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Resources updated between Monday, May 21, 2018 and Saturday, May 26, 2018

May 26, 2018

The aftermath of a barrel bomb dropped by the Syrian regime in Aleppo

"The United States on Friday called on the Syrian government to step down as president of the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament scheduled for next week, citing the regime's repeated use of chemical weapons on civilian targets during the years-long civil war.

US diplomats said during a UN debate Friday that Bashar Assad's government 'has neither the legitimacy nor moral authority' to lead global disarmament efforts. French and British officials also objected to Damascus serving as head of the Conference, with one diplomat from Paris calling the appointment 'particularly cynical.'
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'Syria's presidency will undermine this body and demean this institution, and this is something that should not happen,' one American diplomat said.
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Later on Friday, UN chief Antonio Guterres told reporters that he did not have the power to override the rotation system that selected Syria to chair the 2018 conference, but said he hoped Syria's involvement would not have a 'negative impact' on international disarmament efforts..."

U.S. demands Syria withdraw as chair of anti-chemical weapons forum Article

May 25, 2018

Palestinians face off with Israeli forces during weekly clashes along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City, on May 25, 2018

An explosive device was thrown Friday at Israeli troops along the Gaza border in the Strip's north, the army said, as Palestinians took part in weekly clashes near the security fence.

The army said no soldiers were injured by the bomb.

It said some 1,600 Palestinians took part in riots at two locations along the border, where they threw rocks and burned tires. Numerous attempts were made to damage security infrastructure, the army said.

Troops used riot dispersal means and live fire in accordance with IDF regulations, it added.

Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry said 86 people were injured. Most were treated for tear gas inhalation while some sustained gunshot wounds.

Also during the afternoon several incendiary kites were flown into Israel from the Palestinian coastal enclave, sparking fires. Strong winds hampered efforts to douse the blazes, though all were eventually brought under control.

Friday's clashes were part of the weekly "March of Return" protests that began on March 30. Israel says they are orchestrated by the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, and used as cover for attempted terror attacks and breaches of the border fence.

The violent demonstrations were meant to end on May 15, but Hamas leaders have said they want them to continue. Turnout at the past two weeks' clashes has been far smaller than previous weeks.

Earlier, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said a Palestinian man shot in recent clashes died.

Yasser Habib, 24, was wounded several days ago east of Gaza City, the ministry said. It did not give details of exactly when he was shot.

According to the ministry's figures, 115 Palestinians have died since the start of the weekly protests in March, which reached their peak on May 14 when 61 people died.

Hamas acknowledged 50 of those killed that day were its members, while Islamic Jihad said three of those killed belonged to the terror group.

Separately Friday, the army said an estimated 87,000 Palestinians from the West Bank travelled to Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers.

It also said 8,000 Palestinians prayed at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

"IDF troops are deployed in reinforced numbers and are operating along with the Shin Bet, Civil Administration, Border Police and Israel Police in order to allow the Ramadan prayers, as well defending communities and roads and preserving order and security in the area," the army said.

Bomb hurled at IDF troops on Gaza border as 1,600 protest Document

Video screengrab of Lujain al-Hathloul, one of the women activists who was arrested

Saudi Arabia makes new arrest in crackdown on activists Document

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (File photo)

What an ICC 'war crimes' probe could mean for Israel Article

May 24, 2018

An Iranian Shahab-3 missile launched during military exercises (File photo)

Israel accuses Iran of testing 2 missiles this year, violating U.N. Security Council resolution Article

Headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, in The Hague

Washington weighs cutting funds to U.N. agencies after Palestinians join Article

May 23, 2018

Palestinian rioters at the Gaza border

Why the U.N. should condemn Hamas Article

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (File photo)

Israel's response to Palestinian referral to the ICC Article

President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Bethlehem, May 23, 2017

White House mulling possible move against Palestinian mission over ICC push Article

May 22, 2018

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon (File photo)

Israel, U.S. attempt to block Security Council resolution on Gaza international force Article

Illustrative. A Gazan takes bolt cutters to a border fence in footage released by the IDF from May 14 violence at the border

Palestinians cross Gaza fence, set fire to empty IDF post Document

May 21, 2018

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights at the U.N. Human Rights Council

"UNHRC approves Gaza resolution

The UNHRC approved on Friday a resolution asking the commission of inquiry to 'provide recommendations to protect civilians against any further assaults' in Gaza.

The resolution was approved by a vote of 29-2, with 14 abstentions, following a day-long special session in Geneva. The US and Australia were the only two countries to vote against the resolution.

Croatia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Kenya, Panama, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Switzerland, Togo, Slovakia and the UK all abstained. The Ukraine and Mongolia were not present at the time of voting..."

UNHRC Session Timeline: Resolution on Gaza Violence Investigation Approved Article

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (File photo)

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday charged the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva with supporting terrorism by launching a war-crimes investigation of Israeli actions on the Gaza border.

'There is nothing new under the sun. An organization that calls itself a council for human rights has once again proven that it is hypocritical and biased [and its] purpose is to harm Israel and support terror,' Netanyahu said.

'Israel completely rejects the resolution that was adopted by an automatic anti-Israel majority whose results were known from the start. Israel will continue to defend its citizens and soldiers as it has the right to defend itself.'

The prime minister spoke just after the 47-member UNHRC voted 29-2, with 14 abstentions and two absences, to launch a commission of inquiry into Israel and its treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem..."

Netanyahu: UNHRC Backed Terrorism With Its War Crimes Probe Against Israel Article

A scene inside the Yarmouk camp in Syria

"Amid scenes labeled 'apocalyptic' and a 'crime against humanity,' the Syrian regime continued its offensive on Sunday to retake the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, a neighborhood in south Damascus.

Most of the area is held by Islamic State and tens of thousands of Palestinian residents fled years ago, but thousands remain under a brutal siege.

The scenes from Yarmouk on Sunday looked like Stalingrad in 1942 or Berlin in 1945, during the Second World War: bombed-out buildings as far as the eye can see; roads turned to rubble; alleyways turned into canyons of destruction, gutted, gray and slumping from air strikes. There doesn't appear to be anything left of many city blocks that were once a thriving community, the home of more than 200,000 people in 2011 when the Syrian civil war broke out. Now only a few thousand remain. Those who do are reported to be starving under the regime's siege.

Since the middle of May, the regime has focused its firepower on the stronghold. It signed agreements with the local rebels so it could focus on destroying ISIS in southern Damascus, in an area held for years by the extremists. With support from Russia, according to numerous online accounts, the regime has sent tanks and planes to root out what remains.

There have been intermittent attempts to get the ISIS fighters to leave, but it's not entirely clear where they would go. In the other cease-fire deals the regime has signed, the rebel fighters have been bused north to an area of Syria controlled by rebels and the Turkish Army. But no one wants ISIS members.

Nevertheless, busloads have been shown leaving Yarmouk, destination unknown. Rumors say they will be sent to the 'Syrian desert,' which would mean the Euphrates Valley.

The last time the regime signed a deal to ship ISIS fighters from the Qalamoun Mountains near Lebanon to the Euphrates in August 2017, the US targeted the convoy in order to stop the fighters from reaching an area near eastern Syria. The US is still carrying out offensive operations against ISIS alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces in the country's east, so it's unclear how the coalition will react if the regime seeks to dump the fighters in the 'Syrian desert.'

There is a lot of outrage online over what has happened in Yarmouk. There are also accusations that world silence is part of a hypocrisy regarding the Assad regime's brutalities.

Idrees Ahmad, an academic and frequent commentator on the Syrian conflict, wrote on Thursday that what is happening in Yarmouk requires people to be outraged. He accused people of hypocrisy for saying Israel's actions in Gaza were crimes while ignoring Yarmouk.

However, activists who support the Syrian regime have accused Israel of being the 'spokesperson for ISIS. ISIS took over Yarmouk, and Assad and Palestinian PFLP are fighting against it!'

Syrian President Bashar Assad is 'liberating' the area, claim Assad supporters.

The UN for its part calls for allowing civilians safe passage out of what remains of the camp. The area under the control of ISIS now spans several large city blocks, or about 1 square kilometer.

On Sunday, Syrian state media denied a report that insurgents had begun leaving in a withdrawal agreement.

The recovery of the enclave south of Damascus would mark another milestone in Assad's war effort, crushing the last besieged rebel enclave in western Syria.

Swaths of territory at the borders with Iraq, Turkey and Jordan, however, remain outside state control.

Syrian government forces and their allies have been battling to recover the enclave south of Damascus since defeating rebels in eastern Ghouta, also near the capital, in April.

The area is centered on the al-Hajar al-Aswad district and adjoins the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, the largest in Syria.

The month-long battles have been the toughest fought by the Syrian Army and its allied forces this year against opposition forces in pockets around the capital, defense experts say.

Despite extensive use of air power that has left many parts of the area leveled to the ground, troops and allied militias have sustained heavy losses as they encounter tough resistance from die-hard militants waging a battle to the end.

In a live broadcast, a reporter with Syrian state TV said the Syrian army operations in the Hajar al-Aswad area were nearing their end and insurgent lines were collapsing as columns of smoke rose from the area behind him.

Syrian state news agency SANA said troops were about to close in on militants holed up in a small area of high density buildings north of Hajar al-Aswad.

'The fighting skills of the army are foiling all the efforts by the terrorists to prevent the army from completing the liberation of the area,' SANA said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier said buses had entered the enclave after midnight to take out fighters and their families. They had left toward the Syrian Badia, a sparsely populated expanse of territory east of the capital that extends to the border with Jordan and Iraq, it said.

Islamic State militants had torched their offices in the Yarmouk enclave, the Observatory said.

Negotiated withdrawals have been a common feature of the Syrian war in recent years as the government, aided by the Russian military and Iran-backed forces, has steadily clawed back territory.

The rebels have mostly been given safe passage to northwestern Syria. In the last two months alone, the United Nations says 110,000 people have been evacuated to northwestern Syria and rebel-held areas north of Aleppo.

The opposition has called it a policy of forced displacement amounting to demographic change to drive out Assad's opponents. The Syrian government has said nobody is forced to leave and those who stay must accept state rule.

While Assad has vowed to win back 'every inch' of Syria, the map of the conflict suggests a more complicated time ahead from now on.

The US military is in much of the east and northeast, which is controlled by Kurdish groups that want autonomy from Damascus. It has used force to defend the territory from pro-Assad forces."

Catastrophic destruction as Syrian regime pounds Palestinian refugee camp Document