UN Debates Will Focus on Middle East, Africa Issues

United Nations, Jul 3 (Prensa Latina) The Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN, Olof Skoog, announced that several issues about the Middle East and Africa will be the focus of attention during debates of the Security Council this month, in which the European delegation assumes the presidency.

Three sessions will be dedicated to Syria (days 3, 26 and 30) and special emphasis will be placed on the humanitarian situation of that Arab country after eight years of conflict, he said.

Yemen is also on the agenda, this is one of the issues that are very much addressed in the 15-member body that is deeply concerned about the violence scenario there and closely follows how the events develop, added the Swedish ambassador.

Next Monday there will be an open debate on children and armed conflict, which seeks to draw attention to the need to offer greater protection for minors and to devote more efforts in the prevention of a war, he said.

In addition, the adoption of a resolution on the protection of children in armed conflicts is envisaged.

Meanwhile, on July 18 the session will be devoted to the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations, while in the rest of the month the situation of countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan will be addressed.

Consultations on July 23 will be focused on Myanmar and a report is expected to discuss the possibility of a voluntary, safe and dignified return of the Rohingya people who fled the violence and are refugees in Bangladesh.

The Security Council will discuss on July 26 the way to continue supporting the peace efforts in Colombia, in the face of the change of government.

Another of the open debates will be on July 11 on the maintenance of international peace and security, with emphasis on the risks related to climate change.

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Lavrov: US Plan on Arab Troops Deployment in Syria 'Sovereignty Violation'

Russia and Egypt are united in their belief that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. Moscow and Cairo will coordinate actions on this issue, Lavrov said after talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Moscow.

Acting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss topical issues on the international agenda, including the situation in Syria and the Iran nuclear deal, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"We are convinced, like our Egyptian friends, that there is no military solution to this conflict. The adjustment of disputes can be achieved exclusively through political means through a comprehensive cross-Syrian dialogue in full accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the outcome of the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue, which was held in Sochi on January 30," Lavrov said.

According to Lavrov, the parties reaffirmed their mutual commitment to the close coordination of Russian-Egyptian actions in the Syrian direction.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

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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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‘Pentagon cyber-espionage op’: US reportedly behind Slingshot malware targeting Mid East & Africa

Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab reportedly busted a major US military asset when it exposed a sophisticated cyber-espionage operation that targeted computer networks in the Middle East.

On March 9, the leading Russia-based cybersecurity company reported their research on a program it called Slingshot, which used a highly sophisticated approach to infect computers with malware through infected routers. The operation had targeted computers throughout the Middle East and some parts of Africa since at least 2012, and required a lot of money and expertise from its creators. A report by an industry news publication, CyberScoop, claims Slingshot was run by the Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

@kaspersky : @Securityblvd provides details on sophisticated that uses compromised to penetrate networks https://kas.pr/889v

The report about the program was the biggest part of the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit (SAS) this month. The firm’s researchers identified an advanced persistent threat (APT) – a term that usually describes a well-organized and trained group of hackers operating on a regular basis and possibly on behalf of a state government – that found a way to compromise various devises through routers. The attack was described as “remarkable and, to the best of our knowledge, unique” by Kaspersky researchers.

 
© Kirill Kallinikov

The company failed to identify how the routers themselves were infected. But they were used to inject malware into computers. The attack replaced one of the Windows libraries with a malicious one, and then used it to download and install two distinct pieces of malware called Cahnadr and GollumApp, which Kaspersky described as “masterpieces of cyberespionage art.” Combined, the two gave virtually unrestricted access to an attacked computer, harvesting screenshots, key strokes, network traffic, USB connections, clipboard content, and many other things.

The people behind Slingshot also took serious measures to protect their malware from being detected. For example, it can shut down its own components before being exposed by anti-viral software. It also runs its own file system to remain hidden from the computer-operating system, and blocks disc defragmentation to avoid being damaged by the process.

Kaspersky Lab said it has found around 100 victims of Slingshot and its related modules in Kenya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Congo, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Tanzania. Kenya and Yemen accounted for the majority of the cases. Most of the victims were individuals rather than organizations.

The company said they could not attribute the threat to a particular actor, but believed the people behind it to be “highly organized and professional and probably state-sponsored.” Text clues in the code suggested they were “English-speaking”.

The news report quotes unnamed former and current US intelligence officials, who said that Slingshot was an operation of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a component of SOCOM. Kaspersky Lab “burned” the program, which is believed to have been an anti-terrorist operation, leaving the American military without a valuable tool and potentially putting American lives at risk, the officials claimed.

 
© Kirill Kallinikov

 

“SOP [standard operating procedure] is to kill it all with fire once you get caught,” CyberScoop quoted a former intelligence official as saying. “It happens sometimes and we’re accustomed to dealing with it. But it still sucks… I can tell you this didn’t help anyone.”

CyberScoop says that Cahnadr and GollumApp are associated with hacker groups widely believed to be the NSA and the CIA respectively in the cybersecurity community. The report implies that Kaspersky Lab should have expected Slingshot to be a US operation.

“It’s clear by the way they wrote about this that they knew what it was being used for,” a senior official told the news service. “GReAT [Kaspersky’s Global Research & Analysis Team] is extremely adept at understanding the information needs of different actors out there on the internet. They take into considering the geopolitical circumstances, they’ve shown that time and time again. It would be a stretch for me to believe they didn’t know what they’re dealing with here.”

When asked about the claim that it damaged a US military operation, Kaspersky Lab denied knowing who the Slingshot APT was.

“As a result of anonymized data, it's impossible for us to tell who the specific targets are. All the company can state is that our users are protected against malicious software that can spy, steal or sabotage data from their computers,” they told RT in a statement.

Kaspersky Lab added that their software does not differentiate between malware based on who created it and for what purpose, as any malware is potentially dangerous, even if created by state actors, because it can always fall into the wrong hands.

Kaspersky Lab is currently in the middle of court battle with the US government over the company’s expulsion from part of the American market. US government entities were banned from purchasing services from Kaspersky after the US intelligence accused the company of providing a backdoor for their Russian counterparts through its anti-virus software. Kaspersky denies the allegations and claimed in its lawsuit that the government’s decision was based largely on uncorroborated news media reports as evidence.

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Trump’s Expected Surprise with Jerusalem

If there’s a feature that distinguishes the administration of the North American president, Donald Trump is the lack of a foreign policy platform, augmented by some sort of fatal obsession to dismantle what could be called the legacy of his predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama.

Without risking exaggeration it can be said that in that line of thoughts falls the recently publicized decision of the United States of transferring from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the embassy of their country in Israel.

The acknowledgement of Jerusalem as eternal and indivisible capital of Israel, according to a resolution of the Parliament of that country not recognized by the international community has been a red line that neither far-right U.S. presidents have dared to cross, Ronald Reagan and his Santa Fe platform included.

The implications of the measure is great and the repercussions that will soon take place, deep both for the U.S. political credibility and the razorblade equilibrium of that volatile area which is the Middle East where Washington has key interests since, in essence, condones geographical expansion through territories under military occupation.

For the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the moving of the North American embassy is some sort of manna falling into his lap in an adverse international political landscape to his plans of territorial expansion since such behavior leads to the perpetuation of a conflict of seven decades.

It must be remembered that, after the acceptance by the UN General Assembly of Palestine as an Observer non-member State, the same status that The Vatican, several European countries decided to recognize it and establish diplomatic relationships.

Without overlooking that it violates the IV Geneva Convention, of compulsory execution for all members of the international community, which outlaws the annexation of occupied territories by military forces, as it’s the case of Gaza, Cisjordania and East Jerusalem.

Although in days previous to the North American announcement were abundant the talks on the topic, there was a tiny expectation for common sense to prevail and President Trump backed down or, at least, looked for a way of commitment that allowed him that impossible exercise of serving two masers at the same time.

But pessimists were right all along and the North American leader chose to bang his fist on the table, but that on the long run, it can be harmful for the interests of his country in those Muslim States, among which Washington has allies whose first reaction has been quick to appear.

Turkey, a NATO member summoned an urgency meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; the Arab League called a meeting of chancellors to approach the topic and it’s expected, mainly, the reaction of Egypt and Jordan, the two only Arab countries that have diplomatic relationships with Israel.

In a wide perspective the announcement has domestic repercussions in the United States, since it pleases a large sector on both chambers of the Congress favorable to Israel that have not accepted Trump just yet as one of their own, and abroad whose magnitude is yet to determine, given their implications in a matter of worldwide interest for being controversial and due to its political consequences.

In its Prophecies the French theurgist of Jewish origin Michel of Nostradamus whom prophesied four centuries in advance the birth of Adolf Hitler and the catastrophe he caused, he predicted that the Third World War would begin in Jerusalem. It’s very unlikely that, for lack of a new Hitler, and for the contention impose by atomic arsenals, Trump’s decision can cause another war.

But it’s also true that opens a period of risks from which it can emerge, as paradoxical as it seems, a clearer vision of the need to fix the Palestinian drama.

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Syria fully liberated from ISIS terrorists – Russian MoD

The Russian General Staff has declared the liberation of Syria from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), stating that all territories previously under terrorist control were liberated in the final push by the Syrian Army.

“All terrorist units of ISIS on Syrian soil have been destroyed, and the territory is liberated,” Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov said.

 

© YPG

“Therefore, as of today, there’s no territory controlled by ISIS in Syria,” he added. Gerasimov made the announcement during an annual briefing for foreign military attachés.

After being briefed on the successful military operation on both banks of the Euphrates River in Syria by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, President Vladimir Putin said that the political process and organization of the Syrian people’s congress in Sochi, agreed upon by Russia, Iran, and Turkey last month, must now become the focus. Among other goals, Putin named the drafting of a new constitution, and, eventually, parliamentary and presidential elections.

“Naturally, there might be some spots of resistance, but the military work has been largely completed in the area and at the time. Completed with a full victory, I repeat, with a victory and defeat of the terrorists,” Russian leader said.

The peace process, however, will be “a very big and lengthy job,” Putin cautioned. For this to happen though, the bloodshed in Syria must stop completely, he said. Securing the recent achievements and reinforcing the fragile de-escalation zones should be the first steps to that end, Russia’s president added.

Russia began providing support to Syria following an official request from Damascus in 2015 to prevent the terrorists from overrunning the country completely. Russia’s help allowed the Syrian Arab Army to turn the tide and liberate large areas of the country previously occupied by the jihadists. Smashing the blockade of Deir ez-Zor, an IS stronghold in eastern Syria, represented a turning point in this year’s campaign against the terrorists, ultimately leading to their demise.

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Dictatorship? Washington’s Mid East allies are the ones that 'never saw a ballot box' – Iranian FM

Donald Trump believes Iran is a dictatorship, even though Washington’s allies in the region "haven't seen a ballot box in their countries," Iran's foreign minister said, adding that Tehran derives its legitimacy and mandate from the people.

“Maybe President Trump likes to think of Iran as a dictatorship, but it is interesting that all of his allies [in the region] haven’t even seen a ballot box in their countries… Be it as it may,” Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with the Asia Society, a nonprofit based in New York, answering a question about political processes in Iran and where the country was headed.

Iranian FM: ‘We Derive Our Legitimacy From the Public,’ Not ‘Beautiful American-Made...

What is important is that we derive our legitimacy and our power from our people, unlike our friends in the region,” Zarif told television host Charlie Rose. “We do not derive our legitimacy from the ‘beautiful military equipment’ we get from the United States.”

READ MORE: Tehran could ‘walk away’ from nuclear deal – Iran’s FM

“Our society is not that different, we have the same processes,” Zarif explained. “I don’t have a crystal ball. I know the players, you know the players in the US. But if I ask you who will win the next presidential elections in the US, can you tell me?”

 
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on what is expected to be

Despite an apparent jab at Saudi Arabia – one of the Gulf monarchies Trump has been peddling US weaponry to on his recent tour – Zarif stressed that Tehran was hoping to work together with Riyadh to bolster security in the Middle East.

“We do not have the illusion that we can exclude Saudi Arabia from this region. We believe that Saudi Arabia is an extremely important player in the region whose role needs to be respected,” Zarif said.

“But we expect Saudi Arabia to also recognize that we are an important part of this region and they can never exclude Iran. As we will never try to exclude Saudi Arabia so Saudi Arabia has to abandon this illusion,” he explained.

Turning his attention to Syria, the Iranian foreign minister claimed that Washington has apparently completely shifted its priority from battling the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group to making sure Damascus does not regain control over its border with Iraq.

“Today it seems to me that priorities have changed and for the government of the US it is more important to prevent the Syrian government from taking over the border with Iraq than it is to defeat ISIS,” he said.

Mohammad Javad Zarif on Dealing With U.S.: ‘Don’t Trust — But Verify’

Washington’s plans for Syria remain a mystery, Zarif added, noting that Moscow in the meantime has always been open and clear about its intentions and sincerely wanted to resolve the crisis.

“I talk to President Putin, I know that President Putin wants to find a peaceful solution to Syria because [the conflict] does not serve our interest and it does not serve their interest,” he said. “Whether the US is prepared to do it? Ask somebody who has talked to President [Donald] Trump recently…”

Washington and Tehran have been at odds over the future of the Iran nuclear deal struck under the Barack Obama administration. Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the July 2015 agreement between Tehran and six leading international powers stipulates only that the Islamic republic limit its nuclear program for fifteen years in exchange for a relaxation of pre-existing sanctions.

 
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. © Stephanie Keith

While Tehran has repeatedly said the existing terms of the JCPOA are non-negotiable, earlier this year, the US Congress introduced legislation that would require Iran to limit other activities, such as missile testing, which are not covered by the agreement.

Under US law, through, and through a Congress-created mechanism, Trump is required to re-assess the JCPOA every 90 days in order to decide whether the nuclear deal is in the best interests of the US. October 15 is the president’s next deadline.

Last week, Trump, who has also been accusing Tehran of being a dictatorship and the main sponsor of terrorism in the region, once again declared the deal with Iran an “embarrassment to the US” and threatened to quit the agreement if the IAEA is not granted full access to all Iranian military sites.

Iran for its part threatened to quit the deal and resume its nuclear program at “greater speed” if the US continues to breach the terms of the agreement.

“Iran has a number of options, which include walking away from the deal and going back with greater speed with this nuclear program,” Zarif told CNN on Sunday. The minister stressed that Iran’s nuclear program “will remain peaceful,” but “will not address and accept the limitations that we voluntarily accepted.”

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US Coalition Killed 744 Iraqi, Syrian Civilians in June: Report

War monitoring group Airwars claims June was the second deadliest month for civilians in Iraq and Syria since the start of Coalition attacks in 2014.

At least 744 civilians were killed in strikes in Iraq and Syria last month by the U.S.-led Coalition fighting the Islamic State group, an independent organization said on Wednesday. 

RELATED: New Cease-Fire Begins in Parts of Southern Syria

“Across Iraq and Syria, Airwars tracked a record 223 alleged Coalition casualty events during June, likely killing a minimum of between 529 and 744 civilians – a rise of 52 percent on May’s estimated totals,” the London-based group of researchers and journalists said. 

“June was the second deadliest month for civilians in Iraq and Syria since the start of Coalition actions in August 2014,” according to the report.

The reported death toll is higher than that claimed by the U.S.-led Coalition.

In the monthly report released on Friday, the Coalition said its strikes had unintentionally killed at least 603 civilians between August 2014 and May 2017. The Coalition, battling to defeat Islamic State group militants in Iraq and Syria, claims it goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties.

The liberation operation of Mosul in Iraq officially came to an end on Monday when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the city, three years after the Islamic State group seized it.

A top U.S. general in Iraq strongly rejected an Amnesty International report accusing the coalition of violating international law in the battle for Mosul. 

RELATED: Syrian Observatory Claims Islamic State Group Leader Is Dead

"I reject any notion that coalition fires were in any way imprecise, unlawful or excessively targeted civilians," Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told a news briefing in Washington.

He added that he believed the fight against the Islamic State group was the "most precise campaign in the history of warfare."

Operations are still underway from various fronts to liberate the city of Raqqa in Syria. 

The United Nations has raised concern about the situation of up to 50,000 civilians who remain trapped in the region. 

“Availability of food, water, medicine, electricity and other essentials has been dwindling, with the situation rapidly deteriorating,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Andrej Mahecic said in Geneva. 

"It is imperative that trapped civilians are able to secure safe passage out — to reach safety, shelter and protection."

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