welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. my name is gavin grey. our top stories: on the frontlines in the fight for raqqa. we have a special report from syria with us—backed fighters battling to drive the so—called islamic state out of their last stronghold. as you can see, there is still sniperfire going on here. welcome to raqqa, caliphate under siege. and in iraq, islamic state fighters destroy a historic mosul mosque. the iraqi prime minister says it's a declaration of defeat by the militants. the us congress gets to see the new draft bill on healthcare but four republican senators say they may not support the plan to replace obamacare. who wants to be a king or queen? no—one according to prince harry in a candid interview with a us magazine.
in syria there's a new offensive under way to gain control of raqqa, the city which so—called islamic state regards as the capital of its declared caliphate. in the past few days fighting has intensified between is and the syrian democratic forces which are backed by the us. our correspondent gabriel gatehouse and cameraman fred scott are with the sdf on the frontline and sent this exclusive report. this has been a long and brutal road. we're inside raqqa now, driving to the centre with the syrian democratic forces, the sdf, a coalition of kurds and arabs. they've onlyjust retaken this
street from fighters that called themselves islamic state. here is is often unseen but all the more dangerous for it. a noise in the sky signals the presence of a drone. what's happening, we'vejust driven down these narrow sidestreets and suddenly there's gunfire. everyone‘s searching in the sky for these is drones. the sdf is advancing on three sides. as they push forward, cars emerge flying white flags. some of these families have spent years trapped inside a nightmare. there are tens of thousands of people still in raqqa,
hostages essentially. is has been killing anyone caught trying to leave. the sdf has made rapid advances towards the centre. they have support from american air strikes and artillery. but now they're within a few hundred metres of the old city. islamic state is hemmed in, almost surrounded, and they're fighting back. sniper. snipers, booby—traps, suicide bombers. is has weaponised here. they have done this perhaps more successfully than any other group. but these fighters seem immune to terror. this war has been going on for longer than world war two. this is about as far
forward a position... gunfire. ..about as far forward as they have managed to hold but as you can see there's still sniper fire going on here. welcome to raqqa, the capital of a caliphate under siege. among the kurds, men and women fight alongside one another. even on the front lines there are no distinctions. delilah is 22 years old. she was studying to become a nurse but here she has found her true calling. returning from the front, fighters described intense all—night battles as islamic state uses its network of tunnels to stage
sneak attacks behind the sdf lines. this is going to be a long, hard fight. if is loses raqqa it will surely mean the end of the caliphate. but then what? will the ideology die along with it? probably not. it certainly won't be the end of syria's long war or the violence it has spawned around the world. the pressure on so—called islamic state is also evident in neighbouring iraq where the city of mosul is slipping from their control. the iraqi army has been devoting more resources to try to retake the city over the past eight months. following the destruction of the ancient great mosque of al—nuri the iraqi prime minister announced it was "an official declaration of defeat" by is. from mosul, orla guerin reports. an amateur recording captures a key moment in the collapse of the caliphate — the destruction of
the al—nuri mosque. for the barbarians of is, nothing is sacred. now, only rubble in place of one of irag's great treasures, which survived for 800 years. the country's prime minister said, in destroying the mosque, is was admitting defeat here. the bbc‘s arabic service managed to film the mosque just an hour before it was levelled. these are probably among the last images of its landmark leaning minaret, with the black is flag still flying. it was inside, from the pulpit, that the is leader abu bakr al—baghdadi proclaimed himself ruler of all muslims in july 2014. now, he's in hiding.
but nearby, his men are surrounded. iraqi forces are hunting them down, street by street, house by house. but the troops are facing fierce resistance, the militants going down fighting. as they make their last stand, civilians are fleeing the city, those who can find a way. for some, it's a struggle to escape the battlefield, others venting their anger as they go. "may god deny help to the militants," this man says. "i spit on them." the destruction of the mosque is not the end of the fight to free this city, but iraqi military sources say they hope they can now advance more swiftly, closing in on the last pocket of resistance. they say is is down to just a few hundred men, and they are hemmed in in the old city.
orla guerin, bbc news, western mosul. let's take a look at some of the other stories the news: president trump says he didn't make secret recordings of his conversations with the former fbi chief, james comey. the american president controversially sacked mr comey last month and hinted that their chats might have been taped. but he now says this didn't happen. tests are being carried out on 600 high rise buildings in england to see if their exteriors are safe from fire. it follows a deadly blaze at a west london tower block in which at least 79 people were killed earlier this month. the british prime minister has promised that around three million eu citizens living in the uk will be allowed to stay after britain leaves the european union if they've been resident forfive years. laying out the proposals in brussels, theresa may said this would only be offered if eu states guaranteed the same rights for british nationals.
the german chancellor angela merkel called the plan a "good start." four us republican senators have signalled that they cannot support the draft healthcare bill put forward by the party's leadership to replace obamacare. they said they were open to negotiation. a vote is not expected until next week but losing four republican votes in the senate would block the bill. our washington correspondent laura bicker has more. if republicans thought they could avoid controversy by drafting this bill behind closed doors, well they we re bill behind closed doors, well they were wrong. within just a few hours of it being released already there is dissent within the party. why? the cuts go far too far. they are looking at the likes of medicaid cuts, the programme for the poorest on lowest incomes in america in
order to help them get healthcare. the cuts are over a longer period of time than its predecessor in the house but they will go deeper and there are some moderates in the party, some worried about re— election, some worried about the effect it may have on people within their states, they are already coming out and saying they have to think about this because these cuts may go far too far. and then there are those on the right of the party, rand paul, ted cruz for instance, they say it is obamacare light and they say it is obamacare light and they say it is obamacare light and they say there is too much federal involvement in medicare and they wa nt involvement in medicare and they want the bill to go much further. hivert has been scheduled in the senate next week. —— a vote. until those two sides get together and find a way to get to some kind of compromise i think it is unlikely that the vote will go ahead. and there is one key other thing to watch out for. that is the congressional budget office. this is
an independent body that will look at this bill and decide how many americans will lose their health insurance. on the house draft they have already said 23 million americans will lose their health—insurance. next week they will come out with their findings. and if that number or more will lose their health insurance under this plan you may see more moderate republicans running for the hills. us officials say they believe north korea has carried out another rocket engine test for the first time since march. the engines can be used in rockets for putting satellites in orbit, but the us fears the tests are being used to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile. thousands of people have attended the funeral of the american student, otto warmbier, who died on monday after he was returned home last week from north korea in a coma. the 22—year—old had spent 18 months in captivity after stealing suffering from severe brain damage, he died at a hospital in cincinnati. aleem maqbool reports from ohio. for many who knew him, his casket is the first they have
seen of otto warmbier since he went to north korea. he was arrested there early last year, jailed and finally sent to his parents in a coma to die just days later. in march 2016, otto warmbier was seen pleading for his freedom in a north korean courtroom. instead, he was sentenced to 15 years hard labour in prison. he'd been accused of crimes against the country for allegedly taking a sign at the hotel he was staying at. he decided while travelling in china to take what was supposed to be a quick trip across the border with a tour group. this footage was taken in the days before his arrest playing with local children in the snow. danny grattan from staffordshire was in the same tour group and had shared a room with otto warmbier in north korea.
he's left an indelible mark on me. he was such a lovely lad. and for such a lovely young lad who went on the adventure of a lifetime and his life's over, it's hard for me to believe. i still find it very surreal and very upsetting. i have spoken to a lot of people who went on the tour and they were all absolutely devastated. north korean officials say otto warmbier had been in a coma for more than a year. the americans say there is no evidence of botulism. look at otto, beautiful otto. he went over a beautiful, wonderful boy and you see how he came back. as this funeral takes place, there are now fears for three other american nationals also being detained in north korea. well, as people from his hometown say their final goodbyes to otto warmbier, there are people across this country who are asking how north korea is now going to pay the price for what many see
as the murder of an american citizen. stay with us on bbc news. still to come: jazz hands at the ready. we take a look at an exhibition that celebrates all that was good about 1920s america. members of the neo—nazi resistance movement stormed the world trade centre, armed with pistols and shotguns. we believe that, according to international law, that we have a right to claim certain parts of this country as ourland. i take pride in the words "ich bin ein berliner." cheering and applause. chapman, prison pale and slightly chubby, said not a single word in open court. it was left to his lawyer to explain his decision to plea guilty to murdering john lennon.
he believes that onjune 8th, god told him to plead guilty, and that was the end of it. the medical research council have now advised the government that the great increase in lung cancer is due mainly to smoking tobacco. it was closing time for checkpoint charlie, which for 29 years has stood on the border as a mark of allied determination to defend the city. this is bbc news. our main headline this is —— this hour: a new offensive is underway to take raqqa, the capital of the caliphate of the so—called islamic state in syria. well let's stay with that story and speak to dr denise natali, who is a research fellow at the institute for
national strategic studies, within the national defence thank you forjoining us. first of all, do you think this is right that this is effectively the end of the islamic state in iraq and syria, or do you think it will emerge in a different form in those countries? isis, by virtue of the fact that they have decimated this mosque, can be seen as having been militarily defeated in iraq and mosul. i would say military defeat, yes. but i would not say that that same process is happening in syria, particularly in raqqa. this is a different arena. it is far more competent. there are different regional actors superimposed over a civil war. —— is far more competent. the situation in raqqa has been going on for months. i would not necessary that look what happens in mosul and in so that the same thing is happening in raqqa. it has been far more complicated. we still have the ideological component
devices. again, there is still going to be some form of them and the virtual space. that is what we will see, as we are seeing in places like the philippines. —— ideological component of isis. if islamic state defeated in mosul, what would happen nextin defeated in mosul, what would happen next in mosul? there would be a power vacuum, wide bay? this is the biggest issue for me —— won't there. the question is who governs the spaces and how you prevent 2.0 from coming back. remember, most of these areas are decimated, so there are many variables here and it is a very fragile defeat. this is an important opportunity for the international committee to it assist, at least the
iraqi government, informing be institutions and local government structures to prevent isis from returning in a different form. you mentioned isis returning in different forms. is your fear that some of the supporters of the islamic state will return back to their homelands, their countries of birth, maybe, in orderto their homelands, their countries of birth, maybe, in order to carry on the fight? this has been the trend that some portion of these foreign fighters will go back to their countries of origin. that does not necessarily mean that they have the command and control structures, or the financing to launch... but isis, they can engage in counterinsurgency attacks, and do things that what we're seeing in philippines, in paris, in london, and in belgium, for example. they don't necessarily need to be particularly effective,
but they can, that is, they, affect these committees with these cyber affiliates, helping plan activities. thank you. prince harry has suggested that no one in the british royal family wants to be king or queen. in a candid interview with an american magazine he said the royals were acting for "the greater good of the people". here's our royal correspondent peter hunt. it's a moment seared on the nation's psyche, the funeral of a princess killed in her prime. her 12—year—old son on unforgiving display. 20 years on, prince harry is critical of those who put him there. and he has voiced his considerable discomfort in an american magazine. the enduring diana fascination is global. my
my mother had just died, and i had to walk behind the coffin. i think he has spent so much time hiding away from himself and his demons, and now he has faced them and to a large extent conquered them he feels confident to be optimistic, truthful and say how he feels. a monarch and three heirs, harry is suggesting while the windsors are selflessly focused on the greater good, none of them is desperate to be sovereign. this interview will irritate republicans who seek an elected head of state and upset some monarchists who believe that, in return for a privileged palace life like the one harry enjoys here, royals should step up
to the mark without a fuss. i don't think it's such a good idea to be quite so open. he has done a lot for mental health in bringing out his own true feelings. i think it's got to a point now where enough is enough. harry is desperately seeking the increasingly unattainable — a relatively ordinary life. inspired by his mother's examples, the "personal prince" insists he's not completely cut off. older royals like prince phillip, who left hospital this morning, know all about balancing the private and public. they are a grandson and grandfather who know about service, duty and occasional eyebrow—raising public utterances. schoolboys in devon in the south—west of england have been forced to resort to extreme measures
to deal with this week was make heatwave. when male pupils were told they could not wear shorts and had to wear trousers, they decided to wear skirts, instead. john kay reports. not your typical class photo. around 30 boys wore skirts at isca academy today — borrowed from their sisters and theirfriends. what does it feel like to wear skirts? really nice. cheering it's a protest... we want shorts! ..because they are not allowed to wear shorts, even on hot summer days. they are fed up with long trousers and, in a co—ed school, skirts are officially part of the uniform. girls are allowed to wear skirts all year round. and then they get cold legs and we have to sit there sweating. i think it's good. if they can't wear shorts then they have to wear skirts. i don't think it's right, then being told off for having hairy legs, though. the head teacher wasn't available today. in a statement, she said she might allow shorts in future,
but needs to consult parents. and she says the boys have not been disciplined for wearing skirts. there is an irony here because on the very day they have decided to step up their protest the temperature has dropped by 12 degrees and it is actually quite breezy. how long do you think you will continue with this protest? as long as it takes, to be honest. what about in the winter, when it gets really cold? i think we can bear that, to be honest. tights? yeah, they can do. until a final decision is made, the school says boys can loosen their ties in lessons. john kay, bbc news, exeter. the 1920s in america is known for its music, fashion and nightlife. jazz tunes, flapper girls, and speakeasies were just some of the fixtures. now, a new exhibit in new york, the jazz age, is bringing that era to life. called the jazz age, it features the accessories, arts and architecture of the era.
we went to have look. the jazz age is a term that f scott fitzgerald used about the age because jazz was popular. we feel thatjazz is both a metaphor and an actual fa ct. women get the right to vote. they drop their corsets. there are new fashions, new ways of life. it is a lot less demure. and part of it has to do with the jazz nightclubs that were being frequented by whites, particularly after they got introduced to them by going to paris. we have a few objects in the exhibition that directly reflect jazz. we have a bracelet in diamonds with sapphires of jazz players. we have a wonderful painting by archibald motley which shows not only woman smoking a cigarette,
a woman with a long necklace that can move around while you dance, and cocktails and glasses of wine, as well as musicians. the empire state building, a giant of steel and stone, dominates the skyline. i think architecture is the most significant american contribution we have a number of pieces that are of skyscraper form. everything from ceramic vases that have a setback shape through to a silverplated tea set by louis rice that also has setback lids. we even have a tiffany necklace that has the shape of skyscrapers and diamonds. the go. the 1920s and the roaring jazz age. this has been bbc news. ——
there yo go. well, it has certainly freshened up right across the uk. here'sjust a reminder of the heatwave we had on wednesday. the peak 35, nearly, degrees celsius across the south—east. come thursday, almost a ten degree drop as these fresher atlantic conditions are setting in. but some spectacular weather as well. this is a picture of a thunderstorm taken by a weather watcher in kent. but further north, and across western areas, those atlantic clouds have been rolling in, bringing much cooler conditions. this is the system. this system will be responsible for bringing some quite windy weather, particularly into northern areas, back into the weekend. let's look at friday, early hours of the morning. rain getting into parts of northern ireland, western and south—western scotland. for most of us in the south and east, it will be a dry end to the night. still quite warm for the morning. 111—15 celsius. let's look at rush hour.
at this stage in belfast, glasgow, maybe edinburgh, some spots of rain, nothing too heavy. some heavier pulse is possible a little further south into the lake district, lancashire maybe, northern parts of wales, but for most of the central and southern areas, a dry start to the day. some sunshine poking through and temperatures around 15 or 16 degrees. now, this here, this band of weather, this is actually cold front or cool front, that brings fresher atlantic conditions in, it is going to sink southwards in the morning and into the afternoon. so across parts of the midlands and wales, there will be spots of rain, and as it moves south, it is going to brighten up in belfast and glasgow. so some sunshine in the afternoon. a fair bit of cloud in london, up to 23. it is worth pointing out the wind in northern scotland. could be up to gale force. pretty unusual for this time of year, with showers around, as well. i think on saturday, and sunday as well, a bit of a mixed day — sunny spells, passing showers,
and even those even fresher atlantic conditions setting in. in fact, many of us will not have temperatures up to 20 degrees. maybe london just scraping into the low 20s. how are we doing compared to the rest of europe? it has been hot in paris. similar temperatures to london. berlin as well. as you'd expect in the mediterranean, in rome, temperatures still on the hot side. temperatures still into the 30s. the next two days, fresh and breezy. rain at times, but also some sunshine from time to time. this is bbc news. the headlines: there's a new offensive taking place to gain control of raqqa, the syrian city which so—called islamic state regards as the capital of its declared caliphate. in the past few days fighting has intensified between syrian democratic forces, backed by the us, and the fighters of the islamic state group. and in iraq the un cultural organisation unesco has condemned the destruction of the great al—nuri mosque in mosul, which was blown up by islamic state militants. the building with its famous leaning
minaret was more than 800 years old. four us republican senators have signalled that they cannot support the draft healthcare bill put forward by the party's leadership to replace obamacare. they said they were open to negotiation. a vote is not expected until next week but losing four republican votes in the senate would block the bill. now it's time for a look back at the day in parliament.