Israeli airstrike kills 2nd top Islamic Jihad commander, death toll rises

Update As a funeral for Mansour began in the Gaza Strip on Sunday afternoon, the Israeli military said it was striking suspected “Islamic Jihad rocket launch posts.” (Reuters)
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As a funeral for Mansour began in the Gaza Strip on Sunday afternoon, the Israeli military said it was striking suspected “Islamic Jihad rocket launch posts.” (Reuters)
Update Israeli airstrike kills 2nd top Islamic Jihad commander, death toll rises
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Paramedics transport on a gurney a Palestinian woman injured in Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on Aug. 6, 2022. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)
Update Israeli airstrike kills 2nd top Islamic Jihad commander, death toll rises
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Smoke billows from the site of a reported Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 6, 2022. (Said Khatib / AFP)
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Updated 07 August 2022

Israeli airstrike kills 2nd top Islamic Jihad commander, death toll rises

Israeli airstrike kills 2nd top Islamic Jihad commander, death toll rises
  • Israel pressed air strikes in Gaza for a third day, admitted Jewish visitors to Aqsa mosque compound
  • At least 29 Palestinians, including six children, killed in the strikes

GAZA CITY: Israel said Sunday it killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a crowded Gaza refugee camp, the second such targeted attack since launching its high-stakes military offensive against the militant group just before the weekend.
The Iran-backed militant group has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in response, raising the risk of the cross-border fighting turning into a full-fledged war.
Gaza’s ruling Hamas group, which fought an 11-day war with Israel in May 2021, appeared to stay on the sidelines for now, possibly because it fears Israeli reprisals and undoing economic understandings with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents, that bolster its control.
The Islamic Jihad commander, Khaled Mansour, was killed in an airstrike on an apartment building in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza late Saturday.
Two other militants and five civilians also were killed in the attack, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 31 since the start of the Israeli offensive Friday. Among the dead were six children and four women. The Palestinian Health Ministry said more than 250 people were wounded since Friday.
Israel says some of the deaths were caused by errant rocket fire, including one incident in the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza in which six Palestinians were killed Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a home in the same area of Jebaliya, killing two men. Palestinians held Israel responsible, while Israel said it was investigating whether the area was hit by an errant rocket.
Mansour, the Islamic Jihad commander for southern Gaza, was in the apartment of a member of the group when the missile struck, flattening the three-story building and badly damaging nearby houses.
“Suddenly, without warning, the house next to us was bombed and everything became black and dusty with smoke in the blink of an eye,” said Wissam Jouda, who lives next to the targeted building.
Ahmed Al-Qaissi, another neighbor, said his wife and son were among the wounded, suffering shrapnel injuries. To make way for rescue workers, Al-Qaissi agreed to have part of his house demolished.




Smoke billows from the site of a reported Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 6, 2022. (Said Khatib / AFP)

As a funeral for Mansour began in the Gaza Strip on Sunday afternoon, the Israeli military said it was striking suspected “Islamic Jihad rocket launch posts.” Smoke could be seen from the strikes as thumps from their explosions rattled Gaza. Israeli airstrikes and rocket fire followed for hours as sirens wailed in central Israel.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said mortars fired from Gaza struck the Erez border crossing into Israel, used by thousands of Gazans a day. The mortars damaged the roof and shrapnel hit the hall’s entrance, the ministry said. The crossing has been closed amid the fighting.
The Rafah strike was the deadliest so far in the current round of fighting, which was initiated by Israel on Friday with the targeted killing of Islamic Jihad’s commander for northern Gaza.
Israel has said it took action against the militant group because of concrete threats of an imminent attack, but has not provided details. Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is an experienced diplomat but untested in overseeing a war, unleashed the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep the job.
In a statement Sunday, Lapid said the military would continue to strike targets in Gaza “in a pinpoint and responsible way in order to reduce to a minimum the harm to noncombatants.” Lapid said the strike that killed Mansour was “an extraordinary achievement.”
“The operation will continue as long as necessary,” Lapid said.
Israel estimates its airstrikes have killed about 15 militants.
Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is known about its weapons arsenal. Both groups call for Israel’s destruction, but have different priorities, with Hamas constrained by the demands of governing.
The Israeli army said militants in Gaza fired about 580 rockets toward Israel. The army said its air defenses had intercepted many of them, with two of those shot down being fired toward Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas.
Air raid sirens sounded in the Jerusalem area for the first time Sunday since last year’s Israel-Hamas war.
Jerusalem is typically a flashpoint during periods of cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza. On Sunday, hundreds of Jews, including firebrand ultra-nationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, visited a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The visit, under heavy police protection, ended without incident, police said.
Such demonstrative visits by Israeli hard-liners seeking to underscore Israeli claims of sovereignty over contested Jerusalem have sparked violence in the past. The holy site sits on the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is central to rival narratives of Palestinians and Israeli Jews.
In Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank, Israeli security forces said they detained 19 people on suspicion of belonging to the Islamic Jihad during overnight raids.
The fighting began with Israel’s killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a wave of strikes Friday that Israel said were meant to prevent an imminent attack.
By Sunday, Hamas still appeared to stay out of the battle. The group has a strong incentive to avoid another war. Last year’s Israel-Hamas war, one of four major conflicts and several smaller battles over the last 15 years, exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents.
Since the last war, Israel and Hamas have reached tacit understandings based on trading calm for work permits and a slight easing of the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas overran the territory 15 years ago. Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to Gaza laborers, and has held out the prospect of granting another 2,000 permits.
The lone power plant in Gaza ground to a halt at noon Saturday due to lack of fuel. Israel has kept its crossing points into Gaza closed since Tuesday. With the new disruption, Gazans can use only four hours of electricity a day, increasing their reliance on private generators and deepening the territory’s chronic power crisis amid peak summer heat.


Jordan ranks eighth regionally as it moves up UN E-Government Survey

Jordan ranks eighth regionally as it moves up UN E-Government Survey
Updated 25 sec ago

Jordan ranks eighth regionally as it moves up UN E-Government Survey

Jordan ranks eighth regionally as it moves up UN E-Government Survey
  • Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship said survey included 193 countries in total
  • The kingdom ranked 74th internationally in 2022 report, compared to 143rd in 2020 report

AMMAN: Jordan has made a major leap of two levels to rank in eighth place regionally on the UN 2022 E-Government Survey.
According to the biannual survey issued by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Jordan made remarkable progress, moving up two ranks regionally and 17 ranks to 100th place globally, said the Jordan News Agency, or Petra.
In a statement published on Petra, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship said the survey included 193 countries in total. The report includes one main indicator, the development of e-government, which has three sub-indicators: online services, communications infrastructure and human resources.
Jordan ranked 74th internationally in the 2022 report, compared to 143rd in the 2020 report on the online services sub-indicator. The kingdom also ranked 125th compared to 100th on the communications infrastructure sub-indicator and 108th compared to 115th on the human resources sub-indicator.
The ministry said the decline in the communications infrastructure sub-indicator was driven by a delay in launching 5G technology, the slow-paced installation of fiber-optic Internet services and the process of reviewing subscriptions for telecommunications services.
Meanwhile, Jordan achieved 40 percent progress in the Open Government Data Index, developed in the 2020 report, from 0.5729 to 0.7915 in absolute numbers, added the ministry.
The UN E-Government Survey reviews the rate of digital transformation in UN member states and addresses the various programs that utilize information and communication technologies to provide better and faster public services to the public.


Morocco arrests suspected Daesh group member

Morocco arrests suspected Daesh group member
Updated 24 min 1 sec ago

Morocco arrests suspected Daesh group member

Morocco arrests suspected Daesh group member
  • The 29-year-old man was arrested in the economic capital Casablanca
  • The suspect had reportedly sought to "join terrorist organisations" including those based in sub-Saharan Africa

RABAT: Moroccan police said Thursday they had arrested a suspected Daesh group member, in cooperation with US intelligence officers, who was accused of plotting a “terrorist” act.
The 29-year-old man was arrested in the economic capital Casablanca “for his alleged involvement in the preparation of a terrorist scheme aimed at seriously undermining public order,” Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) said in a statement.
The suspect had carried out “reconnaissance visits to identify certain security checkpoints, with a view to attacking them and using their weapons in terrorist operations,” the BCIJ added.
The suspect had reportedly sought to “join terrorist organizations” including those based in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in Syria and Iraq.
In 2003, Casablanca was hit by a dozen suicide bombers, killing 33 people and wounding dozens more.
Since then, Morocco has been spared major attacks, but its security services regularly report foiling plots.
Since 2002, Moroccan police claim to have dismantled 2,000 “terror cells” and arrested some 3,500 people in cases linked to terror, according to the BCIJ.


British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report
Updated 29 September 2022

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report
  • Marc Bennett, 52, was found hanged in a hotel in 2019 after 3 weeks without charge in jail
  • British coroner ruled there was ‘no specific evidence of suicidal intent’

LONDON: A British travel industry expert found hanged in Doha in 2019 told friends he had been arrested and tortured by Qatari secret police 10 weeks before his death, The Times reported on Thursday.

Marc Bennett, 52, had been hired by Qatar Airways to work on improving tourism to the Gulf country ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

He was arrested at the company’s Doha headquarters, blindfolded and handcuffed, and told friends he had been stripped, hosed, assaulted, and subjected to sleep deprivation over a period of three weeks in detention.

He was then prevented from leaving the country after his release, not knowing if he would be re-arrested, and placed in “legal limbo,” according to his family.

His arrest came after he resigned from Qatar Airways and received a job offer from a Saudi travel firm, something a former colleague said had been taken as a “massive insult” by figures within the company.

Qatar Airways said Bennett, who worked closely with the airline’s CEO Akbar Al-Baker, was discovered to have sent “highly confidential documents” to a private email address, which was reported to police.

Bennett was released on Nov. 2, 2019, the day before a UN legal team was due to visit Qatar to inspect the state of the country’s detention centers over allegations of human rights abuses.

The team from the UN’s working group on arbitrary detention was denied access to the facility he was held at.

Bennett was left at a hotel in Doha with no documents relating to his arrest or any legal proceedings he might face.

A Qatari coroner ruled Bennett’s death suicide, but a British coroner said there was “no specific evidence of suicidal intent” and “the circumstances of the months leading up to his death remain unclear.”

Bennett left no suicide note, and despite being popular, with a wide circle of friends and family, gave no indication of intending to take his own life.

The night before his death, he was described as “laughing and joking” during a video call with his family back in the UK.

His widow Nancy Bennett, 51, told The Times: “There are so many questions. He left here with the whole world ahead of him.”

The UN legal team investigating human rights abuses in Qatar has said there are “credible allegations” that the unit that detained Bennett engages in extra-judicial arrests and mistreatment of prisoners.

“When the working group decided to visit one of the state security detention facilities, in relation to which it had received credible allegations of prolonged detention without judicial control and of ill-treatment, it was prevented from doing so,” it said.

“Equally, when the working group visited some other places of deprivation of liberty, it found these facilities nearly empty and received credible reports that detainees had been transferred to other facilities prior to its arrival.”

An investigation into Bennett’s treatment and death by the UK Foreign Office was closed, despite the findings of the coroner and concerns of the family, by Liz Truss, a week after she became foreign secretary in September 2021.

Truss, now the UK’s prime minister, visited Qatar in October that year for “strategic dialogue,” and to foster “deeper co-operation on security, development, trade and investment.”

In May 2020, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, announced a £10 billion ($10.845 billion) investment package for the UK.

Qatar has faced routine accusations of mistreatment of foreign workers in the build up to the World Cup.

The Mail on Sunday reported that of the approximately 30,000 recruited to build infrastructure for the tournament, 2,823 foreign laborers have died in Qatar since 2011 in unexplained circumstances, with another 551 committing suicide.

One British businessman told The Times: “Whether you’re a Pakistani laborer or a well-to-do British guy, you will be treated like dirt if your employer turns against you.

“It feels like you’re a slave. You can’t even leave the country for a weekend away without the permission of your employer.”

A Foreign Office spokesman told The Times: “We provided assistance to the family of a British man following his death in Doha.”


Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests

Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests
Updated 29 September 2022

Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests

Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests
  • A number of Iranian sportsmen as well as actors and filmmakers have put their support behind the movement
  • Iran’s judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei has criticized celebrities over their actions

TEHRAN: Iranian celebrities were warned Thursday against coming out in support of protests that flared across the country over the death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.
A wave of unrest has rocked Iran since the 22-year-old died on September 16 after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for reportedly failing to observe the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
The street violence has led to the deaths of dozens of people — mostly protesters but also members of the security forces — and hundreds of arrests.
“We will take action against the celebrities who have fanned the flames of the riots,” Tehran provincial governor Mohsen Mansouri said, quoted by ISNA news agency.
A number of Iranian sportsmen as well as actors and filmmakers have put their support behind the movement, asking authorities to listen to the people’s demands.
Iran’s two-time Oscar winning director Asghar Farhadi on Sunday urged people around the world to “stand in solidarity” with the protesters.
“They are looking for simple yet fundamental rights that the state has denied them for years,” Farhadi said, in a video message on Instagram.
At a football match against Senegal in Vienna on Tuesday, the entire Iranian team remained dressed in black during the anthems rather than exposing the national strip.
In an Instagram post, star forward Sardar Azmoun condemned the authorities and appeared to complain of a gag order against the team, before retracting his statement.
Another former prominent player, Ali Karimi, has repeatedly supported the protests and condemned Amini’s death on Instagram and Twitter, saying not even holy water could “wash away this disgrace.”
Iran’s judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei has criticized celebrities over their actions.
“Those who became famous thanks to support from the system have joined the enemy when times were difficult, instead of being with the people,” said Ejei.
“All of them should know that they have to pay back the material and spiritual damage caused to the people and the country,” he added.


Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty
Updated 29 September 2022

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty
  • Secretary-general calls for UN probe into Tehran’s behavior, including use of sexual violence
  • ‘The crisis of systemic impunity that has long prevailed in the country must end, and it must end now’

LONDON: Iran has used “unlawful force and ruthless violence” in its repression of popular protests across the country following the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16, according to Amnesty International.

The human rights group said its investigations into the regime’s behavior, which has left “dozens” of people dead, revealed the use of live ammunition and sexual violence against women as tools to quell dissent. 

It urged the world to take action by signing its petition to establish a UN Human Rights Council investigation into the events of the past few weeks.

“We see the images of Iranian people from across the country bravely standing up to security forces, of women cutting off their hair and setting their scarves on fire,” said Amnesty’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard.

“Dozens of people, including children, have been killed so far and hundreds injured. The voices of the courageous people of Iran desperately crying out for international support must not be ignored.”

Amini’s death in custody followed her arrest by Iran’s so-called morality police for incorrect wearing of her headscarf.

This prompted mass protests, including by women removing their headscarves and cutting their hair.

As well as live ammunition and sexual violence, birdshot, metal pellets and beatings have also been used liberally against protesters by the Iranian authorities in response, as well as mass arrests of “protesters and bystanders … journalists, political activists, lawyers and human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists and those belonging to oppressed ethnic minority groups.”

One witness in Tehran told Amnesty: “The security forces did not show mercy to anyone.” The group says it is continuing to identify more people killed in the clashes.

“Iran’s discriminatory laws, decades of repression of any form of dissent, and systemic impunity for unlawful killings during protests and behind prison walls, have triggered this unprecedented nationwide outrage,” Callamard said.

“We ask all the people of the world to sign our global petition and demand decisive action from their leaders.

“An independent investigative and accountability mechanism must be established by the UN Human Rights Council for the most serious crimes under international law committed by the Iranian authorities.

“People in Iran deserve more than empty words. The crisis of systemic impunity that has long prevailed in the country must end, and it must end now.”