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Middle East

Arab League refuses to deviate from idea of two states

The Arab League issued a sharp response Thursday to a meeting that took place between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s the previous night, spelling out its unshakeable commitment to a two-state solution to resolving the Palestinian Authority-Israeli conflict and warning of the dire consequences involved in moving the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict required a two-state solution after Trump was less emphatic about the prospect for such a conclusion to the conflict and the US’s unwavering commitment to Palestinian statehood.

“It requires a comprehensive and just settlement based on a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on … 1967 borders with its capital in Jerusalem,” Egypt’s state news agency quoted Aboul Gheit as saying after meeting the UN chief Antonio Guterres in Cairo.

Gheit also said, according to Egypt’s state news MENA, that moving the US embassy to Jerusalem would be explosive for the situation in the Middle East.

The comment came on the heels of a remark made by President Trump during the meeting when asked whether he was still committed to realizing his campaign pledge to move the embassy.

“I’d like to see that happen. We’re looking into it very carefully,” he answered one of the journalists.

Trump and Netanyahu spoke with a significant degree of ambiguity regarding what a new and original plan may entail which they said would involve other key regional players, ostensibly such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

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However, with Egypt’s statements and those of the Arab League, any hopes for a more flexible or changed position on how to resolve the seemingly intractable conflict seem scant.

Nevertheless, reports in the international media which surfaced in recent weeks indicated that such regional players would potentially show greater flexibility than simply pedalling the mantra of pre-1967 borders which has dominated Middle East talks since the Six-Day War the same year.

For example, The New York Times reported last week that Trump and his advisors are putting together a plan to have Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt directly involved in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as he sees their input as an important element to solving the conflict.

Additionally, London-based newspaper Al-Hayat said that the Trump administration is considering hosting a summit in Washington for Arab leaders to discuss the peace process.

The paper further claimed that Jordanian King Abdullah II had managed to convince Trump to renege on his promise to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, citing concerns over the region’s security and the detrimental blow it would deliver to any prospect of peace.

A Jordanian official was quoted on Thursday as saying that Jordan still holds strong to the two-state vision of a Jewish Israel and an Arab Palestine.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said his country expects to have a productive relationship with the Trump administration and is optimistic that US-Saudi cooperation can overcome challenges in the Middle East.

Nasrallah threatens: Hezbollah’s missiles can hit Israel’s nuclear reactor

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on Israel to dismantle its nuclear reactor in Dimona, warning that it poses a threat to Israel’s existence should it be hit by one of Hezbollah’s missiles.

Nasrallah made a similar threat against Haifa’s ammonia tank last year, saying that a missile hitting the facility could have the effect of a nuclear bomb. Last week, a Haifa court ordered the tank closed, citing the security threat.

Nasrallah, speaking in a televised speech commemorating Hezbollah’s slain leaders, suggested that Israel has been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump as US president.

“Trump’s election does not scare us, even if claims that he will give [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu the green light to wage a war on Lebanon turn out to be true,” Lebanese news website Naharnet quoted Nasrallah as saying.

“Israel is continuing to launch threats against Lebanon and speak of the third Lebanon war and of what it will do during this third war,” Nasrallah stated. ” We’ve been hearing these threats since the end of the July 2006 war. Every other day we hear statements about the third Lebanon war and about the coming vengeance. The new threats are based on the election of Trump, but the policy of the new American administration in the region is not clear,” he added.

The leader of the Lebanese Shi’ite group downplayed the importance of Israel’s superior air force in a potential conflict.

“Aerial war alone cannot decide the fate of the battle and cannot achieve victory,” Nasrallah said. “Had it not been for the Syrian army’s fighting on the ground in Syria, it would not have been able to achieve decisive victory,” he added.

Discussing Wednesday’s meeting between Netanyahu and Trump, Nasrallah said that the prospect of peaceful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians was now over.

“After what came out after the meeting between Netanyahu and Trump, I am not exaggerating if I say that yesterday there was a semi-official announcement of the death of the path of negotiations,” he said.

US will not insist on two-state solution: White House

The White House signaled a sharp break with decades of support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Authority conflict, on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House.

A senior White House official said the United States would no longer seek to dictate the terms of any eventual peace settlement, but would support what the two sides agree to together.

“A two-state solution that doesn’t bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“Peace is the goal, whether that comes in the form of a two-state solution if that’s what the parties want, or something else if that’s what the parties want.”

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President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will greet Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, at the White House in the morning, and the two leaders will hold a brief press conference before holding two hours of meetings.

In recent decades, subsequent administrations have explicitly outlined their hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, resulting in two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security. Past negotiations have operated on the assumption that such an outcome would roughly fall along the lines that resulted from the Six Day War in 1967, with mutually agreed land swaps reflecting a change in demographics.

But Trump administration officials suggested that peace between the parties might be possible in another framework.

“If I ask five people what a two-state solution is, I get eight different answers,” one said.

The administration seeks a seamless public viewing tomorrow that suggests “no daylight” between the two governments, after eight years of tension between Netanyahu and former US President Barack Obama.

Trump officials expect Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria will be a topic of conversation during the meeting. Iran’s regional activities and its nuclear program will also top the agenda.

Israel’s Cairo envoy returned home amid security concerns

Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, David Guvrin quietly returned to Israel in late 2016 from Cairo over concerns for his personal safety, it was reported in The Telegraph.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon declined to comment on the report which was first reported in the British daily.

According to the report, Guvrin was evacuated from Cairo some three months ago and is currently working from Jerusalem. The Foreign Ministry is hoping to return him to Egypt as soon as circumstances permit.

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The Telegraph said the exact circumstances are unclear, but it is most likely due to a series of terrorist attacks in the Egyptian capital which claimed the lives of several people and officials.

Ambassador Guvrin was appointed last summer and in September presented his credentials to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Hamas elects new terrorist leader in Gaza

Terrorist Yahya Sanwar has been elected to lead Hamas in the Gaza Strip after internal elections were held for the organization’s institutional and leadership positions, according to reports from Al Jazeera.

Khalil al-Haya has been chosen to serve as Sanwar’s deputy.

Sanwar was on the most senior terrorists released by Israel in the Shalit deal in which hundreds of terrorists were released in exchange for the return of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

He has developed a reputation as being among the most radical in Hamas, calling since his release for further kidnappings of IDF soldiers, and is thought of as the link between the military and political wing the terror organization.

With his ascent to power, Sanwar will take the reins to rule the strip from Khaled Mashal, despite Ismail Haniyeh being slated to fill the top spot.

When released from prison in 2011, Sanwar lamented the fact that other terrorists still remained in Israeli jails and called on Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, to undertake fierce efforts to kidnap more soldiers to bring about the release of more Palestinian prisoners.

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Born into a family of terrorists, he is considered to be ascetic, strong, tough and the possessor of extreme discipline.

During Operation Protective Edge, the new leader’s brother, Mohammad Sanwar—who was the architect of the Shalit deal—had his home attacked by the IDF.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit confirmed at the time that, with the cooperation with the Shin Bet, the homes of two senior Hamas terrorists had been attacked after they were being used as a command and control center of the organization, among them, the home of Mohammad Sanwar who was responsible for terrorists in Khan Yunis.

As far as Sanwar’s new deputy is concerned, Khalil al-Haya has also earned a reputation for being among the more radical elements of Hamas and was a member of the negotiating team in the Shalit negotiations.

His son was killed in Protective Edge after the Israel Air Force struck his home.

US blocks appointment of former PA PM as UN envoy to Libya

The United States blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad to be the new UN envoy to Libya.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement that she did not “support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations,” where the imaginary state of Palestine does not have full membership.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had informed the Security Council this week of his intention to name Fayyad to lead the UN support mission in Libya and help broker talks on a faltering political deal.

Haley said the United States was “disappointed” to see the letter from Guterres, his first appointment of an envoy to a major conflict area.

“For too long, the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” said the US ambassador.

“Going forward, the United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies.”

The UN chief had given the council until late Friday to consider the choice, and the United States came forward to raise objections.

Fayyad, 64, was prime minister of the Palestinian Authority from 2007 to 2013, and also served as finance minister twice.

He had been tapped to replace Martin Kobler of Germany, who has been the Libya envoy since November 2015.

 

Iranians rally against America while burning US and Israel flags

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have rallied across Iran today carrying effigies of US President Donald Trump and chanting ‘Death to America’.

The huge crowds responded to a call from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who called on citizens to demonstrate that Iran is not frightened of American ‘threats’.

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Trump declared that he has put the Islamic Republic ‘on notice’ and Iran is one of seven countries on the administration’s ‘travel ban’ list, which is being challenged in US courts.

Demonstrators in Tehran marched towards the Azadi ( Freedom) Square to commemorate the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the US-backed shah.

A young Iranian man told state TV: ‘America and Trump cannot do a damn thing. We are ready to sacrifice our lives for our leader Khamenei.’

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Following an Iranian missile test on January 29, Trump imposed fresh sanctions on individuals and entities. Iran said it will not halt its missile programme.

Pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani also called on Iranians to join the rally on Friday to ‘show their unbreakable ties with the Supreme Leader and the Islamic Republic’.

State television said millions turned out nationwide at revolution rallies in all main cities marked by the traditional anti-US and anti-Israel slogans and the burning of US and Israeli flags.

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On social media, like Twitter and Facebook, many Iranians used the hashtag of #LoveBeyondFlags, urging an end to flag-burning during the anniversary.

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Both US-based social media sites are blocked in Iran by a wide-reaching government censor but they are still commonly used by millions of Iranians who use special software to get around the restrictions. Iranian officials, including Khamenei, have Twitter and Facebook accounts despite the ban.

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Last weekend, new Pentagon chief James Mattis described Iran as ‘the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world’.

22 Muslim-British students from the same university have fled to Syria to join ISIS

As many as 22 Muslim-British students from the same university in Sudan have fled to Syria to join ISIS.

The University of Medical Sciences and Technology in Khartoum has been exposed as a hotbed of terrorism for British medics studying abroad.

Its dean admitted that 27 of its students and graduates have tried to join ISIS and 22 of these are British citizens or residents with family in the UK.

Social media analysis shows that some of the 22 have links with jailed students Tarik Hassane and Suhaib Majeed who plotted to kill London soldiers, police officers and civilians in 2014.

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Many have praised jihad, exposing their humanitarian reasons for travelling to Syria as fake.

The medics crossed into Syria from Turkey in several waves starting in March 2015, reports the Sunday Times.

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Dean Dr Ahmed Babiker Mohamed Zein said six medics, including up to ‘four or five’ with British links, had since been killed in Syria or Iraq.

He said: ‘I have visited their families in Sudan to offer my condolences.’

Only relatives of those who have died have been told of their children’s fate.

‘If there’s no news, it’s good news,’ said one relative. ‘But we’re in the dark.’

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The UMST is an attractive option for British-Sudanese students because it charges around £1,500 per year for tuition – much less than the £9,000 UK fees – and its qualifications are recognized by UK medical authorities.

Among those to flee are Leicester brothers Mohamed and Ibrahim Ageed, aged 22 and 24, who attended fee-paying Loughborough Grammar School.

The pair, who fled to Syria in June 2015, are both friends on Facebook with jailed terrorist Suhaib Majeed, 22. Their father claims they were ‘deceived’ and are ‘not fighters’.

He added: ‘All the families [of the Isis medics] are very sad. They just want Allah to return them.’

Ahmad Kheder, 25, and his sister, Nada, 22, from Carshalton, south London, who have both praised ISIS on social media, also fled.

Their father is a doctor in the UK but he refused to comment, saying: ‘It’s a private matter. We don’t want any publicity.’

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The medics are believed to be working in hospitals in Syria.

In 2014, UMST student Tarik Hassane and Suhaib Majeed, both 22 at the time, got their hands on a gun and ammunition in a plot to cause terror in London.

An ISIS contact sent encrypted messages to Majeed while he was sitting in Regent’s Park, yards from the US Ambassador’s residence.

Hassane, notoriously known as The Surgeon, was studying medicine in Sudan when Majeed was arrested, but rushed back to London to carry on as a ‘lone wolf terrorist’.

He identified Shepherd’s Bush police station and the Parachute Regiment Territorial Army Barracks at White City as possible targets.

Majeed was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and preparation of terrorist acts after Hassane admitted the charges midway through a trial.

Mr Justice Wilkie jailed Hassane for a minimum of 21 years and Majeed for a minimum of 20 years at the Old Bailey.

Egyptian officials to request deliberation with Hamas over Israelis held in Gaza

A Hamas security delegation arrived in Cairo on Saturday and is expected to meet with Egyptian officials in order to discuss matters of security. According to reports, one of the issues to be discussed is the three missing Israelis and the two bodies of Israeli soldiers, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge.

The delegation entered Egypt through Gaza’s Rafah crossing and is set to meet officials as a follow-up to meetings held by Hamas’ Deputy Political Bureau Chief, Ismail Haniyeh, which took place about a week and a half ago.

Egyptian sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper that the Egyptian side has asked the delegation to open the discussion on the missing Israelis being held in Gaza. The sources say that it is possible the Egyptian request was done following an Israeli appeal.

In July 2015, it was cleared for publication that Abera Mengistu, a 29-year-old from Ashkelon, was being held captive in Gaza after having crossed the border in September 2014. Three months after Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed crossed the border into the Strip as well, a Bedouin resident of the south, with a known mental disability.

In last July, another Israeli citizen crossed the border, Jumaa Ibrahim Abu-Ghanima from Hashem Zana, a Bedouin village.

The bodies of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge, are held in Gaza as well.

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According to reports, the Hamas delegation to Egypt also included Marwan Issa, the leader of Hamas’ military wing. The sides are also expected to discuss Egypt’s attempts to increase the pressure on the ISIS branch in Sinai, which operates near the Gaza border, and has been enjoying the support of Hamas’ military wing in recent years.

On other matters, they are set to discuss the reinforcement of Hamas’ deployment in the vicinity of the Egyptian border.

Cairo has started relieving the pressure on the Gaza Strip by opening the Rafah crossing on a more regular basis, allowing the passage of a greater number of people from Gaza to Egypt, as well as the entrance of merchandise, construction materials and cars.

 

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