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Russia, Turkey agree on need for decisive measures in Idlib

MOSCOW: Russia and Turkey’s defense ministers agreed on the need to take what they called decisive measures to stabilize the situation in Syria’s Idlib province during talks on Monday, Russia’s RIA news agency cited a joint statement as saying. Russia, an important Syrian regime ally, and Turkey brokered a deal in September to create a…

Russia, Turkey agree on need for decisive measures in Idlib

MOSCOW: Russia and Turkey’s defense ministers agreed on the need to take what they called decisive measures to stabilize the situation in Syria’s Idlib province during talks on Monday, Russia’s RIA news agency cited a joint statement as saying.

Russia, an important Syrian regime ally, and Turkey brokered a deal in September to create a demilitarized zone in the northwest Idlib region that would be evacuated of all heavy weapons and radical fighters.

However, the area has been the site of continued hostilities with Russia saying that militants who used to belong to the Nusra Front group are in control of large swaths of territory.

A joint statement published after the talks between the two defense ministers in Ankara spoke of “the need in particular to take decisive measures to ensure security in the Idlib demilitarized zone,” RIA reported. A UN report seen by Reuters last week estimated there are up to 18,000 Daesh militants in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreign fighters. 

It warned the group was interested in attacking aviation and using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials.

Some military analysts say Daesh still has enough leaders, fighters, facilitators and financial resources to fuel a menacing insurgency in Syria and Iraq.

The top American commander overseeing American forces in the Middle East earlier said the US was likely just weeks away from starting the withdrawal of ground troops from Syria.

US Army General Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command, cautioned that the exact timing would depend on the situation in Syria, where DSF troops have launched a final assault against Daesh enclaves near the Iraqi border.

The US military has already started withdrawing equipment from Syria. Asked whether the withdrawal of America’s more than 2,000 troops would begin in days or weeks, Votel said: “Probably weeks. But again, it will all be driven by the situation on the ground.”

“In terms of the withdrawal … I think we’re right on track with where we wanted to be,” Votel told reporters traveling with him during a trip to the Middle East.

“Moving people is easier than moving equipment and so what we’re trying to do right now is again (to) kind of clear out those materials, that equipment, that we do not need.”

Trump’s surprise announcement in December that he was withdrawing American troops from Syria helped trigger the resignation of his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, and sent US military officials scrambling to construct a withdrawal plan that preserves as many gains as possible.

Hundreds of additional troops have been sent to Syria to facilitate the withdrawal.

US officials have long estimated that the Syria pullout could take until sometime in March or April to execute fully, but have been reluctant to set an exact timeline given hard-to-predict battlefield conditions.

Votel did not speculate about when the drawdown would be completed.

One big question has been whether some US forces in Syria might move to Iraq, where the US has more than 5,000 troops helping Baghdad fight Daesh and prevent the group’s resurgence.

Votel said he did not believe the US would broadly increase overall troop numbers in Iraq. 

He did leave open the possibility of changing the composition of forces to help the US keep pressure on the militant group.

Referring to future US troop levels in Iraq, Votel said: “I think it’s going to remain more or less steady.”

“This isn’t just wholesale — ‘Everybody in Syria move over to Iraq.’ That doesn’t make sense,” Votel said.

Votel is one of many current and former US officials who have warned of the risk of a resurgence by Daesh unless the US and its allies can keep pressure on the group following the US withdrawal. 

But a clear US plan on how to keep up the pressure has yet to be articulated. It is also unclear whether the United States will be able to satisfy the security concerns in Syria of its NATO ally Turkey without sacrificing the interests of US-backed Kurdish fighters there.

Ankara sees the Kurdish militia as terrorists.

Washington views the Kurdish militia as loyal partners in the fight against Islamic State, whose help will likely continue to be needed to prevent the group’s resurgence.

The Pentagon’s own internal watchdog released a report last week warning about the risks still posed by Islamic State. It cautioned that, absent sustained pressure, the group would likely resurge in Syria within six to 12 months and retake some limited territory.

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Middle East News

Council of Arab Interior Ministers calls for cooperation to alleviate suffering of terrorism victims

Council of Arab Interior Ministers calls for cooperation to alleviate suffering of terrorism victims TUNIS: Not only does the harm caused by terrorist crimes affect innocent victims, it also leaves their families and communities with psychological and social pain, the Secretary-General of the Council of Arab Ministers of the Interior has said. This situation requires…

Council of Arab Interior Ministers calls for cooperation to alleviate suffering of terrorism victims

Council of Arab Interior Ministers calls for cooperation to alleviate suffering of terrorism victims

TUNIS: Not only does the harm caused by terrorist crimes affect innocent victims, it also leaves their families and communities with psychological and social pain, the Secretary-General of the Council of Arab Ministers of the Interior has said.

This situation requires the cooperation of all to alleviate the suffering of the victims and their families and help them overcome their predicament, Dr. Mohammed bin Ali Koman said.

Koman was commemorating Arab Day to raise awareness of the pain of victims of terrorist acts, held every year on April 22 by the General Secretariat of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, member states and the League of Arab States.

“Today is an opportunity to raise awareness of the pain and tragedies of victims of terrorist attacks and encourage all initiatives undertaken by official bodies and civil society organizations to alleviate their suffering,” he said.

“The effects of terrorist crimes have exceeded aggression against human lives and property to psychological and social impacts as well as affecting families,” he said.

“Terrorist crimes result in a continuous bleeding to the heart of affected communities, especially with the terrorist media being devoted to inspiring and promoting their criminal operations, which have affected thousands of victims, including children, women and the elderly.”

He hailed the efforts of the security services in their fight against terrorism and the great improvement in reducing its crimes in recent years, expressing his sympathies for the victims and his support for their families to overcome the aftermath of these crimes.

Koman stressed that the Council of Arab Interior Ministers has taken special measures to raise awareness about the pain of victims of terrorist acts, including the development of media programs to raise security awareness and improve citizens’ contribution to countering terrorist acts in implementation of the Arab counter-terrorism strategy. This was in addition to assigning the Arab bureau for security-related information activities, which operates under the General Secretariat of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, to prepare media programs and materials to raise awareness about the dangers of terrorist acts and the suffering they cause.

He highlighted that the council’s efforts go beyond raising awareness to taking concrete measures to support the victims of terrorist acts, including members of the Arab security services and their families.

Koman said that these efforts include the establishment of an Arab security solidarity fund to cover the expenses of medical, social, and psychological support for Arab police and security personnel and their families, in addition to the development of a model for the organizational structure of a department in the security services specializing in psychological counseling.

“The department will be operated by social workers and psychologists who have the capacity to help victims overcome the pain and tragedy of terrorism,” he said.

Koman praised the efforts of Arab countries in assisting the victims of terrorist acts and alleviating their suffering, including providing financial and moral support and providing them with treatment and privileges, such as monthly wages, scholarships for their families and medals of honors to their martyrs.

He urged public and civil society institutions to develop awareness-raising efforts through holding seminars and organizing events to remember the suffering of the victims and provide them with social, psychological and financial support.

Koman concluded by saying a prayer for the victims harmed by terrorist acts and members of the security services who died foiling terrorist crimes and fighting terrorists.

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US puts up $10m reward for Hezbollah information

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will lead two emergency summits with other African leaders on Tuesday to address events in Sudan and Libya, his presidency said.The leaders will focus on “the evolution of the situation in Sudan” where protests continue after the military toppled president Omar Al-Bashir.They will also seek to “stem the current…

US puts up $10m reward for Hezbollah information

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will lead two emergency summits with other African leaders on Tuesday to address events in Sudan and Libya, his presidency said.The leaders will focus on “the evolution of the situation in Sudan” where protests continue after the military toppled president Omar Al-Bashir.They will also seek to “stem the current crisis” in Libya, where commander Khalifa Haftar is leading an offensive on Tripoli, Egypt’s presidency said in a statement.El-Sisi is also the current president of the African Union.He will receive the Chadian president Idriss Deby, Rwanda’s head of state Paul Kagame, Congo’s Denis Sassou-Nguesso, Somalia’s Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa as well as Dijbouti’s leader Ismail Omar Guelleh.The planned summits are the first to be convened by African leaders on the current crises in Sudan and Libya.For Sudan, the objective “is to discuss … the most appropriate ways to address the evolution of the situation and to contribute to stability and peace,” Egypt’s presidency said.The AU on April 15 threatened to suspend Sudan if the military does not hand over power within 15 days of that date to a civilian authority.President of the African Union commission Moussa Faki is also expected to participate in the discussions, along with officials from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria.Another summit on Libya, which will bring together the leaders of Rwanda, South Africa and the Congo with El-Sisi, will focus on “relaunching a political process… (and) the elimination of terrorism,” Egypt’s presidency said.Strongman Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive against Tripoli, the seat of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord, on April 4.Egypt is a strong ally of Haftar, who is also backed by the UAE and — according to the White House — was consulted by US President Donald Trump in a phone call last week.

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How Meir Kahane’s toxic legacy poisoned the Palestinian peace process

Meir Kahane grew up in Brooklyn, in an atmosphere of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred fostered by his father, who entertained in his home Jewish Zionist fanatics such as Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Irgun terrorist organization and mentor to British Mandate-era terrorist Menachem Begin. Kahane’s extremist ideology was nurtured by his parents and associations, and…

How Meir Kahane’s toxic legacy poisoned the Palestinian peace process

Meir Kahane grew up in Brooklyn, in an atmosphere of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred fostered by his father, who entertained in his home Jewish Zionist fanatics such as Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Irgun terrorist organization and mentor to British Mandate-era terrorist Menachem Begin.

Kahane’s extremist ideology was nurtured by his parents and associations, and in 1968 he founded the Jewish Defense League (JDL), which the FBI describes as a terrorist organization. 

He used his rhetoric to build a strong following, and was elected to Israel’s Knesset (Parliament), where he served one full term. Although Kahane was assassinated in November 1990, his extremism endures until today, not only among his followers in the US but in Israel, too. 

He began as a militant protesting against communism in the 1950s and 1960s, when he was hired as the rabbi for a conservative, later more orthodox, synagogue congregation in Howard Beach. There, he had great public influence, including preparing the singer Arlo Guthrie for his Bar Mitzvah. 

Kahane received praise from other Jewish musicians, including Bob Dylan, who attended JDL meetings. Dylan described him, in a Time magazine interview in 1971, as “a sincere guy.”

But Kahane’s open militancy caused him to lose his rabbinical position, and he began publishing articles and books encouraging “Jewish militancy,” particularly against the Soviet Union, the Arab world and Palestinians, especially those living in Israel and under Israeli occupation. JDL members were suspected in, and accused of, numerous acts of violence throughout the US against Arab and Soviet properties. 

The FBI identified three of Kahane’s JDL disciples — Robert Manning, Keith Fuchs and Andy Green — as the primary suspects in the murder of Christian Palestinian activist Alex Odeh, West Coast director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), in California on Oct. 11, 1985. Odeh was killed by a bomb that exploded when he entered his ADC offices that morning.

Manning, Fuchs and Green fled to Israel, where they were given sanctuary and lived in the illegal Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron. Manning was later extradited to the US, and was charged and convicted in other violent acts related to his JDL membership. JDL militants were suspected in many acts of violence, yet continued to assume high-profile roles in the US and in Israel, where they spouted their virulent ideology of hate.

In June 1978, Kahane held a press conference in Chicago in front of the national headquarters of the National Socialist Party of America. I was a reporter at the time, and covered the press conference. Before it began, Kahane pointed to me and asked: “What are you?” I said I was American, Arab and Palestinian. He announced at the press conference that he would not take questions from me.

Kahane was assassinated on Nov. 5, 1990, by Egyptian-American El Sayyid Nosair. A park in Kiryat Arba was named in Kahane’s honor by the settlement’s leadership. Four years later, a memorial was established near Kahane Park in honor of one of his disciples, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, an American Israeli who was serving in the Israeli military. 

On Feb. 25, 1994, Goldstein was with Israeli soldiers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron when he used his automatic weapon to massacre 29 Muslims as they prayed. He was a member of the JDL and Kahane’s Kach political party.

Kahane has had a profound influence on Israeli politics and the growth of anti-Arab extremism in the country. Although his rhetoric was denounced by mainstream Jewish-American groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and Israeli organizations, his following persists inside and outside Israel.

The emergence in Israel, prior to last month’s general election, of the Otzma Yehudit political party, led by Kahane disciple and former Kach leader Baruch Marzel, highlights the durability of ultra-religious nationalist ideology on the far right of Israeli politics. It also demonstrates that the radicalization that extreme ideologues take forward in life can endure after their death.

Prior to the election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached out to Otzma Yehudit to bring it into his own coalition. This demonstrates how in Israel’s political system, even small extremist parties can play a role in government when more mainstream political parties need a Knesset majority. 

Israel’s Central Elections Committee allowed Otzma Yehudit to run in the election, but the Supreme Court intervened and banned it from doing so. Despite the ban, Otzma Yehudit’s activism keeps the flame of Kahanism alive.

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