Activists: Russian, Syrian Strikes Kill 11 in Idlib

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Activists: Russian, Syrian Strikes Kill 11 in Idlib

Saturday, 13 July, 2019 – 11:30
Members of the Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets) and civilians gather following a reported regime airstrike on the village of Kafriya, in Syria’s Idlib province, on July 13, 2019. Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
Syrian rescuers and activists said Saturday that 11 civilians, including two families of four, have been killed in regime and Russian airstrikes inside Syria’s last opposition stronghold in Idlib province.

First responders known as White Helmets said airstrikes in Kafriya village Saturday killed a mother, her baby and another man, leaving 11 injured, including one of their volunteers.

The rescuers and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said other airstrikes in the town of Khan Sheikhoun hit a farm, killing two families— four children and four parents.

The Observatory said Russian aircraft were suspected of launching the strike.

At least 13 civilians were killed Friday in Syrian regime air strikes in the country’s northwest, including three children, the war monitor said.

Another 45 civilians were wounded in the strikes across Idlib, the Observatory added.

Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

Xinhua
Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

Xinhua

A Russian Antonov military cargo plane, carrying parts of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, is unloaded after landing at the Murted Air Base in Ankara, Turkey, on July 12, 2019. The first batch of Russian S-400 air defense system was delivered in Turkish capital city of Ankara on Friday, the Turkish Defense Ministry said.

Turkey began taking the delivery of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system on Friday, completing a much-debated deal that is likely to trigger sanctions from the United States and test the NATO alliance.

The first components for the state-of-the-art system arrived aboard three Russian military planes at the Murted air base, located at a distant suburb of Ankara, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“Turkey received the first batch of S-400 air defense systems. The deliveries are sent to the Murted air base,” the ministry said. Two more deliveries are expected in the coming days.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara that “there is no problem in the deliveries,” adding that “the process will also continue in a healthy pace in the future.”

The purchase, which is the fruit of a controversial agreement inked between Ankara and Moscow in 2017, signals, according to observers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s willingness to coordinate more with Russia and could set off a new crisis in relations between Turkey and the US, two major NATO allies.

The US President Donald Trump’s administration had given mixed signals about how it might respond if Turkey went through with the deal, but US officials had warned of repercussions, including canceling sales of around 100 high-tech US-made F-35 fighter jets to Ankara and the imposition of sanctions under a 2017 law in cooperation with adversaries.

During a visit to NATO headquarters in Belgium in June, acting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said “if Turkey accepts delivery of the S-400s, they will not receive the F-35.”

However, Trump has been publicly supportive of the Turkish president and expressed recently sympathy for Erdogan’s decision to purchase the surface-to-air S-400s. Erdogan, after meeting Trump at the G-20 Summit in June in Osaka, said he did not believe that the United States would sanction Turkey.

Erdogan has refused to back down on the S-400 deal and defended the 2.5 billion US dollar acquisition of the Russian system as part of Turkey’s sovereign right to defend itself, and said he tried to purchase the US-made Patriot air defense system but was not offered favorable terms in the past.

US officials fear that Turkey’s possession of the S-400 could give Russia access to secrets of the F-35’s stealth technology and argued that it would create interoperability problems inside NATO.

Ankara has ruled out such a possibility, saying that it is a long standing NATO country, since 1952, and that the S-400 would not be integrated in NATO capabilities.

Nevertheless, Turkey’s purchase of F-35 planes could be compromised as a concrete move last month, the Pentagon said it would halt the training of Turkish pilots to fly the warplane.

Possible US economic sanctions would mark a new standoff in Turkish-American ties. Last year, Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, triggering a currency crisis. Sanctions were lifted after Ankara released the clergyman.

Following the arrival of the first S-400 components to the Turkish capital, the Turkish lira dropped about 1.5 percent against the greenback, trading at 5.76 lira.

The deal with Russia also raised some concerns in Western circles that Turkey is drifting away, closer to Moscow’s sphere of influence.

Deliveries of the S-400 components to Turkey would continue “in the coming days,” according to a statement by Turkey’s defense industries authority, which did not say when or where the completed system would ultimately be deployed.

“Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by relevant authorities,” said the statement.

An official close to the matter said to Xinhua that the first battery could be deployed at Murted base and a second one likely in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian and Iraqi border and be operational by October.

“Assessments are underway at several levels to decide on the issue, but everything is going according to plan,” said the official on the condition of anonymity.

Russia Expresses Serious Concern over Decline in Number of Refugees Leaving Rukban

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Russia Expresses Serious Concern over Decline in Number of Refugees Leaving Rukban

Thursday, 11 July, 2019 – 11:30
Humanitarian aid is prepared to be delivered to Syria, in the town of Ramtha, Jordan, July 2, 2018. (File Photo: Reuters)
Moscow – Raed Jabr
Russia has renewed its accusation of the US hindering the exit of refugees from al-Rukban camp in southern Syria, and expressed serious concern about the humanitarian situation in the region.

The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria issued a statement strongly criticizing Washington’s actions in the region, accusing it of turning a blind eye to militants in Rukban using civilians as “human shields”, a move that aggravates the humanitarian situation.

The Center also expressed “serious concern about a decline in the number of refugees leaving the Rukban camp, due to the desire of militants controlled by the United States to keep them as human shields.”

It explained that militants have constantly increased the financial cost of allowing people to move from al-Tanf zone to the Jleb checkpoint, which falls under the control of the Syrian government.

“We draw to the attention of the international community that further retention by the United States and its allies of Syrian territories, the Rukban and al-Hol refugee camps only delays the end of the conflict in Syria, aggravates the criminal situation, hampers the repatriation of Syrians,” the statement added.

Rukban is located within a 55-km so-called deconfliction zone established by the Pentagon with the aim of shielding the Tanf garrison from attacks.

Moscow has repeatedly called for removing the displaced from the camp and announced with the Syrian authorities the establishment of two crossings for refugee exit, but they failed to convince the displaced to go to areas under regime control.

Washington is ignoring the situation, said Chief of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria Major General Viktor Kupchishin, adding that refugees abstain from leaving the camp because of the fuel crisis in the region and the increase in crossing fees imposed by US-affiliated militants.

Washington, in turn, accuses the Russians of blocking access of UN humanitarian aid to the region.

As of June 10, 2019, 13,539 refugees have left the Rukban camp, including 2,842 men, 3,817 women and 6,880 children, according to Russian estimates.

On the other hand, a number of Russian military and security experts believe it is time for the Russian tankers to replace Iranian tankers to cover oil shortage to Syria.

Recently, Vladimir Mukhin wrote in Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper saying escalation by Washington and its allies against Damascus and Tehran by trapping oil tankers will have major repercussions if Moscow does not intervene quickly to settle this issue.

Mukhin viewed the seizure of an Iranian tanker by the British Royal Marines as a plan “carefully organized in Washington and London,” recalling a statement by White House national security adviser John Bolton in which he welcomed Britain’s seizure of the tanker loaded with Iranian oil bound for Syria.

The expert said Moscow is currently facing in Syria a new phase of war against the Syrian regime and Iranian leadership.

He added that aside from the blockade on transferring goods to Syria, the United States has unofficially imposed a ban on the purchase of oil produced in Syrian territories occupied by the US forces, which is an attempt to further stifle the Syrian economy.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that last month, five underwater pipelines in Syrian coastal waters from Tartus to Banias were targeted, resulting in a huge oil spill.

The experts agreed that this was a “sabotage act” carried out by militants close to “one of the major military forces hostile to the Assad regime.”

The newspaper believes Moscow should deal with current developments because it reflects an attempt to intensify the pressure on Damascus and block Russian efforts to normalize the situation in Syria.

Should Trinidad and Tobago repatriate the families of ISIS recruits?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

(OPED: Just my opinion but here it is>Security protocols should be followed on all of the adults. If a woman joined of her own free will give them to the Syrian government for them to deal with. If a woman or a child were kidnapped then yes, allow them to come back home. But any child 12 or older who went willingly to be with ISIS then no, do not allow them back into your country unless it is somehow proven that they are not a future security risk. Any adult who went willingly should have their passports and visas terminated at once. They wanted to help bring hell on earth, let them live in that hell that they wanted for others to have to live in for themselves, turn them over to the Syrian government and the non-Islamic countries need to clear out of Syria as soon as it is possible to do so.)(oldpoet56)  

Should Trinidad and Tobago repatriate the families of ISIS recruits?

A screenshot from a YouTube video titled “Walk through Syria’s al-Hawl camp where thousands of Islamic State brides are held,” uploaded by ABC News (Australia), which shows the living conditions for the thousands of women and children inside the camp.

ISIS, the al-Qaeda offshoot that used to control large parts of Iraq and Syria using brutal, oppressive and violent tactics, lost control of these territories in January 2019. Since then, the families of many foreign ISIS militants have been left stateless.

Approximately 130 citizens from the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago have joined ISIS abroad —  the highest per capita source for recruits for the militant group in the Western hemisphere, catapulting Trinidad and Tobago into a debate over the repatriation of the dependents of ISIS recruits.

The exodus of fighters from the small Caribbean nation has declined since Syrian and American forces declared defeat over ISIS. Many of the militants, mostly men, have been arrested or killed, leaving behind wives and children. Their abandoned families now seek shelter and food in detention camps in Syria, most notably the al-Hol refugee camp in northeast Syria.

When Trinidad and Tobago’s parliament met on July 2, 2019, Senator Wade Mark asked whether or not the government plans to facilitate the return of the families of foreign nationals who joined ISIS. National Security Minister Stuart Young replied that he had not yet received confirmation as to whether or not there were Trinidad and Tobago nationals at the camp.

The group Con­cerned Mus­lims of Trinidad & Tobago (CMTT), which maintains there are at least 40 children and 16 women at the al-Hol camp with ties to Trinidad and Tobago, has asked the government to assist in the return of these nationals. However, Minister Young has made it clear that the country must go through security protocols before making any decisions on their return:

This al-Hol refugee camp houses persons who fled from ISIS war zones, and the first thing the government has to do is a verification exercise. The government has policies and procedures which we have implemented, including the use of Team Nightingale, which is a multi-agency task force comprising the Children’s Authority, Counter Trafficking Unit, counter-terrorism units, TTPS, TT Defence Force, Immigration, persons from Ministry of National Security and other agencies [and] our intelligence services.

Young could not say how long the process would take, but some members of the local Muslim community have voiced their concerns about the women and children, who are reportedly living in uninhabitable conditions at the camp. Describing the situation as a hu­man­i­tar­i­an cri­sis, Trinidadian Imam Sher­az Ali recently made a TV appearance in which he said that many of the women and children who went to Syria did so against their will.

In a March 2019 report, The New York Times said that the camp held 72,000 people. More recent investigations by France 24 say that the number has increased to 100,000 people, in the camps and surrounding areas. The al-Hol camp dwellers comprise people from all over the world, some of whom refuse to return home and others who are desperate to leave.

Only a few official reports indicate Trinidadian women and children in the camp — actual numbers are not known. In early 2019, however, a Trinidadian mother finally reunited with her two young sons after their father abducted them and took them to Syria. Human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith organised the rescue mission and later criticised the Trinidad and Tobago government for its lack of support, even though a press release by the Ministry of National Security claimed a role in the rescue operation. Calling the release “insulting drivel”, Stafford Smith said that the government’s specialised team meant to deal with nationals in Syria was “utterly useless” and of no help to the mother in her search for her boys.

While many citizens were happy for the young boys’ return, others are a bit skeptical about the return of others — mainly adult women — from the camp.  Countries like France have made the decision to only repatriate children; adults would have to go through an investigation before any talk of a return:

CCN TV6@tv6tnt

Two boys, aged 11 & 7 who were kidnapped by their father (a deceased ISIS fighter) and taken to Syria, are due to return to their mother in Trinidad. Do you welcome their return?

83%Yes
17%No

Shari Paul 🧜🏾‍♀️@ShariKimmyDee

So we’re supposed to jeer at two young, possibly deeply traumatized children, because of their father’s actions? Are you serious?

See Shari Paul 🧜🏾‍♀️‘s other Tweets

Some members of the local Muslim community have kept up their appeals. Until official numbers can be determined and strategies put into place, the futures of any Trinbagonian women and children will remain in limbo.

Iranian Militias on Alert after East Syria Deployment Maps Leaked

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Iranian Militias on Alert after East Syria Deployment Maps Leaked

Saturday, 6 July, 2019 – 11:45
A picture taken on March 22, 2017 near the town of Latamneh in the countryside of the central Syrian province of Hama, shows a displaced Syrian family travelling with their belongings down a road as two rebel fighters on a motorcycle drive past them. AFP file photo
Damascus – Asharq Al-Awsat
“Eye of the Euphrates” has published on its social media sites maps and detailed locations of 13 key Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) positions in the strategic Syrian city of al-Bukamal.

The page, which was created last year and has more than 122,000 followers, published a video showing a truck transporting arms and ammunition from one base to another.

It noted that the Iranian militias have gone on high alert and were changing their deployment locations.

Fatemiyoun leader in al-Bukamal Salman al-Irani has pledged a financial award to whoever provides information on the persons monitoring and taking photographs of Iranian militia bases.

Such developments come amid unprecedented tension between Iranian and Russian forces in the wake of Russian measures east of the Euphrates to limit Iranian influence in the area.

Among the locations revealed by “Eye of the Euphrates” is a site on the banks of the Euphrates river on the other side of al-Baghouz village which now falls under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The site is a main base for Iranian militias, where 150 Fatemiyoun members are located.

Another map showed two key locations in Hay Jamiat, the first belonging to Hezbollah and the second to Harakat al-Nujaba.

This neighborhood also includes two headquarters for intelligence agents, one belonging to Hezbollah and the other to the IRGC.

According to “Eye of the Euphrates,” the headquarters of Zainebiyoun militias who are specialized in night patrols are widespread as well.

In Bukamal’s countryside, there is a base for the Fatemiyoun that constantly erects checkpoints to inspect civilians.

A meeting bringing together the national security advisers of Russia, the US, and Israel was held in Jerusalem last week to discuss Iranian presence in Syria and urged Moscow to engage in downsizing Iranian power.

Deadly Regime Raids Kill 14 Civilians in Northwest Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Monitor: Deadly Regime Raids Kill 14 Civilians in Northwest Syria

Saturday, 6 July, 2019 – 09:00
A government air raid on Deraa, southern Syria. AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
Syrian regime bombardment has killed 14 civilians including seven children in northwestern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday.

Warplanes carried out air strikes, late Friday, on Mahambel village in Idlib province, killing 13 civilians including the seven children.

Also, another woman was killed early Saturday in regime rocket fire on the outskirts of the town of Khan Sheikhun in the south of the province, the war monitor said.

Idlib is the last major bastion of opposition to the Russia-backed Damascus government after eight years of civil war, AFP reported.

A September deal between Moscow and Ankara was supposed to shield the city from major regime attacks, however, Damascus and its Russian ally have ramped up their deadly bombardment of the region since late April.

More than 520 civilians have been killed since then, the Observatory noted.

According to AFP, Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

Foreign fighters among 10 killed in IDF Syria strike after rocket fire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Foreign fighters among 10 killed in IDF Syria strike after rocket fire — report

Monitor says Iranian, Hezbollah targets hit in airstrikes; IDF says Syrian military positions targeted, including anti-aircraft battery, after 2 rockets fired at Golan on Saturday

An IDF airstrike hits Syrian military targets, June 1, 2019. (IDF spokesperson's unit)

An IDF airstrike hits Syrian military targets, June 1, 2019. (IDF spokesperson’s unit)

Seven “foreign fighters” were among the 10 killed in Israel Defense Forces airstrikes on several military targets in Syria in the predawn hours of Sunday morning in response to two rockets that were fired from the country at the Golan Heights on Saturday night, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights did not specify the nationalities of the foreigners, but in an earlier statement said that Iranian and Hezbollah targets were hit in the strikes.

Beginning at 4:10 a.m., Israel Defense Forces helicopters and planes attacked several targets connected to the Syrian army, including two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence outposts, and an SA-2 type air defense unit, the IDF said in a statement.

Syrian media reported that Israel also struck several targets connected to Iran and is proxy militias in Syria, in the area of al-Kiswah, south of Damascus. These strikes reportedly targeted weapons caches and a military training facility.

The Israeli army refrained from specifying who it believes fired the two rockets at the Golan Heights — one of which landed inside Israeli territory, the other in Syria — but said it “sees the Syrian regime as responsible for all attacks against Israel from Syrian territory.”

The observation and intelligence targets bombed by Israel were located near the border with the Golan Heights, while the artillery and anti-aircraft batteries were south and south-west of Damascus, the IDF said.

During the exchange, Israeli air defense systems fired in response to Syrian anti-aircraft fire, but no projectiles were believed to have landed inside Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday morning that Israel will continue to respond to any attacks on its territory.

“We are not prepared to tolerate firing into our territory and we react with great force against any aggression against us,” the prime minister, who also serves as defense minister, said in a statement. “This is a consistent policy that I lead and so we will continue to do for the sake of Israel’s security.”

Syria’s official SANA news agency said that three Syrian soldiers had been killed and seven injured in the attack, and claimed that Syrian air defenses intercepted missiles coming from the Golan Heights. The attack also caused material damage, the report said.

Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

Last night, 2 rockets were launched from Syria to Israel, 1 landing within Israeli territory. In response, we struck a number of Syrian Armed Forces military targets.

Video insertado

Israel Defense Forces

@IDF

The Syrian Armed Forces targets we struck included:
🎯 2 artillery batteries
🎯 Observation & intel posts
🎯 An SA-2 aerial defense battery

We hold the Syrian regime accountable and will firmly operate against any attempt to harm Israeli civilians. pic.twitter.com/XtDTqz7Btc

Ver imagen en TwitterVer imagen en TwitterVer imagen en TwitterVer imagen en Twitter
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The two projectiles fired at Israel on Saturday caused no injuries or damage.

The incoming rockets did not trigger alert sirens. These alarms are typically only activated in cases where a projectile is heading toward a populated area, rather than an open field.

The launches came less than a week after a limited clash between Israel and Syria.

On Monday, a Syrian anti-aircraft battery fired at an Israeli fighter jet that was flying within Israeli airspace. Shortly afterward, in response, the IDF attacked the battery and destroyed it, reportedly killing a Syrian officer and soldier. A military vehicle was also said damaged in the attack.

Saturday night’s rockets appeared to be a relatively long-range variety, reportedly fired from the Damascus area, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) away, similar to an attack earlier this year aimed at Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon is located in the northern tip of Israel’s Golan Heights. In addition to a popular ski resort, the area is also home to a number of military installations.

In January, Iranian troops in Syria fired a medium-range, Iranian-made missile at Mount Hermon in what the IDF said at the time was a “premeditated” attack aimed at deterring Israel from conducting airstrikes against the Islamic republic’s troops and proxies in Syria.

The incoming projectile was shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

Last Saturday, Syria said its air defenses shot down a number of missiles fired from Israel, a day after making a similar claim.

Toward the start of the Syrian civil war, the Israeli military established a number of “red lines” that if violated would result in a retaliatory strike, including any attacks — intentional or otherwise — against Israel.

They also included Iranian efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and attempts to transfer advanced munitions to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group.

In recent years, Israel has acknowledged conducting hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in response to these “red line” violations.

READ MORE:

Damascus, Tel Aviv Exchange ‘Goodwill’ Gestures

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Damascus, Tel Aviv Exchange ‘Goodwill’ Gestures

Sunday, 28 April, 2019 – 06:30
An Israeli soldier stands next to signs pointing out distances to different cities at an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. (Reuters)
Moscow, Beijing, London – Raed Jaber and Asharq Al-Awsat
A series of “goodwill gestures” emerged on Saturday between Damascus and Tel Aviv related to a prisoner exchange.

An Israeli official said Tel Aviv decided in the past few days to release two Syrian prisoners as a goodwill gesture after the return of the remains of Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel.

Baumel went missing during in a battle between Israeli and Syrian forces in Sultan Yaqub during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. His remains were recovered by Russian forces in Syria and returned to Israel earlier this month.

A Syrian regime source told Reuters that authorities had pressured Moscow to secure the prisoners’ release after news emerged that the Israeli soldier’s remains were being handed over.

Israel’s Prison Service identified the two prisoners as Ahmed Khamis and Zidan Taweel.

Khamis, from a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, was a member of the Palestinian Fatah group and was jailed in 2005 after he tried to infiltrate an Israeli military base in order to carry out an attack.

Taweel, from the Syrian Druze village of Hader, was jailed in 2008 for drug smuggling.

Meanwhile, Syria’s representative to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari said on Saturday that “Turkey’s occupation is four times larger than Israel’s and that Turkey’s negative attitude to Syria is thus four times worst than Israel.”

He compared the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights to Ankara’s “occupation” of Syrian territory in the North. He charged that Turkey was occupying some 6,000 kms of Syrian land, encompassing Afrin and Idlib.

He also accused it of constructing 70-km wall south of Manbij to separate it from Aleppo and imposing a Turkish curriculum at schools.

India: ‘Ask kin to leave Libya’ Sushma tweets, says situation worsening fast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

‘Ask kin to leave Libya’: Sushma tweets, says situation worsening fast

In a tweet, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that though there had been massive evacuations from Libya, more than 500 Indians were still stranded in Tripoli.

INDIA Updated: Apr 19, 2019 19:14 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sushma Swaraj,libya,External affairs minister sushma swaraj
External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday tweeted saying that those who have relatives or friends in Tripoli should ask them to leave immediately.(AFP Photo)

External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday took to Twitter to reach out to relatives of those Indians who are living in Libya.

In a tweet she said that though there had been massive evacuations from Libya, more than 500 Indians were still stranded in Tripoli.

“Even after massive evacuation from Libya and the travel ban, there are over 500 Indian nationals in Tripoli. The situation in Tripoli is deteriorating fast. Presently, flights are operational. Pls ask your relatives and friends to leave Tripoli immediately. We will not be able to evacuate them later,” she tweeted.

Libya has been witnessing intensifying fighting in Tripoli ever since the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, launched an assault on the country’s capital on April 4. The move has been seen as one that could potentially drag the country into a civil war.

An arrest warrant has been issued against Haftar and six of his aides, even as the Libyan prime minister Fayez Al-Sarraj called on the International Criminal Court to investigate “crimes and violations by the forces of warlord Khalifa Haftar and bring them to justice”.

Chowkidar Sushma Swaraj

@SushmaSwaraj

Even after massive evacuation from Libya and the travel ban, there are over 500 Indian nationals in Tripoli. The situation in Tripoli is deteriorating fast. Presently, flights are operational. /1 PL RT

3,719 people are talking about this

Chowkidar Sushma Swaraj

@SushmaSwaraj

Pls ask your relatives and friends to leave Tripoli immediately. We will not be able to evacuate them later. /2 Pls RT

9,974 people are talking about this

More than 205 people are reported to have died with more than 900 others being injured.

Libya has been in witnessing unrest since 2011 when an uprising led to the overthrowing and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

On April 7, Swaraj had tweeted that the entire Indian contingent of peacekeeping forcescomprising 15 CRPF personnel from Tripoli had been evacuated after the situation there “suddenly worsened”.

“The situation in Libya has suddenly worsened. There is fighting in Tripoli. Indian Embassy in Tunisia @IndiainTunisia has evacuated the entire contingent of 15 CRPF personnel yesterday itself. I appreciate the excellent work by the Indian Embassy in Tunisia. #Libya,” Swaraj tweeted early on Sunday.

First Published: Apr 19, 2019 19:07 IST

‘We Pray For The Caliphate To Return’: ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

‘We Pray For The Caliphate To Return’: ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps

LISTEN·5:30QUEUE

Women carry children near the al-Hol camp in Syria’s Kurdish-majority region of Rojava. The camp is filled with more than 72,000 people — most of them women and children who came out of the last ISIS-held territory.

Jane Arraf/NPR

The women huddle for shelter from the rain under a corrugated iron roof, their long black cloaks dragging in the mud as they wait in line for food and pray for the return of the ISIS caliphate.

The squalid al-Hol camp, in the Kurdish-majority region of Syria known as Rojava, is filled with more than 72,000 people — most of them women and children who came out of the last piece of ISIS-held territory in Baghouz.

They include thousands of Iraqis and Syrians who believe they will usher in a new caliphate. And they pose a risk to the Iraqi government, seeking to repatriate the Iraqis, and to Syrian Kurdish authorities, having nowhere to send the Syrians.

“This is injustice — we pray for the caliphate to return,” says one of the women, who says this is the third day they have been turned away from promised cartons of food. Everything is in short supply here.

“If it weren’t for the airstrikes on our tents and camps killing our children,” she says, “we would not have left the caliphate.” All refuse to give their names.

All of the women are completely covered in long black cloaks, with only a slit for their eyes. A few have covered even their eyes.

“Convert, convert!” a group of women and girls shout at me, urging me to recite the shahada, the Muslim profession of faith: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his messenger.”

“If you became Muslim and cover like us and became a member of our religion, you would not be killed” in the ISIS caliphate, one woman tells me.

To the world, to the governments it threatened and the hundreds of thousands it killed in Iraq and Syria, ISIS was one of the most brutal organizations known.

To its followers — who number in the tens of thousands and escaped the fall of the last ISIS territory in Syria with their beliefs intact — ISIS could do no wrong.

In their caliphate, they say there was justice. There was no bribery or corruption or wasta — the influence-peddling at the heart of most countries in the region.

“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and any shepherd were on the same level,” says an Iraqi boy, referring to the ISIS leader now believed to be in hiding.

They say when there was food in the caliphate, it was distributed. Here at the camp, they say they come every day to be humiliated and told there’s nothing for them.

Malnourished infants have died due to lack of shelter and medical care in the camp in this breakaway region of Syria, according to the World Health Organization and other aid groups. With the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, the Rojava region now faces an uncertain future.

The women in the camp believe its harsh conditions are deliberate — part of what they believe to be a continuing war against Muslims around the world.

They say everything under ISIS was what God wanted.

“Of course there were beheadings — why should I lie?” says a Syrian woman. “It’s based on the Quran and the rules of God.”

Asked about the Yazidi minority, which ISIS targeted with a campaign of genocide, the women shout: “Devil worshippers!”

Misconceptions about the ancient Yazidi religion have led to dozens of massacres over the centuries. When ISIS took over a third of Iraq in 2014, thousands of Yazidis were killed or captured as sex slaves.

Women and children wait for distribution of food at the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria. Most are family members of ISIS fighters, viewed by the region’s Kurdish Syrian leadership as a potential danger. Iraq says it wants to bring back 30,000 of its citizens to place in Iraqi camps, but few are willing to return.

Jane Arraf/NPR

“If they don’t convert to Islam and they don’t become Muslim like us and worship God, then they deserve it,” an Iraqi woman says.

This camp, they complain, is full of infidels. There is music. Male and female guards wear tight clothing and smoke cigarettes. They say the men harass women.

They insist that everything was better in what they call al-dawla — the state.

“There, a woman would walk with her head held high and a man would lower his eyes,” a Syrian woman says. “Here, it’s the opposite.”

The region’s Kurdish Syrian leadership views the large numbers of radicalized women and children as a continued danger.

“The women and children who have been raised on the mentality of ISIS and terrorism need to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into their communities,” says Abdulkarim Omar, a foreign relations official in the Kurdish region of northeast Syria. “Otherwise, they will be the foundations of future terrorism.”

But there is little money or political will for reintegrating ISIS families in either Iraq or Syria.

At a smaller camp run by the Kurdish Syrian forces, ISIS wives from Western countries are exposed to lectures about how ISIS is not Islam and what ISIS did to Yazidis and other women.

But there are no similar programs at al-Hol camp for Syrian and Iraqi ISIS families — and there are very few in Iraq.

“Any official who goes for an hour and speaks to them can’t change anything — are you a prophet that they would believe in you?” says Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi counterterrorism expert in Baghdad.

“We have proposed [deradicalization] programs in the past, but no one has implemented them,” says Ali Abbas Jahaker, a deputy director at Iraq’s Ministry of Migration. Jahaker says the Iraqi government plans to repatriate 30,000 Iraqi women and children over three months but will not force the families to return against their will.

In Syria, camp officials say so far, fewer than 1,000 Iraqis have indicated they want to go home.

The women at al-Hol say they are there because ISIS leader Baghdadi told them to escape to save their children.

“This is the next generation of the caliphate,” one of the women says. “If you talk to them, they have the true creed implanted in their minds. The true creed will remain.”

And in fact, it’s a girl from the Iraqi city of Tikrit who is among the most fervent in the group. She appears to be 11 or 12.

On judgment day, the girl tells us, God will pour molten metal in the ears of those who listen to music.

“The ones who are not covered, now I ask God in the next life to light the fires of hell with their hair!” she declares.

She says she went to school under ISIS — what she calls a proper school, with boys and girls segregated — and vows she won’t go to school again until the caliphate returns.

They all believe it’s just a matter of time.

Awadh al-Taee contributed reporting from Baghdad.