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Israeli Media: Netanyahu Confidant Turns State Witness in Corruption Probe

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 21:37
Israeli media say a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to testify against him in a bribery scandal. Shlomo Filber was arrested on suspicion of promoting the interests of Israel's powerful telecom company in exchange for more positive news coverage of the prime minister. Police have not confirmed that Filber has turned state's witness, but Netanyahu quickly denied any wrongdoing and described the allegations as a witch hunt, madness and lies. The...
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Israel Counters Iran’s New Missile With ‘Successful’ Interceptor Test

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 21:30
Israel and its U.S. ally say they have successfully tested an anti-missile system that would protect the Jewish state from a potential long-range missile attack by its regional rival, Iran.   Monday’s test of the Arrow 3 interceptor comes eight days after Iran displayed what it called a new version of a Ghadr missile with a 2,000-kilometer range that would put Israeli territory within reach.   The Ghadr is part of a missile program that Tehran has vowed to continue, despite...
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UN Chief Appeals for Truce for Syria's Besieged E. Ghouta

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 21:21
U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said Thursday he hopes the Security Council will approve a proposed cease-fire, saying there is no alternative to halting the fighting and allowing humanitarian access. Secretary-General António Guterres is appealing to the council to approve an urgent 30-day halt in fighting across Syria and to help the 400,000 besieged residents of eastern Ghouta, who he said, "live in hell on earth." “I believe eastern Ghouta cannot wait,”...
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Rebels in Syria Prepare for Final Assad Assault on Ghouta

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 18:11
The shattered Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta has become the focus of some of the most vicious Russian and Syrian government airstrikes of Syria's civil war. Amid the carnage and destruction wrought by barrel bombs and air-to-ground missiles that have left more than 250 people dead in 48 hours and more than 1,000 wounded, and as doctors struggle to save lives and amputate limbs in crude makeshift clinics amid blast tremors, rebels are preparing for a regime ground assault. The...
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New Deadly Strikes Hit Damascus Suburb

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 16:38
Syrian activists reported deadly pro-government airstrikes Wednesday in the besieged Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, which this week has seen its deadliest string of daily violence in years. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the strikes have killed at least 250 people since late Sunday. The last time so many people were killed in such a short amount of time happened in a 2013 chemical attack on the area. The surge in violence comes as Syrian forces work to...
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Bahrain Sentences Activist Rajab to 5 Years in Prison For Tweets

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 13:16
A court in Bahrain has sentenced prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab to five years in jail for tweeting comments critical of the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen and alleging prison abuses. The charges against him included insulting a neighboring country and national institutions. Rajab played a leading role in 2011 pro-democracy protests that came as a wave of demonstrations hit countries across the region. Since then he has been jailed multiple times, and before...
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Abbas Calls for International Conference to Restart Mideast Peace Process

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 11:13
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a rare appearance at the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, where he urged the convening of an international peace conference in the next few months. Talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have been stalled for years and tensions are mounting, giving rise to fears of a new conflict. More from VOA's UN correspondent, Margaret Besheer.
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Concern Over Syria Grows as Death Toll Rises

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 03:30
A Syrian war monitor says pro-government strikes Tuesday in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta have killed more than 100 people. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 250 people have been killed since late Sunday, the highest 48-hour death toll in the Syria conflict since a 2013 chemical attack on the suburb. Tuesday, Turkish troops forced pro-Syrian government troops to retreat as they were en route to Syria's Afrin region, a Kurdish...
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Syrian Troops Retreat After Turkish Artillery Fires Warning Strikes

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 02:30
Pro-Syrian government troops enroute to Syria’s Afrin region, a Kurdish area where Turkish troops have mounted a month-long offensive, retreated Tuesday after Turkish artillery fired warning shots, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.  The Syrian Kurdish militia and Syrian Observatory for Human Rights founder Rami Abdul Rahman confirmed the pro-Syrian government troops began entering the Kurdish enclave earlier Tuesday before the warning strikes. Syria’s state...
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AP Explains: Syria's Starved, Rebellious Suburb Under Attack

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 02:06
The airstrikes came at a rate of one a minute, with horrible results: civilians fleeing collapsing buildings, children trapped under slabs of concrete, paramedics grimly rushing the bloodied victims away on stretchers. At least 100 people were killed in one day. The government's assault on the rebel-controlled suburbs east of the Syrian capital, Damascus, has been a long time coming. Monday's carnage, which continued throughout Tuesday, was the deadliest in eastern Ghouta in three...
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New Corruption Cases Entangle Netanyahu Aides

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 00:22
Israeli police alleged on Tuesday that Benjamin Netanyahu's former spokesman tried to bribe a judge to drop a fraud case against Netanyahu's wife, the latest corruption investigation encircling the long-serving prime minister. The new bribery case was one of two revealed on Tuesday involving the same former spokesman, a close Netanyahu confidant. Police also named him as someone they had arrested two days earlier in a separate case involving allegations of corruption at...
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Egypt Puts Prominent Politician Critical of Sissi on Terrorism List

Voice of America - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 00:21
An Egyptian court put former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh on a terrorism list on Tuesday, state news agency MENA reported, following his arrest for alleged contacts with the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Abol Fotouh, a former Islamist who leads the Strong Egypt party, was arrested last week a day after returning from London, where he had given interviews sharply critical of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi ahead of next month’s presidential election. The Interior...
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Abbas Calls for International Conference to Restart Mideast Peace

Voice of America - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 21:06
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is calling for an international peace conference to be convened by the middle of this year to try to break the impasse in the Middle East peace process. “Confronted with this deadlock, we have neither given up, nor have we lost hope,” Abbas told the monthly meeting Tuesday of the U.N. Security Council on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.   The Palestinian leader expressed support for broad regional and international participation at such a meeting,...
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Turkish Forces Shell Syrian Militias in Contested Kurdish Enclave

Voice of America - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 19:35
Pro-Syrian government forces reportedly have crossed into the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin. The deployment is in response to an ongoing military offensive by Turkish-led forces against the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia. "The Syrian government responded to the call of duty and they sent military units today, Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, to be deployed along the borders and to be involved in defending the unity of Syrian territory," said YPG spokesman Nuri Mahmoud. Ankara claims...
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Police Suspect Netanyahu Associate of Trying to Bribe Judge

Voice of America - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 16:42
Israeli police on Tuesday said they suspect a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of offering a sitting judge a top posting in exchange for dropping a corruption case against Netanyahu's wife. The development marks the latest scandal to engulf the beleaguered Israeli leader's inner circle. Netanyahu already stands accused of bribery in two other cases. Nir Hefetz, a former spokesman of the Netanyahu family, is suspected of suggesting to Judge Hila Gerstel that...
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Syria’s Multi-Sided War Taxes Russia

Voice of America - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 15:46
Russia has played a decisive role in saving the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from ouster, but every week Moscow is finding it harder to arbitrate the winding down of a seven-year-long conflict that may have entered its most dangerous phase. The biggest challenge facing the Kremlin is juggling the demands of the various players in Syria — those it is allied with or keen to improve ties with — amid mounting risks of the conflict spilling across borders and spreading to the...
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Report: More Than 100 Killed in Damascus Suburb

Voice of America - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 15:43
A Syrian war monitor says pro-government strikes Tuesday in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta have killed more than 100 people. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 250 people have been killed since late Sunday, the highest 48-hour death toll in the Syria conflict since a 2013 chemical attack on the suburb. Eastern Ghouta is the last main rebel stronghold near the Syrian capital, and the violence there has drawn international...
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Turkey Warns US, Syrian Government Against Supporting Kurds

Voice of America - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 09:20
The Turkish government has asked the U.S. to stop arming Kurds in Syria, and warned the Syrian government against involvement in Turkey's offensive against Kurds in Syria. Turkish officials spoke Monday in response to news reports that Damascus plans to send pro-government militias to Afrin in northern Syria to help the Kurds fight off a Turkish offensive. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
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Monitor: Syrian Military Bombardment of Damascus Suburb Kills 100, 500 Wounded

Voice of America - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 08:20
Heavy Syrian military airstrikes and rocket attacks on a Damascus suburb have killed nearly 100 people and wounded close to 500 since Sunday, a Syrian monitoring group says. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says a large number of civilians, including children, are among the victims in eastern Ghouta. The Syrian military has launched an all-out operation to retake eastern Ghouta. It is one of the last areas near Damascus still in the hands of rebels and Islamic militants looking...
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UN Chief Warns of Nightmare Scenario if Israel, Hezbollah Clash

Voice of America - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 05:43
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday he was worried about the possibility of a direct confrontation between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement. Guterres said the latest signals from Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah showed the will to not let this happen but "sometimes a spark is enough to unleash this kind of a conflict." Hezbollah said last week it could act against Israeli oil facilities if necessary in an Lebanon-Israel offshore...
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