May 20, 2018

Syria war: IS militants ‘leave Damascus suburbs’

Syria war: IS militants 'leave Damascus suburbs' Image copyright Reuters Image caption Syrian forces say they are clearing the area of militants Militants from the Islamic State (IS) group have been evacuated from an enclave in the southern suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus, activists say. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a temporary ceasefire had come into effect following heavy bombardment by the Syrian military. But Syrian officials denied there was any ceasefire, and have made no mention of the reported evacuation. The area includes the once-thriving Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp. The SOHR said buses had entered the enclave, centred around the al-Hajar al-Aswad district, after midnight local time and left towards Badia, a thinly populated area east of Damascus where IS still holds some territory. The reported move follows an apparent lull in fighting around midday on Saturday. Pro-government forces have been fighting to regain the enclave si..
May 19, 2018

Saudi Arabia detains seven activists ahead of lifting of driving ban

Saudi Arabia detains seven activists ahead of lifting of driving ban Image copyright Reuters Image caption Saudi Arabia is due to lift its ban on women driving next month Saudi authorities have arrested seven women's rights advocates, weeks before the kingdom is to lift its ban on women driving, rights groups say. The reasons for the arrests were not clear, but activists say authorities are attempting to silence the women. The kingdom's state news channel reported that they had been arrested for contacts with a foreign power. Saudi Arabia has strict laws requiring women to seek male permission for various decisions and actions. Who are the activists detained?Seven people in total have been detained, including two male activists. They include Loujain al-Hathloul and Eman al-Nafjan, who have all publicly opposed the driving ban, which is due to be lifted on 24 June. According to Human Rights Watch, both Ms Nafjan and Ms Hathloul signed a petition in 2016 to abolish the male gu..
May 18, 2018

Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr bloc wins Iraq elections

Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr bloc wins Iraq elections Image copyright Reuters Image caption Moqtada Sadr cannot become prime minister himself An alliance headed by the former Shia militia chief Moqtada Sadr has won the parliamentary elections in Iraq. Final results released by the electoral commission give his Saeroun bloc 54 seats, with current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in third place with 42. Mr Sadr, a long-term adversary of the United States, cannot become prime minister himself as he did not stand as a candidate. But he is expected to play a major role in forming the new government. Mr Sadr has reinvented himself as an anti-corruption champion after making his name as a militia chief fighting US forces after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He is also a fierce critic of Iran. These elections were the first since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group in December. Some 5,000 American troops remain in Iraq supporting local forces, which were fighting IS. Sunnis and Shia..
May 18, 2018

Iranian women threw off the hijab – what happened next?

Iranian women threw off the hijab - what happened next? Image copyright Masih Alinejad Image caption The image of Masih Alinejad that sparked a movement It is five years since Iranian Masih Alinejad started a movement - since joined by thousands of women - protesting against the compulsory wearing of the hijab, or headscarf, in her country. It spread on social media and led to unprecedented demonstrations in the streets - but is it any closer to achieving its goal? It began with a seemingly innocuous event: a woman driving on a mountain road in Iran, enjoying the simple freedom of feeling the wind in her hair. It is a freedom most women take for granted, but one that Iranian women have been denied since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Masih Alinejad captured this moment in a photograph and five years ago posted it on social media. She then encouraged other women to also share their secret moments of freedom. As a result she was "bombarded" by pictures from women all over the country. ..
May 18, 2018

Israel’s Gaza response ‘wholly disproportionate’ – UN rights chief

Israel's Gaza response 'wholly disproportionate' - UN rights chief Image copyright EPA Image caption Israel and the Palestinians have blamed each other for the deaths The UN human rights chief says Israel used "wholly disproportionate" force against Palestinian border protests which have left over 100 people dead. Zeid Raad Al Hussein told a meeting in Geneva that Gazans were effectively "caged in a toxic slum" and Gaza's occupation by Israel had to end. Israel's ambassador said Gaza's militant Islamist rulers had deliberately put people in harm's way. The UN meeting is considering calling for an independent investigation. Some 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces on Monday on the seventh consecutive week of border protests, largely orchestrated by Hamas, which politically controls the Gaza Strip. It was the deadliest day in Gaza since a 2014 war between Israel and militants there. The protests had been dubbed the Great March of Return, in ..
May 16, 2018

Micronation founder Eli Avivi dies in Israel

Micronation founder Eli Avivi dies in Israel Image copyright Alamy Image caption President Eli Avivi, photographed in Achzivland in 2006 One of the Middle East's longest-serving "rulers" has died aged 88 but Eli Avivi was no ordinary president. He led the micronation of Achzivland - with its population of two - for almost half a century. Nestled in the north of Israel near the border with Lebanon, the tiny "nation" attracted hippies and celebrities alike, including Sophia Loren. Despite having no international recognition, it has its own flag (a mermaid) and national anthem (the sea). Avivi is survived by his wife and Achzivland's only other "citizen", Rina, 71, who confirmed his death in the early hours of Wednesday. His sister told Israeli news site Ynet news he had been suffering from severe pneumonia. One-man rule in Israel's hippy micro-stateWho was Eli Avivi?Born in Persia, he came to the British Mandate of Palestine when he was two. He joined the clandestine Jew..
May 16, 2018

Beirut Pride cancelled after organiser detained

Beirut Pride cancelled after organiser detained Image copyright AFP Image caption Lebanon is more tolerant than most Arab countries The organiser of a gay pride week in Lebanon says authorities have forced him to cancel the remaining events. Last year, Lebanon became the first Arab country to hold a gay pride week. But the organiser of this year's Beirut Pride, Hadi Damien, said he was taken to a police station overnight after security services came to an event. Mr Damien said he was asked to sign a pledge that he would cancel what was left of the week - which started on Saturday - in order to be released. Lebanon is more tolerant than most Arab countries, but lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people do still face sporadic police action. Skip Facebook post by Hadi I'm out. #beirutpride2018 Posted by Hadi Damien on Tuesday, 15 May 2018 Report End of Facebook post by Hadi The second Beirut Pride festival began with brunch celebrating parents who had not rejecte..
May 16, 2018

Syria war: OPCW says chlorine used in February attack

Syria war: OPCW says chlorine used in February attack Image copyright AFP Image caption People bought to hospitals after February's attack in Saraqeb suffered breathing problems The global chemical weapons watchdog has said chlorine is likely to have been used in an attack on a rebel-held town in northern Syria in February. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found chlorine had been "released from cylinders by mechanical impact" in Saraqeb. It did not assign blame for the incident, in line with its mandate. Medics and activists said at the time that chlorine-filled bombs had been dropped by a government helicopter. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied ever using chemical weapons. Syria 'chemical attack': What we know US-led strikes on Syria: What was hit? However, a joint UN-OPCW mission that has now ended said it was confident that government forces had used the nerve agent Sarin and chlorine in four attacks. The OPCW is also current..
May 16, 2018

Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?

Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests? Image copyright AFP Image caption The Palestinian health ministry said thousands of protesters were hit by live rounds Palestinian health officials say more than 100 Palestinians have been killed and 10,000 injured by Israeli troops over the past six weeks at a series of protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Sixty died on Monday alone, when 40,000 took part in demonstrations that coincided with the controversial relocation to Jerusalem of the US embassy. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel's military of carrying out "massacres" of unarmed civilians, but Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted its troops acted in self-defence and blamed the militant group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, for the deaths. Fierce exchanges over Gaza killings What has happened at the protests? Image copyright Reuters Image caption The protesters demanded that Palestinian refugees be given the right of ..
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