24/05/2016 World News Today


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The battle against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq -


In northern Syria a Kurdish led alliance begins to drive IS


militants from their stronghold in Rucker.


And in Iraq, the government's fight to re-take the city of Falluja


Behind the factory there, smoke coming up because of the battle


going on there as these forces moved in on Falluja from different


A judge in Pennsylvania rules that actor Bill Cosby should stand trial


And running dry at the pumps - striking French workers blockade oil


refineries with fuel supplies hit across the country.


The war is intensifying to drive the Islamic State group


from territory it holds in Iraq and Syria.


In a moment we'll hear from our correspondent who's


with the Iraqi army as it tries to recapture Falluja.


At the same time, in northern Syria, a Kurdish-led alliance has begun


an offensive to drive IS fighters from areas to the north of their


Islamic State fighters parading triumphantly through the Syrian city


of Raqqa two years ago. The city it made its headquarters and from where


it declared a caliphate including much of Iraq. But now the tables are


turning and the militant group are under intense pressure. On a social


media site today, this unverified video apparently showing the


build-up of Kurdish and Arab forces for a new offensive against Islamic


State, just north of Raqqa. But the ultimate goal of retaking the city


itself. These fighters are from a coalition called the Syrian


Democratic forces, backed by the United States. Just two days ago is


training continued they had a surprise visit. United States top


military commander in the Middle East was upbeat about their


capabilities. I think with the right approach and capabilities provided


against anybody can result in military success. That is what we


will attempt to do along with our partners. Russia, which still has


considerable firepower, available at places inside Syria, has said it is


also prepared to support this new offensive, offering to coordinate


air strikes with the United States. In both Syria and Iraq, Islamic


State is being pounded from the air and by ground forces. The militant


group under threat now of losing several of its most important


strongholds. And it's already started hitting back. This is the


aftermath of a series of bombings yesterday in Syria which had


remained largely unscathed by the Civil War. More than 100 people were


killed. But if Raqqa, EIS headquarters, does eventually fall


to coalition forces it would be a body blow, bringing an end to its


caliphate. Meanwhile the Iraqi army,


supported by Shia militia, is continuing its attack


to retake the city of Falluja The UN says it is concerned


about the fate of 50,000 Our correspondent Jim Muir has just


returned from the front line. Pounding away at the self-styled


Islamic State in Raqqa. -- in Falluja. Day two of this offensive


so heavy bombardment is being meted out as ground forces pushed out


towards the outskirts of the city. Still some distance away. The


front-line effort was the result of a huge mobilisation. Thousands of


army and police trips backed by Shia militias and Sunni tribal irregulars


all massed against the militants. We come from other cities like that in


the south, all over. We come to hear to kick them out. The Shia militias


who are playing a prominent back-up role are in jubilant mood after the


initial advances. One of their leaders was also upbeat.


TRANSLATION: It is going according to plan and we have made good


progress. In a few days we expect to have Falluja completely surrounded.


Then we will have a real problem, the presence of so many civilians in


the town using -- being used as human shields. We hope they can


escape. The front-line advance is seeing thousands of regular troops


and militia is all pushing towards the town being defended by at most a


few thousand militants. Also there are an estimated 30,000 civilians.


There is great concern for the civilians who are believed to be


tracked there but the next phase would be a major assault on the town


itself and that is where it would be bullied civilians if they cannot get


up with the most at risk. But the final assault on the actual city of


Volusia is some way off. The noose is tightening. It is not yet clear


how much of a fight the militants will put up. If they do fight to the


death there are fears that much of the city will be left. -- will not


be left. Offensives against IS in Iraq


and Syria may trigger fresh waves of refugees,


at a time when Europe The Greek authorities deployed


around 700 police on Tuesday to start clearing


a refugee camp at Idomeni. But the operation to move them


to government-run facilities has And many of the 8000 migrants stuck


at Idomeni in appalling conditions since Macedonia shut its border


in February left Soon after dawn, the operation began


to clear Greece's biggest This was the move that migrants had


been refusing to make for months. Hundreds of riot police circled


the site, but Greek officials say Most of those climbing on board


the buses are families who fled wars and poverty in Syria,


Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they are being taken


to new organised camps, There is heavy security


all around Idomeni. Journalists and the clowns


who usually entertain refugee children have been


stopped at this roadblock. Camp residents stayed here to be


close to the border with Macedonia, which is in the direction


of those mountains. But since March the crossing gate


and the route to northern Europe More than 50,000 people got stuck


in Greece earlier this Aid workers struggled


to help those at Idomeni. Generally from a psychological point


of view there is an increase there are people who've been staying


there for over two or three months. So there is also high insecurity,


because they are not fully aware of where they are going


and what will come for them Last year, more than


a million people entered But they didn't want to stay


in this country, which has Now many migrants will have to -


hoping that Brussels will make good on its promises to help


resettle refugees elsewhere. Yolande Knell near Idomeni


in northern Greece. To talk about this Dawn Chatty,


a professor from Oxford University whose specialism is refugees


and forced migration. Welcome. I want to talk about


Idomeni specifically in a moment but first of all, we began this


programme looking at two military operations going on in Iraq and


Syria. Whatever the outcome of those is there one thing we can be certain


about, that there will be more desperate people on the Move? Yes,


absolutely. Most of those who will reach Greece through Turkey have


been in the last year basically fleeing the armed conflicts, the


Russian air raids, the clashes between various military groups. And


so it is inevitably going to be a situation where we will see many,


many more directly fleeing the armed conflict. Turning to Idomeni and the


clearing of that camp, we hear many left voluntarily on foot to better


conditions, how do you view what we see being done by the Greek


authorities? Obviously the Greek authorities have several reasons for


trying to clear the camp as you know. It sits directly on a rail


line that is the main freight line between Greece and Macedonia, so the


country has lost about ?3 million every month. They have been unable


to use it because of the makeshift camp that was set up there. I am a


bit concerned. The reports are that at this point, people are leaving


voluntarily but it seems to me that there is a great deal of


intimidation. Many of the Syrians who have been interviewed and others


have said that they really don't want to be going backwards. Many are


waiting to find opportunities to be reunited with their families, many


of the women with children have husbands and sons already in Germany


and Sweden. They are fearful of being pushed back and also being put


in a situation where they are forced to claim asylum in Greece which of


course is what they are trying to avoid doing. Right, but if as asylum


to offer people a refuge from war, surely as a first point on this


journey at least, Greece offers them a safe place? I do agree with you


but I think actually that family reunification is almost more


important. They want to reach their husbands and their sons and they


want to be together. The idea that they must register in Greece is


something that's something certainly as far as the Syrians are concerned


does not make sense to them. How do you see the blow of migrants


developing over the summer months? Did we expect to see new wraps? What


will Europe do about it? Certainly the flow is playing slowed down


through the land corridor of the Balkans, but I think we will find


other routes are going to be opened up certainly by smugglers. Any


Syrians have said that their aim is to get their families in Germany and


other parts of Europe. They will find smugglers to move down there. I


think we will find new groups will be open. In the end we have to find


some kind of comments of plan of action which allows for some sort of


temporary protection within Europe and other parts of the world which


at the same time tries to find ways of finding a political settlement in


Syria. We have to look at this holistic way. It is just not a


matter of trying to block people from reaching their families or


safety. Thank you very much. Thank you.


Within the past hour, a judge in Pennsylvania has ordered


US entertainer Bill Cosby to stand trial on sexual assault charges.


The ruling came at a preliminary hearing to decide whether there


Our correspondent was in court. The judge has ordered that criminal


proceedings can progress. There will be a further hearing on July the


20th and that is when Bill Cosby will start these criminal


proceedings and face these criminal proceeding against three camps of


sexual misconduct. -- camps. As you mentioned this dates back


to 2004 and involves a woman called


Andrea Constand. She was a former employee


at Temple University. She alleges she went to Bill Cosby's


house for career advice where he gave her three unidentified blue


pills. She said those pills made her blurry at it. She said certainly


this was read out in the police statements here this morning. --


eyes. She felt frozen. She was unable to talk and she had to lie


down, she was in and out of it. She said that during that time she was


on the couch she was sexually assaulted. Bill Cosby in his


statement to the police which was also read out in court this morning


that any sexual conduct was consensual, but she agreed to it.


However he does admit that she doesn't say yes but he says, she


didn't say no. Certainly her story is that there was no consent. This


will be the basis of this criminal trial. And certainly it is the only


criminal proceedings against Bill Cosby. There are a further 66 women


have come forward since these allegations arose. All with similar


stories and we are expecting several press conferences to follow the


judge's announcement today. Gloria Allred is a lawyer


for a number of other women who've made similar allegations


against the television star. Under Pennsylvania's prior bad acts,


legal doctrine, potentially other accusers could be called to testify


at trial. Whether they will be called, that is subpoenaed to


testify at trial, is a decision that will be made by law enforcement, the


district attorney and the court. Around a fifth of France's petrol


stations have run dry, or are close to doing so,


after oil workers went on strike Protesters blocked depots


on the Mediterranean coast In France protesters as much as part


as workplace culture is the 35 hour week. And today workers at the all


refineries that the French industry stood firm in support of both those


tradition is. -- oil refineries. Seven of the country's eight


refineries have so far been affected by protests. And already at petrol


stations across the country, there were queues for whatever fuel


remained in the pumps. TRANSLATION: The protesters are being pathetic.


It is not normal. They are holding as hostage. TRANSLATION: I support


the protest because the labour reform will change the way we work.


It is something of a French tradition to go on strike. Even the


police told us that the search for petrol was tying up their patrol


time. Petrol stations that are still open are quickly running through


supplies. Staff here told us they were completely out of diesel and


they had about an hours worth of petrol left. Beyond that they are


relying on fresh supplies from the refineries, of which are now facing


strike action. Despite the lag in refuelling the Government says there


are enough reserves to avoid a crisis and that it is not backing


down. TRANSLATION: We will not accept and we cannot accept that


organisations, clearly a minority, blockade sees refineries and


obstruct a number of field deep rose, so, of course, we will


continue our actions. This is not the first protest over the


Government's controversial economic reforms but it is the toughest so


far. And with union leaders threatening to expand the strikes,


what started as a real election gamble for the president has just


become a nationwide game of chicken. Joining me from Paris


now is Sophie Pedder. She is the France bureau chief


for The Economist. Could we start with some background?


Explain brands's famously complex labour laws? What is the president


trying to change? Francois Hollande has said he is not seeking to


re-election next year unless he brings down unemployment and one of


the things that deters employers from creating permanent jobs is the


fact it is so difficult when you have got people on the workforce on


the payroll to fire them if you are faced of economic difficulty. The


purpose of this legislation is to try and make it easier for firms to


shed workers and therefore to encourage them to recruit more. But


it has not seen like that. This is the difficulty. Although it is in


fact a piece of legislation designed to help young people get into the


workforce, it is pretty much seen as an attempt to sort of, you know,


make it easier to get rid of workers was they are in jobs and that is the


huge communication difficulty that the Government has had with this.


These protests have been growing for some time now but has this reached a


new level with the effect on fuel supplies over France really pretty


much everyone feeling the impact? Yes. Obviously the pictures are


dramatic and once the petrol shortages come into place that has


been affecting everybody, but the otter paradox of this whole


situation I think is that a lot of young people who are shot out of the


job market don't see this as a piece of legislation that will actually be


beneficial to that, these are people stuck in short-term jobs often on


contract that do not last more than a month, they are the people who


could benefit from the sort of legislation that the Government is


trying to pass. But public opinion, the dramatic pictures on the streets


does make it look as though this is a piece of legislation that is


against people in work rather than designed to help them. How do you


see this panning out? We have the Euro 2016 turn it coming up in a few


days. Could it get much worse? -- tournament. There are huge security


concerns in France and it is not just about the strikes and protests,


also terrorism. France was struck twice yearly -- twice last year and


there is huge concern. A big effort on the part of the Government to try


and put in place a really secure as possible protocol for the Euro 2016.


Nothing is ever 100% sure and I think there will be a lot of concern


in France and probably outside in the run-up to the genome. Sophie,


thanks very much. Now a look at some of


the day's other news. Tens of thousands of people have


been attending an anti-austerity Riot police used water


cannon at protesters The demonstration was called


to protest against the centre-right government's social and economic


policies, which trade unions say cut deep into the foundations


of Belgium's welfare state. In Iran, an 89-year-old


hardline conservative, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati,


has been chosen as chairman The clerical body appoints Iran's


supreme leader and it has the power to remove him


and supervise his activities. The senior cleric is one of the few


hardliners on the panel to have secured re-election


in elections in February. It shows the power of the panel


despite a recent nuclear deal. The International Olympic Committee


says samples from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing which have been


re-tested, show positive results It is warning that more than 30


athletes could be barred from this French police and finance officials


have raided the offices of the Internet giant


Google in Paris. They're investigating claims


that the American company has Hugh Schofield joins


us now from Paris. Tell us about what happened. A big


raid by all accounts. It started at 5am and we are told that at some


point there were 100 police and tax officials and experts in computing


and so on searching through the Google headquarters in central Paris


led by five examining magistrates, they were seen ringing out various


boxes which will have been carted off to the headquarters of the tax


police, that bit of the justice system here. All part of an


investigation which was launched a year ago now after a complete,


finance ministry, alleging that Google has been engaged in tax fraud


and basically in evading its taxes, to the point we are told, this is


not official on the ministry, 1.6 billion euros. The context of this


ongoing problem is that Google has a lot of countries who are beginning


to come down and get it very angry about how they see Google has


minimised tax liabilities by all sorts of complex shuffling around of


responsibilities and headquarters but the long and short of it is that


France believes that Google makes an awful lot of money in France as a


result of French transactions, the bulk of which are processed through


Ireland, the headquarters of Google in Europe and the French thinks that


is wrong and that it a lot more should be taxed in France. Have we


heard any response from Google? Know and we don't ever I don't think


because they tend to have this blanket statement which comes out on


the record which is that Google abides by the tax regimes of


whatever country it is operating in. Which is no doubt true to a point.


The French though believe that it is illegally, or maybe illegally, using


tax conventions between France and Ireland and so on to avoid the


larger sums which it says it has an ethical and possibly legal duty to


pay. Thank you very much. Five days after the loss


of the EgyptAir plane over the Mediterranean,


one Egyptian official says the investigation now points to some


kind of explosion on board. That is being denied by other senior


investigators. There are also conflicting reports


about whether or not the Airbus A320 swerved before it plunged


into the sea killing Aircraft and ships from a number


of different countries are still scouring the Mediterranean


looking for the wreckage of the EgyptAir plane,


for any debris and anything athat could help investigators


to understand what happened. And so far there seems little that


has been established Some news agency reports have quoted


an unnamed senior Egyptian forensic official who says that the small


size of human remains that have been recovered suggests that the logical


explanation is that the aircraft However, that has been denied


by Egypt's head of forensics and the Ministry of Justice said


it was too early to identify The aircraft, and Airbus A320 came


down last Thursday on an overnight With 66 passengers and crew


on board. One of the few pieces of hard


evidence is a set of data sent automatically to base including


messages that smoke had been detected in a toilet


and in the avionics bay below the cockpit, which


contains the aircraft's Greek authorities claimed the plane


swerved sharply before crashing, turning first 90 degrees


to the left, then 360 degrees to the right,


before losing altitude. But the head of Egyptian air


navigation services has said his officials did not record


any form of swerving and that while they were able to watch


the plane on radar for a minute before it disappeared, they were not


able to communicate with it. The Greeks may have seen it turning,


but the tracking systems are not clearly defined to track aircraft


in some form of emergency descent, if it is broken up or if it is in


a very tight spiral dive. So once again it is interesting


information, but it does not really tell us anything at this stage


until we get the wreckage back. And with so much still unclear,


the key to establishing exactly what did bring the aircraft down


will be the recovery of the voice and data recorders,


if they can be found. Let's remind you of one of the


developing stories. A judge in Pennsylvania that the actor Bill


Cosby should stand trial on sexual assault charges. More on all our


stories on the BBC website. If you want to get in touch with us on


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