Syrian Kurdish militia says large number of Daesh foreign fighters held

Daesh fighters at the Syrian-Iraqi border. Syrian Democratic Forces said that more than half of those detained in the battle against Daesh in Syria are foreign fighters from all over the world, including Russia, Europe, China, Japan and Arab countries. (Corbis)
Updated 12 February 2018
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Syrian Kurdish militia says large number of Daesh foreign fighters held

BEIRUT: The Syrian Kurdish militia partnering with the U.S-led coalition to fight Daesh militants said Monday that it is holding a “huge number” of foreign fighters in Syria and none of their home countries want them back.
The head of the People’s Defense Units, or the YPG, Sipan Hemo, speaking to reporters in a conference call Monday, said more than half of those detained in the battle against Daesh in Syria are foreign fighters from all over the world, including Russia, Europe, China, Japan and Arab countries.
The future of those militants remains unclear and the process for bringing them to justice unsettled amid a debate, mostly in Europe, about whether they should be allowed to return home.
Hemo provided no figure for the number of detainees captured by his forces in Syria but added it was a burden to keep them.
“We suffer from the large number of Daesh detainees that we have now,” Hemo said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
Hemo said there is a “huge” number of IS foreign fighters and administrators from all over the world. Most of them are from Russia, Europe and Arab countries, he said.
Hemo said his forces have formally asked foreign governments to take their nationals to be tried at home. “Up until now, no one wants to take them back or to try them. We still have them in (local) prisons,” he said. “Honestly, we also don’t know what their future will be.”
Hemo said many of the local fighters were forced to work or cooperate with IS because they controlled their areas. He said those local detainees will likely face regular courts and will be tried or released. “They are regular people who had to live with Daesh.”
Even that is not exactly straightforward. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have no international recognition and the Syrian government, which runs the local courts, doesn’t have a presence in the areas liberated from IS by the U.S-backed forces.
The SDF — with the YPG as its backbone — captured two British men last month, and US officials interrogated them and identified them with biometric data and other tools. It was the most high profile capture publicly announced. British officials said they don’t want the two men, who were part of a cell that executed foreign hostages, to return home.
US officials say the two men represent just a small portion of the hundreds of foreign-born IS terrorists that were captured or killed since October 2017 by the SDF.
Two French nationals, including a woman listed as a key recruiter, appeared in videos posted online last month to speak about the conditions of their detention in Syria.


UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians, Israel says ‘no’

Updated 18 August 2018
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UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians, Israel says ‘no’

  • Israel rejects report saying the protection should be against Palestinian leaders
  • The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.

But the report has been rejected by the Israelis.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement late Friday that “the only protection the Palestinian people need is from their own leadership.”
“Instead of suggesting ways to protect the Palestinian people from Israel, the UN should instead hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for continually endangering its own people,” Danon said.
“The report’s suggestions will only enable the Palestinians’ continued rejectionism.”
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.