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Thursday 19 September 2019

US warns over Syrian threat to ceasefire

The US warned it would take "firm and appropriate measures" to protect a ceasefire in southern Syria if government forces move against rebels there.

The area in south-western Syria, between the border city of Daraa and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, has emerged as a flashpoint in a wider stand-off between regional arch-rivals Israel and Iran.

The US, Russia, and Jordan agreed last year to include Daraa in a "de-escalation zone" to freeze the lines of conflict. But Syrian government forces recently dropped leaflets on rebel-held areas, warning of an imminent offensive and urging fighters to lay down their arms.

The US State Department said it was concerned by reports that Assad's forces were preparing for an operation in south-western Syria. It warned against "any actions that risk broadening the conflict".

Assad has relied on forces from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah to battle an uprising against his family's decades-long rule and roll back an Isil insurgency that grew out of the country's seven-year civil war.

The US and Israel view Iran's military presence in Syria as a threat to Israel and have threatened action. The Israeli military is behind dozens of air-strikes in recent years against Hezbollah, Iran and Syrian positions.

I never assaulted women - Freeman

Morgan Freeman has said that he "did not assault women" as he issued a second statement in response to allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour. says he likes to compliment people to make them feel at ease around him but that he has never sexually assaulted women.

The Academy Award-winning actor is fighting back against charges of bad behaviour made by multiple women in a CNN report last week. He said in a statement last Friday that the report has devastated him and that "it is not right to equate horrific incidents of sexual assault with misplaced compliments or humour".

Following the report, Visa announced it was suspending all of its marketing that features the actor's voice.

Killer cyclone slams into Gulf

A cyclone more powerful than any previously recorded in Oman slammed into the Gulf country and neighbouring Yemen yesterday, with nearly three years' worth of rainfall in single day.

The storm killed at least five people while more than 30 remain missing, officials said.

Thousands march against Macron

Far-Left parties and trade unions led tens of thousands of protesters who marched against Emmanuel Macron's leadership in cities across France yesterday, a day after the president suggested he could be close to victory in a public battle over his reform agenda.

Rail and hospital workers, civil servants, students, community groups protesting against police violence and pro-Palestinian activists took part in the 'Human Tide against Macron'. However, with the turnouts of the marches lower than expected, comments by Mr Macron about the long-running strikes over his liberalisation programme on Friday appeared to have been justified.

In a TV interview, Mr Macron said neither demonstrations nor strikes that have disrupted France for the past seven weeks would deter him from pushing through his overhaul of state railways, which he said was nearing completion.

Fourth man on the moon dies

Astronaut Alan Bean, who was the fourth person to walk on the moon, has died. Bean flew twice into space, first as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, the second moon landing mission, in November 1969.

And in July 1973 he was commander of the second crewed flight to Skylab - NASA's first space station - when he orbited the Earth for 59 days.

Bean spent a total of 69 days in space, including 31 hours on the moon.

He retired from the Navy in 1975 and NASA in 1981 before devoting his time to making Apollo-themed artworks using small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches.

'Golden' Booker Prize shortlist

The English Patient and Wolf Hall are among the five books shortlisted for the 'Golden' Booker Prize, the special one-off award that will see a novel crowned the best work of fiction released over the last 50 years. In a Free State, Moon Tiger, and last year's Man Booker Prize for Fiction winner Lincoln in the Bardo complete the shortlist, which was announced at Hay Festival.

All 51 of the former Booker winners were considered by a panel of five judges, each tasked with reading the winning novels from one decade of the award's history. The 'golden five' will now be put to a public vote to decide the winner, which will then be announced on July 8.

Ugandan bus crash claims 22 lives

At least 22 people are dead after a speeding passenger bus struck a tractor and then a beer truck on its way to the Ugandan capital Kampala.

Police spokesman Emilian Kayima said 14 others were injured in the crash on Friday evening near the town of Kiryandongo. Police dispute a Uganda Red Cross statement that the crash killed more than 40.

Motor accidents frequently occur in the east African nation where roads are often narrow and pot-holed.

Authorities blame many accidents on speeding or drunk drivers.

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