Archive for February, 2018

Iran, Israel battle openly in race to define ‘rules of the game’

(NBC NEWS) — The shift from covert attacks to open fighting between Iran and Israel illustrates that the regime in Tehran feels emboldened enough to confront and provoke its enemy, according to analysts.

Last weekend’s clashes involving an Iranian drone launched from Syria, a downed Israeli jet and retaliatory airstrikes may also signal a new and intensified period of conflict, experts warn.

Fighting between Iran and Israel had until now been conducted furtively or through proxies — such as Tehran-backed Lebanese militant group and political party, Hezbollah.

Saturday’s confrontation signals “a different level of self confidence in Tehran and Damascus in terms of them having the upper hand in Syria,” said Ofer Zalzberg, a Jerusalem-based senior analyst with the International Crisis Group.

He said Iran, Israel and Syria would likely continue to test each other’s boundaries as each tries to “define the new rules of the game.”

The back-and-forth attacks demonstrate how the conflict in Syria — what began as a civil war nearly seven years ago — has turned into a broader power contest with ramifications for the entire region.

The showdown began with Israel shooting down an Iranian reconnaissance drone that Israel claimed had entered its airspace. Israel retaliated for the incursion by striking the Iranian base in Syria from which the drone was operated. A Syrian anti-aircraft missile hit one of the attacking Israeli F-16 jets, which crashed on Israeli soil after the two pilots ejected; both survived, but one was seriously injured.

The incident culminated in the largest set of Israeli airstrikes against Syrian air defenses since the 1982 Lebanon War. The strikes also targeted several Iranian positions in Syria.

By downing Iran’s drone and attacking its sites in Syria, Israel signaled that it has little tolerance for a stronger Iranian presence on its northern border.

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Merkel finally acknowledges German “no-go” zones, vows to eliminate

(ZERO HEDGE) — Following approval from Germany’s conservatives to cooperate with the Social Democrats (SPD) on several political impasses, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sat down with Germany’s RTL Aktuell where she discussed a number of policy positions – including an acknowledgement of Germany’s growing “no-go” zones, and the need to do something about them.

Amid a spike in crime attributed to refugees, German officials been slowly acknowledging the negative impact of the flood of migrants taken in after the destabilization of Libya and similar regions – even going so far as to offer thousands of Euros to rejected asylum seekers.

The scheme, which the government has dubbed “Your country. Your future. Now!” will run until February next year. Individual migrants can receive up to €1,000 ($1,185) if they voluntarily return home, while families can receive up to €3,000 to do the same. The assistance is meant to help reintegrate rejected asylum seekers in their home countries. -Quartz

While on the topic of keeping Germany safe, Merkel said “It’s always a point to me that internal security is the state’s duty, the state has the monopoly of power, the state has to make sure that people have the right to it whenever they meet and move in a public space.” (translated)

Merkel then discussed Germany’s “zero tolerance” policy of enforcement:

“That means, for example, that there are no no-go areas, that there can be no rooms where no one dares to go, and there are such spaces, and you have to call that by name and you have to do something about it. And I think that Thomas de Maizière did a very good job as Minister of the Interior, but we also said now that we want a model police law, we can not stand by the different security standards in different states and that needs to be as unified as possible”

No Go Zones

Following the dramatic influx of primarily North African migrants, several German publications have documented the growing problem of “no-go” zones – areas in which it is unsafe for non-Muslim citizens to travel.

The newspaper, Bild, and the newsmagazine, Focus, among others, have identified (here, here and here) more than 40 “problem areas” (Problemviertel) across Germany. These are areas where large concentrations of migrants, high levels of unemployment and chronic welfare dependency, combined with urban decay, have become incubators for anarchy.

In an article entitled “Ghetto Report Germany,” Bild describes these areas as “burgeoning ghettos, parallel societies and no-go areas.” They include: Berlin-Neukölln, Bremerhaven-Lehe/Bremen-Huchting, Cologne-Chorweiler, Dortmund-Nordstadt, Duisburg-Marxloh, Essen-Altenessen, Hamburg-Eidelstedt, Kaiserslautern-Asternweg, Mannheim-Neckarstadt West and Pforzheim-Oststadt.

The problem of no-go zones is especially acute in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany’s most populous state. According to the Rheinische Post, NRW problem areas include:

Aachen, Bielefeld, Bochum, Bonn, Bottrop, Dorsten, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Essen, Euskirchen, Gelsenkirchen-Süd, Gladbeck, Hagen, Hamm, Heinsberg, Herne, Iserlohn, Kleve, Cologne, Lippe, Lüdenscheid, Marl, Mettmann, Minden, Mönchengladbach, Münster, Neuss, Oberhausen, Recklinghausen, Remscheid, Rhein-Erft-Kreis, Rhein-Sieg-Kreis, Solingen, Unna, Witten and Wuppertal. -Gatestone Institute

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Hungary: PM says Christianity ‘Europe’s last hope’

(CREEPING SHARIA) — Hungary’s prime minister says that “Christianity is Europe’s last hope” and that politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris favoring migration have “opened the way to the decline of Christian culture and the advance of Islam.”

Viktor Orban said Sunday during his 20th annual state of the nation speech that his government will oppose efforts by the United Nations or the European Union to make migration acceptable to the world.

He conjured the image of a Western Europe overtaken by Muslims, saying that “born Germans are being forced back from most large German cities, as migrants always occupy big cities first.”

Orban claimed that Islam would soon “knock on Central Europe’s door” from the west as well as the south.

Orban told an audience at the Royal Castle in Budapest: ‘Christianity is Europe’s last hope. Our worst nightmares can come true. The West falls as it fails to see Europe being overrun.’

‘Absurd as it may sound the danger we face comes from the West, from politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris,’ Orban said to loud applause. ‘Of course we will fight, and use ever stronger legal tools. The first is our ‘Stop Soros’ law.’

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Nigeria confirms 110 girls missing after Boko Haram attack

(VOA) —

The Nigerian government confirmed Sunday 110 girls are missing after a Boko Haram attack in a northeastern town, after days of silence from officials.

The Information Ministry says the girls from the Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State, are unaccounted for after suspected Boko Haram militants invaded their school on Monday.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Sunday additional aircraft are being deployed, along with troops previously dispatched, to search for the missing girls.

Heavily armed fighters in trucks stormed the town of Dapchi late Monday, reportedly specifically asking for the girls’ school.

Authorities initially denied any girls had been kidnapped, suggesting instead they were hiding in the bush after the attack.

Boko Haram, which loosely translates as “Western education is forbidden,” pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015 and has launched a number of attacks on schools. The militia horrified the world when it abducted 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok almost four years ago.

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Pakistan: Thousands-strong Muslim mob demands beheading of Christian teen for ‘blasphemy’

(BREITBART) — A mob of an estimated 3,000 Islamic extremists in Pakistan reportedly called for the beheading of a 17-year-old Christian whose phone, after reappearing days after he lost it, contained blasphemous content that authorities could use to sentence him to life in prison or death.

The case is the latest in a series of incidents each year involving a member of a religious minority group accused engaging in the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for Islam in the Muslim-majority country.

On Monday, the accused blasphemer Patras Masih claims “an unknown person added blasphemous content to his FB [Facebook],” the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) reports.

Initially, “hundreds” of local Muslims from the Dhair a village in Lahore’s Shahdara town, where Patras lives, accused the Christian boy of blasphemy on Monday, but the group of Islamic extremists calling for authorities to punish the teenager grew to 3,000.

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Dozens of Nigerian schoolgirls feared kidnapped in Boko Haram attack

(NEW YORK TIMES) — Islamist militants stormed into a girls’ school in northern Nigeria this week, and with many girls still unaccounted for, Nigerians feared their country was experiencing a notorious mass abduction like one that drew worldwide condemnation almost four years ago.

Militants from Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group behind the earlier kidnappings, raced into the village of Dapchi on Monday in machine-gun mounted trucks and opened fire, witnesses said. As they headed for the Government Girls Science and Technical School, students and teachers fled, some climbing fences to escape.

More than 50 students were still missing, according to state government officials. The local police gave conflicting information to reporters, saying about 100 girls were gone. Late Wednesday, local media outlets reported that the girls had been rescued, but that could not be verified.

During the attack, groups of students ran into the surrounding bush and other villages to hide and some headed for their homes on farms far from Dapchi. A few students and residents have told local reporters that some girls were spotted being hauled away by the militants.

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Iran’s suppression of December 2017 unrest marked by brutal violations of law

(CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN) — February 19, 2018—The state crackdown that effectively crushed the protests that erupted across Iran in late December 2017 was marked by an unusually high degree of violence and disregard for the law, according to a new briefing by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

Silencing the Streets, Deaths in Prison: The December 2017 Crackdown in Iran, which is based on extensive interviews with released detainees, the families and attorneys of detainees, and journalists and human rights defenders inside Iran, provides a detailed look at the mass arrests, systematic denial of counsel, campaign of intimidation against detainees and their families, and ill treatment and deaths inside the prisons that characterized the state response to the week-long unrest.

“People came out to exercise their legitimate right to public protest,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of CHRI. “They came home beaten, too frightened to seek counsel or in coffins.”

Key Findings:

Some 4,970 people were arrested during protests that broke out on December 28, according to the government’s own sources, 90% of them under age 25.
Detainees were denied access to attorneys and threatened with charges that carry the death penalty if they sought counsel.
Multiple reports indicate many of the detainees were beaten.
Detainees were administered pills of an unknown substance, as well as methadone, without the presence of a doctor, in an attempt to depict the detainees as drug addicts.
At least two detainees died during detention. The bodies were quickly buried without an investigation or autopsy, with officials claiming the deaths were suicides.
A third detainee death, unrelated to the protests, was also labeled a “suicide” by officials, indicating a growing pattern of fatal ill treatment in prison and cover-up.
The families of deceased detainees, as well as released detainees and their families, have been under intense pressure by state authorities not to speak publicly.

“From arrests to burials, the authorities in Iran have demonstrated a refusal to allow peaceful protest, disregard for due process, abandonment of their responsibility to respect the safety of detainees, and a concerted effort to cover up rights violations,” said Ghaemi.

“Officials worldwide should register their condemnation of these violations directly with their Iranian counterparts,” he added.

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Iraqi archbishop: Muslim genocide of Christians started 1400 years ago

(OAN) — An Iraqi archbishop for the Chaldean Catholic Church is calling for a response to the Muslim genocide against Christians.

Archbishop Bashar Warda said the behavior of Muslims is rooted in the Islamic symbol of faith, which calls for an endless “holy war” against infidels.

Warda made his remarks in a speech at Georgetown University in D.C. last week.

The archbishop added, terror and violence are key characteristics of Islam, which have accompanied Muslim practices throughout their history.

“There is a fundamental crisis within Islam itself and if this crisis is not acknowledged, addressed and fixed, then there can be no future for Christians or any form of religious plurality in the Middle East,” stated Warda.

the archbishop urged the Christian community to crackdown on the Islamic persecution of Christians in the Middle East and beyond.

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‘We will level Tel Aviv to the ground’ senior Iranian official warns Israel

(THE JERUSALEM POST) — By Juliane Helmhold

Any attacks carried out against Iran will result in the destruction of Tel Aviv, Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, warned Israel on Monday, according to the Fars News Agency.

Quoted by Iran’s semi-official government news site, Rezaei, in response to Netanyahu’s comments at the Munich Security Conference, asserted that “If they [Israel] carry out the slightest unwise move against Iran, we will level Tel Aviv to the ground and will not give any opportunity to Netanyahu to flee.”

“The US and Israeli leaders don’t know Iran and don’t understand the power of resistance and therefore, they continuously face defeat,” he was quoted as saying in an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar News.

“Today, the situation of the US and Israel indicate their fear of the Zionist regime’s collapse and the US decline,” he added in the interview.

Israel came in direct conflict with Iran on February 10, when an IAF attack helicopter shot down an Iranian operated drone, and later took out its command center in Syria.

According to the Iranian Mehr News Agency, Rezaei also highlighted that, while it is true that Iran supports what it calls the “Resistance Front” which stretches from Tehran to Gaza, the regime does not interfere in the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon but merely offers advisory help.

He added that Iran never wants to dominate the countries in the region, it wants them to stand on their own feet.

Rezaei’s pointed comments came in response to Netanyahu’s speech at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday where the Israeli prime minister warned Iran, “not to test Israel’s resolve.”

Netanyahu said at the conference, which was attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, that Israel “will act not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.”

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ISIS kills 27 pro-Iraqi government fighters in ambush

(OAN) — ISIS militants claimed responsibility for killing more than 25 pro-government fighters in an ambush attack in northern Iraq.

The assault happened north of Baghdad on Sunday evening when Shiite militia forces were conducting overnight raids.

The militants were reportedly disguised in military uniforms, and operated fake checkpoints before clashing with Iraqi forces for at least two hours.

Officials say troops were killed at the scene, including some who were beheaded.

A leader from one of the most prominent Shiite militias vowed revenge, and called on security forces to be vigilant.

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