Muhammad al-Qiq’s new hunger strike ‘a battle for dignity,’ wife says


A Palestinian holds up a poster depicting Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq in early 2016

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Fayhaa Shalash, the wife of incarcerated Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, hailed her husband’s decision to begin a new hunger strike to protest his latest detention by Israel, less than a year after he completed a three-month hunger strike that brought him near death.

Shalash told Voice of Prisoners radio station (Sawt al-Asraa) on Tuesday that the open hunger strike begun by 35-year-old al-Qiq on Monday was a “battle for dignity,” after he was sentenced to six months of administrative detention — Israel’s contested policy of internment without trial or charges based on undisclosed evidence.
Al-Qiq, who lives in Ramallah and is originally from Dura in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, was released from prison in May last year after he refused food for a grueling 94 days — also in protest of his administrative detention at the time.
However, al-Qiq was redetained in mid-January after he participated in a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem demanding the release of bodies of slain Palestinians held in Israeli custody.
Shalash added that al-Qiq has seen his detention extended four times since he was detained on Jan. 15, before receiving the six-month administrative detention sentence.
She described the sentence as a “failure” by Israeli authorities, saying it was proof they had no evidence on which to base an indictment.
According to Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun, Israeli authorities had not garnered confessions or issued any charges against al-Qiq as of late January, although they had earlier expressed that they were investigating him for alleged “incitement” on social media, amid a crackdown on freedom of expression among Palestinian activists and journalists.

Although Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals based on undisclosed evidence, is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.

Rights groups have claimed that Israel’s administrative detention policy has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists.

Al-Qiq’s previous imprisonment by Israel — widely condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other rights groups — and subsequent hunger strike cast a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative detention, its arbitrary imprisonment of Palestinians, and the concerted targeting of Palestinian journalists.
Al-Qiq was one of a number of prominent Palestinian hunger strikers in 2016, who included the Balboul brothers who went without food for 77 and 79 days, Malik al-Qadi for 68 days, and Bilal Kayid for 71 days.
(Source / 07.02.2017)

US Navy base in Bahrain would be ‘razed to ground’ by retaliatory Iranian missiles – MP

US Navy base in Bahrain would be ‘razed to ground’ by retaliatory Iranian missiles - MP

An Iranian long-range shore-to-sea missile called Qader (Capable)

If Iran were attacked, it would retaliate against the US Navy base in Bahrain as well as Israel, a senior Iranian MP warned. It comes amid an escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran over new anti-Iranian sanctions imposed by the US.

“The US Army’s [sic] Fifth Fleet has occupied a part of Bahrain, and the enemy’s farthest military base is in the Indian Ocean, but these points are all within the range of Iran’s missile systems and they will be razed to the ground if the enemy makes a mistake,” Mojtaba Zonour, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Iranian parliament, said on Saturday evening as cited by the semi-state news agency FARS.

FILE PHOTO: Launch of an Imad missile, Iran. © HO / Iranian Defence Ministry

Zonour, a former senior figure in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, added that Iranian missiles would also attack Israel in case of an open war.

“Only seven minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv,” he said.

The belligerent rhetoric comes after a heated exchange of hostile gestures by Washington and Tehran last week. On Friday, the Trump administration slapped sanctions on 25 individuals and entities allegedly involved in Iranian ballistic missile development.

The move is viewed by many observers as an opening salvo in an expected anti-Iranian campaign by US President Donald Trump, who said Iran was “playing with fire” by testing their missiles and had been “put on notice” by the White House.

Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!

The Iranian government responded with defiance, with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stating that his country’s was “unmoved by threats” from Washington. The Iranian military conducted as planned military exercise in the Semnan Province on Saturday, testing its new radar and missile capabilities.

Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people. We’ll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense.

On Sunday, Trump upped the ante, calling Iran the “number one terrorist state” in an interview with Fox News. The designation followed a similar comment by his Pentagon chief James Mattis. The US president also reiterated his criticism of a nuclear deal with Iran, but would not go as far as pledging to scrap it.

READ MORE: Iran is biggest state sponsor of terrorism – Pentagon chief Mattis

Trump was among Republican critics of the Obama administration’s willingness to negotiate the deal with Iran, which lifted economic sanctions in exchange for placing restrictions on Iranian nuclear industry aimed at preventing its capability to create a nuclear weapon.

The 2015 agreement was sponsored by world leading powers hailed internationally as a breakthrough. Israel’s government repeatedly criticized it, calling it a “bad deal,” but failed to derail it.

(Source / 07.02.2017)

Protesters throw home-made bomb at Israeli watchtower


Palestinian protesters threw overnight a home-made bomb toward a concrete military watchtower near Bethlehem, Israel military sources claimed.

The sources said that no injuries were reported during the reported attack.

Combing and search operations were carried out in the area amid heavy presence of Israeli occupation forces.

(Source / 07.02.2017)

Why GCC has been silent on Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

US President Donald Trump waits to speak by phone with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud in the Oval Office at the White House, Washington, Jan. 29, 2017

US President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive order targeting seven Muslim-majority African/Arab countries received a chorus of criticism from around the world and within the Beltway. A number of Washington’s traditional allies, in addition to Iran, the United Nations and the Arab League, condemned the new American president’s decision, as did scores of US lawmakers on both sides of the partisan divide.

Save Qatar, which expressed a subtle disapproval of Trump’s executive order, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, however, have been absent from this wave of condemnation. The 45th president’s phone conversation Jan. 29 with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud did not cover the “Muslim ban.” The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) foreign minister and a Dubai police official went as far as to defend the move as within the US right as a sovereign nation, while dismissing the interpretation that the executive order is Islamophobic. Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman have, thus far, been silent. The lack of condemnation from the GCC is indicative of the Arab Gulf states’ “wait-and-see” approach to the new US administration and their vested interests in staying on Trump’s good side at a time when their economic and security challenges require close cooperation with Washington.

The GCC royals have numerous agendas that they see as best protected by pursuing better ties with Trump than they enjoyed with Barack Obama. Public criticism over the American president’s executive order could set back such interests that include securing greater US support in countering Iran’s regional conduct, safeguarding their sheikhdoms from the Islamic State (IS) and attracting foreign investment for their economic diversification programs.

A major disappointment that the Saudi leaders and other Arab state officials encountered with the Obama administration was its perceived weakness on Iran. From the GCC’s perspective, the last administration failed to take adequate action to counter Tehran’s conduct across the region, most notably in Syria and Yemen, which most in the council see as a grave security threat to the Arabian Peninsula monarchies. There have been clear signs that the Trump administration is determined to take a harder stance against Iran’s posture in the Middle East.

On Feb. 1, as the United States and three of its Western allies were conducting three-day war games in the Gulf to “ensure the free flow of commerce” through the Strait of Hormuz, national security adviser Michael Flynn warned that Washington is “officially putting Iran on notice” while engaging in a “deliberative process” to “consider a whole range of options” vis-a-vis Tehran. Flynn’s words were a response to Iran’s testing of a ballistic missile and an attack waged by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels against a Saudi naval vessel. Two days later, Flynn’s words translated into action once the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and companies affiliated with Tehran’s ballistic missile program, and others supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. Unquestionably, such actions provide Riyadh with a rather optimistic outlook on the new administration’s approach to addressing the Islamic Republic and the alleged threat it poses to the GCC.

The Obama administration’s refusal to create a “no-fly zone” in Syria for fear of drawing the United States into a bloody Middle Eastern war frustrated the Saudis and Qataris, who unsuccessfully sought to pressure Obama into stepping up the US military’s involvement in Syria against the regime. Despite Trump’s calls for severing Washington’s support for Saudi/Qatari-backed Sunni rebels in Syria, the US president’s advocating for “safe zones” in Syria and Yemen received a full endorsement from the Saudi king during his phone call with the American president.

A source of unease in the kingdom and other Arab Gulf states is that Trump will not lead a “typical Republican administration.” Rooted in a history of deeper cooperation with former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the GCC has long been more comfortable with Republican White Houses that catered to oil interests and conducted more militaristic foreign policies against common adversaries of the United States and the GCC. Trump’s rhetoric, however, about making the GCC pay more for its defense while calling for a US-Russia partnership in the Middle East unsettled Arab Gulf leaders who feared that the real estate mogul would view the oil-rich monarchies as merely “cash cows” rather than vital allies and fail to take their concerns about regional tensions seriously. Although it is too early to determine how the GCC will eventually fit into Trump’s grander Middle East foreign policy, these early moves signal that the 45th president is likely determined to work closely with the Arab Gulf states on the Iran file.

Although many were baffled as to why the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” (the official title of every Saudi king since 1986) did not raise the executive order during his recent phone call with Trump, strategic interests rather than religion and socially constructed identities form the basis of state-to-state relationships. Many in the GCC found Trump’s Islamophobia repulsive and disturbing, as underscored by many Saudi elites’ highly negative reaction to the property billionaire’s December 2015 call for a “Muslim ban,” yet officials in Riyadh are careful about which battles they wish to pick with the 45th president. The election of Trump, regardless of the many objections that some in the GCC may have previously articulated about his candidacy, will not change the fact that Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states remain dependent on the United States for their security. Rather than condemning his executive order, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are instead focused on advancing mutual interests with the new White House while avoiding any public spat between the GCC and Washington.

A number of outstanding issues, chiefly the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which Trump endorsed and permits US citizens to sue the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks on Sept. 9, 2001, are sensitive matters that the United States and the GCC must eventually address. The Arab Gulf states will be in a better position to do so if they warm their ties with the new administration. As the Saudis seek to move forward with Vision 2030, an ambitious transformation plan aimed at ending the kingdom’s economic dependence on oil, investment from the United States and other wealthy countries is crucial. By supporting the “Muslim ban,” either through an outright endorsement or calculated silence, the Saudis and other Arab Gulf states are investing in a better relationship with Washington as the JASTA question remains a major problem for US-GCC relations that Trump will eventually need to address.

Not lost in the equation is the defense industry’s vested interests in a continuation of Washington’s alliances with the six GCC members. Although many in the media quickly pointed to the absence in the “Muslim ban” of countries where Trump has business interests, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE — the countries of origin for all but two of the 9/11 hijackers and thousands of IS members — another factor is that the United States is not a major arms seller to most of the seven countries listed: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. With James Mattis heading the Pentagon and Rex Tillerson serving as America’s top diplomat, these two figures have close ties to the GCC and view the Arab Gulf states as pivotal American allies in the Middle East, particularly as the White House flexes its muscles in the Gulf to send Iran a bold message.

Nonetheless, the Saudis are not entirely at ease with Trump and his “Muslim ban.” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ statement that “perhaps other countries need to be added” to the list is unsettling for the Arab Gulf states, which many of Trump’s critics have argued deserved to be placed on any such list before countries whose citizens have never waged a single deadly act of jihadi terrorism on US soil. If the administration adds any members of the GCC, it is doubtful that most Arab Gulf officials will remain silent.

(Source / 07.02.2017)

UN Special Coordinator warns of Israeli “regulation bill”


The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, raised concern over “the scheduled vote on the so-called Regularization Bill as it would enable the continued use of privately-owned Palestinian land for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

“If adopted into law, it will have far reaching legal consequences for Israel and greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace,” he warned.

The bill has been deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General of Israel and is in contravention of international law, according to his statements.

Mladenov urged “Israeli legislators to reconsider this move,” stressing that settlements are illegal under international law and, as outlined in the Middle East Quartet report, “present one of the main impediments to peace.”

All core issues should be resolved between the parties through direct negotiations on the basis of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and mutual agreements, he stressed.

(Source / 07.02.2017)

Will EU be more open to ICC probe of Israeli settlements?

Laborers work at a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Ramot, West Bank, Jan. 22, 2017

The sharp increase of Israeli settlement building since the swearing in of Donald Trump, coupled with the anger brewing in Europe over the new US president, is providing an opening for the Palestinians. Attempts to encourage the International Criminal Court (ICC) to initiate a probe into Israeli war crimes have received new life due to the rift between Washington and the European Union.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator and secretary-general of the PLO, called Jan. 30 on the ICC to immediately open a probe into what he called “immoral” Israeli actions. “The Palestinian leadership will pursue all necessary political, legal and diplomatic steps in order to hold Israel accountable and to bring justice to our people. This includes sending all the related information to the ICC urging it to open an immediate investigation into Israel’s settlement enterprise,” Erekat said in a statement posted on the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department website.

Ever since Trump took office Jan. 20, and especially since Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked by phone Jan. 22, Israel has been almost daily announcing new settlement plans in the occupied West Bank. On Dec. 23, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 2334 demanding “that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

Two days after Trump was sworn in as America’s 45th president, Israel announced plans to build 600 new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem.

After Israel’s prime minister talked by phone to the newly elected US president, the Israelis made another announcement. On Jan. 24, Israel announced its intention to build 2,500 new settlement units in the occupied West Bank. Netanyahu arrogantly said, “We’re building — and will continue to build,” in reference to the defiance of international law.

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi immediately responded by calling Israeli actions a war crime. “All settlements are a war crime under the Rome Statute of the ICC and constitute a direct violation of international law and conventions, including UNSC Resolution 2334,” Ashrawi said in a statement carried by the official Wafa news agency Feb. 1. The PLO official concluded, “The enormity and severity of the situation should send a strong message to the international community, including the United States and the European Union, to intervene immediately.”

Nasser al-Qudwa, the former Palestinian representative to the UN, told Al-Monitor that the Israeli actions have the hallmarks of a violation of the Rome Statute. “The continued settlement activities in defiance of UNSC resolutions could very likely be a violation of the Rome Statute.”

While conceding that getting the ICC to act is rather complicated, Qudwa feels that this is uncharted territory. “There are three ways to trigger a formal probe by the ICC. It can be initiated by a Security Council resolution or by the ICC prosecutor — or also, a member state of the ICC can make an official request.”

Qudwa is doubtful about any of these options taking place largely because of political posturing, but he does accept that the current European anger with the Trump administration could provide an opening. “The United States has always been against the ICC, and Europe tried to ease their opposition by giving the Security Council, where the United States has a veto, a say in triggering a war crime probe,” he added.

Qudwa admits that the effort is not that simple and will certainly not be initiated if the accused party makes an effort. “We should try to trigger the ICC, but at the same time we need to be cognizant of the fact that it is not that simple.” The UN veteran said that the ICC’s response is conditional on the failure of the local government to address the issue of any potential war crime.

It is not clear if the latest effort by Palestinians will succeed in getting the ICC to initiate a probe into Israeli violations of the Geneva Conventions with its illegal building efforts.

Palestinian efforts for nearly half a century to reverse or at least put a halt to Israeli settlement expansion into the areas earmarked for the Palestinian state have so far failed to produce the desired outcome. If Palestinians resist Israeli actions, whether violently or nonviolently, the Israelis respond with more settlement activities. If Palestinians go to international forums and extract a demand for Israel to stop settlement activities, the Israelis take revenge on such decisions by making new settlement announcements.

If Democrats win in America, Israelis build; when Republicans win, Israelis are given a green light to build. If Palestinians go to Israeli courts and in rare cases receive a decision to evacuate one settlement, as in the case of Amona, Israel immediately announces its intention to build new settlements. Whether in peace or war, the Israeli settlement machine is unstoppable. No effort that could stop Israeli settlement expansion into occupied Palestinian lands has so far succeeded in stopping Israeli bulldozers.

(Source / 07.02.2017)

Report: 590 Palestinians arrested by Israel last month


The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped and detained during last January 590 Palestinian citizens in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

This came in a report released on Sunday by the Palestinian commission for detainee’s affairs, the Palestinian Prisoner Society, al-Mizan Center for Human Rights and Addameer Association for Prisoner Support and Human Rights.

156 of those detainees and prisoners were from Occupied Jerusalem and 13 from the Gaza Strip, according to their report.

128 children, 14 women and girls, one lawmaker and one journalist were among those arrested in the reporting month.

The report noted that the Israeli security authorities issued 91 administrative detention (imprisonment without indictment or trial) orders against detainees, 29 of those orders were handed down for the first time.

There are about 7,000 Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israel’s jails, including 51 women, 300 children, 600 administrative internees and 21 journalists.

In their report, the Palestinian institutions appealed to international human rights groups and the world’s free people to seriously move to expose Israel’s violations against the Palestinian prisoners in its jails and protect their rights.

(Source / 07.02.2017)

Israeli forces demolish Palestinian building in East Jerusalem


JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities demolished a Palestinian-owned building that was under construction in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Israel’s Jerusalem municipality confirmed.

Witnesses told Ma’an on Tuesday morning that Israeli police officers stormed the building as police vehicles and bulldozers surrounded it, and later Monday afternoon, Jerusalem municipality spokesperson Rachel Greenspan confirmed to Ma’an in a written statement that court orders to dismantle the structure had been “enforced.”
She said the building was constructed on land designated for a new road planned by the municipality. “Cease and desist orders issued in 2015 were ignored, and owners continued to construct an additional four floors on the illegal structure,” Greenspan said.
Earlier Tuesday morning, Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank also demolished Palestinian structures in the northern Jordan Valley in two separate incidents.
Israeli authorities have stepped up issuing demolition warrants for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, particularly after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat warned that the demolition of the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona in the occupied West Bank would be met with the mass demolition of Palestinian homes lacking the nearly impossible to obtain Israeli-issued building permits.
Amona was evacuated and dismantled by an Israeli Supreme Court order last week.
In January, two Palestinian homes were demolished in Beit Hanina, and more than 100 Palestinian homes have been destroyed in the occupied Palestinian territory since the beginning of the year, including 14 in occupied East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu has also pledged to lift all restrictions on settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem, while more than 6,000 housing units have been approved for construction in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the beginning of 2017.
Furthermore, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed into law the contested outpost “Regularization bill” late Monday night, granting official Israeli governmental recognition to more than a dozen illegal settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank established on private Palestinian lands.
In addition to land seizures and home demolitions, the crackdown on Palestinian Jerusalemites has also seen the escalation of violent night raids by Israeli police, carried out in breach of protocol and without proper search warrants.
During a predawn detention raid Monday that targeted the families of Palestinians who were either slain or incarcerated after carrying out or allegedly carrying out attacks, one family’s testimony described violent assaults by masked police officers.
The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the “Judaization” of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.
(Source / 07.02.2017)

Will Mosul see peace post-Islamic State?

General view of a building of the University of Mosul destroyed during the battle with Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, Jan. 30, 2017

Following the Jan. 25 announcement of the liberation of eastern Mosul by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, an increasing number of families are leaving the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Kurdistan Region. They are returning to Mosul and its surrounding area in the hope of rebuilding their lives as the Islamic State (IS) retreats further and the government tries to shoulder its responsibilities.

On a burnt-out road in Nour neighborhood in eastern Mosul, where just two weeks earlier IS militants and Iraqi security forces fought a ferocious battle, former civilian pilot Abu Salim, 75, has a smile on his face and is happy to be alive in spite of the fighting and the airstrikes that targeted his neighborhood repeatedly. People like Abu Salim, flanked by two of his sons, are volunteering to clean the streets in the hope to restore a normal routine to their lives after living under IS terror for more than two years.

“[IS] destroyed all the Sunni cities in Iraq; they were the enemy of the Sunnis,” Abu Salim said, echoing a prevailing sentiment in the city of Mosul.

This sentiment is in stark contrast with how the residents of Mosul felt in June 2014, when many Sunni residents were happy to see the Iraqi army and federal police, perceived to be highly corrupt and sectarian, being routed by a group of several hundred militants that morphed into IS.

The caliphate that IS proclaimed was a result of years of grievances and open revolt against the central government by the Sunnis in Ninevah province since the invasion of 2003. However, over 2½ years of IS rule has made residents question the insurgents and hope for a reconciliation with the government in Baghdad — a crucial opportunity for Abadi to make peace in this turbulent region. By the time the Mosul operation started in late October 2016, people in Mosul were so fed up with IS that hundreds if not thousands volunteered to provide intelligence to the army and the peshmerga forces to rid their city of what many described as the “savage” militants. The residents had enough of IS in a city that is renowned for its ancient history and coexistence between various communities and religious denominations.

But IS brutality reappeared, even if far away, once the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) liberated the eastern neighborhoods in early November. IS militants fired rocket after rocket into these neighborhoods, as they regarded the residents to have strayed from its puritanical interpretation of Islam by assisting the Iraqi security forces. In late January, two CTS officers attended to a motionless 71-year-old man lying on a stretcher with injuries to his right leg and his face in a clinic in Baladiyat neighborhood. “My father was cleaning outside our house in Sediq neighborhood when an improvised explosive device blew up in the rubble,” said his son, who was erratically trying to help the medics as thick blood dripped from the old man’s face.

The father’s injuries were not life-threatening, but the sound of mortars landing in the distance meant more civilians like him were at the militants’ mercy. The punishment of the civilians by the militants was in contradiction to their message propagated to the Sunnis of Mosul for over 2½ years — that they were there to protect the Sunnis against their Shiite rulers in Baghdad.

This brutality from IS coupled with the supportive conduct of the CTS officers in dealing with civilians caught up in the fighting has played a crucial role in alleviating the people’s fear. In the early days of the Mosul operation, when CTS reached the first neighborhoods of the city on its eastern side, hundreds of civilians were treated by tireless CTS officers in rudimentary field clinics set up in damaged houses.

“Life is much better now,” Mahmoud Kheder, who has been an employee at the Ministry of Education for 35 years, told Al-Monitor. “[IS] only knew killing.” Life for Kheder and other residents is still very difficult; with no water and electricity this winter, it means his seven children will be shivering in the cold at night. But he said the fact that they have no IS terror hovering over their heads is enough to celebrate life.

“Our top priority in the local government is for the IDPs to return to their areas in and around Mosul,” Sido Hussein, a member of the Ninevah provincial council, told Al-Monitor. “We are working hard to resume services such as water and electricity, but given the level of destruction by [IS], it will take some time.”

Many in Mosul have lost everything, including their vehicles and homes in airstrikes, suicide car bombs or during the fighting. People who spoke to Al-Monitor said they hope the government will take responsibility for providing services and compensation so the residents can rebuild their lives. Mosul used to be the center for trade and industry in northern Iraq, and with its close proximity to Syria and Turkey, its economy could revive fast.

Peace in Mosul is crucial if Abadi wants to see stability in Iraq. Since the 2003 invasion, Mosul has been the strategic center of gravity for terrorist groups and it’s been in a state of rebellion. Until now, by and large the Iraqi security forces and in particular the CTS have treated the people in east Mosul with dignity and respect. However, in recent days, videos have surfaced on the internet that show individuals accused of collaboration with IS being killed on the spot. Other videos show children and adults accused of IS ties or membership being tortured and humiliated. Abadi has ordered a field investigation.

Mosul residents say that peace is possible in Mosul if the government continues its commitment to prevent sectarianism, provide services and increase transparency in a city where the government and corruption have gone hand in hand for years. But for now, while more than 750,000 people are under siege in west Mosul and await a bloody battle to be liberated, people in the east have different priorities. When asked about the three things the government can do for the residents right now, Abu Salim replied, “[Provide] water, electricity and kerosene.”

He has no qualms about the damage that IS has done to the fabric of Iraqi society. “These beasts brought Iraq to its lowest point in history,” Abu Salim said, adding in broken English while still smiling, “But I stay hopeful.”

(Source / 07.02.2017)

Islamic Jihad says not seeking military confrontation with Israel


The Islamic Jihad Movement has held the Israeli occupation state fully responsible for any serious developments resulting from its military escalation against the Gaza Strip.

Spokesman for Islamic Jihad Dawoud Shihab stated on Monday that his Movement would not allow Israel to address its internal problems through attacking Gaza, but he affirmed that it does not seek to escalate the field situation following its aggression.

Shihab said that the Palestinian resistance in Gaza always honored the ceasefire deal and showed restraint for many years despite all the violations that had been committed by the Israeli army in full view of the whole world.

He called for an immediate end to Israel’s attacks against Gaza, adding that the Islamic Jihad would remain poised for any scenario.

In this regard, the Hamas Movement said it would not allow Israel to continue attacking the population in Gaza, affirming that any response to the aggression would be agreed upon with other resistance factions.

(Source / 07.02.2017)