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One is the outbreak of another war between Israel and its neighbors. A reminder of this danger has come from events that began when Israel said it shot down an Iranian drone that had entered its airspace. Israeli F-16s then attacked a command center in Syria, during which Syrian air defenses downed one of the Israeli warplanes (a rare event for Israel). Israel subsequently launched a much more widespread set of aerial attacks within Syria. The Israelis have conducted scores of attacks in Syria over the last five years, but this most recent assault may have been the largest Israeli attack there since the 1980s. A new war involving Israel would surely also involve Lebanese Hezbollah. There is no indication that Hezbollah seeks such a war. The group has incurred significant costs by participating in fighting within Syria and has many wounds to lick. Its leaders still have regrets about the brinksmanship that last got Hezbollah entangled in a war with Israel. Even though it could get in some hits with cross-border rocket fire, the group’s leaders know that in a new clash it would get badly bloodied by its militarily more capable foe.
A Pakistani court Saturday handed four death sentences to a man charged with raping and murdering a six-year-old girl, in a case that shocked the country and sparked major riots in his home district. Imran Ali, 24, was on trial for killing Zainab Fatima Ameen in the eastern city of Kasur last month. Ali was handed four separate death sentences after being convicted of the rape and murder of Zainab, as well as terrorism charges, prosecutor general of Punjab province Ihtesham Qadir said after a special anti-terrorism court passed its judgement.
NEW YORK (AP) — Under pressure over his handling of abuse allegations against a top aide, White House chief of staff John Kelly has ordered sweeping changes in how the White House clears staff members to gain access to classified information, acknowledging that the administration "must do better" in how it handles security clearances.
The full scale of alleged Russian election meddling has been revealed as 13 people were charged and their alleged crimes recounted in remarkable detail. The Russians worked for the Internet Research Agency, a pro-Kremlin troll factory in St Petersburg, and were accused of using social media to undermine the 2016 American election. A 37-page indictment produced by the team of Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation, gives the fullest ever account of alleged Russian interference. It describes how Russian agents created hundreds of social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to influence the election. Some accounts were created through US internet servers and made to look like they were run by American political activists rather than Russians, according to US prosecutors. Inside Russia's 'troll factory': The agency accused of interfering in the US election Posts were allegedly used to systematically undermine Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, and support Donald Trump, then the Republican candidate, as well as Bernie Sanders, Mrs Clinton’s Democratic rival. So effective were the accounts that some Americans were taken in and convinced to hold up anti-Clinton signs at rallies by the Russians, it is claimed. Robert Mueller is heading the investigation Credit: AP The Russians were also able to stage pro-Trump rallies by promoting them on social media, offering to pay attendees and buying adverts, according to US prosecutors. Rod Rosenstein, the US deputy attorney general, said that there was no suggestion the Americans targeted by the Russians knew who they were. Mr Rosenstein also said the activity did not sway the outcome of the election, which saw Mr Trump narrowly beat Ms Clinton. However he said that Russians had attempted to sow “discord” before the vote and warned that people “are not who they always appear to be on the internet”. Mr Trump offered his response on Twitter. Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2018 The Internet Research Agency, which has changed its title and address several times, is the name most often used to refer to the pro-Kremlin troll factory in St Petersburg. The indictment against the 13 Russians and three Russian entities reveals the full scale of the alleged election meddling by the agency. The agency had 80 employees targeting America and a monthly budget of $1.25 million just before the vote, according to US prosecutors. Russians allegedly used false names and stole real American social security numbers to interfere, creating fake identification cards. Read more | Russia investigation Involvement in US politics started as early as 2014, according to US prosecutors, but came to a head as the November 2016 election approached. Russians controlling social media account were allegedly told to create “political intensity through supporting radical groups, users dissatisfied with [the] social and economic situation and oppositional social movements”. US prosecutors said the accounts posted messages including the hashtags #Trump2016 #TrumpTrain #MAGA #IWontProtectHillary and #Hillary4Prison. They also claims Russians organised rallies such as “March for Trump” in June 25 2016, “Down With Hillary” in July 23 2016 and “Florida Goes Trump” in August 20 2016. Some of these allegedly involved offering to pay Americans to attend, paying advertising and liaising with unwitting Trump campaign local staff. Rod Rosenstein announces that grand jury has charged 13 Russian nationals Credit: AP One Russia-controlled Twitter account pretending to be for Tennessee Republicans - @TEN_GOP - got more than 100,000 followers. Some Russian trolls allegedly "began to encourage US minority groups not to vote … or to vote for a third-party” before the election. US prosecutors said the Russians “engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.” Some Russian trolls were allegedly told off when they did not post enough information criticising Ms Clinton in the run-up to the election. At one point an American was successfully convinced to hold up a poster at a rally of Clinton saying “I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom”, the indictment said. Besides the Internet Research Agency, the federal grand jury also indicted its believed patron Yevgeny Prigozhin, a catering magnate close to the Russian president who is known as “Putin's chef” and has catered the president's birthday parties. Meet 'Putin's chef' He was sanctioned in 2016 by the US over Russia's election interference. Leaked emails in 2014 revealed that Mr Prigozhin's Concord catering company, which is also listed in the indictment, had approved payments to the Internet Research Agency. A representative of Mr Prigozhin said last year that that his companies “were in no way connected to activities directed at interfering in the American election”. Many of the other names in the indictment are believed to be high-ranking employees of the troll factory. Maria Zakharova, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman, responded: "There were 13 of them, according to the US Department of Justice. Thirteen people interfered with the US elections? "Thirteen against the billion-dollar budgets of the security services? Against espionage and counter-espionage, against new developments and technologies? Absurd? Yes." A Facebook ad linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process Credit: AP Mr Prigozhin reportedly denied election tampering. "The Americans are very impressionable people, they see what they want to see," he was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Ria Novosti on Friday. "I have great respect for them. I'm not at all upset that I'm on this list. If they want to see the devil, let them see him." In a statement released by the White House, Mr Trump said: “It is more important than ever before to come together as Americans. We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord, and rancor to be successful. "It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions. We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections.” Separately it was announced that an American, Richard Pinedo, 28, has pleaded guilty to identify fraud. He admitted to selling bank account numbers. The announcement was made by Mr Mueller’s team.
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