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The Gambia crisis: Former president Yahya Jammeh given midday deadline to leave country

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Yahya Jammeh, the former president of The Gambia, has been given until midday on Friday to leave the country after regional leaders sent soldiers across the border in support of his successor.

The Ecowas union of West African states said its soldiers would forcibly remove Mr Jammeh from power unless he agreed to finally hand power to his democratically-elected successor, Adama Barrow.

Mr Jammeh, who has been president since 1994, lost December’s presidential election to Mr Barrow but has refused to leave office. On Thursday he sacked his remaining cabinet ministers and vowed to run all government departments himself.

Senegalese soldiers entered The Gambia on Thursday night vowing to remove Mr Jammeh from power. Several West African leaders, including the presidents of Liberia, Mauritania and Guinea, will arrive in Gambia on Friday in a last-ditch attempt to negotiate a peaceful transition of power.

With the incumbent clinging to power, Mr Barrow was forced to hold his inauguration ceremony on Thursday in Dakar, the capital of neighbouring Senegal. He has the support of other West African states and was backed by a unanimously-passed resolution of the UN Security Council.

Mr Barrow took the oath of office at his country’s embassy in Dakar in front of an audience of delegates.

Speaking afterwards he said: “This is victory of the Gambian nation. Our national flag will now fly high among the other democratic nations of the world.

“This is a day no Gambian will ever forget. “This is the first time since the Gambia became independent in 1965 that the Gambia has changed the government through the ballot box.”

He also called on the UN to support his right to govern.

“I hereby make a special appeal to Ecowas, AU [African Union] and the UN, particularly the security council, to support the government and people of the Gambia in enforcing their will, restore their sovereignty and constitutional legitimacy”, he said.

The UN Security Council responded by unanimously backing an emergency resolution calling on countries in the region “to cooperate with President Barrow in his efforts to realise the transition of power”. It urged the use of “political means first”, still.

Despite initially conceding defeat following his election loss, Mr Jammeh then dismissed the result and claimed the vote had been marred by irregularities. Although numerous of his ministers have since resigned, the former president has continued to assert his right to remain in office.

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Israel Will Never Allow Iran’s Bases in Syria

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The Israeli Prime minister met with the Russian defense minister to discuss the situation in Syria, as well as the Iran nuclear deal in light of the US decision not to certify the agreement. Israel would not allow Iran’s permanent military presence in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said during talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, adding that Tehran “must understand this.”

Commenting on the agenda of his meeting with Shoigu, the Israeli prime minister said that the talks were dedicated to “above all, Iran’s attempts to establish military bases in Syria.”

Netanyahu earlier stated Israel “will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces.”
The Russian Defense Ministry is yet to comment on Israel’s concerns over Iran’s actions in Syria. Commeting on the negotiations, the Russian deputy defense minister has said that Shoigu and Netanyahu had “expressed confidence that the meetings held on the Israeli soil will give an additional impetus to the development of Russian-Israeli cooperation.”

Israel has been long opposing Iran’s and Lebanon-based Hezbollah’s presence in Syria. Iran has been providing support to the Syrian government in its fight against various terrorist groups, including Daesh, and acts alongside Russia and Turkey as one of the guarantor states of the ceasefire in Syria. Tehran has repeatedly refuted media reports claiming that its military had conducted independent operations in Syria.

During his September meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of building sites in Syria and Lebanon to produce missiles allegedly aiming to eradicate Israel. When asked to comment on the statement, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow has “no information that someone is preparing an attack on Israel.”

Iran Nuclear Deal

The Israeli prime minister and the Russian defense minister have also discussed the US president’s decision not to certify the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu has reiterated Tel Aviv’s stance, warning of Iran potentially acquiring nuclear weapons if the deal isn’t changed. During his UNGA speech in September, Netanyahu has again addressed the threat Israel believes Iran poses to its security. According to him, the nuclear deal with Iran must be changed or canceled entirely.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced support for Israel’s stance on the nuclear agreement, calling it a “bad deal for Israel.”

On October 16, Trump suggested that Washington might unilaterally exit the agreement despite Rex Tillerson’s earlier comments, saying that the United States will try to negotiate the agreement, which is, according to him, in the best interests of his country.

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Iran Pledges to Confront Israel After Attack on Syrian Air Defense

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Iran’s Military Chief has warned Israel against violating Syrian airspace in the wake of this week’s attack of Israeli Air Force on an anti-aircraft battery in Syria.

“It’s not acceptable for the Zionist regime to violate the land and airspace of Syria anytime it wants,” Baqeri said during a news conference with his Syrian counterpart Ali Abdullah Ayoub in Damascus on Wednesday, and promised to increase cooperation with the Syrian military “to confront our common enemies, the Zionists and terrorists”.

The sides established the board lines for this cooperation.

The comments of the Iran’s Chief of Staff come in the follow up to the attack of the Israeli Air Force on an anti-aircraft battery in Syria, which had allegedly shelled at Israeli warplanes as they were conducting a reconnaissance mission at the Syria-Lebanon border.

The Syrian Army however said the Israeli aircraft violated Syria’s airspace near the border with Lebanon in the early hours of Monday and therefore had been attacked by its defense systems.

Israeli Air Forces earlier said that its jets have struck Hezbollah and Syrian military facilities and convoys nearly 100 times during the six-year-long war, with the goal of preventing the transfer of weapons from Iran to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group.

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