DDMA Headline Animator

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Israel to recall ambassador to Poland

February 13, 2018

The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Israeli Knesset yesterday started official steps to recall the country’s ambassador to Poland in protest against a Polish bill that criminalizes accusations of complicity in the Holocaust, local media revealed reported.

According to Quds Press, Israeli radio reported the move, which was introduced by the Zionist Union Members of the Knesset Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin and gained the support of many other MKs.

This move comes after the Polish parliament approved a law that disclaims Polish complicity with in the Holocaust that took place in Poland during WWII when the country was under German occupation.

Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the law last week, but before it is enforced it must get the final approval from Poland’s constitutional court.

According to the Times of Israel, the law sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone blaming “responsibility or co-responsibility on the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich – or other crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

The US, France and Israel have criticized the law. Israel refused to receive a Polish delegation last week while Israel’s Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister, Naftali Bennett, had his trip to Poland cancelled following comments he made about the law.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180213-israel-to-recall-ambassador-to-poland/.

Abramenko's aerials win gives Ukraine rare Olympic gold

February 18, 2018

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Growing up in Ukraine, Oleksandr Abramenko's father pushed him toward sports. Well, one sport actually. Soccer. The problem? His son wasn't feeling it. "I felt like extreme sports were my thing," Abramenko said.

Good call. The 29-year-old made history on Sunday night, becoming the first man to win an individual Winter Olympic medal for Ukraine when he edged China's Jia Zongyang in a tight aerials final. Abramenko and Jia both attempted the same jump in the last round, a back full, double full. Both of them executed it with precision. Both of them left Abramenko and Jia believing they had won.

Abramenko turned a Ukrainian flag into a cape and raced around when his score of 128.51 was posted. The score stood after Canada's Olivier Rochon and Stanislau Hladchenko of Belarus both washed out in their last attempts, leaving only Jia.

Jumping last, Jia drilled his attempt and turned toward the landing hill with his arms raised in triumph. Abramenko seemed to cede he'd been beat, scooting over a bit toward the silver-medal position while waiting for Jia's score to flash.

There was no need. Jia's score of 128.05 was just short of gold and just enough for Abramenko to celebrate a milestone achievement. "I still can't believe that I actually earned a gold medal," Abramenko said. "I was hoping for any medal really."

The only other gold medals won by the Ukraine at the Winter Games came in 1994, when Oksana Baiul captured the title in women's figure skating, and in 2014, when the women's biathlon team earned the top spot in a relay. Ukraine is a force at the Summer Games, capturing 11 medals in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 in sports ranging from fencing to wrestling to canoeing to gymnastics.

Success in the Winter Olympics has been more difficult to come by, which made Abramenko's breakthrough all the more stunning. Maybe it shouldn't have been. Sunday night marked a slow, steady climb to the podium. He was 27th in Turin in 2006, 24th in Vancouver in 2010 and sixth in Sochi four years ago.

"This is historic for me and I am actually writing the history of Ukrainian sport and the history of my sport as well," Abramenko said. Jia initially seemed less than thrilled with silver. He stuck his index finger out while on the medal stand, seeming to signal he was No. 1. He downplayed it afterward, saying the score indicated there's still a little bit of room for improvement.

"For me myself, I'm quite satisfied but for my country and my team there is still a bit of pity," Jia said. The silver gave China three medals in aerials in Pyeongchang after Zhang Xin and Kong Fanyu took silver and bronze in the women's event on Friday night. Still, it also continued a weird trend for the Chinese, one of the strongest aerial teams in the world. The Chinese women have seven Olympic medals but no gold. The men's program has four Olympic medals, but just one gold, something Jia hopes will change when the Games head to Beijing in 2022.

Ilia Burov, an Olympic athlete from Russia, earned bronze. The Russian contingent remains without a gold in South Korea after winning 13 in Sochi four years ago, though that number has dropped to 11 after two were stripped due to doping.

American Jon Lillis topped qualifying on Saturday and advanced to the second round of elimination but ran into form issues in the semifinals. Belarus, which had won at least one medal in every men's aerials competition since 1998, failed to reach the podium when Hladchenko's final jump ended with a spectacular wipeout.

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

Russia seeks to regulate private military contractors

February 14, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian parliament is working on a bill to regulate private military companies, a senior lawmaker said Wednesday after reports that an unknown number of Russian military contractors were killed in a U.S. strike in Syria.

Retired Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, head of the defense committee in the lower house of Russia's parliament, said the government needs to oversee private military contractors. "The state must be directly involved in issues related to the life and health of our citizens," he said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

Media reports said Russian private contractors were part of pro-Syrian government forces that attacked U.S.-backed fighters in the Deir el-Zour province in eastern Syria on Feb. 7 and faced a ferocious U.S. counterattack. At least four Russian citizens have been killed, according to their associates, and reports of more casualties have been trickling in.

Along with the Russian military, which has waged a military campaign in Syria backing the government since 2015, thousands of Russians have also reportedly fought there as private contractors. The private fighters allowed the Kremlin to keep the official death toll from its campaign in Syria low, helping to avoid negative publicity about Russia's involvement in Syria as President Vladimir Putin runs for re-election in the country's March 18 presidential vote.

Both Russian and U.S. officials said they had no information on Russian losses in Syria on Feb. 7. The Russian deaths in Syria at the hands of the U.S. military would be highly embarrassing for both Moscow and Washington and could further damage Russia-U.S. relations.

If officially confirmed, they would represent the first direct clash between Russian and U.S. forces in the chaotic Syrian battlefield — the long-feared scenario that Moscow and Washington have anxiously sought to avoid.

Russian forces are supporting the Syrian government in the fight against opposition groups, some of which are backed by the United States, and elements of both sides are fighting the last remnants of the Islamic State group in Syria. U.S. and Russian military officials have maintained daily contact to avoid collisions between their forces.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other U.S. officials said they had no information on Russian casualties in the Feb. 7 clash, and the Kremlin did not confirm any Russian deaths. The Russian Defense Ministry, which insisted that its troops weren't involved in the incident, said 25 Syrian volunteers were wounded in the U.S. strike.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, reaffirmed Wednesday that the Kremlin has no information about the Russian losses in the clash. He warned against relying on "distorted information" in media reports, some of which cited unconfirmed claims that overall casualties could have been as high as 200 and Russians could have accounted for the bulk of them.

The U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces have been vying with Russian-backed Syrian troops reinforced by Iranian-supported militias for control of the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province. But it was unclear why pro-government forces there advanced on an oil factory held by U.S.-backed fighters despite the obvious risks of facing a devastating U.S. counterattack.

Some observers alleged that the attackers might have been tempted to take over the oil facilities because of a rumored relocation of some of the Kurdish fighters there to the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria, which is facing a Turkish offensive.

If the attacking force had made such a calculation, it has proven deadly wrong. For more than three hours, American F-15E attack jets, B-52 strategic bombers, AC-130 gunships, Apache attack helicopters and Reaper drones fired on the attacking force, destroying an unspecified number of personnel, artillery guns and battle tanks, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. air forces in the Middle East, said Tuesday.

Many of the Russian private fighters in Syria reportedly work for The Wagner group, founded by retired Lt. Col. Dmitry Utkin. He was targeted by U.S. sanctions after the Treasury Department said the company had recruited former soldiers to join the separatists fighting in Ukraine.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg businessman dubbed "Putin's chef" because his restaurants and catering businesses once hosted the Kremlin leader's dinners with foreign dignitaries, is also on the U.S. sanctions list. Prigozhin's assets include Evro Polis, an oil trading firm that reportedly has served as a front for Wagner's operations in Syria.

Last fall, The Associated Press obtained a copy of a 47-page five-year contract between Evro Polis and Syria's state-owned General Petroleum Corp., which said the Russian company would receive 25 percent of the proceeds from oil and gas production at fields its contractors capture from Islamic State militants.

Ruslan Leviev, the founder of the Conflict Intelligence Team, or CIT, an investigative group analyzing Russian casualties in Syria, said the involvement of Russian private contractors in the Feb. 7 attack might have reflected a push for more oil assets.

Leviev said his group has confirmed the death of eight Russian private military contractors in the U.S. strike based on social media. He noted that the Russian military could have been unaware of the contractors' involvement in the attacking force because coordination between them has been very poor.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hamas: PA ordered arrest of freed Palestinian prisoners

February 1, 2018

Senior Hamas leader in the West Bank Abdul-Rahman Shadid said yesterday that the Palestinian Authority (PA) ordered the arrest of Palestinians who had been freed from Israeli jails, Felesteen.ps reported.

The PA security services and the Israeli occupation forces carried out a dual detention campaign against Palestinians in different areas in the occupied West Bank early this week.

The campaign came after a number of roadside explosives were discovered along a settler road in the occupied West Bank. The PA claimed that the explosives were aimed at it.

Shadid said: “The PA’s arrest of Palestinians is collusion with the Israeli occupation policies. It is even carrying out the occupation’s orders to hunt and get rid of the [Palestinian] resistance.”

He stressed that the PA claim that the explosions were aimed to harm it was “feeble” and this was only to “cover up its crimes against the Palestinian resistance”.

The Hamas leader stressed that “arresting the freed prisoners serves only the Israeli occupation and puts these Palestinians under suspicion so they can later be arrested by the Israeli occupation.”

Shadid called for the PA to immediately release them and all other Palestinian political prisoners, as well as to stop the security cooperation with the Israeli occupation.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180201-hamas-pa-ordered-arrest-of-freed-palestinian-prisoners/.

No electricity at 7 more Gaza medical centers

January 31, 2018

Generators at seven health centers in the besieged Gaza Strip have stopped working due to the shortage in fuel, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced today.

Ministry spokesman, Ashraf Al-Qadra, said the medical departments affected are: the Sourani Center, the Palestinian Medical Center, the Medical Foundation, the Gaza Health Administration, Abasan Al-Kabira, the Atatra and the Society of Physically Handicapped People – Gaza Strip.

The crisis management committee in the ministry confirmed that the situation in the Strip has entered an unprecedented stage due to the fuel crisis, demanding donors intervene immediately to bring it to an end.

The committee called on the energy company to work urgently to provide electricity to hospitals around the clock.

“Our health services are on the decline after a number of them stopped at the Beit Hanoun Hospital for the third day and Al-Durra children’s hospital and patients were transferred to other hospitals because of the lack of fuel. We are only a few hours away from seeing the generator at the psychiatric hospital stopping.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180131-no-electricity-at-7-more-gaza-medical-centres/.

Lebanon calls for Turkey's support for boosting security, infrastructure

February 1, 2018

The Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, yesterday called on the Turkish government to support Lebanon on enhancing its security and to invest in the country’s infrastructure renovation.

“I’ve asked the Turkish government to support Lebanon in its two national priorities, including enhancing the capabilities of the army and the security forces, and developing the country’ infrastructure sector,” Hariri said on Twitter.

Hariri noted that he had asked the Ankara “to help in encouraging the country’s private sector to participate in the government’s investment plan.”

“We [Turkish government] expect the private sector to fund a third of our investment plan,” he added.

The Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, recently announced that Turkey was willing to boost bilateral relations with Lebanon on a number of issues, a move that Hariri welcomed.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180201-lebanon-calls-for-turkeys-support-for-boosting-security-infrastructure/.

Tunisia rejects NATO's proposal to support establishment of anti-terrorism center

February 13, 2018

On Monday, the Tunisian defense ministry said it had rejected a NATO proposal that would grant Tunisia a 3 million euro grant in exchange for closer ties with the organization. The plan would have engaged a permanent role for NATO experts at an operations center in the country.

Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi said his ministry, “rejected a proposal by NATO to give his country a grant of 3 million euros to receive permanent experts who would provide technical advice to the Tunisian military at an operations center in which the armies cooperate to secure borders and fight terrorism which Tunisia plans to develop.”

During a hearing at the Tunisian parliament’s security and defense committee, on Monday, Zbidi explained that “The ministry is working on a project to complete a joint center for planning, leading operations, for information analysis and to lead joint operations between the military forces.”

He added that his ministry “requested the provision of a grant to Tunisia, provided that no party from outside the Tunisian military establishment would intervene in this center, and that the location where the center is to be established be inside Tunisian territories and chosen by the Ministry of Defense.”

Zbidi also pointed out that the terrorist threat still persists in his country especially on the western borders with Algeria and eastern borders with Libya.

He added: “Some terrorist combatants are still active in the western highlands of the governorates of Kasserine, El Kef and Jendouba.”

According Zbidi, the Tunisian military units carried out about one thousand military operations in suspicious areas in different governorates of the country, which led to the elimination of 5 terrorist combatants, uncovering 28 hideouts, the destruction and neutralization of more than 100 mines, the seizure of equipment and various possessions, the killing of two military agents together with 45 others injured at different degrees.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180213-tunisia-rejects-natos-proposal-to-support-establishment-of-anti-terrorism-centre/.