Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza following rocket fire

OPEN TARGET: A water tower is seen after local residents said it was damaged by an Israeli shell at Beit Hanoun in Gaza, following a rocket that landed in the Israeli town of Sderot which the Israeli army and police said was launched from Gaza, on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 21 August 2016

Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza following rocket fire

JERUSALEM: Israel targeted Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip by air and with tank fire Sunday after a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave crashed into the Israeli city of Sderot.
Police said the rocket hit “between two buildings on a road” in Sderot, which is less than four kilometers (2.5 miles) from Gaza, causing no casualties.
Army spokesman Peter Lerner said Israeli forces retaliated by hitting targets in northern Gaza.
“In response to the rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, the IAF (Israeli air force) and tanks targeted two Hamas posts in the northern Gaza Strip,” Lerner said in a statement.
Palestinian health and security sources said two people were lightly wounded by the Israeli fire.
“One of them is a 20-year-old (young man) who was hit by shrapnel in the face,” said Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Security sources in the territory said several targets in northen Gaza were struck by Israeli fire, and that a reservoir in Beit Hanun was destroyed.
Witnesses said a base of Hamas’s military wing the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, in nearby Beit Lahya, was also hit.
Israeli media said it was the first time downtown Sderot had been hit by a rocket from Gaza since the last war with Palestinian militants in the territory in 2014.
On July 2, Israeli air raids hit four sites in Gaza after a rocket struck a building in Sderot. There were no casualties in either incident.


New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

Updated 18 September 2020

New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

  • CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed

NEW YORK: The man widely believed to be the new leader of Daesh was once an informant for the US, according to a new report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), a research body at the US military academy of West Point in New York.

“Stepping Out from the Shadows: The Interrogation of the Islamic State’s Future Caliph” is based on Tactical Interrogation Reports (TIRs) — the paper trail the US military creates when enemy fighters are detained and interrogated — from Al-Mawla’s time in captivity in the late 2000s.

Before his release in 2009, Al-Mawla named 88 extremists involved in terrorist activities, and the information he divulged during his interrogations led US forces in the region to successfully capture or kill dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters, the report claims.

The CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed in a US air raid in Syria in October 2019.

Although Daesh announced that a man called Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi was Baghdadi’s successor, US officials have also stated that Al-Qurashi’s true identity is actually Al-Mawla — also known as Hajj Abdullah.

Before joining Daesh, Al-Mawla is believed to have been the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda.

While details about the operation resulting in his capture are scarce, the TRIs reveal that he was captured on January 6, 2008.

The following day, US Central Command announced the capture of a wanted individual who “previously served as a judge of an illegal court system involved in ordering and approving abductions and executions.”

In his interrogations, Al-Mawla offered up details of terrorist plots to his interrogators, while minimizing his own involvement. He identified many jihadists by name and offered descriptions of their roles in the terrorist organization and details of their involvement in attacks on US-led coalition forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Al-Mawla — a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army and once Baghdadi’s speechwriter — emerges from the TIRs as a mysterious personality with a vague past, whose ethnicity could not be determined with certainty. The statements in the reports are rife with contradictory elements and open to a wide range of interpretations. As the authors point out in their introduction: “It is incredibly difficult to ascertain whether what Al-Mawla divulges regarding himself or ISI (the forerunner of Daesh) as an organization is true.”

Details of the specific demographics of Al Mawla’s birthplace of Al-Muhalabiyyah in Iraq’s Tal Afar district are sketchy, but it is generally accepted to have a predominantly Turkmen population. The authors of the report point out that some sources have suggested “this could pose legitimacy problems for him because (Daesh) mostly has Arabs in its senior leadership echelons,” but add that at least two other senior members of the group were reported to have been Turkmen.

Al-Mawla also claimed to have avoided pledging allegiance to ISI because he was a Sufi. The report’s authors cast doubt on that claim, given his quick rise to prominence in the terrorist group and the fact that ISI and Daesh branded Sufism as heresy.

But the authors do believe the TRIs give some valuable insights into Al-Mawla’s personality.

“The fact that he detailed activities and gave testimony against (fellow jihadists) suggests a willingness to offer up fellow members of the group to suit his own ends,” they wrote. “The amount of detail and seeming willingness to share information about fellow organization members suggests either a degree of nonchalance, strategic calculation, or resignation on the part of Al-Mawla regarding operational security.

“He appears to have named individuals in some capacity across all levels of the organization, while describing some individuals in some detail,” they continued.

The US Department of Justice has offered a $10million reward for information about Al-Mawla’s identification or location.