Iraqi forces recapture third of west Mosul

Iraqi forces recapture third of west Mosul
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A displaced woman reacts as she flees her home, while Iraqi forces battle with Daesh militants, in western Mosul, on Sunday. (Reuters)
Iraqi forces recapture third of west Mosul
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Iraqis forces advance as they battle with Daesh militants in western Mosul, Iraq, on Sunday. (REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
Iraqi forces recapture third of west Mosul
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Iraqi displaced people flee their homes as Iraqi forces battle with Daesh militants, in village of Badush northwest of Mosul, Iraq, on Saturday. (REUTERS/Azad Lashkari)
Updated 13 March 2017

Iraqi forces recapture third of west Mosul

Iraqi forces recapture third of west Mosul

MOSUL: Iraqi security forces have seized control of more than a third of west Mosul, a commander said on Sunday, after a week of steady gains in their battle to retake the city from Daesh. 

Fierce fighting has shaken Mosul in recent days as thousands of US-backed Iraqi soldiers and police battle to reclaim the country’s second city.

A renewed push against the militants launched last Sunday has seen Daesh forced from several neighborhoods and key sites, including the main local government headquarters and the famed Mosul museum.

Speaking to AFP on Sunday, Staff Maj. Gen. Maan Al-Saadi of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) said “more than a third” of west Mosul was now under the control of security forces.

CTS forces were battling Daesh inside the Mosul Al-Jadida and Al-Aghawat areas on Sunday, Al-Saadi said, adding that he expected the fighting there to be completed in the coming hours.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said that forces from the Rapid Response Division, another special forces unit, and the federal police were also attacking the Bab Al-Toub area on the edge of Mosul’s Old City.

“The battle is not easy... we are fighting an irregular enemy who hides among the citizens and uses tactics of booby-trapping, explosions and suicide bombers, and the operation is taking place with precision to preserve the lives of the citizens,” Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the JOC, told AFP.

Still, he said, Daesh resistance “has begun to weaken in a big way.”

Daesh seized Mosul in mid-2014 when it swept across areas north and west of Baghdad, taking control of swathes of territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Backed by US-led airstrikes and other support, Iraqi forces have since retaken much of the territory they lost.

The operation to recapture Mosul — then the last Iraqi city under Daesh control — was launched in October.

After recapturing the east of the city, Iraqi forces last month set their sites on the west, where hundreds of thousands of civilians remain trapped.

Northwest of Mosul advancing Iraqi forces also took the infamous Badush prison this week, announcing on Saturday they had uncovered a mass grave containing the remains of hundreds of people executed by the militants.

The Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary forces found “a large mass grave containing the remains of around 500 civilian prisoners in (Badush) prison who were executed by (Daesh) gangs,” the military said.

According to Human Rights Watch, Daesh gunmen executed up to 600 inmates from the prison in June 2014, forcing them to kneel along a nearby ravine and then shooting them with assault rifles.

The militants have committed widespread atrocities in areas under their control and claimed responsibility for a series of deadly attacks in western cities and elsewhere.


Lebanon restricts cafes, beaches to the vaccinated or COVID tested

Lebanon restricts cafes, beaches to the vaccinated or COVID tested
Updated 30 July 2021

Lebanon restricts cafes, beaches to the vaccinated or COVID tested

Lebanon restricts cafes, beaches to the vaccinated or COVID tested
  • The move comes amidst a surge in infections with around 1,104 positive cases registered on Thursday

BEIRUT: Lebanon is to limit entry to restaurants, cafes, pubs and beaches to people holding COVID-19 vaccine certificates or those who have taken antibodies tests, the tourism ministry said on Friday.
Non-vaccinated employees of these establishments would be required to conduct a PCR test every 72 hours, it added.
The move comes amidst a surge in infections with around 1,104 positive cases registered on Thursday compared to a few hundred a day in previous months.
Lebanon’s cases peaked when a total lockdown was enforced in January after hospitals became overwhelmed amid a crippling financial crisis, with medicines running low and frequent power cuts.
The country gradually re-opened over the spring.
Lebanon’s vaccination drive has been slow with only around 18 percent of the population fully vaccinated.


EU adopts legal framework for Lebanon sanctions

EU adopts legal framework for Lebanon sanctions
Updated 27 min 55 sec ago

EU adopts legal framework for Lebanon sanctions

EU adopts legal framework for Lebanon sanctions
  • In a statement it said the framework provided for the possibility of imposing sanctions on those responsible for undermining democracy or the rule of law in Lebanon
  • The sanctions regime could see individuals hit by travel bans and asset freezes

PARIS: The European Union said on Friday it had adopted a legal framework for a sanctions regime targeting Lebanese individuals and entities after a year of crisis that has left Lebanon facing financial collapse, hyperinflation and food and fuel shortages.
In a statement it said the framework provided for the possibility of imposing sanctions on those responsible for undermining democracy or the rule of law in Lebanon.
Led by France, the EU is seeking to ramp up pressure on Lebanon's squabbling politicians, part of broader international efforts to force a stable government capable of carrying out crucial reforms to emerge from political chaos and economic collapse following a blast that ravaged Beirut port.
"It is, however, of the utmost importance that the Lebanese leadership put aside their differences and work together to form a government and enact the measures required to steer the country towards a sustainable recovery," the EU statement said.
The EU cautioned earlier in July that the sanctions measures would not be immediately implemented.
The sanctions regime could see individuals hit by travel bans and asset freezes, although it may also decide to not list anybody immediately. Diplomats have said targets are not likely to be decided before the end of the summer.
EU persons and entities are also forbidden from making funds available to those listed, the statement said.
Criteria for EU sanctions would include corruption, obstructing efforts to form a government, financial misdeeds and human rights abuses.


FBI probe shows amount of chemicals in Beirut blast was a fraction of original shipment

FBI probe shows amount of chemicals in Beirut blast was a fraction of original shipment
Updated 30 July 2021

FBI probe shows amount of chemicals in Beirut blast was a fraction of original shipment

FBI probe shows amount of chemicals in Beirut blast was a fraction of original shipment
  • Questions remain unanswered, including how a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate was left unsafely stored in the capital for years
  • The blast was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, killing more than 200 people

WASHINGTON: The amount of ammonium nitrate that blew up at Beirut port last year was one fifth of the shipment unloaded there in 2013, the FBI concluded after the blast, adding to suspicions that much of the cargo had gone missing.
As the first anniversary approaches on Aug. 4, major questions remain unanswered, including how a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate — which can be used to make fertilizer or bombs — was left unsafely stored in a capital city for years.
The blast was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, killing more than 200 people, wounding thousands, and devastating swathes of Beirut.
The FBI’s Oct. 7, 2020 report, which was seen by Reuters this week, estimates around 552 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded that day, much less than the 2,754 tons that arrived on a Russian-leased cargo ship in 2013.
The FBI report does not give any explanation as to how the discrepancy arose, or where the rest of the shipment may have gone.
In response to a detailed request for comment, an FBI spokesperson referred Reuters to the Lebanese authorities.
FBI investigators came to Beirut after the blast at Lebanon’s request.
A senior Lebanese official who was aware of the FBI report and its findings said the Lebanese authorities agreed with the Bureau on the quantity that exploded.
Many officials in Lebanon have previously said in private they believe a lot of the shipment was stolen.
The ammonium nitrate was going from Georgia to Mozambique on a Russian-leased cargo ship when the captain says he was instructed to make an unscheduled stop in Beirut and take on extra cargo.
The ship arrived in Beirut in November 2013 but never left, becoming tangled in a legal dispute over unpaid port fees and ship defects. No one ever came forward to claim the shipment.
The senior Lebanese official said there were no firm conclusions as to why the quantity that exploded was less than the original shipment. One theory was that part of it was stolen. A second theory was that only part of the shipment detonated, with the rest blown out to sea, the official said.
The FBI report said “an approximate amount reaching around 552 metric tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in warehouse 12.”
It noted the warehouse was large enough to house the 2,754 ton shipment, which was stored in one-ton bags, but added “it is not logical that all of them were present at the time of the explosion.”


Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president

Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president
Updated 30 July 2021

Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president

Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticized president
  • Parliamentarian Yassin Ayari’s wife said security arrested him for criticizing Tunisian President on Facebook

TUNIS: Tunisian security forces arrested a member of parliament at his home on Friday, his wife said, after he criticised President Kais Saied on Facebook and called his seizure of governing powers a coup.
Yassin Ayari, who represents a small party in parliament, has previously expressed frequent criticism of Saied, who on Sunday dismissed the prime minister, froze parliament for a month and said he was taking over executive authority.
Neither the security forces nor the judiciary were immediately available for comment on his arrest.
Ayari's wife, Cyrine Fitouri, said by phone that about 20 men in plain clothes who introduced themselves as members of a presidential security unit had raided their home earlier on Friday and used violence as they detained him.
"They took him forcefully while his mother was shouting," she said, adding that they had told the family not to film them as they took him away.
Saied on Thursday said he would uphold freedoms and rights of Tunisians as the United States urged him to return the country to "the democratic path" and key civil society groups said he must uphold the constitution.
His actions appear to have widespread popular support in Tunisia, where years of misgovernance, corruption, political paralysis and economic stagnation have been aggravated this year by a deadly surge in COVID-19 cases.
When he announced his seizure of governing powers on Sunday he also said he would take over public prosecutions and lifted the immunity of parliament members.
The judiciary, which has declared its political independence, said this week it had previously opened investigations into three political parties that have opposed Saied, and has now started investigations into several lawmakers.


Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus

Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus
Updated 30 July 2021

Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus

Cyprus to vaccinate children aged 12-15 to beat virus
  • Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas announced that vaccination for children aged between 12 and 15 starts Monday
  • Over 20 per cent of Cypriot teenagers aged 16-17 have received a vaccine shot

NICOSIA: Cyprus decided Friday to expand its Covid-19 vaccination rollout to cover children aged 12 to 15, as authorities tackle a fourth wave of coronavirus.
Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas announced that vaccination for children aged between 12 and 15 would start Monday.
“The vaccination will be voluntary and with the necessary consent of the parents or legal guardians,” he said.
“Already several European Union countries, such as France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, and Greece, vaccinate children aged 12-15 to achieve greater protection of the population,” he told reporters.
Children will be vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).
Over 20 percent of Cypriot teenagers aged 16-17 have received a vaccine shot.
“The only way to stop new aggressive Covid-19 variants is to vaccinate,” said Hadjipantelas.
Cyprus is experiencing a new surge in cases, peaking at 1,152 on 15 July.
The surge is blamed on the more potent Delta variant and a low vaccination rate among the under 30s.
In a bid to contain the spike, the cabinet decided Friday that unvaccinated visitors and tourists staying longer than seven days will need to take a PCR test after a week’s stay.
Currently, there are no restrictions on vaccinated tourists entering the country.
The island has endured three national lockdowns in the past 16 months, and the government is trying to avoid another one to save the economy.
Hospitals have postponed all non-emergency operations as Covid wards reach capacity.
The health ministry said Cyprus has inoculated 73 percent of the eligible population with a first jab, and 64 percent are fully vaccinated.
The target is to reach “herd immunity” of 80 percent by the end of August.
Government-controlled southern Cyprus has registered over 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 416 deaths since the pandemic reached its shores in March 2020.
Wearing face masks and social distancing are compulsory.