Iraq conducts 1st flight with coalition at Syria border

            By Ibrahim Salih and Ali Muhammed</p>  <p>BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraqi F-16 fighter jets conducted their first flight alongside the U.S.-led coalition against Daesh above the Iraqi-Syrian border, the Iraqi Air Force said early Saturday.</p>  <p>The statement said the flight was part of a defensive mission.</p>  <p>It added that it was aimed at increasing the capabilities of the Iraqi Air Force.</p>  <p>Gen. Brook Leonard, the coalition's director of air operations, was quoted in the statement as saying that the Iraqi Air Force was continuing to build up its capabilities.</p>  <p>He said advisors from the coalition are working with their Iraqi counterparts to coordinate operations against the Daesh terrorist organization.</p>  <p>The Iraqi government announced in December 2017 that its war against Daesh was over and the territories it controlled had been seized.</p>  <p>*Writing by Fatih Hafiz Mehmet</p>  <p> 

UPDATE – Trump vetoes resolution on ending US support in Yemen

            ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT </p>  <p>By Servet Gunerigok</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump vetoed a resolution Tuesday that called for the U.S. to end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.  </p>  <p>&quot;This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,&quot; Trump said in a statement.</p>  <p>The move was the second veto of Trump’s presidency.</p>  <p>The legislation was originally introduced in the Senate and co-sponsored by presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, invoking the War Powers resolution, a federal law that gives Congress the power to check the president when committing the U.S. to an armed conflict.</p>  <p>The House passed a similar resolution on Yemen in February, but it was not able to reach the Senate due to a procedural issue.</p>  <p>On Twitter, Sanders said he was &quot;disappointed, but not surprised&quot; at the veto. </p>  <p>&quot;The people of Yemen desperately need humanitarian help, not more bombs. I am disappointed, but not surprised, that Trump has rejected the bi-partisan resolution to end U.S. involvement in the horrific war in Yemen,&quot; Sanders tweeted.</p>  <p> &quot;From a president elected on the promise of putting a stop to our endless wars, this veto is a painful missed opportunity,&quot; said Rep. Ro Khanna. </p>  <p>Khanna called the resolution a major win, saying &quot;It sends a clear signal to the Saudis that they need to lift their blockade and allow humanitarian assistance into Yemen if they care about their relationship with Congress.&quot;</p>  <p>Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition against Yemen's Houthi rebels since 2015, when Riyadh and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains that began in 2014. </p>  <p>The campaign has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure, including its health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe it as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times.</p>  <p>The bill also served as a sharp criticism of the Trump administration's stance on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed shortly after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 last year.</p>  <p>Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of his whereabouts but following a rising number of contradictions in its narrative sought to blame the journalist's death on a botched rendition operation being carried out by rogue agents. </p>  <p>That explanation fell flat for many, including congressional leaders, who insist Khashoggi's high-profile murder could not have been carried out without Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's blessing, especially after the CIA reportedly determined with high confidence in November that bin Salman ordered the killing.</p>  <p>*Michael Hernandez contributed to the story

Trump vetoes resolution on ending US support in Yemen

            By Servet Gunerigok</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump vetoed a resolution Tuesday that called for the U.S. to end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.  </p>  <p>&quot;This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,&quot; Trump said in a statement.</p>  <p>Tuesday's move is the second veto of Trump’s presidency.</p>  <p>The legislation was originally introduced in the Senate and co-sponsored by presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, invoking the War Powers resolution, a federal law that gives Congress the power to check the president when committing the U.S. to an armed conflict.</p>  <p>The House passed a similar resolution on Yemen in February, but it was not able to reach the Senate due to a procedural issue.</p>  <p>Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition against Yemen's Houthi rebels since 2015, when Riyadh and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains that began in 2014. </p>  <p>The campaign has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure, including its health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe it as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times.</p>  <p> 

Israel:Parliamentary polls closed, coalition leads vote

             By Anees Barghouthi</p>    <p>JERUSALEM (AA) - Some 65 percent of Israeli voters cast ballots on Tuesday in the parliamentary election, said the electoral commission.</p>    <p>With polls closed in the Knesset voting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party lost against the Blue and White coalition led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid 37-33, according to Israeli Channel 12.</p>    <p>Meanwhile, Channel 11 said the coalition acquired 37 seats, while the Likud Party hold 36.</p>    <p>However, Channel 13 reported that each gained 36 seats at the parliament.</p>    <p>The voting took place at 10,720 polling stations across the country, while 96 stations at Israeli embassies and consulates abroad were also open for voting, according to the country's electoral commission.</p>    <p>There were 6.3 million eligible voters in Israel, according to the country's electoral commission.</p>    <p>More than 40 political parties vied to win seats at the 120-member Knesset, although only 12 parties are expected to pass the electoral threshold.

US, UK arms kill more than 200 Yemeni civilians: Report

            By Servet Gunerigok</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The Saudi- and United Arab Emirates-led coalition has killed more than 200 people, including women and children, using U.S. and British-made weapons in Yemen, said a report Wednesday. </p>  <p>The report, &quot;Day of Judgment: The Role of the US and Europe in Civilian Death, Destruction, and Trauma in Yemen&quot; was prepared by the U.S.-based University Network for Human Rights and the Yemeni human rights group Mwatana.</p>  <p>The 128-page investigation documented 27 &quot;apparently unlawful&quot; attacks on civilians carried out by the coalition between April 2015 and April 2018.</p>  <p>&quot;These twenty-seven airstrikes killed at least 203 people and injured at least 749. At least 122 children and at least 56 women were among the dead and wounded,&quot; said the report. </p>  <p>&quot;Many of the attacks appeared to take place far from any potential military target. Others caused harm to civilians that vastly outweighed any likely military benefit,&quot; it said, adding the coalition forces had not taken adequate precautions to minimize harm to civilians. </p>  <p>According to the report, U.S.-made munitions, including cluster bombs, had likely been used in 25 attacks and UK-made munitions, including Paveway IV and &quot;Hakim&quot; precision guided bombs, in five of the attacks.</p>  <p> It said 16 attacks were on civilian gatherings, civilian homes and a civilian boat; five attacks were on educational and health facilities; five attacks were on civilian businesses; and one attack was on a government cultural center.  </p>  <p>&quot;These cases reinforce prior evidence demonstrating that the Saudi/UAE-led Coalition is failing to fulfill its obligations under the laws of war and repeatedly using U.S. weapons in apparently disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks,&quot; said the report. </p>  <p>The release comes weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation that would require President Donald Trump to halt U.S. assistance for the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen. </p>  <p>Also in February, an all-party committee of the House of Lords concluded in a report that the British government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful.  </p>  <p>Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains. </p>  <p>Since then, tens of thousands of Yemenis, including numerous civilians, are believed to have been killed in the conflict, while another 14 million are now at risk of starvation, according to the UN.

Yesh Atid, L'Yisrael to enter Israel poll on joint list

            JERUSALEM (AA) – Israel’s Yesh Atid and Hosen L’Yisrael parties on Thursday announced plans to contest upcoming elections slated for April on a joint list, according to local media reports.<br>

The list is expected to be led by former army chief Benny Gantz (Hosen L’Yisrael); former Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid); former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Hosen L’Yisrael); and former army chief Gabi Ashkenazi.

“Out of a spirit of national responsibility, we have decided to form a united list that will become Israel's new ruling party,” Gantz, Lapid and Ya'alon said in a joint statement issued Thursday.

If their list succeeds at the polls, Gantz would serve as prime minister until late 2021 while Ya'alon would be given the defense portfolio, according to The Jerusalem post.

Afterwards, the newspaper surmised, Lapid would assume the premiership while Gantz would take on the role of defense minister.

Daesh’s territorial defeat not end of fight: Coalition

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The elimination of Daesh's control of territory in Iraq and Syria, while significant, does not mark the end of the fight against the terror group, ministers from member countries of the U.S.-led coalition said in a joint statement Wednesday. </p>  <p>The group hailed military successes against Daesh but noted they have come &quot;at tremendous cost&quot; while emphasizing that &quot;further engagement is needed in Iraq and Syria, where the terrorist group is still resilient&quot;.</p>  <p>&quot;ISIS’s leadership, affiliates, and its supporters view its territorial losses in Iraq and Syria as a setback, not as defeat,&quot; it said, using another name for Daesh. </p>  <p>&quot;In response, ISIS increasingly turns to insurgent tactics to try to destabilize Syria and Iraq. In parallel, ISIS focuses on increasing support to its worldwide branches and networks in order to carry forward the fight from more permissive locations, and on inspiring homegrown terrorists.&quot;</p>  <p>The statement follows the release of a UN report warning that Daesh is transforming its operations into covert networks in Iraq and Syria following military defeats in the two countries.</p>  <p>&quot;One document obtained by a Member State describes ISIL’s objectives for the post-caliphate period: to undermine stabilization and reconstruction activities, target infrastructure rebuilding efforts and in general thwart economic progress,&quot; it said.</p>  <p>The group's &quot;center of gravity&quot; is expected to remain in Syria and Iraq, where it counts 14,000 to 18,000 militants in its ranks, as well as financial reserves ranging between $50 million and $300 million.</p>  <p>The coalition stressed it remains committed to working with the Iraqi government in order to &quot;continue denying ISIS sanctuary, preventing ISIS from dispersing its fighters, weapons, or resources and targeting ISIS facilitation networks&quot;.</p>  <p>It further said it stands with the Syrian people in seeking a UN-facilitated political transition and said it supports local recovery and stabilization efforts in the country &quot;where possible&quot; in areas liberated from Daesh.  

UPDATE – Trump: End of Daesh territory to be announced next week

            ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT</p>  <p>By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The formal end to Daesh's territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria is likely to be announced as soon as next week, President Donald Trump said Wednesday as U.S. partners fight to rid the terror group from its final bastions in Syria. </p>  <p>The president made the announcement at a convening of over 70 of the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition's foreign ministers in Washington. </p>  <p>&quot;The ISIS caliphate has been decimated,&quot; Trump said at the meeting, using another name for Daesh. </p>  <p>He warned, however, that even as the group loses the last remnants of its territories, holdout Daesh operatives still in the region will continue to pose a threat. </p>  <p>&quot;Rest assured, we will do what it takes to defeat every ounce, and every last person within the ISIS madness,&quot; he said. </p>  <p>During the meeting, the top diplomats of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. issued a joint statement stressing the &quot;concerted need for diplomacy and international political will&quot; led by the UN to end the Syrian conflict.</p>  <p>&quot;We affirm in the strongest terms that those who seek to destabilize the region or seek a military solution will only succeed in increasing the risk of a dangerous escalation and wider conflagration in the region,&quot; the countries said. </p>  <p>The comments came as the UN released its report on the terror group, warning Daesh is transforming its operations into covert networks in Iraq and Syria following military defeats in the two countries.</p>  <p>&quot;One document obtained by a Member State describes ISIL’s objectives for the post-caliphate period: to undermine stabilization and reconstruction activities, target infrastructure rebuilding efforts and in general thwart economic progress,&quot; it said.</p>  <p>The group's &quot;center of gravity&quot; is expected to remain in Syria and Iraq, where it counts 14,000 to 18,000 militants in its ranks, as well as financial reserves ranging between $50 million and $300 million.</p>  <p>Trump announced the &quot;rapid&quot; withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria in December, claiming then that the global coalition had succeeded in defeating Daesh, his &quot;only reason for being&quot; there.</p>  <p>Amid pushback from within his administration and from key U.S. lawmakers, he later signaled a &quot;slow &amp; highly coordinated pullout&quot; from the war-torn country.</p>  <p>The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that rebukes Trump over the planned Syria withdrawal, claiming the exit could allow al-Qaeda and Daesh to regroup. </p>  <p>The bill still has to pass in the House of Representatives, where Democrats currently in control of the chamber are split over an amendment that protects states who penalize businesses that support a Palestinian-led boycott and divestment movement against Israel.</p>  <p>State laws aimed at doing so in the past have directly impacted individual citizens in addition to businesses, most notably in Texas, where people seeking aid following Hurricane Harvey were forced to sign an anti-boycott pledge in order to receive assistance.</p>  <p>Texas, and other states like it, has a law on the books barring agencies from doing work with contractors who boycott Israel. The state, however, classified aid seekers as contractors, forcing them to sign the anti-boycott pledge.

Trump: End of Daesh territory to be announced next week

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The formal end to Daesh's territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria is likely to be announced as soon as next week, President Donald Trump said Wednesday as U.S. partners fight to rid the terror group from its final bastions in Syria. </p>  <p>The president made the announcement at a convening of the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition's foreign ministers in Washington. </p>  <p>&quot;The ISIS caliphate has been decimated,&quot; Trump said at the meeting, using another name for Daesh. </p>  <p>He warned, however, that even as the group looses the last remnants of its territories, holdout Daesh operatives still in the region will continue to pose a threat. </p>  <p>&quot;Rest assured we will do what it takes to defeat every ounce, and every last person within the ISIS madness,&quot; he said. </p>  <p><br>

Lawmakers launch new push to end US-supported Yemen war

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers of Congress reintroduced legislation Wednesday that could halt U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. </p>  <p>The war powers resolution already passed the Senate in December but failed to gain traction in the then-Republican-controlled House, which has since changed hands. </p>  <p>It is not only a challenge to President Donald Trump, who would be forced to issue the first veto of his administration if he wishes to continue U.S. aid for the Saudi campaign without explicit congressional authorization but is also part of a congressional rebuke of Saudi Arabia for its killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. </p>  <p>Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, Republican Senator Mike Lee and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders reintroduced the legislation, which is guaranteed a vote in the Senate. Democratic Representatives Ro Khanna, Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal have also worked to support the joint resolution. </p>  <p>At issue for the lawmakers is not only the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Yemen, where millions are at risk of starvation, but the Constitution's separation of powers. </p>  <p>&quot;We are going to send a strong signal to the president that the U.S. Congress is prepared to play the role designed for us by the framers of the Constitution,&quot; Sanders said in a statement. </p>  <p>Washington has so far supported the Saudi-led coalition's war against Yemen's Houthi rebels through mid-air refueling operations, arms sales, intelligence sharing and target identification. </p>  <p>The resolution would force the U.S. to halt its support within 30 days unless Congress authorizes it.</p>  <p>The legislation is likely to pass in the House of Representatives if it clears the Republican-controlled Senate, where the party picked up an additional two seats during November's midterm elections. </p>  <p>The resolution never received a vote in the House after it cleared the Senate last year because former Speaker Paul Ryan refused to bring it to the floor. </p>  <p>This time, it does have the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said Congress has a responsibility to oversee the use of U.S. military force and called the war in Yemen &quot;a permanent stain on the conscience of the world&quot;.</p>  <p>&quot;The United States must also work to advance a peaceful, enduring political solution to the conflict and end the humanitarian crisis,&quot; she said. </p>  <p>If Trump does have to issue a veto to stop the latest effort, lawmakers would have to support it with a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override the presidential action.