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Russia fires cruise missiles at ISIL targets in Syria

Four Kalibr cruise missiles, launched from warships in the Mediterranean, hit their targets near Palmyra, Kremlin says.

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Russia fires cruise missiles
Russia said the US, Turkey and Israel had been given prior warning of the strikes [Reuters]

Two Russian warships fired several cruise missiles at Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) targets in Syria from the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, the first such strikes announced in months.

The frigate Admiral Essen and submarine Krasnodar carried out four strikes against ISIL targets near the city of Palmyra, the Russian military said in a statement.

The missiles were intended to eliminate a stockpile of artillery that had been moved from Raqqa, ISIL’s de facto capital in Syria, the statement said.

“All the targets were hit,” the statement continued, without specifying when the strikes occurred.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was briefed on the successful strikes by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Kremlin said.

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Russia’s capital, Moscow, said the strikes, which came a day after the US conducted what it said was a successful shooting down of a mock intercontinental ballistic missile, could by seen as a show of force by the Russian army.

“Russia generally drops ‘dumb bombs’ in Syria, because it’s cheaper, but every time it wants to send out a demonstration of military capabilities it ups the sophistication of its strikes,” he said.

Information channels

Moscow said that the militaries of the US, Turkey and Israel “were informed in a timely manner of the missile launches through existing communication channels”.

Challands said that none of these countries has particularly close alliances with Russia – but they do have agreements on things like information sharing.

“What Russia has done here is that these information lines continue to operate, but at the same time that Russia is able and willing to act independently,” he said.

Russia has been conducting a bombing campaign since 2015 in support of President Bashar al-Assad and has a naval contingent deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to bolster its firepower.

Moscow has, however, not announced any strikes from the sea in recent months as it focuses on pushing a fragile truce between the government and rebels.

The ceasefire does not include UN-designated terrorist groups, including ISIL.

 

Middle East

UN appeals for countries to take in 1,300 Libyan refugees

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Libyan refugees

The UN has appealed to countries worldwide to take in 1,300 mainly African refugees stranded in Libya. Many of them were mistreated while being detained appalling conditions.

Niger has agreed to temporarily host the most vulnerable of the evacuees, including unaccompanied children and single mothers, pending their processing and departure for resettlement, Reuters said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Monday that it “urgently requests 1,300 places for resettlement” to be made available by the end of March. The UNHCR intends to evacuate between 700 and 1,300 people from Libya to Niger by the end of January 2018.

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‘Don’t buy from Arabs’, says Israeli Defense Minister

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Avigdor Lieberman

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called on his fellow citizens to boycott the Palestinian market of the Wadi Ara region of north-east Israel, after riots broke out there on Saturday over the American decision to move their embassy to Jerusalem.

Three people were injured when protesters began hurling stones at a bus. “I am calling for a boycott of Wadi Ara. Don’t go there and don’t buy there. They need to understand that it is impossible to demonstrate with Hezbollah flags, Palestinian flags and pictures of [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah.

To accept billions from the National Insurance [Institute] and to also destroy us from within,” Haaretz quoted Lieberman telling Army Radio.

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Hamas leader calls for ‘new intifada in the face of Israel’

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Ismail Haniyeh

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has called for a new uprising against Israel following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish state.

“We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada in the face of the Zionist enemy,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in a speech in Gaza Thursday, Reuters reports.

Anti-US protests erupted almost immediately after Trump’s declaration Wednesday, with Palestinians first to take to the streets, calling for three days of rage against the move.

World leaders expressed serious concern over the decision and its potential to destabilize the region.

The decision has been welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked Trump, and said he be believes “many” other nations will follow suit in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pope Francis said he could not “remain silent” and spoke of his “great anxiety” surrounding the decision, while the EU voiced “serious concern.”

“I cannot remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days,”Francis said at his weekly general audience at the Vatican.

“Jerusalem is a unique city,” he added, “sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the Holy Places for the respective religions are venerated, and it has a special vocation to peace.”

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