From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE SOUTH 2022 MAY-JUNE"
This file is attached to http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterEight/BeastThatCameOutOfTheSea.htm from “Beast That Came Out Of The Sea” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.
This link will take you back to Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.
Or return to King Of The South 2022 March-April or continue to King Of The South 2022 July-August
KING OF THE SOUTH 2022 MAY-JUNE
- WTO REGION 4 IN 1995 MIDDLE EAST and NORTH AFRICA THE MAGHREB UNION.
- MIDDLE EAST: TURKEY, SYRIA, JORDAN, ISRAEL, LEBANON, EGYPT, SAUDI ARABIA, SUDAN.
- Today the MIDDLE EAST is Israel, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq. The Arab World consists of 22 countries in the Middle East as others claim it is Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
- NORTH AFRICA THE MAGHREB UNION (5 nations - LIBYA (0PEC), ALGERIA (OPEC), TUNISIA, MOROCCO, MAURITANIA).
- Today NORTH AFRICA THE MAGHREB UNION is the AMU Arab Maghreb Union today is a major region of North Africa that consists primarily of the countries Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania.
- WTO REGION 9 IN 1995 SOUTH AFRICA: UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA, NIGERIA, ETHIOPIA, BELGIAN, UGANDA, KENYA, SOMALI, ANGOLA, RHODESIA, MOZAMBIQUE, MADAGASCAR.
- SOUTH AFRICA or the African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of all 55 countries on the continent of Africa in todays time. It is union of SOUTH AFRICA, NIGERIA, ETHIOPIA, BELGIAN, UGANDA, KENYA, SOMALI, ANGOLA, RHODESIA, MOZAMBIQUE, MADAGASCAR.
- On 8/21/2020 a delegation from a 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) went to Bamako for an emergency summit aimed at reversing a coup [Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’ Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo].
- Note OPEC members and Arab League (21 Nations): Algeria, Gabon, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela.
- On 1/13/2019 Gas-rich Qatar who was boycotted to undermine its sovereignty, started charting a course away from its Gulf neighbors, including forging new trade partnerships, strengthening its ties with Turkey and quitting OPEC.
- Palestinians (PLO) note never has been a state, country or never was.
- This union was formed before 2010 called BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] with Afghanistan, Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey, as well as Egypt, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, Syria, Bangladesh and Greece have considered joining it as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [created in June 2001, members Pakistan, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajkistan, Kyrgystan, India].
So as 2020 has passed do we know who the "King of the South in 2020" is?
The phrase “king of the South” is found in the Bible in only one location — Daniel 11, which is also the chapter containing the most detailed prophecy in the Bible. The first mention of this ruler is found in verse 5, where we find that “the king of the South shall become strong” and that “His dominion shall be a great dominion.” Who was this king? Who will he be in the “time of the end” spoken of in verse 40? To answer these questions, we need a little background information. One of the first considerations is the setting of this prophecy. Daniel received the message in “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia,” which was 537 or 536 B.C. according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Daniel 10:1). The prophecy of Daniel 11 begins with verses 2-4, which describe what would happen in the Persian and Greek Empires after Daniel was given this vision, and continues through “the time of the end” (verse 40).
The Persian Empire refers to any of a series of imperial dynasties that were centred in Persia/Iran from the 6th century B.C. Achaemenid Empire era to the 20th century AD in the Qajar dynasty era. Know that Ancient Persia is modern Iran.
Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC) also called the First Persian Empire, in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great. It ranges from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration (through satraps under the King of Kings), for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires.
By the 7th century BC, the Persians had settled in the south-western portion of the Iranian Plateau in the region of Persis, which came to be their heartland. From this region, Cyrus the Great advanced to defeat the Medes, Lydia, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire, establishing the Achaemenid Empire. Alexander the Great, an avid admirer of Cyrus the Great, conquered most of the empire by 330 BC. Upon Alexander's death, most of the empire's former territory came under the rule of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Seleucid Empire, in addition to other minor territories which gained independence at that time. The Iranian elites of the central plateau reclaimed power by the second century B.C. under the Parthian Empire.
The Achaemenid Empire is noted in Western history as the antagonist of the Greek city-states during the Greco-Persian Wars and for the emancipation of the Jewish exiles in Babylon. The historical mark of the empire went far beyond its territorial and military influences and included cultural, social, technological and religious influences as well.
Despite the lasting conflict between the two states, many Athenians adopted Achaemenid customs in their daily lives in a reciprocal cultural exchange, some being employed by or allied to the Persian kings. The impact of Cyrus's edict is mentioned in Judeo-Christian texts, and the empire was instrumental in the spread of Zoroastrianism as far east as China. The empire also set the tone for the politics, heritage and history of Iran (also officially known as Persia). The image below shows you the area for the "King of the South."
So based on the above information I would acknowledge that the "King of the South" will come out of that area.
As you may have noted that in 2019 I claimed that individual will be: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The reason was his image of the pentagram a Satanic symbol which is at the top of Erdogan’s Tek Devlet (One State) monument in Turkey, which is a pentagram, a satanic symbol, and believed in beheading, and Shriah Will Rise Again, religious education, Koranic courses, Arabic and Ottoman lessons, Islamization of all schools, sharia education and finally compulsory worship services in all schools
Could Recep Tayyip Erdogan be the upcoming antichrist and may fit the description and then may not be the final antichrist. The Bible tells us there are “many antichrists” (1 John 2:18); many believe there will be the single antichrist, and we are rapidly approaching the end of time as we know it, before the great tribulation begins.
All of the antichrists have the same modus operandi (mode of operation).
As Erdogan has tried to be a force in the South and has shown hints of hypocrisy along the way, and August 2014, he has steadily become dictatorial, and enacted laws to give him excessive powers.
“And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom, but he shall come in peaceably and obtain the kingdom by flatteries” Daniel 11:21.
The Bible, in a number of instances, refers to the antichrist as the “Assyrian.” A good part of Turkey was included in the Assyrian Empire, which also persecuted God’s people.
“Therefore, thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Oh My people who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian; he shall smite you with a rod and shall lift up his staff against you, after the manner of Egypt. For yet a little while and the indignation shall cease and My anger in their destruction” Isaiah 10:24-25.
“And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land and when he shall tread in our palaces; then shall we raise against him seven shepherds and eight principal men” Micah 5:5.
Erdogan announced, “The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the honor of 1.7 billion Muslims, not just Palestinians, and the Muslim world cannot wait to remain indifferent to the restrictions imposed on the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” which is situated on the historical Jewish Temple Mount.
Erdogan’s real crimes are buying the Russian S-400 missile system for Turkey, refusing to accept US support for America’s Kurdish YPG allies and allowing Islamist fighters to pour over Turkey’s border into Syria along with a load of weapons, mortars and missiles. Erdogan said Turkey will work with the Syrian people directly to help achieve peace in the war-torn country. He went on to clarify this does not mean he is willing to work with the Syrian government.
“Russia takes the necessary measures against a (possible) threat by Syrian regime in Idlib, and as Turkey, we are taking all kind of measures against radical groups in Idlib,” stated President Erdogan. “We are also taking joint action with Russia if it is necessary.” His remarks come almost a month after Turkish and Russian forces announced a demilitarized zone in the Idlib province.
In December, President Donald Trump’s called Tayyip Erdogan that he was pulling U.S. troops from Syria has stunned Turkey and left it scrambling to respond to the changing battlefield on its southern border, and delivered a standard warning to the Turkish president over his plan to attack U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, in the course of the conversation Trump reshaped U.S. policy in the Middle East, abandoning a quarter of Syrian territory and handing Ankara the job of finishing off Islamic State in Syria.
As many promote what Daniel 11:40-45 claims it represents the Northern King’s Conquests.
[AS SEEN IN THE VERSES ABOVE THAT THE EVENTS ARE LOOKING AS IF RUSSIA - KING OF THE NORTH AND THE MIDEAST NATIONS - KING OF THE SOUTH ARE GOING TO BECOME ENTWINED INTO THE PROPHECY ABOVE IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE AND THE KING OF THE WEST WILL AGAIN WILL INVOLVE ITSELF SO LETS SEE HOW IT UNFOLDS AND ALSO SINCE THE EUPHARATES RIVER HAS DRIED UP ENGAGING THE KINGS OF THE EAST TO GET INVOLVED.].
The following image below is seen at http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterSix/Psalm83.htm so you can tell by the verses above who are the countries today.
So lets see what will happen in 2022 regarding the King of the South:
5/1/2022 Israel arrests Palestinian attackers - Hamas calls for West Bank attacks by ASSOCIATED PRESS
JERUSALEM – The Israeli military on Saturday said it has arrested a pair of Palestinian assailants who allegedly shot and killed a security guard at the entrance of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
The detention followed a manhunt that was launched shortly after the attack late Friday. Israeli soldiers, special forces, and border police took part in the detention and seizure of weapons from the two suspects, who it said were seized in the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan.
The fresh attack, combined with the death of a Palestinian man elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, could further fuel tensions that have soared over the past two months. A string of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have left 15 Israelis dead, while at least 27 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in recent weeks.
The security guard was shot outside Ariel, a major settlement in the northern West Bank, late Friday night by a pair of assailants in a car, the army said. It said the guard stood in front of another guard who was with him, saving her life.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed condolences to the family of the security guard. In a statement after the arrest of the suspects, he said “no terrorist can evade us.”
In Gaza, the leader of the territory’s Hamas rulers Yehiyeh Sinwar called for stepping up attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank, saying the “real battle arena is there.” In a speech, he saluted the attackers who killed the guard.
Israeli forces on Saturday set up checkpoints and were conducting searches for the attackers in the area, the army said. It said it arrested two purported members of the Hamas militant group, but there was no immediate indication that the men were involved in the attack. Hamas praised the killing of the guard but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the shooting.
In a separate incident, Israeli troops shot and killed a 27-year-old Palestinian man in Azoun village near the town of Qalqilya early Saturday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. The army said it had opened fire after a group of suspects threw firebombs toward the soldiers.
Tensions have been heightened in recent weeks by Palestinian shooting attacks in Israeli cities, an Israeli military crackdown in the northern West Bank, where some of the attackers came from, and recurring confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli police around the most sensitive religious site in Jerusalem.
The site contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, and increasing numbers of Palestinians go there to pray during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The hilltop compound is also the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because it was where the biblical Temples were situated. The site is a frequent flashpoint of tensions, and violence there last year helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants.
Sinwar, the Hamas leader, said more visits by religious Jewish groups to the hilltop compound and ensuing clashes between Palestinians and police forces protecting the visitors may lead to a new round of cross-border violence in Gaza. “All the factions of resistance in the Gaza Strip must be prepared and be on alert,” Sinwar said, suggesting that tension in Jerusalem will further heighten after the end of the Ramadan month, with more visits by Jews expected.
In recent weeks, Israeli police and Palestinians have clashed there on a number of occasions. Israeli authorities accuse Hamas of inciting violence and say security forces were forced to intervene to halt stone-throwing.
The Palestinians say the presence of Israeli police at the site, and regular visits by increasing numbers of nationalist and religious Jews, are a violation of decades-old informal arrangements governing the site.
A masked Palestinian gunman shoots in the air during the funeral of Yahia Edwan, 27, at the West Bank village of Azzoun,
near Qalqiliya, Saturday. Israeli troops shot and killed Edwan early Saturday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
The Israeli army said it had opened fire after a group of suspects threw firebombs toward the soldiers. NASSER NASSER/AP
5/1/2022 Egypt: Militants blow up Sinai gas pipeline - No responsibility claimed immediately by Ashraf Sweilam, ASSOCIATED PRESS
EL ARISH, Egypt – Suspected Islamic State militants blew up a natural gas pipeline Saturday in Egypt’s restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, causing a fire but no casualties, security officials said.
The officials said the suspected militants planted explosives under a pipeline in the town of Bir al-Abd. The expulsion sent thick flames of fire shooting into the sky, and authorities stopped the flow of gas to extinguish the fire, according to eyewitnesses.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to media and the eyewitnesses asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.
No group immediately claimed the attack which caused no human casualties.
The Islamic State group affiliate, which is centered in Northern Sinai, however, has claimed previous attacks targeted gas pipelines between Egypt and both Jordan and Israel.
Egypt is battling an Islamic State-led insurgency in the Sinai that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. The militants have carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting security forces and Christians.
5/2/2022 Protesting miners stop speech by South Africa’s president by Sebabatso Mosamo and Mogomotsi Magome,
RUSTENBURG, South Africa – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa abandoned his Workers’ Day speech in the northwestern city of Rustenburg on Sunday when striking mineworkers stormed the stage.
The workers employed by Sibanye-Stillwater mine are demanding a wage increase of 1,000 rand ($63) per month instead of the 850 rand ($54) being offered by the mine.
Ramaphosa had decided to mark the Workers Day, a public holiday in South Africa to mark May 1, by giving a speech to union members in Rustenburg, a mining center.
Ramaphosa was booed as he started his address with a call for the striking workers and other members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions to calm down and listen to what he had to say.
“We have heard that you want your 1,000 rand. We will deal with that matter,” Ramaphosa told the protesting workers.
The striking workers have become even angrier in recent days over reports that Sibanye-Stillwater’s CEO, Neal Froneman, earned more than 300 million rand ($19 million) in 2021 in salary payments and company share schemes.
Rustenburg in North West Province is a tumultuous area for Ramaphosa and South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party. Many union members blame them for the Marikana massacre, where 34 miners were shot dead by police during a strike at the Lonmin mine in 2012, when Ramaphosa was a nonexecutive director of Lonmin.
Disgruntled miners protest at a May Day rally in Rustenburg, South Africa, Sunday. South African President
Cyril Ramaphosa abandoned his speech in the mining town after striking mineworkers stormed the stage. DENIS FARRELL/AP
5/3/2022 Israel condemns remarks of Russian FM by Tia Goldenberg, ASSOCIATED PRESS
TEL AVIV, Israel – Israel on Monday lashed out at Russia over “unforgivable” comments by its foreign minister about Nazism and antisemitism – including claims that Adolf Hitler was Jewish. Israel, which summoned the Russian ambassador in response, said the remarks blamed Jews for their own murder in the Holocaust.
It was a steep decline in the ties between the two countries at a time when Israel has sought to stake out a cautious position between Russia and Ukraine and remain in Russia’s good stead for its security needs in the Middle East.
Asked in an interview with an Italian news channel about Russian claims that it invaded Ukraine to “denazify” the country, Sergey Lavrov said that Ukraine could still have Nazi elements even if some figures, including the country’s president, were Jewish.
“So, when they say, ‘How can Nazification exist if we’re Jewish?’ in my opinion, Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean absolutely anything. For some time we have heard from the Jewish people that the biggest antisemites were Jewish,” he said, speaking to the station in Russian, dubbed over by an Italian translation.
In some of the harshest remarks since the start of the war in Ukraine, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Lavrov’s statement “unforgivable and scandalous and a horrible historical error.”
“The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust,” said Lapid, the son of a Holocaust survivor. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is to blame Jews themselves for antisemitism.”
Later, Lapid said Israel makes “every effort” to have good relations with Russia. “But there’s a limit and this limit has been crossed this time. The government of Russia needs to apologize to us and to the Jewish people,” he said.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has been more measured in his criticism of Russia’s invasion, also condemned Lavrov’s comments.
“His words are untrue and their intentions are wrong,” he said. “Using the Holocaust of the Jewish people as a political tool must cease immediately.”
Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem called the remarks “absurd, delusional, dangerous and deserving of condemnation.”
“Lavrov is propagating the inversion of the Holocaust – turning the victims into the criminals on the basis of promoting a completely unfounded claim that Hitler was of Jewish descent,” it said in a statement.
“Equally serious is calling the Ukrainians in general, and President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy in particular, Nazis. This, among other things, is a complete distortion of the history and an affront to the victims of Nazism.”
In Germany, government spokesman Steffen Hebstreit said the Russian government’s “propaganda” efforts weren’t worthy of comment, calling them “absurd.”
Ukraine also condemned Lavrov’s remarks.
“By trying to rewrite history, Moscow is simply looking for arguments to justify the mass murders of Ukrainians,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.
Israel says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements regarding Nazis and Adolf Hitler’s
ancestry were “unforgivable” and “a horrible historical error.” YURI KOCHETKOV/AP
5/3/2022 Israel detainees held without charge - Rights group says highest since 2016 by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Palestinians attend a protest in solidarity with Hisham Abu Hawash, center, an Islamic Jihad
member held by Israel under administrative detention, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Jan, 2. HaMoked,
an Israeli rights group that regularly gathers figures from prison authorities, said Monday that as of May,
there were 604 detainees held in administrative detention, the highest number since 2016. MAJDI MOHAMMED/AP FILE
JERUSALEM – Israel is holding some 600 Palestinian detainees without charge or trial, the highest number since 2016, an Israeli rights group said Monday.
Israel says it uses so-called administrative detention to thwart attacks and to hold dangerous militants without revealing sensitive intelligence. Palestinians and rights groups say the system is widely abused and denies due process, with some detainees held for months or years without seeing the evidence against them.
HaMoked, an Israeli rights group that regularly gathers figures from prison authorities, said that as of May there were 604 detainees held in administrative detention. Nearly all are Palestinians, as administrative detention is very rarely used against Jews.
HaMoked says 2,441 Palestinians are serving sentences after being convicted in military courts. Another 1,478 detainees are being held for questioning, have been charged and are awaiting trial, or are currently being tried.
Israel has seen a wave of attacks in recent weeks that have killed at least 15 people. It has carried out arrest raids across the occupied West Bank that it says are aimed at preventing more. Those operations have ignited violent protests and gunbattles.
At least 29 Palestinians have been killed, according to an Associated Press tally. Most were killed after carrying out attacks or during clashes with Israeli forces, but an unarmed woman and two people who appear to have been bystanders were also killed.
The last time Israel held this many administrative detainees, in October 2016, was also in the wake of a surge in violence, including stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks carried out by Palestinians.
“Administrative detention is used only when the security forces have credible and well-established information of an actual security threat posed by the detainee, and when other avenues to remove the threat are not feasible,” the army said in a statement.
Israel says all administrative detention orders are subject to judicial review. Detainees can appeal to a military court of appeals or Israeli’s Supreme Court, but rights groups say the courts overwhelmingly defer to the security establishment.
Jessica Montell, the director of Ha-Moked, said violence does not justify detaining hundreds of people for months or years without charge.
“It’s like an assembly line of administrative detention, far in excess of what can be justified under international law,” she said, which only allows preventive detention under rare circumstances for a limited period of time.
Those held could include dangerous militants, but also cases of mistaken identity.
A teenager with a rare neuromuscular disorder has been held in administrative detention for over a year.
Several Palestinians in administrative detention have gone on prolonged hunger strikes in protest, with many developing lifelong health issues. Administrative detainees and their lawyers have boycotted Israeli military court proceedings since the start of this year in protest. The courts are holding hearings without them, according to B’Tselem, another prominent Israeli rights group.
Hamas claims deadly attack that killed Israeli guard
JERUSALEM – The Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed responsibility Monday for a deadly shooting that left an Israeli security guard dead at the entrance of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank last week. It was the first time Hamas has claimed such an attack targeting Israelis in the occupied West Bank since 2018. Friday evening’s attack was the latest in a long string of incidents in recent weeks. Tensions have mounted after deadly attacks on Israelis by Palestinian assailants, an Israeli military crackdown in the West Bank, and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site. The site contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam. It is also the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because it is the location of the biblical Temples destroyed in antiquity. The site is a frequent flashpoint for tensions. “This is an episode in a series of responses by Al-Qassam Brigades to the aggression on Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Hamas’s armed wing said in a short statement.
5/4/2022 Yazidis, displaced again, fear more strife in Iraqi homeland by Rashid Yahya and Samya Kullab, ASSOCIATED PRESS
An Iraqi army helicopter takes off at a base in Sinjar, Iraq, on Tuesday. Iraq's military launched an
offensive in Sinjar district on Sunday to clear out armed elements of the YBS, a militia comprised largely
of locals with ties to a Kurdish insurgent separatist movement banned by Turkey. ALI ABDUL HASSAN/AP
ZAKHO, Iraq – Iraqis in a northern town still traumatized by memories of the Islamic State group feared more violence Tuesday after hostilities between the military and a local militia erupted, people internally displaced by the fighting said.
Tensions reached a fever pitch when Iraq’s military launched an offensive in Sinjar district Sunday to clear out armed elements of the YBS, a local militia comprised largely of minority Yazidis.
The YBS has ties to the insurgent Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, a separatist movement banned in Turkey.
The heavy fighting prompted over 3,000 people, most of them Yazidis, to flee toward the Kurdish-run north. It wasn’t clear if there were any dead or wounded in the fighting: Iraqi officials have released no figures and have not commented on casualties.
Fighting ceased Tuesday and the Iraqi army said it had re-established control of Sinjar.
But the violence and subsequent displacement dealt a blow to Baghdad’s efforts to encourage more Yazidis to return to their ancestral homeland after years of war.
An agreement was brokered by the United Nations in October 2020 between Baghdad and the Kurdish-run government to implement order in the area. Under that agreement, the federal police are the sole state authority.
The accord has not proven successful. Critics have said this is because it did not consult powerful local forces in Sinjar or even Yazidi leaders. Local residents, who also include Arab Sunnis, are also deeply divided.
Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir al-Shammari, deputy commander of Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, told a news conference in Sinjar that Iraqi forces have imposed security and law and order and have opened all the roads in the district.
But Yazidis, many displaced now for a second time, are reluctant to return.
Most of the displaced fled north to the Kurdish-run region where they were distributed across different camps. Many first fled in 2014 after IS’s brutal onslaught and returned in recent years to rebuild their homes.
The memories are still fresh in Sewe’s mind. His was among the dozens of families who made their way to the Chemishko camp in Zakho on Monday. He only gave The Associated Press his first name.
“It is the second time that we escaped,” he said. “We don’t know where to go, we don’t have a place to go, and we don’t know where we are going now.”
The YBS was created in 2014 with assistance from the PKK. They proved instrumental in driving out IS elements from the area after the collapse of the Iraqi army. The YBS has since remained a powerful local force in the area, citing deep mistrust of the federal government forces deployed to protect the area.
The Iraqi army said the aim of the offensive has been to reassert state authority in response to the YBS erecting checkpoints and preventing citizens from returning to their homes.
But most residents expect more violence.
“When we went back to our home, we found it was impossible to live there,” said Rashid Barakat, now displaced in the Chemishko camp.
5/4/2022 UN chief welcomes reintegration of jihadists by Chinedu Asadu, ASSOCIATED PRESS
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday lauded Nigerian authorities’ ongoing reintegration of defectors from the jihadi Boko Haram group, which has waged a decade-long insurgency, as “the best thing we can do for peace.”
Speaking to reporters in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state where the insurgency is centered, Guterres also called for more global funding to help rebuild lives in northeast Nigeria where the rebels are operating.
“The best thing we can do for peace is to reintegrate those who in the moment of despair became terrorists but now want to … contribute to the well-being of their brothers and sisters,” the U.N. chief said after meeting with former militants at a rehabilitation camp in Maiduguri.
The Nigerian military said in March that 1,629 of the former fighters have so far graduated from the reintegration program.
In the final leg of his three-nation tour of West Africa, the UN chief is for the first time visiting Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, where he called for donors worldwide to support humanitarian assistance in the northeast.
Boko Haram, Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremist rebels, launched an insurgency in 2009, to fight against western education and to establish Islamic Shariah law in Nigeria.
Their rebellion spread over the years to the neighboring West African countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Boko Haram drew international condemnation in 2014 when they abducted 276 schoolgirls in Chibok village, more than 100 of whom are still missing.
Before his trip to Nigeria, Guterres was in Niger on Monday where he voiced strong concern over jihadi violence in the Sahel, the vast semi-arid area south of the Sahara Desert. “The international community must realize that this is no longer just a regional or African issue, but a global threat,” he said.
The jihadi violence has directly resulted in approximately 35,000 deaths and the displacement of at least 2.1 million people, data from U.N. agencies in Nigeria show.
“I will be your advocate asking the international community to support and to invest in the Borno of hope,” Guterres told Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Sunday that the war against the militants is “approaching its conclusion.” But according to the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, the jihadist group – especially its most dominant faction the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) – is “consolidating its grip on new rural areas in Nigeria’s central and southern Borno state.”
5/6/2022 3 Israelis killed, 4 wounded in stabbing near Tel Aviv - Authorities: Palestinian attackers fled in vehicle by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Israeli forces secure the area of a stabbing attack in the town of Elad, Israel, on Thursday.
Israeli medics say at least three people were killed in the attack near Tel Aviv. MAYA ALLERUZZO/AP
JERUSALEM – A pair of Palestinian attackers went on a stabbing rampage in a town near Tel Aviv on Thursday night, killing at least three people and wounding four others before fleeing in a vehicle, Israeli authorities said.
Police launched a massive search for the assailants, setting up roadblocks and dispatching a helicopter. The stabbing, coming on Israel’s Independence Day, was the latest in a string of deadly attacks in Israeli cities in recent weeks.
“We will get our hands on the terrorists and their supportive environment, and they will pay the price,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said after huddling with senior security officials late Thursday.
Israeli-Palestinian tensions have soared recently, with the attacks in Israel, military operations in the occupied West Bank and violence at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site. The site, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was the scene of new unrest earlier Thursday.
Alon Rizkan, a medic with Israel’s Magen David Adom rescue service, described a “very difficult call” when he arrived at the scene in Elad, an ultra-Orthodox town near Tel Aviv. He said he identified three dead people at various locations. At least four others were wounded, one critically, officials said.
Israeli media quoted police as saying there were two assailants, and just before midnight, police said they were still searching for the attackers. They called on the public to avoid the area, and urged people to report suspicious vehicles or people to them.
Israel marked its Independence Day on Thursday, a festive national holiday in which people typically hold barbecues and attend air shows.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered a closure on the West Bank, imposed ahead of the holiday and preventing Palestinians from entering Israel, to remain in effect until Sunday.
In Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said U.S. officials “vehemently condemn” the attack in Elad.
“This was a horrific attack targeting innocent men and women, and was particularly heinous coming as Israel celebrated its Independence Day,” Blinken said in a statement. “We remain in close contact with our Israeli friends and partners and stand firmly with them in the face of this attack.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government administers autonomous zones in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, condemned the attack.
“The killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians leads only to more deterioration at a time when all of us try to achieve stability and prevent escalation,” the official Wafa news agency quoted him as saying.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, praised the attack and linked it to violence at the Jerusalem holy site.
“The storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque can’t go unpunished,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said. “The heroic operation in Tel Aviv is a practical translation of what the resistance had warned against.”
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam and is built on a hilltop that is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. It lies at the emotional heart of the conflict, and Palestinians and Israeli police have clashed there repeatedly in recent weeks.
Early Thursday, Israeli police entered the site to clear away Palestinian protesters, after Jewish visits that had been paused for the Muslim holidays resumed.
As the visits resumed, dozens of Palestinians gathered, chanting “God is greatest.” Scuffles broke out when the police went to arrest one of them. Police fired rubber-coated bullets on the sprawling esplanade as some Palestinians sheltered inside the mosque itself. The police could later be seen just inside an entrance to the barricaded mosque.
The police said they responded to dozens of people who were shouting incitement and throwing stones, and that one police officer was lightly injured. The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said two Palestinians were taken to a hospital after being struck with batons.
Unlike in previous confrontations, Palestinian witnesses said there was no rock-throwing initially. Some of those who sheltered inside the mosque began throwing stones and other objects when police entered the building. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
Under informal arrangements known as the status quo, Jews are allowed to visit the site but not pray there. In recent years, they have visited in ever-increasing numbers with police escorts and many have discreetly prayed, angering the Palestinians as well as neighboring Jordan, which is the custodian of the site. The Palestinians have long feared that Israel plans to eventually take over the site or partition it.
Israel says it is committed to maintaining the status quo, and accuses Hamas of inciting the recent violence.
It has been some of the worst bloodshed in years. At least 18 Israelis have died in five attacks – including a stabbing rampage in southern Israel, two other shootings in the Tel Aviv area and a shooting last weekend in a West Bank settlement. Nearly 30 Palestinians have died in violence – most of whom had carried out attacks or were involved in confrontations with Israeli forces in the West Bank. But an unarmed woman and a lawyer who appears to have been inadvertently shot were also killed.
5/7/2022 Israel seeks attackers who killed 3 in mass stabbing - Security forces hunt for suspects in the attack by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mourners comfort a man overcome with grief during the funeral for Yonatan Havakuk and Boaz Gol
on Friday, a day after they were killed in a stabbing attack in Elad, Israel. ARIEL SCHALIT/AP
JERUSALEM – Israeli security forces took part in a massive manhunt Friday for two Palestinians suspected of carrying out a stabbing rampage near Tel Aviv that left three Israelis dead.
The stabbing on Thursday, Israel’s Independence Day, was the latest in a series of deadly assaults deep inside the country in recent weeks. It came as Israeli-Palestinian tensions were already heightened by violence at a major holy site in Jerusalem sacred to Jews and Muslims.
Police said they were searching for two suspects, 19 and 20 years old, from the town of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, which has re-emerged as a militant bastion in the latest wave of violence – the worst Israel has seen in years. Several attackers have come from in or around Jenin, and Israeli forces have launched arrest raids that have ignited gunbattles there.
“We will get our hands on the terrorists and their supportive environment, and they will pay the price,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said after huddling with senior security officials late Thursday.
Authorities said the attackers fled in a vehicle.
Medics described a horrific scene in Elad, an ultra-Orthodox town near Tel Aviv. In addition to the three killed, four others were wounded, one of them critically. Police said at least one of the assailants wielded an axe in the attack.
Israeli media identified those killed as Yonatan Havakuk, Boaz Gol and Oren Ben Yiftah, three fathers in their 30s and 40s who together are survived by 16 children.
Ben Yiftah, 35 years old and the father of six, was from the central city of Lod. The city’s mayor, Yair Revivo, said “our heart breaks into tiny pieces” in a Facebook post, calling it a “great tragedy.”
Israel marked its Independence Day on Thursday, a festive national holiday in which people typically hold barbecues and attend air shows.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz extended a closure on the West Bank, imposed ahead of the holiday to prevent Palestinians from entering Israel, to remain in effect until Sunday.
In Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the “horrific attack targeting innocent men and women.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government administers autonomous zones in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security, also condemned the attack.
“The killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians leads only to more deterioration at a time when all of us try to achieve stability and prevent escalation,” the official Wafa news agency quoted him as saying.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, praised the attack and linked it to violence at the Jerusalem holy site.
“The storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque can’t go unpunished,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said. “The heroic operation in Tel Aviv is a practical translation of what the resistance had warned against.”
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam and is built on a hilltop that is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. It lies at the emotional heart of the conflict, and Palestinians and Israeli police have clashed there repeatedly in recent weeks.
Under informal arrangements known as the status quo, Jews are allowed to visit the site but not pray there. In recent years, they have visited in ever-increasing numbers with police escorts and many have discreetly prayed, angering the Palestinians as well as neighboring Jordan, which is the custodian of the site.
Palestinians have long feared that Israel plans to eventually take over the site or partition it.
Israel says it is committed to maintaining the status quo, and accuses Hamas of inciting the recent violence.
At least 18 Israelis have been killed in five attacks since March, including another stabbing rampage in southern Israel, two shootings in the Tel Aviv area, and a shooting last weekend in a West Bank settlement.
Nearly 30 Palestinians have died in violence – most of whom had carried out attacks or were involved in confrontations with Israeli forces in the West Bank. An unarmed woman and two apparent bystanders were also among those killed, and rights groups say Israel often uses excessive force.
Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war a year ago, fueled in large part by similar unrest in Jerusalem.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem – which includes Al-Aqsa and other major religious sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims – in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want all three territories to form their future state. The last serious peace talks collapsed more than a decade ago.
Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Hamilton, Canada, contributed to this report.
Relatives and friends mourn at a cemetery in Lod, Israel, during the funeral for Oren Ben Yiftach, a 35-year-old
Israeli who was killed in an axe attack Thursday night in Elad. GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
5/8/2022 War monitor says unidentified aircraft strike Syrian targets
BEIRUT, Lebanon – Unidentified aircraft struck oil-rich areas in eastern Syria held by government and Iran aligned groups on Saturday, an opposition war monitor said. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were no casualties or material losses in the attack, the second within a week in the province of Deir-Ez-Zor. At least five explosions were heard, according to the monitor, in the Hawijah Kateh area and on a nearby bridge north of Deir-Ez-Zor city. Syrian state media also reported the attack.
5/9/2022 Israel captures suspects who killed 3 in stabbing attack
TEL AVIV, Israel – Israeli police said Sunday that forces captured two Palestinians who allegedly killed three people in a stabbing attack last week in the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad on Thursday, Israel’s Independence Day, and fled the scene, sparking a massive manhunt and keeping the country on edge. A joint statement by police, the military and the Shin Bet internal security agency said the men, identified as 19- and 20-year-old Palestinians, were caught near a quarry not far from Elad following a search that began Thursday.
5/9/2022 Syria President Assad visits Iran for meetings in rare trip
TEHRAN, Iran – Syrian President Bashar Assad met with Iranian leaders in Tehran on Sunday, Iranian state linked media reported, marking his second trip to major wartime ally Iran since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011. Nour News, a website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reported that Assad met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi earlier in the day. It said the leaders praised the strong ties between their nations and vowed to boost relations further.
5/9/2022 Extremism upends lives in Burkina Faso - Violence said to be cause of swelling competition in cities by Sam Mednick, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A woman works in a Pissy granite mine in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, April 25. The influx of people displaced by the country’s rapidly rising
Islamic violence is causing competition among the approximately 3,000 people working at the granite mine. PHOTOS BY SOPHIE GARCIA/AP
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – Ami Sana hangs a tattered tarp for a bit of shade where she can rest on a break from pounding stones under the scorching sun.
“The work is hard. It makes my body weak, but what else can I do?” she asked.
The mother of six is one of 2 million people displaced by Burkina Faso’s rapidly rising Islamic extremist violence, according to the U.N.
Amid the clamor of clanging pickaxes and falling rocks, Sana has found work in the Pissy granite mine on the outskirts of Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou.
Lifting heavy rocks and hammering them into gravel to sell to construction companies is tough work that doesn’t earn her enough to adequately feed or educate her children, Sana said.
But it’s the best work that she could find.
The rush of civilians from rural villages plagued by extremist violence has put pressure on Burkina Faso’s cities.
“Some of the host cities have doubled or tripled in size in the past three years, and their infrastructures are often stretched to a breaking point,” said Hassane Hamadou, country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.
“Schools can’t absorb all the new children; water points can’t provide enough for all. Hundreds of thousands are left without access to an education, clean water or healthcare as a result,” he said.
The influx of displaced people is causing competition among the approximately 3,000 people working at the granite mine.
At least 500 displaced people started working at the mine last year making it harder for the original miners to earn a living, said Abiba Tiemtore, head of the site.
“With more people, it’s hard to collect as many rocks and it’s impacting our daily income,” she said. Miners who used to make approximately $1 a day say they are now lucky if they make 80 cents.
When it seized power in January, Burkina Faso’s ruling junta vowed to stamp out extremist violence but it has done little about the swelling numbers of displaced.
The government has a responsibility to provide the swelling numbers of displaced with those social services, said Alexandra Lamarche, senior advocate for West and Central Africa for Refugees International.
The minister of humanitarian affairs did not respond to a request for comment.
So far the junta has not succeeded in stemming the extremist violence. In January, 160,000 people were newly displaced, the second-largest monthly increase in three years, according to a report by international aid groups. Hard-hit areas like the Center North region, which hosts Burkina Faso’s largest displaced population, are buckling under the pressure.
“The impact of people moving from their farms into big cities is disorientation (and) the increase of poverty (and) fear,” said Abdoulaye Pafadnam, former mayor of Barsalogho, one of the main towns in the Center North region.
The violence is cutting off access for aid groups to reach people in need. Roads that were safe to travel six months ago are lined with explosives and the United Nations had only one helicopter until recently to transport people and aid across the country.
Men work in a Pissy granite mine in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, April 25. The influx of people displaced by the country’s
rapidly rising Islamic violence is causing competition among the approximately 3,000 people working at the granite mine.
5/9/2022 Violence continues in occupied West Bank by Ilan Ben Zion, ASSOCIATED PRESS
JERUSALEM – Two Palestinians, one a teenager, were killed in separate incidents in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, hours after police apprehended two Palestinian men suspected of killing three Israelis last week.
It was the latest episode of violence during weeks of Palestinian attacks in Israel, and Israeli military raids in the occupied West Bank that have left at least 18 Israelis and some 30 Palestinians dead.
The Palestinian man died after he was shot by Israeli troops trying to cross the security fence near a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military said that soldiers “spotted a suspect who attempted to illegally cross the security fence” near the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem and fired at him. It said the man was evacuated to receive medical treatment, but declined commenting on the man’s condition. The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed the man’s death.
The Israeli military also said an Israeli civilian shot a Palestinian armed with a knife who entered a West Bank settlement south of Jerusalem. The Palestinian Health Ministry said 17-year-old Mutassim Atallah was killed in the Tekoa settlement.
The military said troops were searching the area for additional suspects, but provided no additional details about the incident.
In a separate incident, a Palestinian man allegedly stabbed an Israeli police officer outside Jerusalem’s Old City. Police said the knife-wielding man stabbed the policeman, and other officers at the scene near the Damascus Gate shot the assailant.
Paramedics said the officer was hospitalized in moderate condition. The attacker’s condition was not immediately clear. Sunday’s incidents were the latest in string of violent episodes in recent weeks, including deadly attacks inside Israel, an Israeli military crackdown in the West Bank, and clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at a major holy site in Jerusalem sacred to Jews and Muslims.
Earlier on Sunday Israeli police said forces captured two Palestinians who killed three people in a stabbing attack last week and fled the scene, sparking a massive manhunt and keeping the country on edge.
The two attackers went on a stabbing rampage in the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad on Thursday, Israel’s Independence Day, killing three and wounding at least four others before bolting.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told his Cabinet that forces captured “terrorists awash with incitement who killed with axes and unimaginable cruelty.”
He said Israel was entering a “new stage in the war on terror,” and said Israel was establishing a civilian national guard that would be deployed in emergency situations.
A joint statement by police, the military and the Shin Bet internal security agency said the men, identified as 19-and 20-year-old Palestinians, were caught near a quarry near Elad following a search that began Thursday by special forces and commando units using helicopters and other means.
5/10/2022 Nigerian airlines battle to keep flying over fuel cost hikes
Nigeria’s airlines say they are struggling to keep flying because the price of aviation fuel in the West African country has increased by 260%.
The country’s six airlines said they will continue domestic and regional flights thanks to a pledge by federal government officials to arrange help to offset their skyrocketing fuel prices, which now constitute 95% of their operating costs, the airlines said in a statement Sunday.
The Airline Operators of Nigeria had planned to protest the fuel increases by suspending local and regional flights but some of the airlines objected to the planned shutdown.
International crude oil prices have increased 40% since the beginning of the year, due to a combination of factors including Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Despite being Africa’s largest producer of crude oil, Nigeria, a country of more than 200 million people, still imports most of its fuel because it has very few functional refineries.
From wire reports
5/10/2022 Rebels kill dozens in eastern Congo’s Ituri province - Attack by CODECO group condemned as ‘barbaric’ by
Jean-Yves Kamale, ASSOCIATED PRESS
KINSHASA, Congo – Rebels in eastern Congo attacked a village near a mine in Ituri province, killing at least 52 people, government officials said.
Fighters with the group known as CODECO attacked the town of Kablangete on Sunday, said Jean-Pierre Bikilisende, the mayor of Mongwalu, which is 4 miles away.
In addition to those killed, 100 civilians were missing, Bikilisende said.
Congo’s government condemned the killings as a “barbaric and cowardly act of CODECO terrorists on innocent populations,” Congo’s Ministry of Communications said in a statement. The government said it is determined to restore peace in the region.
At least 38 civilians, including women and children, were killed at the Blakete-Plitu mining site, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York, “and more civilians were displaced and reported missing when the attackers set fire to the nearby Malika village, where they also reportedly raped six women.”
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo evacuated severely injured civilians on Monday to medical facilities in Bunia in Ituri Province, Dujarric said.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Congolese authorities to investigate the incidents, bring those responsible to justice, and ensure the peacekeeping mission’s immediate access to the area “to facilitate efforts to protect civilians,” Dujarric said.
The U.N. chief urged all armed groups in Congo to stop attacking civilians, participate in the political process and lay down their arms, he said.
Jean Ladis Maboso, an administrator in the affected area, called for justice.
“We condemn this killing of civilians. The militiamen executed civilians in the absence of security elements,” he said. “It is a criminal act that cannot go unnoticed.”
In February, CODECO fighters attacked the Djugu area and killed at least 60 people. Eastern Congo has been destabilized for years by attacks by several different rebel groups, including CODECO, that are vying for control of the mineral-rich area. The ongoing violence has prompted thousands of rural residents to flee their homes for safer areas.
The latest attack came a week after talks were held in Kenya between Congo’s government and rebel groups to establish peace and stability in the area.
5/12/2022 US, others: Africa is now main target of IS group - Group had been largely underground since 2019 by
Zeina Karam and Tarik El Barakah, ASSOCIATED PRESS
RABAT, Morocco – A senior U.S. official said Wednesday the world must remain vigilant about the continued threat posed by the Islamic State group around the globe – especially in Africa – a reminder of an unfinished war despite the overwhelming preoccupation with the conflict in Ukraine.
Victoria Nuland, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, said the threat from IS was particularly high on the African continent, which she said saw nearly 500 IS terrorist incidents in 2021 resulting in the deaths of more than 2,900 people.
“At the same time as we are preventing the resurgence of (IS) in Iraq and Syria, we need to remain vigilant to the continued threat it poses elsewhere in the world, especially here on the African continent,” she said.
Nuland spoke in the Moroccan city of Marrakech at the annual gathering of members of the global anti-IS coalition. She is co-chairing this year’s meeting of the 8-year-old, 83-member bloc with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita. The gathering aims to reaffirm attendees’ shared determination to continue fighting IS.
Nuland, the third highest-ranking U.S. diplomat, replaced Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who tested positive for COVID-19.
IS at the height of its power controlled more than 40,000 square miles stretching from Syria to Iraq and ruled over 8 million people. It lost its last patch of territory in eastern Syria in March 2019 following a yearslong global fight against the group.
Since that time, it has largely gone underground and waged a low-level insurgency, including roadside bombings, assassinations and hit-and-run attacks mostly targeting security forces in Iraq and Syria.
In recent months, the group has exploited economic collapse, lack of governance and growing ethnic tensions in the impoverished region to reverse counter-IS gains. Its attacks in the region included a major assault earlier this year to seize a prison in northeast Syria holding at least 3,000 IS detainees. In Afghanistan, IS militants have stepped up attacks on the country’s new rulers, the Taliban, as well as religious and ethnic minorities.
The group has claimed several attacks in Israel recently, and an Islamic State affiliate in Egypt on Sunday claimed an attack that targeted a water pumping station east of the Suez Canal, killing at least 11 soldiers.
“We remain clear on the state of the (IS) threat, which has not diminished,” said Bourita, warning that Africa has become the group’s main target, suffering 41% of all IS attacks worldwide.
Militants pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group remain active in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where they have been blamed for scores of attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians. Islamic extremists in Nigeria also have carried out violence under the banner of a group they call the Islamic State West Africa Province. More recently, ISaffiliated militants have claimed responsibility for deadly violence targeting Congolese soldiers and bars in the country’s embattled east.
In recent months, IS has exploited economic collapse, lack of governance and
growing ethnic tensions in the Middle East to reverse counter-IS gains. AP FILE
5/12/2022 Reporter killed during Israeli raid - Comes amid ICC’s war crimes probe of military by Joseph Krauss and Fares Akram, ASSOCIATED PRESS
JERUSALEM – Veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, one of the satellite channel’s best-known reporters, was shot and killed on Wednesday while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank. The broadcaster and two reporters who were with her blamed Israeli forces.
The Israeli army initially suggested that Abu Akleh might have been killed by stray fire from Palestinian militants. But the military chief, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, later stepped back from that assertion, saying it was unclear who had fired the deadly bullet.
Abu Akleh’s death could draw new scrutiny of Israel’s military justice system, which is being examined as part of a war crimes probe conducted by the International Criminal Court. It also threatened to further strain often rocky relations between the army and the international media.
Abu Akleh, 51, was a respected and familiar face in the Middle East, known for her coverage on Al Jazeera Arabic of the harsh realities of Israel’s open-ended military occupation, now in its 55th year. She was widely recognized in the West Bank and was also a U.S. citizen.
Her death reverberated across the region. Arab governments condemned the killing.
There was also an outpouring of grief in the West Bank. In Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian autonomy government, Abu Akleh’s body, draped in a Palestinian flag and covered by a wreath of flowers, was carried through downtown streets. Hundreds chanted, 'with our spirit, with our blood, we will redeem you, Shireen.'
On Thursday, a procession was to take the body for burial in Jerusalem, where Abu Akleh was born.
In east Jerusalem, dozens of mourners gathered at the family home to honor her. Lina Abu Akleh, her niece, called her 'my best friend, my second mom, my companion.'
'I never thought this day would come, where the news would be about her and she won’t be the one covering the news,' she said.
At one point, a group of Israeli police entered the home, where they were immediately met with shouts of 'killers' and 'occupiers' and chants to 'get out.' It was not immediately clear why the police came, and the officers quickly left.
Palestinians gathered outside the family’s house on Wednesday evening, some holding Palestinian flags and posters with Shireen Abu Akleh’s photo. When the group walked toward a main thoroughfare, Israeli police tried to stop them. Scuffles ensured. Five Palestinians were hurt, and about half a dozen were detained.
Abu Akleh was killed on the outskirts of the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, known as a bastion of militants. Israel has conducted near-daily raids in Jenin in recent weeks following a series of deadly attacks inside Israel carried out by militants from the area.
Kohavi, the Israeli military chief, said his forces came under attack by indiscriminate fire from Palestinian militants. The army released a bodycam video of forces in the town while heavy fire is heard in the background.
But after earlier suggestions by Israeli officials that Palestinian fire may have killed the journalist, Kohavi said 'at this stage we cannot determine by whose fire she was harmed and we regret her death.' Kohavi said a special team was being formed to investigate.
Al Jazeera accused Israel of 'deliberately targeting and killing our colleague.' Palestinian journalists who were with Abu Akleh at the time said they made their presence known to Israeli soldiers, and that they did not see militants in the area.
Abu Akleh’s producer, Palestinian journalist Ali Samoudi, was hospitalized in stable condition after being shot in the back. He said any suggestion they were shot by militants was a 'complete lie.'
The outcome of Israel’s military investigation will be closely watched. The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into possible war crimes by Israel in both the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israel does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and has called the investigation unfair and antisemitic. One of its key arguments against the probe has been that its military justice system is capable of investigating itself.
The Palestinian forensics institute said an initial autopsy was inconclusive. Rayan al-Ali, director of the institute, said a deformed bullet was recovered and was being further studied to determine who had fired it.
In New York, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called Abu Akleh’s death 'really horrifying' and called for a transparent investigation. She said protecting American citizens and journalists was 'our highest priority.'
Thomas-Greenfield said Abud Akleh did 'an extraordinary interview' with her in the West Bank last November. 'I left there feeling extraordinary respect for her,' she said.
The U.N. Human Rights office urged for an 'independent, transparent investigation into her killing. Impunity must end.'
The White House also called for a thorough probe. 'Investigating attacks on independent media and prosecuting those responsible are of paramount importance,' deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Al Jazeera, which has long had strained relations with Israel, interrupted its broadcast to announce her death early Wednesday.
In a statement flashed on its channel, it called on the international community to 'condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for deliberately targeting and killing our colleague.'
It aired a separate video showing Abu Akleh lying motionless on the side of a road wall as another journalist crouches nearby and a man screams for an ambulance. Gunfire rings out in the background. Both reporters were wearing blue flak jackets clearly marked with the word 'PRESS.' The video did not show the source of the gunfire.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security matters, condemned what it said was a 'shocking crime' committed by Israeli forces.
An outdoor screen shows a picture of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and Arabic that reads, 'goodbye
Shireen, the voice of Palestine,' Wednesday at the center of the West Bank city of Ramallah. Nasser Nasser/AP
5/13/2022 Qatari emir supports talks of reviving nuclear deal - Official met with leaders in Iran in ‘turning point’ between countries by Nasser Karimi, ASSOCIATED PRESS
TEHRAN, Iran – Qatar’s emir met with Iranian leaders on Thursday, offering support for efforts to revive the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, even as talks on the tattered accord remain deadlocked.
Despite its small size, the tiny Gulf Arab sheikdom plays a strategic role as a quiet mediator and negotiator in a region rife with sectarian and political conflict. Qatar’s ties with both Washington and Tehran allow Doha to relay viewpoints between the two.
“We believe that negotiation is the solution of the problem,” the official IRNA news agency quoted visiting Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani as saying after meeting President Ebrahim Raisi.
The two also discussed a range of other issues, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and the war in Yemen.
Raisi seized the opportunity to slam Western nations, insisting that their presence is not “providing security in the region” but “harming the security.” Iran sees the presence of U.S. forces in neighboring countries – on its doorstep – as a threat.
Raisi described Sheikh Tamim’s one-day visit to Tehran as a turning point in relations between Iran and Qatar.
Later in the day, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has final say on all state matters, said during his meeting with the emir that their two nations should significantly boost their economic and political ties.
But Khamenei also urged the Arab world and particularly Qatar to offer more support for the Palestinian cause in its conflict with Israel, an archenemy of Iran.
The emir’s visit came as the European Union’s coordinator on nuclear talks, Enrique Mora, was still in Iran. The talks in Vienna have been stalled for months, apparently over an Iranian demand that Washington lift a terrorism designation on Iran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.
Mora met with the Iranian nuclear negotiator on Wednesday, just after Iranian intelligence services announced they had detained two European citizens. Talks continued on Thursday, Iranian media reported without giving details.
In Paris, France’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that two French nationals have been arrested in Iran and French authorities have “fully mobilized” to secure their swift release.
Workers Force trade union identified the two as Cecile Kohler, a teachers’ union official, and her partner. It said they were on a tourist trip to Iran as part of an Easter vacation. The union said it was made aware of the arrests Wednesday.
The French government condemned “this groundless arrest” and calls for immediate release of the two. France did not say what charges the two face.
Another French citizen, Benjamin Briere, was sentenced in January by Iran to over eight years in prison for espionage, for photographing “prohibited areas” with a drone in 2020 during what he said was a tourist visit in the north of the country.
The emir, who will visit Europe soon, hosted Raisi in February.
“We believe that negotiation is the solution of the problem.” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
Iran President Ebrahim Raisi, right, and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani talk during
their joint press briefing at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran. IRANIAN PRESIDENCY OFFICE VIA AP
5/13/2022 Rwanda genocide suspect is confirmed dead - UN-backed tribunal indicates Mpiranya allegedly died in 2006 by Ignatius Ssuuna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
KIGALI, Rwanda – A Rwandan fugitive wanted for allegedly playing a major role in the country’s 1994 genocide has been confirmed dead, a prosecutor with a U.N.-backed tribunal said Thursday.
Protais Mpiranya, “the last of the major fugitives” indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, died in 2006 in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor with the U.N. International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said in a statement.
“For the victims of his crimes, Mpiranya was a feared and notorious fugitive” as leader of the presidential guard during the genocide, he said.
“Confirming his death provides the solace of knowing that he cannot cause further harm.”
With the confirmed death of Mpiranya, there are now only five outstanding fugitives under the tribunal’s jurisdiction, the statement said.
The announcement in The Hague followed years of an investigation into the whereabouts of Mpiranya, who eluded arrest by using aliases.
He had been charged with multiple counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“Notably, he was charged with responsibility for the murders of senior moderate Rwandan leaders at the start of the genocide, including Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana” and other national leaders, the statement said. The mass killing of Rwanda’s Tutsi population was ignited on April 6, when a plane carrying President Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down and crashed in Kigali, the capital, killing the leader who, like most Rwandans, was an ethnic Hutu.
The Tutsi were blamed for downing the plane, and although they denied it, bands of Hutu extremists began killing them, including children, with support from the army, police and militias.
5/13/2022 Palestinians mourn slain journalist by Majdi Mohammed and Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
RAMALLAH, West Bank – Thousands gathered to mourn a slain Al Jazeera journalist in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday, as the head of the Palestinian Authority blamed Israel for her death and rejected Israeli calls for a joint investigation.
Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American reporter who covered the Mideast conflict for more than 25 years, was shot dead Wednesday during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank town of Jenin. Journalists who were with her, including one who was shot and wounded, said Israeli forces fired upon them even though they were clearly identifiable as reporters.
Israel says it is investigating the incident. It initially suggested she might have been shot by Palestinian militants, without providing evidence, but has since backtracked. Israel is calling for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank and cooperates with it on security.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ejected that proposal, saying “we hold the Israeli occupation authorities fully responsible for killing her.”
“They cannot hide the truth with this crime,” Abbas said in an address as Abu Akleh’s body lay in state with a Palestinian flag draped over it in Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered.
“They are the ones who committed the crime, and because we do not trust them, we will immediately go to the International Criminal Court,” Abbas said.
The ICC launched an investigation into possible Israeli war crimes over a year ago. Israel has rejected that probe as being biased against it.
Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior aide to Abbas, said that the Palestinians would conduct their own probe and convey the results “with high transparency.” He rejected an Israeli request to conduct its own ballistic analysis on the bullet.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accused the Palestinians of denying Israel “access to the basic findings required to get to the truth.” He called on the Palestinian Authority to not take “any steps to disrupt the investigation or to contaminate the investigation process.”
Abu Akleh was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin, which has emerged as a militant bastion in recent weeks as Palestinians have carried out a series of deadly attacks and Israel has launched military raids across the occupied West Bank.
The Qatar-based Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately killing her and vowed to take legal action. Reporters who were with her said there were no Palestinian militants in the area.
Israeli officials initially suggested Abu Akleh was struck by militant fire and released a video showing gunmen firing at Israeli forces in a narrow alley inside the Jenin refugee camp. They later backtracked after an Israeli human rights group released its own video showing the site of the shooting was several hundred meters away from where Abu Akleh was killed.
The 51-year-old was well-known as a veteran on-air correspondent for Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language channel. Her reporting shed light on the harsh realities of Israeli military rule.
Thousands gathered Thursday in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah
to mourn slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. NASSER NASSER/AP
5/14/2022 UN humanitarian official urges attention to drought in Kenya
TURKANA, Kenya – A top United Nations humanitarian official has raised concern about people going hungry in a remote part of northern Kenya, joining calls for the international community to commit more resources to address the wider region’s drought crisis. “The world’s attention is elsewhere, and we know that,” Martin Griffiths, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said during a visit to the region Thursday. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought conditions a national disaster last September.
5/14/2022 Erdogan against letting Finland, Sweden in NATO by Jari Tanner and Suzan Fraser, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, 'We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland,
but we are not of a favorable opinion' regarding their joining NATO. Turkish Presidency via AP
HELSINKI – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his country is 'not favorable' toward Finland and Sweden joining NATO, indicating that Turkey could use its status as a member of the Western military alliance to veto moves to admit the two countries.
'We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland, but we are not of a favorable opinion,' Erdogan told reporters.
The Turkish leader explained his opposition by citing Sweden and other Scandinavian countries’ alleged support for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers terrorists.
He said he also did not want to repeat Turkey’s past 'mistake' from when it agreed to readmit Greece into NATO’s military wing in 1980. He claimed the action had allowed Greece 'to take an attitude against Turkey by taking NATO behind it.'
Erdogan did not say outright that he would block any accession attempt the two Nordic nations might make, but NATO takes all its decisions by consensus, meaning that each of the 30 member countries has a potential veto over who can join.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that Finland and Sweden, should they formally apply to join the world’s biggest security organization, would be welcomed with open arms.
The accession procedure could be done in 'a couple of weeks,' several NATO officials have said, although it could take around six months for member countries to ratify the accession protocol.br>
Meanwhile, a report by the Swedish government on the changed security environment facing the country after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine says Moscow would react negatively to Sweden joining NATO and launch several countermeasures.
The Swedish government’s security policy analysis, which will be used as a basis for Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s Cabinet to decide whether to seek membership in the Western military alliance, was presented to Swedish lawmakers Friday.
Sweden’s governing Social Democratic Party, led by Andersson, is expected to reveal its decision on Sunday.
The report pointed to NATO membership carrying a number of advantages for Sweden – above all the collective security provided by the 30-member military alliance. At the same time, it lists numerous tactics Russia is likely to take in retaliation.
These would include cyber and hybrid attacks, and violations of Swedish airspace or territorial sea. Other aggressive behavior including strategic signaling with nuclear weapons is also conceivable, the report said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told lawmakers at the Riksdagen legislature that 'an armed attack on Sweden cannot be ruled out' and pointed to the security guarantee that NATO membership would offer.
The president and prime minister of Nordic neighbor Finland said Thursday they’re in favor of rapidly applying for NATO membership, paving the country’s way to formally announce membership bid in the coming days.
5/14/2022 Long-ailing leader of UAE dies at 73 - Sheikh Khalifa oversaw huge economic growth by Adam Schreck and Aya Batrawy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
An imam performs the Absentee Prayer for the death of Emirates President
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Friday. KAMRAN JEBREILI/AP
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates’ long-ailing ruler and president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, died Friday, the government announced in a brief statement. He was 73.
Sheikh Khalifa oversaw much of the country’s blistering economic growth and his name was immortalized on the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, after bailing out debt-crippled Dubai during its financial crisis over a decade ago.
However, after suffering a stroke and undergoing emergency surgery in 2014, a decade after becoming president, he ceased having any involvement in the day-to-day affairs of ruling the country.
The last several years of his life saw his half-brother Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed rise to become the de-facto ruler and decisionmaker of major foreign policy decisions, such as joining a Saudi-led war in Yemen and spearheading an embargo on Qatar in recent years. The crown prince, also the deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, shepherded the UAE’s budding ties with Israel after the two normalized relations in 2020.
The UAE announced a 40-day period of mourning and a three-day suspension of work across the government and private sector, including flags to be flown at half-staff.
There was no immediate announcement on a successor, although Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is anticipated to claim the presidency at a time of high oil prices, which boost the UAE’s spending power.
“The UAE has lost a loyal son, and the leader of its blessed empowerment journey,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed wrote on Twitter after his brother’s death was officially announced on state media. “Khalifa bin Zayed, my brother, supporter and mentor, may Allah Almighty grant you eternal peace.”
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Sheikh Khalifa “as a true friend of the United States,” adding that the U.S. remains committed to its steadfast friendship and cooperation with the UAE. Vice President Kamala Harris also expressed her condolences.
Ties have been strained between the Biden administration and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have not joined U.S. efforts in isolating Russia amid its war in Ukraine.
Messages of condolences also poured in from around the region and the world, foremost from leaders of Arab countries supported by Abu Dhabi. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said the country’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, also expressed condolences.
Sheikh Khalifa was the eldest son of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, widely revered by Emiratis as the country’s founding father. The federation recently marked its 50th anniversary.
Though he had been out of public sight since his stroke, Sheikh Khalifa’s image was ubiquitous, gracing every hotel lobby and major government office across the country. On occasion, Emirati state media published rare photographs and videos of Sheikh Khalifa.
The president holds the most powerful position among the seven semi-autonomous city-states of the UAE, which stretches along the shores of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Historically, the president is from Abu Dhabi, the largest and richest of the seven emirates. The vice president and prime minister is from Dubai, titles currently held by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Despite its size and wealth, Abu Dhabi often finds itself overshadowed by the glitzy emirate of Dubai, the commercial hub that showcases both the UAE’s bold visions and, at times, debt-fueled pipe dreams, including a massive palm-shaped man-made island that sits empty years after its construction.
The UAE’s regional power and influence, however, emanates from Abu Dhabi, which has most of the country’s oil and gas reserves. Dubai provides the UAE with a swirl of publicity and headline- grabbing lifestyle and entertainment stories that rights groups say distract from controversial policies decided in Abu Dhabi.
As Dubai’s fortunes began to falter along with the global economy in 2009, Sheikh Khalifa led efforts to protect the federation by pumping billions of dollars in emergency bailout funds to Dubai.
The two emirates do not always see eye-to-eye on foreign policy decisions and compete commercially with one another. In 2003, Sheikh Khalifa ordered the creation of a new airline, Etihad Airways, which competes with Dubai’s much larger Emirates Air.
Sheikh Khalifa increasingly used Abu Dhabi’s oil wealth to attract cultural and academic centers, such as a branch of the Louvre Museum and satellite campuses of New York University and the Sorbonne. He also presided over efforts to move the OPEC member beyond its reliance on petrodollars with investments in renewable energy research. The UAE announced last year a net-zero emissions pledge by 2050, even as it expands investments in oil and gas for export.
He has been credited with overseeing the creation and growth of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, now one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds with close to $700 billion in assets, according to estimates by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.
Sheikh Khalifa was born in 1948 in the inland oasis of Al Ain, near the border with the sultanate of Oman. He was trained at Sandhurst, the royal military academy in England.
In 1969, Sheikh Khalifa was named as Abu Dhabi prime minister and chairman of the emirate’s Department of Defense, which later became the core of the UAE’s armed forces.
Khalifa helped boost the UAE’s regional profile by bulking up its military with hefty purchases from U.S. weapons manufacturers. He sent warplanes to the NATO-led mission against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya in 2011. In 2014, the Emirates became one of the most prominent Arab participants in U.S.-led airstrikes against the militant Islamic State group in Syria.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the U.S. will honor Sheikh Khalifa’s legacy “through our strong defense partnership with the United Arab Emirates.” The head of U.S Central Command in the Mideast, Gen. Michael Kurilla, said “the strategic partnership between the armed forces of our two countries is ironclad.” He had a meeting in Abu Dhabi with its crown prince on Thursday.
Although the UAE’s ruling sheikhs hold near absolute power, Sheikh Khalifa began an experiment with elections by allowing limited voting – by a handpicked electorate – for half the members of a 40-seat federal advisory body in 2006. Subsequent rounds of elections in 2011 and 2015 failed to attract even two out of five of those given a chance to vote.
The UAE saw none of the Arab Spring street protests that shook other parts of the region, though in the wake of that unrest, Sheikh Khalifa oversaw crackdowns on Islamists and other activists in the country, drawing criticism from international rights groups. The UAE, which views Islamist movements as a threat to its ruling system, also supported efforts in the region to quash the Muslim Brotherhood, including in Egypt.
Under his presidency, the UAE joined Saudi Arabia in sending forces to Bahrain to quell an uprising there by the country’s majority Shiite population demanding greater rights from the island nation’s Sunni leadership.
Questions were raised during Khalifa’s rule about the UAE’s use of foreign military contractors, including one linked to the founder of the former Blackwater security firm, Erik Prince, who moved to Abu Dhabi in 2009.
A U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks in 2010 uncharitably described the president as “a distant and uncharismatic personage.”
Sheikh Khalifa was believed to be among the world’s richest rulers with a personal fortune estimated by Forbes magazine in 2008 at $19 billion. He built a palace in the Seychelles, an island chain nation in the Indian Ocean, and faced complaints there about causing water pollution from the construction site.
His personal life was not much in the public eye. Like many in the Gulf Arab states, he was passionate about the traditional sport of falconry and was said to enjoy fishing.
He is known to have had eight children – two sons and six daughters – with his first wife, Sheikha Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei. He is also survived by several grandchildren.
Emirati President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is shown with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a welcome
ceremony for the latter at the presidential palace in Abu Dhabi in January 2008. ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
5/14/2022 Violence breaks out at funeral for journalist - Casket falls as Israeli riot police beat mourners by Josef Federman, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Palestinian mourners carry the casket of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aklel during her funeral
procession from the church toward the cemetery in Jerusalem. RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
JERUSALEM – Israeli riot police on Friday pushed and beat mourners at the funeral for slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, causing them to briefly drop the casket in a shocking start to a procession that turned into perhaps the largest display of Palestinian nationalism in Jerusalem in a generation.
The scenes of violence were likely to add to the sense of grief and outrage across the Arab world that has followed the death of Abu Akleh, who witnesses said was killed by Israeli troops Wednesday during a raid in the occupied West Bank. They also illustrated the deep sensitivities over east Jerusalem – which is claimed by Israel and the Palestinians and has sparked repeated rounds of violence.
Abu Akleh, 51, was a household name across the Arab world, synonymous with Al Jazeera’s coverage of life under Israeli rule, which is well into its sixth decade. A 25-year veteran of the satellite channel, she was revered by Palestinians as a local hero. Thousands of people, many waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Palestine! Palestine!” attended the funeral. It was believed to be the largest Palestinian funeral in Jerusalem since Faisal Husseini, a Palestinian leader and scion of a prominent family, died in 2001.
Ahead of the burial, a large crowd gathered to escort her casket from an east Jerusalem hospital to a Catholic church in the nearby Old City. Many of the mourners held Palestinian flags, and the crowd began shouting, “We sacrifice our soul and blood for you, Shireen.”
Shortly after, Israel police moved in, pushing and clubbing mourners. As the helmeted riot police approached, they hit pallbearers, causing one man to lose control of the casket as it dropped toward the ground. Police ripped Palestinian flags out of people’s hands and fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
Abu Akleh’s brother, Tony, said the scenes “prove that Shireen’s reports and honest words … had a powerful impact.”
Al Jazeera correspondent Givara Budeiri said the police crackdown was like killing Abu Akleh again.
“It seems her voice isn’t silent,” she said during a report.
East Jerusalem, home to the city’s most important Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day war. It claims all of the city as its eternal capital and has annexed the eastern sector in a move that is not internationally recognized.
The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state. Israel routinely clamps down on any displays of support for Palestinian statehood. The conflicting claims to east Jerusalem often spill over into violence, helping to fuel an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza terrorists last year and recently sparking weeks of unrest at the city’s most sensitive holy site.
Police said the crowd at the hospital was chanting “nationalist incitement,” ignored calls to stop and threw stones at them. “The policemen were forced to act,” police said. They issued a video in which a commander outside the hospital warned the crowd that police will come in if they don’t stop their incitement and “nationalist songs.”
Shortly before midnight, the Israeli police issued a second statement claiming they had coordinated plans with the family for the casket to be placed in a vehicle, but that a “mob threatened the driver of the hearse and then proceeded to carry the coffin on an unplanned procession.” It said police intervened “so that the funeral could proceed as planned in accordance with the wishes of the family.”
The police claims could not be immediately verified. But earlier this week, Abu Akleh’s brother had said the original plans were to move the casket in a hearse from the hospital to the church, and that after the service, it would be carried through the streets to the cemetery.
Al Jazeera said in a statement the police action “violates all international norms and rights.”
“Israeli occupation forces attacked those mourning the late Shireen Abu Akhleh after storming the French hospital in Jerusalem, where they severely beat the pallbearers,” it said. The network added it remains committed to covering the news and will not be deterred.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the images “deeply disturbing.” The focus should be “marking the memory of a remarkable journalist who lost her life,” Psaki said. “We regret the intrusion into what should have been a peaceful procession.”
During a Rose Garden event, President Joe Biden was asked whether he condemns the Israeli police actions at the funeral, and he replied: “I don’t know all the details, but I know it has to be investigated.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he “was deeply disturbed by the confrontations between Israeli security forces and Palestinians gathered at St. Joseph Hospital, and the behavior of some police present at the scene,” according to a statement from his deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq.
Israeli police later escorted the casket in a black van, ripping Palestinian flags off the vehicle as it made its way to the church.
“We die for Palestine to live!” crowds chanted. “Our beloved home!”
Later, they sang the Palestinian national anthem and chanted “Palestine, Palestine!” before her body was buried in a cemetery outside the Old City.
Her grave was decorated with a Palestinian flag and flowers. The Palestinian ambassador to the U.K., Husam Zomlot, and Al Jazeera’s bureau chief, Walid Al-Omari, placed flowers on the grave.
Salah Zuheika, a 70-year-old Palestinian, called Abu Akleh “the daughter of Jerusalem,” and said the huge crowds were a “reward” for her love of the city. “We already miss her, but what had happened today in the city will not be forgotten,” he said.
Abu Akleh was a member of the small Palestinian Christian community in the Holy Land. Palestinian Christians and Muslims marched alongside one another Friday in a show of unity.
She was shot in the head during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank town of Jenin. But the circumstances of the shooting remain in dispute.
The Palestinians said army fire killed her, but the Israeli military said Friday she was killed during an exchange with fire with Palestinian militants. It said it could not determine who was responsible for her death without a ballistic analysis.
“The conclusion of the interim investigation is that it is not possible to determine the source of the fire that hit and killed the reporter,” the military said.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority and for it to hand over the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who fired the fatal round. The PA has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and send the results to the International Criminal Court, which has been investigating possible Israeli war crimes.
Reporters who were with Abu Akleh, including one who was shot and wounded, said there were no clashes or militants in the immediate area. All of them were wearing protective equipment that clearly identified them as reporters.
The PA and Al Jazeera, which has long had a strained relationship with Israel, have accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akleh. Israel denies the accusations.
Israeli police confront mourners and journalists covering the funeral of slain
Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in east Jerusalem. MAHMOUD ILLEAN/AP
5/15/2022 UAE unanimously approves new president by Jon Gambrell, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, left, meets with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the newly elected president
of the United Arab Emirates. MOHAMED AL-HAMMADI/MINISTRY OF PRESIDENTIAL AFFAIRS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Rulers in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday unanimously appointed Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the autocratic nation’s president, signaling both unity and stability in this key energy-rich country that hosts Western militaries.
The ascension of Sheikh Mohammed, 61, had been expected after the death Friday of his half-brother and the UAE’s president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at the age of 73. The transition of power marks only the third time this U.S.-allied nation of seven sheikhdoms has selected a president since becoming an independent nation in 1971.
Under Sheikh Mohammed, who has been the nation’s de facto leader since Sheikh Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014, the UAE had tried to project power militarily across the wider region as it joined a Saudi-led war in Yemen.
But since the lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic, Sheikh Mohammed and the wider UAE has tried to recalibrate its approach by largely pulling out of the war and seeking diplomatic detentes with rivals. The UAE also diplomatically recognized Israel, which shares Sheikh Mohammed’s longstanding suspicion of Iran. However, ties to the U.S. have strained in recent years – something Washington hopes to address with Vice President Kamala Harris leading a delegation Monday to Abu Dhabi.
The state-run WAM news agency described the vote at Al-Mushrif Palace as unanimous among the leaders of the country’s hereditarily ruled sheikhdoms, which includes Dubai.
“His assumption of the responsibility of the presidency represents a new historical era and a new birth,” said Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. “We look forward to the acceleration of development aimed at consolidating the global sovereignty and pioneering of the Emirates.”
There had been only one death of a president before Friday in the country’s history, which saw Sheikh Khalifa take over for both his and Sheikh Mohammed’s father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, after his death in 2004. Sheikh Zayed, whose name graces a major highway linking the Emirates and whose face appears everywhere in the nation, widely remains viewed as the country’s founding father.
The UAE as a whole is observing a three-day mourning period, which will see businesses shut across the country and performances halted in Sheikh Khalifa’s honor. Electronic billboards all showed the late sheikh’s image in Dubai on Friday night as flags flew at half-staff. A wider mourning period of 40 days will go on beyond that.
Oman’s sultan was among the first leaders to visit Sheikh Mohammed on Saturday night. Others are expected in the coming days, including French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday. Harris also will meet with Sheikh Mohammed.
Sheikh Mohammed had been serving as the UAE’s de facto president since a 2014 stroke saw Sheikh Khalifa disappear from public view.
Known by the acronym MbZ, Sheikh Mohammed cultivated ties with the West that proved valuable for Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE that commands tens of billions of dollars in wealth funds from its oil and gas deposits. A U.S. diplomatic cable from 2004 released by WikiLeaks referred to him as “charismatic, savvy and very comfortable in the West.” He hosted then-President George W. Bush in 2008 at his desert estate, a visit complete with Bedouin tents and falcons.
The country hosts some 3,500 U.S. troops, many at Abu Dhabi’s Al-Dhafra Air Base, from where drones and fighter jets flew missions combating the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Dubai also is the U.S. Navy’s busiest port of call abroad.
The Pentagon said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Sheikh Mohammed on Saturday and said “he looks forward to strengthening the important defense partnership that expanded” under the late president and “to deepening close ties” between the countries.
Sheikh Mohammed trained at the British military academy at Sandhurst and is a helicopter pilot. His military-first approach saw the UAE join Saudi Arabia in their bloody, yearslong war in Yemen that still rages to this day. Sheikh Mohammed has had a close relationship with neighboring Saudi Arabia’s own upstart crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. However, the Emirates has largely withdrawn its troops from Yemen.
A planned U.S. sale of advanced F-35 fighter jets to the UAE also appears stalled in part over American concerns about the Emirates’ relationship with China. Meanwhile, the UAE has been careful not to alienate Russia as Moscow wages war on Ukraine.
But Biden offered a warm statement Saturday saying he wanted to “congratulate my longtime friend” on “his election.”
“The UAE is an essential partner of the United States,” Biden said. “I look forward to working with Sheikh Mohammed to build from this extraordinary foundation to further strengthen the bonds between our countries and peoples.”
5/15/2022 Israel police to investigate conduct at funeral of slain Al Jazeera journalis by Josef Federman, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Israeli police clash with mourners as they carry the casket of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during
her funeral in east Jerusalem on Friday. Police said they will investigate the conduct of their officers. MAYA LEVIN/AP
JERUSALEM – Israeli police said Saturday they will investigate the conduct of their officers who clashed with mourners at the funeral of a slain Al Jazeera journalist during the ceremony in Jerusalem.
Police forces beat pallbearers with batons at the start of the funeral procession on Friday of Shireen Abu Akleh, who witnesses said was killed by Israeli troops Wednesday during a raid in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military said Palestinian gunmen were in the area and it’s not known who fired the fatal bullet.
The shocking scenes at the funeral, and the death of the 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist, drew worldwide condemnation and calls for investigations, including from the United States and the United Nations.
In a statement Saturday, the Israeli police said their commissioner has ordered an investigation that would be concluded in the coming days.
“The Israel Police supports its police officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will also draw lessons from the incident,” the statement said.
At the same time, top officials, including Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, appeared to be closing ranks in support of the officers, reiterating earlier claims that the troops at the funeral acted in response to violence. Human rights groups have said police in Jerusalem frequently use excessive force against Palestinians, without being investigated or held accountable.
The attack on the funeral added to a sense of grief and outrage that has followed the death of Abu Akleh, a veteran journalist and a household name across the Arab world. They also illustrated the deep sensitivities over east Jerusalem – which is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians and has sparked repeated rounds of violence.
Ahead of the burial, a large crowd gathered to escort her casket from an east Jerusalem hospital to a Catholic church in the nearby Old City. Many of the mourners held Palestinian flags, and the crowd began shouting: “We sacrifice our soul and blood for you, Shireen.”
Shortly after, Israeli police moved in, pushing and clubbing mourners. As helmeted riot police approached, they hit pallbearers, causing one man to lose control of the casket as it dropped toward the ground. Police ripped Palestinian flags out of people’s hands and fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. administration was “troubled by the images of Israeli police intruding into the funeral procession” of Abu Akleh, who was also an American citizen. “Every family deserves to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unimpeded manner,” he tweeted.
Blinken spoke Saturday morning with the family of Shireen Abu Akleh to express his deep condolences for their loss, a State Department official said. Blinken noted Abu Akleh’s journalistic body of work and the importance of a free and independent press in his comments, and he offered continued support of the State Department team in Jerusalem to their family, the official said. The official discussed Blinken’s remarks on condition of anonymity.
5/15/2022 Trial opens in killing of priest in Egypt - Defense lawyers claim attack not ‘deliberate’ by Samy Magdy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAIRO – A court in the Egyptian city of Alexandria began the trial Saturday of a man accused of stabbing to death a Coptic Christian priest, an attack that shocked the Arab world’s most populous country.
The case dates to early April when Arsanious Wadid, a 56-year-old priest, was killed at a popular seaside promenade in the Mediterranean city.
Nehru Tawfiq appeared before judges at a packed courtroom Saturday in Alexandria, in the first session of his trial. He denied the accusations.
Defense lawyers, in their initial argument, said that the attack was not a “deliberate” one.
The court’s top judge, Wahid Sabry, also questioned witnesses about the attack. One witness said the suspect stabbed the priest “because he was a Christian,” and attempted to attack bystanders when they intervened.
When judges asked the witness to recognize the suspect, he walked over to the defendant’s cage where the suspect was being held and identified him, according to a livestream on Facebook.
Prosecutors demanded the maximum punishment for the suspect, which could be a death sentence if he’s convicted.
Sectarian violence is not uncommon in Egypt. Islamic extremists have also targeted Christians in recent years, especially following the 2013 military ouster of an elected but divisive Islamist president.
In September 2017, an alleged Islamic State supporter stabbed to death an 82-year-old Christian doctor in Cairo. He was sentenced to death the following year. Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian community, have repeatedly complained of discrimination. They account for about 10% of Egypt’s over 103 million people.
At the end of the hours long court session, judges decided to adjourn the trial until May 18, when prosecutors and defense lawyers will continue their arguments.
5/16/2022 Ailing Lebanon votes for new parliament, but big shift unlikely by Bassem Mroue and Zeina Karam, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Election officials count ballots Sunday in the northern Lebanese city
of Tripoli shortly after polling stations closed. BILAL HUSSEIN/AP
BEIRUT – When Lebanon’s economic collapse accelerated six months ago, Abdul-Hamid Yamout lost his job at Beirut’s international airport – and with it all sense of security.
Since then, he’s struggled to provide for his family, worrying constantly about the future of his two children. On Sunday, he planned to use the ballot box to punish the ruling class by voting for a list of independents.
“I will give them my vote because they want change,” he said, recalling his participation in nationwide protests against government corruption in 2019.
Yamout, 39, who now sews curtains in order to survive, was among those voting for a new parliament Sunday, hoping to unseat the entrenched politicians they blame for the crisis.
A new crop of candidates from the protest movement are running against them, hoping to at least score a breakthrough by picking up a few seats. But they are divided and lack the money, experience and other advantages held by traditional political rulers.
The vote is taking place against the backdrop of an economic meltdown that is rapidly transforming the country, triggering the biggest wave of emigration since its 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
“There are no jobs, they blew us up at the port, I can’t find baby formula for my children and cannot treat my elderly parents,” Yamout cried, in reference to a massive explosion at the Beirut port in August 2020 that levelled the city.
Sunday’s vote is the first since Lebanon’s implosion started in October 2019, triggering widespread anti-government protests.
It is also the first election since the port explosion that killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed parts of Lebanon’s capital. The blast, widely blamed on negligence, was set off by hundreds of tons of poorly stored ammonium nitrate that ignited in a port warehouse.
For many, it is seen as a chance to punish the current crop of politicians, most of whom derive their power from Lebanon’s sectarian political system and spoils taken at the end of its 15-year civil war in 1990. But expectations were low that it would significantly alter the political landscape, amid widespread resignation that the system was rigged to bring back the same powerful political parties.
Turnout appeared to be low by early afternoon, at around 27 percent.
The election, the first since 2018, is also being closely watched to see whether the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies can preserve their parliamentary majority amid rising poverty and hardship.
“I did what I can do, and I know the situation will not change 180 degrees,” said Rabah Abbas, 74, after casting his ballot in Beirut. He fears the vote is only symbolic and that Lebanon will be stuck again in post-election political bickering over the formation of a new government and electing a new president in October.
Polls closed at 7 p.m. local time and official results are expected on Monday.
The extent of Lebanon’s collapse was on full display Sunday. In the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon’s most impoverished, several polling stations were without electricity as voters, including the elderly, had to climb several flights of stairs to cast their ballots. Voters and election workers were seen using the light from their mobile phones to check names and lists during the balloting.
Mainstream political parties and politicians remained strong going into the vote, while opposition figures and civil society activists hoping to unseat them are fractured and numerous, creating a confusing electoral landscape for voters.
Money flowed, with political parties offering cash bribes, sandwiches, transportation and other favors to voters.
Yamout said he was offered three million Lebanese pounds (around $110) by one of the political parties in return for his vote, an offer that he says he rejected, saying: “I voted for them in the past and it was a big mistake.”
Since the meltdown began, tens of thousands of people like Yamout have lost their jobs, the Lebanese pound has shed more than 90% of its value and many people have left to seek opportunities abroad. Three quarters of the country’s 6 million people, including 1 million Syrian refugees, now live in poverty.
The World Bank has described Lebanon’s collapse as one of the world’s worst in the past 150 years. A U.N. official who was on a visit to Lebanon this week described it as a “failing state" and blamed politicians.
Some 718 candidates on 103 lists are running for seats in the 128-member parliament, which is equally divided between Muslims and Christians according to Lebanon’s power-sharing system. The vote is held once every four years. In 2018, voters gave the powerful Hezbollah and its allies the majority with 71 seats.
Lebanon has more than 3.5 million eligible voters, many of whom will cast their ballots in its 15 electoral districts.
Reflecting the tensions, fist fights broke out between Hezbollah supporters and those of the Saudi-backed Christian Lebanese Forces party, which has been among the most vocal critic of the Iran-armed group. The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, LADE, said its delegates were forced to withdraw from two polling stations following threats by Hezbollah supporters and their allies of the Shiite Amal group.
The vote this year comes as the main Sunni political leader, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, suspended his work in politics and called for a Sunni boycott. Hezbollah and its allies were looking to exploit that vacuum.
In a sign of how ideology and political allegiances often take precedent in Lebanon, Qassim Shtouni, 71, drove all the way from his village in southern Lebanon to Beirut to vote. He said he chose an alliance consisting of several mainstream groups including Hezbollah, President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal group of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
Sitting on a plastic chair outside a polling station, Shtouni said the main reason he voted for a Hezbollah-led alliance is “because my vote will be against normalization with Israel.” He noted recent agreements between Israel and Gulf Arab countries.
5/16/202 Somali lawmakers elect former president voted out 5 years ago by Omar Faruk, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is seen at the Halane military camp in
Mogadishu, Somalia, after his election victory. FARAH ABDI WARSAMEH/AP
MOGADISHU, Somalia – A former Somali president voted out of power in 2017 has been returned to the nation’s top office after defeating the incumbent leader in a protracted contest decided by legislators in a third round of voting late Sunday.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who served as Somalia’s president between 2012 and 2017, won the contest in the capital, Mogadishu, amid a security lockdown imposed by authorities to prevent deadly militant attacks.
“Victory belongs to Somali people, and this is the beginning of the era of unity, the democracy of Somalia and the beginning of the fight against corruption,” Mohamud said after winning the vote.
He added that he saw “a daunting task ahead” after winning back authority.
The first round of voting was contested by 36 aspirants, four of whom proceeded to the second round. With no candidate winning at least two-thirds of the 328 ballots, voting then went into a third round where a simple majority was enough to pick the winner.
Members of the upper and lower legislative chambers picked the president in secret balloting inside a tent in an airport hangar within the Halane military camp, which is protected by African Union peacekeepers. Mohamud’s election ended a long-delayed electoral process that had raised political tensions – and heightened insecurity concerns – after President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s mandate expired in February 2021 without a successor in place.
Mohamed and Mohamud sat side-by-side Sunday, watching calmly as the ballots were counted. Celebratory gunfire rang out in parts of Mogadishu as it became clear that Mohamud had defeated the man who replaced him.
Mohamed conceded defeat, and Mohamud was immediately sworn in.
The 66-year-old Mohamud is the leader of the Union for Peace and Development party, which commands a majority of seats in both legislative chambers. He also is well-known for his work as a civic leader and education promoter, including for his role as one of the founders of Mogadishu’s SIMAD University.
The Somali government under Mohamed faced a May 17 deadline to hold the vote or risk losing funding from international partners. Mohamed – who is also known as Farmaajo because of his appetite for Italian cheese – said on Twitter while voting was underway that it was “a great honor to lead” Somalia.
For Mohamed and his supporters, Sunday’s loss will be disappointing after he rose to power in 2017 as a symbol of a Somali diaspora eager to see the country prosper after years of turmoil. Mohamed leaves behind a country even more volatile than he found it, with a reported rift in the security services and the constant drumbeat of al-Shabab attacks.
Analysts had predicted that Mohamed would face an uphill battle to be reelected. No sitting president has ever been elected to two consecutive terms in this Horn of Africa nation, where rival clans fight intensely for political power. In winning the vote, however, Mohamud overcame the odds as no former president had ever launched a successful return to the office.
A member of the Hawiye clan, one of Somalia’s largest, Mohamud is regarded by some as a statesman with a conciliatory approach. Many Somalis hope Mohamud can unite the country together after years of divisive clan tensions but also take firm charge of a federal government with little control beyond Mogadishu. Mohamud promised during campaigns that his government would be inclusive, acknowledging the mistakes of his previous government that faced multiple corruption allegations and was seen as aloof to the concerns of rival groups.
The new president “will get an opportunity to heal a nation in desperate need of peace and stability,” said Mogadishu resident Khadra Dualeh. “The country doesn’t need celebrations; we did that for Farmaajo. Enough celebration. We need prayer, being sober and planning how to rebuild the country.”
Al-Shabab, which has ties with al-Qaida, has made territorial gains against the federal government in recent months, reversing the gains of African Union peacekeepers who once had pushed the militants into remote areas of the country.
But al-Shabab is threatening Mogadishu with repeated assaults on hotels and other public areas. Despite the lockdown, explosions were heard near the airport area as legislators gathered to elect the president.
To discourage extremist violence from disrupting the elections, Somali police put Mogadishu, the scene of regular attacks by the Islamic rebel group al-Shabab, under a lockdown that started at 9 p.m. on Saturday.
5/16/2022 Tourists accused of stealing antiquities by Samya Kullab, ASSOCIATED PRESS
BAGHDAD – Two tourists – a Briton and a German – accused of smuggling ancient shards out of Iraq appeared in a Baghdad court in yellow detainee uniforms Sunday, telling judges they had not acted with criminal intent and had no idea they might have broken local laws.
The trial of Jim Fitton, 66, is grabbing international attention at a time when Iraq seeks to open up its nascent tourism sector. The session also revealed first details about a second defendant, identified as Volker Waldmann, of Germany.
The three-judge panel in Baghdad’s felony court scheduled the next hearing for May 22. The court must determine whether the defendants had sought to profit by taking the 12 items, which were found in their possession as they attempted to fly out of the Baghdad airport March 20.
Fitton and Waldmann appeared in court and were asked to explain their actions.
Waldmann said the two items found in his possession were not his and instead had been given to him by Fitton to carry. “But did you put them in your bag?” asked head judge Jaber Abdel Jabir. “Didn’t you know these were Iraqi antiquities?”
Waldmann said he didn’t pick up the items from the site, only agreed to carry them for Fitton.
Fitton said he “suspected” the items he collected were ancient fragments, but “at the time I didn’t know about Iraqi laws” or that taking the shards was not permitted, he said.
5/16/2022 Israeli high court rejects petitions against Jerusalem cable car plans
JERUSALEM – Israel’s Supreme Court rejected four petitions on Sunday that sought to derail controversial plans to build a cable car to Jerusalem’s Old City, allowing the project to progress. Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem, environmentalists, urban planners, archaeologists and a small community from the Jewish Karaite sect had all lodged protests with the court in recent years. They said the project would harm the holy city’s historic character, desecrate a Karaite cemetery, and impact the lives and businesses of residents.
5/17/2022 Female running mate a first in Kenya - Karua nicknamed ‘iron lady’ for reputation by Associated Press
NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga on Monday chose a former justice minister as his running mate in elections set for August, making her the first-ever female candidate on a major presidential ticket in the East African country.
Martha Karua, an attorney and seasoned politician, has a reputation for speaking her mind and could prove a popular choice among voters excited to see a woman among the country’s top leaders.
Karua, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2013, is nicknamed “the iron lady” for her reputation as a tough competitor and has railed against official corruption.
“I believe in my heart of hearts that if we can erode the power of corruption in our midst, we can finally cross the Rubicon to the promised land,” she said in a speech Monday.
Odinga’s announcement came the day after his rival, Deputy President William Ruto, picked lawmaker Rigathi Gachagua as his running mate. Both running mates are ethnic Kikuyus – underscoring the importance of that voting bloc that encompasses a wide and ballot-rich part of central Kenya.
Odinga praised Karua as an “exceptional leader with high principles,” adding that by choosing her he has demonstrated his confidence in the leadership of women.
Opinion polls show a tight race between Odinga and Ruto in the increasingly feisty fight to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Martha Karua gives her acceptance speech flanked by her supporters in
Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday. TONY KARUMBA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
5/17/2022 Violence erupts in Jerusalem following Palestinian funeral by ASSOCIATED PRESS
Israeli police detain Palestinian demonstrators during clashes after the funeral
of Palestinian Waleed Shareef in east Jerusalem on Monday. MAHMOUD ILLEAN/AP
JERUSALEM – Israeli police fired tear gas and rubber bullets Monday as they tried to disperse crowds of stonethrowing Palestinian demonstrators following the funeral of a young Palestinian man who died from injuries sustained during confrontations with police last month. Dozens of people were reported wounded.
Hundreds of mourners joined the funeral procession for Waleed Shareef, who was pronounced dead Saturday. Shareef suffered a serious head injury April 22 as Israeli police fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site.
Mourners took Shareef’s body for prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque before proceeding to a cemetery outside the Old City. “With our souls and blood, we will redeem you, martyr,” the crowd chanted. Some held Palestinian flags.
Israeli police said demonstrators threw stones, sticks and fireworks toward security forces. They released videos showing protesters throwing objects toward police near the cemetery and another video of stones pelting a nearby street.
The police vowed to use a “firm hand” to stop violence that “turned a funeral into an out-of-control demonstration of violence.” The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service said 71 Palestinians were wounded from rubber bullets, stun grenades and beatings. Thirteen people required hospitalization, including two with eye injuries, it said.
Police said six officers were hurt. They said 20 Palestinians were arrested, including five people suspected in an attempted hit and run.
Monday’s violence came just days after police pushed and beat mourners at the Jerusalem funeral for Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known Al Jazeera journalist who was killed Wednesday while reporting on an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank.
Shareef, 21, was injured during violence April 22 at a contested compound that is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, home to the biblical Temples and the holiest site in Judaism. The competing claims to the site lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The compound has been the site of repeated confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators in recent weeks.
Palestinian witnesses and Shareef’s family say he was shot in the head with a rubber bullet, while Israeli authorities have suggested he died from injuries sustained when he fell on the ground.
Israeli police said demonstrators threw stones, sticks and fireworks toward security forces. MAHMOUD ILLEAN/AP
5/18/2022 UN envoy: Talks on to extend Yemen’s 2-month cease-fire by Edith M. Lederer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Yemenis walk in the rebel-besieged city of Taiz on Tuesday. Taiz is partially held by forces loyal to the
government and has been blockaded by the Houthis for years. AHMAD AL-BASHA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
UNITED NATIONS – With just two weeks left in a two-month cease-fire in Yemen, the U.N. envoy to the war-torn country said Tuesday that talks with the government and Houthi rebels are going on right now and he hopes the truce will be extended.
But Hans Grundberg was wary of making any prediction, saying that agreement on an extension would depend on the talks that he and his office are having with the warring parties.
“During these past six weeks we have seen considerable positive impact on the daily lives of many Yemenis,” he told reporters after a closed briefing to the U.N. Security Council. “First, and most importantly, the truce is holding in military terms.”
The two-month truce is the first nationwide cease-fire in six years in Yemen’s civil war, which erupted in 2014. That year, the Iranian-backed Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and forced the internationally recognized government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power.
The conflict created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world while becoming a regional proxy war in recent years. More than 150,000 people have been killed, including over 14,500 civilians. Since the truce, Grundberg said, “fighting has sharply reduced with no aerial attacks emanating from Yemen across its borders and no confirmed airstrikes inside Yemen.”
Among other welcome developments, Grundberg said, the first commercial flight in almost six years took off from Sanaa airport for Jordan’s capital, Amman, on Monday and another flight brought Yemenis back. A second flight to Amman is scheduled for Wednesday.
He said the Yemeni government’s clearance of 11 fuel ships to enter the country’s main port, Hodeida, means more fuel deliveries than during the six months before the truce. Yemen is dependent on imported food and basic supplies, but he said that since the truce the fuel crisis that had threatened civilians’ access to basic goods and services in Sanaa and surrounding regions “largely subsided.”
Grundberg said a priority now is to implement the truce agreement’s commitment to open roads in Taiz and other areas of Yemen, which would greatly ease travel and improve daily life, including going to work.
“We have gotten positive responses from the parties in order to move forward with that,” he said.
5/18/2022 Nigeria’s accountant-general arrested on corruption charges
ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria arrested the country’s accountant-general, accusing him of diverting millions of dollars from government coffers. Ahmed Idris was arrested “in connection with diversion of funds and money laundering activities to the tune of N80 billion ($192.4 million),” the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said in a statement Monday. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy but its development has been hampered by endemic corruption, say experts. Many public officials are being prosecuted for alleged corruption.
5/20/2022 Israel identifies gun that might have killed journalist by Josef Federman ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Israeli military identified a soldier’s rifle that might have killed journalist Abu Akleh, whose casket is being carried by mourners.
But Israel needs the bullet, which the Palestinians have and won’t turn over, to confirm its analysis. NASSER NASSER/AP FILE
JERUSALEM – The Israeli military has identified a soldier’s rifle that might have killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, but said it cannot be certain unless the Palestinians turn over the bullet for analysis, a military official said Thursday.
The confirmation marked a small sign of progress in the investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh, who was fatally shot on May 11 while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian officials, along with fellow journalists who were with Abu Akleh, have said Israeli troops stationed nearby killed her. The Israeli army said she was shot during a battle between troops and Palestinian gunmen, and it cannot be determined who fired the fatal bullet without a proper analysis.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinians. But the Palestinians, who have the bullet, have refused, saying they don’t trust Israel. They said they are conducting their own investigation and are ready to cooperate with any country except for Israel.
The military last week released the results of a preliminary investigation that offered two possible causes of death. It said that in one scenario, she might have been hit by Palestinian gunfire during a fierce shootout with Israeli troops.
In the second scenario, it said she might have been hit by an Israeli soldier who shot through a “designated firing hole” in a military vehicle at a Palestinian gunman who was shooting at the vehicle. It said it could not determine the source of fire without analyzing the bullet.
Asked for further details Thursday, the military official confirmed that investigators have turned their focus to a specific weapon.
He stressed that although the source of the shot is still unknown, “we have narrowed down the IDF weapon that might be involved in the fire exchange near Shireen.” He said if the Palestinians cooperate with the investigation, Israel will “hopefully be able to compare the bullet to that barrel and check if there is a match.” He spoke on condition of anonymity under military briefing guidelines.
Last Friday, the Palestinian public prosecutor said preliminary findings showed Abu Akleh was killed by deliberate fire from Israeli troops. The prosecutor said the investigation would continue.
Bellingcat, an independent Dutch based open-source research firm, has conducted its own analysis of material gathered largely from videos on social media. It said its initial findings lent support to Palestinian witnesses who said she was killed by Israeli fire.
Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American and 25-year veteran of the satellite channel, was killed in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank. She was a household name across the Arab world, known for documenting the hardship of Palestinian life under Israeli rule, now in its sixth decade.
The shooting drew condemnations and statements of concern from around the world. Israel also has been widely criticized for the behavior of police, who pushed and beat mourners at her funeral May 13, causing pallbearers to nearly drop her coffin.
5/20/2022 Jordan king’s half-brother restricted by ASSOCIATED PRESS
JERUSALEM – Jordan’s king has gone public with a royal rift with his half-brother and formalized the former crown prince’s house arrest, calling him “erratic” in an unprecedented harshly worded letter published Thursday.
King Abdullah II said in the letter that he had approved measures to detain Prince Hamzah in his palace and restrict his communications and movements, citing his half-brother’s “erratic behavior and aspirations.”
“We will provide Hamzah with all that he requires to live a comfortable life, but he will not have the space he once abused to offend the nation, its institutions, and his family, nor to undermine Jordan’s stability,” the king said.
King Abdullah had tried to keep the rift within the family, in part to protect the Hashemite Royal family brand. His harshly worded public condemnation of his half-brother is a potentially risky move. Hamzah has enjoyed considerable popularity, particularly among the Jordanian tribes, traditionally a bedrock of support for the monarchy.
Abdullah and Hamzah are sons of King Hussein, who ruled Jordan for nearly a half-century before his death in 1999. Abdullah had appointed Hamzah as crown prince upon his succession but stripped him of the title in 2004.
The monarch had placed Hamzah under house arrest in April 2021 for his alleged plot to destabilize the Western allied kingdom.
Abdullah had accused his brother of sedition but said the matter was being resolved within the family, with Hamzah remaining in his palace under the king’s protection.
5/23/2022 German chancellor kicks off Africa trip by Babacar Dione and Frank Jordans, ASSOCIATED PRESS
DAKAR, Senegal – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country is interested in a major gas exploitation project in Senegal as he began a three-nation visit to Africa on Sunday that also is focused on the geopolitical consequences of the war in Ukraine.
Senegal is believed to have significant deposits of natural gas along its border with Mauritania at a time when Germany and other European countries are trying to reduce their dependence on importing Russian gas.
“We have begun exchanges and we will continue our efforts at the level of experts because it is our wish to achieve progress,” Scholz said at a joint news briefing with Senegalese President Macky Sall.
The gas project off the coast of Senegal is being led by BP, and the first barrels are not expected until next year.
This week’s trip marks Scholz’s first to Africa since becoming chancellor nearly six months ago. Two of the countries he is visiting – Senegal and South Africa – have been invited to attend the Group of 7 summit in Germany at the end of June.
Participants there will try to find a common position toward Russia, which was kicked out of the then-Group of Eight following its 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.
Leaders at the G-7 summit also will be addressing the threat of climate change. Several G-7 countries, including Germany and the United States, signed a ‘just energy transition partnership’ with South Africa last year to help the country wean itself off heavily polluting coal.
A similar agreement is in the works with Senegal, where Germany has supported the construction of a solar farm.
German officials also said Scholz will make a stop in Niger, a country that like its neighbors has long been battling Islamic extremists.
Earlier this month, the German government backed a plan to move hundreds of its soldiers to Niger from neighboring Mali. The development comes amid a deepening political crisis in Mali that prompted former colonial power France to announce it was withdrawing its troops after nine years of helping Mali battle insurgents.
Germany officials say their decision also was motivated by concerns that Malian forces receiving EU training could cooperate with Russian mercenaries now operating in the country.
Germany, though, will increase its participation in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, providing up to 1,400 soldiers. The Cabinet’s decisions still need to be approved by parliament.
Niger is also a major transit hub for illegal migration to Europe.
5/23/2022 Israel reports first case of monkeypox, suspects others
TEL AVIV, Israel – Israeli authorities said they have detected the country’s first case of monkeypox in a man who returned from abroad and are looking into other suspected cases. Israel’s Health Ministry said late Saturday the man was in a Tel Aviv hospital in good condition. It called on anyone returning from abroad with fever and lesions to see a doctor. Israel’s case appeared to be the first identified in the Middle East. The World Health Organization has identified about 80 cases globally and roughly 50 more suspected cases.
5/23/2022 Turkey summons US ambassador over warning on police methods
ISTANBUL – The U.S. ambassador to Ankara has been summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry over a warning to U.S. citizens in Turkey about attending a political rally, state-run media said Sunday. The embassy posted a message May 18 ahead of an Istanbul rally for the opposition People’s Republican Party, or CHP, on Saturday. The state-run Anadolu news agency reported that Ambassador Jeffry Flake was summoned so the Turkish government could express its “discomfort” over “the unfounded allegations” in the U.S. warning.
5/23/2022 Arab Israeli lawmaker rejoins ruling coalition - Resignation had come over hard-line policies by ASSOCIATED PRESS
JERUSALEM – An Arab Israeli lawmaker who quit the ruling coalition said Sunday that she was returning to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s 60-member alliance, ending a crisis that lasted just a few days.
Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi said Thursday that she was quitting Bennett’s coalition, leaving it with just 59 members in Israel’s 120-seat parliament. She cited the government’s hard-line policies in Jerusalem and West Bank settlement construction that she said have alienated her constituents, fellow Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Two other legislators from Bennett’s own party have already broken ranks and joined the opposition, headed by former leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Rinawie Zoabi’s departure had raised the possibility of new parliamentary elections less than a year after Bennett’s broad coalition government took office. But even with a 60-member coalition that’s deadlocked with the opposition, passing legislation will remain difficult.
Recent Israeli-Palestinian tensions, set off by several deadly Palestinian attacks against Israel and Israeli arrest raids in the occupied West Bank, and fueled by repeated clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site, have shaken the coalition’s stability.
But on Sunday Rinawie Zoabi reversed course, saying that her main concern was securing “achievements for the needs of Arab society” in Israel, and preventing an ultranationalist extremist in the opposition from becoming the next minister in charge of police.
She made the announcement of her return to the coalition’s ranks after meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who wrote on Twitter that the two had “an open and reasonable conversation about the real needs of Arab society” and put aside their disagreements.
As leader of a small nationalist party Bennett heads an unwieldy coalition of eight diverse parties – from dovish factions supporting Palestinian statehood to ultranationalists and, for the first time in Israel’s history, an Islamist Arab party. They joined forces in June after four consecutive deadlocked elections with the aim of ousting longtime prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption.
As part of their union, the parties agreed to set aside divisive issues, like Palestinian statehood, and focus instead on topics such as the coronavirus pandemic and the economy. Despite its internal divisions, it has managed to pass a budget, navigate the pandemic and strengthen relations with both the Biden administration and Israel’s Arab allies.
5/24/2022 New sandstorm engulfs parts of Middle East, spurs more hardship by Samya Kullab, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Bedouin shepherds whose animals were banned from entering the Najaf governorate due to the spread
of the Crimean-Congo hemorragic fever, walk alongside their grazing flock in the al-Henniyah area outside
of Najaf, on Monday during a sandstorm sweeping the country. QASSEM AL-KAABI/AFP VIA GETTY
BAGHDAD – A sandstorm blanketed parts of the Middle East on Monday, including Iraq, Syria and Iran, sending people to hospitals and disrupting flights in some places.
It was the latest in a series of unprecedented nearly back-to-back sandstorms this year that have bewildered residents and raised alarm among experts and officials, who blame climate change and poor governmental regulations.
From Riyadh to Tehran, bright orange skies and a thick veil of grit signaled yet another stormy day Monday. Sandstorms are typical in late spring and summer, spurred by seasonal winds. But this year they have occurred nearly every week in Iraq since March.
Iraqi authorities declared the day a national holiday, urging government workers and residents to stay home in anticipation of the 10th storm to hit the country in the last two months. The Health Ministry stockpiled cannisters of oxygen at facilities in hard-hit areas, according to a statement.
The storms have sent thousands to hospitals and resulted in at least one death in Iraq and three in Syria’s east.
“Its a region-wide issue but each country has a different degree of vulnerability and weakness,” said Jaafar Jotheri, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Al-Qadisiyah in Baghdad.
In Syria, medical departments were put on alert as the sandstorm hit the eastern province of Deir el-Zour that borders Iraq, Syrian state TV said. Earlier this month, a similar storm in the region left at least three people dead and hundreds were hospitalized with breathing problems.
Dr. Bashar Shouaybi, head of the Health Ministry’s office in Deir el-Zour, told state TV that hospitals were prepared and ambulances were on standby. He said they have acquired an additional 850 oxygen tanks and medicine needed to deal with asthma patients.
Severe sandstorms have also blanketed parts of Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia this month.
For the second time this month, Kuwait International Airport suspended all flights Monday because of the dust.
Saudi Arabia’s meteorological association reported that visibility would drop to zero on the roads in Riyadh, the capital, this week. Officials warned drivers to go slowly. Emergency rooms in the city were flooded with 1,285 patients this month complaining they couldn’t breathe properly.
Iran last week shut down schools and government offices in the capital of Tehran over a sandstorm that swept the country. It hit hardest in the nation’s southwest desert region of Khuzestan, where over 800 people sought treatment for breathing difficulties. Dozens of flights out of western Iran were canceled or delayed.
Blame over the dust storms and heavy air pollution has mounted, with a prominent environmental expert telling local media that climate change, drought and government mismanagement of water resources are responsible for the increase in sandstorms. Iran has drained its wetlands for farming – a common practice known to produce dust in the region.
Alireza Shariat, the head of an association of Iranian water engineers, told Iran’s semiofficial ILNA news agency last month that he expected extensive dust storms to become an “annual springtime phenomenon” in a way Iran has never seen before.
In Iraq, desertification exacerbated by record-low rainfall is adding to the intensity of storms, said Jotheri, the geoarchaeologist. In a low-lying country with plenty of desert regions, the impact is almost double, he said.
“Because of 17 years of mismanagement of water and urbanization, Iraq lost more than two thirds of its green cover,” he said. “That is why Iraqis are complaining more than their neighbors about the sandstorms in their areas.”
5/24/2022 New floods in South Africa displace more than 300
JOHANNESBURG – More than 300 people were evacuated from their homes as a result of renewed heavy rains, flooding and mudslides in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, weeks after severe flooding killed more than 400 people and displaced more than 40,000 others. The new emergency has overstretched local officials who have appealed for assistance from South Africa’s national government, said Sipho Hlomuka, provincial minister for KwaZulu-Natal local government, in a press briefing.
5/25/2022 UN aims to transfer 6,750 Ethiopians trapped in Yemen war
CAIRO – The U.N. migration agency said Tuesday it aims to help transfer at least 6,750 Ethiopian migrants from war-torn Yemen to their home country in the coming months. It appealed for $7.5 million to assist their return. The International Organization for Migration said it has transferred more than 600 migrants, including 60 unaccompanied children, to Ethiopia on three flights so far this year. More flights were planned between Yemen’s southern port city of Aden and the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, it added.
5/26/2022 Palestinian teen shot dead in Israeli raid on West Bank
JERUSALEM – Health authorities said a 16-year-old Palestinian died early Wednesday after being wounded during clashes with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, the latest in a wave of violence that has persisted for months. The Palestinian health ministry said Ghaith Yamin was wounded by a gunshot to the head and died at a hospital. Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, reported that the clashes erupted when Jewish worshipers, escorted by the military, arrived at a shrine on the outskirts of Nablus city to pray.
5/27/2022 Palestinian Authority: Israel deliberately killed Al Jazeera reporter by Imad Isseid, ASSOCIATED PRESS
RAMALLAH, West Bank – The Palestinian Authority on Thursday announced the results of its investigation into the shooting death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, saying it had proven she was deliberately killed by Israeli forces as she tried to flee.
The conclusion echoed the results of a preliminary investigation announced nearly two weeks ago and were widely expected. Israel rejected the findings, with Defense Minister Benny Gantz calling them, “a blatant lie.”
Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American reporter for Al Jazeera’s Arabic service, was shot in the head on May 11 during an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
Witnesses and Palestinian officials have said she was hit by Israeli fire. Israel says she was shot during a battle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants. It says that only a ballistic analysis of the bullet – which is held by the Palestinian Authority – and the soldiers’ guns can determine who fired the fatal shot.
Announcing the results of his probe at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian Attorney General Akram Al Khateeb said he had determined there were no militants in the immediate area where Abu Akleh was located.
“The only shooting was by the occupation forces, with the aim of killing,” he said.
Abu Akleh was in a group of journalists wearing helmets and protective vests marked “press.” Al Khateeb said the army saw the journalists and knew they were journalists.
He accused Israel of shooting Abu Akleh “directly and deliberately” as she tried to escape. He also repeated the Palestinian position that the bullet will not be handed over to the Israelis for study. He said they decided not even to show images of the bullet “to deprive (Israel) of a new lie.”
Al Khateeb said his investigation was based on interviews with witnesses, an inspection of the scene and a forensic medical report.
In a speech later Thursday, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi said it was impossible to know who fired the bullet and once again called on the Palestinians to cooperate to “get to the bottom” of what happened.
“But there is one thing that can be determined with certainty,” the military chief said. “No soldier fired intentionally at a journalist. We investigated that. We checked it. That is the conclusion. There is no other.”
Israel denies targeting journalists and has offered two possible scenarios, saying Abu Akleh was either shot by Palestinian militants who were firing recklessly at an Israeli army convoy or that she was hit by Israeli gunfire aimed at a nearby militant. The military has identified the rifle that may have been used in that scenario, but says it needs to test the bullet to make any final determination.
An AP reconstruction of events has lent support to eyewitnesses who say she was shot by Israeli troops. But a weapons expert interviewed by the AP as part of the reconstruction said that it was impossible to reach a conclusive finding without further forensic analysis.
Palestinian witnesses say there were no militants or clashes anywhere near Abu Akleh. The only known militants in the area were on the other side of the convoy, some 300 yards from her position. They did not have a direct line of sight, unlike the convoy itself, which was some 200 yards away on a long straight road.
Israel has publicly called for a joint investigation with the PA, with U.S. participation, and has asked the PA to hand over the bullet for testing. But the State Department said Wednesday that it had received no formal request for assistance from either side two weeks after her death.
The PA has refused to hand over the bullet to Israel or cooperate with it in any way, saying Israel cannot be trusted to investigate its own conduct.
5/28/2022 NATO: Turkey outlines demands by ASSOCIATED PRESS
ISTANBUL – Turkey’s foreign minister said Friday that Sweden and Finland must now take “concrete steps” to alleviate his country’s security concerns to overcome Ankara’s objections to their NATO membership bid.
Delegations from the two Nordic countries have returned home with documents detailing Turkey’s concerns, like information on terror groups, after a visit this week and Ankara is awaiting their answers, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
Sweden and Finland submitted their written applications to join NATO last week. The move represents one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications of Russia’s war in Ukraine and could rewrite Europe’s security map.
The countries’ membership bids require support from all NATO countries, but Turkey, which commands the second- largest military in the alliance, is objecting to them. It has cited alleged support for Kurdish militants that Turkey considers terrorists and restrictions on weapons sales to Turkey.
Cavusoglu said that “an approach of ‘we’ll convince Turkey in time anyway; we are friends and allies’ would not be correct.” He insisted that “these countries need to take concrete steps.”
He added that “we understand Finland and Sweden’s security concerns but … everyone also needs to understand Turkey’s legitimate security concerns.” Turkey was requesting that NATO include combating terrorism in its “Strategic Concepts,” the minister said.
5/28/2022 Al Jazeera to go to ICC over slain reporter by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
JERUSALEM – The Al Jazeera news network says it will submit a case file to the International Criminal Court on the killing of reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead earlier this month during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank. The Qatar-based network and the Palestinian Authority have accused Israeli soldiers of deliberately killing her. Israel rejects those allegations as a “blatant lie.” It says she was shot during a firefight between soldiers and Palestinian militants, and that only ballistic analysis of the bullet – which is held by the PA – can determine who fired the fatal shot.
An AP reconstruction lent support to witnesses who say the veteran Palestinian-American correspondent was killed by Israeli fire, but any final conclusion may depend on evidence that has not yet been released.
Al Jazeera said late Thursday it has formed an international legal team to prepare a case dossier to be submitted to the ICC. The court launched an investigation into possible Israeli war crimes last year. Israel is not a member of the ICC and has rejected the probe.
5/29/2022 Children among 31 killed at church fair stampede in Nigeria by Chinedu Asadu, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A view of flip-flops and sandals on the street in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Saturday. Police say a stampede at
a church charity event that aimed to offer hope to the needy left at least 31 dead and seven injured. AP
ABUJA, Nigeria – A stampede Saturday at a church charity event in southern Nigeria left 31 people dead and seven injured, police told The Associated Press, a shocking development at a program that aimed to offer hope to the needy. One witness said the dead included a pregnant woman and many children.
The stampede at the event organized by the Kings Assembly Pentecostal church in River’s state involved people who came to the church’s annual “Shop for Free” charity program, according to Grace Iringe-Koko, a police spokeswoman.
Such events are common in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, where more than 80 million people live in poverty, according to government statistics.
Saturday’s charity program was supposed to begin at 9 a.m. but dozens arrived as early as 5 a.m. to secure their place in line, Iringe-Koko said. Somehow the locked gate was broken open, creating a stampede, she said.
Godwin Tepikor from Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said first responders were able to evacuate the bodies of those trampled to death and bring them to the morgue. Security forces cordoned off the area.
Dozens of residents later thronged the scene, mourning the dead and offering any assistance they could to emergency workers. Doctors and emergency workers treated some of the injured as they lay in the open field. Videos from the scene showed the clothing, shoes and items meant for the beneficiaries.
One witness who only identified himself as Daniel said “there were so many children” among the dead. Five of the dead children were from one mother, he told the AP, adding that a pregnant woman also lost her life.
Some church members were attacked and injured by relatives of the victims after the stampede, according to witness Christopher Eze. The church declined to comment on the situation.
The “Shop for Free” event was suspended while authorities investigated how the stampede occurred.
Nigeria has seen similar stampedes in the past. Twenty-four people died at an overcrowded church gathering in the southeastern state of Anambra in 2013, while at least 16 people were killed in 2014 when a crowd got out of control during a screening for government jobs in the nation’s capital, Abuja.
5/29/2022 Pope and Anglican, Scottish leaders to pray in Africa by Frances D’Emilio, ASSOCIATED PRESS
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis, the archbishop of Canterbury and a leader of the Church of Scotland will together lead a prayer vigil for peace while visiting South Sudan next month, the Vatican said Saturday.
It released details of the pontiff’s itinerary of his July 2-7 African travels, which he will begin in Congo. Then he travels to South Sudan, where he will make what is being billed as a historic “ecumenical pilgrimage of peace” along with the Rev. Justin Welby, who heads the Anglican church, and the Right Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The visit seeks to boost a 2018 agreement aimed at ending civil war in South Sudan.
The African trip will be the first overseas voyage for the pontiff since he has taken to using a wheelchair on occasion in public lately as he struggles with a knee ligament problem.
Francis, 85, battled a major medical issue last summer, when he underwent intestinal surgery in July necessitated by what the Vatican said was a severe narrowing of the colon.
While warring parties signed the peace agreement after 20 months of violent conflict, South Sudan is facing heavy challenges, including an economy risking collapse, a deteriorating humanitarian situation and “an unsteady political will to implement the peace agreement,” the Church of Scotland said.
“I am genuinely humbled at the opportunity to assist our brothers and sisters in South Sudan in the search for peace, reconciliation and justice,” Greenshields said in the statement. He said Francis, Welby and himself are coming “as servants of the Global Church.”
On the first full day of their pilgrimage in South Sudan, the three men will visit a camp in Juba for internally displaced people. While in Congo, Francis will deliver the homily during Mass at Ndolo Airport in Kinshasha. After arriving in Goma, he will give another homily during Mass at the Kibumba Camp. Earlier this year, thousands of people in Congo were displaced after they fled clashes between the Congolese army and rebel fighters.
Francis will meet with victims of violence in Beni and in the east of Congo, the Vatican said. Last year, two explosions on the same day hit a Catholic church and a market in Beni. The explosions were claimed by the Islamic State group’s Central Africa Province.
5/29/2022 Visit by far-right Israeli lawmaker sparks Jerusalem unrest by JOSEF FEDERMAN, Associated Press
© Provided by Associated Press
JERUSALEM (AP) — A far-right Israeli lawmaker, joined by scores of ultranationalist supporters, entered Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site early Sunday, prompting a crowd of Palestinians to begin throwing rocks and fireworks toward nearby Israeli police.
The unrest erupted ahead of a mass ultranationalist Israeli march planned later Sunday through the heart of the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. Some 3,000 Israeli police were deployed throughout the city ahead of the march.
Israel says the march is meant to celebrate Israel's capture of east Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital. But Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, see the march as a provocation. Last year, the parade helped trigger an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants.
Sunday's unrest took place in a contested hilltop compound revered by Jews and Muslims. The compound is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. It also the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount and revere it as the home of the biblical Temples. The competing claims to the site lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have triggered numerous rounds of violence.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of a small ultranationalist opposition party in party and a follower of the late racist rabbi, Meir Kahane, entered the compound early Sunday along with dozens of supporters.
Palestinians shouted “God is great” as Ben-Gvir, accompanied by Israeli police, shouted “the Jewish people live." Later, a crowd of Palestinians barricaded inside the mosque threw fireworks and stones toward police, who did not immediately respond.
Israel's national police chief, Kobi Shabtai, said his forces were prepared for “every scenario” and had taken “immediate and professional” action when needed.
“We will not allow any inciter or rioter to sabatage today's events and to disrupt law and order,” he said.
Sunday's march comes at a time of heightened tensions. Israeli police have repeatedly confronted stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators in the disputed compound in recent months, often firing rubber bullets and stun grenades.
At the same time, some 19 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attackers in Israel and the occupied West Bank in recent weeks, while over 35 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli military operations in the occupied West Bank.
Many of those killed were Palestinian militants, but several civilians were also among the dead, including Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known correspondent for the Al Jazeera satellite channel.
Jerusalem police were criticized internationally for beating mourners at Abu Akleh's funeral two weeks ago.
Under longstanding arrangements known as the “status quo,” Jewish pilgrims are allowed to enter the hilltop compound but they are not allowed to pray. In recent years, however, the number of Jewish visitors has grown significantly, including some who have been spotted quietly praying.
Such scenes have sparked Palestinian fears that Israel is plotting to take over or divide the area. Israel denies such claims, saying it remains committed to the status quo.
5/30/2022 Sudan’s top general lifts state of emergency from coup by Samy Magdy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAIRO – Sudan’s leading general lifted a state of emergency Sunday that was imposed in the country following the October coup he led.
The decision by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, came hours after the Security and Defense Council, Sudan’s highest body that decides on security matters, recommended an end to the state of emergency and the release of all detainees.
The recommendations are meant to facilitate dialogue between the military and the pro-democracy movement, the defense minister, Maj. Gen. Yassin Ibrahim Yassin, said in a video statement. They come as the country faces protests against military rule and an unknown number of activists and former officials remain in detention.
Earlier Sunday, the U.N. envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, called for the country’s leaders to lift the state of emergency. He decried the killing of two people in a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters who once again took to the streets of the capital to denounce the Oct. 25 coup.
“Once again: It is time for the violence to stop,” said Perthes on Twitter.
Hundreds of people marched Saturday in Khartoum, where security forces violently dispersed the crowds and chased them in the streets, according to activists. The two were killed during protests in Khartoum’s Kalakla neighborhood. One was shot by security forces and the other suffocated after inhaling tear gas, said the Sudan Doctors Committee, which is part of the pro-democracy movement.
Sudan has been in turmoil since the military takeover upended its shortlived transition to democracy after three decades of repressive rule by former strongman Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir and his Islamist-backed government were removed by the military in a popular uprising in April 2019.
Saturday’s protests were part of relentless demonstrations in the past seven months calling for the military to hand over power to civilians. At least 98 people have been killed and over 4,300 wounded in the government crackdown on anti-coup protests since October, according to the medical group. Hundreds of activists and officials in the disposed government were also detained following the coup, many were later released under pressure from the U.N. and other western governments.
The protesters demand the removal of the military from power. The generals, however, have said they will only hand over power to an elected administration. They say elections will take place in July 2023 as planned in a constitutional document governing the transition period.
5/30/2022 Israel, United Arab Emirates to sign free trade deal on Tuesday - Israel econ ministry by Reuters
© Reuters/CHRISTOPHER PIKE
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will sign a free trade agreement in Dubai on Tuesday in a move aimed at boosting trade between the two countries, Israel's Economy Ministry said on Monday.
The ministry said customs duties will be eliminated on 96% of products, including food, agriculture, cosmetics, medical equipment and medicine, and includes regulation, customs, services and government procurement.
The UAE and Israel formally established relations in 2020 as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords that also included Bahrain and Morocco. The trade deal is Israel's first with an Arab country.
(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Toby Chopra)
5/30/2022 Egypt court sentences 2 aged Islamist leaders to 15 years
CAIRO – An Egyptian court on Sunday sentenced two aged Islamist leaders to 15 years in prison for disseminating false news and inciting against state institutions. Along with Abdel-Monaem Abul Fetouh, a former presidential candidate and head of the Islamist Strong Egypt party, and Mahmoud Ezzat, the acting leader of the Muslim Brotherhood group, the Supreme State Security Court gave seven others 15-year sentences on the same charges. The court, which tackles terror-related cases, sentenced 14 others to life in prison.
5/31/2022 Palestine PM says Israeli flag march ‘crossed all red lines’ by Al Jazeera
© Provided by Al Jazeera
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh has described attacks by far-right Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem as “aggression which crossed all red lines.”
Tens of thousands of flag-waving, ultranationalist Israelis raided the Muslim quarter of the Old City on Sunday during the so-called “flag march.” The provocative march that took place in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is meant to celebrate the occupation and subsequent annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 – a move that has not been recognised by the international community.
Some chanted racist slogans including “Death to Arabs” and attacked Palestinian residents while backed by armed Israeli forces.
Some Jewish groups also stormed the Al-Aqsa compound raising fears among Palestinians that it was an attempt to change the status quo at Islam’s third holiest site. Jewish prayers are prohibited at the 35-acre (14-hectare) compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary. Jews call it the Temple Mount.
“Israel yesterday has crossed all red lines and international treaties with its repeated aggression against Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. It attempts to impose a reality that doesn’t align with the historical status quo of Al-Aqsa mosque,” Shtayyeh said on Monday.
Dozens of Palestinians were arrested across occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank a day earlier, where protests to decry the march erupted, while more than 165 suffered injuries ranging from heavy tear gas inhalation to beatings and wounds from live rounds, as well as rubber-coated steel bullets.
Following the march, large groups of Israelis stormed through Palestinian neighborhoods, assaulting residents as well as their property.
Nida Ibrahim, reporting from the West Bank city of Ramallah, said the Shattyeh has been issuing statements “since yesterday.”
“He had strong statements today saying that Israel needed more than 3,000 Israeli army and police officers to secure the city,” Ibrahim said.
“He said there’s a difference between occupying the city militarily and being the occupying power – and actually having sovereignty [over it].”
Some 70,000 Israelis were reported to have joined the annual march, which is seen as a bid by Israel to impose control over the occupied part of the city.
According to Ibrahim, Palestinians “on the street” said that these statements are not enough and expect more from their leadership.
“The Palestinian Authority has been saying it’s committed to a peaceful resolution … on the streets, Palestinians have been saying Israel cementing its occupation,” she said.
Israel has been advancing its illegal settlement project on occupied Palestinian lands. Settlements are fortified, Jewish-only housing complexes built on Palestinian land in violation of international law. At least 600,000 settlers live in settlements across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli settlers resumed their march on Monday.
“We know settlers in Hebron in the south of the occupied West Bank have marched through the old part of the city,” Al Jazeera’s Ibrahim said.
Settlers “continued marching with their flags, with their racist slogans” towards the Ibrahimi mosque, she said, adding that settlers “invaded the squares of the mosque” while under the protection of the Israeli army.
According to her, Palestinian journalists who were attempting to document what was happening were prevented from doing so.
Wafa news agency reported that settlers also marched with Israeli flags at a military checkpoint near Nablus and Jenin in the northern West Bank while a secondary school in the Palestinian village of Urif also came under attack, it said.
The Palestinian news agency quoted the principal as saying that the settlers arrived with the army’s protection. They threw rocks at the school which resulted in some damage, while soldiers fired tear gas canisters causing “many suffocation cases,” it added.
Settler attacks on Palestinians and their property have been rife across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The situation in Hebron’s old city is particularly volatile, as some 700 Israeli settlers live among a Palestinian population of nearly 40,000.
5/31/2022 Erdogan discusses Turkey's Syria incursion plans with Putin by Associated Press
© Provided by Associated Press
ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has discussed Ankara’s planned military operation in northern Syria and the war in Ukraine with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Erdogan’s office said Monday.
In recent days Erdogan has said Turkey will launch a cross-border incursion against Kurdish militants in Syria to create a 30-kilometer (19-mile) deep buffer zone. He told Putin in a phone call that the frontier zone was agreed in 2019 but had not been implemented, the Turkish presidency said.
Ankara carried out an operation against the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in October 2019. Russia, the Syrian regime and the United States also have troops in the border region.
Turkey consider the YPG to be a terrorist group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, that has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of people.
However, the YPG forms the backbone of U.S.-led forces in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. The U.S. has not been happy with Turkey's previous incursions into Syria.
Erdogan also told Putin that Turkey was ready to resume a role in ending the war in Ukraine, including taking part in a possible “observation mechanism” between Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations, the statement said.
Negotiations in Istanbul held in March failed to make any headway but Turkey, which has close ties to both Kyiv and Moscow, has repeatedly put itself forward as a possible mediator.
The Turkish president also called for peace in Ukraine as soon as possible and for confidence-building steps to be taken.
In Washington, the National Security Council said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had called Ibrahim Kalin, chief adviser to Erdogan, to discuss the two nations' support for Ukraine, but also to voice caution about actions in Syria.
Sullivan “reiterated the importance of refraining from escalation in Syria to preserve existing ceasefire lines and avoid any further destabilization,” said Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the National Security Council.
5/31/2022 War in Ukraine adds to food price hikes, hunger in Africa - ‘The cost of living is high nowadays’ by Omar Faruk and Krista Larson, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Families across Africa are paying about 45% more for wheat flour as Russia’s war in Ukraine
blocks exports from the Black Sea. Some countries like Somalia get more than 90% of their wheat from
Russia and Ukraine, forcing many people to substitute other grains for wheat. FARAH ABDI WARSAMEH/AP
MOGADISHU, Somalia – It now costs Ayan Hassan Abdirahman twice as much as it did just a few months ago to buy the wheat flour she uses to make breakfast each day for her 11 children in Somalia’s capital.
Nearly all the wheat sold in Somalia comes from Ukraine and Russia, which have halted exports through the Black Sea since Moscow waged war on its neighbor on Feb. 24. The timing could not be worse: The U.N. has warned that an estimated 13 million people were facing severe hunger in the Horn of Africa region as a result of a persistent drought.
Abdirahman has been trying to make do by substituting sorghum, another more readily available grain, in her flatbread. Inflation, though, means the price of the cooking oil she still needs to prepare it has skyrocketed too – a jar that once cost $16 is now selling for $45 in the markets of Mogadishu.
“The cost of living is high nowadays, making it difficult for families even to afford flour and oil,” she says.
Haji Abdi Dhiblawe, a businessman who imports wheat flour into Somalia, fears the situation will only worsen: There is also a looming shortage of shipping containers to bring food supplies in from elsewhere at the moment.
“Somalis have no place to grow wheat, and we are not even familiar with how to grow it,” he says.
“Our main concern now is what will the future hold for us when we currently run out of supplies.”
Another 18 million people are facing severe hunger in the Sahel, the part of Africa just below the Sahara Desert where farmers are enduring their worst agricultural production in more than a decade.
The U.N. World Food Program says food shortages could worsen when the lean season arrives in late summer.
“Acute hunger is soaring to unprecedented levels and the global situation just keeps on getting worse. Conflict, the climate crisis, COVID-19 and surging food and fuel costs have created a perfect storm – and now we’ve got the war in Ukraine piling catastrophe on top of catastrophe,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley warned earlier this month.
Even the cost of therapeutic food for malnourished children could rise 16% over the next six months because of the war in Ukraine and disruptions related to the pandemic, UNICEF says.
African countries imported 44% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to U.N. figures. The African Development Bank is already reporting a 45% increase in wheat prices on the continent, making everything from couscous in Mauritania to the fried donuts sold in Congo more expensive for customers.
“Africa has no control over production or logistics chains and is totally at the mercy of the situation,” said Senegalese President Macky Sall, the African Union chairperson, who has said he will travel to Russia and Ukraine to discuss the price woes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin pressed the West last week to lift sanctions against Moscow over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame from Russia to the West for a growing world food crisis that has been worsened by Ukraine’s inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products while under attack.
Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow “is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizer on the condition that politically motivated restrictions imposed by the West are lifted,” according to the Kremlin.
Western officials have dismissed the Russian claims. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has noted that food, fertilizer and seeds are exempt from the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and many others on Russia.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has accused Russia of looting both grain and farm equipment from territories held by its forces.
A Russia-installed official in southern Ukraine has confirmed that grain from last year’s harvest there is being sent to buyers in Russia, according to a report Monday by Russia’s Tass state news agency.
That grain, however, isn’t make its way to Africa. In Cameroon, baker Sylvester Ako says he’s seen his daily clientele drop from 300 customers a day to only 100 since bread prices jumped 40% because of the lack of wheat imports.
He’s already let three of his seven employees go, and worries that he will have to shutter his Yaounde business entirely unless something changes.
“The price of a 50-kilogram (110-pound) bag of wheat now sells at $60 – up from about $30 – and the supply is not regular,” Ako said.
Along with the shortfall in wheat imports, the African Development Bank is also warning of a potential 20% decline in food production on the continent because farmers are having to pay 300% more for their imported fertilizer.
The organization says it plans to address the issues through a $1.5 billion plan that will provide farmers in Africa with certified seeds, fertilizer and other help. Reducing dependence on foreign imports is part of the strategy, but those economic transitions are likely to take years, not months.
Senegal’s president says appetites can pivot more quickly. He’s encouraging Africans to consume local grains that were once the staples of their diets.
“We must also change our eating habits,” Sall said.
”We dropped millet and started importing rice from Asia. Now we only know how to eat rice and we don’t produce enough. We only know how to eat bread. We do not produce wheat.”
[HERE JOE BIDEN THINKS HE CAN THREATEN SAUDI ARABIA TO FORCE THEM TO PROVIDE OIL FOR THE U.S. BUT TRUMP GAVE THEM NUCLEAR POWER TO HELP THEM TO SOLVE THEIR EARTHQUAKE ISSUES AND HE IS DOING HIS IDIOT THINGS AGAIN INSTEAD OF OPENING UP THE U. S. OIL PRODUCTION AND IF HE IS NOT CONFUSED THAT ITS NOT OKAY FOR THE U.S.A. TO PUMP OIL BUT IT IS OKAY FOR ALL THE OTHER COUNTRIES TO DO WHATEVER HE IS SCARED OF WHICH I BELIEVE ITS TRUMP'S GREAT ECONOMY THAT HE IS JUST DESTROYING IT AND THINKS HE CAN BUILD BACK BETTER BUT ALL HE HAS DONE IS A BIG BAD BILL.].
6/2/2022 Amid soaring gas prices, President Biden reportedly considering a trip to Saudi Arabia by Associated Press – Market Watch
© AP Amid soaring gas prices, President Biden reportedly considering a trip to Saudi Arabia - ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is leaning towards making a visit to Saudi Arabia — a trip that would likely bring him face-to-face with the Saudi crown prince he once shunned as a killer.
The White House is weighing a visit to Saudi Arabia that would also include a meeting of the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates) as well as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, according to a person familiar with White House planning. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the yet-to-be finalized plans.
It comes at a moment when overriding U.S. strategic interests in oil and security have pushed the administration to rethink the arms-length stance that Biden pledged to take with the Saudis as a candidate for the White House.
Any meeting between Biden and de facto Saudi ruler Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a Biden visit to the Middle East could offer hope of some relief for U.S. gasoline consumers, who are wincing as a squeaky-tight global oil supply drives up prices. Biden would be expected to meet with Prince Mohammed, who is often referred to by his initials, MBS — if the Saudi visit happens, according to the person familiar with the deliberations.
Such a meeting could also ease one of the most fraught and uncertain periods in a partnership between Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, and the United States, the world’s top economic and military power, that has stood for more than three-quarters of a century.
But it also risks a public humbling for the U.S. leader, who in 2019 pledged to make a “pariah” of the Saudi royal family over the 2018 killing and dismemberment of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a newspaper critic of many of the brutal ways that Prince Mohammed operates.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday declined to comment on whether Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia. Biden is expected to travel to Europe at the end of June. He could tack on a stop in Saudi Arabia to meet with Prince Mohammed, Saudi King Salman and other leaders. The president would also likely visit Israel should he extend his upcoming travels to include Saudi Arabia.
Last week, the White House confirmed that NSC Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser for energy security at the State Department, were recently in the region. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone Monday with his Saudi counterpart.
McGurk and Hochstein, as well as Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, have repeatedly visited Saudi Arabia for talks with Saudi officials about energy supplies, Biden administration efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal and Saudi’s war in Yemen, recently calmed by a cease-fire.
For Biden, the political dangers of offering his hand to Prince Mohammed include the potential for an embarrassing last-minute public rebuff from a still-offended crown prince known for imperious, harsh actions. Since Prince Mohammed became crown prince in 2017, that has included detaining his own royal uncles and cousins as well as Saudi rights advocates, and, according to the U.S. intelligence community, directing Khashoggi’s killing. Saudi Arabia denies involvement by the crown prince.
Still, Biden stood ready to greet the prince at last October’s G20 summit in Rome, but Prince Mohammed did not attend.
And any Biden climbdown from his passionate human-rights pledge — Saudi rulers would “pay the price” for Khashoggi’s killing, Biden vowed on the debate stage during his campaign — risks more disillusionment for Democratic voters. They have watched Biden struggle to accomplish his domestic agenda in the face of a strong GOP minority in the Senate.
Democrats appear less vocal now in demands that the U.S. take a hard line with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince. Near-record gas prices are endangering their prospects in the November midterm election.
A leading congressional critic of the Saudi government, Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia, said in an email the United States “should reassess its unconditional support for Saudi Arabia.” But he and other Democrats are not publicly telling Biden he shouldn’t meet with Prince Mohammed.
Lawmakers point especially to Saudi Arabia’s refusal despite months of Western appeals to veer from an oil production cap brokered largely between the Saudi kingdom and oil-producer Russia. The production cap is adding to oil supply shortfalls stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At the same time, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron have privately urged Biden to work to soothe U.S.-Saudi relations as has Israel, which sees the kingdom as an essential player in countering Iran.
Besides helping to keep gas prices high for consumers globally, the tight supply helps Russia get better prices for the oil and gas it is selling to fund its invasion of Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited the Saudi kingdom Tuesday, even as talk of a possible Biden-Prince Mohammed meeting grew in Washington.
Frequent, warm visits among Saudi, Russian and Chinese officials during the freeze between Biden and the Saudi crown prince have heightened Western concern that Saudi Arabia is breaking from Western strategic interests.
The United States for decades has ensured U.S. or allied aircraft carriers, troops and trainers and missile batteries remain deployed in defense of Saudi Arabia and its oil fields, and in defense of other Gulf states. The military commitment recognizes that a stable global oil market and a Gulf counterbalance to Iran are in U.S. strategic interests.
From Saudi Arabia, the United States is looking “for real assurances that it is going to be firmly aligned with the United States internationally, and not drift toward or hedge by trying to have comparable relationships with Russia and China. That goes beyond just oil,” said Dan Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. Shapiro is an advocate of bilateral Abraham accords that have helped establish closer ties between some Arab states and Israel.
“The United States needs to have some assurance that it’s going to provide those security guarantees and it has a real partner that’s going to be like a partner,” said Shapiro, now a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council.
Officials in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for their part, often see Biden as the latest of several U.S. presidents to neglect the U.S. military’s longstanding protector role in the Gulf, as Washington tries to extricate itself from Middle East conflicts to focus on China.
Those Gulf security worries may be eased by the U.S. move last year bringing control of its forces in Israel under U.S. Central Command. That effectively increases interaction between Israel’s U.S.-equipped military and Arab forces under the U.S. military umbrella, Shapiro said.
Deputy Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman visited CENTCOM headquarters in Florida last month. Regional coordination was one of the main topics, including, Shapiro said, the possibility of such steps as coordinating the Middle East’s air defense capabilities.
Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan also met last month with the Saudi defense official. Sullivan said he talked energy. CIA Director William Burns visited Prince Mohammed in Saudi Arabia in April.
Biden administration officials bristle at the notion that a stepped-up engagement is simply about getting the Saudis to help ease gas prices. Jean-Pierre said last week after McGurk and Hochstein’s most recent travels to the region that the idea that the White House is asking the Saudis to pump more oil “is simply wrong” and “a misunderstanding of both the complexity of that issue, as well as our multifaceted discussions with the Saudis.”
“The president’s words still stand,” she added Wednesday, of Biden’s pledge that the Saudis would “pay a price.”
[BIDEN OUR MONEY THAT WE GIVE TO THE GOVERNMENT IS GOOD AROUND THE WORLD BUT YOUR PRESIDENCY IS NOT LIKED AROUND THE WORLD AND YOU WENT IN TO SAUDI ARABIA LIKE THEY SHOULD OBEY YOU IMMEDIATELY AND THE SAME THING IS GROWING IN THE U.S.A. HAVE YOU CHECKED YOUR RATINGS LATELY 36% IF YOU WANT IT TO NOT GO LOWER THEN OPEN UP THE OIL REFINERIES AND GET OUR GAS PRICES BACK TO NORMAL AND YOU CAN DREAM ANOTHER DAY OF ELECTRIC CARS WHICH WILL NOT BE HERE IN 10 YEARS BUT NOT IN MY NEAR FUTURE WILL I EVER BUY AN ELECTRIC CAR SINCE I HAVE A GREAT VAN THAT MY TWO SONS WILL INHERIT AND DRIVE AROUND IN IT WITH GASOLINE UNLESS YOU DONT STOP YOUR FOOLISHNESS POLICY.].
6/2/2022 Turkey ends negotiations with Greece by Andrew Wilks, ASSOCIATED PRESS
ISTANBUL – Turkey will no longer hold high-level talks with neighboring Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday amid rising tensions between the traditional rivals.
Ankara resumed negotiations with Athens last year following a five-year break to address differences over a range of issues such as mineral exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and rival claims in the Aegean Sea.
“We broke off our high-level strategy council meetings with Greece,” Erdogan told a meeting of his party’s lawmakers in Ankara, adding: “Don’t you learn any lessons from history? Don’t try to dance with Turkey.”
The talks had made little headway, but were a means for the two countries to air out their grievances without resorting to a potential armed standoff as had occurred as recently as two years ago.
Erdogan’s pivot on the talks appeared to have been triggered last week when he signaled his displeasure at comments made by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a trip to the U.S.
Erdogan said Mitsotakis “no longer exists” for him after accusing the Greek leader of trying to block Turkey’s acquisition of F-16 fighter planes.
Erdogan also commented on Turkey’s objection to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Ankara has complained the Nordic states harbor terror suspects and arm a group in Syria it accuses of being an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, that has waged a 38-year insurgency inside Turkey.
6/2/2022 Israeli troops kill 2 Palestinians, including alleged knife attacker by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mourners hold a funeral Wednesday for Ghafran Warasna, who was shot near
the Al-Aroub refugee camp, north of Hebron in the West Bank. MAHMOUD ILLEAN/AP
JERUSALEM – Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian woman in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday who they said had approached them while carrying a knife. Another Palestinian was killed as the army went to demolish the family home of an attacker.
The military released a photo of what it said was the knife she was carrying. It said the soldiers were patrolling a highway near the Al-Aroub refugee camp in the southern West Bank. No soldiers were wounded.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the woman as Ghafran Warasna and said she was shot in the chest. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said the 31-year-old had been released from Israeli prison in April after serving three months.
An Israeli security official said Warasna was jailed from January to March after attempting to stab an Israeli police officer in the West Bank city of Hebron.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said she attempted to stab the soldier on Wednesday at “point-blank range.” There were no photos or videos immediately available to confirm the account.
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate said Warasna had worked on and off as a journalist for more than a decade. Dream Radio, a local station in Hebron, said she was on the way to their studio for a broadcast when she was killed.
In a separate incident, at least one Palestinian was killed in or near the northern West Bank town of Jenin, according to the Health Ministry, which did not provide further details.
Israeli forces were operating in the nearby village of Yaabed in order to demolish the family home of a Palestinian who methodically gunned down five people in Bnei Brak in March.
6/2/2022 Israel, Saudi Arabia make deal for security arrangements in Straits of Tiran for flyover rights by LAHAV HARKOV – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: REUTERS/FAHAD SHADEED)
Israel is set to agree to new security arrangements allowing Egypt to transfer control of two islands in the Straits of Tiran to Saudi Arabia, US President Joe Biden is expected to announce on his trip to the region at the end of the month.
There is currently a multinational force on the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, which Saudi Arabia does not want there once they control the islands.
Under a soon-to-be-announced deal, Israel will agree to have the forces stationed on what will remain Egyptian soil, several kilometers away.
In return, Saudi Arabia will allow Israeli airlines to fly over its airspace. Currently, only Israeli flights to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain can fly over Saudi Arabia, as well as Air India flights to and from Israel.
The multinational force has patrolled the islands, strategically located at the opening of the Red Sea and the only shipping route to Eilat, since Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979. That condition came about because former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser blocked the Straits of Tiran in the lead-up to the 1967 Six Day War.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks
during the Gulf Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (credit: VIA REUTERS)
Saudi Arabia had originally given Egypt control of the islands in the 1950s, and Egypt agreed to return them in recent years. Israel also agreed, in principle, in 2016, but alternate security arrangements were not finalized.
The Biden administration has been working to bring about an agreement between the sides, as first reported in Axios last month.
No public meeting between Israel and Saudi officials is planned to announce the agreement, but Biden will present it as his administration’s achievement during his trip to the region, which is expected to include Jerusalem and Riyadh.
While not denying the negotiations, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan made clear that diplomatic relations with Israel are not on the immediate horizon.
“We have always seen normalization as the end result for a path” to peace with the Palestinians, bin Farhan said at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.
Similarly, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told the Jerusalem Post Magazine, in an interview to be published on Friday, that normalization with Saudi Arabia will “happen with baby steps.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a Foreign Affairs magazine event this week that “Saudi Arabia is a critical partner to us in dealing with extremism in the region, in dealing with the challenges posed by Iran, and also I hope in continuing the process of building relationships between Israel and its neighbors both near and further away through the continuation, the expansion, of the Abraham Accords.”
[MAKE NOTICE THAT THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES DOES NOT TELL YOU WHICH CARTEL COUNTRIES ARE PROVIDING OIL SO WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT CORRUPTION THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IS UP TO AS USUAL].
6/3/2022 OPEC+ will lift output
The move by OPEC+ to increase production faster than planned comes as rising crude prices have pushed gasoline to a record high in the U.S. Nam Y. Huh/AP file
The OPEC oil cartel and allied producing countries including Russia will raise production by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August, offering modest relief for a global economy suffering from soaring energy prices and the resulting inflation.
There are fears that elevated energy prices could slow the global economy as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The US 'welcomes' the decision, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a prepared statement.
US welcomes decision; oil prices rise anyway, hinting supply concerns not eased.
6/3/2022 OPEC+ boosts output as energy costs soar - US welcomes decision; oil prices rise anyway by ASSOCIATED PRESS
An Aramco oil facility in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, is seen last year.
The OPEC+ alliance is stepping up the pace of restoring production. AMR NABIL/AP FILE
LONDON – The OPEC oil cartel and allied producing countries including Russia will raise production by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August, offering modest relief for a global economy suffering from soaring energy prices and the resulting inflation.
The decision Thursday steps up the pace by the alliance, known as OPEC+, in restoring cuts made during the worst of the pandemic recession. The group had been adding a steady 432,000 barrels per day each month to gradually restore production cuts from 2020.
The move to increase production faster than planned comes as rising crude prices have pushed gasoline to a record high in the U.S., a potential problem for U.S. President Joe Biden in midterm congressional elections this fall. There are fears that elevated energy prices could slow the global economy as it emerges from the pandemic.
The U.S. “welcomes” the decision, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a prepared statement. “The United States will continue to use all tools at our disposal to address energy prices pressures.”
The increase did not appear to ease concerns about tight supply, and oil prices actually rose after the decision was announced Thursday.
U.S. crude, which had fallen by as much as $3 per barrel early in the day, reversing course and traded up 0.9% at $116.23. International benchmark Brent rose 0.7% at $117.02. Market traders may have expected more from the meeting, such as an indication from de facto OPEC leader Saudi Arabia that it could make up for any shortfall due to sanctions against Russia.
Instead, the alliance’s statement merely mentioned reopening from COVID- 19 lockdowns in “major global economic centers” and the end of seasonal maintenance work at refineries as justifications for the incremental increase. Lockdowns in Shanghai and Beijing have sapped fuel demand in China.
OPEC+ decisions have been complicated by the group’s failure to meet its production targets due to underinvestment and other roadblocks in some member countries. Actual production has lagged the scheduled increases.
OPEC has for months resisted pleas from the White House to increase oil supply more quickly and remove some of the upward pressure on energy costs. That, along with a European Union agreement to end most oil imports from Russia, has pushed prices higher. Gasoline and diesel prices have also been rising due to a lack of refining capacity to turn crude into motor fuel.
Biden administration officials recently visited Saudi Arabia for talks on energy supplies and regional security.
In the U.S., crude prices are up 54% since the beginning of the year, and gasoline prices are being pulled along.
The U.S. saw a record-high average gasoline pump price on Thursday of $4.71 per gallon, according to AAA. The price of crude makes up about half the price of gasoline at the pump in the U.S., and prices could go even higher as the summer driving season gets underway.
In Germany, the government has sought to soften the blow to consumer finances from energy inflation by launching deeply discounted transit passes that enable unlimited use of local trains, subways and buses for 9 euros ($10) per month.
[THE BIDEN AMINISTRATION WAS FORCED TO GO TO THE OPEC+ (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Venezuela the not from the Abraham Accord group) AND AS I SAID SAUDI ARABIA WILL NOT DO IT AND ALREADY ON FRIDAY'S NEWS IT IS NOT IMPROVING THE SITUATION.].
6/3/2022 UN says Yemen’s warring parties agree to new truce - Cease-fire will open roads around key city by Noha Elhennaw by ASSOCIATED PRESS
The conflict in Yemen between the internationally recognized government, represented by some
of the soldiers pictured here, and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels has killed over 14,500 civilians
and created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. AHMAD AL-BASHA /AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
CAIRO – The United Nations said Thursday that Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to renew a nationwide truce for another two months. The development offered a glimmer of hope for the country, plagued by eight years of civil war, though significant obstacles remain to lasting peace.
The cease-fire between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels initially came into effect on April 2 – the first nationwide truce in the past six years of the conflict in the Arab World’s most impoverished nation. However, both sides have at times accused the other of violating the ceasefire.
The announcement, which is the outcome of U.N. efforts, came only few hours before the original truce was set to expire later on Thursday.
“The truce represents a significant shift in the trajectory of the war and has been achieved through responsible and courageous decision making by the parties,” U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said in a statement. He said he will mediate talks between the warring parties to solidify the new truce, and to eventually reach a political settlement to end the conflict.
The fighting in Yemen erupted in 2014, when the Houthis descended from their northern enclave and took over the capital of Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee into exile in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power.
The conflict, which eventually descended into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has killed over 150,000 people, including over 14,500 civilians, and created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, pushing millions of Yemenis to the brink of famine.
The provisions of the original truce included reopening the roads around the besieged city of Taiz, establishing two commercial flights a week between Sanaa and Jordan and Egypt, and also allowing 18 vessels carrying fuel into the port of Hodeida. Both Sanaa and Hodeida are controlled by the Houthi rebels.
Later Thursday, the Yemeni government’s presidential council expressed its support for the U.N. envoy’s efforts and reiterated that that Houthis must be prompted to reopen roads around Taiz, according to the state-run SABA news agency.
In a statement, Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthis’ supreme political council which runs rebel-held areas, said that the Houthis decided to “respond positively” to the U.N. envoy’s push to renew the truce in order “to alleviate the suffering” of the Yemeni people, and to allow more time for the implementation of all provisions included in the original cease-fire agreement.
In recent weeks, commercial flights have resumed from Sanaa, and fuel shipments have arrived. However, the opening of the roads around Taiz remains a contested issue and both sides have yet to agree on a framework for lifting the blockade on the key city.
6/3/2022 Tunisia’s president sacks dozens of judges, strengthens grip
TUNIS, Tunisia – Tunisia’s President Kaïs Saied dismissed 57 judges, accusing them of “obstructing the functioning of justice” as he strengthened his grip on the judiciary. Last July, critics accused Saied of making a grab for one man-rule after he sacked the government and took hold of executive powers. He was accused of staging a coup after ditching the 2014 constitution, to rule instead by decree. Saied listed accusations with scant evidence against the judges ranging from corruption, protecting terrorists and sexual harassment.
6/5/2022 West African leaders put off further sanctions by Francis Kokutse, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mali Col. Assimi Goita has isolated the country internationally, pulling out of a
regional security force and also shutting down two leading French media broadcasters. AP
ACCRA, Ghana – West African heads of state put off further punishing the leaders of Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso at a regional summit Saturday, as coup leaders in all three countries continue to insist that it will take years before new elections can be held.
The 15-nation regional bloc known as ECOWAS will convene again on July 3 before determining if further sanctions will be implemented in the three suspended members states, ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said.
ECOWAS already imposed strong economic sanctions against Mali back in January – shutting down most commerce, along with land and air borders with other countries in the bloc. Those measures have crippled Mali’s economy, prompting concern about the humanitarian consequences on Malians.
The sanctions have not yet brought about a political breakthrough either: In the months since, Col. Assimi Goita has only further isolated the country internationally, pulling out of a regional security force and also shutting down two leading French media broadcasters.
Goita’s government also still insists that no vote can be held until 2024, which would extend their time to power to nearly four years despite originally agreeing to an 18-month transition back to democracy.
The juntas in Guinea and Burkina Faso also have proposed three-year transitions, which have been rejected by ECOWAS as too long a wait for new elections.
The wave of military coups began in August 2020, when Goita and other soldiers overthrew Mali’s democratically elected president. Nine months later, he carried out a second coup, dismissing the country’s civilian transitional leader to become president himself.
Mutinous soldiers deposed Guinea’s president in September 2021, and Burkina Faso’s leader was ousted in another coup in the region back in January.
The political upheaval came at a time when many observers were starting to think that military power grabs were a thing of the past in West Africa: Mali had gone eight years without one, while Guinea had made it 13 years.
6/6/2022 At least 50 feared dead in Nigeria attack - Gunmen also detonate explosives at Catholic church, abduct priest by Chinedu Asadu, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A view of St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state in Nigeria after gunmen opened fire and detonated
explosives there. It was not immediately known who was behind the attack. RAHAMAN A YUSUF/AP
ABUJA, Nigeria – Gunmen opened fire on worshippers and detonated explosives at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria on Sunday, leaving dozens feared dead, state lawmakers said.
The attackers targeted the St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state just as the worshippers gathered on Pentecost Sunday, legislator Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole said. Among the dead were many children, he said.
The presiding priest was abducted, as well, said Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents the Owo area in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber.
“Our hearts are heavy,” Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu tweeted Sunday.
“Our peace and tranquility have been attacked by the enemies of the people.”
Authorities did not immediately release an official death toll. Timileyin said at least 50 people had been killed, though others put the figure higher. Videos appearing to be from the scene of the attack showed church worshippers lying in pools of blood while people around them wailed.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said “only fiends from the nether region could have conceived and carried out such dastardly act,” according to a statement from his spokesman.
“No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome light. Nigeria will eventually win,” said Buhari, who was elected after vowing to end Nigeria’s prolonged security crisis.
In Rome, Pope Francis responded to news of the attack.
“The pope has learned of the attack on the church in Ondo, Nigeria and the deaths of dozens of worshippers, many children, during the celebration of Pentecost. While the details are being clarified, Pope Francis prays for the victims and the country, painfully affected at a time of celebration, and entrusts them both to the Lord so that he may send his spirit to console them,” according to a statement issued by the Vatican press office.
It was not immediately known who was behind the attack on the church. Although much of Nigeria has struggled with security issues, Ondo is widely known as one of Nigeria’s most peaceful states. The state, though, has been caught up in a rising violent conflict between farmers and herders.
Nigeria’s security forces did not immediately respond to questions about how the attack occurred or if there are any leads about suspects. Owo is about 215 miles east of Lagos.
“In the history of Owo, we have never experienced such an ugly incident,” Oluwole said. “This is too much.”
6/6/2022 Over 50 feared dead in Nigeria church attack, officials say
ABUJA, Nigeria – Gunmen opened fire on worshippers and detonated explosives at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria on Sunday, leaving dozens feared dead, state lawmakers said. Legislator Ogunmolasuyi Oluwole said the attackers targeted the St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state just as the worshipers gathered on Pentecost Sunday. Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents the Owo area in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber, said the presiding priest was abducted as well and at least 50 people had been killed.
6/6/2022 UN: Yemen’s warring sides resume talks on ending Taiz siege
CAIRO – Yemen’s warring parties resumed talks Sunday on reopening roads in Taiz and other provinces, the United Nations said, after they agreed to renew a nationwide cease-fire. The U.N. mission to Yemen said delegations from the internationally recognized government and the country’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels began their second round of direct discussion in the Jordanian capital of Amman. The two sides did not reach an agreement on lifting the rebel’s blockade of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, in their first round of talks late last month.
[WE ARE BEGINNING TO SEE ISSUES OF ISRAEL DIVISION ISSUES WITH THE A, B AND C AREAS UNDER JURISDICTION.]
6/6/2022 Israel could lose legal control in West Bank if settlement bill falls by GIL HOFFMAN AND TOVAH LAZAROFF – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The fate of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition may hang in the balance on Monday over Knesset vote on a directive giving Israel legal jurisdiction over settlers living in the West Bank, which has been approved every five years since 1967.
Right-wing members of the opposition have pledged to vote against the bill as part of a push to bring down Bennett’s government.
Yesha Council head David Elhayani, of the coalition’s New Hope Party, has warned that failure to pass the bill will create “absolute chaos” for Israelis living in Judea and Samaria.
If the first reading of the bill is not passed on Monday, it could still be passed the following Monday. Failure to pass it by the end of June could bring civilian life in the settlements to a grinding halt.
Israeli police would not be able to operate in Area C of the West Bank, where all the settlements are located and which is under Israeli military and civilian rule.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post NAFTALI BENNETT and Mansour Abbas in the Knesset.
Is a partnership like this lost for good? (credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images)
The more than 450,000 Israelis who live there would be stripped of rights that allow them to operate as if they live within the borders of sovereign Israel. This could include access to state health insurance, the ability to be drafted into the army and the renewal of driver’s licenses.
As of Sunday night, it was not clear that the bill had support even within the coalition. Ra’am (United Arab List) and rebel MKs Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi and Idit Silman may end up deciding how to vote at the last minute, which will make it very hard to know if there is a majority to pass the bill.
Related video: Israel’s ruling coalition government on the brink of collapse
Israel’s ruling coalition government on the brink of collapse Ra’am leaders met on Sunday night to consider how to vote. Party leader Mansour Abbas is in favor of it and is trying to persuade other MKs in Ra’am and Rinawie Zoabi to vote for it in order to keep the coalition together.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar has warned of political consequences if the bill is not passed. Sa’ar told confidants in the coalition that his threat would not apply if the bill is blocked by Silman.
One possibility is to purposely bring the bill to a vote as a no-confidence motion and then have Silman declared a defector if she votes against it. Silman told confidants that she was not deterred by such threats and could not be declared a defector for one vote against the coalition.
If Silman would be declared a defector, she could not run for the next Knesset on the slate of either Likud or the Religious Zionist Party.
Bennett’s associates said they would bring the bill to a vote repeatedly until it passes. Unlike other bills, it would not have to wait six months to be brought to a vote again if it is defeated in the Knesset plenum.
But Elhayani said that the impact of the bill is so great, that no one should be playing politics with it.
If this law fails there will be lawyers who can’t register to practice, young adults that can’t enter the army and people who arrive at the hospital that can’t receive treatment, said Elhayani, who is also the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council.
“Every day there will be a new story of someone who was harmed,” he said, adding that “the impact is so dramatic that I can’t understand why people are playing politics with this,” the impact is so dramatic that I can’t understand why people are playing politics with this.
More than 70% of those living in Judea and Samaria voted for parties that now want to abandon them by voting against this directive, Elhayani said.
“It’s a slap in the face to those voters.”
[On 10 September 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the government would annex the Jordan Valley by applying "Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea" should he continue being Prime Minister after the September 2019 Israeli legislative election. The long-standing Palestinian view is and has been that the entire West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, should be Palestinian.].
6/6/2022 Iraq, Egypt and Jordan work on partnership by SETH J. FRANTZMAN – The Jerusalem Post
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post
According to Al-Ain media in the UAE, Egypt's foreign minister Sameh Shoukry began a working visit to Iraq this week. He is traveling with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi. Shoukry is supposed to meet a number of leaders and senior officials, in light of the permanent coordination between the three countries at all levels, the report says. This is called a “tripartite” cooperation group, joining the three Middle Eastern nations.
Egypt appears to be keen on increasingly coordinating policy with Iraq in the future. Back in late May, Jordan said it was working with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Iraq to build foundations of political and economic cooperation according to Jordan’s King Abdullah II. He held a meeting with a number of officials and former prime ministers at the Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman last Sunday.
Egyptian support for Iraq is important and comes in the context of increasing cooperation among Arab states. The UAE has done outreach to Syria and both the Emirates and Iraq want positive relations with Damascus. Although Iran has deep influence in Iraq, there is interest in increasing cooperation. Baghdad can also serve as a bridge between some of the Arab states and Tehran. This could increase some reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran as well.
Jordan, Egypt and Iraq are key countries because they form a kind of bloc across the center of the Middle East. They separate some of the chaos that continues in Syria – and the Iranian occupation of parts of Syria and Lebanon – from the more wealthy Gulf States. As such, these three countries make up the heart of the Middle East. They also include the two historical Arab capitals of Baghdad and Cairo, which are important historic centers of culture and religion.
In the old days when Egypt was the most powerful state in the region in the 1950s, this partnership also mattered. Later when Saddam Hussein tried to take on the mantle of Arab leadership, in a sense replacing the Nasser legacy from Egypt, he believed that Iraq could be a center. Now things have changed slightly, but the overall concept of an Egypt-Jordan-Iraq partnership remains.
What does this mean for Israel?
THERE ARE questions about what this might mean for Israel. Jerusalem has good relations with two Gulf states now and reports say the US wants to increase some security frameworks with Saudi Arabia and Israel. President Joe Biden may have postponed a visit, but US Central Command and its naval component Navcent are working on security issues across the region.
But while Egypt and Jordan have ties with Israel, Iraq does not. In fact, it has pushed a new law slamming any normalization with the Jewish state and potentially giving the death penalty for Iraqis who want it.
This means that Iraq is an outlier in the region. It is a country influenced by Iran and it continues to oppose Israel. Iran frequently accuses the Kurdish region of Iraq of being close to Israel and Baghdad, thus wanting to bash the Kurdistan autonomous region.
Meanwhile, the Gulf states have good ties with Erbil and the US is building a new large consulate there.
A source from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) confirmed today that on June 5, the court of criminal investigation in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, ruled that a number of civil complaints brought by the Minister of Oil in Baghdad against international oil and gas companies (“IOCs”) operating in the Kurdistan Region must be delayed.
On or around May 19, a commercial court sitting in Al Karkh, Baghdad, acted at the request of the Minister of Oil and purported to issue summonses to IOCs operating within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, including Addax, DNO, Genel, Gulf Keystone, HKN, Shamaran and WesternZagros.
THE LAW of Iraq requires that civil proceedings cannot take place while a related criminal investigation is underway. According to reports on June 4, the president of the Judicial Council in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq issued a statement upholding the validity of Kurdistan’s Oil and Gas Law.
This matters because there are contexts of the gas dispute with Baghdad that impact Erbil and its close ties with Ankara. In recent months, pro-Iran militias have targeted a Turkish base in the Kurdistan region as well as an energy facility near Kalak.
Now the Kurdistan region has noted that a court in Baghdad attempted to invalidate the 2007 Oil and Gas Law. “The President of the Judicial Council stated that the Baghdad court has no constitutional authority to do so, because that Baghdad court was not established in accordance with Article 92 of the federal constitution,” a report says.
“The complaints filed by Baghdad’s Minister of Oil against the IOCs are based on that unconstitutional and illegitimate 15 February 2022 decision, and are therefore also unconstitutional and illegitimate.”
Thus, the Kurdistan region asserts that the law remains in full force, and contracts entered into by the Kurdistan Regional Government in accordance with that law are valid. “The courts of the Kurdistan Region have exclusive jurisdiction to interpret the 2007 Oil and Gas Law. No court outside the Kurdistan Region has such jurisdiction.”
This is important because Gulf countries and Turkey want a strong Erbil and want ties with the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Masrour Barzani of the Kurdistan region spoke alongside the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait. Rudaw says he warned of the "increasing influence" of foreign countries in Iraq and said that the attacks threaten to further destabilize the security of the region, “with neighboring states showing complete disregard for Iraq's sovereignty.” This appeared to be a reference to Iran.
So as the Egyptians work to grow ties with Iraq, these issues could be on the agenda. Fouad Hussein from Iraq is meeting the Egyptians; a statement from Al-Ain added that "the Iraqi foreign minister will hold talks with his Jordanian and Egyptian counterparts on many issues of common interest.”
Energy issues are high on the agenda as well as food security. This matters because of the Ukraine war, which has roiled energy and food markets.
6/6/2022 Why is Lebanon threatening Israel now? – analysis by SETH J. FRANTZMAN – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: DALATI NOHRA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Lebanon’s political leadership is threatening Israel, claiming that any Israeli activity in disputed areas offshore could lead to some kind of “action.” Lebanon has no conceivable way to really confront Israel, so the threats appear to be giving cover for Hezbollah to potentially attack Israel or attack an Israeli gas platform off the coast.
Lebanon’s political leadership is threatening Israel, claiming that any Israeli activity in disputed areas offshore could lead to some kind of “action.”
Lebanon has no conceivable way to really confront Israel, so the threats appear to be giving cover for Hezbollah to potentially attack Israel or attack an Israeli gas platform off the coast.
The reports coincide with Al-Mayadeen News claiming that Israel fears the “possibility” of Hezbollah targeting gas operations linked to the Karish project. Mayadeen is sympathetic to Iran and Hezbollah, claiming that Israel is preparing to secure the waters off the coast near Lebanon using ships and underwater defenses, as well as the naval version of Iron Dome. KAN News also reported on the issue.
Meanwhile, according to a story from Alliance News published at London South East, “Energean PLC on Monday confirmed its floating production storage and offloading unit has arrived on location in Israel for its Karish project.”
The report said the London-based oil and gas company “said its FPSO unit was transported by two tugs from the Sembcorp Marine’s Admiralty Yard in Singapore in a 35-day long journey.”
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Floating gas production rig, Energean Power (credit: ENERGEAN)
The company will “immediately” begin hook up and commissioning operations, the report said. “This will include installing risers and jumpers and commissioning the sales gas pipeline. Three to four months of commissioning is expected before the first gas, the firm said.”
“This marks a major step forward in delivering first gas from Karish, which remains on track for the third quarter of 2022,” Energean CEO Mathios Rigas said. “We look forward to continuing our progress through Karish first gas, the commercialization of the newly defined Olympus Area and contributing to energy security and competition of supply for the region,” the report said.
This follows a report in May, also from Off Shore Energy, which said: “Hydrocarbon exploration and production company Energean has made a commercial gas discovery in Block 12 offshore Israel, bolstering its beliefs in the potential of the newly defined Olympus Area.”
“Back in June 2021, Energean contracted a rig from Stena Drilling for its 2022-2023 growth drilling program offshore Israel,” the report said. “The firm also booked Halliburton in September 2021 under an integrated services contract to execute the well drilling and completions.” The Karish project was said to be almost complete in late May.
Hezbollah increased threats in May against US mediation of the Israel-Lebanon water-boundary dispute. The US has sought to help the countries, which have no relations, come to some kind of an agreement.
But Hezbollah opposes this and slammed US envoy Amos Hochstein in May. The terrorist group used antisemitic terms in its attack on Hochstein, asserting that Jewish envoys were not wanted because they are sympathetic to Israel.
Lebanon now appears to be helping cover for Hezbollah’s threats. Normally, any threats by Hezbollah would be an illegal terrorist act, but Lebanon helps give cover for the terrorist group in this case by enabling “aggressive action.”
According to reports, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who is a Hezbollah ally, has said any activity in the disputed area would amount to an act of aggression and a provocation. Aoun knows that his Christian supporters performed badly in the last election. By law, the president of Lebanon must be a Christian.
Lebanon has a caretaker prime minister named Najib Mikati, who said Israel was “encroaching on Lebanon’s maritime wealth and imposing a fait accompli in a disputed area,” calling this “extremely dangerous.”
He made several comments that were printed in Mayadeen, including saying that any Israeli actions in the disputed areas obstruct the negotiation process that is being mediated by the United States under the auspices of the United Nations.
Mikati also said exploration in the area was aggression that threatens peace and security. It was decided to carry out a series of diplomatic contacts with the major countries and the UN to explain Lebanon’s position and to confirm its adherence to its maritime rights, he said.
Lebanon has invited the US to mediate again. “I discussed with President Aoun the steps that must be taken to confront Israel’s attempt to create tension near our southern maritime borders,” Mikati said. “Any Israeli actions in the disputed areas obstruct the negotiation process that is being mediated by the United States and under the auspices of the United Nations.”
Iran’s Tasnim News Agency has joined in the attacks on Israel. Lebanese Defense Minister Maurice Sleem has slammed the Jewish state, claiming that it had enabled the “illegal entry of a ship belonging to the [Israel] regime into the disputed maritime zone with Lebanon,” Tasnim reported.
Sleem has apparently said Israel is threatening the stability of the region. He has also said Israel is ignoring international law and threatening talks on demarcating maritime boundaries.
Lebanon claims it wants the UN to take notice. Beirut has indicated that ships entering this disputed area are committing “aggression.” The country seems to be threatening to dispute this gas field.
Lebanon’s political leaders say they reject some of the discussions with Israel because they believe it is part of a conspiracy designed to show that Lebanon is “normalizing” relations. Iran uses its allies in places such as Lebanon to fight “normalization.” It has done the same thing in Iraq, getting Baghdad to pass a new law against such normalization.
This is the context of the threats from Lebanon. The real goal of its authorities, after seeing how Hezbollah’s allies performed badly in the last elections, is to cling to power through threats of conflict with Israel.
This is part of their populist plot, and it is likely being encouraged by Iran to create a casus belli, meaning an excuse for conflict that will enable Hezbollah to claim it is “resisting” Israel. This is part of the narrative that Iran has used for years: getting Hezbollah to create fake excuses for the need to keep stockpiling Iranian-supplied weapons.
The terrorist group has now also infiltrated southern Syria, with Iran’s backing, to threaten Israel from near the Golan Heights.
The goal of Lebanon’s failed leadership is to create tensions to pretend they are “defending” their country and thus justify increasing tensions with Israel. This then hands Hezbollah an open-ended invitation to “retaliate” against the Jewish state.
Hezbollah has created these kinds of excuses in the past – not only relating to Mount Dov, but also when it has claimed its members were killed or targeted in Syria. It then says Hezbollah must “resist.”
6/7/2022 Church attackers still sought by Chinedu Asadu and Lekan Oyekanmi, ASSOCIATED PRESS
OWO, Nigeria – The gunmen who killed 50 people at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria opened fire on worshippers both inside and outside the building in a coordinated attack before escaping the scene, authorities and witnesses said Monday.
Although Nigerian security forces have not yet identified who carried out Sunday’s attack on St. Francis Church in the town of Owo in relatively peaceful Ondo state, analysts suggested they came from elsewhere in the West African nation, which is plagued by violence from various armed groups, kidnappers and extremists.
No one has claimed responsibility for the church killings, in which children were among the dead and the gunmen used some kind of explosive. Scores of people were wounded, although an exact number was not released by overwhelmed hospital workers.
“The attack is undoubtedly terrorist in nature, and the scale and brutality suggests it was carefully planned rather than impulsive,” said Eric Humphery- Smith, senior Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft risk intelligence company.
State Police Commissioner Oyeyemi Oyediran said security forces, including the military, pursued the attackers, “but unfortunately, we could not catch up with them.”
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 206 million people, has grappled for over a decade with an insurgency in the northeast by Islamic extremist rebels of Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province.
6/7/2022 Israeli coalition suffers loss; prospects uncertain - Legal status of settlers in West Bank could change by Josef Federman, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Lawmakers celebrate the defeat of a law on the legal status of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank during a session
of Israel’s parliament on Monday. The vote served as a key test of the government’s survival prospects. ALLERUZZO/AP
JERUSALEM – Israel’s government on Monday failed to pass a bill extending legal protections for settlers in the occupied West Bank, marking a major setback for the fragile coalition that could hasten its demise and send the country to new elections.
The failure to renew the bill also highlighted the separate legal systems in the West Bank, where nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers enjoy the benefits of Israeli citizenship while some 3 million Palestinians live under military rule that is now well into its sixth decade. Three major human rights groups have said the situation amounts to apartheid, an allegation Israel rejects as an assault on its legitimacy.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition remains in power. But Monday’s vote underscored weaknesses and divisions in the fragile alliance and raised questions about how long it can survive.
Emergency regulations in place for decades have created a separate legal system for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, applying parts of Israeli law to them – even though they live in occupied territory and not within sovereign Israeli land.
These regulations expire at the end of the month and if they are not renewed, that legal system, which Israel has cultivated for its settlers in the West Bank since it captured the territory in 1967, will be thrown into question. It could also change the legal status of the 500,000 settlers living there.
Proponents of extending the law say they are merely seeking to maintain a status quo and preserve the government’s shelf life. Opponents say extending the regulations would deepen an unfair system.
However, Monday’s vote – defeated by a 58-52 margin – went far beyond the contours of the legal debate.
Instead, it served as a key test of the government’s prospects for survival, creating a paradoxical situation where some of the settlements’ biggest opponents in the government voted for the bill, while hardline parties that support the settlements voted against it in order to weaken the government.
The coalition, made up of eight ideologically distinct parties that include both supporters and opponents of the settlements, came together last year and pledged to sidestep divisive issues that could threaten its survival. Monday’s vote showed just how difficult that mission has been.
The vote did not immediately topple the government, and it is still possible for the coalition to present a modified version of the legislation.
“As always after we lose, we will return stronger and win in the next round,” said Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the chief architect of the governing alliance, in a statement on Twitter.
But the setback indicated the government’s days could be numbered. One of the coalition’s members, the nationalist New Hope, threatened to bolt if the coalition cannot pass the measure. If New Hope leaves, it could give the opposition the votes it needs to trigger new elections or form a new government.
“Any coalition member who doesn’t vote for this law that is so central is an active participant in its demise,” Justice Minister Gideon Saar, leader of New Hope, said before the vote.
He also warned that defeating the bill would create “legal chaos” in the West Bank and harm Israeli settlers.
The votes of certain lawmakers, including renegade hard-liners in the coalition as well as Ra’am, an Arab Islamist group that made history as the first Arab party to join an Israeli coalition, were closely watched. In many cases, these lawmakers did not attend.
The opposition meanwhile, made up mainly of nationalist parties led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, showed its willingness to forsake its pro-settlement ideology in order to bring down the coalition.
Bennett’s Yamina party accused Netanyahu and his Likud party of banding together with leftist settlement opponents to serve the former prime minister’s personal interests. “The Likud will burn the state for Netanyahu’s needs,” it said.
Bennett has faced hurdles before. Idit Silman, the coalition whip from Bennett’s small, nationalist party, quit the coalition earlier this year, leaving the government with 60 seats in the 120-seat Knesset – surviving defeat but struggling to govern. Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, another legislator from Meretz also quit, but later rejoined after being promised a raft of benefits for her constituents, Palestinian citizens of Israel.
In the end, Silman skipped Monday’s vote, while Zoabi bucked her coalition partners and voted against the bill, giving a thumbs-down as she cast her vote.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move that is not recognized internationally and pulled out troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005. But thousands of Israelis reside in over 120 settlements dotting the West Bank.
6/7/2022 Secy. Blinken Meets With Qatar Foreign Minister by OAN NEWSROOM
Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh
Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Washington, Monday, June 6, 2022. Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted a meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdulrahman Thani. The two officials met at the State Department on Monday.
According to reports, the pair discussed regional security, improving trade relations and the upcoming world cup which is scheduled to take place in Qatar. While speaking to reporters before they began their meeting, the pair decided to exchange friendly banter.
“It’s really a great, great opportunity for us to meet and to continue our continuous discussion, especially with the challenges around us in the world,” Thani stated. “And the Qatar-US relationship has been always strong and we see eye to eye on a lot of the global challenges. And we look forward for our discussion today on regional security issues, but also beyond that on bilateral issues, on the strengthening of our relationship between the two countries.”
Qatar’s foreign minister is expected to meet with another official from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
6/7/2022 Israeli coalition fails to pass bill on upholding settler law by Al Jazeera
The Israeli government has failed to pass a bill that would renew and uphold the legal status of illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, marking a significant setback for the fragile coalition that could hasten its demise.
The failure to renew the bill on Monday highlighted the separate legal systems in the occupied West Bank, where nearly 500,000 Israeli settlers enjoy the benefits of Israeli citizenship and law while some 3 million Palestinians live under military rule that is now well into its sixth decade.
Three leading human rights groups have said the situation in the occupied territory amount to apartheid for Palestinians.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition remains in power, but the vote underscored the weaknesses and divisions in the fragile alliance and raises questions about how long it can survive.
© Provided by Al Jazeera INTERACTIVE Illegal Israeli settlements
Monday’s vote – defeated by a 58-52 margin – went far beyond the contours of the legal debate.
Israel’s ruling coalition shaken after Arab-Israel lawmaker quits
Instead, it served as a key test of the government’s prospects for survival, creating a paradoxical situation where some of the illegal settlements’ biggest opponents in the government voted for the bill, while hardline parties that support the settlements voted against the bill in order to weaken the government.
Bennett’s government came together last year after two years of political mayhem, with four elections producing no clear winner.
The coalition, made up of eight ideologically distinct parties that include both supporters and opponents of the settlements, pledged to sidestep divisive issues that could threaten its survival.
Monday’s vote showed just how difficult that mission has been.
The vote did not immediately topple the government, and it is still possible for the coalition to present a modified version of the legislation. But the setback indicated the government’s days could be numbered.
“As always after we lose, we will return stronger and win in the next round,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the chief architect of the governing alliance, wrote in a statement on Twitter.
Some 500,000 Israeli settlers live in more than 120 settlements and outposts across the occupied West Bank that are considered illegal under international law.
The settlements, which are fortified, Jewish-only housing complexes, are continuing to expand in the occupied West Bank as well as occupied East Jerusalem. They are seen as a major obstacle to any potential deal with Israel.
Attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property are common. Settlers are usually backed by armed Israeli forces when committing such attacks.
6/8/2022 Palestinians pay partial wages after Israel transfers tax revenue to PA by REUTERS – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: FLASH90)
The Palestinian Authority announced on Tuesday it would pay partial salaries to most of its employees after Israel transferred some revenues it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf, Palestinian officials said.
A week into June, the Palestinian Finance Ministry said employees will receive 80% of their salaries on Tuesday. It has been unable to pay full wages since November, blaming Israel's withholding of tax revenues and weaker international donations.
The salary cut coincided with public discontent over an acute hike in prices of essential food items that prompted people in the southern city of Hebron, in the West Bank, to take to the streets in protest.
"The Finance Ministry is making enormous efforts to compel the occupation authorities to transfer our money so we can make salaries available," Amjad Ghanim, Secretary-General of the Palestinian cabinet, told Reuters by phone from Ramallah.
He said lower levels of international assistance had also reduced the funding available.
© Provided by The Jerusalem PostA PALESTINIAN girl takes part in a rally marking
the 74th anniversary of the Nakba, in Ramallah, May 15. (credit: REUTERS)
Israel withholding revenue due to 'pay-for-slay' policy.
Related video: Israeli forces, Palestinians clash at West Bank as thousands stage march to mark Jerusalem Day.
Jewish is released paraded through the streets. They entered the city.
Israeli forces, Palestinians clash at West Bank as thousands stage march to mark Jerusalem Day
Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara estimated that Israel has been withholding $500 million of tax revenues. He recently said Israel was deducting 100 million shekels ($30 million) every month.
Under a 2018 law, Israel calculates each year how much it believes the Palestinian Authority has paid in stipends to militants and deducts that amount from the taxes it has collected on the Palestinians' behalf.
Israel calls stipends for militants and their families a pay-for-slay policy that encourages violence. Palestinians hail their jailed brethren as heroes in a struggle for an independent state and believe their families are deserving of support.
Palestinian tax revenues, which Israel collects on the Palestinians' behalf each month, stand at around 900 million shekels ($271 million).
The Palestinian Authority employs 150,000 people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At the end of 2021, its budget stood at $330 million while spending was $300 million.
On Monday, Human Rights advocates said police forces, deployed in large numbers a day ago, arrested 11 protesters for several hours before freeing them late last night.
The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, already exempted wheat from tax rises introduced in February. Protesters have demanded that tax exemptions be extended to other basic staples.
As the war in Ukraine has sent commodity prices surging, the cost of basic food items like flour, sugar and cooking oil has gone up by as much as 30% since March, according to merchants and protesters. Official figures put the increase at between 15-18%.
6/8/2022 ‘Perpetual’ Israeli occupation at the root of violence, report says by Jamey Keaten, ASSOCIATED PRESS
GENEVA – Investigators commissioned by the U.N.’s top human rights body say tensions between Palestinians and Israelis are underpinned by Israel’s “perpetual occupation” of Palestinian areas with no apparent intention of ending it.
The findings came Tuesday in the first report by a Commission of Inquiry, headed by a three-person team of human rights experts. It was set up last year by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council following an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The U.N. human rights office says the war killed at least 261 people – including 67 children – in Gaza, and 14 people, including two children, in Israel.
The commission, headed by former U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay, is the first to have an “ongoing” mandate from the U.N. rights body. Critics allege that permanent scrutiny testifies to an anti-Israel bias in the 47-member-state council and other U.N. bodies. Proponents say the commission is needed to keep tabs on persistent injustices faced by Palestinians under decades of Israeli rule.
The report largely recaps efforts by U.N. investigators over the years to grapple with the causes of Mideast violence and the authors acknowledged it was in part a “review” of previous U.N. findings.
“What has become a situation of perpetual occupation was cited by Palestinian and Israeli stakeholders to the commission as the one common issue” that amounts to the “underlying root cause” of recurrent tensions, instability and protracted conflict, the authors wrote.
They said “impunity” for perpetrators of violence was feeding resentment among Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
Israel’s government, which opposed the creation of the commission, refused to grant its members access to Israel or Palestinian territories, and testimonies from Palestinians and Israelis were collected from Geneva and Jordan.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry rejected the report as “part and parcel of the witch hunt carried out by the Human Rights Council against Israel.”
It called the report biased and one-sided and accused the commission members of ignoring Palestinian violence, incitement and antisemitism. “The Commission members, who claim to be objective, were only appointed to their roles because of their public and well-known anti-Israel stances, in direct opposition to the rules set out by the United Nations,” it said.
The State Department reiterated its opposition to the “open-ended and vaguely defined nature” of the commission and said the report “does nothing to advance the prospects for peace” between Israelis and Palestinians.
The report’s authors cited “credible” evidence that “convincingly indicates that Israel has no intention of ending the occupation” and has plans to ensure complete control of Palestinian areas. Israel’s government, it added, has been “acting to alter the demography through the maintenance of a repressive environment for Palestinians and a favorable environment for Israeli settlers.”
They also voiced criticism of Palestinian leaders, saying the Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous areas in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, frequently refers to the occupation as a justification for its own human rights violations. It also points to the occupation as the core reason for failure to hold legislative and presidential elections, the authors said. The PA is widely criticized for corruption and intolerance for dissent.
Despite the criticism, the Palestinian Authority welcomed the report. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the report found “beyond any doubt, that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and discrimination against Palestinians are the root causes behind the recurrent tensions, instability and prolongation of conflict in the region.”
As for Hamas authorities in Gaza, the commission said they show little commitment toward upholding human rights and little adherence to international law. Since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has shown little tolerance for political dissent and been accused of torturing opponents.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the 1967 Mideast war.
It has annexed east Jerusalem and claims the area – home to the city’s most important holy sites – as part of its capital. It considers the West Bank to be “disputed” territory and has built scores of Jewish settlements there. Over 700,000 Israeli settlers now live in the two areas.
The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority seeks the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza for an independent state. The international community overwhelmingly considers all three areas to be occupied by Israel.
Rights groups have accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during last year’s fighting. Israel vehemently denies the allegations, accusing Hamas of endangering civilians by using residential areas for cover during military operations.
A Palestinian home sits in a valley next to the east Jerusalem Jewish Israeli settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev on May 12.
Investigators commissioned by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council said this week that tensions between Palestinians
and Israelis are underpinned by a feeling that Israel has embarked on a “perpetual occupation” of Palestinian areas
with no intention of ending it. The findings came Tuesday in the first report by a Commission of Inquiry, set up
last year following an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. MAYA ALLERUZZO/AP FILE
6/8/2022 Khamenei: 'Zionist capitalists' plague for world even before Israel by TZVI JOFFRE – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: KHAMENEI.IR)
Zionism is a plague for the world of Islam and "Zionist capitalists" were a plague for the whole world, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said during a speech on Wednesday.
[AS YOU CAN SEE ABOVE THE CORRUPTION AT TWITTER AS THEY ALLOW KHAMENEI SAY VERY THREATFUL STATEMENTS BUT KEPT TRUMP FROM TELLING AMERICA THE TRUTH THEY DID NOT WANT YOU TO HEAR SO MAYBE ELON WILL STOP THAT IF NOT TWITTER WILL JUST DISAPPEAR IN TIME AS PEOPLE REALILIZE ITS ISSUE AND GO TO TRUTH SOCIAL TO GET THE TRUTH.].
"Today, Zionism is an obvious plague for the world of Islam," said Khamenei, according to a transcript on his English-language website. "The Zionists have always been a plague, even before establishing the fraudulent Zionist regime. Even then, Zionist capitalists were a plague for the whole world. Now they’re a plague especially for the world of Islam."
The Iranian supreme leader called for "the plague of Zionism" to be "exposed" in any way possible.
"These Arab and non-Arab states that shook hands, kissed and held meetings with the Zionists won’t benefit from what they did at all, not at all. This will only be to their loss."
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
Normalization is exploitation
"Muslim nations oppose the normalization of relations with the Zionists, clench their fists and shout slogans against states seeking normalization," added Khamenei. "The Zionist regime exploits these states. They don’t realize it, but we hope they realize it before it’s too late."
© Provided by The Jerusalem PostA protester punches his fist through an Israeli flag as
Iranians burn flags during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the
holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022 (credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
Khamenei's statements were also posted on his English-language Twitter account.
Conducting the Hajj
The supreme leader made the comments during a meeting with Iranian officials in charge of conducting Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.
Khamenei referenced the Iranian citizens and other Muslims embarking on the pilgrimage, demanding that Saudi Arabia assure the security of all pilgrims, especially those from Iran. He warned against allowing "past tragedies" to be repeated.
The supreme leader also asked that Saudi Arabia reconsider the financial costs of the pilgrimage, after a recent increase in costs.
"What are mankind’s problems in the world now? That they don’t know how to coexist, and they act aggressively toward each other. Hajj teaches coexistence. In Hajj people who don’t know each other and who are coming from different cultures coexist in peace." Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
Antisemitism on Twitter
Khamenei and officials close with him have repeatedly used antisemitic tropes in anti-Zionist statements.
The supreme leader of Iran has repeatedly called for the "elimination" and "annihilation" of Israel on his Twitter accounts, including by stating that he will "support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime."
Twitter has categorized Khamenei's past statements as permissible political speech, calling it "foreign policy saber-rattling."
In April, an article on the front page of the Iranian Kayhan newspaper, affiliated with Khamenei, stated that Hitler was "smarter and more courageous" than current European leaders because he "expelled" the Jews from Germany.
The article referenced how the Quran refers to the Jews in the Exodus story, saying that the verses about them are "about a people who are known for their stubbornness, objections and excuses, who consider others as their property, and themselves as superior to others and God's permanent chosen people."
[IF TRUMP WINS IN 2024 WE WILL GET HIM A SABER TO RATTLE TWITTER.].
6/8/2022 Israeli occupation is 'biggest terror' in Middle East - Joint List MK by TOVAH LAZAROFF - The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinians is the “biggest terror” in the region, MK Ofer Cassif said on Wednesday at a Knesset conference hosted by the caucus to end the occupation.
“There is a very simple reason.” why this is so, Cassif said. He was speaking to left-wing parliamentarians and NGO representatives who gathered in a Knesset conference room to focus on the harm done to the Palestinians since the 1967 Six Day War, when it captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem from Jordan.
“The accepted definition of terror is not a political one” such as occurs within the Israeli discourse and in its parliament, he said. The globally recognized understanding is that “terror is a form of violence, including the threat of violence, against innocent civilians in order to achieve political aims.”
“The occupation is exactly this. It acts against civilians who are innocent [using] violence and oppression and the threat of it against millions of innocents when the objective is political” Cassif said.
He provided this definition to back up his initial words that “the occupation is the biggest terror [that exists] in the entire region, certainly when it comes to Palestine/Israel.”
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post(L-R) Joint List MKs Aida Touma-Sliman, Ahmad Tibi and Ofer Cassif seen
at a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem August 22, 2019 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Those who want to ignore the fact that the “occupation is ‘the terror’ is either an ignoramus who doesn’t know what terror is or is a liar who knows what terror is and is trying to hide it,” Cassif said.
Even former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a book he wrote, spoke of those who fight against a military force are guerrillas and not terrorists, Cassif explained.
“When such a terror exists there is resistance,” he said, adding that there is no such thing as a benign occupation. “No nation will live under a foreign government without resisting.”
"No nation will live under a foreign government without resisting."
Joint List MK Ofer Cassif
The occupation itself also gives birth to other crimes such as acts of “apartheid” and the demonization and dehumanization of those who resist, Cassif added.
Suspected terror attack in Israel leaves three dead
Rebel Yamina MK Amihai Chikli pushed back at the idea that Israel was an occupying force in its biblical heartland, noting that if one was talking about occupation, then the matter didn’t go back 55 years but 3,500 years.
He read from the Bible about the start of King David’s reign, stating, “David captured Jerusalem.” His words prompted conference chair MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) to ask, “So is that where the occupation started?”
Chikli said there was a claim that “we are not the natives here, but we are the natives of this area, of Judea and Samaria.”
NGO reps, left-wing lawmakers speak at conference
Kholod Massalha of the NGO I’lam, the Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research, spoke of the danger to journalists from the IDF, noting that since 2005, some 22 journalists have been killed covering the conflict while in the field.
In all cases, he said, they were wearing vests and helmets clearly marking them as press. Almost all the deaths were Palestinian journalists. Only a few of their deaths were investigated and, in all cases, no conclusions were reached.
The problem of safety is so acute, said, that journalists feel it is safer to forgo the protective vest and helmet marked press lest they become a target Massalha.
Yahel Gazit, from the NGO The Campaign to Save Masafer Yatta, spoke of the danger of eviction for more than 1,000 Palestinians living in Firing Zone 918 in the West Bank’s South Hebron Hills.
Attorney Michal Ziv of Yesh Din spoke of the Palestinian loss of farmland to settlers, who illegally expropriate it with the support of the IDF. By creating illegal farms, Ziv said, the maximum amount of land is expropriated with the minimum amount of people.
Uri Givati of Breaking the Silence spoke of an IDF operation called “blue wolf” by which, he alleged, the army is digitally recording the faces of Palestinians in the West Bank.
HaMoked director-general Jessica Montel spoke of restrictive new IDF measures on entry permits for the Palestinian territories.
Noa Galili, of Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, spoke of the difficulty in obtaining exit permits for Palestinians to leave Gaza to seek medical treatment in Israel, which in some cases leads to the patients’ death including that of infants.
The event also included parliamentarians from the Meretz and Labor parties.
Touma-Sliman charged that the “occupation” and its “dispossession and oppression” of Palestinians was deepening.
“It is the duty of every man and woman with integrity and moral backbone, to challenge this enterprise, and to act for its dissolution,” she said. “It must be said in a sharp and clear voice, without compromise: enough with occupation, racism and apartheid.”
6/9/2022 'One of the greatest threats to the Jewish people is the disunity between Israel and the diaspora' by ALAN ROSENBAUM – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: TAU)
In a one-on-one interview with Tamar Uriel-Beeri, Managing Editor of jpost.com, Dr. Anita Friedman, president of the San Francisco-based Koret Foundation, reports that a sense of disunity and disengagement imperils the worldwide Jewish community. The solution, she suggests, lies in creating a platform for dialogue and speaking to each other.
Israelis, Palestinians scuffle ahead of Jerusalem march
Related video: Jewish nationalists gather to celebrate ahead of the "Jerusalem Day" march
To that end, the Koret Foundation, based in San Francisco, has announced a $10 million grant to establish the Koret Center for Jewish Civilization in conjunction with Tel Aviv University and ANU, the Museum of the Jewish People. The Center will employ an educational and multi-disciplinary approach to the challenges of contemporary Jewish thought, social engagement and identity and build dialogue and understanding between Jewish Israelis and those in the Diaspora through an innovative approach to teaching about Judaism as an international community.
“The idea,” says Friedman, “is to try to stitch us all together in a new way, to bring together one of the largest Jewish philanthropies in the world – which is the Koret Foundation – and one of the flagship Jewish institutions of the state of Israel – Tel Aviv University – along with the Government of Israel, and many other organizations in one common cause. Most people agree that this is a real challenge that needs to be taken seriously.”
Ultimately, says Friedman, the Koret Center for Jewish Civilization will create a dialogue where different groups can develop personal relationships and understand one another. “Our hope,” she says optimistically, “is that it will change the course of Jewish history.”
6/9/2022 Biden administration takes step to bolster Palestinian ties by Associated Press
© Provided by Associated Press
JERUSALEM (AP) — The United States is restoring a line of communication for the Palestinians that had been canceled by the Trump administration.
The move, announced Thursday before a possible visit by President Joe Biden to Israel and the occupied West Bank, is bureaucratic in nature. But it means the Palestinians will deal directly with the U.S. State Department in Washington rather than first go through the American ambassador to Israel.
The department has changed the name of the Palestinian Affairs Unit to the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs. In a statement, the newly renamed office said the move was meant to “strengthen our diplomatic reporting and public diplomacy engagement.”
“We felt that it was important to reintroduce separate reporting lines to Washington on Israeli and Palestinian issues, by our respective teams on the ground that focus on these issues,” according to the statement, which also said the U.S. was reinstating a system in place for decades before President Donald Trump's decision.
The move had been expected for months and the announcement had been postponed several times.
But it falls short of Biden administration pledges — and Palestinian demands — for the U.S. to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem, which for decades had functioned as a de facto U.S. Embassy to the Palestinians.
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Both the Palestinian Authority and Israel declined to comment.
The Trump administration shuttered that consulate in one of a series of controversial moves that favored Israel over the Palestinians. Those steps included recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite Palestinian claims that east Jerusalem become the capital of an eventual state, and moving the U.S. Embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.
Under Biden, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly promised to reopen the Jerusalem consulate, which was established in 1844, well before the creation of the state of Israel. But Israel says such a move would challenge its sovereignty over the city.
It was thought that such a reopening could help mend U.S. ties with the Palestinians that were ruptured under Trump. The U.S. has so far failed to reopen the consulate, apparently in fear of upsetting ties with Israel or destabilizing its fragile coalition government.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said there was no room in Jerusalem for another American mission.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it views the reopening of the consulate as part of the international community’s commitments to ending Israel’s decades long occupation of territories the Palestinians seek for their future state.
Dan Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who is now a distinguished fellow with the Atlantic Council, called Thursday's move "an interim step by the Biden administration toward reestablishing a consulate in Jerusalem.”
The Biden administration has already moved to improve ties with the Palestinians, in part by restoring U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority and funding to the U.N. agency that deals with Palestinian refugees. It has also looked into ways that the Palestinian mission to Washington, closed under Trump, could be reopened, although there are congressional hurdles to such a step.
Lee reported from Washington.
[WELL AS SEEN IN THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE THAT IS SHOWING ME THAT BIDEN IS HELL BENT TO DESTROY THE ABRAHAM ACCORD AND IT IS OBVIOUS WHY HE IS DOING IT BUT WATCH WHAT HAPPENS TO HIM IN THE NEAR FUTURE FOR GOING AGAINST THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB WHO BLESSED TRUMP FOR MOVING THE U.S. CONSULATE TO ISRAEL DOING THE ABRAHAM ACCORD AND THE GOLAN HEIGHTS WHICH WAS TO BRING A PROPHECY TO ISRAEL AND GET IT READY FOR THE FUTURE WHEN ANTICHRIST ATTACKS BY THE ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT BEGIN.].
9/10/2022 Biden administration overrules Trump policy on Palestinians by Benjamin Weinthal – Fox News
The Biden administration announced a dramatic yet partial reversal of Donald Trump’s closure of the consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem by opening a "U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs" in the city.
Biden’s move is viewed by some as rewarding the Palestinian leadership after a wave of terrorism during which two Palestinians wielding an ax and knife murdered three Israelis in the town of Elad in May.
The previous month, Raad Hazem, a 28-year-old Palestinian gunman from Jenin, killed three people and wounded six others in a crowded bar in Tel Aviv.
A prominent former Trump official sees the upgrade of the Palestinian Affairs Unit, until now part of the embassy to Israel, as a setback for the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
TRUMP OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZES JERUSALEM AS ISRAEL'S CAPITAL CITY, ORDERS EMBASSY MOVE FOR US
"We had a consul-general in West Jerusalem for decades dedicated to Palestinian affairs, which meant Palestinians had to cross into West Jerusalem for any consular affairs related to the United States," Victoria Coates, a former deputy national security adviser for the Middle East and North Africa under Trump, told Fox News Digital.
"Since 2018, their affairs have been handled by a proper U.S. Embassy, which also happens to be in West Jerusalem. This unnecessary change with the Palestinians will only prolong the stalemate between them and Israel and will not bring us any closer to peace than the old ConGen [consulate-general] did [before Trump]."
AL-JAZEERA REPORTER DIES FOLLOWING DISPUTED INCIDENT IN THE WEST BANK
Israel’s former Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon also weighed in.
"The Biden administration is reverting to past failed practices," Danon told Fox News Digital. "Although the announced changes are essentially bureaucratic in nature, with amendments to names and reporting lines, it is the symbolism of the move which hits home for some. It signals an upgrade in relations with the possibility of more fruitless promises to come."
"The Abraham Accords moved beyond broken paradigms and looked for new solutions," added Danon, who is also chairman of World Likud. "This new path has been astoundingly successful. It is perhaps time for the current U.S. administration to cast aside past failed policies and look to set new, sound strategy."
TRUMP DECLARES ‘DAWN OF A NEW MIDDLE EAST’ AS HE PRESIDES OVER SIGNING OF HISTORIC DEALS
The Trump administration helped to negotiate groundbreaking agreements to normalize diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
The Israeli government vehemently opposes a reopening of the Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem because it would undercut the holy city as the undivided capital of Israel. Jerusalem proposes that the U.S. open its Palestinian consulate in Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestine Authority.
Fox News Digital sent a press query to the U.S. State Department Thursday for comment but had not received a response before publication.
"Having been unable to force upon Israel their plan to open a consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, this is a transparent attempt by the Biden administration to go round the back door, with a de facto consulate in clear attempt to water down the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital," Arsen Ostrovsky, an Israeli human rights attorney and chairman and CEO of the International Legal Forum, told Fox News Digital.
"The move, a direct challenge to Israel’s sovereignty, which potentially might also breach the Jerusalem Embassy Act, will only reward Palestinian intransigence and violence, as we have seen in the past months."
GAZA VIOLENCE INTENSIFIES AS JERUSALEM CLASHES RESUME
The U.S. Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and calls for it to remain an undivided city.
The diplomatic upgrade means Palestinians will deal directly with the State Department in Washington rather than first go through the American ambassador to Israel.
The department has renamed the Palestinian Affairs Unit the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs. In a statement, the office, now independent of the Jerusalem embassy, said the change was meant to "strengthen our diplomatic reporting and public diplomacy engagement," according to the Associated Press.
"We felt that it was important to reintroduce separate reporting lines to Washington on Israeli and Palestinian issues by our respective teams on the ground that focus on these issues," according to the statement, which also said the U.S. was reinstating a system in place for decades before Trump’s decision.
But it falls short of Biden administration pledges — and Palestinian demands — for the U.S. to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem, which for decades functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
6/9/2022 Turkey threatens US allies and partners as Ukraine war gives Erdogan leverage by Joel Gehrke – Washington Examiner
© Provided by Washington Examiner Turkey threatens US allies and partners as Ukraine war gives Erdogan leverage
Turkey may soon launch a new military operation against the Kurdish forces that partnered with the United States to dismantle the Islamic State group in Syria despite protests from American officials.
“We are completely unstinting in our efforts with the Turkish government to back them off on this ill-considered venture,” State Department Assistant Secretary Barbara Leaf told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a Wednesday hearing. “I couldn’t give you the assurance that they are going to.”
A cross-border assault could upend the U.S. approach to suppressing IS and perhaps even drive the most important American partner in the country into an alliance with Syrian President Bashar Assad, American leaders fear. Yet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who regards the Syrian fighters as terrorist allies of the Kurdish separatist group that has fought the Turkish central government for decades, seems keen to press disputes with the U.S. and other NATO members at a moment when the war in Ukraine has demonstrated Erdogan’s clout within the trans-Atlantic alliance — as evidenced by his Wednesday accusation that the U.S. and Greece have established military bases targeting Turkey.
“Nine American bases — where have those bases been established? In Greece,” Erdogan told reporters, per a Turkish public broadcaster’s interpreter. “And against whom? They answer ‘against Russia,’ but we will not buy into that. Sorry, but no.”
TURKEY REMINDS BLINKEN THAT UKRAINE GIVES ERDOGAN LEVERAGE IN NATO DISPUTE
Erdogan made that comment alongside Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro, who is visiting Ankara after President Joe Biden banned him and other Latin American authoritarians from attending the Summit of the Americas this week in Los Angeles. His press conference renewed some of the most fractious controversies of Erdogan’s relationship with the rest of the trans-Atlantic alliance, as he reiterated his accusation that Sweden and Finland, who have applied to join NATO, give shelter to Kurdish terrorists.
“What we experienced with Greece, what we experienced with France, we do not want to experience the same with them,” Erdogan said.
Greece and Turkey have a fraught history despite their mutual membership in NATO. They entered the alliance together in 1952 during the Cold War, but the modern state of Greece fought a war of independence against the Ottoman Empire, which preceded the Republic of Turkey, in the early 19th century that succeeded in part due to the interventions of Great Britain, France, and Russia.
French President Emmanuel Macron came to Greece’s aid in 2020 after Turkish and Greek forces nearly came to blows during a dispute about energy exploration rights in the Mediterranean. Turkey reportedly responded by using a cutting-edge Russian anti-aircraft missile system, purchased in defiance of U.S. sanctions law, to track F-16 fighter jets flown by France, Greece, and Italy during a joint military exercise with the United Arab Emirates. More recently, Turkey has accused Greece of militarizing key islands in the Aegean Sea in violation of international agreements.
“Greece should disarm these islands. If not, the sovereignty of these islands will be open to discussion.” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday, per Turkish media, in an apparent threat. “That’s what we clearly tell Greece.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis maintained that the two sides are “still very far” from the intensity that their disputes reached in 2020.
“Today, everyone needs to show restraint,” Mitsotakis said Tuesday, “especially at a time when we are facing a very big challenge at NATO with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We must be united.”
That invasion has galvanized the alliance and democratic allies in Europe, even spurring Sweden and Finland to abandon their historic posture of neutrality between Moscow and the capitals of NATO. Russia threatened retaliation for such a move during the Nordic states’ internal debates over the application process, but Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson countered that embattled Russian forces are too “occupied in Ukraine” to interdict their movement into the alliance — leaving Erdogan’s veto threat standing as the greatest impediment to their membership.
“NATO is an organization of security. NATO is not an organization that would pave the way for terror,” Erdogan said. “As long as these terror groups do run rampant in Sweden — and even in their own parliaments, there are terrorists — as long as these terrorists are in their parliaments and as long as these terror groups on the streets of Stockholm make demonstrations ... and as long as interviews with terrorist leaders are broadcast on national TVs, we cannot tell them, 'Go ahead and join NATO, and continue as such.'”
Erdogan appeared to be referring to Swedish lawmaker Amineh Kakabaveh, an Iranian Kurd who joined a Kurdish militia as a teenager during the Iran-Iraq War before fleeing to Europe. Now a political independent and deciding vote in Sweden’s divided parliament, Kakabaveh remains a supporter of Kurdish groups in Syria and rejects Erdogan’s allegation that those militias, the Syrian Democratic Forces and the YPG, are terrorists. The Swedish prime minister’s party endorsed Kakabaveh’s position on the Syrian Kurds in November as part of its effort to secure a governing majority.
“That freedom fighters who fought or sympathize with YPG or [the Democratic Union Party] are classed by certain state actors as terrorists is unacceptable. ... The Social Democrats intend to deepen their cooperation with the [the Democratic Union Party],” the Swedish politicians agreed, as the Financial Times noted.
Erdogan makes no distinction between those groups and the PKK, a militant organization of Turkish Kurds that the U.S. and other countries have designated a foreign terrorist organization for decades. He wants to drive the Syrian Kurdish forces back from the Turkish border — as he attempted to do in 2019. And the SDF, an umbrella group of Kurdish and Arab militias, has said it would partner with Assad to fend off the Turkish assault if Erdogan carries out his threat.
“The meeting confirmed the readiness of [SDF] forces to coordinate with forces of the Damascus government to confront any possible Turkish incursion and to protect Syrian territories against occupation,” the group said Tuesday.
Such a conflict could make it harder for those forces to maintain custody of thousands of IS militants that they are holding in northeast Syrian prisons. IS fighters conducted a major attack to take one of those prisons in January.
“Any venture, any military operation across the border into northern Syria, first and foremost puts the civilian population in the crosshairs, and secondly, [it] severely puts at risk a critical mission that the global D-ISIS coalition, the U.S., is undertaking,” Leaf, the State Department’s lead official for the Near East bureau, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday. “And, obviously, it puts into the crosshairs our own partners in that mission.”
6/11/2022 Israeli divers haul trash from ancient site for Oceans Day by Ilan Ben Zion, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A scuba-diving volunteer comes out of the water holding a chair he collected during a World Oceans Day
event on Friday in ancient Caesarea’s Roman-period port on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. ARIEL SCHALIT/AP
CAESAREA, Israel – Divers visiting the ancient seaport of Caesarea on Israel’s Mediterranean coast occasionally find treasure, but on Friday they searched for trash.
Twenty-six scuba-diving volunteers removed around 100 pounds of garbage from between the sunken pillars and submerged ruins of the historic site of Caesarea Maritima as part of a United Nations World Oceans Day initiative.
Dozens more at sites along Israel’s Mediterranean coast and on the Red Sea reefs in the Israeli resort of Eilat removed more than 330 pounds of trash. The cleanup included bottles and bags, ghost nets, fishing lines, aluminum cans, lost towels and other odd items, including a beach lounger, that were polluting coastal waters.
The events were organized by the Israeli Diving Federation with support from the Environmental Protection Ministry and Nature and Parks Authority, which manages the coastal areas, including Caesarea’s Roman-period port.
The U.N. marked World Oceans Day on Wednesday, but the scuba diving volunteers were taking to the water to clean the sites on Friday and Saturday, Israel’s weekend.
The U.N.’s environment program says the equivalent of a garbage truck full of plastic is dumped into the ocean each minute. Plastic waste can take centuries to degrade, and causes extensive damage to marine ecosystems.
6/11/2022 Abraham Accords: Israel carves new influence, regional peace by SETH J. FRANTZMAN – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Israel and Saudi Arabia could be moving toward closer ties, as the two-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords approaches. This is an important development because it shows that the legacy and fruit of the accords are continuing to grow.
However, at the same time, there are many challenges in the region. Iran and its proxies are on the march, holding countries hostage, such as Lebanon. That means Israel can’t even come up with a maritime boundary with its northern neighbor, even with the US backing the mediation. Israel’s coalition government chaos and tensions with the Palestinians also threaten to do some harm to Israel-Arab relations.
In early July 2020, during the pandemic, the first hints of Israel-Gulf ties began to show themselves. These hints had been around for a while, as commentators and experts noted that Israel, the UAE and Bahrain had shared interests. There was also talk of how Israel and Saudi Arabia shared some views in the region.
This historic move by the Gulf was part of a multi-decade process. Israel had some relations with Gulf countries in the 1990s. In addition, Saudi Arabia had floated a peace proposal in the early 2000s. However, it stipulated that the Jewish state would have to withdraw from the West Bank in order to achieve peace.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post BACK ON the right track: US president Bill Clinton applauds
while flanked by prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (L) and Jordan’s King Hussein, at the close of the
Israel-Jordan peace treaty signing ceremony, in Washington, October 26, 1994. (credit: REUTERS)
What changed was that movement toward peace became possible due to the Trump administration’s push for a peace deal, and the UAE and Bahrain deciding to move forward. Bahrain would have been the first to make peace, but the small country needed backing. The UAE had an independent foreign policy and was able to move the ball to the peace end zone.
Another context of this was the fact that Israel hadn’t achieved new peace deals since the 1990s. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, there was a move toward peace by Egypt and then Jordan. In addition, there was similar movement by Tunisia, Morocco and some other states.
The end of the Cold War took the wind out of the sails of anti-Israel states – and Iran had not yet expanded its power in the region. But the rise of groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and extremism in the region put some peace ideals on hold. In addition, the Second Intifada and the inability of Israel and the Palestinians to reach a peace deal put other deals on hold.
US officials such as then-secretary of state John Kerry wanted to hold out the chance for peace by pressuring the Gulf to pressure Israel to make peace with Ramallah first. But the Obama administration failed, and the Trump administration was willing to rewrite the rules. What slowed down its work was the Netanyahu administration and its endless elections, which began with political chaos in late 2018.
BY 2020, despite the antics of the Netanyahu administration, the Abraham Accords came to fruition. Foreshadowing began with an op-ed by the UAE’s ambassador to Washington in an Israeli newspaper and cooperation regarding COVID, as well as humanitarian flights. This was symbolic.
For instance, an agreement was reached in July 2020 by the Abu Dhabi-based Group 42 with Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to develop breakthrough technology solutions for COVID-19. “Israel Aerospace Industries entered a historic collaboration agreement with Group 42, a company based in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE,” a statement noted. “The collaboration between the two companies will cover research and development of solutions that may help fight the COVID-19 pandemic."
“The agreement was signed between IAI’s ELTA Group via a videoconference call between Israel and the Emirates. In the call, representatives of both companies discussed ways to leverage AI and other innovative technologies, including lasers and sensors, to develop COVID-19-focused systems. The solutions, as well as the joint medical and technological initiatives, are meant not only to help the populations of both countries but also to aid in the global battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and improve the healthcare situation of the entire region.”
Yoav Turgeman, IAI VP and CEO of ELTA, said that “IAI is excited to sign the collaboration agreement with our Abu Dhabi partners.”
Two years later Israel and the UAE signed a free trade agreement. This could be huge, eventually covering billions in trade.
Dorian Barak, co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, praised the new trade deal. “UAE-Israel trade will exceed $2 billion in 2022, rising to around $5b in five years, bolstered by collaboration in renewables, consumer goods, tourism and the life sciences sectors,” he said. “Additionally, Dubai is fast becoming a hub for Israeli companies that look to South Asia, the Middle East and the Far East as markets for their goods and services. Nearly 1,000 Israeli companies will be working in and through the UAE by year’s end. It’s unprecedented.”
IN THE last two years there have been many milestones in the aftermath of the accords. These include trade and defense deals, inter-religious and interfaith coexistence initiatives, the symbolic celebration of Jewish holidays in the Gulf and the blooming of new Gulf Jewish communities. In addition, there is a lot of talk about how green technology and food security are important for the region, and how Israel and the UAE can partner on initiatives. With the Ukraine crisis unfolding, the supply chain crisis continuing in the aftermath of COVID and fears about food security, there is a plethora of issues that Israel and its Gulf peace partners can now work on.
The real benefit
But the real benefit of the peace deals has been the renewal of Israel’s ties with Egypt and Jordan. Talks with Cairo and Amman have enabled these ties to come into the open after many years where relations with Jordan were tense and cold. In fact, more than two decades after the Jordan-Israel peace deal of the 1990s, there was real concern that things were going in the wrong direction. The Abraham Accords look to have improved ties with Amman, even though issues in Jerusalem continue to stymie real friendship. With Egypt, on the other hand, there is much closer cooperation with the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Further afield, Israel-Morocco ties have also grown by leaps and bounds. Israel-Sudan ties have also increased, but there is concern in Khartoum that Israel is not cementing these relations. Sudan also has political troubles in its attempted transition from a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government to democracy.
However, the role of Saudi Arabia in Sudan and also in Egypt has important ramifications for Israel ties. Riyadh backs these countries having closer ties to the Jewish state.
Toward that end, the Saudis appear to be doing more outreach as well. The Wall Street Journal reported on June 6 that Saudi Arabia was moving toward eventual ties with Israel. This comes as US President Joe Biden appears to have postponed a trip to the two Middle East countries. Riyadh is trying to balance closer ties to Israel against reducing tensions with Iran and the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
Another aside to this is that Jordan and Egypt are working more closely with Iraq. In turn, the UAE is working more closely with Syria. Syria and Iraq are enemies of Israel, at least according to their government propaganda. The Syrian regime is weak these days, so Iran can use Syria to move weapons to Hezbollah. Iraq has even passed a new law instituting the death penalty for anyone who suggests normalization with Israel. A conference last year that suggested peace with Israel became very controversial in Iraq.
In addition, Iran has attacked Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan autonomous region, claiming to be targeting the “Mossad.” This comes amid new Iran-Israel tensions, as the Islamic Republic accuses Israel of an assassination in Tehran and reports that a drone targeted Iran’s Parchin military complex. Iran has vowed revenge and may even target Israelis in Turkey.
Ankara, meanwhile, has been working to reconcile with Israel, as well as with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. One could read this as being related to the Abraham Accords, which Turkey initially opposed; but Ankara’s real interest in reconciliation is economic, not about peace.
AS WE survey the region two years after the accords, we can see many changes. The importance of the growing Israel-UAE-Bahrain relationship is clear. Also, Israel’s move to be within US Central Command’s area of operations is important because the accords enabled Washington to work closely with Jerusalem in the region, rather than doing so via European Command as in the past. Now Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and the US can train together in the Red Sea.
In addition, Israel’s close ties with Greece and Cyprus tie in with Athens working more closely with Egypt and the UAE.
Further afield, Egypt backs the Libyan forces that control eastern Libya, as the country continues to be divided as it has been since 2011. Turkey has backed the government in Tripoli, and rivals continue to clash in Libya.
The point is that the Israel-UAE-Bahrain relationship now ties into the operations of US Central Command’s naval component NAVCENT and this has huge ramifications for the region. USCENTCOM’s new head, Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, was recently in Israel, where he saw the country’s large Chariots of Fire drill. That drill is all about preparing for possible confrontation with Iran and Iranian-backed proxies such as Hezbollah. Israel also did massive training in Cyprus as part of the drill.
Here we see how Israel has carved out a new depth of influence in the Eastern Mediterranean. This has Hezbollah so angry that it threatened attacks on June 5, as Lebanon complained about Israel gas exploration.
Suffice it to say that Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Iraq – all the countries where Iran has proxies – will not be moving toward peace with Israel. Probably neither will Algeria, Libya or Tunisia. But Israel has had brief, recent ties with Oman, after then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2018 visit there.
It remains to be seen what will happen with Saudi Arabia, but overall the growth of ties appears to be running in a positive direction. Tensions over Jerusalem as well as Hamas attempts to sabotage Israel’s relations will continue. But many countries now understand that groups like Hamas exploit these tensions.
This is another major outcome of the peace deals as well. There is more positive coverage of Israel in the region. Most of the media in the countries Israel has peace with are pro-government, which is favorable to the accords because it means fewer governments are pumping out official anti-Israel propaganda. Considering that several decades ago this was not the case, that means a new generation can be raised with more amicable views of both Israel and Jews in general.
The official slogan of the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen is “Death to Israel, curse the Jews.” For years, Western diplomats and media would have accepted such hatred as the ways things work in the region. Today we can see, across a swath of the region, that open hatred for Jews and Israel has been reduced. Jerusalem’s ties with the Gulf matter greatly in this respect, helping to rewrite decades of antisemitism in the Middle East.
6/11/2022 Israel continues working on Arab sector plan worth NIS 30 billion by JERUSALEM POST STAFF – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
The Israeli government approved on Tuesday the allocation of NIS 2 billion from its NIS 30 billion five-year plan for the Arab sector to go toward road and transport infrastructure in Arab localities.
The NIS 30 billion budget project, officially named Taqaddum (?????????, 'progress' in Arabic), was agreed upon as a requirement from MK Mansour Abbas' Ra'am party as part of coalition talks with Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid and Yamina's Naftali Bennett.
Issues with road infrastructure in and around Arab villages and cities were targeted as a pressing concern in the Knesset's Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs, which is chaired by Abbas. Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen presented the progress made in executing the plan to the committee.
"We are working daily to fully implement the five-year plan for the Arab sector."
Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Ra'am head MK Mansour Abbas with
Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen (Yesh Atid) (credit: SOCIAL EQUALITY MINISTRY)
Two major road infrastructure projects
Cohen highlighted two major projects which are all set to begin by the end of June.
The biggest project will see some NIS 600 million allocated for the construction and renovation of inner-city roads in several Arab localities, with Ayalon Highways hired as a contractor for the project. Major investment will also go toward the construction of intercity roads between Arab localities and cities at the cost of NIS 102 million.
Additionally, NIS 333 million will go to other road infrastructure projects at the local and municipal levels.
In the committee meeting, the social equality minister stressed the importance of improving the socio-economic state of Arab localities across Israel and the Arab sector as a whole.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post View of construction of a new road and
sidewalks in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat (credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
Arab sector: Work in progress
Several other aspects of the Arab sector plan have already been implemented since the package was approved in the Knesset in October 2021.
NIS 200 million were set aside for "balance grants" for Arab localities and municipalities, adding to the NIS 140 million previously set aside for the project. Housing projects in Arab cities were allocated a NIS 500 million budget and an extra NIS 47 million are set to go to various economic projects in the Arab periphery.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government also invested in the education of Arab-Israeli youth, especially in their integration into Israel's vibrant hi-tech sector.
A NIS 600 million plan, to be implemented over five years, will see an increase in the number of Arab engineers working in Israeli hi-tech by an estimated 250%.
6/12/2022 Mansour Abbas refuses to rule out government with Netanyahu by JERUSALEM POST STAFF
© (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Ra'am joining an alternative government led by opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu cannot be ruled out, MK Mansour Abbas said at a Shabatarbut event in the Arab city of Baka al-Gharbiya.
Abbas reportedly stated that, if Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government falls, he will not rule out any political possibility, including with Religious Zionist head MK Bezalel Smotrich and MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, according to Walla.
During the event, Abbas also praised the current government's efforts, saying that the notion that the experiment of an Arab party in the coalition failed is wrong.
"People see it as black or white...we continue to work well together as different factions, in that sense the experiment succeeded," Abbas said.
"We work well together as different factions, in that sense the experiment succeeded"
Ra'am head MK Mansour Abbas
Abbas added that in his view, no bill, bar the budget bill, can topple the government. "We can't pass every bill, Bibi's previous government also could not pass any bill it wanted."
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu
at the Knesset, May 18, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Likud MK: Abbas "shares Hamas' values"
Later on Saturday, Abbas played down talks of an alternative government being formed in the current Knesset in a 'Meet the Press' N12 interview.
In the interview, the Ra'am head said that "the people should be asked on they think should lead the country" if the Bennett-Lapid government is toppled.
MK Israel Katz, who was also interviewed on the broadcast, signaled that Likud has no intention of forming a partnership with Ra'am by attacking Abbas, claiming he is a "terror supporter" who "shares Hamas' values."
The two also argued on whether there were negotiations between Ra'am and the Likud prior to Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021 and the formation of the 36th government.
Heavy pressure on rebel coalition MKs
Abbas' comments come following Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar threat that the coalition's inability to pass the West Bank emergency directive bill last week. Sa'ar, who initiated the bill, said that not passing the bill would cause chaos before it was voted down in the Knesset plenum by opposition MKs and two coalition MKs, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (Meretz) and Ra'am's Mazen Ghanaim.
Rebels Zoabi, who previously quit and rejoined the coalition, and Ghanaim are both under heavy pressure to resign from the Knesset to make way for MKs that are more likely to vote with the government.
Zoabi pressured by Meretz, Arab officials to quit Knesset
On Saturday, some 20 Meretz activists called on their elected representative Zoabi to resign as an MK during a protest under Zoabi's Nof Hagalil home. The protesters said Zoabi's actions could give rise to a Netanyahu-led government which features in Ben-Gvir and Smotrich in prominent offices, calling for her to quit in order to "save the change government."
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Meretz voters protest under MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi's Nof Hagalil home (credit: MAARIV)
Heads of Arab localities across Israel also began a campaign to push Zoabi out of the Knesset, as per KAN News. The Arab officials, some of which were present during coalition negotiations between Zoabi and Lapid last month, asked for her resignation in several meetings.
According to the officials, all the projects agreed for their localities by Zoabi and Lapid were put on hold due to the uncertainty of Zoabi's position in the coalition.
Meretz head, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, also indirectly called for her resignation in a tweet last week, saying "those who cannot withstand the difficulties" should resign.
However, Zoabi said she has no intention of resigning from the Knesset in a Saturday evening interview with KAN News. The coalition has reached a point of "posing a threat to the Arab sector, especially on national matters."
"The Israeli government is posing a threat to the Arab sector, especially on national matters."
Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi
Zoabi also claimed that Meretz '"changed" due to their decision to vote for the West Bank bill, adding that she may have angered Jewish left-wing voters but that she retains the support of Arab Meretz voters.
Ghanaim intends to remain an MK
Ra'am MK Ghanaim, who is also pressured in recent days to quit the Knesset, will not quit the Knesset and intends to vote against the emergency directives again when they're brought up to a vote once more, Haaretz reported.
Ghanaim, who was reportedly offered support in his intention to run for mayor of Sakhnin in local elections next year, said that even if he decides to run, he will not quit the Knesset.
© Provided by The Jerusalem PostMK Mazen Ghanaim and MK Nir Orbach exchange words
during a vote in the Knesset plenum on June 6, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Yamina MK Nir Orbach, who launched a verbal attack on Ghanaim during the crucial Knesset vote, reportedly warned his faction head, Bennett, that he would bring the government down if the two Arab MKs did not resign.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
6/12/2022 ‘Heavy’ damage to Damascus airport confirmed after Israeli attack by Al Jazeera
© Provided by Al Jazeera
Syria state media has confirmed that Damascus International Airport has suffered major damage – including to runways – following an Israeli missile attack.
The Syrian transport ministry said in a statement on Saturday that runways remained out of service at the capital’s airport following the attack on Friday, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.
“Landing and departing flights were suspended today till further notification as a result of the Israeli aggression, since it caused heavy damages to the airstrips in several localities and to the navigation lights in addition to the damages [that] occurred in the airport lobby,” SANA quoted from a ministry statement.
The ministry said that flights are expected to resume “in corporation with air carriers” as soon as repair work is concluded, SANA reported.
The airport was targeted by a volley of missiles fired from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights at approximately 4:20am local time (01:20 GMT) on Friday, state media reported.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air raids against its neighbour since war broke out in Syria in 2011, targeting government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters from Lebanon’s Shia group Hezbollah.
While Israel rarely comments on individual attacks, it has acknowledged carrying out hundreds in Syria that it has said are necessary to prevent regional rival Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.
Rarely have such attacks caused major flight disruptions.
The transport ministry statement was the first to describe the extent of damage from Friday’s air raid.
“Civil aviation and national companies are working … to repair the sizeable damage at the airport,” the ministry said, adding that a terminal building was also hit.
The SANA news agency said the Israeli bombardment also wounded a civilian.
Syria’s ally, Russia, strongly condemned “the provocative Israeli attack against essential civilian infrastructure.”
A spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry called such attacks “an absolutely unacceptable violation of international norms.”
Russia’s military intervention in 2015 helped to turn the war in favour of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow has continued to maintain military bases in the country.
The more-than-a-decade-long conflict in Syria started with the brutal repression of peaceful protests against al-Assad’s rule that then escalated, pulling in foreign powers and fighters.
Nearly half a million people have been killed and approximately half of the country’s pre-war population have been forced to flee from their homes.
Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian spoke by phone and also condemned the missile attack, SANA reported.
Syria “will defend itself by all legitimate means” against Israeli attacks, Mekdad said.
6/12/2022 Clashes in Libya prompt UN concern - Fighting erupts between militias by ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAIRO – The United Nations mission to Libya expressed concern Saturday over clashes in Tripoli, after a night of heavy fire between militias in the capital.
The latest fighting comes as Libya is once again divided between competing governments – one of which is based in Tripoli – despite more than a year of tentative steps toward unification.
The cause of the violence in the seaside neighborhood was unclear, but videos circulated on social media showed families with children sheltering and fleeing as artillery fire flew across the night sky. Some accused two of the city’s powerful militias of infighting. In a statement, the mission said the clashes endangered civilians and called on Libyans “to do everything possible to preserve the country’s fragile stability at this sensitive time.”
Libya has for years been split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each supported by various well-armed militias and foreign governments. The Mediterranean nation has been in a state of upheaval since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and later killed dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The country’s plan to transition to an elected government fell through after an interim administration based in Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, failed to hold elections last year. Dbeibah has refused to step down since then, raising questions over his mandate. In response, the country’s eastern-based lawmakers have elected a rival prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, a powerful former interior minister who is now operating a separate administration out of the city of Sirte.
Dbeibah, in a televised phone call, urged a powerful commander who leads the 444 brigade – which serves his government – to do what is necessary to restore peace in Tripoli.
His rival, Bashagha, in a series of Tweets called on armed groups to surrender their weapons. Last month, Bashagha entered Tripoli and attempted to install his government there, but left within hours after fighting broke out that killed one person.
Meanwhile, a widening blockade on oil production, largely in the country’s east, has cut off key state revenues in opposition to Dbeibah remaining in power. On Friday, a video announcement by residents and workers of the Sidra oil port, a key export facility, warned that they would stop operations due to lack of basic services in surrounding towns.
6/13/2022 Israel urges nationals to leave Turkey over Iran attack threat by AFP
© JACK GUEZ
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Monday urged citizens in Turkey to leave "as soon as possible" over threats that Iranian operatives are actively planning attacks on Israelis in Istanbul.
The stark warning comes amid the latest surge in tensions between bitter rivals Iran and Israel, with Tehran blaming the Jewish state for a series of attacks on its nuclear and military infrastructure, inside Iran but also inside Syria.
Lapid made no mention of any alleged Israeli operations against Iranian targets.
But, he said, Israelis in Turkey faced "a real and immediate danger" from Iranian agents, citing "several Iranian attempts at carrying out terror attacks against Israelis on holiday in Istanbul."
"If you are already in Istanbul, return to Israel as soon as possible," Lapid said in a public warning.
"If you have planned a flight to Istanbul -- cancel. No vacation is worth your life," he added, during a meeting with lawmakers from his Yesh Atid party.
"Do not fly to Turkey at all," unless such travel is "essential," the foreign minister urged Israelis.
- Travel warning upped -
Hours after his statement, Israel's National Security Council raised its travel warning for Istanbul to the highest level.
"Given the continuing nature of the threat and in light of the increased Iranian intentions to attack Israelis in Turkey, especially Istanbul, the National Security Council has raised the travel warning for Istanbul to the highest level, Level 4," NSC said in a statement.
The NSC noted that other parts of Turkey remained at the intermediate threat Level 3, stressing there was no prohibition on using the Istanbul airport as a connecting hub for flights, "provided that one does not leave the airport."
Iran and Israel have been engaged in a years-long shadow war but tensions have ratcheted up following a string of high-profile incidents Tehran has blamed on Israel.
The Islamic republic claimed Israel was responsible for the killing of Revolutionary Guards Colonel Sayyad Khodai, who was shot dead outside his Tehran home on May 22.
The Guards described him as a "defender of the sanctuary," a term used for those who work on behalf of Iran in Syria or Iraq and vowed to avenge his assassination by "Zionists."
Israel was also blamed for air strikes last week on the Damascus International Airport, which caused major damage two runways.
The airport is in a region south of Syria's capital where Iran-backed groups, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, regularly operate.
- Plot thwarted -
While Israel rarely comments on individual strikes, it has acknowledged carrying out hundreds in Syria, which the Jewish state's military says is necessary to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.
Lapid said some Israelis who recently travelled to Turkey had returned "without knowing their lives were saved."
The alleged attackers were targeting Israeli citizens "in order to kidnap them or kill them," Lapid said.
Earlier Monday, Israel's public broadcaster Kan claimed that Iranian operatives had planned to kidnap Israelis in Turkey a month ago.
The plot was thwarted after Israel alerted Ankara about the threat.
Lapid thanked the Turkish government "for the effort they're putting into protecting the lives of Israeli citizens", without providing details.
Turkey has consistently been a popular holiday destination for Israelis, including through more than a decade of diplomatic rupture between the two countries.
Ankara and Israel have mended ties in recent months, with senior Turkish leaders citing the importance of Israel to Turkey's tourism sector.
On Monday, Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper quoted an unnamed security official as saying that there are several Iranian "cells" planning operations against Israeli tourists in Turkey.
6/14/2022 Efforts to Form a New Government in Iraq Descend Into Chaos by Jane Arraf – The New York Times
© Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Seven months of efforts to form a new government in Iraq were in turmoil on Monday, a day after the powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr directed members of Parliament who are loyal to him to resign from the seats, they won in an October election.
Mr. Sadr, who has become one of the biggest political forces in Iraq since emerging in 2003, has no formal role but commands the allegiance of the single largest bloc in the 329-seat Parliament. The 73 lawmakers of his movement submitted their resignations on Sunday after the collapse of months of negotiations by Mr. Sadr to form a coalition government with Sunni and Kurdish partners.
On Monday, Mr. Sadr’s candidate for prime minister, Jaafar al-Sadr, a cousin of the Shiite cleric and currently the Iraqi ambassador to London, said in a post on Twitter that he was withdrawing his candidacy.
The talks on forming a government broke down amid disagreements over who would be president. Under Iraq’s parliamentary system, established after a U.S.-led coalition toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, the president nominates a prime minister and cabinet ministers who must then be approved by Parliament to take up their posts. The mercurial Muqtada al-Sadr suggested that in abandoning the negotiations, he was sacrificing his bloc’s hard-won gains in the elections last year so that a government could be formed.
© Ali Abdul Hassan/Associated Press Lawmakers from the Sadr political bloc attending the first session of the new
Parliament in Baghdad in January. The resignations came after the collapse of months of talks to form a new government.
“This step is considered a sacrifice for the homeland and the people to save them from an unknown fate,” Mr. Sadr said in a statement. “If the survival of the Sadrist bloc is an obstacle to the formation of the government, then all representatives of the bloc are ready to resign from Parliament.”
His announcement culminated months of political paralysis that underscored the dysfunction of Iraq’s political system and the fragmentation of the multiple Shiite Muslim political blocs. Those inter-Shiite divisions have supplanted sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shiite groups in past years as a main source of Iraqi instability.
Mr. Sadr, the son of a revered Shiite cleric assassinated during Saddam Hussein’s regime, formed a militia in 2003 to fight American forces after the U.S. invasion of Iraq turned into an occupation. He also battled Iraqi government forces in Baghdad and in the southern city of Basra before disbanding his militia, called the Mahdi Army.
Political turmoil in Iraq: 73 lawmakers resign from parliament
It was not immediately clear whether the resignations were merely a negotiating tactic on Mr. Sadr’s part or a real break with parliamentary politics. But his withdrawal and a related announcement that he was closing most Sadrist offices around the country raised fears that he could replace political negotiations with destabilizing street protests — something he has used before as a lever of pressure.
“With the Sadrists apparently out of the actual political process, their history is that when they are not engaged in politics, they’re out in the streets,” said Feisal al-Istrabadi, director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East at Indiana University. “The question is — are they in the formal electoral politics or are they out in the street with their guns?”
Mr. Sadr, who presents himself as an Iraqi nationalist, is considered the Shiite political leader least tied to Iran. His withdrawal opens the door for other, Iran-backed parties, to make headway in forming a government.
Analysts described the political turmoil kindled by Mr. Sadr’s move as one of the most significant and potentially destabilizing developments since Iraq’s Shiite-led governments were elected after Saddam Hussein was toppled.
Although Shiite Muslims are a majority in Iraq, Mr. Hussein, who was executed in 2006, relied predominantly on Sunni Arabs to maintain his power.
Mr. Sadr’s main Shiite rivals are tied to Iran-backed militias that were formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State and are now officially part of Iraqi security forces — though they are only nominally under government control.
“This is a major challenge to the post-2003 Shiite order because this is primarily an intra-Shiite political fight,” said Randa Slim, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute. “Both sides are heavily armed now and both sides have shown in the past willingness to do whatever it takes to preserve the system.
Another analyst, Zaid al-Ali, author of “The Struggle for Iraq’s Future,” said the divisions were a sign of Iran’s weakening influence on Iraqi politics. Tehran has tried to prevent splits among Iraqi Shiite groups that could dilute Shiite influence in a multisectarian, multiethnic Iraq or that could allow any one Shiite group to become too powerful.
“There is a huge amount of division in the Shiite political spectrum, and Iran hasn’t been able to resolve that at all,” he said.
Abbas Kadhim, a Washington-based senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said that even if the move by Mr. Sadr led to fresh elections, that would not fundamentally change the persistent problems in a political system that, since 2003, has relied on dividing up power among the various ethnic and sectarian groupings.
The resignations themselves will not prompt elections. Instead, the candidates who received the next-highest number of votes in October would replace the Sadr loyalists in Parliament, according to legal scholars.
Constitutional experts said that the parliamentary resignations were effective after being accepted by the speaker, the Sunni politician Mohammed al-Halboosi, and did not require parliamentary approval.
A pro-Sadr media organization, Al Jidar, warned Mr. Sadr’s rivals on Monday that they should not consider the resignations something that renders the Sadrist movement ineffectual.
“They forget that the gates of hell will be open in front of them and that the Sadrist movement is able to bring down any government they form within only a few hours,” it said in a Telegram post.
6/14/2022 UN, elder: Week of tribal clashes in Sudan’s Darfur kill at least 100
CAIRO – Tribal clashes over the past week in Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur have killed around 100 people, the U.N. refugee agency and a tribal elder said Monday, the latest surge in violence in the restive region. Toby Harward, a coordinator with the UNHCR, said the fighting grew out of a land dispute between Arab and African tribes in the town of Kulbus in West Darfur province. Arab militias then attacked villages in the area, he said. Abkar al-Toum, a tribal leader in the town, said the dead included at least 62 burned bodies.
6/14/2022 Abbas’s Fatah: Hamas trying to take over West Bank by KHALED ABU TOAMEH – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Hamas members planned to seize control of a Palestinian security installation near Ramallah, Palestinian sources claimed on Tuesday.
The claim coincided with the 15th anniversary of Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and its security forces there.
According to the sources, the PA security forces recently discovered a weapons cache and tunnel near the headquarters of a Palestinian security installation in the town of Beitunia, west of Ramallah.
At least 19 Hamas members were arrested in connection with the weapons and the tunnel.
The Hamas men are suspected of planning to infiltrate and seize control of the security installation, which belongs to the PA’s Preventive Security Service, the sources said. The weapons were discovered following an explosion in a carpentry workshop in the town.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post PALESTINIAN STUDENTS wave Hamas flags during
a rally at Birzeit University, near Ramallah, last week. (Credit: FLASH90)
During the coup in the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas militiamen used a tunnel to detonate explosive devices underneath the headquarters of the Preventive Security Force in the city of Khan Yunis. Several officers were killed in the massive explosion.
More than 700 Palestinians were killed during the clashes that erupted in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and PA and Fatah (the ruling Fatah faction headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas) officers and activists.
“In its crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip, Hamas used heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and bombs, and killed hundreds under brutal torture,” according to a report by the PA’s official news agency Wafa. “Hamas killed entire families after besieging their homes and raining missiles on them as if they were fighting a people other than their own. A large number of Fatah members and security officers were martyred, and their headquarters and homes were burned and demolished over their heads and the heads of their families.”
A senior PA security official refused to comment on the claim regarding the alleged Hamas scheme to attack a security installation in Beitunia.
“In its crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip, Hamas used heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and bombs, and killed hundreds under brutal torture.”
PA’s official news agency Wafa
In a statement marking the anniversary of the Hamas coup, Fatah warned that the Gaza-based terror group was continuing its efforts to extend its control to the West Bank. Hamas is “proceeding with its attempts and conspiracies to control the West Bank,” Fatah charged.
Fatah went on to accuse Hamas of preparing to carry out “sabotage attacks” in the West Bank in order to undermine the PA and its security forces. Referring to the reports concerning the alleged Hamas plot near Ramallah, Fatah said that the discovery of the weapons and tunnel was a clear example of the terror group’s ongoing efforts to spread chaos and anarchy in the West Bank. Since the 2007 coup, the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been divided into two separate entities.
Ayman al-Raqab, a senior Fatah official, said that the split was a Palestinian “gift” to Israel. “The division was the worst event to happen in Palestine,” he said. “Israel stands to benefit from the consolidation of the division.”
At least seven attempts by Arab countries to end the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah have failed. The countries that tried to achieve national reconciliation between the rival parties included Saudi Arabia, Syria, Qatar, Yemen, Algeria and Egypt.
Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said that Hamas’s “black coup” remains an obstacle to the “continuation of the Palestinian struggle to end the occupation.” He claimed that Israel and other regional and international parties have since been “encouraging” the division among the Palestinians. “Hamas is not interested in ending this black chapter in the history of our people,” al-Ahmed argued.
6/14/2022 Biden Trip to Saudi Arabia Is Set, but Energy Help Is Not by Peter Baker – The New York Times
© Samuel Corum for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Biden’s much-anticipated trip to Saudi Arabia has been formally set for next month, the White House announced on Tuesday, but officials played down the chances of securing much immediate help in stabilizing energy markets roiled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr. Biden will make his first trip to the Middle East as president from July 13 to July 16, stopping first in Israel and the West Bank before heading to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the reported mastermind of the brutal 2018 assassination of a Saudi dissident with American ties.
The trip has generated waves of criticism even before it was officially announced. Human rights activists, media figures and even some of Mr. Biden’s fellow Democrats denounced the idea of a president shaking hands with a Saudi leader said to have ordered the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a leading critic of the royal family who lived in the United States and wrote a column for The Washington Post.
As a candidate for president, Mr. Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia “pay the price and make them in fact the pariah that they are” because of the murder. After taking office, he ordered the release of an intelligence report tying Prince Mohammed to the Khashoggi killing and imposed modest sanctions on lower-level figures. But with gasoline prices marching steadily upward and Russian energy increasingly shunned, analysts said Mr. Biden could ill afford to keep one of the world’s largest oil producers at arm’s length much longer.
Mr. Biden and his staff have insisted in recent days that the decision to visit Saudi Arabia — effectively relieving it of pariah status — had more to do with security issues than the price of gasoline.
“The commitments from the Saudis don’t relate to anything having to do with energy,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Sunday, citing national security concerns. “It has to do with much larger issues than having to do with the energy piece.”
Related video: Biden visit to bolster ties? US President Joe Biden says Saudi Arabia visit possible
Biden visit to bolster ties? US President Joe Biden says Saudi Arabia visit possible Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said on Monday that while energy will be a point of discussion, the relationship between the nations was far more complex than that. “To look at this trip as it being only about oil is not — it would be simply wrong to do that,” she said.
OPEC Plus, the group of oil-producing nations led by Saudi Arabia, already announced this month that it would increase production modestly in July and August, and American officials have said they expect the bloc to ratchet it up even more in the fall. But that commitment has had little effect thus far on the price at the pump, which hit $5 a gallon on average in the United States this weekend for the first time.
An administration official who briefed reporters on the president’s trip on condition of anonymity according to White House ground rules said Mr. Biden would meet in Jeddah with Prince Mohammed, the country’s de facto ruler, but would not say whether the president would raise the Khashoggi case. A formal White House statement announcing the trip mentioned human rights as one of a group of issues expected to come up, along with climate change, Iran’s nuclear program and the war in Yemen.
Mr. Biden will be traveling to the region at a time of enormous volatility. Negotiations to revive a 2015 pact in which Iran would once again forswear its pursuit of nuclear weapons appear to be faltering, raising fears that Israel might take action on its own, with tacit support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states that also consider Tehran a threat. But Israel’s fragile governing coalition, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, has been teetering, and there is no guarantee it will last even until Mr. Biden’s visit.
At the same time, the president will try to restore America’s place as more of an honest broker between the Israelis and Palestinians after the yearslong pro-Israeli tilt of former President Donald J. Trump and reaffirm America’s support for a two-state solution. Mr. Biden will also meet with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, the first such presidential meeting since Mr. Trump’s 2017 visit before their relationship fractured. Mr. Biden is likely to meet with Mr. Abbas in Bethlehem.
But aides said Mr. Biden would also demonstrate his commitment to Israel’s security, possibly by visiting one of the defensive systems provided by the United States. And he will encourage the growing normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab states under the so-called Abraham Accords kicked off in Mr. Trump’s final months in office.
Aides said Mr. Biden would also participate in a virtual summit meeting with fellow leaders of a new bloc called the I2-U2, which stands for Israel, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
While in Jeddah, Mr. Biden will meet with the leaders of nine Arab nations: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, which all belong to the Gulf Cooperation Council, along with Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.
In defending the president’s decision to travel to Saudi Arabia after branding it a pariah state, officials said he always meant to recalibrate the relationship rather than rupture it altogether, and insisted he still stood for human rights.
But they emphasized Saudi cooperation in brokering a truce in the long-running war in neighboring Yemen between the Saudi-led coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels, which has shattered the country and left millions hungry and impoverished. The truce, now in its ninth week, was just renewed for another two months, and officials said that it illustrated the benefits of American engagement with Saudi Arabia.
[ I WOULD ADVISE YOU TO NOT CALL THE ABRAHAM ACCORD SO-CALLED BECAUSE IT WAS CONNECTED BECAUSE BOTH PARTIES DISCOVERED THAT IN THE PAST WERE CONNECTED TO SONS OF ABRAHAM WHICH MEANS BOTH PARTIES PRAY TO THE SAME GOD WHICH THEY CALL ALAH AND WE AND CHRISTIANS OR THE 11 DISCIPLES WHO SEE JESUS CHRIST AS OUR SAVIOR WHO IS THE TRINITY WE CALL YHWH OR JEHOVAH THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB AND OF COURSE JOE BIDEN IS UNSURE WHO HIS GOD IS IN HIS SO-CALLED CATHOLIC PRESENCE BASED ON WHAT DEMOCRATS WANT IT TO BE AND SINCE THEY DEPEND ON SAUL/PAUL WHO CREATED APOSTLES WHO WERE NOT THE ORIGINALS PICKED BY JESUS WHICH I THINK MANY WILL DISCOVER THIS IN TIME IN THIS CRAZY WORLD FROM THE ROMAN DAYS WHY GOD NEEDED ROME TO FULFILL PROPHECY DUE TO THEIR CONTROL OF THE ENTIRE WORLD WHICH ALLOWED CHRISTIANITY TO TRAVEL TO THE ENTIRE WORLD IN GREEK, ROMAN AND OTHER LANGUAGES TO SEND THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE ALSO WHICH IT DID BUT NOW WE ARE BEGINNING TO EXPERIENCE OF WHO IS THE MYSTERY BABYLON DAYS IN OUR TIMES.].
6/16/2022 Israeli court finds Gaza aid worker guilty by Emily Rose and Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Supporters of Mohammed el-Halabi hold a Palestinian flag and placards as protesters wave Israeli flags outside the court
in Beersheba, Israel, Wednesday. The Gaza aid worker was found guilty of several terrorism charges. TSAFRIR ABAYOV/AP
BEERSHEBA, Israel – An Israeli court on Wednesday found a Gaza aid worker guilty of several terrorism charges in a high-profile case in which his employer, independent auditors and the Australian government say they have found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Mohammed el-Halabi, the Gaza director for the international Christian charity World Vision, was arrested in 2016 and accused of diverting tens of millions of dollars to the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules the territory. The trial, and his prolonged detention, have further strained relations between Israel and humanitarian organizations that provide aid to Palestinians.
Both he and World Vision have denied the allegations and an independent audit in 2017 also found no evidence of support for Hamas. His lawyer, Maher Hanna, has said el-Halabi turned down several plea bargain offers on principle that would have allowed him to walk free.
El-Halabi has not yet been sentenced. World Vision said he would appeal the ruling, which was largely based on classified information that has not been made public but was shared with the defense.
The district court in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba said el-Halabi was guilty of several charges, including membership in a terror organization, providing information to a terror group, taking part in militant exercises and carrying a weapon.
It said he diverted “millions” of dollars every year, as well as equipment, from World Vision and its donors to Hamas. It said Hamas used the funds for militant activities, as well as children’s counseling, food aid and Quran memorization contests for its supporters.
6/16/2022 Congo, Rwanda see tensions surge - Relations between African neighbors have remained volatile for decades by Justin Kabumba, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Demonstrators make their way toward the border with Rwanda, in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Wednesday.
“If (Rwanda) wants war, it will have war,” said Gen. Sylvain Ekenge, a top Congolese military official. MOSES SAWASAWA/AP
GOMA, Congo – If Rwanda wants war with neighboring Congo, “it will have war,” a top Congolese military official said Wednesday to thousands in eastern Congo protesting the recent capture of a nearby town by rebels.
Gen. Sylvain Ekenge, spokesman for the military governor of North Kivu province, made the inflammatory comments to protesters in the city of Goma before asking them to demonstrate peacefully.
“Rwanda does not like us. We are not afraid of it and we will fight it,” Ekenge said. “If it wants war, it will have war,” he said, adding: “No one will occupy a single centimeter of our territory.”
The escalating tensions come after the M23 rebel movement seized Bunagana, a key town in eastern Congo, on Monday. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called Wednesday for the newly created East African Regional Force to be activated for eastern Congo, noting with concern “open hostilities” there.
Kenyatta, chairman of the East African Community, said this Sunday’s meeting of regional commanders should be used to finalize preparations for immediate deployment to North and South Kivu and Ituri provinces.
He called for a cessation of hostilities and for the three provinces to be declared a “weapons-free zone” where anyone outside mandated forces would be disarmed.
An official with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, said Wednesday it could not confirm whether Rwandan or Ugandan forces helped the M23 rebel movement seize Bunagana.
“MONUSCO has not been able to verify by its own means these allegations,” Lt. Frederic Harvey, the mission’s chief of liaison with the Congolese army, said during a weekly news conference.
Rwanda and Uganda have denied for years that they support the M23 rebel movement. Many of the M23 fighters are Congolese ethnic Tutsis and Rwanda’s president is of Rwandan Tutsi descent. M23 has in turn accused Congolese officials of stoking xenophobia.
Rwanda’s government, meanwhile, has blamed Congolese forces for injuring several civilians in cross-border shelling. On Tuesday, a government statement said that the Rwandan military “will continue to seek guarantees that cross-border attacks on Rwanda’s territory are stopped.”
The M23 rose to prominence about a decade ago when its fighters seized Goma, the largest city in Congo’s east which sits along the border with Rwanda. The rebels were pushed out of Goma and, after a peace deal, many of M23’s fighters were integrated into Congo’s national military.
But earlier this year the rebels made a comeback, launching an offensive against Congo’s military after saying the government had failed to live up to its decadelong promises.
On Wednesday, demonstrators in Goma called on the international community to intervene amid rising tensions.
6/16/2022 Sadrists quit Iraq’s parliament, but al-Sadr isn’t going away by Shawn Yuan – Al Jazeera
© Provided by Al Jazeera
Baghdad, Iraq – After nearly eight months of the Iraqi parliament’s repeated failure to form a government, influential Shia religious leader – and the biggest winner of Iraq’s October parliamentary elections – Muqtada al-Sadr decided enough was enough.
On Sunday, he ordered the Sadrist Movement bloc, 73 members of parliament, to submit its resignation – which it duly did.
If, and when, the resignations are finalised, they will allow the second-place vote winner from October’s elections in each vacated district to take the empty seat.
The question now is – why has al-Sadr chosen to go down this route, and what will happen next
According to analysts, the resignations will not spell an end to Iraq’s political crisis. Instead, the process of refilling the vacant seats will likely lead to a new wave of intense debate, and potentially street protests.
“It will reconfigure the balance of powers, which means that extension of post-election uncertainty period,” said Abbas Kadhim, director of the Iraq Initiative at the Atlantic Council. “Don’t expect a government formed soon.”
For months, al-Sadr, who presents himself as a critic of both Iranian and American influence in Iraq, has tried to form a “national majority government,” essentially placing his Sadrist Movement and its allies as the majority while creating an opposition that would largely consist of Iran-backed political groups.
If it had succeeded, it would have brought about an unprecedented deviation from the current muhasasa (quota-based) arrangement which is built on ethno-sectarian power sharing among Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish groups.
It would also have struck a huge blow to Iran’s political influence in Iraq, as Iran has largely backed Shia groups that have been able to come together with other Shia Muslims and form a majority.
However, despite al-Sadr’s impressive win in the election, which helped his bloc secure 73 out of 329 seats, Iraqi law requires a supermajority, namely two-thirds of the vote, to elect a president.
Al-Sadr’s efforts to create alliances have fallen short of passing that threshold.
“He may have won the most seats in 2021, but it is not the most we have seen in the past and those with seats in the 90s range have struggled to form a government,” said Hamzeh Hadad, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Political turmoil in Iraq: 73 lawmakers resign from parliament
Al-Sadr is not going away
On the surface, al-Sadr’s withdrawal signals that he has given up on participating in Iraq’s increasingly complex politics, as he threatened to do in the past. However, the reality is that al-Sadr will remain politically influential, whether his supporters are in or out of parliament.
Should the withdrawal materialise, the ball will be in the court of the Coordination Framework Alliance (CFA), al-Sadr’s main opponent during the government formation process.
Many of the seats vacated by the Sadrists will be filled by the Shia parties in the CFA, such as former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the Fatah Alliance, the political wing of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces, or Hashd, militia.
Yet their trajectory in Iraqi politics will not be as rosy as it may seem.
By quitting the parliament, one of al-Sadr’s goals is to delegitimise his more sectarian rivals, according to Thanassis Cambanis, director of the Century Foundation’s Center for International Research and Policy, a New York-based think tank.
“With no Sadrist in Parliament, rivals cannot claim [to] represent [the] entire Shia house … legitimacy further erodes [because of the] optics of a losing minority taking overwhelming power,” he wrote on Twitter.
Al-Sadr’s visible effort to break the gridlock and align with Sunni parties and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), which stands in contrast with the Iran-backed groups in the Coordination Framework, will also be used by al-Sadr to claim that he “went the further out of any party to break this form of [consensus] government,” according to Hadad.
As the political showdown drags on, al-Sadr can use this round of resignations to showcase that he is committed to democratic and majority rule, but that it had only been hindered by the tight grip of other political parties on power under the muhasasa arrangement.
A potential government without the biggest winner in the parliamentary election might lead to a few scenarios, according to Kadhim, including another round of elections if parliament decides to dissolve itself, or a compromise government that will be tasked with holding an early election.
“A new election is always on the table, whether it happens now by not being able to form a government, or … after a government is finally formed,” said Hadad.
Mass grassroots protests might also occur as the Iraqi political landscape scrambles to fully understand what this means and how to properly handle al-Sadr’s withdrawal.
“Even groups who don’t trust Sadr will join against [the] corrupt and broken system,” Cambanis said. “By defecting from [the] system, Sadr escapes responsibility while retaining [a] network of state bureaucrats.”
As for the people Iraqi politicians are supposed to represent, many are even more frustrated, especially those who participated in the Tishreen mass demonstrations in 2019 that eventually brought down the former prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
The systematic change the protesters demanded has not occurred and now, as Iraq enters its deadly hot summer, anger at the lack of government services is exacerbated by what many describe as a “political game.”
“Sadr and his foes could play all the games they want, but the Iraqi people are continuing to suffer from heat and sandstorms,” said Ali Mohammed, a 24-year-old from Baghdad. “They only care about their political gains and losses.”
6/16/2022 Iraqi Shia leader al-Sadr withdraws from political process by Al Jazeera
© Provided by Al Jazeera
Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr said he has decided to withdraw from the political process to avoid involvement with “corrupt” politicians, the state news agency reported.
According to a report on Wednesday, the leader of the Sadrist Movement in the Iraqi parliament insisted he “will not participate in the next elections if the corrupt participate” during a closed meeting with members of his bloc.
He also said that his decision to order his bloc to resign from parliament will not be retracted, in an announcement that came three days after he ordered 73 politicians from his party to quit the assembly.
The unprecedented mass withdrawal of the al-Sadr bloc has dramatically altered the political landscape in Iraq, throwing government formation talks into further doubt.
It was a huge gamble by al-Sadr, one of the most influential politicians in Iraq with a large street following, putting him outside of parliament for the first time since 2005.
Al-Sadr emerged as the winner of the October vote, giving him 73 of parliament’s 329 seats. The vote was a blow to his Iran-backed Shia rivals who lost about two-thirds of their seats and have rejected the results.
Since then, the two sides have been locked in a competition for power, even as the country faces growing challenges, including an impending food crisis resulting from severe drought and the war in Ukraine.
Al-Sadr has been intent on forming, along with his allies, a majority government that excludes the Iran-backed factions.
But he has not been able to corral enough legislators to parliament to get the two-thirds majority needed to elect Iraq’s next president – a necessary step ahead of naming the next prime minister and selecting a cabinet.
When he ordered his politicians to resign on Sunday, he called it a “sacrifice” he was making for the good of the country.
His cousin and nominee for prime minister, Jaafar al-Sadr, withdrew his candidacy on Monday.
The surprise move was an attempt to break a persisting political impasse, eight months after general elections were held. The question has since been whether the political parties will be able to form a government with al-Sadr in the opposition.
According to analysts, the Sadrist Movement’s resignations will not spell an end to Iraq’s political crisis. Instead, the coming phase will likely bring more instability to the oil-rich country, with a possible new wave of intense debate, and potential street protests.
With the resignation of Sadrist politicians, Iranian-backed groups are now expected to hold the majority in parliament.
According to Iraqi laws, if any seat in parliament becomes vacant, the candidate who obtains the second-highest number of votes in their electoral district replaces them.
In this case, it would be al-Sadr’s opponents from the so-called Coordination Framework Alliance, a coalition led by Iran-backed Shia parties and their allies. Many of the seats vacated by the Sadrists will therefore be filled by the Shia parties in the CFA, such as former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the Fatah Alliance, the political wing of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces, or Hashd, militia.
6/16/2022 Israel announces new permits for Gaza workers by AFP
© MOHAMMED ABED
Israel announced an extra 2,000 entry permits for Palestinians in Gaza Thursday, bringing the total number of permits for workers from the blockaded enclave to 14,000.
"Following a security assessment, the minister of defence has decided to raise the quota of entry permits for work and commerce in Israel by an additional 2,000," COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for civil affairs in the Palestinian territories, said.
"All the latest civil measures regarding the Gaza Strip are dependent on the continued maintenance of stable security over time, and their expansion will be considered in light of the situation as evaluated," it said in a statement.
Israel has maintained a strict blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2007, when the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas seized power.
Only the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt is outside Israeli control and it too has remained largely closed.
A recent World Bank report put the unemployment rate among Gaza's more than two million people at nearly 48 percent.
Work in Israel provides a lifeline for thousands of Gazans, who can earn far higher wages on Israeli farms and construction sites than they do in Gaza.
In May, Israel closed its only crossing for people travelling to or from Gaza for nearly two weeks, as violence rocked the occupied West Bank, even though the Gaza border remained quiet.
6/17/2022 EXPLAINER - Why Rwanda, Congo are near war again - Tensions flare as each point fingers by Cara Anna, ASSOCIATED PRESS
People flee fighting between Congolese forces and M23 rebels north of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo,
on Tuesday. Decades-old tensions between Rwanda and Congo have spiked anew. MOSES SAWASAWA/AP FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya – The threat of war with neighboring Congo is simmering under the tidy surface of Rwanda’s capital as the East African nation hosts the British prime minister and other world leaders next week for the Commonwealth summit.
Decades-old tensions between Rwanda, which has one of Africa’s most effective militaries, and Congo, one of the continent’s largest and most troubled countries, have spiked along their shared border a few hours’ drive from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Alarm has reached the point where Kenya’s president is urging the immediate deployment of a newly created regional force to eastern Congo to keep the peace.
Each side has accused the other of incursions. If Rwanda wants war, “it will have war,” a spokesman for the military governor of Congo’s North Kivu province told thousands of protesters on Wednesday.
Here’s what’s at stake:
What just happened?
Eastern Congo lives with the daily threat from dozens of armed groups that jostle for a piece of the region’s rich mineral wealth that the world mines for electric cars, laptops and mobile phones. Earlier this year, one of the most notorious rebel groups, the M23, surged anew.
The M23 launched an offensive against Congo’s military after saying the government had failed to live up to its decade-long promises made under a peace deal to integrate its fighters into Congo’s military. This week the M23 seized a key trading town, Bunagana, sending thousands of people fleeing into neighboring Uganda and elsewhere.
At that, Congo’s military accused Rwandan forces of “no less than an invasion,” alleging that Rwanda backed the rebels in their capture of Bunagana. Congo’s government has long accused Rwanda of supporting the M23, which Rwanda denies. The accusations have surged again in recent weeks. Many of the M23 fighters are ethnic Tutsis, the same as Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
Rwanda has accused Congolese forces of injuring several civilians in cross-border shelling.
What’s the history of tensions?
Relations between Rwanda and Congo have been fraught for decades. Rwanda alleges that Congo gave refuge to the ethnic Hutus who carried out the 1994 Rwandan genocide that killed at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. In the late 1990s, Rwanda twice sent its forces deep into Congo, joining forces with Congolese rebel leader Laurent Kabila to depose the country’s longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. The Rwandan forces in Congo were widely accused of hunting down and killing ethnic Hutu, even civilians.
Millions of Congo’s people died during the years of conflict, according to rights groups, and the effects still run deep today. Many women live with the scars and trauma of rape.
Eastern Congo continues to see divisions along ethnic lines at times. The region’s history of instability, loose governance and its vast distance – more than 1,600 miles – from Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, have dampened investment and left some basic infrastructure such as roads tattered or nonexistent.
Congo and Rwanda have long accused each other of supporting various rival armed groups in eastern Congo, a restless region and major hub for humanitarian aid. A United Nations peacekeeping force of more than 17,000 personnel is based in Goma, but a top official this week made clear that the tensions with Rwanda and Uganda are not a part of its role.
“That’s not the reason why were are here,” said Lt. Col. Frederic Harvey, the U.N. mission’s chief of liaison with the Congolese military. “We are here to accomplish our mandate, which consists of protecting the civilian population and preserving national integrity.”
Goma, the region’s key city of more than 1 million people, was briefly seized by M23 fighters a decade ago. Many Goma residents now call on the international community to intervene to help establish peace and stability. “Kagame, enough is enough,” read one sign in a protest on Wednesday.
Pope Francis had planned to visit Goma next month as part of a trip to Congo and South Sudan but canceled it last week, citing doctor’s orders because of his knee problems. The visit was meant to draw further global attention to populations long wrestling with conflict, even as this new one develops.
With an eye on the growing tensions, the six-nation East African Community – Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania – earlier this year created a regional force meant to respond to trouble. Now Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, the current chairman of the bloc, wants the force to be activated immediately and deployed to eastern Congo, noting the “open hostilities” there.
Kenyatta also calls for the eastern Congo provinces of North and South Kivu and Ituri to be declared a “weapons free zone” where anyone outside mandated forces can be disarmed. Within hours, his call was “warmly” welcomed by the president of Burundi, which borders both Rwanda and Congo.
Regional commanders of the member defense forces will meet on Sunday in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, at the heart of East Africa’s economic hub.
The regional force was agreed to by leaders from the countries now seemingly closing in on war – Congo, the EAC’s newest member, and Rwanda, the largest African troop contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions worldwide.
But Rwanda notably was the only EAC member to skip a meeting of the heads of regional armed forces earlier this month in Goma. And there was no immediate response from Rwanda on Thursday to Kenyatta’s call to action.
Congo, too, didn’t comment directly on the call to deploy the regional force, but government spokesman Patrick Muyaya welcomed the Kenyan president’s request for a cessation of hostilities and weapons-free zones.
6/18/2022 Israeli observation balloon dropped over Gaza - Palestinian report by JERUSALEM POST STAFF – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
An Israeli observation balloon fell over Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon, according to Palestinian reports.
The reports claimed that Palestinian terrorist groups were able to seize the balloon, with photos allegedly of the balloon shared by Palestinian media.
At the same time, a red alert was activated in an open area near the Erez Crossing due to warning shots fired by the IDF, according to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
6/18/2022 Hezbollah causes 'unprecedented chaos' in Lebanon - Saudi Arabia by TZVI JOFFRE AND REUTERS – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: REUTERS/ISSAM ABDALLAH)
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry welcomed Friday the recent decision by the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague to sentence two Hezbollah members to life imprisonment for their role in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.
The Foreign Ministry called on the international community to "assume its responsibilities towards Lebanon," stressing that Lebanon is "suffering from the absurd terrorist practices of the Iran-backed militia."
The ministry also called for international resolutions on Lebanon to be implemented and for the perpetrators of the assassination to be tracked down and arrested, saying they "deliberately contributed to the loss of innocent lives, causing unprecedented chaos in this brotherly country."
The two convicted Hezbollah members are on the run and were tried and convicted in absentia.
Hariri served as prime minister of Lebanon five times following the 1975-90 civil war. He and 21 others died in a massive truck bomb on Feb. 14, 2005. His son, Saad Hariri, has served as Lebanese prime minister twice.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Lebanon's Druze leader Walid Jumblatt pays his respects at the grave of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri,
to mark the 10th anniversary of al-Hariri's assassination, in downtown Beirut, February 14, 2015. (credit: JAMAL SAIDI/ REUTERS)
In 2020, a lower trial chamber convicted a former member of the Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, Salim Jamil Ayyash, for the bombing that killed veteran Sunni Muslim politician Hariri and 21 others. Ayyash also received a life sentence in the trial which saw a prosecution case based almost entirely on mobile phone records.
In November, a diplomatic crisis between Lebanon and the Gulf states broke out after Saudi Arabia expressed outrage against comments made by then Lebanese information minister George Kordahi supporting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and criticizing the military intervention led by Saudi Arabia, calling the war in the country "futile."
Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with other Gulf states, withdrew their diplomatic envoys and expelled Lebanese envoys in response to the comments. Saudi Arabia also designated the financial charity body Al-Qard Al-Hasan Association, which is linked to Hezbollah, as a terrorist entity, saying it "works on managing funds for the terrorist organization (Hezbollah) and its financing."
The diplomatic envoys have since returned to Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia has also claimed that Hezbollah has sent instructors to train the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, publishing videos showing drone parts with Hezbollah symbols and a person identified as "a leader from the terrorist Lebanese Hezbollah" instructing Abu Ali Al-Hakim (the Houthi head of intelligence).
Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi coalition fighting in Yemen, called Hezbollah a "cancer," saying it started by hurting the Lebanese and now has targeted civilians in Saudi Arabia and Yemen and "spreads destruction in the region and around the world."
6/18/2022 Israel warplanes hit Hamas sites in Gaza after rocket fire by AFP
© Eyad BABA
Israeli air strikes hit Hamas military sites in the Gaza Strip on Saturday in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave run by the Islamist movement, the Israeli army said.
"A short while ago, in response to the rocket attack, (Israeli military) aircraft struck a number of Hamas terror targets in the Gaza Strip," the army said in a statement.
The strikes came after Hamas "launched a rocket... toward Israeli civilians in southern Israel," it said, adding the projectile was intercepted by Israel's air defences.
The Israeli "aircraft targeted a weapons manufacturing site located inside a Hamas military post and an additional three military posts belonging to Hamas," the statement said.
Balls of flame shot into the air, leaving dark smoke drifting over the territory, after the strikes.
The army said hours earlier that air raid sirens were sounded in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon and in areas near the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The exchange came after three Palestinians were killed and 12 others wounded on Friday during an Israeli army raid in Jenin, a stronghold of armed Palestinian factions in the occupied West Bank.
The men were killed when Israeli forces opened fire on a vehicle in which they were, the Palestinian news agency Wafa said.
Israel's army said soldiers had come under fire during an operation to search for weapons.
One of the dead was a Hamas commander, the group said, vowing that the killings "will not go unpunished."
In April, Israeli warplanes also hit Gaza after incoming rocket fire. The Hamas-controlled Gaza coastal enclave of 2.3 million people has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007.
That exchange came after nearly a month of deadly violence focused on Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.
Last year, Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war triggered in part by unrest over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the most holy site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount.
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by most of the international community.
6/18/2022 Israeli air attacks hit Gaza after rocket fire by Al Jazeera
© Provided by Al Jazeera
Israel has launched air raids on the Gaza Strip after rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave targeted the city of Ashkelon in southern Israel, following months of relative calm in the region.
Palestinian media said the Israeli strikes fell on agricultural land in Gaza on Saturday, but the Israeli military said it targeted military sites belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian group which rules the enclave.
“In response to the rocket attack, Israel Defence Forces aircraft struck a number of Hamas terror targets in the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli military said in a statement.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza or Israel. There was no immediate response from Hamas, nor a claim of responsibility from any of the enclave’s other groups.
The air attack comes a day after Israel launched military raids on Jenin in the occupied West Bank in which three Palestinians were killed and 10 were wounded. Also on Friday, an Israeli observation balloon crashed and fell in the northern Gaza Strip.
Palestinian news agency Wafa named the men killed in Jenin as Baraa Lahlouh, 24, Yusuf Salah, 23, and Laith Abu Suroor, 24.
Hamas said one of those killed was among its members, while another group that draws on members of Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad claimed the dead men as its own.
The last cross-border rockets were in April when Israeli warplanes launched an attack in the Gaza Strip targeting what the military said was a weapons manufacturing site belonging to Hamas.
Although Saturday’s cross-border fire did not appear to signal a wider escalation, violence has risen in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Israel in recent months.
According to the Palestinian health ministry, more than 60 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year, many of them in raids. A string of Palestinian attacks since March has also killed 19 people in Israel.
Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces last month in Jenin while she was covering an Israeli army operation. She was wearing a flak jacket marked with the word “PRESS” when she was shot dead.
In May 2021 Israel launched an 11-day assault on the besieged Gaza Strip. Israeli air and artillery attacks killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and left more than 1,900 people wounded. Two children were among 12 people killed in Israel by rockets fired by Hamas and other armed groups from Gaza during the same period.
US-brokered peace talks aiming to establish a Palestinian state in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza collapsed in 2014 and there is no sign of their revival.
US President Joe Biden is expected to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders during a visit to the region in July.
6/19/2022 Syrian leader receives credentials from Bahrain ambassador by Associated Press
© Provided by Associated Press
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A new ambassador from Bahrain formally took up his post in Syria on Sunday, the country's first full diplomatic mission there in more than a decade as Damascus continues to improve its relations with Gulf Arab states.
President Bashar Assad received the credentials of Ambassador Waheed Mubarak Sayyar in an official ceremony also attended by Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad. Sayyar was appointed in December and recently moved to Damascus.
Assad has been gradually reintegrating into mainstream regional acceptance. His visit to the United Arab Emirates in March was the first such trip to an Arab country since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011.
Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League and boycotted by its neighbors after the conflict broke out.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the war, which displaced half of Syria’s population.
Large parts of Syria have been destroyed, and reconstruction will cost tens of billions of dollars.
Early in the conflict, Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar rushed to back Sunni fighters battling Assad’s forces. Arab countries sanctioned Damascus and condemned its use of military force against civilians.
In recent years, however, the Syrian army has won a series of key military victories with the help of Russia and Iran.
The embassy of Bahrain was reopened in Damascus in 2018.
Most Gulf countries, at odds with regional rival and Shiite powerhouse Iran, seek warmer ties with Damascus, hoping to peel it away from Tehran’s influence. Iran is a traditional ally of Syria and has sent advisers and resources to back Assad during the conflict that broke out in March 2011.
© Provided by Associated Press In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA,
Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, shakes hands with Bahrain's new Ambassador to Syria Waheed Mubarak Sayyar,
in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, June 19, 2022. Assad received on Sunday the credentials from Bahrain's first ambassador
to Syria in more than a decade as Damascus improves its relations with Gulf Arab countries. (SANA via AP)
6/20/2022 Israeli forces kill Palestinian near separation barrier
TEL AVIV, Israel – Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man on Sunday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, after the Israeli military said he tried to illegally cross the separation barrier that divides Israel and the occupied West Bank. In a statement, the military said soldiers saw the man “sabotaging” the barrier and “attempting to illegally cross into Israeli territory.” Forces opened fire to get him to stop and shot him, the statement said. Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man last month under similar circumstances.
6/20/2022 Witnesses say more than 200 killed in Ethiopia ethnic attack by ASSOCIATED PRESS
NAIROBI, Kenya – Witnesses in Ethiopia said Sunday that more than 200 people, mostly ethnic Amhara, have been killed in an attack in the country’s Oromia region and are blaming a rebel group, which denied it.
It is one of the deadliest such attacks in recent memory as ethnic tensions continue in Africa’s second-most populous country.
“I have counted 230 bodies. I am afraid this is the deadliest attack against civilians we have seen in our lifetime,” Abdul- Seid Tahir, a resident of Gimbi county, told the Associated Press after barely escaping the attack Saturday. “We are burying them in mass graves, and we are still collecting bodies. Federal army units have now arrived, but we fear that the attacks could continue if they leave.”
Another witness, who gave only his first name, Shambel, over fears for his safety, said the local Amhara community is now desperately seeking to be relocated somewhere else “before another round of mass killings happen.” He said ethnic Amhara that settled in the area about 30 years ago in resettlement programs are now being “killed like chickens.”
Both witnesses blamed the Oromo Liberation Army for the attacks. In a statement, the Oromia regional government also blamed the OLA, saying the rebels attacked “after being unable to resist the operations launched by (federal) security forces.”
An OLA spokesman, Odaa Tarbii, denied the allegations.
“The attack you are referring to was committed by the regime’s military and local militia as they retreated from their camp in Gimbi following our recent offensive,” he said in a message to the AP. “They escaped to an area called Tole, where they attacked the local population and destroyed their property as retaliation for their perceived support for the OLA. Our fighters had not even reached that area when the attacks took place.”
Ethiopia is experiencing widespread ethnic tensions in several regions, most of them over historical grievances and political tensions. The Amhara people, the second-largest ethnic group among Ethiopia’s more than 110 million population, have been targeted frequently in regions such as Oromia.
The government-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Sunday called on the federal government to find a “lasting solution” to the killing of civilians and protect them from such attacks.
6/20/2022 At least 13 killed in northern Syria bus attack by Al Jazeera
© Provided by Al Jazeera
At least 11 soldiers and two civilians were killed in an attack in northern Syria after a civilian bus was targeted on a highway connecting the cities of Raqqa and Homs, the Syrian defence ministry said.
“At about 6:30 [03:30 GMT] this morning, a civilian bus was subjected to a terrorist attack on the Raqqa-Homs highway in al-Jira area,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday, adding that three other army personnel were wounded.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, reported that ISIL (ISIS) cells had attacked a bus in the Jabal al-Bashari area in al-Raqqah desert, but said it was a military vehicle.
“The death toll is believed to rise as there are some people seriously injured,” SOHR said.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far, but ISIL previously controlled the territory before being forced out and has continued brazen attacks since the group’s defeat on the battlefield three years ago.
The city of Raqqa was the capital of the armed group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate.”
Syrian authorities regularly blame such attacks on the armed group.
Syria’s 11-year-old conflict has carved the country into various zones of control, with government troops and allied fighters controlling most territory. ISIL sleeper cells have been active in eastern, northern and central Syria.
A patch of the northwestern territory is held by Turkish-backed opposition forces and more hardline groups, while US-backed Kurdish-led forces hold the northeast.
Similar attacks have occurred before – one of the deadliest was in December 2020, when 28 people were killed in an attack on a bus on the main highway in Syria’s eastern Deir Az Zor province.
With Russian and Iranian support, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has clawed back much of the territory lost in the early stages of the war, which erupted in 2011 when the government brutally repressed pro-democracy protests.
The war has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and the emergence of ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Analysts have long feared a resurgence of the group, but it has still been unable to significantly expand, and has been largely restricted to attacks by cells.
6/21/2022 East African leaders dispatch regional force to eastern Congo by ASSOCIATED PRESS
Residents fill the streets in Goma, eastern Congo, as they follow an
ambulance containing the dead body of a Congolese soldier Friday. MOSES SAWASAWA/AP
NAIROBI, Kenya – East Africa’s leaders have responded to the threat of war between Rwanda and Congo by instructing a new regional force to deploy in eastern Congo and ordering an immediate cease-fire.
A statement after the leaders’ meeting in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, didn’t give details on the date of the force’s deployment or its composition. Congo’s presidency later tweeted that the force should be operational in the coming weeks but shouldn’t include Rwandan troops. The presidents of both countries attended Monday.
The regional heads of state adopted “for immediate implementation” the status of forces agreement, concept of operations and rules of engagement, the statement said. The heads of state told the force to cooperate with Congolese forces to stabilize the region.
There was no direct mention of Rwanda, which Congo has accused of supporting the M23 rebel group that has carried out renewed attacks in recent months. The statement noted the “presence of foreign negative elements” as a critical issue. Rwanda has long denied supporting the M23 rebels, who captured a key town in eastern Congo last week.
Asked after Monday’s meeting whether Rwanda would contribute troops to the regional force in eastern Congo, deputy government spokesman Alain Mukurarinda said he needed to check with the president’s office. Congo is not the one who chooses who should deploy or not, he added.
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi on Friday accused Rwanda of trying to occupy his country’s land for its vast mineral wealth, hours after Rwanda said a Congolese soldier had crossed the border and begun shooting at Rwandan security forces and civilians before being shot dead.
Congo’s president has also called on international leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to step up the pressure on Rwanda when it hosts the Commonwealth summit this week.
Each side has accused the other of incursions. Congo now seeks to suspend all agreements with Rwanda. Rwanda’s state minister for foreign affairs in charge of East African matters, Manasseh Nshuti, has said dialogue “is the solution” to the issues.
Dynamics in eastern Congo “were already strained” by Congo and neighboring Uganda carrying out a joint operation there against another rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces, according to a new report by the U.N. panel of experts on Congo. Both Uganda and Rwanda have long been accused of backing rebels and pursuing some of the region’s rich mineral wealth, including gold.
6/21/2022 Mali government says jihadi rebels killed 132 civilians by Baba Ahmed, ASSOCIATED PRESS
BAMAKO, Mali – Recent attacks by jihadi rebels in central Mali have killed 132 civilians, the government announced Monday.
The killings happened when several villages in the Bankass area were attacked on Saturday and Sunday, the government said in a statement Monday.
Three days of national mourning starting Tuesday have been declared by the head of the ruling junta, Col. Assimi Goita.
The government said the attacks were carried out by jihadi rebels of the Katiba group.
The attacks had earlier been reported by Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of Bankass, the biggest town near the attacked villages.
The attacks show that Islamic extremist violence is spreading from Mali’s north to more central areas like Bankass.
For several weeks, extremist rebels in central Mali have been blocking the road between the northern city of Gao and Mopti in central Mali.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali issued a statement about the attacks on Twitter saying it is concerned by “attacks against civilians in the Bandiagara region (the area of central Mali) perpetrated by extremist groups. These attacks have reportedly caused casualties and displacement of populations.”
In a separate incident, a U.N. peacekeeper died on Sunday from injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device, the U.N. mission to Mali said in a statement.
The head of the U.N. Mission to Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, said that since the beginning of 2022, several attacks have killed U.N. uniformed peacekeepers.
He said that attacks on peacekeepers can constitute war crimes under international law and reaffirmed the mission’s commitment to supporting peace and security in Mali.
6/21/2022 Israeli government fast-tracks bill to dissolve parliament by ILAN BEN ZION, Associated Press
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's outgoing coalition government will fast-track a bill this week to dissolve parliament, setting up the country for its fifth elections in three years, a Cabinet minister said Tuesday.
© Provided by Associated Press Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, speaks during a joint statement with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid,
at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 20, 2022. Bennett's office announced Monday, that his weakened
coalition will be disbanded and the country will head to new elections. Bennett and his main coalition partner, Yair Lapid,
decided to present a vote to dissolve parliament in the coming days, Bennett's office said. Lapid is then to serve as caretaker
prime minister. The election, expected in the fall, would be Israel's fifth in three years. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Monday that he would disband his alliance of eight ideologically diverse parties, a year after taking office, and send the country to the polls. A series of defections from his Yamina party had stripped the coalition of its majority in Israel's parliament, known as the Knesset.
Bennett cited the coalition's failure earlier this month to extend a law that grants West Bank settlers’ special legal status as a main impetus for new elections. His key ally, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, will become the caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed in the aftermath of elections, which are expected to be held in October.
Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, a member of Lapid's Yesh Atid party, told Israeli public broadcaster Kan that the coalition would bring the bill to a preliminary vote on Wednesday.
“We hope that within a week we will complete the process," Cohen said. "The intention is to finish it as soon as possible and to go to elections."
Related video: Israel Coalition govt: What did Israel's most diverse government achieve in a year?
Israel Coalition govt: What did Israel's most diverse government achieve in a year?
A parliamentary committee approved holding a preliminary vote to dissolve parliament on Wednesday, with a final vote expected early next week.
New elections raise the possibility that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, now opposition leader, will be able to stage a comeback. Netanyahu was ousted by the eight-party alliance after four inconclusive elections that were largely seen as referendums on the his fitness to rule. The alliance's factions range from dovish liberals opposed to Israeli settlements to hawkish ultranationalists who reject Palestinian statehood. It was only their opposition to Netanyahu that brought them together.
Netanyahu is currently on trial for corruption but has denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the charges as a witch hunt by his political opponents. Israeli law does not explicitly state that a politician under indictment may not become prime minister.
As politicians gear up for fall elections, several coalition members have floated the possibility of passing a law before the Knesset disbands that would bar a lawmaker accused of a crime from serving as prime minister.
Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the aim of his Yisrael Beytenu party in the upcoming elections is “to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from returning to power." Along with the bill to dissolve parliament, he said he would advance legislation on Wednesday to bar a lawmaker under indictment from assuming the premiership.
“I hope that bill, too, will find a majority,” he said at an economic conference hosted by the Israel Democracy Institute.
Justice Minister Gideon Saar, leader of the New Hope party, told Army Radio that his faction had advocated such a bill and would vote in favor if it's brought before parliament.
6/21/2022 Netanyahu prepares for a comeback in Israel’s next elections by Shira Rubin – The Washington Post
TEL AVIV — The announcement of the Israeli governing coalition’s collapse and the preparations for a fifth election in less than four years was met with exasperation by many Israelis. But the news came as a resounding victory for Benjamin Netanyahu, who, over the past year as the head of the opposition, has been preparing for his own comeback.
© Ronen Zvulun/Reuters Netanyahu prepares for a comeback in Israel’s next elections
It is not immediately clear how that would happen, however, since polls show that most Israelis will continue to vote the way they have in the past few elections, producing a polarized, deadlocked Knesset and fragile coalition governments.
Netanyahu, who led Israel for much of the past 20 years, seems to be betting on breaking the political stalemate by galvanizing his right-wing base and painting his opponents as a threat to society.
Israel’s leader to dissolve Knesset, triggering new elections
“A government that depended on terror supporters, which abandoned the personal security of the citizens of Israel, that raised the cost of living to unheard-of heights, that imposed unnecessary taxes, that endangered our Jewish entity. This government is going home,” Netanyahu said Monday in a video posted on Twitter. “My friends and I will form a government … that, above all, will return the national pride to the citizens of Israel.”
The coalition’s collapse is in large part the result of Netanyahu’s efforts to encourage coalition members uncomfortable with its ideological diversity to jump ship.
“From Day One, Netanyahu sought to take down the government, and focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the issues related to the Arabs in Israel,” said Dahlia Scheindlin, a political analyst. “It was low-hanging fruit.”
A Knesset committee voted unanimously Tuesday to hold the first reading of the vote to dissolve itself Wednesday, instead of next week, as was originally planned, to foil efforts by Netanyahu to form a last-ditch alternative government.
At 72, after a year and one week spent in the Knesset’s opposition hall and in the Jerusalem District Court, where he is the subject of an ongoing corruption trial, Netanyahu’s determination to reclaim his political throne appears to be fiercer than ever.
“This is the big show, and no one does the big show like Netanyahu,” said Aviv Bushinsky, a former adviser to Netanyahu.
Michael Maimon, a longtime Netanyahu voter and a former army colleague of Netanyahu’s from the 1960s, said he expects the vote to be different from the past four times. The “nightmare” of the outgoing government has mobilized Netanyahu’s base, about 300,000 of whom did not go out to vote in the last elections as a result of exhaustion over the extended cycle of political gridlock.
Israel Coalition govt: What did Israel's most diverse government achieve in a year?
Netanyahu has reliably won the most votes in each election but struggled to cobble together the 61 seats needed to control the 120-seat Knesset.
“Bibi knows that he is the most popular candidate and that the support for him is better now than it was in the past few years,” Maimon said. “He’s eager to get back in.”
© Oren Ben Hakoon/AFP/Getty Images Israel's former premier Benjamin Netanyahu
speaks to the press at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 20.
A survey by the Israeli radio station 103FM found that a Netanyahu-led bloc — including his right-wing Likud, and the religious-Zionist and ultra-Orthodox parties — would win the highest number of seats in fresh elections, although still two short of a majority — a consistent problem of the past several coalition attempts.
In 2021, Netanyahu failed to build a coalition and was compelled to pass the mandate to the centrist Yair Lapid, who was head of the second-largest party, which then allied with right-wing Naftali Bennett in a power-sharing agreement.
The Bennett-Lapid coalition replaced Netanyahu last June with the backing of a razor-thin coalition of eight ideologically divergent parties, united solely by a desire to oust Netanyahu.
Part of the reason Netanyahu failed to form a coalition in 2021 was that he had alienated so many of his erstwhile allies on the right — the same people now vowing to prevent his comeback.
“I won’t be bringing Bibi back. All of the party members are with me. No one will succumb to inducements [to defect to Likud],” Gideon Saar, the Justice Minister and a former Likud party veteran, told Army Radio on Tuesday.
Netanyahu will try to shave off those from Bennett’s religious-Zionist base who have expressed discomfort with the coalition’s inclusion of an Arab-Islamist party. Netanyahu has long claimed its inclusion compromised Israel’s Jewish character and its security — although he himself once wooed the party.
“Peace and security must be restored to the citizens of Israel and to the streets of our cities. Unfortunately, we all see that a government dependent on the Islamic movement is unable to do so,” Netanyahu said after visiting the relatives of one of the Israelis killed in a shooting in March.
© Oren Ben Hakoon/AFP/Getty Images Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L)
and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid make a joint statement to the press in Jerusalem on June 20.
With the rush toward elections, the Arab community in Israel is bracing for a Netanyahu campaign that will vilify Arabs, said Yousef Jabareen, a former Knesset member with the Palestinian Israeli left-wing Hadash party.
In past elections, Netanyahu cast the Palestinian citizens of Israel as a danger, warning in one instance that they were “heading to the polling stations in droves.”
“We are seriously concerned that Arab politicians and Arab citizens will be the subject of delegitimization,” Jabareen said. “We know that incitement against the Arab community is integral to Netanyahu’s process, in that it tries to attract more right-wing voters while also to try to keep Arab voters out of the game.”
6/22/2022 Israel’s next leader faces tests - Yair Lapid to step up until elections in fall by Josef Federman, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Election campaign billboards last year in Ramat Gan, Israel, feature the Likud party leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
left, and opposition party leader Yair Lapid. Following the government’s decision to dissolve parliament, Lapid, now foreign
minister, is set to take office as caretaker prime minister until elections in the fall. ODED BALILTY/AP FILE
JERUSALEM – In a 10-year political career, Israel’s Yair Lapid has transformed himself from an upstart political novice to a feisty opposition leader to the savvy operator who toppled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Next week, he is expected to assume his biggest role yet – as the new prime minister.
Following the government’s decision to dissolve parliament, Lapid, now foreign minister, is set to take office as caretaker prime minister until elections in the fall. It will be a critical test for Lapid, 58, who will try to convince Israelis he is worthy of the top office as he takes on a resurgent Netanyahu.
“A year ago, we started the process of rebuilding, and now: we’re carrying it on, and carrying it on together,” Lapid declared late Monday as he stood alongside his main coalition partner, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Officially, the two men were announcing the end of their year-old government – an alliance of eight diverse parties that was severely weakened by months of infighting and rebellion. But in many ways, Lapid sounded like he was beginning his next campaign.
“Even if we are going to elections in a few months, the challenges we face will not wait,” he said, pointing to Israel’s high cost of living and security challenges in Gaza, Lebanon and Iran.
In a swipe at Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, he vowed to “stand against the forces threatening to turn Israel into a nondemocratic country.” Netanyahu, believing he is the victim of a political witch hunt, has made clear he intends to take on the country’s legal and law-enforcement establishment if he returns to power.
A former author, columnist, news anchor, bank pitchman and amateur boxer, Lapid left a successful career as a media personality to enter politics in 2012 as head of a new centrist party popular with middle-class Israelis.
He promised economic relief, an end to controversial draft exemptions for seminary students and a more moderate approach to the Palestinians.
Unlike the right-wing parties that dominate Israel’s political system, Lapid favors peace talks leading to an eventual two-state solution with the Palestinians, although it’s unclear if he will ever have the kind of mandate needed to engage in such a process.
In 2013, he led his new Yesh Atid party to a surprisingly strong showing in parliamentary elections. Yesh Atid finished as the second-largest party, with 19 seats in the 120-member parliament.
Lapid became finance minister, a difficult and often thankless task. While marking some successes, his key promises of lowering the cost of living and bringing down housing prices failed to materialize. Netanyahu eventually fired him for insubordination.
Yesh Atid dropped to 11 seats in the 2015 elections. Lapid found himself in the opposition and appeared to be on the way to becoming the latest in a long line of centrist politicians to flame out after early success.
But Lapid managed to reinvent himself. He formed an alliance with former military chief Benny Gantz that came close to toppling Likud in three consecutive elections.
Those elections, focused on Netanyahu’s divisive personality and fitness to rule, all ended inconclusively. Moving to end the deadlock, Gantz briefly joined forces with Netanyahu in 2020 – leaving Lapid as opposition leader and a vocal government critic.
When the country went back to the polls in early 2021, Yesh Atid once again surged and emerged as the second-largest party in parliament. In a stroke of creative diplomacy and political savvy, Lapid cobbled together a new coalition that pushed Netanyahu into the opposition for the first time in 12 years.
Although Lapid was the mastermind of the alliance, he cemented the deal by agreeing to rotate the job of prime minister with Bennett – a move that was seen by many as selfless and statesmanlike. Lapid took on the post of foreign minister.
The coalition members spanned the Israeli political spectrum, with little binding them together beyond opposition to Netanyahu. The government made history by being the first to include an Arab party.
The coalition got off to a strong start – passing the first national budget in several years, navigating a pair of coronavirus waves and improving relations with the U.S. and Arab allies.
Ultimately, ideological differences caused it to unravel. Parliament is expected to dissolve itself in a series of votes over the coming days. Once that happens, Lapid takes over as caretaker prime minister until elections in October or November.
The coming months present great risk – and great opportunity. Once again, Netanyahu’s Likud party appears to be the front-runner. And once again, Netanyahu’s leadership style and legal woes are likely to be high on voters’ minds.
While Lapid is sure to face relentless attacks from Netanyahu, who has tried to portray him as a lightweight who betrayed Israel’s security by allying with an Arab faction, he will do so from the perch of the prime minister’s office.
After serving as foreign minister for the past year, he will have even more opportunities to strengthen his international standing. He is set to host President Joe Biden on a visit next month and will have the opportunity to speak at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
Lapid spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday to prepare for Biden’s visit, the Foreign Ministry said.
“The visit will have significant implications for the region and the fight against Iran, as well as immense potential to significantly improve regional stability and security,” it said.
As caretaker prime minister, he is unlikely to launch any major military operations or bold peace initiatives with the Palestinians.
If Lapid can keep things quiet and avoid controversy, he could be well-positioned for the next election.
“Lapid has to work now at looking prime ministerial,” wrote Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist at the Haaretz daily. “His new post, from next week on, as interim prime minister is his greatest asset going into the election.”
6/22/2022 Israel lawmakers give initial approval for early election by AFP
Israeli lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to advance legislation to dissolve parliament and call an early election, after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said his eight-party coalition was no longer tenable.
© Menahem KAHANAAs Israeli lawmakers vote on a government bill to call an early election, former
prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is plotting a snap return to power without recourse to the polls
The government has said it wants to fast-track parliament's dissolution but the opposition led by ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu may attempt to derail the process, in a bid to form a replacement government without the need for what would be Israel's fifth election in less than four years.
© GIL COHEN-MAGEN Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (R)
attend the preliminary vote on a bill to dissolve parliament and call an early election
The government's bill still needs to pass a committee vote and three further votes in the full parliament before an early election is called.
In a complex day of legislative manoeuvres that included fiery debate, Israel's parliament gave near unanimous approval to 11 separate bills to dissolve parliament, drafted by both coalition and opposition lawmakers.
The bills are expected to be united into one, but timelines for that process remain unclear and could depend on Netanyahu's political calculations.
And now to breaking news in Israel, the fragile coalition government Israeli prime minister announces coalition governments’ dissolution, calls new election
If final dissolution legislation is approved, new elections could held in late October or early November, according to Israeli reports.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid would take charge as prime minister of a caretaker government, in accordance with a power-sharing deal he reached with Bennett after 2021 elections, when the pair forged an alliance of ideological rivals united in their desire to oust Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has cheered the coalition's collapse and vowed to form a new right-wing government, with or without fresh elections.
His Likud party has been courting potential defectors from coalition ranks to give him the parliamentary majority he needs for a snap return to power.
Those being wooed include religious nationalists from within Bennett's own Yamina party and hawks from Justice Minister Gideon Saar's New Hope party.
"Until the dissolution law is finalised there's still the option of an alternate government, a government headed by Netanyahu," Likud lawmaker Miri Regev told army radio.
A slew of opinion polls conducted after Bennett's shock announcement late Monday that his coalition could no longer govern pointed to gridlock between supporters and opponents of Netanyahu.
Four separate polls found that neither bloc would secure the 61 seats needed for a majority in the 120-seat parliament.
6/22/2022 Jordan, Saudi Arabia support efforts to prevent a nuclear Iran by KHALED ABU TOAMEH – The Jerusalem Post
Jordan and Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday that they support international efforts aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
© (photo credit: VIA REUTERS) Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman stands with Jordan
The two countries expressed support for Arab efforts to urge Iran to stop meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries and avoid all “destabilizing activities.”
In addition, Saudi Arabia expressed support for Jordan’s role as custodian of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. Unconfirmed reports over the past few years claimed that Saudi Arabia was seeking to replace Jordan as custodian.
The announcement was included in a joint communique issued at the end of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Jordan, where he held talks with King Abdullah and his son, Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah.
“The two sides stressed the importance of redoubling efforts to confront extremism and work to combat terrorism in all its forms, confront its ideological roots, dry up its sources, stop all means of financing it, and spread the values of religious, cultural and moderation,” the statement read.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post SAUDI CROWN PRINCE Mohammed bin Salman. (credit: BAHRAIN NEWS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Saudi Arabia and Jordan condemned the terrorist attacks carried out by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen against Saudi Arabia, and that Jordan supports the Saudis in all the steps they take to protect their security, stability and interests.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
According to the statement, the two countries stressed the need to launch a serious and effective international effort to find a real political horizon for resolving the Palestinian issue “on the basis of the two-state solution, which embodies the independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967, lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.”
The two Arab countries affirmed that the two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and comprehensive peace, “which constitutes an Arab strategic option and a necessity to achieve regional and international security and stability. They stressed the need for Israel to stop all illegal measures that undermine the two-state solution and the chances of achieving a just peace.”
Saudi Arabia and Jordan emphasized the need for Israel “to respect the historical and legal situation in Jerusalem and its Islamic and Christian holy sites, and to respect the role of the Jordan-controlled Wakf Department as the only authority authorized to manage the affairs of al-Aqsa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif."
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stressed the importance of the role of the historical Hashemite guardianship over the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem in protecting the holy sites and preserving its Arab, Islamic and Christian identity.”
The Saudi crown prince and the Jordanian monarch also discussed economic, trade and investment relations and ways to enhance them.
The two sides stressed the importance of enhancing joint cooperation in the field of investments and diversifying them, including investment areas for the sectors of mining, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, culture, healthcare, and information technology, and creating more job opportunities, which contribute to boosting economic growth in the two countries.
6/22/2022 Saudi Arabia’s MBS heads to Turkey as countries normalise ties by Al Jazeera
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has travelled to Turkey for the first time in years for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, aiming to fully normalise ties that were ruptured after the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
© Provided by Al Jazeera Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's trip signals that Riyadh and
Ankara have moved past the issues that divided them in recent years [File: Andy Rain/Pool/EPA-EFE]
The Turkish president was due to welcome the crown prince at the presidential palace in Ankara for talks on Wednesday afternoon. No public statements are expected.
The visit comes as part of a tour that included stops in Egypt and Jordan earlier this week.
It is expected to bring “a full normalisation and a restoration of the pre-crisis period,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters. “A new era will begin.”
Ties between Ankara and Riyadh took a turn for the worse after a Saudi hit squad killed and dismembered Khashoggi in October 2018.
Erdogan at the time blamed it on the “highest levels” of the Saudi government. MBS has denied any involvement in the murder.
However, Ankara halted its murder trial in April, after a months-long drive to mend relations. The rapprochement was marked by Ankara’s approval of a request to transfer the trial to Riyadh.
Human rights groups condemned the move, saying Saudi Arabia could not be expected to hold a fair trial.
MBS has been leveraging Saudi Arabia’s vast wealth and oil production capacity to soften criticism of the country’s human rights record. In turn, Erdogan is seeking financial support that could help relieve Turkey’s beleaguered economy ahead of tight elections for the presidency, expected in 2023.
Turkish officials said agreements on energy, economy and security would be signed during the visit, while a plan was also in the works for Saudi funds to enter capital markets in Turkey.
However, negotiations on a possible currency swap line that could help restore Turkey’s diminished foreign reserves were not moving “as fast as desired” and would be discussed privately between the two leaders.
Turkey’s economy is badly strained by a slumping lira and inflation soaring beyond 70 percent. Saudi funds and foreign currency could help Erdogan shore up support ahead of elections, analysts say.
The leaders will also discuss the possible sale of Turkish armed drones to Riyadh, Turkish officials told Reuters.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi received MBS at the airport on Monday evening, on the first leg of a Middle East tour that comes ahead of United States President Joe Biden’s trip to the region next month.
The Saudi leader, who is a steady financial backer of the Egyptian government, discussed “regional and wider international political affairs,” according to el-Sisi’s spokesman Bassam Radi.
MBS then departed to Jordan for talks with its monarch, King Abdullah II, also a close ally of Saudi Arabia.
Business leaders and officials hoped the visit would unblock at least $3bn of investment projects that Saudi Arabia committed to in recent years, but that never materialised.
6/23/2022 Officials: Militants ambush security post in Yemen; 8 killed
SANAA, Yemen – Suspected al-Qaida militants on Wednesday attacked a security post in a southern Yemeni province, sparking clashes that left five troops and three militants dead, officials said. The early morning attack took place in Ataq, the capital of the mountainous province of Shabwa, the officials said. At least four other troops were wounded in the attack, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press. No group claimed responsibly for the ambush.
6/23/2022 Kuwait’s crown prince dissolves parliament, calls elections
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Kuwait’s crown prince on Wednesday dissolved Parliament and called for early elections, a move to ease government gridlock that has bred popular opposition and paralyzed the tiny country for months. In his televised national address, the 81-year-old Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmed Al Jaber said popular dissatisfaction over the deepening dysfunction compelled the emir to intervene. The country’s Cabinet resigned over two months ago over disputes with Parliament, resulting in a prolonged paralysis.
6/23/2022 Israel’s Netanyahu prepares for his return by Opinion by Dov S. Zakheim, Opinion Contributor – The HIll
The last thing President Biden needs at this time is the return of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister. Currently the leader of the opposition, having been out of power for a year after a dozen years as prime minister, Netanyahu is poised to return to yet another term at the helm of an Israeli government, following the collapse of the coalition government of Naftali Bennett.
© Provided by The Hill Israel’s Netanyahu prepares for his return
In so doing, he threatens to undo many of the achievements that Bennett’s short-lived government was able to implement — including the passage of a state budget, improvement in the lives of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians on the West Bank, and a restoration of comity with much of the Democratic Party. Netanyahu is likely to clash publicly with Biden over the future of the territories, which he previously threatened to annex, and the pending Iran nuclear deal, which he vocally opposed.
And he no doubt will publicly identify once again with the Trumpian elements in the Republican Party, all but dismissing Democrats of every political hue.
Netanyahu desperately wants to return to power, with the hope of avoiding a conviction on charges of bribery that he is fighting in court. Not surprisingly, therefore, during his year out of office, Netanyahu did not merely oppose the government but actively sought to undermine it. He tried picking off individual members of the governing coalition, reportedly offering them plum governmental positions if they would defect to his side. He failed to pick up additional adherents, but it is clear that his policies, if not his blandishments, helped to motivate the more right-wing members of Bennett’s own Yamina party to vote against it.
Netanyahu has bitterly attacked the Bennett government for including the Arab Ra’am party in the coalition, which was a first for an Israeli government. Having an Arab party as a formal member of the governing coalition offered Israelis a glimmer of hope that the country’s Jews and Arabs could work for the common good of both. That hope has been shattered, at least for the time being. It is unlikely that a new Netanyahu administration, any more than his previous ones, will include Arabs in his coalition.
Meet the man who helped oust Netanyahu and future prime minister of Israel
On the other hand, Netanyahu is certain to win the support of the ultra-Orthodox and extreme Religious Zionist parties. The ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, bitterly opposed the Bennett government not only for keeping them out of power for the first time in years, but for attempting to loosen their stranglehold over both the private lives of Israeli citizens and state budgets that all too generously financed their academies, schools and pet projects. Indeed, Haredi leaders claimed that the Almighty had caused the government to fall. As one of them put it, “a government that … tried to destroy Judaism and the sanctity of Israel … has been driven from the world. The Holy One, blessed be He, had mercy on the people of Israel.”
The Religious Zionist party, another certain member of a Netanyahu coalition, vocally supports the West Bank settlers, who constitute much of its political base. Not surprisingly, its politicians advocate for the annexation of the West Bank. The party’s leader, Bezalel Smotrich, once a member of Bennett’s Yamina party, has no compunction about vocalizing his attitude toward Arabs. In 2015, he stated that Israeli developers should not have to sell them homes. Late last year, he told his Arab Knesset colleagues, “You’re here by mistake — it’s a mistake that Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job and didn’t throw you out in 1948.”
A poll this week showed that Netanyahu and his political partners likely would win 60 seats, one short of a parliamentary majority. Israeli polls are notoriously incorrect, however, and many former Yamina voters — “Yamina” is a Hebrew word for “go right” — could well switch to Netanyahu’s Likud party. Indeed, the Israeli press reports that Netanyahu is attempting to replace Bennett without an election by picking up the votes of current Yamina members of the Knesset. Ayalet Shaked, currently serving as Bennett’s Minister of the Interior, has announced her readiness to join a Netanyahu government.
Over the past year, the Bennett government attempted with some success to mitigate the impact of Netanyahu policies that had driven Israel and the United States further apart than at any time since the 1960s. Should Netanyahu return to office, the rift is certain to grow wider. The Biden administration rightly is focusing on the war in Ukraine and the competition with an ever-threatening China. The Middle East no longer is the central focus of White House policy.
Netanyahu, therefore, may find that — should he resume both the policies and attitudes that he left off a year ago — there will be no welcome mat waiting for him at the White House door.
Dov S. Zakheim is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and vice chairman of the board for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He was undersecretary of Defense (comptroller) and chief financial officer for the Department of Defense from 2001 to 2004 and a deputy under secretary of Defense from 1985 to 1987.
6/25/2022 Mali says 50 jihadists 'neutralised' by AFP
Mali's army said it had "neutralised" 50 "jihadists" in an area in the centre of the country where more than 130 civilians were killed a week ago.
© STAFF Map of Mali locating Diallassagou.
The government blamed Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists for the massacre of civilians in Diallassagou and two neighbouring villages last weekend, the latest mass killings in the Sahel region.
"Fifty jihadists (were) neutralised" in the Diallassougou area where "the operational priorities were directed following the terrorist attack against the populations on the night of June 18 to 19," the army said in a press release late Friday.
The army also reported "two terrorist watchmen neutralised" in the central Mondoro area, in addition to "eight terrorist suspects arrested" in the south of the country during a separate operation.
The government has blamed Al-Qaeda-affiliated Macina Katiba jihadists for the killings of 132 civilians in the Diallassagou area in central Mali, one of the hotbeds of the violence that has plagued the Sahel for years.
The group denied carrying out the massacre in a statement, the SITE Intelligence monitoring group said Friday.
The Diallassagou bloodshed is one of the worst civilian killings Mali has seen in recent years.
The Sahel country has since 2012 been rocked by jihadist insurgencies.
Violence began in the north and then spread to the centre and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
6/26/2022 Iraqi PM heads to Saudi Arabia, Iran for talks - Bordering nation often caught in middle of conflict by Qassim Abdul-Zahra, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, left, meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at
King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Saturday. BANDAR ALJALOUD/SAUDI ROYAL PALACE VIA AP
BAGHDAD – Iraq’s caretaker prime minister arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, his office said, on a visit that an official said aimed at reactivating Baghdad-mediated talks between the kingdom and Iran.
The official said Mustafa al-Kadhimi planned to travel to Tehran after the visit to Saudi Arabia.
The visit seeks to open new avenues that would reactivate dialogue between the two regional foes, according to the official, who is privy to the Iran-Saudi dialogue track. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge the information to the press.
Al-Kadhimi’s office later said he arrived in the Saudi city of Jiddah for an official visit during which he would meet Saudi officials. It is al-Kadhimi’s second visit since he took the post of prime minister in May 2020.
The Saudi-Iran talks aimed at defusing yearslong tensions between the regional foes began quietly in Iraq’s capital in 2021 as Saudi Arabia sought a way to end its disastrous war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The conflict has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters and brought bombs from rebel drones and missiles raining down on Saudi airports and oil facilities.
A fifth and last round of talks was held in Baghdad in April before they were suspended again amid soaring Middle East tensions.
Iran, the largest Shiite Muslim country in the world, and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties in 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Angry Iranians protesting the execution stormed two Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, fueling years of animosity between the nations.
Iraq borders both Iran and Saudi Arabia and is often caught in the middle of the two nations’ proxy wars.
Al-Kadhimi has stressed he wants balanced relations with the two neighbors.
6/27/2022 At least 20 dead at club in South Africa by ASSOCIATED PRESS
JOHANNESBURG – South African police are investigating the deaths of at least 20 people at a nightclub in the coastal town of East London early Sunday morning.
It is unclear what led to the deaths of the young people, who were reportedly attending a party to celebrate the end of winter school exams.
Local newspaper Daily Dispatch reported that bodies were strewn across tables and chairs without any visible signs of injuries.
“At this point we cannot confirm the cause of death,” said health department spokesperson Siyanda Manana.
Police Minister Bheki Cele was expected to visit the scene. The owner of the club, Siyakhangela Ndevu, told local broadcaster eNCA that he had been called to the scene early Sunday morning.
“I am still uncertain about what really happened, but when I was called in the morning, I was told the place was too full and that some people were trying to force their way into the tavern,” he said.
“However, we will hear what the police say about the cause of death,” Ndevu added.
6/28/2022 Qatar Energy to reduce methane emissions - Gas is responsible for quarter of climate change by Aya Batrawy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Qatari tanker ship is loaded with liquid natural gas, consisting mainly of methane, at Raslaffans
Sea Port, northern Qatar. The state-owned oil and gas company Qatar Energy said Monday it is joining a
new industry-led initiative to reduce nearly all methane emissions from operations by 2030. AP FILE
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The state-owned oil and gas company Qatar Energy said Monday it is joining a new industry-led initiative to reduce nearly all methane emissions from operations by 2030.
It comes as part of a broader global push to tackle emissions from methane, or natural gas, which is the second most polluting climate-changing gas after carbon dioxide, and much more potent than CO2. Unlike carbon dioxide, though, methane’s leakage into the atmosphere is not the result of combustion or fuel-burning, instead it represents the loss of a marketable fuel. Methane is responsible for about a quarter of all the climate change already being experienced worldwide.
Technology has allowed energy companies, independent groups and citizen sleuths to monitor methane leakage with cameras, drones and satellites. This monitoring along with greater climate change awareness is pushing companies to reduce their methane emissions and fix leakages from faulty pipes and other equipment.
With its pledge, Qatar Energy joins an initiative launched in March of this year by 12 other major oil and gas companies, including Aramco, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and others.
Qatar is among the world’s top liquefied natural gas exporters and Qatar Energy operates all of the country’s oil and gas exploration and production, making the peninsula-nation among the world’s richest per capita. The tiny country, which borders Saudi Arabia to the east, shares control with Iran of the world’s largest underwater natural gas field in the Persian Gulf.
Natural gas, which primarily consists of methane, forms the backbone of Qatar’s economy and Qatar Energy’s activities. Leaks of methane by oil and gas companies not only harm the environment, but are also seen as a waste of natural gas.
“Making repairs to prevent leaks can often be paid for by the value of the additional gas that is brought to market,” according to a report by the International Energy Agency last year on methane leaks.
Private satellite companies that monitor methane emissions say they saw a dramatic acceleration of emissions from oil, methane and coal in 2021, compared to 2020 when the pandemic slowed down demand. The International Energy Agency’s methane tracking separately found that oil and gas operations worldwide emitted more than 70 million tons of methane into the atmosphere in 2021, describing it as broadly equivalent to the total energy related carbon dioxide emissions from the entire European Union.
The IEA also noted that companies that do not do more to curb methane emissions could face reputational damage and commercial risks as consumers increasingly look at the emissions profile of different sources of gas.
6/28/2022 There’s a strongman holding NATO hostage. And it’s not Putin by Jonathan Lemire and Nahal Toosi - Politico
MADRID — Vladimir Putin will dominate this week’s NATO summit from afar, as the alliance aims to rally together — and take steps to admit new members — in response to the Russian president’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.
© Burhan Ozbilici/AP Photo Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a ceremony, in Ankara, Turkey.
But another leader, one who will be in attendance in Madrid, will also demand outsized attention as the largest remaining roadblock to a historic NATO expansion that would nearly double the Western alliance’s border with Russia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has steadfastly balked at a NATO plan to fast-track the admission of Finland and Sweden. The two strategically important northern European nations have pushed for admittance into the alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey has been angered by what it has claimed is Helsinki and Stockholm's support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Ankara.
“Turkey maintains that the admission of Sweden and Finland entails risks for its own security and the organisation’s future,” Erdogan wrote recently in an Economist opinion piece trashing NATO’s expansion plans.
But in recent days, there have been growing signs that Turkey may be willing to deal in order to sign off on the nations’ accession, which requires the approval of all 30 NATO members. And President Joe Biden may look to step in to act as the closer when the gathering gets underway Wednesday in Spain.
Biden spoke with the Turkish leader by phone Tuesday, and “he looks forward to seeing President Erdogan” at the summit, according to a White House readout of the call. National security adviser Jake Sullivan later confirmed the two leaders will meet in Spain on Wednesday.
U.S. officials have signaled that Biden would only meet with Erdogan if a deal was likely, and if there was renewed optimism among NATO members that Turkey would eventually sign off, though an official ascension would almost certainly not happen at the summit. But aides noted that talks could progress to the point where at least a declaration of intent could be approved during the week.
Erdogan has often been the problem child within the alliance.
Despite objections from Washington, Erdogan has purchased S-400 air systems from Russia, helped Iran evade some sanctions and is accused of letting Hamas and ISIS fighters safely transverse his nation’s territory. He stands for reelection next summer after two decades in power, during which he has strengthened his rule through constitutional changes, imprisoning many of his alleged critics and cracking down on the media. Some analysts believe he decided that strong-arming NATO would make for good domestic politics.
How is NATO responding to Russia's war?
“Erdogan is NATO’s weakest link,” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “But Biden has quite a lot on his plate. Too much, in fact. Whatever Erdogan thinks he’s going to get, he may find that he will need to get in line. He might gain a concession, but at what cost? Turkey is the reason that several NATO states have explored an ejection mechanism, which NATO currently lacks.”
Erdogan had cozied up with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, who declared in 2019 that he was a “big fan” of Turkey’s strongman leader even though Ankara had just purchased weapons systems from Russia over the howls of a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Many in Washington condemned Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, which led to a Turkish onslaught of the Kurds, who fought alongside Americans against Islamic State fighters — but whom Erdogan has deemed “terrorists.”
Erdogan and Biden met along the sidelines of the G-20 summit last fall in Rome but did not cross paths at the extraordinary NATO summit in Brussels this spring, soon after Russia’s invasion. Erdogan has raised concerns about Swedish support for Kurdish militias and appears intent on creating a precedent to prevent any NATO ally from backing the group.
“[Erdogan] is very good in converting what is good for Turkey into what is good for Erdogan,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “I believe that Erdogan is going to use this to boost his popularity before elections in Turkey.”
Many officials believe that Erdogan’s concern about the Kurdish militants is also a convenient fig leaf to disguise his real hopes — to get the Americans to approve a sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara.br>
“The argument is the ‘tell’ that the Turks are actually negotiating with Biden,” said Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations. “President Erdogan calculates that NATO expansion is more important to Biden than congressional concerns about sending F-16s to Turkey.”
If Erdogan signs off on any deal, the agreement would, in many ways, underscore just how badly Putin’s invasion has backfired.
Among the Russian leader’s justifications for crossing into Ukraine was to prevent it, or any other Eastern European nation, from joining NATO, which was formed in the aftermath of World War II as a bulwark to aggression from the then-Soviet Union. The organization’s founding principle is known as Article Five: that if any one member is attacked, the rest of the alliance is obligated to come to its defense.
Putin wagered that, when faced with bonafide Russian violence and economic hardships stemming from the war, NATO would splinter and resist rushing to the aid of a non-member. But instead, the alliance has rallied together, with many of its members sending weapons and money to Kyiv’s defense.
And while Ukraine itself has wavered on the idea of joining NATO, Putin’s invasion has pushed other European nations, including Finland and Sweden, to do so.
“Putin has been counting on, from the beginning, that somehow NATO would — and the G-7 would splinter,” Biden said at the week’s first summit, the G-7, in Germany. “But we haven’t, and we’re not going to.”
Nahal Toosi reported from Washington.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this report had a typo in Jonathan Schanzer's quote.
6/28/2022 Turkey uses Iran to back Syria invasion while blackmailing NATO – analysis by SETH J. FRANTZMAN – The Jerusalem Post
© (photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan
attends a meeting of his ruling AK Party via video link in Ankara, Turkey March 4, 2021.
Iran’s foreign minister appeared to indicate that Tehran would not oppose a Turkish invasion of another part of Syria.
Turkey invaded Syria in a series of campaigns beginning in 2016, eventually resulting in the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Kurds and minorities from Afrin, Sere Kaniya and other areas.
Ankara’s goal is to use part of northern Syria as a kind of new colony, where it will force Syrian refugees to move and displace other Syrians. The goal is demographic change, removing Kurds, Yazidis, Christians and other minorities and putting mostly Arab refugees in their place, and then using pro-Turkey extremist groups to police the area.
The regime has already followed this model in several areas, which are now home not only to displaced Syrians but governed by armed religious extremist gangs, many of which engage in kidnapping, rape and extortion. Some of these groups have been sanctioned by the US, and many of the areas are infiltrated by al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other extremist groups that are labeled as terrorists.
Ankara has vowed over the past year to launch a new invasion. However, the green light it had from the Trump administration to invade areas of Syria and attack US partner forces has been turned to red under the Biden administration. The US has backed the Syrian Democratic Forces, a force that includes Kurds, Arabs, Christians and other groups.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post TURKEY-BACKED Syrian rebel fighters walk through a field of
flowers in Idlib’s southern countryside, in Syria in April (credit: KHALIL ASHAWI / REUTERS)
The SDF, which controls eastern Syria, played a key role in defeating ISIS. Turkey, by contrast, enabled most of the people who joined ISIS to cross into Syria.
During the Obama years, the US began to open a relationship with the Kurdish anti-ISIS fighters, then known as the YPG. Those groups in turn have a political leadership called PYD. Turkey views them all as being linked to the PKK, which Ankara views as a terrorist group.
Iran also views them as linked to the PKK, but in the past has had a more nuanced view on the Kurdish issue. Today, Iran has shifted that view, and wants to encourage Turkey to fight the Kurds because it can then swoop in with the Syrian regime to grab any area that the US might be encouraged to abandon. Tehran’s gamble is thus cynical: it wants to use Turkey to get part of Syria, and then use that part to threaten Israel.
This means that Iran’s backing of Turkey is also a threat to the US and Israel, because Tehran wants to work with Ankara to expel any groups linked to the US so that they can divide part of Syria. Then Iran can be allowed to traffic weapons and drugs more easily in southern Syria.
Turkey, meanwhile, has another agenda. It wants to blackmail NATO into backing or at least being quiet about its destabilization of Syria to receive concessions from the military alliance regarding Finland and Sweden joining it. Although Turkey is a part of NATO, it tends to work more with Russia and Iran.
TURKEY IS opposed to NATO values, such as human rights and democracy, and wants to use its membership to obtain profits. As part of this, the regime boasts that it has the largest army in NATO. That army is directed toward attacking minorities in Syria, bombing Yazidis in Sinjar, and attacking Iraqis. It also takes delivery of Russia’s S-400 anti-missile defense system, but Ankara knows it can intimidate NATO by claiming to be its southern flank linchpin.
As such, Turkey threatens Greece and Cyprus, as well as the US, but puts its finger on the veto button when it comes to Finland and Sweden joining the alliance. In short, Ankara is able to hold NATO hostage. This is why it meets with the Iranians: it wants to show it has friends in other places.
“We understand Turkey’s security concerns very well,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told reporters after talks in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu. “We understand [that] maybe a special operation might be needed. Turkey’s security concerns must be tackled fully and permanently,” Al-Arabiya quoted him as saying.
A “special operation” is the same term used by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Turkey is learning from Russia and vice versa. For instance, both have used food as a weapon and enabled extremists in their invasions. Turkey mobilizes poor Syrians and encourages them to join extremist proxy groups; Russia uses the people of Donbas to fight. Russia steals Ukrainian grain; Turkey steals Afrin olives. Iran uses proxies as well.
Thus, the Russia-Turkey-Iran triumvirate works together. They also divide Syria for their own needs. Using the Astana “peace” process, these three countries carve up Syria – and see the US-influenced area in the east, where the SDF is located, as the one thing blocking their control.
Thus, Turkey wants a new invasion to get some new concessions from the US and NATO, and also to get closer to Russia and Iran. It can tell Moscow that if it gives it more of Syria, then Ankara may support Russia’s invasion. Turkey tells NATO that if it backs the invasion, then it will let Finland and Sweden join.
Turkey tells Iran it will support it taking over southern Syria so it can threaten Israel. Turkey then tells Israel’s foreign minister that it will work against Iranian plots on Turkey soil. Encourage Iran to use Syria instead – that is how Ankara thinks of this policy.
In this way, Turkey uses each country against the other – NATO against Russia, and Iran versus Israel – and Ankara plays both sides for its own benefit.
6/28/2022 10 Dead, 251 Injured After Poison Gas Leak In Jordan, Port Incident Prompts High-Level Investigation by OAN NEWSROOM
This photo taken from CCTV video broadcasted by Al-Mamlaka TV shows a chlorine gas explosion after it fell off a crane in the port of
Aqaba, Jordan, Monday, June 27, 2022. Some dozen workers were killed and scores were hospitalized. (Al-Mamlaka TV via AP)
Numerous casualties have been reported in the Middle Eastern nation of Jordan after an apparent industrial incident in the port city of Aqaba. At least 10 people died and 251 are injured after a port-crane collapsed onto a cargo ship, in turn, causing a leak of poisonous chlorine gas from a storage tank.
According to authorities, more than 25 tons of the gas leaked into the atmosphere. Port officials are calling on local residents to shut their windows and to stay indoors until the leak is dealt with.
Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh arrived in Aqaba shortly after the incident to lead the emergency response.
“I heard from the director of the hospital that admissions, the number of cases, are decreasing,” he explained. “This is thanks to God and your efforts when you received the first batch of people and provided them with necessary care. I assigned the Interior Minister to head a team to hold an investigation over the incident. His Majesty and Crown Prince are following.”
The cargo of poisonous gas was en route to the African port of Djibouti and authorities are now investigating the shipment.
6/30/2022 UN envoy warns Congo’s M23 rebels are acting like an army by Edith M. Lederer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
“The M23 possesses firepower and equipment, which is increasingly sophisticated,” by Bintou Keita, U.N. special envoy for Congo.
UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. special envoy for Congo warned Wednesday that the M23 rebel group has increasingly acted as a conventional army during escalating military action in the country’s volatile east and could threaten the U.N. peacekeeping force charged with protecting civilians.
Bintou Keita urged the U.N. Security Council to fully back regional efforts to defuse tensions between Congo and Rwanda over M23 rebels and other armed groups that have raised fears of war between the neighboring countries.
She also urged Congo and Rwanda to seize the opportunity to resolve their differences at an upcoming summit hosted by Angola’s President Joao Lourenco in the capital, Luanda.
Eastern Congo, which borders Rwanda, lives with the daily threat from dozens of armed groups that jostle for a piece of the region’s rich mineral wealth, which the world mines for electric cars, laptops and mobile phones. The M23, one of the most notorious rebel groups, surged into action this year and captured a key trading town in eastern Congo this month.
Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23, which Rwanda has long denied. Each country has accused the other of recent incursions.
On June 20, east African leaders meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, responded to the threat of war by instructing a new regional force to deploy in eastern Congo and ordering an immediate cease-fire. Keita told the Security Council that “during the most recent hostilities, the M23 has conducted itself increasingly as a conventional army rather than an armed group.”
“The M23 possesses firepower and equipment, which is increasingly sophisticated, specifically in terms of long-range fire capacities, mortars and machine guns as well as precision fire against aircraft,” she said. “The threat that this poses both for civilians” and U.N. peacekeepers “who have a mandate to protect them is evident.”
The M23 offensive has had a major impact on civilians, causing the death of 23 people, including six children, in May and June, and displacing more than 170,000, the U.N. special representative said. Keita warned that if the M23 continues “its well-coordinated attacks” against the Congolese army and the U.N. peacekeeping force known as MONUSCO “with increasing conventional capabilities, the mission may find itself confronted by a threat that goes beyond its current capabilities."
She also cited threats from other armed groups.
As government forces and the U.N. peacekeeping body shifted troops to focus on the M23, Keita said other armed groups “sought to take advantage of the resulting security vacuum,” increasing attacks in North Kivu and Ituri provinces that killed more than 150 civilians between May 28 and June 17.
Keita later told reporters that deployment of the regional force authorized at the Kenya meeting should complement U.N. peacekeepers: “The most important element and feature for us is coordination, coordination, coordination.”
Fortunately, she said, the regional force will be based in Goma, eastern Congo’s largest city, where U.N. peacekeepers have a coordination center with the Congolese army. She also stressed the importance of the regional force’s commitment to human rights.
Keita said MONUSCO has been informed that the regional force’s headquarters will be deployed by the end of July and its troops should come sometime in August.
U.S. deputy ambassador Richard Mills told the council the United States insists that the regional force’s deployment be closely coordinated with U.N. peacekeepers and conducted under international law and existing Security Council sanctions resolutions.
Keita said she was encouraged by the commitment of Congo’s government to pursue talks with groups and encourage them to lay down their arms and join a national disarmament program, adding that several groups expressed their willingness.
Armed militiamen gather last week near Rutshuru, 45 miles north of Goma, Congo. Eastern Congo, which borders Rwanda, lives with the daily threat from dozens of armed groups.
Demonstrators are stopped Wednesday by police in Goma, Congo, as they try to march toward the border
with Rwanda. Congo’s military is accusing Rwanda of “no less than an invasion” after a rebel group captured
a key town in eastern Congo. Goma is eastern Congo’s largest city. PHOTOS BY MOSES SAWASAWA/AP
6/30/2022 UN keeping peacekeepers in Mali as Russia and China abstain by Edith M. Lederer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council voted Wednesday to maintain the U.N. peacekeeping mission in turmoil-wracked Mali, while condemning the West African nation’s military rulers for using mercenaries that commit human rights and humanitarian violations.
The council also expressed “grave concern” at the deteriorating political and security situation in the West African nation.
Russia and China abstained on the French-drafted resolution that extends the mandate of the mission until June 30, 2023, with its current ceiling of 13,289 military personnel and 1,920 international police. Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow the president. The power vacuum that resulted ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013.
But insurgents remain active and extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have moved from the arid north to more populated central Mali since 2015, stoking animosity and violence between ethnic groups in the region. Mali’s current ruling junta, which seized power in August 2020, has grown closer to Russia as Moscow has looked to build alliances and gain sway in Africa.
The junta has hired mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, which has been accused by the European Union and human rights groups of violating human rights and international humanitarian law. The Kremlin denies any connection to the company, but Western analysts call it a tool of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After Wednesday’s vote, France’s U.N. ambassador, Nicolas De Riviere, said violations of human rights and humanitarian law by terrorist groups as well as Malian armed forces accompanied by members of the Wagner Group “must stop.”
Warning that insecurity in Mali is rising, he said the U.N. mission must be given access to areas where alleged violations are committed to fulfill its mandate and publish quarterly human rights reports as the resolution demands. He said that “those responsible for violations must be brought to justice.”
Amid tensions with Mali’s military rulers, France announced in February that its military forces would be out of the country by this summer. But France proposed continuing to provide aerial support to the U.N. peacekeepers, who need the capabilities of attack helicopters. Mali strongly objected to a continued French air presence, however, and the French offer was dropped from the resolution.
U.S. deputy ambassador Richard Mills said one reason the United States supported the resolution was “because it strongly condemns the alarming increase in violations and abuses against civilians and again calls for all parties to cease committing or abetting any violation or abuse.” He said that “this includes terrorist armed groups, the Malian armed forces, and the Kremlin backed Wagner Group.” The resolution authorizes the U.N. mission to assist Malian authorities in promoting and protecting human rights. The force also is “to monitor, document, conduct fact-finding missions, help investigate and report publicly” to the Security Council on humanitarian and rights violations, including sexual violence and human trafficking, “and to contribute to efforts to prevent such violations and abuses.” It also authorizes U.N. peacekeepers to carry out other “priority tasks,” including supporting implementation of a June 2015 peace agreement and the current political transition, supporting the restoration of state authority to central Mali and stabilizing the region, protecting civilians and creating safe environments for delivery of humanitarian aid.
Explaining Russia’s abstention, the country’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Anna Evstigneeva, pointed to the resolution’s “intrusive wording” on human rights, saying it will not help ensure that Mali can exercise its right to protect its own citizens.
Last Friday, Mali’s junta leader signed a new law paving the way for elections and a return to constitutional rule in 2024.
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