Syrian rebels battled jihadists from the Islamic State (IS) near Damascus on Monday, pressing their bid to expel them from their strongholds, a monitoring group said. Rebels holding positions in southern Damascus and the outskirts of the capital and seeking President Bashar al-Assad's ouster, launched an offensive some three weeks ago to expel IS. IS fighters have in recent days been expelled from the towns of Mesraba and Maydaa, in the Eastern Ghouta area east of Damascus. They have also been forced out of Yalda and Beit Sahem, in the capital, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
France's interior minister on Monday slammed "intolerable" acts of anti-Semitism after a rally against Israel's Gaza offensive descended into violence pitting an angry pro-Palestinian crowd against local Jewish businesses. Sunday's demonstration in the north Paris suburb of Sarcelles was the third to deteriorate in a week, as shops were looted and riot police lobbed tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd. The rally had been banned amid concern the Jewish community would be targeted after protesters last weekend tried to storm two synagogues in Paris. "When you head for the synagogue, when you burn a corner shop because it is Jewish-owned, you are committing an anti-Semitic act," Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters outside the Sarcelles synagogue.
Kuwait called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday to urge the international community to put an end to the Israeli "aggression" in Gaza which has claimed 508 lives. The call came in a meeting between Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah and Ban, who arrived in Kuwait on Monday, in the second leg of a regional tour aimed at pushing for a ceasefire in Gaza. The UN chief was separately received by Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the official KUNA news agency reported.
Britain will push for EU sanctions targeting whole sectors of the Russian economy in the wake of the Ukraine plane disaster even if it means taking a short-term "hit" to the economy, its ministers said on Monday. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said "the time has now come for sanctions to be tightened further", and stressed that inaction so far over the Ukraine crisis had "not served us well". EU foreign ministers meet on Tuesday to decide whether to impose sanctions if Russia does not press Ukraine's pro-Kremlin separatists to allow access to the crash site of flight MH17 and reduce Moscow's support for the rebels. "We believe the time has now come for sanctions to be tightened further and that is precisely what we will be seeking to deliver in the meetings in the EU later this week," Clegg told a monthly news conference.
Russian stock markets fell on Monday as investors expressed alarm at the escalating crisis in Ukraine following the Malaysian plane disaster and the prospects of tougher sanctions doing more damage to the Russian economy. Moscow's ruble-denominated Micex stock exchange was down 1.27 percent in late morning trading, while the dollar-denominated RTS was down 1.32 percent. The ruble also fell against the dollar and the euro, with the dollar worth 35.12 rubles and the euro 47.50 rubles. The ruble had plunged on Friday in response to the air disaster and new US sanctions against Russia.
Suspected militiamen have beheaded a Philippine worker in Libya after singling him out because he was not a Muslim, the Philippine Foreign Department said Monday. Department spokesman Charles Jose said this reinforced the government's order to all Filipinos to evacuate the country because of the worsening security situation. He told reporters the Filipino construction worker was kidnapped on July 15 and his beheaded remains were found in a hospital on July 20. There were three of them -– a Libyan, a Pakistani and a Filipino -- and he was allegedly singled out because he was non-Muslim," said Jose.
Rebels in Sudan's Darfur on Monday denied killing 13 civilians, calling government claims of their involvement a fabrication. The official news agency SUNA said the "innocent citizens" died on Saturday in an ambush on a commercial convoy about 30 kilometres (19 miles) west of El Fasher, the North Darfur capital. The faction has operated in North Darfur but Hussein Minnawi told AFP the area where the civilians died "is occupied by Janjaweed and the militia of Kbir." A Western diplomat has told AFP that Darfur's rebel groups prefer to target government installations, not civilians.
The UN Security Council called for an "immediate ceasefire" as Israel pressed on with a blistering assault on Gaza on Monday taking the Palestinian death toll above 500. US President Barack Obama echoed the call in a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu early Monday, as Secretary of State John Kerry headed to the region to join truce efforts. The Israeli army said 13 soldiers had been killed inside Gaza on Sunday, raising to 18 the number of soldiers killed since a ground operation began late on Thursday.
An 18-year-old Australian man was behind a deadly suicide bomb attack in Iraq last week, authorities said Monday, with Attorney-General George Brandis calling it a "disturbing development". Reports said the Islamic State militant group named him as Abu Bakr al-Australi on an affiliated Twitter feed, with Brandis' office confirming he was Australian. "This is a disturbing development and is a further example of the dangerous and volatile situation in Iraq at present," Brandis said in a statement. "The government deplores the violent actions being undertaken by ISIL and other extremist groups in Iraq and Syria, and is deeply concerned about the involvement of Australians in these activities.
France's interior minister Monday slammed "intolerable" acts of anti-Semitism after a rally against Israel's Gaza offensive descended into violence pitting an angry pro-Palestinian crowd against local Jewish businesses. Sunday's demonstration in the north Paris suburb of Sarcelles was the third to deteriorate in a week, as shops were looted and riot police lobbed tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd. The rally had been banned amid concern the Jewish community would be targeted after protesters last weekend tried to storm two synagogues in Paris. "When you head for the synagogue, when you burn a corner shop because it is Jewish-owned, you are committing an anti-Semitic act," Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters outside the Sarcelles synagogue.
US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Cairo early Monday for crisis talks on Gaza, following President Barack Obama's call for an "immediate ceasefire" between Israelis and Palestinians. The US top diplomat is scheduled to meet with senior officials from Egypt and other countries, the State Department said, in a bid to halt a blistering land, sea and air assault that has sent thousands of terrified civilians fleeing their homes. Kerry will seek "an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement," the White House said, stressing the need to protect civilian life both "in Gaza and in Israel." According to the State Department, Kerry supports Egypt's initiative to bring about a ceasefire.