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Deaths mounts in Syria as UN weighs cease-fire resolution

Deaths mount in Syria as UN gets set to vote on cease fireSyrian government warplanes carried out a sixth day of airstrikes Friday in the rebel-held suburbs east of Damascus, killing 32 people, activists said, as the death toll from a week of bombardment soared over 400.

At the United Nations, last-minute negotiations were underway ahead of an expected vote on a Security Council resolution demanding a 30-day humanitarian cease-fire.

The new bombings came a day after Syrian army helicopters dropped leaflets over the rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ghouta, urging residents of those suburbs to leave for their own safety and calling on opposition fighters to surrender because they were surrounded by government troops.

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Aid agencies call for urgent ceasefire in besieged Syrian enclave

Syrian horror call for urgent ceasefire

Aid agencies, including the Red Cross and World Food Programme, are calling for an urgent ceasefire to allow them to reach the besieged Syrian enclave of eastern Ghouta, as rockets and barrel bombs dropped by pro-regime forces killed dozens more people on the fourth day of an intense assault.

The calls were echoed by the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, who demanded an immediate suspension of “all war activities” in the rebel-held Damascus suburb, which he described as a “hell on earth”.

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China will soon have air power rivalling the West’s

China will soon have air power to rival US

There is no question which country gets the starring role in “The Military Balance”, the latest annual review of the world’s armed forces by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a London-based think-tank. Amid renewed jostling between the world’s great powers, it is the pace of military modernisation in China that stands out.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, wants to be able to challenge America’s military might in the western Pacific. He is making big progress. China’s once bloated armed forces are becoming leaner and a lot more capable. They are also benefiting from a defence budget that is growing at a steady 6-7% a year, in line with GDP. The IISS declares that China has become an innovator in military technology and is “not merely ‘catching up’ with the West”.

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Netanyahu Legal Woes Worsen as Ex-Top Aide Agrees to Testify

Netanyahu's ex-aide to testify against him

Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal woes deepened after one of his closest confidants agreed to testify against him in a growing corruption scandal, complicating the Israeli leader’s efforts to hold on to his job.

Shlomo Filber, the suspended Communications Ministry director and onetime chief of Netanyahu’s bureau, signed an agreement to become state witness. He turned on his former boss less than a week after police recommended pressing charges against Netanyahu in two other influence-peddling cases -- and a day after news broke that police were investigating whether another longtime Netanyahu associate sought to bribe a judge.

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Key EU banker accused of bribery, Russia ties

Dimitri Pilshchikov accused of bribery, Russian tiesLatvia's top banking official explained the "rules of the game" for successful banking in the small European country. His sidekick sat the owner of Norvik bank down, scribbling the sum on a piece of paper: 100,000 euros ($125,000) a month.

An international complaint filed by Latvian bank Norvik alleges that a "Senior Latvian Official" repeatedly sought "to extort monetary bribes," and retaliated against the bank when its owners refused to pay up. The 39-page claim, filed before a World Bank arbitration body, left the identity of the senior official anonymous.

That person is Ilmars Rimsevics, Norvik bank officials told The Associated Press.

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War monitor: 35 dead in Eastern Ghouta in last 24 hours

35 civilians dead near Damascus

At least 35 civilians have been killed near Damascus in less than 24 hours in heavy bombardment by Syrian government forces as they prepare a ground operation to recapture the opposition-held enclave, a war monitor group said.

Air raids and artillery fired on Eastern Ghouta - a suburb of the Syrian capital - killed at least 18 people on Monday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

At least 17 others, including five children, were killed on Sunday, according to the Syrian Observatory, with 75 others wounded.

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Iranian Passenger Plane Crashes Into Mountains, Killing 65

iranian plane crashesAn Iranian commercial airplane brought back into service only months ago after being grounded for seven years crashed Sunday in a foggy, mountainous region of southern Iran, and officials said they feared all 65 people on board were killed.

The crash of the Aseman Airlines ATR-72 marks yet another fatal aviation disaster for Iran, which for years was barred from buying airplane parts for needed maintenance due to Western sanctions over its contested nuclear program.

Its nuclear accord with world powers allows it to get those parts and the country has made deals worth tens of billions of dollars for new aircraft. However, President Donald Trump’s refusal to recertify the deal has injected uncertainty into those sales while Iranians still fly in aging aircraft.

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