Resources updated between Monday, September 28, 2015 and Sunday, October 04, 2015
October 4, 2015
Two Israeli men, one in his 40s and the other in his 20s, died of their wounds Saturday night after being stabbed in Jerusalem's Old City in a terror attack.
The younger man's wife was in serious condition and their two-year-old baby was lightly wounded. The mother was taken to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and was undergoing surgery. The toddler was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment where he remained in stable condition.
The men were stabbed in the upper body and were unconscious when paramedics arrived at the scene.
The father was taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus where he died of his wounds shortly after the attack. The second man was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center where he also died Saturday night.
When the attack began, the injured woman managed to run and alert a group of Border Police forces nearby who arrived on the scene and shot and killed the attacker.
In video footage that emerged Saturday night after the attack, a woman's screams can be heard followed by gunshots.
The baby was hurt in the leg, although it was not entirely clear how. Police said the attacker may have grabbed a firearm the father was carrying but it was not clear if he managed to fire it.
The incident occurred near Lion's Gate in East Jerusalem.
Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli teen outside Jerusalem's Old City early Sunday morning, in the second such attack in the past day.
The suspected assailant was reportedly shot dead by Israeli security forces.
The 15-year-old victim, later named as Moshe Malka, was moderately injured and received treated on site by paramedics. He was taken to Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Hospital in stable condition with wounds to the chest and back.
The attack took place near the Old City's Damascus Gate.
The attacker reportedly fled the scene after stabbing the teen. A video posted online appeared to show him several hundred yards from the site of the attack, on the light rail tracks, where he was shot by police officers.
Hamas media identified the suspected stabber as Fadi Aloon, a resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. In a Facebook post from an account attributed to Aloon he expressed his intent to become a martyr (shahid) and entreated God to forgive for his sins.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had just taken off for Israel around the time of the stabbing early Sunday morning, told reporters that Israel would "launch a severe offensive against Palestinian terrorism."
He was set to travel directly to the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv upon his arrival in Israel on Sunday, and convene a security cabinet meeting to discuss the spike in terrorist attacks.
Sunday's early morning stabbing came just hours after Nehemia Lavi and Aharon Bennett were killed in a terrorist attack in the Old City on Saturday night, and Benet's wife and child were injured.
The Palestinian terrorist was identified as Muhanad Shafeq Halabi, 19, from al-Bireh, near Ramallah in the West Bank. He was shot dead by police.
Benet's wife was in serious condition and their two-year-old baby was lightly wounded. The mother was taken to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and is undergoing surgery. The toddler was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment where he remains in stable condition.
Just two days earlier on Thursday night, two Israelis were shot dead in their car in the West Bank in a terrorist attack claimed by the Fatah movement's armed wing.
In response to the attacks, Israel Police limited entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem to Israeli citizens, business owners, residents and tourists for the next two days. Entrance for Muslim worshippers was limited to men over the age of 50, and access was limited the Lion's Gate, closest to the Temple Mount.
October 2, 2015
Reciting prayers from the Koran, ten Kurdish soldiers are lined up and forced to kneel moments before being brutally decapitated by the Islamic State.
Sickening video of the executions was released by the jihadists shortly after suffering heavy losses at the hands of the Peshmerga in Iraq. The footage, shot near the terror group's stronghold of Mosul, shows the prisoners kneeling on the floor while executioners cloaked in black stand behind them with hunting knives.
The captives, dressed in orange jumpsuits, can be heard reciting passages from the Koran while one says his final prayers of Shahada – an Islamic testimony of faith.
After the men are beheaded and their placed on their bodies, an ISIS fighter warned of the 'inevitable fate' of other peshmerga prisoners still being held captive, it was reported by Kurdish news outlet Kurdaw.
The authenticity of the video could not immediately be verified but it was distributed on websites with links to the militant group.
The video was released shortly after Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq drove ISIS from more than 50 square miles of territory near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and cleared part of a highway Wednesday.
The Kurdish peshmerga fighters backed by U.S.-led airstrikes pushed the militants beyond Ghara Heights and Mount Batiwa, south of Kirkuk, and secured a stretch of a highway which connects Kirkuk to the central city of Samarra, a statement from the Kurdistan Region Security Council said.
The villages of Meziriya, Gubebe, Seda, Mohammed Khalil, Qows Kurd, Tal Ward, Khalef and Mansouria – all south of Kirkuk – were purged of militants, the statement said.
At least 10 peshmerga fighters died in the operation and another 16 were wounded, according to a senior security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief journalists.
ISIS group swept across northern Iraq in the summer of 2014 and holds roughly a third of Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
Kurdish fighters made significant advances against the militant group early this year, but their progress has stalled around areas the extremists view as strategic - particularly near the border.
The militant group has launched numerous attacks on Kirkuk in its bid to expand access to oil resources, but peshmerga fighters have managed to defend the city.
A statement from the U.S.-led coalition on Wednesday noted three airstrikes near Kirkuk over the previous day, which it said had destroyed a tactical unit, 10 rocket rails, a weapons cache, five militant vehicles and a car bomb.
Another eight airstrikes were conducted in the area around Hawijah over the same period, the statement said.
A 14-year-old Syrian boy has described his horrific ordeal at the hands of an ISIS militant dubbed 'The Bulldozer' - who hacked off his hand and foot because he refused to join the terror group.
The teenager, known only as Omar, was serving with more moderate opposition forces trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime when he was captured by the Islamic State.
He says the extremist group strung him up and tortured him for a month and a half in a bid to get him to join their growing ranks of children. When he refused, he was dealt a shocking punishment.
In an interview with Channel 4 from his new home in a Turkish border town, Omar describes how militants gathered a crowd in the middle of a street, before tying down his right hand and left leg.
Speaking in Arabic, he tells reporter Evan Williams: 'They put my hand on a wooden block and cut if off with a butcher's knife. Then they cut off my foot and put them both in front of me for me to see.'
The brave teenager, who was bleeding heavily and in unimaginable pain, was forced to look up at his own severed extremities as the crowd of men, women, children and terrorists watched.
He shows Williams photos of his hand and foot being hacked off with the enormous blade - and an image of the militant who carried out the amputations, a massive man called 'The Bulldozer'.
He describes how 'The Bulldozer' and fellow militants sought out other teenagers and children in the area ahead of the horrifying public display - as a warning to them not to resist the Islamic State.
'They brought teenagers and children and told them, "this man is an infidel so we will cut off his hand and foot",' says Omar as he rests his right stump - wrapped in a large bandage - on his lap.
Omar's amputations took place just three weeks before the Channel 4 interview.
October 1, 2015
The Syrian National Council opposition group says Russian air strikes north of Homs city killed 36 civilians, including five children and one member of the civil defense units known as the White Helmets.
Khaled Khoja, leader of the SNC, considered the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, said at a press conference at the United Nations Wednesday that the strikes also hit a base of the Free Syrian Army but resulted in no casualties. He said there are no Islamic State group forces in the four areas struck Wednesday.
The claim could not be independently verified.
"Russian claims that they are there to fight IS are baseless. That was proven today," he said.
Russia is "using its military force to support the Assad regime's war against civilians. And it risks implicating itself in war crimes," he warned, urging the international community to call for "the enforcement of a ban on aerial bombardment" in Syria.
He called Russia an occupying force and called for a "war of liberation" against Russian forces.
Russia's Foreign Ministry dismissed the claims of civilian deaths from Khoja and others, saying they are false and part of an "information war."
A spokeswoman for the ministry on Wednesday said Khoja's accusations "were published even before the airstrikes started."
The spokeswoman told reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York that Russia is acting "absolutely, legitimately" according to international law.
"Honestly, I don't understand what is the difference between the French air bombings and Russia's. There's only one difference, we're acting according to a request from Damascus," she added.
Also Wednesday, the UN secretary general said airstrikes by any country in Syria must strictly observe international humanitarian and human rights law.
A spokesman for Ban Ki-moon told reporters Wednesday that all efforts must be made to spare civilians, and reports of civilian deaths must be swiftly investigated.
Stephane Dujarric added that "without genuine commitment by the international community to support a parallel political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, it will not be possible to end the Syrian conflict and ultimately to defeat" the Islamic State group.
An Israeli couple was shot and killed in front of their four children Thursday night in the West Bank, in what appears to have been a drive-by terrorist attack.
According to reports, the family was driving near the Palestinian village of Beit Furik when their vehicle came under heavy gunfire from a moving vehicle.
Magen David Adom paramedics who arrived at the scene found Eitam and Na'ama Henkin from the settlement of Neriya, both approximately 30 years old, with bullet wounds to their torsos.
The children – aged nine, seven, four and a four-month-old baby - were examined by MDA medical personnel near the Itamar junction, not far from the site of the attack on the family's car. It was determined that they were not injured physically and did not require hospital care.
"It was a very difficult scene," MDA paramedic Boaz Malka, one of the first to arrive on the scene, told the Times of Israel. "We saw a vehicle in the middle of the road, and a man in his thirties lying next to it with wounds in his upper torso. Inside the car sat a woman in her thirties, also with severe wounds to her upper torso. They were without any signs of life, and unfortunately we were forced to pronounce them dead at the scene."
The IDF said Israeli security forces are searching the area for suspects.
Responding to the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian incitement.
"It has been proven again that the wild Palestinian incitement leads to acts of terrorism and murder such as we have seen this evening," he said from New York, where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly earlier today.
"This is a difficult day for the State of Israel," he continued. "We are witness to an especially heinous and shocking murder in which parents were murdered, leaving four young orphans. My heart is with the children, all of our hearts are with the children and the family. The killers knew that they were murdering a mother and father, the children were there."
Netanyahu said he would be speaking shortly with leading Israeli officials and vowed to take steps "not only to apprehend the murderers but also to increase security for all Israeli citizens."
President Reuven Rivlin released the following statement:
Tonight, bloodthirsty murderers claimed the lives of a mother and a father, leaving their young children orphaned. The heart breaks at the magnitude of such cruelty and hatred.
We will continue in our brave and unwavering fight against this cruel and heinous terrorism - of this our enemies can be sure. This is our duty, and the only way we can ensure the right of the orphans who lost their parents tonight, along with the right of all our children and grandchildren, to live with security and in peace, everywhere in the Land of Israel.
We pray for the speedy recovery of the injured children - our hearts and thoughts are with them.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog was also quick to respond to the news. "The murder in Samaria is reprehensible and very painful. I share in the family's grief and in the community's mourning," he tweeted.
Ministers Uri Ariel and Naftali Bennett also blamed Palestinian Authority incitement for the attack.
"The Palestinian leadership is responsible for the horrific murder; it's the killing of Jews because they are Jews," Bennett said. "It has to be said clearly: This is the end of the era of the Palestinian state."
"This murderous occurrence which orphaned four little children is the direct result of Abu Mazen's litany of lies last night at the United Nations," said Ariel. "The responsibility is his and he must answer for it."
However, MK Tzipi Livni, the former justice minister who was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the negotiations with the Palestinians, condemned the attack. She said that while the entire country is mourning the couple and devastated for their now-orphaned children, the incident should not be used as a political tool.
Hamas praised the double murder, and called on activists in the West Bank to carry out additional terrorist attacks.
September 30, 2015
Russia launched airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, catching U.S. and Western officials off guard and drawing new condemnation as evidence suggested Moscow wasn't targeting extremist group Islamic State, but rather other opponents of Bashar al-Assad's regime.
One of the airstrikes hit an area primarily held by rebels backed by the Central Intelligence Agency and allied spy services, U.S. officials said, catapulting the Syrian crisis to a new level of danger and uncertainty.
Moscow's entry means the world's most powerful militaries-including the U.S., Britain and France-now are flying uncoordinated combat missions, heightening the risk of conflict in the skies over Syria.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Russia's approach to the Syrian war-defending Mr. Assad while ostensibly targeting extremists-was tantamount to "pouring gasoline on the fire."
"I have been dealing with them for a long time. And this is not the kind of behavior that we should expect professionally from the Russian military," Mr. Carter said at a Pentagon news conference.
Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign MinisterSergei Lavrov and said he raised U.S. concerns about attacks that target regime opponents other than Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In Syria's multi-sided war, Mr. Assad's military-aided by Iran and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah-is fighting both Islamic State and opposition rebel groups, some of which are supported by the U.S. and its allies.
Speaking alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the United States and Russia have agreed to hold a military meeting as soon as possible to avoid any direct collisions or exchanges of fire in Syria, where both the U.S. and Russia are now conducting airstrikes.
Mr. Kerry said the U.S. and Russia need to hold military talks as soon as possible and Mr. Lavrov said he agreed.
The U.S. and its allies were angry at the Russians on many scores: that they are supporting Mr. Assad; that they aren't coordinating their actions with the existing, U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition; that they provided terse notice only an hour before their operations; that they demanded the U.S. coalition stay out of Syrian airspace; and that they struck in areas where anti-Assad rebels-not Islamic State-operate.
"It does appear that they were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces, and that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach," said Mr. Carter, the U.S. defense chief.
U.S. officials said it was unclear if Moscow directly targeted a location held by the CIA-backed fighters in western Syria because of their association with the U.S.'s covert program to fund, arm and train the rebels.
Officials said it was also unclear if any U.S.-backed fighters were killed in the strike. A CIA spokesman declined to comment.
Russia said its initial strikes inside Syria on Wednesday were aimed at Islamic State targets. But senior U.S. officials cast doubt on those claims.
The U.S. spy agency has been arming and training rebels in Syria since 2013 to fight the Assad regime. Rebels who receive support under a separate arming and training program run by the Pentagon weren't in areas targeted by Russia in its initial strikes, the officials said.
The combination of unpredictable, unilateral action that flouted Western exhortations posed an unmistakable resemblance to Ukraine, where Mr. Putin moved to annex the Crimea region and has defied international demands to halt its support for separatists.
Mr. Putin's decision-making in Syria mirrors the way he has approached Ukraine, said Andrew Weiss, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"He deliberately tries to do things to throw opponents off balance and he's always trying to get some sort of element of surprise and tactical advantage over people, that's sort of what keeps him going is this constant springing surprises and flipping events in his favor," said Mr. Weiss, who worked on Russia policy in the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.
Russia is also playing a greater military role in Iraq, which is threatened by Islamic State and aided by the U.S.-led coalition. Iraq agreed this week to share intelligence with Russia, the Syrian regime and Iran to counter Islamic State.
Iraqi Prime MinisterHaider al-Abadi said he would welcome Russian airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq as long as they are coordinated with the U.S.-led coalition.
"If the Russians are prepared to join the international coalition, which is helping Iraq, they're welcome," he said in a PBS interview.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the first indications he had on the Russian strikes is that they didn't target areas controlled by Islamic State. At a United Nations summit in New York, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the targets were still unclear.
"They are the first Russian airstrikes as far as we're aware, so the selection of targets won't have been accidental or random," he said. "If they are clearly ISIL targets far away from any regime activity, that will send one signal," he said. "If they are targets that look more like defense of regime forces than attack on ISIL forces, that will send a very different signal."
American officials were taken aback by Russia's decision to announce the strikes by sending a three-star Russian general to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday. The general gave U.S. officials an hour's notice before he arrived, delivered the message that Russia was going to start bombing, said American aircraft should get out of Syrian airspace and left, American officials said.
One defense official called it "unprofessional." Another called it unproductive.
U.S. officials said they didn't alter their airstrike and surveillance missions over Syria as a result of Russia's attacks. But the lack of coordination makes it more challenging to avoid potential confrontations.
U.S. defense officials said they are still trying to set up meetings with their Russian counterparts to discuss ways to prevent a direct conflict between the two global military powers. But Wednesday's attacks cast a shadow over the hopes for the discussions.
"You've got to have a willing partner to come to the table and tell you the truth," said a senior military official.
Russia has built up its military presence in Syria in recent weeks to support Mr. Assad after he suffered a series of battlefield setbacks and acknowledged publicly that he could no longer hold on to all of the country after more than four years of war. During the buildup, Moscow said its intent was to fight Islamic State and conflated opponents of the regime with terrorists.
U.S. defense officials said that Russia now has 32 planes stationed at an airfield near the Syrian coast. Along with jet fighters, Russia has 16 helicopters, nine tanks, at least two surface-to-air missile defense systems and enough housing for up to 2,000 people, U.S. officials said.
Moscow and Syrian state media claimed Russia's initial strikes hit areas under Islamic State control. The Syrian state news agency said the targets were in the central provinces of Homs and Hama. However, most of the areas that state media listed as targets aren't known to be Islamic State-held territory.
Airstrikes on Wednesday also struck the ancient city of Palmyra and the nearby village of Qaryatain in Homs province, both held by Islamic State. However, it wasn't immediately clear whether they were Syrian regime or Russian bombings. Syrian state media claimed they were carried out by Mr. Assad's air force. Anti-Assad activists on the ground said they were more powerful than any regime airstrikes until now, leading them to believe they were Russian.
Among seven areas that Syrian state media listed as targets of Russian strikes, only one-an area east of the town of Salamiyah in Hama province-has a known presence of Islamic State fighters. The other areas listed are largely dominated by moderate rebel factions or Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.
Defense officials criticized Russia's decision to hit Homs instead of somewhere like Raqqa, the de facto Islamic State capital in northeastern Syria.
"This is not downtown Raqqa," one senior defense official said of the areas Russian planes hit. "This is not an ISIL stronghold."
Syrian activists said the town of Talbiseh, about 10 miles north of the city of Homs, along with several surrounding villages bore the brunt of the bombardment. The area has been besieged by regime forces for several years.
At least 27 people, including six children and five women, were killed in the strikes on Talbiseh, opposition activists said.
The dominant factions in Talbiseh and the nearby town of al-Rastan are tied to the Free Syrian Army, the Western-backed rebel umbrella group that includes many Syrian army defectors.
The commander of one FSA faction named Tajamu al-Ezzeh said Russian warplanes targeted his fighters in Hama province, according to a video statement released by the group. It wasn't possible to independently verify the claim.
Video filmed by people affiliated with local rebel groups and posted on YouTube showed the aftermath of the airstrikes in Talbiseh. In one video, rebels and citizens are seen rushing down a street as thick black smoke and fire engulfed heavily damaged buildings. Then they are shown attempting to rescue those trapped under the rubble. A dazed man covered in blood was lifted up from the ground and taken outside.
"Is there anyone here?" a voice is heard shouting. "I don't know, I don't know but lots of people live here!" answers a panicked man.
In another video a naked child covered in blood and shrapnel is shown crying on a bed at a local field hospital.
September 29, 2015
The parade of dictators and despots taking the U.N. stage on Monday, as the organization marks its 70th anniversary, was nothing short of spectacular. As were the lies they told without batting an eye to a friendly and respectful audience. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has his hand out for an additional $20 billion this year, so let's look at what American taxpayers are getting for their large chunk (one-quarter) of the U.N's bills.
Xi Jinping, President of China, said "we must endeavor to meet" the goals of "democracy and freedom." Meanwhile, he is an iron-fisted ruler of an undemocratic state where 1.3 billion people languish without civil and political rights.
Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, said that without the U.N. - "unique in its legitimacy" - "we would be left with no other rules than the rule of force." This from a megalomaniac who gobbled up Crimea and now occupies other parts of Eastern Ukraine by force. Putin also said, "Everything that contravenes the U.N. Charter must be rejected." Except apparently Chapter 1, article 1, which commits the organization to maintaining international peace and security and suppressing acts of aggression.
Raúl Castro, president of Cuba, said: "The international community can always depend on Cuba to raise its honest voice against injustice . . . and for . . . international order that really focuses on the human being, his dignity and well-being." No matter that the Castro brothers have denied elementary freedoms to the people of Cuba for more than half a century.
Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, said that "respecting and upholding human rights is the obligation of all states" and that "now is our time to leave our own positive mark in the history of human development." A racist ruthless tyrant, Mugabe spent decades raping and pillaging Africa's breadbasket until it was a basket case.
Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, emir of Qatar, said: "We affirm our commitment to fight terrorism," adding that Qatar is "pursuing an approach based on the rule of law, transparency, justice, and human dignity." This polygamist bankroller of Hamas, with close ties to the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood, inherited the country - like his father before him - as a family business.
And then there was Hassan Rouhani, president of Iran, who described his rise to power this way: "Two years ago, the people of Iran in a competitive election with their votes gave me a mandate." It was an election in which 686 candidates tried to register, eight were allowed to run, and every woman was disqualified.
Rouhani continued: "We propose . . . no country be allowed to use terrorism." These are the words of the leading state sponsor of terrorism. "Iran . . . has never had the intention of producing a nuclear weapon," he claimed. But in the words of the IAEA: "Iran has carried out activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device." To top it off, Rouhani threw in some deep-rooted anti-Semitism: "The inhumane actions of the Zionist regime" lay at the "roots of today's wars, destruction, and terror."
The current prevailing opinion in state departments, foreign ministries, and college lecture halls is that all this is unsurprising, irrelevant, and harmless hot air. That claim, however, is harder to sustain after listening to the U.N. chief whose outlook and behavior is fashioned in the image of these thugs.
The secretary-general condemned Israel before he thought to criticize "Da'esh [ISIS], Boko Haram, and Al-Shabab." He worried that "the fight against terror" and terror itself were a "cycle" of human-rights abuses. Democracy merited one mention near the end of his remarks.
It's Barack Obama, though, who provided the most pitiful image. Casting but a shadow of America's former self on the world stage, he stepped into this moral morass for the seventh time in his presidency.
He said: "Democracy in the United States is certainly imperfect. At times, it can even be dysfunctional." And for the umpteenth time in his tenure, he trotted out the warmongering, trigger-happy, American straw man: "We see an argument made that the only strength that matters for the United States is bellicose words and shows of military force." Said no American ever.
The president belittled his opposition at home with his most revealing statement of all: "We see in our debates about America's role in the world a notion of strength that is defined by opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries, a rising China, or a resurgent Russia; a revolutionary Iran, or an Islam that is incompatible with peace." Since when are China, Russia, revolutionary Iran - still holding American hostages - and the self-proclaimed Islamist brand that is actually incompatible with peace, only "perceived" adversaries?
Obama's fibs are no less toxic than those of the men who took the U.N. podium when he was done. He boasted, "The last two decades prov[e] that in today's world, dictatorships are unstable." If we're not counting Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Raúl Castro, Hassan Rouhini, Robert Mugabe, and Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani (and more) - since these tyrants alone are the living embodiment of five decades to the contrary. Bad guys rarely go quietly into that good night.
The president conceded that Iran, "as of this moment, continues to deploy violent proxies." But his response was surreal: "Chanting 'Death to America' does not create jobs." The U.N. at 70 is an institution where the big lie wins, so it falls to an American president to be - at the very least - a truth-teller.
The U.N. at 70 is akin to a false God whose devotees are the morally bankrupt, intimidated, neutered, or ashamed.
Shame on us if it turns 71.