July 14, 2018

China in the Middle East: Behind Xi’s economic charm offensive

We examine why China is pledging billions of dollars in loans and aid to revive growth in the Middle East.
July 3, 2018

Iranian diplomat in Austria held over Paris bomb plot

Iranian diplomat in Austria held over Paris bomb plot Image copyright EVN Image caption A bomb squad in Belgium check the vehicle in which two suspects were found with explosives Austria is preparing to strip the diplomatic immunity from an Iranian envoy suspected of planning to bomb Iranian politicians in France. The diplomat and two other arrested people are suspected of plotting to attack a meeting of exiled opposition members in Paris last weekend. Tehran denies any involvement. The diplomatic tension comes a day before President Hassan Rouhani is due to arrive in Austria to discuss a disputed nuclear deal. Two Belgian nationals apprehended in Brussels are reported to be husband and wife, and to be of Iranian origin. The Iranian diplomat, identified as Assadollah A, is ordinarily based in the Austrian capital. But he was arrested in Germany. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters that his country had evidence that the attack had been planned by a terroris..
July 3, 2018

Israel freezes Palestinian funds over attacks payouts

Israel freezes Palestinian funds over attacks payouts Image copyright EPA Image caption Thousands of Palestinians are imprisoned by Israel for security offences The Israeli parliament has passed a law to withhold money from the Palestinian Authority over its payments to families of Palestinians jailed by Israel or killed while carrying out attacks. The legislation will freeze part of the $130m (£99m) in tax revenues collected on behalf of the PA each month. MPs behind the bill said the payments were "essentially an expression of support for acts of terror". But the PA says it is welfare for relatives of prisoners and "martyrs". It is estimated to spend about $330m each year - about 7% of its budget - on salaries and benefits under the programme. Under agreements from the 1990s, Israel collects taxes and tariffs levied on goods passing through its territory on behalf of the PA. The new law - approved by 87 votes to 15 in the 120-seat Knesset late on Monday - requires the Israeli gover..
July 2, 2018

Syria war: 270,000 displaced by fighting in south-west

Syria war: 270,000 displaced by fighting in south-west Image copyright AFP Image caption Displaced civilians have set up makeshift camps near the border with Jordan At least 270,000 people have fled their homes in south-western Syria since the military launched an assault on rebel-held areas two weeks ago, the UN says. Many of those displaced by the fighting in Deraa and Quneitra provinces have headed towards the borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. But neither country has said it will allow an influx of refugees, sparking fears of a humanitarian crisis. Government forces have been advancing with the help of Russian air strikes. On Sunday, rebels in the major town of Bosra al-Sham reportedly agreed to lay down their arms and accept President Bashar al-Assad's rule. Why is there a war in Syria? War crimes committed in Syria battle - UN More than 130 civilians have been killed since hostilities escalated, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ..
June 29, 2018

Saudi rapper releases driving music video

Saudi rapper releases driving music video Image copyright Leesa A Image caption Leesa A released a music video of her rapping behind the wheel on the day the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia was lifted Women have been allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia for less than a week but this young rapper and director wasted no time. Singer Leesa A took social media by storm when she released a music video of her rapping at the wheel of a car on the day the ban on women driving was officially lifted. "I don't need anyone to take me... Drivers' licence with me," she sings defiantly to the camera, sitting in the driver's seat of a Hyundai. Until the law officially changed on 24 June, women in Saudi Arabia could not drive and families had to hire private chauffeurs for female relatives. The end of the decades-old ban was announced last September and the first licences were issued earlier this month. Image Copyright leesaseal leesaseal Report Leesa A, who previously had a relative..
June 29, 2018

Iraq executes 12 for terrorism after IS captives found dead

Iraq executes 12 for terrorism after IS captives found dead Image caption Thousands of IS cases are being tried in courts like Nineveh Criminal Court in Qaraqosh (above) Iraq has executed at least 12 people convicted of terrorism offences. On Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the "immediate application" of death sentences against convicted terrorists. A day earlier the bodies of eight captives held by the Islamic State group (IS) were found on a road north of the capital Baghdad. Human rights groups have raised serious concerns about trials of IS suspects and mass executions. At least several hundred people, including foreigners, are believed to be on death row for terrorism in Iraq. "Based on the orders of Prime Minister Dr Haider al-Abadi, death sentences were carried out on Thursday against 12 convicted terrorists who had received their final sentences," a message on the prime minister's Facebook page read. A Ministry of Justice statement said that 13 peop..
June 28, 2018

Syria war: Air strike on Deraa shelter kills 17 civilians

Syria war: Air strike on Deraa shelter kills 17 civilians Image copyright AFP Image caption Syria's opposition has denounced the US for failing to intervene in the fighting At least 17 civilians have been killed in an air strike on a basement shelter in south-western Syria, activists say, as warplanes pound rebel-held areas. A monitoring group reported that five children were among those who died when aircraft identified as Russian bombed Musayfira, east of the city of Deraa. Russia is backing an army offensive in the region, which borders Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. More than 90 civilians are said to have been killed since it began 11 days ago. The provinces of Deraa and Quneitra had been relatively calm for almost a year because of a "de-escalation" agreement brokered by the US and Jordan, which support the opposition, and Russia, a key ally of the government. However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad set his sights on retaking them after defeating rebels in..
June 28, 2018

Duke of Cambridge visiting Jerusalem’s sacred sites

Duke of Cambridge visiting Jerusalem's sacred sites Image copyright EPA The Duke of Cambridge is visiting Jerusalem's most sacred religious sites and his great-grandmother's grave on the final day of his official tour. He has visited the tomb of Princess Alice - the Duke of Edinburgh's mother - at the Church of Mary Magdalene. Also on his itinerary was the adjacent Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, a site that is sacred to Jews and Muslims. He will then go to the adjacent Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews are permitted to pray. Prince William's tour ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is widely regarded as Christianity's holiest place. Many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected on the site. It is shared by the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Egyptian Copt and Ethiopian Orthodox denominations of Christianity. The Duke of Cambridge's five-day visit to Israel, the Palestinian t..
June 27, 2018

Prince William meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Prince William meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Image copyright Reuters Prince William has expressed hope for "lasting peace" between Israelis and Palestinians during a visit to the occupied West Bank. The Duke of Cambridge spoke before holding talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. The prince is the first royal family member to make an official visit to the Palestinian Occupied Territories. In Israel on Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin urged him to take a "message of peace" to Mr Abbas. Mr Abbas told the prince that "the Palestinian side is committed to the peace process with the Israelis". In pictures: Prince William's Middle East tour Prince William meets Eurovision winner Prince William said: "I'm very much looking forward to meeting some Palestinians today and seeing some of the culture and the diversity of the Palestinian way of life. "I'm very glad that our two countries work so closely together and have had success stories with edu..
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