Archive for August 13th, 2018

Turkish charity to send Ramadan aid to Syria’s Afrin

15.05.2018

AFRIN, Syria

A foundation linked to Turkey’s top religious body said Tuesday it will distribute aid to 40,000 Syrians during the holy month of Ramadan in Syria’s terror-liberated city of Afrin.

Turkiye Diyanet Foundation (TDV) head Mehmet Savas Polat told Anadolu Agency that they accelerated humanitarian aid projects in the eve of Ramadan.

“We will distribute iftar [fast-breaking meals] to up to 20,000 people and also food packages to 20,000 more people in Afrin within the scope of Ramadan aid,” Polat said.

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to clear YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorist groups from Afrin, northwestern Syria amid growing threats from the region.

On March 18, Turkish-backed troops liberated the Afrin town center, which had been a major hideout for the YPG/PKK terrorists since 2012.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/turkish-charity-to-send-ramadan-aid-to-syrias-afrin/1146985.

Syria monitor: Missile attack kills 26, mostly Iranians

April 30, 2018

BEIRUT (AP) — A missile attack targeting government outposts in Syria’s northern region killed 26 pro-government fighters, mostly Iranians, a Syria war monitoring group said Monday, amid soaring Mideast tensions between regional archenemies Israel and Iran.

Iranian media gave conflicting reports about the overnight incident amid speculation that it was carried out by neighboring Israel. The attack came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked to President Donald Trump on the phone. The White House said the two leaders discussed the continuing threats and challenges facing the Middle East, “especially the problems posed by the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities.”

A day earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ratcheted up the Trump administration’s rhetoric against Iran and offered warm support to Israel and Saudi Arabia in their standoff with Tehran. “We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains,” Pompeo said after a nearly two-hour meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The United States is with Israel in this fight,” he added on his first trip abroad as America’s top diplomat.

Israel has cited Iran’s hostile rhetoric, support for anti-Israel militant groups and development of long-range missiles. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the late Sunday night attack appears to have been carried out by Israel and targeted an arms depot for surface-to-surface missiles at a base in northern Syria known as Brigade 47. The Observatory said four Syrians were also among the casualties.

It said the death toll could rise as the attack also wounded 60 fighters and there were several others still missing. Iranian state television, citing Syrian media, reported the attack. However, an Iranian semi-official news agency denied reports that Iranian fighters were killed or that Iranian-run bases were hit. The Tasnim news agency quoted an unnamed Iranian informed official in its report but did not elaborate on the denial.

Another semi-official news agency, ISNA, said the strike killed 18 Iranians, including a commander, in a suburb of the central city of Hama. It cited “local sources and activists” for its report. The missiles targeted buildings and centers which likely include a weapons depot, ISNA reported.

The Syrian government-owned Tishrin newspaper quoted what it called “sources on the ground” as saying that the attack on military positions in Aleppo and Hama provinces consisted of nine ballistic missiles fired from American-British bases in north Jordan. The report could not be independently confirmed.

There was also no immediate comment from Israel, which rarely confirms or denies its attacks in Israel. Israeli media reported that the security cabinet will hold an unscheduled meeting later Monday on the subject of the nuclear deal with Iran.

President Donald Trump has set a May 12 deadline to decide whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal — something he appears likely to do despite heavy pressure to stay in from European and other parties.

Tehran has sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters to back Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in the country’s seven-year civil war. The attack comes amid soaring tensions between Iran and Israel following an airstrike earlier this month on Syria’s T4 air base in central province of Homs that killed seven Iranian military personnel. Tehran has vowed to retaliate for the T4 attack.

Syria, Iran and Russia blamed Israel for that T4 attack. Israel did not confirm or deny it. On Monday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the time when Iran’s enemies can “hit and run” is over.

“They know if they enter military conflict with Iran, they will be hit multiple times,” he said in comments during a meeting with workers, according to his website. He did not specifically refer to the latest attack in Syria.

Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview published last Thursday that his country will strike Tehran if attacked by archenemy Iran, escalating an already tense war of words between the two adversaries.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency on Monday quoted chief of Fatimayoun Brigade, an Iran-backed Afghan militia in Syria fighting alongside Iranian forces, as saying their base near Aleppo was not targeted during the strikes and they had no casualties. It did not elaborate.

Earlier on Monday, Syrian TV reported a “new aggression,” with missiles targeting military outposts in northern Syria. The state-run television reported that the missiles targeted several military positions before midnight Sunday outposts in the Hama and Aleppo countryside.

Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar daily, that is considered close to the militant Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and the Syrian government said the attack targeted “important arms depots used by the (Syrian) army and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.” It said that missiles used in the attack appear to have been bunker buster.

Syria-based opposition media activist Mohamad Rasheed said that base that came under attack is about 10 kilometers (7 miles) outside the city of Hama, adding that the airstrike led to several explosions in the arms depot. He added that the area is known as the Maarin Mountain or Mountain 47.

Rasheed said that some of the exploding missiles in the arms depot struck parts of Hama, adding that residents in areas near the base fled their homes. He said the base has been run by Iranian and Iran-backed fighters from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, and Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

4 Jordanian troops, 3 suspected militants dead in clash

August 12, 2018

SALT, Jordan (AP) — Jordanian search teams pulled the bodies of three suspected militants from the rubble of their hideout, a government official said Sunday, hours after assailants opened fire and set off explosions that killed four members of the security forces trying to storm the building.

The clash late on Saturday was among the deadliest between suspected militants and Jordanian security forces in recent years. It raised new concerns about attempts by domestic and foreign militants to carry out attacks and destabilize the pro-Western kingdom.

Jordan has played a key role in an international military coalition that helped push back the extremist group Islamic State in neighboring Syria and Iraq. The chain of events in Jordan began Friday when assailants detonated a home-made bomb under a police car guarding a music festival in the predominantly Christian town of Fuheis, west of the capital of Amman.

The blast, labeled a terrorist attack by Jordan’s prime minister, killed a police officer. Jordanian authorities did not say what motivated the Fuheis attackers, and there was no claim of responsibility.

Security forces chasing the suspects zeroed in on a multi-story building in the town of Salt, near Fuheis, and attempted to storm it late Saturday. The suspects holed up inside opened fire and set off powerful explosions, officials said. A wing of the building collapsed.

In initial statements late Saturday, government spokeswoman Jumana Ghuneimat said three members of the security forces were killed. She said Sunday that a fourth officer had died and that the bodies of three suspects were pulled from the rubble. Five suspects are in custody.

The Hala Akhbar news website linked to Jordan’s military said the suspects are Jordanians and that the cell had planned to attack security installations and other sensitive targets. The site said the suspects had been armed with explosives, grenades and weapons.

Jordan has been a target for attacks by Islamic State in recent years. In June 2016, a cross-border car bombing launched from Syria killed seven Jordanian border guards. In December 2016, a shootout at a Crusader castle in the southern town of Karak left 14 people dead, including seven members of the security forces, four militants and three civilians.

Jordan is considered to an important security ally, particularly by the United States and Israel which view any signs of unrest there with concern. The kingdom has cracked down on suspected militants in recent years, imposing prison terms of several years for suspected sympathizers, including those expressing support for militant ideology on social media.

At the same time, hopelessness and alienation among some of the kingdom’s young people, driven by high youth unemployment, have provided fertile ground for recruitment by militant groups.

Associated Press writer Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.

Thousands attend Arab-led rally against Israeli bill

August 11, 2018

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Members of Israel’s Arab minority led a mass protest in central Tel Aviv on Saturday night against a contentious new law that critics say marginalizes the state’s non-Jewish citizens.

The rally marked further fallout from the explosive Nation-State law and came a week after thousands of Druze, also members of the Arab minority, packed the same city square last week. Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence defined the country as a Jewish and democratic state and the government says the recently passed bill merely enshrines the country’s existing character. But critics say it undercuts Israel’s democratic values and sidelines the country’s non-Jewish population, namely the Arab community that makes up 20 percent of the country.

One clause downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing. Israeli media reported tens of thousands of Jews and Arabs attended the protest. Some Arab protesters waved Palestinian flags and others held signs reading “equality.” Some knelt and preformed Muslim prayers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted footage on Twitter of protesters waving the Palestinian flags. “No better testament to the necessity of the Nation State law,” he wrote. Ayman Odeh, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, told The Associated Press: “This is the first time that tens of thousands of Arabs have come to Tel Aviv with Jewish democratic groups. They came to say this is not the end of the demonstrations, but the first serious demonstration against the Nation State law.”

Many Jewish Israelis, including top retired security officials and politicians, have also harshly criticized the law. Omar Sultan, from the Arab city of Tira in central Israel, said he was protesting to send a message to Netanyahu.

“This law is against us, against the Arabic language, against peace, against our future in this land, we are the real people of this land, we can’t agree on this law,” he said. Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy full citizenship rights but face discrimination in some areas of society like jobs and housing. They share the ethnicity and culture of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and often identify with Palestinian nationalism, rather than Israeli.

Tens of thousands of Druze, also members of the Arab minority, packed the same square in the heart of Tel Aviv, Israel’s cultural and commercial center, last week. The Druze are followers of a secretive offshoot of Shiite Islam and are considered fiercely loyal to the state and serve in Israel’s military, unlike most of the country’s other Arab citizens.

Over the years, members of the Druze community have risen to prominence in the military and in politics. Some Druze have said they feel betrayed by the law and several Druze military officers recently said they would stop serving in response to it, sparking fears of widespread insubordination.

Israel celebrates 40 years of illegal settlement

August 10, 2018

Two thousand Israelis yesterday gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the illegal West Bank settlement of Shiloh, south of Nablus.

The celebration was attended by Israel’s Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel, who is a member of the Religious-Zionist Jewish Home party. According to Arutz Sheva, the head of Israel’s “Binyamin Regional Council”, the group which oversees 42 of Israel’s illegal settlements and outposts in the occupied West Bank, also attended. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, sent a letter of congratulations to the illegal settlers, claiming historic links between the Bible and the modern-day occupied Palestinian territory.

Uri Ariel has a long history of pro-settlement activity, previously serving as head of Beit El council, an illegal Israeli settlement situated north east of Ramallah. Ariel was also previously secretary general of the Yesha council.

In July it emerged that Uri Ariel had previously approved plans to demolish Khan Al-Ahmar, the Palestinian Bedouin village that has been slated for demolition. The plans, which were made in the late 1970s, proposed a “Jewish corridor” of illegal settlements be built on some 100,000 to 120,000 dunams (25,000 to 30,000 acres) of Palestinian land, including the villages of Hizme, Anata, Al-Azariya and Abu Dis on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Demolishing these villages would make way for expanding two illegal settlements – Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim – situated on the Jerusalem-Jericho road.

Shiloh was one of the first locations targeted for illegal Israeli settlement as early as 1974 by Gush Emunim, the orthodox right-wing settlement movement that rose to prominence in the wake of the 1973 War. Gush Emunim was later succeeded by the Yesha council that Uri Ariel previously affiliated with. During the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s, Shiloh was identified as an example of an area that should be returned to Palestinian control given the high density of Palestinians living in the area.

Illegal settlement in the West Bank has been pursued as a policy by the State of Israel since it occupied the territory in the 1967 Six Day War, along with the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem states that, as of the end of 2015, there were 127 Israeli government-sanctioned settlements in the West Bank (not including occupied East Jerusalem and Hebron). When combined with 100 non-recognized outposts and 15 Israeli neighborhoods inside the Jerusalem Municipality, these settlements are inhabited by approximately half a million illegal settlers.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180810-israel-celebrates-40-years-of-illegal-settlement/.