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Resources updated between Monday, October 29, 2018 and Sunday, November 04, 2018

November 4, 2018

The U.N. General Assembly during the vote on the resolution condemning the U.S. embargo

"The United Nations has again proved its worth as an unfailing barometer of human rights-though not in the way the world body intended.

It came in Thursday's 189-2 vote against the trade embargo on Cuba, blamed by regime apologists for most of Cuba's many ills. Israel alone sided with the U.S. The resolution on the embargo pops up every year.
...
This year U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley tried something different. Instead of simply voting no, the U.S. tried to inject some balance by proposing several amendments that highlighted the many egregious outrages of the Cuban regime.
...
People can come down on different sides about the merits of an economic embargo. But when the U.N. condemns the U.S. while giving Cuba a pass, Turtle Bay reveals its own moral bankruptcy."

Turtle Bay Truth Embargo Article

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi

Egyptian security forces arrested at least 19 human-rights lawyers and activists this week in raids that reflect the country's security state is widening its assault on government critics in an attempt to eliminate any challenge to President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.

Even against the backdrop of years of government repression, this week's arrests were striking because of the large number of people held and the detention of prominent human-rights lawyers

"It's a vicious attack," said Aida Seif El Dawla, founder of a center working with victims of torture by Egyptian police. "Every day, every second day there is a group of people who are arrested."

Mr. Sisi came to power in a military coup in 2013, in which he led the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Following the coup, the state set in motion a lethal crackdown on Islamists, in which more than a thousand died and tens of thousands were arrested.

In the following years, the government widened its target to include non-Islamist political opponents, human-rights groups, independent news organizations, and anyone critical of the new military-backed government.

The Egyptian government has defended its actions against critics, stating that the moves are intended to restore stability and security to the country following years of political unrest and violence following the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak from the presidency.

During this week's raids, security forces burst into the homes of human-rights workers in the early morning hours, seizing the activists and searching their properties.

Those arrested included Huda Abdelmonem, a prominent lawyer and a former member of the National Council for Human Rights, a government-backed watchdog.

Members of Ms. Abdelmonem's family published images of her apartment in the aftermath of the raid, with papers, books, furniture and personal items strewn about, suggesting a violent search by security forces.

The whereabouts of the 19 people arrested Thursday are currently unknown, according to human-rights groups monitoring the case.

Others arrested this week include members of the Egyptian Coordination for Human Rights, a group whose work has been widely cited by established international media and by Human Rights Watch. The group's director, Ezzat Ghonim, is being held in secret detention by the security forces, according to his family and human-rights groups.

The Egyptian government denies the use of so-called "forced disappearance" in which the security forces refuse to acknowledge that they are holding particular detainees.

Separately this week, Egyptian authorities moved to implement a restrictive new law on the media, demanding that news websites register with the government or face closure.

The move was an illustration of the Egyptian state's tightening grip on media in the country and an increasing trend in which even the mildest criticism of the government can result in arrest.

Last week, security forces arrested an economist, Abdel Khalek Farouk, for publishing a book critical of the government's handling of the economy. The government accused him of spreading "false news." He was freed days later on the orders of a court.

"Anyone who dares to speak out about human rights violations in Egypt today is in danger," Najia Bounaim, North Africa campaigns director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Egypt Arrests Human-Rights Lawyers as Crackdown on Critics Intensifies Document

November 3, 2018

Relatives of the victims in mourning after the attack

Coptic Christians prepared to bury seven worshippers - including six from the same family - on Saturday, a day after Islamic militants ambushed three buses carrying pilgrims to a desert monastery in Egypt, wounding 19 others.

A row of white coffins held the dead, which included a 15-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl, ahead of the funeral service. A priest and members of a Christian congregation prayed and chanted over the caskets.

"I mourn with deep sorrow the martyrs who were killed today by treacherous hands which aim to undermine the solid fabric of the nation, and I wish speedy recovery for the injured," President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi said in a statement on Friday obtained by the Washington Post.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert condemned the attack in a statement she posted to Twitter.

The local Islamic State group affiliate, which spearheads militants fighting security forces in the Sinai Peninsula, claimed responsibility for the attack south of Cairo in a statement. It said the attack was revenge for the imprisonment by Egyptian authorities of "our chaste sisters," without elaborating.

The attackers opened fire mid-afternoon on two buses near the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor in Minya, 160 miles up the River Nile from Cairo, a church spokesman told Reuters.

Reports say the militants were driving two or three SUV-type vehicles.

"A number of masked men got out of them, took the mobile phones of the passengers and then shot all the men dead," Bishop Aghathon Tala'at, a Christian community leader, told the Washington Post. "They were wearing military-like uniforms, survivors told me."

The Interior Ministry said police were pursuing the attackers, who fled the scene.

The Islamic State has repeatedly vowed to go after Egypt's Christians as punishment for their support of el-Sissi. As defense minister, el-Sissi led the military's 2013 ouster of an Islamist president, whose one-year rule proved divisive. It has claimed responsibility for a string of deadly attacks on Christians dating back to December 2016.

In Minya, the scene of Friday's attack, Christians constitute the highest percentage of the population - about 35 percent - of any Egyptian province. It's also in Minya where most acts of violence, like attacks on churches and Christian homes and businesses, take place.

Christian pilgrims killed in Islamic attack in Egypt Document

November 1, 2018

A suspected explosive device discovered in the yard of a kindergarten in southern Israel on November 1, 2018

A kindergarten in southern Israel was evacuated Thursday morning after a teacher spotted a suspicious object in the playground that was later found to be an explosive device, apparently flown into Israel from the nearby Gaza Strip, officials said.

Sappers were called to the scene to remove the device from the kindergarten in the Eshkol region, a local government spokesperson said.

"The object was collected by security officers and handled by them," the Eshkol spokesperson said.

In a separate case, a security jeep caught fire in Kibbutz Alumim, some four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the Gaza border, because of an airborne incendiary device from the Strip, according to the fire department.

"The incident is under control, and there are no injuries," said the spokesperson for the fire department's southern district.

"The fire was sparked when the vehicle went over an incendiary balloon. The small blaze that was under the car sparked a fire in a pipe in the fuel system, which caused the fire to spread to the front part of the car and caused significant damage to the vehicle," he said.

Gadi Yarkoni, the head of the Eshkol regional council, lauded the kindergarten teacher's swift actions and called on the government to take action against Palestinians launching incendiary balloons into Israel.

"I expect the government of Israel to show responsibility toward its citizens and to end this ongoing terror in order to ensure the security of residents. The writing is on the wall. The responsibility is on you," Yarkoni said in a statement.

Thursday's two suspected attacks from Gaza came amid an uptick in airborne arson attempts from the coastal enclave, following a brief lull earlier in the week.

On Wednesday evening, an Israeli military drone fired at a group of Palestinians launching airborne arson devices at Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian media reported.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed at the time that one of its aircraft had shot at "a terrorist spotted releasing incendiary balloons" toward Israeli territory.

No Palestinians were injured in the strike, east of Bureij in southern Gaza, according to the Hamas-linked Shehab news outlet.

Arson attacks, which had taken place on an almost daily basis since late March, all but halted entirely from last Thursday to Tuesday.

Firefighters were called to extinguish two blazes in southern Israel on Tuesday that were believed to have been sparked by airborne incendiary devices from the Strip.

Tensions between Israel and terror groups in the Strip skyrocketed in recent weeks as the two sides attempt to reach a long-term ceasefire brokered by Egypt and the United Nations.

Saturday saw a large-scale flareup between Israel and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group - the second-largest organization in the Strip after Hamas - in which dozens of rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel. In response, the IDF bombed some 90 targets in the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian mediators have been working intensively to maintain calm, and also hope to bring about national reconciliation between Hamas, which seized Gaza by force in 2007, and the West Bank-based administration of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas says the blockade must be lifted first and has vowed to continue the weekly protests, in which more than 160 Palestinians have been killed since March. The terror group has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. A Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier in July.

The protests, dubbed the "Great March of Return," have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks, bombings and attempted border breaches as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

Israel says it maintains the blockade to prevent Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, from importing weaponry.

Police clear kindergarten in Israel after suspected Gaza balloon bomb found Document

October 31, 2018

Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen speaking at a press conference on the plot

Denmark interrupted an Iranian assassination plot in the country, the Danish government said Tuesday, as it called for the European Union to respond, at a critical moment in relations between Europe and Tehran.

Danish authorities this month arrested a Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent for allegedly planning the assassination of the leader of an ethnic Arab separatist group, Denmark's Security and Intelligence services said.

The separatist organization, the Ahvaz Liberation movement, is linked to a group Iran blamed for a terrorist attack on a military parade Sep. 22 that killed 25 people. The group blamed by Iran and Islamic State both claimed responsibility.

Danish security services said the individual they arrested had denied the charges. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman on Tuesday said Iran had no involvement in the case.

Tuesday's announcement was the latest in a series of allegations that Tehran is sponsoring acts of violence in Europe. "It is totally unacceptable that Iran or any other foreign state plans assassinations on Danish soil. Further actions against Iran will be discussed in the EU," Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said on Twitter.

European governments have been building links with Iran in an effort to sustain the 2015 multinational nuclear accord that granted the country relief from sanctions. President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord in May and the U.S. is set to reimpose wide-ranging sanctions on Tehran on Monday.

Denmark said Tuesday it had recalled its ambassador from Tehran for consultation.

The government gave details of a large-scale police operation on Sept. 28, when authorities closed bridges into Copenhagen and suspended train operations in connection with the case.

The individual arrested was seen in late September conducting reconnaissance and photographing the residence of the leader of the Ahvaz Liberation movement, Danish authorities said.

The authorities, who worked with foreign partners, said they believe he intended to pass information to the Iranian intelligence service to help an assassination plan against the leader of the group, known as the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz.

Security services said they had been offering police protection to the Ahvaz group's leader since the spring because of "tangible threats which...emanate from Iran."

The Danish report comes after French officials said Iran was behind an attempted attack at the annual conference of a France-based Iranian opposition group in late June.

U.S. officials have said that Iran was behind a similar plot in Albania in March and have tied Iran to the shooting last year of another senior official from the separatist group. Iran has denied those allegations.

Until now, the EU has steered clear of commenting on the Paris case or accusations that Iran was stepping up its Europe-based attacks. Denmark's announcement and its call for an EU response forces the issue onto Brussels' agenda.

"At this stage we are following the events and are in contact with [Danish] authorities to get more information," said a spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The EU has sanctions in place on Iran over human-rights abuses and terror links, and earlier this year discussed possible new restrictions on Iranian individuals and entities. However, the bloc has pledged to keep its nuclear-related sanctions suspended and is working on new measures to maintain trade and investment despite renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Denmark has full diplomatic ties with Iran. Its export credit agency signed an export finance deal with Iran two years ago.

Trump administration officials have said the Europe cases underline the security threat posed by Iran and called on European governments to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on Tehran.

"For nearly 40 years, Europe has been the target of Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter on Tuesday after the Danish announcement. "We call on our allies and partners to confront the full range of Iran's threats to peace and security."

Denmark Says It Foiled Iranian Assassination Plot Document

October 29, 2018

The Cuban delegation at the U.N. General Assembly (File photo)

"The Trump administration next week will counter a U.N. resolution condemning its embargo against Cuba with a series of amendments calling out the communist regime's human rights record, Fox News has learned -- the latest example of the U.S. going on the offensive at the world body.

The U.S. on Wednesday is expected to put forward several amendments to balance the U.N. General Assembly's annual condemnation of the U.S. embargo on Cuba. It's part of an effort to bring more supporters on board, explain why the embargo against the Cuban dictatorship exists and challenge the more than two-decade annual vote condemning the embargo.

The amendments call upon the regime to abide by human rights norms, expresses concern about freedom of expression and the plight of political prisoners. One calls on Cuba 'to fully grant its citizens internationally recognized civil, political, and economic rights and freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and free access to information' -- all values supposedly at the heart of the U.N., but values that some critics say the body only upholds selectively.

The U.S. policy marks an escalation from last year, when the U.S. voted against the resolution. That was, itself, a reversal of the policy under former President Barack Obama, where the U.S. merely abstained on the U.N. resolution...."

U.S. to counter U.N. vote on Cuba embargo with amendments calling out Cuban human rights abuses Article

The Iron Dome system

Rocket fire on Israel directed by Iran and Syria Document