Posts Tagged ‘Palestinians’

Saudi Cabinet hails Trump’s Iran stance, reiterates support for fight against terrorism

October 18, 2017

RIYADH: King Salman headed Saudi Arabia’s latest Cabinet session on Tuesday afternoon at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh.

RIYADH: The king briefed the Cabinet on his phone call with US President Donald Trump, saying he had expressed the Kingdom’s support for Trump’s firm stance on Iran and his condemnation of Iran’s support for terrorism in the region.

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King Salman also briefed the Cabinet on his recent talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, during which they discussed the bilateral relations and reviewed the region’s events.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the king revealed, had briefed him on the recent reconciliation agreement between Abbas’ Fatah-backed Palestinian National Authority and Hamas. King Salman observed that unity will enable the Palestinian government to better serve its citizens.

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The king also briefed the Cabinet on his phone call with Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, in which he stated that the Kingdom fully supports the unity, security and stability of Iraq, as well as the adherence of all parties to the Iraqi Constitution.

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Minister of Culture and Information, Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, said in his statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that the Cabinet had reviewed the Justice Ministry’s submissions on the transferal of commercial disputes from the jurisdiction of the Board of Grievances to specialized commercial courts, which he described as “a great leap forward” in the Kingdom’s legal system.

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The Cabinet condemned the attacks that targeted security points in the city of Al-Arish in Egypt, the two bombings in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, and the attack on the Djimbi mosque in the Central African Republic. It also reiterated its continuous support of countries fighting terrorism.

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The Cabinet approved several mandates from ministers to draft memoranda of understanding with other countries, including the Republic of Korea, Morocco and the UAE, as well as a new system to regulate the trading of petroleum products.

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http://www.arabnews.com/node/1179346/saudi-arabia

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U.S.-Backed Forces Say They Have Taken Raqqa, Islamic State’s Last Urban Stronghold

October 18, 2017
U.S.-backed forces said they have captured Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, wrenching away the terror group’s last major urban stronghold in the Middle East.

By Maria Abi-Habib
The Wall Street Journal

Updated Oct. 17, 2017 6:46 p.m. ET

BEIRUT—U.S.-backed forces said they have captured Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, driving the extremists from a Syrian city that became synonymous with their reign of terror and was used as a nerve center to stage attacks on the West.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes and American special forces on the ground, on Tuesday said they had captured Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa.Photo: Erik De Castro/Reuters

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes and American special forces on the ground, on Tuesday said they had secured a sports stadium in the city the group had converted into a fortified compound for its final stand.

“The military operations within the city are completely over,” said Talal Silo, a spokesman for the SDF, which led the monthslong battle against Islamic State in Raqqa. “We are combing through the city to make sure there are no sleeper cells and to defuse the mines.”

Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, said the extremist group is “on the verge of a devastating defeat,” adding that 90% of Raqqa has been cleared.

Islamic State hasn’t commented.

With the fall of Raqqa—Islamic State’s last major urban stronghold in the Middle East—the self-declared caliphate is meeting an inglorious end.

The first significant city to come under Islamic State’s control, in 2014, Raqqa became a template for the group’s brutality. Militants in the city carried out public beheadings for blasphemy and crucifixions for murder. Child soldiers were radicalized and taught to kill. The city also held some of the most important assets and institutions for the group’s statelike operations in Syria, such as its highest courts.

Raqqa became a funnel for thousands of people from places as disparate as the U.K., China and Saudi Arabia to join the group. The recruits were processed and given their marching orders in the city, and some were given explosives training before being shuttled back to Europe to plan attacks there, Western officials said.

But Islamic State’s empire is now largely destroyed. At the height of its power in 2014, the group ruled a contiguous territory in Iraq and Syria the size of Belgium, while affiliates have sprung up from Nigeria to the Philippines. Now many of the cities it occupied have been reduced to rubble.

At the same time, Islamic State leaves in its wake radicalized youth and an extensive internet network still actively recruiting new jihadists and proselytizing an extremist ideology. The group’s initial rise showcased its strategy of preying on weak nations.

For months, U.S. war planners have warned the insurgency is seeking to exploit a power vacuum in Libya. Islamic State in the Sahara, a new affiliate, killed four U.S. Green Berets in an ambush in Niger this month.

Even if Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is killed in the near term, U.S. officials say the group will continue, much as al Qaeda did after Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011. The U.S. and its allies, as well as other countries that have fought Islamic State and other militant groups in recent decades, have been unable to kill off the extremist ideology that feeds the groups.

“The communist party didn’t die with the death of Stalin. Our ideology will persist,” one Islamic State supporter said recently in an online forum.

In a defiant speech in September, Mr. Baghdadi said that although his fighters were being uprooted across the Middle East, his organization’s ideology and appeal will live on.

“We will remain steadfast, patient,” he vowed, and laid out the group’s strategy for defeating the U.S. and its allies by drawing them into costly, asymmetrical warfare to wear them down.

U.S. and European officials predict that Islamic State will prioritize attacking Western capitals to stay in the headlines and remain relevant as the group is pushed out of the last patches of territory it holds in eastern Syria and western Iraq.

Related

  • Iraqis Push Deeper Into Kurdish Areas
  • Middle East Crossroads: Simmering Conflicts Flare Up as Islamic State Fades
  • Europe Doesn’t Expect Influx of Returning ISIS Fighters

In Washington, Pentagon officials have long expected a defeated Islamic State to evolve into an general insurgency, potentially aligning with al Qaeda in Syria and fueling sectarian tensions by presenting itself as a Sunni vanguard against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian backers.

Newly uprooted fighters also are likely to pose a persisting threat by moving about the region, hovering in border areas or even trying to exploit the territorial struggle in Iraq between Iraqi forces and Kurdish units, experts said on Tuesday. The departure of Kurdish fighters from areas such as Kirkuk, Sinjar and Khanaqin in the east could create security gaps, said Jennifer Cafarella, an analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.

“ISIS has the intent and likely the capability to penetrate behind defensive lines of anti-ISIS forces and could choose to exploit the disruption caused by recent massive troop movements in Iraq,” Ms. Cafarella said. “How does the Iraqi government intend to govern all the territory it jus t took?”

The U.S. military estimates there are roughly 100 Islamic State fighters remaining in Raqqa, from a peak of 2,500. Some of those fighters have resettled in other parts of Syria and Iraq where about 6,500 militants remain, said Col. Dillon, the coalition spokesman. About 400 have surrendered over the past month, he added. By comparison, a Defense Intelligence analysis concluded there are as many as 1,500 Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, 1,000 in Egypt and 500 in Libya.

On Tuesday, Col. Dillon stressed that the fight against the extremists isn’t over and there are still swaths of territory on the Iraqi-Syrian border still under militant control.

A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter gestures the “V” sign at the frontline in Raqqa on Oct. 16.Photo: rodi said/Reuters

“Yes, ISIS will be defeated militarily, but we know that there still is going to be the ideology and the continued insurgent activity as they devolve into that,” he said.

The U.S. military trained roughly 1,000 local residents to conduct security in Raqqa after Islamic State’s demise. But the challenges before such a force already have emerged. Col. Dillon said the head of that force was killed on Monday by an explosive.

The head of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5 chief Andrew Parker, said on Tuesday in a rare public speech that there has been a dramatic uptick in the threat of Islamist extremism to the U.K. He said the types of threats are changing rapidly and sometimes accelerate from inception to action in days, leaving authorities with a smaller window to intervene.

A U.S. official specializing in European security said that while intelligence experts had predicted a flow of foreign fighters returning to Europe, so far it hasn’t happened. The U.S. official cautioned the trend could reverse, but for now European officials have told their counterparts they don’t expect the fall of Raqqa to trigger a migration of militants to Europe to launch attacks.

Western counterterrorism officials say they worry Islamic State will try to take advantage of the crisis facing Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.

A Syrian Democratic Forces commander walks with her group’s flag at Al-Naim square in Raqqa on Tuesday.Photo: BULENT KILIC/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

“They’re already messaging that the Rohingya are the new Palestinians, using it to recruit,” one U.S. counterterrorism official said. “Southeast Asia is the new concern.”

Islamic State’s rise and fall has divided and reshaped Syria.

Many Syrians and top American officials blame Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the rise of Islamic State. In the first years of the Syrian uprising, which began in 2011, Mr. Assad emptied Syrian prisons of those convicted of terrorism, filling the cells with more-liberal activists—many of whom had peacefully demonstrated to demand political change.

The regime’s military focused on attacking rebel groups while allowing Islamic State to grow, launching its first major assault against the extremist group in 2015, four years after the uprising began.

“Assad wanted Islamic State to rise so the world would have to choose between terrorism and him,” said one Arab diplomat, echoing a sentiment expressed by Western counterparts.

Now, nearly seven years into Syria’s civil war, the U.S. and its allies, from the U.K. to Saudi Arabia, have largely stopped funding the Syrian rebels and have begun preparing for Mr. Assad to remain in power.

The rebels are deeply fractured, with many living in exile, while Mr. Assad has slowly regained control over the country with the help of Iran, Russia and the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Syrian Kurds, who have made up the bulk of the U.S.-backed forces fighting Islamic State, have, meanwhile, used the conflict to carve out their own autonomous region across northern Syria. But with the long-term presence of the U.S. in Syria in serious doubt, the Kurds fear they will become the regime’s next target as Mr. Assad tries to consolidate control over the entire country.

Raqqa residents have borne much of the consequences of Islamic State’s rise. As foreign fighters flocked to the city to join Islamic State, some residents sought to defy the terror group and expose the atrocities they committed against fellow Muslims to dissuade potential recruits from joining. An underground resistance emerged, including the activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.

They secretly filmed Islamic State brutality against ordinary Syrians and posted it online, countering the extremists’ narrative of a glorious caliphate ruling over millions of adoring and loyal Syrian Muslims.

Mohamad al-Mosari, an activist with Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, said recently, “One thousand four hundred years of this city’s history is wiped out.”

— Nazih Osseiran and Raja Abdulrahim in Beirut, Nour Alakraa in Berlin, Julian E. Barnes in Brussels, Jenny Gross in London and Nancy A. Youssef in Washington contributed to this article.

Write to Maria Abi-Habib at maria.habib@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications Four U.S. Green Berets were killed in an ambush in Niger earlier this month. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated three Green Berets were killed. Oct. 17, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-backed-forces-say-they-have-captured-de-facto-islamic-state-capital-1508242244

Unity deal at risk if Abbas does not end sanctions: Hamas

October 17, 2017

A man holds a picture of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during celebrations after Hamas said it reached a deal with Palestinian rival Fatah, in Gaza City on October 12, 2017. (Reuters)
GAZA CITY: Hamas has warned that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s delay in easing sanctions on Gaza was putting at risk a landmark unity deal signed last week.
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“The continuation of the punitive measures against our people in Gaza a month after the dissolution of the administrative council spoils the general atmosphere for reconciliation,” a party spokesman said in a statement to Hamas media.
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Hamas last month agreed to dissolve its administrative council, seen as a rival government in Gaza, and return civilian power in the enclave to the Palestinian Authority a decade after seizing it in a near civil war.
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Chief among their demands, however, was that Abbas drop a series of measures taken against Gaza.
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Among these were reductions in energy payments for the territory which left its 2 million residents with only a few hours of mains electricity per day.
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Hamas is due to hand over Gaza’s border crossings by Nov. 1 ahead of a full transfer of power by Dec. 1.
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The PA’s top border official visited Gaza on Monday.
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Previous reconciliation agreements between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, have collapsed over implementation of specific issues.
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Security control of the Gaza Strip is expected to be a major stumbling block, with Hamas refusing to disarm its 25,000-strong armed wing.
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Israel advances plans for 1,292 West Bank settler homes in new push

October 17, 2017

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JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli authorities advanced plans Tuesday for 1,292 settler homes in a new push by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank, an NGO said.

 © Hazem Bader, AFP | A picture shows on October 17,2017 the area of an Israeli army base in the centre of the divided city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank where 31 settlers house are going to be built.

The approvals came after government officials pledged a major boost in settlement home approvals this year, with US President Donald Trump so far much less critical of such plans than his predecessor Barack Obama.

Settlement watchdog Peace Now reported the approvals by a committee overseeing settlement construction in the West Bank.

A list provided by the NGO showed homes to be offered in a number of locations across the territory, including 146 in Nokdim, a southern West Bank settlement near Bethlehem where Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman lives.

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said further approvals were likely on Wednesday, with more than 2,000 units expected to be on the agenda over the course of the two-day meeting.

Separately on Monday, an Israeli committee approved permits for 31 settler homes in Hebron, the first such green light for the flashpoint West Bank city since 2002.

Several hundred Israeli settlers live in the heart of Hebron under heavy military guard among some 200,000 Palestinians.

The Hebron units are to be built on Shuhada Street, formerly an important market road leading to a holy site where the biblical Abraham is believed to have been buried.

The street is now largely closed off to Palestinians.

Settlement building in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem is considered illegal under international law.

It is also seen as a major obstacle to peace as the settlements are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

– Two-state solution threatened –

Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition government leans heavily on settlers and their supporters to maintain its thin parliamentary majority.

Israel took heavy criticism on settlement construction from Obama’s administration, but that has not been the case with Trump.

Israeli officials say a total of around 12,000 housing units will be given various stages of approval this year, four times the amount in 2016.

Last month, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, himself a supporter of settlements, enraged Palestinians when he told an Israeli TV interviewer that Israel is “only occupying two percent of the West Bank”.

The Yesha Council, which represents settlers across the West Bank, welcomed the ambassador’s comments.

More than 60 percent of the West Bank is under near complete Israeli control, the UN says, while a further portion of the territory is under Israeli security control.

The portion of the West Bank that is in theory under both Palestinian civilian and security control still sees raids by Israeli soldiers.

About 430,000 Israeli settlers live among 2.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Trump is seeking to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians frozen since a US-led initiative collapsed in 2014.

The Palestinians have grown increasingly concerned by Trump and his team — including Friedman — who have yet to publicly commit to the idea of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, the so-called “two-state solution.”

Prominent members of Netanyahu’s coalition openly oppose the idea of a Palestinian state and advocate annexing most of the West Bank.

Netanyahu recently said he plans no uprooting of settlements, blaming Palestinian “incitement” and attacks against Israelis, among other issues, for the lack of progress in peace efforts.

by Stephen Weizman
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Israel Will Not Negotiate With a Hamas-Based Palestinian Government

October 17, 2017
BY JPOST.COM STAFF
 OCTOBER 17, 2017 18:02
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Israel’s security cabinet stated on Tuesday evening that it would not negotiate with a Hamas-based Palestinian government, as Hamas is a terrorist organization set on destroying Israel.

A statement issued following the security cabinet meeting said Israel’s position would stand until Hamas agrees to disarm and end all its terrorist activities, recognize Israel, return the bodies of Israeli soldiers and living Israeli citizens being held in Gaza and sever all ties with Iran.

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In addition, the Israeli government demanded that any financial and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza be distributed by the Palestinian Authority and the existing networks set up for such actions. Israel also demanded that Gaza security be placed under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority, including border-crossing points to Egypt and Israel as well as the responsibility of preventing the tunnels dug by Hamas to be used for smuggling.

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http://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Israel-will-not-negotiate-with-a-Hamas-based-Palestinian-government-507677
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Palestinian Authority official in Gaza to advance unity deal

October 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | A Palestinian youth celebrates in Gaza after rival factions Hamas and Fatah reached a deal on ending a decade-long split on October 12, 2017

GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – The Palestinian Authority’s top official for border crossings visited the Gaza Strip on Monday, after Hamas agreed to hand over control of the borders under a landmark reconciliation deal.

The two sides signed a reconciliation agreement in Egypt last week aimed at handing control of the Gaza Strip back to the PA a decade after Fatah and Hamas fought a near civil war.

Nazmi Muhanna told journalists that he had been sent by president Mahmud Abbas to implement the “first step” in the reconciliation agreement, “the taking over of the crossings.”

He said he was hopeful that in talks with Hamas they would agree on handing over the borders quickly.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since seizing it in a 2007 near civil war with Abbas’s Fatah.

The conflict followed an electoral dispute after parliamentary polls won by the Islamist movement.

The border crossings are seen as a key test case as to whether the reconciliation agreement will succeed.

They are meant to be handed over to the PA by the beginning of November ahead of the full transfer of power in December.

Multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed.

Gaza borders both Egypt and Israel, but they have been largely sealed off by the two countries in recent years, citing security concerns around Hamas.

Israel: Hamas Must Disarm or Reconciliation Means Nothing

October 14, 2017
BY HERB KEINON, ERIC SUMNER
Israeli leaders: Hamas must disarm, or reconciliation means nothing

Head of Hamas delegation Saleh Arouri hugs Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad as they sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2017.. (photo credit:REUTERS/AMR ABDALLAH DALSH)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out against the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement signed Thursday in Cairo, saying that “reconciling with a murderous organization that strives to destroy Israel does not bring peace closer, but rather makes it more distant.”

Israel, read a post on the Prime Minister of Israel’s Facebook account, “opposes any reconciliation in which the terrorist organization Hamas does not disarm and end its war to destroy Israel.”

Israel also demands that Hamas return the bodies of the IDF solider and two Israeli civilians it is holding.

“There is nothing Israel wants more than peace with all our neighbors,” the post read. “Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas makes peace much harder to achieve.”

Netanyahu asked what it means when Fatah reconciles with a terrorist organization that “seeks the annihilation of Israel, advocates genocide, launched thousands of rockets at civilians and digs terror tunnels, murders children, represses minorities, bans LGBT, rejects international obligations, refuses to free Israeli civilians it holds hostage, refuses to return the bodies of Israeli soldiers to grieving mothers and fathers, tortures opposition, mourns [Osama] Bin Laden’s death.”

The post continued: “Reconciling with mass-murderers is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Say yes to peace and no to joining hands with Hamas.”

MK Tzipi Livni called the reconciliation talks in Cairo “an opportunity for change,” but also called on Hamas to disarm.

“Egypt’s involvement and the entry of the PA into Gaza is an opportunity for change, but as long as Hamas remains an armed terrorist organization, Palestinian reconciliation is a legitimacy for Hamas and terrorism rather than a takeover [by the PA].

She added: “Israel must act in such a way that the world will not accept the Hezbollah model in Lebanon — a nice foreign government and an armed organization that continues terror.”

Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz reiterated Netanyahu’s and Livni’s concerns about the agreement, warning the PA against letting Hamas dictate the terms.

Israel and the international community should insist that the Palestinian unity government accept the conditions of the Quartet and Security Council Resolution 1850: recognition of Israel, a commitment to the two-state solution, and the cessation of terror and incitement,” a statement from Peretz’s office read.

The head of the PLO General Delegation to the United States, Dr. Husam Zomlot, thanked US President Donald Trump for “encouraging” the reconciliation talks in Cairo, and reaffirmed what he called PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ commitment to achieving a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.”

Just prior to Netanyahu’s Facebook post, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a somewhat milder reaction to the reconciliation, saying in a statement that it must comply with international agreement and the Quartet’s conditions, which also include recognizing Israel and a forswearing of terrorism.

“The continued digging of tunnels, the manufacture of missiles and the initiation of terror attacks against Israel are contrary to the Quartet’s conditions and the US efforts to renew the political process,” the statement read.

According to this statement, as long as Hamas does not disarm and continues to call for Israel’s destruction, Jerusalem will consider it responsible for all terrorist acts originating in Gaza. In addition, the statement said that Israel “insists that the PA not allow any base whatsoever for Hamas terrorist actions from PA areas in Judea and Samaria or from Gaza, if the PA indeed takes responsibility for its territory.”

Israel will monitor the developments on the ground and act accordingly, the statement read.

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US withdraws from UNESCO amid accusations of ‘anti-Israel bias’

October 12, 2017

AFP

© HAZEM BADER / AFP | Israeli soldiers stand outside the Tomb of the Patriarchsin the divided Palestinian city of Hebron ahead of a demonstration against a UNESCO decision to add the heart of the city to the endangered world heritage list.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-10-12

The United States announced Thursday that it will withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), accusing the body of “anti-Israel bias.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington would establish an “observer mission” to replace its representation at the Paris-based agency.

The United States was angered in 2011 when UNESCO members granted Palestine full membership of the body, despite opposition from its ally Israel. The move resulted in both the US and Israel to halt their contributions to the agency.

Washington opposes any move by UN bodies to recognise the Palestinians as a state, believing that this must await a negotiated Middle East peace deal.

But US President Donald Trump’s administration is also reviewing many of its multilateral commitments, pursuing what he calls an “America First” foreign policy.

Nauert said the State Department had notified UNESCO’s outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova of their decision earlier Thursday.

“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” she said in a statement.

“The United States indicated to the director-general its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.”

Trump’s America continues ‘to go at it alone’

Reporting from Washington, FRANCE 24’s Gallagher Fenwick said that the decision to pull out is as much about benefitting the US as it is a protest of the workings of the agency.

“The administration and state department have made it very clear that this is both an attempt to save money, and funds, but also to protest what is being considered as the unilateralism of a UNESCO for Palestine. [UNESCO] is considered by this administration to be an anti-Israel organisation and of having been politicised to further goals which this administration disapproves of,” he said.

Fenwick also said the decision seems to underscore Trump’s “America First” agenda.

“This administration continues, on the international scene, to go at it alone after pulling out of the COP 21 Paris climate agreement.”

The news of Washington’s decision comes as members of the UNESCO executive board are in the midst of nominating a successor for Bokova.

In a statement, Bokova said that the US departure is a loss for “the United Nations family” and for multilateralism, adding that the US and UNESCO matter to each other more than ever right now due to “the rise of violent extremism and terrorism calls for new long-term responses for peace and security.”

Bokova also defended UNESCO’s reputation, noting in particular the agency’s efforts to support Holocaust education and train teachers to fight anti-Semitism.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

Hamas says reached reconciliation deal with Palestinian rival Fatah

October 12, 2017

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Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (R) and Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh hold hands in Gaza City October 2, 2017. REUTERS – Ibraheem Abu Mustafa-File Photo

Reuters

CAIRO/GAZA (Reuters) – Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have reached a deal over political reconciliation, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement on Thursday, without providing further details about the accord brokered by Egypt.

A Hamas official told Reuters that details are expected to be released at a noon news conference in Cairo, where unity talks between the rival factions began on Tuesday.

The Western-backed mainstream Fatah party lost control of Gaza to Hamas, considered a terrorist group by the West and Israel, in fighting in 2007. But last month Hamas agreed to cede powers in Gaza to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah-backed government.

“Fatah and Hamas reached an agreement at dawn today upon a generous Egyptian sponsorship,” Haniyeh said in a statement.

Egypt has helped mediate several attempts to reconcile the two movements and form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas and Fatah agreed in 2014 to form a national reconciliation government, but despite that deal, Hamas’s shadow government continued to rule the Gaza Strip.

“We congratulate our Palestinian people on the reconciliation agreement reached in Cairo. We make every effort possible to implement it to start a new chapter in the history of our people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Reuters.

Hamas agreed to hand administrative powers in Gaza to a Fatah-backed government last month. The move was a major reversal for Hamas, prompted partly by the group’s fears of potential financial and political isolation after its main donor Qatar suffered a major diplomatic crisis with key allies.

Delegations from the two rivals have been in talks in Cairo this week to work out the details of the administrative handover, including security in Gaza and at border crossings.

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 PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (left) shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City on October 2. (photo credit IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA – REUTERS)

Under the deal, 3,000 Fatah security officers will join the Gaza police force. But Hamas would still have the most powerful armed Palestinian faction, whose estimated 25,000 well-equipped fighters have fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

Both rivals hope the deal’s proposed deployment of security personnel from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority to Gaza’s borders will encourage Egypt and Israel to lift their tight restrictions at border crossings, a much needed step to help Gaza revive its economy.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and; Hesham Hajali in Cairo; Writing by Eric Knecht and Patrick Markey; Editing by Michael Perry and Catherine Evans

Syria, Lebanon will be ‘one front’ if war erupts against Israel: minister

October 10, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Israeli soldiers take part in a military exercise simulating conflict with Lebanese movement Hezbollah, in the Israeli annexed Golan Heights, near the Syrian border on September 5, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that Lebanon and Syria would constitute “one front” against his country if a new war were to break out.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a devastating conflict in 2006, and the Lebanese Shiite group is currently backing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian civil war.

Both countries border Israel to its north.

 Image result for Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, photos

“In the next war in the north of the country, Lebanon will not be the only front,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman  said in a speech to soldiers.

“There is now only one front in the north composed of Lebanon, Syria, Hezbollah, the Bashar al-Assad regime and all those who help his regime.”

Lieberman added that the Lebanese army had lost “its independence by becoming an integral part of Hezbollah, which gives it its orders.”

Israeli leaders frequently warn Lebanon that the country’s army and civilian infrastructure would be overwhelmingly targeted if Hezbollah attacks from civilian areas.

Hezbollah is also supported by Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy which backs Assad in Syria as well.

Israel’s military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short- and medium-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred long-range missiles, with the medium-range missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

Lieberman evoked the possibility of a simultaneous conflict in the north and in the south with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“The battle will take place on the northern and southern fronts,” he said.

“There is no longer war on one front. It’s our basic assumption and it is what our military is preparing for.”

Since 2008, Israel has fought three wars with Hamas, which also receives support from Iran.

Israel has sought to avoid becoming involved in the Syrian civil war, but acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes there to stop what it says are advanced weapons deliveries to Hezbollah.