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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

European Parliament condemns Hamas for use of human shields

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

In first, European Parliament condemns Hamas for terror, use of human shields

Resolution still slams IDF’s use of live fire against Gaza marches on border and calls for lifting of Gaza blockade, but Israel says ‘unprecedented anti-Israeli clauses were cut’

Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session on February 6, 2018, in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AFP Photo/Frederick Florin)

Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session on February 6, 2018, in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AFP Photo/Frederick Florin)

The European Parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a resolution that denounces Hamas as a terrorist group that uses human shields, calls for Israel’s destruction and “seems to aim at escalating tensions” at the Gaza-Israel border.

The motion also calls for the release of Israeli citizens and the bodies of fallen soldiers held by the Palestinian terror group in the coastal enclave.

The carefully calibrated text, which was the result of intense negotiations between the parliament’s various factions but was eventually jointly submitted by all major political groups, also backs calls for probes into Israel’s use of live ammunition to fend off protesters at the border and calls on Israel to exercise restraint.

It passed with 524 “yes” votes, 30 “no” votes, and 92 abstentions.

Pro-Israel advocacy groups welcomed the resolution, stressing the unusual fact that a European Union body found strong words of condemnation not only for Israel but also for Hamas.

Islamist Hamas terror movement leader Yahya Sinwar (C) shouts slogans as he takes part in a protest near the border with Israel east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / Mohammed ABED)

Idit Rosenzweig-Abu, spokesperson of Israel’s mission to the EU, said “the resolution adopted today is far from being pro-Israeli, however we are satisfied that unprecedented anti-Israeli clauses were cut out of the resolution and, most importantly, we are happy to hear a strong, clear call for the immediate release of the Israeli citizens and the return of the bodies of our soldiers held in Gaza.”

Idit Rosenzweig-Abu (twitter)

The resolution began as starkly anti-Israel, even urging an arms embargo against the Jewish state in its earliest drafts.

The final three-page motion starts off by noting that the now-weekly “March of Return” at the Gaza border was organized by civil society groups, that Hamas asked people to join the marches, and that Israelis reported that stones and firebombs were thrown against troops and that some protesters tried to damage the border fence and infiltrate into Israel.

The text goes on to note that the IDF used live ammunition, killing “close to 30 Palestinians” and wounding thousands.

It then recalls the fact that Hamas is listed by the EU as a terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction and continues to launch rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory.

It also states that “Hamas continues to keep the population under control and pressure in the Gaza Strip, which remains a hub of internationally recognized terrorist organizations,” and heavily curtails “basic freedoms, including of association and expression.”

“The European Parliament… Calls for utmost restraint and underlines that the priority must be to avoid any further escalation of violence and loss of life; expresses its regret of the loss of lives; condemns the killings and injuries of innocent Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip over the past three weeks and urges IDF to refrain from using lethal force against unarmed protesters,” the resolution reads.

It goes on to acknowledge “Israel’s security challenges and the need to protect its territory and borders while using proportionate means” and “condemns the terror attacks of Hamas and other militant groups against Israel from the Gaza Strip, including the firing of rockets, infiltrations into Israeli territory, and the building of tunnels.”

The lawmakers then express concern that “Hamas seems to aim at escalating tensions” and “strongly condemns the continuous tactic of Hamas to use civilians for the purpose of shielding terrorist activities.”

Stressing the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest and calling on Israel to respect this right, the motion calls on protest leaders to “avoid any incitement to violence, as well as to ensure that any protests, demonstrations, and assemblies remain strictly non-violent and cannot be exploited for other means.”

While the resolution takes note of the Israeli army’s fact-finding missions into past protests, it supports the calls for “independent and transparent investigations into these violent events,” which had been made by the EU, the United Nations, and many individual states.

“Intentional use of lethal force against protesters who do not pose an imminent threat to life or serious injury violates international human rights law and in the context of occupation is a serious breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” it states.

It also calls for an “immediate and unconditional end to the blockade and closure of the Gaza Strip,” which, it argues, results in “a deteriorating unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the area.”

Oron Shaul, Hadar Goldin and Avraham Mengistu. (Flash90/The Times of Israel)

The resolution demands the “freeing and the return to Israel” of Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, two Israeli citizens held by Hamas in Gaza against their will, and calls for the return of the remains of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two IDF soldiers who fell in the last war between Israel and Hamas. The EU lawmakers also offer “condolences to their families.”

“The above points are extremely important in any discussion regarding the Gaza Strip and I am pleased they were successfully pushed for by the ECR [European Conservatives and Reformists] Group to be included in the EP resolution,” said MEP Anders Vistisen, the vice chair of the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, who played a significant role in the negotiations that led to the resolution’s passing.

“Though the resolution is far from perfect and the left continuously seeks to blur reality, the ECR will continue to be the voice of reason,” he added. “I take the opportunity to stand with Israel over its recent mourning of all its fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, and I extend my warmest congratulations to Israel for its 70th birthday which is celebrated today.”

The American Jewish Committee’s Europe branch had partial praise for resolution.

“The AJC Transatlantic Institute today praised the European Parliament for condemning Hamas for the war crimes it committed during the recent violent protests, but criticized the EU legislature for urging in its resolution on the situation in the Gaza Strip an ‘unconditional’ end to Israel’s naval blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory,” the organization said in a statement.

“We all want to see Gaza become the next Singapore. But calling for the ‘unconditional’ end to Israel’s targeted blockade is at this time – unfortunately – neither realistic nor an even remotely reasonable proposal,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of AJC’s EU office.

“The European Parliament deserves praise for its clear-eyed assessment of Hamas’s responsibility for escalating the violent protests. By also spelling out and condemning Hamas’s war crimes – such as using its own people as human shields and firing rockets on Israeli cities – Parliament has taken a principled stand,” said Schwammenthal.

At the same time, “Publicly urging a sister democracy and close friend to investigate in a ‘transparent’ manner seems – at the very least – somewhat out-of-place,” he said.

READ MORE:

ISIS Cowards Hiding Behind Women And Children ‘Human Shields’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) ISIS has “executed” 232 people near the Iraqi city of Mosul and taken tens of thousands of people to use as human shields against advancing Iraqi forces, the United Nations says.

The terror group carried out the mass killings Wednesday, punishing people who had defied its orders, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights arm told CNN.
“ISIS executed 42 civilians in Hammam al-Alil, south of Mosul. Also on Wednesday ISIS executed 190 former Iraqi security forces for refusing to join them, in the Al Ghazlani base near Mosul,” said Ravina Shamdasani of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Iraqi forces gather this week in the al Shura area, south of Mosul.

Another 24 former Iraqi security forces officers were reportedly killed Tuesday, the office said.
Since October 17, ISIS has taken tens of thousands of men, women and children from the outskirts of Mosul into the city. Shamdasani said the United Nations feared the group intended “to use them as human shields against the Iraqi forces advance on Mosul.”
There have been other reported civilian deaths over the past week as ISIS tries to herd people into its last major stronghold in Iraq and the nation’s second city against the Iraqi-led operation.
Iraqi forces have now launched an operation to cut ISIS supply lines west of Mosul, according to a statement released Saturday by Hashd al Shabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs).
The PMUs are fighting alongside the Iraqi military and the Kurdish Peshmerga as they attempt to re-take Mosul from ISIS.

Iraqi forces advance from south

Reports of the latest ISIS atrocities came as Iraqi security forces reported further progress Friday in their advance from the south of Mosul.

An Iraqi family is south of Mosul after fleeing the Hammam al-Alil area.

Abdulrahman al Wagga, a member of the Nineveh provincial council, told CNN the security forces had taken the town of al Shura, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Mosul, and had evacuated 5,000 to 6,000 civilians.
The area is being cleared of homemade bombs and booby traps, he said.
Iraqi security forces and federal police have also now “90% surrounded Hammam al-Alil,” the largest town south of Mosul, Wagga said.

ISIS has used human shields before

Wagga said the Iraqi forces might storm Hammam al-Alil soon but it would depend on the situation on the ground since civilians were still present.
Reports indicate that ISIS has abducted at least 5,370 families from around al Shura and 150 more from around Hammam al-Alil, Shamdasani told a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.
Another 160 families have reportedly been seized from around Qayyara, she said, and 2,210 families from the Nimrud area of Hamdaniya district.
“Forced out by gunpoint, or killed if they resist, these people are reportedly being moved to strategic locations where ISIL fighters are located,” Shamdasani said, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.
Information received by the United Nations suggests some 60,000 people are currently living in Hammam al-Alil, an ISIS stronghold with a previous population of 23,000, she said.
The use of human shields is banned under international humanitarian law, and constitutes a violation of the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life, the UN refugee agency said.
ISIS has used the same tactic in previous battles in Iraq, notably in Falluja in June.

‘Depraved, cowardly’ strategy

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said the terror group’s “depraved, cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilians to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields.”
He also warned last week that ISIS fighters appeared to be using civilians in and around Mosul as human shields.

An Iraqi man waves a white flag as his family flees the fighting Thursday.

The commissioner urged those fighting ISIS not to carry out revenge attacks and called on the Iraqi government to ensure respect for the rule of law.
As the fighting around Mosul intensifies, growing numbers of civilians have sought to flee despite the risks involved.
The International Organization for Migration reported the Mosul operation had displaced 16,566 people as of Friday. Camps have been set up to accommodate an expected flood of desperate families.

ISIS ‘killed brother for spying’

Civilians continued Friday to stream out of villages to the east of Mosul that ISIS had held until recent days.

Inside the tunnels of ISIS

Inside the tunnels of ISIS02:19
Several people gave insight into life under ISIS rule, telling the Kurdish network Rudaw that militants had fired at them as they left a settlement near Darwish to the northeast of Mosul.
One woman said her brother had been killed after being accused of spying for the Peshmerga, or Kurdish fighters. She said women had been forced to wear gloves and be completely covered.
A young man told the network his brother had been killed because he had a cell phone and was allegedly a spy.
Iraqi forces are holding positions about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from the eastern side of Mosul.
Gen. Aly Al Saady told the al Iraqiya network his force would wait for troops on other fronts to close in on Mosul before launching an attack on the city. He said they had prepared safe corridors for civilians to get out of Mosul before starting the operation.