Malaysia maintains stance on Israeli Paralympic athletes ban

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Israeli athletes would not be allowed to compete in the country. (Reuters)
Updated 10 January 2019
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Malaysia maintains stance on Israeli Paralympic athletes ban

  • Mahathir Mohamad: We will not allow them (to enter). If they come, then it is an offense
  • The 93-year old prime minister’s statement is in keeping with the country’s long-held policy toward Israel

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has reiterated that it will not permit Israeli athletes hoping to compete in the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in Kuching, Borneo, to enter the country. The event runs from July 29 to Aug. 4, and is one of the qualifying events for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
“We will not allow them (to enter). If they come, then it is an offense,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters on Thursday. He explained that since Malaysia, a staunch supporter of Palestinian independence, has no diplomatic relations with Israel and does not recognize it as a state, it would be against the law to issue visas to the Israeli squad.
The 93-year old prime minister’s statement is in keeping with the country’s long-held policy toward Israel. In the past, Israeli squads have been refused entry to compete in international sailing competitions and tennis tournaments in Malaysia.
Despite mounting pressure from the International Paralympic Committee and the Israeli Olympic Committee, Malaysia is holding firm in its stance. “If they want to withdraw the championship hosting rights from Malaysia, then they can try to do so,” Mahathir said.
Muslim Imran, president of the Palestinian Cultural Organization Malaysia and a Kuala Lumpur-based Palestinian, said he sees the ban as a reaction to allegations that Israel undermined Malaysia’s national security through Mossad’s rumored involvement in the murder of Fadi Mohammad Al-Batsh, a Palestinian academic and member of Hamas who was killed in the Malaysian capital last year. Imran also pointed out that Malaysia’s decision was consistent with its long-standing opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
“Malaysia is serious about its political support for the Palestinian struggle. More pressure has to be piled on Israel to end its apartheid policies,” he told Arab News.
Malaysia has been one of the most vocal critics of the decades-long occupation.
Mahathir voiced his country’s support for the Palestinian state at last year’s UN General Assembly, condemning Israel for ignoring the criticism of the international community and human rights groups for the occupation of Palestine.
Last month, Malaysia expressed its disapproval of Australia’s decision to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s national capital. Australia became the second nation to do so after the United States under President Donald Trump. Malaysia slammed Canberra’s actions as a “humiliation” for Palestinians.


At least three dead in multiple shooting in Utrecht, police hunting Turkish-born man

Updated 18 March 2019
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At least three dead in multiple shooting in Utrecht, police hunting Turkish-born man

  • Police are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive
  • ‘Threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province’

DUBAI: At least three people have been killed and five others injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht, in The Netherlands on Monday morning.

Dutch security forces were hunting for a 37-year-old Turkish man in connection with the incident, in what authorities said appeared to be a terrorist attack. The city's mayor confirmed the death of three people on Monday afternoon.

"At this stage, we can confirm three deaths and nine wounded, three of them seriously," Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen said in a video statement on Twitter. The number of injured was later reduced to five.

"We are working on the principle that it was a terrorist attack," he added.

Police forces walk near a tram at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 where a shooting took place. (AFP/ANP)

Dozens of armed police plus canine units later surrounded a building a few hundred metres away, an AFP reporter at the scene said, but it was not clear if the gunman was inside.

Police said they believed a red Renault Clio had been carjacked around the time of the shooting and had been found abandoned later.

The Utrecht municipality said it advised "everyone to stay indoors until more is known, new incidents are not excluded," but this was withdrawn at around 4:30pm local time. The local hospital said it had set up a crisis centre. Tram traffic in the area was halted.

Emergency services stand at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 where a shooting took place. (AFP)

Authorities raised the terrorism threat to its highest level in Utrecht province, schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure, and also at mosques.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks, saying he was deeply concerned about the incident.

Utrecht Police tweeted an image of a man named Gökmen Tanis, asking people for information on him in connection with the incident — but warned members of the public not to approach him.

The main counterterrorism unit in The Netherlands, the  National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), told the Dutch public broadcaster that the incident had all the characteristics of a terrorist attack.

Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.

There was gunfire at several locations in the city, the Dutch national counter-terrorism chief said.

“Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht,” Dutch anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague. “A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman.”

Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level. 

“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police. 

Police spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved. 

“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.

A hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.

Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.

“Shooting incident... Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”

The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop. Tram traffic was temporarily stopped due to the incident, but the trams are currently running again between Zuilenstein, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.

(With AFP and Reuters)