Trump plans tanks and flyovers at Fourth of July celebration in Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump wave from the Truman Balcony during a fireworks display celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

By Andy Sullivan and Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Monday that he plans to display battle tanks on Washington’s National Mall as part of a pumped-up Fourth of July celebration that will also feature flyovers by fighter jets and other displays of military prowess.

The military hardware is just one new element in a U.S. Independence Day pageant that will depart significantly from the nonpartisan, broadly patriotic programs that typically draw hundreds of thousands of people to the monuments in downtown Washington.

An M1 Abrams tank sits atop a flat car in a rail yard after U.S. President Donald Trump said tanks and other military hardware would be part of of a Fourth of July display in Washington, U.S., July 2, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Fogarty

An M1 Abrams tank sits atop a flat car in a rail yard after U.S. President Donald Trump said tanks and other military hardware would be part of of a Fourth of July display in Washington, U.S., July 2, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Fogarty

While past presidents have traditionally kept a low profile on July 4, Trump plans to deliver a speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

Also on the agenda are an extended fireworks display and flyovers by Air Force One, the custom Boeing 747 used by U.S. presidents, and the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels jet squadron.

“I’m going to say a few words, and we’re going to have planes going overhead,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “And we’re going to have tanks stationed outside.”

Democrats in Congress have accused Trump of hijacking the event to boost his re-election prospects in 2020. They have also questioned how much the event will cost the cash-strapped National Park Service.

Trump has pushed for a military parade in Washington since he marveled at the Bastille Day military parade in Paris in 2017. His administration postponed a parade that had been planned for Veterans Day in November 2018 after costs ballooned to $90 million, three times the initial estimate.

Trump said modern M1 Abrams tanks and World War Two-era Sherman tanks would both be on display. District of Columbia officials have said the heavy military equipment could damage city streets.

“You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks, so we have to put them in certain areas,” Trump said.

The antiwar group Code Pink said it had secured permits to fly a “Baby Trump” blimp, depicting the president in diapers, during his speech. “Babies need enormous amounts of attention and are unable to gauge the consequences of their behavior – just like Donald Trump,” co-founder Medea Benjamin said in a news release.

The Interior Department, which oversees the event, has not said how much the event will cost. Two fireworks firms will put on a 35-minute display for free, which the agency said was equal to a donation of $700,000.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Diane Craft and Peter Cooney)

Most foreign envoys absent as Israel, U.S. launch embassy festivities

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claps after handing U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman a letter of appreciation, during a reception held at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, ahead of the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel launched celebrations on Sunday for the U.S. Embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem, a move whose break with world consensus was underscored by the absence of most envoys to the country from a reception hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Monday’s slated opening of the new embassy follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a decision he said fulfilled decades of policy pledges in Washington and formalized realities on the ground.

The Palestinians, who want their own future state with its capital in east Jerusalem, have been outraged by Trump’s shift from previous administrations’ preference for keeping the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv pending progress in peace efforts.

Those talks have been frozen since 2014. Other major powers worry that the U.S. move could inflame Palestinian unrest in the occupied West Bank and on the Gaza Strip border, where Israel reinforced troops in anticipation of the embassy opening.

Most countries say Jerusalem’s status should be determined in a final peace settlement, and say moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal.

Senior White House Advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump attend a reception held at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem ahead of the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Senior White House Advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump attend a reception held at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem ahead of the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Addressing dignitaries at the Foreign Ministry, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the president’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the Israeli prime minister urged others to follow Washington’s lead.

“Move your embassies to Jerusalem because it’s the right thing to do,” Netanyahu said. “Move your embassies to Jerusalem because it advances peace, and that’s because you can’t base peace on a foundation of lies.”

Netanyahu said that “under any peace agreement you could possibly imagine, Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital”.

Jerusalem, which is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, was decorated with roadside flowerbeds in the design of the U.S. flag and posters reading “Trump make Israel great again”.

“Tragically, the U.S. administration has chosen to side with Israel’s exclusivist claims over a city that has for centuries been sacred to all faiths,” the general delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to the United States said.

The U.S. Embassy move “gives life to a religious conflict instead of a dignified peace,” it said in a statement.

Israel said all 86 countries with diplomatic missions in Israel were invited to the event, and 33 confirmed attendance. Among those present were delegates from Guatemala and Paraguay, which will open their own Jerusalem embassies later this month.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a reception held at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, ahead of the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a reception held at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, ahead of the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

EUROPEAN RIFT

Attending the Foreign Ministry gathering were representatives from Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic, but none from western European Union states – suggesting a rift within the bloc over Trump’s Jerusalem move.

No-show nations withheld comment on Sunday.

The EU mission in Israel tweeted on Friday that the bloc would “respect the international consensus on Jerusalem … including on the location of their diplomatic representations until the final status of Jerusalem is resolved”.

Outside Jerusalem’s ancient Damascus Gate, Israelis danced in another celebration on Sunday, marking the capture of the Old City from Arab forces in the 1967 Middle East War.

Hundreds of Israeli rightists entered Al Aqsa mosque compound, an icon of Palestinian nationalism and a vestige of ancient Jewish temples. Witnesses said some prostrated themselves in Jewish prayer, violating religious restrictions at the site and sparking scuffles with Muslim worshippers.

Israeli police said several people were forcibly removed and questioned.

The U.S. Treasury secretary called the embassy relocation “a sign of the enduring friendship and partnership between our two countries” and also referred to the U.S. withdrawal last week from the Iran nuclear deal, a move welcomed by Israel and some U.S. Arab allies in the Gulf but lamented by other world powers.

The Palestinians plan to demonstrate against Monday’s inauguration from Arab districts abutting the Jerusalem site.

On the border with Gaza, Palestinians have also held protests as Israel prepares to mark 70 years since its creation, an event Palestinians call the Nakba, or Catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of them were displaced from their homes.

More than 40 Palestinians have been killed in the latest violence.

In a recorded speech released on Sunday, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri criticized Trump’s decision on the embassy, as well as the leaders of Muslim countries he said had sold out the Palestinians. He also said Israel’s Tel Aviv was Muslim land.

The Trump administration has sought to keep the door open to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy by saying the embassy move did not aim to prejudge Jerusalem’s final borders. The U.S. consulate in the city, tasked with handling Palestinian ties, will remain.

Washington has not asked Israel to initiate peace moves in exchange for the embassy relocation, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman told reporters on Friday: “There was no give and take with Israel with regard to this decision.”

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Warren Strobel in Washington; Editing by Edmund Blair and Daniel Wallis)

Islamic State cornered in Mosul as Iraq prepares victory celebrations

Members of Iraqi Federal Police carry a boy as they celebrate victory of military operations against the Islamic State militants in West Mosul, Iraq July 2, 2017.

By Stephen Kalin and Maher Chmaytelli

MOSUL/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters were battling to hold on to the last few streets under their control in the Old City of Mosul on Monday, making a doomed last stand in their former Iraqi stronghold.

In fierce fighting, Iraqi army units forced the insurgents back into a shrinking rectangle no more than 300 by 500 meters beside the Tigris river, according to a map published by the military media office.

Smoke covered parts of the Old City, which were rocked by air strikes and artillery salvos through the morning.

The number of Islamic State (IS) militants fighting in Mosul has dwindled from thousands at the start of the government offensive more than eight months ago to a mere couple of hundred now, according to the Iraqi military.

Iraqi forces say they expect to reach the Tigris and regain full control over the city by the end of this week. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is expected to visit Mosul to formally declare victory, and a week of nationwide celebrations is planned.

Mosul is by far the largest city captured by Islamic State. It was here, nearly three years ago to the day, that it declared the founding of its “caliphate” over parts of Iraq and Syria.

With Mosul gone, its territory in Iraq will be limited to areas west and south of the city where some tens of thousands of civilians live.

“Victory is very near, only 300 meters separate the security forces from the Tigris,” military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told state TV.

Abadi declared the end of Islamic State’s “state of falsehood” on Thursday, after the security forces took Mosul’s medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque.

It was from here that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his first and only video appearance, proclaiming himself “caliph” – the ruler of a theocratic Islamic state – on July 4, 2014.

 

SUICIDE ATTACKS

With its territory shrinking fast, the group has been stepping up suicide attacks in the parts of Mosul taken by Iraqi forces and elsewhere.

On Sunday, a male suicide bomber dressed in a woman’s veil killed 14 people and wounded 13 others in a displacement camp west of the capital Baghdad known as Kilo 60, security sources said. Islamic State claimed responsibility.

“The people who were attacked had fled to Kilo 60 for their safety. Many have traveled huge distances seeking help,” Lise Grande, the United Nations’ Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement.

Islamic State said on Sunday it had carried out 32 suicide attacks in June in Iraq and 23 in Syria, of which 11 were on the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces attacking its stronghold of Raqqa.

Destroyed buildings from clashes are seen during the fight with the Islamic States militants in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq July 3,

Destroyed buildings from clashes are seen during the fight with the Islamic States militants in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Iraqi state television said thousands of people had fled Mosul’s densely-populated Old City over the past 24 hours.

But thousands more are believed trapped in the area with little food, water or medicine, and are effectively being used as human shields, according to residents who have managed to escape.

Months of grinding urban warfare have displaced 900,000 people, about half the city’s pre-war population, and killed thousands, according to aid organizations.

Baghdadi has left the fighting in Mosul to local commanders and is believed to be hiding near the Iraq-Syrian border, according to U.S. and Iraqi military sources.

The group has moved its remaining command and control structures to Mayadin, in eastern Syria, U.S. intelligence sources have said.

 

(Additional reporting by Khaled al-Ramahi in Mosul; writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

 

Tight Security at July 4th Fests to counter terror fears, gun violence

member of the U.S. Army National Guard monitors commuters at Grand Central Station as security increases leading up to the Fourth of July weekend in Manhattan,

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United States celebrates July Fourth on Monday with parades, hotdog eating contests and fireworks shows amid heightened security because of concerns about terrorism in New York and timeworn holiday gun violence in Chicago.

Millions of Americans will mark independence from Britain with celebrations as boisterous as a music-packed party by country music legend Willie Nelson for 10,000 people at a race track in Austin, Texas and as staid as colonial-era costumed actors reading the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives in Washington.

History may be in the making in the traditional hotdog-eating contest at New York’s Coney Island. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut – a world record holder who ate 69 hotdogs in 10 minutes – attempts to regain his Mustard Yellow International Belt from Matt Stonie, who last year ended Chestnut’s run of eight straight victories.

With the holiday taking place days after the attack at Istanbul’s international airport, the New York Police Department will deploy eight new canines known as vapor wake dogs, trained to sniff out body-worn explosives, Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Friday.

The department’s human presence this holiday will be increased by nearly 2,000 new officers who graduated Friday from the New York City Police Academy.

“As we always have the capacity in New York to put out a lot of resources, that’s the name of the game, in dealing with terrorist threats,” Bratton said.

Police in Chicago, which has seen a spike in gun murders this year, announced a stepped up presence with more than 5,000 officers on patrol over the long weekend, traditionally one of the year’s most violent, said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Local media reported on Friday that 24 people had been shot over the past 24 hours, three fatally.

Dry weather forecasts across the country thrilled fireworks lovers, although some spots in Michigan have been so rain-starved that pyrotechnic shows were canceled in a handful of communities near Detroit to prevent fires.

NFL star Jason Pierre-Paul, who lost fingers as one of the 12,000 people injured and 11 killed in fireworks accidents last year, appeared in a public service announcement ahead of the 2016 holiday to urge greater caution.

“I lit up a firework, thought I could throw it away real quick and in a split second it blew off my whole hand,” the New York Giants defensive end said in the spot produced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Fiona Ortiz in Chicago, Adam DeRose in Washington, and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Alistair Bell)