TPM World News

JERUSALEM (AP) — Three Palestinian assailants opened fire on Israeli police from inside a major Jerusalem holy site Friday, killing two officers before being shot dead, police said.

The rare attack from within the contested shrine, revered by both Muslims and Jews, raised new concerns about an escalation of violence.

The sacred compound sits at the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has triggered major confrontations in the past.

Israel closed the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, for further weapons sweeps Friday.

The rare closure meant a cancellation of noon prayers, which typically draw tens of thousands of Muslims from Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to the compound on Fridays.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly tried to allay Muslim fears, saying that the status quo at the Muslim-administered site “will be preserved.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reached out to Netanyahu in a rare phone call to discuss the situation in Jerusalem, highlighting the concern about a possible escalation, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA. The leaders have almost no direct contact.

Abbas condemned the attack and said he rejects “any violence from any party, particularly at holy sites.”

Police identified the assailants as Arab citizens of Israel. Friday’s shooting was the latest in a wave of Palestinian attacks that erupted in 2015, in part over tensions at the Jerusalem holy site.

Israeli police chief Roni Alsheikh said Friday that the weapons used in the attack had been brought into the holy compound.

The attackers opened fire on the Israeli officers from inside the site, he said.

In response, “a police force charged at the terrorists, killed two and wounded the third,” he said. The wounded assailant used a knife to attack an officer checking him for explosives and was killed, the police chief said.

Alsheikh said such an attack is “without precedent” at the holy site and an “incident of the highest severity.”

Amateur video broadcast on Israeli TV stations showed a few seconds of what appeared to be part of the chase in the compound.

In the video, several people — only visible as dark figures in the footage shot from a distance — were running inside the compound. A man who had dropped to the ground suddenly jumps up and lunges at one of the officers before he is shot.

The sacred compound, popular with tourists, is the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

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PARIS (AP) — France’s annual Bastille Day parade turned into an event high on American patriotism this year, marked by a warm embrace between President Donald Trump and his French counterpart on Friday.

French President Emmanuel Macron invited Trump as the guest of honor for the celebration to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I. The two men sat side by side with their wives, speaking animatedly as American and French warplanes roared above the Champs-Elysees.

The parade coupled traditional displays of military might with a look at wars past and present — and a nod to the U.S. role in both.

Macron, in a speech near the end of the event, thanked the U.S. for intervening in World War I and said the fact that Trump was at his side “is the sign of a friendship across the ages.

“And that is why I wish to thank them, thank the United States for the choice it made 100 years ago,” he said.

Macron also said that the U.S. and France are firm friends and “this is why nothing will ever separate us.”

Five of the 145 U.S. troops marching in Friday’s parade wore period World War I uniforms. Trump saluted the detachment as it passed. The U.S. president didn’t make any remarks.

Also in the parade were French soldiers taking part in the mission against the Islamic State group. France and the United States are among a coalition of nations fighting the extremist organization.

Shortly after his speech, Macron and Trump walked down from the tribune where they were sitting to stand in front of giant French and American flags that were unfurled by soldiers. The two mean shook hands and embraced, then clasping their hands together for a while before Trump was whisked away in his motorcade.

Trump is returning to the U.S., and Macron heads to the southern city of Nice, where last year an extremist plowed a truck into the holiday crowd, killing dozens. IS claimed responsibility for that attack and others in France, including one just last month on the Champs-Elysees that left only the attacker dead.

Two hours before the parade Friday, the famed Champs-Elysees avenue was emptied as was the Place de la Concorde with its golden-tipped obelisk. The wide boulevard has been targeted repeatedly by Islamic extremists, most recently last month when a man crashed his car into a convoy of gendarmes.

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PARIS (AP) — With a military parade on the Champs-Elysees and a gilded tour of France’s most storied monuments, French President Emmanuel Macron laid on the charm as he positioned himself as the indispensable intermediary between Europe and Donald Trump.

The Bastille Day demonstration on Friday capped two days of Parisian glitz for Trump and his wife, who were Macron’s guests of honor in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I.

Thanking the United States for the decision that turned the tide of a devastating conflict, Macron said the Trumps’ presence on France’s national holiday “is the sign of a friendship across the ages.”

Macron made a point of detailing both the long history of ties between France and America and the areas where he and Trump disagree. But he made clear it was in the spirit of bluntness with a friend and ally, even offering a conspiratorial wink during a joint news conference.

The two-day visit beginning Thursday featured a personal tour of the golden-domed Invalides monument and a private dinner high in the Eiffel Tower prepared by chef Alain Ducasse himself.

Trump had front-row seats at the reviewing stand Friday, applauding during the hours-long parade carried out under blue skies as various French military units marched past. At one point, Trump saluted a combined group of U.S. Army and Navy troops and Marines taking part in the annual event.

Macron and Trump both came to office as unlikely outsider candidates. The youngest president of modern France — and the same age as Donald Trump Jr. — Macron started his own political movement just over a year ago. He won strong parliamentary majority and is riding high in the polls.

The flattering French visit gave Trump a respite from his troubles at home, and he amended the opinion of a friend he calls Jim, who believes that “Paris isn’t Paris any longer” because of the blight of Islamic extremism.

Asked about Jim’s criticisms Thursday, Trump deflected and said Paris was “going to be just fine” because France now has a “great” and “tough” president. At Macron and Trump’s first encounter in May, the two shared a white-knuckle handshake that the French president said was intended to show he was no pushover.

As Friday’s visit ended, the men embraced and then the arm wrestling seemed to begin anew. As Trump walked to his motorcade, he gripped Macron’s hand firmly, pulling the smaller man off-balance and held fast as they walked together toward their wives.

Still, both seemed to minimize their differences, said Spencer Boyer, former national intelligence officer for Europe and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“President Macron was highly skilled at putting President Trump at ease and avoiding any land mines that would have derailed the show of unity,” Boyer said. “Macron was especially adept at sidestepping questions about U.S. political controversies, which Trump clearly appreciated.”

Although the welcome may have taken some of the sting out of their first encounter, Macron’s amiable meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in the day showed the balance Macron appears to be striking.

With Merkel, he emphasized their agreement on nearly every issue as well as their joint development of a fighter jet.

The German leader said there was no getting around interdependence in the 21st century. “Europe alone cannot win the war on terrorism,” Merkel said.

“There is no divergence between France and Germany in the manner of treating President Trump,” Macron added.

Still, the German chancellor, who was less than a block from the U.S. Embassy when Trump was ensconced inside, left the presidential palace before she and Trump could cross paths.

Trump left open the possibility that he would reconsider his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord — the main source of disagreement with European Union governments. But he said if it doesn’t happen, “that will be OK too.”

Macron’s ability to firmly acknowledge his differences with Trump are part of modern French tradition. His invitation to Trump was “a way of illustrating the history of France and America, allied but not aligned,” said Thomas Gomart, director of the French Institute for International Relations.

Trump’s parting tweet showed a photo of the two men looking out over the Champs-Elysees, standing shoulder to shoulder during what the American described as a “magnificent #BastilleDay parade.”

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — After his country’s first test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile last week, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, has moved one step closer to perfecting a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States, a weapons program launched by his grandfather and nurtured by his father.

For nearly 70 years, the three generations of the Kim family have run North Korea with an absolute rule that tolerates no dissent. They have devoted much of the country’s scarce resources to its military but have constantly feared Washington is intent on destroying their dynastic rule. They concluded that a powerful nuclear deterrent against potential U.S. aggression would guarantee their survival.

A look at how North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have evolved under each of the three Kims.



1948: Kim Il Sung, a former guerrilla leader fighting against Japan’s colonial rule, establishes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula.

1950: Kim’s army invades South Korea, triggering the three-year Korean War. The United States fights alongside South Korea while China backs North Korea.

1985: North Korea joins the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But the country doesn’t allow inspections required by the pact, arousing suspicions that it’s engaging in clandestine work to develop atomic weapons.

1993: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, touching off an international nuclear crisis.

July 1994: Kim Il Sung dies of a heart attack at age 82. His son and longtime heir apparent, Kim Jong Il, takes power.


THE SON: KIM JONG IL (1994-2011)

October 1994: North Korea and the United States sign a landmark nuclear disarmament deal in Geneva. North Korea pledges to freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for international aid to build two power-producing nuclear reactors.

1998: North Korea stuns the region by firing a suspected missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

2002: Assistant U.S. Secretary of State James Kelly says North Korean officials admitted to having a secret nuclear weapons program during his visit to Pyongyang. The 1994 pact subsequently falls apart and a nuclear crisis flares again.

2003: North Korea attends Beijing-hosted disarmament talks that also involve Washington, Seoul, Tokyo and Moscow. The on-and-off talks continue until late 2008, producing two major now-stalled disarmament-for-aid deals.

July 2006: North Korea launches a three-stage rocket with a potential range of 6,700 kilometers (4,100 miles) but it fizzles after liftoff, according to U.S. and South Korean officials. North Korea has never acknowledged the launch.

October 2006: North Korea conducts its first underground nuclear test blast, citing “extreme threat of a nuclear war” from the United States.

2009: North Korea conducts its second nuclear test explosion.

2011: Kim Jong Il dies of a heart attack at 69. Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong Un, succeeds him as leader.


THE GRANDSON: KIM JONG UN (2011-present)

2012: North Korea puts a satellite in orbit with a long-range rocket. The United States, South Korea and others condemn the launch as a cover for testing long-range missile technology. It is the North’s first successful satellite launch.

2013: North Korea carries out its third nuclear test.

January 2016: North Korea says it has conducted a hydrogen bomb test. It’s the North’s fourth nuclear test, but many outsiders are skeptical that it was a hydrogen bomb explosion.

February 2016: North Korea succeeds in its second satellite launch.

August 2016: North Korea fires a ballistic missile from a submarine that flies 500 kilometers (310 miles) before crashing into waters near Japan. Missiles launched from submarines are generally harder to detect than land-based ones.

September 2016: North Korea stages its fifth nuclear test, its most powerful atomic bomb explosion to date.

February 2017: North Korea tests a new midrange ballistic missile, the Pukguksong-2. It says the missile used solid fuel, an advance that increases a weapon’s mobility and makes it harder for outsiders to detect a coming launch. The North tests this missile again in May.

July 4, 2017: North Korea test-fires its first ICBM at an extremely lofted angle. The missile, called Hwasong-14, is capable of reaching Alaska and beyond if launched at a normal trajectory, according to outside experts. After the launch, Kim says he won’t put his weapons programs on the negotiating table unless the United States ends its hostility and nuclear threat.

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TRIESTE, Italy (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is acknowledging France hasn’t done its part in welcoming migrants during the influx Europe has experience during the last several years.

But Macron says there is a “profound” distinction that must be made between economic migrants and refugees fleeing war or persecution at home.

He was speaking Wednesday after meeting with Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of an EU-Balkans summit.

Macron says France is accelerating its process to welcome legitimate refugees. But he says his country cannot take in all the people who want to come to Europe for economic reasons.

Gentiloni has insisted other European countries need to do more to relieve the migration burden on Italy. But he says Macron is right in making a distinction between economic migrants and refugees who are guaranteed international protection.

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LONDON (AP) — Royal Bank of Scotland said Wednesday it has reached a $5.5 billion settlement in the United States over mortgage-backed securities issued before the financial crisis.

The deal with the Federal Housing Finance Agency — the conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — resolves claims regarding the issuance and underwriting of approximately $32 billion (25 billion pounds) of residential mortgage-backed securities.

RBS CEO Ross McEwan says the announcement is “an important step forward in resolving one of the most significant legacy matters facing RBS.”

McEwan has been at pains in recent months to insist RBS has put its legacy issues behind it. The bank was bailed out at the height of the financial crisis and is now owned by the British taxpayer.

“This settlement is a stark reminder of what happened to this bank before the financial crisis, and the heavy price paid for its pursuit of global ambitions,” McEwan said.

Under the settlement, RBS will pay $5.5 billion, but be reimbursed for $754 million under indemnification agreements with third parties.

The cost is largely covered by money it had already set aside. It will take an extra charge of $196 million.

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BRUSSELS (AP) — After eight years of toil by the Greek people, the European Union says that Greece’s budget is no longer breaking the bloc’s rules.

Wednesday’s recommendation from the EU Commission to end the so-called excessive deficit procedure on Greece comes after a sharp improvement in the country’s finances following years of spending cuts and tax increases and a recession that saw a quarter of the economy wiped out and unemployment and poverty levels swell.

“This is a very symbolic moment for Greece,” said Pierre Moscovici, the EU’s top economy official. “Greece is now ready to exit the Excessive Deficit Procedure, turn the page on austerity and open a new chapter of growth, investment and employment.”

Greece has been under the spotlight since 2009 when its budget crisis first emerged in the wake of a statistics scandal that showed the country’s public finances were in far worse shape than thought. Greece’s budget deficit was suddenly revised upward to around 15 percent of annual GDP, way above an EU limit of 3 percent.

As confidence in Greece fell, the country found itself unable to borrow money in bond markets. By May 2010, it required an international bailout to avoid going bankrupt and it’s been reliant on rescue funds ever since. In return for the money, successive governments enacted wave after wave of austerity measures as well as economic reforms to get the books back into shape.

In many ways, they now are. In 2016, for example, Greece posted a surplus of 0.7 percent.

If the Commission’s recommendation is cleared by member states, then only three EU countries would remain in breach of the rules — France, Spain and Britain. In 2011, when the global economy was starting to recover from the post-financial crisis recession, 24 of the EU’s then-27 members were in breach of the rules, which are more strictly applied to countries that use the euro currency.

Greece is hoping to exit its bailout era next year and is planning to start tapping bond markets, possibly in the next few months. The recent release of 7.7 billion euros ($8.9 billion) of bailout funds means the country has enough money to pay its upcoming debts.

Being outside of the EU’s corrective procedures doesn’t mean Greece can go back to its profligate ways. As part of the recent deal to get the latest batch of bailout funds, the Greek government promised to run a primary surplus — that is, not counting the cost of servicing debt — for decades to come.

The country also remains mired in debt worth 175 percent of GDP, regardless of any relief offered by its European creditors. Greece cannot afford to see debt ratchet higher, potentially frightening off international investors again.

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator said Wednesday that Britain must meet tough conditions in divorce talks — and doesn’t have long to do it — before the two sides can start looking at a future relationship.

Showing frustration with what Europeans consider British grandstanding and impatience with a dearth of clear proposals, the EU’s Michel Barnier said Britain needs to make “sufficient progress” on all the initial issues — citizens’ rights, the bill that Britain must pay to the EU and the Irish border — before talks can move to a future trade deal.

Barnier said the three areas “are indivisible and intertwined,” making clear that progress in two of the three would be insufficient to advance to the next stage.

And he insisted that Britain recognize it faces a bill of many tens of billions of euros to meet previous commitments it made as an EU member. Otherwise, he says, there’s no point in discussing anything else.

“It’s not an exit bill. It’s not a punishment. It’s not revenge — at no time has it been those things. It’s simply a settling of accounts,” he said.

Barnier dismissed British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s comment that the EU can “go whistle” if it will insist on Britain paying any excessive bill.

“I am not hearing any whistling, just the clock ticking,” Barnier said, with the March 2019 deadline for Britain to leave the bloc drawing ever closer.

Estimates of the amount Britain that must pay to cover pension liabilities for EU staff and other commitments such as farming subsidies to humanitarian aid have ranged upward to 100 billion euros ($114 billion).

He said questioning such issues as financial obligations cuts to the heart of any future relationship.

“How do you build a relationship which is going to last with a country where you don’t have trust?” Barnier asked. Trust, he said “means settling accounts.”

Barnier said he “could not imagine that a very great country like the U.K.” would not also “be a responsible country and respect its commitments.”

After Barnier briefed the EU Commission on the negotiations, he spoke to reporters, and exuded some impatience with the British government for letting valuable time in the two-year negotiating slot go to waste.

After triggering the two-year divorce negotiations in March, British Prime Minister Theresa May decided to call an early election to strengthen her hand — only to lose her Conservative majority and add to the political chaos in a country deeply divided over Brexit.

“We are ready. My team is ready,” said Barnier, adding he was even “ready to work through the 14th of July” — France’s Bastille Day holiday.

The first issue being addressed by the two sides — citizens’ rights for people living in each other’s nations — is already posing serious problems. The European Parliament has dismissed the proposals made by May, calling them insufficient and burdensome.

The European Parliament’s input is important since it could veto any deal.

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LONDON (AP) — A vast iceberg with twice the volume of Lake Erie has broken off from a key floating ice shelf in Antarctica, scientists said Wednesday.

The iceberg broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf, scientists at the University of Swansea in Britain said. The iceberg is described as weighing 1 trillion tons (1.12 trillion U.S. tons).

The process, known as calving, occurred in the last few days, when a 5,800-square-kilometer (2,240-square-mile) section broke away.

“We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometers of ice,” said Adrian Luckman of Swansea University. “We will continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C Ice Shelf, and the fate of this huge iceberg.”

It was a natural event that wasn’t caused by man-made climate change, said Swansea glaciologist Martin O’Leary.

Nonetheless, “this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position,” he said in a statement.

Scientists said the latest iceberg break won’t affect sea levels in the short term.

NASA and European Space Agency satellites have been monitoring the shelf — offering dramatic pictures of the break that heightened interest beyond the scientific community. The final break was first revealed in a thermal infrared image from NASA’s Aqua MODIS satellite instrument.

Scientists from the U.K.-based Antarctic project, MIDAS, have been monitoring the rift in Larsen C for years, following earlier research on the collapse of the Larsen A shelf in 1995 and the breakup of the Larsen B shelf in 2002.

The project, which is investigating the effects of a warming climate through a combination of fieldwork, satellite observation and computer simulation, describes the iceberg as one of the largest ever recorded.

They researchers suggest the iceberg is likely to break into fragments and say that while some of the ice may stay nearby for decades, parts of it may drift north into warmer waters. But researchers say much more study needs to be done to determine the cause.

“At this point it would be premature to say that this was caused by global warming,” said Anna Hogg of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds.

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BAGHDAD (AP) — The leader of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group says the liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul is a “historic opportunity” that should be seized upon to uproot extremist groups in the region.

In a televised speech Tuesday night, Hassan Nasrallah likened the Islamic State group to a “cancerous” growth that may return at any time, saying it must not be allowed to regroup.

Eradicating this “criminal group” by its roots should remain a priority even after the liberation of Mosul, Nasrallah said.

He congratulated the government and people of Iraq and described the liberation as a “great victory and achievement.”

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “total victory” in Mosul on Monday, after a nearly nine-month-long battle with IS fighters.

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