A LEBANESE lawmaker affiliated to Hezbollah says Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has recently offered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad huge sums of money for the reconstruction of his conflict-plagued country in case the latter severs relations with Iran and the Lebanese resistance movement.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network, Nawwaf Musawi said a Saudi delegate had conveyed the message to the Syrian president, notifying him that the Riyadh regime would have no problem with Assad staying in power only if the Damascus government opts to cut ties with Tehran and Hezbollah.
Musawi noted that Assad did not hesitate to roundly reject the offer, stressing that the Syrian president is at the centre of the anti-Israel resistance front. Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.
Syria has blasted Saudi Arabia for giving money to the US-led coalition to press ahead with what Damascus has described as ‘destabilisation plots’ in the war-torn country. Syrian army troopers, backed by allied fighters from the popular defence groups, have recently made major territorial gains in battles against Daesh and other foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorist groups, almost capturing the entire southern part of the country after securing the capital Damascus and other key areas.
The major militant stronghold remains in the northwestern province of Idlib, where government forces are preparing to launch a full-scale military operation. Takfiri militants are also in control of some areas of the western-central province Hama, and are holding some desert regions near the border with Turkey.
Moreover, negotiations have been taking place between the political wing of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian government on ways to end violence in Syria.
• Israeli officials have approved plans for the construction of hundreds of new housing units at a settlement in the central part of the occupied West Bank irrespective of the international outcry against the Tel Aviv regime’s land expropriation and settlement expansion policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israeli Hebrew-language daily newspaper Israel Hayom reported on Tuesday that the authorities have given the green light for 650 units to be built in Beit El settlement adjacent to Ramallah.
The report added that the settler units will accommodate extremists from Olbana and Darinov neighbourhoods, who were evacuated from their areas in 2012 and 2015 respectively.
Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to ‘immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem’ al-Quds.
About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories. Trump backtracked on Washington’s support for a ‘two-state solution’ earlier this year, saying he would support any solution favoured by both sides.
‘Looking at two-state or one-state, I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one both parties like. I can live with either one,’ the US president said during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington on February 15.
• Israel has eased restrictions on gun ownership, making over half a million people eligible to carry firearms, in a controversial move which could fuel concerns about the extrajudicial killing of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Under the new regulations, which went into effect on Monday, veterans of the Israeli army’s infantry units and police officers with similar training will be able to apply for a gun permit.
Furthermore, army officers ranked first lieutenant or higher and non-commissioned officers ranked first sergeant or higher would not be required to return their guns and permits when they are discharged from reserve service and thus could ask for permission to keep their weapons.
The new rules would also apply to Israeli volunteers in certain police units and medical organisations. Additionally, individuals who have been in continuous possession of a firearm permit for 10 years would be allowed to keep the permit indefinitely without undergoing periodic tests.
Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who has long pushed for the reforms, claimed that the new regulations ‘increase public security’ as they enable ‘skilled civilians’ to defend themselves against ‘lone-wolf terror attacks.’
The fresh policy ‘strikes a balance between the need to defend the public which might be at risk and the need to protect the public from incorrect use of a firearm,’ he said.
Under the previous rules, Israelis had to prove a need for firearms, such as living or working in an area considered dangerous and undergo regular testing and training.
Israel’s left-wing opposition party Meretz criticised the contentious rules, saying firearms ‘are a death machine whose civilian use needs to be reduced as much as possible.’ ‘Instead of dealing with the tremendous amount of illegal weapons on the streets endangering human lives, they are simply increasing the number of gun permits,’ Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg said in a statement.
Attorney Debbie Gild-Hayo of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel also warned that weapons endanger the public’s lives. ‘Until a few years ago, the trend was to restrict the presence of weapons in public places as a means of preventing needless casualties, but since Erdan came into office we see just the opposite,’ she said.
‘It seems that our elected officials have forgotten their obligation to ensure the welfare of the public and strike a proper balance between security needs and the protection of civilians from the danger of numerous lethal weapons in the public sphere,’ she added.
Elor Azaria, who brutally killed a wounded Palestinian man, has been released from prison after serving a lenient term.
On numerous occasions, Israeli forces and settlers have fatally shot many Palestinians in the occupied lands, claiming they sought to attack the Israelis. They also have been caught on camera brutally killing Palestinians, with the videos going viral online and sparking condemnations of the regime’s military. Israel has come under fire by human rights groups for encouraging a shoot-to-kill policy.