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US, Russia agree on ceasefire in south Syria from Sunday, Lavrov says

The US and Russia have reached an agreement for a ceasefire in south-west Syria, according to officials.

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Word of the ceasefire emerged as US President Donald Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit.

The deal marks a new level of involvement for the US in trying to resolve Syria’s civil war.

A separate deal to create “de-escalation zones” was brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran, but not the US.

Follow-up talks this week in Kazakhstan to finalise a ceasefire in those zones failed to reach a deal.

The US and Russia have been backing opposing sides in Syria’s war.

Jordan and Israel also are part of the agreement, one official said.

The two US allies both share a border with the southern part of Syria and have been concerned about violence from the civil war spilling over the frontier.

Moscow has been supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and Washington is backing rebels who have been fighting Assad. Both the US and Russia oppose the Islamic State group in Syria.

Previous ceasefires in Syria have collapsed or failed to reduce violence for long, and it is unclear whether this deal will be any better.

Earlier in the week, Syria’s military said it was halting combat operations in the south of Syria for four days, in advance of a new round of Russia-sponsored talks in Astana. That move covered the southern provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida.

Syria’s government briefly extended that unilateral ceasefire, which is now set to expire on Saturday – a day before the US-Russian deal would take effect.

The new agreement will be open-ended, one US official said, describing it as part of broader discussions with Russia on trying to lower violence in the war-ravaged country.

Officials said the US and Russia were still working out the details as Mr Trump and Mr Putin concluded their more than two-hour meeting on Friday.

The US has been wary of letting Iran gain influence in Syria – a concern shared by Israel and Jordan, neither of which wants Iranian-aligned troops massing near their territories.

A US-brokered deal could help the Trump administration retain more of a say over who fills the power vacuum left behind as Islamic State is routed from additional territory in Syria.

Though US and Russian officials had been discussing a potential deal for some time, it did not reach fruition until the run-up to Mr Trump’s meeting with Mr Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit, officials said.

– AP

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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Middle East

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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Middle East

US drone strikes kill 11 IS militants in Afghanistan

The drone strikes were launched on Sunday. Two IS militants were also wounded and three vehicles were destroyed after the raids.

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Kabul, May 28 : At least 11 Islamic State (IS) militants were killed after US and NATO-led coalition forces launched airstrikes in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, authorities said on Monday.

“The drone strikes were launched on Sunday. Two IS militants were also wounded and three vehicles were destroyed after the raids,” an Army statement said.

Also on Sunday, Afghan Army helicopters struck and destroyed two heroin factories in Khogyani district, reports Xinhua news agency.

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