Al-Assad air-strikes in rebel-held area kill 17

At least 17 civilians were killed – four of them children – and more than 40 were injured on Saturday in a day of airstrikes in the Syrian region of Eastern Ghouta, according to the White Helmets volunteer rescue group. The same organization reported dozens of government airstrikes in the area, as the government accelerates its offensive to take control of the last rebel-held territories of the country.  These latest attacks, which have been backed by Moscow, began nine days ago.

The Syirian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, added to the White Helmets’ report that Sytian and Russian aircrafts had targeted several residential areas. It also stated that a coalition of rebels and jihadists had surrounded the only Syrian-regime base in Eastern Ghouta a few days ago.

In footage provided by the White Helmets, rescuers are seen digging through mounds of rubble to reach a man and a little girl. In other videos, residents are seen to scream as they try to escape heavily damaged buildings, while those injured are laid on stretchers and loaded onto vans to be treated. However, medical care is increasingly difficult to find in these rebel-held areas. In Eastern Ghouta, at least ten medical facilities – including a Women and Children’s hospital – have been hit by airstrikes over this nine-day period of bombing.

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Iranians hit the streets to protest

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets in order to protest against the difficult economic situation, rising fuel and food prices and corruption. Demonstrations began in the north-eastern city of Mashhad on Thursday evening and have since spread to several other major cities around the country. In Tehran, protests turned violent as students clashed with police. Two protesters have died of gunshot wounds.

According to experts, Iranians are angry because they expected life conditions to get better after the removal of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program in 2015. However, the economy has continued to sputter since then. Government policies haven’t helped either, as they have brought about higher unemployment and inflation, while the Iranian Administration is also viewed by the public as highly corrupt. Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said there’s also a growing push amongst citizens to secure equal rights for women.

This is the largest public display of discontent in Iran since the 2009 Green Movement. Experts say that this protest may be more of a civil rights movement than a revolutionary one, while it is also seen as a direct challenge to the rule of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. One resident of the Iranian capital claims to having witnessed a protester tearing down a poster of Khamenei near Tehran University.

Meanwhile, Iran’s answer has been to restrict access to several social media apps, and has warned that anti-government protesters who cause public disorder will ”pay the price”. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected to  speak in a pre-recorded address to the country on Sunday. 

Nine killed in armed attack on Coptic community in Egypt

At least seven people have been killed as two gunmen opened fire at St. Mina Coptic Church in the southern outskirts of Cairo, while two brothers had previously been killed by the same attackers in a Coptic-owned shop in the same area, according to Egypt’s interior ministry. This is just the latest in in a string of attacks on minority Coptic Christians in the country this year.

One of those killed in the church assault was a muslim policeman, who was shot during a cross-fire with the terrorists, while the rest were civilians. Five others were wounded, including two in critical condition, according to the Health Ministry. According to witnesses, one of the attackers was watching the road while the other started firing a machine gun just as the church services were finishing and people started exiting the religious building.

The Ministry of Interior said that one of the suspected attacker was 33-year-old Ibrahim Ismail Ismail Moustafa, who was known to have participated before in attacks on police men and civilians. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack late Friday in a statement from the ISIS-affiliated news agency Amaq.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi gave his condolences to the relatives of victims in a statement released by his office, where he reiterated the “determination to eliminate terrorism and extremism” from the country. Friday evening, crowds of Coptic Christians packed the Helwan district’s archbishopric to attend a funeral service for victims of the attack.

 

The interior ministry’s account differs from an earlier version of events given by Egypt’s health ministry. The initial report said 12 were dead, and suggested there were two attackers. It said one had been killed, and the other fled but was later captured.

Slave trade said to take place in Libya

An investigation recently exposed the modern day slave auctions which are taking place in Libya. Youn men from the West and Sub-Saharan Africa are being sold at slave markets as farm workers. Most of these migrants are travelling through the north african nation as they try to reach Europe, but end up being held by smugglers and forced to work for little or no money.

Although a commitee has been established by Libya’s Ministry of Foregin Affairs, a call for more support from the global community has been reiterated in order to tackle the issue. Meanwhile, Alpha Conde – African Union chairman – has expressed the need for “these modern slavery practices” to end, and has affirmed that the AU will use “all the tools at its disposal” to adress this problem.

A 34-year-old survivor who came from Senegal said he was taken to a dusty lot in the south Libyan city of Sabha after crossing the desert from Niger in a bus organised by people smugglers. The group was expecting to be taken to the coast, where they planned to risk a boat trip to Europe. In this square – the witness explained – several locals were buying sub-Saharan migrants. After his sale, the Senegalese migrant was taken to a makeshift prison, where other slaves where being held and forced to work without pay or on meagre rations. His captors then called up his family and asked for 300,000 west African francs (about $543), then sold him on to a larger jail where the demand doubled without explanation. His terrified family began scraping together loans and managed to pay his release. He was fortunate enough, as men who linger there too long without the ransom being paid were taken away and killed.

 

 

 

Attack on Egyptian mosque kills over 230

At least 235 people were killed and another 109 injured during an attack on a Sufi mosque in northern Egypt during Friday prayers. Sufism is practiced in the al-Rawda mosque, in the town of Bir al-Abed, which is a mystical branch of Islam that some ultra-orthodox Muslims – including ISIS – consider heretical. It appears to be the deadliest attack of its kind on Egyptian soil. No group has yet claimed the attack, but militants affiliated with so-called Islamic State have been responsible for numerous deadly attacks in the province recently.

Dozens of gunmen arrived in off-road vehicles and bombed the packed mosque before opening fire on worshippers as they tried to flee, according to witnesses. The assailants are reported to have set parked vehicles on fire in the vicinity to block off access to the mosque. Pictures from the scene show rows of bloodied victims inside the mosque.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi vowed to respond with “brute force” after talks with security officials. President Donald Trump called it a “horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless” worshippers in Egypt and said terrorism and its ideology must be defeated. UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron also gave their condolences on Twitter.

Mugabe resigns as President of Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe resigned from his position as Zimbabwean President on Tuesday after resisting efforts by the military, civilians and his own party. The decision came less than a week after the military coup which took over the reigns of the country and the decision by his own party to fire Mugabe as leader of Zanu-PF.

The resignation announcement came moments into a parliamentary meeting in Harare which had been called to impeach the now-former President. Impeachment proceedings were immediately suspended after the house speaker read out the letter from Robert Mugabe which made public his quitting. His successor is set to be former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sacked by Mugabe only a couple weeks ago.

Inside the Parliament, lawmakers broke out in thunderous applause. Meanwhile, in the streets outside, crowds erupted in celebrations, dancing and cheering in joy, raising their fists and waving Zimbabwean flags.

Zimbabwe’s ruling party fires Mugabe as leader

Only a few days after the military coup which took stripped Robert Mugabe from his position as President of the African nation, Zanu-PF has sacked the ninety-three year old as party leader. Instead, former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa – who had been sacked by Mugabe two weeks ago in an attempt to ease his wife’s move into power – has been appointed as new leader. The first lady, Grace Mugabe, has been expelled from the party altogether.

The decision was taken on Sunday during a Zanu-PF meeting. Reporters say that cheering erupted as the resolution was announced. The move has yet to be formalised, but it further increases the pressure on Mugabe that has been building over the past few days. There are now suggestions which call to impeach him as president if he does not resign voluntarily.