President Barack Obama says “despite all the noise and hullabaloo” the United States and Israel are still close allies and the recent anti-Israel UN resolution has not damaged the military, intelligence ties between Washington and Tel Aviv.
The UN Security Council voted 14-0 last month to pass Resolution 2334, which demanded an immediate end to Israel’s “illegal” settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. The US decided to abstain - and not veto - the resolution, allowing it to be adopted.
In his final interview on CBS’s "60 Minutes" on Sunday night, the outgoing president acknowledged that it was his decision not to veto the resolution condemning Israel's settlements.
Host Steve Kroft said America’s abstention during the voting on Resolution 2334 “caused a major fallout between the United States and Israel,” and asked Obama, “Was it your decision to abstain?”
“Yes, ultimately,” Obama replied. “I don't think it caused a major rupture in relations between the United States and Israel.”
President Obama said that “despite all the noise and hullabaloo-- military cooperation, intelligence cooperation, all of that has continued. We have defended them consistently in every imaginable way.”
The Obama administration has argued that the abstention was in line with the official US policy which views the settlements as a major impediment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But the move angered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who accused President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry of being behind the “shameful” act.
Obama said on Sunday that Israel’s illegal settlements are “a contributing factor to the inability to solve [the Israeli-Palestinian] problem.”
The president said that he wanted “to make that point” with the vote.
The Obama administration has insisted the Israeli prime minister was responsible for Washington’s decision to allow the Security Council to adopt Resolution 2334, saying Netanyahu did not pay attention to repeated American warnings that increased settlement construction on the occupied Palestinian lands could lead to greater pressure from the international community.
US President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to change course of the US-Israeli ties after he takes office on January 20, but given that most of the world is opposed to the Israeli settlements, the Security Council action will be almost impossible for anyone, including Trump, to reverse.
Daesh terrorists have stormed a religious seminary in eastern Afghanistan, kidnapping over a dozen teachers and administrators there, officials say.
The attack involving three armed men took place in Nangarhar Province over the weekend, Mohammad Asif Shinwari, spokesman for the provincial education department, said Monday.
The Ministry of Education also said the Daesh terrorists entered Mesher Mullah Sahib Madrassa while the students were taking their exams, kidnapping 14 clerics and two administrators.
In a separate incident elsewhere, Afghan police said a senior government official, identified as Mustafa Safayee, was killed by two unknown gunmen in the northern province of Baghlan.
The incidents came just days after Daesh raided Kot District in Nangarhar and set fire to some 60 houses there. According to local officials, the assault took place as Kot residents refused to pledge allegiance to the terror outfit.
Daesh has expanded its activities in nearly a dozen Afghan provinces, particularly Nangarhar, despite the presence of thousands of foreign boots on the ground.
The rise of Daesh in Afghanistan has raised concerns in a country already torn apart by decades of Taliban-led militancy and the 2001 invasion of the US and its allies.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has blamed the Saudi regime for thousands of civilian deaths since the onset of its aerial and ground campaign against Yemeni, which is strongly supported by Riyadh’s allies, particularly the US and the UK.
In its annual report, the New York-based rights group said at least 4,125 civilians were killed and 7,207 others wounded between March 26, 2015, when the Saudi war began, and October 10, 2016.
The report also slammed Riyadh’s military and the countries assisting it in the war for using internationally-banned weapons in their attacks against civilian targets.
According to the report, HRW had identified “six types of air-dropped and ground-launched cluster munitions in multiple locations in Yemen, including those produced in the US and Brazil. Amnesty International has further documented the use of UK-made cluster munitions.”
Saudi Arabia unleashed the warfare to reinstall Yemen’s former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur, a dedicated Riyadh-allied figure.
The kingdom has been providing air cover to ground operations by its mercenaries operating against Yemeni armed forces.
The report further said the war “has been supported by the United States and the United Kingdom,” naming the world powers as two “key international actors” in the offensive.
“The US has been a party to the conflict since the first months of fighting, providing targeting intelligence and in-air refueling,” the report noted.
Yemen’s army has joined forces with the country’s Houthi Ansarullah movement to defend the nation against the bombardments. They have also been staging repeated retaliatory attacks against Saudi-allied militants on Yemeni soil and Saudi border regions.
Bahrain has executed three anti-regime Shia activists over their alleged role in a 2014 bomb attack, amid widespread public anger against the death verdicts.
The regime in Manama carried out the death verdicts on Sunday, triggering angry demonstrations in the villages of Diraz, Bani Jamra and Sanabis.
Regime forces tried to disperse the protesters by firing pellets and teargas canisters and injuring a number of the demonstrators.
Manama’s troops also prevented people from holding a funeral procession for those executed.
According to the Bahrain Mirror news website, the authorities have refused to return the bodies of the three activists to their families.
The rallies began on the eve of the executions and lasted into Sunday, when the outraged public marched across the capital Manama and the northeastern villages of Nuwaidrat and al-Dair after the morning prayers, the London-based Bahraini opposition television network Lualua reported.
On January 9, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld the death penalties given to Sami Mushaima, Abbas Jamil Tahir al-Sami’ and Ali Abdulshahid al-Singace over allegations of killing a member of Emirati forces who had been assisting Manama in its suppression of Bahraini protesters in the northern village of al-Daih back in March 2014. Seven other convicts have also been sentenced to life in prison in the case.
Spain's King Felipe VI has met with Saudi King Salman amid ongoing negotiations between Madrid and Riyadh over the purchase of Spanish warships.
Felipe met Salman over lunch on Sunday in Riyadh, where the Saudi king decorated him with Saudi Arabia’s highest honor for a foreigner, the cordon of King Abdul Aziz.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, mutual relations and furthering their development "in various fields" were discussed between the two kings.
Felipe began his three-day tour of the kingdom on Saturday following an invitation by Salman. Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis and Public Works Minister Inigo de la Serna are accompanying him during his trip.
The Spanish and Saudi royal families have maintained an exceptionally close relationship for several years which has led to closer economic ties between the two countries.
Reports have linked the trip to a prospective contract to sell Avante 2200 corvettes, which can be equipped with missile systems and helicopter launch pads, for an estimated $2.1 billion.
"We can only confirm that negotiations are very advanced to build five warships which would be sold to the Saudi navy," said a spokesman for state-owned Spanish ship builder Navantia on Sunday.
Spain is the world's seventh largest arms exporter, and Riydah is one of the biggest buyers of military gear and is under fire by various international rights groups for its deadly war against Yemen.
A so-called monitoring group says nearly 250 civilians have lost their lives and more than a thousand others sustained injuries ever since the Turkish military launched an operation in northern Syria against purported positions of Daesh Takfiri terrorists and Kurdish fighters.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Sunday that eight people, two children and a White Helmet rescue worker, were killed the previous day as Turkish forces bombed and shelled al-Bab town, located 30 kilometers south of the Turkish border, the nearby town of Bizeaa as well as surrounding areas, which are controlled by Daesh terrorists in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo.
The Observatory noted that the latest deaths took to 249 the number of Syrian civilians killed in the wake of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield. There were 54 minors under the age of eighteen and 29 women among the fatalities.
The Britain-based monitoring group went on to say that more than 1,100 people were either injured or maimed between November 13 last year and January 15 this year as a result of Turkish artillery attacks and airstrikes against northern Syrian towns.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has warned of “extremely serious consequences” if US President-elect Donald Trump fulfills his election campaign promise to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.
“When you are president of the United States, you cannot take such a stubborn and such a unilateral view on this issue. You have to try to create the conditions for peace,” Ayrault told the public France 3 television network on Sunday.
The top French diplomat’s remarks came as delegates from 70 countries, including key European and Arab states as well as the permanent members of the UN Security Council, have come together in Paris in an attempt to rekindle the long-stalled so-called peace talks between Israel and Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives are in attendance.
Diplomats said the Paris meeting aims to send a strong signal to the incoming American president that the so-called two-state solution is the only solution in the occupied territories, just five days before Trump is sworn in.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas criticized on Saturday the potential transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv, where it has been for 68 years.
French officials have stated that the symbolic conference in Paris will not impose anything on the Israeli regime or the Palestinian Authority, and that only direct negotiations can resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
A draft communiqué, obtained by Reuters news agency, reiterates the existing international resolutions, urging both sides to stand committed to the purported two-state solution and disavow officials who reject it. The communiqué also asks the leading officials to “refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations.”
Netanyahu rejects Paris meeting as “futile”
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed the international conference in Paris as “futile.”
“The conference convening today in Paris is a futile conference,” he told ministers at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem al-Quds.
“It was coordinated between the French and the Palestinians with the aim of imposing upon Israel conditions that are incompatible with our national needs,” Netanyahu asserted.
The presence and the expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories have been among the main reasons behind the collapse of the last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks in April 2014.
The Tel Aviv regime has defied international calls to stop its unauthorized construction activities in the occupied lands.
Forces with the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) have fully liberated the Mosul University, in a key advance against the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in the strategic northern city.
A security source, speaking anonymously to al-Sumeria, said the full liberation of the university’s premises occurred on Saturday. A day earlier, Iraqi special forces had entered the university’s compound and liberated a number of its buildings.
The university served as a base to the terrorists, who have reportedly been using its laboratory to produce chemical weapons.
In a separate development on Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said during a conference on Iraq’s political and security prospect in a post-Daesh era, that Iraq will not be a threat to any of the regional countries once its battle with the terrorist group is successfully over. He said a number of countries fear a post-Daesh Iraq, implying that those countries seek to stir sectarian tensions.
Iraqi President Fuad Masum, also speaking at the conference, said that most of the previously-occupied Iraqi cities have been recaptured from Daesh and that the full liberation of Mosul will take place in the near future.