General Director of Palestinian Crossing and Borders Authority Arrives in Gaza

Palestinian

Ramallah – Palestinian Crossing and Borders Authority began assuming its duties of managing Gaza’s crossings, according to the Palestinian Public Works Minister Mufeed al-Hasaynah.

Hasaynah spoke during a meeting with General Director of Palestinian Crossing and Borders Authority Nazmi Muhanna, Hamas Head of National Security Maj-Gen Tawfiq Abu Naim, Head of Gaza Civil Affairs Saleh al-Zeq, Director of Gaza Crossings Raed Fattouh. He explained that the committee began assuming its duties and the work began backed by everyone’s determination to succeed in this.

Muhanna told journalists that he had been sent by president Mahmud Abbas to implement the “first step” in the reconciliation agreement, “the taking over of the crossings.”

He said he was hopeful that in talks with Hamas they would agree on handing over the borders quickly.
The crossings have been one of the issues that long hindered previous agreements due the authority’s desire to completely control it, and Hamas’ insistence on co-managing the crossings. However, Hamas agreed this time to hand the crossings over to the government.

All crossings are meant to be handed over to the Palestinian Authority by the beginning of November ahead of the full transfer of power on first of December.

However, Hamas was not pleased with PA focusing on the crossings rather than other issues.

Hamas member of political bureau Moussa Abu Marzouk criticized statements of several officials concerning issues like the employees or security, saying “they don’t promise good.”

Hamas’ spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum also condemned Abbas’ for keeping his measures against Gaza and blatant denial of reconciliation requirements.

“The failure of [Palestinian] Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to respond affirmatively to the popular and national demands to cancel his arbitrary measures against our people in Gaza is unjustifiable and a clear denial of the demands of reconciliation. He must bear responsibility for exacerbating the people’s suffering and crises,” said Barhoum.

Sami Abu Zahri, also Hamas’ spokesperson, said that it is unjustifiable to maintain the measures on Gaza.

Zahri tweeted that the government only talks about handing the crossings and digging for gas.

Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that despite the dissolving of the administrative committee in Gaza and the agreement, the president has no intention of end his punitive measures. The sources added that Abbas would like to see how things go first in Gaza.

Abbas is in no hurry and would like to make sure the reconciliation is not just another agreement, according to the sources.

Fatah held a meeting chaired by Mahmoud Abbas during which the movement discussed Egypt-sponsored talks and reiterated its determination to re-establish national unity.

The movement issued a statement following he meeting stating the importance of full commitment to the primary law, protect the democratic political system, and maintain the Palestinian national independent decision.

The central committee lauded the Egyptian leadership for its efforts and distinguished role in achieving the agreement in Cairo. The committee also commended the efforts and support of Arab leaderships such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Yemeni Interior Minister: Saleh in Poor Health

Yemeni Minister of Interior General Hussein Arab (R) meets with Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Rabiah (L).

Riyadh- Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior General Hussein Arab said that ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in a poor health condition.

Saleh was suffering from a disease that required the intervention of a medical team from Russia to treat him at the Russian Embassy in Yemen, he added.

During his meeting with Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Rabiah, Consultant at the Royal Court and General Supervisor of King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSRelief) in Riyadh on Monday, Arab said that the coup in Yemen led to the destruction of the infrastructure since all the establishments of the Interior Ministry were destroyed by Houthi militias, who also looted all the ministry’s equipment.

Arab pointed out that Yemen’s interior ministry was able to re-establish its building and role in the country with the help of coalition countries.

He added that the KSRelief has saved many lives in Yemen and the rest countries of the world, confirming that the center supports Yemeni hospitals and health centers through providing medical supplies and medicines.

The great support, upon directives by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, led to a decline in the cholera epidemic in Yemen, Arab stressed.

The Yemeni minister added that the Kingdom provided treatment to the injured people inside and outside Yemen as well as in the hospitals of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Sudan.

“Iran has goals in Yemen,” Arab said, adding that “the Persian plan in Yemen is clear, and everyone knows that the Iranian mentality continues to try to reach its goals, and the intervention of the Arab coalition obstructed the achievement of these goals.”

He also talked about the latest report issued by the United Nations and said that the report was based on false information, explaining that the information given to the UN was from people who tried to find incorrect information and upload pictures of crimes carried out by the Houthi militias in Taiz and claiming they were carried out by Arab coalition forces.

Arab stressed that the Arab coalition is keen on following the rules of engagement and to refuse to carry out random military strikes, fearing for the lives of civilians or women.

Govt. Forces Continue Advance on Kurds in Iraq

Kirkuk

Iraqi government forces continued on Tuesday their advance on Kurdish-held regions in the northern province of Kirkuk and other areas, forcing the Peshmerga to withdraw from regions it had gained during its fight against ISIS.

In a further blow to Kurdish dreams of independence, Iraqi forces took control of the two largest oil fields in Kirkuk. The fields accounted for around 250,000 barrels per day of the 650,000 bpd that the autonomous Kurdish region exported under its own auspices and their loss deals a huge blow to its already parlous finances and dreams of economic self-sufficiency.

Iraqi forces took down the red, white, green and yellow Kurdish flags that had flown over the pumping stations of the Bai Hassan and Havana oil fields and raised the national flag, an AFP photographer reported.

“With the loss of these fields, Kurdish finances have been cut in half,” French geographer and Kurdistan specialist Cyril Roussel told AFP.

The Kurds govern three mountainous northern provinces of Iraq in an autonomous region, and have also held a wide crescent of additional territory in northern Iraq, much of which they captured after helping drive out ISIS. The Peshmerga withdrew in the direction of their autonomous region in the northeast.

In the second day of a lightning government campaign to take back towns and countryside from forces of the Kurdish autonomous region, the Peshmerga pulled out of the long disputed Khanaqin area near the Iranian border.

The Baghdad government recaptured territory across the breadth of northern Iraq from Kurds on Tuesday, widening a sudden and dramatic campaign that has shifted the balance of power in the country almost overnight.

Government troops took control of the last two oil fields in the vicinity of Kirkuk, a city of 1 million people that the Peshmerga abandoned on Monday in the face of the government advance. A Yazidi group allied to Baghdad also took control of the town of Sinjar.

Masloum Shingali, commander of the local Yazidi militia in Sinjar, said the Peshmerga left before dawn on Tuesday, allowing Iraqi forces to move in.

The government advances have redrawn the map of northern Iraq, rolling back gains by the Kurds who infuriated Baghdad last month by holding a referendum on independence.

The referendum, though not binding, reflected the Iraqi Kurds aspirations for independence for their autonomous northern region. The vote was rejected by the central government in Baghdad, as well as Turkey, Iran and the United States.

Prime Minister Haidar Abadi ordered his troops on Monday to raise their flag over all Kurdish-held territory outside the autonomous region itself. They achieved a swift victory in Kirkuk, reaching the center of the city in less than a day.

The advances create a dilemma for Washington, which is close allies of both Baghdad and the Kurds, and has armed and trained both sides as part of its successful campaign to drive ISIS out of Iraq.

“We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides,” President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday. “We’ve had for many years a very good relationship with the Kurds as you know and we’ve also been on the side of Iraq.”

So far most of the advances appear to have come unopposed, with Kurds withdrawing before government forces move in. There have been reports of just one major clash, in the early hours of
Monday on the outskirts of Kirkuk, which Washington described as a misunderstanding.

For the Kurds, the loss of territory, particularly Kirkuk which Kurdish folklore views as the heart of their homeland, is a severe blow just three weeks after they voted to declare their decades-old objective of an independent state.

The setbacks have led to sharp accusations among the two main Kurdish political parties, which each control separate units of Peshmerga fighters.

Officials in the KDP of Kurdish regional government leader Masoud Barzani accused the PUK of his longterm rival Jalal Talabani of “treason” for abandoning Kirkuk. The widow of Talabani, who served as ceremonial Iraqi president in Baghdad from 2003-2014 and died two weeks ago, denied blame.

Talabani said her party tried, but failed, to make the Iraqi government renounce the ”plan to attack” Kirkuk through contacts with US and Iraqi government representatives.

Rudaw TV, one of the main Kurdish stations, said Barzani would soon make a statement calling on the Kurdish factions to avoid “civil war”.

Oil officials in Baghdad said all the oil fields near Kirkuk were working normally on Tuesday after the last of them came under government control. Kirkuk is the base of Iraq’s Northern Oil Company, one of the two giant state oil firms that provide nearly all government revenue.

Meanwhile, thousands of civilians were seen streaming back to Kirkuk, driving along a main highway to the city’s east. The Kurdish forces had built an earthen berm along the highway, reinforced by armored vehicles, but were allowing civilians to return to the city.

Many returnees were seen with their children and belongings packed tight in their cars.

Kurdish residents said they felt betrayed by the Peshmerga’s hasty retreat after they had promised to fight to the last for the city.

“Kirkuk was sold out, everyone ran away. But now the situation has stabilized, and people are returning to their homes. Nothing will happen, God willing, and Kirkuk will return to how it was,” said Amir Aydn, 28.

Israel Draws Red Lines after Attacking Anti-Aircraft Syrian Battery

Israel

Tel Aviv, Damascus, London — An Israeli Defense Forces Spokesman said that Israeli jets bombed a Syrian anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus after it fired an anti-aircraft missile at the Israeli aircraft on a spy mission overflying Lebanon.

Other Israeli sources confirmed notifying the Russian army, a major backer supporting the Assad regime in Damascus, about the airstrike “in real-time mode”.

No Israeli planes were hit by the missile fired by the Syrians, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said. The counter-strike took place two hours later and “incapacitated” the anti-aircraft unit located 50 km east of Damascus, he said.

“We know according to our intelligence it was a battery controlled by the Syrian regime and we hold the Syrian regime responsible for the fire,” Conricus said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later issued a statement saying Israel would not hesitate to defend itself.
“Today there was an attempt to harm our aircraft — this is unacceptable to us.

The air force acted quickly and accurately to destroy what needed to be destroyed,” Reuters cited Netanyahu as saying.

“Our policy is clear. Whoever tries to harm us, we will strike at him. We will continue to act in the region as is required in order to defend Israel.”

But the Syrian army said it struck an Israeli warplane that had breached its air space at the Syria-Lebanon border.

“The Israeli enemy this morning violated our air space… Our air defense mediums confronted it, hit one of its planes directly and forced it to flee,” the Syrian military statement said.

According to military sources, the Syrian anti-aircraft missile was fired at the Israeli warplane at about 10:00 am on Monday.

Later on, Israeli officials reported that the Israeli aircraft responded with four air-to-surface missiles demolishing the Syrian missile battery.

SDF Seizes ‘Full Control’ of Syria’s Raqqa from ISIS

Raqqa

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared on Tuesday that they have completely recaptured the city of Raqqa from the ISIS terrorist organization.

“Everything is finished in Raqqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqqa,” SDF spokesman Talal Sello told AFP.

A Reuters witness said fighting appeared to be almost at an end with only sporadic bursts of gunfire.

The US-backed SDF have seized control of the former ISIS stronghold, announced the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights later on Tuesday.

Victorious fighters celebrated in the streets, chanted slogans from their vehicles and raised a flag inside Raqqa stadium.

The SDF has been fighting ISIS inside Raqqa since June.

“We do still know there are still IEDs and booby traps in and amongst the areas that ISIS once held, so the SDF will continue to clear deliberately through areas,” said Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led international coalition.

The four-month long battle for Raqqa left at least 3,250 people dead, more than a third of them civilians, the Observatory said.

In a sign that the battle for Raqqa was in its last stages, Dillon said there had been no coalition air strikes there on Monday.

ISIS also suffered setbacks Tuesday in the eastern Syrian region of Deir al-Zour, where Russian-backed regime forces retook swathes of territory, further reducing a “caliphate” that three years ago was roughly the size of Britain.

The Observatory said regime forces had brought the entire area stretching between Deir al-Zour and Mayadeen, which was retaken on Saturday, under their control following a major military offensive.

“These are not desert areas, they are villages along the Euphrates (river) that were ISIS strongholds,” the Britain-based monitoring group said.

ISIS also controls territory in neighboring regions on the Iraqi side of the border, where they are facing another US-backed offensive by Iraqi pro-government forces.

ISIS has lost swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq this year, including its most prized possession, Mosul, and in Syria it has been forced back into a strip of the Euphrates valley and surrounding desert.

Russian Defense Minister in Tel Aviv, Dodges Commenting on Israeli Airstrike in Syria

Shoigu

Moscow – Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday for talks with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman.

During the meeting, Shoigu was said to have overlooked commenting on the recent Israeli airstrike against missile defense bases east of Damascus, Syria.

Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov did not elaborate on Moscow’s view on the attack.

Israeli jets bombed a Syrian anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus after it fired an anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli spy aircraft overflying Lebanon, the Israeli military said earlier on Monday.

Russia’s news agency TASS reported that the Israeli forces notified Russia “in real time” about a strike on a target near Damascus.

Russia has been backing the Damascus-centered regime led by Bashar al-Assad against Syrian rebels and other groups since 2015.

“I would like to talk about the things related to Syria. The operation there is close to the end. There are several problems which require urgent solution and the prospects of further development of the situation in Syria require discussion,” Shoigu said.

More so, he dodged questions concerning the airstrikes before the press and reporters, focusing instead on the war against terror.

Addressing Lieberman, he stressed the need to “mobilize all forces” against terrorism in the region.

In an official statement, Konashenkov said that Shoigu arrived in Tel Aviv on a two-day visit, during which he will also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss issues of technical – military cooperation between the two sides.

Konashenkov added that regional security and issues related to the Syrian settlement will be discussed.

Algeria: Laws to Prevent ‘Alteration’ of Citizens’ Religious Convictions

Algiers – Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments Mohammed Eisa warned of sectarian efforts to break the religious principles of Algerian society, pointing out that the government is planning to issue new laws posing penalties on those who try to change Algerians’ religious convictions.

Speaking at a conference for religious Imams and religious guides, eastern Algeria, the minister said that the country was exposed to foreign ideas that created terrorism and provoked hatred among the people. Eissa was referring to the war during the 1990s where 150,000 people were killed inducing: extremists, security men, and civilians.

The minister reiterated that Algerian youths do not need to cross the border looking for new forms of religiosity other than the ones they inherited from their ancestors. He didn’t elaborate as to what he meant, but it is understood that he was referring to hundreds of young people who had been involved in extremist groups abroad and then returned to the country to perform their practices in society.

Through a scientific and pedagogic method, Algeria succeeded in overcoming this flux and discourse of hatred, especially against various sectarian movements aiming to divide the country, added the minister, in reference to Shi’ite sects chased by security services.

Since his appointment as Minister of Religious Affairs in 2014, Minister Eissa had repeatedly spoken of the authorities’ efforts to “protect local religious authority”.

He called upon Imams and teachers of Koranic education to adopt the approach of relying on local religious authority to immunize the country against all dangers.

Eissa stressed that the state is determined to legislate laws that “protect the doctrine, fight sectarianism, and punish those who seek to change the convictions of religious Algerians.”

The minister announced a new law will soon be issued to regulate mosques’ affairs.

Since 2008, according to the minister, all Imams finished their religious education programs and memorized the Qur’an because these measures are important to ensure moderate speech that could serve the country.

Eissa himself is in a war against al-Ahmadiyya sect and Shiaism in the country.

Recently, he told state radio that Algeria was “a target for Islamic trends that are different from our culture and religious values that we inherited from the predecessors” in reference to several new sects that are spreading in many mosques in the country.

The minister confirmed that Islam in Algeria is that of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and a moderate one that promotes coexistence with other sects and religions. He added that Islam in the country is not affected by ideologies or political exploitation.

Saudi Crown Prince Discusses Military Cooperation with Commander of Pakistani Army

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud with Pakistani Army Commander Lieutenant General Javed Bajwa.

Riyadh- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud met with Pakistani Army Commander Lieutenant General Javed Bajwa on Monday.

The meeting reviewed the relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, especially in the military fields, and the two parties discussed a number of issues of mutual interest.

Assistant Minister of Defense Mohammad Al Ayesh – the military advisor to the Crown Prince – Major-General Engineer Talal al-Otaibi and Pakistani Military Attaché Shahed Manthour attended the meeting.

On the other hand, under the patronage of the Saudi Crown Prince, King Saud University (KSU) in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense will organize today the 2nd International Conference on Command and Control Solutions titled “Coalition Against Terrorism, Strategies and Capabilities”.

KSU Director Dr. Badran bin Abdulrahman al-Omar expressed gratitude to the Crown Prince for his patronage of the conference and support for the University in various fields, noting that the three-day conference will be attended by more than 700 specialists in the field of command and control systems at local, regional and global levels.

This year’s conference will discuss the latest developments in command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) including integration of command and control systems of the armed forces, their proactive capabilities to monitor and respond to terrorist operations and the importance of strengthening international alliances.

It will also cover technology transfer and localizing specialized expertise in command and control systems in line with Vision 2030.

Saudi Shura Council Approves Draft Law to Combat Terrorism, Terror Funding

Shura

Riyadh – The Saudi Shura Council approved on Monday a draft law to combat terrorism and terror funding. During its 59th session chaired by Deputy President Mohammad al-Jafri, the council took the decision after listening to a briefing from its Security Affairs Committee.

Chairman of the Committee Major General Abdullah al-Sadoun stated that the draft is one of the best in the world and takes into consideration all legal, rights and humanitarian angles.

Sadoun told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudi Arabia still continues to counter terrorism whether through security measures or legislating laws.

Assistant president of the Council, Yahya al-Samaan said in a statement after the session that the council discussed a Security Affairs Committee report on the draft regulation of combating terrorism crimes and financing it

The Council also approved the amendments and additions to the law for combating money laundering.

In another decision, the Council urged the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture to address the issue of unbalanced distribution of water and sewage services between various Saudi regions.

The Council on Sunday approved the draft law for the rights of the elderly.

General Sharif Says Terrorists Restrict Attack Strategy to Smaller Rings

Pakistan's newly appointed army chief General Raheel Sharif attends the change of command ceremony with outgoing army chief General Ashfaq Kayani in Rawalpindi

Manama- Islamic Military Alliance Commander General Raheel Sharif stressed that Islamic countries exert great efforts when facing the challenge of combating terrorism and violent extremism, especially when confronting groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. He pointed out that terrorists no longer use central and organized planning, but resort to lone-wolf attacks and smaller terror rings.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Military Alliances Conference in the Middle East, Gen. Sharif labeled the initiative launched by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz to establish the 41-nation Islamic Military Coalition against terrorism as one of the most important alliances in the world.

Gen. Sharif highlighted that the Islamic alliance is not directed against any state, doctrine, or religion, but is an alliance set out to eradicate terrorism by promoting tolerance and countering misconceptions surrounding Islam.

Terrorist groups and organizations have exploited and marred the image of Islam and its believers.

General Sharif briefed a crowd of military officials and diplomats about the strategy undertook by the Islamic military alliance for the war on terror, which includes countering terrorist propaganda and intelligence work, drying up terror funds and any form of support.

He added that one of the tasks is to reduce terror financing through building intelligence capabilities and law enforcement institutions in member states. He said that the coalition will work with international organizations in this regard.

Gen. Sharif stressed that the coalition’s military wing will provide support to member states in their fight against terrorism and efforts on deterring violent attacks.

He pointed out to defense ministries in the member states coordinating with the Saudi Defense Ministry led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on making decisions related to maintaining the sovereignty, security, and stability of member states.

Gen. Sharif reviewed Pakistan’s experience in the war on terrorism, noting that Pakistan had suffered the loss of 6,000 martyrs in the war against terrorism.

The main conference’s session was held on Monday with a speech to Brigadier General Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Commander of the Royal Guards, in which he welcomed Bahrain’s strategy announced by President Donald Trump to address Iranian policies aimed at security and stability in the region.