Amnesty says Hamas committed war crimes in Gaza conflict
Amnesty International on Wednesday accused the militant Hamas group of abducting, torturing and killing Palestinians during the war in the Gaza Strip last year. Some 23 Palestinians were shot and killed, and dozens more were arrested and tortured by Hamas, which rules Gaza, AP said, citing the watchdog’s report. The Palestinians targeted were either political rivals of Hamas, or people the militant group had accused of cooperating with Israel, Amnesty said, adding that some of the actions amount to war crimes.
Islamic State executes 20 men in Syria’s Palmyra
The Islamic State group executed at least 20 men in the ruins of Syria’s Palmyra on Wednesday, according to a monitoring group. They were fired on in front of a crowd gathered in Palmyra’s Roman theater, AFP quoted Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as saying. The men were reportedly accused of fighting for the Syrian government.
Denmark to hold general election on June 18
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Wednesday called a general election for June 18. Her center-left Social Democrats are expected to face stiff competition from the center-right Liberals and the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party, Reuters said. A coalition of the Social Democrats and other parties are about 7-8 percentage points behind a bloc of the Liberals and other parties, according to polls.
'Disappointed' Ban Ki-Moon postpones Yemen peace conference
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has officially asked his Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to postpone the Geneva talks aimed at stopping the conflict in the country, scheduled for May 28.“The Secretary-General is disappointed that it has not been possible to commence such an important initiative at the soonest possible date and reiterates his call for all parties to engage in United Nations-facilitated consultations in good faith and without pre-conditions,” said a statement from Ban’s New York office. “He also reiterates that the only durable resolution to the crisis in Yemen is an inclusive, negotiated political settlement.” The United Nations says that more than 1,000 people have died since the conflict escalated in March.
Rocket fired from Gaza Strip lands in southern Israel
A rocket launched from the Gaza Strip landed in Israel on Tuesday night, not causing any damage or injuries, Reuters reported citing the police. Earlier reports of five rockets hitting the country were clarified after it was found that that electronic sensors watching for firings may have given false readings. No group in the Gaza Strip has immediately taken responsibility for the attack. Local media speculated that it may have been an errant rocket not aimed at Israeli territory.
Sarkozy wins right to rename France conservative party ‘The Republicans’
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy won a court battle on Tuesday for the right to rename his conservative party “The Republicans,” Reuters said. The move is seen as a prelude to his attempt to win back the presidency in 2017. A Paris judge dismissed demands for an emergency ban on Sarkozy’s plan to change his party’s name from the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). Dozens of people filed an emergency complaint to stop the rebranding. They argued that the name, by alluding to France’s Fifth Republic, was an attempt by the political right to usurp the values of the entire nation.
Turkey, US begin training moderate Syrian rebels
Ankara and Washington have started training moderate Syrian rebels on Turkish territory to prepare them to fight Islamic State militants, according to the Turkish foreign minister. “The train-and-equip [mission] has started with small groups. All infrastructure has been completed and the necessary equipment has been supplied,” AFP quoted Mevlut Cavusoglu as saying. He told the Daily Sabah earlier that Turkey and the US had also agreed to provide some rebels preparing to fight Islamic State with “air protection.” The US started training Syrian rebels earlier this month in Jordan. The program will extend to sites in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
German envoy expects no Iran sanctions relief before end of 2015
Sanctions relief for Iran under a potential nuclear agreement won’t take place before the end of this year, Reuters quoted German Ambassador to the US Peter Wittig as saying on Tuesday. The envoy also described the date as the best case scenario. Wittig was speaking at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.
Libya civilians, foreigners trapped in Benghazi – rights group
Civilians, including foreign nationals, are trapped in several neighborhoods in Libya’s embattled eastern city of Benghazi, according to Human Rights Watch. The group said militias and army units had surrounded the downtown areas, where several hundred people are reportedly trapped and not being allowed to leave. They include Syrians, Palestinians, and Asian and African nationals. The rights group has urged fighters to let civilians depart without conditions, AP said.
26 Afghan police, troops killed in Taliban raids
At least 26 Afghan police and soldiers have been killed in multiple Taliban attacks in the volatile south, AFP reported. Militants raided several police outposts in the Naw Zad district in the restive opium-rich province of Helmand late Monday. In neighboring Kandahar, Taliban stormed the dormitory of a teacher training school late on Monday, triggering a 16-hour gun battle with Afghan forces. Another militant attack took place in Waza Khwa district in the southeastern province of Paktika. On Tuesday, at least three suicide bombers attacked a court complex in the capital of Wardak province.
Libya MPs halt session attended by PM over protests
Libya’s elected parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk interrupted a session attended by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni on Tuesday. The move followed protests after demonstrators burned a car outside the venue, according to lawmakers. The protesters’ demands were not immediately clear, Reuters said.
Austrian schoolboy, 14, gets 8 months in prison on terrorism charges
A 14-year-old Austrian schoolboy was convicted on Tuesday of terrorism. The defendant, named as Mertkan G., was given eight months in prison plus a further suspended jail sentence of 16 months, AFP reported. He was found guilty of belonging to a terrorist organization and planning to commit a terrorist act. The court in Sankt-Poelten accused him of intending to bomb a Vienna train station.
Trial of Washington Post reporter Rezaian begins in Tehran
Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian went on trial on espionage charges behind closed doors in Iran on Tuesday, Reuters reported. The newspaper’s Tehran bureau chief, an Iranian-American, was detained in his home in July and taken to Tehran’s Evin prison. “He has been charged with espionage for collecting confidential information… and handing it to hostile governments,” his lawyer, Leila Ahsan, told the Tasnim news agency.
65% of Yemenis lack sanitation, clean water - rights group
Another 3 million Yemenis have been left without access to clean water and sanitation as a result of Saudi-led airstrikes and ongoing fighting, Oxfam charity said Tuesday. The total number of those in need of these and other necessities is now 16 million, Sputnik said, citing he report. Grace Ommer, a country director for Yemen at Oxfam, called for an immediate ceasefire and for a rebuilding of the water infrastructure. Heads of 11 Yemeni cities have asked humanitarian organizations to provide them with over 2 million liters of fuel for the pumps that bring water to millions of people.
Bangladesh detains IT chief at Coca-Cola unit as ISIS suspect
An IT manager at a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Co was arrested in Bangladesh on suspicion of planning to fight for Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in Syria, Reuters reported. The two men were detained during a raid in Dhaka on Sunday night. Aminul Islam was the information technology head of a multinational company, and worked as a regional coordinator for IS, while Sakib Bin Kamal was a teacher at a school in Dhaka, police said. Islam worked at International Beverages Private Ltd, a Coca-Cola unit, according to police and company sources. The subsidiary said it was aware of reports that Aminul Islam Baig had been arrested, adding that the company would cooperate with the law enforcement agencies.
20 Kenyan police killed in Al-Shabaab attack
At least 20 Kenyan police officers have been killed in an ambush by suspected Al-Shabaab gunmen in a village in the eastern county of Garissa, the Guardian said, citing Kenyan media. The officers were reportedly killed in the village of Yumbis, 70km north of the town of Garissa, on Monday evening as they went to the rescue of colleagues wounded when their vehicle hit a landmine earlier in the day. The attack in Yumbis was confirmed by police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi. Last week, Al-Shabaab gunmen attacked Yumbis and hoisted their flag on a mosque.
Dozens dead in nursing home fire in China
At least 38 people have died in a fire at a nursing home in Pingdingshan, in central China, Xinhua reports. At least six people suffered injuries when the fire broke out on Monday evening. Two of the injured were taken to hospital in critical condition, according to authorities. Search and rescue operations are continuing. The cause of the fire remains unclear.
US commends Saudi Arabia for imposing sanctions on 2 Hezbollah officials
The US has congratulated Saudi Arabia for imposing sanctions on two senior officials of the Hezbollah group in Lebanon and designating them as terrorists on Wednesday. Washington itself designated the two officials, Khalil Youssef Harb and Mohammed Qabalan, in 2013, for overseeing “violent operations” in the Middle East, Reuters said. Saudi Arabia’s move "reflects the close counter-terrorism and information sharing cooperation we enjoy,” according to Adam Szubin, US Treasury acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
EU mission judges jail 11 ex-Kosovo Albanian guerrillas for war crimes
EU judges in Kosovo sentenced 11 former Kosovo Albanian guerrillas to prison terms on Wednesday for war crimes committed during Kosovo’s 1998-99 uprising. Judges from the EU police and justice mission said atrocities were committed against Kosovar civilians held in a camp run by the then-Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which fought against Serbian forces. The charges in the two trials also related to the killing in 1998 of a Serbian police officer and a Kosovo Albanian civilian. Two of those convicted were close to ex-Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, Reuters said.
Saudi Arabia designates 2 Hezbollah officials as terrorists
Saudi Arabia has named two senior officials of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group as terrorists, Reuters said. One of them was identified by the SPA news agency as Khalil Youssef Harb, a military commander in charge of Hezbollah’s activities in Yemen. The second was Mohammed Qabalan, who had reportedly been convicted by an Egyptian court in absentia in 2010 for activities in the country.
Belgium closes air space due to ‘technical problem’
Flights in and out of Belgian airports were halted on Wednesday due to a technical problem at domestic air-traffic controller Belgocontrol, Reuters reported. European air traffic authority Eurocontrol said the suspension would last until 15:30 GMT. Brussels Airport said it had about 40 flights diverted. A power surge was the cause of the disruption but the reasons for this were still not clear, according to Belgocontrol. Planes were able to cross the country at higher altitudes.
Italian mafia boss arrested in Brazil after 30 years on the run
Brazilian police have arrested an Italian mafia boss responsible for more than 20 killings in the 1980s. Camorra crime boss Pasquale Scotti, 56, was detained as he took his two Brazilian children to school, the Daily Mail said. Scotti has spent 30 years on the run after escaping via a hospital window in 1984. He was convicted in absentia by an Italian court in 1991 for the illegal possession of firearms, extortion and more than 20 homicides.
Nuclear talks with 6 powers may be extended past June 30 - Iran
A self-imposed deadline of June 30 for Iran and six major powers to reach a final nuclear deal may be extended, Reuters said. The talks might continue after the June 30 deadline, according to Iranian senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi. France’s ambassador to the US, Gerard Araud, said on Tuesday that reaching a deal by June 30 wasn’t likely. The envoy cited technical details, which remain to be agreed.
Moscow, Delhi Indra Navy-2015 drill in India waters
Joint maneuvers between Russia and India, dubbed Indra Navy – 2015, will be held in Indian territorial waters, TASS reported. Military officials will gather for an initial conference on June 1 - 4 to plan the drills, according to Aleksandr Gordeyev, a representative of the Russian Eastern Military District. The date of the maneuvers and the composition of participating forces will be agreed at two other conferences to be held later.
At least 40 killed in airstrikes on Yemeni capital
Airstrikes on a military base in the Yemeni capital Sanaa killed at least 40 people and wounded 100 on Wednesday, Reuters said. The Sabaeen area in the capital Sanaa was bombed, according to Saba, Yemen’s state news agency.
Madagascar MPs impeach president
Madagascar’s parliament voted to impeach President Hery Rajaonarimampianina, Reuters said. The move threatens to derail rebuilding efforts after years of crisis. The vote by 121 of 151 members of parliament late on Tuesday has to be ratified by a court. The president was elected at the end of 2013.
Suspicious substances found at Indonesian consulates in Australia
Australian police have been called to Indonesian consulates in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth following the discovery of suspicious substances, Reuters reported. The material has been taken away for further investigation, according to a spokesman for police in the state of New South Wales. Relations between the two states were damaged by the execution of two Australians convicted of drug smuggling in April.
ISIS suicide attacks in Anbar province, Iraq, kill 17 troops
Militants of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) have carried out suicide attacks targeting the army in western Anbar province, killing at least 17 troops, AP reported. The attacks took place outside the IS-held city of Fallujah late the previous night, according to Brig. Gen Saad Maan Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Joint Military Command. The extremists used a sandstorm that engulfed most of Iraq on Tuesday night to launch bombings.
Saudi-led coalition’s warplanes, ships bomb Yemen's largest military port
The Arab coalition’s warplanes and ships bombed Yemen’s largest military port in the Red Sea city of Hodaida on Wednesday, Reuters reported. Large parts of the naval base were destroyed and two warships were hit, according to a local official. One of the ships, named Bilqis, was destroyed and sank onto its side. Five gunboats shelled the administrative buildings of the base. The city and its military bases are aligned with the Houthi militia, which has been bombed by the Saudi-led coalition for over two months.
Four attackers killed in house siege in Kabul
At least four attackers have been killed in Kabul after an all-night siege to a guesthouse in an upscale neighborhood. No civilians or security personnel were killed as policemen secured the house in Wazir Akbar Khan, according to the Interior Ministry. Weapons were seized at the scene, including a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, three automatic rifles and a hand grenade.
37 Afghan soldiers, police join Taliban in Uruzgan province
At least 37 Afghan security force members, including soldiers and police, have switched sides to join the local Taliban in Uruzgan, Tolo News reported. A number of these defectors have since been killed by the Taliban, according to district governor of Khas Urozgan, Abdul Karim Karimi. Security forces have been engaged in ongoing clashes with Taliban insurgents over the past 15 days. The Taliban have overrun a number of military posts in the area.
Beijing lodges protest over US spy plane in South China Sea
China said it had lodged a complaint with the US over an American spy plane that flew over parts of the disputed South China Sea, Reuters reported. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the country opposed the US’s “provocative behavior” and urged Washington to “correct its error, remain rational and stop all irresponsible words and deeds.” Beijing had noted "ear-piercing voices" from many in the US about China's construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters, she added.
Andrzej Duda confirmed as new Polish president with 51.55 percent of the vote
Official results from Sunday’s presidential election show that right-wing candidate Andrej Duda has narrowly beaten the incumbent center-right President Bronislaw Komorowski, who was supported in 48.55 percent of the ballots. The electoral commission said the turnout was 55.34 percent. While day-to-day control of the country is in the hands of the prime minister, the Polish president serves as a guarantor of the constitution, and represents the country on the international stage.
US military report 35 airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, Iraq
The US and its allies carried out 10 airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and 25 strikes in Iraq since Sunday, Reuters reported. Most of the airstrikes in Syria were targeted in the area near Al Hasakah. In Iraq, the strikes targeted ISIS positions near Baghdadi, Bayji, Fallujah, Mosul and other sites. Kurdish fighters, supported by the coalition, were forcing militants to cede territory in northern Syria at an increasing rate, US Brigadier General Thomas Weidley, chief of staff of the coalition effort, said Monday.
Bulgaria, Greece & Turkey set up joint border police to combat illegal migration
Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey will set up a common border police and customs center to combat a surge in illegal migration, AFP reported. The agreement guarantees closer cooperation of the three countries that face“migration, organized crime and terrorism,” Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova said after a signing ceremony in Sofia on Monday. The center will be set up at the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint between Bulgaria and Turkey, which also borders Greece. Turkey currently shelters about 2 million refugees, mostly from neighboring Syria.
Air France flight escorted to JFK Airport due to threat
Air France Flight 22 was being escorted to Kennedy Airport on Monday after an anonymous threat was made against the flight, WABC reported. Fighter jets were scrambled after the flight from Charles De Gaulle Airport did not immediately respond to requests for information. The plane was to land in a secure area at JFK to be searched. The threat was not believed to be credible, according to the report.