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Israel says ‘Iron Dome’ proving itself against Gaza rockets JERUSALEM: Israel says its unique “Iron Dome” short-range air defence system is performing well, intercepting the vast majority of rockets fired at southern cities in the latest barrage by Gaza militants. So far three experimental batteries have been deployed since March 2011 — around Ashkelon, Ashdod and the Negev desert capital of Beersheva, which have a combined population of more than half a million. Experts say that a total of 13 batteries are needed to give a full nationwide umbrella. By yesterday afternoon, Palestinians had fired more than 200 rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza into southern Israel since a latest

round of fighting erupted on Friday, the military said. Gaza emergency services said that at least 23 Palestinians had been killed and 73 wounded since Friday as Israeli launched 36 air strikes against the territory. Yesterday, 31 rockets headed for urban centres were targeted by Iron Dome, which scored 23 hits, the military said, a 75 percent success rate. “The system is working very well,” Brigadier General Doron Gavish briefed reporters at one of the batteries in the vicinity of Ashdod, 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the Gaza border. “Rockets shot at the cities of Israel are being intercepted by the warriors who are operating the system,” said

Gavish head of Israel’s national air defences. Visiting a battery on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the system’s “impressive achievements.” “You are doing exceptional work,” he told its crew. “I take the Israeli people’s hat off to you.” The system, the first of its kind in the world, was developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems with the help of US funding. It is designed to intercept rockets and artillery shells fired from a range of between four and 70 kilometres (three and 45 miles). Each battery comprises detection and tracking radar, state-of-the-art fire control software and three launchers,

each with 20 interceptor missiles, military sources said. Militants in Gaza and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia have fired thousands of rockets at Israel in the past. The first batteries were deployed facing the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, from where militants have repeatedly fired improvised rockets, prompting Israel to launch a devastating 22-day offensive into the territory in December 2008. It is later to be deployed along the Lebanese border, from where Hezbollah militants fired some 4,000 rockets into northern Israel during a 2006 war. It was that experience which prompted the development of Iron Dome. Israel believes Hezbollah now

has an arsenal of some 40,000 rockets. But a complete deployment is expected to take several years. Iron Dome joins the Arrow missile defence system in an ambitious multi-layered programme to protect Israeli cities from rockets fired from Gaza or Lebanon, or missiles fired from Iran or Syria. “It is a new tool being brought into the basket of tools... a tool we didn’t have before,” Gavish said. “We have something new in the arena that obviously plays in our favour.” The defence ministry says a third system, known as David’s Sling, is currently being developed with the aim of countering medium-range missiles. — AFP

14 killed in Iraq robbery, attacks Militants strike in a pre-dawn raid

AMMAN: A picture taken on March 8, 2012, shows Syrian refugee Mahmud Masri, a 62 year-old blacksmith, and his children at their home in Ramtha city, north of Amman. Syrian refugees in Jordan see a grim future in their homeland, saying the regime has not yet shown its “ugly face” and are bracing themselves for more bloodshed, in which thousands have already died. — AFP

US drones, Yemen army kill 9 extremists ADEN: Nine suspected Al-Qaeda militants have been killed in an artillery attack by the Yemeni army backed by US drone strikes on their strongholds in the country’s south, a local official told AFP yesterday. Three extremists were killed when US drones fired missiles late on Sunday targeting their weapons hideouts in Jabal Khanfar, a hill overlooking the Abyan town of Jaar, which is controlled by Al-Qaeda militants, the official said. A large amount of weapons seized by the militants in an attack against the army that left 185 soldiers earlier this month, were destroyed in the shelling, said the official who spoke to AFP by telephone from Jaar. Six other militants were killed when the army bombed one of their hideouts in Makhzan, southeast of Jaar, the official said, asking not to be named. Witnesses and officials said on Sunday that six US drone missiles had targeted the suspected weapons hideouts in Jabal Khanfar. Witnesses reported seeing columns of smoke billowing into the sky from the targeted locations and said that government buildings, now controlled by Al-

Qaeda fighters, had been damaged. Al-Qaeda extremists took over Zinjibar, Abyan’s provincial capital, in May, and then overran several nearby towns across the south, including Jaar. Air strikes by Yemeni and US planes on Friday and Saturday killed at least 33 suspected AlQaeda militants in Abyan and Al-Bayda provinces, south of the capital, residents and local officials said. Meanwhile in the main southern city of Aden, suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen attacked a van transporting money to the Cooperative & Agricultural Credit Bank seizing 75 million rials (347,000 dollars), a police spokeswoman told AFP. She accused Al-Qaeda militants of the robbery, adding that the extremists frequently carry out such attacks in an attempt to finance their operations. Yemen is the ancestral homeland of slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the jihadist network took advantage of a protracted anti-government uprising last year to strengthen their presence across the south and east. Washington has long made the country a major focus of its “war on terror”. — AFP

Saudis to go on hunger strike against activist detention JEDDAH: Dozens of Saudis have signed up to join a two-day hunger strike this week to protest against the detention of a prominent rights activist, a rights group said. Mohamad al-Bajadi was detained in March 2011, activists said, for supporting families demonstrating outside the Interior M inistr y in R iyadh to demand the release of detained relatives. His trial, on charges including tarnishing the reputation of the state, has been suspended as he refused to recognise the court. The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), which is promoting the hunger strike on Thursday and Friday, said 38 activists had signed up on its website so far to participate in the action. “ This weekend we will meet in a public place and strike in public, in a farmhouse in Riyadh, the Qurtuba district,” activist Mohammad al-Qahtani told Reuters yesterday. “We hope to shed light on Mohamad al-Bajadi’s case and others like him because unfortunately the state does not listen to the people, so we want to alert the international community to put pressure” on it, he said. An I nterior M inistr y

spokesman said he was not aware of the case and declined to make any further comment. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy that does not tolerate any kind of public dissent. The kingdom mostly thanks to a generous spending package announced early last year has avoided the kind of protests that rocked other Arab countries and resulted in the ouster of four heads of state. The US ally has seen sporadic protests, mainly by Shi’ite minority in the eastern par t of the k ingdom, despite a ban on marches. The kingdom has blamed foreign instigators for the protests - a reference to Iran. Independent rights groups estimate that the number of prisoners ranges between 12,000-30,000 but the Interior Ministry denies there are any political prisoners in the kingdom. The ministry said last year it was holding 5,696 people for “militant”-related cases, most of whom appeared before courts. The government-affiliated Human R ights Commission, which repor ts directly to King Abdullah, said in a statement yesterday that there are around 4,600 prisoners held in priso n s, w i t h o u t g i v i n g a ny f u r t h e r details. — Reuters

BAGHDAD: Attacks against alQaeda’s favorite targets in Iraq killed 14 people yesterday as insurgents struck security forces, a government office and jewelry stores, demonstrating a continued threat from armed groups ahead of a meeting of the Arab world’s top leaders in Baghdad. Security officials expect alQaeda to ramp up violence over the next few weeks as Iraq prepares to host the annual Arab League summit at the end of the month. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for yesterday ’s strikes, and numerous armed groups in Iraq have mixed attacks on political targets with money-making criminal operations. But Al-Qaeda in Iraq for years has been believed to fund itself in part with cash and gold stolen from jewelry stores. Militants struck first in a predawn raid yesterday in the city of Tarmiyah, 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Baghdad, where police said gunmen in at least two cars attacked the local mayor’s office. Three policemen were killed, police and health officials said. The mayor was not in his office at the time. A half hour later and a few miles (kilometers) away, gunmen targeted a police patrol in a drive-by shooting. Two policemen were killed, officials said, and it was not known if the gunmen were the same group who attacked the mayor’s office. A few hours later, two carloads of robbers armed with grenades and guns killed nine people and wounded 14 in a coordinated strike on an eastern Baghdad gold market, officials said. The militants simultaneously attacked jewelr y stores and a nearby checkpoint. Baghdad officials said two policemen, two soldiers

BAGHDAD: A policeman stands guard as Mohammed Abdullah, 32, lies in a hospital bed after being injured in a coordinated strike on a gold market in eastern Baghdad, Iraq, yesterday. Attacks against Al-Qaeda’s favorite targets in Iraq killed several people yesterday as insurgents struck security forces, a government office and jewelry stores, demonstrating a continued threat from armed groups as the country prepares to host a meeting of the Arab world’s top leaders. — AP and two goldsmiths were among the dead at the small market in the Shiite neighborhood of Ur. “At first we heard shootings from the other side of the market, near the police checkpoint,” said eyewitness Maitham Moussa, 30, who owns of a dairy shop about 50 yards (meters) from the jewelry stores. “Then we heard shootings very close to us. When the women started to yell, they started to open fire into the air and set off sound bombs.” He said people fled the area and huddled together in a nearby alley to escape the siege. “I saw a woman was lying on the ground with a toddler,” Moussa said.

“ There was blood near the woman, but I’m not sure if she was injured or if was the baby’s blood.” A police officer said the gunmen stole gold and cash after the late-morning heist, which the insurgents pulled off despite a gunfight with nearby security forces. Iraqi Army Gen. Hassan alBaydhani of Baghdad’s military command said one of the gunmen was arrested but the rest escaped. A doctor in a nearby Baghdad hospital confirmed the police casualty figures. They all spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information. Al-Baydhani put the

Israel, settlers agree to disband illegal outpost

GAZA STRIP: Wounded Palestinian children receive medical atttention at a hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip yesterday, following an Israeli air raid. Israeli war planes carried out new air strikes on Gaza overnight, wounding 35, after Israel’s premier vowed no let-up against rocket-firing militants. —AFP

Emirati faces charges after tweeting ‘incitement’ DUBAI: A UAE prosecutor has referred to a security court an Emirati man arrested in Dubai last week on charges of “incitement” and attempts to undermine national security, the WAM news agency reported yesterday. Saleh al-Dhafairi was arrested in Dubai on March 6th and was accused by the government of “incitement

through writing or verbally spreading ideas that damage national unity or social peace,” af ter comments he posted on the micro-blogging site Twitter. Dubai’s general prosecutor decided to refer the case to the federal security court because Dhafairi’s action “endangered the interests... and securit y ” of the United Arab Emirates, the official WAM news

number of dead at six. Conflicting casualty totals are common in the immediate aftermath of attacks in Iraq. Although violence has dropped significantly since the sectarian fighting that brought Iraq to the edge of civil war just five years ago, deadly attacks still happen almost every day. US officials as recently as September said jewelry robberies were a main source of funding for Al-Qaeda in Iraq as it grapples with dwindling financial support. The Sunni militant movement also frequently targets officials of the Shiite-led government in a campaign to undermine confidence in its authority. — AP

agenc y said. Al-Dhafairi is also accused of “using religion to... incite” action against the state, the agency added. The securit y cour t, also known as the Federal High Cour t, which rules on cases which involve state security issues, will decide if AlDhafairi should stand trial. The UAE, a federation of seven emirates led by oil-rich Abu Dhabi, has not seen any

popular protests calling for reform like those that have swept other Arab countries, including Gulf states Bahrain and Oman. But in November, UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan pardoned five Emirati I nternet activists, jailed for up to three years on charges including insulting the Gulf state’s leaders. — AFP

JERUSALEM: The Israeli government struck a deal Sunday to disband the biggest and oldest settler outpost in the West Bank and relocate its residents to a nearby hill, public radio said. The agreement to relocate settlers from the Migron illegal outpost was negotiated by Benny Begin, a minister without portfolio in the government, the radio said. M igron settlers will be moved to a hill two kilometres (1.2 miles) away where new homes will be built for them and the current site will be turned over to the Israeli military administration, it said. Isral’s Supreme Court had ordered the Migron outpost to be evacuated by the end of March. M igron, located nor th of Jerusalem, is built on privately owned Palestinian land. Israel considers settlement outposts built without government approval to be illegal and often sends security personnel to demolish them, although in recent months the government has announced its intention to retroactively legalise a number of them. More than 310,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and the number is constantly growing. Another 200,000 live in a dozen settlement neighbourhoods in east Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in 1967 and annexed in a move never recognised by the international community. The international community considers all settlements in territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war are illegal, whether or not approved by its government. — AFP

13 Mar 2012  

Kuwait Times

13 Mar 2012  

Kuwait Times