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Curated top stories of the day
- Air strikes hit Syria – U.S., British and French forces hit Syria with more than 100 missiles on Saturday. The action comes after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a military response against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons capabilities. Last week a poison gas attack reportedly executed by Assad’s forces killed at least 60 people in Douma. “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” Trump said in a televised address from the White House. (New York Times) Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. responded by saying the attack on its ally will have consequences.
- The U.S. military claims that their attacks have crippled Syria’s chemical weapon capabilities. Trump said the air strikes could not have gone better, ending his tweet with: “Mission Accomplished.”
- The BBC reports that the strikes hit three targets: a scientific research facility in Damascus, allegedly connected to the production of chemical and biological weapons, a chemical-weapons storage facility west of Homs, and a chemical-weapons-equipment storage site (also an important command post), also near Homs.
- Reports that Cohen was in Prague – Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer of President Donald J. Trump, was in Prague in 2016, according to news website McClatchy. If true, the reports give some credibility to the “Steele Dossier”, which claimed Cohen met people close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Prague during the U.S. presidential election. Cohen has always denied the Prague trip, saying he’s never been to the Czech capital. According to McClatchy’s source, Cohen entered the Czech Republic via Germany.
- More than 500 wounded in Gaza protests – Israeli forces injured 30 Palestinians after using tear gas and live fire against demonstrators crossing the Gaza-Israel border on Friday. The incident comes during the third week of protests at the Gaza Strip, reports the New York Times. Protesters threw stones, set flags on fire, and burned tires that produced a thick, black smoke. The demonstrations support of the Palestinian right to return to Israel. They have already resulted in 34 deaths and roughly 500 protesters being injured by Israeli troops, the Gaza Health Ministry said. The Israeli military said protesters threw firebombs and an explosive device. Palestinians are plannong three more weeks of protests.
- UK intelligence links Russia to poison attack – Previously classified intelligence that is now public claims Russian “special units” tested ways to deliver nerve agents in the 2000s, including application to door handles. According to the police, a similar method was used in the poison attack on Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. British national-security advisor Mark Sedwill linked Russia to the attack in a letter to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. The letter was published on the UK government’s website. Sedwill said that Russia’s military-intelligence agency had hacked Yulia Skripal’s email account in 2013. “Only Russia has the technical means, operational experience, and the motive” to carry out the attack, the letter said. Moscow denies any involvement.
‘Air strikes could spark war’ – The UN Security Council met on Friday after a request from Russia to discuss the risk of an escalation in the conflict in Syria. Russia says a war could be sparked if the United States launched air strikes in response to a suspected chemical attack. “The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war,” Moscow’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Thursday. U.S. UN ambassador Nikki Haley said that Trump had not made a decision on military intervention. She also claimed that Syrian forces used chemical weapons at least 50 times during the seven years of civil war.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May secured support from her cabinet to join the U.S. and France in preventing further chemical weapons attacks in Syria. A spokesperson did not specify whether this means the cabinet had authorised military action.
- Trump eyes Trans Pacific Partnership – U.S. President Donald Trump says the United States would only join the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal if it can negotiate “substantially better” terms than those provided previously. The TPP is made up of 11 nations and was created to ease trade barriers in some of the fastest-growing economies of the Asia-Pacific region, and to counter China’s rising economic and diplomatic clout.
- Moscow considers hitting U.S. business – Russia is considering restrictions on American businesses in response to a set of targeted sanctions against Kremlin associates announced by the U.S. Treasury last week. A draft law restricting imports of goods from the U.S. including software, medicine, and farm equipment will be discussed in parliament next week. Moscow is also considering barring U.S. lawyers and business consultants from working in Russia.
- Comey attacks Trump’s leadership – In a new book called “A Higher Loyalty”, former FBI director James Comey accused Trump of being “untethered from the truth” and compared the U.S. president’s leadership style to that of a mafia don. Trump fired Comey in May 2017 after accusing him of mishandling allegations over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. The book is published next week, but has been previewed by various media. Trump has called Comey a “showboat” and a liar.
- Israel says Iranian drone was to attack Israel – Israeli officials say the Iranian drone that was shot down in February was armed with explosives and on its way to attack Israel. The drone incident resulted in a series of airstrikes on Iranian-backed forces, an Israeli jet was shot down in the process the first time that has happened in 36 years. Israel has not provided evidence for the claim, and Iranian officials have yet to respond.
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- There’s often silence. No warning. Moving just a short distance can save your life. These videos documenting the Syrian conflict were filmed by people present at the moment of impact. This video from the New York Times, takes the viewer inside the reality of experiencing an airstrike. – Charles Anderson
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