Iran slams 'worn-out' US nuclear accusations
Chemical arms watchdog to vote on Russian bid for new Syria probe
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait signal likely extension of oil supply cuts


OPCW says test results show proof of poison gas use in Syria

Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said Wednesday that “incontrovertible” test results from a suspected chemical attack in Syria on April 4 showed evidence of sarin gas or a similar substance. Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that France has evidence that will prove “in a few days” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime indeed used chemical weapons in the attack that targeted the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province, killing more than 80 people.


Syrian evacuees stranded at site of deadly bombing

About 3,000 Syrian evacuees from the besieged government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya spent the night in buses at a rebel-held transit point. The evacuees remain stuck today in Rashidin, where more than 120 people were killed on Saturday in a suicide bombing against a similar convoy. The rebels are demanding the release of 750 prisoners held by the government before allowing the buses to proceed. In a deal between the rebels and the government, civilians are supposed to be granted safe passage out of Fuaa and Kafraya in exchange for similar evacuations from the besieged rebel-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani.


Iran, Turkey, Russia meet in Tehran ahead of Syria cease-fire talks

Representatives from Iran, Russia and Turkey have wrapped up two days of expert-level meetings in Tehran ahead of the fourth round of Syrian cease-fire talks in Astana. The delegations discussed a draft cease-fire regimen as well as proposals to exchange prisoners held by the Syrian government and rebel groups. The next round of talks in Astana will be held May 3-4.


Egypt security forces kill IS militant behind Sinai checkpoint attack

Egypt’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday that security forces had killed a gunman suspected of an attack on a police checkpoint near St. Catherine's Monastery, in south Sinai. The attack on Tuesday, claimed by the Islamic State, killed one police officer and wounded three. The ministry said security forces, aided by Bedouin tribesmen, tracked several militants who fled after the attack and killed one of them.


Israel accuses Gaza cancer patient of smuggling explosives

Israel said Wednesday that it had stopped two sisters from Gaza from smuggling explosives concealed in tubes labeled as medical supplies. The women had an entry permit to Israel for medical treatment because one of them is a cancer patient.

Shin Bet, Israel's security agency, accused Hamas of taking “advantage of the humanitarian infrastructure and medical assistance that Israel provides to the residents of the Gaza Strip to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel.” Gaza hospitals, several of which were damaged in the 2014 war with Israel, are now running out of fuel. 


Emirates airline reduces flights to the US

Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East's largest airline, said Wednesday that it will reduce its flights to five US cities starting next month due to a drop in demand following President Donald Trump's travel ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries and other recent restrictions. Flights to Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle will be cut to one a day, and daily flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando will be cut to five a week.



Abbas to visit Washington in early May

The White House announced Wednesday that President Donald Trump will host Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on May 3. Talks will concentrate on efforts to revive the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Direct peace talks between the two parties spearheaded by the Barack Obama administration collapsed in 2014.


Pentagon chief warns Iran creating another Hezbollah in Yemen

During a visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that Iran is seeking to destabilize the region and “create another militia in their image of Lebanese Hezbollah” in Yemen. Mattis said that talks with Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman focused on broadening security cooperation to confront the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Mattis traveled to Egypt today for meetings with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Defense Minister Sedki Sobhy.


Tillerson rips nuclear deal despite saying Iran is complying

The Donald Trump administration sent mixed messages Wednesday about its intentions regarding the nuclear deal with Iran. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed Congress on Tuesday that Iran was complying with the 2015 agreement, but also that the administration would nevertheless review whether the United States should live up to its end of the bargain. At a press conference hours later, Tillerson said the deal negotiated by the Barack Obama administration “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran.”


US approves $300 million weapons sale to Iraqi Kurds

The Donald Trump administration on Wednesday informed Congress that it had approved a $295.6 million arms sale for Iraqi peshmerga. The package includes machine guns, howitzers and Humvees. Two Kurdish infantry brigades and two support artillery battalions will receive the equipment “with the concurrence of the central government,” according to the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency.



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