Israel plans to close broadcaster Al-Jazeera’s offices

Israel has announced plans to close the local offices of Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based international news network. Israeli officials have long accused the broadcaster of bias against the Jewish state.

Al-Dschasira Katar (picture alliance/dpa/T.Brakemeier)

Israel’s communications minister announced on Sunday that he wanted to shut down the operations of Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera in the country.

BREAKING: Israel to shut Al Jazeera offices in Jerusalem and revoke credentials of its journalists. More soon on

Ayoob Kara said he wanted the press cards of employees of the network revoked and to have their Jerusalem office closed, adding that he had asked cable providers to block Al-Jazeera’s transmissions. He said that cable broadcasters had agreed to his proposal to take the station’s Arabic and English channels off the air. Closure of the station’s office would require further legislation, he added.

Kara claimed that the station was used by militant groups to “incite” violence, accusing the network of “supporting terrorism” and saying that it was “delusional” that Arab states in the Middle East had banned Al-Jazeera for that reason but Israel had not.

“Lately, almost all countries in our region determined that Al-Jazeera supports terrorism, supports religious radicalization,” Kara said. “And when we see that all these countries have determined as fact that Al-Jazeera is a tool of the Islamic State, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and we are the only one who have not determined that, then something delusional is happening here,” he said.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia have closed Al-Jazeera’s local offices, while the channel and its affiliate sites have been blocked in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.

The latter four Arab states have included shutting down Al-Jazeera in a list of demands made to Qatar, which they accuse of supporting extremists.

Netanyahu resolute to ban Al-Jazeera

There was no timetable given for the implementation of the measures.

Watch video02:02

How will Qatar respond to list of demands?

Israeli officials have long accused Al-Jazeera of showing bias against the Jewish state. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has likened its coverage to “Nazi Germany-style” propaganda, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently accused the Arab satellite news broadcaster of “incitement” to violence.

“The Al-Jazeera channel continues to incite violence around the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post on July 27, referring to the religious site in Jerusalem that is holy to both Muslims and Jews. The site saw violent clashes in recent weeks.

Netanyahu has, however, frequently criticized news media in general, accusing various outlets of seeking to undermine his government.

ss/tj (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)



Courtesy, DW

Afghan police seize truck with 18 tons of explosives

Police in Kabul have seized a truck carrying 16.5 more tons of explosives than was used in a deadly May bombing there that killed 150 people. The incident underlines the deteriorating security situation in the country.

Screenshot - Facebook: NDS Afghanistan announces seizure of explosives

The truck with Pakistani license plates was seized in District 9 of the Afghan capital, Kabul, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) announced Saturday in a Facebook statement.

The news agency AFP also reported on the truck’s seizure, stating that the 16,500 kilograms (18 tons) of explosives had been hidden in containers marked as poultry feed.

The explosives were packed into 50-kilogram bags, the NDS said.

Afghanistan Explosion in KabulThe May truck bomb attack was the deadliest in Kabul since 2001

Read more: The Afghan security problem

Five people were arrested in relation to the explosive-laden truck. According to the NDS’ statement, the material was to be used for making bombs and suicide vests as well as carrying out other terrorist activities.

Series of attacks this year

Kabul has been battered by suicide attacks in 2017.

On May 31, a massive truck bomb ripped through the diplomatic quarter, killing around 150 people and wounding some 400 others, mostly civilians.  That bomb was said to have contained around 1.5 tons (1,500 kilograms) – some 16.5 tons fewer than were seized on Saturday. No group has taken responsibility for the May attack, which also heavily damaged part of the German embassy.

In late July, a car bomb attack claimed by the Taliban killed dozens in western Kabul. A few days later, Taliban militants also unleased a suicide attack on a NATO convoy.

Read more: Afghanistan’s security situation ‘has deteriorated’

Watch video01:40

Truck blast rocks Kabul diplomatic district



Courtesy, DW

US and Russia chief diplomats show ‘readiness’ to talk despite escalating tensions

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State Tillerson have met for lengthy talks amidst rising tensions between the two nations. Their meeting follows fresh US sanctions and Russia’s US diplomat expulsion.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Manila

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sunday that despite tensions with Washington, he believed his US colleagues were prepared to keep communication lines open with Moscow.

“We felt the readiness of our US colleagues to continue dialogue. I think there’s no alternative to that,” Lavrov told reporters after what he said was a lengthy meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (above photo).

Watch video01:17

Russian-German ventures to be hit by US sanctions

Lavrov said his US counterpart asked him extensively about Russia’s decision to expel US diplomats in retaliation for Washington’s latest round of economic sanctions on Moscow.

Read more: Donald Trump signs Russia sanctions bill into law

“He was primarily interested … in details of those decisions that we grudgingly made in response to the law on anti-Russian sanctions,” Lavrov said. He said he shared with Tillerson how Russia planned to carry out the expulsions but didn’t provide details to reporters.

Tillerson emerged from the meeting an hour after it started without taking questions or giving remarks to reporters.

Ukraine talks expected soon

In addition to discussing issues with North Korea and cooperation on cybercrime, Lavrov said Moscow and Washington’s envoys were set to discuss Ukraine.

US President Donald Trump’s special representative for Ukraine negotiations will soon make his first visit to Moscow to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Read more: US sanctions on Russia could endanger energy security for EU

Watch video01:44

Ongoing tensions between US, Russia

Lavrov also said that Tillerson agreed to resume talks between US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. The channel of communication was initially created to discuss hot spots, but it was suspended after the US imposed tighter sanctions on Russia.

Strained ties

On Thursday, Trump reluctantly signed into law sanctions that target the Russian energy sector and place new limits on US investment in Russian companies.

Lawmakers in Congress passed the bill as a response to Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, its involvement in the Syrian conflict and its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Read more: Relations with Trump and Putin – What’s the next move?

Russia said the sanctions amounted to a full economic war and ordered Washington to cut 755 of its 1,200 embassy and consulate staff in Russia. They also seized two US diplomatic properties.

There has been some confusion regarding the cuts as the US is believed to have far fewer than 755 American employees working in the country.

Russia has repeatedly rejected allegations that it interfered in the US election while Trump has denied any collusion with Moscow.

rs/tj (AP, AFP, Reuters)



  • Courtesy DW

#FakeNews? Mike Pence denies 2020 ballot-box plot to bump Trump

Mike Pence has denied a report that he is planning a presidential run in 2020. According to The New York Times, several Republicans are seeking to replace the party’s unpopular public face, Donald Trump.

Estland US-Vize-Präsident Mike Pence in Tallin (Reuters/I. Kalnins)

In a White House statement released Sunday, Mike Pence called a report on his alleged plans to replace US President Donald Trump in 2020 “absurd,” “categorically false,” “disgraceful and offensive.”

The New York Times had detailed apparent Republican efforts to prepare for an aborted Trump presidency, citing the current turmoil around the US chief executive, including investigations into possible links between his 2016 campaign staff and Russia.

On a trip to central and eastern Europe and the Caucasus last week, for example, Pence repeatedly publicly differed from Trump on Russia. The vice president condemned the Kremlin’s presence in Georgia, with which Russia fought a war in 2008, and said ties would not improve until officials in Moscow changed their stance on Ukraine and withdrew support for such countries as Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Last week, Trump reluctantly signed into law a bill for new sanctions against Russia that had overwhelming support in Congress. He said US relations with Russia had fallen to an “all-time” low and blamed lawmakers for it.

Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also dismissed the report that Republicans would seek to topple their boss, and said Pence would dutifully run alongside Trump once more in 2020.

Watch video01:57

My picture of the week | The Scaramucci moment

‘Political opportunists’

The article suggested that the vice president had become the “pacesetter” among a group of Republican “political opportunists” who had begun preparing to move in should Trump draw blame for any serious losses in 2018’s midterm legislative elections. According to the Times, Pence has created “an independent power base, cementing his status as Mr. Trump’s heir apparent,” and setting up a fundraising body, the Great America Committee, that overshadows the president’s.

The Times reported that Pence had showed his true intentions by appointing the “sharp-elbowed political operative” Nick Ayers – a fresh-faced Republican apparatchik who was once charged with alcohol-related reckless driving – as chief of staff. However, on Twitter, Ayers called the article a “total lie” and “#fakenews.”

.@alexburnsNYT @jmartNYT print total lie in  article. Said I’ve “signaled to multiple donors @VP wants to be ready for 2020″ (cont)

In the past, Trump has reportedly chafed at any suggestion that members of his administration might seek to draw greater attention to themselves. Pence, too, seems to have chafed.

“The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this administration,” Pence said in Sunday’s statement. He added that he would focus all his efforts on seeing Trump re-elected: “Any suggestion otherwise is both laughable and absurd.”

mkg/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)



  • Courtesy, DW

Venezuela says it has put down uprising at army base

At least two “terrorists” were killed during an attack on a Venezuelan army base, President Nicolas Maduro said. The apparent uprising came after a former National Guard captain demanded the creation of a new government.

A man argues with members of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guards outside the Paramacay military base in Valencia

Venezuela’s military says it put down a rebellion at a key army base in Valencia on Sunday, less than two days after the government appeared to ensure its indefinite rule by forming a legislative body loyal to President Nicolas Maduro.

Socialist Party deputy Diosdado Cabello announced the uprising had been put down shortly after a video was released that showed a group of military men announcing the rebellion.

Several of the assailants were arrested, officials said, after reports of shots being fired near the base in the city’s Paramacay Fort, used by the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB in Spanish).

Watch video01:45

Venezuela spirals toward dictatorship

“Our FANB successfully repelled a paramilitary criminal terrorist attack, the seven captured are giving information!” Rear Admiral Remigio Ceballos, head of the military’s strategic operational command, said on Twitter.

In a video released earlier on Sunday, a man who identified himself as Juan Carlos Caguaripano, a former National Guard captain, said: “We demand the immediate formation of a transition government.” He was flanked by about a dozen men in military uniforms.

“This is not a coup d’etat,” he said. “This is a civic and military action to re-establish constitutional order. But more than that, it is to save the country from total destruction.”

A witness near the military base, in the town of Naguanagua, reported hearing gunshots before dawn, but Cabello maintained that the situation had been brought under control. Officials said the rebels, whom they described as “terrorists,” were trying to steal weapons and that seven people were detained after the attack on the base.

Venezuela Proteste in Valencia (Getty Images/AFP/R. Schemidt)Anti-government protesters were also active in Valencia on Sunday

Criticism of Maduro grows

So far the rest of the country appears to be remaining calm, if tense.

Watch video02:02

Venezuela’s government dismisses one of its most powerful critics: Oscar Schlenker from Caracas

Critics at home and abroad have condemned the so-called constituent assembly that formed on Friday and is intended to replace the popularly elected National Assembly, which opposes Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

The constituent assembly quickly moved to dismiss the state prosecutor, Luisa Ortega,  a former ally of Maduro’s who has recently become his staunchest critic.

Ortega refused to recognize the assembly’s move and vowed to resist the Maduro regime “with my last breath” against what she considers the government’s unconstitutional overreach.

The armed forces are seen as the key power broker in Venezuela, and opposition leaders have repeatedly called on the military to break ranks with Maduro.

But the military leadership continues to publicly profess loyalty to the president and his government. Critics say lucrative government contracts, corruption and contraband mean many military officials want Maduro to stay in power. They also fear persecution should the opposition take over.

The country has been in a years-long deepening economic crisis, which has fed the political tensions in the oil-rich state. Periodic demonstrations have grown into daily protests in recent months. Since April, more than 120 people have been killed in the daily clashes as rock-throwing protesters have been met by state security forces firing rubber bullets and water cannon.

bik/tj (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)



Courtesy, DW

EU sanctions against Russia over Siemens turbines violate intl law – energy ministry

EU sanctions against Russia over Siemens turbines violate intl law – energy ministry
The new EU sanctions against Russia over the delivery of Siemens turbines to Crimea is in direct violation of international law, the Russian Energy Ministry has stated.

The Russian Ministry of Energy slammed the recent decision of the European Commission to broaden its sanctions, blacklisting more individuals and firms accused of delivering Siemens gas turbines to Russia’s Crimea peninsula.

The ministry also emphasized that the EU interference in the dispute is illegal and politically motivated.

“The Ministry of Energy has no doubt that the EU took the decision, based solely on political considerations,” according to a statement on Saturday.

“No legal basis for the inclusion of the employees of Minenergo [The Ministry of Energy] in the sanctions list was produced,” the statement adds.

The ministry said that “political ambitions” will not impede Russia in meeting its commitments to the citizens.

“We are waiting for further clarifications from the European Union. The Ministry of Energy, in turn, is going to continue to ensure the consumers’ energy security. Political ambitions must not be an obstacle for the governments to fulfill commitments to the citizens.”

Siemens, according to the ministry, has become a “hostage of the situation.”

On Friday, the EU added to the sanctions list three Russian officials: Russian Deputy Energy Minister Andrey Cherezov, the head of the department of operational control and management in Russia’s electric power industry, Evgeniy Grabchak, and state firm Technopromexport CEO Sergey Topor-Gilka.

The move came following a more than a month-long row over the delivery of Siemens gas turbines to Crimea, which has been under EU and US sanctions following its reunification with Russia in 2014. Western companies are currently prohibited from doing business in Crimea.

In July, the German conglomerate said the four disputed turbines were initially intended for a project in the southern Russian region of Taman, not far from the Crimean Peninsula, but were “illegally moved to the region against clear contractual agreements.” The company has suggested buying back the turbines, and wants to cancel the contract for delivery. It is also going to terminate agreements for supplying Russian power plants and halt equipment deliveries to state-run entities.

The equipment buyer, state-owned Russian company Technopromexport, said it bought the equipment on the secondary market and modernized it at Russian facilities.

The scandal stems from a report in early July, when Reuters posted a photo of the equipment on a ship in Feodosia, Crimea. The machinery was covered in tarpaulin in the picture and could not be immediately identified.

Later, Siemens filed a lawsuit against the Russian buyer, Technopromexport, claiming the company moved the equipment to Crimea in violation of international sanctions and bilateral agreements.

The turbines were reportedly to be installed on new power stations in Crimea. The region has suffered electricity shortages since its separation from Ukraine, as its power supply was almost fully dependent on the country.

Courtesy, RT

Russia & Iran to boost military cooperation as both get hit by US sanctions

Russia & Iran to boost military cooperation as both get hit by US sanctions
Moscow and Tehran have agreed to strengthen military and technological cooperation as the Russian Deputy PM visited Iran following the latest round of US sanctions.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has met Iranian government officials during his visit to the country on Saturday. Rogozin leads the Russian delegation invited to the inauguration ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was reelected in May.

Rogozin held talks with Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan. The officials reportedly discussed new supplies of Russian arms to Iran. They agreed upon the implementation of deals boosting military and technological cooperation, according to Fars news agency.

READ MORE: Sanctions retaliation: Russia tells US to cut embassy staff, stop using storage facilities

The move comes just three days after the US decision to impose a new round of sanctions against Russia and Iran, along with North Korea. The ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’ was overwhelmingly approved by American lawmakers at the end of July and signed by Trump on Wednesday. The US leader himself said that the “legislation is significantly flawed” and warned that it puts “US-Russia relations at all-time & dangerous low.”

The move triggered a strong response from all subjects of the newly introduced economic restrictions, as well as concerns from the US’ European allies.

Moscow considers the bill “a full-fledged economic war on Russia,”according to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. He also called the legislation a “humiliating defeat” for Trump, which leaves no room for improving bilateral ties.

Russia promised retaliatory measures even before the bill was officially signed by Trump. Following congressional approval, Russia decided to reduce the number of US diplomatic staff in Russia to 455, and suspend the use of embassy storage facilities, warning that more restrictions may come.

Iran slammed the measures as a violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, promising to “show an appropriate and proportional reaction” to America’s “hostile” act. Tehran also blamed Washington for attempting to curb foreign investment in the Iranian economy.

READ MORE: ‘Anachronistic’: N. Korea slams ‘international hooligan US brandishing sanctions club’

Several European government officials said the US law would harm their national interests, as the restrictive measures would target European companies taking part in Russian-EU energy projects, including the Nordstream II pipeline.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel criticized the restrictive measures as “diametrically opposed to the interests of Germany and the EU.” Earlier, German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries called on the European Commission “to look into countermeasures” against the “illegal” sanctions.

READ MORE: Trade war? EU ready for economic counter-sanctions if US anti-Russia bill signed – top officials

The Austrian chancellor also slammed the move, calling it “absolutely unacceptable.” France voiced its opposition to the sanctions, saying they target companies beyond US jurisdiction and violate international law.

The EU vowed to defend its economic interests and issue an “adequate” response if the sanctions on Russia hurt the interests of European companies working with Russia, according to European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

Courtesy, RT