VOA News (Middle East News)

• World Reaction to Trump Inauguration Mixed 
Hundreds of thousands of people at the National Mall in Washington looked on Friday as Donald Trump became the 45th U.S. president, and a far larger audience around the country and throughout the world witnessed the event through live broadcasts. VOA reporters talked to people around the globe who said they are looking at the transition of American power with a mix of admiration and apprehension. Russia In Moscow, a “Russian Army”-brand clothing store flashed Trump’s image on...

• Security Council Welcomes Astana Talks on Syria
The U.N. Security Council said Friday that it looked forward to talks on Syria in Kazakhstan as "an important step" ahead of the resumption of U.N.-led talks between the Syrian government and opposition in Geneva next month. A council statement, after a closed-door briefing by U.N. political chief Jeffrey Feltman, urged all parties to respect the cease-fire, which excludes al-Qaida-linked militants and the Islamic State group. Both the government and rebels have carried out...

• US Strike Kills 100 at al-Qaida Camp in Syria
A U.S. airstrike has killed more than 100 al-Qaida fighters at a military training camp in Syria, a U.S. defense official told VOA Friday, in the last major military attack against the terror group under President Barack Obama. A Boeing B-52 strategic bomber targeted the camp Thursday evening local time. It was located west of Aleppo in Idlib province, the defense official said. The camp previously had been occupied by the militant group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formally known as...

• Syria Lets Russia Expand Its Mediterranean Naval Facility
Syria has allowed Russia to significantly expand its naval facility in the Mediterranean port of Tartus and keep using it for decades to come. The facility is the only such outpost Russia has outside the former Soviet Union. The Russian military has used Tartus to back its campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Under the agreement released on Friday, Syria has offered Russia free use of the Soviet-era facility for 49 years. The term can be automatically extended for...

• Is Obama's Legacy Among World's Muslims Tarnished?
After eight years of an on-again, off-again courtship of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims in what he called a "new beginning" between America and Islam, President Barack Obama is leaving office with dashed hopes and disappointed fans in much of the Muslim world. Obama remains popular around the world, with notable foreign policy achievements: the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the historic resumption of relations with Cuba and the landmark Paris climate change accord. But as he...

• Islamic State Destroys More Roman Antiquities in Syria's Palmyra
The Islamic State militant group has destroyed parts of a Roman amphitheater in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, according to Syria's state run news agency.   In addition to the facade of the second-century amphitheater, IS destroyed the Tetrapylon, an ancient cubic-shaped Roman monument. The agency did not give further details or say when the monuments were blown up. Syrian antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim provided Reuters with satellite images that show the Tetrapylon...

• Iranian Rescuers Try to Reach Firefighters Buried in Collapsed Tehran High-rise
Iranian rescuers have spent a second day trying to reach about 20 firefighters buried in the rubble of a Tehran high rise building as details emerge about the historic tower's poor state before it collapsed. Iranian media said emergency crews were trying to locate possible survivors on Friday, using two tunnels dug into the wreckage of the 17-story Plasco building. Dozens of firefighters had rushed to the site on Thursday when a fire broke out at around 8am local time and quickly...

• Last of the Declassified Osama bin Laden Materials Released
Right up until the end, al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden remained focused on striking the United States, its Western allies and governments seen as U.S. proxies, and he was leery of distractions that could weaken the terror group's resolve. “America was never as hated and detested by all the people in the world as it is now,” bin Laden wrote in a letter, citing “the torture of the brothers in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.” “Everyone should forget about his disagreements and focus his...

• US Strikes Kill More Than 80 Islamic State Fighters in Libya
Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says U.S. airstrikes killed several dozen Islamic State fighters late Wednesday in two military camps about 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte, Libya. Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.

• UN: Syrian Government, Rebels Denying Humanitarian Access to Civilians
The United Nations has accused the Syrian government and opposition groups of denying humanitarian access to hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in besieged areas. Jan Egeland, the special adviser for Syria, called December and January the worst months for the delivery of life-saving aid. He said only half of the area and population the U.N. wanted to reach has been approved for access in full. Egeland said trying to get aid missions under way even after the government has given...

• Kosovo Sentences 7 for Ties to Terror Groups in Syria
A Kosovo court has sentenced seven Albanian citizens on charges of terror, participating in terror groups and recruiting for Islamic terror groups in Syria.   A statement Thursday from the court in the capital, Pristina, said the seven defendants, identified only by their initials, received prison sentences ranging from 2 to 4 years. Online news site Kallxo.com reports that some of them acknowledged having fought with anti-government forces in Syria, while others said they had gone...

• Desalination Plant Brings Relief to Gaza
International aid workers on Thursday opened a new desalination plant in the Gaza Strip, bringing some relief to a territory where 97 percent of the water is undrinkable.   It is the Hamas-ruled territory's second and largest desalination plant. While it will not solve Gaza's water woes, officials said the project marked an important step.   "Despite the small production, this gives symbolism to Gaza residents that the train of water solution is now on track,"...

• Iraqi Sheep, Locals, Environment Suffer Islamic State Oil Fires
Shepherds herd blackened flocks through the Iraqi desert. Locals cough and wheeze under vast clouds of smoke, and NASA images show oil threatening to encroach on the Tigris River, a major water source. Lit by Islamic State as they fled Iraqi forces in August, huge oil fires are still raging across northern Iraq, bringing a litany of problems in their wake. A toxic cloud has hung for months over the town of Qayyara, just 60 km (40 miles) from Mosul where Iraqi forces are battling to...

• Iraq Counts on US Advisers, Mostly Out of Sight, in War on Islamic State
When Iraqi forces faced a fierce Islamic State counter-attack last month at a hospital in Mosul they had stormed without enough troops to hold it, U.S. advisers behind the front lines shepherded them to safety. And as they punched through the city's northern limits a few weeks later, it was again the Americans who counseled them how best to avoid roadside bombs and head off Islamic State suicide car bombers. Washington, leading an international coalition against the jihadists in...

• Jordan Boosts Border Forces Amid IS Threat From Iraq, Syria
A senior Jordanian military commander says the kingdom faces a growing threat to its border as Islamic State extremists in neighboring Iraq and Syria are being dislodged from their strongholds by military offensives.   Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin told reporters on Thursday he expects some IS fighters, increasingly on the defensive, to make their way to southern Syria and Jordan's border. Kafawin commands the border guard forces.   He says there has been a "big...


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