Weekly News 17th – 21st October

Monday 17th

Italy: Italian Premier Matteo Renzi boarded a flight leaving from Pisa Monday afternoon to attend a White House State Dinner honoring Italy, the last one of US President Barack Obama’s final term in office. Renzi said the fact that Italy was chosen shows the strength of the two countries’ ties. Renzi invited CERN Director Fabiola Giannotti, Lampedusa Mayor Giusi Nicolini, and MoMA New York Senior Curator for Architecture and Design Paola Antonelli, in addition to Beatrice Vio, whom he called “an example for the younger generations” after the gold medal in fencing at the last Paralympics Games in Rio. (Ansa)

Syria: Russian and Syrian armed forces will pause attacks on the Syrian city of Aleppo for eight hours Thursday so that civilians and rebels can leave the city, the Russian defense ministry said Monday. (The Daily Star)

Syria talks convened by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the Swiss city of Lausanne on 15th failed to agree on a common strategy with Russia to end the conflict in Syria, now in its sixth year. Kerry was seeking a new path to peace after failing to secure a ceasefire in direct talks with Moscow, one of Syria’s key backers, amid mounting international outrage over the Russian and Syrian bombardment of rebel-held eastern Aleppo. (Reuters)

War on terror: Dabiq, a village in northern Syria prized by Islamic State has been seized by Turkish and rebel forces. Dabiq is a minor position strategically but huge symbolically. It lies at the heart of Isis’s apocalyptic mythology because Islamic texts name it as one of two sites for the battle between Muslim and Christian forces, heralding the end of days. (The New York Times)

A coalition composed by the Iraqi army, Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias, assisted by Western aviation, began its offensive on the stronghold of the Islamic State, Mosul. The second city of Iraq was taken in July 2014 by the jihadists and it is where the Caliphate has been proclaimed. (Le Figaro)

Tuesday 18th

Algeria: Two Italians and a Canadian have been kidnapped near the Libyan-Algerian border by an Algerian extremist, according to resources. The resources added that head of tribes in the southern region on the Libyan-Algerian border have been conducting negotiations with the kidnapper so that they can release the Italians and the Canadian safe and sound. The Italian Il Giornale newspaper disclosed Monday that the two abducted Italian nationals in Libya’s Ghat are held by an Algerian extremist, Abdullah Balkehil. Belkehil asked for 4 million euros as a ransom to release the two technicians who work for the Libyan branch of Italian firm Contratti internazionali Costruzioni SpA managing maintenance in Libya. (Asharq al-Awsaat)

Spain: The nearly 300 members of the federal committee of the PSOE will meet finally on Sunday, according to party sources, to define its official stance towards Mariano Rajoy. The lively debate that hold all federations continues. The PSOE of Andalusia, the numerically most important and electorally relevant federation has advocated explicitly for the first time by abstention. The PSC insists no, although the result is the repetition of elections. The PSE has also announced that it will defend not in the conclave. (El Pais)

UK: Senior Conservative MPs have seized on a forgotten Government promise to let Parliament decide the response to any referendum result – insisting it must hold true for Brexit. Ministers agreed, exactly six years ago, that referendums “cannot be legally binding” – which meant MPs and peers should decide “whether or not to take action” on the verdict given by voters. The unequivocal statement flies in the face of Theresa May’s repeated insistence that her Government, not Parliament, will decide how to deliver Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. (The Independent)

War on terror: Iraqi and Kurdish forces closing in on Mosul said Tuesday they had secured some 20 villages on the outskirts of the city in the first day of an operation to retake what is ISIS’s last major stronghold in Iraq. With around 1.5 million people still living in Mosul, the International Organization for Migration said it was preparing gas masks in case of chemical attack by the extremists, who had used such weapons previously against Iraqi Kurdish forces. (The Daily Star)

Wednesday 19th

Belgium: A suspected terror cell has been arrested in Belgium as authorities continue hunting down Isis supporters. A new wave of police raids were launched on Tuesday morning, seeing officers search 15 homes in Ghent, Deinze and Antwerp as part of an operation coordinated by Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre. The federal prosecutor’s office said 15 people were taken for questioning, including four who have subsequently charged with terror offences. (The Independent)

Italy: A manager for the Parma-based construction company Bonatti is under investigation in relation to the killing this year of two Italians taken hostage in Libya – Salvatore Failla and Fausto Piano, sources said on Wednesday. Dennis Morson, Bonatti’s logistics chief for Libya, is probed for suspected culpable homicide and breaching regulations on safe working conditions, the sources said. Police on Wednesday searched the offices of Bonatti to gather evidence for the probe, sources said. (Ansa)

Turkey: Ankara- Turkish authorities stepped up security measures to aid in thwarting any plot targeting crowded areas and gatherings, after the threat of terror attacks increased. Gaziantep local authorities revealed that great ISIS terror activity has been detected. The southern Turkish city shares borders with war-torn Syria. All social activity, gatherings or events have been put on hold until October for security reasons, local authorities announced in a statement on Tuesday. Three police personnel were reportedly killed when ISIS-affiliated suicide bombers blew themselves up in Gaziantep earlier on Sunday, after police raided a sleeper cell, state media reported. (Asharq Al-Awsaat)

War on Terror: A senior Iraqi general on Wednesday called on Iraqis fighting for ISIS in Mosul to surrender as a wide-scale operation to retake the militant-held city entered its third day. Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati told reporters at a military base that up to 6,000 ISIS fighters are inside the city. He did not say how many of them are foreigners. (The Daily Star)

Thursday 20th

Brexit: Britain may miss the previously expected March 2019 deadline for leaving the European Union, the Prime Minister has suggested. The PM has pledged to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017, which would have taken Britain out of the EU by March 2019 under treaty provisions. (The Independent)

Israel: Israel says uncovered Islamic Jihad plot to attack wedding hall. Three Gazans, Israeli suspects, allegedly planned to hurl grenades at people dancing in wedding hall, set off concealed explosives and use weapons hidden in trash cans. One of the people arrested is Shafiq Hamad Ahmad Abu Taha, 55, from the Gaza Strip, who was living in Israel illegally. He was employed in the wedding hall where they planned to conduct the attack. Another suspect, Ahmad Taysir Abed Al-Rahman Abu Taha, 39, from the Gaza Strip, was also living in Israel illegally. The last suspect, Rani Masoud Nassir Abu Amara, 40, originally from Dir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip, now lives in Tel Sheva. (Haaretz)

Italy: Italian police stopped and arrested a 39-year-old Italian man who was driving a refrigerated minivan packed with 17 migrants after a high-speed chase at the French border, the police said Thursday. The incident took place earlier this week. Video filmed by police shows a white minivan speeding towards the border crossing, where it is blocked at the toll gate before entering into France. Plain clothes police officers carrying pistols run towards the van to arrest the driver. The driver faces charges of aiding and abetting illegal immigration and inhumane and degrading treatment of people. (The Daily Star)

Syria: Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to coordinate with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and amend their military coordination in Syria. Political sources in Tel Aviv announced that the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will visit Israel on November 10. Medvedev’s visit will focus on bolstering bilateral economic cooperation. Political sources hinted that the aim of the visit is to address Israel’s concerns and strengthen relations. Russian embassy in Tel Aviv issued a statement saying that the talks will begin next month to establish a free-trade zone between Israel and the Euro-Asian economic group. (Asharq Al-Awsaat)

War on terror: Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi special forces have advanced to within around six miles of the city of Mosul, after launching a major three-pronged attack early on Thursday against dug-in Islamic State militants. Hundreds of armoured vehicles including tanks and humvees began a large-scale offensive at around 6am local time, the Kurdish peshmerga general command said in a statement. Their target was a series of villages to the north and north-east of Mosul held by Isis fighters. (The Guardian)

Friday 21st

Italy: Giorgio Alleva, the president of national statistics agency Istat, said Thursday that he expects Italy’s gross domestic product (GDP) for the third quarter to be up. “Signals are arriving that make us think that the third quarter should be positive,” Alleva told reporters on the fringes of the inauguration of an exhibition devoted to the agency. The Bank of Italy also said last week that Italy’s GDP was set to rise slightly in the third quarter as the country’s economic recovery continues “at a moderate pace”. (Ansa)

War on terror: A meeting of foreign ministers from several Western and Middle Eastern countries was held in the French capital on Thursday, to discuss the means to restore peace and stability in Mosul, after liberating the Iraqi city from ISIS terrorist group. The meeting, which was opened by French President Francois Hollande, and attended by representatives of 23 countries and three regional and international organizations, highlighted the importance of providing humanitarian aid to the city of Mosul, as well as protecting civilians. Only six foreign ministers were present at the meeting, including four Arab FMs from Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. The other two ministers represented the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Islamic State gunmen attacked government buildings in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk and a nearby power plant on Friday, briefly controlling the main police station in their first significant counterattack since Iraqi forces launched an offensive for Mosul.Fighting was underway in several neighborhoods and a curfew had been imposed, according to local officials. The militants were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and grenades and used car bombs in the attack. The assault on oil-rich Kirkuk comes just days after Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched a large scale offensive to retake the northern city of Mosul, the biggest city Islamic State controls and about 100 miles to the northwest. (The Washington Post)

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