Iran – The leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched provocative statements against the Gulf States threatening to intervene in Bahrain and Yemen it was reported on the 16 Dec 16. The comments were reported by Iranian media after what they described as a “victory in Aleppo,” upon the massacres, starvation and displacement against civilians. Aleppo was considered as one of the strongholds of the opposition; however, the Syrian regime took a hold of it with the help and support of Iranian and Russian military troops. In this context, the deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hossein Salami told the official Iranian news agency Islamic Republic News Agency that “The victory in Aleppo will pave the way for liberating Bahrain,” pointing out that Iran has an expansion project that will extend to Bahrain, Yemen and Mosul after the fall of the Syrian city of Aleppo. Salami said that “the people of Bahrain will achieve their wishes, the Yemeni people will be delighted, and the residents of Mosul will taste victory, these are all divine promises,” as he put it. He also pointed out that Iran is still providing unlimited support for the Houthi group, highlighting that Iranian missile could destroy the enemy targets in any area. Salami described the control of the Syrian regime forces on the Syrian city of Aleppo, which have claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians as “a conquest.” The comments of the spokesman for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Ramadan Sharif reveal the intentions of Tehran to expand geographically through bloody wars and military interventions in the Arab World. Sharif noted that the Iranian forces and its sectarian militia from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Hezbollah with the support of Russia played a “fateful and very influential role” in the battles of Aleppo. It is noteworthy that Iran’s hostility against Bahrain and the Gulf states has escalated since the Prime Minister of Britain, Theresa May, vowed her country’s support for the Gulf States in the face of Iranian terrorism. The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador in Tehran in protest against Theresa May’s remarks during her speech on the 7 Dec 16 at the Summit of Gulf Cooperation Council, where she declared: “We need to work together to address Iranian regional hostilities whether it is in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, or in the Gulf itself.”
Iran/Yemen/Hezbollah – Yemeni armed forces have captured large number of militants including Iranian experts and Hezbollah members in al Jawf Governorate, northwest Yemen, according to a Yemeni official said on the 16 Dec 16. Amin al Ikamai, Governor of the Jawf said in a press conference on the 15 Dec 16: “During the recent military clashes in the governorate we have managed to capture a large number of militias including Iranian experts and others from Hezbollah, they were providing them with information and support.” He asserted that army have cleared and recaptured large swathes of the governorates where the militias have extensively rigged the streets, farms and residential areas with over 130,000 bobby traps and bombs. “Militias have implanted mines, in some locations we have found large amount of explosives weighing up to 100 kilograms, enough to cause fatalities among large number of civilians.”
Iran – Iran’s Vice President and head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, threatened to restart to nuclear activities ‘if necessary.’ In an interview on Friday night (16 Dec 16) with an Iranian television channel, Channel Two, Salehi brought up the possibility of new negotiations on the nuclear agreement as the US administration stated. He said that the new negotiations will prove to be a lesson on how to negotiate nuclear terms, and the need to be more accurate. “Today, each will explain the terms of the nuclear deal as he wants, and will say the deal has not been violated,” he added. Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javed Zarif, sent a letter to the nuclear deal’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action calling for a meeting to discuss the United States’ recent call to extend sanctions on Iran. Zarif pointed out Iran’s full commitment to the deal’s obligations, since the signing of the agreement.
Iran/Saudi Arabia – The mastermind of the Saudi embassy attack in Iran, which took place earlier this year, has confessed that the attack was carried out after the Iranian government and leaders gave him a green light it was reported on the 18 Dec 16. The confession was revealed in an audio recording which was leaked recently. It also explains why authorities in Iran have delayed the trial of those who carried out the attack and why charges were dropped during kangaroo courts.In the audio recording reported to have been revealed by sources close to the opposition Green Movement inside Iran, the alleged mastermind of the attack, Hassan Kurdmihan, an extremist cleric, can be heard in a series of calls as he directed members of the Basij and revolutionary guards to burn and destroy the embassy and seize all documents inside it. Kurdmihan can be heard telling his followers: “The attack has been carried out upon a green light from the government and the regime. This is why security forces allowed raiding the embassy and did not act (against us).” According to the recording published by Amad News through the Telegram app, which has become the Green Movement activists’ platform, Kurdmihan was talking to members of the Noor-e-Marefat institution, a lobbying party which he heads. The Noor-e Marefat institution includes Basij members. Government’s collusion Kurdmihan had earlier confessed to being the mastermind behind the attack and inciting members whom he described as “the revolutionary sons of Hezbollah” from the Basij and revolutionary guards. He had also spoken about the “collusion” of the Rowhani government which he claimed did not prevent the attack on the embassy but rather facilitated it. In an open letter directed to Iranian President Hassan Rowhani in August, Kurdmihan said: “The government’s collusion in the attack was clear as it would have been able to prevent the attackers if it had wanted to,” adding that “the attackers were expected to be beaten up by police and security forces.” The Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked in January following the execution of the Saudi Shiite preacher Nimr al-Nimr. Two weeks after the attack, Iranian judicial authorities said they interrogated Kurdmihan based on accusations that he incited the attack; however, they neither detained nor arrested him.
Who is Hassan Kurdmihan?
Kurdmihan belongs to the militias of Ansar Hezbollah in Karaj, south west of Tehran. It’s a group that’s close to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and it participated in suppressing the protests of the Green Movement in 2009 and the students’ protests in 1998. He was also one of the organizers working in the election campaign of Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf – Tehran’s current mayor - when he ran for the presidential elections in 2013. Besides Noor-e Marefat, Kurdmihan also heads nine other institutions that are close to lobbying groups and influential figures within the Iranian regime. He also fought alongside the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria. He was a judo trainer and he supervised joint training sessions for Iranian and Syrian teams.
In November and following several trials described as “kangaroo courts,” the Iranian authorities dropped the charges off all those accused of raiding, sabotaging and burning the embassy. Iran has been in a very difficult position following decisive Saudi and Gulf reactions, particularly after the Arabs’ boycott and widespread condemnation of the raids on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the Saudi consulate in Mashhad.
Iran/North Korea – Spurred by a letter written by Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) to three senior Obama administration officials, investigative journalist Claudia Rosett on the 15 Dec 16 examined the possibility that Iran and North Korea are collaborating on nuclear weapons research in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal. The most salient question, Rosett wrote in Forbes, is the one Cruz addressed to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: “Has the U.S. intelligence community observed any possible nuclear collaboration between Iran and North Korea…?” She explained that the two nations have a history of collaborating on weapons development. Usually, North Korea undertakes much of the development while Iran that foots the bill, with technicians travelling back and forth between the countries. Although there is currently no official confirmation from Washington that the two nations have collaborated in nuclear weapons development, their cooperation on ballistic missiles is well-documented. This raises the possibility, Rosett wrote, that “the two countries are also in nuclear cahoots, because ballistic missiles are basically cost-efficient only as vehicles for delivering nuclear warheads.” While Iran has publicly scaled back parts of its nuclear program in exchange for billions in sanctions relief, “cash-hungry North Korea has never been busier,” Rosett pointed out. North Korea is believed to have carried out two nuclear tests this year, bringing the total it has conducted since 2006 to five. Rosett observed that it is odd for Iran to “pour resources into testing ballistic missiles,” which are designed to carry nuclear warheads, if it has truly sworn off developing such weapons. This suggests that “North Korea’s nuclear program might be secretly doubling as a nuclear back shop for Iran.” In his letter, Cruz raised concerns about a North Korean ballistic launch in September that, according to state media, had a thrust of 80-ton — enough power to carry “a heavier, or less-miniaturized nuclear warhead to the United States.” The eighty tons thrust was mentioned in a 17 January 2016 press release by the Treasury Department sanctioning Iranian entities for ballistic missile procurement. “Within the past several years, Iranian missile technicians from SHIG travelled to North Korea to work on an 80-ton rocket booster being developed by the North Korean government,” the release noted. While these link do not constitute proof of nuclear collaboration, they do raise red flags, Rosett wrote. “If the silent officials of the Obama administration are confident that there has been no nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea, it’s time to put that assessment in writing and send it to Cruz,” she concluded. Rosett’s concerns echo those expressed by Ilan Berman in the National Interest in August 2015, who wrote that for decades Iran and North Korea have forged a “formidable alliance – the centrepiece of which is cooperation on nuclear and ballistic-missile capabilities.” He explained that for years reports have indicated that North Korea has actively worked to aid Iran’s nuclear program. North Korea sent “hundreds of nuclear experts” to work in Iran, while making “key nuclear software” available to Iranian scientists. After Pyongyang tested a nuclear weapon in early January, retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, a former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, told Fox News, “We know that the Iranians were at the last nuclear test a couple of year ago, [and] we know that the Iranians are helping the North Koreans miniaturize their nuclear weapons.” He indicated that the North Korean nuclear program experienced several failures until it received assistance from Iran. “What does this say about our nuclear deal with Iran?” Scales asked. “It says Iran is able to circumvent it by using their technological colleagues in Pakistan and their test site facility in North Korea to push their own nuclear ambitions.” He added that “the Iranians and North Koreans are both developing long-range ballistic missiles by collaborating together.” Later in January, researchers from the Foundation for Defence of Democracies published a research paper outlining Iran’s past and present military dealings with North Korea, concluding that “the signs of military and scientific cooperation between Iran and North Korea suggest that Pyongyang could have been involved in Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic-missile program, and that state-run trading companies may have assisted in critical aspects of Iran’s illicit nuclear-related activities.” They added that more needs to be known about Iranian-North Korean cooperation, recommending a number of measures, including getting China more involved in non-proliferation efforts, increasing the study of locations where Iran and North Korea focus their efforts on procuring sanctioned technologies, and ensuring the transparency of the international financial system. In How Iran and North Korea Became Cyber-Terror Buddies, which was published in the January 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Rosett offered some background on the two rogue nations’ history of joint missile development. In recent decades, this relationship has proven particularly fruitful. In 1992, for example, a North Korean freighter slipped past U.S. Navy surveillance and delivered a cargo of Scud missiles to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. In 2003, a North Korean defector testified before Congress that he travelled from North Korea to Iran in 1989 and helped the Iranians test-fire a North Korean missile. In 2007, a secret State Department cable made public by Wikileaks stated, Iran and North Korea have continued their longstanding cooperation on ballistic missile technology via air-shipments of ballistic-missile related items. We assess that some of the shipments consist of ballistic missile jet vanes that frequently transit Beijing on regularly scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air. In 2010, a Congressional Research Service report by analyst Larry A. Niksch estimated that “North Korea earns about $1.5 billion annually from missile sales to other countries. It appears that much of this comes from missile sales and collaboration with Iran in missile development.” Also in 2010, the New York Times reported that Iran obtained 19 missiles from North Korea that were “much more powerful than anything Washington has publicly conceded that Tehran has in its arsenal.” This too was based on a classified State Department cable made public by Wikileaks. In 2013, a report from the National Air and Space Intelligence Centre stated, “Iran has an extensive missile development program, and has received support from entities in Russia, China, and North Korea.” Among Iran’s ballistic missiles is the intermediate-range Shahab 3, based on North Korea’s No Dong missile, with a range long enough to strike Israel.
This article is published courtesy of The Tower
Iraq/Da’esh – Three suicide car bombs driven by ISIL fighters killed at least 15 civilians and eight Iraqi policemen on the 22 Dec 16 in an eastern suburb of Mosul, a military statement said. The attacks targeted Kokjali, a suburb that authorities said they had retaken from ISIL almost two months ago. A military spokesman said the vehicle bombs went off in a market. Meanwhile, mortar fire killed 11 people - including four aid workers - as civilians gathered to receive assistance in the war-torn city of Mosul, the United Nations said. Iraqi forces launched an operation on the 17 Oct 16 to retake and have retaken part of its eastern edge. But these areas are still exposed to deadly artillery attacks, suicide vehicle bombings, and sporadic gunfire. "According to initial reports, four aid workers and at least seven civilians queuing for emergency assistance in eastern Mosul city have been killed by indiscriminate mortar fire," Lise Grande, UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said in a statement. "Within the last 48 hours, there have been two separate incidents", which also wounded as many as 40 people, she said. Mahmud al-Sorchi, a spokesman for volunteer fighters from Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, said mortar fire killed aid workers from a local organisation called Faz3a. The UN's Damian Rance said it is still unknown who targeted the aid workers and civilians. But he said ISIL combatants retreating from the military offensive have repeatedly shelled areas after they are retaken by the army, killing or wounding scores of residents fleeing in the opposite direction. "I do not think we will ever know for certain which party fired the mortar rounds on Thursday," said Rance, a UN communications officer based in Mosul. "However given that Iraqi forces have not been using artillery in Mosul city, and given that it is likely that the mortar rounds came from probable ISIL held locations, the probability that the mortar rounds were fired by ISIL is high."
Iraq/Da’esh – At least 28 people have died in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in a double bombing claimed by so-called Islamic State (IS). The explosions happened one after another in the busy al-Sinak market. More than 50 people were injured. Police said a roadside bomb exploded near a car spare parts shop, then a suicide bomber detonated his device among the crowd that had gathered. Baghdad has seen frequent attacks, often targeting Shia districts. IS released a statement saying two of its militants had carried out the bombings wearing suicide vests. The jihadist group is under pressure from an Iraqi army offensive further north in Mosul, the last major IS stronghold in the country. Many of the victims in the 31 Dec 16 attacks worked in spare parts shops in the largely Shia area, witnesses said. "They were gathered near a cart selling breakfast when the explosions went off," local shopkeeper Ibrahim Mohammed Ali told the AFP news agency.
Iraq/Da’esh – ISIS militants attacked a police checkpoint near the southern Iraqi city of Najaf on the 1 Jan 17 killing seven policemen and wounding 17 others including civilians, local police sources said. The assailants were travelling through the desert in two vehicles around al-Qadisiya town west of Najaf. When police stopped the first vehicle for inspection, the driver detonated an explosive load. The second vehicle fled and was stopped by police who killed the two militants inside. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement distributed online by supporters. It said four gunmen had opened fire before detonating explosive vests and then a fifth assailant launched a suicide car bomb. It was not immediately possible to reconcile those accounts. Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, is far from the latest battle between ISIS and Iraq's military in the northern city of Mosul. The militant group has never controlled territory in southern Iraq but has managed to launch occasional attacks in the area, which is predominately Shi'ite. The recapture of Mosul would probably spell the end for ISIS's self-styled caliphate, but the militants would still be capable of fighting a guerrilla-style insurgency in Iraq and plotting or inspiring attacks on the West. The second phase of the campaign launched on Thursday following weeks of deadlock has pushed ISIS out of several more areas despite fierce resistance.
Israel/Hamas – Israeli authorities have arrested more than 20 Palestinians accused of being “members of a Hamas cell that was preparing to launch suicide attacks in Israel,” the Shin Bet security service said on the 22 Dec 16. The cell included four members who had agreed to blow themselves up in Jerusalem, the northern Israeli city of Haifa, and bus stations elsewhere, Shin Bet and the army said in a statement. Israeli security forces also discovered a workshop for producing explosives, the statement said.
Jordon – Four terrorists were killed in a security operation in the southern governorate of Karak that ended towards midnight on the 18/19 Dec 16 after 10 people were killed in a terror attack, including four police officers and three gendarmes. Two civilians and a Canadian citizen were also killed, while 34 other civilians and police officers were injured when four gunmen stormed the southern city and fired at security and civilians before heading to Karak Castle, official sources said. A joint statement by the public security and gendarmerie departments said their personnel were sweeping the area to make sure that there were no other terrorists. An investigation was opened to identify the gunmen and their affiliation. The security agencies, which mourned the fallen soldiers and civilians, said that automatic weapons and ammunition were found at the scene in Karak, while explosives, explosive belts and other weapons were seized from a house the terrorists used in Qatraneh, a desert town to the north of Karak. The joint statement stressed that the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army and security agencies are fully prepared and on the alert to defend Jordan and respond to those who try to tamper with the country’s security and stability. Government Spokesperson Mohammad Momani told The Jordan Times earlier that the Kingdom would remain resilient against attempts to disturb its stability and security, extending Jordan’s condolences to the Canadian government over the loss of the Canadian national. Momani and the police department had also announced earlier that all the civilians who were trapped in Karak Castle when the terrorists withdrew there were freed following a five-hour rescue operation. The PSD issued a statement earlier in the day saying that the incident occurred when a police unit responded to a fire alert that erupted in a house in Qatraneh. “Unidentified assailants fired at the officers, injuring two of them then fled in a vehicle,” the PSD statement said. Shortly afterwards, the statement added, the terrorists shot at a police patrol in Karak Governorate followed by shooting at a police station when they took refuge in the castle. Addressing a Parliament session earlier in the day, Prime Minister Hani Mulki said there was no information on the attackers, describing them as “outlaws”. He said the incident started in town of Qatraneh, north of Karak, when the unknown assailants opened fire from a cafe’s rooftop at a police patrol. Later on, he said, they targeted other patrols in the governorate.
Follow-on Report – The Islamic State jihadist group on the 20 Dec 16 claimed responsibility for an attack at a popular tourist destination in Jordan that killed 10 people including policemen and a Canadian. Four "soldiers of the caliphate" with machine-guns and hand grenades carried out the 18/19 dec 16 assault in Karak targeting Jordanian "apostate" security forces and citizens of the US-led coalition battling the jihadists in Syria and Iraq, an IS statement said. Jordanian authorities said four gunmen were shot dead by police during the course of a siege that lasted several hours. The jihadists had sought refuge in the Crusader castle after opening fire on police patrols and a police station in the city in southern Jordan, according to the authorities. IS identified the four dead militants and said the attack was revenge for the US-led coalition's air campaign targeting jihadists in Syria and Iraq. It also pledged to carry out further assaults on countries within the US-led coalition. On the 19 Dec 16 Jordanian police said they found suicide belts and other explosives in the hideout of the suspects behind the Karak attack.
Kurds – Seven people were killed in a double bomb attack on the 20 Dec 16 near the headquarters of an Iranian Kurdish opposition party, in a rare assault in Iraq’s relatively secure autonomous Kurdish region, a senior security official said. The blasts hit the town of Koysinjaq about 1000 hrs (1900 hrs GMT), killing five members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran, a member of the security forces and a child, said Jalal Karim, the Kurdish region’s deputy interior minister. The attack also left people wounded, said Karim, who did not provide a specific figure. Iraq’s Kurdistan region, which has its own government, security forces and flag but is still part of Iraq, has largely been spared the horrific violence that has plagued other parts of the country in the years after 2003. ISIS militants, which Kurdish forces have battled in the north is the usual culprit for attacks in the Kurdistan region. But the fact that the bombings apparently targeted the Iranian party headquarters raises the possibility that another organization or country may be responsible. The Kurds are spread across four nearby countries including Iran, where the military crushed a fledgling Kurdish republic in which Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani was born in 1946. There are some five million Kurds in Iran, and various Kurdish opposition groups oppose the government in Tehran.
Kurds/Syria/Da’esh – Kurdish-led fighters are approaching a strategic dam controlled by Islamic State in northern Syria after days of fighting that killed a senior IS military commander, a spokesman for the US-backed forces said on the 27 Dec 16. Talal Sillo of the Syria Democratic Forces said the fighters, with the support of US, French and British Special Forces, have driven IS from dozens of villages and farms in recent days and are about three miles from the Euphrates Dam. The SDF, a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, has been on the offensive in Raqqa province since early Nov 16 advancing with the aid of US-led air strikes. The operation is aimed at encircling and eventually retaking Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremist group's self-declared caliphate. The city is home to nearly 200,000 mostly Sunni Arabs and an estimated 5,000 IS fighters. "The ongoing operation is the second phase west of Raqqa," Mr Sillo said, adding that the first phase was north of the city. "More phases will come later to isolate the city and then to begin liberating it." The capture of the dam, which controls the flow of water to parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, would deal a major blow to the extremist group, which has held the facility for more than two years. Behind the dam lies Lake Assad, which at 250 square miles is Syria's largest reservoir. Both sides claim to have inflicted heavy casualties on the other. The IS-linked Aamaq news agency reported on the 26 Dec 16 that 24 SDF fighters were killed in the area, while Mr Sillo said his forces had killed dozens of extremists. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fate of a senior IS military commander known as Abu Jandal al-Kuwaiti is still unknown after he was targeted by US-led coalition aircraft. The Syrian army said he was killed fighting in the Tabqa area near the dam. IS supporters on social media confirmed he was killed. US Central Command said that coalition aircraft conducted nine strikes near the city of Raqqa on the 26 Dec 16 that engaged three IS tactical units, destroying vehicles rigged with explosives, a bridge, a fighting position, and a supply cache. It said two air strikes near the Ein Issa area north of Raqqa hit two IS tactical units and destroyed two fighting positions. Mr Sillo said that in recent days the SDF has captured 500 square miles. He said the next target is the town of Tabqa, home to a military base where IS fighters killed scores of captured Syrian troops in 2014. He said the fighting on Tuesday was concentrated near Jaabar castle on Lake Assad, after the SDF captured the nearby village of Jaabar. The US-backed SDF is made up of several Arab, Kurdish, Turkmen and Christian groups that have captured wide areas of northern Syria from IS over the past year. The largest and most powerful groups in the coalition are the main Kurdish militias known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, and the Women's Protection Units, or YPJ. The SDF is the most effective ground force battling IS in Syria.
Oman – Oman, which generally stays neutral in the face of regional disputes, has joined a Saudi-led military coalition aimed at "fighting terrorism," official media in Riyadh said on the 29 Dec 16. The Gulf sultanate, which maintains good ties with rival powerhouses Iran and Saudi Arabia, becomes the 41st nation in the alliance announced last year by the Saudi defence minister, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The official SPA agency said Mohammed received a message from his Omani counterpart praising Saudi efforts in showing "leadership in the Islamic military coalition in fighting terrorism". Oman is one of the few Arab states not to have joined a Saudi-led military coalition battling rebels in Yemen and has hosted several rounds of talks aimed at ending the conflict raging there since March 2015. Little information has been provided on the anti-extremist alliance since Riyadh announced its formation in Dec 15.
Palestine/Israel – Hamas blamed Israel for the killing of its "commander" Mohammed al-Zawari, an aviation engineer who worked on the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, and vowed to take revenge. Zawari, 49, had been in Tunisia only a few days when he was shot dead outside his home by multiple gunshots while in his car near Sfax, 270km southeast of Tunis, on the 15 Dec 16. Television footage aired on local media showed a black Volkswagen with its windows shot out. Four rental cars were used in the killing and two handguns and suppressors were seized, Tunisia's interior ministry said. A judicial spokesman from Sfax, Mourad Tourki, told Tunisian radio Shems FM that eight Tunisian nationals had been arrested in connection with the killing. One of the suspects is a Tunisian journalist based in Hungary, arrested along with a cameraman. Two other suspects, one of them a Belgian of Moroccan origin, are still at large, Tourki said. Authorities have not commented on who is suspected of being behind the murder. Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip, confirmed that Zawari had been a member of its military wing for the past 10 years, and spearheaded its drone programme. A statement said Zawari's work "contributed to the victories" by Hamas during the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza. The group accused Israel of killing the aviation engineer through its network of spies. "The assassination of the commander Mohammed al-Zawari in Tunisia is a reminder for all Arab and Muslim nations that the Zionist enemy and its agents are roaming free in the region, playing their dirty roles, and it is time for this cowardly treacherous hand to be cut," Hamas' Qassam Brigades said in a statement. It published a poster on Twitter showing Zawari with an unmanned drone. The poster bore the logo of Hamas' armed wing and referred to Zawari as a commander. "The assassination is an aggression against the group and the enemy should know that the blood of this great commander will not be wasted," it said. Israeli Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Israeli Channel One: "I hope this issue will not be ascribed to us, that it is not connected to us and that none of those people arrested are our allies." Tunisia's Islamist Ennahdha movement has called for an investigation into the killing, which it said posed a threat to the country's stability. Israeli forces were responsible for the 1988 killing of senior Palestinian commander Abu Jihad, whose real name was Khalil al-Wazir, at his home in Tunis, Tunisia. Wazir was the deputy of the then Palestinian chief Yasser Arafat. Mossad is also believed to have been behind the 2010 murder of top Hamas commander Mahmud al-Mabhuh in a Dubai hotel.
Syria/Russia – Two mortar rounds were fired at the Russian embassy in Damascus on the 28 Dec 16 the foreign ministry in Moscow said, adding that no casualties or damage had been caused. "From 1300 hrs to 1319 hrs Moscow time (1000 hrs GMT to 1019 hrs GMT), the Russian embassy was bombarded by terrorists. One mortar, which luckily didn't explode, landed in the courtyard inside the embassy premises," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "The second mortar landed in the neighbourhood" near the embassy, the statement said, adding that de-miners intervened to defuse the explosives. "We consider this new act of provocation by extremists seeking to derail the peace process in Syria, to be a confirmation of their intention to continue to sow terror and violence" in the war-torn nation, the ministry added. The Russian embassy in central Damascus has been the frequent target of rebel fire ever since war erupted in 2011. In May 15, a man was killed when mortar rounds landed near the embassy complex.
Yemen – A suicide bomber has killed at least 30 Yemeni soldiers at a military base in the southern port city of Aden, a week after an attack by a local affiliate of ISIL killed dozens of troops in the city. Military officials and medics said early on the 18 Dec 16 that the suicide bomber detonated his explosives as a group of soldiers were gathering to collect their salaries at the al-Solban base in the city's northeast. Aden al-Ghad, a local news website, said several people were wounded in the blast as thousands of men queued up at the entrance of the base. The attack happened just eight days after a similar bombing claimed by ISIL which killed 48 soldiers and wounded 29 others. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but later ISIL claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing that left up to 49 Yemeni soldiers.