In Other News

Hamas claims victory, celebration across Palestine

Immediately after the Gaza ceasefire went into effect the evening of Aug. 26, Hamas urged Gazans to take to the streets and "celebrate victory and the fulfillment of the Palestinian people's demands." In a news conference at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that "Israeli settlers who live around Gaza can go back to their homes after the ceasefire agreement went into effect." He announced victory and congratulated the Palestinian people and the Arab nation for the victory which he said the Palestinian resistance achieved. "The Hamas movement won't abandon the Palestinian people after the battle came to an end." Militants fired gunshots into the air celebrating victory, and Palestinians took to the streets across the West Bank. (Ma'an)

India: high court rules coal mining licenses illegal

The Supreme Court of India ruled (PDF) Aug. 25 that all coal mining licenses awarded between 1993 and 2010 are illegal. The court found that the licenses failed to comply with the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act of 1957 (PDF); Section 3(3)(a)(iii) of the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act of 1973 (PDF); and the principle of trusteeship of natural resources. The ruling cited arbitrariness, lack of transparency, lack of objectivity, allotment tainted with mala fides and corruption, and made in favor of ineligible companies tainted with mala fides and corruption. The court will now decide if 218 such licenses should be canceled.

Mexico: unionists protest Cananea toxic spill

At least 800 members of Section 65 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM, "Los Mineros") began blocking the three main entrances to the giant Buenavista del Cobre copper mine in Cananea, near the US border in the northwestern state of Sonora, on Aug. 20 to protest environmental damage caused two weeks earlier when about 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution spilled from the mine into the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers. Most of the unionists lost their jobs four years ago when the mine's owner, Grupo México S.A.B. de C.V., broke a 2007-2010 strike over health and safety issues. "During the strike we made several complaints about the improper and inadequate measures Grupo México implemented for preventing overflows from the dams" for chemicals and heavy metals, Section 65 director Sergio Tolano Lizárraga told the national daily La Jornada. He said the blockade would continue until the company recognized the workers' old contract. (LJ, Aug. 22)

Honduras: child, journalist murders continue

At least five Honduran minors recently deported from the US were among the 42 children murdered in the northern city of San Pedro Sula, Cortés department, since February, according to Hector Hernández, who heads the city's morgue. The number could be as high as 10, he told Los Angeles Times reporter Cindy Carcamo. In June and July the administration of US president Barack Obama responded to a dramatic increase of tens of thousands of Central American minors seeking refuge in the US by emphasizing that most will be repatriated; the administration even arranged and publicized a special deportation flight of mothers with young children to San Pedro Sula on July 14 . But Carcamo's reporting suggests that publicity won't be enough to stop youths from trying to flee gang violence in Honduras. "There are many youngsters who only three days after they've been deported are killed, shot by a firearm," Hernández said. "They return just to die."

Haiti: Aristide's lawyers question inquiry

Former Haitian prime minister Yvon Neptune (2002-2004) appeared before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire at the judge's Port-au-Prince office on Aug. 22 to answer questions in an inquiry into allegations of corruption and drug trafficking during the second administration of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Bélizaire has notified the authorities that 33 people, most of them connected with Aristide's Lavalas Family (FL) party, are not permitted to leave the country because of their connection with the investigation. After the Aug. 22 session, Neptune, who has broken with Aristide, told reporters that he had no problem answering Bélizaire's summons. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Aug. 23)

Brazil: Haiti mission shaped Rio police unit

Two Brazilian experts in police work have confirmed longstanding claims that the Brazilian military and police used their leading role in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) as a way to train their forces for operations in Brazil's own cities. According to Lt. Col. Carlos Cavalcanti, of the Brazilian Peace Operations Joint Training Center (CCOPAB), the Brazilians were especially interested in the concept of permanent "strong points" in urban areas, which MINUSTAH forces used to "pacify" Port-au-Prince's huge Cité Soleil section in 2005 and the Cité Militaire neighborhood in 2007. "Rio de Janeiro's Militarized Police even sent a group to Haiti while these operations were still being carried out, with the object of taking in the Brazilian army's experiences," Cavalcanti said.

Turkish border forces bar Yazidi refugees

Thousands of Yazidi refugees who have fled the Sinjar region of northern Iraq have been denied entry into Turkey by military forces. The refugees, many of whom managed to flee north through the civilian corridors established by the PKK-aligned YPG militia, have been left waiting on the Turkish border near the Roboski crossing. Turkish soldiers have met any attempts to cross the border with force, according to a report in Turkey's Özgür Gündem. They are struggling to protect their children and ill from the sun under the shade of rocks and the sparse trees. They eat whatever food they can find and cooking is done in empty oil containers or cans. Many mothers have been forced to give birth on the road and some have declined to give their new children names out of fear for their future. (Rojava Report)

Reprisal attacks in Iraq; US prepares Syria strikes?

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a husseiniya, or Shi'ite mosque, in central Baghdad on Aug. 25, leaving at least 13 dead. Three were killed and several wounded in two other car bombings elsewhere in Baghdad. Another 23 were killed in car bombings at the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala and nearby al-Hilla. (IraqiNews.com, IraqiNews.com, IraqiNews.com, BBC News, NYT) A Kurdish MP in Iraq's parliament called on new Prime Minister Haidar Abadi to either arm the Kurdistan Regional Government or permit it to seek arms elsewhere. "It is crucial for the new government of Baghdad to give weapons to Peshmerga forces and train them as part of the Iraqi army or allow the Kurdistan Region to be able to buy weapons from other countries," said MP Shwan Mohammed Taha. "Today, Peshmerga forces protect 20% of Iraq's border and our demands are not unconstitutional. Putting Peshmerga forces in the security system of Iraq is a constitutional demand." (BasNews) Iranian Kurdish guerilla fighters that crossed the border to fight ISIS in the Jalawla and Khanaqen areas were prevented by the continued presence of Iranian government forces, according to the BasNews independent new agency. Tehran denies reports that Iranian forces are fighting in Iraq. (BasNews)

Multi-faction resistance to ISIS in Syria and Iraq

Iraqi government forces say they have driven back an ISIS advance on the country's largest oil refinery, killing several insurgents. The Baiji refinery (Salaheddin [Salah ad Din] governorate) has been the site of several battles between government forces and militants over the past  months. (BBC News) A 2,000-strong militia has been raised to relieve the 18,000  Turkmen at the ISIS-besieged village of Amerli, also in Salaheddin. The force is commanded by Transport Minister Hadi al-Ameri, a former commander of the Badr militia. (Azzaman) A group of PKK-affiliated HPG-YJA STAR fighters has reached the Duhok (also rendered Dahouk) area and taken up positions in the mountains around the city to defend it from an ISIS advance. (ANF)

Iraq: Yazidis resist ISIS; Turkmen threatened

The Yazidi miltia that has been formed to help Peshmerga forces liberate Sinjar from ISIS is being armed by the Kurdistan Regional Government. The militia's commander, Qassim Shashou, told the independent Kurdish agency BasNews that he hopes to receive heavy artillery has said had been promised by the KRG. "We are looking forward to receiving the weapons which will be vital in our fight against IS. After we free Sinjar, we can return to our homes with our head held high," said Shashou. (BasNews) Qasim Shesho, another member of the militia, urged his fellow Yazidis to stand and fight rather than flee Iraq. "Those who urge Yezidis to leave for Europe have no integrity or conviction," he told Rudaw agency. "We ask these people [who have left] to come and defend their land and return to Shingal,"* he told Rudaw in an interview. "I have German citizenship and could leave today, but it would be a disgrace to abandon my land." The militia, said number 2,000, is also coordinating with the PKK-aligned People's Protection Units (YPG) in the battle for Sinjar. They are hoping to protect Yazidi holy places in the mountains, such as the shrine to 13th century saint Sharafaddin, before they are desecrated or destroyed by ISIS. (Rudaw)

One year later, Syrians recall chemical massacre

Aug. 21 marked the one-year anniversary of the chemical weapon attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, found by international investigations to have been the work of the Bashar Assad regime. The Syrian diaspora around the world held protests and vigils marking the event, the one in New York's Times Square the evening of Aug. 22 drawing some 200 wearing matching t-shirts reading "CHEMICAL MASSACRE IN SYRIA: WE WILL NEVER FORGET." Amid Syrian flags (the pre-Assad version used by the rebel forces), protesters laid white-shrouded effigies representing the dead, and as the sun set lit rows of small candles that formed the number 1,476—the sum of those killed in the attack. At the climax of the ceremony, hundreds of the victims' names were read aloud. The protest, co-organized by Save Syrian Children, was dubbed One Year of Breathing Death, in recognition of the fact that chemical attacks in Syria have continued. Organizers said activists have confirmed 27 separate cases of chemical gas use since the UN Security Council passed UNSCR 2118, calling for the destruction of all chemical weapons and chemical weapons facilities in Syria. (WW4R on the scene)

Iraq: Shi'ite militia blamed in mosque massacre

Gunmen opened fire inside a Sunni mosque in Iraq's eastern Diyala governorate, killing at least 68 people, Aug. 22. A suicide bomber broke into the Musab bin Omair Mosque during Friday prayers in the village of Imam Wais and detonated his explosives. He was followed by gunmen, who rushed in and opened fire on the worshippers. Initial reports blamed ISIS in the massacre, but reports later in the day blamed an unnamed Shi'ite militia, suggesting it was retaliation for a roadside bomb attack at a recruitment event organized by the militia. Last month, Shi'ite militiamen executed 15 Sunni Muslims and hung them from electricity poles in a public square in Baquba, Diyala's capital. In the wake of the mosque massacre, two influential Sunni politicians—deputy prime minister Saleh Mutlaq and parliament speaker Salim al-Jibouri—announced they are pulling out of talks on forming a new government until the investigation into the attack is completed. (RT, LAT, IraqiNews.com, Aug. 22; Reuters, July 30)

Turkey: clashes over monument to PKK leader

Tens of thousands of people joined the funeral ceremony Aug. 19 for Mehdin Taşkın, killed by Turkish troops who attacked local Kurds trying to protect a statue of PKK guerrilla leader Mahsum Korkmaz AKA "Egît" at Yolaçtı in Lice district of Diyarbakır (Kurdish: Amed) province. Taşkın was laid to rest at the same cmetery where he was shot by soldiers who advanced in helicopters and armored vehicles that same morning. His coffin was covered with the PKK flag. (ANF, Aug. 19) A local court ruled the previous day that the statue erected at the entrance to the cemetary for PKK martyrs should be demolished following a complaint by the Diyarbakır government. Korkmaz, an early PKK leader, was killed in 1986 in a clash with Turkish security forces, and was recently buried at  Yolaçtı. (Today's Zaman, Aug. 18)

Libya: who bombed Tripoli?

Unidentified warplanes carried out air-strikes on a small arms depot and other targets controlled by Islamist militias in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Aug. 18. At least six were killed in the strikes. The strikes were beyond the capacity of the limited Libyan Air Force, and Libyan authorities said the planes had come from a foreign state. The US, France, Italy and Egypt all denied responsibility. Also hit in the raid were camps along the road to Tripoli's airport, which is contested by rival militias. Another target was Tripoli's Mitiga air base, also controlled by Islamists. At least 100 have been killed in fighting in Tripoli over the past month. (NYTXinhua, Aug. 19)

Aruba frees wanted Venezuelan 'narco-general'

Venezuela has scored a win in its ongoing diplomatic and propaganda war with Uncle Sam. The most recent flare-up started July 24, when authorities in Aruba arrested Gen.Hugo Carvajal, a top Venezuelan official wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges. Carvajal had been military intelligence chief under the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and was accused by the US Treasury Department of using his position to protect cocaine shipments for Colombia's FARC guerillas. He had just arrived in Aruba after being appointed Venezuela's consul there—and was promptly detained at Washington's behest. Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro called the detention a "kidnapping," and demanded Carvajal's immediate release. And three days later, a judge on the island found that since Carvajal had a diplomatic passport, his arrest was illegal. He was sprung and quickly made the short flight back to Venezuela. "He's returning free and victorious. It's a triumph for sovereignty and legality," president Maduro said, praising the "bravery" of the Dutch government. (The Guardian, July 28; BBC News, July 27; Maduradas, July 24)