Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce — as soon as Saturday — that his government will follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital. (File/AFP)
Updated 14 December 2018
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Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

  • Australia will follow the US and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
  • Citizens were told to take care while traveling in neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia

SYDNEY: Australia on Friday warned citizens to take care while traveling in neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia, ahead of an expected but contentious move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce — as soon as Saturday — that his government will follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital.
Scores of Australians preparing to jet off to Bali and other tropical island destinations for upcoming summer holidays should “exercise a high degree of caution,” the Department of Foreign Affairs warned.
Officials in Canberra told AFP they expected the announcement to come on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, but cautioned that events could yet alter those plans.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Critics say declaring Jerusalem the capital of either inflames tensions and prejudges the outcome of final status peace talks.
Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv last May prompted tens of thousands of Palestinians to approach the heavily-protected Israeli border. At least 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire that day.
Morrison is expected to stop short of actually shifting Australia’s diplomatic corps to the Holy City, amid warnings from his own officials about the cost and security implications.
But recognizing Jerusalem would help the embattled Australian PM — who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year — with Jewish and conservative Christian voters and win him friends in the White House.
His supporters argue Israel has the right to choose its own capital and peace talks are dead in the water, so there is no peace to prejudge.
But the move still risks heightening unrest, both in Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — and further afield.
The Palestinian government would press for Arab and Muslim states to “withdraw their Ambassadors” and take some “meat and wheat” style “economic boycott measures” if the move went ahead, Palestinian ambassador to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi told AFP.
Indonesia’s government, facing domestic pressure at home, had reacted angrily earlier this year, when Morrison floated the idea of both recognizing Jerusalem and moving the Australian embassy there.
The issue has put the conclusion of a bilateral trade agreement on hold.
In the meantime, Australia’s foreign ministry has moved to prepare the ground.
“Demonstrations have been held in recent weeks around the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the Australian Consulate-General in Surabaya,” it warned in a public notice Friday.
“Protests may continue at the Embassy in Jakarta or at any of Australia’s Consulates-General in Surabaya, Bali and Makassar,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.”Exercise a high degree of caution.”
Tensions are currently running high between Israel and the Palestinians.
At least 235 Palestinians and two Israelis have died during violence in Gaza since March, mostly in border clashes.
On Thursday the Israeli army launched raids into the Palestinian city of Ramallah after a Palestinian shot dead two Israeli soldiers at a bus stop in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu vowed to ‘legalize’ thousands of settlements homes considered unlawfully-built even by Israel.
In total six people were killed in the most violent 24 hours to hit the West Bank and Jerusalem in months.


Kenya says Nairobi attack over, all five gunmen killed

Updated 16 January 2019
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Kenya says Nairobi attack over, all five gunmen killed

  • The attack was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali group Al-Shabab
  • “There were five terrorists and all of them are no more,” Kenyan police said

NAIROBI: Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Wednesday that gunmen who stormed a luxury hotel complex, killing 14 people, had been “eliminated” after an almost 20-hour operation in which hundreds of civilians were rescued.
The attack was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali group Al-Shabab, which has targeted Kenya since it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight the extremist group.
At least one suicide bomber blew himself up and others swapped gunfire with security forces as the assault on DusitD2, a complex which includes a 101-room hotel, spa, restaurant and offices, unfolded on Tuesday.
“There were five terrorists and all of them are no more,” Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinnet told AFP. “It is a clearing exercise now going on there.”
For many Kenyans, news of the attack revived traumatic memories of a 2013 Shabab raid on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall that left 67 dead — a siege played out over four days that led to sharp criticism of the authorities’ response.
But this time, local media heaped praise on the security forces for their intervention, which Kenyatta said entailed the evacuation of some 700 civilians.
“I can confirm that... the security operation at Dusit complex is over and all the terrorists eliminated,” Kenyatta said in a televised address to the nation.
“As of this moment, we have confirmation that 14 innocent lives were lost to the... terrorists, with others injured.”
George Kinoti, the director of criminal investigations, told AFP that “two principal suspects” had been arrested in connection with the attack.
He said one was arrested in the suburb of Eastleigh, and the other in Ruaka, northwest of Nairobi, where officers carried out a raid on a house where one of the attackers lived.
“One of the men was identified by locals, who called police and they have confirmed that he lived there with his wife,” a police source said on condition of anonymity.
CCTV footage broadcast on local media showed four black-clad, heavily-armed men entering the complex on Tuesday afternoon.
At least one of them blew himself up at the start of the attack.
A police source said two attackers were shot dead Wednesday morning after a prolonged shootout.
“The two have red bandanas tied around their forehead and bullets strapped around their chest with several magazines each,” the senior police officer said.
“Each had an AK47 which has been secured.”
The attack began at about 3pm (1200 GMT) on Tuesday, with a loud blast followed by gunfire and rapid calls for help spreading on Twitter.
Boinnet earlier said the attack began with an explosion targeting three cars in the parking lot and a suicide bombing in the hotel foyer.
Police sources and a mortuary official had previously reported 15 dead.
Among the dead was an American citizen, a State Department official said.
The British foreign office confirmed the death of a British-South African dual national and said another British person was injured.
A mortuary official said there were also 11 Kenyan victims, one with no papers, as well as an unidentified torso of a male adult.
It was a tormented night for families of those trapped as they waited outside the hotel while sporadic gunfire rang out.
After dawn, explosions and shooting intensified until the complex was secured mid-morning.
In downtown Nairobi, dozens of people lined up at a memorial for the US Embassy destroyed during an Al-Qaeda attack in 1998 to give blood.
As the first explosion and gunfire rang out in the leafy Westlands suburb, hundreds of terrified office workers barricaded themselves in the complex while others fled.
Distraught family members arrived at a nearby mortuary on Wednesday, where they said they had not been permitted to view the bodies.
“My sister is not in any of the hospitals and the last time we spoke she was a bit calm but suddenly she started crying and shouting and I could hear gunshots and her phone remained on but she wasn’t speaking,” said a woman who gave her name as Njoki.
“We have no doubt her body is here. Let them allow us in,” she said, weeping.
One survivor rescued from the building told a local television station the attackers were “very confident; they were people who knew what they were doing.”
John Maingi said there had been “a flash of lights and a loud bang” at the Secret Garden restaurant where he works.
“When I peeped outside I saw a human leg which has been cut off. We hid in the room and then some police officers rescued us,” he said.
An editorial in the Daily Nation newspaper said the attack was a stark reminder that Kenya’s security challenges were far from over.
The last major attack in the country took place in 2015, when Shabab killed 148 people at the university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.
Since then sporadic attacks have targeted security forces mostly in the remote northeastern parts of the country.
“Just when we thought that things were calm, the gangs unleashed mayhem. For Kenyans the chilling reality is that the attacks are not ceasing,” read the editorial.