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Saudi Gazette, Friday, June 23, 2017



Macron: Assad ouster no priority

France no longer sees the departure of President Bashar Al-Assad

as a priority in the Syrian conflict, President Emmanuel Macron said

Thursday, making the policy official for the first time. The new French

leader said instead that fighting militants such as Daesh (so-called

IS) group had to be the international community’s number one goal

in a conflict that grew out of protests against the Syrian president in

2011 but has since become increasingly complex and multifaceted.

“The real change I’ve made on this question, is that I haven’t said

the deposing of Bashar Al-Assad is a prerequisite for everything,”

Macron said in an interview with several European newspapers,

including Britain’s Guardian, Spain’s El Pais and Germany’s

Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Macron’s comments were met with dismay by

the Syrian opposition. “Shame on France, whose leader Emmanuel

Macron does not see Bashar as its enemy or an enemy to humanity,”

tweeted Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the Syrian National Coalition,

the main umbrella organization of opposition groups. “A tragic fall for

morality and humanity,” Ramadan added.



Trump aide launches M-E peace bid

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared

Kushner, met Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Wednesday to try

to revive long-fractured Middle East peacemaking that Washington

acknowledged will take some time. Kushner, a 36-year-old real estate

developer with little experience of international diplomacy or political

negotiation. Video showed him giving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin

Netanyahu, a friend of Kushner’s father, a handshake and a hug as

they prepared to sit down with the Israeli ambassador to Washington,

the US ambassador to Israel and other senior officials for preliminary

discussions. “This is an opportunity to pursue our common goals of

security, prosperity and peace,” Netanyahu said. “Jared, I welcome

you here in that spirit. I know of your efforts, the president’s efforts,

and I look forward to working with you to achieve these common

goals.” Kushner replied: “The president sends his best regards and

it’s an honor to be here with you.”

— Reuters

Al-Hadba minaret at the Grand Mosque is seen through a building window in the old city of Mosul, in the

photo taken earlier this month. — Reuters

Shock and anger in Mosul

over mosque’s destruction

By Kawa Omar


Ahmed Rasheed


HEN I looked

out of the


and saw the

minaret was no longer there, I felt

a part of me had died.”

For Ahmed Saied, a 54-year-

old Iraqi schoolteacher, and many

others Mosul can never be the

same after Daesh (the so-called

IS) militants blew up up the lean-

ing minaret that had graced his

city for nearly 850 years.

Militants destroyed the Grand

Al-Nuri Mosque on Wednesday

evening along with its famous

minaret, affectionately called

Al-Hadba, or “the hunchback” by

Iraqis. In the dawn light, all that

remained was the base projecting

from shattered masonry.

The destruction came as Iraqi

forces closed on the mosque,

which also carried enormous

symbolic importance for Daesh

whose leader Abu Bakr Al-Bagh-

dadi used it in 2014 to declare a

“caliphate” spanning swathes of

of Syria and Iraq.

His black flag had been fly-

ing on the 150-foot (45-meter)

minaret since June 2014, after

Daesh fighters surged across Iraq,

seizing vast swathes of territory.

The insurgents chose to blow

it up rather than see the flag taken

down by US-backed Iraqi forces

battling through the maze of nar-

row alleys and streets of the Old

City, the last district still under

control of Daesh in Mosul. “In

the early morning, I climbed up to

my house roof and was stunned to

see the Hadba minaret had gone,”

Nashwan, a day-laborer living in

Khazraj neighborhood near the

mosque, said by phone. “I broke

into tears. I felt I had lost a son of


The minaret was built with

seven bands of decorative

brickwork in complex geometric

patterns also found in Persia and

Central Asia. Its tilt and the lack

of maintenance made it particu-

larly vulnerable to blasts.

The media office for Iraq’s

military distributed a picture

taken from the air that showed the

mosque and minaret largely re-

duced to rubble among the small

houses and narrow alleys of the

Old City. A video on social media

showed the minaret collapsing

vertically, throwing up a pall of

sand and dust.

“The Iraqi security forces are

continuing to push into remain-

ing Daesh-held territory,” said

US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon,

spokesman for the US-led inter-

national coalition assisting in the

Iraqi effort to defeat the militant

group. “There are two square

kilometers left in West Mosul

before the entire city is liberated,”

he told Reuters by phone.

For many, the destruction

of the minaret marked the final

collapse of Daesh rule in Mosul

and augured its demise across

Iraq. “Blowing up the Al-Hadba

minaret and the Al-Nuri mosque

amounts to an official acknowl-

Egyptian trucks carrying fuel are parked at the Gaza Strip’s

sole power plant in Nuseirat, Wednesday. — AFP

edgement of defeat,” Iraqi Prime

Minister Haider Al-Abadi said

Thursday on his website.

Baghdadi in hiding

The mosque was destroyed as

Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism

Service (CTS) fought their way

to within 50 meters (150 feet) of

it, according to an Iraqi military

statement. An Iraqi military

spokesman gave the timing of

the explosion as 9:35 p.m (1835

GMT). The ground where the

mosque stood was not yet taken as

of midday Thursday.

Baghdadi proclaimed himself

“caliph”, or ruler of all Muslims,

from the mosque’s pulpit on July

4, 2014. His speech marked the

first time he had revealed him-

self to the world. The footage

broadcast then is to this day the

only video recording of him as


The fall of Mosul would in ef-

fect mark the end of the Iraqi half

of the “caliphate”, though Daesh

would still hold territory west and

south of the city.

Baghdadi has left the fighting

in Mosul to local commanders and

is believed to be hiding in the bor-

der area between Iraq and Syria,

according to US and Iraqi military


The mosque was named after

Nuruddin Al-Zanki, a noble who

fought the early crusaders from

a fiefdom that covered territory

in modern-day Turkey, Syria and

Iraq. It was built in 1172-73, short-

ly before his death, and housed an

Islamic school.

The mosque’s military and

religious history embodies the

spirit of Mosul, a conservative

city which supplied the armed

forces with officers since modern

Iraq was created, about 100 years

ago, and until the fall of Saddam

Hussein, after the 2003 US-led

invasion which empowered the

Shiite majority.

The Sunni city balked at its

loss of influence and some joined

the insurgency against the new

rulers of the country. When Daesh

swept into Mosul in June 2014,

they were welcomed by those

who saw the takeover as promis-

ing an end to harsh treatment by

Shiite-led security forces.

The mosque’s destruction oc-

curred during the holiest period of

the Islamic holy month of Rama-

dan, its final 10 days. The night of

Laylat Al-Qadr falls during this

period, marking when Muslims

believe the Qur’an was revealed

to Prophet Muhammad (peace be

upon him). Daesh fighters have

destroyed many Muslim religious

sites, churches and shrines, as

well as ancient Assyrian and

Roman-era sites.

“Many different enemies

controlled Mosul over the past

900 years but none of them dared

to destroy the Hadba.” said Ziad,

an arts students. “By bombing the

minaret, they proved the are the

worst of all barbarian groups in


— Reuters

The minaret was built with seven bands of

decorative brickwork in complex geometric

patterns also found in Persia and Central Asia.

Its tilt and the lack of maintenance made it

particularly vulnerable to blasts.




Gaza power plant resumes operations

An official says the sole power plant in electricity-starved Gaza

has resumed operations after receiving 1 million liters of fuel

from neighboring Egypt. The shipment undercut Western-backed

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who has been exerting

financial pressure on Gaza’s ruling Hamas to cede ground in the

territory he lost in 2007. This week, Abbas reduced the flow of

electricity funded by his West Bank autonomy government and

delivered to Gaza via Israel. Gaza electricity company spokesman

Mohammed Thabit says electricity sent from Israel is down 40

percent. He says the power plant resumed operations on Thursday

with Egyptian fuel, making up for the Abbas-initiated cuts. The fuel

shipment results from an alliance of convenience between former

rivals, including Hamas and a disgruntled ex-Abbas aide seeking to

make a political comeback.

— AP


Fresh Syria talks set for July 10

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has announced that the next

round of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana will be

held on July 10. The meeting is set to coincide with a fresh round

of UN-sponsored Syria peace talks that will also begin in Geneva

the same day. “The latest meeting of participants will take place

in Astana on July 10,” Lavrov said at a news conference in Beijing,

quoted on the foreign ministry website. He said UN Syria envoy

Staffan de Mistura — who announced the date for the Geneva

round on Saturday — will take part in the Russian-backed talks. It

was not immediately clear whether the talks in Geneva and Astana

would be held simultaneously or at different times. “The subject

is currently being discussed,” a spokesman for De Mistura said in

Geneva. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

simply confirmed to AFP that the date of July 10 had been agreed. A

new round of Astana talks had been scheduled for June but was then

indefinitely postponed as key players wrangled over the future of

fragile safe zones agreed for Syria in May.