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Sermisaxa Jor is a tiny, ethnically Kurdish village in the far northeast of Syria. 

For the people who live there, today will be remembered as the moment that Syria’s bloody, decade-long and multi-faceted war came to them.

In the context of the war itself, what happened in Sermisaxa Jor is not comparable: one young man died; run over by a Turkish military vehicle.

But in the context of where the war goes next, it’s a significant moment.

Sermisaxa Jor
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Kurdish villages threw rocks at a Turkish and Russian military convoy in Sermisaxa Jor

Sarkhbon Bankin Ali, 26, was killed as he and scores of his fellow villagers – men, women and children – threw rocks at a convoy of Turkish and Russian military vehicles passing through.

The convoy was part of the Turkish plan to create a ‘safe zone’ along the border area between Turkey and Syria.

The villagers see them as invaders who want to push them, as Kurds, out of their homes.

The evidence since the Turkish incursion of this area began a month ago would suggest they are right.

In towns across this predominantly Kurdish part of Syria, the people have fled as the Turkish army, with Russian support, has moved in.

Sermisaxa Jor
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When the convoy’s path was blocked by boulders in the road, the Russians fired tear gas

Here in Sermisaxa Jor, they are not moving them out yet. But the villagers are sure that will come.

And so, with remarkable force, they pelted the convoy with rocks.

We watched as they clambered on top of the heavily armoured vehicles. They ripped off the wing mirrors.

This, they feel, is the only way they can defend their land.

Sarkhbon Bankin Ali was one of the angry young men. He hung off the right hand side of one vehicle and then jumped off as it moved.

He fell under the back wheel. He would never have survived.

We watched as his friends hauled him into the back of a pickup. He was taken to the nearest hospital but didn’t make it.

The soldiers driving the vehicle didn’t intend to hit him. They probably don’t even know his fate.

Sarkhbon Bankin Ali
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Sarkhbon Bankin Ali was taken to hospital but did not survive

Further into the village, with their path momentarily blocked by boulders in the road, the Russians fired tear gas.

At close range, its effect is temporary but still awful.

At least 10 people were taken to the hospital.

“Where’s the international community? Where’s the humanity,” one villager shouted to me.

“There’s no way we will let this to happen. We will not allow Turkey to enter our village. We won’t allow the Turkish military to enter our village.”

Near him, an elderly women sat in a heap, sobbing.

Sermisaxa Jor
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People suffered the effects of the tear gas

The month-old Turkish incursion is having the impact many feared.

The people here believe they will be the next to be moved out to join the thousands of their own already in Iraqi refugee camps across the border.

We followed the convoy as it passed though a dozen or so villages.

Locals were following too, on motorbikes and in cars, lobbing rocks when they could.

The Turkish objective of this patrol and others like it across the area is to make their presence felt across a wide strip of Kurdish land along the border.

They call it a safe zone. Their only target, they claim, are the Kurdish militia fighters who control this area.

Tear gas victims
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The villagers say they are trying to defend their land

Turkey sees the militia as terrorists; the brothers and sisters of the Turkish-based separatist group, the PKK or Kurdish Workers’ Party.

And while western governments agree about the PKK’s terror links, they do not see the Syrian Kurdish militias as terrorists.

On the contrary, the Syrian Democratic Forces and YPG who make up the Kurdish militia have been the key fighting element of the western coalition fight to defeat the Islamic State in Syria.

But this isn’t just a case of civilians being caught in the middle. The Turkish government is being accused of actively forcing the civilians out too.

Even by the assessment of the top American diplomat in the region, the Turkish incursion is actually part of a quiet systematic ethnic cleaning of the region to remove the Kurds whose home this is.

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In a memo leaked to the New York Times this week, William Roebuck wrote: “Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria, spearheaded by armed Islamist groups on its payroll, represents an intentioned-laced effort at ethnic cleansing.”

He continued: “One day when the diplomatic history is written, people will wonder what happened here and why officials didn’t do more to stop it or at least speak out more forcefully to blame Turkey for its behaviour.

“An unprovoked military operation that has killed some 200 civilians, left well over 100,000 people (and counting) newly displaced and homeless because of its military operation.”

Not far from where Sarkhbon Bankin Ali died, we came across an American military convoy.

The US troops are still here, despite all President Donald Trump’s talk of them leaving.

But their orders now are to protect the oil, not the Kurds.

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Should Trump be impeached? Voters are as split as politicians | US News

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It was a fascinating end to a week of intense testimony.

Fiona Hill, the daughter of a British coal miner, started with a stark warning to those claiming that it was Ukraine and not Russia who meddled in the 2016 US election.

The former aide to then national security adviser John Bolton delivered a stern rebuke of lawmakers, and implicitly Donald Trump, for pushing a “fictional narrative”.

Fiona Hill, former senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council
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Fiona Hill claimed Moscow is ‘gearing up’ to repeat its interference in the 2020 US presidential election

They were, she said, perpetuating a Putin lie and undermining public faith in American democracy.

Some Republicans on the intelligence committee, including ranking member Devin Nunes, continue to advance the idea that Russian interference was a “hoax”.

In Moscow, Vladimir Putin sounded almost gleeful with the fact that theory was getting such a public and official airing.

“Thank God,” he declared. “No one is accusing us of interfering in the US elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

But Ms Hill – composed, robust and clearly concerned – told the hearing that Russia was busy gearing up to meddle in 2020 too.

She also provided a withering assessment of Gordon Sondland, the EU ambassador who, in a stunning U-turn on Wednesday, stated that there was definitely a quid pro quo and that “everyone was in the loop”.

David Holmes and Fiona Hill
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Fiona Hill and David Holmes gave evidence at the impeachment inquiry on Thursday

Ms Hill said Mr Sondland had carried out a “domestic political errand” for Mr Trump while she and her colleagues were involved in “national security policy”.

She told House investigators that she came to realise he wasn’t simply operating outside official diplomatic channels, as some assumed, but was in fact carrying out instructions from Mr Trump.

Mr Sondland had admitted exactly that the day before.

Ms Hill and David Holmes, a state department adviser in Kiev, claimed it was abundantly clear that Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was pursing political investigations of Democrats and Joe Biden in Ukraine.

She said she knew then it would “come back to haunt us”. She added that her former boss, Mr Bolton, had also expressed concern that a “drug deal” was being cooked up.

But he, like so many in the White House, has not testified.



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You only have to step outside for a few minutes to see how differently the public viewed their pair.

One man declared her “elitist and “irrelevant”. Another woman called her “the very best of America”. It all comes down to who you believe.

As a long day drew to a close, Mr Nunes told the room that this was simply a “show trial”, driven by Democrats who had reached their verdict before they had even begun.

Today and throughout this impeachment process, Republicans have characterised the evidence as third-hand and third-rate.

Ms Hill was not on the July call that sparked this inquiry and she like so many others, they argue, should be discounted.

I would say up to half of those I have met in the long queues outside the hearing think the Republicans have a point.

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Voters are just as split as those who are representing them.

So what next? Well, Democrats could file articles of impeachment before Christmas and hold a vote.

Given they have the majority, it is certainly looking like they would vote to impeach President Trump.

But it is also likely that the Republican-controlled Senate won’t vote to convict him.

It’s also absolutely plausible that he wins a second term.

The president’s supporters seemed almost resigned to the idea that he’ll be impeached, but also determined to keep him in office.

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UK defies US over ‘illegal’ Israeli expansion into West Bank | World News

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Britain has defied the US by urging Israel to stop its “counterproductive” expansion into the occupied West Bank.

The Foreign Office has waded into the debate after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the White House was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the territory.

It was the latest move from the Trump administration to anger Palestinians, as it weakened their claims to ownership of the state and put Washington at odds with other nations working to end the long-running conflict.

Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration does not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law
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Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration does not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law

Responding to the change in policy, the Foreign Office said: “The position of the UK on settlements is clear. They are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace, and threaten the viability of a two-state solution.

“We urge Israel to halt its counterproductive settlement expansion.”

The announcement by Mr Pompeo had angered Palestinians, with a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas claiming settlements are illegal under international law.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the US government had “lost credibility to play any future role in the peace process”.

Since becoming US president, Donald Trump has made a number of foreign policy decisions in favour of Israel.

The most controversial move was to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Middle Eastern country, angering those who labelled it a severe blow to the Middle East peace process.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed in October, to form a government
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been struggling to form a new government despite US backing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly welcomed the support of Mr Trump, although his backing has done nothing to help him form a new government despite two elections this year.

In more bad news for Mr Netanyahu, he has been indicted on corruption charges including fraud and bribery.

The allegations include suspicions that he accepted hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of champagne and cigars from billionaire friends – and offered to trade favours with a newspaper publisher.

Mr Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in three corruption cases and – in Donald Trump style – has previously dismissed the investigations into him as a “witch hunt”.

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Israeli PM Netanyahu indicted on corruption charges

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been indicted on corruption charges, the country’s attorney general has announced.

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