24 Jul 2014

Gaza, Israel, MH17. And now for the rest of today’s news…

As the news channels focused on violence in Gaza and the tragedy of MH17, what else happened? Channel 4 News finds out.


The past week has been described as one of Syria’s deadliest as a “perfect storm” of factors saw intensified fighting across the country. The violence has led to reports of more than 1,700 people killed in the last seven days.

On 16 July President Bashar al-Assad was sworn in for new seven year term – prompting rebels to increase their efforts across the country, especially in Aleppo, Damascus, Deraa and Homs.

Amateur video footage posted online purports to show explosions in Damascus, said to have been achieved through a rebel tunnel network, as well as shelling and fighting across the country.

At the same time the Islamic State, previously a struggling force in Syria, has made significant progress in the country – bolstered by weapons and recruits it gathered in its advance through northern Iraq.

Islamic State now controls the oil rich Deir al-Zour province and has clashed repeatedly with Assad’s forces – something that was previously unheard of.

On Monday Islamic State expelled dozens of rival rebels from Deir al-Zor city, including al Qaeda’s Syria branch, the Nusra Front, and Ahrar al-Sham, a hardline Islamist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It has also launched attacks in Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria – prompting Kurds from Turkey to cross the border and defend the area.

The UN Security Council has also now authorised humanitarian access into Syria without the government’s permission at four border crossings – even though the Syrian government has said it would deem such missions an attack.

The UN says 10.8 million people in Syria need help, of which 4.7 million are in hard-to-reach areas, while another three million have fled the conflict. The more than three-year civil war has killed at least 150,000 people.


Islamic State, the Sunni militant group which now controls a third of Iraq, has begun purging its lands of religious minorities including Shia Muslims and Christian.

Besides the city of Mosul, where Islamic State is now reported to have ordered the female genital mutilation of all women and girls, around 20 towns and villages in the state of Nineveh, around Mosul, and populated by minorities, have been seized by Isis.

There have been reports of male members of minority religious groups “disappearing” and of sectarian slurs being daubed on the walls in Iraq’s northern towns.

People have also been told to convert, leave or die. Many have fled to the Shia south of the country, or to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iraq bus attacked near Baghdad

Islamic State has also conducted various bombing and gun attacks close to Baghdad. On Thursday morning a military bus was attacked on the road from Taji to Baghdad (pictured above) – 52 prisoners and nine policemen were killed.

Attacks in this area are thought to have been carried out by Islamic State.

On Wednesday Islamic State claimed responsibility for an overnight suicide bombing in a Shia district of Baghdad that killed 33 people, one of the deadliest recent attacks in the capital.

The UN has also accused Islamic State of “a litany of human rights violations” including executions of civilians, violence against, and forced recruitment of, children, kidnappings, and attacks on places of cultural significance.


In the last two weeks at least 13 planes have been destroyed and the control tower seriously damaged as rival militia battle for control of the airport in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, International Editor Lindsey Hilsum writes.

At least 47 people have been killed and hundreds of families forced to flee their homes along the airport road as fighters attack each other with Grad rockets, shells and anti-aircraft cannons.

All international flights have been suspended and it is likely to be months before it's possible, let alone safe, to land in Tripoli again.

Militia from the town of Zintan, who are allied to largely secular forces and have controlled the airport since the revolution in 2011, are fighting militia from the port city of Misrata who are fighting alongside Islamists. No-one is backing down or negotiating and the weak, outgoing government is unable to exert any influence let alone control.

Libya's second city, Benghazi, has also been wracked by violence as a private army commanded by Gaddafi-era General Khalifa Heftar tries to oust the Islamists there.

More than 50 people have been killed in the last ten days, but the bald figures don't convey the relentless insecurity and fear that has swept both Benghazi and Tripoli as the fighting has worsened.

Last month the human rights lawyer Salwa Bughaigis was murdered when gunmen broke into her home in Benghazi - we still don't know the fate of her husband, Issam, who was kidnapped. For many, including myself, this was a turning point, the moment despair took hold. Since then it has only got worse.

Now presumed Islamists have murdered Fariha al-Barkawi, a female politician in Derna, a jihadi stronghold east of Benghazi.

Last weekend the UN withdrew its staff. Today the Turkish government is considering pulling out its diplomats and other nations may follow suit. Many have already gone after kidnaps and assassination threats.

On 4 August a newly elected parliament is due to take power, but few Libyans have much faith that it will do any better than its predecessors on curbing the militia.

Why have we scarcely covered this? Mainly because the overwhelming news from Gaza and Ukraine has used up all our resources. Also because it's very dangerous and difficult to work in Libya these days. Chances are that you can't get near enough to the fighting to take pictures. The danger of kidnap is pervasive.

But it's more than that. For a brief moment in 2011, Libya mattered to the outside world. Western governments intervened to help rebels overthrow Gaddafi. Libya was the most dramatic and decisive of the Arab Spring revolutions. Now it's just a small, chaotic country of six million people battling its own demons. True, its huge arms caches and jihadi fighters make it a danger to the region.

But in the last three years we have grown accustomed to things getting worse in Libya. The last two weeks have just fulfilled our expectations. It's sad and horrible but it's not the news.

West Africa: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

Between 18 and 20 July there were 45 new cases and 28 deaths due to the Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa. The cumulative number of cases since the outbreak in February is 1,093, including 660 deaths.

Doctors in an isolation unit in Guinea

Among those now suffering from the disease is the head doctor tackling the outbreak in Sierra Leone.

Sheik Umar Khan, 39, has been hailed as a hero in his home country and has been credited with treating more than 100 Ebola victims. Mr Khan has been transferred to a treatment war.


Nearly 100 people were killed in the Philippines last week when Typhoon Rammasun hit, raising doubts about the country’s ability to end the toll of heavy storms.

The country, still reeling from the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, saw millions of pounds worth of infrastructure and crop damaged in the typhoon, as well as around 7,000 homes destroyed and 530,000 forced to take refuge in evacuation centres.

Rammasun also destroyed around 51,000 homes and killed dozens in southern China.

Typhoon aftermath in the Philippines