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Islamic World News ( 17 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Placards Of PM Modi, Other World Leaders Raised At Pro-Freedom Rally In Pakistan's Sindh To Seek Their Intervention For The Freedom Of Sindhudesh


New Age Islam News Bureau

18 January 2021



• US Retains Terrorist Tag Of Pak-Based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi

• Pakistani Ahmadis Accused Of Blasphemy For Inscribing Islamic Phrases On Gravestones

• Nine Islamist Militants Of Bangladesh Give Up The Armed Struggle, Saying Violence Is The Wrong Path

• UAE Fatwa Council: Islam Commands Every Muslim To Stop The Spread Of Any Pandemic, Says, Vaccines Are Permissible For Muslims Even If They Contain Pork Gelatine

• UK Demands China Grant UN Access To Xinjiang Over Abuses

• More Than 80 People Killed In Militia Attack On Sudan's West Darfur Region

 India

• Placards Of PM Modi, Other World Leaders Raised At Pro-Freedom Rally In Pakistan's Sindh To Seek Their Intervention For The Freedom Of Sindhudesh

• Ayodhya Mosque: Construction To Begin On Republic Day After A Flag Hoisting Ceremony, Architecture Likely To Resemble Kaaba in Mecca

• Islamic Terrorist West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee Will Have To Take Refuge In Bangladesh After Bengal Polls: UP Minister's Shocker

• 'Love Jihad' Stems From Idea Of Stigmatising Interfaith Marriages, Says Naseeruddin[N1] [N2]  Shah

• Surgical strikes in Pakistan gave public confidence that borders are safe under Modi-led BJP govt: Amit Shah

• Uttar Pradesh government to take back 173 acres of land of Azam Khan’s Jauhar Trust

• Pakistan army resorts to unprovoked firing along LoC in J&K's Poonch

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North America

• US Retains Terrorist Tag Of Pak-Based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi

• Fifty Organizations urge Biden to reject Houthi ‘terrorist’ designation by Trump admin.

• Iranian missiles land within 100 miles from US aircraft carrier: Fox News

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Pakistan

• Pakistani Ahmadis Accused Of Blasphemy For Inscribing Islamic Phrases On Gravestones

• Imran Khan 'criminal': Nawaz Sharif questions negligence in foreign funding case

• India spoiling Afghan peace process: Qureshi

• Hindu community leader demands protection for temple in Pakistan's Havelian

• Govt under PDM pressure to resign by 31st: PML-N

• Power corridors far for Fazl, says Ashrafi

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South Asia

• Nine Islamist Militants Of Bangladesh Give Up The Armed Struggle, Saying Violence Is The Wrong Path

• Gunmen Shoot Dead Two Women Judges Of Afghanistan's Supreme Court In Kabul; Ashraf Ghani Blames Taliban

• Taliban praise continued US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

• Hefazat: Case over Shafi's death is fabricated

• Bangladesh Again Denies Al-Qaeda Presence

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Arab World

• UAE Fatwa Council: Islam Commands Every Muslim To Stop The Spread Of Any Pandemic, Says, Vaccines Are Permissible For Muslims Even If They Contain Pork Gelatine

• Egypt Seizes Assets Of Mursi, 88 Muslim Brotherhood Members

• Lebanon’s Patriarch tells feuding President Aoun and PM-designate Hariri to reconcile

• Beirut blast chemicals possibly linked to Syrian businessmen: Report, company filing

• Saudi Arabia, Jordan’s FMs discuss regional issues in Riyadh meeting

• PMU chief reiterates that US military forces must withdraw from Iraq

• US-Led Military Convoy Enters Northeastern Syria From Iraq: Report

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Europe

• UK Demands China Grant UN Access To Xinjiang Over Abuses

• EU’s Borrell urges Israel to facilitate Palestinian vote

• Belgian court postpones verdict in Iranian diplomat case

• EU welcomes decision to hold elections in Palestine

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Africa

• More Than 80 People Killed In Militia Attack On Sudan's West Darfur Region

• Nigeria Army Retakes Military Base From ISIS-Linked Militants

• Sudanese Protesters Burn Israeli Flag, Condemn Recent Normalization Deal

• Riots break out in several Tunisian cities for second night

• Tunisia govt says dozens arrested during night disturbances despite lockdown

• Libya envoys to vote on key proposal for new executive: UN

• Tunisia set to lose millions in cash stashed in Swiss banks by Ben Ali’s family

• Takfiri terrorists hit Nigeria army base in Borno, take control

• Bomb explosion kills 6 in Somalia

• Mali: UN peacekeeper killed in terror attack

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Southeast Asia

• Dr Mahathir, Pejuang Lawmakers Apply To Join Lawsuit On Agong’s Powers To Refuse Emergency Declaration

• Tok Mat: Govt should impose ‘health emergency’ rather than Emergency that renders Constitution, Parliament dysfunctional

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Mideast

• Tehran Deplores US’ Sanctioning of Iran’s Diplomats, Warns of Lodging Lawsuit at ICJ

• IRGC Top Commander: Iran's Strategy Entails Ballistic Missiles Raining Down on Hostile Warships

• IRGC Ballistic Missiles Destroy Naval Targets at 1,800km Distance

• Israel To Ban Groups That Call It An ‘Apartheid State’

• Israeli warplanes hit Gaza after rocketfire: army

• Coronavirus: Israel exchanges medical data for Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses

• Coronavirus: Israel Prison Service to vaccinate Palestinian inmates

• Palestinian President Abbas briefs Egypt, Jordan on election plan

• Israel approves hundreds of settlement homes in last-minute push

• Russian freight ship sinks off Turkey’s Black Sea coast - governor

• Iran’s long-range missile land close to US Navy ships in Indian Ocean

• Distrust, division and doubt cloud Palestinian election call

• Turkish court sentences former pro-Kurdish MP to over six years in jail

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/placards-of-pm-modi-other-world-leaders-raised-at-pro-freedom-rally-in-pakistan-s-sindh-to-seek-their-intervention-for-the-freedom-of-sindhudesh/d/124095

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Placards Of PM Modi, Other World Leaders Raised At Pro-Freedom Rally In Pakistan's Sindh To Seek Their Intervention For The Freedom Of Sindhudesh

Jan 18, 2021



SANN [Pakistan]: In a massive pro-freedom rally organised on the 117th birth anniversary of GM Syed, one of the founding fathers of modern Sindhi nationalism, protesters raised the placards of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other world leaders to seek their intervention for the freedom of Sindhudesh.

The people raised pro-freedom slogans during a massive rally held in Syed's hometown of Sann in Jamshoro district of Pakistan's Sindh province on Sunday. They claimed that Sindh is the home of Indus Valley Civilisation and Vedic religion which was illegitimately occupied by the British Empire and was delivered by them in the evil Islamist hands of Pakistan in 1947.

"Among all these barbaric assaults on its history and culture, and all these ages of occupation and dawns of independence Sindh has retained and maintained its separate historical and cultural identity as a pluralist, co-existent, tolerant and harmonious society where all the different cultures, languages and ideas of the foreign and native people have not only influenced each other but accepted and absorbed the common message of the human civilisation," said Shafi Muhammad Burfat, Chairman of Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz. He added, "This historical synthesis of religions, philosophies and civilisation from the east and west has given our motherland Sindh a distinct place in the history of humanity". Burfat told ANI, "While the Sindh gave India its name, the Sindh citizens who pioneered in the fields of industry, philosophy, marine navigation, mathematics and astronomy are today chained by the Islam-o-fascist terrorist unconstitutional forced federation of Pakistan by the military might of Punjabi imperialism in the name of Islam".

There are several nationalist parties in Sindh, who are advocating for a free Sindh nation. They have been raising the issue on various international platforms and calling Pakistan an occupier that continues to exploit resources and involved in human rights violations in the region.

"Our nation believes in universal peace, unity of humanity and human development and our country has remained as an independent nation on the face of the earth for thousands of years. But today, it is enslaved by Punjabi colonialism in the name of religion and through the might of the military. The Sindhi people do not want to remain in the oppressive slavery of the terrorist state of Pakistan, and therefore, we appeal to the entire international community to step forward and support us in our struggle for national independence from the fascist theocratic Islamist terrorist state of Pakistan."Sindhudesh is a demand for a separate homeland for Sindhis which was emerged in 1967 under the leadership of GM Syed and Pir Ali Mohammed Rashdi. A large number of Sindhi nationalist leaders, activists and students were disappeared, tortured and killed allegedly by Pakistan's security agencies in the past few decades.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/placards-of-pm-modi-other-world-leaders-raised-at-pro-freedom-rally-in-pakistans-sindh/articleshow/80322316.cms

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US Retains Terrorist Tag Of Pak-Based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi

Jan 17, 2021

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. File Photo. 

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WASHINGTON: The US has reviewed and maintained the terrorist designations of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Lashkari-Jhangvi (LJ), along with ISIL Sinai Peninsula and several other organisations.

Days ahead of the transition of power, the US department of state said it has amended the terrorist designations of LJ and ISIL Sinai Peninsula (ISIL-SP) to include additional aliases.

Additionally, the department has reviewed and maintained the Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) designations of LJ, ISIL-SP, LeT, Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al Naqshabandi, Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis-Sudan (Ansaru), al-Nusrah Front, Continuity Irish Republican Army, and the National Liberation Army, a media note said.

“Based upon a review of the Administrative Records… I conclude that the circumstances that were the bases for the designations of the aforementioned organisations as Foreign Terrorist Organisations have not changed in such a manner as to warrant revocation of the designations and that the national security of the US does not warrant a revocation of the designations,” secretary of state Mike Pompeo said in a federal register notification published on January 14.

LeT, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, was designated as a terrorist organisation by the US in December 2001.

Since the original designation occurred, LeT has repeatedly changed its name and created front organisations in an effort to avoid sanctions, the state department had said earlier. The treasury department earlier this month said that the US blocked $342,000 in funds of LeT in 2019.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/us-retains-terrorist-tag-of-pak-based-let/articleshow/80309654.cms

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Pakistani Ahmadis Accused Of Blasphemy For Inscribing Islamic Phrases On Gravestones

Kamran Chaudhry

January 18, 2021

 

Ahmadi graves desecrated in Gujranwala, Punjab province, in July 2020. (Photo supplied)

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Ahmadis in a Pakistani town have been accused of blasphemy for inscribing Islamic phrases on gravestones.

Police in Sharaqpur Sharif in Punjab province registered the case against 11 Ahmadis and organizers of the community under Section 298-C of the blasphemy laws, which specifically refers to Ahmadis for posing "as a Muslim." That section of the law can carry a fine and up to three years’ imprisonment.

Asadullah, an activist of the hardline Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), filed the complaint against “the declared infidels” for angering and hurting the religious feelings of Muslims.

He accused them of writing the names of Allah, Prophet Muhammad, Kalma (the Islamic proclamation of faith) and other phrases on tombstones.

In a first information report (FIR), Asadullah said the Ahmadis had insulted Prophet Muhammad. “Islamic principles must be protected,” he stated.  

TLP’s Sharaqpur Sharif branch urged its members to share the report.

“All groups should share the FIR against the big blasphemous group of Qadianis on Twitter and Facebook pages and demand the urgent arrest of these accused Qadianis,” it stated in a Jan. 14 tweet. 

Officials in Rabwah, the Ahmadi community headquarters in Punjab province, declined to comment.

“I haven’t received any directions from the community regarding the incident. This year we are trying to keep a low profile,” Amir Mehmood, who handles communications for the sect, told UCA News.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws, introduced by former military ruler Muhammad Zia-ul Haq in the 1980s, allow for a death sentence as the maximum punishment for insulting Prophet Mohammed. Human rights activists say laws have been used against non-Muslim Pakistanis and minority Muslim faiths including Shia and Ahmadis.

In 1974, Pakistan’s parliament declared the Ahmadi community as non-Muslims. A decade later, they were banned from calling themselves Muslims. They are banned from preaching and from traveling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimages.

In July 2020, police removed Islamic symbols on gravestones at Tirigri village in Gujranwala, about 80 kilometers from Lahore, following a complaint lodged by a cleric. The local chapter of the Ahmadi community gave an undertaking that it would not use Islamic symbols.

Four Ahmadis were murdered in Pakistan from August to November 2020.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/pakistani-ahmadis-accused-of-blasphemy-over-islamic-tombstones/91040#

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Nine Islamist Militants Of Bangladesh Give Up The Armed Struggle, Saying Violence Is The Wrong Path

01/15/2021

by Sumon Corraya

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Nine Islamist militants reunited with their families yesterday after announcing that they were giving up the armed struggle. Six of the nine Muslim radicals belonged to Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh and the rest to Ansar-al-Islam. 

After completing a deradicalisation programme run by the Rapid Action Battalion, the country's elite anti-terrorism unit, they received some money and educational assistance from the government to  start a new life.

At the ceremony that saw the former militants start their journey back to their families, Home Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal condemned Islamist groups for “killing members of religious minorities”, stressing that the authorities, like most people in Bangladesh, will not tolerate extremism.

Radicalised groups began to emerge in Bangladesh in 2004. Many of their members were trained and indoctrinated in the Middle East. Their bloodiest attack came on 1st July 2016 when a commando stormed the Gulshan Cafe in Dhaka, killing 29 people people, including nine Italians.

As the she spoke about her story, Abida Jannat Asma, one of nine former militants, expressed regrets for taking the “wrong path”. She became radicalised after marrying an extremist she met at university. After that, she was “on the run”, unable to take part in any social activity. Now she wants to get back to some form of normal life, and she encourages her husband and other Islamist militants to do the same.

For Shaon Muntaha Ibn Shawkat, another one of the deradicalized militants, people's hearts cannot be won over by violence. He explained that he radicalised himself on the internet and got his family involved. “We have lived for years hunted by the police. Militancy was ruining the life of my wife and children. From today things will change and I will fight against extremism.”

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Nine-Islamists-give-up-the-armed-struggle,-saying-violence-is-the-wrong-path-52083.html

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UAE Fatwa Council: Islam Commands Every Muslim To Stop The Spread Of Any Pandemic, Says, Vaccines Are Permissible For Muslims Even If They Contain Pork Gelatine

January 18, 2021

The UAE Fatwa Council, has ruled that Coronavirus vaccines are permissible for Muslims even if they contain pork gelatin

At a time when everyone is waiting for the arrival/distribution of Corona virus vaccine, Muslim scholars created a new controversy over its use by starting the halal-haram debate. First row of boycott arose in Indonesia where Indonesian Ulema Council declared that Corona vaccine cannot be administered to any Muslim as it contains pork gelatin.

The same controversy later reached out to Indian diaspora and some Mumbai-based Sunni Ulemas declared that a Chinese vaccine, which allegedly contains pig gelatin, is ‘Haram’ or forbidden for Muslims. The Fatwa has been issued by Mumbai’s Raza Academy. The Secretary-General of Raza Academy, Syed Noorie, said that there are reports of the Chinese Covid vaccine containing parts of pig’s body. “As pig is haram for Muslims, a vaccine containing pig gelatin cannot be allowed”. However, there are a number of Quranic verses with ample support from Islamic scholars which refutes such claims.

After the controversial ruling by few Sunni Ulemas in India and Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates’ highest Islamic authority, the UAE Fatwa Council, has ruled that Coronavirus vaccines are permissible for Muslims even if they contain pork gelatin. If there are no alternatives, Council Chairman Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah said, that the coronavirus vaccines would not be subject to Islam’s restrictions on pork because of the higher need to “protect the human body”. The council added that in this case, the pork gelatin is considered medicine, not food, with multiple vaccines already shown to be effective against a highly contagious virus that “poses a risk to the entire society”.

There is a great deal of evidence to support this principle in the Holy Qur’aan and the Prophet’s Sunnah, for example, the verses in which Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Forbidden to you (for food) are: Al Maitah, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by the goring of horns – and that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild animal – unless you are able to slaughter it (before its death). But as for him who is forced by severe hunger, with no inclination to sin (such can eat these above-mentioned meats), then surely, Allaah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful” – [al-Maa’idah 5:3]

In another verse Al- An’am it is writen;

“And why should you not eat of that (meat) on which Allaah’s Name has been pronounced (at the time of slaughtering the animal), while He has explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you, except under compulsion of necessity?”

[al-An’am 6:119]

While talking to BBC India, Islamic Scholar and VC of Maulana Azad, Jodhpur University stated “Islam give more priority to Human life, and if someone is forced by severe hunger, with no inclination to sin he can consume anything which is considered as Haram. Such rumours would only present Islam in bad light”. Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali, a Muslim leader in Uttar Pradesh, has advised people of his community to receive the vaccine instead of involving themselves to be a part of any rumour. Jamaat-e-Islami (Hind) also tried to clarify the theological position, saying a vaccine with unlawful substances will be permissible in emergency situations to protect human lives in case of unavailability of any other vaccine containing lawful substances.

Dr. Razi-ul-Islam Nadwi, Secretary of the JIH Shariah Council, said, “If an impermissible substance is transformed into something completely different in terms of properties and characteristics, then it may be considered as clean and permissible. On this basis, the use of gelatin derived from the body part of a haram (unlawful) animal has been considered permissible by Islamic jurists.” “Even those jurists who disagree with the above transformation rule sanction a vaccine which contains prohibited substances in case of unavailability of halal vaccines, in dire and emergency situations,” he added.

There are ample evidences present in the light of Quran and Hadith which give more priority to the human life and permit the Haram things in some specific circumstances. It’s not only Muslims but the consumption of pork is also prohibited among orthodox Jews who have openly accepted the vaccine for the greater good of humanity. To dispel any doubts, the vaccine spokesmen for Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca have stated that their COVID-19 vaccines do not use products made from pork. It is time for the Muslims to take a stand and present an example to the society which may be imitated by others.

https://www.newdelhitimes.com/islam-commands-every-muslim-to-stop-the-spread-of-any-pandemic/

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UK demands China grant UN access to Xinjiang over abuses

17 Jan 2021

LONDON, Jan 17 — Britain’s government on Sunday pressed China to allow UN rights inspectors to visit Xinjiang after raising anew allegations of “appalling” human rights abuses against the Uighur minority people.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week introduced import controls on firms that may have sourced goods from the region in northwest China using forced labour from the mainly Muslim Uighur community.

Speaking on the BBC, he decried reports of “slave labour effectively, forced sterilisation, appalling human rights abuses”.

“Whether or not it amounts to genocide has to be determined by a court. The bar has been set incredibly high,” Raab said.

And frankly we shouldn’t be engaged in free-trade negotiations with countries abusing human rights well below the limit of genocide,” he added, implicitly attacking the European Union for securing an investment pact with China last month.

Raab’s government opposes efforts underway in parliament to give UK courts the power to declare a genocide in Xinjiang, which would bar the government from proceeding with any free-trade agreement with China.

But Raab told Sky News that he supported “the spirit” of the proposal, and demanded that China show more transparency over Xinjiang, where experts say at least one million Uighurs have been detained in recent years in political “re-education camps”.

“What China says is this is all lies cooked up by the West, and Britain a leading member amongst them,” the foreign secretary said.

“What we say is if you dispute the allegations and the claims and the reports, there’s a simple way to clear this up: allow the UN Human Rights Commissioner to visit and access and see these sites.”

China warned Britain to stop meddling in its internal affairs after the imposition of the import controls, which were followed by similar measures from Canada.

Western countries have also been at loggerheads with Beijing over Hong Kong, a former British colony.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers last week that despite the need for vigilance, particularly about threats to national infrastructure and data from cyberspace, bilateral ties could be maintained.

“Speaking frankly and calling out human rights abuses should not stop us from having a productive relationship, where that is possible,” he said. — AFP

https://www.malaymail.com/news/world/2021/01/17/uk-demands-china-grant-un-access-to-xinjiang-over-abuses/1941371

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More than 80 people killed in militia attack on Sudan's West Darfur region

17 January 2021

Violent clashes in Sudan's restive Darfur have left at least 83 people dead in the past 48 hours just weeks after a long-running peacekeeping mission ended operation.

"The death toll from the bloody events that occurred in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur State, has risen since Saturday morning ... to 83 dead, and 160 wounded including from the armed forces," the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors was quoted by AFP as saying.

Sudanese authorities have imposed a state-wide curfew in West Darfur, while the Khartoum government dispatched a "high-profile" delegation to help contain the situation.

The violence reportedly started as a local dispute, before quickly morphing into broader fighting involving armed militias.

Sudan's state news agency, SUNA, citing a local doctors union, said that casualties are expected to increase as the fighting continues.

The union's local branch also "called for the securing of health facilities" and urged transport be made available for medics to assist the wounded.

On Sunday, the head of Sudan's ruling body, army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, met top security chiefs to discuss the violence.

A coordinating committee for IDP camp residents said in statement, "We have warned several times about the deteriorating security situation in Darfur ... as armed militias still pose a constant threat."

On Saturday, the governor of West Darfur declared a state of emergency, authorizing the use of force in order to stabilize the situation and imposing a curfew.

In late December, clashes in South Darfur state left at least 15 people dead and dozens wounded.

The violence has reportedly pitted the Massalit tribe against Arab nomads in El Geneina and quickly morphed into broader fighting involving armed militias in the area.

Human rights organization, the Darfur Bar Association, said in a statement that the latest violence was triggered when a member of the Massalit tribe stabbed a member of an Arab tribe.

The attack came just weeks after UN peace-keepers began withdrawing from the region.

On December 31, the hybrid United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) formally ended its operations in the region. It plans a phased withdrawal of its approximately 8,000 armed and civilian personnel inside six months.

The Sudanese government "will take over responsibility for the protection of civilians" in Darfur as UNAMID’s mandate ended.

Brokering lasting peace in Darfur and other parts of Sudan is one of the main challenges facing military and civilian authorities sharing power following the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir last April.

Conflict broke out in Darfur in 2003 after mostly non-Arab rebels rose up against Khartoum. Up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced, including more than 180,000 displaced in West Darfur, according to UN estimates.

Back then, the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum responded by recruiting and arming a notorious Arab-dominated militia known as the Janjaweed. The main conflict has subsided over the years but ethnic and tribal clashes still flare periodically,

Sudan is undergoing a rocky political transitional after the ouster of Bashir in April 2019 triggered by mass protests against his rule. Bashir, who is currently in custody in Khartoum, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged genocide and war crimes in Darfur perpetrated over a decade ago.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/17/643226/Sudan-El-Geneina-Darfur-SUNA-IDP--UN-al-Bashir

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India

 

Ayodhya Mosque: Construction To Begin On Republic Day After A Flag Hoisting Ceremony, Architecture Likely To Resemble Kaaba in Mecca

18 January 2021

Construction work for the Dhannipur mosque project in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya will begin on Republic Day after a flag hoisting ceremony, the Trust constituted to build the mosque announced on Sunday.

Apart from a mosque, a museum, a library, a community kitchen, the Indo-Islamic Cultural Research Centre and a publication house will also be constructed on the five acre plot allotted by the Supreme Court.

The mosque will be built on 15,000 square feet and it will be the same size as that of the demolished Babri mosque. The mosque is likely to have a unique, square design, similar to that of the Kaaba in Mecca.

The mosque is coming up in the Uttar Pradesh district pursuant to the Supreme Court verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi case.

"At a meeting of the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation (IICF), it was decided that Republic Day will be celebrated with the start of the Dhannipur Mosque Project, which includes a hospital, a museum, a library, a community kitchen, the Indo-Islamic Cultural Research Centre, a publication house and a mosque, secretary and spokesperson of the Trust Athar Hussain said in a statement on Sunday.

He said at 8.30 am on January 26, the national flag will be hoisted on the five-acre plot of the project, which will be followed by plantation of tree saplings by the chief trustee and the member trustees of the IICF.

At a virtual meet chaired by IICF president Zufar Ahmad Farooqi and attended by all the nine trustees, the progress of the trust activities, especially the procedural delay in getting the 12-A/80-G clearances under the Income-Tax Act and the proceedings for the opening of an FCRA account, was discussed, the statement noted.

"It was decided to make a formal beginning of the project by applying for the plan clearance from the Ayodhya District Board and start the soil testing process at the five-acre plot," it added.

As the focus of the project is to give community service in the area with a determined effort to create awareness on climate change, Hussain proposed that the formal start of the project should be made by planting tree saplings on the five-acre plot of land.

As envisaged in the project, a green area, which will have plants from all over the world -- from the Amazon rainforest to areas in Australia that report bushfires -- and from all different geographical regions of India will be developed to create awareness on the imminent threat posed by climate change.

The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board has formed the IICF, a trust, for the construction of the mosque on the five-acre plot.

The state government has allotted the plot in Dhannipur for the construction of the mosque on the directions of the Supreme Court.

After a protracted legal tussle, the apex court on November 9, 2019 ruled in favour of the construction of a Ram temple at a disputed site in Ayodhya and directed the Centre to allot an alternative five-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a new mosque at a "prominent" place in the holy town in Uttar Pradesh.

The Babri mosque in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992 by "karsevaks", who claimed that an ancient Ram temple stood at the same site.

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-ayodhya-mosque-construction-to-begin-on-republic-day-architecture-likely-to-resemble-kaaba/370916

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Islamic Terrorist West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee Will Have To Take Refuge In Bangladesh After Bengal Polls: UP Minister's Shocker

17th January 2021

BALLIA: Uttar Pradesh minister Anand Swaroop Shukla on Sunday called West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee an "Islamic terrorist" and said she will have to take refuge in Bangladesh after the assembly elections in her state.

The UP Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs alleged that the West Bengal CM "does not believe in Bharatiyata (Indianness)" and insulted Hindu gods and goddesses.

"She is an Islamic terrorist. She has worked to break the temples and insult gods and goddesses in West Bengal. She is acting at the behest of Bangladesh," the minister said.

"Mamata Banerjee will be defeated badly in the assembly polls, after which she will have to take refuge in Bangladesh," Shukla added, referring to the upcoming assembly polls in West Bengal.

The minister further said the Muslims who say "Bharat Mata ki Jai" and "Vande Mataram" will be honoured in the country.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/jan/17/islamic-terrorist-mamatawill-have-to-take-refugee-in-bangladesh-after-bengal-polls-up-ministers-s-2251380.html

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'Love jihad' stems from idea of stigmatising interfaith marriages, says Naseeruddin Shah

17th January 2021

MUMBAI: Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah has expressed concerns over the divide being created in the country between Hindus and Muslims in the name of love jihad.

The 70-year-old actor made the comments in a video interview with Karwan-e-Mohabbat India, shared on its YouTube channel on Sunday.

"I am really furious with the way divisions are being created, like the love jihad tamasha in UP. Firstly, the people who coined this phrase don't know the meaning of the word jihad.

"I don't think that anyone would be so stupid to actually believe that Muslims will overtake the Hindu population, it is unimaginable. For that, Muslims will have to have so many babies. So, this whole notion is unreal," Shah said in the interview.

Last year in November, Uttar Pradesh became the first state in India to pass an ordinance against forcible or "dishonest" religious conversions.

In the last few months, states like Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have also revealed plans to enact laws to counter alleged attempts to convert Hindu women to Islam in the guise of marriage, which political leaders often refer to as ''love jihad".

The "Bandish Bandits" actor believes the term "love jihad" stems from the idea of stigmatising inter-faith marriages and stop social interactions between Hindus and Muslims.

"They not only want to discourage interfaith marriages but also curtail social interactions between Hindus and Muslims," he added.

Shah, who is married to theatre-film actor Ratna Pathak Shah, said he always believed that his marriage to a Hindu woman would set a "healthy precedent".

"We have taught our children about every religion. But we have never told them that they belong to any particular religion. I always believed that these differences would slowly fade away. I believed that my marriage to a Hindu woman would set a healthy precedent. I don't think this is wrong," he said.

The actor said when he was about to tie the knot with the Ratna Pathak Shah, his mother had asked if he would want his would-be wife to convert to his religion and his answer was no.

Shah said even though his mother was uneducated and was brought up in an orthodox household, she was completely against the idea of changing one's religion.

"My mother who was uneducated, brought up in an orthodox household, prayed five times a day, observed Roza all her life, went for the Haj pilgrimage, she said, 'The things that have been taught to you in your childhood how can that change? It is not right to change one's religion'," he said.

The critically-acclaimed performer said he feels saddened to see the harassment young couples are facing these days in the name of "love jihad".

"This is not the world I had dreamt of," he added.

In a 2018 interview with Karwan-e-Mohabbat, Shah had said that at many places the death of a cow is being given more importance than the killing of a policeman.

The veteran actor had also expressed anxiety over the well-being of his children, who he said have not been brought up as followers of any particular religion.

Soon after the interview was released online, the actor's remark evoked outrage among some social media users.

In the new interview, Shah said he failed to understand the reason behind such an adverse reaction to his statement.

"All I had said was that the death of a cow had taken precedence over the death of a person and it makes me very angry. This was misinterpreted that I was expressing fear, when in fact I never used the word fear.

"I have repeatedly said that I am not afraid. I am angry. Why should I be afraid? I am in my own country; I am at my own home. Five generations of my family are buried in this land. My ancestors have been living here for the last three hundred years. If this doesn't make me a Hindustani, then what does?" he asked.

The actor said it has become difficult for a person to share their views publicly due to fear of instant backlash.

"The difficult part is there is no possibility of (freely) exchanging ideas anymore. If you say anything, even in support of the nation, you are accused instantly," Shah added.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/entertainment/hindi/2021/jan/17/love-jihadstems-from-idea-of-stigmatising-interfaith-marriages-says-naseeruddin-shah-2251333.html

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Surgical strikes in Pakistan gave public confidence that borders are safe under Modi-led BJP govt: Amit Shah

Jan 17, 2021

BELAGAVI: The surgical strikes carried out by India inside Pakistan after the terror attacks in Uri and Pulwama had given public the confidence that the nation's borders are safe under the Narendra Modi led BJP government, Union home minister Amit Shah said here on Sunday.

A determined government had responded fiercely to the terror attacks in Uri and Pulwama in Kashmir between 2014 and 2019, he said.

"The BJP government carried out surgical strikes inside Pakistan twice and eliminated terrorists there," Shah said.

These strikes gave confidence to the public that the nation's borders are safe because Modi is the Prime Minister and the country is ruled by the BJP, he said, speaking at the Janasevak Samavesha, a public meeting to greet BJP backed candidates who won the recent Panchayat polls in Karnataka.

Out of a total of 5,470 villages, party backed candidates won in 3,142 villages, he said.

Referring to the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination drive, launched nationwide on Saturday, he said both vaccines are safe and the exercise was being monitored personally by the Prime Minister himsel

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/surgical-strikes-in-pakistan-gave-public-confidence-that-borders-are-safe-under-modi-led-bjp-govt-amit-shah/articleshow/80315293.cms

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Uttar Pradesh government to take back 173 acres of land of Azam Khan’s Jauhar Trust

January 18, 2021

In more trouble for Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, the Rampur district administration has passed an order to take back 173 acres of land of Jauhar Trust, headed by the former minister and his family.

Additional District Government Counsel (Revenue) Ajay Tiwari said the order to take back the land was passed by ADM (Administration) Jagdamba Prasad Gupta after the court found that the Jauhar Trust was not following the conditions set by the state government during the sale of the land in 2005.

“When a person or organization has to buy more than 12.5 acres of land, then permission has to be sought from the state government. The state government had set some conditions at the time of the sale of this particular land. One of the conditions set by the state government was that the land would be used for charitable work. The court found that it was not being done. Other conditions included that no purchase will be done from people who belong to SC and ST categories and that gram samaj land will not be taken over. The UP Revenue Act rules were also being violated by the Trust. The land will now be registered in the name of the government in revenue records,” Tiwari said.

The said land comes under the category of gram sabha land.

“He (Azam Khan) had also taken over some land which was supposed to be a public road, and there is also some Enemy Property, which has been acquired for the university by the Trust,” Tiwari said, adding: “During a probe by Rampur district administration, it was found that the Trust was not following the conditions laid down in 2005. He was asked by the ADM court to present his side which he did not do,” said Tiwari.

The Mohammad Ali Jauhar University, run by the Jauhar Trust, is spread on 300 acres of land in Rampur district. The Trust is headed by Azam, who has been in jail along with his son Abdullah since February last year. His wife, Tanzeen Fatima, was granted bail in December. The three had surrendered in court in a forgery case on February 26.

“The court has ordered that the land be registered in the name of the government in the coming days,” said Tiwari.

Last January, a Prayagraj revenue board court had also directed the government to take over approximately 100 bighas of land in Rampur allegedly purchased from 12 Dalit farmers under coercion.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/uttar-pradesh-government-to-take-back-173-acres-of-land-of-azam-khans-jauhar-trust-7150471/

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Pakistan army resorts to unprovoked firing along LoC in J&K's Poonch

Jan 17, 2021

JAMMU: The Pakistan army resorted to unprovoked firing and shelling of mortars along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district on Sunday, a defence spokesperson said.

The firing with small arms and shelling of mortars from across the LoC started around 10.30 pm in the Balakote sector, he added.

The Indian Army retaliated befittingly, the spokesperson said, adding that there was no immediate report of any damage.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-army-resorts-to-unprovoked-firing-along-loc-in-jks-poonch/articleshow/80317490.cms

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North America

 

Fifty Organizations urge Biden to reject Houthi ‘terrorist’ designation by Trump admin.

17 January 2021

Fifty organizations have written a letter to US President-elect Joe Biden, urging him to reject the Trump administration’s designation of Yemen’s Houthis as “terrorists,” arguing that the move is a “recipe for more conflict,” in the war-ravaged country.

“Our coalition joins a chorus of growing opposition to the designation, including a bipartisan group of members of Congress, multiple humanitarian organizations operating on the ground in Yemen, and former career diplomats who have served both Republican and Democratic presidents,” read the letter after blaming both sides of the conflict for the situation in the impoverished country under US-backed aggression from Saudi and the UAE.

Days before President Donald Trump’s tenure ends, hawkish Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled the measure against the Ansarullah movement on Monday.

“Rather than being a catalyst for peace, these designations are a recipe for more conflict and famine, while unnecessarily further undermining US diplomatic credibility,” read the letter to the incoming president. “No evidence supports the need for such designations, a fact pointed out in a letter last month by former US diplomats who expressed concern that ‘will complicate... efforts to bring the conflict to a negotiated end and begin the long process of stabilizing and reconstructing Yemen.’”

Saudi Arabia has been leading a war on Yemen since March 2015 against the Houthi movement.

“America is the source of terrorism,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a member of Yemen's Supreme Political Council twitted on Monday. “The Trump administration’s policy and actions are terrorist. We reserve the right to respond to any designation issued by the Trump administration or any administration.”

US lawmakers in both parties have pushed back on the State Department’s decision to label the  Houthis as a terrorist organization.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/17/643176/Biden-urged-to-reject-Houthi-terrorist-designation

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Iranian missiles land within 100 miles from US aircraft carrier: Fox News

16 January 2021

Long-range missiles from Iran landed 100 miles from the Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group belonging to the United States, Fox News has reported.

The missiles allegedly landed 20 miles from a commercial vessel in the Indian Ocean on Saturday, the network reported citing unnamed US officials.

“At least two Iranian ballistic missiles exploded on impact when they hit the ocean, sending shards of debris in all directions,” claimed the report.

One official claimed that, “we were expecting the missile launch.”

Iran's home-grown ballistic missiles destroyed mock enemy warships with pin-point accuracy hundreds of kilometers away in the northern Indian Ocean as the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) conducted massive military drills on Friday and Saturday.

During the second and last stage of the drills, codenamed the Great Prophet 15, the IRGC's missiles detected and destroyed targets sailing 1,800 kilometers away.

The IRGC units launched a barrage of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles as well as operations by offensive bomber drones on Friday.

Iran has time and again asserted that it stands ready to defend its interests in the region against aggression from the US or its allies.

Tensions remain high in the region during the last days of US President Donald Trump and his anti-Iran administration.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/16/643172/%E2%80%98Iran-missiles-land-within-100-miles-of-Nimitz-US-Fox-News

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Pakistan

 

Imran Khan 'criminal': Nawaz Sharif questions negligence in foreign funding case

JAN 17, 2021

Hitting out at Prime Minister Imran Khan for shifting the blame on the agents managing two US companies registered on his orders in the PTI foreign funding case, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif called the former "a criminal" and questioned why the Election Commission was not taking any action into the matter.

"Why is the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) not taking action when the evidence is clear-cut?" former Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif asked in a video message while mentioning that the country "is protesting against the ECP's negligence in fulfilling its Constitutional duties".

"Imran Khan, the man wearing the medal and shouting the slogan of Sadiq and Ameen, who did not tire when saying that accountability should begin with him [...] has now become the biggest obstacle for justice," he added.

Highlighting that several tactics are being used by Imran Khan to delay the probe, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) chief said, "In March 2018, the ECP had formed a scrutiny committee and directed that a report be submitted in one month. Approximately two-and-a-half years later, there is still no report."

"Finally in his seventh year, Imran Khan has accepted that things have gone awry when it comes to foreign funding. But he has put the responsibility of this on his agents and said that they must have done this," he noted.

On the report submitted to the commission, Sharif said that the State Bank of Pakistan had given the ECP information about 23 accounts, 15 of which the Premier hid and did not include in the report given to the commission.

"He did not disclose the total amount, the source, and did not give a money trail or receipts," he said.

"If there is no corruption, then why was it hidden? Do these suspect accounts not come under the crime of money laundering? Where is the money trail? And why is the information not being given to the ECP and to the people?" he questioned.

He further said the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of 11 opposition parties, will protest in front of the ECP office in the capital on January 19, urging people to join the opposition's march and to save the country from "injustice", Dawn reported.

The foreign funding case against Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in November 2014 was registered by Akbar S Babar, one of the founding members of the party, alleging major financial irregularities in the party's accounts.

The allegations made by Babar included illegal sources of funding, concealment of bank accounts in the country and abroad, money laundering, and using private bank accounts of PTI employees as a front to receive illegal donations from the Middle East, Dawn reported.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/imran-khan-criminal-nawaz-sharif-questions-negligence-in-foreign-funding-case-101610845257335.html

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India spoiling Afghan peace process: Qureshi

Shakeel Ahmad

January 18, 2021

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that India is playing the role of a spoiler in the ongoing Afghan peace process.

“We have already conveyed our concerns to the Afghan government and the international community with evidence,” the minister said while speaking at a corner meeting in his constituency on Sunday.

Mr Qureshi claimed that after some steps taken by the PTI government regarding Kashmir, the international community’s stance on the Kashmir issue was changing.

“The world is now realising what we have been saying for the last two years. The British parliamentarians have categorically stated that Kashmir is a disputed issue of international level. This is an encouraging thing for Kashmiris as it will further expose India,” the foreign minister said.

About domestic politics, Mr Qureshi said there were differences within the Pakistan Democratic Movement over the long march.

“We are aware of the difference of opinion in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz while the JUI-F is also divided into two groups. Disappointment is prevailing in the rank and file of the PDM, but in order to motivate their workers, they are holding public meetings,” he said.

The minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had already announced that there would be no relief for the plunderers of national wealth.

Mr Qureshi said he believed that Seraiki areas should get recognition as no one could suppress the voices for a south Punjab province.

“The people of Wasaib will get their rights, no matter whether the PTI remains in power or not. The PTI believes in strengthening of federation and for concrete administrative structure and devolution of powers at grassroots level, we believe the establishment of south Punjab province is necessary,” he said.

Mr Qureshi said the previous governments had not only failed to establish a separate province, but also set up a separate secretariat.

“I have convinced the prime minister for a separate province and have laid the foundation stone of it by establishing an independent secretariat,” he said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602130/india-spoiling-afghan-peace-process-qureshi

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Hindu community leader demands protection for temple in Pakistan's Havelian

JAN 17, 2021

A leader of the minority Hindu community in Pakistan on Sunday demanded protection for a temple in Abbottabad district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province fearing an attack on the place of worship by some mischievous elements who wanted to occupy its land.

Hindu community leader Haroon Sarab Dayal said the temple in Havelian city is an old structure and now the land mafia is out to destroy this heritage.

"A handful of mischievous elements wanted to occupy the temple land in Havelian city to spread anarchy in the country," he told the media here.

Dayal said that the matter is not restricted to Havelian city temple. There are scores of other temples, dharma shalas, paat shalas, Gattu shalas, Anat Ashram, cremation grounds, satsung hall, gurdwaras and other worship places across Pakistan which needed to be protected and preserved, he added.

"We demand from the government to ensure protection to minorities places to avoid Terri like incident," he added.

In December, a temple in Terri village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Karak district was attacked by a mob after members of the Hindu community received permission from local authorities to renovate its decades-old building. The mob had demolished the newly constructed work alongside the old structure.

The attack on the temple in Terri village by members of radical Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party (Fazal ur Rehman group) drew strong condemnation from human rights activists and the minority Hindu community leaders, prompting the Supreme Court to order its reconstruction.

Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.

According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country.

The majority of Pakistan's Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with Muslim residents. They often complain of harassment by the extremists.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/hindu-community-leader-demands-protection-for-temple-in-pakistan-s-havelian-101610904007225.html

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Govt under PDM pressure to resign by 31st: PML-N

Aamir Yasin

January 18, 2021

RAWALPINDI: Rejecting a perception that Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman can be pressurised, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb on Sunday said the government was under immense pressure from the opposition alliance’s movement to resign by Jan 31.

“Due to PDM movement to get the resignation of the ‘incompetent’ government, the PTI ministers are making a hue and cry as the people supported the stance of the opposition,” she said while talking to reporters after an organisational meeting of the PML-N’s Rawalpindi chapter.

She said the PDM called a meeting to chalk out the plan for a protest outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) under the chairmanship of Mau­la­na Fazl at his residence on Monday (today).

Ms Aurangzeb said PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz would attend the PDM meeting and would also lead a rally from Rawalpindi. However, she said the place where Ms Nawaz would arrive in Rawalpindi would be informed to the party workers on Monday.

“On January 19, lawyers, doctors, nurses and farmers will all have to leave their homes and join PDM [protest],” she said.

The PML-N spokesperson said the deadline for resignation of the “selected government” was Jan 31. “Setting the date of the foreign funding case on Feb 13 is a result of our pressure. I hope the Election Commission will not come under pressure to make decision in the case,” she said.

She said the government had put “our leaders in the jails; how can we be given a tough time?” Ms Aurangzeb said the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf would be declared guilty in the foreign funding case, adding that all the evidence was available with the ECP.

She said Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was incompetent and the PTI government failed to deliver due to incompetency.

Talking about uplift schemes of the previous PML-N government, she said it was not a ‘selected’ government that destroyed the economy of the country, adding that during his tenure, Nawaz Sharif had put the country on development path.

Ms Aurangzeb said the PML-N regime had spent the national wealth on the welfare of the people, produced 14,000 megawatts of electricity, run metro buses and constructed hospitals. On the other hand, she added, the PTI government got Rs14,000 billion loan over the last two-and-a-half years, but failed to launch any development project in the country.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602128/govt-under-pdm-pressure-to-resign-by-31st-pml-n

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Power corridors far for Fazl, says Ashrafi

January 18, 2021

LAHORE: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Interfaith Harmony and Middle East Affairs Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi says the power corridors of Islamabad are still too far for Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Speaking at a press conference here on Sunday, he said he respected JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman but he wished to make it clear to the opposition leader that the corridors of power in Islamabad were still far from his reach.

Referring to Maulana Fazl’s threat of sit-in in Rawalpindi, he said that if the JUI-F leader wished so, he could be presented halwa along with tea there.

Answering a question about the opposition parties’ proposed protest outside the Election Commission offices in Islamabad, he said he could only request the protesting parties not to bring innocent students of religious schools to the protest.

He told a questioner that Maulana Ajmal Qadri had claimed that he had visited Israel after taking into confidence Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif and asked what action against Maulana Qadri was taken by the then rulers for visiting a country not recognised by Islamabad.

He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government was making efforts for international legislation against blasphemy. He said violation of code of conduct and hateful speech by Ulema and Mashaykh would no more be tolerated. He said that interfaith harmony councils would reinforce interreligious dialogue in the country.

Ashrafi said ties with Arab Muslim countries would be improved by expanding cooperation in different areas. He made it clear that Saudi Arab never intervened in internal and external issues of Pakistan, adding that sources had confirmed that Saudi King Shah Salman had not invited Nawaz Sharif to visit his country.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602092/power-corridors-far-for-fazl-says-ashrafi

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South Asia

 

Gunmen shoot dead two women judges of Afghanistan's Supreme Court in Kabul; Ashraf Ghani blames Taliban

January 17, 2021

Kabul: Gunmen shot dead two Afghan women judges working for the Supreme Court in an early morning ambush in the country's capital Sunday, officials said, as a wave of assassinations continues to rattle the nation.

Violence has surged across Afghanistan in recent months despite ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and government — especially in Kabul, where a new trend of targeted killings aimed at high-profile figures has sown fear in the restive city.

The latest attack, which President Ashraf Ghani blamed on the Taliban, comes just two days after the Pentagon announced it had cut troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500, the fewest in nearly two decades.

The attack on the judges happened as they were driving to their office in a court vehicle, said Ahmad Fahim Qaweem, a spokesman for the Supreme Court. "Unfortunately, we have lost two women judges in today's attack. Their driver is wounded," Qaweem told AFP.

There are more than 200 female judges working for the country's top court, the spokesman added.

Kabul police confirmed the attack.

Afghanistan's Supreme Court was a target in February 2017 when a suicide bomb ripped through a crowd of court employees, killing at least 20 and wounding 41.

Ghani blamed the Taliban for Sunday's murders, accusing them of launching an "illegitimate war and hostility".

"The government once again reiterates its call on the Taliban that violence, terror, brutality and crimes... will only prolong the war in the country," he said in a statement issued by the presidential palace. "They (Taliban) in order to show their real intent (for peace) should accept a permanent ceasefire."

'Appalling attack'

The top British envoy to Kabul, Alison Blake, condemned the "appalling targeted attack" on the judges. "We condemn this and all attacks on civilians and call for an urgent investigation into those responsible," she said on Twitter.

In recent months, several prominent Afghans — including politicians, journalists, activists, doctors and prosecutors— have been assassinated in often brazen daytime attacks in Kabul and other cities. Many journalists and activists have left the country, worried they might the next targets.

Afghan officials have steadfastly blamed the Taliban for the assassinations, a charge the insurgent group has denied. Some of these killings have been claimed by the rival jihadist Islamic State group.

Earlier this month the US military for the first time directly accused the Taliban of orchestrating the attacks. "The Taliban's campaign of unclaimed attacks and targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders and journalists must... cease for peace to succeed," Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, said on Twitter.

The targeted killings have surged despite the Taliban and Afghan government engaging in peace talks in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Afghan government negotiators engaged in peace talks with their Taliban counterparts are pushing for a permanent ceasefire as part of the agenda for the talks, but the insurgents so far have dismissed the calls for any type of truce.

The Taliban carried out more than 18,000 attacks in 2020, Afghanistan's spy chief Ahmad Zia Siraj told lawmakers earlier this month.

On Friday, the Pentagon announced it had cut troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500 as part of its deal with the Taliban to withdraw all troops from the country by May 2021.

That deal was struck in return for security guarantees from the insurgents and a commitment to peace talks with the Afghan government.

https://www.firstpost.com/world/gunmen-shoot-dead-two-women-judges-of-afghanistans-supreme-court-in-kabul-ashraf-ghani-blames-taliban-9210411.html

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Taliban praise continued US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

Jan 16, 2021

KABUL: The Taliban welcomed the latest withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan with the insurgents' spokesman Saturday calling the continued reduction of American forces a "good advancement" even as fighting raged across the war-weary country.

The Taliban's statement came just hours after the Pentagon announced it had cut troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500, their lowest numbers during the nearly two decades of fighting.

Washington struck a deal with the Taliban in Qatar last year to begin withdrawing its troops in return for security guarantees from the militants and a commitment to peace talks with Kabul.

Those talks are ongoing, but have stalled amid violence and allegations of slow progress.

Meanwhile the Taliban has continued its lethal assaults on Afghan security forces and civilians alike.

"The withdrawal of other US forces from Afghanistan, which was announced by the US yesterday, is a good advancement and practical measure," tweeted Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem.

"Undoubtedly, the practice of the agreement signed between the IEA and the US is in the benefit of both countries and nations," he added, referring to the Taliban's official acronym.

Outgoing President Donald Trump, seeking to fulfil a campaign promise to end the US wars launched in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 attacks, had ordered force levels to be slashed in both countries to that level by January 15 -- despite initial pushback from the Pentagon.

Both the Taliban and Afghan government however are anxiously eyeing the arrival of President-elect Joe Biden in Washington and any new policy directions that might be implemented by the incoming administration.

The US invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban regime then in place had hosted Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The regime was quickly toppled but launched an insurgency and in recent years have seen a resurgence, with violence soaring across the country since NATO withdrew its combat forces in 2014 and civilians paying a disproportionate price.

Earlier Saturday Afghan officials said two Taliban fighters had infiltrated a base of pro-government Afghan militiamen in western Herat province, killing 12 security forces.

And in a separate incident, a vehicle carrying police was struck by a roadside bomb in the Afghan capital Kabul, which killed two policemen and wounded one other.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/taliban-praise-continued-us-troop-withdrawal-from-afghanistan/articleshow/80302856.cms

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Hefazat: Case over Shafi's death is fabricated

January 16th, 2021

Anwar Hussain

Case filed by ‘evil quarter’ to destabilize country, Islamist group claims

The case filed over the death of Shah Ahmad Shafi is completely fabricated, according to the top brass of radical Islamist platform Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh.

In a joint press statement on Saturday, Hefazat leaders  claimed the case was filed by an “evil quarter” with the aim of creating anarchy and destabilizing the country.

“Shafi’s death was natural and this is a settled issue. The death certificate issued by the hospital authorities also cited it as a natural death. Holding someone responsible for the death is tantamount to an outright lie,” said the statement.

“Shafi was a long-time rector of Al-Jamiatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam, also known as Hathazari Madrasa, and chief of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh. He was a father figure for all the Qawmi seminaries of the country. It is now crystal clear that a vested quarter is trying to gain political mileage by filing a trumped-up case, when devout Muslims are deeply shocked at the sad demise of Shafi,” it added.

The statement further said the students at Hathazari Madrassa were compelled to wage a peaceful movement to press home legitimate demands due to the high-handedness of Anas Madani, younger son of Shafi. There was no provocation behind the student movement, but a vested quarter filed a case accusing 36 Alems three months after Shafi’s death.

The Hefazat leaders threatened to wage a tough movement if the case was not withdrawn immediately.

Shafi’s brother-in-law filed the murder case with a Chittagong court on December 17. Taking the case into cognizance, the court ordered the Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) to investigate.

A total of 36 people, including Hefazat Central Joint Secretary General Mamunul Haque, were made accused in the murder case.

According to the case documents, Shafi was confined to Hathazari Madrasa during the student movement, despite his illness,  and the accused vandalized his room.

The ambulance carrying Shafi was also obstructed, with In’amul Hasan Faruqi playing a key role. Shafi was mentally tortured and his oxygen mask was removed during the unrest at Hathazari Madrasa.

Shafi died while undergoing treatment at Asgar Ali Hospital in Dhaka on September 18.

Hefazat was formed in 2010 and came to prominence by mobilizing opposition to the Shahbagh Movement in early 2013. It was then that its leaders issued their now infamous 13-point charter, which included demands for the death penalty for atheists and certain restrictions on social gathering between men and women.

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/politics/2021/01/16/hefazat-case-over-shafi-s-death-is-fabricated

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Bangladesh Again Denies Al-Qaeda Presence

2021-01-15

Bangladesh strongly rejected U.S. charges this week that al-Qaeda cells had committed attacks on the South Asian nation, although the U.S. State Department had documented such incidents in its annual reports on terrorism around the world.

In a talk in Washington on Tuesday on al-Qaeda’s “new home base in Iran,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said that if Iran were to give the terror group support and access to satellite networks, it could “increase turmoil in places like Bangladesh, where al-Qaeda cells have carried out attacks.”

Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry issued a sharp rebuttal the following day.

“Mr. Pompeo mentioned Bangladesh as a place where the terrorist group al-Qaeda carried out attacks, falsely apprehending similar terrorist attacks in future,” it said in a statement.

“Such irresponsible comments by a senior leader are very unfortunate and unacceptable. Bangladesh strongly rejects these kinds of baseless remarks and falsification,” the ministry said.

Asked to respond to the ministry’s comment, a State Department spokesperson chose to highlight counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries.

“The United States and Bangladesh collaborate on a range of shared priorities, including counterterrorism.  We appreciate our close counterterrorism cooperation with the Government of Bangladesh.”

Each year the U.S. State Department is required by law to report to Congress how countries around the world are faring in efforts to defeat international terrorist groups.

Its “Country Reports on Terrorism” note that Bangladesh consistently denies the presence of transnational terrorist groups on its soil, as well as ties between such groups and Bangladesh-based militants.

“While the Bangladeshi government often attributed terrorist violence to local militants, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and ISIS have together claimed responsibility for nearly 40 attacks in Bangladesh since 2015,” said the Country Reports on Terrorism 2018.

“Bangladeshi militants have been featured in multiple publications, videos, and websites associated with ISIS and AQIS,” it said.

ISIS is another acronym for the so-called Islamic State group, a terrorist network that emerged in the past decade as a rival to al-Qaeda.

An AQIS-affiliated group attacked writer Zafar Iqbal in 2018 after branding him an “enemy of Islam,” and the group was also suspected in the murder of secular writer and political activist Shahzahan Bachchu the same year, according to State Department reports.

AQIS claimed two attacks in 2016, including the April 25 murder of U.S. embassy local employee Xulhaz Mannan and his friend K. Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy. “In both cases, the assailants used machetes,” the State Department reported that year.

Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) and Ansar al-Islam, groups affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), claimed responsibility for the brutal murders of several secular writers and bloggers between 2013 and 2016, BenarNews reported at the time.

For instance, the South Asian branch of al-Qaeda claimed it carried out the machete-killing of secular blogger Niladri Chottopaddhya after breaking into his home in the suburbs of Dhaka in August 2015.

“We declare war against these worst enemies of Allah and His messenger,” Mufti Abdullah Ashraf, who claimed to be the group’s spokesman, said in an email sent to news outlets after the murder.

“If your ‘Freedom of Speech’ maintains no limits, then widen your chests for ‘Freedom of our Machetes’,” the email concluded.

https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/bengali/bd-us-alqaeda-01152021173624.html

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Arab World

 

Egypt seizes assets of Mursi, 88 Muslim Brotherhood members

18 Jan 2021

CAIRO, Jan 18 — An Egyptian court yesterday ordered the seizure of assets of former president Mohamed Mursi and 88 other members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, a judicial source said.

“The Court for Urgent Matters... ordered the seizure of the assets of 89 leaders and members of the Brotherhood, and their transfer to the treasury,” the source told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

Islamist Mursi died in June 2019 while on trial, after six years in prison. The seizure applies to assets inherited by his family.

The move also targets the Brotherhood’s supreme guide Mohamed Badie, his deputy Khairat al-Shater, and former legislator Mohamed Beltagy, all imprisoned.

The source did not specify the value of the assets.

The seizure is one of several initiated by a commission charged with implementing a 2018 law on the “organisation and management of the assets of terrorists and terrorist groups”.

Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, was ousted by the army after a year in power, on the back of mass protests against his presidency in 2013.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a retired general who led the military at the time of Mursi’s removal, has since overseen a crackdown on dissent.

Egypt has jailed thousands of members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood — blacklisted as a “terrorist” organisation in 2013 — and executed dozens, while others have fled the country. — AFP

https://www.malaymail.com/news/world/2021/01/18/egypt-seizes-assets-of-mursi-88-muslim-brotherhood-members/1941422

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Lebanon’s Patriarch tells feuding President Aoun and PM-designate Hariri to reconcile

17 January 2021

Lebanon’s top Christian cleric has urged President Michel Aoun to set up a reconciliation meeting with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to form a cabinet and end the country’s political deadlock.

The country’s fractious politicians have been unable to agree on a new administration since the last one quit in the aftermath of the August 4 Beirut port explosion, leaving Lebanon rudderless as it sinks deeper into economic crisis.

Tensions between Aoun and Hariri, who publicly traded blame in December after failing to agree a cabinet, came to a head last week when a leaked video showed Aoun apparently calling Hariri a liar.

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai said at his Sunday sermon that the situation in Lebanon was now “tragic” and there was no excuse to further delay forming a government.

“We wish that his excellency the president take the initiative and invite the prime minister-designate to a meeting.”

Hariri was named premier for a fourth time in October, promising to form a cabinet of specialists to enact reforms necessary to unlock foreign aid, but political wrangling has delayed the process since.

The leaked video that circulated on social media last week showed Aoun talking to caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab about Hariri.

“There is no government formation, he (Hariri) is saying he gave me a paper, he is lying,” Aoun is heard saying.

Sources in the president’s office said the dialogue had been taken out of context and was not complete.

After the video circulated, Hariri tweeted biblical verses referring to wisdom not residing in bodies that were amenable to sin.

The souring of the relationship between Aoun and Hariri comes as the country continues to struggle with an acute financial crisis that has seen the currency sink by about 80 percent.

Lebanon’s healthcare system is also buckling under the pressure of a severe spike in COVID-19 infections. Medical supplies have dwindled as dollars have grown scarce.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/17/Lebanon-s-Patriarch-tells-feuding-President-Aoun-and-PM-designate-Hariri-to-reconcile

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Beirut blast chemicals possibly linked to Syrian businessmen: Report, company filing

17 January 2021

The company that bought the ammonium nitrate which exploded in Beirut last August had possible links to two Syrian businessmen under US sanctions for ties to President Bashar al-Assad, according to a report by a Lebanese journalist and London company filings.

Savaro Ltd, the trading firm which procured the chemicals in 2013, shared a London address with companies linked to George Haswani and Imad Khoury, according to the report by documentary film-maker Firas Hatoum, which aired on Lebanon’s al-Jadeed TV station this week.

Haswani, Khoury and his brother Mudalal Khoury have all been sanctioned by Washington for supporting Assad’s war effort. All three are joint Syrian-Russian nationals, according to the US sanctions list and a database that gathers data from official Russian institutions.

The US Treasury accused Mudalal Khoury in 2015 of “an attempted procurement of ammonium nitrate in late 2013”. It sanctioned his brother Imad a year later for engaging in business activities with Mudalal. Haswani was sanctioned in 2015 on charges of helping Assad’s government to buy oil from ISIS militants, which he has denied.

In reviewing filings with Companies House, the UK’s companies registry, Reuters found that Savaro and Hesco Engineering and Construction Company Ltd, a firm subject to US sanctions for its links to Haswani, both moved their corporate registers - official company records - to the same London address on June 25, 2011.

That address was also the registered office for IK Petroleum Industrial Company Ltd, in which Imad Khoury was a director, the filings show.

Dozens of companies can share listed addresses and such links do not necessarily prove company owners are connected. But it is rare for firms to move their registers, particularly to the same address on the same day, according to a Reuters review of filings by hundreds of companies.

Reuters located the agent which had helped register Hesco, but it did not respond to attempts to seek comment about Hesco’s relationship with Savaro. Reuters could not determine if Haswani controlled Savaro, which might have provided a possible indication of his involvement in the procurement of the ammonium nitrate which exploded in Beirut.

Imad Khoury denied links to Savaro. “There is a registrar in London, many companies are registered by it, not just mine,” he told Reuters. “I don’t know this Savaro.”

Mudalal Khoury said there was “no logic” behind laying blame for the Beirut explosion on a company registered at a London address where many others are also registered.

Reuters could not reach Haswani for comment. His son told Reuters in Moscow that his father was unlikely to comment on allegations of links to the chemicals because they are “total nonsense”.

Call for investigation

The findings about the possible links between Savaro and the Syrian businessmen have raised questions among some in Beirut over whether the ammonium nitrate, which is used for fertilizer but also explosives, may have been destined for Syria.

“We want this to be investigated,” Youssef Lahoud, a lawyer who represents around 1,400 victims of the blast, told Reuters.

“It may lead us nowhere or it may be the thread that unravels but we must follow up.”

Lebanese Justice Minister Marie Claude Najm told Reuters the report should be investigated, as with any other allegations related to the ongoing probe into the blast, which is in the hands of the investigating judge and is confidential.

The Companies House register identifies a Cypriot national, Marina Psyllou, as director and majority owner of Savaro since 2016. Psyllou told Reuters in an email on Friday that she does not manage or own Savaro. She did not respond to questions about Haswani.

The Beirut blast killed 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed entire neighborhoods. Officials have said the chemicals went up in flames after being stored at the port in poor conditions for years.

The ammonium nitrate was loaded onto a ship called the Rhosus in Georgia, shipping records show, before making an unscheduled stop in Lebanon in late 2013. It never left, becoming tangled in a legal dispute. The Mozambican firm that ordered the nitrate, FEM, has said it ordered the shipment through Savaro Ltd.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/17/Beirut-blast-chemicals-possibly-linked-to-Syrian-businessmen-report-company-filing

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Saudi Arabia, Jordan’s FMs discuss regional issues in Riyadh meeting

Tamara Abueish

16 January 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in Riyadh to discuss the bilateral relationship between the two countries and regional developments.

“In today’s meeting, we discussed a number of issues of common interest, and developments in regional and international issues, foremost of which is the Middle East peace process,” Prince Faisal said.

“During the meeting, we stressed the need to reach a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.”

The two also discussed the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Libya, as well as Iranian and Turkish interference in the affairs of countries in the region, the Kingdom’s foreign minister said.

“We also discussed the situation in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Libya, in addition to Iranian and Turkish interference in the affairs of the countries of the region and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Prince Faisal.

For his part, Safadi said that the relationship between Jordan and Saudi Arabia is “historical and strategic,” adding that the two countries are working together to achieve security and stability in the region.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2021/01/16/Saudi-Arabia-s-FM-says-discussed-Palestine-conflict-Iranian-regime-with-Jordan-s-FM

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PMU chief reiterates that US military forces must withdraw from Iraq

17 January 2021

The chairman of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units has underlined the need to implement the parliamentary resolution requesting the government to end the presence of foreign forces in the country and reiterating that all American troops must leave Iraq.

“Iraqis have proved that their country will not be submissive to anyone. We want relations with everyone, but ties must be anchored in dignity, respect for sovereignty and mutual interests,” Falih al-Fayyadh said on Sunday at a ceremony in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, marking the first martyrdom anniversary of top Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a US terrorist drone strike.

General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Muhandis, the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), were assassinated along with their companions in the strike authorized by US President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.

Both commanders were admired by Muslim nations for eliminating the US-sponsored Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

The US assassination drew a wave of condemnation from officials and movements throughout the world, and triggered huge public protests across the region.

Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill two days after the attack, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

Early on January 8 last year, the IRGC targeted the US-run Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq’s Anbar to retaliate the assassination of General Soleimani.

According to the US Defense Department, more than 100 American forces suffered “traumatic brain injuries” during the counterstrike on the base. The IRGC, however, says Washington uses the term to mask the number of the Americans who perished during the retaliation.

Iran has described the missile attack on Ain al-Assad air base as a “first slap.”

Elsewhere in his remarks on Sunday, Fayyadh recounted the invasion of Anbar province by al-Qaeda and Daesh, and warned against the hateful ideology of the terrorists and their sponsors, which pivots on incitement of sectarian strife and division of Iraq.

“Islam is the religion of love, friendship, brotherhood and equality; but they (the terrorists) wanted to provoke an ethnic conflict and partition Iraq through their distorted beliefs,” he said.

Fayyadh also denounced the January 13 decision by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to blacklist and impose sanctions against the deputy PMU chairman, Abdulaziz al-Mohammadawi, known as Abu Fadak.

He said Washington is in no position to decide for Iraqi commanders, stressing that the commanders are judged by the Iraqi nation as well as their capabilities in battle grounds.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement on January 8 it had blacklisted 64-year-old Fayyadh, accusing him of being responsible for a crackdown by security forces on anti-government demonstrations that gripped the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and later swept through several other cities in late 2019.

The demonstrations erupted as a result of public anger at corruption, mass unemployment and failing public services. Reports say some 550 people were killed and 30,000 injured. The protests caused then Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s resignation.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/17/643243/PMU-chief-US-forces-Iraq

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US-led military convoy enters northeastern Syria from Iraq: Report

17 January 2021

The US-led military coalition purportedly formed to fight the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group has reportedly sent a new convoy of trucks carrying military and logistical equipment to Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah, as Washington is seeking to maintain its grip on energy resources in Syria and loot natural reserves in the war-hit country.

The RT Arabic television news network, citing local sources, reported that a convoy of 35 trucks crossed the Waleed border crossing into Syrian territories from Iraq's northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on Saturday.

The sources added that the vehicles entered the Kurdish-populated city of Qamishli, and were carrying logistics as well as fuel supplies for US military forces in Hasakah and neighboring Dayr al-Zawr province.

The US military has stationed forces and equipment in northeastern Syria, with the Pentagon claiming that the troops deployment are aimed at preventing the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of Daesh terrorists. Damascus, however, says the deployment is meant to plunder the country's resources. 

The US first confirmed its looting of Syrian oil during a Senate hearing exchange between South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in late July last year.

On July 30 and during his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo confirmed for the first time that an American oil company would begin work in northeastern Syria, which is controlled by militants from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The Syrian government strongly condemned the agreement, saying that the deal was struck to plunder the country's natural resources, including oil and gas, under the sponsorship and support of the administration of US President Donald Trump.

‘Three Turkish soldiers killed in militant attack in northwest Syria’

Separately, three Turkish soldiers were killed in northwest Syria on Sunday as a group of militants attacked their military base.

Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network reported that the development took place in the northern sector of the beleaguered Idlib province.

On October 9, 2019, Turkey launched a cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in an attempt to push Kurdish militants affiliated with the so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG) — which Ankara views as a terror outfit — away from its borders.

Two weeks later, Russia and Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding that forced the YPG militants to withdraw from the Turkish-controlled “safe zone” in northeastern Syria, after which Ankara and Moscow began joint patrols around the area.

Turkey has since wrested control of several areas in northern Syria in addition to other Kurdish-controlled areas.

Damascus views the Turkish military presence on Syrian soil as an attack on the Arab country's sovereignty.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/17/643222/military-convoy-Qamishli

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Europe

 

EU’s Borrell urges Israel to facilitate Palestinian vote

16 January 2021

The European Union on Saturday welcomed a promise by Palestinian leaders to hold their first elections in 15 years, urging Israel to facilitate the ballots.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said elections would be held in May and July, as part of a warming of ties between his Fatah party and its Islamist rival Hamas.

“This is a welcome development,” said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

He said the bloc “stands ready to cooperate with relevant actors to support the electoral process” and urged Israel to “facilitate the holding of these elections throughout the Palestinian territory.”

The statement from Abbas said he expected polls to be held “in all governorates of Palestine, including east Jerusalem,” which was annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War but is considered occupied territory by much of the international community.

Israel bans all Palestinian Authority activity in east Jerusalem, and there was no indication Israel would allow a Palestinian vote within the city.

The 2005 Palestinian presidential vote saw Abbas elected with 62 percent support to replace the late Yasser Arafat.

In the last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, Hamas won an unexpected landslide.

The polls resulted in a brief unity government but it soon collapsed and in 2007, bloody clashes erupted in the Gaza Strip between the two principal Palestinian factions, with Hamas ultimately seizing control of Gaza.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/16/EU-s-Borrell-urges-Israel-to-facilitate-Palestinian-vote

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Belgian court postpones verdict in Iranian diplomat case

16 January 2021

A Belgian court on Saturday postponed until next month the verdict in the trial of an Iranian diplomat accused of plotting to bomb an exiled opposition group’s rally in France.

The case has caused tensions between Iran and several European countries, and shone an uncomfortable light on Tehran’s international activities.

Assadollah Assadi, a 48-year-old diplomat formerly based in Vienna, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of plotting to target the rally in Villepinte, outside Paris, on June 30, 2018.

The verdict was initially due on January 22 but the Antwerp court deferred it to February 4, without giving any reason for the delay.

Assadi denies any involvement in the plot, which was foiled by security services.

He has refused to appear at Antwerp Criminal Court, where he is on trial with three alleged accomplices, all of whom say they are innocent.

Lawyers for Nasimeh Naami and Amir Saadouni – a Belgian-Iranian couple arrested in possession of a bomb in their car on their way to France – claimed the explosive was not powerful enough to kill.

The lawyer for the third alleged accomplice, Mehrdad Arefani, described by the prosecution as a relative of Assadi, has denied his involvement and also pleaded for his acquittal.

Several well-known international figures – including Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer to US President Donald Trump – were at the event in Villepinte.

It was organized by the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), a group which includes the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (MEK).

The MEK is considered a “terrorist group” in Iran, and has been banned there since 1981.

Prosecutors are seeking an 18-year jail term for the couple found with the explosives, and 15 for Arefani.

In October 2018, France accused Iran’s ministry of intelligence of being behind the plot. Tehran has strongly denied the charges.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/17/Belgian-court-postpones-verdict-in-Iranian-diplomat-case-

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EU welcomes decision to hold elections in Palestine

Dilara Hamit  

17.01.2021

A European Commission spokesman on Saturday hailed Palestine's decision to hold general and presidential elections for the first time in 14 years.

"Palestine welcomes decree-law on holding legislative, presidential and National Council elections. Elected and democratic institutions are key for self-determination & state building. EU is ready to support the electoral process," Peter Stano said on Twitter.

"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's enacted a decree-law on holding legislative, presidential and National Council elections in the coming months starting with legislative elections on 22 May," said Stano.

He said that it was a welcomed development as participative, representative and accountable democratic institutions are key for Palestinian self-determination and state-building.

"The EU has in the past years consistently supported and funded the work of the Central Elections Commission in order to prepare for holding free, fair and inclusive elections for all Palestinians.

"The EU stands ready to engage with relevant actors to support the electoral process. The EU also calls on Israeli authorities to facilitate the holding of elections across all the Palestinian territory," he said.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/eu-welcomes-decision-to-hold-elections-in-palestine/2112637

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Africa

 

Nigeria army retakes military base from ISIS-linked militants

17 January 2021

Nigerian troops regained control of a military base in the northeast hours after it was seized by ISIS-linked militants, sources told AFP on Sunday.

The militants captured the base in Borno state on Saturday, after launching raids earlier in the week.

Officials blamed the violence on Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a group that split from Boko Haram in 2016.

The army has claimed some success recently, destroying at least one of the group’s camps located on islands in Lake Chad, on the borders of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

An army statement Saturday evening said its troops along with the air force had “effectively destroyed seven Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists’ gun trucks” and killed several of the fighters.

“The troops are still engaged in pursuit of the fleeing terrorists,” the statement added.

Sources told AFP on Sunday that the army had regained control of the base and the extremists had left Marte, the town where the base is located.

However, the barracks were completely burnt and the extremists made off with weaponry and vehicles.

Seven soldiers were killed during the fighting and eight others captured, sources said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2021/01/17/Nigeria-army-retakes-military-base-from-ISIS-linked-militants

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Sudanese protesters burn Israeli flag, condemn recent normalization deal

17 January 2021

Dozens of Sudanese demonstrators have burned the Israeli flag in the capital Khartoum to protest their country’s recent normalization deal with the Israeli regime.

Sudanese protesters gathered outside the cabinet offices on Sunday and chanted anti-Israel slogans to express their opposition to the normalization deal, which was signed earlier in January.

The demonstrators, who said they belonged to an anti-normalization group, carried banners that read “normalization is betrayal” and “normalization is a crime”.

They also carried banners that read “down with Abraham accords” and “Abraham Accords are American blackmail in exchange for submission.”

On January 6, Sudan’s Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed the so-called Abraham Accords with visiting US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, officially agreeing to normalize ties with the Israeli regime.

The normalization deal was immediately denounced by political parties in Sudan, followed by angry protesters taking to the streets to condemn the decision.

“The agreement allows Sudan, Israel and other signers of the Abraham Accords to build mutual trust and increase cooperation in the region,” the US embassy in Khartoum said at the time.

The deal came less than a month after Washington officially removed Sudan from its blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, 27 years after the US placed the African country on its blacklist.

Back in October, US President Donald Trump announced plans to delist Sudan from the blacklist, sending a notice to Congress on October 26, which gave Congress 45 days to object to the presidential directive.

After the 45 days came to an and, the US embassy announced in a statement on December 14 that the delisting has become effective.

“The congressional notification period of 45 days has lapsed and the Secretary of State has signed a notification stating rescission of Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation is effective as of today (December 14), to be published in the Federal Register,” the embassy said in a tweet.

By signing the so-called Abraham Accords, Sudan became the third Arab country since August — after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain — to officially agree, under US pressure, to a normalization deal with the regime in Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, Palestinians strongly denounced Sudan’s move as a betrayal of their cause.

In a statement, the resistance movement Hamas said the move has shocked Palestinians, Arab and Muslim nations, and freedom-loving people of the world.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has also protested the normalization deals, saying they will be fruitless as long as the US and the Israeli regime do not recognize the rights of the Palestinian people.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/17/643240/Sudan-protesters-burn-Israeli-flag-slam-Abraham-accords

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Riots break out in several Tunisian cities for second night

17 January 2021

Riots and violent clashes between Tunisian police and protesters broke out on Sunday in the capital Tunis and several other cities for the second consecutive day, as the country faces an unprecedented economic crisis.

Tunisian authorities said earlier that they had arrested 240 people, mostly teenagers, after violent clashes with police in several cities overnight and during the day on Sunday.

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

A decade on from a revolution against poverty, corruption and injustice, Tunisia has progressed towards democracy but its economic problems have worsened, with the country on the verge of bankruptcy and public services in a dire situation.

The protesters made no clear demands in demonstrations - which authorities described as riots - in at least 10 cities around the country.

In the run-down Ettadamen area of the capital, protesters, most of them teenagers, blocked roads and threw stones at police. Police fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse them on Sunday.

Clashes also spread to the Mnihla area of Tunis.

Internal Security Forces spokesman Walid Hkima said riot police had arrested 242 people, mostly teenagers and children who vandalized property and tried to rob shops and banks.

The protests pose a challenge for the government of Hicham Mechichi, who has reshuffled his cabinet amid an ongoing battle for political influence.

Rural central and southern regions of the country remain flashpoints for rioting.

Witnesses told Reuters that protests were held on Sunday in the central towns of Sbeitla and Kasserine, where police chased the protesters and fired tear gas.

In Jelma town in the governor of Sidi Bouzid, police dispersed youths who blocked roads and burned tires to protest against their marginalization and poverty.

Other protests were held in the cities of Ras Djbel, Ksar Hlel and Beja.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2021/01/17/Riots-break-out-in-several-Tunisian-cities-for-second-night

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Tunisia govt says dozens arrested during night disturbances despite lockdown

17 January 2021

Tunisian security forces arrested dozens of young people during consecutive nights of disturbances in the capital and other cities, a government spokesman said Sunday.

The disturbances come amid a nationwide lockdown imposed since Thursday – the 10 year anniversary of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s fall from power – as part of efforts to rein in surging coronavirus infections.

Interior ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni told AFP that dozens of young people, mostly aged between 14 and 17, were arrested after they took to the streets to loot and vandalize shopfronts and cars.

He also said those arrested stood accused of throwing stones at police in several locations across the country in two nights of violence that peaked on Saturday night.

Videos circulating on social media showed young people burning tires on roads, insulting the police and throwing stones.

Even before the recent lockdown, a four-day measure meant to expire on Sunday, Tunisia had since October been under a night-time curfew.

Footage also showed people forcing the doors of shops and stealing household appliances.

Sousse – a magnet for foreign holidaymakers in normal times, but hit hard by the ongoing pandemic – and other cities were also hit by the disturbances.

A decade on from the revolution, many Tunisians are increasingly angered by poor public services and a political class that has repeatedly proved unable to govern coherently.

The key tourism sector, already on its knees after a string of deadly extremist attacks in 2015, has been dealt a devastating blow by the pandemic.

Tunisia has registered over 177,000 coronavirus cases, including over 5,600 deaths from the disease.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2021/01/17/Tunisia-govt-says-dozens-arrested-during-night-disturbances-despite-lockdown

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Libya envoys to vote on key proposal for new executive: UN

17 January 2021

Envoys at talks aimed at ending nearly a decade of war in Libya will vote on Monday on a mechanism to choose an interim executive that would govern until elections in December, a top UN official said.

The talks, held first in Tunis and now in Geneva, are designed to pave the way for elections on December 24. Libya has been torn apart by civil war since the ousting of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

“The plenary will vote on this mechanism on Monday,” Stephanie Williams, head of the United Nations support mission in Libya, told journalists on Saturday.

Monday’s vote concerns a “temporary unified executive authority that will be replaced by a permanently democratically elected government, chosen by the Libyan people on December 24 of this year,” said Williams.

“It embodies the principles of full inclusivity, transparency and fair representation across regions and within different population groups,” she said.

“As I have repeatedly stated, this is a Libyan-Libyan solution. Our role is to support and facilitate.”

Libya was thrown into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled Gaddafi.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) controls Tripoli and most of the west, while a rival administration led by Khalifa Haftar who heads the Libyan National Army (LNA) controls Benghazi and the east.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2021/01/17/Libya-conflict-Libya-envoys-to-vote-on-key-proposal-for-new-executive-UN

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Tunisia set to lose millions in cash stashed in Swiss banks by Ben Ali’s family

17 January 2021

Tunisia could lose millions of dollars stashed in Switzerland by the family of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a senior official said Saturday.

The funds are currently frozen by Swiss authorities but a deadline to claw back funds ends midnight on Tuesday and restrictions then cease, a presidential official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Swiss authorities imposed a 10-year freeze on assets of Ben Ali and his clan amid a corruption probe on January 19, 2011, five days after the toppled leader fled to Saudi Arabia, where he later died.

Swiss-based campaign group Public Eye, which investigates human rights violations by Swiss companies, estimates Ben Ali’s family and allies shifted some $320 million into Swiss banks in the years before his ouster.

Leila Trabelsi, Ben Ali’s widow, and her wealthy businessman brother Belhassen Trabelsi, are among 30 to 50 of his relatives and associates who “could get hold of the money”, the source said.

“We are in touch daily with the Swiss authorities, but despite their understanding, it will be difficult to achieve anything” by the deadline, the source added.

The Swiss have reportedly demanded documents to prove the funds are indeed illegal, before they could return it to Tunisia’s government.

Swiss authorities also want to know the legal status of members of the Ben Ali clan, many of whom faced warrants and trials in Tunisia for corruption, the source said.

The authorities have failed to compile the information due to political instability in Tunisia, which has seen nine government since 2011, the source added.

Swiss daily Le Temps said Swiss officials had offered to create a joint body to support Tunisian efforts to reclaim the cash.

But former Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi, who died in 2019, preferred to try retrieve funds through reconciliation deals with members of the Ben Ali clan.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2021/01/17/Tunisia-set-to-lose-millions-in-cash-stashed-in-Swiss-banks-by-Ben-Ali-s-family

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Takfiri terrorists hit Nigeria army base in Borno, take control

16 January 2021

Takfiri terrorists have attacked an army base in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, taking the facility under their control.

The ‘Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP),’ an outfit affiliated with the Daesh terrorists, in trucks fitted with machine guns, hit the base in Marte town of the Lake Chad region overnight Friday into Saturday.

Some say the army lost forces but the number of casualties is not known yet.

The group had attempted to take over the base last week but was repelled by the army.

The raid on Friday night is seen as a ‘fight-back’ after recent losses suffered by the terrorists.

Nigerian troops recently overran the second largest camp run by the terrorists in the village of Talala.

Bullets and blood have roamed northeastern Nigeria for years.

Rival communities clash over land. Heavily-armed criminal gangs fill the air with terror. Vigilante groups are involved in reprisal acts of killing.

ISWAP is a faction of the Boko Haram Takfiri terrorist group which split in 2016. Ever since, it has been targeting military formations in Nigeria as well as Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

It maintains camps on islands in Lake Chad, where the territories of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad meet.

At least 36,000 people have been killed and some two million people displaced in more than a decade of Boko Haram violence in Nigeria, according to the United Nations (UN)'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/16/643146/Nigeria-army-base-Borno

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Bomb explosion kills 6 in Somalia

Mohammed Dhaysane 

17.01.2021

MOGADISHU, Somalia

At least six people, including Somali army soldiers, were killed, while eight others wounded in a bomb explosion aimed at targeting the convoy of the Lower Shabelle region’s governor and military officials on Sunday, an official said.

The attack took place in the vicinity of Tehsile, lower Shabelle region, located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

Bille Adan, a local police officer, told Anadolu Agency via phone it was a landmine explosion followed by a gun battle between the soldiers and armed militants belonging to al-Shabaab militant group.

Adan said that Govenor Abdukadir Mohamed Nuur Sidi survived the attack, while heavily wounded soldiers were transported to the capital for treatment.

Local media reported that foreign military officials were also part of the convoy.

Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab group claimed responsibility for the attack via internet and said it targeted US-trained Somali special forces known as Danab.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/bomb-explosion-kills-6-in-somalia/2113270

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Mali: UN peacekeeper killed in terror attack

Fatma Esma Arslan

16.01.2021

A UN peacekeeper was killed in an attack in the Kidal region of Mali, the group’s mission in the West African nation said Saturday.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said a mine planted by terrorists exploded when a vehicle that was carrying UN soldiers passed over the device.

The deceased soldier’s nationality was not disclosed. And another was injured.

An attack targeting UN peacekeepers was carried out Jan. 13 in Mali that killed four Ivory Coast soldiers.

MINUSMA was established in 2013 by UN Security Council Resolution 2100 to stabilize that country after a Tuareg rebellion in 2012.

The mission has suffered 230 fatalities since 2013, the most of any of the organization’s missions.

It is one of the largest missions, with more than 15,000 personnel.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/mali-un-peacekeeper-killed-in-terror-attack/2111922

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Southeast Asia

 

Dr Mahathir, Pejuang lawmakers apply to join lawsuit on Agong’s powers to refuse Emergency declaration

Monday, 18 Jan 2021

BY IDA LIM

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 — Langkawi MP Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and four other lawmakers from his Pejuang party are now seeking to be part of a constitutional court challenge regarding the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s discretion to refuse to declare an Emergency.

The four others who are seeking to be interveners are Pejuang president and Jerlun MP Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, Pejuang secretary-general and Kubang Pasu MP Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah, Sri Gading MP Datuk Shahruddin Md Salleh, as well as Pejuang deputy president and Dewan Negara lawmaker Datuk Marzuki Yahya.

Dr Mahathir who is also Pejuang chairman and the four others had on January 12 jointly filed an intervener application to ask the High Court in Kuala Lumpur to allow them to be part of lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar’s lawsuit against the Malaysian government.

In the January 12 court papers sighted by Malay Mail, Dr Mahathir and the four had explained their application to get the court’s leave or permission to be part of the lawsuit.

Among other things, the five Pejuang lawmakers argued that they have the constitutional rights to be part of the lawsuit in order to fulfill their constitutional oaths of protecting and defending the Federal Constitution.

The five also argued that they would be the ones most affected by any decision of the court in this lawsuit, including in terms of their constitutional rights under the Federal Constitution’s Article 62 and Article 63 to debate and vote on any drafting and amendments of law and to voice out for voters in the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara.

The five also said that their position as members of Parliament would enable them to help the court to decide on the important constitutional matters raised in the lawsuit, and argued that their status as MPs meant they have the legal rights to help the court interpret constitutional matters.

Apart from that, they argued that they have the constitutional right as MPs to provide testimony in court to help the High Court decide on the law, and that they as MPs have the legal obligation to protect the Federal Constitution.

“The proposed interveners as MPs have legitimate interest and legal interest to be made parties to this Originating Summons action,” the five said when referring to themselves.

Malay Mail also sighted a separate application by the five for their intervener application to be heard before or by February 18 to preserve their rights.

In the application by lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali who represents the five, he noted that the High Court had already fixed February 18 to hear four other applications others also seeking to be interveners in the lawsuit.

The four other intervener applications are by Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association secretary-general Ridha Abdah Subri; lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz and Malcolm Fernandez; Nazira Abdul Rahim; and Centre For a Better Tomorrow.

In the application, Rafique had said his five clients’ intervener application should be expedited as the constitutional issues in the lawsuit involve public interest and should be decided quickly, and as his clients’ rights as members of Parliament would be affected if their intervener application was not heard earlier or by February 18.

When contacted, Rafique confirmed the filing of the court documents on January 12, and said the sealed copies will be served to the parties in the lawsuit.

“We are awaiting the sealed copies to be extracted before serving on parties concerned,” he told Malay Mail.

In Syed Iskandar’s lawsuit filed on October 30, 2020, the lawyer had noted the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s October 25 refusal to declare an Emergency as sought by the prime minister on October 23, describing this as the ruler’s “rejection of the prime minister’s advice” for an Emergency to be declared.

Syed Iskandar had in court papers claimed that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had exercised his functions in a manner inconsistent with the Federal Constitution’s Article 40 and Article 150 when declining to act on the advice of the prime minister or Cabinet.

In his lawsuit, Syed Iskandar had posed two questions of constitutional and public importance for the court to decide, including whether the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has an “unfettered discretion” not to declare an Emergency despite the advice of the prime minister or Cabinet for an Emergency declaration, based on a true construction of Article 40 and Article 150 of the Federal Constitution.

The second question was on whether Act 514 (Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994) which amended the Federal Constitution’s Article 150 by adding clauses (8) and (9) is violative of the basic structure of the Federal Constitution, when the Federal Constitution’s Article 4(1) is taken into account.

Months after the October 2020 events and the filing of Syed Iskandar’s lawsuit, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on January 12 announced an Emergency on Malaysia, just a day after Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin presented the ruler with the Cabinet’s advice for an Emergency to be declared.

The Proclamation of Emergency nationwide was gazetted on January 12 and deemed to be in effect from January 11 to August 1, while the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 — which suspends all elections and the sitting of Parliament — was gazetted on January 14 and also deemed to have taken effect from January 11 onwards.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2021/01/18/dr-m-pejuang-lawmakers-apply-to-join-lawsuit-on-agongs-powers-to-refuse-eme/1941548

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Tok Mat: Govt should impose ‘health emergency’ rather than Emergency that renders Constitution, Parliament dysfunctional

17 Jan 2021

BY DANIAL DZULKIFLY

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — The government should call for a so-called “health emergency” to contain Covid-19 instead for the state of Emergency last week, Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan has said today.

In a brief statement, the former Negri Sembilan mentri besar acknowledged that such a declaration may be needed to contain the pandemic, but not at the expense of the country’s Constitution and Parliament which he said are currently rendered dysfunctional.

“However, I believe it would be more appropriate for the government to instead declare a state of ‘health emergency’ while also introducing a specific ordinance for such a purpose,” said the politician known as Tok Mat.

“Only through reinforcement of the healthcare strategy can we improve our control over the pandemic. For example, by expediting the immunisation process and utilising the movement control order. To paralyse the Constitution, be it partially or fully, would never help our recovery from the pandemic.”

He also claimed that his party remains firm on restoring the country’s democracy and the democratic functions of the Federal Constitution.

“Malaysia is a successful democracy. In fact, Malaysia is the best example of a democratic country among all Muslim nations,” he added.

“Malaysia’s democracy must remain undefeated, be it by the pandemic or whatever challenges that may come forth to this country. It will also be a just country with its Constitution as the highest law and beacon.”

It is unsure how a “health emergency” would be like, as lawyers told Malay Mail that the Constitution does not provide for any other kind of emergency.

Earlier this week, Muhyiddin announced that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has agreed to proclaim an Emergency to last until August 1 to allow the federal government to contain the Covid-19 pandemic without political distractions.

Under the Emergency, Parliament and state legislative assemblies are suspended, and no elections can be held.

Earlier today, Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa was reported saying political instability was among the reasons that contributed towards the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government announcing the state of Emergency last week.

In an interview with Utusan Malaysia’s Sunday edition Mingguan Malaysia, the recently-ousted Barisan Nasional secretary-general said this was a large consideration on top of the worsening Covid-19 pandemic that is putting immense pressure on the country’s economic and social development.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2021/01/17/tok-mat-govt-should-impose-health-emergency-rather-than-state-of-emergency/1941282

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Mideast

 

Tehran Deplores US’ Sanctioning of Iran’s Diplomats, Warns of Lodging Lawsuit at ICJ

2021-January-17

“An official warning note has been issued and submitted to the US through Swiss Embassy which serves US Interest Section in Iran,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Saturday.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has warned the US that if it does not stop its illegal moves against Iranian diplomats at the global organizations such as the UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, whose headquarters are in the US, Iran will lodge its complaint against the US at the ICJ,” Khatibzadeh went on to say.

“The US government has been creating serious problems for Iranian diplomats and their families with the international organizations in the US which are in violation of international law,” he reiterated.

“Despite its obligations for hosting international organizations, the US government has never been a qualified host,” the spokesman noted, adding, “Throughout the UN history, it (US) has sought to harass the diplomats, families and children of the diplomats of countries which it is at odds with.

The outgoing Trump Administration has recently intensified its previous sanctions against Iran’s diplomats and their families.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991028000153/Tehran-Deplres-US%E2%80%99-Sancining-f-Iran%E2%80%99s-Diplmas-Warns-f-Ldging-Lawsi-a

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IRGC Top Commander: Iran's Strategy Entails Ballistic Missiles Raining Down on Hostile Warships

2021-January-16 

"One of our most important goals in defense policies and strategies is to reach the ability to hit enemy weaponry, including aircraft carriers and warships, using long-range ballistic missiles," Major General Salami said in the final stage of Payambar-e Azam 15 (Great Prophet 15) drills on Saturday.

"It is usual to hit moving targets in the sea by low-speed cruise missiles," he said,a adding, "But using long-range missiles is a great defense breakthrough for us because we can hit moving targets in the ocean from the heart of our land."

The IRGC carried out the final stage of the Great Prophet 15 drills on Saturday with strategic operations of long-range ballistic missiles that successfully hit the hypothetical enemy’s vessels 1,800 kilometers away in the North of the Indian Ocean.

This stage was held in the presence of Chief of Staff of Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami, IRGC Aerospace Commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh and a number of top brass of Iran’s Armed Forces.

After detection of the hypothetical enemy ships’ position by the IRGC Aerospace reconnaissance systems, long-range ballistic missiles of various classes were fired from the Central deserts of Iran and successfully hit and destroyed all targets in the Northern Indian Ocean some 1,800 kilometers away.

Senior Political Analyst Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm says this specific operation had been planned to carry a special message to Iran's foes.

"Certainly, the precision-striking capability and destruction power of these long-range ballistic missiles produce an image in action, which comes to play a pivotal role in the military assessments of Iran's enemies, especially when one considers the timing of this very meaningful part of the drills," he said.

The IRGC started the first phase of the Great Prophet 15 wargames with the IRGC Aerospace Force's massive missile launch and drone operations in the Central Desert of Iran on Friday.

The first stage of the Great Prophet (Payambar-e Azam) 15 drills of the IRGC kicked off on Friday morning with the codename of “Ya Fatimah al-Zahar”, during which ground-to-ground ballistic missiles were fired and offensive drone bombers operations were put into action in the general area of Iran’s Central Desert.

During the drills that began in the presence of IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami, IRGC Aerospace Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh and a number of senior commanders and officials of the Iranian Armed Forces, a new generation of ground-to-ground ballistic missiles and drones were used in compound offensive against hypothetical enemy bases, destroying all the specified targets.

During this stage of the wargames, after the attack of the IRGC Aerospace’s offensive bomber drones from all sides to the missile shield of the hypothetical enemy and complete destruction of targets, the new generation of the IRGC ballistic missiles of the classes of Zolfaqar, Zelzal and Dezful were mass fired at targets dealing fatal blows to the hypothetical enemy bases.

The missiles were Multiple Re-entry Vehicles (MRVs) with the capability of jamming and going through the enemy missile shield.

In relevant remarks on Friday, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Aerospace Commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said his force has created a new power for Iran in Great Prophet 15 drills through a combination of a variety of capabilities with artificial intelligence.

“Through the combination of new missile capabilities and drone operation with artificial intelligence, today a new power was born in the IRGC,” Hajizadeh said on the sidelines of Payambar-e Azam 15 (Great Prophet 15) wargames on Friday.

“The first stage of the drill was a simulator for attacking the enemy’s power points and defensive lines,” he said, adding that this stage was carried out using a combination of drones and missiles.

“First, drone units targeted the defensive systems of the hypothetical enemy, and then, ballistic missiles destroyed the main assets and sections of the enemy base,” the Brigadier General went on to say.

“Missiles used in this stage of the wargames are a new generation of ballistic missiles equipped with detachable warheads and low RCS (Radar cross-section),” Hajizadeh said, adding that the time for preparation and operationalization of these missiles has been decreased by 90%.

“These missiles are operational and can be launched in less than five minutes after deployment,” he stressed.

Attacking the hypothetical enemy from all sides and altitudes, hampering the enemy’s defensive ability, infiltrating enemy’s missile shield by detachable warheads, and using equipment designed and produced by domestic experts are among features of this drill, the commander said.

Great Prophet (Payambar-e Azam) wargames are annual missile tests and exercises conducted by Iran's IRGC. The first series of the wargames began in July 2008.

In recent years, Iran has made great achievements in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing essential military equipment and systems.

The Iranian Armed Forces several times a year test their preparedness and capabilities as well as newly-manufactured weapons systems in different wargames.

The Iranian Armed Forces recently test-fire different types of newly-developed missiles and torpedoes and tested a large number of home-made weapons, tools and equipment, including submarines, military ships, artillery, choppers, aircrafts, UAVs and air defense and electronic systems, during massive military drills.

Iranian officials have always stressed that the country's military and arms programs serve defensive purposes.

Defense analysts and military observers say that Iran's wargames and its advancements in weapons production have proved as a deterrent factor.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991027000597/IRGC-Tp-Cmmander-Iran's-Sraegy-Enails-Ballisic-Missiles-Raining-Dwn-n

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IRGC Ballistic Missiles Destroy Naval Targets at 1,800km Distance

2021-January-16

The IRGC carried out the final stage of the Great Prophet 15 drills on Saturday with strategic operations of long-range ballistic missiles that successfully hit the hypothetical enemy’s vessels 1,800 kilometers away in the North of the Indian Ocean.

This stage was held in the presence of Chief of Staff of Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami, IRGC Aerospace Commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh and a number of top brass of Iran’s Armed Forces.

After detection of the hypothetical enemy ships’ position by the IRGC Aerospace reconnaissance systems, long-range ballistic missiles of various classes were fired from the Central deserts of Iran and successfully hit and destroyed all targets in the Northern Indian Ocean some 1,800 kilometers away.

Senior Political Analyst Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm says this specific operation had been planned to carry a special message to Iran's foes.

"Certainly, the precision-striking capability and destruction power of these long-range ballistic missiles produce an image in action, which comes to play a pivotal role in the military assessments of Iran's enemies, specially when one considers the timing of this very meaningful part of the drills," he said.

The IRGC started the first phase of the Great Prophet 15 wargames with the IRGC Aerospace Force's massive missile launch and drone operations in the Central Desert of Iran on Friday.

The first stage of the Great Prophet (Payambar-e Azam) 15 drills of the IRGC kicked off on Friday morning with the codename of “Ya Fatimah al-Zahar”, during which ground-to-ground ballistic missiles were fired and offensive drone bombers operations were put into action in the general area of Iran’s Central Desert.

During the drills that began in the presence of IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami, IRGC Aerospace Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh and a number of senior commanders and officials of the Iranian Armed Forces, a new generation of ground-to-ground ballistic missiles and drones were used in compound offensive against hypothetical enemy bases, destroying all the specified targets.

During this stage of the wargames, after the attack of the IRGC Aerospace’s offensive bomber drones from all sides to the missile shield of the hypothetical enemy and complete destruction of targets, the new generation of the IRGC ballistic missiles of the classes of Zolfaqar, Zelzal and Dezful were mass fired at targets dealing fatal blows to the hypothetical enemy bases.

The missiles were Multiple Re-entry Vehicles (MRVs) with the capability of jamming and going through the enemy missile shield.

In relevant remarks on Friday, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Aerospace Commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said his force has created a new power for Iran in Great Prophet 15 drills through a combination of a variety of capabilities with artificial intelligence.

“Through the combination of new missile capabilities and drone operation with artificial intelligence, today a new power was born in the IRGC,” Hajizadeh said on the sidelines of Payambar-e Azam 15 (Great Prophet 15) wargames on Friday.

“The first stage of the drill was a simulator for attacking the enemy’s power points and defensive lines,” he said, adding that this stage was carried out using a combination of drones and missiles.

“First, drone units targeted the defensive systems of the hypothetical enemy, and then, ballistic missiles destroyed the main assets and sections of the enemy base,” the Brigadier General went on to say.

“Missiles used in this stage of the wargames are a new generation of ballistic missiles equipped with detachable warheads and low RCS (Radar cross-section),” Hajizadeh said, adding that the time for preparation and operationalization of these missiles has been decreased by 90%.

“These missiles are operational and can be launched in less than five minutes after deployment,” he stressed.

Attacking the hypothetical enemy from all sides and altitudes, hampering the enemy’s defensive ability, infiltrating enemy’s missile shield by detachable warheads, and using equipment designed and produced by domestic experts are among features of this drill, the commander said.

Great Prophet (Payambar-e Azam) wargames are annual missile tests and exercises conducted by Iran's IRGC. The first series of the wargames began in July 2008.

In recent years, Iran has made great achievements in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing essential military equipment and systems.

The Iranian Armed Forces several times a year test their preparedness and capabilities as well as newly-manufactured weapons systems in different wargames.

The Iranian Armed Forces recently test-fire different types of newly-developed missiles and torpedoes and tested a large number of home-made weapons, tools and equipment, including submarines, military ships, artillery, choppers, aircrafts, UAVs and air defense and electronic systems, during massive military drills.

Iranian officials have always stressed that the country's military and arms programs serve defensive purposes.

Defense analysts and military observers say that Iran's wargames and its advancements in weapons production have proved as a deterrent factor.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991027000458/IRGC-Ballisic-Missiles-Desry-Naval-Targes-a-00km-Disance

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Israel to ban groups that call it an ‘apartheid state’

18 January 2021

Israel’s education minister is banning groups that call Israel an “apartheid state” from lecturing at schools — a move that targets one of the country’s leading human rights groups after it began describing both Israel and its control of the Palestinian territories as a single “apartheid” system.

The explosive term, long seen as taboo and mostly used by the country’s harshest critics, is vehemently rejected by Israel’s leaders and many ordinary Israelis.

Education Minister Yoav Galant tweeted late on Sunday that he had instructed the ministry’s director general to “prevent the entry of organizations calling Israel ‘an apartheid state’ or demeaning Israeli soldiers from lecturing at schools.”

In a report released last week, the rights group B’Tselem said that while Palestinians live under different forms of Israeli control in the occupied West Bank, blockaded Gaza, annexed east Jerusalem and within Israel itself, they have fewer rights than Jews in the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. B’Tselem said it would not be deterred by the minister’s announcement.

“B’Tselem is determined to keep with its mission of documenting reality, analyzing it, and making our findings publicly known to the Israeli public, and worldwide,” it said in a statement.

Israel passed a law in 2018 preventing lectures or activities in schools by groups that support legal action being taken against Israeli soldiers abroad. The law was apparently drafted in response to the work of Breaking the Silence, a whistleblower group for former Israeli soldiers.

It was not clear if Galant’s decree was rooted in the 2018 law.

Israel has long presented itself as a thriving democracy in which Palestinian citizens, who make up about 20 percent of its population of 9.2 million, have equal rights. Israel seized east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war — lands that are home to nearly 5 million Palestinians and which the Palestinians want for a future state.

B’Tselem and other rights groups argue that the boundaries separating Israel and the West Bank vanished long ago — at least for Israeli settlers, who can freely travel back and forth, while their Palestinian neighbors require permits to enter Israel.

Israel withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but imposed a blockade after the Palestinian militant Hamas group seized power there two years later. It considers the West Bank “disputed” territory whose fate should be determined in peace talks. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in 1967 in a move not recognized internationally and considers the entire city its unified capital. Most Palestinians in east Jerusalem are Israeli “residents,” but not citizens with voting rights.

Israel adamantly rejects the term apartheid, saying the restrictions it imposes in Gaza and the West Bank are temporary measures needed for security. Most Palestinians in the West Bank live in areas governed by the Palestinian Authority, but those areas are surrounded by Israeli checkpoints and Israeli soldiers can enter at any time. Israel has full control over 60 percent of the West Bank.

B’Tselem argues that by dividing up the territories and using different means of control, Israel masks the underlying reality — that roughly 7 million Jews and 7 million Palestinians live under a single system with vastly unequal rights.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/18/Israel-to-ban-groups-that-call-it-an-apartheid-state-

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Israeli warplanes hit Gaza after rocketfire: army

18 January 2021

Israel's military said Monday its fighter planes struck Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip after Palestinians fired rockets at the Jewish state.

Two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards the coast near the southern city of Ashdod, according to a military statement.

“In response...fighter jets struck military targets belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the Gaza Strip, including tunnel digging sites,” the army said.

There were no reports of any damage from Palestinian rockets, with Israeli army sources indicating they had landed in the Mediterranean sea.

Palestinian security sources in Gaza said the Israeli fire hit “farmland” in the southern Khan Yunis area of the enclave, causing damage but no injuries.

There was no immediate claim for the rocket launches from Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Palestinians in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank are heading for respective legislative and presidential elections in May and July, the first in 15 years.

The polls are part of a warming of ties between Hamas and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's West Bank-based Fatah party.

The dates were announced on Friday in a presidential decree by Abbas.

In the last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, Hamas won an unexpected landslide.

The polls resulted in a brief unity government but it soon collapsed. In 2007, bloody clashes erupted between the two principal Palestinian factions, with Hamas ultimately seizing control of Gaza.

Last week an Israeli tank fired at “a Hamas military post” in the southern Gaza Strip, after shots were fired at a military vehicle working on its side of the border fence, the Israeli army said.

In late December Hamas and Islamic Jihad staged joint military exercises in the coastal territory, during which they fired rockets out to sea, in the first exercise of its kind.

The Palestinian forces also simulated various combat scenarios with Israeli troops, an AFP reporter said.

The events marked the anniversary of the first Hamas war with Israel, in 2008, a year after the Islamists took power in Gaza.Since then they have fought two more wars, in 2012 and 2014.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/18/Israeli-warplanes-hit-Gaza-after-rocketfire-army

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Coronavirus: Israel exchanges medical data for Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses

18 January 2021

After sprinting ahead in the race to inoculate its population against the coronavirus, Israel has struck a deal with Pfizer, promising to share vast troves of medical data with the international drug giant in exchange for the continued flow of its hard-to-get vaccine.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

Proponents say the deal could allow Israel to become the first country to vaccinate most of its population, while providing valuable research that could help the rest of the world. But critics say the deal raises major ethical concerns, including possible privacy violations and a deepening of the global divide that enables wealthy countries to stockpile vaccines as poorer populations, including Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, have to wait longer to be inoculated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who is stumping ahead of the country’s March elections as Israel’s vaccinator-in-chief — said earlier this month that he reached the deal with Pfizer’s chief executive to speed up vaccine deliveries to Israel.

“Israel will be a global model state,” he said. “Israel will share with Pfizer and with the entire world the statistical data that will help develop strategies for defeating the coronavirus.”

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told The Associated Press the government will turn over data to “see how it influences, first of all, the level of the disease in Israel, the possibility to open the economy, different aspects of social life, and whether there are any effects of the vaccination.”

Pfizer’s vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, has received emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Union’s regulatory agency and is believed to provide up to 95 percent protection against COVID-19. But much remains unknown, including its long-term protection and whether it can prevent transmission of the virus.

Israel, home to some 9.3 million people, is considered an ideal place for studying these questions. Its mandatory universal health care is provided by four publicly funded HMOs with meticulously digitized medical records. This centralized system has helped Israel administer more than 2 million doses of the vaccine in under a month. Israel has also purchased doses of the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

The Health Ministry has recorded over 543,00 cases since the beginning of the pandemic and nearly 4,000 deaths. Israeli officials say they aim to have most of the country vaccinated by the end of March.

But the exact quid pro quo between Israel and Pfizer is unclear, even after a redacted version of the agreement was released by the Israeli Health Ministry on Sunday.

Neither Israel nor Pfizer would say how much Israel has paid for the vaccines, though Edelstein called it a “classical win-win” for both sides. Israeli media have reported that Israel paid at least 50 percent more than other countries. The data is reportedly being shared with the World Health Organization, but the global body did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Earlier this month, the head of the WHO appealed to drugmakers and wealthier countries to “stop making bilateral deals,” saying they hurt a UN-backed effort to widen access. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did not single out any countries or companies.

Last week, Dr. Siddhartha Datta, WHO Europe’s program manager for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization, said the agency is trying to collect “disaggregated” data — based on age, gender, local area, employment and other factors — and reporting on any safety issues as the vaccines are deployed.

Israel had already announced the acquisition of millions of vaccine doses before the Pfizer deal was announced. It’s unclear how the quantity or pace of deliveries has changed, or whether the vaccines have been diverted from other countries.

The arrangement has drawn attention to the unequal distribution of vaccines between rich and poor nations. A recent estimate from the International Rescue Committee said that the WHO’s global COVAX campaign is likely to vaccinate only 20 percent of the world’s lower-income countries by the end of 2021.

“This is a shady, under-the-table deal that preferences certain countries over others without any transparency,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University in Washington. “In the end, it’s going to be low- and middle-income countries that are going to be left behind.”

Dr. Nadav Davidovitch, head of the school of public health at Israel’s Ben Gurion University and an adviser to the government on coronavirus policy, said the deal has raised troubling concerns about the deepening disparity of vaccination efforts.

“In order to eradicate COVID-19 or at least control it in an efficient manner, we need to see the global picture,” Davidovitch said.

That disparity is particularly striking in the case of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, who live under varying degrees of Israeli control and have yet to receive any vaccines.

While vaccinating its own Arab citizens and Palestinian residents of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Israel says it is not responsible for inoculating the Palestinians. Edelstein said Israel will consider helping once it takes care of its own citizens.

But the Palestinians and major human rights groups say Israel remains an occupying power and is responsible for providing them vaccines. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh recently accused Israel of “racism” but has not publicly requested vaccines.

With tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians working in Israel and its West Bank settlements, experts say Israel should share vaccines on ethical and practical grounds.

“I truly think that we need to see how we get the vaccine for the Palestinian Authority,” said Davidovitch, acting chairman of Israel’s association of public health professionals. “We are talking about it with the minister of health, and I really hope that soon this thing will be solved.”

It’s also uncertain exactly what information is being shared with Pfizer. According to the redacted agreement, “no identifiable health information” shall be shared, and the research is to be published in a recognized medical journal.

It said Israel will provide weekly data to Pfizer about various age and demographic groups. The objective, it said, is to “analyze epidemiological data arising from the product rollout, to determine whether herd immunity is achieved after reaching a certain percentage of vaccination coverage in Israel.”

The data, it added, is “aimed at helping end the global COVID-19 pandemic for the benefit of all patients inside and outside of Israel.”

Privacy Israel, an advocacy group that had petitioned the government to disclose the deal, welcomed its release but said certain questions remained unanswered, mostly about the handling and security of private information. It also blacked out certain details, such as key dates and the names of officials involved. Still, it said there is a “little more certainty” about sharing information with a global corporation.

Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, an expert in digital privacy at the Israel Democracy Institute, questioned the ethics of a deal that could bring millions in profits to Pfizer. She also said sharing large quantities of information could still potentially put individuals’ privacy at risk, even if it’s supposedly made anonymous.

“If, God forbid, the data set is going to be hacked, then the risk is going to be yours,” she said, referring to Israeli citizens.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/coronavirus/2021/01/18/Coronavirus-Coronavirus-Israel-strikes-deal-to-exchange-medical-data-for-Pfizer-COVID-19-vaccine

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Coronavirus: Israel Prison Service to vaccinate Palestinian inmates

17 January 2021

The Israel Prison Service said Sunday it began vaccinating all incarcerated people against COVID-19, including Palestinians, following calls from rights groups, Palestinian officials and Israel’s attorney general.

Israel has given at least one vaccine dose to more than two million of its citizens, a pace widely described as the world’s fastest per capita.

But Israel faced harsh criticism when Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to get inoculated.

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit wrote to Ohana condemning the comment as “tainted with illegality,” Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper reported.

Israeli and global rights groups, including Amnesty International, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization have also issued public calls for Israel to vaccinate the estimated 4,400 Palestinians held in its jails.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, about 250 Palestinians in Israeli prisons have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced last week that the first vaccine doses would be distributed to prisons over the coming days.

The prison service issued a statement Sunday saying 20 detainees had been given an initial dose of the vaccine, without specifying whether they were Israelis or Palestinians.

Earlier on Sunday it had said, “following the vaccination of staff... the vaccination of detainees will begin in prisons in accordance with medical and operational protocol established by the Prison Service.”

A prison service spokesperson told AFP the directive applied to “all prisoners, without distinction.”

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said in a statement that three Palestinian prisoners had been vaccinated.

Human Rights Watch on Sunday called on Israel to provide vaccinations for the 2.8 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the two million Palestinians in Israeli-blockaded Gaza.

The group’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir particularly criticized the practice of vaccinating Jewish settlers in the West Bank, but not their Palestinian neighbors.

“Nothing can justify today’s reality in parts of the West Bank, where people on one side of the street are receiving vaccines, while those on the other do not, based on whether they’re Jewish or Palestinian,” Shakir said.

“Everyone in the same territory should have equitable access to the vaccine, regardless of their ethnicity.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/coronavirus/2021/01/18/Coronavirus-Israel-prison-service-to-vaccinate-Palestinian-inmates

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Palestinian President Abbas briefs Egypt, Jordan on election plan

17 January 2021

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday hosted the Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence chiefs to brief them on plans to hold the first Palestinian elections in 14 years.

Abbas issued a decree on Friday announcing plans for parliamentary elections in May and a presidential election in July. The rival Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas’ forces in 2007, welcomed the decree.

The elections would mark a major step toward reconciling the Palestinian rift between Abbas’ Fatah movement, which runs the West Bank, and Hamas. But many obstacles remain, and past attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed.

In a statement, Abbas’ office said it briefed the Egyptian and Jordanian delegations on “the latest developments related to the Palestinian issue, specifically the national reconciliation file” and thanked both countries for their assistance.

Jordan borders the West Bank, while Egypt border Gaza.

The rival Palestinian factions are to meet in Egypt next week, hoping to settle their differences before election campaigning kicks off.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/17/Palestinian-President-Abbas-briefs-Egypt-Jordan-on-election-plan

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Israel approves hundreds of settlement homes in last-minute push

17 January 2021

Israeli authorities on Sunday advanced plans to build an additional 780 homes in West Bank settlements, an anti-settlement monitoring group said, in a last-minute surge of approvals before the friendly Trump administration leaves office later this week.

Peace Now said that over 90 percent of the homes lay deep inside the West Bank, which the Palestinians seek as the heartland of a future independent state, and over 200 homes were located in unauthorized outposts that the government had decided to legalize.

Israel has stepped up settlement construction during President Donald Trump’s term. According to Peace Now, Israel approved or advanced construction of over 12,000 settlement homes in 2020, the highest number in a single year since it began recording statistics in 2012.

“By promoting hundreds of settlement units, Prime Minister Netanyahu is once again putting his personal political interests over those of the country,” the group said. “Not only will this settlement activity erode the possibility for a conflict-ending resolution with the Palestinians in the long-term, but in the short-term it needlessly sets Israel on a collision course with the incoming Biden administration.”

Netanyahu’s office had no comment. But last week, he said he would seek approvals for the construction projects. They include 100 homes in Tal Menashe, a settlement where an Israeli woman was killed last month in an attack for which a Palestinian man has been charged.

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as part of a future independent state. They say the growing settler population, approaching some 500,000 people, makes it increasingly difficult to achieve their dream of independence.

A string of US administrations, along with the rest of the international community, opposed settlement construction. But Trump, surrounded by a team of advisers with close ties to the settler movement, took a different approach. His administration did not criticize Israeli settlement announcements, and in a landmark decision, announced in 2018 that it did not consider settlements to be illegal under international law.

As a result, Israel approved plans for over 27,000 settler homes during Trump’s four-year term, more than 2.5 times the number approved during the Obama administration’s second term, according to Peace Now.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to return to the traditional US position of opposing settlements, setting the stage for a possible clash with Netanyahu.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/17/Israel-approves-hundreds-of-settlement-homes-in-last-minute-push

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Russian freight ship sinks off Turkey’s Black Sea coast - governor

17 January 2021

A Russian freight ship has sunk off the coast of Turkey’s Black Sea province of Bartin, the local governor was cited as saying by state media on Sunday, adding that rescuers were working to save some 15 crew members stranded at sea.

Bartin Governor Sinan Guner said the dry cargo ship sank off the coast of the Inkumu region, adding there were no reports of casualties, according to the state-owned Anadolu news agency. The cause of the incident was not immediately clear.

“We will start the rescue operations of the approximately 15 crew members stuck on three lifeboats,” Guner said. “There are no reports of casualties or of the lifeboats sinking right now. Weather conditions are poor, rescue teams are also struggling to go out,” he was cited as saying.

No further details were immediately available.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/17/Russian-freight-ship-sinks-off-Turkey-s-Black-Sea-coast-governor

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Iran urges UN watchdog to avoid publishing ‘unnecessary’ nuclear program details

17 January 2021

Iran urged the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog to avoid publishing “unnecessary” details on Tehran’s nuclear program, state TV reported Sunday, a day after Germany, France and Britain said Tehran has “no credible civilian use” for its development of uranium metal.

The report quoted a statement from Iran’s nuclear department that asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to avoid publishing details on Iran’s nuclear program that may cause confusion.

“It is expected the international atomic energy agency avoid providing unnecessary details and prevent paving ground for misunderstanding” in the international community, the statement said. It did not elaborate.

On Saturday, Germany, France and Britain pressed Iran to back off its plan to develop uranium metal, calling it “the latest planned violation” of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The goal of the deal is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, something Iran insists it does not want to do.

“Iran has no credible civilian use for uranium metal,” they said in a joint statement. “The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications.”

On Thursday, the IAEA said Iran had informed it that it had begun installing equipment for the production of uranium metal. It said Tehran maintains its plans to conduct research and development on uranium metal production are part of its “declared aim to design an improved type of fuel.”

Iran reacted to the European statement Sunday saying Iran informed the UN nuclear watchdog nearly two decades ago of its plans for the “peaceful and conventional” production of uranium metal. It also said it provided updated information to the agency two years ago about its plans to produce silicide advanced fuel.

The statement said uranium metal is an “intermediate product” in the manufacture of uranium silicide, a fuel used in nuclear reactors that is safer and has more power capability than uranium oxide-based fuel, which Iran currently produces. The three European nations alongside the US, Russia and China signed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that prohibited research and production of uranium metal. President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the US from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. After the US then ramped up sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development.

President-elect Joe Biden, who was vice president when the deal was signed during the Obama administration, has said he hopes to return the US to the deal.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/17/Iran-urges-UN-watchdog-to-avoid-publishing-unnecessary-nuclear-program-details-

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Iran’s long-range missile land close to US Navy ships in Indian Ocean

Ismaeel Naar

16 January 2021

Long-range missiles from Iran landed close to a commercial ship in the Indian Ocean and 100 miles from the Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group of the US Navy, according to a Fox News report.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards test-fired ballistic missiles against targets in the Indian Ocean as they wrapped up a two-day exercise on Saturday, their official website reported.

The missiles of “various classes” targeted “the enemy’s battleships and destroyed them from 1,800 kilometers (1,125 miles) away,” according to the Sepahnews website.

A video released by state television showed two missiles being launched and targets being hit at sea.

Iran's armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri was present on the second day of the drill, alongside

Guards chief Major General Hossein Salami and aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh.

"One of our major goals in defence policies and strategies is to be able to target enemy ships, including aircraft carriers and battleships, using long-range ballistic missiles," Salami said, quoted by Sepahnews.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/16/Iran-military-Iran-s-long-range-missile-land-close-to-commercial-ship-US-Navy-ships-in-Indian-Ocea

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Distrust, division and doubt cloud Palestinian election call

16 January 2021

Beset by political infighting, split between three territories and distrustful of their institutions, many Palestinians are skeptical that their first national elections in 15 years will bring change - or even happen at all.

President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday that parliamentary and presidential elections would be held later this year in a bid to heal long-standing divisions. His main rival, the militant Islamist group Hamas, welcomed the move.

The announcement is widely seen as a gesture aimed at pleasing US President-elect Joe Biden, with whom the Palestinians want to reset relations after they reached a low under Donald Trump.

But a December poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found 52 percent of Palestinians think elections held under present conditions would not be fair and free.

If Hamas won, 76 percent thought Fatah - the party led by Abbas - would not accept the result and 58 percent believed Hamas would reject a Fatah victory.

“We have taken an important step but we still have a long way to go,” said veteran West Bank political analyst Hani al-Masri. “Great obstacles remain and without overcoming these obstacles the whole operation will be doomed to fail.”

Palestinian observers said those hurdles include disagreements within Hamas and Fatah - long the dominant faction in the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization.

It is unclear what mechanism would be put in place to ensure a free election, whether international observers would take part and whether Abbas, aged 85 and in poor health, would run.

The US, Israel and European Union would likely refuse dealings with any Palestinian government that included Hamas, which is designated by the West as a terrorist group.

Power struggle

Israeli officials did not immediately comment and it was unclear whether Israel would permit election activity to take place in East Jerusalem, as it did previously. Palestinians want to hold the elections there, as well as the West Bank and Gaza.

“We have other alternatives, and what is important is that people from Jerusalem can take part in the election,” Hanna Nasir, chairman of the Palestinian Central Election Committee, said on Saturday.

The last parliamentary ballot, in 2006, ended in a surprise win by Hamas in their first-ever national elections, creating a rift with Fatah that plunged into civil war when Hamas seized control of Gaza the following year.

Gaza is now a Hamas stronghold, while Abbas’s power base is in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The two groups have failed to achieve lasting reconciliation, and previous pledges to hold elections went unfulfilled. Rights groups have accused both of suppressing political opposition.

Abbas said the parliamentary election will be held on May 22 and the presidential vote on July 31. He won in 2005 but his term was only meant to last four years.

Many ordinary Palestinians are skeptical.

“They will find a thousand reasons to call it off; Israel, the resistance, power-sharing, anything. I don’t have any hopes,” said one Gaza man, who asked not to be named because he was breaking a coronavirus lockdown.

Zuheir al-Khatib, a 57-year-old doctor from Bethlehem, was more optimistic.

“This is a 100 percent good decision, merited for over 15 years, if not more, we are supposed to be initiating a state and thus should have democracy,” he said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/16/Distrust-division-and-doubt-cloud-Palestinian-election-call

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Turkish court sentences former pro-Kurdish MP to over six years in jail

17 January 2021

A Turkish court has sentenced a former lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), who was stripped of his parliamentary status in early 2018, to more than six years in jail on charges of hatred incitement and spreading propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.

On Sunday, the 21st Heavy Penal Court in Ankara found that the defendant, Ferhat Encu, shared pro-PKK posts on his social media accounts, called for an uprising against the government, and worked to split up a portion of the Turkish territory. He was sentenced to six years, nine months and seven days in jail.

“It has been established that he included the symbols of the terrorist group, called the anti-terror operations barbarism, praised the terrorist acts of the PKK based on violence and threats,” the court said in the verdict.

The Turkish government has long accused the HDP of having links to the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US as well as the EU, and has been calling for an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.

Back on December 21 last year, a court in Turkey’s southeastern Kurdish city of Diyarbakir sentenced a former member of parliament from the HDP to more than 22 years in prison on terror-related charges.

The court also issued an arrest warrant against 55-year-old Leyla Guven.

The prosecutor in the case charged Guven with “establishing and managing an illegal organization” of which she was also a member in support of PKK militants, among 18 separate charges. 

Other charges included “provoking the public to join illegal meetings and demonstrations,” and taking part in “illegal” marches, which she purportedly refused to disband despite warnings.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/17/643229/Turkish-court-pro-Kurdish-MP

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