Jordan Army Shoots Dead 5 For Approaching Border Near Syria

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

Jordan Army Shoots Dead 5 for Approaching Border near Syria

Jordan

The Jordanian army announced on Sunday that its forces shot dead five people who were approaching their position from the Syrian side of the border.

The border guards killed the individuals who were coming from Tanf, a Syrian desert town where US special forces training rebels are based.

The Jordanian army said it destroyed a car and two motorbikes in the incident.

The army statement did not give any details of the identity of the men and whether they were smugglers or militants in the area where Jordan’s northeastern borders meet both Iraq and Syria.

The statement however said that before the shooting, a convoy of nine cars had approached from the Tanf area but fled after the army fired warning shots.

The town has been a flashpoint in recent weeks as militias backed by Iran have tried to get near the US garrison, prompting US coalition jets to strike back.

Tanf lies near the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway that was once a major weapons supply route for Iranian weapons into Syria.

ISIS militants launched a suicide attack last April on the heavily defended base in which the Pentagon said an estimated 20-30 ISIS fighters were involved. US jets bombed the militants in the hit and run attack.

Staunch US ally Jordan has also been threatened by the militants.

Moscow on Wednesday condemned the US-led coalition strike on pro-regime fighters in Tanf as an “act of aggression” that targeted the most effective forces battling “terrorists” in the war-torn country.

“It was an act of aggression which breaches the territorial sovereignty of Syria and intentionally or not targeted those forces that are the most effective in fighting the terrorists on the ground,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

The US-led coalition on Tuesday said it had destroyed a unit of pro-regime forces in Syria as they advanced near an area where coalition commandos have been training and advising rebels.

A group of about 60 pro-regime forces moved into the area with a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons and armed technical vehicles, the coalition said in a statement. They posed a threat to the coalition forces at the Tanf Garrison, it added.

The assault marks the second time in less than a month that coalition forces have attacked pro-regime forces as they headed toward the garrison inside a supposed “deconfliction zone” claimed by the US.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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US Special Operations Forces are assisting the Philippine military in its battle against ISIS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

US Special Operations Forces are assisting the Philippine military in its battle against ISIS-affiliated fighters, the US Embassy in Manila said Saturday.

The forces have been deployed at the request of thePhilippine government, the embassy said.
The Philippine armed forces have been fighting the ISIS-linked Maute militants for control of the city of Marawi in the southern Mindanao region.
Dozens of Philippine troops and militants have been reported killed in fighting, including more than a dozen marines Friday.
Both the US Embassy and the Pentagon said they couldn’t give specifics on the nature of the American support for “security reasons.”
The Pentagon noted that US Special Operations Forces “have been providing support and assistance in the southern Philippines for many years, at the request of several different Filipino administrations.”
The number of troops there ranges between 50 to 100 at any given time, the Pentagon said.
“As we have in the past, we routinely consult with our Filipino partners at senior levels to support the Duterte administration’s counterterrorism efforts,” the embassy said, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The United States is a proud ally of the Philippines, and we will continue to work with the Philippines to address shared threats to the peace and security of our countries, including on counterterrorism issues.”

A ‘temporary setback’

At least 13 Philippine marines were killed and 40 others wounded Friday during fighting with Maute militants in Marawi, the Philippine military said Saturday.
The fatalities occurred during a clearing operation over a 14-hour period.

"Save Marawi City" T-shirts are sold in Manila to help victims of the fighting.

The deaths bring the toll in the three-week Marawi campaign to 58 Philippine troops and at least 140 extremist militants, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency.
“This temporary setback has not diminished our resolve a bit,” said Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo, a military spokesman.
“It instead primed up our determination to continue our prudent advances to neutralize the enemy, save the innocent lives trapped in the fight, and set the conditions for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi.”

Fighting the militants’ message online

The fight against the Maute militants is proceeding on social media as well as the ground.
The Philippine military has called on Facebook to close 63 accounts linked to Maute militants engaged in the fighting.
At a press conference Friday in Marawi, Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said the military had uncovered accounts used by militants that focus on “spreading propaganda messaging and misinformation.”
Without confirming the request from the Philippines, a Facebook spokesman said the company has “well-established law enforcement channels for governments to contact us about emergencies.”
He said that Facebook removes any account tied to “groups or people that engage in terrorist activity, or posts that express support for terrorism.”
The request to Facebook comes just before the military’s goal of liberating Marawi by June 12 — the country’s Independence Day.
The government is also using TV to counter the militants’ message.
The state-run People’s Television Network aired a program Friday called “Countering Violent Extremism.
It explored the root cause of such extremism and offered suggestions on how to confront radicalization.
The government said it is preparing infrastructure repairs in Marawi once the region is cleared.
“We assure you that the President is deeply concerned for the city, the region and the island’s well-being and is very hands-on to ensure that normalcy will be restored at the soonest possible time and serve people’s aspirations for a comfortable life for all,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said, speaking on a radio program.

Circling around US embeds, Syrian forces reach Iraq border  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Circling around US embeds, Syrian forces reach Iraq border

June 9 at 2:21 PM
BEIRUT — Russia’s Ministry of Defense reported on Friday that pro-government forces circled around U.S. military advisers in eastern Syria to reach the Iraqi border, dealing what could be a major blow to the declared U.S. mission to defeat Islamic State militants in the desert region.The development, if true, would mean Russian-backed pro-government forces have blocked the path of U.S.-backed opposition forces advancing north along the Iraqi-Syrian border, in the direction of the IS strongholds of Boukamal and Deir el-Zour, on the Euphrates River in eastern Syria.

The two forces have clashed regularly in the area, with U.S. aircraft twice striking Russian-backed forces the Pentagon said were threatening its local allies. The strikes are believed to have killed dozens of Syrian soldiers and Iranian-backed militia forces, in addition to destroying tanks and heavy weapons. On Thursday, the U.S. shot down an armed drone it said had attacked its units embedded with local opposition forces in the region.

By circling around them, the Russian-backed forces have apparently avoided a direct confrontation with U.S.-backed forces based out of al-Tanf, the border post under U.S. and opposition control.

They are advancing in the direction of Boukamal, according to Col. Gen, Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russian forces in Syria.

On their side of the border, Iraqi forces, along with Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Committee militias, are advancing through IS-held territory to meet the Russian-backed forces at the frontier, according to a Lebanese TV station close to the Syrian government.

The evening news broadcast on Al-Manar TV, which belongs to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, hailed the advance of the pro-government forces, and the Hezbollah fighters embedded with them.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also reported the development, saying it was the first time government forces have reached the Iraqi border in over three years.

The United States Central Command said it “does not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” but promised to take “appropriate measures” to protect U.S. forces tasked with defeating the Islamic State group.

“As long as pro-regime forces are oriented toward Coalition and partnered forces the potential for conflict is escalated,” CENTCOM said in a statement to The Associated Press.

“Coalition forces are oriented on ISIS in the Euphrates River Valley,” the statement added, using a different acronym for the Islamic State group.

The U.N. children’s agency warned Friday that the fight for IS’s stronghold of Raqqa threatens more than 40,000 children, while overnight airstrikes on the city in northern Syria killed more than a dozen people.

The violence has displaced residents in and around the city, with about 80,000 children living in temporary shelters and camps, UNICEF said in a statement.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces launched an attack on Raqqa earlier this week and airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition have intensified since then.

“An estimated 40,000 children remain trapped in extremely dangerous conditions in Raqqa. Many are caught in the crossfire,” said UNICEF regional director Geert Cappelaere. He urged all parties to give safe passage to those who want to leave.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported more than 25 overnight airstrikes on Raqqa killed 17 people, including 12 at an internet cafe. One of the dead was an activist with the group, it added.

In addition to the airstrikes, Raqqa was subjected to artillery and missile attacks, according to the activist collective known as Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. It said the coalition used white phosphorous in the attacks.

In a video posted on its Aamaq news agency, IS also alleged the coalition used white phosphorous over Raqqa on Thursday at dusk, when Muslims would have been breaking their Ramadan fasts.

White phosphorous burns at extremely high temperatures and can be used to illuminate conflict zones or obscure them with smoke. International law prohibits its use in civilian areas because of its indiscriminate effects, from starting fires to causing excruciating burns for bystanders, according to Human Rights Watch, which said it was investigating the allegations.

The U.S. CENTCOM military command refused to comment on specific allegations but said it uses white phosphorous rounds “in accordance with the law of armed conflict … in a way that fully considers the possible incidental effects on civilians and civilian structures.”

___

Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Houthis Ruin Ramadan Spirituality among Yemenis

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

Houthis Ruin Ramadan Spirituality among Yemenis

Yemen

Riyadh – Houthi militias have replaced a number of clergy and orators in several mosques with others who are affiliated with them and banned the Taraweeh prayers in most of Sanaa mosques which ruined Ramadan’s spirituality for Yemenis.

Thousands of those in Yemen suffering under Houthi and Saleh’s militias were forced to leave towns to villages, rural areas and abroad.

Minister of Endowment and Guidance, Ahmed Attiyah has warned the coup militias of the consequences of continuing to impose ideas on the Yemeni society that are not accepted by its people. He called mosques to avoid being involved in sectarian and partisan conflicts.

Attiyah stressed that militias changed the message of the mosques and linked them with Iranian references to impose them on Yemenis.

Militias prevented worshipers from performing Taraweeh prayers in mosques, according to the minister, and later assaulted the worshipers while they removed them from mosque by force of arms.

The militias also kidnapped several worshipers in a clear violation of the sanctity of mosques and a disruption of the social fabrics and coexistence of Yemenis.

A citizen from Sanaa, Abdallah Abdul Bari stated that Houthis have prevented citizens from performing Taraweeh prayer, which ruined the spirituality of Ramadan and the rituals Yemenis were used to do every year during the Holy month.

“I am used to going out with my friends to visit many places in Old Sanaa and see some of my relatives. This year however, each one has their own problems and many of our coworkers and friends are in prisons. Ramadan this year is totally different,” he said.

Abdul Bari also stated that usually, citizens would buy their Ramadan essentials before the month begins, but they weren’t able to do so this year because Yemeni employees didn’t receive their salaries.

Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed had presented an initiative to find practical ways to ensure the resumption of salaries to all Yemeni civil servants nationwide. But his attempts were faced with rejection from Houthi and Saleh militias.

According to the U.N. statement, Ould Cheikh Ahmed discussed ways to ensure the resumption of salaries to Yemeni civil servants who complain that salaries have not been paid on time since Hadi ordered, last year, the move of the central bank from Sanaa to the southern port city of Aden.

The initiative stated that Houthi and Saleh militias will send state revenues from Sanaa and other areas under their control like Hodeidah port, taxes and oil revenues to an independent fund that is impartial and ensures public servants salaries are paid. The government will also transfer its revenues from Aden and other areas to the fund.

Observers believe that the initiative aims to organize the withdrawal of militias from Hodeidah governorate and the formation of the committee of financial and economic experts to help the government reach the suitable and swift mechanism to pay the salaries.

Yemeni sources reported that the suggestion resulted from great efforts of experts during their meeting with the UN delegation, ambassadors of permanent members of the UN, and EU officials. It states that the port should be handled by officials who are currently managing the port under the supervision of UN.

Port incomes are deposited in the Central Bank, Hodeidah branch.

At the end of his visit, the Special Envoy expressed his deep concern regarding the attack on his convoy while traveling from the airport to the UN compound on May 22.

The Special Envoy reminded the parties that it is the responsibility of the local authorities to ensure the safety of all U.N. personnel in the country and urged them to investigate the incident, hold those responsible to account, and prevent any such incidents in the future.

Ould Chiekh indicated that the incident increased his determination to continue with his efforts to find a negotiated political settlement that serves the best interests of the Yemeni people.

Sources confirmed that Houthis and Saleh militias are continuously trying to prolong war and destruction in the country while getting rich on the expense of Yemenis.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul Malik al-Mekhlafi reiterated that insurgents must redirect the incomes and revenues of official institutions to the Central Bank in Aden and other governorates to salary payments. He pointed out that the insurgents use institutions’ incomes to finance their war.

In related news, dozens of Yemeni civil servants are protesting daily calling for the payment of the salaries.

Demonstrators protested before the Minister of Interior under militias’ control calling for the departure of the insurgents and release of wages.

Protests announced they’d continue until their rightful requests have been met.

Yemeni sources reported that the demonstrators are being attacked by Houthi supporters.

There are about 1.2 million civil servant in Yemen, with one million in Sanaa and other areas under Houthi control.

They have no received wages for eight consecutive months. Whereas employees in the legitimacy areas are no more than 200 thousand and have been receiving their salaries on regular basis.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Six Day’s In History 50 Years Ago

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE FRIENDS OF THE IDF)

Friend, this is a week for heroes.

This week, we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of one of the most heroic and pivotal moments in Israel’s history: the Six-Day War, which took place from June 5th to 10th, 1967. Against all odds, and with an outcome no one could have predicted, the young nation of Israel fought enemies from all sides and achieved unprecedented victory in just six days.

In June of 1967, Israel found itself poised for war against its neighboring Arab states. Taking place on three distinct battlefronts, the Six-Day War came after a period of escalating tension during which Egypt and its Arab partners had taken severe steps that threatened both Israel’s security and economy, including: expelling the United Nations Emergency Force from Sinai, infiltrating many military units into the Sinai Peninsula, and blocking the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s only waterway to Asia. On the northern border of Israel, the Syrians tried to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River and were supporting the terrorist activity of the PLO in Israel. All of this created serious threat and the risk of war was looming. Israel was forced to begin mobilizing reserve forces, despite the detriment to the Israeli economy.

On June 4, 1967, the government of Israel, headed by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, accepted the decision “to launch a preemptive strike against the Arab states in order to remove the military chokehold that has tightened on Israel…” The war began on June 5, 1967, at 7:45 AM, with a massive air strike by the Israeli Air Force, known as Operation Moked (Operation Focus) on the Egyptian airfields. This took the Egyptians completely by surprise and, due to its brilliant execution, decided the war’s outcome from its very inception with the destruction of the Arab air forces and full paralysis of their airfields. In the first two hours of the war, the Israeli Air Force destroyed 197 Egyptian aircraft, and by the end of the first day 300 Egyptian planes were destroyed, more than 90% of them while on the ground. In the second day, an additional 150 Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi aircraft were destroyed as they joined in the war.

The war spread along all of Israel’s borders. Within six days, the IDF achieved a decisive victory as they:

It was a stunning victory in which the IDF removed the military choke hold, proved their superiority, and earned the title of “the best army in the world.” In those six days, the size of the State of Israel grew threefold. Click here for a full description of the events of the Six-Day War.

Victory celebrations swept the entire country. After 19 years that the Jewish people had been banned from praying at their holiest site, they were now able to return to pray at the Kotel on the Temple Mount. The song “Jerusalem of Gold” (Yerushalayim Shel Zahav) became one of the anthems of the Six-Day War. Amidst the euphoria of this victory, the hearts of the Israeli nation pained for the 779 IDF soldiers who paid the ultimate price by losing their lives.

On June 28, 1967, in a now-famous address called “The Man, Not the Metal” delivered at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, General Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, Z”L, provided the following insights from this unprecedented military campaign:

“War is intrinsically harsh and cruel, bloody and tear stained, but this war in particular, which we have just undergone, brought forth rare and magnificent instances of heroism and courage, together with humane expressions of brotherhood, comradeship, and spiritual greatness. Whoever has not seen a tank crew continue their attack with their commander killed and their vehicle badly damaged; whoever has not seen soldiers endangering their lives to extricate wounded comrades from a minefield; whoever has not seen the anxiety and the effort of the entire air force devoted to rescuing a pilot who has fallen in enemy territory, cannot know the meaning of devotion among comrades-in-arms.”

Fifty years have passed, and while the challenges that face the State of Israel have dramatically changed, the same fundamental precepts which guide and drive the IDF are the same spirit and morality which led to the incredible victory of the Six-Day War, and have passed from generation to generation to continue today as the ethos of the IDF. The warriors of the IDF and their commanders continue to operate from unequivocal commitment to their nation and country and the same values and ethics which accompanied these warriors for generations.

To honor this momentous anniversary, FIDF is hosting a series of community events across the US, featuring three of the paratroopers of the Jerusalem Brigade, among the first to reach the Kotel. The image of these three paratroopers setting their eyes on the Kotel for the first time in their lives, was made famous thanks to the camera of David Rubinger, Z”L, who captured this highly emotional moment, which has become the iconic image of the Six-Day War.

The 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War

Please join me today, in salute to the warriors of the past and the generation that continues, by bowing our heads together in honor of those who have fallen and their families, and in commitment to do all we can to contribute to the well-being of the soldiers of the IDF, to maintain their spirit, morale, and battle ethics by standing united with them and supporting them as we continue to say: Their job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them.

With deep respect,

Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir
National Director and CEO
Friends of the IDF (FIDF)

The complex story of Polish refugees in Iran

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ALJAZEERA NEWS NETWORK)

 

The complex story of Polish refugees in Iran

Thousands of Poles sought shelter in Iran during World War II, but today Poland has slammed the door on refugees.

‘All we took with us was a suitcase with an old rug, some pieces of jewellery and family photos,’ Stelmach recalled [Changiz M Varzi/Al Jazeera]

by

Tehran – Taji, a companion parrot, moved about freely in an apartment in central Tehran, occasionally emitting a scream.

“I don’t like to put him in a cage,” Helena Stelmach, 86, told Al Jazeera. “I don’t like imprisonment.”

In 1942, about 120,000 refugees from Poland began their exodus to Iran from remote parts of the Soviet Union [AP]

Nearly eight decades ago, Stelmach learned her own lessons about imprisonment, exile and the process of seeking refuge. In September 1939, German soldiers invaded Poland from the west and Soviet soldiers occupied the country’s east.

The Soviet Union’s Red Army deported more than one million Poles to Siberia, and Stelmach’s family was among those targeted. Soviet soldiers arrested and imprisoned her father in Poland, while eight-year-old Helena and her mother were forced to leave their home.

“It was midnight when they came for us,” Stelmach said. “First, they sent us to a church, and then to Siberia. All we took with us was a suitcase with an old rug, some pieces of jewellery and family photos.”

In her diary, self-published in Farsi in 2009 under the title From Warsaw to Tehran, she recalled how Polish refugees died every day in Siberia from the freezing weather, maltreatment and disease. Because of malnutrition, their teeth sometimes fell out of their mouths while they were talking.

The nightmare lasted for two years, until Germany attacked the Soviet Union, prompting Joseph Stalin to change his stance towards the Poles. In 1942, he freed them to move south to Iran, and then to Lebanon and Palestine.

Back in those days, tens of thousands of Poles arrived in the Middle East seeking shelter. Today, however, Poland has slammed the door on a refugee influx going in the opposite direction.

READ MORE: The Italian family hosting six refugees in their home

“It’s not something that people and politicians like talking about or even mentioning,” said Narges Kharaghani, an Iranian director who recently completed a documentary on Polish refugees in Iran during World War II. “I think there has been an untold consensus to forget this topic. After the end of the Second World War, the victorious countries only wanted to talk about Hitler’s crimes. Nowadays, considering how the West is treating immigrants, it doesn’t make any sense for them to talk about that exodus.”

In 1942, about 120,000 refugees from Poland began their exodus to Iran from remote parts of the Soviet Union.

“When they arrived in Iran, the country was gravely affected by political instability and famine,” said Reza Nikpour, an Iranian-Polish historian and member of the Iran-Poland Friendship Association. “Moreover, the Soviets and the Brits confiscated and sent all of the resources from Iran to the frontline in Europe. All of this happened despite the fact that Iran had declared its neutrality when the war started.”

The Poles entered Iran from the port city of Anzali on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. Soviet ships docking in Anzali were packed with starving Polish refugees, and they were the lucky ones: Many others died along the way from typhus, typhoid and hunger. Their bodies were unceremoniously discarded into the sea.

Stelmach, pictured here with her father in Poland, has lived in Iran ever since the exodus [Changiz M Varzi/Al Jazeera]

Stelmach was fortunate enough to avoid disease and hunger. Her mother was a nurse, and in return for taking care of the ship captain’s sick son during their journey across the Caspian Sea, the young Stelmach received food and care. After two days at sea, they arrived in a new country that was in dire need of food and suffering from bread riots in its capital.

Several sources have documented that when Polish refugees were loaded on to trucks to relocate from Anzali to Tehran, Iranians threw objects at them. The frightened refugees at first thought they were being stoned, but soon noticed that the objects were not rocks, but rather cookies and candies.

“The Polish refugees were nourished more by the smiles and generosity of the Iranian people than by the food dished out by British and Indian soldiers,” noted an article by Ryszard Antolak, a specialist in Iranian and Eastern European history whose mother was among the refugees who ended up in Iran.

In Tehran, the refugees were accommodated in four camps; even one of the private gardens of Iran’s shah was transformed into a temporary refugee camp, and a special hospital was dedicated to them.

“Polish refugees were well-received in Iran, and they integrated into the host society and worked as translators, nurses, secretaries, cooks and tailors,” Nikpour told Al Jazeera. “Some of them also married Iranians and stayed in Iran permanently.”

READ MORE: Iran – Trump’s Muslim ban ‘will rip our family apart’

The Polish refugees launched a radio station and published newspapers in their mother tongue. They entered into Iran’s art scene and, as with other waves of immigration, their food appeared on the menus of their host communities. The pierogi, a Polish dumpling, is still very common in Iran.

It was food that first brought together Stelmach and her husband, Mohammad Ali. Stelmach’s mother rented a shop in central Tehran selling Polish dishes; Ali worked in a neighbouring shop while simultaneously taking an English language course.

 

“Helen knew English and German,” Ali recalled with a smile. “I asked her to help me with the English language, and here we are, half a century later, and we are still together.”

Many changes have taken place since Stelmach and her mother came to Iran: World War II ended, an Islamic revolution took place in Iran, the Iron Curtain fell, Poland became part of the European Union – yet, throughout all of these years, Stelmach and her mother opted to remain in Iran.

They have visited their former homeland several times, and even received the Order of the White Eagle, one of Poland’s highest honours.

In 1983, Stelmach’s mother died, and she was buried in the same cemetery as the casualties of the Polish exodus in 1942. Today, a long, high wall separates the cemetery from a sea of matchbox-shaped apartments in one of Tehran’s oldest neighbourhoods.

“There are some visitors still coming to the [cemetery],” caretaker Hamid Tajrishi told Al Jazeera. “A few days ago, a group of old Polish tourists came … Also, sometimes foreigners come individually, seeking the names of their grandparents in our archive, and then they place a bouquet of flowers on their graves and leave.”

Source: Al Jazeera

Iran Poland Middle East

Real Heroes ARE NOT The Frauds/ Cowards We Call Politicians, Like The Coward Trump

(I GOT THIS ARTICLE OFF OF A FACEBOOK POST)

You’re a 19 year old kid.
You are critically wounded and dying in the jungle somewhere in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam .
It’s November 11, 1967.
LZ (landin…g zone) X-ray.
Your unit is outnumbered 8-1 and the enemy fire is so intense from 100 yards away, that your CO (commanding officer) has ordered the MedEvac helicopters to stop coming in.
You’re lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns and you know you’re not getting out.
Your family is half way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you’ll never see them again.
As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day.
Then – over the machine gun noise – you faintly hear that sound of a helicopter.
You look up to see a Huey coming in. But.. It doesn’t seem real because no MedEvac markings are on it.
Captain Ed Freeman is coming in for you.
He’s not MedEvac so it’s not his job, but he heard the radio call and decided he’s flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire anyway.
Even after the MedEvacs were ordered not to come. He’s coming anyway.
And he drops it in and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load 3 of you at a time on board.
Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire to the doctors and nurses and safety.
And, he kept coming back!! 13 more times!!
Until all the wounded were out. No one knew until the mission was over that the Captain had been hit 4 times in the legs and left arm.
He took 29 of you and your buddies out that day. Some would not have made it without the Captain and his Huey.
Medal of Honor Recipient, Captain Ed Freeman, United States Air Force, died last Wednesday at the age of 70, in Boise, Idaho.
May God Bless and Rest His Soul.
I bet you didn’t hear about this hero’s passing, but we’ve sure seen a whole bunch about the thug Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin,
The gov. shut down, “what difference does it make!!!?”)
and the bickering of congress over Health & OBAMA CARE!
BUT NOTHING ABOUT THE PASSING OF
Medal of Honor Winner Captain Ed Freeman.
Shame on the media !!!
Now… YOU pass this along.
Honor this real Hero.
Please

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Philippines air strike on rebel positions kills 10 government troops  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Philippines air strike on rebel positions kills 10 government troops

A Philippine Marine fires his weapon towards the stronghold of Maute group in Marawi City, southern Philippines. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
By Neil Jerome Morales | MANILA

An air strike during Philippine military operations to drive Islamist rebels out of a southern city has killed 10 government troops, the defense minister said on Thursday, in a major blow to efforts to defeat fighters linked to the Islamic State group.

Seven other soldiers were wounded on Wednesday when two air force SF-260 close air support planes dropped bombs on a target in the heart of Marawi City, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a news conference. The first plane hit the target but the second missed.

“It’s very sad to be hitting our own troops,” Lorenzana said. “There must be a mistake somewhere, either someone directing from the ground, or the pilot.”

The armed forces have used a combination of ground troops and rocket strikes from helicopters since the weekend to try flush rebels of the Maute group out of buildings. Wednesday was the first day the SF-260 planes were deployed.

The pro-Islamic State Maute group has proven to be a fierce enemy, clinging on to the heart of Marawi City through days of air strikes the military has said are “surgical” and on known rebel targets.

The Maute’s ability to fight off a military with greater numbers and superior firepower for so long will add to fears that it could win the recognition of the Islamic State leadership in the Middle East and become its Southeast Asian affiliate.

The deaths of the soldiers takes the number of security forces killed to 38, with 19 civilians and 120 rebel fighters killed in the battles in Marawi over the past nine days.

Lorenzana said militants who were Saudi, Malaysian, Indonesian, Yemeni and Chechen were among eight foreigners killed fighting with the Maute rebels.

In an earlier text message to reporters, he said of the “friendly fire” incident: “Sometimes that happens. Sometimes the fog of war … The coordination was not properly done so we hit our own people.”

The unrest started on May 23, when Maute rebels ran amok, torching and seizing buildings, stealing weapons and police vehicles, taking hostages, and freeing prisoners to join their fight.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is concerned radical ideology is spreading in the southern Philippines and it could become a haven for militants from Southeast Asia and beyond.

Lorenzana said the military might suspend air strikes, describing the rebels as a small force that “cannot hold that long”.

The military was carrying out air strikes on locations where it believes Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called “emir” of Islamic State, and point man for its operations in the Philippines, is hiding.

For graphic on battle of Marawi, click: tmsnrt.rs/2qBkSPk

For graphic on Islamic State-linked groups in Philippine south, click: tmsnrt.rs/2rYIHTj

(Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato and Karen Lema; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Paul Tait)

Philippine Military Launches Airstrikes to End ISIS-Linked Siege of Marawi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME AND THE AP)

Philippine Military Launches Airstrikes to End ISIS-Linked Siege of Marawi

(MARAWI, Philippines) — Philippine fighter aircraft unleashed rocket fire against militants on Saturday, prompting villagers to hoist white flags to avoid being targeted as the military turned to airstrikes to try to end the siege of a southern city by Islamic State group-allied militants.

The predominantly Muslim city of Marawi, home to some 200,000 people, has been under siege since a failed army raid Tuesday on a suspected hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists.

Hapilon got away and fighters loyal to him took over parts of the city, burning buildings, taking cover in houses and seizing about a dozen hostages, including a Catholic priest. Their condition remains unknown.

At least 48 people have died in the fighting, including 35 militants and 11 soldiers, officials say, adding that an unspecified number of civilians are feared to have died.

While up to 90 percent of Marawi’s people have fled amid the fighting, many who were trapped or refused to leave their homes have impeded military assaults, officials said. That has slowed efforts to end the most serious crisis President Rodrigo Duterte has faced since he took power nearly a year ago.

“In as much as we would like to avoid collateral damage, these rebels are forcing the hand of government by hiding and holding out inside private homes, government buildings and other facilities,” the military said in a statement.

“Their refusal to surrender is holding the city captive,” it said. “Hence, it is now increasingly becoming necessary to use more surgical airstrikes to clear the city & to bring this rebellion to a quicker end.”

The violence prompted Duterte on Tuesday to declare 60 days of martial law in the southern Philippines, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has raged for decades. But the recent violence has raised fears that extremism could be growing as smaller militant groups unify and align themselves with the Islamic State group.

Hapilon’s group has received a “couple of million dollars” from the Islamic State group, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters without elaborating Friday.

As air force planes and rocket-firing helicopters pounded militant positions on Saturday, fleeing residents waved white flags or hoisted them on their roofs to signify that they are not combatants.

“I saw two jets swoop down and fire at rebel positions repeatedly,” Alexander Mangundatu, a security guard, told The Associated Press in Marawi as a plume of black smoke billowed from a distant commercial area that was hit. “I pity the civilians and the women who were near the targeted area. They’re getting caught in the conflict and I hope this ends soon.”

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said government forces are working to “clear the city of all remnants of this group.”

Some civilians refused to evacuate because they want to guard their homes, slowing down the government operations, he said.

“But that’s fine as long as civilians are not hurt,” Padilla said.

On Friday, Duterte ordered his troops to crush the militants, warning that the country is at a grave risk of “contamination” by the Islamic State group.

Duterte told soldiers in Iligan, a city near Marawi, that he had long feared that “contamination by ISIS” loomed in the country’s future, using the acronym for the Islamic State group.

“You can say that ISIS is here already,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Carlito G. Galvez Jr., a military commander, said about 150 trapped civilians have been rescued by troops from their homes, adding the militants were burning houses to distract troops. The gunmen were still holding out in two areas and soldiers have begun door-to-door searches.

As troops intensified their assaults, Galvez apologized to Muslim residents over the disruption during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Hapilon, who was recovering from wounds inflicted by an airstrike in January, is still hiding out in the city under the protection of gunmen who are desperately trying to find a way to extricate him, said Philippine military chief Gen. Eduardo Ano. Hapilon has also suffered a mild stroke, he said.

Ano predicted that the military operation would take about a week as soldiers go house to house to clear the city of militants.

In a sign that the long-standing problem of militancy in the south could be expanding, Solicitor General Jose Calida said foreigners, including Indonesians and Malaysians, were fighting alongside the gunmen in Marawi.

Ano said foreign fighters were believed to be inside, but he was more cautious. “We suspect that, but we’re still validating,” he said.

Hapilon is one of the most senior commanders of the Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for kidnappings for ransom, beheadings and bombings. He pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014. He also heads an alliance of at least 10 smaller militant groups, including the Maute, which has a presence in Marawi and was instrumental in fighting off government forces in this week’s battles.

Washington has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Hapilon’s capture.

15 Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Army Base

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

15 Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Army Base

Taliban

Taliban militants attacked an Afghani army base, killing at least 15 soldiers following similar assaults earlier this week.

The Defense Ministry said that the attack took place in the Shah Wali Kot in the southern province of Kandahar.

The attack late Thursday came just three days after 10 Afghan soldiers were killed when Taliban militants stormed another base in the same area.

“The Taliban launched a coordinated assault on an army base last night (Thursday) in Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province,” ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told AFP.

“Fifteen Afghan army soldiers were martyred and five others wounded.”

Waziri said the insurgents were driven back and 20 of their fighters killed. There was no immediate response from the Taliban.

A provincial official who spoke on the condition of anonymity gave a higher death toll of 20.

The attack comes as Taliban insurgents intensify their annual spring offensive and their strength is growing, more than 15 years after they were toppled from power in a US-led invasion.

It highlights a growing insurgent offensive in Kandahar, where security has relatively improved in recent years under the leadership of police chief and regional strongman General Abdul Raziq.

Raziq had lashed out at the central government in Kabul on Thursday, accusing them of a plot to destabilize his province.

“Some political figures within the National Unity Government are trying to destabilize Kandahar like (neighboring) Helmand and Uruzgan provinces,” Raziq told a public gathering.

“Whenever there is an attack in Kandahar, the central government does not help.”

Also on Thursday, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives at a security post in southern Helmand province killing three intelligence officials, a police spokesman said.

The attack also wounded four intelligence officials, said the spokesman, who gave his name only as Zaman. The provincial governor’s spokesman, Omar Zwak, confirmed the attack.

The Taliban in a statement claimed responsibility, saying the explosion killed Tor Jan, intelligence director for the Washer district in Helmand.

In western Badghis province on Wednesday, Taliban fighters attacked security checkpoints, killing six security forces, said Anwar Ishaqzai, provincial governor. He said five others were wounded, while 16 Taliban militants were killed in the fight with government forces.

The attacks mark another setback for NATO-backed Afghan forces. They come just a month after the Taliban killed at least 135 soldiers in the northern province of Balkh in the deadliest insurgent attack on an Afghan military base since 2001.

And in another deadly Taliban attack on security outposts in southern Zabul province on Sunday, local officials made desperate calls to Afghan television stations to seek attention because they were unable to contact senior authorities for help.

The battlefield losses have raised concerns about the capacity of Afghan forces, beset by unprecedented casualties and blamed for corruption, desertion and “ghost soldiers” who exist on the payroll but whose salaries are usurped by fraudulent commanders.

The Taliban launched their annual “spring offensive” in late April, heralding a surge in fighting as the US tries to craft a new Afghan strategy.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last month warned of “another tough year” for security forces in Afghanistan.

The United States and several NATO allies are considering sending thousands more troops to break the stalemate against the resurgent militants.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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