Russia says US diplomats approached missile test site, location of radioactive blast

ronniechua/iStock(MOSCOW) -- Russia's foreign ministry on Thursday said three American diplomats who were briefly detained in northern Russia had approached a closed military test site where a radioactive blast occurred in August.

The U.S. diplomats were reported on Wednesday to have been stopped and removed from a train travelling between the closed port city of Severodvinsk and Nenoksa, a village next to the test site on the White Sea in Russia's Arctic.

The American embassy confirmed the incident, but said the diplomats had informed Russian authorities of their travel in advance.

Russia's foreign ministry said the diplomats had told Russian authorities they intended to visit a different city, Arkhangelsk, which isn't within a restricted zone, but then traveled to the closed area next to the test site.

"Clearly, they got lost,” the foreign ministry said. "We are ready to give the U.S. embassy a map."

The ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told reporters on Thursday the American diplomats had made two attempts to reach the restricted zone, travelling to Severodvinsk, a port city that's home to Russia's nuclear submarine fleet, with the goal of travelling to an area near the test site.

The three diplomats were stopped by police at a train station on their first attempt and turned back, but then rented a car and returned to Severodvinsk.

"There, they took a local train and went to a populated area where there is a testing ground and other defense facilities nearby," Zakharova said. She said Russia would file a formal complaint to the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

A State Department spokesperson told ABC News on Thursday: "Just as Russian diplomats in the United States travel to learn more about the country in which they live and work, our diplomats travel across Russia as part of normal diplomatic activity in order to better understand Russia. As we’ve said before, the American diplomats were on official travel and had properly filed a travel notification with the Russian authorities."

The State Department earlier had declined to comment on the incident other than to say the three had been on "official travel and had properly notified Russian authorities." Russian media has named the three diplomats as military attaches, but American officials have not identified them.

The village of Nenoksa is located next to a secretive military firing range where Russia is known to test missiles. In August, there was an explosion close to the range that killed at least five people and briefly caused radiation levels to spike 16 times above the norm, sparking a nuclear scare.

Russia has wrapped the incident in secrecy, providing few details. But the Russian atomic agency has said that the blast occurred when an experimental nuclear-powered engine exploded during a test. Independent weapons experts and U.S. officials have suggested that the engine likely belonged to a new nuclear-powered cruise missile, code-named "Skyfall” by NATO, which President Vladimir Putin has said Russia is developing.

The reports about the American diplomats come just days after a senior State Department official said the U.S. had concluded the explosion happened when Russia was trying to recover one of the missiles from the sea floor after an earlier failed test.

"The United States has determined that the explosion near Nenoksa, Russia, was the result of a nuclear reaction that occurred during the recovery of a Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile. The missile remained on the bed of the White Sea since its failed test early last year, in close proximity to a major population center,” Thomas DiNanno, of the State Department's Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance said in a speech at the United Nations.

Putin has touted the missile, which Russia refers to as "Burevestnik," as having essentially unlimited range. The missile is one of several advanced, nuclear-capable weapons the Kremlin has said it is developing in an effort to counter U.S. missile defense systems.

Worries about the blast were exacerbated by Russia's efforts to conceal its details.

Russia's military initially said no nuclear materials were involved and information about the explosion slowly trickled out over several days. The information blackout drew comparisons in Russia and abroad with the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, though the amounts of radiation involved were vastly smaller.

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Banksy has a new online shop that will vet potential buyers through a professional comedian 

filadendron/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Banksy has opened a new online store but in order to make a purchase, customers must first explain why art matters.

Gross Domestic Product, the "homewares brand from Banksy," laid out a registration system on the shop's site, explaining that people can pick only a single item and must answer a question to be considered as a buyer.

"In the event of demand outstripping supply, the answer to this question may be used to evaluate your application," the site said. "Please make your answer as amusing, informative or enlightening as possible."

"An independent judge will examine the tie-breaker questions and select those applications which the judge finds to be the most apt and original," the terms and conditions page states.

"Our judge is impartial and independent, and is a professional stand-up comedian," the site states. According to the BBC, Banksy said in a statement the judge is comedian Adam Bloom.

Interested customers can browse the shop until Oct. 28 and "entrants will be selected at random and offered first refusal to make a purchase within seven working days with a secure way to pay."

The tongue-in-cheek marketplace includes many items from a shop that the elusive unidentified street artist had recently set up in south London.

Some of the for-sale pieces, like a version of the "John Bull" English vest worn by Stormzy at Glastonbury festival, only have one product available -- currently for 850 euros.

Other items include Banksy's Thrower art, which comes silk screened on three separate, framed pieces and are signed, going for 750 euros, a Banksy Met Ball police helmet lighting system, which has 15 for sale at 500 Euros and many more artistic creations.

"Please buy an item because you like it, not because you think it is a good investment," the site requests.

The "Massive Disclaimer" states that "this is not a proper shop," rather an "actual shop" with products made in an art studio "in a workplace culture of daytime drinking."

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'Not a ceasefire': Turkish leader says it's a 'pause' after Pence touts agreement

omersukrugoksu/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Turkey has agreed an agreement on Thursday to halt Turkish operations against Syrian Kurdish forces the U.S. once backed in what President Donald Trump heralded as a "great day for civilization," but critics condemned as capitulation to Turkish demands.

Following negotiations -- led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vice President Mike Pence -- the two sides released a joint statement that said Turkey "will pause" its operations for 120 hours for those Kurdish forces to withdraw from a 20-mile-deep territory that will then be controlled by Turkey.

Turkey's operation in northern Syria "will be halted upon completion of this withdrawal," which will be facilitated by the U.S., according to Pence.

Pence called the agreement a ceasefire, although Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was a "pause in Turkey's operation" and "not a ceasefire."

"Our team is already working with YPG personnel in the safe zone for an orderly withdrawal outside the 20-mile mark and we're going to go forward together to bring peace and security to this region, I'm very confident of that," Pence told reporters during a press conference.

The People's Protection Units, or YPG, are the Kurdish forces that constitute the main fighting force of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. Turkey considers them to be terrorists, indistinguishable from Kurdish separatists in Turkey that Turkey and the U.S. have both designated terrorist organizations. But the U.S. armed, closely partnered with and fought alongside the SDF in the fight against ISIS, with Kurdish forces losing 11,000 troops in that battle.

It was unclear Thursday whether the SDF had agreed to the deal reached by the U.S. and Turkey, which will also face strong resistance from Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader who has waged a brutal eight-and-a-half year war to retake Syrian territory and is backed by Russia, Iran and Iranian proxies, such as, Hezbollah.

Instead, the deal recognizes Turkish control over the safe zone that it sought against Kurdish forces, requires "the re-collection of YPG heavy weapons and the disablement of their fortifications and all other fighting positions," and will see the U.S. repeal sanctions against senior Turkish officials once the Turkish operation is halted.

"This is a great day for civilization. I am proud of the United States for sticking by me in following a necessary, but somewhat unconventional, path. People have been trying to make this "Deal" for many years. Millions of lives will be saved. Congratulations to ALL!" tweeted President Donald Trump.

In Texas, following Pence's announcement, Trump told reporters that Erdogan was "a hell of a leader" who "did the right thing." Now that Turkey has agreed to cease fighting for five days, Trump said, "sanctions won't be necessary."

Trump said that he, himself, had taken "a lot of heat" for his approach to Turkey, which critics across the political spectrum said amounted to abandoning allies who had fought ISIS alongside the United States.

While Turkey's operation had been widely condemned around the world, Pence said the U.S. would now work with Turkey on this new "safe zone."

"The United States of America will work with Turkey -- will work with nations around the world -- to make sure peace and stability are the order of the day in this safe zone," Pence said at the news conference.

When asked what will happen to the Kurdish forces, who lived in cities and towns in what is now supposed to be Turkish-held territory, Pence didn't say, instead touting the importance of the safe zone in achieving peace: "We believe that the Kurdish population in Syria -- with which we have a strong relationship -- will continue to endure. The United States will always be grateful for our partnership with SDF in defeating ISIS, but we recognize the importance and the value of a safe zone to create a buffer between Syria proper and the Kurdish population and the Turkish border."

Erdogan had previously repeatedly rejected the idea of a ceasefire, saying his government would not negotiate with what it considers a terrorist organization.

The high-level diplomacy came one day after Trump dismissed concerns about the violent clashes.

"That's between Turkey and Syria, it's not between Turkey and the United States, like a lot of stupid people would like us to, would like you to believe," he said in the Oval Office on Wednesday.

Trump has come under withering criticism by Republicans and Democrats for withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria, after initially pulling back two attachments of troops in advance of Turkey's operation against the Syrian Kurds.

That was seen as giving a green light to Erdogan to attack the Kurds.

Trump denied Wednesday that he had given a green light, saying he could not have stopped Turkey.

"There was never given a green light. They've been wanting to do that for years and, frankly, they've been fighting for many, many years," he said.

Pence and Erdogan first met one-on-one in Turkey's capital, Ankara, for one hour and 20 minutes -- a one-on-one meeting that was originally scheduled to last just 10 minutes. Afterwards, they were joined by their full delegations, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser Robert O'Brien from the U.S. side and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Trump has sent mixed signals on the operation, at times dismissing any U.S. concern over it, but then also penalizing Turkey with sanctions Monday on its defense, energy and interior ministers and defense and energy ministries.

The day Turkey launched its offensive last week, Trump admonished Erdogan in a extraordinary personal letter in which he threatened to be "responsible for destroying the Turkish economy" and said his fellow leader should not be "a tough guy" or a "fool." The letter was first reported by Fox News and later confirmed as accurate to ABC News by a senior administration official.

But on Wednesday, just hours before Pence departed for Ankara -- carrying out Trump's directive to try to negotiate a ceasefire -- Trump again said he did not think the United States should get involved.

"It's not our border," he told reporters at the White House. "We shouldn't be losing lives over it."

Erdogan told reporters on Tuesday that he could not keep up with all the different messages from Trump.

"When we take a look at Mr Trump's Twitter posts, we can no longer follow them," he said, according to Turkish media. "We cannot keep track."

The back-and-forth made Pence and his delegation's job difficult, according to critics -- including Republicans.

"The statements by President Trump about Turkey's invasion being of no concern to us also completely undercut Vice President Pence and Sec. Pompeo's ability to end the conflict," Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted Wednesday.

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Sightings of Tasmanian tiger, thought to be extinct for 80 years, reported: Australian government

Vac1/iStock(SYDNEY) -- Sightings of the Tasmanian tiger, a large carnivorous marsupial thought to be extinct since 1936, have been reported as recently as three months ago, according to the Australian government.

The details of eight supposed sightings of the animal, also known as the thylacine, in recent years were released by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment in Tasmania.

In July, a man reported seeing a footprint on Sleeping Beauty mountain, according to the document. The man stated that he believes the print belonged to a Tasmanian tiger after he went home and googled photos of it.

In November 2018, a woman reported seeing what she believed to be a Tasmanian tiger and two cubs at the Hartz Mountains National Park, and two people reported seeing the animal after it walked out in front of them while driving in Corinna, describing it as bigger than a fox but smaller than a German shepherd with stripes down its back.

Four other sightings were reported between February 2016 and February 2018, according to the document. A man also reported in August that he believes he saw a thylacine on his land about seven years ago.

The Tasmanian tiger is the largest carnivorous marsupial of recent times and was found on the Australian mainland and island of New Guinea, according to Britannica. It was presumed to be extinct after the last captive animal died in 1936 at the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania.

The animal, which has the face of a fox and yellowish, brown fur and stripes along its back, hunted at night for wallabies and birds, according to Britannica. While it has a skull similar to that of a dog, the females have a shallow pouch that can carry two to four young at a time.

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Duchess Kate retraces Princess Diana's steps, delivers powerful speech during Pakistan trip

GraceHenley/iStock(LAHORE, Pakistan) -- Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, put a spotlight on children and family Thursday as they wrap up their five-day tour of Pakistan.

William and Kate, the parents of three young children, traveled to Lahore and visited SOS Children's Villages, an organization that provides a home to over 150 girls and boys.

During their visit, the duke and duchess attended a festive birthday party, complete with cake and presents, for three kids helped by the organization.



Kate, wearing a traditional cream-colored shalwar kameez, delivered her first speech on the Pakistan tour, about the importance of family.

“We have been really moved and touched by what we have seen, and by the happy home you have made,” she said. “I’m aware that many of you have experienced extremely difficult times in your lives. But it is inspiring to see how you have used your strength and positivity to help transform the lives of so many young children here.”

"Being here in Pakistan this week, William and I have seen on several occasions how family is at the heart of your culture. Parents, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents all play important roles. You have reminded us exactly what family means. You have shown us too that it is not simply a term that describes the relationship between blood relatives. Instead it describes those special bonds we share with those who make us feel safe and supported. It is the quality of those relationships that matters," Kate continued.

"Here, women who were once vulnerable, now play the most vital of roles as mothers and it is most heartening to see that you are not doing this alone," Kate said later in her speech.

While in Lahore, William and Kate showed their athletic sides by taking part in cricket, the national game of Pakistan.

The royals played at the National Cricket Academy with boys and girls from underprivileged backgrounds.



William and Kate's visit to Lahore was also a chance for them to retrace the steps of William's late mother Princess Diana of Wales.

The couple spent time at the same Shaukat Memorial Hospital that Diana visited in May 1997, just months before her death in Paris.

While in Lahore, William and Kate also visited the Badshahi Mosque, the second biggest mosque in Pakistan.

William and Kate were scheduled to return to Islamabad late Thursday but their plane was forced to turn back and land in Lahore after two attempted landings in Islamabad.

Severe weather forced the pilot of the Airbus A330 to abort landings at two different airports in Islamabad.

Prince William came back to speak with journalists on the flight once the plane safely landed in Lahore.

He inquired about everyone's safety and then joked that he had been at the controls of the plane, according to ABC News reporters on the flight.

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Strange yellow organism known as the 'blob' gets new exhibit at Paris zoo

Gwengoat/iStock(PARIS) -- A surprising species of unicellular being that's neither plant nor animal will be unveiled at the Paris Zoo for the first time on Saturday.

The curious single cell biological wonder -- called "the blob" -- has a bright yellow color and is capable of complex behavior, including sensing food and moving.

"While he has no mouth, neither stomach, nor eyes, the blob is perfect at detecting the presence of food and ingesting it," the Paris Zoo said in a translated tweet.

The zoo also said the blob, which has 720 sexes, does not have a brain or legs, but it "moves at the speed of one centimeter an hour, four if it sprints."

"The blob is difficult to place in the tree of life," Bruno David, the director of the Paris Museum of Natural History and Zoological Park, said in a statement. "[It] teaches us a lot about the richness of life on Earth."

Dr. Audrey Dussutour, a researcher with the CNRS (translated to: National Scientific Research Center) who has studied blobs and works with the zoo, tweeted a short poem about the algae-like organism, also known as a eukaryotic protist.

Dussutour explained that while the "Physarum polycephalum," aka the blob, has long been studied, this is the first time it will be on exhibit at a zoo.

The new area within the Paris Zoo dedicated to the blob will open to the public on Saturday.

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Dramatic footage shows Extinction Rebellion protesters clash with commuters during busy London rush hour

Frederic Prochasson/iStock(LONDON) — Dramatic scenes played out at a busy London subway station Thursday morning, as climate change protesters and commuters clashed during rush hour.

Video footage from London's Canning Town station shows activists from the group Extinction Rebellion protesting on top of a stationary train before being physically dragged onto the platform by a frustrated commuter. Other commuters on the platform are seen intervening to stop the potentially dangerous situation.

Eight arrests have been made in connection with the incident at Canning Town and the Stratford and Shadwell stations, British Transport Police said.

Extinction Rebellion has been protesting at various sites in the U.K. capital since the beginning of last week. Police banned the group from assembling within London under Section 14 of the Public Order Act Monday, meaning anyone who fails to comply is liable for arrest and prosecution. The group is now targeting public transport hubs in recent days.

Over 1,400 arrests have been made in connection with the protests, police said.

Extinction Rebellion described its protests as "an act of conscience" in the face of "impending disaster" in a statement sent out to the media following the incident.

“This is disruption with a purpose since we will all encounter far greater disruption in the future if we don’t radically change our society," spokesperson Valerie Milner-Brown said. "We can already see the horrifying early effects of the Climate and Ecological Emergency in parts of the Global South and it’s clear that this will be coming our way soon. Government needs to start taking seriously the deep concerns of tens of thousands of experts and scientists globally, so that we can create a society that is built to put resilience and community before profit.”

The group later put out a statement describing the episode as "regretful."

"We would like to express our sadness that events escalated this way," the statement said. "We are aware that one of our activists responded in self defence in a moment of panic when confronted by a threatening situation. He acknowledges his accountability for this action and we offer gratitude for members of the public who helped to protect him. To those that engaged in violence, we acknowledge that we disrupted your life today."



The group has received public backing from a number of celebrities, including the actor Benedict Cumberbatch, the author Margaret Atwood and the U.K. prime minister's father, Stanley Johnson.



Extinction Rebellion UK have three main demands: that the government should "tell the truth" about climate change, that greenhouse gas emissions should reach net zero by 2025 and a "Citizen's Assembly" should be created to lead decisions on climate change.

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UK and EU agree to 'great' Brexit deal, Prime Minister Johnson says

narvikk/iStock(LONDON) -- The United Kingdom and European Union have agreed on a new Brexit deal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Thursday morning.

"We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control," he posted on Twitter, "now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS, violent crime and our environment."

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the EU Commission, described the deal as a "fair and balanced agreement" that is "testament to our commitment to find solutions."

However, the deal still needs the approval of the U.K. Parliament to pass into law. A vote will likely be held in the House of Commons this Saturday.

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What to know about potential war crimes in Syria by Turkish-backed fighters

omersukrugoksu/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Hevrin Khalaf, a 35-year-old Kurdish-Syrian politician and the general secretary of the Syria Future Party, which aimed to transition the government should strongman President Bashar al-Assad be ousted, was riding in a vehicle on the M4 highway in Syria when she was apparently targeted and killed on the roadside, along with others in the car.

The Syrian Democratic Forces claimed she was killed by members of the Islamist militant organization Ahrar al-Sharqiya, an anti-Assad rebel group now fighting for Turkey.

While questions swirled around her death, videos were posted by the Turkish-backed Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sharqiya on social media that appeared to be filmed by her killers.

ABC News confirmed that the politician, a human rights advocate, was shot in the face, but reports that she had been raped were untrue.

"Turkish-backed terrorist groups are committing war crimes in NE Syria," British politician Lloyd Russell-Moyle tweeted on Sunday, the day after the killings. "Filmed sectarian roadside executions recall IS tactics. Future Syria party leader Hevrin Khalaf has been executed. Her killers filmed it on their phones."

Russell-Moyle's tweet echoed calls from around the world labeling these killings -- and other actions taken by the Turkish military and Turkish-backed fighters -- as war crimes. But actually labeling, let alone getting justice for, an action viewed by many as a "war crime" is more complicated, especially given the region's increasingly complicated politics.

As civil war in Syria continued through the early part of this decade, between attempts to overthrow Assad and the rise of ISIS, the U.S. entered the scene and worked with local forces, including the Kurdish People's Protection Units, a local militia that worked to protect Kurdish areas from attack. But Trump entered office with the intent of pulling troops out of the country, and in October, seven months after declaring the end of ISIS, he announced troops would be withdrawing.

This announcement came after a call with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Within a week of that call, Erdogan announced Turkey had begun an operation in Syria, including targeting the Kurdish forces the U.S. had supported, and Khalaf was dead.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed seeing "reports of the killing of" Khalaf and found them "extremely troubling," adding that the U.S. will "condemn in the strongest of terms any mistreatment and extrajudicial execution of civilians or prisoners."

"President Erdogan bears full responsibility for its consequences, to include a potential ISIS resurgence, possible war crimes and a growing humanitarian crisis," U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper said in a statement Monday about Turkey's overall actions in Syria.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949, which included Turkey, clearly state that "murder of all kinds," "torture," "humiliating and degrading treatment" and "the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court" of people "taking no active part in the hostilities" are war crimes.

"If a politician is driving away from the fighting, not participating at all, her killing would be a murder, and murder is clearly prohibited in the Geneva Conventions," Mary Ellen O'Connell, a professor of international law at Notre Dame, told ABC News.

But "the question of accountability is a complicated one," Sarah Cleveland, faculty co-director of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School, told ABC News.

There are various people who could be held accountable for a war crime -- the individuals who committed the actions, their commanders and up through the ranks depending on who's deemed responsible. Turkish officials could be held responsible for the actions of Syrian fighters if it's proven they directed the fighters.

Then, there are several avenues through which war crimes and human rights violations can be prosecuted.

Probably the most well-known avenue is that the U.N. Security Council can refer cases to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. However, Cleveland cautioned, given that Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power -- and since Russia is playing its own complex role in Syria and in relation to Turkey -- it's less likely that the ICC will see a case.

Another option is that countries not involved in a certain conflict have the ability to exercise jurisdiction over war crimes. Germany, for example, has arrested former Syrian officials for crimes against humanity and is holding trials.

A third possibility, floated by some in the international community, is to set up a tribunal, which can be established within the United Nations to address a broad range of crimes in a particular region. Tribunals were set up for the former Yugoslavia to address war crimes in the Balkans in the '90s and for Rwanda to address the genocide there in the '90s, resulting in indictments and imprisonment for dozens.

So far, setting up a tribunal has primarily been discussed in the context of prosecuting ISIS militants, but one could be broadened to also address other potential war crimes in Syria, including actions committed by Assad and his forces and by Turkey and fighters supported by that country.

Additionally, the European Court of Human Rights could take up a human rights-based case should individuals or states submit one.

As O'Connell, the Notre Dame professor, sees it, focusing on individual murders by Turkish or Turkish-supported fighters misses a bigger point: "Turkey's cross-border operations in Syria are a violation of the U.N. Charter prohibition on the use of force. It is an act of aggression."

"Aggression is the most serious war crime you can commit," she continued. "It means that all of the killing, all of the destruction that follows from that unlawful decision to use military force is unjustified."

She doubts that will be prosecuted, however, as nations like Russia and the U.S. are "not coming to this argument with clean hands" given their military actions in Crimea and in Iraq in 2003, respectively.

Rather than turn to prosecution, O'Connell believes the international community should rally together to use this moment as "a chance for a reset, to get back to the law that everyone was committed to before 9/11." The international community, she said, should urge Turkey to pull back and be part of regional negotiation to bring an end to the Syrian civil war and ISIS.

This is something Vice President Mike Pence could have the opportunity to do as he leads a delegation to Turkey this week to attempt to negotiate a ceasefire and settlement between Turkey and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.

"If that message isn't brought home to Turkey, the worst-case scenario is extraordinarily grim," O'Connell said.

But for Cleveland, of Columbia Law School, focusing only on Turkey's actions has the possibility of missing an even broader range of potential war crimes and human rights violations committed in the region over the last decade.

"Basically every form of violation of international, humanitarian law possible has been committed in Syria, from the use of chemical weapons to intentional targeting of civilians and hospitals and schools, to indiscriminate bombing of heavily occupied civilian areas," she said. "The list goes on and on."

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'Don't be a tough guy': President Trump sent threatening letter to Turkish President Erdogan on day of invasion

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump admonished the president of Turkey in a surreal personal letter sent last week in which he threatened to be "responsible for destroying the Turkish economy" and said his fellow leader should not be "a tough guy" or a "fool."

The letter was first reported by Fox News and later confirmed as accurate to ABC News by a senior administration official.

The date of the letter, Oct. 9, is the same day Turkey launched its incursion against Kurdish forces who were previously U.S. allies in northern Syria.

In the letter, Trump asks Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to slaughter thousands of people and threatens to destroy the Turkish economy.

He closes the letter by stating, "History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool! I'll call you later."

This letter was dated just three days after the White House sent out a statement announcing that the U.S. would pull forces from the region and the Turkish operation would begin. That statement made no objection to the incursion.

The president has faced bipartisan criticism for the Turkey-Syria conflict, after his decision to pull back U.S. troops ahead of a Turkish operation against U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.

Trump has since called for a ceasefire and peace settlement. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien are headed to Turkey to meet with officials there.

Many are weighing in on the letter on social media, with some expressing incredulity at its authenticity, and others expressing concerns for the political ramifications.

"This Trump letter to Erdogan is the most damaging correspondance that could’ve been leaked ahead of VP Pence’s visit to Ankara tomorrow," tweeted Soner Cagaptay, the director of the Turkish Research program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Now, Erdogan has no option but to delay ceasefire in Syria less he be humiliated in front of his nation as weak and bowing to America’s threat."

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