Israeli Air Force carries out airstrikes in Gaza

The Israeli Air Force carried out airstrikes in Gaza last night, killing two Palestinian “gunmen” after rockets were fired from the area. At least three rockets were reportedly launched toward Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip late last night.

“IAF aircraft targeted four facilities belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip: two weapons manufacturing sites, a weapons warehouse, a military compound,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

Palestinian protests, so far today, aren’t as intense as Friday. On Friday, thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in protest and two were killed in clashes with IDF troops on the Gaza border. Dozens were wounded there and in the West Bank.

Published by The War Files

Protests against Catalan leadership arrests

Thousands of Catalans took to the streets outside the region’s parliament in Barcelona on Thursday to protest the internment of eight ministers of Catalonia’s former government. 

The former officials, along with four others who ignored Spain’s high court summons, are charged with rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds.

Carles Puigdemont was also charged but didn’t leave Belgium to answer to Spanish prosecutors. Madrid is pushing for a European Arrest Warrant for Mr. Puigdemont.

Catalan flags and signs adorned with pro-independence slogans and demands for the “political prisoners” to be freed.

Other towns and cities across Catalonia outside Barcelona also held similar rallies in support of the former government officials with political parties, lobbyists and civic groups condemning the move.

Puigdemont arrived in Brussels last week, not to seek asylum as Belgium had previously offered, but to guarantee “safety” from Madrid after the Spanish government dismissed the Catalan autonomy following a declaration of independence.

On the charges against members of his former government, Puigdemont said the detention was “an act that breaks with the basic principles of democracy.”

“I demand the release of the ministers and the vice president,” he told Madrid in a statement that was broadcast on Catalan TV from an unknown location in Belgium.

The former Catalan president has made clear he will not travel to Madrid unless he is guaranteed a fair trial. The exact parameters of the guarantee are not publicly known.

Belgium’s federal prosecutor said the law will be carried if an EU arrest warrant is issued for Puigdemont, but it is unclear whether the offer of political asylum still stands.

Who are the ministers?

The following are the jailed ministers of the former regional government of Catalonia:

  • Former Deputy Vice-President Oriol Junqueras
  • Former Interior Minister Joaquim Forn
  • Former Foreign Affairs Minister Raül Romeva
  • Former Justice Minister Carles Mundó
  • Former Labour Minister Dolors Bassa
  • Former Government Presidency Councillor Jordi Turull
  • Former Sustainable Development Minister Josep Rull
  • Former Culture Minister Meritxell Borras

A ninth official, ex-Minister of Business Santi Vila, was allowed bail at with the approval of prosecutors. Mr. Vila had quit before the Catalan parliament voted for independence on Oct 27.

Prosecutors have requested European Arrest Warrant’s for Meritxell Serret, former agriculture minister; Antoni Comín, a former health minister; Lluís Puig, former culture minister; and Clara Ponsatí, the former education minister.

Six others within the former regional government are also facing charges but due to parliamentary immunity will have their cases handled by the Supreme Court starting with hearings on Nov 9.

More details to follow. Image 1 of the rallying outside the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on Thursday from ABC News. 


Daesh loses final strongholds

Within the same day, Daesh (IS) has lost its final strongholds in Syria and Iraq. 

Early on Friday, the Syrian Army said it had recaptured Deir al-Zour and hours later Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said al-Qa’im right across the border had been liberated by government forces.

Iraqi forces said they have retaken the last border post-Daesh held between Iraq and Syria.

Soon after, the United States said it carried out its first airstrikes against so-called Islamic State militants in Somalia.

On Oct 17, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces captured the de facto capital of Daesh, Raqqa, in an offensive that started in early June.

Daesh was eradicated from the major stronghold of Mosul in Iraq in July after a nearly year-long offensive that started in October of last year by Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi military, and Shia militias.

Many observers have marked Friday as the day Daesh lost its ambitions of being a so-called territorial Islamic State, but the ideology remains prevalent and powerful.

This can be seen by “lone wolf” attacks carried out in western countries such as the recent truck ramming in the city of New York, with the key suspect claiming fealty to Daesh.

Daesh has crafted or inspired 143 terror incidents in 29 countries outside Iraq and Syria, killing over 2,043 individuals.

Daesh is also active in Somalia, Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Afghanistan and Yemen with aspiring or approved branches in the Philippines, Egypt, Mali, Tunisia, the Caucasus, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

It is not clear yet whether Iraq and Syria-based fighters will be able to escape to one of the other areas in Africa or Asia, but over 50,000 fighters in the two countries have been killed since it took swathes of territory in 2014, according to US Special Operations Command.

More details to follow. Image 1 of Daesh (IS) fighters in Syria from Strategic Culture Foundation. 


Colombia, UN to combat cocaine production

The government of Colombia signed a $315 million USD deal with the United Nations on Friday to compensate farmers switching to safer crops from coca, used to make cocaine. 

“This historic agreement is a unique opportunity to turn the tide against Colombia’s coca cultivation and help farmers embrace alternative development,” said the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC.

Executive Director Yury Fedotov said in a statement in Vienna that he “congratulated the Colombian government not just for its ceaseless efforts to find peace, but also for its recognition that the pursuit of peace requires tangible solutions to the crimes that fuel and feed conflict.”

The UN considers the reduction of illegal drug crops to be part of its mission to reduce violence in the country.

Colombia deal.jpg

Mr. Fedotov signed the deal with Colombian leadership in Vienna as part of his organization’s mission to “monitor the country’s policy to reduce illicit crops and to strengthen rural development, as a crucial part of the country’s ongoing peace-building efforts.”

Currently, farmers earn $300 per month for every hectare of the raw cocaine crop of coca they grow. The government in Bogatá and the UN want growers to switch to coffee and cacao.

However, Bogatá says it is being challenged by armed militant groups that aim to capture areas, where coca is traditionally grown to take advantage of the financial gain cocaine, can return.

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Image of a soldier overlooking people removing coca crop NE of Medellin from Time Magazine. 

Colombia has made progress in this area as the communist Farc rebel group gave up their final weapons over the summer of 2017 ending 52 years of guerrilla warfare with the state.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, once controlled much of the coca-growing territory.

However, upon the group’s disbandment of its armed wing, it agreed to give up its control over the drug production zones and promote the switch to safer crops.

Observers say the delays in the Farc deal were taken advantage of by local farmers who planted coca with hopes of being offered subsidies later to switch to other crops.

The armed groups Bogotá warn of are others who have taken advantage of Farc’s disarmament.

The issue of illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, goes back to the control of substances by international criminals, such as billionaire Pablo Escabar in the 1980s and 90s, and their powerful cartels.

The United States has been heavily involved in the anti-drug campaign in Colombia for some 50 years, even during the reign of corrupt administrations and a scared populace.

More details to follow. Image 1 of Colombian government and UNODC from UNODC Twitter. 


Daesh executed 741 during Mosul battle

Daesh (IS) killed at least 741 civilians while Iraqi and allied forces were fighting to take the militant stronghold of Mosul, according to the United Nations. 

So-called Islamic State murdered the 741 individuals in “execution-style” killings, said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

The UN mission in Iraq released a report on the liberation of Mosul that also said: “at least 2,521 civilians were killed during the military operation, mostly as a result of ISIL attacks.”

Some 1,673 civilians were also wounded during the offensive.

“The execution-style killing of civilians, the suffering inflicted on families, and the wanton destruction of property can never be tolerated in any armed conflict, and those responsible must answer for their heinous crimes,” said the UN human rights head, Mr. Al Hussein.

Mr. Al Hussein called for alleged violations carried out by Iraqi forces to be investigated by the UN.

The report says another 461 civilians died in United States-led coalition airstrikes and Iraqi military actions during the most intensive phase of the offensive that started on Feb  19 of this year.

More details to follow. Image 1 of a newly captured but devastated Mosul from the Washington Post. 


War on Terror has cost American taxpayers at least $1.7 trillion since 2001

According to a 74-page DoD dossier, the ‘War on Terror’ has cost American taxpayers at least $1.7 trillion since 2001. The dossier breaks down the cost of America’s various conflicts and revealed that the ongoing war in Afghanistan and in Iraq account for the greatest chunk.

Operation Enduring Freedom (the ‘War on Terror’ between 2001-14), Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq War) and Operation New Dawn (operations in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2010-11) made up the biggest expense; costing a combined $1.315 trillion. Current military operations cost $147.6 billion.

These operations include $102.9 billion for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the name given to the ‘War on Terror’ by former President Obama at the end of 2014, and Operation Inherent Resolve, (America’s operations against ISIS), which cost $17.1 billion. Operation Noble Eagle, America’s domestic air defense operation has cost $27.6 billion.

The report only included direct war-related expenses, such as new equipment, operating bases, training and paying soldiers, as well as the costs related to feeding, housing, and transportation. The CIA’s classified operations, along with the NSA’s efforts to “combat terrorism,” aren’t included in the report either.

The report only includes the total amount of funding given through war related-requests between 2001- 2017, which is $1.7 billion and includes war spending, non-war spending on fuel and the cost of running the Noble Eagle base. However, the report also includes an $83 billion in funds marked as “classified.”

Despite the monumental spending, President Trump has promised to “rebuild” the “depleted” US military. He proposed a $603 billion budget for defense spending earlier this year. Both the Senate and House of Representatives have already voted to pass $696 billion and $696.6 billion defense budgets.


US senator calls for strategy to support Kurds

The United States Senator Marco Rubio criticized President Donald Trump’s administration for not having a strategy to support the Iraqi Kurds. 

Mr. Rubio, a member of Republican Party representing Florida, told Kurdistan 24 news agency on Monday that he wanted to know Washington’s plan in regards to the conflict brewing between the Iraqi government and the largely autonomous Kurdistan Region.

“I think Iran, working through these [Shia] militias, has achieved its objective, which is to divide the Kurds and grow in influence and power at the expense of America and our allies,” Rubio told K24.

“I think it’s important that we have a strategy that shows our continued commitment to the Kurdish people.”

The Kurdish military wing, known as the Peshmerga, have been instrumental in the fight against Daesh (IS) militants in Iraq. Their forces participated in the Mosul offensive that started in October of 2016, and has pushed militants out of northwest areas.

When so-called Islamic State took large swathes of territory in 2014 across northern Syria and northwest and western Iraq, Kurdish forces held on to key positions, including oil fields around Kirkuk , while US-armed and trained Iraqi troops fled many posts.

Marco Rubio is a top Republican senator, sitting on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence.

He aligns with Mr. Trump with being against the nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran signed under former US President Barack Obama’s administration.

The multilateral bargain allows for sanctions to be gradually lifted off Iran if they follow through on their agreement not to work towards nuclear weapon technology.

Critics like Rubio see this as a way for Iran to continue alleged state-funded militants, with the senator describing the country’s government as “the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.”

Rubio explained that Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani to seeking another turn at the helm of the Iraqi Kurdish leadership was a result of the Iranian mission to “divide the Kurds against each other.”

The senator told K24 that the Iranians look “to drive us out and become more powerful at our expense, and this is part of their strategy.”

Barzani, and the majority Kurdistan Democratic Party held an independence referendum on Sept 25 of this year that gave an overwhelming mandate for the Kurdistan Region to separate from the central government in Baghdad.

However, the Iraqi leadership deemed the referendum and its results illegal and started a military offensive against Kurdish disputed positions in territory owned by Baghdad last month.

The United States, which has supported both Iraqi and Kurdish forces against Daesh, has called for calm on both sides. The US warned the Kurds against a referendum previously, saying it would disrupt the fight against Daesh militants.

The KRG is not the only Kurds US-led coalitions have worked with against Daesh.

In Syria, the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces are the most effective fighting force against so-called Islamic State, having just recently re-captured the militant’s de facto capital of Raqqa on Oct 17.

The SDF is supported by the US-led coalition in Syria against Daesh.

More details to follow. Syndicated from The GH Post. With files from Kurdistan 24. Image 1 of Marco Rubio at a Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb 27, 2015 from Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons.