Archive for September 8th, 2017

Arsenal agrees Lemar deal

Thomas Lemar Monaco 2017

Arsenal have agreed a deal with Monaco for the signing of Thomas Lemar in the January transfer window, according to the Daily Star.

The France international has finalised terms with the Gunners, with the 21-year-old set to sign a five-year deal worth £250,000 per week.

The apparent agreement does not, however, depend on Alexis Sanchez leaving in the winter window, with his contract due to expire in summer 2018.

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Israel strikes military facility in Syria

The reported air raid on a Syrian government facility comes as Israel is conducting its biggest military exercise in 19 years on its northern border. - EPA Israeli warplanes struck a military position near the Mediterranean coast in western Syria Thursday, killing two soldiers, the Syrian army said, in a stronghold of President Bashar Assad that is also heavily protected by the Russians and Iranians.

The airstrike targeted a facility near the town of Masyaf, in Hama province, described by some as a missile producing factory, amid Israeli outrage over Iran’s growing influence in the war-torn country.

Other reports suggested the facility was tied to Syria’s chemical weapons program.

In a statement, the Syrian army said the Israeli warplanes fired several missiles from Lebanese air space, and warned of the “dangerous repercussions of such hostile acts on the security and stability of the region.”

“We will do everything to prevent the existence of a Shiite corridor from Iran to Damascus,” said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who declined commenting directly on the strike in an interview with Israel’s 100FM Radio Thursday. He said Israel isn’t “looking for adventures, and we don’t want to be dragged into this fight or another.”

“We are determined to prevent our enemies from harming or even creating the possibility of harming the security of Israeli citizens.”

Israel has carried out several airstrikes against suspected arms shipments it believed to be bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, which is fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces, over the course of Syria’s civil war, now in its seventh year. Israel has also struck several Syrian military facilities since the conflict began, mostly near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Assad, not wanting to draw Israel into his country’s war, has never retaliated.

The airstrike comes amid heightened tensions over Iran’s growing reach in Syria. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed recently that Iran is building sites in Syria and Lebanon for the manufacture of “precision-guided missiles” with the aim of deploying them against Israel.

Thursday’s air raid was seen as a message to both Russia and Iran that Israel can strike anywhere in Syria. It was also a rare instance of Israel striking a Syrian government facility rather than an arms shipment and harked back to an Israeli airstrike that destroyed a suspected, partially constructed nuclear reactor in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour exactly 10 years ago.

This week, Israel is conducting a massive drill along its border with Lebanon simulating war with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

It was not immediately clear if the facility struck Thursday was used for the production or storage of chemical arms. Syria denies having or using such weapons.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said two facilities were hit in Thursday’s airstrike, a scientific research center and a nearby military base where short-range surface-to-surface missiles are stored.

“Many explosions were heard in the area after the air raid,” said Abdurrahman, whose group relies on a network of activists across the country.

He said Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and Iranian military officials often visit the site, adding that those killed and wounded were Syrians.

A local opposition media activist said the facility that was struck is a factory that produces missiles under the supervision of Iranian experts. He said those killed and wounded were Syrian soldiers guarding the facility. The activist spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.

Days after the April 4 chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center. Washington said the agency is responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them.

The airstrike is the furthest north since Russia joined the war in September 2015 with a major air campaign to aid Assad’s forces.

In October 2016, Russia deployed a battery of S-300 air defense missile systems to protect a Russian navy facility in the Syrian port of Tartus and Russian navy ships in the area. Moscow also has long-range S-400 missile defense systems and an array of other surface-to-air missiles at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Thursday’s strike location.

Israel and Russia maintain open communication lines and a “mechanism” to prevent their air forces from coming into conflict with one another. It was not clear whether Thursday’s strike was coordinated with Moscow, and there was no immediate comment from the Russians.

Yaakov Amidror, Israel’s former national security adviser and a former general, said the strike targeted a weapons development and manufacturing site that was producing arms for Hezbollah.

Former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin wrote on Twitter that the facility produces precision missiles, chemical weapons and barrel bombs.

Thursday’s strike comes a day after a U.N. probe found the Syrian government responsible for a chemical attack in April in northern Syria that killed more than 80 people.

Meanwhile on Thursday, a convoy of 40 trucks carrying 1,000 tons of humanitarian aid arrived in Deir el-Zour after troops secured a corridor to the eastern city. The land convoy is the first since Syrian government forces and allied militiamen breached a nearly three-year-old siege by the Islamic State group on government-held parts of the city on Tuesday.

The Syrian official news agency SANA said the convoy reached a garrison known as Brigade 137 on the southwestern edge of the city, carrying thousands of food baskets, fruits and vegetables, medicine, and school books and stationary.

The aid convoys arrived at the city by way of a military road that links the recently liberated military garrison to the town. They were greeted by jubilant civilians, who gathered around the trucks.

Earthquake: Tsunami alert as magnitude 8.1 tremor shakes buildings in Mexico

Picture on social media showed buildings were damaged in Chiapas state in Mexico - Twitter/@justgonzo

A very powerful earthquake has struck off the coast of Mexico, shaking buildings in the capital and sparking tsunami warnings.

The USGS said a magnitude 8.1 quake struck  123 km (76 miles) southwest of the town of Pijijiapan, at a depth of 33 km (21 miles).

Widespread, hazardous tsunami waves were possible, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.

“Tsunami waves reaching more than three meters above the tide level are possible along the coasts of Mexico,” it said, with lower waves in other countries.

Civil protection officials were checking for damage in Chiapas, but the quake was so powerful that frightened residents in Mexico City more than 650 miles away fled apartment buildings, often in their pajamas, and gathered in groups in the street.

Patients and doctors of a hospital of Mexico City wait outside after the earthquake - Credit: EPA

Around midnight buildings swayed strongly for more than minute, loosening light fixtures from ceilings. Helicopters crisscrossed the sky above Mexico City with spotlights. Some neighborhoods kept electricity while others remained in darkness.

The death toll in Mexico has risen to at least five people, including two children in Tabasco state.

Tabasco Governor Arturo Nunez said that one of the children died when a wall collapsed, and the other was a baby who died in a children’s hospital that lost electricity, cutting off the supply to the infant’s ventilator.

The other three deaths were in Chiapas state, in San Cristobal de las Casas.

The governor of Chiapas says that at least three people have been killed in his region.

Gov. Manuel Velasco told Milenio TV that the deaths occurred in San Cristobal de las Casas.

He also said that the quake damaged hospitals and schools:

“There are damages in hospitals that have lost energy. Homes, schools and hospitals have been affected.”

Yoruba leaders meets, demands return to regionalism

Yoruba leaders yesterday met in Ibadan, the former capital of the defunct Western Region and insisted on a return to the federal system established by the founding fathers of Nigeria in the 1950s where each section of the country was able to develop at its own pace. This came as the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II and Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State called for unity among Yoruba speaking areas of Nigeria in the quest to get the country restructured. Also, leaders from the South-East and South South, in solidarity, backed the agitation for restructuring by the Yoruba. At another forum, the National Christian Elders Forum, NCEF, called for restructuring and a return to the democratic ethos of the past to put the nation back on the path of cohesion and unity.

The summit attracted Yoruba leaders, governors, former governors, traditional rulers, parliamentarians, Yoruba socio-cultural groups, professional bodies, market leaders, youth groups and friends of the Yoruba nation. Those in attendance included the governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose; Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi II; former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko; former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae; Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo; former Director General of the Department of State Services, Chief Albert Horsfall; Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Sen Babafemi Ojudu; former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; former deputy governor of Lagos State, Sen. Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele and former deputy governor of Ogun State, Senator Gbenga Kaka. Others were the founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr Frederick Fasehun; National Coordinator of OPC, Otunba Gani Adams; chairman of Yoruba Council of Elders, Chief Idowu Sofola; Sen Iyiola Omisore; Sen Mojisola Akinfenwa; Dr Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan; Col Tony Nyiam (retd); Chief Supo Shonibare; Mr Wale Oshun; Senator Ike Nwachukwu; Professor Tunde Adeniran; Orangun of Ila, Oba Wahab Oyedokun; Oba Lekan Balogun, Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland; Oba Latifu Adebimpe, Ashipa Balogun of Ibadanland; Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, retired archbishop of Methodist Church Nigeria; Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi who was represented by Bashorun of Oyo, high Chief Yusuf Ayoola; Mr Babatunde Oduyoye, AD chieftain and Dr Yemi Farunmbi. Former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and five of the six governors from the region were, however, absent. Also absent were members of the National Assembly from the zone.

In his opening remarks, chairman of the summit, Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, said, restructuring would curb over concentration of power at the centre. The legal icon said: “The agitation for secession is an ill wind that does no good. No matter the motive of the conveners of Berlin Conference, we have lived together for over 100 years having been married by fiat of the Europeans. It is better to dialogue and restructure the country. No woman wants a dissolution of a marriage if the parties live in comfort and are prosperous. It is incumbent on the leaders to make the country so prosperous that nobody would agitate for recession.’’

Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN,  moved the motion for the adoption of the communique, which was unanimously adopted by the gathering. In the communique, the Yoruba Summit noted that Nigeria was dangerously edging towards the precipice but must take urgent steps to restructure the nation from a unitary constitution to a federal constitution as negotiated by the nation’s founding fathers in 1960. The communique, read by Mr Yinka Odumakin stated among other things that: “Yoruba insists that Nigeria must return to a proper federation as obtained in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions. This has been our position since the 1950 Ibadan conference and developments in Nigeria over the last 50 years reinforce our conviction.’’ Odumakin said the position taken “shall form the basis of negotiations with our partners in the Nigerian project for a united Nigeria based on justice, peace and fair play.”  In his remarks, the Ooni of Ife stressed the need for Yoruba leaders and elders to be united, which he said would be beneficial to the younger generation. The Ife monarch, who addressed the gathering in Yoruba, said: “My counsel is for all of us to be united. If we want to restructure, let us do it with one mind, I want us to consider the future of our youths. With good health, we can get our benefits. I want us to be united in all we are doing. I hope all we are doing is for the benefit of all and not for selfish reasons.”  

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