Israel

Israel high court approves Temple Mount development

The Israeli Supreme Court on May 15 ruled in favor of the government's planned cable car over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The ruling was met with approval by proponents such as Jerusalem's mayor, Moshe Lion, who claimed the project will "reduce air pollution in the area, solve the transport and parking distress and allow comfortable and efficient access to the Western Wall and the Old City." However, the decision has been met with condemnation by many, including city planners and architects, environmental groups, and Karaite Jews, a minority sect with a cemetery located along the proposed cable car's path. Palestinian groups have especially criticized the proposed path, as it would travel over East Jerusalem, an area ceded to Arab control in the 1949 armistice but occupied by Israel in 1967. Ir-Amim advocacy group tweeted: "Folks will hop in in WJ [West Jerusalem] and have no idea they're cabling over the heads of occupied Palestinians."

Russian 'denazification' goes full Nazi

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, just days after issuing blatant nuclear threats, now engages in the classic anti-Semitic trope of blaming Nazism on the Jews. Speaking to Italian TV, Lavrov responded to a reminder that Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish thusly: "When they say 'What sort of nazification is this if we are Jews,' well I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing. For a long time now we've been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves." 

Israel: detention of 'terror suspects' without charge

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett instructed security services March 28 to hold any "terror suspects" in "administrative detention," even without charge. The order extends to Palestinians within Israeli a policy long applied to Palestinians on the West Bank. Bennett cited "a new situation that requires suitable preparations and adjustment by the security services to the circumstances within which extremist elements of Arab society, directed by extremist Islamic ideology, are carrying out terror attacks and taking lives." The order came a day after two Border Police officers were killed in a shooting attack at the coastal city of Hadera by two Israeli citizens who were said to be supporters of the so-called "Islamic State." The assailants were both shot dead by security forces.

Iran claims missile strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed responsibility for ballistic missile attacks on northern Iraq's Kurdish regional capital of Erbil on March 13, saying that the strikes targeted an Israeli "strategic center" in the city.  Iranian state media reported that the missiles were aimed at "Mossad bases" in Erbil. The IRGC had days earlier vowed to seek revenge against Israel, saying the Zionist state will "pay the price" for killing two of its guards in recent Israeli air-strikes on targets in the Syrian capital Damascus. Erbil's governor Omed Khoshnaw denied any Israeli military or intelligence presence in the city, calling the accusation "baseless." The estimated 12 rocket strikes took no casualties, but caused damage to civilian properties and triggered panic among the populace in neighborhoods of Erbil. (Rudaw, Rudaw, Al Jazeera)

UN: Syria must come clean on chemical weapons

Syria's declaration to the United Nations of its chemical weapons program cannot be considered accurate due to gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs told the Security Council on Jan. 4. Izumi Nakamitsu urged the country to cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), adding that "full cooperation" is "essential to closing these outstanding issues." The UN disarmament chief was presenting an update on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013) regarding the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program.

Bedouin land protests rock the Negev

As part of a "forestation" plan, Israel's Jewish National Fund began clearing cultivated lands at the "unrecognized" Bedouin village of Sawa in the Negev desert this week, sparking angry protests by the villagers. The protests started Jan. 10, when villagers and Bedouin leaders expressed their objections the JNF plan to plant trees on an area of 5,000 dunums (1,250 acres), much of which had been planted with wheat only a few months ago. Tractors arrived at the area the following day to begin clearing the fields, and villagers physically resisted. Police detained 18 local youth for throwing stones. Protests continued for the following two days, with the security forces firing rubber-coated bullets, tear-gas and malodorous "skunk water," causing several injuries. Border Police joined the Israeli Police force at the scene.

Russian warplanes bomb Idlib water station

Russian warplanes are reported to have carried out an air-raid on the main water pumping station for the city Idlib, capital of the besieged province of that name in Syria's north. Witnesses on the ground said Russian Sukhoi jets dropped bombs on the water plant as well as several towns outside the provincial capital on Jan. 2. UN humanitarian official Mark Cutts acknowledged the air-raid without naming the perpetrators, tweeting: "The country is already facing a water crisis & continued destruction of civilian infrastructure will only cause more suffering of civilians." Abu Hazem Idlibi, an official in the opposition administration of the city, said the plant is now out of operation, charging: "The Russians are focusing on infrastructure and economic assets. This is to add to the suffering of people."

UN chief calls for action against autonomous weapons

UN Secretary General António Guterres on Dec. 13 called upon member states to devise "an ambitious plan for the future to establish restrictions on the use of certain types of autonomous weapons" ahead of the Sixth Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). He called on the CCW to "swiftly advance its work on autonomous weapons that can choose targets and kill people without human interference."

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