Briefing:- 24/7/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 24th of July, 2017 :-

1. Chinese jets intercept US surveillance plane over East China Sea :-

Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a US Navy surveillance plane over the East China Sea over the weekend, two US officials told Reuters.

One of the jets came about 300 feet of the American aircraft, officials said.

An official said initial reports showed one of the Chinese J-10 aircraft came close to the US EP-3 plane, causing the American aircraft to change direction.

2. Car bomb attack in Kabul, at least 35 killed; Taliban claims responsibility :-

At least 35 people were killed after a Taliban suicide attacker detonated a car bomb in the western part of Kabul today.

The suicide bomber targeted government personnel. At least three vehicles and several shops were destroyed in the blast.

“When the Taliban entered the hospital they killed 35, all civilians,” spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi told AFP, without specifying if they were patients or staff.

“This is a cruel crime against humanity,” he added.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility in a statement to the media for the suicide attack.

Afganistan has witnessed a series of attacks in the past three months with the Taliban targeting government building and military personnel including foreign embassy personnel.

Kabul has accounted for at least 20 per cent of all civilian casualties this year, including at least 150 people killed in a massive truck bomb attack at the end of May, according to United Nations figures.

Prime Minister Modi’s office condemned the Kabul attack and expressed sympathy towards the victim’s families. PM Modi in his tweet said: “We stand in solidarity with people and government of Afghanistan.”

3. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner says met Russian officials but did not collude with Russia :-

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, said on Monday he “did not collude” with Russia and had roughly four meetings with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and presidential transition.

In a written statement released ahead of his scheduled appearance before lawmakers in closed-door sessions, Kushner said his initial security clearance form had been submitted prematurely in error and had omitted all foreign contacts.

“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner said.

“I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector,” he said.

Kushner faces two days of closed-door questioning from Congress as lawmakers try to determine whether Trump’s campaign enlisted Russia`s help to win the White House in last year’s election.

Kushner is scheduled to address the Senate Intelligence Committee at 10 am EDT (1400 GMT) on Monday and the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday. Trump has been dogged by allegations that his campaign aides worked with Russia, which US.

Intelligence agencies have accused of interfering in the election. Moscow has denied any interference, and Trump says his campaign did not collude with Moscow.

The Republican president has said the Russia probes in Congress and the Justice Department are politically motivated.

In a tweet on Monday morning, Trump lashed out at the ongoing investigations.

“So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillary’s crimes & Russia relations?” he added, referring to his former Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr released emails this month that showed Trump Jr appeared to welcome the prospect of damaging information from the Russian government about Clinton.

Members of both committees say they are eager to hear about the June 2016 meeting involving Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Kushner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort were also at the meeting.

Kushner described it as a waste of time.

“I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.'”

He said no part of the meeting he attended “included anything about the campaign” and he had no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is negotiating with Manafort and Trump Jr. about testifying in a public hearing.

The congressional committees, along with federal special counsel Robert Mueller, are examining Russia’s influence in the US election and possible links to Trump`s campaign.

Kushner will also face questions about reports he tried to set up a secret back channel to Moscow, as well as other contacts with top Russian officials and business leaders.

Kushner said he first met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in Washington in April 2016 and shook hands. He said he did not recall phone calls with Kislyak between April and November of that year as reported by Reuters in May, had found no evidence of the calls in phone records and was skeptical they took place.

In a meeting with Kislyak after the election, on Dec. 1, Kushner said he articulated a desire for the United States to make a fresh start with Russia.

“The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day should, of course, be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day,” he said.

He said the Russian ambassador asked if there was a secure line in Trump`s transition office to facilitate a discussion with Russian generals about Syria. There was not.

Kushner suggested arranging something through an existing communications channel at the Russian embassy, but Kislyak indicated that was not possible and they agreed to follow up after the inauguration.

“Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a `secret back channel.` I did not suggest an ongoing secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office,” Kushner said. “I did not raise the possibility of using the embassy or any other Russian facility for any purpose other than this one possible conversation in the transition period. We did not discuss sanctions.”

Kushner said he met on December 13 with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, because Kislyak`s insistence and because he had a “direct relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sanctions imposed by former President Barack Obama’s administration were not discussed nor were Kushner`s business activities, Kushner said.

“I did not know or have any contact with Mr Gorkov before that meeting, and I have had no reason to connect with him since,” Kushner wrote.

Kushner did not initially disclose any meetings with Russians on forms he filed to get a government security clearance. He has since revised those forms several times.

He said the forms were initially submitted prematurely in error and omitted all foreign contacts he had had, not just those with Russian officials.

4. Amman: Israeli embassy guard shoots 2 Jordanians dead :-

An Israeli embassy security guard shot dead a Jordanian who attacked him with a screwdriver at Israel’s embassy compound in Amman and a second Jordanian also died, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

The incident had potential to cause a rift in already tense Israel-Jordan relations, because Jordan wanted to question the Israeli guard, who was lightly injured, but Israel said he had diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention.

Tensions have escalated between the two countries since Israel installed metal detectors at entry points to al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem after two Israeli policemen were shot dead by three Arab-Israeli gunmen near the site on Friday.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry statement said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the foreign minister, had spoken to the security guard and to ambassador Einat Schlein and stressed that the guard had immunity from questioning and prosecution.

The incident took place as furniture was being replaced at the staff residence. The statement said the second Jordanian who died was the property owner.

It did not specify the whereabouts of the embassy staff. The Jordanian capital is a short distance from a border crossing that leads via the occupied West Bank to Israel.

Israel had imposed a ban on reporting Sunday’s incident and only broke its silence early on Monday morning. Israel Radio said the ban had been imposed because Jordan wanted to question the security guard but Israel said he had diplomatic immunity.

Relations had been cemented in a peace deal in 1994 but reached crisis point three years later when Mossad intelligence officers tried but failed to assassinate senior Hamas official Khaled Meshaal in Jordan.

Ties recovered after Israel delivered the antidote for the poison with which Meshaal had been injected. The Mossad chief at the time resigned and the two agents who carried out the failed plot were arrested and held in Jordan, but later freed.

The fortress-like embassy in the affluent Rabae district of Amman is protected by Jordanian gendarmes. It has long been a flashpoint of anti-Israeli protests at times of turmoil in the Palestinian territories.

Violence against Israelis is rare in Jordan, a tightly-policed country that is also a staunch regional ally of the United States. It also shares a long border with Israel.

5. Doklam standoff: China to step up troop deployment :-

China has said India should not “leave things to luck” and “harbour any unrealistic illusions” over the Doklam standoff.

“Shaking a mountain is easy but shaking the People’s Liberation Army is hard,” Reuters reported defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian as telling a media briefing.

Wu added that China’s ability to defend its territory and sovereignty had “constantly strengthened”.

Chinese “border troops have taken emergency response measures in the area and will further step up deployment and trainings in response to the situation,” AFP reported him as saying.

He did not give any details about the deployment.

“India should not leave things to luck and not harbour any unrealistic illusions,” Reuters reported Wu as saying.

“We strongly urge India to take practical steps to correct its mistake, cease provocations, and meet China halfway in jointly safeguarding the border region’s peace and tranquillity,” Wu said.

Reuters reported Indian officials as saying about 300 soldiers from either side are facing off from each other about 150 metres apart on the plateau.

Reuters reported them as adding that diplomats from both sides are talking to each other, trying to ensure that the confrontation does not escalate.

And that India’s ambassador to Beijing is leading the effort to find a way for both sides to back down without losing face.

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