The coalition has renewed its offensive on Hodeidah as Western allies, including the United States, called for a ceasefire to support U.N.-led efforts to end the nearly four-year war that has killed more than 10,000 and pushed the country to the brink of starvation.
    Medical sources at al-Thawra hospital told Reuters that several staff members and patients able to move had fled the complex.    It was not immediately clear how many patients remained inside.
    “The Houthis are reinforcing their positions near the hospital and that is what scared people,” said one staff member.
    Hospital spokesman Khaled Attiyah told Reuters that doctors and nurses continued their work in departments such as intensive care, the burns ward and the emergency room “despite the panic.”
    Last week, rights groups said the Houthis had raided the May 22 hospital in the city’s eastern suburbs and posted gunmen on the roof, endangering doctors and patients.
    The United Nations and aid groups have warned that a full-scale assault on Hodeidah, an entry point for 80 percent of the country’s food imports and relief supplies, could trigger a famine in the already impoverished Arabian Peninsula state.
    More than two dozen senior Obama administration officials, including former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and former CIA Director John Brennan, called on U.S. President Donald Trump to cease all support for the war.
    “We hear loud shelling and they are using all kinds of weapons, it is terrifying,” said resident Abdullah Mohammed.    “In the eastern suburbs, Apache helicopters are bombing Houthi positions all day long.”
GRAIN MILL SEIZED
    Pro-coalition forces took control on Saturday of Red Sea Mills, a main grains facility south of the port which holds about 51,000 tonnes of wheat, a U.N. aid group said.
    “Around 60 shells fell inside the compound since the clashes reached that area few days ago but the silos and the grains were not touched,” said Ali Reza Qureshi, Yemen’s deputy director for the World Food Programme (WFP).
    “We hope the production will resume in the coming next two weeks as we get 21,000 tonnes monthly from those mills, otherwise we will have to import wheat flour,” he told Reuters.
    The WFP said last week it plans to double its food assistance programme for Yemen, aiming to reach up to 14 million people “to avert mass starvation.”
    The coalition has said that wresting control of Hodeidah would break the Houthis by cutting off their main supply line and force the group to the negotiating table to end the conflict, seen as a proxy war between Riyadh and Iran.
    The alliance, which relies on the West for arms and intelligence, intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015 to restore the internationally recognized government ousted by the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement, which controls the most populated areas of Yemen including the capital Sanaa.
    U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths has said he hopes to convene renewed peace talks by the end of the year after the last round of consultations collapsed in September.
    The United Nations has no up-to-date estimate of the death toll in Yemen.    It said in August 2016 that according to medical centers at least 10,000 people had been killed.
(Additional reporting and writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; editing by David Stamp and Sandra Maler)

11/11/2018 Netanyahu calls Paris conversation with Putin ‘very important’
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a lunch at the Elysee Palace in Paris as part of the commemoration ceremony
for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of the First World War, France, November 11, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
    PARIS (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin at World War One commemorations on Sunday, their first meeting since the downing of a Russian plane during an Israeli air raid in Syria in September.
    “The conversation with President Putin was good and businesslike.    I would even describe it as very important,” Netanyahu told reporters after the ceremony in Paris, adding that he also spoke there with U.S. President Donald Trump.
    Moscow said last month it had delivered S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Syria, where Israel has struck Iranian targets.
    The missile shipment came after Russia, a main backer of the Damascus government, accused Israel of indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military jet by Syrian air defenses following an Israeli air strike nearby.
    Netanyahu, speaking to reporters on Sunday, also said he favored reaching an “arrangement” that would avoid an all out war with Gaza and stave off a deepening humanitarian crisis.
    On Friday, Israel allowed $15 million of Qatari cash to enter the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement. Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have been trying to broker a long-term cease fire between Hamas and Israel.
(Writing by Dan Williams. Editing by Jane Merriman)

11/12/2018 Oil prices rise by 1 percent after Saudi announces December supply cut by Henning Gloystein
A pumpjack is seen at sunset outside Scheibenhard, near Strasbourg, France, October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose by about one percent on Monday after top exporter Saudi Arabia announced a cut in supply for December, seen as a measure to halt a market slump that had seen crude decline by 20 percent since early October.
    International benchmark Brent crude oil futures were at $71.11 per barrel at 0051 GMT, up 93 cents, or 1.3 percent from their last close.
    U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $60.73 per barrel, up 54 cents, or 0.9 percent from their last settlement.
    Saudi Arabia plans to reduce oil supply to world markets by 0.5 million barrels per day in December, its energy minister said on Sunday, as the OPEC power faces uncertain prospects in its attempts to persuade other producers to agree a coordinated output cut.
    Khalid al-Falih told reporters that Saudi Aramco’s customer crude oil nominations would fall by 500,000 bpd in December versus November due to seasonal lower demand.    The cut represents a reduction in global oil supply of about 0.5 percent.
    The announcement came after crude prices declined by around 20 percent over a month, as supply has surged, especially by the top-three producers USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
    “Saudi Arabia has stepped in front of the oil market bears, proactively announcing they will reduce exports,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.
    A big concern for Saudi Arabia and other traditional producers from the Middle East dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is the surge in U.S. output.
    U.S. energy firms last week added 12 oil rigs in the week to Nov. 9 looking for new reserves, bringing the total count to 886, the highest level since March 2015, Baker Hughes energy services firm said on Friday.
    The rig count is an indicator that U.S. crude production , already at a record 11.6 million barrels per day (bpd), will increase further.
    “One thing that is abundantly clear, OPEC is in for a shale shocker as U.S. crude production increased to a record 11.6 million barrels per day and will cross the 12 million threshold next year,” Innes said.
(For a graphic on ‘U.S. oil production, storage & drilling’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2DhQOCB)
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; editing by Richard Pullin)

11/12/2018 US-backed Syrian fighters resume offensive against IS
    U.S.-backed Syrian fighters resumed their ground offensive Sunday against the Islamic State group in the last territories controlled by the extremists in eastern Syria.
    The Syrian Democratic Forces said that the decision to resume the fighting came after threats from Turkey against the Kurdish-led force dropped due to diplomatic activities.

11/13/2018 11/13/2018 Lebanon to form body to probe civil war disappearances
    Lebanon’s Parliament on Monday approved the formation of an independent commission to help determine the fate of thousands of people who went missing during the country’s civil war, which ended nearly three decades ago.    The long-awaited law would empower an independent national commission to gather information about the missing, collect DNA samples and exhume mass graves from the 1975-90 conflict.
    Families and rights groups have been campaigning for the law since 2012, when it first went to Parliament.

11/13/2018 Israel-Gaza border ignites in most serious fighting since 2014 war by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller
Palestinians gather near the remains of a building that was destroyed by
Israeli air strikes, in Gaza City November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
    GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel launched more air strikes on Gaza on Tuesday as Palestinians kept up rocket fire on Israeli territory, in the worst surge of violence since a 2014 war.
The fighting – that has killed six Palestinians, five of them militants, and a civilian in Israel since Monday -threatened to derail efforts by the United Nations, Egypt and Qatar to broker a long-term truce and head off another major conflict in the impoverished enclave.
    Hamas, Gaza’s dominant Islamist movement, and other armed factions launched more than 400 rockets or mortar bombs across the border after carrying out a surprise guided-missile attack on Monday on a bus that wounded an Israeli soldier, the military said.
    The salvoes were the fiercest since the 2014 Gaza war between Israel and Gaza militants.    Hamas said it was retaliating for a botched Israeli commando raid in Gaza that killed one of its commanders and six other gunmen on Sunday.    An Israeli colonel was also killed in that incident.
    Sirens rang out in the Israeli port of Ashkelon overnight and in other southern towns into Tuesday morning, sending residents rushing to bomb shelters.    Several homes were hit and the military said Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system intercepted more than 100 rockets and mortar bombs.
    Israel responded with dozens of air strikes against Gaza, hitting buildings overnight that included a Hamas intelligence compound and the studios of Hamas’s Al-Aqsa Television, whose employees had received advance warnings from the military to evacuate.
    In aerial attacks on Tuesday, Israel’s military said it struck a rocket-launching squad and fired at several Palestinians infiltrating through Israel’s border fence.
    In Gaza, schools, government office and banks were closed on Tuesday.    Classes were also canceled in Israeli towns near the border.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet to discuss Israel’s next moves and the military said it had sent infantry and armored reinforcements to the Gaza frontier.
    A Palestinian official said Egypt and the United Nations had stepped up efforts with Palestinian factions and Israel to end the current round of fighting “and prevent further escalation.”
WARNING SHOTS
    A statement issued by militant groups in Gaza said Ashdod, a major Israeli port, and Beersheba, the biggest city in southern Israel, would be hit next if Israel didn’t cease fire.
    Egypt urged Israel to back down.    The United States, whose peace mediation has been stalled since the seven-week war in 2014, condemned Hamas.
    Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group have more than 20,000 rockets and mortars, some capable of reaching Israel’s main cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
    In Gaza, Israeli missiles completely flattened four multi-floor buildings, including the TV station, and three other homes.    Witnesses said warning missiles, which carry small warheads, were fired first, hitting but not destroying the outer walls of the seven structures.
    Abdallah Abu Habboush, 22, said he was awakened by shouts from neighbors to get out of his residential building after what Israel terms the “tap on the roof” warning.
    “(An Israeli) missile destroyed the whole structure,” Abu Habboush said, adding that he had no idea why it was hit.    Conricus said all of the buildings hit by the Israeli military were “owned, operated and used by Hamas.”
    In Ashkelon, where a rocket gutted an apartment building, killing a resident and critically wounding another, a neighbor told Israel’s Channel 10 news: “The ringing in my ears – they told me it would take a long time until my hearing returns.”
    Violence has simmered since Palestinians launched weekly border protests on March 30 to demand the easing of a blockade on Gaza and rights to lands lost in the 1948 war of Israel’s founding.    Israeli troops have killed more that 220 Palestinians during the confrontations, which have included border breaches.
    A Qatari cash infusion of $15 million last week appeared to dampen Gazan anger.    On Sunday, Netanyahu said he hoped to reach an “arrangement” to avoid another Gaza war and ease Palestinian economic hardship.
    Hamas, which is branded a terrorist group in the West, and Israel have fought three wars in the last decade.
(Writing by Dan Williams and Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

11/13/2018 Turkey’s Erdogan says Khashoggi recordings ‘appalling’, shocked Saudi intelligence by Daren Butler
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his
AK Party (AKP) in Ankara, Turkey, October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said recordings related to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, which Turkey has shared with Western allies, are “appalling” and shocked a Saudi intelligence officer who listened to them, Turkish media reported on Tuesday.
    Khashoggi, a critic of de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2 in a hit which Erdogan says was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
    Erdogan told reporters on his plane returning from a weekend visit to France that he discussed the Saudi journalist’s killing with the U.S., French and German leaders at dinner in Paris.
    “We played the recordings regarding this murder to everyone who wanted them from us.    Our intelligence organization did not hide anything.    We played them to all who wanted them including the Saudis, the USA, France, Canada, Germany, Britain,” he said.
    “The recordings are really appalling.    Indeed when the Saudi intelligence officer listened to the recordings he was so shocked he said: ‘This one must have taken heroin, only someone who takes heroin would do this’,” he added.
    Khashoggi’s murder has provoked global outrage but little concrete action by major powers against Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and a strong proponent of U.S. policy to contain Iranian influence across the Middle East.
    President Donald Trump has expressed reluctance to punish Saudi Arabia economically, citing the kingdom’s multibillion-dollar purchases of U.S. military equipment and investments in U.S. companies.
    U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said he did not think that people who heard the recordings concluded that the crown prince was linked to the killing.    “And certainly that is not the position of the Saudi government,” he said in Singapore.
    Asked again if the audio tape provided by Turkey did not link Prince Mohammed to the killing in any way, Bolton said: “I haven’t listened to the tape myself but in the assessment of those who have listened to it, that is right.”
    Bolton shares with Saudi Arabia a hawkish stance against Riyadh’s biggest Middle East rival Iran, and he championed Washington’s resumption of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
ELECTRIC SHOCK DEVICES
    In his comments to reporters, Erdogan said it was clear the killing was planned and that the order came from the top level of Saudi authorities, but that he could not think such a thing of King Salman, for whom he has “limitless respect.”
    “The crown prince says ‘I will clarify the matter, I will do what is necessary.’    We are waiting patiently,” Erdogan said, adding that the perpetrators of the killing were among 18 suspects detained in Saudi Arabia.    “It must be revealed who gave them the order to murder.”
    Last month two separate intelligence sources told Reuters that one of Prince Mohammed’s top aides, Saud al-Qahtani, gave orders over Skype to Khashoggi’s killers at the consulate.    More recently, a government source familiar with the matter said Qahtani featured prominently throughout the recordings.
    Saudi state media said King Salman sacked him and other officials over the killing, and a senior Saudi official said last month that Qahtani had been detained.    But four sources based in the Gulf told Reuters this week that he was still at liberty and continued to operate discreetly.
    “He still has the same influence,” one of the sources said.    Qahtani has wielded that influence over the last three years, with his authority growing alongside that of the young prince.
    He ran social media for Prince Mohammed, masterminded the arrest of hundreds of Saudi Arabia’s elite late last year in a campaign Riyadh said aimed at rooting out corruption, and took a harsh line against neighboring Qatar when Saudi Arabia imposed an economic boycott of the Gulf state in June 2017.
    He also supervised the brief detention, humiliation and beating of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri last year.
    Turkey’s pro-government newspaper Sabah reported on Tuesday that the luggage of the Saudi team that was sent to Istanbul at the time of Khashoggi’s killing contained syringes, large scissors, staple guns, walkie-talkies, electric shock devices and a signal jammer.
    It published photos of X-rays of bags taken as the Saudis passed through security checks at the airport when they left.    Reuters could not immediately verify the Sabah report.
    Erdogan has not given details of the contents of the tapes but two sources with knowledge of the issue have said that Turkey has several audio recordings.
    They include the killing itself and conversations before the operation which Turkey subsequently uncovered, the sources said.    These had led Ankara to conclude from an early stage that the killing was premeditated, despite Saudi Arabia’s initial denials of any knowledge or involvement.
    Saudi public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb has since said that Khashoggi’s killing was planned in advance, although another Saudi official said Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the specific operation.
(Additional reporting by John Geddie in Singapore; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans and Mark Heinrich)

11/13/2018 Saudi king to tour northern region, address Shura Council next week
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, attends a banquet hosted by Shinzo Abe, Japan's Prime Minister,
at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, Monday, March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool/File Photo
    RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will resume a domestic tour and make an annual address to the Shura Council next week, as the country grapples with its worst political crisis in a generation over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    The king, 82, will meet citizens and launch development projects in northern areas including Waad al-Shamal industrial city, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.
    His remarks to the Shura Council, a top advisory body to the government, will encompass domestic and foreign policy, SPA said, and they will be his first public comments since the Khashoggi killing.
    The king last week visited Qassim and Hail provinces, north of the capital Riyadh, and was accompanied at times by his favorite son and heir apparent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
    The tours are the latest public outreach by the king, apparently intended to shore up the power of the crown prince, who has taken over day-to-day rule but whose international reputation was battered since Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest level of the Saudi government, although he did not believe King Salman himself was involved.
    After initial denials, Saudi officials acknowledged the killing was planned in advance but said Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the specific operation.
    The 33-year-old crown prince is on course to become the first Saudi monarch from a new generation in 65 years, but his rise has upended the system of rule in place for decades in which successive kings sought family consensus and allocated powerful posts to their brothers and nephews.
(Reporting by Stephen Kalin, Editing by Ed Osmond)

11/13/2018 Rival Libya leaders meet for first time since May by Ulf Laessing and Ayman al-Warfalli
FILE PHOTO: Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, arrives to attend an
international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo
    PALERMO, Italy/BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Libya’s two main rival leaders met on Tuesday for the first time in more than five months as Italy hosted a conference seeking to reconcile the country’s rulers a week after the United Nations shelved plans for an election next month.
    Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, whose weak but internationally recognized government is based in western Libya, met the commander who rules most of the east, Khalifa Haftar, in Palermo, Sicily.     Despite Haftar having said he would not participate in the conference, photos released by the Italian government showed him with Serraj and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte embracing and smiling in a three-way handshake.
    The Libyan rivals were pictured in a group photo with dignitaries including Conte, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, EU Council President Donald Tusk, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.    However, a source in Haftar’s command said he skipped the official final summit photo.
    More than seven years after long-serving dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled by Western-backed rebels with NATO air support, no central authority has asserted control over Libya and armed groups control the streets.
    The United Nations has blamed a spike in violence for its decision to drop plans to hold an election next month. It still aims for a vote next year, but says Libyans should first decide what sort of election they want.
    Italy, the former colonial power which has large oil and gas interests in Libya and has been working to halt people-smuggling from the Libyan coast across the Mediterranean, had called the summit in a bid to bring together Libya’s competing factions.
    Haftar, a former officer in Gaddafi’s military who lived for years in exile in the United States, has emerged as the leader of the most powerful armed faction, having defeated Islamist militants in the east with support from Egypt and Arab states.
    Serraj heads the government in the west, which has struggled to exert control beyond the capital Tripoli.    Rival parliaments in the east and west also claim legitimacy as the legislature for the entire country.
    Although he came to Palermo, Haftar had poured scorn on the summit, saying he was there only for bilateral meetings with regional leaders, not for the conference itself.
    “I will not take part in the summit even if it takes 100 years,” he said in a television interview viewed by Reuters before it was aired.    Haftar and Egypt’s Sisi, who strongly supports him, both skipped the opening dinner on Monday evening.
    Italy has been eager to play a high profile role in Libyan diplomacy, competing with France, which staged a conference in May, the last time Haftar and Serraj met.    The May conference produced a commitment to hold the December election but that has now been indefinitely postponed.
    On Monday U.N. Libya envoy Ghassan Salame told Reuters he hoped another attempt to hold an election will take place by June but Libyans should first hold a national conference in early 2019 to decide on the vote’s format.
    France has been courting Haftar, who is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which see his forces as a bulwark against Islamists.
    Italy is seen as the main backer of Serraj and his weak Government of National Accord (GNA), and has worked with local groups in Libya to stop Europe-bound migrants from embarking by boat.
(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Ulf Laessing; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/13/2018 Israel-Gaza border ignites after botched incursion; four dead by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams
Palestinians inspect the remains of a vehicle that was destroyed in an
Israeli air strike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip November 12, 2018. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
    GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian militants on Monday carried out their most intensive shelling of Israel since the 2014 Gaza war in retaliation for a botched cross-border commando raid, drawing Israeli air strikes against Hamas’ television station and other targets.
    The flare-up, in which three Palestinian gunmen and a civilian in Israel were killed, threatened to derail efforts by the United Nations, Egypt and Qatar to broker a long-term truce and head off another major conflict in the impoverished enclave.
    Hamas, Gaza’s dominant Islamist movement, and other armed factions launched more than 300 rockets or mortar bombs across the border after carrying out a surprise guided-missile attack on a bus that wounded an Israeli soldier, the military said.
    Sirens in southern Israeli towns and the port of Ashkelon sent residents rushing to bomb shelters.    Several homes were hit.
    Israel responded with dozens of air strikes against Gaza buildings including a Hamas intelligence compound and the Al-Aqsa Television studios, whose employees had received advance warnings from the military to evacuate.
    Egypt urged Israel to back down.    The United States, whose peace mediation has been stalled since 2014, condemned Hamas.
    “The escalation in the past 24 hours is EXTREMELY dangerous and reckless,” tweeted Nickolay Mladenov, a U.N. Middle East envoy.    “Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all!
    Violence has simmered since Palestinians launched weekly border protests on March 30 to demand the easing of a blockade on Gaza and rights to lands lost in the 1948 war of Israel’s founding.    Israeli troops have killed more that 220 Palestinians during the confrontations, which have included border breaches.
    A Qatari cash infusion of $15 million last week appeared to dampen Gazan anger.    On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped to reach an “arrangement” to avoid another Gaza war and ease Palestinian economic hardship.
    But hours later, a botched incursion by undercover Israeli troops in Gaza led to fighting that killed a Hamas commander, six other Palestinian militants and an Israeli colonel.
    “In response to yesterday’s crime, the joint command of Palestinian factions announce the beginning of bombardment of the enemy’s settlements with scores of rockets,” Hamas said in a statement on Monday.
    In an apparent attempt to defuse tensions, Israel’s military spokesman said the special forces had not been dispatched to assassinate Hamas commanders, a tactic that led to wider conflict in the past and which has largely been abandoned.
    Israeli media reports suggested the raid was mounted to gather intelligence.
    Hamas, which is branded a terrorist group in the West, and Israel have fought three wars in the last decade and neither side appeared keen to precipitate another full-on conflict.
    On Monday, Palestinian factions placed the onus on Israel to cease fire, saying they were prepared to increase the range of rocket fire for as long as the air barrage on Gaza persisted.
    But the Israelis, jarred by dozens of civilian casualties in their border communities, appeared set on deterring Hamas.
    Brigadier-General Ronen Manelis, Israel’s military spokesman, said Hamas was “leading Gaza to ruin” and that Israeli attacks on it would “intensify to the degree required.”
(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by David Stamp, John Stonestreet and Cynthia Osterman)

11/13/2018 OPEC warns of 2019 oil glut as demand slows, rival supply rises
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the drilling platform, the first out of four oil platforms to be installed at Norway's
giant offshore Johan Sverdrup field during the 1st phase development, near Stord, western Norway September 4, 2017. REUTERS/Nerijus Adomaitis/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – OPEC warned on Tuesday that an oil supply glut could emerge in 2019 as the world economy slows and supply from rival producers rises more quickly than expected, building a case for cutting output at a meeting next month.
    Worried by a price drop and rising supplies, OPEC is talking again of reducing production just months after increasing it.    Such a shift would worsen relations with U.S. President Donald Trump, who on Monday urged OPEC not to cut supply.
    In a monthly report, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said world oil demand next year would rise by 1.29 million barrels per day, 70,000 bpd less than predicted last month and the fourth consecutive reduction in its forecast.
    Non-OPEC supply would rise by 2.23 million bpd, the Vienna-based organization said, 120,000 bpd more than previously thought.
    “Although the oil market has reached a balance now, the forecasts for 2019 for non-OPEC supply growth indicate higher volumes outpacing the expansion in world oil demand, leading to widening excess supply in the market,” OPEC said in the report.
    “The recent downward revision to the global economic growth forecast and associated uncertainties confirm the emerging pressure on oil demand observed in recent months.”
    Together with Russia and other non-OPEC producers, OPEC had agreed in June to boost supply after pressure from Trump to lower prices, partially unwinding output cuts that began in January 2017.
    The group meets on Dec. 6 to set policy for 2019.
(Reporting by Alex Lawler; Editing by Dale Hudson)

11/14/2018 Turkey making efforts to get U.S. Congress to remove bills against Ankara
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a news
conference in Istanbul, Turkey October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey is making efforts to get the U.S. Congress to drop bills targeting Ankara, according to the text of a speech from Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday.
    The U.S. Senate has demanded a block on sales of F-35 jets to Turkey unless U.S. President Donald Trump certifies that Turkey is not threatening NATO, purchasing defense equipment from Russia or detaining U.S. citizens.
    Cavusoglu also said in the text of his speech, which he is delivering to a parliamentary commission on Wednesday, that Turkey is working to keep economic ties with the United States from being impacted by political issues.
(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by David Dolan)

11/14/2018 Israeli defense minister to make statement, may quit over Gaza
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visits Gaza's Kerem Shalom crossing,
the strip's main commercial border terminal, July 22, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – was due to make a public statement on Wednesday and a source close to the far-right politician said he may announce his resignation over the government’s policy toward the Gaza Strip.
    “He is thinking of quitting,” the source told Reuters, after Lieberman’s office said he had opposed a security cabinet decision on Tuesday to stop attacks in Gaza, where a ceasefire agreed by Palestinian armed groups ended a two-day surge in fighting.
    Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported sources close to Lieberman saying that he does intend to step down and has been planning the move for some time, feeling he “isn’t leading the defense establishment to the place he wants to go.”
    Lieberman’s departure would probably also mean withdrawing his Yisrael Beiteinu party from the ruling coalition.    Without its five seats in the 120-member parliament Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be left with a majority of just a single seat.    That could prompt Netanyahu to consider bringing forward a national election slated for November 2019.
    Lieberman’s office said he would address media at 1100 GMT after convening a special session of his party.    A Lieberman spokesman declined to comment on the content of his planned announcement.
    Lieberman has spoken in favor of harsh Israeli military action against Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip, even as the government authorized a Qatari cash infusion to the impoverished enclave last week and, on Tuesday, accepted the Egyptian-mediated truce that halted Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes.
    Lieberman, a former foreign minister, received the defense portfolio in May 2016.    Despite his hawkish talk on Gaza, he has been criticized by another far-right party within the coalition, the Jewish Home, as easily swayed by a cautious military brass.
    Born in the former Soviet Union, Lieberman’s voter base is made up of fellow Russian-speaking immigrants, and rightists and secularists who share his hostility to Israel’s Arab minority and the religious authority wielded by ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Peter Graff)

11/14/2018 Jewish religious candidate elected Jerusalem’s mayor
FILE PHOTO: Jerusalem mayoral candidate Moshe Lion and his wife cast their votes in the second round
of local council elections in Jerusalem November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A religious Jewish candidate won election as mayor of Jerusalem on Wednesday in a run-off against a secular contender for a post that shapes Israel’s rule over the holy city at the heart of its conflict with the Palestinians.
    Moshe Lion, a skullcap-wearing bureaucrat favored by two key members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightist cabinet, defeated Ofer Berkovitch, the 35-year-old deputy mayor, after neither took enough votes in a five-man contest two weeks ago to win outright.
    Nearly final results after Tuesday’s run-off gave Lion close to 52 percent of the vote.
    The ballot was held as part of nationwide Israeli municipal elections in which many candidates run as independents or on non-traditional party lists, making it difficult to gauge any broader political impact from the results.
    While Netanyahu’s own approval ratings are strong, a senior member of his party and cabinet who ran for Jerusalem mayor with his blessing, Zeev Elkin, came in third in the first round of the poll.
    The Jerusalem vote was largely boycotted by Palestinians who make up a third of the city’s population.    They live in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move that has not won international recognition.
    Many Jerusalem Palestinians complain of entrenched neglect by the Israeli municipality.    A Palestinian candidate who bucked the boycott by running for the administrative Jerusalem City Council failed to garner enough votes to get in.
    Both Lion and Berkovitch had vowed to appeal to all sectors of the city, 21 percent of its Jewish population is secular and another 43 percent are religiously traditional and 36 percent are ultra-Orthodox.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

11/14/2018 Oil jumps toward $67 as OPEC, partners discuss supply cut by Alex Lawler
FILE PHOTO: Oil pours out of a spout from Edwin Drake's original 1859 well that launched the modern petroleum industry at the
Drake Well Museum and Park in Titusville, Pennsylvania U.S., October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – Oil rose toward $67 a barrel on Wednesday, recouping some of the previous session’s slide, on the growing prospect of OPEC and allied producers cutting output at a meeting next month to prop up the market.
    Crude rallied after three sources familiar with the issue said OPEC and its partners are discussing a proposal to cut output by up to 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd), a larger figure than officials have mentioned previously.
(GRAPHIC: Brent curve in Sept & Nov – https://tmsnrt.rs/2QALtKe)
    International benchmark Brent crude rose $1.18 a barrel to $66.65 as of 0955 GMT, having fallen as low as $65.02 earlier.    U.S. crude was up 60 cents at $56.29.
    Since mid-October, the price of Brent has fallen by 17.5 percent as concern grew about excess supply and slowing demand, n what has become one of the biggest declines since a price collapse in 2014.
    “Crude oil futures succumbed to overwhelmingly bearish pressure,” said Benjamin Lu, analyst at brokerage Phillip Futures in Singapore.
(GRAPHIC: China & India car sales – https://tmsnrt.rs/2PsZ1uW)
    Oil markets are being pressured from two sides: a surge in supply from OPEC, Russia and other producers, and increasing concerns about a global economic slowdown that would hit demand.
    U.S. crude oil output from its seven major shale basins is expected to hit a record 7.94 million barrels per day (bpd) in December, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Tuesday.
    That surge in onshore output has helped overall U.S. crude production hit a record 11.6 million bpd, making the United States the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.
    Most analysts expect U.S. output to climb above 12 million bpd within the first half of 2019.
    The rise in U.S. production is contributing to higher stockpiles.
    Official storage data is due on Wednesday from the Energy Information Administration, with analysts expecting a 3 million barrel rise in crude inventories.
(Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper and Henning Gloystein)

11/14/2018 Global oil market faces surplus throughout 2019 as demand growth slows by Amanda Cooper
FILE PHOTO: Flames emerge from a pipeline at the oil fields in Basra, southeast of Baghdad, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani
    LONDON (Reuters) – Global oil supply will outpace demand throughout 2019, as a relentless rise in output swamps growth in consumption that is at risk from a slowing economy, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.
    In its monthly report the Paris-based IEA left its forecast for global demand growth for 2018 and 2019 unchanged from last month at 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) and 1.4 million bpd, respectively, but cut its forecast for non-OECD demand growth, the engine of expansion in world oil consumption.
    For the first half of 2019, based on its outlook for non-OPEC production and global demand, and assuming flat OPEC production, the IEA said the implied stock build is 2 million bpd.
    Output around the world has swelled since the middle of the year, while an escalating trade dispute between the United States and China threatens global economic growth.
    On Wednesday, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that OPEC and its partners are discussing a proposal to cut oil output by up to 1.4 million bpd for 2019 to avert an oversupply that would weaken prices.
    Since early October, the oil price has fallen by a quarter to below $70 a barrel, its lowest in eight months, which may protect demand to an extent, the IEA said.
GRAPHIC: IEA estimates of global oil supply and demand – https://tmsnrt.rs/2QGAI98
    “While slower economic growth in some countries reduces the outlook for oil demand, a significant downward revision to our price assumption is supportive,” it added.
    The agency raised its forecast for oil output growth from countries outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to 2.4 million bpd this year and 1.9 million bpd next year, versus its previous estimate of 2.2 million bpd and 1.8 million bpd, respectively.
    The United States will lead output growth.    The IEA estimates total U.S. oil supply will rise by 2.1 million bpd this year and another 1.3 million bpd in 2019, from a current record of more than 11 million bpd.
    OPEC crude output rose by 200,000 bpd in October to 32.99 million bpd, up 240,000 bpd on a year ago, as losses of 400,000 bpd from Iran and 600,000 bpd from Venezuela were easily offset by increases from others, such as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.
GRAPHIC: Non-OPEC oil supply vs global demand growth in 2019 – https://tmsnrt.rs/2QBF2Xk
    “Next year, there is expected to be even less need for OPEC oil due to relentless growth in non-OPEC supply,” the IEA said, adding that it had cut its forecast for demand for OPEC crude by 300,000 bpd to 31.3 million bpd in 2019.
    Inventories of oil in OECD countries rose by 12.1 million barrels in September to 2.875 billion barrels, the IEA said, adding that for the third quarter as a whole, stocks rose 58.1 million barrels, or at a rate of 630,000 bpd, the biggest increase since 2015.
(Editing by Louise Heavens)

11/14/2018 Israeli defense minister resigns by OAN Newsroom
    The Israeli defense minister is stepping down amid recent Gaza peace talks.
    On Wednesday, Avigdor Liberman announced his resignation days after violent tensions between Israel and Gaza, and as the two states were finally reaching an agreement on a ceasefire.
    Gaza stated that the move is a victory for Palestinian residents, who went on to the streets to celebrate when the ceasefire was verified to the public.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is resigning. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool Photo via AP)
    Lieberman’s said his resignation is his form of protest against the ceasefire, which he believes is a major mistake for the sake of Israel’s security.
    “Indeed, I’m here to announce my resignation from the role of the defense minister of the state of Israel — the question which needs to be asked is why specifically now,” he stated.    “As far as I’m concerned, what happened yesterday, yesterday’s ceasefire, together with the entire process of reaching an arrangement with Hamas, is a capitulation to terror.”
    Lieberman’s resignation has 48-hours to go into full-swing after he officially submits his formal letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

11/14/2018 Land reform in South Africa will not violate constitution: Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during a visit to crime ridden Hanover Park township
to launch a new Anti-Gang Unit, in Cape Town, South Africa November 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
    STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told the European Parliament on Wednesday that South Africa will enact land reforms in adherence to the country’s constitution and with respect for the human rights of all its people.
    “This problem of land will be resolved through adherence to the rule of law and adherence to the constitution,” Ramaphosa told lawmakers.
    South Africa’s ruling African National Congress aims to change the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation to address racial disparities in ownership that persist more than two decades after apartheid’s demise in 1994.
(Reporting by Richard Lough; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)

11/14/2018 Lebanese Christian civil war foes shake hands, make up after 40 years
FILE PHOTO: Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, speaks during an interview with Reuters at his home
in the Christian village of Maarab in the mountains overlooking the seaside town of Jounieh, October 31, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Christian rivals from the Lebanese civil war, Samir Geagea and Suleiman Frangieh, shook hands with each other on Wednesday, marking a formal reconciliation to end more than four decades of enmity.
    Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces (LF) political party, and Frangieh, head of the Marada party, have been foes since the early days of the 1975-1990 civil war.
    The two parties had armed militias during the conflict that battled against each other.    The war, which drew in regional powers, included fighting between the country’s main sects and rival factions within those sects.
    The men, both Maronite Christians, met to reconcile at the seat of the sect’s Patriarch Bechara al-Rai in Bkerki, north of Beirut.    They shook hands with Rai and then with each other after several failed reconciliation attempts over the years.
    Geagea has been accused of leading a raid in 1978 on the home of Frangieh’s father, Tony Franjieh, a rival Maronite Christian chieftain, who was killed with his wife, daughter and others. Geagea has said he was wounded before reaching Frangieh’s house, and did not take part himself.
    This is the second rapprochement of recent years between civil war Maronite Christian rivals.
    In January 2016 Geagea endorsed then presidential candidate Michel Aoun for the Lebanese presidency, ending his own rival candidacy for the position, which must be held by a Maronite Christian under Lebanon’s sectarian power sharing system.
    Geagea and Aoun, who fought each other in the 1975-90 civil war, have been on opposite sides of the political divide since Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon in 2005.
    President Aoun is a political ally of the Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah, whereas Geagea is a staunch opponent of the group.    Frangieh is a close ally of Syrian President and Hezbollah ally Bashar al-Assad.
    Tony Frangieh, Suleiman’s son, said the reconciliation was a good thing for all Lebanese and was not connected to any presidential aims.
    “We are looking forward to the future by achieving this reconciliation,” he told Lebanese broadcaster al-Jadeed at the ceremony.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington, Laila Bassam and Ellen Francis; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

11/14/2018 U.N. bemoans lack of funding for African anti-jihadist force
FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gives a statement after delivering a speech on
disarmament and denuclearisation at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) in Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
    PARIS (Reuters) – International donors have disbursed less than half of what they had pledged for a regional force fighting to contain West African jihadists, hampering its efforts as insecurity spreads across the region, a United Nations report said.
    A February conference of about 50 countries including the United States, Japan and Norway pledged 415 million euros ($470 million) for the G5 Sahel force, made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
    But the force has struggled to get off the ground and in his Nov. 12 report to the Security Council, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said only 45.9 per cent of funds (about 190.76 million euros) had either been disbursed or allocated for procurement processes.
    “The support measures and the funding mechanism put in place must be revisited,” Guterres said.
    The G5 force has been hobbled by delays and poor coordination between the five countries, officials and diplomats say, while insecurity has escalated in the border region between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
    Three civilians were killed on Monday after a car bomb exploded in the northern Malian city of Gao, an attack claimed by an Islamist militants
    “The spread of insecurity and terrorism to other parts of the region, including into eastern Burkina Faso, is particularly worrying,” Guterres said.    “Rebel attacks in eastern Chad indicate that borders are becoming more porous.”
    The arid Sahel region has been fertile ground for groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State, highlighting difficulties international partners face in restoring regional stability.
    France, the former colonial power in the region, intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive out Islamist militants occupying the north and has since kept about 4,500 troops in the region as part of counter-terrorism operations.    The U.N. has thousands of troops in Mali as part of its peacekeeping mission.
    Paris pushed the G5 force creation with the long-term aim of placing the region’s security in the hands of local forces.
(Reporting by John Irish and Bate Felix; Editing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian)

11/14/2018 EU arms fuelling Yemen conflict, tougher checks needed: parliament by Richard Lough
A view of tents sheltering displaced people from the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah near Aden, Yemen November 12, 2018. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman
    STRASBOURG (Reuters) – Tougher checks on European Union arms exports are needed and sanctions should be imposed on those countries that flout the bloc’s rules, the European Parliament said on Wednesday.
    EU lawmakers said European arms were stoking the conflict in Yemen, where a Saudi Arabia-led coalition is battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels.    Arms sales to Saudi Arabia by EU states undermined the European arms control effort, they said.
    “In Yemen, European weapons are fundamentally responsible for the war taking place,” said German EU lawmaker Sabine Losing, who is leading efforts to hold EU governments to account.
    The European Parliament’s call to strengthen checks is non-binding but it the second time in less than a month that EU lawmakers have passed a resolution urging limits on arms sales following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    The EU is the second largest arms supplier in the world — exporting more than a quarter of all global arms — after the United States, according to the EU’s annual report on weapons exports.
    That has pitted its values of peace and support for human rights against business interests.
    The European Union’s so-called Common Position on arms exports lists eight criteria governments must apply when taking a decision on an arms export license.    Sales to Saudi Arabia violated six out of the eight, lawmakers said.
    “The Common Position on arms exports must be implemented effectively.    That includes, among others, a sanctions mechanism,” Losing said.
    French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has come under fire from rights groups and opposition lawmakers over sales of French arms to Saudi Arabia.
    Paris has sought to increase its diplomatic weight in the Middle East through the sale of naval vessels, tanks, artillery and munitions to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
    French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday that the government adhered to strict rules that “stop us selling weapons that might impact civilians.”
(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/14/2018 Calls for end to Yemen war offer little hope for hungry children
A woman displaced from the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah pulls empty canisters
outside her family shelter in Sanaa, Yemen November 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
    TAIZ, Yemen (Reuters) – Lying on a dust-covered bed in a hospital ward in the Yemeni city of Taiz, 10-year-old Ghazi Mohammed barely has enough energy to watch doctors and nurses examine his emaciated body.
    The boy weighs 8.5 kg (18 lb), less than a third of the average weight of a child his age.    He fled hunger and poverty in his mountain village last year to find only more suffering in Yemen’s third largest city Taiz.
    “This shows that the humanitarian aid that comes to Yemen does not reach people who really need it.    Distribution remains random,” said his doctor, Amen al-Asli.
    Western powers who have for three years provided arms and intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition waging war against Houthi insurgents in Yemen are now pressing for an end to a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people and pushed the country to the brink of famine.
    The West toughened its stance after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi policy, at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
    His death sparked a global outcry and exposed Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on dissent and aggressive foreign policy, including its role in the war in Yemen, which has been criticized by human rights groups and U.S. lawmakers.
    But calls for an end to the fighting have come far too late for millions of Yemeni civilians, including children, who face acute malnutrition and hunger in a complex, multi-sided war.
    “They need a complete care, here in the hospital and later at home. Of course it depends on the parents’ financial condition as malnutrition can hit the whole family,” said Youssef al-Salawi, another doctor.
    In Taiz, children fighting for their lives in hospitals are traumatized by daily artillery fire, rockets and anti-aircraft guns as Saudi-backed government forces battle the Iran-aligned Houthis along pulverized streets.
    The United Nations says out of 29 million Yemenis, 22 million need some form of humanitarian assistance, almost 18 millions are considered hungry and 8.4 millions are severely hungry.
    “We do hope that talk about getting the peace process back on track, that gives us hope, but it is very imperative for the people of Yemen that this conflict stops as soon as possible,” said Stephen Anderson, the World Food Program’s (WFP) country director in Yemen.
OFFENSIVE ON PORT
    U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths hopes to bring the warring parties together before the end of the year.
    After seizing the southern port of Aden in 2015, the coalition has made little progress.    While it has air supremacy, the Houthis have proved better at guerrilla warfare.
    The Houthis still control Yemen’s most populated areas, including the capital Sanaa and the port city of Hodeidah.
    The Sunni Muslim alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has renewed its offensive on Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, as Washington and London called for a ceasefire.
    Aid groups fear an attack on Hodeidah port would disrupt its operations and endanger more civilians as it remains the main source of food imports as well as much-needed humanitarian aid.
    Street fighting and air strikes resumed late on Tuesday in Hodeidah despite a lull in battles as U.N. officials visited the Red Sea city to assess food security.
    A resident told Reuters calm descended on Hodeidah on Wednesday after heavy clashes and air strikes rocked the city.    “It is very surprising,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Aden; Writing By Aziz El Yaakoubi, Editing by Michael Georgy, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Angus MacSwan)

11/15/2018 Residents of Southern Israel denounce Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ceasefire with Hamas by OAN Newsroom
    Residents of Israel’s southern regions are protesting the government’s ceasefire with the terror group Hamas.
    Dozens of protesters took to the streets Wednesday, blocking a city highway and burning tires in an effort to get their point across.
    Hamas has launched hundreds of rockets and kites strapped with explosive devices into Israel over the years, in turn, destroying property and killing hundreds of people.
Protesters wave their national flags while others burn tires near the fence of Gaza Strip border with Israel during a protest
east of Gaza City, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Gaza’s Hamas rulers said Friday that deadly protests along Gaza-Israel perimeter fence
have achieved some goals; $15 million from Qatar to help pay the salaries of civil servants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
    The Israeli protesters also denounced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his support of the ceasefire, urging him to scrap the deal.
    “The residents of Ashkelon have been suffering for years, over 10 years of suffering with the rockets — we have no energy left to deal with the regime that simply doesn’t care about the south, we have been silent for years and years, but we will not stay silent anymore,” said Israeli protester Vlad Roitberg.
    For their part, Israeli security officials accused Hamas of repeated violations of the ceasefire.    They pledged a tough crackdown on the terror group unless Hamas changes its behavior.

11/15/2018 Netanyahu faces snap election calls after defense minister quits by Maayan Lubell
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends an annual state memorial ceremony for Israel's first
prime minister, David Ben Gurion, at his gravesite in Sde Boker, Israel November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced calls on Thursday from his coalition partners to hold an early election, a day after the defense minister’s resignation left the government with a razor-thin majority.
    Avigdor Lieberman quit on Wednesday over what he described as the government’s too-soft policy on cross-border violence with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
    The loss of the five seats of Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu faction leaves Netanyahu with control of just 61 of the 120 seats in parliament, raising the prospect that a scheduled November 2019 election would be brought forward.
    Lieberman’s resignation takes effect 48 hours after being handed in, which he did early on Thursday.    Each coalition partner will then have the power to bring down the government.
    To avert a crisis, Netanyahu has been holding talks with ministers in an effort to stabilize the government.
    Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who heads the centrist Kulanu party, said he told Netanyahu in their meeting that the responsible step to take would be to establish a new and stable government.
    “The best thing for Israel’s citizens and economy is to hold an election as soon as possible,” Kahlon said in a statement.    His call was echoed by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas faction.
    Adding to the pressure, Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennettb, who heads the far-right Jewish Home party, has demanded the defense brief by given to him.
    Both Lieberman and Bennett, who compete with Netanyahu’s Likud for right-wing voters, have spoken in favor of harsh Israeli military action against Gaza’s dominant Hamas Islamists.
    Israel has fought three wars in Gaza since Hamas took over the enclave in 2007.
    “I asked the prime minister yesterday to appoint me defense minister to fulfill one goal only – that Israel start winning again,” Bennett said at a conference near Tel Aviv.
    Jewish Home said on Wednesday that without the defense brief, there would be no point in keeping the government together.
    However Bennett did not repeat this in his remarks on Thursday nor did he render an explicit ultimatum to Netanyahu, with whom he is due to meet on Friday.
    It was unclear whether Netanyahu would opt for an early election.
    Netanyahu is under investigation for corruption, and speculation has been rife that he may bring the ballot forward in order to win a renewed mandate before Israel’s attorney-general decides whether to indict him.
    A poll published on Wednesday by Israel’s Hadashot television news showed Likud falling by one seat from 30 to 29 after months of surveys that have shown it gaining power.    Only 17 percent of respondents were happy with Netanyahu’s Gaza policy.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell, Editing by William Maclean)

11/15/2018 U.S. sanctions 17 Saudi officials for alleged role in killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by OAN Newsroom
    The Trump administration has announced sanctions against 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    A former top aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his subordinate are among the 17 individuals being sanctioned for their roles in coordinating and carrying out the murder inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey last month.
FILE – In this Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, file photo, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir
speaks to journalists during a press conference. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim, File)
    In a statement Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the individuals targeted in the sanctions were involved in the abhorrent killing of Khashoggi and must face consequences.
    “When people talk about sanctions; sanctioning individuals who committed crimes is one thing, but to hold the Saudi government responsible is another thing.    The Saudi government is responsible on how it dealt with this issue and will continue to deal with this issue in a responsible manner.” — Adel al-Jubeir, Foreign Minister – Saudi Arabia
    Prosecutors said they will also apply the death penalty for five out of 11 suspects charged in the murder.

11/15/2018 Canada welcomes U.S. sanctions on Saudis, says considering similar action
FILE PHOTO - Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland attends a joint news conference with
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday welcomed U.S. Treasury sanctions on 17 Saudi officials for their role in the killing last month of Jamal Khashoggi, and said Canada was weighing similar action.
    “Canada welcomes the U.S. action,” Freeland told reporters today after touring a factory in Port Colborne, Ontario.    Canada will be “actively considering” similar sanctions in coming days, she added.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by David Gregorio)

11/15/2018 U.S. eyes ways to remove Erdogan foe to appease Turkey: NBC
FILE PHOTO: U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in
Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is exploring possible ways to remove U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a foe of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, to convince Turkey to ease pressure on Saudi Arabia over the killing of a Saudi journalist, NBC News reported on Thursday.
    A White House official told Reuters the NBC story was “not accurate,” but did not elaborate.
    NBC, citing four sources, said Trump administration officials asked federal law enforcement agencies to look into whether Gulen, accused by Erdogan of instigating a failed 2016 coup, could legally be forced out of the United States.
    Gulen’s media adviser, Alp Aslandogan, said he had not been informed of any new U.S. inquiry.
    Erdogan has long demanded that Washington extradite Gulen, who denies any involvement in the attempted coup and has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999.    U.S. officials have said the courts need sufficient evidence to extradite the elderly cleric.
    Erdogan ramped up pressure on Saudi Arabia after U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi rulers, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to pick up documents related to his upcoming marriage.
    Saudi Arabia is considered critical to President Donald Trump’s effort to curb Iran’s growing influence in the region.
    Erdogan has insisted Khashoggi’s killing was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government and has kept pressure on de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
    “The White House has not been involved in any discussions relating the extradition of Fethullah Gulen to the death of Jamal Khashoggi,” the White House official said.
    A senior Turkish official told Reuters that Turkey’s extradition request and its Khashoggi investigation were separate issues “not connected in any way, shape or form.”
    NBC News cited sources as saying the Trump administration had directed the Justice Department and FBI to reopen Turkey’s case for Gulen’s extradition and also asked the Department of Homeland Security for information about his legal status.
    NBC News said one option the administration was considering was trying to force Gulen to relocate to South Africa.
    State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said U.S. authorities continued to evaluate material Turkey has provided on Gulen but that it remained a Justice Department matter and the White House had not been involved in any extradition discussions.
    The Justice Department and the FBI declined comment.    A source familiar with Justice Department operations was unaware of any kind of significant investigation related to Gulen.
    NBC said career officials at the agencies had pushed back at the White House requests.
(Reporting by David Alexander, Matt Spetalnick, Humeyra Pamuk and Sarah Lynch in Washington and Daren Butler in Ankara; Editing by Susan Thomas and Peter Cooney)

11/15/2018 Ethiopia arrests ex deputy intelligence chief in corruption, rights crackdown by Aaron Maasho
A police officer crosses the road as he patrols along the street in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia said on Thursday it had arrested the former deputy intelligence chief after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration launched a crackdown this week on senior security officials suspected of human rights abuses and corruption.
    Also on Thursday, state-affiliated television Fana Broadcasting said police had arrested the head of the security division at state-owned Ethio Telecom network.
    Since Monday more than 60 officials, some from the intelligence services and some from the military-run industrial conglomerate METEC, have been arrested.    Some have already appeared in court.    A judge has denied them bail and given police 14 days further to investigate.    None have been charged.
    Fana Broadcasting said Gudeta Olana, head of security at Ethio Telecom, had also been apprehended by police.    It gave no reason for the arrest.
    In a statement from the prime minister’s office on Thursday, Abiy warned against the “cancer” of corruption and human rights abuse in the Horn of Africa nation.    “All the criminals will be revealed from where they are hiding,” he said.
    The detentions have been broadly welcomed by rights groups and opposition politicians as a first step by Abiy toward fulfilling pledges made when he took office in April to tackle impunity and seek justice for past crimes by the government.
    “Former deputy of NISS and Federal Police Commission Commissioner General Yared Zerihun has been apprehended by police,” Attorney General Berhanu Tsegaye said on Twitter early on Thursday.
    He did not disclose details.    Yared’s wife was arrested on Monday and sources told Reuters that she had been trying to hide him.    Yared was appointed head of the federal police in April but resigned three months later.
    The whereabouts of former intelligence chief Getachew Assefa are unknown, government sources say, and the attorney general declined at a news conference on Monday to say whether the government had issued an arrest warrant for him.
    Tsegaye has said evidence showed “the senior leadership of the national security agency” had instructed members of Abiy’s Oromo ethnic group to attack him at a rally in June, in which two people were killed and scores wounded.
    Analysts and diplomats are describing the arrests as a “full frontal assault on the establishment.”
    Though 42-year-old Abiy began sacking senior officials upon taking office, this week’s detentions have picked up the pace of his stated efforts to rein in the security services and tackle economic mismanagement and other problems.
    Abiy is Ethiopia’s first leader from its majority Oromo ethnic group.    He was chosen by the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), as its new head after three years of street protests and strikes piled pressure on it to reform.
    Kinfe Dagnew, a brigadier general in Ethiopia’s army and former chief executive of METEC, was arrested on Tuesday close to the border with Sudan and Eritrea.    He is due in court on Thursday, after a brief hearing on Wednesday at which he requested a lawyer.
    The attorney general has said that investigations uncovered corruption at METEC (Metal and Engineering Corporation), which makes military equipment and is involved in sectors from agriculture to construction.
    In August, Ethiopia removed METEC from the $4 billion Grand Renaissance Dam project on the River Nile due to delays and failure to complete the installation of turbines.
    “There’s clear evidence that these people at METEC committed sophisticated, high-level economic crime,” said Hallelujah Lulie, Addis Ababa-based program director at the Amani Africa thinktank.    “I don’t think he can reform the economy without addressing the issue of METEC,” he said, referring to Abiy.
(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by George Obulutsa and Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/15/2018 U.N. still sees big risks in Syria, despite a lull in northwest by Tom Miles
FILE PHOTO: Soldiers walk past damaged buildings in the Yarmouk Palestinian camp
in Damascus, Syria May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki /File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – Thousands of Syrians are trapped by battles or face hard choices about returning home even though relative calm has held in the northwest for two months, the United Nations said on Thursday.
    Seven and a half years of war have left most remaining rebel forces boxed into northwestern Idlib province.
    Neighboring Turkey and Russia hatched a de-escalation plan for Idlib that stalled a Syrian government offensive which the U.N. said would have caused a humanitarian catastrophe.
    The past two months in Idlib have been the quietest in five years with no air raids, said U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland.    But there is still shelling along the Idlib perimeter, and the 2-3 million civilians and 12,000 humanitarian workers there did not know if the lull would hold.
    “There are many signs that bad things will happen unless there are further breakthroughs in the negotiations with the numerous armed groups inside,” Egeland told reporters after a regular U.N. humanitarian meeting on Syria.
    “The worst case scenario is still horrific war across enormous areas but the way that Russia and Turkey tell us of their plans … makes me a cautious optimist.    I don’t see the big war coming any time soon to Idlib.”
    Both Russia and Turkey had said they would go to great lengths to avoid military action if their own positions were not attacked.
    But thousands of rebels, including fighters listed by the U.N. as terrorists, remain in Idlib and Egeland said there are few signs of them negotiating or laying down their arms or seeking amnesty.
    Another 40,000 civilians are trapped, with a few thousand armed men, in Rukban, a desolate camp on Syria’s border with Jordan.    A 78-truck convoy reached them with aid supplies this month and Egeland said another is planned by mid-December.
    Russia, the United States and Jordan had coordinated to calm the conflict to allow the convoy into the camp, where the situation was horrific, and the priority now was a deal to remove the six armed groups operating in the area, Egeland said.
    Air raids have continued in eastern Deir al-Zor governorate, where U.S.-led and Kurdish forces are targeting Islamic State fighters.    Egeland said camps of rescued civilians must be moved out of harm’s way, and one was torched by Islamic State.
    Millions of Syrian refugees are also facing the challenge of reclaiming their homes within a year, under a law promulgated on Sunday.
    “Imagine being a single mother in a tent in (Lebanon’s) Bekaa Valley – how do you do that?
    Egeland said there should be a new version that did not take land from civilians, an awareness campaign, and suspension of implementation in the meantime, and Russia supported that work. (Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

11/15/2018 Pentagon report on Turkey’s F-35 program delivered to Congress
FILE PHOTO: A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo
    BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Defense Department has delivered a report to Congress detailing implications of Turkey receiving 100 F-35 fighter jets, five people familiar with the report said, removing a key hurdle to concluding the deal.
    Turkey’s planned purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system has raised concerns in the West, since it could be used to give Moscow deep insight into the vulnerabilities of the most advanced U.S. warplane at a time of tension between the two powers, experts have said.
    Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s chief arms buyer, told Reuters in an interview that Turkey’s plans to buy the S-400 system were “extremely problematical” and numerous U.S. officials had discussed the issue with Ankara, but there were no signs that Turkey had changed its mind about buying the Russian system.
    The United States has for years offered Turkey an alternative missile defense system – the Patriot missile defense system built by Raytheon Co and operated by other NATO allies.    However, a sale has proven elusive amid cost and technology transfer issues.
    Lord said the report to Congress “just lays out the facts of where we are,” rather than offering firm recommendations, but she declined to provide details.
    “We need to work with Congress to decide where we go on that.    There will be a strong partnership with Congress, and until we’ve discussed the issue with them…,” Lord told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a NATO industry conference in Berlin earlier this week.
    Turkey last month said it was moving ahead with the controversial S-400 procurement and expected to begin installing the surface-to-air missile systems in October 2019.
    The United States has repeatedly warned Turkey that going through with the purchase of S-400s could result in Washington imposing sanctions and halting other weapons deals, such as the F-35, but Ankara has pressed on with the Russian transaction.
    Turkey is due to receive its third and fourth jets in March next year.    Its pilots are receiving training on the first two aircraft at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.    The earliest the first aircraft could leave the United States is next summer, although it may take longer than that.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Berlin; Patricia Zengerle and Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler)

11/16/2018 Saudi Arabia defies U.S. pressure to end Qatar row after Khashoggi killing by Katie Paul and Rania El Gamal
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir
in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 16, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/Pool/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is defying U.S. calls to mend ties with Qatar despite signs that pressure to end another regional crisis, the Yemen war, has had an impact on Riyadh since the killing of a prominent journalist.
    Jamal Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 caused a global outcry, opened Saudi Arabia to the possibility of sanctions and damaged the image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
    Washington believes it has more influence over Riyadh as its ally tries to repair the damage to the kingdom’s standing, and wants to use this leverage to end the Yemen war and rebuild Gulf unity against Iran, four sources familiar with the matter said.
    On one front, there is movement.
    In an apparent response to U.S. and British pressure for a ceasefire in Yemen by the end of this month, the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-aligned Houthi rebels halted an offensive on the main port city of Hodeidah on Thursday.
    Maintaining pressure on Riyadh, Washington imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials for their role in Khashoggi’s killing later on Thursday, and U.S. senators introduced draft legislation which, if it became law, would suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the journalist’s death and the Yemen war.
    Saudi authorities did not respond to requests for comment.    A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said Washington had been calling for a resolution throughout the Qatar and Yemen crises.
    “We continue to engage on both of these issues with our partners in the region, including Saudi Arabia,” the spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said.
    “Gulf unity is essential to our common interests of confronting Iran’s malign influence, countering terrorism, and ensuring a prosperous future for all of our Gulf partners.”
QATAR RIFT RUNS DEEP
    The United States sees Saudi Arabia as a crucial player in the efforts to build unity in the Gulf to contain Iran’s influence in the Middle East, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Riyadh soon after Khashoggi’s killing.
    But Washington sees the Yemen war as a destabilizing factor in the region and wants an end to the conflict, which has killed more than 10,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
    Saudi Arabia and its ally, the United Arab Emirates, also now have reasons to exit the war as it has proved costly and reached stalemate.
    Since the death of Khashoggi, a Saudi national and U.S. resident who was critical of the Crown Prince, U.S. officials have also sought to sway Riyadh over its row with Qatar.
    Gulf unity, which Washington considers a bulwark against Iran, was shattered when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed trade and transport ties in June 2017, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and Iran — charges Doha denies.
    “They are seizing the opportunity to try to end the Qatar dispute,” a source with knowledge of U.S. policy said.
    Washington had wanted Gulf unity restored, to help contain Iran’s influence in the region, before new sanctions went into force against Tehran over its nuclear program on Nov. 4, two of the sources said.
    Western hopes that Riyadh might mend ties with Doha had been raised by a comment Prince Mohammed made on the strength of Qatar’s economy at an investment forum on Oct. 25.
    But diplomats and Gulf sources say they have seen no new ideas or concrete moves by Riyadh or its allies to end the row with tiny but wealthy Qatar.
    “I don’t see any change on Qatar.    The crown prince’s message was interpreted wrongly.    He was sending a message to America … ‘Don’t get worried about Qatar because you still have a strong economy in Qatar’,” one Arab diplomat told Reuters.
    Each of the boycotting countries is an ally of Riyadh and has longstanding political and security differences with Qatar.
    A Gulf source said Prince Mohammed, known as MbS, would avoid any move that could be interpreted as weakness as he tries to recover from the diplomatic fallout over Khashoggi.
    Riyadh offered contradictory explanations for Khashoggi’s disappearance before saying he was killed in a rogue operation.    King Salman, who stepped in to defuse the crisis, has stood by his chosen heir, in whose hands he has concentrated power.
CONTAINING THE CRISIS
    Kuwait said this month there was a “positive view to contain the Gulf crisis,” and a source familiar with U.S. policy said diplomats were putting forward a plan on Qatar.
    But neither side seems ready to cede ground.
    Qatar’s foreign ministry spokeswoman said last month that Khashoggi’s death should serve as a “wake-up call.”    Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said on Tuesday he did not expect a thaw soon.
    “I am very pessimistic about this.    With the current (Saudi and UAE) leadership I don’t see that there is any way that things may be loosened up,” he told reporters.    “The only face-saving way for them to get out is to apologize.”
    Abu Dhabi says the dispute is not a priority, according to three diplomats and other sources familiar with Gulf policy.
    “The Qataris are raising the price for resolving the crisis,” said one Western diplomat.    “The Emiratis are happy to keep the Qataris isolated.”
    Qatar and UAE authorities did not respond to requests for comment.
    Riyadh and Abu Dhabi continue to reassure Washington that the dispute will not deter the formation of a proposed Middle East security alliance, which would include Doha, diplomats said.
    They said the UAE still strongly supports MbS against Iran and on his economic and social reforms, seen by Abu Dhabi as essential to replicating the UAE model of a business-friendly, tolerant Muslim society to combat extremism.
    “The Emiratis see Saudi Arabia as the only choice to lead the region.    They haven’t blinked in their belief that Riyadh’s reform plans are the best and only option,” said Elizabeth Dickinson, Senior Analyst for the Arabian Peninsula at the International Crisis Group.
(Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin in Riyadh, David Brunnstrom in Washington, Dmitry Zhdannikov in London, Belén Carreño in Madrid, Eric Knecht in Doha and Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

11/16/2018 Israel’s Netanyahu takes over defense job as coalition falters
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits next to Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett
during a session of the plenum of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem, March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will take over the defense portfolio in his government after his defense minister resigned this week, a spokesman for his Likud Party said on Friday, fuelling speculation of an early election.
    Earlier Netanyahu met with key coalition partner Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party, who had sought the post for himself, but the two men emerged without an agreement.
    Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition government was rocked by Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation on Wednesday in protest at a ceasefire reached between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
    Lieberman’s far-right Yisrael Beitenu party has quit the coalition and its five MPs have withdrawn support for the government.
    After Bennett and Netanyahu’s meeting, a spokesman for the PM’s Likud Party said that for now Netanyahu would handle the defense portfolio himself.
    The premier then spoke by phone with the rest of his coalition partners, urging them to “make every effort not to bring down the right-wing government” and to prevent the left from getting into power, the spokesman said.
    A source close to Bennett said that after his meeting with Netanyahu “it became clear … there was a need to go to elections as soon as possible with no possibility of continuing the current government.”
    Israeli media reported that other coalition partners would oppose Bennett, who leads an ultra-nationalist, religious party, becoming defense minister.
    An election date would be decided on Sunday, the source close to Bennett said.
    Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who heads the centrist Kulanu party, has also called for a vote to be held before the scheduled date next November.
    Before the crisis Netanyahu’s coalition had 66 seats in the 120-seat parliament.    The loss of Lieberman’s five has brought him down to a perilous 61.    Losing Bennett’s eight means Netanyahu would lose his majority.
    Opinion polls show that Netanyahu’s Likud would be likely to remain the dominant party after a parliamentary election.
    Netanyahu, a conservative serving his fourth term as premier, is under investigation for corruption.
    Commentators say he may agree to bring the ballot forward in order to win a renewed mandate before the attorney-general decides whether to indict him.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Andrew Roche)

11/16/2018 U.S. opposes U.N. Golan resolution, wins Israeli praise
FILE PHOTO: An Israeli soldier stands near the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights
on the border line between Israel and Syria, October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The United States opposed on Friday for the first time an annual draft resolution at the United Nations calling on Israel to rescind its authority in the occupied Golan Heights, drawing praise from Israeli officials.
    The Golan Heights form a buffer between Israel and Syria of about 1,200 square km (460 square miles).    Israel captured most of it from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.    It annexed the territory in 1981, a move not recognized internationally.
    The United States has abstained in previous years on “Occupied Syrian Golan” resolution, which declares Israel’s decision to impose its jurisdiction in the area “null and void,” but U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Thursday that Washington would vote against the resolution.
    “The United States will no longer abstain when the United Nations engages in its useless annual vote on the Golan Heights,” she said in a statement.
    “The resolution is plainly biased against Israel.    Further, the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone,” she added.
    Despite the U.S. opposition, a U.N. General Assembly committee approved the draft resolution on Friday with 151 votes in favor and 14 abstentions.    Only Israel joined the United States in voting no.    The General Assembly is due to formally adopt the resolution next month.
    The U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said in September he expected Israel to keep the Golan Heights in perpetuity, in an apparent nod toward its claim of sovereignty over the territory.
    Since early in Donald Trump’s presidency, Israel has lobbied for formal U.S. endorsement of its control of the Golan.    Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with other world powers, though his national security adviser John Bolton told Reuters in August a similar Golan move was not under discussion.
    In the past two years, Trump has twice ordered U.S.-led air strikes against targets in Syria in response to what Washington called the use of chemical weapons against civilians by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
    Israeli officials praised the U.S. move.
    Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called it “extremely important,” saying on Twitter that “no sane person can believe that it (the Golan) should be given to Assad & Iran.”
    Tehran has supported Assad during the civil war and Israel has been warning against Iranian military entrenchment in Syria.
    Israel has closely monitored the fighting in Syria, where just across the Golan frontier battles have raged in clear view.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Gareth Jones and James Dalgleish)

11/17/2018 CIA believes Saudi crown prince ordered journalist’s killing: sources by Mark Hosenball
FILE PHOTO: Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi speaks at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor
in London Britain, September 29, 2018. Middle East Monitor/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The CIA believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday, complicating President Donald Trump’s efforts to preserve ties with a key U.S. ally.
    The sources said the CIA had briefed other parts of the U.S. government, including Congress, on its assessment, which contradicts Saudi government assertions that Prince Mohammed was not involved.
    The CIA’s finding, first reported by the Washington Post, is the most definitive U.S. assessment to date tying Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler directly to the killing.
    Both the White House and the State Department declined to comment.
    “The claims in this purported assessment is false,” a spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington said in a statement.    “We have and continue to hear various theories without seeing the primary basis for these speculations.”
    Trump and top officials of his administration have said Saudi Arabia must be held to account for any involvement in Khashoggi’s death, but they have also stressed the importance of the U.S.-Saudi alliance.
    U.S. officials have said Saudi Arabia, a major oil supplier, plays an important part in countering what they see as Iran’s malign role in the region, and Trump has repeatedly said he does not want to imperil U.S. arms sales to the kingdom.
    While the Trump administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on 17 Saudis for their role in Khashoggi’s killing, many lawmakers think the United States should take a tougher stance, and the CIA’s findings are likely to embolden that view.
    Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government and a columnist for the Washington Post, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 when he went there to pick up documents he needed for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman.
    Khashoggi had resisted pressure from Riyadh for him to return home.    Saudi officials have said a team of 15 Saudi nationals were sent to confront Khashoggi at the consulate and that he was accidentally killed in a chokehold by men who were trying to force him to return to the kingdom.
    Turkish officials have said the killing was intentional and have been pressuring Saudi Arabia to extradite those responsible to stand trial.    An adviser to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accused Saudi Arabia of trying to cover up the murder.
    Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said on Thursday that he was seeking the death penalty for five suspects charged in the killing.    The prosecutor, Shalaan al-Shalaan, told reporters the crown prince knew nothing of the operation, in which Khashoggi’s body was dismembered and removed from the consulate.
    U.S. officials have been skeptical that Prince Mohammed would not have known about plans to kill Khashoggi, given his control over Saudi Arabia.
    The Post, citing people familiar with the matter, said the CIA’s assessment was based in part on a phone call the crown prince’s brother, Prince Khaled bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi.
    Prince Khaled told Khashoggi he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so, the Post said.
    The newspaper, citing people familiar with the call, said it was not clear if the prince knew Khashoggi would be killed but that he made the call at his brother’s direction.
    The prince said in a Twitter post on Friday that the last contact he had with Khashoggi was via text on Oct. 26, 2017, nearly a year before the journalist’s death.
    “I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason.    I ask the US government to release any information regarding this claim,” Prince Khaled said.
    The Post said the CIA also examined a call from inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after Khashoggi’s killing.
    Maher Mutreb, a security official who has often been seen at the crown prince’s side, made the call to Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Prince Mohammed, to inform him the operation had been completed, the Post said, citing people familiar with the call.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Additional reporting by David Alexander and Jeff Mason; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Sonya Hepinstall and Tom Hogue)

11/18/2018 Turkey says U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish YPG a “big mistake
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu
leave a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of the First World War,
at the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, France, November 11, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – The United States’ support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia is a “big mistake,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said late on Saturday, adding that the issue had strained ties between the NATO allies.
    Turkey has been infuriated with Washington’s support for the YPG, which it views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.
    U.S.-Turkey ties have been strained over issues including U.S. policy in Syria, the case of an American pastor in Turkey, and Turkey’s demands for the extradition of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a 2016 failed coup.
    Cavusoglu, who is in the United States on an official visit, said tensions between Ankara and Washington stemmed from U.S. support for the YPG and the issue of Gulen, against whom he said the FBI had launched an investigation.
    “Despite knowing and acknowledging that (the YPG) is the same organisation (as the PKK), seeing this cooperation as necessary is really a big mistake,” Cavusoglu said, adding that he would discuss bilateral relations with his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo on Tuesday.
    On Sunday, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said he had told U.S. Chief of Staff Joseph Dunford that Turkey expected the United States to stop its support for the YPG as soon as possible, according to the state-owned Anadolu news agency.
    “We reiterated our warnings and stated that we expected our U.S. counterparts to take the necessary measures and end their relationship with the YPG, which is no different than the PKK, as soon as possible,” Akar was quoted as saying.
    “We reminded them that the United States, our ally and strategic partner here (Syria), and U.S. soldiers cooperating with such an organisation (YPG) cannot be acceptable in any way,” he said.
    Tensions between the NATO allies have eased slightly in the last month following pastor Andrew Brunson’s release and the beginning of joint patrols in Syria’s Manbij as part of a roadmap agreed by the two countries in June.
    The two countries last month also lifted mutual sanctions against top officials, imposed in response to Brunson’s detention and arrest.
    Earlier this month, Washington pledged millions of dollars to help capture three top PKK militants in a move that Turkey welcomed, but said was late and insufficient.
    Since the attempted putsch, Turkey has jailed 77,000 people as they face trial, suspending or dismissing some 150,000 civil servants and military personnel over alleged links to Gulen.
    “On both issues, we are not only a hundred percent, but a thousand percent right,” Cavusoglu said.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dale Hudson)

11/18/2018 Yemen’s Houthis halt missile attacks on Saudi coalition by Aziz El Yaakoubi
FILE PHOTO: A police trooper stands guard as wounded Houthi fighters demonstrate outside
the United Nations offices to demand for medical treatment abroad, in Sanaa, Yemen September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthi movement said on Monday it was halting drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their Yemeni allies, responding to a demand from the United Nations.
    International pressure has mounted on Yemen’s warring parties to end the war that has killed more than 10,000 people and pushed the country to the verge of starvation.
    The move from the Houthi group came after the Saudi-led coalition ordered a halt in its offensive against Yemen’s main port city Hodeidah, which has become the focus of the war.
    “After our contacts with the U.N. envoy and his request to stop drone and missile strikes … We announce our initiative … to halt missile and drone strikes on the countries of aggression,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said in a statement.
    U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths is trying to salvage peace talks after a round in September collapsed when the Houthis did not show up.    He hopes to convene talks before the end of the year in Sweden to agree on a framework for peace under a transitional government.
    Yemen’s parties have given “firm assurances” they are committed to attending peace talks to be convened shortly, Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council on Friday, and pledged to escort the Houthi delegation from Sanaa if needed.
    The Iranian-aligned group which has been battling the Saudi-backed government for nearly four years added it was ready for a broader ceasefire if “the Saudi-led coalition wants peace.”
    “(The decision) came to support the U.N. envoy, to show good faith and support the peace efforts,” the statement said.
    Saudi Arabia and the UAE both have said they support U.N.-led peace talks.
    The Houthis say their missile attacks on Saudi Arabia are in retaliation for air raids on Yemen by the Western-backed coalition, which entered Yemen’s war in 2015 to try to restore the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
    The coalition has carried out thousands of air strikes in the impoverished country that have hit schools, markets and hospitals, killing hundreds of people – though it says it does not target civilians.
    The Houthis last July unilaterally halted attacks in the Red Sea to support peace efforts, after Saudi Arabia suspended temporarily oil exports through a strategic Red Sea channel following attacks on crude tankers.
    Key Western allies including the United States have been urgently calling for a ceasefire ahead of the renewed U.N. efforts.
    Western countries have provided arms and intelligence to the Arab states in the alliance, but have shown increasing reservations about the conflict since the murder of U.S.-based Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul early last month.
(Additional reporting by Hesham Hajali in Cairo; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Chris Reese)

11/18/2018 Israel’s Netanyahu to give statement amid signs of early election
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as he attends a state memorial ceremony
for former Prime Minister Golda Meir at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem November 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a televised statement on Sunday after making a last-ditch effort to avoid the collapse of a coalition government weakened by the resignation of his defense minister.
    Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, has met over the past few days with coalition partners who have been calling for an early election.    Political pundits predict a snap vote could come as early as March, instead of November as scheduled.
    Netanyahu’s office said he would make a statement to reporters at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT), giving no details.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

11/18/2018 Netanyahu urges coalition partners not to bring down government by Jeffrey Heller
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting
at his office in Jerusalem October 28, 2018. Oded Balilty/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged his coalition partners on Sunday not to bring down the government, citing security challenges ahead and hinting at future Israeli military action against its enemies.
    Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, has been making last-ditch efforts to avoid the collapse of the government, weakened by the resignation of his defence minister.    Political pundits predict a snap vote could come as soon as March, instead of November as scheduled.
    “I spoke with all the coalition heads.    I told them this is the time to show responsibility – don’t bring down the government, especially not at this security-sensitive time,” he said in televised remarks.
    Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation, announced on Wednesday over what he described as the government’s lenient policy towards an upsurge of cross-border violence with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, left the government with a majority of only one seat in parliament.
    That put the fate of Netanyahu’s coalition at the mercy of its partners, who have seen the four-term prime minister’s popularity take a rare hit in an opinion poll that showed Israelis were unhappy with him over Gaza.
    Earlier Netanyahu met with his finance minister, Moshe Kahlon of the centre-right Kulanu party, who has urged setting an early election date.
    Hitting back at criticism of his decision to accept a ceasefire with Gaza’s rulers Hamas, Netanyahu dropped heavy hints about a future Israeli military offensive.
    “We have an entire year until the election.    We are in the midst of a campaign and you don’t pull out in the middle of a campaign or play politics.    State security is beyond politics,” he said.    “I will not say this evening when we will act and how.    I have a clear plan.    I know what to do and when to do it.    And we will do it.”
RAZOR-THIN MAJORITY
    Kahlon said on Saturday that governing with a one-seat majority was unsustainable.
    His call was echoed by members of the nationalist Jewish Home whose head, Naftali Bennett, asked to succeed Lieberman as defence chief but was turned down by Netanyahu who kept the job for himself.
    Minutes before Netanyahu’s speech, Jewish Home announced that Bennett and another minister from his party would make an announcement in parliament on Monday, raising speculation they would resign and strip the prime minister of his majority.
    A poll published on Wednesday by Hadashot TV news showed Likud falling to 29 from 30 parliamentary seats after months of polls that have shown it gaining power.
    Only 17 percent of respondents were happy with Netanyahu’s policy toward Gaza, where he agreed to a ceasefire – dubbed by Lieberman as “surrender” – after militants from its ruling Hamas group launched almost 500 rockets into Israel on Monday and Tuesday and Israel carried out dozens of air raids.
    Netanyahu’s re-election chances could also be affected by a series of corruption cases against him in which Israel’s attorney-general is weighing his indictment.
    An election would complicate promised moves by the United States towards reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts that collapsed in 2014.    The Trump administration has said it would unveil a peace plan soon.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and David Evans)

11/18/2018 Central African war crimes suspect ‘Rambo’ handed to global court by Toby Sterling and Stephanie van den Berg
FILE PHOTO: A Bangladeshi United Nations peacekeeping soldier stands among houses destroyed by violence
in September, in the abandoned village of Yade, Central African Republic April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A war crimes suspect wanted for alleged murder, deportation and torture of Muslims in the Central African Republic has been handed over to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the tribunal said.
    CAR officials transferred Alfred Yekatom on Saturday to officials from the global court, which is investigating six years of violence that has destabilised a region at the heart of the continent.
    Yekatom, a sitting MP once nicknamed “Rambo, had been under arrest in Central African Republic since Oct. 29, when during a parliamentary session he first pointed a gun at a fellow lawmaker and then shot twice at the ceiling.
    CAR government officials did not respond to requests for comment, but the country’s justice minister was expected to make a statement on Monday.
    Yekatom was handed over to ICC officials on Saturday and arrived in the court’s detention centre in the Hague in the early hours of Sunday, the ICC registry’s spokesman said.
    There was no immediate comment from Yekatom or any lawyers representing him.
    A U.N. commission of inquiry found that Christian militias under Yekatom had carried out war crimes and crimes against humanity by targeting Muslims.
    The International Criminal Court – set up to prosecute the worst crimes when member countries can not or will not do so – issued a sealed arrest warrant for Yekatom on Nov. 11.
    “We allege Mr. Yekatom is criminally responsible for several counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the Central African Republic between 5 December 2013 and August 2014,” International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.
    “Now, he must answer in court for his actions.”
WARRANTS, CHARGES
    Bensouda is carrying out two separate investigations into conflicts in the Central African Republic.    Yekatom’s arrest is the first in the more recent conflict.
    A pre-trial chamber found reason to suspect Yekatom of commanding around 3,000 members of an armed group operating within the Anti-Balaka movement, which was carrying out systematic attacks against the Muslim population.
    Among the charges in the warrant are murder, cruel treatment, deportation, imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance, and the recruitment of child soldiers under the age of 15.
    The former French colony, one of Africa’s poorest countries despite reserves of gold and diamonds, was plunged into chaos when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels started attacking towns and grabbing territory before seizing power in March 2013.
    Seleka’s rule prompted a backlash from Christian militia known as anti-balaka.    Under international pressure Seleka handed power to a transitional government but the move effectively partitioned the country and bloody clashes continue.
    No date has been set yet for Yekatom’s initial appearance, but he must be brought before a judge within several days under court rules.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in the Hague, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Paul Logerie in Bangui.; Editing by Robin Pomeroy, Andrew Heavens and David Evans)

11/18/2018 Copts inaugurate renovated St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo
A worker takes part in the renovation work of Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral
in Cairo, Egypt, October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Shokry Hussein
    CAIRO (Reuters) – After more than three years of renovation, St. Mark’s in Cairo, the main cathedral of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, was inaugurated on Sunday.
    The facelift was ordered to mark the golden jubilee of the cathedral, the official headquarters of the Coptic Church, the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East.    Hundreds of engineers and artists helped renovate the cathedral, built in 1968.
    The church houses more than 100 religious icons, including some drawn to commemorate Copts killed in Islamist militant attacks over the past years.    The renovations were overshadowed by a 2016 suicide bombing that killed 25 people in a chapel.
    Dozens of priests and altar boys in red, white and gold robes surrounded Pope Tawadros II as he led the inauguration mass, under the gleam of stained glass windows.
    “This is a day of joy and the prayers are those of spiritual happiness,” said the pope, according to state news agency MENA.
    In the Dec. 11, 2016 attack, a bomber wearing an explosives belt blew himself up at a chapel used by women adjacent to the cathedral, killing 25 people and wounding 49.
    No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Copts, who comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s nearly 100 million people, have long been targeted by Islamist militants who see them as heretics.
    At least 120 Christians have been killed in attacks since 2014.
(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

11/18/2018 Egypt and Ethiopia to discuss Nile dam dispute: PM
Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly speaks at the opening ceremony for the first
China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, China November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/Pool
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt said on Sunday it would hold talks with Ethiopia in the next two weeks to iron out differences over an Ethiopian dam on the River Nile that Cairo sees as a threat to its water supplies.
    The two countries and Sudan have held a series of meetings over the $4 billion hydroelectric Grand Renaissance Dam, but have yet to reach a deal on managing flows and other issues.
    Egypt fears the scheme will restrict the waters coming down down from Ethiopia’s highlands, through the deserts of Sudan, to its fields and reservoirs.    Ethiopia, which wants to become Africa’s biggest power exporter, says it will have no such impact.
    Egypt’s prime minister, Mostafa Madbouly, said he and his Ethiopian counterpart, Abiy Ahmed, agreed “to start bilateral discussions in the next two weeks to agree on the points that remain unagreed,” state news agency MENA reported.
    MENA cited Abiy as saying he wanted to preserve Egypt’s Nile river rights.
    The dam was scheduled to be finished by 2020, but Abiy said in August it would be delayed by several years.
(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Andrew Heavens)

11/18/2018 Jordan’s parliament passes IMF-backed tax law to reduce public debt by Suleiman Al-Khalidi
Jordan's Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz speaks during a news
conference in Amman, Jordan June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Jordan’s parliament approved a new IMF-backed tax law on Sunday after introducing some changes in a move to push ahead with crucial fiscal reforms to lower record public debt needed to get the economy hit by regional conflict back on track.
    A majority of deputies in the chamber approved a series of amendments in the 36-article bill that included raising family exemptions to mitigate its impact on middle class income earners.
    Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar al Razzaz earlier warned deputies the kingdom will pay a heavy price if parliament failed to approve the legislation, a main plank of austerity measures to ease a fiscal crunch and spur stagnant growth hovering at around 2 percent in recent years.
    The bill will still need to go to the upper house or senate for approval before it is enacted as law.    It is expected to be effective early next year, officials said.
    Razzaz told deputies who were debating the legislation that failure to approve the bill would mean the kingdom would have to pay even higher interest rates on its substantial foreign debt.
    Razzaz said the law promotes social justice by targeting the wealthy and combats long-time corporate tax evaders, but opposition deputies argue it will hurt the already stagnant economy and diminish middle-class incomes.
    “The individuals who will be affected are the top 12 percent income earners, it won’t affect middle and low income earners,” Razzaz told deputies.
    The government sent the bill to parliament in September after withdrawing an earlier draft submitted by a previous government that triggered protests over the summer.
    Earlier this year, Jordan increased a general sales tax and scrapped a subsidy on bread as part of a three-year fiscal plan agreed with the International Monetary Fund, which aims to cut public debt of $37 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of gross domestic product.
    The debt is at least in part due to successive governments adopting an expansionist fiscal policy characterized by job creation in the bloated public sector, and by lavish subsidies for bread and other staple goods.
    Razzaz said rejection of the tax legislation would have pushed higher the cost of servicing over 1 billion dinars ($1.4 billion) of foreign debt due in 2019, raising the prospect of rating agencies downgrading Jordan’s credit ratings.
    “We will pay a heavy price if we don’t approve this law,” he said before the vote.
    The government has also echoed IMF concerns that without these reforms public external debt will spiral.
    Debt service would peak in 2019-2020 at about 6.5 percent of GDP with the Eurobonds that will be due.
    The country’s economic growth has been hit in the last few years by high unemployment and regional conflict weighing on investor sentiment and as demand generated from Syrian refugee receded, according to the IMF.
    Economists said Jordan’s ability to maintain a costly subsidy system and a large state bureaucracy was increasingly untenable in the absence of large foreign capital inflows or injections of foreign aid, which have dwindled as the Syrian crisis has gone on.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Susan Fenton and David Evans)

11/19/2018 Israeli coalition crisis eases, making early election less likely by Jeffrey Heller
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to attend the Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee at the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, in Jerusalem November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition crisis eased on Monday when a coalition partner backed off a demand to be given the defense ministry, making an early election less likely.
    Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s U-turn surprised many pundits, who had predicted the leader of the far-right Jewish Home party would opt to quit in protest.    He said the party was withdrawing all its political demands and would stand by the prime minister.
    “You win some, you lose some,” Bennett said in a televised address, shrugging off Netanyahu’s rejection of his bid.
    Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, has been making last-ditch efforts to prevent the collapse of the government, which has had a majority of just one seat in parliament since Avigdor Lieberman resigned as defense chief last week.
    Had Bennett withdrawn his party from the weakened coalition, Netanyahu – who has assumed the defense post himself – would have been left with a minority government, making a snap election likely.
    Lieberman, an ultranationalist, lashed out in his resignation announcement against what he described as the government’s leniency toward Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, amid a surge in cross-border violence.
    In a speech late on Sunday, Netanyahu urged coalition partners not to bring down the government, citing security challenges ahead and hinting at future action by Israel against its enemies.
    An opinion poll last week suggested that Israelis were unhappy with the four-term prime minister over Gaza, causing a rare dip in his popularity ratings.
    “We have an entire year until the election.    We are in the midst of a campaign and you don’t pull out in the middle of a campaign or play politics.    National security is beyond politics,” Netanyahu said in his speech on Sunday.
    “I will not say this evening when we will act and how.    I have a clear plan.    I know what to do and when to do it.    And we will do it.”
    Bennett referred to Netanyahu’s address in saying that Jewish Home, which has eight of parliament’s 120 legislators, would remain in his coalition.
    “If the prime minister is serious, and I want to believe his words last night, then I say here to the prime minister: We are withdrawing all our political demands and we will stand by you in this mighty task, so that Israel starts winning again.”
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Maayan Lubell; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

11/19/2018 Nigerian opposition’s Abubakar to boost oil investment if wins election: manifesto by Alexis Akwagyiram and Paul Carsten
FILE PHOTO: Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president, attends the national convention of
Nigeria's opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP), in the southern city of Port Harcourt
in the Niger Delta, Nigeria October 6, 2018. REUTERS/Tife Owolabi/File Photo
    LAGOS/ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerian opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar will seek to boost investment in the oil sector if he becomes president next year, according to a draft copy of his manifesto.
    He plans to re-consider introducing bidding rounds for marginal fields and oil blocks, privatizing government-owned crude refineries and issuing new licenses for greenfield investments in refineries, the draft said.
    In the presidential election scheduled for February, Abubakar, the main opposition People’s Democratic Party candidate, will seek to prevent President Muhammadu Buhari from securing a second term.
    Nigeria’s is Africa’s largest producer of crude and remains largely dependent on sales of oil, which make up roughly two-thirds of government revenues, despite years of administration promises to diversify the economy.
    Abubakar’s draft re-iterated his plan to partially privatize state oil firm Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
    He has taken a pro-business stance that he says will boost Nigeria’s economy, which has struggled since Buhari took office.
    A large part of that is due to global oil price declines outside the administration’s control, though Buhari’s government has tried to keep tight control of exchange rates as the naira weakened, discouraging foreign investors.
(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos and Paul Carsten in Abuja; Editing by John Stonestreet)

11/19/2018 Exclusive: After Khashoggi murder, some Saudi royals turn against king’s favorite son
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a session of the Shura Council in
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 19, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – Amid international uproar over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, some members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are agitating to prevent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from becoming king, three sources close to the royal court said.
    Dozens of princes and cousins from powerful branches of the Al Saud family want to see a change in the line of succession but would not act while King Salman – the crown prince’s 82-year-old father – is still alive, the sources said.    They recognize that the king is unlikely to turn against his favorite son, known in the West as MbS.
    Rather, they are discussing the possibility with other family members that after the king’s death, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, 76, a younger full brother of King Salman and uncle of the crown prince, could take the throne, according to the sources.
    Prince Ahmed, King Salman’s only surviving full brother, would have the support of family members, the security apparatus and some Western powers, one of the Saudi sources said.
    Prince Ahmed returned to Riyadh in October after 2-1/2 months abroad.    During the trip, he appeared to criticize the Saudi leadership while responding to protesters outside a London residence chanting for the downfall of the Al Saud dynasty.    He was one of only three people on the Allegiance Council, made up of the ruling family’s senior members, who opposed MbS becoming crown prince in 2017, two Saudi sources said at the time.
    Neither Prince Ahmed nor his representatives could be reached for comment.    Officials in Riyadh did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on succession issues.
    The House of Saud is made up of hundreds of princes. Unlike typical European monarchies, there is no automatic succession from father to eldest son.    Instead the kingdom’s tribal traditions dictate that the king and senior family members from each branch select the heir they consider fittest to lead.
(Saudi royal family: https://tmsnrt.rs/2OGPHTB)
    Senior U.S. officials have indicated to Saudi advisers in recent weeks that they would support Prince Ahmed, who was deputy interior minister for nearly 40 years, as a potential successor, according to Saudi sources with direct knowledge of the consultations.
    These Saudi sources said they were confident that Prince Ahmed would not change or reverse any of the social or economic reforms enacted by MbS, would honor existing military procurement contracts and would restore the unity of the family.
    One senior U.S. official said the White House is in no hurry to distance itself from the crown prince despite pressure from lawmakers and the CIA’s assessment that MbS ordered Khashoggi’s murder, though that could change once Trump gets a definitive report on the killing from the intelligence community.
    The official also said the White House saw it as noteworthy that King Salman seemed to stand by his son in a speech in Riyadh on Monday and made no direct reference to Khashoggi’s killing, except to praise the Saudi public prosecutor.
    President Donald Trump on Saturday called the CIA assessment that MbS ordered Khashoggi’s killing “very premature” but “possible,” and said he would receive a complete report on the case on Tuesday.    A White House official referred Reuters to those comments and had “nothing else to add at this time.”
    The Saudi sources said U.S. officials had cooled on MbS not only because of his suspected role in the murder of Khashoggi.    They are also rankled because the crown prince recently urged the Saudi defense ministry to explore alternative weapons supplies from Russia, the sources said.
    In a letter dated May 15, seen by Reuters, the crown prince requested that the defense ministry “focus on purchasing weapon systems and equipment in the most pressing fields” and get training on them, including the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
    Neither the Russian defense ministry nor officials in Riyadh immediately responded to Reuters requests for comment.
U.S. ROLE KEY
    The brutal killing of Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the crown prince, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month has drawn global condemnation, including from many politicians and officials in the United States, a key Saudi ally.    The CIA believes the crown prince ordered the killing, according to U.S. sources familiar with the assessment.
    Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has said the crown prince knew nothing of the killing.
    The international uproar has piled pressure on a royal court already divided over 33-year-old Prince Mohammed’s rapid rise to power.    Since his ascension, the prince has gained popular support with high-profile social and economic reforms including ending a ban on women driving and opening cinemas in the conservative kingdom.
    His reforms have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, a purge of top royals and businessmen on corruption charges, and a costly war in Yemen.
    He has also marginalized senior members of the royal family and consolidated control over Saudi’s security and intelligence agencies.
    He first ousted then-powerful crown prince and interior minister Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN), 59, in June 2017.    Then he removed Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, 65, son of the late King Abdullah, as head of the National Guard and detained him as part of an anti-corruption campaign.
    Some 30 other princes were also arrested, mistreated, humiliated and stripped of their wealth, even as MbS splashed out on palaces, a $500 million yacht, and set a new record in the international art market with the purchase of a painting by Italian Renaissance engineer and painter Leonardo Da Vinci.
    The entire House of Saud has emerged weakened as a result.
    According to one well-placed Saudi source, many princes from senior circles in the family believe a change in the line of succession “would not provoke any resistance from the security or intelligence bodies he controls” because of their loyalty to the wider family.
    “They (the security apparatus) will follow any consensus reached by the family.”
    Officials in Riyadh did not respond to a request for comment.
    The United States, a key ally in economic and security terms, is likely to be a determining factor in how matters unfold in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi sources and diplomats say.
    Trump and his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner have cultivated deep personal relationships with the crown prince.    One Saudi insider said MbS feels he still has their support and is willing to “roll some heads to appease the U.S.
    But Trump and top administration officials have said Saudi officials should be held to account for any involvement in Khashoggi’s death and have imposed sanctions on 17 Saudis for their alleged role – including one of MbS’s closest aides.
    U.S. lawmakers are meanwhile pushing legislation to punish Riyadh for the killing, and both Republican and Democratic senators have urged Trump to get tough on the crown prince.
    King Salman, 82, is aware of the consequences of a major clash with the United States and the possibility that Congress could try to freeze Saudi assets.
    Those who have met the king recently say he appeared to be in denial about the role of MbS in what happened, believing there to be a conspiracy against the kingdom.    But they added that he looked burdened and worried.
ALLEGIANCE COUNCIL
    When the king dies or is no longer be able to rule, the 34-member Allegiance Council, a body representing each line of the ruling family to lend legitimacy to succession decisions, would not automatically declare MbS the new king.
    Even as crown prince, MbS would still need the council to ratify his ascension, one of the three Saudi sources said.    While the council accepted King Salman’s wish to make MbS crown prince, it would not necessarily accept MbS becoming king when his father dies, especially given that he sought to marginalize council members.
    Officials in Riyadh did not respond to a request for comment.
    The Saudi sources say MbS has destroyed the institutional pillars of nearly a century of Al Saud rule: the family, the clerics, the tribes and the merchant families.    They say this is seen inside the family as destabilizing.
    Despite the controversy over Khashoggi’s killing, MbS is continuing to pursue his agenda.
    Some insiders believe he built his father a new but remote Red Sea palace in Sharma, at the Neom City development site — thrown up in a record one year at a cost of $2 billion — as a gilded cage for his retirement.
    The site is isolated, the closest city of Tabouk more than 100 km (60 miles) away.    Residence there would keep the king out of the loop on most affairs of state, one of the sources close to the royal family said.
    Officials in Riyadh did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Reuters correspondents; Editing by Nick Tattersall)

11/19/2018 Saudi king to open mine project, crown prince to attend G20
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a meeting with
U.N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the United Nations in New York on March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Levy/File Photo
    RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will inaugurate the Waad Al-Shamaal mining project on Thursday, Alarabiya TV said on Twitter, quoting energy minister Khalid al-Falih.
    The project will cost 85 billion riyals ($22.7 billion) and will create 10,000 jobs, according to Falih.    It is part of an industrial scheme aimed at opening up Saudi’s north to development that will boost job creation.
    Saudi authorities estimate the region holds 500 million tons of phosphate ore, around 7 percent of global proven reserves, mainly in the Al Jalamid and Umm Wu’al areas between Arar and Turaif.
    Falih also said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would participate in a G20 summit in Argentina at the end of the month.    Prince Mohammed will head to the gathering as part of a foreign trip, Al Arabiya reported Falih as saying.
    The kingdom is facing a global outcry over the murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s Istanbul consulate in early October, which has strained its ties with the West.
(Reporting by Marwa Rashad; additional reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by David Evans, William Maclean)

11/19/2018 Berlin imposes travel ban, arms freeze over Khashoggi killing
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany banned 18 Saudis suspected of involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi from much of Europe on Monday and moved to halt all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
    The bans bind all members of the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone, suggesting Germany is willing to use its influence as the EU’s largest country to push for a tougher line.
    Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the decision had been closely coordinated with France, which is part of the Schengen zone, and Britain, which is not, and EU states had expressed “great support” for the decision when he briefed them in Brussels on Monday.
    “We also had a joint statement on the issue this weekend, which indicates we are not satisfied with the results of the investigation thus far … and that we retain the right to take further steps,” he said.
    When asked on possible French action, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: “We are working very closely with Germany at this moment … and we will decide ourselves a certain number of sanctions very quickly over what we know (about the murder).”
    Germany had also pressured its arms manufacturers to stop authorized shipments, something a spokesman said meant: “there are currently no (arms) exports from Germany to Saudi Arabia,” Germany already suspended issuing future export weapons export licenses to Saudi Arabia last month.
    Any member of the 26-country Schengen area can unilaterally ban anyone it deems a security risk, although it unusual for a country to impose such a large number of bans at once in such a politically sensitive case.
    Those banned are the 15 members of the squad suspected of killing Khashoggi in Riyadh’s Istanbul consulate, and a further three suspected of organizing the murder, had been banned, Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said, without naming them.
    Asked if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was among them, Burger declined to comment.
    Saudi prosecutors said last week that the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, knew nothing of the operation, in which Khashoggi’s body was dismembered, removed from the building and handed over to an unidentified “local cooperator.”
    An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the ban would apply even if any of those affected held diplomatic passports.
    Defense industry experts said the main impact of Germany halting exports would be on the sale of patrol boats built by privately-held Luerrsen, jeopardizing 300 jobs at a shipyard in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and four Cobra counter-battery radar systems to be built by a consortium that includes France’s Thales, Airbus and Lockheed Martin of the United States.
    It remained unclear how the freeze would impact multinational programs such as the Eurofighter, built by a consortium of firms in Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.
    However, in response to a parliamentary query, the government said previous accords meant no Eurofighter partner nation could block a sale of jets or parts to other countries.
    BAE Systems, which led the Eurofighter campaign to win a 10-billion-pound ($12.86 billion) contract from Saudi Arabia for 48 new Eurofighter Typhoon jets, declined to comment.
    The company is still finalizing the deal after signing a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia in March.    About a third of their components would come from Germany.
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt, Riham Alkousaa and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

11/19/2018 Airbnb to remove listings in Israel’s West Bank settlements by Dan Williams
FILE PHOTO: A woman talks on the phone at the Airbnb office headquarters in the
SOMA district of San Francisco, California, U.S., August 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gabrielle Lurie
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Home-renting company Airbnb Inc said on Monday it would remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, a move Israel called a “wretched capitulation” to boycotters and Palestinians hailed as a step towards peace.
    The decision, affecting some 200 listings, would take effect in the coming days, Airbnb said.
    Israel captured the West Bank in a 1967 war.    Its settlements there are considered illegal by most world powers.
    Palestinians deem the settlements, and the military presence needed to protect them, to be obstacles to their goal of establishing a state.    Israel disputes this.
    “We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians,” Airbnb said on its website.
    “Our hope is that someday sooner rather than later, a framework is put in place where the entire global community is aligned so there will be a resolution to this historic conflict and a clear path forward for everybody to follow.”
    Palestinians and their supporters had long lobbied Airbnb to delist the settlements.    Israel strongly opposes such calls for boycotts, which it considers a biased approach to the conflict.
    Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin called Airbnb’s move “the most wretched of wretched capitulations to the boycott efforts.”
    Speaking on Israel’s Channel 13 television, he said Israel was not told of the decision in advance and that it would respond by backing lawsuits by settlement listers against Airbnb in U.S. courts.
    Waleed Assraf, head of a Palestinian anti-settlement group run by the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, welcomed Airbnb’s decision.    Should other companies follow suit, he told Reuters, “this will contribute to achieving peace.”
    Oded Revivi, mayor of the West Bank settlement of Efrat and a representative of the umbrella settler council Yesha, said Airbnb’s decision was contrary to the company’s stated mission of helping “to bring people together in as many places as possible around the world.”
    “When they make such a decision, they get involved with politics, which … is going to defeat the actual purpose of the enterprise itself,” Revivi told Reuters
    Human Rights Watch said the Airbnb move came on the eve of its publication of a 65-page report it has carried out into tourist rental listings in settlements, including by Airbnb.
    “Airbnb’s decision to end its listings in Israeli settlements is an important recognition that such listings can’t square with its human rights responsibilities,” the group said on Monday.    “We urge other companies to follow suit.”    The group said its report would be released on Tuesday morning.
    Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.
    Israel considers the West Bank, the biblical cradle of Judaism, as a security bulwark to the east.
    Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
    U.S.-sponsored peace talks have been stalled since 2014.
    San Francisco-basked Airbnb is eyeing an IPO next year after announcing in February it would not make a public debut this year.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Stephen Farrell; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

11/19/2018 Saudi king urges action against Iran, backs Yemen peace by Stephen Kalin
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud arrives to address the Shura Council
in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 19, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman urged the international community on Monday to halt Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and reiterated the kingdom’s support for U.N. efforts to end the war in Yemen.
    The king’s annual remarks to the Shura Council, a top governmental advisory body, were his first public comments since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, which caused a global outcry.
    King Salman, who did not mention the Khashoggi affair, condemned the actions of Iran, its rival for influence in the region, including in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
    “The Iranian regime has always intervened in the internal affairs of other countries, sponsored terrorism, created chaos and devastation in many countries in the region,” the 82-year-old monarch said.
    “The international community has to work to put an end to the Iranian nuclear program and stop its activities that threaten security and stability.”
    The king said Riyadh supported U.N. efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, where a Saudi-backed coalition has been battling Iran-aligned Houthi rebels for nearly four years to restore the internationally-recognized government.
    “Our standing by Yemen was not an option but a duty to support the Yemeni people in confronting the aggression of Iranian-backed militias,” he said.
    The Houthis said on Monday they were halting drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their Yemeni allies, and indicated readiness for a broader ceasefire if the Saudi-led coalition “wants peace.”
UNDER PRESSURE
    Riyadh has come under growing international criticism for its conduct of the Yemen war, which has brought the country to the brink of famine and killed many civilians in air strikes.
    The reputation of Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has been further battered by Khashoggi’s murder.
    The king had largely stepped back from active political life and handed extensive authority to his son and heir apparent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but is now trying to defuse the crisis caused by the murder and shore up the crown prince.
    Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, will participate in the G20 summit in Argentina at the end of the month as part of a foreign trip, Al Arabiya television quoted the country’s energy minister as saying on Monday.
    In his speech, King Salman said Riyadh would continue working with OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers to maintain stability in global energy markets.
    He reaffirmed Saudi support for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, a long-standing position thrown into question last year when the crown prince appeared to back a nascent U.S. peace plan that aligns with Israel on key issues.
    Later on Monday, the king traveled to the northern Tabuk region, resuming a domestic tour in the latest public outreach apparently intended to show support for his chosen heir.
    Last week, after offering numerous contradictory explanations for Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh said he had been killed and his body dismembered when “negotiations” to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.    The public prosecutor said it would seek the death penalty for five suspects in the case.
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said the order for the killing of Khashoggi came from the highest level of the Saudi leadership but probably not from King Salman, putting the spotlight instead on the 33-year-old crown prince.
    U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested ultimate responsibility lies with the prince as de facto ruler.    His administration has imposed economic and travel restrictions on a few individuals for alleged involvement, including a top aide to Prince Mohammed.
    On Monday the king signaled that the crown prince remains empowered to pursue ambitious economic reforms, praising a “comprehensive developmental transformation” underway.    He directed his son, sitting in the hall, “to focus on … preparing the new generation for future jobs.”
    King Salman also praised the Saudi judiciary and prosecution service for “performing the duties they were entrusted with,” without elaborating.
    In addition to the Khashoggi case, the public prosecutor has participated in an anti-corruption campaign ordered by Prince Mohammed last year in which scores of princes, ministers and businessmen were arrested and the state said it recovered $100 billion in stolen assets.
(Writing by Hadeel Al Sayegh and Stephen Kalin; Editing by Gareth Jones and Janet Lawrence)

11/19/2018 UAE fully complying with U.S. sanctions on Iran: official by Alexander Cornwell
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Abu Dhabi skyline is seen, December 15, 2009. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates. is fully complying with sanctions imposed this month by the United States on Iran even though it will mean a further drop in trade with Tehran, a UAE economy ministry official told Reuters on Monday.
    Abu Dhabi, the political capital of the UAE federation, has taken a hawkish stand on Tehran, although Dubai, the country’s business hub, has traditionally been a major trading partner with Iran.
    Washington announced on Nov. 5 a series of sanctions targeting Iran’s banks, shipping sector, national airline and 200 individuals after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of an international nuclear deal with Tehran.
    “We are implementing the sanctions,” Abdullah al-Saleh, undersecretary for foreign trade and industry, said in an interview in Dubai.
    The UAE is enforcing the U.S. sanction regime “as it is published by the United States,” al-Saleh said, adding that the relevant authorities would ensure compliance.
    Al-Saleh said the UAE’s trade with Iran is expected to decline this year and next year due to the sanctions, after falling to $17 billion in 2017 from a peak of $20 billion in 2013.
    The sanctions are part of a wider effort by the Trump administration to diminish Iranian influence in the Middle East.
    The UAE is among U.S. allies in the Gulf region that staunchly oppose Iranian foreign policy and swiftly backed Washington’s decision.    It is also a member of a Saudi-led coalition that is opposing the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen’s civil war.
    Compliance will mean UAE companies do not face difficulties in the United States, and the UAE government will look to boost trade with other markets such as Africa and Asia to offset the impact of the sanctions on its own economy, al-Saleh said, repeating an existing government policy to diversify trade.
    Trump’s administration has threatened those who continue to do Iran business with the prospect of losing access to the U.S. market, although it has given temporary exemptions to eight importing countries to keep buying Iranian oil.
    The European Union, France, Germany and Britain, which are trying to save the nuclear deal, have said they regret the U.S. decision and will seek to protect European companies doing legitimate business with Tehran.
(This version of the story changes day in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; editing by David Stamp)

11/19/2018 Saudi king to open $22.7-billion mining project on Thursday, Al Arabiya TV
FILE PHOTO - Saudi King Salman and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attend a graduation ceremony and air show
marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of King Faisal Air College in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
    RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will inaugurate on Thursday the Waad Al-Shamaal project, a 440-square-km city for mining industries in the country’s northern region, Al Arabiya TV said, quoting energy minister Khalid al-Falih.
    The project will cost 85 billion riyals ($22.7 billion) and create 10,000 jobs, Falih said.    It is part of an industrial scheme aimed at opening up Saudi’s north to development that will boost job creation.
    Mining is key to the kingdom’s reform plan to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons, as the government aims to more than triple this sector’s contribution to the nation’s economic output by 2030.
    Saudi authorities estimate the region holds 500 million tonnes of phosphate ore, around 7 percent of global proven reserves, mainly in the Al Jalamid and Umm Wu’al areas between Arar and Turaif.
    The energy ministry estimates the kingdom’s unused mineral resources to be valued at 5 trillion riyals.
    Saudi Arabia’s efforts to build an economy that does not rely on oil and state subsidies involves a shift towards mining vast untapped reserves of bauxite, the main source of aluminum, as well as phosphate, gold, copper and uranium.
    Al Arabiya quoted Falih as saying the mining sector will be open to foreign investment after introducing a new law, without giving further details.
    Currently Saudi Ma’aden <1211.SE> is the kingdom’s sole miner, producing gold and copper and has in recent years expanded into the production of aluminum and phosphates.    It is 65 percent owned by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.
    Ma’aden, which is also the Gulf’s largest miner, was developing its third project to manufacture phosphate fertilisers at its Waad al-Shamal facility at an estimated cost of 24 billion riyals.
(Reporting by Marwa Rashad; additional reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by David Evans)

11/20/2018 Israeli coalition crisis threatens future of U.S.-led peace plan by OAN Newsroom
    Israel is narrowly avoiding a coalition crisis as Education Minister Naftali Bennett backs off of a threat to pull his Jewish Home party from the government.
    Bennett threatened a withdraw late Sunday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he would be taking over as Israel’s defense minister, following the departure of former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
    “If the prime minister is serious, and I want to believe his words last night, then I say here to the prime minister: we are withdrawing all our political demands and we will stand by you in this mighty task so that Israel starts winning again,” stated Bennett.
    Had he withdrawn his party, a snap election would have been likely.
FILE – In this Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
right, sits with Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett during the weekly
cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. (Abir Sultan/pool photo via AP, File)
    Netanyahu’s party still holds a slim majority — 61 of 120 seats — in Israel’s parliament as the prime minister has been scrambling to prevent a government collapse.
    Netanyahu has also faced push-back on what has been viewed by some as a “lenient” approach to increasing violence with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip as both Bennett and Lieberman called for a tougher response.
    Some citizens of Israel have also been publicly vocal about their disappointment in the prime minister’s decisions.
    All of this is heading into the 2019 Israel elections, and the question of whether or not Netanyahu can keep control.
    “We are in the midst of a campaign that is not over yet,” stated the Israel prime minister.    “In such a security-sensitive time, it’s irresponsible to bring down the government.”
    Uncertainty in the future of the government has introduced uncertainty into a Trump administration-led peace plan, which was to be introduced in February to begin discussions.
    Reports have indicated U.S. officials don’t want to add potential obstacles into Netanyahu’s future as prime minister as he heads into another election.    Netanyahu has won three successive elections since 2009 and is favored to win again in 2019.
    Members of the Trump administration — including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner — are slated to meet with the president to discuss the Israel-Palestine peace plan and the timing for its release.

11/20/2018 Libyan Sufis celebrate Prophet’s birthday despite security fears by Ulf Laessing and Aidan Lewis
Libyan Sufi Muslims chant and beat drums during a procession to commemorate Prophet Mohammad's birthday,
also known as Mawlid, in the old city of the Libyan capital Tripoli, Libya November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Hundreds of Libyan Sufis packed the narrow streets of Tripoli’s walled old city to celebrate the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday on Tuesday, chanting hymns to the beat of drums and cymbals.
    Participants dressed in traditional robes said it was the biggest turnout for the celebration of Mawlid in the Libyan capital for several years, after poor security and pressure from hardliners prevented previous large processions.
    In Benghazi, Libya’s second city, men, women and children also celebrated the holiday in greater numbers than in recent years, holding processions in the morning and evening in four neighborhoods.
    Mawlid is an important event for Sufis, whose spirituality is an integral part of North African Islam.
    Sufism, a mystical strain among both Sunnis and Shi’ites, dates back to Islam’s early days.    Besides the standard prayers, Sufi devotions include singing hymns, chanting the names of God or dancing to heighten awareness of the divine.
    “Many more people have joined this year.    In the past two years few came after attacks from extremists,” said Siddiq Abuhadena, an engineer attending the Tripoli procession.
    Sufi worshippers said they were wary of Salafists and others in Libya opposed to their traditions.
    Tensions have grown in recent years between Sufis and Salafists, a group influenced by Saudi Wahhabis and other ultra-conservative foreign Islamists.
    Salafists following a Saudi preacher, Rabi al-Madkhali, have gained ground in Libya since the 1990s.
    Since an uprising toppled former ruler Muammar Gaddafi seven years ago, Libya has seen intermittent armed conflict.
    A Salafist-led armed group is one of Tripoli’s strongest, and has arrested cultural figures, citing moral reasons.    Salafist fighters have played a role in supporting prominent eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, and in military campaigns in other parts of the country.
    Dozens of Sufi sites including mosques, shrines, tombs and libraries have been destroyed or damaged by hardliners since 2011 across Libya, Human Rights Watch said in a report a year ago.
    “For those who say this celebration is heresy, we are not doing anything harmful to Islam,” said Akram al-Feitouri, one of the participants of the celebrations in Benghazi.
    “On the contrary, we prove to the world that Islam is a religion of love and passion.”
    Two months ago Tripoli was shaken by 10 days of heavy clashes, though the situation has since stabilized.
    After processing through the capital’s old city, marchers spilled out onto Martyrs Square, known under Gaddafi as Green Square, where the former leader used to address his supporters.
    “There are some who want to ban the celebration of Prophet Mohammad.    They say the Prophet Mohammad did not celebrate his birth.    They are lying,” said Abdullah Abubanun, head of a Zawiya, or Islamic school.
(Additional reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; editing by Andrew Roche)
[Americans do not know who is the true Islamist as this is nothing but a religious war between who determines the meaning of the Koran.    This would be like the Crusades where the Bible in the Crusades made a war between Catholics and Protestants and since all the break aways, which we do not experience that any more.].

11/20/2018 Turkey foreign minister-Russian defense system buy cannot be canceled
FILE PHOTO: Russian servicemen drive S-400 missile air defence systems during ceremonies in Red Square, Moscow,
marking the 73rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in Turkey is a done deal and cannot be canceled, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday, adding that Ankara needs further defense procurement that could be bought from the United States.
    Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems, which are not compatible with NATO defenses, has unnerved the United States and the alliance’s member countries, which are already wary of Russia’s presence in the Middle East.
    “The current deal is a done deal, I cannot cancel it,” Cavusoglu told reporters after meeting with American counterpart Mike Pompeo.    “But I need more … and I prefer to buy from my allies,” he added.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, editing by G Crosse)

11/21/2018 Trump and land fears boost South Africa’s white right ‘state’ by Joe Brock
Suidlander movement spokesman Simon Roche stands in farmland near Van der Kloof, South Africa, October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
    PRETORIA (Reuters) – When U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to investigate large scale killings of white farmers in South Africa and violent takeovers of land, Pretoria said he was misinformed.    Elsewhere, there was quiet satisfaction.
    For a little-known South African activist group, Trump’s intervention, following a Fox News show criticizing the land reform plans of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ruling African National Congress, signaled a job well done.
    “The best possible outcome that we hoped for was for a statement by the president of the USA, which we got,” Ernst Roets, deputy CEO of Afriforum, told Reuters in his office in a quiet suburb of the capital.
    The office walls display photographs of street protests by Afriforum, stepped up this year against land distribution plans and what it calls the targeted killing of white farmers.
    In South Africa, no land has been seized and while violent crime is a huge problem, the vast majority of victims are poor and black.    Of 20,000 murders in the last recorded year, 46 were white people killed on farms, according to police data.
    Afriforum is an interest group representing Afrikaners – the 5 percent of the population descended mainly from Dutch, German and French settlers.
    It belongs to a wider movement called Solidarity, which has grown from a 100-year-old trade union into a sprawling and well-resourced organization offering education and training and a range of other services in Afrikaans.
    Ramaphosa’s vague pledge this year to pursue land expropriation without compensation to right the wrongs of apartheid has given new impetus to both groups, who have brushed aside his insistence he will protect property rights.
    Critics, including some prominent Afrikaners, accuse them of stirring racial fears at a time when Ramaphosa is trying to defuse threats of unrest from a far-left party.
    Solidarity says it reflects fears rather than stirring them.
    “On expropriation, they can’t threaten that sort of thing and not expect a reaction,” Flip Buys, chairman of the umbrella movement, said by telephone.
    “Some battles you must fight.    We must save the country from what happened in Zimbabwe,” he said, referring to the widespread violent takeover of white-owned farms in the early 2000s.
    More fringe white groups, including the survivalist Suidlanders, have been warning for decades that Afrikaners are under threat.
    But Solidarity and Afriforum are working at a different level, holding prominent protests, lobbying foreign governments and preparing to approach the United Nations to request land expropriation be recognized as a breach of human rights.
    Afriforum and COPE, a party formed by dissident ANC members with three seats in parliament, said they met senior U.S. embassy officials on Monday to ask Washington to put pressure on South Africa to protect property rights.
    The U.S. embassy said COPE and AfriForum delivered a petition to one of its officials.
HIJACKED
    Conversations with a dozen members of Afriforum at its rallies and elsewhere, reviews of its social media accounts and private text messages sent by its members reveal an increasingly influential movement with an agenda that divides South Africa.
    Roets had appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show in May where they spoke about what they called targeted killings of white farmers and plans to take land along racial lines.
    The government, academics and a wide range of commentators say neither is happening, but right-wing journalists from Canada, Britain and Australia have made programs on the issue.
    “Afriforum has understood this emergence of white chauvinist identities around the world and is manipulating it for its own ends,” said Adam Habib, vice-chancellor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
    “The problem with that is it will fracture our communities.”
    Max du Preez, an Afrikaans-speaking author and commentator, said Afriforum did not represent the community and did it a disservice by making it seem racist.    “If black people want to insult an Afrikaner they call him Afriforum,” he said.
    Roets denies Afriforum preys on white people’s fears and said it was employing the same tactics as the ANC used in the 1980s to build pressure on the apartheid government.
    “We learnt from the best. We have found the South African government is very sensitive to international criticism.”
    Trump’s intervention stole the limelight during Ramaphosa’s high-profile visit to the U.N. general assembly in September.
    Ramaphosa made light of Trump’s comments but an ANC source said he was very angry.
    Every president since Nelson Mandela led South Africa out of white-minority rule in 1994 has tried, and largely failed, to redress an imbalance whereby whites – nine percent of 56 million South Africans – own more than 70 percent of agricultural land.
    Ramaphosa is competing in next year’s election with a far-left party exploiting anger at persistent rural destitution among blacks alongside wealthy, white-owned commercial farms.
    That party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, has threatened to nationalize all land and urged people to occupy it – calls which have so-far gone unheeded beyond a few groups erecting shacks on unused plots.
    Ramaphosa, who replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma in February, has said reforms will not harm the economy, investment or food security and that unused land in towns and cities would be a high priority.    He has given few details, but has the support of most big businesses and foreign investor community.
    Trump’s tweet unnerved investors and drove down the rand and share prices, although they subsequently recovered.    “I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers,” it said.
    A U.S. embassy spokesman said it was continuing to evaluate various issues, including land, as normal.
STATE WITHIN A STATE
    Solidarity contains around 20 organizations, including a media company, a university and an investment fund.    Its half a million members pay fees and a property portfolio and stock market investments are among other funding sources.
    Reuters spoke to Afriforum members who believed the Afrikaner community was under threat and felt Solidarity was the only support network they could rely on.
    Some described Solidarity as a “state within a state.”
    Roets said Afriforum’s membership was growing but it had no intention of trying to carve out a de-facto white state.
    “There are certain buzzwords that we like to use and we encourage among our membership and those are words like ‘self-reliance’ like ‘self-help’ like ‘independence’,” he said.
    “If you want to describe that as a ‘state within a state’ that’s fine.”
    The Suidlanders, meanwhile, are preparing for battle.
    In an isolated outpost town on the Orange River, they say they expect an “imminent” racial civil war.
    Hoarding guns, clothes and food in bunkers hidden in the dry barren landscape, its growing membership has drawn up a detailed plan to carve off a section of the country.
    “Some people think we are racists.    It’s totally not the case.    We are purely and simply a civil defense organization,” Suidlanders spokesman Simon Roche told Reuters.
    Roche, who showed Reuters caravans filled with supplies ready for when “war” breaks out, says he has traveled to Washington and Europe to meet with likeminded groups and with politicians, although he declined to name them.br>     “We must tell the world what is coming.    People can call us conspiracy theorists.    Soon we will see who was right.”
(Reporting by Joe Brock; additional reporting by Shafiek Tassiem; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

11/21/2018 Famine in Yemen considered the single greatest humanitarian crisis by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this Oct. 1, 2018, file, photo, a severely malnourished boy rests on a
hospital bed at the Aslam Health Center, Hajjah, Yemen. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)
    More than eight million people in Yemen are at risk of starvation as the countries food crisis continues.
    In a report Wednesday, the United Nations stressed more than 1.3 million children have fallen victim to severe acute malnutrition since the Yemen Civil War in 2015.
    85,000 of those children were reportedly under the age five, leaving some officials to believe Yemen is on the brink of famine.
    “Half a million young lives immediately at risk — we need to focus on this crisis because it is the single greatest humanitarian crisis facing us as an international community right now,” stated Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children.
    The crisis is said to have stemmed from war and a Saudi-led road block that prevented aid and supplies from reaching the population.
    On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged over $500 million in aid for the crisis.

11/21/2018 More than 80,000 Yemeni children may have died from hunger, aid group says by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Mohammed Ghobari
A malnourished boy lies on a weighing scale at the malnutrition ward of
al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
    DUBAI/ADEN (Reuters) – An estimated 85,000 children under five may have died from extreme hunger in Yemen since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in the civil war in 2015, an aid agency said on Wednesday, as the U.N. special envoy arrived in Yemen to pursue peace talks.
    Western countries are pressing for a ceasefire and renewed peace efforts to end the disastrous conflict, which has unleashed the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis with 8.4 million people believed to be on the verge of starvation.
    Save the Children said that a conservative estimate based on U.N. data showed 84,700 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition may have died between April 2015 and October 2018, when a Western-backed Arab alliance has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that holds the capital Sanaa.
    “We are horrified that some 85,000 children in Yemen may have died because of the consequences of extreme hunger since the war began.    For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are dying from hunger and disease and it’s entirely preventable,” it said in a statement.
    The last available figure from the United Nations for the death toll from the conflict, seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, was in 2016 and stood at more than 10,000.     The world body has not provided figures for the death toll from malnutrition but warned last month that half the population, or some 14 million people, could soon be on the brink of famine and completely reliant on humanitarian aid.
    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had no fatality figures but both malnutrition and fighting were taking a heavy toll on civilians.
    “What we see in all the different (health) centers and places that we are working in, it’s a very catastrophic humanitarian situation, but not only malnutrition,” Carlos Batallas, outgoing head of the ICRC delegation in Aden, told Reuters in Geneva.
    “One of the problems that we are seeing today is that vaccination has not been followed through, that you have pregnant women that have no pre-natal care, women that cannot deliver kids at hospitals or a health center with nurses.”
    The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a database that tracks violence in Yemen, says around 57,000 people have been reported killed since the beginning of 2016.
    The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore the government that was ousted from Sanaa in 2014 by the Houthis, who control most population centers.
    Since seizing the southern port city of Aden in 2015, the Arab coalition has faced a military stalemate and has been focusing on wresting control of the main port city of Hodeidah to weaken the Houthis by cutting off their main supply line.
    NO CEASEFIRE YET
    So far there has been no halt to fighting in Hodeidah, despite an announcement by the coalition last week that it would stop military operations there.    A few days later the Houthis announced a halt to missile and drone attacks on coalition leaders Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and their Yemeni allies.
    Intense fighting in the past two days has taken place in Hodeidah mostly at night, as each side tried to reinforce its positions during the de-escalation in hostilities.
    “Loud bangs, shelling and gunfire could be heard all over the city until dawn,” a Hodeidah resident said on Wednesday.
    The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said fighting was moving closer to a hospital where its staff operate.
    “Our staff can hear explosions and shootings occurring extremely close by every day around Al-Salakhana hospital,” its operations manager for Yemen said in a statement.
    A pro-coalition Yemeni military source told Reuters on Monday that a ceasefire in Hodeidah would start only after the U.N. Security Council passes a British-drafted resolution on Yemen.    Aid groups fear an all-out assault on the city, entry point for more than 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports, would unleash famine.
    U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in Sanaa on Wednesday to meet with Houthi leaders to discuss convening peace talks in Sweden next month.    The Houthis failed to show up to peace talks in September.    Kuwait has offered to provide planes for the parties to ensure the participation of both sides in Stockholm.
    Griffiths faces a daunting challenge to overcome deep mistrust between all sides.    A draft resolution, seen by Reuters, calls for a halt to fighting in Hodeidah, a stop to attacks on populated areas across Yemen and an end to attacks on countries in the region.
    It also calls for an unhindered flow of commercial and humanitarian goods, and a large, fast injection of foreign currency into the economy through the central bank.
    “We are hoping that these peace conversations in Sweden next month will provide a ceasefire, will provide confidence-building measures.    That we will have more possibilities for humanitarian organizations and for the population to start to move, to start to regain a normal life,” ICRC’s Batallas said.
(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing By Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Peter Graff)

11/21/2018 Iraq to unify customs procedures with Kurdistan, PM says by Ahmed Rasheed
FILE PHOTO: Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi arrives for the opening of
Baghdad International Fair in Baghdad, Iraq, November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq will unify customs procedures in all of its border areas, including within semi-autonomous Kurdistan, the prime minister said on Wednesday, signaling a further thaw in ties between Baghdad and Erbil after a resumption of Kirkuk oil flows.
    The decision will be implemented after the federal government in Baghdad reaches an agreement on the move with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told a news conference.
    He said the unified procedures would make it easier to transport imported goods and commodities.
    Currently, the KRG independently imposes and collects custom tariffs on imported goods in border areas it controls, which Baghdad considers illegal.
    Baghdad in turn imposes more tariffs of its own on commodities coming in from Kurdish-controlled border areas and the double customs have been seen as a burden by traders.
    Abdel Mahdi said he would meet Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, who is set to visit Baghdad, on Thursday.    Barzani resigned as the region’s president following a failed bid for independence but remains the leader of its largest party.
    Barzani, still one of the most influential Kurdish politicians in Iraq, has not visited Baghdad since before the referendum, which took place in September 2017.
    “I will meet Barzani tomorrow on relations between Erbil and Baghdad to discuss key issues that will strengthen relations between Erbil and Baghdad.    We want to help the region and its citizens,” Abdul Mahdi said.
    “I don’t think we’ll discuss oil … It’s a shame that the pumping of oil from Kirkuk stopped especially when these fields boost our federal revenues,” he added.
    Iraq on Friday restarted exports of Kirkuk oil, halted a year ago due to a standoff with Erbil following the referendum.
    Exports had been on hold since Iraqi government forces retook Kirkuk from Kurdish authorities in 2017.    The Kurds had taken control of Kirkuk and its oilfields after Islamic State militants drove the Iraqi army out in 2014, and Kurdish forces, in turn, ejected the militants.
    Flows resumed at a modest level of around 50,000-60,000 barrels per day (bpd) compared with a peak of 300,000 bpd seen last year.
    Abdul Mahdi said he would go to parliament next week to get his full cabinet approved.    Lawmakers had only confirmed 14 out of the 22 ministers he initially presented but granted his government confidence, allowing him to become prime minister.
    “Next week, Monday or Tuesday, we’ll go to parliament and present what we see as the right candidates to complete the cabinet.    We take responsibility for whoever is selected.”
(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein, Editing by William Maclean)

11/22/2018 EU says transparent, credible investigation into Khashoggi killing not completed yet
FILE PHOTO: People attend a symbolic funeral prayer for Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the
courtyard of Fatih mosque in Istanbul, Turkey November 16, 2018. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – A transparent and credible investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has not yet been completed, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief, said on Thursday, after talks with Turkey’s foreign minister.
    Khashoggi, a critic of the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.    Riyadh has said it was seeking the death penalty for five suspects in the case.
    Speaking at a joint news conference with EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Mogherini said she was completely against any application of the death penalty.
(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan)

11/22/2018 Tunisian public workers protest over pay, more than half a million strike by Tarek Amara
People stand outside a closed court during a nationwide strike in Tunis, Tunisia November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    (Reuters) – About 650,000 public sector workers went on strike and thousands protested across Tunisia on Thursday over the government’s refusal to raise wages amid threats from international lenders to stop financing Tunisia’s tattered economy.
    Schools, universities, municipalities and ministries were shut and hospitals were on emergency staffing only in the nationwide walkout organized by the UGTT union, the biggest strike action in Tunisia in five years.
    Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a deepening political crisis, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed is battling to push through unpopular economic reforms and reduce its budget deficit.
    Tunisia’s economy has been in turmoil since autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in a 2011 uprising sparked by anger at unemployment and poverty.
    Earlier this month the IMF warned Tunisia to keep its public sector wage bill – one of the world’s highest in proportion to GDP, according to the IMF – under control to avoid severe debt problems.
    Thousands of protesters gathered in front of parliament in the capital Tunis, calling for the government to resign and holding banners with slogans such as “Strike for dignity.”
    Thousands also took to the streets in cities including Sfax, Gabes, Sidi Bouzid and Kasserine.
    “The situation is very dangerous in light of growing inflation and low standard of living..the government will see soon a revolution of hungry and empty bellies,” said Nourredine Taboubi, the head of the UGTT.
    He said negotiations had failed because “the sovereign decision is not in the hands of the government, but of the IMF.”
    Tunisia struck a deal struck with the IMF in December 2016 for a loan programme worth around $2.8 billion to overhaul its ailing economy with steps to cut chronic deficits and trim bloated public services, but progress has been slow.
    The government aims to cut the public sector wage bill to 12.5 percent of GDP in 2020 from the current 15.5 percent.
    Prime Minister Youssef Chahed also faces a political crisis over his government’s failure to solve Tunisia’s economic woes.
    “If Chahed was looking for populism or electoral interests, he would have signed the wage increase, but we want to know who will finance salaries increases” said the government spokesman Iyad Dahmani.
    He added that the international lenders including the IMF had threatened to stop financing Tunisia in the absence of the reforms.
    Public sector wages have doubled to about 16 billion dinars ($5.48 billion) in 2018 from 7.6 billion dinars in 2010, officials say.
(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/22/2018 Turkey’s Erdogan may meet Saudi Crown Prince at G20 summit: Erdogan spokesman
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting
at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, November 20, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan may meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit to Argentina for the G20 summit, Erdogan’s spokesman was quoted as saying on Thursday.
    State-owned Anadolu news agency quoted Ibrahim Kalin as saying, “We’re looking at the programme.    It could happen,” in response to a question whether the two leaders would make contact during the summit.
(Refiles to fix day of the week in first sentence)
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by David Dolan)

11/22/2018 Divided by war, Israel and Gaza’s Instagrammers tell their own stories by Rami Ayyub, Leah Angel and Nidal al-Mughrabi
Members of 'We Are Not Numbers' team work on laptops in an office in
Gaza City November 7, 2018. Picture taken November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
    ISRAEL-GAZA BORDER (Reuters) – In another part of the world they might have gone to the same schools or be sharing wifi in the same coffee shops.
    Although these young women Instagrammers live just a few kilometers apart, they will likely never meet.    One group are Gaza Palestinians and the other are Israeli schoolgirls living beside Gaza, with Israel’s concrete and razorwire border fortifications stretching between them.
    But one thing they share is a desire to take control of their own stories.    Both groups are convinced that their lives are misrepresented or misunderstood by the outside world.
    The missiles have stopped flying – for the moment – and the world’s eyes have already moved on after a week which saw the fiercest rocket salvoes and air strikes since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group which controls the Gaza Strip.
    But the people of Gaza and Israel’s border communities remain, waiting for the next crisis, which is rarely long coming.
    “Gaza is closed, not many have access here.    With Instagram, you can show Gaza to the world through your own eyes” said Manar Alzraiy, project manager of “We Are Not Numbers,” a Gaza-based program for young writers, artists and photographers.
    Her group runs commentary on destruction and conflict in the Gaza Strip, but also seeks to broaden the war-focused narrative about Gaza by sharing stories of ordinary people.
    “During attacks by the Israelis, we want to get our message out there.    But we have to be mindful of what our group is experiencing – the stress, anxiety.    We can’t always do it,” she said.
    On the Israeli side, the Instagram account Otef Gaza, which means “Gaza Periphery” in Hebrew, was started by a group of teenage girls in and around Kerem Shalom, a kibbutz beside the border.
    The group highlights photographs of farmland scorched by incendiary devices flown into Israel during Palestinian border protests, and rockets fired by Gaza militants which send Israelis running to shelters.
    “People are not aware that this is our reality, and they simply ignore us,” said Lee Cohen, 17, who co-manages the account.
    “You can’t sleep because of the rocket sirens, the explosions, helicopters flying overhead and the fear of terrorists from Gaza coming in through a tunnel and trying to kill people.”
HUMAN PROBLEMS
    Inside the Gaza Strip, 225 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since border protests began on March 30, according to Palestinian health officials.
    Israel says that many of those killed were militants, and that its troops are defending the border.    One Israeli soldier has been killed during the protests, when he was hit by Hamas gunfire.
    In Gaza City 27-year-old Alzraiy said the purpose of “We Are Not Numbers” was “to speak of the human problems” of Gaza.
    “You get used to the feeling that at any moment, something could happen,” she said.    “It’s like just for a second, you could lose your value as a human being.”
    Another Gazan, Fatma Abu Musabbeh, 22, takes another approach.    She insists on showing only positive images, so her account features manicured gardens and stonecraft buildings.
    “When there is a war or difficult situation, I post a photo or two to tell my followers and the world that Gaza is beautiful, despite what is happening,” said Abu Musabbeh.
    Across the border one of the Israeli Instagrammers, Meshy Elmkies, 16, said they use the app because it is easy to organize information, “and I personally think that teenagers have the power to make an impact.”
    During a phone call with Reuters last week, the voice of her friend, Lee Cohen, suddenly became hushed.
    “There’s a red alert siren,” she muttered.    “Can we speak later?
(Editing by Andrew Roche)

11/22/2018 Iraq to launch reconstruction agency, president says by Davide Barbuscia
Iraq's President Barham Salih gestures as he attends the Rome Mediterranean
summit MED 2018 in Rome, Italy November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi
    ROME (Reuters) – Iraq plans to launch a reconstruction agency to focus on projects such as a deep water port and a rail network, Iraq’s president said on Thursday, as the country seeks to put years of turmoil behind it.
    Over the past year Iraq has emerged from a devastating conflict with hardline militants who seized almost a third of the country.
    It declared victory in December 2017 over the Islamic State armed group, having taken back all the territory captured by the ultra hardline militants in 2014 and 2015.
    Barham Salih told an international conference in Rome that defeating Daesh, an acronym for the Islamic state, was “a monumental challenge and an immense success for Iraqi army forces.”
    Iraq plans to work with foreign entities, including sovereign wealth funds, on several infrastructure projects, Salih said, but he pointed to corruption and abuse of public funds as problems that undermine reconstruction efforts.
    “Iraqi and foreign private sector companies as well as international financial institutions, donor countries and sovereign wealth funds, will be invited to invest in these (infrastructure) projects,” Salih said.
    The Iraqi parliament elected Barham Salih, a Kurdish politician, in October.    The presidency in Iraq is largely a ceremonial position, but the vote for Salih was an important step toward forming a new government.
    Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Wednesday he would go to parliament next week to get his full cabinet approved.
(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Janet Lawrence, William Maclean)

11/22/2018 At tense Ankara news conference, EU rebukes Turkey over detentions by Ece Toksabay and Tulay Karadeniz
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu meets with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini
and European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn in Ankara, Turkey
November 22, 2018. Cem Ozdel/Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Top EU officials rebuked Turkey on Thursday over its arrests of journalists and academics and the long pre-trial detention of a Kurdish politician, holding a forthright press conference with Turkey’s foreign minister in Ankara that quickly turned tense.
    Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner responsible for relations with countries that aspire to join the bloc, emphasized the importance of political dialogue.    But he said the EU was troubled over the arrest of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society activists.
    “Criminal and judicial proceedings must be based on the presumption of innocence.    Journalists and civil society must be able to do their important work,” Hahn told reporters, standing alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
    Hahn was referring to jailed rights activist Osman Kavala and 13 academics detained last week in an investigation accusing them of a bid to unseat the government through mass protests in 2013.
    In a statement released after Thursday’s meetings, the EU said Turkey needed to “take decisive action to reverse the current trend in the rule of law and fundamental rights.”
    EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, also at the news conference, took Turkey to task over the detentions of academics and said she hoped that a detained pro-Kurdish politician, Selahattin Demirtas, would be released soon.
    In a riposte, Cavusoglu called on the EU to stop defending “those who are engaging in activities with the aim of removing Turkey’s democratically elected government.”
    The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday that Turkey should swiftly process the legal case of Demirtas, former head of the pro-Kurdish opposition, saying his pre-trial detention had gone on longer than could be justified.
    “Turkey should follow the ECHR ruling,” Mogherini said.    “There are no double standards here.    We have high standards, whether you like it or not.”
    President Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed the ECHR ruling on Demirtas, saying it amounted to support of terrorism.
    Lawyers for Demirtas said on Thursday they would apply simultaneously to Turkey’s Constitutional Court, the ECHR and the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers if Demirtas is not released immediately.
(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz, Ece Toksabay and Gulsen Solaker; Writing by David Dolan and Dominic Evans; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/22/2018 ‘No state, no government’: weary Lebanese mark 75 years of independence
A woman holds a Lebanese flag during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon marked 75 years of independence on Thursday but while the military staged an invitation-only parade, many citizens saw little to celebrate with the nation’s economic problems and political stalemate deepening.
    As the army closed off streets for its ceremony, protesters angry at worsening living conditions marched through Beirut under the slogan: “Our independence from your exploitation.”
    More than six months since a parliamentary election, Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri has hit a wall in trying to form a national unity government that is urgently needed to reform the budget and manage the country’s huge debt burden.
    “The economic situation is on the floor, there’s no state, no government … Once there’s a state, we will celebrate independence,” said Beirut worker Suzanne Awada.
    Around 200 people joined the protest but while the turnout was small, the complaints on their banners are daily topics of conversation across the country: corruption, bad water and power supplies, unemployment, pollution, poor education and housing, the national debt and political infighting.
    “We want to say to the country’s ruling mafia that it is responsible for the political, economic, social and environmental deterioration we are experiencing,” protest co-organizers You Stink said in an online statement.
    Lebanon has the world’s third largest public debt as a proportion of its economy and low growth, although the central bank says the Lebanese pound’s peg to the dollar is stable.    The country is also hosting more than a million refugees from the war in neighboring Syria.
    A new government committed to reform would unlock more than $11 billion worth of donor investment for infrastructure needing repair since a 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
BROKEN DREAMS
    Lebanon is no stranger to political paralysis and governments often take months to form, but the economic pressures are making the mood tense.
    “It’s a state of thieves.    Throw them in the sea,” 48-year-old Abu Ali said on Beirut’s Corniche.    The waterfront promenade is one of the crowded capital’s few public spaces, but the smell of sewage and garbage floating on greasy waves are emblematic of many of the government’s failures.
    President Michel Aoun acknowledged citizens’ frustration in an address marking the anniversary of independence in 1943 from French rule.
    “The Lebanese people (are) sick of promises, have almost despaired of grasping interests, are tired of the indifference of decision-makers to their concerns, their unemployment, their rights and their broken dreams,” he said on Wednesday.
    Aoun said the country no longer had the luxury of wasting time on government formation and called on officials and parties to set aside their interests and work for the Lebanese people.
IMPASSE
    However, Aoun offered no solution of his own to break the impasse.    The current obstacle surrounds Sunni Muslim representation in the cabinet, where the 30 seats must be allocated along sectarian lines.
    Hezbollah, an armed Shi’ite group backed by Iran, wants one of six Sunni lawmakers allied to it to get a cabinet job.    Hariri has refused to give up one of the seats allocated for his mainly Sunni party, and no other major grouping has offered one either.
    Foreign states have often regarded tiny Lebanon as a theater for their rivalry, exploiting the fissures between Muslim and Christian sects who have also courted outside intervention to help them in their struggles with each other.
    Many are left wondering how independent Lebanon really is.
    “In other countries people are proud of their independence from colonialism or other outside ties.    In this country we are still tied to those outside – whether we want it or not,” said protestor Elham Moubarak.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington, Issam Abdallah and Imad Creidi; Writing by Lisa Barrington; editing by David Stamp)

11/22/2018 Saudi Arabia will respond to weak oil demand, energy minister Falih says by Marwa Rashad
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih addresses India Energy Forum
in New Delhi, October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo
    TURAIF, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Thursday that he sees weak oil demand in January and said the kingdom would respond accordingly to cool the global market’s anxiety.
    The world’s top oil exporter’s crude output in November is above October levels, he said, adding that it was in no one’s interest to create a supply glut.
    “The waivers as to the Iranian sanctions as you know … So January demand for Saudi Arabia would be lower,” Falih said, referring to U.S. offers to Iran to keep more Iranian crude on the market.
    His comments come one day after U.S. President Donald Trump called on Saudi Arabia to help bring down oil prices.
    Falih said the kingdom’s policy has not changed and it will work towards balanced market.
    “We will not sell oil that customers don’t need,” he told reporters in the northern town of Turaif, at the inauguration of a new mining project.
    “We will not make the market get anxious … in the way it did in May or June, but at the same time we make it clear that it is not in anybody’s interest to create a glut similar to what we saw few years ago.”
    “Everybody’s interest is in our mind, and we do it with a lot of care, we do it with responsibility, with balance,” the minister said.
    Saudi Arabia is discussing a proposal to cut oil output by as much as 1.4 million barrels per day by OPEC and its allies, sources close to the discussions told Reuters earlier this month.
    The minister also said he hoped a Saudi new mining law would be applicable in the first half of 2019, which is expected to boost mining and exploration.
(Reporting by Marwa Rashad; writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; editing by Jason Neely and Jane Merriman)

11/23/2018 Turkey’s foreign minister says EU comments on rule of law ‘out of line’
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu meets with European Union
Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini in Ankara, Turkey November 22, 2018.
Cem Ozdel/Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey on Friday criticized the European Union’s foreign policy chief for her comments on the rule of law in Turkey, a day after she and another official rebuked Ankara over arrests of journalists and the detention of a Kurdish politician.
    In an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized the comments from Federica Mogherini as “out of line” after she took Turkey to task at a news conference on Thursday over detentions of journalists and academics and said she hoped that politician Selahattin Demirtas would be released soon.
    The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled this week that Turkey should swiftly process Demirtas’ case, saying his pre-trial detention had gone on longer than could be justified.
    Cavusoglu described the ECHR ruling as motivated by politics, not the law, and said the case would be determined by Turkey’s courts.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Dominic Evans)

11/23/2018 U.N. says ready to play supervisory role in managing Yemen’s Hodeidah port
FILE PHOTO: A ship carrying a shipment of grain is docked at the Red Sea port
of Hodeidah, Yemen August 5, 2018. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations is ready to play a supervisory role in managing Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah, U.N. spokesman Rheal LeBlanc said.
    LeBlanc’s statement, made at a briefing with reporters in Geneva, came as the U.N. special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, arrived in Hodeidah, the focus of the war between the Iran-aligned Houthi group, which controls the city, and pro-government forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
    The U.N. envoy met with the management of Hodeidah port, an important supply line to the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, witnesses said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

11/23/2018 U.N. envoy to Yemen arrives in Red Sea city of Hodeidah: witnesses
U.N. envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths arrives at Sanaa airport, Yemen November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
    HODEIDAH, Yemen (Reuters) – The U.N. special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, arrived on Friday in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, witnesses said.
    Hodeidah has become the focus of the war between the Iran-aligned Houthi group, which controls the city, and pro-government forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
    Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council last week that Yemen’s parties had given “firm assurances” they were committed to attending peace talks he hopes to convene in Sweden before the end of the year.
    The U.N. envoy met with the management of Hodeidah port, an important supply line to the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.
    Griffiths visited Sanaa on Thursday where he met with Houthi leaders to discuss their attendance in the next round of consultations, expected in early December.
    The Saudi-led, Western-backed coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore the internationally-recognized government that was ousted from Sanaa in 2014 by the Houthis.
    Western countries are pressing for a ceasefire and renewed peace efforts to end the conflict amid international concern that half the population, or some 14 million people, could soon be on the brink of famine.
    The last available figure from the United Nations for the death toll from the conflict, seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, was in 2016 and stood at more than 10,000.
    An estimated 85,000 children under five may have starved to death in Yemen since 2015, Save the Children said on Thursday.
(Reporting by Yemen staff, writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

11/23/2018 Roadmap on Syria’s Manbij needs to be completed by year-end: Turkey minister
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attends a news conference in
Ankara, Turkey November 22, 2018. Cem Ozdel/Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The agreed roadmap between the United States and Turkey on Syria’s Manbij needs to be completed before the end of the year, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Friday.
    Mevlut Cavusoglu also said in an interview with CNN Turk that the implementation of the roadmap east of the Euphrates river would see the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia removed from cities there.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; writing by David Dolan; editing by Jason Neely)

11/23/2018 Congo’s Tshisekedi and Kamerhe form presidential pact by Jackson Njehia
Vital Kamerhe (L), leader of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) party and Felix Tshisekedi,
leader of Congolese main opposition, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party, embrace at a news conference ahead
of the Presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Nairobi, Kenya November 23, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Congolese presidential candidates Felix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe joined forces on Friday to take on the preferred successor of incumbent Joseph Kabila in the Dec. 23 election.
    Tshisekedi, 55, the president of Congo’s largest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), said he would select Kamerhe as his prime minister if he wins the vote.    In return, he would back a candidate from Kamerhe’s Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) party in the 2023 presidential election.
    “I decide today to support Mr. Tshisekedi as the president of Congo,” Kamerhe said at a joint news conference with Tshisekedi in Nairobi to cheers from supporters.    “This is the winning ticket.”
    Tshisekedi and Kamerhe, 59, had agreed on Nov. 11 to support businessman Martin Fayulu in the election against former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who is backed by Kabila.
    It was a rare moment of unity for Democratic Republic of Congo’s splintered opposition, whose infighting in recent years has often played into the hands of Kabila.
    However, Tshisekedi and Kamerhe withdrew from the deal the next day after scores of Congolese opposition supporters demonstrated in the capital Kinshasa against the choice of former Exxon Mobil manager Fayulu.
    Other opposition leaders, including two whose presidential candidacies were rejected by the constitutional court, continue to back Fayulu, weakening their chances of beating Shadary.
    An opinion poll in October showed opposition leaders were favoured by about 70 percent of voters but Fayulu trailed his rivals on eight percent.
    Tshisekedi led with 36 percent ahead of Kamerhe (17 percent) and Shadary (16 percent).
PEACE AND SECURITY
    Western governments and investors regard the election, which could lead to the ,b>Central African country’s first ever democratic transfer of power, as crucial toward ending political instability that is impeding investment in Congo.    The country of 80 million people is rich in natural resources but mired in humanitarian crises.
    “One of our main priorities will be to restore peace and security, mostly to the eastern part of the country,” Tshisekedi said at the news conference.
    Kabila has ruled since his father was assassinated in 2001 with elections meant to have happened before his mandate expired in 2016.
    The delays have left many doubting it would ever take place.    Questions remain over how it will be conducted.
    Congo’s influential conference of Catholic bishops warned this week that an Ebola epidemic and clashes with rebel militia in eastern Congo could threaten the validity of the vote.
    “We must do everything to avoid a parody of an election whose results would not be accepted and which would, moreover, plunge our country into violence,” the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) said in a statement.
    Presidential elections in 2006 and 2011 were marred by accusations of fraud and violence after the results were announced.
    CENCO also questioned the use of a new electronic voting system, which the opposition says is more vulnerable to vote-rigging than paper and ink and could be compromised by the unreliability of Congo’s power supply.
    To ensure the electoral results stand up to scrutiny, the electoral commission must make sure ballots are counted manually after they are printed by the machines, CENCO said.
(Writing by Alessandra Prentice and Aaron Ross. Editing by Patrick Johnston)

11/23/2018 Ahead of Nigeria’s election, opposition weaponises soldier deaths by Paul Carsten
FILE PHOTO: Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari arrives to attend a visit and a dinner at
the Orsay Museum on the eve of the commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end
of the First World War, in Paris, France, November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
    LAGOS (Reuters) – Hundreds of Nigerian soldiers have been killed in recent months by Islamist militants who the president vowed to defeat when voted into power in 2015 – and the bloodshed has become a useful weapon for opponents aiming to topple him in coming elections.
    Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been largely silent about the fighting in the northeast as, in battle after battle, soldiers have died.
    On Thursday Buhari’s political opponents disclosed that 44 soldiers had been killed in an attack in the village of Metele on Sunday.
    The move is calculated to undermine the security credentials of the president as he seeks a second term in three months’ time, say politics and security analysts.
    Buhari is a former military general and commander-in-chief who came to power promising to defeat the insurgents and whose administration has claimed for years to have beaten Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA).
    The candidate for the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is Atiku Abubakar, a businessman and former vice president seeking to topple Buhari.
    The senate president, Bukola Saraki, is also PDP and tightly controls the upper house of parliament, which suspended its session on Thursday to honor the fallen after announcing the deaths.
    The PDP “are playing politics with conflict,” said Idayat Hassan, director of the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development.
    “They know elections can be won or lost based on the issue of security,” she said.    “Many people will be very angry.    The government has made no statement, they have not confirmed it, so it will be taken as another attempt to deny that the Boko Haram insurgency has not been completely defeated.”
    A Nigerian presidency spokesman said the military would issue a statement.    Military spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment.
    A PDP spokesman did not immediately respond to request for comment.
FAILING STRATEGY
    Attacks by Boko Haram in the run-up to the last election in 2015 weakened then-president Goodluck Jonathan and helped Buhari to defeat him at the polls.
    The course of the conflict now appears to have turned in favor of Islamist militants fighting fatigued, ill-equipped troops.
    Sunday’s attack in Metele in the northeastern state of Borno was carried out by ISWA and killed around 100 Nigerian soldiers, four security sources told Reuters on Thursday.
    “This is a legitimate campaign issue,” said Matthew Page, an associate fellow with Chatham House’s Africa Programme.
    “The military strategy in the northeast has been failing,” he said.    “This type of failure to exert control over the national territory isn’t sustainable in the long run.    It reflects really poorly on the incumbent president with the man on the street.”
    In the past, news of heavy military defeats has trickled out from anonymous sources and was only carried by a minority of domestic media. With the senate’s and Abubakar’s public announcement, details of the Sunday attack have been made widely known.
    “It’s been hugely carried by the media today, and that is definitely helping the opposition,” said Kabir Adamu, managing director of intelligence and security risk management firm Beacon Consulting.
    “We haven’t seen a statement from the Nigerian government.”
(Reporting by Paul Carsten in Lagos; Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh and Felix Onuah in Abuja; Editing by Andrew Roche)

11/23/2018 Saudi Arabia says reports about torture by Amnesty, HRW are baseless
A folder with a logo of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia is pictured
on a desk during the Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia by the Human Rights Council at the
United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia on Friday dismissed as baseless reports about torture and sexual harassment published by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
    “The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia categorically and strongly denies the allegations made by them.    The wild claims made, quoting anonymous ‘testimonies’ or ‘informed sources’, are simply wrong,” the Ministry of Media said in a statement.
    The rights groups accused Saudi Arabia on Tuesday of abusing several activists, including some female human rights defenders detained since May.
    The May arrests followed an earlier crackdown on clerics, intellectuals, and activists last year in an apparent bid to silence potential opponents of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
    The torture allegations come with Saudi Arabia facing an international outcry over the killing last month of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Peter Graff)

11/24/2018 Saudi crown prince on first trip abroad since Khashoggi killing
    Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was in the United Arab Emirates on Friday on his first tour abroad since the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
    The prince, who arrived in Abu Dhabi late Thursday, also is due to visit other Mideast countries, where he will be warmly received by Arab leaders who have stood firmly by his side amid international outrage over Khashoggi’s slaying.

11/24/2018 Senior Saudi prince says CIA cannot be trusted on Khashoggi conclusion by Katie Paul
FILE PHOTO: Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi speaks at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor
in London, Britain, September 29, 2018. Middle East Monitor/Handout via REUTERS
    ABU DHABI (Reuters) – A senior Saudi prince cast doubt upon the reported CIA finding that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month, saying the agency could not be counted on to reach a credible conclusion.
    “The CIA is not necessarily the highest standard of veracity or accuracy in assessing situations.    The examples of that are multitude,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, a senior member of the royal family, told journalists in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
    The prince, a former Saudi intelligence chief who has also served as ambassador to the United States, said the agency’s conclusion that Iraq possessed chemical weapons before the U.S. invasion in 2003 showed it could be unreliable.
    “That was the most glaring of inaccurate and wrong assessments, which led to a full-scale war with thousands being killed,” he said, speaking at an event hosted by the New York-based Beirut Institute.
    “I don’t see why the CIA is not on trial in the United States.    This is my answer to their assessment of who is guilty and who is not and who did what in the consulate in Istanbul.”
    The CIA has concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered the operation to kill Khashoggi, as first reported by the Washington Post, and briefed other parts of the U.S. government on its findings, sources told Reuters last week.
    U.S. President Donald Trump has disputed that the agency reached a conclusion on the murder, saying instead “they have feelings certain ways.”
    A Turkish newspaper also reported on Thursday that CIA director Gina Haspel signaled to Turkish officials that the agency had a recording of a call in which the crown prince gave instructions to “silence” the journalist.
    Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 in an operation that Turkish authorities have said was ordered by the highest level of Saudi leadership, prompting the kingdom’s biggest political crisis in a generation.
    After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh said Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered after negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.
    The kingdom’s public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for five suspects charged in the murder, but has said Prince Mohammed had no prior knowledge of the operation.
(Reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Keith Weir)

11/24/2018 Turkey uneasy about U.S. plan for observation posts on Syria border: minister
FILE PHOTO: Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis during a
NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey is uneasy about U.S. plans to set up “observation posts” in Syria along parts of its border with Turkey, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Saturday.
    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday the United States was setting up the posts to help keep the focus on clearing the final Islamic State militant strongholds in Syria.
    The United States has long complained that tension between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – which includes the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia – has at times slowed progress on the fight against Islamic State.
    Akar said he told U.S. Chief of Staff Joseph Dunford and other U.S. officials during a recent visit to Canada that setting up the posts would have a very negative impact on perceptions of the United States in Turkey.
    “During our talks with both political and civilian interlocutors we repeatedly expressed our unease in various ways,” he said.    “I think actions like this will make the complicated situation in the region even more complicated.”
    Turkey is angry at U.S. support for the YPG, which it views as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.    The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
    “Nobody should doubt that the Turkish Armed forces and the Republic of Turkey will take the necessary steps against all kinds of risks and threats from across its borders,” he said.
    “We expect our U.S. allies to immediately cut their ties with the terrorist YPG, who are not in the slightest bit different from the PKK,” Akar added.
    Islamic State is still present in eastern Syria in a pocket east of the Euphrates River near the border with Iraq.
    President Donald Trump’s administration hopes that the U.S.-backed fight against Islamic State in its last foothold in northeastern Syria will end within months.    But a top U.S. diplomat recently said American forces will remain to ensure the “enduring defeat” of the militant group.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

11/24/2018 Erdogan’s AKP gets local election boost from nationalists
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during his meeting with mukhtars at the
Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, November 21, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s nationalist MHP will support President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party candidates in local elections in three key cities next year, the MHP leader said on Saturday, in a boost to the AKP’s election prospects.
    The AK Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) formed an alliance before presidential elections last June, but were subsequently at loggerheads over a disagreement about the MHP’s call for an amnesty for some jailed criminals.
    A month ago MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said his party would not seek an alliance with the AK Party in the March 2019 municipal elections which are being held across Turkey.
    At the time his comments triggered a weakening of the lira over concerns that it would lead to political instability.
    However, Bahceli announced a change of position on Saturday saying the MHP would not put forward city mayoral candidates for Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, Turkey’s three biggest cities.
    “Whoever the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) candidates are in these three big cities our support will be total,” Bahceli told officials from his party in a speech in Antalya.
    The MHP’s candidates in other municipalities across Turkey would continue to stand, he said, adding there was no “secret agreement” behind his party’s decision.
    It was not clear what prompted the change in Bahceli’s position.
    Bahceli and his MHP party had been staunch critics of Erdogan’s AK Party before they reached agreement on their election alliance this year.    Their alliance had been expected to continue despite last month’s decision not to cooperate in the local elections.
    The local elections themselves will have little impact on the balance of power in Turkey generally.
    Under the presidential system ushered in by the June elections, Erdogan already wields extensive power.    However his AK Party requires the support of MHP lawmakers to achieve a majority and push through legislation in parliament.
(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

11/25/2018 More than 100 injured in Aleppo in insurgent gas attack: Syrian state media
A woman breathes through an oxygen mask after what the Syrian state media said was a
suspected toxic gas attack in Aleppo, Syria November 24, 2018. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Shelling by insurgents wounded more than 100 people in a suspected toxic gas attack in Syria’s Aleppo, which a health official described as the first such assault in the city.
    The shells caused dozens of people breathing problems on Saturday night in Aleppo, while government shelling killed nine people in a village in Idlib, a monitoring group said.
    State news agency SANA said on Sunday 107 people were injured in Aleppo after militants hit three districts with projectiles containing gases that caused choking.
    It marks the highest such casualty toll in Aleppo since government forces and their allies clawed back the city from rebels nearly two years ago.
    Rebel officials denied using chemical weapons and accused the Damascus government of trying to frame them.
    Moscow, a key Damascus ally, accused insurgents on Sunday of bombarding Aleppo with shells filled with chlorine gas, poisoning 46 people, including eight children.
    The Russian defense ministry said the attack was launched from territory that former al-Qaeda militants control in the rebel stronghold of Idlib.
    Russia also said it would talk to Turkey, which backs some rebel factions and has brokered a ceasefire with Moscow in the Idlib region.
    “The explosive (shells) contain toxic gases that led to choking among civilians,” Aleppo police chief Issam al-Shilli told state media.
    “They were taken to al-Razi hospital and Aleppo University Hospital for treatment as a result of the irritating substance they inhaled.”
    Pictures and footage on SANA showed medical workers carrying patients on stretchers and helping them with oxygen masks.
    “We can not know the kinds of gases but we suspected chlorine and treated patients on this basis because of the symptoms,” Zaher Batal, the head of the Aleppo Doctors Syndicate, told Reuters.
    Batal said symptoms included difficulty breathing, eye inflammation, shivering and fainting.    Hospitals had discharged many patients.
    Batal called it the first such gas attack in Aleppo city in the conflict, which has raged for more than seven years.
    Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razak, an official from the Nour el-Din al-Zinki insurgent faction, said rebels did not own chemical weapons or have the capacity to produce them.
    “The criminal regime, under Russian instructions, is trying to accuse the rebels of using toxic substances in Aleppo.    This is purely a lie,” he wrote on Twitter.
(Reporting by Ellen Francis; Additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, Kinda Makieh in Damascus, and Andrew Osborn in Moscow; Editing by Mark Potter)

11/25/2018 Chad president to make first Israel visit on Sunday: Israeli PM’s office
FILE PHOTO: Chad President Idriss Deby addresses the media after a meeting with
German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Chadian President Idriss Deby will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday, the first such visit by a leader of the Muslim central African nation, which severed bilateral ties in 1972, Netanyahu’s office said.
    “This is an historic meeting.    This is the first visit of a Chad president in Israel since the establishment of the state (of Israel).    It follows many diplomatic efforts led by Prime Minister Netanyahu in the last few years,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller)

11/25/2018 UAE seeks rich, educated foreigners with long-term visa scheme by Andrew Torchia
FILE PHOTO: General view of Dubai, United Arab Emirates October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates will offer long-term visas to rich property investors, senior scientists and entrepreneurs in an effort to support its economy and real estate market, which have been hurt by low oil prices.
    Until now, visas for foreigners to live in the Arab world’s second biggest economy have generally been valid for only a few years, and have depended on the main visa holder in each family remaining employed.    The government said in May it planned to ease that policy.
    Detailed rules approved by the cabinet on Saturday offer five-year residency to owners of UAE real estate worth at least 5 million dirhams ($1.4 million), as long as ownership is not based on loans, state news agency WAM reported.
    Renewable 10-year visas will be provided to foreigners with investments in the UAE of at least 10 million dirhams, if non-real estate assets account for at least 60 percent of the total.    Investors can bring spouses and children into the country.
    Other rules offer five-year visas to entrepreneurs and 10-year visas for scientists and researchers with top qualifications.    Outstanding students can stay for five years.
    The UAE is currently locked in a diplomatic dispute with Britain after a UK academic was jailed for life on spying charges.
    Share prices of UAE property firms, beaten down by slumping real estate prices, moved little on Sunday in response to the new visa rules.    Analysts said they were probably not enough on their own to change investment or employment trends.
    Some parts of the economy that rely on white-collar professionals – a class of people who might buy homes in the UAE – are seeing stagnant or even falling employment.
    Jean-Paul Pigat, head of research at Lighthouse Research in Dubai, said the new visas were a step in the right direction but: “In order to have a large impact on domestic demand and sectors such as real estate, the policies might need to be broadened so that larger numbers of residents can qualify.”
    Also, the visas do not provide a path to UAE citizenship, which would be a sensitive political issue in a country where well over two-thirds of the roughly 9.4 million residents are believed to be foreign.
    Nishit Lakhotia, head of research at financial company SICO in Bahrain, said the new visa system was positive but unlikely to have any immediate material impact.
    “There are much less stringent investment requirements in some of Eastern European countries or even Turkey to get citizenship, not just residency permits,” he said.
    In another step to aid the real estate market, the UAE government approved in September a law allowing expatriates to stay in the country after retirement if they own a property valued at about $545,000.
(Additional reporting by Saeed Azhar; Editing by Mark Potter)

11/26/2018 Turkish police inspecting villa in Yalova in Khashoggi investigation: media
Turkish gendarmerie and plainclothes police officers stand at the entrance of a villa in the
Samanli village of the Termal district in the northwestern province of Yalova, Turkey, November 26, 2018, as police search inside
in relation to the investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Dogan News Agency via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish police are carrying out inspections at a villa in the northwestern province of Yalova in relation to the investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the state-run Anadolu news agency and other media said on Monday.
    Police are searching a villa in the Samanli village of the Termal district in Yalova, Anadolu said.    No further details were immediately available.
    Turkish authorities have previously carried out inspections at the kingdom’s consulate and the consul general’s residence in Istanbul as part of an investigation into the killing of the journalist, who was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.
    Reuters reported last month that investigators had widened their search to Yalova and a forest on the outskirts of Istanbul for the remains of the journalist.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Editing by David Dolan)

11/26/2018 Four Turkish soldiers killed in helicopter crash in central Istanbul: governor
A Turkish police special forces officer stands guard in front of the site of a
helicopter crash in Istanbul, Turkey, November 26, 2018, REUTERS/Osman Orsal
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Four Turkish soldiers were killed and another was wounded on Monday after a military helicopter crashed in a central district of Istanbul, the governor of Istanbul was quoted as saying.
    The helicopter was carrying out training flights at the Samandira air base in Istanbul and the reason for its crash has not yet been determined, the state-owned Anadolu news agency cited governor Ali Yerlikaya as saying.
    “Treatment for the wounded and an inspection into the cause of the incident has been started.    Efforts at the crash site are underway,” Yerlikaya said.
    Footage showed the helicopter had crashed in the middle of a residential area in the Sancaktepe district of Istanbul, on the Asian side of the city.    Debris from the crash had scattered across the street, the footage showed.
    Medical and emergency teams were dispatched to the area, Anadolu said.    It said Defence Minister Hulusi Akar would go to the crash site to hold inspections.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Editing by David Dolan)

11/26/2018 Saudi Arabia oil pumping at record high as Trump raises pressure by Rania El Gamal
FILE PHOTO: Flames are seen at the production facility of Saudi Aramco's Shaybah oilfield
in the Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia May 22, 2018. . REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo
    DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia raised oil production to an all-time high in November, an industry source said on Monday, as U.S. President Donald Trump piled pressure on the kingdom to refrain from production cuts at an OPEC meeting next week.
    The industry source, who is familiar with the matter, said Saudi crude oil production hit 11.1-11.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in November, although it will not be clear what the exact average November output is until the month is over.
    Those levels are up around 0.5 million bpd – equal to 0.5 percent of global demand – from October and more than 1 million bpd higher than in early 2018, when Riyadh was curtailing production together with other OPEC members.
    Saudi Arabia agreed to raise supply steeply in June, in response to calls from consumers, including the United States and India, to help cool oil prices and address a supply shortage after Washington imposed sanctions on Iran.
    But the move backfired on Riyadh after Washington imposed softer than expected sanctions on Tehran.    That triggered worries of a supply glut and prices collapsed to below $60 per barrel on Friday from as high as $85 per barrel in October.
    Saudi oil industry sources have signaled they wanted prices to stay above $70 per barrel and Saudi energy minister Khalid al Falih said this month global oil supply could exceed demand by over 1 million bpd next year, requiring OPEC to take action.
    OPEC will consider a deal to lower production when it meets next week, but Trump again called on Saudi Arabia to refrain from cuts.
    On Sunday, Trump thanked himself for lower oil prices and compared it to a big tax cut for the U.S. economy.
    “So great that oil prices are falling (thank you President T),” Trump tweeted, referring to himself.
    Last week, Trump tweeted: “Oil prices are getting lower… Thank you Saudi Arabia but let’s go lower.”
    Falih said earlier this month that state oil giant Saudi Aramco would ship 0.5 million bpd less crude in December than in November as demand from customers was lower.
    Possibly complicating Saudi decisions on oil output is the crisis around the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul last month.
    Trump stood behind Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite calls from many U.S. politicians to impose stiff sanctions on Riyadh.    Prince Mohammed is the ultimate Saudi oil policy maker and Saudi watchers have said the Prince will try to avoid confrontation with Washington, including on the oil price front.
(Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Dale Hudson and Kirsten Donovan)

11/26/2018 Qatar Airways announces more flights to Iran weeks after U.S. sanctions reimposed on Tehran
FILE PHOTO: A Qatar Airways aircraft is seen at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, June 7, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Qatar Airways will add more flights to Iran from January, the state-owned Gulf airline announced on Monday just weeks after the United States re-imposed sanctions aimed at crippling Tehran’s economy.
    President Donald Trump has threatened to bar companies that continue to do business with Iran from the U.S. market.
    Qatar Airways will add two weekly flights to its existing Doha-Tehran route and add three weekly flights on its Shiraz service in January.    It will also launch two weekly flights to Isfahan in February.
    “These latest launches are further evidence of Qatar Airways’ commitment to Iran, as well as the expansion of our network in this thriving market …,” Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said in a statement.
    European carriers Air France and British Airways halted flights to Iran this year.    Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has also stopped flying to Iran, while Dubai’s Emirates and flydubai have consolidated some routes as part of a partnership led by their shared state owner.
    Washington announced on Nov. 5 a series of sanctions targeting Iran’s banks, oil and shipping sectors, national airline and 200 individuals after Trump pulled the United States out of an international nuclear deal with Tehran.
    The United Arab Emirates, a U.S. partner in the Gulf region that staunchly opposes Iranian foreign policy and swiftly backed Washington’s decision, has said it is fully complying with the sanctions.
    The sanctions are aimed at forcing Iran to further curb its nuclear work, to suspend its ballistic missile program and its influence in the Middle East.
    Qatar has forged closer economic ties with Iran since June 2017 when neighbors Saudi Arabia and the UAE cut political and economic ties with Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism and cozying up to Tehran.    Qatar denies the charges.
    Egypt and Bahrain also cut ties with Qatar.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Adrian Croft)

11/26/2018 Qatar expects to receive six F-15 fighter jets from U.S. by March 2021 by Eric Knecht
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jets are seen on the tarmac during the Clear Sky 2018 multinational military drills
at Starokostiantyniv Air Base in Khmelnytskyi Region, Ukraine October 12, 2018. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    DOHA (Reuters) – Qatar expects six F-15 warplanes to be delivered to its air force by March 2021, a military official said on Monday, the first batch of 36 it agreed to buy from the United States last year for $12 billion.
    Brigadier General Issa al-Mahannadi told reporters at the Al Udeid air base in Qatar that a further six F-15s would be dispatched three months after the initial batch, with four more expected every three months thereafter.
    Qatar signed agreements to buy warplanes from the United States as well as Europe last year after a political dispute broke out between it and neighbors Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain.
    “This is not a purchase, it is a strategic partnership with the U.S.,” Mahannadi said.
    The tiny but wealthy Gulf state will begin sending eight pilots per year to the United States for training this year, Mahannadi added, while transitioning some of its experienced Qatari pilots to fly the F-15s in order to establish a 53-person aircrew for them by 2023.
    The programs are part of Qatar’s drive to beef up its air power and meet the needs of an air force that has also inked deals for 12 more French Rafale fighters and 24 Eurofighter Typhoon aircrafts since the rift with its neighbors kicked off.
    Boeing was awarded the contract for the F-15s.
    Qatar in August announced it would expand Al Udeid, which hosts the largest U.S. military facility in the Middle East, to accommodate the F-15s and other fighter jets.
    Mahannadi said construction on the area for the F-15s would start in 2020 and be completed by 2021, in time to receive the first delivery.
(Reporting by Eric Knecht, writing by Alexander Cornwell, editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/26/2018 Saudi crown prince to start visit to Egypt on Monday: MENA
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman leaves the
Hotel Matignon in Paris, France, April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s crown prince was due to arrive in Egypt on Monday for a two-day visit, state news agency MENA reported, part of his first trip abroad since the murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to hold talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi dealing with bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries … as well as some political files of shared interest, MENA said.
    Prince Mohammed has visited the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain since Thursday.    He is expected to travel to Tunisia on Tuesday.
    Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at the beginning of October drew global condemnation.
    Saudi Arabia has said the crown prince had no prior knowledge of the killing of the Washington Post columnist at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul last month.
(Writing by Aidan Lewis, Editing by William Maclean)

11/26/2018 With little aid, Syria’s Raqqa struggles to revive schools by Aboud Hamam
A school child attends a class in Raqqa, Syria November 7, 2018. Picture taken November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Aboud Hamam
    RAQQA, Syria (Reuters) – In the Syrian city of Raqqa, children wear hats, scarves and coats to guard against the winter cold as they struggle to catch up on years of lost learning in a classroom with no doors or glazed windows.
    More than a year since the United States and its allies defeated Islamic State at Raqqa, many of the city’s schools still look like battlefields with buildings left lying in rubble and playgrounds dotted with wrecked cars.
    “When the crisis started, we stopped studying, the schools closed.    Now we’ve come back to study and we need help.    Fix the windows, doors, we’re dying of cold,” said 12-year-old Abdullah al-Hilal at Uqba bin Nafie school.
    Islamic State, which turned Raqqa into the Syrian headquarters of its self-declared “caliphate,” kept schools shut as it tried to impose its ultra-radical vision of Islam through its own education system.
    Since Islamic State’s defeat there in October 2017, 44 schools have reopened with 45,000 children enrolled, said Ali al-Shannan, the head of the education council set up by civilian authorities in Raqqa.
    The children have lost out on five years of schooling.
    “Very basic” aid had allowed for some renovation work, covering only 10 percent of needs, Shannan told Reuters.    The schools generally “have no doors, no windows, in addition to the sanitation systems that are in a deplorable state,” he said.
    At Uqba bin Nafie school, one classroom looks out onto a wrecked building, its floors collapsed on top of each other and a car flipped on its side nearby.    In the yard, children stand around large pools of dirty water while others eat snacks by the crumpled wreckage of another vehicle.
AIR STRIKES
    Islamic State used Raqqa’s schools – like much of the city – for military purposes, digging tunnels under some of them.    Some of the schools were hit by air strikes, Raqqa residents say.
    Amnesty International has said 80 percent of the city still lies in ruins, with thousands of bodies under the rubble.    With much of Raqqa destroyed by U.S.-led air strikes, Amnesty has faulted the coalition for not doing more to help recovery.
    The United States has said stabilization efforts in Raqqa have focused on basic necessities including demining, water and electricity.    The coalition has also supported the reopening of schools.
    UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, estimates that 2.1 million children in Syria are out of school.
    In Raqqa, UNICEF is providing textbooks to more than 121,000 children so they can get a start while waiting for a classroom, said Juliette Touma, UNICEF’s regional chief of communications.    “The self-learning program allows children who are out of school to learn at home, an NGO or community learning center,” she said.
    Shannan said 57,000 books have been received so far, short of 95,000 he said had been requested.    The need was growing as the number of children registered for school increases, he said.
    As winter sets in, the dilapidated state of the schools is leading some children to miss out on yet more lessons.
    Ayman al-Qurt, the director of at Uqba bin Nafie school, says attendance in one of his classes is just 11 of 38 pupils “because of the bad state of the school and the bad weather.”
    “Is this not a pity?
(Writing/additional reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

11/26/2018 Palestinian shot dead after injuring Israeli soldiers in car-ramming: military
Israeli policemen inspect the scene of a car-ramming attack near Hebron,
in the occupied West Bank November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    BEIT UMMAR, West Bank (Reuters) – A Palestinian was shot dead while carrying out a car-ramming attack on Monday that injured three Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military said.
    The military said one of the soldiers sustained moderate injuries and the other two were slightly hurt when the Palestinian crashed his vehicle into them along a West Bank road north of the city of Hebron.
    Another soldier then shot and killed the assailant, the military said.
    Palestinians, many of them individuals without known associations with militant groups, carried out a wave of car-ramming attacks in the West Bank in late 2015 and in 2016, but the frequency of such incidents has since decreased.
    There was no claim of responsibility for Monday’s incident, which drew praise from the Hamas militant group as “a response to crimes carried out by the occupation,” a term it uses to refer to Israel.
    Israel captured the West Bank in a 1967 Middle East war.    Palestinians seek to establish a state there and in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.    Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Alison Williams)

11/26/2018 Soros foundation to close in Turkey after attack by Erdogan by Ali Kucukgocmen and Gulsen Solaker
FILE PHOTO: Business magnate George Soros arrives to speak at the
Open Russia Club in London, Britain June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – George Soros’s Open Society Foundation said on Monday it would cease operations in Turkey, days after President Tayyip Erdogan accused the billionaire philanthropist of trying to divide and destroy nations.
    The organization said it was no longer possible to work in Turkey after it became the target of “baseless claims” in the media and a renewed investigation by Turkish authorities into mass protests against Erdogan’s government five years ago.
    It said the Turkish Interior Ministry was renewing attempts to prove that the Soros foundation was behind the 2013 Gezi Park protests, one of the biggest political challenges to Erdogan’s 15-year rule.    The foundation denied any link to the protests.
    Erdogan denounced Soros last week while speaking of the detention of 13 activists and academics accused of supporting attempts by jailed businessman and rights advocate Osman Kavala to revive the Gezi protests.
    “The person (Kavala) who financed terrorists during the Gezi incidents is already in prison,” Erdogan told a meeting of local administrators on Wednesday.
    “And who is behind him?    The famous Hungarian Jew Soros.    This is a man who assigns people to divide nations and shatter them.    He has so much money and he spends it this way.”
    One of the 13 people detained on Nov. 16 was Hakin Altinay, who helped establish the Open Society Foundation in Turkey.    Others were staff members of Kavala’s Anadolu Kultur center, which campaigns for human rights and cultural diversity.
    All but one of the detainees were later released, but not before the European Union and United States expressed concern about their cases.
    Ankara’s Western allies have repeatedly criticized the arrest of tens of thousands of people since a failed military coup in Turkey in July 2016.
MONEY TRANSFERS
    Kavala, in detention for more than a year, said on Monday in a statement posted on his website that he was still waiting for an indictment to be prepared so that he could prove that the claims he had helped to direct and finance the Gezi protests and wanted to overthrow the government were “unfounded.”
    The pro-government Sabah newspaper, citing reports from financial crime investigators, said on Monday the Open Society Foundation had made financial transfers to Kavala’s organization to support the spread of the Gezi protests nationwide.
    It said nearly 1.9 million lira had been transferred between August 2011 and April 2017.
    The foundation said it informed the Turkish authorities every year about which institutions and projects had received donations, and the authorities had approved them.
    “However, with the new investigations that have been opened, it is seen that there is an effort to link the Open Society Foundation to the Gezi incidents in 2013.    These efforts are not new and they are outside reality,” it said.
    The foundation said it would apply for the legal liquidation and winding up of the company’s operations as soon as possible.
    “The increase of baseless claims and disproportionate speculation in the media in recent days has made it impossible for the foundation to continue its operations.”
    Soros, a U.S.-based financier and philanthropist, and his Open Society Foundation have also come under fire in Hungary.    Prime Minister Viktor Orban accuses Soros and the liberal causes he backs of trying to undermine Europe’s Christian culture by promoting mass migration, a charge the financier denies.
(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker, Ali Kucukgocmen and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans and Gareth Jones)
[Old George Soros is having a bad week at trying to push his Progressive Socialist perversion on two places that just shut him down.    This is the first thing that Erdogan has done that I have liked.].

11/26/2018 Chemical weapons agency to investigate alleged Aleppo attack by Anthony Deutsch and Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: A woman breathes through an oxygen mask after what the Syrian state media said was a
suspected toxic gas attack in Aleppo, Syria November 24, 2018. Picture taken November 24, 2018. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    THE HAGUE/GENEVA (Reuters) – The global chemical weapons agency will investigate an alleged gas attack in Syria’s Aleppo on Saturday that reportedly wounded up to 100 people, the head of the agency said on Monday.
    The Syrian government, which accused rebels of firing chlorine, asked the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to send a fact-finding mission to the city, Fernando Arias, the OPCW’s new head, said.
    Arias said the OPCW had asked the United Nations department of security to say whether it was safe to deploy a team to Aleppo, where government forces two years ago ousted rebels from the last pocket of territory that they controlled.
    U.N. war crimes investigators, who have a standing mandate to examine all human rights violations committed in Syria, are also collecting information and asking sources for any evidence, a U.N. official in Geneva said.
    “Once they have something concrete and credible that meets their standard of proof, they will be able to report publicly,” he said.    The panel has attributed 33 documented chemical attacks to the government since 2013, while the perpetrators of six others have not been sufficiently identified.
    World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the WHO had “received unconfirmed reports of patients arriving in health facilities in Aleppo with symptoms that may be consistent with exposure to chemical agents.”
    Under new powers granted in June, the OPCW will be able not only to determine whether a chemical weapons attack occurred but also to assign blame.    That responsibility had fallen to a joint U.N.-OPCW mission until Russia blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution to extend its mandate a year ago.
    Past investigations by the joint mission found that Syrian government forces had used chlorine and sarin several times in the civil war, while the radical Islamist militant group Islamic State was found to have used sulfur mustard gas once.
    Other rebel groups have not been found in formal reports to have used banned toxic munitions.
    A health official in Aleppo said victims had suffered breathing difficulties, eye inflammation and other symptoms that suggested the use of chlorine gas.
    Chlorine is a widely available industrial chemical, but its use as a weapon is banned internationally.
    Investigators concluded in previous reports that Syrian government forces had used helicopters to drop barrel bombs full of chlorine onto rebel-held areas.
    Reports of the Aleppo attack overshadowed meetings at the OPCW in The Hague, where 193 member countries gathered to discuss the agency’s future.
    On the same day that a ceremony was held to honor victims of such banned weapons, major powers swapped allegations about who was to blame for the resurgence in their use in Syria.
(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

11/26/2018 Iraq militia leader urges formal border security role for Shi’ite fighters by John Davison
Qais al-Khazali, leader of the militant group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, speaks during an interview with
Reuters in Najaf, Iraq November 24, 2018. Picture taken November 24, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani
    NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) – The head of a powerful Iraqi militia wants a formal role for Shi’ite paramilitaries in securing the border with Syria, a move that could deepen U.S. worries about Iran’s growing sway over a strategic corridor of territory from Tehran to Beirut.
    Iraq’s Shi’ite militias, many of which are supported by Iran and oppose the presence of U.S. troops in the region, have sent reinforcements to the frontier after fighting flared between U.S.-backed Kurdish forces and Islamic State militants on the Syrian side.
    Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, urged the government to provide a more formal, long-term border protection role for the militias.
    “Securing Iraq’s borders with Syria is among the most important duties of the Popular Mobilization Forces right now,” he said in an interview with Reuters at his office in the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf on Saturday.
    “The Daesh (IS) threat against Iraq won’t end as long as Syria is unstable.    The PMF proved it is the military side most capable of dealing with Daesh … maybe the armed forces can invest the PMF in duties that include border security,” Khazali said.
    Asaib Ahl al-Haq is part of the PMF, an umbrella grouping of mostly Iran-backed and trained Shi’ite paramilitary groups.    The PMF was made formally part of the security forces this year after helping the military defeat Islamic State in Iraq in 2017.
    It remains separate from the military and police, however, raising questions over whom the militias will answer to and what their exact role will be if they are fully integrated into Iraq’s security structure.
    Khazali said paramilitary commanders should retain leadership positions and that “the government needs to provide bases and weapons depots.”
    The growing presence of Iran-backed militias on the frontier has caused tensions with Washington, which has special forces on the Syrian side to back Kurdish-led fighters battling IS.
    A formal PMF border role would exacerbate that friction as Washington seeks to counter Iran’s sway over territory stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean via Iraq and Syria.    Iran’s allies in that territory include Iraqi and Lebanese fighters and politicians, and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
    The risks of having Shi’ite fighters and U.S. forces in close proximity were laid bare in July when the PMF vowed to “not be quiet” over an alleged U.S. air strike it said killed 22 of its members inside Syria.
    The United States denied involvement in the strike.
    The Iraqi military, which Washington supports, is deployed along the frontier, but PMF leaders have said they are taking the lead in securing it, including around the town of al-Qaim which borders Syria’s Deir al-Zor province.
    “The border was not secure before.    Our operations have fixed that completely,” a senior PMF commander said in October.
    Iraq’s military relied on the PMF support to defeat IS.    It says the militias are now crucial to securing the sprawling Syrian border.
    Iraqi Sunni and Kurdish politicians have called for disarming the PMF.    They say the militias are responsible for widespread abuses including extra-judicial killings and displacing non-Shi’ite populations, and in effect report to Tehran, not the government in Baghdad.
    The PMF says any abuses were isolated incidents and not systematic and that those who committed them have been punished.
U.S. TROOP PRESENCE ‘UNACCEPTABLE’
    The PMF, estimated at 150,000 members, includes groups which fought the U.S. military after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and individuals against whom Washington has imposed Iran-related sanctions.
    Members of Congress have sought sanctions against Khazali’s group.    Khazali denied it is currently receiving support from Iran.
    “We don’t expect a good future for relations between Iraq and the United States under (President Donald) Trump,” he said, and reiterated his call for U.S. troops to leave Iraq.
    “A (U.S.) training role is one thing but presence of combat forces is unacceptable.    Parliament should oppose this.    Daesh is no longer a military threat, so there should be a reduction” in U.S. troops, he said.
    The Pentagon says over 5,000 troops are deployed in Iraq.
    Khazali’s militia started as a splinter group of the Mahdi Army, a force formed by anti-American Shi’ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr in the U.S. occupation.    Under his leadership, it gained notoriety for its attacks against U.S. forces.
    He and Hadi al-Amiri, the veteran leader of the Badr Organisation who contested Iraq’s May general election, were among the first to announce late last year they were putting their paramilitaries under the orders of the prime minister.
    Iran has provided training and weapons to both groups.
(Writing by John Davison, Ahmed Rasheed, Editing by William Maclean)

11/26/2018 South Africa’s Gordhan files defamation complaint against left-wing party leaders
FILE PHOTO: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan gestures during a business summit
in Sandton, South Africa, September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Monday filed a defamation complaint against radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leaders who have accused him and his daughter of corruption.
    In a speech last week, EFF leader Julius Malema said Gordhan’s daughter Anisha was awarded government contracts as a result of her father’s position in government.    Gordhan denies any wrongdoing, and also says his daughter is not corrupt.
    The case between Gordhan and Malema could open a new avenue of political jostling between the parties months before a national election, where the smaller EFF is trying to use an anti-corruption platform to challenge key figures in the ruling African National Congress party.
    Gordhan, a former finance minister respected by international investors for standing up to former president Jacob Zuma, filed a complaint of crimen injuria and criminal defamation and asked the police to investigate any incitement to violence contained in Malema’s speech.
    Crimen injuria is an act of unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another.
    Gordhan also laid another complaint at the Equality Court, seeking an apology from Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu, as well as damages of 150,000 rand ($11,000).
    “The determined defense of corruption and the corrupt, using personal attacks, racism and alleged hate speech is not acceptable and must be challenged,” Gordhan said.
    “I have not responded until now to the absolute nonsensical and unsubstantiated attacks, but extending these attacks to my family and threatening harmony amongst the people of South Africa was a step too far.    Enough is enough.”
    The EFF spokesman did not answer calls to his mobile phone seeking comment on Gordhan’s complaint.    An official at the party’s headquarters said the EFF leaders were meeting and could issue a statement later.
    Malema tweeted that he would open a criminal case against Gordhan on Tuesday on charges ranging from money laundering, corruption, racketeering to fraud.    He did not provide details.
    Malema made the allegations against Gordhan last week at an EFF rally held outside a building where Gordhan was giving testimony at a judicial inquiry into allegations of state corruption and influence-peddling in Zuma’s administration.
    Zuma has denied the allegations.    The allegations and other scandals surrounding Zuma’s nine-year rule forced him out of office in February.
($1 = 13.8090 rand)
(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by James Macharia and Alison Williams)

11/26/2018 South Africa’s Ramaphosa signs minimum wage bill into law
FILE PHOTO: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during a visit to crime ridden Hanover Park
township to launch a new Anti-Gang Unit, in Cape Town, South Africa November 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law the national minimum wage bill, his office said on Monday, part of efforts by the government to tackle wage inequality in Africa’s most industrialized economy.
    The National Minimum Wage Act sets South Africa’s minimum wage at 20 rand ($1.45) an hour, equal to 3,500 rand per month.    The law will come into force on a date to be determined by Ramaphosa, the presidency said.
    Supporters of the minimum wage say it will reduce inequality and stimulate economic growth as workers spend more.
    But critics say it could lead to increased unemployment, already at record highs, because some employers won’t be able to afford higher wage bills.
    Thousands of union members protested against the proposed minimum wage in April, saying it was too low.
    Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement that while the national minimum wage will not end income inequality, it was a first step towards adressing the clamor for a living wage.
(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by James Macharia)

11/26/2018 Jordan faces wave of dissent as government’s troubles mount by Tom Perry and Suleiman Al-Khalidi
FILE PHOTO: Protesters are seen in front of the Labour Union offices
in Amman, Jordan, June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed/File Photo
    AMMAN (Reuters) – When a flash flood swept a group of schoolchildren to their deaths in Jordan last month, a wave of public criticism pointed to wider discontent within the kingdom.
    The backlash against the government on social media questioned how anyone had been allowed into an area at risk of seasonal flooding near the Dead Sea.    Two ministers were sacked over the tragedy and King Abdullah ordered an inquiry.
    The reaction reflected the challenges facing a government struggling to win public support over a range of issues, chief amongst them tax increases needed to help plug the state’s gaping budget deficit.
    Criticism on Facebook and Twitter has been running at a high pitch all year with little or no respite even after King Abdullah replaced the government in June following a rare wave of protests over the economy.
    “Prison does not scare us and the word of justice we will say as long as we live.    The country must get fixed,” political satirist Ahmed Hassan Zoubi tweeted on Nov. 17.
    King Abdullah’s half brother, former crown prince Hamza, has also weighed in, taking to Twitter in September to demand a crackdown on corruption in the public sector as a starting point for reform – a call voiced by the king himself.
    For Jordan, a U.S. ally whose stability has been a defining feature of the Middle East for decades, this has been an uncomfortable year.
    The government has been forced to cut spending and raise taxes, confronted by the economic impact of years of regional turmoil and diminished Gulf Arab support as a result of falling oil prices and the Yemen war.
    Adding to the pressures, Donald Trump’s proposed Middle East peace plan has hit a political nerve in Jordan, where millions of citizens of Palestinian refugee origin live alongside native Jordanians.
    Despite questions over whether the president’s “ultimate deal” will get anywhere, his approach has stirred old fears of any attempt to settle the conflict in a way that would suit Israel but forgo Palestinian rights at Jordan’s expense.
    With its stability underpinned by a powerful military and security apparatus, Jordan has developed one of the Arab world’s more open economies, investing in education and infrastructure including its gleaming airport and roads.
    A bulwark against Islamist militancy, Jordan has made peace with Israel and absorbed waves of Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian refugees.    It also navigated its way through the 2011 Arab Spring, though it still faces some of the issues that ignited regional turmoil that year, notably youth unemployment.
    Since the summer protests, there has been no sign of unrest in the streets.    King Abdullah and his Hashemite dynasty enjoy solid support and act as a unifying force among native Jordanian tribes and Jordanian Palestinians.
    But not for the first time, the monarchy has come in for criticism of late.
KING ABDULLAH STEPS INTO DEBATE
    In October, a group of retired senior military officers, tribal figures and activists from traditionally loyalist constituencies aired their grievances in a petition directed at King Abdullah.
    Attacking Trump’s Middle East policy, the signatories urged the king to stand firm against any moves that harm Jordan.
    The king subsequently announced he would not be renewing a deal that has let Israelis farm Jordanian land near the border since the peace treaty of 1994 – a move that won approval at home and was seen aimed at defusing some of the anger.
    The petition also included a call for the monarch to devolve more powers to parliament.
    “Loyalty is overwhelming in Jordan but that doesn’t mean there are no pockets here and there that are against even the monarchy.    And they are negligible, yes, but through social media they will have a … big voice,” said Fayez Tarawneh, a pillar of the establishment who has served as prime minister and head of the royal court.
    With the traditional print and broadcast media loyal to the state and no organized opposition political parties, social media has become a channel for dissent.
    The government has launched a public awareness campaign on its dangers.    “Fabricated news obstructs development and confuses public opinion,” declares one of the banners erected in recent days around Amman.
    King Abdullah has stepped into the debate about its role in unusually strong terms, taking aim at what he described as false rumors and stories spread online in a lengthy article published in pro-government media.
    Addressing speculation over a month-long absence this summer, the king criticized a “wave of rumors and false stories” that had spread concerning his annual break.    “The question persisted: Where is the king?    Some went as far as questioning my presence even as I stood before them.”
    “Unfortunately, some people have tried to spread rumors targeting the morale and unity of Jordanians,” he wrote.
    There was an urgent need, he wrote, to develop laws to ensure the protection of freedom of expression but also to “combat rumors and misinformation, and counter hate speech.”
    “Anyone who offends a Jordanian — whether from my bigger Jordanian family or my immediate family — offends me personally.”
NOT AN EASY RIDE
    Amnesty International said the article appeared to signal the king’s support for proposed amendments to a cybercrimes law that would “deal a devastating blow to freedom of expression in Jordan.”    The amendments were sent to parliament in September.
    “They are deeply scared of Facebook,” said Ali Braizat, a dissident from the town of Dhiban who has been jailed twice for opposition activities.
    Braizat, 55, is an unusually strident critic of King Abdullah, crossing red lines that allow criticism of the government but not the monarch.
    His town is one of the provincial tribal areas upon which the Hashemites built their support among native Jordanians.    Many of its people have benefited from state jobs, including Braizat until he resigned in 2001.
Jordan’s police chief is from the area.
    Braizat’s last spell in prison was in January, when he was held for one month.    His arrest sparked protests in Dhiban.
    Braizat, a lawyer who also farms olives on family land in Dhiban, was a signatory of the petition, describing it as a “clear and frank” message to the king and his foreign backers.
    “The Jordanians are telling the king what’s requested of (him),” he said.    “In the midst of what’s going on in the region we don’t want to change the regime.    But (he is) the one in charge and responsible firstly and finally for changing things.”
    During the Arab Spring, there were protests in Dhiban but these were to demand more state jobs and services, not political reform, Braizat said.    A visit by King Abdullah helped manage the situation.
    Jordan’s financial crunch now hangs over the state’s ability to finance jobs and services.    Tarawaneh said the “financial squeeze” couldn’t be separated from regional instability.
    “What is needed really is continuous dialogue within the country to explain more … the procedures the government has to take.    In certain areas, you need some surgery,” he said.
    “It’s not an easy ride.”
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Giles Elgood)

11/26/2018
Israeli minister says he’s invited to 2019 conference in Bahrain
FILE PHOTO: Israel's Economy Minister Eli Cohen works at his office in the Knesset,
the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli cabinet minister said on Monday he had been invited to attend a conference next year in Bahrain, in what he described as part of Israel’s emerging relations with Arab and Muslim countries that do not formally recognize it.
    Israel’s diplomatic push in the Gulf, where it sees Arab states as its natural allies against regional powerhouse Iran, has become increasingly public after years of covert contacts.
    Shared worries about Iran or needs in terms of security, agriculture and water have thawed hostility toward Israel among some Arab governments.    After a surprise trip to Oman last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday hosted a first visit by Chadian President Idriss Deby.
    “i>I myself received a personal invitation to Bahrain,” Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen said in a radio interview.
    Cohen told Army Radio the invitation was to a conference in the first quarter of 2019 “i>in the realm of technology and high-tech, in which the State of Israel is certainly a leader.”    He did not say whether he planned to attend.
    Asked to elaborate, an Israeli official briefed on Cohen’s affairs said the event to which he had been invited was the Startup Nations Ministerial conference on April 15, a forum for public policymakers to discuss how to promote entrepreneurs.
    The official, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter, said the invitation originated with the Manama government and was relayed to Israel by Switzerland.
    Officials in Manama did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.    Switzerland’s ambassador to Israel, Jean-Daniel Ruch, said in an emailed statement that his embassy had no knowledge of any such invitation.
    Bahrain, where a Saudi-backed Sunni Muslim ruling family faces a Shia-led opposition, is one of several flashpoints in a regional tussle for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran.    Manama is a close ally of the Saudis and Emiratis, Gulf forces that Israel has described as potential partners against its arch-foe Iran.
(Writing by Dan Williams and Aziz El Yaakoubi, Editing by William Maclean)

11/27/2018 Turkey says Saudi prince has asked to meet Erdogan at G20
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman looks on during a meeting with
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, Egypt November 26, 2018.
Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
    BERLIN/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview published on Tuesday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had asked for a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and that there was currently no reason not to meet him.
    “Yes, he has asked Erdogan on the phone, whether they could meet in Buenos Aires.    Erdogan’s answer was ‘Let’s see’,” Cavusoglu told Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
    Erdogan and Prince Mohammed will attend the G20 meeting in Argentina later this week.    “At the moment there is no reason not to meet with the crown prince,” Cavusoglu said.
    Saudi-Turkish relations have been strained by the killing last month of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.    After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.
    Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said the prince had no knowledge of the killing, which Turkey says was carried out at the Saudi consulate by a squad of 15 Saudi agents which included a member of Prince Mohammed’s security team.
    Erdogan has said the killing was ordered by the highest level of Saudi leadership but ruled out that it had come from King Salman, putting the spotlight instead on the 33-year-old crown prince.
    U.S. President Donald Trump said last week Washington would remain a “steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia despite saying that Prince Mohammed may have known about the plan to murder Khashoggi.
    Asked if he knew for sure who in Riyadh gave the order to kill Khashoggi, Cavusoglu said that the team would not have acted on its own, but could not say anything else without proof.
    Cavusoglu said Riyadh had offered to send identikit photos of local helpers who assisted in the cover-up.    “Why identikit pictures?    The Saudis know the names,” he said.
    Turkey says it has recordings related to the killing which it shared with Western allies.    Cavusoglu said he had listened to the recordings and that Khashoggi was killed within seven minutes.
    “It was premeditated murder,” he told the German newspaper, rather than a last resort after they failed to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia.
    “It can be heard how the forensics expert instructs the others: they should listen to music while he cuts up the body. One notices how he enjoys it.”
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Daren Butler; Writing by Sarah Dadouch; editing by Dominic Evans)

11/27/2018 Shipping companies shun Yemen’s Hodeidah port due to insecurity: U.N.
Employees walk under a crane at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen August 5, 2018. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad
    GENEVA (Reuters) – Operations at Yemen’s lifeline port of Hodeidah have nearly halved in two weeks, as high levels of insecurity in the flashpoint Houthi-held city deter shipping companies, the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.
    As 70 percent of imports come in through the vital port, a decrease in the arrival of wheat and other supplies would impact food stocks in the country where 14 million people are facing possible starvation, it said.
    “Shipping companies appear to be reluctant to call to Hodeidah port because of the high levels of insecurity in the city,” WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel told a news briefing.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay)

11/27/2018 Pentagon tells Russia not to tamper with alleged Aleppo attack site by Idrees Ali
FILE PHOTO: A woman lies on a stretcher inside a hospital after what the
Syrian state media said was a suspected toxic gas attack in Aleppo, Syria November 24, 2018.
Picture taken November 24, 2018. SANA/Handout via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon cautioned Russia on Tuesday not to tamper with the site of an alleged gas attack in Syria’s Aleppo and allow investigators to inspect the site.
    The global chemical weapons agency, know as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), has said it will investigate the alleged gas attack in Aleppo on Saturday that reportedly sickened up to 100 people.    The Syrian government and its ally, Russia, blamed the attack on insurgents.
    The Syrian government, which accused rebels of firing chlorine, asked the OPCW to send a fact-finding mission to the city.
    “We caution Russia against tampering with another suspected chemical weapons attack site and urge Russia to secure the safety of the OPCW inspectors so these allegations can be investigated in a fair and transparent manner,” Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson said.
    In April, the United States accused Russia of blocking international inspectors from reaching the site of a suspected poison gas attack in Syria’s Douma and said Russians or Syrians may have tampered with evidence on the ground.
    The OPCW will be able not only to determine whether a chemical weapons attack occurred but also to assign blame.    That responsibility had fallen to a joint U.N.-OPCW mission until Russia blocked a United Nations Security Council resolution to extend its mandate a year ago.
    Past investigations by the joint mission found that Syrian government forces had used chlorine and sarin several times in the civil war, while the Islamist militant group Islamic State was found to have used sulfur mustard gas once.    Other rebel groups have not been found in formal reports to have used banned toxic munitions.
    A health official in Aleppo said victims had suffered breathing difficulties, eye inflammation and other symptoms that suggested the use of chlorine gas.
    Chlorine is a widely available industrial chemical, but its use as a weapon is banned internationally.
    The Pentagon also called on the Syrian government not to use “false pretexts” to carry out strikes in Idlib’s de-escalation zone.
    “We continue to engage the Russian government and military at senior levels to make clear that an offensive in Idlib would represent a reckless escalation of the conflict,” Robertson said.
    Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday its warplanes bombed militants in the insurgent stronghold of Idlib who it accused of firing poison gas at Aleppo.
    A Russian-Turkish deal in September for a demilitarized zone staved off an army offensive against the Idlib region.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Tom Brown)

11/27/2018 U.S. could unveil peace plan at start of 2019: Israel’s U.N. envoy by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon addresses a United Nations General Assembly
meeting ahead of a vote on a draft resolution that would deplore the use of excessive force
by Israeli troops against Palestinian civilians at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States has spoken with Israel about possibly presenting a long-awaited Middle East peace plan at the start of next year, which could avoid interfering with the country’s election, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon said on Tuesday.
    U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been preparing a plan for peace between the Palestinians and Israel.    But the Palestinians are skeptical and have accused the Trump administration of siding with Israel on the core issues relating to the decades-old conflict, burying all chances for peace.
    “We don’t know the details of the plan but we know that it’s completed.    So now the question is when will they submit it.    As far as we know they speak with us about the beginning of ’19,” Danon told reporters.
    At the annual United Nations gathering of world leaders in September, Trump said in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he wanted to unveil a peace plan over the next two to three months.
    “We always spoke about the fact that maybe we are going to elections in Israel and the issue was whether you present the plan in the middle of a campaign.    As it looks now we are going for elections but not immediately,” Danon said on Tuesday.
    “So basically today the president is able to come and present it without interfering in a political debate in Israel,” he said.    “If you present it during an election it will be horrendous.”
    The next national election in Israel is scheduled for November 2019, but politicians and political analysts have speculated the poll could be brought forward to March or May after Netanyahu’s governing coalition was reduced to a one-seat majority in parliament earlier this month.
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said in a statement on Monday it would be shared “at the appropriate time,” adding that: “Our timing, our strategy and our messaging is and will be entirely our own.”
    Danon said it was unclear if the United States planned to present a “take it or leave it” plan or if it would try and bring all sides together to negotiate the proposal.
    Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, who is working on the plan with Kushner, made clear in September that both sides could expect parts they would like or dislike.
    The Palestinians have refused to participate in the U.S. effort since December when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and then moved the U.S. embassy there.
(Additional reporting by Maayen Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

11/28/2018 Tunisians stage first Arab protests against visiting Saudi crown prince by Tarek Amara and Ulf Laessing
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi meets with Saudi Arabia's
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Carthage Palace in Tunis, Tunisia, November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Hundreds of Tunisians staged the first protests of the Arab world against Saudi Arabia’s crown prince as he arrived on a visit on Tuesday, denouncing him as a murderer involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    The protests were a rare occurrence for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler who faces no overt criticism at home and who received lavish receptions earlier in his tour in visits to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
    Since the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising, which unseated several entrenched rulers in the region and triggered turmoil, Tunisia has undergone a democratic transition and is one of the few Arab countries to allow protests.
    Prince Mohammed was welcomed by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi on arrival at Tunis airport, the presidency said, and the two went into talks shortly afterwards at Carthage Palace.
    The crown prince told Tunisian state television that Saudi Arabia has long had good relations with Tunisia, adding, “I cannot come to North Africa without visiting Tunisia…Tunisia’s president is like my father.”
    A Tunisian presidency statement issued later said Prince Mohammed and Essebsi reviewed ways to improve cooperation on the “economy and finance, investment promotion and security and military cooperation to counter extremism and terrorism.”
    The mood in the streets was less friendly.
    In a second day of demonstrations against Prince Mohammed, hundreds of protesters marched along central Habib Bourguiba avenue in Tunis, scene of the mass protests that toppled autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
    They chanted “the murderer is not welcome in Tunisia” and “shame on Tunisia’s rulers” for receiving the crown prince.
    The killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the crown prince, at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 has frayed Saudi Arabia’s relations with the West and tarnished Prince Mohammed’s image abroad.
    Saudi Arabia has said the prince, heir to the throne of the world’s top oil exporter, had no prior knowledge of the murder.
    After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh said last month that Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.
    Protesters raised a large poster which depicted the Tunisian president pouring water on the bloodied hands of the Saudi crown prince – suggesting Tunisian complicity in washing away guilt.
    Demonstrators also called for an end to the Saudi-led military campaign in neighboring Yemen, which was launched by Prince Mohammed in his role as defense minister in 2015.
    The protests were in sharp contrast with earlier parts of the crown prince’s tour of allied countries in the region.
    Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi underlined the strength of Cairo’s ties with Riyadh and called Saudi Arabia’s security and stability “an inseparable part of Egypt’s national security.”
DEMOCRATIC TUNISIA DIVERGES FROM SAUDIS
    Tunisian journalists on Monday put up a huge banner at their union showing the prince with a chainsaw, which Turkish sources have said was used to dismember Khashoggi in Istanbul.    It read: “No to the pollution of the Tunisian revolution.”
    In an apparent attempt to avoid embarrassing the prince, the presidency only invited photographers to cover his visit.    It will not hold a news conference, a usual event at top visits.
    Last week Essebsi adviser Nourredine Ben Ticha said the truth about the killing of Khashoggi must be established but the incident should not be used to harm the kingdom’s stability.
    Tunisia and Saudi Arabia have very different political systems.    The kingdom is an absolute monarchy while Tunisia has been holding free elections since 2011 and agreed three years later on a constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights.
    Tunisia was a strong Saudi ally under Ben Ali but ties have since been strained at times.    The kingdom granted exile to Ben Ali after he flew to Jeddah on the Red Sea following his ouster, resisting calls by some Tunisian parties to hand him over.
    Another irritant is that moderate Islamists have been sharing power with secularists in Tunisia since 2011.    Some critics have likened the Tunisian Ennahda party to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Saudi Arabia.
    In contrast, Tunisia has since 2011 expanded cooperation with Qatar, with which Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states severed trade and transport ties in June 2017.    The four accused Doha of supporting terrorism and Iran — charges Doha denies.
    Tunisia also has strong ties with Turkey, whose relations with Saudi Arabia have been strained by the Khashoggi killing.
    The crown prince departed Tunisia on Tuesday evening after a visit of several hours, Al Arabiya television said, and is expected to fly on to a G20 summit in Argentina.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara, Ulf Laessing, Aidan Lewis and Lena Masri; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/28/2018 Hundreds of bodies exhumed from mass grave in Syrian city
    Syrian workers exhumed more than 500 bodies from one of the largest mass graves near Raqqa, once the capital of the Islamic State group’s selfstyled caliphate, and are still uncovering remains, an official said Tuesday.
    The exhumation was undertaken by local groups amid concerns about the preservation of bodies and evidence for possible war crimes trials.

11/28/2018 Oil rises further above $60 as OPEC, North Sea outage support by Alex Lawler
FILE PHOTO: Oil pumps are seen after sunset outside Vaudoy-en-Brie,
near Paris, France November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
    LONDON (Reuters) – Oil rose further above $60 a barrel on Wednesday, supported by expectations that OPEC and its partners will next week decide to curb supply and helped by a drop in North Sea output.
    The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plus Russia and other allies meet on Dec. 6-7.    Producers are discussing a supply curb of 1 to 1.4 million barrels per day and possibly more, OPEC delegates have told Reuters.
    Brent crude , the global benchmark, was up 53 cents at $60.74 a barrel at 0919 GMT and traded as high as $61.27.
    U.S. crude added 41 cents to $51.97.
    “OPEC needs to cut if it wants the market to be a little less over-supplied in the first half of 2019,” said Olivier Jakob, analyst at Petromatrix, although he added the rally was limited.    “We are not making significant moves.”
    Despite Wednesday’s rise, Brent has slumped 30 percent from a four-year high above $86 a barrel in early October, pressured by concerns that supply will exceed demand in 2019 as economic growth slows.
    The slump since October is so far on a par with the 2008 price crash and steeper than that of 2014-2015 – both of which prompted OPEC to agree output curbs to support the market.
    The OPEC meeting in Vienna will follow a gathering by the Group of 20 (G20) nations in Argentina this weekend, at which oil policy is expected to be discussed, potentially laying the groundwork for an OPEC deal.
    The market also gained support from a supply outage in the North Sea, home to the crude underpinning the Brent contract.
    The Buzzard oilfield, the UK’s largest, has closed temporarily after the discovery of pipe corrosion.    As a result, trade sources said three December cargoes of Forties crude had been canceled.
    “Few would bet against further disruptions,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM, referring to the impact of the outage on cargo loadings.
    A weekly report showing a rise in U.S. crude stockpiles, the 10th consecutive week of gains, limited the rally.
    The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said on Tuesday U.S. crude stocks rose by 3.5 million barrels, more than analysts had forecast.    The government’s official supply report is due later on Wednesday at 1530 GMT.
GRAPHIC: Brent crude oil price slumps of 2008, 2014/2015 & 2018 in percent – https://tmsnrt.rs/2RiWkJ1
(Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein; editing by David Evans)

11/28/2018 Saudi crown prince arrives in Argentina for G20 amid Khashoggi murder furor by Cassandra Garrison
Officers of the Prefectura Naval (Coast Guard) secure the Saudi Arabian embassy
in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian
    BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman landed in Buenos Aires on Wednesday for the G20 summit of industrialized nations, Argentine state television reported, a visit fraught with controversy over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    Human Rights Watch asked Argentina on Monday to use a war crimes clause in its constitution to investigate any involvement by the crown prince in possible crimes against humanity in Yemen and Khashoggi’s murder.
    A representative of the federal prosecutor’s office that has been assigned the case told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday that the prosecutor was still reviewing the request by HRW and that no decision had yet been made on whether to investigate it.
    The killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the crown prince, at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul six weeks ago, has strained Saudi Arabia’s ties with the West and battered Prince Mohammed’s image abroad.    Saudi Arabia has said the prince, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, had no prior knowledge of the murder.
    Prince Mohammed arrived in Buenos Aires from Tunisia, where he was met by protesters who denounced him as a murderer for the killing of Khashoggi.    He was greeted by Argentine foreign minister Jorge Faurie.
    Western nations are also calling for an end to the Saudi-led military campaign in neighboring Yemen, which was launched by Prince Mohammed, as a humanitarian crisis there worsens.
    The G20 leaders summit begins on Friday.
(Reporting by Cassandra Garrison, additional reporting by Juan Bustamante; Editing by Ross Colvin)

11/28/2018 U.S. urges Palestinians to free dual national suspected of Jerusalem land deal by Dan Williams and Ali Sawafta
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks during a reception hosted by the
Orthodox Union in Jerusalem ahead of the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The U.S. ambassador to Israel called on Palestinians on Wednesday to free an American-Palestinian who, the envoy said, was detained for “selling land to a Jew,” apparently violating a long-standing Palestinian ban on selling land to Israelis.
    Through its official Wafa news agency, the Palestinian Authority has accused property dealer Issam Akel, a U.S. citizen, of attempting to sell a property in East Jerusalem without permission of his business partners or the authorities.    The Wafa report did not identify the intended buyer.
    Palestinian law bars selling land to “a hostile state or any of its citizens,” and requires the permission of the Palestinain Authority for all land sales in East Jerusalem.
    Land sales in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are highly fraught for Palestinians, who see Israeli efforts to buy up land as part of a plot to cement control.    Around 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which most foreign powers consider a violation of international law against settling occupied land.
    “The Pal(estinian) Authority has been holding US citizen Isaam Akel in prison for ~2 months.    His suspected ‘crime’?    Selling land to a Jew,” U.S. Ambassador David Friedman wrote on Twitter.
    “Akel’s incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence.    We demand his immediate release.”
    Osama Al-Qawasme, an official from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, rejected Friedman’s remarks and called the U.S. envoy “an ambassador of the settlers.”
    “We deplore his statement that Akel’s arrest violated American values.    Does building of settlements adhere to American values?” Al Qawasme said.    “We in Fatah will confront all attempts to harm the city of Jerusalem or its sacred places.”
    Akel’s father, Jalal, said a Palestinian court had extended his son’s detention by 45 days on Monday.
    “They are stalling.    There is no evidence my son sold anything to Israelis, all charges are void,” the father told Reuters.
    Palestinians consider East Jerusalem to be the capital of their hoped-for future independent state.    Israel captured the territory in a 1967 war and has annexed it as part of its own capital in a move not recognized internationally.
    Major-General Adnan Al-Dmairi, a spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, said 20 people had been arrested in recent years on suspicion of violating land laws.
    An Israeli security official told Reuters Akel was detained on Oct 10 in Ramallah, the hub city of the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
    Israel said its security services had appealed to their Palestinian counterparts for Akel’s release.    Despite the collapse of peace talks in 2014, Israel and the Palestinians still coordinate to help stabilize the West Bank.
    Israel briefly arrested two Palestinian Authority officials from East Jerusalem over the last month on the basis of what the Israeli security official said were suspicions that they had information on Akel’s detention.    One of the Palestinian officials was re-arrested this week.
(Writing by Dan Williams; additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Peter Graff)

11/29/2018 Saudi Arabia wants united front on oil output; Russia and Nigeria hold out by Paul Carsten and Katya Golubkova
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih addresses India Energy Forum in New Delhi, October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo
    ABUJA/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia will not cut oil output on its own to stabilize the market, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Wednesday as Nigeria and Russia said it is too early to signal whether they would join any production curbs.
    Oil producer group OPEC and its allies, led by Russia, meet in Vienna next week against the backdrop of concerns over a slowing global economy and rising oil supplies from the United States, which is not involved in an existing agreement to restrain output.
    The negative economic outlook helped to push oil below $60 a barrel this week from as high as $85 in October, prompting Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to suggest significant production cuts.
    Riyadh, however, has come under renewed pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, who asked the kingdom to refrain from output reductions and help to lower oil prices further.
    Possibly complicating any decision on oil output is the crisis around the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.    Trump has backed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite calls from many U.S. politicians to impose stiff sanctions on Riyadh.
    Falih was in Abuja to meet his Nigerian counterpart Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu.    The Saudi minister said signals from fellow OPEC members Iraq, Nigeria and Libya were positive ahead of the group’s Dec. 6 talks because all ministers want to restore oil market stability.
    “We are going to … do whatever is necessary, but only if we act together as a group of 25,” Falih told reporters, referring to OPEC and its allies.    “As Saudi Arabia we cannot do it alone, we will not do it alone."    “Everybody is longing (to) reach a decision that brings stability back to the market … I think people know that leaving the market to its own devices with no clarity and no collective decision to balance the market is not helping.”
    Brent oil edged down towards $60 on Wednesday, erasing early gains of more than 1 percent, with the market unconvinced on the prospect of OPEC cuts next week.
PUTIN BACKS $60 OIL
    Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Crown Prince Mohammed in Argentina at this weekend’s G20 summit, which Trump will also attend.
    Moscow has so far resisted joining any new production cuts and Falih did not say whether he had heard of any change in Russia’s position.
    Speaking in Moscow, Putin said Russia was in touch with OPEC but Moscow would be satisfied with oil at $60 a barrel.    Putin previously said Russia would be satisfied with a price of $70.
    “We are in contact with OPEC and we are ready to continue our joint efforts if needed,” Putin said.
    Russian energy minister Alexander Novak met Russian oil producers this week to discuss cooperation with OPEC, two industry sources said without providing details.
    Nigeria’s Kachikwu told reporters it was too early to say whether OPEC member Nigeria would participate in any cuts but added that there was “absolute resolve” within the organization to stabilize the market.
    Falih this month said that the abundant supply of oil could require OPEC and its allies to reduce output in 2019.
    He said at the time that supply could exceed demand by as much as 1 million barrels per day (bpd), or 1 percent of global demand, suggesting that OPEC and its allies may try to reduce production by that amount.
    Asked on Wednesday whether cuts could be deeper than 1.4 million bpd, Falih declined to answer.
    Nigeria and Libya were excluded from the previous cuts because of production declines caused by unrest, though their output has now recovered.    Iran was also largely exempt from cuts.
(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Dale Hudson and David Goodman)

11/29/2018 U.N. says Astana meeting on Syria a missed opportunity, no progress
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura attends a meeting during consultations on Syria at the
European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland September 11, 2018. Salvatore Di Nolfi/Pool via REUTERS
    GENEVA/ASTANA (Reuters) – Russia, Turkey and Iran failed to make any tangible progress in setting up a Syrian constitutional committee at a meeting in the Kazakh capital Astana, the office of U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said in a statement on Thursday.
    “Special Envoy de Mistura deeply regrets … there was no tangible progress in overcoming the ten-month stalemate on the composition of the constitutional committee,” it said.
    “This was the last occasion of an Astana meeting in 2018 and has, sadly for the Syrian people, been a missed opportunity to accelerate the establishment of a credible, balanced and inclusive, Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, UN-facilitated constitutional committee.”
    The three countries said in a joint statement issued after the talks that they would “intensify” consultations to establish the committee as soon as possible.
    “The Russian side views the outcome of the conference as positive,” Russia’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev told a briefing in Astana after the talks.
    Moscow, Tehran and Ankara also said in the joint statement they were concerned with ceasefire violations in the Idlib demilitarized zone in northwest Syria and “would step up their efforts to ensure observance,” but stressed the need to continue to “fight against terrorism” there.
    This would include enhancing the work of the Iranian-Russian-Turkish coordination center, the statement issued on the last day of the two-day meeting said.
    Damascus-ally Russia and Turkey, which backs Syrian rebels, in September agreed to create a de-militarization buffer zone around the insurgent-held Idlib enclave.
    But shelling exchanges have been common since then and the first air strikes since the deal hit the area on Sunday, after Russia and Damascus accused Idlib-based rebels of using chemical weapons to attack the government-held city of Aleppo on Saturday, a charge they deny.
(Reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and Tamara Vaal in Astana; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

11/29/2018 U.N. audit finds graft and misconduct in its Uganda refugee program by Elias Biryabarema
FILE PHOTO: South Sudanese refugees wait in line for food in Omugo refugee settlement camp
in northern Uganda August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo
    KAMPALA (Reuters) – A U.N. investigation of its widely-praised refugee program in Uganda has found corruption costing millions of dollars and misconduct.
    The report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) showed inflated bills, fraud and non-compliance with rules among other malfeasance that caused losses for the U.N. refugee agency.
    Uganda hosts more than 1 million refugees who have fled South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries.
    Uganda is praised for its open-entry refugee policy that grants aliens free movement within the country, access to public health services and small plots of land for settlement and cultivation.
    The OIOS’s audit covered UNHCR’s operations in Uganda for 18 months from July 2016.
    “We have acknowledged serious shortcomings and have already started taking action … (The) majority of the actions resulting from these reviews have been implemented even before the final audit report was released,” Babar Baloch, UNHCR spokesman in Geneva told Reuters on Thursday.
    The audit showed excessive fuel use by UNHCR vehicles assigned to officials from Uganda’s office of the prime minister (OPM), which manages refugees and provides contract services to UNHCR.
    These include refugee registration, though UNHCR has taken over the role since allegations by whistleblowers of inflated numbers.
    The audit said OPM paid $283,000 in allowances annually to dozens of its staff but “was unable to provide to OIOS documentation to substantiate that these civil servants were working on UNHCR projects.”
    Spokesmen for the OPM, the presidency and the government did not respond to calls by Reuters seeking comment.
    The report said OPM paid too much for land ostensibly to expand space for refugee registration activities and there were also potentially $7.7 million in overpayments for water supplies.
    Some procurements were done without competitive bidding while others carried insufficient documentation, exposing UNHCR to losses through inflated prices and other fraud.
    The UN audit was triggered by whistleblowers who said officials may have inflated refugee numbers to skim aid and do other fraud.
    An audit of refugee numbers showed Uganda has 1.1 million, nearly 25 percent less than the previously reported number.
    Those allegations angered western donors who finance the agency’s efforts to cope with swelling refugee numbers in Uganda especially after a surge of violence in South Sudan in 2016.
(Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Omar Mohammed and Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

11/30/2018 South Africa’s Zuma wants arms deal corruption charges set aside by Rogan Ward
Former South African President Jacob Zuma speaks with counsel at court ahead
of his court appearance in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
    PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa (Reuters) – South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma wants corruption charges relating to a $2.2 billion arms deal to be permanently set aside, his lawyers said on Friday, when Zuma made his fourth court appearance since the charges were reinstated.
    Zuma, who was ousted by the ruling party in February, faces 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a deal to buy 30 billion rand of European military hardware for South Africa’s armed forces in the late 1990s.
    The case is a rare example of an African leader being held to account for his actions.    Zuma denies wrongdoing.
    On Friday, judge Mjabuliseni Madondo adjourned the case to May 20, giving lawyers time to prepare for a debate on whether there should be a “permanent stay of prosecution.”
    Zuma’s lawyer Mike Hellens said on Friday that state prosecutors had displayed a dismissive attitude towards Zuma.
    The 76-year-old Zuma, wearing a black suit and red tie, was subdued in court. Several former cabinet ministers and African National Congress politicians traveled to Pietermaritzburg, the capital of KwaZulu-Natal province, to support their former patron.
    Zuma, whose nine years in power were marked by economic stagnation and credit rating downgrades, has previously said he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.
    The charges against him were originally filed a decade ago but then set aside by the National Prosecuting Authority shortly before he successfully ran for president in 2009.
    After his election, his opponents fought a lengthy legal battle to have the charges reinstated, finally succeeding in 2016. Zuma countered with his own legal challenges.
    The speed with which prosecutors have moved against Zuma is a sign of his waning influence since he was replaced as head of state by Cyril Ramaphosa, his former deputy.
    Ramaphosa has made the fight against corruption a priority as he seeks to woo foreign investment and revamp an ailing economy.
($1 = 13.7196 rand)
($1 = 13.7298 rand)
(Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

11/30/2018 CNN fires liberal pundit after he made anti-Israel comments during UN speech by OAN Newsroom
    CNN recently fired liberal pundit Marc Lamont Hill after he gave a controversial speech condemning the state of Israel at a United Nations event this week.
    On Thursday, announced Hill is no longer under contract, but made no mention of his anti-Semitic comments.
    His firing comes after he received widespread backlash by calling for a free Palestine “from the river to the sea,” which is a phrase common among anti-Israel terror groups like Hamas.    However, Hill later claimed he meant Israel should go back to the borders from 1967.
    He has made comments in defense of Palestinian violence before.
    “If we are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend itself,” stated Hill.    “But we cannot endorse a narrow politics of respectability that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing.”
Louis Farrakhan (AP/Paul Beaty)
    Hill has been condemned as an anti-Semite before as he has long defended Palestinian violence, and has associated with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
[The big question is when will CNN get rid of their "FAKE NEWS" reporters?].

11/30/2018 Putin warmly greets Saudi crown prince at G20 summit
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greets Russia's President Vladimir Putin
during the opening of the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 30, 2018 in this picture
taken from video. Reuters TV Summit Pool via REUTERS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
    BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman exchanged a high-five and laughed heartily together on Friday as they took seats next to each other at a plenary session of the Group of 20 summit.
    Putin’s friendly behavior toward the crown prince contrasted sharply with that of other leaders at the Buenos Aires summit, amid suspicions of his possible involvement in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamalco Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.
    Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder, which has sorely tested the kingdom’s relations with the United States, other Western nations and Turkey.
    Earlier, Prince Mohammed was sidelined during the official “family photo” of world leaders at Friday’s gathering and was largely ignored. He then quickly exited the stage without shaking hands or talking with the other leaders.
    Russia has refrained from criticizing Saudi Arabia or the crown prince over the killing.    Putin said in October he lacked information about the matter and said Russia would not tear up its relations with Saudi Arabia because of it.
    However, Moscow has also fostered strong ties with Saudi Arabia’s regional arch foe Iran.    Russia and Iran back President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war, while Saudi Arabia along with Western countries have backed some rebel groups.
    Putin and Prince Mohammed are due to hold bilateral talks on Saturday, according to Kremlin documents seen by Reuters.
    The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as well as Russia and other leading oil producers will meet in Vienna on Dec 6-7 to discuss further steps on the oil market as prices have been declining due to oversupply.
    Riyadh has suggested OPEC and its allies reduce output by 1 million barrels per day from January 2019 to stem the price falls.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Gareth Jones)
[All three Trump, Putin and Salman know what its like to be falsely accused without any proof.].

11/30/2018 Hundreds of Jordanians protest against new tax bill
Protesters chant slogans during a protest against tax hikes in
Amman, Jordan November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
    AMMAN (Reuters) – Hundreds of Jordanians protested on Friday in central Amman in the first demonstration against a new, IMF-backed tax bill that parliament passed this month.
    Around 300 people chanting anti-government slogans gathered near a parking lot where police had imposed a cordon to prevent them from marching to the office of Prime Minister Omar Razzaz.
    Scores chanted “Go away Razzaz!”, “Government of robbers!” and accused the government of failing to tackle high-level corruption and to end the squandering of public funds.
    Jordan’s mainly pro-government parliament approved a new IMF-backed tax law nearly two weeks ago that imposes steep tax hikes to narrow the record public debt and help get the economy, hit by conflict in the region, back on track.
    King Abdullah replaced the government in June after its push to impose an earlier tax bill led to a rare wave of protests, only a few months after hefty tax hikes were imposed on basic commodities.    That tax bill was reworked into the new bill that parliament has now approved.
    Popular discontent has in recent weeks grown with the Razzaz government.    Many say that it has introduced only cosmetic changes to the earlier tax law and has failed to deliver on pledges of cutting waste and curbing corruption.
    Many politicians and economists blame the IMF-inspired austerity plan Jordan is undertaking for worsening the plight of poorer people and squeezing the middle class while widening disparities between the rich and poor.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

12/1/2018 UN to Vote on U.S. Measure Condemning Hamas by OAN Newsroom
    The UN is scheduled to vote on a U.S. resolution condemning the Palestinian Hamas terror movement.
    Reports out of Israel say the vote will come Thursday after all 28 EU Nations said they would back the U.S. draft.
Over a thousand people of more than 80 organizations coming from all across Europe
took part in a demonstration outside the UNHRC HQ in Place de la Nation in Geneva.
The protesters called for the exposure and condemnation of the UNHRC’s
hypocrisy and anti-Israel bias toward Israel.
    The resolution condemns the Islamic terrorist group for firing rockets into Israel and is demanding an end to the ongoing violence.
    The measure was previously championed by outgoing UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and would mark the first time the UN has taken a stance against Hamas.
    The U.S. had initially hoped for a Monday vote, but the Palestinians had pushed for a delay.

12/1/2018 Pompeo: no intelligence directly links Saudi prince to Khashoggi killing
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media after a closed briefing for senators about the latest developments
related to the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday he has seen all the intelligence possessed by the United States on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and repeated that no direct evidence links Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the incident.
    “I have read every piece of intelligence that is in the possession of United States governmen,” Pompeo said in an interview with broadcaster CNN in Buenos Aires on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
    “When it is done, when you complete that analysis, there’s no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.    That is an accurate statement, an important statement and it is a statement that we are making publi