Resources updated between Monday, February 09, 2015 and Sunday, February 15, 2015
February 15, 2015
ISIS mass beheads Egyptian Christians in Libya
In a new propaganda video released Sunday by ISIS, the militant group claims to have beheaded over a dozen members of Egypt's Coptic Christian minority on a Libyan beach.
The highly produced video shows an apparent mass execution with jihadists in black standing behind each of the victims, who are all are dressed in orange jumpsuits with their hands cuffed behind them.
The five-minute video, released by the terror group's propaganda wing al-Hayat Media, includes a masked English-speaking jihadi who says, "The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden's body in, we swear to Allah, we will mix it with your blood."
Then on cue, all the victims are pushed to the ground and beheaded.
ISIS has imposed its brutal rule on the large areas of Iraq and Syria that it controls, but the beheadings of the Egyptians appears to have been carried out by an affiliate of the militant group in Libya.
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi confirmed in a statement that Egyptian "martyrs" had fallen victim to terrorism and expressed his condolences to the Egyptian people.
El-Sisi called for an urgent meeting of the Council of National Defense and declared seven days of official mourning.
Twenty-one Egyptian Christians were kidnapped in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte in two separate incidents in December and January.
Officials said all of them had been killed.
El-Sisi said Egypt reserves the right to retaliate for the killings, according to the state-run website Ahram Online.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Sunday after the grisly video emerged.
"The secretary offered his condolences on behalf of the American people and strongly condemned the despicable act of terror," the State Department said. "Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Shoukry agreed to keep in close touch as Egyptians deliberated on a response."
The White House also condemned the attack, saying ISIS' "barbarity knows no bounds."
"This wanton killing of innocents is just the most recent of the many vicious acts perpetrated by ISIL-affiliated terrorists against the people of the region," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.
Members of the U.N. Security Council strongly condemned what they called "the heinous and cowardly apparent murder" of the 21 Egyptians.
"This crime once again demonstrates the brutality of ISIL, which is responsible for thousands of crimes and abuses against people from all faiths, ethnicities and nationalities, and without regard to any basic value of humanity," the U.N. statement said.
Coptic Christians are part of the Orthodox Christian tradition, one of three main traditions under the Christian umbrella, alongside Catholicism and Protestantism. Copts split from other Christians in the fifth century over the definition of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Copts trace their history to the Apostle Mark, the New Testament figure who they say introduced Christianity to Egypt in A.D. 43. Egypt holds a special place for Coptic Christians because, according to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus' family fled there shortly after his birth to escape King Herod, who was calling for the execution of all Jewish boys younger than 2.
The largest group of Copts in the world is still in Egypt, where they make up between 8% and 11% of the nation's 80 million citizens, most of whom are Sunni Muslims.
In the United States, there are approximately 90,000 Copts organized under 170 parishes, according to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States.
Isis is reportedly forcing people living under its self-declared 'caliphate' to give blood after dozens of fighters were seriously injured in US-led coalition air strikes.
Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a group run by Syrian activists, said the extremist group is coercing citizens in its defacto capital of Raqqa, in Syria, to take part in transfusions.
Abu Mohammed Hussam, one of the campaign's founders, told The Independent up to 100 people had been forced to give blood over the past few days. Last month, a former Yazidi teenager captured and used as a sex slave by the group described how militants were forcing hostages to give their blood for transfusions.
He said this sudden drive for blood was to treat dozens of fighters badly wounded by air strikes in Kobani. Isis were forced to withdraw from the border city following a two-pronged attack from Kurdish fighters and coalition air strikes. Most of those made to give blood have reportedly been men, although he says one woman has also been ordered to do so.
Mr Hussam, 26, graduated from the Faculty of Law in Damascus before travelling to Raqqa when civil war broke out to become an activist.
He said: "I went to Raqqa in 2011 to join the revolution against [Syrian President] Bashar-al-Assad. Me and my friends later founded the Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently campaign."
Mr Hussam says he fled Raqqa weeks ago when it became clear that Isis militants were looking for him, and is now working to communicate information and news from outside of the besieged city.
However, some of his friends and family remain inside the city walls and are living under Isis, including twelve members of RBSS.
He says they have passed on information about conditions under Isis' self-declared caliphate through internet cafes still running. Militants have been clear that people are prohibited from publishing anything negative about the group. "They are always watching," Mr Hussam added.
Reports of wounded fighters come as it emerged suicide bombers and foreign fighters were abandoning their posts and fleeing to Turkey or defecting to rival Islamist groups.
A US-led coalition bombing campaign against the group was recently intensified after it burned alive a Jordanian pilot and released footage of his death.
"Islamic State has publicly executed two alleged spies and mercilessly crucified another to a road sign in the Syrian city of Al-Bab.
"Images have emerged showing two men - bound and dressed in orange jumpsuits - kneeling on the ground as hundreds of jeering insurgents surround them.
"Masked men dressed in black have their weapons trained on the captives, while young boys force their way through the crowd to catch a glimpse of the helpless men.
"Another picture shows a deceased man hanging from a post with a sign hanging around his neck. The onlookers in the photograph seem unphased by the man's limp, crucified body.
"On Thursday, the extremist group announced it was holding an Israeli-Arab who posed as foreign a fighter to spy for the country's intelligence agency, Mossad.
"Muhammad Musallam, 19, was quoted in Islamic State's online magazine Dabiq saying he joined the insurgents in Syria to report information about their weapons cashes, bases and recruits back to Israel.
"It claims he said: 'I say to all those who want to spy on the Islamic State, don't think that you're so smart and that you can deceive the Islamic State. You won't succeed at all.
"'Stay away from this path. Stay away from helping the Jews and the murtaddin [apostates]. Follow the right path...'"
February 13, 2015
"Only months ago, the mass kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls transfixed this nation and sparked a hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls. Now, as President Goodluck Jonathan seeks a second term, it barely even registers as a campaign issue.
"Neither President Jonathan, who had vowed to 'not sleep with my two eyes closed until these girls are brought safely back with their parents,' nor his rival, former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, have spent much time talking about the girls in stump speeches. They appear to be taking their cues from ordinary Nigerians-voters polled tend to complain about corruption, joblessness and daily blackouts far more than the students' fate.
"And yet every afternoon, a dwindling corps of protesters, a fraction of the crowd that used to gather here, still shuffles onto a highway median to once more remind Africa's largest democracy that 219 of those girls remain missing. This week, on the 301st day of their captivity, about 40 demonstrators held their daily vigil on the grass under a banner that read 'Bring Back Our Girls.'
"'Even my own people have given up,' said Victor Ibrahim Garba, a protest leader who represents the girls' families. Many of the parents, he added, now want the air force to bomb the forests where Boko Haram is likely keeping their daughters. 'People are saying bring back the dead bodies so that we can bury our dead...'"
Hundreds of friends of Ayala Shapira, the 11-year-old girl who was seriously wounded after a Molotov cocktail was hurled at the car in which she and her father were traveling in the West Bank last December, urged United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a letter to issue a harsh "condemnation against burners of children". The letter was sent to the UN Headquarters in New York, and to date, a response has yet to be received.
Shapira, who sustained third degree burns in the attack on December 25, 2014, remains sedated and on a respirator. In the letter sent to Ban, the AMIT Lehava Ulpana students, who go to school with Shapira, called on the UN to "speak out against these terrorists".
The letter detailed the attack on their friend: "Ayala, a descendant of Holocaust survivors...had just been coming back from a program for gifted students in mathematics and was on her way to celebrate a friend's Bat Mitzvah," they wrote. "Her life was cut short. A Molotov cocktail enflamed the car and Ayala was caught on fire. She was pulled out of the burning car by her father and is still hospitalized, sedated and intubated."
The students voiced their surprise at the fact that neither the United Nations nor the Secretary-General issued a condemnation of the incident. "Ignoring this violence means tacit support of this heinous act," they noted, adding that "it is our right to travel safely on the roads and go to classes and celebrations without fear of terrorists and murderers who seek to destroy us."
Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, also recently called on the Secretary-General and the organization's bodies to speak out against the attack, claiming that "the wave of terrorism shows no sign of abating".
Shapira, he said, suffered "third-degree burns over much of her body and face and is, as we speak, fighting for her life in hospital. Does this disgusting attack on a child merit condemnation? Because I haven't heard one - not from the Palestinian leadership and not from this Council."
Prosor continued on to say: "If you oppose terrorism and you oppose oppression, then you must stand with the Middle East's only democracy. Tell the Palestinians that while we might have a territorial dispute, Israel's right to live in security is beyond dispute".
This horrifying clip shows a child unflinchingly receive 60 lashes to his back for simply referring to Islamic State by a term they hate: 'Daesh'.
As dozens gather around the town square to watch with emotionless expressions, the boy kneels on the ground - purportedly in Anbar, Iraq - as he accepts his penalty.
His punisher relentlessly whips the boy in the short clip, who appears to be crying and pleading for mercy.
The child's crime was to refer to the terror group as 'Daesh' - a loose acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (al-Dawla Al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham).
The term is used by enemies of ISIS and has negative undertones, as it sounds similar to Arabic words which mean 'one who crushes something underfoot' and 'one who sows discord'.
The video of the barbaric punishment was posted to Facebook on Tuesday and has been viewed thousands of times.
February 9, 2015
"Here is UNRWA's chart describing the number of registered 'refugees' under its purview in each of the five areas it works.
"If you look at the American Friends of UNRWA fundraising site, however, you find that there is a hugely disproportionate effort meant to appeal to help less than half the people in the chart.
"UNRWA-USA is hosting four separate 5K runs this year, specifically for Gaza children.
"Besides that, UNRWA-USA has a Gaza emergency appeal, a 'protect civilians' appeal that is specifically for Arabs in Area C and Jerusalem (that heavily invokes 'settlers,') a shelter rehabilitation appeal specifically for the West Bank, and a 'job creation program/Olive Tree Initiative' that is also specifically for the West Bank.
"Oh, and a very general Syria Emergency Appeal.
"Unlike the five fundraising programs in the territories, the Syria program does not specify whether it is for shelter or food or schools or mental health; it is a very generic, general appeal because things in Syria are really bad too. Unlike their articles about WB and Gaza aid recipients, there is nothing about specific needs of Syrian Palestinians like food or clothing or medicine.
"UNRWA-USA does not have any specific appeals for Lebanese UNRWA aid recipients, even though the situation in Lebanese camps is far, far worse than they are on the West Bank. UNRWA-USA does not appeal for any funds for the 2.1 million Jordanians receiving aid, including those who are not Jordanian citizens who are even further discriminated against by Jordan.
"Here is a chart of the keyword tags in UNRWA-USA articles that are region-specific:
"Militants fighting for the Islamic State in Syria have publicly beheaded a man for allegedly practicing witchcraft - the latest in a long line of barbaric executions carried out by the terror group.
"The unknown man was photographed being killed by a masked executioner in a village just outside ISIS' stronghold and de facto capital Raqqa while a large crowd looked on.
"Precise details of the victim's so-called crime are not known, but the charge of witchcraft and 'invoking magic', and the use of an axe and wooden chopping block to carry out the beheading do little to counter claims that ISIS are little more than murderers with a Dark Age view of the world.
"The beheading of the man, who has a long grey beard, bald head and appears to be in his 60s, took place in a rural area named Aldbsa, to the west the city of Raqqa."
"A few months ago, I asked William Schabas, the Canadian academic who this week resigned as head of the United Nations Human Rights Council's probe into last summer's war in Gaza because of a conflict of interest involving his work for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), whether I could interview him for a magazine piece I was writing. He replied promptly and courteously, explaining that he couldn't be interviewed because his commission hadn't yet appointed a media relations officer.
"I remember being rather staggered by that admission-the Human Rights Council had already announced that Schabas, a frequent and intemperate critic of Israel, was to head an investigation into the most bitterly contested aspect of a war that electrified the world, wrought devastation upon Gaza, and spawned anti-Semitic violence across Europe. And yet that same commission still didn't have a member of staff appointed to liaise with the press.
"Convenient, I thought, if they didn't want people to know what they were up to. (Well, either that, or Schabas didn't want to give me his real reason for declining the interview.) In any case, this week the commission became considerably less opaque-so much so that Schabas was forced to resign after it was discovered that, in 2012, he'd been paid $1,300 by the PLO to write a legal opinion for them.
"In his resignation letter, Schabas said that he wasn't asked 'to provide any details on any of my past statements and other activities concerning Palestine and Israel' when he interviewed for the post. That wasn't quite the truth, but he was hoping we'd believe him so that he could present himself as having reluctantly resigned, in order to avoid a frenzied conservative media storm around the relatively harmless fact that he'd done a few hours of work for the PLO.
"But the blogger Elder of Ziyon helpfully dug out the application form that Schabas submitted to the U.N. In the section on professional ethics, Schabas answered 'no' to three separate questions asking whether there was anything-like a conflict of interest-that might compromise his independence and judgement. But we know now that he worked for the PLO and tried to hide that fact. And we knew when he was appointed that he regarded Benjamin Netanyahu not as the prime minister of Israel, but as a 'war criminal' who should be put on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC)..."