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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Russia Condemns Israeli Strike, Syria Warns of Retaliation

Russia condemned the reports of an Israeli attack on a Syrian military research centre northwest of Damascus, calling it an unprovoked violation of international law. In a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Russian authorities said that “if this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the U.N. Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives to justify it”. Details of the strike remain patchy. Initial reports had Israeli jets striking a weapons convoy heading from Syria to Lebanon, apparently destined for Hezbollah. An unnamed U.S. official confirmed the strike to the BBC, saying the lorries were carrying Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. Syrian TV later reported the warplanes had flied low to avoid the country’s defenses before striking the Jamraya military research centre, killing two people in the raid. The country’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul-Karim Ali, said that Syria would defend its sovereignty and warned that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad could take “a surprise decision to respond to the aggression of the Israeli warplanes”.

France Claims to Have Mali Islamists ‘in Disarray’

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that three weeks of targeted air strikes in northern Mali had left Islamist militants “in disarray”, before adding that this could signal a shift in their tactics. “We are arriving at a moment of transition in the French intervention. It has been a success. The jihadists have suffered heavy losses. They have scattered, either to their homes or across international frontiers. This may just be a tactical withdrawal and we should not allow ourselves to be duped”, said Le Drian. He also said he backed the idea of a UN peacekeeping force in Mali. The expectations of separatist Tuareg fighters in northern Mali, who have have supported the French effort, are another issue to be faced after the Islamist withdrawal. The secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) said it would not allow the return of the Malian army to the region because of what it describes as “crimes against the civilian population”.

U.K. Prime Minister Cameron In Surprise Libya Visit

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Libya on Thursday for a surprise one-day visit. His arrival in Tripoli was greeted as a statement of support for the Arab spring and the Libyan government, who in recent weeks had criticised warnings issued by British and Dutch authorities advising its citizens to leave Benghazi because of specific information relating to threats of attacks on Western nationals. “In building a new Libya you will have no greater friend than the United Kingdom. We will stand with you every step of the way”, said Cameron on his arrival at Tripoli airport, where he was greeted by a band replete with bagpipes. He promised to support the local government in its attempt to assert authority over the whole country against a countless number of militias, pledging a package on policing and defence aid. He later walked through the city’s main square, Martyr Square, surrounded by heavily armed soldiers and greeted some of the revolutionaries that led the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi. The Guardian reports that Cameron also shook hands with bemused locals.

Chinese Hackers Infiltrated The New York Times for Last Four Months

The New York Times claimed in an article published on Thursday that it was the target of attacks by Chinese hackers after it reported on the wealth accumulated by relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s Prime Minister. It reported its computer systems were persistently attacked for four months since last October, with hackers managing to break into the e-mail accounts of the newspaper’s Shanghai bureau chief, David Barboza, who wrote the story, and of the South Asia bureau chief, Jim Yardley, who now resides in India, but was the former Beijing bureau chief for the New York Times. “Computer security experts found no evidence that sensitive e-mails or files from the reporting of our articles about the Wen family were accessed, downloaded or copied,” said Jill Abramson, executive editor of the newspaper. When asked about the evidence uncovered, linking the attacks to China, a spokesperson from the country’s Ministry of National Defense stated that “Chinese laws prohibit any action including hacking that damages Internet security”, adding that “to accuse the Chinese military of launching cyberattacks without solid proof is unprofessional and baseless.”

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