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Israel deploys ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system near Jerusalem

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Israel deployed its Iron Dome missile defence system near Jerusalem Sunday, an AFP correspondent said, as the United States lobbied for domestic and international support for military strikes against Syria.

The correspondent said the battery was set up west of the city.

A military spokeswoman would not comment on the deployment, saying only that “defence systems are deployed in accordance with situation assessments.”

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Late last month a battery of the mobile system was set up in the greater Tel Aviv area, pointing northwards towards Syria. Israeli media have reported that six or seven such batteries are currently in use.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Israel “an island of tranquillity, quiet and security” amidst “the storm raging around us”, without explicitly mentioning Syria or its ally Iran.

In previous weeks Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel was not involved in the war in Syria, but would “respond with force” if anyone attacked it.

The Israeli line on Syria was reiterated in remarks by Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon later Sunday.

“We are not involved in the civil war in Syria unless our interests are compromised,” he said at a counter-terrorism conference in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv.

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“We are preparing for the ramification of action — or inaction — in Syria,” he continued.

“To our understanding, our neighbours, especially the Syrian regime, understands that whoever challenges us will encounter the power of the IDF (Israeli military), and we are preparing for that.”

Yaalon noted that “we held a security assessment today”, and the bottom line was that Israel was not reverting to a heightened level of alert in the wake of the developments in and regarding Syria.

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There are fears that if the United States and its allies attack Syria, forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or its Lebanese Hezbollah proxies could retaliate against neighbouring Israel, Washington’s key ally in the region.

Late last month, Iran’s army chief of staff General Hassan Firouzabadi warned: “Any military action against Syria will drive the Zionists to the edge of fire.”

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US President Barack Obama’s administration is seeking to shore up support both at home and abroad for limited military strikes against Syria in retaliation for what it says is the regime’s use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb.

In Washington, Congress is due to begin full debate this week on whether to approve Obama’s plans when it returns from its summer break on Monday.


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The Mafia’s using Facebook to whip up violence aimed at ending coronavirus lockdown in Italy’s south

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The Italian mob has been stirring up trouble and looting stores as the country endures its coronavirus crisis.

Guards stand outside grocery stores after people started refusing to pay, and clerks were too afraid of catching the virus to stop them -- and authorities believe the Mafia has been stoking the unrest before stepping in to bring order and increase their power in the southern regions, reported The Daily Beast.

Closed Facebook groups with thousands of members have been calling for riots and civil disobedience in southern Italy, which so far has escaped the grim coronavirus fate as northern regions for reasons that aren't entirely clear.

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Jerry Falwell Jr seems to want credit from Trump for drinking his coronavirus Kool-Aid: op-ed

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Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. has reopened the school's campus in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, according to a report from the New York Times, “nearly a dozen” students at the evangelical school have developed symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 as of this Friday, with at least one student testing positive for the virus.

Falwell, an avid Trump supporter, has consistently downplayed the severity of the pandemic, even insisting at one point that attempts to control its spread are nothing more than a plot to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency. Writing in the Washington Post this Monday, Michael Gerson contends Falwell Jr's response to the crisis "indicates the staggering level of ignorance" that informs his leadership skills, as evidenced by the "constant churn of mixed messages that Falwell has contributed to our national debate."

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Trump family unable to unload Washington hotel lease as commercial real estate market collapses due to pandemic: report

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According to a report from the Washington Post, efforts by Donald Trump's family to get out from under their lease of the government property that became the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. has come to a screeching halt as the coronavirus pandemic that has American's hunkering down in their homes has buyers and investors also sitting and waiting to see what happens next.

Last October the Trump Organization announced plans to sell off the lease after complaining that their refusal to solicit foreign business cost them "more than $9 million," in a glossy brochure issued  in November that noted they had turned down bookings for "17,100 room nights in 2019, resulting in $5.3 million in lost room revenue and $3.9 million in lost food and beverage revenue," reported Politico at the time.

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