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Syrian Kurds say they have stopped operations against IS

Syrian Kurds say they have stopped operations against IS

BEIRUT — The commander of the main U.S.-backed Kurdish-led force in Syria said Saturday they have halted operations against the Islamic State group due to Turkish attacks on northern Syria over the past week.Mazloum Abdi of the Syrian Democratic Forces told reporters that after nearly a week of Turkish airstrikes on northern Syria, Ankara is now preparing for a ground offensive. He said Turkey-backed opposition fighters are getting ready to take part in the operations.Abdi added that Turkish strikes over the past week have caused severe damage to the region’s infrastructure. Abdi said Turkey is taking advantage of the deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on Kurdish groups. Kurdish organizations have denied any involvement in the Istanbul attack that killed six and wounded dozens. Over the past week, Turkey launched a wave of airstrikes on suspected Kurdish rebels hiding in neighboring Syria and Iraq in retaliation for the Istanbul attack.“The forces that work symbolically with the international coalition in the fight against Daesh are now targets for the Turkish state and therefore (military) operations have stopped,” Abdi said, using an Arabic acronym of the Islamic State group. “Anti-Daesh operations have stopped.” His comments came hours after the U.S. military said two rockets targeted U.S.-led coalition forces at bases in the northeastern Syrian town of Shaddadeh resulting in no “injuries or damage to the base or coalition property.”The U.S. military statement said SDF fighters visited the site of the rocket’s origin and found a third unfired rocket. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, in an early report about the Friday night rocket attack said “the area has been witnessing attacks by (IS) cells.” It later said that Iran-backed militias “are responsible for yesterday’s rocket fire.”“Attacks of this kind place coalition forces and the civilian populace at risk and undermine the hard-earned stability and security of Syria and the region,” said Col. Joe Buccino, CENTCOM spokesman.The SDF said in a statement before midnight Friday that as Turkish drones flew over the al-Hol camp that is home to tens of thousands of mostly wives, widows and children of IS fighters, some IS family members attacked security forces and managed to escape from the sprawling facility. The SDF did not say how many escaped but that they were later detained. Kurdish authorities operate more than two dozen detention facilities scattered across northeastern Syria holding about 10,000 IS fighters. Among the detainees are some 2,000 foreigners whose home countries have refused to repatriate them, including about 800 Europeans.

Landslide on Italian island leaves 1 dead, up to 12 missing

Landslide on Italian island leaves 1 dead, up to 12 missing

Heavy rainfall triggered a massive landslide early Saturday on the southern Italian resort island of Ischia that destroyed buildings and swept parked cars into the sea, leaving at least one person dead and up to 12 missing.The body of a woman was pulled from the mud, the Naples prefect Claudio Palomba, told a news conference.With raining continuing to fall, rescuers were working gingerly with small bulldozers to pick through some six to seven meters (yards) of mud and detritus in the search for possible victims. Reinforcements arrived by ferry, including teams of sniffer dogs to help the search efforts.
Debris are seen on the street, following a landslide on the Italian holiday island of Ischia, Italy, in this handout photo obtained by Reuters on Nov. 26, 2022. 
(Carabinieri/Handout via REUTERS)The force of the mud sliding down the mountainside just before dawn was strong enough to send cars and buses onto beaches and into the sea at the port of Casamicciola, on the north end of the island, which lies off Naples.INDONESIA QUAKE DEATH TOLL RISES TO 268. 151 STILL MISSINGStreets were impassable and mayors on the island urged people to stay home. At least 100 people were reported stranded without electricity and water, and about 70 were housed in a community gymnasium.There was early confusion over the death toll. Vice Premier Matteo Salvini initially said that eight people had been confirmed dead, followed by the interior minister saying that no deaths had yet been confirmed, while 10 to 12 were missing.
Rescuers help an injured person following a landslide on the Italian holiday island of Ischia, Italy, in this handout photo obtained by Reuters on Nov. 26, 2022. 
(Carabinieri/Handout via REUTERS)”The situation is very complicated and very serious because probably some of those people are under the mud,” Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi told RAI state TV from an emergency command center in Rome.ANSA reported that at least 10 buildings had collapsed. One family with a newborn that was previously reported missing was located and was receiving medical care, according to the Naples prefect.POWERFUL 7.0 EARTHQUAKE SHAKES SOLOMON ISLANDSVideo from the island showed small bulldozers clearing roads, while residents used hoses to try to get mud out of their homes. One man, identified as Benjamin Iacono, told Sky TG24 that mud overwhelmed three adjacent shops that he owns, completely wiping out his inventory. He estimated damage at 100,000 euros to 150,000 euros ($104,000 to $156,000).Firefighters and the Coast Guard were conducting search and rescues, initially hampered by strong winds that prevented helicopters and boats from reaching the island.
A view shows a street following a landslide on the Italian holiday island of Ischia, Italy, in this handout photo obtained by Reuters on Nov. 26, 2022. 
(Carabinieri/Handout via REUTERS)CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPThe densely populated mountainous island is a popular tourist destination for both its beaches and spas. A 4.0-magnitude quake on the island in 2017 killed two people, causing significant damage to the towns of Casamicciola and neighboring Lacco Ameno. Palomba.

Canada's Trudeau defends using emergency powers to shut down Freedom Convoy protests

Canada's Trudeau defends using emergency powers to shut down Freedom Convoy protests

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said he is convinced he “made the right choice” in invoking historic emergency powers earlier this year to shut down the Freedom Convoy protests against Canada’s COVID-19 mandates. Trudeau defended his actions in testimony before a commission tasked with investigating his use of the Emergencies Act to end the trucker protest that gridlocked Canada’s capital of Ottawa for weeks in January and February. The prime minister said he was left no other choice than to call on emergency powers on Feb. 14 after he deemed a plan put forward by police insufficient to end the weeks-long demonstration.”It wasn’t that they just wanted to be heard. They wanted to be obeyed,” Trudeau said of the protesters, according to Reuters. “I am absolutely, absolutely serene and confident that I made the right choice in agreeing with the invocation.” Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canada’s history during February’s Freedom Convoy protest in the capital city of Ottawa. In doing so, he granted the federal government temporary powers to quell truckers and others protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other pandemic-related restrictions and freeze the bank accounts of those suspected of supporting the convoy.  The emergency powers were lifted on Feb. 23. CANADIAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS SPEAK OUT AS COUNTRY SET TO ALLOW EUTHANASIA FOR MENTAL ILLNESS
A Freedom Convoy demonstrator holds a “Hold The Line” sign while dancing in Ottawa, Canada.
(Fox News Digital/Lisa Bennatan)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau testifies before the Public Order Emergency Commission public inquiry on Nov. 25, 2022, in Ottawa. The Commission heard Trudeau speak in defense of the rarely used wartime measures, which were invoked to dislodge a trucker-led protests in February 2022 after weeks that brought Ottawa to a standstill and disrupted trade.
(DAVE CHAN/AFP via Getty Images)Trudeau’s actions were highly controversial, and civil liberties advocates questioned whether the circumstances of the protest necessitated his extreme response. Lawyers for the convoy and others said that Trudeau had ignored a plan prepared by Ottawa police and argued that the emergency powers were unnecessary to end the protest, according to Reuters.  As required by law, an independent inquiry was formed to investigate the prime minister’s actions and submit a report to the Canadian government detailing its findings. The report is due by Feb. 20, 2023. Trudeau was the final witness to be called to testify.During his testimony, the prime minister said the protests presented a serious threat of violence, and he accused local police of putting forward a plan that “was not even in the most generous of characterizations a plan” to deal with the blocked streets, Reuters reported. Additional testimony and documents obtained by the inquiry revealed that U.S. officials had pressured the Canadian government to shut down the protests and remove blockades at border crossings between the U.S. and Canada.XI CONFRONTS TRUDEAU AT G-20, SAYS PRIVATE CONVERSATION WAS ‘LEAKED’ TO MEDIA: ‘NOT APPROPRIATE’ 
White House economic adviser Brian Deese.
(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)”They are very, very, very worried,” Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland wrote in an email to her staff after a Feb. 10 phone call with White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Politico reported. “If this is not sorted out in the next 12 hours, all of their northeastern car plants will shut down,” Freeland added in her email. CANADA’S TRUDEAU ANNOUNCES BAN ON HANDGUN SALES, TRANSFERS, SAYING ‘FEWER GUNS MEANS SAFER COMMUNITIES’Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg contacted Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra on the same day Deese spoke with Freeland, according to the report, and Buttigieg pressed for “a plan to resolve” the border blockades. Alghabra told the commission that Buttigieg had initiated the “unusual” call. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPWhite House aides had reportedly contacted Trudeau’s staff as well, ahead of a Feb. 11 phone call that took place between the prime minister and President Biden. On that call, Trudeau reportedly informed the president that his government had a plan to end the protests and blockades. Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report. 

Iran leader praises force tasked with quashing protests

Iran leader praises force tasked with quashing protests

BAGHDAD — Iran’s supreme leader praised paramilitary volunteers tasked with quashing dissent on Saturday in a televised address as dozens of eye doctors warned that a rising number of demonstrators have been blinded by security forces during anti-government protests. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed members of the Basij, the volunteer paramilitary wing of the elite Revolutionary Guard, and reiterated unsupported claims that protesters demonstrating countrywide are “tools” of the U.S. and its “mercenaries.” “(The) Basij should not forget that the main clash is with global hegemony,” Khamenei said, referring to the U.S. The address marking Basij week in Iran echoed previous statements lambasting the protests as a foreign plot to destabilize Iran.Extolling the military and social virtues of the Basij over the decades, Khamenei said the forces “sacrificed themselves in order to save people from a bunch of rioters and mercenaries,” referring to the recent country-wide unrest. “They sacrificed themselves in order to confront oppression.” The Basij have taken a leading role in clamping down on demonstrations that began Sept. 17, ignited by the death of a young woman while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Her death sparked months of protests over the country’s mandatory headscarf but quickly morphed into one of the greatest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the chaotic years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.Protests continued Saturday at some universities in the capital Tehran and other cities, according to social media. Because of a severe country-wide crackdown by Iranian security forces, demonstrations have become more scattered. Protesters have also called for commercial strikes. Khamenei’s comments came a day after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met with a group of Basij members and praised their efforts to maintain security, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. Iran’s ferocious crackdown on dissent has drawn criticism, with at least 448 people killed and more than 18,000 arrested in the protests and the violent security force response that followed, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the demonstrations. Iran has not offered a death toll or a number of those arrested.In a letter, 140 ophthalmologists raised concerns about a rising number of patients with severe eye injuries resulting from being shot with metal pellets and rubber bullets, according to pro-reform Iranian news site Sobhema and Iran International as well as other sites on social media. “Unfortunately in many cases the hit caused the loss of sight in one or both eyes,” the letter, addressed to the head of the country’s ophthalmologists association, said. The doctors requested that the head of Iran’s Opthalmology Association pass on their concerns about the irreparable damage caused by security forces to the relevant authorities. It was the second letter from eye doctors expressing concerns about police brutality and the shooting of pellets and rubber bullets into the eyes of demonstrators and others. A previous letter was signed by over 200 ophthalmologists. Last week, videos circulated on social media of law student Ghazal Ranjkesh in the southern city of Banda Abbas who lost an eye after being shot with a metal pellet on her way home from work.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister: 'No greater threat' than Russia, seeks to preserve 'global rules-based order'

Lithuanian Foreign Minister: 'No greater threat' than Russia, seeks to preserve 'global rules-based order'

Lithuania commemorated its entry into NATO this last week and its long-standing partnership with the U.S. as leaders look ahead to the increasingly complex security landscape developing around the world. President George W. Bush visited the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius 20 years ago to welcome the country into the still-growing NATO alliance, applauding the character of member states to “stand in the face of evil, to have the courage to always face danger.””President [George W.] Bush made the most famous speech any American has ever made in Lithuania exactly 20 years ago,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview. “That was even before we were a member of NATO, and it was probably the most important security guarantee that we got before Article Five started covering us with its umbrella.”And no time in the past 20 years has seemed more dangerous to Europe than have the past nine months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER GABRIELIUS LANDSBERGIS DISCUSSES CHINA AND RUSSIA AT THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLYLithuania accepted approximately 67,000 Ukrainian nationals between Feb. 24 and Oct. 10. The country’s distance from both Ukraine and Russia does not provide much comfort since it instead borders Belarus, which has remained Russia’s staunchest ally during the invasion. Landsbergis stressed the threat that Russia poses to Europe, but also Lithuania’s proactivity to remain prepared for what comes next. 
Gabrielius Landsbergis, Foreign Minister of Lithuania spoke with Fox News Digital on the difficult challenges facing his country from Russia and beyond. 
(Photo by Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)”Definitely, there is no greater threat, geopolitical and military threat, than Russia,” he said, noting that Lithuania and some other neighboring countries tried to raise the alarm prior to the invasion’s start. “Obviously, the thing is that the countries who share their border with Russia have little illusion as to what Russia really is even before the war,” Landsbergis explained, pointing to the 2008 invasion of Georgia and the 2014 offensive in Crimea. “We’ve always been asking for more attention to the eastern flank, too, so that it would be better defended.”BORIS JOHNSON CLAIMS GERMANY FAVORED UKRAINE’S DEFEAT AND FRANCE WAS IN ‘DENIAL’”Even though … we are doing our part, we still need more allied troops in Lithuania and other countries,” he added. “Considering the latest events, what we’ve seen happening in Poland just a week ago, we think that while we talk about reinforcement of [the] eastern flank, first of all, it has to be better air defense, better missile defense, because we believe that it would be … the first line of defense.” Landsbergis agreed with reports that Russia has displayed no preparations to use nuclear weapons, but he assured that Lithuania is taking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric “quite seriously” and discussing precautions with regional partners. 
Demonstrators holding placards that read We are all Ukrainians today,  and national flags of Ukraine, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, during a protest against Russian live-fire attacks on Ukraine, outside the Moscow-Taipei Coordination Commission in Taiwan, in Taipei, Taiwan, 25 February 2022. Several western countries including the US and UK  have imposed sanctions on Russia, with Baltic States members including Lithuania and Estonia showing support of Ukraine.  
(Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)But as significant a threat as Russia presents, Lithuania also has its eye on other countries that aim to change the “global rules-based order,” such as China.  Lithuania already found itself in trouble with China after allowing Taiwan to open a trade office in Vilnius, prompting Beijing to downgrade diplomatic ties with the European nation, including alleged discriminatory trade practices. MOSCOW CONDEMNS US RESPONSE TO ALLEGED WAR CRIMES AGAINST RUSSIAN SOLDIERS IN UKRAINEBeijing denies that it has blocked imports of Lithuanian imports, including any products with parts produced in Lithuania. Chip producer Brolis Group’s founder, Kirstijonas Vizbaras, told the New York Times that it made Lithuania a “toxic label.” Landsbergis explained that the tensions preceded that move, with Lithuania blocking China’s ability to invest in vital infrastructure such as airports, rail systems and shipping ports. 
25 May 2022, Norway, Kristiansand: Gabrielius Landsbergis, Foreign Minister of Lithuania, arrives at the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Baltic Sea Council. Founded in 1992, the Baltic Sea Council is a political forum for regional cooperation. Photo: Fabian Sommer/dpa (Photo by Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty Images)
((Photo by Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty Images))”All our main investors are coming either from the Western European countries or from the U.S., and I think that it could be an example, because it’s not just that the political decision, it’s a national security decision as well,” the minister said. “We were forced to adapt to very, very harsh measures imposed on us by the PRC, and in many cases, our businesses adapted, finding new suppliers, new supply chains and building more resilience in case these sorts of actions were to be repeated against us in the future.” IRAN AND RUSSIA REACH DEAL TO PRODUCE DRONES FOR UKRAINE WARLandsbergis also applauded the greater attention paid to Iran and its actions, especially due to the greater ties developing between Moscow and Tehran. Iran has provided some weapons to Russia, such as drones, to use in the war in Ukraine, which has reframed the impact the Biden administration’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) might have beyond Iran’s borders.  “One of the tools and instruments that we have in order to do that is sanctions,” Landsbergis said. “Therefore, I proposed in the formats where I’m able to do that in Brussels, to sanction Iran more heavily.”CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP”I think that there is a new momentum to take up a bit stronger stance when it comes to not just the regime that we’ve spoken about, but also Iran,” he added, saying that he would be “quite surprised” if the JCPOA “went ahead.” Reuters contributed to this report. 

German government seeks to ease rules for naturalization

German government seeks to ease rules for naturalization

BERLIN — Germany’s socially liberal government is moving ahead with plans to ease the rules for obtaining citizenship in the European Union’s most populous country, a drive that is being assailed by the conservative opposition.Chancellor OIaf Scholz said in a video message Saturday that Germany has long since become “the country of hope” for many, and it’s a good thing when people who have put down roots in the country decide to take citizenship. “Germany needs better rules for the naturalization of all these great women and men,” Scholz said.The overhaul of citizenship rules is one of a series of modernizing reforms that the three-party coalition of Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats agreed to tackle when it took office last December. The Interior Ministry said on Friday that draft legislation is “as good as ready.”Last year’s coalition agreement calls for people to be eligible for German citizenship after five years, or three in case of “special integration accomplishments,” rather than eight or six years at present. German-born children would automatically become citizens if one parent has been a legal resident for five years.The government also wants to drop restrictions on holding dual citizenship. In principle, most people from countries other than European Union members and Switzerland currently have to give up their previous nationality when they gain German citizenship, though there are some exemptions.Interior Minister Nancy Faeser argued that reducing the waiting time to be eligible for citizenship is “an incentive for integration.” The aim is to reflect reality, she said Friday. “We are a diverse, modern country of immigration, and I think legislation must reflect that.”Official statistics show that about 131,600 people took German citizenship last year, a quarter of them citizens of other EU countries. The number was 20% higher than the previous year, in part because an increasing number of Syrians were naturalized. Germany’s total population is around 84 million.The main center-right opposition Union bloc rejects the plans to liberalize naturalization laws. “Selling off German citizenship cheap doesn’t encourage integration — it aims for exactly the opposite and will trigger additional ‘pull effects’ for illegal migration,” senior conservative lawmaker Alexander Dobrindt told Saturday’s edition of the Bild daily. “Five years is a very, very short time” for people to be eligible for citizenship, Union chief whip Thorsten Frei told ZDF television.Among other liberalizing plans, the government has removed from Germany’s criminal code a ban on doctors “advertising” abortion services. It has reduced the minimum age for voting in European Parliament elections from 18 to 16 and wants to do the same for national elections.It also wants to scrap 40-year-old legislation that requires transsexual people to get a psychological assessment and a court decision before officially changing gender, and replace that with a new “self-determination law.” And it aims to decriminalize the possession of limited quantities of cannabis and allow its sale to adults for recreational purposes in a controlled market.Some of the plans may run into difficulty in parliament’s upper house, which represents Germany’s 16 state governments and where Scholz’s coalition doesn’t control a majority. It had to water down elements of an overhaul of unemployment benefits to get that passed this week.

China's Xi pledges support for Cuba on 'core interests'

China's Xi pledges support for Cuba on 'core interests'

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Cuban counterpart pledged mutual support over their fellow communist states’ “core interests” Friday at a meeting further hailing a return to face-to-face diplomacy by Beijing. In comments to Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, Xi said China hoped to “strengthen coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs” with Cuba. The two will “go hand in hand down the road of building socialism with each’s own characteristics,” Xi was quoted as saying in a Chinese government news release. China generally defines core interests as the defense of its economic and political development aims, along with control over territory it claims, especially self-governing Taiwan. No specific issues or other countries were mentioned in the Chinese government news release. Diaz-Canel’s visit is a further sign of how China is trying to jump-start its in-person diplomacy after a virtual shutdown of such exchanges during the pandemic. Xi, who is also the leader of the ruling Communist Party and has eliminated term limits to allow him to remain in power indefinitely, met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this month in Beijing, then attended the meeting of the Group of 20 leading economies in Indonesia and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Thailand. Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh and European Council President Charles Michel are due to travel to Beijing next week. Diaz-Canel arrived in China after a visit to Moscow, where he and Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the “traditional friendship” between their sanctions-hit nations. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, China and Cuba grew closer, just as China and Russia gradually established warmer ties, largely in opposition to the U.S.-led liberal democratic global order. In the Chinese news release, Diaz-Canel was quoted as saying his visit “shows that we attach great importance and attention to the friendly and cooperative relationship between Cuba and China.” Cuba “highly recognizes” Xi’s practical and theoretical contributions “and we believe this is a real encouragement to all progressive forces in the world,” he said. China is Cuba’s second-largest trading partner after key oil producer Colombia, and has provided buses, locomotives and other equipment for the island’s drive to upgrade its decrepit infrastructure. Chinese firms have also invested in mineral extraction in Cuba but on a limited scale.