Articles by "Middle East"

Yemeni militia loyal to former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, hold a position in the in the southwestern Yemeni city of Ta'izz during clashes with forces of Houthi Ansarullah movement on June 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

US forces have been involved in interrogation of hundreds of inmates in clandestine prisons run by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in war-torn Yemen, with reports of brutal torture and abuses at the facilities.
The Associated Press documented at least 18 secret jails across southern Yemen run by the UAE or by Yemeni militia loyal to the former Yemeni government, where prisoners face extreme abuse and torture on a routine basis.
On Wednesday, senior US defense officials confirmed that the American forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights violations.
Several torturing methods are being used at the jails, including the “grill” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spins in a circle of fire, according to the report.
Former inmates released from one main detention facility at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, said they were crammed into shipping containers covered with feces and blindfolded for weeks. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the “grill,” and sexually abused.
“The entire place is gripped by fear. Almost everyone is sick, the rest are near death. Anyone who complains heads directly to the torture chamber,” said a former detainee held for six months at Riyan airport.
So far, over 400 men have disappeared after being swept up in Mukalla.
The UAE secret jail network in Yemen was established during former US president Barack Obama’s administration and still continues its operations, according to the report.
In another report on Thursday, Human Rights Watch said the UAE runs two “informal detention facilities” in southern Yemen and has “moved high-profile detainees outside the country,” including to a base in Eritrea.
The New York-based rights group said it had documented 49 cases, including those of four children, who had been “arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared,” most of them by UAE-backed forces.
In a statement to the AP, the UAE’s government denied the allegations, saying, “There are no secret detention centers and no torture of prisoners is done during interrogations.”
However, lawyers and families say nearly 2,000 men have disappeared into the clandestine prisons across Yemen. The issue has triggered days of protests by families seeking information about missing sons, brothers and fathers.
Several US defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AP that American forces participate in interrogations of detainees in Yemen, provide questions for interrogators and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati forces.
They said senior US military leaders have looked into the allegations of torture at the clandestine prisons in Yemen, but were satisfied that there was no case of abuse when the US forces were present.
However, a member of the Hadramawt Elite, a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, told AP that American forces were sometimes only yards away from the scene of torture.
According to international law experts, obtaining intelligence that may have been extracted by torture inflicted by another party is considered as violation of the International Convention Against Torture and constitutes an instance of war crime.
The UAE has served as an ally of Saudi Arabia in the latter’s US-backed campaign in Yemen to restore the impoverished country’s former Riyadh-allied government. The Elite Forces have been fighting in Yemen since the same year to assist the Saudi-led campaign.
According to various reports, Abu Dhabi holds notable sway in southern Yemen and looks to be trying to expand its leverage there by lending its support to southern separatists.
The separatists are led by two pro-Emirati officials of Yemen’s former president Hadi, who have been sacked by him over suspicions of serving the Emirates.
In March 2015, the Saudi regime and its allies began the campaign against Yemen to reinstall its former government. The war has killed over 12,000 civilians. The invasion has been compounded by a Saudi blockade of the country.

The UN warns against the extremely horrible conditions of Iraqi children as Daesh terrorists resort to more brutal tactics to save their last foothold in the country, saying children, particularly those in Mosul, are dying and suffering amid one of the “most brutal wars in history.”
“Across Iraq, children continue to witness sheer horror and unimaginable violence,” the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said in a Thursday statement.
“They have been killed, injured, abducted and forced to shoot and kill in one of the most brutal wars in recent history,” it added.
The statement, prepared by UNICEF’s representative in Iraq Peter Hawkins, noted that Daesh terrorists deliberately target and kill children in Mosul to punish families and deter them from fleeing.
“They are using children as a weapon of war to prevent people from fleeing,” the statement said. “This just highlights how indiscriminate and catastrophic this war is.”
According to the report, 1,075 Iraqi children have been killed and 1,130 wounded or maimed since Daesh occupied nearly a third of Iraq in 2014. Over the past six months alone, 152 children were killed and 255 others injured, it added.
Meanwhile, over 4,650 children have become separated from their families.
Iraqi children have also been forced to take part in violence as Daesh and other armed groups have recruited at least 231 children under the age of 18, the report added.
Iraqis flee from their homes in the Old City of Mosul on June 21, 2017, during fighting between Iraqi forces and Daesh terrorists. (Photo by AFP)
UNICEF’s report said that over one million children have had their educations put on hold as a result of either militant rule or displacement.
“The country’s future security and economic strength is determined by what is happening to its children today,” the report said.
Last October, Iraqi army forces launched a massive operation to liberate Mosul and they are currently close to recapture the entire city, which served as their de facto capital of Daesh in Iraq.
The battle is estimated to have killed and injured thousands of civilians and displaced over 850,000 people. On the city’s west, entire blocks have been flattened by clashes and airstrikes.
Taking back the Old City of Mosul, a densely populated warren of narrow alleyways on the western side of Mosul, is crucial to recapturing the whole of the northern city.
The United Nations says over 100,000 civilians are trapped in the neighborhood, with Daesh militants using them as human shields.

A handout picture provided by the Palestinian Authority’s press office on June 21, 2017, shows Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas (R) the US president’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner (L) in Ramallah. (Via AFP)

US President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law has held separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders during a trip to the Israeli-occupied territories to help resume the so-called peace process between the two sides.
The White House said in a statement Jared Kushner along with Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt held “productive” talks with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday in an attempt to broker a deal to revive the Israeli-Palestinian talks that stalled backin 2014.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman also took part at the meeting with Netanyahu.
“The three United States officials discussed Israel’s priorities and potential next steps with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the White House said in a statement.
Greenblatt and Kushner had accompanied Trump in his first visit as president to the occupied Palestinian territories in May.
The two US officials, along with US Consul General Donald Blome, also met Mahmud Abbas and his senior advisors in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“Kushner and Greenblatt discussed with President Abbas priorities for the Palestinians and potential next steps, acknowledging the need for economic opportunities for Palestinians and major investments in the Palestinian economy,” the statement said.

In this photo released by Israeli media on June 21, 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives the US president’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner. 

According to a White House official, Greenblatt and Kushner are expected to visit the region multiple times in the coming months as part of the US bid to mediate between the Israeli and Palestinian sides.
The visit came just after Israel started building its first new settlement in the West Bank in 25 years in defiance of the international law and the latest UN Security Council resolution against the illegal move.
Since 1992, Israel’s settlement construction in the occupied territories has involved expansion of the existing outposts, increasing the number of illegal Israeli settlers from 20,000 to 700,000.
The expansion of illegal settlements has been a major hurdle in the way of the so-called peace talks, which opened between Israel and the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accord in 1993.
The Palestinian Authority wants the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinians state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
According to data released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics on Monday, expansion of the illegal settlements in the West Bank soared by 70 percent between April 2016 and March 2017.
Since Trump’s inauguration in January, the regime in Tel Aviv has stepped up its construction of settler units on occupied Palestinian land.
In his last month’s visit to the occupied territories, Trump reportedly urged Netanyahu to hold back on such controversial projects, which could further cloud chances of Trump’s “ultimate deal” for a so-called two-state solution.

This file photo taken on September 02, 2016 shows Turkish soldiers driving back to Turkey from the Syrian-Turkish border town of Jarablus. (Photos by AFP)
Turkey has deployed military reinforcements, including soldiers, vehicles, and equipment to northern Syria, says a UK-based monitoring group.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that the Turkish reinforcements had entered Syrian soil over the last 24 hours and headed in the direction of the town of A'zaz, which has been seized by Ankara-backed militants.
The regions to the south of the town are currently in the hands of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
The observatory said the fresh Turkish deployments are aimed at bolstering Turkish forces who plan to launch an offensive against the YPG which Ankara deems as the Syrian branch of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been battling to establish an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.
"Turkish forces are now inside Syria... the forces are huge reinforcements that have been entering since last night,” said a member of one the militant groups backed by Turkey.
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, walk in a neighborhood on the eastern front of Daesh’s Syrian bastion of Raqqah after seizing the area from the terrorists on June 14, 2017. 
The YPG is currently the dominant force behind the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) currently engaged in operations aimed at liberating Raqqah – Daesh’s remaining stronghold in Syria.
In August 2016, Turkey began a unilateral military intervention in northern Syria, code-named Operation Euphrates Shield, sending tanks and warplanes across the border. Ankara claimed that its military campaign was aimed at pushing Daesh from Turkey's border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces, who were themselves fighting Daesh.
Turkey officially ended its military campaign in northern Syria in March 2017 but did not rule out the possibility of yet another act of military intervention inside Syria, which has been gripped by deadly foreign-sponsored militancy since 2011.

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a dinner organised by the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) to break the fast of Ramadan, in Paris, on June 20, 2017. (Photos by AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron said his country no longer deems the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a precondition for resolving the conflict in the Arab country.
On Wednesday, the newly-elected president made the announcement which was in stark contrast to the stance of the previous French administration and closer to Russia's pro-Assad position.
"The new perspective that I have had on this subject is that I have not stated that Bashar al-Assad's departure is a precondition for everything because nobody has shown me a legitimate successor," said Macron in an interview published in several European newspapers.
"My lines are clear, firstly, a complete fight against all the terrorist groups [is required], they are our enemies," he said, adding that his second priority was safeguarding Syria’s stability and sovereignty.  
A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attending a cabinet meeting during which he launched administrative reforms, in the capital Damascus, on June 20, 2017.
While noting that global cooperation is required to solve the crisis in Syria, Macron stressed that Russia's cooperation is “especially needed” to eradicate Daesh.
“My deep conviction is that there needs to be a diplomatic and political roadmap. We will not resolve this solely militarily," he added.
Syria has been gripped by unrest since 2011, when militancy first began in the country. Foreign states opposed to President Assad have since then been funding and providing weapons to anti-Assad militants, among them thousands of paid foreign terrorists dispatched to help force Assad out of power.
The Syrian government, however, has been fighting that militancy back, aided in that battle by advisory military support from Iran and Russia. Moscow has also been conducting an aerial campaign against terrorist positions in the Arab country on a request by Damascus.

This AFP file photo taken on March 14, 2017 shows US President Donald Trump and then-Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the State Dining Room before lunch at the White House in Washington, DC.
US President Donald Trump has called Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince to congratulate him.
According to a White House statement released Wednesday, the president and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman spoke on the phone “to advance our shared goals of security, stability, and prosperity across the Middle East and beyond.”
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a royal decree earlier in the day to replace Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud with his own son.
Trump also spoke with the king-in-waiting about the dispute with Qatar as well as their so-called war on terrorism.
"The two leaders discussed the priority of cutting off all support for terrorists and extremists, as well as how to resolve the ongoing dispute with Qatar. They discussed efforts to achieve a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians," the White House said in a statement after the call.
'Brotherly relations' with Qatar
Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, meanwhile, congratulated Saudi Arabia's newly-appointed crown prince, urging "brotherly relations" between the two countries.
Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the Qatari capital Doha (file photo)
According to the Qatar News Agency, the emir sent a cable of congratulations to the Saudi leadership "on the occasion of the selection of his royal highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as Crown Prince.”
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut their diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar earlier this month, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, an allegation rejected by the Qatari government.
Israel welcomes Saudi move
The Israeli regime also signaled that it welcomes the move with Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, asserting that it “means more economic cooperation in the Middle East, and not just regarding oil.”
“The strengthening of relations with the Trump administration is the beginning of a new and optimistic time between Saudi Arabia and regional states, including Israel and the Jewish people,” Kara (pictured above) said in a statement.
Mohammed bin Salman's promotion, though expected, came as a surprise since the monarchy is engaged in a row with Qatar, while actively escalating tensions with Iran.
The deputy crown prince was promoted to crown prince, replacing his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef.
This AFP file photo taken on December 9, 2015 shows Mohamed bin Salman (L) talking with Mohammed bin Nayef during the 136th (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh.
According to the decree, Mohammed bin Salman becomes the deputy prime minister, while retaining his military and other portfolios.
Apart from his role in the Saudi energy policy and economic initiatives to build a future for the monarchy after oil, Mohammed bin Salman is leading the Saudi war on impoverished Yemen.
The civilian fatalities caused by the invasion have been put at more than 12,000 so far.
Trump recently signed an arms deal worth $110 billion with the Saudis, despite warnings he could be accused of being complicit in the regime’s war crimes in neighboring Yemen and its support for terrorism.

This aerial view taken on June 21, 2017 and provided by Iraq's Joint Operation Command reportedly shows destruction inside Mosul's al-Nuri Mosque compound. (Photo by AFP)
Daesh has blown up Mosul’s Grand al-Nuri Mosque, where the terrorist group’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi announced the formation of a so-called caliphate after capturing the northern city in 2014. 
"Our forces were advancing toward their targets deep in the Old City and when they got to within 50 meters (yards) of the Nuri mosque, Daesh committed another historical crime by blowing up the Nuri mosque and the Hadba" minaret, said Nineveh Liberation Operation Commander Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Yarallah in a statement released on Wednesday night.
The blasts occurred as Iraq's elite Counter Terrorism Service units had reached within 50 meters of the terrorists.
The terrorists claim that the mosque was destroyed by a US airstrike, but the so-called US-led coalition rejected the claim.
"We did not strike in that area," said US–led coalition spokesman Colonel John Dorrian.
"The responsibility of this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of Daesh," he added.
‘Mosque destruction Daesh’s admission to defeat’
After the army announced that Daesh had destroyed the mosque, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, "It's an official declaration of defeat."
Earlier in the day, Iraqi military officials announced troops has had encircled the mosque -- Daesh’s stronghold in the Old City of Mosul.
Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha’abi, have made sweeping gains against Daesh since launching the Mosul operation on October 17, 2016. 
The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.
Foundation of the so-called caliphate by the militant invaders in June 2014 was heavily criticized and ridiculed by Islamic scholars inside and outside the Middle East.

Syrian government forces ride on pick-up trucks mounted with weapons in the country’s semi-arid southeastern region of al-Badiya on June 13, 2017. (Photo by SANA news agency)
Syrian government soldiers have made great achievements in their operations on the eastern outskirts of the capital, and managed to take back territory from foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants.
The media bureau of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement reported that army soldiers had taken control of a number of blocks in Jobar district, and another area in Ain Terma neighborhood.
A military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, also told Syria’s official news agency SANA that government troops had targeted the gatherings of the Takfiri Jabhat Fateh al-Sham militant group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, in al-Rawabi, Tal Rinaba, Beir al-Qasab and Rajm al-Sarihi on the southeastern outskirts of Damascus.
The source added that dozens of terrorists were killed in the operations, noting that three vehicles equipped with heavy machineguns, four transport vehicles, five motorcycles, and a stationary rocket launcher were destroyed as well.
Elsewhere in Maliha al-Atash village of the southern province of Dara’a, army units killed several Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorists and destroyed an anti-tank rocket launcher.
Terrorists also confirmed on social media networks that they had lost a dozen members in the Dar'a al-Balad neighborhood of Dara'a city. Leader of the Takfiri Soyouf Horan Battalion, Bilal Yasiin al-Masalmeh, and senior militant commander Isaa Mohamed Salameh al-Masalmeh were among the slain extremists.
Moreover, Syrian army soldiers launched operations against Daesh terrorists east of Salamyiah area on the outskirts of Hama, killing and injuring many of the militants and destroying their munitions.
US-backed SDF forces close in on Raqqah from south
Meanwhile, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has closed in on Syria's militant-held northern city of Raqqah, retaking territory on the south bank of the Euphrates River.
Nouri Mahmoud, spokesman for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is part of the SDF, said on Wednesday that Daesh Takfiris had been driven out of Kasrat al-Farj suburb as US-backed SDF fighters pushed towards the southern riverbank from the west.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters walk along a damaged street in the al-Sana’a industrial neighborhood of Syria’s militant-held northern city of Raqqah on June 14, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
It is estimated that a population of 300,000 civilians are trapped inside Raqqah, including 80,000 displaced from other parts of Syria. Thousands have fled in recent months, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs believes about 160,000 people remain in the city.
On June 6, the SDF said it had launched an operation aimed at pushing Daesh out of Raqqah.
The city of Raqqah, which lies on the northern bank of the Euphrates River, was overrun by Daesh terrorists in March 2013, and was proclaimed the center for most of the Takfiris’ administrative and control tasks the next year.

Prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab
A Bahraini rights group has expressed deep concern over the health condition of the country’s prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, calling on the ruling Al Khalifah dynasty to grant him access to his family and lawyers.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said its 52-year-old chairman has been unable to communicate with family members since last week, noting that the activist is currently being held in a military hospital after authorities failed to provide him with proper medical care following a long delayed surgery in April.
The BCHR highlighted that Rajab is unfit to be discharged from hospital, and his health condition will further deteriorate if he is sent back to prison.
On December 22, 2016, Bahraini authorities accused the pro-democracy campaigner of making comments that “harm the interests” of the Manama regime and other Persian Gulf kingdoms through an article attributed to him and published by French daily Le Monde.
The article slammed the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group for their crimes against humanity and Persian Gulf Arab countries for their failure to stop the spread of the violent Wahhabi ideology.
Wahhabism, the radical ideology dominating Saudi Arabia and freely preached by its clerics, fuels the ideological engine of such terror organizations as Daesh and Fateh al-Sham, al-Qaeda's Syrian branch formerly known as al-Nusra Front. Takfiri terrorists use the ideology to declare people of other faiths “infidels,” justifying the killing of their victims.
Rajab, who was detained on June 13 last year for tweets that criticized Manama’s role in the deadly Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen, could face up to 15 years in jail. Liz Throssell, the spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that Rajab was arrested for “exercising his right to freedom of expression."
The United Nations Committee against Torture called on the Bahraini regime on May 12 to release Rajab and open an investigation into widespread reports of ill-treatment and torture of detainees.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.
They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.
Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.
Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.
On March 5, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.   
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3.

Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) Humvees advance towards the Old City of Mosul on June 20, 2017 during the ongoing offensive to retake the last district still held by Daesh militants. (Photos by AFP)
Iraqi government forces have closed in on the strategic Grand al-Nuri Mosque in the western part of Mosul as they are fighting fierce street battles to drive Takfiri Daesh terrorists out of their former urban stronghold in the country.
Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday army soldiers had encircled Daesh’s stronghold in the Old City of Mosul.
The media bureau of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command announced in a statement that members of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) were 200 to 300 meters away from the mosque, where purported Daesh ringleader Ibrahim al-Samarrai aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave his famous speech on the formation of the terror group back in June 2014.
The statement added that Iraqi Air Forces jets had carried out two separate airstrikes in the Old City of Mosul. One of the aerial assaults targeted a vehicle, killing three terrorists, while the other strike destroyed an arms depot, and left 10 Daesh Takfiris dead.
Separately, Federal Police Forces Commander Lieutenant General Shaker Jawdat said security forces had stormed Mosul’s Old City from the southern front.
He stated that units of the 20th Brigade of the Federal Police had attacked the district, besieged the militants and advanced towards shopping complexes in al-Sarjkhana area.
Taking back the Old City of Mosul, a densely populated warren of narrow alleyways on the western side of Mosul, is crucial to recapturing the whole of the northern city.
The United Nations says around 150,000 civilians are trapped in the neighborhood along with hundreds of Daesh militants.
Smoke billows as members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service advance towards the Old City of Mosul on June 20, 2017 during the ongoing offensive by Iraqi forces to retake the last district still held by Daesh militants.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on June 16 that Daesh militants were holding more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians as human shields in Mosul's Old City.
The presiding UNHCR representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, told reporters in the Swiss city of Geneva that Daesh snipers try to kill anyone trying to leave the area, stressing that the small number of civilians who manage to escape are “deeply traumatized.”
Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha’abi, have made sweeping gains against Daesh since launching the Mosul operation on October 17, 2016.
The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.
An estimated 862,000 people have been displaced from Mosul ever since the battle to retake the city began nine months ago. A total of 195,000 civilians have also returned, mainly to the liberated areas of eastern Mosul.

Two militants ride a motorcycle towards an abandoned UN base at Syria's Quneitra border crossing with the occupied territories, on November 28, 2016. (Photo by AP)
United Nations UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed concerns about a spike in contacts between Israeli armed forces and Syria militants in recent months.
In a report released recently, Guterres warned that the growing interactions between the two sides could lead to escalation and cause harm to members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force deployed to the Golan Heights.
According to the report, UN observers listed 16 meetings between the Israel forces and the Syria militants in the border area, including on Mount Hermon, in proximity to UN outposts in Syria’s Quneitra Province and the Golan Heights, from March 2 to May 16.
“Relative to the previous reporting period, there has been a significant increase in interaction” between Israeli soldiers and individuals from the Syrian side of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, “occurring on four occasions in February, three in March, eight in April and on one occasion in May,” the report said.
In its previous report released in March, the UN listed at least 17 interactions between the two sides between November 18, 2016, and March 1, 2017.
The figures show a significant increase when compared with only two such meetings recorded between August 30 and November 16, 2016.
The report said people likely affiliated with the militant groups, some of them armed, arrived at an Israeli outpost accompanied by mules and were greeted by the soldiers.
“In some instances, personnel and supplies were observed to have been transferred in both directions. On all occasions, the unknown individuals and mules returned to the Bravo (Syrian) side,” it added.
Israeli soldiers take part in a military training in the occupied Golan Heights, near the border with Syria, on March 22, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The UN chief said such interactions have "the potential to lead to clashes between armed elements and the Syrian Arab Armed Forces."
“All military activities in the area of separation conducted by any actor pose a risk to the ceasefire and to the local civilian population, in addition to the United Nations personnel on the ground,” he wrote.
Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel has been providing Takfiri terrorists in Syria’s Golan Heights with a steady flow of funds and medical supplies.
Citing militant commanders and people familiar with Israel’s thinking, the paper said Israel’s “secret engagement” in the war aims to install a buffer zone on the Syrian border with elements friendly to Tel Aviv.
The Tel Aviv regime regularly attacks positions held by pro-Damascus forces in Syria, claiming that the attacks are retaliatory.
The Syrian army has on several occasions confiscated Israeli-made arms and military equipment from terrorists fighting the government forces. There are also reports that Israel has been providing medical treatment to the extremists wounded in Syria.
In April, Israel’s former minister of military affairs Moshe Ya’alon admitted to a tacit alliance with Daesh, saying the terrorist group had "immediately apologized" to Tel Aviv after firing “once” into Israel.

Qatari Attorney General Ali Bin Fetais al-Marri speaks to reporters in Doha on June 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Qatar says it has evidence showing the same “neighboring” countries that are leading a boycott campaign against Doha had a hand in the alleged hacking of its state news agency, an incident that triggered an unprecedented diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf region.
Attorney General Ali bin Fetais al-Marri Ali bin Fetais al-Marri told a press conference in Doha on Tuesday that the hacking incident originated in “neighboring countries,” without naming them.
“We have evidence to show that iPhones originating from the countries laying siege to us have been used in this hacking. We have enough evidence to point the finger of blame at these countries,” Marri said.
Last month, the Qatar News Agency (QNA) released comments attributed to Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, describing Iran as an “Islamic power,” praising the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas and criticizing US President Donald Trump.
Qatar said hackers had broken into the QNA website and published the fake news, but the denial did not convince the Riyadh regime and its Persian Gulf Arab allies.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Qatari attorney general said it was “very soon” to give specific phone numbers for those he said were responsible for the hacking.
He also noted that Qatari investigators had traced the internet service providers used to the Saudi-led allied countries.
“We have sent the information to the countries concerned and we are awaiting their response,” Marri pointed out, adding, “As far as we are concerned, the case is very clear.”
Qatar's Attorney General Ali Bin Fetais al-Marri speaks to reporters in Doha on June 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Following the hacking report, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties and cut off transport links with Qatar in early June, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, an allegation rejected by the Qatari government.
They put 12 organizations and 59 people associated with Qatar on a terror sanctions list.
Marri said the blacklist was “baseless” and stressed that Qatar would legally pursue those who had done harm to it.
Qatar has long been at odds with other Arab countries about the Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE and Egypt regard as a terrorist group.
Back in March, 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain temporarily recalled their ambassadors from Doha after alleging that it has been interfering in their domestic affairs. The diplomatic relations resumed eight months later when Qatar ordered some Muslim Brotherhood members to leave the country.
The recent dispute, however, is said to be the worst to hit the Persian Gulf since the formation of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981.
Observers say the fresh rift surfaced in the wake of Qatar’s break with past policies and its leaning toward Russia and Iran.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said lately that Doha would not “surrender,” vowing to keep “the independence of our foreign policy.”

From left, former Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King Salman bin Abdulaziz and new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has replaced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud with his own son, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the deputy crown prince and defense minister.
According to a royal decree, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, was also named deputy prime minister, and shall maintain his post as defense minister, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.
Saudi media say King Salman has called for a public pledge of allegiance to the new crown prince in the holy city of Mecca on Wednesday night.
The SPA also confirmed that 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s succession committee chose Mohammed bin Salman as the crown prince.
Just days ago,  the Saudi king stripped Nayef of his powers overseeing criminal investigations and designated a new public prosecution office to function directly under the king’s authority.
In a similar move back in 2015, the Saudi king had appointed his nephew, then deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef as the heir to the throne after removing his own half-brother Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud from the position.
Under the new decree, King Salman further relieved Mohammed bin Nayef of his duties as the interior minister. He appointed Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef as the new interior minister and Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Salem as deputy interior minister.
Mohammed bin Salman is already in charge of a vast portfolio as chief of the House of Saud royal court and chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, which is tasked with overhauling the country’s economy.
The young prince was little known both at home and abroad before Salman became king in January 2015. 
However, King Salman has significantly increased the powers of Mohammed, with observers describing the prince as the real power behind his father’s throne.
Power struggle in the House of Saud
There had long been speculations that Mohammed’s rise to power under his father’s reign might also accelerate his ascension to the throne.
On Wednesday, a well-known Saudi online activist, known on Twitter as @mujtahidd, predicted that King Salman would renounce power in favor of his son.
The whistleblower has already leaked documents indicating high-level corruption inside the Saudi royal family.
The power struggle inside the House of Saud came to light earlier this year when the Saudi king began to overhaul the government and offered positions of influence to a number of family members.
In two royal decrees in April, the Saudi king named two of his other sons, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Prince Khaled bin Salman, as state minister for energy affairs and ambassador to the United States, respectively.
Mastermind of brutal, futile war
As the defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman has faced strong international criticism for the bloody military campaign he launched against neighboring Yemen in 2015 amid his rivalry with bin Nayef, the then powerful interior minister.
The file photo shows Mohammed bin Salman attending a military briefing.
The campaign was launched with the aim of restoring the former Yemeni government, a close Riyadh ally, and crushing the country’s Houthi Ansarullah movement. On the domestic political stage, the offensive was also viewed as an attempt by Mohammed bin Salman to steal the show and sideline the then crown prince.
However, despite spending billions of petrodollars, the Riyadh regime has achieved none of its goals during the campaign, which has killed over 12,000 civilians, left much of Yemen in ruins and empowered the Takfiri terror groups operating there.
On the economic front, Mohammed has been a key backer of the kingdom’s so-called Vision 2030 program, under which the Saudi leaders seek to reduce reliance on oil exports.
The plan is known as the most extensive and jarring economic shake-up of the country in decades, with economy experts describing it as too ambitious.
Mohammed bin Salman, according to analysts, appears to have orchestrated the Persian Gulf diplomatic crisis, which has seen a Saudi-led bloc of countries cutting ties with Qatar and imposed an economic siege on the country.
The diplomatic spat broke out days after a summit in Riyadh attended by US President Donald Trump, a staunch supporter of Saudi rulers and, in particular, Mohammed bin Salman.

Yemeni people hold a giant Palestinian flag during a rally to mark the International Quds Day in support of Palestinians, in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, July 10, 2015. (Photo by AFP)
Millions of people are set to attend the International Quds Day rallies in various parts of the world to show their solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people and condemn Israeli atrocities. 
Millions of people across Iran and other countries will stage massive rallies on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Pro-Palestinian groups have called for a high turnout.
Calls for boycotting Israel remained the main theme of this year’s demonstrations, a trend that has been promoted by pro-Palestinian activists for years as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or the BDS.
Anti-Israeli sentiments have risen among people across the world over Tel Aviv’s discriminatory policies in the occupied territories and toward the besieged Gaza Strip.
The occupied Palestinian territories have seen tensions ever since Israel introduced restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015. More than 300 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces since the beginning of October 2015.
Each year, millions of people around the world stage rallies on this day to voice their support for the Palestinians and repeat their call for an end to the Tel Aviv regime’s atrocities and its occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Scores of protesters already took to the streets of London to mark the day. The demonstration was held on the last Sunday of the holy month of Ramadan and saw people marching down the Regent Street before gathering at the junction with Oxford Street.
Co-organized by the Islamic Human Rights Council, the event also featured Jewish speakers who drew a line between being anti-Israeli occupation and anti-Semitism, an accusation that pro-Israeli lobbies often use to stifle protests.
The protesters chanted “Free Palestine” and carried signs that read “Boycott Israel”, “Freedom for Palestine” and “Zionism = racism.”
In August 1979, the late founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini declared the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as the International Quds Day, calling on Muslims across the world to mark the annual occasion by holding street rallies.

The file photo shows a child being vaccinated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says a polio outbreak has paralyzed at least 17 Syrian children since March, calling the situation in the war-torn country "very serious."
"We are very much worried, because if there is one case of polio with a kid that is paralyzed, it is already an outbreak," WHO spokesman Tarim Jasarevic said at a press conference in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday.
He added that for every polio-caused paralysis there are almost 200 children, who has been infected by the virus but exhibit no symptoms. "The virus is circulating. It is very serious," he said.
Less than two weeks ago, the UN agency for the first time announced two cases of polio-caused paralysis among Syrian children. It also said at the time that the Arab country had been hit by its first outbreak of the crippling illness since 2014. Polio mainly affects children under the age of five.
According to Jasarevic, the new cases all appeared between March 3 and May 23, but they were only just confirmed, since the process of determining with certainty that whether a case of acute flaccid paralysis was caused by polio can take up to as long as two months. He also warned that "more confirmations" would be expected.
Jasarevic added that all of the cases but one had been registered in the Mayadin district of the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr, large part of which is currently under the control of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group, and a siege of the capital Damascus has restricted access to basic goods, services and medicine for the inhabitants of the province.
One case of polio-caused paralysis surfaced in Raqqah, Daesh's de facto capital in the Middle Eastern country, he said.
According to Jasarevic, the WHO plans to bring in more of the polio vaccine, Oral polio vaccine (OPV), to get immunization levels high enough to ensure they can curb the outbreak. He also said that the agency intended to vaccinate over 400,000 children under five in Dayr al-Zawr.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. In August last year, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated that to date over 400,000 people had been killed in the conflict.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei (R) receives Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Tehran on June 20, 2017. (Photo by
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has warned against placing trust in the United States, saying Washington is against Iraq’s independence and unity.
“Vigilance is required against the Americans and they should not be trusted at all because the US and its puppets oppose Iraq’s independence, identity and unity,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Tehran on Tuesday.
The Leader hailed the unity and coherence among all Iraqi political and faith movements in their fight against Daesh terrorists and said the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha’abi, are important and a power element for the country.
Ayatollah Khamenei added that the US is against Hashd al-Sha’abi because “they [Americans] want Iraq to lose its key element of strength.”
“Do not trust the Americans at all because they seek an opportunity to strike their blow,” the Leader stated.
Ayatollah Khamenei warned that any emergence of division and conflict among Iraqis would pave the way for Washington to harm Iraq, stressing the importance of preventing the presence of US forces in Iraq under the pretext of training.
The Leader further emphasized that the US and some of its allies in the region do not seek the destruction and eradication of Daesh as the terrorist group has been created through their support.
They want to prolong the existence of Daesh in Iraq, Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated.
The Leader stressed the importance of safeguarding Iraq’s territorial integrity and said, “As a neighbor, the Islamic Republic of Iran is against certain murmurs about the holding of a referendum for the separation of a section of Iraq.”
Ayatollah Khamenei expressed hope that the Iraqi government would manage to solve the problems it faces and said, “The Iraqi government must be strengthened in every way and all political and faith movements in Iraq are duty-bound to support the sitting government.”
The Leader also said Iran and Iraq must further expand relations in various fields, urging the two sides to remove the obstacles in the way of bolstering their cooperation.
During the meeting, which was also attended by Iranian First Vice-President Es’haq Jahangiri, the Iraqi prime minister commended Iran’s support for his country in the fight against Daesh.
Iranian First Vice-President Es’haq Jahangiri (L) attends a meeting between Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei (R) and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Tehran on June 20, 2017. (Photo by
Abadi said all Iraqi political and religious groups are united in the battle against Daesh until its full eradication.
He added that Baghdad needs Tehran’s aid during the fight against Daesh and after the elimination of the Takfiris which is a time for Iraq’s stability, peace and construction.
Heading a delegation, Abadi arrived in Tehran on the second leg of a three-nation tour after a key trip to Saudi Arabia. At the end of his day-long stay in Tehran, the Iraqi premier will set off for Kuwait to meet with the country’s senior officials.


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