The Syrian government signed a deal with a Russian firm Monday for the first phase of an irrigation project for the drought-hit northeast of the war-torn country, state media said. The project, which had been planned before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011, aims to draw water from the River Tigris to irrigate land in Hasakeh province.
Activists in Raqa, a stronghold of the Islamic State (IS), said Monday the jihadists have locked down the Syrian city and are shipping in new weapons, including missiles from Iraq. "All roads leading in and out of Raqa city have been closed. Nobody can enter or leave Raqa at all right now," said Hadi Salameh, speaking to AFP via the Internet. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the influx of arms.
Israel on Monday confirmed finding the bodies of three teenagers who disappeared in the southern West Bank on June 12, blaming the Islamist Hamas movement for their kidnapping and murder. "During the search for Eyal Ifrach, Gilad Shaer and Naftali Frankel, the IDF discovered 3 bodies near Hebron," the Israeli army said in a statement on Twitter. Deputy defence minister Danny Danon also confirmed their bodies had been discovered, saying they had been murdered by "Hamas terrorists" and calling for a widespread operation to "eradicate" the Islamist movement. Public radio said the bodies were discovered in a field near Halhul, a town north of Hebron, about 10 minutes from the roadside in the southern West Bank where they were last seen.
US President Barack Obama Monday lodged a request with Congress expected to top $2 billion to cope with a tide of tens of thousands of illegal child immigrants from Central America. Obama said in a letter to Congressional leaders that US border agencies faced a "significant" rise in arrests of young people from Central America, some of whom were victims of violent crime, abuse and extortion from human smuggling networks. The sudden flow of illegal child migrants has injected new venom into the debate between Obama and House Republicans over his calls for a sweeping reform of the US immigration system. Obama asked for more resources to send to the southwest border, which will speed up removal proceedings for unlawful immigrants.
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that owners of private companies can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Barack Obama's healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance covering birth control for women. The decision, which applies only to a small number of family or other closely-held companies, means an estimated several thousand women whose health insurance comes via such companies may have to obtain certain forms of birth control coverage elsewhere. In a 5-4 vote along ideological lines, the justices said the companies can seek an exemption from the so-called birth control mandate of the law known as Obamacare. The companies in the case said they did not object to all birth control but certain methods they said were tantamount to abortion, which they oppose for religious reasons.
Sri Lanka will clamp down on Internet hate speech following deadly anti-Muslim riots said to have been fuelled by social media sites, the military said Monday. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse has asked the law and order ministry to deal with racial and religious hatred being spread using Facebook and Twitter, military spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya said. "There are some Facebook pages against Buddhism, but more pages against Islam," Wanigasooriya told AFP. He said Rajapakse, the powerful younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapakse, had asked law enforcement authorities to work out a "practical way" of dealing with online hate speech.
Jordan's King Abdullah II on Monday appealed for international support to help his country deal with regional turmoil after jihadists in neighbouring Iraq and Syria declared an "Islamic caliphate". "It is important that the international community continue to support Jordan to deal challenges and developments in the region," a palace statement quoted the king as telling a Japanese parliamentarily delegation. A Sunni militant offensive spearheaded by the Sunni jihadists in Iraq has sparked fears in Amman that they will take their fight to the kingdom. The militants, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on Sunday declared a "caliphate", or Islamist state, straddling parts of Iraq and Syria.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday that jihadists spearheading a militant offensive in Iraq have sold oil from captured areas to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Fabius said the sale was evidence of the "confusing" nature of the escalating conflict in the Middle East in which Assad and the jihadists are in theory on opposing sides. The rebels, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), declared a "caliphate", or Islamist state, straddling Iraq and Syria at the weekend.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged "retribution" after two police officers were killed defusing bombs outside his Cairo palace Monday, almost a year after he overthrew his predecessor. An Islamist militant group, one of several that have carried out attacks since president Mohamed Morsi's ouster on July 3 last year, warned several days ago that it had planted bombs near the east Cairo palace. It was not immediately clear whether Sisi, who was the defence minister when he toppled Morsi and then won a May presidential election, was in the Ittihadiya palace at the time.
Bulgaria on Monday scrambled to reassure savers its beleaguered banking system was "functioning normally" after Brussels extended a credit line to stop a run on two banks turning into a full-blown crisis. Non-eurozone Bulgaria has blamed the situation, which has raised fears of a repeat of the country's devastating banking crisis of 1996-97, on "criminals" spreading false rumours. On June 20 the central bank closed temporarily the fourth-largest private lender, Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB), after doubts about its solvency led panicked customers to try to empty their accounts. Late last week, more rumours online and via mobile phones sparked a run on First Investment Bank (FIBANK), the third-largest, provoking scenes of near-hysteria outside branches.
Hundreds of riot and other police were deployed in French towns and cities Monday as authorities braced for possible unrest linked to World Cup showdowns involving France and its former colony Algeria. Right-wing mayor Christian Estrosi issued a decree temporarily outlawing what he termed the "ostentatious display of foreign flags" in the centre of the Riviera city, which is home to many people of Algerian heritage. "Since the start of the World Cup we have sadly seen intolerable behaviour that severely disrupts public peace," Estrosi added. Some celebrations of Algeria's historic qualification for the second round of the World Cup spilled over into violence last week with more than 70 people arrested for rioting or looting across France.
Senegal President Macky Sall's party has been beaten in the capital Dakar and in a number of key cities across the country, preliminary results from municipal and provincial elections showed on Monday. The polls on Sunday were seen as a key test for the president whose Alliance for the Republic (APR) party is riven by divisions two years after winning a bitterly disputed election. Early results published by local media showed that in Dakar the APR had been beaten by a coalition led by the outgoing mayor of the city, Khalifa Sall, from the Socialist Party (PS). The PS, which led Senegal from 1960 to 2000, is part of the ruling coalition, but leaders failed to agree on shared party lists for the local elections.
On Monday, the Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby on the company's challenge to the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate, ruling that the mandate, as applied to "closely held" businesses, violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Addressing the majority of her colleagues — including all but one of the six men sitting on the Supreme Court — Ginsburg wrote: In the Court’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith—in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ.