Israeli court sentences 15-year-old girl to actual imprisonment

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The Israeli Ofer military court on Monday sentenced a 15-year-old Palestinian girl to one year and a half in jail.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, the Ofer military court slapped a one-year-and-a-half prison-term against 15-year-old Tasneem Halabi.

A native of Ramallah and al-Bireh province, Halabi was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces in April 2016. She is currently locked up in the HaSharon jail.

(Source / 09.01.2017)

PA security arrests 12 Palestinians in the West Bank

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Palestinian Authority’s (PA) security forces in the West Bank launched a large-scale arrest campaign that culminated with the detention of 12 Palestinians including ex-detainees and university students from different provinces. Two others were summoned to be questioned based on their political backgrounds with no legal justification.

Umama news website published the names of the arrested Palestinians who were rounded up by the PA’s preventive and intelligence apparatuses in addition to both men who were summoned to be interrogated at the hands of both apparatuses in al-Khalil.

According to Umama, two of the arrested were from al-Khalil governorate, one from Ramallah, two others from Nablus, one from Tulkarm, and one from Qalqilya in addition to five others from Jenin.

(Source / 09.01.2017)

Three reasons the Islamic State is focused on Turkey

People take pictures of a makeshift memorial set in front of the Reina nightclub, scene of a New Year’s Eve attack, in Istanbul, Jan. 5, 2017

The year 2016 was marked by a dramatic increase in terrorist attacks in Turkey by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Islamic State (IS). In 2016, major cities were hit by 20 bomb blasts committed by a variety of culprits, killing a total of 225 people. As the year drew to a close, Turkey overflowed with wishes for less violence, less terror and less oppression.

The new year, however, began with a nightmare — IS launched a savage attack on a posh Istanbul nightclub, claiming 39 lives. The mayhem dashed the hopes for a better year just an hour after Turkey entered 2017, deepening the gloom and raising fresh questions about the country’s future.

The violence rattling the country comes from two sources — the PKK, whose actions have become increasingly linked to the Turkey-Syria context — and IS, whose attacks are also Syria-related.

The IS bloodshed in Turkey began in 2014 with a single attack that claimed three lives. In 2015, four attacks resulted in 144 deaths. In 2016, the number of attacks rose to seven and the death toll to 167, if we also include the latest shooting at Reina nightclub. So, with 11 attacks and 311 victims in two years, IS seems to treat Turkey as one of its exclusive targets. Three main reasons could explain why.

First, the IS attacks in Turkey appear to mirror the group’s battles in Syria. In 2015 — the year IS was defeated in the fierce battle for Kobani, the Kurdish city in northern Syria — it targeted mostly Kurds and Kurdish-related events in Turkey. After July 2015, confrontations between Turkey and the group became more serious, going beyond the pattern of harassment and retaliation. As a result, IS turned to attacking big Turkish cities in 2016, targeting tourist sites, the country’s biggest airport and, most recently, a popular entertainment venue.

This outlook suggests a step-by-step projection of the Syrian war into Turkey and a gradual declaration of war. The indictment over the 2015 bombing of a peace rally in Ankara, which claimed 104 lives, had included evidence of an IS “declaration of war” on Turkey. Similarly, an IS defector told the British daily newspaper The Independent after the massacre at the Reina nightclub that the group “has declared war on Turkey.”

Second, IS undoubtedly sees Turkey as a realm to wage jihad. For IS, Muslims who do not conform to its understanding of Islam are “infidels” and their countries are “taghut,” meaning lands that have rebelled against the teachings of God, an outlook that makes Turkey a target country. The aforementioned indictment refers to communications between the group’s Syria-based Turkey chief and its emir for the southern city of Gaziantep, in which they discuss orders to strike “the PKK, touristic areas or Turkish soldiers — it doesn’t matter” and speak of assurances that “as many [suicide bombers] as requested” would be provided.

Additionally, Turkey — with its 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria and 384-kilometer (238-mile) border with Iraq — is a natural realm for expansion and logistical support for IS. A Muslim country at the crossroads of the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East, Turkey’s geographical location and social fabric make it a potential living and thriving space for IS. This was manifested also in the Reina massacre, whose fugitive perpetrator is believed to be from the Uighur community, a Turkic-speaking ethnic group concentrated mainly in China.

Most importantly, however, IS has been able to recruit in remarkable numbers in Turkey. Today, the Salafist group has become a gravity center for Turks inclined to religious fundamentalism, with a network of cells in a number of regions and occasional visibility in public spaces such as mosques and coffee houses.

Findings and concerns on this issue are not something new. In a June 2015 interview, for instance, Serhat Erkmen, a senior researcher at the 21st Century Turkey Institute, issued the following warning, based on field studies: “If we take into account the mujahedeen who went to Syria and Iraq for jihad, the family members who accompanied them and those who gave them logistical and other support, the total number … is close to 10,000. … Families account for about 60% of those who went [to Syria and Iraq].”

Journalist Metehan Demir wrote in a July 2016 article, “According to reports by police and security services, there is a core group of about 60 [IS militants] in Turkey who have been trained professionally abroad and are skilled in brainwashing, organizing cells and planning attacks. They are constantly on the move along a route including Istanbul, Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Hatay, Batman, Adiyaman and Kahramanmaras. In addition to this 60-strong core group, there are 1,800 [militants] who have obtained combat training and served as support elements in Syria. When it comes to those who have made trips to Syria and those who espouse the lifestyle of IS and are ready to march on its path, their numbers in Turkey are said to be in the thousands. Sadly, those figures are not just speculation.”

After the Reina attack, more than 50 IS suspects were detained. According to Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, 520 IS members are currently incarcerated in Turkish prisons, among them 246 Turkish nationals.

Obviously, Turkey is faced with a very serious problem. Yet, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its de facto partner, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), have come up with quite a simple approach to the issue. They lump the PKK and IS attacks together with Fethullah Gulen’s July 15 coup attempt, and explain all those events as elements of pressure and even a covert war as part of a foreign plan against Turkey’s unity. Ignoring the various aspects of the problem, the AKP and the MHP see it only as a series of provocations emanating from an external enemy.

The security-focused political climate and measures, the mounting crackdown on the media and freedoms, and the fact that this oppression is increasingly becoming an ordinary thing should all be seen in the same context. Amid the rising nationalist wave, the public may be closing ranks against the spiral of violence while supporting Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria, but the violence and the authoritarian political course are at the same time stoking the sense of insecurity and apprehension.

Turkey’s Syria policies are among the sources of these feelings. It should be noted that on the whole Turkish society is aware that the government’s military operations in Syria, which target IS but are essentially aimed at blocking the advance of Kurdish forces, are bringing the Syrian war to Turkey.

Turkey’s struggle with IS terrorism is a major political test. It is beyond doubt that the government needs a profound review of the situation, from a fresh vantage point and with different measures.

(Source / 09.01.2017)

Islamic Jihad asks Abbas to solve electricity crisis in Gaza

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Islamic Jihad Movement asked the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to work on finding a solution to end the current power crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Khaled al-Batesh, a senior Islamic Jihad official, said during a protest rally in Gaza on Monday that the Palestinian parties are working hard to solve the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

“The efforts exerted with concerned parties to end the crisis in Gaza are enormous,” Batesh said while urging Mahmoud Abbas to take immediate action to solve the electricity crisis.

“We don’t want to witness other tragedies,” Batesh said while appealing to the decision-makers to solve the crisis in Gaza in order to avoid accidents similar to what happened in Shuja’iyya, Shati refugee camp, Beit Hanoun, and Khan Younis.

He appealed to the world community to act and support the Gaza Strip to restore sufficient electricity hours.

“For Gaza to stay without electricity while the neighboring countries are exporting gas is unacceptable,” Batesh added while calling on all parties to prioritize the need of Palestinian civilians over their political wrangling.

Dozens of participants in the protest chanted slogans calling for an end to the current power crisis in the Gaza Strip while holding banners demanding an immediate end to their suffering as a result of the repeated power outages.

(Source / 09.01.2017)

Global reactions pour in over Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s passing

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Condolences pour in from across world over the passing of Chairman of Iranian Expediency Council Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, as Iranian people and authorities pay tribute to the late iconic cleric.

On Monday morning, large groups of people from all walks of life gathered at Jamaran prayer hall in northern Tehran, where the body of Ayatollah Rafsanjani was transferred, to mourn his demise.

President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet members as well as Ayatollah Rasfanjani’s family also took part in the mourning procession at the mosque.

A mourner touches the coffin of Ayatollah Rafsanjani at the Jamaran mosque in northern Tehran, Iran, January 9, 2017 

Iran is observing three days of national mourning in honor of the late cleric. He will be laid to rest on Tuesday, with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei set to lead the funeral prayer.

Ayatollah Rafsanjani passed away on Sunday at the age of 82 due to a heart condition.

He was one of the key aides to the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, and played an influential role both during the anti-Shah struggles before the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and afterwards through various stages of the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Rafsanjani was also a key figure during the eight years of the Iraq-imposed war (1980-88), serving as the acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Many Iranian and world figures have expressed condolences over the death of the former president.

Ayatollah Khamenei offered his condolences over the sudden demise of an old friend, comrade and ally. The Leader noted that Rafsanjani’s loss was overwhelming and very hard to bear, adding that their cooperation and friendship had lasted for 59 years.

President Rouhani also expressed condolences over Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s demise, which he described as a “great loss” for Islam, Iran and the Islamic Revolution.

A handout photo provided by the office of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) shows him arriving at the Jamaran mosque in Tehran during a mourning ceremony for Ayatollah Rafsanjani on January 9, 2017 

The Iranian president further said Ayatollah Rafsanjani was among the prominent architects of the Islamic Revolution, and a symbol of “patience, faith and moderation.”

The influential cleric had no fear of war, but always remained a peace advocate, who had a “rich knowledge of the world,” added Rouhani.

Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Chairman of the Assembly of Experts Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani and many more also expressed their condolences.

Meanwhile in a statement on Monday, Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah offered condolences to the Iranian nation, praising Ayatollah Rafsanjani as a firm supporter of the anti-Israel resistance front.

Nasrallah said Ayatollah Rafsanjani was a flag-bearer of the Palestinian cause, as the main issue of the Muslim world, and stood by the resistance movement facing Israeli plots against Palestine and the entire region.

Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, also sent a message of condolence to Ayatollah Khamenei, in which he hailed the late cleric as a well-known supporter of the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance.

He added that the Iranian cleric made great endeavors towards reinforcing unity among Muslim nations in the face of plots by the US, the Israeli regime and the mercenaries supporting Takfiri terrorists in the Middle East.

Iranian officials and cabinet ministers attend a mourning ceremony for Ayatollah Rafsanjani at Jamaran Mosque in Tehran, January 9, 2016

Condolences were also offered by former Turkish president Abdullah Gül, Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Iraq’s former prime minister and current Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, Turkish Minister of European Union Affairs Omer Celik, the UN resident coordinator in Iran Gary Lewis, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Among other foreign officials and dignitaries who also sent their messages of condolence to Iran were Tajikistan’s President Imomali Rakhmon and, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Meanwhile, the Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and Palestine’s Islamic Jihad Organization also expressed their sympathies over the passing away of Iran’s former president.

In a statement, a US State Department official referred to Ayatollah Rafsanjani ‎as a “prominent figure” throughout the history of Iran. “We send our condolences to his family and loved ones,” read the statement.

(Source / 09.01.2017)

Bahar: The intifada regained momentum following J’lem operation

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Ahmed Bahar, first deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, has said that “with the start of the new year, al-Quds intifada has regained its momentum following the heroic Jerusalem operation.”

This came in a telephone conversation on Monday with the family of martyr Fadi al-Qunbar, who carried out Sunday’s vehicle-ramming operation in Occupied Jerusalem.

Bahar also said that all lawmakers in Gaza and the Palestinians at home and abroad are proud of martyr Qunbar and the sacrifice he made for the sake of his own people.

He described the ramming operation as “a natural response to Israel’s crimes against the Jerusalemite citizens and its ongoing violations in the West Bank against humans, trees, and the Islamic and Christian holy sites.”

The lawmaker expressed hope that the Palestinian people and their resistance would maintain the momentum which the intifada gained this year and continue carrying out such operations as part of their right to defend themselves against the aggression of Israeli soldiers and settlers.

(Source / 09.01.2017)

100,000 Messages from Palestinian youths to Trump

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Youth center for development and creativity in Nablus unleashed on Monday a campaign that gathered 100,000 messages addressed to the new US President Donald Trump. They asked him, in their messages, to bear responsibility and work on achieving justice in terms of the Palestinian Question.

Mohammad Abu Ras, head of the center, said that the campaign which comes a few days before Trump takes over running the country, aims at presenting the Palestinian Question and the youths’ point of view in this regard especially under current international changes.

Abu Ras added that the campaign is going to last from 9 to 20 January, 2017. Meanwhile, the coordinator of the campaign Latifa Damra underlined that the messages address some of the issues that concern the American people in general and the US President in particular.

(Source / 09.01.2017)

Istanbul Attacker Identified as ISIS Uzbek Recruit

In this undated photo obtained Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, a man believed to be the ISIS gunman who killed dozens at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Eve films himself as he wanders near Istanbul's Taksim square. (DHA-Depo Photos via AP)

In this undated photo obtained Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, a man believed to be the ISIS gunman who killed dozens at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve films himself as he wanders near Istanbul’s Taksim square

Ankara- Turkish authorities revealed that the terror attacker responsible for New Year’s horrific shooting at an Istanbul nightclub has been identified. The assailant is responsible for the death of 39 people, who he shot to dead during the early hours of the New Year’s Day.

The man was identified by police on Sunday as a 34-year-old Uzbek who is part of a Central Asian ISIS extremist terror cell, the Hurriyet daily and other Turkish newspapers reported.

The attacker, who remains on the run, has the code name of Ebu Muhammed Horasani. There has been no official confirmation of the reports.

On Thursday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said that the attacker probably belonged to a Turkic ethnic group called the Uyghurs. Initial reports had said the attacker was a Kyrgyz national. Later reports said he was an Uyghur from China.

The people killed by the attack included more than 20 foreigners, and almost 70 were injured. The attacker is said to have opened fire from a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Ultra-hardline terror group ISIS has taken responsibility for the attack.

Turkish authorities have so far made 36 arrests suspected to be involved with the assailant. The gunman is suspected to have known in advance that the guards at the club were not allowed to carry weapons.

The pro-government Yeni Safak daily, citing security sources, recently reported that the attacker was believed to be hiding in a house in Istanbul.

Armed with a long-barreled weapon, the assailant first killed a policeman and a civilian outside the club before entering and shooting at some of the nearly 600 people inside.

Turkey has been hit by numerous acts of terror over the past year. ISIS has claimed most of the assaults.

(Source / 09.01.2017)

Report: 192 Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists in 2016

Palestinian journalists take part in a protest demanding the release of journalists in Israeli jails on 21st June 2016 [Mohammed Asad/Apaimages]

Palestinian journalists take part in a protest demanding the release of journalists in Israeli jails on 21st June 2016

There were 192 cases of Israeli violations committed against journalists in the occupied Palestinian territories in 2016, a report by the Palestinian news agency WAFA revealed yesterday.

The report said the Israeli occupation authorities “have relentlessly worked to shut down the Palestinian media outlets by taking a series of repressive measures that hinder the operations of Palestinian and foreign journalists in order to cover up their daily crimes against the Palestinian people.”

The violations include arrests, shootings, beatings, restrictions on movement and travel, holding journalists at checkpoints, raiding media institutions and a range of other violations.

The report said that in March 2016 the Israeli forces killed Palestinian media student Iyad Omar Sadjadah, 22, when they stormed of Qalandia refugee camp and shot him in the head.

As many as 52 Palestinian journalists were wounded by rubber bullets and tear gas, beatings and other attacks over the past year, while 129 journalists were subjected to arrest and detention. The report documented ten cases of assault on press institutions and equipment.

The report condemned the Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists and media institutions and called on the international community and local and international human rights organisations to put pressure on Israel to stop its attacks and violations against journalists and freedom of the press.

(Source / 09.01.2017)

Lieberman approves Gaza wall project

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The Hebrew newspaper Yediot Ahronot revealed on Monday that the Israeli war minister, Avigdor Lieberman, had recently endorsed a budget allocated for the construction of a wall on the borders of the Gaza Strip.

The paper said that the budget will reach up to 3.34 billion shekels (1dollar=3.85 shekels), and the wall will stretch along the 65-km borderline between the Gaza Strip and the 1948 occupied Palestinian territories.

It pointed out that the wall will be constructed on the Gaza border and underground to prevent any “offensive tunnels” into the Israeli settlement communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.

The paper affirmed that construction work had started and is expected to be completed in two years, noting that the project will include underground concrete barriers as well as smart technology to identify the tunnels.

An Israeli military official in the southern command stated that the new wall will not provide security by 100%, adding that military forces will still be needed on the ground. However, he said, the project will meet a significant percentage of the security needs of the Israeli settlers.

Haim Jelin, the Knesset member from Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, who lives in Eshkol settlement in the vicinity of Gaza Strip, said that the wall is an essential step to eliminate Hamas’s “tunnel threat”.

(Source / 09.01.2017)