Rania Khalek On Aleppo And Western Media’s Whitewashing Of Rebels

Rania Khalek breaks down media coverage, especially how Western media outlets no longer report the rebel groups in Aleppo are al Qaida-style groups the West has backed.

A Free Syrian Army fighter holds his weapon as he prepares himself for advance, close to a military base, near Azaz, Syria, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The gains by rebel forces came as the European Union denounced the Syrian conflict, which activists said had killed more than 40,000 people. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

A Free Syrian Army fighter holds his weapon as he prepares himself for advance, close to a military base, near Azaz, Syria

The following is from this week’s “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast. One of the show’s hosts, Rania Khalek, recently returned from a trip to Lebanon. She traveled to Syria twice and spent time producing journalism on the crisis and war in Syria. In response to events in Aleppo over the past days, Khalek breaks down media coverage, especially how Western media outlets no longer report the rebel groups in Aleppo are al Qaida-style groups the West has backed. 

I know there’s a lot of people, who—if they haven’t necessarily been following everything that’s been happening in Syria—don’t really understand what’s happening in Aleppo. They just see these horrifying stories, like the Daily Beast posted something about all these women committed suicide because they’d rather kill themselves than be raped. There’s these crazy claims going around, and I’m not saying anything and everything the Syrian government has done is fabricated. They’ve obviously committed atrocities. But the kinds of things that have floated around and become news headlines, there’s no evidence.

There’s no evidence for these things except for the claims of rebel media people, like rebel activists on Twitter and other places. It’s utterly shocking that a handful of tweets about Hezbollah burning children in Aleppo can suddenly turn into headlines. It’s really disturbing, especially in light of all this controversy about fake news. When you see major media outlets pushing and disseminating claims that have yet to be a little clarified—like there’s literally zero evidence to prove this happening. And it really has been shocking. You could probably tweet out anything, like Russia just nuked Aleppo, and the New York Times might run the headline. Who knows. The point is what’s happening in Aleppo is actually similar to what’s happening in Mosul at the moment, which is that you’ve got rebels.

And here’s another thing I do want to point out. This week, with all the media around Aleppo, the one thing I’ve noticed is major media outlets are failing over and over. They’re not providing any context or any details about who the rebels are in Aleppo. They’re just saying the Syrian rebels. They used to specify what that meant, and this week they haven’t. And I think that’s very, very deliberate, and I think the reason is the Syrian rebels are al Nusra, which is basically al Qaida’s branch in Syria. They’re Ahrar al Sham, which is a Syrian rebel group that is armed and funded by Qatar and is really, really hardlined jihadist. It has killed minorities, has used caged minorities as human shields proudly on video. It’s not just me making that up. These are the two dominant fighting forces among the Syrian rebels.

In Aleppo, Jaysh al-Islam or the Army of Islam, which is another group of rebels. I think it’s a bunch of rebel groups under one name that has committed atrocities that would give chills to people. All of these groups have al Qaida-style ideologies and have been running Aleppo. We see reports out about the behavior of these groups. They run Sharia courts, where they sentence people to die for minor things. They’ve summarily executed people. They’ve looted. These rebels under the banner of the FSA [Free Syrian Army], which later turned became al Qaida, Ahrar al Sham and all these other groups—They invaded Aleppo in 2012.

When you hear about rebels in Aleppo, it’s important to understand that, yes, there was an uprising in Syria of different kinds and different parts of Syria; some of them calling for democracy, some of them calling for not-so-democratic ideals. Regardless, there was an uprising. Aleppo didn’t really experience an uprising. There were a few university protests but nothing major. The vast majority of Aleppo has always been pro-government from the beginning. And so, Aleppo was actually pretty secure through 2011. Then, come 2012, the rebels that were armed through Turkey and had a lot of foreign fighters among them as well—But also a lot of them were Syrians from the countryside, from rural areas. They basically invaded the city of Aleppo and forcibly with arms took over neighborhoods.

If you look back at Western media reports during that time, they’re pretty honest about that because at that time there were still journalists able to be on the ground in east Aleppo. So they took over all these neighborhoods in east Aleppo, and in fact, many of the people who lived in those neighborhoods fled when armed groups took over. They didn’t want any part of it. It was like a nightmare, and they surrounded Aleppo and placed it under siege. So the government-held area of Aleppo was under siege. They were cut off from food and water. Nobody gave a crap because it was U.S.-backed rebels doing it..

But that’s what happened in Aleppo. These rebels were never popular in Aleppo. Anybody who tells you that this is a free or liberated area of Aleppo is lying. That’s just not true, especially if you talk to the people from those neighborhoods. So the point is this context is missing from the mainstream media.

It’s really shocking. We’ve just spent the last 15 years with our government invoking al Qaida to go to war around the globe endlessly, and now, all of the sudden, al Qaida are the good guys in Aleppo and the U.S. has basically outsourced it’s war on Syria to al Qaida. The U.S. media is not only whitewashing and sanitizing them, but they are romanticizing them as some sort of liberation force. It’s really, really shocking.

Beyond that, what’s happening now in Aleppo and why I say it’s like Mosul is because al Qaida is not that different from ISIS. They’ve behaved in similar ways, where they’ve come and taken over areas. People flee. Some people, who stayed, get stuck there. Or maybe they wanted to stay, but for the most, they get stuck there. They’re held hostage. They don’t want people to leave, and basically, they’re used as human shields for their own agenda.

What you have now in Mosul, where you have Iraqi forces on the ground backed up by U.S. airstrikes that are basically taking back neighborhoods from ISIS in Mosul, east Mosul, and east Aleppo was the same thing. You have Syrian armed forces on the ground backed up by Russian airstrikes that are taking back parts of east Aleppo.

Now, you can argue. I would agree with you, if you want to call the way that the U.S. and Russia have gone about doing this. They’ve both destroyed these cities, whether it’s been taken over by ISIS or al Qaida. They’ve destroyed cities as they’ve gone to take them back from these groups. But regardless, you can talk about how they’ve done that and the atrocities they’ve committed to do that. Regardless of that, it really is striking to see the U.S. media losing its shit over east Aleppo being taken back by al Qaida groups versus their celebration of areas of Mosul being taken back by ISIS. The double standard is so jarring.

That’s why you see people panicking and freaking out. People who are very pro-opposition, who want to pretend the opposition is some democratic force—it’s not—who support the Syrian rebels, which is most of the U.S. media. They’re losing their shit and freaking the fuck out and just throwing anything they can during a moment when the side that they’ve supported and romanticized is losing. And the reason they’re losing is because their benefactors have stopped supporting them. That means Turkey has stopped giving them whatever they want through the border. And so that’s why these Syrian rebel al Qaida groups have collapsed so quickly.

Whenever this kind of stuff happens, the rebel media that the U.S. and U.K, have largely helped train and fun goes ape shit and starts throwing any sort of accusations against the Syrian army that it can; anything to try and provoke Western intervention or even Gulf state intervention to help save them. They’re desperate. They’re losing very, very badly. And so that’s why you hear these unverified stories about massacres of children and women in Aleppo, burning people and raping women, that haven’t been verified.

Right now, in west Aleppo and even people who’ve left east Aleppo and managed to get out of east Aleppo, these are people, many of them who are pissed off at the government. Some think the government did not do enough to save them from al Qaida. They really do. That’s the sentiment I got from people when I was there is they were pissed off. They wanted the government to crush the rebels harder. And then, there were other people who had families on the other side and they hadn’t seen them for three years or four years. So there’s been a lot of celebration in west Aleppo and some of the areas that have been taken back despite all of the horrors that have taken place.

The government has committed atrocities. The rebels have committed atrocities. A lot of people are dead. People are just exhausted, and they’re happy it’s over. That’s the sentiment I’ve been seeing and getting. That to me makes sense. Just like when ISIS is removed from an area people celebrate, despite the horrors.

I was really disappointed to see a lot of people pointing to those celebrations and making the people who were doing it, painting them as Assadist shills who all hate their own people. Or like they’re Israelis who celebrate when Gaza gets bombed. People weren’t celebrating east Aleppo being bombed. They were celebrating the end of what has been a nightmare for them.

(Source / 19.12.2016)

Hunger striker moved to intensive care ahead of court decision over force feeding


RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Anas Shadid was transferred to the intensive care unit of Israel’s Assaf Harofeh hospital following a severe deterioration of his health on Monday, a day before the Israeli Supreme Court is set to decide whether or not to force feed Shadid and fellow hunger striker Ahmad Abu Farah.

Shadid and Abu Farah were both detained on Aug. 1 and have been on hunger strike since Sep. 24 and Sep. 23 respectively, in protest of their imprisonment without charge or trial under Israel’s widely-condemned policy of administrative detention.
Head of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe said in a statement Monday that Shadid and Abu Farah, who are both approaching their 90th day without food, suffer from various pains in their bodies and could face sudden death at any moment.
In a radio interview Monday evening, Qaraqe condemned the Israeli Supreme Court after they said in a pre-hearing discussion with the Israeli general persecution Sunday that they were considering force feeding the two hunger strikers.
Qaraqe told Palestinian radio station Mawtini that such a move would represent a clear intention to kill Shadid and Abu Farah, describing the suggestion to force feed the two as “shameless.”
Qaraqe expressed outrage that Israel was mulling the possibility of force feeding, rather than considering the severity of the hunger strikers’ health by responding to the reasons that lead them to launch their strikes in the first place.
As Abu Farah and Shadid’s case is the first that has come to the fore since the Supreme Court approved of a new Israeli law that allows the force feeding of hunger-striking prisoners, Qaraqe noted that the practice still contravenes international law and is widely regarded by both international and Israeli medical ethics as a form of torture as well as a violation of prisoners’ rights.
Before the law’s eventual passage, the World Medical Association addressed the Israeli Prime Minister in 2014, saying that “Force-feeding is violent, very painful, and absolutely in opposition to the principle of individual autonomy. It is a degrading, inhumane treatment, amounting to torture. But worse, it can be dangerous and is the most unsuitable approach to save lives.”
Qaraqe noted in the radio interview that the Israeli Supreme Court had postponed holding a session to look into the hunger strikers’ case, after the court said it did not trust reports from the medical staff at Assaf Harofeh hospital, where both Abu Farah and Shadid are being treated and held.
The Supreme Court instead hired a special doctor to make a new medical report on their medical conditions, expected to be presented on Tuesday when the court makes their ruling.
In addition to refusing food for nearly 90 days, Abu Farah and Shadid began refusing to consume waterlast Monday after the court rejected an prior appeal to release them, when Israeli prosecutors instead called for the extension of their administrative detention orders, which sparked the two prisoners’ hunger strikes in the first place.
Israel’s use of administrative detention — which rights groups say is means to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions — has sparked a number of high-profile hunger strikes by Palestinian detainees in recent months, with many of them reporting being threatened with force feeding.
Israeli authorities have waited until the last minute to agree to release hunger strikers who were nearing death, as was the case with the Balboul brothers who went without food for 77 and 79 days, Malik al-Qadi for 68 days, Bilal Kayid for 71 days, and Muhammad al-Qiq for 94 days.
According to Physicians For Human Rights – Israel (PHRI), the ethics committee of the hospital that held former hunger strikers Malik al-Qadi and Muhammad Balboul recommended forcing treatment on the prisoners, though the hospital’s medical staff refused to force treat the hunger strikers against their will.
PHRI said last Monday that the eleventh-hour release pattern that has emerged “enables the Israeli authorities to deal on a case-by-case basis with hunger strikers, avoid their death and the resultant political and media firestorm, while not needing to deal with the root of the hunger strikes — the use of administrative detention.”
“Yet waiting until the last minute may at some point result in loss of life: medical literature on hunger striking is not extensive, but as of 42 days there exists the threat of strokes, kidney failure, as well as other organ failure, cardiac arrest, and heart attack.”
Meanwhile, Ammar Ibrahim Hamour, 28, declared a hunger strike last month in protest of being held in administrative detention for more than nine months.
The issue of medical ethics in Israeli prisons has been the target of condemnation in the past, with rights groups having said that Israeli doctors working in prisons are complicit in torture in their approval of the use of solitary confinement.
(Source / 19.12.2016)

Opinion: Aleppo’s Mistakes

What is taking place in Aleppo is a war—we know how wars spark but we never know how they end.

Aleppo, one of the biggest cities, started a revolution before its collapse in the past few days in front of the Russian- Iranian pro-Assad coalition. But the war is not over yet; half of the territories are still out of the regime’s control so no one should rush to propaganda and celebrations so early.

Aleppo has represented a major battle that is worth pondering. Yet, its collapse doesn’t mean that the Assad coalition has won, but that the rebels have failed in managing events.

Since July 2012, Aleppo started a revolution and remained a battlefront and a symbol of the Syrian revolution- also the rebels succeeded in connecting it by land with Hama.

Throughout the past four years, this city has never witnessed a calm night amidst the regime attempts to regain authority over it. The regime realized that the city might become a center for the opposition government and the alternative state.

The regime resorted to raising fears of terrorism and it did actually set free extremist detainees. True, extremist groups were formed parallel to the opposition.

Jabhat al-Nusra is among the extremist groups that were formed later on and it represents an expansion to al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, this group was supported by regional parties and its fighters were allowed to cross the borders, not to mention the media coverage provided.

It was certain that the involvement of religious extremist armed groups will serve the regime’s interests and will intimidate international and regional governments. Jordan that used to be a passageway and headquarters cut back its role. As for Saudi Arabia, it started chasing anyone proven to have connections with these groups.

The Syrian opposition split into two factions: one that supports the Syrian Free Army and represents the national opposition and another one that supports extremist groups considering them the strongest and fastest.

Those who supported Jabhat al-Nusra and other extremist formations have actually facilitated the mission of Iran, Russia and their militias.

The five-year-old war in Syria is between two major teams: forces that represent the majority of Syrians and the military and security regime. The fact that the regime has allied with ISIS does not justify resorting to Jabhat al-Nusra, because the revolution and its legitimacy and dependence on extremist groups don’t meet.

Unfortunately, restrictions were imposed on the Free Syrian Army from the allies due to competition—Western countries used the rise of terrorist groups in the battle as an excuse to prevent the opposition from owning qualitative weapons and this facilitated the regime’s bombing operations.

These are not the only mistakes that caused the collapse of Aleppo and other regions—the Iranian and Russian involvement in the war and the insufficient U.S. reaction towards this coalition were also reasons behind the current tragic situation.

However, the ongoing equation that allowed the regime to achieve victory can’t continue for internal reasons, as the majority is still against the regime, and for the necessity of regional balance that cannot tolerate the Iranian expansion in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

(Source / 19.12.2016)

Israeli forces detain 15 Palestinians, including 2 minors, in overnight raids


14-year-old Qusai Nael Taqatqa, detained overnight by Israeli forces

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces detained at least 15 Palestinians — including two minors — in predawn raids Monday, with the Israeli army also claiming to have uncovered “the largest weapons factory ever discovered” by the military.A statement from the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said that Israeli forces raided the village of Beit Fajjar in southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem and detained 14-year-old Qusai Nael Taqatqa after breaking into his house.Members of Qusai’s family told Ma’an that Israeli troops ransacked and damaged the interior of their home during the raid, before taking the boy to an unknown location, without giving an explanation for his arrest.An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed a detention was made in Beit Fajjar.Meanwhile, hundreds of Israeli soldiers took part in a raid into the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, when at least two Palestinians were reportedly detained and a weapons factory was said to be uncovered.Some 15 lathes were seized, in addition to other production materials for homemade weapons, a large cache of ammunition, and more than 100 guns, in “a large underground space built beneath a house in southern Hebron,” Israeli news site Ynet said.Ynet reported that Israeli forces estimate that the majority of shooting attacks that have occurred in the occupied Palestinian territory and in Israel were conducted with weapons produced in the occupied West Bank.Two Palestinians were detained, who Ynet said were a father and son who owned the factory.The Israeli army released a video documenting the Hebron raid.




Weapons factory uncovered in Hebron

However, the PPS statement identified only one Palestinian detained in Hebron — Ayman Nasser al-Salayma — and an Israeli spokesperson also told Ma’an just one Palestinian was detained in Hebron as well. It remained unclear if al-Salayma’s detention was related to the weapon factory.Israeli forces also detained 20-year-old Rami Bilal al-Nouri and 20-year-old Adham Ali al-Amer in Nablus in the northern West Bank, as well as Yazan Shoubash from the northernmost district of Jenin, according to PPS.An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed a detention in Jenin, which said was carried out in the village of Dahiyat Sabah al-Kheir, and also confirmed one Nablus detention that she said was made in the village of Qalil.The spokesperson also informed Ma’an of two further detentions in the village of Balaa in the northern district of Tulkarem.Israeli forces also detained seven Palestinians from Shufat refugee camp and the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem, identified by PPS as Muhmoud Shawish, Moumen Hashim, Munir Ajlouni, Ameer Qawasmi, Mohammad Sheikha, Mustafa Sheikha, and a Palestinian minor, Yaqoub Qawasmi.

According to prisoners rights group Addameer, 7,000 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of October, including some 400 children. The organization estimates that 40 percent of Palestinian men have been detained by Israel at some point in their lives.
(Source / 19.12.2016)

Maktabi: Russia Must Stop Attacks on Civilians before Proposing Any Political Initiative

Officials at the Syrian Coalition stressed that Russia must stop attacks on civilian infrastructure and residential areas before proposing any political initiative to find a solution in Syria.

Member of the Syrian Coalition Mohammed Yahya Maktabi said that Moscow cannot maintain its interests in Syria while killing Syrian civilians, calling on Russia to stop its bombing campaign on Syria as was required by all international resolutions. Maktabi said that Russia violates the very UN resolutions it co-drafted and approved.

The Coalition will continue to insist on the implementation of all UN resolutions on Syria, Maktabi said. He pointed out that Moscow must realize that their interests lie with the Syrian people and not with the crumbling regime or with the Khamenei regime whose policies are fueling sectarian strife and destabilizing the region.

Member of the Coalition’s political committee Hawass Saadoun said that Russia is covering up the crimes of the Assad and Iranian regimes in Syria through supporting them in international forums as well as its use of the veto at the UN Security Council. He stressed that Russia’s repeated use of its veto power has encouraged the Assad regime and Iranian militias to commit more war crimes against civilians in Syria.

Saadoun said that Iran has sought to impede the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo. He added that Iran insists on pursuing a military solution, which undermines chances of a political solution and fuels terrorism in Syria and the world.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office / 19.12.2016)

600 Israeli press violations since the beginning of 2016


Salama Maarouf, general manager of the government media office in Gaza, called in a press conference held on Sunday evening for cancelling Israel’s membership from the International Federation of Journalists.

Maarouf pointed out that Israel carried out more than 600 press violations since the beginning of 2016 in total violation of international laws and norms.

The reported 600 press violations include the killing of 53 Palestinian journalists and the arrest of 137 others, 24 of them are still held behind Israeli bars.

Maarouf hailed the heroic sacrifices made by the Palestinian journalists to expose Israel’s ugly image.

He announced the start of the day of solidarity with Palestinian journalists on December 31st that would include various activities in support of journalists.

He pointed out that the activities would continue for ten days, with cooperation from several institutions.

He added that the activities will begin with the football championship and with the cooperation of several institutions, including the Ministry of Sports and Amwaj Media. The football league designated a Palestinian journalist day championship for December 21st and 22nd.

The Palestinian government in Gaza has adopted the date of December 31st, each year, to honor the Palestinian journalists, in recognition of their sacrifices.

(Source / 19.12.2016)

Lebanon gets new government led by Saad Hariri: statement

Lebanon’s new Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks to journalists following his nomination at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, on November 3, 2016

Lebanon acquired a new 30-minister government Sunday led by Saad Hariri, bringing together the entire political spectrum except for the Christian Phalangist party that rejected the portfolio it was offered.

“This is a government of entente,” Hariri said of the new line-up formed six weeks after the election of President Michel Aoun.

New portfolios include an anti-corruption post and, for the first time, a minister of state for women’s affairs.

Hariri said the Phalangist party had been offered a minister of state post but had turned it down.

The new government will have “at the top of its list of priorities to preserve security against the fires ravaging our region,” Hariri told reporters.

He stressed that the government would act to “preserve our country from the negative consequences of the Syrian crisis”.

On November 3, former premier Hariri was nominated to form Lebanon’s next government, but the process was seen as likely to be hampered by deep differences with the powerful Hezbollah movement.

Hariri, 46, is anti-Syria and a fierce opponent of Lebanon’s influential Shiite Hezbollah, members of which have been accused by an international court of involvement in his father’s 2005 assassination.

But he was forced to throw his support behind Aoun, their candidate for the presidency, in order to secure his return to power as premier.

Hariri’s government will have two ministers from Hezbollah.

His nomination and Aoun’s election after a two-year vacuum have raised hopes that Lebanon can begin tackling challenges including a stagnant economy, a moribund political class and the influx of more than a million Syrian refugees.

Hariri also announced the establishment of a state secretariat for refugees, and called on the international community “to take responsibility for helping our country bear the burden”.

Lebanon is due to hold parliamentary elections in May 2017, the first legislative vote in eight years.

The current parliament — elected in 2009 — has extended its own mandate twice amid fierce disagreements over revamping Lebanon’s electoral law.

“The government will also work on the preparation of a new electoral law,” Hariri said on Sunday.

The thorny issue divides religious parties and communities in a country where politics is based on parity between Christians and Muslims.

(Source / 19.12.2016)

PA: World keeps silent as Israel kills Palestinians

The statement noted that while the Israeli occupation forces fired live ammunition to disperse a Palestinian protest, killing Al-Rimawi, they did not use such force to break up a protest by Jewish settlers near Ramallah

The Palestinian Authority has accused the Israeli occupation authorities of killing Palestinians intentionally while the international community is watching its crimes and keeping silent. The accusation was made by the foreign ministry in Ramallah while commenting on the killing by Israeli forces of 19 year-old Hazim Al-Rimawi on the outskirts of the West Bank city on Sunday morning.

“This new crime is added to the continuous series of field executions of Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian lands,” the ministry said. It noted that the executions are part of Israel’s policy of shooting live ammunition at Palestinians protesting against the military occupation and colonisation of their land. “The daily [Israeli] crimes reflect a dangerous policy being carried out by the country’s right wing, which is ruling Israel, against our people.”

The ministry pointed out that this is a multi-faceted policy:

It includes double-standards by the Israeli government and its institutions, which adopt flagrant discrimination against the Palestinians. This has been very clear in recent days.

Read: Israeli forces kill Palestinian in clash with protestors

The statement noted that while the Israeli occupation forces fired live ammunition to disperse a Palestinian protest, killing Al-Rimawi, they did not use such force to break up a protest by Jewish settlers near Ramallah. “This racist Israeli policy has led to the execution of hundreds of Palestinian youths who did not pose any danger,” the statement concluded.

(Source / 19.12.2016)

Reporters Without Borders: 57 journalists killed in 2016

Sri Lankan journalists shout slogans as they hold a portrait of killed journalist Dharmeratnam Sivaram during a protest in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 29, 2016. (Photo by AP)

Sri Lankan journalists shout slogans as they hold a portrait of killed journalist Dharmeratnam Sivaram during a protest in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 29, 2016

The media rights group Reporters Without Borders says at least 57 journalists have been killed across the world in 2016.   

The France-based group said in its annual report on Monday that most of the victims had lost their lives in Syria and Afghanistan, with 19 and 10 fatalities reported there respectively.

In Afghanistan, all of the 10 journalists were deliberately targeted because of their job.

Seven, including three women, lost their lives in a Taliban attack on a minibus used by the country’s private Tolo TV channel in January.

According to the report, nine of the journalists were killed in Mexico, five in Iraq and another five in Yemen, which saw more than 11,400 people killed in the Saudi brutal aggression since March 2015.

Reporters Without Borders noted that nearly all of those killed were locally-based journalists.

The NGO, which is also known by its French acronym RSF, said nine bloggers and eight media workers were killed during the same period.

The group reported that the figure had decreased compared to the death toll recorded in 2015, when 67 journalists were killed.

It, however, said the decline was due to “the fact that many journalists have fled countries that became too dangerous, especially Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and Burundi.”

The RSF stressed that the journalists’ withdrawal from these crisis-hit countries had created “news and information black holes where impunity reigns.”

The group also said the number of murdered journalists had dropped as a result of the “terror” imposed by what it called “press freedom predators” that shut media outlets arbitrarily and gag reporters.

The report noted that journalists in countries such as Mexico are forced to self-censoring to avoid being killed.

“The violence against journalists is more and more deliberate,” RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire said, adding, “They are clearly being targeted and murdered because they are journalists.”

“This alarming situation reflects the glaring failure of the international initiatives aimed at protecting them, and is a death warrant for independent reporting in those areas where all possible means are used to impose censorship and propaganda, especially by fundamentalist groups in the Middle East,” he added.

The RSF also urged incoming UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special representative for the protection of journalists.

(Source / 19.12.2016)

Army soldiers, allies kill six Saudi mercenaries in southern Yemen

Smoke rises after a gathering of militiamen loyal to resigned Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is targeted by Yemeni army forces in the Pasha Bear district of the southwestern province of Ta’izz, Yemen, on December 18, 2016.

Smoke rises after a gathering of militiamen loyal to resigned Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is targeted by Yemeni army forces in the Pasha Bear district of the southwestern province of Ta’izz, Yemen, on December 18, 2016

Yemeni army forces, supported by allied fighters from Popular Committees, have launched an operation against militiamen loyal to the resigned and Saudi-backed president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in the country’s southwestern province of Ta’izz, killing a number of them.

The media bureau of the operations command in Yemen announced on Sunday that six Saudi mercenaries were killed and two others sustained injuries when Yemeni troopers engaged in clashes with them in the Pasha Bear district of the province, situated 346 kilometers (214 miles) south of the capital Sana’a, the Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported.

Separately, Yemeni soldiers and Popular Committees fighters fired a locally-manufactured Zelzal-2 (Earthquake-2) missile at a gathering of Saudi mercenaries in the Mefraq area of the country’s northern province of al-Jawf, leaving scores of pro-Saudi gunmen dead and injured.

The developments came on the same day that pro-Hadi media outlets alleged that Saudi-backed militants had intercepted a ballistic missile and destroyed it in the west-central Ma’rib Province.

Yemeni soldiers and allied fighters also clashed with Saudi-backed militiamen in Asifrah neighborhood of Ta’izz, killing one of them.

An unnamed Yemeni military source said several pro-Saudi gunmen were killed when fighters from the Houthi Ansarullah movement thwarted their offensive against Boqe’e crossing in Najran, located 844 kilometers (524 miles) south of the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Moreover, a number of Saudi soldiers and their mercenaries lost their lives and sustained injuries when Yemeni forces repelled their assault against the Alab border crossing in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern and border region of Asir.

Saudi fighter jets also carried a string of airstrikes against residential neighborhoods across Yemen, leaving several people killed and injured.

Yemenis inspect the damage in an area near the communications tower hit by Saudi airstrikes in the port city of Hudaydah on November 27, 2016

A civilian lost his life when Saudi warplanes bombarded the Razih district in Yemen’s mountainous northwestern province of Sa’ada.

Saudi aircraft also launched more than a dozen aerial attacks against Monabbih, Kahlan and As Safra districts in the same Yemeni province.

Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a deadly campaign against Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the former Yemeni government.

The airstrikes have taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

The Saudi aerial bombardment campaign has claimed 11,403 lives and left 19,343 others wounded, according to figures compiled by the Yemeni non-governmental monitoring group Legal Center for Rights and Development.

Yemen is also grappling with the scarcity of food supplies and an outbreak of diseases amid the Saudi war.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says 7.4 million Yemeni children are in dire need of medical help, and 370,000 run the risk of acute malnutrition.

(Source / 19.12.2016)