Syrian civil war looking more like proxy war between U.S., Russia

October 13, 2015

Updated 9:12 AM ET, Tue October 13, 2015

(CNN)  The Syrian civil war is looking more like a proxy war between the United States and Russia, with each side fueling the conflict with more firepower.

In the latest maneuver, the U.S. sent 50 tons of ammunition to rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad and four decades of his family’s rule.

That came after Russia went to the aid of Assad, saying it’s targeting ISIS but launching airstrikes on rebel-controlled areas.

There’s a lot at stake in Syria. More civilians getting killed every day. Millions of refugees fleeing to other countries. And the threat of ISIS setting up even more terror hotbeds in the volatile country.

Two mortar rounds hit near the Russian embassy in Syria’s capital during a pro-Russian rally Tuesday, the Russian state-run news agency Sputnik International reported.

It was not immediately clear if there were any injuries.

The Syrian state-run news agency SANA said Tuesday’s rally outside the embassy was a show of support by Syrian citizens “expressing their thanks for Russia’s seriousness in fighting terrorism.”

Here’s what the broader situation looks like now:

U.S. gives rebels tons of ammo

This week, U.S. military cargo planes gave 50 tons of ammunition to rebel groups in northern Syria, using an air drop of 112 pallets.

C-17s, accompanied by fighter escort aircraft, dropped small arms ammunition and other items like hand grenades in Hasakah province in northern Syria to a coalition of rebels groups vetted by the U.S., known as the Syrian Arab Coalition.

All pallets successfully were recovered by friendly forces, a U.S. official said.

U.S. attempt to train rebels falls apart

The United States launched a $500 million program to train an equip Syrian rebels — but doesn’t have much to show for it.

“That was a complete and total failure for a plethora of reasons,” said CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon, who has reported several times from Syria.

“The U.S. was effectively dictating to these fighters, telling them they only wanted them to focus on the fight against ISIS. Whereas you speak to any Syrian, and they will tell you that they want to get rid of ISIS, yes, but they also want to be able to focus on the Syrian regime.”

This summer, Defense Secretary Ash Carter admitted the U.S. had only trained about 60 rebel fighters.

The low numbers are blamed on a strict vetting process that includes ensuring the fighters are committed to combat ISIS, as opposed to the Assad regime, and passing a counter-intelligence screening.

The Defense Department announced Friday it will suspend the rebel training program.

Russia tries to bolster Assad with airstrikes

Russia surprised the world two weeks ago when it launched its first airstrikes in Syria. Russian officials said they were coordinating with Assad and targeting ISIS and other terrorists.

“Our task is to stabilize the legitimate government and to create conditions for a political compromise … by military means, of course,” President Vladimir Putin told the state-run Russia 24 TV.

But after more than 100 airstrikes later, analysts have said Russia’s focus clearly isn’t on ISIS targets, but rather Syrian rebels seeking Assad’s ouster.

EU: Russian airstrikes must end

The European Union Foreign Affairs Council isn’t buying Russia’s claims that ISIS is its primary target in Syria.

“The recent Russian military attacks that go beyond Dae’sh and other UN-designated terrorist groups, as well as on the moderate opposition, are of deep concern, and must cease immediately,” the group said, referring to another name for ISIS.

“The EU condemns the excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks that the Syrian regime continues to commit against its own people. The Assad regime bears the greatest responsibility for the 250.000 deaths of the conflict and the millions of displaced people.”

Opposition: Syrian regime warns residents of ‘crushing blows’

Assad’s regime has been dropping leaflets from helicopters in Idlib province, telling residents to go to government checkpoints unarmed because their neighborhoods will be pummeled, an opposition group said.

“It is allowed for the holder of this card to cross the Army’s checkpoints safely, the Syrian Army is going to offer the food and medical assistance for the holders of this card, cooperate with the Syrian Army, leave the areas that witness clashes for your safety,” the fliers said, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The leaflets also included warnings from the regime forces that they are going to shell the area, and that the fighters and people must leave the area report to regime forces.

“Crushing blows are going to be carried out against this region,” one flier states.

“When you get close to the Syrian Army’s checkpoints, be sure that you do not carry any kind of weapons, carry your personal identities and your necessary needs with you. … When you approach to the army’s checkpoint walk in the open road and lift up this card or a white cloth.”



Russian air strikes in Syria could cause a new refugee crisis, Turkish PM says

October 13, 2015


More refugees will flee Syria fearing the regime’s growing strength because of Russian air strikes, says Ahmet Davutoglu

A Russian Su-24M dropping bombs during an airstrike in Syria

A Russian Su-24M dropping bombs during an airstrike in Syria Photo: AFP

Turkey warns U.S., Russia against backing Kurdish militia in Syria — “We will not tolerate Kurdish territorial gains”

October 13, 2015


Tue Oct 13, 2015 7:38 am EDT

Turkey has warned the United States and Russia it will not tolerate Kurdish territorial gains by Kurdish militia close to its frontiers in north-western Syria, two senior officials said.

“This is clear cut for us and there is no joking about it,” one official said of the possibility of Syrian Kurdish militia crossing the Euphrates to extend control along Turkish borders from Iraq’s Kurdistan region towards the Mediterranean coast.

Turkey fears advances by Kurdish YPG militia, backed by its PYD political wing, on the Syrian side of its 900 km (560-mile) border will fuel separatist ambitions among Kurds in its own southeastern territories. But Washington has supported YPG fighters as an effective force in combating Islamic State.

 Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters take up positions around the town of Gwer in northern Iraq on Sept. 18. The Kurdish militia is aligned with the U.S. in the battle against the Islamic State.

Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters take up positions around the town of Gwer in northern Iraq on Sept. 18.  Mohamed Messara EPA/Landov

“The PYD has been getting closer with both the United States and Russia of late. We view the PYD as a terrorist group and we want all countries to consider the consequences of their cooperation,” one of the Turkish officials said.

Turkey suspects Russia, which launched air strikes in Syria two weeks ago, has also been lending support to the YPG and PYD.

“With support from Russia, the PYD is trying to capture land between Jarablus and Azaz, going west of the Euphrates. We will never accept this,” the official said.

He said Turkey had raised its concerns at high level meetings with the U.S., European Union and Russia.


The officials did not say what action, if any, Turkey might take if YPG forces crossed the Euphrates. Ankara has carried out air strikes against Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels based in the mountains of northern Iraq; but attacks on Kurds in Syria would be far riskier, bringing Ankara into possible conflict both with U.S. and Russian air forces.

The YPG said on Monday it had joined forces with Arab rebels and that their new alliance has been promised fresh weapon supplies by the United States for an assault on Islamic State forces in what is effectively their capital, Raqqa.

Turkey has accused the Kurdish militia of pursuing “demographic change” in northernSyria by forcibly displacing Turkmen and Arab communities. Ankara fears ultimately the creation of an independent Kurdish state occupying contiguous territories currently belonging to Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

Amnesty International on Tuesday accused the YPG, which has seized swathes of northern Syria from Islamic State this year, of committing war crimes by driving out thousands of non-Kurdish civilians and destroying their homes.

The Kurds, who have emerged as the U.S.-led coalition’s most capable partner in Syriaagainst Islamic State on the ground, deny such accusations. They say those who left areas they seized did so to escape fighting and are welcome to return.

Over 40,000 people have been killed in a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey since 1984. The collapse of a ceasefire in July has brought a sharp increase in conflict between security forces and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters.

(Additional reporting by Akin Aytekin in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; editing by Ralph Boulton)

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October 13, 2015

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 469

Art: The Great Day of His Wrath 1851–3 by John Martin

Reading 1 ROM 2:1-11

You, O man, are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment.
For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself,
since you, the judge, do the very same things.
We know that the judgment of God on those who do such things is true.
Do you suppose, then, you who judge those who engage in such things
and yet do them yourself,
that you will escape the judgment of God?
Or do you hold his priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience
in low esteem, unaware that the kindness of God
would lead you to repentance?
By your stubbornness and impenitent heart,
you are storing up wrath for yourself
for the day of wrath and revelation
of the just judgment of God,
who will repay everyone according to his works,
eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality
through perseverance in good works,
but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth
and obey wickedness.
Yes, affliction and distress will come upon everyone
who does evil, Jew first and then Greek.
But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone
who does good, Jew first and then Greek.
There is no partiality with God.

Responsorial Psalm PS 62:2-3, 6-7, 9

R. (13b) Lord, you give back to everyone according to his works.
Only in God is my soul at rest;
from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all.
R. Lord, you give back to everyone according to his works.
Only in God be at rest, my soul,
for from him comes my hope.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed.
R. Lord, you give back to everyone according to his works.
Trust in him at all times, O my people!
Pour out your hearts before him;
God is our refuge!
R. Lord, you give back to everyone according to his works.

Alleluia JN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 11:42-46

The Lord said:
“Woe to you Pharisees!
You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb,
but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.
These you should have done, without overlooking the others.
Woe to you Pharisees!
You love the seat of honor in synagogues
and greetings in marketplaces.
Woe to you!
You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply,
“Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.”
And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law!
You impose on people burdens hard to carry,
but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”

Homily for Luke 11:42-46

Meditation: Why does Jesus single out the teachers and lawyers for some rather strong words of rebuke?  The word woe can also be translated asalas.  It is as much an expression of sorrowful pity as it is of anger.  Why did Jesus lament and issue such a stern rebuke? Jesus was angry with the religious leaders because they failed to listen to God’s word and they misled the people they were supposed to guide in the ways of God. The scribes devoted their lives to the study of the Law of God and regarded themselves as  legal experts in it.  They divided the ten commandments and precepts into thousands of tiny rules and regulations.  They were so exacting in their interpretations and in trying to live them out, that they had little time for anything else.  By the time they finished compiling their interpretations it took no less than fifty volumes to contain them!  In their misguided zeal, they required unnecessary and burdensome rules which obscured the more important matters of religion, such as love of God and love of neighbor. They were leading people to Pharisaism rather than to God.

Jesus used the example of tithing to show how far they had missed the mark. God had commanded a tithe of the first fruits of one’s labor as an expression of thanksgiving and honor for his providential care for his people (Deut. 14:22; Lev. 27:30).  The scribes, however, went to extreme lengths to tithe on insignificant things (such as tiny plants) with great mathematical accuracy.  They were very attentive to minute matters of little importance, but they neglected to care for the needy and the weak.  Jesus admonished them because their hearts were not right.  They were filled with pride and contempt for others. They put unnecessary burdens on others while neglecting to show charity, especially to the weak and the poor.  They meticulously went through the correct motions of conventional religion while forgetting the realities.

Why does Jesus also compare them with “unmarked graves”?  According to Numbers 19:16, contact with a grave made a person ritually unclean for seven days.  Those who come into contact with the Pharisees and listen to their teaching are likewise defiled by their false doctrine. They infect others with wrong ideas of God and of his demands.  Since the Pharisees are “unmarked”, other people do not recognize the decay within and do not realize the danger of spiritual contamination.  The Pharisees must have taken Jesus’ accusation as a double insult: They are not only spiritually unclean themselves because they reject the word of God, but they also contaminate others with their dangerous “leaven” as well (see Luke 12:1).

What was the point of Jesus’ lesson? The essence of God’s commandments is love — love of God and love of neighbor.  God is love and everything he does flows from his love for us.  Love is sacrificial; it both embraces and lifts the burdens of others.  Do you allow the love of God to transform your mind and heart? And are you willing to carry your neighbor’s burden?

“Lord, inflame my heart with your love that I may always pursue what matters most — love of God and love of neighbor.  Give me wisdom and courage to act with justice, kindness, and mercy in all that I do and say.”

Lectio Divina from the Carmelites


• In today’s Gospel the conflictive relation between Jesus and the religious authority of the time continues. Today in the church we have the same conflict. In a determinate diocese the Bishop convoked the poor to participate actively. They accepted the request and numerous began to participate. A great conflict arose. The rich said that they had been excluded and some priests began to say: “the Bishop is doing politics and forgets the Gospel”.


• Luke 11, 42: Alas for you who do not think of justice and love. “Alas for you, Pharisees, because your pay your tithe of mint and rue and all sorts of garden herbs and neglect justice and the love of God. These you should have practiced without neglecting the others”. This criticism of Jesus against the religious heads of the time can be repeated against many religious heads of the following centuries, even up until now. Many times, in the name of God, we insist on details and we forget justice and love. For example, Jansenism rendered arid the living out of faith, insisting on observance and penance and leading people away from the path of love. Saint Theresa of Lisieux, the Carmelite Sister grew in a Jansenistic environment which marked France at the end of the XIX century. After a painful personal experience, she knew how to recover the gratuity of the Love of God with the force which has to animate the observance of the norms from within; because, without the experience of love, observance makes an idol of God.


The final observation of Jesus said: “You should practice this, without neglecting the others”. This observation recalls another observation of Jesus which serves as a comment: “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. In truth I tell you, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, is to disappear from the Law until all its purpose is achieved. Therefore, anyone who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but the person who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you, if your uprightness does not surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5,17-20).


• Luke 11, 43: Alas for you, because you like to take the seats of honour. “Alas for you, Pharisees, because you like to take the seats of honour in the Synagogues and to be greeted respectfully in the market squares”. Jesus calls the attention of the disciples on the hypocritical behaviour of some Pharisees. They like to go around the squares with long tunics, and receive the greetings of the people, to occupy the first seats in the synagogues and the seats of honour in the banquets (cf. Mt 6, 5; 23, 5-7). Mark says that they lied to enter into the houses of the widows to recite long prayers in exchange for some money. Such persons will be judged very severely (Mk 12, 38-40). This also happens today in the Church.


• Luke 11, 44: Alas for you, unmarked tombs. “Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees, because you are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of corruption” (Mt 23,27-28). The image of “whitewashed tombs” speaks of itself and does not need any comments. Through this image, Jesus condemns a fictitious appearance of persons who are correct, but interiorly there is the complete negation of what they ant to appear to be on the outside. Luke speaks about unmarked tombs: Alas for you, because you are like those unmarked tombs that people walked on without knowing it. “. Anyone who walks on or touches a tomb becomes impure, even if the tomb is hidden under the ground. This image is very strong: on the outside the Pharisee seems to be just and good, but this aspect is deceitful because inside there is a hidden tomb, that without people being aware spreads a poison that kills, communicates a mentality that leads people away from God , suggests an erroneous understanding of the Good News of the Kingdom. It is an ideology which makes of God a dead idol.


• Luke 11, 45-46: Criticism of the Doctors of the Law and response of Jesus: A lawyer then spoke up and said: “Master, when you speak like this you insult us too!” In his response Jesus does not turn back, rather he shows clearly that the same criticism is also for the Scribes: “Alas for you lawyers as well , because you load on people burdens that are unbearable, burdens that you yourselves do not touch with your fingertips!” In the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus expresses the same criticism which serves as a comment: “The Scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore, do and observe what they tell you, but do not be guided by what they do , since they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them?” (Mt 23, 2-4).


Personal questions


• Hypocrisy maintains an appearance which deceives. Up to what point does my hypocrisy reach? How far does the hypocrisy of our Church go?

• Jesus criticized the Scribes who insisted in the disciplinary observance of the minute points of the law, as for example the to pay the tithe of mint and rue and all forts of garden herbs and forget the objective of the Law which is the practice of justice and the love. Can this criticism also apply to me?


Concluding prayer


How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked
and does not take a stand in the path that sinners tread,
nor a seat in company with cynics,
but who delights in the law of Yahweh
and murmurs his law day and night. (Ps 1,1-2)




Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
From Peace and Freedom

I “met” in my reading and study Saint Albert the Great.

Saint Albert the Great (born about 1200, died at the age of 87) was considered the greatest mind, the greatest thinker and the most learned man of his time and perhaps of all time. He is considered by many as “a man for the ages.”

Before he died, Albert suffered some form of dementia as all his contemporaries and biographers report. Many note that he gracefully faced his physical and mental decline and that he exemplified the teaching of Jesus as reported in Matthew 18 “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

That said, Albert apparently retained until the end the ability to say Mass, recite from memory scripture, and to cite the teachings of Aristotle.

Many think Albert hear what Jesus said to Martha: “Just remember the one thing.”

He also famously said near the end, “Albert was once here, but he is here no longer.”

I did the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola and the Twelve Steps. I even went on spiritual retreats.

Because nobody, not even me, knew what would work for me, I just did what others told me: and what the famous Fathers and Mothers, Sisters and Brothers of the Church did and wrote about.

I read, as others suggested,  from the Quran  and about Buddhism.  I even read  Dr. Israr Ahmed & Dr. Zakir Naik who found Buddha in the Quran.

I became a “seeker.”

So what did I learn? To trust in God and ask for help.

So what do I have to fear?

As we got deeper and deeper into the great men and women of faith: guess what?

“Something happened to John.”

People began to tell me or comment to my wife, “Something happened to John.”

I also went to Catholic Mass and Holy Communion for several years on a daily basis.

And “Something happened to John.”

I decided, just because God seemed to be pulling me in this direction, to go to visit and assist people suffering pain, distress, disease.

And “Something happened to John.”

Now, not everyone is so fortunate to have this experience. But we all discover God on His Terms and not our own.

All we need is an open mind, a desire and an ability to listen and learn, and a dedication to always seek God’s will for us.

I needed to surrender to the Will of God. And I needed to accept what He was trying to teach me.

And The Antidote to Fear — Becomes Faith.

Daily I say this prayer:

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!

I do what I can with the time, talent and tools God Gives Me. And I leave the results Up To His Capable Hands.

Try it.

I am sure, If you surrender to His will (and not your own): Faith Will Become Your Antidote To Fear!

If you surrender to His will…


“You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.”

‘One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that is prayer. “

“Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end . . . and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal.”

“Pain is never permanent.”

“Truth suffers, but never dies.”

“I am afraid that if we begin to put our trust in human help, some of our Divine help will fail us.”

“Our greatest gain is to lose the wealth that is of such brief duration and, by comparison with eternal things, of such little worth; yet we get upset about it and our gain turns to loss.”

“We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can – namely, surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us.”

Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one Glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.

“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.”

Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.

Hong Kong: Carrie Lam Dismisses Idea To Lower Voting Age “Beijing Style” — Without Judicial Review, Hearing or Fair Input From The People

October 13, 2015

By Lai Ying-kit
South China Morning Post

Any revisions to election laws are unlikely to happen in time for the Legco election next year, acting chief executive Carrie Lam says. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Hongkongers have not indicated a strong desire in public discourse to lower the minimum age for Legislative Council election candidates, acting chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says.

Lam was responding to a judicial review application filed by student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung to challenge a rule in election laws requiring people contesting Legco seats to be aged at least 21.

Wong wants the High Court to lower the minimum age to 18 – the same as for the national and local people’s congresses of the People’s Republic of China.

Lam said ahead of an Executive Council meeting today: “In the process of taking Hong Kong forward in democratic development, and in discussions with the Legislative Council and the public on electoral arrangements, we have not come across a very strong desire to lower the age from 21 to 18.”

Even if a strong desire for such a change emerged now, she said, any amendments to election laws were unlikely to happen in time for the Legco election next year.

“It appears time is very tight,” she said.

Wong, who turned 19 today, applied to the High Court yesterday for a judicial review challenging the rule, arguing that many other jurisdictions – including mainland China – allowed people to seek office at 18.

The convenor of pro-democracy student group Scholarism said Hongkongers had the right to vote at 18 years old, and should therefore be allowed to stand in elections at this age.

He also said that if he succeeded in the review, he would contest the upcoming Legco poll.

He hoped his move would encourage more young people to do the same.

“In the previous Legco election [in 2012], no one who was younger than 40 led any candidate ticket from the pro-democracy camp,” Wong said today.

“I think every age group wants to have a representative in the legislature to speak up for them.”


Clashes Resume on Israel-Gaza Border, 5 Wounded — Palestinians Call “Day of Rage”

October 13, 2015

The Associated Press

JERUSALEM — The latest developments in ongoing violence between Palestinians and Israelis (all times local):


1:10 p.m.

The Israeli military says hundreds of Palestinian protesters in Gaza have gathered near the Israeli border and are throwing stones and burning tires toward Israeli positions.

The army says it is using “riot dispersal means” against the crowd.

Palestinian medics say five people have been wounded Tuesday by Israeli gunfire, two of them seriously.

A wave of violence in Israel and the West Bank has spread to Gaza in recent days, with Palestinians staging protests along the border.

Over the weekend, nine Palestinians in Gaza, including a mother and her 2-year-old child, were killed in Israeli-Palestinian violence.


12:35 p.m.

Israeli police say the death toll from a pair of separate stabbing and shooting attacks in Jerusalem has risen to three.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says one of those seriously injured when two Palestinian men boarded a bus in Jerusalem and began shooting and stabbing passengers has succumbed to his wounds. A 60-year-old man was also killed, as was one of the attackers.

In a separate, near-simultaneous attack, another assailant rammed a car into a bus station before stabbing bystanders. Police said one Israeli was killed.

The attacks, coupled with another two separate stabbing attacks in the central Israeli city of Raanana that injured five, marked a dramatic escalation of the month-long wave of violence.

Since the Jewish New Year last month, eight Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in a shooting, a stoning and a series of stabbings. At least 27 Palestinians been killed by Israeli fire, including 11 identified by Israel as attackers and the rest in clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli troops. Hundreds of Palestinians have been wounded in such confrontations.


12:00 p.m.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have praised a pair of separate stabbing and shooting attacks in Jerusalem that killed two Israelis and wounded several others.

Israeli police says two attackers stabbed and shot people on a bus. One of the attackers was killed and the other wounded. Almost simultaneously, another Palestinian rammed his car into a bus stop and stabbed people there.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said it “praises these heroic operations in Jerusalem and greets the heroes who carried them out.”

The attacks, plus another two separate stabbing attacks in the central Israeli city of Raanana that injured five, mark the most serious series of incidents in a month-long wave of violence.

Since the Jewish New Year last month, seven Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in a shooting, a stoning and a series of stabbings. At least 27 Palestinians been killed by Israeli fire, including 11 identified by Israel as attackers and the rest in clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli troops. Hundreds of Palestinians have been wounded in such confrontations.


11:00 a.m.

Israeli medical services say at least two people have been killed and 20 wounded in a pair of separate attacks in Jerusalem.


Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says two attackers stabbed and shot people on a bus and were captured at the scene. One person was killed.

Almost simultaneously, there was another stabbing attack at a bus stop in another part of the city that killed another person. The attacker was shot dead.

The attacks, plus another two stabbing attacks in the central Israeli city of Raanana, would mark the most serious series of incidents in a month-long wave of violence.

Since the Jewish New Year last month, seven Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in a shooting, a stoning and a series of stabbings. At least 27 Palestinians been killed by Israeli fire, including 11 identified by Israel as attackers and the rest in clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli troops. Hundreds of Palestinians have been wounded in such confrontations.


10:30 a.m.

Israeli police say at least one Israeli has been killed and four wounded in a pair of separate attacks in Jerusalem.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says two attackers stabbed and shot people on one side of the city and were captured at the scene. Almost simultaneously, there was another stabbing attack in another part of the city. Israeli emergency services say they have treated eight wounded people.

Israeli media are reporting that there are more casualties in the attacks.

Since the Jewish New Year last month, six Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in a shooting, a stoning and a series of stabbings. At least 26 Palestinians been killed by Israeli fire, including 10 identified by Israel as attackers and the rest in clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli troops. Hundreds of Palestinians have been wounded in such confrontations.


9:00 a.m.

Israeli police say a Palestinian has stabbed an Israeli on a main road in central Israel.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says an east Jerusalem man stabbed another man waiting at a bus stop on the main thoroughfare of Raanana. The Israeli was moderately wounded and the attacker was apprehended and beaten by local residents before he was taken to a hospital.

Tuesday’s stabbing is the latest incident in a monthlong wave of attacks.

Since the Jewish New Year last month, five Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in a shooting, a stoning and a series of stabbings. At least 26 Palestinians been killed by Israeli fire, including 10 identified by Israel as attackers and the rest in clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli troops. Hundreds of Palestinians have been wounded in such confrontations.

On Monday, Palestinians carried out three stabbings in Jerusalem, leaving a teenage Israeli boy in critical condition.


German investor sentiment plunges — VW, Refugees, Trouble in China, Global Economy

October 13, 2015


Traders work at the stock exchange in Frankfurt. AFP

FRANKFURT (AFP) –  Investor sentiment in Germany slumped in October as the Volkswagen pollution cheating scandal and slowing growth in emerging markets dampen the outlook for Europe’s top economy, a leading survey said Tuesday.The widely watched investor confidence index calculated by the ZEW economic institute sank 10.2 points to stand at just 1.9 points, its lowest level since October 2014, the think-tank said in a statement.

“The exhaust gas scandal of Volkswagen and the weak growth of emerging markets has dampened economic outlook for Germany,” said ZEW president Clements Fuest.

“However, the performance of the domestic economy is still good and the euro area economy continues to recover. This makes it rather unlikely that the German economy will slide into recession,” Fuest said.

For the survey, ZEW questions analysts and institutional investors about their current assessment of the economic situation in Germany, as well as their expectations for the coming months.

The sub-index measuring financial market players’ view of the current economic situation in Germany also declined, falling by 12.3 points to 55.2 points in October, ZEW said.

South China Sea: Philippines backs US plan to sail ship near Chinese claimed area — “failure to challenge false claims of sovereignty undermines the law”

October 13, 2015


Photo: This is what Filipinos on tiny Pag-asa island can see: ongoing land reclamation of China in the Spratlys group of islands in the South China Sea, May 11, 2015. Credit Ritchie B. Tongo / Reuters


The Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines on Tuesday backed a reported U.S. plan to challenge China’s territorial claims by deploying a Navy ship close to a Chinese-built island in the South China Sea, saying it was important for the international community to safeguard freedom of navigation in the disputed waters.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the U.S. plan of sending a Navy ship within 22 kilometers (14 miles) of the artificial island in the Spratly Islands “would be consistent with international law and a rules-based order for the region.”

The U.S. newspaper Navy Times reported last week that the Navy may soon receive approval for the mission to sail close to the island.

Such a U.S. Navy move would bolster Washington’s stance that the artificial islands being built by China do not constitute sovereign territory and build a legal case under international law for the U.S. position, the newspaper said.

Philippine school on Pag-asa Island

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs warned that “failure to challenge false claims of sovereignty would undermine this order and lead China to the false conclusion that its claims are accepted as a fait accompli.”

“It is important for the international community to safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea,” it said. “This is of paramount concern to all countries.

Aside from China and the Philippines, four other governments lay claim to a part of or the entire South China Sea, a busy passageway for a bulk of the world’s commerce and military vessels. Washington has a policy of not taking sides in the territorial disputes, but says it’s in its national interest to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of the conflicts.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying expressed serious concern last week over the planned U.S. Navy deployment.



An April photo released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative department at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank shows a satellite image of what is claimed to be an airstrip under construction at Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed South China Sea.
An April photo released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative department at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank shows a satellite image of what is claimed to be an airstrip under construction at Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed South China Sea. It is not at all clear that China had a valid claim to this sea area when it started work. Photo:digitalglobe/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A Chinese vessel (L) is pictured ramming Vietnamese fisheries surveillance ship KN-951 in Vietnam’s waters on June 24, 2014. Tuoi Tre photo

Screen Grab of a China Coast Guard vessel ramming a Vietnamese sip during May, 2014

China dredger Tian Jing Hao, “The Reef Eater”: The Philippines has said China’s huge dredgers are demolishing square miles of coral reefs in the South China Sea for island building. The Philippines, Vietnam and others contest China’s claims of ownership of the several South China Sea reefs, islets and shoals. China doesn’t care one bit that environmentalists object to their coal reef destruction. The end justifies the means.

Vietnam gets inundated as China discharges reservoir water

October 13, 2015


Tuoi Tre News

Vietnam is seen flooded after China released water from the reservoirs of its hydropower plants on October 11, 2015. Tuoi Tre photo

The water level upstream of the Hong (Red) River in northern Vietnam started rising fast Sunday morning and some areas became flooded, as China had released a large amount of water from the reservoirs of its hydropower plants.

According to the Central Hydrometeorology Center, the water level of the river in Lao Cai Province surged quickly and reached its peak of 81.41 meters at 2:00 pm yesterday, before lowering to 81.34 meters an hour later.

In Yen Bai Province, some 150km from Hanoi, the water level of the Hong River was measured at 30m.

A weather forecast of the center at 9:30 pm yesterday said that floodwaters would continue inundating the areas upstream of the Hong River so its water level would rise.

Early on Monday, the water level rose to 31.7m in Yen Bai and 17.5m in Phu Tho.

At 7:00 am today, the water level of the Hong River in Hanoi reached around 3.4m. It was only 2.6m on Sunday morning.

Luu Minh Hai, director of the Hydrometeorology Center of Lao Cai Province, which borders China, said his agency and its counterpart from Yunnan Province notifies each other four times a day of any change in the water level.

However, the information exchanged is only for the water level, which does not include anything about China discharging reservoir water.

The Lao Cai agency warned that flash floods may hit many localities along the Hong River.

Dao Trong Tu, from the Vietnam River Networks, said the hydrometeorology agency of Yunnan announced that it would release water at 2,500 cubic meters per second from a reservoir in the Chinese province, some 200km upstream of Lao Cai.

The release of water started at 1:00 am on October 11.

The areas upstream of the Hong River section in China have two major hydroelectricity plants: Namsa with its reservoir able to contain 260 million cubic meters of water and Madusan, 551 million cubic meters of water.

In addition, China has around 20 dikes of different sizes upstream of the Hong River section in Vietnam.

Those reservoirs and dikes in China are capable of holding 49 percent of the water volume of the Hong River section in Vietnam, according to Tu.

The facilities can create a lot of trouble for Vietnam if they release water at the same time.

Tu noted China has rarely shared information on most of the operations of its reservoirs and dikes upstream of the Hong River with Vietnam.

“We need to set up a mechanism of coordination with China regarding this issue,” he suggested.

Islamic State grows in Afghanistan — U.S. remains ‘passive observer’ — Obama administration strategy in collapse

October 13, 2015


Afghan security forces and British soldiers inspect the site of a suicide attack in the heart of Kabul, Afghanistan. Loyalists of the Islamic State group are making inroads into Afghanistan, with homegrown militants claiming allegiance to the Islamic State as it controls territory in some parts of the country. (Associated Press)

– The Washington Times 

The Islamic State is growing at an alarming rate in Afghanistan, within striking distance of the capital, and there does not seem to be a concerted U.S. effort to strike the terrorist army as there is in the Syria-Iraq war theater.

An independent think tank has concluded that the allies are “reacting disjointedly and ineffectively” to the group in Afghanistan and other places outside those two countries.

The Islamic State’s numbers now may reach as high as 3,000 inAfghanistan, mostly in Nangarhar province, less than 50 miles east of Kabul. The emergence presents the NATO-backed elected government there with a fifth deadly enemy in addition to the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Haqqani network and elements of the Pakistani intelligence service.

Globally, the Islamic State, also called ISIL and ISIS, has affiliates in nearly 20 countries.

“It’s like a metastasizing cancer spreading throughout certain parts of the Islamic world,” said James Russell, a former Pentagon official and an instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. “We have to hope that the antibodies in these societies can ward off the death, misery and destruction that will come raining down upon them if ISIS takes hold in their communities.”

Afghanistan’s 3,000-member ISIL army is about one-tenth the size of the Afghan Taliban’s forces. But NATO says the Islamic State has reached the next stage of being an emerging threat. If its growth in other regions, such as North Africa, is a gauge, its Afghan component will only expand further as young Muslims are drawn by social media to its ultraviolent ways and Sunni orthodoxy.

Yet unlike in Syria and Iraq, where a U.S.-led coalition conducts a series of daily airstrikes against the Islamic State, there appears to be no such strategy in Afghanistan, where Afghan government forces now have the lead in all combat operations and request NATO air power on an ad hoc basis.

“What concerns me most is the fact that the United States has become a passive observer rather than the driver of the policy,” said Larry Johnson, a former counterterrorism official at the State Department, commenting on the overall U.S. effort against the Islamic State.

U.S. military spokesmen had no immediate comment on the question of American policy toward the Afghan Islamic State. Army Gen. John Campbell, the allied commander in-country, was asked at congressional hearings last week what triggers action against Islamic State. He answered that the criterion is “force protection.”

Afghan soldiers firing a field gun during an offensive against Islamic State militants in Nangarhar Province last month. Credit Ghulamullah Habibi/European Pressphoto Agency

After the Syria-Iraq war theater, Islamic State’s emergence near Kabul could be the most troublesome for the U.S., whose troop levels have dropped to less than 10,000, and only a small portion of those forces are dedicated to assist in counterterrorism. The Islamic State has shown it can execute brutal attacks and deploy vehicle bombs to take territory and hold it.

Gen. Campbell said Afghanistan’s security forces lack the leadership and troop numbers to respond to every trouble spot.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State is beginning to flex its terrorism muscle in Afghanistan.

Islamic militant competition

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in Washington is tracking the Islamic State’s violent ways in Afghanistan and other countries. It said the Islamic State launched attacks in mid-September against a UNICEF convoy, Afghan government forces, the Afghan Taliban and Shiite civilians. In late September the Islamic State “launched coordinated attacks on multiple Afghan security positions” in Nangarhar, the think tank said.

“The group reportedly also shut down several schools in easternAfghanistan amid other efforts to assert social control,” the institute said. “ISIS has established robust ground campaigns in Libya, Egypt andAfghanistan.”

The ISW said in the special report “ISIS Global Strategy: A Wargame,” written by counterterrorism analyst Harleen Gambhir, that the Islamic State’s expansion stems from its ability to attract local jihadis.

“The coalition is focused on Iraq and Syria, and it is reacting disjointedly and ineffectively to ISIS’s activities in Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, and other places,” Ms. Gambhir writes. “ISW’s war game demonstrated how this failure enables ISIS to strategically outpace the U.S. and its allies.”

U.S. intelligence agencies are still trying to digest the meaning of Islamic State setting up shop in South Asia.

Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, speaks of an “increasing competition between extremist actors” in theAfghanistan-Pakistan region involving al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State.

“So that’s an additional factor that we’re still trying to understand,” Mr. Rasmussen told the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point in remarks published last month. He characterized the burgeoning competition as an “interesting feature of the South Asia landscape.”

Gen. Campbell, the U.S. commander closest to Islamic State terrorism inAfghanistan, said foreign fighters are arriving to join the Islamic State as they “try to bring in some sort of funding stream to build a place in Nangarhar.”

He said the emergence of Islamic State “has further complicated the theater landscape and potentially expanded the conflict.”

Mr. Johnson, the former counterterrorism official, said the leaders of Middle East and South Asia countries “concede that the U.S. has no appetite for being engaged, especially militarily in the region.”

The struggle between two radical Sunni groups, the Taliban and the Islamic State, may be sparked in part by the Taliban’s willingness to do business with Iran, a Shiite Islamic country.

“The Taliban have always been far more pragmatic in dealing with Iran, and the religious difference is not a critical factor,” Mr. Johnson said. “Not so with the ISIS crowd. For them, theology takes precedence, and Iran is an apostate state that must be destroyed.”


Afghan ISIS Branch Makes Inroads in Battle Against Taliban

The New York Times

SORKHROAD, Afghanistan — At least three times a week, Malaika hikes up the mountain, past mulberry and pine trees, to a clearing where she can get cellphone reception. She calls her family to reassure them that the Islamic State fighters have not come for her yet.

Below, her village — Bagh, in the Maamand Valley in eastern Afghanistan — has been gutted by the Islamic State militants who overran it three months ago. Most of the houses have been looted, burned or simply taken over by the fighters, and the 80 or so families that lived there have been forced to seek refuge near Jalalabad city.

Malaika, vigorous in her late 50s, is one of three women who decided to stay behind to try to keep their homes.

“The poor woman is guarding the windows and the planks of the two rooms that remain,” her husband, Mullah Jan, said last month. Mr. Jan was held by the militants for two months until he paid them $500 ransom. “We had 10 goats and one cow. They took all of it.”

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