Jordan says Israel wants to discuss border land deals

Jordan's Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, addresses the opening of the 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama. (AFP)
Updated 05 November 2018
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Jordan says Israel wants to discuss border land deals

AMMAN: Jordan said on Sunday Israel had asked for consultations on a special land deal agreed in their peace treaty that the Jordanian government wants to end.
Under the peace treaty, two border areas were recognized to be under Jordanian sovereignty but gave Israel special provisions to use the land and allow Israelis free access.
Jordan formally notified Israel two weeks ago it would not renew the 25-year deal over Baquora where the Yarmouk River flows into the Jordan River and in the Ghumar area in the southern Wadi Araba desert where Israeli farmers have large plantations.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told Reuters after the decision the Kingdom was waiting for Israel to invoke a provision in the peace treaty to hold consultations after giving notice before the deadline.
Petra state news agency quoted government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat as saying Jordan had received the Israeli request but did not say when the discussions would begin.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged Jordan’s move and said his country sought to enter negotiations on the possibility of extending the arrangement.
The 25-year special regime would be automatically renewed unless either of the parties notified the other a year before expiry that it wished to terminate the agreement.
Safadi said the deal, which was signed in November 1994, had been conceived as a temporary arrangement from the start. The kingdom had contemplated the move for a while before the Nov. 10 deadline.
King Abdullah, who stressed the territories were Jordanian lands and would remain so, said the move was made in the “national interest” at a period of regional turmoil.
Jordan is one of only two Arab states that has a peace treaty with Israel and the two countries have a long history of close security ties. But the treaty is unpopular in Jordan where pro-Palestinian sentiment is widespread.


Deadly attack on US forces leaves Syria town fearful for future

The residents of Manbij fear more Daesh attacks. (AFP)
Updated 7 min 33 sec ago
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Deadly attack on US forces leaves Syria town fearful for future

  • “We come to the market but we are afraid. We go to work and we are afraid... we don’t know what could happen,” says resident
  • The four Americans killed in the blast were two soldiers, a civilian defense department employee and a Pentagon subcontractor.

MANBIJ: Charred walls, shattered windows, uncooked kebabs still on the counter — the blast that hit US forces at this small restaurant in northern Syria has left residents fearful for the future.

Wednesday’s suicide bombing, claimed by Daesh, was the deadliest to hit US troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014.

Nineteen people, including four Americans, were killed in the attack on the grill house in the central market of the flashpoint northern town of Manbij.

“We come to the market but we are afraid. We go to work and we are afraid... we don’t know what could happen,” says Jomaa Al-Qassem, eyeing the shops from his car along with his three-year-old son.

In front of the blackened storefront, armed security forces hustle curious onlookers away and are quick to prevent them from taking photos with their cellphones.

Behind its twisted metal exterior, a clump of raw red meat lies abandoned on a counter, covered with dust. Tables and cookware from the kitchen have been twisted into a tangled mess on the floor.

Run by a Washington-backed town council since the US-led coalition and its ground partners pushed out militants in 2016, Manbij has been a realm of relative quiet. 

The town was considered sufficiently secure that a group of top US military commanders and lawmakers strolled through the same market place without body armor during a tour of the area last summer.

Next to the blast site, Abu Abdel Rahman lifts an armful of red teddy bears out of his storefront display, carefully avoiding the shattered glass.

Just meters away from the restaurant, his shop was also hit by the blast.

But the US military presence in the town has been thrown into question after President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month that he would pull all American troops from Syria, claiming the Daesh had been “largely defeated.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime Trump supporter who was among this summer’s visitors, has been one of the most vocal critics of the president’s decision and was in Ankara for talks with top officials on Friday.

“I was at the door of my shop and saw a fireball come out of the restaurant. Then, there were body parts on the ground,” he told AFP, a red keffiyeh headscarf wrapped around his face to help fend off the cold winter air.

The four Americans killed in the blast were two soldiers, a civilian defense department employee and a Pentagon subcontractor.

The US Defense Department has previously reported only two American personnel killed in combat in Syria, in separate incidents.

The attack came as tensions between Washington’s Syrian Kurdish ground partner and its NATO ally Turkey flare.

Ankara views the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a “terrorist offshoot” of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly insurgency for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened an all-out offensive to clear the group from its border.

At the town’s entrance, security checkpoints manned by forces of the US-backed Manbij Military Council meticulously check vehicles and the IDs of people entering and exiting the town. Regular patrols move through the streets.

But for Malek Al-Hassan, it is not enough.

The 45-year-old was in the market that day to buy books for his children.

“When the explosion happened, I don’t know how we managed to escape,” he says.

“We hope the forces will be more vigilant at the roadblocks, and that they will work hard to prevent these infiltrators from committing these acts of sabotage,” he says.

After sweeping across swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, the militants’ cross-border “caliphate” has been erased by multiple offensives and is now confined to a tiny embattled enclave in eastern Syria close to the Iraqi border.

But despite the stinging defeats, Daesh has proved it is still capable of carrying out deadly attacks using hideouts in the sprawling desert or sleeper cells in the towns.

One day after the blast, Naassan Dandan’s eyes well up with tears when he remembers the attack.

“I was outside when the explosion happened and was thrown to the ground,” says the man in his 40s, still clearing shards of glass from his nearby photography studio.

On the walls of his shop, child portraits he has taken throughout his career are covered in black dust.

“I saw the bodies — the dead and the wounded,” he says, as two young passers-by stop to lend a hand with the clean up.