Monday, 6 March 2017

France: Former French Prime Minister Alain Juppe said he would not enter the presidential race to replace Francois Fillon if he decides to withdraw. Mr. Juppé, a moderate, ran in the Republican presidential primary in November but lost to Mr. Fillon, who campaigned on a harder line. He criticized Mr. Fillon on Monday for his “obstinacy,” and he called Mr. Fillon’s dismissive response to the corruption allegations against him “a dead end.” (The New York Times)

Syria: Children in Syria are suffering from “toxic stress”, a severe form of psychological trauma that can cause life-long damage, according to a study that charts a rise in self-harm and suicide attempts among children as young as 12.
A report by Save the Children and its partner agencies in Syria paints a harrowing picture of the country’s children, 5.8 million of whom are in need of aid, after a war which reaches its sixth year next week. More than 70% of children interviewed experienced common symptoms of “toxic stress” or post-traumatic stress disorder, such as bedwetting, the study found. Loss of speech, aggression and substance abuse are also commonplace. About 48% of adults reported seeing children who have lost the ability to speak or who have developed speech impediments since the war began, according to the report, entitled Invisible Wounds. (The Guardian)

War on terror: US-backed Syrian militias cut the last main road out of Daesh-held Raqqa on Monday, severing the highway between the group’s de facto capital and its stronghold of Deir al-Zor province, a militia spokesman said. It is losing ground to three separate campaigns in northern Syria by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militias, the Russian-backed Syrian army, and Turkey and allied Syrian rebels. (The Daily Star)

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

France: Scandal-plagued French presidential candidate Francois Fillon was hit by a new revelation on Tuesday, this time over an interest-free, undeclared loan he received from a billionaire friend. The conservative candidate did not deem it necessary to report the 50,000 euros ($53,000) loan he received from Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere in 2013 to a state transparency watchdog. (AFP)

Iraq: Iraqi forces have moved deeper into western Mosul, overrunning a district and edging closer to the most symbolic site of Daesh’s rule, the Great Mosque of al-Nuri where the “caliphate” was proclaimed more than two years ago.
Along the western bank of the Tigris river, federal police units seized an administration building, the Central Bank and the Mosul museum, a site previously used as a meeting point for senior Jihadist leaders. The assault initially met fierce resistance, but that had ended by dawn on Tuesday. (The Guardian)

Israel: Vocal supporters of boycotting Israel and its institutions linked to the occupation of Palestinian lands may now have trouble visiting the country, or by extension, the Palestinian territories.
On Monday, Israel’s parliament passed a bill that denies entry visas to foreign nationals who publicly back or call for any kind of boycott — economic, cultural or academic — against Israel or its West Bank Jewish settlements.
The goal of the legislation is to battle the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which has found growing support in Europe and the United States in recent years. Until now, three-month travel visas were given automatically to those arriving in Israel, and the interior minister decided on a case-by-case basis whether to bar entry by individuals involved in the boycott. The new law will allow Israel to expand that ban. (The Washington Post)

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Iraq: Iraqi forces trying to reclaim Mosul penetrated the western part of the city on Tuesday, retaking a bridge and several public buildings during heavy clashes with Daesh militants, officials said.
Civilians reported that the bombardment and gunfire were the heaviest since Feb. 19, the beginning of the operation to retake the western part of the city — the country’s second-largest, where roughly a million people are trapped and living in desperate conditions.
Soldiers recaptured a branch of the central bank, an archaeological museum that jihadists ransacked after taking the city in 2014, and the Hurriya Bridge, which crosses the Tigris River in the center of the city, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, a military spokesman, said by phone. (The New York Times)

Marocco:  A deputy from Morocco was killed on Tuesday in an ambush. He was gunned down on his way home in Casablanca. Merdas Abdellatif, 53, died on the spot, in the late evening yesterday. According to preliminary evidence gathered, Merdas was hit by a barrage of blows to the head, neck and chest, while he was still in the car seat.
Abdellatif Merdas had entered Parliament as a result of the last election, in 2016, after a long militancy in the party and experience as administrator of his town of origin. (ANSAmed)

War on terror: Daesh has claimed responsibility for an attack on a military hospital in Kabul in which gunmen dressed as doctors entered the facility and fought security forces for hours.
The attack on Wednesday began when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the rear of the 400-bed Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital and three attackers with automatic weapons and hand grenades entered the complex, security officials said. (The Guardian)

Thuersday 9 March 2017

German: Turkey’s accusations of “Nazi-style practices” in Germany cannot be tolerated and need to stop, Angela Merkel has said.
In her strongest reaction so far, the German chancellor told parliament that comments by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and other Turkish officials had saddened her “because comparisons with Nazi Germany always lead to misery, to the trivialisation of the crimes against humanity committed by national socialism”. Erdoğan accused Germany of Nazi-like behaviour last weekend, after several German municipalities cancelled events in which Turkish cabinet ministers had planned to address rallies in support of a referendum next month on constitutional reform that would grant the Turkish president broad new powers. German officials have cited problems with overcrowding and fire safety, and other issues. (The Guardian)

Syria: As Syrian fighters backed by the United States close in on Raqqa, some of the Islamic State’s leaders have fled their self-declared capital and are planning to carry on the fight from other sanctuaries in Syria and Iraq, an American defense official said on Wednesday.
The departure of some of the group’s leadership does not mean that the battle to take Raqqa will be easy, the official said. An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 fighters remain in the city.
To provide more firepower for the looming battle, a United States Marine artillery unit is being deployed in Syria, mimicking the approach the United States has taken to support Iraqi troops fighting to reclaim Mosul from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. (The New York Times)

Friday, 10 March 2017 

European Union: Donald Tusk has won a second term as president of the European Council, overcoming bitter opposition from Poland that has left the country isolated in Europe.
Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, was re-elected on Thursday with overwhelming support to lead the council, the body that organises EU leaders’ meetings, for a second term lasting two and a half years. His reappointment until the end of 2019 means he will play a crucial role in Britain’s negotiations to leave the EU.
The Pole, from the pro-European centre-right Civic Platform party, overcame strong resistance from his own government, led by the Eurosceptic Law and Justice party (PiS). The outcome was never in doubt, but is a blow for the Warsaw government, which responded with fury. (The Guardian)

European Union: Overcoming divisions to kickstart a Europe that appears at an impasse, eyeing a summit on March 25 in Rome as a possible turning point for the EU’s future is Paolo Gentiloni’s message for a gathering of EU heads of State and government.
A multi-speed Europe is taking shape. A few concrete details could already come out on March 15 in Strasbourg, where Gentiloni was invited by the president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani to address a plenary session together with Commission President Juncker, European Council President Tusk and Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat.
Migration was also another key theme on the agenda of the 27. (ANSAmed)

Syria: The United States is sending an additional 400 troops to Syria to help prepare for the looming fight for Raqqa,  Daesh’s capital in Syria, American officials said on Thursday.
The increase, which includes a team of Army Rangers and a Marine artillery unit that have already arrived in Syria, represents a near-doubling of the number of American troops there.
The United States military has declined to say how many troops it has deployed in Syria. The formal troop cap is 503, but commanders have the authority to temporarily exceed that limit. (The New York Times)