News Wrap: ‘Humanitarian pause’ begins in Aleppo

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People carry Free Syrian Army flags while attending a protest against evacuating civilians out of Aleppo, in the rebel held besieged al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail  - RTX2PR5K

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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: A Russia-Syrian humanitarian pause took effect in Syria in the besieged city of Aleppo. It could run as long as four days. Using loudspeakers, the Syrian military urged residents to leave and gunmen to lay down their weapons. The Syrian army also dropped leaflets.

But the U.N.’s special envoy said he doubts the effort will work.

STAFFAN DE MISTURA, UN Special Envoy for Syria: Certainly, my feeling is that, from what I’m hearing, that the people do not want to leave their places. They do not want to become refugees. They want to stay in their place. But they do request, stop the bombings, which needs to be, by the way, from both sides.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, a separate fight north of Aleppo. Turkey attacked Syrian Kurds who’ve been fighting Islamic State forces. Military footage showed airstrikes on Kurdish fighters linked to a group the U.S. supports. Turkey says they’re also tied to militants fighting the Turkish government.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Iraq, the battle for Mosul claimed its first American casualty, a soldier killed by a roadside bomb. U.S. forces are advising Iraqis in their campaign to retake the city from the Islamic State. First, they have to capture outlying towns.

And John Irvine of Independent Television News reports on the harrowing trip of one such unit.

JOHN IRVINE, Independent Television News: A new day brought a fresh assault, and taking the fight I.S. for the first time, where Iraq special forces came to quickly make their mark.

The attack was a pincer movement, and we were in the lead vehicle with a team of (INAUDIBLE) who had to find safe passage through the land mines. Two led the way on foot, but soon came under sniper fire. A gunship was called in. The sniping was ended.

The explosives experts called for a tank to join them before leaving the Kalamoff (ph) Road and on to the safer ground that is the countryside. We were venturing into the so-called caliphate, and the Iraqi forces put down a lot of suppressing fire. But the telltale pings on our vehicle indicated that I.S. were still putting up a night.

We’re coming under sniper fire and firing back. That’s the problem with being in the lead vehicle in an offensive which right now is pretty slow-going.

Later, the special forces fired on a saloon car which had overturned speeding down a road. When nothing happened, we wondered if the driver had been an innocent just trying to flee the battlefield. No, he was a suicide bomber who had missed us. We were just glad that, at the end of the day, all of us and our battered vehicle had come through.

Only, it wasn’t the end of the day — a fourth car bomb attack on the convoy. Mosul is still a few days away for Iraqi forces, and the closer they get, the harder it will become.

HARI SREENIVASAN: There are 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. About 100 are embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish forces around Mosul. We will talk later to retired General David Petraeus. He commanded U.S. troops in Mosul in 2003.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. military confirms that North Korea test-fired another ballistic missile overnight, but it crashed shortly after launch. That’s the second failed test since Saturday. It came hours after the U.S. and South Korea agreed to strengthen military and diplomatic efforts against the North.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, announced today what he calls a separation from the U.S. Duterte spoke in Beijing after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and signing a major commercial deal. Afterward, he said that in military and economic terms, America has lost.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE, Philippines: Maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world, China, Philippines and Russia.

(APPLAUSE)

HARI SREENIVASAN: Duterte also said he will work with Xi to settle their maritime dispute in the South China Sea. In Washington, the State Department called the comments baffling and said it will seek an explanation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A super typhoon blasted the Northern Philippines overnight with winds of 140 miles an hour. It was the most powerful storm to hit the country in three years, but the death toll of seven was far lower than feared. The storm did trigger flooding, landslides and power outages. Nearly 100,000 people had been evacuated ahead of time.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The European Space Agency now says its latest Mars lander may have crashed. Ground controllers lost contact with the experimental probe yesterday as it dropped toward the surface. Animation showed how the lander was supposed to use a parachute and thrusters to make a soft landing. Europe’s last attempt at a Mars landing also failed back in 2003.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street, stocks closed lower, giving up yesterday’s modest gains. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 40 points to close at 18162. The Nasdaq fell four, and the S&P 500 slipped nearly three.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And for wine lovers, it’s a case of sour grapes.  A global survey out today finds this year’s production is the lowest since 2012.  Floods, drought and other bad weather took a toll across Europe and South America.  Wine output in the U.S. actually went up slightly.

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