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Syrian Government and Rebels pour Reinforcements into northern city of Aleppo

Half-million civilians remained trapped in the city, and at least 230 civilians are known to have been killed there in the past two weeks

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Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters greet civilians who were evacuated by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighborhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, Aug. 12, 2016.
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Syria, August16, 2016: On Monday, the Syrian government and rebel factions seeking to topple it poured reinforcements into the besieged northern city of Aleppo. Both sides encouraged for a decisive battle that diplomats are trying to avert. Monitors said as many as 2,000 pro-government fighters had arrived in the devastated city since late Sunday, prompting the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors Syria’s civil war, to warn that “the great battle of Aleppo” is, in a word, “imminent.

Separately, the government-leaning Syrian daily Al-Watan reported Monday that the army had received “the necessary military reinforcements” to retake areas of the ravaged city from which it retreated under heavy rebel fire Saturday.

Rebel militia, including al-Qaida-linked fighters, captured the eastern part of the city in 2012 and have battled to a stalemate against government forces for control of the city since then.

Monitors say as many as a half-million civilians remained trapped in the city, and at least 230 civilians are known to have been killed there in the past two weeks.

A woman embraces a Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter after she was evacuated with others by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighborhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, Aug. 12, 2016.
A woman embraces a Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter after she was evacuated with others by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighborhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, Aug. 12, 2016.

Russia, U.S. deal

The latest buildup comes as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking on Russian television, said Moscow and Washington are moving closer to a deal that could help ease the massive humanitarian crisis gripping the once vibrant city.

“Step by step we are nearing an arrangement … exclusively about Aleppo, that would allow us to find common ground” that could bring peace to the territory, Shoigu said Monday.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau, responding to Shoigu’s remarks, told reporters that U.S. and Russian envoys remain in close contact on the Aleppo crisis.

“We have seen the (Shoigu) reports and have nothing to announce,” she said.

This undated image posted online July 18, 2016, by supporters of the Islamic State militant group on an anonymous photo-sharing website, shows Islamic State fighters firing their weapons during clashes with the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces in Manbij, in Aleppo province, Syria.
This undated image posted online July 18, 2016, by supporters of the Islamic State militant group on an anonymous photo-sharing website, shows Islamic State fighters firing their weapons during clashes with the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces in Manbij, in Aleppo province, Syria.

IS ‘caliphate’

The multi-sided Syrian civil war pits the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies against a loosely knit coalition of rebels seeking to drive Assad from power. That coalition includes al-Qaida-linked fighters, making Western governments reluctant to send arms to the rebels.

The third major party to the five-year-old conflict, the extremist Islamic State, is seeking to establish an Islamist “caliphate” in large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq. The group has used widely circulated videos to show its fighters slaughtering hundreds of civilians as it seeks to expand its rule.

Separately, the Syria Democratic Forces, formed in 2015 with U.S. support, has focused on driving IS fighters from strongholds along the Turkish border.

The United Nations estimates as many as 400,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians, since fighting first erupted near Damascus in 2011. (VOA)

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Microblogging Site Twitter Releases Tweets Linked to Russia, Iran

"We may also release incremental additions to existing datasets if we believe the additional information could materially impact research findings," Twitter said

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Twitter releases data linked to Russian, Iranian info campaigns. Pixabay

With the goal of improving understanding of how foreign influence campings operate on Twitter, the microblogging site has now released massive datasets of accounts linked to potential influence campaigns originating in Russia and Iran.

These large datasets released this week comprise 3,841 accounts affiliated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA), originating in Russia, and 770 other accounts, potentially originating in Iran.

Totalling over 360 gigabytes – including more than 10 million Tweets and more than 2 million images, GIFs, videos, and Periscope broadcasts ?the data store provides a picture of how state-sponsored agencies have used the Twitter platform, technology news website Ars Technica reported on Friday.

IRA allegedly ran information campaigns on several social media platforms to undermine the political process in the 2016 US presidential election.

TWitter
The logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. vOA

With Twitter coming under scrutiny for its failure to stop the spread of misinformation during the election, the microblogging site, earlier this year, committed to the US Congress and the public to provide regular updates and information regarding its investigation into foreign interference in political conversations on Twitter.

Since that time, Twitter has shared examples of these types of content posted on Twitter by IRA and provided the public with a direct notice if they interacted with these accounts.

In August this year, Twitter also disclosed details of another attempted influence campaign it identified as potentially located within Iran.

The datasets released this week are aimed at enabling independent academic research and investigation into the nature of foreign influence campaigns, Twitter said.

Twitter
Twitter on a smartphone device. Pixabay

“We are committed to understanding how bad-faith actors use our services. We will continue to proactively combat nefarious attempts to undermine the integrity of Twitter, while partnering with civil society, government, our industry peers, and researchers to improve our collective understanding of coordinated attempts to interfere in the public conversation,” Twitter said.

A preliminary look at the data by Ars Technica revealed that a common tactic used by the IRA was to create “local news” accounts for major US cities, seeding them with posts linking to local news outlets.

The accounts, such as “Atlanta Online,” “Baltimore Online,” “Baton Rouge Voice,” “Chicago Daily News,” and “Dallas Top News” would also include tweet-length news headlines with no link, the report said.

Also Read- Habitability Of Surrounding Planets Affected By Super Flares Of Red Dwarfs: NASA

Twitter said if it identifies additional attempted information operations on Twitter in the future, it will release similar datasets in a timely fashion after completing its investigations.

“We may also release incremental additions to existing datasets if we believe the additional information could materially impact research findings,” Twitter said. (IANS)