US won’t let Russia ease North Korea sanctions, Haley says

Russia says it’s trying to ease sanctions on North Korea to make aid organisations’ work there possible. The US says it won’t let that happen.

Following a closed-door UN security council meeting this Thursday requested by Russia and China, US ambassador Nikki Haley told press members that Russia is trying “to lift banking restrictions” against North Korea, an option which she says is off the table:  “So now we know what their agenda is, we know exactly why they’re trying to do it and we’re not going to let it happen.” 

 
At the meeting, the Russian Mission to the UN released a statement referring to “serious humanitarian problems” resulting from the current American-championed sanctions. The statement claims the restrictions are interfering with the ability of nonprofits and humanitarian aid organizations to work in North Korea – even though they’re not directly subject to the sanctions regime. It urges the council “to examine as soon as possible the options to rectify the situation using the entire tool set available to the UNSC.

Echoing Trump’s statements on the matter, Haley responded that sanctions would not be lifted since the North Koreans “haven’t done anything to warrant us getting rid of them yet,” adding that “The threat is still there.

Earlier this year Haley accused Russia of violating the sanctions agreements and asked the UN to impose punishment. Russia, China and South Korea, in turn, have been pushing for the US to make small concessions in order to facilitate dialogue.

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New U.S. sanctions over chemical weapons would be 'illegal': Kremlin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia would consider any new chemical weapons-related sanctions imposed by the United States to be illegal, a Kremlin spokesman said on Wednesday.

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it would impose additional sanctions on Russia after Moscow failed to give reasonable assurances it would not use chemical weapons after a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England.

“We consider restrictions imposed by the United States against Russia illegal,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

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War-stricken Yemen 'living hell' for all children: UN official

Yemen has turned into a "living hell" for all children with thousands dying every year from malnutrition and easily preventable diseases, a top UN official says as Saudi Arabia presses ahead with its bloodshed and atrocities in the course of its three-and-a-half-year-old war against the impoverished country.

"Yemen is today a living hell -- not for 50 to 60 percent of the children -- it is a living hell for every boy and girl in Yemen," Geert Cappelaere, the regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at UN children's agency UNICEF, told reporters in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Sunday.

He called on the warring parties to join proposed peace talks due to be held later this month and agree to a ceasefire across the conflict-ravaged Yemen.

The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) warned that more than seven million children are facing a serious threat of famine in Yemen.

 

“Today, 1.8 million children under the age of five are facing acute malnutrition, and 400,000 are affected by severe acute malnutrition,” Cappelaere said late in October 31.

Elsewhere in his Sunday remarks, the UN official said malnutrition leads to the death of 30,000 children each year in Yemen, while one child dies every 10 minutes from easily preventable diseases.

Cappelaere added that the figures were "a reminder for all of us to realize how dire the situation has become."

"We call on all parties to get together later this month under the leadership of the UN special envoy... and agree on a ceasefire and a road to peace for Yemen," he said.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that Yemen is teetering “on a precipice”, appealing to the international community to put an end to the Saudi war on the impoverished nation.

“Yemen today stands on a precipice. On the humanitarian side, the situation is desperate. We must do all we can to prevent the already dire conditions from deteriorating,” said the UN chief in a press conference, adding that the consequences of such a war would be “terrible” for the Yemeni nation.

Leading a coalition of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates and Sudan, Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who resigned amid popular discontent and fled to the Arab kingdom.

Since the onset of the imposed war, the Yemeni army, backed by fighters of the country’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement, has been defending the impoverished nation against the brutal aggression. The coalition, supported by the United States, is also resolute to crush the movement as another goal in its war on Yemen, which is teetering on the edge of famine.

Saudi Arabia has so far achieved none of its objectives in Yemen. Riyadh had declared at the start of the invasion that the war would take no more than a couple of weeks.

According to a new report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis.

The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.

A number of Western countries, the United States and Britain in particular, are also accused of being complicit in the ongoing aggression as they supply the Riyadh regime with advanced weapons and military equipment as well as logistical and intelligence.

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US-Led Coalition Strikes Kill 14 Civilians In East Syria: Monitor

Beirut: At least 14 civilians were killed Saturday in US-led coalition air strikes on the ISIS' last holdout in eastern Syria, a monitor said.

"Fourteen civilians, including five children under the age of 18, were killed in the coalition air raids on the villages of Hajin, Sousa and Al-Shaafa" in eastern Deir Ezzor province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"The death toll is likely to rise due to the number of seriously wounded," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

At least 9 ISIS jihadists were killed in the raids, he added.

The coalition was not immediately available for comment.

Strikes on the area intensified following an attempted jihadist attack on a coalition base in the nearby village of Al-Bahra, the Britain-based monitor said.

ISIS overran large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a "caliphate" in land it controlled.

But the jihadist group has since lost most of its territory to various offensives in both countries.

In Syria, the group has seen its presence reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert and a pocket in Deir Ezzor that contains Hajin, Sousa and Al-Shaafa.

A Kurdish-Arab alliance backed by the coalition launched an offensive in September to wrest the Deir Ezzor pocket from IS.

But on Wednesday the alliance, the Syrian Democratic Forces, suspended its fight against the jihadists after Turkish forces fired on the group's positions.

The coalition estimates that 2,000 ISIS fighters remain in the Hajin pocket.

A total of more than 360,000 people have been killed since Syria's war erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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Gunman kills 2, wounds 6 at yoga studio in Florida, suspect dead

Two people have been killed in a shooting spree that broke out at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida. The gunman also injured several more people before killing himself.

Officers responded to an emergency call on Friday evening, arriving at the Hot Yoga Tallahassee studio. Multiple people suffering from gunshot wounds were found when the police arrived.

Six injured victims were immediately taken to trauma care, but two died at the hospital, according to ABC. Another victim is said to be in a critical condition, while the remaining three people have serious injuries.

The gunman was identified as 40-year-old Scott Paul Beierle, according to the Tallahassee Police Department. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Several people inside the studio tried to fight back and save others, police told reporters after the incident, calling it “a testament to their courage.”

The motive of the shooter is not yet known, and police believe he acted alone. The investigation will now focus on possible causes of “this senseless act of violence,” according to their statement. Over 40 victims have been interviewed at this stage.

Home to some 191,000 people, Tallahassee is Florida’s capital being the 7th largest city in the state. Florida itself has seen a range of shooting sprees earlier this year.

READ MORE: ‘He lost & went crazy’: Witnesses describe killing spree at Florida video game tournament

In August, two people have been killed and 11 were treated after losing participant opened fire at a video game tournament in Jacksonville. The shooter has committed suicide.

Another rampage took place in February in Parkland after a lone attacker began to shoot at students at the end of the school day outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The gunman, a 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, left 17 people dead and at least a dozen injured.

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Over 120 civilians killed by US-led coalition airstrikes in Syria in 1 month – Russian military

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China’s Xi tells military to prepare for war as US Navy warns of high seas encounters

Chinese President Xi Jinping told military officials responsible for the disputed South China Sea to be better “prepared for war” as tensions with the US are rising. Beijing may be bracing for a worst-case scenario with the US.

Xi made the blunt remarks last week as he was meeting the Southern Theatre Command, the military officials responsible for one of China’s five strategic war zones. The calls were made on Thursday as part of his four-day visit to Guangdong province, but the Chinese state media reported them only on Friday.

“It’s necessary to strengthen the mission… and concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” President Xi said. “We need to take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly.

We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war.

US and China Warships Nearly Collide in China Sea

One of the key responsibilities of the Southern Theater Command is protecting China’s interests in the South China Sea, where Beijing claims sovereignty over a number of islands. The sea is of strategic importance to Chinese trade. The US rejects the territorial claims and has been sending so-called Freedom of Navigation missions through the waters and airspace, which Beijing considers its own, as a gesture of defiance.

Chief of US Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said Tuesday the US and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas” as the two nations confront each other in the South China Sea.

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Top Palestinian body suspends Israel recognition until it recognizes Palestine

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s decision-making body has ruled to suspend its recognition of the state of Israel until Tel Aviv formally recognizes a Palestinian state along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Noting Israel’s continued disregard of signed international agreements, the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) on Monday has decided to “suspend recognition of the State of Israel until its recognition of the State of Palestine on the June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Following a two day meeting in Ramallah, the PCC also agreed to “end security coordination in all its forms” with Israel, and “disengage economically” from its neighbor, WAFA news agency reports, citing the final communiqué.

 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the meeting of the Palestinian Central Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 14, 2018 © Mohamad Torokman

Furthermore, the decision-making body established the PLO to be the sole “legitimate representative” of all the Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, slamming Hamas for failing to implement the agreements it signed with Fatah over the last decade, ever since the Sunni organization assumed control of Gaza in 2007.

Urging Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to implement the Council's non-binding decisions, the PCC stressed that it continues to remain opposed to Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” aimed at solving the decades-old animosity between the neighboring nations. In wake of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the Council called on the Arab states to “sever all diplomatic relations” with the US and any state that follows its example.

The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a controversial issue, as Palestinians continue to claim East Jerusalem as their capital. Abbas repeatedly vowed to oppose any purported peace initiatives by Trump, whose relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognition of the city as Israel’s capital marked the first time the president of the US has departed from established policy, which saw the issue of Jerusalem kept off the table.

Speaking to PCC delegates on Sunday, the 82-year-old leader reiterated that Palestine and Jerusalem are “not for sale or bargaining.”

READ MORE: Paraguay cancels embassy move to Jerusalem, Israel responds by closing its embassy in Paraguay

“East Jerusalem is the capital of our state. We will not accept a capital in Jerusalem or the capital of two states because they are fooling us,” Abbas said on Sunday. “Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967, is our capital, every meter and centimeter of it.”

 

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