Iraqi Prime Minister: Iraqi forces have retaken Al-Qaim from Daesh

Vehicles of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) are seen after liberating the city of Al-Qaim, Iraq, on Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 04 November 2017
0

Iraqi Prime Minister: Iraqi forces have retaken Al-Qaim from Daesh

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi on Friday announced the liberation of the border town of Al-Qaim in Anbar province from Daesh.
Iraqi security forces, backed by the US-led international coalition and Shiite-dominated paramilitaries, have been pushing to gain control over the vast desert of Anbar, Daesh’s last bastion in Iraq. It includes many towns along the Iraq-Syria border, which extends for more than 600 km.
Baghdad has regained control of more than 90 percent of Iraqi territory seized by Daesh. While the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) liberated Al-Qaim, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) liberated the town of Karrabla along the southern Euphrates, said Lt. Gen. Abdulamir Rashid Yarallah, commander of the Western Anbar Clearance Operation.
Security forces also recaptured the Hussieba border crossing in Al-Qaim that leads to Deir Ezzor, Daesh’s largest stronghold in Syria, Yarallah said.
Al-Abadi congratulated Iraqis on Al-Qaim’s liberation in a “record period.” The main goals of the military operation, which was launched on Oct. 26, is to retake the border crossings between Iraq and Syria, and to cut Daesh’s cross-border supply routes, military officers told Arab News.
“We have to reopen all the crossings with Syria, but we can’t do this before completely clearing the area of militants,” one of them said.
A “huge security and intelligence” operation to scan the area and destroy Daesh hideouts is being planned, the officer added. “The area is full of hidden camps.”
The operation is relying on equipment from the US-led coalition, including drones and satellites, to scan the desert, military sources told Arab News.
Although the military map circulated by the media war cell on Friday evening showed that the forces liberated more than 60 percent of the targeted region, several military officers involved in the campaign said that “the operation is still in its infancy.”
“We cannot say when the operation will end. We are still at the very beginning of the first stage of the operation,” a senior military officer told Arab News.
“Most areas located on the northern bank of the Euphrates are still in the hands of the militants,” the officer said. “Also, we know that the area is full of hidden camps (for the militants), so we cannot say we fully liberated (the area) till we find all the terror camps and destroy them.”


US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

Updated 19 October 2018
0

US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

  • The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership
  • Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel

WASHINGTON: The United States downgraded its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians on Thursday, placing it under the authority of the US embassy to Israel.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the consulate general, a separate office which handled dealings with the Palestinians, would be replaced by a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the controversial new US embassy in Jerusalem.
The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is reviled by Palestinians over his support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership.
The change, quickly condemned by the Palestinians, follows a series of setbacks for them at the hands of President Donald Trump, who has turned US policy sharply toward Israel.
Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel.
“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. It does not signal a change of US policy,” Pompeo said in a statement.
He said the United States “continues to take no position” on how any peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would take shape.
The Palestinian leadership rejected Pompeo’s “efficiency” explanation.
The decision has “a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes,” the Palestinians’ chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
“The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution,” he added.
International powers have for decades maintained separate and autonomous representations to Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of supporting the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state.
They have insisted that the status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital, should be negotiated between the parties as part of any end deal.
Last December, Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.
The embassy was officially transferred on May 14.
Since then, the Trump administration has forced the Palestinians to shutter their Washington mission and has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, in a bid to force them to the negotiating table.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, alongside Friedman and peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working for months on a still-secret peace proposal, which Palestinians fear will be overly one-sided toward Israel.
The move Thursday nearly closes off all direct diplomatic contacts between the United States and the Palestinians, analysts said.
Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group think-tank said the US would be the only major power without a separate, independent representative office for the Palestinians.
“Other countries have gone to great lengths to avoid having the same representatives to Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” he told AFP.
Robert Danin, a former senior US government official dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues, said the move was a victory for “hard right partisans” who have sought to eliminate the Palestinian-focused consulate general “for decades.”
The consulate general “is THE eyes and ears into Palestinian politics and society. Its independence from US Embassy Israel provided Washington w/solid, unvarnished reporting and analysis,” he said on Twitter.
But Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor with the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and advocate for the embassy move, said the decision was more evidence the US considered Jerusalem to be fully part of Israel.
“This step confirms that the US recognizes the entire city as Israel’s capital,” he said.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert defended the move, saying the new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the embassy would maintain contacts with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem at the same level as before the change.
“We value our relationship with the Palestinian people. We look forward to continued partnership and dialogue with them and, we hope in future, with the Palestinian leadership,” she said via Twitter.