Israel has bombed Iranian-backed militias in Syria — Netanyahu

A man watches a presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the International Homeland security Forum in Jerusalem on June 14, 2018. (AFP / THOMAS COEX)
Updated 15 June 2018
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Israel has bombed Iranian-backed militias in Syria — Netanyahu

  • Netanyahu accused Iran, which has been helping Damascus beat back a seven-year-old rebellion, of bringing in 80,000 Shiite fighters from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount attacks against Israel and “convert” Syria’s Sunni majority.
  • About half Syria’s pre-war 22 million population has been displaced by the fighting, with hundreds of thousands of refugees making it to Europe.

JERUSALEM: Israel has attacked Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, casting such actions as potentially helping to stem a Syrian Sunni refugee exodus to Europe.
Israeli officials have previously disclosed scores of air strikes within Syria to prevent suspected arms transfers to Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah guerrillas or Iranian military deployments.
But they have rarely given detail on the operations, or described non-Lebanese militiamen as having been targeted.
Netanyahu accused Iran, which has been helping Damascus beat back a seven-year-old rebellion, of bringing in 80,000 Shiite fighters from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount attacks against Israel and “convert” Syria’s Sunni majority.
“That is a recipe for a re-inflammation of another civil war — I should say a theological war, a religious war — and the sparks of that could be millions more that go into Europe and so on ... And that would cause endless upheaval and terrorism in many, many countries,” Netanyahu told an international security forum.
“Obviously we are not going to let them do it. We’ll fight them. By preventing that — and we have bombed the bases of this, these Shiite militias — by preventing that, we are also offering, helping the security of your countries, the security of the world.”
Netanyahu did not elaborate. About half Syria’s pre-war 22 million population has been displaced by the fighting, with hundreds of thousands of refugees making it to Europe.
Syria’s population is mostly Sunni Muslim. President Bashar Assad is from the Alawite religious minority, often considered an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Under recent deals between Assad’s government and mainly Sunni rebels, insurgents have left long-besieged areas sometimes in exchange for Shiite residents moving from villages surrounded by insurgents.
The political opposition to Assad says the deals amount to forced demographic change and deliberate displacement of his enemies away from the main cities of western Syria. The Damascus government says the deals allow it to take back control and to restore services in the wrecked towns.


Morocco Christians urge religious freedom before pope visit

Updated 32 min 45 sec ago
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Morocco Christians urge religious freedom before pope visit

  • Morocco is 99 percent Muslim
  • The pontiff is due to visit the North African country on March 30-31 at the invitation of King Mohammed VI

RABAT: Morocco’s Christian minority on Thursday called on authorities in the Muslim-majority country to guarantee religious freedoms, ahead of a visit by Pope Francis.
The Coordination of Moroccan Christians, a group representing converts to Christianity in a nation that is 99 percent Muslim, appealed for “basic freedoms of which we, Moroccan Christians, are still often deprived.”
These include freedom of public worship as well as the right to have church or civil weddings and Christian funeral rites and education, it said in a statement.
“We dream of a free Morocco” which embraces religious diversity, the group said, adding that it hopes Pope Francis’s visit this month will be a “historic occasion” for the country.
“We also call on the Moroccan authorities to no longer put pressure on the country’s official churches, including the Catholic church in Morocco, to dissuade them from accepting” converts to Christianity, the statement said.
The pontiff is due to visit the North African country on March 30-31 at the invitation of King Mohammed VI.
More than 40,000 Christians — mostly foreigners — are estimated to live in Morocco, whose king describes himself as the “commander of the faithful.”
Religious pluralism is enshrined in the constitution and freedom of worship is guaranteed, according to the Moroccan authorities.