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UNESCO declares Hebron shrine Palestinian, Israel pulls U.N. funding

Israel blasts Unesco as ‘shameful and anti-Semitic’ after vote over ancient city of Hebron

By :  Raf Sanchez, Middle east correspondent

7 JULY 2017: Israel branded Unesco “shameful and anti-Semitic” and called for the US to slash its funding after the global heritage organisation passed a pro-Palestinian resolution about the flashpoint city of Hebron.  Hebron is the largest city in the occupied West Bank and its ancient quarter is home to a religious site which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, known as either the Tomb of the Patriarchs or the al-Ibrahimi mosque. Unesco voted to recognise both the religious site and the Old City around it as Palestinian heritage sites, infuriating Israelis who believe Hebron is the birthplace of the Jewish people. The body also voted that the Israeli occupation was endangering the site.  Palestinians celebrated the vote as a diplomatic victory.

Hebron has consistently been one of the most fraught areas of the West Bank. It is home to around 200,000 Palestinians but 500 Israeli settlers also live in the city, protected by heavily-armed Israeli combat troops. The 12-3 Unesco vote was the latest in a series of symbolic pro-Palestinian resolutions adopted by UN bodies, which have enraged Israel but have little real-world impact.

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 35 AFGHAN POLICEMEN KILLED IN TALIBAN ATTACK IN BADAKHSHAN

In Afghanistan, thirty-five policemen have been killed in a Taliban ambush on their patrol in Badakhshan province. Meanwhile, unknown number of Afghan troops have been killed in a friendly US air strike in Helmand province. The US military expressed condolences to the families of those killed in the incident without giving number of the casualties. Afghan forces, backed by US air strikes, have been fighting Taliban militants in the area.

Suicide bombing in Kabul leaves 24 dead, dozens injured

KABUL  At least 24 people were killed in the latest violence to rock Afghanistan’s capital Monday morning when a suicide bomber struck near a minubus in the southwestern neighborhood of Dehbori. Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh confirmed the death toll and said about three dozen others had been injured. Pictures shared on social media showed a street strewn with burning vehicles and debris, with smoke rising above. The blast occurred not far from the residence of Mohammad Mohaqiq, Afghanistan’s most prominent politician from the Hazara ethnic minority. Dehbori is home to many Hazaras.

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OVER 30,000 AFGHAN REFUGEES REPATRIATED TO THEIR COUNTRY SINCE APRIL 2017

18 Jul, 2017: The repatriation of Afghan refugees from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to their homeland has gained momentum during the current summer. A spokesman of UNHCR told our Peshawar correspondent that 32,500 Afghan refugees returned to their country since April this year. He said UNHCR is providing 200 dollars to each returning Afghan refugee besides food and other necessary items.

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Three Israelis stabbed to death in West Bank settlement

after three Palestinians killed in bloody clashes

21 JULY 2017 :   A Palestinian attacker broke into a home in the settlement of Neve Tsuf, north of Jerusalem, and  killed two men and a woman before he was shot, the Israeli military said. Another woman was wounded in the attack.  The stabbing came after thousands of young Palestinians fought street battles with Israeli security services in protest at new security Israeli measures put in place at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.   Another Palestinian man was killed on the Mount of Olives after being shot during a clash with Israeli police, while a third was killed in the West Bank town of Abu Dis, the Palestinian health ministry said. The deaths on both sides are likely to inflame the already volatile situation in Jerusalem.

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Israeli embassy staff in Jordan returned to Israel

JERUSALEM/AMMAN (Reuters)  24 July 2017: The staff of Israel’s embassy in Jordan, including a security guard involved in a shooting incident in which two Jordanians were killed, returned to Israel from Amman. The security guard shot dead a Jordanian who stabbed him with a screwdriver in the Amman mission compound in an incident in which a Jordanian bystander was also killed, Israel said.

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Iraqi forces retake southern Mosul village from Islamic State

By: Mohamed Mostafa

Mosul (IraqiNews.com)  Iraqi forces on Wednesday took over a village in Mosul which was re-invaded by Islamic State militants just before the government declared victory over the group in the city. Shafaq News website quoted a security source regained control over Imam Gharbi, a village in Qayyara, on the borders with Salahuddin province. Militants stormed the village two weeks ago and killed a number of pro-government paramilitary troopers and two journalists. Iraqi joint troops invaded the village. Also in Mosul, Iraqi police arrested  four women members of the Islamic State hiding in the middle of refugees in the eastern side of the city. BasNews quoted Cap. Ahmed al-Obaidi saying that the four women served with the group’s vigilantism squads. They were arrested based on an intelligence tip at a house in al-Masaref neighborhood, he added.

Since it took over a third of Iraq and Syria in 2014 to establish a self-styled “caliphate”, Islamic State drafted male and female vigilantes to observe the implementation of its extreme religious code of conduct. Harsh punishments, sometimes mounting to death, were imposed on violators.

Iraqi government forces took over eastern Mosul late January and concluded its campaign to retake the whole city earlier this month by taking over the western side. Iraqi security authorities occasionally said they arrested IS-linked individuals hiding among refugees. The war in Mosul displaced more than 900.000 people.

Fall of Mosul

The Fall of Mosul occurred between 410 June 2014, when Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) insurgents, initially led by Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi, defeated the Iraqi Army, led by Lieutenant General Mahdi Al-Gharrawi. In January 2014, ISIL took control of Fallujah and Ramadi, inciting conflict with the Iraqi army. On 4 June, the insurgents began their efforts to capture Mosul. The Iraqi army had 30,000 soldiers and another 30,000 federal police stationed in the city, facing a 1,500-member attacking force. However, after six days of fighting, the city, Mosul International Airport, and the helicopters located there all fell under ISIL’s control. An estimated 500,000 civilians fled from the city, due to the conflict. Iraqi forces initiated an offensive on October 17, 2016 to retake the city, succeeding in their efforts by mid-July 2017.

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Syrian Observatory says it has ‘confirmed information’ that Islamic State chief is dead

By : Lisa Barrington and Ellen Francis | CAIRO/BEIRUT

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters on Tuesday that it had “confirmed information” that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed. The report came just days after the Iraqi army recaptured the last sectors of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which Baghdadi’s forces overran almost exactly three years ago. Russia’s Defence Ministry said in June that it might have killed Baghdadi when one of its air strikes hit a gathering of Islamic State commanders on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa. But Washington said it could not corroborate the death and Western and Iraqi officials have been skeptical.

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Trump ends CIA arms support for anti-Assad Syria rebels

By: John Walcott :- WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration has decided to halt the CIA’s covert program to equip and train certain rebel groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, two U.S. officials said, a move sought by Assad ally Russia. The U.S. decision, said one of the officials, is part of an effort by the administration to improve relations with Russia, which along with Iranian-supported groups has largely succeeded in preserving Assad’s government in the six-year-civil war. The CIA program began in 2013 as part of efforts by the administration of then-President Barack Obama to overthrow Assad, but produced little success, said the officials, both of whom are familiar with the program and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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The CIA also declined to comment.

The decision was made with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and CIA Director Mike Pompeo after they consulted with lower ranking officials and before Trump’s July 7 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Germany. It was not part of U.S.-Russian negotiations on a ceasefire in southwestern Syria, the two officials said. One of the officials said the United States was not making a major concession, given Assad’s grip on power, although not on all of Syria, “but it’s a signal to Putin that the administration wants to improve ties to Russia.”

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UN CONCERNED ABOUT SITUATION OF ROHINGYA REFUGEES IN BANGLADESH

“The conditions are very minimal, very basic. I would say that this is quite worrying especially for those that have been here for a long time, and for the new arrivals that come from very traumatic situations; this is worse perhaps,” Grandi said in Dhaka.

He made the remarks after visiting two refugee camps in the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, which borders Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Cox’s Bazar hosts hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees.

Grandi added that Rohingya refugees may stay “for some more time” in squalid Bangladeshi camps as Myanmar officials had said the verification procedure for refugees before any repatriation would be lengthy. “We offered our technical expertise (to Myanmar). I think it’s possible that refugees will stay here in Bangladesh for some more time,” he said.

The UNHCR chief further warned that the minority Muslim group is facing a “very dire state in northern Rakhine,” Myanmar’s state where they are mainly based. The UNHCR chief stressed that any relocation should occur voluntarily. “None should be forcefully relocated,” Grandi said.

According to the UN, the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.  Bangladesh hosts more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims, including about 73,000 who have fled persecution and violence in Myanmar since the army launched a crackdown in the northwestern Rakhine State early October 2016.

There have been numerous accounts by eyewitnesses of summary executions, rapes and arson attacks against Muslims since the crackdown began. The military has blocked access to Rakhine and banned journalists and aid workers from entering the zone. The United Nations has warned of the poor conditions of Rohingya Muslim refugees who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was talking to media after visiting two refugee camps in the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh hosts more than four hundred thousand Rohingya Muslims who have fled persecution and violence in Myanmar.  ‘Courtesy Pars Today’

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Gunmen kill 7 Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir attack

10 July,2017: SRINAGAR, The pilgrims were returning from a Himalayan shrine when unidentified militants attacked a police patrol and a security checkpoint, and then fired on the bus near the village of Botengoo, according to Muneer Khan, Kashmir’s inspector general of police. At least seven pilgrims, most of them women, were killed, and 16 others were wounded, three of them critically. The assault was the first major attack on pilgrims in the area since 2000, when 30 people were killed.

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China warns India not to harbor illusions in border stand-off

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s defense ministry on Monday warned India not to harbor any illusions about the Chinese military’s ability to defend its territory, amid a festering border dispute. The stand-off on a plateau next to the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim, which borders China, has ratcheted up tension between the neighbors, who share a 3,500-km (2,175-mile) frontier, large parts of which are disputed. “Shaking a mountain is easy but shaking the People’s Liberation Army is hard,” ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a briefing, adding that its ability to defend China’s territory and sovereignty had “constantly strengthened”.

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Hindu Nationalism risks pushing India into war with China

By Yu Ning : Global Times, July 19, 2017

Since Indian troops illegally crossed into the Doklam area, China and India have been locked in a stand-off for over a month. Regardless of China’s call urging India to withdraw its troops that have crossed the border, New Delhi has continued its provocation. At the same time, anti-China sentiments are rising in India with an upsurge of nationalism.

India harbors deep strategic suspicion toward China. It considers China as a rival and a potential enemy. For a long time, it has hyped that China is pursuing what is called the “String of Pearls” to encircle India. Despite China’s goodwill in inviting India to join the Belt and Road initiative, India insists on interpreting the project as a part of China’s strategic containment and encirclement of it.

Since India’s defeat in the Sino-Indian War of 1962, some Indians have been stuck in a zero-sum mentality in dealing with China. The war inflicted lingering pain on India and it became a hard knot to untie, leading to an ingrained suspicion of Chinese strategy. China’s development is seen as a misfortune to India. The faster China grows, the more fearful they are.

Nationalist fervor that demands revenge against China has taken root in India since the border war. The election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has fueled the country’s nationalist sentiments. Modi took advantage of rising Hindu nationalism to come to power. This, on one hand, has enhanced his prestige and ability to control the country, but on the other, has made India more subject to the influence of conservatives, thus hampering reform. In diplomacy, New Delhi is demanded to act tougher in foreign relations, especially toward countries like Pakistan and China. The border row this time is an action targeted at China that caters to the demand of India’s religious nationalists.

The Modi government can do nothing if religious nationalism becomes extreme, as shown in its failure to curb violent incidents against Muslims since he came to power in 2014.

Where the China-India competition goes hinges on each side’s strength and wisdom. India is weaker than China in terms of national strength, but its strategists and politicians have shown no wisdom in preventing India’s China policy from being kidnapped by rising nationalism. This will put India’s own interests in jeopardy. India should be careful and not let religious nationalism push the two countries into war.

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