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Resources updated Thursday, August 10, 2017

August 10, 2017

A Hamas terror tunnel (File photo)

Israeli military says Gaza homes hiding Hamas tunnels Article

U.S. Embassy in Cuba

The US believes several State Department employees at the US embassy in Havana were subjected to an "acoustic attack" using sonic devices that left at least two with such serious health problems they needed to be brought back to the US for treatment, several senior State Department officials told CNN.

One official said the employees could have suffered permanent hearing loss as a result. 

The employees affected were not at the same place at the same time, but suffered a variety of physical symptoms since late 2016 which resembled concussions. 

The State Department raised the incidents with the Cuban government over the course of several months and sent medical personnel to Havana, but have not been able to determine exactly what happened. 

"It can be quite serious," one official told CNN. "We have worked with the Cubans to try and find out what is going on. They insist they don't know, but it has been very worrying and troublesome."

The FBI is now looking into the matter, the officials said.

"It's very strange," one official said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Wednesday said that "some US government personnel" working at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba on official duty reported some incidents that were causing "physical symptoms." But she could not elaborate on the nature or cause of the incidents.

"Because there are a variety of symptoms, there could be a variety of sources," one US official said. "That is why we are being very careful here with what we say. There is a lot we still don't know."

For years US diplomats in Havana complained that they suffered harassment from Cuban officials and frequently had their homes and cars broken into. But diplomats said that after the US and Cuba restored full diplomatic ties in 2015, the campaign of harassment stopped.

Some of those affected chose to return to the US, said Nauert, prompting the administration to expel two Cuban diplomats from the embassy in Washington in May.

"The Cuban government has a responsibility and an obligation under the Geneva convention to protect our diplomats," Nauert told reporters, "so that is part of the reason why this is such a major concern of ours."

"We felt like we needed to respond to the Cubans and remind them of their responsibility under the Vienna convention," one of the officials said. The officials were not declared "persona non-grata" and may be allowed to return back to the United States if the matter is resolved. 

Those affected were State Department employees, Nauert said, and no American civilians were affected. The State Department is taking these incidents "very seriously," she added, and is working to determine the cause and impact of the incidents.

A statement from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday categorically denied any Cuban involvement in the mistreatment of US diplomats in Cuba, and said the decision to expel Cuban diplomats was "unjustified and unfounded."

"The Ministry emphatically emphasizes that Cuba has never allowed ... Cuban territory to be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, without exception," the statement said in Spanish.

US embassy employees in Cuba possibly subject to 'acoustic attack' Document

Illustrative: Iranian women exercising in park.

Iranian officials have arrested six people accused of teaching Zumba dancing and trying to "change lifestyles", media reports say.

The group of four men and two women were charged over their dancing and not adhering to the hijab dress code.

Instructors allegedly "attracted boys and girls, taught them Western dances", and posted videos to social media.

The Latin American fitness routine has proved controversial in Iran, which has laws restricting dance.

"The members of a network teaching and filming Western dances have been identified and arrested," Hamid Damghani, a commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was quoted as saying by local media outlets.

"They were arrested by the Guards' intelligence forces while teaching and creating video clips... as they sought to change lifestyles and promote a lack of hijab," he said.

Hijab rules govern the wearing of headscarves and clothing in public places by women, and dancing with the opposite sex is banned, except in front of immediate family members.

The case has some parallels to the 2014 arrest of six Iranians for dancing along to Pharrell William's song Happy - which saw them sentenced to 91 lashes and a prison term.

Mr Damghani said dancing as a sport "is a serious issue".

But Zumba, the aerobics-dance hybrid popular in the West as a fitness class, has taken off in Iran despite the restrictions.

In June this year, the country's sporting federation said the exercise included "rhythmic motions and dance and are unlawful in any shape and title".

That was met with derision on social media, with many comparing the ban on Zumba in gyms to the hardline actions of the so-called Islamic State.

One gym manager told the Aftab-e Yazd newspaper that he would simply teach Zumba, but call it something else.

"We need to have these classes. We have been teaching Zumba for 12-13 years and if they ban it, we will continue our class under a different name," he said.

"Zumba is one of the most profitable activities and the clubs cannot ignore Zumba."

Iran arrests six for Zumba dancing Document