July 22, 2018

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In Gaza and Israel, war fears mount despite truce

In Gaza and Israel, war fears mount despite truceAfter seven chaotic and violent hours, quiet returned to the Gaza Strip overnight. The fatal shooting by a Palestinian of an Israeli soldier during protests along the border Friday sparked a widespread wave of Israeli bombing, with three fighters from Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas killed and dozens of targets struck. After intensive indirect mediation by the United Nations and Egypt, a truce came into force at midnight, yet both populations remained on high alert of another all-out conflict between Israel and Hamas.

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Russia demands US release 'spy', calls charges false

Russia demands US release 'spy', calls charges falseRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his US counterpart Mike Pompeo on Saturday that the arrest of a Russian gun rights enthusiast on espionage charges in the United States was "unacceptable", his ministry said. US prosecutors say Maria Butina, 29, exploited her close links with the powerful NRA gun lobby while posing as a visiting graduate student to endear herself with senior Republicans, guided by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's major political supporters, Alexander Torshin. In a telephone call with Pompeo, Lavrov "stressed that the actions of American authorities who arrested the Russian citizen Butina based on false accusations is totally unacceptable," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

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Ceasefire between Israel and Hamas holds after intense fighting

Ceasefire between Israel and Hamas holds after intense fightingA ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza appeared to be holding on Saturday after a round of intense fighting which sparked fears of all-out war.  One Israeli soldier and three Hamas fighters were killed on Friday before Egypt and the UN were able to broker a deal to bring a halt to the escalation.  Hamas said an agreement had been reached “to return to the previous state of calm”. Israel did not publicly acknowledge the ceasefire but officials said a deal had been struck. While the ceasefire seemed to be holding, the border was not completely quiet. Israel’s military said one of its tanks opened fire on a Hamas observation post after a group of Palestinians tried to break through the border fence in northern Gaza.  No injuries were reported.  It was not clear if the ceasefire deal included an end to the burning kites and balloons which Palestinians have flown from Gaza into Israel in recent weeks.  The incendiaries have caused more than a thousand fires and burned more than 7,000 acres of fields, according to the Israeli military.  More than a thousand fires have been caused by balloons carrying incendiaries Credit: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images Israeli media reported that Israel’s government believed the kites and balloons would stop under the deal, while a Hamas official said the ceasefire only applied to direct military weapons like mortars and rockets.   While an immediate escalation appeared to have been averted, Friday’s violence was the second major flare up in a week. Some analysts have concluded that without a diplomatic breakthrough it is only a matter of time before a new war breaks out.  Donald Trump’s plans for “the deal of the century” to try to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians appears to have been downgraded to more modest proposals aimed at easing the humanitarian situation in Gaza.  Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law and point man on Middle East peace, published an article this week in the Washington Post offering a gloomy assessment of achieving even modest progress in the Mediterranean enclave.  He said there “there is no good option” in Gaza unless Hamas is forced from power or else abandons its core principles and recognises Israel.  “Hamas leadership is holding the Palestinians of Gaza captive. This problem must be recognized and resolved or we will witness yet another disastrous cycle,”  he said. 

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Iran leader backs suggestion to block Gulf oil exports if own sales stopped

Iran leader backs suggestion to block Gulf oil exports if own sales stoppedIran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday backed President Hassan Rouhani's suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped and said negotiations with the United States would be an "obvious mistake". Rouhani's apparent threat earlier this month to disrupt oil shipments from neighbouring countries came in reaction to looming U.S. sanctions and efforts by Washington to force all countries to stop buying Iranian oil. "(Khamenei) said remarks by the president ... that 'if Iran's oil is not exported, no regional country's oil will be exported,' were important remarks that reflect the policy and the approach of (Iran's) system," Khamenei's official website said.

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