Post office employee badly injured in assault by soldiers in J’lem

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– 27-year-old Mohamed al-Shahed was badly injured when a group of Israeli border soldiers physically assaulted him outside the post office building in east Jerusalem. Shahed, who works at the post office, explained that he went out of the building on Thursday morning to take a break when several border soldiers suddenly gathered around him and embarked on harassing and beating him, with no reason. “At first, their number was eight and then they became 20 soldiers. They severely beat me all over my body and two of them, who were cops, embarked on hitting me with their rifle butts,” he said. He added that when the manager of the post office showed up along with Israeli policemen from Salahuddin police station, the soldiers escaped. As a result of the attack, Shahed suffered from bruises all over his body, painful swellings in his eyes, slight injuries in his face and neck, and severe pains in his right leg.

(Source / 05.08.2016)

Israel Confiscates Olympics Athletes’ Equipment and Uniforms

Palestine will be represented at the Rio Olympics, 2016. (Photo: via The New Arab)

Palestine will be represented at the Rio Olympics, 2016

Palestine’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) has declared that Israeli authorities have withheld the Palestinian 2016 Olympic team’s uniforms and equipment, forcing participants to travel to Brazil without its gear.

Secretary-General of the Palestinian NOC, Munther Masalmeh, stated that the gear has not cleared customs yet.

An Olympic official said Israel had been holding the equipment, mostly donated to the Palestinians by foreign governments, demanding payment of taxes or entry fees and sometimes under claims of security.

Palestinian athletes

He stated: “We got one shipment several months ago and we have not been able to bring it in,” adding, “We were forced to travel without our equipment and to buy them instead in Brazil.”

Palestine’s athletes headed for the Rio 2016 Olympics include two swimmers, two runners, a judoka and a dressage rider.

Mayada Sayyad has qualified to the 2016 Olympic marathon, while Christian Zimmerman booked his spot at the dressage riding event.

Swimmers Mary Al-Atrash and Ahmed Gebrel were granted Universality Tickets to the 50-meter freestyle and 200-meter freestyle races.

Palestinian athletes1

Simon Yaacoub was invited to compete in the extra-lightweight category at the judo tournament and Mohammed Abu Khoussa will run in the 100-meter sprints.

Israeli authorities have made a habit of intruding on Palestinian sports. The Palestinian NOC’s official website includes a report titled “Israeli Occupation Transgressions against Palestinian Sports,” which illustrates a series of unexplained detentions of the national team, athletes and sports personnel.

Palestine has previously asked the football governing body FIFA to ban Israel for hindering the movement of Palestinian athletes based on alleged security reasons. These efforts were unsuccessful.

(Source / 05.08.2016)

Amnesty: Stop using pellet guns on Kashmiri protesters

Rights group says pellet guns should be banned immediately, a day after third person dies from pellet wounds.

Medical officials estimate that up to 100 people will lose the use of at least one eye after suffering injuries to the face

Pellet guns have no place in law enforcement and should be banned immediately, human rights group Amnesty International India has said, following the death of a third person owing to injuries inflicted by the weapons in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Amnesty’s comments on Thursday come a week after the Indian government promised to set up a panel to investigate the use of pellet guns as a method of crowd control in the region.

Since July 8, at least 50 people have been killed and hundreds injured as Indian security forces and protesters faced off and the tensions show little sign of abating.

Parts of Kashmir are still under curfew as protests and violence rock the Kashmir valley, almost a month after security forces killed rebel leader Burhan Wani and two other fighters in southern Kashmir.

Medical officials estimate that up to 100 people will lose the use of at least one eye after suffering injuries to the face owing to riot police using pellet guns to quell protests.

Amnesty said that the Jammu and Kashmir government should immediately stop using the weapons.

“Pellet guns are inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate, and have no place in law enforcement,” Zahoor Wani, senior campaigner of Amnesty International India, said.

Kashmir

“They cannot ensure well-targeted shots and risk causing serious injury, including to bystanders or other protesters not engaging in violence. These risks are almost impossible to control,” he said.

On Wednesday, Riyaz Ahmed Shah, 23, died in Srinagar of multiple pellet injuries.

“The autopsy report said that Riyaz was shot from a close range, and there were multiple pellet injuries to his vital organs,” Wani said.

The Indian government has faced criticism for its response to the protests in Kashmir. On July 21, the interior ministry said it would reconsider the use of pellet guns as a method of crowd control.

“We will form an expert committee on this that will give its report in two months so that such incidents are not repeated in future,” Rajnath Singh, India’s interior minister, said.

Many areas in Kashmir are still under curfew, though some locals refuse to stay indoors. Night vigils take place in Sopore in northern Kashmi

Khurram Parvez, programme director of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), said that while the Indian government is “deliberating on the matter”, security forces are still using the weapons on the street.

He said the Indian government’s comments were merely “a smokescreen to confuse” and to “delay”.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has previously described the use of pellets as a “necessary evil”.

Naeem Akhter, spokesperson for the Jammu and Kashmir government, told Al Jazeera that “a decision had been taken to phase out pellets.

“The use of pellets were inherited from the previous government … we have always been against it,” he said.

‘Blind spot’ 

Organisers of the campaign “Kashmir Blind Spot” have urged people around the world to write to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and promote the issue on social media.

“We are trying to draw attention to the Kashmir story. We feel that Kashmir has become a blind spot and the world has lost its sight when it comes to our story,” Khurram Parvez of JKCCS said.

Although pellets are not meant to cause deaths, at least nine people have been killed in the region since they were introduced in 2010.

On July 13, a doctor at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, in Srinagar, told Al Jazeera that his department had been overwhelmed by patients with eye injuries.

“We have operated on more than 90 people with injuries to their eyes. Many have multiple injuries with pellets lodged inside their eyes, forehead, back and abdomen. Many need multiple operations. It is very painful and gruesome,” he said.

Over the past two decades more than 60,000 people have been killed in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan with both claiming the territory in its entirety.

One doctor at a hospital in Srinagar told Al Jazeera his department had operated on 90 people with eye injuries

(Source / 05.08.2016)

Yemen PM: Power should be gained through democracy not force

Houthi rebels in Yemen [file photo]

Houthi rebels in Yemen [file photo]

Houthis want to govern Yemen by force, Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghr said yesterday, adding that they should respect the democratic processes.

Speaking during a meeting held with the United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs Office in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Bin Daghr said: “The continuation of war in Yemen increases the suffering, destruction and siege and the non-arrival of relief aid to citizens, and this is what the coup militia that refused to abide by the UN Security Council resolution or sign the Kuwait Agreement want.”

“Instead, they continued the siege and war on the people, and cut off humanitarian corridors to the province of Taiz,” he added.

Earlier this week the Yemeni government quit peace talks in Kuwait saying Houthis refused to sign a UN proposal to resolve the crisis.

(Source / 05.08.2016)

Injuries as IOF aggressively disbands anti-occupation marches

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– A Palestinian journalist and a number of protesters sustained injuries on Friday as the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) aggressively disbanded peaceful anti-settlement marches in the West Bank. The popular committee in Ni’lin village, in western Ramallah province, said the IOF violently attacked a march marking the eighth anniversary of the death of the Palestinian minor Youssef Ahmad Ameira, killed by the occupation troops in his 17’s of age, on August 4, 2008. The march was also staged in solidarity with prisoner Bilal al-Kayed, who has been on a hunger strike for the 53rd consecutive day in protest at being transferred to administrative detention after the end of his 15-year-sentence in Israeli jails. The IOF attacked the protesters with randomly-discharged waves of bullet fire and teargas canisters, resulting in several suffocation cases. Journalist Hassan Dabous sustained wounds after he was directly hit with a teargas grenade from a very close range. At the same time, dozens of Palestinian marchers choked on teargas unleashed by the IOF during a peaceful anti-settlement march staged in Kfar Qaddum village, to the east of Qalqilya. Coordinator for the popular resistance committee Murad Shteiwi said the IOF soldiers rolled into the village shortly before the launch of the march and showered the area with teargas canisters and live rounds, resulting in several injuries among the protesters. Earlier, at dawn time, the IOF stormed the village in several army jeeps and wreaked havoc on civilian homes in an attempt to quell anti-occupation activism in the area.

(Source / 05.08.2016)

How a Secretive Branch of ISIS Built a Global Network of Killers

Harry Sarfo, a former ISIS fighter from Germany, inside the maximum-security prison in Bremen where he is serving a three-year sentence on terrorism charges.

Harry Sarfo, a former ISIS fighter from Germany, inside the maximum-security prison in Bremen where he is serving a three-year sentence on terrorism charge

BREMEN, Germany — Believing he was answering a holy call, Harry Sarfo left his home in the working-class city of Bremen last year and drove for four straight days to reach the territory controlled by the ISIS in Syria.

He barely had time to settle in before members of the ISIS secret service, wearing masks over their faces, came to inform him and his German friend that they no longer wanted Europeans to come to Syria. Where they were really needed was back home, to help carry out the group’s plan of waging terrorism across the globe.

“He was speaking openly about the situation, saying that they have loads of people living in European countries and waiting for commands to attack the European people,” Mr. Sarfo recounted on Monday, in an interview with The New York Times conducted in English inside the maximum-security prison near Bremen. “And that was before the Brussels attacks, before the Paris attacks.”

The masked man explained that, although the group was well set up in some European countries, it needed more attackers in Germany and Britain, in particular. “They said, ‘Would you mind to go back to Germany, because that’s what we need at the moment,’” Mr. Sarfo recalled. “And they always said they wanted to have something that is occurring in the same time: They want to have loads of attacks at the same time in England and Germany and France.”

The operatives belonged to an intelligence unit of the ISIS known in Arabic as the Emni, which has become a combination of an internal police force and an external operations branch, dedicated to exporting terror abroad, according to thousands of pages of French, Belgian, German and Austrian intelligence and interrogation documents obtained by The Times.

The ISIS attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 brought global attention to the group’s external terrorism network, which began sending fighters abroad two years ago. Now, Mr. Sarfo’s account, along with those of other captured recruits, has further pulled back the curtain on the group’s machinery for projecting violence beyond its borders.

What they describe is a multilevel secret service under the overall command of the ISIS’ most senior Syrian operative, spokesman and propaganda chief, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. Below him is a tier of lieutenants empowered to plan attacks in different regions of the world, including a “secret service for European affairs,” a “secret service for Asian affairs” and a “secret service for Arab affairs,” according to Mr. Sarfo.

An External Operations Branch Within ISIS

At least 10 deadly attacks against Westerners have been directed or coordinated by a special unit of ISIS dedicated to exporting terror abroad. In addition, more than 30 people working for this group were arrested before they could carry out attacks.

Reinforcing the idea that the Emni is a core part of ISIS’ operations, the interviews and documents indicate that the unit has carte blanche to recruit and reroute operatives from all parts of the organization — from new arrivals to seasoned battlefield fighters, and from the group’s special forces and its elite commando units. Taken together, the interrogation records show that operatives are selected by nationality and grouped by language into small, discrete units whose members sometimes only meet one another on the eve of their departure abroad.

And through the coordinating role played by Mr. Adnani, terror planning has gone hand-in-hand with the group’s extensive propaganda operations — including, Mr. Sarfo claimed, monthly meetings in which Mr. Adnani chose which grisly videos to promote based on battlefield events.

Based on the accounts of operatives arrested so far, the Emni has become the crucial cog in the group’s terrorism machinery, and its trainees led the Paris attacks and built the suitcase bombs used in a Brussels airport terminal and subway station. Investigation records show that its foot soldiers have also been sent to Austria, Germany, Spain, Lebanon, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia.

With European officials stretched by a string of assaults by seemingly unconnected attackers who pledged allegiance to the ISIS, also known as ISIL, Mr. Sarfo suggested that there may be more of a link than the authorities yet know. He said he was told that undercover operatives in Europe used new converts as go-betweens, or “clean men,” who help link up people interested in carrying out attacks with operatives who can pass on instructions on everything from how to make a suicide vest to how to credit their violence to ISIS.

The group has sent “hundreds of operatives” back to the European Union, with “hundreds more in Turkey alone,” according to a senior United States intelligence official and a senior American defense official, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

Mr. Sarfo, who was recently moved out of solitary confinement at his German prison because he is no longer considered violent, agrees with that assessment. “Many of them have returned,” he said. “Hundreds, definitely.”

Vetting Recruits

The first port of call for new arrivals to ISIS is a network of dormitories in Syria, just across the border from Turkey. There, recruits are interviewed and inventoried.

Mr. Sarfo was fingerprinted, and a doctor came to draw a blood sample and perform a physical examination. A man with a laptop conducted an intake interview. “He was asking normal questions like: ‘What’s your name? What’s your second name? Who’s your mom? Where’s your mom originally from? What did you study? What degree do you have? What’s your ambition? What do you want to become?’” Mr. Sarfo said.

His background was also of interest. He was a regular at a radical mosque in Bremen that had already sent about 20 members to Syria, at least four of whom were killed in battle, according to Daniel Heinke, the German Interior Ministry’s counterterrorism coordinator for the area. And he had served a one-year prison sentence for breaking into a supermarket safe and stealing 23,000 euros. Even though the punishment for theft in areas under ISIS control is amputation, a criminal past can be a valued asset, Mr. Sarfo said, “especially if they know you have ties to organized crime and they know you can get fake IDs, or they know you have contact men in Europe who can smuggle you into the European Union.”

The bureaucratic nature of the intake procedure was recently confirmed by American officials after USB drives were recovered in the recently liberated Syrian city of Manbij, one of the hubs for processing foreign fighters.

Mr. Sarfo checked all the necessary boxes, and on the third day after his arrival, the members of the Emni came to ask for him. He wanted to fight in Syria and Iraq, but the masked operatives explained that they had a vexing problem.

“They told me that there aren’t many people in Germany who are willing to do the job,” Mr. Sarfo said soon after his arrest last year, according to the transcript of his interrogation by German officials, which runs more than 500 pages. “They said they had some in the beginning. But one after another, you could say, they chickened out, because they got scared — cold feet. Same in England.”

By contrast, the group had more than enough volunteers for France. “My friend asked them about France,” Mr. Sarfo said. “And they started laughing. But really serious laughing, with tears in their eyes. They said, ‘Don’t worry about France.’ ‘Mafi mushkilah’ — in Arabic, it means ‘no problem.’” That conversation took place in April 2015, seven months before the coordinated killings in Paris in November, the worst terrorist attack in Europe in over a decade.

While some details of Mr. Sarfo’s account cannot be verified, his statements track with what other recruits related in their interrogations. And both prison officials and the German intelligence agents who debriefed Mr. Sarfo after his arrest said they found him credible.

Since the rise of ISIS over two years ago, intelligence agencies have been collecting nuggets on the Emni. Originally, the unit was tasked with policing ISIS’ members, including conducting interrogations and ferreting out spies, according to interrogation records and analysts. But French members arrested in 2014 and 2015 explained that the Emni had taken on a new portfolio: projecting terror abroad.

“It’s the Emni that ensures the internal security inside Dawla” — the Arabic word for state — “and oversees external security by sending abroad people they recruited, or else sending individuals to carry out violent acts, like what happened in Tunisia inside the museum in Tunis, or else the aborted plot in Belgium,” said Nicolas Moreau, 32, a French citizen who was arrested last year after leaving ISIS in Syria, according to his statement to France’s domestic intelligence agency.

Mr. Moreau explained that he had run a restaurant in Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of the group’s territory, where he had served meals to key members of the Emni — including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the on-the-ground commander of the Paris attacks, who was killed in a standoff with the police days later.

Other interrogations, as well as Mr. Sarfo’s account, have led investigators to conclude that the Emni also trained and dispatched the gunman who opened fire on a beach in Sousse, Tunisia, in June, and the man who prepared the Brussels airport bombs.

Records from French, Austrian and Belgian intelligence agencies show that at least 28 operatives recruited by the Emni succeeded in deploying to countries outside of the ISIS’ core territory, mounting both successful attacks and plots that were foiled. Officials say that dozens of other operatives have slipped through and formed sleeper cells.

In his own interactions with the Emni, Mr. Sarfo realized that they were preparing a global portfolio of terrorists and looking to fill holes in their international network, he said.

He described what he had been told about the group’s work to build an infrastructure in Bangladesh. There, a siege by a team of Islamic State gunmen left at least 20 hostages dead at a cafe last month, almost all of them foreigners.

Mr. Sarfo said that for Asian recruits, the group was looking specifically for militants who had emerged from Al Qaeda’s network in the region. “People especially from Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia — they have people who used to work for Al Qaeda, and once they joined ISIS, they are asking them questions about their experiences and if they have contacts,” he said.

(Source / 05.08.2016)

Israeli forces close roads in Nablus

Nablus

NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israeli forces Friday closed several roads leading to the village of Beita in the southern part of the occupied West Bank district of Nablus.According to a Ma’an reporter, Israeli forces closed the Beita-Odala road and the Awarta-Odala road with large dirt mounds, while large cement blocks were placed on the road from Huwwara to Beita.Israeli forces also set up a military checkpoint on the main road leading to Beita, and searched the IDs of those leaving the village.Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Israeli forces imposed the closures on the village following numerous incidents of Palestinians throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli settler vehicles on the main Huwwara road over previous days.An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an he would look into reports.The occupied West Bank has seen an increase in military road closures since October when a wave of unrest first erupted across the West Bank and Israel, leading to periodic closures of Palestinian villages, towns, checkpoints, and entire districts, with the southern district of Hebron put under the most extensive closure since 2014 last month.

(Source / 05.08.2016)

Israel to sign largest ever American military aid pact

Israeli soldier in full combat gear [file photo]

Israeli soldier in full combat gear [file photo]

The US and Israel are to sign the largest military aid deal, worth $40 billion over 10 years, “as soon as possible”, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said yesterday.

The news came as acting head of the Israeli National Security Council, Brigadier General Yaakov Nagel, arrived in Washington yesterday to meet White House officials to wrap up talks regarding the deal.

Israeli radio reported that Netanyahu had decided to sign the deal with the current US administration and not wait until after the election.

Under the new deal, which comes into force in 2018, Israel must buy military equipment from the US and not from its local companies.

The current aid pact is worth $30 billion over 10 years.

(Source / 05.08.0216)

17-year-old Palestinian detained for allegedly possessing knife in Jerusalem

Jerusalem

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces reportedly detained a 17-year-old Palestinian on Thursday morning in occupied East Jerusalem after Israeli soldiers alleged that the teenager had a knife in his pocket after a body search at a Jerusalem light-rail station, according to Israeli media.

Israel’s Channel 7 reported that the teenager is from the occupied West Bank and entered Jerusalem without an Israeli-issued permit. The teen was searched and subsequently detained after Israeli forces allegedly found a knife in his pocket.

 An Israeli police spokesperson was not available for immediate comment.
Scores of Palestinians, including numerous minors, have been detained for allegedly possessing knives, as Israeli forces have heightened security since a wave of violence first erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October. Palestinians have routinely disputed claims made by Israeli forces during incidents involving minors, while Israeli forces typically interrogate Palestinian minors without a guardian present, in contravention to Israeli legal protocols and international law.
(Source / 05.08.2016)

Hassan: Russia Desperate to Prevent Regime Defeat in Aleppo

Secretary of the Syrian Coalition’s political committee Riad Hassan said that Russia is desperate to prevent the collapse of regime forces in Aleppo, adding that Russian firepower over the past few weeks has been dedicated mainly to help regime forces fully encircle the rebel-held parts of the city.

Hassan warned of Russian attempts to force residents of the city out of their homes through establishing the so-called “safe passages” which are designed to bring about demographic change in the city.

The Syrian Committee for Human Rights (SCHR) on Wednesday said it had documented no fewer than 68 massacres mostly by regime and Russian forces against civilians across Syria during the month of July. Over 2,120 people, including 365 children and 207 women, were killed across Syria in July. Airstrikes by regime and Russian fighter jets have been concentrated on the city and countryside of Aleppo, the network added.

Hassan criticized the international community’s and the UN’s negative reaction towards Russia’s continued aggression on Syria, stressing that their silence over Russia’s intervention in Syria was understood as a license to kill more Syrians.

The Assad regime is now entirely subservient to the Russians who are helping him cling to power, Hassan said. Russia’s intervention in Syria encouraged Assad to kick the political transition talks into the long grass, he added.

Hassan called upon all rebel and FSA groups in Syria to unite in the face of the vicious attacks by the Russian and Assad regime forces on the Syrian people, stressing the need to lift the siege on civilians in Aleppo and then push on to liberate the entire city.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 05.08.2016)