Iraq forces launch anti-Daesh push in western desert

An elderly woman and a child are pulled on a cart as civilians flee heavy fighting between Daesh militants and Iraqi special forces in western Mosul, Iraq. (AP)
Updated 12 May 2017
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Iraq forces launch anti-Daesh push in western desert

HABBANIYAH, Iraq: Iraqi forces have launched a broad operation to root out Daesh fighters who have been harassing security forces in remote border areas, officers said Thursday.
The army, backed by aircraft from the US-led coalition and local tribal fighters, launched their sweep at dawn in desert areas of Anbar province where the terrorists have hideouts, an army lieutenant colonel said.
“The security forces are advancing from an area called Kilometer 160, west of Ramadi, toward Nukhaib,” said the officer stationed in Rutba, an outpost that is the last town on the road to Jordan.
Maj. Gen. Mahmud Al-Falahi, the head of Anbar Operations Command, said the goal of the operation is to flush out Daesh fighters in the desert and secure Rutba.
About 30 members of the security forces have been killed in attacks and ambushes by the terrorists in the Rutba area over the past three weeks.
Anbar is a sprawling desert province traversed by the Euphrates River and borders Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
It has long been an insurgent stronghold, and Daesh already controlled parts of it when it swept through Iraq in 2014 to take over around a third of the country.
Pro-government forces have since retaken most towns and cities in Anbar, but the terrorists still control areas near the Syrian border and have desert hideouts from which they harass federal forces.
Iraqi forces are also conducting a major operation further north in Anbar aimed at retaking the last towns along the Euphrates still controlled by Daesh near the Syrian border.
A major offensive launched in October to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has also made steady gains.


UN chief warns of risk of war in Gaza

Updated 59 min 2 sec ago
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UN chief warns of risk of war in Gaza

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that Gaza is close to the brink of war and expressed shock over the number of Palestinians killed and wounded by Israeli live fire during protests, in a report obtained by AFP on Monday.
Guterres told the Security Council that he “unequivocally condemns the steps by all parties that have brought us to this dangerous and fragile place” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The report was sent to the council last week ahead of a meeting on Tuesday on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
The violence in Gaza marks the most serious escalation between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 war.
“It is and should be a warning to all how close to the brink of war the situation is,” said Guterres.
“I am shocked by the number of deaths and injuries of Palestinians resulting from the use of live fire by Israel Defense Forces” since protests began on March 30, he said.
At least 132 Palestinian have been killed. The Red Cross says more than 13,000 have been wounded including 1,400 who suffered multiple gunshot wounds, many in the legs.
Israel has a responsibility to “exercise maximum restraint” and protect civilians in line with international humanitarian law, the UN chief wrote.
“The killing of children, as well as of clearly identified journalists and medical staffers by security forces during a demonstration are particularly unacceptable,” he added.
Two Palestinian journalists were killed while covering the protests in April while a 21-year-old medic was shot dead in early June.
Guterres renewed his call for an independent investigation of the shooting deaths in Gaza. Israel has rejected the appeal and argues that the use of force is justified to defend its borders.
The UN chief criticized Hamas and other militant groups for attempting to put explosives near the fence and for shooting rockets at Israel on May 29 and 30.
He singled out “senior Israeli government officials” for asserting that all Palestinians were affiliated with Hamas, signalling a “permissive Israeli policy toward the use of live fire against protesters.”
Israel’s settlement activities “continue unabated,” Guterres added, citing a May 30 decision by Israel to approve 3,500 housing units in the West Bank — the largest batch of new housing since June 2017.
The United Nations considers the expansion of settlements on land earmarked for a future Palestinian state to be illegal. Guterres said the construction must “cease immediately and completely.”