In much of the Middle East, it's getting more dangerous to be gay

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY130826aa001.jpegJust after it became known in June that the attacker of Orlando's Pulse nightclub had pledged allegiance to ISIS, Egypt’s foreign ministry immediately moved to condemn the attack on a US gay bar.

“Egypt stands next to the American people in these difficult times, offering sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wishing the injured a speedy recovery,” the ministry said.

Read more at PRI

13,000 families in Gaza still displaced two years after war

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_GAZ140508AA001.jpegGAZA CITY — For the past two years, Iftetah Amsha, 50, has been sharing a hot, cramped mobile home with her husband and 10 children. Their house was destroyed during the 50-day war with Israel that ended two years ago this month. "I don’t know when I will get out of here," she said.

The conflict left 18,000 housing units destroyed or damaged, according to the United Nations. Fewer than 4,500 have been reconstructed and more than 13,000 families remain displaced in this crowded strip of land along Israel’s southwestern border.

Read more at USA Today

Libya discord threatens to overshadow military successes against Islamic State

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_LBY130208AA003.jpegTRIPOLI, Libya — Even as airstrikes authorized by President Obama have enabled Libya’s embattled unity government to seize the Islamic State’s critical stronghold here, a struggle between the feuding political and religious factions is putting those battlefield successes in doubt.

Discord between Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord, army commander Khalifa Hafter and Sadiq Al-Ghariani, the country’s top Muslim cleric, threatens to overshadow the military success against Islamic State in Sirte, the coastal city that just months ago was the terrorist group’s biggest outpost beyond its base in Syria and Iraq.

Read more at The Washington Times

Syrians ‘caught in a vise,’ suffering more than ever as civil war drags on

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SYR130327AA002.jpegAMMAN, Jordan — Damascus resident Goud Abdulsalam telephones her family in Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria every day, but the call usually doesn’t go through. Her family rarely has electricity, much less food or other necessities. “Every day, my father goes out foraging for food in the markets,” Ms. Abdulsalam said. “He’s looking for anything, anything at all.”

The plight of the residents of Deir Ezzor illustrates how many Syrians are suffering more than ever five years after the start of the Syrian civil war. That’s especially true in cities parceled out between the Syrian government and Islamic State.

Read more at The Washington Times

Attacks on Christians in Egypt raise alarms

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGT130712AA004.jpegCAIRO — Residents in the southern Egyptian village of Naj al-Nassara watched in horror as their beloved Archangel Mikhail Coptic Church burned to the ground.

“We heard deafening sounds of explosions and crackling as the interior of the church gave way,” said Salim Qamhi, a farmer in Naj al-Nassara. “The fire had eaten up everything — the wooden sanctuary, the icons, the pews and the books.”

Read more at USA Today

Israel’s arrest of Christian aid director imperils Palestinian charity missions

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_PAL151125aa001.jpegRAMALLAH, West Bank — Israel’s arrest of the Gaza director of an evangelical Christian aid group for redirecting millions of dollars in assistance to the militant group Hamas has sent shock waves throughout the Palestinian territories and left many worried that the incident will jeopardize all charity missions, even as Gaza struggles to recover from a war two years ago.

Many Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are bracing for the fallout as authorities prepare to lay out the case against Mohammed El Halabi, the chief executive of World Vision and one of the most prominent aid executives in the territory.

Read more at The Washington Times

Iraqis fear bombing signals country plunging back into sectarian war

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ150315aa001.jpegBAGHDAD — Iraqis fear their country will descend into sectarian war again in the wake of the Islamic State's suicide truck bombing in the capital Sunday, one of the deadliest attacks in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

“We are living a horror movie,” Al-Mujtaba Al-Waeli, 28, a musician in the Iraqi national orchestra, said Monday. “Our relatives and beloved ones die on daily basis in different ways. I hope, from the bottom of my heart, to see the day when my homeland is safe again.”

Read more at USA Today

Iraqi prime minister faces power struggle with Muqtada al-Sadr in fight for Mosul

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRA130621aa001.jpegBAGHDAD — As Iraq’s prime minister struggles to meet his goal of retaking Mosul from the Islamic State group by the end of this year, he also is racing to prevent a power struggle with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

A victorious war leader, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is striving to unite the country’s quarreling factions and take the wind out of Sheikh al-Sadr’s protest movement that has brought tens of thousands onto the streets in defiance of government calls for a halt on demonstrations that distract from the fight against the Islamic State. But some doubt he will achieve it, saying Mr. al-Abadi will preside over an ever-weakening government.
Read more at The Washington Times

Islamic State braces for imminent Iraqi siege to retake Mosul

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_TUR141002aa001.jpegBAGHDAD — For months, the Iraqi government has been preparing to launch an offensive to recapture the country's second largest city, Mosul, from the Islamic State. Now, there are clear signs that the militants believe it is imminent.

The extremist group's fighters have sent their wives and children to Syria and Turkey, pulled their black flags from buildings to hide potential airstrike targets for a U.S.-led coalition, planted roadside bombs and set fires to oil wells to stymie Iraqi troops.

Read more at USA Today

Turkish academics pay harsh penalties for the failed coup

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY141212aa001.jpegTurkey’s already embattled universities now face the fall-out from a failed military coup. Just days after part of Turkey’s army attempted to overthrow the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the authorities called for the resignation of the country’s 1,577 deans and issued a travel ban for professors, calling on those outside the country to immediately return.

The crackdown on university campuses risks “undermining Turkey’s investment in the future of its higher education sector,” says Robert Quinn, executive director of Scholars at Risk, an international network dedicated to upholding academic freedom. That concern is shared by Turkish academics, although many are reluctant to speak out.
Read more at Al Fanar Media

The largest temporary city in the world

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_AFR151515aa002.jpegDADAAB REFUGEE CAMP, KENYA

Dadaab is Kenya’s third largest city, a vibrant place bustling with life and entrepreneurial spirit. It is also the world’s largest refugee camp, and the Kenyan government is increasingly keen on making it disappear.

Closure of the camp would be devastating not only for the 350,000 Somali refugees living there, but also for the local economy. The Kenyan government says shuttering the camp is essential to counter terrorism from the Al Shabab militant group, which it accuses of using Dadaab as a base to recruit and plan deadly attacks.

Read more at The Boston Globe

Iraqis mourn: 37 killed in Islamic State attack on Shiite shrine in Balad

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_GAZ140724aa001.jpegBALAD, Iraq — Iraqis on Friday mourned the victims of yet another terror attack, and some said they won't let the Islamic State ignite a new conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

At least 37 people were killed and more than 62 wounded when suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a Shiite shrine in this town, 50 miles north of Baghdad, Iraqi police said.

Read more at USA Today

Baghdad suicide bombing kills 115; ISIL claims responsibility

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ160615aa001.jpegAt least 115 people were killed Sunday in a suicide bombing in central Baghdad claimed by the Islamic State, the deadliest attack in the Iraqi capital in a year and one of the worst in more than a decade of war, officials said.

Among those killed were at least 15 children, 10 women and six policemen when a bomber's pickup truck laden with explosives went off outside a crowded shopping center, wounding 187 other people, police and Iraqi officials said, according to the Associated Press.

Read more at USA Today

Egypt banking on ancient attractions as Middle East unrest dents economy

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY130924aa001.jpegLUXOR, Egypt — Mummies might be the solution to this country’s tourism woes.
Foreign visits to the Arab world’s most populous country, long vital to Egypt’s economy, have declined by around half in the wake of two passenger flight crashes, one a confirmed instance of terrorism, according to government statistics.

But archaeological tourism is helping Luxor buck the trend in Egypt, where foreign visitors to the pyramids and Red Sea beaches contributed around 12 percent to the national economy in recent years.

Read more at The Washington Times

Fight for Fallujah may be over, but people can't go home yet

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ160615aa001.jpegFALLUJAH, Iraq — Sanaa Abed has spent weeks in a sweltering tent in a refugee camp, waiting for Iraqi forces to liberate this city from Islamic State militants so she can return home.

But the mother of four must continue waiting until the city has been fully secured and safe for residents to move back.

Read more at USA Today

Kenya closing world’s largest refugee camp over Somali terror fears

KEN150915aa002DADAAB REFUGEE CAMP, Kenya — As dawn breaks in this dusty and sprawling settlement of 350,000 people, residents of the world’s largest refugee camp trek along main roads, carrying bags as they head to the markets to open up for business following early-morning prayers.

Shop owners hawk cellphones, clothing, goat meat, milk and other staples in the humid air scented by spiced tea and diesel. The market, run by refugees, is thriving, part of a bustling, massive pop-up “city” that over the years has become a regional commercial hub, but one that the Kenyan government now wants to dismantle.

Read more at The Washington Times

Iraq PM: Fallujah 'back home,' Mosul next

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ150318aa001.jpegBAGHDAD — Elite Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes punched through Islamic State defenses in Fallujah Friday, seizing the municipal compound and other buildings in the center of the city.

The breakthrough shifted momentum in the offensive that has raged for weeks, Iraqi officials said.

Read more at USA Today

Nigeria’s baby mills victimize vulnerable mothers, sell infants on black market

NIG151119AA001ENUGU, Nigeria — Four months pregnant, Ugwu Christabel, a scared 17-year-old from Aku in southeastern Nigeria, looked to the heavens for help after her parents threw her out of their home.

Then she looked to the Tex Hospital and Maternity Home in nearby Enugu, where single, pregnant girls sometimes go for care until they give birth.

Read more at The Washington Times

Food aid reaches Syria's starving town of Darayya

SYR1605aa001For the first time since 2012, food aid reached starving residents in the Syrian town of Darayya, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said.

Trucks carrying medicine, flour and a month's worth of food arrived Darayya on Thursday, the humanitarian organization said in statements posted on its social media accounts.

Read more at USA Today

Inside Darayya, Syria: Kids in danger of starving to death

JOR15122aa001AMMAN, Jordan — Rola Hamada has no food at home to feed her four children and two grandchildren. That's nothing new in Darayya, Syria, she said.

A typical day means pulling any vegetables that may be in the garden to serve as breakfast. Then she goes to the city council's local aid office to get a pound of rice for dinner.

Read more at USA Today

Iraq refugees return home: 'Europe didn't welcome us'

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_111111.jpegIDOMENI, Greece — Brothers Montather and Ali Al-Zobady gathered their belongings in this makeshift refugee camp on the Macedonian border and made their way to the Athens airport.

The Iraqi refugees weren’t trying to circumvent barriers in southern Europe to reach Germany like so many others in the past two years — they were going home to Diyala in eastern Iraq.

Read more at USA Today

Civilians fleeing: ISIL-held Fallujah face abuse, execution

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ160615aa001.jpegFALLUJAH, Iraq — Abu Mohammed al-Dulaimi finally made it out of Fallujah on Tuesday.

"I tried three times to flee the city and was forced to go back," the father of six said. Islamic State "militants captured me with a few men and humiliated us. They said to us, ‘You are women. You want to run away.’”

Read more at USA Today

Urgent search narrows to find cause of EgyptAir crash

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY160412aa001.jpegThree weeks after EgpytAir Flight 804 plunged into the Mediterranean Sea, safety investigators hope they soon find wreckage showing whether a mechanical flaw or crew mistake — or terrorism — downed one of the most widely used planes worldwide.

Although initial speculation pointed to terrorism that brought down the Airbus A320, no evidence of an intentional crash has been found and no one has claimed responsibility, which is rare in terrorism cases.

Read more at USA Today

Trapped civilians — including 20,000 children — stall Fallujah offensive

IRQ15122aa001BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces halted an assault to free Fallujah from Islamic State control Wednesday for fear of causing the deaths of civilians held hostage in the city, including an estimated 20,000 children.

"It would be possible to end the battle quickly if protecting civilians wasn't among our priorities," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on state television. "Our units are just outside Fallujah — victory is within our reach."

Read more at USA Today

Iraqi forces: In Fallujah repel ISIL attack

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ151130aa01.jpegBAGHDAD — Iraqi forces repelled a fierce counterattack by Islamic State militants inside Fallujah on Tuesday, as government troops continued a slow advance to recapture the key city.

"The terrorists are counting on snipers and suicide car bombs and suicide attackers with vests but that won't hinder our advance," said Yahiya Rasul, spokesman for the Joint Operation Command, adding that the Islamic State "is mining the town, and throwing car bombs. We are managing to deal with these."

Read more at USA Today

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