B’TSELEM: Israeli politician calls for Gaza human rights group to be shut down

Jerusalem – VIJAY SHAH via the Jerusalem Post

An Israeli politician has called on the country’s most senior government lawyer to dismantle a human rights organisation in the country after its leader spoke up on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Nava Boker, a member of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) allied with the secular centre-right Likud party, issued a request to the Attorney General, Aluf Avichai Mandelblit, to order the closing down of human rights group B’Tselem after its director-general, Hagai El-Ad, spoke on the Palestinian crisis in front of the United Nations Security Council this past Thursday.


Boker also appealed to the Israeli Corporations Authority, which regulates businesses and non-profits in the country, to close down the charity run by El-Ad. The minister claimed that B’Tselem is anti-national and anti-democratic. After El-Ad made his speech, he was called a ‘wretched collaborator’ by the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, the Post reported.

El-Ad responded to the mudslinging from the ambassador by stating: “I am not a traitor, nor am I a hero,”

“The heroes are the Palestinians who endure this occupation with courage and perseverance; who wake up in the middle of the night to find soldiers barging into their homes; who know that if a loved one is killed, impunity is all but guaranteed to the perpetrators; who stay on their land knowing that it is only a matter of time before the bulldozers arrive.”

The charity’s head also responded to the demands for his organisation’s shuttering by Boker. He said: “We would be happy to close B’Tselem and our initiative after the end of the occupation, not a minute earlier,”

“Until then, we invite members of Knesset and the general public to join us in the struggle to end it.”

B’Tselem, also known by its official English name of the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, was founded in 1989 to document violations of international law and human rights in the Palestinian Territories as well as foster the development of a human rights culture within Israel.


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“LIKUD MK CALLS ON ATTORNEY GENERAL TO DISMANTLE B’TSELEM” – KYC Israel, KYC Israel Research Services Ltd https://www.kycisrael.com/likud-mk-calls-on-attorney-general-to-dismantle-btselem/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

“LIKUD MK CALLS ON ATTORNEY GENERAL TO DISMANTLE B’TSELEM” – The Jerusalem Post/Jpost Inc. (21 October 2018) https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Likud-MK-calls-on-attorney-general-to-dismantle-BTselem-569884


“Hagai El-Ad, Samer Badawi, and Leila Hilal” – New America, Flickr (17 September 2014) https://www.flickr.com/photos/newamerica/15267818722


IJNET: Mentoring clinic for MENA media startups launched



The International Journalists’ Network (IJNet)’s Arabic division has launched a new service from its mentoring centre designed to help journalists in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region set up or further develop their media startups, the International Center for Journalists has reported.

The year-long programme, aimed at entrepreneurs developing the next generation of technologically-rich Arabic media, aims to help develop new startups in the regional news economy by providing face-to-face and virtual training which culminates in a conference and media ‘boot camp’ hosted in Jordan. IJNet Arabic is also offering a lump sum seed fund of USD 4,000 (GBP 3,002) to startups with the most promising projects to jumpstart.

IJNet’s Mentoring Centre has run for several years, boosting the presence of independent media and entrepreneurship in a part of the world where most major media outlets are tightly controlled government mouthpieces and freedom of speech is often a luxury. In previous years, the Centre has helped support the development of a digital museum for women in Egypt, an independent Iraqi news agency site and a Moroccan podcast service. 

The media startup mentoring service is accepting applications from journalists from or located in the MENA region up until the end of this month, with the first round of project selections scheduled for June, followed in November by the ARIJ conference and boot camp in Amman in Jordan. The seed funding will be awarded at the end of the programme in March 2019.


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“IJNet Arabic’s Mentoring Center for MENA Media Startups” – International Center for Journalists https://www.icfj.org/our-work/ijnet-arabic%E2%80%99s-mentoring-center-mena-media-startups

BAHRAIN ACTIVISTS: Human rights group appeals for release of detained brothers


As the government of Bahrain is being slammed for widespread human rights violations against protesters calling for greater transparency and democratic rights, a U.S. based charity is calling for the release of two young brothers detained by authorities in the Middle Eastern ‘oil state’ for activism and pro-democracy demands.


Activist group Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) has recently released a statement calling for Bahrain to release siblings Ahmed AlArab, aged 27, and Ali AlArab, 25 years who are facing life imprisonment as well as possible death sentences. According to the charity, the AlArab brothers were arrested and tortured by authorities in connection with a prison escape from the Jau correctional centre near the capital Manama, in January 2017. According to Al Jazeera news network, armed men attacked the prison where several anti-government protesters were detained, killing one security guard and setting free an unknown number of the jailed.

Ahmed AlArab, a former nursing student, has been repeatedly put in jail over his political activism, calling for greater rights and freedoms for Bahraini citizens and was said to have been regularly harassed by security forces before his latest arrest. He was said to have been tortured for 21 consecutive days at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and forced to confess to criminal activity, according to ADHRB. His right to a fair trial was violated and was even stripped of his citizenship, despite being a native Bahraini.

Ahmed’s brother Ali was himself arrested on 9th of February, 2018 by security agents of the Ministry of Interior while visiting a friend. He was also taken to Criminal Investigations Directorate headquarters where, it is alleged, he was forced to sign a confession while blindfolded. He was then transferred to another detention facility, named the Dry Dock, where he underwent torture, and was beaten by guards there for refusing to bow down and kiss a guard’s boot. It is also claimed Ali’s toenails were ripped off, and his injuries were bad enough to prevent him from walking or praying, necessitating a visit to the prison clinic.

In a mass trial held at the end of January, Ali was sentenced to death for the killing of the security guard at Jau prison a year previously and was also stripped of his passport. His trial was not held under fair legal rulings, with lawyers warned off taking on Ali’s case and Ali himself not allowed to receive legal counsel.

ADHRB condemned the actions of Bahrain’s government, citing that the Gulf emirate is a signatory of many international legal frameworks, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Both of these treaties are said to have been violated in the case of the treatment and detention without proper trial of the activist brothers.

ADHRB ended their statement by calling on Bahrain to cancel the AlArabs’ convictions as they did not receive a fair trial and retry them under international treaty requirements. It also appealed for the AlArabs’ citizenship to be restored and for allegations of torture and maltreatment to be fully investigated, and the torturers to be brought to book.


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“Profiles in Persecution: Ahmed and Ali AlArab” – Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (16 February 2018) http://www.adhrb.org/2018/02/profiles-in-persecution-ahmed-and-ali-alarab/

SYRIA CONFLICT: Israeli fighter jet shot down in large-scale assault

Damascus – VIJAY SHAH via JUDITH VONBERG and The Independent

A fighter jet belonging to the Israeli air force participating in air strikes in Syria has reportedly been shot down while taking part in large scale anti-drone attacks against weaponry allegedly supplied by Iran, the UK’s Independent newspaper reported earlier today.

The Israel Defence Force (IDF) plane was part of a bombing raid on Iranian and Syrian-operated targets on Syrian soil including an aerial defence system. According to the Independent, the raid targeted twelve such targets, and the IDF reported that one of the F-16 bombers was knocked out, severely injuring the pilot. The crash took place in the north of Israel, close to the border with Syria. The pilot has been taken to hospital, according to armed forces sources.


Israel is said to have been plagued recently by drones operated by Iran crossing into its airspace. A drone was shot down early this morning and was seized by the Israeli military, which then authorised retaliatory raids on locations in southern Syria and just outside the capital Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war watchdog based in London, UK.

One raid attacked a base in the south of Syria said to be used by forces allied with the country’s president Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which is claimed receives funding and training from Iran’s government. Several soldiers and militants among the Syrians and Lebanese are reported to be among the casualties, although no toll has been published yet.

Syria is currently riveted by a multi-party civil war between various rebel groups and the official government of the Assad administration, with the UK, US, Israel, Russia and Iran also involved in the conflict on either side. Islamic State (Daesh) and Al Qaeda, two notorious Islamist groups have also inserted themselves into the calamity. 400,000 people have been killed so far in the civil war (up to April 2016), according to the United Nations, and hundred of thousands of refugees have fled Syria to escape the battles and bombings of civilian areas.


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“Israeli fighter jet shot down during large attack against targets in Syria” – Judith Vonberg, The Independent (10 February 2018) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-jet-shot-down-syria-large-scale-attack-aerial-defence-system-israeli-defence-force-a8203956.html?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook


“F-16 Fighting Falcon” – U.S. Air Force (23 September 2015) http://www.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/104505/f-16-fighting-falcon/



FIGHTBACK AGAINST DAESH: Syrian forces take back large areas of Manbij

Manbij, SYRIA
VIJAY SHAH via The Jerusalem Post & Reuters


In breaking news, the Israeli English-language newspaper The Jerusalem Post reports via the Reuters news agency that Syrian forces, with backing from the American military have succeeded in taking back forty per cent of the city of Manbij, which was previously part of the self-declared ‘caliphate’ of Daesh (so-called Islamic State). The city lies in the Aleppo governorate, thirty miles from the Euphrates river in north Syria, and is around 40-50 kilometres from the Turkish border.

Manbij had witnessed heavy fighting and casualties in the past few months as the Syrian Democratic Army and other forces had tried to retake it, with the help of US Special Forces. New advances by the Syrian forces have meant non-Daesh fighters now control just under half of Manbij’s terrirtory.

The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a one-man observation post for activities inside Syria, said that soldiers from the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), with help from controversial US air strikes, had succeeded in wresting back control of the eastern flank of Manbij, after making some slow advances in the western part. The US is also working with local Kurdish peshmerga and Arab allies in moping up the heavy resistance of Daesh. The alliance formed last year and since then has engaged in a campaign for the past two months aimed at driving out Daesh from its territories straddling the Syrian-Turkish frontier. The Daesh’s proximity to the Turkish border has been a headache for the country, with Daesh militants crossing it to perpetrate bombings on Turkish soil and border villages and towns regularly hit by the group’s artillery.

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
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“Report: US-backed forces now control 40 percent of IS-held city of Manbij” – Reuters via The Jerusalem Post – Breaking News/Jpost Inc. (31 July 2016) http://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Report-US-backed-forces-now-control-40-percent-of-IS-held-city-of-Manbij-462818
“A street view of Manbij city” – Jacky Lee, Panoramio via Wikipedia (22 September 2005) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manbij#/media/File:A_street_view_of_manbij_city_-_panoramio.jpg [CC BY 3.0]

IS FIGHTER RECRUITMENT: Sorry, we’re watching Netflix


When Iyad Al-Baghdadi, an author and Arab democracy activist, recently tweeted about leaders of Daesh (so-called Islamic State) putting out an audio release calling for more fighters to join them in Iraq and Syria, as you would probably would not expect, the response from the Twittersphere was quite hilarious and served to ridicule the very nature of that organisation. Daesh, which has taken over large parts of the two Middle Eastern states have become notorious for their violence, sadism and religious and racial discrimination. This fightback by ordinary tweeters of the Muslim faith is especially relevant considering the strong presence of Daesh and other terrorist groups of all persuasions on Twitter, where accounts are used to disseminate propaganda and appeal for finances and fighters. The actions of Daesh and their supporters have led to a backlash against the everyday Muslim, many whom are resolutely against IS. A small victory against both Islamic State and Islamophobes by the wits of Twitter.

(c) @BestOfPugs

The following are the original comment from Al-Baghdadi and the amusing responses that followed:

Iyad Al-Baghdadi – ISIS leaders: We urgently call upon every Muslim to join the fight, especially those in the land of the two shrines (Saudi Arabia), rise.

Saladin Ahmed – Sorry, busy eating pie and playing video games with my kids.

Mohamed Djingo – Sorry, I am busy watching Netflix.

Idris – Sorry bruh it’s leg day tomorrow and I’ll be sore.

Tayyib ‘T’ Nawaz – Is ISIS going to help me with my assignments due in next week ?

Subhi – I’m behind in college credits as it is and I would rather drink bleach tbh  (to be honest)

Ismail – Sorry lads, got a decent Football Manager save going atm (at the moment)

Saadat Ali Zia – I’ve got Star Wars on Sunday. Maybe later.

Sychlops – Sorry gotta see Twitter react to LVG (Louis van Gaal – Manchester United FC manager’s) sacking and Mourinho’s appointment. 

RasheedAB – gotta do the dishes bruv

Mohamed Martell – Mate Chelsea are currently 3 pts above relegation and I have grad school applications due soon. Maybe next time? 

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
“Fight for IS? Sorry bruv, I’m watching Netflix” – Moments, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/i/moments/681047889490096129
Iyad Al-Baghdadi and contributors.
PUGS ღ, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/BestOfPugs




IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: Countries to help Iranian government redesign reactor

VIJAY SHAH via Reuters and Newsweek

As part of ongoing negotiations between several mainly Western countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear facilities, a group of six nations have offered to assist Tehran in redesigning a nuclear reactor, as the theocratic government rebuilds relations with the outside world, Reuters and Newsweek reports.

Iran’s national news agency IRNA released a statement today saying that the group of six world powers will give Iran support in reconfiguring the Arak heavy-water plant, 190 kilometres (120 miles) southwest of Tehran. The Arak facility will be converted so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium, the IRNA document said.

The official document was signed on separate days last week by the Iranian foreign minister plus his counterparts in the ‘P5+1’ group. The P5+1 countries and countersignatures are the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany. The European Union also signed the document, represented by its foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The Arak plant was a spanner in the works for recent talks between Iran and the other world powers due to its weapons capabilities. The P5+1 group had concerns that Iranian possession of nuclear warheads would escalate tensions in the Middle East and that the Iranian government would use the weapons on Western ally Israel. The two countries have a longstanding hatred of each other and both have threatened to target each other with nuclear armaments in a hostile war of words.

Preparation at Arak will involve removal and decommissioning of the heavy-water reactor’s core to reduce Arak’s output of plutonium, meaning less material for a possible nuclear device, and a way for Iran to prove it is only using nuclear technology for peaceful means such as electricity generation. Doing so will also enable the Islamic Republic to free itself of the sanctions imposed by the US, EU and others.

The IRNA document states that Iran will hold the role of ‘project manager’. China will act as the plant’s re-designer and builder of the new reactor, while the United States will offer technical know-how and help review the redesigned facility to ensure it meets safety and negotiation-related guidelines. The Americans will be assisted in the review by France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Russia will also be involved, providing consulting services at Arak.

“The primary design of Arak reactor will take one year. Then the (P5+1) working group has three months to approve it,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy agency, was quoted as saying on Saturday by state broadcaster IRIB.

Iran had previously always insisted that the 40-megawatt plant had medical purposes, producing radioactive isotopes for use in cancer radiotherapy and not for manufacturing weapons-grade ‘fissile’ plutonium. The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had only agreed to the reconversion work at the Arak site if other countries at the negotiation table ceased insisting that Iran’s nuclear programme was being used under ‘past military dimensions’, in other words, that it was intended to create nuclear bombs. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is undertaking work on another plant at a military complex in Parchin at the moment, had collected samples from that facility will announce its own conclusions on possible military nuclear applications on Iran by the 15th December this year.

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“World Powers to Help Iran Redesign Reactor as Part of Nuclear Deal” – Reuters via Newsweek – World/Newsweek LLC (21 November 2015) http://europe.newsweek.com/world-powers-help-iran-redesign-reactor-part-nuclear-deal-397045?rm=eu
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NORTH LEBANON: Mediterranean region experiences rare snowfall

While falling snow may be a given in the parts of the world furthest from the Equator, a very unlikely place has just experienced its rarest of weather phenomena: crisp, soft, white snowflakes. A report from The Daily Star newspaper in the Mediterranean country of Lebanon has reported that the north of the country, including around the city of Tripoli, has played host to drifts of snow. Several coastal towns and villages have reported snowfall today (Friday 21 November 2014) as they brace themselves for an upcoming weekend storm. The area normally experiences much warmer temperatures of between 25-45 degrees Celsius.

The first reports of Lebanese snow came in from the region of Chekka this morning, where snow brought in by bad weather preceding the storm forced locals to stay in their cars. Other drivers caught out in the surprise snowfall sought refuge in a road tunnel to wait out the snow and accompanying storm. In the village of Nakhla, snow came down in droves, blanketing residents’ houses as they moved belongings inside in preparation for the arrival of the storm, which meteorologists have named Misha.

(c) IMLebanonNews (@Imlebanonnews)

The regional main city of Tripoli was next to be hit by snow, where a combination of lighter flurries mixed with hail peppered the streets of the town of around 1.1 million people. The Meteorological Department at the Rafik Hariri International Airport, which is concerned about the potnetial impact of the snowfall on Lebanon’s aviation industry, has said that highland areas above the altitude of 1,700 metres above sea level will get the heaviest of the fall. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Civil Defence Authority has warned Lebanese to be careful when travelling via road and ideally to not travel by vehicle at all during the next two days once Misha touches down. Teams of volunteers are being placed on standby to help motorists and householders caught out by the unusual conditions.

Temperatures in coastal Lebanon are predicted to plummet to around 11*C, including in capital Beirut and fall down to freezing (0*C) in mountainous parts of northern Lebanon, with storm Misha expected to substantially weaken from Sunday onwards. Last weekend, Lebanon was inundated with precipitation of another kind when heavy rains caused widespread flooding in many built-up areas, including a tunnel near Beirut’s main airport which is used by thousands of motorists every day. Many drivers were forced to remain in their cars for several areas, causing gridlock for travellers and locals battling through the torrents.

Lebanon is not the only Mediterranean country to have witnessed uncharacteristic openings of the heavens. In March 2010, blizzards and heavy snow wreaked havoc on the French Mediterranean coast, and twenty inches of snow was measured in northern Spain. In December 2013, the normally dry desert country of Egypt saw its first snowfall in a century, carpeting the Great Pyramids of Giza and the deserts around Cairo in white. The city’s residents were said to have been spellbound by the falling flakes, with many children building their first ever snowmen, as the city normally only gets an inch of rain per year. Heavy snowfall was also reported from Algeria, Israel and Syria at the same time.

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“North Lebanon coast sees rare snowfall” – The Daily Star Lebanon (21 November 2014) http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Nov-21/278445-north-lebanon-coast-sees-rare-snowfall.ashx
“Snow hits Mediterranean coast” – BBC News/BBC (9 March 2010) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8557570.stm
“Snow In Egypt For The First Time In 100 Years, Reports Say (PICTURES)” – Jessica Elgot, The Huffington Post United Kingdom/AOL (UK) Limited (13 December 2013) http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/12/13/snow-egypt-middle-east_n_4438571.html
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IRAQ BARREL BOMBS: Iraqi army condemned for bombing civilian areas

The armed forces and government of Iraq has been recently condemned for wholesale destruction of civilian areas in territory held by the Islamic State (IS) militia, according to a report published yesterday by Britain’s The Independent newspaper. Both the army and government are fighting a tough battle of bullets and hearts against the Islamic State, who have overran large parts of Iraq‘s north and central regions in rapid succession, inflicting numerous atrocities. The Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS and ISIL, drove out Iraqi Army battalions in its advance on several towns and cities. As it has cemented its power, IS has killed and abducted hundreds of people from the country’s ethnic and religious minorities as it self-declared a caliphate across the parts of Iraq and Syria where it holds sway. IS have also beheaded two American journalists and one Syrian reporter and a British aid worker in quick succession as it threatens the West against interfering in the conflict.

The armed forces of Iraq have already been accused of killing ‘scores’ of civilians as it bombs residential areas in cities occupied by IS in its attempts to flush out the militia’s fighters. The recently appointed prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has ordered the ceasing of bombing raids using highly destructive and illegal ‘barrel bombs’ on civilian areas yesterday (Saturday 13 August) to comply with conditions set by Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders who have agreed to pledge their support against the IS. The order was drafted in the previous Thursday; however reports from a source at a hospital in the city of Fallujah claim that on the same day that Prime Minister al-Abadi ordered the cessation of bombing, fourteen barrel bombs were dropped in the area, murdering twenty-two civilians.

I have ordered the Iraqi Air Force to halt shelling of civilian areas even in those towns controlled by Isis,” Abadi said on his official Twitter account. 

International charities observing the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq, including Human Rights Watch have recorded widespread and continual use of barrel bombs by Iraqi national forces since the IS began spilling across the Syrian-Iraqi border to set up their de facto caliphate earlier this year. IS now are said to control a third of Iraq, an area the size of the British Isles and have overrun parts of the autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq’s north, where they have viciously persecuted the Yazidi, Turkmen, Assyrian Christian and Shi’a communities, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee for safer areas. IS now control several of the north’s major cities, including Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah.

The devastation of barrel bombs – as seen in this eyewitness photo of damage in Syria.

IS militants have cleared out the old civilian and governmental agencies in their zone and established replacements staffed by their cadres. The streets of occupied cities like Fallujah often have IS fighters intermingling with locals, making it hard for government troops to separate the combatant from the innocent. As a result, entire cities under IS control have been considered legitimate targets by Iraq’s government, who have adopted an indiscriminate bombing approach. In July 2014, Human Rights Watch reported that the army was dropping barrel bombs on civilians in Isis-controlled towns including Fallujah, Beiji, Mosul, Tikrit and al-Sherqat. The charity claimed that seventy-five civilians have already perished in just one month of air strikes by their country’s air force and that barrel bombs accounted for seventeen of those deaths. Women and children were among the victims. Human Rights Watch have appealed to American and allied forces to discontinue the supply of heavy-grade weaponry and ammunition to Iraqi forces until they end their violation of war protocol and cease killing innocent civilians.

The Iraqi government may be fighting a vicious insurgency, but that’s no license to kill civilians anywhere they think Isis might be lurking,” said Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

The government’s air strikes are wreaking an awful toll on ordinary residents.”

The city of Fallujah has particularly suffered from the Iraqi army’s indiscriminate air raids, with much of the city left in ruins as Iraqi warplanes began operations against IS militants holed up there since January. It was the first large city to fall to IS. One witness, a 40-year-old man named in the report as Amar, claimed he saw an Iraqi barrel bomb on the 6th of July that claimed the lives of his brother and two unrelated people.

They had been fixing a generator that provides electricity to the al-Shurta area of Fallujah minutes before the attack.

I went to my house which is about 50 yards away,” he said.

The generator is in a yard and the barrel bombs fell on the street between the generator and the houses.

It was like an earthquake and I ran to my brother, I saw his body and I saw four cars burning in the street.”

The other fatalities were a supermarket owner and a woman whose body parts had to be collected in a blanket by neighbours.

I saw the bottom of the barrel and shrapnel,” Amar said, describing the bomb as a “ball of fire” dropped from a helicopter.

Under international treaties and law, the use of barrel bombs is illegal in civilian areas. The bombs tend to be made on a shoestring budget, and usually consist of a metal container, often a simple oil barrel, filled with explosives and shrapnel. The bomb is allowed to fall from a height and is activated via an inbuilt timer fuse. The bombs are designed to cause maximum damage and injury over a wide area, which makes them exceptionally lethal if dropped in a locale such as a residential street.

Also known as ‘flying IEDs‘ as they are an airborne version of the IEDs that were popular among militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, barrel bombs are normally dropped manually from helicopters or airplanes. Their size, lack of precision and indiscriminate impact upon detonation has drawn considerable criticism abroad and are banned under most international conventions of warfare as ‘weapons of terror’. The earliest known use was in Sudan in the 1990s where they were rolled out of cargo-doors of transport planes by the Sudanese army against civilian rebellions in Darfur region and what is now the independent  nation of South Sudan. A barrel bomb is capable of levelling entire apartments. Cheaper than conventional bombs and relatively easy to manufacture on limited resources, they can cost as little as $200-300 to produce.

Barrel bombs have also been reported being dropped against towns in neighbouring Syria, and their usage in civilian areas there was one of the human rights abuses cited against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by international observers. The United Nations, which has expressed grave concerns against the war in both countries, recently published a report via its Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in which it stated: “The use of barrel bombs [indiscriminately in civilian areas] amounts to area bombardment, prohibited under international humanitarian law as a tactic that spreads terror among the civilian population,

The United Nations representative for Iraq, Nikolay Mladenov, expressed his satisfaction at Iraqi prime minister al-Abadi’s move to stop the barrel bombs. He said: “Protection of civilians and ensuring their safety and security is a paramount priority for the United Nations

In February 2014, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution that demanded an end to indiscriminate aerial bombardment including the use of barrel bombs. However their use in Iraq and Syria has seen the number of incidents skyrocket since the beginning of 2014.

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“Islamic State: Iraqi Government’s illegal barrel bombing of civilian areas ‘to be stopped’ ” – Lizzie Dearden (additional reporting via Reuters), The Independent (13 September 2014) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/islamic-state-iraqi-governments-illegal-barrel-bombing-of-civilian-areas-to-be-stopped-9731317.html
“Barrel bomb” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrel_bomb
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IRAQ OIL PRICES ON THE UP: Markets rise despite Iraq ISIL tensions; disorder

This report is based on one supplied by the London office of The Daily Star website of Lebanon, via the international news story supplier and agency AFP, with additional background information on the ISIL/Iraq conflict supplied by the HEM blog editor and reporter.

Despite ongoing tensions in Iraq as a new militant group sweep their way through much of the country’s north and centre, oil prices for the area continued to rise as of today, according to crude oil analysts and Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, it has been reported. Quoted oil prices on the international commodities market continued an upward trend this Monday holding not far from last week’s exceptional nine-month peak, analysts have noted.

In particular, outbound deliveries of Brent crude-priced oil from the beleaguered Middle Eastern nation, one of the world’s top producers, added 10 U.S. cents to the price of a barrel, which now stands at $114.91 under London prices via their late morning deals compared with Friday’s closing level. Oil pricing benchmark West Texas Intermediate of the United States reported a larger 22 cents increase on their prices for Iraqi crude and barrels there have been quoted at $107.05. Both transatlantic trends have proved unusual in that armed conflict and disarray generally cause a drop in oil prices, but this weekend’s running increases seem to have bucked that usual trend, perhaps buoyed in part by increasing demand for oil from highly industrious countries like China and Mexico.

Dorian Lucas, an analyst at British-based energy consultancy Inenco, helped explain the situation with Brent oil. In an interview, he stated ” Brent crude opened today at fractionally below $115 per barrel…Prices remain around the nine-month high average achieved in the back end of last week, supported by the continued violence and instability in Iraq “.

Last Thursday witnessed a soar in price for Brent oil $115.71 a barrel – the highest point since September 9, 2013. In the New York commodity exchange, prices jumped to $107.73 per barrel, a level not witnessed since September 19, 2013.

(c) L. M. Francioni/US Navy via Wikimedia Commons

The Khawr Al Amaya oil platform, off the coast near Basra (Al-Basrah) in south Iraq.

While oil traders in the Western markets have rejoiced, the situation on the ground for the Iraqi cabinet of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been far from pleasant. The ISIL militia, also known as ISIS, and fully referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant & Al-Shams have cut a swathe across Iraqi territory these past few weeks. Active in neighbouring Syria, where ISIL fighters are battling the government of that country’s president Bashar al-Assad, the militia, once allied with Al-Qaeda but following their own trajectory now, have invaded and occupied several of Iraq’s major cities. The birthplace of former dictator Saddam Hussein, Tikrit, as well as the oil producing city of Mosul have been quickly taken over by ISIL while local regiments of the Iraqi army have fled after abandoning their posts, uniforms, equipment and bases. The ISIL have threatened to march and take Baghdad, Iraq‘s capital as well as the predominately Shi’a south, including the holy cities of Najaf and Karbalah.

Iraq’s security forces are struggling to contain the insurgency as ISIL have overrun five of the country’s provinces, exacting murderous revenge on those soldiers and civilians unable to flee in advance. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been made effectively homeless and there are fears the country could slide into sectarian civil war and even break apart. Iraq is still reeling from the aftereffects of the US invasion of 2003 which saw the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist government. Many people, both inside and outside the region,still claim the Americans’ main motivation for the invasion was to secure control of Iraq’s vast oil reserves.

Recently, the militants have swept into the towns of Rawa and Ana in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, after taking the Al-Qaim border crossing with Syria. They have now formed a corridor of Iraqi territory linking them up with co-fighters across the border with Syria.

The crisis has however, benefitted oil prices internationally, with barrels from OPEC’s number two producing nation still flowing largely unimpeded. However, in an industry prone to sudden falls and uncertainty, markets have now priced in potential supply disruption, traders say. David Lennox, a resource analyst associated with Fat Prophets in Sydney, told the French news agency AFP: “We see oil retaining support from the violence in Iraq, but markets have already priced in a significant risk premium in the last few weeks,…

ISIL militants have yet to arrive in the south of Iraq, where most of the lucrative oilfields and installations are based. If they do manage to take up these fields, it is assumed that oil exports will drop significantly and that ISIL commanders may use the fields’ revenues to bankroll their occupation and ongoing struggle in both Iraq and Syria.

We see prices remaining relatively stable at current levels as long as the crisis does not spread to Iraq’s south where most of its exports are coming from,” added Lennox.

The market has already been quite used to patchy output from the north where the fighting is currently going on, and it must also be noted that Iraq has been extremely volatile in terms of output for many years now.”

Iraq currently is the world’s second largest crude oil exporter after Saudi Arabia. Both are members of the twelve-nation oil producing and exporting union Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Iraq is believed to possess around 11 per cent of global oil resources and generates 3.4 million barrels of ‘black gold’ a day.

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“Oil market climbs on Iraq tensions” – AFP via The Daily Star Lebanon, The Daily Star (23 June 2014) http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Business/Middle-East/2014/Jun-23/261217-oil-market-climbs-on-iraq-tensions.ashx#axzz35RobsNzy
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“File:Iraq’s Khawr Al Amaya Oil Platform (KAAOT) just after sunrise.jpg” – Lenny M. Francioni/United States Navy via Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (4 October 2008 – date image taken, 5 October 2008 – date of publication) [ published under US NavyID 081006-N-8861F-001 ] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Iraq%E2%80%99s_Khawr_Al_Amaya_Oil_Platform_(KAAOT)_just_after_sunrise.jpg