Israeli government, military disagree over unrest

December 1, 2015

By Maayan Lubell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Two months into a wave of stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks by Palestinians targeting Israelis, gaps are emerging between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the military and intelligence chiefs over what is driving the violence.

The rifts raise questions about whether the right tactics are being used to quell the unrest, the most sustained that Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank have experienced since the last Palestinian uprising, or intifada, ended in 2005.

While there is agreement between Netanyahu, the military and the Shin Bet security agency about broad aspects of the violence – that it is being carried out by “lone-wolves” active on social media and that tensions over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem have contributed – the deeper causes are disputed.

Netanyahu has repeatedly accused 80-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of directly inciting the unrest. He also describes it as a manifestation of Palestinians’ hatred of Jews and unwillingness to accept Israel’s right to exist.

“What is driving this terrorism is opposition to Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, within any borders,” he said as he left for the climate talks in Paris on Sunday.

In contrast, the military and Shin Bet have tended to point to a variety of economic and socio-political factors that they see fuelling Palestinian anger and frustration, particularly among young men and women in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

While they have criticized Abbas and his Fatah party for tacitly condoning the violence, including praising “martyrs” who have carried out stabbings, they have avoided accusing the Palestinian leader of inciting it directly.

“The motivation for action is based on feelings of national, economic and personal discrimination,” the Shin Bet wrote in an analysis last month. “For some of the assailants an attack provides an escape from a desperate reality they believe cannot be changed.”

At a cabinet meeting in November, the head of the army’s intelligence division gave a similar description, leading to a row with at least one minister who was angry that the general’s briefing was not in line with the government’s position.

The details were leaked to Israeli media and confirmed to Reuters by a government source who attended the meeting.

Since Oct. 1, when the violence began, 19 Israelis and an American have been killed. Over the same period, Israeli forces have shot dead 97 Palestinians, 58 of whom were identified by Israel as assailants.


As well as differences in identifying the causes, there are gaps in the approach being advocated to quell the situation.

The military, which has occupied the West Bank for 48 years and is minutely involved in maintaining stability, in coordination with Palestinian security forces, is pushing for pinpoint operations that target specific perpetrators.

Senior ministers who sit on Netanyahu’s security cabinet want a heavier toll to be exacted on the Palestinian population, arguing that it is the only effective deterrent.

So far, Netanyahu has shown no inclination to launch a large-scale military operation, despite ramping up deployments in the West Bank by 40 percent and calling up reserve units.

He has also rejected suggestions by Israeli and U.S. officials that he offer concessions to the Palestinians to diffuse tension. Violence has to end first, he says.

Instead, there is a strong presence of Israeli troops and checkpoints across the West Bank, without the sort of iron-fisted tactics that marked the last intifada, although the homes of several attackers have been destroyed.

“This is about taking pinpoint action to tackle specific challenges,” a senior army officer told Reuters, saying operations focused on three particularly unruly areas.

Kobi Michael, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, said the military was trying to ensure that the bulk of the population, which is not involved in violence, is as unaffected as possible.

One example of the balance the military is trying to strike is in Beit Ummar, near Hebron, the most volatile West Bank city. On Friday a 19-year-old from the village, Omar Zaakiek, got into his car and drove into six Israeli soldiers, who shot him dead.

Within hours Netanyahu’s security cabinet announced Beit Ummar would be put under “closure”, with cars barred from entering or exiting, except via a winding back road, and pedestrians having to pass through an Israeli checkpoint.

Locals accused Israel of collective punishment. The mayor said Zaakiek’s family was told their home faced demolition, a tactic the army and Shin Bet have called counterproductive.

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz acknowledged the rift between some ministers and the military and said the latter’s policy of trying to isolate the attackers was flawed.

“It is legitimate to have an argument about distinguishing terrorists from the Palestinian population,” he told Channel 10 TV. “It is completely clear that the more you differentiate, the more your ability to deter is limited.”

So far Netanyahu has headed off the pressure. But the situation remains precarious. Given the complex roots of the violence, Michael said there was no military solution.

“This reality cannot last long,” he said. “Ultimately one side will make a mistake and the situation will spin out of control.”

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Modi-Sharif meeting on the sidelines of the Paris Climate Summit

December 1, 2015

By  Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 1, 2015

The unexpected meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the climate change conference in Paris was reported extensively across media networks in both countries. The brief conversation between the two leaders came after several months of their earlier meeting in Ufa, Russia. Since then, there has been a deadlock over dialogue between India and Pakistan who have had several outstanding issue especially overKashmir. A scheduled meeting between the NSAs of both countries in August was eventually cancelled after India made it clear that no third party could be invited during talks between both countries.

Thus the meeting between the two leaders in Paris, brief as it was, has been seen optimistically by people of India and Pakistan. Here’s how the press in Pakistan reported on the meeting.

Dawn newspaper – Dawn, one of Pakistan’s widely-read English-language newspapers, reported on the Modi-Sharif meeting through the prism of how the two countries saw it. Headlined ‘Sharif meets Modi: ‘exchange of courtesies’ or ‘good talks’?’, the report throws light on whether the leaders had ‘good talks’ (PM Sharif’s version) or else it was just an ‘exchange of courtesies’ (as put by Indian MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup). In a video posted along with the story, the two leaders could be seen sitting on a couch and having a brief exchange of words.


“Although the Indian media, which is present at COP21 in large numbers, went into frenzy over the encounter, an official from the Pakistani delegation later clarified that the Modi-Sharif meeting was more of an ice-breaker than anything else,” the report says.

The Dawn report goes on to quote a Pakistani official saying that the dialogue between the two countries may just have been back on track after their brief conversation between Modi and Sharif.

Express Tribune newspaper – This newspaper has carried a report by the Associated Press of Pakistan, the government-controlled news agency in that country. The report quoted Sharif saying, “It was not possible to talk on everything in such a short time…the Indian prime minister said he wanted to take things forward, I also expressed the same desire.”


The APP report said both leaders had a friendly exchange of conversation and were particularly warm. It further pointed out the significance of the meeting given increased and regular hostilities between the two countries in terms of border skirmishes and breakdown of talks over the Kashmir issue.

The News International newspaper – Another popular daily, The News International also reported on the meeting between Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the climate change conference in Paris. But the report was devoid of any opinion and dwelt plainly on the meeting.


“Both the leaders appeared to be in a friendly mood and there seemed great warmth during their interaction while sitting on the same sofa.Talking to the media persons after the meeting, Nawaz Sharif termed his chat with Narendra Modi positive and said talks were held in a pleasant atmosphere,” the report said.

Geo TV – One of Pakistan’s leading television news channels, Geo TV carried a report on its website titled ‘Nawaz upbeat over talks with Modi at Paris summit’ in which it said the Pakistan premier appeared enthusiastic post the meeting. Although Sharif did not comment on what the two leaders actually spoke about, the report quotes him saying that it was important for both countries to keep positive sentiments for each other.

“During the meeting, PM Modi expressed the desire for cordial ties with Pakistan. ‘We wish to improve the situation in connection with Pakistan,’ Narendra Modi said. PM Nawaz Sharif reciprocated PM Modi’s welcome gesture with these words: ‘Pakistan desires peaceful co-existence with neighbours’,” the report said.

Refugee crisis: Russia and Norway battling to repeatedly reject the same refugees

December 1, 2015
Norway says it has received no ‘satisfactory’ explanation from Russia about why it has sent so many refugees to Norway rather than Finland

By  Samuel Osborne

With refugees from Syria and other warzones taking ever more desperate routes to safety in Europe, the arctic border between Russia and Norway has become an unlikely hot spot in the crisis.

Last week, Norway announced it would immediately reject asylum seekers who had been residing in Russia, resulting in a battle between the two countries to send refugees back and forth.

Migrants wait under outside the Moria registration camp on the Lesbos. Over 400,000 people have landed on Greek islands from neighbouring Turkey since the beginning of the year (AFP)

Norway said it would begin sending refugees who have Russian residency permits back to Russia without processing their asylum requests, arguing Russia was a safe country for them.

At least 4,000 refugees, up from 10 last year, have made a detour through the Arctic to cross the border between Russia and Norway – which is a member of the Schengen agreement even though it is not an EU member.

Norway says it has received no “satisfactory” explanation from Russia about why it has sent so many refugees to Norway rather than Finland, which has received almost none.

Refugees use bicycles to cross the Arctic border, because the Russian border police do not allow on-foot crossings and it is illegal to cross the Norwegian border if the driver does not have the correct papers.

Those arriving back in Norway are being placed in police custody and then sent back to Russia again.

“It is our opinion that Russia is obligated to take back those people whom we are sending back to Russia,” said Joran Kallmyr, a state secretary in the justice ministry, according to The Local.

However, he would not disclose how many refugees would be returned.

“We will continue our dialogue with the Russian governmentand hopefully we will find a common understanding”, Mr Kallmyr added.

Russia Joins China’s Asia-Pacific Land Theft — Moscow building new military bases on islands claimed by Japan — Obama administration looks away

December 1, 2015


Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev walks near a Soviet-era fortifications during his visit to one of the Kuril islands in 2010. Ria Novosti/AFP/File

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia has begun building two modern military compounds on the far eastern Kuril islands, defence minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday, heightening long-running tensions with Japan over the disputed islands.

Russia is “actively carrying out construction of military compounds on the islands of Iturup and Kunashir”, Shoigu said at a meeting with military top brass, according to the ministry’s website.

Relations between Moscow and Tokyo have been strained for decades because of the status of the four southernmost islands in the Kuril chain, known as the Northern Territories in Japan.

Some 19,000 Russians live on the remote rocky islands, occupied by Soviet troops in the dying days of World War II.

The two countries have never officially struck a peace treaty and the lingering tensions over the issue have hampered trade ties for decades.

The Russian ministry said the new military buildings would help “raise the combat readiness of troops on the eastern frontiers of Russia.”

Altogether, Russia plans to put up 392 pre-fabricated buildings on the islands, including schools, kindergartens, leisure centres and dormitories, with construction work continuing through the winter.

“This year, the priority is finishing the most essential buildings and the engineering infrastructure” to receive troops and equipment, Shoigu said.

In September Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited the island of Iturup and surveyed troops there, angering Japan.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has ruled out any compromise on the islands, telling his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in September that Tokyo must acknowledge “the postwar historical realities.”

Russia has recently poured in investments to the region and reconstructed the Japanese-built airport on Kunashir.



China retains control of dozens for South China Sea islands claimed mostly by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and others….


A long term strategic game is being played out between the United States and Russia in the Asia Pacific, with China at the nexus. (Photoby Alexei Druzhinin) 

Belgium Terror Police Under Fire From Britain, Other Police Over Molenbeek Oversight, Deadly Bomb-Making Chemicals

December 1, 2015

Belgian police failed to secure a property during a terror raid despite it containing a selection of deadly bomb-making chemicals and equipment.

British intelligence experts have questioned why the Belgian authorities allowed several bottles of suspicious chemicals in the flat in the notorious Molenbeek suburb despite the ongoing high profile search for terrorists connected to the deadly ISIS attacks in Paris.

Seven terrorists carried out the series of suicide bomb attacks and drive-by shootings at cafes, restaurants and the Stade de France as well as massacring 86 people at the Bataclan theatre.

Scroll down for video:

Police stand guard after securing the perimeter near a property in the Molenbeek district of Brussels, Belgium

Police stand guard after securing the perimeter near a property in the Molenbeek district of Brussels, Belgium

Bottles of chemicals, including fertiliser and weedkiller were discovered alongside other suspicious items in the one bedroom flat in Molenbeek but weren’t removed following terror raid.

The owner was briefly detained but released the following day after the raid.

The Belgium prosecutor Eric Van der Syptinsisted that ‘if there was something suspicious there the man would be in jail,’ according to the Telegraph.

Some British intelligence experts have questioned the decision to release the flat’s owner, considering the selection of suspicious products found inside the property.

16 arrested in Belgium during raids targeting extremists
Questions remain why Belgian police left the suspicious chemicals inside the flat following terror raid

Questions remain why Belgian police left the suspicious chemicals inside the flat following terror raid

Fertiliser and weedkiller were among the potential bomb-making ingredients found inside the one bedroom flat

Fertiliser and weedkiller were among the potential bomb-making ingredients found inside the one bedroom flat

Following the deadly Paris attacks, police tracked the terror cell to properties across the border in Belgium

Following the deadly Paris attacks, police tracked the terror cell to properties across the border in Belgium

Bomb disposal expert Dave Welch, of Ramora security firm, told the Telegraph his reasons for concern.

‘The question is does this person need these items, have they got a garden? No, it is a flat. Is the flat full of really nice flowers – no.

 Is this is a person who takes really good care of the PH of the soil making sure that things can grow properly – no, there are no plants. So you have to ask why have they got them?’ he explained.

Five of the suspicious bottles of chemicals were left at the flat after the police raid.

French and Belgian security services continue to search for Europe’s most wanted man Salah Abdeslam.

Salah, the eight gunman in the Paris attacks, dumped his suicide vest in a bin and has been on the run since November 13.

Police are also searching for a second man, Mohammed Abrini, who was caught on CCTV, buying snacks at a petrol station.

It is thought Abrini was the man who drove Salah Abdeslam to the border to Belgium, where the two men and a third unidentified assailant were briefly questioned by police.

However the police failed to detain the wanted men and allowed Abdeslam and Abrini to pass without complaint.

French and Belgian security services continue to search for Europe's most wanted man Salah Abdeslam

French and Belgian security services continue to search for Europe’s most wanted man Salah Abdeslam

Police are also searching for a second man, Mohammed Abrini, who was caught on CCTV, buying snacks at a petrol station

Police are also searching for a second man, Mohammed Abrini, who was caught on CCTV, buying snacks at a petrol station

It is thought Abrini was the man who drove Salah Abdeslam to the border to Belgium, where the two men and a third unidentified assailant were briefly questioned by police

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Japan’s whaling fleet departs for hunt despite international outrage

December 1, 2015


Families of crew members wave as Japanese whaling vessel Yushin Maru leaves for the Antarctic Ocean at a port in Shimonoseki, southwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo December 1, 2015. Mandatory credit. REUTERS/KYODO

SHIMONOSEKI —Japan’s whaling fleet set out for the Antarctic on Tuesday to resume a hunt for the mammals after a year-long hiatus, prompting criticism from Australia as well as key ally, the United States.

Japan aims to take more than 300 whales before the hunt ends next year and nearly 4,000 over the next 12 years as part of a scientific program to research the whales.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled last year that Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean should stop and an International Whaling Commission (IWC) panel said in April that Japan had yet to demonstrate a need for killing whales.

But Tokyo retooled its plan for the 2015/16 season to cut the number of minke whales it intends to take to 333, down by two-thirds from previous hunts.

“Last year, regrettably, the ICJ made its ruling and we were unable to take whales,” said Tomoaki Nakao, the mayor of the western city of Shimonoseki that is home to the whaling fleet and part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s election district.

“There’s nothing as happy as this day,” he told the fleet’s crew at a ceremony prior to their departure.

Shortly before noon the ships sailed away under a clear blue sky, with family members and officials waving from the shore. The hunt is expected to last until March.

Japan, which has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its food culture, began what it calls “scientific whaling” in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect.

The meat ends up on store shelves, although most Japanese no longer eat it.

Officials, including Abe, have long said their ultimate goal is the resumption of commercial whaling – a pledge Abe repeated in a message read at the pre-departure ceremony.

Australia and key Japanese ally the United States both opposed the hunt.

“We believe that all of Japan’s primary research objectives can be met through non-lethal activities and continue to oppose their scientific whaling programs,” said Russell F. Smith, the U.S. commissioner to the IWC.

Environmental activists also condemned the move.

“It is completely unacceptable for the Japanese government to ignore the International Court of Justice,” said Junichi Sato, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, in a statement.

“This is not ‘scientific research,’ this is straight up commercial whaling.”

Climate change still not an important issue for most American voters — Economy, jobs, terrorism most decisive issues

December 1, 2015

There are signs that most Americans are sympathetic to the goals of the climate change talks in Paris, but the issue probably won’t influence their 2016 vote.

Christian Science Monitor

President Obama (l.) shares a joke with French President François Hollande (r.) as Mr. Obama is in Paris for a two-day visit to the United Nations’ climate change conference.

Facing the prospect of a historic agreement at international climate change talks that formally began Monday in Paris, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R) of California had a message: We’re not paying for it.

The statement that the Republican-led House would block funds for a potential post-Paris climate plan was a clear reminder that little has changed in the American politics of climate change.

There are small signs of movement. Most of the 2016 candidates in both parties have said they believe climate change is real – though some Republicans question whether human activity is responsible for it. That’s a marked shift from previous elections, in particular 2012, when both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney almost completely avoided the subject.

But in general, climate change is not seen as a winning issue politically. While a New York Times/CBS News poll released on Monday found that two-thirds of Americans support the United States joining a binding international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it’s a low priority.

A Gallup poll from early August found that only 3 percent of respondents said “Environment/Pollution” was the most important problem facing the country. As a result, partisan divides will likely keep the climate debate to a peripheral wedge issue in the upcoming election.

“If you ask people if they think climate change is an important issue they’ll say yes, but if you think of it comparatively to other important issues it kind of falls to the wayside,” says Geoffrey Skelley, a spokesman for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

While it might be a “net plus” for candidates to broadly support the issue, given public sentiment, “it’s not as important to Americans right now as the bread-and-butter issues,” adds Geoffrey Feinberg, research director at the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

“I don’t think it’ll be a pivotal issue,” he adds. “As in all past elections the economy, jobs, maybe now terrorism, these things will continue to be the most important issues.”

The Times/CBS poll shows that a slim majority of Republicans are opposed to a climate deal, and the dynamics of the presidential primary season make that opposition important.

“Even if the poll suggests that some Republicans are more concerned about climate change, that doesn’t mean the people picking the next GOP nominee will be,” Mr. Skelley adds in an e-mail to the Monitor.

Come the general election, the dynamics could shift again, with Democrats attacking the Republican nominee, who will most likely reject the interventionist climate policy that President Obama has now cemented in his legacy.

“Democrats will try to use it,” says Skelley, “but as a broad issue that will decide the election, or play a role in deciding the election, that seems unlikely.”

The Paris talks could figure into the calculus, however, says Mr. Feinberg.

“I think there will be an agreement, and once there is an agreement that’s going to shift the tone,” he adds. “When every country gets on the same page that’s just another piece of evidence that this is something to be taken seriously.”

Advocates for climate change action suggest that time is on their side. They say that the climate will continue to change with predicted effects – from droughts and heat waves to extreme flooding and sea level rise – and that will raise the political importance of the issue.

“One of the fundamental problems with climate change is it’s created everywhere and the impact is in the future,” says Steve Cohen, executive director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. “Our [political] system is not geared to those issues, it’s geared to local issues that you can see, touch, and smell.”

But “people are starting to pay more attention,” and that will “be reflected in the politics of the next 20 years,” he says.

For his part, Representative McCarthy says climate pacts aren’t “the best use of our money” and argues that transitioning to natural gas is a better way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A Pew poll in June suggests that Millennials are more concerned about climate issues than older generations – though other surveys challenge that assertion.

Dr. Cohen at Columbia University likens the potential impact to what has occurred with the gay marriage debate in recent years, which appears to have been driven in large part by generational change.

“It had nothing to do with political parties. It had to do with everyone in society, as gay people came out of the closet, realizing they knew somebody [who was gay], and that it’s not the issue they thought it was,” he adds. “I think we’re going to see similar things with climate change.”

Chinese military base in Djibouti necessary to protect key trade routes linking Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe

December 1, 2015

South China Morning Post,

Concerns over the Chinese naval presence in tiny African country are unfounded as the intention is to safeguard vital trade routes for all

A navy soldier of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) stands guard as Chinese citizens board the naval ship “Linyi” at a port in Aden. Photo: Reuters

China is being coy about the navy installation it is setting up in the East African country of Djibouti, referring to it simply as a resupplying position for its ships participating in United Nations anti-piracy missions. But whether it is to be called an outpost, a base or some other term, there is no escaping the symbolism and meaning. The historic role of the Chinese military has been to protect borders and territory, yet the Horn of Africa nation is more than 7,700km from Beijing. To rivals like the United States and Japan, such a facility could readily be viewed through the lens of hegemonic intentions.

President Xi Jinping (習近平 ) has made no secret of his plans for the People’s Liberation Army. In a speech to senior military officers last week outlining a restructuring of operations, he said he wanted to “build a robust national defence and a strong military that corresponds to our country’s international stature and is adapted to our national security and developmental interests”. A white paper earlier this year outlined ambitions for China to become a global maritime power.

Djibouti, adjacent to waters through which billions of dollars in Chinese trade and resources pass and on a continent where there is no greater trading partner and investor, is an ideal location to pioneer such aspirations.

Djibouti, a poor country of 900,000, gets a sizeable income from renting military bases. The country’s strategic location, near sea lanes between Asia and the Middle East and Europe, and close to hotspots for piracy and Muslim extremism, makes it ideal for locating security forces.

The US, France and Japan already have naval outposts there. Given China’s “One Belt, One Road” plans, its investments and vast trade networks in Africa and need for oil from the Middle East, basing protective military forces in the nation makes pragmatic sense.

Beijing has won praise for the navy’s anti-piracy efforts in the Indian Ocean and it has pledged to help with international peace and security measures. It has well-established ties with Djibouti through billions of dollars of investment in its port and construction of a rail line to neighbouring Ethiopia.

The greater China’s rise, the more its interests and people will spread; one million Chinese have moved to Africa to live and work over the past decade. No matter what the vantage point, China’s establishment of its first military base on foreign soil, in Djibouti, is as desirable as it is necessary.

Germany to send 1,200 troops to fight Islamic State — David Cameron reveals motion for UK Syria vote on Wednesday

December 1, 2015

Cabinet approves plans to commit up to 1,200 soldiers to support the international coalition fighting against the Islamic State group in Syria


The German cabinet on Tuesday approved a mandate offering military assistance to back the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group.

The package, which still requires parliamentary approval, covers Tornado reconnaissance jets, a naval frigate and up to 1,200 troops following a request from France in the wake of deadly jihadist attacks in Paris last month.

“The German contribution serves the fight against terrorism under the auspices of the alliance against IS and is aimed at supporting in particular France, Iraq and the international alliance in its fight against IS,” according to a copy of the mandate obtained by AFP.

The mandate is for one year at a cost of €134 million (£100 million) and can be extended next year.

By providing for up to 1,200 soldiers for aerial reconnaissance and support, it would be the largest Bundeswehr mission, following a drawdown in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier acknowledged ahead of the cabinet vote that it could be a protracted fight.

“We are doing what is militarily necessary, what we can do best, and what we can back politically,” Steinmeier told the daily Bild.

“We need patience against an enemy like IS.”

No date has been set for the parliamentary vote but approval is considered virtually guaranteed as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “grand coalition” government has an overwhelming majority.

Germany is to send an unspecified number of Tornado aircraft fitted with surveillance technology that can take high-resolution photos and infrared images, even at night and in bad weather, and transmit them in real time to ground stations.

A German frigate could help protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean, from which fighter jets are carrying out bombing runs, and the tanker aircraft could refuel them mid-air to extend their range, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said last week.




Corbyn allies ‘bully’ Labour MPs by claiming those who back air strikes are ‘killing babies’

Jeremy Corbyn and his allies are being accused of conducting a “systematic effort to bully” Labour MPs into opposing war as his office makes a desperate bid to reduce the number of ministers and backbenchers preparing to back David Cameron.

Hard-left campaigners are sending moderate Labour MPs “aggressive and intimidatory” emails warning that backing air strikes will mean they are “killing babies”.

It came after Clive Lewis, a shadow energy minister, to warn MPs that a vote for bombing will lead to more terrorist attacks and that it would be their “fault”.

One MP said: “Corbyn’s office is making a last-ditch attempt to bully and threaten Labour MPs. He is using friendly ministers as well as his friends in Momentum. Some backbenchers are worried that they are signing their own de-selection papers by voting for war.”


Cabinet ‘unanimous’ in backing Syria air strikes

Ben Riley-Smith, our political correspondent, reports

David Cameron has tabled the motion for Syrian air strikes after his Cabinet gave their “unanimous” support for military action this morning.

More than 20 people round the cabinet table spoke out in favour of bombing during an hour-long meeting described as “very serious” by Number 10.

The Prime Minister begun the meeting saying Britain must act to counter Isil’s threat to the country. He stressed that the UK would work with Middle Eastern allies, was “clear” on the “complexities” involved and said bombing was part of a “wider strategy” which included diplomatic talks.

He was followed by Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, who talked about the political process for peace, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, who discussed national security, and Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, who detailed Britain’s military capabilities.

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond arrives at Downing Street for a cabinet meeting on December 1, 2015 in London

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond arrives at Downing Street for a cabinet meeting   Photo: 2015 Getty Images

Cabinet ministers were also given the “legal basis for action” by the Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General, and details about the humanitarian position in Syria and reconstruction by Justine Greening, the International Development secretary.

The Prime Mininster’s official spokesman said there had been “clear support” for military action and that the Cabinet was “unanimous” in its backing.

“It was a very serious discussion about the nature of the threat we face and the need to take action,” the spokesman said.


David Davis: Strict rules for drone strikes needed

Kate McCann, our senior political correspondent, reports

David Davis MP held a debate this morning on drone strikes and rules of engagement.

Opening the discussion Mr Davis, a Conservative MP who does not back air strikes in Syria, called for strict operational rules for drone strikes.

He warned: “If we don’t abide by a high moral standard then we lose one battle straight away to our opponents”.

David Davis MP

David Davis MP  Photo: PAUL GROVER

Kevan Jones, Labour’s defence minister, said he is “confident” that there is a strong legal framework in place to govern the use of drones in Iraq and Syria but he called on the Ministry of Defence to do more to explain how decisions about air strikes using drones are carried out because of “misinformation and ignorance” about how decisions are made.

He added that “a new set of laws or a new set of how we actually look at rules of engagement” would be needed if technology advances to change the way drones operate and how strikes are carried out.

His comments followed MPs who expressed concern that drones, which are remotely operated by military personnel at the moment, could operate independently in the future.

Responding to the debate Penny Mordaunt, the defence minister, said the world is moving away from “state on state” conflict and “moving into very different territory… and that’s becoming the norm”.

Penny Mordaunt in Downing Street

Penny Mordaunt in Downing Street  Photo: Geoff Pugh/The Telegraph

Ms Mordaunt said the current rules of engagement governing the use of drones are “sufficient” but these will be updated next year. They were first published in 2011.

She added that the government will not put the rules of engagement into the public domain because it would “give our opponents a considerable advantage”.

There will not be an inquest into the killing of British citizen Mohammed Emwazi, or Jihadi John, who was killed by a drone strike, the minister added.


Cameron urges MPs to back air strikes

David Cameron urged MPs from all parties – including Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour – to back his call for military action against Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

The Prime Minister said a motion that the Commons will vote on on Wednesday has military action against IS – also known as Isil – as part of a “broader strategy” for the region.

With Mr Corbyn opposed to the extension of the bombing campaign from Iraq into neighbouring Syria and the prospect of a small rebellion on the Tory benches, Mr Cameron needs the backing of Labour MPs at odds with their leader to guarantee success in the vote.

David Cameron stands on the doorway of 10 Downing Street, December 1, 2015

David Cameron stands on the doorway of 10 Downing Street  Photo: EPA

Speaking from Downing Street he said: “I will be making the arguments and I hope as many Members of Parliament – across all parties – will support me as possible.

“We had a meeting of the Cabinet this morning and have agreed the motion that will be put in front of the House of Commons.

“That motion talks about, yes, the necessity of taking military action agains Isil in Syria as well as Iraq, but it is part of a broader strategy.

“It’s about politics and diplomacy and humanitarian aid, all of which we need to bring to bear to bring peace to Syria but to make sure we protect our national interest of fighting against this appalling terrorist organisation.”

A spokesman for Mr Cameron has now released the motion which will be put before MPs tomorrow:

QuoteThat this House notes that ISIL poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom; welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that ISIL constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to ‘eradicated the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’; further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter; notes that military action against ISIL is only one component of a broader strategy to bring peace and stability to Syria; welcomes the renewed impetus behind the Vienna talks on a ceasefire and political settlement; welcomes the Government’s continued determination to cut ISIL’s sources of finance, fighters and weapons; notes the requests from France, the US and regional allies for UK military assistance; acknowledge the important of seeking to avoid civilian casualties, using the YK’s particular capabilities; notes the Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide quarterly progress reports to the House; and accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria and offers its wholehearted support to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.


Corbyn warns his MPs to think carefully

Jeremy Corbyn has warned his MPs to think “very carefully” before they vote to support air strikes.

He said that they should remember how the Iraq vote in 2003 damaged the Labour party.

Mr Corbyn also said that the change in public opinion in the last week has been “palpable”.

He added that reports suggest that more Labour MPs are becoming sceptical about the Government’s proposals.

See More:

Al-Qaeda warns Saudi authorities against executing jihadists on death row

December 1, 2015


Most Saudi executions are carried out by beheading with a sword, punishment which the interior ministry says is a deterrent. AFP/File

DUBAI (AFP) – Al-Qaeda warned Saudi authorities on Tuesday against executing jihadists on death row in the kingdom following reports that dozens of executions are imminent.”We have heard of executions that the government of Al-Saud intends to implement against mujahedeen brothers held captive. We vow to sacrifice our own blood to save theirs,” Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said in a statement posted online.

“Their blood will not dry up before the blood of Al-Saud soldiers is shed,” warned the statement. “We shall not rest until we slit the throats of Al-Saud rulers.”

Amnesty International last week cited Saudi newspapers as reporting that up to 55 people, including Al-Qaeda militants, were to be executed “in the next few days”.

AQAP was formed in 2009 through the merger of the jihadist network’s Saudi and Yemeni branches, as militants fled the kingdom for its lawless neighbour following a crackdown by Saudi authorities.

Al-Qaeda waged a campaign of shooting and bombings against foreigners and security personnel in Saudi Arabia between 2003 and 2006.

Washington considers AQAP its most dangerous affiliate and has carried out a long-running drone war against its leaders in Yemen.


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