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Islamic World News ( 23 Feb 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Gujarat Cops Justify Public Flogging Of Muslims In Order To ‘Maintain Peace & Harmony’

New Age Islam News Bureau

23 February 2023


A Muslim man being beaten up allegedly by a policeman in Gujarat's Kheda district. | Screenshot/Twitter via Hindutva Watch


• Study The Past And Question Accepted Norms To Progress, Malaysia PM Tells Muslims

• Afghan Taliban Willing To Help Address Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Sanctuaries Issue

• United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan Calls on Authorities to Reopen Girls’ Schools and Universities

• US Delegation, Israeli Officials Hold Several Secret Panels on Iran, Abraham Accord, Washington-Tel Aviv Relations


• Social Harmony: Sikhs, Hindus Join In To Build Mosque In A Punjab Village

• Cleric, Accused Of Forcefully Converting Dozens Of Hindu Tribal Families To Islam, Be Released On Bail If Arrested: SC To Gujarat


Southeast Asia

• Interfaith dialogue a priority for new Malaysian envoy to Holy See

• More graft charges issued against men linked to Malaysia’s ex-PM Muhyiddin

• China reports magnitude 7.2 earthquake near border with Tajikistan



• Pakistan Austerity Drive Strips Ministers, Staff Of Pay, Perks

• High-level Pakistani team meets Afghan Taliban’s acting deputy PM; discuss security-related matters

• President Alvi signs finance bill to pave way for IMF accord

• TTP man killed, would-be suicide bomber held

• 6 TTP Militants Killed in a Special Operation by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police


South Asia

• Taliban demand US return $3.5 billion in Afghan assets after court ruling

• Japan Ambassador to Kabul Meets Haqqani, Discusses Economic Challenges

• Torkham Border Reopens for Trade Transit and Passengers: Afghan Embassy in Islamabad

• Turkiye to Handover Afghan Consulate in Istanbul to IEA Authorities: Sources

• Afghanistan acting Foreign Minister Meets Turkish Ambassador in Kabul

• Bangladesh’s expo in Riyadh bids to attract Saudi customers



• Israeli Troops Kill 11 Palestinians In West Bank Clash, Medics Say

• Israel Police warns it needs hundreds more officers ahead of tense Ramadan

• Nuclear Chief: IAEA Team in Iran for Inspection, Talks

• Iran Imposes Tit-for-Tat Sanctions on EU, UK Officials, Entities

• Iran: Human Rights Violators Not Qualified to Lecture World

• Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory ‘must stop’: UN chief


Arab World

• Hezbollah Condemns Nablus Carnage, Says Resistance Will End Tel Aviv’s Terror

• Saudi Arabia And UAE Condemn Israel’s Deadly Raid In Nablus, Call For De-Escalation

• WHO 'moving rapidly' with Syria quake relief as sanctions are paused

• Egyptians lean on instalment payments to cope with inflation

• Rocket strike in Damascus hit Iranian military experts: Sources

• Robot With 11 Languages To Receive Visitors At King Abdulaziz Complex For Holy Kaaba Kiswa

• Lebanese economy should benefit from maritime border deal with Israel: US envoy

• Syrian quake survivors shelter in crumbling Aleppo homes

• Kuwait sends humanitarian aid to quake victims in Türkiye, Syria



• Amalgamated Union Of Islamic Scholars Endorsed Atiku For Presidency To Promote National Unity

• Tunisian rights group slams President Saied’s ‘racist’ migrant comments

• Tunisian president says irregular migration aims to change country's demography

• LANA Director General heads committee for Benghazi Capital of Culture in Islamic World

• Jordan sentences three to death over ISIS links

• Tunisian police arrest prominent dissident, surround house of another


North America

• US Judge Rules 9/11 Victims Cannot Seize Afghanistan Central Bank Funds

• US extremely concerned by levels of violence in Israel and West Bank

• Illegal presence of US forces in Syria 'destabilizing' country: Iranian minister



• Work To Create Harrogate District’s First Mosque Continues After Asbestos Delay

• Protesting death sentence on dissident, Germany brands 2 Iranian diplomats persona non grata

• Germany expels two Iranian diplomats in support for terror ringleader

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Gujarat Cops Justify Public Flogging Of Muslims In Order To ‘Maintain Peace & Harmony’


A Muslim man being beaten up allegedly by a policeman in Gujarat's Kheda district. | Screenshot/Twitter via Hindutva Watch


February 22, 2023

In a rare defiance of legal norms, a few Gujarat police officials have justified the public flogging of Muslim men in order to ‘maintain peace & harmony’.

An affidavit submitted in the high court on the flogging of Muslims during Navratri last year, Kheda district police officials have said that the public flogging of the detained Muslims was carried out to maintain peace and harmony in the area.

During Navratri at Undhela village of the Kheda district on 3 October last year, a few Muslim men were detained for attacking a Garba dance site near a mosque. They were dragged out, tied to a pole and publicly beaten up with sticks by the police as the crowd assembled for Navratri cheered the cops.

The affidavit was filed in the Gujarat High Court in response to a contempt of court petition filed by the accused who stated that the public flogging was in contravention of earlier apex court rulings on the subject.

The petitioners demanded action against 15 police personnel who had tied them to poles and flogged them in public.

In a separate affidavit, another policeman claimed that their action was “in discharge of their duties”.

Source: The Statesman

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Study The Past And Question Accepted Norms To Progress, Malaysia PM Tells Muslims


Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim


By Zakiah Koya

22 Feb 2023

GOMBAK: The way forward for the Muslim education world is not to focus just on the legalistic aspect of Islam but to continuously question accepted norms in order to make progressive change, says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

He also said Muslims of today must study the history of Muslims in the early days to find out how Rulers such as Saladin engaged with non-Muslim kingdoms to keep the peace and concentrate on the people's issues.

Anwar said this in his concluding address at the International Conference on Abdul Hamid Abu Sulayman at the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) here on Wednesday (Feb 22).

Prof Emeritus Datuk Abdul Hamid A. Abu Sulayman was the co-founder and second rector of IIUM from 1988 to 1998. He was known as a contemporary scholar of the Muslim world and died in 2021 at 85.

Anwar said although he was busy with the pending 2023 Budget re-tabling on Friday (Feb 24), he decided to make time to pay respects to the late Prof Abdul Hamid who was instrumental in making IIUM the Islamic centre of education it is today.

Also present were IIUM rector Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak and Dr Hisham Altalib of the International Institute of Islamic Thought.

“Abdul Hamid was a man obsessed with the development and concept of IIUM and impatient to effect change, and continuously questioned the accepted norms," Anwar said in his address.

"That is why I popularised Abdul Hamid’s way of thinking as there was then a crisis of the Muslim mind.

“For decades, he challenged the traditional way of Islamic thinking, of propagating Islam purely on right and wrong.

“Abdul Hamid wanted Muslims to understand the first decade of the rule of Salahuddin Ayub (Saladin, founder of the 12th-century Ayyubid dynasty) and how he was able to engage with non-Muslim kingdoms in that region.

“We tend to ignore the concept of education. In the process, we focus on legalistic issues and in our ideals, fail in our attempts to change society."

He also said that while there were many books on orientalism – the study of the history, languages and cultures of the East – there is a need for more literature from this region which studied how the western colonialists regarded traditional societies.

“Books on orientalism challenged the accepted notions and concepts of hatred of 'The Other', or those who are not from the West," he told a crowd of mostly IIUM students and diplomats.

At the same event, he also launched a few books, the manuscript for one which he read while he was incarcerated in Sungai Buloh prison.

Source: The Star

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Afghan Taliban Willing To Help Address Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Sanctuaries Issue


Defence Minister Khawaja Asif meets Afghanistan’s Acting First Deputy Prime Minister of Afghanistan for Economic Affairs Abdul Ghani Baradar on Wednesday.—Photo from Afghan Prime Minister’s Office


Baqir Sajjad Syed

February 23, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan Taliban on Wednesday promised to cooperate with the Pakistan government on its concerns about the presence of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters and sanctuaries on its soil after Islamabad delivered a stark warning on the issue.

The Foreign Office in a statement issued after a day-long trip by a delegation led by Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif to Kabul said growing TTP and IS-K threat was discussed and “the two sides agreed to collaborate to effectively address the threat of terrorism”.

The delegation among others included ISI Chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, Foreign Secretary Asad Majid, Special Envoy on Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq and Pakistan’s chargé d’affaires in Afghanistan Obaid Nizamani, who has been here since the gun attack on him on Dec 3.

The visit took place days after the TTP gunmen raided the police headquarters in Karachi in which four people including three security personnel lost their lives. Earlier a suicide bomb explosion in Peshawar mosque on Jan 30 claimed nearly 100 lives. The TTP was blamed for the mosque attack as well.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in TTP violence since peace talks between the militant group and the government began to falter in the later half of last year. The TTP formally ended ceasefire on November 28 and since then 58 attacks have been claimed by the group in which 170 people died.

Many of these attacks were planned and directed by the TTP leadership based in Afghanistan.

A senior Pakistani official, while talking to Dawn, on the background said the delegation delivered a pointed message to the Taliban officials that Afghanistan-based TTP elements must be reined in.

The visiting delegation had met Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Beradar Akhund, Defence Minister Mawlavi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Afghan leaders have in the past always rejected the allegations that TTP used their country’s soil for attacks in Pakistan, but the official said this time they surprisingly agreed to cooperate on the issue. “Probably they realised the gravity of the situation,” he further said.

The details of the cooperation against the TTP would be worked out in subsequent meetings between the two sides at the experts and technical level.

The two sides in their meetings also discussed the broader issues of counter-terrorism and border security cooperation.

Afghan Taliban, meanwhile, said the two parties had discussed economic cooperation, regional connectivity, trade, and the state of bilateral relations.

Mullah Baradar urged Pakistan not to allow “political and security concerns to affect business or economic matters”.

The official, who spoke on background, said the delegation linked progress on all these ideas for enhacing bilateral cooperation to Afghan Taliban addressing the concerns about TTP presence in their country.

Source: Dawn

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United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan Calls on Authorities to Reopen Girls’ Schools and Universities


UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya Afghan students perform during graduation at their degree-award ceremony at a university in Herat, Afghanistan


By Nizamuddin Rezahi

February 21, 2023

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) says schools and universities will resume in a month throughout the country, as millions of girls are deprived of attending education at secondary and higher levels.

UNAMA on Tuesday said on Twitter that the Afghan Interim Regime should now take action to improve the living conditions of the ordinary people and the future of Afghanistan.

The UN agency described the ban on female students’ education as a clear violation of human rights and “self-harm” as the country is already wrestling with a dire humanitarian situation.

Since the return of the Taliban to power in August 2021, the group has banned female students to attend schools above grade six as well as university.

Following the implementation of the recent gender-based restrictions, human rights organizations have called the Taliban’s move gender partied, where women have been completely erased from public life.

On the contrary, Taliban officials have repeatedly stated that the bans are temporary and will be removed as soon as a pure Islamic environment is created. According to the Islamic Emirate authorities, the ordinary people’s mindset has been corrupted by the presence of Western-style culture over the past two decades.

In response to the human rights organization’s statement, the Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid has said that the United Nations agencies and the international community should not interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. They should respect Afghan culture and values as well as Islamic Sharia laws instead, he added.

Source: Khaama Press

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US Delegation, Israeli Officials Hold Several Secret Panels on Iran, Abraham Accord, Washington-Tel Aviv Relations


Photo: Fars News



"The First Secret Meeting of Tikvah” started on Tuesday morning local time in Israel. Several American and Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, Pompeo and US senators, have attended the highly protected panels that was to be kept completely confidential.

Netanyahu was the first speaker of the summit. His speech coincided with the massive rallies across the occupied territories against his plan to limit judicial influence. The prime minister raised his vision on promoting the Zionist regime to a regional leader, and spoke about political and security issues in the region as well as strategies to deal with challenges facing Tel Aviv and Washington on the international scene.

Manager of ultra-orthodox Jewish center "The Tikvah fund" Amiad Cohen, Rotem Sella and Walter Russel Mead were also present at the panel.

The second part of the summit was held on Wednesday morning local time. Yuval Steinitz, a member of the Knesset for the Likud party, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Mark Dubowitz, and General Yaakov Amidror, the former National Security Advisor, also debated strategic partnership between Washington and Tel Aviv in pursuit of common goals.

Dr. Ebtesam Al-Ketabi, the president of the United Arab Emirates Human Rights Commission, gave a speech at the next panel. She has played a key role in normalization of relations between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.

Dr. Michael Doran and Nimrod Gez accompanied Al-Ketabi during the panel to discuss building a regional coalition between Sunnis and Shiites against Iran's growing power and domination in the region.

Ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch of Idaho and Former US Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams are due to deliver a speech on various policies of support for Israel at the fourth panel.

Pompeo is due to address the event on “American Global Leadership into the Future” at the fifth part of the summit before lunch. The former diplomat, who is advancing his election campaign for the upcoming US presidential election, hopes for the financial support from the Israeli lobbies.

The protection team of Pempeo, whose arrest warrant has been issued by Tehran over the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, has been stationed in Israel since past week. The team has evaluated the meeting’s venue to guarantee the security of the participants.

The first speakers of the Wednesday noon's panels will be Karen Elliott House, the former Wall Street Journal analyst and editor. Joshua Teitelbaum, the Israeli analyst and Shiite expert, along with Elliott House, will exchange views on the future of modernization in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s relations with the US, as well as the Abraham Accord and the normalization of ties between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.

Former Israeli National Security Advisor and former lead negotiator on the Iran nuclear deal with the US, Meir Ben-Shabbat, will conduct an address on Israel’s neighbors and the balance of power in the region.

Wednesday’s Panels will end with a speech by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Peter Berkowitz, the former Director of Policy Planning at the United States Department of State.

The summit will continue on Thursday, and Abrams, along with Natan Sharansky, anti-Russian figure and the former Chairman of the Executive for the Jewish Agency, and Mickey Aharanson, the former head of the Foreign Relations Department of the National Security Council in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, will hold a panel to debate the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war on the global affairs, Europe and West Asia.

The 10th panel will be held with lectures by Eli Groner, Dov Zigler and Eli Miller on the global economy and the future problems of Israel, and the 11th panel is dedicated to speeches by Simcha Rothman, the chairman of the Knesset Judiciary Commission, and Moshe Koppel on the effects of legal reforms on Israel's national security.

Abrams will attend a panel for the third time to speak on politics of support for Israel, along with US Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

At the end of the summit, the former and current US ambassadors to Israel, David Friedman and Thomas R. Nides, will discuss the strategic relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv in future. Cohen will also deliver the final speech.

The US delegation has also held several meetings with Israeli officials on the sidelines of the so-called “secret summit”. Pompeo on Tuesday night met with Netanyahu, discussing Netanyahu and his cabinet’s support for Pompeo and his party in the upcoming US presidential election.

US Regional Security Office as well as Israeli police and security agencies have tightened security measures after the Fars News Agency (FNA) disclossed the deatils of the secret meetings.

The Pompeo's protection team has for days evaluated the security conditions of the summit's venue for fear of his life. The main challenging issue that the team faced during the last week was assessing the security condition of the second venue of the summit which lays 200 meters away from the hotel at Sea House on the Mediterranean coast; the team is worried that the resistance forces might be waiting for the former diplomat at this location. He is placed at the top of the list of Iran's revenge for the assassination of Lieut. Gen. Soleimani.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Social Harmony: Sikhs, Hindus Join In To Build Mosque In A Punjab Village

Feb 23, 2023

BATHINDA: Amid the shrill communal rhetoric all around nowadays, a gesture by Hindu and Sikh residents of Khunan Khurd village in Punjab’s Muktsar district is proof that social harmony and a sense of brotherhood is very much alive in India.

The two communities contributed money and building material to construct a mosque for the five Muslim families living in the village, who had no place to offer Namaz. When the mosque finally got ready on Tuesday, all the residents cutting across faiths joined Muslims to inaugurate it.

The villagers also offered Siropas (robes of honour) to the Muslims. The Muslim families offered the first Namaz in the newly-built mosque on Tuesday in the presence of the villagers.

“There were only five Muslim families in the village and they had no place to offer Namaz. The Waqf board had provided a small piece of land but the families did not have resources to construct a mosque. Residents of the village, both Hindus and Sikhs, then came forward and helped their Muslim brethren to construct the mosque,” Punjab Shahi Imam Mohammad Usman Rehmani, who visited the village, told TOI.

Khunan Khurd resident Mohinder Singh said the Muslims were not in a position to build the mosque on their own and the other residents had happily contributed and joined the festivities when the place of worship was inaugurated on Tuesday.

In December last year, a Sikh family of Bakhatgarh village in Barnala district had donated a piece of land to 15 Muslim families of the village to construct a mosque.

Source: Times Of India

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Cleric, Accused Of Forcefully Converting Dozens Of Hindu Tribal Families To Islam, Be Released On Bail If Arrested: SC To Gujarat

February 23, 2023

The Supreme Court has directed the state of Gujarat that a Muslim cleric accused of forcefully converting dozens of Hindu tribal families to Islam be released on bail if arrested.

A bench of Justices M R Shah and C T Ravikumar noted that accused Varyava Abdul Vahab Mahmood had been granted interim protection from arrest in May last year and that he, in accordance with its January 13, 2023 order, had been appearing before the investigating officer every day for interrogation.

The bench in its February 17 order said that “…in the facts and circumstances of the case…and the fact that the petitioner has been protected by interim order since 13.05.2022 and thereafter has appeared before the investigating agency as per the subsequent order passed by this court, we deem it proper to confirm the ad-interim order passed earlier and direct that, in case of arrest of the petitioner, he be released on bail on the terms and conditions, which may be imposed by the learned trial court”.

The court added that “if the state/investigating agency is of the opinion that the custodial investigation is required, in that case, it will be open for the investigating agency to move an appropriate application before the concerned court and the present order shall not come in the way of the investigating agency”. It said that “as and when such an application is made, the same be considered by the concerned court in accordance with law and on its own merits and after giving an opportunity to the petitioner”.

Mahmood is facing charges under the Freedom of Religion Act and provisions of the IPC. Mahmood, was arraigned as an accused in December 2021 upon addition of new charges in an existing FIR of November 2021 at Amod police station in Bharuch.

According to the original FIR filed on November 15, 2021, by one tribal man Praveen Vasava, it was alleged that Vasava was converted into Islam by several accused in 2018 and was rechristened as Salman Vasant Patel. A total of nine persons were named in the FIR.

Vasava in his complaint stated that the accused people “lured innocent Hindu tribals” of the at Kakariya village in Bharuch “with money and in some cases built houses for them and converted them into Islam,” Mahmood has also filed a quashing petition before the Gujarat HC, seeking that the FIR be quashed and set aside.

Source: Indian Express

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Southeast Asia


Interfaith dialogue a priority for new Malaysian envoy to Holy See


22 Feb 2023

KUCHING: Promoting interfaith dialogue will be among the priorities of Malaysia's new Ambassador to the Holy See, Hendy Assan.

He said his role would be different from ambassadors to other nations as the Holy See was the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic church.

"We don't have trade and investment (there). Basically what we are doing is to promote interfaith dialogue among the different faiths in the world.

"We also try to share our experience as a progressive Muslim country because they look highly on Malaysia," he said.

He was speaking to reporters during a courtesy call with Malaysian Ambassador to Brazil Gloria Corina Tiwet on state Women, Childhood and Community Well-being Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah here on Wednesday (Feb 22).

Hendy, a Sarawakian, also said he would look into the welfare of Malaysians residing or studying in Vatican City, besides fostering social, cultural and education cooperation.

"I will do my best not only for our nation but in particular for Sarawak because many Sarawakians are of the Catholic faith," he added.

Fellow Sarawakian Gloria said she would look at bilateral relations between Malaysia and Brazil, focusing on trade and agriculture cooperation.

"There's a lot of potential, especially in agriculture.

"What's important now is to increase trade between our countries because our government is looking into trade cooperation and bilateral relations," she said.

Hendy and Gloria were among 10 new Malaysian heads of mission who received their letters of appointment from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Feb 9.

Source: The Star

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More graft charges issued against men linked to Malaysia’s ex-PM Muhyiddin

Ram Anand

FEB 22, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR - A third man linked to Malaysia’s former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin was charged on Wednesday with graft in relation to a Covid-19 stimulus programme started under the Muhyiddin administration, while another man was handed additional charges after being charged on Tuesday.

Adam Radlan Adam Muhammad, a leader in Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), was charged with two counts of receiving bribes amounting to RM4.1 million (S$1.2 million). Just a day before, he was charged with receiving a RM500,000 bribe and soliciting a cut of a deal from an infrastructure company.

As Adam’s charges were read out in Kuala Lumpur, another businessman with alleged links to Mr Muhyiddin was charged in Johor for allegedly soliciting bribes worth RM12.8 million.

Teo Wee Cheng, 65, was previously named a “close friend” of the former premier by one of the witnesses in Umno chief Zahid Hamidi’s graft trial in 2022.

On Tuesday, Bersatu information chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan was charged with accepting bribes worth RM6.9 million to help secure projects under the Jana Wibawa initiative.

All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Wednesday’s charges balloon the value of the Jana Wibawa controversy to RM24.1 million, following an investigation by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission.

Jana Wibawa is one of several Covid-19 stimulus initiatives that came on the radar of the anti-graft body after Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim claimed that funds were misused.

Mr Muhyiddin’s administration had initiated the programme to help bumiputera, or Malay-Muslim, contractors. Construction projects were awarded under this scheme through direct negotiation with the government, instead of a tender process.

Zahid, who is now deputy prime minister, said last week that Jana Wibawa projects worth RM5.7 billion have been halted pending a review of their procurement processes.

Mr Muhyiddin, who heads Malaysia’s opposition coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN), has said the charges were a form of “selective persecution” meant to taint opposition leaders with graft charges at a time when several government leaders, including Zahid, are also facing graft trials.

Wan Saiful resigned as Bersatu information chief on Wednesday, but Mr Muhyiddin insisted the move was not an admission of guilt.

Mr Muhyiddin was prime minister between March 2020 until August 2021, and is the second-shortest serving premier in Malaysia. His premiership was almost entirely dominated by Malaysia’s struggles with the Covid 19 pandemic and a six-month-long state of emergency.

Source: Straits Times

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China reports magnitude 7.2 earthquake near border with Tajikistan

Feb 23, 2023

BEIJING: An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 magnitude struck eastern Tajikistan on Thursday. The earthquake occurred at approximately 5:37 am local time (0037 GMT) at a depth of about 20.5 kilometres (12.7 miles).

The China Earthquake Networks Centre said the quake was 7.2 magnitude and 10 kilometers (6 miles) deep. However, initial seismic measurements by different agencies, including the USGS, often differ in reporting the magnitude of the earthquake .

The earthquake's epicentre seems to be located in Gorno-Badakhshan, a semi-autonomous region that borders Afghanistan and China, roughly 67 kilometres from the small mountain town of Murghob. Following the initial quake, the area experienced a 5.0-magnitude aftershock about 20 minutes later, followed by a 4.6-magnitude earthquake.

The region where the earthquake occurred is sparsely populated and is surrounded by the towering Pamir Mountains. Lake Sarez, one of Tajikistan's largest lakes, is located in this area, which has an aquamarine hue and was created as a result of an earthquake in 1911. A natural dam deep in the Pamir mountains exists behind Lake Sarez, and experts have cautioned that the consequences would be catastrophic if the dam were to fail.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistan austerity drive strips ministers, staff of pay, perks

Feb 23, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The cash-strapped Pakistan government decided on Wednesday that austerity begins at home, with PM Shehbaz Sharif, his federal ministerial colleagues, advisers and special assistants “agreeing” to forego their salaries and generous perks as the country pursues a staff-level agreement with the IMF for the release of $1. 2 billion in aid. “They (all federal and other ministers and their aides) will now pay their own utility bills, return all luxury vehicles and fly economy on domestic and foreign trips,” PM Sharif told the media.

He said the government’s support staff would no longer be allowed to go on state visits while cabinet members and government officers wouldn’t stay in five-star hotels during foreign trips. This, the PM claimed, would shave 15% off the current expenditure of ministries, departments and sub departments, translating into savings of Rs 200 billion annually. “Until June 2024, there will be a complete ban on purchase of luxury items and all types of new cars,” he said.

Sharif said that all government residences in city centres would be sold off, adding that no officer shall be allotted more than one plot and excess plots shall be taken back. He urged the chief justices of the HCs and the Supreme Court, besides all CMs, to adopt similar austerity measures. He said the cabinet decided that data pertaining to the Toshakhana (state depository) and the gifts received to date would be made public on its website. Any minister, including the PM, would not be allowed to retain gifts valued above $300.

On the government’s ongoing talks with the IMF, the PM said negotiations with the global lender were at the “last stage” and would be settled in a few days, although inflation could remain a persistent threat. “IMF wanted us to reduce subsidies, and that will cause further inflation. They want us to subsidise only the poor, but to determine this they have their own parameters,” he said.

Acknowledging that measures of entrenchment and simplicity would not reduce the burden of inflation, he reasoned that they would at least reduce the resentment “that is accumulated in the people because of what has been happening for the past 75 years”.

Source: Times Of India

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High-level Pakistani team meets Afghan Taliban’s acting deputy PM; discuss security-related matters


22 February, 2023

Islamabad, Feb 22 (PTI) A high-level Pakistani delegation led by Defence Minister Khwaja Asif on Wednesday met with Afghanistan’s Taliban regime’s acting deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and discussed security-related matters including counter-terrorism measures, amidst the worsening of ties between the two neighbours.

Asif is accompanied by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, Foreign Secretary Asad Majeed Khan, Charge d’Affaires to Afghanistan Ubaidur Rehman Nizamani and Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq.

“A high-ranking delegation led by the Minister for Defence is in Kabul today to meet with officials of the Afghan Interim Government to discuss security-related matters including counter-terrorism measures,” the Foreign Office said in a brief statement.

A statement from the Afghan Council of Ministers (prime minister) said the two sides discussed economic cooperation, regional connectivity, trade, and bilateral relations.

It said that the Afghan deputy prime minister asked the Pakistani delegation to release Taliban prisoners detained in jails across Pakistan. He also asked for more facilities at the two key border crossing points of Torkhan and Chaman.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan are neighbours and should have cordial relations. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants expansion of commercial and economic relations with Pakistan as such relations are in the interest of both countries,” the statement quoted Baradar as saying.

He noted that political and security issues should not affect trade and economic matters between the two countries and be kept separate from political and security problems.

The Pakistani side assured Afghanistan to resolve the problems, adding that the concerned ministries and committees would be asked to step up efforts for solutions to these problems, according to the statement.

The visit by the delegation comes as the Torkham border trading and crossing point between the two countries remained closed for the third straight day after a deadlock over starting a dialogue prevailed between border officials.

The Afghan side had shut the border crossing, accusing Pakistan of reneging on its commitments, including those related to unhindered movement of people from Afghanistan seeking treatment in Pakistan.

There was mention of the security issues discussed in the Afghan statement but it is believed that Pakistan highlighted the issue of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants using the Afghan soil for attacks inside Pakistan.

TTP has increased the attacks in recent months and apparently it has become stronger since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban who asked Pakistan to hold talks with the group. But the talks have failed as Islamabad was not ready to accept the demands by the rebels.

In November, the TTP called off an indefinite ceasefire agreed with the government in June and ordered its militants to carry out attacks on the security forces. Since then, Pakistan has seen a rise in terrorist attacks across the country.

The TTP, which has ideological linkages with the Afghan Taliban and also known as the Pakistan Taliban, was set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007. Its main aim is to impose its strict brand of Islam across Pakistan.

Pakistan had hoped that the Afghan Taliban after coming to power would stop the use of their soil against Pakistan by expelling the TTP operatives but they have apparently refused to do so at the cost of straining ties with Islamabad.

The TTP, which is believed to be close to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

In 2012, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai was attacked by TTP. She suffered bullet injuries and was admitted to the Military Hospital (CMH) Peshawar and then taken to London for further treatment. The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Yousafzai was a “Western-minded girl”.

Source: The Print

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President Alvi signs finance bill to pave way for IMF accord

Mubarak Zeb Khan

February 23, 2023

President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday signed the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2023, generally known as the mini-budget, as the government rushed to fulfil the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) conditions to unlock an economic bailout that the country needs to avoid the risk of default.

The Prime Minister Secretariat sent the bill to the President Secretariat on Wednesday evening for assent, two days after it was passed by the National Assembly.

“The president gave the approval to the bill in accordance with Article 75 of the Constitution,” the media wing of the President House said in a statement today.

Under Article 75 (1), the president has no power to reject or object to the finance bill, which is considered to be a money bill as per the Constitution.

The article reads “When a Bill is presented to the President for assent, the President shall, within [ten] days,–(a) assent to the Bill; or (b) in the case of a Bill other than a Money Bill, return the Bill to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) with a message requesting that the Bill or any specified provision thereof, be reconsidered and that any amendment specified in the message be considered”.

With the implementation of all major prior actions, Pakistan is eyeing a staff-level agreement with the IMF this week which will also pave the way for much-awaited credit flows from other bilateral and multilateral lenders.

A well-placed source had earlier told Dawn that Pakistan and IMF will sign the staff-level agreement on Feb 28. This will be followed, according to the source, by the IMF executive board meeting expected in the first week of March.

The IMF had asked the government to raise an additional Rs170 billion in tax revenue. The bulk of tax measures worth Rs115bn was already implemented from Feb 14 through Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs). Now, after the president’s formal assent, the remaining Rs55bn tax measures will come into effect.

The bill had proposed increasing GST from 17 per cent to 25pc on 33 categories of goods covering 860 tariff lines — including high-end mobile phones, imported food, decoration items, and other luxury goods.

Through the finance bill, the excise duty on cement has been raised from Rs1.5 to Rs2 per kilogram, a measure estimated to fetch another Rs6bn.

The excise duty on carbonated/aerated drinks has been raised to 20pc from 13pc to raise an additional Rs10bn for the government.

A new excise tax of 10pc was proposed on non-aerated drinks like juices — mango, orange, etc. — to raise an additional tax of Rs4bn.

The increase in excise duty on business-, first- and club-class air tickets will raise an additional Rs10bn for the government.

Source: Dawn

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TTP man killed, would-be suicide bomber held

February 23, 2023

NORTH WAZIRISTAN: Security forces have killed one militant, an affiliate of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and arrested a would-be suicide bomber along with five others on Wednesday.

According to a statement issued by the military’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), an exchange of fire took place between security forces and militants in general area Spinwam, adding that one militants was killed during an intense exchange of fire.

“The killed militant remained actively involved in terrorist activities against security forces and civilians,” the ISPR stated.

Meanwhile, security forces arrested a wound-be suicide bomber and five other militants, including four facilitators.

Source: Dawn

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6 TTP Militants Killed in a Special Operation by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

February 23, 2023

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Counter-Terrorism Department Police killed six alleged terrorists affiliated with the banned Terheek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) during a special operation in Lakki Marwat on Thursday.

Lakki Marwat police spokesperson Shahid Hameed said that security personnel conducted an anti-terrorist operation near Dadiwala police station after they received intelligence that terrorists were planning an attack on the Abbas police check post.

After the fire exchange between the two sides, police officials found the dead bodies of six terrorists in their hideouts, with some loaded arms, ammunition, and grenades, the police spokesperson said.

Hameed stated that four terrorists were identified and the identification of the other two is underway. The terrorists had been declared wanted by the Lakki Marwat police and the CTD for their involvement in attacks on the police, he added.

The terrorist group has conducted several deadly attacks in Lakki Marwat and other areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the past couple of months. In November last year, the outlawed TTP militants opened fire on a police van traveling to the Abbas police check post, resulting in the death of six police personnel.

Terrorism and militancy have unprecedentedly increased in Pakistan since the TTP called off its unilateral ceasefire with the Pakistani government in November. Since then the insurgent group has launched several deadly attacks mostly targeting police officials and army personnel in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and other major cities of Pakistan.

Source: Khaama Press

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South Asia


Taliban demand US return $3.5 billion in Afghan assets after court ruling

Feb 22, 2023

KABUL: Taliban authorities called on Washington Wednesday to return $3.5 billion belonging to Afghanistan's central bank after a New York federal judge ruled the families of victims in the 9/11 attacks cannot seize the funds.

The United States took control of the assets soon after the Taliban stormed back to power in Afghanistan in 2021, with President Joe Biden saying the money could be made available to the families of 9/11 victims.

A group of families -- who years earlier sued the Taliban for their losses and won -- has since moved to seize the funds to pay off the judgment debt.

But Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York said Tuesday the federal courts lack the jurisdiction to seize the funds from Afghanistan's central bank.

"The Judgment Creditors are entitled to collect on their default judgments and be made whole for the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history, but they cannot do so with the funds of the central bank of Afghanistan," Daniels explained in a 30-page opinion.

"The Taliban -- not the former Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or the Afghan people -- must pay for the Taliban's liability in the 9/11 attacks."

Daniels also said he was "constitutionally restrained" from awarding the assets to the families because it would effectively mean recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

No nation has recognized the Taliban government so far -- including the United States.

"The fundamental conclusion... is that neither the Taliban nor the Judgment Creditors are entitled to raid the coffers of the state of Afghanistan to pay the Taliban's debts."

Daniels' ruling, which aligns with a recommendation by another judge last year, deals a blow to the families of the victims of 9/11, as well as insurance companies that made payments because of the attacks.

A lawyer for the families said they would appeal the ruling.

"This decision deprives over 10,000 members of the 9/11 community of their right to collect compensation from the Taliban, a terrorist group which was found liable for the 9/11 attacks on America," Lee Wolosky said in a statement to AFP.

The Taliban authorities welcomed the court ruling.

"These assets belong to Afghanistan. There should be no excuse to freeze or to not return them to the people of Afghanistan," Bilal Karimi, deputy government spokesman, told AFP.

"They must be returned without any terms and conditions."

More than 2,900 people died when four hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.

The attack was carried out by jihadist group Al-Qaeda, whose leader, Osama bin Laden, had found refuge in Afghanistan under the first Taliban government, which had ruled the country since 1996.

Then-president George W Bush authorized the invasion of Afghanistan in response, swiftly toppling the Taliban -- but they launched an insurgency that led to years of war between the US-backed government in Kabul supported by international forces, and the Taliban.

With the withdrawal of US-led forces in August 2021, the Taliban retook power and reimposed their fundamental version of Islamic law.

The country was almost entirely dependent on foreign aid and has seen its economy teeter on the brink of collapse since Washington froze $7 billion in Afghan assets.

It now faces one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, international aid agencies say, with its 38 million population hungry and three million children at risk of malnutrition.

Biden revealed a plan in February 2022 to split the cash, with half directed as aid to Afghanistan and half going to families of victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Source: Times Of India

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Japan Ambassador to Kabul Meets Haqqani, Discusses Economic Challenges

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

February 22, 2023

Afghanistan’s Acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani on Wednesday met with Japan’s Ambassador to Kabul Takashi Okada, and discussed key economic challenges the country is currently faced with. 

During the visit, the Acting Interior Minister said that imposing sanctions would not be in the interest of anyone. Problems could be addressed through dialogue, and solutions could be sought accordingly.

While praising the Japanese government’s long-standing assistance with the people of Afghanistan, Haqqani said that economic sanctions and banking restrictions have already harmed the people of Afghanistan to a great extent.

“Sanction policy does not benefit anyone, only dialogue and meaningful engagements can solve problems. Unfortunately, the world is punishing the common people and the current regime with its political agendas,” Haqqani said.

This comes as the European Union considers introducing a new set of sanctions on the Taliban authorities accused of violating fundamental human rights through their repressive policies against women and girls in Afghanistan.

For his part, Ambassador Okada once again asked the Afghan Interim Government to lift the bans and allow girls to access education as the new academic year begins in a month’s time. He also expressed his thoughts about Japan’s commitment to the economic development of Afghanistan and the continuation of humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.

Currently, Afghanistan is plagued with a dire economic and humanitarian crisis with almost zero foreign investment. The Taliban-run administration is heavily relying on international humanitarian aid to help the most vulnerable families across the country.

Source: Khaama Press

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Torkham Border Reopens for Trade Transit and Passengers: Afghan Embassy in Islamabad

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

February 23, 2023

The Embassy of Afghanistan in Islamabad has announced that Torkham Border will reopen for passengers and trade transit on Thursday.

The embassy has said after negotiations with Pakistani officials regarding the concerned issues, both sides agreed to resume crossing at Torkham gate and allow all passengers, including patients and trade transit to use this land route.

The Taliban officials on Sunday evening closed Torkham, one of the main trading and border crossing routes with Pakistan. Afghanistan’s de facto authorities have accused Islamabad of breaching commitments. However, it is still not clear to which obligations Pakistan has not been faithful.

A day after the closure of the Torkham border, intense cross-border shelling erupted between Pakistani and Afghan border security forces, lasting hours.

Meanwhile, Afghan traders mostly from the eastern Jalalabad province say that due to the closure of the Torkham crossing point, they have already lost millions of dollars.

Since February 20, more than 3000 trucks belonging to Afghan traders loaded with commercial goods have been stuck on both sides of the Durand line.

Some Afghan traders expressed their concerns over the existing issue and said if the Torkham crossing point does not open, not only the traders will lose financially, but the overall prices will increase in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, Afghan patients who are willing to travel to Pakistan for treatment have complained about the disruption of the Torkham border, and have expected the reopening of the crossing point at the soonest for passengers and patients.

Meanwhile, a team of high-ranking Pakistan Delegation headed be Defense Minister Khawaja Asif, on Wednesday traveled to Kabul and visited the Islamic Emirate Deputy Prime Minister, Mullah Abdul Ghani Bradar.

The visit was aimed at discussing security concerns and initiating joint actions to combat terrorism and militancy in both countries, the foreign ministry of Pakistan said in a statement.

Source: Khaama Press

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Turkiye to Handover Afghan Consulate in Istanbul to IEA Authorities: Sources

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

February 23, 2023

The government of Turkiye plans to hand over the Consulate General of Afghanistan in Istanbul to the Taliban diplomats, according to Afghanistan International.

It is also stated that the employees of the Afghan Consulate in Istanbul were told to prepare for the handover of the diplomatic mission to the Taliban officials, according to official sources.

It is believed that the Taliban have introduced Gul Mohammad Zadran as the group’s diplomat the Consulate General of Afghanistan in Istanbul.

The ministry of foreign affairs of Afghanistan’s de facto regime has fired three Afghan diplomats in Turkiye, Afghanistan International reported. Ahmad Baryalee Kabirzada, Sayeed Hameed Nomani, and Hekmatullah Durrani were among the diplomats who have been officially fired by the Taliban authorities.

No single country has formally recognized the Taliban regime, however, certain countries including Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan which has close ties with the Afghan interim government, have accepted the group’s diplomats.

The Turkish government and the Taliban authorities have not yet commented regarding the handover of the Afghan Consulate to Afghanistan’s caretaker regime.

On Tuesday, reports emerged that Iran will officially hand over Afghanistan’s embassy to the Taliban in the coming days. An Afghan diplomat who has been in contact with the officials of the Iranian foreign ministry said that a serious decision has been made in this regard.

Source: Khaama Press

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Afghanistan acting Foreign Minister Meets Turkish Ambassador in Kabul

By Fidel Rahmati

February 22, 2023

Mawlavi Amir Khan Muttaqi, Acting foreign minister of Afghanistan, met with Cihad Erginay, the Turkish ambassador in Kabul, to discuss enhancing bilateral relations.

Muttaqi again extended the Afghan government and people’s condolences for the recent earthquake to his Turkish counterpart.

He also assured that the government and the people of Afghanistan stood in strong solidarity with the people of Turkiye. He reiterated that Afghanistan would continue to assist its Muslim Turkish brothers as much as possible.

More than 41,000 people have died in a devastating earthquake in Turkey. So far, Afghanistan has extended the aid of $110,000 to the earthquake Turkish victims and $55,000 to the Syrian people.

On the other hand, Ambassador Erginay expressed his gratitude for the support, love and solidarity he has received from the people throughout Afghanistan.

He added that 41,000 people have already died, and the death toll is expected to rise, making this earthquake appear to be the deadliest in the history of Turkey, according to a statement from the Ministry.

Source: Khaama Press

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Bangladesh’s expo in Riyadh bids to attract Saudi customers

February 22, 2023

DHAKA: Bangladeshi firms are hopeful of expanding their export portfolio and attracting buyers from the Kingdom after showcasing their products in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Some 30 companies, which include firms from the garment and pharmaceutical sectors, are participating in the Bangladesh Products Exhibition, which is being held in the Saudi capital until Feb. 24.

The event was opened by Tipu Munshi, the country’s commerce minister, as the government in Dhaka is supporting the private sector’s mission.

The South Asian country is keen to use the Saudi market to increase its presence in the Gulf. The Export Promotion Bureau, part of the Ministry of Commerce, last October organized a trade and investment fair in Riyadh.

Ahsan H. Mansur, executive director at the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, told Arab News on Wednesday: “If we can grab the Saudi market, all other Gulf countries will be easier to explore.

“In order to penetrate into this market, we need to invest more and have patience.”

Most of Bangladesh’s exports to Saudi Arabia have until now targeted its 2.5 million expatriate community living and working in the Kingdom.

However, Dhaka is relatively small in the Saudi market, with the country’s exports worth only about $300 million in 2021.

As Dhaka’s trade portfolio is dominated by the garment sector — the top industry in Bangladesh, contributing over 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and accounting for 80 percent of exports — it can capitalize on its strong reputation and also grab the potential of a “niche market” offered through Hajj pilgrimages, Mansur added.

At least 20 garment manufacturers are participating in the Riyadh expo this week.

Prof. Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Dhaka-based think tank Center for Policy Dialogue, said the expo in Riyadh will help introduce brands made in Bangladesh to Saudi importers and retailers.

He said: “The Bangladesh expo can play a significant role in boosting our exports to the Kingdom.

“The quality of the goods we are producing and the competitiveness, both are on positive trends now, but our brands are not that well recognized.

Source: Arab News

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Israeli troops kill 11 Palestinians in West Bank clash, medics say

Feb 23, 2023

NABLUS: Israeli troops killed 11 Palestinians, including at least four gunmen and four civilians, and wounded more than 100 people during a Wednesday raid on a city in the occupied West Bank, witnesses, militant groups and medical officials said.

The Israeli military confirmed the operation in Nablus, saying troops shot back after coming under fire while trying to detain militants suspected of planning imminent attacks. There were no Israeli casualties, the army said in a statement.

The Palestinian militant faction Islamic Jihad said Israeli troops had surrounded two of its Nablus commanders in a house, triggering a clash that drew in other gunmen. Explosions sounded and youths pelted armoured troop transports with rocks.

Palestinian sources said the two Islamic Jihad commanders were killed along with another gunman. The fatalities included four civilians, among them a 72-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said a 66-year-old man who suffered from gas inhalation during the raid died in hospital later on Wednesday. Medical officials said more than 100 Palestinians were wounded.

Nablus and nearby Jenin have been a focus of raids that Israel has intensified over the last year following a spate of lethal Palestinian street attacks in its cities.

Sixty-two Palestinians, including gunmen and civilians, have been killed in 2023, the Palestinian health ministry said. Ten Israelis and a Ukrainian tourist died in Palestinian attacks in the same period, according to Israel's foreign ministry.

"We condemn the occupation's raid into Nablus and we call for an end to the continued attacks against our people," said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas, another Palestinian militant group that sometimes fights alongside Islamic Jihad, said there were four gunmen killed, one from its own ranks, and hinted at possible reprisals from the Gaza Strip, a territory that it controls.

Sirens rang out early on Thursday morning in southern Israeli towns as the military confirmed six rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israeli territory. Shortly afterwards, explosions were heard in Gaza and the military confirmed it was striking targets in Gaza but did not give more details.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are sworn to Israel's destruction but have in the past observed Egyptian-mediated truces with it.

Source: Times Of India

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Israel Police warns it needs hundreds more officers ahead of tense Ramadan


FEBRUARY 22, 2023

Israel Police is suffering from a severe manpower shortage which will affect its ability to respond to violence during the month of Ramadan this year, warned police chief Kobi Shabtai at a meeting of the Knesset National Security Committee on Wednesday.

Shabtai noted that the tensions of Ramadan come as the police are also dealing with securing large protests around the country, a rise in terrorist attacks, car accidents and an increase in murders around the country.

"In every incident, they expect us to be in all places even before the incident happens and with the deployment and stretching out [of police forces], we are now facing serious difficulties in providing a response at the standard and criteria that we think the citizens of Israel deserve to receive," said Shabtai, noting that in Jerusalem, for example, the police need another 500 officers.


The chief of police called for a pay raise for police officers and an improvement in working conditions in order to aid in recruiting the needed officers.

Shabtai explained that, in terms of mixed cities, where Jews, Arabs and Christians live together, the police are in a better place than they were in 2021, but are still not where they need to be and they need more equipment and manpower.

The chief of police noted that police are working to expand the "Safe City" project which includes installing sensors and cameras to help police to predict disturbances and start handling them as soon as they start, but that they still need a larger budget in order to purchase and install the needed technology.

Shabtai reiterated that while technology is important, the main issue is manpower. "We don't have enough police in these places. In Guardian of the Walls we were caught naked with the number of police officers we had. Our situation has improved a bit in some of the places, but in order to provide security for the citizens of the State of Israel we need many more officers on the streets."

The police and emergency services are planning to conduct a nationwide exercise next week which will last seven days to check the readiness of the forces throughout the country. The police are also recruiting reserve Border Police companies to reinforce security forces during the month of Ramadan.

Sigal Bar Tzvi, the head of the Policing, Security and Community Division of Israel Police, explained to the committee that police learned from the events that led up to and took place during Operation Guardian of the Walls in 2021 and are "much more prepared, organized, equipped and trained" for this year.

Bar Tzvi lamented, however, that police are still "not at an optimal level of readiness" as Israel Police still need to recruit more officers.

"The deployment of officers is relatively large, but not large enough, meaning that if we are predicting that what is going to happen will be about three times as large as what happened in 2021-this is more or less our estimate-we will have a response for most of the events but not all of them, about 80%," warned Bar Tzvi.

Bar Tzvi additionally noted that the IDF and police are working on preparing companies in the IDF to be available to aid police if needed, but added that the companies are not ready yet and it is unlikely that all of the said companies will be ready by Ramadan.

In terms of Jerusalem, the commander of the Jerusalem District of Israel Police, Doron Turgeman, stressed that, despite the uptick in violence, the police have so far managed to keep the Temple Mount outside the circle of violence.

Both Turgeman and Shabtai pointed out that incitement is one of the main threats that the defense establishment needs to fight at the moment.

"There are a lot of entities who have an interest in spreading incitement and portraying the situation as if Israel is violating the freedom of worship," said Shabtai. "Last year we managed to stop this because we did a live broadcast online from the Mount. When they talk about a situation of large-scale riots on the Mount and you show a photo from within the Mount that shows everyone is coming peacefully, it does the job. The issue of awareness is no less important than the operational tools that we're placing on the table."

"The last three terrorist attacks [involved] children between the ages of 13 and a half and 14 who went out to carry out attacks. [These] were people who were being fed incitement on social media," noted Shabtai. The police chief pointed to the team recently formed by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir including members of the police, Shin Bet, IDF and the State Attorney's Office that aims to streamline the fight against incitement.

Israeli prisons are another front where violence could erupt during the month of Ramadan, with the Israel Prison Service preparing for the possibility of widespread hunger strikes, disturbances and attacks on prison service personnel.

"In the past month, we've seen moderate protest measures by the security prisoners concerning their living conditions. We are acting with zero tolerance for disturbances, including emptying divisions and implementing punishments and solitary confinement," said Katy Perry, the head of the Israel Prison Service.

Perry noted that there are 4,700 security prisoners being held in six prisons across Israel, 1,500 more prisoners than what the prisons are meant to hold. The prison service is also suffering from a manpower shortage and needs another 500 wardens.

A representative from the Prime Minister's Office informed the committee that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting last week to prepare for Ramadan with ministers and security and emergency services officials. On Tuesday, the Knesset National Security Committee held a classified meeting concerning the preparations for Ramadan, which included representatives from the IDF and Shin Bet as well.

A representative of the Jerusalem Municipality who was present at the meeting stressed that the socioeconomic situation in east Jerusalem also needs to be considered when dealing with security issues and that the municipality needs more help from the national budget to provide the necessary services to the eastern part of the capital.

The co-director of public affairs at the Abraham Initiatives NGO, Yaacob Ibrahim, warned that an excessive focus on the possibility of an escalation may lead to a "self-fulfilling prophecy," stressing that police must act for the security of Muslim residents as well and ensure the freedom of worship. Ibrahim also warned against incitement from senior officials in the government.

The committee discussion comes as tensions continue to rise in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 11 Israelis have been murdered in a series of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem in recent weeks.

On Wednesday evening, Israel Police raised their level of alert after 10 Palestinians were killed in armed clashes with Israeli forces in Nablus.

Ben-Gvir announced on Wednesday that an enforcement operation he is calling "Operation Concentrated Effort" has led to four illegal firearms and 11 airsoft guns converted for live fire being seized in the past week.

72 suspects have been arrested in east Jerusalem in 18 operations and two illegal structures have been demolished, according to the minister. Police set up 232 checkpoints in east Jerusalem in the past three days and checked 12,451 citizens and 8,349 vehicles.

"Our governance in the eastern part of the city should be clear to everyone," said Ben-Gvir. "I thank the security forces and the policemen who operate in the field at all times. We need to significantly increase our activity and our war on terror, and for this I am working non-stop, and also for this we must significantly increase the police budget...and add more policemen to restore governance."

After two children and a young man were killed in a terrorist ramming attack near Ramot earlier this month, Ben-Gvir called for the launch of "Operation Defensive Shield 2" in east Jerusalem. The statement drew ridicule and condemnation from former and current defense officials who warned that such an operation would be irrelevant and even damaging in east Jerusalem.

Earlier this week, KAN news reported that the government was planning to close or restrict access for Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount during the last ten days of Ramadan. The mount is usually closed to Jewish visitors during the end of the month of Ramadan in order to lower tensions.

Source: J Post

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Nuclear Chief: IAEA Team in Iran for Inspection, Talks


Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the cabinet session on Wednesday, Eslami said that the nuclear watchdog's team is currently visiting Iran's nuclear facilities and that the recent points of ambiguity with the UN nuclear body have either been or are being resolved.

"Those ambiguities were caused by the misunderstanding of an IAEA inspector who had earlier visited Iran. We always avoid creating new ambiguity in our cooperation with the IAEA through interaction and coordination," he stated.

The AEOI head added that an issue like this was not something the nuclear agency would even report to its member states, so the fact that it has been leaked to Western media showed it was an effort towards “smearing and warping facts".

The official noted Iran’s ties with the IAEA are on track within the framework of the Safeguards Agreement.

"The root cause of the current impasse in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is the failure of the major parties, mainly the US, to honor their obligations," Eslami continued, adding that Tehran views attempts at pressuring the country into honoring its commitments under the nuclear deal one-sidedly as unacceptable.

In early February, the IAEA announced in a report that its inspectors found a modification to an interconnection between two clusters of centrifuges that was substantially different than what Iran had declared to the agency. Director General Rafael Grossi has also noted that the change was “inconsistent with Iran’s obligations” under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and undermines the IAEA’s ability to “implement effective safeguards measures” at the Fordow site.

AEOI Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi rejected the report by the UN nuclear watchdog that claims Tehran made an undeclared change to uranium enriching equipment at the Fordow facility in the Central province of Qom, stressing it was issued based on a false inadvertent report submitted by one of the nuclear agency's inspectors.

"The report of the International Atomic Energy Agency was based on a mistake by an inspector of the oversight body who mistakenly flagged the issue," he stated.

"The inspector who had previously reported about it also realized his mistake," the AEOI official said.

Iran has numerously slammed the IAEA for publishing misleading reports on the country's peaceful nuclear program, and described the UN nuclear watchdog's approach in disclosing confidential and unverified information as unprofessional and unacceptable.

Iran has always had full cooperation with the IAEA and allowed it to visit the country’s nuclear sites, but calls the nuclear agency's approach unconstructive and destructive. Tehran has asked the watchdog to avoid politicizing the issue and focus on technical aspects in line with the organization’s mandate.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran Imposes Tit-for-Tat Sanctions on EU, UK Officials, Entities


The Iranian Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday the imposition of retaliatory sanctions against a number of European Union and British individuals and entities.

The ministry's statement referred to the reciprocal measures as "counteraction" approved by the Islamic Republic's "relevant authorities" and authorized by the country's "counter-sanction mechanisms".

It specified some of the reasons for the enactment of the reciprocal measures as the EU and UK's "support for terrorism and terrorist groups" and their "incitement to acts of terror and violence against the Iranian people".

The ministry further denounced the bloc and Britain for their "interference in the Islamic Republic's internal affairs", their "propagation of falsehood and misinformation about Iran". It also condemned them for their cooperation with the American sanctions against the country, which amounted to "economic terrorism".

The statement considered the EU and the UK's facilitation of acts of terrorism and destruction against the Iranian nation as their "violation of international commitments in the field of fighting terrorism". It also condemned their collaboration with the anti-Iran sanctions as an "egregious contravention of fundamental principles of human rights that are mentioned in the United Nations Charter".

According to the ministry, Iran's reciprocal measures mandate the prohibition of the issuance of visas for those sanctioned and the prohibition of their entry into the Islamic Republic. The measures also order bank accounts and asset freeze against the designated individuals and entities.

The counter-sanctions list features 15 current and former European officials, including France's Minister for Gender Equality, Diversity, and Equal Opportunities, Isabelle Lonvis-Rome; French Minister Delegate for Industry, Roland Lescure; President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster; Director at Europe Israel Public Affairs, Alex Benjamin; President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Jamie M. Fly, and head of Germany's National Command and General Space Operations Division, Major General Michael Traut as well as three German parliamentarians and two European Parliament lawmakers.

It also names 13 European entities, including the European Coalition for Israel, the Center for Information and Documentation Israel, Christians for Israel, the Eurospike arms company, and six German military industry companies.

The list further features eight British individuals, including Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations within the Metropolitan Police Service, Matthew Jonathan Jukes; member of the Board of Directors at The Jewish Chronicle, Alan Jacob, and six military officials.

Tehran and certain Western nations have been engaged in a diplomatic row over their meddlesome stance on recent unrest Iran and Tehran's alleged role in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Protests erupted in several cities across Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini who fainted at a police station in mid-September and days later was pronounced dead at a hospital. The demonstrations soon turned violent.

An official report by Iran’s Legal Medicine Organization announced that Amini’s controversial death was caused by an illness rather than alleged blows to the head or other vital body organs.

Iranian officials blame Western countries for orchestrating the riots to destabilize the country.

The unrest has claimed the lives of dozens of people and security forces, while also allowing acts of terror and sabotage across the country. Iran's Interior Ministry has confirmed the enemy waged a hybrid war against the country to weaken national solidarity and hinder the country's progress, stressing that some 200 people lost their lives in the riots sparked by separatist and terrorist groups.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran: Human Rights Violators Not Qualified to Lecture World


Reacting to the recent remarks leveled by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Kana'ani said that in a situation where "some European governments are violating international obligations and human rights" by not adhering to the norms of international law, "they are not qualified to be the herald of the implementation and observance of international law".

"Some Western governments have arrested a significant number of Iranian citizens and sentenced them to long-term prisons or extradited them to hostile countries based on fabricated and illegal sanctions criteria," the senior diplomat added.

"These governments replace international laws and conventions with the political and non-legal rulings of their courts and hypocritically advise others to comply with them while not paying the slightest attention to the rights of imprisoned citizens of other countries," the spokesperson noted.

Tehran is aware of and adheres to its international obligations and acts according to its domestic regulations and international obligations, he stated.

Highlighting the independence of the Iranian judiciary, Kana'ani advised the European governments to follow at least part of their own alleged norms instead of creating artificial, grandstanding, and unconventional media hype.

Tehran and certain Western nations have been engaged in a diplomatic row over their meddlesome stance on recent unrest Iran and Tehran's alleged role in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Protests erupted in several cities across Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini who fainted at a police station in mid-September and days later was pronounced dead at a hospital. The demonstrations soon turned violent.

An official report by Iran’s Legal Medicine Organization announced that Amini’s controversial death was caused by an illness rather than alleged blows to the head or other vital body organs.

Iranian officials blame Western countries for orchestrating the riots to destabilize the country.

The unrest has claimed the lives of dozens of people and security forces, while also allowing acts of terror and sabotage across the country. Iran's Interior Ministry has confirmed the enemy waged a hybrid war against the country to weaken national solidarity and hinder the country's progress, stressing that some 200 people lost their lives in the riots sparked by separatist and terrorist groups.

The US, the UK and the European Union (EU) have imposed a slew of sanctions against Iranian individuals and legal entities since the September death in police custody of an Iranian woman. Iran has returned the adversarial measures and meddlesome statements with sanctions against European, American and British officials and institutions.

Kiev and its Western allies have also claimed that Tehran has provided Russia with arms to be used in the war in Ukraine.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory ‘must stop’: UN chief

22 February ,2023

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for an end to Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian lands.

Israel’s right-wing government has in recent weeks faced intense international criticism, including from the United States, over a decision to give retroactive permission to multiple settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank and to build new homes.

And on Monday, the UN Security Council’s 15 members expressed “dismay” over the plans.

“Each new settlement is another roadblock on the path to peace,” the UN chief told the body’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

“All settlement activity is illegal under international law. It must stop,” Guterres said, adding that “incitement to violence is a dead end. Nothing justifies terrorism.”

“Our immediate priority must be to prevent further escalation, reduce tensions and restore calm,” he said.

He noted, “the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is at its most combustible in years.”

Hours before Guterres’ speech, Israeli troops killed 10 Palestinians in a raid on the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, while more than 80 people were injured, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The Israeli military said the raid targeted militant suspects in hiding.

Another 10 people were killed in an Israeli army raid in the city of Jenin last month, the deadliest West Bank operation since at least 2005.

Since the start of this year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 59 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.

Nine Israeli civilians, including three children, one Ukrainian civilian and a police officer have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Arab World


Hezbollah condemns Nablus carnage, says resistance will end Tel Aviv’s terror

23 February 2023

The Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah has strongly condemned the deadly raid by the Israeli regime against the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank that claimed the lives of nearly a dozen Palestinians.

Hezbollah issued a statement on Wednesday, offering its deepest condolences to the Palestinian people and resistance groups, especially the Islamic Jihad.

Hailing the Palestinians victims' resistance against the invading forces, Hezbollah said the martyrs "wrote epics of heroism and valor in the city of Nablus and confronted the Zionist terrorism and aggression with patience and steadfastness."

The statement added that the Israeli occupation forces’ brutal and merciless targeting of the innocent civilians confirmed that this enemy could not be deterred except through recourse to the resistance's "honorable arms."

Attacking Nablus earlier in the day, the Israeli regime's troops shot and killed at least 11 people, including a 72-year-old man, a 14-year-old boy and two commanders of the Palestinian resistance movement of the Islamic Jihad that is based in the Gaza Strip.

More than 100 others were also wounded, some critically, during the raid.

Hezbollah also said Palestinian resistance fighters would revenge on the vicious regime by "letting the enemy realize the extent of its foolishness and through putting an end to its arrogance and terror."

The Israeli regime has intensified its crackdown on Nablus and the nearby city of Jenin since late December when Benjamin Netanyahu staged a comeback as the regime's prime minister at the head of a cabinet of hard-right and ultra-Orthodox parties.

Late last month, Israeli forces shot and killed at least 10 Palestinians and wounded over a dozen others during a violent raid on the refugee camp that is adjacent to the nearby city of Jenin.

Source: Press TV

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Saudi Arabia and UAE condemn Israel’s deadly raid in Nablus, call for de-escalation

22 February ,2023

Saudi Arabia and the UAE condemned the Israeli army’s deadly raid of the Palestinian city of Nablus, which killed at least 10 and injured more than 100 others.

Both Gulf countries called on Israel to reduce escalation and avoid taking actions which exacerbate tension and instability in the region.

Israel’s military raided the West Bank’s city of Nablus, which led to a firefight that resulted in the death of at least 10 Palestinians, two of them elderly men, 72 and 61, and one 16-year-old teenager. In addition, more than 100 were wounded, six of them in critical condition, according to the Palestinian Authority’s ministry of health.

Israeli forces fired live bullets and used tear gas and sound bombs, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign affairs ministry “affirmed the Kingdom's total rejection of the severe violations of international law by the Israeli occupation forces, stressing its call on the international community to assume its responsibilities to end the occupation, stop the escalation and Israeli aggressions, and provide the necessary protection for civilians.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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WHO ‘moving rapidly’ with Syria quake relief as sanctions are paused

22 February ,2023

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday it was taking advantage of a temporary easing of sanctions against Syria designed to allow humanitarian aid to be more easily distributed in the war-torn country after deadly earthquakes.

“WHO is moving very rapidly right now together with our partners to take advantage of this pause in the sanctions,” Rick Brennan, Regional Emergency Director of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, told a briefing.

“We have already started ordering equipment and supplies, and we are working with UN partners on a collective approach to take advantage of the pause.”

Around 4,525 deaths have been reported in northwest Syria, according to the United Nations. The area is controlled by insurgents at war with President Bashar al-Assad, which is complicating aid efforts.

With the devastating earthquake, there has also been a threat of the risk of infections in the rebel-held region in northwestern Syria.

WHO officials said the organisation has scaled up its supply of antibiotics, painkillers, trauma supplies and non-communicable disease medicines to the country, with a key focus on the northwest region.

The agency has re-established its distribution channels within Syria, and has moved over 139 tonnes of additional medical supplies including antibiotics, and other surgical supplies to affected areas, said Catherine Smallwood, WHO's senior emergency officer for Europe.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Egyptians lean on instalment payments to cope with inflation

22 February ,2023

Ahmed Ramadan, a 44-year-old father of three, started using installment payment services eight months ago after feeling the sting of high prices that have squeezed Egyptians’ pockets over the last year.

He used the services to buy a television, a mobile phone for his daughter, and even clothes for his family.

“It might be more expensive than paying up front in cash but at least I can meet the needs of my entire family and not just one person,” Ahmed said.

The extra liquidity would help pay for his kids’ schools, he said.

Egyptians are increasingly relying on installment payments, not just for big-ticket items but for relatively cheap, routine items such as clothing and groceries, as the North African country grapples with record-high inflation, consumers and industry leaders told Reuters.

Inflation in Egypt has accelerated to five-year highs, after the war in Ukraine hit finances, and the currency has been devalued by nearly 50 percent since March 2022 amidst negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.

An installment payment service was even introduced this year at the annual Cairo International Book Fair after publishers worried that sales for their non-essential wares would be weak.

“This way the reader ... buys the books he wanted and the publisher was able to get good sales and was not affected by the economic situation,” said Saeed Abdo, head of the Egyptian Publishers Association.

Sympl, a Cairo-based buy now, pay later service, has seen a surge in activity in recent months. Co-founder Yasmine Henna told Reuters new client acquisitions had jumped 50 percent in January compared with the month before.

Existing clients are also using the service more, with repeat users accounting for 40 percent of total monthly transactions in January, up sharply from 5 percent in the same month last year.

“There’s a focus on life necessities like grocery shopping and fashion,” said Henna. “People now see that they have to buy now before prices get higher.”

Henna said that they plan to introduce new categories such as water and electricity bills.

Mohamed Mahmoud, another father of three, did not like the idea of paying through installments at first but has now reconsidered it in order to meet his household needs.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Rocket strike in Damascus hit Iranian military experts: Sources

22 February ,2023

A rocket attack in Damascus on Sunday that Syria blamed on Israel hit an installation where Iranian officials were meeting to advance programs to develop drone or missile capabilities of Tehran’s allies in Syria, sources told Reuters.

Iran has been a major backer of President Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s nearly 12-year conflict. Its support for Damascus and the Lebanese group Hezbollah has drawn regular Israeli air strikes meant to curb Tehran’s extraterritorial military power.

A source close to the Syrian government with knowledge of Sunday’s strike and its target said it hit a gathering of Syrian and Iranian technical experts in drone manufacturing, though he said no top-level Iranian was killed.

“The strike hit the center where they were meeting as well as an apartment in a residential building. One Syrian engineer and one Iranian official - not high-ranking - were killed,” the source told Reuters.

This rocket strike, along with others that Israel says target infrastructure of Syria’s military and its allies, reflect an escalation of what has been a low-intensity conflict aimed at slowing down Iran’s growing entrenchment in Syria, according to Israeli military experts.

Syrian state media said at the time that Israel had carried out air strikes shortly after midnight on Sunday against several areas of the Syrian capital, causing five deaths and 15 injuries including civilians.

An Israeli military official declined to confirm or deny that Israel was behind the attack, but said some of the casualties were caused by errant Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

The US and Israel have been increasingly concerned about Iran’s drone manufacturing, and the possibility it would pass on those capabilities to regional proxies such as the heavily armed Hezbollah.

Last week US forces shot down what they said was an Iranian-made drone flying over a base hosting US personnel in northeastern Syria.

A second source, who spoke to Syrian security personnel briefed on the matter, said Iranians were attending the meeting of technical experts in a Iranian military installation in the basement of a residential building inside a security compound.

He said one of those killed was a Syrian army civil engineer who worked at Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research center, which Western countries say is a military institution that has produced missiles and chemical weapons. Damascus denies this.

A regional security source said one Revolutionary Guards engineer involved in Iran’s missile program was seriously injured and transferred to a hospital in Tehran, while two other mid-ranking Guards members at the meeting were unharmed.

Another source, a regional intelligence official familiar with the strike, said the target was part of a covert guided missile production program run by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

A fifth, regional source with knowledge of the strike and its target, said officials from Iran and Hezbollah had been targeted. The Lebanese group, which fought a five-week war with Israel in 2006, has sent fighters to help Assad drive back rebels who once nearly encircled Damascus.

IRGC logistics center hit?

On Sunday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned what it described as attacks on “residential buildings in Damascus which killed and maimed innocent Syrian citizens.” The ministry criticized what it called Western silence over Israeli violations of Syria’s “territorial integrity.”

It made no mention of Iranian casualties.

The Foreign Ministry and the Revolutionary Guards did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

The targeted building was located in the Damascus neighborhood of Kafr Sousa, a heavily policed area where residents say several Iranian security agencies are located, along with an Iranian cultural center.

Two Western intelligence sources said at the time the target was a logistics center run by the Revolutionary Guards.

Hezbollah’s top commander Imad Moughniyeh was killed in 2008 in a bombing in the same neighborhood. Israel denied Hezbollah accusations that it was behind the assassination.

Although officials rarely acknowledge responsibility for specific operations, Israel has been carrying out air strikes on suspected Iranian-sponsored weapons transfers and personnel deployments in Syria for almost a decade.

Israel has also in recent months intensified strikes on Syrian airports and air bases to disrupt Iran’s increasing use of aerial supply lines to deliver arms to allies in Syria and Lebanon, including Hezbollah.

Iran’s proxy militias, led by Hezbollah, now hold sway in large areas of eastern, southern and northern Syria and in several suburbs around the capital.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Robot with 11 languages to receive visitors at King Abdulaziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa

February 22, 2023

MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has provided a robot that speaks 11 languages to receive visitors at the King Abdulaziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The robot will also acquaint visitors with services provided at the complex and can recognize basic emotions, faces, and have voice interaction with visitors through touch and hand motion.

Source: Arab News

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Lebanese economy should benefit from maritime border deal with Israel: US envoy

February 22, 2023

WASHINGTON: With the success of the US-brokered maritime border agreement with Israel, Lebanon could be on the path to economic recovery, said Amos Hochstein, US special presidential coordinator for global infrastructure and energy security.

Hochstein, the primary mediator of the agreement, was speaking at an event on Wednesday organized by the US institute of Peace in Washington D.C. and attended by Arab News.

Israel and Lebanon signed the agreement on Oct. 27, 2022. It aimed to end a dispute over maritime boundaries between the two countries in the eastern Mediterranean region where oil and natural gas have been discovered in recent years.

“The agreement at its core is a boundary agreement, not an energy agreement,” said Hochstein, adding that it created legally and internationally recognized maritime borders between the two countries.

Lebanon and Israel are officially still in a state of war ever since the latter’s establishment in 1948.

Hochstein said the agreement gives Lebanon the rights to the Qana gas field, which has not yet been explored.

However, he added that Israel has a “fair right to some of the gas” because parts of the field extend beyond the agreed-upon boundary.

Israel agreed in the deal that a consortium led by French energy company Total will buy its share of discovered gas.

Hochstein described the negotiations as complex because both countries have no formal ties and do not deal with each other directly, and therefore had to sign separate agreements with the US and with the consortium.

Therefore, he said, “the maritime agreement isn’t just one agreement, it’s multiple separate agreements.”

He added that what helped make it possible after years of failed attempts were new political and economic conditions on the ground in both countries, especially Lebanon.

Hochstein said Lebanon suffers from a severe economic crisis, lacks proper energy infrastructure and has very limited electricity output, which created public pressure on the ruling elite.

He added that Israel has ample supplies of natural gas it extracts from other fields, especially the neighboring Karish field in the Mediterranean, which provides its economy with cheap electricity. What motivated Israel to sign the deal is its political and security considerations, he said.

Hochstein highlighted some of the positive steps Lebanon has taken regarding some of the economic reforms recommended by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which would help attract foreign investors in the aftermath of the maritime agreement with Israel.

He said one of the benefits of the deal is that it creates an economic and political environment for international companies such as Total to invest in Lebanon.

As an example, he said when one member of the international consortium that is supposed to explore gas in the Qana field left, Qatar quickly joined the consortium in its place.

Hochstein added that the US-sponsored regional agreement to supply Lebanon with gas and electricity from Egypt and Jordan via Syria is ready, and Lebanon can benefit from it immediately once its domestic bureaucratic and political hurdles are removed.

“It could flow into Lebanon tomorrow,” he said, adding that the country needs to think more about establishing a renewable energy infrastructure that would give it energy security and more electricity.

Source: Arab News

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Syrian quake survivors shelter in crumbling Aleppo homes

February 22, 2023

ALEPPO, Syria: Sitting by a bed strewn with rubble in Syria’s second biggest city, Umm Mounir refuses to leave her home even though the deadly earthquake has torn a gaping hole into the room.

Aleppo, once a major commercial hub, had already been battered by over a decade of war when the 7.8-magnitude quake struck in early February, killing more than 45,000 people across Turkiye and Syria and flattening entire neighborhoods.

The building adjacent to Umm Mounir’s collapsed, ripping the rear facade off her own home, but she said that neither natural disasters nor conflict can make her leave.

“Nothing will make me move out of my house except death,” said the 55-year-old, who lives by herself on the fourth floor of the heavily damaged seven-story building.

“I will only leave for the grave.”

Her city suffered great losses in the February 6 quake that flattened 54 of its buildings and damaged historic sites.

With at least 432 fatalities, Aleppo accounts for nearly a third of all deaths in government-held parts of Syria, according to state media.

Officials and medics across the war-ravaged country, including in rebel-controlled areas, put the overall Syrian death toll at more than 3,600 people.

The city witnessed brutal battles between rebels based in eastern Aleppo and Russian-backed regime forces from 2012 to 2016.

After a suffocating siege on rebel-held areas and a crushing offensive involving barrel bombs, rockets and shells, the army declared in December 2016 that it was in full control of the city.

“We are people of glory and wealth, but the war changed everything,” said Umm Mounir, glancing at the wreckage of her wooden furniture.

“Even in the harshest years of the war we were not displaced,” added the woman, whose home in the Masharika neighborhood was near the frontline. “We will not be displaced now.”

More than 30 people died in Masharika after the pre-dawn quake brought down two building over sleeping residents.

Seemingly incessant aftershocks spooked traumatized survivors, and a 6.4-magnitude tremor on Monday rocked the same areas of Turkiye and Syria.

When the new quake hit, Umm Mounir grabbed her 85-year-old neighbor Amina Raslan, who lives on the first floor, and they rushed out.

“She can’t run, so I held her hand and we walked as fast as we could,” Umm Mounir said.

Raslan’s son, who lives with his mother, said they “got used to the danger because our home used to be on the frontline” where rockets and missiles had rained down.

Puffing a cigarette, 55-year-old Ali Al-Bash said he wished they could leave their damaged home, but that “we have nowhere else to go.”

Raslan’s eyes welled with tears as she recalled the destruction of the home she said her family had lived in for 50 years.

“Everything collapsed,” she said as her grandchildren were playing around her.

The family, like many others, did not want to move to a shelter but could not afford to rent a new home, Raslan said.

“I lost two of my children during the war. I don’t want to leave my house... I don’t want to lose anything else.”

Some Aleppo residents, however, have left ravaged homes for tents.

Mohammed Jawish, 63, now lives in a makeshift camp with dozens of families after his building partially collapsed.

“If I still had a house I wouldn’t be here,” he said, watching his grandchildren — some of them barefoot in the winter cold — play with a worn-out football.

Source: Arab News

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Kuwait sends humanitarian aid to quake victims in Türkiye, Syria

Ibrahim al-Khazen 


Kuwait sent humanitarian aid on Wednesday to the victims of two deadly earthquakes that jolted Türkiye and Syria on Feb. 6.

Maha al-Barjas, head of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent Society, said a convoy of 12 trucks loaded with relief and medical materials moved to Türkiye and northern Syria.

“The convoy includes blankets, tents, electrical appliances and prefabricated homes,” al-Barjas added in a statement.

“This aid convoy is part of assistance from the Kuwaiti people to the peoples of Türkiye and Syria,” she added.

Following the quake disaster, the Kuwaiti government dispatched rescue teams to Türkiye to take part in searching for survivors. The Gulf country also pledged $30 million in aid to both Türkiye and Syria.

A popular donation campaign in Kuwait also collected $67.7 million for the quake victims in the two countries.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Amalgamated Union Of Islamic Scholars Endorsed Atiku For Presidency To Promote National Unity

By Ahmad Muhammad, Kano

23 February 2023

Amalgamated Union of Islamic Scholars has explained that it endorsed the Muslim-Christian ticket of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State to promote national unity and cohesion.

The Ulamas, who rose from a brainstorming session in Kano State, yesterday, unanimously agreed to pitch tent with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which believes in both Muslims and Christians being together under one nation.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, leader of the group, Sheikh Abba Koki, said the council endorsed the Muslim/Christian ticket, which is an opportunity to save the country from religious disharmony.

According to him, the decision of All Progressive Congress (APC) to introduce the Muslim-Muslim ticket of Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima amounts to betrayal of the country’s confederation setting, which allows equity for both Muslims and Christians.

Source: Guardian Nigeria

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Tunisian rights group slams President Saied’s ‘racist’ migrant comments

22 February ,2023

A prominent rights group accused Tunisian President Kais Saied of “racism and hate speech” on Wednesday after he vowed to crack down on sub-Saharan African migrants.

Saied, who has seized almost total power since a dramatic July 2021 move against parliament, had urged his national security council to take “urgent measures” to tackle an influx of migrants.

“Hordes of illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa are still arriving, with all the violence, crime and unacceptable practices that entails,” he said, according to a statement from his office on Tuesday evening.

“A criminal plot has been underway since the start of the century to change Tunisia’s demographic make-up,” he added.

The statement sparked an outcry online, where many accused the president of outright racism and invoking right-wing conspiracy theories.

The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) said Wednesday Saied’s discourse was “drowning in racism and hatred.”

“The president is using the migration crisis... to distract attention from economic and social problems,” spokesman Romdhane Ben Amor told AFP.

Tunisians are grappling with a deepening economic crisis, surging inflation and shortages of essential goods as the heavily indebted country edges towards a possible default.

Saied, who has prioritized revamping Tunisia’s post-revolt democracy to install a system in which power is concentrated in the hands of the presidency, has blamed the shortages on unidentified “speculators.”

Ben Amor said Saied’s latest comments showed he had “obviously and totally caved in to pressure from the Italian authorities to stop the flow of migrants” towards European shores.

Last week, 23 rights groups said the state had already started cracking down on migrants from further south in Africa and turning a blind eye to racist “hate speech.”

The organizations, including the FTDES, said some 300 migrants had been detained, often after simple identity checks or after attending court hearings to support relatives.

They added that European migration policies were pushing Tunisia to play a key role in surveillance of migration routes and intercepting migrant boats in the central Mediterranean.

Tunisia, which lies less than 150 kilometers (95 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa at its closest point, is a key departure point for African migrants seeking to reach Europe on what the United Nations says is the world’s deadliest migration route.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Tunisian president says irregular migration aims to change country's demography

Adel al-Thabti  


TUNIS, Tunisia

Tunisian President Kais Saied has called for ending the flow of irregular migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to his country, citing demography change concerns.

"This situation is not normal, and there is a criminal arrangement prepared since the beginning of this century to change the demographic composition of Tunisia,” Saied said Tuesday in a meeting of the National Security Council.

“There are parties that received huge sums of money after 2011 to settle irregular migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in Tunisia," he added.

Saied pointed out that "the undeclared goal of these successive waves of irregular migration is to consider Tunisia a purely African country, with no affiliation to the Arab and Islamic nations."

"Tunisia is proud of its African affiliation, as it is one of the founding countries of the Organization of African Unity and has supported many peoples in their struggle for liberation and independence."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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LANA Director General heads committee for Benghazi Capital of Culture in Islamic World


Tripoli, February 22, 2023 (LANA) - The Preparatory Committee for the Benghazi Programme, Capital of Culture of the Islamic World for the current year, held its first meeting, Wednesday, at the headquarters of the House of Representatives in Benghazi, headed by the Director General of the Libyan News Agency, Ibrahim Hadiya.

The committee discussed the general programme of the celebration and its general form, approved the official theme for the celebration, and decided to divide the work into specific sub-committees according to specialization to determine the schedule of programmes and activities for the event.

The Committee reviewed the estimated budget for the activities undertaken by ISESCO in cooperation with the National Organization for Education, Culture and Science.

Source: Lana

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Jordan sentences three to death over ISIS links

22 February ,2023

A Jordanian court on Wednesday sentenced three people to death by hanging on charges of belonging to the ISIS terrorist group and staging two bombing attacks, an AFP correspondent said.

A total of 11 people were handed sentences ranging from five years in prison to death, in the same case relating to attacks in 2018 that killed six members of the Jordanian security forces.

The court condemned three to death, including one in absentia, over accusations of “involvement in terrorist acts using weapons and explosives that led to the death of one person.”

The remaining convicts were handed prison sentences ranging between five and 20 years.

Three others, including two women, were acquitted and released.

According to the indictment, the 11 convicts had “shared news about the ISIS group... and all agreed that this terrorist organization works to apply God’s law.”

They were also found to have formed “a criminal gang with the aim of undermining the security and stability of the kingdom... and undertaking armed terrorist operations” in Jordan.

They had planned to target buses carrying security forces, as well as an intelligence building and police patrols, the indictment said.

In August 2018, two policemen were killed and six others injured in a blast after a car bomb was planted on a police car tasked with protecting a cultural festival about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) west of the capital.

The following day, four policemen were killed after clashes and another explosion during a raid on the building that the attackers had used as a hideout.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Tunisian police arrest prominent dissident, surround house of another

22 February ,2023

Tunisian police on Wednesday arrested Issam Chebbi, a prominent opposition figure, and surrounded the house of Jawher Ben Mbarek, another major critic of President Kais Saied, relatives and lawyers of both men said.

The arrests come amid a crackdown on prominent critics of Saied, involving more than a dozen arrests over the past two weeks including politicians, judges and media figures.

Chebbi, the head of the Republican Party, was detained near a shopping center while he was out with his wife, his family and lawyers told Reuters. Police later searched his home.

Police surrounded the house of Ben Mbarek to detain him, but he was not there, his sister and lawyers said.

Saied shut down the elected parliament in 2021 and seized most powers, moving to rule by decree and writing a new constitution that he passed in a referendum with low turnout last year, actions his foes call a coup.

The president has said the moves were legal and necessary to save Tunisia from chaos, repeatedly calling his critics traitors and enemies of the state. Last year he also took ultimate authority over the judiciary.

The police and Interior Ministry have declined any comment on the arrests, but lawyers have said some of those detained were accused of conspiring against state security.

Saied has also publicly said that some of those arrested were responsible for shortages of food and fuel that economists have blamed on a crisis in public finances.

Chebbi is the brother of Nejib Chebbi, leader of the National Salvation Front coalition of opposition groups that has organized protests against Saied.

Source: Al Arabiya

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North America


US judge rules 9/11 victims cannot seize Afghanistan central bank funds

Michael Hernandez 



Families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the US cannot seize $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank reserves, a federal judge in New York has ruled.

US District Judge George Daniels in the Southern District of New York said Tuesday that the funds cannot be granted to satisfy outstanding judgments against the Taliban because doing so would effectively recognize the hard-line group as Afghanistan's legitimate government.

The case dates to 2003 and stems from the Taliban's decision to grant deceased al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his terror group safe harbor in Afghanistan during their initial post-Soviet rule of the country. It was during that time that bin Laden plotted the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the US.

The Taliban resumed control of the country following the 2021 US withdrawal but many nations have refrained from extending the group diplomatic recognition, including Washington.

President Joe Biden on Feb. 11, 2022 issued an executive order that mandated frozen funds in Afghanistan's central bank, known as Da Afghanistan Bank, subject to US jurisdiction "be used to benefit the Afghan people."

In September, the US Treasury Department said it was moving the $3.5 billion to a Switzerland-based trust now known as the Afghan Fund, which would be outside of the Taliban's ability to access.

Daniels wrote in a 30-page ruling that he is "constitutionally restrained" from recognizing the Taliban's legitimacy, which he would have to do before assigning the funds to the four groups seeking the funds.

The president, he said, "has the exclusive power to grant formal recognition to a foreign sovereign," and the Constitution "forbids this Court from determining what the Judgement creditors require."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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US extremely concerned by levels of violence in Israel and West Bank

February 22, 2023

WASHINGTON: The United States is extremely concerned by the levels of violence in Israel and the West Bank and is concerned that a raid by Israeli forces there could set back efforts at restoring calm, the State Department said on Wednesday.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told a regular press briefing that Washington recognized Israel’s security concerns but was deeply concerned by the large number of injuries and loss of civilian life.

Source: Arab News

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Illegal presence of US forces in Syria 'destabilizing' country: Iranian minister

22 February 2023

Iran's defense minister says the presence of American forces in Syria has a “destabilizing” impact on the Arab country, calling for the immediate withdrawal of all “occupying forces” from the country.

Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani made the remarks in a meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Lieutenant General Ali Mahmoud Abbas, in Tehran on Wednesday.

“We believe that the illegitimate and illegal presence of occupying troops on Syrian soil is destabilizing and destructive. Therefore, we stress the necessity for [respecting] Syria’s territorial integrity and the withdrawal of all occupying forces [from Syria], particularly the American occupiers,” he said.

The US military has stationed forces and equipment in northeastern Syria for years, with the Pentagon claiming that the deployment is aimed at preventing the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of Daesh terrorists.

Damascus, however, maintains the deployment is meant to plunder the country's rich mineral resources and to destabilize the country.

‘Israel only understands the language of force’

The Iranian minister also pointed to the Israeli regime’s acts of aggression against Syria, saying the regime only understands the language of force and it should not be allowed to make further aggression against Syria.

Israel frequently launches airstrikes against Syria. In its most recent attack, at least five people, including a soldier, were killed and 15 others wounded in the Israeli airstrikes early on Sunday, the Syrian army said in a statement.

The Israeli attack was launched from the occupied Golan Heights days after a 7.8-magnitude deadly earthquake struck Turkey and Syria.

In his remarks, the Iranian defense minister described Syria as a major member of the resistance front and said it’s necessary to invest efforts to boost the Arab country’s defense power.

The Syrian minister, for his part, hailed Iran’s role in supporting efforts by the resistance front to safeguard West Asia security and vowed that Damascus will work to boost cooperation with Tehran.

Source: Press TV

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Work to create Harrogate district’s first mosque continues after asbestos delay

by John Grainger

Feb 22, 2023

Work on turning Harrogate’s former Home Guard Club into the district’s first mosque is finally going ahead after a delay caused by the discovery of asbestos.

Harrogate Islamic Association bought the premises at the corner of Tower Street and Belford Road last April and has since been focusing on fixing the roof and making it weather-proof.

But repair work uncovered unknown quantities of asbestos, which is carcinogenic but had not been identified by any survey at the time of purchase.

The substance has had to be carefully removed and disposed of by licensed professionals before further work on the building could progress.

Reda Djamaa, trustee and spokesperson for Harrogate Islamic Association, said:

“We’ve dealt with that problem and now we can carry on with refurbishing the building. Our main aim is to get the ground floor ready for use.”

Harrogate Islamic Association raised half a million pounds to purchase the building, which stands next to St Peter’s CE Primary School, and must now raise a further £200,000 to gut the building and replace all its timbers.

Phase three will see a complete refit of the interior, including a new staircase, plasterwork, doors, windows and wiring, as well as new toilets and ablution areas, all at a cost of £250,000.

The final phase, costing another £50,000, will add a kitchen, outdoor bollards and railings, and security and lighting systems.

Mr Djamaa said:

“We have weekly prayer and we pass round a bucket, and we get some funds from other mosques, but it’s a mosque for the community here in Harrogate, and so most of the money will be coming from the community here too.

“We hope we’ll be able to get to the next stage within the year, but we’re doing it bit by bit. We’re not in a hurry.”

In the meantime, the 100-plus members of Harrogate’s Muslim community will continue to meet at in the Quakers’ Friends Meeting House on Queen Parade.

The former Home Guard Club has served the community in various capacities over the last 150 years. Originally built around 1870 as two cottages, it was converted shortly afterwards into Harrogate’s first cottage hospital until 1883, before serving as Harrogate’s Masonic Hall from 1884 to about 1930.

Source: The Stray Ferret

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Protesting death sentence on dissident, Germany brands 2 Iranian diplomats persona non grata

Ayhan Simsek 



Germany on Wednesday declared two Iranian diplomats persona non grata in protest of the death sentence handed down to a German-Iranian dissident.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock slammed an Iranian court’s death sentence for Jamshid Sharmahd, and said the Iranian Embassy’s charge d'affaires – Tehran’s top diplomat in Germany – was summoned to the ministry to condemn the decision.

“He was told that we do not accept the massive violation of the rights of a German citizen,” Baerbock said in a statement.

“As a result, the German government has declared two members of the Iranian Embassy to be persona non grata, and asked them to leave Germany immediately,” she added.

Baerbock urged Iranian authorities to revoke the death sentence and give Sharmahd a fair trial and due process of appeal.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz also heavily criticized Tehran and asked it to quash the death sentence on the German-Iranian citizen.

“The Iranian regime fights its own people in every way it can and disregards human rights. The death sentence against Jamshid Sharmahd is unacceptable,” Scholz wrote on Twitter.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Germany expels two Iranian diplomats in support for terror ringleader

22 February 2023

In yet another indication of Germany’s belligerent policies against the Islamic Republic, the German foreign ministry has expelled two Iranian diplomats in reprisal for a death sentence handed down to the ringleader of a US-based terrorist group accused of committing a series of terror attacks in the country.

The Federal Foreign Office announced in a statement on Wednesday that Germany had declared two employees of the Iranian Embassy in Berlin “personae non gratae” and ordered them to leave the country.

The decision was made after the Iranian Judiciary sentenced Iranian citizen Jamshid Sharmahd, who also holds German citizenship, to death on charges of "corruption on earth” by planning and orchestrating terrorist acts against the Islamic Republic.

Germany also summoned Iran's charge d'affaires over the verdict, with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accusing the Islamic Republic of the “massive violation of the rights of a German citizen.”

“We do not accept the massive violation of the rights of a German citizen. We call on Iran to revoke Jamshid Sharmahd's death sentence and provide him with a fair appeal process based on the rule of law," Baerbock said.

In support of the terrorist ringleader, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also condemned Sharmahd's death sentence and said the verdict was “unacceptable.”

Sharmahd, who holds is also a US resident, was the ringleader of the Tondar (Thunder) terrorist outfit. He was accused of planning a series of attacks, including a 2008 attack against a religious congregation center in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, Fars Province, which killed 14 people and wounded hundreds.

Sharmahd and his Tondar group, were also behind a 2010 terrorist bombing at Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in the Iranian capital, which left several people injured.

The 67-year-old is also accused of working with US intelligence and spying on Iran's ballistic missile program.

According to Judiciary's Mizan news agency, Sharmahd had planned to commit 23 terrorist acts and succeeded in executing five, adding, “His verdict can still be appealed in the Supreme Court.”

The Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced in a statement in August 2020 that it had arrested the terrorist ringleader, who had directed "armed operations and acts of sabotage" in Iran from the US.

Upon his arrest, Sharmahd admitted to providing explosives for the bombing attack in the Hosseynieh Seyed al-Shohada Mosque in Shiraz, in which 14 people were killed and more than 200 wounded.

According to the Ministry, the group had planned to carry out several high-profile and potentially deadly attacks across the Islamic Republic, but its efforts were thwarted by the intricate intelligence operations targeting the outfit.

Berlin's move on Wednesday comes as Germany has been a staunch supporter of the European Union’s sanctions against Iran over what it claims to be “crackdown” on the recent Western-backed riots in the country.

Source: Press TV

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