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UN Mideast envoy calls for de-escalation of Temple Mount tensions

Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov says ‘moderate voices’ should speak up against those trying to fuel unrest.

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Nikolay Mladenov
UN Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov, February 9, 2015 (CC BY-SA Ottokars, Wikipedia)

The United Nations’ special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov expressed concern on Thursday regarding the “recent surge in tensions and violence” at the Temple Mount.

The statement comes nearly a week after a deadly terror attack at the holy site by three Arab Israelis who killed two Israeli policeman, setting off days of unrest in the Israeli capital.

“I am deeply concerned by the recent surge in tensions and violence around the holy esplanade in the Old City of Jerusalem,” Mladenov said in a statement, calling on “all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation.”

The UN envoy said he welcomed repeated Israeli assurances that the status quo at the Temple Mount would be upheld — amid Palestinian accusations that the Israeli government was trying to change the delicate balance at the site where Israel controls access and the Waqf Islamic trust set up by Jordan administers activities inside the compound. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit but are prohibited from prayer.

“I welcome the commitment of Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to uphold and respect the status quo at the holy sites, and Palestinian [Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas’ firm condemnation of violence, specifically the deadly attack on two Israeli policemen on 14 July,” he said.

Abbas denounced the attack but also slammed the Israeli government for its two-day closure of the site — known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif compound, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock sanctuary — following the attack and Israel’s subsequent security installations including metal detectors and cameras when it reopened Sunday. The Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews, as the site of the biblical temples, and the third holiest for Muslims, as the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The increased security measures were taken after police said the three Arab Israeli attackers who emerged armed from the compound and shot dead two police officers just outside on Friday had stashed their weapons on the holy site.

Border police officers guard near metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, July 16, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Border police officers guard near metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 16, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Thursday, police released video footage showing how the killers and an accomplice got the guns into the Temple Mount compound.

Muslim worshipers have been protesting the new security measures, saying the move breaks the status quo agreement between Jerusalem and Amman, a charge Israel has rejected.

Abbas’s Fatah party also organized a “Day of Rage” on Wednesday against the move, with rioters clashing with Israeli police at sites around Jerusalem.

Waqf officials have boycotted the site in protest and have called on other Muslims to do the same. Several clashes have broken out following protest prayers next to the metal detectors.

Officials are worried that tensions may come to a head on Friday — the Muslim holy day — should the metal detectors remain in place.

Muslim worshipers shout slogans at the Lions' Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Muslim worshipers shout slogans at the Lions’ Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Mladenov, however, said Thursday he hoped Netanyahu’s and Abbas’s “affirmations will contribute to resolving the concerns of all parties and put an end to the provocative rhetoric that has added to the escalation over the past week.”

He also made special note of the role of Jordan “and the historical role of King Abdullah II, as custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem” in helping to de-escalate tensions.

Tensions between Israel and Jordan, who signed a peace treaty in 1994, have been high since the attack amid an Israeli investigation into suspicions the three terrorists who carried out the attack last week received help from Waqf officials. Israel has also strongly rejected a statement by the Jordanian parliament speaker who praised the terrorists — all from the northern Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm — saying they had “sowed and watered the pure land” and hailing “the sacrifice of the young Palestinians who are still fighting in the name of the nation.”

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein lashed out at the Jordanian official in a video message this week, saying: “It’s inconceivable that such a senior figure from a country we have peace with would dare encourage the murder of Israeli citizens. If you’re unable to condemn terror attacks, just keep quiet.”

The Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, meanwhile, said the key to restoring calm is to have Israel respect the “historic and legal status” at the shrine. Safadi told ambassadors from Europe and Asia that ending tensions is in the hands of Israel which he said should immediately reopen the shrine without any hindrances, according to a report in the Jordanian news agency Petra.

Mladenov said he called “on all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation and on moderate voices to speak up against those who try to fuel tensions.”

Source : The Times of Israel

Middle East

Khashoggi’s private WhatsApp messages may offer new clues

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journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Washington, Dec 3 : Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in over 400 WhatsApp messages that he sent to a fellow Saudi exile before he was murdered in October, described Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as a “beast” and a “pac-man” who would devour all in his path, even his supporters, a media report said.

Khashoggi had sent the texts to Montreal-based activist Omar Abdulaziz, the CNN report said on Monday.

The messages shared by Abdulaziz, which include voice recordings, photos and videos, paint a picture of a man deeply troubled by what he regarded as the petulance of the Crown Prince.

“The more victims he eats, the more he wants,” says Khashoggi in one message sent in May, just after a group of Saudi activists had been rounded up.

“I will not be surprised if the oppression will reach even those who are cheering him on.”

In almost daily exchanges between October 2017 and August 2018, Khashoggi and Abdulaziz conceived plans to form an electronic army to engage young Saudis back home and debunk state propaganda on social media, leveraging Khashoggi’s establishment profile and the 27-year-old Abdulaziz’s 340,000-strong Twitter following.

“(Jamal]) believed that MBS (the Crown Prince) is the issue, is the problem and he said this kid should be stopped,” Abdulaziz said in an interview with CNN on Sunday.

But in August, when he believed their conversations may have been intercepted by Saudi authorities, a sense of foreboding descends over Khashoggi.

“God help us,” he wrote.

Two months later, he was dead.

Abdulaziz on Sunday launched a lawsuit against an Israeli company that invented the software he believes was used to hack his phone.

“The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say,” Abdelaziz told CNN. “The guilt is killing me.”

Abdulaziz began speaking out against the Saudi regime as a college student in Canada. His pointed criticisms of government policies drew the attention of the Saudi state, which cancelled his university scholarship.

Canada granted him asylum in 2014 and made him a permanent resident three years later.

Abdulaziz first spoke publicly about his contact with Khashoggi last month after researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab reported his phone had been hacked by military-grade spyware.

IANS

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Middle East

U.S.-led coalition fires missiles at Syria’s military positions in eastern country

According to the report, the missiles targeted some military positions south of the town of Sukhneh in central Syria

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Damascus, Dec 3 : The US-led coalition fires several missiles on military sites in central Syria on Sunday evening, causing damages only, state-run SANA news agency reported.

According to the report, the missiles targeted some military positions south of the town of Sukhneh in central Syria, Xinhua news agency reported.

It said the attack left material losses only.

 

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Middle East

US sanctions 17 Saudi officials over killing of Khashoggi

The sanctions were handed down after Saudi Arabia’s attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said Thursday that he would seek the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection with the journalist’s death.

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journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Washington, Nov 16 (IANS) The United States’ government on Thursday sanctioned 17 Saudi Arabian officials for their alleged role in the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul early last month.

Among those sanctioned by the US Treasury Department is Saud al-Qahtani, one of the chief advisers to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Efe reported.

“The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi (on October 2). These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying in a press release.

“The government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists,” he added.

The US Treasury Department accused al-Qahtani of helping to plan and execute the operation that led to the killing of Khashoggi.

The other people hit with sanctions are Saudi Arabia’s consul general, Mohammed al-Otaibi; al-Qahtani’s subordinate, Maher Mutreb, who allegedly coordinated and executed the operation; and 14 others who purportedly participated in the crime.

“As a result of these designations, any property or interests in property of the individuals designated today within or transiting US jurisdiction is blocked,” Thursday’s press release said.

“Additionally, US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with blocked persons, including entities 50 percent or more owned by designated persons.”

The sanctions were handed down after Saudi Arabia’s attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said Thursday that he would seek the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection with the journalist’s death.

In a press conference in Riyadh, the top prosecutor said the crown prince had not had any prior knowledge of the operation.

Al-Mojeb said the investigation had shown that Khashoggi, a government critic and Washington Post columnist, died after being restrained and injected with a tranquilizer following a fight inside the consulate.

His body was then dismembered and handed over to a Turkish collaborator, the attorney general said.

Al-Mojeb said the then-deputy head of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, had masterminded the operation that was intended to get Khashoggi back to the kingdom.

He added that the order for the killing was given by the head of the delegation of agents that had traveled to Turkey, although he did not name that individual.

Khashoggi, long a part of the Saudi establishment, became estranged from Riyadh as a result of his criticism of the crown prince and had been living in self-imposed exile in the US since 2017.

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