Syrian Kurds capture two British Daesh militants — US officials

An image grab taken off a video on January 20, 2015, reportedly released by Daesh through Al-Furqan Media, allegedly shows Japanese hostages Kenji Goto (L) and Haruna Yukawa (R) at an undisclosed location. The Daesh group threatened to kill the two Japanese hostages unless Tokyo pays a $200 million ransom within 72 hours to compensate for non-military aid. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Syrian Kurds capture two British Daesh militants — US officials

WASHINGTON, Feb 8 : Two British Daesh militants known for their role in the torture and killings of Western hostages were captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters, two US officials said on Thursday.
The men were the last of a group of four militants known as the “Beatles,” for their English accents, to remain at large.
The two, whose capture was first reported by the New York Times, were identified as Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh.
A separate US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had captured the two in early January in eastern Syria. The official said US forces in the area had been given access to the militants.
A US-led coalition has pushed Daesh out of most of the territory it controlled in Iraq and Syria, but its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who proclaimed the self-styled caliphate in 2014, remains at large.
The US State Department sanctioned Kotey in January 2017, saying he was a guard for the “Beatles” and “likely engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electronic shock and waterboarding.”
Kotey had also acted as a recruiter and was responsible for recruiting several British nationals to join the militant group, the State Department said.
In March 2017, the State Department sanctioned Elsheikh, saying he was “said to have earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions, and crucifixions while serving as an ISIS jailer.”
The most notorious of the four was Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” an executioner of hostages made famous by Daesh videos of beheadings.
A US-British missile strike believed to have killed Emwazi, a British citizen of Arab origin, was months in preparation but came together at lightning speed in 2015 in the Syrian town of Raqqa, according to US officials.
Emwazi became the public face of Daesh and a symbol of its brutality after appearing in videos showing the murders of US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, US aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and other hostages.


Israel clears soldiers in 2014 ‘Black Friday’ Gaza assault

Updated 15 August 2018
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Israel clears soldiers in 2014 ‘Black Friday’ Gaza assault

  • A military fact-finding mission into the “Black Friday” assault showed that a criminal investigation was “not warranted”
  • It acknowledged, however, that up to 70 civilians were "unintentionally killed"

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military on Wednesday closed its probe into a deadly 2014 assault in Gaza that followed the capture of a soldier despite a rights group’s charge of possible war crimes.
A military fact-finding mission into the “Black Friday” assault in which Amnesty says more than 130 Palestinian civilians died during the 2014 Gaza war showed that a criminal investigation was “not warranted,” the army said in a statement.
It acknowledged, however, that up to 70 civilians were “unintentionally killed as a result of attacks directed at military targets and military operatives.”
At least 42 Palestinian militants were also killed, the statement said, citing information gathered by the military advocate general.
The assault in Rafah, southern Gaza, on August 1, 2014 was launched after the kidnapping of Israeli Lt. Hadar Goldin shortly after the announcement of a cease-fire.
Two other soldiers were killed in fighting that led to the kidnapping in the Hamas-run enclave, while Goldin himself was later declared dead.
In response, the military implemented the so-called Hannibal Directive — a controversial procedure which allows for an intensive military response to secure the rescue of a captured soldier.
Israel bombed the city of Rafah and the surrounding area near the border with Egypt.
In 2015, Amnesty International said there had been “strong evidence” of war crimes by Israeli forces as it published a detailed analysis of the assault using eyewitness accounts, satellite imagery, photos and videos.
According to Amnesty, at least 135 civilians were killed in the air and ground assault.
Civilians had begun to return home due to the cease-fire announcement, Amnesty said, alleging “massive and prolonged bombardment began without warning while masses of people were on the streets.”
Israel’s statement on Wednesday said the use of force was “in accordance with operational considerations and with an effort to mitigate, as much as possible, harm to civilians.”
“No grounds were found to support the allegation that the objective of the (military’s) actions were to extract revenge following the abduction of Lt. Goldin,” it said.
The statement said there was no evidence that the Hannibal Directive led to “the use of force in a disproportionate or unrestrained manner.”
The decades-old directive has since been revoked by the military and replaced with a new one.
More than 2,250 Palestinians were killed, including more than 500 children, in the 2014 war, the third between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008.
Seventy-three people were killed on the Israeli side, including 67 soldiers.