Germany expects return of over 100 children of Daesh fighters from Syria, Iraq

Opposition fighters prepare ammunition in the al-Mushrifa area, near the town of Khan Sheikun in Syria's northwestern rebel-held province of Idlib, during ongoing clashes with government forces, in this January 2, 2018 photo. (AFP)
Updated 08 January 2018

Germany expects return of over 100 children of Daesh fighters from Syria, Iraq

BERLIN: German security officials are preparing for the arrival of over 100 infants and children of people who left the country to fight for Daesh in Iraq and Syria, amid concerns about the radicalization of minors.
Nearly 1,000 people are believed to have left Germany to join up with the militants. As the group’s presence in the Middle East crumbles, some are returning with family members, while German authorities are trying to secure the release of children whose parents have been detained.
In a document addressed to a lawmaker and seen by Reuters on Monday, Interior Ministry State Secretary Emily Haber said it was difficult to estimate the exact number of children set to arrive since it was unclear how many babies were born while their parents were in Iraq or Syria.
But security officials had information indicating that “a low three-digit number of minors is expected,” with the majority believed to be babies or toddlers, Haber said in a reply to a formal parliamentary query by Greens lawmaker Irene Mihalic.
Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the BfV domestic intelligence agency, had warned in October that children of returning militants could pose a threat after being “socialized and indoctrinated in the battlefield areas.”
The radicalization of children has been in the spotlight given that three of five terror attacks in Germany in 2016 were carried out by minors, and a 12-year-old boy was also detained after trying to bomb a Christmas market in Ludwigshafen.
The German government said it has evidence that more than 960 people left Germany for Iraq and Syria through November 2017 to fight for Daesh, of which about a third are believed to have returned to Germany. Another 150 likely died in combat, according to government data.
State Secretary Haber said there was no evidence of a big increase in the return of people from Iraq and Syria in recent months despite military setbacks for Daesh.
The German Foreign Ministry was providing consular services to German citizens and their children who had been detained or imprisoned in Iraq, and was seeking the return of children that were now imprisoned with their parents in Iraq, Haber said.
“No timeline can be given for the return of these children since this is largely dependent on the cooperation of the Iraqi authorities,” she wrote.
Given Germany’s decentralized federal structure, state officials had the main responsibility for deradicalization of those who returned from Iraq and Syria, including those were convicted and incarcerated, Haber said.
But she said the federal government was supporting those efforts through a number of initiatives, including support for families of those who left Germany to fight for Daesh.
New federally funded programs were planned in 2018 to educate and deradicalize returning foreign fighters, and the federal government was also funding programs in each of the 16 states to prevent further radicalization in prison, Haber said.


Israel strikes Hamas positions in Gaza over fire balloons

Updated 27 min 5 sec ago

Israel strikes Hamas positions in Gaza over fire balloons

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said Wednesday it carried out overnight strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip after incendiary balloons were launched across the border from the Palestinian enclave.
The army said the strikes were “retaliation” for the launching of multiple balloons from the Hamas-run enclave in recent days.
Jets, attack helicopters and tanks struck a number of Hamas targets including “underground infrastructure and observation posts,” a statement said.
Fire services in southern Israel said the balloons caused 60 fires on Tuesday alone but reported no casualties.
Explosives tied to balloons and kites first emerged as a weapon in Gaza during intense protests in 2018, when the makeshift devices drifted across the border daily, causing thousands of fires in Israeli farms and communities.
Israel has closed its Kerem Shalom goods crossing with the Gaza Strip in response to the recent balloon launches.
Hamas denounced the closure as an “aggressive” move that showed Israel’s “insistence on laying siege” to Gaza, and warned it could cause further worsening of the humanitarian situation in the territory.
As the Kerem Shalom crossing closed, the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt opened Tuesday for the first time since April.
Traffic in both directions was to be permitted for three days, allowing Gazans to leave the enclave for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The Rafah crossing provides Gaza’s sole access to the outside world not controlled by Israel.
The Palestinian territory has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007.
Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.
Despite a truce last year, backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons.
Palestinian analysts say cross-border fire from Gaza is often used as a bargaining tool to secure Israel’s green light for the entry of Qatari financial aid into the territory.