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More than two dozen Takfiri Daesh terrorists have been killed as Iraqi government forces, backed by volunteer fighters from Popular Mobilization Units, are fighting fierce street battles to close in on the strategic Grand al-Nuri Mosque in the western part of Mosul.

Commander of Federal Police Forces Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat said on Saturday that Iraqi Air Force unmanned aerial vehicles had struck Daesh positions near the mosque, where purported Daesh ringleader Ibrahim al-Samarrai aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave his famous speech on the formation of the terror group, Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network reported.

He said 30 extremists had been killed and 12 outposts destroyed in the operation.

The United Nations says nearly half a million civilians have fled fighting since the offensive to retake Mosul from the Daesh terrorists started on October 17, 2016.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on April 17 that 493,000 people had been displaced from the city, located some 400 kilometers north of the capital Baghdad.

An American political commentator said the anti-Iran Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO also known as MEK) is in league with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), noting that the terror group has been an agent for Washington since the late 1970s.

“The MEK has been an agent of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and represents the single most expensive US covert foreign operation since the inception of the CIA at the close of World War II. From 1979 to 1989, the US, UK, and Saudi Arabia provided at least $3 billion dollars in funding to the MEK for the purpose of destabilizing Afghanistan subsequent to the Russian invasion. It is from this history that observers today should consider claims made by the MEK as lacking in credibility,” Mark Mason

A political analyst believes Israel has played a very negative role fueling the conflict in Syria, adding that weakening President Assad’s regime would be very beneficial for Tel Aviv because Damascus has been one of the “stumbling blocks” in the process of Israeli expansion.

“They [the Israelis] do not really want any peaceful solution. So because of that they are using any pretext to try to destroy Hezbollah and bomb ammunition depot … but obviously it is totally against any international law and totally illegal,” Rustem Safronov told Press TV in an interview on Saturday.

The analyst’s comments came after an Israeli missile strike targeted a Syrian military base southwest of the capital Damascus on Thursday.

“All these attacks against Syrian army and against Syrian allies are very well thought and coordinated by Israelis, probably with the American cosponsors, because they do not want the regime in Syria to consolidate power and destroy the foreign terrorists,” he noted.

Israel has carried out multiple attacks on Syrian government positions since the foreign-sponsored militancy erupted in March 2011. Damascus says the raids aim to help Takfiri militants fighting against government forces.

Russia ready to cooperate with US on Syria: Lavrov

Published in Rest of World
Saturday, 29 April 2017 13:16

Moscow is ready to cooperate with Washington on Syria, Russian Foreign Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday at a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Al-Safadi.
"We have many times heard King of Jordan Abdullah II say that interaction between Russia and the United States was vital for ensuring effective steps by the global community aimed at resolving the Syrian crisis," the Russia top diplomat said. "I would like to ensure you that we are ready for that and expect Washington to adopt the same approach," Lavrov added.

The Russian foreign minister stressed that in order to eliminate the terrorist threat, "it is important that all those fighting terrorism in Syria join their efforts." "I mean the Russian Aerospace Force and the US-led coalition," he noted.

He also said that he plans to discuss the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria, the ceasefire and the Astana talks with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Al-Safadi on Saturday.

"In a few days, the next round of the Astana consultations will be held which involve the Syrian government and opposition, as well as the guarantor states," Lavrov said opening the meeting. "We believe it is very important to exchange views on the preparations for the event."

"Issues related to consultations on the ceasefire, ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid and creating conditions for the political process will top the adenda," Lavrov added.

He also said that Moscow would like to know Jordan’s view on the fight against the ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra terror groups.

"We will pay special attention to the issues most important for us which concern the situation on the Jordan-Syria border," the Russian top diplomat said. "We know that ISIS militants are strong in southern Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra has also strengthened its capabilities," Lavrov added.

"We would like to exchange views on ways to eliminate this threat, ensure the ceasefire and launch an offensive on the terrorists’ positions," Lavrov said.

"I would like to use this opportunity to discuss the situation in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as ways to break the Palestinian-Israeli deadlock," he added. "It is also a good opportunity to discuss our bilateral relations."

US Deploys Troops to Syria-Turkey Border

Published in Middle East
Saturday, 29 April 2017 13:03

A convoy of armored vehicles with US flags was spotted on a rural road in the village of Darbasiyah, a few hundred meters from the Turkish border in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province, Kurdish activists said Friday.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis also confirmed the report.
“We continue to urge all the parties involved to focus on the common enemy which is ISIS (Daesh)," he told reporters later on Friday.
Ilham Ahmad, another senior Kurdish official, told the Associated Press that the US troops began their patrols along the border on Thursday and had already conducted reconnaissance flights in the area.
“The US role has now become more like a buffer force between us and the Turks on all front lines,” Mustafa Bali, a Kurdish activist in the area, said.
The move comes after Turkish airstrikes in Iraq and Syria killed 20 members of the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and injured 18 more on Tuesday and Wednesday. The YPG is the main Syrian Kurdish militia group fighting Daesh (ISIL).
Sharvan Kobani, a YPG commander, told Reuters on Friday that the US troops would only report to their high-ranking commanders and were yet to begin their monitoring mission.
Ankara says the attacks were part of its military campaign against “terrorist havens” in Syria and Iraq and sought to prevent a potential spillover of the conflict into Turkey.
The US and Turkey have been at odds over Ankara’s military action in Syria, which Washington says is mainly aimed at countering the rising influence of Kurdish fighters in the country.

US admiral says power of Yemeni Houthi fighters growing

Published in Yemen
Saturday, 29 April 2017 12:49

A US Navy commander says the military power of the Houthi Ansarullah movement in Yemen has increased and Houthi fighters are now in possession of weapons they did not have before Saudi Arabia started a war on their country.

The Houthis and their allies in the Yemeni army regularly fire long-range ballistic missile at positions inside Saudi Arabia in retaliation for Saudi military strikes on Yemen. The Houthis also aimed for US Navy warships in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen three times in October 2016.

In January, a Houthi-operated remote-controlled boat packed with explosives rammed into a Saudi frigate in waters near the port city of Hudaydah, killing two sailors and wounding three others.

Referring to those capabilities, Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, a commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, told Reuters earlier this week, “These weapons didn’t exist... before the war. There was no explosive boat that existed in the Yemeni inventory.”

He also said that the ballistic missiles fired into Saudi Arabia had several times the range of missiles the Yemenis had before the Saudi war started.

Turkish president lauds US strike in central Syria

Published in Middle East
Saturday, 29 April 2017 12:33

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has praised the incumbent US administration for the US missile attack against a military airfield in Syria’s central province of Homs, stating that President Donald Trump has shown a “more determined” approach than his predecessor Barack Obama.

“It was late coming but something that we welcomed," Erdogan said at the Atlantic Council Energy Summit in Istanbul on Friday.

On April 7, the Pentagon said 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles had been fired from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea at Shayrat airfield in Homs.

US officials claimed that a suspected chemical incident in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province on April 4, which reportedly killed over 80 people, had been launched from the military site. Syria has vehemently dismissed the allegations of being behind the attack.

In a move unprecedented in the 68-year history of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe (Pace), senior MPs passed a vote of no confidence in the president, Pedro Agramunt.

The Spanish senator was re-elected president for a second one-year term in January, but has since faced criticism for his handling of alleged corruption at the assembly and a recent surprise visit he made to Damascus on a Russian military jet, The Guardian reported.

A cross-party group of Pace’s senior leaders agreed unanimously on Friday that Agramunt should be banned from making official visits or public statements as president.

The assembly, which was co-founded by Winston Churchill after the Second World War, has no power to impeach, limiting its options.

Agramunt had been due to make a statement, but failed to show up to the meeting to discuss his future.

“The president chose not to attend the bureau today and has not presented a letter of resignation. As a result, and in the context of the current rules of procedure under which the president cannot be compelled to resign, the bureau felt it necessary to take these steps,” said Sir Roger Gale, a British Conservative MP who chaired the meeting.

But Agramunt showed no signs that he would hand over the reins. A statement in his name circulated among journalists at the Strasbourg assembly described recent criticism of him as “an entirely bizarre case and a regrettable spectacle”.

The statement did not directly respond to calls for his resignation, but urged members to “recover the path of consensus to achieve our foundational goals … and ensure that this situation does not happen again”.

Officials in Strasbourg did not know where Agramunt was and his office did not immediately respond to questions.

Daesh Claims Car Bombing in Baghdad, Four Police Killed

Published in Iraq
Saturday, 29 April 2017 11:55

Four Iraqi traffic policemen were killed on Friday when a suicide car bomb detonated outside their station, close to a street where several foreign media have offices in Baghdad, a security spokesman said.

Five people were also wounded by the blast on Abu Nawas Street, the spokesman said.

The street runs alongside the east bank of the Tigris River and the French Embassy is located in the area, Reuters reported.

Daesh (also known ISIL or ISIS) claimed the suicide attack on its Amaq news agency. The hardline terrorist group has controlled parts of Iraq and Syria since 2014.

A former UN official and professor of international law highlighted the US role in “tragic situation” in Yemen and said Washington’s support for Riyadh’s aggression on the Arabian Peninsula country has increased under the presidency of Donald Trump.

“Since the presidency of Donald Trump, the US has reinforced its support for Saudi Arabia’s aggression against Yemen,” Richard A. Falk said.

“The nature of this aggression is a flagrant violation of the UN Charter and of international law,” said Falk, who has served as the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories.

Richard Anderson Falk is the author or co-author of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 volumes. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967”.

It is a sad and tragic situation, and reflects the inability of the international community to respond effectively and consistently to even the most severe humanitarian crises when, as here, major geopolitical obstacles exist. The role of Saudi Arabia in creating and aggravating this crisis in Yemen is central, and given Saudi leverage within the UN as reinforced by the backing of the United States, paralyzes all UN efforts to respond on behalf of the victimized Yemeni population. All in all, what the Yemen situation underscores is the primacy of geopolitics in the Middle East, which is mainly responsible for this terrible ordeal of human suffering being experienced by the civilian populations of several societies in the Arab world.


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