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Friday, 28 July 2017 18:48

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Afrasianet - Fans traveling to FIFA 2018 World Cup games in Russia next year will be able to book free train tickets from December, it has been announced.

All fans with tickets for matches will be able to book free rail travel between the 11 host cities from December, an official responsible for transport at the tournament said earlier this week, TASS reported.

"We usually offer tickets 45 days before the scheduled train departure, but we want to shift the date to half a year in advance," Terenty Mescheryakov, head of the 2018-Transportation Directorate, said.

"This is why we want to publish the schedule in early fall and make tickets available for booking starting in December or after the New Year celebrations,” Mescheryakov added.

"We are putting into operation more trains and the exact number will be announced after the schedule gets approval.

"We have the task of providing good travel between the cities and we will cope with it."

Fans who have tickets for games and also so-called FAN-IDs will be able to book the tickets.

A similar program was available during the recent FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia, which ran from June 17 to July 2 in four host cities: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan and Sochi.

Next year’s World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15, and in addition to the cities above will also see matches in Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Ekaterinburg and Samara.

Qualifying is still underway across the globe, but the teams that reach the competition will go into the official draw which is set to take place at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 1.

Ticket prices for the 2018 World Cup were announced by FIFA last year, and start from US$105 for non-Russian residents. They will go on sale after the draw has been made, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is a member of the organizing committee for the tournament.












Afrasianet - World football's governing body FIFA has announced that all the doping tests from the recent Confederations Cup in Russia came back negative.

The organization ran its largest-ever anti-doping program for the tournament, which was held between June 17 and July 2 in four Russian cities – St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan and Sochi, the FIFA website reported on Monday.

Measures included pre-competition and in-competition blood and urine testing of all participating players, with two players from each team also tested by anti-doping officers after each of the tournament’s 16 matches, FIFA added.

A total of 379 tests and 854 player samples of various types were collected – in some cases in collaboration with confederations and national anti-doping federations – and 239 were done directly by FIFA, of which 175 were completed out of competition, while 64 were carried out during the tournament.

Laboratories accredited to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) analyzed the results, with the majority of those completed in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The news is a further boost for what was widely hailed as a successful warm-up event for next year’s FIFA World Cup, which will also be held in Russia.

The Confed Cup – which was won by Germany, who defeated Chile 1-0 in the final in St. Petersburg – was praised by FIFA chief Gianni Infantino at the closing press conference.

“[Before the tournament], we heard about a lot of problems: that no one would care, that the teams don’t want to come, they don’t want to play,” the FIFA boss said.  

“We heard about violence, hooligans, incidents, racism [in Russia] – we had nothing, we had no incidents, everything ran smoothly.

“We heard about the infrastructure, that it is not ready, not working – the transport works, there is free transport between cities. This doesn’t happen in many other countries where events are organized, but it happened here.”

Fans and players also highlighted the positive aspects of the event, with German captain Julian Draxler penning a letter of thanks to all those involved.

The Russian team had also found itself at the center of doping allegations that emerged during the tournament, specifically concerning the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Infantino said at the same press conference, however, that Russian tests from the last World Cup had come back negative.

“All 23 Russian players [at the 2014 World Cup] were tested by UEFA accredited doctors and had everything tested...

“When it comes to Russia, FIFA, UEFA, all Russian players playing in World Cup 2014, they were tested by FIFA- and by WADA-accredited laboratories.

"The tests and samples taken by FIFA doctors and samples were sent to Lausanne by all 23 players playing in the competition."

The FIFA 2018 World Cup will be held at 12 stadiums in 11 Russian cities from June 14 to July 15. 











Afrasianet - The head of the Russian Upper House Committee for International Affairs has urged authorities to react to the US sanctions bill with asymmetrical hurtful measures, but says the reaction must not be implemented before the US motion comes into force.

 “Hope dies last, but it dies, like everything else. Judging from the monolithic voting in the House of Representatives on the sanctions bill targeting Russia, North Korea, and Iran, there will be no breakthrough or even normalization [in Russia-US mutual relations],” Senator Konstantin Kosachev wrote on Facebook.

“More than that, the further degradation of the bilateral cooperation becomes inevitable, even though it seems that we have already reached the limit," he added.

The senior senator went on to propose that authorities start preparing a reply to the hostile US bill.

“What shall we do? First of all we should not hurry – we must react only to the laws that are already in force. Second, we must prepare such reaction, because it definitely must follow, not a symmetrical one, but painful for Americans.”

Kosachev’s post came after news agencies reported that the US House of Representatives had voted overwhelmingly to pass new sanctions against Russia, North Korea, and Iran, and to require congressional approval before US President Donald Trump can ease or remove existing ones. If signed into law, the measure will effectively cement existing sanctions against Russia by requiring the administration to get permission from Congress before lifting or easing the economic penalties against Moscow.

Later in the day, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that the statements from Russian lawmakers were “understandable and explainable” and that the reaction to the US bill was “obvious.”

Peskov added, however, that it would be premature to reveal possible reciprocal measures before the US actually takes action.

Two days before the bill was passed, a member of the Russian Upper House Defense and Security Committee, Senator Alexey Pushkov, stated that new sanctions against Russia would damage Washington’s relations with Moscow and the EU, while the chances that they would quell the anti-Trump opposition in the US were extremely slim.

EU authorities have already urged US lawmakers to coordinate their anti-Russian actions with European partners. “Unilateral measures” could undermine transatlantic unity and have “unintended consequences,” the European Commission warned in a special address.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said Saturday that Moscow takes an “extremely negative” view of the new developments.










Afrasianet - The High Court of London has bound Ukraine to pay £2.8 million ($3.6 million) to Russia as compensation for legal costs related to Kiev’s Eurobond debt, the Russian Finance Ministry announced on Wednesday.

According to a statement on its website, Ukraine has been ordered: “to compensate a portion of costs related to legal proceedings to Russia in the amount of £2.8 million, with 50 percent to be paid by the debtor at the latest of September 20, 2017."

In March, the court ruled Ukraine failed to offer a “justifiable” or court-ready defense for not paying back the $3 billion lent by Russia in 2013 during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovich. The financial aid from Russia to Ukraine came in the form of a Eurobond governed by English law.

The court has ruled Kiev must pay Moscow the par value of Eurobonds, the coupon payment of $75 million and penalty interest on those amounts.

It also said it would consider Russia's demand for compensation - due to Kiev’s default on its debt - in 2018, after the case’s full hearing.

After Ukraine had failed to repay the notes following a 10-day grace period after the deadline in 2015, Russia brought the lawsuit in the English courts. Moscow offered Kiev a debt-relief plan, under which it could repay its arrears in three installments of $1 billion over three years.

However, Ukraine refused to pay, claiming the money was a political credit which the country was forced to take.

Ukraine insisted on a full hearing, citing the political nature of the case.

According to Kiev, in 2013 the Ukrainian government was subject to “massive, unlawful and illegitimate economic and political pressure.”












Afrasianet - CIA Director Mike Pompeo sees China rather than Russia or Iran as the biggest threat to America’s dominant position in the world. Beijing merited its position on the US spymaster’s threat list due to its stronger economy and population, he said.

Speaking to the Washington Free Beacon, Pompeo marked terrorism and North Korea as the biggest short-term threats to US security interests, but selected China, Russia and Iran as mid-to-long-term concerns.

 “It's hard to pick between China, Russia and Iran to be honest with you. I guess if I had to pick one with a nose above the others, I'd probably pick China,” he told Bill Gertz, the Beacon’s senior editor and national security reporter.

“They have a real economy that they have built, unlike Russia that lives and dies on how many barrels of oil they can pluck out of the ground. And Iran that is similarly very single sector derivative and not to the scale of China population-wise,” he explained.

Pompeo added that Beijing’s defense strategy is based on confronting the US and its capabilities.

“They are probably trying either to steal our stuff or make sure they can defeat it. And most often both,” he said. “I think it’s very clear when they think about their place in the world, they measure their success in placing themselves in the world where they want to be vis-à-vis the United States and not as against anyone else.”

The director declined to comment on reports that since 2012 China has pivoted its espionage offensively in the US, but said the Chinese effort was “an active campaign”.

 “It began with really commercial attacks. Trying to steal our stuff. That continues. They've always tried to get at our military resources, our R&D programs and the like. So those have long histories,” he said.

“But it is also the case that the Chinese have moved to a place where they, I think, see themselves as a rival superpower and so intend to conduct their version of espionage programs in a way that reflects their superpower status,” Pompeo added.

“They have as part of their mission to reduce the relative power of the United States vis-à-vis their own country. And one of the ways they do that is through these active measures, these spying efforts.”

The US and China, while remaining major trade and investment partners, have several points of contention. Arguably the most acute involves Beijing’s territorial claims over a large part of the South China Sea, through which a major part of its maritime transport goes. The claims conflict with those of other nations, including close US allies, South Korea and the Philippines.

The US supports neither nation and believes that the sea should be neutral waters. To back its position, it regularly sends its warships and military aircraft through what China sees as part of its territory. Beijing protests those “freedom of navigation” missions and deploys its own military assets to counter the US projection of power.

The two nations are also at odds over how to handle the North Korean nuclear issue, with the administration of President Donald Trump trying to pressure Beijing into being more aggressive toward its neighbor. China, which opposes Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, believes that overexerting pressure on North Korea may lead to a major crisis, which would hurt all nations in the region and beyond.

Washington and Beijing have also quarrelled about China’s alleged currency manipulation, production of counterfeit brand products in China, alleged theft of intellectual property and state secrets by Chinese actors, and other issues. The two powers also have competing regional integration projects, with the US seeking to counteract China’s growing influence on its neighbors.

'Russians have information we need'

Speaking on Russia, Pompeo commented on what Gertz described as “a kind of anti-Russia hysteria” over Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election. The CIA chief said it was a “decades-old challenge for America” to counter Russia’s supposed attempts to influence public opinion in other nations.

“We have an obligation to push back, defeat it, to work to make it painful for them so that they'll reduce the magnitude of what they're doing,” he explained.

He added that the US and Russia can work together on counterterrorism to their mutual benefit.

“You have Americans that fly on Russian airplanes. They might have information that we need. It seems to me if we can find a way to share counterterrorism information with them, we ought to,” he said.

Pompeo also suggested that Russia’s campaign in Syria, while possibly taxing economically, gave Moscow valuable experience in overseas operations.

“When you exercise a force, you get better. So now they've had a chance to exercise their navy. They've had a chance to exercise their army. They've had a chance to do combined operations. Cruise missiles. Combined arms operations with their aviation assets,” he said. “And so they will be better prepared in the event we're in a scenario where deterrence hasn't worked, whether that's in Eastern Europe or someplace else.”









Afrasianet - The essence of the new anti-Russian sanctions awaiting Donald Trump’s approval is to block the joint EU-Russian Nordstream II pipeline project and to tie Trump’s hands in building trade relationship with Moscow, Virginia State Senator Richard Black told RT.

Black said he believes that in pushing for Russia sanctions, Congress is attempting to use a political tool to gain economic advantage. He notes, however, that President Donald Trump at the same time came under harsh criticism for applying his “America First” principle to address trade imbalances with other countries.

 “Here he [Trump] is trying to have free trade with Russia, he is trying to reset the relationship with Russia – and the Congress itself has made a major move to block free trade and interfere with the market,” Black said.

As the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass the legislation, it would be pointless for Trump to veto the bill now, when it can be easily overridden, Black said, adding that despite the unity among lawmakers the sanctions were “not quite a done deal, because there is tremendous backlash from the European Union.”

“There is a possibility that the EU backlash will cause the House and the Senate perhaps to make some modifications,” he argued.

Speaking about EU’s ability to take concerted action against Washington in response to the sanctions that affect joint energy projects with Russia, Black said that he doubts it would be possible for all 28 members of the bloc to agree on the issue.

The legislation itself, even if signed into law by President Trump, does not oblige him to target Nordstream II with punitive measures, as it merely gives the US leader the leverage to do so, Black said, arguing that by leaving a loophole to Trump the lawmakers wanted to shift responsibility for the measure, unpopular with the EU.

Black argued that by leaving the final word to the president, the Congress is literally saying that what it is doing is “so extraordinary extreme” that “we are a little bit uncomfortable just doing it, let’s give it to the president.”

Being provided with such an opportunity, Trump, however, may end up not pressing the button, the senator believes.

“I seriously doubt that President Trump as long as he allowed the discretion, I don’t think he is going to introduce sanctions on Nordstream II because it’s really a security for Europe,” Black said, noting that, for its part, the EU might go to great lengths to not let the project stall.

“My guess is that the EU would to do everything to ram through the Nordstream II gas pipeline and I believe that they should, as it will provide stability, safety for the people of Europe,” he said, calling the US lawmakers’ intent to dictate energy policy over the US a “terribly, terribly bad mistake” which “reflects some poor leadership on the part of the House and the Senate.”

The bill, which targets Russia’s energy sector, banks, weapons manufacturers as well as individuals, was envisioned as a response to Russia’s support of the Syrian government in its fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL), Crimea’s reunification with Russia and alleged support of eastern Ukrainian rebels.

The legislation also does not spare the joint energy projects between Europe and Russia, which has led to several European countries and the EU officials expressing concerns over its implications to European businesses and its energy security.

President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned Washington that the EU was “ready to act appropriately within a matter of days,” accusing the US authorities of neglecting Europe’s opinion on the issue.

Germany and France also condemned the unilateral move on behalf of the US, with Berlin saying that “it is not in the Americans’ right to judge or stipulate which way European companies may engage in cooperation with any third parties” and Paris pointing that sanctions “contradict international law” due to its outreach.

‘EU may work around sanctions & come into conflict with US’

Political historian Mark Shanahan, who lectures in Politics and International Relations at the University of Reading, believes that on the one hand, the new sanctions reflect the House lobby “pushing hard at the American fuel agenda,” and on the other hand represent a political struggle involving Trump and the GOP.

“This is about putting the President [Trump] back in his box. It is a fight between the GOP, the Republicans in Congress, and the executive branch in the White House. At the moment, the President is not in a very strong place – he could almost certainly not see his veto carried through on this bill, and may end up in a very, very weak position,” Shanahan told RT.

This could, however, turn into a conflict between the US and the EU, as the sanctions go against the interests of many European states.

“The EU is very, very strong trading body in its own rights. It may choose to work round the American sanctions and deal directly, particularly on energy with Russia. That will bring them into conflict with the US, and that hasn’t happened for quite a long time at this scale and at this level. But it may be a case of having to,” Shanahan said.











Afrasianet - Russian senators have passed an address to the president asking him to introduce restrictive measures against Poland in response to a recently approved bill ordering the destruction of monuments to Soviet soldiers in the country.

“We are asking you to order federal bodies of executive power to submit their complex proposals on the possible introduction of restrictive measures in bilateral cooperation with the Republic of Poland as well as against Polish lawmakers who initiated the amendments to the April 1, 2016 law that bans the propaganda of communism and other totalitarian regimes, and other persons and companies responsible for it,” reads the address to Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was passed by the Federation Council on Tuesday.

One of the senators, Oleg Morozov, noted in comments that the reciprocal restrictions can come in the form of a visa ban for certain Polish citizens.

“The sanctions can touch upon various actions concerning other people. Someone is bound to make particular decisions concerning the razing or dismantling of the monuments. They can also be made by some institutions, some power bodies or some particular officials – all of them can be subject to sanctions,” he said.

Morozov also reminded of the proposals to move the monuments to Russia instead of destroying them.

Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said on Tuesday that the president had not made any decisions concerning a possible response to the Polish bill. He added that the Kremlin expected that the senators would rework their initiative, adding particular proposals on possible restrictive measures.

In late June, the Polish parliament passed a set of amendments to a Polish law on decommunization that bans any propaganda of totalitarian regimes through any media, including the mentioning of the names of buildings or other architectural sites. If the legislation is brought into life in its current form, it could result in the destruction of memorials to Red Army soldiers who died liberating Poland from the Nazis.

Russian officials and politicians have already blasted the new legislation as an attempt to rewrite history and to blacken the memory of Soviet troops.

Russia's Lower House, the State Duma, and the Israeli Knesset have passed a joint address to European parliaments denouncing the Polish bill as an insult to the memory of Soviet soldiers who died while liberating Europe, and to the memory of Holocaust victims.

The Russian Foreign Ministry reacted with an official statement, saying that the recent actions of the Polish government could further strain relations between the two nations.

“No one tries to conceal the fact that the main blow will be delivered on monuments and other memorial sites installed in honor of the feat of the Red Army that freed Poland from the Nazi yoke and saved the Polish people from complete destruction,” the document reads.

In a separate statement, Russian diplomats noted that the new Polish bill could violate a 1994 agreement between the two nations which provides total protection to monuments that stand near the graves of Soviet military servicemen.

Poland was occupied by the Nazis between 1939 and 1945. About 6 million Poles – 20 percent of the country’s population – died in the war and occupation. Over 40,000 Soviet soldiers gave their lives in the operation to liberate Poland.











Afrasianet - Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov shrugged off Ukrainian military accusations of moving assault divisions to Russia’s western borders, noting that Russia has the right to deploy any of its troops to any part of its territory.

 “The Russian Federation is free to change the configuration of military forces on its territory in line with what is considered most reasonable,” Peskov told reporters on Monday. He noted, however, that the media should address the defense ministry for more detailed comments on troop movements.

The statement came shortly after Ukrainian Chief of General Staff Viktor Muzhenko wrote on Facebook that Russia had allegedly moved three motorized rifle divisions near its border with Ukraine, adding that the divisions are “assault forces” specially trained and equipped for rapid advance operations.

Muzhenko’s claims come amid preparations for NATO maritime exercises near the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa. The Royal Navy’s HMS Duncan and the Turkish Navy frigate Yildirim arrived in Odessa on Monday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry wrote on its website. Both ships are expected to remain in Ukrainian waters until July 27.

The British and Turkish warships will participate in more naval drills, including establishing communications with the Ukrainian Navy in times of war or in case of urgent humanitarian operations.

The new NATO exercises in the Black Sea begin just several days after the US, Ukraine, and 14 other nations deployed warships, combat aircraft, and special operations teams for ‘Sea Breeze 2017’ exercises off the Ukrainian coast.

Moscow has long objected to NATO’s large-scale war games near Russian borders, which intensified after the March 2014 referendum in which Crimea voted to reunite with mainland Russia. In February this year, Dmitry Peskov said that such developments were a threat to Russian national security and interests, “Especially as it concerns a third party building up its military presence near our borders.”









Afrasianet - A senior Russian senator has warned US President Donald Trump that new sanctions against Russia will damage Washington’s relations with Moscow and the EU, and that they are unlikely to quell the anti-Trump factions within the US.

“If Trump signs the sanctions bill, he will not calm down his enemies – they desire his impeachment. But he will inflict double damage – to relations with Russia and the European Union at the same time,”  Aleksey Pushkov tweeted.

“New sanctions against Russia will never become a success story for Trump’s administration – they will only put it at loggerheads with the EU and block any normalization of relations with Russia,” the senator wrote in a subsequent tweet.

The comments came soon after US Republicans and Democrats on Saturday agreed a bill that, if passed, would introduce additional sanctions on Russia and complicate any future easing of anti-Moscow restrictions by the US president.

The new sanctions are a part of the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act, which also targets North Korea. Among the new anti-Russia proposals, the legislation aims to introduce individual sanctions for investing in Russian pipeline projects. It also outlines steps to hamper construction of Russian giant Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

The House is set to vote on the proposed legislation Tuesday, and it would also need to be signed off by the president.

EU authorities have already urged US lawmakers to coordinate their anti-Russian actions with European partners. “Unilateral measures” could undermine transatlantic unity and have “unintended consequences,” the European Commission warned in a special address.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said Saturday that Moscow takes an “extremely negative” view of the new developments.










Afrasianet - Moscow is making rapid progress in its drive to set up four de-escalation zones across Syria, agreed in May, the defense ministry announced. Russia says the area under government control has quadrupled since the start of Moscow’s operations in the region.

On Monday, Russian military police set up two checkpoints and four observation posts around the key rebel-held area of Eastern Ghouta, General Sergey Rudskoy, spokesman for the Russian General Staff, revealed during a scheduled press briefing in Moscow.

Moscow said that on July 21 and 22, two checkpoints and 10 observations posts were established around another de-escalation zone near the country’s southwestern border with Israel and Jordan. The zone was demarcated earlier this month, and signed off by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump.

 “The measure will help maintain the ceasefire, allow unfettered access for humanitarian aid, and enable refugees and displaced persons to return,” Rudskoy said. “Thanks to measures taken by Russia, we have managed to halt fighting two crucial areas of Syria.”
Rudskoy added that “consultations are ongoing” over the exact borders of the northern zone in Idlib, close to Aleppo, which is the biggest of the proposed zones, housing more than one million people.

The proposal for the four de-escalation zones was signed by Syrian government allies Russia and Iran, and Turkey, which has supported the rebels, two months ago in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

All four zones are areas held by moderate rebels, which have been under pressure from the government advance. As a result of the ceasefire, they are to be monitored by the Astana signatories, while Russia retains the right to control the airspace above them, without engaging in air raids. For those inside, the benefits include the restoration of water and electricity, where they have been cut off, and freedom of movement.

Huge government gains in past two months

Rudskoy said that the number of violent incidents was down by a third in the first three weeks of July compared to the same period a month before. Over 500 settlements have joined the ceasefire since the start of the summer, bringing the total to over 2,000, with over 228 opposition units laying down their arms.

When Russia launched its anti-terrorist operation in Syria in September 2015 on invitation from the country’s government, the Syrian government controlled about 19,000 square kilometers of territory. According to Rudskoy, now it has taken over 74,200 square kilometers (out of a total area of 185,000 square kilometers) with 20,000 square kilometers won back from various militant groups, including Islamic State and Al-Qaeda affiliates, in the past two months.

This has been achieved with the help of 2,010 sorties by the Russian Air Force, resulting in 5,850 airstrikes.

“I want to emphasize that Russian servicemen along with Syrian forces are doing everything to return peace to this land. Any attempts by the terrorists or their allies to impede this process will be met with the utmost severity,” Rudskoy said.










  • Free Russia World Cup train travel to be available for booking from December

  • All Confed Cup doping tests were negative – FIFA

  • ‘Painful reply’: Russian senator urges asymmetrical response to fresh US sanctions

  • UK court obliges Ukraine to pay par value on its Eurobond debt to Russia

  • CIA chief: China tops Russia & Iran as biggest long-term threat to US

  • ‘Terribly bad mistake’: US Senator says Russia sanctions go against EU energy security & free trade

  • Upper House asks Putin to slap sanctions on Poland over anti-monument bill

  • Kremlin dismisses Ukraine’s criticism of ‘assault divisions’ deployment

  • ‘Double damage’: Russian senator warns Trump over new sanctions

  • Syria de-escalation zones: Russia deploys military police in E. Ghouta, Idlib talks ‘ongoing’

Afrasianet - A rocket was launched from the northern Gaza Strip early Sunday morning, according to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

The rocket “exploded mid-air,” according to the IDF announcement posted on Twitter.

No one was injured in the alleged attack, the Israeli military said, without immediately providing any further details.

The alleged projectile was reportedly headed to the Ahskelon coastal region in southern Israel, the Times of Israel reported.

No rocket alert signal was activated as the explosion happened “relatively early” in its flight, Israeli media reported citing officials.

The incident comes amid escalating tensions in the region, with Israel beefing up its military presence in the West Bank.

At least three Israelis were killed and one other injured in a stabbing attack by a 20-year-old Palestinian in the West Bank settlement of Halamish Friday night.

Israel upped its security alert level and dispatched thousands of additional troops to the area following the deadly knife assault, local media reported citing an IDF official.

Late Friday, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, announced that the PA was freezing all contacts with Israel over the Jerusalem holy site dispute and the violence over the past days.

Clashes have been raging for several days following Tel Aviv’s decision to install metal detectors at the Temple Mount (referred to by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif ) in the Old City in Jerusalem. The site is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, with Abbas having called for the removal of unilaterally installed barriers for people to be able to “pray with dignity.”










Afrasianet - The convoy of the Minister of Education of the National Unity Government, Osman Abdel Jalil, was subjected to heavy gunfire at "Gate 17" at the southern entrance to the city of Sabha on Monday while he was on his way to the city of Marzak.

The Ministry of Education said in a statement posted on its official Facebook page that "the group forced the minister's convoy to stop using arms and assaulted the minister and his companions with his hands, but the security team managed to remove the minister and the undersecretary from the danger zone, while the gunmen detained the rest of the team and forced them With the force of arms to stay in the place of detention for approximately one hour ".

The ministry, which did not specify the identity of the gunmen and did not publish pictures of the site of the attack, said that "the group was detained after the intervention of tribes Altabu who responded firmly to the militants and were able to secure the convoy of the minister and accompany him the rest of the trip."

The city of Sabha and the adjacent areas of southern Libya are characterized by a security breach resulting in repeated incidents of theft, assault and murder. They are controlled by armed groups, most of which are active in smuggling, especially smuggling of illegal immigrants and fuel.











Afrasianet - Riyadh - Saudi Arabia and its allies from the Gulf Arab states said on Monday that the deadline for the Qatari government to respond to its 13 demands, which ended Sunday night, was extended 48 hours at the request of Kuwait's emir, who is mediating the crisis.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt said in a joint statement issued by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that "in response to a request by Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to extend the special deadline for the government of Qatar for 48 hours since the end of the 10-day deadline, The four states' response will be sent after examining the Qatari government's response and evaluating its response to the full list of demands. "

The four countries said in a statement that they agreed to extend the deadline "because of the Qatari government's assertion that it will send its official response to the list of claims addressed to it on Monday."

The extension came after Qatar implicitly rejected the demands of its neighbors to restore ties with it just hours before the 10-day deadline set for it to respond to its 13 demands.

Earlier this morning, the Emir of Kuwait will receive Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani, who will deliver a written message from Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The letter contains the response earlier prepared by Qatar on the list of collective claims submitted by Kuwait late last month.










Afrasianet - Eight people were wounded Monday morning in a shooting outside the Mercy Mosque in the southern French city of Avignon.

Two masked men, carrying a pistol and a gun, approached the mosque in a car before opening fire on worshipers as they left the building at about 10:30 am local time (2130 GMT).

According to the local media, four people were injured outside the mosque, in addition to four people from a family, including a seven-year-old girl, with shrapnel inside their house, about 50 meters from the site of the attack.

Two of the wounded were taken to the hospital, and the Public Prosecutor's Office suggested that the incident was the result of a dispute between the youths and not a terrorist act.

France is in a state of security alert after an attack on police in April and other bloody attacks in the months before.










Afrasianet - A suicide bomber has blown himself up in the Syrian capital, Damascus, killing and injuring a number of people, according to media reports.

The bomber was in one of three cars, each with bombs, that had been pursued by Syrian authorities. The two other bombs were destroyed by police at a separate location in western Damascus, state TV said.

“Authorities were pursuing three cars with bombs inside and managed to blow up two of them before entering  the city,” the statement from state TV said, as cited by AFP.

Police surrounded the third car in Tahrir Square, where “the terrorist blew himself up resulting in people dead and injured,”  TV added without elaborating on the figures.

Unverified images circulating on Twitter show pillars of smoke rising over the Syrian capital.










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