US-backed Syria force says captures foreign militants ‘daily’

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather in the front line village of Baghouz in the countryside of the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province, on the border with Iraq, on February 2, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2019

US-backed Syria force says captures foreign militants ‘daily’

  • Daesh is clinging to a tiny sliver of its once sprawling “caliphate” and many residents are fleeing and turning themselves in ahead of a final offensive
  • A spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Mustafa Bali, said Daesh fighters were hiding among the fleeing civilians

BEIRUT: US-backed forces in Syria said Wednesday they were detaining foreign Daesh group fighters on a “daily basis,” days after confirming the capture of German militants Martin Lemke.
AFP reported Lemke’s capture last week after speaking to two of his wives who said they had fled together from the militant group’s final pocket of territory in eastern Syria.
Daesh is clinging to a tiny sliver of its once sprawling “caliphate” and many residents are fleeing and turning themselves in ahead of a final offensive.
A spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Mustafa Bali, said Daesh fighters were hiding among the fleeing civilians.
“On a daily basis, we are arresting foreign Daesh fighters,” he told AFP, declining to provide further details on Lemke’s arrest.
The SDF has captured at least 50 foreign Daesh fighters over the past three weeks, Kurdish foreign affairs official Abdel Karim Omar told AFP on Wednesday.
The SDF announced Lemke’s capture in a statement posted on their website on Monday.
It said two other militants had also been captured, identifying them as Egyptian national Hussein Fardid and Saudi Arabian militant Salem Al-Shamrani.
The three were detained following “two special operations” on January 25 and February 1, it added.
Investigations published in German newspapers portray Lemke, who is believed to be 28, as an influential figure among foreign militants in Syria.
German newspaper Die Zeit reported in December 2017 that Lemke had arrived in Raqqa, then de facto Syrian capital of the militants proto-state, in November 2014 and joined the Hisbah (Islamic police).
He is believed to have later become a member of the feared “Amniyat” — the jihadist group’s intelligence service.
Lemke’s third wife, a German national who gave her name as Leonora, told AFP at a screening center in the province of Deir Ezzor last week that Lemke, his second wife and herself had fled the fighting together.
“We gave up together,” the 19-year-old said in English, adding that Lemke arrived with her at the center run by the SDF.
More than 37,000 people, mostly women and children from jihadist families, have fled Daesh territory since the SDF, backed by the US-led coalition, intensified its offensive against the militant in December, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Britain-based war monitor has said that figure includes some 3,200 militant.
Kurdish authorities say they have in their custody hundreds of foreign male Daesh members.
They allegedly include several German Daesh members, such as Mohammad Haydar Zammar, a Syrian-born German national accused of helping plan the September 11 attacks, and 36-year-old militant Sufyan, who traveled to Syria in 2015 to join the group.
Suspected militants captured by the SDF are usually eager to be sent home.
The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria also wants to send the prisoners back for trial, but governments in their countries of origin are often reluctant.
The SDF and the German government “are not in official talks” to repatriate German militant or their families, the Kurdish foreign affairs official said, adding that Germany has not offered to repatriate its citizens.


Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

Fadi Hidmi. (Supplied)
Updated 04 April 2020

Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

  • East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic

AMMAN: Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Hidmi was released by Israeli police on Friday afternoon after being arrested for the fourth time without charge.

Ministry spokesman Awad Awad told Arab News that Hidmi had been “warned” not to “move around” or “do any work in” Jerusalem in accordance with measures being taken to minimize the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Awad also claimed that Hidmi had been physically abused by the police, saying that the minister was “punched in the face and forced to wear a mask with blood on it.”

CCTV at Hidmi’s Mount of Olives house show that he was manhandled by Israeli police during his arrest in the early hours of Friday.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the arrest.

Rosenfeld told the Israeli press that Hidmi was arrested “on suspicion of Palestinian activities in Jerusalem.”

He said police searched Hidmi’s home and confiscated documents as well as “large sums of money. Israeli media said that the police had confiscated NIS10,000 ($2,750) found in the house.

Hidmi, a Jerusalem resident, was the director of the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and Industry before accepting his current job in the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s government.

Before Hidmi’s release on Friday, Shtayyeh wrote on social media: “Israel targets who work for #Jerusalem, even at such critical moments as we work to save our people's lives from #COVID19.”

East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Jamil Kousa, director of the St. Joseph hospital, told Palestine TV that he was only informed on March 25 that his hospital should be prepared to accept patients with COVID-19.

Ahmad Buderi, the coordinator of the Jerusalem Alliance — an organization launched to help combat COVID-19 — has said that people in the city are depending almost solely on local initiatives to deal with the pandemic.

Before his arrest, Hidmi launched the website madad.ps to coordinate the distribution of urgenly needed food and medical supplies to the city’s residents.

Walid Nammour, secretary-general of the Jerusalem Hospital Network, estimates that the city’s six hospitals need $7 million to to deal with the potential spread of COVID-19 in East Jerusalem.

Nammour told Arab News that 300-400 ventilators are needed and that only 26 are available at present.