Human Rights Activist Abdullah Al-Khateeb Survives an Assassination Attempt in Damascus

Syrian Palestinian human rights activists Abdullah Al-Khateeb Survives an Assassination Attempt in Damascus with one shot in his chest

Malmo – Sweden and Damascus – Syria

23ed of July 2016

On the evening of Friday July 22, 2016, prominent Syrian-Palestinian human rights activist Abdallah Al-Khateeb, who has long been under threat for his civil society activities, survived an assassination attempt that left him severely injured with at least one critical injury in his chest.

This last threat is one of many attacks against Khateeb, as documented by Front Line Defenders in 2015.

Khateeb has also been on the hit list of the Islamic State since April 2015, when the radical group occupied Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees, 8 kilometres south of Damascus. In recent months the group blatantly and openly called for his death due to his activism.

Since the Islamic State’s takeover of Yarmouk in 2015, Khateeb relocated to the besieged neighborhood of Yalda where, supposedly, neither the Islamic State nor the Syrian regime has any presence. However, in the light of the recent attempt on his life, the Palestinian League for Human Rights – Syria has well-grounded fears that our colleague will not be safe anymore in Syria.

In March 2015, Khateeb narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt following the assassination of one of his colleagues inside his house five weeks earlier.

Abdullah’s activism

Khateeb, 26, was a co-founder of the Palestinian League for Human Rights in Syria documenting violations of all parties against Palestinian refugees in Syria. Moreover, he was an instrumental member of the Basmeh Social Foundation, which contributed to urban farming projects to counter the siege of the regimein the camp. As a community organiser for farming projects, Khateeb with others supported residents and activists to close the nutritional gap created by the siege. The siege resulted in the tragic deaths of more than 190 people due to starvation until March 2014 according to a report by Amnesty International to which Al-Khateeb’s group, PLHR, contributed. Additionally, Khateeb deliveredinformation to numerous human rights publications about the impact of southern Damascus siege.

Khateeb was also involved in alternative education programs inside Yarmouk, offering children access to knowledge in the light of the absence of any functioning educational institutions. He was also involved in psychosocial support for children affected by the trauma of the prolonged clashes in and bombardment of Yarmouk.

After relocating to Yalda, he continued his engagement for education and human rights.

Human rights defenders in Syria are paying a high price

Human rights activists in Syria are deliberately targeted by regime forces andnon-state actors alike for their civil, non-violent and peaceful work. The number of activists who were targeted since the outbreak of the uprising and its brutal crackdown by the regime is nearly impossible to verify. Nevertheless it is well known that civil activists have been forcibly disappeared in their hundreds. In detention centers, they are often tortured to death. Their destiny is often unknown after being forcibly disappeared, during which access to a fair trial is never possible.

70,000 Syrians have died as a result “of indirect causes such as lack of adequate medical care, lack of access to food and clean water, and spread of communicable disease.” This places further fears vis-à-vis the medical situation of Khateeb, whose injuries require proper medical care. This care is not possible anywhere in Syria as he has been openly threatened by the Islamic State and the Syrian regime alike.

Al Khateeb should urgently be evacuated outside Syria

Targeted by multiple parties to the conflict for his activism, both within and outside besieged areas of southern Damascus, we strongly believe that whoever is behind the attempted assassination will try again until Khateeb’s voice is silenced for good. This is the second attempt on his life.

Khateeb should be immediately and urgently evacuated to outside Syria for medical treatment

His survival, however, strongly indicates that inside Syria, there is no safe space left for a civil activist like Abdallah al-Khateeb, because currently no side can guarantee his safety. According to international law, it is the obligation of the regime, to allow for the evacuation of Khateeb for medical treatment outside Syria instantly.

(Source / 23.07.2016)

The War In Afghanistan is a Good Thing – If You’re A Heroin Dealer

The “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror” are more intertwined than that media and our elected officials would like us to think.

And this became full front and center when the U.S.-led global crusades overlapped in Afghanistan, leaving in their wake a legacy of death, addiction and government corruption tainting Afghan and American soil.

In the U.S., the War in Afghanistan is among the major contributing factors to the country’s devastating heroin epidemic.

Over 10,000 people in America died of heroin-related overdoses in 2014 alone– an epidemic fuelled partly by the low cost and availability of one of the world’s most addictive, and most deadly, drugs.

Despite our promises to eradicate the black market, the U.S. actually enables the illegal drug trade. As journalist Abby Martin writes, the U.S. government has had a long history of facilitating the global drug trade: In the 1950s, it allowed opium to be moved, processed and trafficked throughout the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia while it trained Taiwanese troops to fight Communist China. In the 80s, the CIA provided logistical and financial support to anti-Communist Contras in Nicaragua who were also known international drug traffickers.

Since the DEA got the boot from the Bolivian government in 2008, cocaine production in that country has steadily fallen year after year.

And in 2012, a Mexican government official claimed that rather than fighting drug traffickers, the CIA and other international security forces are actually trying to “manage the drug trade.”

“It’s like pest control companies, they only control,” Guillermo Terrazas Villanueva, the Chihuahua spokesman, told Al Jazeera. “If you finish off the pests, you are out of a job. If they finish the drug business, they finish their jobs.”

While there is no conclusive proof that the CIA is physically running opium out of Afghanistan,  Martin notes:

“[I]t’s hard to believe that a region under full US military occupation – with guard posts and surveillance drones monitoring the mountains of Tora Bora – aren’t able to track supply routes of opium exported from the country’s various poppy farms (you know, the ones the US military are guarding).”

Ironically, it was the U.S. mission to obliterate the Taliban in the “War on Terror” that turned Afghanistan into a “narco state.”

Prior to the War in Afghanistan, the Taliban actually offered subsidies to farmers to grow food crops not drugs.

In the summer of 2000, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar announced a total ban on the cultivation of opium poppy, the plant from which heroin is made. Those caught planting poppies in Taliban-controlled parts of the country were beaten and marched through villages with motor oil on their faces.

The only opium harvest the following spring was in the northeast, in an area controlled by the Taliban’s rivals, the Northern Alliance. That year, asMatthieu Aikins reported for Rolling Stone in 2012, “Opium production fell from an estimated 3,276 tons in 2000 to 185 tons in 2001.”

But then 9/11 hit and the Bush administration pushed into Afghanistan once again, carrying the banner of the “War on Terror.”

“When the Taliban fled or went into hiding, the farmers lost their financial support to grow food, and returned to growing heroin, a crop that thrives in regions of Afghanistan,” as Dr. Steven Kassels noted in a 2015 piece for Social Justice Solutions.

Seeking a “light footprint” in Afghanistan, the U.S. and our allies teamed up with what Aikins describes as “anti-Taliban warlords.” Aikins reported: “Within six months of the U.S. invasion, the warlords we backed were running the opium trade, and the spring of 2002 saw a bumper harvest of 3,400 tons.”

That’s right: The War in Afghanistan saw the country’s practically dead opium industry expanded dramatically. By 2014, Afghanistan was producing twice as much opium as it did in 2000. By 2015, Afghanistan was the source of 90 percent of the world’s opium poppy.

Since 2001, the U.S. has poured billions into counternarcotics programs in Afghanistan. How could this industry flourish right under the nose of the U.S. and our allies? Well, quite simply, because we let it: Aikins alleges that the DEA, FBI, the Justice Department and the Treasury ALL knew about their corrupt allies in the country, but did nothing to pursue them because it would have derailed the troop surge.

“The drug is entwined with the highest levels of the Afghan government and the economy in a way that makes the cocaine business in Escobar-era Colombia look like a sideshow,” Aikins writes, later noting: “On the ground, American commanders’ short-term imperatives of combat operations and logistics trumped other advisers’ long-term concerns over corruption, narcotics and human rights abuses, every time.”

But where did it all go? Well, as Aikins reported, Afghanistan’s “borders leak opium like sieves into five neighboring countries.”

The increased supply flooded European, Asian and Middle Eastern markets. And with Europe no longer reaching out to opium producers in South America and Mexico, that excess flooded the American market. Prices fell everywhere, making heroin dangerously cheap and dangerously accessible.

And this is where we find ourselves today: Heroin, one of the most addictive and deadly substances on Earth, can be found for as little a $4 a bag in some American cities.

Between 2002 and 2013, heroin-related overdose deaths quadrupled. In 2014, more than 10,000 people died of heroin overdoses in America. Should we add these casualties to the 3,504 U.S. and coalition soldiers who died in the war, or the 26,000 dead Afghan civilians?

And heroin use is up across the entire population. Age, sex, race, income, location — it doesn’t matter. And, as the CDC notes, “Some of the greatest increases occurred in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes.”

Unfortunately, it’s not just the U.S. suffering under the weight of a heroin addiction that’s hit epidemic proportions: Afghanistan, which has a long cultural tradition of smoking opium, is dealing not just with its status as a “narco state,” as Aikins described it, but also with the health and social ills stemming from increased heroin use.

In the process of waging a “War on Terror,” we lost the “War on Drugs.” Both wars deal in corruption and violence, and they put real human lives on the line — not just on the battlefield, but in the fields where farmers cultivate crops and in the neighborhoods where people live.

(Source / 23.07.2016)

Obama’s Last Gasp on Palestine-Israel

Obama Palestine-Israel

Overview

The Obama administration is in its final few months, and talk of a narrowing “window of opportunity” in which it can act on Palestine-Israel has gathered pace. Speculation on whether President Barack Obama will take any measures has been combined with skepticism that any measure could have a positive impact on the ground.

Policymakers have put forward a number of possible options, including a strongly-worded statement to define the Obama/John Kerry parameters for a solution to the conflict and an abstention on vetoing a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution that reiterates the illegality of settlements. The administration also must factor in the international peace conference that France hosted in early June and that is set to resume between the parties themselves in September.

Al-Shabaka Policy Analysts Sam Bahour, Zaha Hassan, Fadi Quran, Sherene Seikaly, and Omar Shaban offer a range of views about what, if any, step the Obama administration could take, what Palestinian responses and pitfalls could be, and what action Palestinians should consider. Their views are synthesized below, while in the final section each analyst offers their thoughts on what Palestinians should do. Al-Shabaka Policy Fellow Tareq Baconi served as the roundtable’s facilitator.

Is the Obama Administration Really Planning a New Initiative?

There appears to be high-level interest by the American government in taking action on Palestine before the end of Obama’s presidency. The first development that signaled this interest was when Obama sent feelers to political and security officials asking them what his administration should do if it were to act.

Some said he should take a step that would make it difficult for the next president – Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump – to make more concessions to Israelis. Others advised him not to get involved, saying it was not worth it. Still others said the international community is waiting for someone to take leadership on the French initiative as well as on providing cover for those Arab governments seeking to normalize relations with Israel. For Obama, the challenge lies in the concern that any measure taken might lead to the deterioration of the P5+1 Iran agreement, an outcome that would be welcomed by the Republicans and Gulf states. Obama is said to seek a legacy around Palestine-Israel, while at the same time fearing that any initiative could tarnish such a legacy.

Palestinians should take seriously the possibility that Obama may act because of his disdain for Benjamin Netanyahu, and because of the support such a move would have from Samantha Power and John Kerry. Any initiative would likely occur after the US presidential elections; thus the window would be from November 2016 through January 2017.

However, the situation in which Palestinians find themselves is not encouraging. The Palestinian Authority is very weak, and Palestinians are divided, with no prospect for reconciliation nor a desire to hold new national elections. This suggests both a lack of pressure on and an absence of reason for the Obama administration to take action, particularly as the wider Arab world is also not applying pressure on the administration. Rather, they are putting pressure on the Palestinians. Further, US support of the French initiative is lukewarm at best.

What are the Options on the Table?

The most ambitious option would be Obama recognizing the State of Palestine, as 138 members of the UN have already done. The US could accomplish this by either unilaterally recognizing the state or signing on to a UNSC resolution recommending the admission of Palestine to the UN, with the possible inclusion of parameters for a negotiated resolution to the conflict. The former is unlikely, but the latter is possible, especially since the US continues to express fear of losing the chance for a two-state solution. The administration could frame such a move as merely implementing past US policy statements – starting from the George W. Bush administration and the Roadmap for Peace all the way to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. By building on these statements an Obama initiative would appear to implement what the Republicans had started. This more cautious approach may be Obama’s only option.

Obama could also enshrine new parameters through a speech or an American framework. However, a speech could be easily dismissed by incoming presidencies, and issuing a standalone framework outlining US policy might be more difficult domestically.

A localized track is another possibility. The increased presence in Palestine recently of State Department officials as well as delegations from the House Foreign Affairs Committee indicates a rising interest among high-level US officials to talk about the occupation-related obstacles to Palestinian state building and economic development. This reflects an interest in supporting Palestinians economically and determining how to end the occupation and create a Palestinian state.

The US could follow the Vatican’s example and sign a bilateral agreement with Palestine that would effectively recognize Palestine as a state. The agreement could be in the form of a free trade agreement. Alternatively, the US could take measures to enhance reality on the ground for Palestinians by putting together an economic package that supports Palestinian sovereignty and state-building priorities.

What are Potential Palestinian Responses and Pitfalls?

The Palestinian leadership is in such dire straits that it may be willing to accept any move that could seem successful, regardless of pitfalls. Indeed, Palestinian leaders may want to enshrine a new set of parameters before Mahmoud Abbas exits. In addition, by enshrining US parameters, Obama could signal to settlers that continued settlement expansion will not be accepted.

Yet setting parameters could be dangerous for Palestinians in that it could cement their weak position. New US parameters would include reference to the 1967 borders but would also include land swaps and the legitimization of settlements, as well as special arrangements for Jerusalem, which would mean less than a capital for Palestinians. The parameters could also potentially enshrine the idea of a Jewish state with very harmful consequences for the Palestinian citizens of Israel. In addition, they could be dangerous for a UNSC resolution on settlements. A resolution already exists that addresses settlements’ illegality; a new resolution could risk legitimizing them rather than reaffirming their illegality.  For instance, a document that refers to prohibiting “continued settlement construction” could suggest that what is already on the ground is permissible.

A bilateral trade agreement between the US and Palestine, on the other hand, would effectively recognize Palestine as a state and delegitimize settlements. Yet while a trade agreement may implicitly include state recognition, it would also move the Obama administration away from politics and onto an economic track. The fear here is that any movement away from the political track will legitimize Obama’s desire to shift away from political issues – a move that may be embraced by the struggling Palestinian private sector.

What Should the Palestinians Do?

Sam Bahour: In the immediate future, the Palestinian leadership must remain strictly political. While this may not immediately help domestically or upgrade daily life, it will prevent watering down the issues and potential responses from the Obama administration. The most pointed political demand is to focus on direct US recognition of Palestine in the coming six-month period. In the short term, this would embarrass the stakeholders who call for two states but are unable to accept recognition. The more we can put the key players in a corner with a call for statehood, the more we can reveal that none of them are serious about statehood. We can then move on to other political framings, if the need arises.

Zaha Hassan: The likelihood that newly adopted US parameters would cause more harm than good is very high. Any explicit US recognition of the State of Palestine would certainly include qualifications that would negatively impact the Palestinian national cause. For example, there would likely be a reference that the territorial unit in which Palestinians may exercise their right to self-determination is the State of Palestine. This would have ramifications for Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel. Including such qualified parameters in a UNSC resolution would elevate their status to law and be difficult to undo later. To avoid the pitfalls inherent in these options, it may be safer to encourage the US to sign a bilateral trade agreement with Palestine. Signing such an agreement would have the effect of recognizing Palestine as a state as well as delegitimizing Israeli settlements and settlement products.

Fadi Quran: Key actors within Palestinian civil society that focus on BDS and the increasing economic costs of occupation should not be asked to lend their resources to possible Obama efforts. This is long-term work that needs to remain in place. We also need advocacy from civil society that focuses on international law and presents a joint document to the Democratic National Committee or to the Obama administration that clearly states what we believe our rights are and that any parameters that do not include these rights will be unacceptable. Lastly, we need to bring back voices of people that have been missing from the conversation for years into policy decisions. This means reconnecting with Palestinian voices outside of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. For example, if Obama receives a strong call from Palestinians in Israel that establishes red lines with regard to rights, it could affect his administration’s parameters.

Sherene Seikaly: The challenge with which people like Cornel West are confronting the  Democratic Party is one indication of the tremendous gains that student activists and BDS supporters have made on campuses throughout the United States. We can take this momentum and build on intersectional, cross-sectional solidarities. These can put forward a simple call to end the siege of Gaza. Although this moment feels quite dark vis-à-vis the US political landscape – if Hillary Clinton wins, one of her first domestic targets will be activists and BDS, for example – it nevertheless has a lot of radical potential to put forth demands. The Palestinian Authority has essentially been anemic to aspirational demands; we could work to challenge them on this anemia and push them to engage the intersectional momentum we are now witnessing.

Omar Shaban: The strengthening of civil society in Gaza and the West Bank is highly needed. Funds in the West Bank have influenced the way civil society has been weakened, preventing it from pressuring the Palestinian Authority. We need to work on making civil society more independent and capable of defending Palestinian rights rather than being bought. We also need to work to get Hamas to understand what happened in Tunisia in terms of the moderation of political Islam – in essence, we need to create knowledge in Gaza about such options for Hamas.

(Source / 23.07.2016)

Mishaal: Hamas is not afraid of any election

GAZA, (PIC)– Head of Hamas’s political bureau Khaled Mishaal has affirmed that his Movement is not afraid of participating in any election and will respect its results. Mishaal made his remarks in a recorded speech delivered during a graduation ceremony held to honor young participants in a resistance training program in Gaza on Friday. “We are on the threshold of a municipal election, and we have announced that we will engage in it, although some people may want to test us. We respect the result of the election and we are not afraid of it,” Mishaal said. He emphasized his Movement’s respect for the Palestinian people’s free voice and strong will, and its keenness on having a real political partnership with other factions. He also hailed the armed wing of Hamas, al-Qassam Brigades, for its military achievements and its adherence to the resistance and liberation option. The Hamas official expressed his belief that the conflict with the Israeli occupation is “complex and ferocious” and needs strong strategies to confront it. He highlighted the importance of providing the Palestinian people with a decent life and all means of steadfastness in order for them to be able to continue their resistance of the occupation.

(Source / 23.07.2016)

Hamas: PA, Israeli arrests are “systematic repression policy”

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– The leader in Hamas Movement Shaker Amara said in press statement on Friday that the PA and Israeli raid and arrest campaigns are a systematic repression policy targeting Islamic bloc students. PA and Israeli systematic targeting of Islamic bloc activists did not stop as Israel considers the Islamic bloc a banned group, he said. “These Israeli and PA arrest and summons campaigns and repression policy will not terrorize our people”, he stressed. Amara underlined that this systematic repression policy will only strengthen the Islamic bloc activists.

(Source / 23.07.2016)

France, Turkey and human rights: is a state of emergency the new normal?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared a state of emergency in the wake of the failed coup of July 15. It’s not yet clear how the President intends to interpret the powers awarded to him in this situation but there are ongoing concerns that his government will clamp down on human rights.

Indeed, explaining the decision, deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmuş said:

Turkey will derogate the European convention on human rights insofar as it does not conflict with its international obligations.

Kurtulmuş added that Turkey was acting “just like France” in taking this action – referring to the extended state of emergency that has followed the terrorist attacks of the past year there.

A situation that was originally meant to last three months following the Paris attacks of November 2015, has been extended to last another six months following the July attack in Nice.

Both cases raise serious questions about how long a state of emergency is supposed to last in this day and age, and how ordinary people are affected while they are in place.

What is a state of emergency?

Under Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) a country can declare a state of emergency, “in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation”. Once an emergency is declared, however, a state is not given free rein to do as it sees fit.

The measures taken must still be “proportionate to the exigencies of the situation”. To protect human rights, Article 15 has a triple lock. To derogate from the convention, an emergency must exist; the measures being proposed must be proportionate; and some rights can never be violated. Torture or inhuman and degrading treatment, for example, are never permissible, no matter how extreme the emergency.

The ECHR is vague about the conditions that constitute an emergency, so in some ways, it’s not clear whether what is happening in Turkey constitutes one.

The European Court of Human Rights has never found that an emergency did not exist in a state that declared one. It has taken a very hands off approach to this issue, deferring instead to each government’s assessment of the situation in their country. A large amount of trust is placed in a state’s government on this question.

Emergencies, however, are not just about the facts on the ground that give rise to an extreme crisis; they also reveal a lot about the person or body declaring a state of emergency and what their motivations are.

Protestors in France demand an end to the state of emergency

While the European Court of Human Rights has never found that a state of emergency did not exist in a country, the now defunct European Commission of Human Rights (a tribunal body that prior to 1998 would make preliminary decisions on a case before the Court heard it) has.

The Commission rejected a 1967 declaration of a state of emergency in Greece by the military dictatorship that governed at the time. The Commission found that no “threat to the life of the nation” existed and that the military dictatorship had fabricated the emergency in order to crack down on the communist opposition.

Unlike the government in the Greek case, Erdoğan was democratically elected. But we have to ask ourselves whether we can simply assume that because a state’s government has been elected, it will protect human rights.

Indeed, faced with an emergency, a government might clamp down on human rights to prove to a fearful public that it is “doing something”, whether that something is effective or not. Emergencies are precisely when human rights are needed most.

Democracy also requires respect for the rule of law. All state power is exercised through the law, and nobody is above the law. An independent and functioning judiciary is fundamental to this. Erdoğan’s purging of the judiciary in Turkey is deeply worrying, to say the least.

Democracy likewise requires free speech and the communication of ideas. While Article 10 of the ECHR, which protects freedom of expression, can be derogated from in an emergency, any infringement must still be proportionate.

The decisions to fire and detain academics, and prevent people from travelling abroad are an unprecedented violation of academic and democratic values in Turkey. And it didn’t start with the failed coup.

How long can this last?

Erdoğan’s declaration of a state of emergency is deeply suspect. Turkey’s emergency has an initial time limit of three months; however, emergencies tend to be perpetuated. France’s experiment with emergency powers – which Turkey is drawing parallels to – is a case in point.

The nature of the terrorist threat facing France makes assessing when it has been defeated incredibly difficult. The terrorist attacks that have caused this situation are not committed by an army in uniform but people only connected in the loosest sense by an ideology. That makes them hard to identify or engage.

In light of the challenges posed by Islamic extremist terrorism, the European Court of Human Rights, in a case involving the UK’s declaration of a state of emergency following 9/11, has said that an emergency may be perpetual.

Again, this is reflective of the court’s deferential approach to the existence of a state of emergency. It undermines the entire justification of declaring a state of emergency in the first place, which is to restore the status quo that existed prior to the declaration.

A member of the military is arrested in Turkey

With the introduction of emergency powers comes the temptation for misuse. France’s state of emergency was less than a month old when its emergency powers were used, not in the fight against suspected IS terrorists, but to place climate change protesters under house arrest during the Paris Climate Summit in December. And while the state seems to have made the most of its extended powers in this case, it still wasn’t able to prevent the attack in Nice.

It will take some time before the European Court of Human Rights will get to examine Turkey’s emergency. However, even if the emergency is eventually lifted, it is hard to imagine that “normal life” after the emergency will be the same as “normal life” before it.

States of emergency have a dark history of being used in a transformative sense to usher in tyrannical regimes in the guise of confronting a threat to the life of the nation. It would be wise to recall the warnings of British judge Lord Hoffmann that the real threat to the life of the nation comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these.

(Source / 23.07.2016)

Planning for the ‘day after’ Mosul

Iraqi security forces wait for vehicles traveling to Mosul to fight against Islamic State militants at an Iraqi army base in Camp Taji in Baghdad, Feb. 21, 2016

WASHINGTON — With plans advancing for the battle to retake Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, from the so-called Islamic State (IS), the military campaign to seize territory is making such rapid progress in Iraq and Syria that it now presents a daunting challenge: how to get humanitarian and political preparations to catch up. Defense and foreign ministers from over 30 nations met in Washington July 20-21 to plan how to provide humanitarian relief, reconstruction and government services to care for and try to win hearts and minds of the millions of people expected to be displaced or severely impacted in the operations, most of them Sunnis, so that IS — once uprooted — does not find fertile ground again.

“The liberation of Mosul is now in sight,” Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (IS), said at a meeting of 30 coalition defense and foreign ministers at the State Department July 21. “We must, as a coalition, get it right.”

“The political and diplomatic aspects of this fight must keep pace with the battlefield progress,” McGurk said. “If we can’t sustain the victories by holding cities after their liberation, our success may not be lasting.”

US, UN, European and Arab diplomats said that military victory to uproot IS will not be enduring without making sure humanitarian relief and government services are provided to care for the displaced. Recent military gains in Fallujah, Iraq, and Manbij, Syria, have been followed by grim reports and photographs of desperate displaced civilians with minimal humanitarian aid support or shelter.

“Every victory on the battlefield creates another humanitarian crisis,” Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, told an Iraq pledging conference held at the State Department in Washington July 20.

Some 660,000 people are expected to flee their homes and as many as 1.5 million people will be severely affected in the operation to retake Mosul, Grande said, describing it as the biggest humanitarian challenge Iraq has faced. Of the over 3 million people already displaced in Iraq, 90% of them are Sunnis, Grande said.

“Much territory has been liberated faster than we imagined,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said at the Iraq donors conference June 20. “But it is important to come in underneath the military liberation with the type of support for rebuilding, for health, for education, to be able to make sure that we’re not leaving the door open for a disgruntlement or the revisiting of [IS] that undoes the liberation itself.”

“When we win this fight — and let there be no doubt that we will — there will still be much more to be done,” US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told the gathering of over 30 counter-IS coalition defense and foreign ministers at the State Department July 21. “There will be towns to rebuild, services to reestablish, and [we] must ensure that when that time comes, the Iraqi and Syrian people have what they need to hold, stabilize and govern their territory.”

“For that reason, we cannot … allow the coalition’s stabilization and governance efforts to lag behind our military progress,” Carter said.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, for his part, expressed gratitude for the $2.1 billion pledged for Iraq stabilization at the July 20 donors conference and confidence in the campaign.

“The victories that Iraq has been achieving so far is the result of the efforts that the international coalition has been in support of Iraq,” Jaafari said in remarks with Kerry at the State Department July 21. “There is a lot more coming that needs to be done to defeat terrorism and [IS], not only in Iraq but wherever it exists in the world.”

Indeed, progress in the military campaign against IS has moved so much more quickly than expected that a debate has opened up inside the international coalition and humanitarian community on whether they should slow down to let the political and humanitarian preparations catch up, Western officials suggested.

“On the military side, things are moving forward much faster than we thought,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking through a translator, told a small group of journalists in Washington July 21. “Now we are preparing for [supporting the battle to retake] Mosul. I am not saying it is going to fall right away, but we are moving in the right direction.”

“In contrast, the political conditions are still in the making,” Le Drian said. “The Iraqi government … is still fragile and has lots of internal problems. We have to settle the question of what will happen in Mosul after. How can we organize the post-IS period in Mosul without creating new disorder?”

“We think the political activities should accelerate so they can keep pace with the military actions on the ground,” Le Drian continued.

On the question of whether retaking the IS-strongholds of Mosul or Raqqa was a greater priority, the French defense minister said both.

“We have to take both,” Le Drian said. “The incubator [for IS] is in both Mosul and Raqqa. People are traveling between the two.” The military side of the campaign to uproot IS from Iraq and Syria may take another year to a year and a half, he estimated.

The question of postwar governance and social cohesion remains challenging, with Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government still facing deep internal strains and Sunni mistrust, no reconciliation between factions in Syria’s 5-year-old civil war and little sign of progress in Syrian political talks in Geneva, which were suspended in April.

If reported US-Russian agreement on a plan to fight Jabhat al-Nusra and restrict Syrian air force operations “makes it possible to have a cease-fire over Aleppo, this would be a good thing so political talks in Geneva can be resumed,” Le Drian said.

“Politically, I do not believe it is wise to wait for [Geneva] discussion to take place to continue the fight against IS,” he added.

(Source / 23.07.2016)

PCHR Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the oPt (14– 20 July 2016)

23 JUL
10:06 PM

Israeli violations of international law and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories continued during the reporting period (14 – 20 July 2016).

Shooting:

Israeli forces have continued to commit crimes, inflicting civilian casualties. They have also continued to use excessive force against Palestinian civilians participating in peaceful protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the majority of whom were youngsters. During the reporting period, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians, including a child.  Moreover, Israeli forces wounded 17 other civilians, including 4 children. Fifteen of them were wounded in the West Bank and the 2 others were wounded in the Gaza Strip. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces continue to target Palestinian fishermen and chase them in the Sea.

In the West Bank, at approximately 16:50 on Tuesday, 19 July 2016, Israeli soldiers who guard the annexation wall near Nazlet al-Kasarat area in al-Ram village, north of East occupied Jeruslaem, fired rubber-coated metal bullets at Muhie al-Deen Mohammed Sedqi Mohammed Tabakhi (11) when he was along with other children near a hill overlooking the wall.  Tabakhi was wounded and then taken to al-Ram Medical Centre.  He was then transferred to Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, where he succumbed to his wounds.

On 19 July 2016, the Palestinian Ministry of Health declared the death of Mustafa Barad’iyeh (52) from Beit Fajjr village, south of Bethlehem.  The aforementioned was wounded at the entrance to al-‘Aroub refugee camp, north of Hebron on 18 July 2016 after stabbing two Israeli soldiers.  He was taken by an Israeli military ambulance to an unknown destination.

On 14 July 2016, 10 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children, were wounded when a group of undercover units of Israeli forces sneaked into al-Mazra’ah al-Qabaliyah village, northwest of Ramallah.  The units raided and searched a house belonging to Tariq ‘Aqel Abu Rabi’a and arrested him.  Meanwhile, a number of Palestinian children and youngsters gathered to throw stones at the units, who in response opened fire at them.  Fifteen minutes later, 3 Israeli military vehicles moved into the village to back up the undercover units and secure their withdrawal.  The Israeli soldiers opened fire at the demonstrators, resulting in the injury of ten civilians; one of whom sustained serious wounds.

On the same day, Israeli forces stationed at Sho’afat checkpoint, north of occupied East Jerusalem, opened fire at Yehia Hashem Hejazi (24) while crossing the checkpoint.  As a a result, he was hit with 9 bullets to the right foot and then taken to “Shaare Zedek” Medical Centre for medical treatment.  He is so far under arrest.  Israeli forces claimed that he attempted to carry out a stab attack against Israeli soldiers, who in response opened fire at him.  Israeli forces later backed away from their claim and stated the shooting was by mistake.

On 18 July 2016, 4 civilians, including 2 children, sustained bullet wounds when Israeli forces moved into Qabatia, southeast of Jenin, to level a house belonging to prisoner Belal Ahmed Adib Abu Zaid (20).  The wounded persons were taken to Dr. Khalil Soliman Governmental Hospital in Jenin for medical treatment.  One of the wounded persons sustained serious wounds.  (See: Collective Punishment Policy Measures)

In the Gaza Strip, on 15 July 2016, a Palestinian civilian was hit with a bullet to the right hand when Israeli forces opened dozens of Palestinian children and youngsters who headed to the border fence between Israeli and the Gaza Strip, east of al-Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, in order to throw stones at the Israeli soldiers.

In the context of opening fire at the border areas, on 20 July 2016, Israeli forces stationed along the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of al-Salqa Valley, east of Deir al-Balah, opened fire at farmers in the area.  As a result, one of the farmers was hit with a bullet to the left thigh.

In the context of targeting Palestinian fishermen in the Sea, on 17 July 2016, Israeli hunboats stationed off al-Soudaniya shore, west of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, heavily opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats and chased them.  The boats were sailing within 3 nautical miles, and no casualties were reported.

On 20 July 2016, Israeli gunboats stationed off al-Shati shore, northwest of Gaza City, heavily opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats sailing within 2 nautical miles. Two Israeli gunboats surrounded a fishing boat manned by 5 civilians from al-Shati camp, west of Gaza City. Israeli forces arrested all of them and confiscated the fishing boat.

Incursions:

During the reporting period, Israeli forces conducted at least 78 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and 5 ones in occupied East Jerusalem and its suburbs. During these incursions, Israeli forces arrested at least 59 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children and 2 women.  Sixteen of them, including 3 children and a woman, were arrested in occupied Jerusalem.

In the Gaza Strip, on 20 July 2016, Israeli forces moved 50 meters into the eastern side of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip.  Amidst Israeli sporadic shooting, Israeli bulldozer sdug and levelled vacant lands along the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel.  Neither casualties nor damages were reported.

 

Collective Punishment Measures against Palestinian civilians

 

Shooting Incidents:

  • On 14 July 2016, Israeli forces stationed at the checkpoint of Shu’fat refugee camp, north of East Jerusalem, opened fire at Yahya Hashem Hijazi (24) when he was crossing the checkpoint. As a result, Yahya was wounded with nine live bullets to his right foot and taken to “Shaare Zedek” Medical Centre for medical treatment. He is so far under arrest.  Israeli forces claimed that he attempted to carry out a stab attack against Israeli soldiers, who in response opened fire at him.  Israeli forces later backed away from their claim and stated the shooting was by mistake.
  • On 19 July 2016, Israeli forces, who guard the annexation wall near Nazalet al-Kassarat area in al-Ram village north of East Jerusalem, fired ruber-coated metal bullets at Mohyidin Mohammed Sadqi Mohammed Tabakhi (11) when he along with his friends were near a hill overlooking the abovementioned wall. At the meanwhile, there were clashes between the Israeli forces and dozens of Palestinian young men. As a result, Mohyidin was hit with a metal bullet to the left side of his chest. Mohyidin was taken to al-Ram Medical Centre from which he was transported to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah. After that, doctors announced his death.

 

Collective Punishment:

 

  • On 14 July 2016, Israeli forces moved into Dura village, southwest of Hebron and stationed in Wad Sud neighbourhood. They raided and searched a house belonging to the family of Prisoner Mohammed Abdul Majeed Mohammed Amayrah (38). Moreover, an engineering unit took measurements of the 1-storey house built on an area of 180-square-meter. The Israeli soldiers then threatened Mohammed’s wife to demolish the house as the Israeli authorities accused Mohammed of killing an Israeli settler after shooting him near Deir Razseh village, south of Dura. ‘Amayrah’s partner in the attack was Mohammed Jabarah al-Faqih whose house was raided as well by the Israeli forces in Dura at the same time.
  • On 18 July 2016, Israeli forces accompanied with military jeeps, several bulldozers and a digger moved into Qabatiyah village, southeast of Jenin. They stationed opposite to a 2-storey house belonging to the family of prisoner Bilal Ahmed Adeeb Abu Zaid (20) and demolished the two-story house. At the meanwhile, dozens of youngsters gathered and threw stones and empty bottles at the Israeli forces that immediately fired sound bombs and tear gas canisters at them in response. As a result, 4 civilians, including two children, were wounded with live bullets and they were taken to Martyr Dr. Khalil Suleiman Hospital in Jenin to receive medical treatment where medical sources classified one of the civilians’ injuries as dangerous. It should be mentioned that the Israeli forces accused Bilal of helping 3 young men from Qabatiyah village in carrying out an attack in Ras al-Amoud area in Jerusalem at the beginning of last February.

House demolitions and demolition notices:

 

  • On 19 July 2016, Israeli forces demolished a room, stores and a commercial facility in Hush Abu Tahyeh in Ein al-Lawzah neighbourhood in Silwan, south of East Jerusalem. These facilities belong to Abu al-Hamam and Abu Tayeh families and were demolished under the pretext of building without a permit.
  • On the same Tuesday, Israeli forces demolished foundations of an under-construction house in Tal al-Foul area in Beit Haninah neighbourhood, north of Jerusalem belonging to Sharhabil ‘Alqam under the pretext of building without a licence. Sharhabil said to a PCHR’s fieldworker that he started building the house two months ago to live in the house with his family comprised of 9 members. He added that the municipality bulldozers demolished the foundations without a prior warning after imposing a complete cordon on the area and prevented Sharhabil from reaching the house.
  • At approximately 13:30 on the same Thursday, Israel Antiquities Authority demolished 4 Islamic graves in Bab al-Rahmah Gate Cemetery close to al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem. This action is part of the Jewish plan to transform part of the abovementioned cemetery to a Biblical Garden and establish foundations for the Chairlifts between al-Zaytoun Mount and Bab al-Rahmah Gate Cemetery.
  • On 20 July 2016, Israeli municipality machines demolished a commercial facility in the industrial area of Qalandiyah “Atrout”, north of East Jerusalem belonging to Kamal Abu Sunainah claiming that the land belongs to the municipality. Abu Sunainah added that 4 containers, 2 tin-roofed rooms used offices and stores for medical equipment,  2 trucks, a private vehicle and a diesel tank. They also levelled 2 dumums of land. He added that the facility was established 10 years ago and that the municipality crews raided it several times claiming that the work is illegal.

Restrictions on movement:

Israel continued to impose a tight closure of the oPt, imposing severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

The illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which has been steadily tightened since June 2007 has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip.  The Israeli authorities impose measures to undermine the freedom of trade, including the basic needs for the Gaza Strip population and the agricultural and industrial products to be exported. For 9 consecutive years, Israel has tightened the land and naval closure to isolate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, and other countries around the world. This resulted in grave violations of the economic, social and cultural rights and a deterioration of living conditions for 1.8 million people.  The Israeli authorities have established Karm Abu Salem (KeremShaloum) as the sole crossing for imports and exports in order to exercise its control over the Gaza Strip’s economy.  They also aim at imposing a complete ban on the Gaza Strip’s exports. The Israeli closure raised the rate of poverty to 38.8%, 21.1% of which suffer from extreme poverty. Moreover, the rate of unemployment increased up to 44%, which reflects the unprecedented economic deterioration in the Gaza Strip.

  • Use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrations protesting settlement activities and the construction of the annexation wall

West Bank:

  • Following the Friday prayer, on 15 July 2016, dozens of Palestinians and Israeli and international human rights defenders organised protests against the annexation wall and settlement activities in Bil’in and Nil’in villages, west of Ramallah, and al-Nabi Saleh village, northwest of city. Israeli forces used force to disperse the protesters by firing live bullets, metal bullets, tear gas canisters and sound bombs and chased the protesters into the olive fields and between houses. As a result, many civilians suffered tear gas inhalation and others sustained bruises as Israeli soldiers beat them up.

Gaza Strip:

 

  • At approximately 15:00, on 15 July 2016, dozens of Palestinian young men headed to the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of al-Bureij refugee camp, in the center of the Gaza Strip. They threw stones at Israeli soldiers stationed behind sand barriers. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters and live bullets in response. As a result, Sadam Ibrahim Hussain al-Mabhouh (25) was hit with a live bullet to the right arm, and was then taken to al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, where his wounds were classified as moderate.

 

Note: PCHR keeps the names of the injured persons in the aforementioned demonstrations.

 

Rubber-coated metal bullets are lethal if they hit the head of victim from a close range.

 

Continued closure of the oPt

Israel continued to impose a tight closure on the oPt, imposing severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

Gaza Strip:

Israeli forces continuously tighten the closure of the Gaza Strip and close all commercial crossings, making the Karm Abu Salem crossing the sole commercial crossing of the Gaza Strip, although it is not suitable for commercial purposes in terms of its operational capacity and distance from markets.

Israeli forces have continued to apply the policy, which is aimed to tighten the closure on all commercial crossings, by imposing total control over the flow of imports and exports.

Israeli forces have continued to impose a total ban on the delivery of raw materials to the Gaza Strip, except for very limited items and quantities. The limited quantities of raw materials allowed into Gaza do not meet the minimal needs of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces also continued to impose an almost total ban on the Gaza Strip exports, including agricultural and industrial products, except for light-weighted products such as flowers, strawberries, and spices. However, they lately allowed the exportation of some vegetables such as cucumber and tomatoes, furniture and fish.

Israel has continued to close the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing for the majority of Palestinian citizens from the Gaza Strip. Israel only allows the movement of a limited number of groups, with many hours of waiting in the majority of cases. Israel has continued to adopt a policy aimed at reducing the number of Palestinian patients allowed to move via the Beit Hanoun crossing to receive medical treatment in hospitals in Israel or in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel also continued applying the policy of making certain civilian traveling via the crossing interviewed by the Israeli intelligence service to be questioned, blackmailed or arrested.

Recommendations to the International Community

PCHR emphasizes the international community’s position that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are still under Israeli occupation, in spite of Israeli military redeployment outside the Gaza Strip in 2005. PCHR further confirms that Israeli forces continued to impose collective punishment measures on the Gaza Strip, which have escalated since the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, in which Hamas won the majority of seats of the Palestinian Legislative Council. PCHR stresses that there is international recognition of Israel’s obligation to respect international human rights instruments and the international humanitarian law, especially the Hague Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land and the Geneva Conventions. Israel is bound to apply the international human rights law and the law of war sometime reciprocally and other times in parallel in a way that achieves the best protection for civilians and remedy for victims.

In light of continued arbitrary measures, land confiscation and settlement activities in the West Bank, and the latest 51-day offensive against civilians in the Gaza Strip, PCHR calls upon the international community, especially the United Nations, the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention and the European Union – in the context of their natural obligation to respect and enforce the international law – to cooperate and act according to the following recommendations:

  1. PCHR calls upon the international community and the United Nations to use all available means to allow the Palestinian people to enjoy their right to self-determination, through the establishment of the Palestinian State, which was recognized by the UN General Assembly with a vast majority, using all international legal mechanisms, including sanctions to end the occupation of the State of Palestine;
  2. PCHR calls upon the United Nations to provide international protection to Palestinians in the oPt, and to ensure the non-recurrence of aggression against the oPt, especially the Gaza Strip;
  3. PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to compel Israel, as a High Contracting Party to the Conventions, to apply the Conventions in the oPt;
  4. PCHR calls upon the Parties to international human rights instruments, especially the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to pressurize Israel to comply with their provisions in the oPt, and to compel it to incorporate the human rights situation in the oPt in its reports submitted to the concerned committees;
  5. PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to fulfil their obligation to ensure the application of the Conventions, including extending the scope of their jurisdiction in order to prosecute suspected war criminals, regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator and the place of a crime, to pave the way for prosecuting suspected Israeli war criminals and end the longstanding impunity they have enjoyed;
  6. PCHR calls on States that apply the principle of universal jurisdiction not to surrender to Israeli pressure to limit universal jurisdiction to perpetuate the impunity enjoyed by suspected Israeli war criminals;
  7. PCHR calls upon the international community to act in order to stop all Israeli settlement expansion activities in the oPt through imposing sanctions on Israeli settlements and criminalizing trading with them;
  8. PCHR calls upon the UN General Assembly to transfer the Goldstone Report to the UN Security Council in order to refer it to the International Criminal Court in accordance with Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute;
  9. PCHR calls upon the United Nations to confirm that holding war criminals in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a precondition to achieve stability and peace in the regions, and that peace cannot be built on the expense of human rights;
  10. PCHR calls upon the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council to explicitly declare that the Israeli closure policy in Gaza and the annexation wall in the West Bank are illegal, and accordingly refer the two issues to the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel to compel it to remove them;
  11. PCHR calls upon the international community, in light of its failure to the stop the aggression on the Palestinian people, to at least fulfil its obligation to reconstruct the Gaza Strip after the series of hostilities launched by Israel which directly targeted the civilian infrastructure;
  12. PCHR calls upon the United Nations and the European Union to express a clear position towards the annexation wall following the international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders, as the annexation wall seizes large parts of the State of Palestine;
  13. PCHR calls upon the European Union to activate Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that both sides must respect human rights as a precondition for economic cooperation between the EU states and Israel, and the EU must not ignore Israeli violations and crimes against Palestinian civilians;

Fully detailed document available at PCHR official.

(Source / 23.07.2016)

WOMEN’S BOAT TO GAZA BUYS 1ST BOAT & SETS DEPARTURE

Amal-Hope to sail from Barcelona on September 14

The Women’s Boat to Gaza, a project of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, has acquired its first vessel. Amal-Hope will set sail from Barcelona on September 14, carrying women who plan to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza.

picture of US boat to Gaza, 2011, Greece

In Barcelona, members of the community who support our mission will welcome the Amal-Hope. In 1998, Barcelona was ‘twinned’ with Gaza, with the goal of fostering international support. In 2005, the Barcelona Peace Park was inaugurated in Gaza but destroyed by the Israeli military in 2009. The park was rebuilt in 2010. As her name suggests, Amal-Hope will send a message of hope that the Peace Park and the whole of Gaza must never be bombed again.

Schedule of Events in Barcelona:
Monday 12 September – Music and festival at the port
Tuesday 13 September – Non-violent resistance workshops, local speakers and a tour of the boats
Wednesday 14 September – Local ceremony and departure

The Women’s Boat to Gaza, with prominent women on board including Mairead Macguire, Naomi Wallace, Marama Davidson and Gerd von der Lippe, will visit ports in the Western Mediterranean before reaching the shores of Gaza on 1 October. 

Women’s Boat to Gaza initiative:
The Women’s Boat to Gaza is a Freedom Flotilla Coalition initiative. By launching a women’s flotilla, women from all over the world aim to highlight the undeniable contributions and indomitable spirit of Palestinian women who have been central within the Palestinian struggle in Gaza, the West Bank, inside the Green Line and in the diaspora.

Gaza has been under Israeli blockade for the past decade, during which time Israel has also launched countless attacks against the besieged population, turning their life into a nightmare and a continuous struggle. Through Freedom Flotillas and other maritime missions, we have brought international attention to their suffering and their resistance.

The Women’s Boat to Gaza seeks not only to challenge the Israeli blockade, but to also show solidarity and bring a message of hope to the Palestinian people. With the support of women, men, non-governmental organizations, civil society groups and from women’s collectives and events around the world, we will make this happen.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is composed of civil society organizations and initiatives from many countries. We have been challenging the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza for years and are committed to continue the struggle until the blockade is unconditionally lifted and the Palestinian people everywhere regain their full rights.

(Source / 23.07.2016)

Turkish court documents reveal new details about IS operations

Members of Turkish police special forces take part in a security operation in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Oct. 26, 2015

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Diyarbakir was the venue of two important events linked to the Islamic State (IS) in the past 12 months.

On June 5, 2015, a bomb blast at a pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) rally killed four people.

On Oct. 26, security forces raided 17 addresses used by IS. In a clash at one of them, two police and seven IS militants were killed; many people were detained.

The Diyarbakir public prosecutor investigated both incidents. Security directorates and courts in Diyarbakir, Bingol, Gaziantep and Adiyaman generated 15,000 pages of documents, including IS archival material. These documents, examined by Al-Monitor, show heretofore unknown facets of IS, its tactics and how the state views it.

A tip to police eight days before the raids on the safe houses of IS cells led police to the richest archives of the organization ever seized. The police raided several locations after the tip was checked. In one seized computer, a 2,850-page Arabic document was found. It included statements by the leader of the organization, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and scenes of executions that IS had children carry out. During the raids, police also searched the car of Nihat Turan, identified as the leader of the organization in Diyarbakir; this yielded a 384-page document that provided information about IS’ surveillance and intelligence methods.

What methods does IS use against state security forces? A document found in one of the Diyarbakir safe houses supplied police with vital information. Notes written by a militant code-named Hamza showed how militants were to collect intelligence and perform live surveillance. It said, for example, “Overt surveillance demoralizes the enemy, disrupts its work and forces it to expose itself. It is best to devise scenarios that will compel the target to expose himself. Don’t talk in cafes and other public spaces that may have listening devices.”

Militants were briefed about nonverbal signals that can be used during surveillance: “You can put on or take off your spectacles, blow your nose, put hands in pockets, take your coat off, tie shoelaces, button up your coat.” It advised militants to stay away from illuminated places at night and to be careful going past open doors and around corners. It said, “You should be able to change your appearance during surveillance.”

The documents seized from Turan’s car also have instructions on the proper use of cellular phones, the importance of secrecy, avoiding the use of real names and the need to have a list of code words. It calls for studying how security forces collect intelligence and perform technical surveillance. It warns that telephones must be switched every two months and that communications must be in code.

The organization directed the preparing of “secure rooms” where meetings can be held in full secrecy and told the militants to avoid moving around in areas covered by CCTV cameras. It said, “Be careful communicating from internet cafes. Meet at places where you cannot be trailed.”

One of the most-asked questions about IS is its human resources. How does it find so many people to join its ranks? According to the documents, police launched an investigation in Bingol, one of the provinces that provide the most recruits to IS, and detained 10 people. In the post-operation report to the prosecutor, police said a nongovernmental organization called Islah-Der (Reform Association) was set up by people linked with groups in Syria and most activities held were under its cover. Meetings were arranged under the guise of religion, and people who showed up were persuaded to join jihad and sent to Syria through illegal channels where they joined IS.

Police also studied the complaints of the families who reported missing members in 2014-15. Most of the missing were reported to have frequented the Islah-Der before they disappeared. The police report said lavish picnics were organized to attract new recruits.

After the Diyarbakir operation in which seven IS militants were killed, police sent a 78-page report to the prosecutor with detailed information and warnings about the structure of al-Qaeda and IS in Turkey. The report said the number of Turkish nationals participating in clashes and playing active roles in suicide attempts were increasing. The report found that Turkey was becoming, much like Western countries already are, a priority target for al-Qaeda, its affiliated groups and IS. The report warned that the ability of organizations in Syria to carry out attacks in Turkey should never be underestimated.

The report also said that radical Islamist groups have major influence on ongoing clashes in Syria and warned that Turkey is likely to face more difficult times as these groups intensify efforts to find recruits and arrange logistics support from Turkey. The report said there was an increase in money and personnel transfers from Turkey.

According to intelligence findings, the IS emir in Turkey is Halis Bayancuk, also known as Abu Khazanla; at one point he was detained, but then released. His father, Haci Bayancuk, was a high-level official of Hezbollah in Turkey. Halis Bayancuk is the senior official of radical structures in Diyarbakir, which operate primarily in four locations: Madrasa/Masjid, Takwa Education and Reading Hall, Tavhid Bookstore and Dar-ul Erkam Reading Room. These locations focus on converting youths who are not deeply religious and then join the organization.

A major element of information that security forces uncovered through elaborate wiretapping was IS’ transportation and logistics network. This is how the system works: Those who want to come to IS territory have to acquire a reference, known as “tazkiye,” from an emir of the organization. That emir then sends the names of the people who will come to IS customs units to arrange the border crossing. The IS sponsor emir instructs potential recruits to go to Gaziantep by plane or by bus. The customs units convey the names of those coming to border emir Ilhami Bali. This is when the transport network Bali has set up on the Gaziantep-Kilis-Raqqa axis gets into action. Jihadis contact Bali after reaching Gaziantep. They are told to take a taxi and go to a meeting point determined by the organization. At that point, the newcomers meet a liaison agent and are taken to IS guesthouses in Gaziantep and Kilis. Any personal belongings that may hinder their border crossing are taken from them and kept for safekeeping at a warehouse whose location hasn’t been found yet. Then Bali sends one of nine taxi drivers working for him to bring jihadis and their families to the second meeting point at the town of Elbeyli. Taxis are paid 40 Turkish liras per jihadi. These people are taken across the border by a smuggler named Huseyn Hano.

Police determined that women among the newcomers are taken to a women’s guesthouse under the control of Deniz Buyukcelebi, alias Abu Enes, while the men are taken to a camp at Tel Ahmar. Newcomers are allowed to bring a maximum of two suitcases per person. Belongings initially stored in Turkey are later sent to Tel Ahmar.

There are of course some who return to Turkey. A similar system is applied to arrange their crossings. Despite Turkey’s efforts, such crossings are not stopped. How do they do it? Police says border crossings are timed to coincide with the rotation time of armored vehicles on duty at the border.

It is estimated that until now, Bali has arranged crossings of more than 15,000 people. Taxi drivers used in his operations earn 500-600 Turkish liras ($163-$196) per day.

Ersen Celik, alias Abu Mousa, the IS official responsible for technological affairs, provided information previously unheard of after he was apprehended in Gaziantep. Celik said IS is trying to build a hydrogen bomb and is planning to launch attacks using remote-controlled model planes in Turkey. Celik first came to Turkey in 2014 to buy model planes and left. He was arrested after his return to Turkey.

Another interesting report on IS was prepared by Adiyaman police, who said many of the people reported missing had joined radical organizations in Syria. One of them was Orhan Gonder, who carried out the attack against the HDP rally in Gaziantep. The police warned that these people could be a threat to Turkey after their return.

The prosecutor dealing with the police raids of IS safe houses in Diyarbakir determined that IS had sent 15 potential foreign suicide bombers to Turkey. The prosecutor predicted that the bombers will target activities of Kurdistan Workers Party-affiliated groups and are hiding in IS safe houses in Diyarbakir.

(Source / 23.07.2016)