Oman minister makes rare visit by Arab official to Jerusalem holy site

A picture taken on Feb. 15, 2018 shows Omani minister responsible for foreign affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi (4th-R), visiting Al-Aqsa mosques compound in Arab east Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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Oman minister makes rare visit by Arab official to Jerusalem holy site

JERUSALEM: Oman’s foreign minister made a rare visit by an Arab official to a Jerusalem holy site on Thursday after holding talks with Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank.
Yusuf bin Alawi visited the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, an AFP journalist reported.
His visit comes in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, a move that angered the Muslim world.
Such a visit would usually require coordination with Israeli officials. An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said he was unaware of the visit and could not immediately comment.
Oman and Israel do not have official diplomatic relations, as is the case with most of the Arab world.
The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is the third-holiest site for Muslims and the scene of regular tensions between Palestinians and Israeli authorities.
It is on the hill that Jews refer to as the Temple Mount, the most sacred place in Judaism as the site of the first and second Jewish temples in the biblical era.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken repeatedly of improving ties with Arab nations in recent months, but there was no sign of a link to the minister’s visit.
Bin Alawi visited the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque at the compound and said “it is a duty of Arabs to visit the mosque if they can.”
Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the most sensitive in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. It sees the entire city as its capital.
The Palestinians want Jerusalem’s eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
Bin Alawi met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah earlier in the day.


US-backed SDF denies report of final Daesh defeat

Updated 4 min 19 sec ago
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US-backed SDF denies report of final Daesh defeat

  • The SDF has denied the claims made by Syrian Kurdish news outlet Hawar

DEIR AL-ZOR, Syria: The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) denied a report on Thursday that all of Daesh’s final enclave has been captured after a Kurdish media outlet said the militant group had been finally defeated there.
“Combing continues in the Baghouz camp and there is no truth (to the report) about the complete liberation of the village,” an SDF media official said, quoting the commanders of the offensive.
Earlier, Hawar News reported the SDF had “liberated all of Baghouz from the Daesh mercenaries” and with that the campaign had “ended with the defeat of Daesh and the victory of the SDF,” quoting its correspondents.
Daesh’s final defeat at Baghouz will end its territorial rule that once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.
The SDF on Tuesday captured an encampment where the militants had been mounting a last defense of the tiny enclave, pushing diehard fighters onto a sliver of land at the Euphrates riverside.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that a “tiny spot” of remaining Daesh territory would be “gone by tonight.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, whose country has participated in the campaign, said on Wednesday he expected the announcement of the “final territorial defeat” to be made in the “next few days.”