US commander says forces embedding more to help Iraqis retake Mosul

US forces assisting Iraqi troops to retake Mosul from Islamic State are embedding more extensively, a senior commander said on Friday, a move that could accelerate a two-month-old campaign which has slackened after quick initial advances. More than 5,000 American service members are currently deployed in Iraq as part of an international coalition that is advising local forces in a bid to recapture the one-third of the country which the jihadists seized in 2014 when Iraq’s army and police dropped their weapons and fled. Coalition advisors were initially concentrated at a high-level headquarters in Baghdad but have fanned out over the past two years to multiple locations to stay near advancing troops. Now, as Iraqi forces controlling around a quarter […]

Lessons learnt from the fall of Aleppo

Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in 2011, the government restricted independent media outlets and barred international news agencies from covering the anti-government protests. As a result, a wave of Syrian volunteers from all walks of life became activists and citizen journalists; they started to report on the revolution, challenging the government’s official narrative of the uprising. Many of these activists became the voices of the people in besieged areas, revolution icons and, sometimes, the only source of information about the situation on the ground. Their media work varied and was complemented by Syrian and non-Syrian activists outside the country who often translated and coordinated the work of those inside. The reactions of opposition activists within and beyond Syria […]

Turkey: A letter from the Russian ambassador’s assassin

A letter written by the man who killed the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, has been found by investigators, Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Harun Kodalak revealed According to the letter, Russia’s brutal activities in the world led to the assassination in an art gallery on Monday. Investigators consider the message an attempt to divert attention to other matters. Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old off-duty Turkish policeman, shot Karlov in the gallery. In the message he noted that both Russia and the United States will end very soon. “You’ll not feel safe as long as we, Arabs, do not feel safe in our countries,” he added. Police pointed out that, in addition to the letter, they found other books written by […]

UN Security Council passes motion end to Israeli settlements

The UN Security Council has passed a resolution urging an end to illegal Israeli settlements, which the US refused to veto, abstaining instead. The motion was passed with 14 votes in favour and one abstention. It is the first resolution the Security Council has adopted on Israel and Palestine in nearly eight years. The Egyptian-drafted resolution had been withdrawn after Israel asked Donald Trump to intervene but it was proposed again by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela. The resolution demands Israel: immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem…[the establishment of settlements by Israel has] no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law. Four of the five permanent members […]

Russia, Iran and Turkey to discuss Syria ‘peace’ in Astana

President Vladimir Putin said today that Russia, Iran, Turkey and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad had all agreed that the Kazakh capital of Astana should be the venue for new Syrian peace negotiations. Russia, Iran and Turkey held talks in Moscow on Tuesday after which they said they were ready to help broker a Syrian peace deal. Putin proposed holding the negotiations in Kazakhstan, a close Russian ally. Russian airstrikes were instrumental in helping the Assad regime wipe out opposition resistance this month in the northern city of Aleppo, handing him his biggest victory in nearly six years of war and strengthening his negotiating hand. Previous diplomatic attempts to end the conflict have repeatedly failed. Despite the government’s recapture of Aleppo, […]

Iran shoots down a filming drone in Tehran over security concerns

Iran’s anti-aircraft forces shot down a drone in central Tehran on Friday as it approached the offices of the president and the supreme leader, but the unmanned aircraft later appeared to have been operated by a film crew shooting aerial footage for a documentary. Residents in central Tehran heard loud gunfire and an explosion, they said on social media. ILNA news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying that the drone was shot down as “it approached the no-fly zone” near the office of the supreme leader. The source later explained that the drone belonged to a documentary-making team that had permission to film but “unintentionally started moving it towards the no-fly zone.” Tehran’s deputy governor general for security affairs, […]

Hezbollah: Fall of Aleppo could pave way for ‘political solution’

Lebanese Shia Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said today the Syrian regime’s defeat of rebels in Aleppo this week had ended their hopes of ousting President Bashar Al-Assad and could pave the way to a political solution for the country. Militants from Iranian proxy Hezbollah are fighting alongside Assad regime forces and a collection of Iranian-sponsored global Shia jihadists from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan against Syrians opposed to Al-Assad’s continued rule in Syria. In a live televised address, Nasrallah said that the Assad regime forces’ recapture of the northern city of Aleppo after four years of fighting with rebels holding its eastern sector had opened a new stage in the nearly six-year conflict. “Today, after Aleppo, one can safely say the […]

Morocco targets ‘terrorism apologists’ in new crackdown

The Moroccan Ministry of Interior is warning its citizens that any sympathy for a gunman, who shot the Russian ambassador to Turkey, even on social media, could land them in jail. According to Morocco World News the Ministry of Interior stated that any “sympathy and apology for terrorist acts constitute a crime punishable by law, in accordance with Article 218-2 of the criminal code. An investigation has been initiated by the authorities, under the supervision of the public prosecutor’s office, in order to identify the persons involved and to initiate legal proceedings against them.” “These unacceptable acts of extremism are at odds with the precepts of Islam, which advocates tolerance and rejects all extremism, and are moreover contradictory to the […]

Russia: Trump better partner for Syria deal than Obama

Russia is not in touch with the incoming US administration over Syria, but Moscow sees Donald Trump as a better partner to negotiate with than Barack Obama, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Friday. The Interfax news agency quoted Gatilov as saying that Trump had never linked the resolution of the Syrian crisis to the removal of President Bashar Assad, who is supported by Moscow. “As we understand it, that means he has more room for manoeuvre than the outgoing Obama administration,” Gatilov was quoted as saying. Gatilov also said Russia would welcome Washington stepping up its anti-terrorism operations in Syria. “There shouldn’t be any jealousy or rivalry here. We all ought to be thinking about the necessity […]

Palestinian arrested over alleged contact with Hamas chief

Israeli police have arrested an East Jerusalem resident on charge of alleged contact with Hamas’ political chief Khaled Mashaal, Israel’s Channel 2 reported yesterday. According to the police spokesperson Luba Al-Samri, a man in his 30s was detained on Wednesday on suspicion of contact with Hamas officials abroad. She added that the defendant had appeared in court yesterday for his detention to be extended. Israeli police have not provided information about the suspect’s identity; however, Channel 2 revealed that the defendant is Tayseer Abu Sabih, the brother of Mesbah Abu Sabih who killed two Israelis in an October attack in the capital. Channel 2 noted in a report yesterday that the brother received a call last night from Qatar-based Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal who congratulated him on the attack. […]