2 Israeli Missiles Strike Near Damascus Airport

Syrian media has revaled that two Israeli missiles have landed near Damascus International Airport late on Monday.

Although there was no further report given, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Rahman, said early Tuesdaythe missiles hit an arms depot belonging to the Lebanese Shiite Movement Hezbollah.

Syrian opposition sources said the midnight attack targeted an Iranian cargo plane which was landing at Damascus International Airport.

There was no immediate word on casualties.

Damascus residents told dpa they had heard several loud blasts shortly after midnight coming from near the airport.

Israel has said that it will not tolerate Iran, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, seeking to establish permanent military bases in Syria.

Syrian state-run news agency SANA, which routinely accuses Israel of helping rebels, said the strikes came as Syrian forces made advances against rebels in the southern province of Daraa.

Israel usually does not comment on the strikes it is alleged to have carried out in Syria.

Syrian and Iranian military facilities in the war-torn country have been hit several times since April. Iran has vowed retaliation for one alleged Israeli strike on April 30 that killed a number of Iranian personnel.

Iran and their Hezbollah-backed movement have been fighting alongside Syrian government forces since the conflict started in 2011.

Israel’s Energy Minister Slams EU

“This is the height of nerve and hypocrisy. The same European Union is now sucking up to Iran and will help the country in the face of U.S. sanctions,’’ were the words of Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz on Wednesday.

Steinitz slammed the European Union over the bloc’s criticism of police treatment of Israeli-Arab protesters, saying: “they can go to a thousand thousand hells.

On Wednesday the EU called for a “swift investigation” into allegations that a police officer broke the leg of an Israeli-Arab social activist while the activist was detained in the northern Israeli city of Haifa.

The activist, Jafar Farah, was detained as police responded to a Israeli-Arabs demonstrating in support of Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip.

“I sent to Hell the European Union, which does not really represent the European countries.

“It is an organisation that no one leads but lives for itself.

“The EU is less friendly than the European countries that form it,’’ Steinitz added.

UN Condemns Firing Of Rocket Against Israeli Forces

The UN has condemned the firing of rocket against Israeli forces and subsequent response by Israel. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, however, he noted with relief Thursday’s partial normalisation of the situation, according to a UN statement.

“The UN follows with utmost concern reports overnight of missile launches from Syria targeting Israeli positions and retaliatory strikes by the Israel Defense Forces, that followed earlier strikes in Syria on Sunday, May 6”.

Guterres urged for an immediate halt to all hostile acts and any provocative actions to avoid a new conflagration in the region already embroiled in terrible conflicts with immense suffering of civilians.

The Secretary-General reiterated the UN unwavering support to long term de-escalation efforts, and stability in the Middle East.

He said the UN would continue to advance and support all efforts aimed at further de-escalation in the region.

In this context, Guterres reiterated that the conflict in Syria should be brought to an end with a political solution through the Geneva intra-Syrian talks, as stipulated in resolution 2254 of the Security Council.

The Secretary-General called on the Security Council to remain actively seized of the matter and shoulder its responsibilities under the Charter.

The UN chief said he stood ready to work closely with all its members in this regard.

The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has maintained contact with the Syrian Arab Armed Forces and Israel Defense Forces,

UNDOF urged both parties to exercise maximum restraint and abide by their obligations under the Disengagement of Forces Agreement.

Similarly, the UK has condemned Iran for the firing of missiles against Israel, saying it supported Israel’s retaliatory response.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in a statement, responding to Iranian airstrikes against Israeli forces said: “We strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself”.

The UK envoy added: “We urge Iran to refrain from further actions which will only lead to increased instability in the region.

“It is crucial to avoid any further escalations, which would be in no one’s interest.

“We also continue to call on Russia to use its influence to press those in Syria to cease their destabilising activity and work towards a broader political settlement”.

Israel’s Deportation Of African Immigrants Placed On Hold

Israel has stopped its plan to deport about 40,000 African refugees.

Israel faced fierce criticism from human rights groups for seeking to forcibly deport tens of thousands of mostly African asylum seekers.

Israel has until now classified the refugees, most from Sudan and Eritrea, as illegal immigrants, with asylum applications approved almost only in exceptional cases.

According to local media reports that;

“State officials said during a Supreme Court session that they would not distribute new deportation orders, and that those already distributed would be cancelled.

“The deportation of refugees against their will is no longer being considered as a possibility.

“The Israeli government’s attempts to negotiate with Uganda or Rwanda over receiving deported asylum seekers had failed,’’

 

African Migrants Start Hunger Strike Over Israel Expulsion

Hundreds of African migrants launched a hunger strike to protest Israel’s implementation of its controversial policy to expel or indefinitely imprison them, a spokesman for the group said Wednesday.

Israel has resolved to expel thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese who entered illegally over the years, giving them an ultimatum to leave or risk being imprisoned indefinitely.

As the migrants could face danger or imprisonment if returned to their homelands, Israel is offering to relocate them to an unnamed third country, which the migrants and aid workers say is Rwanda or Uganda.

Authorities on Tuesday transferred seven Africans from the Holot detention centre to a nearby prison, prompting the 750 men held in Holot to launch a hunger strike that evening, said Abdat Ishmael, an Eritrean held at the southern Israel open facility.

On Wednesday, another five were taken to prison, Ishmael told AFP.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli interior ministry confirmed they had begun implementing the deportation or prison policy on Holot detainees ahead of the April 1 mark for the rest of the Africans who had entered Israeli illegally.

Ishmael said they would prefer prison over deportation to Africa.

“We saw what happened to people who went (to other African countries) a year or two ago, they don’t receive asylum and can die,” he said.

Migrants began entering Israel through what was then a porous Egyptian border in 2007. The border has since been strengthened, all but ending illegal crossings.

Israel’s deportation or imprisonment plan has drawn criticism from the United Nations’ refugee agency as well as some in Israel.

According to interior ministry figures, there are currently some 42,000 African migrants in Israel, half of them children, women or men with families, who are not facing the April deportation deadline.

Israeli officials stress that no one they classify as a refugee or asylum seeker will be deported.

AFP

Israel Starts Deportation Process Of African Migrants

Israel has started the process of ensuring that the 20,000 male African Migrants in the country leave during the two month ultimatum given to them.

Currently that country has started offering the migrants, 3,500 dollars and a plane ticket to what it says is a safe destination in another country in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the country’s official website, migrants would risk been thrown in jail if they refuse to leave. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government says Most of the victims are from Sudan and Eritrea.

The fate of some 37,000 Africans in Israel is posing a moral dilemma for a state founded as haven for Jews from persecution and a national home.

The right-wing government is under pressure from its nationalist voter base to expel the migrants, while others are calling for them to be taken in.

The government says the migrants are “infiltrators” looking for work rather than asylum.

However, there is a growing liberal backlash against the plan, especially from rabbis, a small group of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and ordinary people who say Israel should show greater compassion to the migrants.

The first eviction notices were handed out on Sunday while job advertisements for immigration inspectors to implement the deportation plan were posted on government websites.

Rights groups advocating on behalf of the migrants say many fled abuse and war and their expulsion, even to a different country in Africa, would endanger them further.

“I don’t know what to do.

“Rwanda, Uganda are not my countries, what will a third country help me,’’ Eritrean Ainom said, after receiving an eviction notice.

The deportation notices do not name the country migrants will be flown to but Netanyahu has said it will be a safe destination.

Rights groups have named Uganda and Rwanda as possible host countries.

In a poor neighbourhood in southern Tel Aviv, that has attracted thousands of African migrants, shops are dotted with signs in Tigrinya and other African languages while abandoned warehouses have been converted into Churches.

“I came to Israel to save my life,” Eritrean Kidane, said while sitting on a street bench.

He said he would rather go to jail than take the cash and plane ticket on offer to leave the country that has been his home for nine years.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Israel’s first obligation was to its own citizens, rather than the migrants.

“They are not numbers, they are people, they are human and I am full of compassion and mercy.

“But the small state of Israel cannot contain such a vast number of illegal infiltrators,” Deri told Army Radio.

Meanwhile, opposition to the plan has been building and some Israelis are now offering to take migrants at risk of expulsion into their homes.

On Thursday, a group of 36 Holocaust survivors sent a letter to Netanyahu asking him not to deport the migrants.

The U.S.-based Anti Defamation League has also urged Israel to reconsider the plan, citing “Jewish values and refugee heritage”.

Rabbi Lau, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and a Holocaust survivor, said in a statement that the issue required “as much compassion, empathy and mercy that can possibly be marshalled.

“The experiences of the Jewish people over the ages underscore this commitment.”

A concern person known as Rabbi Silverman has launched a campaign called Miklat Israel (Israel Shelter) for Israelis to take migrants into their homes.

She said it is unconscionable for the Jewish state to deport people to harrowing vulnerability.

An organisation called Miklat Israel’s Rabbi Tamara Schagas said 600 Israeli families had already signed up adding that the organisation would begin to connect migrants with potential hosts this week.

The Supreme Court ruled in August that Israeli authorities can hold illegal migrants for up to 60 days in custody.

Immigration officials have said women, children and men with families in Israel were allowed to stay for now, as was anyone with outstanding asylum requests.

Out of 6,800 requests reviewed so far, Israel has granted refugee status to 11 migrants. It has at least 8,000 more requests to process.

Israeli authorities have said Israeli officials will keep in touch with migrants accepted in a third country to oversee their progress.

Rwanda has said it will only accept migrants who have left Israel of their own free will.

Nonetheless, the UN’s refugee agency has urged Israel to reconsider.

It said migrants who have relocated to sub-Saharan Africa in the past few years were unsafe and ended up on the perilous migrant trail to Europe, some suffering abuse, torture and even perishing on the way.

Rights groups in Israel say the government is simply ridding itself of people it should be recognising as refugees in Israel and that there was no real guarantee for their safety.

A fence Israel has built over the past few years along its border with Egypt has all but stopped African migrants from entering the country illegally.

Beginning in the previous decade, when the border was porous, a total of 64,000 Africans made it to Israel though thousands have since left.

Emmanuel Asfaha from Eritrea crossed into Israel in 2011 with his wife and baby son while his second child was born in Israel.

A narrow grocery store stockroom stacked with bags of flour leads to their two-room apartment in Tel Aviv, a poster of Jesus hanging on the cracked walls above his son’s bed.

Asfaha is concerned Israel will eventually deport families too.

“I am worried about the situation,” he said while cooking Shiro, a traditional stew.

“Tomorrow it will be for me also.”

A few kilometers away, in a hip, upscale part of Tel Aviv, Ben Yefet, a 39-year-old stockbroker, said he had signed up with Miklat Israel to house two or three migrants in his two-room apartment.

“As Israelis and Jews we are obligated. We have a moral compass, we just have to do it,” he said.

 

Trump Threatens To Cut Aid To Countries Supporting UN Resolution Against Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital

The U.S. President, Donald Trump, has threatened to cut financial aid to countries that back a United Nations resolution opposing the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Mr. Trump earlier in December formally recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said the U.S. embassy will be moved to the disputed city.

The U.S. decision was condemned by other World leaders. The UN Security Council voted against recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Security Council resolution affirmed that any decisions on the status of Jerusalem were “null and void and must be rescinded”, and urged all states to “refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the holy city”. The U.S., however, vetoed the resolution.

A similar vote is now being taken to the UN General Assembly where there is no veto. The emergency session at the request of the Palestinians will hold on Thursday to take the vote. Nigeria and most other countries of the World are expected to vote in favour of the resolution.

It is in expectation of this vote that Mr. Trump spoke on Wednesday.

“They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us,” the American leader told reporters at the White House.

“Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

Both Israel and Palestine want Jerusalem as their capital with most countries of the World supporting a two-state solution that would see East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

President Donald Trump Recognize Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital

Senior U.S officials have said President Donald Trump on Wednesday will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and set in motion the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to the ancient city.

The decision would upend decades of U.S. policy and risks fueling violence in the Middle East.

Facing an outcry of opposition from Arab capitals, Trump, in a landmark speech, will announce he has ordered the State Department to begin developing a plan to move the embassy from Tel Aviv in what is expected to be a process that takes three to four years, the officials said.

He will not set a timetable for the move.

Trump will sign a national security waiver that authorizes him to delay the embassy relocation for now since the U.S. diplomats do not yet have a building in Jerusalem to move into, security arrangements or housing for diplomats, the officials said.

Still, Trump’s endorsement of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would reverse long-standing U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Palestinian wants East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.

The officials, who briefed reporters ahead of Trump’s speech at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT) on Wednesday, insisted that Trump’s decision, intended to fulfill a key campaign promise.

The officials said it was not meant to pre-judge the outcome of eventual talks on the final status of Jerusalem or other major disputes between the two sides.

Instead, one of the officials contended that Trump’s announcements reflected the “historic reality” of Jerusalem as the centre of Jewish faith and the “modern reality” that it is the seat of the Israeli government.

Such arguments are not likely to sway the Palestinians and the broader Arab world.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, all received telephone calls from Trump on Tuesday.

They, however, joined a mounting chorus of voices warning that unilateral U.S. steps on Jerusalem would derail a fledgeling U.S.-led peace effort that has stymied previous U.S. administrations and unleash turmoil in the region.

The White House said Trump had also spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close U.S. ally and longtime proponent of a U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu was the only leader whose office did not release a statement following the call.

A senior Israeli minister welcomed Trump’s decision while vowing that Israel would be prepared for any outbreak of violence.

Trump appears intent on satisfying the pro-Israel, right-wing base, including evangelical Christians, that helped him win the presidency but was disappointed when he delayed the embassy move in June.

No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem.

Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it, an action not recognized internationally.

But Trump’s decision could also upset the peace effort led by his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, in pursuit of what the U.S. president has called the “ultimate deal”.

Still, internal deliberations over the status of Jerusalem were tense.

Vice President Mike Pence and David Friedman, U.S. ambassador to Israel, pushed hard for both recognition and embassy relocation.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis opposed the move from Tel Aviv, according to other U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

An impatient Trump finally weighed in, telling aides last week he wanted to keep his campaign promise.

 

Israel Seeks Relations With Nigeria

Mr Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel has called for more robust and improved relations between the country and Nigeria. This was revealed when the Nigerian Ambassador to Egypt, Enoch Duchi, presented his letters of credence in his office recently in Israel.

 

 

A statement by the Nigerian Mission in Israel said the president said the two countries need to do more in six key areas. They include education, science, agriculture, health and terrorism. Rivlin who acknowledged the potentials of Nigeria in the African continent solicited for support on Israel’s quest for an observer status at the Africa Union.

 

 

The president also expressed delight on the appointment and subsequent posting of an Ambassador to the country after years. He further expressed the belief that the relations between the two countries would improve more.

 

 

Duchi in his response thanked the president for the warm reception and conveyed the greetings of President Muhammadu Buhari to him and the people of the State of Israel. The envoy who spoke on the existing relations between Nigeria and Israel called for more collaboration in agriculture, counter-terrorism and trade.

 

 

Duchi expressed willingness to work to improve and strengthen the current state of relations between the two countries during his tenure in Israel. Nigeria and Israel did not establish diplomatic relations at Ambassadorial level until the early 1990s. This was due to the uneasy relations between the two countries over the Arab-Isreali conflict and Nigeria’s position on the plight of the Palestinians.

 

 

Relations have since been put on an even keel and have blossomed to cover many areas of mutual benefit such as the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and other holy sites in Israel. Others include economic, political and security relations.

 

Trump Becomes First Sitting US President to Visit Western Wall

Donald Trump made by history by becoming the first sitting US president to visit the sacred Western Wall, vowing to try and secure peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The President wore a traditional yarmulke as he pressed his right hand against the wall, highly sacred to Jews, and closed his eyes. Later, he said it had been a “great honour”.

But as Mr Trump posed for photographs with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he felt a peace deal between the two sides could he achieved “eventually”, there was little indication that he had any sort of road map to hand on how to move forward a challenge that has vexed US administrations for decades.

“I thank the prime minister for his commitment to pursuing the peace process,” Mr Trump said of Mr Netanyahu, who stood next to him at a joint press conference in Jerusalem.

“He’s working very hard at it – it’s not easy. I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all. But I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually. I hope.”

For his part, Mr Netanyahu brushed aside the controversy over Mr Trump’s alleged leaking of sensitive intelligence material from Israel to the Russian foreign minister. He said cooperation between the two countries had never been better.

Mr Trump’s visit to Israel came a day after he spoke before more than 50 Muslim and Arab leaders at a summit in Saudi Arabia, where he denounced Shia Iran and called on the mostly Sunni audience to act against extremism.

His flight alone to Israel made history. Reports suggest no American leader has before flown directly between the two nations.

Independent UK

Nigeria Will Lose Billions if TB Joshua Relocates — Experts

Some stakeholders in the tourism sector on Sunday advised the Federal and Lagos State Governments to dissuade Pastor Temitope Joshua, popularly known as, TB Joshua, from relocating the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) to Israel from Nigeria.

They told the News Agency of Nigeria that Nigeria would lose billions of naira to religious tourism if Temitope Joshua and SCOAN should make the plan real.

NAN reports that TB Joshua, during one of his church services , recently said that he was planning to relocate to Israel from Ikotun, a suburb of Lagos.

It was reported that TB Joshua was in Israel recently where he held meetings with the mayors of Jerusalem, Tiberia and the Jordan Valley.

He was quoted as saying that he was offered different facilities very close to the biblical site of the Sea of Galilee where he could organise meetings for international pilgrims.

NAN also reports that SCOAN established in 1994 does not have another branch in Nigeria outside its international headquarters located in Ikotun.

Some heads of government from African countries had also visited SCOAN to seek spiritual restoration and advice from Pastor TB Joshua

Mrs Ime Udo, the General Secretary of the Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NANTA) told NAN that Nigeria would lose billions of naira from religious tourism revenue if SCOAN actualised its planned relocation to Israel.

Udo said Joshua’s planned action would lead to a reduction in the human traffic of local and foreign religious tourists that normally patronised SCOAN.

Udo said, “Religious obligations have become a fashionable trend all over the world as a means of expressing beliefs and faith in the ability of God to protect and guide mankind.

“Religious practices both under the auspices of Christianity, Islam and traditional practices have in no small way contributed to the development of tourism in the world.

“Christian pilgrimages to Israel have formed an economic platform for the empowerment of the localities and contributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.

“Also, Saudi Arabia has been benefiting immensely economically from many Islamic faithful who converge there twice annually on holy pilgrimage.

“With these scenarios and many others around the world, it has become valid that religious tourism has become a source of economic revival to a country and its people, “she said.

According to her, thousands of foreign religious tourists visit SCOAN monthly to worship and for other spiritual healings.

She said that these tourists would fly into Nigeria; lodge in hotels, board commercial vehicles, patronise eateries and visit other tourists’ sites around the locality.

Udo said that all these had been translating into huge revenue for the Nigeria economy.

“The local community; hotel operators, food vendors and others around SCOAN must have benefitted from tourists.

“SCOAN has, no doubt, contributed immensely to the tourism profile of Nigeria with several heads of government from various African countries that had visited there to seek spiritual restoration and advise from Pastor TB Joshua, ” she said.

Udo advised the Federal and Lagos State Governments to encourage SCOAN to remain in Nigeria as part ways to develop our tourism sector.

A member of SCOAN, Mrs Iyabo Emmanuel, said that she was in church service when their General Overseer, Pastor TB Joshua, announced to the members on the offer given to him by the Israeli Mayors.

Mrs Emmanuel, popularly called “Iya’’( Mother) Synagogue, said that Pastor Joshua never said that he had agreed to such a proposal from the mayors.

“I have been worshipping in SCOAN since 1994 when TB Joshua established it newly in Ikotun area.

“I worked with TB Joshua for 15years before I resigned and ventured into selling of provisions. Then, I was the chef; head of canteen and bakery.

“I am still a full-time member of the church and I will continue to worship there. I am one of those that had benefitted from the church,” she said.

Emmanuel said that many residents and business owners would suffer if TB Joshua should relocate SCOAN from Ikotun.

She said that majority of business owners around the area depended solely on the visitors to the church and they used to patronise facilities around the church.

A hotel operator, Mrs Anthonia Chuks, told NAN that if the rumour that TB Joshua was relocating to Israel eventually turned to reality, the hospitality business in that area and the state would suffer and fold up.

“Ninety–five per cent of guests that lodge in hotels in the community are international and local visitors outside Lagos and they are SCOAN members.

“We have over 130 rooms and are always fully booked every weekend.

“ We usually enjoy huge patronage from Fridays to Sundays weekly; and they are mostly SCOAN members from near and far,” she said.

Similarly, Mr Solomon Oyelade, a car-hire operator, said that since the rumour of the planned relocation of the church to Israel, the patronage of cabs had reduced drastically.

Oyelade said that in the past, he used to go to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos seven times in a day to transport international passengers down to SCOAN.

“But, since the incident of collapsed building in the church premises years back, the patronage of foreigners had reduced.

“ With this present rumour of relocation, we hardly carry passengers from Airport two times a day. The patronage has reduced beyond expectations, “he said.

NAN