Abbas: I know who killed Arafat

Palestinians wave their national flag as they take part in a rally marking the 12th anniversary of the death of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (portrait background) in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 12 November 2019

Abbas: I know who killed Arafat

RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said Thursday he knew who killed Yasser Arafat as he marked the 12th anniversary of the former leader’s death but stopped short from giving a name.
Speaking in front of thousands, Abbas said “you ask me who killed him, I know — but my testimony alone is not enough.”
“A commission of inquiry is digging into that, but you’ll find out at the earliest opportunity and be amazed when you know who did it.”
“I do not want to mention names, because these names do not deserve to be remembered,” he added.
Arafat rose to become the leader of the Palestinian movement in the late 1960s, leading an armed struggle against Israel.
He died on Nov. 11, 2004 at a hospital near Paris from unknown causes at the age of 75.
More than a decade after his death, he remains a towering figure in Palestinian culture, politics and society.
The Palestinians have long accused Israel of poisoning him, charges the Israeli government firmly denies.
His body was exhumed in 2012 for tests but a subsequent French investigation found no proof of poisoning.
The Palestinians rejected that report, citing apparent inconsistencies between the French findings and separate ones from Switzerland and Russia that gave currency to alleged poisoning by polonium.
Abbas and his longtime rival Mohammed Dahlan have both accused each other of complicity in Arafat’s death in the past.
Abbas’s comments came with some Arab countries reportedly pressuring the 81-year-old to allow Dahlan, who has been in exile in the United Arab Emirates, to return to the West Bank.
Those moves come amid talk of who will succeed Abbas.
Sources in Abbas’ Fatah movement said Arafat’s death could be discussed at the party’s seventh annual conference, with the commission of inquiry potentially announcing its conclusions.
The conference will be held on Nov. 29.


Syria Kurdish-led force launches new anti-Daesh campaign

Updated 05 June 2020

Syria Kurdish-led force launches new anti-Daesh campaign

  • Operations will focus on the vast east Syria desert near the border with Iraq

BEIRUT: US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria announced Friday a fresh campaign to hunt down remnants of the Daesh group near the Iraqi border following a recent uptick in attacks.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led paramilitary alliance that has spearheaded the ground fight against Daesh in Syria since 2015, said that the new campaign is being carried out in coordination with the Iraqi army and the US-led coalition.
“This campaign will target ISIS’s hideouts and hotbeds,” it said, using a different acronym for the militant group.
It said operations will focus on the vast east Syria desert near the border with Iraq where Daesh has conducted a spate of attacks in recent months.
Since the loss of its last territory in Syria in March 2019, Daesh attacks have been restricted to the vast desert that stretches from the heavily populated Orontes valley in the west all the way to Iraqi border.
It regularly targets SDF forces and has vowed to seek revenge for the defeat of its so-called “caliphate”.
The SDF, with backing from its coalition allies, launched a campaign to hunt down sleeper cells after it forced Daesh militants out of their last Syrian redoubt in the desert hamlet of Baghouz in March 2019.
A raid in October by US special forces killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the militant group which once controlled large swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria.
Last month, the United Nations accused the Daesh group and others in Syria of exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to step up violence on civilians, describing the situation as a “ticking time-bomb”.
Across the border in Iraq, Daesh has exploited a coronavirus lockdown, coalition troop withdrawals and simmering political disputes to ramp up attacks.
Iraq declared Daesh defeated in late 2017 but sleeper cells have survived in remote northern and western areas, where security gaps mean the group wages occasional attacks.
They have spiked since early April as militants plant explosives, shoot up police patrols and launch mortar and rocket fire at villages.