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Clashes in Syria’s Damascus after surprise rebel attack – Al Jazeera

Heavy clashes rocked eastern districts of the Syrian capital on Sunday after rebel fighters launched a surprise assault on government forces, a monitor and state television said. Steady shelling and sniper fire could be heard across Damascus on Sunday as rebel factions allied with former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham launched an attack on government positions in the city's east. The clashes centered on a government-held gap between two besieged opposition enclaves, the Jobar and Qaboun neighborhoods. The Ahrar al-Sham rebel group said fighters had &'8220;liberated&'8221; the area. Tahrir al-Sham &'' a umbrella group of rebels formed by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham last month &'' and the independent Failaq al-Rahman group also participated in the attack. Syrian state media said the military had repelled an attack by one group after &'8220;terrorists&'8221; infiltrated through tunnels in the middle of the night. Rebels detonated two large car bombs at 5:20am on Sunday close to the Jobar neighborhood. Tahrir al-Sham claimed responsibility for the attack. Rebels then advanced into the nearby Abbasiyn Square area, seizing several buildings and firing a barrage of rockets into multiple Damascus neighbourhoods, according to Rami Abdelrahman of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Government forces responded with nearly a dozen air strikes on Jobar, he added. Al Jazeera's Mohamed Al Jazaeri, reporting from near Damascus, said that at least 15 civilians had been killed after government forces shelled residential neighborhoods in Eastern Ghouta, but that the fighting had since become less intense. &'8220;This advance is the largest for opposition groups in over a year and a half,&'8221; Al Jazaeri said. &'8220;Military operations have not stopped in the area but it has calmed down. There remains sniper shooting from both sides and regime forces are shelling Jobar neighborhood, as well as other areas controlled recently by the opposition.&'8221; Control of Jobar &'' which has been a battleground district for more than two years &'' is divided between rebels and allied fighters on one side, and government forces on the other. It is one of three pockets in the Syrian capital still in opposition hands. The recent fighting has resulted in rebel control of industrial areas in Al-Qaboun in addition to parts of Abbasiyn breaking a siege on the area and linking it to Jobar neighborhood, which is connected to Eastern Ghouta, Al Jazaeri said. Joshua Landis, an expert on Syria at the University of Oklahoma, told Al Jazeera that the offensive had taken the government by surprise and that its response was likely to be very significant. &'8220;I don't think it's going to change the trajectory of the war, which has been seeing the regime make important gains and the opposition getting increasingly restricted. But it shows the opposition is far from dead. It shows also that this new combination led by [Tahrir al-Sham] is very potent,&'8221; Landis said. &'8220;The regime is going to realise that it cannot allow these two areas to linger there because they are beachheads for this Tahrir a-Sham group to make inroads into the Damascus area,&'8221; he said, adding the government would likely withdraw some forces from areas such as Homs and Hama to refocus on Damascus. &'8220;It means that the fight is still on, there are many fronts to this war, and the opposition remains powerful.&'8221; Syrian state TV aired footage from Abbasiyn Square, typically buzzing with activity but now empty except for the sound of shelling. Residents said artillery shells and rockets were landing in the heart of the city. The Observatory said rebel shells hit several nearby districts in Damascus, including Bab Touma, Rukn al-Din and the Abbasiyin area. Several schools announced they would close through Monday, and many civilians cowered inside in fear of stray bullets and shelling. According to the Observatory, the Faylaq al-Rahman group and the Fateh al-Sham Front &'' known as al-Nusra Front before it broke ties with al-Qaeda &'' were present in Jobar. &'8220;This neighbourhood is the most important front line because it's the closest rebel position to the heart of the capital,&'8221; said Abdel Rahman. Government forces have long sought to push the rebels out of the district because of its proximity to the city centre in Damascus. But with Sunday's attack, Abdel Rahman said, &'8220;rebels have shifted from a defensive position in Jobar to an offensive one&'8221;. &'8220;These are not intermittent clashes &'' these are ongoing attempts to advance,&'8221; he said. One rebel commander told the Associated Press news agency they launched the assualt from Jobar as a way to relieve allied fighters in the nearby districts of Barzeh, Tishreen, and Qabun from government attacks. &'8220;This is to relieve the pressure on rebels with the regime not stopping its bombardment and artillery shelling,&'8221; said Abu Abdo, a commander from Failaq al Rahman. The attack on Damascus comes just days before a fresh round of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva aiming to put an end to Syria's six-year war. Rebels and government troops agreed to a nationwide cessation of hostilities in December, but fighting has continued across much of the country, including in the capital. Rebels said the army had advanced in the last two days after weeks of bombardment and aerial strikes aimed at regaining control of strategic areas inside the capital, a few kms away from President Bashar al Assad's seat of power. The army had advanced towards a road between Qaboun and Barza, whose capture severed the links between the two besieged rebel districts where tens of thousands of [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource: mindanaoexaminer mindanaoexaminerMar 20th, 2017

US warns of unilateral Syria moves if UN fails to act – Al Jazeera

The United States has warned it could take unilateral action if the United Nations fails to respond to a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town in Syria that killed more than 80 people, including many children. &'8220;When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action,&'8221; US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Wednesday. The warning came during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called by France and Britain after an early morning attack on Tuesday in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province. Britain, France and the US presented a draft resolution demanding a full investigation of the attack, which they blamed on the Syrian government. But talks ended without a vote after Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the text was &'8220;categorically unacceptable&'8221;. Syria has denied the allegations, while Russia had blamed the rebels, saying the deaths occurred when a government shell hit a rebel chemical weapons depot. Haley lashed out at Moscow for failing to rein in Damascus, standing in the council chamber to hold up photographs of victims &'' one showing a young child lying lifeless, a mask covering his face. &'8220;How many more children have to die before Russia cares?&'8221; she asked. &'8220;If Russia has the influence in Syria that it claims to have, we need to see them use it,&'8221; she said. &'8220;We need to see them put an end to these horrific acts.&'8221; The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said at least 86 people, including 30 children, were killed in the raid on Khan Sheikhoun. Dozens more were left gasping for air, convulsing, and foaming at the mouth, doctors said. If confirmed, it will be be the worst chemical weapons attack in Syria since 2013, when sarin gas was used on a rebel-held area of Damascus. &'8220;If we are not prepared to act, then this council will keep meeting, month after month to express outrage at the continuing use of chemical weapons and it will not end,&'8221; Haley said. &'8220;We will see more conflict in Syria. We will see more pictures that we can never unsee.&'8221; The draft resolution backs a probe by the Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and demands that Syria cooperate to provide information on its military operations on the day of the assault. Russia's Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told the council the proposed measure was hastily prepared and unnecessary, but voiced support for an investigation. &'8220;The main task now is to have an objective inquiry into what happened,&'8221; he said. Negotiations continued on the proposed resolutions throughout most of Wednesday. Diplomats said it could come up for a vote at the council as early as Thursday. In a press conference at the White House later in the day, US President Donald Trump said the chemical attack had crossed &'8220;many, many lines&'8221; and had abruptly changed his thinking about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. &'160; Only days earlier multiple members of Trump's administration had said Assad's ouster was no longer a US priority, drawing outrage from Assad critics in the United States and abroad. But Trump said Tuesday's attack &'8220;had a big impact on me &'' big impact&'8221;. &'8220;My attitude towards Syria and Assad has changed very much,&'8221; he said, but refused to telegraph any potential US military retaliation. Since the attack, Trump has been under increasing pressure to explain whether it was egregious enough to force a US response. Robert Ford, former US ambassador to Syria, expressed scepticism that Trump would resort to military action. &'8220;As a presidential candidate he could not have been more clear that he wanted to avoid military involvement in the Syrian civil war,&'8221; he told Al Jazeera. &'8220;For him to order military strikes, even limited military strikes, in response to the chemical attack in Idlib, would be a gigantic change and not one that I'm at all sure that the administration is actually going to do.&'8221; Ford said all fingers point to the Syrian government as the culprit of the attack. &'8220;I find it laughable that governments such as Russia would suggest that rebels have a chemical weapons capacity but they always seem to use it on their own people and never on the Syrian army,&'8221; he added. Idlib hospitals overwhelmed after suspected gas attack Trump's first reaction to the attack was to blame former president Barack Obama's &'8220;weakness&'8221; in earlier years for enabling Assad. Obama had put Assad on notice that using chemical weapons would cross a &'8220;red line&'8221; necessitating a US response, but then failed to follow through, pulling back from planned air strikes on Assad's forces after Congress would not vote to approve them. Trump and other critics have cited that as a key moment the US lost much global credibility. &'8220;I now have responsibility,&'8221; Trump said. &'8220;That responsibility could be made a lot easier if it was handled years ago.&'8221; Joshua Landis, director for the Centre of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told Al Jazeera that the US would likely warn Moscow if it was to resort to using military might in Syria. &'8220;They have to disambiguate and they have to make sure that they don’t hurt any Russian soldiers,&'8221; he said. &'8220;But there’s a wide palette of things they can do. They can bomb airports and destroy the [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsApr 6th, 2017

France makes diplomatic push to solve Lebanon crisis – Al Jazeera

France is making a diplomatic push to solve the political crisis caused by the snap resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri earlier this month, as the country’s foreign minister is expected to meet Hariri in Riyadh on Thursday. According to at least one analyst, however, Paris may have made a “risky bet” by getting involved in the ongoing diplomatic turmoil over Hariri’s fate, which has pit Saudi Arabiaagainst its regional rival, Iran, and Tehran’s ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah. “As no compromise in Lebanon will pass without an agreement between Riyadh and Tehran, Paris is looking to deal with both,” said Stephane Malsagne, a historian and professor at Sciences-Po in Paris. The highest levels of the French government are getting involved in diplomatic efforts to resolve the political turmoil gripping Lebanon, which was under French colonial rule until 1943. France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is expected to meet with Hariri in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, an aide said, according to Agence France Presse. The meeting comes a day after Le Drian arrived in Riyadh and met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a week after French President Emmanuel Macron also flew to Riyadh to meet the Crown Prince. Macron hastily flew to Saudi Arabia on November 9 from the nearby United Arab Emirates. Macron’s stop in Riyadh came just as tensions were mounting between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the fate of the Lebanese prime minister. Hariri, a Sunni Muslim politician and longtime ally of both Saudi Arabia and France, announced his resignation in a televised address from Riyadh on November 4. Many, including Lebanese President Michel Aoun, have accused Saudi Arabia of forcing Hariri to step down and of holding him in detention. The Saudis have denied the allegations and accused Hezbollah of creating a “state within a state” in Lebanon. This week, Hariri said he planned to return to Lebanon soon, but did not specify when. According to Malsagne, French diplomacy has so far “not succeeded in obtaining guarantees from Riyadh” on Hariri’s freedom of mvoement and speech, nor has it clarified when Hariri may be allowed to return to Lebanon or what the Saudis’ true political intentions are. “It’s therefore a risky bet for France,” he told Al Jazeera. The French president also spoke with his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Aoun, on November 10. Macron stressed “the importance of preserving the stability, independence and security of Lebanon and French support for the Lebanese people,” according to a statement put out by the Elysee. He also met with Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, in Paris on Tuesday. During a press conference at the Lebanese embassy in Paris, Bassil thanked Macron for “the initiative he is undertaking for Lebanon in the face of an exceptional situation,” French website L’Orient Le Jour reported. Bassil said, however, that Lebanon “must decide on its internal and external politics” and “counts on making a free decision”. A day later, Macron offered Hariri and his family to come spend a few days in Paris, but specified that the invitation was not an offer of political exile. The Hariri family, which holds French citizenship, has longstanding ties to the French political class. Hariri’s father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005, was a close friend of former French President Jacques Chirac. When he resigned from politics in 2007, Chirac considered moving into a Paris apartment owned by the Hariri family, Reuters reported at the time. The French government, meanwhile, has maintained close ties to Saad Hariri, explained Eric Verdeil, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris. While France has traditionally kept a balanced approach to Lebanese internal politics – often working as a facilitator between various factions – it has been closer to the Hariri-led March 14 camp, which includes Lebanese-Christian political groups. “It’s clear that the political class [in France] and successive French governments saw in Saad Hariri a politician whom they could support and that they strongly supported him for several years,” Verdeil told Al Jazeera. Nonetheless, the French “try to be in a position to talk to everyone,” Verdeil said. Hariri visited Macron at the Elysee in September and said during his visit that “relations between France and Lebanon are excellent”. Yet despite their close relationship to Hariri, his resignation came as a shock to French leaders. “They were very surprised by this resignation that was unexpected and obviously they weren’t consulted,” Verdeil said. If Hariri does not eventually return to Lebanon, France will still maintain close ties to the country in order to maintain its own interests in the region, according to Malsagne. “Franco-Lebanese relations are not confined to the men in power,” he told Al Jazeera. Since France closed its embassy in Damascus in 2012, Lebanon has served as “an observation post” for France to monitor what’s happening in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, he explained. France has a long history of mediation in Lebanese political crises, Malsagne said, and its involvement today does not come as a surprise. Joe Macaron, a resident analyst at the Arab Center Washington DC research organisation, said that Hariri is France’s major Sunni ally in Lebanon and the wider Middle East. It is in France’s interests “to make sure that Saad Hariri remains a player in Lebanon’s politics,” Macaron told Al Jazeera. “They have good relations with a lot of Lebanese leaders, but if Hariri doesn’t return to power, whoever replaces him […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsNov 16th, 2017

What the Qatar crisis means for Hamas – CNN News

When Palestinian militant group Hamas announced its new charter to the world, it wasn't from Ramallah or Gaza City, but from the Sheraton hotel's gilded Salwa Ballroom in Doha. It was no surprise that Hamas chose Qatar. It's the home of outgoing Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, and much of his senior leadership. &'8220;Qatar is quite important for Hamas,&'8221; said H.A. Hellyer, a senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council. &'8220;Qatar provides strong financial aid to the occupied Palestinian territories and is a safe haven for a number of Hamas leaders.&'8221; The recent crisis in the Persian Gulf region is putting that relationship in jeopardy. Earlier this month, nine countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed financial embargoes of varying severity. The announcement was the culmination of a feud that had been simmering for years. The nine countries accused Doha of assisting terrorist organizations, providing support for the Muslim Brotherhood and of being far too cozy with Iran. Ironically perhaps, Qatar's relationship with Hamas had not been among the biggest issues dividing the region. Unlike the US, Britain, and Europe, all of which designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, Arab states &'8212; including Qatar &'8212; do not. This was something Qatar's Foreign Minister sought to remind people in an interview with Russia's RT, in response to a call from his Saudi counterpart that Qatar stop supporting Hamas. &'8220;The US views Hamas as a terror organization. But to the rest of the Arab nations, it is a legitimate resistance movement. We do not support Hamas, we support the Palestinian people,&'8221; Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said. &'8220;Hamas' presence [in Doha] is coordinated with the US and the countries in the region, and it's part of our effort to mediate between the Palestinian factions to reach reconciliation.&'8221; For its part, Hamas says it is being squeezed unreasonably. &'8220;The Gulf Countries are pressuring Qatar to cut relations with resistance organizations. This is unacceptable and we refuse this pressure,&'8221; Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoom said in a statement to CNN. &'8220;We are a resistance movement and the whole world is a witness to this.&'8221; Hamas is seen as having been under a series of pressures for the last few years, reflected in some significant internal changes. Last month, a new leader was announced &'8212; Ismail Haniya taking over from long-time leader Meshaal &'8212; at the same time as the militant group issued its new charter. While Israel pointed to the fact the new document continued to espouse violent resistance, and a commitment to the &'8220;rejection of the Zionist entity,&'8221; others observers said the document's description of a Palestinian state with the borders existing on the eve of the Six Day War in 1967 provided evidence of a new moderation. As Hamas rank and file were digesting those changes, so the leadership was suddenly forced to pay careful attention to diplomatic developments. Hellyer sees two main reasons the nine regional allies are turning their attention towards Hamas. &'8220;First, Hamas has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood organization, which puts it in the firing line of Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia,&'8221; Hellyer says. &'8220;But I think this has more to do with a western audience. The Saudi rulers took advantage of Trump's recognition of them as a powerful actor in the region and that might have encouraged them.&'8221; Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, has been a thorn in the side of regional autocrats for years. Qatar's regional influence also comes from support for Islamists, whether it is the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas at one end of the spectrum, or Al Qaeda at the other. Doha has used this sway to negotiate with various groups including the Taliban, as well as to help negotiate ceasefires between Israel and Hamas. In late 2010 and into 2011, Qatar saw its influence throughout the Middle East rise sharply. Al Jazeera, already a thorn in the side of Arab autocrats, reported extensively on the Arab Spring. The Al Jazeera Arabic channel grew additional roots in Egypt after the uprising and election of Mohamed Morsy who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood. The international community praised the new Egyptian president for bringing a swift end to a war between Gaza militants and Israel that same year. In the long run, though, as it unraveled across the region, the Arab Spring proved to be disastrous for Hamas, which saw the number of countries it could call a friend whittled away. &'8220;Hamas had very strong relations with Syria, Egypt, Qatar, Turkey and Iran,&'8221; says Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian politician. &'8220;Things have changed over time so they had to diversify relations.&'8221; Before 2012, the Hamas leadership was based out of Damascus. Tensions grew between the militants and the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad as revolution gripped the country. Eventually, Hamas sided with the rebels and cut ties to some extent with Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran. &'8220;Hamas lost a lot in the uprisings,&'8221; says Hellyer. &'8220;This is one of the reasons why Qatar stepped in.&'8221; Qatar, a strong supporter of both the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas, took advantage of the situation. In the fall of 2012, the head of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, visited the Gaza Strip becoming the first world leader to do so under Hamas control. The emir inaugurated projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In the vacuum left [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJun 13th, 2017

Damascus sees fierce clashes after rebel attack – BBC News

Damascus sees fierce clashes after rebel attack – BBC News.....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsMar 20th, 2017

Clashes in Syria capital after surprise rebel assault

Clashes in Syria capital after surprise rebel assault.....»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMar 19th, 2017

Clashes break out between Turkey-backed rebels, Kurdish fighters in northern Syria

DAMASCUS -- Kurdish fighters said they had confronted an attack by the Turkey-backed rebels in northern Syria on Saturday, marking the first clash between the groups, following Ankara's military intervention in northern Syria last Wednesday......»»

Category: newsSource:  mb.com.phRelated NewsAug 28th, 2016

HEADS UP: 10 sporting events to watch out for in 2018

2017 has come and gone, and it delivered some exciting sporting moments that has every sports fan clamoring for more. Worry not, though, as 2018 looks primed to satisfy even the most die-hard Pinoy sports aficionado with its bevy of local and international sporting events. Let's welcome the upcoming year with 10 of the most exciting sporting events to watch out for this 2018.   NCAA 93 & UAAP 80 VOLLEYBALL The cagers are out, and the spikers are in. Volleyball season begins this January 4 with NCAA season 93, followed by the 81st season of the UAAP this February. NCAA volleybelles are once again ready to take center court, and the defending women's champion Arellano University Lady Chiefs, led by heavy hitters Jovie Prado and Regine Arocha are banking on their undisputed team play to propel them to another title. Playing inspired volleyball throughout the season, the Lady Chiefs stunned the thrice-to-beat San Sebastian Lady Stags in the Finals last year, ultimately ending Grethcel Soltones' collegiate career with a dud. Rising stars like San Beda's Ces Racraquin, JRU's Karen Montojo also make the upcoming NCAA volleyball season worth waiting for. UAAP volleyball begins a month later the NCAA tournament, but expect the field to be even more tumultuous. With no clear-cut number 2 team to challenge the two-time defending champions DLSU Lady Spikers, it will be a toss-up against basically the other seven schools to step up. Dangerous squads include the much-improved Adamson Lady Falcons, last year's pleasant surprise UST, the dynastic Ateneo Lady Eagles, and the intact NU Lady Bulldogs and FEU Lady Tamaraws. NBA ALL-STAR GAME & 2018 NBA FINALS The annual showcase of the NBA's brightest stars just got a major revamp. That's right, the league has done away with the traditional East-West teams, and will now have a playground-type pool selection of players between its two captains when the exhibition tips off in Los Angeles. This raises a lot of interesting questions: Will the captains pick their teammates or will they go with a more controversial pick and select a rival? Will we able to know the order of the draft? Will this actually work in making the game better? While answers to those questions might not be answered until a few months, one thing's for sure, the NBA Finals, the spectacle that actually counts, will be epic. Will we be treated to Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers Pt. 4? Or will another squad swoop in to spoil the party? The league has indeed improved, with surprising teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons out in the East already staking claim to playoff spots, and the Wild, Wild, West staying true to its monicker. The Houston Rockets and the perennial powerhouse San Antonio Spurs are still the favorites to pull the rug under the Warriors, while the Oklahoma City Thunder is right behind. Either way, with months of hoops already invested in it, the NBA Finals will surely be another explosive one, as it always is.   HOMECOMING QUEEN Alyssa Valdez spent the majority of 2017 overseas, spreading her wings in Taiwan with volleyball club Attack Line. This 2018 though, The Phenom plans on staying in the Philippines, armed with two year’s worth of international experience to focus on her home club team in the Creamline Cool Smashers.  "Next year, I'm planning to focus sa Creamline. Just this year, I travelled a lot talaga. They supported me throughout, esepcially doon sa National Team stint ko. They sacrificed a lot for me talaga. I think I have to focus sa team ko talaga,” she said last week.Alyssa Valdez just got scarier.   PINOY HOOP DREAMS: REMY MARTIN, KOBE PARAS  Two proudly Pinoy ballers based in the U.S. set out this 2018 to continue shooting for our island nation’s humble hoop dreams. Kobe Paras is still serving residency this 2017-2018 season with the California State University-Northridge Matadors, but his development is sure to be a joy to watch. The 6’6” Pinoy swingman accomplished a tour of duty with Gilas Pilipinas earlier in the year, and many Pinoys saw why we should all be excited about high-flying forward. Remy Martin, a 5’11” point guard dazzled in his first few games with the Arizona State Sun Devils, with his athleticism, explosiveness and feisty defense. The Filipino-American cager is proud of his roots and hopes to represent flag and country with Gilas Pilipinas in the future.   WHO (OR WHAT) IS NEXT FOR MANNY PACQUIAO? The never-ending saga of what’s next for Manny Pacquiao looks like it'll seep into 2018.  Following a rather controversial loss to Australian boxer Jeff Horn, Pacquiao has been “courting” the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. for a rematch, even taking to Instagram to ”greet” MMA superstar Conor McGregor before finally admitting that he’s been in talks with the Irish fighter’s camp. Whether he actually retires from boxing for good, or takes on another foe in the squared circle, one thing’s for sure: we’ll all have our eyes on Manny Pacquiao’s next move.   2018 WORLD CUP RUSSIA™ After four years, the best of world football will once again converge, this time in Russia to crown the Kings of the beautiful sport. The stage is set, the groups are finalized, and the 32 squads are promising the best 30-day football extravaganza in the hopes of dethroning defending champions Germany this June. Some group stage clashes to look out for are Germany vs Mexico, England vs Belgium, Portugal vs Spain, to name a few. June couldn’t come soon enough.   CHRISTIAN STANDHARDINGER'S PBA DEBUT No PBA rookie has probably come into the league as pro-ready as the Filipino-German standout Christian Standhardinger. The 6’9” big man was the consensus top overall pick of the 2017 PBA draft, and was also at the center of the controversial trade that sent Kia Picanto’s rights to the number 1 selection to the already-dominant San Miguel. While the trade did go down, so did former commissioner Chito Narvasa. Standhardinger’s entry to the PBA has come at a cost, but San Miguel is more than ready to wait one more conference to bulk up their already stacked squad. Seeing Standharinger play alongside 6’11” center and reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo, versatile forward Arwind Santos, and the Beermen’s bevy of guards in Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross, is definitely a sight to see, just look at how he's tearing it up in the ASEAN Basketball League.    2018 ASIAN GAMES INDONESIA The Philippines’ less than stellar performance at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games was met with widespread flak. Not directed at our athletes however, but aimed at our sports development and governing body for its subpar work in getting our sports representatives ready. While the 2018 Asian Games isn’t so far away, a handful of Pinoy medalists from the SEA Games are going into the continental meet with high hopes. After dominating the SEA Games’ triathlon event, our Filipino endurance athletes, led by gold medalists Kim Mangrobang, and Nikko Huelgas, are once again primed to take home hardware. Marathoner Mary Joy Tabal, and boxers John Marvin, and Eumir Marcial, all gold medalists at Malaysia, are all bright spots that could soon unravel into full-fledged stars come 2018.   GILAS PILIPINAS IN THE FIBA WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS It’s official, basketball is coming home to the Philippines this 2023 by way of the FIBA World Cup, but Gilas Pilipinas will first have to try its luck in the 2019 meet. After dealing with Chinese Taipei and Japan this 2017 for a perfect 2-0 slate in the qualifiers, Gilas Pilipinas still has to face the Japanese anew, and the powerhouse Australian team early in 2018. A good showing against these squads will help Gilas strengthen its bid to international basketball’s biggest stage before we actually host the event in six years’ time.   UAAP 81 BASKETBALL UAAP season 80 just came to an end, but the next season just got way more interesting. Aside from the title defense of the intact Ateneo Blue Eagles and their ongoing rivalry with La Salle, a certain move by a coach has shaken up the league. With Aldin Ayo reportedly accepting the job as the new head coach of the struggling University of Sto. Tomas, we might just be witnesses to the rebirth of the once proud basketball program under the fiery mentor. That, and the way the DLSU Green Archers can adjust from the departure of Ayo and former two-time MVP Ben Mbala, key cogs to their season 79 championship run. The tight race for the MVP award will also be one to watch, with Mbala gone, it’s up to the local stars to step up to the challenge......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2017

Critically ill evacuated from Syria besieged area

BEIRUT — Evacuation of critically ill Syrians trapped in a rebel-held suburb near the capital Damascus is underway, the International Committee for the Red C.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsDec 28th, 2017

Duterte condemns NPA attack in N. Samar, likens rebel group to ISIS

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday likened the communists rebels to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Duterte made the remark as he condemned the attack of New People's Army rebels on soldiers providing relief to victims of Tropical Storm "Urduja" in Northern Samar. READ:2 soldiers injured in ambush by NPA rebels in Northern Samar "I am sick and tired of talking to you. Pareho kayo ng ISIS. It's an empty thing. There is no ideology except to destroy and kill," Duterte said during a speech at Camp Crame after he arrived from a visit to typhoon-hit Biliran. During his visit in Biliran, the President condemned the attack of the NPA rebels. "I strongly protest and I...Keep on reading: Duterte condemns NPA attack in N. Samar, likens rebel group to ISIS.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsDec 18th, 2017

‘Amin Baco’ could be in Basilan, may recruit more Malaysians

MALAYSIAN MILITANT Amin Baco may be hiding in Basilan and could recruit more Malaysians for attacks in other parts of southern Philippines if he is still alive, a former hostage says. The Philippine authorities were earlier divided on whether Sabahan Amin was still alive and emir of the Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia, as claimed by an Indonesian militant captured in the besieged city of Marawi. But the latest statements by the Philippine military indicate that the seasoned terrorist may still be alive and is one of 10 militants who could be the new leader of the terror group’s regional arm. “Amin was definitely one of the leaders during the siege on Marawi,” college teacher Lordvin Acopio, who spent four months in captivity by the pro-IS groups which attacked Marawi, told FMT. “I can’t say how many groups were in Marawi. Amin led one of the groups. “Each group had 10-15 fighters, but the number depended on the size of the area they were guarding. “If Amin is still alive, it’s possible he’ll recruit more Malaysians to join in attack plots in other parts of southern Philippines.” Amin and others were said to be potential candidates to succeed IS’ Southeast Asia emir designate Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed last month in Marawi. Amin, who was from Tawau, was also reported to be an expert bomb-maker, recruiter and facilitator of weapons movement between southern Philippines and the east coast of Sabah. Malaysian counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay last week revealed Amin was Isnilon’s son-in-law, which caught analysts and experts by surprise. Some analysts said Amin’s family relationship with Isnilon, as well as his leadership position, vast experience and network, could set him apart from the other candidates for the top post. “If Amin is Isnilon’s son-in-law, most probably the IS’ regional leadership position was given to him after Isnilon was killed. The possibility is high,” Lordvin said. In October, FMT broke the news about a Malaysian teenager whom Lordvin had seen fighting troops alongside his militant father in Marawi. FMT withheld the identity of the militant and his son, but last week, Ayob Khan revealed the boy’s name, adding that he was Amin’s son. Lordvin, who was kidnapped on May 23, the first day of the Marawi war, said Amin and his son had access to siege leader Isnilon. “The boy was always at Isnilon’s place if he was not at the frontline fighting with his father,” Lordvin told FMT. “All of us hostages kept getting moved around, but wherever we were held, Isnilon was always in a building nearby and we weren’t allowed to go there. “Not everyone could see Isnilon at his place or command centre unless they were high-ranking militants. “I believe Amin’s son always visited his step-grandfather Isnilon at the command centre to collect firearms or to give situational reports.” Ayob Khan had said last week that Amin’s son was still alive and probably in Basilan, the base of the Abu Sayyaf group led by Isnilon. “If the boy is now in Basilan, then most probably Amin is also there because the duo never left each other’s side in Marawi,” Lordvin said. “In fact, intelligence reported by the Philippine media says militants are planning attacks there and elsewhere as revenge for the loss of their caliphate in Marawi. “Many relatives of those militants killed in Marawi are said to be doing recruitments now.” More than 1,000 people, mostly militants, were killed in the five-month clashes between the authorities and militants who wanted to set up a so-called IS caliphate in the lake city. (By Zam Yusa – Free Malaysia Today) 1,489 total views, 1,489 views today.....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsDec 2nd, 2017

Clashes between troops and IS intensify in central Syria

BEIRUT — Syrian government forces pressed their offensive in the province of Hama on yesterday in an attack aimed at clearing central Syria of Islamic State.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsSep 15th, 2017

Libyan-Canadian cleric linked to Manchester bomber plans return to Canada to clear his name – CBC News

A Libyan-Canadian cleric linked in U.S. and British media reports to Manchester bomber Salman Abedi says he will return to Canada in weeks with the intention of clearing his name. Abdul Baset Egwilla was an Ottawa-based imam until his return to Libya in 2007. In an exclusive interview with CBC News over Skype, Egwilla denied any connection to Abedi. &'8220;I challenge whoever accuses me of such a connection to produce evidence, such as a time, date and place where I met with the suicide bomber,&'8221; Egwilla said. CBC News has agreed not to disclose Egwilla's current location due to concerns for his safety, as he is the subject of death threats in Libya. Salman Abedi, 22, was identified on May 23 as the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded more than 60 others, including children, at a pop concert in Manchester. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. The bomber's father, Ramadan Abedi, who denies his son was a member of ISIS, has since been arrested by Libyan counter-terrorism officers. U.S. and British media reports, citing anonymous sources, have claimed a link between Salman, his father and Libyan-Canadian cleric Egwilla. A senior American official told the New York Times on May 24 that Salman Abedi &'8220;had links to a radical preacher in Libya&'8221; identified as Abdul Baset Egwilla, and that Egwilla's son had died fighting for ISIS. Egwilla's son did die in 2016, but Libyan news reports and a martyrdom notice at the time said he was killed fighting for the Omar Mukhtar Brigade, a Libyan Islamist militia that is not a listed terrorist organization. The Times newspaper in the U.K. reported May 27 that Ramadan Abedi was an associate of &'8220;extremist Canadian-Libyan preacher&'8221; Egwilla, and that the Libyan-Canadian is believed to have radicalized Ramadan's son, Salman Abedi. The father would regularly meet with Egwilla at Friday prayers in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in 2015, added the Times, citing a resident of the city who asked not to be named. The Greater Manchester Police Force would neither confirm nor deny to CBC News that Egwilla is under investigation for possible involvement in the Manchester bombing. Egwilla, who has been absent from Libya for several months since fleeing a plot to assassinate him, said he has never, to his knowledge, met either Salman or Ramadan Abedi. &'8220;I am a public figure, I appear in the media. I show up in mosques and preach to a multitude of people. People know me, but I do not know them,&'8221; Egwilla said. &'8220;And if I met him once or twice before, it could be that he changed his beliefs later on, but I never met him in the first place,&'8221; Egwilla said of the Manchester bomber. Declassified documents released by Canada's Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre in 2014 flagged a YouTube video in which Egwilla is seen &'8220;promoting violent jihad in Libya.&'8221; &'8220;In the video, Egwilla urged an audience of Libyan Islamist fighters to take part in jihad, stating that 'jihad is simply and easily accessible, and does not require moving as in the past, as it was for Afghanistan and Iraq,'&'8221; the report said. Egwilla says that call to jihad was made to recruit people to fight specifically against a militia led by a former general in Moammar Gadhafi's regime, and not a call to support the global jihadi movement. &'8220;I spoke about jihad only through Fajr Libya Dawn (a rebel militia alliance) and only when [Moammar Gadhafi] suppressed peaceful demonstrators and bombed them with anti-aircraft weaponry,&'8221; said Egwilla. &'8220;This was unjust and an act of tyranny.&'8221; Egwilla said people claiming to be with the government of Canada have attempted to reach out to him using the app Viber, though he says he has never agreed to an interview. Egwilla said he intends to speak to authorities to clear his name when he returns to Canada. After seven years in Ottawa, Egwilla left Canada for Libya in 2007, when Gadhafi's regime began sending signals that it would not persecute returning dissidents. ​ He began working at a Tripoli religious radio station and associated with a group of clerics that included Sadiq al-Ghariani, who today is the country's Grand Mufti, the top religious leader, and a strong supporter of Islamist militias. When rebellion broke out in 2011, Egwilla was a prominent supporter, and after the fall of Gadhafi's regime, was promoted to be the administrative director for the mosques in Tripoli. He said he became a prominent imam and broadcaster. In 2014, as splits emerged between liberals and Islamists over the direction post-Gadhafi Libya should take, Egwilla identified with the &'8220;Libya Dawn&'8221; coalition of Islamist militias that seized Tripoli from the UN-backed government. Libya Dawn soon found itself involved in a war with the secular forces of Gadhafi-era general Khalifa Haftar, and Egwilla's Ottawa-raised son Owais joined one of the Islamist militias battling Haftar. Owais died in combat in March last year. It was reported in some quarters that Owais Egwilla had died fighting for Islamic State. In fact, martyrdom notices posted at the time of his death show him as a member of the Omar Mukhtar Brigade, an Islamist militia that was part of the coalition that fought Islamic State and drove it out of its Libyan stronghold in Sirte. Egwilla says he fled Libya eight months ago following the kidnapping and murder of fellow cleric Nadir al-Omrani by assassins of the Madkhali sect of Sunni Islam. Madkhalis, followers of a school of thought founded by a Saudi cleric, have become increasingly active in Libya. Like Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Madkhalis in Libya have destroyed ancient shrines and manuscripts they deem un-Islamic and they consider voting to be heresy. In a videotaped confession seen by CBC News, one of [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJun 5th, 2017

‘Dozens killed’ in ISIL attack on northeast Syria – Al Jazeera

‘Dozens killed’ in ISIL attack on northeast Syria – Al Jazeera.....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2017

White House blames Obama admin for suspected Syria chemical attack – ABC News

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Tuesday that a suspected chemical attack in a Syrian town was a &'8220;consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution.&'8221; &'8220;Today's attack is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world,&'8221; Spicer told reporters. &'8220;These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he'd establish a red line against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing. The U.S. stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable act.&'8221; U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the State Department in Washington, ignored questions from reporters about the chemical weapons attack. The Department of State later released an official statement condemning it. &'8220;While we continue to monitor the terrible situation, it is clear that this is how Bashar al-Assad operates: with brutal, unabashed barbarism,&'8221; Tillerson said in the statement. &'8220;Those who defend and support him, including Russia and Iran, should have no illusions about Assad or his intentions. Anyone who uses chemical weapons to attack his own people shows a fundamental disregard for human decency and must be held accountable.&'8221; Tillerson also called upon Russia and Iran to &'8220;exercise their influence over the Syrian regime and to guarantee that this sort of horrific attack never happens again.&'8221; And Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., tweeted that the Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday morning. &'8220;Assad must be held accountable for these barbaric attacks against his own people,&'8221; she wrote. The alleged Syrian government airstrike, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria, killed at least 58 civilians, including 19 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitoring group. The Syria Civil Defense and the Health Directorate in Idlib said that more than 50 people were killed and 300 injured. Syria's military denied using chemical weapons against civilians, saying it is too &'8220;honorable&'8221; to carry out such &'8220;heinous&'8221; crimes while the Syrian Foreign Ministry said Damascus is committed to its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention it joined in 2013, denying its military has used such agents in today’s attack. If confirmed the incident would be the deadliest chemical attack in Syria since sarin gas killed hundreds of civilians in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta in August 2013. Today's attack appeared to involve a gas that caused victims to choke and faint, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syria Civil Defense, medics and residents. Warplanes later struck the town again, hitting a hospital where some of the victims were being treated and a Syria Civil Defense center. &'8220;What moved us most was when we entered a house and saw a whole family — a father, a mother and four children — killed because of the chemical attack,&'8221; Abdullah al-Hussein, a Syria Civil Defense volunteer who was at the scene, told ABC News in a voice recording in Arabic. &'8220;They had been asleep. They were in their beds. The truth is that what happened today was painful in all meanings of the word.&'8221; He said that many residents were still asleep when the attack happened in the early morning. He saw more than 100 injured people and at least 20 bodies of children, women and men at one of the hospitals tasked with treating victims, he said. US reviewing airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that may have killed 100s of civilians Syria struggles with shortage of drugs for young cancer patients Muneer, a schoolteacher who lives in Khan Sheikhoun, said he was alone at home when he heard the attack. &'8220;I hid in the corner of the room,&'8221; Muneer, who asked that his last name not be published, out of security concerns, told ABC News via a messaging app in Arabic. He said he lives in the center of the town and the attack took place in the northern part. When he later tried to approach the area that was struck, people told him not to go any farther. &'8220;They warned me that I would faint if I came close,&'8221; he said, &'8220;so I stopped walking.&'8221; He said schools were closed today. Doctors in Syria who treated some of the victims told ABC News that they saw patients with pinpoint pupils, foaming at the mouth, loss of consciousness, slow breathing, running noses and other neurological symptoms consistent with chemical weapons. &'8220;The hospital in Khan Sheikhoun was filled with injured children, women and men, and a smell of chlorine was filling the place,&'8221; Mohammad Alshagel, a media activist with the Aleppo Media Center who visited the hospital, told ABC News. &'8220;The injured had heavy choking symptoms, and some of them died five minutes after arriving, even though medical staff tried to help them.&'8221; He said the hospital was attacked after he left. He has witnessed the aftermath of several chemical attacks in Aleppo and they were not as bad as this one, he said. &'8220;It was a horrible scene. Children were crying, asking for their parents who had died, and women were screaming,&'8221; he said. Raed al-Saleh, the head of the volunteer Syria Civil Defense, or White Helmets, told ABC News that five rockets hit the group's center in the town, destroying equipment. The attack comes as world leaders and diplomats gather in Brussels for talks [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsApr 5th, 2017

Outrage as Syria chemical attack kills dozens in rebel-held town

Outrage as Syria chemical attack kills dozens in rebel-held town.....»»

Category: newsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsApr 5th, 2017

In west Mosul, ‘nowhere is safe for civilians’ – Al Jazeera

The Iraqi army on Sunday resumed operations against ISIL in Mosul after a one-day pause, amid growing concerns over an escalating civilian death toll as fierce fighting spreads to the city's most densely populated areas. The offensive was briefly put on hold after local officials and residents in west Mosul said suspected US-led coalition  air raids last week had killed scores of civilians at the ISIL-held al-Jadida  district. Security forces on Saturday did not permit journalists to get to where the strikes were said to have taken place, but the  coalition admitted that it had struck the area on March 17, and said it was investigating the reports of civilian deaths. Details about what exactly happened on March 17 are difficult to confirm as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters to recapture the heavily populated parts of the western half of Mosul, the armed group's last stronghold in Iraq. Witnesses and local officials said that more than 200 bodies were pulled from a collapsed building after a coalition air raid. But in a statement on Sunday, the Iraqi army said there was no sign that the destroyed structure had been hit by a strike &'' blaming its collapse on booby traps set by ISIL instead. &'8220;A team of military experts from field commanders checked the building where the media reported that the house was completely destroyed. All walls were booby-trapped and there is no hole that indicates an air strike,&'8221; it said, adding that 61 bodies were recovered from the rubble. READ MORE: Grief and questions amid wreckage of Mosul air strikes Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from a hospital in Erbil, northern Iraq, spoke to people who confirmed that they had lost family members in the air raids of March 17. &'8220;We've been speaking to some of the patients and certainly the words air strikes come up a lot in the conversation,&'8221; she said, referring to a man who said 22 of his relatives had been killed in an air raid, while he had to spend several days under the rubble before being rescued. &'8220;When you ask them what happened … people here say the main problem is that you have ISIL fighters who are roaming around, going in and out of houses, on top of rooftops to take positions and then disappearing. &'8220;So apparently many of the air strikes, according to the people we spoke here, hit the wrong target &'' simply by the time the air strike arrives and is called in, the ISIL fighters have disappeared.&'8221; The US-backed offensive to drive ISIL out of Mosul, now in its sixth month, has recaptured most of the city. The Iraqi government announced that eastern Mosul had been recaptured from ISIL in January, but residents still report almost daily fighting in some areas. Iraqi security and medical sources on Sunday said a t least 16 civilians, including two children, were killed by ISIL shelling in a popular marketplace in  eastern Mosul. Another 43 civilians were wounded in the attack, according to the sources. In western Mosul, the Iraqi army's advances have stuttered in the past two weeks as fighting enters the narrow alleys of the Old City, home to the al-Nuri Mosque where ISIL group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate spanning large areas of Iraq and Syria in 2014. Iraqi forces on Sunday deployed snipers to target ISIL fighters who were using civilians as human shields, Joint Operations Command spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told the AFP news agency. The military was relying on &'8220;light and medium weapons, among them sniper [rifles], to hunt for Daesh [ISIL] members&'8221; located among civilians, he said. Rasool accused ISIL of gathering civilians together and then blowing up explosives-rigged vehicles nearby to make it look like &'8220;Iraqi forces &' are targeting innocent civilians&'8221;. However, Iraqi forces have also frequently fired mortar rounds and unguided rockets during the battle for west Mosul &'' weapons that pose a much greater risk to residents of areas where fighting is taking place. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still inside the Old City and are exposed to the intense fighting. &'8220;Patients here say there is nowhere safe in western Mosul for civilians,&'8221; Al Jazeera's Abdel-Hamid, reporting from the hospital in Erbil, said. &'8220;They say the fight in western Mosul is not the same as the fight that happened in the east part of the city. They say it's much more brutal, with many more air strikes and much more shelling.&'8221; According to Iraqi authorities, more than 200,000 people have fled west Mosul since the operation to retake the area was launched on February 19. But the United Nations has said that about 600,000 are still present inside the city. Caroline Gluck, a senior public information officer in Iraq with the UN's refugee agency, said the situation is deteriorating daily. &'8220;The fighting is coming closer to people's homes. It's a very densely packed area, particularly in the Old City, so families have been terrified by the mortars, the shelling and the air strikes,&'8221; she told Al Jazeera from Baghdad. Gluck said a major factor in many residents' &'8220;very difficult decision&'8221; to flee is growing hunger. &'8220;Families have told us they rely on one meal a day &'' and that meal is really just water and flour. People are getting desperate; there is no fuel, no heating, and they are burning furniture and old [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsMar 27th, 2017

Airstrikes across rebel-held Syria kill and wound scores

BEIRUT — Warplanes struck rebel-held parts of Syria yesterday hitting a women's prison and a clinic, killing and wounding scores of people, amid clashes on m.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMar 25th, 2017

Syria rebels suspend talks over alleged truce violations

BEIRUT — Syrian government forces pressed their offensive in a water-rich valley northwest of Damascus on yesterday as 10 rebel groups announced they are sus.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

Syria truce begins, but clashes erupt near Damascus

Syria truce begins, but clashes erupt near Damascus.....»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsDec 31st, 2016

Syria army urges residents to quit Aleppo as ceasefire begins

A "humanitarian pause" began Thursday in the Syrian army's Russian-backed assault on rebel-held areas of Aleppo but clashes continued and there were no signs residents were heeding calls to leave......»»

Category: newsSource:  mb.com.phRelated NewsOct 20th, 2016