On the #Gredge: Greece and EU finance ministers fail to reach deal in Riga

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Grexit? Gredge? Graccident? Grimbo? Each clever hashtag to describe Greece defaulting and leaving the eurozone is becoming more a reality, after talks between Greece and its EU creditors to unlock €7.2 billion for Athens to pay off its IMF debt failed.

“A comprehensive deal is necessary before any disbursement can take place,” Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloeme said at the press conference in Riga following the meeting Friday. “Responsibility for that relies mainly on Greece,” he said, adding that too much time was lost during the past 2 months.

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Greece’s four month bailout extension expires in June.

Eurozone finance ministers held Greek debt talks in Riga, Latvia to discuss unlocking bailout funds, so Greece can pay its next $450 million repayment on an IMF loan. The bailout will help Greece’s struggling economy live through several debt repayments due over the course of the next two months. The euro declined on the news of no deal.

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The next summit will be held in May.

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While the talks were in progress, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis published a blog post that said he was ready to meet demands. The post was called ‘A New Deal for Greece.’

“The current disagreements with our partners are not unbridgeable,” Varoufakis said in his blog, also saying Greece will agree to sell national assets to raise money and that his country’s tax system must be reformed. However, the finance minister stood firm against further wage and pension cuts.

Friday April 24 marks the day that was set as a deadline for the framework agreement over the terms of a new loan. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels on Thursday, and both agreed they wanted to reach a deal by the end of April.

European finance ministers are waiting for a more concrete list of measures from Greece to reach a preliminary agreement on financing the country’s economy and external debt.

Ahead of the meeting, several finance ministers said there will be no deal. European Vice-President Valdis Dombrovski and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble both said there was not enough progress to release the funds.

Is Greece leaving the eurozone?

Varoufakis said that in order for Greece to remain in the eurozone, international lenders have to work with Athens to lessen the grip of austerity. The two sides have yet to set budget targets for 2015.

Read more

Greece offers 5 key points for consensus with intl creditors

Despite the gloomy attitude of officials, before the announcement, markets were heating up on a potential agreement. The euro hit a two week high and Greek banks that rely on the tranche being released saw shares rise 8 percent. The Athens stock market advanced 3 percent in early trading.

Investor confidence leading up to the meeting was also high after Wednesday’s decision by the European Central Bank to increase the emergency liquidity assistance (ELAs) facilities Greek banks can borrow as a lifeline for its lending institutions. According to a Greek banking official, the ECB raised the Greek Central Bank’s lending capacity to €75.5 billion ($81.2 billion) up from €74 billion last week.

Greek government bonds also rose slightly, decreasing the yield on debt. Yield on Greece’s 2-year debt fell to 24.6 percent from 25.4 percent on Thursday evening.

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Greece is scheduled to make several payments to the IMF in the next few months. On May 1 €203 million is due, another €770 million on May 12, and about another €1.6 billion in June in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), an artificial currency created by the IMF that the institution uses to give out extra funds.

Authorities in Greece made a €448 million payment to the IMF on April 9, on schedule.

The Syriza party won elections in January on the promise to stay in the eurozone, but renegotiate the country’s €316 billion debt.

*(MORE FROM THE RELIGION OF PEACE)* ISIS militants hug gay couple in ‘forgiveness,’ then stone them to death anyway

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Sympathizers claim the embraces show compassion


Shocking images emerged on social media Thursday (23 April) of Islamic State (ISIS) militants stoning a gay couple to death, seconds after hugging them in ‘forgiveness.’

The photos were taken in ISIS-controlled territory in the Syrian province of Homs.

The first few images are close-ups of the two blindfolded men hugging their executioners in an apparent display of forgiveness.

ISIS sympathizers who shared the photos online claim the embraces showed compassion.

The men, who look remarkably calm, may have been given a cocktail of medication to reduce anxiety.

ISIS is known to use mind-altering drugs in filmed executions and public amputations.

Another image shows a huge crowd of young men who have gathered in the desert clearing to witness the execution.

The final image shows the two men’s battered bodies lying on the ground as at least four militants stand over them, hurling down fist-sized rocks.

See the images below:

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*(SEND ALL MUSLIM SAVAGES BACK HOME!)* Denmark: Muslims who whipped woman in face with iron chains laugh in court

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This sounds eerily like the Muslim students who laughed during my talk last night when I was describing Islamic State atrocities.

And worse still, Obama is bringing hundreds of thousands of these hostile invaders from jihad nations to our shores.

“Denmark: Muslims who whipped woman in face with iron chains laugh in court”, (thanks to Jihad Watch)

More descriptions of the attack here. The attackers are “second generation immigrants” (a ‘Danish euphemism for Muslims) – several of them Somalis.

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Translated from EB:

According to the indictment, the assault began at approximately 00.10 at Vesterbro in Copenhagen on Christmas night, as Mads Schøllhammer received a major blow to the head with a glass bottle that shattered.

Then he received several blows to the head with a chain lock and wire lock, and the accused gave him “countless” punches and kicks to the head and body. Mads Schøllhammer fell down, but the defendants continued to beat him in the head and body with fists and the chain lock, and they kicked him in the body and head.

Then the four youths pushed Nanna Skovmand to the ground and beat her “several” times in the head with the chain lock.

Translated from EB:

“There were both laughing and high fives when a group of young men today sat in the court, accused of a serious assault on Nanna Skovmand and Mads Schøllhammer on Christmas night.

A few times during the reading of the indictment, the defendants broke out in laughter – partly when the details of the attack were read. …

According to 23-year-old Nanna Skovmand, the four defendants started the attack by beating her boyfriend as they were walking in Vesterbro at Christmas night.

As she tried to interrupt the attack, the group went berserk at her and struck with both chains and wire locks. She was also knocked down and kicked.

– See more at: http://pamelageller.com/2015/04/denmark-muslims-who-whipped-woman-in-face-with-iron-chains-laugh-in-court.html/#sthash.ulxxLLQx.dpuf

Pentagon Map Hides ISIS Gains

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The Pentagon has been pushing these fictions for weeks. They’ve said that ISIS had lost 25% of its territory. Days later they were besieging Ramadi, a key city just 70 miles from Baghdad. It looks as if the Pentagon under Obama is more interested in making his airstrikes look good than in telling the truth.

Exclusive: Pentagon Map Hides ISIS Gains

The U.S. military presented evidence that it was beating back the so-called Islamic State but it doesn’t even count coalition setbacks.

The Defense Department released a map last week showing territory where it is has pushed ISIS back, claiming that the terrorist group is “no longer able to operate freely in roughly 25 to 30 percent of populated areas of Iraqi territory where it once could.” This was touted as evidence of success by numerous news outlets.

Pushing ISIS back is clearly a good step. But the information from the Pentagon is, at best, misleading and incomplete, experts in the region and people on the ground tell The Daily Beast. They said the map misinforms the public about how effective the U.S.-led effort to beat back ISIS has actually been. The map released by the Pentagon excludes inconvenient facts in some parts, and obscures them in others.

The Pentagon’s map assessing the so-called Islamic State’s strength has only two categories: territory held by ISIS currently, and territory lost by ISIS since coalition airstrikes began in August 2014. The category that would illustrate American setbacks—where ISIS has actually gained territory since the coalition effort began—is not included.

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“Taken in isolation, the map definitely gives an impression that anti-ISIS efforts have succeeded in pushing the group back along a northern and north-eastern peripheries, but it fails in one huge respect—it fails to specifically identify territory gained by ISIS during the same period,” said Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.

The map also shows areas where ISIS is “dominant,” as opposed to the terrorist group’s operational reach—the areas where it can inflict violence.

The document “was not meant to be a detailed tactical map—it is simply a graphic used to explain the overall situation,” the Pentagon spokesman said.

“A far more important facet of assessing our success or failure is measuring ISIS’s capacity to continue offensive operations and to reach beyond its lines of actual control. In that respect, I’d say ISIS has been very minimally challenged since August 2014 and its only this kind of measurement that will persuade local actors on the ground that ISIS is losing,” Lister told The Daily Beast.

The Defense Department, naturally, doesn’t agree. “ISIL’s own doctrine says it must gain and hold territory. This map shows they are not achieving their stated goals,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told The Daily Beast, using the government’s preferred acronym for the terror group.

But Warren seemed to acknowledge that the map isn’t entirely accurate.

The document “was not meant to be a detailed tactical map—it is simply a graphic used to explain the overall situation,” he said.

The entire battlefield of the ISIS war isn’t depicted, however. For some reason, the Pentagon’s ISIS map excludes the entire western side of Syria—which, coincidentally or not, is an area where ISIS has gained a significant foothold since the U.S.-led bombing effort began last year.

Western Syria is also an area dominated by the Syrian regime, led by President Bashar al-Assad. The United States has insisted that Assad must leave office, but has not elucidated a clear strategy for how to compel this to occur.

Jennifer Cafarella, a fellow specializing in Syria at the Institute for the Study of War, said that while the map, as presented, looked accurate, she would “highlight that the map doesn’t extend to include western Syria, where there is growing ISIS presence… the map cuts off, essentially ignoring ISIS in the Syrian-Lebanese border region and Damascus.”

ISIS gains in the area excluded from the Pentagon’s map should be noted, Cafarella continued, because “they are a forward investment for ISIS that will create long-term opportunities for further expansion into zones in which coalition airstrikes are unlikely, at least in the near term, to penetrate..”

Since airstrikes began in August, ISIS has also shown its force on the northeastern suburbs of Damascus, near Qabun. More recently, ISIS made international news through a violent takeover of the area surrounding a Palestinian refugee camp called Yarmouk, which U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has described as “the deepest circle of hell.”

The Department of Defense marks off the Salamiyeh district, in central Syria, as ISIS-controlled. What it doesn’t note is that ISIS expanded into this area after the coalition airstrikes began, and that the so-called Islamic State is threatening the lives of the locals, who are largely Ismaili—a group of Muslims that ISIS militants view as apostates.

“While the Obama administration says that it is fighting ISIS in Syria, ISIS is actually expanding into Salamiyeh… without [being confronted by] a single U.S. airstrike,” said Omar Hossino, director of public relations for the Syrian American Council, a grassroots organization that helps bolster opposition to the Assad regime. “The people of Salamiyeh are under threat of genocide, especially the Ismaili majority.”

Abu Ali, the pseudonym of a resident of Salamiyeh, said in an email to The Daily Beast that ISIS operations in the area “have intensified during the recent period in Salamiyeh district, which indicate the expansion of this organization and the expansion of its military operations, at a time when it is not being shown any resistance or an appropriate response by both the international coalition.”

“This frequency, and acceleration of [ISIS] military operations in the vicinity of the city… justifies concern,” Abu Ali continued, “as it strengthens the suspicious intersection of interests between the regime and [ISIS] to target Salamiyeh as a calculated assault on the minorities in Syria.”

In a note (PDF) accompanying the map, the Pentagon describes ISIS gains in Syria to be offset by ISIS losses elsewhere in the country, a contention disputed by scholar Charles Lister.

“I’d fairly forcefully debate that assessment as being more than a bit positive,” he told the Beast.

And there are at least two other areas in Iraq and Syria where the Obama administration’s information notes ISIS control without pointing out that it happened after U.S.-led airstrikes began. In Deir Ezzor, ISIS has encircled neighborhoods and cut off thousands of people from the basic necessities of life.

“In recent months, ISIS has tightened its grip around the city of Deir Ezzor, encircling some 200,000 civilians in both the Al-Joura and Al-Qusour districts and further cutting them off from both food and medical aid,” said Evan Barrett, a political adviser for Coalition for a Democratic Syria, a Syrian-American opposition umbrella group. “Regular appeals are made from the city for support, including in the form of international strikes, but according to Syrian independent broadcasters, strikes in the province focus on ISIS oil assets and border areas far from the besieged provincial capital.”

The area of Hit district, in Iraq’s Anbar province, fell to ISIS in October 2014, well after U.S.-led airstrikes began, noted Sinan Adnan, a pseudonym for an Iraqi-American employee at the Institute for the Study of War.

And while the Pentagon’s map is generally accurate in showing territory that the U.S.-led coalition has taken back from ISIS, it omits that many of these areas still remain unpopulated by their original inhabitants.

“For the most part, Iraqi Sunnis are not being allowed back into their areas,” Adnan said “Depopulated communities would be a ripe environment for a new insurgency when and if ISIS is defeated.”

– See more at: http://pamelageller.com/2015/04/pentagon-map-hides-isis-gains.html/#sthash.0Vdw1QPI.dpuf


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Royal Navy’s HMS Bulwark to go after “criminal gangs”

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By Nick Squires, Catania and Barney Henderson

9:37PM BST 22 Apr 2015

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday will consider launching a military operation against Libyan migrant traffickers, a draft statement seen by AFP showed on Wednesday night.

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On the eve of the emergency EU summit on migration in Brussels, Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, said the country was “at war” with migrant traffickers, who are responsible for the deaths of as many as 1,000 migrants in the past week alone.

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David Cameron and other EU leaders will consider a commitment to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers,” the draft statement showed.

A diplomatic source told a news agency that the EU’s 28 member states were widely mobilised to approve the statement’s wording, reflecting a growing willingness to launch an operation to fight the traffickers.

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Roberta Pinotti, Italy’s defence minister, earlier said: “We know where the smugglers keep their boats, where they gather. The plans for military intervention are there.”

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Italy was prepared to lead a military intervention as long as it had the approval of the UN, she said.

“We think it’s the moment in which Europe decides, forcefully, to have an international police operation, which will undo this band of criminals,” she said.

Mr Cameron is reportedly considering deploying to the Mediterranean one of the Royal Navy’s biggest warships, HMS Bulwark, in an effort to “go after the criminal gangs”. The Ministry of Defence said that it was “looking at options”.

However, experts pointed out there could be major repercussions of any military intervention.

“They talk about capturing and destroying migrant boats, but presumably they will have people on-board, so they’re not going to just shoot them out of the water,” Matt Carr, the British author of Fortress Europe, a book on migration, told AFP.

“Others say the only way to stop them is to destroy all the boats in Libya, which is obviously nonsensical.” Alain Coldefy, a retired French admiral, said: “This problem is totally unsolvable with military means.”

Mr Renzi likened the human trafficking to the slave trade. “Fighting people trafficking means fighting the slave traders of the 21st century. It is not only a question of security and terrorism – it is about human dignity,” he told the Italian parliament in Rome.

The problem had to be tackled at its origins, with intense diplomatic efforts to solve conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, he added.

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Mapped: Migrant deaths attempting to reach Europe by sea since 2000

Mr Renzi urged the EU and the United Nations to establish migrant reception camps in countries such as Tunisia, Sudan and Niger, where their applications for refugee status would be assessed.

Those granted asylum would then be resettled in countries throughout the EU, including Britain.

Mr Cameron said on Wednesday night he was ready to commit British resources to a strengthened search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean.

“Let’s also go after effectively the modern slave traders,” the Prime Minister said. “Let’s also try and stabilise these countries – not just Libya but also Nigeria, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia. It’s these unstable countries that people are coming from that’s part of the problem.”

It also emerged on Wednesday that the worst migrant boat sinking on record could have been even more deadly.

Survivors of Sunday’s disaster, in which a boat sank with more than 800 migrants locked inside the hold and lower deck, said that traffickers in Libya had initially tried to cram 1,200 people on board, but had to settle for the lower number when they realised the vessel was full to the limit.

“They wanted to put 1,200 people on the boat, they were shouting ‘hurry up’ and beating us to make us get on board. But in the end it was completely full and they stopped at 800 people,” a 16-year-old boy called Said from Somalia told Save the Children.

“It was so full we couldn’t even move. There was no food or water. The people that were put below were locked in.” He was one of just 28 survivors, including Africans and Bangladeshis, who lived to describe the horror of the unprecedented capsizing.

Italy has long argued that while migrants head for its shores because they are closest to North Africa, the issue of illegal immigration is a Europe-wide problem.

“Italy is like the front door in an apartment block – if the door is broken, then it will be a big problem for those on the floors above. Italy’s problem is also a problem for the rest of Europe,” Mauro Casinghini, a senior officer with the Order of Malta, a Catholic charity and humanitarian organisation, told The Telegraph.

“Until now, we have not seen adequate decisions being taken at the international and European level. There are plenty of leaders with good intentions and plans but nobody makes any decisions about how to stop the smuggling.”

In a fresh development it emerged that the EU is expected to ignore pleas to accommodate more migrants who succeed in crossing the Mediterranean, it was reported.

According to the Guardian only 5,000 places will be offered to those who survive the journey.

Nearly everyone who did reach Europe – 150,000 did succeed in making the crossing last year – will be sent back as soon as possible.

A new rapid return programme will be run by Frontex, the EU’s border agency.

In a draft statement the EU said it would more double the funding for the funding for the Triton and Poseidon units which are responsible for surveillance operations.

It will also begin working on a military operation to capture and destroy the ships which are being used to transport thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean.

This will disappoint humanitarian groups who had been calling for a search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean.

However the EU has identified taking on the people smugglers as its main task.

“Our immediate priority is to prevent more people dying at sea. We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity,” the draft statement said.

No place for asylum seekers: EU reportedly plans to kick out 29 of every 30 refugees

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The EU plans to allow only 5,000 refugees for resettlement by asylum seekers in response to the Mediterranean refugee crisis, reports the Guardian. Last year alone 150,000 people arrived in Southern Europe after surviving a trip across the sea.

The measure is part of a package that EU leaders are discussing in Brussels on Thursday. The British newspaper cites a confidential draft conclusion of the summit that outlines the union’s response to the inflow of illegal immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East.

The draft suggests “setting up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement, offering at least 5,000 places to persons qualifying for protection.” That would be one 30th of the number of immigrants who reached Europe in 2014. This year more than 36,000 of them have arrived in countries like Italy, Malta and Greece, the newspaper notes.

Read more

EU to hold immigrants at bay with third-country asylum centers

While allowing the few lucky ones in, the EU plans to aid southern European countries establish a system to fast-track asylum seekers. Emergency teems would be deployed to Italy to help register, fingerprint and process applications – so that the bulk of the refugees could be swiftly sent back to their countries of origin. The program is coordinated by EU’s border agency, Frontex.

Aid would also go to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger to help them better monitor their land borders and intercept would-be refugees before they reach the Mediterranean coast.

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Earlier on Monday EU foreign and interior ministers agreed to double the funding of Operation Triton and Operation Poseidon, the naval border monitoring operations near the Italian coast. They were introduced to replace Italy’s own much more expensive Mare Nostrum operation, which was scrapped last year amid Rome’s complaints that other EU members would not share its burden with Italy.

Unlike Mare Nostrum, EU’s operations are not focused on search and rescue and will not be in the years to come. Instead the EU plans to identify, seize and destroy trafficker ships before they load refugees on board and send them on potentially deadly trips to Europe.

READ MORE: 200 body bags on Brighton beach highlight scale of Mediterranean migrant crisis

“Triton cannot be a search-and-rescue operation. I mean, in our operational plan, we cannot have provisions for proactive search-and-rescue action. This is not in Frontex’s mandate, and this is, in my understanding, not in the mandate of the European Union,” the agency’s head Fabrice Leggeri said on the eve of the summit.

Since the change introduced in EU’s response to Mediterranean refugees some 1,500 people are estimated to have drowned in attempts to cross the sea. The bulk of that number comes from last weekend’s wreck of a ship near Libyan coast, which is thought to have been carrying some 900 refugees.

While it was continuing in 2014, the Italian Navy’s Mare Nostrum operation rescued over 166,000 people. Critics argued that rescuing the refugees was a ‘pull factor’ that encouraged more of them to take the perilous journey and ultimately leading to a larger number of deaths.


No man left behind? US citizens fleeing Yemen tell RT of abandonment (VIDEO)

Some 20 American citizens were among the 200 evacuated on Wednesday night by two Russian planes from Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition continues bombings. They related their ordeal to RT’s correspondent.

Saudi Arabia declared on Tuesday it had achieved all the goals of its four-week operation ‘Decisive Storm’ and is replacing it with a new one called ‘Restoring Hope’. While the Saudi military said it would focus on security and finding a political solution to the crisis from now on, it didn’t stop it from continuing airstrikes against Shiite Houthi rebels. Intensive bombings were reported on Wednesday near the southwestern city of Taiz.

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With the threat of violence continuing to loom over Yemen, Russia sent two more planes to evacuate people. They carried some 197 refugees, including 13 citizens of Russia, 80 people from the former Soviet republics like Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia and Kazakhstan and 104 people from countries including Cuba, Serbia, Columbia and Lebanon.

Also among them were about 20 American citizens, who became stranded in Yemen when the US government announced it had no plans to organize an evacuation.

“There are no plans for a US government-coordinated evacuation of US citizens at this time, US State Department said in a travel warning in early April, as the Saudi bombing campaign passed its first week.

We encourage all US citizens to shelter in a secure location until they are able to depart safely. US citizens wishing to depart should do so via commercial transportation options when they become available.”

Department spokesman Jeff Rathke explained that the people trapped in Yemeni violence were there because they had ignored US government’s warnings.

“For more than 15 years the State Department has been advising US citizens to defer travel to Yemen. We have been advising those US citizens who are in Yemen to depart,” he said.

.Left to their own devices, US citizens in Yemen sought the help of private organizations and foreign governments to flee the country. RT’s Murad Gazdiev spoke with some of those who found their way out of the battle zone to the Russian evacuation planes. Some barely managed to reach the airport.

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“My cousin contacted us from the US. He got hold of the Russians and then contacted us. We only heard about it yesterday. We went from the village. It’s a five-hour ride. We crossed that bridge. Twenty minutes later a missile hit the bridge we crossed,” Mouhammed Nasser told RT.

Others spent a lot of time desperately trying to find a way out of Yemen.

“I couldn’t make it out. I had to wait. It took me weeks to find a flight out of [the capital] Sanaa. I started calling airlines, agencies, the UN, the Russian embassy,” said Ismail Alafash.

“Americans, they just kept sending us emails,” he added. “They said basically: find your way out.”

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.Some were leaving their loved ones behind in Yemen, hoping they would be able to bring them out somehow.

“I have to think about the next step, to make sure that my family is safe. This is a priority for me. I will try my best to get them out of Yemen. And if we could we’ll start a new life somewhere else until settle down and we go back to Yemen,” Houda Al-Hazzan told RT.

The planes’ first stop was Djibouti, a tiny African country just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen that also happens to host the biggest US military base in Africa. Some of the American passengers departed here, while others continued on to Russia along with the other evacuees.

The US public is oblivious to the fact that there are American citizens trapped in Yemen with no help from the government as the conflict itself is largely ignored by the media, political analyst Rabyaah al-Thaibani, who herself have family members stuck there, told RT.

“For a very long time the American media narrative has always been a security narrative when it comes to Yemen,” she said. “Since the Saudi Arabia airstrikes there has been some coverage, but people don’t know what the hell is actually happening.”

Moscow so far dispatched a total of nine flights to evacuate people from Yemen, taking to safety a total of 1,200 citizens of 20 countries.