Monday, 25th May 2015

ISRAEL – Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced Monday to eight months in prison and a $25,000 fine for illegally accepting campaign contributions from an American supporter. It is the second conviction and sentence for the former leader, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009. He has yet to spend any time behind bars for the convictions. (The Washington Post)

LEBANON – A United Nations envoy urged Lebanon’s feuding political leaders to pick a new president, warning on Monday that the country’s yearlong power vacuum had undermined its ability to deal with the impact of the Syrian crisis and a host of other problems. (Haaretz)

SYRIA – ISIS poured more fighters into Ramadi as security forces and Shiite paramilitaries prepared to retake the Iraqi city that fell to the Islamists a week ago in a major setback for the government. (The Daily Star)

 

Thursday, 26th May 2015

LIBYA – Libya’s internationally recognized prime minister, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, said Tuesday he had survived an assassination attempt after leaving a session of the anarchic country’s elected parliament. The incident highlighted the unravelling of state authority in the North African country in which two governments and parliaments allied to armed factions are fighting for control four years after rebels overthrew Muammar Gaddafi. (The Daily Star)

PALESTINE – Amnesty International said in a report on Wednesday that Hamas committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip during last year’s war with Israel. A ceasefire last August ended 50 days of fighting between Gaza fighters and Israel in which health officials said more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and 6 civilians. (Al Jazeera)

SYRIA – Turkey and the U.S. have agreed in “principle” to provide air protection to Syrian rebels being trained and equipped to fight Islamic State militants, once they enter Syrian territory for battle, Turkey’s foreign minister said. (Haaretz)

TURKEY – Turkey’s general election looks likely to push Tayyip Erdogan’s dream of an all-powerful presidency further from his reach, and usher in a period of turbulence as its most divisive modern leader jockeys to maintain his dominance. Barred by the constitution from party politics as head of state, Erdogan has nonetheless campaigned across Turkey before the June 7 parliamentary vote in a sign of how much he has riding on the outcome. (Al Arabiya)

 

Wednesday, 27th May 2015

GERMANY – The Cologne administrative court handed down its ruling on Wednesday: “The German government is not obliged to prevent the United States from using the airbase in Ramstein for executing drone strikes in Yemen”, presiding Judge Hildegund Caspari-Wierzoch announced following a complaint filed by three Yemenis after their relatives were killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2012. (Deutsche Welle)

ISRAEL – Israel and Palestinian militants appeared to be pulling back on Wednesday from further hostilities after Israel responded with air strikes to a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported on either side of the border, and Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon blamed the rocket launching late on Tuesday on “elements in the Islamic Jihad” group in the Hamas Islamist-run enclave. (Reuters)

The chief of Israel’s air force on Wednesday played down worries voiced by some fellow officials about the possibility of Egypt acquiring advanced Russian-made air defences. The Russian news agency TASS said in March Egypt would receive the Antey-2500 missile system, an S-300 variant, and put the value of the contract at more than a billion dollars. Neither Egypt nor Russia has formally confirmed it. The S-300 would pose a challenge to Israel’s air force. (Reuters)

SYRIA – The leader of al Qaeda’s Syria wing said his group was focused on capturing Damascus and warned members of the country’s minority Alawite sect to renounce President Bashar al-Assad and change their beliefs in order to be safe. The Nusra Front has made gains in northwestern Syria alongside other insurgent groups in recent weeks, seizing the city of Idlib, the town of Jisr al-Shughour and bringing them closer to government-held coastal areas north of the capital. (Reuters)

The Syrian government wants more coordination with Iraq on the fight against the Islamic State group, criticized members of the American-led coalition and said Wednesday it was not relying on the current air campaign to eradicate the militants, who continued to make significant advances in both countries. The Sunni Muslim extremist group also known as ISIS overran the Iraq-Syria border last June and declared a so-called caliphate that spanned the two countries. Since then, both Syria and Iraq have amassed international help to fight the group, including an American-led airstrike campaign that has been targeting militants in both Iraq and Syria. (International Business Times)

 

Tuesday, 28th May 2015

FRANCE – France’s foreign minister said on Thursday he would travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories in June to try to revive the peace process and persuade all sides to accept a French U.N. Security Council resolution that would set parameters for talks. (Haaretz)

France challenged Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday over a disputed element of the Iranian nuclear talks, asserting that it would not sign any pact unless Iran allowed all its nuclear installations, including military sites, to be inspected. The French position was stated by the foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, just as negotiations reconvened in Vienna with the aim of reaching a final agreement by June 30. (The New York Times)

ISRAEL – U.S. defence aid to Israel is likely to increase after 2017, sources on both sides said on Thursday, seeing a possible link to Washington’s efforts to assuage its ally’s fears over nuclear diplomacy with Iran. A current package worth $3 billion (£1.9 billion) a year expires in 2017. A U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said negotiators were close to a new deal that would bring annual payouts to $3.6-$3.7 billion on average. An Israeli official, who also declined to be named, put the expected aid at between $3.5 billion and $4 billion. (Reuters)

LIBYA –Libya is on the verge of economic collapse as rival factions haggle over a political settlement, the United Nations special envoy said on Thursday. Bernardino Leon, who has been trying for months to broker an agreement on a national unity government for Libya, said the United Nations was preparing a new draft of a possible political agreement that it hoped to give to the feuding parties in the first week of June. (Reuters)

Military aircraft belonging to a rival Libyan government on Thursday attacked Islamic State positions in and around the central city of Sirte, where the radical group claimed to have seized an air base, a government official said. Islamic State has exploited the general turmoil and security vacuum in Libya to build up a presence in several cities, where two governments are vying for power four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi. (Reuters)

SYRIA – The people of Syria are losing hope in the fifth year of a civil war that has brought levels of death and destruction that are so extreme they should shock the world’s collective conscience, the United Nations chief said in a report on Syria. The war has killed more than 220,000 people and left a third of the population homeless. Of the country’s roughly 23 million people, some 12.2 million are in need of humanitarian aid, including 5 million children, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his monthly report published on Wednesday. (Euronews)

The U.S. military has started training Syrian opposition fighters in Turkey to combat ISIS, an expected expansion of a program that first launched in Jordan weeks ago, a U.S. official told Reuters Thursday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not offer details on the size of the first group of recruits undergoing training in Turkey or the specific start date. (The Daily Star)

The Syrian affiliate of Al-Qaida said on Thursday it had taken over the city of Ariha, one of the last urban centres in Idlib province in northwestern Syria close to the Turkish border still held by the government. (Haaretz)

 

Friday, 29th May 2015

GREECE – Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Zavad Zarif on Thursday vowed to boost bilateral ties at the political level as well as trade relations, with a key focus on the energy sector. (ANSAMed)

ISRAEL – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is leaning toward not including Israel on an annual list of states responsible for violating children’s rights in armed conflicts, despite proposals to include it, U.N. diplomatic sources said. Israel’s foreign ministry has denied pressuring Ban, but several diplomatic sources familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that the Israelis were lobbying his office hard to ensure they were not on the list. (The Daily Star)

LIBYA – The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has seized control of the airport in the city of Sirte after forces of a Tripoli-based Libyan government withdrew, a spokesman said Friday. (Al Arabiya)

TURKEY – A controversy has flared up again in Turkey over trucks allegedly carrying 1,000 mortars, 1,000 grenades, 50,000 assault rifles and 30,000 heavy machine guns stopped in the southern Turkish provinces of Hatay and Adana. On Friday, the newspaper Cumhuriyet posted a video and published some pictures of the “trucks of Ankara’s secret services that were carrying weapons to Syria” in January 2014. (ANSAMed)