Somalia sought US airstrike which killed militants

File: Hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18 km south of Mogadishu, in Somalia. (AP)
Updated 22 November 2017
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Somalia sought US airstrike which killed militants

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s government said on Wednesday it had requested the US airstrike which killed more than 100 suspected militants on the previous day to help pave the way for an upcoming ground offensive against the militant group Al-Shabab.
The US military’s Africa Command said on Tuesday it had killed more than 100 of the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in an airstrike on a camp 125 miles (200 km) northwest of the capital Mogadishu.
“Those militants were preparing explosives and attacks. Operations against Al-Shabab have been stepped up,” Abdirahman Omar Oman, the Somali minister, told Reuters.
“We have asked the US to help us from the air to make our readied ground offensive more successful.”
The US has ramped up operations in Somalia this year after President Donald Trump loosened the rules of engagement in March.
Africom reported eight US airstrikes from May to August this year, compared to 13 for the whole of 2016. Including Tuesday’s airstrike, it has reported five strikes in Somalia this month alone.
The Pentagon said the US military would continue to target militants in strikes in coordination with the Somali government.
A Navy Seal was killed in a raid in May and US forces were present at a controversial raid on the town of Bariire in August, in which 10 people were killed.
Al-Shabab has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns since African Union peacekeepers supporting Somali troops pushed the insurgency out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011. But it retains a strong presence in parts of the south and center.
Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a dual US-Somali citizen, has taken a harder line than his predecessors against the insurgency since he was sworn in earlier this year.
But his plans have been repeatedly thwarted by the poor state of the Somali military and political infighting.


Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

Palestinians celebrate the resignation of Israel's defense minister. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

  • The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM: A knife-wielding Palestinian attacker sneaked into a Jerusalem police station and lightly wounded four police officers before he was shot and captured, Israeli police said on Thursday.

The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip that ended two days of heavy fighting, the area’s most severe violence since the 50-day Gaza war in 2014.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the knife-wielding attacker climbed over the station’s fence late on Wednesday night and began stabbing officers inside. Other officers then shot the assailant and captured him; he was later taken to hospital.

In the two days of heavy fighting, Palestinian militants had fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel, while Israel carried out airstrikes on 160 Gaza targets. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed. A rocket fired from Gaza killed a Palestinian laborer in Israel.

The latest round of violence was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinians and a senior Israeli military officer dead. Before the raid, Egyptian and UN mediators had made progress in reducing tensions.

In recent days, Israel had allowed fuel shipments to increase the power supply in Gaza, which suffers from frequent blackouts, and agreed to additional Qatari assistance to allow Hamas to pay the salaries of its thousands of government workers.

The cease-fire led to the resignation of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had demanded a far stronger Israeli response to the Palestinian rocket attack but appeared to have been overruled by Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

Resignation

The resignation threw the government into turmoil and pushed the country toward an early election. Netanyahu presented the decision to step back from a full-blown conflict as a unified one made by his Security Cabinet and based on the military’s recommendations. 

But Lieberman and fellow hard-liner Education Minister Naftali Bennett later expressed reservations, saying they favored a stronger response.

Hamas has staged  near-weekly border protests since March in an effort to lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the coastal strip in 2007.  This has inflicted heavy damage on Gaza, but Hamas remains firmly in power. Demonstrators each week approach the border fence, throwing firebombs, grenades and burning tires at Israeli troops. Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people, most of them unarmed.

Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party was demanding to be given the defense portfolio or he would withdraw his eight seats from Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Another key coalition partner, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of center-right Kulanu, reportedly told Netanyahu elections should be called as soon as possible because a stable government was needed to keep the economy on track.

Premier Netanyahu’s political popularity is in large part due to his reputation as Israel’s “Mr. Security,” as he has often been dubbed, and he has defended his decision saying: “Our enemies begged for a cease-fire.

“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said.