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UK snow: Amber warning issued across large parts of country

Posted by Warren Fyfe on December 10, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionA drone captured scenic views over Cefnpennar in north Wales

More snow is hitting the UK with an amber weather warning issued across large parts of the country.

The Met Office says there will be heavy snow across Wales, the Midlands, northern and eastern England, warning that rural areas could become “cut off”.

It predicts around 10cm will fall, with up to 20cm on higher ground.

Warnings are also in place for snow in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and for high winds in the south.

Southern parts of England and Wales face heavy rain and gale force winds of up to 70mph (112km/h), the Met Office said, with icy surfaces likely to be an “additional hazard”.

Temperatures are also likely to reach lows of -10C (14F) in some parts of Scotland and Wales, falling to as low as -14C (6.8F) in isolated rural areas.

Highways England has asked drivers to prepare for “any eventuality”, making sure to have warm clothing, food, drink, required medications, boots, a shovel and a torch if venturing out.

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Traffic Scotland also advised drivers to increase their stopping distances in the icy conditions and take a de-icer and scraper with them.

In the Midlands, many motorways are already covered in snow, with local police forces asking people to only travel if absolutely necessary.

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Trump’s Jerusalem move: Arab allies attack decision

Posted by Warren Fyfe on December 10, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionJerusalem: The view from one street

Arab officials say US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital risks plunging the Middle East into “violence and chaos”.

The move ended US neutrality on one of the region’s most sensitive issues.

Arab League foreign ministers now say it means the US cannot be relied upon as a broker of Middle East peace.

The statement by 22 countries, including close US allies, comes after a third day of violence and protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel has always regarded Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

For Mr Trump the decision fulfils a campaign promise and he has said it was “nothing more or less than a recognition of reality”.

But he has faced fierce criticism for the decision.

The Arab League resolution was agreed at 03:00 (01:00 GMT) after hours of talks in Cairo. It was backed by a number of US allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, who had already voiced their concern.

The resolution said:

  • The US had “withdrawn itself as a sponsor and broker” of any possible Israeli-Palestinian peace process through its decision
  • Mr Trump’s move “deepens tension, ignites anger and threatens to plunge region into more violence and chaos”
  • A request would be made for the UN Security Council to condemn the move

At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday, the US found itself isolated, with the other 14 members all condemning Mr Trump’s declaration.

But US ambassador Nikki Haley accused the UN of bias, saying it “has outrageously been one of the world’s foremost centres of hostility towards Israel”, and that the US was still committed to finding peace.

Media captionAnalysis: Breaking down what Mr Trump said and what it means for peace

On Saturday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had heard “voices of condemnation over President Trump’s historic announcement” but had “not heard any condemnation for the rocket firing against Israel that has come and the awful incitement against us”.

He will be in Paris on Sunday for talks with President Emmanuel Macron, ahead of meetings with EU foreign ministers on Monday.

Three rockets were fired towards Israel from Gaza on Friday, leading Israel to carry out air strikes in response. It said it hit military sites belonging to the Islamist group Hamas, killing two of its members.

Hundreds protested in the West Bank and Gaza on Saturday, but crowds were smaller than in previous days.

In northern Israel a bus was pelted with rocks as it passed through mostly Arab communities, with three Israelis injured, Haaretz reported.

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AFP/Getty Images

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Clashes occurred in the West Bank town of Nablus on Saturday

Thousands of Palestinians had protested on Friday, with solidarity demonstrations held across the Arab world and in other Muslim-majority nations.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday: “Our hope is that everything is calming down and that we are returning to a path of normal life.”

Why Jerusalem is so important

Jerusalem is of huge importance to both Israel and the Palestinians. It contains sites sacred to the three major monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Israel occupied the eastern sector – previously occupied by Jordan – in 1967, and annexed it in 1980, but the move has never been recognised internationally.

Media captionWhy the city of Jerusalem matters

Some 330,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem, along with about 200,000 Israeli Jews in a dozen settlements there. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel does not regard them as settlements but legitimate neighbourhoods.

According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

The last round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014 and while the US is formulating fresh proposals, Palestinian officials have said Mr Trump’s announcement has disqualified the US from brokering future negotiations.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-42297437

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Israel strikes Gaza Hamas sites after rocket attacks

Posted by Warren Fyfe on December 9, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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AFP

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At least 25 people were injured in the first air strikes on Gaza, Palestinian health officials said

Israel says it has targeted a number of sites belonging to militant group Hamas in retaliation for rocket strikes.

The Israeli military says it hit a weapons manufacturing site and an ammunition store early on Saturday.

Three rockets were fired from Gaza to Israel in the past day, with one hitting the southern city of Sderot.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have increased since US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Wednesday’s decision reversed decades of US neutrality on the matter.

Israel has always regarded Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Media captionOn Friday, crowds gathered in Jerusalem’s Old City to protest against Mr Trump’s decision

In the latest developments:

  • Two Palestinian men died after Israeli troops fired on crowds in Gaza during clashes on Friday
  • Israel said it intercepted one missile, another was found on wasteland and another landed in Sderot late on Friday, though no casualties were reported
  • Israel’s air force conducted a number of raids on Hamas sites on Friday – the Palestinian Health Ministry told AFP that 25 people were injured
  • More air strikes were conducted in the early hours of Saturday, hours after the missile hit Sderot. The full extent of the damage is not yet clear

Earlier on Friday, Fathi Hammad, a senior Hamas leader, said anyone seeking to move their embassy to Jerusalem was “an enemy of the Palestinians”.

Speaking before the United Nations on Friday, US ambassador Nikki Haley said the US “recognises the obvious; that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel”.

She said the US continued to be “committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement”, and accused the UN of bias, saying it “has outrageously been one of the world’s foremost centres of hostility towards Israel”.

Media captionUS ambassador Nikki Haley calls UN hostile to Israel

“Israel will never be, and never should be, bullied into an agreement by the United Nations or by any collection of countries that have proven their disregard for Israel’s security,” Mrs Haley said.

Israel had deployed extra battalions to the West Bank in anticipation of violence after Palestinian leaders called for protests after Friday prayers.

At least 217 Palestinians were wounded in confrontations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Palestinian medics said.

Elsewhere, demonstrations against Mr Trump’s announcement have spread.

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters held demonstrations in Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Tunisia and Iran.

Further afield, protesters rallied in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indian-administered Kashmir and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

Why does Trump’s announcement matter?

Media captionWhy the city of Jerusalem matters

Jerusalem is of huge importance to both Israel and the Palestinians. It contains sites sacred to the three major monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Israel occupied the eastern sector – previously occupied by Jordan – in 1967, and annexed it in 1980, but the move has never been recognised internationally.

Some 330,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem, along with about 200,000 Israeli Jews in a dozen settlements there. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel does not regard them as settlements but legitimate neighbourhoods.

According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

The last round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014 and while the US is formulating fresh proposals, Palestinian officials have said Mr Trump’s announcement has disqualified the US from brokering future negotiations.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-42291071

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UK snow: Ice could add to travel disruption as temperatures drop

Posted by Warren Fyfe on December 9, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionDrivers face difficult driving conditions across Northern Ireland

Snow is continuing to fall in many parts of the UK, amid warnings that icy conditions overnight could cause travel delays and “cut off” some rural areas.

The Met Office said snow showers would continue to affect parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, northern England and parts of the Midlands.

Hundreds of properties are still without power in the West Midlands.

The Met has yellow “be aware” warnings for parts of the country, with an amber “be prepared” alert in place on Sunday.

On Sunday “there is a good chance that some rural communities could become cut off”, the Met Office said.

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Met Office

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The Met Office’s yellow weather warning for snow and ice on Saturday

More than 300 homes and businesses are without power in the West Midlands, while electricity supplies were restored in parts of Scotland, where 18,000 households had been affected.

Highways officials have reported “hazardous” driving conditions and police in Shropshire in the West Midlands advised against driving unless “absolutely necessary”.

Arriva Trains Wales is advising passengers to check before travelling on Saturday, and ScotRail warned its customers to “be careful”.

Earlier, drivers were stuck in their cars for hours in freezing temperatures on the M5 near Cullompton, Devon, due to a backlog as police moved a man from a bridge.

Across the UK:

Media captionSnowy scenes in parts of the UK
  • The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry, Shropshire, is appealing for 4×4 drivers to help transport nursing and clinical staff over the weekend
  • Schools across the UK were closed – including all schools in Orkney, Shetland, 172 schools in Wales and more than 350 in the West Midlands
  • A coastguard helicopter carrying engineers was deployed to help restore power to North Ronaldsay, Orkney’s northernmost island
  • Up to 20cm of snow is expected in Northern Ireland and the Rathlin ferry service has also been cancelled
  • Earlier delays on the A49 near Shrewsbury have cleared, after police dealt with multiple breakdowns, while a severe accident on the M6 Staffordshire southbound caused disruption

Temperatures are likely to reach lows of -6C (21F) in some parts of Scotland and Wales, particularly in rural areas and where there is lying snow.

A yellow warning is the lowest level issued by the Met Office, rising in severity through amber to red for the most severe weather.

The Met Office said 2-5cm (1-2in) of snow was likely across some parts of the UK, with up to 20cm (8in) possible in northern Scotland, Northern Ireland, north Wales and the northwest Midlands.

It said icy surfaces were likely to be an “additional hazard”.

Media captionLouise Lear explains the potential impact of Sunday’s forecast snow

“Impacts include possible travel delays on roads stranding some vehicles and passengers with possible delays and cancellations to rail and air travel.”

About 8cm (3in) of snow had fallen in Aviemore, in the Highlands on Friday, while parts of Northern Ireland, Wales and areas to the west of the Pennines also had snowfalls.

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Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

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The Maritime and Coastguard Agency take engineers via helicopter to North Ronaldsay in a bid to restore power there

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Paddy Chambers

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A HGV overturned on a steep road in Rosedale Abbey in the North York Moors

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PA

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Drivers are being advised to take care following a number of collisions

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Some children in Northern Ireland made it to school, while snow caused closures in other parts

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The Met Office said “increasingly frequent” snow showers were affecting parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England

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Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

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Working conditions have been difficult for wind farm workers travelling between Stronelairg and Melgarve in Scotland

“The heaviest and most frequent snow showers will progressively become confined to north-east Scotland during Saturday,” the Met Office warning added.

It put a more severe amber warning in place for Sunday, with heavy snow expected to disrupt public transport links in parts of Wales, the Midlands and northern England.

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Brexit: Michael Gove says UK voters can change final deal

Posted by Warren Fyfe on December 9, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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EPA

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Michael Gove says: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”

Voters can use the next general election to have their say on a final Brexit deal, Michael Gove has said.

The environment secretary praised Theresa May’s “tenacity and skill” in securing a last-minute deal to end phase one negotiations on Friday.

But, writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said if British people “dislike the arrangement”, they can change it.

Reports suggest the cabinet will meet on 19 December to discuss its “end state” plans for Brexit.

This is just two days before Parliament’s two-week Christmas recess.

Mr Gove, one of the cabinet’s leading Brexiteers, said the primary agreement between the two sides had “set the scene for phase two” negotiations – where issues such as trade will be discussed.

But he said that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” at the end of the process, and the British people would then “be in control” to make the government change direction if they were unhappy.

“By the time of the next election, EU law and any new treaty with the EU will cease to have primacy or direct effect in UK law,” said Mr Gove.

“If the British people dislike the arrangement that we have negotiated with the EU, the agreement will allow a future government to diverge.”

The next general election is currently due to be held in 2022, three years after the UK leaves the EU.

However, it could be sooner if the prime minister calls one, and MPs agree to it, or if the government collapses.

‘Breakthrough’

Friday’s deal between Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed on three key aspects:

  • No “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic
  • The rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU to live, work and study will be protected. The agreement includes reunification rights for relatives who do not live in the UK to join them in their host country in the future
  • The so-called “divorce bill” will amount to between £35bn and £39bn, Downing Street sources say. This includes budget contributions during a two-year “transition” period after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019

Mr Juncker said it was a “breakthrough” and he was confident EU leaders would approve it at a European Council summit next week.

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Reuters

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Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker agreed a deal early on Friday

Talks can then move onto a transition deal to cover a period of up to two years after Brexit and the “framework for the future relationship” – preliminary discussions about a future trade deal.

However, the EU says a deal can only be finalised once the UK has left the EU.

A final withdrawal treaty and transition deal will have to be ratified by the EU nations and the UK Parliament, before the UK leaves.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose opposition on Monday led to talks breaking down, said there was still “more work to be done” on the border issue and how it votes on the final deal “will depend on its contents”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42291191

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California wildfires: Nearly 200,000 flee amid new blaze

Posted by Warren Fyfe on December 8, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site
Media captionFootage captures the moment a motorist risked his life to rescue a wild animal amid California wildfires

Nearly 200,000 residents have now been evacuated due to California wildfires as crews pivot to fight a new blaze.

Some 5,000 firefighters have been battling four brushfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes in the south of the state.

The number of evacuees nearly quadrupled on Thursday as a fifth fire broke out north of San Diego.

One death has been reported so far – a woman’s body was found in a burned-out area in Ventura County.

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But an official told the Ventura Country Star newspaper that the death in the town of Ojai may have been a car crash and it’s unclear if it was fire-related.

By Thursday afternoon local time, California’s fire service said the blaze had forced the evacuation of 189,000 residents.

The newest blaze, the Lilac fire, has scorched at least 2,500 acres (1,000 hectares), the state fire authority said on Twitter.

California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in the area.

A Reuters news agency photographer at the scene described seeing propane tanks under houses explode like bombs.

The White House said it was in contact with Californian authorities and ready to offer whatever help is needed.

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EPA

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Firefighters rescued both a work of art and the family Christmas tree from this Bel-Air home

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AFP

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Most homes in Bel Air cost millions of dollars

Authorities have issued a purple alert – the highest level warning – amid what it called “extremely critical fire weather”.

The powerful desert-heated Santa Ana winds have been fanning the flames.

The University of California, Los Angeles cancelled all classes on Thursday.

Though its campus lies outside the evacuation zone on the city’s west side, it said it took the decision “given the array of uncertainties”.

Media captionIn California, entire neighbourhoods are fleeing

One in four schools in Los Angeles were also closed.

In the wealthy Los Angeles enclave of Bel Air, firefighters were seen removing artwork from luxury homes on Wednesday as the Skirball Fire raged.

The neighbourhood is home to celebrities and business leaders from Beyonce to Elon Musk.

Singer Lionel Richie cancelled a Las Vegas performance for Wednesday evening, saying he was “helping family evacuate to a safer place”.

An estate and vineyard owned by Rupert Murdoch also suffered some damage.

The media mogul said in a statement: “We believe the winery and house are still intact.”

The Los Angeles Times said Mr Murdoch paid nearly $30m (£22m) for the property four years ago.

The Getty Museum, which is also at risk, said it would remain closed on Thursday.

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It said it had not removed its artworks and that air filtration systems were protecting its collection – including pieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh and Turner – from smoke damage.

The Thomas Fire in Ventura County remains the largest, having spread as far as the Pacific coast, and satellite images showing swathes of scorched earth.

Another blaze north of Los Angeles, the Creek Fire, was only 10% contained and covered some 12,605 acres.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42263237

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Trump’s Jerusalem move: US warns against scrapping Abbas talks

Posted by Warren Fyfe on December 8, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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AFP/Getty Images

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“Pence you are not welcome”, says graffiti in the West Bank city of Bethlehem

The US has warned Palestinians against cancelling talks with Vice-President Mike Pence, after Washington recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

It would be “counterproductive” to scrap talks between Mr Pence and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planned later this month, the US said.

A senior Palestinian official earlier said Mr Pence would not be welcome.

President Donald Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem this week reversed decades of US policy on Jerusalem’s status.

Media captionThe Israeli army fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds as Palestinian protesters burned tyres and threw stones in protests on Thursday

On Thursday, at least 31 Palestinians were wounded in clashes in the Gaza Strip and across the occupied West Bank.

Anger in the West Bank and delight in West Jerusalem

The clashes were triggered by Mr Trump’s policy shift. More protests are expected in Palestinian territories on Friday.

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has already called for a new intifada, or uprising.

Israel has deployed hundreds of extra troops in the West Bank.

Many of Washington’s closest allies have said they disagree with the US policy shift, and both the UN Security Council and the Arab League will meet in the coming days to decide their response.

How did a row about the Abbas-Pence talks develop?

On Thursday, the White House said the vice-president planned to hold the meeting as planned.

Mr Pence “still intends to meet Mr Abbas and Palestinian leaders and thinks any decision to pull out of the meeting would be counterproductive,” a White House official said.

During his visit – scheduled for the second half of December – Mr Pence will also visit Israel and Egypt.

Earlier in the day, Jibril Rajoub, a senior official in Mr Abbas’ Fatah party, said Mr Pence was “not welcome” in the Palestinian territories.

Mr Rajoub added that the meeting with the Palestinian leader would not take place.

Mr Abbas has not personally commented on the issue.

Why did Trump reverse US policy?

Mr Trump announced the move on Wednesday. The US president said: “I’ve judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

He said he was directing the US state department to begin preparations to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Media captionAnalysis: Breaking down what Mr Trump said and what it means for peace

Despite warnings of regional unrest over any such move, the decision fulfils a campaign promise and appeals to Mr Trump’s right-wing base.

Recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was “nothing more or less than a recognition of reality”, he added. “It is also the right thing to do.”

Mr Trump said the US would support a two-state solution – shorthand for a final settlement that would see the creation of an independent Palestinian state within pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, living peacefully alongside Israel – “if agreed to by both sides”.

The president also refrained from using Israel’s description of Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided capital”. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

What has been the reaction?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was profoundly grateful to Mr Trump, who had “bound himself forever with the history of the capital”.

He also said Israel was “in touch with other countries to follow suit”. He did not name any of these countries, although the Philippines and the Czech Republic have been mentioned in Israeli media.

The White House said it was not aware of any countries planning to follow Mr Trump’s lead.

The mood has been very different on the Palestinian side.

The leader of Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, has called for a “day of rage” on Friday and said it should “be the first day of the intifada against the occupier”.

Hamas members would be “fully ready” to “confront this strategic danger”, Ismail Haniya said in a speech in Gaza.

Media captionHamas leader Ismail Haniya said the announcement was a “declaration of war”

Meanwhile, the Fatah party is seeking to protest through diplomatic means, by filing a complaint to the UN Security Council and pushing for a strong stance by the Arab League.

“We are going to declare the United States disqualified as co-sponsor of any peace process or political process,” spokesman Dr Nasser Al-Kidwa said. “In our mind, it has lost its ability to do or perform any efforts in this regard.”

  • Which countries condemned Trump’s move?

There has also been widespread condemnation across the Arab and wider Muslim world, with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning Mr Trump that he was “throwing the region into a ring of fire”.

The leaders of the UK, France and Germany have all said they disagree with the US announcement.

Why is the announcement significant?

Jerusalem is of huge importance to both Israel and the Palestinians. It contains sites sacred to the three major monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.

East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, was annexed by Israel after the Six Day War of 1967, but before now it has not been internationally recognised as part of Israel.

According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-42274946

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Irish border: May in Brussels for crucial Brexit meeting

Posted by Warren Fyfe on December 8, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Reuters

Theresa May has arrived in Brussels following overnight talks on the issue of the Irish border.

The PM and Brexit Secretary David Davis are meeting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU negotiator Michel Barnier.

Details of an agreement are expected to be set out at a joint news conference within the hour.

If the border question has been settled, talks can move on to the future of trade after Brexit.

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg was told last night that there were “serious ideas” on the table that the different parties were broadly content with.

Additional wording is understood to have been added to reassure the DUP, whose opposition on Monday led to talks breaking down.

The leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster, said on Friday she was “pleased” to see changes which mean there is “no red line down the Irish sea”.

On Thursday evening, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas tweeted: “We are making progress, but not yet fully there,” adding: “Tonight more than ever, stay tuned.”

In the early hours of Friday, the prime minister’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, tweeted: “Home for 3 hours sleep then back to work”, without offering any further details.

All sides want progress on the issue ahead of a crucial summit next week, so talks can move on to the future relationship between the UK and the EU after Brexit.

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PA

What happens to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been among the key sticking points in Brexit negotiations.

On Monday, the DUP – whose support the UK prime minister needs to win key votes in Westminster – objected to draft plans drawn up by the UK and the EU.

They included aligning regulations in Northern Ireland with those in the Republic so as to avoid border checks.

The DUP insists it will not accept any agreement in which Northern Ireland was treated differently from the rest of the UK.

The Republic of Ireland, on the other hand, which is an EU member, wants a guarantee that there will be no hard border between it and Northern Ireland after Brexit.

The UK, which is due to leave the EU in March 2019, wants to open talks on a new free trade deal as soon as possible.

The EU will only agree to discuss this when it judges that enough progress has been made on the “separation issues” – the “divorce bill”, expat citizens’ rights and the Northern Ireland border – that have been the subject of negotiations so far.

So the UK is trying to settle the Northern Ireland border issue before EU leaders meet next week.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42276189

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British IS fighters ‘should not be allowed back into the UK’

Posted by Warren Fyfe on December 7, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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Reuters

No British citizen who has fought for so-called Islamic State should be allowed back into the country, the defence secretary has said.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Gavin Williamson said: “Quite simply, my view is a dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain.”

He said everything should be done “to destroy and eliminate that threat.”

At least 800 Britons have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for IS and 130 of those have been killed in conflict.

Mr Williamson, who took over as defence secretary last month, told the newspaper: “I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country.”

British fighters who had fled to other countries would also be found and stopped from returning to the UK, he said, adding that there would be no “safe space” abroad for them either.

“We have got to make sure that as (they) splinter and as they disperse across Iraq and Syria and other areas, we continue to hunt them down”, he said.

Mr Williamson’s predecessor Sir Michael Fallon said in October that British IS fighters in Syria and Iraq had made themselves “a legitimate target” who could end up on “the wrong end of an RAF or USAF missile”.

His comments came after it was reported that British IS recruiter Sally-Anne Jones had been killed in a US drone strike in Syria in June.

  • Which countries have fleeing IS fighters gone to?

And Rory Stewart, the minister for international development, said the “only way” to deal with British IS fighters in Syria is “in almost every case” to kill them.

He said they can expect to be killed because of the “serious danger” they pose to the UK’s security.

In contrast, Max Hill QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has said Britons who joined IS through “naivety” should be spared prosecution and instead be reintegrated into society if they return home.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42260814

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Brexit: PM urged not to let Eurosceptics ‘dictate’ talks

Posted by Warren Fyfe on December 7, 2017 in Warren Fyfe Site

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PA

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Downing Street has insisted it is still confident of a first-phase Brexit deal before next week’s summit

Theresa May has been urged not to allow Eurosceptic MPs in her party to “impose their own conditions” on negotiations amid signs of fresh Tory infighting.

Nineteen Tory MPs who back a “soft Brexit” have written to her saying it is “highly irresponsible” for anyone to dictate terms which may scupper a deal.

It follows some Tories backing the DUP’s decision to oppose a draft deal on the future of the Irish border.

The PM has spoken to the DUP’s Arlene Foster to try to break the deadlock.

The DUP says there is “more work to be done” if it is to agree to plans for the future of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic after Brexit – a prerequisite for talks to move on to their next phase.

Irish PM Leo Varadkar, who also spoke to Mrs May on Wednesday, said he was willing to consider any new proposals, suggesting the UK might put something forward within the next 24 hours.

And the BBC understands the ambassadors of the 27 EU member states, who received an update from chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier on Wednesday, are “waiting for something from London” in the next 48 hours.

The BBC’s Adam Fleming said Mr Barnier and the member states agreed there must be clarity within 48 hours for them to have enough time to consult with their capitals about draft guidelines for phase two of the talks.

At a summit next week, European leaders will decide whether enough progress has been made in the negotiations on Ireland, the UK’s “divorce bill” and citizens’ rights so far to open trade talks.

In their letter, the 19 MPs – who largely backed Remain in the 2016 referendum – say they support the PM’s handling of the negotiations, in particular the “political and practical difficulties” relating to the Irish border.

But they hit out at what they say are attempts by some in their party to paint a no-deal scenario in which the UK failed to agree a trade agreement as “some status quo which the UK simply opts to adopt”.

Media captionCitizens’ rights, the Irish border and money are the three big negotiation points

“We wish to make it clear that we are disappointed yet again that some MPs and others seek to impose their own conditions on these negotiations,” the MPs, including former cabinet ministers Stephen Crabb, Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan – write.

“In particular, it is highly irresponsible to seek to dictate terms which could lead to the UK walking away from these negotiations.”

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It urges the PM to “take whatever time is necessary” to get the next stage of negotiations right.

On Tuesday, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith argued the time was fast approaching for the UK to consider walking away from the talks if the EU did not allow negotiators to proceed to the next phase – in which future trade and security relations will take centre stage.

The suggestion of “regulatory alignment” between Northern Ireland and the European Union and any continuing role for the European Court of Justice has also concerned some Eurosceptic Conservative MPs.

On Monday Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party – whose support the PM needs to win key votes at Westminster – objected to draft plans drawn up by the UK and the EU.

The DUP said the proposals, which aimed to avoid a “hard border” by aligning regulations on both sides of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, were not acceptable.

This has left the UK government racing to find an agreement suiting all sides in time for next week’s summit.

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PA

Image caption

The Irish PM said he was willing to consider any new proposals from the UK

The DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the Irish government, which has said it wants firm guarantees that a hard border can be avoided, was playing a “dangerous game” with its own economy.

At a press conference with his Dutch counterpart on Wednesday, Irish PM Leo Varadkar insisted he wanted the talks to move beyond consideration of divorce issues to the future.

“Having consulted with people in London, she (Theresa May) wants to come back to us with some text tonight or tomorrow,” he said. “I expressed my willingness to consider that.”

In a separate development, Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested the UK could pay the so-called Brexit bill, regardless of whether or not there is a subsequent trade agreement with the EU.

He told MPs on the Treasury Committee he found it “inconceivable” that the UK would “walk away” from its financial obligations as “frankly it would not make us a credible partner for future international agreements”.

On the issue of the divorce bill, a No 10 spokesman said the government’s position remained that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and that applies to the financial settlement”.

Reports have suggested the UK has raised its financial offer to a figure of up to 50bn euros (£44bn).

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42260252

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