Sri Lanka floods, landslides: Death toll rises to 100

Ninety-one people missing and hundreds of homes destroyed after heavy rain triggers devastating flooding and landslides.

The flooding on Friday is the worst Sri Lanka has seen in 14 years [Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP]

The flooding on Friday is the worst Sri Lanka has seen in 14 years [Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP]

by Al Jazeera

Floods and landslides in Sri Lanka’s southern and western regions have killed at least 100 people and damaged more than 800 homes, officials said on Saturday.

Ninety-one people were also reported missing and 40 others have been hospitalised after unusually heavy rain on Friday triggered a string of mudslides and caused rivers to burst their banks, according to the country’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC).

Indian medical teams and emergency relief arrived in the capital, Colombo, on Saturday to help Sri Lanka deal with the worst flooding in 14 years.

“Many thousands are displaced and are trying to come to terms with what has happened with this huge deluge of water,” Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from the southern town of Agalawatte, said.

“Some places received a year’s supply of rain in 24 hours. It has taken everyone by surprise.”

In Agalawatte, some 100km south of Colombo, rescuers pulled at least 11 bodies out from the mud and earth, while one person was found alive.

“It’s been 15-18 years since we’ve had so much water. It’s left people helpless”, a man told local media.

“We were moving things from 2am. Kitchen stuff floated off, and the roof shades were blown away,” a woman said.

Authorities issued fresh evacuation orders for those living downstream of two major rivers, citing a risk of flooding even though the rains had subsided.

Soldiers have fanned out in boats and helicopters to help with rescue operations. Residents said there are more people trapped in interior villages where boats have been unable to reach.

An Indian ship carrying medical supplies docked in Colombo on Saturday, after Sri Lanka issued an international appeal for help. Another ship is due to arrive on Monday.

The flooding is the worst since May 2003 when 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes destroyed after a similarly powerful Southwest monsoon, officials said.

The DMC said the monsoon ended a prolonged drought that had threatened agriculture as well as hydropower generation.

Mudslides have become common during the monsoon season in the tropical Indian Ocean island as land has been heavily deforested to grow export crops such as tea and rubber.

Last May, a massive landslide killed more than 100 people in central Sri Lanka.

Ramadan: Saudi, 33 countries declare Saturday first day

Ramadan Mubarak! Saudi Arabia officially declares May 27 as the first day of Ramadan. Pakistan, India start on Sunday.

ramadan 2017

by Al Jazeera

Saudi Arabia’s High Judicial Court has announced that, based on confirmed sightings of Ramadan’s new moon crescent, the first day of Ramadan 1438 fasting will be Saturday, May 27.

Saturday was confirmed the first day of Ramadan in 33 other countries also, whereas Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Shia Muslims in Iraq declared Sunday May 28 to be their first day of Ramadan.

As per tradition, the sighting of the new moon marks the beginning of the Muslim lunar month of Ramadan.

Turkey and Muslim communities in America, Europe and Australia previously announced they would observe Ramadan fasting from May 27, based on astronomic calculations.

In Muslim-majority countries, offices are required by law to reduce working hours, and many restaurants are closed during daylight hours in Ramadan.

“Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem” are common greetings exchanged in this occasion, wishing the recipient a blessed and generous Ramadan.

Moon sighting

Muslim lunar months last between 29 and 30 days, and depending on sighting of the moon on the 29th night of each month. If the moon is not visible, the month will last 30 days.

Astronomic predictions indicate that the new moon crescent should be visible either with the naked eye, or with a telescope from around the world on Friday evening.

Moon sighters in the UAE posted a photo showing the new moon crescent during the day on Friday.

Last year in May, member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, at the International Hijri Calendar Unity Congress held in Istanbul, voted in favour of adopting a single unified lunar calendar.

However, local sighting continues to be the default policy in each country.

End of Ramadan

Ramadan lasts either 29 or 30 days, depending on sighting of the moon on the 29th night of Ramadan, on Saturday June 24.

At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate breaking their fast with the three-day festival of Eid al-Fitr, but holidays differ by country.

This year, Saudi Arabia announced holidays from the 25th of Ramadan until the 7th of Shawal, the lunar month after Ramadan.

As per astronomic calculations, Turkey and Muslim communities in the US and Europe expect the first day of Eid al-Fitr on Sunday, June 25.

Corbyn: We have to admit ‘war on terror’ is not working

As election campaigning restarts following Manchester attack, UK opposition leader addresses root causes of ‘terror’.

Corbyn is a veteran socialist and anti-war campaigner [File: Darren Staples/Reuters]

Corbyn is a veteran socialist and anti-war campaigner [File: Darren Staples/Reuters]

by Al Jazeera

Britain’s foreign policy and intervention in wars abroad had fuelled the threat of “terrorism” at home, the leader of the UK’s main opposition party said on Friday, as a political truce after a Manchester suicide attack came to an end.

Less than two weeks before a general election, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also vowed to reverse Prime Minister Theresa May’s police cuts and give the security services more resources if they needed them, saying Britain could not “be protected on the cheap”.

Although Corbyn said he did not want “to make a narrow party political point”, opponents accused him of exploiting Monday’s bombing by Salman Abedi, a Briton born to Libyan parents, who killed 22 people, including children, at the Manchester Arena after a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.

“No government can prevent every terrorist attack. But the responsibility of government is to minimise that chance, to ensure the police have the resources they need, that our foreign policy reduces rather than increases the threat to this country,” Corbyn said in a speech in the capital, London.

“Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services pointed out the connections between wars that we’ve been involved in or supported … in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home.”

Corbyn edges higher in polls

May’s Conservatives are leading in the opinion polls ahead of the June 8 election, and were widely expected to cruise to a landslide win when she called the vote in April.

But one survey on Thursday suggested their lead had been cut to just five points after she was forced to backtrack on a plan to force elderly people to pay more for their social care.

Corbyn, a socialist and veteran anti-war campaigner, said foreign policy was not solely to blame for “terrorism” but he would shy away from the interventionist approach that has seen Britain join military action in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan in recent years.

“We must be brave enough to admit the ‘war on terror’ is not working,” he said, vowing only to deploy troops when there was a clear need and a plan to secure a lasting peace.

His stance puts him not just at odds with May, who says he would put Britain’s security at risk if he won power, but also many in his own party, including former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair who led Britain into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think his timing is incredibly disappointing and crass given there is a live police operation,” Security Minister Ben Wallace told BBC radio. “I don’t think the substance of what he says is correct at all.”

Corbyn, who has already pledged 10,000 extra officers, also promised to reverse police cost-saving measures, many brought in by May in her former role as interior minister. Britain now has fewer officers than in 2001.

Amber Rudd, the interior minister, rejected suggestions cuts had hindered the authorities’ ability to prevent Monday’s attack.

“We must not imply that this terrorist activity wouldn’t have taken place if there had been more policing,” she said.

Egypt: Gunmen attack vehicles carrying Christians

Masked attackers open fire on vehicles travelling to Minya monastery, killing and wounding dozens, before fleeing scene.

An image grab taken from Egypt's state-run Nile News TV shows the remains of the bus that was attacked while carrying Coptic Christians in Minya province [AFP/Nile News]

An image grab taken from Egypt’s state-run Nile News TV shows the remains of the bus that was attacked while carrying Coptic Christians in Minya province [AFP/Nile News]

by Al Jazeera

Masked gunmen on Friday attacked two buses and a truck carrying Coptic Christians in Egypt, killing more than 20 people and wounding dozens, according to officials.

The attackers arrived in three pick-up trucks and opened fire on the vehicles carrying visitors to the Saint Samuel Monastery in the Minya province, about 220km south of the capital, Cairo, before fleeing the scene.

The interior ministry said at least 26 people were killed and 25 wounded in the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Pictures of a bus at the scene aired by state TV showed its windows shot out.

“They used automatic weapons,” Essam el-Bedawi, Minya governor, told state media.

Security forces launched a hunt for the attackers, setting up dozens of checkpoints and patrols on the desert road.

Following the attack, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for a meeting with security officials.

Egypt’s Christian minority, which makes up about 10 percent of the country’s population, has repeatedly been targeted by armed groups.

In April, at least 45 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in two separate suicide bomb attacks on churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria during Palm Sunday ceremonies.

The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group.

Following the Palm Sunday bombings, Sisi declared a nationwide three-month state of emergency.

A bombing at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded 49 in December 2016, including many women and children.

Manchester attack probe widens with arrests in Libya

Suspect’s father held in Tripoli says ‘everything was normal’ with his son days before, as UK police make eight arrests.

Manchester attack

by Al Jazeera

Police made arrests in the UK and Libya as the investigation into a suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a Manchester concert venue packed with children focused on tracking down a network of accomplices who authorities fear could strike again.

The father of the suspected bomber, identified as Salman Abedi, 22, told the Reuters news agency in the Libyan capital on Wednesday that he had last spoken to his son some five days ago by phone and “everything was normal”.

Ramadan Abedi, who was detained by a Tripoli counter-terrorism force during the interview, said his son Salman had told his family that he was heading on pilgrimage to Mecca.

“I spoke to him about five days ago … there was nothing wrong, everything was normal,” Abedi said.

The suspect blew himself up on Monday night at the Manchester Arena indoor venue at the end of a concert by US pop singer Ariana Grande attended by thousands of children and teenagers.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group.

Abedi also said he was sure Salman had not been a member of ISIL.

“Salman doesn’t belong to any organisation,” he said. “The family is a bit confused because Salman doesn’t have this ideology, he doesn’t hold these beliefs. We condemn these terrorist acts on civilians, innocent people.”

Police in Tripoli also arrested a brother of Abedi. A spokesman for the local counter-terrorism force said younger brother Hashem Abedi was arrested on suspicion of links with ISIL and was suspected of planning to carry out an attack in the Libyan capital.

A man arrested on Tuesday, one day after the attack at the was reported by British and US media to be Abedi’s other brother.

Manchester police, meanwhile, made several new arrests.

“We currently have eight people in custody in relation to Monday’s attack,” Ian Hopkins, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, said in a statement on Thursday.

“The arrests have taken place in Manchester, Wigan and Duneaton, and we are now carrying out associated searches in relation to those arrests at a number of addresses,” he added.

Earlier, interior minister Amber Rudd said the bomber had recently returned from Libya. Her French counterpart Gerard Collomb said he had links with ISIL and had probably visited Syria as well.

Rudd also scolded US officials for leaking details about the investigation into the Manchester attack before British authorities were ready to go public.

The bomb used in the attack appeared to contain carefully packed shrapnel and have a powerful, high velocity charge, according to leaked photographs from the investigation published by the New York Times.

“We are furious. This is completely unacceptable,” a government ministry source said of the images “leaked from inside the US system”.

Hopkins, the Manchester police chief, said the leaks had “caused much distress for families that are already suffering terribly with their loss”.

The Manchester bombing raised concern across Europe.

Cities including Paris, Nice, Brussels, St Petersburg, Berlin and London have suffered attacks in the last two years.

The 22 victims in Manchester included an eight-year-old girl, several teenage girls, a 28-year-old man and a Polish couple who had come to collect their daughters.

Britain’s official threat level was raised to “critical”, the highest level, late on Tuesday, meaning an attack was expected imminently.

The Manchester bombing was the deadliest attack in Britain since July 2005, when four British Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 people in coordinated attacks on London’s transport network.

Rudd said up to 3,800 soldiers could be deployed on Britain’s streets, taking on guard duties to free up police to focus on patrols and investigation. An initial deployment of 984 had been ordered, first in London and then elsewhere.

Soldiers were seen at the Houses of Parliament, May’s Downing Street residence and at the London police headquarters at New Scotland Yard.

NATO troop increase plan draws criticism in Afghanistan

NATO set to discuss sending more soldiers to Afghanistan, but many in Kabul fear such a move could prolong war.

(Photo: File/Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo: File/Wikimedia Commons)

by Al Jazeera

As NATO allies converge in Brussels for a key summit, one topic on the agenda will be a potential increase in the number of troops in Afghanistan – a move met with strong opposition by many in Kabul.

The military alliance began considering a troop increase earlier this month after it received a request from army chiefs for more soldiers to help in the fight against the Taliban, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

The prospect of a troop surge might have drawn considerable support in Brussels and Washington, but in Kabul the situation is different.

“They are thinking of sending soldiers … They [the soldiers] will not do anything,” Sher Mohammad Karimi, a retired four-star general in the Afghan National Army, told Al Jazeera.

“If they are advisers, then it’s OK.”

Afghan defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish agreed, saying that local forces needed better equipment and training.

“What we need now is bombing planes and also modern engineering technology,” he told Al Jazeera.

Since NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan formally ended in 2014, Taliban attacks have intensified and Afghan military and civilian casualties have risen.

NATO already has more than 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, including around 7,000 US and 500 British military personnel, who are training the Afghan armed forces to eventually take over the country’s defence and security. The US has an additional 1,500 soldiers conducting assist missions directly under Pentagon command.

Stoltenberg has insisted that a potential troop increase would not mean a return to combat operations.

The discussion of a NATO troop increase in Afghanistan comes as Trump considers a plan to send at least 3,000 troops to Afghanistan in an effort to put enough pressure on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.

According to The New York Times, Trump was expected to make a decision at Thursday’s summit in Brussels regarding a troop increase, but that has been delayed after some within the administration expressed concern over sending more troops.

Some Afghans fear a foreign troop increase by either NATO or the US could actually prolong the war.

“Increasing foreign troops in Afghanistan is like putting more wood on the fire,” an Afghan resident told Al Jazeera.

“If they increase troops in Afghanistan that would provoke Pakistan, Iran and Russia. Neighbouring countries would increase their support for the Taliban, and more Afghans will be fighting each other.”

In February, General John Nicholson, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told Congress that he would need an extra “few thousand” troops to make gains against the Taliban and break what he called a stalemate against the armed group’s fighters.

At the height of the US combat mission, there were an estimated 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.

“I don’t think anybody here is under the illusion that [a troop increase] is going to end the war,” Al Jazeera’s John Hendren, reporting from Kabul, said.

“The Trump administration here is that would bring the Taliban to the bargaining table, but there is a lot of concern in Afghanistan that this surge is really going to be, at best, a half-measure.”

‘Pay more, do more’

At the Brussels meeting, the alliance is also expected to officially join a US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group in Iraq and Syria.

The decision is mainly political because all 28 NATO member states are already individually part of the coalition, with some only taking part in support roles.

It comes on the back of pressure from Trump, who has urged NATO members to do more in the fight against ISIL.

Trump is also expected to urge NATO members to increase defence spending to the target of two percent of a country’s annual gross domestic product, as they agreed in 2014.

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Brussels, said that Trump “certainly wants NATO members to pay more and do more”.

Only five members currently meet the target: Britain, Estonia, debt-laden Greece, Poland and the US, which spends more on defense than all the other allies combined.

“I think you can expect the president to be very tough on them, saying, ‘Look the U.S. is spending 4 percent. We’re doing a lot,'” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on Air Force One.

Many are sceptical about this arbitrary bottom line that takes no account of effective military spending where it is needed most. Germany would have to virtually double its military budget and spend more than Russia.

The allies hope the US president will unequivocally state his support for NATO’s mutual defence pledge, known as Article 5.

Sir Roger Moore, James Bond actor, dies aged 89

Roger Moore

Actor Sir Roger Moore, best known for playing James Bond, has died aged 89, his family has announced.

He played the famous spy in seven Bond films including Live and Let Die and the Spy Who Loved Me.

Sir Roger’s family confirmed the news on Twitter, saying he had died after “a short but brave battle with cancer”.

The statement, from his children, read: “Thank you Pops for being you, and being so very special to so many people.”

“With the heaviest of hearts, we must share the awful news that our father, Sir Roger Moore, passed away today. We are all devastated,” they said in a Twitter post.

Sir Roger, who died in Switzerland, will have a private funeral in Monaco in accordance with his wishes, they added.

“The love with which he was surrounded in his final days was so great it cannot be quantified in words alone,” read the statement from Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian.

“Our thoughts must now turn to supporting Kristina [his wife] at this difficult time.”

It added: “We know our own love and admiration will be magnified many times over, across the world, by people who knew him for his films, his television shows and his passionate work for UNICEF which he considered to be his greatest achievement.

Along with his famous Bond role, Moore was also known for TV series The Persuaders and The Saint.


Hassan Rouhani: ‘Trump Anti Terrorism Summit ‘Only A Show’

Terrorism is fought on the frontlines in Syria and Iraq, Rouhani said at a press conference. "That's where the real fight is, not in Riyadh." (AFP)

Terrorism is fought on the frontlines in Syria and Iraq, Rouhani said at a press conference. “That’s where the real fight is, not in Riyadh.” (AFP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has scoffed at joint efforts by the United States and Iran’s regional rivals to combat Islamist terrorism, dismissing President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia as “show.”

Speaking after Trump’s two-day visit to Riyadh, Rouhani said, “This summit was a show and had no political value. It is not possible to fight terrorism with precisely these kinds of shows.”

The Iranian leader, who was recently re-elected to serve a second term, also slammed a multibillion-dollar arms deal signed between the US and Saudi Arabia during the visit, arguing that this would not solve the problem either.

Terrorism is fought on the frontlines in Syria and Iraq, Rouhani said at a press conference. “That’s where the real fight is, not in Riyadh.”

On the arms deal, Rouhani added, “We don’t need that. We produce our own weapons.”

He also slammed Washington’s decision to side with the Saudis, arguing that the Islamic kingdom was undemocratic: “The Saudis have never seen a ballot box in their life and don’t know what elections are.”

Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting multiple proxy wars in the Middle East, most notably in Yemen and Syria. In both cases, the US sides with Saudi Arabia. At the same time, US and Iranian forces are both backing the government in Iraq against Islamic State militants.

Saudi forces have been accused of using excessive force during the fight to oust rebel forces in Yemen.

Trump gave a much-anticipated speech on combatting Islamist terrorism before Arab leaders in Riyadh on Sunday.

Walking back on the Islamophobic rhetoric of his previous speeches on home soil, Trump stressed that his administration was looking to strengthen partnerships across the region, and said the war on terrorism is not a fight between faiths but “a battle between good and evil.”

He struck a confrontational tone towards Tehran – one which had been avoided by his White House predecessor, Barack Obama – accusing Iran of funding and arming extremist militants in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

“All nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran,” Trump said.

Rowhani retaliated by criticizing Trump’s leadership. “We still do not know what the new US government plans and wants,” he said.

The Iranian president, however, did not rule out a meeting with his US counterpart.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also hit out at the US in a series of sarcastic tweets on Monday.

“Of all places, the US president uses this bastion of democracy and moderation to attack Iran shortly after its democratic election,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Iran, which held presidential elections Friday, is a sharp contrast, Zarif noted, to the inherited monarchy that rules in Saudi Arabia.

He also used his series of tweets to accuse Trump of “milking” the Saudis with the new weapons deal.

Ariana Grande concert: 22 killed in Manchester blast

PM Theresa May says authorities believe they know identity of suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Manchester.

A bomb disposal robot is unloaded outside the Manchester Arena [Nigel Roddis/EPA]

A bomb disposal robot is unloaded outside the Manchester Arena [Nigel Roddis/EPA]

by Al Jazeera

UK police say they have arrested a 23-year old man in connection with a suicide bomb attack in Manchester which killed 23 people, including the attacker, and wounded dozens at a concert by US pop singer Ariana Grande.

An improvised explosive device went off late on Monday as thousands of – mostly young – fans streamed out of Manchester Arena in the northern English city at the end of Grande’s performance, police said.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group through its social media channels, saying “one of the caliphate’s soldiers placed bombs among the crowds”.

The deadly explosion, which caused scenes of chaos and panic, sending screaming families and children fleeing, also wounded at least 59 concert-goers, many of whom are in critical condition.

“With regards to last night’s incident at the Manchester Arena, we can confirm we have arrested a 23-year-old man in South Manchester,” Greater Manchester Police said on Twitter on Tuesday.

The news of the arrest came minutes after British Prime Minister Theresa May said police knew the identity of the suspected suicide bomber – but could not yet announce the attacker’s name.

Speaking after an emergency meeting of the country’s top security committee, May condemned what she called a “callous terrorist attack”, calling it “among the worst terrorism we have experienced in the United Kingdom”.

She also repeated an earlier police statement which said that the attacker had carried out the attack alone. Yet, it was not yet clear if others had helped in the preparation.

The attack has been described as the deadliest on Britain since four men killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London’s transport system in July 2005.

Ian Hopkins,chief constable for Great Manchester, said children were among those confirmed dead. The explosion was caused by one man “carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated”, Hopkins told reporters on Tuesday morning.

The attack came ahead of a June 8 general election.

Earlier on Tuesday, UK politicians said they were suspending election campaigning until further notice following the events in Manchester.

Police responded to reports of an explosion shortly after 10:35pm (21:35 GMT) at the arena, which has the capacity to hold 21,000 people, where Grande had been performing to an audience that included many children.

Police responded to reports of an explosion shortly after 10:35pm (21:35 GMT) at the arena, which has the capacity to hold 21,000 people, where Grande had been performing to an audience that included many children.

“A huge bomb-like bang went off that hugely panicked everyone and we were all trying to flee the arena,” concert-goer Majid Khan, 22, told Britain’s Press Association.

Catherine Macfarlane told the Reuters news agency the blast hit after the concert was over.

“We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming,” Macfarlane said.

“It was a huge explosion – you could feel it in your chest. It was chaotic. Everybody was running and screaming and just trying to get out.”
Greater Manchester Police tweeted asking people to stay away.

“The incident took place outside the venue in a public space,” police said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims.”

The local ambulance service said on Twitter it had taken 59 casualties from the incident and treated “a number of walking wounded on scene”.

A “precautionary controlled explosion” was carried out near the venue on a package that was believed to be a suspect device, but turned out to be “abandoned clothing, not a suspicious item”.

Manchester Arena, which opened in 1995, is the largest indoor arena in Europe, according to its website.

A spokesman for Ariana Grande’s record label said the singer was “okay”. The concert was part of Grande’s The Dangerous Woman Tour.

Grande tweeted that she was “broken” after the incident.

Paula Robinson, 48, was at the train station next to the arena with her husband when she felt the explosion and saw dozens of teenage girls screaming and running away from the arena.

Robinson took several of them to the nearby Holiday Inn Express hotel and tweeted out her phone number to worried parents telling them to meet her there. She said her phone has not stopped ringing since her tweet.

“Parents were frantic running about trying to get to their children,” she said.

Corbyn said Tuesday he is “horrified” by the events in Manchester and that his thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have died and been injured.

Corbyn also said that his party had also put campaign events on hold. The leaders of the Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and UK Independence Party also suspended their election campaigning.

Hamas decries Trump’s terror allegation

Trump’s comments linking Hamas to ‘terrorism’ show his ‘complete bias’ towards Israel, says the group’s spokesman.

Hamas says its battle is against Israeli occupation, not the West [Reuters]

Hamas says its battle is against Israeli occupation, not the West [Reuters]

by Al Jazeera

Hamas Movement has rejected US President Donald Trump’s comments linking it to “terrorism” in his speech in Saudi Arabia, saying it shows his “complete bias” towards Israel.

“The statement describing Hamas as a terror group is rejected and is a distortion of our image and shows a complete bias to the Zionist occupation,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement on Sunday.

Barhoum dubbed the speech a “confirmation” that Trump is following the policy of previous US administrations.

Trump addressed the leaders of 55 Muslim countries in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and said they must take the lead in combating “radicalisation”.

“The true toll of ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead. It must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams,” said Trump in the speech.

Hamas says its battle is against Israeli occupation, not the West.

The movement presented a new political charter earlier this month that accepts the formation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, without recognising the statehood of Israel, and says that the conflict in Palestine is not a religious one.

Trump’s speech came on the second day of a visit to Saudi Arabia, part of Trump’s first foreign tour that will take him next to Israel and occupied Palestinian Territories and then to Europe.

Palestinian activists call for protests against Trump

Meanwhile, Palestinian activists have called for a “Day of Rage” when Trump visits the West Bank on Tuesday.

The call for mobilisation was put out by a group calling itself the Supreme National Leadership Committee, which includes various Palestinian political factions, including Abbas’s Fatah movement.

The committee was set up in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons.

The demonstrations are meant to draw attention to a month-long hunger strike by hundreds of prisoners being held by Israel and to protest what many Palestinians say is unfair US support for Israel.

In a statement, the group said on Sunday the Palestinian factions “affirm their rejection of the American position, which is biased in favour of the occupation”.

Trump’s visit to Israel and occupied Palestinian territories on Monday and Tuesday will be closely scrutinised as he seeks ways to restart peace efforts.