ISIL seeks Islamic state on Syria-Iraq border

Updated 24 May 2014

ISIL seeks Islamic state on Syria-Iraq border

BEIRUT: Jihadists have launched a fresh bid to take over the Syria-Iraq border area and set up a so-called Islamic state they can control, rebels, activists and a monitoring group say.
“Their name is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Their goal is to link together the two areas (Syria, Iraq) to set up their state and then to continue spreading,” said activist and citizen journalist Abdel Salam Hussein.
Speaking from Albu Kamal on the Iraq border, Hussein said ISIL seeks to crush Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, and control the eastern, energy-rich province of Deir Ezzor bordering Iraq.
“ISIL are trying to end Al-Nusra Front’s power in the area, and if they do they will take over” the whole province, he said.
ISIL’s long-time ambition of creating an area under its control stretching across Syria and Iraq was undermined by a massive January offensive against it by rival Islamist rebels.
The campaign cornered ISIL fighters in Raqa province, its bastion in northern Syria.
Once welcomed into the rebellion against President Bashar Assad, ISIL’s aim to dominate and its horrific abuses of civilians and rival fighters sparked the wrath of much of Syria’s opposition, including former ally Al-Nusra.
Rooted in Al-Qaeda in Iraq, ISIL split from the network after overall Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri ordered it to stop fighting Al-Nusra.
In February, ISIL withdrew from most of Deir Ezzor after pitched battles with Al-Nusra and other Islamist groups, said rebel spokesman Omar Abu Layla.
But ISIL has since deployed “3,000 fighters from Raqa to Deir Ezzor,” Abu Layla told AFP.
“Most of them are foreigners, including Europeans, Tunisians and Saudis,” he said.
“ISIL have orders from their leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi to focus on Deir Ezzor, to take it over. It’s their main gateway to Iraq.”


Activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said violence is escalating in Deir Ezzor, with daily battles pitting ISIL rebels against Al-Nusra fighters, and a spike in car bombings.
One such attack by ISIL on Friday killed 12 people, including three children, the Observatory said.
The watchdog’s director, Rami Abdel Rahman, confirmed ISIL was expanding.
“They are pressing their bid by pushing tribes to swear oaths of loyalty to them, and by fighting rival factions in an attempt to ensure they emerge the strongest,” he said.
“ISIL have oil, money and weapons,” he added.
Over the past year ISIL fighters have seized regime weapons depots even after they were captured in joint battles with other groups, said Abdel Rahman.
Both the Observatory and activist Hussein say ISIL now holds sway in much of the area east of the Euphrates river in Deir Ezzor province.
Hussein said the tribal nature of the area means the war there is more over oil and loyalty than ideology.
He also said some rebel commanders in Albu Kamal, a key crossing point between Iraq and Syria still beyond ISIL control, “have sworn oaths of loyalty to ISIL.”
Hussein added that anti-ISIL rebels and jihadists are fighting back, but that they have suffered heavy losses.
“And with all the oil money coming in to Deir Ezzor, ISIL is able to keep its ammunition supplies well stocked,” he added.
The group has distributed food to families in flashpoint areas to try to gain popular support in an area impoverished by decades of marginalization and three years of conflict and displacement.
“The other day they were giving out fruit to families. It’s a tactic to win support,” Hussein said.
But rebel spokesman Abu Layla, who opposes both ISIL and the Assad regime, said he believes ISIL has no future in Deir Ezzor.
“They want to use force to set up a brutal, extremist state that has nothing to do with Islam, and people reject that,” he said.
“Every day we are fighting ISIL and the regime, without a single bullet or dollar of support from the outside world,” Abu Leyla said.
“They can never claim real, grassroots support. Nobody in Syria wants ISIL.”
ser/sah/hkb/srm


Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

Updated 23 August 2019

Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

  • The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide

CAIRO: Egypt is seeking Japan’s help to improve its education system, which has fallen to 130th place in international rankings.

The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide, and Cairo is hoping to apply key aspects of Japan’s approach to the Egyptian curriculum.

Education has played a major role in transforming Japan from a feudal state receiving aid following World War II to a modern economic powerhouse. 

During a visit to Japan in 2016, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed political and economic development with Japanese officials, and was also briefed on the Japanese education system.

The Egyptian leader visited Japanese schools and called on Japan to help Egypt introduce a similar system in its schools.  

As part of Egyptian-Japanese cooperation, Japan’s embassy established cultural cooperation as well as technical and professional education links between the two countries. Collaboration has been strengthened from kindergarten to post-university, with Japanese experts contributing in various education fields.

Japanese experts have held seminars in schools across the country, focusing on basic education. 

During one seminar, Japan highlighted the importance of enhancing education by playing games during kindergarten and primary school, encouraging children’s ability and desire to explore.  

Education expert Ola El-Hazeq told Arab News that the Japanese system focuses on developing students’ sense of collective worth and responsibility toward society. This starts with their surrounding environment by taking care of school buildings, educational equipment and school furniture, for example.

“Japanese schools are known for being clean,” El-Hazeq said. “The first thing that surprises a school visitor is finding sneakers placed neatly in a locker or on wooden shelves at the school entrance. Each sneaker has its owner’s name on it. This is a habit picked up at most primary and intermediate schools as well as in many high schools.”

Japanese students also clean their classrooms, collect leaves that have fallen in the playground and take out the garbage. In many cases, teachers join students to clean up schools and also public gardens and beaches during the summer holidays.

El-Hazeq added that neither the teachers nor the students find it beneath their dignity to carry out such chores.

The academic year in Japan continues for almost 11 months, different from most other countries, with the Japanese academic year starting on April 1 and ending on March 31 the following year.

Japan’s school days and hours are relatively longer in comparison with other countries. Usually the school day is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Teachers normally work until 5 p.m. but sometimes up to 7 p.m. Holidays are shorter than in other countries. Spring and winter holidays are no longer than 10 days, and the summer holiday ranges from 40 to 45 days.