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Islamic World News ( 14 Aug 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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India’s Sovereignty Is Biggest Priority: PM Modi

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 Aug 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Red Fort in New Delhi, on Saturday. (PTI)

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• Independence Day 2020: Google Doodle Celebrates India’s Diverse Culture

• White House to Host Signing Of UAE-Israel Accord, Says Trump

• Terror Accused Hisham Muhammad Of Victoria Avenue 'Believed IS Was US Creation'

• Saudi Ex-Spy Chief's Lawsuit Spotlights Secret Power Plays Inside Kingdom

• Intra-Afghan Dialogue Must Be Conducted in The Presence Of Media

• Turkey Grants Citizenship to Hamas Operatives Plotting Terror Attacks from Istanbul

• Imran Khan Again Rakes Up Kashmir Issue on Pak's Independence Day

• High Court Throws Out Ormer Human Resources Minister’s Demand for Security for Costs from Zakir Naik

• Boko Haram Recruiting Child Soldiers, Says MNJTF

 

India

• India’s Sovereignty Is Biggest Priority: PM Modi

• Independence Day 2020: Google Doodle Celebrates India’s Diverse Culture

• India Criticises Pakistan For Hosting Events on Kashmir With Mahathir, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

• India Welcomes UAE-Israel Deal, Calls For Talks For Two-State Solution For Palestinians

• PM Modi: Will Relook at Right Age of Marriage for Women

• On I-Day, PM Modi says determined to provide equal employment opportunities to women

• Independence Day 2020: ‘Make for World’ is PM Modi’s new call

• Mosque in Ayodhya likely to be named Masjid Dhannipur

• Beirut blast: India sends 58 tonnes of emergency aid to Lebanon

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North America

• White House to Host Signing Of UAE-Israel Accord, Says Trump

• US seizes virtual currency alleged to fund militant groups

• Pompeo discusses importance of Israel-UAE deal, Iran arms embargo in Vienna

• Rhode Island ISIS terror sympathizer sent home by Boston judge

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Europe

• Terror Accused Hisham Muhammad Of Victoria Avenue 'Believed IS Was US Creation'

• France to step up probe into Beirut explosion after death of two French citizens

• EU should reassess relations with Turkey: Austrian FM

• Macron plans to return to Beirut on September 1: French defense minister

• Turkey urges France to refrain from escalating Mediterranean tensions

• Putin calls for emergency Iran summit to decrease tensions, Macron agrees in principle

• UN chief hopes Israel-UAE deal can help two-state solution for peace in Mideast

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Arab world

• Saudi Ex-Spy Chief's Lawsuit Spotlights Secret Power Plays Inside Kingdom

• Muslim World Split on Israel-UAE Pact: Turkey, Iran Furious Pakistan Cautious, All Eyes on Saudi Arabia

• UAE Says Israel Deal Not About Iran, Rejects Criticism from Turkey’s Erdogan

• Saudi Arabia among top aid providers for Palestinians, nearly $1 mln per day

• Hezbollah threatens to attack Israel if Beirut blast was sabotage: Nasrallah

• Nujaba declares ‘Israel’s destruction’ ultimate goal of all resistance groups

• Iran raps West's bid to exploit Lebanon 'pain for political goals'

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South Asia

• Intra-Afghan Dialogue Must Be Conducted in The Presence Of Media

• Kabul begins release of final 400 Taliban, talks to follow

• India reacts to Pakistan’s move for hosting Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to speak on Kashmir issue

• Member of Afghanistan’s peace negotiating team injured in militants ambush

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Mideast

• Turkey Grants Citizenship to Hamas Operatives Plotting Terror Attacks from Istanbul

• Palestinians Crowd Damascus Gate After UAE-Israel Deal

• Erdogan says Turkey could suspend diplomatic ties with UAE

• Iranian Minister: Deal of Century Reduced to Trivial Agreement

• Israeli delegation headed to UAE as early as next week to discuss deal: Report

• Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after balloon attacks

• Greek, Turkish warships in ‘mini collision’ amid tensions in eastern Mediterranean

• Israeli military carries out fresh aerial, ground attacks against Gaza Strip

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Pakistan

• Imran Khan Again Rakes Up Kashmir Issue on Pak's Independence Day

• Palestinian rights, peace dear to Pakistan: FO

• Pakistan observes 74th Independence Day

• Wary of centre’s plan, Bilawal asserts Sindh govt’s control over Karachi

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Southeast Asia

• High Court Throws Out Ormer Human Resources Minister’s Demand for Security for Costs from Zakir Naik

• Jokowi Grants His Two Staunchest Critics Meritorious Service Awards

• More than 50% of PN seat allocations settled, says Hadi

• PAS deputy president and sultan’s children top Pahang honours list

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Africa

• Boko Haram Recruiting Child Soldiers, Says MNJTF

• Somali military frees 33 children from al-Shabaab

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/indias-sovereignty-biggest-priority-pm/d/122634

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 India’s Sovereignty Is Biggest Priority: PM Modi

by Shubhajit Roy

August 15, 2020

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Red Fort in New Delhi, on Saturday. (PTI)

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 Without mentioning either China or Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday underlined that India has given a befitting response to those who challenge India’s sovereignty. This comes two months after the Galwan incident in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in eastern Ladakh LAC in violent clashes between Indian and Chinese troops.

He said India’s sovereignty is its biggest priority and the Indian soldiers have shown that what the soldiers can do. “The commitment shown by our brave soldiers, what the country can do, that has been seen by the world in Ladakh,” he said in a pointed reference to the Galwan clash.

“Those who challenge India’s sovereignty, be it LoC or LAC, have been given a befitting reply in their own language. What India can do, the world has seen it in Ladakh.”

At the same time, PM Modi also called for cooperation within the countries in South Asia since it is home to one-fourth of the world’s population.

He said their “cooperation” and “partnership” can provide a lot of opportunities for the people in South Asia.

The Prime Minister also said that it is the responsibility of all the leaders in the South Asian region to work for the progress and development of the people in the region.

He also said that with India’s neighbours, whether they share land borders or maritime borders, India is connected through security, development and trust.

He also brought in the theme of “expansionism” while talking about imperialism and colonialism back in the 20th century.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/independence-day-pm-modi-speech-pakistan-china-galwan-clashes-6555664/

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Independence Day 2020: Google Doodle celebrates India’s diverse culture

August 15, 2020

 

 

India’s 74th Independence Day 2020: Google Saturday celebrated India’s 74th Independence Day by displaying a vivid artwork that features iconic Indian folk instruments, a testament to India’s rich musical legacy.

The Google Doodle, illustrated by Mumbai-based guest artist Sachin Ghanekar, features folk instruments like the tutari, shehnai, dhol, veena, sarangi and bansuri. From the versatile double-reeded shehnai to the resonant stringed sarangi, these instruments are but a few that make up India’s rich musical legacy, which dates back over 6,000 years.

The musical diversity represented by this unique collection reflects the patchwork of Indian cultures that is celebrated across the nation today.

India is celebrating its 74th Independence Day on Saturday, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (Follow India Independence Day 2020 Live Updates)

As the tradition goes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unfurled the national flag from the Red Fort today. Addressing the nation in his seventh Independence Day speech, Modi paid tribute to the freedom freedom fighters, security forces and Covid-19 warriors.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-independence-day-2020-google-doodle-6555398/

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White House to host signing of UAE-Israel accord, says Trump

Anwar Iqbal

15 Aug 2020

 

 US President Donald Trump says the peace deal would “be known as the Abraham Accord”. — Reuters/File

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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has said that he will soon host a White House signing ceremony to formalise the peace deal between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel.

President Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi agreed on Thursday to establish full diplomatic and commercial ties between Israel and the Emirates.

At an Oval Office news briefing on Thursday afternoon, Trump said the peace deal would “be known as the Abraham Accord,” which, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said, was named after “the father of all three great faiths,” Christian, Muslim, and Jewish.

“I look forward to hosting them at the White House very soon to formally sign the agreement. We’ll probably be doing it over the next, I would say, three weeks,” he said. “And they’ll be coming to Washington.”

Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton held similar ceremonies when Israel normalized relations with Egypt and Jordan.

President Trump indicated that other Arab and Muslims states may also sign similar deals with Israel soon.

“We have a lot of other interesting things going on with other nations, also having to do with peace agreements,” he said at the briefing. “And a lot of big news is coming over the next few weeks, and I’m sure you’ll be very impressed.”

Late Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also welcomed the deal but said it was the work of several administrations, not just Trump’s.

“I personally spent time with leaders of both Israel and the UAE during our administration” discussing a possible deal between the two states,” said Biden who was President Barack Obama’s vice president during both terms. “And I am gratified by this announcement,” he said in a statement.

Biden’s vice-presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris, said they would “seek to build on this progress” if elected in November.

US media reports on Friday speculated that the deal could bring “short-term political gains” for Trump who is seeking re-election in November. Some reports also said that it could help the Trump administration increase pressure on Iran, particularly if he’s re-elected.

Commentators appearing on various US television channels argued that Trump would now tout a foreign policy win less than three months before the presidential election.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1574482/white-house-to-host-signing-of-uae-israel-accord-says-trump

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Terror Accused Hisham Muhammad Of Victoria Avenue 'Believed IS Was US Creation'

13 August 2020

 

Hisham Muhammad denies engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism

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A man accused of planning a terror attack has told a court he researched the Islamic State group because he believed it was "created by America".

Hisham Muhammad, of Victoria Avenue, Bury, is accused of planning both a "lone-wolf attack" and a drone attack.

The 26-year-old told the Old Bailey he had "long held the suspicion" the group was "misrepresented or exaggerated in order to increase Islamophobia".

He denies engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism.

His cousin Faisal Abu Ahmad, 25, denies failing to alert authorities of the alleged attack plan.

In a defence statement read to the court, Mr Muhammad said he had watched extremist videos as research because he had "long held the suspicion as a devout Muslim that much of the material about Islamic State is misrepresented or exaggerated in order to increase Islamophobia".

He said that was "especially" the case in countries like the UK "where there is a desire to restrict Muslim immigration".

He told the jury "a lot more research" needed to be done into the group, adding: "I don't believe it exists... I believe it was created by America to take away the rights of Muslims."

'Holy war'

Mr Muhammad watched dozens of videos "umpteen times", which contained "nothing nice", prosecutor Anne Whyte QC said.

She said of one that it was not a film of "civilians harmlessly praising their god", but of "jihadis speaking of holy war".

Responding to a song he watched, which had the lyrics "by the knife of horror we cut their necks", Mr Muhammad said he did not support the violence, but "liked the tune" and listened to other music which featured violent lyrics.

"The point I am trying to make is that I listen to gangster rap, but I don't support it," he said.

Jurors were also told he had searched terms including "armed police Manchester", "suicide belt", "Isis", "machete" and "Manchester Victoria Station" in May 2018, shortly before the first anniversary of the terror attack in the foyer of Manchester Arena, which stands adjacent to the station.

He said he had had a job interview near the station and told Ms Whyte he could not remember if the interview was arranged after the searches.

He added that the other search terms were down to his "interest in weapons".

He had "always had an interest in this stuff", he said, before stating he had "never heard of a suicide belt before, that's why I researched it".

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-manchester-53766260?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1440676_

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Saudi ex-spy chief's lawsuit spotlights secret power plays inside kingdom

14 August 2020

A former Saudi intelligence czar's lawsuit in the US courts makes a host of incendiary claims, including that the powerful crown prince tried to have him killed, and threatens to spill more royal secrets.

A source close to the Saudi royal court has shrugged off Saad Aljabri's 107-page lawsuit filed last week, insisting that the former spy chief himself faced serious allegations of corruption.

But the case, lodged after Riyadh detained two of Aljabri's adult children without charge, threatens to become a public slanging match that could pull aside the curtain on the kingdom's Shakespearean power plays.

The lawsuit marks the first time a former top official has legally challenged Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and, if true, exposes what observers call a violent government campaign to snare overseas rivals and critics.

“There is virtually no one (Prince Mohammed) wants dead more than Dr. Saad,” the suit said, claiming a hit team was sent after him just two weeks after members of the same squad murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Aljabri, exiled in Canada, is a former intelligence chief and top aide to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was deposed as heir to the throne by Prince Mohammed in a 2017 palace coup.

Releasing what it says are WhatsApp exchanges with Prince Mohammed, the suit accuses him of strong arm tactics to induce Aljabri to return to the kingdom after Nayef's downfall prompted him to flee.

They range from trying to entice Aljabri with a job offer to an unsuccessful attempt to have him extradited through Interpol, and the detention in March of his two children as a bargaining chip.

Then in October 2018, the suit alleges, the prince sent "Tiger Squad" assassins armed with forensic tools to kill him in Canada -- chillingly similar to the way Khashoggi was targeted in Istanbul.

A senior Saudi official told AFP the government was preparing its response to the lawsuit, while Canada has not denied the claim that it intercepted a Saudi hit squad.

It is unclear how the lawsuit will play out in the United States, where neither Aljabri nor the crown prince is based.

But it could still worry Riyadh as it emphasizes Aljabri possesses "sensitive, humiliating and damning information" on the crown prince, including recordings that will be made public if he is killed.

A Saudi royal court source has dismissed the lawsuit as a "PR step", calling it a “flimsy case” that offered “zero evidence.”

“Any sensitive state secrets Aljabri has he would have been involved in and would not want to admit to... It will dig up things that (human rights groups) will hardly approve of,” the source told AFP.

The source accused Aljabri of corruption involving billions of dollars during his time at the interior ministry and said he could be “poisoning the Saudi-US relationship given his contacts.”

The dispatching of a kill squad to Canada at the height of the global outrage over Khashoggi's murder, if confirmed, shows Aljabri is seen by Riyadh as “politically risky,” Middle East expert Bessma Momani said.

“To go after rivals in this fashion also shows MBS feels he is untouchable,” Momani, a professor at Canada's University of Waterloo, added.

Graft allegations against Aljabri have met with skepticism in the American intelligence community, with one former CIA official telling AFP, “Everyone in the US who knows Dr. Saad and Saudi Arabia and knows what MBS is capable of, would not believe that."

President Donald Trump, a key Saudi ally, backed Prince Mohammed through the Khashoggi scandal.

But the US State Department last week issued a rare rebuke over the detention of Aljabri's children -- Sarah and Omar, both in their 20s -- calling it “unacceptable” and demanding their “immediate release.”

“In my years at the CIA, I have never known a foreign official who is a better subject matter expert on counterterrorism than Dr. Saad," Daniel Hoffman, a former director of the CIA's Middle East division, told AFP.

“This looks like a dispute between Dr. Saad and the Saudi government. The children should be allowed to leave the kingdom if they wish.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/14/631780/Saudi-ex-spy-chief-s-lawsuit-spotlights-secret-power-plays-inside-kingdom

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Intra-Afghan Dialogue Must Be Conducted In The Presence Of Media

15 Aug 2020

In a press release, NAI supporting open media in Afghanistan stated that Afghanistan’s peace talks must be conducted in the presence of national and international media.

The statement released on Thursday said they are concerned following the Taliban has called for closed-door talks as it is not the will of people and is not acceptable to the Afghan citizens.

NAI urges that the Taliban’s statement in this matter is against the law & public’s interest and NAI requests the international organizations, United Nations, European Union and The united states to put pressure over the Qatar government in order for them to provide journalists with the visa.

“The legitimacy of any national action comes from people’s consent, closed-door negotiations are neither legitimate and nor acceptable to the people of Afghanistan”, Nai Added.

This comes as the Afghan government has not invited the media organizations in Afghanistan to attend the Doha intra-Afghan peace dialogue, however it has selected a few numbers of journalists for accreditation which has sparked concerns among the Afghan media.

Hamdullah Arbab, the spokesperson for Access to Information Commission (AIC) in a conversation with Khaama Press condemned the recent biased act by the Afghan government.

“This is totally not acceptable, the government must not be biased and they should have invited all the media through the Ministry of Peace or the Government Media and Information Center (GMIC)”, Arbab told Khaama Press.

Najia Anwari, the spokesperson to the Afghanistan Ministry of Peace said in a video message that they have coordinated with the media and have sent the journalists list to Qatar embassy for the visa issuance.

Anwari was not sure whether Qatar Embassy would issue visas to journalists or not, she called on Qatar government to facilitate journalists’ presence for Doha talks.

https://www.khaama.com/nai-intra-afghan-dialogue-must-be-conducted-in-the-presence-of-media-989087/

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Turkey grants citizenship to Hamas operatives plotting terror attacks from Istanbul

By James Rothwell

13 August 2020

Turkey is granting citizenship to senior operatives of a Hamas terrorist cell, the Telegraph has learned, raising fears that the Palestinian group will have greater freedom to plot attacks on Israeli citizens around the world.

Turkish identity papers seen by the Telegraph show that at least one of 12 senior Hamas members, who are using the country as a base of operations, has received Turkish citizenship and an 11-digit identity number.

According to a senior source,  seven of the 12 operatives have received Turkish citizenship, as well as passports, while the other five are in the process of receiving them. In some cases, the operatives are living under Turkish aliases.

Hamas is proscribed by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organisation, while in Britain the group's armed wing has been banned.   Hamas says its main goal is to liberate Palestinians from Israeli occupation and establish an Islamic state.

However, Turkey insists the group is a legitimate political movement which has been democratically elected in Gaza.

A senior source in the region claimed of the operatives: "These are not foot soldiers but the most senior Hamas operatives outside of Gaza. [They] are actively raising funds and directing operatives to carry out attacks in the present day.”

"The Turkish Government gave in to pressure by Hamas to grant citizenship to its operatives, thereby allowing them to travel more freely, endangering other countries that have listed Hamas as a terror group,” the source claimed.

When contacted by the Telegraph about the allegations, a spokesman for the Turkish government declined to comment on what it described as baseless claims against Turkey by a foreign government.

A senior Hamas official denied the allegations, insisting that its members did not operate outside the Palestinian territories and had no role in terrorist activity.

The disclosure is likely to alarm the Israeli government and its Western allies, as the former has repeatedly warned Ankara about Hamas activities on Turkish soil.

Turkish passport holders are entitled to visa-free travel to Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Serbia, among other countries. But Turkey is lobbying to extend those privileges to EU countries, where Hamas is feared to be plotting attacks on Israeli citizens.

It comes after a Telegraph investigation revealed that Turkey was hosting some of the Hamas movement’s most senior figures and allowing them to plan attacks from Istanbul, including an assassination plot against the mayor of Jerusalem. Turkey has denied that it allows Hamas members to plot attacks in its territory.

Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, is currently visiting Turkey, where he is due to hold a series of meetings with senior figures -- potentially including Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The two men met last December in Istanbul and posed for a photograph. “We will keep on supporting our brothers in Palestine," Mr Erdogan said at the time.

Among those understood to have received Turkish citizenship is Zacharia Najib, the senior Hamas operative who oversaw a plot to assassinate the mayor of Jerusalem, as well as other Israeli public figures.

Jihad Ya’amor and Hisham Hijaz, two other senior Hamas officials, are also said to have received Turkish citizenship and passports.

In some cases, the families of the operatives have been granted citizenship. The operatives are considered as “active,” rather than retired, and are working to raise funds for Hamas and lead its operations, sources said.

Nearly all of the 12 operatives were released and deported from Israel under the Shalit Deal of 2011, in which 1,027 mostly Palestinian prisoners were set free in exchange for an Israeli soldier.

Israel has repeatedly warned Turkey that Hamas is using its territory to plot attacks, but Ankara has not taken action, prompting accusations that Mr Erdogan is turning a blind eye to terrorist activity.  Turkey has denied that it turns a blind eye to terrorism.

Turkish support for Hamas has strained diplomatic relations with Israel, which recently warned it was “extremely concerned” about the group operating in Turkey.

The disclosure may add to the worries of Western allies about Turkey, which is a member of Nato but has been strongly criticised for purchasing an S-400 missile system from Russia.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/08/13/turkey-grants-citizenship-hamas-operatives-plotting-terror-attacks/?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1440676_

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Imran Khan again rakes up Kashmir issue on Pak's Independence Day

Aug 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday once again raised the Kashmir issue in his message to the people of the country as Pakistan commemorates its 74th Independence Day.

The development comes even as Pakistan has failed to get traction over the Kashmir issue at the international forums.

On August 5 last year, India had revoked the special status of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and bifurcated it into two Union Territories (UTs). The move has left Pakistan rattled and has attempted to take the matter to the international community, but to no avail.

A majority of the Muslim countries, which earlier supported Pakistan, have now recognised and backed India's decision on Kashmir.

Recently, Pakistan had to pay back Saudi Arabia USD 1 billion out of a USD 3 billion loan that it secured one and a half year ago to avoid default on international debt obligations after the kingdom decided to reduce its financial support.

This came after Pakistan was pushing for the foreign ministers' meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) since India abrogated Article 370.

In a report published by Dawn, a Pakistan diplomatic source confirmed that Saudi Arabia had shown reluctance to accept Islamabad's request for an immediate meeting of OIC foreign ministers' on Kashmir.

India has urged Pakistan to not interfere in its internal affairs repeatedly, saying it will not make its "untenable" claims acceptable.

Pakistan continues to persecute religious minorities residing in their own country.

Instead of focussing on reviving its floundering economy and taking steps to combat terrorism, Pakistan has been resorting to rhetoric against India over Kashmir in a bid to divert international attention.

Pakistan has also observed the so-called "Kashmir Solidarity Day", but it has failed to get traction both in the country and globally.

After desperate attempts to rake up the Kashmir issue globally, Imran Khan has admitted that his country has failed in its efforts to raise the matter.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/imran-khan-again-rakes-up-kashmir-issue-on-paks-independence-day/articleshow/77541988.cms

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High Court Throws Out Ormer Human Resources Minister’s Demand for Security for Costs from Zakir Naik

August 14, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here has dismissed the application by former human resources minister M Kula Segaran for security for costs against controversial Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik.

Naik filed defamation suits last year against Kula, Penang Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy, Klang MP Charles Santiago and Bagan Dalam assemblyman Satees Muniandy who are also DAP leaders.

Kula, who is the party’s national vice-chairman, had sought in June for Naik to deposit RM100,000 with his lawyer or the court as security for costs.

Such an application is made when the plaintiff resides abroad. The defendant would request security for costs, where the money would be paid should the court dismiss the suit.

Judicial commissioner Quay Chew Soon threw out Kula’s application as Naik was domiciled in Malaysia.

“He is ordinarily a resident and domiciled by virtue of him being a permanent resident,” the judge said.

Naik, who was represented by Sulaiman Abdullah and Akberdin Abdul Kader, was also awarded RM5,000 in costs.

Sulaiman submitted that the application was oppressive and aimed at discouraging Naik from continuing with his action.

Case management was fixed on Sept 4.

K Shanmuga, who represented Kula, said he would obtain instructions from his client on whether to appeal against the decision.

The suit against Kula, who is also Ipoh Barat MP, is in connection with a FMT report titled “DAP: No reason for Malaysia to protect Zakir Naik”, published on April 17, 2017.

Naik also mentioned a press release by Kula on Aug 13 last year titled “Zakir Naik’s presence is embarrassing to all Malaysians”.

Kula, in his defence, pleaded justification, fair comment and qualified privilege.

Naik, who is demanding compensation and exemplary damages, accused the defendants of ridiculing him and depicting him in a bad light and as a threat to the country’s security.

He also described himself as a renowned preacher and orator on comparative religion, saying he had received numerous awards including the Tokoh Maal Hijrah International Personality Award in 2013.

Naik previously lodged a police report in Shah Alam against Kula, Ramasamy, Santiago, Satees and former ambassador Dennis Ignatius, claiming they had made defamatory statements against him.

This followed reports in which Naik was said to have claimed that Malaysians of Indian origin were more loyal to the Narendra Modi government than to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, while Chinese Malaysians were “old guests” who should go back to their ancestral land.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/08/14/court-throws-out-kulas-demand-for-security-for-costs-from-zakir-naik/

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Boko Haram Recruiting Child Soldiers, Says MNJTF

AUG 13, 2020

The Multinational Joint Task Force has said that Boko Haram terrorist group had introduced the use of child soldiers to resuscitate its declining influence in the Lake Chad Basin.

Chief of Military Public Information for MNJTF, Timothy Antigha, said this in a statement issued from N’Djamena, Chad on Thursday.

Antigha said the recruitment of child soldiers by the sect was part of their new strategy following the recent mass surrender of fighters to the military.

He said information on this disturbing development was brought in by intelligence sources and corroborated by concerned individuals and groups a few days ago.

He added that the Boko Haram terrorists further confirmed the development when they posted pictures of children dressed in military gear and holding assault rifles in a video released during the Sallah celebration.

The statement reads, “Earlier, Boko Haram have engaged in the mass abduction of school girls, sexual enslavement of women and mass murder of innocent civilians. This recent employment of child soldiers is as a result of frustration caused by several operational losses, leadership crisis, as well as disillusionment among fighters and their subsequent surrender in hundreds to the MNJTF.

“The focus on children is because they are easier to manipulate and indoctrinate than the adults within the region who can now see through the veil of deceit. Arising from this latest atrocity by Boko Haram, the MNJTF urges parents, local authorities, religious and traditional institutions to be vigilant and promptly alert security agencies of any overt or covert attempts to recruit their children and wards.”

Antigha advised youth to be mindful of promises of power and influence, economic prosperity and spiritual growth by the sect owing to the disillusionment and surrender that had depleted their ranks.

He added, “The stories of hardship and evil within the terrorist organisations as revealed by all surrendered Boko Haram fighters should be sufficient notice that Boko Haram and ISWAP have nothing good to offer anyone.

“It would be recalled that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict forbids the recruitment and use of children in Armed Conflicts.

“The Protocol states among others that; “Armed groups distinct from armed forces of a country should not, under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities anyone under 18.

“It is against this background that the MNJTF is drawing the attention of the United Nations, its relevant agencies and other stakeholders to the latest acts of inhumanity and desperation by Boko Haram, and urges severe condemnation and other necessary action.”

http://saharareporters.com/2020/08/13/boko-haram-recruiting-child-soldiers-says-mnjtf?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1440676_

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India

 

India criticises Pakistan for hosting events on Kashmir with Mahathir, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

Aug 14, 2020

India on Friday criticised Pakistan for giving a platform to former UN-designated terrorist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad to speak on the Kashmir issue through events organised by that country’s missions.

Hekmatyar, who now heads the hardline Hizb-e Islami party, participated in a webinar on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir hosted last week by the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan and said India should “learn a lesson from the Afghan jehad” and the only solution to the Kashmir issue is to give Kashmiris the right to self-determination.

Mahathir spoke at an event organised in Kuala Lumpur by the Pakistani mission last week to mark the first anniversary of the revocation of Kashmir’s special status and criticised India’s actions. During his last stint as Malaysia’s premier, his comments on the situation in Kashmir and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act had taken bilateral ties to a new low.

Asked about Hekmatyar’s presence in the webinar organised by Pakistan, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said: “We have seen the media reports of the participation of the former UN-designated terrorist in an event organised by the government of Pakistan.

“This is nothing new. Pakistan not only harbours terror outfits but also encourages them. We hope that such participation in public events by a former UN-designated terrorist would not go unnoticed.”

In 2017, the UN removed Hekmatyar from its list of designated terrorists after he signed a peace deal with the Afghan government.

In response to a separate question on Mahathir’s presence at the Pakistan government event, Srivastava said: “You are aware of the outlook and position of Mahathir Mohamad on this issue. As a saying goes, you are known by the company you keep.”

On the Afghan peace process and the Afghan government’s decision to release 400 Taliban prisoners, Srivastava said, “We have taken note of the development. As far as India is concerned, we strongly support the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. We also support the intra-Afghan negotiations.”

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-criticises-pakistan-for-hosting-events-on-kashmir-with-mahathir-gulbuddin-hekmatyar/story-Y5CDqTyOb3X1BMGorkDW3O.html

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India welcomes UAE-Israel deal, calls for talks for two-state solution for Palestinians

Rezaul H Laskar

Aug 14, 2020

India on Friday welcomed the full normalisation of ties between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel, both key allies in West Asia, and called for early resumption of direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership for a “two-state solution”.

External affairs minister S Jaishankar received a phone call on Friday afternoon from his UAE counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who briefed him on the normalisation of relations that was announced on Thursday.

“Deeply appreciate the call today from FM HH @ABZayed of UAE. Discussed the full normalisation of relations between UAE and Israel announced yesterday,” Jaishankar tweeted.

The development is significant for the Narendra Modi government, which has assiduously courted key Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain even as it continued developing security and trade ties with Israel.

West Asia was home to nearly 8 million Indians before the Covid-19 outbreak, and New Delhi has a deep interest in the peace and stability of the region. As external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava pointed out during a regular news briefing, India perceives West Asia as its “extended neighbourhood”.

“India has consistently supported peace, stability and development in West Asia, which is its extended neighbourhood. In that context, we welcome the full normalisation of ties between the UAE and Israel. Both nations are key strategic partners of India,” he said.

However, Srivastava noted that India “continues its traditional support for the Palestinian cause”. He added, “We hope to see early resumption of direct negotiations to find an acceptable two-state solution.”

Thursday’s agreement, announced following a conversation between Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, makes the UAE only the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full diplomatic relations with Israel.

Delegations from the UAE and Israel will meet in the coming weeks to sign agreements regarding the establishment of embassies, security, direct flights, investment, tourism, technology and energy. As a result of the breakthrough, Israel will suspend declaring its planned extension of sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria and focus on expanding relations with other Arab and Muslim countries.

The suspension of the annexation of Palestinian areas is crucial for countries such as India, which have had to walk a fine line in their ties with both Arab states and Israel. There are also reports that Oman and Bahrain could be next in normalising ties with Israel.

However, the agreement has upset Iran, another key ally of India in the region, especially in view of New Delhi’s stake in developing the strategic port of Chabahar.

On the other hand, common fears about Iran played a key role in bringing Israel and the Arab states closer. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif described the deal as “dangerous and illegitimate” and said “this is stabbing the Palestinians in the back”.

The deal has also upset Turkey, which said the people of the region “will never forget and will never forgive this hypocritical behaviour” by the UAE. The Turkish foreign ministry also said the UAE has no authority to negotiate with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians or “to make concessions on matters vital to Palestine”.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-welcomes-uae-israel-deal-calls-for-talks-for-two-state-solution-for-palestinians/story-yOccr8ZeMzXsGYfylV2rvN.html

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PM Modi: Will relook at right age of marriage for women

August 15, 2020

The welfare of women found a prominent place in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech today with the Prime Minister announcing that his government will soon reconsider and determine the right age of marriage for women in India. At the moment the age of marriage for women is 18.

The Prime Minister pointed out that a number of welfare issues for women had been tackled by his government including the decision to provide six months maternity leave to women apart from a regular salary during this period. (Read top quotes from PM Modi’s Independence Day speech)

Touching on his government’s achievement of banning Triple Talakh in the country, Modi said that this has assisted thousands of Muslim women gain freedom from an oppressive system.

“Out of 40 crore jan dhan accounts, 22 crore accounts belong to women. During this trying period of Corona, we ensured that Rs 30,000 crore was transferred to their accounts. Out of the 25 crore Mudra loans given, 75 per cent of the loan seekers as well as recipients are women. In our PM Awas Yojana scheme, most of the recipients of these houses are also women. We are also working relentlessly for the improved health for women in the country,” the PM said Saturday.

To this end, the Prime Minister said, sanitary pads as inexpensive as Re 1 per pad, had been developed and 5 crore women across the country have been given these sanitary pads.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pm-modi-will-relook-at-right-age-of-marriage-for-women-6555686/

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On I-Day, PM Modi says determined to provide equal employment opportunities to women

August 15, 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday said his government was determined to provide equal employment opportunities to women. Addressing the nation on India’s 74th Independence Day, PM Modi said women have always made the country proud with their achievements.

“Whenever women received an opportunity, they made India proud and strengthened the country. Today, the nation is determined to provide equal opportunities for self-employment and employment to them,” PM Modi said from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

“Today, women are working in underground coal mines as well as touching the sky while flying fighter aircraft. India is now among those countries where women are being recruited in Navy and Air Force combat operations,” he added.

Follow India Independence Day 2020 celebrations Live Updates

Talking about Jan Dhan accounts, PM Modi said of the 40 crore accounts opened in the country, at least 22 crore were women account holders. He added about Rs 30,000 crore had been disbursed to these accounts during to the pandemic.

PM Modi also announced that the government has set up a committee to reconsider the minimum age for marriage of girls. “We have set up a committee to reconsider the minimum age for marriage of our daughters. We will take appropriate decision after the committee submits its report,” he said.

“Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, most registrations are under the name of women to get a house for themselves,” he said.

PM Modi said the government has started giving away sanitary napkins to the women of the poor class at Re 1 to empower them and keep their health in a check under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendra scheme. “Under the Jan Aushadhi Kendras, we have provided sanitary napkins. In 6,000 Jan Aushadi Kendras, more than 5 crore sanitary napkins have been provided to the women of this class,” he said.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pm-narendra-modi-independence-day-2020-speech-women-empowerment-jan-aushadi-kendra-6555540/

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Independence Day 2020: ‘Make for World’ is PM Modi’s new call

August 15, 2020

The call for Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) as we fight the Covid-19 pandemic has captured people’s imagination and should be the mantra for everyone, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he delivered his seventh consecutive Independence Day speech. He also announced the launch of National Digital Health Mission under which every Indian will get a unique health ID.

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort to mark the 74th Independence Day, PM Modi, in his nearly 90-minute speech, put forward the mantra of ‘Make for World’ alongside his pet initiative of ‘Make in India’ as he exhorted all Indians to be ‘vocal for local’.

“The mindset of free India should be ‘vocal for local’. We should appreciate our local products, if we don’t do this then our products will not get the opportunity to do better and will not get encouraged,” PM Modi said.

“I agree that there are lakhs of challenges for Atmanirbhar Bharat and they increase if there is global competitiveness. However, if there are lakhs of challenges, then the country also has power which gives crores of solutions,” PM Modi said.

Citing an example, Modi said before the Covid-19 pandemic, the country was not making N-95 masks, PPE and ventilators, but now it was in a position to export such items.

Ever since he assumed office in 2014, PM Modi’s Independence Day speeches have outlined a roadmap for the year ahead while listing the achievements of the government from the year gone by. This year was no different. Besides dwelling upon his pet theme of Atmanirbhar Bharat, PM Modi reinforced his government’s commitment to providing clean drinking water to every household while saying free gas cylinders were given to seven crore poor families and 80 crore people provided free food grains. He also said the optical fibre network would be provided to 6 lakh villages in 1,000 days.

For the infrastructure sector, PM Modi said about 7,000 projects of different sectors had been identified. “National infrastructure pipeline project with the investment of 1.10 lakh crore should be given importance. Our approach will be integrated, multi-model infrastructural projects,” he said.

Announcing the National Digital Health Mission, PM Modi said it was the need of the hour and the ‘One Nation One Health Card’ scheme would help people get better healthcare facilities in the country. “National Digital Health Mission will bring a new revolution in India’s health sector. Under the mission, every Indian will get a unique health ID,” he said.

A person’s medical records, such as tests, diagnosis, and treatments will be digitised and saved as a database that can be accessed from anywhere in the country. With all eyes on an antidote to Covid-19, PM Modi said three probable vaccine candidates were at different stages of testing and the entire roadmap of its production and delivery were ready.

“Today three vaccines are in testing stages in India. As soon as the scientists give a green signal, the country will begin their large scale production. As soon as tests are complete, the entire roadmap of its production and delivery to the public in the shortest time is ready,” PM Modi said.

Days after the first anniversary of the abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir and conversion of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories, PM Modi said the government was committed to hold assembly elections in J&K once delimitation exercise was complete.

“This one year is a year of the new journey of development for Jammu and Kashmir. This one year is the year of the rights received by the women and the Dalits in Jammu and Kashmir. This one year is also the year of a life of dignity for the refugees in Jammu and Kashmir,” PM Modi said.

Without naming China, with whom India has been locked in a border standoff since May in eastern Ladakh, PM Modi said, “Those who challenge the country’s sovereignty, be it LOC or LAC, have been given a befitting reply in their own language.”

However, in the same breath, PM Modi said neighbours were not only those with whom “we share our geographical boundaries” but also “those with whom our hearts meet”. “Today neighbour is not just the one with whom we share border but also those with whom our heart stays connected, where there is harmony in relations. I’m happy that in past some time India has further strengthened its relations with all countries in ‘extended neighbourhood’,” he said.

Asserting that the government was determined to provide equal opportunities of self-employment and employment to women, PM Modi said a committee had been set up to reconsider the minimum age for marriage of women.

“We have set up a committee to reconsider the minimum age for marriage of our daughters. We will take appropriate decision after the committee submits its report,” the PM said.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pm-modi-independence-day-2020-atmanirbhar-bharat-digital-health-mission-covid-19-vaccine-6555410/

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Mosque in Ayodhya likely to be named Masjid Dhannipur

Oliver Fredrick

Aug 15, 2020

A proposed mosque coming up on a five-acre site outside Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh is likely to be named after the village of Dhannipur where it is located, and not Babri Masjid, senior officials overseeing the construction of the complex announced on Friday.

Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation (IICF), the 15-member trust in charge of the mosque and other utilities, said the name Masjid Dhannipur was at the top of the list of proposed names. Other suggestions included Aman (Peace) Masjid and Sufi Masjid.

“We are getting suggestions regarding the name of the mosque. But, of the many, the name ‘Masjid Dhannipur’ tops our priority list. Most probably, the mosque would be named ‘Masjid Dhannipur’,” said Athar Hussain, spokesperson for Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation (IICF).

The complex is likely to include a mosque, a hospital, a community kitchen, and an educational centre.

The Uttar Pradesh government handed the plot, currently occupied by rice fields 20km from Ayodhya town, to the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board (UPSCWB) earlier this month in accordance with the Supreme Court’s November 2019 verdict that cleared the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the 2.77 acre site in Ayodhya. The court also ordered the government to award five acres of land at an alternative site for the construction of a mosque.

But the trust, helmed by the UPSCWB, made it clear that they didn’t want to associate the new mosque to the disputed 16th century structure that was demolished by a mob on December 6. 1992. “The board has maintained its stand since Day One that the mosque would not be named after Mughal emperor Babur,” said Hussain.

A senior official of the trust explained that the trust wanted to steer clear of any controversy and therefore was not in favour of naming the mosque after any emperor. “In any case, it is an established tradition that mosques are often named after the locality or region,” said Hussain.

The trust has received a number of pledges for donation and other commitments, and specifications and dimensions of the mosque would be decided in the days to come, he said. “So far, we have only invited applications from architects all across the country to help with the design of the mosque that would be on the Indo-Islamic theme,” added Hussain.

The trust has faced significant opposition from within the Muslim community with a section of people saying that a mosque cannot be constructed on land given by the government. On Friday, the All India Muslim Women’s Personal Law Board joined the ranks of those against the construction of the mosque. Shaista Amber, AIMWPLB chief, said, “I truly respect the Supreme Court verdict, but I personally believe that a place of worship should not be on disputed land or on given land. I don’t think the mosque should be constructed on the allotted five-acre land.”

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/mosque-in-ayodhya-likely-to-be-named-masjid-dhannipur/story-Pbqm8CVLzmI06pmcHFfbJM.html

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Beirut blast: India sends 58 tonnes of emergency aid to Lebanon

by Arpan Rai

Aug 14, 2020

India on Friday sent 58 tonnes of emergency humanitarian aid to Lebanon in an air force plane to assist the people affected by the explosions in Beirut on August 4.

The external affairs ministry said a separate consignment of personal protective equipment (PPE), including surgical gloves and surgical gowns, is being sent to Lebanon following a spike in Covid-19 cases. This will reach Beirut in the coming days, ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

The emergency humanitarian aid was despatched on Friday morning in a C-17 heavy lift aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in response to an assessment of requirements by Lebanese authorities.

“In response to the massive explosion in Beirut on August 4, we had offered our assistance to Lebanon and sought from them an assessment of their requirement. Based on this, an Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft was deployed to deliver 58 MT of emergency humanitarian aid on behalf of the government of India to Lebanon,” Srivastava said.

“The aircraft landed in Beirut a few hours back and the aid has been handed over by our ambassador to senior officials of the Lebanese armed forces, which is coordinating all the relief efforts.”

The aid sent by India includes emergency medical supplies, wheat flour, sugar, pulses, and relief materials such as blankets, dignity kits and sleeping mats, which are required by the large number of people left homeless by the explosion.

“India demonstrates solidarity with the people of Lebanon in the aftermath of the tragic explosions in Beirut. 58 MT of emergency humanitarian aid, including crucial medical and food supplies, is on its way to Beirut in IAF C17 aircraft,” external affairs minister S Jaishankar tweeted.

Nearly 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at Beirut’s port blew up on August 4, virtually wiping out the city’s commercial hub and damaging many parts of the Lebanese capital. The blasts killed more than 170 people, injured another 6,000 and left nearly 300,000 homeless.

The total damage has been estimated at $10 billion to $15 billion. A preliminary assessment by the World Bank showed some 50,000 residential units were damaged and 80 per cent of residential buildings and infrastructure were affected by the explosions.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/beirut-blast-india-sends-58-tonnes-of-emergency-aid-to-lebanon/story-kJXtb1HTXosaxC4IrVfNVM.html

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North America

 

US seizes virtual currency alleged to fund militant groups

By Eric Tucker

August 13, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Thursday that it has seized millions of dollars from cryptocurrency accounts that militant groups, including al-Qaida and the Islamic State, used to finance their organizations and violent plots.

Law enforcement officials said the groups used the accounts to solicit donations, including through a scam that sought to raise money from the sale of fraudulent personal protective equipment for the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials described it as the largest-ever seizure of virtual currency funds related to terrorism. It’s also part of a broader Justice Department goal of dismantling financial networks for extremist organizations, including those designated as foreign terror groups.

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are favored for illicit transactions because they are perceived as hard to trace, and one of the groups singled out Thursday explicitly encouraged donations by telling potential contributors that the money trail would be difficult for law enforcement to untangle, the department said.

The legal action, which included undercover work and forfeiture complaints, filed in Washington’s federal court is meant to deprive the organizations of funds needed to buy weapons and develop fighters, Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a conference call announcing the case.

“This action shows that law enforcement remains a step ahead of them,” said Demers, the department’s top national security official.

The department said it has confiscated about $2 million so far, in addition to more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites and four Facebook pages.

The seized funds are expected to be turned over to a fund for victims of terrorist attacks, officials said.

The seizure also targeted the military wing of Hamas, known as the al-Qassam Brigades, which last year began a public fundraising campaign through social media to solicit Bitcoin donations while reassuring potential donors that such contributions would be untraceable and used for violence, officials said. It also posted on websites instructions for how to anonymously make donations.

Law enforcement officials ultimately seized more than 150 cryptocurrency accounts that they say laundered funds to and from accounts operated by the al-Qassam Brigades. Also Thursday, prosecutors unsealed criminal charges against two Turkish individuals accused of acting as money launderers related to the cryptocurrency.

“Without funding, you cannot have these operations conducted,” said Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. “The focus here was a very proactive effort to target these organizations in a very wide-scale manner.”

The department also identified a scheme that officials say was shepherded by an IS associate who officials say manages certain hacking operations for the group.

Prosecutors say the man, identified as Murat Cakar, registered a website in Turkey to sell face masks and other protective gear to help prevent the coronavirus. The masks were produced by a Turkish company and not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Justice Department said it seized that site as well as four related pages used for the scheme and for the funding of IS.

A separate scheme by al-Qaida and affiliates sought to raise funds through Bitcoin for attacks even as the groups purported to act as charities, according to the court documents.

An undercover agent for Homeland Security Investigations, part of the Department of Homeland Security, messaged the administrator of one charity asking to make donations. The administrator replied that he hoped for the destruction of the United States, and shared a Bitcoin wallet address for the purpose of receiving funds.

“Bullets and bombs is all affordable, but the drone stuff, its very hard to unless u have like anti aircraft stuff which is like millions of dollars,” the administrator wrote, according to court documents. “Here they shoot it with a ground to air missile ... its possible to hit them but hard. Or a 23mm machine gun. U know those big guns attached to a car.”

The investigation involved officials from multiple agencies, including the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and HSI.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-seizes-digital-currency-accounts-used-by-militant-groups/2020/08/13/9b5d1136-dd78-11ea-b4f1-25b762cdbbf4_story.html?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1440676_

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Pompeo discusses importance of Israel-UAE deal, Iran arms embargo in Vienna

14 August 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize diplomatic ties.

“It’s an important step forward for Middle East stability,” Pompeo said. “It’s a good moment for the world and its security.”

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The United States will do everything in its power to extend the international arms embargo on Iran under discussion at the United Nations, Pompeo said.

The UN Security Council has started voting on a US bid to extend the embargo on Iran, which is opposed by veto-powers Russia and China, with results due on Friday.

Pompeo, on a visit to Austria, said Iran must also provide full and immediate cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear watchdog, whose head he was meeting in Vienna.

Some diplomats say the attempt to extend the ban is bound to fail and put an already fragile nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers further at risk.

“It makes no sense to permit the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to purchase and sell weapons systems,” Pompeo told a news conference. “I mean, that’s just nuts.”

Pompeo said he was urging the rest of the world to support the US stance.

“We are going to do everything that we can within our diplomatic tool set to ensure that arms embargo doesn’t expire,” he said.

“The voting will be in the next handful of hours and we are hoping that we will be successful. When we see the results we will make the decision about how to move forward.

“We have been unambiguous about the fact we no intention of allowing this arms embargo to expire. None whatsoever.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/14/Israel-UAE-deal-important-step-forward-for-stability-in-Middle-East-Pompeo.html

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Rhode Island ISIS terror sympathizer sent home by Boston judge

By JOE DWINELL

August 13, 2020

A Rhode Island man sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for threatening to behead a conservative blogger over her anti-ISIS views is the latest con to be set free under the coronavirus compassionate release movement.

Nicholas Rovinski was set free this week after serving just five years of his sentence, with the 29-year-old’s lawyers successfully arguing his cerebral palsy and hypertension make him vulnerable to COVID-19. He was jailed at FCI Danbury, a “low-security” prison in Connecticut.

U.S. Attorney in Boston Andrew Lelling appealed to the court to keep Rovinski behind bars for a crime he stressed could have resulted in a life term. He added 7,000 federal inmates have been let out and sent home during the pandemic.

“The defendant has failed to meet his burden of establishing ‘extraordinary and compelling reasons’ that warrant releasing the defendant after serving barely a third of his 15-year sentence of imprisonment for two extraordinarily serious terrorism offenses that involved plotting the killing of U.S. citizens  on behalf of ISIS and for which his sentencing guideline range was at life,” Lelling wrote.

On Thursday, Lelling filed for reconsideration saying, in part, Rovinski was part of “a carefully constructed plan — developed with a co-defendant — to behead a woman in the name of ISIS.”

Boston federal Judge William Young ruled that Rovinski “spend the next ten years of supervised release in home confinement, the first six months of which shall be in strict home confinement.” He can then appeal for leniency.

Lelling said in his appeal that “most would find hard to fathom” the decision to let Rovinski go home.

Rovinski and two others were arrested over a plan to kill blogger Pamela Geller at the behest of ISIS after she organized a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas in 2015.

Rovinski, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to conspiracy charges, testified he and his co-conspirators would talk about ISIS and perhaps joining the terrorist organization. He also read up on saws and chopping tools, the feds said. The plot never got off the ground.

https://www.bostonherald.com/2020/08/13/rhode-island-isis-terror-sympathizer-sent-home-by-boston-judge/?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1440676_

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Europe

 

France to step up probe into Beirut explosion after death of two French citizens

14 August 2020

France has stepped up its probe into the massive Beirut port blast last week by handing it to investigating magistrates, prosecution sources said Friday, as it was confirmed two French citizens were among the 178 people killed.

The investigation has now been entrusted to two magistrates who can ultimately decide whether to press charges over the August 4 blast, the sources told AFP.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

French prosecutors on August 5 opened a probe into “involuntary injury” using their jurisdiction to investigate acts committed abroad when French people are among the victims.

Another source, who asked not to be named, said two French citizens were now confirmed to have been killed in the explosion.

The death of one French victim -- prominent Lebanon-based architect Jean-Marc Bonfils -- had already been confirmed but the second victim has yet to be publicly identified.

French prosecutors on August 5 opened a probe into “involuntary injury” using their jurisdiction to investigate acts committed abroad when French people are among the victims.

Investigators and police from France have already been at the scene in Beirut for several days to reconstruct the chain of events that led to the explosion.

The FBI will also join Lebanese investigators at the invitation of the Lebanese government, the US State Department said Thursday.

The explosion has been blamed on a vast stock of ammonium nitrate left for years in a warehouse at the port despite repeated warnings.

Lebanon’s government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned this week following days of demonstrations demanding accountability over the disaster.

Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation and judicial officials said Wednesday the prosecution would question ministers and former ministers.

President Michel Aoun has rejected calls from world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, and many Lebanesefor an independent international investigation as a “waste of time.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/14/France-to-step-up-probe-into-Beirut-explosion-after-death-of-two-French-citizens.html

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EU should reassess relations with Turkey: Austrian FM

14 August 2020

The European Union should reassess its relations with Turkey in light of a series of recent events, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said on Friday, citing special concern about the situation in the eastern Mediterranean.

“I have to say that Austria is very concerned about the dangerous and alarming situation which we believe could escalate,” Schallenberg said at a joint news conference with visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Actions taken by certain states in the eastern Mediterranean ... should lead the European Union to re-evaluate its relations with Turkey.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/14/EU-should-reassess-relations-with-Turkey-Austrian-FM.html

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Macron plans to return to Beirut on September 1: French defense minister

14 August 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron plans to return to Beirut on Sept. 1 to follow up on the reconstruction efforts after the catastrophic blast which destroyed parts of the Lebanese capital last week, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said Friday.

Parly, speaking after a tour of the French helicopter-carrier Tonnerre which arrived earlier in the day in the devastated port of Beirut, also called on the Lebanese to form a government capable of taking “courageous decisions.”

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

She described the ship as a “floating city” which can provide all kind of medical and technical support, including a hospital, search and rescue equipment, construction materials and also transporting a shipment of flour.

The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab, which has the backing of the Iran-aligned Hezbollah, resigned in the wake of the explosion.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/14/Macron-plans-to-return-to-Beirut-on-September-1-French-defense-minister-.html

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Turkey urges France to refrain from escalating Mediterranean tensions

14 August 2020

Turkey has urged France to refrain from escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, following the French government’s announcement of a plan to increase military presence in the area in support of Ankara’s regional rival Greece.

“They will not get anywhere by acting like bullies, whether in Libya, the northeast of Syria, in Iraq, or the Mediterranean,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a joint news conference with his Swiss counterpart in the Swiss city of Bern on Friday.

France held training exercises with Greek forces off the island of Crete on Thursday amid rising tensions between Ankara and Athens over Turkish oil and gas exploration in disputed waters in the sea.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that France would “temporarily reinforce” its military presence to “monitor the situation in the region and mark its determination to uphold international law,” according to his office.

Last month, the French president called for European Union (EU) sanctions against Turkey for what he described as “violations” of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty over their territorial waters.

Tensions have been escalating in the eastern Mediterranean since Monday, when Turkey announced the resumption of energy exploration research activity in a disputed area with Greece. Turkey has dispatched a research ship, the Oruc Reis, escorted by naval vessels, off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, where Turkey disputes Greek maritime rights. Ankara had paused the research activities on a request from Germany.

The Turkish vessels were being shadowed by Greek warships. And the situation has been tense.

‘Mini-collision’ in the Mediterranean

On Wednesday, a Greek warship was involved in a mild collision with one of the Turkish naval vessels accompanying the Oruc Reis research vessel, Reuters reported on Friday.

An unnamed Greek defense source called the incident a “mini-collision,” explaining that the Greek warship, the Limnos, was approaching the survey vessel when it came into the path of one of its naval escorts.

The source added that the Greek warship maneuvered to avoid a head-on collision and in the process, its bow touched the rear of the Kemal Reis.

“It was an accident,” the source said, adding that the Greek frigate was not damaged.

This is while Ankara has described the incident as a provocation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also warned of retaliation after saying the Kemal Reis vessel had fended off an attack by Greek warships.

Switzerland offers to mediate

Cavusoglu said Switzerland had offered to mediate in the eastern Mediterranean crisis with Greece, adding that Turkey had agreed in principle.

He also warned Greece against provoking Turkey’s seismic research vessel.

“Greece needs to act with common sense. They should not harass our Oruc Reis vessel as they would receive the necessary response,” Cavusoglu said.

Greece and Turkey almost went to war in 1974 over Cyprus, which has since been divided, with the northern third run by a Turkish Cypriot administration recognized only by Turkey and the southern two thirds governed by the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/14/631798/Turkey-Greece-eastern-Mediterranean-France

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Putin calls for emergency Iran summit to decrease tensions, Macron agrees in principle

August 14, 2020

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany to convene an emergency Iran summit to avoid an escalation of tensions in the Gulf.

China, France, Russia, Britain, the US, Germany and Iran should take part in the video summit, the Kremlin chief said.

"It's an urgent issue," Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin.

"Discussions at the UN Security Council over the Iranian issue are becoming increasingly tense," Putin said, adding that Moscow's ally Iran was a target of "groundless accusations".

"The goal is to put together a blueprint that would allow to avoid confrontation, an escalation in tensions at the UN Security Council."

He added that the leaders should also agree on ways to ensure security and trust in the Gulf region.

Tensions over Iran have escalated since 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a multinational accord that froze Iran's nuclear programme and reimposed crippling sanctions on its economy.

Last week US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would submit a UN Security Council resolution to extend an arms embargo on Iran despite opposition from Russia and China.

The 15-member Security Council will announce later on Friday the result of a vote on the US-drafted resolution to extend the weapons ban. Diplomats say it is bound to fail and put the fate of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers further at risk.

If the United States is unsuccessful it has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran using a provision in the nuclear deal, known as snapback

French President Emmanuel Macron is open to taking part in Putin's virtual meeting over the Iran arms embargo, the Elysée palace said on Friday.

"We confirm our availability in principle," the Elysée palace said in a statement. "We have already taken initiatives in the same spirit in the past," it said.

The 13-year-old UN arms embargo is due to expire in October under the 2015 accord that prevents Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in return for sanctions relief.

Diplomats warn that if the US triggers a sanctions snapback the process would be tough and messy. They say several countries would argue that Washington legally could not activate a return of sanctions and therefore simply would not reimpose the measures on Iran themselves.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1719436/world

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UN chief hopes Israel-UAE deal can help two-state solution for peace in Mideast

14 August 2020

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday he hoped the Israel-UAE deal can help realize a two-state solution for peace in the Middle East.

“The secretary-general welcomes this agreement, hoping it will create an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re-engage in meaningful negotiations that will realize a two state-solution in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements,” a spokesman for Guterres said in a statement.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached a historic peace deal on Thursday that will lead to a full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern nations in an agreement that US President Donald Trump helped broker.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/08/14/UN-chief-hopes-Israel-UAE-deal-can-help-two-state-solution-for-peace-in-Mideast.html

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Arab world

 

Muslim world split on Israel-UAE pact: Turkey, Iran furious Pakistan cautious, all eyes on Saudi Arabia

Mariana Baabar

August 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates’ decision to maintain full diplomatic relations with Israel has divided the Muslim world into two camps, with some Muslim countries condemning the move and threatening to suspend their diplomatic relations with this Gulf country.

The UAE, however, offered a muscular defence of its move to establish ties with Israel, saying it was designed to "shake up" the Middle East impasse and serve Emirati interests. The historic deal, the first for a Gulf state, sees Israel pledge to suspend its planned annexation of Palestinian lands but has been condemned by the Palestinian leadership as a "betrayal" of their cause.

Omar Saif Ghobash, Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy, rejected the charge, insisting the agreement had made progress in the absence of any other workable proposal from the Arab world.

"I think we’ve demonstrated that we are able to enter a very staid and tired situation and to shake things up, and we look forward to seeing positive developments coming out of this real engagement," he told AFP in an interview.

The deal, announced by US President Donald Trump on Thursday, is only the third such accord Israel has struck with an Arab country, and raises the prospect of similar deals with other pro-Western Gulf states.

However, regional power Saudi Arabia, whose own efforts to induce Israel to withdraw from occupied territories have been effectively sidelined by the United Arab Emirates move, has remained conspicuously silent.

"We didn’t consult with anybody, we didn’t inform anybody, and as a sovereign state we don’t feel that we have the obligation to dothat," Ghobash said, asked if long-time ally Riyadh was consulted in advance.

"We are in the process now of informing our friends and partners and others in the region as to why we took the step" but "it´s to be expected that not everybody will ... applaud or comment".

"We have taken the decision as a sovereign state with our own interests and our own calculations in mind." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday thanked the leaders of Egypt, Oman and Bahrain for their "support" of the agreement to normalise ties with the UAE.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, protesters set ablaze posters of the leaders of the three countries. Netanyahu, for his part, thanked Arab supporters of the normalisation.

"I thank Egyptian President al-Sisi, and the governments of Oman and Bahrain, for their support of the historic peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which is expanding the circle of peace and will be good for the entire region," Netanyahu tweeted.

Israel has two official peace treaties with Arab states -- Egypt, since 1979, and Jordan, signed in 1994. The European Union welcomed the agreement. “Normalisation will be at the benefit of both. It is important both for them and for the regional stability. Both countries are our partners,” EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali told reporters.

"And, of course, as the EU, you know very well that we are committed to a two state solution. And we are, of course, ready to work on the resumption of the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

Meanwhile, Pakistan in a guarded reaction said it had an abiding commitment to full realization of the legitimate rights of Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination. Peace and stability in Middle East is also Pakistan’s key priority.

"We have noted the Joint Statement announcing agreement of the UAE and Israel to have full normalization of relations. This is a development with far-reaching implications. For a just, comprehensive and lasting peace, Pakistan has consistently supported a two-state solution in accordance with the relevant UN and OIC resolutions as well as international law," said a statement from the Foreign Office.

While Saudi Arabia has yet to give its reaction, both Iran and Turkey have denounced the recognition of Israel by the UAE.

"Pakistan’s approach will be guided by our evaluation of how Palestinians’ rights and aspirations are upheld and how regional peace, security and stability are preserved," adds the Foreign Office.

US President Donald Trump said on Twitter, "HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!" US President Donald Trump said on Twitter.

"Everybody said this would be impossible ... After 49 years Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalise their diplomatic relations," Trump later told reporters. Democratic White House candidate Joe Biden called the UAE´s move "a welcome, brave, and badly-needed act of statesmanship".

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the agreement as "hugely good news". “The UAE and Israel’s decision to normalise relations is hugely good news,” Johnson said on Twitter.

“It was my profound hope that annexation did not go ahead in the West Bank and today’s agreement to suspend those plans is a welcome step on the road to a more peaceful Middle East.”

The Palestinian leadership voiced its "strong rejection and condemnation" of the deal and announced it would withdraw its envoy from the UAE.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas called the agreement an "aggression" against the Palestinian people and a "betrayal" of their cause, including their claim to Jerusalem as capital of their future state.

Hazem Qasem, spokesman for Palestinian group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said the deal "does not serve the Palestinian cause", calling it "a reward for the Israeli occupation and crimes".

Jordan, which borders the West Bank and Israel, said the outcome of the agreement would depend on Israel´s actions, including its stance on a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said: "the impact of the deal on peace efforts is linked to the actions Israel will take".

"I appreciate the efforts of the architects of this agreement for the prosperity and stability of our region," Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi tweeted. He added he hoped the deal to halt Israel´s annexation of Palestinian land, would help bring "peace" to the Middle East.

Iran condemned the deal, saying the Palestinian people would "never forgive the normalising of relations with the criminal Israeli occupation regime and the complicity in its crimes." The move was an act of "strategic stupidity from Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv which will undoubtedly strengthen the resistance axis in the region," the foreign ministry said.

Ankara also condemned the deal as an act of treachery. "While betraying the Palestinian cause to serve its narrow interests, the UAE is trying to present this as a kind of act of self-sacrifice for Palestine," the foreign ministry said.

"History and the conscience of the people living in the region will not forget and never forgive this hypocritical behaviour." President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey could suspend diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates after a landmark deal between Israel and the Gulf state.

"I gave an order to the foreign minister. I said we could suspend diplomatic relations with the Abu Dhabi administration or withdraw our ambassador," Erdogan told reporters. Yemen's Huthi rebels slammed the deal as "a move that provokes the Arab and Islamic nation... and proves that these countries, including the Emirates which is launching an assault against Yemen, serve the Israeli entity," their spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam said.

France welcomed the deal, stressing the suspension of Israel´s plans to annex swathes of the occupied West Bank. "The decision taken within this framework by the Israeli authorities to suspend the annexation of Palestinian territories is a positive step, which must become a definitive measure," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.

"China is happy to see measures that are helping to ease tensions between countries in the Middle East and promoting regional peace and stability," said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

"We hope relevant parties will take concrete actions to bring the Palestinian issue back to the track of dialogue and negotiation on an equal footing at an early date," Zhao said, reiterating Beijing´s support for an independent Palestinian state.

Germany welcomed the "historic" deal, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas saying normalisation of ties between the two countries was "an important contribution to peace in the region." UN chief Antonio Guterres said he hoped the deal would help realise a two-state solution.

"The secretary general (hopes) it will create an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re-engage in meaningful negotiations that will realise a two-state solution in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements," his spokesman said.

"India has consistently supported peace, stability and development in West Asia, which is its extended neighbourhood. In that context, we welcome the full normalisation of ties between UAE and Israel. Both nations are key strategic partners of India," said the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of India.

''India continues its traditional support for the Palestinian cause. We hope to see early resumption of direct negotiations to find an acceptable two-state solution,'' he added.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/700562-muslim-world-split-on-israel-uae-pact-turkey-iran-furious-pakistan-cautious-all-eyes-on-saudi-arabia

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UAE says Israel deal not about Iran, rejects criticism from Turkey’s Erdogan

15 August 2020

The United Arab Emirates said its decision to normalize ties with Israel isn’t about countering Iran, and dismissed criticism of the pact from Turkey’s leader.

“This is not about Iran. This is about the UAE, Israel and the United States,” Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, said in a phone interview. “This is in no way meant to create some sort of grouping against Iran.”

While the Trump administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have sought to frame the agreement as part of their attempt to confront and further isolate Iran, Gargash signaled that the UAE isn’t looking to provoke its near neighbor.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

“We have a very complicated relationship with Iran,” he said. “While we have our concerns, we feel also that resolving these issues should be through diplomacy and de-escalation.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Turkey could withdraw its ambassador to the UAE over the country’s agreement with Israel, saying it dealt a blow to Palestinian rights. Gargash dismissed the statement as a “double standard” which glossed over Turkey’s own significant trade links with Israel.

“They receive over half a million Israeli tourists, have $2 billion worth of bilateral trade and an existing embassy there. And I ask myself whether this is a principled position or not,” Gargash said.

Under the deal, Israel agreed to put aside for now its pledge to annex West Bank land the Palestinians want for a state. “We have been very concerned with the issue of annexation,” Gargash said. “Through this imaginative proclamation, we have at least been able to give negotiations space.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/15/UAE-says-Israel-deal-not-about-Iran-rejects-criticism-from-Turkey-s-Erdogan.html

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Saudi Arabia among top aid providers for Palestinians, nearly $1 mln per day

15 August 2020

Saudi Arabia remains one of the top financial aid providers for the Palestinians since 2000, donating more than $6.5 bln in support over the past two decades, according to the Kingdom’s humanitarian groups.

Between 2000-2018, Saudi Arabia has provided more than to $6,473,586,361 in aid to the State of Palestine, of which about $250 million were allocated to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Earlier in May, Saudi Arabia said it will be donating $2.66 million to help the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip combat the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to an initiative by the Kingdom’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief).

The initiative will see the provision of aid and supplied sent to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in Palestine worth more than 10 million Saudi riyals, including 12 categories of medical supplies.

According to KSRelief’s data posted on its website, $2,061,005,465 had been allocated to Palestine across 217 separate projects. At least 195 projects, some 89 percent of the total number of projects, had been allocated specifically for humanitarian aid and emergency relief efforts.

Earlier in May, Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, Dr. Khaled Manzlawiy said Riyadh is proud to be one of the largest donors to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

“(Knowing) the noble role the agency serves for more than 5 million Palestinian refugees — and because of its belief in the (importance) of the Palestinian cause — the Kingdom has supported UNRWA with more than $1 billion since 1994, which the humanitarian organization described as clear evidence of the Kingdom’s wish to ensure Palestinian refugees enjoy dignity and well-being,” Manzlawiy was quoted as saying by the Saudi Press Agency at the time.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/08/15/Saudi-Arabia-remains-top-aid-provider-for-Palestinians-nearly-1-mln-per-day.html

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Hezbollah threatens to attack Israel if Beirut blast was sabotage: Nasrallah

14 August 2020

Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that his group would wait for results of a probe into the Beirut port blast, but that if it turns out to be an act of sabotage by Israel, then it would "pay an equal price."

Speaking in a televised speech, he said the two theories under investigation were that an accident or sabotage caused the explosion of ammonium nitrate stored at a warehouse. Israel has denied any involvement in the Aug. 4 blast that killed 172 people and injured 6,000.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Nasrallah also demanded that the new government in Lebanon be formed of traditional political parties.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab's cabinet resigned on Monday over the explosion, widely blamed on negligence and corruption by the country's ruling class.

Politics in multi-confessional Lebanon is dominated by former warlords from the 1975-1990 civil war who have exchanged their military fatigues for suits, or were replaced by relatives.

In his second speech since the blast, Nasrallah dismissed the idea of a "neutral government" as a "waste of time" for a country where power and influence are distributed according to religious sects.

"We don't believe there are neutral (candidates) in Lebanon for us to form a (neutral) government," Nasrallah said.

Instead, the Hezbollah chief called for a government model that has endured for years, despite prolonged political and economic crises and demands for change.

"We are calling for attempts to form a national unity government, and if that is not possible, then a government that secures the widest representation possible for politicians and experts," Nasrallah said.

"We call for a strong government, a capable government, a government that is protected politically," he added.

A government that does not have the backing of the country's top political blocs "either falls, or collapses, or is toppled in parliament at any given crossroads," Nasrallah said.

The explosion at Beirut's port happened when a huge stock of hazardous materials stored in a warehouse in the heart of the capital for years exploded, despite repeated warnings of the dangers it posed.

The explosion revived a street protest movement that had first erupted in October last year against government corruption and a lingering economic crisis.

Months of demonstrations that started last autumn led to the resignation of the government and installation of Diab at the head of a new cabinet dominated by Hezbollah and its allies.

The Iran-backed Shia movement also controls the majority in parliament with its allies.

Protesters filled the streets again and clashed with security forces in the days after the explosion, blaming their political leaders for the negligence they say led to the disaster.

Western powers have pressed Lebanon's leaders for deep-seated change and a government that reflects the will of the people, and also insisted reforms be implemented to unlock billions of dollars in international aid.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/15/Hezbollah-threatens-to-attack-Israel-if-Beirut-blast-was-sabotage-Nasrallah.html

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Nujaba declares ‘Israel’s destruction’ ultimate goal of all resistance groups

14 August 2020

Iraq’s al-Nujaba Movement says the ultimate goal pursued by all resistance groups is to destroy Israel and expel all American forces from the region.

“Our goal today is not limited to victories here or there; rather, our clear goal is the full destruction of Israel and expulsion of the US and its mercenaries from the entire region and Islamic countries,” said Nasr al-Shammari, the deputy secretary-general and official spokesman for Iraq’s al-Nujaba Movement.

“In order to achieve this goal, we will avenge the cowardly assassination of resistance commanders, most importantly the martyred commander Hajj Qassem Soleimani,” he said on Thursday night.

He made the remarks in a video conference speech to an international conference held in the Iranian city of Mashhad to commemorate martyrs of Afghanistan’s Fatemiyoun Brigade, a resistance group involved in the regional fight against terrorism.

Al-Shammari said the fighters of Fatemiyoun and other resistance forces in Iraq are taking the “hard revenge” every day, and that is what American forces witness today.

“These fighters will continue to struggle against the US with stronger resolve, greater experience and with technologies the enemy can’t counter,” he added.

He said the defeats currently suffered by the US are an introduction to the ultimate humiliating defeat they and the Israeli regime will suffer.

“The enemy’s increased pressure … is what contributes to the realization of the resistance front’s goals and its great victory,” he said.

Al-Nujaba Movement is part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), an Iraqi government-sponsored umbrella organization composed of around 40 factions of volunteer counter-terrorism forces, including mostly Shia Muslims besides Sunni Muslims, Christians and Kurds.

In the early days of the Daesh’s reign of terror, the PMU fighters played a major role in reinforcing the Iraqi army, which had suffered heavy setbacks against the Takfiri elements.

In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament voted to integrate the PMU into the military amid US efforts to sideline the group.

PMU crushes Daesh gathering in Samarra

In their latest operation against the Takfiri terrorists in Iraq, PMU forces attacked a gathering of Daesh elements in a region south of the holy city of Samarra.

The raid was launched based on secret intelligence received by the PMU and after monitoring the movements of the Daesh remnants in the region, a statement by the PMU said.

Several terrorists have been killed and wounded, and some of them have escaped after counter-terrorism forces attacked them with artillery and other light and medium weapons.

The PMU Central Command has been on high alert since May, warning its forces to beware of Daesh’s attempts to attack the holy shrines located in Samarra, Saladin province.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/14/631783/-Iraq-Nujaba-Israel-goal-resistance-groups-

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Iran raps West's bid to exploit Lebanon 'pain for political goals'

14 August 2020

Iran's foreign minister says only the Lebanese people and their representatives can decide the country's future following the massive blast in Beirut that killed 172 people and prompted the government to resign.

Mohammed Javad Zarif was speaking after senior US and French officials met President Michel Aoun in a flurry of apparent Western meddling in Lebanon's internal affairs.  

"In our view it is not humane to exploit the pain and suffering of the people for political goals," Zarif told a joint televised news conference with Lebanon's caretaker foreign minister.

"We believe that the government and the people of Lebanon should decide on the future of Lebanon."

Following the blast, Western states have linked any financial assistance to "reform" of the Lebanese state, which has defaulted on its huge sovereign debts.

France's navy helicopter carrier Tonnerre has docked at the wrecked port, where Lebanese authorities say more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored for years without safety measures.

Iran ready to help rebuild Lebanon

Zarif said Tehran and private Iranian companies were ready to help Lebanon with reconstruction and rehabilitating the country's electricity sector.

As Lebanon marks the anniversary of its victory against Israel in the 33-day war in 2006, Iran also vowed to continue its support for the Lebanese nation and government, stressing that the Arab country will overcome the current crisis through synergy.

In a statement on Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran congratulated the Lebanese nation, government, army, and resistance, especially the secretary-general of Hezbollah, on the 14th anniversary of Lebanon’s victory in its 33-day war against the Israeli aggressors in 2006, which “imposed a historic defeat on the occupying regime.”

The statement said that the Lebanese nation will always remember the sweet taste of the victory, and “will not allow enemies to play with the country’s security, independence, and sovereignty.”

“The Lebanese nation will overcome the current crisis through unity and synergy, and that is a great lesson for all regional governments and nations,” it added.

The statement said the Islamic Republic of Iran has always stood by the Lebanese nation and government, and will stand by them forever.

It further pointed to Foreign Minister Zarif's visit to Beirut on the anniversary of the great epic, and said the trip is aimed at promoting constructive relations between Iran and Lebanon as two friendly and brotherly countries and is in line with Tehran’s all-out support for the government, nation, army, and resistance of Lebanon.

Zarif has traveled to Lebanon to address the developments that have followed the recent hugely deadly explosion in the capital Beirut and Iran’s ongoing provision of assistance to the disaster-hit nation.

August 14 marks the fourteenth anniversary of the end of Israel’s 33-day war on Lebanon.

The war that began with Israeli airstrikes against Lebanese cities in July 2006, resulted in the demolition of vital infrastructure and the death of over 1,000 innocent people.

About 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, lost their lives during the 33-day war waged by Israel against Lebanon.

According to the 629-page Winograd Report by the Israeli regime, Hezbollah fighters involved in defending Lebanon against the Israeli war defeated the enemy and Tel Aviv was compelled to withdraw without having achieved any of its objectives.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brokered a ceasefire in the 2006 war, calls on Israel to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/14/631784/Iran-Lebanon-Zarif-Hezbollah

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South Asia

 

Kabul begins release of final 400 Taliban, talks to follow

Aug 14, 2020

KABUL: Afghanistan has released the first 80 of a final 400 Taliban prisoners, paving the way for negotiations between the warring sides in Afghanistan's protracted conflict, the government said Friday.

Javid Faisal, spokesman for the National Security Council's office, made the announcement. Taliban officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, said 86 prisoners were freed. It wasn't immediately known when the remaining prisoners would be freed.

Prisoner releases on both sides are part of an agreement signed in February between the US and Taliban. It calls for the release of 5,000 Taliban held by the government and 1,000 government and military personnel held by the insurgent group as a good will gesture ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations.

Talks are expected to be held in Qatar where the Taliban maintain a political office. Several Afghan leaders told The Associated Press talks could begin by Aug. 20.

These negotiations are to lay out a framework for a post-war Afghanistan. Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad spent a year and a half negotiating the peace deal aimed at allowing American troops to return home and end America's longest military engagement.

US troops have already begun leaving and by November less than 5,000 troops are expected to still be in Afghanistan, down from nearly 13,000 when the agreement was signed Feb. 29.

American and NATO troop withdrawal is contingent on the Taliban keeping their commitment not to allow militant groups to use Afghanistan against the United States or its allies. The withdrawal is not tied to successful talks between the warring sides.

Last weekend, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held a traditional council meeting known as loya jirga to get a consensus on the release of a final 400 Taliban he said were accused of serious crimes, saying without explanation that he could not unilaterally decide to release them.

Some of the 400 have been implicated in devastating bombings in the capital Kabul. During a televised talk Thursday with the US-based Council on Foreign Relations, Ghani warned of dangers they could present to lasting peace in Afghanistan.

But for some in Afghanistan the talks with the Taliban mirror earlier negotiations with other insurgents, including warlord and US-designated terrorist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who many say has a reputation for violence that exceeds the Taliban.

In 2016, Ghani negotiated a peace deal with Hekmatyar, whose Hezb-e-Islami group took responsibility for several bombings in Kabul, including one at a grocery story in the capital that killed a young family. The deal included removing Hekmatyar from the UN terrorist list. His group was also responsible for a 2008 attack on French soldiers- the largest international loss in a single battle in Afghanistan.

Also on Friday, a small bomb hidden in a motorcycle exploded near a mosque in the capital, just as worshipers were finishing their prayers, wounding a police officer. No one immediately took responsibility but the Islamic State group has in the past targeted mosques in Afghanistan.

The IS affiliate in Afghanistan has been targeted by Afghan security force, US troops and the Taliban. A Department of Defense official previously said the peace deal with the Taliban is also intended to recruit the insurgent group into a coordinated fight to rid the region of IS.

Meanwhile, the Afghan Defense Ministry said it is investigating a video circulating on social media purporting to show Afghan army personnel mutilating Taliban corpses.

The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, known as UNAMA, tweeted that the footage 'is deeply shocking ... investigation needs to be swift and open. If crimes are proven the criminals must be identified and held responsible.'

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/kabul-begins-release-of-final-400-taliban-talks-to-follow/articleshow/77544423.cms

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India reacts to Pakistan’s move for hosting Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to speak on Kashmir issue

15 Aug 2020

The government of Indian reacted to Pakistan’s move for hosting the leader of Hezb-e Islami of Afghanistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to speak on the issue of Kashmir.

According to local media reports, Hekmatyar participated in a webinar hosted by the government of Pakistan last week and spoke abut the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Hekmatyar said India should “learn a lesson from the Afghan jehad” and the only solution to the Kashmir issue is to give Kashmiris the right to self-determination, according to Hindustan Times.

Reacting to Hekmatyar’s presence in the even, Anurag Srivastava, a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs of India, said “We have seen the media reports of the participation of the former UN-designated terrorist in an event organised by the government of Pakistan.”

““This is nothing new. Pakistan not only harbours terror outfits but also encourages them. We hope that such participation in public events by a former UN-designated terrorist would not go unnoticed,” Srivastava added.

According to reports, Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia also participated in the even.

https://www.khaama.com/india-reacts-to-pakistans-move-for-hosting-gulbuddin-hekmatyar-to-speak-on-kashmir-issue/

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Member of Afghanistan’s peace negotiating team injured in militants ambush

15 Aug 2020

A member of Afghanistan’s peace negotiating team injured in an armed militants attack, Afghan peace chief negotiator said.

“Fawzia Koofi, a member of the negotiating team was attacked by unknown gunmen on Friday evening in Qarabagh district of Kabul city, Masoom Stanekzai, chief negotiator for Afghan peace process tweeted.

According to Stanekzai, Fawzia Koofi has been injured in the attack, but her health condition has been reported to be satisfatory.

Stanikzai has called on the security institutions to investigate the issue and share the results with the media.

The first round of Intra-Afghan peace dialogue is expected to be held in Doha sometime mid this week.

https://www.khaama.com/member-of-afghanistans-peace-negotiating-team-injured-in-armed-militants-ambush-979876/

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Mideast

 

Palestinians crowd Damascus Gate after UAE-Israel deal

14 August 2020

General view of Damascus gate in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds following a historic US-brokered deal to normalise ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The project, which provides for direct flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi in order to trade with the Emirates but also to visit the holy sites of Jerusalem al-Quds, according to the son-in-law of US President Jared Kushner, was widely condemned by the Palestinian leadership.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/14/631789/Palestinians-Damascus-Gate

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Erdogan says Turkey could suspend diplomatic ties with UAE

15 Aug 2020

DUBAI: As the United Arab Emirates defended its bombshell move to establish relations with Israel, Turkey and Iran condemned the decision while Saudi Arabia conspicuously kept quiet on Friday.

Turkish president said his country could suspend diplomatic ties with the UAE over the move while Iran described the decision as a “strategic stupidity”.

“I gave an order to the foreign minister. I said we could suspend diplomatic relations with the Abu Dhabi administration or withdraw our ambassador,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters.

In a deal announced on Thursday by the US, Israel pledged to suspend its planned annexation of Palestinian lands in exchange for a normalisation of ties with the UAE.

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday announced the “immediate” recall of its ambassador to the UAE in protest at the deal.

President Erdogan is a strong advocate of Palestinian rights and has frequently criticised Israeli policies in the West Bank.

Saudi Arabia keeps quiet as Emirati minister defends move

“History will not forget those who betray the Palestinian people and sell out the Palestinian cause,” Mr Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, tweeted on Friday.

“Turkey will continue to stand by the Palestinian people.” The Turkish foreign ministry earlier described the UAE-Israel deal as a hypocritical betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

Ties between the UAE and Turkey have been strained for a long time, and have especially deteriorated over the conflict in Libya where the two countries support opposing sides.

For its part, Tehran termed the move “an act of strategic stupidity” that would only strengthen the Iran-backed “axis of resistance”.

“The oppressed people of Palestine and all the free nations of the world will never forgive the normalising of relations with the criminal Israeli occupation regime and the complicity in its crimes,” a foreign ministry statement said.

Tehran warned against Israeli interference in the Gulf and said the UAE should “accept responsibility for all the consequences” of the agreement.

The UAE-Israel agreement comes after Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held rare talks with his Emirati counterpart last week, raising hopes for a mending of their ties.

The UAE had downgraded its relations with Iran in January 2016 amid a spike in tensions between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic republic.

UAE stance

An Emirati minister said the deal was designed to “shake up” the impasse over the Palestinian problem and serve his country’s interests.

Omar Saif Ghobash, assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy, said: “I think we’ve demonstrated that we are able to enter a very staid and tired situation and to shake things up, and we look forward to seeing positive developments coming out of this real engagement,” he said in an interview.

The deal, announced by US President Donald Trump on Thursday, is only the third such accord Israel has struck with an Arab country, and raises the prospect of similar deals with other pro-Western Gulf states.

But regional power Saudi Arabia, whose own efforts to induce Israel to withdraw from occupied territories have been effectively sidelined by the United Arab Emirates move, has remained conspicuously silent.

“We didn’t consult with anybody, we didn’t inform anybody, and as a sovereign state we don’t feel that we have the obligation to do that,” Ghobash said, asked if long-time ally Riyadh was consulted in advance.

“We are in the process now of informing our friends and partners and others in the region as to why we took the step” but “it’s to be expected that not everybody will ... applaud or comment”.

“We have taken the decision as a sovereign state with our own interests and our own calculations in mind.”

The establishment of ties with Israel comes after years of quiet rapprochement, including the hosting of athletes and ministers from the Jewish state.

Apart from the diplomatic implications, there are obvious economic benefits.

The UAE, rich in oil and with big ambitions in space and technology, will be able to do business openly with Israel, which will have access to the modern cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi as they attract talent and investment.

“We as a country are very globally connected and we do find that the connections are incredibly lucrative and contribute to our GDP,” Ghobash said, in an unusually candid assessment.

“We are driven by pragmatic considerations.”

https://www.dawn.com/news/1574492/erdogan-says-turkey-could-suspend-diplomatic-ties-with-uae

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Iranian Minister: Deal of Century Reduced to Trivial Agreement

Aug 14, 2020

Salehi made the remarks in a Twitter message on Friday.

Commenting on the normalization of ties between the UAE and the Zionist regime, the Iranian culture minister said that "they were reduced from 'Deal of Century' to give consent to a trivial agreement namely the recognition of Israel by the UAE!!! A mountain which gave birth to a tiny mouse!"

The US, the UAE and the Zionist regime in a joint statement on Thursday, announced the official establishment of ties between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv.

The statement claimed the Zionist regime will stop annexation of occupied Palestinian lands in return for the normalization of ties with the UAE.

Critics see the agreement as an attempt by US President Donald Trump to save his ailing presidential campaign against the Democrat candidate Joe Biden.

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990524000360

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Israeli delegation headed to UAE as early as next week to discuss deal: Report

15 August 2020

An Israeli delegation is set to travel to the United Arab Emirates as early as next week to meet with the Gulf state’s top leadership, according to a report by Israeli Channel 12, a day after the two countries announced an agreement to normalize ties.

Israel’s Prime Minister’s office said that country’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat would lead the preparations for the talks “in coordination with all the relevant parties,” according to Channel 12.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached a historic peace deal on Thursday that will lead to a full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern nations in an agreement that US President Donald Trump helped broker.

Under the agreement, Israel has agreed to suspend applying sovereignty to areas of the West Bank that it has been discussing annexing, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed confirmed on Twitter.

Delegations from Israel and the United Arab Emirates will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas of mutual benefit.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/15/Israeli-delegation-headed-to-UAE-as-early-as-next-week-to-discuss-deal-Report.html

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Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after balloon attacks

15 August 2020

Fresh Israeli air and tank strikes hit Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip late Friday, Israel’s army said, in further reprisals for firebombs suspended from balloons that floated over the border from Gaza.

“Fighter jets, military helicopters and tanks targeted Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip,” including “the navel defense system used by Hamas, underground infrastructure and observation posts,” the Israeli army said in a statement, specifying that this was a response to the balloon bombs.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said that a pregnant woman and a three-year-old child were injured in the attacks and taken to hospital.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The attacks come a day after the announcement of a deal to normalize relations between Israeli and the United Arab Emirates that has been denounced by the Palestinians, including Hamas.

Friday’s attacks on sites used by Hamas were the sixth such night-time operation this week.

Hamas on Thursday condemned Israel’s attacks on Gaza and its sanctions as “dangerous and aggressive behavior,” warning of “consequences” Israel will bear.

Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has fought three wars against Israel since 2008.

Despite a truce last year backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons.

The Gaza Strip has a population of two million, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Palestinian analysts say fire from Gaza often aims to pressure Israel to give the green light for the transfer of Qatari financial aid into the strip.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/15/Israel-strikes-Hamas-targets-in-Gaza-after-balloon-attacks.html

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Greek, Turkish warships in ‘mini collision’ amid tensions in eastern Mediterranean

14 August 2020

A Greek and a Turkish warship were involved in a mild collision on Wednesday during a standoff in the eastern Mediterranean, in what a Greek defense source called an accident, but Ankara described as a provocation.

Tensions between the NATO allies have risen this week after Turkey sent a survey vessel to the region, escorted by warships, to map out sea territory for possible oil and gas drilling in an area where Turkey and Greece both claim jurisdiction.

The Turkish Oruc Reis survey ship has been moving between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, shadowed by a number of Greek frigates. On Wednesday one of them, the Limnos, was approaching the survey vessel when it came into the path of one of its Turkish naval escorts, the Kemal Reis.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The Greek frigate maneuvered to avoid a head-on collision and in the process its bow touched the rear of the Turkish frigate, the defense source said, calling it a “mini collision.”

“It was an accident,” the source said, adding the Limnos was not damaged. It subsequently took part in a joint military exercise with France off Crete on Thursday morning, the person said.

In Switzerland on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Athens needs to act with reason and called on the European Union to stop “pampering” Greece ahead of an EU foreign ministers meeting to discuss the issue later on Friday.

Greece “should not attempt to provoke Oruc Reis like it did two days ago or it will receive a response,” he said, adding the European Union should not give it “unconditional support.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the naval Kemal Reis had fended off an attack by Greek vessels and also warned of retaliation.

Relations between Greece and Turkey have long been fraught with tension. Disputes have ranged from boundaries of offshore continental shelves and airspace to the ethnically split island of Cyprus. In 1996 they almost went to war over ownership of uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea.

In a call with Erdogan on Thursday, European Council President Charles Michel recalled the EU’s full solidarity with Greece, an EU official said. Michel called for de-escalation of tensions, said provocations should be avoided and added that dialogue is preferred, the official added.

Cavusoglu said Switzerland had offered to mediate the dispute between Turkey and Greece and that Ankara had agreed to this in principle.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/08/14/Greek-Turkish-warships-in-mini-collision-amid-tensions-in-eastern-Mediterranean.html

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Israeli military carries out fresh aerial, ground attacks against Gaza Strip

15 August 2020

The Israeli military has launched fresh aerial and ground attacks against targets across the besieged Gaza Strip, in the latest of a series of attacks carried out overnight this week.

Late on Friday, the Israeli warplanes, helicopters and tanks once again bombed positions in the blockaded enclave, claiming that they were positions held by the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas.

In a statement issued following the attacks, the Israeli military said that the raids were carried out in response to a number of alleged incendiary balloons sent from Gaza to the occupied territories, and targeted "naval force compound, underground infrastructure and observation posts" belonging to Hamas.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, at least a pregnant woman and a three-year-old child sustained injuries in the attacks and were taken to hospital for due treatment.

Friday’s attacks on sites allegedly used by Hamas were the sixth such night-time aggression this week.

The Israeli regime every so often launches strikes against positions in the blockaded enclave, accusing the resistance groups there of launching rockets.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.

Israel has also launched three major wars against the enclave since 2008, killing thousands of Gazans each time and shattering the impoverished territory’s already poor infrastructure.

The crippling blockade has caused a decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty in the Gaza Strip.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/08/15/631825/Palestine-Israel-Gaza-attacks-Hamas-balloons-

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Pakistan

 

Palestinian rights, peace dear to Pakistan: FO

Baqir Sajjad Syed

15 Aug 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday reiterated its commitment to a just and comprehensive resolution of the Palestine dispute, but said its position on normalisation with Israel would depend on how Palestinian interests would be best served and security in the Middle East is preserved.

“Pakistan’s approach will be guided by our evaluation of how Palestinians’ rights and aspirations are upheld and how regional peace, sec­urity and stability are preserved,” the Foreign Office said in its reaction to the trilateral US-UAE-Israeli agreement under which the UAE would fully normalise ties with Israel, details for which would be negotiated in their subsequent bilateral negotiations.

The UAE would be the third Arab country to normalise relations with Israel after Egypt and Jordan.

The Foreign Office maintained an ambivalent stance on the US-UAE-Israel accord, noting that it would have “far-reaching implications”.

The statement instead of clarifying Pakistani position left more questions especially with regards to normalisation with Israel.

The trilateral statement had said that following the agreement on normalisation with the UAE, Israel would focus “on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world”.

Govt offers ambiguous reaction to UAE-Israel accord

Pakistan does not officially recognise Israel though there have been multiple reports in the past of secret contacts between the officials of the two countries. Islamabad’s longstanding position on the issue of formalising ties with Israel has been that it could happen only after Tel Aviv reaches a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Those who closely follow Pakistan’s foreign policy found the language of the statement a bit vague. Initially the goalpost for such a thing to happen was the realisation of a viable and independent State of Palestine based on pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al Sharif as its capital. The latest statement, meanwhile, links it to upholding of Palestinian rights and preservation of regional peace.

“Pakistan has an abiding commitment to the full realisation of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination. Peace and stability in the Middle East region is also Pakistan’s key priority,” the FO said.

“For a just, comprehensive and lasting peace, Pakistan has consistently supported a two-state solution in accordance with the relevant UN and OIC resolutions as well as international law,” it added.

There was no explanation in the statement about the government’s view about peace in Middle East. The official position so far has been that enduring peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved without a just resolution of the Palestine dispute.

The US-UAE-Israel joint statement had said “this historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region”.

Pakistani position on the dispute closely follows that of its Arab allies. The stance of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government on the dispute and issue of ties with Israel has been much more flexible than that of past governments. Islam­abad earlier this year did not reject Deal of the Cen­tury proposed by President Trump despite its categorical rejection by the Pales­tinians. Moreover, a debate on ties with Israel has been allowed to simmer on for a couple of years now.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1574495/palestinian-rights-peace-dear-to-pakistan-fo

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Pakistan observes 74th Independence Day

Aug 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Rallies, flag-hoisting ceremonies, fireworks and sirens across Pakistan on Friday marked the 73rd year of its independence amid a significant decrease in the Covid-19 infections across the country.

The day started with a 31-gun salute in Islamabad and a 21-gun salute in all the four provincial capitals. This was followed by change-of-guard ceremonies at the mausoleums of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of the nation, in the southern port city of Karachi, and Allama Mohammad Iqbal, the national poet, in the country’s cultural hub of Lahore. Similar ceremonies were also held in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the disputed region of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The main ceremony was held at the Presidency in Islamabad where President Arif Alvi hoisted the national flag. The ceremony was attended by the Speakers of the National Assembly and Senate, chiefs of the three armed forces, ministers, and senior government officials.

A major event at President House was conferring the country’s highest civilian award, Nishan-e-Pakistan (Order of Pakistan), upon separatist Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani in recognition of his “unmatched freedom struggle against Indian occupation”.

Kashmiri leaders based in PoK received the award from President Alvi on behalf of Geelani. In his address, Alvi reiterated his country’s support to the “freedom” struggle of the people of Kashmir.

In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Imran Khan paid tribute to “all those sons of the soil who laid down their lives while defending and protecting the territorial as well as ideological frontiers of the motherland”.

Reaffirming his country’s support to Kashmiris, Khan posted on Twitter: “The nation’s heart is profoundly grieved by the sufferings of our brethren in IIOJK (Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir), who are facing military siege since the past one year.”

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-observes-74th-independence-day/articleshow/77552512.cms

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Wary of centre’s plan, Bilawal asserts Sindh govt’s control over Karachi

Imran Ayub

15 Aug 2020

KARACHI: Amid a growing debate over a proposed plan of the federal government for Karachi, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday made it clear that “from now on” the Sindh government would lead the administrative affairs of the country’s business capital while respecting the mandate of the local and federal governments.

The PPP chairman spoke about Karachi for the second consecutive day after Attorney General Khalid Jawed mentioned in the Supreme Court that the federal government was weighing its options for the provincial metropolis. Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s thoughts appeared quite clear about the party’s strategy to counter the moves of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government at the centre.

However, he showed his respect for the mandate of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) and its local government, which is about to complete its four-year term, talked about fresh elections and acknowledged the opposition party for representing people of Karachi for the last several years.

“We respect the local government’s mandate,” he said at the inauguration ceremony of the People’s Square built near the S.M. Law College under the World Bank-funded Karachi Neighbourhood Improvement Project (KNIP).

“This [Sindh] is the only province where [elected] local government is completing term and now the fresh elections will be held. But from now, administrative responsibility of Karachi lies with the Sindh government. The Sindh government would keep supporting the local and federal governments like we did in the past but from today the leading role in Karachi affairs will be taken ... by the Sindh government.”

It would be interesting to see the reaction from the parties concerned, mainly the MQM which has been running Karachi’s local government since 2016 under its elected Mayor Wasim Akhtar who frequently lodges complaints of having no powers and funds to run the affairs of the mega city and often comes under fire for his performance.

The government of Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s party has been enjoying full administrative control over Karachi for the past 12 years. The provincial government is responsible for even many civic and municipal functions such as garbage collection, building control, master plan, water and sanitation, etc.

Says PPP brought peace to Karachi

However, Mr Bhutto-Zardari referred to a number of “contributions” and “sacrifices” his party made to bring Karachi to its current situation where the business environment had improved after years of bloodshed and violence.

“When we came to power, this city was under a serious terror threat,” he said. “We brought peace. The personnel of the law-enforcement agencies including police and Rangers laid their lives in the line of duty. We, with mandate or no mandate from Karachi, have served this city.”

“Imran Khan and his government made a number of promises but not a single one was met. From water to housing and from employment for youth to infrastructure development, you have not seen a single project in two years from the federal government,” he added.

Earlier, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah shared details and salient feature of the KNIP, which his government had initiated last year with the assistance of the World Bank to improve public spaces in the city’s selected neighbourhoods and strengthen the city government’s capacity to provide certain administrative services such as business registration and construction permits.

The chief minister mentioned the area of the ceremony near the National Museum and Sindh Secretariat, where educational and cultural zones were being constructed, including underground parking area for 400 vehicles.

He said the project, on which work had begun on March 12, 2018, was scheduled to be completed by July 31 this year with an investment of $98 million. An agreement with the World Bank was signed on June 15, 2017 under which $86m would be financed through the WB while an amount of $12m was shared by the Sindh government.

He said the sub-projects in the Saddar neighbourhood under the KNIP were being implemented.

The sub-projects comprise rehabilitation of three roads that form a triangle, upgrade of pavements, upgrade of infrastructure/burying major utility network of Dr Ziauddin Road (from Shaheen Complex to Pakistan Chowk), Deen Mohammad Wafai Road (from the Arts Council roundabout to Pakistan Chowk) and construction of sub-surface car parking space and students space/plaza on Shahrah-i-Kamal Ataturk.

Its salient features include Rs1.67 billion Re-Development of Culture and Education Area in Saddar Downtown project.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1574418/wary-of-centres-plan-bilawal-asserts-sindh-govts-control-over-karachi

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Southeast Asia

 

Jokowi Grants His Two Staunchest Critics Meritorious Service Awards

BY LENNY TRISTIA TAMBUN

AUGUST 13, 2020

Jakarta. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo set aside differences when he issued state awards to two politicians widely regarded as among his strongest political opponents in Jakarta on Thursday.

Two former House of Representatives deputy speakers Fadli Zon, who hardly spends a day without criticizing or attacking Jokowi’s policies, and Fahri Hamzah, who once joined a political movement to unseat the president, were granted with the Stars of the Republic of Indonesia, the decoration of the government for meritorious service by individuals.

Both men received the Star Mahaputera Award, the second highest decoration for “extraordinary civilian services”.

“Questions may arise about Mr. Fahri Hamzah and Mr. Fadli Zon, but being political opponents or having political differences doesn’t necessarily mean that we become adversaries in what matters for the nation. It is about valuing our democracy," the president said after the awarding ceremony at the State Palace.

Jokowi also called Fahri and Fadli, who stood near him, as “friends”.

Fahri later said the state award won’t stop him from being critical of the president.

“I will continue criticizing and it turns out the president can take criticisms,” he told reporters.

Fahri, a former executive of the Social Justice Party (PKS), demanded Jokowi to resign in a November 2016 speech he delivered during Muslim protests against then Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama who was facing blasphemy allegations.

During the event, Fahri detailed ways to impeach the president while accusing him of disrespecting Indonesian Muslims by protecting the governor. His verbal attacks on the president continued during his House tenure and in many television talk shows.

He has softened the stance toward the president since last year when he walked out of the PKS and co-founded a new party that required a government permit before being allowed to contest in the election.

Fadli Zon, meanwhile, said the decoration was an award to democratic values where differences are granted a place.

“I thank [the president] for his recognition to our democracy. Differences can bring us further ahead and make us stronger with proper checks and balances,” Fadli said.

The Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) politician has opposed the president on nearly all issues, from economic policies to justice system and from foreign policies to national security.

He often mocked the president in person in his Twitter account that has 1.4 million followers.

Fadli and Fahri were among 33 recipients of the state awards ahead of the country’s 75th anniversary.

They included 22 medical workers who died in the frontline in the country's fight against the coronavirus outbreak, former president Megawati Soekarnoputri who received the Role Model Medal, former House speaker Bambang Soesatyo who got the Star of Service, former National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) head Suhardi Alius, former chief justice Muhammad Hatta Ali and several other top politicians.

Chief security minister Mahfud M.D. said any high-ranking public official is entitled with a decoration of the government after completing their service.

“If the Star awards were not given to persons because of their critical voice, we would have unfairly politicized their legitimate rights,” he said.

https://jakartaglobe.id/news/jokowi-grants-his-two-staunchest-critics-meritorious-service-awards

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More than 50% of PN seat allocations settled, says Hadi

August 14, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Over 50% of state and parliamentary seats for the impending general election have been distributed among Perikatan Nasional components, according to PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.

He was quoted as saying that the seat allocations in a few states had been completed.

“We don’t have a date yet (as to when the seat allocations would be completed), but we are doing it in stages and now we have completed more than 50%,” Sinar Harian quoted him as saying.

However Hadi said the candidates and the constituencies they sought had yet to be finalised as the coalition partners wanted to win as many seats as possible.

Hadi said that PN – which comprises Barisan Nasional, PAS and PPBM – was prepared for a snap election. However, they had yet to discuss the common election symbol they would use.

Umno Youth has previously suggested that the parties contest under the BN symbol.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/08/14/more-than-50-of-pn-seat-allocations-settled-says-hadi/

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PAS deputy president and sultan’s children top Pahang honours list

August 15, 2020

KUANTAN: Eight children of the Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man and a Federal Court judge are among 58 people to receive state awards for the 61st birthday of the Sultan of Pahang today.

The investiture ceremony will be graced by the Regent, Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Sultan Abdullah. The sultan is currently serving as Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The honours list is headed by the Tengku Arif Bendahara, Tengku Muhammad Iskandar Ri’ayatuddin Shah, who is among those who will receive the Sri Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang (SSAP) award, which carries the title Datuk Seri.

His brother Tengku Amir Nasser Ibrahim Shah and sister Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan also receive the SSAP.

Others receiving the SSAP are Tuan Ibrahim, who is environment minister, and 15 others, including several businessmen.

The recipients include Federal Court Judge Hasnah Mohammed Hashim; Defence Ministry secretary-general Muez Abd Aziz; Employees Provident Fund (EPF) chairman Ahmad Badri Mohd Zahir; Customs director-general Abdul Latif Abdul Kadir; Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department director-general Mohammad Hamdan Wahid; Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission deputy chief commissioner Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil; Bukit Aman management director Abd Rahim Jaafar; and Pahang police chief Abd Jalil Hassan.

The sultan’s other five children –Tengku Ahmad Ismail Mu’adzam Shah; Tengku Puteri Ilisha Ameera; Tengku Puteri Ilyana; Tengku Puteri Afzan Aminah Hafidzatullah; and Tengku Puteri Jihan Azizah ‘Athiyatullah — will receive the Sri Indera Mahkota Pahang (SIMP) award, which carries the title ‘Datuk Indera’.

Three others also received the SIMP: Tengku Abu Bakar Ahmad, husband of Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan; the Comptroller of the Royal Household of Istana Negara, Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin; and former health deputy director-general Dr Shahnaz Murad.

Eight people received the Darjah Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang (DSAP) which carries the title Datuk, while 17 people will be conferred the Darjah Indera Mahkota Pahang (DIMP) which also carries the title Datuk. They include the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s military escorts – First Admiral Sharum Shaim of the Royal Malaysian Navy, Brig-Gen Zahari Mohd Ariffin of the Army, Brig-Gen Mohamed Zahari Yahya of the Royal Malaysian Air Force and SAC Yahaya Othman of the Royal Malaysia Police.

The Setia Ahmad Shah Pahang (SAP) and Setia Mahkota Pahang (SMP) awards, will be conferred to three recipients, respectively.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/08/15/pas-deputy-president-and-sultans-children-top-pahang-honours-list/

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Africa

 

Somali military frees 33 children from al-Shabaab

Mohammed Dhaysane  

15.08.2020

Somali elite forces freed 33 children Friday in a military operation against Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shabaab in the southwestern region of lower Shabelle region.

The children were rescued in Kurtunwaarey, a stronghold of the group in lower Shabelle region located 208 kilometers (129 miles) from the capital, Mogadishu.

"The children were taken away from their families by the insurgent group al-Shabaab for indoctrination, and they were freed after the military liberated the town from the terrorist group," government spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Oronjo told Anadolu Agency.

Somali commandos killed at least four senior al-Shabaab militants including the group’s financial coordinator and operations commander, according to military radio.

Meanwhile, a bomb blast Friday near a military base in the region killed one soldier, according to Adan Moalim, a military official who spoke to Anadolu Agency.

And local media reported three soldiers were wounded by a landmine explosion outside Bal'ad, in middle Shabelle region.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/somali-military-frees-33-children-from-al-shabaab/1942535

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URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/indias-sovereignty-biggest-priority-pm/d/122634

 

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