Posts Tagged ‘ceasefire’

Netanyahu defends Gaza ceasefire after Israeli criticism

November 14, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday defended his decision to accept a ceasefire after the worst escalation with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip since a 2014 war.

A Palestinian protester holds up a sign on Tuesday, November 13, during a demonstration in the occupied West Bank town of Hebron against the Israeli air strikes on Gaza. (AFP)

“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said at a ceremony in honor of Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion.

“Our enemies begged for a ceasefire and they knew very well why.”

The deal has provoked criticism from within Netanyahu’s government as well as from Israelis who live near the Gaza Strip and want further action against its Islamist rulers Hamas.



Israel: Gaza man throws grenades at security fence, is shot and arrested

November 14, 2018

Border incident comes after massive, deadly clash between Israel and Hamas ends with a shaky ceasefire


A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl a stone towards Israeli forces across the fence during clashes by the border with Israel east of Gaza city on July 13, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl a stone towards Israeli forces across the fence during clashes by the border with Israel east of Gaza city on July 13, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Israeli troops shot and arrested a Palestinian man who threw a number of grenades at the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, the army said.

The grenades failed to explode.

The incident came less than a day into a fragile ceasefire between Israel and terror groups in the Strip, after more than 460 rockets and mortars were fired into southern Israel over the course of 25 hours, killing one person. The military responded to the rockets with airstrikes throughout the Gaza Strip.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, when he was arrested, the suspect was found to be in possession of a pair of boltcutters and a knife.

His condition was not immediately known.

The suspect was handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.

Officials assess the damage to a house after it was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Otherwise, life in Israeli communities near Gaza slowly returned to normal on Wednesday after a quiet night signaled that the ceasefire was holding.

Schools, higher education institutes and businesses were to reopen and farmers could again work their fields, many of them adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Train services south of Ashkelon also resumed.

There were no reports of rocket fire into Israel, or of Israeli strikes on Gaza, since Tuesday afternoon, when the ceasefire reportedly went into effect. Palestinians said the truce was brokered by Egypt.

Israel has yet to officially confirm the existence of a ceasefire, but senior diplomatic officials indicated that Jerusalem would abide by it so long as terror groups in the Strip did as well.

In addition, the IDF Home Front Command on Tuesday night removed all restrictions on residents of southern Israel, declaring a “return to normalcy.”

Nevertheless, the IDF still kept reinforcements in place surrounding Gaza.

IDF forces seen gathering near the border with Gaza in southern Israel on November 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The calm was not welcomed by all, with many in Israel demanding that the government do more to end the rocket threat from Hamas.

In a statement to residents, the head of the Eshkol regional council, Gadi Yarkoni, said: “We’ve had a difficult two days. Two days that are a continuation of life in the shadow of terrorism and a pendulum swinging between emergency and normalcy for eight months straight.”

He said he expected Israeli leaders and the army to “give us true peace and true calm” that would allow the communities to thrive. “We cannot accept the continued hopeless reality of life under the threat of terrorism that includes fires, balloons and rockets.”

Palestinian rockets are shot toward Israel from Gaza on November 12, 2018. (AP/Hatem Moussa)

According to the military, over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over the course of 25 hours on Monday and Tuesday. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens more, and causing significant property damage.

In response to the rocket and mortar attacks, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”


400 rockets fired at Israel, IDF hits 150 terror targets in Gaza

Israeli military says 150 targets in Gaza have been hit thus far in response to Hamas attacks, in response to barrage on southern Israel.

Israeli air strike in southern Gaza

Israeli air strike in southern Gaza


Hamas-Israel flare-up threatens to escalate into a full-blown war

November 13, 2018

Some of the fiercest fighting since 2014 has erupted between Gaza’s Hamas militants and Israel following an Israeli raid on Sunday. The flare-up threatens to escalate into a full-blown war.

Smoke and flames during an Israeli air strike in Gaza (Reuters/A. Zakot)

Israeli warplanes pounded targets in the densely populated Gaza Strip on Monday, while Palestinian militants fired hundreds of mortars and rockets in the fiercest exchange of fire since the 2014 war.

The flare-up came a day after Hamas vowed revenge in response to an Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip that killed six Hamas militants including a top commander. One Israeli soldier was killed and another wounded in the raid.

Read more: Israeli raid in Gaza leaves several dead, including IDF soldier and Hamas commander

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Monday evening they had struck more than 30 militant sites in response to more than 300 rocket and mortar launches from Gaza fired following the Israeli undercover raid on Sunday night. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed credit for the rocket launches.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an IDF spokesman, said the army had sent reinforcements to the Gaza frontier and bolstered its Iron Dome missile defense system.

“We continue to strike and retaliate against the military targets belonging to terrorist organizations in Gaza, and as for our intentions we will enhance these efforts as needed,” he told reporters.

The IDF said they had struck Hamas’ military intelligence headquarters, claiming the group had “intentionally established their HQ next to a school.”

Hamas accused Israel of “deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian facilities” in one of the most densely populated places in the world.

The Gaza health ministry said at least three Palestinians, including two militants, were killed in the Israeli strikes.

A 19-year-old Israeli soldier was in a critical condition after military bus in southern Israel was hit by an anti-tank missile, the IDF said.  Later, a man was killed when a rocket hit a building in southern Israel.

Among the Israeli targets was Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV building in Gaza, which was destroyed after a series of warning shots were given for journalists to clear the building. The IDF accused the station of broadcasting “incitement and violence for years.”

“Tonight, the IDF made sure that this station won’t broadcast again,” the army said.

Hamas said in a statement that the demolishing of Al-Aqsa TV was an attack on the press and “reflects the Israeli occupation’s murderous mentality and exposes all its atrocious crimes, terror acts, and abhorrent violations against the Palestinian people.”

In 2010, the US Treasury listed Al-Aqsa TV as a specially designated global terrorist.

‘Back from the brink’

The escalation of violence has threatened to upend weeks of UN and Egyptian-led diplomacy to reach a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay E. Mladenov said his office and Egypt were working to bring Gaza “back from the brink.”

“The escalation in the past 24hrs is EXTREMELY dangerous and reckless. Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all!” he wrote on Twitter.

Nickolay E. MLADENOV@nmladenov

is working closely with and all concerned to ensure that steps back from the brink. The escalation in the past 24hrs is EXTREMELY dangerous and reckless. Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all! No effort must be spared to reverse the spiral of violence

141 people are talking about this

Just before Sunday’s Israeli raid in Gaza that triggered the latest escalation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he was striving to reach a long-term ceasefire with Hamas rather than a new war.

“This is happening at a delicate juncture in Hamas-Israeli relations,” Hugh Lovatt, a regional expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told DW. “The two sides are attempting to come to a longer-term arrangement that can preserve calm in exchange for an easing of socio-economic conditions within Gaza.”

Hamas armed wing accused Israeli forces on Sunday of “infiltrated this evening in a civilian car” and assassinating a top commander. Israel had stressed the operation was an intelligence-gathering mission and “not intended to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security.”

Israeli forces take up positions above the border with GazaIsraeli forces take up positions above the border with Gaza

Blow to ceasefire talks, humanitarian situation

Netanyahu has come under criticism from members of his right-wing government for his decision to allow Qatar to provide money to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip to pay for salaries and provide other support to ease a humanitarian crisis in the coastal enclave.

Last week, Qatar delivered $15 million (€13.2 million) of cash in suitcases to the Gaza Strip. The payment was part of $90 million that Qatar has pledged to deliver to cover the salaries of thousands of employees in the Gaza Strip in the next six months.

The immediate impact of the Qatar payment was for Hamas to ease border protests on Friday. Since March 30, thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have gathered at weekly protests along the Israeli border to demand a lifting of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and an improved humanitarian situation.

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli forces during the Gaza protests in the past seven months, according to the enclave’s health ministry. One Israeli soldier has been killed.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, likened the cash payments to the Gaza Strip as “protection money” paid to criminals. Hardline Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he had opposed “transferring the money to Hamas.”

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, but both sides have signaled that they want to avoid another full-scale conflict.

cw,kw/rc (AP, dpa, Reuters)

As Yemeni army makes progress in Hodeidah, Pressure grows on Saudi Arabia to end the war

November 4, 2018

Yemen’s army reached the eastern city of Saleh in Hodeidah province after clashes with the Houthi militia, Saudi state-news agency SPA reported.

A senior military official said the Houthis continued to suffer major defeats in clashes with the Arab coalition-backed army forces. (File/AFP)

The developments are part of a military operation launched to liberate the strategic Hodeidah port from the militia.

A senior military official said the Houthis continued to suffer major defeats in clashes with the Arab coalition-backed army forces.

Arab News




Yemen troops make gains as air raids pound Houthi-held Hodeidah

Al Jazeera

Saudi-backed Yemeni forces claim to have captured two areas on the outskirts of the port city of Hodeidah.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have fled their homes as fighting intensifies near Hodeidah city [Najeeb Almahboobi/EPA]
Tens of thousands of Yemenis have fled their homes as fighting intensifies near Hodeidah city [Najeeb Almahboobi/EPA]

The Saudi-UAE military alliance at war with Yemen‘s Houthi rebels says it has advanced towards the western city of Hodeidah, hours after residents reported a barrage of air raids targeting the strategic port city.

Residents in Hodeidah told Al Jazeera on Saturday that the United States-backed alliance launched more than 25 air raids, targeting rebel-held locations on the city’s edges.

Yemeni journalist Manal Qaed said the sound of fighter jets dropping bombs pierced through the sky late into the afternoon, with civilians fearing to venture out of their homes.

The Houthi-affiliated Al-Masirah news outlet said more than 60 raids targeted Kilo-16 and its surrounding areas, wounding four civilians.

Kilo-16 is the main highway linking Hodeidah city with the rebel-held capital, Sanaa.

Aid agencies have long warned that fighting in Hodeidah risks escalating the dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where about half the population – some 14 million people – could soon be on the verge of famine.

“This is not the first time the city has been attacked and sadly residents have grown accustomed to the sounds of air strikes and shelling,” Qaed said.

“Throughout the day, we’ve heard the sound of jets in the sky, intense shelling and air strikes,” she added. “As for me, I will only leave once clashes flare in the city.”

Meanwhile, the dpa news agency reported that Yemeni forces, backed by the Saudi-UAE alliance, gained territory on the eastern and southern outskirts of Hodeidah.

A military source told dpa on condition of anonymity: “The forces will not stop until they take control of the strategic Hodeidah port.”

On Tuesday, the alliance sent more than 10,000 troops to Hodeidah in a new offensive aimed at securing the so-called “liberated areas”.

So far, the Yemeni forces and the alliance had held Kilo 7 and Kilo 10, areas which sit less than five kilometres from the city’s busy fish market.

Violence must stop everywhere with an immediate halt around critical infrastructure and densely populated areas


‘Losing Hodeidah will be a big blow’

Adam Baron, a Yemen analyst and visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, called the port city a “key prize”, adding it would be a “big blow” if the Houthislose control of the installation just weeks before peace talks demanded by the United Nations and the US are to be held.

“Hodeidah is arguably Yemen’s most important port and is one of the Houthis’ main sources of revenue,” Baron said.

“In any conflict [control of a port is] a key prize. It would be a big blow [if the Houthis lost the port to the alliance], but not a killer blow,” he added.

Analysts expect the rebels to use Hodeidah as a bargaining chip when they enter into UN-brokered talks scheduled in Sweden later this month.

The UN has repeatedly warned a military campaign on Hodeidah would have devastating consequences for the country’s residents.

Addressing reporters at the world body’s headquarters in New York on Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the warring parties must seize on this “opportunity for peace”.


Yemen: Amal Hussain, whose image drew attention to famine, dies

“To avert imminent catastrophe, several steps are required. First, violence must stop everywhere with an immediate halt around critical infrastructure and densely populated areas,” he said.

“We must do all we can now to end human suffering and avoid the worst humanitarian crisis in the world from getting even worse,” he added.

According to the Yemen Data Project, the Saudi-UAE alliance carried out at least 335 air raids on Hodeidah between June 1 and September 30, with civilians frequently bearing the brunt.

At least 15 people were killed in September when raids hit a road linking Hodeidah with Sanaa.

The Saudi-UAE military alliance acknowledged mistakes in its air operations, but has mostly defended its record.

It has denied deliberately targeting civilians, but Riyadh’s narrative over its actions in Yemen has faced mounting criticism following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist.

The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, began with the 2014 takeover of by the Houthi rebels, who toppled the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Concerned by the rise of the Houthis, believed to be backed by Iran, the Saudi-UAE military-led coalition launched an intervention in 2015 in the form of a massive air campaign aimed at reinstalling Hadi’s government.

Earlier this week, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), an independent watchdog, said around 56,000 Yemenis had been killed in the violence. The UN says the conflict has killed at least 10,000 people, but has not updated its death toll in years.

What can a UN investigation achieve in Yemen?

Includes video:

What can a UN investigation achieve in Yemen?


Middle East Peace — Egypt pushing for Abbas to accept ‘graded reconciliation’ with Hamas

November 4, 2018

Sissi wants Palestinian leader to back ceasefire deal as part of agreement that would see PA eventually regain control of beleaguered Gaza Strip

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on November 3, 2018. (Credit: Wafa)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on November 3, 2018. (Credit: Wafa)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has reportedly urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept a “graded reconciliation” with Hamas as part of a deal that would see the 82-year old take control of the Gaza Strip.

Meeting on Saturday in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh, Sissi encouraged Abbas to back the terms of an emerging ceasefire-agreement aimed at calming months of violence on the Israel-Gaza border, Hadashot news reported Saturday night.

The deal, first reported by Lebanon’s Al-Akbar newspaper on Friday, will last for three years and see a significant easing of the blockade on the Hamas-controlled territory.

In order to guarantee the success of the deal, Sissis wants Abbas to take responsibility for paying state salaries in the Strip, to back a UN infrastructure plan for the beleaguered territory and to accept a “gradual” plan for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, according to the Hadahsot news.

Firstly, “Sissi is pressuring [Abbas] to back the plan for calm by agreeing to pay salaries and to take the responsibility for Qatar passing funds to Hamas leaders in the Strip,” Hadashot analyst Ehud Yaari said.

Within the framework of the agreement, the Palestinian Authority would pay 80% of the salaries of Hamas officials in Gaza, and would not object to Qatar bankrolling those wages for at least six months, like it has in the past, Al-Akbar reported.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on November 3, 2018. (Credit: Wafa)

“The next stage,” Yaari said, “is to for him to back [United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay] Mladenov’s plan for developing the infrastructure in the Strip because donor countries won’t be willing to give money directly to Hamas and need the Palestinian Authority as an intermediary.”

Finally, Sissi want’s Abbas to agree to a “graded reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas that will eventually bring Abbas back to Gaza,” Yaari said, stressing that such a deal would not give the PA immediate military control over Gaza but would begin a process aimed at restoring its governing of the territory.

Egypt has recently made efforts to revive the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, meeting with leaders from the two rival parties for separate talks in the past several weeks.

In October 2017, Hamas and Fatah signed an Egyptian-brokered deal to advance reconciliation and bring the West Bank and Gaza under one government, but they failed to implement it.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority from the territory in 2007.

Arabic media reports have said that if achieved, a ceasefire would include at least a partial lifting of Israel’s restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza.

Israel holds that its restrictions on movement serve security purposes including preventing the entry of weapons into the Strip.

Ramallah-based Palestinian officials have said Fatah-Hamas reconciliation should precede any possible ceasefire. They have also contended that the Palestine Liberation Organization is the sole party with the legitimacy to negotiate a ceasefire with Israel.

Egyptian intelligence officials joined Palestinians protesting in the border region between Israel and Gaza on Friday, Deputy Hamas Chief in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya told the London-based Al-Ghad TV.

Illustrative: Protesters wave Palestinian flags while riding a truck full with tires near the fence of the Gaza Strip border with Israel during a protest east of Gaza City, Friday, October 26, 2018. (AP/Adel Hana)

Friday’s rally was largely peaceful. Hayya said the protests were scaled down to give the ceasefire efforts a chance, according to the Associated Press.

The protests, which have included many violent acts, have taken place weekly since March 30. Their organizers have said the protests aim to achieve the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands which are now part of Israel, and pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.

Hayya suggested efforts to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had been making progress.

“Their success is becoming visible in the horizon,” he told Al-Ghad TV, referring to the efforts to conclude a ceasefire.

On Saturday, the Egyptian Intelligence officials left Gaza through the Erez crossing, according to the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center.


U.S. Pushing Saudi Arabia to End Yemen War — “Peace could be Khashoggi’s legacy”

November 2, 2018

Saudi weakness over Khashoggi killing gives an opportunity for further reform

The United States is working to capitalize on what it regards as new leverage with Saudi Arabia to end the brutal civil war in Yemen and ease a regional standoff with Qatar, according to multiple US and diplomatic officials.

Seeing an opening created by the kingdom’s new pariah status after the killing of a dissident journalist, US officials say the time is ripe to move on longstanding goals, including forcing an end to the Saudi-led bombing campaign that has prompted a humanitarian crisis in neighboring Yemen.
The officials acknowledged that neither the Yemen war nor the dispute with Qatar can be solved quickly. But the administration hopes to make progress on both fronts by the end of the year, they said, and have recently stepped up public calls on Saudi Arabia to alleviate the disputes.

Calls for Yemen ceasefire


Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both this week called on participants in the Yemen civil war to agree to a ceasefire “in the next 30 days,” a demand that comes amid fresh criticism of US support for the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict.

In this photo from April 26, 2018, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens to a question on the Department of Defense budget posture during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

In this photo from April 26, 2018, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens to a question on the Department of Defense budget posture during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
The UN’s envoy for the conflict Martin Griffith told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an interview Thursday he believed the international furor over Khashoggi’s brutal killing played a part in prompting the surprise American call for a ceasefire.
“Thirty days from now we want to see everybody around a peace table based on a ceasefire, based on a pullback from the border and then based on ceasing dropping of bombs,” Mattis said at an event at the US Institute of Peace in Washington on Tuesday.
His call was later echoed by Pompeo, who issued a statement saying, “the United States calls on all parties to support UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen.”
Mattis and Pompeo both insisted that the US-backed Saudi-led coalition and the Iranian-aligned Houthis stop their respective aerial and missile bombardments.
The three-year conflict between Saudi-led coalition and their Iranian-backed enemies has devastated Yemen and killed at least 10,000 people. United Nations experts say that the coalition’s bombing of civilians are potential war crimes and that its partial blockade of the country has put 13 million men, women and children in danger of starvation, in what could become the worst famine in 100 years.
Griffith said the most pressing factor justifying the US call for a cease-fire was the threat of starvation: “The threat of famine is a very real threat and risks doubling the numbers of people in Yemen who are at risk of dying of hunger or famine. That’s the urgent factor here.”
Griffith said he believed the US administration is taking this issue seriously, adding: “Secretary Mattis and Secretary Pompeo are on this day and night” but acknowledged “the challenge now is to turn this call into action.”
Outrage over the situation has created increasing pressure on the US to pull its support for the coalition, which it provides in the form of military sales, training and refueling of coalition jets.
Saudi Arabia’s belated admission that Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and US resident, was murdered by a team with close ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has left the Trump administration — including the President himself — feeling stung by Saudi Arabia.
After initial strong denials, the kingdom has produced multiple explanations. Even after admitting that Khashoggi was murdered by men close to bin Salamn, the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said blaming Saudis for the US resident’s death is “hysterical.”
Image result for Adel al-Jubeir, photos
Adel al-Jubeir
Speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Manama Dialogue in Bahrain Saturday, al-Jubeir said, “This issue has become fairly hysterical. People have assigned blame on Saudi Arabia with such certainty before the investigation is complete. We have made it very clear that we are going to have a full and very transparent investigation, the results of which will be released.”
al-Jubeir met with Mattis on Sunday in Bahrain. The defense secretary told reporters traveling with him on his plane to Prague that he had discussed Khashoggi’s death with the Saudi official. “We discussed it,”
.Mattis said, “you know the same thing we talked about, the need for transparency, full and complete investigation, um, full, full agreement from FM Jubeir, no reservations at all, I said we need to know what happened.”
Trump and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is the President’s son-in-law, placed a heavy reliance on the powerful crown prince for an overall strategy in the region, despite warnings that the young royal was untested and volatile.
While American officials previously expressed private displeasure at Mohammed’s intervention in the Yemen war and the Saudi-ordered kidnapping of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, they mostly aired their grievances in private while maintaining in public that the alliance with Saudi Arabia was necessary to counter Iran’s influence.
Mohammed bin Salman  (Reuters)

Trump is privately fuming


But Khashoggi’s murder, and the ensuing coverup, have made it more difficult to keep those grievances private.
Trump has privately fumed at the Saudis for putting him in the situation of having to defend his decision to fastidiously cultivate a close relationship with Mohammed and his father, King Salman. He and his advisers are in agreement that forcing some kind of resolution on Yemen is a good way to make the best of a bad situation.
The Saudi stand-off with Qatar, which has fractured a security alliance importance to the US, has been another thorn in the Trump administration’s side.
Asked Wednesday whether he felt betrayed by the Saudis, Trump suggested it was the kingdom’s leaders that betrayed themselves.
“I just hope that it all works out. We have a lot of facts, we have a lot of things that we’ve been looking at,” he said. “They haven’t betrayed me. I mean, maybe they betrayed themselves. We’ll have to see how it all turns out.”
Trump has come to the belief in recent days that the American public is starting to catch on to the Yemen catastrophe, including through powerful images of starving children in the New York Times.
The Trump administration has been criticized by activists and some members of Congress for its support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen and for the administration’s recent finding that the coalition was doing enough to avoid civilian casualties.
The US military provides the Saudi collation with training meant to help minimize civilian casualties, as well as aerial refueling of coalition warplanes.
Mattis said the “goal right now is to achieve a level of capability by those forces fighting against the Houthis, that they are not killing innocent people.”
“We refuel probably less than … I think 20% of their aircraft. They have their own refuelers, by the way,” Mattis said.

Congressional pressure


A congressional source told CNN the Khashoggi murder has “put a face” on the broader problem related to the US-Saudi relationship and renewed momentum on Capitol Hill to push for legislation that would end US involvement in the war in Yemen.
Previous resolutions aimed at ending US involvement in the war in Yemen have failed to gain approval but various pieces of legislation proposed in recent months have received increasing support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, wrote in a recent op-ed that he plans to bring his resolution to end US involvement in the “unauthorized war” in Yemen back to the floor next month.
“Because of the privileged resolution that will come to a vote sooner or later and that is certainly something that’s weighed on the administration,” a senior congressional aide told CNN. “I am sure Mattis and Pompeo are well aware of that.”
Democratic Rep. Ro Khonna also cited Pompeo’s statement in a press release touting his own bipartisan proposal in the House intended to align with the resolution Sanders is pushing in the Senate.
“It’s about time. After more than three years of war, thousands dead, millions on the brink of starvation, and growing pressure from Congress, the Trump Administration is finally calling for an end to the Saudi-led war in Yemen,” Khonna said in a statement. “We have tremendous leverage over the Saudi-led coalition and should demand this Administration do all in their power to bring both sides to the peace table and end the war.”
The congressional source also told CNN that efforts to curtail US involvement in Yemen and pressure to respond to Khashoggi’s murder are related in that they both provide evidence of the Saudi government’s and in particular the crown prince’s “recklessness.”

See also:


Israel says Iran is behind overnight rocket fire from Gaza

October 27, 2018

Israel responded with airstrikes Saturday to a salvo of rockets fired by militants from the Gaza Strip into its territory overnight, saying it held Gaza’s rulers, Hamas, responsible for the flare-up and that it had evidence that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ al-Quds force was behind the latest escalation.

Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said military jets had struck more than 80 targets across the Palestinian enclave, including command posts, weapons manufacturing facilities and a four-floor building housing Hamas’ general security agency.

“We hold Hamas responsible for everything coming from Gaza,” said Conricus. “All violence and provocations are Hamas’ responsibility. The humanitarian improvements made recently should have caused Hamas to rein in the terror, but it allows a violent atmosphere to continue.”

By Ruth Eglash and Hazem Balousha
The Washington Post


Smoke rises from an explosion caused by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Saturday. Israeli aircraft struck several militant sites across the Gaza Strip early Saturday shortly after militants fired rockets into southern Israel, the Israeli military said. (Hatem Moussa/AP)


It has been Israel’s long-standing policy to hold Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules Gaza and is viewed as a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, responsible for each round of violence, even if other Gaza-based factions claim responsibility for the attacks.

[Tensions rise as Gaza militants fire more than 70 mortars, rockets into Israel]

Conricus said the army was aware Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Gaza’s second largest militant group, was behind the latest round of rockets. He said the group was working “under guidance, instruction and incentives from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Quds force, based in Damascus.”

The army later said eight of the targets it struck belonged to the group.

Islamic Jihad immediately took responsibility for firing the rockets, saying it was in response to the “continuing coldblooded killing by the Israeli occupation and the continued shedding of the blood of peaceful civilians.” On Saturday morning, the group issued an additional statement announcing a ceasefire.

Earlier Friday, Hamas’ Health Ministry in Gaza said Israeli forces killed six Palestinians involved in the ongoing protests at the border fence. Since March, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, as thousands of Gaza residents make their way to the fence each week to protest the ever-deteriorating humanitarian conditions for the strip’s 2 million residents and the decade-long land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.

[Israelis kill more than 50 Palestinians in Gaza protests, health officials say]

Israel views the protests as riots and says its response is a justified defense of Israeli civilians living in the Gaza periphery. It has accused Hamas of using the mass protests as a cover to infiltrate into Israel and carry out terrorist attacks.

“We are not the aggressors; we are defending our civilians,” Conricus said.

He said Friday night’s rockets had not caused any casualties on the Israeli side, with most intercepted by the Iron Dome defense systems or falling in open areas. A mortar, however, reportedly caused extensive damage to the Erez crossing, the main passage between Israel and Gaza used for humanitarian purposes.

One Israeli soldier was killed in July by sniper fire from Gaza, and during last week’s flare-up a family home in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva was destroyed.

[Tensions escalate as Israeli jets pound targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire]

There are indications that Egypt and some European states are involved in ongoing mediation between the sides, but they have yet to yield results.

In its statement, Islamic Jihad said it was Israel that “had not respected the laws and customs and continues to manipulate the lives of people under constant siege.”

In recent months, Islamic Jihad has faced a severe financial crisis failing to pay its workers or fighters. The group has relied heavily on funding from Iran in the past but now Israel’s archenemy has looked on disapprovingly as the faction in Gaza works to reach a long-term arrangement with Israel — via indirect negotiations brokered by Egypt — to restore calm.

The group also recently elected a new secretary general, Ziad al-Nakhaleh, who is said to have close ties to the Iranian regime.

 Balousha contributed to this report from Gaza City.

Al-Jubeir: Saudi Arabia to engage with Russia to support Syria political solution — “This abscess needs to be liquidated.

August 30, 2018

Saudi Arabia has stressed to Russia the need for a political solution to the Syria conflict, the foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Adel Al-Jubeir said they had held talks on a range of issues in the Middle East.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) speaks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir during their meeting in Moscow on Wednesday. (AFP)

Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom had highlighted the importance of implementing the UN Security Council resolution adopted in 2015 that called for a ceasefire and a political settlement in the country, where war has been raging for seven years.

He said there needed to be a political solution that “preserves Syria’s territorial integrity, security, and stability as well as the safety of citizens regardless of their religion or race.”

Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦


| FM @AdelAljubeir and Russia’s FM Sergey hold a joint press conference

Saudi Arabia, along with western and other Arab countries have backed the main rebel forces in Syria against President Bashar Assad. Russia, however, has been one of the biggest supporters of the regime, providing military support which enabled Al-Assad to gain the upper hand in the conflict.

Al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia would “cooperate with the Syrian opposition to close ranks regarding the future of Syria.”

“We will also engage with our brothers in Russia in supporting the political process,” Al-Jubeir added.

The meeting between the two ministers comes as the countries seek to improve economic and political ties.

Relations have witnessed a “quantum leap in the past three years in the fields of trade, security, counterterrorism and political coordination in the challenges facing the region and the world,” Al-Jubeir said

On the war in Yemen, he said Saudi Arabia had consulted with Russia and other friends on the situation and highlighted the importance of reaching a political solution.

He said Saudi Arabia believed the Iran nuclear deal with world powers, including Russia, was weak, “particularly with regard to the time period that prevents Iran from enriching uranium.”

He added that it did not include Iran’s support for terrorism and violation of UN resolutions on ballistic missiles.

Lavrov said he had agreed on plans with Al-Jubeir for a visit of Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia.

The foreign ministers’ meeting comes amid speculation that Syrian forces backed by Russia and Iran are preparing for an offensive to retake one of the last rebel strongholds.

Lavrov called on the West not to stand in the way of an “anti-terror operation” in Idlib province.

Lavrov also said that there is “full political understanding” between Russia and Turkey, which supports the rebels, but they are currently in intense negotiations to ensure Idlib does not become a breaking point in their alliance.

“It is necessary to disassociate the so-called moderate opposition from terrorists and at the same time prepare an operation against them while minimising risks for the civilian population,” Lavrov said.

“This abscess needs to be liquidated.”

Arab news

Afghanistan president rejects resignation of three top security officials

August 26, 2018

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani rejected on Sunday resignations tendered a day earlier by three senior security officials, the government said.

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FILE PHOTO: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan July 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

The ministers of defense and interior, as well as a senior security chief, sent their resignations to the president’s palace on Saturday, soon after Afghanistan’s national security adviser also resigned.

Government spokesman Haroon Chakansuri said in a statement Ghani had asked the three officials to continue with their duties and “work toward the betterment of the security situation”.


Suicide bomb attack kills two in eastern Afghanistan

August 25, 2018

An suicide bomb blast outside killed at least two people Saturday outside an election commission office in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, officials said.

The latest attack in the war-torn country targeted a protest camp outside the building in Nangarhar province, where a group of people were rallying in support of a candidate disqualified from parliamentary elections due in October.

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FILE photo: Bombing of Afghan city of Jalalabad, July 10, 2018. Credit Parwiz/Reuters

“It killed two people, and four others were wounded,” provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP, adding that a suicide attacker was responsible for the explosion.

Provincial health director Najib Kamawal confirmed the two deaths.

An eyewitness said the blast was caused by a suicide bomber who detonated explosives near a tent full of protesters outside the election commission’s office in Jalalabad, sending people fleeing as security forces cordoned off the area.

“It was very big blast and it shook our home,” said witness Mirza Amin, who added she lived 50 metres (160 feet) from the site of the explosion.

The blast comes nearly a week after President Ashraf Ghani offered a conditional three-month ceasefire to the Taliban, a move welcomed by the United States and NATO after nearly 17 years of war.

The Taliban have yet to provide an official response to the offer.