Weekly News 3rd – 7th April 2017

Monday 3rd April

Israel: Israel has been barring entry to and from the besieged Gaza Strip for human rights workers and researchers, according to a new report by international rights organisation, Human Rights Watch (HRW). Last year Israel allowed about 12,000 entries from the Gaza Strip to the occupied West Bank and Israel, but categorically denies that access to Palestinian and foreign human rights workers who want to document abuses on the ground in Gaza. (Al Jazeera)

Russia: A bomb blast on a St Petersburg metro train that killed 11 people and wounded dozens more. A second explosive device was left at a different metro station but did not detonate. The explosion occurred at around 2.30pm local time on Monday, after the train had left Sennaya Ploshchad station in the centre of St Petersburg. The driver made the decision to continue to the next station, Tekhnologicheskii Institut, in order to make evacuation easier. (The Guardian)

Tuesday 4th April

France: Marine Le Pen could still win the first round of the French presidential election but will then be crushed by her likely opponent Emmanuel Macron, according to the latest poll. (The Independent)

Greece: Thousands of elderly Greeks protested peacefully on Tuesday against more pension cuts, as cash-strapped Greece remained locked in talks with lenders on further austerity and unpopular labor reforms.
Greece is now negotiating new cuts to keep its latest 86 billion-euro ($91.54 billion) bailout. They would represent the 12th reduction in pensions in seven years, a controversial issue for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose Syriza party vowed to fight austerity when it was elected to office in 2015. (Reuters)

Hungary: The 199-seat parliament voted 123 to 38 in favour of the legislation, placing tough restrictions on foreign universities operating in Hungary. It is the latest battle declared by the right-wing Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, against liberalism. The main target is believed to be the Central European University (CEU) and its founder, George Soros. (BBC)

Migration crisis: At least 663 migrants and refugees have died in the Mediterranean thus far in 2017 in an attempt to reach Europe, and the total number of arrivals by this route to Europe grew to 29,369 as of April 2, according to the latest data released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Over 80% of the arrivals were registered in Italy (24,513), with the remainder in Greece (3,856) and Spain (1,000). (ANSAmed)

Russia: Russian investigators say the man who carried out Monday’s bomb attack on the St Petersburg metro is 22-year-old Akbarzhon Jalilov.
Earlier on Tuesday, the intelligence agency of the former-Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan named Jalilov as the prime suspect and said he was a native of Kyrgyzstan but had lived in Russia for six years and had taken Russian citizenship.
Russia’s investigative committee said the 22-year-old detonated the bomb in the carriage, and added that his DNA had been found on an unexploded device left at a second metro station, and that this along with CCTV footage led them to believe the same person was behind both attacks. (The Guardian)

Syria: Chemical attack in Syria kills at least 58 people, including 11 children. Opposition says government or Russian jets pounded the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib.  Locals said the attack began in the early morning, when they heard planes in the sky followed by a series of loud explosions after which people very quickly began to show symptoms. They said they could not identify the planes. Both Syrian and Russian jets have bombed the area before. (Al Jazeera)

Wesedenay 5 April 2017

Brexit: European Union lawmakers adopted a resolution on Wednesday setting their red lines for the two-year divorce talks with Britain and rejected attempts by British MEPs to recognize Gibraltar’s pro-EU stance in the Brexit referendum.
In a display of EU unity, the legislature’ text repeated the same priorities set by the EU summits’ chair Donald Tusk in his draft negotiating guidelines released last week. (Reuters)

France: French far-right leader Marine Le Pen was attacked from all sides over Europe as presidential candidates went head to head in the second live TV debate.
The centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron said Ms Le Pen’s nationalist proposals amounted to “economic warfare”.
But she was also accused from the right of not being tough enough on France’s membership of the EU.
Francois Fillon, meanwhile, said that France needed Europe when up against the US and China. Ms Le Pen, leader of the National Front (FN) party, promised to restore control of France’s borders and scrap the euro, or else hold a referendum on EU membership. (BBC)

Iraq: More than 30 people have been killed in an overnight attack by Islamic State militants in the Iraqi city of Tikrit.
At least two of  the militants detonated suicide belts during clashes with police, which could still be heard after sunrise.
The assault comes as government forces continue an offensive to retake Mosul, the last major IS stronghold in Iraq. (BBC)

Russia: Six people have been detained in St Petersburg suspected of recruiting for so-called Islamic State (IS) and aiding terrorist activity, investigators say.
The suspects are from Central Asian countries and have been active since November, Russian officials add.
There is no evidence they are connected with Akbarzhon Jalilov, a Kyrgyzstan-born man suspected of bombing St Petersburg’s metro. (BBC)

Syria: Russia denied on Wednesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was to blame for a poison gas attack and said it would continue to back him.The attack caused more than 70 death.

Western countries, including the United States, blamed Assad’s armed forces for a chemical attack which choked scores of people to death in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in a rebel-held area of northern Syria on Tuesday.
Washington said it believed the deaths were caused by sarin nerve gas dropped by Syrian aircraft. But Moscow offered an alternative explanation that would shield Assad: that the poison gas belonged to rebels and had leaked from an insurgent weapons depot hit by Syrian bombs. (Reuters)

Thursday 6th April

Brexit: Theresa May is to meet Donald Tusk to discuss the timing of a Brexit deal after the EU ruled out striking an agreement about a future relationship until Britain has formally left the bloc.
The prime minister will host the European council president in Downing Street on Thursday in their first encounter since she formally notified the EU of the UK’s decision to leave by triggering article 50. (The Guardian)

Israel: A Palestinian man has driven a car into people next to a bus stop near a settlement in the occupied West Bank, killing an Israeli soldier and wounding another, officials said.
The incident near the Israeli settlement of Ofra north of Ramallah occurred just a few days before the start of the Jewish Passover holiday, raising fears of an upsurge in violence. (The Guardian)

Three men accused of collaborating with Israel have been executed in Gaza, the Hamas-run interior ministry says.
The Palestinians – aged 32, 42 and 55 – were hanged after being convicted by a court of treason and conspiring with foreign parties, a statement said.
They are believed to have been arrested between six months to a year ago.
The executions come as Hamas investigates last month’s killing of a senior militant, Mazen Fuqaha. It has blamed Israel and local collaborators. (BBC)

Friday 7th April 

Cyprus: Cyprus’s president said on Friday he would not be willing to put any peace deal to a popular vote unless he was convinced a blueprint to reunite estranged Greek and Turkish Cypriots would work.(Reuteers)

Spain: The Basque militant group Eta says it will hand over all its weapons on Saturday – but warns that its enemies might still block the process. (BBC)

Syria: U.S. President Donald Trump says he ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from which a deadly chemical attack was launched and added there could be no dispute that Syria had used banned chemical weapons. (Reuters)

Russia: Russia has said it is suspending a deal with the US to prevent mid-air collisions over Syria in response to US air strikes on a Syrian air base.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said following Donald Trump’s decision to fire 59 cruise missiles at a military target in Syria on Thursday, Moscow was suspending a memorandum with the US that prevented incidents and ensured flight safety.
Under the memorandum, signed after Russia launched an air campaign in Syria in September 2015, Russia and the US had exchanged information about their flights to avoid incidents in the crowded skies over Syria — where Russia has several dozen warplanes and batteries of air-defence missiles. (The Independent)

Turkey: Polling stations in Italy have opened for Turkish voters in a constitutional referendum on the presidential system. The voting operations are being held at the Turkish embassy in Rome and at the Turkish consulate in Milan. (ANSAmed)

Terrorism: At least three people were killed and eight injured when a suspected terrorist drove a lorry into crowds of shoppers in central Stockholm. “Sweden is under attack,” said Stefan Lofven, the prime minister. Police said they were treating the incident, on Drottninggatan Street, as terror-related. There were unconfirmed reports that the vehicle, belonging to a brewery, had been hijacked, with the original driver left unharmed. (The Times)