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Senior Iraqi military commander killed by Isis snipers south of Mosul

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As well as an offensive to take the Isis-held city of Fallujah, government troops are fighting near Mosul.

Islamic State (Isis) snipers have shot and killed a senior Iraqi commander south of Mosul as government forces look to make gains against the Sunni militant group near their de-facto Iraqi capital.

The Iraqi military’s joint command said Brigadier Ahmed Badr al-Luhaibi, the commander of Brigade 71st of Division 15, was killed by sniper fire during an operation to retake a village to the south of the IS-held city of Mosul, it has been reported on Associated Press (AP).

AP quoted a spokesman as saying Luhaibi’s death would increase “determination to clear” the entire province of Nineveh, of which Mosul is a regional capital. As well as an offensive in western Iraq to take the Isis-held city of Fallujah, government troops have resumed small-scale operations against the Islamic State near Mosul.

Since the start of the Iraqi government’s offensive in Fallujah, which began in May, some 27,600 residents have fled the city that has been Isis’s largest stronghold in the west of the country. Around 7,000 of them were able to flee after Iraqi government forces retook a key road into the city on 12 June 2016.

A litany of atrocities, perpetrated by both sides, have emerged since Iraqi forces, supported by Shia militias, began their bloody advance into the city just to the west of Baghdad. Aid agencies have warned that Fallujah residents, some of them children, risk being forced to fight for Isis as the militant group uses food to lure the starving civilians to enlist.

Residents from the city have drowned or been killed by IS snipers as they attempted to leave Fallujah across the Euphrates. Footage has emerged of the inhabitants using improvised raftsin attempts to leave the embattled city. They were reported to have used refrigerators and cupboards to cross the river rather than face the IEDs left on other roads by Islamic State. At the same time, civilians caught up in the advance by Iraqi Army and so-called Popular Mobilisation Forces risk torture at the hands of pro-government Shia militia.

According to Yahya al-Muhamadi, an Anbar council member working with displaced civilians and quoted by the Associated Press, five of those detained died while in the group’s custody.

 

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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