News In Brief International

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Veteran Kashmiri resistance leader Syed Ali Geelani passes away in Srinagar

A symbol of the Kashmiri freedom movement, and former chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Syed Ali Shah Geelani passed away on Wednesday in the Indian-occupied Kashmir city of Srinagar. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a top separatist leader in Indian-administered Kashmir, has died at the age of 92 after a prolonged illness.

He was an uncompromising campaigner against Indian rule and had been under house arrest for the past 11 years. He had been ill for several months. He was suffering from multiple ailments and the continued house arrest had taken a heavy toll on his health, KMS said.

KMS, citing family sources, reported that he “developed serious complications on Wednesday afternoon and breathed his last in the evening”.

“He had chest congestion and breathing problems. He passed away at 10:30pm,” they said.

Hurriyat leaders, others condole death of Syed Ali Gilani

(SRINAGAR) The Hurriyat leaders and organisations from Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and across the world continue to pay rich tributes to the icon of Kashmir freedom movement, Syed Ali Gilani, who breathed his last in police custody in Srinagar.

The Hurriyat leaders including Shabbir Ahmed Dar, Muhammad Ahsan Antoo, Muhammad Iqbal Mir, Muhammad Wasim, Yasmeen Raja, Zamurda Habib, Abdul Ahad Parra, Shamima Shawl, Prof Nazir Ahmad Shawl, Prof Abdul Majeed Tramboo, Ejaz Rahmani, Jammu and Kashmir Political Resistance Movement General Secretary Dr Musaib, members of Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association and others expressed profound grief and sorrow over the loss of the great Hurriyat leader.

Funeral

Geelani was buried in a quiet funeral organised by the authorities under harsh restrictions, his son Naseem Geelani told Al Jazeera. He said the family had planned the burial at the main martyrs’ graveyard in Srinagar, the region’s main city, as per his will, but “they (police) snatched his body and forcibly buried him”.

“We told the administration that we will bury him at 10am so that our relatives who live in far-off areas could attend,” Naseem told Al Jazeera.

“But they took the body forcefully at 3am and did not allow any of us to take part in the last prayers. They even argued with the women in the family who resisted taking away his body.”

Naseem said it was only at 10am on Thursday 30th Aug.,  that the family members were allowed to see Geelani’s grave.

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20-Year U.S. War Ending as It Began, With Taliban Ruling Afghanistan

20 Years of Defense, Erased by the Taliban in a Few Months

Ghani Leaves Afghanistan as Taliban Enter Kabul

(Aug. 15, 2021) On Sunday, August 15, 2021, evening, former President Hamid Karzai announced on Twitter that he was forming a coordinating council together with Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Afghan delegation to peace talks, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hesb-i-Islami party, to manage a peaceful transfer of power. Mr. Karzai called on both government and Taliban forces to act with restraint.

But the Taliban appeared to ignore his appeal and advanced into the city on its own terms.

The Taliban’s lead negotiator in talks with the government, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, congratulated all of Afghanistan for the victory. “Now it will be shown how we can serve our nation,” he said. “We can assure that our nation has a peaceful life and a better future.”

Mr. Baradar made the comments in a video posted on social media, surrounded by other members of the Taliban delegation to the talks in Doha, Qatar.

“There was no expectation that we would achieve victory in this war,” he said. “But this came with the help of Allah, therefore we should be thankful to Him, be humble in front of Him, so that we do not act arrogantly.”

President Ghani released a written statement on Facebook saying he had departed the country to save the capital from further bloodshed.

“If I had stayed, countless countrymen would have been martyred and Kabul city would have been ruined,” he wrote, “in which case a disaster would have been brought upon this city of five million.”

At 6:30 p.m. local time, the Taliban issued a statement that its forces were moving into police districts in order to maintain security in areas that had been abandoned by the government security forces. Taliban fighters, meeting no resistance, took up positions in the city, after Zabiullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, posted the statement on Twitter.

“The Islamic Emirates ordered its forces to enter the areas of Kabul city from which the enemy has left because there is risk of theft and robbery,” the statement said. The Taliban had been ordered not to harm civilians and not to enter individual homes, it added. “Our forces are entering Kabul city with all caution.”

As the sun set behind the mountains, the traffic was clogged as crowds grew bigger, with more and more Taliban fighters appearing on motorbikes, police pickups and even a Humvee that once belonged to the American-sponsored Afghan security forces.(Source: New York Times)

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The fatal failure of Gen. Mark A. Milley over closing Bagram Air Base

By Post Editorial Board

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, must go.

President Biden claims that the military advised him to close Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and instead use Kabul’s airport to evacuate Americans. They were the ones who said the Afghan army would hold, that the pullout would go smoothly.

If Biden is telling the truth, this disaster is on Milley’s watch. Or Biden is lying (the more likely scenario, based on what sources inside the administration are saying) and Milley failed to do his duty and push back against a commander-in-chief who is making deadly decisions. Either way, he is derelict in his duty  and must either take responsibility for what went wrong or tell Americans the truth about their president.

Biden was reportedly so intent on drawing down the number of troops in Afghanistan to less than 1,000, a force not large enough to secure Bagram, that we gave up its strategic advantage. Not only that, but we left in the dead of night, abandoning weapons and vehicles to the Taliban and demoralizing our Afghan allies. That forced Marines to protect the perimeter of Hamid Karzai International Airport, a situation that the parent of one of the 13 service members who lost their lives compared to a “turkey shoot.” Biden should never have left the safety of evacuating Americans in the hands of the Taliban, or put these young men and women  11 Marines, one Navy member and one Army soldier  in such danger.

It’s hard to think of a worse way to handle this pullout. Biden likes to blame former President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban for the situation, but even setting aside that Biden could have negotiated to extend the deadline, he’s been president since January. Milley has been chairman of the Joint Chiefs since 2019. What have they been doing all these months? The US could have organized an evacuation from Bagram and held the base until Aug. 31 or longer, if necessary.

Instead, Milley spent his time defending critical race theory to Congress, while Biden ate ice cream.

And the response of the administration since? Let’s talk about COVID, climate change, putting our kids in debt for generations. Biden on Sunday angrily turned away from reporters when he was asked about Afghanistan, saying he’d only talk about Hurricane Ida. Anything but the mistakes that were made.

Biden and the generals cannot bear to hear the truth. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller posted, “People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, ‘We messed this up.’ ” For this, he was stripped of command. Scheller knew he was risking his career, but honesty was more important.

Will Milley show such courage? (Courtesy New York Post)

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Kabul  Bombings: Scores killed in ISIL Attacks at Kabul Airport

(Thursday, 26 Aug 2021)

The 13 U.S. Service Members were among scores of people killed in two attacks at Kabul’s airport on Thursday, 26 Aug. 2021.

More than 169 Afghans, including 28 Taliban members, were counted among the dead after the twin bombings and shootings that were claimed by ISIL, Taliban and hospital sources told Al Jazeera.

The apparent suicide vest attack occurred at the Abbey Gate to the airport where US forces were screening Afghan civilians for admission to the airport, McKenzie said.

McKenzie said “ISIS gunmen” also had opened fire on the crowds and US forces after the bomb detonated.

The US military casualties are the first American deaths from hostile action since February 2020 when two Army special forces soldiers were killed in an green-on-blue insider attack by an Afghan soldier. Two bombs were detonated by apparent suicide bombers near the Abbey Gate to the airport where Afghans were lining up to enter the US-secured airport. The second bomb was close to the Baron Hotel where many British citizens had been awaiting evacuation.

More than 71,000 Afghan civilians and 66,000 Afghan military and police forces have been killed in the war, according to Brown University and the Brookings Institution, which have tracked the data.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said one blast occurred near the airport’s Abbey Gate and the other close to the nearby Baron Hotel.

Sources told Al Jazeera that tens of thousands of people had been waiting outside the Abbey Gate earlier in the day. The explosions came after US officials and allies had warned people not to come to the area around Hamid Karzai International due to the threat of an attack.

The Afghan affiliate of the ISIL (ISIS), known as the Islamic State Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), claimed responsibility for the attack.(SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES)

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European Leaders Point Fingers at the U.S. After Fall of Kabul

By : Samy Adghirni

European leaders struggled to mask their frustration with President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw the last U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan and sought to distance themselves from the dramatic scenes unfolding across the war-torn country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters,  that the NATO mission in Afghanistan was “fundamentally dependent” on the U.S. while French President Emmanuel Macron stressed that the Taliban took Kabul from the U.S.-trained forces that Biden had backed in just “a matter of hours, with no resistance.”

“Nobody wants Afghanistan, once again, to be a breeding ground for terror,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday, hours after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. “It’s fair to say the U.S. decision to pull out has accelerated things.”

As members of NATO, the U.K., France and Germany took part in the U.S.-led coalition that toppled the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and maintained thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan for most of the last two decades to forge stability and train the Afghan army. They didn’t offer meaningful opposition to Donald Trump’s plan to end the U.S. presence in the country, nor to Biden’s promise to follow through with it.

Yet after the militant group seized control of Kabul much faster than anyone predicted, the European leaders are now faced with the further unraveling of a key country in a volatile region that threatens a humanitarian and refugee crisis. Their challenge is to deflect blame without antagonizing Biden. “This is an extremely bitter development. Bitter, dramatic, terrible — especially of course for the people in Afghanistan,” Merkel said in Berlin. “We all made the wrong assessment.” (Source: Bloomberg)

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American Forces Destroy C.I.A. Base In Controlled Detonation

(Published Aug. 27, 2021)

The destruction of the base was intended to ensure the Taliban would not gain access to any equipment or information left behind.

A heavily fortified C.I.A. base in Kabul is destroyed.

A controlled detonation by American forces that was heard throughout Kabul has destroyed Eagle Base, the final C.I.A. outpost outside the Kabul airport, U.S. officials said on Friday.

Blowing up the base was intended to ensure that any equipment or information left behind would not fall into the hands of the Taliban.

Eagle Base, first started early in the war at a former brick factory, had been used throughout the conflict. It grew from a small outpost to a sprawling center that was used to train the counterterrorism forces of Afghanistan’s intelligence agencies. Those forces were some of the only ones to keep fighting as the government collapsed, according to current and former officials.

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Taliban executes former IS-K chief a year after Afghan govt jailed him: Report

Omar Khorasan had been languishing in a Kabul prison for a year

(Web Desk August 19, 2021) With the Taliban having won the battle for supremacy in Afghanistan, the group appears to have begun a crackdown on its rivals. According to media reports and social media footage, Omar Khorasani, former head of the Islamic State in South Asia.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Khorasani, also known as Mawlawi Ziya ul-Haq, was taken from an Afghan government prison and executed. Khorasani had been arrested by Afghan security forces in an operation in May 2020. Khorasani headed the group’s South Asia operations, but had been replaced as chief at the time of his arrest.

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Ex-Mi6 chief blames ISI for Taliban victory

The ex-M16 chief blamed Pakistan’s intelligence service ISI for its support and backing to the Afghan Taliban as they gained control of Kabul at a speed no one predicted.

By News Desk | 20 August 2021

The Ex-Mi6 chief blames Pakistan for supporting the Taliban as they made unprecedented swaths to Kabul. He claims that Pakistan needs to face “tough questions” on Taliban’s victory which no one predicted could be so swift and unmatched. The former head of M16, alleged Pakistan’s intelligence service for backing Taliban as they could not have completed their stunning takeover without its support.

Thus, Sir Richard Dearlove, the Ex-M16 asserted that Britain should be asking “tough questions” to the Pakistan’s government regarding the alleged involvement of the ISI military intelligence in the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul.

“Taliban’s actions speak louder than word,”. says Con Couglin

According to a confidential United Nations Document, Taliban militants who are in charge on Kabul will now hunt for people who worked with UK, US and NATO Forces. Though the Taliban after their first press conference this week showed their more reasonable and considerate narrative over governing the country, Con Couglin claims that their words should be taken with a pinch of salt.

As Afghanistan celebrated its 1919 independence yesterday, many protestors took to streets to object the Taliban rise to power again. The Telegraph reported numerous Afghans being open fired by the Taliban fighters and a group said in a propaganda film that they have deployed an elite unit boasting high-tech equipment.

Amid the panic and chaos, many British personnel are planning evacuation and 900 British military officials are undertaking desperate airlift mission. The crowd outside Kabul airport manifest the desperation of the people to flee the country and the open firing shown by the video highlight how Taliban and US fighters attempt to disperse the sea of desperate souls.

A tragic incident took place when an Afghan teenage footballer, aged 19 died after being trapped in the landing gear of the US evacuation flight as he clung to the wheel of the US C-17 military plane as it took off from the Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. He feared that Taliban would “crush his dreams” and fleeing was the only option.

Taliban should be given space, claims British army chief

The head of the British army, Nick Carter told the BBC on Wednesday that the world should demonstrate patience and give the Taliban every space to form a new at Kabul. Also, the West needs to discover that insurgents casted as militants for decades have become more reasonable.

“We have to be patient, we have to hold our nerve and we have to give them the space to form a government and we have to give them the space to show their credentials,” Carter told the BBC. “It may be that this Taliban is a different Taliban to the one that people remember from the 1990s.”

“We may well discover, if we give them the space, that this Taliban is of course more reasonable but what we absolutely have to remember is that they are not a homogenous organisation  the Taliban is a group of disparate tribal figures that come from all over rural Afghanistan.”

“It may well be a Taliban that is more reasonable,” Carter said. “It’s less repressive. And indeed, if you look at the way it is governing Kabul at the moment, there are some indications that it is more reasonable.”

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The collapse of Afghan military: We’ve seen this movie before

Ibrahim Al-Marashi | 17 Aug 2021

The Taliban’s lightning offensive in Afghanistan in which we saw the Afghan military hand over the country to the armed group without putting up a real fight brought back memories of the ISIL (ISIS) group’s 2014 invasion of Iraq which led to the collapse of the country’s army.

In response to the latest events in Afghanistan, international media published articles with headlines such as “How the Taliban Overran the Afghan Army, Built by the US Over 20 Years”, and asked questions like “The US Spent $83 Billion Training Afghan Forces. Why Did They Collapse So Quickly?”

Pervasive corruption

In June 2014, some 30,000 Iraqi soldiers could not prevent 1,500 ISIL fighters from taking over Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. This month, the Afghan security sector, including the army, air force, and police, officially numbered at more than 300,000  could not stand up to estimated 60,000 Taliban fighters.

Both militaries appeared a lot stronger and larger than their adversaries on paper, so what led to their humiliating defeats?

First and foremost, despite their massive official troop numbers, both forces have been struggling with significant structural deficiencies from the very beginning.

Both in Afghanistan and Iraq, widespread desertion and corruption prevented US-trained militaries from emerging as capable forces.

High-ranking officers in both militaries, for example, are known to have inflated their rosters with fictitious names and collected paycheques for these “ghost soldiers”. This practice emerged in both states, because the military served as a patronage network for the countries’ leaders and officer posts were awarded to political loyalists rather than those with military acumen. These politically connected officers used their positions to extract wealth for themselves, not only by inflating the rosters but also by taking a cut from the “transit fees” the soldiers under their command routinely collect from the public at checkpoints.

The state security forces’ corruption and predatory behaviour, especially at checkpoints, alienated local populations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In her book, Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security, Sarah Chayes wrote about a disgruntled Afghan civilian who was so fed up with paying bribes to the post-2001 security forces that he wished for the Taliban to come and rid him of this nuisance. This anecdote is just one of many examples of how corruption deprived security forces in both countries of any legitimacy and public support prior to their spectacular defeats.

The historical legacy of a 20-year war

What we are witnessing today in Afghanistan, and what we have witnessed in Iraq some seven years ago, is the ultimate failure of not only the US’s interventions in these two countries but also its entire “war on terror” doctrine. (Source: Al Jazeera News )

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Putin says US achieved ‘zero’ in Afghanistan

Russian leader says 20-year occupation resulted in ‘sheer tragedies and losses’ for Washington and the Afghan people.

The United States’ 20-year campaign in Afghanistan ended in tragedies and Washington achieved nothing, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, adding that the US army’s attempt to ingrain their norms in Afghanistan was futile.

Speaking at a meeting with teenagers in the Russian far eastern city of Vladivostok to mark the start of the school year, he said: “American troops were present on that territory (of Afghanistan) for 20 years, and over those 20 years they were trying  this can be said without offending anyone  to civilize the local people, but in fact, to impose their norms and standards of life in the broadest sense of this word, including the political organization of society.

“The only result is tragedies and losses for those who were doing that  for the United States  and especially for the people who live on the territory of Afghanistan. This is a zero result, if not negative.”

It is “impossible to impose anything from outside”.

Last week of August, President Putin said Russia would not interfere in Afghanistan and that Moscow had learned from the Soviet occupation of the country. Moscow fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with the Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989.

Putin has also complained about Western countries trying to place Afghan refugees in Moscow-allied Central Asian states, fearing that “radical Islam” would spill over into nations he is friendly with.

At the same time, Moscow has been cautiously optimistic about the new leadership in Kabul, saying it would not meddle in domestic affairs. But at home, the Taliban is still registered as a “terrorist” organisation.

(SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES)

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Helicopter with 16 people on board crashes in Russia’s Kamchatka

(12 Aug 2021) A helicopter with 16 people on board, most of them tourists, has crashed in the Kamchatka peninsula in  Russia’s far east the local government said, with seven passengers unaccounted for.

The Mi-8 helicopter came down in Lake Kuril in the Kronotsky nature reserve, it said in a statement on Thursday.

According to AP news agency, the helicopter is reportedly lying at a depth of about 100 meters (328 feet) in Lake Kuril, which is up to 316 meters (1,037-feet) deep with an area of 77 square kilometers (30 square miles). Preliminary information said, “there were three crew members and 13 passengers on board”.

Kamchatka is more than 6,000km (3,728 miles) east of Moscow. (Source: Al Jazeera)

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Russia to expand navy with new warships & nuclear subs as Putin says new tech, from AI to robotics, will drive next-gen weapons

(23 Aug, 2021)  Russian President Vladimir Putin has revealed that the country’s shipyards have begun work on half a dozen new vessels for its growing navy, and that Moscow is now planning to revamp its armed forces with cutting-edge hardware.

Speaking as part of the Army 2021 expo on Monday, Putin announced that “the potential of our sailors is increasing.” Therefore, he said, “today, at leading shipyards across Russia, two modern short-range ships and four new submarines  including two equipped to carry nuclear missiles  are being laid.”

Manufacturers on the Baltic Sea, along the waters of the Arctic and on the coast of the Sea of Japan in the country’s Far East are all now working to deliver the orders. In July, a shipyard in Severodvinsk, near the northern city of Arkhangelsk, put out to sea a nuclear missile cruiser; while in May, another nuclear submarine, ‘Kazan’, was delivered to the navy.

In addition, the Russian president said that there is now a need to overhaul the country’s military equipment in order to take advantage of the latest innovations. “We are developing Russia’s defense industry and our armed forces in line with new technological principles based on our scientific and technical advances,” he said.

Significant attention is being paid to “areas such as the use of artificial intelligence and robotics to support the troops, as well as the latest command and control systems.” Putin added that the share of modern weapons in the strategic nuclear forces already exceeds 80%, with outdated hardware having been replaced.

The president also said that Russia had achieved technological supremacy in a number of areas of military technology. “Many of these weapons have no analogues elsewhere in the world in terms of their tactical and technical characteristics,” he said, “and according to what we see, one can firmly say: They will not have them for a long time.”

In April, Putin said that hypersonic and laser weapons are a key focus for the Russian Armed Forces and were an important deterrent in dealing with potentially unfriendly states. “We have patience, self-confidence and righteousness on our side,” Putin added. “I hope no one will think of crossing red lines in their relations with Russia. Where that line sits is ours to determine.” Those planning provocations, he said, “will regret their deeds in a way they have not regretted anything else for a long time.” (Source: RT NEWS)

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Syrian air defenses downed 22 Israeli missiles fired from Lebanese airspace  Russian Defense Ministry

(20 Aug, 2021) Syria’s air defenses shot down 22 of 24 Israeli missiles fired during recent air raids near Damascus, the Russian military said. Launched from Lebanese airspace, the strikes have prompted vocal objections from officials in Beirut.

“On August 19, 2021, six Israeli Air Force tactical fighters launched 24 guided missiles from Lebanese airspace at targets in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, deputy head of Russia’s Reconciliation Center for Syria, said in a statement.

The Syrian air defense destroyed 22 missiles using Russian-made Buk-M2E and Pantsir-S systems… There were no casualties among the Syrian military personnel or destruction of infrastructure.

The Israeli strikes originated from around Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, and targeted areas in Syria’s Damascus and Homs provinces, SANA reported. Four civilians in the town of Qara were killed in the strikes, according to local reports cited by the Jerusalem Post.

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Lebanon fuel tanker explosion kills at least 28

( 15/08/2021) The tragedy in the remote north overwhelmed medical facilities and heaped new misery on a nation already beset by an economic crisis and severe fuel shortages that have crippled hospitals and caused long power cuts.

It revived bitter memories of an enormous explosion at Beirut port last August that killed more than 200 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

An adviser to the health ministry said the death toll from the blast in Al-Tleil village in the Akkar region had climbed to 28. The Lebanese Red Cross said 79 others were injured.

The military said a fuel tank that “had been confiscated by the army to distribute to citizens” exploded just before 2:00 am (2300 GMT). Soldiers were among the victims.

The official National News Agency (NNA) said the blast followed scuffles between “residents that gathered around the container to fill up gasoline” overnight.

“Some have lost their faces, others their arms,” Metlej told AFP. (Source: France 24 News Agency)

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Canada violating int’l law by selling arms to Saudis: Report

(By Al Jazeera Staff | 11 Aug 2021)

Canada is violating international law by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to a new report by rights groups Amnesty International Canada and Project Ploughshares, which are urging Ottawa to suspend all arms exports to Riyadh.

Released, the report, titled ‘No Credible Evidence': Canada’s Flawed Analysis of Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia, accuses Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government of violating the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), an international agreement that Canada became a party to in 2019.

Canadian weapons transfers to the Gulf kingdom could be used to commit or facilitate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, the rights groups found, particularly in the ongoing conflict in Yemen.

“It has been established through investigations and expert reports that Canadian weapons exports to [Saudi Arabia] are contrary to Canada’s legal obligations under the ATT,” the report reads.

The war in Yemen broke out in late 2014 when Houthi rebels seized large swaths of the country, including the capital, Sanaa. The conflict escalated in March 2015 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates assembled a military coalition in an attempt to restore the government of Riyadh-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The ongoing war has pushed millions to the brink of famine in what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and at least 233,000 people have died, according to a recent UN estimate.

“There is persuasive evidence that weapons exported from Canada to KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia], including LAVs [light-armoured vehicles] and sniper rifles, have been diverted for use in the war in Yemen,”  report found.

“Given the overriding risk posed by Canadian weapons exports to KSA, Canada must immediately revoke existing arms export permits to KSA and suspend the issuance of new ones.”

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New Israeli plan a ‘dangerous blow to the two-state solution’

Hizma, Occupied West Bank  The Israeli government is forging ahead with a plan for a massive new Israeli settlement that could destroy the two-state solution and Palestinian hopes for an independent state. In an August 8 report, Israel’s Peace Now organisation said a plan for 9,000 housing units near Atarot Airport  between the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Kafr Aqab, Qalandiya and ar-Ram south of Ramallah  was moving ahead.

If this plan goes through, it will be the first new settlement in East Jerusalem since former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government built the Har Homa settlement in 1997.

“This is a very dangerous plan which might bring a blow to the two-state solution,” said Peace Now.

“The planned neighbourhood is at the heart of the urban territorial Palestinian continuity between Ramallah and East Jerusalem, and thus will prevent the possibility of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“The government must remove the plan from the agenda immediately and shelve it.”

The Jerusalem District Planning Committee will discuss the final approval of the plan at the beginning of December and once it is validated and published, construction permits for building will be issued.

Israeli built-up area

Area C of the West Bank, comprising 60 percent of the occupied territory, falls under full Israeli control, with most of the territory used by Israel’s Civil Administration for the expansion of current Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, and the establishment of new outposts by hardline settlers.

The Israeli authorities are already working on their E1 plan, which involves creating a contiguous, Israeli built-up area extending from Jerusalem to the Maale Adumim settlement  11km (5 miles) beyond the Green Line, or the internationally recognised boundary that separates Israel from the West Bank.

Critics argue the West Bank now resembles a Bantustan because of the lack of a viable and contiguous Palestinian territory.

“This will block the eastern connection of East Jerusalem to the West Bank as well as disconnect Ramallah and the north of the West Bank from Bethlehem and the south of the West Bank,” said Israeli rights group Ir Amim, referring to the E1 area.

‘Lost livelihoods’

The Civil Administration will convene for final approval on the construction of about 2,000 new housing units across the West Bank, not related to the E1 area or the new Atarot settlement.

In a rare move, and to soften international condemnation, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett approved 900 of those for Palestinian homes.

While Israeli bureaucracy, and Israeli settler movements, move forward with taking over Area C land, the suffering of Palestinians on the ground continues.

The small town of Hizma, on the way to Jericho, is in Area C between an Israeli military checkpoint, the separation wall, and four illegal Israeli settlements: Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Zeev, Anatot, and Geva Binyamin.

The Khatib family is currently reeling from the destruction of 15 of their commercial and agricultural facilities several weeks ago to make way for widening a road that leads to the settlements.

“The soldiers came on August 4 at about 3:30am and beat several youths before employing heavy machinery to destroy our car wash, mechanic and electrical repair workshops, a large building we had for our goats as well as part of our home,” Essam Khatib told Al Jazeera.

“My father had been running these businesses for over 20 years and we estimate our economic losses at approximately $622,000. We have now lost our livelihoods on which nearly 30 family members depend.” (SOURCE: AL JAZEERA)

 

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S Korea developing missile as powerful as nuclear weapon

Three-tonne missile designed to destroy underground facilities by penetrating tunnels to effectively nullify nuclear launches.

(3 Sep 2021) South Korea is in the final stages of developing a surface-to-surface ballistic missile as powerful as a tactical nuclear warhead, Yonhap news agency reported, as the country unveiled budget proposals aimed at bolstering its defences against North Korea.

According to the report published on Thursday, the new weapon can carry a warhead of up to three tonnes with a flight range of 350 to 400 km (217 to 248 miles).

The missile is designed to destroy underground missile facilities and bases by penetrating underground tunnels to effectively nullify nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) ahead of their launches. The report said it can also reach all areas of North Korea if fired from around the inter-Korean border.

The project went ahead after the full lifting of US-imposed restrictions on missile development.

“We will develop stronger, longer-range and more precise missiles so as to exercise deterrence and achieve security and peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the South Korean government said in a statement.

In its defence blueprint for 2022 to 2026, the defence ministry said it would develop new missiles “with significantly enhanced destructive power”, upgrade missile defence systems and deploy new interceptors against long-range artillery.

The missile would be the latest in a tit-for-tat conventional missile race between the two Koreas.

‘Shutting provocations’

In 2020, South Korea announced its new Hyunmoo-4 short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) could carry a 2-tonne warhead, while in March North Korea tested an SRBM that it said could deliver a 2.5-tonne payload. The Hyunmoo-4 is South Korea’s largest missile.

“Following the termination of the guidelines, we will exercise deterrence against potential threats and improve strike capabilities against main targets,” the defence ministry statement said.

Before the decade is out, Asia will be bristling with conventional missiles that fly farther and faster, hit harder, and are more sophisticated than ever before  a stark and dangerous change from recent years, analysts, diplomats, and military officials have said.

Overall, South Korea’s defence blueprint calls for spending 315.2 trillion won (US$273bn) in the next five years, a 5.8 percent year-on-year increase on average, as it continues to bolster its defences amid threats from Pyongyang.

The defence plan also seeks to expand Seoul’s presence in space with an eye to deploy a new radar system to monitor space objects by the early 2030s. Meanwhile, its Navy also plans to build more 3,000-tonne or larger submarines to replace ageing frigates with new ones with improved operational and combat capabilities.

(SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES)

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More than 210 killed in violence in western Ethiopia: Commission

(26 Aug 2021) More than 210 people have been killed across several days of ethnic violence in Ethiopia’s tense Oromia region last week, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said. The state-affiliated but independent commission said on Thursday that witnesses described gunmen affiliated with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a rebel group, arriving on August 18 after security forces withdrew from Gida-Kirimu in the western region.

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Dozens killed in Houthi attack on Yemen’s largest base

(29 Aug 2021) At least 30 soldiers were killed and 60 wounded in Houthi strikes on a military base belonging to forces of the Saudi-led coalition, a spokesman for Yemen’s southern forces said. Attack on the al-Anad military base in the government-held southern province of Lahij was carried out using armed drones and ballistic missiles, said Mohamed al-Naqeeb, the spokesman.

Al-Naqeeb said the death toll may rise as rescuers were still scouring the scene. Residents nearby said several loud blasts were heard in the al-Anad area. Other residents from the disputed central city of Taiz said they heard ballistic missiles fired from launchers positioned in the Houthi-held eastern suburbs of the city. There was no immediate comment from the rebel side.

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