Russian FM: US threat to hit Damascus ‘unacceptable’
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says any threat from the United States to strike the Syrian capital, Damascus, is “unacceptable.”
Lavrov made the remarks in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Friday, where he and his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mevlut Cavusoglu, have gathered to address the situation in Syria.
According to Moscow, the US plans a strike on the city using a chemical attack staged by militants in its suburb of Eastern Ghouta as a pretext. It has warned it would respond if Russian interests were targeted.
Syria surrendered its chemical stockpiles in 2014 under the supervision of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
On Monday, Russia said the Syrian military has found a workshop used by foreign-backed militants to make chemical weapons in a recently-liberated area in the Eastern Ghouta.
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Gaza hospitals under emergency state due to medicine shortage
Hospitals in Gaza are operating under emergency state due to shortage of medicine, as Israel’s blockade on the Palestinian enclave is exacerbating the already dire conditions in the area.
Officials at Gaza Health Ministry told Press TV’s correspondent on Tuesday nearly half of the medicine stock across the enclave is finished and they have not been able to supply them due to the Israeli siege.
“The medical crisis has deteriorated, as sanctions on the ministry of health have intensified and closure of crossings prolonged. The ministry failed to attain the medicine it needs. The problem is unprecedented since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority which has always been working under emergency state,” Munir al-Barsh, a health ministry official, said.
Apart from the embargo, Israeli officials also deny travel permits for the patients who are in urgent need of leaving the enclave to seek medical treatment in the West Bank.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 54 patients died in 2017 for not obtaining Israeli travel permit.
The closure of the Egyptian Rafah Crossing also worsened the crisis in Gaza.
Russian military to respond if US strikes Syria: Senior general
A top Russian general says his country will respond to a US strike on Syria, targeting any missiles and launchers involved in such an attack, if the lives of Russian servicemen are threatened.
“There are many Russian advisers, representatives of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and servicemen in Damascus and at Syrian defense facilities,” the RIA news agency quoted head of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov as saying.
The warning came a day after US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Washington was ready to unilaterally “act” against Syria, just as it did last year when it bombed a Syrian government air base over allegations of a chemical weapons attack.
He said “the US plans to accuse the Syrian government troops of using chemical weapons, and to provide the world community with the so-called evidence of the alleged mass death of civilians at the hands of the Syrian government” and “Russia supporting it.”
Washington, he said, plans to launch a missile attack on government-held districts of the Syrian capital, Damascus, adding that Moscow has “reliable information about militants preparing to falsify a government chemical attack against civilians.”
According to Gerasimov, the militants have brought a crowd of civilians, including women and children, into Eastern Ghouta from other regions to represent them as victims of the planned chemical attack, while film and satellite video transmitters are already in place.
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Mattis warns Syria, Russia on chemical weapons deployment
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has warned the Syrian government against using chemical weapons implying it would prompt military consequences, as it did last year when US President Donald Trump ordered a strike on a Syrian air base.
“I just want to reiterate it would be very unwise for them to use weaponized gas,” Mattis told reporters while en route to Oman. “And I think President Trump made that very clear early in his administration.”
Speaking to reporters travelling with him on a trip to Oman, Mattis admitted he has no evidence to back up his statements. The Pentagon chief said there are many reports about Chlorine use or symptoms that could be a result of the gas.
United Nations experts are investigating reports of chlorine gas being used against civilians.
The US has been unable to verify the reports, but Mattis claimed they appeared to be credible and warranted concern. “We have made it very clear that it would be very unwise to use gas against people, civilians, on any battlefield,” he said on a military jet heading for Oman on Sunday.
“The president has full political maneuver room to take the decision that he believes appropriate.”
Knesset agrees on terms of apartheid ‘Israel for Jews’ bill: Report
Parties in the Knesset have reached an agreement on the terms of an apartheid bill which would define Israel as exclusively for Jews and makes it easier for the Tel Aviv regime to push ahead with its land grab policies as well as the plans to change the demographics of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.
According to a report by Al Jazeera on Thursday, Israeli lawmakers have endorsed the controversial draft law for first reading.
The proposed “Basic Law” was approved by the Israeli parliament’s justice committee this week, and is now expected to be fast-tracked in the legislature and on to the statute books in the coming weeks.
Amir Ohana, the committee’s chair, called it the “law of all laws,” while a cabinet minister termed it “Zionism’s flagship bill.”
The law, which is a redraft of an original bill in 2011, would exclude almost everyone other than the Jews from the right to governance in the entire occupied Palestinian territories. It demotes the status of the Arabic language and leaves Hebrew as the only official language of Israel.
The measure also enables the regime consolidate its illegal hold on East Jerusalem al-Quds and the occupied West Bank as it could introduce legislation based on the “Basic Law,” which allows annexation of more territories from the West Bank to Jerusalem al-Quds and to strip tens of thousands of Palestinians of their residency rights in the city.
Mattis defends US military support for Saudi war on Yemen
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has defended US military support for the Saudi Arabian-led war against Yemen and urged US lawmakers not to end Washington’s involvement in the devastating conflict.
Since last year, the administration of US President Donald Trump has been appearing to warn Saudi Arabia that concern in Congress over the humanitarian crisis and civilian casualties in Yemen could constrain US assistance.
Mattis claimed that the American assistance, which includes intelligence support and refueling of coalition jets, was ultimately aimed at bringing the war toward a negotiated settlement.
“We need to get this to a negotiated settlement, and we believe our policy right now is correct for doing this,” Mattis told reporters, as he flew back to Washington from the Middle East.
In a letter to Congress last year, Mattis said ending US military assistance to Riyadh would “jeopardize cooperation with our partners on counter-terrorism and reduce our influence with the Saudis.”
Since it began in 2015, the conflict has killed about 14,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven Yemen to the verge of widespread famine.
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Saudi cabinet approves atomic policy ahead of bin Salman’s US visit
Saudi Arabia’s cabinet has approved a national atomic energy policy, as the oil-rich kingdom tries to rationalize an ambitious plan to supposedly diversify its energy resources.
The policy, adopted on Tuesday, stipulates that Saudi nuclear facilities would only be used for peaceful purposes while ensuring maximum safety, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
It also attempts to address another major area of concern by recommending safer ways to manage radioactive waste, which can be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Tabled by Khalid Al-Falih, energy minister and chairman of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), the document called on all involved parties to uphold transparency in organizational and operational matters and follow safety and security measures through an independent monitoring system.
The policy announcement comes days ahead of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s scheduled trip to the United States, which is expected to revolve around nuclear cooperation with Washington.
After refusing to accept a so-called “golden standard” put forth by administration of former President Barack Obama, which barred the Saudis from enriching and reprocessing uranium, the Riyadh regime is now looking forward to getting what they want from President Donald Trump.
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