Drone attack targets US base in Syria, no casualties

Drone attack targets US base in Syria, no casualties
US and coalition troops are based at Al-Tanf base to train Syrian forces on patrols to counter militants from the Daesh group. (AFP file photo)
Updated 15 August 2022

Drone attack targets US base in Syria, no casualties

Drone attack targets US base in Syria, no casualties
  • Attack took place in the vicinity of Al-Tanf base near where the borders of Syria, Jordan and Iraq meet

BEIRUT: An attack with drones hit a compound run by American troops and US-backed Syrian opposition fighters in eastern Syria on Monday, the US military said, adding that there were no casualties or damage.
The military said the attack took place in the vicinity of Al-Tanf base near where the borders of Syria, Jordan and Iraq meet. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack.
US and coalition troops are based at Al-Tanf to train Syrian forces on patrols to counter militants from the Daesh group. The base is also located on a road serving as a vital link for Iranian-backed forces, stretching from Tehran all the way to Lebanon.
The military statement said coalition troops in coordination with opposition fighters — known as Maghaweir Al-Thowra — “responded to an attack by multiple unmanned aerial systems in the vicinity of Al-Tanf Garrison” on Monday morning.
It said the troops successfully engaged one of the drones preventing its impact while a second one detonated within the opposition forces’ compound, “resulting in zero casualties or reported damage.” The other attempted drone strikes were not successful, it added.
Maj. Gen. John Brennan, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force, condemned the drone strike. “Such attacks put the lives of innocent Syrian civilians at risk and undermine the significant efforts by our Partner Forces to maintain the lasting defeat of IS,” he said, using an acronym for the Daesh group.
The attack occurred hours after Israeli airstrikes on western and central Syria killed three soldiers, wounded three others and caused material damage.
A Syrian opposition war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the Israeli strikes hit Syrian army positions where Iran-backed fighters are based.
Drone attacks on Al-Tanf have been rare.
In October last year, US officials said they believe Iran was behind a drone attack that month in Al-Tanf saying at the time that they believe that the attacks involved as many as five drones laden with explosive charges. It said the drones hit both the US side of Al-Tanf garrison and the side where Syrian opposition forces stay.
The October attacks came days after an Israeli airstrike on central Syria.


Algeria boosts English tuition in blow to colonists’ French

Algeria boosts English tuition in blow to colonists’ French
Updated 48 sec ago

Algeria boosts English tuition in blow to colonists’ French

Algeria boosts English tuition in blow to colonists’ French
  • President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has ordered schools to teach English lessons and wean Algerians away from French
  • He said learning English is worthwhile as it the international language, while the "French language is war booty"

ALGIERS: Algerian primary schools have scrambled to introduce English lessons, in a move critics say was rushed but others hope could be a coup de grace against the language of former occupier France.

Language is a sensitive topic in the North African country, where French is still widely spoken six decades after independence that followed 132 years of colonial rule and a grueling eight-year war.

“The French language is war booty, but English is the international language,” President Abdelmadjid Tebboune told journalists in July.

Only weeks earlier, he had ordered the Education Ministry to introduce English into primary school curricula by the new term, which started on Sept. 21.

This was the first stage in a broader plan to boost English tuition in the coming years.

The status of French has been a hotly debated issue for decades in Algeria, which has only Arabic and the Berbers’ Tamazight as official languages.

French infuses public life, is used for teaching science and business, and is spoken by millions of diaspora Algerians, particularly in France.

Yet it also evokes memories of colonial rule.

“I want to drop the language of the colonizer and adopt the language used worldwide,” said Hacene, the father of a primary pupil in the capital Algiers.

“Teaching English in primary school is sensible,” said Farouk Lazizi, whose two children are at primary school in Algiers.

But he said he has mixed feelings on the president’s decision, which had set up a race against the clock.

In less than two months, 5,000 new teachers were recruited and put on a fast-track training program, while a new manual had been written and distributed to schools in record time.

“We need to prepare things well, because most Algerian parents aren’t ready to teach English to their kids,” Lazizi said.

The Education Ministry said some 60,000 people applied for the new jobs, which require an undergraduate degree in English or translation.

Officials have argued that moves to bolster English tuition are motivated by practical concerns rather than ideology but haven’t offered an explanation for the tight schedule afforded for the change.

The process was so rushed that the state hired translators who “aren’t even trained to teach” to make up the shortfall in English-speaking teachers, said linguist Abderzak Dourari.

On top of Arabic and French, some schools in the country also teach Tamazight, which is spoken by millions of Algerians.

Some education specialists worry that even if the glitches are ironed out, the addition of yet another language to classrooms would still be challenging.

“Teaching four languages to primary school children will confuse them,” said Ahmed Tessa, a pedagogy expert and former English teacher.

The decision on primary schools is the latest move in a bitter struggle that has pitted conservatives who want French scrapped altogether against supporters of the language, who tend to be more secular.

Sadek Dziri of UNPEF, a powerful teachers’ union, welcomed what he called an “overdue” decision to adopt English, “the language of science and technology.”

“Algeria will be able to drop French, which is the language of the coloniser and hasn’t brought good results,” said one parent in Algiers who asked to remain anonymous.

Another said that Francophone Algerians “don’t approve of this decision” and want to keep French in schools.

Abdelhamid Abed, who teaches English at an Algiers middle school, argued that “French has done its time”.

“We shouldn’t see this question in terms of rivalry between French and English, but from a practical standpoint.”

But linguist Dourari said it would be hard to simply replace French with English, given Algeria’s history and its cultural and economic ties with France — including tourism.

“There’s an Algerian diaspora of more than eight million living in France,” he pointed out.

“There are mixed families, who come and go.”

Tessa insisted that President Tebboune’s “war booty” remark — made in the run-up to an August visit by France’s Emmanuel Macron — reflected the benefits Algeria has reaped from having French in its “institutional and socio-economic life”.

“Those who are hostile to French believed it would be dropped entirely from primary school curricula,” he said. “They’re dreaming of seeing it disappear.”

 


Morocco triples migrants’ jail terms over border storming

Morocco triples migrants’ jail terms over border storming
Updated 32 min 38 sec ago

Morocco triples migrants’ jail terms over border storming

Morocco triples migrants’ jail terms over border storming
  • The Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta have long been a magnet for people fleeing violence and poverty across Africa

RABAT:  A Moroccan appeals court more than tripled to three years prison sentences against 18 African migrants over the deadly storming of a Spanish enclave in June, a lawyer said.

The migrants had been arrested after some 2,000 people, mostly from Sudan, tried to breach the frontier with the enclave of Melilla on June 24 in a bid to reach Europe. At least 23 migrants died in the crush.

“Eighteen migrants arrested on June 24 were sentenced to three years in prison” by the appeals court in Nador, a town near the border with Melilla, said defense lawyer Mbarek Bouirig.

The 18 migrants — among more than 60 arrested following the Melilla tragedy — had initially been sentenced to 11 months in prison.

The Moroccan Association of Human Rights denounced the ruling in a tweet, blasting what it described as a “repressive judicial system.”

The migrants had been convicted of “illegal entry into Morocco,” “violence against law enforcement officers,” “armed gathering” and “refusal to comply.”

The Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta have long been a magnet for people fleeing violence and poverty across Africa and seeking refuge via the continent’s only land border with the EU.

Since the June 24 incident, dozens of mostly Sudanese migrants have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from eight months to two years in prison without parole.


Israel under fire for ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy as Palestinian family mourns lost son

Israel under fire for ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy as Palestinian family mourns lost son
Updated 08 October 2022

Israel under fire for ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy as Palestinian family mourns lost son

Israel under fire for ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy as Palestinian family mourns lost son
  • Parents of Salama Raafat Sharaya’a say he was shot dead on Monday but IDF yet to confirm
  • Netzah Yehuda Battalion blamed for spike in fatal shootings

BIRZEIT: The parents of a 19-year-old Palestinian man believed to have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers say they have begun receiving mourners, despite having yet to receive offical confirmation of their son’s death.

The family think that Salama Raafat Sharaya’a, from Birzeit in central West Bank, was killed when the vehicle he was in with two other young men was fired on close to the Jalazun refugee camp, north of Ramallah, at about dawn on Monday.

It is believed that two of the occupants were killed at the scene and the third was injured. The bodies of the victims and the injured man were taken away by Israel Defense Forces, but it has not responded to Palestinian authorities’ requests to identify them.

Nasser Sharaya’a, Salama’s uncle, said that although the family had not received official confirmation, they believed the teenager had been killed.

“We do not know his fate, so the family decided to receive mourners for his death,” he told Arab News.

In the past it has taken several months for the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli troops to be released to their families for burial. Sharaya’a said he did not want Salama’s mother and sisters to be left not knowing what had happened to him.

Hundreds of Palestinians, including senior political and security officials, have sent their condolences to the family.

Sharaya’a, who worked at a car wash in Ramallah, is one of 113 Palestinians killed by the IDF since the start of the year. The death toll — the highest for five years — has sparked outcry among rights activists over the IDF’s alleged use of excessive force.

Palestinian Authority spokesperson Ibrahim Melhem told Arab News that the high number of fatalities was a result of Israeli political and military leaders issuing a shoot-to-kill directive to troops on the ground.

The blood of Palestinians was being used as a political tool to win over right-wing voters in the upcoming Israeli elections, he said, adding that spikes in killings had been recorded close to previous polls.

Melhem also criticized the “timid” reaction of the international community to the shooting of Palestinians, which he said was giving a green light to Israel to continue with its shoot-to-kill policy.

A senior medical source from the Palestinian Ministry of Health told Arab News that Israeli soldiers “deliberately shoot with live ammunition at the upper parts of the body” to ensure the target is killed rather than wounded.

This was a significant change to what had happened in the past, when it was more likely for Israeli soldiers to aim at their targets’ lower limbs so as to disable but not kill them, the source said.

It was also common for the Israeli army to prevent Palestinian ambulance crews from getting to people injured in shooting incidents, meaning that victims were simply left to bleed to death, the person said.

Even if an ambulance did get through, crews were often unable to save victims of gunshots, the source said.

“If it is an injury to the head, it is difficult for the ambulance crew to save that person.”

Several human rights organizations blame the IDF’s Netzah Yehuda Battalion, which operates in the West Bank, for the rise in the number of fatal shootings of Palestinians, like 78-year-old Omar Asa’ad who was shot dead in Jiljlya village in northern Ramallah in January.

Israeli military expert Eyal Alima told Arab News that although the IDF had dismissed claims it had adopted a shoot-to-kill policy, the death toll told a different story.

“The IDF justifies the (fatal) shooting of Palestinians by saying that when its forces in the West Bank come under fire they regard themselves as being on a battlefield rather than on a police mission.”

“So they respond by firing without any restrictions,” he said.

Alima added that the change coincided with the start of the “Waves Breaker” operation in April when the IDF added nine battalions to its operational force in the West Bank.

That was introduced in a bid to shorten the time it took for Israeli forces to arrest wanted Palestinians, as most attempts resulted in a lengthy gunfight, he said.

Alima said that although there had been several calls — from the US and even from within the Israeli army — to dismantle the Netzah Yehuda Battalion or remove it from the West Bank, the IDF had refused to do so.


Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank: Palestinian ministry

Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank: Palestinian ministry
Updated 07 October 2022

Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank: Palestinian ministry

Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank: Palestinian ministry
  • Adel Dawoud, 14, "succumbed to a critical wound sustained by live occupation (Israeli) fire to the head" in Qalqilya
  • Another Palestinian was shot dead near the city of Ramallah

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Israeli forces on Friday shot dead two Palestinians including a 14-year-old in separate incidents in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Fourteen-year-old Adel Dawoud “succumbed to a critical wound sustained by live occupation (Israeli) fire to the head” in Qalqilya, in the northern West Bank, the health ministry said.
Another Palestinian was shot dead near the city of Ramallah, the ministry said in a statement.
The Israeli military said soldiers in Qalqilya fired at “a suspect who hurled Molotov cocktails at them.”
“A hit was identified,” the army told AFP.
Palestinians gather each Friday in parts of the West Bank to protest Israel’s occupation of the territory since the 1967 Six-Day War.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said its medics treated 50 people in the area northwest of Ramallah who were hit by tear gas, rubber-coated bullets or were beaten.
Israel’s military said security forces responded to a “violent riot” in the area, during which a soldier was lightly hurt by a rock thrown at his head.
“The forces responded with riot dispersal means to restore order... including using live fire toward the two main rioters. Hits were identified,” the military said.
The Palestinian foreign ministry described the deaths as “executions.”
It accused Israel of trying to “drag the region into a cycle of violence and an explosion of the entire arena of conflict,” in a statement published by official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in recent months during Israeli military raids in the West Bank.
Those shot dead include militants as well as civilians, such as Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering a raid in May.


Top UK Catholic urges PM Liz Truss to reconsider Tel Aviv-Jerusalem embassy move

Top UK Catholic urges PM Liz Truss to reconsider Tel Aviv-Jerusalem embassy move
Updated 07 October 2022

Top UK Catholic urges PM Liz Truss to reconsider Tel Aviv-Jerusalem embassy move

Top UK Catholic urges PM Liz Truss to reconsider Tel Aviv-Jerusalem embassy move
  • Nichols also said that moving the embassy would be “seriously damaging” to international reputation of UK

LONDON: The top Catholic cardinal in the UK has urged prime minister Liz Truss not to move the British embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols posted on Twitter on Thursday to say he had penned a letter to Truss about his concerns over the potential move.

“I have written to the Prime Minister to express profound concern over her call for a review of the location of the British Embassy to the State of Israel, with the suggestion that it might be moved away from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he tweeted.

Truss, who took up her position as prime minister last month, said recently she was reviewing whether or not to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv, a move that would mirror a controversial decision made by former US president Donald Trump in 2018 to move the American embassy to Jerusalem.

Nichols also said that moving the embassy would be “seriously damaging” for “any possibility of lasting peace in the region” as well as to the “international reputation of the United Kingdom.”

The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has consistently called for maintaining the status quo on the issue of Jerusalem.

Israel currently claims the whole of the city as its capital, but the Palestinian Authority wants East Jerusalem to form the capital of any future state.

Speaking to Reuters, a spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said Truss understood the “importance and sensitivity” of the location of the British embassy in Israel.