Pence visits Western Wall after pro-Israel speech

US Vice President Mike Pence visits Jerusalem's Western Wall on January 23, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Pence visits Western Wall after pro-Israel speech

JERUSALEM: US Vice President Mike Pence visited Jerusalem's Western Wall on Tuesday while Palestinians held a general strike after denouncing his fervently pro-Israel speech the previous day as "messianic".
The devout Christian's speech to the Israeli parliament on Monday laden with biblical references was praised by Israelis as perhaps the best they could ever hope for from a US administration, but Palestinians saw it as confirming some of their worst fears.
Pence proudly reaffirmed US President Donald Trump's December 6 declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and pledged to move the embassy to the disputed city by the end of 2019.
"The friendship between our peoples has never been deeper," he said.
On Tuesday, as he wrapped up his trip, Pence, who was boycotted by the Palestinians, visited one of the holiest sites in Judaism, the Western Wall.
The site lies in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, the sector the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state, and many Israelis were likely to interpret it as Pence further backing their claim over the entire city.
"Very inspiring," Pence said after the visit during which he was not accompanied by Israeli government officials.
Pence followed in the footsteps of Trump, who in May became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall.
In December, a US senior administration official said: "We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not part of Israel."
Pence also toured Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday and met President Reuven Rivlin.
He said the White House believes the Jerusalem declaration "will set the table for the opportunity to move forward in meaningful negotiations to achieve a lasting peace and end the decades-long conflict".
He departed in the late afternoon to return to the United States.


Daesh claims Syria attack that killed 16, including 2 US soldiers

Updated 3 min 8 sec ago
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Daesh claims Syria attack that killed 16, including 2 US soldiers

  • Seven civilians died in the attack, while 10 others were wounded
  • A member of the US-led military was killed, and another was severely injured

BEIRUT: A blast struck near a US-led coalition patrol in Syria’s northern city of Manbij on Wednesday, and a war monitor said 16 people were killed including two Americans.
An Daesh-affiliated web site, Amaq, said an attacker with an explosive vest had struck a foreign military patrol in a suicide attack.
Reuters could not independently verify a report by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that 14 people had been killed in the attack including two US soldiers. The coalition could not be immediately reached for comment.
Last month, US President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement that he would withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria after concluding Daesh had been defeated there. The announcement rattled allies in the region and top US officials, including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis who quit.
Two witnesses described Wednesday’s blast to Reuters. The US-backed, Kurdish-led Manbij Military Council militia that controls the town said there was preliminary information that people had been injured in Wednesday’s attack.
Manbij has been held by US-backed fighters allied to the Kurdish YPG militia since they took it from Daesh in 2016. It is located near areas held by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and by anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkey.
One of the witnesses said there was a “heavy” presence of military aircraft over Manbij following the blast, which took place near a vegetable market.