Weekend round-up from the Serious News Department

IRAN: Iran media faces backlash over acid attacks coverage

Al Monitor reports: Iranian media outlets that have covered the acid attacks on women in the city of Esfahan have been criticized for and warned about associating the crimes with “vice” groups enforcing Islamic values. While Iranian authorities have attempted to address concerns about the attacks, they have also warned domestic media outlets over their coverage… The head of Iran’s judiciary denied any link between the attacks and a bill proposed by parliament that would give legal protection to “vice groups” that enforce Islamic laws. “Unfortunately, some Western countries have related this event to the ‘enjoining good and forbidding wrong’ and this is a strange oppression and persecution,” said Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, adding that “it was worse” that domestic media did the same. Esfahan’s governor also said that the police are pursuing the case and “Any type of gathering on this issue is illegal and individuals who create rumors or take actions that disturb the calm in society will be confronted.”

TURKEY: Turkey ‘should not’ be left alone in ISIL fight

Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey reports: Israel’s highest ranking diplomat in Turkey, newly appointed Consul-General Shai Cohen has said the fight against ISIL should not be left to the Turkish government and Turkish security forces alone. “There should be an international cooperation on that and all of the relevant states should be involved in this fight,” Cohen told daily Hurriyet in a recent interview. Cohen, the new Consul-General of Israel had been the Head of the Counter-Terrorism and Regional Security Department in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs before his appointment to Istanbul. Cohen spoke with Hurriyet following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signing his executor. It has been five years since the Israeli “Cast-Lead” operation on Gaza and four years after the Mavi Marmara incident, Cohen said. “It is not a secret that there is some kind of a stalemate in the normalization process between the two countries. In this period of the last 4-5 years, there has been a decline in the relations between the two countries, especially in the political and strategic fields. On the other hand, in the last 7 weeks that I have been here in Turkey, I have seen that there is a lot of opportunity to develop relations in other fields. But our general approach is, we preach normalization between the people of the two countries,” he added.

ISRAEL:  Egypt, Israel agree to set up Gaza buffer zone: Report

Trend News Agency, Azerbaijan reports: Egypt and Israel have agreed on a plan for the establishment of a buffer zone along the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, a report says, Press TV reported. According to the Qatar-funded al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper, an unnamed Western diplomat recently said Egyptian and Israeli leaders had earlier agreed over the plan regarding the creation of the buffer zone. The Qatari daily is reportedly headed by a former Arab member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset). The paper said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to an Egypt-brokered ceasefire in Gaza back in August – which ended its deadly 50-day war on the Palestinian enclave – in order to prevent Qatar and Turkey from getting involved. The newspaper added that in return for agreeing to the Egyptian-proposed truce, Tel Aviv also demanded that Egypt set up a buffer zone along its border with Gaza. As part of the plans to create the 13-kilometer long and 500-meter wide buffer zone, the Egyptian army on Sunday reportedly destroyed homes in Rafah, near the border with southern Gaza Strip. About 10,000 residents were evacuated from their houses.

RUSSIA: Russian medical university bans hijabs, religious clothes

Eurasia Review reports: The administration of the Russian National Medical Research University (RNMRU) has established a new dress code; religious clothing will therefore be strictly banned on the premises of the educational facility. In a written directive issued on October 15, Andrei Kamkin, the university’s rector, pointed out that RNMRU is one of the leading institutions of higher education in Russia, and therefore its students and faculty have to maintain certain standards of conduct, which dictate that they dress in a way that befits doctors and medical students.  The male students are expected to wear trousers, jerseys, shirts, ties and jackets; the university has also mandated that they keep their hair well-trimmed. Female students are prohibited from wearing short skirts and revealing dresses, as well as gaudy make-up and jewelry. The wearing of religious clothes and traditional ethnic costumes of any kind, as well as clothes that could offend the political and religious feelings of others is also strictly prohibited. Students who violate these rules face expulsion, while potential offenders among the faculty may be fired. 

MALAYSIA: Malaysian Muslims feel heat for petting dogs, and social media bites back

Religious News Service reports: Syed Azmi Alhabshi has been labeled a heretic, a closet Christian, a Zionist spy or even a Shiite Muslim. His crime? Inviting other Muslims to touch a dog. The subsequent death threats and online abuse sent him into hiding, fearing for his life. So when he met reporters here on Saturday (Oct. 25), the 37-year-old social activist spoke from a prepared text, took no questions and left after five minutes. Nearly 1,000 people attended the Oct. 19 event at a park in the western state of Selangor, aimed at helping Muslims overcome religious stigma and fear of canines, learn permissible ways to touch a dog and how to perform a cleansing ritual, known as “sertu” or “samak.” The backlash was swift and serious after social media and news reports were flooded with images of Muslim participants — particularly women in hijabs — stroking and hugging their new four-legged friends at the “I Want to Touch a Dog” event. Muslims here largely subscribe to the Shafi’i school of jurisprudence, which views dogs as unclean. Dogs are not permitted to be reared as pets or handled, cuddled, pet or kissed. The only reason to touch a dog is if it needs help.

LEBANON: Averting a northern dilemma. 

Al Ahram Weekly, Egypt reports: After days of fierce fighting, the Lebanese army makes gains in Tripoli against armed militants, though the battle is far from over, writes Hassan Al-Qishawi from Beirut. The dire forecast made by Army Chief General Jean Qahwaji finally came true, with clashes erupting in Tripoli and other areas of north Lebanon between militant Islamists and the Lebanese army. The clashes were triggered by a search operation targeting an armed group in Tripoli, based on information obtained during the interrogation of militant Ahmed Miqati, who faces serious terrorist charges. As the operation got underway, militant groups fired at the army and tried to ambush it in Tripoli and the nearby towns of Behanin and Al-Mohammara. A Lebanese security source said that the clashes started when the army commenced search operations in Tripoli that were based on the confessions of Miqati, who was arrested in Denniya in north Lebanon a few days ago. Miqati’s son, believed to be a member of the Islamic State, and other members of the family were among the militants who challenged the army in two days of fighting in north Lebanon.

LIBYA: Dozens of Libyans pledge allegiance to top IS leader

Arab News, Saudi Arabia reports:  Dozens of residents of a town in eastern Libya have pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State militants fighting in Syria and Iraq, according to a video and a resident. Around 50 young people could be seen in a video posted on social media gathering in Derna to support Baghdadi, who calls himself “caliph,” or Muslim leader, of Islamic State, an Al-Qaeda offshoot. A Derna resident confirmed the authenticity of the video, taken late on Friday. There has been growing concern among Western nations and Libya’s neighbors that Islamic State is trying to exploit lawlessness in the oil producer where militants and other militias who helped topple Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 are carving out fiefdoms. Derna, a port halfway between the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi and the Egyptian border, has since 2011 turned into a gathering point for militants and Al-Qaeda sympathizers.

AUSTRALIA: Mastermind of failed Australia beheading plot killed in Middle East

News 24, Australia reports: A former Sydney bouncer said to have masterminded a failed plot by Islamic State militants to behead a random member of the public in Australia is believed to have died in the Middle East, Australian media reported on Wednesday. Mohammad Ali Baryalei, who was believed to be one of the group’s most senior members and a top recruiter of foreign fighters, was thought to have died in fighting in Syria or Iraq four or five days ago, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported… Abdul Salaam Mahmoud, who belonged to the same street-proselytizing group as Baryalei in Sydney, wrote on Facebook of Baryalei’s death, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported. “I’ve just received the news that our beloved brother Mohamed Ali who was recently strongly attacked by Australian media has been martyred,” Mahmoud said. More than 800 police raided homes in Sydney and Brisbane in September as part of a sweeping counter-terrorism operation aimed at stopping what the government said was a plot to kidnap and publicly behead a random Australian citizen. Australia is concerned over the number of its citizens believed to be fighting overseas with militant groups, including a suicide bomber who killed three people in Baghdad in July and two men shown in images on social media holding the severed heads of Syrian soldiers.

SYRIA: Syrian helicopter bombs displaced persons camp, many dead

Khaleej Times, UAE reports: A Syrian army helicopter dropped two barrel bombs on a displaced persons camp in the northern province of Idlib, camp residents said on Wednesday, and video footage appeared to show charred and dismembered bodies. Footage posted on YouTube showed corpses of women, children and burning tents while people scrambled to save the wounded. “It’s a massacre of refugees,” a voice off camera said. “Let the whole world see this, they are displaced people. Look at them, they are civilians, displaced civilians. They fled the bombardment,” the man’s voice said. A man in another video of the Abedin camp, which houses people who had escaped fighting in neighbouring Hama province, said as many as 75 people had died. Syrian state media did not mention the bombing. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence in the civil war, said 10 civilians died.

NIGERIA: Dozens More Girls Abducted By Extremists

Arab Times, Kuwait reports: Gunmen Kill German Citizen, Kidnap Another In Nigeria.  Dozens of girls and young women are being abducted by Islamic extremists in North East Nigeria, raising doubts about an announced cease-fire and the hoped-for release of 219 schoolgirls held captive since April. Thirty teenage girls and boys have been kidnapped since Wednesday from villages around Mafa town, 40 kms (25 miles) from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, the local government chairman Shettima Maina told reporters. Escaping residents said Boko Haram insurgents abducted 80 girls and women from neighboring Adamawa state on Oct 18. Older women in the group were released the following day and said the extremists kept about 40 younger women and girls, according to the residents. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the insurgents… Witnesses and a security official said more than 20 insurgents were killed in fierce fighting at Abadam in which the Nigerian Air Force bombed occupied posts and ground troops opened fire after which the insurgents fled. Boko Haram had hoisted their black and white flag in Abadam a week before, when they killed at least 40 civilians and forced hundreds in the farming community to flee across the border into Niger, according to some residents who escaped to Maiduguri, 200 kms (125 miles) to the east. Also last week, a car bomb exploded in a bus station in Azare, a town in north-central Bauchi state.

BANGLADESH: Militant group planning coup in Bangladesh: India officials

Gulf Times, Qatar reports: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, target of terror group. India’s top counter-terrorism agency has uncovered a suspected plot by a banned militant group to assassinate the prime minister of Bangladesh and carry out a coup, three senior Indian security officials told Reuters yesterday. India will hand over a dossier to Bangladesh with details of the plan by members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, which has carried out scores of attacks in India’s eastern neighbour, the government and police officials said. Bangladesh did not comment directly on the assertions that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had been the target of a plot, but said it had tightened security on the border with India. Mainly-Muslim Bangladesh has suffered three major army coups and two dozen smaller rebellions since gaining independence from Pakistan in 1971 in a war that killed and displaced millions. The alleged conspiracy was discovered after two members of the group were killed in an explosion while building home made bombs at a house in West Bengal in eastern India earlier this month. Indian police say the militants were Bangladeshis and were using India as a safe haven to plan the attacks. “The strategy was to hit the political leaders of the country and demolish the democratic infrastructure of Bangladesh,” said a senior Indian Home (interior) Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This was all being planned on Indian soil and we could have been blamed if there was an attack.”

SAUDI ARABIA: More Than 2,000 Saudi Gunmen Operate for ISIL, Recruitment via Twitter, YouTube

Al Manar, Lebanon reports: Terrorist organizations employ between 2,000 and 2,500 gunmen of Saudi nationality. This explains why do the young Saudis – especially the suicide bombers – top the list of terrorist organizations, the Saudi UK-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported. “Assessments of research centers and monitors indicate that the number of Saudi fighters reached approximately 2,500, most of them are aged between 18 and 25 years old operating within the ranks of ISIL (the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’). While others operate within Al-Qaeda-affiliated AL-Nusra Front,” Hammoud Al-Zayyadi, an expert in terrorist groups told Al-Hayat. Zayyadi said that social networks, particularly the Twitter and YouTube, have become “the most important incubators and mobilization and recruitment means for terrorist groups,” whether targeting the Saudi elements or even at the level of global polarization.”… The Saudi expert said the goal of recruiting those gunmen is “to take advantage of the Saudi members’ ability to fund, both by elements who may belong to rich families, or by their relationships with charity institutions, businessmen, or social powers that couldn’t know the real reasons behind the donation.” 

* * *

SEVENTY YEARS LATER - "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" | "The more things change, the more they stay the same"

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

 Thank God there’s an Israel!

بفضل الله، هناك إسرائيل

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