EU puts top Syrian officials under sanctions

France Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (L) and France's Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attend a European Union foreign and defence ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium on Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 15 November 2016
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EU puts top Syrian officials under sanctions

BRUSSELS: The European Union extended its sanctions on Syria on Monday, banning the country’s central bank chief and its finance minister from traveling in Europe and freezing their assets in a further step to isolate President Bashar Assad.
The decision to target Central Bank Gov. Duraid Durgham and Finance Minister Maamoun Hamdan, along with 16 other government ministers, made good on the EU’s threat last month to increase sanctions on Syria over the bombing of Aleppo.
Diplomats said targeting the country’s finance chiefs was aimed at pressuring Assad and limiting the central bank’s ability to obtain financing. The bloc already has a ban on dealings with the central bank, as well as an oil embargo and arms embargo.
The European Union singled out the central bank governor Durgham as “responsible for providing economic and financial support to the Syrian regime.”
Hamdan, among those picked in a government reshuffle in July, was put under sanctions along with Syria’s ministers responsible for areas such as electricity, water, industry and information.
The decision now puts a total of 234 people and 69 companies and institutions under sanctions for what the bloc said was “repression against the civilian population in Syria.”
In northern Syria, meanwhile, opposition commanders said that Syrian fighters backed by Turkey were poised to begin an assault to try to drive Daesh from Al-Bab.
Al-Bab is fast becoming a major faultline in the war in northern Syria, bringing Free Syrian Army fighters backed by Turkish armor closer than ever to frontlines held by the Syrian government and its Iranian and Russian allies in nearby Aleppo.
“There is nothing between us and Al-Bab,” said one of the rebels, a commander in one of the groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) banner taking part in the Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield operation in north Syria that began in August.
“If not in hours then in a very few days we will be inside Al-Bab,” said the commander.
Also Monday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said a fighter jet crashed while attempting to land on the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean off Syria, but the pilot survived.
In a statement to Russian news agencies, the Defense Ministry said the MiG-29K fighter crashed due to a “technical fault” a few kilometers from the carrier.
The pilot ejected and was recovered and taken aboard the ship.
“The pilot’s health is in no danger. The pilot is ready to carry out missions,” the ministry said, quoted by Interfax news agency.
The defense ministry said the plane was taking part in training flights.
It stressed that flights were still going ahead from the aircraft carrier despite the accident.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed Syria by phone on Monday and agreed to continue experts’ consultations to try to resolve the crisis.
It said Lavrov told Kerry that Washington had failed to stick to its pledge to encourage Syrian opposition to separate themselves from “terrorist” groups in Aleppo.
Lavrov also expressed “indignation” at the US decision not to issue an entry visa to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), who will miss the World Chess Championship in New York as a result.
The US-led coalition began strikes in Syria in September 2014, and has worked closely with Syrian Kurdish-led forces to push Daesh from large swathes of territory.
Such cooperation has angered Turkey, which considers the main Syrian Kurdish YPG militia a “terrorist” group, and is currently waging its own offensive inside Syria, targeting both Daesh and the Kurds.

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Arab Israeli poet jailed for online incitement freed from prison

The posts on YouTube and Facebook came as a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence was erupting, including Palestinian knife attacks. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Arab Israeli poet jailed for online incitement freed from prison

  • Tatour posted a video of herself reading her poem “Resist, my people, resist them,” in 2015, accompanied by pictures of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces, according to authorities.
  • The 36-year-old Israeli citizen was sentenced in July

An Arab Israeli woman jailed for five months for incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization in online poems and other social media posts was released from prison on Thursday.

Dareen Tatour posted a video clip of herself reading her poem “Resist, my people, resist them,” in October 2015, accompanied by pictures of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces, according to authorities.

The posts on YouTube and Facebook came as a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence was erupting, including Palestinian knife attacks.

The 36-year-old Israeli citizen was sentenced in July.

She was released on Thursday due to time served before her conviction, she and a prison spokesman said.

“Freedom is something so sweet that I can’t even describe it,” Tatour said after her release.

She added that she planned to publish a collection of poems and a novel on her experience in prison.

International writers’ group PEN defended Tatour’s actions.

She was “convicted for doing what writers do every day — we use our words to peacefully challenge injustice,” the group said.

The offending verses were quoted in Hebrew in the charge sheet, but according to an English translation on the Arabic literature site ArabLit, they contained the following:

“For an Arab Palestine, I will not succumb to the ‘peaceful solution,’ Never lower my flags, Until I evict them from my land, Resist the settler’s robbery, And follow the caravan of martyrs.”

Prosecutors said that on Oct. 4, 2015 she also quoted a statement by Islamic Jihad calling for “continuation of the intifada in every part of the West Bank,” alleging it showed her support for the outlawed militant group.

Tatour, from the Arab village of Reineh near Nazareth, was arrested a week later.

Arab Israelis are descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land following the creation of Israel in 1948.

They account for some 17.5 percent of Israel’s population and largely support the Palestinian cause.