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UN demands end to targeting civilians in Syria enclave after 100 die

The UN has demanded an end to the targeting of civilians in Syria after a heavy bombardment killed at least 100 civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, as regime forces appeared to be preparing for an imminent ground assault. The escalation came as pro-government forces were also expected to enter the northern Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin, to take a stand against …

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77 dead as Syria enclave pounded ahead of expected ground assault

Heavy Syrian bombardment killed at least 77 civilians in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on Monday, a monitor said, as regime forces appeared to prepare for an imminent ground assault. The escalation came as pro-government forces were also expected to enter the northern Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin, to take a stand against a month-old Turkish assault there. Held by rebels since 2012, …

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Sports academy in Egypt gives Syrian children hope

When Amir al-Awad fled Syria for Egypt, he intended to cross the Mediterranean for a European country. But instead, the boyhood Syrian wrestling champion opted against the risky sea journey and found work at a restaurant in Alexandria, where he was introduced to the city’s Syrian community. Together they established the Syrian Sports Academy, and he replaced his dream of …

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New chapter: a landmark move for Greece’s national library

Wearing masks and gloves, specialised staff gingerly place their treasured cargo inside wheeled, shock-absorbing boxes for a historic trip to the other end of Athens in the biggest book move in Greek history. From January until April, the National Library of Greece is moving root and branch, out of its 100-year-old home in central Athens and literally into the 21st-century. …

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Iran teams find wreckage of plane in Zagros mountains

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian search teams found the wreckage on Tuesday of a plane that went missing in the Zagros mountains two days earlier with 66 people on board, a spokesman said. Aseman Airlines flight EP3704 disappeared in the Zagros range on Sunday morning, around 45 minutes after taking off from Tehran. After two days of heavy snow and fog, …

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Zuma’s reluctant exit ushers in new S.African president

South Africa prepared to welcome wealthy former businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as its new president Thursday after scandal-tainted Jacob Zuma resigned under intense pressure from his own party. Zuma announced he had stepped down in a late-night television address in which he took some digs at the African National Congress (ANC) party that had pledged to oust him via a parliamentary …

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Thailand’s Mr Bean plays jails for laughs

(AFP) – With the signature red tie, brown blazer, briefcase and teddy bear, a Thai computer technician has become a national sensation through his uncanny Mr Bean impersonations that are tickling a country that loves slapstick comedy. Mongkol Preechajan, a 43-year-old father from Phuket with more than a passing resemblance to the British character played by Rowan Atkinson, shot to …

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Record number of Afghan civilian casualties due to attacks in 2017: UN

– Nearly 2,300 civilians were killed or wounded in suicide bombings and attacks in Afghanistan in 2017, more than any previous year of the conflict on record, a UN report said Thursday. The figures come as militants ramp up their assaults on urban areas, after US President Donald Trump said last August the American presence in Afghanistan would remain open-ended …

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Saudi cleric endorses Valentine’s Day as ‘positive event’

– A prominent Saudi cleric on Wednesday endorsed Valentine’s Day, long forbidden in the ultra-conservative kingdom, calling it a “positive social event” that was not linked to religion. The comment from Ahmed Qassim al-Ghamdi, former chief of the religious police in the holy city of Mecca, comes as 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pursues a far-reaching liberalisation drive that …

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