Family seeks justice from ICC after al-Sharif’s ‘murderer’ convicted of manslaughter

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HEBRON (Ma’an) — After an Israeli military court Wednesday convicted Israeli soldier Elor Azarya with manslaughter for the point-blank shooting of Abd al-Fatah al-Sharif, members of al-Sharif’s family vowed to take the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), arguing the video-documented case was in fact cold-blooded murder.

The family organized a protest during the court hearing along with representatives of Palestinian organizations and political groups. Hundreds attended the protest, located at Ibn Rushd square in the center of Hebron city in the southern occupied West Bank, not far from where al-Sharif was killed.
A spokesperson for the family expressed outrage that the “murderer” of their son was convicted only with manslaughter, saying they would “expose the military court as a farce, just as other cases of criminal acts carried out by Israeli forces and settlers against our people.”
He added that the family would “follow our political leadership” and take the case to the ICC and will “go after the murderer at all possible international judicial forums.”
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Al-Sharif’s father Fathi al-Sharif told Israeli daily Haaretz after the shooting: “The fact that the soldier is convicted of manslaughter isn’t such an important development from our standpoint. From the beginning, we stated that he had committed murder and needed to be convicted of murder. The fact that they changed the count of the indictment to manslaughter from our standpoint is a perversion of justice and of the court.”
Sharif added: “The question that remains open is what sentence will be imposed on him, and we don’t have many expectations. It’s clear that he will receive a light sentence or be pardoned, because we are following (the developments) and understand the pressures being exerted upon the system and the sympathy that the soldier has been attracting in Israeli society.”
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Al-Sharif was one of 246 Palestinians to be killed by Israeli forces and settlers since a wave of unrest began in October 2015 that left 34 Israelis dead in the same period.
The majority of Palestinians were shot dead after alleged attacks and attempted attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers, however, Palestinians and rights groups have disputed Israel’s version of events in many of these deadly encounters.
In a number of cases, they have argued that Palestinians were not attempting to carry out attacks at all, while in others, they have condemned Israeli forces for their excessive use of force where there was no imminent danger, in killings they say amount to “extrajudicial executions” as Israeli leadership has openly advocated for a shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinians.
In recent years, the Palestinian leadership has made a concerted effort to apply pressure on Israel through a variety of international bodies such as the UN and International Criminal Court.
(Source / 04.01.2017)

Rights Group: 86 Journalist & Media Activist Killed in Syria in 2016

At least 86 journalist and media activists were killed and 123 others injured in Syria in 2016, a rights group has said. The group added that regime forces were responsible for the overwhelming majority of the deaths.

In its yearly report about violations against journalists and media activists in Syria, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said that 41 journalists and media activists were killed at the hands of the Assad regime in 2016. They included a female media activists and four activists who died under torture in Assad’s prisons.

Eleven journalists were killed in Russian attacks across Syria in 2016, while 20 more, including a female media activist, were killed at the hands of the ISIS extremist group. The PYD militias killed two journalists, while 4 more were killed at the hands of gunmen whom the SNHR could not identify.

According to the report, 123 journalists and media activists were injured in 2016, including 33 who were injured in attacks by the Assad regime, 31 at the hands of Russian forces, 8 in attacks by ISIS, 2 in attacks by the PYD militia, and 6 in attacks that the rights groups said were untraceable.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office / 04.01.2017)

Israeli army orders Deir Istiya residents to halt construction works

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The Israeli army on Tuesday delivered stop-work notices against six homes and structures in Deir Istiya town, north of Salfit province in the West Bank.

Head of the town’s municipal authority Sa’ied Zaidan said that officials from the Israeli army’s civil administration escorted by soldiers came in their vehicles to Wadi Ashami area in the town and put up notices on new homes and structures ordering owners to halt construction works.

Zaidan added that the Israeli military authorities claimed that the construction of these homes and structures had been made in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank.

The Israeli military and municipal authorities carried out a large-scale demolition campaign against Palestinian homes and structures last year in Area C and simultaneously intensified the building of housing units for settlers on annexed Palestinian lands.

(Source / 04.01.2017)

Turkey to Iran: Stop Syria truce violations

A view of the area that Assad Regime forces attacked with vacuum bomb in Aleppo, Syria on January 1, 2017[ Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd / Anadolu Agency]

A view of the area that Assad Regime forces attacked with vacuum bomb in Aleppo, Syria on January 1, 2017

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on Iran to exert pressure on Shia-backed militias and the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad to stop violating a ceasefire in Syria, warning it was putting planned peace talks in peril.

Turkey is working with Russia on the question of sanctions for those who violate the ceasefire deal, which was brokered by Ankara and Moscow, Cavusoglu said in a televised interview with the state-run Anadolu news agency.

He warned that peace negotiations being prepared by Moscow in the Kazakh capital of Astana could fail if increased ceasefire violations are not halted.

Cavusoglu’s remarks come as reports indicate that several Syrian opposition groups have suspended Turkey and Russia-brokered truce talks with the Syrian regime.

A statement released by groups operating under the US and Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) said: “The regime and its allies have continued firing and committed many and large violations.”

The statement criticised the Assad regime and the Iran-backed Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah for these ceasefire violations, and said that the truce could not be considered to be in effect due to Russia’s inability to rein in its partners.

Since the ceasefire came into effect last Friday, the Assad regime, backed by various Iranian Shia jihadist militant groups, has consistently violated it.

Nowhere have these violations been clearer than the strategic Wadi Barada valley that supplies the Syrian capital of Damascus with water. The Assad regime’s intensification of aerial attacks, including through the use of barrel bombs, has resulted in continued clashes in the region.

Wadi Barada not only supplies the majority of Damascus’ water supplies, but it also lies close to a major supply route that Hezbollah uses to move men and arms between Lebanon and Syria.

The Turkish Foreign Minister also announced in the same interview that Russian officials will visit Turkey between 9-10 January to discuss the framework for the planned Syrian peace talks, though it was not.

Russia and Turkey back opposing sides in the Syrian civil war but have brokered a fragile ceasefire, slated to be followed by peace talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

(Source / 04.01.2017)

Palestinian Foreign Ministry calls Elor Azarya conviction a ‘show trial’

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RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — After an Israeli soldier was found guilty of manslaughter for the execution-style killing of a Palestinian — a video of which garnered widespread outrage from the international community — the Palestinian Foreign Ministry called the case a “show trial,” handing down a lenient sentence on the soldier, while focusing on the case to distract from a wider culture of impunity for Israeli forces.

Shortly after the verdict for 20-year-old Elor Azarya was announced on Wednesday afternoon, the ministry said that since the video went viral the day of the killing back in March, “the Israeli government and its political, judicial, and military arms have been trying to attract international reactions to this hideous crime through the farce of detaining and trying the killer soldier.”
“Except for some voices who have tried to defend the alleged Israeli army’s code of ethics, the majority of Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and several of his ministers, have embarked upon defending the murderer Azarya.”
While the Israeli military court gave a wholesale endorsement of the prosecution’s argument that the killing of 21-year-old Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif in Hebron was unjustified in its decision to convict Azarya — supported by the blistering testimonies given by his army commanders — Azarya has garnered mass support from Israel’s far-right citizens and government, who have labeled the soldier a national hero.
A 2016 poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 47 percent of Jewish Israelis supported the sentiment that “any Palestinian who carries out a terror attack against Jews should be killed on the spot, even if he has been captured and clearly does not pose a threat.”
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry’s statement added that “several Israeli organizations and extremist settler groups dedicated efforts to fundraise for a campaign to defend the killer soldier and acquit him.”
The statement also highlighted that several “extremist rabbis issued religious opinions legalizing what Azarya did.”
A report released this week by Human Rights Watch documented documented “numerous statements” made by senior Israeli politicians and religious figures “calling on police and soldiers to shoot to kill suspected attackers, irrespective of whether lethal force is actually strictly necessary to protect life.”
“Today we are watching the last chapter of the killer soldier’s trial, defined by a familial atmosphere in the court, with the killer entering the hall laughing before he took a seat near his relatives,” the Foreign Ministry statement continued.
Videos published in Israeli media show Azarya being met with applause as he entered the session, which was attended by members of his family who embraced the smiling soldier.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described the court atmosphere as clear evidence that the case was not being taken seriously, and that the crime was in fact being addressed “recklessly.”
Manslaughter charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, and Azarya can appeal both the conviction and the sentence to the Israeli Military appeals court.
However, according to Israeli daily Haaretz, it is likely the sentence will not come close to the 20-year maximum, based on research showing precedent for Israeli soldiers who have been indicted and tried for manslaughter in a number of cases since 2000, the majority of whom were not convicted and accepted a plea bargain instead.
A court reporter for Israel’s The Jerusalem Post said that the judge’s “one-sided” conviction made the decision more vulnerable to appeal, as judges had not expressed any sympathy to the defense’s argument.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin may also face a request to pardon him, according to reports. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett has already stated that Azarya should be granted an immediate pardon. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has also reportedly not ruled out the possibility of a pardon in private discussion, however on Wednesday he said the verdict had to be respected, though expressed his displeasure with the conviction.
(Source / 04.01.2017)

Erdogan Says Nightclub Attack Exploited to Divide Turks as Gunman Identified

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that linking lifestyle differences with the attack at an elite Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day was a deliberate attempt to divide the nation.

His comment came as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the authorities had identified the gunman behind the mass shooting at the Reina nightclub.

“There is no point trying to blame the Ortakoy attack on differences in lifestyles,” Erdogan said in a speech to local administrators at the presidential palace in Ankara.

“Nobody’s lifestyle is under systematic threat in Turkey. We will never allow this,” he said, in comments broadcast live.

The shooting on Sunday killed 39 people and was claimed by ISIS. Of the 39 dead, 27 were foreigners including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Tunisia and Morocco.

Many of those killed were laid to rest in their respective countries by grieving relatives on Tuesday.

Erdogan said that “to say Turkey has surrendered to terrorism is to take sides with the terrorists and terror organizations.”

“Despite the sad start in the early hours of 2017, we strongly maintain our expectations for the new year,” he added.

“The identity of the person responsible for the attack has been established,” Cavusoglu said during an interview with state-run Anadolu news agency, without giving any name.

“Efforts to capture him continue,” he said, adding that the house the suspect lived in “has been searched” and that the attack he mounted had been “professionally” planned.

The attack was claimed by ISIS, with reports suggesting the authorities suspect the gunman may be from either Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan.

Turkish media reported the attacker rented a flat in the central city of Konya before moving to Istanbul to carry out the attack.

There were also press reports suggesting he appeared to be well trained in the use of arms and had fought in Syria for ISIS.

Despite no name made public, police released the first clear images of the attacker earlier this week, including one taken by security cameras on the night of the attack.

Anadolu said that police have detained five suspected ISIS militants believed to be linked to the nightclub attack.

The agency said the operation was launched in the Aegean port city of Izmir on Wednesday.

(Source / 04.01.2017)

Israeli forces kidnap 34 Palestinians in West Bank

This is one forms of the daily Israeli aggression against the Palestinians

Israeli occupation forces kidnapped on Wednesday night 34 Palestinian citizens in occupied West Bank, rights group said.

Currently, over 7,000 Palestinians are languishing in Israeli prisons, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs

Israeli occupation forces kidnapped on Wednesday night 34 Palestinian citizens in occupied West Bank, rights group said. 

“The Israeli occupation forces kidnapped 34 Palestinian citizens from all over the occupied West Bank,” the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club (PPC) said in a statement.

Israeli occupation media reported Israeli occupation claims that 16 of the kidnapped Palestinians were suspected of “terror” activities while the others were suspected of joining the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas.

Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement that has been controlling the Gaza Strip since it won the general elections in 2006, is classified by Israel a ‘terrorist’ organisation.

The Israeli army frequently carries out sweeping arrest campaigns in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem that ostensibly target Palestinians “wanted” by the Israeli occupation authorities.

Currently, over 7,000 Palestinians are languishing in Israeli prisons, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs.

(Source / 04.01.2017)

Israeli court sentences 2 Palestinian children to 2 years in juvenile detention center

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JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — An Israeli court in Jerusalem Wednesday sentenced two 13-year-old Palestinian boys from occupied East Jerusalem to two years in an Israeli juvenile detention center after the two were charged with attempted murder and possession of knives.

Muhammad Mahmoud, a lawyer for the defense, told Ma’an that Shadi Anwar Farah and Ahmad Raed Zatari were sentenced to two years of imprisonment in an Israeli juvenile facility.
Mahmoud added that Farah and Zatari were initially detained on Dec. 12, 2015, but the period they have already spent in detention would not be counted toward their two year sentence issued on Wednesday.
Exactly a year ago, Farah and Zaatari were charged with attempted murder and possession of knives, after Israeli forces allegedly found knives on the boys during a stop-and-search in Jerusalem.
Amjad Abu Asab, who heads a Jerusalem committee for prisoners’ families, said at the time that both children were “interrogated in the absence of adult family members and lawyers, which is a serious violation of Israeli law and international law.”
Abu Asab added that the Jerusalem central court also ordered each of the boys’ families to pay a bail of 5,000 shekels ($1,297) and sign a bail of 10,000 shekels ($2,593).
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 400 Palestinian children were being held in Israeli custody as of October.Meanwhile, scores of Palestinians have been detained for allegedly possessing knives since a wave of violence first erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October 2015, resulting in the killings of 246 Palestinians and at least 34 Israelis.The sentence came as the latest in an Israeli crackdown on young Palestinians, many of them minors, who have been accused of involvement in attacks, while Israeli authorities have ordered lengthy prison sentences for Palestinians as young as 14 years old.
(Source / 04.01.2017)

‘Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy aims to force Palestinians from homes’

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Human Rights Watch has taken the Israeli regime to task for its controversial “shoot-to-kill” policy, based on which Israeli forces are ordered to open fire on Palestinians during confrontations even in cases where they can be captured. The international rights body hasreleased a report documenting numerous statements by Israeli officials, calling on police and military to use lethal force. We have asked Paul Larudee, the cofounder of Free Palestine Movement, to share with us his opinion about this policy.

Larudee believes that this “dangerous” and “deadly” strategy is meant to force Palestinians off their land.

“It is meant to make Palestinians disappear; it is meant to make Palestinians leave their home and everything that they have and everything that is important to them other than their family and go somewhere else. This is the idea,” the activist said.

He also noted that Israelis resort to all kinds of schemes to remove Palestinians from their land. However, he said, nothing they have done has moved them closer to their goal.

Larudee further argued that Israel is continuing its vicious atrocities against Palestinians because there is no consequence for any of those actions.

Despite all the bitter condemnation of such criminal activities, Tel Aviv does not punish soldiers who pursue this shoot-to-kill policy; rather; it encourages them to do it.

He also criticized international humanitarian organizations for just reporting Israeli crimes and not taking “effective action” to stop them.

According to the activist, civilians and civil organizations need to take the matter into their own hands.

“We need to take every Israeli criminal and put them in the hands of authorities throughout the world, even civilian authorities that will retaliate. We have to retaliate. This is resistance,” he stated.

Since October 2015, there have been over 150 confirmed instances of Israeli forces lethally shooting Palestinian children and adults allegedly suspected of trying to attack Israelis. Other reports put the death toll at nearly 300.

(Source / 04.01.2017)

US Coalition systematically destroying Syrian infrastructure since 2012: Russian MoD

(Sputnik) The US-led international coalition has been systematically bombing the Syrian infrastructure since 2012 and has not targeted ISIL-held oil facilities, the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday.

“Outgoing CIA head Brennan is well aware of the fact that long before the start of the Russian campaign, the international coalition has been systematically destroying Syria’s economic infrastructure to weaken the legitimate government as much as possible, heedless of burdens for civilians resulting in millions of refugees,” he said.

The ministry’s statement comes after CIA chief John Brennan accused Moscow of using “scorched-earth” policy in Syria.

“Surprisingly, the coalition has not attacked oil facilities captured by ISIL, which allowed the terrorists to make tens of millions of dollars per month through illicit oil trade and recruit mercenaries from all over the world,” Konashenkov added.

“Sooner or later one will be held accountable for it. That is why Mr Brennan’s attempt to cushion the blow will hardly help. John Brennan is well aware of the real results of Russia’s actions in Syria,” the Russian official said.

Thanks to the Russian Aerospace Forces, over 12,000 square kilometers of Syrian land and 499 settlements have been liberated, 35,000 militants including 204 commanders have been eliminated. “But the main outcome is that, without the outgoing [US] administration, without CIA, a ceasefire agreement was signed on December 30,” the spokesman stressed.

Both Washington and Moscow have been conducting military operations against terrorists in the war-torn country. The US-led international coalition of more than 60 members has been carrying out airstrikes against ISILtargets in Iraq and Syria since August and September 2014 respectively. Russia began its own operation in September 2015 at the request of Syrian government.

(Source / 04.01.2017)