Archive for November, 2015

For the first time since 1948, Egypt votes for Israel at UN

Sunday, 01 November 2015

Egypt’s representative at United Nations voted on Friday in support of Israel’s bid for membership of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Israeli media reported.

Since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and its acceptance to membership of the UN, Egypt had never voted in its favour at the UN before last Friday.

One hundred and seventeen countries voted in favor of Israel, 21 abstained, while only Namibia voted against the decision. Countries that abstained include: Qatar, Tunisia, Syria, Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Iraq and Algeria.

Israeli sources said that they were accepted to this UN committee after “intensive diplomatic efforts” exerted at different levels.

Prior to the vote, spokesman for the Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs Ahmed Abu Zeid refused to comment on the matter. However, in the face of fierce domestic criticism, he said that voting for Israel was necessary in order to secure the membership of a number of Arab countries to the committee.

Egyptian politicians and activists widely rejected this move and severely criticized Egyptian Military President Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi.

In 1973, Egypt and Syria started a war against Israel that paved the way for peace talks between Egypt and Israel. It ended up with a peace treaty in 1979 that ended state of war between the two sides, reciprocal recognition and normalization of ties.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/22027-for-the-first-time-since-1948-egypt-votes-for-israel-at-un.

Qatar offers 100 new scholarships for Gaza university students

Monday, 02 November 2015

Qatar has announced 100 new scholarships for Gaza’s university students through Al-Fakhoora organisation, Qatar’s Al-Raya newspaper reported yesterday.

The scholarships are an extension of previous subsidies provided by Qatar, Al-Raya added, these include the reconstruction of the Strip in partnership with UNICEF, UNRWA and other international organisations.

Al-Fakhoora has already offered 600 scholarships and is due to offer 1,000 extra scholarships by 2016, in effort aimed at paving the way to educate future leaders in Gaza.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22034-qatar-offers-100-new-scholarships-for-gaza-university-students.

UK lawmakers wary of government plan for Syria airstrikes

November 03, 2015

LONDON (AP) — The British government insisted Tuesday that it is still considering airstrikes against Islamic State group targets in Syria, even though an influential group of lawmakers said the military action would be “incoherent” and ineffective without a plan to end the country’s civil war.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee dealt a blow to Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempts to expand U.K. action against the militants from Iraq into Syria. The committee — dominated by members of Cameron’s Conservative Party — said the debate about airstrikes “is a distraction from the much bigger and more important task of finding a resolution to the conflict in Syria.”

Committee chairman Crispin Blunt, a Conservative legislator, said he feared the government was “responding to the powerful sense that something must be done … without any expectation that its action will be militarily decisive, and without a coherent and long-term plan for defeating (IS) and ending the civil war.”

The Royal Air Force is part of a U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes against militant targets in Iraq. But in 2013 British lawmakers unexpectedly rejected the government’s proposal for military action against President Bashar Assad’s forces in neighboring Syria.

Treasury chief George Osborne said Tuesday that the government still hoped to ask lawmakers for a mandate to launch strikes against I.S. in Syria. “But we are not going to go to the House of Commons unless we would be clear that we would win that vote and there would be a consensus for that action, and at the moment it’s not clear that there is a majority for it,” he said.

In a report, the foreign affairs committee said Russia’s intervention in the conflict in support of Assad’s government “has complicated even further any proposed action in Syria by the U.K.” It said that without an international strategy to end Syria’s civil war, “taking action to meet the desire to do something is still incoherent.”

The committee said the government needs to answer fundamental questions about the proposed airstrikes — including their legality without United Nations approval and whether they would have support from regional powers including Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Until then, it said, “we recommend that it does not bring to the House a motion seeking the extension of British military action to Syria.” The committee’s report is not binding on the government, but its warnings will make it harder for Cameron to gain lawmakers’ approval for airstrikes.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said RAF airstrikes had had “a substantial impact in degrading (IS) in Iraq” and that further military action was still on the table. “It is right that we continue to use military force against ISIL while we use diplomatic power to work towards a political solution in the Syrian civil war,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the militant group.

General: Russia sends anti-aircraft missiles to Syria

November 05, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has sent anti-aircraft missiles to Syria in order to safeguard its jets involved in airstrikes against militants in the war-battered Arab country, the commander of the Russian Air Force was quoted as saying Thursday.

Russia has been carrying out airstrikes on Islamic State fighters in Syria since the end of September at the request of President Bashar Assad, Russia’s long-term ally. Russian officials have insisted that their military involvement in Syria will be limited to an air force operation.

Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev said in an interview with the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda that the anti-aircraft missiles are there to project Russian fighter jets from a possible attack or hijack while on mission.

“There can be different emergencies, such as hijacking the jet on the territory of a neighboring country or an attack on it,” he said. “We should be prepared for that.” Bondarev did not specify the type of missiles Russia provided.

Russia and Western nations have been engaged in intense diplomatic talks in the past few weeks, aiming to bring about a political settlement in Syria, which has been torn by a civil war since 2011 that has killed 250,000 people and forced millions to flee.

A Russian deputy foreign minister said earlier this week that Moscow is aiming to host a round of talks between Syrian officials and opposition leaders next week. He said the Syrian government has agreed to participate but it’s unclear which opposition groups might come.

Russia says it doesn’t mind if Assad stays or steps down

November 03, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) — In an apparent effort to set the stage for transition talks, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday that Moscow does not consider it a matter of principle that Syrian President Bashar Assad should stay in power.

Asked whether it was crucial for Moscow that Assad stays, Maria Zakharova said on the Ekho Moskvy radio station: “Absolutely not, we’ve never said that.” “What we did say is a regime change in Syria could become a local or even regional catastrophe,” she said, adding that “only the Syrian people can decide the president’s fate.”

Russia is believed to be Assad’s strongest backer and has previously balked at the West’s suggestions that the Syrian president should be ousted. Russia in September began carrying out air strikes at Islamic State fighters in Syria at Assad’s request.

Earlier on Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russian news agencies that Moscow is aiming to host a round of talks between Syrian officials and opposition leaders next week. Bogdanov said the Syrian government has agreed to participate, but that it is unclear which opposition groups might come. He did not give a specific date for the proposed talks.

The talks are expected to be discussed Wednesday at a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.N. Syrian envoy Staffan de Mistura, Bogdanov said. Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow last month, which was viewed as a signal that Russia ultimately seeks a political settlement after weeks of heavy airstrikes in Syria, although the terms of such an arrangement are uncertain.

Islamic State militants attack 2 cities in northern Syria

June 25, 2015

BEIRUT (AP) — After weeks of setbacks, militants from the Islamic State group launched swift counteroffensives Thursday on predominantly Kurdish areas of northern Syria, killing and wounding dozens and setting off car bombs, activists and officials said.

The two-pronged attack on the northeastern city of Hassakeh and the border town of Kobani came two days after an Islamic State spokesman acknowledged that the group might lose some battles but would not be defeated. The spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, had urged militants to strike back at their foes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and “shake the ground beneath them.”

The early morning assault by IS captured part of Hassakeh, which has long been divided between Syrian Kurds and the military forces of President Bashar Assad. The militants also hit Kobani, a northern town on Syria’s border with Turkey that had become a symbol of Kurdish resistance against the Islamic State extremists. The Kurdish forces, backed by a campaign of U.S.-led airstrikes, drove the militants from Kobani and surrounding villages in January.

Thursday’s fighting in Kobani killed 35 civilians and Kurdish fighters, and 14 extremists, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It was the first time in six months the militants, who set off three car bombs, had managed to enter the town, the group said.

The IS militants, wearing Syrian rebel uniforms and carrying flags of the mainstream Free Syrian Army to deceive the Kurdish defenders, launched their attack from areas to the south and west of Kobani, said Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG.

Ghalia Nehme, a commander with the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units, told The Associated Press by telephone from Kobani that its fighters were defending a position in the town. Another Kurdish official in Kobani, Idriss Naasan, said the fighting was intense in the morning but sporadic at midday.

“We hear cracks of gunfire every now and then,” Naasan said around noon, adding that he had heard explosions of unknown origin. Kobani-based activist Mustafa Bali said in the evening that IS fighters were still in the city and held several buildings, but that YPG fighters were trying to surround them. He said some IS militants were using civilians as human shields.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Twitter that four people were killed and 96 people had been wounded in Kobani. A suicide bomber detonated his car near the border gate, according to two Turkish officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Surveillance video seen by the AP showed a fiery explosion around dawn. Syrian state TV said the extremists crossed into Kobani from Turkey, but Kurtulmus dismissed such allegations as untrue, according to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency.

IS fighters entered the village of Barkh Botan near Kobani, opening fire on civilians and killing 20 people, the Observatory said. Syria’s state news agency SANA said 22 people were killed, including women and children.

The differing casualty figures from Turkish, Kurdish and Syrian sources could not be reconciled in the immediate aftermath of the violence. Natasha Underhill, an expert on Middle East terrorism from Britain’s Nottingham Trent University, said the re-entry of Islamic State forces in Kobani “comes as a warning to the strength of the group.”

What some may consider a victory over IS in Kobani could actually be an effort by the group to withdraw and develop a different strategy, she added. A year ago, the Islamic State group captured large parts of Syria and Iraq and subsequently declared an Islamic caliphate on the territory under its control. A major IS attack had been widely expected during Ramadan, which began last week.

Referring to the attack on Hassakeh, Khalil said the militants struck government-held neighborhoods on the southern edge of the city and captured some areas. Syrian state TV reported intense clashes inside the southern neighborhood of Nashawi, with IS fighters killing several people they captured. It said there were many casualties among the militants, including the Tunisian commander of the group.

The fighting forced many residents to flee to safer areas, activists said. IS tried to storm Hassakeh earlier this month and reached its southern outskirts before meeting strong resistance from Syrian government troops who pushed them away.

The attacks on Hassakeh and Kobani came days after Kurdish fighters and their allies captured the Islamic State stronghold of Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey and the town of Ein Issa to the south. Kurdish fighters have been advancing since January, thanks to coalition airstrikes.

Associated Press writers Ayse Wieting and Raphael Satter in Istanbul and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.

 

New Israeli anti-drone counter-measure makes debut

by Richard Tomkins

Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel (UPI)

Oct 23, 2015

A counter-measure system that detects, identifies and disrupts small drones has been debuted by Israel Aerospace Industries.

Drone Guard, displayed at an aerospace exhibition in South Korea this week, combines adapted 3-D radars, electro-optical sensors and dedicated electronic attack jamming systems and comes from IAI subsidiary Elta Systems Ltd.

“We have begun demonstrating these novel capabilities to potential customers, in response to this new threat (from small drones),” said Nissim Hadas, IAI executive vice president and president of Elta Systems. “We believe that in the near future every critical asset and public site will require these safety measures for protection against hostile drones.”

Drone Guard uses 3D radars — including Elta’s ELM-2026D, ELM-2026B and ELM-2026BF — for short, medium and long-range detection of drones, coupled with special detection and tracking algorithms. EO sensors for visual identification of the target are also used.

The systems’ jamming systems, which can be used as a standalone system, disrupts the drone’s flight and can either cause the drone to return to its point of origin or shut down and crash, IAI said.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/New_Israeli_anti-drone_counter-measure_makes_debut_999.html.