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Global donors vow $4.4m in Syria aid
BRUSSELS: International donors on Wednesday pledged an estimated $4.4 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria and neighbours sheltering its refugees in 2018, falling significantly short of the more than $7 billion the United Nations is seeking. UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock described the pledges as a “good start” and said that based on previous years he expected the amount to grow. Still, he said that given the funds available
 
 
Russia plays down tensions with Israel over Syria strikes
TEL AVIV: Russia’s ambassador to Israel on Wednesday played down tensions between the countries over Israeli attacks in Syria, saying they were not the reason for Moscow’s proposed supply of an advanced air defence system to Damascus. Asked whether Russia would now curtail Israel’s freedom of action in Syria, Ambassador Alexander Shein sounded circumspect. “It is of course in our interest that these actions not take place,
   
Suspects still in Kuala Lumpur: Police
KUALA LUMPUR: Two men suspected of gunning down a Palestinian lecturer in Kuala Lumpur were still in the country, police said on Wednesday, as they released a fresh image of one of the men. Two men on a high-powered motorcycle fired at least 14 shots at Fadi Al Batsh, an engineering lecturer, outside his apartment building on Saturday, killing him on the spot. A Kawasaki motorcycle was found abandoned near a lake about nine
 
 
Inspectors take samples at second site in Douma
AMSTERDAM: Inspectors with the global chemical weapons agency on Wednesday visited a second site in Syria’s Douma and took samples to help them determine whether banned toxic munitions were used there. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is investigating the deaths of dozens of people in the enclave outside of the Syrian capital on April 7. The Russian delegation to the OPCW will hold a briefing on
   
Gunmen kidnap Iraq boxing chief, says sports official
BAGHDAD: on Tuesday, masked gunmen kidnapped the chief of Iraq’s boxing federation and vice president of its Olympics Committee, seizing him from a car south of Baghdad, an official said. The group of around 20 men in masks and military uniforms abducted Bashar Mustafa at a fake checkpoint near the bridge in Musayyib, said Abdel Redha Ali, secretary of the boxing federation. “They let my car past and then seized Bashar Mustafa
 
 
Lebanon media charges candidates huge prices
BEIRUT: In Lebanon, media outlets are charging parliamentary candidates exorbitant prices for coverage. Six thousand dollars can buy a minute of air time, but a talk show episode can cost $240,000. In addition to paid campaign ads, private outlets are also charging candidates for one-on-one interviews and appearances on talk shows. “Election season has prompted Lebanese media outlets to offer packages that can reach up to
   
Army retakes new region outside Damascus
BEIRUT: Syria’s regime on Wednesday moved towards sealing its grip on the capital as it retook a new region outside Damascus from rebels and pounded its southern districts to oust militants. The regime took control of Eastern Qalamun northeast of the capital on Wednesday, state media said, after buses ferried out the last rebels under an evacuation deal. At the same time, regime air strikes and rocket fire pounded southern areas
 
 
Palestinian’s UN aid $200m short after Trump cuts
BRUSSELS: Emergency food aid for around a million Palestinians in Gaza may run out from June if the UN agency for Palestinian refugees cannot raise another $200 million following a cut-off in US funding, the agency said on Tuesday. Pierre Kraehenbuehl, who heads the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) providing aid for Palestinians across the Middle East, said US President Donald Trump had withheld $305 million in funding, far more
   
3 soldiers, 30 militants killed in Sinai
SINAI: Three soldiers and 30 militants have been killed in the past week in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula where the military is battling the Daesh group, the army said on Wednesday. Around 200 militants and at least 33 government troops have now been killed since the launch of a major offensive against the militants on Feb.9 dubbed “Sinai 2018,” according to official figures. They include Nasser Abu Zaqul, “the central Sinai commander
 
 
Kiir rejects opposition calls to quit
JUBA: South Sudan President Salva Kiir has rejected opposition calls for him to resign as part of efforts to end a civil war, accusing anti-government groups of making “unreasonable demands” in peace talks. In talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa led by East African bloc IGAD, 10 opposition groups last month demanded Kiir step aside. They also want a transitional parliament dissolved and replaced by a new one formed with
   
Israeli ex-cop jailed for killing Palestinian teen
TEL AVIV: An Israeli former paramilitary policeman was jailed for nine months on Wednesday for killing a teenage Palestinian protester in 2014, prompting protests from the youngster’s family who demanded a tougher sentence. In a plea bargain, defendant Ben Deri had earlier confessed to the negligent manslaughter and aggravated injury of 17-year-old Nadim Nuwara - less serious than the full manslaughter charge he originally faced.
 
 
Europe says nearing plan to save Iran N-pact
BRUSSELS: Western envoys said Britain, Germany and France were nearing a package to put to US President Donald Trump to try and persuade him to save the Iran nuclear agreement, even as Tehran poured more scorn on the US president, dismissing him as a “tradesman.” Western envoys said on Wednesday that three months of meetings behind closed doors were culminating in a package of separate measures that could be taken against Iran
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