Israel to withhold bodies of all Palestinian militants

Palestinian members of Hamas carry seven mock coffins of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli troops during clashes in nearby Beit Hanun, during a rally in the Jabalia refugee camp. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 September 2020

Israel to withhold bodies of all Palestinian militants

  • Israel will not return the bodies of any Palestinian killed during or as a result of an anti-Israeli attack

JERUSALEM: Israel decided Wednesday to withhold the bodies of all slain Palestinian militants in a bid to deter attacks, a move slammed by rights groups as “barbaric.”
Prior to the decision, approved by the government’s security cabinet, Israel retained the bodies of militants only from Hamas, the rulers of Gaza.
The new policy would see Israel not return the bodies of any Palestinian killed during or as a result of an anti-Israeli attack.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz welcomed the cabinet’s decision, which he said was part of a broader campaign of “deterrence.”
“Not returning terrorist bodies is part of our commitment to the safety of Israeli citizens, and of course to returning the boys home,” he said, referring to the remains of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza since a 2014 war.
Hamas is also believed to be holding two Israeli citizens who entered Gaza alone and whose families say have mental health issues.
The decision came two days after the latest Qatari-mediated deal between Israel and Hamas to end more than three weeks of cross-border attacks.
The deal was condemned by Leah and Simcha Goldin, the parents of one of the soldiers missing in Gaza.
“The money will be transferred to Gaza, the crossings and fishing zone will open. And the boys? The boys will remain there some more,” they wrote on Twitter.
Rights group Adalah called Israel’s decision “extreme, barbaric” and “illegal.”
“The policy of using human bodies as bargaining chips violates the most basic universal values and international law which prohibit cruel and inhuman treatment,” they said in a statement.


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.