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Al-Qaeda linked Nusra rebels kill 7 in Syria’s Aleppo, capture three villages

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The Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and allied militant groups have captured three towns in the country’s northern province of Aleppo, following battles with the Syrian army, a monitor group reported on Saturday.

The Nusra and other groups have been engaged in intense battles with the army in Aleppo over the past four days as the terror groups unleashed wide-scale offensives against the government troops’ positions, Xinhua news agency quoted the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying.

The Britain-based watchdog group said the rebels finally managed to capture the towns of Zaytan, Khalsa and Burneh.

The four-day-long battles were coupled with intense airstrike by the Syrian air force against the positions of rebel groups south of Aleppo.

The rebels’ capture of the three towns have besieged the Syrian government forces in the town of Al-Hader in southern Aleppo.

Observers believe if the army could not do anything to retake those towns, the government soldiers will come under heavy attack in Al-Hader.

The battles in Aleppo have been raging on several fronts between various fighting groups.

The army is busy fighting Nusra in southern Aleppo, while the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are fighting the Islamic State group in the key city of Manbej in northern Aleppo, near the Turkish borders.

The observatory, which relies on a network of activists on ground, said the rebels fired several mortar shells into government-controlled parts in Aleppo after midnight, the latest in a series of endless shelling in that city.

It said over seven people were killed and 40 others wounded on Saturday by refreshed shelling on the district of Sheikh Maksud, a predominantly-Kurdish district controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Aleppo.

Sheikh Maksud has been under heavy shelling from the rebels since February, which led to the killing of 132 civilians and the injury of 900 others, the observatory added.

Aleppo is a stage for intense battles due to its strategic importance and location near the Turkish borders.

Middle East

Italy backs stronger ties, enhanced dialogue with Qatar

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Qatar Italy

Rome, June 22 (IANS/AKI) Italy’s Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi on Friday said that his country wanted to strengthen bilateral relations and to deepen dialogue with Qatar.

He was speaking at a meeting with his Qatar counterpart Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim al-Thani here.

“During cordial discussions, Minister Moavero Milanesi confirmed the Italian government’s commitment to intensifying political dialogue and bilateral relations in the economic and trade spheres as well as in terms of cultural cooperation,” said a Foreign Ministry statement.

The talks between Milanesi and al-Thani also covered key regional issues including turmoil-wracked Libya, the migration crisis and war-torn Syria, the statement said.

“A detailed exchange of views also took place on the Gulf diplomatic crisis in respect of which Minister Milanesi reiterated Italy’s support for a negotiated solution based on dialogue between the various sides,” the statement added.

Qatar has been locked in a bitter year-long rift with a Saudi-led alliance including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt which abruptly severed ties with Qatar in June last year, accusing it of supporting terrorism and of backing Iran.

Qatar claims the blockade is an attack on its sovereignty and punishment for pursuing an independent foreign policy. Diplomatic efforts led by Kuwait and the US to end the rancorous dispute have so far stalled.

At a meeting in Brussels with al-Thani on Thursday, the European Union’s Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini underlined the bloc’s continued support for “an intra-Gulf mediated solution and Kuwait’s mediation in this regard,” the European Commission said in a statement.

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Middle East

Gaza protests : 4 killed, 618 injured

Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at journalists and TV crew in eastern Gaza. Palestinian demonstrators brought down an Israeli drone carrying a camera used to film demonstrators in eastern Gaza City.

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Gaza protests

Jerusalem, June 9 (IANS) Four Palestinian protesters were killed and 618 others wounded by Israeli soldiers on Friday during clashes near the Israel-Gaza border, officials said.

Ashraf al-Qedra, the Health Ministry spokesman in Gaza, said Zeyad al-Briem, 25, and Haytham al-Jammal, 15, were killed in east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza Strip, while Emad Darabieh, 26, was shot dead in east of Jabalia in northern Gaza.

Meanwhile, Yousef al-Faseeh, 29, was killed in east of Gaza City, Xinhua reported.

Among the injured Palestinians, 117 were hit with live gunshots, 60 with tear gas inhalation, and 77 by bullets shrapnels or tear gas canisters, said al-Qedra.

The clashes, which broke out on Friday afternoon, were part of the 11th Friday “Great March of Return” held by Palestinians in Gaza since March 30. More than 120 Palestinians have been killed so far.

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The Palestinian organisers called the latest rally “the Friday of the One-million-men March for Jerusalem”.

Local media reported that thousands of Palestinian demonstrators joined the protests at five different spots in eastern Gaza.

Hundreds of kites carrying Molotov cocktails flown by demonstrators landed on Israeli agricultural fields and caused large fires.

Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at journalists and TV crew in eastern Gaza. Palestinian demonstrators brought down an Israeli drone carrying a camera used to film demonstrators in eastern Gaza City.

Five journalists were injured, including AFP photographer Mohamed al-Baba, who was shot in his right foot, and a cameraman working for the al-Aqsa Radio of Hamas, who was hit with a tear gas canister in his back, the Health Ministry in Gaza said.

The Ministry also accused Israeli soldiers of firing tear gas at the medical workers who were treating the injured protesters.

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Israel begins building marine barrier with Gaza

Israel claims Hamas constructs these tunnels to attack Israeli civilians.

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Avigdor Liberman

Jerusalem, May 28 (IANS) Israel’s Defence Minister on Sunday announced that construction had begun on a marine barrier with the Gaza Strip extending into the Mediterranean Sea.

Avigdor Liberman said in a statement that the barrier aimed to prevent any attempts by Palestinians in Gaza to enter Israeli territory through the sea, Efe news reported.

“This is an additional setback for Hamas, which has lost another strategic capability that it has invested massive amounts in developing. We will continue to protect the citizens of Israel with might and sophistication,” Liberman said.

The barrier is to consist of three layers, one of which is to be underwater, and is expected to be completed within a year, the statement added.

During Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, members of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that governs the Gaza Strip, managed to swim to Israeli territory and launch an attack on a Israeli army installation before being killed.

Israeli authorities are also constructing an underground barrier beneath the Gaza-Israel boundary to stop Hamas from digging tunnels into Israeli territory.

Israel claims Hamas constructs these tunnels to attack Israeli civilians.

An independent inquiry into the 2014 war in Gaza by the UN Human Rights Council concluded that “the tunnels were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF (Israeli army) positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”

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