Lebanese Politicians Strongly Criticize ‘Hezbollah,’ Nusra Swap Deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWSPAPER ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

 

Lebanese Politicians Strongly Criticize ‘Hezbollah,’ Nusra Swap Deal

Nusra

Beirut – The prisoner exchange deal between Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” and al-Nusra Front extremists was met with wide condemnation among Lebanese politicians, who said that the deal “undermined the sovereignty of the state.

The deal saw terrorist fugitives wanted by the Lebanese judiciary exchanged for the release of “Hezbollah” members that were detained by the militant Nusra group in Syria.

Head of the Kataeb Party MP Sami Gemayel asked: “Who took the decision and allowed murderous criminals to leave the outskirts of Arsal and facilitated their return to their country without trial and punishment?”

Directing his questions to the parliament speaker, prime minister and ministers of interior, justice and defense, he asked: “Who took the decision to jump above the Lebanese judiciary and release criminals accused of terrorism and belonging to a terrorist group to be released from Lebanese jails?”

“Who took the decision to allow political and security authorities to intervene in the judiciary and prevent the trial of the terrorists and detainees and thereby achieve justice? What is the justice minister’s stance from all this? Is this a strategy that the government will adopt in dealing with all terrorists who violate Lebanon’s security? How will the Lebanese government deter other terrorist and criminal groups and whoever deigns to violate Lebanese sovereignty?” he wondered.

Gemayel demanded that the prime minister and ministers of interior, justice and defense submit a written response to his inquiries, “otherwise my questions will be turned into an interrogation.”

A judicial source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision to release a few al-Nusra Front detainees was “faultless” and based on trial norms.

In addition, he explained that the time the detainees already spent in jail is equal to the time that they would have been sentenced to once put on trial.

The Military Tribunal will go ahead in trying those who have been released. If they do not respond to the court summons, they will be tried in absentia and as fugitives. The trials are set to begin soon, he added.

Sentences against them will be issued in absentia and harsher punishments will be laid down against them, elaborated the source.

Mustaqbal Movement MP Amin Wehbeh meanwhile voiced his support for Gemayel’s stance, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that the “Hezbollah” and Nusra deal “undermined” the sovereignty of the Lebanese state.

“The decisions of war and peace are in the hands of the party, not the state, seeing as it is waging its battles in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and has terrorist cells in Kuwait and the Arab Gulf that are carrying out Iran’s policies,” he added.

“Hezbollah” had in the past and on several occasions criticized the 2016 swap deal that was struck between the Lebanese state and Nusra Front that saw the release of the Lebanese soldiers by the extremist group. “Hezbollah” had rejected that a number of Nusra detainees be released “because they were being held on terrorist charges.”

In wake of the Arsal clashes in July, the party adopted a different stance and insisted on “speeding up the deal with al-Nusra in order to free its fighters” from its clutches.

Kataeb MP Fadi al-Haber said that recent prisoner exchange “proves that the political decision-making power in Lebanon lies in the hands of ‘Hezbollah’.”

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the equation of the army-people-resistance, which the party “is imposing on ministerial statements, is being invested on the borders, whether in declaring war with Israel or armed groups or in waging wars abroad.”

Saudi Arabia Starts Repairing Crossing with Iraq

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

 

Saudi Arabia Starts Repairing Crossing with Iraq

Saudi Arabia Starts Repairing Crossing with Iraq

Riyadh- For the first time since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Saudi authorities are preparing the international road leading from the Kingdom to Iraq through the border port of Jumaima near Rafha province, said Iraqi sources Monday.

Iraqi Transport Minister Kathem al Hammami told Asharq Al-Awsat that his ministry along with all concerned Iraqi parties have completed all the preparations to reopen Jadidat Arar border, noting that the first flight might take place early September.

Hammami pointed out that there is a tendency to re-operate the railway line between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, which boosts the economic movement between the two countries and is capable of completing the Arab railway link.

The Iraqi Minister of Transport said that work is underway to reopen the other land ports, which are seven. He said that reopening the ports is important and allows the flow of goods between the two countries, pointing out that Iraq is in dire need of many goods and foodstuffs in Saudi Arabia.

Reopening the land port will facilitate the movement of travelers between the two countries, especially Iraqis who wish to visit the holy sites for the performance of Umrah and pilgrimage rituals, Hammami explained.

Asharq Al-Awsat received information from Iraqi sources Monday saying that Hazza’a Mohammed al-Mutairi will be appointed as the director of Jadidat Arar and that the official opening between Saudi Arabia and Iraq will be held after Eid al-Adha, on September 10.

However, Spokesman for Saudi Customs Issa Al-Issa refused to disclose or confirm any information, but Hammami and Iraqi ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dr.Rushdi al-Ani confirmed the news.

Kiev Pledges Reform for NATO Road Map as US Urges Russia to Ease Tensions in Ukraine

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

World

Kiev Pledges Reform for NATO Road Map as US Urges Russia to Ease Tensions in Ukraine

NATO

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko vowed on Monday that his country will carry out reforms for it to meet the necessary standards to be able to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

He added that Kiev and NATO will begin discussions on a roadmap to get Ukraine into the alliance by 2020.

His announcement came a day after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged, during a visit to Kiev, Russia to take the “first steps” in easing the violence in eastern Ukraine.

At loggerheads with Russia and fighting a Kremlin-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine passed a law in June prioritizing NATO membership as a foreign policy goal.

Speaking alongside Poroshenko on a visit to the Ukrainian capital, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pledged the alliance’s support for Ukraine as it faces a bloody insurgency by pro-Russian separatists in the east.

“Russia has maintained its aggressive actions against Ukraine, but NATO and NATO allies stand by Ukraine and stand on your side,” Stoltenberg said in his opening remarks of the NATO-Ukraine Commission session in Kiev.

Ukraine and the West accuse Moscow of smuggling weapons and troops across the porous border, a charge it denies. The US and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia, though Moscow has denied backing the rebels.

“Ukraine has clearly defined its political future and future in the sphere of security,” Poroshenko told reporters.

“Today we clearly stated that we would begin a discussion about a membership action plan and our proposals for such a discussion were accepted with pleasure.”

NATO leaders agreed at a summit in 2008 that Ukraine would one day become a member of the alliance and the country already contributes troops to NATO missions including in Afghanistan.

A formal NATO membership plan for Ukraine would mean meeting targets on political, economic and defense reforms, with national plans submitted annually to show progress.

But there are even larger barriers.

NATO rules state that aspiring members must “settle their international disputes by peaceful means”, meaning Ukraine would need to resolve the Donbass conflict — an insurgency by pro-Russian forces — that has so far killed more than 10,000 people.

Responding to Stoltenberg’s comments, the Kremlin said on Monday that Russia does not have troops in Ukraine.

It added: “Ukraine’s possible NATO membership will not boost stability and security in Europe.”

On Sunday, Tillerson visited Kiev and said Russia must make the first move in staunching the violence in eastern Ukraine.

Russia must take the first steps to de-escalate violence in eastern Ukraine, he said after meeting Poroshenko. He added that Washington’s primary goal is the restoration of Ukrainian territorial integrity.

Tillerson’s tough talk clearly pleased Poroshenko, who has long complained about Russian interference in his country’s east and has watched nervously as the Trump administration has sought to improve ties with Moscow.

He thanked Tillerson for the continued US commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and expressed deep appreciation for his “symbolic and timely visit immediately after the meetings at the G20 in Hamburg” where US President Donald Trump met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 have driven ties between Moscow and the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.

“We are also here to demonstrate NATO’s solidarity with Ukraine and our firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of your country,” Stoltenberg said.

“NATO allies do not and will not recognize Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea.”

Ukraine sees NATO accession as a way to bolster its defenses against former master Moscow.

However, Kiev has yet to officially apply to start the lengthy and politically challenging process of joining the alliance.

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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Afghan Soldier Kills 3 US Servicemen in Taliban Attack

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

Afghan Soldier Kills 3 US Servicemen in Taliban Attack

Achin

Kabul, Kandahar – The Taliban claimed on Saturday an insider attack by an Afghan commando that left three American Troops dead US and Afghan officials said.

One US soldier was wounded in the incident.

Nangarhar provincial spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP the Afghan commando had opened fire on US troops during an operation in the volatile Achin district.

“The (Afghan) soldier was also killed in the return fire,” he said.

The Pentagon said the families of the three dead soldiers were being informed.

“One US soldier was wounded and has been evacuated for medical treatment,” a spokesman added. “This incident is under investigation.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deaths, saying the attack was carried out by an infiltrator.

This is a latest in a line of so-called “green-on-blue” attacks where Afghan soldiers have turned their weapons on international forces they are working with.

It also comes as the Taliban ramp up their campaign against the Western-backed government in Afghanistan, and as US President Donald Trump mulls sending more troops into the lengthy conflict.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed on Twitter that four US soldiers were killed in the attack. The insurgents are known to exaggerate battlefield claims.

Achin is also contested by militants of the ISIS group.

In April, the US military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on a complex of caves in Achin used by ISIS fighters.

The deployment of the so-called Mother Of All Bombs killed dozens of extremists, but fighting in the area has continued.

American troops have partnered with Afghan soldiers in raids against ISIS Khorasan, claiming the local offshoot of the militant group based in Iraq and Syria is steadily losing ground in Afghanistan.

Green-on-blue attacks have been a major problem during NATO’s long years fighting alongside Afghan forces.

Western officials say most insider attacks stem from personal grudges and cultural misunderstandings rather than insurgent plots.

Saturday’s attack came just hours after an errant US air strike killed and wounded at least six Afghan policemen in southern Helmand province, in the latest “friendly fire” incident.

Such strikes have bred deep mistrust between local and foreign forces.

Three US troops were wounded in March when an Afghan soldier opened fire in Helmand, in the first known insider attack on international forces this year.

Similar incidents have also plagued Afghan troops, depleting morale and causing mistrust within security ranks.

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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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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Anger from Qatar

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

Anger from Qatar

In May 2014, Bloomberg published statements of former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim: “It is our right to make Qatar seem as the most important country in the world. But the problem is that some Arab countries did not play their role properly so when we played our role some thought that we are taking theirs.”

These statements were reiterated since the former emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa took over the rule in the country in 1995 – they brief the strategic targets of the Qatari foreign policy but the political reality says that no state can do the role of another.

Bahrain, for example, can’t do Egypt’s role and Saudi Arabia can’t do the role of UK. Doha continued through its endless provoking and throughout the past twenty years it was in a quest to achieve its goal in becoming a regional power even if at the expense of the Gulf countries and the region’s security and stability.

Aside from statements claimed to be said by Emir of Qatar and that Doha is denying, they actually represent the Qatari policy since Qatar has always used contradictions as a way to deal with brotherly countries.

The Gulf countries – including Qatar – take strict stances towards Iran during the meetings of the GCC to stop its intervention and to face its expanding project. In October 2015, Doha signed with Tehran a military security agreement. Qatar participates in the Decisive Storm in Yemen that has a major goal to put an end to the Iranian power.

Few months later on, the emir said in the UN that the relation with Tehran is developing and growing continuously based on common interests and good neighborliness. When the Gulf summit was held in Doha, leaders were surprised by the attendance of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad upon a Qatari invitation as an honor guest.

Bahrain is suffering turbulence that has exceeded demands of reforms and constitutional kingship into aborting it and establishing a republican regime in the country. The Gulf countries refuse these acts because any chaos in a country would sure transfer to the neighboring ones.

But Doha is being impartial and is suggesting initiatives that go in favor of the militias supported by Iran. Al Jazeera, the diplomatic media arm of Qatar, has continued to support the chaotic forces in Bahrain and described them as a “national revolution”.

The Gulf countries fight terrorism fiercely while Doha – unfortunately – has a different agenda. It hosts the Muslim Brotherhood and funds it. It granted al-Qaeda leaders a media platform they used to dream of. It also presented al-Nusra Front as a “moderate force” and promoted for its separation from the terrorist al-Qaeda group.

Recently, the agreement to release Qatari captives from Iraq took place and displaced four Syrian towns as a price.

Guarantors of the agreement included Iran and Nusra Front. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain summoned their ambassadors from Doha after accusing it of threatening the security and political stability of the Gulf countries through supporting Muslim Brotherhood figures in the Gulf.

Also, the Qatari funds have threatened the whole region after reports that have proven Qatar’s support to Nusra Front. It also backed the anti- Saudi, Emirate and Bahraini media through transforming Qatari institutions into platforms to attack them. Qatar also funded figures that object over the ruling regime in these countries in addition to recruiting political funds and public relations companies in the US and West to damage the Gulf interests.

After Qatari pledges, the three ambassadors returned after nine months under one condition that Doha abides by Riyadh Agreement. However, Qatar did not – a Gulf official told me that the former Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah considered that the agreement was over with the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who sponsored the agreement.

The justifications that pushed Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain to summon their ambassadors then still exist today, nothing has changed.

Every state has the right to follow policies that comply with their interests and there is no condition in the international policy that imposes identical stances among countries. However if these policies damaged the regional security, led to chaos and shook stability then no state would be as patient as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

If Doha doesn’t change its policies that are damaging its neighbors and threatening their national security then any return would be useless and a dead end would be reached.

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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Peace for Israel, Palestine Requires Breaking The ‘Zero-Sum’ Game

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

Peace for Israel, Palestine Requires Breaking The ‘Zero-Sum’ Game

Negotiations around a settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whether within a framework of one state or two states, have historically tended towards what is commonly referred to as ‘zero sum’ game – where the gains of one party are directly proportional to the losses of the other. A one-state solution would provide stability, civil rights, equality, and recognition for Palestinians, but in light of their rising population it threatens the very existence of a “Jewish State”; similarly, the establishment of a sovereign Palestine along 1967 lines neighboring Israel would require the eviction of over 600,000 Israeli settlers currently in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, in the words of Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Manuel Hassassian, “both Palestinians and Israelis are stuck between the historically inevitable and the politically impossible”.

Yet the struggle for peace seems rooted in the false premise that “a solution” exists and that we need only decide which to choose. In reality, however, the failure to resolve the conflict to date comes about not primarily as a result of the content of the plans, but rather the need for a shift in attitudes. Throughout over 70 years of conflict, three perpetual obstacles have lain on the path to peace: trust, security, and justice. Complicating matters, the longer these remain issues, the more difficult they become to resolve.

Fostering trust is an integral key to any peace negotiations; without this all efforts are wasted energy on fruitless diplomacy; central to the trust-building exercise is the dispelling of myths, prejudices, and misinformation. Over the decades and throughout numerous Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, positions have become entrenched based upon what each group thinks about “the other”: today, many Israelis believe Palestinians do not want peace, or at a stretch the borders of 1948 Palestine; on the other side, many Palestinians believe that Israel wants all the territory from the Nile to the Euphrates. Conversely, the truth is both sides actually have similar desires: stability, peace, prosperity, and a viable deal to facilitate these.

Such misunderstandings are, naturally, politically useful for scapegoating both among an increasingly right-wing Israeli government and within the militant Gazan leadership. Moreover, they are perpetuated by the daily lives of both peoples: unlike Arab Israelis in Haifa or Jaafa, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are not permitted to mingle freely with their Israeli neighbors. Beyond entire generations that have grown up under occupation, the result is that a majority of Palestinians have never had personal contact with an Israeli outside of IDF uniform – one must question what psychological impact of such limited experience has upon a people; likewise, many Israelis have rare personal interactions with Palestinians, who are generally tarred with the same brush as not only personal threats – bombers, terrorists, knife-wielders – but also existential ones – anti-Zionists and revolutionaries. Against this backdrop, it becomes evident that there is simply no environment or opportunity for the necessary trust-building: economic, cultural, and even political.

In this respect, there are lessons that can be learnt from Northern Ireland, where a fundamental part of success was the refusal to concede to binary narratives of Catholics or Protestants. Leadership on both sides in Israel and Palestine must be willing to move closer – a Trimble for every Paisley, a De Klerk to each Mandela, a contemporary Rabin to every Arafat. Leadership on both sides are responsible for building bridges; it is only through this that communication can improve and a sense of solidarity can be built. The intellectual wherewithal to disbelieve propaganda about a group in a vacuum is a difficult task, yet it becomes easier through the lived experience of interaction with them and seeing firsthand that information being spread is erroneous. As US President Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”

One of the by-products of this misinformation has been the Israeli focus on security, resulting in much despair: a security wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice; checkpoints that exacerbate already prohibitive employment opportunities for Palestinians; and a policy of “defensive borders” that is a thinly veiled cover for further appropriation of Palestinian land, despite its failure to end rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas. Gaza has, since Israeli exit, been used as justification that Palestinians cannot be left to their own devices and to underline the need for a continued, hard military presence. To focus on Gaza, however, belies the reality that intricately-woven security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has been a continuing success for many years. Ultimately, the Israeli government must heed the bottom line recognized by its own military: nothing will provide lasting security for Israel, Iron Dome included, more than peace.

Finally, the issue of justice – a matter that can only begin to take shape once ongoing crimes come to an end and with the recognition of historical wrongs; history, however, teaches us that it is rarely swift. Over a century passed between the beginning of the practice of the Stolen Generations in Australia and an acknowledgement of government wrongdoing by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; following the lengthy Saville Report in the UK, former Prime Minister David Cameron issued a formal apology for the actions of the British Forces on Bloody Sunday, over 40 years after the massacre; and, only weeks ago, France’s President Emmanuel Macron referred to French colonization of Algeria – which gained independence in 1962 – as a “crime against humanity”. The day will come, also, when a future Israeli government must apologize for wholesale crimes: forced evictions, extra-judicial killings, land grabs, severe curtailment of human rights, and economic suffocation of the Palestinian people – the reconciliation of Palestinians and Israelis depends upon it.

Incidents such as the free BBQ organised by Ichud Leumi outside Ofer military prison to taunt detained Palestinians on hunger strike highlight not only a visceral lack of humanity shown by some Israelis towards their fellow human beings but the chasm that is yet to be overcome between parties. Extremist views are held on both side in the vain hope that hammering can fix what requires a screwdriver. Such behavior ignores a core fact all-too-often neglected for its inconvenience and unpalatability to some: Israel and Palestine, for better or worse, are in a symbiotic relationship; neither state can ever achieve peace or security without the assistance, cooperation, and complicity of the other the assistance and complicity of the other.

Breaking the cycle of a ‘zero-sum’ game requires that Israel and Hamas realize that the promotion of rights for one party does not lessen those of the others – there is no finite quantity of rights or privileges that must be apportioned between the two sides. Searching for deep-rooted trust, lasting security, and meaningful justice are key to peace for all citizens, whether in one state or two. The sooner this is realized by both the general public and politicians in Israel and Palestine, the sooner they can begin the transition towards a much-needed more inclusive, constructive type of national and personal politics.

Venezuela’s Government Has Now Murdered 58 Civilians During Ongoing Protests

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

Protesters Turn to State Media Regulator as Venezuela Unrest Continues

Venezuela

Protests against socialist President Nicolas Maduro continued in Venezuela on Friday as the opposition urged demonstrators to rally again on Saturday at the offices of the state media regulator.

Riot police in Venezuela fired tear gas and water cannon to stop anti-government protesters from marching on a key military installation Friday during the latest violence in nearly two months of unrest.

The opposition is trying to sway the support of the armed forces, a key pillar of the government of Maduro, who is resisting opposition calls for early elections.

Retired military personnel joined demonstrators who tried to march to the Los Proceres complex, which houses the defense ministry and lies close to a major military base in Caracas.

Friday’s protest was aimed at “demanding that the armed forces lower their weapons and not be complicit in the dictatorship,” said Freddy Guevara, an opposition leader who is vice president of parliament, the only branch of government the opposition controls.

He called on the military to reject a “constituent assembly” to be elected in July and tasked with drafting a new constitution, saying Maduro’s plans “will liquidate Venezuelan democracy forever.”

Masked protesters threw Molotov cocktails at riot police in scenes familiar after nearly two months of unrest.

A 33-year-old man who was injured Thursday night during a protest in the western city of Cabudare died on Friday, bringing the death toll from eight weeks of unrest to 58.

Several people were also injured in the capital on Friday, including opposition lawmaker Carlos Paparoni, who was struck in the leg with a blunt object.

Attorney General Luisa Ortega blamed military police for hundreds of injuries and at least one death.

Protesters brand the socialist president a dictator, blaming him for economic turmoil and food shortages.

Maduro is resisting their calls for early elections, saying the opposition and the United States are plotting a coup against him.

Despite the opposition’s calls for the military to abandon Maduro, the high command has retained its public support for him so far.

A crowd of Maduro’s supporters in red shirts started a counter-demonstration on Friday near the presidential palace in central Caracas.

The president has launched steps to reform the constitution in response to the crisis. His opponents say that is a bid to dodge elections and cling to power.

The National Electoral Council said those who wanted to stand for election to the constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution should sign up next Thursday and Friday.

Meanwhile, the state telecom regulator Conatel has come under scrutiny for its coverage of the protests.

In the mountains above Caracas, two government officials often stand watch over the antennas of TV news network Globovision, poised to take it off air if regulators object to coverage of anti-government protests, according to two station employees.

They said the 24-hour Venezuelan news station receives regular warnings from Conatel against showing live footage of clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces, or broadcasting terms such as “dictatorship” and “repression.”

“It’s a daily threat,” said one of the employees, citing information from station managers and asking not to be identified for fear of reprisals.

“Conatel is making decisions about coverage.”

In contrast to past waves of unrest in Venezuela, particularly during Hugo Chavez’s 1999-2013 rule, the nation’s three main private television stations have provided minimal live coverage of the latest anti-government demonstrations.

They rarely show more than a few minutes of real-time images of protests.

However, the private networks, including Globovision, do give broadly equal weight to opposition and government leaders and supporters in broadcasts – contrary to assertions by critics that they muzzle the opposition.

“If people abroad sampled Venezuela’s TV media directly, as opposed to judging it by what is said about it by the international media and some big NGOs, they’d be shocked to find the opposition constantly denouncing the government and even making very thinly veiled appeals to the military to oust Maduro,” said Joe Emersberger, a Canadian blogger who tracks Venezuelan media and writes for state-funded Telesur network.

“Focusing on ‘live’ coverage is just a way to avoid acknowledging they (protests) are being extensively covered.”

Regulators do openly describe vigilance of coverage, with Conatel director Andres Mendez recently telling state TV the regulator was constantly evaluating Globovision and some of its anchors. “We sometimes have pleasant conversations with (Globovision’s) president,” he said.

Ruling Socialist Party officials scoff at the idea of any censorship, insisting the government is the victim of a US-supported campaign by private local and international media to depict it as a repressive regime and thus justify a coup.

They recall that private media openly backed a bungled 2002 coup against Chavez, and accuse media of exaggerating the protests to weaken Maduro’s government.

Unable to follow the protests live on TV, many Venezuelans have turned to other sources of information, especially online.

“I find out what’s going on from my phone and social media,” said Claudia Mejias, who watches Colombian network Caracol via cable at the hair salon where she works and then shares information with friends via Whatsapp and Facebook.

Though social media platforms have to some extent supplanted TV news, they frequently transmit inaccurate information.

And only 53 percent of Venezuelans have internet access, according to one local research firm.

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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Inciters in Egypt should be Pursued Internationally

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

Inciters in Egypt should be Pursued Internationally

The repeated crimes targeting Egypt are an evil act that requires regional and international actions, as its causes and consequences are no longer an Egyptian matter.

What happened on Friday in Minya is part of a series of terrorist attacks linked to the Egyptian armed opposition as well as to the opposition factions that are openly inciting violent attacks.

It is imperative to demand that all the incitement and actions against Egypt be considered as international crimes as is the case today with terrorist organizations like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia and others.

Governments and media outlets allowing the incitement against Egypt must be held accountable because they are directly responsible for what is happening in the country.

We must accuse these governments and media outlets of taking part in what is happening in Egypt because the government apparatuses are no longer targeted as they used to justify themselves earlier and consider their actions as a war between the regime and the opposition.

The majority of the crimes now are directed against civilian facilities, leading to civilian victims and inciting religious sectarianism between Copts and Muslims.

We support the Egyptian people and we cannot stay neutral in the face of these repeated crimes. Keeping mum on the incitements justifying such hideous terrorism attacks, coordinated with opposing political forces, cannot be tolerated anymore.

The Muslim Brotherhood, and the governments supporting the group, must be aware of the gravity of what they are doing because they are responsible for these terrorist operations that are the outcome of their irrational political actions.

These groups and their supporting governments will be targeted through international curbs, prosecution and isolation, holding them accountable for the crimes committed in Egypt.

The conflict with the Egyptian government has gone too far. The political, organizational, media, and financing campaign against the Egyptian government has gone too far after failing to create a peaceful civil opposition movement.

After the failure in repeating the Egyptian Spring scenario, they started advocating and justifying attacks against the government.

As the world is fighting together against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, it will be angered by what is happening in Egypt.

It will not be difficult to hold accountable the governments that support the Egyptian terrorist groups whether in terms of funds or media exposure.

More than 90 persons were killed in four terrorist sectarian attacks in Cairo, Alexandria, Tanta, and the last one in Minya.

The new international approach does not only pursue terrorist organizations but will also point the fingers at the governments that allow extremist ideologies or accept their political discourse as well as the governments that promote extremism, both in the media and political levels.

There is no doubt that there is an interrelation between these groups claiming to be peaceful but at the same time agreeing on terror ideologies. They are now considered as a political entities. This applies to the Muslim Brotherhood, with its Egyptian branch in particular.

The attack in Minya, similar to the crime in Manchester few days ago, is part of the cycle of violence, following justification of terrorism, media propaganda and indirect funding. Terrorism has become an international crime, and it is no longer an internal problem that can be limited to solidarity and acts of consolation.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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US to Test First Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Interceptor

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

US to Test First Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

US

At a time when North Korea is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the United States announced that it will test an existing missile defense system to try to intercept an ICBM.

The test, scheduled for Tuesday, is the first time the United States will try to intercept an ICBM, announced US officials.

The goal is to more closely simulate a North Korean ICBM aimed at the US homeland. The test had been planned well in advance and was not in reaction to any specific event. they explained.

The United States has used the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, managed by Boeing Co. and in place to counter attacks from rogue states such as North Korea, to intercept other types of missiles but never an ICBM.

While US officials believe Pyongyang is some years away from mastering re-entry expertise for perfecting an ICBM, it is making advances.

This week the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency said that if left unchecked, North Korea is on an “inevitable” path to obtaining a nuclear-armed missile capable of striking the United States.

The remarks are the latest indication of mounting US concern about Pyongyang’s advancing missile and nuclear weapons programs, which the North says are needed for self-defense.

The Missile Defense Agency said an interceptor based out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, one of 36 in California and Alaska, will be used in the test to shoot down a target similar to an ICBM over the Pacific Ocean.

The system has carried out successful intercepts in nine out of 17 attempts dating back to 1999. The most recent test was in 2014. Last year a science advocacy group said the system has no proven capability to protect the United States.

The American interceptor has a spotty track record, succeeding in nine of 17 attempts against missiles of less-than-intercontinental range since 1999. The most recent test, in June 2014, was a success, but that followed three straight failures. The system has evolved from the multibillion-dollar effort triggered by President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 push for a “Star Wars” solution to ballistic missile threats during the Cold War — when the Soviet Union was the only major worry.

North Korea is now the focus of US efforts because its leader, Kim Jong Un, has vowed to field a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching American territory. He has yet to test an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, but Pentagon officials believe he is speeding in that direction.

The Pentagon has a variety of missile defense systems, but the one designed with a potential North Korean ICBM in mind is perhaps the most technologically challenging. Critics say it also is the least reliable.

The basic defensive idea is to fire a rocket into space upon warning of a hostile missile launch. The rocket releases a 5-foot-long device called a “kill vehicle” that uses internal guidance systems to steer into the path of the oncoming missile’s warhead, destroying it by force of impact. Officially known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Pentagon likens it to hitting a bullet with a bullet.

An interceptor is to be launched from an underground silo at Vandenberg and soar toward the target, which will be fired from a test range on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. If all goes as planned, the “kill vehicle” will slam into the ICBM-like target’s mock warhead high over the Pacific Ocean.

The target will be a custom-made missile meant to simulate an ICBM, meaning it will fly faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests, according to Christopher Johnson, spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency. The target is not a mock-up of an actual North Korean ICBM.

“We conduct increasingly complex test scenarios as the program matures and advances,” Johnson said Friday. “Testing against an ICBM-type threat is the next step in that process.”

Officials say this is not a make-or-break test.

The interceptor system has been in place since 2004, but it has never been used in combat or fully tested. There currently are 32 interceptors in silos at Fort Greely in Alaska and four at Vandenberg, north of Los Angeles. The Pentagon says it will have eight more, for a total of 44, by the end of this year.

In its 2018 budget presented to Congress this week, the Pentagon proposed spending $7.9 billion on missile defense, including $1.5 billion for the ground-based midcourse defense program. Other elements of that effort include the Patriot designed to shoot down short-range ballistic missiles and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which the US has installed in South Korea as defense against medium-range North Korean missiles.

The Trump administration has yet to announce its intentions on missile defense.

President Donald Trump recently ordered the Pentagon to undertake a ballistic missile defense review. Some experts argue the current strategy for shooting down ICBM-range missiles, focused on the silo-based interceptors, is overly expensive and inadequate. They say a more fruitful approach would be to destroy or disable such missiles before they can be launched, possibly by cyberattack.

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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