U.S. APPROVES SYRIA SURVEILLANCE FLIGHTS
President Barack Obama approved manned and unmanned surveillance flights over Syria in a bid to hit ISIS positions without reinforcing President Bashar al-Assad, The New York Times reports, describing the decision as “a precursor to potential airstrikes there.” According to officials, Washington has no intention of notifying or asking the Syrian government for permission before launching airstrikes, although the Syrian Foreign Ministry warned yesterday that it would consider uncoordinated strikes an “act of aggression.”
The UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay accused ISIS of committing crimes against humanity, and said it was “ruthlessly carrying out widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the areas under their control.” These crimes include the June killings of up to 670 prisoners in Mosul. Read more from The Independent.
Forensic analysts quoted in British newspapers said they believed the filmed execution of U.S. journalist James Foley might have been staged. They conclude that “the execution may have happened after the camera was stopped.” Bashar al-Assad’s official spokesman has told news outlets that the journalist was in fact killed last year, despite other hostages reporting seeing him as recently as last month. Foley’s friends and boss branded the claims as “disgraceful.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Qatar is working to help free another four American hostages held in Syria, after the release of Peter Theo Curtis.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
RUSSIA/UKRAINE SUMMIT IN MINSK
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko are in Minsk, Belarus, today for talks that will also include EU officials, but it’s unclear whether the pair will hold a bilateral meeting, the BBC reports. The summit comes amid increasing hostility over eastern Ukraine. Kiev released a video yesterday showing 10 Russian paratroopers captured by government forces. Russia’s Defense Ministry told news agency Ria Novosti that the servicemen were patrolling the border and “most likely crossed by accident at an unequipped and unmarked zone.”
“We don’t believe in Nigeria,” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a new video, insisting the group has instead created an Islamic state in the towns and villages it has seized in northeastern Nigeria.
U.S. DENOUNCES “INTERFERENCE” IN LIBYA
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki denounced “outside interference” from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in Libya after it emerged that the two Arab nations carried out airstrikes last week against Islamist militias in the country’s capital of Tripoli. U.S. officials believe the intervention “exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.” Islamist groups took control of Tripoli over the weekend, threatening to push the country closer to dismemberment, three years after Muammar Gaddafi’s regime was overthrown. Speaking to The New York Times, U.S. officials said the strikes “represent a shift from a battle of proxies to direct involvement,” as Qatar has reportedly been arming Libyan Islamist groups.
To relieve persistent drought in China's northeastern province of Liaoning, meteorological workers induced 360 million cubic meters of rain through a process called "cloud seeding."
U.S. WORKING ON GAZA CEASEFIRE
As Israel’s Operation Protective Edge enters its 50th day, U.S. officials told Reuters they were working on a UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. According to unnamed sources, the U.S. diplomats are working with Jordan, Britain, France and Germany to combine the resolution with two previous drafts. According to the report, Israel “appeared increasingly open to the idea of the council demanding a ceasefire.” Meanwhile, Ma’an reports that Egypt is waiting for a response from Israel on a new ceasefire proposal to which Hamas has already agreed.
NEW FRENCH GOVERNMENT EXPECTED
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls is expected to introduce a new government later today after the whole cabinet resigned yesterday over an economic policy disagreement. According to Le Monde, there will be intense negotiations today to create a cabinet that will execute budget reforms. President François Hollande’s approval ratings are under 20%, a record low. Read more in English from AFP.
Breaking Bad was the big winner at last night’s Emmy Awards ceremony, taking home five Emmys, including for best drama, while Modern Family won the award for best comedy for a fifth consecutive time. Other highlights include a passionate kiss and a tribute to Robin Williams.
— Crunched by Marc Alves.