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US may seek longer stay in Syria to create quasi-state: Lavrov — Zio-Watch, February 16, 2018

From PressTV

US may seek longer stay in Syria to create quasi-state: Russia

Tue Feb 13, 2018 03:18PM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned of a possible plan by the United States to continue its military presence in Syria for a long term in an attempt to create a “quasi-state” in the eastern areas of the country.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Lavrov criticized the US for its “completely different” position with regard to its future military presence in Syria, adding, “We have a suspicion…. that the United States wants to stay there for a long time, if not forever.”

“The Americans, in my opinion … are trying to act by dangerous unilateral steps. And by the way, these steps look more and more like part of a line for creating a certain quasi-state on a large part of the Syrian territory — on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and up to the Iraqi border,” he added.

Moscow and Washington support opposing sides in the Syrian conflict. Russia assists the Syrian government and has been carrying out an aerial bombardment campaign against terrorist positions in Syria.

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

The military alliance has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of achieving its declared goal of destroying Daesh.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Italian counterpart in Moscow on February 1, 2018. (AFP photo)

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From PressTV

Tillerson skipping Israel in Middle East tour

Mon Feb 12, 2018 03:02PM

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in Cairo, Egypt, beginning a trip through the Middle East as he faces confrontational talks at almost every stop on his five-country tour.

Tillerson started his trip on Sunday, but a key US ally, Israel, is conspicuously absent from his itinerary.

When the trip was first announced this week, with stops in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Kuwait, Israeli politicians rebuked Tillerson for skipping Israel.

“The consistent absence of the Secretary of State [from] Israel is probably unprecedented,” former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro tweeted.

Shapiro called Tillerson not stopping in Israel a “mistake” and tweeted it was “yet another blow to Tillerson’s credibility as an authoritative voice for US policy.”

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, Tillerson said Washington remained committed to achieving a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel.

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From PressTV

Russia says five of its citizens may have been killed by US warplanes in Syria

Thu Feb 15, 2018 05:49PM

Moscow says five Russian citizens may have been killed in recent attacks by US warplanes on pro-government forces in the eastern Syrian province of Dayr al-Zawr.

Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, emphasized in a briefing in the capital Moscow on Thursday that the five victims weren’t Russian servicemen.

“According to preliminary information, five people, presumably Russian citizens, may have been killed in combat, the circumstances of which are being clarified,” media outlets quoted Zakharova as saying.

“Some others have been injured, and it’s still necessary to check whether they are citizens of Russia or other nations,” the spokeswoman noted.

This marks the first time Russian and US combatants have become directly engaged in combat in Syria.

The US-led coalition in Syria attacked pro-Damascus forces in Dayr al-Zawr on February 7 in what it claimed to be defensive strikes.

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From PressTV

NATO defense ministers agree to US demand for larger Iraq deployment

Fri Feb 16, 2018 10:18AM

NATO has agreed to deploy a larger military mission to Iraq after the US urged the Western military alliance to look into a long-term stay in the Arab country only after the defeat of the Daesh terror group there.

At a Thursday meeting in Brussels, NATO defense ministers reached an agreement to expand the alliance’s small mission in Iraq with the aim of providing “training” and “advice” to Iraqi armed forces.

The agreement was a positive response to a formal request sent to NATO last month by US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

“We will go to a consistent mission in Iraq,” Mattis told a news conference.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that not maintaining such mission on the ground would open the doors for resurgent terrorism.

He attributed the rise of Daesh in Iraq to the withdrawal in 2011 of the US military from the country.
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From PressTV

Tillerson, Erdogan meet amid heightened strain over Operation Olive Branch

Fri Feb 16, 2018 01:28AM

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have had a meeting as relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partners have frayed in the wake of Ankara’s ongoing cross-border offensive in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

A Turkish presidential source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the top US diplomat and the Turkish leader sought ways to improve strained ties during their Thursday meeting in Ankara, which lasted for more than three hours behind closed doors.

The source noted that Erdogan conveyed his priorities and expectations on Syria, and also discussed Iraq, regional developments and the fight against terror with the US secretary of state.

Moreover, a US State Department spokesman travelling with Tillerson said the top US diplomat and Turkey had a “productive and open” talk.

“The two engaged in a productive and open conversation about a mutually beneficial way forward in the US-Turkey relationship,” he said.

Ahead of the meeting, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli told reporters at a news briefing in the Belgian capital city of Brussels that Ankara expects Washington to expel the YPG from the US-backed alliance of Arab and Kurdish militants, known as the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Turkish forces wave a flag on Mount Barsaya, northeast of Afrin, Syria, January 28, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

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From PressTV

Tillerson: Hezbollah ‘part of political process’ in Lebanon

Wed Feb 14, 2018 08:58PM

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah is “part of political process” in the country.

“We support a free, democratic Lebanon free of influence of others, and we know that Lebanese Hezbollah is influenced by Iran. This is influence that we think is unhelpful in Lebanon’s long-term future,” he said at a press conference in Jordan on Wednesday. “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon.”

Tillerson’s comments reflect a sharp contrast against the United States’ long held stance in favor of Israel and against Hezbollah.

That could have been the reason why US Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein rushed to assert later that Lebanon “would be better off without Hezbollah’s terrorism and malign influence.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signs a guest book before a meeting in Amman on February 14, 2018. (Photo by AFP) 

“We will continue our efforts at strengthening those institutions that bolster Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability,” Goldstein told journalists.

Washington claims that the resistance movement condones terrorism despite the fact that Hezbollah has been involved in a fierce fight against Daesh terrorists in Syria.
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

State Department official: US and Israel are best friends forever

Heather Nauert at Fox Studios in New York City, April 17, 2014. (Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

(JTA) — A State Department official just compared the U.S.-Israel alliance to her relationship with a BFF from junior high. Really.

But first, a little background.

Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, is on a Middle East tour this week. His stops include Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Egypt. One of his main topics is Israeli-Palestinian peace. Another is the Syrian civil war, which over the weekend drew Israel into a fight against Iranian-Syrian forces.

Notice an anomaly? Tillerson isn’t stopping in Israel. Others have noticed. Some, like former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, thinks that sends the wrong signal to antagonists and allies in the region.
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

The Jewish sheriff leading the response to the Florida school shooting quotes the Talmud

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel speaking at a news conference near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 15, 2018. Seventeen people were killed there a day earlier by a lone gunman. (Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

(JTA) — As he leads the police response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is likely enduring some of the toughest days of his career. And he’s probably looking to his Judaism to guide him through it.

Israel is the county’s first Jewish sheriff, and it’s an identity he has embraced. A 2016 campaign flier reported on that year by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel centers on the role that faith in general, and Judaism in particular, plays in his life.

“My Jewish faith is a central part of my entire life,” the flier quotes Israel as saying. “My late father Sonny Israel fought in the Korean War and became a police officer because he believed in the call from the Talmud that ‘Whoever saves one life saves an entire world.’ Those words guided my brother and I, as we also became police officers.”

Israel is the sheriff in charge of the area that includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17  faculty and students were killed by a gunman on Wednesday. Israel’s children, triplets, had attended the school. In a videorecorded by a local NBC affiliate, he called the mass shooting a “horrific, homicidal, detestable act.”
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Netanyahu to meet with Trump in March

President Donald Trump, right, meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 18, 2017. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Donald Trump next month when he is in Washington to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.

“The President has a tremendous relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu and looks forward to meeting with him,” a White House official said Friday.

AIPAC earlier in the day announced that Netanyahu would speak at its annual March 4-6 policy conference in Washington. Also speaking is Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Mike Huckabee says US should follow Israel’s lead to prevent mass shootings. Twitter takes issue.

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee at Trump Tower in New York City, Nov. 18, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Mike Huckabee, the former Governor of Arkansas and current host of a cable chat show, reacted to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida Wednesday by comparing Israeli gun safety policy to America’s. Twitter was … skeptical.

“Just waking up in Israel to news of heartbreaking school shooting in FL,” Huckabee tweeted, hours after a gunman killed 17 during a rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “Reminded that Israel pretty much eliminated it by placing highly trained people strategically to spot the one common thread–not the weapon, but a person with intent. #PrayForParkland”

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From PressTV

1000s of Israeli protesters call for Netanyahu’s resignation over bribery

Fri Feb 16, 2018 03:00PM

Thousands of people have staged a demonstration in the occupied Palestinian territories to demand the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after police recommended he be charged with bribery in connection with illegal gifts he received from a number of wealthy businessmen.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 protesters rallied in a Tel Aviv square, some with signs saying “crooks go home” and “crime minister”.

“After the police gave their recommendation that the prime minister is suspected of bribery, we think he should disqualify himself until the sentence and he cannot be any longer the prime minister of Israel, he cannot deal with this anymore,” Shlomit Bar, 63, a retired music teacher said.

“I am here to call on him and say: ‘hey guy, go home’. On two counts: one, from a moral stand point, this is a disgrace to Israel, where a Prime Minister is suspected of such serious crimes; the second count is from a practical point of view … there is no way in hell he has the peace of mind to take sound decisions when he knows that around the corner there is a very serious jail time. He should go home, enough,” Oren Simon, another protester, said.

Israeli police investigators have been grilling Netanyahu for corruption over his involvement in cases 1000 and 2000.
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From PressTV

Military plane crashes in western Turkey, 2 pilots killed

Fri Feb 16, 2018 01:41PM

Two pilots have been killed when a Turkish military plane crashed in western Turkey during a training mission.

Turkey’s military said in a statement that the SF-260D light trainer plane crashed on Friday shortly after it took off from Cigli air base near the western port city of Izmir.

The wreckage of the stricken plane and the bodies of the pilots were found some three kilometers north of the base.

According to the statement, an investigation is underway to find out the cause of the crash.

Emergency and police vehicles were present at the crash site.

On January 17, two pilots and a technician were killed when a Turkish military cargo plane crashed in the southwestern province of Isparta. The jet was also on a training flight when it went down.
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From PressTV

Mass grave of 34 Daesh victims discovered in northern Syria

Fri Feb 16, 2018 01:35PM

Syrian government forces have discovered a mass grave containing the bodies of nearly three dozen people executed by members of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group near the country’s northern city of Raqqah.

A Syrian field commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Syria’s official news agency SANA on Friday that Syrian troopers made the discovery in the al-Ramthan area of the province, located about 455 kilometers (283 miles) northeast of the capital Damascus, and the grave has the corpses of 34 civilians and military personnel in it.

An unnamed civilian defense official said the bodies have been transferred to the military hospital in the northwestern city of Aleppo to be identified through DNA tests, and later returned to their families.

Syrian Forensic Medicine General Director Zaher Hajo told Arabic-language and pro-government al-Watan daily in early January that Daesh Takfiris had executed 10,000 people and buried their bodies in mass graves across Raqqah.

He stressed that his colleagues had confirmed the presence of 4,000 bodies in one single grave.

Hajo went on to say that Syrian Health Minister Nizar Yazigi has ordered the formation of a committee in order to collect the remains of the victims and transfer them to the military hospital in Aleppo.
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From PressTV

For African Jews, deportations reveal Israel’s racist face

Sun Feb 11, 2018 07:37AM

Thousands of immigrants and rights activists have rallied in Jerusalem al-Quds to protest an Israeli plan to deport 38,000 African asylum-seekers in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The protesters also included Israelis opposed to the deportation, holding signs with slogans such as “We are willing to accept refugees” and “Deportation kills”.

“We are going to tell people that we are not animals, we are not some supermarket things, we are human beings. Our brothers who are going to be sent from here to Rwanda, will be killed in Rwanda, in Uganda, in Libya,” said one of the activists.

Many of the immigrants crossed into Israel through the Sinai desert between 2006 and 2012, fleeing the harsh political conditions in Eritrea or genocide and war in Sudan.

The Tel Aviv regime has argued that these migrants are simply in Israel looking for work but human rights organizations say they are there out of fear of persecution in their home countries.

Israel has been promising mass deportations of African migrants for years but at the beginning of January it set a deadline, saying they had to either leave or face jail.
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Anti-Semitic hate speech incidents at all time high in Austria

(JTA) — A watchdog on anti-Semitism in Austria reported an increase in hate speech incidents and a decrease in physical assaults last year over 2016.

In its annual report Thursday, the Vienna-based Forum Against Anti-Semitism counted five cases of physical assault of people and 51 vandalism incidents in 2017. The previous year, the same watchdog documented seven assaults and 68 cases of vandalism.

But hate speech cases, including threats and insults on social media, climbed from 375 in 2016 to 402 last year, the report said.

In total, the Forum documented 503 cases in 2017, which it said in a statement is the highest tally on record. In 2016, the total number of incidents was 477.
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Circumcision ban will prevent Jewish community life in Iceland, Scandinavian Jews warn

(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The leaders of the Jewish communities of four Nordic countries said that a bill proposing to ban nonmedical circumcision in Iceland “will guarantee” that no Jewish community is established there.

The presidents of the umbrella groups of Jewish communities in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland issued the unusual warning Tuesday in an open letter to all Icelandic lawmakers in reaction to the submission last month of a bill proposing to ban all nonmedical circumcision of boys younger than 18 in Iceland, a Scandinavian island nation of some 300,000 people with a few hundred Jews and Muslims.

Lawmakers from four parties with 46 percent of the seats in parliament, including the ruling party, co-authored the bill.
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Conservative rabbis call on Israel to admit Kenyan convert

(JTA) — Conservative rabbis have called on Israel to allow a Kenyan convert to study at its yeshiva in Jerusalem.

A visa application submitted by Yehudah Kimani last week was rejected by the country’s Interior Ministry. It is the second time that Kimani has been denied entrance to the country.

“Kimani is a Jew, converted to our religion by Conservative rabbis, and is eligible to become a citizen of Israel according to the country’s own Law of Return,” the Rabbinical Assembly said in a statement issued Monday.

Kimani is a member of the Abayudaya community of converts from Uganda. It is recognized as a Jewish community by the Jewish Agency for Israel, but not by the Interior Ministry.
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Virgin Atlantic Airlines called a couscous dish Palestinian, and people got very upset

A Virgin Airways plane at Heathrow Airport in London, Oct. 11, 2016. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Not even couscous is safe from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For decades, Israelis and Palestinians have fought over land. They’ve fought over history. They’ve fought over holy sites and religious doctrine and water sources. Now, apparently, they’re fighting over the delicious grain dish that I always buy when I go to the supermarket, because it costs three bucks and takes five minutes to cook.

(Full disclosure: When I report on Israelis and Palestinians, I do my best to stay objective. But in this particular story, my sympathies are with the couscous.)

Virgin Atlantic, the international airline, made the fateful mistake of putting Palestinian-style couscous salad on their in-flight menu and calling it … “Palestinian couscous salad.”
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Amy Schumer weds chef Chris Fischer in private ceremony

(Amy Schumer/Instagram)

(JTA) — Comedian and producer Amy Schumer got married to chef Chris Fischer in a small ceremony in Malibu, California.

Actors Larry David, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Lawrence and were among the approximately 80 guests present at the reception Tuesday, according to People Magazine.

The “Trainwreck” and “Snatched” star shared photos of the nuptials Thursday on Instagram, complete with a tutu-wearing pooch on her aisle, according to the Associated Press. The couple also participated in the Jewish wedding tradition of breaking glass.
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From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Mom of Jewish girl killed in Florida shooting begs Trump: ‘Please do something’

Alyssa Alhadeff (Oregon Youth Soccer Association/Facebook)

(JTA) — The mother of a 14-year-old Jewish girl killed in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, has a heartbreaking but powerful message for President Donald Trump.

Alyssa Alhadeff was among the 17 people shot to death by a lone gunman who entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday afternoon. At least four other Jews, three students and a teacher, were among the victims.

In an intensely emotional interview with CNN, Lori Alhadeff yelled at the camera and begged Trump to take action.
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