Israeli Army Shuts Down Eight TV Production Companies, Outlets

Tel Aviv, Ramallah- The Palestinian authority and some media institutions denounced the attack of Israeli occupation forces on eight media outlets and warned against this violent step that aims to silence journalists and the press.

The Israeli army raided on Wednesday eight offices of TV channels and production companies in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron, arresting some journalists and staff.

Commander of the Judea Brigade Col. Itzik Cohen stated after the end of the operation that the closed outlets helped main Palestinian channels in incitement and encouraging terrorism.

He said the incitement was a source of annoyance but the response was quick. 

“We see incitement as an integral part of encouraging terrorism and that’s why we continue to fight it,” Cohen added.

For its part, the Palestinian Ministry of Information considered the Israeli raids the peak of terrorism and piracy. It rejected the so-called closure decision, which contradicts international law and degrades UN Resolution 2222.

Upon the ministry’s request, all national media institutions united their broadcast for one minute (12:00 noon) as a protest.
Further, the Palestinian Authority said it condemned the raids “in the strongest terms”. PA government spokesman Youssef al-Mahmoud said in a statement that “occupation forces committed a blatant aggression and gross violation of all international laws when they stormed Palestinian cities and raided media offices.”

He added that the measures were a “clear challenge to the international efforts, especially the American efforts, to seek an opportunity for compromise and lay the foundations for peace and security with the agreement of all sides.”

Armed Group Threatens to Blow Up Pipeline that Transmits Libya’s Gas to Italy

Tripoli – A Libyan armed group has threatened to blow up the pipeline that transmits gas to Italy within 72 hours, according to the German news agency.

The group, which said it was following officer Ali Kanna, issued Wednesday a videotape next to a gas transmission pipeline from the Libyan south to the industrial Mellitah Complex, which pumps Libyan gas to Italy via the Mediterranean.

It threatened to blow up the gas pipeline within 72 hours if Al-Mabrouk Ehnish, who was arrested by the Special Deterrence Force (SDF), which works under the umbrella of the Government of National Accord (GNA), early this week.

The group showed its ability to shut down or blow up any of the oil and gas transmission pipelines from the oil-rich south of Libya, and it took photos of one of the pipelines with all its meters and shutter valves and released these photos for the government to see them.

On October 16, an armed group dressed in military uniforms has threatened to cut off the water supply to Tripoli from the man-made river water wells in the south if Ehnish was not released.

“If he was not released, we will burn down the man-made river water system, close Tripoli-Sabha road and gas pipelines,” the group, loyal to former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, threatened from inside the control room of the man-made river system in Hasawna.

Notably, Ehnish is one of the leaders of the so-called “Popular Front for Liberation of Libya” that is headed by Gaddafi’s henchmen who live abroad.

Kurds Suspend Elections, Withdraw to “Pre-ISIS” Borders

Members of Iraqi federal forces are seen in Dibis area on the outskirts of Kirkuk

Erbil, Baghdad, London– Kurdish Peshmerga forces retreated to positions they had held in northern Iraq in June 2014 in response to an Iraqi army advance into the region after a Kurdish independence referendum, a senior Iraqi commander said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish regional electoral commission halted on Wednesday preparations for the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled to be held on November 1 due to the current crisis in Kirkuk province and lack of candidates.

In a statement released, the regional Independent High Electoral and Referendum Commission (IHERC) said it decided to suspend the preparations for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections due to the recent violence in Kirkuk and other disputed territories.

An Iraqi military statement said government forces had taken control of Kurdish-held areas of Nineveh province, including Mosul and the hydro-electric dam.

On Monday, Iraqi forces recaptured the major oil city of Kirkuk to the south shortly after the Peshmerga abandoned it.

Reuters pointed out that Bashiqa residents celebrated in the streets the retreat of Peshmerga and their replacement by Iraqi Troops.

Backed by the US, Peshmerga forces drove ISIS out of the area and gained control over several areas outside of official and semi-independent border of Kurdistan, including Kirkuk which Kurds demand to include as part of their sovereignty.

Peshmerga had advanced into Nineveh and the Kirkuk region over the past three years as part of the war against ISIS militants, filling a void left by a temporary collapse of the Iraqi army in the face of an ISIS onslaught.

“As of today we reversed the clock back to 2014,” the Iraqi army commander, who spoke on condition of animosity, told Reuters.

DW Germany news agency reported Iraqi sources saying that clashes erupted between the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces near Mahmoudiyyah town, northwest of Mosul.

Sources told the agency that an army unit arrived in the town without any prior coordination with Peshmerga which led to the clashes, but commander of west Nineveh operations Lieutenant Karim Shweili arrived in the area and contained the situation.

Meanwhile, Rudaw agency posted a video that has been widely shared on social media showing a young man jumping on a vehicle of the Iraqi police force in Kirkuk. Although the vehicle was moving, the young man was able to take the Iraqi flag down.

The young man was part of a group of people who protested Iraqi forces’ presence.

In addition, a video circulated on social media showing a member of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) standing before photos of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hung on the wall of the Kirkuk governorate’s building. The video angered Kirkuk civilians who refused such actions.

The fighter said that PMF have now taken over the shelters of Peshmerga.

“We reclaimed Kirkuk. Are you not ashamed? Where are the men? Did you not say “we are men coming from Erbil and Sulaimani to preserve Kirkuk and Kirkuk is ours”? Where are you?,” he said.

He also confirmed: “I am now in Kirkuk. We are now inside the governorate’s building.”

PMF and Iraqi forces controlled Kirkuk and nearby areas after Peshmerga forces retreated from it. Commander of Tigris operations Maj-Gen Ali Fadil Amraa told DW that security work within Kirkuk is restricted to local police.

DW also reported a security source saying the Directorate of National Security in Kirkuk had apprehended several persons who claimed they belonged to PMF, searching houses in the city, after which security forces and police toured the Kurdish areas to assures civilians.

Streets between Kirkuk and Erbil were crowded with Kurdish residents who continued to flee Kirkuk, fearing abuse or arrests. Large numbers have headed towards Sulaimania.

Kurdish member of Iraqi parliament Renas Jano believes that the incidents in Kirkuk aim at targeting the strong position of Kurdistan.

Jano told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that Iran entered Kirkuk aiming to weaken Peshmerga capabilities to an extent they can’t do anything in the post-ISIS era.

He explained that real changes will happen after ISIS has been terminated, and stated that after the decision of US concerning the nuclear deal, Iran is trying to fully control Iraq. He believes Tehran wants to do so for two reasons: compensate the financial losses of wars in Syria and Yemen through Iraqi oil, and overcome human losses it suffered during the war in Syria by employing other forces in Iraq like the PMF.

Jano considered the incidents occurring in Kirkuk a genocide against its civilians.

Meanwhile, head of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Kirkuk Aso Mamand announced that he was informed by the Iraqi forces that the city council would convene on Thursday to select a new governor.

He told reporters on Wednesday that some PMF fighters have stormed Kurdish houses, but described the situation as generally “calm.”

In addition, Vice president of Kurdistan and deputy leader of PUK Kosart Rasul Ali warned in a statement that what is happening is another Anfal against Kurds, in reference to a similar campaign they suffered in Baghdad during the residency of late President Saddam Hussein.

“Some apostates abandoned the PUK’s doctrine without returning to our party’s leadership and became the invaders’ assistant to obtain some personal, temporary gains. With this disgusting act, they are slipping themselves into the black pages of the history of our nation, humiliated,” he added.

60 Saudi Firms Seek Investment Opportunities in Baghdad International Fair

60 Saudi Firms Seek Investment Opportunities in Baghdad International Fair

Riyadh- Saudi Export Development Authority is part of the Saudi pavilion at the Baghdad International Fair in its 44th session, from October 21 to 30, with 60 companies from various industrial and service sectors.

The Saudi Export Authority is seeking through the exhibition to discover market opportunities for Saudi products in Iraq and to facilitate export procedures to Iraq in cooperation with the relevant authorities.

Secretary-General of the Saudi Export Development Authority Saleh al-Salami said that the Authority’s participation in the Baghdad International Fair comes from its role in encouraging Saudi products to reach the international markets.

He pointed out that the gross domestic product of Iraq amounted to about 643 billion riyals in 2016, the service sector was the largest share of them by 57 percent, and 38 percent for the industrial sector, while agriculture accounted for five percent.

The highest sectors in terms of the value of imports in Iraq are food products, according to the data of 2016, amounting to 21 billion riyals, followed by heavy equipment and electronics by about 20.3 billion riyals and then building materials by more than 15.8 billion Saudi riyals, which makes Iraq a market opportunity and a good export destination for Saudi products, Salami added.

Salami confirmed that the decision to head towards the Iraqi market was the result of a discussion sessions held by the Saudi Export Authority with a group of exporters to discuss the major challenges they have been facing, to find effective solutions to overcome them and reach means to facilitate the arrival of the Saudi product to the Iraqi market.

“The Authority strives to provide all tools and means that contribute to overcoming the obstacles that hinder the arrival of the national product to compete internationally in order to develop Saudi non-oil exports in the Iraqi market in particular and international markets in general.”

A statement issued by the Saudi Export Development Authority said that its participation at the Baghdad International Fair this year under the slogan of ‘industries that transcend borders and bring peoples closer,’ is one of the most important participations that will contribute to the establishment of economic trade relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Saudi National Society for Human Rights Decries Qatar’s Recent Actions

Riyadh, Geneva- Saudi Arabia’s National Society for Human Rights has denounced a move by Qatari authorities to freeze the assets of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Ali Al-Thani and Sheikh Sultan Bin Suhaim and violating their private property.

It pointed out that the right of ownership of those persons, who have a view contrary to the policy of the Qatari Government, should be respected, and stressed the importance of ensuring the rights of those who worked for them and not to harm them, and to ensure their continued contact with their families.

It added that punitive measures involving human rights violations against persons or those working for them because of their political positions in the Qatari crisis contravene with international human rights instruments.

In a related context, the Arab Federation for Human Rights demanded the UN to intervene urgently to rescue the peaceful political opposition in Qatar from the oppression of Qatari authorities. The federation expressed concerns and sorrow for the continuous suppression that has been practiced by the authorities since June 5, following the Arab boycott of Qatar.

The federation, headquartered in Geneva, denounced the Qatari security storming of Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani Palace in Doha and freezing his assets as well as confiscating his personal and family possessions.

Sahar Al-Sheikh, the supervisor of Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al-Thani’s palace, revealed her last moments in Qatar and how Qatari security deported her from Doha after beating her, threatening her with death and assassination in her country Sudan.

Sheikh spoke about the fear and enforced disappearances among workers in Qatar, stressing that what she witnessed in Doha at the hands of security officials confirmed to her that Qatari authorities sponsor terrorism, as she experienced it firsthand from Qatari security.

She added that she had received a phone call from Sheikh Sultan, who asked to talk to his sons. Later, she was surprised by a convoy of security vehicles storming the building where she lived. After being lured outside by a woman who said there was a message from Sheikh Sultan that must be received, she was arrested and deported.

All telephone conversations in Qatar were monitored by the state security apparatus, according to Sheikh.

Iran Announces Strengthening Military Cooperation with Damascus

Damascus, London – Iran’s Chief of Staff for Iran’s Armed Forces Mohammad Bagheri announced drawing a new policy to boost military cooperation between his country and the Syrian regime.

In a joint press conference held in Damascus on Wednesday with his Syrian counterpart Ali Ayoub, Bagheri said: “I am in the Syrian capital to coordinate and cooperate in order to fight our common enemies — whether they are the Zionists or the terrorists. We discussed ways to strengthen relations in the future and outlined the basic principles of this cooperation.”

Tehran would not tolerate violations of Syrian sovereignty by Israel, Bagheri stressed, vowing that the two countries would jointly fight against Syria’s enemies.

Bagheri added that Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani “has made a serious mistake after carrying out the referendum in Kurdistan, northern Iraq, as he took steps to achieve an imaginary independence that may drag the region to future confrontations.”

For his part, Lt. Gen. Ayoub said: “We held plenary talks which included a comprehensive assessment of all the current developments, and we discussed in details the relations binding our armies and the mutual desire to enhance these relations.”

He affirmed that the Takfiri terrorist project “will end and the war against terrorism will continue till eliminating it completely and restoring security and stability to all the territories of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Ayoub accused the United States of trying to impede the progress of the army in its operations to combat terrorism through groups that have been forced to obey terrorist organizations such as ISIS and others to attack the Syrian regime army.

He also considered the entry of Turkish forces into Idlib violates what was agreed upon in Astana, and “we have all the rights to respond to this attack,” Ayoub said.

Haley Urges UN to Confront Iran’s ‘Destructive Conduct’

London- US Ambassador Nikki Haley urged the UN Security Council on Wednesday to adopt the Trump administration’s comprehensive approach to Iran and address all aspects of its “destructive conduct” — not just the 2015 nuclear deal.

She told the council that Iran “has repeatedly thumbed its nose” at council resolutions aimed at addressing Iranian support for terrorism and regional conflicts and has illegally supplied weapons to armed groups in Yemen and Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon.

Haley cited a long list of Iranian violations, including threatening freedom of navigation, cyberattacks, imprisonment of journalists and other foreigners, and abuses of its people by persecuting some religions.

According to the Associated Press, she called Iran’s most threatening act its repeated ballistic missile launches.

“This should be a clarion call to everyone in the United Nations,” Haley said, warning that when Tehran starts down the path of ballistic missiles, “we will soon have another North Korea on our hands.”

Haley said the Security Council has the opportunity to change its policy toward Iran.

“I sincerely hope it will take this chance to defend not only the resolutions but peace, security and human rights in Iran,” she said.

“Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the true nature of the threat,” Haley stressed. “Iran must be judged in totality of its aggressive, destabilizing and unlawful behavior.”

Top Yemeni Official Escapes an Armed Ambush

Yemen

Aden – Yemeni Deputy Premier and Minister of Civil Service Abdulaziz Jubari and his accompanying delegation survived an armed ambush in Tur al-Bahah district of Lahij governorate on their way back from Taiz where they spent two weeks.

A few days ago, Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Dagher’s convoy was ambushed as well in the same area. Al-Sabiha tribes residing in the area denounced this act and apologized to the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, legitimate government consolidated its presence in several liberated and semi-liberated areas, especially in providing services, salaries and solving other issues.

Observers believed that these incidents may be linked to the insurgents who are trying to create chaos in the liberated districts.

Yemeni political observer Baleegh al-Mekhlafi told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that recent measures taken by the governmental envoy in Taiz had inconvenienced these forces and people of personal agendas and that is why there had been several attempts against Jubari.

In latest field developments, a number of Saleh and Houthi militants were killed during army military operations backed by the popular resistance in al-Baydaa district in the center of Yemen.

Tribal sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that intense clashes erupted between the army backed by the resistance and militias in az-Zahir district, following a failed infiltrating attempt.

Army commander, Sheikh Ali Taher stated that the military operations of the resistance resulted in the death and injury of several militants.

Taher explained to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the army and popular resistance are rearranging and reorganizing troops in areas within their control. He added that the areas witnessed several clashes between the army and the militias who are trying to advance and infiltrate into Al Hmyqan sites, however, they are met with fierce resistance.

Taher also stated that every now and then, Houthis raid on residential areas and civilians.

In Hajjah district, on border with Saudi Arabia, Saudi-led coalition intensified its air raids on militias sites and clusters in Harad.

Local residents told Asharq Al-Awsat that the coalition launched about 15 air raids over several areas in Bani Haddad, al-Mazrak, and center of Harad.

Sources reported that the national army thwarted militias infiltrations towards several areas in Midi city and forced the attackers to retreat after several militants were killed and injured.

Also, National Army forces raided on several militia clusters in al-Akda area of Usaylan district in Shabwah governorate, south Yemen.

Military sources reported that the raids came few hours after a fire exchange between both sides in al-Khaydar area.

Qatar Emir Says Open to Dialogue with Arab Quartet

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani is seen during a joint news conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the presidential palace in Bogor

Dammam– Qatar is “open to dialogue” in resolving a dispute with the Arab quartet, its emir said during a visit to Indonesia on Wednesday. Whereas, Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs claimed that the war on ISIS has been affected because of the blockade on his country.

Qatar is a base to thousands of US troops engaged in the battle against the terrorist organization, and according to the FM, the quartet wants to destabilize Qatar and their behavior shows they are not willing to reach a solution.

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who arrived in Indonesia on Tuesday after his visit to Malaysia, said at a joint news conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java, that the standoff is hurting all the countries involved.

“We conveyed that Qatar is ready to conduct a dialogue to solve the problem as we already know that no one will win,” the Emir told the press, reiterating: “we are all brothers and we have suffered losses due to this crisis.”

He then added that Qatar is ready to start a dialogue to reach an agreement that must be respected by all parties based on the sovereignty of the state.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar on June 5 due to its support for extremist groups in the region and its close ties with Iran. They also banned Qatar Airways from using their airspace, closed off the country’s land border with Saudi Arabia and blocked its ships from using their ports.

Speaking to CNBC in an interview, Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani stated that the battle against ISIS has suffered as a result of the conflict taking place. He explained that 90 percent of the country’s supplies of food supply, medicine supply comes through the land border and those supplies part of it is going to al-Udeid base of US troops.

He added that as air space is now blocked to Qatari aircraft that offer strategic support, those planes can only now use one path, north toward Iran.

Qatari forces, part of US Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain, were ordered in June to leave the country.
“They are not allowed to fly over their skies so it’s only allowed to use one path which is toward the north, toward Iran. So this is an effect as well as our officers who were participating in the coalition activity and the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain they’ve been expelled because of this,” he explained.

The FM added that many factors in this crisis undermine global efforts in countering ISIS, including the blockade and measures the Quartet has taken against Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, Iraq Hold Military Discussions

A model of Saudi airline Flynas is on display during a ceremony to sign a deal between Airbus and Flynas in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 16, 2017.

Riyadh, Baghdad- Iraq’s Major General Othman al-Ghanmi, accompanied by a military delegation, headed Wednesday morning to Saudi Arabia, in response to an invitation from his Saudi counterpart Chief of Defense Gen. Abdulrahman bin Saleh Al-Banyan.

This two-day visit is the first of its kind visit since decades for such a high-rank Iraqi officer.

A statement revealed that the visit aims to discuss vital topics in the coming period via cooperation and coordination in fields of fighting terrorism and opening border facilities – it is a significant step to cement ties between the two sisterly countries, exchange intelligence information and discuss challenges facing the region’s security and safety.

In the same context, a Saudi civil airplane arrived in Baghdad International Airport on Wednesday to be the first since 27 years ago when flights were suspended between Iraq and Saudi Arabia after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein ordered his troops into neighboring Kuwait.

Tickets for the maiden flight were advertised for as low as SAR27 ($7.2) excluding taxes as flynas CEO Bandar al-Muhanna said the move to reopen the route would help “link the two sisterly countries”.

He added: “We worked hard to see that flynas flights to the brotherly nation of Iraq are operational as quickly as possible in order to connect the two brotherly nations economically and socially after a 27-year-long break.”