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Last update: Mon, 23 Jan 2017 07am

Middle East

World - Middle East

Iraq forces have retaken 60pc of east Mosul: commander BASAKHRA: Iraqi forces have retaken around two thirds of the eastern half of Mosul from the Islamic State group since the start of an offensive in mid-October, a top commander said Sunday."From east Mosul more than 60 percent" has been retaken from IS, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, a top commander in Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), told AFP.He was speaking from his headquarters northeast of Mosul, where IS proclaimed a "caliphate" in June 2014 after seizing the city.Iraq's elite CTS forces are the best-equipped, best-trained and most seasoned forces in the country but the going has been tough since Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of an operation to retake Mosul on October 17 last year.Hundreds of thousands of civilians remain inside Iraq's second city, forcing Iraqi and allied forces to take precautions and slowing their advance.CTS and other forces more recently deployed inside the city have been moving ...

World - Middle East

Clashes erupt near Damascus despite Syria truce: monitor BEIRUT: Clashes erupted between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters in an area outside Damascus on Friday, despite a nationwide truce that began at midnight, a monitor said.The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not clear who had started the clashes in the Wadi Barada region, adding that government helicoppters were firing on the area. Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2016 ...

World - Middle East

Air strike disables Mosul's last bridge: residents BAGHDAD: An air strike has disabled the last bridge linking eastern and western Mosul, a city Iraqi forces are fighting to retake from militants, residents and a provincial official said.Iraqi forces have advanced into eastern Mosul -- which is divided by the Tigris River -- and have retaken some neighbourhoods on that side of the city, which has been held by the Islamic State group for more than two and a half years.But the western ...

World - Middle East

Egypt sets up govt-picked council to oversee media CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has approved a law to set up a council headed by his appointees that oversees the media and ensures compliance with "national security" requirements.The law, passed by parliament and published in the official gazette on Monday, mandates the council to investigate media funding and fine or revoke permits of those deemed in violation.The council will be composed of a head picked by Sisi and 12 members recommended by parliament ...

World - Middle East

Israel may push for more settler homes after UN vote JERUSALEM: Israel could advance plans this week for thousands more settlement homes in annexed east Jerusalem despite a landmark UN resolution demanding an end to such activity, an official said Tuesday.On Wednesday, a Jerusalem planning committee is to discuss issuing building permits for 618 housing units in the mainly Palestinian eastern sector of the city, according to the Ir Amim NGO, which monitors settlement building.Meir Turjeman, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem who also heads the ...

World - Middle East

Santa Claus is coming to Tehran TEHRAN: Tehran might not seem like the most obvious pitstop for Santa Claus, but Iranians love the chintzy side of Christmas and it is also one of the safest places in the Middle East for Christians. The past month has seen shoppers flocking to the Armenian district of Somayeh -- the biggest Christian area in the city -- to pick up fake trees, and stock up on baubles, reindeer toys and plastic snowmen."It's really interesting ...

World - Middle East

Pilgrims in Bethlehem, fears in Europe on Christmas Eve BETHLEHEM: Pilgrims on Saturday thronged Bethlehem for Christmas Eve as Europeans worked up some holiday spirit despite tight security in the shadow of the Berlin market attack.Crowds of Palestinians and tourists flocked to Bethlehem's Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity, ahead of midnight mass at the site where Christians believe Jesus was born.Some snapped selfies near a giant Christmas tree and watched the annual Scouts parade in the city, a short drive from ...