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Saturday, Oct 20th

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Syrian refugees cling to life on Golan Heights as Assad’s net tightens

Syrian refugees on Golan cling to life

It’s a regular stop for holidaymakers in Israel. American teenagers, some of them boys in sleeveless basketball tops, cluster on hilltop lookouts in the Golan Heights, a volcanic plateau captured from Syria half a century ago. Visitors ride quad bikes along dusty paths or spend the day touring the area’s vineyards. Signs on the roads warn of the risks to tourists: “Caution – cyclists ahead.”

For Syrians on the other side of a fortified perimeter fence, there are more pressing concerns. Thousands have gathered as close to the border as possible, gambling their lives on the assumption that Syrian government forces fighting rebels will not bring the battle too close to Israel.

It is no sure bet. From the Israeli-controlled side, the whistle of an unseen jet could be heard and then a sudden, deeper rumble. In the distance, a grey pillar of smoke punched hundreds of metres into the air as the airstrike hit.

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Deadly mosque blast hits Libya's Benghazi

Benghazi mosque bomb blastAt least two people have been killed and more than 50 wounded in a bombing at a mosque in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, according to medical sources.

The casualties were caused by two suspected improvised explosive devices which went off at the Saad Ben Obadah mosque during Friday prayers.

Mutaz al-Mu'tri, Benghazi's security directorate spokesperson, said two bomb bags had been used in the attack, according to Libya's 218 tv news channel.

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U.S.-led forces acknowledge killing 50 more civilians in Iraq, Syria

Civilian casualties by US troops continueThe U.S. led coalition fighting Islamic State militants on Friday confirmed that another 50 civilians had been killed in strikes in Iraq and Syria, raising the total number of civilians it has killed to 735 since the conflict began in 2014.

The coalition said in a statement that during August, it had assessed 185 reports of civilian casualties and found that the additional 50 deaths occurred in 14 incidents that it deemed were credible.

The coalition, battling to defeat Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, says it goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties.

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UN: 'Staggering' civilian deaths in Raqqa offensive

Staggering civilian casualties in Raqqa offensiveIntensified coalition air strikes supporting an assault by US-backed rebel forces on Syria’s Raqqa are causing a "staggering loss of civilian life", United Nations war crimes investigators have said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by a US-led coalition, began attacking Raqqa a week ago to take it from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

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US coalition investigating reports of deadly Mosul airstrike

Mosul air strike being investigatedThe U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group is investigating reports of an airstrike in a western neighborhood in the Iraqi city of Mosul that allegedly left more than 100 civilians dead, according to a statement given to The Associated Press on Friday.

The suspected high toll underscores the difficulties that Iraqi troops face in the weeks-long fight to route the Sunni militant group from the densely urban part of the city, Iraq's second-largest.

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UNHCR: 3,000 fleeing Iraqis seized by ISIL

Fleeing IraqisFighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have reportedly captured up to 3,000 fleeing villagers in northern Iraq, according to the UN refugee agency, or UNHCR.

In its daily report on events in Iraq, UNHCR said on Friday that 12 of the captives were thought to had been executed by ISIL, also known as ISIS.

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Scathing report in Britain slams Tony Blair over Iraq War

Blair must face war crimes trialThe Iraq war was mounted on flawed intelligence, was executed with “wholly inadequate” planning, and ended “a long way from success,” according to a damning report released Wednesday by the head of Britain’s Iraq War inquiry.

Retired civil servant John Chilcot, who oversaw the seven-year inquiry, said “the U.K. chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.”

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