06/01 Links Pt1: PM warns of campaign to ‘blacken Israel’s name’; PA teaches kids to despise Jews
Netanyahu made the comments Sunday at a meeting of his new Cabinet just two days after a Palestinian proposal to suspend Israel from world football was dropped at the last moment. Netanyahu warned that such efforts to boycott Israel continue. Palestinians accelerated their campaign to boycott Israel and Israeli-made products after peace talks collapsed last year.
“We are in the midst of a great struggle being waged against the state of Israel, an international campaign to blacken its name. It is not connected to our actions; it is connected to our very existence. It does not matter what we do; it matters what we symbolize and what we are,” Netanyahu said.
“I think that it is important to understand that these things do not stem from the fact that if only we were nicer or a little more generous — we are very generous, we have made many offers, we have made many concessions — that anything would change because this campaign to delegitimize Israel entails something much deeper that is being directed at us and seeks to deny our very right to live here,” he said.
The Israeli prime minister said the Palestinian boycott is reminiscent of similar attacks the Jewish people faced in the past.
The Palestinian Authority continues to destroy any chance for lasting peace by teaching children that Palestinians and Muslims are in conflict with Jews. The PA teaches that Jews have an intrinsically evil nature and that this conflict is part of Islam. The PA repeatedly sends the message that the conflict is much more than a conflict over territory.
On the latest broadcast of the official PA TV children’s program The Best Home, a young girl recited a poem calling Jews “barbaric monkeys,” “the most evil among creations,” and those “who murdered Allah’s pious prophets.” Jews are said to be “throngs… brought up on spilling blood… impure… [and] filth.”
In spite of all this, the girl, continuing her recital, declares she is not afraid of the Jews’ “barbarity” because Jerusalem will “vomit out” the impure Jews. The poem continues, “My heart is my city and my Quran”:
Jews are “barbaric monkeys,” “most evil among creations,” in poem recited by girl on PA TV
Fatah reiterated on Facebook last month its adherence to violence and the use of weapons, by posting a music video with an armed child soldier and visuals of Fatah soldiers’ military training and firing of rockets.
In the video, a young boy singer dressed in a military uniform is seen going through a training program like adult soldiers and brandishing different weapons. Promoting child soldiers is forbidden according to international humanitarian law.
In the video, the boy soldier sings about the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades’ soldier, praising him and his weapons:
Child soldier encourages violence against Israel in Fatah Facebook music video
Fatah threatens Israel with war in video showing armed fighters training for battle
PA TV sympathizes with murderer and demonizes Israel for imprisoning him
Official PA TV host: “We are going to visit the family of a prisoner who was driven by his love for the homeland to carry out an operation (i.e., terror attack) in the settlement of Gilo – prisoner Muhammad Al-Badan, sentenced to life and 14 years in prison... The occupation stole his right to complete his university studies after he had studied for two years. His freedom was stolen by an abusive sentence issued by the Israeli court.”
[Official PA TV, Nov. 20, 2014 and Jan. 22, 2015]
Note: Muhammad Al-Badan carried out a stabbing attack in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem on Oct. 23, 2008, killing one and injuring another. He was sentenced to life and 14 years in prison.
This video originally aired on Nov. 2,0, 2014, and was rebroadcast on Jan. 22, 2015.
Unnamed officials have hinted at such an arrangement, but Hamdallah’s statement to The Washington Post constituted the first official word that the US would was waiting to finish dealing with Iran’s nuclear program before attempting to jump-start peace talks.
“We have had certain assurances from the United States that after the Iranian deal, they will resume negotiations between us and the Israelis. We count on the [United] States and are sure they will deliver,” Hamdallah said in the interview.
Negotiations between Tehran and world powers are currently slated to end on June 30, though they have snagged in recent weeks on the issue of allowing inspections at military sites in Iran.
Officials in both Iran and the US have said they plan on sticking to the June 30 deadline, though European diplomats have indicated an extension may be considered.
Declaring that direct negotiations with Israel were a failure, Hamdallah said the Palestinians would only negotiate if the United Nations Security Council set a 2017 deadline for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank, though he insisted it was not a precondition.
The Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Foreign of Affairs on Sunday denied reports that his government was building a team for the renewal of peace talks with Israel.
In an interview on “Voice of Palestine” radio, Riyad Al-Maliki said that the Palestinian leadership has not put together a new negotiations team, given the lack of international or regional initiatives to renew peace talks.
Al-Maliki also took the opportunity to criticize Israel, and claimed that the Jewish state is not interested in renewing talks with the Palestinians.
Al-Maliki’s comments came in response to a report by Palestinian news agency Quds Net which cited sources close to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas indicating that he was setting up a negotiations team at the request of the United States, Israel’s NRG reported.
Leader makes the statement during meeting with German FM, who says peace talks ‘shouldn’t last for eternity’
The only way to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East is through the concept of two states for two peoples, one of which will be a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish nation state of Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.
The leader made the statement during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who arrived in the region on an official tour.
Steinmeier stated that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians should be revived, but “should not last for an eternity.”
“I believe that a new military escalation would be the worst development for both sides,” warned Steinmeier, who plans to visit the Gaza Strip Monday, almost one year after the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.
“The situation in Gaza is very hard; we have to think about the reconstruction of Gaza,” he further added.
After Israel’s March 17 election, possibilities must be explored to breathe “new life” into the moribund peace process, he told Netanyahu.
Germany’s foreign minister paid a rare visit Monday to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, calling on Israel to ease a blockade on the territory and urging Hamas to make sure no more rockets are fired into Israel.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the latest in a series of Western diplomats to tour Gaza since a 50-day war with Israel last summer. While international donors have pledged billions of dollars in aid, little reconstruction has taken place on the estimated 18,000 homes destroyed in the fighting.
Steinmeier said that more efforts are needed to rebuild and to improve the economy. He said, “This requires the opening of crossing points by Israel.”
But he said it would be difficult to do this without an end to rocket fire. Steinmeier did not meet Hamas officials.
The Palestinian Authority will submit files on 145 Israeli settlements in the West Bank to the International Criminal Court in The Hague this month, a Palestinian cartographer said on Monday.
Speaking to Jordanian daily al-Ghad, Khalil Tufakji, head of the Maps and Survey Department at Jerusalem’s Orient House, said that a team of geographers and legal experts is currently assembling maps, Israeli military orders and aerial photographs documenting settlement construction from 1997 until today as part of a legal case being prepared against Israel.
“The Israeli occupation steals Palestinian land under the pretext of establishing ‘nature reserves,’ ‘green areas,’ or what’s known as ‘state property’ or ‘military zones,’” Tufakji told al-Ghad. “We will submit 160 files on 145 settlements in the West Bank, encompassing some 400,000 settlers, in addition to 15 settlements in occupied Jerusalem encompassing some 200,000 settlers. Altogether, [the files] will cover over half a million settlers living on land designated for the future Palestinian state.”
The Palestinian Authority officially joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 1, after having signed the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, last December. Though Israel is not a member of the court, cases could be brought before it against Israeli individuals suspected of war crimes committed on Palestinian territory. In January, the court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda initiated an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel during the Gaza Conflict last summer.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Hamas-affiliated journalist calls on group to hold negotiations with Israel
Mustafa al-Sawwaf, a prominent Palestinian journalist and political analyst from the Gaza Strip, on Sunday called on Hamas to hold negotiations with Israel.
He said that Hamas could negotiate with Israel over specific issues concerning the Gaza Strip without making political concessions such as recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
Sawwaf made the call in an article published in the Hamas-affiliated online newspaper Al-Resalah.
The article is titled, “Why should there be no negotiations?” It was the first time that a leading journalist with close ties to Hamas had come out in favor of negotiations with Israel.
He said that Hamas has no reason to fear negotiations with Israel as long as the movement is not required to make concessions.
“If the negotiations are aimed at achieving general interests – without recognizing or making concessions to the enemy – then why should [Hamas] be afraid of direct or indirect negotiations?” he asked.
Any agreement that would be reached between Hamas and Israel would not be “sacred” and could be revoked if Israel does not abide by it, he added.
Kerry, 71, a keen cyclist, was hospitalised in the Swiss city of Geneva — where he was meeting his Iranian opposite number Mohammad Javad Zarif — after the accident across the border in the French Alps.
But White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki, who used to work for Kerry at the State department, claimed the accident would not slow down the globetrotting envoy, who is leading efforts to reach a landmark nuclear pact with Iran.
“I would love to see anyone at the hospital try to stop John Kerry from negotiating and working while recovering from breaking his leg,” she tweeted.
Iranian painter and women’s rights campaigner Atena Farghadani was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment today, May 28.
The 29-year old, who was charged with spreading propaganda against the regime and other offences, attended court on Tuesday, May 19 in connection with both her activism and art.
Revolutionary Guards arrested Farghadani in January 2015 after she posted a cartoon on Facebook that mocked politicians who supported an anti-contraception bill by drawing them with animal faces. The bill also set out to criminalize voluntary sterlization.
Farghadani was first arrested in November 2014 and detained for two months before being released. However, she was soon re-arrested after she spoke to the media about her incarceration and posted a video on YouTube about prison conditions.
During that time, she went on hunger strike, and suffered a heart attack as a result. As punishment for refusing to eat, Farghadani was moved from Evin Prison to a detention center.
Women’s rights activists, including Farghadani, have said they are worried that if the new legislation goes through, it will encourage further discrimination against women.
On the sidelines of the Israel Day Concert in New York’s Central Park on Sunday, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton gave a rundown of Iran’s nuclear program and the impending deal on curbing it, in an exclusive Arutz Sheva interview.
While negotiations between Iran and world powers have reached an interim agreement ahead of a June 30 deadline for a final deal, Bolton predicts that the Iran negotiations are “doomed to failure.”
“I don’t think Iran has any intention of giving up its efforts to get deliverable nuclear weapons,” said the former ambassador. “Even if a deal is signed sometime in the summer I think the ayatollahs will violate it even before the ink is dry.”
Lending credence to those suspicions, top Iranian officials have said they will start using advanced IR-8 centrifuges that are 20 times as effective as standard ones as soon as a deal is reached, even as the US asserts a deal will limit the usage of advanced centrifuges.
According to Bolton, the West doesn’t have enough knowledge about Iran’s covert nuclear program, nor does it possess any sufficient mechanism to monitor possible violations of a future deal, meaning such a deal will only “legitimize Iran’s path to nuclear weapons.”
A large shipment of Israeli weapons and ammunition were intercepted inside the Saudi embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, the Israel Hayom newspaper reported Sunday, citing the Iranian Fars news agency.
According to the report, the weapons were discovered when Iran-backed rebel Houthi forces gained control of the compound, defeating the Yemeni security forces guarding the embassy.
The Houthis claimed that they had also seized documents proving that the United States planned to establish a military base in Saudi Arabia to monitor the Bab el-Mandeb strait (between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea) “in order to protect American interests and protect Israel,” the report stated.
The Houthis further claimed that Riyadh had asked Israel to send advanced weapons to help forces loyal to Yemeni president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee the country in late March when the Houthis began marching on Aden, before capturing central parts of the city.
The social media photo-sharing site Instagram blocked an account set up in memory of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Iranian revolutionary leader who established the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to a Sunday report from Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.
The account, which Fars said had 100,000 followers, was established by adherents in memory of the deceased leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Just days before commemoration ceremonies scheduled for June 4 in Iran — to mark Khomeini’s death in 1989 — the account was closed by the operators of Instagram.
Although the Fars report said that Instagram had announced its intention to deactivate the account in an email, it did not give any details as to why the account, which was said to have had 500,000 photos and posts, was deactivated.
Instagram does not allow accounts in the name of deceased people, unless they’re registered as memorial accounts.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has emerged as a world leader in tolerance and human rights, a series of reports by journalists allowed to leave the country of their own free will revealed this week. Further, several reporters not currently jailed for espionage have documented that the Iranian regime has no interest in war and is in the process of retraining its elite soldiers as jugglers.
“While many in the West fear the Iranian regime, it’s actually composed of moderate, rational actors eager to embrace secular democracy as soon as this nuclear deal is signed,” said one reporter who is not being prosecuted in a super-secret closed trial. “In fact, once a deal is signed and sanctions are lifted, they plan to turn their nuclear facilities into waterparks for the kids.”
Allegations that the Iranian government would use proceeds from the lifting of sanctions to fund terrorist groups throughout the Middle East were thoroughly debunked, as journalists not jailed for “propaganda against the establishment” unanimously agreed that the additional revenue would be spent on rescuing puppies.
Congressional Republicans viewed the journalists’ claims skeptically, calling it odd that several of the news stories ended with the reporters breaking down in tears and saying, “Now please let me see my family.” President Obama, however, dismissed these doubts, saying such concerns show that some people will simply never be satisfied.
An Israeli ministerial legal committee approved Sunday a bill that could see protesters who throw stones at moving vehicles jailed for up to 10 years.
The bill, which faces a series of parliament readings before coming into effect, would amend an existing law that allows stone-throwers to be jailed for 20 years, but only if it can be proven they intended to inflict harm.
Currently, convicted stone-throwers generally receive up to two years’ jail time.
However, the new version would enable 10 years imprisonment for “throwing stones or other objects at travelling vehicles in a manner that could endanger the passenger’s safety” or harm the vehicle, the bill read.
Following assertions by President Reuven Rivlin on more than one occasion that Israel is interested in the rehabilitation of Gaza, the family of Lt. Hadar Goldin, killed in Gaza during Operation Preventive Edge, visited the president on Sunday to demand that before Israel engages in any effort to rehabilitate Gaza, Hadar’s remains and those of Oren Shaul, still held by Hamas, must be returned to Israel.
The family was not opposed to the rehabilitation of Gaza, but wanted to put things in perspective.
While acknowledging the suffering of Gazans, they made the point that the suffering of Israelis must also be taken into account and asked Rivlin that any future remarks he makes about the rehabilitation of Gaza should underscored by the conditional on the return by Hamas of the remains of the two soldiers.
Any process related to Gaza must begin with a demand for the return of their remains, Goldin’s twin brother Tzur told Rivlin, adding that his family has confidence in the leadership of the country but not to the extent of blind trust.
An Israeli Navy ship seized control of a Palestinian fishing boat from the Gaza Strip that entered Israel’s territorial waters on Monday. The boat did not respond to calls for it to halt nor to warning shots fired by soldiers.
Naval officers escorted the boat to the Ashdod port and five Palestinians who were on board were transferred to a security facility for questioning, the Ynet news site reported.
Late last month, Israel returned 15 fishing boats it commandeered in recent years off the coast of the Gaza Strip, the army said. Palestinian fishermen said it was the first time Israel had given vessels back, and demanded the return of dozens more.
The commander of Hamas’ military wing in the West Bank called on members of the terror group on Sunday to attempt to kidnap Israeli soldiers, Israel’s NRG news portal reported.
In an unprecedented move, Abdullah Barghouti, who is currently being held in an Israeli jail, issued the call on Al-Ra’i Radio, a radio station affiliated with Hamas which broadcasts from the Gaza Strip.
Barghouti, who was once one of Hamas’ chief bomb-makers, is currently serving 67 life sentences for his involvement in the deaths of 66 Israelis.
Barghouti was first arrested by Palestinian Authority forces in late 2001 for his alleged involvement in the infamous Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing that year, which left 15 people dead.
PA TV Children’s Show from Tel Aviv: One Day We Will Regain Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, and Nazareth
Two rockets were fired from the Hamas stronghold of Gaza into the Mediterranean Sea early on Monday morning as part of the testing process in developing new lethal projectiles for the region’s terrorist groups.
The test rockets were fired in the early morning hours, with reports of the launch reaching Israeli media around 7 a.m.
According to the Hebrew language 0404 News, the rockets were fired by Hamas as part of its research and development.
The news site added that the launch took place from the Gush Katif area of Gaza, where the Jewish community resided until it was forcibly expelled by the Israeli government in the 2005 Disengagement plan, which set the stage for Hamas to seize power in 2007 and launch rockets at Israel.
Monday’s rocket testing comes just under a week after Gazan terrorists last Tuesday fired a Grad rocket at Israel, hitting near Ashdod.
While Hamas denied involvement in that rocket attack and claimed it had arrested those who fired it, the renewed testing shows that the terrorist group remains committed to expanding its rocket arsenal, meant to lethally rain destruction down upon Israeli civilian centers.
A group that is operating in Gaza and which says it is associated with ISIS has claimed that it killed a top Hamas commander. According to the group, which calls itself the Army of the Islamic State, Saber Siam was killed when ISIS operatives placed a bomb on his car, blowing it up with him inside.
Siam was killed, the group said, because he was “a partner in a declared war against religion and against Muslims, working for the heretical government in Gaza.” ISIS warned Hamas to immediately “end its war against religion in Gaza” or “face the consequences.”
The group also sent out warnings on social media to Gaza residents to stay away from Hamas offices and buildings, lest they find themselves swept up in attacks against the group.
It was not possible to verify whether the group was associated with ISIS, or whether it even actually exists. However, Israeli sources confirmed that Hamas has been conducting actions against a group of Salafist rebels it accuses of trying to take over Gaza.
Researchers at the Institute of Language are seeking the public’s help in finding concepts and objects that have not been been exploited by Palestinians and their supporters for use against Israel, the Institute’s web site announced Monday. They are offering 5,000 US dollars for the identification of such words.
Initially part of an obscure research grant, the effort to locate such a noun hit a figurative brick wall (not an Apartheid Wall -ed.), and the postdoctoral researchers turned to the online community for assistance. The study, in an arena only marginally connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, encountered obstacles and semantic difficulties stemming from the politicized use of every term it sought to use. The postdocs immediately grasped the linguistic significance of their predicament, and quickly secured a grant to explore whether there in fact remain any nouns that have not been weaponized by Palestinians.
“We found that even the simplest terms carried these associations,” explained lead researcher Dr. Fortyeight Borders. “Various forms require people to fill out a field called ‘Occupation,’ ‘State,’ and the like, and there wasn’t a person in the room who didn’t tense up at some point on any given page. We knew we had a phenomenon here.”
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Palestinians and allied groups perpetrated multiple hijackings of international flights, operations that served as the forerunner to today’s groups that hijack unrelated protest movements and social developments, explained Dr. Borders, including the appropriation of terminology and rhetoric from those struggles. “The American civil rights movement has little in common with the plight of the Palestinians beyond a couple of superficial similarities,” she said. “In fact the movement’s foremost leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, was as staunch a supporter of Israel as could be. But that didn’t stop Palestinian sympathizers from appropriating the racial tensions and violence in, for example, Ferguson and Baltimore, to make it about them. American race relations got weaponized in an unrelated conflict.”
A campaign by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi to combat radical jihadist ideology with Islamic education has been met with mixed reactions.
According to a Reuters report on Sunday, Sissi sees Al-Azhar University — the 1,000-year old center for Islamic learning — as a key to combating radicalism and reforming Islam. And while the institution is cooperating, critics say the president’s two-year crackdown on Islamists and Islamism has been too heavy-handed.
Al-Azhar University was the site of several clashes between students and police after the ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013, as protests against military rule descended into violence. Egyptian security forces have also been battling a wild surge of terror activity in the Sinai peninsula in particular, and within Egypt in general, since the military coup by Sissi that ousted that year.
Sissi’s crackdown has included outlawing the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian affiliate Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.
The Old Cairo Misdemeanour Court handed Saturday a five year prison sentence to TV presenter Islam El-Behiry for blasphemy.
A lawyer filed a lawsuit against El-Behiry, saying he led a campaign through his TV show to attack Muslim scholars and Islamic teachings’ textbooks.
El-Behiry has been hosting a programme that questions the teachings of Salafi preachers. In many of his episodes, he provides clips of famous and much respected Salafi preachers, and criticises their religious arguments.
The independent researcher also calls for disregarding ancient interpretations of the Qur’an and preaches individual understanding of the text.
Interpretations by prominent Muslim scholars dating back to the Middle Ages are considered manifestos to ultraconservative Salafi groups.
The Old Cairo Misdemeanour Court argued that El-Behiry has violated articles of the penal code, which sentences whoever insults or undermines Abrahamic religions to a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Recent statements by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah regarding the existential danger faced by his organization and the resistance axis in the war against ISIS, and regarding the possible need for a general mobilization of Hizbullah members, reflect the deep crisis currently afflicting the organization and the deep distress felt by its leadership. This distress stems from the situation in Syria, namely the heavy losses sustained by Hizbullah in the fighting there and the defeat of the resistance axis in many areas, especially in the north and south of Syria. It also results from a decline in Hizbullah’s standing among the Lebanese Shi’ites, who, according to many reports, have begun expressing a lack of confidence in Hizbullah and are reluctant to join its ranks.
In his statements, Nasrallah pointedly tried to persuade the Shi’ites in Lebanon that the war in Syria is an existential campaign that affects them directly, and therefore they must not only stand beside Hizbullah but refrain from expressing any criticism against it. He also clarified that in such a war everybody must do his part and must be willing to make great sacrifices.
In a May 23, 2015 meeting with Hizbullah soldiers who were wounded in action, Nasrallah said: “The danger we are facing is an existential one… the situation requires great sacrifice.” In a speech the next day, on the occasion of the 15th anniversary the Israeli army’s withdrawal from South Lebanon, he said: “The day may come when we will call for a general mobilization [of Hizbullah members]… [The present war] is more extensive, more dangerous and crueler than [the 1982 war with Israel], because it is [taking place] right inside our home. Whoever wants to defend [his] existence, survival, honor and homeland must be willing to make the [necessary] sacrifice.”
The arrest of an alleged Hezbollah operative planning an attack on Israelis in Cyprus shines a new spotlight on the Lebanese militia’s activities in Europe. Will fresh instances of Hezbollah’s terrorism push the EU to proscribe Hezbollah’s full organization as a terrorist entity?
Cypriot intelligence sources said the 26-year-old Canadian national, who was arrested on Wednesday, is a member of Hezbollah’s so-called military wing and that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps trained him, according to the Nicosia-based Phileleftheros daily.
The authorities seized 420 boxes of ammonium nitrate – a key ingredient for explosives – in the man’s home along with $10,000. Sources said the suspect also has Lebanese citizenship, the paper wrote.
The arrest conjures up striking parallels to Hezbollah terrorist plans and attacks against Israelis on European soil since 2012. According to Israeli and US intelligence sources, a joint Hezbollah- Iran mission blew up an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria in 2012, resulting in the deaths of five Israelis and their Bulgarian driver. The Canadian-Lebanese Hassan El-Hajj Hassan and Australian-Lebanese Malih Farah were implicated in the attack by Bulgaria’s government.
The US listed the men as “specially designated terrorists” who are wanted by Interpol. Both men are believed to be in Lebanon.
Hezbollah has relied on Western terrorists because their passports allow for greater latitude to travel and raise fewer red flags. Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, the Australian Labor MP Michael Danby said, “Hezbollah remains one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations. It has activists in Sydney. Maybe it isn’t as obviously bloodcurdling as the barbarians in Daesh [Islamic State], but its operatives have conducted and attempted to conduct numerous terrorist attacks across the world.” He added, “Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese franchise, is classified as a terrorist organization by Australia.”
Russia is gradually turning its back on Syrian President Bashar Assad, evacuating some 100 expert advisers and their families from Syria and refusing to repair regime fighter jets, an Arab daily reported on Sunday.
“Senior sources in the Gulf” told pro-opposition London-based daily a-Sharq al-Awsat that the change in Russia’s position toward the Assad regime stems from diplomatic pressure exerted by Arab Gulf states. It also comes as part of Moscow’s efforts to shake international sanctions imposed on it following a military confrontation with Ukraine, the sources said.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition sources told the newspaper that 100 of Russia’s top specialists have recently left the country through the Latakiya airport in northwestern Syria, and were not replaced. Russia has also downsized its embassy staff in Moscow over the past three months, manning its delegation with “essential staff” only.
Russia’s refusal to repair Syrian Sukhoi fighter jets has forced Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jasim al-Freij to travel to Iran last month in a bid to place diplomatic pressure on Moscow, the daily noted.
A series of barrel bombs dropped from Syrian regime helicopters killed at least 45 civilians and wounded dozens Saturday in the northern province of Aleppo, a monitoring group said.
“At least 45 civilians were killed, and dozens were wounded, when regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on the city of Al-Bab and in an eastern neighborhood of Aleppo,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said the bombs on Aleppo city struck the rebel-held eastern neighborhood of Al-Shaar, killing 12 people including eight members of a single family.
The bodies of those killed were wrapped and laid out on the streets of Al-Shaar, with the limp, blood-covered hand of one of them protruding from under a blanket, said an AFP correspondent at the scene.
Syrian residents from villages near the destroyed Syrian nuclear site, Al-Kibar, around 60 kilometers from Deir A-Zor report that members of Islamic State (ISIS / Daesh) have been excavating the destroyed Syrian secret nuclear facility.
Syrian Rebels took over the area from Assad’s forced in 2013, and a year later, Islamic State took it over from the Syrian Rebels.
Residents who visited the area also report seeing empty metal barrels, and are now afraid that more radioactive material has been released.
Islamic State may be looking for radioactive materials to make a dirty bomb, or perhaps they may even believe they might find a nuclear bomb underneath the rubble.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened an opposition daily which published footage allegedly showing trucks belonging to the state intelligence service carrying weapons to rebels in Syria, vowing it will pay a “heavy price.”
“The slander against the National Intelligence Organization and the illegitimate operation (against MIT trucks) is an espionage activity at one point,” Erdogan told state-run TRT television late Sunday. “This newspaper was also involved in this espionage activity.”
“The person who made the story will pay a heavy price. I will not let him get away with it,” said the president, who has threatened other media outlets in the run-up to this week’s tense parliamentary election, reports AFP.
The footage published on the opposition Cumhuriyet daily’s website on Friday shows inspectors searching a metallic container watched by security officers, a prosecutor and sniffer dogs.
The daily claimed the trucks were carrying mortar shells, ammunition for light and heavy weapons as well as hundreds of grenade launchers hidden under boxes of antibiotics marked as “fragile.”
A survey conducted recently in Turkey found that nearly half that country’s citizens see Israel as the biggest security threat, followed by the United States, and only then Syria.
The daily Today’s Zaman newspaper last week reported the results of the poll, which was conducted by Istanbul’s Kadir Has University among 1,000 respondents.
Asked which country they think poses the biggest threat to Turkey, 42.6 percent of participants chose Israel, while 35.5% said the US. Just 22.1% named Syria, which shares a border with Turkey and has been ravaged by four-year civil war, as the biggest threat to their country. Turkey has in the past fired at Syrian positions across the border after wayward shells from the civil war landed in its territory.
A similar poll in 2013 found 41% saw the United States as Turkey’s biggest threat, while 37.1% named Israel.
Saudi Arabia’s branch of militant group Islamic State has said it wants to clear the Arabian Peninsula of Shi’ite Muslims and urged young men in the kingdom to join its cause, the U.S.-based SITE monitoring center has reported.
Islamic State claimed two suicide bombings carried out on May 22 and May 29 on Shi’ite mosques in eastern Saudi Arabia, where the bulk of the Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority lives. The attacks killed 25 people.
In the 13-minute-long recording, the speaker said Islamic State had ordered its followers everywhere to “kill enemies of Islam, especially Shi’ites”, according to SITE.
“What then if they live with their disbelief in the Peninsula of Mohammad,” SITE quoted the speaker as saying, referring to the Arabian Peninsula, birthplace of Islam and where Saudi Arabia is located.
“They are disbelievers and apostates, and their blood is permissible to be shed, and their money is permissible to be taken. It is a duty upon us to kill them … and even to purify the land from their filth,” he said.