New Age Islam
Wed Dec 02 2020, 11:17 PM

Islamic World News ( 23 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Donald Trump Said the United States Stood With India in the Fight against ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’







• 76 Muslim, 25 Hindu Couples Marry At Belagavi Madrasa

• 'Walk for Peace' From London to Mecca: A British Muslim Farid Feyadi’s Story

• UK: Muslim Worhipper Stabbed During Prayers Forgives His Attacker

• We Arab Americans and Muslims Are Voting for Bernie. Because He's Jewish

• Pope Francis Warns Against ‘Unfair’ Solutions to End Israel-Palestine Conflict

• ‘Hardliners’ Win All 30 Seats For Tehran, Says Iran State TV, Amid Low Turnout

• Cracks Widen In Shabaab As Ailing Leader Expels Commanders

• Pakistan Remained At Forefront of Fight against Terrorism: Gen Bajwa

• Week-Long Reduction in Violence Kicks Off In Afghanistan

• Sultan Nazrin: Future Glory Of Muslim Ummah Depends On Generation M

• Al-Qaeda Confirms Death of AQAP Leader Qassim Al-Raymi: Report

 

India

• Donald Trump Said the United States Stood With India in the Fight against ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’

• 76 Muslim, 25 Hindu Couples Marry At Belagavi Madrasa

• Shaheen Bagh Protests: SC-Appointed Interlocutors Submit Report, Court Defers Hearing To Feb 26

• Pro and Anti-CAA Groups Clashed For the Second Consecutive Day Torch 2 Houses in Jaffrabad, Mauzpur

• Assam to conduct survey of 'indigenous' Muslims: Experts term move divisive, say classification is undemocratic, unconstitutional

• Shaheen Bagh dharna a global conspiracy by Muslim countries against India: BJP MLA

• Uttar Pradesh: Akhilesh’s Dalit outreach to expand Muslim-Yadav combination

• India’s Cheraman Mosque: 1000-Year-Old Lamp Continues To Shine

• Owaisi and AIMIM leaders embraced Islam out of fear: Min

• NIA, military intel to probe 14 Pakistan-made bullets found in Kerala

• Kashmiri men taking to terrorism has reduced drastically: Jammu and Kashmir DGP

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Europe

• 'Walk for Peace' From London to Mecca: A British Muslim Farid Feyadi’s Story

• UK: Muslim Worhipper Stabbed During Prayers Forgives His Attacker

• Award-Winning British Author: Islam Is about Building Equality, not Jihad

• Germany: Shots fired near home of Turkish-Muslim cleric

• Turkish father loses 'helpful' son in Germany shooting

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North America

• We Arab Americans and Muslims Are Voting for Bernie. Because He's Jewish

• President Trump says he would sign a peace deal with Taliban

• Senator Chris Murphy: 'Trump policy on Iran has been a total disaster'

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Mideast

• Pope Francis Warns Against ‘Unfair’ Solutions to End Israel-Palestine Conflict

• ‘Hardliners’ Win All 30 Seats For Tehran, Says Iran State TV, Amid Low Turnout

• US urges Houthis to drop charges targeting Baha’i community in Yemen

• Arab Coalition destroys explosive-laden Houthi militia boat in Yemen’s Hodeidah

• Mossad chief, Israeli army general met with Qatari intel in Doha: Correspondent

• Historic low voter turnout in Iran shows ‘dissatisfaction’ with regime: Experts

• Rockets target Israel from Gaza after border clash: Sources

• Iran sentences three protesters to death: Report

• Turkey to ‘temporarily’ close border with Iran over coronavirus fears

• Iranian cleric blames coronavirus Iran outbreak on Donald Trump

• Israeli forces kill Palestinian near Gaza border fence

• Iran’s Khamenei blames coronavirus, foreign media for discouraging voter turnout

• Israeli jets bomb Gaza after retaliatory Palestinian rocket strikes

• Pope slams Trump's Mideast plan as 'prelude to new crises'

• Israeli forces shoot dead two Palestinians near Gaza fence

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Africa

• Cracks Widen In Shabaab As Ailing Leader Expels Commanders

• Eastern Libya forces say 16 Turkish soldiers killed in fighting

• Libya's GNA not to return to Geneva talks: Top official

• Libya’s LNA says it has killed 16 Turkish fighters in the country overall

• Italy arrests ship’s captain over alleged Libya arms trafficking

• At least 16 Turkish soldiers killed in fighting in Libya: Haftar forces

• Rebel leader sworn in as first vice president in South Sudan

• Three Mali soldiers killed in suspected militant attack

• Libya: 3 civilians hurt as Haftar forces shell Tripoli

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Pakistan

• Pakistan Remained At Forefront of Fight against Terrorism: Gen Bajwa

• US-Taliban peace talks were impossible without Pakistan: Shah Mehmood Qureshi

• Pakistan inaugurates first-ever Afghan transit cargo train service

• Fazl wants to unite opposition parties against govt

• Nation has to decide on saving sinking economy: Shahbaz Sharif

• NA committee takes up NAB ordinance bill today

• Sharifs have protested to Zardari over Bilawal’s remarks: PML-N

• NA committee takes up NAB ordinance bill today

• CTD kills five alleged terrorists in Peshawar

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South Asia

• Week-Long Reduction in Violence Kicks Off In Afghanistan

• Afghan officials on alert as 3 suspected cases of Coronavirus surface in Herat

• Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Rakhine state face charges for 'illegal travel'

• Pompeo: US prepares to sign troop withdrawal deal with Taliban on February 29

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Southeast Asia

• Sultan Nazrin: Future Glory Of Muslim Ummah Depends On Generation M

• Malaysia in turmoil as Anwar denounces bid to bring down government

• Mahathir, UMNO reunite in Malaysia political coup

• Malaysia trans woman arrested in Saudi’s Makkah

• Johor identifies 15 sites for Rumah Mampu Biaya programme statewide

• Malaysian PM Mahathir sends resignation letter to king

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Arab World

• Al-Qaeda Confirms Death of AQAP Leader Qassim Al-Raymi: Report

• Iraq Christians Fear Future Holds ‘Total Extinction,’ ISIS Resurgence

• Pope appears to give thumbs down to Trump’s Middle East peace plan

• Saudi National Society for Human Rights meet with European delegation

• Pompeo reaffirms US commitment to Iraq in phone call with PM Allawi

• Syrian capital rocked by explosions as Israel claims responsibility

• One killed, seven injured as Iraqi forces fire on protesters in Baghdad

• Two wounded in Lebanon’s Tripoli after bomb blast in residential building: Sources

• Several Turkish soldiers wounded after Syrian government shelling: Report

• Syrian air defenses confront Israeli missile attack

• Any violation of Syrian airspace will be dealt as foreign aggression: General Command

• Syria: US dismayed at Aleppo liberation due to terrorist plot failure

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/donald-trump-said-the-united-states-stood-with-india-in-the-fight-against-‘radical-islamic-terrorism’/d/121141

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Donald Trump Said the United States Stood With India in the Fight against ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’

February 24, 2020

US President Donald Trump on Monday said the United States stood with India in the fight against "radical Islamic terrorism" and that Washington was working with Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups operating near its borders. Trump's comments were made in Ahmedabad, the first stop on his maiden visit to India as US president.

Speaking at an event at the Motera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, Trump said, "Both countries [India and US] are united in defending citizens from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism." Trump went on to say that under him, the United States had managed to "destroy" the Islamic State.

Trump also said that his administration was working with Pakistan to crack down on terrorism. "We are working with Pakistan to crack down on terror and working on the terror issue on the borders. We have great relations with Pakistan and with these relations we hope we will be able to reduce tensions between the countries," Trump said.

Trump's comments were made at an event in Ahmedabad that was hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who received Trump and the US First Lady Melania Trump at the Ahmedabad airport. After the event, the Trumps will head to Agra where they plan to visit the Taj Mahal.

They will later depart for Delhi where Trump will attend bilateral meetings with PM Modi on Tuesday. The Trumps will depart for the United States on Tuesday night.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/donald-trump-radical-islamic-terrorism-ahmedabad-motera-event-1649478-2020-02-24

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76 Muslim, 25 Hindu couples marry at Belagavi Madrasa

Feb 22, 2020

By: Shreyas HS & Basavaraj Meeshi

BELAGAVI: Sending a strong message of communal amity, a Madrasa in Belagavi district hosted a mass marriage on its premises on Friday in which 76 Muslim and 25 Hindu couples were married.

Madarsa Al Arabia Anwarul Ulooma, an Islamic religious institute in Bailhongal, 50km from Belagavi district headquarters and 480km from Bengaluru, played host to the event that was organised by Jamia Faizan-ul-Quran and Issa Foundation, which has conducted mass marriages on a bigger scale in Gujarat.

The mass marriage comes a month after the 100-year-old Cheravally Jamaat Masjid in Kerala’s Kayamkulam in Alappuzha hosted a Hindu wedding, complete with a vegetarian feast for 4,000 people. A Hindu priest led the rituals, and the couple sought the blessings of chief imam Riyasudeen Faizy of the mosque.

At Bailhongal, moulvis and pontiffs led the marriage proceedings and asked the couples to read passages from Quran and Bhagvad Gita.

Couples gifted refrigerator, almirah and sewing machine

The Hindu couples were gifted a copy of the Gita, and newly-married Muslim couples received a copy of Quran. The organisers provided each Hindu bride a mangalsutra. Bailhongal MLA Mahantesh Koujalagi blessed the couples at the event, which was attended by more than 4,000 people.

Mohammad Rafique A Naik, a member of Jamia Faizan-ul-Quran, said they have gifted each couple a refrigerator, an almirah and a tailoring machine. Ranjita Kalala, a bride who married a daily-wage labourer, said her family couldn’t afford the cost of a wedding, adding, “When we learnt about the Bailhongal Madrasa’s plan, we agreed to sign up because it also sends out a message of communal harmony.”

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hubballi/76-muslim-25-hindu-couples-marry-at-belagavi-madrassa/articleshow/74251658.cms

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'Walk For Peace' From London To Mecca: A British Muslim Farid Feyadi’s Story

23.02.2020

In an attempt to put on full display to the world that Islam is indeed a religion of peace, British national Farid Feyadi, 40, has undertaken a journey of thousands of miles to reach Mecca from London – entirely on foot.

A Mancunian designer and inventor, Fayedi recounted his journey to Anadolu Agency while stopping off for some respite in Istanbul: "As a Muslim, I believe each of us is an ambassador of this religion. We have a big responsibility on our shoulders to represent Islam and Muslims in the best way to the world. I tried to do something in a very peaceful way to show Islam is a wave of peace that draws from the word 'Salaam' (the Arabic word for peace)," he said, decrying the "bad impression" of the religion and "horrible" deeds committed by the Daesh terrorist organization, supposedly in its name.

Though he initially wanted to make the pilgrimage via bicycle, he later decided to go on foot once he found out that others had made the journey in the same manner.

"I said if they can do it, why shouldn't I? So, I decided to do it by walking. When I told my friends, they didn't believe me," he recalled.

Making the pilgrimage to Mecca – a religious obligation for Muslims with sufficient means – on foot is an honor and blessing, he said. "I started this journey on Nov. 3, 2019. I have never experienced travel like this, I have traveled by plane; I have booked nice hotels, but never like this. I was so excited," he said.

Once he had made the five-day journey from London to the port of Dover, he took a ferry over to France. Boarding the ferry Fayedi said, he was "so excited because I couldn't believe I was doing it".

Feyadi said he had to change the trolley he was using to carry his essentials three times so far due to his lack of experience and had faced difficulties along the way.

"I've had so many dangerous encounters while camping in places far from cities. There were times I was scared, so then I decided to camp in city centers or places where there were people I could reach," he said.

So far, he has worn out four pairs of shoes and is now on his fifth and even takes medicines and vitamins every night to mollify the aching in his knees from every long day's journey.

Summer arrival

Feyadi plans to arrive in the sacred city of the Kaaba, where millions of Muslims journey every year, in July, as the scorching summer heat takes hold of the region.

"I've walked 4,000 kilometers to Istanbul. I pushed myself very hard to arrive here," he said, adding that he had roughly 2,700 kilometers to go.

After Istanbul, near Turkey's northeasternmost corner, Feyadi marched on southeastward to the capital Ankara and was on his way to the central city of Konya and from there, down to Antalya on the Mediterranean coast.

From there, he will make the only non-foot segment of his journey, catching a flight to Jordan to avoid the ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq.

"I will continue my journey to Saudi Arabia from Jordan. Hopefully, I will arrive in July," he said.

One reason for his late arrival, he explains, will be the weather, as the rising temperatures will prevent him from walking at his usual pace. According to his calculations, he has budgeted his time well and is about three weeks ahead of schedule.

Aside from his message of peace, Feyadi also aims to inspire hope in cancer patients across the world.

"I'm a kidney cancer survivor; I live with one kidney. I'm doing this project, and I walk around 60 kilometers every day. All these blessings come from Allah. Without His help, I wouldn't have got this far. I've trudged through heavy rain, snow and freezing cold water," he said.

Community following

Feyadi said he wants to make more journeys in the future, this time with fellow travelers.

"I have a Muslim friend who has a Spanish background. Two years ago, he traveled from Paris to Mecca on foot. There is also a lovely Chinese friend of ours who grew up in Paris and converted to Islam. We are planning to do this walk to Mecca again – or by bicycle – we haven't decided yet," Feyadi said.

"But my idea is that I want to form a group of about 20 people from every background, country or ethnicity, almost cultivating a small ummah (community of believers)," he added.

Some who have heard about his plans have excitedly asked to join him in his next project. "As a Muslim, when I heard this, I felt proud," he said.

Turkish hospitality

Feyadi said people from Bosnia, Albania and Turkey – where the most-commonly practiced religion is Islam – had been particularly pleasant to him.

"I didn't want to take a break except for Sarajevo because it has a special place in my heart. I consider it the capital of Muslims in Europe," he said.

Alas, his "proper rest" would have to wait for Istanbul, he said, where he took a break from the road for a few days.

"Turkey is magnificent historically. ... It's as if you are walking through history. It makes you feel proud," he said, expressing gratitude for the hospitality he has received in Turkey and Turkish communities elsewhere.

After Turkish authorities heard of his visit, Feyadi even met President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

"Turkish history is part of Islamic history, our glory. We are proud of it," he added. "I tell people I came here from London on foot, and they say 'OK, good,' but when I say 'I'm going to Hajj on foot,' their reaction flips 180 degrees ... They hug me, they kiss me, they ask if I need anything. They at least invite me to drink tea or coffee. I'm just speechless," he said.

Islam, religion of peace

Feyadi said he wants to be an inspiration to future generations and deliver a message to the world.

"My achievement is delivering a message that Islam is peace; Muslims are peaceful people," he said. He said he hopes this would inspire the "young generation" to persevere in leaving their mark on the planet.

"I'm doing this and going to the holiest place in the world. I want to deliver a message to the world and also to Muslims: Whenever you receive an objection from ... the world, have a pure intention, pure heart. Open your heart to the world with peace and love," he said.

Feyadi said he is planning to write a book about his journey and hopes to open a photo gallery, too.

https://www.dailysabah.com/life/2020/02/23/walk-for-peace-from-london-to-mecca-a-british-muslims-story

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UK: Muslim worhipper stabbed during prayers forgives his attacker

23rd Feb 2020

By Ahmed J Versi

London, (The Muslim News): A Muslim worshipper who was stabbed in the neck during late afternoon (Asr) prayers, on Thursday, has forgiven his attacker. Raafat Maglad who is in his 70s was taken to hospital for treatment to stab injuries, victim had suffered a 1.5cm wound to his neck. He was later discharged following treatment.

29-year-old Daniel Horton of no fixed abode has been charged with grievous bodily harm. He appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday. He was remanded in custody by District Judge Nina Tempia to appear at Southwark Crown Court on 20 March.

The Metropolitan Police said it was not treating the unprovoked knife attack as terror-related.

The attack on Muaddin (one who calls people to prayer) took place at Regent’s Park Mosque in London.

Maglad forgave his attacker. At a press conference he told reporters: “I forgive him. I feel very sorry for him.”

“What is done is done, he is not going to return.

“As a Muslim I didn’t put any hatred in my heart. What is done is done.

“He is a human being and this is my faith. What happened to me is my faith,” he said.

Maglad, who is originally from Sudan, described what had happened: “We were praying and I just felt somebody hit me from behind. He didn’t say anything. I just felt blood flowing from my neck and that’s it, they rushed me to the hospital. Everything happened all of a sudden.”

A video posted on social media showed a white man in a red-hooded top and jeans being pinned to the floor in the mosque by police, who were arresting him.

“A 29-year-old man, who is believed to have been attending prayers, was arrested inside the mosque on suspicion of attempted murder. He has been taken into custody at a central London police station. The incident is not being treated as terror-related at this time,” the Metropolitan Police had said in a statement Friday.

The Met’s Chief Superintendent for the central-west borough, Helen Harper, said: “I would like to thank everybody in the mosque who helped to detain the man before he was arrested and continue to help my officers with their inquiries. I’m extremely relieved the injuries suffered by the victim do not appear to be life-threatening.”

“However, this incident has undoubtedly caused a great deal of concern, and we are working as swiftly as possible to establish the circumstances. No other suspects are being sought at this time.”

There were conflicting reports as to whether the attacker was known in the mosque or not. Some worshippers said they had seen him before and others not.

A Spokesman of the mosque told The Muslim News the attacker was not “a regular” to the mosque” and that he may have spoken to Maglad once or twice in the past.

In a statement, the mosque said: “There was an incident today at London Central Mosque where an unknown individual attacked and stabbed the muezzin during Asr prayer around 3 p.m.”

“The attacker was apprehended by the worshippers until the police arrived and arrested him. The muezzin did not sustain any life-threatening injuries but was seriously injured and is being treated at the hospital.

“We await further information from the police regarding the incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the muezzin and his family.”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan in several tweets that every Londoner “is entitled to feel safe in their place of worship, and I want to reassure London’s communities that acts of violence in our city simply will not be tolerated. As Mayor, I’ll continue to protect all Londoners’ right to practise their faith freely & safely, but Govt need to act quickly to provide the funds & reassurance London’s faith communities deserve. I’ve written to the Home Secretary to share my concerns. Places of worship should be sanctuaries – a safe haven.

“No-one should be scared to attend mosques, churches, synagogues or temples. I’ll be showing my solidarity with Muslim Londoners by praying at London Central Mosque today.I’m deeply concerned by this incident at London Central Mosque. Every Londoner is entitled to feel safe in their place of worship & I want to reassure London’s communities that acts of violence in our city will not be tolerated. The Met are providing extra resources in the area.”

Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “We condemn this attack. Our thoughts and prayers are with the muezzin and those at London Central Mosque, its leaders and congregants.”

“It is deeply distressing to hear of an attack of this nature, with worshippers being targeted in a mosque, a place of spiritual sanctuary.

“Regardless of the motive of the attacker, we must remain calm but vigilant, as we aim to balance the importance of retaining mosques as open spaces and the security of worshippers. In this light, we will be reissuing our safety advice to mosques across the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson posted a brief statement on the incident on Twitter.

“I’m deeply saddened to hear of the attack at the London Central Mosque. It’s so awful that this should happen, especially in a place of worship. My thoughts are with the victim and all those affected.

”Regent’s Park Mosque is one of the largest in the U.K., with 6,000 Muslims a week praying there.

http://muslimnews.co.uk/news/uk/uk-muslim-worhipper-stabbed-prayers-forgives-attacker-2/

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We Arab Americans and Muslims Are Voting for Bernie. Because He's Jewish

Amer Zahr

Feb 23, 2020

I'm a Palestinian Arab American. My father is a Palestinian Christian. My mother is a Palestinian Muslim. (They're hippies, obviously.) Both of my parents were driven from their birthplaces of Yafa and Akka by Israel. After my birth in Jordan, I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I then attended college, graduate school, and law school in Michigan. I then became a comedian. My mom still tells people I'm a lawyer.

I now live in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest concentration of Arabs and Muslims anywhere in the United States. It's the only place in America where you can eat a delicious shawarma, drink thick coffee, smoke a tasty shisha, and then chant "Free, Free Palestine" with hundreds of your friends, all in the same afternoon. It's the Arab Disneyland.

I'm also a national surrogate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. No, that doesn't mean I'm having his baby. It means that I campaign on the candidate's behalf whenever asked to do so. Yes, I am a Palestinian volunteering countless hours of my time for the old, Jewish guy running for president. And I'm proud as hell about it.

Arab Americans (of all faiths) and Muslim Americans (of all nationalities) are overwhelmingly supporting Bernie Sanders. In fact, we have stood behind the Vermont senator since 2016.

Four years ago, Arab Americans in Michigan put Bernie Sanders over the top. Reviews of polling stations in Dearborn showed that Arab Americans there voted at a ratio of 3-1 for Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary. Roughly 400,000 Arabs live throughout Michigan. Sanders won the state by 17,000 votes.

I was a political activist on the ground then, and I am now too. Back then, and still today, reporters routinely call me with a strikingly similar line of questioning:

"Can you explain how Arab Americans are supporting the Jewish candidate for president?"

"Has it been a struggle to convince your community to support Sanders, who is Jewish?"

"Bernie Sanders is Jewish. You know that, right?"

First, yes, we know. We totally know. Second, questions like this are utterly racist. Queries like that assume that we Arabs, and Palestinians especially, are somehow genetically predisposed to anti-Semitism. The premise is simply ridiculous.

There are many things we Arabs are predisposed to. Garlic. Bargaining. Fighting over the bill. Plastic on the furniture. Disagreeing loudly. Agreeing loudly. Just being loud. Moving our hands while we talk. Yes, even on the phone. But not anti-Semitism. Not that.

Let me try to explain something. Arab Americans support Bernie Sanders, not in spite of his Jewishness, but because of it. Sanders has often spoke of how his family's history of suffering in the Holocaust has informed his empathy for that of others, including - most notably for Arab and Palestinian Americans - the unjust plight of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

skip - Bernie tweet

Bernie Sanders

@SenSanders

I’m Jewish. My father’s family died in concentration camps. I will do everything I can to rid this country of the ugly stain of racism.

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He routinely outlines how American foreign policy must reflect not only an emphasis on the welfare of Israelis, but also, just as equally, on the welfare of Palestinians as well. The deplorable humanitarian situation in Gaza is frequently a focus of his remarks. And he doesn't revert to the old line of "It's all Hamas' fault." The responsibility for the Gaza blockade, which has caused immeasurable suffering for the two million residents of that land, lies at the feet of the Israeli government.

He reiterated these sentiments Tuesday night at a townhall meeting in Nevada, saying, "I feel strongly about it, as someone who is Jewish, and knowing how much our people have suffered over the years, take a look at what's going on in Gaza right now," detailing the astronomic unemployment and inhumane immobility of Gazans.

skip - Arabs for Bernie tweet

Arabs For Bernie

@ArabsForBernie

Bernie understands the Middle East better than any other candidate. #feelthebern #BernieBeatsTrump

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In that same event, he also declared, "To be for the Israeli people and to be for peace in the Middle East does not mean that we have to support right-wing racist governments that currently exist in Israel." He stated his vision of bringing Palestinians and Israelis together "under a banner of justice."

This type of rhetoric is simply unheard of in American presidential politics. And Bernie is able to wade into this area, in large part, because he is Jewish. That has not, however, stopped pro-Israel groups from going after him. A year-old Super PAC named "Democratic Majority for Israel" is running ads against Sanders. That political action group has, according to reporting by The Intercept, close funding, messaging and institutional ties with AIPAC. Sanders, of course, has not backed down.

In 2016, Palestinian and Arab American activists made a bet on Bernie. We urged his campaign to speak about justice for the Palestinians. We promised our support in return. He did it, and we delivered. And we are delivering again.

skip - Bernie tweet 2

Bernie Sanders

@BernieSanders

We are launching our Muslims for Bernie organizing program! Join us for our first strategy webinar this Sunday, November 24 at 1 p.m. ET/ 10 a.m. PT by registering at https://brn2020.me/m4b1124

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Moreover, the central themes of his campaign speak directly to our cultural values. His slogans of "We are all in this together," "Fight for someone you don't know," and "Speak up for the weakest among us" are mantras we've been hearing from our Arab moms and dads for years. His famous hashtag of #NotMeUs is a natural fit for us. Yes, he says these things because he is Jewish, and we hear them natively because we are Arabs.

As I often say in my performances, Arabs and Jews aren't that different. In Arabic, we call Jews awlaad 'amna, our cousins. And we mean it. We are almost the same. Big noses. Crazy moms. Hairy arms (that goes for men and women). The only difference is they are chosen by God. And we are chosen by the FBI.

In this American election cycle, watch for us hairy, crazy Arabs to vote for the old Jewish guy. It’s just natural.

Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, activist, and law professor. He is a a national surrogate for Bernie Sanders. Twitter: @AmerZahr

https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premium-we-arab-americans-and-muslims-are-voting-for-bernie-because-he-s-jewish-1.8560210

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Pope Francis warns against ‘unfair’ solutions to end Israel-Palestine conflict

 23 February 2020

Pope Francis has cautioned against “unfair” solutions aimed at ending the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a speech Sunday during a visit to the Italian southern port city of Bari to reflect on peace in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Francis lamented the many areas of war and conflict, including in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

Francis spoke of “the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the danger of not fair solutions, and, thus, presaging new crises.”

The pope didn’t cite any specific proposals.

A new US peace plan would let Israel annex all of its settlements along with the strategic Jordan Valley. It would give the Palestinians limited autonomy in several chunks of territory with a capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but only if they meet stringent conditions.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/23/Pope-Francis-warns-against-unfair-solutions-to-end-Israel-Palestine-conflict.html

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‘Hardliners’ win all 30 seats for Tehran, says Iran State TV, amid low turnout

23 February 2020

Iran’s state television says that political “hardliners” have won all 30 parliament seats for the capital, Tehran, amid reports of low voter turnout across the country.

The television newscaster read out on Sunday a list of the winners, which were topped by former “hard-line” Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf who got more that 1.2 million votes.

Officials have still not released any figures for voter turnout, which is widely seen as a measure of how Iranians view the country’s embattled theocratic government.

However, Iranian politician Mustafa Tajzada said in a tweet that the turnout in Tehran was about 20 percent.

Al Arabiya English

@AlArabiya_Eng

Iran extended parliamentary election voting by two hours because of a “rush of voters,” but a video circulated online showing a low turnout. “No queue here, only three people voted in the center of Kawthar mosque,” the man in the video says. https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/21/Iranians-begin-voting-in-parliamentary-election-State-TV.html …

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The disqualification of some 9,000 potential candidates, most of them “reformists” and “moderates,” raised the possibility of lower-than-usual turnout.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei blamed foreign leaders for discouraging voting by talking about coronavirus in Iran.

“This negative propaganda began a few months ago and grew larger approaching the election and in the past two days, under the pretext of an illness and a virus, their media did not miss the slightest opportunity to discourage people from voting,” said Khamenei.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/23/-Hardliners-win-all-30-seats-for-Tehran-says-Iran-State-TV-amid-low-turnout.html

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Cracks widen in Shabaab as ailing leader expels commanders

FEBRUARY 24 2020

Cracks in Al-Shabaab have widened following the expulsion of two senior commanders.

Intelligence reports indicate that the militant group’s commanders have disagreed along clan lines and sharing of resources.

The differences have reportedly led to the dismissal of two top commanders identified as Bashir Qorqab and Karate by their ailing senior, Ahmed Diriye.

“The bitter differences among the three leaders arose over the sharing of resources from a big telco that has been financing Al-Shabaab,” states an intelligence report seen by the Nation.

The move has sparked a rebellion from a section of the militants over what they termed “unfair treatment of some clans”.

The faction has expressed dissatisfaction with its leadership and has protested against overtaxation and unfair treatment of its clan.

Some of the major clans in war-torn Somalia are Hawiye, Muruwade and Ogaden.

MILITANT SURRENDERS

Sources indicate that another senior Al-Shabaab commander has formed a rival group to fight his former comrades over oppression of his Talha clan through taxation.

Last year, another commander, Zubair al-Muhajir, bolted out of the Al-Qaeda affiliate and condemned the group “for going against Islam and the Quran”.

The terror group is also fighting a clan militia — Malawei — along the Kenya-Somalia border. Recently, Malawei clashed with Shabaab militants, who had forcefully taken their animals and forced them to give out alms.

“The conflicts have crippled Al-Shabaab operations in the area as communities turn hostile,” says the intelligence report.

Last week, a suspected member of the terrorist group surrendered to security agencies in Mandera.

Identified as Salat Hajir Jimale, 23, he was reportedly armed with an AK-47 and three loaded magazines.

Recently, the group launched deadly attacks in parts of North Eastern and Mogadishu.

The latest report by Armed Conflict, Location and Event Data indicates that Al-Shabaab has killed over 4,000 civilians in the last decade, with a majority being Muslims in Somalia.

https://www.nation.co.ke/news/Clan-rivalry-threatens-Shabaab-survival/1056-5466524-l5nava/index.html

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Pakistan remained at forefront of fight against terrorism: Gen Bajwa

Feb 24, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa Sunday said that Pakistan has made sacrifices for a peaceful region and the world while being at the forefront of the war against terrorism.

According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of Pakistan military, Gen Bajwa passed the remarks while addressing the Royal College of Higher Military Education on the emerging security environment and its challenges, the security situation in the region and Pakistan’s contributions in war against terrorism.

The COAS is on a four-day official visit to Morocco.

“Pakistan being the front line country against terrorism, gave sacrifices and contributions against the global menace for a peaceful region and world,” said Gen Bajwa.

Both Pakistan and Morocco agreed to further deepen bilateral cooperation in a myriad of fields, including security cooperation, joint training and counterterrorism domain. An understanding to this effect came during the army chief’s meetings with Morocco’s Minister Delegate to the Head of Government in Charge of the Administration of National Defence Abdellatif Loudiyi and Inspector General of Royal Armed Forces General Abdelfattah Lourak.

During the meetings, matters pertaining to mutual interest, bilateral defence, security cooperation, and regional peace and stability were discussed.

The two sides also agreed upon the tremendous potential for cooperation in multiple fields including security cooperation, joint training and counter-terrorism domain.

Talking to them, the army chief said that Pakistan has and will always stand with Morocco even in the most difficult times.

Later, speaking at Royal College of Higher Military Education in Morocco, the army chief shared his views on the emerging security environment and its challenges, the security situation in the region and Pakistan’s contributions in war against terrorism.

Earlier in January last, Ambassador of Morocco to Pakistan Muhammad Karmoune said that Morocco and Pakistan are revamping the ties and that the two nations have agreed to further enhance bilateral cooperation at different levels. An agreement could be signed between the Port of Tangier and Gwadar Port.

Karmoune said that Morocco–Pakistan Joint Business Council has been established and some of its members have visited Morocco to explore opportunities. The Joint Business Council facilitates the business community of both countries. Morocco also imports textiles, handicrafts, and other items from Pakistan.

Pakistan is a significant investor in the Moroccan fertilizer production field where Pakistan’s Fauji Fertilizers has signed an agreement with a Moroccan phosphate company with a capital of 800 million Moroccan dirhams. Urea produced in the Pak-Morocco Phosphate Company in the Moroccan city of Al-Jadida is entirely sent to Pakistan. A Pakistani company has also invested in the Moroccan oil and gas exploration sector.

Ambassador Karmoun said that Pakistan can benefit from Morocco’s expertise in solar energy. In addition, tourism is an important driver of the Moroccan economy. Pakistan too has great potential in this sector.

Morocco has many well-established ports and port of Tangier, with a capacity of 9 million containers a year, is among the largest ports. Highlighting Morocco’s geographical significance, the ambassador said that Morocco is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea with plenty of water and an agreement could be signed between the Port of Tangier and Gwadar Port.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/23/gen-bajwa-visits-morocco-discusses-defence-ties/

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Week-long reduction in violence kicks off in Afghanistan

22 February 2020

The declaration of a week-long violence reduction in Afghanistan as agreed by the Taliban and US has caused mixed reactions in Afghanistan.

Kabul also says it is fully committed to the agreement adding that Afghan troops will respond to Taliban’s possible attacks during this period. The move has been widely welcomed by the war-weary Afghans who say they are tired of war and violence and back every move toward bringing peace and stability to their country .

It is expected that Afghanistan will experience a ceasefire after the end of reduction in violence period and then preparations will be made to turn the peace process into an intra-Afghan dialogue.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/22/619296/Week-long-reduction-in-violence-kicks-off-in-Afghanistan

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Sultan Nazrin: Future glory of Muslim ummah depends on Generation M

24 Feb 2020

IPOH, Feb 24 — The glory of the Muslim ummah in future relies on the success achieved by the young Muslim generation or “Generation M”, comprising those below the age of 30, said the Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Shah.

He said the role of Generation M is significant and very influential in moving and shaping the direction of the future of the ummah and the world.

Generation M, he said, is confident and comfortable in combining faith and modernity, as well as not dispelling traditional values easily without first verifying the facts and data and proving their relevance in today’s world.

“They need understanding and rationality of matters, they practise the culture of dialogue, questioning, debate and they interact.

“They are no longer the ones who sit cross-legged on the mat, hear and accept passively what is being said. Through the Internet, they have alternative sources of knowledge that enable them to study and make comparison for verification,” he added.

He said Generation M also had intellectual capital, looked at the world with a broader and more complex lens and believed that Islam should be able to be accepted by the world.

They chose to play the role of Islamic ambassadors, conveying the message of moderation, looking at the world as a stage of cultural encounters, rather than a clash of cultures, and interpreted cultural diversity as a beauty that symbolised the richness of God’s creation and greatness, he added.

However, he raised a question whether the current approaches by various Islamic individuals and institutions were able to bring them closer to the majority of Generation M or were they becoming more distant.

The sultan said this when opening a discussion, “Muzakarah Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah”, with the theme ‘Upholding Glory of the Ummah: History, Vision and Hope’, here today.

As such, Sultan Nazrin expressed the need for the older generation to understand the thinking and soul of Generation M, as well as to formulate an approach that would make them valuable assets to motivate and encourage Generation M to become a leading force in elevating dignity of the Muslim ummah.

He said the young Muslim generation should become the agents of change, strive to do their best, be determined in exploring new horizons, remain strong to their faith and not compromise with Islamic idealism in upholding the glory of the ummah.

On the muzakarah, Sultan Nazrin said that he hoped it would come up with an honest analysis, examine the effectiveness, productivity and impact generated through the Quranic teaching practiced by the Muslim community in lifting the glory of the ummah.

“It can enable the people to understand, appreciate the things that are hidden and exposed, as well equips the minds of Muslims with various knowledge and skills to face the current social, trade, science, engineering and technology developments,” he added. — Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/02/24/sultan-nazrin-future-glory-of-muslim-ummah-depends-on-generation-m/1840311

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Al-Qaeda confirms death of AQAP leader Qassim Al-Raymi: Report

23 February 2020

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on Sunday confirmed the death of its leader Qassim al-Rimi and appointed a successor, the SITE monitor said, weeks after the US said it had “eliminated” him.

The announcement came in an audio speech delivered by AQAP religious official Hamid bin Hamoud al-Tamimi, said SITE Intelligence Group.

SITE said that Batarfi has appeared in many AQAP videos over the past several years and appeared to be Rimi's deputy and group spokesman.

President Donald Trump announced Rimi's death earlier this month, saying the US had “conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen” that eliminated him.

Washington considers AQAP to be Al-Qaeda’s most dangerous branch.

“Under Rimi, AQAP committed unconscionable violence against civilians in Yemen and sought to conduct and inspire numerous attacks against the United States and our forces,” Trump said at the time.

“His death further degrades AQAP and the global Al-Qaeda movement, and it brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/23/Al-Qaeda-confirms-death-of-AQAP-leader-Qassim-Al-Raymi-Report.html

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Shaheen Bagh protests: SC-appointed interlocutors submit report, court defers hearing to Feb 26

February 24, 2020

The Supreme Court on Monday deferred the hearing of PILs against the Shaheen Bagh protest to February 26 after the appointed interlocutors submitted the report in a sealed envelope.

Advocate Sadhna Ramachandran, who was appointed an interlocutor along with senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, placed the report before a bench of Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.

Taking note of the report, the bench said that it would peruse it and the matter would be heard on February 26.

The bench also made it clear that the report will not be shared with the petitioners and counsels representing the Centre and Delhi Police at this stage.

The top court is hearing PILs against the protest over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the blockade of roads, saying this was causing difficulties for people in nearby areas.

On Sunday, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said any attempt to “forcibly shift” those protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act from the road they are sitting on in Shaheen Bagh, Delhi, “would compromise their safety”. He added that police barricading of unconnected roads was behind the traffic chaos in the area.

In an affidavit to the apex court, Habibullah said he visited the site on February 19 and personally inspected the barricades placed by police. He said he noticed that “there are numerous… roads that have no connection with the protest that have been barricaded by the Police unnecessarily, abdicating their responsibilities and duties and wrongly laying the blame on the protest”. “It is this barricading of unconnected roads that has led to a chaotic situation.”

Habibullah contended, “Any attempt to forcibly shift them (the protesters) from the present site would compromise their safety, especially in view of the abuses and threats that are regularly being meted out and hate speeches that have taken place in different parts of the country (against) those protesting against the CAA, NPR (National Population Register) and NRC (National Register of Citizens).”

Expressing concern over the blockade, the court had deputed Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde and Advocate Sadhana Ramachandran to hold talks with them to find a solution. The court had allowed them to seek the assistance of Habibullah who, along with Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad, had sought to intervene in the matter.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/shaheen-bagh-protests-supreme-court-mediation-interlocutors-delhi-police-6283478/

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Pro and Anti-CAA Groups Clashed For the Second Consecutive Day Torch 2 Houses in Jaffrabad, Mauzpur

24.02.20

Tension escalated in northeast Delhi with protesters torching at least two houses and a fire tender in the Jaffrabad and Maujpur areas, where pro and anti-CAA groups clashed for the second consecutive day on Monday and hurled stones at each other.

Violence was also reported from the Chandbagh area in Jaffrabad.

Police fired tear gas shells and also resorted to lathicharge to disperse the protesters.

According to officials, a fire tender was damaged by the protesters after it responded to a fire call in the area.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal and Union home minister Amit Shah to restore the law and order situation in northeast Delhi.

"Very distressing news regarding disturbance of peace and harmony in parts of Delhi coming in. I sincerely urge Hon’ble LG n Hon'ble Union Home Minister to restore law and order n ensure that peace and harmony is maintained. Nobody should be allowed to orchestrate flagrations," Kejriwal tweeted. 

Arvind Kejriwal

@ArvindKejriwal

Very distressing news regarding disturbance of peace and harmony in parts of Delhi coming in.

I sincerely urge Hon’ble LG n Hon'ble Union Home Minister to restore law and order n ensure that peace and harmony is maintained. Nobody should be allowed to orchestrate flagrations.

4,970

3:21 PM - Feb 24, 2020

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The Delhi Metro closed entry and exit at the Jaffrabad and Maujpur-Babarpur stations as an uneasy calm prevailed in the area.

"Entry & exit of Jaffrabad and Maujpur-Babarpur are closed. Trains will not be halting at these stations," the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) said in a tweet.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation

@OfficialDMRC

Security Update

Entry & exit of Jaffrabad and Maujpur-Babarpur are closed. Trains will not be halting at these stations.

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6:58 AM - Feb 24, 2020

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Entry and exit were closed at the Jaffrabad metro station for over 24 hours.

Clashes broke out on Sunday evening between pro and anti-CAA groups near Jaffrabad after a large number of people protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) blocked a road, while similar sit-ins were launched in several other parts of the national capital.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/protesters-torch-2-houses-in-jaffrabad-mauzpur-fire-tenders-pressed-into-action/cid/1748203

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Assam to conduct survey of 'indigenous' Muslims: Experts term move divisive, say classification is undemocratic, unconstitutional

Feb 23, 2020

On the morning of 7 April, 2019, 68-year-old Shaukat Ali was at his small eatery near Tezpur. The ‘hotel’ was known for its home-cooked beef, as well as fish and poultry. This was an inherited family business which had been running successfully for forty-odd years.

By the end of that afternoon, Shaukat was left half-dead by a mob for selling beef; on a day he hadn’t even sold any meat.

Mobile phones captured the assault on Shaukat. No one intervened. He was seen kneeling down in the mud, petrified, surrounded by a mob that thought – or believed – it had the right to attack him because he sold beef.

“Who gave you the permission to sell beef in Biswanath Chariali?”

“Are you a Bangladeshi?”

“Do you have your name in the NRC (National Register of Citizens)?”

While he was kneeling down, the mob forced Shaukat to eat pork.

Four months after the assault on Shaukat, a final list of Assam’s NRC was published: 1.9 million people had been left out and made potentially stateless. Within a few months, details emerged that a large majority of those excluded were Hindus. Not Muslims. In a petition to the Supreme Court of India, the Assam government sought a 20 percent reverification of the names in the bordering districts. The process – and motive – of the reverification of who is a legal citizen and who is not in the bordering areas with a predominantly Muslim population is self-explanatory.

Goriya-Moriya-Jhula-Deshi Census

Almost a year after the attack on Shaukat, on 11 February, 2020, the Assam government put forward the idea of a socio-economic census of indigenous Muslims of Assam, except that it decided to drop the term Khilonjiya (indigenous) from the census. It is now called the “Goriya, Moriya, Deshi and Julha” census. It includes just four Muslim communities and leaves out others. The Muslims from Barak Valley are not there. The Miyah Muslims, who have been fighting against their marginalisation through poetry and mobilisation, are also absent. That’s where the fear of being marked starts. It’s an exercise that will separate ethnic Assamese Muslims from settler Muslims. This process will put under the scanner the ancestry of Muslims who are outside the four declared communities. Those Muslims left out live in the fear of being branded lesser citizens. This revealed itself to be a targeted survey and less of a census that by definition should include everyone.

According to Edward Gait’s History of Assam (1905), Garias (Gorias) are Muslims from the Gaur province of Bengal. According to “A Statistical Account of Assam” (1879)—another colonial account by WW Hunter, Garias are tailors and Marias are “braziers” — who specialised in bell-metal work. Bell-metal occupies an important place in Assamese culture. Some accounts say that Goria-Morias are Muslims who lived in Assam during the Ahom Period. Deshis are descendants of people who were residing in Dhubri-Goalpara-Cooch Behar area of Lower Assam that were part of the Bengal Presidency at the time of annexation of Assam through the treaty of Yandabo in 1826. Julhas are Muslims within Assam’s tea tribes and also weavers.

Subir Dey, history scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University, underlines the fact that Goria-Moria-Deshi-Jhula are just a few strands of migration of Muslims in the Brahmaputra valley and over the course of the last century have hardly remained static. During the same period there are complex histories of circulation, intermarriage, wilful conversions, he adds. " The intermingling has not been confined within these ethnicities but has also extended to the more recent and controversial migrants from East Bengal in late colonial Assam. The old district of Nagaon is a huge melting pot of such complex histories of migration and cohabitation. The presence and participation of Muslims in Assam can be found in some of the most iconic historic moments of its past. During the battle of Saraighat against Mughals in 1671, the Ahom commander Lachit Borphukan was flanked by lsmail Siddique, more popularly known as Bagh Hazarika. The legendary tiger slayer played a key role in the army in inflicting a crushing defeat on the Mughal army. Thus, this census which is premised on ahistorical assumptions seeks to reverse the course and flow of pluralistic history of Assam”.

Monirul Hussain from the Centre for Northeast Studies and Policy Research, Jamia Milia Islamia also doesn’t agree with the proposed census. “It is a very divisive kind of move. Bangladesh is only recent history. Prior to that Assam and Bengal have had a long history. This is a land of migrants. There has been migration and intermixing for years. We cannot have watertight compartments,” he said.

I spoke to Oliullah Lashkar, a lawyer at the Gauhati High Court. Oliullah is a Bengali Muslim from Silchar. His wife is an Assamese Muslim.

“The protection extended by this policy is clearly meant for the Assamese people.  The Assamese people are the most dominant community in Assam. But at the same time, they claim to be indigenous people.”

He said that the term indigenous people is used in international law and in many domestic jurisdiction for providing protection to the most marginalised and vulnerable communities. It is obvious, according to Oliullah, that this claim is made to get legitimacy to their demand to maintain their supremacy over all other communities including the real indigenous people.

“Given the arbitrary and racist nature of the exercise, I will not count myself as an indigenous Muslim, even if I qualify. But it is highly unlikely, for I am Bengali. However, my partner is Assamese speaking and they identify themselves as Assamese people. She might get counted as indigenous. It is another matter, if a choice is given, I am not sure, how she would exercise it. But we have a son. How would they count him? Is he Assamese or Bengali? Is he indigenous or a settler?”

His apprehension probably echoes the views many Muslims in Assam hold.

There could be answers that settle such queries on the surface. But this is about what lies beneath: The ruptures that the NRC has set in motion are widening every day. The ruptures aren’t new ones either.

Clause 6 of Assam Accord: Extending Safeguards to those who belong

This anxiety dates back to pre-Partition times and more recently to the violent anti-foreigner Assam agitation between 1979 and 1985, which led to the Assam Accord being signed in 1985 and a new government being sworn in. However, there were several rounds of talks before the final shape of the Accord was arrived at. Going through the initial rounds of talks, one gets a sense of predisposed notions and mutual suspicion with which communities held each other. On the receiving end were the Bengalis. In the spotlight was their migration within an undivided India –physical movement within one country and being branded as illegals. In one such meeting before the Accord was signed, a proposal was given to control migration by building a wall and keeping the area around the wall clear of forest land and houses. The specific idea was that if a migrant managed to escape the wall, he or she could be easily spotted and shot at.

The Accord formalised extension of preemptive steps to check migration and to protect the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people. Clause 6 of the Accord promises constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to do so. From July 2019, this is what a 13-member committee appointed by the home ministry and headed by Justice (retd) Biplab Kumar Sharma was entrusted to carry out. Assam’s chief minister is supposed to receive the report on behalf of the home ministry. What is important to note is that not one of those in the committee is from the Barak Valley region of Assam.

“This entire classification is undemocratic and outside the Constitutional mandate. It doesn’t extend protection to all minorities. Where are the Sylheti Muslims from Barak Valley in this? This is happening by design and in a calculated manner”, Taniya Lashkar, a lawyer who comes from Barak Valley, told me.

According to some reports, the Sharma committee wants to use 1951 as a cut-off year to determine indigenous people of Assam. It also wants implementation of an Inner Line Permit to control movement of outsiders into Assam.

Extension of safeguards under Clause 6 will divide people between settlers and indigenous communities. Indigenous people will be given first claim over natural resources and government employment. They will also be favoured in many other ways. It also suggests a reservation of 67 percent of seats in Assembly for indigenous people. Safeguards will translate into jobs, land and other benefits. Three members were of the opinion that there should be 100 percent reservation. So while the Indian Constitution says all Indians are equal, some are more equal than others. It reminds one of Myanmer’s 1982 Citizenship Law that provides a hierarchical structure of citizenship where only some ethnic communities have full citizenship. In fact it brings into sharp focus the domicile requirements that are constitutionally allowed. Individuals holding land for twenty years with their parents or forefathers being residents of Assam for a minimum of fifty years are eligible for domicile certificate. Clause 6, gets into the picture and creates categories between groups that fulfil domicile requirements. It leaves no stone unturned to spell out who is undesired in Assam.

Earlier, on Republic Day this year, Assam governor Jagdish Mukhi showered praise on the Sharma Committee. He shared a vision for Assam with this group leading the charge. The governor stated that the Assam government has requested New Delhi to declare Assamese as the permanent state language. There is also a new land policy on the anvil. It is important to note that land has historically been at the centre of many conflicts in Assam. According to Mukhi, “The land rights of indigenous people will be secured.” In the same breath, he said, “The government is determined to make Assam extremist-free.”

When I spoke to Suhas Chakma, the director of Rights and Risks Analysis Group, he unequivocally termed the socio-economic census of Muslims as “intellectual hogwash”. In addition, Chakma claims, “To term every original inhabitant group or Bhumiputra of an area as “indigenous” is nothing but the perversion of the term ‘indigenous peoples’. By this logic, Englishmen would be indigenous peoples of England and Germans would be indigenous peoples of Germany. This is not what is the meaning and purpose of defining the indigenous peoples including under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as the ILO Conventions No.107 and No 169 relating to indigenous and tribal peoples.”

Assam’s fear of “land-hungry migrants”

These policies make a cultural, racial and linguistic distinction between Assamese and non-Assamese.  Naturally it throws up some questions. Who is the original Bhumiputra or son of the soil in Assam? Are East Bengali Muslims not original inhabitants? Is there a bias acting against such Muslims?

Most of these migrants are treated as “land hungry migrants” even if historically they were part of the same country when they moved from East Bengal of undivided India to Assam. In the judgment in Assam Sanhmilita Mahasangha v Union of India, where the Supreme Court decides the supervision of an NRC update, the Court reproduced census superintendent CS Mullan’s voice from 1931: "Probably the most important event in the province during the last 25 years – an event, moreover, which seems likely to alter permanently the whole feature of Assam and to destroy the whole structure of Assamese culture and civilization – has been the invasion of a vast horde of land-hungry immigrants mostly Muslims, from the districts of East Bengal. [...] Wheresoever the carcass, there the vultures will gathered together "

Mullan’s voice re-emerged in 1998 in the words of Lt Gen SK Sinha, the then Governor of Assam who sounded alarm bells about a changing Assam: “The silent and invidious demographic invasion of Assam may result in the loss of the geo-strategically vital districts of lower Assam. The influx of illegal migrants is turning these districts into Muslim majority regions. It will then only be a matter of time when a demand for their merger with Bangladesh may be made. The rapid growth of international Islamic fundamentalism may provide the driving force for this demand. In this context, it is pertinent that Bangladesh has long discarded secularism and has chosen to become an Islamic State. Loss of lower Assam will severe the entire land mass of the North East, from the rest of India and the rich natural resources of that region will be lost to the Nation (sic)."

That Sinha’s report is a biased document and is riddled with inaccuracies is well-known. It finds mention in the 2014 Supreme Court judgment on NRC. As Amnesty International mentions in its report on Foreigners’ Tribunals, “the highest court in India legitimised the one-dimensional equation of migration with national security as endorsed by the report and justified the use of repressive laws.”

Land Rights Committee

Things don’t end with the formation of the committee to look into Clause 6 of Assam Accord or with the selective census of just four communities of Muslims. A day before the first draft of the NRC was published in December 2017, another report was submitted.  It was the Final Report of the Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People of Assam. The Bramha Committee at the very outset underlined that “the pristine people of this beautiful land called Assam have reached a turning point in history at which they shockingly discovered that they have reached a crisis of their identity”. That crisis, according to the report, is because of “perennial infiltration and organised encroachment of their land by ceaseless swarms of a land-hungry people from across the Indo-Bangladesh borders”. The report used Mullan and similar voices to justify anti-immigration policies. It wants strict measures to reverse the situation. The report also expressed fears that it is mostly in the border districts the demographic pattern has changed. These are the same districts where the Assam government wants a reverification of NRC process in the absence of a pan-India NRC. “Illegal migrants” must be detained and deported and the borders sealed off to prevent indigenous people being reduced to a landless class of people and foreigners in their home, the report warned.

There is an uncanny similarity in the language used in various reports, all of which try and hammer home the point about “illegal migration”.

Full report at:

https://www.firstpost.com/india/assam-to-conduct-survey-of-indigenous-muslims-experts-term-move-divisive-say-classification-is-undemocratic-unconstitutional-8077351.html

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Shaheen Bagh dharna a global conspiracy by Muslim countries against India: BJP MLA

FEBRUARY 22, 2020

This Shaheen Bagh protest is being staged to divide the country, says Bairia MLA Surendra Singh

BJP’s outspoken Bairia MLA Surendra Singh has described the ongoing anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi as a global conspiracy by Muslim countries to “divide the country“.

The Shaheen Bagh protest against the CAA and proposed NRC is a conspiracy sponsored by Muslim countries at the global level, Mr. Singh told reporters here on Friday night.

“This dharna is being staged to divide the country,” he added.

Prone to making controversial statements, he also attacked All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaddudin Owaisi and described him as an “enemy of the country".

“The internal feelings of Owaisi are against India. In reality, Owaisi is the enemy of the country. Though he resides here, his feelings and beliefs are pro-Pakistan,” said Mr. Singh.

“If his DNA test is conducted, it will be proved that like Jinnah, he wants to make India a Muslim country,” said Singh.

Full report at:

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/shaheen-bagh-dharna-a-global-conspiracy-by-muslim-countries-against-india-bjp-mla/article30889346.ece

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Uttar Pradesh: Akhilesh’s Dalit outreach to expand Muslim-Yadav combination

Feb 24, 2020

LUCKNOW: At a time when senior leaders of the BSP are quitting the party one after the other and long-term loyalists like Kunwar Fateh Bahadur Singh are revolting against the ‘dominance of Brahmins’ in the organisation, SP president Akhilesh Yadav is silently trying to make an inroads into the Dalit community.

Political observers feel that it is a bid to expand his party’s support base beyond traditional Muslim-Yadav combination in the run-up to the 2022 assembly elections. So, when the the birth anniversary of Sant Gadge Maharaj was celebrated at the SP headquarters in Lucknow on Sunday, it was just another addition to the party’s itinerary full of programmes to honour Dalit icons.

In the past one year, ever since BSP chief Mayawati unilaterally broke the walked out of the alliance with SP forged during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the SP has been organising functions in memory of Dalit ideologues like Jyotiba Phule and Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj, apart from party icons like Ram Manohar Lohia, Janeshwar Mishra and Karpoori Thakur. On December 6, the party observed the death anniversary of BR Ambedkar. Akhilesh has also instructed the cadre to display portrait of the architect of the Indian Constitution in their offices. Besides, he has also got statues of Ambedkar installed inside the party headquarters in Lucknow.

The effort to win over the Dalit constituency has gone beyond symbolism. Akhilesh has also changed his stance to support the ‘reservation in promotion’ policy of the BSP. He had opposed it during his regime. Besides, he has also been raising issues and concerns of the ‘bahujan samaj’ which was missing in his earlier speeches.

Moreover, despite Mayawati attacking Akhilesh and his party for the failure of the alliance in 2019 general elections, the SP chief has strictly avoided any direct attack on her. “ Akhilesh Yadav has been assiduously befriending Dalits since 2018, even before the general elections by burying the past animosity with the arch-rival BSP. He went the extra mile to forge the alliance and his wife Dimple touched Mayawati’s feet at an election rally,” says LU’s political scientist Ashutosh Mishra.

“It might have cost Akhilesh the 2019 elections, but his subsequent strategy in the past one year through symbolism and ideological compromises could help him in 2022 assembly elections and the traditional hostility of Dalits towards the powerful backward castes, like Yadavs, could be diluted,” he adds.

On the other hand appointing Brahmins to two key positions — leader of the party in Lok Sabha, Ritesh Pandey and Satish Chand Mishra in Rajya Sabha — by the BSP has not gone down well. A number of former MPs and ministers have left the party. Loyalists like Kunwar Fateh Bahadur Singh have questioned Mayawati’s ‘wisdom’ behind ‘Brahminisation of the Dalit party’.

“Akhilesh Yadav is trying to achieve a support base which even his father and SP founder, Mulayam Singh Yadav, couldn’t manage and limiting its appeal among Muslims and Yadavs. It will have to be seen how far successful he is in the next two years before state polls,” says an observer.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/akhileshs-dalit-outreach-to-expand-muslim-yadav-combo/articleshow/74274681.cms

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India’s Cheraman Mosque: 1000-year-old lamp continues to shine

FEBRUARY 24, 2020

Kerala: In India’s 1st first center for Islamic worship, Cheraman Juma Mosque, a 1000-year-old lamp continues to shine even today as people of different faiths bring oil for it.

The mosque which is located in Kodungallur, Kerala has a secular history as its inner portion was built in Hindu architectural idiom.

The white marble used in the mosque was brought From Makkah.

President of the managing committee of the Mosque, Sayeed said that communal harmony prevails at the mosque.

Renovation

Kerala Govt. is also set to renovate the mosque which was built in 629 AD. The renovation was started a day after Supreme Court gave the verdict in Ayodhya case.

The Government has decided to spend Rs. 1.13 crore for the renovation of the mosque.

Apart from the mosque, Kodungallur has many historical monuments including Churches, temples etc.

Finance Minister of Kerala, T.M. Thomas Isaac said that as part of the Muziris Heritage Conservation Project, all these monuments will be restored.

The project which covers seven panchayats of Kodungallur and Paravur will renovate many sites including 27 museums, over 50 sites of interest etc. Two synagogues have already been restored.

Dream of Cheraman Perumal

It is believed that last Cheraman Perumal once dreamt of the moon splitting into two. When he revealed his dream to traders from Arabia, they said that it is a message from Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

Full report at:

https://www.siasat.com/indias-cheraman-mosque-1000-year-old-lamp-continues-shine-1835597/

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Owaisi and AIMIM leaders embraced Islam out of fear: Min

Feb 23, 2020

Varanasi: Minister of state for parliamentary affairs and rural development Anand Swaroop Shukla on Saturday said AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi and his leaders are “cowards and anti-national whose forefathers embraced Islam out of fear and they have no courage to face the strength of Hindutva”

AIMIM leader Waris Pathan has come under heavy criticism for stating that “15 crore (Muslims) will be tough on 100 crore (non-Muslims) in the country”.

Talking to reporters in Ballia, Shukla said, “Main Owaisi aur unke admiyon ko chunauti deta hun ki wo Bharat ko kamjor nahi kar sakte hain. Ye sabhi bujdil aur kayar hain, inke purkhe Hindu the aut talwar ke dar se Musalman bane (I challenge Owaisi and his men that they can’t weaken India. These people are coward, their ancestors converted to Islam out of fear). After Partition, they stayed back in India to break the country and establish Islamic rule, he said, adding that he dared them not to undermine the strength of Hindutva.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/varanasi/owaisi-and-aimim-leaders-embraced-islam-out-of-fear-min/articleshow/74260739.cms

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NIA, military intel to probe 14 Pakistan-made bullets found in Kerala

Feb 24, 2020

The military intelligence has arrived in Kerala and will be joining the NIA, which is expected to begin probe into the recovery of 14 Pakistan-made bullets from Kulathupuzha. These bullets were found on Saturday, about 70 km from Thiruvananthapuram, in Kulathupuzha bordering the forests of Tamil Nadu. The bullets were packed in a plastic bag and covered in a Malayalam newspaper printed from Kollam.

Two youths travelling on a bike, found the suspicious package and after uncovering the bullets, immediately informed the police.

According to the police, the bullets had initials of POF, which has been preliminarily identified as Pakistan Ordinance Factory and is believed to have been made in 1981-82.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/nia-military-intel-to-probe-14-pakistan-made-bullets-found-in-kerala/story-YoB3vTrVSJA72A3j7QlzQO.html

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Kashmiri men taking to terrorism has reduced drastically: Jammu and Kashmir DGP

Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Feb 23, 2020

Against the backdrop of the revocation of Article 370 and creation of two union territories out of the erstwhile state, the Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police, Dilbag Singh on Sunday said that the number of Kashmiri youth picking up guns has gone down drastically.

Responding to media queries on the sidelines of a programme in Kathua on Sunday, the DGP said, “I told the media in Kashmir just yesterday that 240 to 250 militants are active in Kashmir as per a list with us. Their number has come down considerably but what is positive and appreciable is the fact that local youth are not picking up guns compared to what had been the practice. Only few youth have picked up guns.”

The DGP further said that to bring back such misguided youth to the national mainstream many skill development programmes have been initiated by the government and sports has also been given a major push.

He informed that that “Operation All Out” was in full swing in Kashmir to neutralize remaining terrorists.

”We are getting good results out of it. However, ceasefire violations by Pakistan have increased on the borders because they want to push maximum terrorists into J&K to vitiate the atmosphere, which has improved drastically in recent times (post abrogation of Article 370),” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/kashmiri-men-taking-to-terrorism-has-reduced-drastically-jammu-and-kashmir-dgp/story-x4uU30pWSQ89who9E4H7hL.html

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Europe

 

Award-Winning British Author: Islam Is About Building Equality, not Jihad

By Safaa Kasraoui

Feb 23, 2020

Rabat – British award-winning writer Karen Armstrong gave an interesting interview to discuss her views on Islam, the Quran, and religion-related topics.

The interview, which appeared earlier this week in El Mundo, highlights how the writer-activist’s belief that Islam is subject to constant criticism and stereotypes because it is a powerful religion.

When asked why “Islamic terrorism” continues to ignite “holy war in the name of Qur’an,” the writer said that the Muslim holy book is not  about jihad.

For Armstrong, the Quran is about “building an equal society. Religion is used as a tool to justify terrorism.”

She said that Quran verses about jihad were never taken into account by religious leaders during the first 400 years of Islamic civilization.

“But 400 years after the death of [Muhammad] the prophet, when they were attacked by the East and West, by the Mongols and the Crusaders, the leaders invoked [the verses] them to encourage people to fight. Many opposed but it was that or extinction,” she said.

The writer described Islam as the US.

“Today, people hate the United States because it is a great world power. We tend to hate the things we see in ourselves,”  the author said.

The former Roman Catholic religious sister dedicated most of her writings on comparative religion.

The 75-year old former nun first wrote about Islam when she published Muhammad, A Biography of the Prophet,” in 1991, according to the Guardian.

The writer appreciated how the Muslim community, both in the UK and in America “took her seriously as a thinker and theologian rather than as ‘an ex-nun who wrote rather provocative books,’” the Guardian said.

During her interview with El Mundo, the writer contested the stereotypes against the Quran and how it is often depicted as being against equality between men and women.

She said that the Quran is more feminist than “what we think.”

She also blamed European colonialism and criticized how Muslims are treated in some countries, including in France.

“In France, Muslims have been treated in a horrible way and they are often talked about as if they were garbage. We still adopt racist attitudes towards Muslims,” Armstrong said.

Speaking about how hijabi (veiled) women get Islamophobic comments in the west, the author said people should let women wear “whatever they want.”

“In the West we adopt an attitude of superiority and arrogance,” she said.

https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2020/02/294424/award-winning-british-author-islam-is-about-building-equality-not-jihad/

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Germany: Shots fired near home of Turkish-Muslim cleric

23.02.2020

BERLIN

Unknown suspects fired shots in front of a family house of a Turkish-Muslim cleric in Germany, the country’s largest Islamic organization announced on Sunday.

The Turkish-Muslim umbrella group DITIB said in a statement that its Secretary-General Abdurrahman Atasoy’s family house in the southwestern city of Heilbronn was targeted in a suspected shooting incident on Saturday night.

The unknown suspect or suspects fired a gun in front of the house after Atasoy arrived to visit his sister and brother, and then fled the scene. No one was injured.

Atasoy told Anadolu Agency that the local police did not take the incident seriously, and only arrived at the house following a phone call from the Interior Ministry.

They found five metal bullets on the ground, and launched an investigation.

DITIB said rising number of racist attacks targeting people with migration background, their religious and cultural institutions in recent weeks has been a growing concern for them.

“We are expecting from the police, judiciary and the politicians to take these threats more seriously,” the group said in a statement.

On Wednesday night, a German far-right extremist attacked two cafes and killed nine people with migration background in the western town of Hanau.

Four people with Turkish roots died in the racist terror attack. One Bosnian, one Bulgarian, and one Romanian lost their lives in the attack, as did a dual German-Afghan national.

Germany has witnessed growing racism and Islamophobia in recent years, fueled by the propaganda of neo-Nazi groups and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-shots-fired-near-home-of-turkish-muslim-cleric/1742610

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Turkish father loses 'helpful' son in Germany shooting

Mesut Zeyrek

22.02.2020

Gokhan Gultekin, 37, was among the four victims with Turkish roots who were killed in a mass shooting in Hanau, Germany.

His father, Behcet Gultekin said he was shot dead two minutes after he met him.

The father, who is suffering from cancer, has been living in Germany for 52 years.

"I go to the Frankfurt University clinic twice a week for chemotherapy. He used to take me and served as an interpreter for me [...] He was very helpful and very religious," Behcet Gultekin said.

Burak Kararti, Turkey’s consul general in Frankfurt, told reporters after a visit to the grieving family that Turkish-origin people, as the largest foreign community in the country, often face these kinds of racist attacks.

"Terrorism has no nationality, gender, ethnic origin. Unfortunately, these far-right, racist and xenophobic terrorists generally target foreigners," Kararti said.

He said he hoped the German government will take action against rising xenophobia in the country.

At least nine people were killed on Wednesday when a far-right extremist opened fire at two shisha bars in Hanau, a city located 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Frankfurt.

Germany has witnessed growing racism and Islamophobia in recent years, fueled by the propaganda of neo-Nazi groups and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkish-father-loses-helpful-son-in-germany-shooting/1741746

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North America

 

President Trump says he would sign a peace deal with Taliban

23 February 2020

US President Donald Trump said Sunday he would sign a peace deal with the Taliban if one were eventually reached in Afghanistan.

“Yes,” he told reporters at the White House as he prepared to depart on a trip to India. “I would put my name on it.”

His comments came after a partial truce took effect in Afghanistan on Saturday, with the Taliban, US, and Afghan forces agreeing to a week-long “reduction in violence.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/23/President-Trump-says-he-would-sign-a-peace-deal-with-Taliban-.html

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Senator Chris Murphy: 'Trump policy on Iran has been a total disaster'

23 February 2020

US Democratic Senator Christopher (Chris) Murphy has said that President Donald Trump’s policy on Iran “has been a total disaster," following Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on May 8, 2018.

The Connecticut senator made the remarks in an interview with CNN on Sunday after Trump criticized Murphy for reportedly meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zariff at the Munich Security Conference in Germany last week.

Trump accused Murphy of violating the Logan Act, which forbids unauthorized American citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. 

Murphy defended his purported meeting saying that it’s a part of his job as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on the Middle East and Counterterrorism.

“And the fact of the matter is it’s dangerous that this administration is not talking to the Iranians,” he said. “The Trump policy on Iran has been a total disaster. Iran is more powerful today than they were at the beginning of the Trump presidency.”

“I’m not negotiating with Iran, but it does make sense for somebody to be listening to them and to be engaged in some level of outreach as perhaps a means of trying to advert crisis and disaster down the road,” Murphy said.

The Trump administration stoked tensions with Tehran after its unilateral exit from the 2015 nuclear deal and reinstatement of sanctions as part of its policy of “maximum” pressure against the Islamic Republic.

Tensions further spiked between Iran and the US after Washington’s decision to strengthen its military build-up in the Middle East region.

Such deployments began in May when the US sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the region along with Patriot missile batteries, among other reinforcements, citing alleged Iranian threats.

Shortly before the announcement for deployment of additional troops in the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon released a blurry video that it claimed showed Iranian boats removing a mine from one of two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman on June 13.

The US has blamed Iran for the attacks, which hit one Japanese-owned and one Norwegian-owned tanker. The tankers were carrying Japanese-related crude near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Tehran has vigorously denied the allegation, calling the attacks “suspicious.”

Last month. Trump ordered the assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who led the IRGC’s Quds Force, during a diplomatic trip to Iraq.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/23/619357/'Trump-policy-on-Iran-has-been-a-total-disaster'-Murphy

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Mideast

 

US urges Houthis to drop charges targeting Baha’i community in Yemen

24 February 2020

The United States has urged the Iran-backed Houthi militia to drop charges targeting the Baha’i community, which said that 24 believers of the faith will face a new trial session Tuesday.

Sam Brownback, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, voiced concern at reports that a court in Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa is again summoning the Baha’is who in 2018 were slapped with charges that include apostasy and espionage.

“We urge them to drop these allegations, release those arbitrarily detained, and respect religious freedom for all,” he wrote on Twitter.

Ambassador Sam Brownback

@IRF_Ambassador

Concerned by reports the #Houthis have suddenly scheduled a hearing on 2/24 for the more than 20 #Bahais they “charged” with apostasy and espionage in 2018. We urge them to drop these allegations, release those arbitrarily detained, and respect #religiousfreedom for all.

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6:27 AM - Feb 22, 2020

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According to the Baha’i community, one member among the 24 to be tried Tuesday – five of whom are already detained – said that a prosecutor made clear that his arrest was due to his religion.

“The Baha’is that are held in Sanaa are innocent and the physical and mental torture they are experiencing is designed to force them to admit to crimes they have not committed,” Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community, said in a statement.

The Houthis are allied with Iran’s Shia clerical regime, which restricts the rights of Baha’is despite allowing freedom of religion for Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.

Baha’is consider the Baha’u’llah, born in 1817 in Iran, to be a prophet, a sharp contrast from the orthodox Islamic view that Mohammed was God’s final messenger.

Several thousand Baha’is are estimated to live in Yemen. Among them is Hamed bin Haydara, who was sentenced in 2018 to execution with appeals in his case under review.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/24/US-urges-Houthis-to-drop-charges-targeting-Baha-i-community-in-Yemen.html

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Arab Coalition destroys explosive-laden Houthi militia boat in Yemen’s Hodeidah

23 February 2020

The Arab Coalition intercepted and destroyed a remote booby-trapped boat launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen’s Hodeidah, the coalition’s spokesperson Colonel Turki al-Maliki said on Sunday, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The coalition’s had detected the “imminent” attack, which al-Maliki said posed a regional security threat and could have disrupted glboal trade routes, and destroyed the boat in the Red Sea, SPA reported.

Three marine mines were also intercepted and destroyed in the past 24 hours in the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, and the south of the Red Sea, al-Maliki added.

The Houthis use the city of Hodeidah to launch their attacks, the spokesperson said, adding that the coalition will continue to enforce strict measures against the militia.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/23/Arab-Coalition-intercepts-destroys-Houthi-militia-boat-in-Yemen-s-Hodeidah.html

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Mossad chief, Israeli army general met with Qatari intel in Doha: Correspondent

22 February 2020

The director of the Israeli Mossad and an army general in charge of the Israeli army southern operations conducted a secret visit to Doha earlier this month and met with the head of Qatari intelligence, according to Al Arabiya’s correspondent in Palestine.

Al Arabiya’s correspondent said Mossad Director Yossi Cohen and Israeli army general Herzi Halevi - who is in charge of the Israeli army’s southern operations - met with Mohammed bin Ahmed al-Misnad, the head of Qatari intelligence and an adviser to the Emir of Qatar for national security.

Former Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman confirmed the meeting on Saturday, saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent Cohen to Doha on February 5 to ensure Qatar continues its financial aid policy to Hamas, according to an interview he gave to Israel’s Channel 12.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/22/Israel-s-Mossad-chief-army-general-met-with-Qatari-intelligence-in-Doha-Correspondent.html

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Historic low voter turnout in Iran shows ‘dissatisfaction’ with regime: Experts

23 February 2020

Iran’s interior ministry announced a 42.57 percent voter turnout in Friday’s parliamentary election, the lowest turnout since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The interior ministry released the figure on Sunday with unprecedented delay, but did not give a reason for the wait.

The decision by Iranian authorities to hold back the final voter turnout count “means that they are having a hard time engineering vote results,” according to Behnam Taleblu, an expert on Iran at the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

Taleblu said the initial state figure of voter turnout is highly suspect, and that he believes turnout was even lower than 42.57 percent.

The decision by so many Iranians to boycott this election “is indicative of a dissatisfaction with the system and the failure of reform,” said Taleblu in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Videos and images shared online on Friday showed empty polling stations in several Iranian cities.

Reza Behrouz

@RBehrouzDO

A video compilation showing voting precincts in various cities in #Iran. The #Iranian people have boycotted parliamentary elections en masse. This is not due to US policies “emboldening the hardliners,” but the people rejecting the regime in its entirety. Embedded video

247

6:52 PM - Feb 21, 2020

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Users online also pointed out that Iran’s state TV attributed the same images of voters to several cities in the country in an attempt to exaggerate voter participation.

Jenan Al Asfoor

@asfoor_jenan

There are so many videos from different cities in #Iran showing empty polling stations across the country. Meanwhile Iran state TV shows the same voter turning up at different polling stations 🤣 #IranElections2020

View image on Twitter

2

11:23 PM - Feb 21, 2020

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Iranian opposition groups and activities, inside and outside the country, had called for boycotting the parliamentary election.

Imprisoned Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi called on her compatriots to boycott the parliamentary election earlier this month to honor those killed in the anti-government protests last November, and not give the regime legitimacy.

An additional 12 Iranian imprisoned female activists also called on their compatriots to boycott the parliamentary election, saying that those who vote would be “endorsing the regime and its crimes.”

Reza Pahlavi, the son of Iran’s last monarch late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, also called for boycotting the election, saying that “voting in this regime’s sham elections serves to confer legitimacy upon an illegitimate system.”

The Iranian regime’s violent crackdown on protesters during last November’s anti-government protesters, as well as its belated admission to shooting down a Ukrainian civilian airliner on January 8 after days of denying responsibility, are two key recent events that are likely to have contributed to a historically low turnout.

Protests broke out across Iran last November after the government introduced gasoline rationing and price hikes. Regime forces killed 1,500 people during the protests at the orders of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to a Reuters report.

Iran’s military shot down a civilian airliner two months later, killing all 176 people on board.

The Islamic Republic denied responsibility for three days before admitting to downing the plane under international pressure, triggering a new wave of protests in the country.

The disqualification of thousands of candidates by the Guardian Council added to an already high level of public discontent in the country.

The Guardian Council is a body made up of 12 clerics and jurists which determines the eligibility of candidates according to criteria such as their commitment to Islamic practices, their loyalty to Velayat-e Faqih, Iran’s religious system of law, and the Islamic Republic.

Nonetheless, Khamenei urged Iranians to vote, saying that voting is a “religious, national, and revolutionary duty.”

However his call for participation in the election was rejected by at least 57 percent of eligible Iranian voters, based on the turnout figure announced by the interior ministry.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/02/23/Historic-low-voter-turnout-in-Iran-shows-dissatisfaction-with-regime-Experts.html

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Rockets target Israel from Gaza after border clash: Sources

23 February 2020

Palestinian militants fired some 20 rockets toward southern Israel on Sunday, hours after Israel said it killed a Palestinian militant who tried to place a bomb along the Israel-Gaza barrier fence.

There was no immediate claim for the rocket fire, but it appeared to be meant to avenge the death of the militant. Palestinians were furious over the image of the man’s lifeless body dangling off the front of an Israeli bulldozer that had crossed into Gaza to retrieve it. It also drew criticism for the territory’s Hamas rulers for not responding. Israel said another Palestinian militant was shot and wounded in the clash.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/23/Rockets-target-Israel-from-Gaza-after-border-clash-Sources-.html

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Iran sentences three protesters to death: Report

23 February 2020

Iran has sentenced three citizens, arrested during last November’s anti-government protests, to death, according to a report.

Protests broke out across Iran last November after the government introduced gasoline rationing and price hikes.

At least 8,600 Iranians were arrested during the protests, according to an investigation carried out by exile-run broadcaster Radio Farda.

Amirhossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi and Mohammad Rajabi were sentenced to death on charges of “cooperating in vandalism and arson with an intent to act against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the Iranian Human Rights Activists’ News Agency (HRANA) reported.

The three detainees were forced to confess under torture, HRANA said citing sources.

An interrogator stood on Moradi’s chest during an interrogation session causing injury to his ribs, HRANA quoted a source close to Moradi’s family as saying.

Tamjidi and Rajabi also told their families that most of the accusations against them are false and that they were forced to confess under torture, HRANA quoted another source as saying.

“We were tired of the injustice in the country and we went to the street to protest that,” they told their families, according to the source.

Forced confession are highly common in Iranian prisons. A recent BBC report recounting the torture endured by environmental activist Niloufar Bayani sparked a public outcry on social media.

The fate of thousands of Iranian protesters arrested since last November remains unknown, with their relatives fearing they are dead as they have not received any information from authorities.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/23/Iran-sentences-three-protesters-to-death-Report.html

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Turkey to ‘temporarily’ close border with Iran over coronavirus fears

23 February 2020

Turkey on Sunday announced it would “temporarily” close its land border with neighboring Iran as alarm grows over a spike in new coronavirus infections.

“We have decided to shut the land border temporarily after an increase in the number of cases in our neighbor Iran,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters. He said air traffic would be unilaterally halted from 2000 (1700 GMT).

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/23/Turkey-to-temporarily-close-border-with-Iran-over-coronavirus-fears.html

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Iranian cleric blames coronavirus Iran outbreak on Donald Trump

23 February 2020

The outbreak of coronavirus in Iran, where the deadly virus has reportedly killed 18 people according to Iran International, is the fault of US President Donald Trump, said a senior Iranian religious cleric on Friday.

Coronavirus, which initially broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan, claimed its first victims in Iran on Wednesday when two elderly people died in the Shia holy city of Qom. It has since killed more than 15 and up to 18 people, according to Al Arabiya sources' initial reports, based on Iran International news oulet. Iran puts the death toll at eight.

“The enemy wants to instill fear in people’s hearts, make Qom look like an unsafe city and to take revenge for all its defeats,” said Imam Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Saeedi as he led Friday prayers in Qom, reported opposition outlet Radio Farda.

“Trump will die frustrated in his wish to see Qom defeated,” he added.

Ali Arouzi

@aliarouzi

The lead cleric of Qom, where #coronavirus first broke out in Iran has blamed @realDonaldTrump for the outbreak, during his sermon he said Trump had deliberately targeted the city with #coronavirus to damage its culture & honor.

21

3:13 PM - Feb 23, 2020

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Iran-US relations are currently strained, with the US continuing to tighten the screws of its “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign, seeking to isolate Tehran which it says supports destabilizing terrorist proxy organizations across the Middle East.

Saeedi also alleged that Trump had targeted Qom with coronavirus because the city was a “shelter for the Shia of the world, the center of religious seminaries and the city where Shia sources of emulation live.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/23/Iranian-cleric-blames-coronavirus-Iran-outbreak-on-Donald-Trump.html

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Israeli forces kill Palestinian near Gaza border fence

23 February 2020

Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian on Sunday near the Gaza border fence after a group of young men were targeted by the army, sources told Al Arabiya.

The Israeli army issued a statement on Sunday that the Palestinian was suspected of placing a bomb near the fence.

His body was extracted using a bulldozer, a military spokeswoman said.

“Following the successful thwarting of the attack near the Gaza Strip fence earlier this morning, an IDF (Israeli army) bulldozer extracted the body of one of the attackers,” a military spokeswoman told AFP.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/23/Israeli-forces-kill-Palestinian-near-Gaza-border-fence.html

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Iran’s Khamenei blames coronavirus, foreign media for discouraging voter turnout

23 February 2020

Supreme leader Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused foreign media of trying to use a deadly outbreak of coronavirus in Iran to “discourage” people from voting in a general election.

“This negative propaganda began a few months ago and grew larger approaching the election and in the past two days, under the pretext of an illness and a virus, their media did not miss the slightest opportunity to discourage people from voting,” said Khamenei.

“(Our enemies) are even opposed to any election by the Iranian people,” the leader was quoted as saying on his official website.

Iranians voted in a parliamentary election on Friday, two days after an outbreak of the new coronavirus emerged in the country.

A low turnout had already been expected after a conservative-dominated electoral watchdog disqualified thousands of candidates, most of them moderates and reformists.

The COVID-19 outbreak has claimed the lives of six people in the Islamic republic since Wednesday.

Hardline allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are expected to gain a sizeable majority based on preliminary results.

Iranian authorities have yet to announce the turnout in February 21 election for the 290-seat parliament – a litmus test of the popularity of hardliners.

Some early results announced by the Interior Ministry indicated that the hardline loyalists to Khamenei were gaining a majority in the 290-seat parliament.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/23/Iran-s-Khamenei-blames-foreign-media-for-discouraging-voter-turnout-.html

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Israeli jets bomb Gaza after retaliatory Palestinian rocket strikes

23 February 2020

Israeli jets have bombed several locations across the Gaza Strip after Palestinian resistance groups fired rockets towards Israel in retaliation for the murder of a Palestinian earlier in the day. 

The Palestinian Information Center reported early on Monday that strikes happened north, west and east of the enclave.

Positions belonging to the Palestinian resistance were also targeted west of Khan Yunis and in the Rafah area in southern Gaza.

According to initial reports, at least half a dozen Palestinians were wounded in the strikes.

The bombings happened as the Israeli military announced on Twitter that it was targeting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement in Gaza.

The bombings come after Israeli media reported up to three rounds of Palestinian retaliatory rocket attacks targeting localities and cities close to the Gaza Strip, notably Ashkelon and Sderot city.

Shehab Agency

@ShehabAgencyEn

Iron Dome attempt to counter #Gaza's rockets

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According to a statement published by the Islamic Jihad, the rocket strikes were in response to the murder of Islamic Jihad member Mohammed al-Naem, 27, who was shot dead along the fence east of Khan Yunis by Israeli forces, earlier in the day.

Viral images from the incident showed an Israeli bulldozer speeding towards the scene and preventing other Palestinians from retrieving Naem's body before crushing and taking away the corpse.

The Palestinians were forced to withdraw after coming under fire from Israeli soldiers. Four Palestinians were injured from gunshot wounds during the incident, according to the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC).

Images from the scene aroused much anger in Gaza.

The Palestinian Hamas resistance movement later issued a statement describing retaliatory Palestinian rocket fire as a "natural result of the continued crimes of the occupation and its violations against our besieged people and the people of Gaza".

المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام

@PalinfoAr

#شاهد.. اطلاق رشقات صاروخية باتجاه مستوطنات غلاف غزة.

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The incident comes after Israeli minister of military affairs Naftali Bennett said last week that Israel would begin to “hoard” the bodies of Palestinians accused of "terrorism" to use as “bargaining chips” in negotiations with Hamas.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/23/619374/Israeli-jets-bomb-Gaza

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Pope slams Trump's Mideast plan as 'prelude to new crises'

23 February 2020

Pope Francis has hit out at US President Donald Trump's so-called deal of the century on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that 'unfair and inequitable solutions' would only be a prelude to new crises in the region.

"Nor can we overlook the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the danger of inequitable solutions and, hence, a prelude to new crises," Francis said.

The leader of the Catholic Church made remarks on Sunday in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to attend a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin. 

Francis also lamented the many areas of war and conflict, including in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

"The Mediterranean region is currently threatened by outbreaks of instability and conflict, both in the Middle East and different countries of North Africa, as well as between various ethnic, religious or confessional groups," he added.

Among the prelates gathered for his speech in Bari’s Pontifical Basilica of St. Nicholas were churchmen from the Balkans, Jerusalem al-Quds and Algeria.

It was the first time the pope has spoken in public about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Trump announced the plan on January 28.

The pope expressed concern in 2018 when the United States announced the relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, saying the city's "status quo" should be respected.

Francis called for all to honor UN resolutions on the city.

Defying international outcry, Trump announced the general provisions of the plan he calls “the deal of century” at the White House with the Israeli premier at his side.

Within just hours after the announcement, Trump’s proposed deal aroused a storm of indignation and opposition among people and politicians as well as international organizations.

The plan totally ignores the rights and demands of up to 15 million Palestinians around the world, leaving them out of a process that is expected to decide their fate and their future.

Opponents argue that the highly pro-Israel scheme offers no prescription for peace because it blatantly violates international law.

It strips Palestinians of their basic rights on a number of sensitive issues, including the state of Jerusalem al-Quds, the future borders of a sovereign Palestinian state, the return of Palestinian refugees driven from their homeland, security responsibility, as well as Israeli settlements built on occupied land. 

Amnesty International has criticized the proposal as “a handbook for more suffering and abuses” in the occupied territories, urging the international community to reject measures set out in the deal in contravention of international law.

Earlier in his career, Trump even formally recognized al-Quds as Israel’s “capital,” and Syria’s Golan Heights as the Israeli regime’s “sovereign territory,” exceeding all his predecessors in terms of pro-Tel Aviv favors.

This photo taken on February 23, 2020 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis (3rdR) meeting with bishops at the Basilica pontificia di San Nicola during a visit to Bari, southern Italy. (Photo by AFP)

Also during his Sunday’s speech, Francis took a swipe at populist politics, in an apparent reference to Trump's policies. “It scares me when I hear some speeches by some leaders of the new forms of popularism,” he said. He also lamented that waves of refugees fleeing conflicts, climate change consequences and other adversity are “depicted as an invasion.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/23/619345/Pope-Francis-Palestine-Jerusalem-al-Quds-Trump-Israel

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Israeli forces shoot dead two Palestinians near Gaza fence

23 February 2020

Israeli forces have shot dead two Palestinians along a fence separating the besieged Gaza Strip from the occupied territories and injured several others who rushed to confront an armored bulldozer. 

The Israeli military claimed that the two Palestinians were planting an improvised explosive device along the fence east of the city of Khan Yunis on Sunday morning.

After the killings, an Israeli armored bulldozer was seen crossing the Gaza fence "in a sadist manner," according to Palestine's Wafa news agency.

The International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) said the bulldozer repeatedly crushed the bodies with its blade, then grabbed the corpse of one of the Palestinians with its blade and swung the body back and forth in the air.

A group of Palestinians then began pelting the bulldozer with stones as it approached, before a gunshot was heard.

As the Palestinians dispersed, the Israeli bulldozer — guarded by a Merkava tank — lifted up one of the mangled bodies and carried it toward the occupied territories.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement condemned the “brutal crime” and pledged to “not let the occupation deal with us as it does with some Arab states".

"We are placing our hands on the trigger and we will avenge the blood of the martyrs by firing on Tel Aviv,” it said.

Last week, Israeli minister of military affairs Naftali Bennett said the regime would begin to “hoard” Palestinian bodies to use as “bargaining chips” in a bid to pressure the Gaza-based Hamas resistance movement to release two Israeli men and the remains of two soldiers.

Violence has surged in the occupied lands following the release of US President Donald Trump's self-proclaimed "deal of the century," which all Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected.

Trump's Middle East scheme largely meets Israel’s demands in the decades-old conflict while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

It also enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

On Thursday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that 3,000 settler units would be built in East al-Quds' Givat HaMatos area in addition to another 2,200 in the nearby Har Homa neighborhood.

Top EU diplomat slams Israeli settlement construction plan

 EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Saturday the fresh Israeli settlement construction project would be "deeply detrimental" to the so-called two-state solution, calling on Tel Aviv to reconsider its plan.

"Settlements are illegal under international law. The EU will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties," he said.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/23/619332/Israel-Palestine-Gaza-Khan-Yunis

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Africa

 

Eastern Libya forces say 16 Turkish soldiers killed in fighting

February 23, 2020

BENGHAZI: Forces loyal to Libyan eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar said on Sunday they had killed 16 Turkish soldiers in recent weeks, a day after Turkey acknowledged it had lost several "martyrs" in combat in the north African country.

Khalid al-Mahjoub, a spokesman for Haftar's Libya National Army (LNA), said the Turks were killed in the port city of Misrata, in battles in Tripoli and in the town of al-Falah south of the capital.

Turkey backs Libya's weak internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and has sent Syrian soldiers along with some of its own soldiers and weapons.

Haftar's forces are backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday acknowleged some Turkish losses in Libya's "struggle".

"We are there (in Libya) with our (Turkish) soldiers and our teams from the Syrian National Army. We continue the struggle there. We have several martyrs. In return, however, we neutralized nearly a hundred (of Haftar's) legionaries," Erdogan said.

The Syrian National Army, also known as Free Syrian Army, is a Turkey-backed Syrian rebel group fighting against pro-Damascus forces in northern Syria, where 16 Turkish soldiers have been killed so far this month.

The deployment of Turkish soldiers and sophisticated air defences has erased small gains made by the LNA with the help of Russian mercenaries, returning the frontline roughly to where it was at start of Haftar's campaign in April 2019.

Ceasefire talks between Libya's warring sides resumed on Thursday after the GNA had pulled out of negotiations following the shelling of Tripoli's port by Haftar's forces.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1632056/middle-east

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Libya's GNA not to return to Geneva talks: Top official

Aydogan Kalabalik 

22.02.2020

TRIPOLI

Libya’s legitimate government will have no further participation in the UN-mediated talks in Geneva, the head of the country’s High Council of State said on Saturday.

Khalid al-Mishri, chairman of the top advisory council, ruled out the possibility of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) returning to negotiations in Switzerland.

He said Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s forces were constantly attacking civilians with continuous financial support from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The senior official also criticized the UN for failing to share relevant details regarding the talks, including the names of participants.

On Tuesday, a joint military commission representing the GNA and Haftar’s forces had started a second round of talks in Geneva.

But the GNA pulled out on Wednesday following repeated cease-fire violations by Haftar’s forces, including an attack on Tripoli’s port that killed three civilians and injured five others.

The 5+5 joint military commission was formed after last month’s Berlin conference and was tasked with finding ways to ensure a permanent cease-fire.

The conference was attended by representatives of the U.S., Turkey, Russia, the U.K., UN, Algeria, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, the Republic of the Congo, UAE, African Union, EU, and League of Arab States.

Under the agreement reached in Berlin, all signatories committed to not interfere in Libya's civil war, to support a cease-fire, honor the arms embargo, and support the UN-facilitated political process.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the UAE, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/libyas-gna-not-to-return-to-geneva-talks-top-official/1741840

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Libya’s LNA says it has killed 16 Turkish fighters in the country overall

23 February 2020

The Libyan National Army (LNA) said on Sunday it had killed 16 Turkish fighters in total since Turkey moved troops into the country in support of its rival, the Government of National Accord (GNA).

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan committed Turkish soldiers and allied Syrian militiamen, reportedly including extremist fighters, to support the GNA against the LNA. The country has been gripped in conflict since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The LNA recently struck a Turkish ship in the port of Libya's capital of Tripoli.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2020/02/23/Libya-s-LNA-says-it-has-killed-18-Turkish-fighters-in-the-country-overall.html

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Italy arrests ship’s captain over alleged Libya arms trafficking

22 February 2020

Italian authorities have arrested the captain of a Lebanese-flagged cargo ship which was seized in the port of Genoa on suspicion of trafficking arms to Libya, including tanks and artillery, the city’s chief prosecutor said on Friday.

Any deliveries of weapons to Libya would be in violation of a United Nations embargo, although UN officials say the embargo has been subject to frequent violations.

The vessel, the Bana, was blocked by police in Genoa harbour on February 3.

It was then searched after a ship’s officer told Italian authorities that weapons had been loaded onto the ship at the Turkish port of Mersin then transported to the Libyan capital Tripoli, a judicial source said.

The shipment included tanks, howitzers, machineguns, and air defense systems, the source said.

The ship was originally scheduled to sail from Turkey to Genoa. But according to the informant, who has requested political asylum, Turkish military officers escorting the shipment had told the crew to declare that the stop in Tripoli was due to mechanical problem.

The Bana then continued without cargo to Genoa in order to load cars in the Italian port, chief prosecutor Franco Cozzi said.

The ship’s captain, Joussef Tartiussi, a Lebanese national, was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of trying to influence his crew’s testimony and concealing evidence, Cozzi said.

Tartiussi’s lawyer declined to comment.

The Turkish government backs Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which has been fighting since last April for control of Tripoli against the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar.

Italian authorities are analyzing the ship’s navigation equipment and mobile phones of crew members with the aim of verifying the route followed by the Bana, whose transponders were turned off after it left the Turkish port, Cozzi said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2020/02/22/Italy-arrests-ship-s-captain-over-alleged-Libya-arms-trafficking.html

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At least 16 Turkish soldiers killed in fighting in Libya: Haftar forces

23 February 2020

Forces loyal to Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar say they have killed 16 Turkish soldiers in recent weeks amid ongoing violence in the North African country. 

A spokesman for Haftar's self-styled Libya National Army (LNA) said Sunday the Turkish soldiers were killed in the battle for Tripoli in the port city of Misrata, as well as the town of al-Falah south of the capital.

The announcement came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged some Turkish losses in Libya's "struggle".

"We are there (in Libya) with our (Turkish) soldiers and our teams from the Syrian National Army. We continue the struggle there. We have several martyrs. In return, however, we neutralized nearly a hundred (of Haftar's) legionaries," Erdogan said.

On Friday, Erdogan confirmed for the first time the presence of pro-Turkish Syrian militants in Libya.

“Turkey is there with a training force. There are also people from the Syrian National Army,” he told reporters in Istanbul, referring to a group of anti-Damascus militants previously known as the so-called Free Syrian Army.

Libya’s internationally recognized government, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, has previously sought Turkey’s support against militants under the command of Khalifa Haftar, who receive support from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Haftar’s rebels launched an offensive in April to wrest control of Triploi.

The offensive has so far killed 1000 people and displaced some 146,000 people, according to United Nations figures.

Back in November, Serraj signed a military cooperation deal with Erdogan, under which Ankara agreed to send troops to support GNA forces.

Libya has since 2014 been divided between two rival camps, the Tripoli-based government of Sarraj, and a camp in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by rebel forces under the command of Khalifa Haftar.

Numerous attempts to broker peace between the two sides of the conflict have failed.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/23/619367/Libya-Turkey-soldiers-Khalifa-Haftar-Erdogan-Fayez-al-Sarraj-Tripoli

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Rebel leader sworn in as first vice president in South Sudan

23 February 2020

South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar has been sworn in for the third time as first vice president of the country.

Machar on Saturday formally rejoined the government in the latest bid to bring peace to the country ravaged by war.

President Salva Kiir hailed the “official ending of war” with the swearing-in of Machar. He said peace was now “irreversible” as the new unity government was formed after more than a year of delays following a September 2018 peace deal.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of civil war.

In July 2011, Machar was appointed first vice president of the new republic led by President Kiir. In February 2013, Machar publicly announced his intention to challenge President Kiir, and in July that year, he and his entire cabinet were dismissed from office. In late August 2015, Machar became vice president again after the two sides made peace.

Full report at:

A new power-sharing agreement was reached between the two sides in September 2018.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/23/619327/South-Sudan-rebel-leader-vice-president

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Three Mali soldiers killed in suspected militant attack

February 23, 2020

MALI: Three Mali soldiers were killed Sunday in a suspected militant attack on an outpost in the far north of the country, military and local sources said.

“Three of our men fell Sunday during a jihadist attack in Bambara Maoude,” a military official said from Timbuktu, some 100 kilometers away.

“At least three soldiers have been killed and two others are missing,” a local official added.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1631981/world

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Libya: 3 civilians hurt as Haftar forces shell Tripoli

Hamdi Musa  

22.02.2020

Three civilians were injured in a shelling by Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar's forces in capital Tripoli, Libya’s U.N.-recognized government said on Saturday.

A house in Tripoli’s southwestern al-Swani neighborhood was damaged in the shelling and three members of a family sustained injuries, the Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a statement.

The GNA has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since last April, with more than 1,000 lives lost in the violence.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

On Jan. 12, the parties to the conflict announced a cease-fire in response to a joint call by Turkey and Russia.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/libya-3-civilians-hurt-as-haftar-forces-shell-tripoli/1741779

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Pakistan

 

US-Taliban peace talks were impossible without Pakistan: Shah Mehmood Qureshi

Feb 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Taking credit for the imminent peace deal between the US and Afghan Taliban, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said that his country has fulfilled all its promises made to America by playing its role in the successful negotiations.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Friday said that an agreement between the US and the Taliban could come as soon as February 29 in Afghanistan.

According to Pompeo, the US "reached an understanding with the Taliban" on a reduction of violence that could lead to the signing of the US-Taliban agreement next week.

The historic agreement would pave the way for ending America's longest war.

Qureshi termed the imminent deal as a “historic breakthrough” for which Pakistan played the role of a facilitator.

Qureshi said Pakistan was closely involved in the entire process. "The deal will be signed in the presence of Pakistan because it was impossible for the deal to come through without our efforts," the Foreign Office quoted Qureshi as saying.

"Pakistan has played its role in the peace process with wholeheartedness and honesty and it is now incumbent upon the Afghan government to do the same," he said.

Qureshi that when Pompeo came to Pakistan for his maiden visit last year, relations between the two countries were at its lowest ebb.

"Pompeo told me that the pathway to fixing relations between Pakistan and the US came through Kabul. Now I would like to remind him that we have fulfilled all our promises. Not only did we build a peace team but we also played our role in ensuring that the negotiations were successful," said Qureshi.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/us-taliban-peace-talks-were-impossible-without-pakistan-shah-mehmood-qureshi/articleshow/74259304.cms

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Pakistan inaugurates first-ever Afghan transit cargo train service

Feb 23, 2020

KARACHI: Pakistan Railways has inaugurated the first ever freight train service that will transit cargo from port city of Karachi to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Pakistan Railways chairman Habib-ur-Rehman Gilani inaugurated the train on Saturday which departed from the Pakistan International Container Terminal in Karachi with 35 containers on board for the country's southwest Chaman city bordering Afghanistan. From there, the goods will be shifted across the border via road, the Nation reported.

The chairman said the launching of the freight train is one of the major achievements for Pakistan during the ongoing calendar year, which has been termed as ‘Freight Year' aimed at enhancing the revenue generation via transportation of goods through cargo services, the report said.

"The project will help increase the revenue of Pakistan Railways and will also reduce the heavy traffic flow from major roads and highways, besides providing cheap and smooth cargo services to traders with little loss risks in terms of damages,” the official was quoted as saying.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-inaugurates-first-ever-afghan-transit-cargo-train-service/articleshow/74266035.cms

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Fazl wants to unite opposition parties against govt

February 24, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has decided not to further show his grievances publicly against two mainstream political parties--Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-- with an aim to unite all opposition forces for massive anti-government movement in the coming months, sources told The News here on Sunday.

“JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman assured representatives of both the PML-N and PPP that he would not publicly criticise these parties but his grievances must be addressed by their respective leadership for a joint movement against Imran-led government,” the sources said.

It is pertinent to mention here that Maulana Fazlur Rehman in first week of this month decided to distance his party from opposition parties alliance led by the PML-N and PPP and formed a new opposition parties alliance comprising six parties.

The new alliance includes JUI-F, National Party, Jamaat Ahl-e-Hadees, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan.

The sources said PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq and PPP leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf during their separate meetings with Maulana Fazlur Rehman few days back conveyed important messages of their respective leaderships to him, but he was of the view that both mainstream political parties ditched him badly when he was fully prepared for a final showdown in the capital city against the incumbent government.

They said Maulana Fazlur Rehman informed these representatives that his party would hold three public meetings (27th February in Karachi, March 7 in Bannu and March 19 in Lahore) in coordination with five other parties to mobilise the masses for anti-government movement.

The sources said as a result of these two meetings JUI-F is now all set to again bring together all opposition parties next month and evolve a joint strategy to get rid of the PTI-led government that according to it is pushing the country into the troubled waters.

They said JUI-F and PML-N are of the view that the joint opposition should utilise its energies to pave the way for fresh general elections before next Senate elections to be held next year in March.

“PML-N and JUI-F are not in favour of any in-house change and both these parties want fresh elections in the country. When opposition parties would sit together next month then it would be thoroughly discussed whether they should seek in-house change or demand fresh elections in the country,” the sources said.

Talking to The News, JUI-F leader Mufti Kifayatullah said they had reservations about some policies of the PML-N and PPP, but now things are moving in the right direction due to which JUI-F chief has decided to again launch an aggressive drive in coordination with all the opposition parties to get rid of the Imran-led government.

“The senior members of PML-N and PPP met Maulana Fazlur Rehman a few days back and conveyed messages of their respective leaderships. Now we think that both mainstream political parties are ready for a final showdown against the incumbent government,” he said. To a question, he said first of all they demand fresh elections in the country but if other opposition parties evolve any strategy for in-house change then they can also support it.

He said no one is ready to give more time to this incompetent government so they would ponder over all the available options and prepare roadmap for a political change.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/618895-fazl-wants-to-unite-opposition-parties-against-govt

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Nation has to decide on saving sinking economy: Shahbaz Sharif

February 24, 2020

LONDON: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and leader of the opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif said Sunday the nation would have to take decision to save the sinking national economy.

Talking to the media on Sunday, he called for national unity to steer the country out of crises. He said that the nation was paying the price for destruction of the economy. He said taking inflation rate in country to 14 per cent and interest policy rate to 13.25 per cent was an enmity with the country.

Lamenting inflation and unemployment in the country, the opposition leader said the biggest budget deficit, speedy borrowings and lowest growth rate all were the factors that led to economic disaster.

“We need to open our eyes,” he said adding that the government decisions were causing problems for national economy. Shahbaz, who is London for treatment of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif, also slammed Prime Minister Imran Khan for showing cold response over the hot issue.

“The current policies have shaken up all the businessmen whether he is a factory owner, shopkeeper or holder of pushcarts,” he added. The public had to pay for the damages inflicted on the economy.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/618734-nation-has-to-decide-on-saving-sinking-economy-shahbaz-sharif

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NA committee takes up NAB ordinance bill today

Amir Wasim

February 24, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice is set to take up a number of key bills, including the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, in its two-day meeting starting on Monday (today).

Besides the NAB ordinance, the committee headed by ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Riaz Fatyana will also review four constitutional amendment bills, including the one moved by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Abdul Qadir Patel seeking to limit the powers of the president to promulgate ordinances, shows the agenda of the meeting issued by the National Assembly Secretariat.

The committee will also take up a crucial constitution amendment bill moved by Kesoo Mal Kheeal Das seeking to declare Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Brahvi, Hindko and Seraiki as “national languages” of Pakistan along with Urdu.

Such bills seeking national language status for the regional languages have been introduced by legislators several times in the past, but they could not sail through parliament.

The NAB ordinance curtailing certain key powers of the accountability watchdog is on the agenda of the committee’s meeting despite the fact that the government and the opposition are still busy in open as well as backdoor negotiations on it.

The ordinance has actually been introduced to take care of the business community and to allay their fear about NAB actions, but, to some extent, it proved beneficial for politicians and bureaucrats as well, as it has redefined the terms “misuse of authority” and “acts done in good faith”.

An amendment made through the ordinance in Section 9 (a)(vi) of the National Accountability Ordinance of 1999 says: “Nothing shall be construed as misuse of authority by a holder of public office unless there is corroborative evidence of accumulation of any monetary benefit or asset which is disproportionate to his known sources of income or which cannot be reasonably accounted for.”

A new clause in the same section reads: “An act done in good faith and in discharge of duties and performance of official function shall not, unless there is corroborative evidence of accumulation of any monetary benefit or asset which is disproportionate to the known sources of income or which cannot be reasonably accounted for, constitute an offence under this clause.”

Another amendment reads: “Notwith­standing anything contained in this Ordinance or any other law for the time being in force, the valuation of immovable properties, for the purposes of assessing as to whether a holder of public office has assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, shall be reckoned either according to the applicable rate prescribed by the district collector or the Federal Board of Revenue, whichever is higher. No evidence contrary to the latter shall be admissible.”

Initially, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the PPP rejected the NAB ordinance, alleging that “the government is making efforts to protect a few of its cronies and dry-clean the PTI”, but later they extended their covert support to the move after finding it beneficial for themselves as well. More than 100 accused of NAB have already applied before various courts to seek relief under the law and PPP leader and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is among those who have benefitted from it.

At the time of the passage of the services chiefs’ extension bills last month, both the government and the opposition had reached an understanding and agreed to cooperate with each other during legislation on key public issues.

When contacted, PPP parliamentarian Syed Naveed Qamar confirmed that his party was not opposed to the basic spirit behind the ordinance. However, he said, the opposition considered further improvement in the law and it would suggest ­amendments when it would come before the committee.

Talking to Dawn, chairman of the law and justice committee Riaz Fatyana said the bill was on the agenda for Monday’s meeting, but since there had been no agreement so far between the government and the opposition, the committee might defer it till Tuesday (tomorrow) to allow the two sides more time for consultation.

He expressed the hope that the government and the opposition would soon succeed in developing a consensus on the issue.

Sources said the government and the opposition were engaged in some “backdoor talks” to reach consensus. They said Law Minister Farogh Naseem and PPP Senator Farooq Naek were also in contact with each other on the issue.

Meanwhile, the NA committee is also scheduled to take up a constitution amendment bill of PPP’s Abdul Qadir Patel ­suggesting changes in Article 89(1) of the Constitution, seeking to limit the number of ordinances.

The statement of objects and reasons attached to the bill says: “The basic function of the parliament is to legislate. But during the course of recent months, it has been observed that the role of the parliament is being restricted and the legislation is being done through promulgation of ordinances.

“Ordinances are issued simultaneously in dozens. Therefore, it is necessary to limit the number of ordinances issued simultaneously so that the parliament may proceed in a much better manner.”

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1536340/na-committee-takes-up-nab-ordinance-bill-today

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Sharifs have protested to Zardari over Bilawal’s remarks: PML-N

Zulqernain Tahir

February 24, 2020

LAHORE: ‘Displeasure’ has been conveyed to the Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari from the Sharifs over his son’s “uncalled for remarks” against them.

“The Sharifs — former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif — did not like the comments of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and conveyed their displeasure to the party’s [PPP] top leadership,” a senior PML-N leader told Dawn on Sunday.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari had on Saturday declared that like Imran Khan, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had also been ‘selected’ [by the establishment] for the post of premier. “Before Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif was a selected premier. Benazir Bhutto did not allow Mr Sharif to become Ameerul Momineen (emir of Muslims) and led a vibrant opposition with just 17 members in the National Assembly (in 1997),” the PPP leader said and also chided Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif for his long absence from parliament. “Like the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the PML-N also does not give importance to parliament.”

The PML-N leader said that after the ‘displeasure’ expressed by the Sharifs it was expected that there would be no more ‘friendly firework’ from Mr Bhutto-Zardari. “Our party leadership has strictly directed us not to respond as we have to go together against the PTI government,” he added.

PML-N Punjab information secretary Azma Bokhari told Dawn that Mr Bhutto-Zardari should talk about future as there was no point in indulging in recriminations. “The history of the PPP and other parties is before everyone. We want the PPP to focus on the poor performance of the PTI regime that has made the lives of the masses miserable through price hike, inflation, unemployment, etc, and should not do a thing that hurts the common cause of the opposition,” she said.

PPP senior leader and Punjab secretary general Chaudhry Manzor told Dawn that the party chairman explained the fact when he was asked [by a journalist] whether Nawaz Sharif was a selected prime minister like incumbent Imran Khan. “What Mr Bilawal’s answer could have been... since the answer is very much obvious based on facts,” he maintained.

When told that Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s anti-Sharifs tirade might hurt the unity of the opposition, Mr Chaudhry said: “I do not think so. Our party has its own politics and others have theirs. The opposition parties are agreed only on one point and that is getting rid of the Imran Khan government. No alliance of the opposition has been formed either to oust Imran Khan through in-house change or launching a protest campaign against inflation together.”

What made Bilawal to take on Sharifs

Some PML-N leaders are of the view that Mr Bhutto-Zardari has been advised by some PPP leaders close to him that if he wants to revive the party in Punjab he will have to take on the Sharifs. “Since there is no immediate requirement of both parties to cooperate with each other for a common cause like in-house change, Bhutto-Zardari set his guns on the Sharifs along with Imran Khan and PTI to gain political mileage,” a PML-N insider said.

He said the PPP leader knew that since the Imran Khan-led government had been given more time by the ‘selector’, he was doing “aggressive politics” in Punjab, showing no care to its natural ally [PML-N] at the moment in the face of common challenge of sending the PTI government home.

“At the moment we want the selector [a reference to the establishment] to stop supporting the PTI regime and give a level playing field to other parties.

“Although the selector has given a few more months to Imran Khan to deliver, we have conveyed to it that the PML-N wants only mid-term polls and nothing short of it,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif has been undergoing medical treatment in London since November last year, while Shahbaz Sharif is there to look after the former. Sources believe that Shahbaz Sharif will return to the country only after ‘some arrangement’ is made to oust the PTI government.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1536321/sharifs-have-protested-to-zardari-over-bilawals-remarks-pml-n

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NA committee takes up NAB ordinance bill today

Amir Wasim

February 24, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice is set to take up a number of key bills, including the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, in its two-day meeting starting on Monday (today).

Besides the NAB ordinance, the committee headed by ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Riaz Fatyana will also review four constitutional amendment bills, including the one moved by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Abdul Qadir Patel seeking to limit the powers of the president to promulgate ordinances, shows the agenda of the meeting issued by the National Assembly Secretariat.

The committee will also take up a crucial constitution amendment bill moved by Kesoo Mal Kheeal Das seeking to declare Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Brahvi, Hindko and Seraiki as “national languages” of Pakistan along with Urdu.

Such bills seeking national language status for the regional languages have been introduced by legislators several times in the past, but they could not sail through parliament.

The NAB ordinance curtailing certain key powers of the accountability watchdog is on the agenda of the committee’s meeting despite the fact that the government and the opposition are still busy in open as well as backdoor negotiations on it.

The ordinance has actually been introduced to take care of the business community and to allay their fear about NAB actions, but, to some extent, it proved beneficial for politicians and bureaucrats as well, as it has redefined the terms “misuse of authority” and “acts done in good faith”.

An amendment made through the ordinance in Section 9 (a)(vi) of the National Accountability Ordinance of 1999 says: “Nothing shall be construed as misuse of authority by a holder of public office unless there is corroborative evidence of accumulation of any monetary benefit or asset which is disproportionate to his known sources of income or which cannot be reasonably accounted for.”

A new clause in the same section reads: “An act done in good faith and in discharge of duties and performance of official function shall not, unless there is corroborative evidence of accumulation of any monetary benefit or asset which is disproportionate to the known sources of income or which cannot be reasonably accounted for, constitute an offence under this clause.”

Another amendment reads: “Notwith­standing anything contained in this Ordinance or any other law for the time being in force, the valuation of immovable properties, for the purposes of assessing as to whether a holder of public office has assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, shall be reckoned either according to the applicable rate prescribed by the district collector or the Federal Board of Revenue, whichever is higher. No evidence contrary to the latter shall be admissible.”

Initially, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the PPP rejected the NAB ordinance, alleging that “the government is making efforts to protect a few of its cronies and dry-clean the PTI”, but later they extended their covert support to the move after finding it beneficial for themselves as well. More than 100 accused of NAB have already applied before various courts to seek relief under the law and PPP leader and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is among those who have benefitted from it.

At the time of the passage of the services chiefs’ extension bills last month, both the government and the opposition had reached an understanding and agreed to cooperate with each other during legislation on key public issues.

When contacted, PPP parliamentarian Syed Naveed Qamar confirmed that his party was not opposed to the basic spirit behind the ordinance. However, he said, the opposition considered further improvement in the law and it would suggest ­amendments when it would come before the committee.

Talking to Dawn, chairman of the law and justice committee Riaz Fatyana said the bill was on the agenda for Monday’s meeting, but since there had been no agreement so far between the government and the opposition, the committee might defer it till Tuesday (tomorrow) to allow the two sides more time for consultation.

He expressed the hope that the government and the opposition would soon succeed in developing a consensus on the issue.

Sources said the government and the opposition were engaged in some “backdoor talks” to reach consensus. They said Law Minister Farogh Naseem and PPP Senator Farooq Naek were also in contact with each other on the issue.

Meanwhile, the NA committee is also scheduled to take up a constitution amendment bill of PPP’s Abdul Qadir Patel ­suggesting changes in Article 89(1) of the Constitution, seeking to limit the number of ordinances.

The statement of objects and reasons attached to the bill says: “The basic function of the parliament is to legislate. But during the course of recent months, it has been observed that the role of the parliament is being restricted and the legislation is being done through promulgation of ordinances.

“Ordinances are issued simultaneously in dozens. Therefore, it is necessary to limit the number of ordinances issued simultaneously so that the parliament may proceed in a much better manner.”

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1536340/na-committee-takes-up-nab-ordinance-bill-today

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CTD kills five alleged terrorists in Peshawar

Feb 24, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) has registered a case on Sunday of an alleged encounter within Regi police station limit here, in which five suspected terrorists were killed.

According to the FIR filed at the CTD police station here, 10 to 12 alleged terrorists entered Pakistan from Afghanistan to carry out attacks in Peshawar, Charsadda, Mohmand and Malakand areas.

The CTD after getting intelligence report about the presence of the alleged terrorists launched an operation, officials said. The alleged terrorists instead of surrendering opened fire at the law enforcement personnel.

CTD officials retaliated firing in which five alleged terrorists were killed, the FIR said. The rest of the alleged terrorists managed to escape in the cover of darkness.

Three suicide jackets, three submachine guns, two pistols, two hand grenades and walkie-talkie set from the militants, CTD officials said.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/23/ctd-kills-five-alleged-terrorists-in-peshawar/

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South Asia

 

Afghan officials on alert as 3 suspected cases of Coronavirus surface in Herat

23 Feb 2020

The Afghan officials in western Herat province have reported three suspected cases of Coronavirus in this province as the authorities have isolated dozens more who recently arrived from Iran.

Ahmad Amir Nezhad, a provincial public health official has confirmed to BBC that three individuals having signs of Coronavirus had traveled to Iran.

He said the authorities have collected samples from the three patients which they have sent to Kabul for further examinations.

Furthermore, Amir Nezhad said the authorities have isolated 36 people who recently arrived to Herat from Qom of Iran. However, he said the isolated individuals do not have sign of Coronavirus.

The Ministry of Public Health meanwhile says the Public Health Minister Dr. Ferozuddin spoke with the directors of the public health of Herat, Farah, Nimroz and Kandahar to assess the strict precautions in a bid to prevent outbreak of Coronavirus.

The Iran officials confirmed on Wednesday that two people died of Coronavirus in Qom Hospital. The two people died after preliminary tests came back as positive for the new Coronavirus.

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-officials-on-alert-as-3-suspected-cases-of-coronavirus-surface-in-herat-04451/

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Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Rakhine state face charges for 'illegal travel'

22 February 2020

Rohingya Muslims arrested by Myanmar forces have appeared in court in the nation’s capital of Yangon over criminal charges for attempting to flee apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine state.

The group of nearly 20, including children, who appeared in court on Friday were among 54 people from the Rohingya minority detained on Wednesday on the outskirts of Yangon while trying to escape the country to Malaysia, Reuters reported, citing judge Thida Aye.

“The immigration officer submitted the case because they found no identification cards from these people,” she said as quoted in the report, which noted that some of those ushered in the courtroom were barefoot -- including a small boy that was naked from the waist down – and others clothed in colorful head-scarves.

Meanwhile, appointed defense attorney Nay Myo Zar said the detainees had fled the western state, where hundreds of thousands of minority Rohingya Muslims live under oppressive conditions and have been subjected to rising pressure amid a brutal crackdown by government forces on alleged ethnic rebels.

Myanmar officials claim the army was engaged in a legitimate counter-insurgency campaign against militants who allegedly attacked security posts.

The government further asserts that it is working on a national strategy to shut down refugee camps and that Rohingya would not face movement restrictions if they accepted a so-called national verification card, which many reject, insisting that it labels them foreigners.

According to United Nations investigators, more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar to Bangladesh in 2017 to escape what they have described as a military-led crackdown – including massacres and rapes -- carried out with “genocidal intent.”

Meanwhile, nearly 600,000 Rohingya still remain in the country but confined to camps and villages where they are unable to travel freely or access healthcare and education. Moreover, the vast majority of the ethnic minority in the majority Buddhist country lack citizenship.

Army vows prosecution of troops over Rohingya abuses

The development came as Myanmar’s army announced in a Friday statement that it would hold more court-martials over widely reported abuses against Rohingya Muslims after a state-appointed commission confirmed that military officers had committed war crimes against the minority group.

The commission concluded in a report published in January that members of the military forces, along with “multiple actors,” were responsible for war crimes and serious human rights violations during a military-led crackdown against the Muslim community in 2017.

The army further stated in a post on its website Friday it had studied the panel’s report in great detail and was reviewing allegations.

The government-appointed panel blamed Rohingya militants for attacking 30 police posts and “provoking” the crackdown, which it said did not amount to genocide.

The army said it was investigating alleged abuses in two villages: Maung Nu, where residents told the panel as many as 200 Muslims were killed after taking shelter in a single house, and Chut Pyin, where dozens more are alleged to have died.

“The Court of Inquiry will investigate such incidents and the trial of Court-Martial will be followed in accordance with the law and in line with the processes of Military Justice,” said the army statement.

Myanmar is facing genocide charges at the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) after Gambia, a mainly Muslim West African state, lodged a lawsuit against it last year.

Massacre of 200 of Rohingya Muslims

According to press reports, residents of Maung Nu told state-appointed investigators that government soldiers besieged the village after some militants attacked a nearby security post and stormed a house where many villagers were sheltering, killing as many as 200.

The January report further found that in Chut Pyin, residents said soldiers surrounded the village and used rocket launchers to set fire to houses, shooting people indiscriminately, killing scores.

Troops told local Buddhist elements, who allegedly participated in the destruction, to “systematically destroy the bodies” afterwards, one Buddhist resident testified before the government-backed panel.

“There were so many corpses in Chut Pyin village that when they were burnt, not all could be burnt down to ashes; some were buried, and some dead bodies were pulled apart by wild animals,” the resident was quoted as saying.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/22/619236/Myanmar-court-Rohingya-Muslims-Rakhine-state-judge-Thida-Aye-illegal-travel

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Pompeo: US prepares to sign troop withdrawal deal with Taliban on February 29

21 February 2020

The United States and the Afghan Taliban militant group have agreed to sign a peace deal at the end of February aimed at ending America's longest war.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban issued statements on Friday saying they had agreed to sign the deal on February 29 in the Qatari capital, Doha, following the one-week partial truce.

Pompeo said that the deal will be finalized only if a week-long cessation of hostility holds in Afghanistan.

"Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the US-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward," Pompeo said, adding negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government would "start soon thereafter".

Afghanistan's National Security Council spokesman Javed Faisal and Taliban militants earlier said the "reduction in violence" between the United States, Taliban and Afghan security forces would start on February 22.

The two sides have been in talks over the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in return for security guarantees from the militant group.

Washington's decision to exclude Kabul from the peace talks has also received a firestorm of rebukes from the Afghan government.

In September, the US and the Taliban appeared close to signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin withdrawing thousands of troops in return for security guarantees and potentially end almost two decades of war in Afghanistan.

It was also expected to pave the way towards direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. The Taliban have been saying they do not recognize the Afghan government, which has so far been kept out of previous US-Taliban talks.

Trump ended yearlong talks with the Taliban in September. The negotiations were aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

The US president said at the time that the decision to end the talks was his response to a deadly bomb blast by the militants that killed 12 people in the Afghan capital of Kabul on September 5, including an American soldier.

During a surprise visit to a US military base in Afghanistan last week, Trump said the Taliban "wants to make a deal."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/21/619191/US-prepares-to-sign-Afghan-withdrawal-deal-with-Taliban

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Southeast Asia

 

Malaysia in turmoil as Anwar denounces bid to bring down government

FEBRUARY 24, 2020

Speculation is mounting that Mr. Anwar, who had been the presumptive successor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, and his lawmakers would be left out of any new coalition, ending his hopes of becoming premier any time soon.

Malaysian politics was in turmoil on Monday after leader-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim denounced a "betrayal" by coalition partners he said were trying to bring down the government, two years after it stormed to victory.

Mr. Anwar's "Pact of Hope" alliance was thrown into crisis after his rivals within the coalition and opposition politicians met at the weekend reportedly to try to form a new government.

Speculation is mounting that Mr. Anwar, who had been the presumptive successor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, and his lawmakers would be left out of any new coalition, ending his hopes of becoming premier any time soon.

According to reports, the proposed new government includes Mahathir's party, the United Malays National Organisation -- the party of scandal-tainted ex-leader Najib Razak, which was ousted at the 2018 polls -- and a hardline Islamist group.

However, it was still unclear on Monday morning whether the push to form a new government would succeed and Mr. Mahathir is yet to comment publicly.

Mr. Anwar said late Sunday he was "shocked" at the bid to topple the ruling coalition, describing it as a "betrayal, because there has been a promise [to hand over power to me]".

Mr. Anwar -- a former opposition icon who was jailed for years on widely-criticised sodomy charges -- was expected later Monday to meet the king, who must give his assent to the formation of a new government.

He had teamed up with former nemesis Mr. Mahathir ahead of the 2018 elections to oust the government of Najib, who had become embroiled in the massive 1MDB graft scandal.

They led an alliance to an unexpected victory against a coalition that had ruled Malaysia uninterrupted for over six decades, and 94-year-old Mr. Mahathir agreed to eventually hand power to Mr. Anwar.

But Mr. Mahathir, in his second stint as premier after first holding the role from 1981 to 2003, has repeatedly refused to say when he will transfer power, stoking tensions within the four-party coalition.

'Malay supremacy'

The alliance's popularity had plummeted as it was accused of failing to raise living standards and protect the rights of the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, and it lost a string of local polls.

After the weekend meetings, analysts said the government stood little chance of surviving.

James Chin, a Malaysia expert at the University of Tasmania, said many Muslims were unhappy with the government and believed the argument put forward by opponents that it was being dominated by ethnic Chinese politicians.

"They want Mahathir in power, and they want Malay supremacy," he told AFP.

Race is a highly sensitive issue in Malaysia. About 60 % of the population is Muslim but it is also home to substantial ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

Many were angry, however, that the democratically elected government, which came to power partly on a pledge to push through much-needed reforms, could be replaced without an election.

The people "will not agree to or cooperate with any 'backdoor' government formed out of the selfish, self-preservation agenda of certain MPs," said a statement from a group of leading activists and academics.

Full report at:

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/malaysia-in-turmoil-as-anwar-denounces-bid-to-bring-down-government/article30901132.ece

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Mahathir, UMNO reunite in Malaysia political coup

FEBRUARY 24, 2020

That is the word Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim used to describe the seismic political realignment taking shape in Malaysia that could soon see the formation of a new coalition government that excludes his party.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, which took power in May 2018, is widely expected to be dissolved following a tumultuous day of political intrigue and maneuvers to form a new federal government on February 23.

A series of meetings involving major political parties and a rival faction of PKR led by deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali eventuated in an audience with Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, the Yang di-Pertuang Agong, fuelling speculation of a “backdoor” bid to form a new ruling coalition that would reunite Mahathir with the long-ruling United Malays Nasional Organization (UMNO).

“We were shocked today by developments that, to me, were a betrayal because promises were made,” said the 72-year-old Anwar in a Facebook Live broadcast on Sunday evening, referring to repeated vows by Mahathir to eventually step aside and hand power to Anwar.

The 94-year-old premier, who previously served as prime minister atop an UMNO-led government from 1981-2003, now appears to have other succession plans.

As Anwar addressed supporters during a prayer ceremony held at his residence, he conceded that efforts to form a new government could materialize by Monday (February 24), a development that would deny him the premiership, send his loyal supporters to the streets and cast a tumultuous cloud of political uncertainty over Malaysia.

As speculation grips the nation, the multi-ethnic coalition’s rise that earlier seemed to herald a new democratic dawn for Malaysia looks set to die young, with the scandal-plagued UMNO and other component parties associated with the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition toppled at the May 2018 polls poised to return to power. 

“This is really a backdoor coup,” said a PH coalition source who spoke to Asia Times on condition of anonymity. “If they go down this route, this spells trouble for Malaysia going forward. I think the ‘old man’ [Mahathir] may be misreading the public reaction to all this. It will be 1998 all over again,” he said, referring to the “reformasi” street protests that erupted amid the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

The latest dramatic developments follow a PH presidential council meeting on February 21 that was expected to establish a date for Mahathir’s departure and Anwar’s rise as prime minister. But discussions ended in a stalemate after Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) reportedly threatened to withdraw from the PH coalition.

At a midnight press conference following those talks, Mahathir said that no transition timeframe would be announced. PH leaders, he claimed, made a unanimous decision to allow him to choose when to step down. “What I say, they will follow… It is up to me whether to let go [of power] or not. That was the trust given to me,” Mahathir said.

Having emerged from the PH presidential council meeting in seeming full control of the succession, it is not clear what prompted Mahathir to initiate such a daring maneuver, which implies the mismantling of his own democratically-elected coalition government to block Anwar’s bid in collaboration with an UMNO-led opposition whose leaders, including disgraced ex-premier Najib Razak, are on trial for massive corruption.

Rumors about the formation of a new coalition comprised of opposition parties and sections of PH aligned to Mahathir, a so-called “Pakatan Nasional” alliance, have been rife for weeks. Anwar had branded those rumors as “lies”, but recently admitted the existence of a campaign to support Mahathir serving a full five-year term.

Party leaders from Mahathir’s PPBM, ethnic Malay Muslim opposition parties UMNO, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) and Azmin’s faction in PKR convened on Sunday at the Sheraton Hotel in Petaling Jaya, the same venue where PH leaders announced their surprise general election victory less than two years ago.

An “important announcement” was reportedly due to be made at the gathering, though none was made and attendees left the venue after dinner. Annuar Musa, UMNO’s secretary-general, told a reporter there that the grouping had not only clinched enough lawmakers to form a new coalition government but also a two-thirds parliamentary supermajority.

Anwar’s political secretary, Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak, confirmed that he met with other PH leaders late on Sunday evening and was quoted in media reports positing that efforts to form a “backdoor government” may not have been successful. “If it was successful they would have announced it. There’s nothing yet,” he said.

Mahathir himself has remained quiet, departing from a four-hour PPBM meeting on Sunday without holding a press conference or speaking to reporters. He was reportedly present when political leaders aiming to form a new coalition met the Agong, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, on Sunday at Istana Negara, the national palace.

Anwar and his wife, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, have reportedly been granted an audience with the Agong on Monday (February 24).

Azmin, his estranged deputy, told reporters on Sunday that his renegade faction would “continue this struggle for the reform agenda, to develop the country and bring prosperity to all Malaysians.”

“Mahathir has very clearly indicated to a lot of people, through his actions, that he intends to basically bypass Anwar and make Azmin the next prime minister,” said James Chin, director of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute. Azmin, who currently serves as economic affairs minister, holds what is regarded as Malaysia’s most powerful economic portfolio.

Azmin and Anwar have been at daggers drawn for months, but apart from mutually vying for prime ministerial power, the substance of their dispute isn’t entirely clear to analysts and observers. Azmin’s faction has accused Anwar of hypocrisy and dynastic politics, while the latter has implied that his deputy is a source of treachery within his party.

To form a new coalition, Mahathir would theoretically need the backing of 112 out of 222 parliamentarians, with each providing a signed “statutory declaration” affirming their support of his premiership, legal experts say.

Those declarations can then be presented to the Agong, who may then appoint and swear in a new Cabinet.  The Agong, one PH source said, could delay the announcement of a new coalition to seek clarification on whether the statutory declarations are “real or not.”

“It’s not as simple as getting 112 signatures,” a PH coalition source said. “He needs to show around 120 to 125 because otherwise the Agong could question whether it would be a stable government. To prove his case, Mahathir has to deliver 120 to 125 statutory declarations to clearly demonstrate that he has the numbers to form a new government.”

PH’s parties now hold a parliamentary majority of 139 out of 222 seats. PKR is the largest party in the coalition with 50 lawmakers. Azmin’s faction is estimated at around 15 parliamentarians. Mahathir’s PPBM, or Bersatu, had just 13 lawmakers when PH took power, but presently boasts 26 owing to a steady stream of UMNO crossovers. 

“For the MPs who joined Bersatu after GE14 (the fourteenth general election in May 2018), especially the ex-UMNO MPs who jumped ship, they would want Dr. M (Mahathir) to stay on for as long as possible. Some joined Bersatu to help the party grow bigger in order to block Anwar’s ascent,” a source close to the PH coalition said.

Local media has been abuzz in recent days with reports of rival statutory declaration campaigns seeking signatures from lawmakers. One campaign sought support for Mahathir serving a full five-year term as premier, while the other affirmed PH’s agreement that power be handed from Mahathir to Anwar without a set timeline.

Dave Ananth, a former Malaysian magistrate, told Asia Times that the Agong could also opt to dissolve parliament and hold fresh elections rather than allow a new government to be formed. “The people voted for political parties, manifesto and promises, thus a backdoor government will be the epitome of betrayal. This is a clear stab in the back,” he said.

If a new coalition is formed, it would do more than thwart Anwar’s prime ministerial ambitions. The ethnic Chinese-majority Democratic Action Party (DAP), currently the second-largest party in the PH coalition with 42 parliamentarians, would likely be cast aside along with its partners, PKR and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah).

“DAP has still been solidly supporting Anwar in his pursuit of naming the date for the transition, and it is the single largest bloc of MPs that is currently backing Anwar,” a separate source close to the PH coalition said. “The working relationship between Dr. M and some of the senior DAP ministers have also deteriorated.”

A new coalition between PPBM, UMNO and PAS would bring the three largest exclusively ethnic Malay Muslim parties together under a single banner in a bid to appeal to the country’s largest and most important vote bank. Analysts say such a reorientation could have negative implications for race relations in Malaysia.

Chin said Chinese voters, about 95% of whom supported the PH coalition during the 2018 general election, would interpret a backdoor government which side-lined the DAP as a sign “that the Malay elites will never allow the Chinese to hold any significant political power.” Ethnic Chinese make up 24.6% of Malaysia’s total population.

“There will be pockets of people who are unhappy because it is a backdoor government, even though theoretically it is completely legal,” a PH coalition source told Asia Times. “There will be a lot of political backlash, there will be racial sentiment because a new government would be mostly devoid of Chinese and Indians.”

“In the medium to long-term, this government will be more Islamic, and more Islamization is going to spell trouble for in particular for foreign investors and also domestic investors, who are mostly Chinese,” the PH source, who requested anonymity, said. “This is just bad overall, and in addition to everything else, this is bad for the legacy of Mahathir.”

As of mid-morning Monday, the political suspense hung heavy in the air. The local bourse tumbled 2.2% in early trading when markets opened before paring some of its losses. The index was down by 1.48% as Asia Times went to press.

Anwar and PH federal ministers including his wife Wan Azizah, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng of the DAP and Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu of Amanah were scheduled to meet Mahathir at his office at 9:30 am in the morning. All reportedly left the venue an hour later amid a no-show by the nonagenarian premier.

Full report at:

https://asiatimes.com/2020/02/mahathir-umno-reunite-in-malaysia-political-coup/

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Malaysia trans woman arrested in Saudi’s Makkah

FEBRUARY 24, 2020

A Malaysian social media movie star’s go to to Mecca has prompted outrage in Malaysia after she posted pictures of her pilgrimage to social media.

Nur Sajat, 33, shared photos of herself sporting feminine prayer apparel and make-up at a few of Islam’s holiest websites, together with the Grand Mosque of Mecca.

Sajat, who has an Instagram following over over 1.four million, has lengthy been the topic of controversy over her gender identification. The contemporary furore, nevertheless, has even drawn the ire of Malaysia’s spiritual affairs minister.

“I remorse her actions, and it was marketed on Instagram as if it was not an offence,” Minister for Islamic Affairs Mujahid Yusof Rawa was quoted by Sinar Harian as saying, referring to Sajat’s donning of feminine garments for the pilgrimage.

Datuk Seri Mujahid said he made the request to ban Ms Sajat to Internet regulator Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) at a meeting on Monday (Feb 3) in his office in Putrajaya.

Ms Sajat raised a huge ruckus among Muslims in Malaysia by dressing up in women’s prayer clothes in Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest cities in Saudi Arabia.

The Internet was set alight in Malaysia after pictures and videos of the 34-year-old entrepreneur wearing a white women’s prayer garb in Mecca, and a black outfit in Medina, were posted on her social media accounts. The postings attracted more than 5,000 comments, mostly condemning her decision on wearing the women’s clothes.

The minister said on Monday that Ms Sajat’s actions could tarnish Malaysia-Saudi Arabia ties as it is an offence for a man to dress like a woman in the conservative Islamic kingdom.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/564020/malaysia-trans-woman-arrested-in-saudis-makkah/

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Johor identifies 15 sites for Rumah Mampu Biaya programme statewide

22 Feb 2020

JOHOR BARU, Feb 22 — The Johor government has identified 15 sites statewide for the construction of houses under the Johor affordable house (‘Rumah Mampu Biaya Johor’ (RMBJ)) programme.

State Housing, Communications and Multimedia Committee chairman Dzulkefly Ahmad said the state government had targeted the construction of houses under the programme in every district especially in Kulai, Mersing and Muar in an effort to ensure the people had the opportunity to own homes and simultaneously achieve the target of 100,000 units under the scheme in 2023.

‘’The government identifies and provide land or acquire them through the provision under the Land Acquisition Act 1965 for the programme. The state government also provides about RM100 million every year for the purpose of taking back strategic land to build the affordable houses.

‘’The 15 sites or 15 housing projects will be implemented with the co-operation of selected implementing agencies such as Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) and Perbadanan Islam Johor (PIJ) Holdings and its categories (of units) would depend on the demand at the locations concerned,’’ he said.

Dzulkefly said this at a media conference after a RMBJ C Taman Scientex, Pasir Gudang open drawing ceremony, here today.

He said the process of implementing the RMBJ programme on sites ranging from four hectares (ha) and 28 ha was now in the final negotiation stages with the selected implementing agencies.

He also targeted that the ground-breaking ceremonies for the projects could be carried out in the second and third quarter of this year.

‘’Currently, we are going through several treasury processes because we want to immediately appoint the implementing agencies. Several negotiation processes in terms of fixing prices and others, up to the letter of offer and acceptance, and agreement will be carried out in the near future.

‘’Subsequently, the planning permission will be given to the relevant local authorities (PBT). We will facilitate a fast track route to the PBT on the constructions of the RMBJ programme and god willing, after everything is finalised, we will target the ground-breaking ceremonies around June or September,’’ he said.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/02/22/johor-identifies-15-sites-for-rumah-mampu-biaya-programme-statewide/1839913

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Malaysian PM Mahathir sends resignation letter to king

February 24, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has submitted a letter of resignation to Malaysia’s king, his office said on Monday, amid talk of forming a new governing coalition.

The fate of Malaysia’s ruling coalition had been in doubt after surprise weekend talks between it and opposition groups on forming a new government that would exclude Mahathir’s anointed successor Anwar Ibrahim.

“The letter has been sent to His Royal Highness the King at 1 p.m.,” Mahathir’s office said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear if Mahathir could form another government with the support of other parties, but his party, Bersatu, has also quit the ruling coalition, its president, Malaysian home minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Facebook.

Malaysian politics was in turmoil Monday after leader-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim denounced a “betrayal” by coalition partners he said were trying to bring down the government, two years after it stormed to victory.

Anwar’s “Pact of Hope” alliance was thrown into crisis after his rivals within the coalition and opposition politicians met at the weekend reportedly to try to form a new government.

Speculation is mounting that Anwar, who had been the presumptive successor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, and his lawmakers would be left out of any new coalition, ending his hopes of becoming premier any time soon.

According to reports, the proposed new government includes Mahathir’s party, the United Malays National Organization — the party of scandal-tainted ex-leader Najib Razak, which was ousted at the 2018 polls — and a hard-line Islamist group.

However, it was still unclear Monday morning whether the push to form a new government would succeed and Mahathir is yet to comment publicly.

Anwar said late Sunday he was “shocked” at the bid to topple the ruling coalition, describing it as a “betrayal, because there has been a promise (to hand over power to me).”

Anwar — a former opposition icon who was jailed for years on widely-criticized sodomy charges — was expected later Monday to meet the king, who must give his assent to the formation of a new government.

He had teamed up with former nemesis Mahathir ahead of the 2018 elections to oust the government of Najib, who had become embroiled in the massive 1MDB graft scandal.

They led an alliance to an unexpected victory against a coalition that had ruled Malaysia uninterrupted for over six decades, and 94-year-old Mahathir agreed to eventually hand power to Anwar.

But Mahathir, in his second stint as premier after first holding the role from 1981 to 2003, has repeatedly refused to say when he will transfer power, stoking tensions within the four-party coalition.

The alliance’s popularity had plummeted as it was accused of failing to raise living standards and protect the rights of the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, and it lost a string of local polls.

After the weekend meetings, analysts said the government stood little chance of surviving.

James Chin, a Malaysia expert at the University of Tasmania, said many Muslims were unhappy with the government and believed the argument put forward by opponents that it was being dominated by ethnic Chinese politicians.

“They want Mahathir in power, and they want Malay supremacy,” he said.

Race is a highly sensitive issue in Malaysia. About 60 percent of the population is Muslim but it is also home to substantial ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

Many were angry, however, that the democratically elected government, which came to power partly on a pledge to push through much-needed reforms, could be replaced without an election.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1632326/world

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Arab World

 

Iraq Christians fear future holds ‘total extinction,’ ISIS resurgence

23 February 2020

When ISIS took over the Nineveh plains in northern Iraq in 2014, terrorized Christian residents fled in fear of their lives.

Six years later, despite liberation from ISIS, many Christians have not returned home and are leaving Iraq altogether - prompting concern that Christianity’s 2,000 year presence in the country could be under threat.

A 1987 government census listed 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, but following the outbreak of war, ISIS, and continuing political instability in the country, Christians now number around 200,000, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.

As numbers decrease “rapidly,” Iraqi Christian Maryam Binyamen said she feels hopeless.

“We are facing a total extinction, I assume. Not the church nor the government can do anything about it. No opportunities, no jobs, security issues...this is sad,” Binyamen said in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Given the over 85 percent decrease in the population since 1987, Iraqi Christian Archbishop Bashar Warda says if “nothing changes in the current trajectory” there is a “real possibility” of extinction.

“The [Catholic] Church will never abandon Iraq, but the people can only take so much. They need to be able to see a future for their children,” said Warda, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Warda is a leader among Iraq’s Chaldeans, the country’s largest Christian sect, who recognize the authority of the pope. The community traces their roots back to the first century AD.

“My fear lies in losing our ancient church identity, our language, and our uniqueness,” Matti Sogheetha, a Chaldean Christian in Iraq, told Al Arabiya English. Chaldeans and other denominations in Iraq, like Syriac Christian and Assyrian Christian, speak languages similar to Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.

Christian exodus

Christians are just one of Iraq’s religious minorities who have emigrated as a result of unrest and persecution by extremists.

Most Iraqi Christian refugees settled in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and European countries.

“We can pray that in some future time these people or their descendants may choose to come back and be involved in Iraq in some form or another, but for now this seems very far away,” said Archbishop Warda.

Iraq has been undergoing political upheaval and uncertainty following the 2003 toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein. The country’s political system has been fragile, with outside powers like Iran “slowly insinuating itself into the Iraqi government over the past decade,” according to former US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman.

This political instability has put religious minorities at risk and provided the circumstances that enabled ISIS to take over one third of the country, including some Christian areas in 2014.

Threatened with death, Christians sought refuge in other parts of the country not controlled by ISIS, as well as Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Many of the Christians still in Iraq today are unable to return to their homes in towns and cities that were destroyed by fighting - and are likely to remain so, given the ongoing volatility in the country.

Possible ISIS resurgence

The resurgence of ISIS is a worry expressed by many Christians in the country.

In recent months “ISIS has been able to regroup, resurge, and stage attacks against Iraqi government security forces,” according to Sarhang Hamaseed, Middle East Director at the US Institute for Peace, who said that there are an estimated 10,000-12,000 ISIS fighters still at large.

But an ISIS resurgence can be prevented if peace is reached in Iraq, according to Hamasaeed.

“If Iraq goes down the path of stability, then religious minorities will have a higher chance to go home. But if more violence breaks out and if there is a failed state, then the chances of the minorities leaving will increase,” he said.

Future is dependent on Iraq protests

The majority of recent violence in Iraq has been directed at protesters staging nationwide anti-government demonstrations since November, demanding a change to a political system that they accuse of being corrupt and mismanaged.

Security forces and Iran-backed militias have responded to protests with a violent crackdown. The protests have received support from a variety of local religious leaders including Christians.

Archbishop Warda, one of the leading supporters of the protesters, has condemned the violence used against them and said the conflict distracts from the battle against ISIS, and provides them room to regroup.

In the meantime, many Iraqi Christians are in the city of Erbil, where they are relatively safe, according to Edward Clancy, outreach director of Aid to the Church in Need, a non-profit organization that helps Christians in Iraq.

“The situation is very stable in Erbil, there is a sense of security and there seems to be a possibility for growth for Christians,” said Clancy in an interview, adding that Christians do not have their own militia or police force, so they remain vulnerable.

Rami Edward, a Christian living in Erbil, said he hopes the future will bring security, peace, stability, and work in the country.

“Not only for Christians, but all Iraqi people,” said Edward.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/02/23/Iraq-Christians-fear-future-holds-total-extinction-ISIS-resurgence.html

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Pope appears to give thumbs down to Trump’s Middle East peace plan

February 23, 2020

BARI, Italy: Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.

Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.

“The Mediterranean region is currently threatened by outbreaks of instability and conflict, both in the Middle East and different countries of North Africa, as well as between various ethnic, religious or confessional groups,” Francis said.

“Nor can we overlook the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the danger of inequitable solutions and, hence, a prelude to new crises,” he said.

The participants included Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose jurisdiction includes Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

It was believed to be the first time the pope, who has often defended both Palestinian rights and Israel’s need for security, has spoken in public about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Trump announced the plan on Jan. 28.

The plan would recognize Israel’s authority over West Bank Jewish settlements and require Palestinians meet a series of conditions for a state, with its capital in a West Bank village east of Jerusalem.

Although Trump’s stated aim was to end decades of conflict, his plan favored Israel, underlined by the Palestinians’ absence from his White House announcement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.

The Palestinians and Arab League foreign ministers have rejected the plan and the Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel.

Palestinians, with broad international backing, want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state, while Israel views the whole city its “united and eternal” capital.

The pope expressed concern in 2018 when the United States announced the moving of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying the city’s “status quo” should be respected. Francis has called for all to honor UN resolutions on the city.

“There is no reasonable alternative to peace, because every attempt at exploitation or supremacy demeans both its author and its target. It shows a myopic grasp of reality, since it can offer no future to either of the two,” Francis said, speaking in general about the Middle East.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1631946/middle-east

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Saudi National Society for Human Rights meet with European delegation

February 23, 2020

RIYADH: Mufleh bin Rabiean Al-Qahtani, chairman of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), received a European parliamentary delegation on Sunday.

During the meeting, the chairman briefed the European delegation on the activities of the society, its contribution to spreading legal culture, its operational mechanisms, the type of issues that it handles and the efforts the society offers in the field of human rights.

The head of the European delegation appreciated the development that the Kingdom was witnessing, especially women’s rights and the measures taken to empower women.

Issues related to prisoners in the Kingdom were also discussed. The NSHR chairman said that other countries’ interference in these issues was considered foreign interference in Saudi internal affairs, which may hinder amnesty for these prisoners.

Al-Qahtani said that the NSHR is keen that prisoners receive a fair trial and full care, which is evident during NSHR’s visits to prisons.

He added that the society continuously follows these cases.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1632261/saudi-arabia

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Pompeo reaffirms US commitment to Iraq in phone call with PM Allawi

24 February 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday urged Iraq’s designated prime minister to protect US troops and meet grievances of a months-long protest movement ahead of a parliamentary confidence vote.

In the first substantive US comment on Mohammad Allawi since he was named on February 1 as a consensus candidate, Pompeo told Allawi by telephone that the United States backed a “strong, sovereign and prosperous” Iraq.

Pompeo “stressed Iraq’s obligation to protect US and coalition diplomats, forces and facilities,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

Secretary Pompeo

@SecPompeo

Pleased to speak with new #Iraq PM-designate Mohammed Allawi.  I welcomed his promise to hold early elections, reaffirmed our commitment to Iraq, urged an end to violence, and called for accountability and urgent action to address protesters’ legitimate demands.

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Pompeo spoke to Allawi about “the urgency with which Iraq’s next government must put an end to the killing of protesters, seek justice for those killed and wounded, and address their legitimate grievances,” she said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/24/Pompeo-reaffirms-US-commitment-to-Iraq-in-phone-call-with-PM-Allawi.html

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Syrian capital rocked by explosions as Israel claims responsibility

24 February 2020

Syria’s capital Damascus was rocked by multiple explosions late on Sunday, and the country’s air defenses fired back in the latest attack by Israel on targets in Syria.

State media said air defenses confronted a wave of “enemy rockets” coming from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

In a rare move, the Israeli military claimed responsibility through a spokesman on Twitter, saying it staged a series of strikes targeting the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in Syria and the Gaza Strip.

Residents said multiple explosions shook Damascus and lasted for about 15 minutes as air defenses fired back. It was not immediately clear what targets were hit.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict, said the explosions resulted from Israeli bombing of suspected Iranian-backed militias in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport.

The Syrian state news agency Sana said “most of the enemy missiles were shot down before reaching their targets,” stressing that “no airport” was struck.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria, mainly targeting government forces as well as allied Iranian forces and Hezbollah fighters.

Israel frequently strikes at targets inside Syria, but has largely refrained from public admissions of its covert military operations there.

A missile attack blamed on Israel in mid-February killed three Syrian and four Iranian fighters in the Damascus airport area, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Iran is an ally of Damascus and has offered military advisers and sent militiamen and material support to help President Bashar Assad’s government forces in the nine-year civil war.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/24/Syrian-air-defenses-intercept-hostile-targets-over-Damascus-.html

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One killed, seven injured as Iraqi forces fire on protesters in Baghdad

23 February 2020

Iraqi security forces killed one person and wounded seven on Sunday when they opened fire on protesters in Baghdad, security and medical sources said.

Iraq is facing an extraordinary domestic crisis, with nearly 500 people killed since October 1.

Protesters are demanding the ouster of what they see as a corrupt ruling elite and an end to foreign interference, mainly by Iran and the United States.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/23/One-killed-seven-injured-as-Iraqi-forces-fire-on-protesters-in-Baghdad.html

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Two wounded in Lebanon’s Tripoli after bomb blast in residential building: Sources

23 February 2020

Two people were wounded after a bomb exploded in a residential building in the Lebanese city of Tripoli on Sunday, security sources said.

The man accused of setting off the bomb has been arrested, the security sources said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/23/Two-wounded-in-Lebanon-s-Tripoli-after-bomb-blast-in-residential-building-Sources.html

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Several Turkish soldiers wounded after Syrian government shelling: Report

23 February 2020

Several Turkish troops were wounded on Sunday in Syria’s Idlib province after pro-Damascus forces targeted a Turkish military convoy with heavy artillery, prompting it to retreat northwards, the Syrian Observatory monitoring group reported.

Turkey has sent thousands of troops to Idlib in the last few weeks after a stepped up campaign by President Bashar al-Assad to re-take the last opposition stronghold prompted nearly a million Syrians to flee for the Turkish frontier.

So far 16 Turkish soldiers have been killed since reinforcements began entering northern Syria earlier this month, raising the prospect of broader conflict.

The Observatory said a fresh Turkish military convoy of about 65 vehicles entered northern Syria on Sunday and headed to the southern Idlib area of Jabal Zawiya before being pushed back by the shelling and Russian air strikes.

After Russia and Turkey, which support opposite sides in the nine-year war, failed to reach an agreement in the last two weeks over Idlib, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to push back Syrian government forces if they press on.

Turkey already hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees and says it cannot handle another wave.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/23/Several-Turkish-soldiers-wounded-after-Syrian-government-shelling-Report.html

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Syrian air defenses confront Israeli missile attack

24 February 2020

Syrian air defenses have intercepted Israeli missiles targeting the capital city of Damascus.

Syria's official news agency SANA reported that Israeli warplanes launched the attack from above the occupied Golan Heights shortly before midnight on Sunday.

"Most of the enemy missiles were shot down before reaching their targets," SANA quoted a military source as saying.

The report added that the military was still verifying possible outcomes of the Israeli attacks.

Majd Fahd 🇸🇾

@Syria_Protector

Syrian air defence missile scores direct hit

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The Israeli military also released a statement claiming that its fighter jets struck targets belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement south of Damascus.

"In the Adeliyah region, outside of Damascus, an Islamic Jihad compound was struck, used as a hub of Islamic Jihad's activity in Syria," it said.

A few hours later, Islamic Jihad released a statement saying that two of its members had been killed in the airstrikes.

Israel has frequently launched airstrikes against Syria while the country has been preoccupied with fighting a nearly nine-year foreign-backed militancy which had once swept over large parts of the country.

Tel Aviv has long despised the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, for its support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups countering Israel.

The missile attacks against Damascus come as Israel also launched multiple airstrikes against what it claimed were Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza early on Monday.

At least half a dozen Palestinians were reportedly injured in the attacks.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/24/619375/Syrian-air-defenses-Israeli-missile-attack

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Any violation of Syrian airspace will be dealt as foreign aggression: General Command

23 February 2020

Syria has warned against any violation of its airspace, emphasizing that such an encroachment will be treated as a “foreign act of aggression” and duly confronted.

Syria’s official news agency SANA, citing a statement released by the General Command of the Army and Armed Forces, says the country's air defense units have been ordered to open fire on any foreign aircraft violating the Syrian airspace.

“Any warplane that will infiltrate the Syrian airspace will be dealt with as a hostile target. It will be hunted down and destroyed once discovered," warned the statement.

Late on February 13, Syria's air defenses intercepted an Israeli missile attack shortly after launch from over the occupied Golan Heights.

“Our air defenses confronted an Israeli attack" west of Damascus, SANA reported at the time, adding that they “were able to shoot down most of the enemy missiles before they reached their targets.”

Syrian army targets Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorists in Idlib

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces pounded the positions of members of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, Takfiri terrorist group in a number of areas in the southern countryside of the northwestern city of Ma’arat al-Nu’man, located 33 kilometers south of Idlib.

SANAEnglishOfficial

@SANAEnOfficial

Syrian army targets with artillery and rocket fire dens of al-Nusra terrorists in Idleb countrysidehttps://sana.sy/en/?p=186354

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SANA reported that Syrian soldiers monitored the movement of the extremists on the outskirts of Kafr Nabl town in addition to Maarzita and Ftireh villages on Sunday.

The strikes resulted in cutting off the supply routes of the militants, and destruction of their fortified positions.

‘Turkey refuses to provide own mercenaries with refuge in Hasakah’

Separately, Turkey reportedly refused to offer its own Syrian proxies refuge in the wake of advances by Syrian government forces in the northeastern province of Hasakah.

SANAEnglishOfficial

@SANAEnOfficial

Turkish occupation arrests scores of its mercenaries in Ras al-Ayn for refusing to fight in Idlebhttps://sana.sy/en/?p=186360

Turkish occupation arrests scores of its mercenaries in Ras al-Ayn for refusing to fight in Idleb

Hasaka, SANA- Turkish occupation forces arrested tens of its mercenary terrorists in Ras al-Ayn area in Hasaka northwestern countryside after they had attempted to flee towards Turkish lands fearing...

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SANA reported that Turkish-backed Takfiri militants fled the strategic town of Ra's al-Ayn toward the border as Syrian army soldiers were scoring territorial gains.

Turkish border guards, however, closed the border to them, and even arrested scores of them because they had purportedly refused to fight in Idlib.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/23/619355/Any-violation-of-Syrian-airspace-will-be-dealt-as-foreign-aggression:-General-Command

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Syria: US dismayed at Aleppo liberation due to terrorist plot failure

23 February 2020

Syria says the US is "dismayed" to see the return of normal life to the northern Aleppo province because of the "humiliating defeats" suffered by Washington-sponsored terrorists at the hands of pro-Damascus forces.

In a statement carried by the official SANA news agency on Saturday, a source at the Syrian Foreign Ministry said the US is "frustrated" with the failure of its project in the Arab country which involved spreading chaos and terrorism.

"It isn’t surprising that the US administration is expressing dismay over the return of normal life in Aleppo and the opening of roads and resuming flights at Aleppo International Airports, as these achievements came following the humiliating defeats of their terrorist pawns at the hands of the Syrian Arab Army which secured Aleppo city completely," he added.

Over the past few days, Syrian army troops have assumed control over most of Aleppo, liberating about 30 villages in just a single day.

They have further managed to completely secure Aleppo city from militant shelling.

For first time since 2012, Syrian troops recaptured the strategic M5 highway that connects the capital, Damascus, to the major cities of Hama, Homs and Aleppo.

A Syrian passenger jet also landed in Aleppo airport from Damascus as domestic flights resumed between the country's two largest cities.

In an televised address on Monday, President Bashar al-Assad congratulated the Syrian nation and armed forces over major territorial gains in Aleppo, saying the city will "return stronger than ever."

The fight to liberate all of Aleppo along with neighboring terrorist-controlled Idlib province will continue, he noted, stressing that the Syrian army will not give up until it achieves total victory "sooner or later."

US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus reacted angrily to what he called "shameless" announcements on advances by Syrian forces against Takfiri elements, claiming, "This is no dream of the Syrian people."

Morgan Ortagus

@statedeptspox

As his barrel bombs fall day and night on the people of #Idlib, Assad shamelessly announces the resumption of blood flights from Damascus into Aleppo Atrocity Airport. This is no dream of the Syrian people; they are living through a nightmare of death and destruction.

 

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The Syrian Foreign Ministry source said recent US statements show that the administration of President Donald Trump is "unbalanced and lacks the most basic forms of communication etiquette."

"The dismay of the US over the failure of its project in Syria is motivation for Syrians to continue confronting terrorists and their supporters until every inch of Syrian soil is free of terrorism and illegitimate foreign presence," he said.

The US administration’s "audacity" and "hypocrisy" is characterized by its policies of "attacking others, interfering in their affairs, and employing terrorists to serve its agendas at the expense of people’s lives and suffering, all while claiming to champion human rights," the source added.

Turkey says lost soldier

On Saturday, the Turkish  Defense Ministry said one of its soldiers, who was  a tank mechanic, was killed in Idlib in a bomb attack by Syrian forces..

Turkish forces , it claimed, retaliated and destroyed 21 targets belonging to the Syrian government.

It was reported to be Turkey’s 16th military death in Idlib in the past month.

Latest Syrian gains in Idlib have coincided with a massive deployment of troops and military equipment by Turkey which is evidently upset by changing conditions on the ground.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/23/619323/Syria-Aleppo-US-terrorists

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