By Dominic Evans and Parisa Hafezi BEIRUT/ANKARA (Reuters) - Islamic State fighters have seized villages close to the city of Aleppo from rival insurgents, a monitoring group said on Friday, despite a Russian air-and-sea campaign that Moscow says has targeted the militant group. The Russian defense ministry said air strikes on rebel positions in northern Syria had killed 300 anti-Assad insurgents in nearly 70 sorties over the last day. The RIA news agency said 200 insurgents were killed in an attack on the Liwa al-Haqq rebel group while 100 were killed in Aleppo.
The Chinese government took unprecedented action by complying with a U.S. request and arresting hackers suspected of stealing secrets from U.S. companies to pass to Chinese state-run companies, the Washington Post reported on Friday. The arrests came in September before Chinese President Xi Jinping went to Washington for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama that included one of the most contentious issues between the two countries - corporate and government cyber espionage. The Post, which cited sources speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the matter, said U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials presented China with a list of hackers.
By Gwladys Fouche and Tarek Amara OSLO/TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for helping build democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, an example of peaceful transition in a region otherwise struggling with violence and upheaval. The quartet of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers was formed in the summer of 2013. It helped support the democratization process when it was in danger of collapsing, the Norwegian Nobel committee said in its citation.
By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Luke Baker GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli troops shot dead five Palestinians in protests in Gaza on Friday and a knife-wielding Jewish man wounded four Arabs in southern Israel in a wave of violence that has fueled talk of a new uprising against Israeli occupation. The Israeli soldiers shot across the border into Gaza after the Palestinians came too close to the frontier, throwing stones and rolling burning tyres, an Israeli army spokeswoman said. Gaza medics said five people were killed and 30 wounded.
By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council on Friday authorized European Union naval operations for one year to seize and dispose of vessels operated by human traffickers in the high seas off Libya. The resolution approved the second of three phases of an EU naval mission intended to help stem the flow of migrants and refugees into Europe, which has escalated into a major crisis in recent months. Libya initially objected to the draft U.N. resolution on the high seas mission, but its U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi wrote to the council Tuesday to say the country's concerns had been allayed and it agreed to the final draft.
Greece was hit by a huge new surge in migrants as the United Nations Friday approved a European seize-and-destroy military operation against people smugglers in the Mediterranean. The backing for EU navies to take action against traffickers in international waters came as the first asylum seekers were flown from Italy to Sweden under a hotly disputed relocation scheme to share the burden of Europe's migrant crisis. With 570,000 people having already arrived in the EU so far this year, the figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) underlined the limited scope of the relocation scheme, which seeks to move 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece over the next two years.
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday welcomed the awarding of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature to his compatriot Svetlana Alexievich, saying he did not hold her criticism of his government against her. Alexievich, who lives in Minsk, won the prize on Thursday for her portrayal of the harshness of life in the Soviet Union. Lukashenko's conciliatory comments, made two days before a presidential election in Belarus in which he is seeking a fifth term, come amid a cautious rapproachment between Minsk and the West, long strained by his treatment of political dissent and poor human rights record.
Boosted by a surge in popularity during Europe's migrant crisis, the leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, hopes to finally break the Socialists' 70-year reign in Vienna in Sunday's regional election. A decade after the tall, blue-eyed Strache took the reins of the FPOe, his dreams of glory no longer seem far-fetched. Latest polls show his party has drawn nearly level with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPOe), who have governed the Austrian capital since the end of World War II.
The Russian manufacturer of the missile system blamed for shooting down flight MH17 said Friday it would unveil the "real reasons" for the disaster on the same day Dutch investigators present their final report on the tragedy. Almaz-Antey, the maker of the BUK surface-to-air system that the West and Kiev believe downed MH17, said it would present its version of events at a press conference on Tuesday after holding an "experiment" that entailed detonating a missile next to a plane. The company will air its claims on the same day that Dutch investigators issue their report following a 15-month probe.
ROME (AP) — Italy bid farewell Friday to 19 Eritreans — the first of an estimated 160,000 refugees to be resettled throughout Europe as part of a new EU redistribution program to move asylum-seekers out of hard-hit front-line countries.
Islamic State group fighters advanced Friday to the outskirts of Syria's second city Aleppo, despite 10 days of Russian air strikes that Moscow says are aimed at routing the jihadists. Moscow announced on Friday that its raids had killed several hundred IS fighters and hit more than 60 "terrorist targets" in Syria over the past 24 hours. Strikes on Aleppo killed "some 100 militants", and other raids struck command posts and training camps in Latakia, Hama and Idlib.
The Pentagon said Friday it will halt its troubled program to build Syrian rebel units to fight the Islamic State and focus instead on training and arming vetted leaders already on the ground. The switch in tactics will be seen as a tacit admission that the Pentagon's $500 million program to train thousands of "moderate" Syrian rebels has failed. Two small groups of US-trained fighters have crossed into Syria from Turkey this year, but one broke up after coming under attack and the other surrendered much of its equipment to an Al-Qaeda front group.
A Nigerian court Friday nullified the election of a prominent politician wanted in the United States on drug trafficking charges. An election tribunal in the southwestern city of Abeokuta declared the victory of Senator Buruji Kashamu void because of apparent irregularities in more than 100 polling units. "The election is nullified in line with Section 140 (2) and 140 (3) (of the electoral act)... We hereby order fresh elections in the affected polling units," tribunal judge Tobi Ebimowei ruled.
By Phil Stewart and Kate Holton LONDON (Reuters) - The United States announced on Friday it would overhaul its failed efforts to support moderate Syrian rebels battling Islamic State, saying it would provide arms and equipment to vetted rebel leaders and their units. The U.S. announcement marked the effective end to a short-lived multimillion-dollar program to train and equip units of fighters at sites outside of Syria, after that program's disastrous launch this year fanned criticism of President Barack Obama's war strategy. Future training will be greatly scaled back, with the apparent U.S. focus on providing weaponry.