Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Heavy shelling, clashes resume in Libya's Tripoli <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Heavy shelling resumed on Thursday in southern Tripoli where rival militia brigades were battling for control of the capital&#39;s main airport in some of the worst clashes since the 2011 revolt which ousted Muammar Qadhafi.</p><p>Around 200 people have been killed since the clashes erupted two weeks ago in the capital and also in the eastern city of Benghazi, where a coalition of Islamist militants and former rebels have overrun a major army base in the city.</p><p>Thuds of artillery and anti-aircraft cannons echoed across Tripoli from early Thursday morning, a day after a temporary ceasefire agreed by factions to allow firefighters to put out a huge blaze at a fuel depot hit by a rocket.</p><p>Three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya&#39;s fragile government and nascent army has been unable to impose authority on heavily armed brigades of former rebels who have become the North African country&#39;s powerbrokers.</p><p>Most of the fighting is limited to southern Tripoli where warring factions have exchanged Grad rockets, artillery shells and cannon fire between the airport controlled by Zintan brigade fighters and enclaves of their Misrata brigade rivals.</p><p>In the eastern city of Benghazi, an alliance of Islamist militants and former rebels has also overrun a special forces base in the city, forcing the army into a retreat, local residents and army officials said.</p><p>Residents said there was little sign of the army or police on the ground in Benghazi on Thursday, two days after Islamist fighters from Ansar al-Sharia and the coalition of former rebels the Benghazi Shura Council overtook a main special forces base.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:22:00 +0000 Reuters 2437762 at sites/default/files/photo/2012/06/04/72636/tripoliairport.jpg NGO: Syria Kurdish-jihadist battle kills 49 <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>A fierce battle between Syrian Kurds and Islamic State jihadists has killed nearly 50 fighters from both sides as the Kurds seized several IS positions, a monitoring group said Thursday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported fighting in eastern Syria between a Sunni tribe and the IS, with members of the tribe tweeting about an &quot;uprising&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Wednesday&#39;s fighting in Ain al-Arab (Kobane in Kurdish) killed 14 members of the Kurdish People&#39;s Protection Units (YPG) and 35 jihadists.</div><div>Dozens of fighters were wounded, said the Observatory.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Britain-based monitor said it was now &quot;calm&quot; after the fighting in the Ain al-Arab area in the restive northern province of Aleppo on the border with Turkey.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In the battle, Kurdish fighters took several hills which IS jihadists had seized and set up positions.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Earlier in July, hundreds of Kurdish fighters had crossed the Turkey-Syria border into Ain al-Arab, to join the anti-IS fight.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>On a separate front, the Shaitat tribe in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor -- most of which is under jihadist control -- also fought back against the IS, the Observatory said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The fighting erupted after the IS detained three members of the tribe, &quot;violating an agreement&quot; between the two sides, it said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>According to the Observatory, the Shaitat tribe had promised IS it would not oppose it, in exchange for the jihadists not harassing or attacking its members.</div><div>The Sunni Shaitat tribe extends across three villages -- Abu Hamam, Kashkiyeh and Ghranij.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Shaitat members posted on Twitter: &quot;Shaitat rises up against the Islamic State.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Five jihadists, including a Belgian, were killed in the fighting, said the Observatory.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>IS expelled rivals from oil-rich Deir Ezzor earlier in July, emboldened by its lightning offensive in neighbouring Iraq a month earlier.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Syrian rebels and activists say IS&#39;s military capability was boosted by its capture of heavy weapons from Iraqi troops fleeing the onslaught.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>IS has been fighting poorly equipped Syrian rebels since January.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Syria&#39;s war has killed more than 170,000 people in three years. It began as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad but morphed into a complex war after the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent.</div> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:18:00 +0000 AFP 2437761 at sites/default/files/photo/2013/10/27/484151/image_1.jpg Israel mobilizes extra troops as US tops up army's ammo <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Israel mobilized 16,000 additional reservists Thursday to bolster forces fighting in Gaza as Washington gave its ally the go-ahead to raid stocks of emergency US weapons stored on Israeli soil.</p><p>The call-up, which raised the total number of Israeli reservists to 86,000, came shortly after Washington said it had agreed to restock Israel&#39;s dwindling supplies of ammunition, despite rising concern over the death toll in Gaza, where more than 1,360 people have been killed.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1246">It also came after the UN and the US sharply condemned the shelling of a UN school in Gaza, which killed 16 people and wounded scores, in an attack blamed on Israel.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1248">Despite rising international calls for a halt to the bloodshed, the Israeli security cabinet decided Wednesday to press on with the operation in Gaza just hours after troops had made a significant advance into the narrow enclave.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1250">And the full cabinet was being briefed on the progress of the military operation on Wednesday morning in its first meeting since Israel sent ground troops in to Gaza on July 17, officials said.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1252">Major General Sami Turgeman, head of the army&#39;s southern command, said troops were &quot;just days&quot; away from completing a mission to destroy a network of tunnels used by militants for infiltrating southern Israel, media reports said .</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1265">At least 111 Palestinians were killed in Gaza on Wednesday, among them 17 who died in an Israeli strike on a crowded market place in the battered Shejaiya district as Israel observed a four-hour humanitarian lull in other parts of the crowded coastal strip.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1267">Earlier, 16 people were killed when at least two shells slammed into a UN school in Jabaliya refugee camp which was sheltering some 3,300 homeless Gazans, drawing a furious response from the United Nations.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1269">Reprehensible attack: Ban&nbsp;</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1271">UN chief Ban Ki-moon described the shelling as &quot;reprehensible&quot; saying those responsible should be held accountable.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1273">The attack was also denounced by the White House in a carefully worded statement that avoided mentioning Israel.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1262">Shortly afterwards, the Pentagon said it had granted an Israeli request for ammunition, including some from a stockpile stored by the US military on the ground in Israel for emergency use by the Jewish state.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1260">Rights group Amnesty International had urged Washington to halt arms supplies to Israel.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1258">&quot;It is time for the US government to urgently suspend arms transfers to Israel and to push for a UN arms embargo on all parties to the conflict,&quot; it said in a petition to US Secretary of State John Kerry.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1256">Meanwhile, there was no letup in bloodshed with at least eight Palestinians killed on Thursday, among them a woman who died in a shelling in the southern city of Rafah, raising the overall Palestinian toll to 1,369, medics said.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1254">Warplanes also attacked a mosque near the UN school in Jabaliya, wounding 15.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1280">In Israel, 56 soldiers have died and Hamas rocket fire has killed three civilians, two Israelis and a Thai national&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 1em; line-height: 1.5em;">Israeli team in Cairo&nbsp;</span></p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1305">Despite the loss of life, there appeared to be little Israeli appetite for a truce, with a senior official telling Haaretz newspaper that the Jewish state was not even close to a ceasefire.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1309">&quot;When a ceasefire proposal that answers Israel&#39;s important needs is laid on the table, it will be considered,&quot; he said, warning that the military operation would be stepped up.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1311">&quot;The (military) will expand attacks against Hamas and the rest of the terror organizations.&quot;</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1313">Nevertheless, an Israeli delegation travelled to Cairo late Wednesday to discuss a possible ceasefire with Egyptian officials, an official at the airport told AFP.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1315">The delegation included Netanyahu&#39;s adviser Isaac Molho, Yoram Cohen who heads the Shin Bet internal security service and senior defence official Amos Gilad, Haaretz newspaper reported.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1325">They met with senior Egyptian intelligence officials and discussed Cairo&#39;s ongoing talks with representatives of the Gaza factions as well as with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, it said.</p><p id="yui_3_16_0_1_1406799500702_1327">Cairo, a key mediator in previous truce negotiations between Israel and Hamas, was also expected to host a Palestinian delegation later this week.</p> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 09:39:00 +0000 AFP 2437756 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/06/02/484151/netanyahu.jpg Russia defiant in face of historic Western sanctions <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>A defiant Russia dismissed Wednesday unprecedented Western sanctions over Ukraine after Brussels and Washington unveiled the toughest punitive measures against the Kremlin since the Cold War.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The third round of US and EU sanctions aims to force Russia to change tack and halt its support of separatists in Ukraine by targeting its vital financial, arms and energy sectors.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But Russia&#39;s first deputy prime minister, Igor Shuvalov, made light of the restrictions, also designed to hit the oligarchs in Russian President Vladimir Putin&#39;s inner circle.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;And what about the sanctions? In for a penny, in for a pound,&quot; he quipped to journalists.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Financial institutions put on a brave face, saying their operations would not be affected, while a top official unleashed a diatribe against the administration of US President Barack Obama.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Obama will go down in history not as a peacemaker -- everyone has already forgotten about his Nobel Peace Prize -- but as a US president who started a new Cold War,&quot; Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the Russian parliament&#39;s lower house, said on Twitter.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There was no immediate official reaction from Putin&#39;s office or the foreign ministry but Moscow has long insisted sanctions would merely bring Russia&#39;s society together and make its economy more self-reliant.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The stepped-up sanctions came as Moscow dismissed claims it was responsible for supplying the missile that downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, and fighting in Ukraine showed little sign of abating.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>They will notably make it tougher for Russian state-owned banks to access European financial markets, forcing their costs higher and hobbling an already struggling economy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Russia&#39;s Central Bank said that financial institutions were working normally and that if necessary it would adopt measures to protect targeted lenders which include the country&#39;s second-largest bank VTB.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><b>&#39;Driven into corner&#39;</b></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Economists have warned that Europe&#39;s own economy would suffer too from the so-called sector sanctions against its biggest source of energy and its major trading partner.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Despite the dismissive talk in Moscow, a number of economists acknowledged the new restrictions would be painful to absorb for Russia, and could stoke social tensions as its economy is sliding towards a recession.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The current amount of corporate debt is 700 billion dollars, these debts should be refinanced,&quot; Igor Nikolayev, head of the FBK Strategic Analysis Institute, told AFP, pointing to a lack of cheap loans in Russia.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics said that this time the sanctions would be felt by everyday Russians -- and predicted they would drive an even greater wedge between him and the West.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The confrontation will increase abruptly. Putin has been practically driven into a corner and this man does not make concessions under pressure,&quot; he told AFP.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><b>&#39;Strong warning&#39;</b></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Some EU diplomats have also expressed concerns, warning sanctions may convince Putin that he no longer has anything to lose by further escalating the Ukraine conflict.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Obama denied the West was being drawn into a new Cold War with its former-Soviet foe, but warned that the United States and Europe are running out of patience with Putin&#39;s government.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He warned the new sanctions would hurt a Russian economy already stumbling towards zero growth, and said Washington had proof that Russian artillery had fired on Ukrainian forces.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Western powers were more determined to act together on the Ukraine crisis, Obama said, in the wake of the shooting down of flight MH17, allegedly by Russian-armed separatists.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>While the US targeted banks and United Shipbuilding Corporation, which builds attack submarines and surface warships, EU sanctions also banned future sales of weapons and dual-use technologies, especially in the key energy sector.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><b>Convoy to crash site</b></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>So far the EU has restricted its response to asset freezes and visa bans on those implicated in or profiting from the Ukraine crisis, and for the first time on Tuesday decided to add four close Putin business associates.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In Ukraine, a Dutch and Australian police contingent was for the fourth day running prevened from visiting the MH17 crash site, with monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) overseeing the mission only sending out a &quot;reconnaissance convoy&quot; to seek a safe ascess route.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The remains of some of the 298 victims, who included nearly 200 Dutch nationals, still lie at the site nearly two weeks on.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Fighting rumbled on not far from the wreckage of the downed jet as Ukraine&#39;s military said it was conducting a &quot;mopping up&quot; operation in the town of Ilovaysk, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) away.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The army said troops had also taken the town of Avdiyivka, a dozen kilometres to the north of the main rebel city of Donetsk.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Local officials said that morgues around the region had received 19 bodies in the past 24 hours and that shelling could be heard overnight around Donetsk.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Violence also raged around another insurgent stronghold, Lugansk, where local authorities reported one civilian killed and 10 people injured in clashes over the last 24 hours.</div> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:45:00 +0000 AFP 2437750 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/05/24/484151/putin.jpg