Israel accuses Hezbollah of Golan shelling to spark war with Syria

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, left, delivers brief remarks before a lunch meeting with US Defense Secretary James Mattis and other officials at the Pentagon on October 19, 2017. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 23 October 2017

Israel accuses Hezbollah of Golan shelling to spark war with Syria

JERUSALEM: Israel accused Hezbollah on Monday of orchestrating shelling across the Golan Heights frontier in order to stoke Israeli-Syrian fighting, and called on Syrian President Bashar Assad and his big-power ally Russia to curb the Lebanese guerrillas.
Twice last week, mortar rounds or rockets launched from Syria hit areas of the Golan that Israel has held since the 1967 Middle East war, causing no casualties but drawing retaliatory artillery fire against Syrian army posts.
Israel has largely stayed out of the six-year civil war in the neighboring enemy state but has threatened to step up strikes if attacked from the Golan or to prevent Assad’s Iranian and Hezbollah reinforcements setting up Syrian garrisons.
Addressing his parliamentary faction, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Golan shelling was carried out by a Syrian cell on Hezbollah’s orders, without Damascus having been informed.
He did not elaborate on the source of the information.
“There was a personal instruction by (Hezbollah leader Hassan) Nasrallah to compartmentalize Assad and his regime from the execution of this shooting ... with the goal of dragging us into the Syrian mire,” Lieberman said in the televised remarks.
“Therefore I call here both on the Assad regime ... and also on the Russian forces that are present there, to restrain Hezbollah. And this is another example of why they should be kicked out of Syria as fast as possible.”
In what appeared to be a reference to Israel’s efforts to coordinate its actions in Syria with Moscow, Lieberman said Russian military commanders in Syria “have received all the (information) that they need on this matter.”
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday, after projectiles fired from Syria drew an Israeli attack on three Syrian artillery guns, that Israeli strikes would have “grave consequences.”
Israel has also carried out targeted air strikes in Syria during the civil war, alarmed by the expanding influence of Iran. The Israeli air force says it has struck arms convoys of the Syrian military and Hezbollah nearly 100 times in recent years. Israel and Hezbollah last fought a war in 2006.


First arrests in Iraq PM’s anti-corruption drive

Updated 1 min 10 sec ago

First arrests in Iraq PM’s anti-corruption drive

BAGHDAD: Two Iraqi officials and a businessman have been arrested as part of a new anti-corruption drive spearheaded by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi, government sources said Friday.
The arrests represent a rare instance in which current officials — usually deemed too well-connected to touch in Iraq’s graft-ridden system — are subject to judicial procedures.
Last month, Kadhemi formed a new committee to fight “major corruption files,” which made its first arrests this week, according to two Iraqi officials with knowledge of the committee’s work.
The head of Iraq’s Retirement Fund, Ahmad Al-Saedi, and the chairman of Baghdad’s Investment Commission, Shaker Al-Zameli, were detained on Wednesday.
Bahaa Abdulhussein, the head of electronic payment company Qi Card, was arrested upon arrival at Baghdad Airport on Thursday, the sources confirmed.
The officials declined to reveal any further details, including the charges against the men, where they were being held or what the judicial process would be.
“The committee is looking at portfolios that have been suspicious for a while, then its judicial commission issues arrest warrants,” one official told AFP.
Iraq’s court system is known to be profoundly corrupt, with judges paid off to ignore evidence or make certain verdicts.
Asked whether the courts could be trusted to see the process through, the official said the committee’s judges were building “solid” cases.
Both officials said the campaign was not targeted against any particular individuals, parties or business sectors.
“There is no target list — but you can expect more names to come,” the second official said.
Iraq is ranked one of the top 20 most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International.
Some $450 billion in public funds have vanished into the pockets of shady politicians and businessmen since the 2003 US-led invasion, a study by parliament found.
Every premier since the invasion has launched their own anti-corruption initiative, with varying degrees of success.
Kadhemi has made new appointments at the Central Bank of Iraq, the Integrity Commission and the Investment Commission in a bid to stem government graft.