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Iran Successfully Test Fires First Military Satellite With Scribbled Quranic Verses

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Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said on Wednesday that it had launched a military satellite into orbit amid escalating tensions with the United States. There was no immediate confirmation of the launch, which the Guard called “Noor” or light on their official Sepahnews website.  

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The US State Department and the Pentagon who have long contended that these launches advance Iran’s ballistic missile program did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

However, the launch has given an impetus to rumor mills who are speculating whether the technology used in the launch of the satellite could help the Islamic Republic to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles aimed at possibly targeting various locations in the Middle East, Europe, and the US.

IRGC claimed that the satellite which was carried by a rocket bearing a Quranic verse about overcoming adversaries successfully orbited above the Earth’s surface at 425km (264 miles). The launch was carried out from the desert southeast of Tehran in an area called the Dasht-e Kavir in the early hours of Wednesday.

However, some experts believe that the launch took place from a previously unnamed Guard base near Shahroud, Iran, some 330 kilometers (205 miles) northeast of Tehran in Semnan province which houses Imam Khomeini Spaceport that operates civilian space program.

IRGC said a previously unheard satellite carrier system Ghased or “Messenger” which uses both solid and liquid fuel was used to put the device into space. Tehran has in the past collaborated with Russia, China, and Thailand on joint research projects.

Tehran’s first major breakthrough was Omid, a domestically made satellite. It was sent into orbit in 2009 on an indigenous missile. Iran launched imaging satellites in 2011 and 2012.

The surprise launch has come more than two months after Iran’s failed attempt on February 9 to put into orbit Zafar 1 (meaning “Victory” in Persian) satellite just before the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Tehran had asserted back then that the satellite had no military application. That failure followed two failed launches of the Payam and Doosti satellites last year, as well as a launchpad rocket explosion at its Semnan site in August and a separate fire incidence at the Imam Khomeini Space Centre in February 2019 that killed three researchers.

The US alleges such satellite launches defy a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

American officials, as well as European nations, worry that these launches could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Tehran, however, retorted that it hasn’t contravened any UN resolution on its ballistic missile program as the International body only “called upon” Iran not to conduct such tests.

The launch of military satellites is of special interest given that it has been launched by IRGC, an elite force which operates its own military infrastructure parallel to Iran’s regular armed forces and is a hard-line force with significant sway over Iranian affairs and is answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The IRGC has displaced not only part of Iran’s economy, foreign policy, intelligence services, and government but also the army, air force, and now space program.

According to the Jerusalem Post, IRGC head Hossein Salami while applauding the achievement said, “We have made a leap in the field of expanding territory and strategic intelligence…Today, we can see the world from space, and this means expanding the strategic intelligence of the powerful defense force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” he said.

“The deployment of this multi-purpose satellite in space, both in the field of information technology and intelligence battles, can produce strategic added value for us, and in intelligence warfare, it creates powerful grounds for us.”

He went on to note that achieving these technological successes for “Islamic Iran” is important because it makes Iran a member of one of the world’s top technologies. “We now form the front lines of technological talents…the launch of the satellite is not limited to defense and military issues, adding that the realization of this important goal will lead the country to great progress in various fields, so it is a strategic achievement for our Islamic system.”

If the satellite actually has all the capabilities that Iran asserts it has, then it has a lot of ramifications for the Middle East as it can provide images and other information to IRGC who has sought to create long-range military capabilities to challenge the US and Israel in recent years and has proved successful in some attacks, such as the one on Saudi Arabia using 25 drones and cruise missiles in September 2019.

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It is unclear whether Iran’s civilian Government was in the loop about the launch as President Hassan Rouhani gave nearly a 40-minute speech on Wednesday before his Cabinet that did not include any mention regarding the upcoming launch.

Iran’s previous assertions that it does not seeks nuclear weapons and its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component will now be called into question as Wednesday’s launch has raised new suspicions.

While Iran isn’t known to have the know-how to miniaturize a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile, any advances toward an intercontinental ballistic missile would put Europe and potentially the U.S. in range.

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Rafale jets dodge all radars, air defence systems; bombs Turkish facilities in Libya

The Dassault Rafale is a French multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions.

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Recently, the al-Watiya airbase in Libya was reportedly bombed by Rafale jets, which either belonged to France or Egypt, the two nations within the range of the base that possesses these (Rafale) aircraft, writes the Arab Weekly.  

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The report quoting its sources called the attack by Rafale jets as a response to Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar’s visit to Libya.

The Turkish presence in Libya is highly undesirable to both Egypt and France and the former has even warned to intervene militarily in Libya if the Turkish-backed militias tried to head towards Sirte. France has also called the Turkish moves as “unacceptable,” emphasising that it would not permit this to continue.

But this recent airstrike on al-Watiya airbase reportedly by 4++ generation Rafale jets displayed that the boundaries in airspace differ from the boundaries on land drawn by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Indeed, basing fighter jets and drones in al-Watiya pose a direct threat to any military deployed in the region.

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Sisi has discussed the possibility of directly intervening in Libya, pointing out that Egypt “will not allow the conflict in Libya to cross the Sirte line.” He also emphasised that “with regard to Egypt’s security, al-Jufra is a red line that we will not allow any force to cross.”

The Tripoli government accused “a foreign air force” of bombing al-Watiya base, without furnishing any information on the identity of the aircraft or the targets attacked. Even though Turkish and Qatari media rejected any casualties, the Libyan source, however, claimed that many Turkish soldiers were injured or dead in the airstrikes by Rafale jets.

A retired Libyan army officer revealed to Arab Weekly that a squadron of fighter planes launched a series of airstrikes on al-Watiya base, where Turkey had deployed F-16 aircraft, Bayraktar TB2 and Anka-S drones, backed by a MIM-23 Hawk air defence system with its radars.

He further said that the air raids targeted the al-Nadab quarters at al-Watiya base, which the Turkish forces on the base had used as their headquarters since last May. Also targeted were Sungur air defence systems, fixed and mobile radar installations and Koral signal jamming system, which the Ankara had deployed at al-Watiya base.

Libyan parliament member Ibrahim al-Darsi later acknowledged and “the airstrikes were launched by forces all too well-known to us,” and added that the targets of these attacks were “a clear message and constituted a strong and painful slap in the face of Turkish President Erdogan and his proxies in Libya, especially the militia government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.”

Jemai Guesmi

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Srebrenica genocide: Pakistan draws similarity between 1995 Srebrenica massacre with Kashmir

Drawing a parallel between Srebrenica genocide, and the current situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, Khan said he feared a massacre similar to that in Srebrenica could happen in the disputed Himalayan valley.

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Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan on Saturday urged the world community to “learn a lesson” from 1995 Srebrenica genocide, and “not let such massacre happen again.”

“Today, we are observing the 25th memorial anniversary of the genocide that took place in Srebrenica. I still remember the day very well along with most people who have humanity in their hearts. I remember when it happened. we were shocked. We were appalled how in a what was a safe haven of United Nations peacekeeping forces, this massive massacre was allowed to happen.

“I still feel the shock how such a thing could have been allowed by the world community, Khan said in a video message aired by state-run Pakistan Television. “I think, It is important that we learn lessons from that, the world community must never let such things to happen again,” he went on to say.

Drawing a parallel between Srebrenica genocide, and the current situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, Khan said he feared a massacre similar to that in Srebrenica could happen in the disputed Himalayan valley.

“Today, 800,000 Indian troops have besieged 8 million people of Kashmir. And we all fear a similar sort of massacre might follow there,” he said, adding: “So the world community must take notice, and never allow such acts to take place there.”

Kashmir and Palestine

In a Twitter post, in connection with the 25th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said: “July 2020 marks 25 years since the Srebrenica Massacre, the murder of over 8000 Bosnian Muslims & ethnic cleansing of over 20’000 people. The world has a collective responsibility to ensure history is not repeated.”

“What is happening in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine is chillingly similar,” he added, referring to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank and New Delhi’s scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s longstanding special status in August 2019.

Every year on July 11, newly identified victims of the genocide are buried in a memorial cemetery in Potocari, eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thousands of visitors from various countries attend the funeral services and burials.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will participate in this year’s memorial program via video link. During a two-day visit to Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo last year for a similar event, Erdogan attended a procession to commemorate thousands of innocents who fell victim to the genocide.

More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed when Bosnian Serb forces attacked the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch troops tasked with acting as international peacekeepers.

Srebrenica was besieged by Serb forces who were trying to wrest territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form their own state.

The UN Security Council had declared Srebrenica a “safe area” in the spring of 1993. However, Serb troops led by General Ratko Mladic — later found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide — overran the UN zone.

The Dutch troops failed to act as Serb forces occupied the area, killing about 2,000 men and boys on July 11 alone. Some 15,000 Srebrenica residents fled into the surrounding mountains, but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 of them in the forests.

UK ‘stands with’ all feeling Srebrenica genocide pain

British administration on Saturday “reiterated the UK’s commitment to supporting reconciliation across the Western Balkans,” on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Today (11 July) marks twenty-five years since the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of the Second World War,” a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) statement said.

“Today I stand with all who continue to feel unimaginable pain from the genocide 25 years ago at Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter.

“The United Kingdom has worked to support justice for the victims, find the missing & promote reconciliation,” he added.

Underlining that more than 8,000, mostly Muslim men and boys, were murdered and over 20,000 women and children were forcibly expelled from their homes, the UK urged “all parties to reject hate speech and the glorification of the perpetrators of genocide and war crimes.”

The statement also said the “verdicts from international and domestic courts must be respected.” Raab said: “On the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, we remember the victims and the anguish of their families.

“During my time in the Hague between 2003 and 2006, pursuing those responsible for this dark chapter in European history, I was reminded daily of the heinous cruelty perpetrated against the innocent.

“The UK is determined to end impunity and help rebuild those countries affected – as our commitment to the ICC, and UK investment and support for Bosnia demonstrates.”

Turkey pays homage

he Turkish president on Saturday remembered the Srebrenica martyrs on the 25th anniversary of the genocide. “We will always stand by our Bosnian brothers in their search for justice. The Srebrenica Genocide will never be forgotten,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a video message.

As part of the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide, Erdogan spoke via video link at the memorial ceremony held at the former accumulator factory used by the United Nations troops as a base in the war in Bosnia.

Erdogan stressed that despite all tragedy and tears, European politicians have learned no lessons from Srebrenica Genocide, adding that free use of words that “fuel enmity towards Islam and support xenophobia is a source of concern for our future.”

“Even though it has been a quarter of a century since the genocide, our pain is still fresh. Our hearts wrenched with every mass grave unearthed,” he said. Erdogan wished God’s mercy on Srebrenica martyrs and patience to their families, their loved ones and to all who feel pain in their hearts.

 

By Aamir Latif, Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

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Palestinian prisoners in Israel – Prison death brings back Palestinian plight in Israel

“The suffering of Palestinian detainees is exacerbated by the deliberate medical negligence by Israeli prison authorities,” Abdel-Naser Ferwana of the Commission of Detainees’ Affairs said.

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The recent death of Palestinian prisoner Sa’di al-Gharabli in Israel has put the issue of long-serving Palestinian prisoners under the spotlight. Al-Gharabli, 75, died at Assaf Harofeh medical center last week after his health deteriorated, according to the Handala Center for Detainees and Ex-detainees.

Al-Gharabli, from the Gaza Strip, was arrested by Israeli forces in 1994 and sentenced to a lifetime in prison. “The suffering of Palestinian detainees is exacerbated by the deliberate medical negligence by Israeli prison authorities,” Abdel-Naser Ferwana of the Commission of Detainees’ Affairs told Anadolu Agency.

“Prison authorities deny medicines and necessary medical care to the detainees,” he said. Ferwana said Palestinian prisoners in Israel are subject to torture and physical and psychological pressures by the prison authorities. “They are deprived of family visits, which adds to their plight,” he said.

Palestinian authorities estimate that over 5,500 Palestinians are currently languishing in prisons located throughout Israel. According to the commission, 51 Palestinian prisoners have been held in Israel for over 20 years. Around 224 Palestinian detainees are estimated to have died in Israeli prisons since 1967, five of them passed away this year.

Of these numbers, the commission estimates that 73 prisoners had died due to torture and 69 to medical negligence.

Longest-serving

There are around 26 prisoners in Israeli custody, who were arrested by Israel before the signing of the Oslo Accords with the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993.

In 2013, Israel released 78 long-serving Palestinian prisoners as part of a US-sponsored deal for the resumption of peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Israel, however, refused to set free a fourth group of 26 prisoners under the deal.

In October 2011, Israel freed 1,027 prisoners under a prisoner swap deal with Palestinian resistance factions under which captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released.

Among the freed prisoners were 477 who were serving lifetimes in prison. On the top of the list of longest-serving prisoners in Israel is Kareem Younis, 62, who was detained in 1983 and sentenced to life in prison on accusations of killing an Israeli soldier.

His cousin Maher Younis 61, who has spent 37 years in prison, is also serving a life sentence on similar accusations. Nael al-Barghouti, 63, was also detained in 1978 and sentenced to life on charges of killing an Israeli soldier. Al-Barghouti was freed in 2011 under the prison swap deal with Palestinian factions, to be rearrested in 2014 along with 70 other freed prisoners.

Ferwana, who himself a former detainee, called for piling political and legal pressure on Israel “to provide protection to Palestinian detainees against Israeli violations and guarantee their release”. He went on to call for “taking serious measures in international arenas to bring Israel to justice over its practices against the detainees”.

Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara

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