The number of civilians seeking shelter in United Nations bases in war-torn South Sudan has reached over 100,000 for the first time in more than six-months of conflict, the UN said Thursday. The continued rise in the number of people fleeing violence offers a clear indication conditions continue to worsen in the impoverished nation, with over 101,000 civilians crammed inside squalid camps across the country and the numbers continuing to rise. The largest increase has been in the northern oil-own of Bentiu, state capital of Unity, where over 45,000 civilians are now packed in a makeshift camp in dire conditions, with many areas flooded due to torrential rains. Many in camps have fled ethnic violence by rebels loyal to ousted vice-president Riek Machar, from the Nuer tribe, or forces behind President Salva Kiir, from the larger Dinka tribe.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday accused Russia of failing to fully back a peace plan to end the bloodshed in the east of his country. The plan "will only be able to work if Russia cooperates. Up to now unfortunately the support (from Moscow) has been insufficient," Poroshenko told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. "The 'undeclared' war continues to rage," he said, calling on Moscow to "recall the mercenaries who are crossing the Russian border" into Ukraine.
Rights group Amnesty International has condemned a Saudi court decision to jail an activist for seven years, labelling the charges as "spurious" and urging that the sentence be quashed. A court in Riyadh passed the sentence on Fowzan al-Harbi on Tuesday and also banned him from travelling for a further seven years, Amnesty said in a statement. "Harbi has been ruthlessly targeted for daring to question the Saudi authorities’ human rights record," said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty's deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. Harbi, 36, is a founder of the local Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), and was jailed in December 2013, when a judge ordered his arrest without providing a reason, according to Amnesty.
Israel's hawkish president-elect Reuven Rivlin, who opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, has said he is willing to meet Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas, a newspaper reported Thursday. "I met with Abu Mazen (Abbas) in the past on a number of occasions and I will also meet with him in the future," the Yediot Aharonot newspaper quoted Rivlin as saying. Rivlin said he received a letter from Abbas after he was elected on June 10 to succeed elder statesman Shimon Peres, whose term ends in late July. The incoming president is a staunch backer of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and has never hidden his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Amsha's family decided to leave the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar after shelling one night killed their neighbour as he used his outdoor toilet. She describes nights of terror as Sunni militants traded fire with Iraqi troops desperate to hold onto the town. She curses her country's politicians, both Shiites like Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Sunnis like herself, for courting her support ahead of April 30 elections, only to abandon the city. "We walked for four hours to leave Tal Afar.
The slaying of a Libyan women's rights activist in her home just hours after she voted in a general election drew Western and UN condemnation on Thursday. Masked men broke into the home of Salwa Bugaighis in restive second city Benghazi, an Islamist bastion, just hours after polls closed on Wednesday evening. "Mrs Bugaighis was stabbed in several parts of her body but the cause of death was a bullet wound to the head," said a spokesman for the Benghazi Medical Centre. British ambassador Michael Aron tweeted that he was "Devastated about horrific murder of Salwa Bugaighis.
A deadly attack on troops and low turnout Wednesday marred Libya's general election on which hopes were pinned of ending three years of turmoil since dictator Moamer Kadhafi's ouster. The electoral commission was also forced to close 18 polling stations in the western town of Al-Jemil after unidentified gunmen attacked five of them and stole ballot boxes, a local security official said. Half an hour before polls closed at 1800 GMT, just 400,000 of the 1.5 million registered voters had cast their ballot, a turnout of less than 27 percent, the electoral commission said. The number of registered voters itself was a far cry from the more than 2.7 million who signed up two years ago for Libya's first ever free election.
A blistering jihadist offensive has sparked debate on the Middle East's colonial-era borders being redrawn, but experts say this is unlikely as Arabs have grown accustomed to their nation states. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant posted pictures online this month of militants bulldozing a berm dividing Iraq and Syria, symbolising its goal of uniting its forces in the two countries. ISIL entitled the photo series "Smashing the Sykes-Picot border" -- a reference to the secret deal that Britain and France signed on May 16, 1916, carving up the Middle East, with the former taking Iraq and the latter Syria.