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.

Pompeo Wrong on Assad Control in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘FACTCHECK.ORG’)

 

Pompeo Wrong on Assad Control in Syria


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrongly stated that Syrian President “Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria.” Middle East experts tell us that Assad controls a majority of Syria’s land and population.

Pompeo made his remarks during an April 8 interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. Pompeo urged the Cuban government to stop supporting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro — telling Baier that Maduro’s “days are numbered” — when in an aside the secretary also remarked about Assad’s power in Syria.

Pompeo, April 8: I might add, Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria today. The work that the Trump administration has done to deny Assad the capacity to rebuild his nation — this is the guy who believes he won, but the truth is the Middle East is in a much more stable, much better place today than it was when President Obama was running the joint in Syria.

“Pompeo’s comment is false,” Steven Heydemann, director of Middle East Studies at Smith College, told us in an email. “The Assad regime controls about 60% of Syrian territory, including the entire western ‘spine’ of the country that includes all its major cities and a large majority of its population.”

The civil war in Syria started in March 2011, and, at its weakest point in 2015, Assad’s government held less than a fifth of Syria. “However, the Asad government — backed by Russia and Iran — has reasserted control over much of western Syria since 2015, and appears poised to claim victory in the conflict,” according to a recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

CRS, March 25: The collapse of IS [Islamic State] and opposition territorial control in most of Syria since 2015 has been matched by significant military and territorial gains by the Syrian government. The U.S. intelligence community’s 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment stated in February 2018 that, “The conflict has decisively shifted in the Syrian regime’s favor, enabling Russia and Iran to further entrench themselves inside the country.”

Jan. 14 Bloomberg News article on the various forces still fighting in Syria includes a map that shows the Assad regime controls about two-thirds of Syria — nearly all of the land southwest of the Euphrates River, which serves as a natural barrier between the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the Russia-backed Syrian military.

“The Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria, comprising about a quarter of the country, are the largest remaining areas outside of Syrian government control,” the CRS report said. “Asad has stated that his government intends to recover these areas, whether by negotiations or military force.”

Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of foreign policy research at the Brookings Institution, agreed that Pompeo’s statement was “not correct.” In an email, he told us that “in terms of population, Assad controls a substantially higher percentage of the densely populated regions of the country.”

“The main cities under government control are: Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Latakia, Tartus, Palmyra, Albu Kamal,” according to a March 13 Al-Jazeera article headlined “Syria’s War: Who Control What?” Aleppo is the largest city in Syria, followed by Damascus and Homs, according to the World Atlas.

“The regime is not in control of two important areas: parts of northwest Syria from north of Homs up to the border with Turkey. This area includes the city and province of Idlib and areas under Turkish control,” Heydemann said. “In addition, the regime is not in control of a large part of Syria’s northeast, which is dominated by Kurdish forces that are supported by the U.S.”

Idlib province has been under rebel control since 2015. It is the “the most significant zone remaining outside of government control in western Syria” — “the final opposition stronghold,” according to CRS. Idlib is strategically important to the Assad regime because it allows direct transit from government-control areas in the south to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, according to CRS.

The area in the northeast that is under control of Kurdish forces is strategically important because that’s where “most of Syria’s major oil production facilities” are located, Heydemann said. “However,” he added, “the PYD – the most powerful Kurdish political party in the northeast – has entered into agreements to provide the Assad regime with oil from the areas it controls.”

The Wall Street Journal, in a Feb. 8 article, said the decision by the Kurdish forces to sell oil to the Assad regime “represent[s] a new challenge to U.S. efforts to starve the Syrian government of oil.”

Clearly, Assad doesn’t have full control of Syria as he did before the civil war. But he controls more than “a small fraction” of it, contrary to what Pompeo said.

We asked the State Department to clarify Pompeo’s remarks, but did not receive a response. We will update this article if we do.

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Mike Pompeo
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Syrian President “Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria today.”

ISIS Survival Hangs by a Thread, Desperate Fatwas

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

 

ISIS Survival Hangs by a Thread, Desperate Fatwas

Friday, 5 April, 2019 – 10:45
(Image from Arabic Website/ no caption)
Cairo – Waleed Abdurahman
Ailed by losing its final Syria stronghold, in the eastern town of Baghouz, ISIS is pinning high hopes on its outlandish and radical edicts, or fatwas, to prop up its comeback. A recently published Global Fatwa Index (GFI) document, prepared by Egypt’s Dar El-Ifta (an educational institute and a center for Islamic legal research), broke down the transformation ISIS literature and religious fatwas have undergone over the last few years.

Early fatwas issued by the group were violent in calling for “garnering support” enough to materialize a so-called Islamic caliphate. During its prime on the Syria-Iraq theater, ISIS guidance worked to uphold the status quo by encouraging members to plunder and violate international conventions on human rights.

With the caliphate going into decline, the group’s edicts started to tilt towards desperation, at times taking stock in labeling “patience” as virtuous and defeat as a “test of will.” It also focused on promising a martyr’s heaven to its scattered and discombobulated fighters.

The GFI report reaffirmed that the fatwas suggest the group’s ‘clinical death,’ especially that they are almost entirely focused on combating despair that is dousing its supporter base. ISIS has gone from missionizing and authorizing its recruits to plunder and enforce their radical ideology to asking them to donate and give up their lives in exchange for the caliphate’s rebirth.

At least 30% of recent edicts called for overthrowing Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, under whose leadership ISIS had fallen flat on its face. Another 25% urged for donations and 20% ordered persistence among “believers.”

But these are hardly as shocking as the 15% of total decrees recently issued and that absolve ISIS supporters from the responsibility to defend their comrades, especially those who are pursued by security agencies abroad.

ISIS expansionist and pro-jihad edicts represented a shy 5% of total laws dished out by the group’s leaders.

Among the key factors that led to lethally slashing ISIS influence and consequently defeating the group, according to the GFI, is the killing of 30% of its fighters in battle and the fierce anti-terror crackdown it faces worldwide.

International security services taking down 25% of ISIS’ social media accounts coupled with adherents losing faith in the group’s leaders, has also left ISIS in the face of a double whammy. The group’s rift with other terror groups and dried funding has also steered ISIS into a tight corner, making it easier to defeat.

Israel: Trump’s Golan recognition, ‘a Purim miracle’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli leaders gush over Trump’s Golan recognition, ‘a Purim miracle’

Syria silent as US president says time to ‘fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty’ over plateau; Lapid claims some credit; Bennett fears new demands; Palestinians warn of ‘bloodshed’

Photo taken on October 18, 2017 shows an Israeli flag fluttering above the wreckage of an Israeli tank sitting on a hill in the Golan Heights and overlooking the border with Syria. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Photo taken on October 18, 2017 shows an Israeli flag fluttering above the wreckage of an Israeli tank sitting on a hill in the Golan Heights and overlooking the border with Syria. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Israel’s leaders on Thursday welcomed US President Donald Trump’s announcement that the time had come for the United States to “fully recognize” Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, while the Palestinians warned the move would further destabilize the region and lead to bloodshed.

“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” Trump tweeted.

There was no immediate reaction from Syria, which has long vowed to recover every inch of the Golan from Israel.

In Israel the move won widespread praise, but coming just weeks before Israel’s elections, much of the reaction was framed by the campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the praise of Trump, calling the move a “new Purim miracle.”

Speaking at a press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Netanyahu said Trump had “made history.”

“I called him. I thanked him on behalf of the people of Israel. He did it again. First, he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy here. Then, he pulled out of the disastrous Iran treaty and re-imposed sanctions.

“But now he did something of equal historic importance — he recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and he did so at a time when Iran is trying to use Syria as a platform to attack and destroy Israel. And the message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) welcomes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his residence in Jerusalem on March 21, 2019. (Photo by JIM YOUNG / POOL / AFP)

“We’re celebrating Purim, when 2,500 years ago, other Persians, led by Haman, tried to destroy the Jewish people. They failed then; and today, 2,500 years later, again Persians led by Khamenei, are trying to destroy the Jewish people and the Jewish state. They’re going to fail again,” Netanyahu said.

Pompeo praised Trump as well, and added: “The people of Israel should know that the battles they fought and the lives they lost on that very ground [the Golan] were important and worthy.” Israel captured the Heights from Syria in the 1967 war.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the move would strengthen Israel’s security.

“This is the right response to Iran’s aggression from Syria and a clear message to Assad. Trump’s statement does historical justice almost 40 years after the decision of Menachem Begin on Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan. Thank you, Mr. President,” he said.

The Jewish community of Qatzrin in the Golan Heights, on June 28, 2017. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Members of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party were quick to praise the prime minister for the shift in US policy.

“President’s Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan is another achievement for Netanyahu’s foreign policy,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. “This term will be remembered in history as one where Netanyahu changed the rules of the game and brought about maximum Israeli gains with zero concessions.”

Yair Lapid, a leader of the Blue and White party that is seen as a main challenger to Netanyahu in the upcoming elections, praised Trump, but also tried to claim credit for the initiative.

“Thank you @POTUS for your intention to recognize our sovereignty over the Golan,” he tweeted. “We started this campaign a year ago and the leadership of @BlueWhite2019 stood on the Golan Heights and called for recognition. President Trump has shown again that he’s a true friend of Israel.”

יאיר לפיד Yair Lapid

@yairlapid

Thank you @POTUS for your intention to recognize our sovereignty over the Golan. We started this campaign a year ago and the leadership of @BlueWhite2019 stood on the Golan Heights and called for recognition. President Trump has shown again that he’s a true friend of Israel.

238 people are talking about this

Meanwhile, Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the New Right party warned that Israel may be expected to make concessions with the Palestinians in exchange for the move.

“With all the joy of American recognition of the Golan Heights, it is essential to say: The ‘Golan in exchange for Hamastan’ deal is a danger to Jewish settlements and to Israel.

“We call upon Prime Minister Netanyahu to announce as early as this evening that his agreement to the establishment of Palestine in the Bar-Ilan speech is null and void,” Bennet said referring to a 2009 speech where Netanyahu laid out his acceptance of the two-state solution.

This was echoed by the far-right Union of Right-Wing Parties, which thanked Trump, but warned the Israeli public not to let the move blind them to the dangers of Trump’s expected peace plan.

Details of the plan have not yet been released, but URWP, a union of the Jewish Home, National Union and extremist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), warned that it would demand Israeli concessions in the West Bank.

“Only a government with the Union of Right-Wing Parties will stand firm,” it said.

Head of the Golan Heights Regional Council Haim Rokah said it was “about time” and called on Israel to increase funding and investment for the region “and double the population.”

However, lawmakers from the mostly Arab Hadash party accused Trump of timing the announcement to try to influence the election and get Netanyahu re-elected — an assertion Pompeo denied.

“Trump is trying to save Netanyahu from his desperate situation and return him to power,” said MK Aida Touma-Sliman.

Touma-Sliman called the recognition part of “the entrenchment of Israeli and American control over the Middle East and a targeted assassination of the … opposition in the Golan by thousands of Syrian citizens, who are standing firm against all attempts at Israelization and normalization” — a reference to the Golan’s Druze population.

Hadash leader Ayman Odeh called the move a “cheap and cynical provocation.”

“Decisions on the Middle East should not be unilateral, and certainly not announced over Twitter,” he said, warning that it would further destabilize the region.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and extended Israeli law to the territory in 1981, a step tantamount to annexation. But the United States and the international community have long considered it Syrian territory under Israeli occupation. The plateau lies along a strategic area on the border between Israel and Syria.

Syrian President Bashar Assad as members of the Druze community attend a rally in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights commemorating the 45th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, on October 6, 2018. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

A top Palestinian official warned that this was yet another move by the Trump administration to adopt Israel’s positions and warned it would lead to further instability in the region.

“Yesterday president Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Today for regional stability he wants to make sure that the occupied Syrian Golan Heights (sic) be under Israel’s sovereignty,” tweeted Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee.

“What shall tomorrow bring ? Certain destabilization and bloodshed in our region,” he said.

Dr. Saeb Erakat الدكتور صائب عريقات@ErakatSaeb

Yesterday president Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s http://capital.Today  for regional stability he wants to make sure that the occupied Syrian Golan Heights be under Israel’s sovereignty. What shall tomorrow bring ? Certain destabilization and bloodshed in our region.

Israel Said Set To Seek $250b Compensation From Arab Countries Plus Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel said set to seek $250b compensation for Jews forced out of Arab countries

After 18 months of research, first claims being finalized for reported $35b from Tunisia, $15b from Libya, for assets Jews left behind when kicked out after establishment of Israel

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Israel is preparing to demand compensation totaling a reported $250 billion from seven Arab countries and Iran for property and assets left behind by Jews who were forced to flee those countries following the establishment of the State of Israel.

“The time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms (against Jews) in seven Arab countries and Iran, and to restore, to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property, what is rightfully theirs,” Israel’s Minister for Social Equality, Gila Gamliel, who is coordinating the Israeli government’s handling of the issue, said Saturday.

According to figures cited Saturday night by Israel’s Hadashot TV news, compensation demands are now being finalized with regards to the first two of the eight countries involved, with Israel set to seek $35 billion dollars in compensation for lost Jewish assets from Tunisia, and $15 billion dollars from Libya.

In total, the TV report said Israel will seek over $250 billion from those two countries plus Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Iran.

Yemenite Jews walking to Aden, the site of a reception camp, ahead of their emigration to Israel, 1949. (Kluger Zoltan/Israeli National Photo Archive/public domain)

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), an international umbrella group of Jewish community organizations, has estimated that some 856,000 Jews from 10 Arab countries — the other two were Algeria and Lebanon — fled or were expelled in 1948 and after, while violent Arab riots left many Jews dead or injured.

For the past 18 months, utilizing the services of an international accountancy firm, the Israeli government has quietly been researching the value of property and assets that these Jews were forced to leave behind, the TV report said.

Immigrants from Iraq soon after landing at Lod Airport, summer 1951 (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

It is now moving toward finalizing claims as the Trump Administration prepares for the possible unveiling of its much-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal. A 2010 Israeli law provides that any peace deal must provide for compensation for assets of Jewish communities and individual Jews forced out of Arab countries and Iran.

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“One cannot talk about the Middle East without taking into consideration the rights of the Jews who were forced to leave their thriving communities amid violence,” said Gamliel, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“All the crimes that were carried out against those Jewish communities must be recognized.”

The Palestinian Authority has sought over $100 billion in compensation from Israel for assets left behind by Arab residents of what is today Israel who fled or were forced to leave at the time of the establishment of the Jewish state, and presented documentation to that effect to the United States a decade ago, the TV report said.

The Palestinians have also always demanded a “right of return” to what is today’s Israel for the few tens of thousands of surviving refugees and for their millions of descendants. This demand would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state and has been dismissed by successive Israeli governments. Israel argues that Palestinian refugees would become citizens of a Palestinian state under a permanent peace accord, just as Jewish refugees from Arab lands became citizens of Israel. It also argues that by extending refugee status to Palestinian descendants, the relevant UN agencies artificially inflate the issue, complicating peace efforts. The latter view is shared by the Trump administration, which last year announced it was halting funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

Israel has never formally demanded compensation for Jews forced out of Arab lands and Iran, and although many of those Jews arrived in Israel with next to nothing, they did not seek formal refugee status from the international community.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon giving the opening remarks at an official UN event commemorating Jewish refugees from Arab lands, on December 1, 2015. (Shahar Azran)

At the time, the newly established Jewish state was struggling to attract migration from the world’s Jews and to project its legitimacy as a sovereign state, able to care for its own people. Its first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, would not have wanted Jews returning to their “historic homeland” classed as refugees, according to Meir Kahlon, chairman of the Central Organization for Jews from Arab Countries and Iran.

Monies obtained from the eight countries would not be allocated to individual families, the TV report said, but would rather be distributed by the state via a special fund. Gamliel is coordinating the process, together with Israel’s National Security Council, which works out of the Prime Minister’s Office.

In 2014, Israel passed a law making each November 30 a day commemorating the exit and deportation of Jews from Arab and Iranian lands, which involves educational programming and diplomatic events aimed to increase international awareness of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran, and of their right to compensation.

That year, at the first such events, Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin issued calls for financial reparations.

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a ceremony marking the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. November 30, 2014. (photo credit: Courtesy)

“It is not for nothing that this day is marked on the day after the 29th of November,” Netanyahu said on November 30, 2014, in reference to the anniversary of the UN adoption of the Palestine partition plan in 1947. “The Arab countries, which never accepted the UN declaration on the establishment of a Jewish state, compelled the Jews living in their territories to leave their homes while leaving their assets behind… We have acted – and will continue to act – so that they and their claims are not forgotten.”

Read: The expulsion that backfired: When Iraq kicked out its Jews

In his address at that first ceremony, Rivlin appealed for greater Sephardic representation in Israeli society, as well as for compensation for their suffering. He acknowledged that the troubles of Middle Eastern Jews were not mitigated upon their arrival in Israel, where European Jews were firmly entrenched in power.

“Their voices were muted, but the words were in their mouths all along, even if they were said in Hebrew with a Persian or Arabic accent, which in Israel were thought of as enemy languages and viewed as a source of shame,” he said.

“The voice of Jews from Arab countries and Iran must be heard within the education system, in the media, in the arts, and in the country’s official institutions, as it needs to be heard in the international arena as well, in order to mend the historical injustice, and to ensure financial reparations,” Rivlin said.

Kahlon said that “nearly 800,000 came here (in the years after the establishment of the state) and the rest (around 56,000) went to the United States, France, Italy and elsewhere.”

Kahlon himself came to Israel as a child from Libya and spent his first years in the Jewish state in one of the tent camps set up to shelter the flood of newcomers.

Barber Rachamim Azar, a new immigrant from Baghdad, carries out his trade in the tent he shares with his wife and two children at a maabara (immigrant camp) in central Israel in summer 1951. He told a Government Press Office photographer that he intended to move to a kibbutz (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

In March 2014, Canada formally recognized the refugee status of the Jewish emigres who fled or were expelled from Arab countries after Israel’s founding.

Some of the migrants to Israel say privately that the issue is being promoted to give Israel a bargaining card in negotiations with the Palestinians, to set against Palestinian compensation claims for property and assets left behind in what is now Israel.

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Kremlin Denies Erdogan-Putin Meeting

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

 

Kremlin Denies Erdogan-Putin Meeting

Wednesday, 26 December, 2018 – 11:30
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AP
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he would most probably meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin regarding US withdrawal from Syria, but Kremlin denied the meeting.

However, Erdogan did not disclose the timing of the meeting.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, for his part, said he will travel to Russia in the coming days to discuss the same issue, Reuters reported from CNN Turk, which quoted him as saying on Tuesday.

On Monday, Erdogan’s spokesman said Turkey would increase coordination with Russia in Syria following the US decision to withdraw.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin does not have immediate plans to meet with the Turkish leader.

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Geneva office Gennady Gatilov announced in an interview with Izvestia on Tuesday that Turkey, which has long common borders with Syria, has certain reasons to respond to threats to its security, especially if those threats come from terrorist organizations.

“We believe that the Kurdish issue is a very sensitive subject of the entire political architecture in Syria.”

“Turkey’s activities in [Syria’s] north is a temporary phenomenon related to [Ankara’s] national security concerns and, first of all, terrorist threat,” Gatilov said when asked about Moscow’s assessment of Turkey’s steps.

Gatilov pointed to the fact that Turkey had expressed support for Syria’s territorial sovereignty and added that Russia had no reasons to doubt its plans.

Turkey: Pointless for France to Remain in Syria to Protect YPG

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

 

 

Turkey: Pointless for France to Remain in Syria to Protect YPG

Wednesday, 26 December, 2018 – 10:45
French President Emmanuel Macron. (AFP)
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey warned France that it is pointless to maintain its military presence in Syria to protect the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

“If France is staying to contribute to Syria’s future, great, but if they are doing this to protect the (militia), this will bring no benefit to anyone,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters according to state news agency Anadolu.

Cavusoglu hit out at France’s “support” of the YPG, which he said was “no secret”, pointing to a meeting French President Emmanuel Macron had held on Friday with the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF).

The YPG serves as the military backbone of the SDF.

Turkey views the YPG as terrorist organization affiliated to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.

France is part of the international anti-terrorism coalition led by the US in Syria and Iraq. It dispatched military pilots and artillery soldiers to carry out bombings. Several sources also reported the deployment of French special forces in Syrian territory, but Paris has not confirmed this information.

Last week, US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of 2,000 US ground forces that had been in Syria to provide training to the YPG under the SDF.

The shock move put allies on the backfoot, with Macron on Sunday saying: “An ally must be reliable”.

On Sunday, Macron avoided commenting on the demands made by two representatives of the “Syrian Democratic Council” after Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.

He summed up by the situation by announcing Paris “regrets” the US decision, given that the mission to terminate ISIS was not over yet, adding that the SDF should not be abandoned and allies should not be “left in the middle of the road.”

France confirmed it will remain in the alliance despite the US withdrawal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Ankara will intervene in the coming months against ISIS and the YPG.

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(Peace, no peace, ever, there is to much inbred hate and distrust on all three sides, Sunni, Shiite and Judaism,  but thats just my thought on this issue.) (oldpoet56)  

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

No injuries or damage in Israel; Israeli planes said to be behind attack near Syrian capital against Hezbollah or Iranian depot; Damascus claims to shoot down ‘enemy targets’

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Israel said Tuesday night it had deployed its air defenses against a missile shot from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel an alleged Israeli airstrike against Hezbollah or Iranian targets near the capital.

The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.

“An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the army said in a statement.

It did not say where or even if the missile was successfully intercepted.

Pictures shared on social media showed an air defense missile being fired near Hadera, a city some 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Syrian border where residents had earlier reported hearing a loud explosion.

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Observer IL – 🅾️🅱️🔺@Obs_IL

Dashcam footage from Road 6 of the launch of an AD missile earlier near following this evening airstrikes in . @Intel_sky @IsraelD_Heb @edrormba @BabakTaghvaee @Dannymakkisyria @IntelCrab @IdeologyWars @TheWarOfNow @intellipus

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Syrian state media said its own air defenses had opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down, in what was reported to be an Israeli airstrike.

Syrian eyewitnesses and video on social media showed what appeared to be intense fire on targets near the capital.

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Zaid Benjamin@zaidbenjamin

Syrian News Agency says the “Aggression on ” continues “from the Lebanese airspace” and air defenses are responding.

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SANA said the strikes beginning at about 10 p.m. were carried out from Lebanon and that a number of targets were intercepted.

“It’s an Israeli raid,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

“Missiles fired from Israeli planes targeted… arms depots southwest and south of Damascus that belong to Hezbollah or Iranian forces,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syrian TV quoted a military source saying weapons warehouses were hit, and three Syrian soldiers wounded.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Israel Air Force planes were operating over southern Lebanon.

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

: explosions heard over province. Air defenses fired missiles moments ago.

View image on Twitter

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

. Air defenses in action tonight over W. province. pic.twitter.com/xrYqMYX1E1

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News reports tied between the strike and the earlier arrival of an Iranian cargo jet in Damascus. The 747, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, had landed in Syria just after 7 p.m.

The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah.

By midnight the flight was en route back to Iran.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

The number of airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel has dropped noticeably in recent months, after a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.

Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system.

The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

Israeli defense officials have met with Russian counterparts a number of times in recent weeks in an effort to re-establish a deconfliction mechanism that will allow Israel to recommence its air campaign.

Russia reportedly wants significant warning period ahead of any Israeli airstrike, something Israeli officials have been said to refuse.

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