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Islamic State counter-attacks out of final Syria enclave fall short: U.S.-backed SDF

Islamic State counter-attacks out of final Syria enclave fall short: U.S.-backed SDFThe jihadists, waging a last-ditch battle in Baghouz, a collection of hamlets and farmland near the Iraqi border, dispatched suicide bombers against SDF fighters, who thwarted the attacks, the U.S.-backed force said. Islamic State launched the second counter-attack in the afternoon, “(taking) advantage of smoke and dust over Baghouz”, the SDF media office said.



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Final decision on Netanyahu indictment to follow Israeli vote

Final decision on Netanyahu indictment to follow Israeli voteIsraelis will go the polls next month before a decision on whether to file a criminal indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases, the Justice Ministry said on Monday. Israel’s attorney-general announced on Feb. 28 he intended to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, though the actual filing of the charges would depend on the outcome of a required hearing. “The attorney-general … decided to accept the request of the prime minister’s attorneys to delay the delivery of investigation materials in the cases related to the prime minister until after the election date,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement.



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More civilians leave Islamic State's Syria enclave, delaying final assault

More civilians leave Islamic State's Syria enclave, delaying final assaultThousands of people – many of them the wives of IS fighters and their children – have been streaming out of besieged enclave at Baghouz for weeks, forcing the SDF to delay the assault to wipe out the last vestige of the jihadists’ territorial rule. The SDF has said it wants to make sure all civilians are out of the enclave before launching its final assault. Hundreds of IS fighters have also surrendered, but the SDF believes the most hardened foreign jihadists are still inside.



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View Photos of the 2019 Mercedes-AMG S65 Final Edition

View Photos of the 2019 Mercedes-AMG S65 Final Edition



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Syria force poised for final assault on IS

Syria force poised for final assault on ISAL-OMAR OIL FIELD (Syria) (AFP) – Kurdish-led fighters vowed Thursday to crush the last remnant of the Islamic State group’s “caliphate” in Syria within a week, after saying they have evacuated hundreds of people from the jihadist holdout. The Syrian Democratic Forces are poised to storm the pocket held by jihadists on the edge of the village of Baghouz, the last patch of the organisation’s once sprawling “caliphate”. Thousands of men, women and children, have poured out of the riverside hamlet in recent days, posing a huge humanitarian challenge for the US-backed Kurdish fighters leading the operation.



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Final battle to liberate last Islamic State village begins after civilians evacuated

Final battle to liberate last Islamic State village begins after civilians evacuatedWestern-backed forces say they plan to crush the Islamic State terror group within two days after launching an operation to clear out the group's final stronghold. The Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led group that has been the US-led coalition’s main ally against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) in Syria, commenced their final assault on the village of Baghuz just after sunset on Friday night. “After evacuation of thousands of civilians and our comrades who were held hostage in Baghouz, the operation to clear the last remaining pocket of Isil started at 18:00 this evening,” Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the SDF said. Mr Bali told The Daily Telegraph that said the operation is expected to last two days, but may take a week to complete as hardened jihadists fight back with heavy weapons and suicide car bombs. Isil, which once ruled over eight million people in a proto-state covering large swathes of Syria and Iraq, now controls a patch of land about 700 metres across on the banks of the Euphrates river. The demise of ISIL in Syria and Iraq The operation follows three weeks of evacuations of civilians from the tiny pocket. About 17,000 people, mostly women and children, have left in the past 16 days. SDF commanders estimate there are around 1,000 Isil fighters remaining in the pocket, along with an unknown number of non-combatants.   They may include John Cantlie, a British journalist who was kidnapped in 2012. Ben Wallace, the UK Security Minister, said last month that there was reason to believe Mr Cantlie is still alive. Photo Dispatch: Syria's fight against ISIL Although the fall of Baghuz would mark the end of the group’s pretensions to a caliphate, SDF officials have warned it will continue to present a security threat.   Sleeper cells using guerrilla tactics continue to carry out drive-by shootings and suicide bombings in liberated areas. Some fighters still hold some desolate territory in a remote area west of the Euphrates River. “All the remaining fighters are experienced and professional. They the true radicals and jihadist fighters. Therefore they will fight to the end,” Mr Bali said. “We do not expect any to surrender.”



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Empire executives suspend Jussie Smollett and say his character Jamal will not appear in final two episodes

Empire executives suspend Jussie Smollett and say his character Jamal will not appear in final two episodesJussie Smollett's character Jamal will not appear in the final two episodes of Empire, the Fox show's executive producers have said. Smollett has been charged with filing a false police report after alleging he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack, authorities have said. Police in Chicago had earlier said the 36-year-old actor was being considered as a suspect in the case and have now confirmed charges have been brought against him. He has been charged by Cook County State's Attorney's Office with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said detectives are now looking to arrest Smollett. In a statement, Fox said: "The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us. Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. "While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. "We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show, and to avoid further disruption on set we have decided to remove the role of Jamal from the final two episodes of the season." Jussie Smollett's mugshot Lawyers acting on behalf of Smollett have said they will mount an "aggressive defence" to the charges. Lawyers Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement: "Like any other citizen, Mr Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. "Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defence." It did not say where Smollett is and when he might turn himself in to police. The charges emerged on the same day that detectives and two brothers who were earlier deemed suspects testified before a grand jury. The announcement that charges had been made followed weeks of speculation around the investigation and lengthy interviews of the brothers by authorities, a search of their home and their release after police cleared them. Investigators have not said what the brothers told detectives or what evidence detectives collected. On Friday, it became clear the focus of the investigation had shifted when police announced a "significant shift in the trajectory" of the probe after the brothers were freed. If found guilty of the Class 4 felony, Smollett faces a prison sentence of between one to three years, but could also receive probation. Smollett had alleged he had been attacked by two masked men in downtown Chicago on January 29, telling police his attackers had shouted racist and homophobic abuse and tied a noose around his neck. Jussie Smollett as his character Jamal in Empire Credit: Chuck Hodes/Fox Smollett, who is black and came out as gay in 2015, made a tearful appearance on Good Morning America this month and said he had been "forever changed" by the alleged attack. He said: "I will never be the man who this didn't happen to. "I am forever changed and I don't subscribe to the idea that everything happens for a reason, but I do subscribe to the idea that we have the right and responsibility to make something meaningful out of the things that happen to us, good and bad." Asked what message he wanted to send by speaking about the attack, he replied: "I want young people, young members of the LGTBQ community, young black children, to know how strong they are, to know the power they hold in their little pinky." Smollett has starred in musical drama Empire since 2015. He plays Jamal, the gay son of a music mogul, played by Terrence Howard. Fox, the network which airs Empire, said it had no comment to add.



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NASA to make final attempt to contact Mars Opportunity Rover

NASA to make final attempt to contact Mars Opportunity RoverUS space agency NASA will make one final attempt to contact its Opportunity Rover on Mars late Tuesday, eight months after it last made contact. Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 and covered 28 miles (45 kilometers) on the planet, securing its place in history after lasting well beyond its expected 90-day mission. Despite NASA engineers’ best efforts to get a response via radio channels, its last communication was on June 10, 2018.



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Fierce battles near final IS foothold in eastern Syria

Fierce battles near final IS foothold in eastern SyriaBEIRUT (AP) — Islamic State group militants cornered in their last foothold in eastern Syria fought back with suicide car bombs, snipers and booby traps Monday, slowing Kurdish fighters advancing under the cover of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, Kurdish news agencies and a Syrian war monitor said.



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'Heavy clashes' as US-backed forces make final push against IS

'Heavy clashes' as US-backed forces make final push against ISUS-backed forces were locked in fierce fighting Sunday as they pressed the battle against the last shred of the Islamic State group’s “caliphate” in eastern Syria. The jihadists overran large parts of the country and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, but various military offensives have since reduced that territory to a patch on the Iraqi border. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by a US-led coalition, announced a final push to retake the jihadist pocket late Saturday, after a pause of more than a week to allow civilians to flee.



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