Posts Tagged ‘Kalashnikov’

Paris gunman who killed police officer known to security forces — Spent 15 years in prison for shooting officers — On watch list after recent arrest — Informants last month said he was ‘seeking to obtain weapons to kill policemen’

April 21, 2017

.

Image may contain: one or more people, tree and outdoor

.

Paris Police secure the Champs-Elysees after one police officer was killed and another wounded in a shooting in Paris, France, April 20, 2017. REUTERS – Christian Hartmann

French security services are today facing troubling questions as to how they failed to prevent an ISIS gunman from slaughtering one policeman and wounding two other officers when he was already on a terror watch list.

Champs-Elysees killer Karim Cheurfi had been detained only last month, it has emerged, after informants said he was ‘seeking to obtain weapons to kill policemen’.

But the 39-year-old, who used the war name ‘Abu Yousuf the Belgian’, had to be released because anti-terror police did not have enough evidence to hold him.

The homegrown fanatic, who officials confirmed was a French national despite his nickname, had also been released early from prison – where it is thought he was radicalised – having been jailed for 20 years in 2005 for trying to kill two policemen.

Cheurfi opened fire five times with a .38 revolver following a car chase in 2001, leaving the officers and a third victim wounded.

He had fled on foot before the driver of the other car and the passenger – a trainee police officer – caught up with him. He fired twice, seriously wounding both men in the chest. All three survived the attack in Roissy-en-Brie, in the Seine-et-Marne department of northern France.

Cheurfi was arrested and placed in custody under a false name. Two days later he seriously injured an officer who was taking him out of his cell, seizing his weapon and firing several times.

Two French officials said this morning that Cheurfi was detained in February for threatening police before being freed, although a warrant for his arrest is dated March 6.

Scroll down for video 

The killer was known to security services in France, according to reports this evening

The killer was known to security services in France, according to reports this evening

One police officer was shot dead and two more seriously injured by a gunman carrying a Kalashnikov in Paris this evening

One police officer was shot dead and two more seriously injured by a gunman carrying a Kalashnikov in Paris this evening

.

Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France's Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the 'targeted attack'

Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France’s Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the ‘targeted attack’

The arrest warrant issued for Cheurfi before he was detained at the beginning of last month

The arrest warrant issued for Cheurfi before he was detained at the beginning of last month

The ISIS killer is believed to have been released in 2016 following the triple assassination attempt, at a time when he was known for drug offences, car theft and robbery.

Despite having the nickname ‘Abu Yousuf the Belgian’, Cheurfi was a French national, Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon told public broadcaster VRT.

It has been claimed Cheurfi was making dark threats on messaging app Telegram before launching his attack on the Champs Elysees in Paris last night.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the atrocity, which was carried out with a Kalashnikov weapon. A female foreign terrorist was also injured when a bullet ricocheted off the police car before Cheurfi was shot dead.

The fatal incident unfolded as presidential candidates, including National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, debated on a TV show nearby before Sunday’s election.

French President Francois Hollande said he was convinced it was a terrorist attack, adding that he would hold a security cabinet meeting this morning.

The French-born killer lived in Chelles, a commuter town close to Paris in the Seine-et-Marne department.

In 2003 he was sentenced to 20 years inside a high security prison following the attacks in Roissy-en-Brie, also in Seine-et-Marne.

But he was let out early following an appeal ruling, giving him the freedom to carry out tonight’s attack.

Gunshot-like noise forces BBC crew in Paris to run off the street

WHAT IS TELEGRAM? THE APP ALLEGEDLY USED BY KILLER

The app makers have boasted of security settings which keep messages safe from 'snoopers'

The app makers have boasted of security settings which keep messages safe from ‘snoopers’

Telegram is a messaging app which focuses on speed and security, according to its makers.

It allows users to send messages, photos, videos and files to groups of up to 5,000 and broadcast to unlimited audiences.

A statement on Telegram’s website about security says: ‘Big internet companies like Facebook or Google have effectively hijacked the privacy discourse in the recent years.

‘Their marketers managed to convince the public that the most important things about privacy are superficial tools that allow hiding your public posts or your profile pictures from the people around you. Adding these superficial tools enables companies to calm down the public and change nothing in how they are turning over private data to marketers and other third parties.

‘At Telegram we think that the two most important components of Internet privacy should be instead:

  • Protecting your private conversations from snooping third parties, such as officials, employers, etc
  • Protecting your personal data from third parties, such as marketers, advertisers, etc

‘This is what everybody should care about, and these are some of our top priorities. Telegram’s aim is to create a truly free messenger, without the usual caveats. This means that instead of diverting public attention with low-impact settings, we can afford to focus on the real privacy issues that exist in the modern world.’

Cheurfi was the registered keeper of the grey Audi used in last night’s attack. A raid on his home later found guns and ammunition, intelligence sources said.

He had targeted a parked patrol car full of traffic control officers working to the Paris prefecture.

The officer killed was at the wheel and was having an evening snack at the time of his death.

French television network BFMTV reports that Cheurfi had used the Telegram internet messaging service, which extremists have previously been claimed to favour because of its encryption.

Police are searching the home of the shooter in eastern Paris, and following the attack French presidential candidate Francois Fillon has called for the election campaign to be suspended.

Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France’s Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the ‘targeted attack’.

He said a ‘car pulled up just after 9pm’ next to a police patrol car which was parked up on the busy avenue.

Police search the car reportedly used in Paris attack

Intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for 'State-security'

Intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for ‘State-security’

Police officers searched the home of the suspected gunman in east Paris following the attack in the capital on Thursday 

Police officers searched the home of the suspected gunman in east Paris following the attack in the capital on Thursday

Officers searched the home of the suspected gunman on Thursday evening after they travelled to his home in the east part of the capital 

Officers searched the home of the suspected gunman on Thursday evening after they travelled to his home in the east part of the capital

A man jumped out with a weapon and started firing indiscriminately into the police vehicle, hitting the unidentified officer who died directly in the head.

The assailant then ran off, pursued by other officers. Two of them were wounded as they killed him.

Mr Brandet said ‘all lines of investigation were being pursued’, while intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for ‘State-security’.

This means he would have been under surveillance, because he was a known risk to the country.

Mr Brandet later said a possible accomplice had turned himself over to Belgian police, but it was ‘too early to say’ if he had played a significant part in the attack.

President Hollande, speaking from the Elysee palace close to the scene of the shooting, said: ‘A national tribute will be paid to this policeman who was killed in such a cowardly way.

‘A passerby was hit. The assailant was neutralised by other police officers. The entire area has been cordoned off. The people present have been evacuated.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4430542/Paris-killer-talked-wanting-kill-Telegram.html#ixzz4esXKdx3z
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Updated 9:35 PM ET, Thu April 20, 2017

Paris (CNN)  A man who killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees Thursday night was known to French security services for radical Islamist activities and had shot and wounded an officer in the past, a source close to the investigation told CNN.

The suspect, who was shot dead by French police, was the subject of a “Fiche S” surveillance file and was on the radar of the French domestic security service DGSI, the source said.
.
The man was a French national who shot two officers in 2001 after being stopped by a police car, the source said. He was taken into custody but while being questioned grabbed another officer’s gun and shot him three times, the source said. He was convicted in that attack and had a criminal record because of involvement in violent robberies, the source said.
The source said French investigators now believe this was in all likelihood a terrorist attack. They believe there was just one attacker, and the danger is likely over, the source said.
.
ISIS issued a statement saying an Islamic State “fighter” carried out the attack. The ISIS claim comes via a statement released by the group’s media wing, Amaq. The ISIS statement identified the attacker and called him “the Belgian.” CNN has not confirmed the attacker’s association with Belgium.
.
Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said he will reveal the shooter’s identity on Friday at a news conference. He said officers are searching the man’s residence in Chelles, Seine-et-Marne, a Paris suburb, and are trying to determine if he had accomplices.
.
The shooting has not officially been declared a terrorist act but anti-terrorist forces are leading the investigation, French President Francois Hollande said.
.
“The people who were present have been evacuated and we are convinced that the leads which point us to this case, and which will allow us to uncover the truth, are of a terrorist nature,” he said.

Elections on Sunday

The shooting happened about 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) when a car stopped at 102 Champs-Elysees in front of a police van, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre Henry Brandet said.
.
A man emerged from the car and opened fire on the van with an “automatic weapon,” killing one officer instantly, he said. The man “then ran away, managing to shoot and wound two other policemen. Other policemen engaged and shot and killed the attacker,” Brandet said.
.
The slain officer was 30 years old, Molin said. One of the wounded officers was critically injured but is improving, he said. Also wounded was a female tourist.
.
The shooting shut down the famed Champs-Elysees, one of Paris’ top tourist attractions and home to the iconic Arc de Triomphe monument. The avenue was clear of residents and tourists but teeming with security officers Thursday night.
.
It comes three days before French voters start elections for a new president. Candidates went ahead with a debate Thursday night.
.
France has been in a state of emergency since the 2015 Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead. Parliament voted in December to extend the extraordinary provisions to ensure the protection of upcoming presidential and general elections.
.
Security has been tight because of the vote. Just two days ago French authorities arrested two men in Marseille who were allegedly planning an attack in a run-up to the election.
.

Police officers block access to the Champs-Elysees.

At least three underground train stations of the Paris Metro — the Champs-Elysees-Clemenceau, George V and F. Roosevelt stations — have been “closed off” near the site of the police operation on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, BFMTV reported.

Trump: ‘What can you say?’

Paris resident Daoud Kal, 29, said he was walking in the area near a metro station when he heard four to five shots. He looked around, but couldn’t identify where the shots were coming from. People panicked and ran away from the scene and he joined them.
.
The CNN Paris bureau is on this street and staffers reported hearing a dozen shots. At least 20 police vehicles were seen on the street.
Officers could be seen forcibly removing innocent citizens from the area as they attempted to get them to safety.
.
President Donald Trump, speaking at a news conference in Washington with the visiting Italian Prime Minister, offered condolences to the people of France after the shooting, saying it “looks like another terrorist attack.”
.
“What can you say? It never ends,” the President said.
.
The Champs-Elysees is a main road lined with restaurants, cafes, exclusive designer boutiques and tourist shops. At one end is the Arc de Triomphe, surrounded by a several-lane-wide roundabout, and the other end stops at the Place de la Concorde, known for its obelisk monument.
.
The presidential palace, the Elysee, is a few blocks away.
.
French police tweeted, “Police intervention underway in the area of the #ChampsElysees avoid the sector and follow the instructions of the police forces.”

French candidates respond

The US State Department put out a cautionary tweet, saying: “If you’re in #Paris, monitor local news. #ChampsElysees has been closed. Authorities are telling people to avoid the area after a shooting.”

One police officer was killed in a shooting on the Champs-Elysees.

The shooting comes three days before French general elections and Paris was already in a state of heightened alert. French politicians immediately reacted on social media.
.
.
French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen tweeted, “My emotions and solidarity for the police, once again targeted.”
.
Conservative French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon tweeted, “Paying homage to police who give their lives to protect ours, #ChampsElysees.”
.
Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve tweeted: “Paying homage to the policeman killed on the champs elysees. Thoughts are with his family. Solidarity with his injured colleagues and those close to them.”
.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy tweeted: “To our law enforcement: support, strength, courage. They are paying again a heavy price. Our Nation’s tribute must be total NS”
.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted: “We won’t give up, not bow and remain united facing these odious and insidious threats that weigh on our cities.”
.
She also extended a message of solidarity and thanks to the retailers on the Champs-Elysees who gave people shelter during the attack.
.
This developing story has been updated to clarify details about the attacker’s nationality.
.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/20/europe/champs-elyses-in-paris-closed/

Advertisements

Paris attacks suspect ‘got past three police checks’

December 20, 2015

AFP

A picture taken on December 3, 2015 at the Charles-de-Gaulle airport outside Paris shows the wanted notice of suspects Salah Abdeslam (left) and Mohamed Abrini, both of whom are still on the run. Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP |

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2015-12-20

Salah Abdeslam, the fugitive suspected of involvement in last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, got past three police checkpoints in France as he fled to Belgium, French media reported on Sunday.

France’s most wanted man is believed to have made his way to Belgium with two friends on November 14, a day after the deadly shootings and bombings that left 130 dead at several Paris night spots.

In one instance, Abdeslam’s companions admitted to police that they had just smoked marijuana, but were let go, a source close to the investigation told AFP news agency, confirming a report in French daily Le Parisien.

The source quoted Hamza Attou, who is suspected along with Mohammed Amri of driving Abdeslam to the Belgian capital.

All three are from the gritty Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, sometimes referred to as Europe’s “jihadi central” due to the high number of local youths who have joined jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.

The source said Abdeslam, 26, sent a text message asking Attou and Amri to come for him, and they found him “agitated… uneasy… unwell”.

Then came a threat: “He told us to take him back to Brussels or he would blow up the car,” Attou said, according to the source.

To underscore the threat, Abdselam reportedly bragged about killing people with a Kalashnikov, adding that his brother Brahim blew himself up.

Seven attackers blew themselves up or were killed by police in the course of the evening on November 13. Five of them have been identified, including 31-year-old Brahim Abdeslam.

‘Not the priority today’

The younger of the Abdeslam brothers had not yet been linked to the attacks when he made his way back to Belgium, which would explain why police did not stop him.

To avoid checkpoints, Abdeslam asked Attou and Amri to take minor roads, but they got lost and ended up on a motorway, Attou said.

At the first checkpoint they were asked if they had “consumed” any substances. Abdelslam was in the back seat and said nothing, while Amri and Attou replied “yes” because they had just smoked marijuana.

“The policeman said that was not good, but it was not the priority today,” Attou said, according to the source.

They were not asked for their papers, but they were at the second and third police checkpoints. At the third stop, near Cambrai in the far north of France, Abdeslam even gave his address in Molenbeek.

They stopped for petrol and Abdeslam went to the toilet, walking back with his jacket open, revealing that he was not carrying the explosives which Attou and Amri had been led to believe he had on him, the source told AFP news agency.

Abdeslam reportedly said he left his brother’s ID card in a car – he did not say which car – “so that he would be known the world over like Coulibaly”.

He was referring to Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a policewoman in Paris on January 8 as part of the series of attacks that began with the massacre at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The following day Coulibaly took hostages at a kosher supermarket, killing four before being gunned down in a police operation.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Hamas-Israel: Hamas Continues Shooting Rockets, Sees Modest Military Gains — May Delay Ceasefire

July 24, 2014

Hamas has killed 32 Israeli soldiers

By Noah Browning

GAZA (Reuters) – Using tunnels, mines, booby traps and snipers, Hamas fighters have inflicted record casualties on Israeli troops waging an offensive in the Gaza Strip, applying years of training in urban warfare with a new tactical acumen and suicidal resolve.

The Israelis say weapons and know-how supplied by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah make Hamas a more formidable foe.

Four days after Israel launched a withering ground assault on the Palestinian Islamist militants in their stronghold of Shejaia following intensive air strikes, the army still does not have complete control of the area.

It's business as usual as Gazans repair the tunnels used to smuggle in the long-range rockets that hit Tel Aviv.

Smoke from shelled homes and the buzz of Israeli drones clog the sky above the wrecked district on Gaza’s eastern border.

The thud of a buried explosive aimed at a troop carrier is met with an hour-long rain of Israeli artillery fire that shakes the width of the coastal strip, sending the deafening sound bouncing off buildings as far as the shore.

Exploiting a vast network of secret tunnels to snipe at enemy troops and blast their vehicles even inside Israel, Hamas has killed 32 Israeli soldiers — almost three times as many as in the last major ground clashes in a 2008-9 conflict.

“The al-Qassam brigades continue to give repeated surprises, and every day the holy warriors arise from where the (Israeli) occupation could not foresee,” the group said last week.

“They fight… face to face with the enemy in retaliation for the blood of the martyrs that the occupier spills daily.”

The action has lived up to the fierce rhetoric.

Hamas has far outstripped fellow militants in Islamic Jihad and other groups in sending drones, scuba commandos and tunnel raiders to take the fight into Israel.

In one such infiltration, Hamas fighters emerged wearing full Israeli uniform, but were let down by one key detail – they were carrying Kalashnikov rifles, not standard issue M16s or Tavor assault rifles.

In the most deadly incident for Israel yet, on the first day of its incursion to begin destroying the tunnels on Sunday, Hamas says its fighters watched as an enemy armored personnel carrier lurched into a web of booby traps they had laid.

“Our holy warriors detonated the minefield with such force that (the carrier) was destroyed. They advanced on it, opened its doors and finished off all left inside,” the group said.

Israel offered a different account, saying the vehicle was part of a convoy and was hit my multiple anti-tank missiles.

Israel said six soldiers were killed, while another thought to have been in the vehicle is missing, believed dead. Hamas said it captured him but has not released his picture.

The Israeli military acknowledges Hamas’ increased skill.

“They have undergone extensive training, they are well supplied, well motivated and disciplined. We have met a more formidable enemy on the battlefield,” said Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner. Israel says it has so far killed more than 200 Palestinian fighters.

“We are not surprised about it because we knew that they were preparing for this battle. They didn’t just invest in the tunnels for the last two or three years,” he added.

“UNDERGROUND GAZA”

Speaking off the record, another army official said: “They have thrown everything at us. Missiles, ambushes, even (bomb-laden) donkeys and dogs. It’s proving a real challenge … We have to break their motivation, show them it is not worth it.

“We hope that if we break Shejaia, then that will show them our determination. That is a real command center for them… What is remarkable is that in the past eight years they have basically built an underground Gaza. It’s astonishing,” he said.

Confined in the crowded sandy coast enclave of 1.8 million, where poverty and unemployment hover around 40 percent, weary Gazans say they hope the battle will break the blockade that Israel and Egypt impose on them. They have very little to lose.

Hamas leaders hope to achieve that goal through the prowess of their men at the front, trained to inflict casualties and grab soldiers to gain political leverage.

Morale was high and Hamas fighters were preparing for a fight during a visit by Reuters in April to a training camp of its military wing on a vast sandy expanse in northern Gaza.

Kitted up in full Israeli battle gear, young cadets sat in classrooms taking notes on lessons in combat tactics.

They showed off maneuvers where they simulated raining down mortars on mock-up tanks, on which two groups of fighters then pounced from nearby tunnels, with one combatant hoisting over his shoulder a limp volunteer posing as an Israeli soldier.

NOT A HUGE LOSS

In addition to increasing the range and payload of more than 1,000 mostly homemade rockets it has hurled at Israel in two weeks, Hamas has stepped up its weapons procurement.

“Hamas leaders have tried to say through their statements that everything Israel’s been hit with so far was completely and purely Gaza-made. (But) Hamas did not deny benefiting from foreign imports,” said Gaza analyst Adnan Abu Amer.

The Islamist movement is unlikely to be deterred by the losses its has suffered at the hands of a stronger enemy.

“There are conflicting reports about Hamas’s losses in terms of fighters. Since Israel has claimed Hamas’s armed wing numbers 20,000 men, the martyrdom of 60 or 70 can not be described as a huge loss,” Abu Amer said.

Videos distributed by al-Qassam’s media arm appear to show the strength of the group’s arsenal.

“The demonstrated use of anti-tank guided missiles against small IDF units on foot, rather than against armored vehicles, shows a clear intent to simply inflict casualties and a recognition of the (Israeli army’s) superior armor defense,” said Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Center in Doha told Reuters.

A senior Israeli intelligence official briefing foreign reporters on Wednesday said “radical axis” countries – Iran, Syria or Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon – had provided Hamas with a new generation of ground weapons.

He cited the Russian-made cornet and the shoulder-fired RPG-29 which is “more of a rocket than a missile. You can use it in an urban area when you have to fight against very close forces. This is something you don’t make by yourself.”

CEASEFIRE?

In 22-days of fighting during a 2008-9 conflict, Hamas and other militant groups largely melted away, allowing Israeli tanks to approach the outskirts of Gaza City.

The militants killed just six soldiers then, and two more in an eight-day round of battle in 2012, which did not escalate into an Israeli ground incursion.

Israel’s Lerner cited outside aid for their new strength.

“(They were trained) by Iran. Mostly Iran. It is the school of Iran. It is the thought process of Iran. It is Iran with Hezbollah. It is the same type of tactics that we have seen.”

Israel’s loss of 12 soldiers on Sunday was the largest single-day toll since its forces pushed into South Lebanon in an attempt to dislodge Hezbollah militants there in 2006.

The Israeli intelligence officer said Syria, Iran and Hezbollah could have taught Hamas new tactics over the Internet.

Nobody from the Israeli side expected an easy push into Gaza, Israeli military affairs analyst Ehud Yaari told Reuters, but its stated aim of destroying the tunnels remains difficult.

“It’s very painful, but I don’t think anybody assumed that it could be a ‘no casualties’ operation … It seems they’ve been able to systematically uncover more and more tunnels, with the caveat that I’m not sure the Israelis are prepared to sustain the damage to uncover many more,” he said.

Subterranean warfare may be Hamas’s most potent innovation. After spending years and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars on building the network, Hamas may be keen to preserve some of its tunnels by stopping the fighting soon.

“They’re popping up more and more from underground to try and hit something in hopes that a ceasefire will be established as soon as possible,” Yaari said.

Abu Amer, the Gaza analyst, believes both sides are smarting and the military gains may encourage Hamas toward a ceasefire.

“Hamas realizes that the time factor is painful for both sides. Hamas has made achievements and my guess that neither Hamas nor Israel are willing today to prolong the confrontation,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Crispian Balmer and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Paul Taylor)

Related Stories

*****************************************

How Hamas uses its tunnels to kidnap, fight, and kill Israeli soldiers


The Washington Post

It was a Monday in October 2013 when residents of a kibbutz called Ein Hashlosha just east of the Gaza border heard strange sounds.

It may have been difficult to pinpoint the source. The sounds weren’t coming from above ground – but beneath it. The Israel Defence Forces soon discovered that the sounds signalled an ”extremely advanced and well prepared” tunnel.

Not only was the burrow remarkable in depth and length – 2.4 kilometres – it was equipped with electricity and contained enough cookies, yoghurt and other provisions to last its occupants several months. Israeli forces estimated that Hamas had dumped $US10 million and 800 tonnes of concrete into the two-year project.

A view of a tunnel reportedly dug by Palestinians beneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.A view of a tunnel reportedly dug by Palestinians beneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Photo: AFP

Such ”terror tunnels”, the Israeli military said in a statement on Friday, are ”complex and advanced”. And their use, Israel said, is ”to carry out attacks such as abductions of Israeli civilians and soldiers alike; infiltrations into Israeli communities, mass murders and hostage-taking scenarios.”

Advertisement

Describing this emerging ”tunnel war”, a Palestinian militia document obtained by the news website al-Monitor said the objective of the underground network was ”to surprise the enemy and strike it a deadly blow that doesn’t allow a chance for survival or escape or allow him a chance to confront and defend itself”.

On Saturday, in what The Washington Post called an ”audacious attack”, Hamas fighters wearing Israeli army uniforms slipped from central Gaza into Israel through a tunnel and attacked an Israeli army patrol, killing two soldiers. In a second attempt on Saturday to enter Israel through their tunnels, the Post reported, the Israeli military discovered Hamas operatives carrying handcuffs and tranquillisers in an apparent attempt to kidnap soldiers; the militants were killed. Also on Saturday, a militant climbed out of a concealed tunnel in southern Gaza and started firing at soldiers.

Smoke rises after an Israeli missile hit Shijaiyah neighbourhood in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, as fighting claims more than 500, mostly Palestinian, lives.Smoke rises after an Israeli missile hit Shijaiyah neighbourhood in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, as fighting claims more than 500, mostly Palestinian, lives. Photo: AP

Then early on Monday, a spokesman for the Israeli military said two ”terrorist squads” had infiltrated Israel through a tunnel from northern Gaza. Israeli aircraft hit one group; the second fired an antitank missile at an army vehicle before 10 of the operatives were killed by return fire. And now, as the full extent of the Hamas tunnel network becomes clear, the IDF says dismantling the burrows is a seminal priority.

”We’ve expanded the forces on the ground in order to accomplish that mission,” said Captain Eytan Buchman, an Israeli military spokesman. ”All of Gaza is an underground city, and the amount of infrastructure Hamas built up over the years is immense. There are tunnels, extended bunkers, weapons storage facilities, even within urban areas.”

Analysts said the tunnels are a major prong of Hamas’ military strategy against Israel. The IDF has sussed out 36 of what it calls ”terror tunnels”, but there are probably more. While the Gaza Strip remains mired in poverty – the 2011 per capita income was $US1165 – Hamas is thought to have sunk more than $US1 million into the excavation and maintenance of every tunnel. ”Much to the misfortune of the people of Gaza, Hamas has invested far more resources in ‘underground Gaza’ than in ‘upper Gaza’,” wrote al-Monitor’s Shlomi Eldar. ”The ‘change and reform’ that Hamas offered its voters was invested in its tunnels at the expense of the people of Gaza.”

If the tunnels are a result of Hamas’ 2006 election, the group got down to business almost immediately. In June of that year, Hamas used a tunnel to capture Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. That day, according to Haaretz, militants crossed underneath the Gaza border and attacked Shalit’s guard tower at 5.13am. Within six minutes, the attackers had secreted Shalit back across the border in a tunnel – and he wasn’t returned to Israel for five years.

In the years since, Hamas’ tunnels have come to possibly rival those used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Communist guerilla fighters were said to have constructed thousands of kilometres of tunnels in the region around Saigon, then the capital of South Vietnam.

But Hamas’ tunnels materialised in a different context. One reason they were built, Mr Eldar wrote in a separate article, was to keep soldiers occupied during a period of relative peace. ”What do you do with thousands of motivated, armed men with the urge to fight?” he said. ”You come up with some operational occupation. Digging an underground tunnel.”

One tunnel digger, who says workers stay underground for long periods, explained how they’re constructed. ”The drilling is done via a mechanical device, not an electric one, to avoid making noise,” he told al-Monitor. ”It uses a [pedal-powered] chain, similar to a bicycle chain. [The chain] moves metal pieces that dig through the dirt. During the digging, the digger lies on his back and pedals with his feet.” The tunnels are high enough to walk through standing up and are reinforced by concrete.

The tunnels take a human toll, according to an unusually detailed article by James Verini in the August issue of National Geographic, which describes this incident:

It was about 9pm, and the brothers were on a night shift doing maintenance on the tunnel, which, like many of its kind – and there are hundreds stretching between Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula – was lethally shoddy in its construction. Nearly a hundred feet (30 metres) below Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, Samir was working close to the entrance, while Yussef and two co-workers, Kareem and Khamis, were near the middle of the tunnel. They were trying to wedge a piece of plywood into the wall to shore it up when it began collapsing. Kareem pulled Khamis out of the way, as Yussef leaped in the other direction. For a moment the surge of soil and rocks stopped, and seeing that his friends were safe, Yussef yelled out to them, ‘Alhamdulillah! – Thank Allah!’

Then the tunnel gave way again, and Yussef disappeared.

There are three types of tunnel, experts say. The first are economic: hundreds of tunnels burrowing into Egypt, which allowed Hamas to funnel in resources, guns and rockets until the Egyptians sealed off many of them.

Another set of tunnels reportedly services the Hamas high command. ”Every single leader of Hamas, from its lowest ranking bureaucrats to its most senior leaders, is intimately familiar with the route to the security tunnel assigned to him and his family,” al-Monitor reported. ”The most senior leadership has its own specific tunnel.”

The last kind is allegedly driving the Israeli invasion: tunnels that can carry Hamas militants under the Gaza border and into Israel.

Washington Post

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/how-hamas-uses-its-tunnels-to-kidnap-fight-israeli-soldiers-20140722-zvko3.html#ixzz38Ns868sI

Sanctions: Top 10 Russian targets

July 22, 2014

.

MarkThompsonCNN

MH17 wreckage
The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine may persuade Europe to take a tougher line with Moscow over its support for separatist rebels.

LONDON (CNNMoney)

The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 may finally force Europe to impose tougher sanctions on Russia.

Since Moscow annexed Crimea four months ago, European leaders have worried about possible blowback if they punished Russia. The reason: the extensive trade ties between Europe and its powerful neighbor.

Europe is set to take a harder stance. Officials are meeting Tuesday to discuss ways of pressing Russia to end its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron says the weight of evidence suggests the rebels brought the plane down.

“Russia cannot expect to continue enjoying access to European markets, European capital, European knowledge and technical expertise while she fuels conflict in one of Europe’s neighbors,” he said.

The U.S. government, whose lead Europe might now follow, has taken a tougher approach — targeting Russian companies and oligarchs, some close to President Vladimir Putin. The sanctions haven’t gone after broad sectors of the Russian economy, but they have set key players scrambling.

Here are the 10 most significant U.S. sanction targets so far:

Rosneft: Russia’s biggest oil company; part owned by BP (BP) and partner to ExxonMobil (XOM).

Has lost access to U.S. sources of long-term finance. Cash rich and can still export oil. Expected to complete its purchase of Morgan Stanley (MS)’s oil trading business.

Novatek: Russia’s largest independent natural gas producer.

Has lost access to new U.S. funding. Estimated 46% of its debt is in dollars, according to analysts at BNP Paribas. Should be able to find alternative long-term investors.

VEB: Arranges payments for the Russian government; chairman is Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Bank will have to reduce its exposure to dollars in the future. Should be able to manage its financing through 2015 by tapping markets in other currencies, local investors and the Russian central bank.

Gazprombank: A key player in financing Russia’s energy sector, the mainstay of country’s economy.

Gazprom (GZPFY), which supplies Europe with about a third of its natural gas, is a major shareholder. Bank’s dependence on U.S. markets is low and it can count on Russian state support given its importance to the economy.

Kalashnikov: Russia’s largest firearms manufacturer; famous for its AK-47 rifles.

Among eight Russian arms firms that have had U.S. assets frozen and have been banned from doing business with U.S. businesses or individuals.

Igor Sechin: Rosneft CEO and one of dozens of Russians who have had their assets frozen.

Laughed off a sanctions-inspired fall in Rosneft’s shares in March as a buying opportunity, but warned last week’s blacklisting of the company was an attempt to target Russia’s economy. Says U.S banks and investors would suffer from the move.

Yuri Kovalchuk: A close associate of Putin and largest shareholder in Bank Rossiya, which is also facing U.S. sanctions.

Called Putin’s “personal banker” by U.S. officials. Bank is Russia’s 17th biggest and has major interests in oil and gas. Three subsidiaries are also on U.S. sanctions list.

Gennady Timchenko: Billionaire oil trader and founder of Geneva-based energy trading company Gunvor.

Sold all his shares in Gunvor just two days before landing on the U.S. list. His Volga Group and a number of subsidiary companies have had assets frozen by the U.S.

Sergei Chemezov: Rosneft director and appointed by Putin as director general of Rostec.

Rostec is a state-owned conglomerate that runs 13 holding companies, 8 of which are active in the military-industrial complex. Counts Boeing (BA) and Allegheny Technologies (ATI) among its many foreign partners.

Arkady and Boris Rotenberg: U.S. officials say the brothers received about $7 billion in contracts for the Sochi Olympic Games.

Control two banks — InvestCapitalBank and SMP Bank — subject to sanctions

Russia Stock Fall As New Sanctions Announced — Ukraine Moscow’s foreign ministry “furious”

July 17, 2014

By
ABC News

President Barack Obama announces additional Russian sanctions, July 16, 2014

The Obama administration is imposing new, deeper sanctions on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine, targeting Russian banks and energy and defense firms.

“Given its continued provocations in Ukraine, today I have approved a new set of sanctions on some of Russia’s largest companies and financial institutions,” President Obama announced during a brief statement in the White House briefing room today.

“I’ve repeatedly made it clear that Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine, that Russia must urge separatists to release their hostages and support a ceasefire, that Russia needs to pursue internationally mediated talks and agree to meaningful monitors on the border — I’ve made this clear directly to Mr. Putin,” he said. “So far, Russia has failed to take any of the steps that I mentioned.”

Obama: US ‘Prepared To Respond’ To Russian Aggression In Ukraine

Ukraine Crisis Tests Obama and Putin’s Already Rocky Relationship

Obama Raises Doubts Over Russia De-escalation Intents in Ukraine

“These sanctions are significant but they are also targeted, designed to have the maximum effect on Russia while limiting any spillover effects on American companies,” the president added. “The Russian leadership will see once again that its action has consequences.”

The sanctions were expanded in consultation with European allies, Obama said, noting that though the U.S. prefers diplomatic solutions, “we have to see concrete actions and not just words that Russia in fact is committed to trying to end this conflict.”

“Like any people, the Ukrainians deserve the right to forge their own destiny,” he said. “We’re going to continue to stand with the Ukrainian people as they seek to determine their own future.”

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today imposed what it called “a broad-based package of sanctions on entities in the financial services, energy and arms or related materiel sectors of Russia, and on those undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty or misappropriating Ukrainian property.”

Among the firms targeted is Kalashnikov Concern, the company that makes AK-47s.

“Russia has continued to destabilize Ukraine and provide support for the separatists, despite its statements to the contrary,” Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a statement.

“Because Russia has failed to meet the basic standards of international conduct, we are acting today to open Russia’s financial services and energy sectors to sanctions and limit the access of two key Russian banks and two key energy firms to U.S. sources of financing, and to impose blocking sanctions against eight arms firms and a set of senior Russian officials,” Cohen said.

Includes video:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/obama-announce-expanded-sanctions-russia/story?id=24589966

******************************

By Max Delany and Anna Malpas in Moscow

Obama Announces Expanded Sanctions Against Russia — Putin Thratens “Grave Repercussions” — Said the sanctions were “driving into a corner” relations between the U.S. and Russia

July 17, 2014

By
ABC News

President Barack Obama announces additional Russian sanctions, July 16, 2014

The Obama administration is imposing new, deeper sanctions on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine, targeting Russian banks and energy and defense firms.

“Given its continued provocations in Ukraine, today I have approved a new set of sanctions on some of Russia’s largest companies and financial institutions,” President Obama announced during a brief statement in the White House briefing room today.

“I’ve repeatedly made it clear that Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine, that Russia must urge separatists to release their hostages and support a ceasefire, that Russia needs to pursue internationally mediated talks and agree to meaningful monitors on the border — I’ve made this clear directly to Mr. Putin,” he said. “So far, Russia has failed to take any of the steps that I mentioned.”

Obama: US ‘Prepared To Respond’ To Russian Aggression In Ukraine

Ukraine Crisis Tests Obama and Putin’s Already Rocky Relationship

Obama Raises Doubts Over Russia De-escalation Intents in Ukraine

“These sanctions are significant but they are also targeted, designed to have the maximum effect on Russia while limiting any spillover effects on American companies,” the president added. “The Russian leadership will see once again that its action has consequences.”

The sanctions were expanded in consultation with European allies, Obama said, noting that though the U.S. prefers diplomatic solutions, “we have to see concrete actions and not just words that Russia in fact is committed to trying to end this conflict.”

“Like any people, the Ukrainians deserve the right to forge their own destiny,” he said. “We’re going to continue to stand with the Ukrainian people as they seek to determine their own future.”

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today imposed what it called “a broad-based package of sanctions on entities in the financial services, energy and arms or related materiel sectors of Russia, and on those undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty or misappropriating Ukrainian property.”

Among the firms targeted is Kalashnikov Concern, the company that makes AK-47s.

“Russia has continued to destabilize Ukraine and provide support for the separatists, despite its statements to the contrary,” Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a statement.

“Because Russia has failed to meet the basic standards of international conduct, we are acting today to open Russia’s financial services and energy sectors to sanctions and limit the access of two key Russian banks and two key energy firms to U.S. sources of financing, and to impose blocking sanctions against eight arms firms and a set of senior Russian officials,” Cohen said.

Includes video:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/obama-announce-expanded-sanctions-russia/story?id=24589966

***********************

The latest actions reflect a conclusion by American intelligence agencies that Russia has not cut off the flow of fighters and arms across the border to pro-Russian separatists.

Russian president says sanctions announced on Wednesday will strain bilateral relations and hurt Russian and US businesses

Thursday 17 July 2014 03.27 EDT

Vladimir Putin

Putin warned Washington that the sanctions would lead to a backlash against American companies working in Russia. Photograph: Alexei Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images

Vladimir Putin lamented the latest round of US sanctions against Russia on Thursday after Barack Obama increased economic pressure over the Ukraine crisis.

The Russian president said the sanctions, announced late on Wednesday, were straining bilateral relations and hurting both Russian and US businesses.

Russia’s benchmark MICEX plummeted 2.6% at opening on Thursday while Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft, was nearly 5% down.

The new and broader US sanctions against Russia target two major energy firms, a pair of powerful financial institutions, eight weapons firms and four individuals. They are intended to end the insurgency in eastern Ukraine that is widely believed to be backed by the Kremlin.

The US penalties, however, stop short of the most stringent actions the west has threatened, which would fully cut off key sectors of Russia’s oil-dependent economy. But officials said those steps were still on the table if Russia failed to abide by the west’s demands to stop its support for pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

The pro-Russia insurgents have been fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine for four months now in a conflict that the UN says has killed over 400 and displaced tens of thousands. The conflict took off shortly after Russia annexed the mostly Russian-speaking Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

In televised comments on Thursday, Putin said the sanctions were “driving into a corner” relations between the two countries as well as the interests of US companies and “the long-term national interests of the US government and people”.

Putin warned Washington that the sanctions would lead to a backlash against American companies working in Russia.

The most noticeable companies on the list are Rosneft and Russia’s largest independent gas producer Novatek. Both are now barred from getting long-term loans from US entities.

Rosneft has a multibillion-dollar deal with ExxonMobil, which among other things allowed Exxon to develop lucrative oil fields in Russia.

“We gave this American company the right to work on the shelf,” Putin said, speaking during a state visit in Brazil. “So, what, the United States does not want it to work there now?”

Putin made no mention of the additional sanctions levied on Wednesday by the European Union, which urged the European Investment Bank to sign no new financing agreements with Moscow and was suspending operations in Russia financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

European nations have much closer energy and other economic ties with Russia and have not imposed as tough sanctions as the United States.

Igor Sechin, Rosneft’s CEO and close confidante of Putin, dismissed the sanctions as “unfounded, subjective and unlawful”, adding that his company “had no role in the events in Ukraine”.