Erdogan slams Israeli crimes against Palestinians, drawing sharp rebuke

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AFP photo)
Updated 08 May 2017
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Erdogan slams Israeli crimes against Palestinians, drawing sharp rebuke

ANKARA/JERUSALEM: Barely a year after reconciling and restoring diplomatic ties, Turkey and Israel were back at each other's throat on Monday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Muslims to stand up for the Palestinian cause, saying each day that Jerusalem remains under “occupation” is an insult to them. His words drew strong criticism from Israel, which called him a "serial human rights violator."
Speaking in Istanbul on Monday, Erdogan compared Israeli actions against Palestinians to those of South Africa under Apartheid and said the United States must drop plans to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Erdogan, a fervent supporter of Palestinians, normalized relations with Israel in June last year after bilateral ties deteriorated over the 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship that killed 10 Turkish activists.
On Monday, he vowed to prevent a draft bill being advanced in Israel that would prevent the use of speakers mounted on minarets to summon Muslims for prayer overnight.
The bill, which was approved by ministers in February but has yet to be adopted by parliament, would apply to mosques in Israel as well as annexed Arab east Jerusalem, but not to the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site.
“God willing, we will never allow the silencing of azan (call to prayers) in the skies of Jerusalem,” Erdogan said at the International Jerusalem Foundations Forum in Istanbul.
Erdogan accused Israel of keeping Jerusalem “without the Muslims.”
“What’s the difference of Israel’s current practices from the racist and discriminatory policies implemented toward the blacks in America in the past, and in South Africa more recently?” he asked.
The Turkish president also spoke out against the possibility of moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that even “relocating a stone” in the Holy City could have serious implications.
“The debates over the possibility of US moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem are extremely wrong and should certainly drop from the agenda,” he said.

‘Serial human rights violator’
The Israeli Foreign Ministry accused Erdogan of “systematically” violating human rights and said he “should not preach morality.”
“Whoever systematically violates human rights in their own country should not preach morality to the only true democracy in the region,” said Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.
“Israel consistently protects total freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians — and will continue to do so despite the baseless smears launched against it,” he said in a statement.
US President Donald Trump had promised during his campaign to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, whose status is one of the thorniest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community.
Israel supports the US moving its embassy.


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.