Islamic State terrorists conquered large areas of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital Wednesday and are battling Palestinian faction Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis for control, media reports indicate.
"Fighters from ISIS launched an assault this morning on Yarmouk and they took over the majority of the camp," said Anwar Abdel Hadi, Damascus-based director of political affairs for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
This latest incursion represents ISIS' most significant territorial gain into Syria's capital.
Meanwhile, a senior Hamas leader Yehia Hourani, was killed in the camp on Monday, according to a Hamas statement which referred to Hourani's death as an assassination.
Yarmouk once hosted 160,000 Palestinians and Syrians. Now, however, only about 18,000 people remain in the camp that has been controlled by various groups over the past four years. Originally under dictator Bashar al-Assad's rule, the Yarmouk camp was taken over by moderate Sunni rebels and at one point also conquered by the al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.
The siege has caused significant food and water shortages, imposing a humanitarian crisis over the camp's remaining inhabitants.
On a day Iran and western powers reportedly agreed to move talks on Iran's nuclear weapons program to "a new phase," a commander of the Islamic Republic's volunteer paramilitary force issued new threats of "wiping Israel off the map."
The goal of Israel's destruction is non-negotiable, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, head of Iran's volunteer Basij Force said during a recent conference, according to a Kol Yisrael radio report. The Basij Force is a part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Such talk might be dismissed as idle rhetoric.
But Iran continues to beef up Hizballah's rocket arsenal, smuggling guided warheads into Lebanon, the Jerusalem Post's Yaakov Lappin reports.
Iran "is manufacturing new and advanced ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles," Col. Aviram Hasson, an Israeli missile defense expert, told Israel Air and Missile Defense Conference in Herzliya this week. "It is turning unguided rockets that had an accuracy range of kilometers into weapons that are accurate to within meters."
The advancements put Hizballah, Iran's Lebanese terrorist proxy, "in a very different place compared to the Second Lebanon War in 2006," Hasson said.
In that war, Hizballah fired 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities. The range of its current arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets include some capable of traveling several hundred kilometers, placing Israel's civilian population centers at risk.
Israel's Home Front Command has warned cities that they may need to evacuate civilians in the face of an onslaught of dozens to hundreds of missiles in a single day, Lappin reports.
Those missiles are likely beyond the capability of Israel's "Iron Dome" defense system, which intercepted scores of Hamas rockets fired at the country during last summer's war in Gaza. "David's Sling," a similar system for longer range missiles, isn't expected to be operational for another year.
Hizballah fighters are busy in Syria, fighting alongside dictator Bashar al-Assad's forces in fighting that has claimed more than 210,000 lives. But the group continues to plan for the next war with Israel, too, perhaps because Iran's rhetoric about seeking Israel's annihilation is consistent and specific.
"The biggest threat to our security and our future was and remains Iran's attempts to arm with nuclear weapons," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.
Hasan Edmonds, a member of the Illinois Army National Guard, was arrested at the Chicago Midway International Airport just before boarding a flight to Cairo, Egypt. Edmonds hoped to take the "southern route" that he was told was the "safest route" from Egypt into Syria to fight alongside Islamic State forces. Jonas Edmonds, Hasan's cousin, was arrested in his home in the Chicago suburb Aurora.
According to a criminal complaint, Hasan planned to use his military training to wage jihad with the Islamic State. Jonas planned to stay in the U.S. and carry out an armed attack against a U.S. military facility in northern Illinois where Hasan trained. The cousins planned to use Hasan's uniforms and knowledge about getting inside the facility.
In conversations with an undercover agent on Facebook, Hasan said it was his "duty" to support ISIL and die a martyr. He said he had no desire to continue serving in the U.S. National Guard and preferred to "struggle and strive hard in the cause of Allah rather than sit back and live a 'comfortable' life." Hasan also gave advice to the undercover agent on how to fight the U.S. and its army saying, "In all honesty the best way to be them is to break their will. With the U.S. no matter how many you kill they will keep coming unless the soldiers and the american [sic] public no longer have the will to fight."
When he had trouble getting a passport, Jonas told the undercover agent he wanted to meet other ISIL supporters in the U.S. if he couldn't get to Mosul in Iraq to wage jihad. "If I find myself stuck here. I intend to take advantage of being close to the kuffar [infidel] ... Do you know of brothers on this side. That are not looking to leave."
The Edmonds cousins "plotted to attack members of our military within the United States," Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said in a Justice Department press release announcing the arrest. "Disturbingly, one of the defendants currently wears the same uniform of those they allegedly planned to attack."
Both Edmonds men face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Palestinian terrorist groups violated international law and blatantly disregarded civilian lives by consistently firing missiles indiscriminately into Israel during last summer's war with Israel, Amnesty International reports.
The Amnesty report outlines evidence of numerous specific attacks launched from the Gaza strip that directly resulted in the deaths of Israeli civilians, including a 4-year-old boy. The report also strongly suggests that Palestinian attacks killed Palestinian civilians. For example, a missile fired from within the Gaza Strip killed 13 Palestinians, 11 of them children, after it landed in the al-Shati refugee camp. Even though Palestinians accused Israel for the attack, an independent munitions expert examining the evidence confirmed that Palestinians launched the missile.
"Palestinian armed groups, including the armed wing of Hamas, repeatedly launched unlawful attacks during the conflict killing and injuring civilians. In launching these attacks, they displayed a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and for the consequences of their violations on civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's director of the Middle East and North Africa Program.
Amnesty's report also acknowledges that all of the rockets used by Palestinian terrorist organizations are unguided missiles which are inherently indiscriminate and lack the capability to strike targets accurately. Moreover, the findings outline extensive Palestinian use of mortars, which should never be utilized against military targets located near residential areas.
Palestinian groups also violated international humanitarian law by using civilian buildings including United Nations (UN) schools and hospitals for weapons storage. The report outlines specific cases where terrorist organizations launched attacks very close to areas where hundreds of displaced civilians were seeking refuge.
Amnesty's report also suggests that some of Israel's counterterrorism operations should be investigated as war crimes as well and that both Israeli and Palestinian authorities should cooperate with United Nations (UN) commissions and the International Criminal Court.
Over 4,800 rockets and 1,700 mortars were launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip during the summer conflict, according to UN data. Roughly 224 of these projectiles hit Israeli residential areas, while Israel's Iron Dome intercepted numerous other rockets achieving a success rate of 90 percent.
Click here to read the full Amnesty International report.
A $655 million judgment levied by an American jury last month for facilitating terrorist attacks a decade ago apparently did little to persuade the Palestinian Authority (PA) to stop glorifying terrorists.
The PA recently dedicated a monument in Ramallah to terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who led a 1978 bus hijacking attack that killed 37 Israeli civilians, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports.
The Mughrabi Square monument features a large map of "Palestine" which includes the entire State of Israel and an image of Mughrabi holding a rifle. This is yet another clear example of the Palestinian Authority glorifying terrorists who murder Israeli civilians and denying Israel's right to exist in any form. And it's the latest in a series of honors the PA has bestowed upon Mughrabi's memory.
Palestinian Authority TV News also featured prominent statements glorifying Mughrabi and encouraging future similar attacks.
"It is an eternal day and a painful anniversary, but [it also] gives us energy, honor and power on this day, the anniversary of the Martyrdom of the fighter commander Dalal Mughrabi. She who commanded a squad of self-sacrificing fighters, defined 'return' [of refugees] in her own unique way and returned to Palestine to liberate Palestine," said Rabiha Dhiab, former Minister of Women's Affairs.
In addition, the PMW report cites an orthodox Christian cleric who said: "Dalal, God bless her, this female Martyr, she taught us how to liberate the homeland. She, who founded the Republic of Palestine on one of the buses of Palestine. We all see her as a model and as a symbol for us."
Fatah's official Facebook page also announced the dedication of the monument to Mughrabi, referring to her as a "Martyr" and the terrorist attack as "the heroic coastal operation."
In 2010, Palestinian Authority announced plans to name the square after Mughrabi. But PA President Mahmoud Abbas cancelled the dedication after U.S. pressure, including a letter signed by 20 U.S. congressmen condemning the glorification of Mughrabi's attack.
This latest glorification comes amid increased U.S. pressure on Israel to engage in concessions to the Palestinians. It remains to be seen if similar pressure will be applied to the Palestinians for continuing to incite violence against Israelis. And it comes less than a month after a federal jury in New York found the PA liable for supporting terrorist attacks between 2001-04. While the evidence suggests the PA stopped that practice after founding leader Yasser Arafat's death, the incitement to violence against Israelis and the granting of hero's status to terrorist continues.
Click here for a comprehensive list of recent examples of Palestinian incitement.
British Prime Minister David Cameron pulled a report Monday which was widely expected to recommend against labeling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
The review, led by Britain's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Sir John Jenkins, also is expected to suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood's activities in the United Kingdom should be more open and remain under review. No concrete policy recommendations are expected; however, it is expected to name a network of linked organizations alleged to be involved in extremist activities.
This network reportedly included a complex web of at least 60 organizations, think tanks, TV channels and charities with links to the Muslim Brotherhood. The British government decided in December that it would release only a summary of the full report.
The anticipated recommendations could place Britain at odds with Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which classified the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization last year. The UAE included the U.K.-based Cordoba Foundation, headed by Muslim Brotherhood leader Anas al-Tikriti, and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) on its list of terrorist organizations.
Al-Tikriti previously served as MAB's spokesman and has a track record of supporting Hamas. He also supported Islamist terrorists in their fight against U.S. and U.K. troops following Saddam Hussein's fall.
British ministers worry that being too tough on the Brotherhood could annoy Qatar, which recently signed an intelligence agreement with the U.K.
Disputes over the Muslim Brotherhood's terror connections delayed the report's scheduled release, but the Financial Times suggests that the report is unlikely to see the light of day prior to Britain's May 7 elections.
"I would like to update the House [the UK parliament] that a report into the main findings of the Muslim Brotherhood Review will be published alongside the Government's new counter-extremism strategy," Cameron told the MPs in a written statement.
Cameron's decision to pull the report even surprised his Liberal Democratic coalition partners. They reportedly agreed to its publication on Friday.
The Muslim Brotherhood hopes to use the report as political cover in its fight against the Egyptian government's crackdown.
"If the British government claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist organization, the crackdown on MB members in Egypt could be eased," MB lawyer Mohammed al-Damatti told the Cairo Post.
His prison sentence complete, a Pakistani man who plotted a series of prospective terrorist attacks in South Florida has been moved from a federal penitentiary to the custody of U.S. immigration officials pending deportation from the United States.
Imran Mandhai lived in Broward County Florida from the late 1990s into the early 2000s. He attended the Darul Uloom Institute mosque in Pembroke Pines, the same mosque where al-Qaida notable and Mandhai associate Adnan el-Shukrijumah sought spiritual solace. Mandhai and codefendant Shueyb Mosaa Jokhan were investigated by the Miami Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
The two men conspired to commit jihad in South Florida by blowing up power stations, synagogues and a National Guard armory. The JTTF introduced an undercover informant to the two wannabe jihadis and foiled their plans.
Mandhai initially was arrested by special agents of what was then the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) assigned to the JTTF in February of 2002 on terrorism-related deportation charges. Subsequently, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami indicted Mandhai and Jokhan and the two ultimately pleaded guilty to conspiracy to destroy property affecting interstate commerce. Mandhai was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
The court further ordered that Mandhai would be surrendered to federal immigration authorities upon completion of his prison sentence.
That happened Monday, when Mandhai completed his term of incarceration with the Bureau of Prisons and was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for removal (deportation) proceedings. A spokeswoman for ICE confirmed Mandhai's custody status with the agency with the following statement, "Imran Farooq Mandhai was transferred to ICE custody March 9, 2015 from the Bureau of Prisons after completing his federal prison sentence. He will remain in ICE custody pending removal proceedings."
As an alien convicted of a federal terrorism-related felony, Mandhai is subject to mandatory detention during those removal proceedings and likely would be ineligible for any form of relief from deportation, said Dan Vara, the former Chief Counsel for INS and ICE in Miami and Orlando who prosecuted Mandhai in the initial deportation case in 2002.
A Palestinian man rammed a car into a group of Israeli pedestrians injuring five people including four female border police officers during the Jewish holiday of Purim, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Police consider the incident to be a terrorist attack, reporting that the driver swerved onto the sidewalk near a light rail station before emerging from the vehicle with a butcher knife trying to stab other people.
Israeli authorities have identified the suspect as 22-year-old Mohammed Mahmoud Abdel Razek Salaima from the Palestinian neighbourhood Ras al-Amud. Salaima has a criminal record and remains hospitalized in critical condition after a police officer at the scene shot him following the incident.
The alleged attack occurred in an area that has witnessed numerous Palestinian vehicular attacks in the past year that targeted Israeli pedestrians.
The incident takes place in context of a PLO Central Council conference that issued a statement praising previous Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis in Jerusalem and calling for popular resistance, the Middle East Media Research Service (MEMRI) reports.
"The Central Council congratulates our people who take part in the heroic intifada [violent uprising in Jerusalem] against the barbarism and brutality of the settlers and the occupation forces… To strengthen the steadfastness of Jerusalem and its heroic intifada, the Central Council calls upon all the political and national authorities in the city to allocate the funds necessary to reinforce the steadfastness of our people…" reads the PLO committee statement.
The Council also called for a suspension of security coordination with Israel, but the resolution requires the approval of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.
The PA and Abbas' Fatah faction systematically glorify Palestinian terrorist attacks targeting Israeli civilians and continue to encourage future attacks by explicitly inciting violence against Israelis and Jews.
Click here for a comprehensive list compiled by The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) featuring recent terrorist attacks targeting Israelis and examples of Palestinian incitement.
Muslim Brotherhood Condemns Egypt Court Declaring Hamas A Terrorist Group, Calls for Destruction of Israel
The Muslim Brotherhood condemned an Egyptian court decision to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization and called for the destruction of the Jewish state, according to an Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) translation of a Brotherhood statement released on its Arabic website.
"The Zionist entity will continue to be its historic enemy until the complete liberation of the land. We will soon celebrate, if God wills, the collapse of this coup and the return of Egypt to its role in protecting the Arab national security," reads the Brotherhood statement.
The "complete liberation of the land" in this context directly refers to Israel's destruction.
The declaration also expressed support for Hamas as the main "legitimate organization" of the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian terrorist group is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was also declared as a terrorist organization in Egypt as part of a systematic campaign against radical Islamism.
Another Muslim Brotherhood statement, translated by the IPT, refers to Hamas as "the honor of the Umma [global Muslim community]", glorifies Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel, and calls for continued resistance against the Egyptian regime.
"[The Egyptian court ruling] places little value on the Resistance against practices of the Zionist enemy, and sacrifices it puts forth, exerting life and treasure to liberate al Aqsa, the Holy Places and all occupied Palestinian territory. Thus, we refuse to recognize the rulings of the judges of the military coup and all their ludicrous rulings, stressing that we will continue to besiege the military coup until it topples, considering it part of the Zionist project…," reads the Brotherhood statement.
In January, an Egyptian court labelled Hamas' military wing a terrorist organization. However, judicial sources reveal that Saturday's ruling encompasses the entire organization, Reuters reports.
Hamas, a designated terrorist organization in the U.S., Canada, and other countries, actively targets and attacks innocent Israelis and is committed to the annihilation of the Jewish state.
Moreover, Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual head of the global Muslim Brotherhood also condemned the Egyptian court ruling, according to an IPT translation of an al-Masry al-Youm report.
"Yesterday was the criminalization of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades; today is the criminalization of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas and describing it as terrorist," Qaradawi said on his Twitter page.
Qaradawi continues to incite against the ruling Egyptian regime and Israel from his base in Qatar. The Brotherhood leader has previously called for Muslims to unite in armed struggle against Jews and Israel. Similarly, Qaradawi issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, approving suicide attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and declaring those who mount them as martyrs.
The Austrian parliament passed legislation on Wednesday prohibiting foreign funding for Islamic organizations in an attempt at curbing the spread of Islamist radicalism, Newsweek reports.
The law specifically bans foreign funding for imams and mosques from some Muslim nations including Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Under the new legislation, Austria's 450 Muslim organizations must exhibit a "positive approach toward society and the state" in order to continue receiving official authorization.
Sebastian Kurz, Austria's integration minister, said that the new provisions would inhibit specific Muslim countries from exerting "political influence" in Austria via financial mechanisms.
"What we want is to reduce the political influence and control from abroad and we want to give Islam the chance to develop freely within our society and in line with our common European values," Kurz told the BBC on Wednesday.
The new law has received backlash from Austria's Muslim communities, arguing that international support for Christian and Jewish groups is still allowed. However, the legislation appears to target some countries with problematic foreign policies of promoting radical Islamist agendas.
Moreover, the law will initiate university-led education programs for Austrian imams and Muslims will have the right to halal meals in some of the country's main institutions and public schools, including hospitals, prisons, and in the armed forces. Muslim workers in these institutions will also be able to receive spiritual guidance from Islamic religious leaders.