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Thousands flee as rebels strike in Syria.

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Source: Reuters

Thousands more people have fled violence in northwest Syria, the United Nations and a medical agency said on Thursday, as an army assault on the last big rebel enclave met a counter-attack.

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President Bashar al-Assad launched his offensive at the end of April in Idlib and parts of adjacent provinces with an intense bombardment, saying insurgents had broken a truce.

This week, rebels rolled back some government advances on the main battlefront, retaking the town of Kafr Nabouda.

Government forces are buttressed by Russian air power, while the main jihadist group that dominates Idlib has been reinforced by Turkey-backed rebels.

Eight years into the civil war, Assad has retaken most of Syria and rebels still fighting him are squeezed into the northwest. Turkey-backed groups hold a strip of territory on the border, and Kurdish-led fighters hold the northeast.

This week’s fighting brought a big increase in air strikes, with bombs falling on towns and villages across the southern part of the enclave, said a British-based war monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Some 600 air strikes hit the rebel enclave on Thursday, the Observatory said, killing six civilians.


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24 Hours Across Africa

Tunisia: former President Ben Ali confirmed dead

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All time, former Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has died in exile aged 83, his family says.

Ben Ali led the country for 30years and was credited with delivering stability and some economic prosperity.

But he received widespread criticism for suppressing political freedoms and for widespread corruption.

In 2011, he was forced from office following mass street protests. This triggered a wave of similar uprisings across the Arab world.

At least half a dozen countries in the region saw their president fall or conflicts break out in the wake of the former Tunisian leader’s downfall, in what became known as the Arab Spring.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Gantz refuse’s Netanyahu offer on unity government

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After a vote tally showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tied with his main rival.

Israel’s weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw his offer on Thursday for a coalition with his strongest political rival,  Gantz, swiftly rebuffed after failing to secure a governing majority in a tight election.

Netanyahu’s surprise move was an abrupt change of strategy for the right-wing leader. Its rejection could spell weeks of wrangling after Tuesday’s election, which followed an inconclusive national ballot in April.

Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party emerged from the second round of voting this year slightly ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud, but also short of enough supporters in the 120-member parliament for a ruling bloc.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, said in a video clip in which he urged Gantz, the country’s former military chief, to meet him “as soon as today”, that he had pledged during the election campaign to form a right-wing, Likud-led government.

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