Dramatic video shows North Korean defector shot 5 times, pulled to freedom

Dramatic video shows North Korean defector shot 5 times, pulled to freedom

The United Nations Command in control of the border between the two Koreas released dramatic video on Tuesday of what happened when a North Korean soldier defected to the South on Nov. 13.

The video shows the defector speeding south in a jeep before getting out, being shot at least five times by North Korean soldiers pursuing him and then being dragged to safety by South Korean soldiers.

The surveillance video also showed one of the North Korean guards step across the demarcation line between the two countries while chasing the defector, in violation of a cease-fire agreement.

In the video the 24-year-old defector, identified only by his family name, Oh, is shown driving a military jeep along a road on the northern side of the border toward the South. It approaches a white building, a checkpoint under North Korean control, then passes it at full speed.

The jeep passes a memorial to North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, a well-known destination for visitors to the Joint Security Area inside the Demilitarized Zone, and North Korean guards are seen chasing the vehicle.

The jeep runs off the pavement just a few feet from a white demarcation line between the two Koreas. After failed attempts to free the vehicle, Oh jumps out and sprints toward the South. North Korean armed guards who had hurried to the jeep fire shots at him. Oh is next seen collapsed next to a concrete wall on ground controlled by the South.

The United Nations Command also released infrared video images of South Korean soldiers carefully crawling toward Oh and dragging him to safety.

“After thoroughly reviewing the investigation results, I assess the actions taken by the UNC Security Battalion were in a manner that is consistent with the Armistice Agreement, namely — to respect the Demilitarized Zone and to take actions that deter a resumption of hostilities,” Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the UNC commander, said in a statement. “The armistice agreement was challenged, but it remains in place.”

Analysis of the video shows that North Korea violated the Korean Armistice Agreement by firing weapons across the military demarcation line and briefly crossing the line, according to Chad Carroll, the director of public affairs for the UNC.

Signed in 1953 by the U.N., North Korea and China, the agreement put an end to the Korean War, which lasted three years. The agreement states, “Neither side shall execute any hostile act within, from or against the demilitarized zone. No person, military or civilian, shall be permitted to cross the military demarcation line unless specifically authorized to do so by the Military Armistice Commission.”

Although North Korea has announced its withdrawal from the agreement repeatedly since then, the U.N. has consistently argued that it is still in effect. The firing across the Demilitarized Zone and crossing of the military demarcation line shown in the video is therefore taken as a provocative violation of the cease-fire designed to ensure peace on the peninsula.

The North Korean army was notified of these violations on Wednesday through communication channels in Panmunjom, a village just north of the border. UNC personnel have requested a meeting to discuss the investigation results and measures to prevent further transgressions.

North Korea has yet to comment on the defection or the violations of the agreement.

Despite being shot at least five times, the soldier is “not going to die,” Lee Cook-jong, the lead surgeon who operated on Oh, told reporters on Wednesday.

He regained consciousness and said he defected to the South of his own will. He was in the military for eight years, at times working as a vehicle driver. Hospital staffers played three K-pop music videos for him, which he liked, said Lee. Lately he has been watching Korean TV, especially the movie channel, including the Hollywood action film “Transporter 3.” Lee told reporters that they do not play the news for Oh, in case he is suffering from post-traumatic stress, and that he is still shy and reticent.

Immediately after the rescue, Oh was quickly transported to Ajou Hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul, and underwent two critical surgeries. An emergency surgery was performed 30 minutes after he arrived at the hospital. In the second surgery, two days later, surgeons removed five bullets from him. Lee said Oh will be able to leave the intensive care unit as early as this weekend. It could be over a month before he will be ready for in-depth interviews.

After the first surgery, there were reports that parasitic worms were found in Oh’s small intestine, indicating poor hygiene in North Korea. The medical team discovered that he has chronic hepatitis. He is under examination for signs of post-traumatic stress.

ABC News’ Hakyung Kate Lee, Yejin Jang and Jaesang Lee contributed to this report.

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US Navy aircraft carrying 11 passengers crashes into sea near Japan, 8 rescued

US Navy aircraft carrying 11 passengers crashes into sea near Japan, 8 rescued

A U.S. Navy aircraft with 11 passengers and crew crashed into the Philippine Sea on Wednesday on its return to the USS Ronald Reagan, according to the Navy’s 7th Fleet. Eight of the 11 have been rescued and are in good condition, the Navy said.

Search and rescue efforts continue for the other three people on board the aircraft when it went down.

The crash, which took place about 500 nautical miles (575 miles) southeast of Okinawa, Japan, happened at 2:45 p.m. local time, which is 12:45 a.m. ET.

The USS Ronald Reagan is conducting search and rescue operations, the Navy said.

The cause of the crash is unknown.

The Navy said the C2-A aircraft was conducting “a routine transport flight carrying passengers and cargo from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to USS Ronald Reagan.”

The USS Ronald Reagan is currently operating in the Philippine Sea. The ship was taking part in Annual Exercise 2017 (AE17), a bilateral field-training exercise with the Japanese Navy conducted in waters off Japan from Nov. 16 to 26.

It is one of three carriers currently operating in the area, along with the USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt. They took part in a military exercise a little over a week ago as a show of strength toward North Korea.

The accident is the latest in a series of disasters in 2017 for the 7th Fleet, which is stationed in Japan. In January, the USS Antietam ran aground off the coast of Japan, damaging its propellers and spilling oil into the water. The USS Lake Champlain collided with South Korean fishing boat on May 9.

Seven U.S. sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship in the middle of the night off the coast of Yokosuuka on June 17.

And the deadliest accident came on Aug. 21, when 10 U.S. sailors were killed when the USS John S. McCain collided with commercial vessel Alnic MC in waters east of Singapore, according to the Navy.

The commander of the 7th Fleet was removed of his command in late August following the USS John S. McCain accident. Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was relieved of duty due to a “loss of confidence in his ability to command,” according to the Navy.

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UN court convicts Mladic of genocide over Bosnia’s horrors

UN court convicts Mladic of genocide over Bosnia’s horrors

An unrepentant Ratko Mladic, the bullish Bosnian Serb general whose forces rained shells and snipers’ bullets on Sarajevo and carried out the worst massacre in Europe since World War II, was convicted Wednesday of genocide and other crimes and sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Defiant to the last, Mladic was ejected from a courtroom at the United Nations‘ Yugoslav war crimes tribunal after yelling at judges: “Everything you said is pure lies. Shame on you!”

He was dispatched to a neighboring room to watch on a TV screen as Presiding Judge Alphons Orie pronounced him guilty of 10 counts that also included war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Human-rights organizations hailed the convictions as proof that even top military brass long considered untouchable cannot evade justice forever. Mladic spent years on the run before his arrest in 2011.

“This landmark verdict marks a significant moment for international justice and sends out a powerful message around the world that impunity cannot and will not be tolerated,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe director.

For prosecutors, it was a fitting end to a 23-year effort to mete out justice at the U.N. tribunal for atrocities committed during the Balkan wars of the early 1990s. Mladic’s conviction signaled the end of the final trial before the tribunal closes its doors by the end of the year.

But legal battles will continue. Mladic’s attorneys vowed to appeal his convictions on 10 charges related to a string of atrocities from the beginning of the 1992-95 Bosnian war to its bitter end.

“The defense team considers this judgment to be erroneous, and there will be an appeal, and we believe that the appeal will correct the errors of the trial chamber,” Mladic lawyer Dragan Ivetic said.

Mladic’s son, Darko, said his father told him after the verdict that the tribunal was a “NATO commission … trying to criminalize a legal endeavor of Serbian people in times of civil war to protect itself from the aggression.”

Presiding Judge Alphons Orie started the hearing by reading out a litany of horrors perpetrated by forces under Mladic’s control.

“Detainees were forced to rape and engage in other degrading sexual acts with one another. Many Bosnian Muslim women who were unlawfully detained were raped,” Orie said.

The judge recounted the story of a mother who ventured into the streets during the deadly siege of Sarajevo with her son as Serb snipers and artillery targeted the Bosnian capital. She was shot. The bullet passed through her abdomen and struck her 7-year-old son’s head, killing him.

In Srebrenica, the war reached its bloody climax as Bosnian Serb forces overran what was supposed to be a U.N.-protected safe haven. After busing away women and children, Serb forces systematically murdered some 8,000 Muslim males.

“Many of these men and boys were cursed, insulted, threatened, forced to sing Serb songs and beaten while awaiting their execution,” Orie said.

Mladic looked relaxed as the hearing started, greeting lawyers, crossing himself and giving a thumbs-up to photographers in court. But midway through the hearing Mladic’s lawyer, Dragan Ivetic, asked for a delay because the general was suffering from high blood pressure. The judge refused, Mladic started yelling and was tossed out of court.

When he started speaking, “it was not about his health but much more I think trying to insult the judges,” Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said.

The conflict in the former Yugoslavia erupted after the country’s breakup in the early 1990s, with the worst crimes taking place in Bosnia. More than 100,000 people died and millions lost their homes before a peace agreement was signed in 1995. Mladic went into hiding for around 10 years before his arrest in Serbia in May 2011.

Mladic’s political master during the war, former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, was also convicted last year for genocide and sentenced to 40 years. He has appealed the ruling.

The man widely blamed for fomenting wars across the Balkans, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, died in his U.N. cell in 2006 before tribunal judges could reach verdicts in his trial.

The ethnic tensions that Milosevic stoked from Belgrade simmer to this day.

Top Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodik said the tribunal only underscored its anti-Serb bias by convicting Mladic. Dodik said the court was established with the “single purpose” of demonizing Serbs.

“This opinion is shared by all the Serbs,” Dodik said, describing Mladic as “a hero and a patriot.”

Serbian President Alksandar Vucic, a former ultranationalist who supported Mladic’s war campaigns but now casts himself as a pro-EU reformer, agreed that the court has been biased against Serbs but added that “we should not justify the crimes committed” by the Serbs.

“We are ready to accept our responsibility” for war crimes “while the others are not,” he said.

For a former prisoner of Serb-run camps in northwestern Bosnia who was in The Hague, the verdict was sweet relief.

Fikret Alic became a symbol of the horrors in Bosnia after his skeletal frame was photographed by Time magazine behind barbed wire in 1992 in a Bosnian Serb camp.

“Justice has won,” he said. “And the war criminal has been convicted.”


Associated Press writers Jovana Gec and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Sabina Niksic and Amer Cohadzic in Sarajevo, Eldar Emric in Srebrenica and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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102-year-old Holocaust survivor meets nephew: ‘I have waited for 70 years to see you’

102-year-old Holocaust survivor meets nephew: ‘I have waited for 70 years to see you’

A 102-year-old Holocaust survivor thought his entire family had perished in World War II — until he met his nephew.

Eliahu Pietruszka found out that his brother had, in fact, survived the Holocaust and that his brother’s son would come from Russia to visit him in Israel just a few days later, according to the Associated Press. Their teary, joyful meeting was made possible by resourceful grandchildren utilizing a genealogical database at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, the AP reported. Their emotional meeting was captured on video.

“I haven’t slept in two nights waiting for you,” Eliahu Pietruszka said upon meeting his 66-year-old nephew, Alexandre Pietruszka.

Alexandre Pietruszka had traveled to the Israeli retirement home where Eliahu lives from a remote part of Russia to meet him on Thursday as relatives looked on.

“You are a copy of your father,” Eliahu Pietruszka, a retired microbiologist, said in Russian. He embraced his nephew and placed a kiss on his cheek.

Eliahu Pietruszka fled Poland in 1939 at the age of 24, leaving behind his parents and his twin younger brothers, Volf and Zelig, according to the AP. Both of his parents and Zelig were killed in a Nazi death camp. Eliahu knew Volf had escaped persecution in Poland but thought he had died at a Siberian work camp.

But it turns out Volf had survived and worked for years as a construction worker in an industrial Russian city in the Ural Mountains. In 2005, Volf Pietruszka filled out a testimony page for Eliahu, whom he thought had died, at the Yad Vashem memorial, according to the AP. The memorial has existed since the 1950s but the database was made available online in 2004, the AP reported.

Eliahu Pietruszka’s grandson, Shakhar Smorodinsky, recently received an email from a cousin in Canada who had found Volf’s testimony in Yad Vashem’s database. The grandson tracked down a phone number and reached Alexandre.

Alexandre Pietruszka said his father had died in 2011, but that he would fly to Israel himself to meet his uncle for the first time. The centenarian lives in a retirement home in Kfar Saba, Israel.

“I have waited for 70 years to see you,” Eliahu Pietruszka told his nephew when they met.

Alexandre Pietruszka called the meeting miraculous.

“I never thought this would happen,” he told his uncle.

A representative from Yad Vashem called it “unbelievable.”

“This is one of the last opportunities that we will have to witness something like this,” Debbie Berman, a representative from Yad Vashem who witnessed the reunion, told the AP. “I feel that we are kind of touching a piece of history.”

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North Korean soldier who defected to the South loves watching music videos and movies

North Korean soldier who defected to the South loves watching music videos and movies

The North Korean solider who was captured on video defecting to the South earlier this month is enjoying watching South Korean music videos and the American movie “Transformers 3,” his doctor says.

The 24-year-old defector, identified only by his last name, Oh, was shot at least five times by North Korean guards before he made it past the demarcation line on Nov. 13. But Oh is “not going to die,” Lee Cook-jong, the lead surgeon who operated on the defected soldier, said at a press conference Wednesday.

The United Nations Command in control of the border between the two Koreas released dramatic video footage that shows Oh speeding south in a Jeep, before getting out and running from North Korean soldiers who open fire on him. Oh was later dragged to freedom by South Korean soldiers after being shot.

Oh has been in the North Korean military for eight years, at times working as a vehicle driver. After being rescued, he was immediately transported to Ajou Hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul, where he underwent two critical surgeries. He has since fully regained consciousness and confessed that he defected to the south on his own will, Lee said.

An emergency surgery took place just 30 minutes after Oh arrived at the hospital. The second surgery followed two days later, when surgeons removed five bullets from his body. Lee explained that Oh will be able to leave the intensive care unit as early as this weekend, but it could take over a month until the patient is ready for in-depth interviews, he said.

The medical team discovered parasitic worms in the man’s intestines. He is also under examination for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and is suffering from tuberculosis as well as chronic hepatitis, according to Lee.

Lee told reporters Oh is still shy and reticent. Hospital staff do not allow Oh to watch news programming in fear of triggering PTSD. Instead, they have played three K-pop music videos for Oh, including a song called “Gee” by the girl group Girls’ Generation, which Oh liked, according to Lee.

Oh has also been watching Korean TV, particularly the movie channel, including the third installment of “Transformers.” He likes watching the American crime drama series “CSI” as well as films starring American actors Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman, Lee said.

ABC News’ Hakyung Kate Lee, Yejin Jang and Jaesang Lee contributed to this report.

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Lebanon PM ‘suspends’ resignation

Lebanon PM ‘suspends’ resignation

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has “suspended” his resignation, which sparked a crisis when he announced it while in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.

Mr Hariri said President Michel Aoun had asked him to “put it on hold ahead of further consultations”.

The two men held talks a day after Mr Hariri flew back to Lebanon.

Mr Hariri has denied that Saudi Arabia forced him to resign and detained him in an attempt to curb the influence of Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is part of a national unity government formed by Mr Hariri last year.

“Today I presented my resignation to his excellency the president, and he asked me to temporarily suspend submitting it and to put it on hold ahead of further consultations on the reasons for it,” Mr Hariri said after Wednesday’s meeting at the Baabda presidential palace.

“I expressed my agreement to this request, in the hope that it will form a serious basis for a responsible dialogue.”

Mr Hariri said Lebanon required “exceptional effort from everyone” at this time in order to “protect it in confronting dangers and challenges”.

He also reiterated the need to remain committed to Lebanon’s state policy of “dissociation regarding wars, external struggles, regional disputes and everything that harms internal stability” – an apparent reference to the activities of Hezbollah.

The Shia Islamist movement acknowledges fighting alongside government forces in Syria and Iraq, and arming Palestinian militants. But it denies advising and sending weapons to rebel forces in Yemen’s civil war and militants in Bahrain.

‘Blow to Saudi Arabia’

By Martin Patience, BBC News, Beirut

The fact that Saad Hariri’s resignation has been delayed will be seen as a blow to Saudi Arabia. Many here believe Riyadh pressurised him to resign in order to bring about the Lebanese government’s collapse.

Lebanon is now centre stage in the power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. There is likely to be days of backroom dealing in order resolve this crisis. But the solution will need to involve the regional powers and the international community.

Significantly, Mr Hariri has opened the possibility that he may stay in power if Hezbollah respects Lebanon’s policy of staying out of regional conflicts.

On Monday, Hezbollah’s leader denied sending arms to Yemen and a number of other Arab states, and said he could pull its fighters out of Iraq once so-called Islamic State was defeated there.

But that is unlikely to appease a wounded Saudi Arabia.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Hariri was embraced by Mr Aoun as the two men attended an independence day military parade in Beirut. The president, a Maronite Christian former army commander and ally of Hezbollah who publicly accused Saudi Arabia of detaining the prime minister, appeared to tell him: “Welcome back!”

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Mr Hariri left Riyadh for France at the weekend with his wife and one of his three children. He flew to Lebanon on Tuesday, stopping in Egypt and Cyprus en route.

On Monday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech that still considered Mr Hariri prime minister and that the militant Shia Islamist movement was “open to any dialogue and any discussing that happens” in Lebanon.

Mr Hariri announced his resignation in a televised address on 4 November from Riyadh, in which he accused Iran of sowing “discord, devastation and destruction” in the region and said he sensed there was an assassination plot against him.

His father Rafik – himself a former prime minister – was killed in a car bombing in Beirut in 2005. Several members of Hezbollah are being tried in absentia at a UN-backed tribunal in connection with the attack, though the group denies any involvement.

Mr Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who became prime minister for the second time in late 2016 in a political compromise deal that also saw Mr Aoun elected president, has close ties to Saudi Arabia.

He holds both Lebanese and Saudi citizenship and has extensive business interests there. Riyadh also backs his political party, the Future Movement.

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Saudis ‘to let aid reach rebel-held Yemen’

Saudis ‘to let aid reach rebel-held Yemen’

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The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen says it will allow aid deliveries to the rebel-held port of Hudaydah and Sanaa airport, after urgent UN appeals.

The coalition, which backs Yemen’s government, tightened its blockade of the country two weeks ago in response to a rebel missile attack on Riyadh.

Government-controlled air and sea ports were allowed to reopen last week.

The UN said that was insufficient and that the threat of famine for millions of people was growing by the day.

Yemen is reliant on imports for more than 80% of its food, and it faced the largest food security emergency in the world even before the blockade was tightened.

The coalition announced the “temporary closure” of Yemen’s air, land and sea borders on 6 November, two days after a ballistic missile fired from territory held by the rebel Houthi movement was intercepted over Riyadh’s international airport.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused its regional rival Iran of supplying the missile, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani denied arming the Houthis and said the attack was a “reaction” by Yemenis to coalition air strikes.

On Wednesday, the coalition announced it had carried out a review of the UN’s inspection and verification procedures of aid shipments aimed at preventing the alleged smuggling of weapons.

As a result, the coalition said it had decided to reopen the Red Sea port of Hudaydah “to receive urgent humanitarian and relief materials” and reopen Sanaa airport to “UN aircraft, designated for humanitarian and relief efforts”.

The decisions would take effect from 12:00 (09:00 GMT) on Thursday, it added.

The coalition also said it would soon announce a “comprehensive humanitarian operations plan that aims to provide assistance and relief to the Yemeni people, and to facilitate the delivery of food to all the governorates of Yemen”.

Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council and a former UN aid chief, wrote on Twitter that it was “a glimmer of hope after [a] countdown toward famine”.

But he warned: “We need all ports to open & access for commercial food & supplies to large civilian population. Humanitarian aid alone cannot avert hunger.”

Last Thursday, the World Health Programme, World Food Programme and Unicef urged the coalition to lift the blockade. Unless the delivery of life-saving supplies to all rebel-held ports was permitted, they warned, “untold thousands of innocent victims, among them many children, will die”.

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More than 20 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, according to the UN agencies.

Some 17 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and 7 million are totally dependent on food assistance. Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children.

At least 14.8 million are without basic healthcare and the world’s largest cholera outbreak has resulted in more than 913,000 suspected cases and 2,196 deaths.

Fighting on the ground and air strikes have also killed more than 8,670 people – 60% of them civilians – and injured 49,960 others since the coalition intervened in the war between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Houthis in March 2015, the UN says.

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Putin unveils Syrian peace congress plan

Putin unveils Syrian peace congress plan

The Russian president has unveiled plans for a Syrian peace congress in a bid to end the six-year civil war.

Vladimir Putin made the announcement after talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a joint statement they urged the Syrian government and opposition to “participate constructively”.

No date for the proposed congress has been announced. It is to be held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

News of the latest initiative came as Syrian opposition groups met in the Saudi capital Riyadh to try to agree a joint position ahead of the latest round of UN-backed talks in Geneva next week.

However, the head of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) – a Saudi-backed umbrella group that represented the opposition at the last round – stepped down on Monday.

Riyad Hijab said he had been “forced to announce” his resignation after almost two years in the post, but wished the committee “further achievements”.

Mr Putin’s talks with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts in Sochi came days after he hosted his Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr Putin told Mr Assad that the military campaign was “wrapping up”, but there was still “a long way to go”.

He said at the time that he wanted to “move forward with the political process”.

“The congress will look at the key questions on Syria’s national agenda,” Mr Putin told reporters, sitting alongside Mr Rouhani and Mr Erdogan on Wednesday.

“First of all that is the drawing-up of a framework for the future structure of the state, the adoption of a new constitution, and, on the basis of that, the holding of elections under United Nations supervision.”

Mr Putin said the process of reform would not be simple and would require “compromise and concessions from all parties, including obviously the Syrian government”.

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He said the congress, to be held in Sochi, could be a “stimulus” for the UN-hosted talks in Geneva.

Correspondents say it remains to be seen which groups will be invited to the congress. The list of participants has proved a stumbling block in previous peace initiatives.

The issue of Mr Assad’s future has also been a sticking point in previous talks.

Opposition groups along with the leaders of the US, UK, France, Germany and the EU have long insisted that Mr Assad should step down.

Mr Putin announced in March 2016 that his forces had largely achieved their objectives in Syria, but the campaign continued.

Russia has been accused of killing hundreds of Syrian civilians with its air strikes, something it has denied.

New political reality sets in

Analysis by Lyse Doucet, BBC News, Riyadh

In Syria’s tortuous war, the new mantra is “reality.” Western and Arab states now recognise, however reluctantly, there is no choice but to pursue the possible over the preferable now that the war has gone President’s Assad’s way.

Gone is the mantra “Assad must go”. Saudi officials speak of “broadening the opposition.” That means bringing in groups whose first demand is not the president’s departure.

That is one of the main reasons why Riyad Hijab, who headed the HNC, has resigned.

But there’s also another new political reality in the region. Weeks ago, an Arab minister hinted to me it may be time to choose someone else to lead the Saudi backed HNC – Mr Hijab was now seen as too close to Saudi rival Qatar.

And there’s a third reality. Arab states and the US want to work with Russia to try to pursue their main priority in Syria now: to diminish Iran’s presence.

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Suicide bombing at Iraq market kills 23

Suicide bombing at Iraq market kills 23

At least 23 people have been killed and 60 others wounded in a suicide car bomb attack in Iraq, security sources say.

The blast ripped through a crowded fruit and vegetable market in the centre Tuz Khurmatu, about 160km (100 miles) north of Baghdad.

The sources said the number of dead was likely to rise because many of the wounded were in a critical condition.

No group said it was behind the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of previous bombings by so-called Islamic State.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday afternoon that he was on the verge of declaring a final military victory over the Sunni jihadist group, after pro-government forces retook the last town under its control last week.

But he warned political disagreements would allow IS to continue to launch attacks.

Tuz Khurmatu, which has a mixed ethnic Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen population, was the scene of deadly clashes last month when Iraqi pro-government forces retook it from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Mr Abadi ordered the military to capture disputed territory controlled by the Kurds since 2014 – when IS swept across northern Iraq – after the autonomous Kurdistan Region held a referendum on independence at the end of September.

Turkmen MP Niazi Maamar Oglu said Tuz Khurmatu had not seen an attack as deadly as Tuesday’s “for years”.

Salahuddin province security chief Mehdi Taqi told AFP news agency: “There are still some areas west of Tuz Khurmatu that serve as hideouts for IS and we will soon be carrying out operations to clean them up.”

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Anger as Israeli enters holy Muslim site

Anger as Israeli enters holy Muslim site

Images of an Israeli citizen inside a mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, have caused anger among Arab users on social media.

Russian-born Ben Tzion, 31, has been posting photos of himself visiting Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

His Facebook page includes photos of him inside Medina Prophet’s Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites.

“People of Saudi Arabia would stand with the Jewish nation side by side,” he said in a Facebook post with a photo of him performing the Saudi sword dance in a traditional ankle-length garment known as a “thobe”.

“Peace in the Middle East with respect and love towards each other,” he said in another post.

Non-Muslims are prohibited from visiting Mecca and advised not to enter parts of central Medina, where the mosque is located. But Mr Tzion said religious sites in Medina were open to the public.

Speaking to the Times of Israel, Mr Tzion – who became an Israeli citizen in 2014 – said visiting Muslim countries was “a hobby”, describing his message as “respect for other cultures and faiths”.

“No-one in the Arab world ever approached me with hostility,” he said.

“They tell me they love Israel and the Jewish people.”

He said he had acquired visas and entered all the holy sites legally, though not specifying which of his passports he travelled on.

Mr Tzion has also posted photos of his visits to the Iranian cities of Tehran and Qom. Israel and Iran are arch foes and citizens of the Jewish state are not allowed to visit Iran.

Despite his expressions of peace, Mr Tzion’s post was met with outrage.

The Arabic hashtag “A Zionist at the Prophet’s Mosque” has attracted more than 90,000 tweets in the past 24 hours.

“The scholars are in prisons and the Zionists are at the Prophet’s Mosque. It is a sad thing,” said one Twitter user in Arabic.

“In the era of Al Saud [the Saudi royal family], the occupying Zionists, the enemies of Islam and Muslims… defile the mosque of the seal of the Prophet,” said another.

Another user tweeted: “The current hashtag: A Zionist at the Prophet’s Mosque; the next hashtag: A Zionist on the pulpit of the Prophet’s Mosque; and the following hashtag: A Zionist is the imam of the Mecca Mosque.”

According to the Times of Israel, the huge number of angry comments on Instagram led to the photo-sharing platform’s decision to suspend Mr Tzion’s account.

The images come at a time when relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia are seen to be improving over their shared opposition to Tehran’s growing influence in the region.

The Israeli army’s chief of staff, Maj Gen Gadi Eizenkot, recently told an online Saudi newspaper that Israel was prepared to share “intelligence information” with Riyadh.

By the UGC and Social News team, additional reporting by Muhammad Shukri from BBC Monitoring

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