Putin on Israel’s role in Il-20 downing: ‘Looks accidental, like chain of tragic circumstances’

The downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances,” Vladimir Putin said in response to a reporter’s question on whether it could be compared to Turkey’s downing of a Russian military jet in 2015.

 

Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu © Mikhael Klimentyev

When people are dying – especially under such circumstances – it is always a tragedy,” President Putin said during a joint press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Moscow on Tuesday.

Responding to a reporter’s question as to whether the incident in Latakia could be compared to the downing of the Russian Su-24 by Turkey in 2015, Putin said the two situations were “different.”

Ankara “deliberately downed” the Russian jet, he explained, while the Il-20 incident “looks like a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

The incident has heated up political tensions, with the Russian military placing the blame for the incident on Tel Aviv. It said that the Israeli raid on Syria late on Monday had triggered a chain of events that led to the Il-20 being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. The downing jeopardized the reasonably good diplomatic relations enjoyed by Russia and Israel, casting doubt on whether these could be maintained.

Russia will investigate the incident, Putin said, adding that Moscow will boost security of Russian troops in Syria following the incident. He said that these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

READ MORE: Israeli army blames Damascus for Russia’s Il-20 downing, mourns death of crew – statement

Following Putin’s remarks, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that he had notified his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman that Moscow “won’t leave Israeli actions unanswered.” He said the Russian jet had been downed by Syrian defense systems following their response to an attack by Israeli planes.

READ MORE: Netanyahu tells Putin he expresses regret at loss of Russian lives

On Tuesday evening, Putin spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone. He urged Israel to avoid such incidents in the future and said that Tel Aviv’s military endeavors in Syria violate the country’s sovereignty.

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'US Bullying': Trump To Close Palestinian Mission in Washington

The administration will also threaten the International Criminal Court with sanctions if it goes forward with an investigation on alleged war crimes by the U.S.

The United States government announced the closure of the Palestinian leadership’s de facto embassy in Washington as a "punishment" for not engaging in one-sided talks with Israel, and for attempting to sue the Israeli government at the International Criminal Court despite warnings from Washington. 

RELATED: Palestinian Hospitals, Patients Latest Victims of US Fund Cuts

In a statement on Monday, the U.S. State Department said the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) office "has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel".

"We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017," the statement said.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said Monday that this move by the Trump administration is to “protect Israeli crimes”.

He also said that the leadership will not be deterred from seeking action in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague against Israel. "We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to US threats and bullying."

Interestingly, the Trump administration will also announce on Monday that it will adopt an offensive posture against ICC, threatening sanctions against the institution if they proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes by the U.S in Afghanistan.

U.S. National Security adviser John Bolton confirmed on Monday that the Trump administration had closed the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's office as "punishment" for calling on Israel to be investigated by the ICC.

According to a draft of the speech, published by Reuters, Bolton will say, “The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel.”

“We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system,” he is expected to say, as reported by the Independent. “We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.”

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As Israel Approves 'Apartheid' Law, Trump Spends $21M on US Embassy Move to Jerusalem

The Palestinians described the closure of PLO mission as the latest pressure tactic by the Trump administration that has slashed funding to a U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees and to hospitals in East Jerusalem, all in one week.

“It is also extremely cruel and spiteful to persist in deliberately bashing the Palestinian people by denying them their rights, giving away their lands and rightful capital of Jerusalem, and defunding UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) and Palestinian institutions, including East Jerusalem hospitals,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO.

Ashrawi also said the U.S. closing the General Delegation of the PLO office in Washington D.C. is an irresponsible move. “This is yet another affirmation of the Trump administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, including by cutting financial support for humanitarian services including health and education,” said Erekat.

Commenting on the U.S. threatening sanctions against ICC, Erekat said, “this dangerous escalation shows that the U.S. is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine, as well as against peace and security in the rest of our region. …  It symbolizes the U.S. attacks against the international system as a whole, including the Paris Convention, UNESCO, and the Human Rights Council among others.”

The official also said the PLO will take necessary measures to protect the rights of Palestinians living in the U.S. to access their consular services.

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140 International Artists Call for Boycott of Eurovision in Israel

Artists said in an open letter there should be "no business as usual" in Israel due to its violations of the rights of Palestinians.

A total of 140 European and international artist, including six Israelis, have called for a boycott of the 2019 Eurovision song contest, which will be hosted by Israel, echoing calls by the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to end the “whitewashing” of Israel’s military occupation and apartheid through art.

RELATED: Eurovision Warns Host Israel Against Denying Entry for Competition Fans

In an open letter published Friday, the artists including Roger Waters, Brian Eno, and Tiago Rodrigues, urged the international artistic community to allow “no business as usual… until Palestinians can enjoy freedom, justice, and equal rights.”

“Eurovision 2019 should be boycotted if it is hosted by Israel while it continues its grave, decades-old violations of Palestinian human rights. (The European Broadcasting Union) should cancel Israel’s hosting of the contest altogether and move it to another country with a better human rights record,” the letter said.

Israel won the right to host the 2019 contest after Israeli contestant Netta Barzilai won the 63rd edition of Eurovision on May 12. “On 14 May, days after Israel’s Eurovision win, the Israeli army killed 62 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, including six children, and injured hundreds, most with live ammunition,” the letter highlights.

Earlier this week Eurovision organizers presented a list of conditions for Israel to host the event, including allowing participants and fans to enter the country regardless of their political opinions, to travel freely, and to respect freedom of the press and expression.

However, before receiving an official answer to these preconditions, organizers were touring venues in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to decide where to hold the international contest.

Calls for a boycott of Eurovision come days after the BDS campaign successfully pressured 15 artists, including Lana Del Rey, to cancel their performance in Israel’s Meteor festival.

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Abandoning US, Paraguay To Move Embassy in Israel Back to Tel Aviv

Israel responded to Paraguay’s decision by recalling its ambassador to Paraguay and closing its embassy in the Latin American country’s capital, Asuncion.

Paraguay will move its embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv, reversing a May decision by former President Horacio Cartes to move the diplomatic site to Jerusalem, the South American country's foreign minister told reporters on Wednesday.

RELATED: Eurovision Warns Host Israel Against Denying Entry for Competition Fans

"Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East," Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Castiglioni said.

Cartes had traveled to Israel to inaugurate the new embassy in May. His successor Mario Abdo, also a member of the conservative Colorado party, took office last month.

Israel responded to Paraguay’s decision by recalling its ambassador to Paraguay and closing its embassy in the Latin American country’s capital, Asuncion.

The news comes just days after Colombian right-wing President Ivan Duque said that his predecessor's decision to recognize Palestine as a state was "irreversible" considering constitutional powers granted to the country's president, and affirmed that his government would show full support for the two-state solution based on the Oslo Accords and United Nations resolution

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Colombia: Duque To Review Santos' Recognition Of Palestine

President Ivan Duque took office on Tuesday and was informed a few days ago of Santos' decision, which was detailed in an August 3 letter.

Colombia's new government said it would review former President Juan Manuel Santos' recognition of Palestine after the previously unreleased decision was made public on Wednesday.

RELATED: Palestinian Stanford Student Resigns After Post Critical of Zionism

President Ivan Duque took office on Tuesday and was informed a few days ago of Santos' decision, which was detailed in an August 3 letter to the Palestinian representative in Colombia,  the foreign ministry said.

"Given possible omissions that could come to light about the way in which this decision was taken by the outgoing president, the government will cautiously examine its implications and will act according to international law," new Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes said in a statement.

Santos decided to recognize Palestine as a "free, independent and sovereign state," according to the letter, which was circulated to Reuters and other reporters by the foreign ministry.

"Just as the Palestinian people have a right to constitute an independent state, Israel has a right to live in peace alongside its neighbors," the letter said. 

The Israeli embassy in Bogota said it was surprised and disappointed. 

"We ask the Colombian government to reverse the decision made by the previous administration in its last days, which contravenes the close relations, extensive cooperation in vital areas and interests of both countries," it said in a statement posted to its Twitter account.

The decision came to light during a visit to Colombia by United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. She attended Duque's inauguration on Tuesday and on Wednesday visited Venezuelan migrants in the northern border city of Cucuta.

The United States, a close ally of Israel, was getting more information about the situation and had no immediate comment, the U.S. mission to the United Nations said.

"We thank the Colombian government for this decision and we are sure that it will contribute significantly to generating the necessary conditions in the search for peace in the Middle East," the Palestine representative said in a statement on Wednesday.

Palestine has been recognized as a sovereign state by the U.N. General Assembly, the International Criminal Court and at least 136 countries.

Palestine seeks to create a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands that Israel captured in the 1967 war.

Colombia abstained in December from a vote by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on a resolution calling for the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. U.S. President Donald Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted in favor.

 (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta in Bogota and Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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Gaza teenager killed, dozens injured as Great March of Return marks over 100 days

A 15yo Palestinian has been killed by live IDF fire and over 220 people have been injured during the Great March of Return protest on the Gazan-Israeli border. The clashes marked over 100 days since the deadly weekly revolt began.

Othman Rami Hellas, 15, was killed on Friday evening after being shot by an IDF sniper during yet another tense standoff along the border demarcation fence, Wafa News reported. Another 220 Palestinians suffered injuries from the live bullets and tear gas that were used to repel the protesters.

The IDF said it was forced to respond to the Palestinian “violence” after a soldier received “moderate injuries” from a grenade that was thrown at him by the rioters.

 
© IDFSpokesperson

“Throughout the day there were violent riots involving thousands of Palestinians along the security fence between Gaza and Israel,” the IDF said, in a statement. “Rioters threw grenades, explosive devices and fire bombs, burned tires, and threw stones at the security fence and at IDF troops.”

Israel urged Hamas to stop inciting weekly protests, accusing it of using Gazan civilians as "human shields” to cover their “terror activity.” In the face of Hamas operatives using “grenades, fire bombs, explosives, stones, burning tires, arson kites, and incendiary balloons,” the IDF has once again warned that it will use all means necessary to protect its sovereignty.

Following the Friday clashes, overnight the IDF targeted Hamas sites in Gaza. The militant organization retaliated by launching at least 17 rockets across the border into Israel, five of which were intercepted by Iron Dome.

READ MORE: ‘We want to play for our country’: Gaza amputee footballers aspire to reach the top (VIDEO)

In the 100 days since the weekly rallies began on March 30 at least 138 Palestinians, including 19 minors were killed. Over 15,000 rioters were injured.

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Pullout from JCPOA, embassy move US historic mistakes

TEHRAN, May 15 (MNA) – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said that the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and relocation of its embassy to al-Quds were two historic mistakes made by the US administration.

"History will judge that these two decisions have been very incorrect and imprecise towards Iran and the peoples of the region," Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday while meeting with the new ambassador of New Zealand to Tehran.

Referring to the objections of the global community towards these two decisions, Rouhani said "the first outcome of the incorrect decisions is Washington's isolation in the public opinion of the world."

With regard to the bilateral relations between Iran and New Zealand, President Rouhani stressed that Tehran welcomes development of friendly relations with Wellington and referred to the ample potentials for deepening of these relations.

He added "there are good potentials for development of relations between Iran and New Zealand that must be taken advantage of and Tehran is ready to cement scientific, commercial and tourism ties with Wellington".

The Iranian president also appreciated the positive stances of New Zealand on the JCPOA and said "2015 was the year of success of politics and diplomacy over hostility and unfriendly relations among countries and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran believes that constructive interaction with the countries of the world and adoption of a win-win approach will be beneficial for the entire world."

Iran has always been committed to its obligations in the international stage, he said, adding that in the case of the JCPOA, 11 reports by the IAEA verify this and the US' withdrawal from the deal is a political and moral defeat for the US administration.

New Ambassador of New Zealand to Tehran Hamish MacMaster presented his letter of credence to President Rouhani and stressed that Wellington was willing to deepen and cement relations with Tehran in all fields, especially economy.

He added "the two governments and nations of Iran and New Zealand have close, friendly relationship with each other and it is imperative that this relationship is further strengthened."

KI/PR

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Israeli Forces Kill 28 In Gaza Protests As Anger Mounts Over US Embassy

GAZA BORDER:  Israeli forces killed at least 28 Palestinians along the Gaza border on Monday, health officials said, as demonstrators streamed to the frontier on the day the United States prepared to open its embassy in Jerusalem.

It was the highest Palestinian single-day death toll since a series of protests dubbed the "Great March of Return" began at the border with Israel on March 30 and since a 2014 Gaza war.

The health officials said 900 Palestinians were wounded, about 450 of them by live bullets.

Tens of thousands gathered at the frontier on Monday, some of them approaching Israel's border fence - a line Israeli leaders vowed Palestinians would not be allowed to breach. Black smoke from tyres set alight by demonstrators rose in the air.

"Today is the big day when we will cross the fence and tell Israel and the world we will not accept being occupied forever," said Gaza science teacher Ali, who declined to give his last name.

"Many may get martyred today, so many, but the world will hear our message. Occupation must end," he said.

Later in the day, Israeli leaders and a U.S. delegation including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Donald Trump's daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, were due to attend the opening of the embassy relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

palestine gaza

Palestinian men carry an innjured protester during clashes

"A great day for Israel," the U.S. president, who stoked Arab anger by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December, said in a tweet.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in lockstep with Trump over fulfilling a long-standing U.S. promise to move the embassy to the holy city and over the president's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last week, echoed the sentiment.

"What a moving day for the people of Israel and the State of Israel," Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.

The 28 Palestinian dead on Monday included a 14-year-old boy, a medic and a man in a wheelchair who had been pictured on social media using a slingshot.

The Israeli military identified three of those killed as armed militants whom it said tried to place explosives near the fence in the southern Gaza Strip.

The latest casualties raised the Palestinian death toll to 73 since the protests started six weeks ago. No Israeli casualties have been reported.

"The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) will act forcefully against any terrorist activity and will operate to prevent attacks against Israelis," the military said in a statement.

The killings have drawn international criticism, but the United States has echoed Israel in accusing Gaza's ruling Hamas movement of instigating violence, an allegation it denies.

"LONG OVERDUE"

Jason Greenblatt, Trump's Middle East peace envoy, said on Twitter that "taking the long-overdue step of moving our Embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal. Rather, it is a necessary condition for it."

But Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah accused the United States of "blatant violations of international law".

The Palestinians, who want their own future state with its capital in East Jerusalem, have been outraged by Trump's shift from previous administrations' preference for keeping the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv pending progress in peace efforts.

Those talks have been frozen since 2014. Other international powers worry that the U.S. move could also inflame Palestinian unrest in the occupied West Bank, which Israel captured along with East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

The protests are scheduled to culminate on Tuesday, the day Palestinians mourn as the "Nakba" or "Catastrophe" when, in 1948, hundreds of thousands of them were driven out of their homes or fled the fighting around Israel's creation.

"Choosing a tragic day in Palestinian history (to open the Jerusalem embassy) shows great insensibility and disrespect for the core principles of the peace process," Hamdallah wrote.

Most countries say the status of Jerusalem - a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians - should be determined in a final peace settlement and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal.

But Guatemala, which received support from Israel in its counter-insurgency campaigns in the 1980s, plans to open an embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Its ambassador visited the new site, in an office building in the western part of the city, on Monday. Paraguay is to follow suit later this month.

In London, the British government said it had no plans to move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and said it disagreed with the U.S. decision to do so.

The Russian government said it feared the embassy move would increase tensions across the Middle East.

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