• John Kerry is Telling the World ‘Let’s Gang Up on Israel’

    18/Mar/2016 // 234 Viewers

     

    John Kerry has a new strategy for achieving Mideast peace: mobilize the international community to gang up on Israel.

    That was the essence of the secretary of state’s disturbing remarks in Paris on March 13. Kerry declared that the Obama administration is “looking for a way forward” to bring about creation of a Palestinian state. He said that Palestinian statehood is “absolutely essential.”

    Not just “an idea worth exploring”; not just “something to be considered.” Rather, “absolutely essential.” Kerry and President Obama have made up their minds and will not consider any alternatives. They have decided that establishing an independent Palestinian state is the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It’s just a question of how to make it happen.

    The administration’s attempts to pressure Israel into creating a Palestinian state obviously have not been successful so far. So Kerry is looking for new ways to harangue the Israelis. Standing next to a group of European foreign ministers at the Paris press conference, Kerry said: “There’s not any one country or one person who can resolve this. This is going to require the global community, it will require international support.”

    Significantly, Kerry’s quest for an international alliance to pressure Israel comes on the heels of France’s recent announcement that it will try to convene an international conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The French said that if the conference failed to produce a Palestinian state, they will go ahead and unilaterally recognize such a state. That’s the French idea of “negotiations.”

    The French approach, which Secretary Kerry now seems to be moving towards, is reminiscent of similar proposals that were made back in 1985. Alarmed, then-Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin flew to Washington to try to head off the convening what was being called an “international umbrella” for Mideast negotiations.

    “Whenever anyone mentions umbrella, it reminds me of Chamberlain and Munich,” Rabin declared. For Rabin to invoke the memory of Chamberlain selling out to Hitler at Munich–and for Rabin to use those words at a press conference in Washington–vividly illustrates how dangerous he considered the ‘international’ proposal to be.

    It’s not hard to understand why Rabin in 1985 opposed such a proposal, and it’s not hard to see why Israel’s leaders today oppose it, too. If Kerry succeeds in his strategy, such an international conference or umbrella would consist of a dozen or more Arab and European countries ganging up on Israel and demanding that the Israelis make unilateral concessions to the Palestinians. Knowing the Obama administration’s pro-Palestinian slant, one must assume that the U.S. would side with the Arabs and Europeans.

    Oslo accords

    An event that polarized society: Then-PM Yitzhak Rabin (L) shakes hands with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat in presence of US President Bill Clinton. (Wikipedia)

    The French–evidently with Kerry’s tacit approval, or perhaps even his encouragement–are pushing forward. French diplomat Pierre Vimont will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority this week to promote France’s initiative. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, appearing alongside Kerry at the press conference: “The conflict is getting worse and the status quo cannot continue.”

    The conflict is getting worse? No, it’s not.

    The status quo cannot continue? Yes, it can.

    I am the last person in the world to minimize the reality of Palestinian terrorism. But there’s no way anybody can say the current attacks are worse than the weekly bus bombings of the 1990s. Israel’s strong military response put an end to the suicide bombings–which shows that if Israel does not fight with one hand tied behind its back, it can beat the terrorists.

    And the status quo may not be the ideal solution, but show me a better one that’s feasible. Withdrawing to indefensible borders? Setting up an armed or soon-to-be-armed Palestinian state just a few miles from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv? In 1976, people were saying “the status quo cannot continue.” They were saying it 1986 and 1996 and 2006, too. Yet here we are, nearly 50 years after the 1967 war–and it has continued, because the alternatives have been worse.

    Of course, what Kerry and French call the “status quo” is not at all the same as the status quo of the 1970s or 1980s. In 1995, Rabin withdrew from the areas where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside. For the past 21 years, the Palestinian Authority has functioned as a de-facto state in a large portion of Judea-Samaria. The only thing the PA lacks is a full-fledged army and the ability to import tanks and planes. And from Israel’s point of view, that’s not such a bad status quo.

    So maybe it’s time for Kerry and his gang of would-be interveners to step back, take a deep breath, and face the fact that the slogans and ideas of the 1980s—”status quo,” “international umbrella,” and the like—are just not suited to today’s reality.

    Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

    Credit: jns.org


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  • Israel successfully tests missile defence system at sea: army

    18/May/2016 // 846 Viewers

    Israeli children look at the Israeli military's Iron Dome defence missile system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, deployed in Gush Dan, the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, on November 17, 2012 (AFP Photo/Roni Schutzer)

     

    Jerusalem (AFP) - Israel has successfully tested a maritime missile interception system dubbed the Iron Dome of the Sea, the military announced on Wednesday.

    The system, which the military said can shoot down short-range rockets similar to those fired from Gaza, successfully destroyed "several" missiles, Ariel Shir, head of operational systems in the navy, said.

    He said the test, which took place two weeks ago, "proved the Israeli navy's ability to protect Israel's strategic assets at sea against short-range ballistic rockets".

    During the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip, Israel deployed its Iron Dome system on land to shoot down rockets fired across the border.

    A similar system has been in development for several years and was revealed to the public on Wednesday.

    A video provided by the army showed a rocket launcher installed on a ship firing at targets in the sky and later intercepting a missile.

    Shir said they had tested the system from a ship moving at speed and it had succeeded.

    "The Sea Iron Dome, as we call it, can intercept threats from a moving naval ship," he said.

    He added that the system was operational now, but it would take "a little bit more time" to fully integrate into the navy's systems.

    Israel has a number of assets at sea, including a major offshore gas rig around 16 nautical miles from Gaza.

    Hamas has previously targeted the installation unsuccessfully.

    Any damage to the rig could be potentially hugely damaging to the Israeli economy, since it provides large amounts of the country's energy needs.


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  • Iraqi forces advance against IS on three fronts

    18/Oct/2015 // 267 Viewers

     AFP / by Mahmud Saleh | Iraqi Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units, fighting alongside Iraqi forces, advance towards the centre of Baiji, some 200 kilometres north of Baghdad, during a military operation against IS group jihadists on October 18, 2015

     

    BAIJI (IRAQ) (AFP) - 

    Iraqi forces advanced on three fronts against the Islamic State group Sunday, flushing out pockets of resistance in and around Baiji and closing in on Ramadi and Hawijah, officers said.

    Iraqi security and allied paramilitary forces last week launched a broad offensive on Baiji, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) north of Baghdad.

    The city and nearby refinery -- the country's largest -- have been one of the worst flashpoints since IS launched a sweeping offensive across Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland in June 2014.

    Anti-IS forces, including thousands from the Popular Mobilisation (Hashed al-Shaabi) force that includes many Tehran-backed Shiite militias, have reconquered most of Baiji and its surroundings.

    "They are still combing some neighbourhoods of Baiji, including Tamim to the west and the market area in the centre," a police brigadier general said.

    "There are still a few IS members in there," he said.

    "The security forces and Hashed forces took up positions to take control of some neighbourhoods in Baiji, searching for bombs and booby-trapped houses," an army major general said.

    He described the latest advance in the Baiji area as "the biggest victory since 10th of June 2014", when IS made massive territorial gains with a lightning offensive that saw Iraq's federal forces collapse completely.

    Since they launched a counter-attack last year, government and allied forces have retaken all areas south of Baghdad and others north of the capital, including the city of Tikrit.

    The government forces pushed past Baiji on the main road leading north to Mosul, cutting off IS fighters holding the city of Hawijah, east of the Tigris river.

    Army and police, backed by hundreds of Sunni tribal fighters incorporated into the Hashed al-Shaabi, began an operation Sunday aimed at surrounding Hawijah.

    "The operation started in two areas, one west of Kirkuk around Al-Fatha and the other south of Kirkuk near Allas oil field," a major general said.

    The Kurdish peshmerga forces were not directly involved in this operation but they have mande progress of their own in recent weeks, pushing southwest from Kirkuk, which they control.

    A security coordination meeting between federal and Kurdish forces and politicians was held in Kirkuk Sunday, governor Najmeddin Karim said.

    Iraqi forces also continued to tighten the noose around Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar, which IS captured in May this year.

    Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service is leading operations around Ramadi, with backing from the security forces, Sunni tribesmen opposed to IS and US-led coalition air strikes.

    "Albu Farraj neighbourhood is under full control now. The city of Ramadi is completely isolated from the northern side now," said Major General Ismail Mahalawi, from Anbar Operations Command.

    A coalition spokesman said last week the number of IS fighters still inside Ramadi was estimated at 600 to 1,000.

    by Mahmud Saleh


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  • EU adopts legislative framework to lift sanctions against Iran

    18/Oct/2015 // 138 Viewers

    The European Union on Sunday adopted the framework for lifting its sanctions against Iran, although the measure will only take effect once Tehran has met its obligations under a landmark nuclear deal, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

    "This is another important milestone that brings us a step closer to the beginning of implementation of the (nuclear agreement agreed in July), to which we are strongly committed," Mogherini said in a joint statement with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

    "Iran will now start the implementation of its nuclear-related commitments with the objective of full and effective completion," it added.

    The EU announcement came shortly after President Barack Obama ordered the US government to also take steps towards lifting sanctions on Iran.

    The procedures began 90 days after the UN Security Council endorsed the accord struck between six world powers and Tehran in Vienna on July 14, under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in return for relief from damaging economic sanctions.

    The EU sanctions are expected to be dismantled "around the end of the year or early next year" after the International Atomic Energy Agency certifies that Iran has met its commitments, a Western diplomat told AFP on Friday.

    The EU and US sanctions have proved very damaging, locking up billions in Iranian assets overseas and starving the oil-dependent economy of crucially needed technology and investment.

    (DailyGlobeWatch with AFP)


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  • Israel erects wall to protect Jews in east Jerusalem

    18/Oct/2015 // 240 Viewers

     AFP | A television crew films as a Palestinian man walks past a wall put in place by Israeli officials to separate the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber from the Jewish settlement of Armon Hanatziv in east Jerusalem, on October 18, 2015

     

    JERUSALEM (AFP) - 

    Israeli police on Sunday began erecting a wall in east Jerusalem to protect a Jewish neighbourhood subject to firebomb and stone attacks launched from an adjacent Palestinian village.

    The wall would effectively divide Palestinian Jabel Mukaber and Jewish Armon Hanatziv, raising criticism among the government's opposition, which considered the move a de facto division of Jerusalem.

    As of Sunday, police had placed six slabs below Jabel Mukaber, each about 2.5 metres (yards) high and two metres long. Black lettering in Hebrew at the bottom of the slabs read "temporary mobile police barrier".

    The municipality said the wall would eventually cover a 300-metre strip, stressing it would not be peripheral and it was being placed where "there is a history of stone and firebomb throwing at Jewish homes and cars".

    Jabel Mukaber has been a hotspot in the recent wave of violence in which 42 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed, raising fears of a full-blown Palestinian uprising grew.

    Three residents of the village had killed three Israelis in two separate attacks in Jerusalem on Tuesday before being killed by security forces.

    On Saturday, a 16-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by police after attempting to stab border police at a checkpoint near Jabel Mukaber.

    The new wall will join a series of checkpoints set up in recent days at the exits of some of the Palestinian sectors of east Jerusalem, including Jabel Mukaber.

    The Zionist Union, the centre-left party which leads the opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition, criticised the move.

    "Netanyahu officially divided Jerusalem today," it said in a statement. "Netanyahu has lost the ability to keep the safety of Israel's citizens and Jerusalem's unity."

    Israel regards Jerusalem -- which it has fully controlled since winning the 1967 Six-Day War -- as its historic and undivided capital.

    Palestinians, however, see much of the city as occupied territory and want the capital of a future independent state to be located there.

    DailyGlobeWatch with AFP


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  • 2,400 nationals fighting alongside ISIS, says Russia

    18/Sep/2015 // 281 Viewers

    MOSCOW - About 2,400 Russian nationals are fighting with Islamic State militants, Russia's First Deputy Director of Federal Security Sergei Smirnov was reported as saying on Friday.
     
    RIA news agency also quoted Smirnov as saying that in total there are about 3,000 Central Asian nationals fighting within Islamic State groups.
     
    Speaking to journalists, Smirnov said that the problem of migrants fleeing the Middle East to Europe is only likely to increase, posing potentially a "great threat" for Russia.
     
    "The assertion that Moscow's support negatively impacts the situation in Syria - and the flow of refugees in particular - is not true. This is due to the expansion of Islamic State in the region," he said.
     
    Hinting at the United States, Smirnov said that there are "some countries that try to evade" international cooperation on fighting terrorism.
     
    "There is a cooperation but not at the right level - especially with the United States," he said.


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  • Keen to lift sanctions, Iran to ship enriched uranium to Russia within days

    19/Dec/2015 // 201 Viewers

     

    DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran will export most of its enriched uranium to Russia in the coming days as it rushes to implement a nuclear deal and secure relief from international sanctions, Tehran's nuclear chief was quoted as saying on Saturday.

    Drastically reducing its stock of enriched uranium, which can be used in nuclear weapons, was at the heart of the deal Iran reached in July with a group of six world powers.

    Under its terms, Iran must cut its stockpile to around 300 kg (660 lb) and mothball most of the centrifuges that produce the enriched fuel. It must also remove the core of a heavy water reactor at Arak so it cannot be used to produce plutonium, another potential bomb-making source.

    Once the United Nations verifies those steps, international sanctions will be lifted, giving Iran access to global markets for the first time in years and opening a lifeline for its ailing economy.

    "In the next few days around nine tonnes of Iran's enriched uranium will be exported to Russia," nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA. That is roughly the amount that Iran must export to bring its stock down to the required level.

    He said the enriched uranium would be taken out of Iran on board a Russian ship. Iran has already received a shipment of yellowcake, an unenriched uranium compound, from Russia in exchange for the stockpile.

    President Hassan Rouhani's government is aiming to get sanctions lifted by the end of January, to boost pro-government candidates in Feb. 26 elections to parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that chooses the Supreme Leader.

    Iran is set to reap an economic windfall once sanctions are lifted. The government has pledged to quickly boost oil production, and foreign companies are jockeying to enter the market of some 80 million people. 

    Nevertheless, the economy has stagnated since the deal was reached, as consumers hold off on spending until the market opens up.

    With no concrete improvement to voters' quality of life, the government risks losing its 'nuclear dividend' if sanctions have not been lifted before the elections; hardliners opposed to the deal would stand to gain.

    On Wednesday, Tehran's envoy to the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was working to complete the requirements in the next two to three weeks, after the U.N. watchdog closed its investigation of Iran's past nuclear activities.

    IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, responsible for verifying that Tehran has taken the necessary steps, said in an interview that it is "not impossible" that sanctions could be lifted in January.


     Reporting by Sam Wilkin

     


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  • Turkish PM says downed drone was Russian-made

    19/Oct/2015 // 217 Viewers

    A drone downed by Turkey near the Syrian border was Russian-made, Turkey's prime minister said Monday, adding that it could have belonged to a "militia" fighting in Syria.

    "It's Russian-made, but Russia has told us it doesn't belong to them," PM Ahmet Davutoglu said during a television interview.

    Turkey shot the drone down on Friday after it violated its air space near the Syrian border despite three warnings.

    Davutoglu said it could have belonged to Syrian government forces -- to whom Russia supplies arms -- or Kurdish armed groups in Syria, or "it could belong to a militia".

    The US military had said it believed the drone was of Russian origin, but Moscow said all its drones were accounted for.

    NATO member Turkey has bridled at Russia's efforts to prop up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Turkey wants ousted.

    The country has accused Russian aircraft operating in Syria of violating its air space twice, with Moscow blaming poor weather.

    Davutoglu on Monday warned Moscow against repeating the incursion, saying the drone "incident has once again proved that Turkey both has the capacity and the political will to put an end to such violations."

    "I hope that Russia will adopt a more careful stance... and Turkish-Russian relations will not be negatively affected," he said.

    (AFP)


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  • Son of Dubai’s ruler dies of heart attack at 33

    19/Sep/2015 // 353 Viewers

    Karim Sahib, AFP file picture | Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum (right), ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the UAE, and his son Rashid, who died on September 19, 2015

    Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, a son of Dubai's ruler and elder brother to the emirate's heir apparent, has died at age 33.
     
    The United Arab Emirates state news agency WAM said Saturday that he died of a heart attack.
     
    Sheikh Rashid was the first son of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his senior wife, Sheikha Hind bint Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum. In addition to his role as Dubai ruler, Sheikh Mohammed is vice president and prime minister of the UAE.
     
    Sheikh Rashid was an avid sportsman and horse racing enthusiast. His younger brother Sheikh Hamdan is Dubai's crown prince.
     
    The commercial hub of Dubai is one of seven sheikhdoms that comprise the Emirates federation. The ruler's court has declared three days of mourning.
     
    (AFP)

     


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  • Palestinian shot trying to stab Israeli troops: army

    20/Dec/2015 // 213 Viewers

     

    HEBRON (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) - 

    A Palestinian woman attempted to stab Israeli soldiers in the flashpoint city of Hebron in the West Bank on Sunday before she was shot and arrested, officials and medics said.

    It was the latest in nearly three months of such attacks.

    The incident set off a clash between Palestinian residents -- who said they were seeking to help the wounded woman -- and Israeli security forces who fired rubber bullets and stun grenades, witnesses and Palestinian medics said.

    Two people were hurt by rubber bullets but their injuries were not believed to be serious, according to the medics.

    No injuries were reported on the Israeli side.

    "In Hebron, an assailant attempted to stab soldiers stationed in the area," the Israeli military said in a statement.

    "The forces responded, thwarting the attack. The assailant has been arrested and evacuated for medical treatment."

    A wave of violence since the start of October has claimed the lives of 123 on the Palestinian side, 17 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean.

    Many of the Palestinians killed have been attackers, while others have been shot dead by Israeli security forces during clashes.

    Tensions have been particularly high in Hebron, where several hundred Israeli settlers live under heavy military guard in the heart of the city among about 200,000 Palestinians.

    The stabbers have often been young Palestinians, including teenagers, who appear to be acting on their own.

    A number of them have attempted attacks with kitchen knives in what some analysts have described as de facto suicide missions.

    Palestinians have grown frustrated with Israel's occupation, the complete lack of progress in peace efforts and their own fractured leadership, while international efforts to end the violence have so far failed.

    © 2015 AFP


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