Iraq troops claim pushing back militants

Updated 16 June 2014

Iraq troops claim pushing back militants

BAGHDAD: Iraq said Sunday it had “regained the initiative” against militants who seized vast swathes of territory, as former UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi blamed the crisis on global neglect of Syria’s civil war.
Washington responded to the sweeping unrest by deploying an aircraft carrier to the Gulf, but Iran has warned against foreign military intervention in its Shiite neighbor, voicing confidence that Baghdad is able to repel the onslaught.
The militants, spearheaded by the powerful Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group, have overrun all of one province and chunks of three more since they launched their offensive late on Monday.
Security forces have generally performed poorly, with some abandoning their vehicles and positions and discarding their uniforms, though they seem to have begun to recover from the initial onslaught and have started to regain ground.
Iraqi commanders have said their forces were now starting to push the militants back, and that soldiers had recaptured two towns north of Baghdad, with a spokesman announcing that Iraqi security personnel had killed 279 “terrorists” in the past 24 hours.
Iraqi officials however often announce large militant tolls, with no way of independent verification, and downplay their own casualties.
Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s security spokesman, Lt. Gen. Qassem Atta, also said during a televised news conference that Baghdad had “regained the initiative.”
Baghdad’s forces will be joined by a flood of volunteers, urged on by a call to arms from top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani.
A recruitment center for such volunteers at the town of Khales in central Iraq came under mortar attack on Sunday, leaving six people dead, including three Iraqi soldiers, police and a doctor said.

Obama weighs options
US President Barack Obama said he was “looking at all the options” to halt the offensive that has brought the militants within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of Baghdad’s city limits, but ruled out any return of US troops to combat in Iraq.
Washington has, however, ordered an aircraft carrier into the Gulf in response to the crisis.
Obama has been under mounting fire from his Republican opponents over the swift collapse of Iraq’s security forces, which Washington spent billions of dollars training and equipping before pulling out its own troops in late 2011.
Iran meanwhile warned on Sunday that “any foreign military intervention in Iraq” would only complicate the crisis.
“Iraq has the capacity and necessary preparations for the fight against terrorism and extremism,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said a day earlier that Iran had not been asked for help by its neighbor.
But in surprise comments Rouhani added that Iran may “think about” cooperating with its arch-foe the United States to fight the militants in Iraq, despite the lack of diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington for more than three decades.
Brahimi, the former UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, told AFP the international community’s neglect of the conflict in neighboring Syria had precipitated the crisis in Iraq.


“It is a well-known rule: a conflict of this kind (in Syria) cannot stay confined within the borders of one country,” said Brahimi.
The international community “unfortunately neglected the Syrian problem and did not help to resolve it. This is the result,” said Brahimi, who resigned from his post as UN-Arab League representative to Syria in May.
As Iraq troops began to drive back the militants, they found grisly scenes, amid reports that militants had carried out summary executions of Iraqi security forces members they captured.
Troops found the burned bodies of 12 policemen as they recaptured the town of Ishaqi in Salaheddin province from the insurgents, a police colonel and a doctor said.
Photos posted online were also said to show militants summarily executing dozens of captured members of the security forces in the province.
The situation on the ground has been further complicated as forces from the autonomous Kurdish region have made territorial advances.
A senior official said on Sunday that Kurdish peshmerga forces had taken control of one of two official border crossings with Syria earlier in the week.
Kurdish forces have also seized the disputed ethnically-mixed northern city of Kirkuk and surrounding areas, as well as other areas.
Amid the confusion, Iraq launched an air strike on a convoy of Kurdish forces Saturday night near Khanaqin, one of the areas of eastern Iraq that Kurds have moved in to, killing six people.
It was not immediately clear if the attack was specifically targeting the Kurdish troops or a case of mistaken identity.
And though violence has dropped off in Baghdad, apparently as militants have concentrated their efforts elsewhere, the capital has not been spared, with a bombing on Sunday afternoon killing nine people.
burs-psr/wd/bpz


Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

Updated 23 August 2019

Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

  • Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects
  • Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years

JERUSALEM: A rare homemade bomb attack in the occupied West Bank killed an Israeli teen and seriously wounded her father and brother Friday as they visited a spring near a Jewish settlement, officials said.
Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects.
Israeli medics had earlier reported that a 17-year-old had been critically wounded in the attack and officials later announced her death, naming her as Rina Shnerb from the central Israeli city of Lod.
Medics from the Magen David Adom rescue service initially gave the ages of the two wounded as 46 and 20, before amending to 21 in the latter case.
The army said the three victims were a father and his two children.
The two wounded were taken by helicopter to hospital, the army said.
“Three civilians who were in a nearby spring were injured in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast,” it said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “harsh terrorist attack” and sent condolences to the family, while pledging to continue building settlements.
“The security arms are in pursuit after the abhorrent terrorists,” he said in a statement.
“We will apprehend them. The long arm of Israel reaches all those who seek our lives and will settle accounts with them.”
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov condemned the “shocking, heinous” attack, saying there was nothing heroic in Shnerb’s “murder,” calling it a “despicable, cowardly act.”
“Terror must be unequivocally condemned by ALL,” Mladenov wrote on Twitter.
Israeli forces meanwhile entered the Palestinian village of Beitunia, south of the spring, to take footage from surveillance cameras.
An AFP reporter said Palestinians clashed there with Israeli soldiers, but no casualties were reported.
Chief of the army, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi visited the site of the attack to understand the incident and oversee the efforts to locate the perpetrators, which he was “confident” would happen quickly, the military said.
Later in the day, Shnerb was buried in her hometown Lod, with thousands participating in the funeral.
Shnerb’s father Eitan, who was wounded and couldn’t attend the funeral, relayed through an uncle his request that people focus on “our strength and love and the wonderful nation and our good land” and avoid sinking into “weakness and anger and strife.”
“We should be worthy of the great sacrifice we offered today,” Eitan Shnerb was cited by the uncle as saying.
In a speech on Friday, Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.
He referred to a recent clash between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and sought to draw a link between the two incidents.
AFP reporters said thousands of Gazans participated in weekly Friday protests at the Israeli border fence, with some youths using slingshots to launch stones at the barrier and a few approaching it.
The health ministry in the enclave said over 122 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces, dozens of them hit by live fire.
Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years.
Palestinian attacks have mostly involved guns, knives and car ramming.
There have been concerns about a possible increase in violence in the run up to Israel’s September 17 general election.
A week ago, a Palestinian carried out a car-ramming attack in the West Bank, wounding two Israelis before being shot dead.
On August 8, an off-duty Israeli soldier’s body was found with multiple stab wounds. Two Palestinian suspects were later arrested.
Late Thursday, a Palestinian threw grenades at Israeli soldiers while attempting to cross the Gaza border and was shot by Israeli forces, leaving him wounded, the army and the Gaza health ministry said.
Gaza militants have also launched six missiles at Israel in the past week; the most recent were on Wednesday.
In retaliation, the Israeli army said it struck “a number of military targets in a Hamas naval facility in the northern Gaza Strip.”