Palestinian intelligence arrests ‘fugitive’ from Balata refugee camp

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NABLUS (Ma’an) — The Palestinian general intelligence service said on Sunday morning that it had arrested a fugitive from the Balata refugee camp east of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank.

A security source told Ma’an that general intelligence officers ambushed 30-year-old Omar Abu Leil near Nablus municipality’s butchery and detained him. Officers surrounded Abu Leil’s vehicle, and when he tried to speed away, they fired gunshots at the vehicle “without harming him.”
The suspect was accused of committing shooting attacks on Palestinian security officers among other charges, according to the security source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Following the arrest, locals took to the street and burned used tires in protest.
Balata refugee camp has been a site of violent clashes between Palestinian security forces and residents of the camp since a massive security crackdown was launched across the West Bank, which turned deadly last August, after two policemen were killed during a raid into the Old City in Nablus to uncover weapons and make arrests.
The ensuing manhunt for the gunmen responsible left three suspects killed by Palestinian security forces, sparking international outrage over what the UN deemed “extrajudicial executions,” particular after one detainee was beaten to death in police custody.
Last month Palestinian forces also shot dead an alleged Palestinian gunman in Nablus, while three others were also injured. While Palestinian forces had claimed the men opened fire on them, forcing them to respond, others have claimed the four were unarmed at the time of the incident and were surveilling the Palestinian police while they carried out a detention raid.
Amid the ongoing security crackdown, the PA has faced widespread criticism over the unclear circumstances in which Palestinian fugitives have been arrested and killed, with prisoners’ rights group Addameer saying that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
The crackdown also comes as Palestinian political factions have repeatedly accused the Fatah-dominated PA of “escalating security collaboration” with Israeli authorities and “adopting a revolving door policy” funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.
The Israeli army’s central command said that the Palestinian security forces were responsible for approximately 40 percent of all arrests of “suspected terrorists,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last May.
Meanwhile, the densely populated Balata refugee camp has historically shown high levels of unemployment, overcrowded classrooms, and a lack of basic services such as access to clean water and effective sewage systems, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The camp was established by the United Nations in 1950 to provide housing and services to refugees resulting from the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, which forced more than 700,000 Palestinians to flee their homes.
(Source / 15.01.2017)

Assad & Brother Maher Named as Responsible for Chemical Attacks

International investigators have said for the first time that they suspect Bashar al-Assad and his brother are responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, according to a document seen by Reuters.

A joint inquiry for the United Nations and global watchdog the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had previously identified only military units and did not name any commanders or officials.

Now a list has been produced of individuals whom the investigators have linked to a series of chlorine bomb attacks in 2014-15 – including Assad, his younger brother Maher and other high-ranking figures – indicating the decision to use toxic weapons came from the very top, according to a source familiar with the inquiry.

The list, which has been seen by Reuters but has not been made public, was based on a combination of evidence compiled by the UN-OPCW team in Syria and information from Western and regional intelligence agencies, according to the source, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The list identifies 15 people “to be scrutinized in relation to use of CW (chemical weapons) by Syrian Arab Republic Armed Forces in 2014 and 2015”. It does not specify what role they are suspected of playing, but lists their titles.

The list is split into three sections. The first, titled “Inner Circle President”, lists six people including Assad, his brother who commands the elite 4th Armored Division, the defense minister and the head of military intelligence.

The second section names the air force chief as well as four commanders of air force divisions. They include the heads of the 22nd Air Force Division and the 63rd Helicopter Brigade, units that the inquiry has previously said dropped chlorine bombs.

The third part of the list – “Other relevant Senior Mil Personnel” – names two colonels and two major-generals.

Assad and members of his inner circle are responsible for dozens of chemical attacks, most notably the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta in 2013 where over 1,200 people were killed, many of them children.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office + Agencies / 15.01.2017)

Global Coalition against ISIS’s Chiefs of General Staff Meet in Saudi Arabia

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US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (C) hosts defense ministers of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (ISIS) at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, July 20, 2016

Riyadh – Saudi Arabia hosts in Riyadh on Sunday the general staff chiefs of fourteen countries of the Global Coalition Against ISIS.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia, U.S., Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Turkey, Tunisia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco and Nigeria will discuss approaches to enhance the efforts of the coalition to paralyze and destroy ISIS capabilities.

On July 21, U.S. held the second ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition with the participation of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Minister of the Defense and deputy prime minister of Saudi Arabia.

Prince Mohammed also chaired the delegation to the Coalition meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on February 12, 2016.

General Abdulrahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan, chief of the general staff of Saudi Arabia confirmed that Saudi Arabia is committed to supporting all international efforts against terrorist organizations and groups that threaten the security and safety of the region and the world.

Gen. Bunyan said that Saudi Arabia was one of the countries that suffered most from terrorism. It had always been an ISIS target.

“But it had always reacted strongly and was ever more determined to continue the fight against all forms of terrorism, taking all necessary measures and working closely with Saudi Arabia’s coalition allies,” he added.

Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to call for a coalition to fight terrorism on all fronts: military, financially and intellectually.

Since the Global Coalition against ISIS was formed in September 2014, Saudi Arabia has donated $500 million for relief efforts in Iraq, and has participated in air strikes against ISIS and supported intelligence operations with coalition partners.

The Coalition includes 68 countries working jointly to tackling ISIS. The coalition is taking military action, targeting ISIS financial sources and economic infrastructure, and preventing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters across borders.

(Source / 15.01.2017)

Israeli police detain 12 Palestinians suspected of stone-throwing in Negev

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli police detained 12 Palestinians citizens of Israel in the Negev at dawn on Sunday over suspicions of being involved in a rock-throwing incident.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that the 12 individuals, all in their twenties and thirties, were suspected of throwing rocks at police vehicles that were chasing a car without license plates in the town of Rahat on Thursday.
An Israeli police officer was reportedly injured in the incident, and three police vehicles were damaged, al-Samri added.
Israel detains hundreds of Palestinians for alleged stone throwing every year.
Palestinian stone throwers face harsh penalties by Israeli authorities, with Israel passing a laws in 2015 allowing for up to 20 years in prison if charged with throwing stones at vehicles and a minimum of three years for the act of throwing a stone at an Israeli — legislation rights groups say was designed specifically to target Palestinians, as Israelis and settlers are rarely prosecuted under the same standards of the law.
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(Source / 15.01.2017)

Iran’s ‘Revolutionary Guard’…a Terror Group?!

Looking into designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror group is most definitely overdue.

Despite the unwarranted presence of Revolutionary Guard proxies abroad, chiefly prevalent in the Arab region, and their loud violations in Syria and Iraq, it is only now that the United States has considered studying the bill, which details were published earlier by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, and was reintroduced by Senators Ted Cruz and Jim Inhofe on labeling the IRGC as a terrorist body.

Not only does the IRGC openly support the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah and the militarized Houthi-led coup in Yemen, but is also held responsible for the assassination of international diplomats. If that is not the very definition of terrorism, then what is?! Aside from Iran itself and allies, the radical nature of the guard is evident.

As the IRGC Terrorist Designation Act is reintroduced, companion bills made their way to the House. The bills aim to direct the State Department to hold accountable the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei –holding executive power over the Revolutionary Guard- and the IRGC, as a foreign entity managing extraterritorial operations unit the Quds Force, for adopting a violent ideology that threatens U.S. interests.

Hailing the success of the bill is premature — nevertheless, it is a positive step taken towards abolishing double-standards weighing down on the global fight against terrorism. The proposals require a report on whether IRGC-affiliated organizations meet the criteria to be designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and if so, will enable the U.S. to take action that could stifle IRGC funding received to promote terrorist activities.

Reinstating the bill, although an earth-shattering progress, will not reach its full potential until it effectively establishes that the IRGC is in fact a terror group in and of itself, stripping it from the authoritative cloak it had been using to legitimize its actions.

The IRGC combines traditional military roles but focuses on opposition inside Iran that is considered as a domestic enemy. More so, the group is also Iran’s main connection to terrorist proxies, which the Iranian regime uses to boost its global influence with.

Such an entity should not be endowed with the merits brought about by sovereignty, allowing the cleric-led regime a free pass to integrating the Revolutionary Guard militias into the government.

The IRGC, by no means, is any less dangerous than other religion-styled terror group. Only more ‘evil’ and threatening, given that it enjoys an advantage groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS don’t have, which is state protection.

When it comes to keeping track of violent paramilitary militias backed by governments, the IRGC is not an exception but unfortunately the rule. An Amnesty International released report shows that Iraqi civilians, after escaping the horrors of war and ISIS tyranny, are facing the brutal revenge attacks at the hands of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

Similar to the Revolutionary Guard, the PMU carries out human rights abuses against civilians under the umbrella of the government, supported by Iraqi authorities that have provided them with both funds and weapons.

What is more is that the Amnesty International report holds the Iraqi government responsible for crimes committed by the PMU, which indirectly also holds states arming the Iraqi government accountable to the violations.

Regrettably, sectarian bias still plays a major role when it comes to singling out terrorist groups, which counter-productively diminishes global efforts poured into combating terrorism.

It is certainly unbelievable that IRGC extraterrestrial proxies like ‘Hezbollah,’ the ‘Quds Force’ and other denominational militias fighting by the side of Syrian authoritarian Bashar al-Assad are still not listed down as international terrorist groups till this very moment.

Double standards surely feed into wars, regional tensions and chaos. The region remains captive to the ever-growing toll of terror and sectarian tensions, despite all efforts.

Terror is by no means relative to religious sects — any person who kills innocent humans is a terrorist, irrespective of the slayer being Sunni or Shi’ite. Whether it be ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah or Iraq’s PMU the horror of their crimes is all the same.

Terrorism will continue to anchor itself worldwide, so long that it still is defined by prejudiced terms and grotesquely exploited for the sake of international politics.

(Source / 15.01.2017)

Israeli forces detain 10 Palestinians in multiple predawn raids

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – Israeli forces detained at least 10 Palestinians and confiscated money in multiple predawn military raids across the occupied West Bank, according to the Israeli army.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that a “Hamas operative” was detained in the town of Beita south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank.
Israeli media reported that “tens of thousands shekels” were seized from the detainee’s house, allegedly used in “terrorist activities against Israel.”In the northernmost district of Jenin, the Israeli army said they detained one person in Jenin city and another in the village of Birqin west of the city.
Meanwhile, three Palestinians were detained in al-Jalazun refugee camp in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah.In the southern occupied West Bank, Israeli forces also raided the Hebron district and detained one Palestinian from the village of Sair and another from the village of al-Kom, according to the Israeli army spokesperson, who added two Palestinians were also detained in the village of Husan in the Bethlehem district.
The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS), which documents overnight raids by Israeli forces, said in a statement earlier this month that it had recorded the detention of 100 Palestinians, including 18 minors, in the first five days of 2017.
Israeli forces carry out detention raids across the occupied Palestinian territory on a near-nightly basis, with the UN recording some 178 raids in the West Bank between Dec. 13 and 26, 2016.
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 7,000 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of October 2016.
(Source / 15.01.2017)

Settlers attack Palestinian house in Silwan, damage property

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JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers living above a Palestinian family in the Silwan neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem assailed the family’s courtyard and attempted to break into their home on Saturday evening.

Silwan-based watchdog the Wadi Hilweh Information Center reported that settlers stormed the courtyard of Muhammad Muheisin’s home, smashed the outdoor furniture, damaged garden plants, and shattered framed Quran verses. The settlers left about a half an hour later.
Muheisin and his family live on the ground floor of a six-story building. According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, Israeli settlers took over the five upper apartments in October 2014, and Muheisin was the only Palestinian who remained in the building.
Since the takeover, settlers have been trying to buy Muheisin’s apartment, sometimes “by force,” and sometimes by offering him as much money as he wants, according to the center.
The group highlighted that settlers have repeatedly assaulted him and his family members over the years, and regularly throw garbage at their home and disconnect their power grid and water supply.
Muheisin told Wadi Hilweh that the roof and walls of his home have been damaged by water leakages coming from the above apartments, but the settlers have refused to address the issue.
There are an upwards of 300,000 Israeli settlers residing in East Jerusalem in contravention of international law, with at least 500 living in Silwan among a population of 45,000 Palestinians.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented 107 cases of settler attacks on Palestinians and their property throughout 2016.
Silwan in particular has been the target of intense settlement activity and initiatives, which include a plan for a tourist complex in the al-Bustan neighborhood, which, if implemented, would displace more than 1,000 Palestinian residents; hundreds of additional residents are at-risk of displacement due to eviction cases initiated by settler organizations in the same area, according to the OCHA.
Last week, the Israeli settlement group Elad reportedly took over a Palestinian-owned property in Silwan while its owners were away in Jordan.
Relatives of the Palestinian family said that Elad had claimed ownership of the building several years ago after using a Palestinian as a proxy to buy the house and then transfer it to the settlement group — a common practice by settler groups wishing to expand their presence in Palestinian-majority areas of East Jerusalem.
Elad took over another building in Silwan last month, which it said it had purchased using a similar Palestinian “straw man” mechanism.
When asked about the involvement of Israeli police in that case, Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld questioned the validity of the reports, telling Ma’an at the time that Wadi Hilweh Information Center’s claims that Palestinian property had been taken over by settlers were “not serious” and “irrelevant.”
Jerusalem’s Israeli city planning commission also approved a plan to build a three-story building for Jewish settlers in the heart of Silwan in December, introduced by Israeli pro-settlement nonprofit organization Ateret Cohanim — the same day the Jerusalem municipality demolished Palestinian-owned structures in the neighborhood.
The Elad and Ateret Cohanim groups are a strong force in the Israeli settler movement in East Jerusalem, with Elad leading a takeover of 25 buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan in 2015, which constituted the largest incursion of Israeli settlers into a Palestinian neighborhood in the past 20 years, according to the the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ).
Also known as the Ir David Foundation, Elad aims to “rediscover and preserve the Biblical city of David,” in an effort to connect Jews to their Biblical roots through tourism, archaeological excavation, and “Judaizing Jerusalem” by buying out homes in Palestinian majority neighborhoods.
(Source / 15.01.2017)

Fanatic settlers assault Palestinian farmer northwest of Nablus

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Jewish fanatic settlers Saturday evening assaulted a Palestinian farmer while working in his land in Burqah town,  northwest of Nablus city.

Witnesses told the PIC reporter that about 30 settlers from Homesh settlement attacked the farmer before sunset. He was transferred to hospital after the incident.

The witnesses elaborated that the attacking settlers kept throwing stones at him from a close distance until a group of Palestinian youths rushed to the scene and confronted settlers, after they had heard his screaming.

Sami Daghlas, Head of the village’s council, said that the settlers’ attacks are frequently repeated in the area under the protection of Israeli forces every now and then. Settlers provocatively raid the town on a semi daily basis, he pointed out.

(Source / 15.01.2017)

Islamic Fashion And The Growing Appeal Of Colorful Modesty

A woman in an outfit created by the "modest fashion" designer Nabiilabee stands in front of an urban city skyline. (Photo © Nabiilabee, used with permission.)

A woman in an outfit created by the “modest fashion” designer Nabiilabee stands in front of an urban city skyline

From trendy long tunics to maxi dresses, polka-dot Hijabs (head covering) and abayas (Islamic gown), modest fashion has been gaining momentum over the recent years. Brands like Dolce & Gabbana and DKNY have released modest collections over the years, followed by high-end labels Mango, Tommy Hilfiger and many more.

Ostensibly, mainstream fashion has embraced the modest appeal by adopting a more inclusive attitude towards women of faith.

Hijabistas and fashionistas from the blogosphere have been the driving force, pushing the boundaries to define and represent themselves.

Muslim women have been labelled ‘oppressed’ and are depicted as dressed conservatively, in the image perpetuated by the mainstream media. But a majority of Muslim women don’t wear a Niqab or an abaya or even wear black for that matter. Just take a look at Muslim women living in the West and across Asia and you’ll see plenty of colors and unique styles of wearing the hijab and dressing modestly.

Therefore, it may be somewhat surprising to see Muslim women using fashion to dispel these myths, but at the same time, they are expressing their personality in accordance to their religious and cultural values. They will not change themselves to conform to fashion rather, they will change fashion to meet their needs.

A woman wears a "modest fashion" outfit by Nabiilabee, consisting of a colorful blue long sleeve shirt, a tan dress iand a gray hijab. (Photo ©Nabiilabee, used with permission)

A woman wears a “modest fashion” outfit by Nabiilabee, consisting of a colorful blue long sleeve shirt, a tan dress iand a gray hijab.

With the proliferation of Muslim fashion designers over the years and increased competition between each other, and between big labels, the diversity, authenticity and style is what really sets them apart.

Take British Youtuber and fashion designer NabilaBee as the perfect example. Nabila launched her modest fashion wear brand after searching for ways to feel comfortable and stylish within her Hijab.

“My style is very different, definitely not mainstream and conformist, I’m really quirky and that makes my brand stand out,” said the 23 year old.

Like Nabila, up-and-coming fashion designer and investment banker Ayah Meki is set to launch her brand KENTōRE by the end of February. For Meki, KENTōRE is “about recognising and supporting the Muslim working woman by providing her with a range of stylish yet modest workwear.”

Although office attire is available in places like Zara and H&M, Meki’s collection has been carefully tailored to incorporate subtle design elements that are of extreme importance to the modest working woman.

Meki’s brand also helps Syrian refugee women enter and excel in the world of work. “We’re providing 168 Syrian woman with rigorous fashion and textiles training; once they complete the course, each woman will provided with a sewing machine and personal mentor, enabling them to design and sell their own clothes from home, and begin generating a sustainable source of income. Our long-term goal is to wholly incorporate these women into the brand.”

It’s not just modest fashion that has been gaining momentum over recent years but also smaller start-up companies by young Muslims. Take the London Beard Company based in East London which has discovered success through selling beard oils and essentials for the hipster beard trend. Its owner, Abrar Mirza believes that big brands are cautious of tapping into such market more widely as “those that have offered modest fashion items, such as H&M, Marks & Spencer and Uniqlo, have faced backlash in the media.”

A model displays a work outfit created by "modest fashion" designer Ayah Meki for her brand KENTōRE. (Photo © KENTōRE, used with permission)

A model displays a work outfit created by “modest fashion” designer Ayah Meki for her brand KENTōRE.

Mirza makes a valid point to ponder in consideration of the launch of that hotly-debated swimsuit, the burkini, by Marks & Spencer last year. Critics of modest clothing soon dubbed the retailor as succumbing to sexism. Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent’s former business partner remarked that high street bands are “taking part in the enslavement of women” in a radio interview last year.

But let’s not forget, modest fashion was always there, like Loiuis Vuitton’s scarfs or Victoria Beckham’s loose tunics and jumpsuits. The only difference now is that Muslim women are creating clothes to adapt to the needs of every women who prefers modest apparel for various reasons and, are actually involved in the conversation.

Undoubtedly, modest wear will be making waves in the future as the Muslim fashion industry is estimated to be worth £200 million by 2018, the Global Islamic Economy report finds.

It is an opportunity for big brands to capitalize on the Muslim market as, “in the past modesty has equated to being boring and dull but now modesty connotes vibrancy, experimentation, empowerment and knowing your limits” said Nabila.

However, it is concerning to some Muslim fashion designers who argue that brands do not necessarily understand why it’s important for Muslim women to feel fashionable and dress within the confines of their religious requirements. Some fail to connect authentically to the needs of Muslim women who live by specific religious guidelines which includes dressing modestly.

So ultimately, when it is commercialized and used as an experimentation tool for big brands, “it loses the essence of what does a Muslim women need,” explains Ayah.

Although mainstream fashion may have the “modest appeal,” for now, it ought to consider that modest fashion is a chosen lifestyle for some, from Muslims to Mormons, if it is to win over the hearts, mind, and even the capital of this growing market.

However, fashion is ever-changing its trends and, for this reason, it will be the smaller brands and fashion designers who will have the upper hand in catering for the Muslim market. They need not to worry about the social and political discomforts of their designs unlike big labels. They are the future for a new kind of fashion, targeting a niche — and yes, one that is modest and non-conformist to mainstream fashion.

(Source / 15.01.2017)

Syrian reconciliation official shot dead after leaving meeting with militants – state media

Syrian reconciliation official shot dead after leaving meeting with militants – state media

Syrians gather around buses as they prepare to leave the town of Ain al-Fijah, in the Wadi Barada region, on January 14, 2017

A Syrian reconciliation official was killed after leaving a meeting with leaders of rebel groups in the Damascus Countryside Province, Syrian SANA news agency reported. The attack came a day after a deal was reached to restore water to the area.

The assassination of Ahmad al-Ghadban, one of the coordinators of the reconciliation in the Wadi Barada area in Damascus Countryside Province, took place on Saturday evening, SANA reported, citing local sources.

The Syrian news agency added that Al-Ghadban was leaving a meeting with leaders of armed groups in Ayn al-Figeh village when he was shot dead.

According to Almasdar News, a sniper opened fire on his vehicle and, though no group has claimed responsibility, it is believed that the shooter was either a member of Ahrar Al-Sham or Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front).

Wadi Barada has become the most intense battlefront in the Syrian civil war, with fighting there ongoing despite the beginning of a truce brokered by Russia and Turkey in late December.

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On Friday, Syrian rebels and the government reached a deal to restore water to the area. Water from the pumping station at Ain al-Fijah in the Wadi Barada area was cut by the Damascus Water Authority in late December, after it said militants had contaminated the source, the Barada River, with diesel fuel. As a result, more than five million people have been without water for more than two weeks.

READ MORE: Govt workers enter Damascus water-source area to restore supply after deal with rebels 

The agreement has allowed engineers to enter the damaged pumping station, which could be repaired “within three days,” Alaa Ibrahim, the governor of Damascus Countryside Province, said.

According to Ibrahim, the agreement is part of a wider deal for a cessation in fighting in the Wadi Barada area, which would also involve some rebels leaving for other areas in Syria held by insurgents, and reaching a settlement with others who would remain in Wadi Barada.

(Source / 15.01.2017)