Will IS attacks bring about change in Saudi foreign policy?

Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud (C) is flanked by US President Barack Obama and Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the US-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Riyadh, April 21, 2016

Throughout the holy month of Ramadan, the Islamic State (IS) and its worldwide followers were especially deadly. The recent attacks in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Jordan, Malaysia, Turkey and Yemen signal shifts in IS’ strategy toward an accelerated global campaign following the group’s loss of Fallujah last month and the ongoing battle over Sirte.

IS’ campaign to wreak havoc in Saudi Arabia likely reached a new level July 4. IS is suspected of carrying out three separate suicide attacks across the kingdom within 24 hours, including one next to the al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque) in Medina following the earlier attacks in Qatif and Jeddah. In total, the explosions killed four (excluding the suicide bombers) — a relatively low death toll compared with the 200 dead from IS’ July 3 blast in Baghdad. Nonetheless, the coordinated strikes demonstrated IS’ ability to outsmart Riyadh’s vigilant security apparatus despite the 2,500 alleged IS members arrested in the kingdom since 2014.

Of course, IS has had its eyes set on Saudi Arabia since an early point in the group’s rise to power. In November 2014, IS’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared war on the kingdom in a statement released by al-Furqan Media Foundation. The IS leader called for expanding the “caliphate” to Saudi Arabia to topple the Al Saud rulers (whom he called “the serpent’s head”) of the “lands of al-Haramain” (two holy places). For nearly two years, IS has been waging terror across Saudi Arabia via networks of local militants operating a network of terror cells. From November 2014 to June 2016, the group’s affiliates have carried out 26 terrorist attacks in the kingdom, according to the Saudi Interior Ministry.

Yet the July 4 attacks represent unique and especially grave threats to the kingdom for several important reasons. First, the ruling family’s religious legitimacy is based on the Saudi rulers’ service as a responsible and competent “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” (every Saudi monarch’s official title since 1986). There is a widely held perception throughout the Muslim world that since the historic Grand Mosque seizure of 1979, the scores of fires, stampedes, demonstrations and one bombing (1989) have proven that the Al Sauds are unfit to uphold their responsibility. The July 4 suicide blast outside the al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina is deeply unsettling for Muslims worldwide who travel by the millions to the holy site each year, and it is damaging to the kingdom’s prestige. Unquestionably, the explosion in Medina, an offense to Sunni and Shiite Muslims, will add to this narrative told by many of Al Saud’s enemies.

It will be important to monitor the Iranian response. Since last year’s tragic hajj stampede, in which 464 Iranian pilgrims died (according to Iranian sources), officials in the Islamic Republic have seized opportunities to challenge the Al Saud rulers’ legitimacy as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, alleging negligence on the part of Saudi authorities. A growing number of Iranian politicians and religious authorities are calling for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to manage the hajj. After news of last year’s stampede reached Iran, Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani declared, “Hajj is not only related to Saudi Arabia, but is connected to all countries. The ones now who have been martyred are from all Islamic countries, not only from Saudi Arabia.”

Second, the failure of Saudi security to thwart IS’ July 4 attacks is costly to Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman and his Vision 2030. On the heels of Mohammed’s visits to Washington, California, New York and Paris, in which the young deputy crown prince sought to attract American and French support for his ambitious plans to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil, foreign investors will raise serious questions about security risks of doing business in the kingdom. As Vision 2030 seeks to expand Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector, the kingdom must sell itself as stable to attract a greater number of foreign visitors. The security apparatuses’ failure to prevent IS from continuing its campaign of terror in Saudi Arabia will dim such prospects.

Third, IS’ orchestration of three coordinated attacks across the kingdom within 24 hours is a setback to Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef. Since last year, the “Prince of Counterterrorism” has been busy leading Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorism crackdown public relations campaign. Although the Saudi media has highlighted numerous instances in which security forces foiled IS terror plots and made a major production out of the mass execution of dozens of alleged al-Qaeda members in early January, Nayef must address holes in the kingdom’s counterterrorism campaign and pursue new strategies.

The Saudis go to great pains to provide airtight security around the holy sites, having invested billions of dollars in state-of-the-art surveillance. Although the Saudi press heralded the security forces for preventing the suicide bomber from attacking the Prophet’s Tomb, the mere fact that an IS militant with explosives got so close to al-Masjid an-Nabawi, Islam’s second-holiest site, is a wake-up call about inefficiencies in security.

It will be interesting to observe any changes in King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud’s foreign policy priorities. Will Riyadh shift focus from its war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels and loyalists of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to the battle against Sunni Islamist extremists in the Levant and Libya? Although Saudi officials have vowed to deploy ground forces to fight IS in Syria if backed by Washington, would more attacks by the extremist group targeting the kingdom’s holy sites prompt Riyadh to engage in direct military action against IS in Raqqa without US support?

The reaction from the kingdom’s religious establishment will be an important indicator of how Saudi Arabia addresses the IS threat. As most of the group’s previous attacks in the kingdom targeted security in Saudi Arabia’s central region of Najd and Shiite gatherings in the Eastern Province, the first IS strike at a holy site carried much symbolism. The Council of Senior Ulema issued a statement declaring that the culprits behind the explosion outside the second mosque built in the history of Islam “have no respect for any sanctity and they have no religion or conscience.”

Indeed, within the context of Saudi Arabia’s history of jihadi terrorism, which beset the kingdom from 2003 to 2006, the killing of four security guards and no civilians is a relatively low death toll. Nonetheless, it would be difficult to exaggerate the symbolic significance of the July 4 attack in three Saudi cities. IS is trying to damage the Al Saud rulers’ capacity to govern the kingdom and the family’s religious legitimacy throughout the Muslim world.

The violence illustrates a disturbing reality for the Saudi leadership. Despite the efforts of officials in Riyadh to thwart extremist groups from waging acts of terrorism within the kingdom, IS has further demonstrated its capacity to evade the Saudi security apparatus’ radar. Dark memories of al-Qaeda’s campaign of terror in the mid-2000s remain vivid in the minds of many Saudis. A decade later, justifiable concerns about another potential onslaught of jihadi attacks wreaking havoc across Saudi Arabia are growing.

(Source / 06.07.2016)

3,000 Gazans enter Egypt in one week

Palestinians wait at the Rafah crossing as they wait to cross through to Egypt. [File Photo]

Palestinians wait at the Rafah crossing as they wait to cross through to Egypt. [File Photo]

Almost 3,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip entered Egyptian territory via the Rafah border crossing over the course of the last week, Gaza’s border authority said Tuesday.

“In five days [that the border was open], 2,961 people — including students, medical patients and holders of foreign residencies — departed the Gaza Strip for Egypt,” read a statement issued by the border authority.

Over the same period, the statement added, 1,620 Palestinians entered Gaza from Egypt, while 159 Gazans were denied entry into Egypt for reasons that were not stated.

On June 29, the Egyptian authorities announced that the border crossing would be opened — in both directions — for five non-consecutive days ending Monday night.

According to Gaza’s Interior Ministry, more than 20,000 residents of the coastal enclave are waiting to cross Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, Gaza’s only means of access to the outside world not under Israeli control.

Since the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in a 2013 military coup, Egypt has kept its border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip tightly sealed for the most part.

Over the course of last year, the Egyptian authorities only opened the crossing for a total of 21 days, according to Gaza’s Interior Ministry.

The long periods of closure at the Rafah crossing have brought the territory’s roughly 1.9 million inhabitants to the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.

(Source / 06.07.2016)

UNRWA: 6,303 Refugee families have not received payments to start repairing their homes

GAZA, (PIC)– UNRWA announced that 6,303 Gazan refugee families have not received payments to start repairing their totally destroyed homes. Total estimated costs for reconstruction are 283.6 million dollars.  In a report, UNRWA revealed that payments to 23 refugee families have been made to restore their totally destroyed homes in Gaza Strip. Payments should also be continued to another 1000 refugee families. The report disclosed that over 1.88 million American dollars was paid last week for reconstruction, repair works and cash aid for rentals. Funding will reach a total of 882 refugee families in the besieged enclave.  Approximately 8,000 refugee families still displaced by the 2014 conflict have not received transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) for the second quarter in in 2016, the report pointed out. The report stated that for repairs of damages of all categories (minor, major and severe), the principal barrier to completing the outstanding repairs is funding. If current conditions remain, including adequate amounts of building material entering Gaza, UNRWA estimates that repairs could be completed within six months from receipt of sufficient funding.

(Source / 06.07.2016)

Bilal Kayed’s veroordeling tot administratieve detentie bevestigd door de Israëlische militaire rechtbank

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De administratieve detentie-opsluiting van Bilal Kayed, zonder aanklacht of proces, is op 5 juli bevestigd door de Israëlische militaire rechtbank in Ofer.  De hoorzitting vond plaats in zijn afwezigheid, toen hij weigerde om die bij te wonen en weigerde de legitimiteit van het administratieve detentie proces te erkennen. Kayed, die 15 juni opgesloten werd in de Ashkelon gevangenis in eenzame opsluiting is sindsdien in hongerstaking. Kayed weigerde de vorige hoorzitting bij te wonen om de onwettigheid van de militaire rechtbanken aan te tonen en het beleid van administratieve detentie te veroordelen.

“De militaire aanklager beweerde dat de administratieve detentie van Mr. Kayed is gebaseerd op geheime informatie met betrekking tot zijn activiteiten binnen de gevangenis. De bron van deze geheime informatie is een inlichtingenofficier die persoonlijke problemen heeft met de heer Kayed en die beweerde dat de vrijlating van Kayed een reëel gevaar voor de veiligheid zou vormen,” zei Addameer, Gevangene Ondersteuning en Mensenrechtenorganisatie, Kayed ‘s advocaten, die in hoger beroep zullen gaan tegen de bevestiging van de administratieve detentie.

Kayed, 35 jaar, is op 15 juni zijn hongerstaking begonnen nadat hij zonder aanklacht of rechtszaak zes maanden administratieve detentie opgelegd kreeg, in plaats van vrijgelaten te worden op 13 juli zoals gepland, na 14,5 jaar gevangen gezeten te hebben in een Israëlische gevangenis. Hij zit sinds de opdracht tot administratieve detentie in eenzame opsluiting en is  twee keer verhuisd van de Ramon- naar de Ahli Kedar gevangenis en weer terug van de Ali Kedar naar de Ashkelon gevangenis. In Ashkelon heeft hij een kleine cel van 1.5 x 2 meter met een kapotte wastafel en geen raam of ventilatie. Hij drinkt alleen water en weigert elke vorm van voedsel, vitamines, zout supplementen of andere voedingsmiddelen.

De Israëlische Inlichtingendiensten hebben hem vrijlating aangeboden als hij een deportatie voor 4 jaar naar Jordanië zou accepteren en geen politieke activiteiten zou ondernemen, ondertussen dreigend dat hij voor 4 jaar in administratieve detentie gehouden zou worden als hij dit aanbod afsloeg. Kayed weigerde meteen dit ‘aanbod’ met de verklaring “Als je mij ervan weerhoudt om in waardigheid te leven, dan kies ik ervoor om te sterven met waardigheid.”, en gericht aan zijn advocaat, Farah Bayadsi, “ik ging niet in hongerstaking om te onderhandelen. Ik ging in hongerstaking voor de vrijheid! ”

Voormalige hongerstakers die hun vrijheid wonnen door hongerstakingen, Muhammed Allan en Mohammed al- Qeeq, bezochten Kayed’s moeder en familie in hun thuisstad Asira al- Shamalia om hun steun aan Kayed te getuigen. Voormalig hongerstaker Khader Adnan heeft ook in meerdere protesten en acties deelgenomen voor de vrijlating van Kayed.

Honderden Palestijnse gevangenen zijn in hongerstaking en doen mee aan protesten die oproepen tot vrijheid van Kayed. Zijn kameraden in het Volksfront voor de Bevrijding van Palestina (PFLP) hebben gezworen om begin Juli een collectieve hongerstaking te starten als Kayed niet wordt vrijgelaten. Zijn zaak wordt algemeen gezien als bedreigend voor een gevaarlijk precedent voor onbepaalde opsluiting van de Palestijnen na de voltooiing van hun straf in Israëlische gevangenissen.

Hij is een van de bijna 750 Palestijnen die zijn opgesloten zonder aanklacht of proces in het kader van administratieve detentie op basis van geheim bewijsmateriaal. Administratieve detentie-orders zijn voor onbepaalde tijd verlengd.

Protesten voor de vrijheid van Kayed hebben plaatsgevonden in heel Palestina en in steden over de hele wereld, onder meer in Berlijn, Brussel, New York, Dublin, Belfast, Londen, Vancouver, Turijn, Milaan, Amsterdam, Den Haag, Athene en elders. Samidoun Palestijnse Gevangene Solidariteitsnetwerk en andere organisaties roepen op tot een actieweek voor Kayed’s vrijlating van  8 tot 15 juli. Meer dan 150 Palestijnse en internationale organisaties hebben een oproep tot actie ondertekend voor de vrijheid van Kayed. Protesten zijn gepland op 8 juli in New York en in Arklow, Ierland, en meer evenementen worden binnenkort aangekondigd.

(Source / 06.07.2016)

Syria’s new Cabinet lacks ‘any trace of opposition’

Syrian parliament members listen to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, June 7, 2016

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced July 3 the lineup of the new government headed by former Electricity Minister Imad Khamis. This government is the first to be formed in the era of the New People’s Council. While more than half of the old ministers were changed, economy-related ministers were the most affected.

The official Syrian news agency SANA announced Decree No. 203, which provides for the formation of a new government in Syria, in which the “sovereign” ministries were left unchanged. Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij remained defense minister and deputy prime minister while Walid al-Moualem was reappointed foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

The position of deputy prime minister for economic affairs was not in the lineup. This position remained divided between a military wing and a foreign policy wing. The military wing — headed by Freij — gains importance since all of the country’s issues are now linked to military action, and this leads to a clearer relationship between the military and civilian institutions. The political wing allows the government to assess the feasibility of openness to and cooperation with the countries of the world.

Awqaf Minister Mohammed Abdel Sattar, Presidential Affairs Minister Mansour Fadlallah Azzam, Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Mohamed Ibrahim al-Shaar, Education Minister Hezwan Alwaze, Justice Minister Najm Hamad al-Ahmad, and Public Works and Housing Minister Hussein Arnous kept their positions.

Also remaining in office were Agriculture Minister Ahmed Qadri, Tourism Minister Bishr Yazigi, Administrative Development Minister Hassan al-Nouri and Health Minister Nizar Wahba Yazji.

The only female minister with a portfolio kept her post, namely Labor and Social Affairs Minister Rima Qadri. Two female ministers of state, Wafiqa Hosni and Salwa Abdullah, were appointed, although they were not allocated any portfolios.

The changes, some of which were sudden, were mainly economic, as Adib Mayaleh, governor of the Central Bank of Syria since 2005, was appointed minister of economy and foreign trade, and Mamoun Hamdan, who was executive director of the Damascus Stock Exchange, was appointed finance minister. The electricity portfolio was given to Mohammad Zahir, who was director of the electricity company in the Damascus countryside. The Oil Ministry went to Ali Ghanem, who was general manager of an oil company.

Governors of provinces have been previously appointed to ministerial positions. This time, Suwayda Gov. Atef Naddaf was appointed higher education minister and Damascus Gov. Hussein Makhlouf was named local administration minister.

Ali Al-Dafeer was appointed communications and technology minister; he formerly was an assistant in the Communications Ministry. Mohammed Ramez Turgeman, who served as director of the Public Authority for Radio and Television, became the new information minister.

As expected, Minister of State for National Reconciliation Ali Haidar kept his position due to his accumulated experience in this field.

Observers said Ahmad al-Hamu, who served in the 2000-2003 government of Prime Minister Mustafa Miro, returned as industry minister, while Nabil Hassan became water resources minister, Ali Hammoud was named transport minister, and Abdullah Al-Qirbi was appointed minister of domestic trade and consumer protection. Mohammed Al-Ahmed was named culture minister after serving as director general of the General Organization for Cinema in Syria.

This government has major responsibilities that many think are too much for any government to handle in light of the repercussions of the more than five-year-long war.

Syria lacks human resources, as many of its people have emigrated or fled in search of refuge. Syria also lost most of its hard currency as its economic productivity has weakened in light of the high inflation caused by a string of combined factors.

Former officials previously told As-Safir that the focus will be on the economic and service sectors in an attempt to “mobilize local productivity, boost the economy, especially through small projects, and promote exports using suitable mechanisms.”

Some are betting that Khamis, who had fought the battle of trying to maintain the electricity sector, will be able to manage similar governmental battles, especially since he had an important role in picking the ministers of economic and service administration during the 10 days of consultations.

Interestingly enough, the resonance of the “political process that took place in Geneva” was completely absent from this formation; also absent was any trace of opposition.

(Source / 06.07.2016)

Israeli forces injure 15 Palestinians in Dura with live fire, rubber bullets

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A young Palestinian protester rolls a burning tire toward Israel’s separation wall during clashes in Bethlehem on Oct. 9, 2015

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Five Palestinians were injured with live fire and ten others with rubber-coated steel bullets, while several more suffered from tear gas inhalation on Wednesday as Israeli forces raided the city of Dura after midnight in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron.Sources at the Palestinian Red Crescent told Ma’an that ambulances carried dozens of Palestinians to hospitals in the Hebron area who suffered from light to medium injuries, with one sustaining critical injuries.According to locals, Palestinian youths threw rocks at Israeli forces as they raided Dura, which is located southwest of Hebron City, and Israeli soldiers responded by opening fire on Palestinians and launching tear gas canisters at youth and at civilian homes.An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that “hundreds” of Palestinians attacked Israeli forces by throwing rocks, while also throwing firebombs and rolling burning tires at soldiers. No Israelis were injured.She added that Israeli forces used riot dispersal means “in light of the ongoing assault” by firing 0.22 caliber bullets as well as rubber-coated steel bullets into the crowds. She confirmed that “several hits” were made.Israeli forces have come under repeated criticism for excessive use of force, as well as lethal methods of crowd control that often result in death or injury of protesters.The clashes came amid an ongoing Israeli military siege of the entirety of Hebron, restricting passage out of the occupied West Bank’s most populous city to humanitarian and military cases only.

Locals also told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided Hebron City overnight, detaining three Palestinians.
Locals identified the detained to Ma’an as Alaa Raed al-Zghayyar, 23, Ramzi Dandis, and Anas Qafisha, the son of Palestinian lawmaker Hatem Qafisha, who was released from Israeli custody on Sunday after six months in administrative detention.
(Source / 06.07.2016)

Israeli forces detain 7 Palestinians in overnight raids on eve of Eid al-Fitr

Zionist soldaten Eid al Fitr

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces detained at least seven Palestinians during overnight raids across the occupied West Bank on Tuesday night, as Palestinian Muslims celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.Locals told Ma’an that three Palestinians were detained in their homes in the southern West Bank city of Hebron City on Tuesday evening.The three were identified as Alaa Raed al-Zghayyar, 23, Ramzi Dandis, and Anas Qafisha.Qafisha is the son of Hatem Qafisha, a Hamas-affiliated Palestinian lawmaker who was just released from Israeli prison on Sunday after spending six months in administrative detention — internment without charges or trial.The MP reportedly became unwell after the raid and detention of his son, and had to be treated by the Palestinian Red CrescentAn Israeli army spokesperson did not give Ma’an information on detention in the Hebron area, which has been under an ongoing Israeli military siege for nearly a week restricting passage out of the occupied West Bank’s most populous city to humanitarian and military cases only.However, she told Ma’an that three Palestinians had been detained southeast of Ramallah, as well as one south of Ramallah.

(Source / 06.07.2016)

ISIS Just Proved It Has Nothing to Do With Islam

The most recent series of attacks in Turkey and Saudi Arabia prove ISIS terrorists aren’t Muslims. Here’s what they really are:

Libyan followers of Ansar al-Shariah Brigades display the ISIS flag during a protest, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. (AP Photo)

Libyan followers of Ansar al-Shariah Brigades display the ISIS flag during a protest, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012

United States — While the terrorist group known as the Islamic State (or ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) might be a formidable and abhorrent foe, one mischaracterization of these terrorists — repeated far too often by politicians and many in the media — must be put to rest. The Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam — no matter what the group chooses to call itself.

For nearly perfect evidence of this fact, consider how many brutal massacres occurred during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan — a period of spiritual reflection, peace, and restraint during which Muslims fast from dawn until dusk and are encouraged more than ever to refrain from behavior that would be considered sinful. Islam, as many major religions, already teaches peace as a rule — and the Qur’an states that killing one person would be akin to slaying all of humanity.

Yet the so-called Islamic State has slaughtered thousands over the two years since it declared itself a caliphate — and Ramadan certainly didn’t halt its murderous rampage.

On June 21, Daesh claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing just across the border from Jordan in Syria, which killed six Jordanians — four border guards, a national security official, and a civil defense worker. Called a “cowardly terrorist attack” by the government of Jordan, CNN reported, the bombing led to border closures with Syria in the north and northeast.

A series of suicide bombings in Lebanon on June 27 left six people dead and at least 19 others injured, and also forced border closures. After one terrorist blew himself up outside a home in the village of Qaa, three others waited at the scene for help to arrive and then detonated themselves in the gathering crowd.

According to a statement by the Lebanese Army, cited by CNN, “the four suicide belts used by the terrorists contained 2 kg of explosives material and metal balls (ball bearings).”

Though Daesh hasn’t officially claimed responsibility for the attack, security analysts reportedly claimed it bore the hallmarks of the group.

At least 43 people were killed — among them, a child — and more than 30 wounded in four suicide bombings in Mukalla, a major port city in Yemen, on June 28. Though the attackers targeted military and government buildings, the child happened to be passing by as one of the bombs detonated. Amaq, the unofficial media agency for Daesh, claimed the group had specifically targeted a “joint security base,” CNN reported.

According to the Associated Press, “officials said two suicide bombers and other militants carried out at least seven simultaneous attacks in Mukalla targeting intelligence offices, army barracks and checkpoints. In one of the attacks, a bomb was concealed in a box of food brought to soldiers at a checkpoint to break their dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast.”

Also on the 28th, Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport came under attack when at “least three people with guns and suicide vests targeted the arrivals and departures areas, where they sprayed travelers with bullets and then detonated their explosives in a rampage that lasted just a few minutes but killed dozens and injured more than 250 more,” as the Guardian described.

Though Daesh hasn’t officially claimed responsibility, Turkish officials believe the group was behind it — particularly since one attacker began shooting and blew himself up, while others waited for the ensuing chaos and mass exodus to do the same, which is a typical tactic of the Islamic State.

After intense investigations, Turkey today charged 17 more people in connection with the massacre, bringing to 30 the total number now in custody. Akhmed Chatayev, a Chechen believed to be a recruiter for Daesh, has been named by Turkish officials as the attack’s primary organizer.

Beginning Friday night, gunmen in Bangladesh stormed Holey Artisan Bakery, a cafe popular with expats, taking more than 30 hostages before Bangladeshi troops performed a rescue operation. Attackers managed to kill two police officers and 20 hostages during the 11-hour ordeal before authorities shot all six, saving at least 13 hostages in the process.

“Everyone else ran away but you couldn’t make it,” one of the gunmen told a store employee known simply as Miraj the Baker, before strapping him with explosives and gas canisters to be used as a human shield. “That means God wants you to die.”

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Saturday night, a suicide truck bomb in a busy marketplace in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood killed 200 people and injured at least 175 more — and again, Daesh claimed responsibility.

Considered one of the worst single attacks in the wartorn country in years, Daesh chose the marketplace as Muslims would be preparing for Eid al-Fitr — the day marking the end of Ramadan.

“As people congregated, shopped and watched soccer matches,” CNN described, “the bomb-laden truck plowed into a building housing a coffee shop, stores and a gym. Firefighters rescued wounded and trapped people in adjacent buildings.”

Yet another wave of attacks occurred in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, and though at least two failed, one attacker detonated his explosive belt and killed four people at one of Islam’s holiest sites, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi Mosque — the place where the Prophet Muhammad is buried.

Officials believe Daesh carried out the attacks, though no one has yet claimed responsibility.

It is imperative to note Daesh purposefully chose Ramadan to unleash its hellish fury on scores of innocent victims — who, incidentally, were mostly Muslim. These terrorists do not hold to the tenets of the faith they boastfully — laughably — co-opted to name themselves. Islam is not a hateful, murderous religion, no matter what ignorant politicians and their ilk would have you believe — but that’s also precisely what Daesh wants you to think.

If we blame Islam and its adherents for giving rise to Daesh — instead of geopolitical wrangling carried out by the United States — then Muslims become victims of scaremongering, prejudice, and bigotry, leaving them alienated among a society normally leaving them in peace. Too much abuse from the ignorant masses forces some to radicalize and search out groups sharing those frustrations.

It isn’t Islam that recruits for the Islamic State. It’s ignorance.

(Source / 06.07.2016)

Ashrawi Denounces Plans to Expand West Bank Settlements

06 JUL
9:15 PM

PLO Executive Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Tuesday, strongly denounced Israel’s plan to expand three illegal Israeli settlements around the Jerusalem area, by building hundreds of residential units to accommodate more Israeli settlers.

She said, in a press release, “We strongly denounce plans by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to build 560 units in the illegal settlement of Maale Adumim and 240 units in the illegal settlements of Ramot, Gilo and Har Homa. “

Ashrawi said, according to WAFA, that the Israeli government is bent on destroying the viability, integrity and territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital simply by isolating Jerusalem from its Palestinian environs and ethnically cleansing the occupied city of its indigenous population.

“Israel is going too far with the expansion of its illegal settlement enterprise and its blatant disregard for international law and conventions, standing UN resolutions and global consensus.  The continued theft of Palestinian land and the increase in settlements constitute serious and grave threats to security and stability within the region and beyond.”

Ashrawi deplored the announcement by Netanyahu and Lieberman to expand and intensify settlement activities in Hebron, including the approval of the construction of an additional 42 units in the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba.

Ashrawi further condemned the use of collective punishment against around 700,000 people in the Hebron area.  “Such critical Israeli escalation paints a grim picture and provokes further anger, violence and extremism,” she added.

Related: 07/06/16 Apartheid Restrictions at Ibrahimi Mosque

The expansion plans come two days following the release of the Middle East Quartet’s report, which flagrantly accommodates Israel’s demands and violations, equates a vulnerable people under a brutal military occupation with a ruthless occupier and falls below the minimum requirements for peace, said Ashrawi.

“We call on all members of the international community to uphold their moral, legal and political responsibilities and to hold Israel to account for its blatant violations of international law and consensus.”

“The chances for the two-state solution are rapidly disappearing; if Israel is not stopped, extremism and violence will prevail,” she concluded.

(Source / 06.07.2016)

US accuses Israel of systematically seizing Palestinian land

WASHINGTON, (PIC)– U.S. State Department said Tuesday the reports of new Israeli construction permits called into question Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution. We’re aware of reports that the Government of Israel intends to advance plans for hundreds of housing units in Israeli settlements in the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem, spokesman for the U.S. State Department John Kirby said. If it’s true, this report would be the latest step in what seems to be a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions, and legalizations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution, he added. “We oppose steps like these, which we believe are counterproductive to the cause of peace.” On Sunday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Army Minister Avigdor Liberman approved the construction of 800 of new housing units in occupied Jerusalem. According to the plan, 560 new units will be built in Ma’ale Adumim, 140 homes were approved for Ramot settlement and 100 for the Har Homa settlement in southeastern of occupied Jerusalem.

(Source / 06.07.2016)