DAMASCUS, June 10 -- Authorities in northeast Syria have been urging Western countries to take back citizens who joined Islamic State.
France and the Netherlands have taken custody of 14 French and Dutch orphans of Islamic State (IS) fighters in northeast Syria, an official in the Kurdish-led administration there said on Monday. Authorities in northeast Syria have been urging Western countries to take back citizens who joined IS and their relatives after the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured the group's last enclave earlier this year. Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of the foreign relations committee of the administration that runs the northeastern quarter of Syria held by the SDF, said it had handed over the children to foreign ministry delegations from France and the Netherlands. France took back 12 orphaned French children from IS families and the Netherlands took back two Dutch orphans, he said in Tweets. Last week, the Kurdish-led authorities said they had repatriated two US women along with six children. Few countries have yet seemed willing to take back their citizens, who may be hard to prosecute. The Kurdish-led administration and the SDF have said they cannot indefinitely hold thousands of foreigners, but no clear international policy has emerged over how to handle the issue. Many of the relatives of captured IS fighters are located in al-Hol, a camp for displaced people where aid agencies have warned of dire humanitarian conditions.
Under British and international law, it is illegal to make an individual stateless. Britain, however, can make its citizens stateless if they have dual nationality. Critics of the move claim that Javid made the decision to revoke Begum's citizenship because she would be eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship because of her parents' heritage. The Bangladesh government has rejected the UK claim that she is a Bangladesh citizen.
On Sunday, one of Britain's most senior judges questioned Javid's decision to revoke Begum of her British citizenship. Jonathan Sumption, who retired as a justice of the Supreme Court in December, indicated that the Home Secretary may have broken international law with his actions. Speaking on the BBC's Reith Lecture, Lord Sumption said: "I am frankly surprised at the suggestion that she can be regarded as the citizen of a country with which she has never had anything to do [with], but that is the government's position and I have no doubt it will be tested in the courts in due course." Asked if the removal of citizenship also meant a person lost their standing under human rights, Lord Sumption said: "What they lose is their citizenship. That doesn't necessarily deprive them of their standing when it comes to human rights. "I have no problem with the notion of depriving people of their citizenship who have gone abroad to fight in foreign wars save this. "It's an established principle of international law that you cannot deprive somebody of his or her citizenship if the result would be to render them stateless. "And whatever they may have done in Syria or anywhere else, that rule has always been applied and will no doubt be applied in this case." Two independent legal challenges have been launched in response to Javid's decision to revoke Begum of her citizenship.
DAMASCUS, June 2 -- Syria’s air defenses have destroyed the enemy’s air targets on the southern outskirts of Damascus on Sunday.
The news agency SANA reported that explosions can be heard in this area. According to the agency, the air defenses successfully repelled the enemy targets coming out of the Golan Heights at 2:22. The TV channel Al Arabiya reported, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, that the attack was carried out against Hezbollah’s base and arms depots.
MOSCOW, May 22 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has held a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the situation in Syria in the context of multiple ceasefire violations in Idlib, the Kremlin press service said.
"The sides comprehensively exchanged opinions on the Syrian issue, including in light of multiple ceasefire violations in Idlib by radical armed groups. The Russian president informed his colleagues about joint efforts with Turkey on stabilizing the situation in Syria's north-west, on protecting civilians and netralizing terrorist threats," the Kremlin said. "Special attention was paid to prospects of forming and launching a constitutional committee, with the consideration of agreements reached in October 2018 at the four-party summit (Russia, Turkey, Germany, France) in Istanbul. The sides agreed to continue coordinating efforts in the framework of political settlement of the Syrian crisis on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, in accordance with principles of ensuring Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the press service added. On Monday, militants from the Idlib de-escalation zone, together with the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group (formerly Jebhat al-Nusra, banned in Russia), launched an offensive at positions of Syrian govenrment forces, with the use of tanks. The Russian Center fore reconciliation of the conflicting sides in Syria said that the Syrian government forces are repelling the attacks. Militants also attempted to shell the Hmeymim airbase multiple times. Russian servicemen said that shellings and provocations by militants continued even after the ceasefire agreement entered into force on May 18.
Situation in Ukraine
The sides also discussed Ukraine in the telephone conversation. "The situation was discussed around the crisis in Ukraine given the bankrupt policies of the administration of Pyotr Poroshenko and the change of the state leadership in Ukraine," the Kremlin said. The parties agreed that "there is no alternative to the 2015 Minsk Package of Measures as a basis for the peace settlement," the press service added. "The Russian president reiterated the priority of carrying into effect the law on a special status for the certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, giving it a permanent nature, holding amnesty, disengaging forces and means on the earlier coordinated sections along the contact line, as well as moves to establish a direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk," the press service said. Putin also "drew attention of the interlocutors to the discriminatory law ‘On the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language’ passed by the Verkhovna Rada. He expressed bewilderment about the refusal of some countries to discuss in the UN Security Council this document that goes against the Ukrainian Constitution, the Minsk agreements and Kiev’s international obligations to protect national and language minorities," the Kremlin noted. Vladimir Zelensky was inaugurated as Ukrainian President on Monday, May 20. On the same day, Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman announced his resignation, which means the Cabinet of Ministers will resign. On Tuesday, Zelensky signed a decree to dissolve the parliament and scheduled the snap parliamentary election for July 21.
MOSCOW, May 15 -- Talks between US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Russian President Vladimir Putin demonstrate the serious approach of both Washington and Moscow to maintaining bilateral dialogue, chairman of the Valdai Discussion Club Andrey Bystritsky said Wednesday.
"These meetings and Pompeo's visit to Sochi itself represent an important signal. From the political point of view, the significance of this meeting is that it actually took place. Even if they reached some practical agreements, they will try to not disclose them publicly because those agreements will gradually show in what the parties in this discussion will do in the future," Bustritsky said. "In this case, Russia and the US demonstrated that are having a serious meeting, that the US secretary of state is ready to go to Sochi and spend a lot of time there in talks. Both sides demonstrate readiness to negotiate," he added. The talks also confirmed US President Donald Trump's intention to fulfill the promises he made during the election campaign, the expert noted. "In some sense, Trump is fulfilling his plans which he talked about before becoming president - he thinks that it is better to negotiate and reach agreements with Russians, as opposed to not talking and not reaching any agreements," the expert said.
Bystritsky said that one of the most important signals after Putin-Pompeo talks was the fact that the sides did not discuss the situation in Ukraine. "I would interpret this statement in the following manner: the basis formula is not being reconsidered. The Minsk Agreements remain in force. What is there to discuss? The agreements need to be implemented. Whether Ukraine is ready to fulfill them is another story," he explained. Among the topics on the international agenda discussed at the meeting, the most important issue is the situation around the Iranian nuclear deal, Bystritsky said. "Other issues, such as Venezuela and Syria, are important as well but also routine. It is clear that those are old conflicts, and it will be hard to overcome them completely. It is not clear how to resolve these problems," he concluded.
WASHINGTON, May 10 -- President of the United States Donald Trump has ordered to extend for one more year a set of unilateral sanctions against Syria, the White House said in a statement.
"The regime’s brutal war on the Syrian people, who have been calling for freedom and a representative government, not only endangers the Syrian people themselves, but also generates instability throughout the region," the statement quoted President Trump as saying. "The Syrian regime’s actions and policies, including pursuing and using chemical weapons, supporting terrorist organizations, and obstructing the Lebanese government’s ability to function effectively continue to foster the rise of extremism and sectarianism and pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," Trump stated in his message to the Congress.
"For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect the national emergency declared with respect to this threat and to maintain in force the sanctions to address this national emergency," the US president said. The United States had been gradually introducing various restrictive measures in regard to Damascus between 2004 and 2012. The restrictions at the issue stipulate in particular the freeze of assets of individuals and companies under the US jurisdiction, ban exports of certain categories of American goods and services. "… the United States condemns the [Syrian President Bashar] Assad regime’s use of brutal violence and human rights abuses and calls on the Assad regime to stop its violent war, uphold existing ceasefires, enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and negotiate a political transition in Syria that will forge a credible path to a future of greater freedom, democracy, opportunity, and justice," Trump stated. "The United States will consider changes in the composition, policies, and actions of the Government of Syria in determining whether to continue or terminate this national emergency in the future," the US president added.
BEIRUT, April 26 -- The U.S.-backed assault to drive Islamic State from its Syrian capital Raqqa in 2017 killed more than 1,600 civilians, 10 times the toll the coalition itself has acknowledged, Amnesty International and the monitoring group Airwars reported.
Amnesty and Airwars, a London-based group set up in 2014 to monitor the impact of the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State, spent 18 months researching civilian deaths including two months on the ground in Raqqa, they said. “Our conclusive finding after all this is that the U.S.-led coalition’s military offensive (US, UK and French forces) directly caused more than 1,600 civilian deaths in Raqqa,” they said. They said the cases they had documented probably amounted to violations of international humanitarian law and called for coalition members to create a fund to compensate victims and their families. The coalition has previously said it takes great care to avoid civilian casualties and that it investigates accusations that it has done so.
Islamic State seized Raqqa in early 2014 during its lightning advance through Syria and Iraq in which it built a self-proclaimed caliphate characterized by summary executions of opponents. Its mass killing and enslavement of minorities was described as genocide by the United Nations. The group, which controlled a third of both Syria and Iraq in 2014, has since been driven from all the territory it controlled by military campaigns waged by an array of enemies including the Syrian and Iraqi governments, the United States, its European allies and their rivals Russia and Iran. It was defeated by U.S.-backed fighters in its last Syrian stronghold this year. Despite no longer controlling territory, it is still seen as a threat to launch attacks around the world. An international coalition led by Washington has given military support to both the Iraqi government and a Syrian militia, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF captured Raqqa in October 2017 after a five month offensive backed by U.S.-led air strikes and special forces. Amnesty said last year that there was evidence coalition air and artillery strikes in Raqqa had broken international law by endangering the lives of civilians, but until now had not given an estimate of the death toll during the battle. Reuters reporters in Raqqa during and after the campaign said that bombardment had caused massive destruction in the city, laying waste to entire districts.
BERLIN, April 12 -- Germans are significantly more likely to be victims of a crime committed by an immigrant than vice versa.
About every tenth victim to whom a suspect was identified has been assigned to the perpetrator category “immigrant”. “In the area of murder, manslaughter, killing on request, 230 Germans fell victim to a criminal offense,” it says in the situation report.
Deutsche are significantly more likely victims of a crime that was committed by an immigrant, than vice versa. This emerges from the simultaneously published with the police crime statistics (PKS) situation picture “crime in the context of immigration” of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). The case presented by the Federal Criminal Police Office show a gloomy picture: “In the area of murder, manslaughter, killing on request, 230 Germans fell victim to a criminal offense in which at least one suspected immigrant was involved,” it says in the situation report. This was an increase of 105 percent compared to 2017 (112). “Of these, 102 people were victims of a finished act,” it says.
In total, among the 101,956 victims of crime involving suspected immigrants, 46,336 were Germans; that was 19 percent more than in 2017. It is also noteworthy that last year only 18% of cases in which asylum seekers and refugees were registered as victims of a crime in 2018 – four-fifths are assaulted – one German was identified as suspect (8455 out of 47,042 cases) , In 2017 it was 15 percent.
This could indicate that those political and public representatives who perceive refugees as being threatened by xenophobes have a narrowed view. With all the weaknesses of the PKS, it becomes clear on the basis of these figures that people seeking protection are mainly attacked by other foreigners.”
JERUSALEM, April 7 -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he would annex illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins another term in office, in an attempt to win over right-wing voters.
He made the statement in -an interview with Israeli Channel 12 News on Saturday, three days before the April 9 election. Reuters news agency reported that he was asked why he had not extended sovereignty to West Bank settlements since Israel had annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights without international recognition during the 1967 war. "Who says that we won't do it? We are on the way and we are discussing it," Netanyahu said. "You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage - the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage. I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don't distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements." Mitchell Barak, an Israeli political pollster and analyst, said he classifies Netanyahu's comments as nothing more than election talk. "Whatever happens in the election, stays in the election. I don't think he has any real intention of [annexing settlements]. We don't know. It's highly unlikely that this will turn into policy," Barak said. "If voters see him embracing this policy, they may move to vote for him, but it's nothing more than an election gimmick at this point."
However, many Palestinians have been taking his words seriously, including Aida Touma-Suleiman, a member of the Knesset (MK) running for the joint Arab Haddash-Ta'al party. On the eve of the last election in 2015, Netanyahu similarly made waves by stating that if he returned to the office he would never establish a Palestinian state, reversing his previous endorsement of a two-state solution. Since then, he has done precisely what he said, Touma-Suleiman said. "Everyone thought it was election talk. But for four years he has step by step almost accomplished the mission he stated … In my opinion, he is going to annex the settlements," Touma-Suleiman said. "I hope we'll be able to see a government that's more rational at least. I don't believe that Benny Gantz is an alternative. I don't believe that generals will bring hope to this country but I can see the damage that Netanyahu is doing, which is long-term damage and I would like to see it stopped immediately."
BEIRUT, March 26 -- The economic situation in Lebanon, which provides shelter for 1.5 million Syrian refugees, may push them toward migration to Europe, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Tuesday at a meeting with State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.
"We have 500,000 Palestinian refugees and about 1.5 million Syrians. It is a high figure for our country," Aoun stressed. "Europe is directly interested in solving the situation, as Syrian refugees staying in Lebanon are not satisfied with the economic situation in the country and new and new migrant waves to Europe will start soon."
DAMASCUS, March 23 -- U.S.-backed forces said they had captured Islamic State's last shred of territory in eastern Syria at Baghouz on Saturday, ending the group's self-proclaimed caliphate after years of fighting.
"Baghouz has been liberated. The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished," Mustafa Bali, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman, wrote on Twitter, declaring the "total elimination of (the) so-called caliphate".
However, a Reuters journalist at Baghouz said there were still some sounds of shooting and mortar fire. The final battle lasted weeks as huge numbers of civilians poured out, and for many Kurdish fighters in the SDF, victory was sweeter as it coincided with their "Now Ruz" new year. Though the defeat of Islamic State in Baghouz ends the group's grip over the jihadist quasi-state straddling Syria and Iraq that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat. Some of its fighters still hold out in Syria's remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again. The United States believes the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq. He stood at the pulpit of the great medieval mosque in Mosul in 2014 to declare himself caliph, sovereign over all Muslims. Further afield, jihadists in Afghanistan, Nigeria and elsewhere have shown no sign of recanting their allegiance to Islamic State, and intelligence services say its devotees in the West might plot new attacks. Still, the fall of Baghouz is a big milestone in a fight against the jihadist group waged by numerous local and global forces - some of them sworn enemies - over more than four years. It also marks a big moment in Syria's eight-year war, wiping out the territory of one of the main contestants, with the rest split between President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey-backed rebels and the Kurdish-led SDF.
Assad and his Iranian allies have sworn to recapture all Syria, and Turkey has threatened to drive out the SDF, which it sees as a terrorist group, by force. The continued presence of U.S. troops in northeast Syria might avert this. Islamic State originated as an al Qaeda faction in Iraq, but it took advantage of Syria's civil war to seize land there and split from the global jihadist organisation. In 2014, it suddenly grabbed Iraq's Mosul, one of the region's great historic cities, as well as Syria's Raqqa, and swathes of land each side of the border. It declared an end to modern countries and called on supporters to leave their homes and join the jihadist utopia it claimed to be erecting, trumpeting its currency, flag, passports and military parades. Oil production, extortion and stolen antiquities financed its agenda, which included slaughtering some minorities, public slave auctions of captured women, grotesque punishments for minor crimes and the choreographed killing of hostages. Those excesses brought an array of forces against it, forcing it from Mosul and Raqqa in a year of heavy defeats in 2017 and driving it, eventually, down the Euphrates to Baghouz. Over the past two months some 60,000 people poured out of that dwindling enclave, fleeing SDF bombardment and a shortage of food so severe that some said they were reduced to cooking grass. Intense air strikes throughout the campaign have levelled entire districts and rights groups have said they killed many civilians, allegations the coalition has often disputed. A mass grave the SDF discovered last month showed there were other dangers in the enclave, though it has released no details on the identities of the victims or how they died. Civilians made up more than half the people leaving Baghouz, the SDF said, including Islamic State victims such as women from the Iraqi Yazidi sect whom the jihadists had sexually enslaved.
Thousands of the group's unbending supporters also abandoned the enclave while still vowing their allegiance to a ruined caliphate and showing no remorse for its victims. At displacement camps in northeast Syria where they were sent by the SDF, the hardliners, including many foreign women who came to Syria and Iraq to marry jihadists, had to be kept away from other, often traumatized, residents. Their fate has befuddled foreign governments, who see them as a security threat and are loath to accede to SDF entreaties to take them back home.
As the fighting progressed, the convoys of trucks from Baghouz started to include hundreds, and then thousands, of surrendering jihadist fighters, many hobbling from their wounds. The SDF said it captured hundreds more in recent weeks who tried to slip through its cordon and escape into Iraq or across the Euphrates and into the Syrian desert. At the end, they were besieged in a tiny camp full of rusting vehicles and makeshift shelters, pinned against the Euphrates and overlooked by hills held by the SDF. Islamic State released video from inside that squalid, shell-pounded enclave, showing its last fighters still shooting at the SDF as smoke billowed overhead. It was an attempt to shape the narrative of its defeat, portraying it as a heroic last stand against overwhelming odds and a call to arms for future jihadists. But in Baghouz in recent weeks long lines of abject, surrendering fighters sat or squatted in a desolate landscape, their dream of world domination in tatters.