Mosul shelled indiscriminately, refugees forced through ‘horrendous’ filtration – HRW

The Mosul siege, supposed to liberate people from ISIS, poses a grave threat to civilians, while those who manage to flee the indiscriminate shelling are forced through a poorly organized jihadist filtering process, a senior HRW official told RT.

Iraqi troops have been systematically using heavy artillery and crude improvised rocket-assisted munitions (IRAM) in the battle against IS terrorists in Mosul, despite the government’s promises not to use the highly inaccurate weapons in densely populated areas, a new report Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed earlier this week.

READ MORE: ‘All of us were ISIS human shields’: RT meets survivors of Mosul siege (EXCLUSIVE)

This can potentially be classified as a “war crime” and should be stopped immediately, Ahmed Benchemsi, MENA communications director of HRW told RT.

“The laws of war are very clear, they said whenever there’s a gathering of civilians all necessary measures must be taken to avoid the loss of civilian life. When you are fighting with indiscriminate weapons, as it’ s happening right now in the west Mosul, you’re doing the opposite of that, because you’re firing a rocket and you don’t know where this rocket is going to land,” Benchemsi said.

“And it might very well take many of innocent civilian lives. So, this is what happening right now in west Mosul and it is a blatant violation of the laws of war and possibly a war crime, if it’s going on in a large-scale and a systematic manner.”

Mixed reaction to the usage of such weapons among Iraqi military and civil officials indicates a lack of a uniformed government position on the matter, Benchemsi added.

The use of highly destructive, yet inaccurate munitions, as well as massive airstrikes, leads to heavy infrastructural damage and severe casualties among the civilian population.

IRAQ – Iraqi government forces fire a rocket towards IS group positions in west Mosul. 📷@ArisMessinis

At least 3,500 civilians have already been killed since the beginning of the latest offensive, according to estimates of a prominent Iraqi politician Khamis Khanjar.

It’s difficult to either confirm or dismiss such estimates, though, amid the chaos of the lengthy battle.

Those who managed to escape the crossfire say that they suffered both from IS atrocities and the chaotic push to liberate them.

“The airstrike hit it, an army aircraft, and there is nothing left from it. The only things left are ourselves, our family and our clothes. The house is gone, an aircraft hit it,” Mahmoud, a refugee from Mosul, staying in the Chamakor camp for internally displaced people, told RT.

“I know two children from our neighborhood who have been killed. They were killed. I also know a woman who was killed too and her house was damaged. And she was ‘damaged’ too, so she died, and her two children died too. There are others.”

Refugees are scared, many of them have lost virtually everything.

“How should I not be scared? Our life is messed up. Someone’s house is gone and her husband is gone. Our life is now here [at the IDP camp],” Shaema, another displaced citizen of Mosul, said.

Not all of those who managed to escape the battle even get a chance to get a new “home” at a refugee camp, as Iraqi security forces undertake rigorous measures to prevent IS infiltration and detain all refugees deemed suspicions.

While the screening process is an inevitable measure, its implementation leaves much to be desired. People reportedly go through it in the bare desert and those who were detained end up in centers, in conditions which can only be described as “horrendous,” according to another report released by HRW on Monday.

Detainees lack food, water and even space to breathe, while inadequate medical treatment leads to death and amputations among them, the report revealed. The majority of the detained people are held in overcrowded centers without charges and legal support. Iraqi prisons for IS suspects violate virtually “all the laws pertaining to conditions of detention,” Benchemsi told RT.

“About 1,200 people are held in absolutely horrific conditions in a group of detention centers in Iraq. And those people are accused of being part of ISIS. Fine, they can be checked but not in this way. They should be granted all the guarantees of the fair trial, that any suspected person is guaranteed,” Benchemsi said.

“They should be able to consult lawyers, they should be able to be defendants. And first of all they should not be held in detention centers where they are stuck like sardines, with a very little breathing room and absolutely infect smell and conditions that actually people die from.”

Refugee camps and detention centers will inevitably overflow as the operation to retake western Mosul unfolds. There are still some 700,000 people still trapped in the densely populated western neighborhoods of the city.

Over 4,000 civilians have been fleeing western Mosul daily since Iraqi forces began the operation to retake the IS-held parts of the city on February 19, according to UN estimates.

Almost 100,000 Iraqis have been displaced by the fighting just in the 19 days since February 25, according to the latest estimates by the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), while total number of refugees might reach 450,000.

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Netanyahu reiterates commitment to rebuild demolished West Bank settlement

Netanyahu reiterates commitment to rebuild demolished West Bank settlement
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated his promise to build a new West Bank settlement for residents of an outpost declared illegal and demolished by a Supreme Court order last month.

“To the settlers of Amona, I repeat, I gave you a commitment to build a new settlement and I will honor my commitment,” Netanyahu said on Thursday ahead of a meeting with Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s chief Middle East negotiator, according to Reuters.

The Amona settlement, built on privately owned Palestinian land in 1995, was demolished last month following the Israeli Supreme Court ruling.

Netanyahu is being pressured to keep his promise to Amona’s residents by his far-right coalition partners. However, President Trump, during their meeting in Washinton last month, asked Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

“We are in talks with the White House and our intention is to reach an agreed policy for building in settlements which is agreeable to us, not only to the Americans,” Netanyahu said.

“Naturally, this will be good for the State of Israel since we have not been in these processes for many years,” the Prime Minister added.

After reasserting his commitment to building new settlements in the West Bank, the first since 1999, the Prime Minister pressed forward with settlement prospects at his second meeting with Jason Greenblatt, who also doubles as Trump’s adviser on international relations.

Greenblatt is touring the Middle East to meet with the Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leadership as Washington seeks to strike a possible peace settlement under Trump’s administration.

The King stressed his ongoing commitment to do everything possible to assist in moving towards a comprehensive agreement (4/5)

Greenblatt has already met with settler leaders which included members from Samaria Regional Council and Efrat Council. The American envoy also paid visits to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and to King Abdullah in Amman, Jordan.

On Monday, Greenblatt met Netanyahu for more than five hours.
During Greenblatt’s second meeting with Netanyahu on Thursday, which lasted three hours, the two politicians failed to reach a concrete agreement. The negotiations are set to be continued next week in Washington between Greenblatt and Israel’s US ambassador, Ron Dermer.

“They also made progress on the issue of Israeli settlement construction, following up on President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s agreement in Washington last month to work out an approach that reflects both leaders’ views,” a joint statement released reads, Haaretz reports. “Those discussions are continuing between the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office.”

Joint statement following meeting between PM Netanyahu and Jason Greenblatt, @POTUS Special Representative for International Negotiations

At the same time the “positive discussion” was also focused on “advancing a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians that strengthens the security of Israel,” said the statement.

Israel has been building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1967. The Palestinians believe East Jerusalem to be their land, but Israel has been forcefully denying Palestinians the territory. Some 385,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank that is home to 2.8 million Palestinians. Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem.

The construction of these settlements, illegal under international law, has been the subject of growing controversy, mounting criticism from the international community, and a deteriorating security situation between Israelis and desperate Palestinians.

During the Trump-Netanyahu meeting in February, the US president asked the Israeli Prime Minister to temporarily hold off on building new Jewish settlements on land claimed by Palestinians for their future state.

“I’d like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit,” Trump said, instead promising to strike a deal that would bring an end to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state… I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.”

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‘Standard & entirely transparent practice’: RT’s head of communications on leaked paycheck to Flynn

The US media is “losing its mind” over a totally common and transparent practice, RT’s head of communications has said, commenting on disclosed details of Michael Flynn’s paid appearance at a conference in Moscow which was never a secret in the first place.

“This isn’t just a standard practice, this is a standard practice that is entirely transparent. It’s commonplace not just in the United States, but in Washington, DC, in particular,” Anna Belkina, said, adding there are scores of agencies in the US that specialize in connecting public figures with events such as the international conference hosted by RT in Moscow in December 2015.

The email exchange and attached documents, obtained by the House Oversight Committee and shared with the US media, include details of RT’s negotiations with Flynn’s speakers bureau — Leading Authorities— over the fee for his appearance.

“The agency we reached out to specifically and very publically specialized in connecting Washington DC public figures and civil servants, officials with opportunities like that,” Belkina explained.

But despite the documents being a standard of contract negotiations, the US media are “losing mind a little bit” over the alleged Russia-Flynn “ties,” making it a top and breaking news story, Belkina noted.

However, what is more disturbing is that the partially blacked out papers, published by the Washington Post, still feature some RT employees’ names and other private data in blatant breach of the common expectation of privacy, Belkina noted.

“Obviously it is a bit disconcerting, because from an RT perspective, there was an expectation of privacy, expectation of confidentiality involved in these kind of exchanges and negotiations,” she said. “The label ‘confidential’ is still actually preserved on those emails that are there and yet they are public, there are names of our employees that are published… So, of course we will be looking into this situation in greater detail.”

Neither Flynn nor RT ever made a secret of his paid appearance at the conference, but on the contrary, widely publicized the event that brought together several hundred public figures, experts, analysts and journalists from all over the world.

“I do public speaking. It was in Russia. It was a paid speaking opportunity. I get paid so much. The speaker’s bureau got paid so much, based on our contract,” Flynn told the Washington Post back in August, rightfully refusing to name the exact sum he received.

“General Flynn has appeared as a guest on our award-winning news network, alongside many international experts who respond to our invitation to share their views,” RT’s Press Office had said earlier, emphasizing that “at no time has General Michael Flynn ever been a paid contributor to RT.”

Flynn admitted and always displayed total transparency over the paid appearance at the RT-hosted event, even though as a private citizen at the time, he had no obligation to do so, former Pentagon official Michael Maloof believes.

“I think what the Democrats are angling at is Michael Flynn having been national security advisor, and the fact that he was on RT which they perceive to be a Russian government entity that he should have registered as a ‘foreign agent,’” Maloof told RT.

“I think that’s what they are angling at, and even there it’s questionable, even though he was paid for speaking, we have 1st Amendment rights. I might also add that Flynn at the time when he appeared at RT in Moscow was a private citizen, and he’s allowed to do whatever he wants.”

Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, had to step down amid mounting pressure on the new US presidential administration; caused by accusations that he was not fully sincere about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.

The latest speculation over Flynn’s alleged ties with Moscow is yet another “bogus, unfounded accusation,” believes retired US Army Major General Paul Vallely.

“A normal common business practices in inviting a guest and paying him is not out of the ordinary,” Vallely told RT. “So, what you have is a false accusation, unfounded, by the members of Congress even, who fall prey to this deception and accuse General Flynn of wrongdoing.”

The new round of attacks on Michael Flynn is a part of the “deviant narrative,” which many American media outlets have been churning out for several months already to try and bring down Donald Trump, believes radio host Bryan Crabtree.

“Many outlets in our country have gone hysterical by reporting the obvious, the natural and the normal as somehow radical. And leaving out just enough facts, like the fact that the speaker’s bureau is absolutely a normal thing that politicians do after they leaving office, or General or anyone high-ranking in Federal Government,” Crabtree said.

“There’s people in our media that have been wrong so many times in the last 18 months, they are doing everything they can to manifest their correctness, which means that if they can bring Donald Trump down they can make the whole story they’ve been wanting to do for 18 months, and say ‘We told you, he would implode.’”

“I think this is a desperate journalistic stretch by CNN to pull a stunt like this and that is exactly what it is,” RT America host Ed Schultz added. “There is a real effort on the part in part of the mainstream media in America to satisfy some lawmakers on the Capitol Hill to draw any type of connection between Donald Trump and Russia. And if they can use Michael Flynn to get that done that is exactly what they are going to do.”

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