Syria state media say US forces ‘kidnapped civilians’ near Deir Ezzor

Syria state media say US forces ‘kidnapped civilians’ near Deir Ezzor
American soldiers stand during a joint exercise with Syrian Democratic Forces at the countryside of Deir Ezzor in northeastern Syria, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 13 December 2021

Syria state media say US forces ‘kidnapped civilians’ near Deir Ezzor

Syria state media say US forces ‘kidnapped civilians’ near Deir Ezzor
  • The American forces landed in the town of Busayra and "kidnapped a number of civilians"
  • The Pentagon said US-led coalition forces had carried out an operation with the Syrian Democratic Forces

DUBAI: US forces carried out a “large airborne operation” near Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria on Monday at dawn, Syrian state news agency SANA said.
The American forces landed in the town of Busayra, east of Deir Ezzor, and “kidnapped a number of civilians,” it said.
There was no independent confirmation of the report.
In Washington, the Pentagon said U.S-led coalition forces had carried out an operation with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Busayra that killed four Daesh fighters, including one wearing a suicide vest, but there had been no detentions.
It added that there was a separate unilateral operation by the SDF but did not say whether anyone was detained by them.
The province of Deir Ezzor, along the Iraqi border, is a strategic supply route for Iranian-backed militias who regularly send reinforcements into Syria to support President Bashar Assad against insurgents seeking to topple his family rule.
US forces are deployed at a base in the Al-Tanf region, south of Deir Ezzor, as part of a combat mission against Daesh militants who continue to wage a low-level insurgency in Iraq and Syria.

 


Israeli Arab lawmaker rejoins coalition days after quitting

Israeli Arab lawmaker rejoins coalition days after quitting
Updated 19 sec ago

Israeli Arab lawmaker rejoins coalition days after quitting

Israeli Arab lawmaker rejoins coalition days after quitting
  • Rinawie Zoabi’s departure had raised the possibility of new parliamentary elections less than a year after Bennett’s broad coalition government took office
  • But on Sunday Rinawie Zoabi reversed course, saying that her main concern was securing ‘achievements for the needs of Arab society’ in Israel
JERUSALEM: An Arab Israeli lawmaker who quit the ruling coalition said Sunday that she was returning to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s 60-member alliance, ending a crisis that lasted just a few days.
Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi said Thursday that she was quitting Bennett’s coalition, leaving it with with just 59 members in Israel’s 120-seat parliament. She cited the government’s hard-line policies in Jerusalem and West Bank settlement construction that she said have alienated her constituents, fellow Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Two other legislators from Bennett’s own party have already broken ranks and joined the opposition, headed by former leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Rinawie Zoabi’s departure had raised the possibility of new parliamentary elections less than a year after Bennett’s broad coalition government took office. But even with a 60-member coalition that’s deadlocked with the opposition, passing legislation will remain difficult.
Recent Israeli-Palestinian tensions, set off by several deadly Palestinian attacks against Israel and Israeli arrest raids in the occupied West Bank, and fueled by repeated clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site, have shaken the coalition’s stability.
But on Sunday Rinawie Zoabi reversed course, saying that her main concern was securing “achievements for the needs of Arab society” in Israel, and preventing an ultranationalist extremist in the opposition from becoming the next minister in charge of police.
She made the announcement of her return to the coalition’s ranks after meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who wrote on Twitter that the two had “an open and reasonable conversation about the real needs of Arab society” and put aside their disagreements.
As leader of a small nationalist party Bennett heads an unwieldy coalition of eight diverse parties — from dovish factions supporting Palestinian statehood to ultranationalists and, for the first time in Israel’s history, an Islamist Arab party. They joined forces in June after four consecutive deadlocked elections with the aim of ousting longtime prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption.
As part of their union, the parties agreed to set aside divisive issues, like Palestinian statehood, and focus instead on topics such as the coronavirus pandemic and the economy. Despite its internal divisions, it has managed to pass a budget, navigate the pandemic and strengthen relations with both the Biden administration and Israel’s Arab allies.

Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned

Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned
Updated 22 May 2022

Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned

Iraq trial of Briton and German for antiquity theft adjourned
  • James Fitton and Volker Waldmann have been in custody since they were arrested on March 20 at Baghdad airport
  • According to customs officers, Fitton’s baggage contained 10 stone fragments, pieces of pottery or ceramics; Waldmann had two pieces, but denied they were his

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi court on Sunday adjourned for two weeks the trial of a Briton and a German man accused of trying to smuggle antiquities after a defense lawyer called for more investigations.
James Fitton, 66, a retired British geologist, and Volker Waldmann, 60, a Berlin psychologist, have been in custody since they were arrested on March 20 at Baghdad airport as they wound up their holiday.
According to statements from customs officers and witnesses, Fitton’s baggage contained 10 stone fragments, pieces of pottery or ceramics. Waldmann allegedly had two pieces, but denied they were his.
The two men did not know each other before they traveled to Iraq on an organized tour, and both say they had no intention of breaking the law.
The trial was adjourned until June 6 to allow time for further investigations, at the request of Waldmann’s defense lawyer, Furat Kuba.
During initial investigations, “certain important aspects were not examined,” Kuba said, citing the report of an expert committee that said the fragments found with the men were antiquities.
“We don’t have any more details: what site do these pieces come from? What era, what civilization do they date back to?” Kuba asked, adding there were also outstanding questions relating to the site where the fragments were collected.
“Is it fenced and protected?” Kuba asked. “Are there signs indicating that these are ancient pieces that it is forbidden to collect?“
Kuba said he wanted the tour guide or an Iraqi official who had been present at the site to give evidence in court as to whether the tourists had received instructions prohibiting them from picking up fragments.
Their trial comes with the war-ravaged country, whose tourism infrastructure is almost non-existent, timidly opening to visitors.
Iraq has also been trying to recover antiquities that were looted over a period of decades from the country whose civilization dates back thousands of years.
The judge told the accused they were charged under a 2002 law which provides for sentences up to the death penalty for those guilty of “intentionally taking or trying to take out of Iraq an antiquity.”
Fitton, at the start of the trial, when asked why he tried to take the artefacts out of Iraq, cited his “hobby,” saying he was interested in “geology and ancient history and archaeology,” and was not aware that taking the fragments was illegal.
Waldmann has denied the pieces allegedly found in his luggage were his, but they belonged to Fitton.


Iranian news agency ISNA says members of Israeli intelligence network discovered and arrested in Iran

Iranian news agency ISNA says members of Israeli intelligence network discovered and arrested in Iran
Updated 55 min 4 sec ago

Iranian news agency ISNA says members of Israeli intelligence network discovered and arrested in Iran

Iranian news agency ISNA says members of Israeli intelligence network discovered and arrested in Iran

DUBAI: Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Sunday that members of an Israeli intelligence service network had been discovered and arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Under the guidance of the Zionist regime's intelligence service, the network attempted to steal and destroy personal and public property, kidnapping and obtaining fabricated confessions through a network of thugs,” the IRGC public relations service said in a statement. 


Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media

Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media
Updated 22 May 2022

Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media

Iran Revolutionary Guards member assassinated in Tehran: State media
  • The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the ideological arm of Iran’s military, identified Khodai as a colonel
  • According to IRNA, Khodai was killed by five bullets as he returned home at around 4:00 p.m. (1130 GMT)

TEHRAN: Gunmen shot dead a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Sunday in the east of the capital Tehran, state news agency IRNA reported.
“Sayyad Khodai... was assassinated during a gun attack carried out by two motorcylists in Tehran’s Mohahedin-e Eslam Street,” IRNA said.
The agency described him as a “defender of the sanctuary” — a term used to describe anyone who works on behalf of the Islamic republic in Syria or Iraq.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the ideological arm of Iran’s military, identified Khodai as a colonel.
In a statement posted on their website, the Guards also denounced a “terrorist act” they claimed was carried out by “elements linked to global arrogance” — a reference to the United States and its allies.
The Guards said they launched an investigation to identify the “aggressor or aggressors.”
According to IRNA, Khodai was killed by five bullets as he returned home at around 4:00 p.m. (1130 GMT).
The agency published pictures showing a man slumped over in the driver’s seat of a car, with blood around the collar of his blue shirt and on his right upper arm.
He is strapped in with his seat belt and the front window on the passenger side has been shot out.


Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years
Updated 22 May 2022

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years
  • The jailbreak sparked a massive manhunt in the country’s north and the occupied West Bank in search for the men

TEL AVIV: An Israeli court on Sunday sentenced six Palestinian inmates to five years in prison for tunneling out of their cell last year and escaping from a high-security facility in the biggest prison break of its kind in decades.
The jailbreak sparked a massive manhunt in the country’s north and the occupied West Bank in search for the men, who were members of Palestinian militant groups. They were recaptured days later.
The bold escape dominated newscasts, sparked heavy criticism of Israel’s prison service and prompted the government to launch an inquiry. According to various reports, the men dug a tunnel through the floor of their shared cell undetected over several months and managed to slip past a sleeping prison guard after emerging through a hole outside the facility.
The judge ruled that the sentence took into account the fact that the prison break paralyzed the nation for days, the costs it took to recapture the inmates and the harm to public security caused by having prisoners under life sentence and convicted of serious crimes escape.
The five-year sentence will be added to the prison terms the prisoners were already serving. Five other inmates charged with assisting the men were sentenced to an additional four years.
Israel considers all six of the escapees to be terrorists. Five of them are from the Islamic Jihad militant group, with four of them serving life sentences. The sixth, Zakaria Zubeidi, is a member of the secular Fatah group of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Zubeidi was a militant leader during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s and well known in Israel both for his militant activity and his love for giving media interviews.
Palestinians consider prisoners held by Israel to be heroes of their national cause and many on social media celebrated the escape and held demonstrations in support of the prisoners.