In Other News
Bulldozers backed by Israeli forces destroyed the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev Desert on July 2 for the 86th time in the last four years. "Israeli bulldozers forced their way into the village under the protection of dozens of Israeli forces," Attia al-Asam, who heads the regional council of "unrecognized" Bedouin communities in the Negev, told Turkey's Anadolu Agency. Israeli forces surrounded the village and displaced the population before demolishing the homes, the local leader added. Saleem Al-Wakili, a 57-year-old Bedouin resident, added: "It is the 86th time they destroyed my house and I will rebuild it tomorrow. The Israelis are trying to exile us from our land by demolishing our homes, but they will not succeed."
China's top legislature, the NPC Standing Committee, on July 1 adopted a controversial new National Security Law that increases cyber security powers. At its bi-monthly session, 155 members of the committee voted on the measure. The law will increase overseeing of the Internet in China, and authorities will now take tougher measures against cyber attacks, thefts and the spread of "harmful information." The law is one of three adopted in recent months to improve China's security and "strengthen ideological control over the public." The law also includes a cyberspace "sovereignty" clause, which covers assets and activities in space, the deep sea and the polar regions. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC, stated that the law is extremely important due to increasing security problems within China.
A protester was killed by security forces in Cairo July 3 at a rally in support of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi, on the second anniversary of his overthrow by the military. Supporters of Morsi's now-banned Muslim Brotherhood said interior ministry forces opened fire on the protest. (Reuters) Egyptian warplanes meanwhile continued air-strikes on militant targets in the Sinai Peninsula, in what Egyptian media and officials are now calling a "war." Army troops also went house-to-house to arrest militants in Rafah. Among six detained were what officials called ISIS followers who wore military uniforms. An ISIS Twitter account claimed credit for missile strikes on Israeli territory by its forces in Sinai. "Three Grad rockets were fired at Jewish positions in occupied Palestine," the "Sinai Province" ISIS group tweeted. (Al Jazeera, AP)
BP on July 2 reached a settlement that will require the company to pay $18.7 billion in penalties and damages to settle all claims regarding the 2010 Gulf oil spill. The agreement, the largest corporate settlement in US history, will add to the $43.8 billion that BP had budgeted for penalties and cleanup costs, bringing the total cost of the spill for BP to $53.8 billion. The settlement with the US Department of Justice and the affected Gulf states specifically requires the company to pay at least $12.8 billion in penalties stipulated under the Clean Water Act and natural resource damages. Another $4.9 billion will go to the affected states. [An additional $1 billion will be paid to local governments.] Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a statement said, "Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—the largest environmental disaster in our nation's history—the Justice Department has been fully committed to holding BP accountable... The Deepwater trial team has fought aggressively in federal court for an outcome that would achieve this mission, proving along the way that BP's gross negligence resulted in the Deepwater disaster."
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released a final environmental impact statement (PDF) on the dangers of fracking on June 29, which carries the force of law and officially bans fracking in the state. Signed by DEC commissioner Joseph Martens, the report cited significant water withdrawals, increased stormwater runoffs, potential severe flooding and inadequate waste disposal as possible dangers that may affect the state's water resources. The report also cited the dangers of increased greenhouse gas emissions and the release of naturally occurring radioactive material. The Department considered extensive mitigation measures but were not convinced as to their efficacy. "In the end...[t]he Department’s chosen alternative to prohibit high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the best alternative based on the balance between protection of the environment and public health and economic and social considerations." This decision confirms a report issued in December by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration affirming their intent to block hydraulic fracturing across the state.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee said June 29 that extremist groups' destruction of antiquities and heritage sites in conflict zones could amount to war crimes. The committee noted particularly the Islamic State's destruction of the ancient city of Hatra in Iraq, and was deeply concerned about the group's capture of Palmyra in May. Both cities are UNESCO World Heritage sites, and carry much archaeological significance. The committee adopted a resolution which states in part that "[i]ntentional attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes and historic monuments may amount to war crimes." The resolution also expressed UNESCO's deep shock and alarm at the repeated attacks by ISIS "aimed at destroying cultural diversity through deliberate targeting of individuals and communities on the basis of cultural, ethnic or religious background, as well as places of worship, memory and learning," as well as looting and excavations that "seriously undermine irreplaceable cultural treasures."
Human Rights Watch on June 30 issued a new report charging violations of international humanitarian law in the Saudi-led air campaign against Shi'ite rebels in Yemen. Numerous apparently deliberate attacks on residential homes and civilian infrastructure are documented in the report, "Targeting Saada," which details air-strikes on the Shi'ite-stronghold city of that name. HRW compiled the names and ages of 59 people killed in aerial attacks in Saada between April 6 and May 11, including 14 women and 35 children. Local Houthi authorities told HRW that coalition aircraft struck the city's electricity station, public water works, facroties, markets, an empty school, a crowded petrol station, and a wheat storage facility.
A group of local residents and environmentalist activists blocked the road to a forest area in the Cerattepeli region of Turkey's Black Sea province of Artvin to block preparation of a mining project. A team of officials from the national Forestry Ministry officials from entering the area to demarcate the lease area. Ministry officials attempted to enter the area from a different path, after their first attempt was stopped by the activists' road block July 2. The activist group is calling itself "300 Cerattepeli" in reference to the legend of 300 Spartans who stood their ground against the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. (Doğan News Agency, July 2) The 24HourGold website indicates the Cerattepeli (also rendered Cerattepe) project si being developed by Canada-based Teck Resources. 24HourGold also indicates leases in the area similarly awaiting development by UK-based KEFI Minerals and US-based Alacer Gold Corp.
Militants launched near-simultaneous raids on at least five military checkpoints and a police station in and around Sheikh Zuweid in the north of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in the wee hours of July 2. At least 100 militants and 17 soldiers were killed in the clashes. Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based group that pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014, claimed responsibility for the attacks. North Sinai has been under a state of emergency and a curfew since October, when an attack on a checkpoint in el-Arish left dozens of soldiers dead. In a separate development that day, security nine members of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, including former MP Nasr al-Hafi, were killed in a police raid on an apartment in western Cairo. Following the riad, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement saying that several of its leaders had been "murdered... in cold blood" and urged Egyptians to "rise in revolt" agains the government of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. (BBC News, Egyptian Streets, July 1)
Egypt's chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, was killed June 29 in Cairo by a car-bomb attack on his convoy. Barakat's vehicle was attacked by a car outfitted with explosives that was remotely detonated when his motorcade left his home in Heliopolis. The prosecutor's death marks the country's first assassination of a senior official in 25 years, and seems to be the result of retribution attempts by Islamic militants in response to the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. It is believed that Barakat became a target as a result of his role as prosecutor against many Brotherhood members and other Islamists, including former President Mohammed Morsi. An militant group calling itself "Popular Resistance in Giza" claimed responsibility for the remote detonation of the car bomb. While the authorities suspect the Brotherhood for the attack, the organization has denied all involvement.
Authorities in Chad announced the arrest of a key Boko Haram leader and two henchmen in the capital N'Djamena on June 28. The militant leader, named as Mahamat Moustapha AKA Baana Fanay, is accused coordinating trafficking of weapons between Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon. Chadian security forces have arrested 74 accused militants since June 15 terror attacks in N'Djamena that killed 38 people and injured 100 others. But the day after the arrest ot Baana Fanay, two new suicide bombings in N'Djamena kiilled at least 11, including five police officers. The blasts were in residential neighborhoods, but at least one was apparently set off as police raided a suspected Boko Haram safe-house. (News Agency of Nigeria, June 30; AP, Al Jazeera, June 29)
Ivory Coast reinforced security along its northern frontier after a series of attacks by Islamist militias on towns just across the border in Mali. Troops from Ivory Coast are also reported to have crossed the border to assist Malian forces in driving out the rebels. Gunmen attacked and briefly took control of Fakola, a border town in Mali's southern region of Sikasso, on June 28. The raid followed a similar attack weeks earlier during which dozens of militants ransacked a police station in the nearby town of Misseni. Ansar Dine is named as the group behind the attacks, and this appears to represent the first extension of its reach into Mali's south from its territory in the northern deserts. (Reuters, AFP, AFP, July 1)
At least 500 people have been arrested and the majority sentenced to flogging in Shiraz, southern Iran, for failing to observe the daytime fast during the holy month of Ramadan, authorities announced July 1. At least two sites in the city serving food during daylight hours were shut down by the paramilitary Bassij force. Another 2,699 individuals received verbal warnings and 261 others were given written notices by the Bassij patrols. Anyone in Iran caught eating or drinking in public during daytime in Ramadan may receive 74 lashes in addition to a prison term of up to two months, judicial authorities have threatened. Special patrols are stationed on streets and in public parks to enforce the edict. Public floggings have soared in Iran in recent months, with the actual number of floggings said to be much higher than officially announced. (NCRI, July 1)
In a grisly incident on the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights last week, Druze villagers attacked an Israeli military ambulance, killing one of two Syrian casualties it was carrying. The attack was apparently retaliation for the Nusra Front massacre of Druze villagers in Syria a week earlier. Al-Monitor reports that the IDF has launched an aggressive "information campaign" to convince the Golan Druze that Israel is not backing the Nusra Front. Media reports (Reuters, Forward) have been vague on who the casualties in the ambulance actually were, but blogger Michael Karadjis identified the murdered patient as Munthir Khalil from the "Revolutionary Command Council in Quneitra and Golan," a wing of the Free Syrian Army's Southern Front. Karadjis emphasizes that the Southern Front months ago issued a declaration cutting off all cooperation with the Nusra Front, and offered refuge to fleeing villagers after the massacre. He calls the incident "deadly consequences" of the "fairy tale" that Israel is backing Nusra.
Militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacked the Hakkari Dağlıca military base in Turkey's far east with machine guns and mortar shells on the night of June 29. The Turkish military said the assailants fled when soldiers returned fire, and no casualties were reported. (Today's Zaman) That same day, the Turkish military clashed with Kurdish villagers in Roboski, also in the country's southeast near the border with Iraq and Syria. At least two villagers were wounded in the clashes, which started when local Kurds gathered to protest amassing of Turkish forces in the area. (Revolution News)