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IS families escape Syria camp as Turkey battles Kurds

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Hundreds of relatives of foreign jihadists escaped from a displacement camp in northern Syria, Kurdish authorities said Sunday, as the number of people fleeing a Turkish assault soared to 130,000.

Fighting raged along the border on the fifth day of an offensive that has provoked an international outcry and left dozens of civilians and fighters dead.

Kurdish authorities and foreign powers have warned repeatedly that the hostilities could undermine the fight against the Islamic State group (IS) and allow jihadists to break out of captivity.

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The Kurdish administration in northern Syria said that Turkish bombardment near a camp for the displaced led to nearly 800 relatives of IS members fleeing.

Fighting has engulfed the area since Wednesday when Ankara launched a long-threatened offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who it considers “terrorists” linked to insurgents inside Turkey.

US President Donald Trump has been accused of abandoning a loyal ally in the fight against IS after ordering American troops to pull back from the border.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor reported on Sunday that 14 more civilians had been killed in fighting.

More than 50 civilians have now died on the Syrian side, with Turkish reports putting the number of civilians dead from Kurdish shelling inside Turkey at 18.

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The Observatory said pro-Ankara fighters “executed” at least nine civilians on Saturday near the Syrian town of Tal Abyad.

The Kurds said a female Kurdish party official and her driver were among those killed.

– Humanitarian fears –

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Aid groups have warned of another humanitarian disaster in Syria’s eight-year-old war if the offensive is not halted.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said the exodus sparked by the fighting had grown to 130,000 people and it was preparing for that figure to more than triple.

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“We have moved into a planning scenario where up to 400,000 people could be displaced within and across the affected areas,” spokesman Jens Laerke told AFP.

Some 12,000 IS fighters — Syrians, Iraqis as well as foreigners from 54 countries — are detained in Kurdish prisons, according to official Kurdish statistics.

Displacement camps meanwhile host some 12,000 foreigners — 8,000 children and 4,000 women.

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“The brutal military assault led by Turkey and its mercenaries is now taking place near a camp in Ain Issa, where there are thousands (of people) from families of IS,” a Kurdish administration statement said.

“Some were able to escape after bombardments that targeted” the camp.

It said the Ain Issa camp was “now without guards” and 785 relatives of IS jihadists had fled.

The SDF, a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, was the main partner on the ground in the US-led campaign against IS.

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According to the Observatory, at least 104 of its fighters have been killed since the start of the Turkish offensive.

– Fierce fighting –

According to Turkish media, Ankara aims to take control of a territory 120 kilometre (75 miles) long and 30 kilometres into Syria, up to the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain.

Near Tal Abyad, “fierce combat” unfolded around Suluk, with Turkish air raids targeting the area, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

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“The Turks are trying to take control, but there are fierce battles with our forces,” an SDF official said.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that fighting was ongoing on the western outskirts of Ras al-Ain, where Kurdish forces had pushed back Turkish forces and its Syrian rebel allies.

“Ankara’s forces and pro-Turkish rebels pulled back in several areas where they had advanced the day before,” the Observatory head said.

On Saturday, Ankara announced that it had overrun the town, but the SDF denied the claim.

Another SDF official, stationed in Ras al-Ain, also reported the withdrawal of Turkish forces.

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SDF fighters have taken mounting losses against the vastly superior military firepower of Turkey, which has defied mounting international protests and the threat of US sanctions in pressing on with its offensive.


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David Holmes’ opening statement to Congress directly implicated Donald Trump: report

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donald trump on the phone

Congress will hear first-hand testimony of President Donald Trump's involvement in the Ukraine scandal.

"David Holmes, the state department aide who overheard President Donald Trump's conversation with the US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, said that Sondland told Trump that the Ukranian President would do 'anything you ask him to,' and that he confirmed the Ukrainians were going to 'do the investigation,'" CNN reported Friday.

""Sondland told Trump that (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky 'loves your ass,'" Holmes testified. "I then heard President Trump ask, 'So, he's gonna do the investigation?' Ambassador Sondland replied that 'he's gonna do it,' adding that President Zelensky will do 'anything you ask him to.'"

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‘Rudy has got to be looking at handcuffs’: Ex-prosecutor says Giuliani will have a tough time in prison

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Another Donald Trump attorney is looking at serving prison time, a former federal prosecutor predicted on MSNBC on Friday.

MSNBC "Meet the Press Daily" host Chuck Todd asked former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner if prosecutors would be tougher on Giuliania because he had once been a prosecutor himself.

"It’s tough to figure out, first of all, how Rudy is going to play it because based on what we’ve seen and particularly if [Lev] Parnas flips, Rudy has got to be looking at handcuffs sometime soon," Kirschner replied.

"And Chuck, what does he do? As a former U.S. Attorney, does he want to run the risk of ending up in the bureau of prisons where he will not find a lot of friends in the inmate population," he explained.

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Administration blaming Lt Col Vindman for White House lying to America about the first Ukraine call

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On Friday, President Donald Trump released the rough transcript of his first phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Upon the release, many White House watchers noticed that the transcript was nothing like the summary of the call that the administration released on the day the two leaders talked.

The exchange released by the WH does not appear to be an exact transcript as it does not include talk of U.S. support of Ukrainian sovereignty and a desire to root out corruption there, two things specifically highlighted in the White House read out of the call released in April.

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