Hamas says downs drone as Israel threatens new war
Hamas said it shot down an Israeli drone over the Gaza Strip where tensions have heightened amid an Israeli threat to launch a ground war on the besieged enclave.
A source in Hamas said the Palestinian resistance movement brought down the quadcopter in northern Gaza Strip on Sunday evening, Press TV reported.
Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post, however, cited some reports as saying that the drone had flown out of the area after being shot at.
Hamas has confiscated Israeli drones several times, either after they crashed due to technical problems or in the wake of shooting them down.
The targeting of the drone comes amid heightened tensions in Gaza where Israeli aircraft launched airstrikes on Khan Yunis and other areas in the besieged strip on Friday, killing a 27-year-old civilian and wounding two others.
The Israeli military claimed that the Friday air raids were launched in response to the firing of 10 rockets into the occupied territories from Gaza.
Following the air raids, a high-ranking official from Hamas warned Israel against escalating tensions, saying Tel Aviv would face the consequences.
The Israeli military frequently bombs Gaza, with civilians being the main target of such attacks.
Israel has launched several wars on the Palestinian coastal enclave, the last of which began in early July 2014. The military aggression, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians. Over 11,100 others were wounded.
Israel: War on Gaza likely
Amid the escalating tensions along the fence separating the occupied territories from Gaza, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz threatened on Sunday that Tel Aviv might have to launch a military operation in the coastal enclave.
“We hoped to reach an agreement before a large military operation, and as it seems right now, we may have to set out on a big army operation and only then reach an agreement,” Steinitz said in an interview with Army Radio.
“If there is no choice and we want to destroy the Hamas regime, it will have to be a ground operation, and this comes at a price,” he added.
Hamas ready to face enemy
Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar said Sunday that Palestinian resistance groups were ready to confront any aggression as he dismissed a prisoner swap with Israel.
“They cannot take decisive and crucial decisions at this point and we are ready to face the enemy,” he said.
Israel’s so-called security cabinet convened for a lengthy-meeting on Sunday for the third time in a week, which is very unusual for an interim regime.
Rafi Peretz, the leader of the Jewish Home political party and a cabinet member, said he
“experienced on Saturday the rocket alerts and the firebombs, and again we couldn’t sit down for a Saturday dinner.”
“This can’t go on. The heads of Hamas will be made to pay a price for this,” he said.
Fellow party member Bezalel Smotrich, however, called for caution.
“It’s easy to speak harshly, it’s easy to say ‘let’s go out on an attack.’ It’s important to understand that the space we are operating in is very complicated, and we need to act responsibly,” he said.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held Hamas responsible for any attack emanating from Gaza.
“I don’t intend to detail our plans here. We will continue to operate in all the arenas for the safety of …Israel, in overt and covert measures – through the sea, in the air and on the ground,” he tweeted.
The situation in the Gaza Strip, under an Israeli siege since June 2007, is unsustainable. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.
Palestinians in Gaza have been holding weekly rallies as part of the Great March of Return since March 30, 2018, calling for an end to the crippling 11-year Israeli blockade.
Trump dubs impeachment probe ‘another Democrat hoax’
US President Donald Trump has called the impeachment inquiry against him “just another Democrat hoax.”
Trump also said Monday that there is “no reason” to call witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, as four White House officials were scheduled to testify before House committees, Press TV reported.
“What I said on the phone call with the Ukrainian President is ‘perfectly’ stated. There is no reason to call witnesses to analyze my words and meaning,” he tweeted.
“This is just another Democrat Hoax that I have had to live with from the day I got elected (and before!),” he added. “Disgraceful!”
In an earlier tweet on Monday, Trump called the impeachment probe a “witch hunt.”
“Mark Levin, a great lawyer and scholar, said last night on his @marklevinshow, that all you have to do is read the transcript of the call, you do not need Never Trumpers or other witnesses to say what it means or says,” he tweeted.
“It is plainly and very well stated for all to see. Witch hunt.”
Trump’s tweets come as four White House officials are scheduled to appear before Democratic-led committees on Monday to give depositions as part of the impeachment inquiry. According to a report, they will not show up.
National Security Council lawyers John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis will not testify, CNN reported citing a source with knowledge of the situation.
The other two officials are Robert Blair, assistant to the president and senior adviser to the acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and Brian McCormack, associate director for natural resources, energy & science at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Also, an Energy Department spokesperson said Friday that Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who was scheduled to give depositions on Wednesday, will not turn up either.
According to an administration official, Eisenberg is not showing up because of executive privilege, while Blair, Ellis and McCormack will not appear because they cannot have an administration lawyer present.
Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry in September after a whistleblower alleged the Republican president pressured Ukraine to investigate his main Democratic rival, former US vice president Joe Biden.
That request by Trump, and accusations he conditioned nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine on the political favor, form the basis of the impeachment inquiry that now threatens his presidency.
House Democrats say Trump has abused his office for personal gain and jeopardized national security by asking Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, who had served as a director for Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
Turkish forces kill PKK member listed as Ankara’s most wanted
Turkish forces have killed a top wanted member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group during a counterterrorism operation in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
A security source, requesting anonymity, said on Monday that Musluh Ike, better known by the nom de guerre Tekoser Zagros, was “neutralized” in a a joint precision operation by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in Metina region of northern Iraq.
The Turkish military generally uses the term “neutralize” to signify that the militants were killed, captured or surrendered.
Ike was reportedly in charge of Metina region. He joined the PKK in the 1990s, and was the mastermind of many acts of terror in the Semdinli and Cukurca districts of Turkey’s southeastern province of Hakkari.
PKK militants regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq.
Turkey, along with the European Union and the United States, has declared the PKK a terrorist group and banned it. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.
A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.
Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.
More than 40,000 people have been killed during the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the autonomy-seeking militant group.
Zimbabwe minister charged with corruption costing $3.7 million
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) on Monday detained and charged a cabinet minister and long-time ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa for abuse of office alleged to have cost the government $3.7 million, the second high-profile graft case this year.
Joram Gumbo, a minister in the presidency, was arrested on suspicion of directing a government-owned airline formed in 2017 to use a property owned by his relative as its headquarters, according to a charge sheet seen by Reuters.
Gumbo, who was transport minister at the time, is also accused of abusing his position by forcing the re-appointment of the head of a state-owned company after the official was found guilty of corruption and fired by a tribunal. ZACC said the government had suffered total losses to the tune of $3.7 million.
Gumbo was not available to comment.
His arrest comes as critics accuse the president of lacking the drive to carry out the political reforms needed to help Zimbabwe recover from its worst economic crisis in a decade.
The ZACC, which Mnangagwa appointed in July, says it is on a drive to bring corrupt officials to account. In July, tourism minister Prisca Mupfumiraa was charged with corruptly misusing $95 million from the state pension fund.
When Mnangagwa took over as leader after the late Robert Mugabe was ousted in 2017, he promised to stamp out the graft that had become endemic under his predecessor.
Although some Mugabe-era ministers have been arrested for corruption, they are free on bail while their cases are stuck in courts, frustrating citizens who feel that officials can use their influence to escape punishment.
UK lowers national terrorism threat level to ‘substantial’
Britain downgraded its national terrorism threat level to “substantial” from “severe” on Monday, its lowest level since 2014, Interior Minister Priti Patel said.
The threat posed to the country has largely stood at “severe” for the last five years but in 2017 it was briefly moved to “critical”, twice, meaning an attack was highly likely in the near future, Reuters reported.
Britain suffered four attacks in 2017 that killed 36 people, the most deadly of which occurred at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, northern England. Other attacks occurred at London Bridge and near the Houses of Commons in Westminster.
“Despite the change in the threat level, terrorism remains one of the most direct and immediate risks to our national security,” Patel said in a statement.
The “substantial” threat level continued to indicate a high level of threat and an attack might well occur without further warning, she said.
Britain’s threat level is set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre that is independent of government and makes its decisions based on the latest intelligence and analysis of internal and external factors.
Stowaway migrants in Greece
Greek police found 41 migrants, mostly Afghans, hiding in a refrigerated truck at a motorway in northern Greece on Monday, the country’s officials said, Reuters wrote.