US loosening limits on Pentagon drone raids

The administration of US President Donald Trump is trying to roll back limitations that tie the Pentagon’s hands in carrying out lethal drone strikes around the world, officials say.

Trump’s experts are in the final stages of reviewing Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG), a series of strict rules on targeted killing operations and drone strikes introduced by former President Barack Obama, The Washington Post reported Monday, citing unnamed US officials.

The new administration seeks to make it easier for the US military to carry out the strikes by reducing the threshold for civilian casualties, according to a senior official.

Trump has made it clear that he would do all he can to push ahead with Washington’s alleged war against Daesh (ISIL) and other terror groups in the Middle East.

The drone program has always been touted by the US as an effective weapon against terrorists.

One of the limitations laid out in the PPG is the “near-certainty” standard of no civilian deaths for the strikes, which is supposed to bar the Pentagon from carrying out any attacks before assessing the possibility of civilian casualties.

Early drafts of the review indicate that under the revised rules, the civilian casualty rules will be relaxed and the Pentagon will be allowed to freely select its targets and take action without waiting for approval from the White House.

Posing a “continuing and imminent threat” by a target to the US is another key requirement that is likely to be dropped in future drone attacks.

A senior official told the Post that the Trump administration was not going to scrap all limitations and remained committed to a standard above the minimum requirements under the international law.

By introducing the strict controls, Obama was apparently seeking to prevent civilian casualties and unnecessary costs.

“We have to create an architecture for this because [of] the potential for abuse,” he said during a speech in August.

According to an official report by the Obama administration, between 2009 and 2016, around 64 to 116 civilians and 2,372 to 2,581 “combatants” were killed in 473 strikes conducted in Muslim nations where the US was not at war. The numbers do not reflect US drone attacks in the war zones of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The drone program was dramatically expanded under Obama, who holds the record as the only US president for being at war for two full terms.

Courtesy: Press TV

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The United Nations rights chief has censured Zionist entity’s illegal activities in the occupied territories and its blockade on the Gaza Strip, accusing the Tel Aviv regime of depriving the Palestinians of their basic rights.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein made the criticism in an address at the UN Human Rights Council in the Swiss city of Geneva on Wednesday.

“In the occupied Palestinian territory, after half a century of Israeli occupation, with the degradation of another people which it brings, the accumulation of despair is widespread. Pervasive discrimination deprives Palestinians of their basic rights,” Hussein said.

The UN official also stressed that he had “repeatedly” urged the Zionist entity to end its so-called administrative detention policy, which is a form of imprisonment without trial or charge that allows incarceration of Palestinians for up to six months.

Touching on the illegal Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, he said that the regime has authorized over 5,500 new illegal settler units since the beginning of this year despite a UN Security Council resolution condemning such moves.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Hussein expressed concerns over a controversial law passed by by the Israeli parliament last month, which legalized dozens of Israeli outposts built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. The legislation has also drawn global condemnation.

“This amounts to the confiscation of private property, and contravenes international law,” he said.

Additionally, the UN rights chief denounced the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip that has been in place Since June 2007 and affected almost all the two million inhabitants of the enclave.

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Hundreds of Palestinians have held the funeral of a teenager martyred by Zionist forces near the occupied West Bank city of al-Khalil.

According to Press TV, the procession on Saturday in Arroub refugee camp saw people mourning the death a day earlier of Murad Yussef Abu Ghazi outside the camp, located near the city.

The 16-year-old was reportedly killed after Israelis alleged that he was planning an attack on Israeli forces.

A source in Israeli police said forces opened fire at Yussef after “firebombs were hurled at passing vehicles.” Zionists also injured another Palestinian and reports on Saturday said 17-year-old Saif Salim Rushdi was in a critical condition.

Yussef’s funeral came hours after a similar massive procession in the city of Bethlehem for Basel al-Araj, a Palestinian activist who had been martyred by Israeli regime forces in Ramallah nearly two weeks ago. The 31-year-old had been rained with bullets. Zionists released his body on Friday afternoon.

Araj was respected by many in the West Bank as a freedom fighter, an intellectual, and a theorist. His death at the hands of Israelis prompted huge anger across the occupied territory.

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