Hamas names suspect in bomb attack on prime minister

Palestinians take part in a protest in Gaza City on March 21, 2018 against Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's statement in which he accused Hamas of carrying out a bomb attack against prime minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza last week, as well as threatening fresh sanctions against them. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Hamas names suspect in bomb attack on prime minister

GAZA CITY: Hamas on Wednesday named a fugitive suspect in a bomb attack on Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah, two days after the movement itself was accused of the Gaza attack.
Hamdallah was unhurt by the roadside blast that struck his convoy on March 13, in what Palestinian officials have called an assassination attempt as he entered the Hamas-run strip on a rare visit.
The interior ministry in Gaza on Wednesday said it was searching for Anas abu Koussa, born in 1993, describing him as the lead suspect.
It did not give a possible motive for the attack on Hamdallah, head of government in president Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.
A Hamas security source said investigators had arrested and were questioning three people, including two members of the PA-run intelligence services.
Another security source said he believed radical Salafist Muslims had planted the bomb, which lightly injured six people.
Hamas and the West Bank-based PA have been bitter rivals for a decade since the movement seized control of Gaza.
The bomb appears to have brought to an end hopes for an already floundering reconciliation deal between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party, which dominates the PA.
On Monday Abbas accused Hamas of being behind the blast and said he would take new measures in response, without specific details.
Meanwhile, Palestinians took part in a protest in Gaza City on Wednesday against Abbas's statement in which he accused Hamas of carrying out a bomb attack against prime minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza last week, as well as threatening fresh sanctions against them.


Turkey-backed fighters await ‘zero hour’ to attack Syria’s Manbij

Updated 17 January 2019
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Turkey-backed fighters await ‘zero hour’ to attack Syria’s Manbij

  • The YPG fear the US withdrawal will open the way for a threatened Turkish attack into northern Syria
  • The YPG have also left Manbij but retain influence over the Kurdish-allied groups

JARABLUS, SYRIA: Opposition commander Adnan Abu Faisal and his army are encamped near the frontline in northern Syria, waiting to launch an offensive on his home city of Manbij.

But they are not the ones who will decide whether to march on the strategically important city, held for more than two years by Kurdish forces supported by the US.

The decision will depend on Turkey, the main backer of Abu Faisal’s group, and on how contacts evolve between Washington and Ankara over the US plans to withdraw forces from Syria, a move set to reshape a major theater of the war.

The US and Turkey are allies both in the NATO defense alliance and in the fight against Daesh, but Ankara sees the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces that helped the US-led coalition drive Daesh out of Manbij in 2016 as a security threat.

The YPG fear the US withdrawal will open the way for a threatened Turkish attack into northern Syria, including Manbij, but US President Donald Trump has warned Turkey of “economic devastation” if it goes ahead with the attack.

Abu Faisal’s fighters are awaiting orders near Jarablus, a town held by Turkey and its Syrian opposition allies about 35 km south of Manbij. The frontline in the area runs through open farmland where wheat and corn are usually grown.

“We are ready with our forces ... for ‘zero hour’ to begin any military action,” Abu Faisal, whose forces have more than 300 vehicles including pickup trucks and armored vehicles provided by Turkey, told Reuters.

“Preparations are going at full speed,” he said.

Abu Faisal, 36, was an army captain before Syria’s civil war began in 2011 but defected from the Syrian Army in 2012 to join the fight against Bashar Assad.

Abu Faisal helped wrest control of Manbij from the Syrian Army early in the conflict but fled when it was seized by Daesh in 2014 and has not set foot there since then.

The YPG have also left Manbij but retain influence over the Kurdish-allied groups that hold the city 30 km from the border with Turkey.

Manbij lies near the junction of three separate blocks of territory that form spheres of Russian, Turkish and, for now, US influence.

The US military pullout will not only leave Kurds exposed to possible confrontation with Turkey but will also open the way for the expansion of Russian and Iranian sway into the areas that US forces will be leaving.

The US military deployed into Syria as part of the fight against Daesh but officials later indicated wider objectives included containing Iran, Assad’s main regional ally. 

Late last month, the YPG called on Assad’s forces to protect Manbij from attack by Turkey. Syrian government forces, which are backed by Russia, answered the YPG appeal by deploying outside Manbij.

Abu Faisal’s fighters, backed by Turkish forces, made their own advance toward the city the same day but stopped short of an attack.