New Age Islam
Tue Dec 01 2020, 07:01 PM

Islamic World News ( 1 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Mosque in India Opens to Non-Muslims To Take A Tour of The Prayer House to Foster Understanding to Narrow the Divide Between Communities






• ‘Muslims, Stop Being Apologetic’: An Actor Told A Rally Against the Amended Citizenship Regime at Park Circus

• CAA In 'Clear Violation' Of Indian Constitution and International Human Rights Law: Amnesty

• Erdogan: Evil Will Arrive at Kaaba If Arab, Muslim Countries Remain Silent

• Moroccan King’s Visit to Historic Jewish Center Hailed by Community Leaders as Symbol of Diversity

• Be Flexible: Islamic Party Lawmaker Wants Indonesia To Export Cannabis

• The Fight of Egypt’s Dar Al-Ifta Against Extremism, Islamophobia

• Carter: Trump Plan Works Against ‘Peace’, Breaches International Law

• Pakistani Premier Says War Averted in Middle East, Things Still Tense

• Ghani’s Remarks About Timur Gurkani Spark Anger Among Afghanistan’s Uzbeks

 

India

• Mosque in India Opens to Non-Muslims To Take A Tour of The Prayer House to Foster Understanding to Narrow the Divide Between Communities.

• ‘Muslims, Stop Being Apologetic’: An Actor Told A Rally Against the Amended Citizenship Regime at Park Circus

• CAA In 'Clear Violation' Of Indian Constitution and International Human Rights Law: Amnesty

• In solidarity with Shaheen Bagh, thousands of women march across Malerkotla

• India hails 'strong' ties with Israel after welcoming US Mideast plan

• Helping Kashmiri students, because this actor knows what suffering means

• ‘Centre’s Stand on CAA Wrong, But We Can’t Trust Muslims’: Kerala Priest’s Bizarre Statement Draws Flak

• De-radicalisation is the new call of security

• Mumbai: Muslim Activists Decry AIMPLB's 'Weak Stance' On Permitting Women to Pray in Mosques

• Centre ready to talk to Shaheen Bagh protesters

• Jamia bars students from protesting on premises

• J&K DSP case: NIA raids multiple places in south Kashmir

• Swinging between hope and despair, Hindu, Sikh refugee families from Pak, Afghanistan

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Mideast

• Erdogan: Evil Will Arrive at Kaaba If Arab, Muslim Countries Remain Silent

• Palestinian Authority Cuts All Ties with Israel and US

• British FM warns Israel against West Bank annexation

• Trump's anti-Palestine plan will end in dustbin of history: Iran's IRGC

• Algeria accuses Turkey’s Erdogan of misquoting President Tebboune

• Israeli cabinet debate on West Bank annexation called off

• Israel army launches overnight airstrike in the Gaza Strip

• Japan destroyer heads to Middle East as Iran-US tension lingers

• US, Israel ramp up nuclear weapons testing, deployment amid regional provocations

• Houthis say targeted Saudi airports, Aramco in retaliation for Riyadh air strikes

• Trump’s deal proves US as occupied by Zionists as Palestine: American Scholar

• Turkey may launch Syria offensive if Idlib attacks continue: Erdogan

• Israeli warplanes hit Hamas in Gaza after border fire

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Africa

• Moroccan King’s Visit to Historic Jewish Center Hailed by Community Leaders as Symbol of Diversity

• Takfiri Militants Kill At Least 62 People In East DR Congo As Attacks On Civilians Intensify

• UN resolution calls for withdrawal of mercenaries from Libya

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Southeast Asia

• Be Flexible: Islamic Party Lawmaker Wants Indonesia To Export Cannabis

• Export of halal products to Japan to see positive growth, says Azmin

• PAS president: G25 should apologise to all Muslims

• Why isn’t my daughter with me yet, Indira asks IGP

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Arab World

• The Fight of Egypt’s Dar Al-Ifta Against Extremism, Islamophobia

• New Iraqi PM Allawi says will hold internationally-monitored election

• Egypt sentences officer-turned-militant and 36 others to death

• Arab League rejects Trump’s Middle East plan: Statement

• Syria terrorist group urges France to free ex-spokesman

• Extremists carry out suicide attacks against Syrian pro-regime forces in Aleppo

• Syrians fighting in Libya on Turkey’s behalf not backed by opposition: Al-Bahra

• Iraq’s President assigns Mohammed Allawi with forming new government

• Kurdistan’s Erbil airport sends back three Chinese to Dubai over coronavirus

• Top al-Qaeda leader Qassim al-Rimi likey killed in US drone strike

• Syria liberates two villages in Idlib eastern countryside

• Saudi ship faces growing opposition in European ports

• Car bomb attacks target Syrian pro-Assad regime forces in Aleppo

• Syrian opposition fighters launch attack near Aleppo

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North America

• Carter: Trump Plan Works Against ‘Peace’, Breaches International Law

• US election 2020: Some Muslims in Iowa will caucus in their own mosques

• US arrests Arizona man over alleged ties to al-Qaeda

• US Pompeo urges Kazakhstan to join it in pressing China over Uighur rights

• Nigeria says to ‘work with US’ on visa curbs

• US envoy lobbies for bid to halt Taliban attacks amid surge in bombing Afghans

• US spy chief Gina Haspel secretly visited Ramallah after 'peace plot' bid: Report

• Kyrgyzstan protests inclusion in Trump's latest travel restrictions

• Trump 'completely controlled by his master in Israel': Scholar

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Pakistan

• Pakistani Premier Says War Averted in Middle East, Things Still Tense

• Nawaz convinces ex-PM Abbasi to move bail application

• PML-Q, MQM-P not leaving ruling alliance: Sheikh Rashid

• FBR report finds high-ranking officials involved in large-scale corruption

• Leak of CJP’s security protocol on social media angers PBC

• Why pro-PTM protesters were booked for sedition, asks IHC

• Behind bars for 197 days, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi seeks bail in LNG reference

• Govt slammed over record hike in public debt

• Court summons complainants in MQM hate speech cases

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South Asia

• Ghani’s Remarks About Timur Gurkani Spark Anger Among Afghanistan’s Uzbeks

• US peace envoy arrives in Kabul: US Embassy Kabul

• Former Kabul police chief injured by unknown gunmen

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Europe

• Turkey to seek new trade deal with post-Brexit UK

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/mosque-in-india-opens-to-non-muslims-to-take-a-tour-of-the-prayer-house-to-foster-understanding-to-narrow-the-divide-between-communities/d/120955

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Mosque in India Opens to Non-Muslims To Take A Tour of The Prayer House to Foster Understanding to Narrow the Divide Between Communities.

February 01, 2020

Lata Rani

Patna: As mass protests continue against India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, a prominent mosque in Bihar state is inviting non-Muslims to take a tour of the prayer house in a bid to narrow the divide between communities.

The recently passed legislation is being seen by some as discriminatory to Muslims.

The mosque tour, the first such initiative in the state, has been announced by the Bhainsasur Badi Masjid located in Nalanda, the home district of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.

As part of the initiative, people from all faiths are being invited to the mosque to help raise awareness about how the prayers are offered inside the mosque and clear any confusion in their minds about Islam.

“There has been a lot of confusion about Islam and mosques. People from other faiths want to know what we do inside the mosque, how we offer prayers, what’s the meaning of Allah-Hu-Akbar and purpose of Azan [call to prayer]. So we have planned guided tousr to the mosque to answer all these queries,” programme convener Kamran Nomani told Gulf News over the phone.

According to him, people from all faiths have been living together for long but of late, some gaps are being seen between them.

“The idea is to provide an opportunity to non-Muslims to see the prayer sessions and other Islamic activities held inside. This will clear up the confusion,” he added.

Organisers said, during the guided tour that has been planned on Sunday, the visitors would be taken to each and every corner of the mosque to make them aware about the religious activities going inside and satisfy their curiousty about Islam.

Visitors have been invited to visit the mosque between 10am to 4pm.

“We are hopeful that the initiative will bring the two communities together and promote communal harmony,” said Tabrez Azim, one of the members of the Masjid committee, adding the idea could be extended to other mosques, depending on the response.

This is the first time in the state that any mosque has been kept open for non-Muslims and the move assumes much significance in the light of the continuing protests in India against the newly-passed Citizenship law and proposed National Register for Citizens (NRC).

In Bihar, the protests have spread to 30 districts out of state’s total 38.

During the recent nation-wide shutdown called by multiple organisations on Wednesday (January 29), there were reports of clashes between anti-CAA-NRC protesters and supporters at several places in Bihar although the situation was handled tactfully by the authorities.

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/india/mosque-in-india-opens-to-non-muslims-to-foster-understanding-1.69426753

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‘Muslims, Stop Being Apologetic’: An Actor Told A Rally Against The Amended Citizenship Regime At Park Circus

By Debraj Mitra in Calcutta

Published 1.02.20

Stop justifying your Indian-ness because you don’t have to, an actor told a rally against the amended citizenship regime at Park Circus on Friday evening.

“Muslims should stop being apologetic and justifying their rights. They should never consider themselves second-class citizens. They must realise that they have equal rights in this country, guaranteed by the Constitution,” said Mohammed

Zeeshan Ayyub, among the few actors in Mumbai who have been vocal against the document-based citizenship thrust.

At almost every rally against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act-National Register of Citizens-National Population Register, Muslims told Metro how their grandfathers “shed blood” for this country. Ayyub served them a timely reminder that their rights were no less than any other Indian’s, no matter what their forefathers did.

“My grandfather was a farmer. I never saw him. I don’t know if he had participated in the freedom struggle. Does that mean I am any less Indian? No, it doesn’t,” he told the few thousands-strong crowd.

Ayyub — known for his roles in films such as Raanjhanaa (2013), Raees (2017) and Article 15 (2019) — has taken part in several protests against the CAA-NPR-NRC and spent New Year’s eve night at Shaheen Bagh and Jamia Millia Islamia.

The rally he addressed in Calcutta was held in Tiljala Lane under the Parama flyover, near the Abdul Hamid mosque. The narrow lane was brimming with people and scores were seated on the roof of a club. A section was reserved for women, who turned up in hundreds.

One of the loudest cheers came when Mashkoor Ahmad Usmani, a former president of the Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union, said: “Those were different people who chose Jinnah’s Pakistan in 1947. We chose Gandhi’s India.”

He had a suggestion for “people demanding a Hindu state — a baba has set up a Hindu rashtra on an island, all who want can go and settle there, because India is not going to change its character”.

In December, reports had surfaced that self-styled godman Nithyananda, a rape accused, had founded a nation called Kailasaa on an island in Ecuador for Hindus.

Hasnain Raza, a student leader from Jamia, took the “Right-wing narrative” bull by its horns. “A section of people keep shouting that Jamia produces terrorists. Look at the UPSC list to see what Jamia produces. Jamia knows how to fight and how to study (Jamia ladhna bhi janta hai, Jamia padhna bhi janta hai),” he said, to a loud applause.

Ayyub, however, was the most-awaited speaker. The volunteers had a tough time organising the crowd once he took the mic.

Unlike some of the previous speakers, Ayyub steered clear of lofty slogans. The graduate from Kirori Mal College, under Delhi University, was candid and discerning.

“You should not give too much importance to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Governments come and go…. But you must remember that the RSS was not built in a day. It took them seven decades to build the organisation that we see now, with its grassroots connect,” he said.

Always pointing to Shaheen Bagh could be counter-productive, Ayyub said.

“The government knew how to tackle Muslim men — by beating them up. But they don’t know what to do with women. But if you keep pointing to Shaheen Bagh, you are giving them a face to target,” he said.

Equally important is to spread the movement everywhere — “distribute pamphlets, talk about this wherever you go”.

The only time Ayyub raised his voice was when he recited a poem by Urdu poet and lyricist Rahat Indori. The poem ended with these lines: “Jo aaj saahibe masnad hain kal nahin honge/Kiraaydaar hain zaati makaan thodi hain/Sabhi ka khoon shaamil yahan ki mitti me/Kisi ke baap ka Hindustan thodi hain? (Those in seats of power today will not be there tomorrow. These are tenants, they don’t own the house. This land has everybody’s blood. India does not belong to someone’s father.)

The rally, whose theme was Hum Kagaz Nahi Dikhayenge (We will not show papers), was organised by the All India Bazm-e-Ashraf, a body of clerics, and the Garden Reach Peace Movement, a citizens’ collective.

“The BJP and its goons are students of WhatsApp university. So, they have problems with Jamia, JNU, AMU and JU,” said Touseef Ahmed Khan, a lawyer at Calcutta High Court and one of the organisers of the protest.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/west-bengal/muslims-stop-being-apologetic/cid/1741200

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CAA in 'clear violation' of Indian Constitution and international human rights law: Amnesty

Feb 1, 2020

WASHINGTON: Amnesty International has told the US lawmakers that the recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) stands in "clear violation" of the Constitution of India and international human rights law and "legitimises discrimination" on the basis of religion.

The new citizenship law passed by Parliament in December 2019 offers citizenship to non-Muslim persecuted religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The Indian government has been emphasising that the new law will not deny any citizenship rights, but has been brought to protect the oppressed minorities of neighbouring countries and give them citizenship.

Amnesty International Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager Francisco Bencosme made the remarks during a testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations and House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee.

The Indian Parliament “passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which legitimises discrimination on the basis of religion and stands in clear violation of the constitution of India and international human rights law,” Bencosme said.

India has asserted that the legislation on CAA was enacted following the due process.

"The CAA is an internal matter of India. It has been adopted through due process and democratic means," Spokesperson of the Ministry of external affairs Raveesh Kumar has said, fending off criticism against the CAA.

Defending the CAA, Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month said that the law is not about taking away citizenship, it is about giving citizenship.

"We must all know that any person of any religion from any country of the world who believes in India and its Constitution can apply for Indian citizenship through due process. There's no problem in that," he said.

The two subcommittees jointly organised a hearing on Ending Global Religious Persecution.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/caa-in-clear-violation-of-indian-constitution-and-international-human-rights-law-amnesty/articleshow/73838887.cms

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Erdogan: Evil will arrive at Kaaba if Arab, Muslim countries remain silent

February 1, 2020

On Friday Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, slammed Arab and Muslim leaders for accepting or remaining silent on the issue of the US “deal of the century”, Turkish media reported.

Erdoğan reiterated his country’s strong opposition to the deal announced at the White House by US President Donald Trump on Tuesday, where ambassadors of three Arab countries were in attendance.

“We will never recognise or accept the deal as it aims to annex occupied Palestinian lands,” he confirmed at a meeting of provincial heads of the Justice and Development Party in Ankara.

As reported by Turkish newspaper, Daily Sabah, Erdoğan also announced that leaving the fate of Jerusalem and the Palestinians entirely in the “bloody claws” of Israel will be “the greatest evil in all humanity”.

Turkey does not have any problems with the Jewish people, Erdoğan stressed, but is against the oppressive policies of Israel which aim to usurp the rights of Palestinians.

Erdoğan highlighted the importance of Jerusalem and the sacred monuments in the city for Muslims and Christians, urging all to raise their voices against Trump’s deal.

“If we cannot protect Al-Aqsa Mosque, we will not be able to prevent those who turn to the Kaaba as a target in the future,” he disclosed, stressing that “Jerusalem is our red line for this reason.”

The Turkish president noted that the issue of Palestine and Jerusalem is a matter for all Muslims. He criticised them and their silence, asking: “When will you raise your voice?”

Erdoğan maintained that a “rogue state”, such as Israel, is completely unacceptable to Turkey.

According to Reuters, Erdoğan affirmed: “When we look at the stance of countries in the Muslim world toward this step and the announced text, I pity us.”

“Saudi Arabia mostly, you are silent. When will you speak? The same goes for Oman, Bahrain, the Abu Dhabi leadership.”

He added: “They even go and applaud it there. Shame on you… Some Arab countries supporting such a plan are betraying Jerusalem, their own peoples and most of all humanity.”

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200201-erdogan-evil-to-arrive-kaaba-if-arab-muslim-countries-remain-silent/

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Moroccan King’s Visit to Historic Jewish Center Hailed by Community Leaders as Symbol of Diversity

February 2, 2020

The king of Morocco this week visited a center dedicated to the heritage of Moroccan Jews where he received a blessing from the chief rabbi of Casablanca.

King Mohammed VI traveled on Wednesday to the coastal city of Essaouira, where the Jewish Bayt Dakira (House of Memory) is located.

Dating back to the 19th century, the recently-refurbished museum and house of worship commemorates the role of Judaism in Morocco’s national heritage. Bayt Dakira is home to the Slat Attia synagogue as well as a research institute focused on the relationship between Judaism and Islam.

Among the Jewish dignitaries who met with the king were Andre Azoulay, a long-time adviser to the Moroccan royal family, along with David Pinto, chief rabbi of Morocco, and Joseph Israel, the chief rabbi of Casablanca, who recited the blessing for the monarch.

Azoulay presented the king with both a Torah and a Qu’ran. He told the gathering that the King Mohamed’s visit was a symbol of “our secular and millenary Morocco that has been able to protect the very great diversity, which is the central wealth of our country.”

Other guests at the event included the French-Jewish comedian Gad El Maleh, the secretary general of the Jewish community in Morocco, Serge Berdugo, and the executive director of the New York-based American Sephardi Federation (ASF), Jason Guberman.

https://www.algemeiner.com/2020/01/17/moroccan-kings-visit-to-historic-jewish-center-hailed-by-community-leaders-as-symbol-of-diversity/?fbclid=IwAR18lYnY1J9N9eSJ-tQ-bKktDvfy6OS3fKvwkOOHVNwh0fNui7jbZY8oiRw

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Be Flexible: Islamic Party Lawmaker Wants Indonesia To Export Cannabis

January 31, 2020  

An Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician and House of Representatives lawmaker has suggested that the Trade Ministry export marijuana.

Rafli, a lawmaker from House Commission VI overseeing trade and industry, floated the idea during a hearing with Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto on Thursday.

"So Pak, how about we make ganja [marijuana] a good export commodity?" Rafli said during the meeting.

The PKS politician, whose electoral district is Aceh province, said marijuana was not as dangerous as most people might have thought, and that cannabis could even be used as an alternative for medical treatment.

Should his suggestion be accepted, Rafli said he would personally provide a plot of land in his home province to cultivate marijuana , particularly since the plants grew well in Aceh — where cannabis was not taboo, as Acehnese people traditionally use the substance as a spice in the kitchen.

“Marijuana, for instance, [can be exported] for maybe pharmaceutical purposes or other uses but we shouldn’t be too strict about this. We should be flexible,” Rafli said as quoted by tribunnews.com.

He said that Indonesia lacked experimenting with things that could awe the world, therefore if marijuana could become an export commodity for Indonesia, it could change how countries across the globe saw the archipelago.

"What I mean is that Indonesia must give performance that awes the world, whatever it is [such as marijuana export]. So all kinds of products [should be supported]," Rafli said.

Indonesia, which has one of the strictest drug laws in the world, currently bans the use and possession of marijuana.

According to 2009 Law on Narcotics, marijuana is a type 1 narcotics which are illegal for consumption including for medical purposes and only limited to strict research purposes. (ami)

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/01/31/be-flexible-pks-lawmaker-suggests-indonesia-export-marijuana.html

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The Fight of Egypt’s Dar Al-Ifta Against Extremism, Islamophobia

Nader Aboul Foutouh

02/02/2020

Cairo - To make it difficult for religious extremists to attract young people, Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s institution for religious edicts — fatwas — established two observatories to combat “takfiri” fatwas and extremist opinions and to monitor Islamophobia, which can adversely affect communities abroad.

In an interview with The Arab Weekly, Egyptian Grand Mufti Shawky Allam, head of the General Secretariat of Fatwa Authorities Worldwide, said the challenge of confronting extremism must consider the diversity of extremist forms of exploitation of Islam and politics.

Allam said the Dar al-Ifta seeks to have better control over and correct terminology used in the media by extremist groups. It has asked the term “political Islam” be replaced with “political Islamist groups” following the transformation of Islam by those groups into a political tool based on extremist perceptions aimed at destroying the foundations of the state.

He said Dar al-Ifta’s observatory of takfiri fatwas continually monitors and following up on takfiri discourse in print, audio-visual and digital media. The observatory quickly responds to inaccuracies and misleading claims. It publishes correct content and interpretations of the faith by communicating in 18 foreign languages.

Dar al-Ifta uses the same strategies and means used by extremist groups to establish a presence in social media. It has 8.6 million Facebook followers after upgrading the page through publication of clear and concise fatwas, instead of the previous long-winded explanations.

The Egyptian official institution has begun a publication in English called Insight to counter Dabiq and Roumieh magazines published by the Islamic State (ISIS). Dar al-Ifta also created an animation and video graphic unit to publish digital art and content in cyberspace because those art forms can cross language barriers.

Allam said he considers that given the chaos prevailing in the field of fatwas and given the existence of contradictory fatwas around the world, coordination among fatwa-issuing bodies worldwide has become imperative. The goal is to consolidate moderate views, correct misconceptions and promote global stability and peaceful co-existence.

Allam said he is keen on addressing all kinds of issues concerning fatwas, even those related to the most basic details of daily life, to prevent the average citizen from being manipulated by extremists. In 2019, it issued about 1.1 million fatwas that have had great effect on Muslims everywhere.

He added that political Islam groups, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, sowed seeds of religious extremism and provided ISIS with the ideological background and cover for dividing the Muslim Ummah and branding Muslim societies as godless, especially following the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood political project, which was based on false Islamic precepts, wrong moral values and false and hollow slogans.

Dar al-Ifta’s observatory of takfiri fatwas was founded five years ago to restrict religious extremism and explain its causes and contexts. Allam said the observatory offers a comprehensive system to confront extremism and its endeavours to spread sectarian strife.

It continuously monitors the hard-line fatwas issued by extremist groups, analyses them based on a solid scientific approach and responds to them in comprehensive detailed reports. Since its creation, the observatory has issued more than 500 reports.

The observatory has monitored more than 5,500 fatwas worldwide, most of which were deemed to give incorrect or misleading opinions about the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Islam; 70% of the fatwas prohibited Muslims from dealing with non-Muslims and 20% of them strongly advised against it.

Allam stressed the need to renovate religious discourse to keep pace with the times and achieve the purposes of Islamic law without violating its constants or disregarding known solid part of religion. The new discourse must be built on avoidance of conflict and promoting moderation, away from fanaticism and hatred.

The Committee of Religious Affairs and Endowments of the Egyptian parliament is preparing draft bills seeking to turn Dar al-Ifta into a full-fledged international religious body and to restrict public issuance of fatwas to scholars with the specialised competencies to do so.

Allam pointed out that Dar al-Ifta works globally to prevent distortion of the image of Islam through its Observatory of Islamophobia. The observatory was established to monitor Islamophobia and counter errant perceptions about Islam and Muslims in non-Muslim countries.

Its efforts include sending Dar al-Ifta scholars on lecture tours around the world, keeping close communication links with Muslim communities, training imams of Islamic centres and establishing training programmes in jurisprudence to prepare a new generation of enlightened preachers able to address and interact with younger generations.

Cairo has hosted the General Secretariat of Fatwa Authorities Worldwide since its establishment in 2015. The body aims to be an umbrella organisation for fatwa and religious advisory bodies and institutions to coordinate efforts in a disciplined and organised fashion and contribute to correcting distorted images and concepts of Islam.

https://thearabweekly.com/fight-egypts-dar-al-ifta-against-extremism-islamophobia

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Carter: Trump Plan Works Against ‘Peace’, Breaches International Law

01 February 2020

Former US president Jimmy Carter says the country’s current President Donald Trump’s self-styled initiative for resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict serves instead to compromise any prospect of “peace" and violates international law.

Carter made the remarks in a Thursday statement that was carried by CNN.

"The new US plan undercuts prospects for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. If implemented, the plan will doom the only viable solution to this long-running conflict, the two-state solution," he said.

Trump had announced the scheme, which he has named as the “deal of the century” years ago, but had withheld its details.

He unveiled its outlines on Tuesday, saying it considers occupied Jerusalem al-Quds to be Israel’s “capital” -- although Palestinians want the city’s eastern part as the capital of their future state.

Carter reminded that the plan violated the United Nations’ repeated calls for a “two-state solution” based on the 1967 borders. Tel Aviv occupied the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that year.

Not only did not Trump’s scheme mandate Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, but also it said the regime would be annexing the illegal settlements that it has been building on the occupied territories under the US scheme.

Carter also called on UN member states "to adhere to UN Security Council resolutions and to reject any unilateral Israeli implementation of the proposal by grabbing more Palestinian land."

The US proposal also "breaches international law" addressing the issues of Palestinian self-determination, acquisition of foreign land by force, annexation of occupied territories, and also denied Palestinians equal rights, he added.

Palestinians, who had already spurned the plot, repeated their opposition to it soon after Trump’s announcement.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has cut his organization’s ties with Washington and Tel Aviv in response to Trump’s announcement, saying his decision followed the US and Israel's "disavowal of signed agreements and international legitimacy." https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617646/Palestine-Israel-United-States-Jimmy-Carter-Trump-Deal-of-Century

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Pakistani Premier Says War Averted in Middle East, Things Still Tense

01.02.2020

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said diplomatic efforts have brought down tension in the Middle East following the recent U.S.-Iran conflict.

"We feel we played our part in bringing down tensions and we have averted war," Khan said during his interview with Anadolu Agency on Thursday evening.

But things are still tense and need some more efforts for a permanent solution, he warned.

Speaking about his country's relations with Turkey, Khan said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit Islamabad in the middle of February and hoped this visit would further strengthen the brotherly relationship between Islamabad and Ankara.

Imran Khan, 67, has completed a one-and-half year in office. In a wide-ranging interview with Anadolu Agency, he discusses challenges and opportunities.

Relations with Turkey

Q: Pakistan’s relation with Turkey has a long history even we know subcontinent Muslims had sent a letter to celebrate the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. This relation and partnership are growing every day. In which areas the two countries can work together and what are the priorities?

Khan: First of all, people in Pakistan had this relationship with Turkey, which goes back to the Khilafat movement, which started I think in 1920. And the movement was based on trying to help Turkey when it was being attacked from all sides. People raised a lot of money in what is now Pakistan, also Muslims in India and tried to help Turkey, when it was a very difficult time for the Ottomans. So, it dates back even before that, but that was a significant step which people in Turkey still appreciate, the help given from this part of the world. So that is the basis of this brotherly relationship between the two countries. And now we have the government to the government, a very close relationship, we are enhancing our trade ties. Pakistan is grateful for the way Turkey stood with the people of Kashmir. The statement given by President Erdogan on what is happening to the people of Kashmir by a very fascist racist BJP government was encouraging. So, our relationship every way is getting stronger.

Q: What is the focus of Pakistan’s relations with Turkey? What steps are being taken to boost bilateral trade, investments, economic and defense relations?

Khan: Well, we are expecting President Erdogan in the middle of February and when he comes he is bringing various business houses, investors with him. We will have Pakistani businesses and investors meeting their Turkish counterparts. The idea is that we enhance our trading relationship. There are various areas where Turkey can help Pakistan for instance in the mining sector. Pakistan is a country which is full of minerals, but we have not excavated, explored these various minerals like gold and copper. When President Erdogan comes, this is one area, but then there are other areas too. We want technology transfer from Turkey in various areas. So, it will be quite a comprehensive visit. All sorts of ways of economic ties will be discussed, apart from, of course, our strategic and diplomatic ties.

Q: You mentioned about the Khilafat movement. There is another facet of Turkey and South Asia relations. We have entered into the 100th year since the Khilafat movement that started in the Indian sub-continent to help the Ottoman Empire and Turks and that also led to South Asia’s movement for independence. What are the plans to commemorate the year?

Khan: This is a very good idea. I did not think of it. I think we should also celebrate 100 years of that very difficult time in which Turkey was going through and when people from this part, what was northern India and of course, Indian Muslims participated in this. So, yes, this is a good idea. We would like to do something to commemorate that. You just told me about it and I suddenly realized that it is a century year and we should have some function to remember that.

Q: Turkey, Pakistan have good relations. Both countries have immense natural beauty. What steps the government is planning to increase people to people contact?

Khan: Look, before I became the prime minister, the last place I spent the holiday with my two boys was Istanbul. I went there for a holiday. And my two sons loved it. Because, you know, Istanbul is one of the most historical cities in the world. It has an ancient history and it has the history of the Byzantine and then, of course, the Ottomans is very interesting for people here. So, I took my two sons and we went all over Istanbul for a few days. And yes, there is a lot of interest in tourism in Pakistan. So far, more tourists go to Turkey from Pakistan. Turkey has a highly developed tourism industry but in Pakistan, we have not developed our tourism. Pakistan is a very diverse country. It has 12 climate zones from north to south. It has religious tourism. It houses one of the oldest civilizations, the Indus Valley Civilization. And then, of course, one of the highest mountains in the world. So, it is a diverse country and people in Turkey do not know about Pakistan. We are now developing our tourism.

Q: Since you assumed office, a one-and-half year ago, what has changed in Pakistan?

Khan: Well, when my government came to power, we inherited two of the biggest deficits in Pakistan. One the fiscal deficit, which means what we were collecting in the form of tax and the gap in what we were spending. That was the biggest deficit. And the second deficit was the current account deficit. In other words, the dollar volume that is coming into Pakistan was small compared to the dollars going out of Pakistan. It was a huge, the biggest ever deficit in history. So, we had to take steps to stabilize our economy. Because if you have a big current account deficit, it puts pressure on your currency. And our currency, our rupee was falling. It lost almost 35% of its value. And so, the first thing was to stabilize the currency. And for that, we had to contract this big deficit. So, I must congratulate my economic team, they did a great job. We have curtailed the current account deficit by almost 75%. The rupee has stabilized, confidence in our economy is growing, our stock market has gone up. We have a big jump in our foreign investment. So, the country is stable right now. Now, it is a question of keeping it stable. You know, it is still a struggling head. But we are out of the big crisis which we had inherited.

Q: Now, you have taken lots of steps for keeping the economy stable. how can people see these in the streets?

Khan: The big deficit not only makes your currency fall, but it also causes inflation and inflation hits the common people. So, at the moment, our inflation is still high. But the currency is stable and the economy is stable. Now, the next challenge for us is to bring down inflation and start growth in the country. So, we have a very ambitious housing plan to construct affordable housing for the less privileged section of the society. The idea of housing is to give affordable housing to ordinary people. At the same time, get the economy moving, provide employment to people. So that is the next program that we are concentrating on to enhance growth rate. So, we can provide jobs to younger people.

Q: Your government is being criticized by the opposition for the economy, politics, and the inability to fight with corruption. What would be your answer to this criticism?

Khan: You see, Pakistan inherited a similar situation as to Malaysia. When Mahathir Mohammad came into power, he inherited a big deficit. And the reason for the deficit was the corruption of the previous ruling elite. The same thing happened in Pakistan. The reason why we were bankrupt because we had corrupt governments for 10 years, the same thing happened with Mahathir Mohammad. But their crisis was not as bad as in Pakistan. So, the problem we face now also is this corrupt status quo.

The corrupt mafias that were displaced, they then are constantly trying to bring down the government or destabilize the government. If we had proper opposition, they would have been applauding the steps taken by our government to stabilize the economy. There was a possibility we could have defaulted on our loans, our foreign loans. Because we had a huge amount of debt servicing to do and if had we defaulted on our loan. Then if inflation would have been doubled in Pakistan, our currency would have lost more value. So rather than congratulating the government for stabilizing the economy, they are worried that if we succeed, this political mafia will be buried dead, and buried forever. So that is why they are desperate and they are criticizing the economy. They have penetrations. They have been in power for the past 30 years. So, they have deep roots. So that's what we face. It is not a normal opposition. It is a corrupt ruling elite that has been displaced by us.

Q: Instead of taking loans, why Pakistan is unable to use its geographical location to boost trade and make it a regional trade hub?

Khan: You see Pakistan is probably in one of the best strategic locations anywhere in the world. On our south, we have the Gulf, the world's biggest oil and energy supply oil and gas. On the north, we have China, the biggest market, and then we have Central Asia through Afghanistan, and Iran on the other side. And then we have India on the other side, which is the second biggest market. So Pakistan has the greatest location in the middle of the world, which is moving ahead in the future, the economy that is growing very fast as China, and then India of course, is a big economy and then you have the energy supply. So, the location of Pakistan is as good if you look ahead, better than any other country in the world. The second thing we have is the second youngest population in the world. We have 220 million people, a young population. We are now improving our governance system, and ease of doing business. We were one of the top 10 countries which went up 28 points in ease of doing business. So, if we can keep progressing in the direction, then Pakistan would become the hub of investment.

Q: Climate change is Pakistan’s one of the biggest problems in the future. You are one of the most affected countries. What has Pakistan done to reduce the effects and what are the main problems that might hit Pakistan in the near future?

Khan: The climate change is going to affect the whole world and Pakistan, of course, is one of the countries that is going to be affected more because we rely upon the water in our rivers. Nearly 80% of the water in the rivers comes from the glaciers in the mountains. Now as the weather warms up because of climate change and global warming, then the glaciers have started melting at a faster pace. So, in the future, the worry is that water in our rivers will be reduced if the glaciers keep melting at a faster pace. We have started a massive reforestation campaign. We have set ourselves a target of 10 billion trees in the next four years. And secondly, we have decided that we will change our energy mix. That is 40% would be renewables in the next 10 years. So that carbon dioxide emissions are decreased. But of course, Pakistan will do whatever it can. But, the whole world has to join in if it has to, you know to reduce the impact of global warming.

Jammu Kashmir

Q: Blockade in Jammu Kashmir has now crossed six months. What has been changed positively since then in Kashmir? Do you see any outcomes of your efforts in the international area?

Khan: You see, first of all, to understand what is happening in Kashmir, you have to understand what is happening in India. And what's happening in India is that India has been taken over by extremist racist ideology, which is called the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] and this ideology believes that India belongs to Hindus only. It's called a Hindutva. This ideology was inspired by the Nazis in the 1930s. They believe, just like the Nazis believed in the alien race, the German race, they believed in the Hindu race. The only problem is they have 500 million people who will be excluded in India from this exclusive racist ideology. These RSS extremists assassinated Gandhi [India’s freedom icon]. They were declared as a terrorist organization in India three times. Now, since they have taken over India, the minorities have been squeezed. There has been violence against minorities, specifically Muslims. But in Kashmir what they have done is they have violated their constitution. And they have changed the status of Kashmir, unilaterally. Kashmir is a dispute between Pakistan and India, a dispute acknowledged by the world community by the UN Security Council. And so, what they have done is they have acted against the Security Council resolutions. Then there was a bilateral agreement, Shimla agreement between Pakistan and India. They have gone against that and they have annexed Kashmir. But to do that, they have clamped down a curfew on 8 million people of Kashmir for almost six months now. And they have 900,000 troops there. They have put all the leadership in prisons. They have whisked away thousands of young teenagers into various prisons outside Kashmir. So, it is a serious situation there. And so, Pakistan, of course, has raised it on every forum and at the UN, with humanitarian organizations and Amnesty International. We are very appreciative of President Erdogan because he condemned it in the UN. What is happening in Kashmir is illegal and violates humanitarian laws.

Q: How long can Kashmiris live in this condition? What is your future strategy for solving this issue?

Khan: A strategy has to be to approach the world, organizations like the UN. And the reason is very important because these international organizations came into existence primarily to stop this sort of injustice going on in the world. There is a danger what India has done in Kashmir, will not die down. There is going to be violence in Kashmir. There will be violence because whenever they lift the curfew, people will come out protesting against it. And when their protests, they have 900,000 troops, which will use violence against these citizens. And we felt that this will spill over to Pakistan. And that is why the UN should act.

Q: India has taken other steps about Muslims, such as adopting the citizenship law, Babri Mosque decision of the court. And do you think that it will have any effect on Pakistan because if they start to make this rule and exclude Muslims as a situation like Myanmar will emerge here?

Khan: Well, what they have done in India is that they have brought this legislation, the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens. And basically, it is targeting the 200 million Muslims living in India. This is exactly what happened in Myanmar when they first started the Registration Act. And that is how they exclude the Muslims. And then the genocide of Muslims took place. I am afraid this is where it is heading in India. Because this was always the ideology of RSS. People did not know about this, because they did not know RSS. But anyone who has studied ideology of founding fathers of RSS will understand that this government is exactly going on that path by trying to exclude the Muslims as second class citizens, or even by deregistration them through the citizen act. But their problem is that they are dealing with 200 million Muslims. It is a huge minority. And I think there will be problems within India. It will polarize India because not just the Muslims will stand up against it. I think the other minorities which are Sikhs, Christians, even the lower castes, even the tribal people, and I think this, this would be about 500 million people in India which will be excluded from this, because of exclusive racist RSS ideology. And therefore, I think even more than us, the main damage will be done to Indian society itself.

Q: Is there any possible danger that Pakistan and Bangladesh will face an immigration problem if the situation in India forces these people to leave the country?

Khan: I think Bangladesh is already worried because in Assam they deregistered almost 2 million people there. And 60-70% are Muslims. I do not know the exact number. But what happens to these people, whom they say are not part Indian citizens. Where will they go? Bangladesh has already said they are not taking them. So where will these people go?

Q: There is a trade war between some Western countries and China. So how much this trade war could affect Pakistan. Also, China is currently facing a coronavirus epidemic?

Khan: Well, the coronavirus is we hope that it will be contained. We pray for China because, you know, it is awful what they must be going through there. So, and of course, Pakistan is extending, all help possible. I cannot say about this trade war between the U.S. and China. How long this will go on, but it does not affect Pakistan it affects China.

Q: Pakistan is working with China in many areas especially on CPEC, but some western countries saying that CPEC is getting your country into a debt trap from China? Secondly, are you negotiating with other countries like Turkey to join CPEC?

Khan: Firstly, the debt from China is a very small part, a small percentage of our total debt portfolio. So, the thing is quite unfounded that Pakistan is getting into a debt trap of China. Secondly, yes, the connectivity, we hope that when the Turkish delegation comes in a couple of weeks, we hope to involve them in using CPEC for further connectivity, and we hope to involve turkey in this [CPEC].

Q: Your government is trying to improve regional stability especially bringing peace in Afghanistan is one of your main international politics moves. What is the last point the world and your efforts came? Can you see any positive future as outcomes of these efforts?

Khan: Well, let me just state the fact that I firmly believe that military conflicts do not solve problems. They increase problems. They have unintended consequences, you try to solve one problem, it creates far more problems. And we have seen this. We have seen the two Afghan Wars, one the Soviets, when they invaded Afghanistan, and we saw the sort of bloodshed that took place, and then the impact on Pakistan, we saw the war on terror again, that then this time, the US in Afghanistan the impact on Pakistan.

So, I am a firm believer that conflicts are not a way to solve problems. And therefore, we would try everything to avoid another conflict.

Last thing we want as a neighbor, Iran fighting with brotherly country, Saudi Arabia, or the U.S. and Iran in some sort of conflict. Because we believe everyone will suffer and no one wins over. It is just that people get damaged less, but everyone gets damaged. And we should learn from the experience of China. While this war on terror was going on, China was building this great infrastructure. You look at the train infrastructure, I mean, it is probably the best in the world. So, they were putting the resources in developing infrastructure, while these conflicts were taking place and look at all over the Muslim world, from Syria to, you know, to Libya to Iraq, what happened there Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, it is just death and destruction. So, I feel Pakistan's role will be now to put out fires to play the role of conciliation, getting people together rather than joining any conflicts.

Q: You are trying very hard not to have any war in the region. Do you see any outcomes?

Khan: I think, you know, we can only try our best. The Almighty only expects us to try our best the rest we leave in his hands.

Q: So far, any results for "putting out fires" -- because as you mentioned again, Iran is a neighbor, you have friendly ties with Gulf countries, and also [U.S. President Donald ] Trump asked you acting as "go between" with Iran -- any results for that diplomatic movement?

Khan: Well, after the missile attack in Saudi Arabia on the oil facility, Pakistan played its part. We spoke to Saudi Arabia, we went to Iran, spoke to the U.S. last September, October. And actually, we feel we played our apart bringing down tensions. But of course, you know, there has to be some more for a permanent solution. At the moment, things are still tense. But for the time, I feel that we have averted war. There was a time when it seemed that there could be a conflict. But at the moment, it looks as if things are cooling down. However, I think more efforts are needed and we will be trying our best.

Q: If war has been averted, is not that a piece of big news?

Khan: Well, averted, we think we averted a conflict. I mean, this is not talking about when the missile strikes took place in Saudi Arabia when we tried and we tried our best to play our part. But, you know, we can only try and we should always try because there is nothing worse than a conflict amongst neighbors. We have seen what happened in Afghanistan, and especially in the Gulf. If there is a conflict, oil prices will go up. All the poor countries in the world will suffer.

Anadolu Agency: Prime minister, thank you very much indeed for giving this opportunity for an interview.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/pakistani-premier-says-war-averted-in-middle-east-things-still-tense/1721213

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Ghani’s Remarks About Timur Gurkani Spark Anger Among Afghanistan’s Uzbeks

02 Feb 2020

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s remarks about Timur Gurkni went viral in social media and sparked anger among Afghanistan’s Uzbeks.

Ghani recently delivered a speech to a group of Afghan students on History, Culture, and the National Identity where he taunted Timur Gurkani using the word ‘lame’ – Timur Lang (Persian) – which spread anger among the Turk and Uzbek tribes of Afghanistan. “Alauddin Jahanzos destroyed Afghanistan’s central irrigation system, Genghis Khan demolished the irrigation system of the northern provinces and the ‘lame’ Timur – Timur-e-Lang wiped-out the irrigation system for Sistan, Farah, and Helmand provinces,” Ghani said.

Some elders and leaders of Uzbeks criticized Ghani and acknowledged the President’s remarks ‘offensive’.

The Palace in a statement said what President said about Timur Gurkani was not offensive and insulting.

The Junbesh party led by General Abdul Rashid Dostum in a statement said that President must ‘apologize’ for his remarks.

The party has also announced to declare their official stance over the President’s remarks about Timur Gurkani on Sunday.

Timur Gurkani or Amir Timur was one of the first Emperors of the Timur Dynasty ruled from 1370 to 1507.

https://www.khaama.com/ghanis-remarks-about-timur-gurkani-sparked-anger-among-afghanistans-uzbeks-789797909/

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In solidarity with Shaheen Bagh, thousands of women march across Malerkotla

by Raakhi Jagga

February 2, 2020

ON A day when a man opened fire in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area, the epicentre of the anti-CAA protests, thousands of women wearing basanti dupattas marched from Malerkolta’s Dana Mandi to various markets of the town against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, under the banner of the ‘Joint Action Committee’ Saturday.

The ongoing protest in Malerkotla in solidarity with Shaheen Bagh entered its 26th day Saturday.

An anti-CAA rally has been planned by committee on February 16. “This march was ahead of our rally on February 16. The Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) from Punjab was the first one to support the Shaheen Bagh and now we will be supporting the Joint Action Committee for the February 16 rally in Malerkotla. Even here, the purpose is to express our solidarity with Shaheen Bagh protesters,” said Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of BKU(Ugrahan).

Harinder Kaur Bindu, leader of the women wing of BKU (Ugrahan), led the march. Members of BKU (Ugrahan), Pendu Khet Mazdoor Union, Punjab students Union, Jamat-e-IslamiHind, Zarka Zaafri and others organisations participated. Nadeem Anwar, convener of the ‘Joint Action Committee’, said, “Our permanent dharna is going on at Sirhindi gate, Malerkotla, since January 7 where we stage dharna from 10 am to 8.30 pm. No one stays at the dharna during night hours, but the tent stays erected. One march was taken out by women on January 19 and this one was the second one which was led by women.”

Slogans like ‘Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai.. saare kirti bhai bhai’, were raised. They were also holding photographs of freedom fight Bhagat Singh. Baljeet Kaur, Paramjeet Kaur were among the women leaders who said, “Whenever there is an effort to create a communal divide by rulers, women of the society need to come forward to stop this. Hence we in solidarity with Shaheen Bagh’s women protestors have taken out march against CAA and NRC and the Centre.”

They also expressed anger over the firing incident near Jamia two days ago.

Lachman Singh Sewewala, president of Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, said, “The Modi government is trying to spread hate among people of different religions. This will not be tolerated by us. Hence our women have taken the lead to show their anger.”

As the march culminated by late afternoon at Dana Mandi, langar was organised by farmer unions for those who participated in the march. “On a daily basis, people from 70 organisations of Punjab sit at Sirhindi gate in phases and they will continue to do so till the Shaheen Bagh protest goes on,” said Nadeem Anwar.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/in-solidarity-with-shaheen-bagh-thousands-of-women-march-across-malerkotla-6247014/

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India hails 'strong' ties with Israel after welcoming US Mideast plan

01 February 2020

India has hailed relations with Israel as "very strong" days after it urged Palestinians to consider a contentious US-devised Middle East plan.

In a tweet posted in Hebrew language on Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his satisfaction with New Delhi's cooperation with Tel Aviv.

"Thank you very much, my friend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. India-Israel relations are very strong.... We share common values," Modi tweeted in response to his Israeli counterpart's congratulation on the 28th anniversary of the establishment of New Delhi-Tel Aviv diplomatic ties.

"Today, 28 years ago, Israel and India established formal diplomatic relations. I congratulate my friend Narendra Modi for his warm friendship. Between Israel and India, a deep friendship has emerged that is evident in our many collaborations," the Israeli premier tweeted on Wednesday.

Netanyahu had also attached to his tweet an image of himself talking to Modi in shallow waters.

The exchange of pleasantries between Modi and Netanyahu came days after India called on Palestinian to consider US President Donald Trump's self-proclaimed “deal of the century,” which all Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected.

Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar also underlined the need for "direct negotiations" between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

“We urge the parties to engage with each other, including on the recent proposals put forward by the United States, and find an acceptable two-state solution for peaceful coexistence. We will continue to follow developments in the region and engage with the parties concerned,” he said.

Trump released his proposed deal during an event at the White House alongside Netanyahu in Washington on Tuesday. The Palestinians were not involved in the scheme's development.

The so-called ‘Vision for Peace’ largely meets Israel’s demands in the decades-old conflict while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

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

The plan further denies the right of return of Palestinian refugees into their homeland, among other controversial terms.

India forges close ties with Israel, takes anti-Muslim measures

Relations between India and Israel have developed since Modi’s election in 2014.

New Delhi is Tel Aviv’s biggest purchaser of arms, amounting to $1 billion per year.

In recent months, the Indian government has adopted several measures that are seen as discriminatory against Muslims.

In August, Modi's administration unilaterally abrogated a constitutional provision that provided a semblance of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state.

Four months later, New Delhi passed a controversial citizenship law that is widely denounced as Islamophobic and a threat to the country’s secular constitution.

The so-called Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) grants expedited citizenship to a bevy of non-Muslim minorities from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbors - Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Kashmiris oppose Trump's pro-Israel plan

Kashmiris view the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories as a parallel to their own situation after the cancellation of their limited autonomy by the Indian government.

Altaf Ahmad, who sells blankets in Kashmir's Srinagar, told Turkey's Anadolou news agency that Trump's initiative "seemed similar to what Indians did to us. Took away everything from us and then tried to convince us that it is for our own good."

"Trump's deal appears to be no deal at all," retired political scientist Noor Ahmad Baba said. "This has the lessons for Kashmir. You cannot change its political character unilaterally. This cannot happen. You have to address this issue in all its dimensions, internal as well as external."

Turkey slams Arab silence; UAE urges Palestinians not to reject US deal

Speaking on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab nations for not speaking out against Washington's so-called peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“When we look at the stance of countries in the Muslim world toward this step and the announced text, I pity us. Saudi Arabia mostly, you are silent. When will you speak? The same goes for Oman, Bahrain, the Abu Dhabi leadership,” he said in comments to members of his ruling party in Ankara.

“They even go and applaud it there. Shame on you,” he added. “Some Arab countries supporting such a plan are betraying Jerusalem, their own peoples and most of all humanity.”

Erdogan further warned that the countries, which have failed to speak out against the "deal of the century," would be responsible for “grave results."

During the unveiling ceremony of the US plan in Washington, three Arab ambassadors — from Oman, Bahrain and the UAE — were present.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617594/India-Israel-Palestine

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Helping Kashmiri students, because this actor knows what suffering means

Komal RJ Panchal

January 31, 2020

“I know what suffering means…” That is the only reasoning actor Ashwath Bhat really needs to offer for helping Kashmiri students who were not having the best of times even before Article 370 took away their state’s special status almost six months back.

Bhat was abroad when the abrogation of Article 370 happened on August 5 last year. “When I came back, I realised nobody knew what was happening with Kashmiris. I felt a need to help the students who can’t reach their families (in Kashmir) and they were in real financial need,” says the actor, a Kashmiri Pandit who had to flee his homeland in then 1990s. “Having gone through that very early in my life, helping these students was a decision from my heart.”

But this is not something Bhat decided to do post the happenings of August 5. “Ashwath has been helping Kashmiri students from a very long time. He has been a constant,” explains Muzamil Bhavani, one of the youths mentored by Bhat. Bhavani is now a filmmaker and has also acted in movies like Kesari, Haider, Bajrangee Bhaijan, Jolly LLB 2, Rangoon and Padmavat.

The National School of Drama alumnus says, “I used to do theatre in Kashmir in 2006. Bhat had come across my work and suggested that I apply for a fellowship, which would help me financially to pursue my acting dream further.” Bhavani got the Inlaks scholarship he applied for. “He has been a mentor, he has guided me in many ways. He does that, he counsels a lot of students too,” says Bhavani, adding how Bhat has in the past few months ramped up his efforts.

Bhat has been acting since 2006, but was noticed for his roles in Haider, Raazi and Manto. Being a Kashmiri Pandit, Bhat is often asked why he is helping these students, most of them Kashmiri Muslims. ”I know what suffering means, I have suffered brutal violence. My house was burnt, my extended family members were killed, and my family was on a hit-list. I had a very hard life, like other Kashmiri Pandits,” says Bhat, adding that if anyone feels pain for the Pandits, they should help them practically, with support for education of their children and healthcare.

“I hear slogans like ‘Kashmiri Pandit ka kya hoga?’ and ‘Kashmiri Panditon ke saath kya hua?’, but then I ask them what they have done for these people who have suffered and for whom they ‘care’ so much? Don’t make us vote gaining machines, my pain is not up for sale. Now, 30 years down the line, what do I do? Take revenge and retribution? I don’t think that’s my cup of tea, that’s not my way.”

Irfan, one of the many students Ashwath managed to help, was unable to get in touch with his family after the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir was placed under lockdown. “Bhat financially helped me when I was not able to get in touch with my parents, I needed money to buy food and pay for other expenses,” says Irfan, who came to know about this Kashmiri Pandit who was helping students via Facebook. “Me and around 15 other Kashmiri students were staying in a private hostel in Gautam Buddha Nagar. I had paid Rs 10,000 hostel fees for eight months. But the hostel suddenly stopped providing us with basic amenities, we weren’t getting water in our bathrooms, neither did we get any food. We still stayed there for a month. When we confronted the hostel management and asked why we weren’t getting these facilities, they didn’t bother to give us an explanation,” he remembers.

Irfan says the hostel management started “blackmailing” the students when they expressed the desire to leave. “They said we had signed a bond that we cannot leave the hostel midway, and if we wanted to leave we would have to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh. We tried to use the helpline numbers provided by the government, but it was of no use. That’s when we got in touch with Bhat again,” says Irfan. The student said Bhat then used his contacts, involved the Superintendent of Police and helped them get out of the Noida hostel. “He made sure we got a place to stay for a few days, we were taken care of, and now I am visiting my parents in Kashmir.”

“I feel a need to connect with the pain, to connect with the common masses,” explains Bhat, accepting that Kashmir also has a large radical segment. “But the point is that there are common people too, people who have suffered, specially these boys and girls we are trying to help. They are all born post 1990, they too didn’t have a normal childhood, they have suffered as well.”

A lot of people have been backing Bhat’s initiative. “I spoke to my good friend Rahul Dholakia and told him what is going on in Kashmir. Then I contacted other people in the industry like Rajit Kapoor. I connected with people through my circuit, a lot of people from theatre background like Danish Hussain, Yuki Ellias and Mahesh Dattani; so many people have contributed through the post I wrote on social media. A lot of people have contacted me and contributed to this cause.” Bhat says they organically came up with this group where we felt a need to help the students who can’t reach their families and were in real financial crisis.

Social worker Syed Suheel, who has worked with Bhat, narrates the story of a girl studying at Meerut University to underline the kind of problems that are cropping up. “She lost her father last year, and her mother has been managing a small shop in Kashmir, and paying her fees. Because of the lockdown, their shop has been closed for several months now, and the mother could not send money to pay her fees. But the girl has managed to get her mother to stay at the college campus with her, so she can be safe and is still trying to get help to pay her fees.”

Bhat says in the end it is all about empathy and compassion. “Of course, it is true that we Kashmiri Pandits have suffered for 30 years. But who is stopping us from showing empathy and compassion? No one. As I have have suffered violence, I should want to not support violence of any kind, no way, nowhere in the world.”

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/facebook-stories-of-strength-2019/helping-kashmiri-students-because-this-actor-knows-what-suffering-means-6243762/

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‘Centre’s Stand on CAA Wrong, But We Can’t Trust Muslims’: Kerala Priest’s Bizarre Statement Draws Flak

February 1, 2020

Thiruvananthapuram: Father Joseph Puthenpurackal, counsellor of the Capuchin Congregation in Kerala, has landed himself in a controversy for delivering a ‘inflammatory’ speech on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

In the video of his address, which he delivered during a community meeting 15 days ago, Puthenpurackal can be heard saying, “Talking about the amended citizenship act, what the Centre has done is wrong, but the we cannot always trust Muslims. In places like Bombay (Mumbai), we are able to survive because of the Shiva Sena, otherwise the Muslims would destroy us there. I have seen their actions when I was there.”

“Muslims are bigger religious fanatics than Hindus. What the central government has done to them (by implementing the CAA) is injustice, but they are no saints either. Those who kill us more in Iraq, Syria are all Muslims. We must also take that into account, we should also look at that aspect. Around the world Muslims are the ones who kill us more,” he added.

Soon after the controversial video went viral, the priest apologised for his remarks, stating he did not intent to hurt anyone and was not talking about Indian Muslims but those in countries like Syria, and Iraq, where Christians are attacked.

“I fully respect the Muslim community. I apologise for the comments…I did not mean to hurt anyone. It was said in a different context. I was not talking about the Muslims in India, I was talking about how Christians are being attacked in countries like Iraq and Syria,” he told CNN-News18.

The priest is known for giving speeches on Christianity and religious faith, for his witty remarks and humorous stories on social media, and has appeared on several TV shows.

Full report at:

https://www.news18.com/news/india/centres-stand-on-caa-wrong-but-we-cant-trust-muslims-kerala-priests-bizarre-statement-draws-flak-2482203.html

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De-radicalisation is the new call of security

02 FEBRUARY 2020

Faith-based radicalisation as distinct from ideological or ethnicity-based motivation behind militancy, is at the root of the new global terror of our times that has unfortunately got linked with the so-called ''Islamic world''. In the Indian context, this threat had overtaken the challenge the state faced in the Naxalite belt or the North East. Invoking the war cry of Jehad -- a mandate of Quran to the faithful to fight for the defence of Islam and the Ummah in danger, till the last breath -- has been used in a facile way by many Ulema and the leaders of the community who were striving to retain their political power.

Socio-political and economic grievances have been turned into a cause for Jehad -- a ''win win situation'' painted by its protagonists coming in handy for them to recruit the young for this ''war cry'' in Kashmir and elsewhere. In any insurgency or militant movement, youth -- for reasons of their vulnerability to indoctrination and loyalty to their leaders -- tend to be on the forefront with a degree of daring that often made the task of bringing them back to the path of normalcy difficult.

In the Valley many of them got into a role of collaboration with the Pak terrorists infiltrated from across the LoC making counter-terror operations more arduous. Radicalisation of youth, that led them to a blind acceptance of Jehad, is a known project of Pak ISI and its proxies in India engaged in an ongoing ''proxy war'' against this country. What should cause concern is their determined bid to exploit the ''Minority issues'' here. The environ created by the anti-CAA stir, with its no-holds-barred communal propaganda, must be receiving the closest attention of our national security set-up.

Radicalisation is now a serious long-range threat to India''s security because Pakistan is unabashed about giving safe haven on its soil to terror outfits having linkages across the spectrum of Islam and is determined to use all clandestine channels available to it, in Kashmir and elsewhere, to radicalise local youth including teenagers. Pakistan wants the sleeper cells of terror recruits to support the covert offensive of the Mujahideen infiltrated from across the LoC in the Valley or sent in clandestinely to other parts of the country. De-radicalisation of misguided youth has, therefore, emerged as a prime strategy for India''s counter- terror effort.

Our security forces, led by the army, have to continue eliminating terrorists in Intelligence-based operations. However, apart from the hardened local militants, who accompanied the foreign Mujahideen and ran the risk of getting targeted in such operations, there could be some youth in varying stage of radicalisation falling into the hands of the army personnel. It should be feasible for the civil administration to take them on for a non- coercive programme of ''corrective education'' -- using the outreach to the families wherever possible -- for getting them back on the constructive path. It may be mentioned that the army has evolved the practice of running health camps and other outreach programmes to build an image of friendliness towards law abiding citizens in the affected areas of Kashmir. This should strengthen the above endeavour of the government.

De-radicalisation initiatives are, however, greatly dependent on the capacity of the entire administration, including the police, to act as the eyes and ears of the state to detect youth who were vulnerable to radicalisation attempts of the adversary. Many of the identified stone pelters of Kashmir would need this approach of a corrective response. As part of a de-radicalisation educational programme, there may be incentives from the government for mainstreaming the youngsters by way of exploring the means of fixing them in jobs, facilitating their entry into a higher study programme or rendering a much needed financial help to their family.

Any programme of reeducating the ''radicalised'' elements through interactions would call for the right content that highlights the value system of a democratic society, importance of religion as a source of social unity and advancement of peace, opposition to political misuse of freedom of religion and so on. Competent communicators should be able to bring out how all religions believe in one God though they may call Him by their own names, explain that religion is a matter of individual faith and point out that it was an important contributor of good social conduct involving respect for another person''s faith. Importance of showing reverence for symbols of the nation, considering national identity as the source of unity of all citizens and appreciating the greatness of democracy based on ''one man one vote'' that worked for development of all and equal protection of law to all, has to be put across convincingly.

A clear message should be delivered to the youth that any indulgence in public violence under the misguiding influence of someone else can permanently damage the career for the life and that it was never too late to abandon the path of disruption and return to the sensible course of putting forth one''s demands in a peaceful manner. In the context of Kashmir, it should be explained that post-370, the Centre had taken full responsibility for the development and protection of all the people of J&K as one state without discrimination between Valley and the Jammu region, that the state had suffered because of the corruption of the Valley parties who encouraged separatism for their own political gains and that Kashmiris will now see better opportunities of growth throughout India and will also be better protected against Pak-sponsored terror.

Full report at:

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/deradicalisation-is-the-new-call-of-security-column-spys-eye/1724034

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Mumbai: Muslim activists decry AIMPLB's 'weak stance' on permitting women to pray in mosques

Feb 1, 2020

MUMBAI: Organisations fighting to secure access for Muslim women inside mosques have questioned the All India Muslim Personal Law Board's (AIMPLB) submission in the Supreme Court on the subject.

While welcoming AIMPLB's submission that Islam permits Muslim women to pray inside mosques, an NGO named Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD) has questioned the "howevers" that occur in its counter-affidavit. Convenor Javed Anand and co-convenor Feroze Mithiborwala released a statement saying, "The AIMPLB says that issues of faith should be left 'to be resolved through the processes of social transformation within the religious faith itself instead of the court seeking resolution through judicial process'. We strongly disagree. We believe that as custodian-in-chief of the Constitution, the apex court is obliged to uphold women's right to gender equality and non-discrimination."

The Board had said that a Muslim woman was free to enter a masjid for prayers and avail of such facilities as available. "But what if a woman enters a mosque only to be told by the mutawalli (manager) that in his mosque there is no facility available for women? To this the AIMPLB says that mosques are managed by mutawallis (administrators) and neither it nor the court can enter into the arena of detailed arrangements of a religious place."

The statement added, "What if the manager claims that only men are meant to pray in mosques? To this, the AIMPLB does not want to comment on any contrary religious opinion. The Board has this consolation to offer: A woman praying at home earns the same sawaab (religious reward) as her praying in a mosque."

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/mumbai-muslim-activists-decry-aimplbs-weak-stance-on-permitting-women-to-pray-in-mosques/articleshow/73849949.cms

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Centre ready to talk to Shaheen Bagh protesters

Feb 1, 2020

NEW DELHI: Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday said the Central government is ready to talk to Shaheen Bagh protesters — mainly women camping at Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC).

"Government is ready to talk to protestors of Shaheen Bagh but then it should be in a structured form and the Narendra Modi government is ready to communicate with them and clear all their doubts they have against CAA," Prasad tweeted.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/centre-ready-to-talk-to-shaheen-bagh-protesters/articleshow/73832232.cms

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Jamia bars students from protesting on premises

Feb 1, 2020

New Delhi: Jamia Millia Islamia administration has forbidden students from protesting on the campus, claiming that such activities disturb the on-going exams. However, students alleged that the notice has come in the wake of a protest call where students planned to burn the effigy of Union home minister Amit Shah to show solidarity to the detained Akhil Gogoi and Sharjeel Imam.

The notice was released by Jamia registrar on Saturday. “Any protest meeting, agitation, speeches and mass gathering or any unlawful activity causing inconvenience and disruption in the day-to-day academic functioning is not allowed around the central canteen or anywhere on the campus,” it said.

The registrar said that since exams are taking place, students are expected to actively cooperate in maintaining the discipline on the campus, and warned of strict action.

Students, including those from the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) of student groups at the university, criticised the notice.

“In spite of the notice, we went ahead with the effigy burning,” said Ajaz, Jamia’s AISA unit member and member of the JCC. The students assembled near central canteen and burned an effigy of the home minister in the evening after exams got over.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/jamia-bars-students-from-protesting-on-premises/articleshow/73854821.cms

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J&K DSP case: NIA raids multiple places in south Kashmir

Feb 2, 2020

SRINAGAR: The National Investigation Agency on Sunday morning carried out searches in connection with a case in which a senior Jammu and Kashmir police officer was arrested while ferrying terrorists outside the valley, officials said here.

Multiple NIA teams fanned in various parts of south Kashmir and carried out the searches at some private offices and residences, they said.

The NIA had taken over the case in which Jammu and Kashmir's Deputy Superintendent of Police Davinder Singh, who has since been suspended, was caught in south Kashmir while ferrying two terrorists out of the valley on January 11.

The searches come days after NIA officers interrogated all the accused arrested in the case.

Besides Singh, the others arrested were: Syed Naveed Mushtaq Ahmed alias Naveed Babu, who is a self-styled commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, Rafi Ahmed Rather and Irfan Shafi Mir, who claims to be an advocate.

They were arrested from the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway near Qazigund in South Kashmir.

Later, Naveed's brother, Syed Irfan Ahmed, was also arrested on January 23 after he was brought from Punjab.

He was in constant touch with his brother and had asked him to look for an accommodation in Chandigarh where they could escape the harsh winters months of Kashmir.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jk-dsp-case-nia-raids-multiple-places-in-south-kashmir/articleshow/73864583.cms

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Swinging between hope and despair, Hindu, Sikh refugee families from Pak, Afghanistan

February 1, 2020

by Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Soon after Centre notified the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) on January 10, a hope emerged for several Hindu and Sikh families who had come from Pakistan and Afghanistan years ago and made Punjab’s Amritsar their home. For them the law promised the fruitful culmination of their wait to become Indian citizens.

However, the Punjab Assembly, on January 17 adopted a resolution against the CAA urging the Centre to repeal the new law “to avoid any discrimination on the basis of religion in granting citizenship and to ensure equality before law for all religious groups in India.”

The resolution has left such families a discouraged lot. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) local office bearers have been in close touch with such families.

“There are around 20 to 30 such families who had come from Pakistan or Afghanistan and are waiting to become Indian citizens. They have high hopes from the CAA but are discouraged after Punjab government passed resolution against CAA. The state governments have no authority over the CAA, but they play an important role in the paper work required to get citizenship. Punjab government should look at the plight of such families,” said RSS general secretary Neeraj Nyer.

Contacted, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar Himanshu Aggarwal, however, said: “No refugee has come from Pakistan or Afghanistan in recent times to stay in Amritsar. No such case has come after CAA was passed by the Parliament”.

“We haven’t received any notification related to CAA from Centre or state government. Right now we have been processing the requests for permanent citizenship of India according to the old provision available in the law,” he added.

According to sources, 15 to 20 applications of refugees demanding permanent citizenship of India is on the record of district administration. No oath taking ceremony for making refugees Indian citizens has been held in Amritsar for more than last two years. For the refugees, the wait tio become Indian citizens, seems to have just turned longer.

Budh Ram Sharma, who lives in Pishori locality recalls how he landed in India. “We were living near Peshawar. The Taliban terrorists had entered our area following US action in Afganistan. We were forced to pay Jaziya. Taliban made it impossible for us to live there. I had property worth Rs one crore in Peshawar. I sold it for Rs 15 lakh. I had relatives in Delhi and we came to meet them in 2008. We were 30 members in the family and we never went back. We were granted visa for one year and we get it renewed every year,” said Budh Ram Sharma.

Shiv Kumar, who runs a workshop in Jahazgarh locality of Amritsar, said, “Our ancestors decided to stay in Pakistan. We were not facing any hardships there but most of our relatives were in India. My family decided to come to India for better life. We came here in 2005 and are still waiting for the citizenship. We are hopeful CAA will make us Indian citizens”.

“I am tired of this procedure of getting visa every year. Security agencies keep suspecting us. Anyone can come and investigate us. CAA has been cleared by the Parliament but I am still not Indian citizen,” added Harbhajan Singh, who too had come from Peshawar with his family in 2007.

Surbir Singh, who was two years old when his family left Afghanistan in early 90s, said, “My family was told to leave Afghanistan. They were told that our country was Punjab and we should go to Punjab”.

He said, “There are seven Afghan families in Amritsar and 25 Pak Sikh families. We all had applied for citizenship under the old provisions in law after 11 years of living as refugees. I don’t know anyone who got citizenship under the old law.”

Surbir Singh, who now runs a tyre repair and auto parts shop in Jahazgarh market, and others had earlier met Amritsar deputy commissioner to thank the government for the new citizenship law. “DC had told us that he will do everything to provide us citizenship as soon as possible. We are sure that government will keep its words,” he said.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/swinging-between-hope-and-despair-hindu-sikh-refugee-families-from-pak-afghanistan-6246520/

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Mideast

 

Palestinian Authority cuts all ties with Israel and US

February 01, 2020

The Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel, including those relating to security, after rejecting a Middle East peace plan presented by US President Donald Trump, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday.

Abbas was in Cairo to address the Arab League, which backed the Palestinians in their opposition to Trump's plan.

The blueprint, endorsed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calls for the creation of a demilitarised Palestinian state that excludes Jewish settlements built in occupied territory and is under near-total Israeli security control.

“We've informed the Israeli side ... that there will be no relations at all with them and the United States including security ties,” Abbas told the one-day emergency meeting, called to discuss Trump's plan. Israeli officials had no immediate comment on his remarks.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority's security forces have long cooperated in policing areas of the occupied West Bank that are under Palestinian control. The PA also has intelligence cooperation agreements with the CIA, which continued even after the Palestinians began boycotting the Trump administration's peace efforts in 2017.

Abbas also said he had refused to discuss the plan with Trump by phone, or to receive even a copy of it to study it: “Trump asked that I speak to him by phone but I said 'no', and that he wants to send me a letter ... but I refused it.”

Abbas said he did not want Trump to be able to say that he, Abbas, had been consulted. He reiterated his “complete” rejection of the Trump plan, presented on Tuesday.

Palestinian rights

The blueprint also proposes US recognition of Israeli settlements on occupied West Bank land and of Jerusalem as Israel's indivisible capital.

The Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo said the plan would not lead to a comprehensive and just peace, and that the League would not cooperate with the US in implementing it.

The ministers affirmed Palestinian rights to create a future state based on the land captured and occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, with East Jerusalem as capital, the final communique said.

Foreign ministers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, among others, said there could be no peace without recognising Palestinian rights and a comprehensive solution.

After Trump unveiled his plan, some Arab powers had appeared, despite historic support for the Palestinians, to prioritise close ties with the US and a shared hostility towards Iran over traditional Arab alliances.

Three Gulf Arab states — Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — attended the White House gathering where Trump announced his plan alongside Netanyahu.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said he would ask his cabinet this week to approve the application of Israeli law to Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Such a move could be a first step towards formal annexation of the settlements and the Jordan Valley — territory Israel has kept under military occupation since its capture in 1967.

Most countries consider Israeli settlements on land captured in war to be a violation of international law. Trump has changed US policy to withdraw such objections.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531877/palestinian-authority-cuts-all-ties-with-israel-and-us

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British FM warns Israel against West Bank annexation

February 01, 2020

LONDON: Britain’s foreign secretary warned Israel on Friday against annexing parts of the occupied West Bank.

“The United Kingdom is concerned by reports of possible moves toward annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel,” Dominic Raab said in a statement.

“Any such unilateral moves would be damaging to renewed efforts to re-start peace negotiations, and contrary to international law,” he added.

“Any changes to the status quo cannot be taken forward without an agreement negotiated by the parties themselves.”

The US has proposed that Israel annex the Jordan Valley and all of its West Bank settlements as part of the Middle East peace plan that was announced on Tuesday.

Britain has cautiously welcomed the plan. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday in Parliament: “No peace plan is perfect, but this has the merit of a two-state solution … It would ensure that Jerusalem is both the capital of Israel and of the Palestinian people.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday said the Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the US and Israel, including those relating to security, after rejecting the plan.

Speaking at an Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo, he said: “We’ve informed the Israeli side ... that there will be no relations at all with them and the United States, including security ties.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1621496/middle-east

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Trump's anti-Palestine plan will end in dustbin of history: Iran's IRGC

01 February 2020

Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has denounced a US-hatched American-Zionist scheme, which Washington claims seeks to resolve the ages-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict, saying it is doomed to failure and would end in the dustbin of history.

"The evil act by the president of the terrorist regime of the United States of America in unveiling the cruel 'deal of the century', which seeks to trample on and ignore the absolute rights of the oppressed Palestinian people, disintegrate their land, legitimize the fake Zionist government, guarantee Israel's sovereignty over the occupied territories, disarm Hamas, revoke the right of return for refugees and [pursues] a list of other instances of cruelty and act of aggression against Palestine, is an unprecedented crime and treason in the contemporary history," the IRGC said in a statement on Saturday.

It added that the “disgraceful” plan once again exposed US President Donald Trump's “vicious” face and the hidden nature of the White House in opposing the Islamic Ummah more than ever and also revealed the “devotion of the terrorist and inhumane US rulers” to the “devilish demands” of the Israeli regime.

The anti-Palestinian scheme added "another strategic blunder" to the “black record” of the Americans, the statement pointed out.

The IRGC said the formation of Takfiri terrorism and the US’s all-out and unwavering support for Daesh, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and other terrorist groups in Muslim states paved the way for the unveiling of the 'deal of the century' and sowing discord among Muslim countries as one of the necessities of the plan.

It added, "The 'deal of the century' will not only fail to bring security and stability to the Zionist regime (Israel), but … like other cruel compromise schemes, engineered at the White House and in Tel Aviv, will have no outcome but failure and will fall into dustbin of history."

Pointing to the ongoing sensitive situation of Muslim countries, the statement stressed the importance of finding necessary ways to confront the US’s evil plan and expressed the IRGC's readiness to play an appropriate role in this regard.

It also urged Muslim countries to take a historic decision and counter the US plan.

Defying international outcry, Trump announced the general provisions of the scheme, which he has controversially dubbed “the deal of the century,” on Tuesday, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side. Palestinian sides were conspicuous by their absence at the ceremony given their vociferous disagreement to the plot.

The US president reiterated his hugely-contentious recognition in late 2017 of the holy occupied city of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “undivided capital,” although Palestinians have historically wanted the city’s eastern part as the capital of their future state.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday condemned the US president's so-called 'peace plan' for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as 'the most despicable plan of the century.'

"Enough of these foolish attempts," Rouhani wrote on his Twitter account. "The Most Despicable Plan of the Century."

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Thursday roundly dismissed the US plan, stating that the initiative was only a proposal for an apartheid system that legitimizes the Israeli regime’s colonial project in the Palestinian territories.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617635/IRGC-Iran-deal-Century-statement-Israel-Trump

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Algeria accuses Turkey’s Erdogan of misquoting President Tebboune

2 February 2020

The Algerian presidency said it was surprised by the recent statements of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing him of taking Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s statements out of context.

The Algerian presidency said in a statement on Saturday, that all the complicated issues related to the national memory have its sanctity, and it was sensitive for the Algerian people.

The statement pointed out that Erdogan’s statements do not contribute to the efforts made by Algeria and France to resolve the historical issues.

On Friday, Turkish media reported that Erdogan had asked Tebboune to hand over documents pertaining to the French massacres during its colonial occupation of Algeria.

The media quoted Erdogan from a speech he delivered on Friday to the leaders of the Justice and Development Party in the Turkish capital, Ankara: “I have informed the Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune that the President of France doesn’t know anything about these massacres, and I will present him with these documents because they have carried out these massacres in the past in Algeria.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/02/Algeria-accuses-Turkey-s-Erdogan-of-misquoting-President-Tebboune.html

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Israeli cabinet debate on West Bank annexation called off

2 February 2020

An Israeli cabinet meeting on Sunday during which officials said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would seek approval to annex parts of the occupied West Bank has been scrapped, his office said.

After US President Donald Trump unveiled his controversial peace plan on Tuesday, questions surfaced on whether Israel would immediately seek to annex parts of the West Bank.

Later unnamed Israeli officials said Netanyahu would convene a cabinet meeting on Sunday to discuss that issue and seek approval to annex settlements and territory that would become part of Israel under the plan.

But on Saturday an official at his office told AFP there would be no Sunday meeting, declining to comment further.

On Friday, Britain cautioned Israel against quickly seizing parts of the West Bank.

“Any such unilateral moves would be damaging to renewed efforts to re-start peace negotiations, and contrary to international law,” the UK foreign office said in a statement.

“Any changes to the status quo cannot be taken forward without an agreement negotiated by the parties themselves.”

Trump’s proposal gives the Jewish state a US green light to annex key parts of the West Bank, including in the strategic Jordan Valley.

The Arab League on Saturday rejected the Trump plan, saying it did not meet the “minimum rights” of the Palestinians.

The plan, seen as overwhelmingly supportive of Israeli goals, has been firmly rejected by the Palestinians and triggered protests in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including isolated clashes with Israeli forces.

Rocket, mortar fire

The Israeli army said on Saturday that Palestinians in Gaza fired an unspecified “projectile” into Israel at night, the latest in a series of rocket and mortar fire since Wednesday, a day after Trump unveiled his plan.

There were no reported injuries.

Israeli warplanes hit Gaza’s rulers Hamas on Saturday morning after several rounds of cross-border fire by Palestinian militants on Friday.

“Among the targets were weapon storage facilities and an underground infrastructure used by the Hamas terror organization,” an English-language army statement said.

The Gaza Strip has been relatively calm as part of an informal truce between its Hamas rulers and Israel, but tension has simmered this week after President Trump unrolled his plan to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinians promptly rejected the US plan, which they saw as heavily favoring Israel and demonstrates the Trump administration’s reversal on the long-standing policy of creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

After Trump unveiled his long-awaited plan alongside Netanyahu in Washington on Tuesday, his ambassador to Israel David Friedman said the Jewish state “does not have to wait at all” to begin its implementation.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/02/Israeli-cabinet-debate-on-West-Bank-annexation-called-off-.html

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Israel army launches overnight airstrike in the Gaza Strip

1 February 2020

Israeli warplanes launched airstrikes on several areas in the Gaza Strip on Friday evening after rockets were fired from the Strip towards settlement territories, according to Al Arabiya sources.

Two rockets from the Gaza Strip heading towards the settlements were intercepted mid-air, the Israeli army said.

The airstrikes came after the Israeli military had said on early on Friday that it launched “wide-scale” attacks on militant targets in the Gaza Strip shortly after Palestinian militants fired three rockets into Israel, two of which were intercepted.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/01/Israel-army-launches-overnight-airstrike-in-the-Gaza-Strip-.html

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Japan destroyer heads to Middle East as Iran-US tension lingers

2 February 2020

Japan sent a naval destroyer to the Middle East on Sunday for a rare overseas mission to ensure the safety of its ships amid lingering tension between Iran and the US.

The vessel left the Yokosuka naval base, south of Tokyo, for an information gathering mission in the Gulf of Oman, northern parts of the Arabian Sea and parts of the Gulf of Aden.

Japan earlier decided not to take part in the US-led Operation Sentinel to protect shipping routes in the region.

“Securing safety of vessels related to Japan is an important duty of the government,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the crew members of the 4,650-ton ship -- the Takanami -- as it readied to leave port.

Energy-poor Japan has traditionally enjoyed warm ties with Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, as the world’s third largest economy relies heavily on energy from the resource-rich region.

Abe has held a series of meetings with Middle Eastern leaders over the last year, including Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, in an attempt to calm the soaring tension between Washington and Tehran.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/02/Japan-destroyer-heads-to-Middle-East-as-Iran-US-tension-lingers-.html

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US, Israel ramp up nuclear weapons testing, deployment amid regional provocations

01 February 2020

Israel says it has ramped up the deployment and testing of nuclear and nuclear-capable weapons amid heightened regional tensions after the US assassinated top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and unveiled a biased Middle East plan.

The ministry of military affairs of the Israeli regime on Friday announced that it had conducted a launch test of a “rocket propulsion system from a base in the center of the country”.

The ministry refused to disclose any additional details regarding the nature of the missile, contrary to its usual conduct following satellite launcher and missile interceptor tests.

Mannie

@manniefabian

Ministry of Defense conducted a missile test from a base in central Israel a short while ago

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The little information revealed about the test prompted speculation among observers that the tested projectile may have been related to Israel's long-range ballistic missile program, which Israel seeks to not acknowledge publicly. 

Tel Aviv conducted a similar rocket engine test last December with Israeli media reporting that the test was meant to be a “show of force” of the Israeli regime’s “nuclear deterrent system especially aimed at Iran”.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said last year that the Israeli regime is in possession of approximately 100 atomic warheads, noting that it has 30 gravity bombs which can be delivered by fighter jets – some of which are believed to be equipped for nuclear weapon delivery.

The regime has refused to allow inspections of its military nuclear facilities or sign the the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

US deploys new nuclear warhead

The Federation of American Scientists also warned that Washington was deploying the recently developed W76-2 low-yield nuclear warhead as part of a new generation of less-destructive yet more “usable” nuclear weapons.

The report said the W76-2 warhead, which has an explosive yield of about a third of the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki in August 1945, was supplied to Ohio-class USS Tennessee ballistic missile submarines last month. 

The authors of the report, military analyst William Arkin and Federation of American Scientists Nuclear Information Project director Hans Kristensen, warned that such weapons increase the likelihood of a nuclear armed conflict.

In a Newsweek article published earlier this month, Arkin and Kristensen said that the development of the W76-2 warhead is the result of Pentagon planning for potential first strike scenarios “against adversaries, especially Iran”.

The article noted that Washington simulated a nuclear strike against Iran in the Global Thunder 17 nuclear exercise in October 2016 during the tenure of then-US President Barack Obama.

It pointed that the newly-deployed W76-2 warhead “is intended for exactly the type of Iran scenario that played out in the last days of the Obama administration”.

Israel and Washington's provocative military deployments and weapons testing come at a time of major regional tensions resulting from Washington's recent unveiling of the "deal of the century" and notably its assassination of General Soleimani.

Iran retaliated to the January 3 assassination with a volley of ballistic missiles launched at the US-occupied Ain Al Assad base in Iraq and another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iran, which has noted that Tel Aviv played a part in the assassination of Lieutenant General Soleimani, had threatened to target Israel if the US were to respond to Iran's retaliatory attack.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617609/US-Israel-weapons-deployment-testing

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Houthis say targeted Saudi airports, Aramco in retaliation for Riyadh air strikes

01 February 2020

The spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces says they targeted airports in southern Saudi Arabia and facilities belonging to Aramco oil giant over the past week in reprisal for the Riyadh regime's air raids on the impoverished country.

Speaking at a press conference in Sana’a on Wednesday, Brigadier General Yahya Saree said Yemeni fighters launched 26 rocket attacks on airports in Saudi Arabia's Jizan, Abha and Najran regions as well as Khamis Mushait base, Aramco company and sensitive sites inside the kingdom on January 25-30.

The airports hit in the Yemeni operation are used by the enemy for military purposes, he added.

“The command’s instructions were clear to strike Saudi facilities and military bases in response to the airstrikes," Saree said, noting that the operation inflicted a major defeat on the enemy and caused hundreds of the Saudi-led mercenaries to flee.

The retaliatory attacks are the first of their kind since late September, when the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement said it would halt its retaliatory missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia if the Riyadh-led military coalition ended its aerial assaults on Yemen.

The announcement came after the Houthis claimed responsibility for the September 14, 2019 air raids on Aramco installations, which disrupted about half of Saudi Arabia's oil capacity or 5 percent of the daily global oil supply.

Saudi Arabia and the US rushed to blame the attacks on Iran without providing any evidence.

Last December, however, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the world body’s investigators were “unable to independently corroborate” claims that the Islamic Republic was behind the Aramco raids.

Recently, the Houthis have engaged in clashes with militants loyal to former Saudi-backed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in the Nihm district of Sana'a Province.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Saree said that the Yemeni forces had managed to fend off the militant attack on Nihm and were advancing to Sana'a's neighboring provinces of al-Jawf and Ma’rib.

“With the defeat of the enemy forces, the Yemeni Armed Forces continued to advance beyond Nihm,” he pointed out.

In another press conference earlier this week, Saree estimated that the Ma’rib operation, dubbed al-Bunyan al-Marsoos, has liberated 2,500 kilometers of territory and caused the enemy to lose thousands of its elements.

UN experts claim Houthis getting weapons similar to Iran’s

In a separate development, UN experts claimed that the Houthis are receiving parts for drones and weapons, some with technical characteristics similar to arms manufactured in Iran.

In a report to the UN Security Council obtained Friday by The Associated Press, the experts argued that an alleged smuggling route “seems to run overland from Oman and the southern coast of Yemen, through territory controlled by the [self-proclaimed] government of Yemen, towards Sana'a."

Commenting on the Aramco attacks, they further claimed that “despite claims to the contrary, the Houthi forces are unlikely to be responsible for the attack, as the estimated range of the weapon systems used does not allow for a launch from Houthi-controlled territory.”

Nonetheless, they added, a number of other attacks using the same drones and land-based cruise missiles can be attributed to the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia and a coalition of its vassal states launched the war on Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the Hadi regime and eliminate the Houthis.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617605/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-Aramco

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Trump’s deal proves US as occupied by Zionists as Palestine: American Scholar

01 February 2020

US President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a “joke” and proves that the United States is occupied by the Zionist regime just as Palestine is, says an American scholar and political commentator.

Kevin Barrett, a political analyst in Madison, Wisconsin, made the remarks during a Friday edition of Press TV’s The Debate program while commenting on Trump’s proposed plan for the resolution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Washington had announced the plan — a brainchild of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and other key pro-Israeli figures — years ago, but had withheld the details.

Defying international outcry, Trump on Tuesday announced the general provisions of the plan at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.

The US president reiterated his hugely-contentious recognition in late 2017 of the holy occupied city of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “undivided capital,” although Palestinians have historically wanted the city’s eastern part as the capital of their future state.

He said the deal featured an economic portion that earmarks $50 billion in monetary allocations to Palestinians, Jordan, and Egypt. Palestinians have denounced this as a means of bribing them into selling their rights.

Still contentiously, Trump said that the Israeli settlers, who have been housed in illegal apartment blocks since Tel Aviv’s occupation of the Palestinian territory of the West Bank in 1967, would not be moved under the deal.

“This peace plan is a joke and obviously was drafted precisely to be rejected. It was not ever a peace plan in the first place. The positive side of it is that this ridiculous –so-called deal of the century makes it absolutely clear now to everyone, the whole world now knows that the US is just as occupied by the Zionists as Palestine is and cannot be an honest broker,” Barrett told Press TV.

Asked for his take on the international reaction to the deal, the American scholar said, “The most independent countries in the region are the ones with the strongest reaction against this ridiculous so-called peace plan. So, Iran comes out number one as the one fully independent country in the region — that’s why they are hated by the Zionists —  and ways behind that is NATO occupied Turkey … and the rest of the region is gradually understanding that the era of US occupation on behalf of Zionism is coming to an end.”

Jim W. Dean, the managing editor of Veterans Today from Atlanta, was the other panelist invited to the show, who described Trump’s proposed plan and its economic incentives as a “proposed buyout.”

“I would describe it as a proposed buyout because they are going to give them a little bit now and they will pay the rest of it over time. Palestinians have to give up everything they had to give up on day one, so this right away doesn’t sound too good a deal,” Dean underlined.

Palestinian leaders, who severed all ties with Washington in late 2017 after Trump controversially recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of the Israeli regime, immediately rejected the plan, with President Mahmoud Abbas saying it “belongs to the dustbin of history.”

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani condemned Trump's so-called peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as "the most despicable plan of the century."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will never recognize and accept the US so-called peace plan.

He underscored that Jerusalem al-Quds is a “red line” for Turkey, and the Israeli-occupied sacred city is the key to world peace as it has been for thousands of years.

Thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip poured out onto the street in immediate condemnation of the plan.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617603/US-President-Donald-Trump-deal-century-joke-Zionist-regime

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Turkey may launch Syria offensive if Idlib attacks continue: Erdogan

01 February 2020

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey may launch a military operation in Idlib if the ongoing offensive by Syrian government forces against foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants continues there.

Erdogan said Friday Turkey would not allow new threats near its borders, adding it will resort to military power in Idlib as it did in its cross-border incursion in northern Syria unless fighting there is quickly halted.

On October 9, Turkish army forces and militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), who enjoy Ankara’s patronage, launched a cross-border offensive into northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to clear members of Kurdish YPG militants.

Ankara regards the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in the Anatolian country since 1984.

“We will do what is necessary when someone is threatening our soil. We will have no choice but to resort to the same path again if the situation in Idlib is not returned to normal quickly,” Erdogan said Friday.

“We will not refrain from doing what is necessary, including using military force,” he said.

The remarks come as Syrian government forces are advancing against foreign-backed Takfiri militants in Idlib, tightening the noose around the extremists in their last major stronghold.

The Syrian army declared the start of an offensive against foreign-sponsored militants in Idlib on August 5 last year.

It came after those positioned in the de-escalation zone failed to honor a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey and continued to target civilian neighborhoods.

Under the Sochi agreement, all militants in the demilitarized zone that surrounds Idlib, and also parts of the provinces of Aleppo and west-central province of Hama, were supposed to pull out heavy arms by October 17, 2018, with the Takfiri groups having to withdraw two days earlier.

Turkey, which claims to be hosting a reported total of 3.6 million Syrian refugees since foreign-backed militancy began in Syria, says it fears a fresh influx of refugees from Idlib. 

Turkey has 12 military observation posts around Idlib. The posts were established under a September 2018 deal between Russia and Turkey to avert a Syrian government onslaught in Idlib.

However, the Kremlin said on Friday Russia was fully compliant with its obligations in Syria’s Idlib region, but that it was deeply concerned about aggressive militant attacks on Syrian government forces and Russia’s Hmeimim air base.

Erdogan on Wednesday accused Russia of violating agreements and that Ankara was losing patience with the military assault in Idlib.

Ankara itself, major European powers, and Washington are accused of helping trigger the crisis by either arming militants in Syria or providing safe passage for them into and out of the Arab country.

Turkey has invaded Syria twice so far — in 2016 and 2018 — to drive back Kurdish militants whom it associates with anti-Ankara terrorists. It has been maintaining an unlawful presence in the Syrian territory ever since.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617595/Turkey-Syria-Idlib-offensive-Erdogan-refugees-Takfiri-militants

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Israeli warplanes hit Hamas in Gaza after border fire

February 01, 2020

JERUSALEM: Israeli warplanes hit the Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas on Saturday after cross-border mortar fire by Palestinian militants, the Israeli army said.

Fighter aircraft hit “Hamas terror targets in the northern Gaza Strip,” an army statement said.

“Among the targets were weapon storage facilities and an underground infrastructure used by the Hamas terror organisation,” the English-language statement said.

There were no reports of casualties.

The strikes followed successive rounds of cross-border fire from Gaza on Friday and the launch of balloons fitted with incendiary devices into southern Israel.

Israel retaliated to Friday’s first volley with tank fire on what an army statement called a “Hamas military post” in southern Gaza.

The latest uptick of violence came after US President Donald Trump enraged Palestinians with a controversial peace plan which would allow Israel to annex swathes of territory in the occupied West Bank.

But it has so far been on nothing like the scale of flare-ups last year.

Israel carried out air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza early Friday after three rockets were fired the previous evening, causing neither casualties nor damage, the army said.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1621381/middle-east

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Africa

 

US, Israel ramp up nuclear weapons testing, deployment amid regional provocations

01 February 2020

Israel says it has ramped up the deployment and testing of nuclear and nuclear-capable weapons amid heightened regional tensions after the US assassinated top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and unveiled a biased Middle East plan.

The ministry of military affairs of the Israeli regime on Friday announced that it had conducted a launch test of a “rocket propulsion system from a base in the center of the country”.

The ministry refused to disclose any additional details regarding the nature of the missile, contrary to its usual conduct following satellite launcher and missile interceptor tests.

The little information revealed about the test prompted speculation among observers that the tested projectile may have been related to Israel's long-range ballistic missile program, which Israel seeks to not acknowledge publicly. 

Tel Aviv conducted a similar rocket engine test last December with Israeli media reporting that the test was meant to be a “show of force” of the Israeli regime’s “nuclear deterrent system especially aimed at Iran”.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said last year that the Israeli regime is in possession of approximately 100 atomic warheads, noting that it has 30 gravity bombs which can be delivered by fighter jets – some of which are believed to be equipped for nuclear weapon delivery.

The regime has refused to allow inspections of its military nuclear facilities or sign the the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

US deploys new nuclear warhead

The Federation of American Scientists also warned that Washington was deploying the recently developed W76-2 low-yield nuclear warhead as part of a new generation of less-destructive yet more “usable” nuclear weapons.

The report said the W76-2 warhead, which has an explosive yield of about a third of the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki in August 1945, was supplied to Ohio-class USS Tennessee ballistic missile submarines last month. 

The authors of the report, military analyst William Arkin and Federation of American Scientists Nuclear Information Project director Hans Kristensen, warned that such weapons increase the likelihood of a nuclear armed conflict.

In a Newsweek article published earlier this month, Arkin and Kristensen said that the development of the W76-2 warhead is the result of Pentagon planning for potential first strike scenarios “against adversaries, especially Iran”.

The article noted that Washington simulated a nuclear strike against Iran in the Global Thunder 17 nuclear exercise in October 2016 during the tenure of then-US President Barack Obama.

It pointed that the newly-deployed W76-2 warhead “is intended for exactly the type of Iran scenario that played out in the last days of the Obama administration”.

Israel and Washington's provocative military deployments and weapons testing come at a time of major regional tensions resulting from Washington's recent unveiling of the "deal of the century" and notably its assassination of General Soleimani.

Iran retaliated to the January 3 assassination with a volley of ballistic missiles launched at the US-occupied Ain Al Assad base in Iraq and another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iran, which has noted that Tel Aviv played a part in the assassination of Lieutenant General Soleimani, had threatened to target Israel if the US were to respond to Iran's retaliatory attack.

Seeking to downplay the attack and deny any casualties, the Trump administration has since backed down from earlier pledges to respond to Iran's retaliatory attack.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617609/US-Israel-weapons-deployment-testing

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UN resolution calls for withdrawal of mercenaries from Libya

February 02, 2020

NEW YORK: The UK sent its fellow Security Council members an amended draft resolution on Libya on Friday, calling for the withdrawal of mercenaries from the country, according to the text, seen by AFP.

The draft expresses the Council’s “concern over the growing involvement of mercenaries in Libya,” despite commitments made on Jan. 19 at an international summit in Berlin, including “ceasing all support for and withdrawing all armed mercenary personnel.”

The text also urged all member states “not to intervene in the conflict or take measures that exacerbate the conflict.”

According to diplomats, Russia strongly opposes any mention of mercenaries in the text. No date has yet been set for a vote on the resolution.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi, with two rival administrations vying for power.

The conflict deepened last year when military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of the south and east of Libya, launched an assault in April to seize Tripoli, the base of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

Haftar has the backing of Russia and some Middle Eastern countries while the GNA is supported by Qatar and Turkey.

The first version of the British draft, dated Jan. 24, contained no mention of armed foreign fighters.

On Thursday, UN envoy Ghassan Salame accused “unscrupulous” foreign actors — without specifying who — of continuing to meddle in Libya’s conflict, in violation of the Berlin commitments.

Russia is accused of facilitating the arrival of several thousand Russian mercenaries in Libya, while Turkey allegedly brought Syrian rebel fighters into the north African nation.

For the past 10 months, the Security Council has been unable to adopt any resolution on the conflict in Libya.

The amended British text “condemns the recent increase in levels of violence and demands the parties commit to a lasting cease-fire.”

It also asks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “submit his views on the necessary conditions for, and proposals on effective cease-fire monitoring.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1621576/middle-east

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Southeast Asia

 

Export of halal products to Japan to see positive growth, says Azmin

01 Feb 2020

TOKYO, Feb 1 — Malaysia’s export of halal products to Japan is expected to see a positive growth this year, driven by the collaboration between the Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) and AcrosX Japan Inc

Malaysian Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said this collaboration will augment Japanese businesses to tap into the halal industry as a new revenue stream in view of the exponential growth of the Muslim-friendly segment in the region.

“This collaboration between HDC and Acrosx will open new opportunities for Malaysian SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to penetrate the Japanese halal market and explore new market opportunities for export of Malaysian halal products to Japan,” he said at the signing of memorandum of understanding (MoU) between HDC and AcrosX Japan Inc here Saturday.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by Malaysian Ambassador to Japan Datuk Kennedy Jawan.

The Muslim-Friendly Standards by HDC and Acrosx Japan was also launched at the event.

Azmin said RM2.5 billion worth of halal goods were exported to Japan in 2018, of which 90 per cent consists of halal food products and halal ingredients.

“The global halal industry today is estimated at a staggering US$3.23 trillion in 2018, with an estimated annual growth rate of 7.49 per cent.

“The MoU will enable HDC and Acrosx to develop and establish a framework for strategic cooperation between both organisations through advisory, capacity-building and technical assistance to create a vibrant and sustainable business landscape for the Muslim-friendly consumer segment in Japan,” he added.

For Malaysian enterprises, he said the MoU represents a valuable opportunity to increase bilateral trade, especially through the supply of halal ingredients and semi-processed products which were in great demand all over the world.

Azmin said HDC is the custodian of the Malaysian halal economy, and is responsible for spearheading economic development of the halal industry in Malaysia.

“As such, today’s collaboration can be seen as the beginning of a new segment for economic development in Japan, leveraging Malaysia’s expertise in halal and Japan’s industrial strength, where powerful synergies can be realised, unlocking new economic potential for both countries.

“Furthermore, with Tokyo hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, this collaboration is poised to enable various businesses to cater to the considerable influx of Muslim tourists expected, further accenting the growing demand of halal as a key economic driver.

“Such a robust halal landscape also extends beyond the Games, supporting the growing Muslim consumers in prefectures and cities.

“It is also remarkable to note that this growth is occurring at a time where environmental sustainability, ethical responsibility and social impact are given greater emphasis in socio-economic development,” he said.

Malaysia recognises that the fulfilment of a well-structured halal ecosystem could not manifest in isolation, he said, adding that it has, and continues to rely upon the spirit of harmonious cooperation among public and private sector stakeholders.

“This is further reflected in Malaysia’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth along with fair and equitable distribution across income groups, ethnicities, regions and supply chains,” he said.

In his opening remarks, HDC chairman Datuk Mahmud Abbas said the partnership with AcrosX will assist in further strengthening the domestic halal ecosystem by furnishing greater access to credible and meaningful Muslim-Friendly Standards.

“This initiative ultimately aims to offer greater depth, transparency, assurance and pragmatism in servicing both consumers and businesses alike.

“More specifically, the Muslim-Friendly Standards will steer its focus towards service-based companies such as hotels, restaurants, tourism spots and hospitals.

“Furthermore, I’d like to share that the new Standards will be partly implemented in Japan’s national halal training that is initiated by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare under the Halal Training Expert Committee.

“This is significant step as it will offer the appropriate locus for further integration and recognition,” Mahmud said. — Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/money/2020/02/01/export-of-halal-products-to-japan-to-see-positive-growth-says-azmin/1833578

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PAS president: G25 should apologise to all Muslims

01 Feb 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 1 — PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said pro-moderation group G25 should apologise to all Muslims.

“They should be the ones who should make an apology, not me.

“They should apologise to all Muslims. I was speaking on behalf of Muslims,” he said today during a press conference after attending a forum at the Malaysian Young Women’s Convention held at the Kuala Terengganu Stadium.

Abdul Hadi was referring to G25’s demand for his apology after he had compared the group to Al-Maunah, a militant group that sparked a major security alert back in 2000.

G25 had yesterday demanded for Abdul Hadi to retract his statement and issue a public apology over his remarks made on January 17 on Harakahdaily.

G25 had viewed Abdul Hadi’s statement as unacceptable slander against the group in branding it worse than terrorist group Al-Maunah and deemed his move defamatory.

The group also said that Abdul Hadi had the tendency to incite or provoke hatred or discontent towards G25 which are offences under sections 503 and 505(c) of the Penal Code.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/02/01/pas-president-g25-should-apologise-to-all-muslims/1833644

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Why isn’t my daughter with me yet, Indira asks IGP

Minderjeet Kaur

February 1, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: M Indira Gandhi has expressed shock over the latest revelation that the police are aware of the whereabouts of her daughter, Prasana Diksa, but have done nothing to bring her back.

“This is a shocking revelation.

“The police are aware where Prasana is but she is not in my arms yet. Why?” she asked, adding that she had been waiting to hold her daughter for the past 10 years.

She was speaking at a press conference held together with Indira Gandhi Action Team (Ingat) spokesman Arun Dorasamy.

This press conference comes after Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said on Jan 31 that he knows Prasana’s whereabouts.

Indira asked Hamid the reasons for not arresting her ex-husband fugitive Muslim convert Muhammad Ridhuan Abdullah, who kidnapped Prasana in 2009 when she was just 11 months old, shortly after converting to Islam.

“What is happening to her now? There are no records of her going to school, no records of any immunisation being done,” she said.

“He (IGP) knows where my daughter is but I can’t do anything for her.”

Indira, a kindergarten school teacher who travelled to Kuala Lumpur for the press conference here, pleaded to the public not to delay the return of her daughter.

Referring to Hamid’s statement that he is looking for a “win-win solution” and a” happy ending”, Indira said: “I don’t know what he means because without Prasana there is no happy ending.”

Arun said it is wrong to keep a child away from her mother, further stating “enough is enough of this”.

He said next week, a RM100 million civil suit will be filed against the IGP, the police, government and the special task force set up to look into the case.

He said the task force was headed by Bukit Aman CID director Huzir Mohamed but Ingat does not know what initiatives have been taken despite the Ipoh High Court in June 2014 ordering the police to give a report every month until Prasana is returned to her mother.

He said the Federal Court in 2016 had issued an order for the police to arrest Ridhuan and return Prasana.

“Police have to enforce the court’s order, word for word, and the IGP has the moral obligation to follow the court’s orders.”

He further asked the reason why the IGP stated that the case is sensitive.

“Why is this a sensitive case when it involves a mother longing for her daughter? It is sensitive for Indira,” he added.

Arun said the IGP should not complicate the matter further and should instead follow the court’s orders.

He also called upon civil society to come forward to put pressure on the IGP “to do the right thing”, further stating Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had often spoken about following the rule of law.

He said in this case, even the higher officers seemed to be not following the rule of law.

Arun said 24 police reports had been lodged from March 2009 to July 2019 but no investigation papers had been opened as “Indira was not called”.

He said Ingat had also written to the police three times, in June, September and January 28, 2020, “pleading for them to update us on the action and results of the special task force. We do not know what the task force is doing”.

Arun further asked the reason for Prasana’s case not to be classified as a missing child. She will turn 12 on April 8.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/01/why-isnt-my-daughter-with-me-yet-indira-asks-igp/

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Arab World

 

New Iraqi PM Allawi says will hold internationally-monitored election

1 February 2020

New Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi appealed to Iraqis for their support on Saturday hours after his appointment by President Barham Salih, but protesters were already rejecting the head of government as a stooge of the political elite.

Allawi in a formal address to the nation on state television late on Saturday pledged to built a “state of freedom and justice” and to work to meet protesters’ demands for jobs and services and an end to crippling and widespread corruption especially by foreign-backed political and militia groups.

“I pledge to protect peaceful protesters and release innocent prisoners ... told hold early elections ... and protect Iraq from all foreign interference,” he said.

He said the election would be monitored by international observers but did not elaborate.

He said he would resign if political blocs attempted to impose candidates for cabinet jobs, and called on protesters to continue demonstrating until their demands are met.

Allawi will need to contend with militia groups and parties backed by Iran which have come to dominate Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

Since the defeat of ISIS in Iraq in 2017, those militias have gained even greater power in parliament and in the economy.

Some of those militias have been involved, alongside security forces, in the crackdown against protesters who began their demonstrations in October. Nearly 500 people have been killed in the unrest.

Soon after Allawi was appointed, protesters gathered in Baghdad and southern cities in opposition, including at Tahrir Square, the center of the uprising in the Iraqi capital.

For the demonstrators, Allawi, the former communications minister under ex-premier Nuri al-Maliki - who presided over the fall of multiple Iraqi cities to Islamic State in 2014 and is accused of pro-Shiite sectarian policies - is part of the ruling elite and therefore unacceptable.

In Baghdad and southern cities, demonstrators who have camped out for months demanding the removal of Iraq’s ruling class - and had succeeded in toppling the outgoing prime minister - chanted “we reject Allawi” and held posters of his face with a red cross through it.

Salih appointed Allawi after squabbling lawmakers from rival parties had failed for two months to decide on a successor to Adel Abdul Mahdi, who resigned in November during mass unrest.

Allawi has one month to form a government and will lead it until early elections are held, for which there is no date set. The former communications minister will likely get stuck between parties vying for cabinet posts, prolonging the political deadlock. He will have to contend with parliament’s two largest rival blocs - that led by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and another formed by Iran-backed parties with links to powerful paramilitary groups.

Hours before Allawi’s appointment, supporters of populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr attacked protesters in Tahrir square.

Sadr called on Friday for a mass protest in Baghdad and for sit-ins near the fortified Green Zone to protest the delayed formation of a government, without specifying when the gatherings should take place.

Sadr later supported Allawi’s appointment, saying he had been “chosen by the people” and that this was a “good step” for Iraq. Sadr has both backed protests and sided with the Iran-backed political groups they reject.

The Dawa party, meanwhile, rejected Allawi’s premiership, saying in a statement that any candidate being decided at this stage was unlikely to have unanimous support.

Iraq is facing its biggest crisis since the military defeat of ISIS in 2017. A mostly Shiite popular uprising in Baghdad and the south challenges the country’s mainly Iran-backed Shiite Muslim ruling elite.

The country has been thrown into further disarray since the killing of Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3. Iran responded with missile attacks on bases hosting US forces, pushing the region to the brink of an all-out conflict.

Pro-Iran politicians have tried to use those events to shift the focus away from popular discontent with their grip on power and towards anti-American rallies and demands for the withdrawal of US troops.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/01/New-Iraqi-PM-Allawi-says-will-hold-internationally-monitored-election.html

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Egypt sentences officer-turned-militant and 36 others to death

1 February 2020

An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced Hisham al-Ashmawy, a former special forces officer turned extremist militant, and 36 others to death after they were convicted of terrorism, court officials said.

Ashmawy was captured in the eastern Libyan city of Derna in late 2018 and transferred by authorities loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar to Egypt in May last year.

He was convicted on several charges including plotting a 2014 attack that killed 22 military guards near the frontier with Libya, and involvement in an attempt to kill a former interior minister in 2013, a military statement said.

Ashmawy led the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt’s most active militant group, before it pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014, it said.

The other 36 defendants tried with him were also convicted of terrorism charges, the court ruled.

Their cases were referred to the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s highest Islamic legal official. Egyptian law requires any capital sentence to be referred to him for an opinion before executions can take place.

The court set a new session for March 2 to confirm the convictions after receiving the Mufti’s non-binding opinion.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/01/Egypt-sentences-officer-turned-militant-and-36-others-to-death.html

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Arab League rejects Trump’s Middle East plan: Statement

1 February 2020

The Arab League on Saturday rejected US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, calling it “unfair” to Palestinians.

The pan-Arab bloc said in a statement that it “rejects the US-Israeli ‘deal of the century’ considering that it does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people.”

Arab leaders also vowed “not to ... cooperate with the US administration to implement this plan.”

Abbas threatens to cut security ties with Israel, US

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to cut security ties with both Israel and the US on Saturday, in a lengthy speech delivered at an Arab League meeting in Egypt’s capital that denounced a White House plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The US plan would grant the Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the occupied West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of east Jerusalem.

The summit of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo was requested by the Palestinians, who responded angrily to the American proposal.

Abbas said that he told Israel and the US that “there will be no relations with them, including the security ties” following the deal that Palestinians say heavily favors Israel.

There was no immediate comment from US or Israeli officials.

The Palestinian leader said that he’d refused to take US President Donald Trump’s phone calls and messages “because I know that he would use that to say he consulted us.”

“I will never accept this solution,” Abbas said. “I will not have it recorded in my history that I have sold Jerusalem.”

He said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in east Jerusalem.

Abbas said that the Palestinians wouldn’t accept the US as a sole mediator in any negotiations with Israel. He said they would go to the United Nations Security Council and other world and regional organizations to “explain our position.”

“We still believe in peace using the basis [of plans laid out in] the Arab Peace Initiative and the UN Security Council resolutions,” Abbas said, adding that the authority would go to the UN Security Council to find a solution to the issue.

During the meeting, Abbas stated that Jerusalem did not just belong to Palestinians, but to all Arabs as well. He added that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz told him that the Kingdom would always stand with the Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia reaffirms its support for the Palestinian people and their just cause, the Kingdom’s foreign minister Faisal bin Farhan said during the emergency Arab League meeting.

The Arab League’s head, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, said the proposal revealed a “sharp turn” in the long-standing US foreign policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This turn does not help achieve peace and a just solution,” he declared.

Aboul-Gheit said that the Palestinians reject the proposal. He called for the two sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to negotiate to reach a “satisfactory solution for both of them.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/01/Arab-FMs-to-meet-in-Cairo-to-discuss-Trump-s-Mideast-plan.html

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Syria terrorist group urges France to free ex-spokesman

2 February 2020

The Syrian terrorist group Jaysh al-Islam on Saturday called on France to release one of its former members days after he was arrested and charged with war crimes

The suspect, Majdi Mustafa Nameh, was arrested on Wednesday in France and charged on Friday with torture, war crimes and complicity in forced disappearances, a French judicial source told AFP.

Nameh, also known as Islam Alloush, was the former spokesman of Jaysh al-Islam, one of several hardline terrorist groups opposed to the Damascus regime.

A prominent part of the opposition that emerged in Syria after the civil war broke out in 2011, the group fought against Islamic State group jihadists but was also accused by rights groups of abuses.

In a statement on Saturday posted on Instagram, Jaysh al-Islam demanded that Nameh be freed and charges against him dropped, saying the accusations tarnish the group’s reputation.

Jaysh al-Islam said that Nameh was its former spokesman and had left the group in 2017, ending ties with it.

The group was notably suspected of involvement in the December 2013 kidnapping of prominent Syrian activist Razan Zaitouneh, her husband Wael Hamada and two colleagues, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hammadi. They have never been found.

Zaitouneh was a vociferous critic of abuses by all parties in the Syrian conflict including the regime and groups like Jaysh al-Islam.

In June last year, rights groups including the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) filed a criminal complaint against members of Jaysh al-Islam for crimes committed by the group.

After three years of painstaking research, they alerted French authorities in January to Nameh’s presence in the south of France.

The FIDH and two other groups behind the complaint alleged Nameh was involved “in the forced enlistment of children” in Jaysh al-Islam.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/02/Syria-terrorist-group-urges-France-to-free-ex-spokesman-.html

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Extremists carry out suicide attacks against Syrian pro-regime forces in Aleppo

1 February 2020

Syrian insurgents carried out two suicide car bomb attacks in an assault on pro-government forces in Aleppo on Saturday and opened a new front northeast of the city, an attempted fightback after territorial gains for President Bashar al-Assad.

Backed by Russian air power, Syrian government forces had made a significant advance into the opposition-held northwest this week, seizing the town of Maarat al-Numan, part of an offensive to secure the main highway between Damascus and Aleppo.

The suicide attacks were carried out by extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and targeted the Jamiyat al-Zahraa area on the western edge of Aleppo. A third car bomb was set off by remote control, a source with the group said.

A news outlet linked to the group, Ebaa, published a video which it said showed Tahrir al-Sham fighters pledging “allegiance to death and jihad” before the attack on Jamiyat al-Zahraa, watched by the group’s leader, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani.

The northwestern corner of Syria including Idlib province and adjoining areas of Aleppo is the last major opposition foothold in Syria, where al-Assad has taken back most of the ground once held by his enemies with Russian and Iranian support.

Syrian state news agency SANA said army troops had destroyed four car bombs before they reached their targets in that area.

Syrian army forces were firing rockets and artillery at militant groups on the Jamiyat al-Zahraa front, it said. Militants had also fired rockets at residential districts of Aleppo.

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) source said the attacks had targeted the “Iranian occupation militias,” a reference to Iran-backed groups that have fought in support of al-Assad.

Aleppo city has been under full Syrian government control since 2016, when pro-Damascus forces defeated opposition fighters and extremists in the east of the city.

Some 50 km (35 miles) northeast of Aleppo, Turkish-backed Syrian fighters attacked government-held positions near the city of al-Bab, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. SANA made no mention of an attack in that area.

Turkish forces were not taking part, opposition sources said.

The government’s latest offensive in the northwest has triggered a fresh wave of civilian displacements, with hundreds of thousands moving towards the Turkish border.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkey may launch a military operation in Idlib unless the fighting there is halted.

US special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey said on Thursday the Idlib fighting raised the specter of an international crisis.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/01/Extremists-carry-out-suicide-attacks-against-Syrian-pro-regime-forces-in-Aleppo.html

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Syrians fighting in Libya on Turkey’s behalf not backed by opposition: Al-Bahra

1 February 2020

Syrian mercenaries fighting in Libya on behalf of Turkey are not backed by “the Syrian opposition,” the joint president of Syria’s Constitutional Committee and former head of the Syrian opposition coalition, Hadi al-Bahra, said on Friday.

“No military faction or any official body that represents the Syrian opposition is supporting or sending any fighters to participate in the conflict in Libya,” he said in an exclusive interview on Al Arabiya’s Diplomat Avenue.

“As an official body and a political body we are against the participation of any Syrian citizen in fighting outside Syria’s borders,” he said.

“It is very sad to hear such news that casts shadows over an important aspect of the tragedy in Syria,” al-Bahra said, adding that the Syrian citizens in the war-torn country “were looking for any work opportunity” to survive and support their families.

Reports have emerged recently that a number of the Syrian mercenaries fighting in Libya on behalf of Turkey have already deserted their ranks and fled to Italy, according to a report in the French daily Le Monde, which quoted French intelligence sources.

France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier this week spotted a Turkish frigate escorting a cargo ship delivering armored vehicles to the Libyan capital Tripoli in defiance of a UN embargo, a French military source said on Thursday.

The cargo ship Bana docked in Tripoli port on Wednesday, said the source, who asked not to be named, a day after President Emmanuel Macron angered Ankara by accusing his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan of failing “to keep his word” to end meddling in the north African country.

On January 19, world leaders at a meeting in Berlin committed to ending all foreign meddling in Libya and to uphold a weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the conflict.

Since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longstanding dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has been plunged into chaos. It is now divided between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez Al-Sarraj and rival authorities based in the country’s east.

Al-Sarraj is fighting a civil war against an alternative government based in the eastern city of Benghazi whose forces the Libyan National Army (LNA) are led by commander Khalifa Haftar.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/01/Syrians-fighting-in-Libya-on-Turkey-s-behalf-not-backed-by-opposition-Al-Bahra-.html

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Iraq’s President assigns Mohammed Allawi with forming new government

1 February 2020

Iraq’s President Barham Saleh on Saturday assigned Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi with forming a new government, according to the state-run Television.

Allawi who is a former communications minister was named prime minister designate by rival Iraqi factions on Saturday after weeks of political deadlock, AFP cited three Iraqi officials as saying.

Allawi, 66, would run the country until early elections can be held. He must form a new government within a month.

He was born in Baghdad and served as communications minister first in 2006 and again between 2010-2012. He resigned from his post after a dispute with former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

In a pre-recorded statement posted online, Allawi called on protesters to continue with their uprising against corruption and said he would quit if the blocs insist on imposing names of ministers.

“If it wasn’t for your sacrifices and courage there wouldn’t have been any change in the country,” he said addressing anti-government protesters. “I have faith in you and ask you to continue with the protests.”

Last Wednesday, Saleh threatened to unilaterally name a successor to the country’s premier, who resigned in December, if parliament did not nominate a candidate within three days.

“If the concerned blocs are unable to resolve the nomination issue by no later than Saturday, February 1... I see an obligation to exercise my constitutional powers by tasking whomever I find most acceptable to parliament and the people,” Barham Saleh wrote in a letter seen by AFP.

Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi resigned in December after two months of deadly protests against his government, but he has stayed on in a caretaker role, as deeply divided political parties have failed to agree on a replacement.

According to the constitution, a replacement for Abdul-Mahdi should have been identified 15 days after his resignation in early December. Instead, it has taken rival blocs nearly two months of jockeying to select Allawi as their consensus candidate.

Abdul-Mahdi’s rise to power was the product of a provisional alliance between parliament’s two main blocs - Sairoon, led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and Fatah, which includes leaders associated with the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militias headed by Hadi al-Amiri.

In the May 2018 election, neither coalition won a commanding plurality, which would have enabled it to name the premier, as stipulated by the Iraqi constitution. To avoid political crisis, Sairoon and Fatah forged a precarious union with Abdul-Mahdi as their prime minister.

Until Allawi’s selection, al-Sadr had rejected the candidates put forward largely by Fatah, officials and analysts said. Sairoon appears to have agreed to his candidacy following a tumultuous two week after the radical cleric held an anti-US rally attended by tens of thousands and withdrew support for Iraq’s mass anti-government protest movement, only to reverse the decision later.

“Sairoon has approved and Fatah has approved,” a senior Iraqi official said.

If elected by parliament, Allawi will have to contend with navigating Iraq through brewing regional tensions between Tehran and Washington. Tensions skyrocketed after a US drone strike near Baghdad’s airport killed top Iranian general Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes. The tumultuous event brought Iraq close to the brink of war and officials scrambling to contain the fallout.

The presence of US troops on Iraqi soil has become the focus of Iraqi politics in the wake of the strike. Parliament passed a non-binding resolution for their ouster and Abdul-Mahdi had openly supported withdrawal.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/01/Iraq-s-President-assigns-Mouhammed-Allawi-with-forming-new-government.html

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Kurdistan’s Erbil airport sends back three Chinese to Dubai over coronavirus

1 February 2020

Erbil International Airport in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq denied entry to three Chinese citizens over fears about the coronavirus outbreak in China, authorities said on Saturday.

The three passengers were sent back to Dubai, from where they had flown to Erbil, a statement from Kurdistan’s airport authority said.

Several countries tightened travel curbs on Friday, a day after the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.

Iraq’s Basra International Airport said on Friday it was denying entry to passengers of any nationality travelling to Iraq from China.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/01/Kurdistan-s-Erbil-airport-sends-back-three-Chinese-to-Dubai-over-coronavirus.html

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Top al-Qaeda leader Qassim al-Rimi likey killed in US drone strike

1 February 2020

Tribal leaders said on Saturday a suspected US drone strike destroyed a building housing al-Qaeda militants last week in eastern Yemen.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, retweeted several tweets and media reports that seemed to offer confirmation the January 25 strike killed top al-Qaeda leader Qassim al-Rimi.

The tribal leaders said the drone strike took place in the Wadi Ubaidah area in the eastern province of Marib. The area is known as a stronghold for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, as the Yemeni affiliate is known.

They said at least three explosions rocked the area, and that the building was set ablaze.

It was not immediately clear how many militants were in the building at the time or their identities. The tribal leaders said a handful of al-Qaeda militants arrived at the area directly after the strike and cordoned off the area.

The tribal leaders spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals.

Trump on Saturday retweeted a handful of tweets and articles that seemed to offer confirmation that al-Rimi, one of AQAP’s founders and its current chief, was killed in the strike. The White House did not comment on whether Trump’s retweeting was confirmation and The Associated Press has asked administration officials to clarify.

Sean D. Naylor

@SeanDNaylor

U.S. killed a top al-Qaeda leader in Yemen, reports say https://news.yahoo.com/us-killed-a-top-al-qaeda-leader-in-yemen-reports-say-215555178.html?soc_src=hl-viewer&soc_trk=tw … via @Yahoo

U.S. killed a top al-Qaeda leader in Yemen, reports say

Reports indicate a top Al Qaeda leader was killed by a U.S. strike in Yemen.

news.yahoo.com

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Rita Katz

@Rita_Katz

 • Feb 1, 2020

Replying to @Rita_Katz

5)As I said yesterday, all but confirmed that #AQAP leader Qassim al-Rimi was killed in a U.S. drone strike. AQAP, although reduced in vitality in recent years, remains dangerous + has est. itself as a rival to Houthi and ISIS militants in the country.https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/31/world/middleeast/qaeda-yemen-alrimi.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share …

A photo of Qassim al-Rimi in an American announcement of a reward for information about him.

U.S. Strikes at Leader of Qaeda in Yemen

American officials believe they may have killed the terrorist leader, Qassim al-Rimi, but have not confirmed his death.

nytimes.com

Rita Katz

@Rita_Katz

6)Of all living #AlQaeda leaders, al-Rimi was the most compelling, known for his charisma & beloved across the AQ community. #AQAP in Yemen has a longstanding history as being the most directly symbiotic w/ AQC. Thus, this is not only a blow to #AQAP but to AQ as a whole.

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The CIA declined to comment.

The attack was first reported by The New York Times.

Al-Rimi succeeded Nasser al-Wahishi, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2015, as the top leader of AQAP.

Among Trump’s retweets was a thread by Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks messaging by militant groups. Katz said the attack took place on January 25 and she began tweeting about it on January 27.

“If true, and it seems to be, the death of al-Rimi would mark a major blow to #AlQaeda on the whole. Al-Rimi was a candidate for succeeding AQ leader Zawahiri,” Katz tweeted on Thursday.

She was referring to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Katz said that of all living al-Qaeda leaders, al-Rimi “was the most compelling, known for his charisma & beloved across the AQ community.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/01/US-drone-destroys-building-housing-al-Qaeda-Yemen-sources.html

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Syria liberates two villages in Idlib eastern countryside

01 February 2020

The Syrian army has retaken control of two villages in the eastern countryside of the northwestern Idlib Province as part of an operation to liberate the last major terrorist-held territory in the Arab country.

Syria's official SANA news agency reported on Saturday that army units had engaged in fierce clashes with foreign-backed Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in Louf and Qamhana villages near the city of Saraqib.

The Syrian forces, it added, finally recaptured the two villages and inflicted heavy losses on the Takfiri elements in terms of their personnel and equipment.

Idlib and the area north of Aleppo Province form part of the only large territory in the hands of terrorists after the Syrian military managed to undo militant gains across the country and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under government control.

This week, Syrian troops, backed by Russia's air cover, made rapid advances in Idlib retaking the city of Ma'arat al-Nu'man, which is situated 100 kilometers southwest of the militant-controlled city of al-Bab.

Ankara-backed militants attack govt. positions in Aleppo

In another development on Saturday, Turkish-backed anti-Damascus militants attacked positions held by the Syrian government forces northeast of Aleppo.

Militant sources said that the raid was focused on territory adjacent to al-Bab and that their elements had taken three villages so far.

Meanwhile, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fierce attack had been “carried out by factions loyal to Ankara."

Speaking on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country may launch a military operation in Idlib if the ongoing counter-terrorism operation by Syrian government forces continues there.

"Turkey with complete sincerity wants Syria's stability and security, and to this end, we will not shy away from doing whatever is necessary, including using military force," he said.

Erdogan further accused Russia of violating agreements to reduce the fighting in Idlib. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was fully compliant with its obligations in Idlib, which was a haven for militants targeting Syrian troops and a Russian airbase in Syria.

Turkey has intervened militarily in Syria three times to date in cross-border operations with the declared aim of eradicating Kurdish militants and Daesh terrorists near borders.

Full report at:

Syria has vowed to confront “brutal” Turkish aggression by all legal means.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617615/Syria-Idlib-terrorists

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Saudi ship faces growing opposition in European ports

01 February 2020

Amnesty International says lawsuits and protests are planned in several European countries to oppose the voyage of a Saudi Arabian ship believed to be carrying a consignment of arms destined to be used in Saudi-led war against Yemen.

The Saudi owned cargo ship Bahri Yanbu, which is due to visit five European ports beginning on 2 February before continuing its onward voyage to Saudi Arabia, has previously ferried tens of millions of pounds’ worth of arms to fuel the Yemen war.

Having already traveled across the Atlantic -- with earlier stops in the United States and Canada last month— Bahri Yanbu is due to dock in the ports of Bremerhaven in Germany, Antwerp in Belgium, Tilbury Docks in the UK, Cherbourg in France, and Genoa in Italy.

“On a similar voyage in May 2019, protests and lawsuits blocked some of the arms destined for Yemen from being loaded on the Bahri Yanbu,” Amnesty's Researcher on Arms Control, Security Trade, and Human Rights Patrick Wilcken said on Saturday.

“Even so, tens of millions of dollars’ worth of military aircraft parts and other arms slipped through. Multiple states failed miserably to live up to their international obligations to halt arms transfers for use in war crimes and serious human rights violations.”

“Now, the political will of governments to respect their legal obligations is again being put to the test. Activists and port workers are on high alert as the Bahri Yanbu threatens to flout international law yet again in the name of lucrative arms deals that have been fueling unlawful killing of civilians and a dire humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen,” he added.

Back on May 20, Italian unions refused to load electricity generators onto the Bahri Yanbu vessel, saying the weapons on the Saudi ship contravened a United Nations treaty and might be used against civilians in Yemen.

Earlier that same month, the Bahri Yanbu vessel loaded arms in the Belgian city of Antwerp but was prevented from picking up another consignment of weapons in the French port of Le Havre following protests by humanitarian groups.

The move was prompted after the investigative website Disclose published leaked documents that showed Saudi Arabia was using French weapons including tanks and laser-guided missile systems, against civilians in Yemen.

The new round of opposition to the Bahri Yanbu’s current voyage includes a dockworkers’ strike in the Italian port city of Genoa, where trade unions have repeatedly voiced their opposition to loading “hot cargo” destined for use in the war. Amnesty International Italy volunteers have also planned to protest in the port.

In Belgium, three NGOs have filed a court case seeking an injunction against the government authorizing arms transfers to Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International France volunteers have also planned to protest in Cherbourg port.

In December, Spanish peace groups staged a protest in eastern port of Sagunto, Valencia, against the presence of the Bahri Yanbu’s sister ship, the Bahri Abha, which they suspected was carrying weapons from the United States to be used in Yemen.

They demanded the Spanish government prohibit the transit and loading in Spain of any weapons.

Port authorities said that the ship had carried out fully legal cargo operations but could not say what the ship was carrying or where it was headed.

The rights group said it was not clear if the ship was carrying arms in this voyage.

Given the secrecy surrounding the Bahri Yanbu’s contents, Amnesty International lacks specific evidence indicating that it is currently carrying arms to Saudi Arabia.

However, the circumstances of the current voyage, and the ship's deplorable record, raise a real risk that this is the case, and that states are again failing to live up to their legal obligations to stop illegal weapons transfers.

According to bills of lading data analyzed by Amnesty International, since Saudi Arabia launched its war against Yemen in 2015, the Bahri Yanbu has transferred close to US$360 million worth of military and dual-use equipment on 10 voyages from the United States to Saudi Arabia before the current trip.

Data now available shows that the Bahri Yanbu vessel was carrying US$47 million worth of US-manufactured military components and equipment, much of it linked to military aircraft, on its previous voyage visiting multiple European ports in May 2019. 

Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK are all states parties to the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty which sets global standards for regulating transfers of conventional arms.

Around 100 countries have officially signed the treaty so far, and another 29, including the US, have signed it, but not yet formally joined.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617612/Saudi-Arabia-Yemen-Amnesty-International-weapons-sales-ports

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Car bomb attacks target Syrian pro-Assad regime forces in Aleppo

February 02, 2020

AZAZ, Syria/BEIRUT: Syrian rebel fighters carried out two suicide car bomb attacks in an assault on pro-regime forces in Aleppo on Saturday and opened a new front northeast of the city, an attempted fightback after territorial gains for President Bashar Assad.

Backed by Russian air power, Syrian government forces had made a significant advance into the rebel-held northwest this week, seizing the town of Maarat Al-Numan, part of an offensive to secure the main highway between Damascus and Aleppo.

The suicide attacks were carried out by jihadist group Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham and targeted the Jamiyat al Zahraa area on the western edge of Aleppo. A third car bomb was set off by remote control, a source with the group said.

A news outlet linked to the group, Ebaa, published a video which it said showed elite Tahrir Al-Sham fighters pledging “allegiance to death and jihad” before the attack on Jamiyat Al-Zahraa, watched by the group’s leader, Abu Mohammad Al-Jolani.

The northwestern corner of Syria including Idlib province and adjoining areas of Aleppo is the last major rebel foothold in Syria, where Assad has taken back most of the ground once held by his enemies with Russian and Iranian support.

Syrian state news agency SANA said army troops had destroyed four car bombs before they reached their targets. Syrian army forces were firing rockets and artillery at militant groups on the Jamiyat Al-Zahraa front, it said. Militants had also fired rockets at residential districts of Aleppo.

The two sides gave conflicting accounts of the outcome of the attack.

A news outlet run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which fights in support of Assad, said the Syrian army had thwarted a “fierce attack” by the Nusra Front, as Jolani’s group was known until it broke ties with Al-Qaeda in 2016.

But the jihadist-linked Ebaa news outlet said the attacking forces had captured a group of houses on a hill overlooking Aleppo.

GOVERNMENT CONTROL

The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham source said the attacks had targeted the “Iranian occupation militias,” a reference to Iran-backed groups fighting in support of Assad.

Aleppo city has been under full government control since 2016, when pro-Damascus forces defeated rebels in the east of the city.

Some 50 km (35 miles) northeast of Aleppo, Turkish-backed rebels attacked government-held positions near the city of Al-Bab, a rebel source and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Turkish forces were not taking part, rebels said.

The government’s latest offensive has triggered a fresh wave of civilian displacement, with hundreds of thousands moving toward the Turkish border.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkey may launch a military operation in Idlib unless the fighting there is halted.

The US special envoy for Syria said on Thursday the Idlib fighting raised the specter of an international crisis.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1621676/middle-east

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Syrian opposition fighters launch attack near Aleppo

February 02, 2020

BEIRUT: Turkish-backed Syrian rebels attacked government-held positions northeast of Aleppo on Saturday, rebel sources and a war monitor said, opening a new front against Syrian army forces that have made significant advances in nearby Idlib over the last week.

The attack was focused on territory near the city of Al-Bab, which has been controlled by Turkey and its Syrian opposition allies since 2017. Syrian state media made no mention of a new attack. Turkish forces were not taking part, rebel sources said.

Rebel sources said their fighters had taken three villages so far. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, described it as a fierce attack “carried out by factions loyal to Ankara.”

Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air power, have made rapid advances in Idlib this week, capturing the town of Maarat Al-Numan which is located about 100 km southwest of Al-Bab.

Idlib and the area north of Aleppo form part of the last major rebel-held territory in Syria, where President Bashar Assad has taken back most of the ground once held by his enemies with Russian and Iranian support.

The government’s latest Idlib advance has triggered a fresh wave of civilian displacement, with hundreds of thousands moving toward the Turkish border. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkey may launch a military operation in Idlib unless the fighting there is halted.

US special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey said on Thursday the Idlib fighting raised the specter of an international crisis.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1621561/middle-east

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North America

 

US election 2020: Some Muslims in Iowa will caucus in their own mosques

By Ali Harb

2 February 2020

Imam Jaaphar Abdul Hamed turned to worshippers to remind them that the state's caucuses to pick the Democratic presidential nominee is on Monday.

Such announcements are a common fixture during election season, and are usually followed by instructions to find voters' exact precinct on caucus night.

But those who attended Friday prayers at the Muslim Community Organization were told that the mosque's green and yellow building, along with four other Muslim houses of worship in the area, will host caucus-goers for the first time in the history of the state.

Unlike a primary, participants don't just vote and go. They have to stick around and try to solicit support for their candidate. That's why the location of the caucus is especially important.

They are typically held in schools, halls and churches, but this year, mosques have also been added to the list.

The Democratic Party introduced the concept of "satellite caucuses" to make it easier for Iowans who cannot make it to their specific precinct to still participate in the process.

"The satellite caucus allows participants to participate from locations where they are required to physically be on caucus night, as well as from locations where they may feel more familiar and comfortable," the party says in its rules.

Worshippers at the Muslim Community Organization seemed thrilled by the idea of politicking at their own mosque. They said caucusing at the venue could increase voter engagement, and the familiarity of the location could put participants at ease.

'Safe environment'

Sabriya Khan, a project manager who was at Friday prayers, said caucusing at mosques demonstrates the political presence of the Muslim community in Iowa.

"It will help with Muslim turnout," she told MEE. "I think it's a way to show the relevance that we've already had, but we've had to prove so many times - that we are consequential."

She added that caucusing, which involves cheering, giving speeches and convincing undecideds to join one's favourite candidate's group can be an "intimidating process" that would be soothed by the "safer environment" at the mosque.

"In this safe environment that we're used to coming to amongst people who become your family, you are able to have more of an opinion in front of them," Khan told Middle East Eye.

Abdul Hamed, the imam of the mosque, echoed Khan's comments. He said hosting the caucus on Monday would motivate Muslims who are sceptical of politics to participate in the elections.

"Selecting this mosque to be a centre for the caucus is a step in the right direction because if you look at the majority of people that will come here, they are Muslims," Abdul Hamed told MEE. "This is another way of involving Muslims in the political process."

Iowa, a mostly rural state of just over 3 million people, plays a major role in presidential elections as the first primary contest in the nation.

Winning Iowa would be a major boost for the Democratic candidates looking to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the general elections.

And with the typically low number of caucus-goers, which stood at 171,517 people in the 2016 Democratic contest, the state's Muslim minority can play a role in choosing the winner on Monday night.

Candidates seem to be aware of the weight of the Muslim vote and are courting the state's Muslim community.

A Bernie Sanders' campaign volunteer stood outside the Muslim Community Organization on Friday asking worshippers leaving the building to choose the Vermont senator on Monday.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar also delivered a brief speech in favour of Sanders at the same mosque after Friday prayers.

The 42 mosque

The Muslim Community Organization, known locally as the 42 mosque because it sits on 42nd Street, is nestled between residential homes and a row of shops near downtown Des Moines.

Even without a large dome and tall minaret - the distinctive architectural features of a mosque - its bright colours help it stand out in the neighbourhood where many snow-covered lawns have become a planting ground for presidential campaign yard signs.

On Friday, the men's prayer room was packed with more than 100 worshippers.

Abdul Hamed told MEE that Islam encourages political involvement, stressing that there is "no contradiction" between the religious purpose of the mosque and its serving as a caucus location.

"When the Prophet built his mosque, he didn't build it just for salah (prayer)," the Imam said.

"He built it for everything that has to be with the social life of the Muslim community during that time. That's where he had the meetings, the shura (council), education. The mosque is a place for everything that concerns Muslims."

Imtiaz Khan, a Muslim worshiper, also said it was encouraging that Muslim Americans can participate in the political process "within the community" at their own mosque.

"The masjid should be involved because even during the prophet's time, all the decisions were made in the mosque," Khan said.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-election-2020-iowa-muslims-caucus-mosques

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US arrests Arizona man over alleged ties to al-Qaeda

2 February 2020

The United States has arrested a man on allegations that he was the leader of a group of al-Qaeda militants in Iraq, which has requested his extradition.

Ali Yousif Ahmed al-Nouri, a 42 year-old resident of Phoenix in the southwestern state of Arizona, appeared before a federal judge on Friday and is wanted in Iraq on premeditated murder charges over the death of two policemen in Fallujah in June and October 2006.

“The Government of Iraq subsequently requested Ahmed’s extradition from the United States” after a warrant was issued by an Iraqi judge, the US Department of Justice said in a statement released on Friday.

Ahmed, who was arrested on Thursday, was allegedly the leader of a group of al-Qaeda militants in Fallujah that targeted Iraqi police.

The Justice Department statement gave no further details about how long the man had been living in the US or his visa status.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/02/US-arrests-Arizona-man-over-alleged-ties-to-al-Qaeda-.html

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US Pompeo urges Kazakhstan to join it in pressing China over Uighur rights

2 February 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Kazakhstan on Sunday to join Washington in pressing China over its treatment of Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang province, a sensitive matter for the Central Asian nation which has close ties with Beijing.

Speaking on a visit to the capital Nur-Sultan, Pompeo also said the United States was helping oil-rich Kazakhstan protect itself against the coronavirus outbreak in neighboring China.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/02/US-Pompeo-urges-Kazakhstan-to-join-it-in-pressing-China-over-Uighur-rights.html

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Nigeria says to ‘work with US’ on visa curbs

1 February 2020

Nigeria said on Saturday it would cooperate with Washington on visa restrictions slapped by the United States on its citizens and those from five other countries.

US President Donald Trump on Friday imposed immigration restrictions on citizens of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, as well as Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and Tanzania.

“Nigeria remains committed to maintaining productive relations with the United States and its international allies, especially on matters of global security,” presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said.

“Accordingly, President Muhammadu Buhari has established a committee, to be chaired by the Honourable Minister of Interior, to study and address the updated US requirements,” he said.

“The committee will work with the US government, INTERPOL and other stakeholders to ensure all updates are properly implemented,” he said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/01/Nigeria-says-to-work-with-US-on-visa-curbs-.html

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US envoy lobbies for bid to halt Taliban attacks amid surge in bombing Afghans

02 February 2020

US ‘peace envoy’ to talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban militant group has visited Pakistan in efforts to gather regional backing for reducing Afghan violence ahead of a final deal to end America's longest war, even though official military figures show the US dropped record number of bombs on the country since 2013.

During the Islamabad visit, Zalmay Khalilzad tried to rally support for reaching a deal with the Taliban to reduce their attacks on US troops as a first step toward a peace pact to end nearly 19 years of war in Afghanistan, said a statement issued Saturday by the US Embassy Islamabad.

Following a series of meetings with Khalilzad on Friday, Pakistan's foreign ministry also issued a statement claiming support for a “quick” peace agreement with the Afghan insurgent group, highlighting Washington’s desire for a halt to retaliatory militant attacks on the remaining US military forces in Afghanistan since they invaded the nation back in 2001.

Stepped up bombings across the country by US forces and operations by CIA-trained Afghan special forces — several of which have resulted in civilian casualties — have been sharply condemned by human rights groups, a number of Afghan officials and even resulted in the sacking of Afghanistan's intelligence chief.

The surging US aerial attacks began in 2018 and have led to higher death tolls in the conflict. In 2019, American warplanes dropped 7,423 bombs on Afghanistan, up slightly from 2018 when it dropped 7,362 bombs on the war-torn country, according to official figures released by the US Central Command Combined Air Operations Center. This compares to a far lower 4,361 bombs dropped in 2017 and 1,337 in 2016, according to the statistics.

This is while the United Nations has blamed the growing US air strikes for a rise in civilian casualties across Afghanistan. For the first time since the US-led invasion of the nation in 2001, the UN said that Afghan government forces and their American allies killed more civilians in the first three months of last year than insurgents.

Meanwhile, the most recent airstrike to raise hackles in Afghanistan occurred overnight on Friday when a family of six, including a child, were killed in a northern province amid initial claims by the US military that the airstrike in Kunduz killed three Taliban militants and destroyed a cache of weapons.

Family members and local officials said the dead were all civilians, including an infant child.

US officials were later forces to change their story and admit to the killing of civilians, saying: “We are aware of the reports of civilian casualties reported to have occurred in Dasht-e-Archi district or Imam Sahib district, Kunduz Province, on Jan. 30. We are looking into these reports and will provide more information when it becomes available.”

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai also condemned the airstrike in a Twitter message on Friday, saying: “the bombing of our homes and villages is an injustice against our people & a violation of our national sovereignty.”

He further demanded “the end to all military operations in our country.”

Meanwhile, the Taliban stated earlier that they offered Khalilzad a 10-day cease-fire window in which to sign a peace agreement that would be followed by intra-Afghan negotiations.

Khalilzad was appointed by the White House in 2018 to find a negotiated end to Afghanistan's war that would allow the US to withdraw its estimated 13,000 soldiers and end its longest military engagement.

He has held multiple rounds of talks with the Taliban in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar where the militant group maintains a political office.

CENTCOM Commander complains of Iran influence in Afghanistan

The development came just after the commander of US forces in the Middle East also paid an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, where he complained of an increase in Iranian activity in the country that “poses a risk to American and coalition forces there,” according to an AP report.

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie made the allegation on Friday, telling reporters traveling with him that he is seeing a “worrisome trend,” from Iran.

“Iran has always sort of dabbled a little bit in Afghanistan, but they see perhaps an opportunity to get after us and the coalition here through their proxies,” he further claimed. “So, we are very concerned about that here as we go forward.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/02/617667/US-military-bombing-Afghanistan-Taliban-peace-talks-Zalmay-Khalilzad

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US spy chief Gina Haspel secretly visited Ramallah after 'peace plot' bid: Report

01 February 2020

CIA Director Gina Haspel  has reportedly paid a secret visit to occupied Palestinian city of Ramallah just a day after US President Donald Trump announced his so-called “peace plan” which was resoundingly rejected by all Palestinian factions.

During the covert visit on Thursday, the US spy chief met with “senior Palestinian Authority (PA) officials,” who have reiterated the plans to cut all security ties with Washington and the Tel Aviv regime, Israeli news outlets reported Saturday.

According to the Israeli media reports, Haspel did not get to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during the visit, but held talks with PA’s Intelligence Director Majid Faraj and its minister in charge of Palestinian-Israeli interrelations, Hossein al-Sheikh, to relay the message that the annexation of the Israeli illegal settlements in the occupied territories would not take effect prior to the March 2 elections by the regime.

The American spy chief further relayed the same message to the Tel Aviv regime though the Israeli media reports did not say whether she also held talks with Israeli officials during her short visit.

The reports came as Abbas announced during an Arab League summit in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Saturday that PA will no longer recognize ties with the Israeli regime and Washington after the Trump administration revealed its controversial and openly pro-Israel plot in a purported bid to resolve the age-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The US had announced the so-called deal of the century -- a brainchild of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and other key pro-Israeli figures -- years ago, but had withheld the details.

Trump revealed the general provisions of the scheme on Tuesday, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side. Palestinian sides were conspicuous by their absence at the ceremony given their vociferous disagreement with the plot.

Under the scheme, the US would continue to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “undivided capital,” Trump said, endorsing his 2017 move concerning the holy city.

He said the deal featured an economic portion that earmarks $50 billion in monetary allocations to Palestinians, Jordan, and Egypt. Palestinians have denounced this as a means of bribing them into selling their rights.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617658/US-CIA-chief-Gina-Haspel-Palestine-Ramallah-deal-of-century

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Kyrgyzstan protests inclusion in Trump's latest travel restrictions

01 February 2020

Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry has slammed the latest US move to impose travel restrictions on citizens of more countries, including the central Asian country, vowing that the selective action has damaged mutual ties.

The country’s ministry of foreign affairs summoned the American ambassador to Bishkek, Donald Lu, on Saturday to demand explanation for the restrictions, which he tied to Kyrgyzstan’s failure to introduce biometric passports.

The controversial development came after US President Donald Trump slapped immigration restrictions Friday against citizens of six Asian and African countries -- Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and Tanzania -- adding them to a list of nations already targeted by his contentious travel ban.

However, following Lu’s justification of the move, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry insisted that other countries without biometric passports had not been included in the latest wave of immigration restrictions.

"At the same time, out of more than 80 countries where biometric passports have not yet been introduced, the limitations (were applied) selectively to only a few," the ministry said in a statement.

"In this way, significant damage has been done to Kyrgyz-American relations," it further complained.

The latest directive – due to go into effect on February 22 -- is less sweeping than the travel ban Trump imposed in January 2017, which banned citizens of mostly Muslim-majority nations from entering US territory. The previous list included: Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela.

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, only certain visa categories would be targeted in the latest directive, with the focus primarily on people seeking to move to the United States rather than those simply desiring to visit.

The announcement will likely trigger another hot debate over the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Immediately after the ban was announced, a number of immigration related institutions censured the move.

“The Trump administration’s efforts to expand the ban are offensive and actually harmful to our national security,” said executive director of Amnesty International’s US chapter, Margaret Huang, in a statement.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617614/Kyrgyzstan-US-travel-restrictions-President-Donald-Trump-foreign-ministry-Donald-Lu

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Trump 'completely controlled by his master in Israel': Scholar

01 February 2020

The new Middle East plan announced by US President Donald Trump is another illustration that he is “completely controlled” by Israel and seeks to annihilate Palestine, which can only be liberated militarily, an American scholar says.

Defying international outcry, Trump on Tuesday announced the general provisions of the so-called “Deal of the Century” at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.

The controversial plan is a brainchild of Trump’s Jewish son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and other key pro-Israeli figures.

“What was unveiled was Trump’s idiocy, the fact that he is being completely controlled by his master in Tel Aviv, Bibi Netanyahu,” said Kevin Barrett, an author, journalist and radio host with a Ph.D.  in Islamic and Arabic Studies.

Trump’s remarks about Iran during the announcement shows that the “Islamic Republic Iran and its allies are the only thing standing between the Zionists and the completion of their genocide of Palestine,” Barrett told Press TV on Friday.

The only way to liberate Palestine will be militarily in coordination with the axis of resistance in the region, he added.

All Palestinian factions and figures, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, have rejected the US plan, saying it is one-sided and massively in favor of Israel.

Thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip have rallied to condemn the plan.

Since he became president in January 2017, Trump has reversed long-standing US policies towards Israel and Palestine, which has drawn widespread international condemnation.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/01/617613/US-Trump-Israel-Trump-Kevin-Barrett

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Pakistan

 

Nawaz convinces ex-PM Abbasi to move bail application

February 01, 2020

Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has agreed to file a bail application in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in the Liquefied Natural Gas (NLG) reference levelled against him by the country’s anti-graft watchdog National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Abbasi, arrested in July last year, had earlier announced he would not go for a bail and challenged the NAB to prove any wrong against him in the case.

However, after a recent surgery and removal of gallbladder and particularly after direct intervention by leader of the PML-N, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he has given his counsel a go-ahead in this regard.

His counsel, Barrister Zafarullah Khan, is set to move a bail petition in the IHC on Monday, sources told Gulf News here on Friday.

Abbasi was taken into custody by the NAB on July 3, 2019 when his vehicle was intercepted by the anti-corruption watchdog.

Abbasi was unwilling to submit a bail application insisting that, since he was innocent and had served the country, the NAB itself should withdraw the case against, they said.

Abbasi has been vocally ‘exposing’ the NAB during his interaction with media and inside the court as well where he was brought for hearing. He said he had to teach the NAB authorities LNG case and all the legal points related to it.

Nawaz Sharif has reportedly convinced Abbasi through his son and also asked former federal finance minister Miftah Ismail to approach Abbasi for moving the bail.

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/nawaz-convinces-ex-pm-abbasi-to-move-bail-application-1.69427869

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PML-Q, MQM-P not leaving ruling alliance: Sheikh Rashid

February 2, 2020

LAHORE: Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Saturday he was surprised at statements of the Chaudhry brothers but was confident that they were not leaving the ruling coalition.

Addressing a press conference at Railways headquarters here, he claimed that Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), disgruntled allies of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), would not go anywhere.

However, he added, he could not say anything about anyone else. He said Chaudhry brothers [Ch Shujaat Hussain and Ch Pervaiz Elahi] were like his brothers and he respected them a lot. He said he would hold a meeting with the Chaudhrys soon. The minister said that now only inflation, and gas and electricity bills are opponents of the government and the opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are no more there to oppose it. “I have conveyed this to Prime Minister [Imran Khan] that inflation is our only opposition now and we will eradicate that under his leadership,” he added.

Sh Rashid claimed that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif would not return to the country and Maryam Nawaz would not go abroad. However, he added, Shahbaz Sharif could come back.

The Railways minister said he was going to Karachi to meet Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and resolve the issue of Karachi Circular Railways (KCR) project. He said the department was acting on the orders of the Supreme Court (SC) to complete the KCR project at the earliest.

Sh Rashid said the Supreme Court had directed the railways to revive the KCR in 15 days, which he said was very difficult to implement without the help of the Sindh government. He said six-and-a-half-kilometre long portion of the track was yet to be cleared of encroachments which was a very difficult area. The minister said he was ready to give more land for the purpose and hoped that the issue would be resolve by Monday.

About India-occupied Kashmir, he said no power in this world could end the freedom moment of Kashmiris. He announced holding a rally outside his Lal Haveli to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir on Feb 5. He said Kashmir dispute was very much alive and would remain alive until and unless martyrs’ graves were present in Kashmir and the last Kashmiri was alive. The Railways minister said the department was going to punish those responsible for the Tezgam inferno that left over 70 people dead.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/607796-pml-q-mqm-p-not-leaving-ruling-alliance-sheikh-rashid

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FBR report finds high-ranking officials involved in large-scale corruption

Mubarak Zeb Khan

February 02, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Customs Intell­igence Department has unearthed a network of top officials involved in large-scale misdeclarations of description and value of imported goods in over 900 containers causing losses worth billions to the national exchequer.

The misdeclarations at several collectorates were detected a few months ago especially at the Karachi-based collectorates, Torkham Customs Stations and Collectorate of Appraisement in Quetta, but the issue was placed on cold burner months.

Official documents seen by Dawn and background interviews with senior tax officials showed that those posted as ‘collectors or chief collectors’ are linked to political circles or top bureaucracy at the federal level and are using this clout to their advantage and causing huge revenue losses to the national exchequer.

The corruption in customs department has become so vivid at the collectorate level that DG Customs Intelligence Muhammad Zahid hadsent several letters to FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi for taking action against the involved officials.

A special report on fraud at Customs Station, Torkham was also sent to the chairman on Dec 6, 2019.

Similarly, several reports regarding corruption at Appraisement Collectorate Quetta, Port Qasim Collectorate and Appraisement East were also sent to the chairman.

However, no action was taken against those officers involved in the corruption.

One of the much-awaited actions was taken on Friday when few customs officers posted in Peshawar and Quetta were transferred and relieved from their job with immediate effect.

“Few names of senior customs officers posted in Karachi were dropped at the highest level before issuing the notification”, a source in the FBR told Dawn.

To investigate the level of revenue loss and corruption, the government has given responsibility of the inquiry to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). “We have requested the FIA to investigate the case of Torkham and Quetta”, the source added.

But, Chief Collector North Dr Asif Mehmood Jah told Dawn that he has also initiated an inquiry into the scam. However, he said that he was not aware of the scam even though some of the instances of misdeclarations were also reported at Islamabad dry port, Islamabad airport and Sust Dry Port, which fall under his jurisdiction. “I will complete my inquiry in two weeks”, he claimed.

As per reports sent by DG intelligence to FBR chairman, 355 containers of imported goods were cleared without duty and taxes at Customs Station, Torkham. All these containers were released on fake goods’ declarations.

The FIA will also investigate the role and responsibility of directorate officials, who have failed to detect the scam.

According to a senior customs intelligence official, the Customs Station, Torkham case is very unique in the way that trucks carrying imported goods passed through the station without filing mandatory declaration and paying duty and taxes.

The network is so powerful that even Prime Minister Imran Khan openly commented on it.

In a public speech given at Pind Dadan Khan on Dec 26, 2019, PM Imran Khan had referred to corruption in the customs department. “We found one collector customs in one area who was earning Rs70 crore per month,” he said during that speech.

A Quetta-based customs official confirmed to Dawn regarding an incident of misdeclaration, clearance of refined steel as scrap and diesel especially at Taftan Border Station.

“We have conveyed to the FBR officially and unofficially about these corruption [instances]”, said the official while adding that no one will believe the FBR was not aware of the widespread corruption at the Quetta Collectorate.

On May 21, 2019 a Customs General Order (CGO) no.5 was issued which clearly mentioned role and responsibilities of chief collectors. One of the responsibilities of chief collector is to inspect collectorates and sub-ordinate offices. However, chief collector was stopped from involvement in the day-to-day operational matters of collectorates.

One senior customs officer believed the CGO was issued to stop collectors from monitoring collectors especially those associated with the network and powers were shifted to member customs operation.

According to sources at the intelligence office, more than 500 containers were detected in which misdeclaration was also detected involving billions of rupees in tax evasion in Karachi.

“We have sent a report of more than 100 containers of steel trade misdeclarations to the FBR which were confiscated”, the source said, it involved tax in the range of Rs1-1.5bn.

The refined steel was cleared at ports for export processing zones duty-free which were actually diverted for other purposes.

However, it is estimated that the number of containers cleared from Karachi port on the pretext of export processing zones was well above 500. Some officials believe the total number of containers could be more than 1,500 but it could not be confirmed officially.

Under the garb of Landa (used garments), electronic goods were cleared at Karachi ports. “We have sent all these reports to the FBR”, the source said adding the tax authority has yet to take any action against people involved in the corruption.

According to sources, DG office sent several letters about the misdeclarations at Port Qasim, Appraisement East and many other offices.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531968/fbr-report-finds-high-ranking-officials-involved-in-large-scale-corruption

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Leak of CJP’s security protocol on social media angers PBC

February 02, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) — the highest regulatory body of lawyers — has taken exception to the leak of information about security protocol extended to the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) during his visits outside Islamabad by the Punjab government and its police.

In a statement, PBC’s vice chairman Abid Saqi described the leak of information on social media as the “most irresponsible handling” of the vital issues involved. Talking to Dawn, he said the leak was in fact a motivated move.

Recently, a letter of Jan 28, 2020 of the DIG Operations to the provincial police officer Punjab went viral on social media with directives to the Additional Inspector General Police Special Branch Lahore, the capital police officer Lahore, all regional police officers and all district police officers of the Punjab regarding provision of security to the CJP.

The letter had asked the police officers concerned to make foolproof security arrangements during the visit/stay/movement of the CJP to avert any untoward incident. Moreover, the Central Police Officer/District Police Officer of the relevant district was to personally escort the chief justice’s cavalcade in their territory.

Reacting to the letter, Mr Saqi said that the provision of foolproof security to the CJP during his visits to different places outside Islamabad was a routine matter and that standard operating procedures were in force since long.

He said in view of utmost sensitive importance of such visits, the security measures were always kept top secret, but this mishandling and malicious leak, as evident from the letter, was highly condemnable.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531976/leak-of-cjps-security-protocol-on-social-media-angers-pbc

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Why pro-PTM protesters were booked for sedition, asks IHC

February 02, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Saturday sought explanation from the capital police and the district administration for invoking offence of sedition against those who were protesting against the arrest of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen.

The court summoned the deputy commissioner and the inspector general of Islamabad police on a petition seeking post-arrest bail of 23 activists of the PTM and Awami Workers Party (AWP).

Justice Minallah heard the bail plea in his chamber. Advocates Babar Sattar, Nisar Shah and Sikandar Naeem represented the detained activists.

The court ordered the DC and the IGP to produce the record related to the arrest of activists.

“Both will appear in person along with the record on Feb 3, 2020 at 10am and explain under what authority of law the offence of sedition has been included in the FIR and why the petitioners who are stated to have exercised their right of assembly in a peaceful manner may not be released on bail.”

The counsel for the petitioners — Ammar Rashid and others — contended before the chief justice that “the case has been registered against the petitioners on the basis of mala fide”.

He also questioned the order issued by the additional district and sessions court dismissing the post-arrest bail petitions of the detained activists, saying it was “arbitrary and not in consonance with the settled principles of law”. He said it was a serious miscarriage of justice and invoking offence of sedition against unarmed peaceful citizens was misuse of authority.

On Jan 30, additional district and sessions judge of Islamabad Mohammad Sohail declined to grant bail to detained activists, saying that prima facie this was a case of terrorism since during protest the protesters had chanted slogans against the government and the army.

It was mentioned in the first information report (FIR) that scores of protesters managed to escape from the spot, but the complainant and the police officials would identify them when they appeared before them.

Interestingly, the police did not invoke any section of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997 in the FIR, but the judge in the concluding paragraph of his decision on the bail plea observed, “I have no hesitation to hold that it is a case in which Section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) is attracted by all force, hence, this court lacks jurisdiction to entertain and decide the bail applications.”

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531979/why-pro-ptm-protesters-were-booked-for-sedition-asks-ihc

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Behind bars for 197 days, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi seeks bail in LNG reference

Malik Asad

February 02, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister and member of the National Assembly Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who has been behind bars since July 18, 2019, filed a bail petition before the Islam­abad High Court in the LNG terminal reference on Saturday.

He has not been indicted in the said reference despite being in captivity for the past over six months.

A division bench, headed by Chief Justice Athar Minallah and also comprising Justice Lubna Saleem Pervez, will hear his bail plea on Monday (tomorrow) — the day when the bench will also hear a post-arrest bail petition of former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal in the Narowal Sports City project case.

Barrister Zafarullah Khan, who along with ex-PM’s sister Sadia Abbasi submitted the bail petition before the IHC, told the media that Mr Abbasi was reluctant to file the petition but agreed to seek bail on the insistence of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) top leadership.

The petition said former finance minister Dr Miftah Ismail and ex-managing director of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) had already been granted bail in the same case.

It said Mr Abbasi held the portfolio of Prime Minister of Pakistan and Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources. He is a graduate of the University of California, with a degree in Engineering; and has a postgraduate degree in Engineering Management from George Washington University, Washington DC. Elected to the lower house of parliament from NA-124 (Lahore-II), Mr Abbasi had been sent to Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail on judicial remand in the reference filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the petition said.

It recalled “under his [Abbasi’s] tenure, Pakistan became surplus in natural gas and finally achieved an electricity surplus in November 2017, after facing power crisis for well over a decade. The Foreign Direct Investment increased up to 87 per cent due to the interest of the government and full commitment to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The manufacturing industry saw growth of 9.64pc during the tenure of the PML-N government.”

The petition argued that Mr Abbasi was a vocal advocate of constitutional supremacy, parliamentary democracy, fair electoral processes, rule of law, and due process. He had been vociferous in his criticism of present government’s incompetence. It asserted that he was “incarcerated due to his political views, and is a prisoner of conscience”.

It said Mr Abbasi was emphatic about “selective accountability” by NAB that resulted in reopening of an inquiry/investigation against him in the matter of LNG import despite the fact that the case had been closed by the bureau in 2016. The anti-graft watchdog then arrested him on July 18, 2019.

Through the petition, the court was informed that Mr Abbasi being minister for petroleum and natural resources was also member of the federal cabinet, the cabinet committee on energy and the economic coordination council during the relevant period. Creation of the LNG supply chain and import of LNG from Qatar was a basic ingredient in and critical part of the resolution of the energy crises, it added.

The petition claimed that Mr Abbasi in his capacity as minister for petroleum had a policy role in the LNG terminal project under ECC instructions and all approvals in this regard had been given by the cabinet.

It was not Mr Abbasi’s mandate to interfere in the working of the Board of Directors or in the management of companies within the domain of petroleum ministry. It was also not within the authority of a federal minister to take decisions without cabinet approval, or to coerce fellow colleagues into taking decisions that were not acceptable to them, or engage in a conspiracy with state enterprises and international funding/donor agencies to defraud the government of Pakistan, the petition argued.

According to the petition, Mr Abbasi has been detained in the death cell of the Adiala jail for more than 190 days but it did not lower his morale and he requested the court to ensure live coverage of legal proceedings so that the people of Pakistan could see the “political engineering” of the NAB and the present government.

The petition requested the IHC to order his release on bail.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531983/behind-bars-for-197-days-shahid-khaqan-abbasi-seeks-bail-in-lng-reference

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Govt slammed over record hike in public debt

February 02, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The country’s two major parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — have blasted the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for a record increase in the country’s public debt and liabilities in just 15 months.

Commenting on the debt policy statement of the Ministry of Finance laid before the parliament, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb in a statement on Saturday said the PTI government “should at least hang its head in shame, if not more, over their confession of crushing Pakistan under Rs11,610 billion loan in 15 months.”

Similarly, PPP information secretary Dr Nafisa Shah said Prime Minister Imran Khan had claimed that the year 2020 would be one of recoveries, but the economy had only suffered according to the State Bank governor.

The government on Friday had conceded major violations of the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act for massively exceeding debt acquisition limits, disclosing that there had been around 40 per cent increase in Pakistan’s public debt and liabilities in 15 months.

In its debt policy statement laid before the parliament, the finance ministry noted that total debt and liabilities that stood at Rs29.879 trillion at the end of the fiscal year 2018 crossed Rs41.489tr at the end of September 2019, showing an increase of Rs11.6tr or 39pc. At the end of the fiscal year 2019, the total debt and liabilities were reported to have increased by about 35pc or Rs10.344tr to touch Rs40.223tr.

Ms Aurangzeb alleged that Mr Khan kept the nation occupied with “his chicken, egg, calf revolution”, while helping his “cronies steal national wealth and stack up their treasures”. She said: “Imran (Khan) has burdened the people of Pakistan beyond imagination and set the nation up for an era of financial misery and starvation.”

Over its 71 years of existence, she said, Pakistan had taken Rs29,500 billion loan in total. But Imran-led government stacked up more than one-third of the total money borrowed since the country came into being, she added.

“The average annual loan in Pakistan’s history comes to about Rs415 billion while under Imran’s government it is now Rs11,610bn which is a 2,216 per cent increase,” she said, adding that “this is the reality of Imran’s Naya Pakistan, which is extremely indebted, insanely expensive, and alarmingly impoverished”.

Ms Aurngzeb, who had served as information minister in the previous PML-N government, said her party did not take this much loan over its entire five-year term and the money that had been borrowed was used in building 17,000 kilometres of motorways, producing 12,000 megawatts of electricity, projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, setting up of the LNG terminal, development of Gwadar Port and industrial zones and a number of metro mass transport services.

However, she said, the PTI had done nothing. In fact, she said, the government snatched the last piece of meal from people with the rising inflation, wheat and sugar crises. With a negative growth, she said, the country was heading for an irreversible disaster.

Ms Aurangzeb said the PML-N left a deficit of 6.2 per cent whereas under the present regime, last year’s deficit was 8.9pc and this year it was expected to range between 9.5pc and 10pc.

The ex-minister said Imran’s “sham austerity measures drama” had further plunged the country into debt while national growth and development had plunged to zero.

“The question is where exactly all this money is going, because millions of people are dropping under the poverty line, businesses are shutting down and unemployment and inflation are skyrocketing. The only logical explanation is that all this wealth is being looted by Imran and his blue-eyed corruption specialists,” she said.

Speaking at a news conference, PPP information secretary and MNA Dr Nafisa Shah said the government had claimed to decrease expenses but it had only increased the loans by 40 per cent.

She regretted that without proper survey, over 800,000 people had been rendered jobless after being removed from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).

In order to replace the BISP, she said, the government had introduced Kifalat Card that resembled PTI’s own flag. She said people were being punished for supporting the 18th Amendment while the country’s young population had to suffer through a falling economy that was wobbling every other day.

Accompanied by PPP Senator Rubina Khalid, former MPA Nargis Faiz Malik and party’s media coordinator Nazir Dhoki, Dr Shah said the PTI government was ruining the institutions and had even “compromised the impartiality of the judiciary and military”.

Dr Shah said only the Sindh government while appointing a new police chief was facing strong opposition from the federal government, whereas the Punjab police chief had been changed five times and the inspector general of police in Islamabad had been changed thrice.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531998/govt-slammed-over-record-hike-in-public-debt

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Court summons complainants in MQM hate speech cases

February 02, 2020

KARACHI: An anti-terrorism court on Saturday summoned complainants in nearly two dozen cases against Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leaders pertaining to an incendiary speech by party founder Altaf Hussain.

Senior leaders, including Dr Farooq Sattar, Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar, Amir Khan, Khalid Maqbool Sidd­iqui, Rauf Siddiqui, Rashid Godil, Khawaja Izharul Has­an, Gul Faraz Khattak, Sal­man Mujahid, Abdul Qadir Khanzada, Khushbakht Shu­j­aat, Shahid Pasha, Qamar Mansoor, and Kanwar Nav­eed along with nearly 200 party workers, have been booked in the identical cases.

In October 2018, the ATC-I judge had amalgamated around 23 identical FIRs registered at different police stations in the city against the MQM leaders for allegedly facilitating a highly provocative speech of their London-based chief against the country’s security establishment.

On Saturday, the investigating officers failed to produce the witnesses who had lodged the identical FIRs to record their testimonies.

Also, ATC records cross-examination of IO in case pertaining to media houses

The judge once again summoned the witnesses with direction to the investigation officer concerned to produce them on the next hearing on Feb 22.

Media houses attack case

Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism court recorded cross-examination of an investigating officer in a case pertaining to a violent protest, arson attack and ransacking of media houses following the incendiary speech of MQM founder Altaf Hussain.

On Saturday, Advocate Shaukat Hayat — defence counsel for Dr Farooq Sattar, Amir Khan and Kanwar Naveed — completed cross-examination of the witness, Inspector Afzal Sindhu.

The judge fixed the matter on Feb 22 for further cross-examination by the defence counsel for other accused persons.

Examination-in-chief Ins­pector Sindhu had deposed that he was assigned investigation of one of the identical cases lodged at the Artillery Maidan police station after the incident took place. The two identical cases were registered on behalf of the state at the Artillery Maidan police station.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531974/court-summons-complainants-in-mqm-hate-speech-cases

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South Asia

 

US peace envoy arrives in Kabul: US Embassy Kabul

01 Feb 2020

US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Saturday Morning, US Embassy in Kabul confirmed.

Jafar Diab, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Kabul speaking to Khaama Press confirmed the arrival of Khalilzad but did not provide further information.

Zalmay Khalilzad came to Kabul after meeting Pakistani officials on the Afghanistan peace process.

Khalilzad met the Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureishi and Pakistan’s army chief of staff General Omar Javed Bajwa to discuss a political settlement and ending the war in Afghanistan.

According to reports, the US and Taliban have discussed violence reduction before signing an agreement, but the Afghanistan government insists on a complete ‘ceasefire’ before an agreement is signed.

This comes as that experts believe the talks between the United States and the Taliban have stopped again.

Ahmad Saeedi, a political expert speaking to Khaama Press said that the talks between the Taliban and the United States have once again been halted.

“I do not believe the United States and Taliban reach to an agreement and sign anything on the paper before the US election”, Saeedi said.

Russia and Iran are not happy for the Afghan peace deal to be wrapped up under the management of the United States, he added.

https://www.khaama.com/us-peace-envoy-arrives-in-kabul-us-embassy-kabul-7678685/

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Former Kabul police chief injured by unknown gunmen

02 Feb 2020

Former Kabul police chief was injured in an attack by unknown gunmen while he was on the way to his home, an official said.

Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesperson to the Ministry of Interior said Mohammad Dawood Amini was attacked by unknown gunmen at around 08:00 PM while he was on the way to his home in Shah Shahid area of Kabul.

Mohammad Dawood Amini has suffered injuries in his feet, Rahimi said.

The security authorities have started investigations about the incident, Rahimi added.

This comes as the security situation in the country is getting worse every day amid political uncertainties.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/former-kabul-police-chief-injured-by-unknown-gunmen-87896/

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Europe

 

Turkey to seek new trade deal with post-Brexit UK

Dilara Hamit 

01.02.2020

Turkey's Trade Ministry on Saturday announced it was seeking new trade channels with the U.K. during the Brexit transition period.

Brexit negotiations between the EU and the U.K. concluded on Nov. 14, 2018, and a deal was reached on the withdrawal of the agreement, which took place on Jan. 31, 2020.

With the U.K. having officially left the EU, the transition period is expected to end on Dec. 31, 2020.

"During this period, the U.K. will be treated as an EU member country in terms of trade, thereby maintaining its position as a Customs Union partner for our country within the same period," the ministry said in a statement.

It added that during the transition period, a new trade agreement would be negotiated between the U.K. and EU to shape future relations.

The ministry said Turkey would open talks with the U.K. for a bilateral free trade deal through existing structures.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/economy/turkey-to-seek-new-trade-deal-with-post-brexit-uk/1721509

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