News Just In (within the last hour)
Thursday, December 14, 2017 1:15 PM
GAZA CITY (AFP) - Israel carried out a series of air strikes against Islamist group Hamas in Gaza early on Thursday (Dec 14), the army said, hours after rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave.
It has also closed border crossings between the terroritory and Israel because of security concerns.
In a statement, the Israeli army said it had targeted three Hamas military facilities in different parts of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
"The military facilities were used as training and weapons storage compounds," the army said. "This was in response to the projectiles fired at Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip."
A Palestinian security source said there were more than 10 strikes on the targets, which included a Hamas naval facility and a military base near the Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza.
The source said there had been significant damage to the targets, as well as lesser damage to nearby houses, where some residents suffered minor injuries.
There was no immediate confirmation of the injuries from the health ministry in Gaza.
The strikes came hours after Israel's air defence system intercepted two rockets fired from Gaza.
Such rockets are generally fired by fringe Islamist groups but Israel holds Gaza's Hamas rulers responsible for any fire from the territory.
The army also announced it would close the border crossings between Gaza and Israel - Kerem Shalom for goods and Erez for people - from Thursday (Dec 14) "due to the security events and in accordance with security assessments".
A military spokeswoman could not say whether the closure would be for one day or more.
There has been an uptick in violence from Gaza since US President Donald Trump announced he would recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital last week.
Four Gazans have been killed, two in clashes along the border and two Hamas militants in an Israeli air strike in retaliation for rocket fire.
Thursday, December 14, 2017 12:31 AM
WASHINGTON — Pakistan’s Peshawar High Court on Wednesday ruled that Ehsanullah Ehsan, the former spokesman of U.S.-designated terrorist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), be kept in captivity.
The ruling came after concerns that Pakistani authorities might release Ehsan as part of a deal with TTP’s commander. The court asked the state to continue the investigation of Ehsan.
In a detailed response to the court, the government said it would continue to keep him under custody and investigation.
Ehsan was captured by Pakistani authorities in April. The government has reportedly been questioning him about TTP.
The Provincial Court issued its verdict following a petition filed by a resident of Peshawar who lost his son in the 2014 Army Public School massacre that claimed more than 130 lives, mostly children.
TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. Ehsan was the group’s spokesman at the time.
Who is Ehsan?
Liaqat Ali, commonly known as Ehsanullah Ehsan, hails from the Mohmand Agency of the northwestern tribal region of Pakistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan.
Ehsan reportedly joined TTP during college in 2008, where his role was to be the group’s mouthpiece for the Mohmand Agency. He subsequently became TTP’s main spokesman.
When a faction of TTP parted ways with the terrorist organization and established Jammat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) in 2014, Ehsan became that newly created group’s spokesman.
Jammat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for numerous deadly terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including a suicide bombing in Lahore Park during Easter last year that killed at least 70 people, the majority of them Christians.
JuA also claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bombings across Pakistan earlier this year.
The United States placed Jammat-ul-Ahrar on a list of specially designated global terrorist organizations last year.
Blame game
In April 2017, Pakistan's military announced the capture of Ehsan.
At the time, the military declared the arrest of Ehsan — who was allegedly operating out of the northwestern tribal region — to be a major success in the country’s counterterrorism efforts.
In a confession recorded on video and released shortly after his arrest, Ehsan is heard revealing that Tehreek-e-Taliban and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar have connections with Afghan and Indian spy agencies.
Ehsan accused Afghanistan and India of supporting TTP and JuA in their terrorist attacks on Pakistani soil.
Both Kabul and New Delhi denied Ehsan’s allegations and accused Islamabad of orchestrating Ehsan’s confession in an effort to shift the blame of militancy to Afghanistan and India.
A senior Afghan security official told Reuters in April that Ehsan’s comments are just a planned distraction by Pakistan, which is accused of providing safe havens to the Afghan Taliban on its soil.
“Pakistan has always been pushing this narrative of being a victim of terrorism, while the fact is it sponsors and supports terrorist activities in Afghanistan and India," the Afghan security official said.
“Now, Pakistan is under enormous pressure from the international community to crack down on extremists, and it is trying to evade responsibility by playing victim once again,” he added.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 10:55 PM
A significant quantity of weapons supplied by Western and Gulf states to opposition factions battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict were transferred to the Islamic State, according to a study funded by the European Union and Germany’s foreign ministry.
The leakage of the supplies “significantly augmented the quantity and quality of weapons available to IS forces -- in numbers far beyond those that would have been available to the group through battlefield capture alone,” according to Weapons of the Islamic State , a 202-page study released Wednesday.
Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a Britain-based organization that monitors the movement and diversion of weapons in conflict zones, produced the study.
“The acquisition of weapons by the Islamic State group is classic blowback - 1980s Afghanistan replayed in Syria,” says CAR’s executive director James Bevan. He adds, “Time and again, states that seek to accomplish short-term political objectives supply weapons to groups over whom they exert little-to-no control. These weapons often gravitate to the most organized and effective rebel and insurgent forces.”
FILE - Members of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) attend the funeral of eight fellow fighters who died during an assault against the Islamic State (IS) group in the town of Manbij, in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane (aka Ain al-Arab) on June 24, 2016. CAR researchers say they had the full cooperation of national governments and manufacturers for their three-year investigation, which involved sending teams to cover an unbroken arc of territory extending from the northern Syrian city of Kobane to the south of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Western governments furnished lists of brokers and shippers, as well as serial numbers of the exported weapons and ammunition.
That, CAR researchers say, shows the governments' determination “to curb the supply of weapons and associated materiel to unauthorized users.” The report notes the governments and manufacturers were not acting unlawfully when dispatching arms and ammunition to the Syrian insurgents, there was no international arms embargo in effect.
Armories looted
CAR field researchers analyzed more than 40,000 items recovered from IS forces between 2014 and 2017. Many of the items originated in shipments that ran into the thousands. IS seized large quantities of weapons in Syria from retreating Assad forces and were able to loot government arsenals.
And in Iraq, there was a large-scale capture of weapons by IS in 2014 as the government’s security forces fell back rapidly in the face of the terror group’s blitz in Northwest Iraq and Mosul.
But the fact IS often acquired weapons supplied by outside powers within weeks and months of their delivery to opposition factions is less well recognized, says CAR in its study.
Western media outlets, including VOA, did report from the frontlines from 2013 onwards that Western and Gulf-supplied weapons were being traded, transferred and sold by opposition fighters and commanders to jihadist groups such as al Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and IS.
FILE - Anti-Syrian President Bashar Assad protesters hold the Jabhat al-Nusra flag, as they shout slogans during a demonstration, in Kafranbel, Idlib province, northern Syria, March 1, 2013. In 2013, a senior German diplomat told VOA his government and several other European Union governments were resisting an Anglo-French push for the West to increase the flow of weapons to Syrian rebels for fear the equipment could fall into the hands of jihadist groups.
Those fears were shared by U.S. officials. President Barack Obama refused constant appeals from the rebels and Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to increase arms supplies dramatically. Obama also declined to give the insurgents anti-aircraft missiles, fearing the consequences if any fell into jihadist hands, officials told VOA in 2014 and 2015.
Obama officials put in place various mechanisms to try to track weapons supplied to opposition factions and with TOW missiles they would only provide re-supplies when evidence had been offered by rebel units to show how they had used the missiles. But without military observers, there was an element of trust involved. Video evidence could be doctored, officials admitted to VOA during the conflict.
According to CAR, the arms that fell into the hands had serious impact on the battlefield, and continue to pose a significant threat, especially anti-armor weapons such as the BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles.
The report states, "The weapon was manufactured in the EU, sold to the United States, supplied to a party in the Syrian conflict, transferred to IS forces in Iraq, and documented by a CAR field investigation team following its recovery from IS forces. The full chain of transactions occurred within two months of the weapon’s dispatch from the factory.”
Many countries involved
Russia and China manufactured more than 50 percent of the weapons and ammunition held by IS forces, CAR calculates. Those arms were captured from Syrian or Iraqi forces.
FILE - A warplane loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad fires rockets during an air strike in eastern Al-Ghouta, near Damascus January 25, 2015. “Former Warsaw Pact countries that are now EU Member States manufactured a significant proportion of the remaining materiel (more than 30 percent of weapons and 20 percent of ammunition).”
CAR researchers note: “Nearly 40 percent of ... anti-armor rockets deployed by IS forces in Iraq were produced in the past four years. ... EU Member States produced nearly 20 percent of these post-2014-manufactured rockets ... a fact that sits uncomfortably with the EU’s parallel efforts to degrade the group’s capacity to wage war and terrorism and to mitigate the international effects of the Syrian conflict.”
CAR also documented ammunition that came from Eastern European states, exported to the United States and then dispatched to Somalia. Researchers also found matching lot numbers among IS rockets documented by CAR in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
Identical weapons deployed by IS forces in Syria, had previously been spotted in circulation with armed groups in South Sudan, supplied illicitly by the Sudanese government.
Also, “A Libya–Syria weapon pipeline has operated since at least 2012” say CAR researchers, but they add that “the precise transfer mechanics are unclear.”
Related Pro-Syrian Government Forces Aim to Seize Last Opposition-controlled Stronghold City Syrian Opposition Says Government Obstructing Geneva Talks Putin Declares ‘Mission Accomplished’ on Syria; but, Could It Prove Premature? Multibillion-dollar Appeal Launched for More Than 5 Million Syrian Refugees More Middle East News Landmine Report Cites Rare New Uses But Continued High Casualties Rights Group: Discrimination Affects Minorities, Indigenous Peoples at Home, in Exile Western, Gulf Weapons Supplied to Syria Rebels Leaked to Islamic State US Official Accuses Turkey of Pushing Extreme Islamist Ideology With Unity in Peril, EU Leaders Tackle Refugee Quotas Featured Video Small Montana City Elects Former Refugee as Mayor Most Popular Articles 1 Turkey Summit Blasts Trump Decision on Jerusalem 2 EU to Netanyahu: Jerusalem Must be Capital of Two States 3 New Protests Erupt in Muslim, Arab World Against Trump's Jerusalem Decision 4 Al-Qaida Seeks to Capitalize on Muslim Anger Over Jerusalem 5 AP Fact Check: Trump Wrong on Black Homeownership, Trade, Wages Multimedia 1 December 10, 2017 2 Fusion Reactor Under Construction in France Halfway Complete 3 France Offers Chinese Primer in Mastering Wine Industry 4 December 12, 2017 5 December 13, 2017 Discussions 1 EU to Netanyahu: Jerusalem Must be Capital of Two States (22) 2 Turkey Summit Blasts Trump Decision on Jerusalem (12) 3 Trump Blames Democrats for Stoking Sexual Misconduct Allegations (10) 4 Survey: Majority in US Believe Government Corruption Has Risen Under Trump (4) 5 Pakistani Military Chief: Are Religious Schools Preparing Students for Job Market? (4) Recommended Mosul: What's Next After IS? You may also like
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 4:00 PM
La Celle-Saint-Cloud – French President Emmanuel Macron hosted an international meeting in Paris on Wednesday to discuss means to provide political, military and financial support to the African Common Force, which was formed earlier this year to combat terrorism in the Sahel.

The summit achieved remarkable results, with Saudi Arabia pledging 100 million Euros to the joint force, becoming the largest state to finance terrorism in the Sahel, while the UAE promised 30 million Euros and Washington had already announced aid of up to USD 60 million.

Participants included leaders of the African countries that form the joint force known as the G5S (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), as well as Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the prime ministers of Belgium and Italy, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, as well as representatives of the UAE, United States, the United Nations and African and European countries.

The summit discussed the situation in Mali, where the parties have so far failed to implement the peace agreement reached after the French military intervention in this country with the help of Algeria. The latter did not attend the summit, as the French president did not succeed to convince Algerian officials during his visit to Algers last week to participate in the meeting of La Celle-Saint-Cloud.

“We must win the war against terrorism in the Sahel-Sahara region,” Macron told reporters after meeting with the five countries’ presidents and other leaders including Merkel.

“There are attacks every day. There are states which are currently in jeopardy,” he added.

A summit in Brussels in February is set to focus on raising more cash to provide further security to the African Continent.

“We cannot wait. We need to start leading the fight as soon as possible,” the German Chancellor said after Wednesday’s meeting. “This is an urgent task,” she added.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 4:00 PM
The Israeli occupation army conducted on Wednesday a largescale arrest campaign in the West Bank against high-ranking “Hamas” officials, including Hassan Youssef, after bursting into his house in the town of Beitunia, in Ramallah.

The campaign also involved “Hamas” activists, former prisoners and university students and came as Israel announced that it foiled a kidnap plot in the West Bank, blaming “Hamas” for planning it.

Spokesperson for the Israeli premiership Ofir Gendelman said Wednesday: “The Israel Security Agency (Shabak) and the Israeli Police recently foiled an attempted kidnapping in Samaria, planned by Hamas, and which was scheduled for the Hanukkah holiday.”

During October and November, Shabak discovered that members of a “Hamas” terror cell from Kafr Tal, near Shechem (Nablus) were planning a terror attack, he added.

According to Gendelman, the police arrested Mouad Ashtiya, the cell’s leader, Mohammad Ramadan and Ahmad Ramadan, all from “Hamas.”

He said members of the cell were in contact with “Hamas” member Oumar Atzeida, who serves as a Gaza commander and moves money from Gaza to Judea and Samaria to launch operations against Israel.

In the course of the investigation, the Shabak also uncovered that the three gathered exact intelligence about the routes, bus stops and central junctions, and were planning to disguise themselves as Israeli civilians to force the abductees into their vehicles.

Husam Badran, a member of Hamas' political bureau, said in a statement Wednesday that the “arrest campaigns against the movement’s leaders and members, including Sheikh Hassan Youssef, will only make the movement and the Palestinian people stronger and more determined to continue their Intifada until accomplishing their objectives.”