Russia, China seek chemical weapons probe in Iraq

Soldiers take part in a military exercise simulating a chemical weapons attack. (AFP)
Updated 25 March 2017
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Russia, China seek chemical weapons probe in Iraq

UNITED NATIONS: Russia and China on Friday proposed that a UN panel investigating chemical weapons use in Syria be extended to Iraq, a proposal Britain immediately rejected.
The two countries raised the prospect of broadening the scope of the Joint Investigative Mechanism during a council discussion about the battle of Mosul, where Iraqi forces are fighting Daesh militants.
Security Council members expressed “unanimous concern” about the latest information concerning Daesh’s use of chemical weapons, according to British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who chaired the talks.
Russia and China then presented a draft resolution that “seeks to expand the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism to Iraq,” Rycroft said, adding that Britain opposes the measure.
“The UK pointed out that there were many differences between the situation in Iraq and Syria,” he said.
Unlike the Syrian government, the Iraqi government “is fully cooperating with the OPCW,” Rycroft added, referring to the intergovernmental Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which works with the UN to implement the Joint Investigative Mechanism.
“There are no allegations” the Iraqi government is using chemical weapons, he said.
The council took no decision over the draft on Friday, Rycroft said. He did not indicate whether Russia and China would submit their resolution to a vote in the future.
The dispute highlighted a fundamental disagreement over Syria between Western countries and Russia.
The Joint Investigative Mechanism — which Moscow helped establish as a Security Council member — found that the Syrian government, a Russian ally, had used chemical weapons at least three times.
But in February, Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution that would have sanctioned the Syrian government for its use of chemical weapons.


Israel threatens to get tougher on Gaza after warplanes hit Hamas

The strikes targeting Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, were more intense than in previous sorties. AFP
Updated 52 min 28 sec ago
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Israel threatens to get tougher on Gaza after warplanes hit Hamas

  • Israeli planes initially targeted three Hamas military positions overnight in Gaza in response to kites and balloons carrying incendiary and explosive devices launched into Israel
  • The military wings of Hamas and allied militant group Islamic Jihad said they had “targeted seven Israeli military positions near Gaza

GAZA CITY: Israeli warplanes pounded Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday in a new flare-up of hostilities that saw dozens of rockets and mortar shells fired from the Palestinian enclave, the army said.
The strikes targeting Hamas’ military wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, were more intense than in previous sorties to convey the message “we will not allow this situation to continue,” Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters.
The latest spike in tensions follows weeks of deadly protests and clashes along the Gaza-Israel border as well as the worst military escalation last month since a 2014 war.
It comes as US President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt and adviser Jared Kushner visit the region to discuss issues including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Israeli planes initially targeted three Hamas military positions overnight in Gaza in response to kites and balloons carrying incendiary and explosive devices launched into Israel from the Palestinian territory, the army said.
“They may look like toys but I can assure they are not toys, they are weapons intended to kill and to inflict damage,” Conricus said.
He said that so far Israel had sought to warn off those launching the airborne devices but that could change.
“Hamas and other militants, but mainly Hamas” hit back after the first air raids with more than 45 rockets and mortar rounds fired from Gaza toward Israel, seven of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, he added.
Three more landed inside the Jewish state, he said, but did not account for the remainder.
In response, Israeli planes carried out more raids against 25 “terror objectives” including an underground training compound, according to the army.
Gaza medical sources said that five people were lightly injured in the strikes.
In a joint statement, the military wings of Hamas and allied militant group Islamic Jihad said they had “targeted seven Israeli military positions near Gaza... in response to continued Israeli aggression against resistance sites in Gaza.”
Conricus said that most of the 200,000 Israeli civilians who live within range of the short-range rockets fired from Gaza “spent the night in bomb shelters.”