The government forces make a big move. 300,000 people are trapped here. “After months of fighting to encircle its opponents in Aleppo, Syrian authorities backed by Russia on Thursday offered safe corridors out for residents and rebels in the northern city’s besieged quarters, underlining the government’s determination to seal off the metropolis and force an eventual surrender by the opposition. Many residents dismissed the offer, saying it presents them with an impossible choice between a slow death if they stay behind and possible detention if they attempt to leave. The encirclement of rebel-held eastern Aleppo sets the stage for a drawn-out siege with potentially huge implications for the future of the armed opposition to President Bashar Assad. The military continued to consolidate its grip Thursday, seizing a district on the northern edge of the city. ‘If Assad shows that he is winning Aleppo, and he’s now also advancing on the rebels in Damascus, it could trigger a more dramatic shift by finally convincing opposition groups that they have lost the war,’ said Aron Lund, nonresident associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/2ahGPhC)

Meanwhile, al Nusra says it is splitting with Al Qaeda… the move was intended to remove the pretext used by powers, including the US and Russia, to bomb Syrians.” (BBC http://bit.ly/2ahH1gF)

Indonesia Executes Drug offenders…”The Indonesian government has carried out executions of four convicted drug traffickers, Al Jazeera has learned. The attorney general’s office had said earlier on Thursday that 14 people, including foreigners, would be executed “soon” The executions were the third set carried out since President Joko Widodo took office in October 2014.  Widodo’s two-year-old administration will have executed more people than were executed in the previous decade. Fourteen were put to death last year.” (Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/2ahH1gF)

Quote of the day: “The terrorists want to make us lose sight of what is important to us, break down our cohesion and sense of community as well as inhibiting our way of life, our openness and our willingness take in people who are in need. They see hatred and fear between cultures and they see hatred and fear between religions. We stand decisively against that.” – Angel Merkel (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2ahdJic)

Africa

Zimbabwe police have detained the spokesman of the veterans association that turned on President Robert Mugabe last week and called him dictatorial, raising concerns that a crackdown on what had been the president’s most loyal supporters has begun. (AP http://yhoo.it/2aePDYc)

The United Nations said there has been at least 120 cases of sexual violence and rape against civilians in South Sudan’s capital Juba since fighting erupted three weeks ago between troops loyal to the country’s rival leaders. (Reuters http://bit.ly/2ahfa0f)

Some 23 million farmers in drought-hit Southern Africa need urgent help to prepare for the next planting season with only a few weeks left before it begins, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/2aeMY0W)

Solar-powered electricity units are removing the need for dangerous kerosene lamps and allowing Africans to stay connected. (Guardian http://bit.ly/2atzdbn)

MENA

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura called on Russia and the United States on Thursday to work together in reducing the fighting in Syria, saying that failure of their cooperation plan would have a very negative impact on planned peace talks. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2aeMUOr)

An Egyptian court on Thursday convicted the country’s former top anti-corruption official of “spreading false news” over a damning report he had issued, sentencing him to a year in prison that he must pay fines to avoid. (AP http://yhoo.it/2aAPNpB)

Syria regime ally Russia on Thursday announced a “large-scale” aid operation to allow civilians and fighters to flee besieged Aleppo, as the president offered an amnesty to rebels who surrender. (AFP http://yhoo.it/2agklKw)

Israeli authorities who have faced a wave of lone-wolf attacks by Palestinians say they have made progress in identifying potential assailants in advance, a challenge now also confronting Western nations. (AFP http://yhoo.it/2ahfmwy)

Human Rights Watch accused the Syrian regime and its ally Russia on Thursday of extensively using banned cluster munitions in their offensive against rebels in the war-torn country. (AFP http://yhoo.it/2ahfDPX)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad offered an amnesty on Thursday for rebels who lay down their arms and surrender to authorities within three months. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2acFWWb)

Asia

Flash floods and landslides have killed at least 68 people in Nepal in the past three days and another 15 are missing, local authorities said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2atxC5k_

Indonesia quickly rebuffed appeals from the U.N. human rights chief and the European Union to abandon plans to execute 14 people for drug crimes as preparations intensified Thursday at the prison island where the death row inmates are held. (AP http://yhoo.it/2atyLds)

The use of hoods, restraints and teargas on Australian aboriginal children in youth detention centers by police, as shown in footage released this week, could violate the U.N. treaty barring torture, a top U.N. official said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2ayWvPT)

A Bangladesh court Thursday upheld the death sentence for six Islamist militants convicted over a suicide bombing in 2005 of a lawyer’s office that killed eight people, a top prosecutor said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/2acFPdg)

Authorities in Pakistan say tens of thousands of families who took refuge in Afghanistan two years ago after fleeing a Pakistani counter-militancy offensive have until Monday to register to return home. (VOA http://bit.ly/2azXjE4)

South Korea on Thursday launched a foundation planned to be funded by the Japanese government to provide support for South Korean women forced into sexual slavery by Japan’s military in World War II. (AP http://yhoo.it/2atyGpY)

Myanmar police have detained seven colleagues from a border unit after nearly 300,000 methamphetamine tablets were found hidden at their camp, a senior official said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/2atxT8s)

The Americas

Brazilian police in the state of Rio de Janeiro, which hosts the Olympics next month, have arrested a man with suspected ties to terrorist groups after monitoring his online activity, his lawyer said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2aty2c0)

Venezuela’s socialist government is digging in its heels to stop a presidential recall vote as it fights to hold onto power amid an economic collapse. (VOA http://bit.ly/2aAQFdL)

Colombia’s government and FARC rebels have pledged to improve access to land for women and ensure perpetrators of sexual violence, including rape, will not be eligible for amnesty as part of ongoing peace talks to end five decades of civil war. (VOA http://bit.ly/2atB0x0)

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski assumes Peru’s presidency Thursday with a Cabinet that shares his Ivy League, pro-business pedigree — a reliance on technocrats that could become a liability as he deals with an unfriendly congress and a resurgent left. (AP http://yhoo.it/2atzyuS)

…and the rest

Turkey is expected to shake up its armed forces on Thursday and dismiss more military officers as it deepens its purge of individuals who the government claims supported a failed coup this month. (AP http://yhoo.it/2ahfJau)

Children caught in six conflict-affected areas are often held for months or even years as national security threats, and untold numbers have been tortured or died in custody, according to a Human Rights Watch report. (AP http://yhoo.it/2ayWtrj)

An ambitious initiative to offer contraception to women and girls in 69 countries risks being undermined if governments fail to allocate more money. (Guardian http://bit.ly/2aePmVu)

Nearly a decade after child labor in mica mining came to light, the cosmetic industry’s progress on cleaning up its supply chain for the glittery mineral has been slow and tricky. (Guardian http://bit.ly/2azX3oj)

Italy launched an internet, TV and radio campaign on Thursday to discourage Africans from setting out on the often deadly voyage to Europe, including real migrants telling their often harrowing stories. (Reuters http://bit.ly/2aeMFTP)

A La Nina event, which affects rainfall and temperatures in the tropics, may develop in the third quarter of the year but it is likely to be weak and far less intense that El Nino that ended in May, the United Nations weather agency said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2acG9ZE)

Opinion/Blogs

Two USAID officials describe how El Nino is causing a food security crisis in Southern Africa (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/2ahGmvE)

These videos depicting “male guardianship” in Saudi Arabia have gone viral. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/2ahGjQJ)

Who really won the legal battle between Philip Morris and Uruguay? (Guardian http://bit.ly/2aeLzY1)

Clinton isn’t going to jail, but in some countries it’s a way to build power (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/2aASNlW)

More than a week after the attempted coup, things are looking bleak for democracy in Turkey. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/2agCRT6)

AIDS funding is in crisis. Who will step up? (Devex http://bit.ly/2agpDpy)

The top 20 best countries to invest your money in Africa (Africanist Perspective http://bit.ly/2agpLp6)

Is the Resource Curse a Myth? (Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/2aA3pnI)

Deworming delusions and science (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/2atGBn4)

There is no system of international justice against Africa because there is no system of international justice (Justice in Conflict http://bit.ly/2aAhPV8)

Not so astounding: how New Zealand’s aid budget works (Devpolicy http://bit.ly/2aAi2HD)
On debt and taxation, rich and poor countries are worlds apart (Guardian http://bit.ly/2ad1O42)

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