The governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea are blaming each other in the weekend's deadly border skirmish that threatens a return to open war between the regional rivals. Ethiopia's Information Minister Getachew Reda described the clashes as "an Eritrean initiative." In a short statement, the Eritrean regime said Ethiopia had "unleashed an attack against Eritrea on the Tsorona Central Front. The purpose and ramifications of this attack are not clear." (BBC News) The independent exile-based Gedab News, which covers Eritrea, says it has received "credible information" that the battle was triggered when a group of Eritrean conscripted soldiers crossed the border to Ethiopia in an attempt to desert, and were shot at by Eritrean troops. Members of an armed Eritrean opposition group hosted by Ethiopia returned fire before Ethiopian soldiers then entered the fray. (Awate.com)
At least 224 people were killed in the first week of Ramadan in Syria, with the majority of the deaths resulting from bombings by regime and Russian warplanes, according to figures from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (Al Jazeera, June 13) Some of the worst carnage came when regime helicopters bombed the besieged Damascus suburb of Darayya—hours after the arrival of its first food aid since 2012, residents said. The bombardment prevented the aid from being delivered to residents overnight. (BBC, June 10) Despite Moscow's announced "withdrawal" from Syria, Russia and the Assad regime continue with their atrocious campaign of bombing hospitals, with the most recent case in beseiged Aleppo. Air-strikes hit three hospitals in the rebel-held side of the city June 8, including a pediatrics center supported by the United Nations. (NYT, June 8) On the first day of Ramadan, June 6, at least 17 civilians including eight children were killed in air-strikes on a market in ISIS-held al-Asharah town, in Deir Az-Zour governorate. (The New Arab, June 6)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on June 7 urged the Iraqi government to "take immediate measures to ensure that" those fleeing the ISIS-held city of Fallujah are "treated in strict accordance with international human rights and international humanitarian laws." Zeid cited "credible reports" that fleeing residents have suffered physical abuse at the hands of "armed groups operating in support of the Iraqi security forces." These groups have reportedly been separating migrants by gender, detaining men for "security checks," which largely amount to physical abuse for the sake of forced confessions. Zeid ended his remarks stating that while the Iraqi government has a legitimate interests in making vetting migrants to ensure that they do not impose security risks, such vetting should take place through the appropriate laws and in a "transparent manner."
Here we go again. Omar Mateen, named as the shooter in the Orlando massacre of at least 50 at a gay nightclub, is said to have made a 911 call before the attack, in which he pledged allegiance to ISIS and invoked the Boston Marathon bombers. (CNN) Amaq News Agency, the ISIS media arm, issued a statement saying the attack "was carried out by an Islamic State fighter." (Heavy) The ISIS statement is doubtless mere opportunism, simply claiming Mateen because he had declared for them, thereby becoming a one-man franchise. But there's more. A bizarre Washington Post story tells us that Mateen's father is a vocal supporter of the Taliban and "appears to be portraying himself as the president of Afghanistan"...
A typically vague BBC report informs us that "Libyan forces" have retaken control of the port in the city of Sirte, after fierce fighting with militants from so-called Islamic State. We are only told several lines in that these "forces" are "aligned to" the "UN-backed unity government" in Tripoli. This vagueness is aimed at obscuring (first) that Libya has no functional government—or three rival governments, of which the "UN-backed" one is the weakest by far. It is also aimed at obscuring that the "UN-backed" government has no armed forces—just autonomous militias that recognize its authority in a token way. For a clearer picture, we have to turn to the Libyan press. A report in the Libyan Herald tells us that the militia force battling ISIS at Sirte is from the city of Misrata, and also notes that it has carried out air-strikes in the battle for the city—indicating that these autonomous militias now have warplane. Libyan Observer identifies one of the Misrata militias as al-Bunyan aL-Marsoos—and notes that it is resisting an ISIS effort retake to retake the port.
Authorities in Bangladesh detained approximately 1,600 people June 10-11 in an effort to hunt down radical Islamist militants. Police suspect only 37 of the detainees are more than petty criminals, none of whom are believed to be "high-level operators." The raids were a response to multiple attacks in Bangladesh over the last few years, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has faced criticism regarding security for minorities and failure to prosecute suspects. Victims include atheist journalists, foreign aid workers, professors, gay rights activists and religious minorities including Christians, Hindus and Shi'ite Muslims. Amnesty International has also criticized the government for failing to provide adequate protection. Political parties in the country meanwhile expressed concern that the government would use the campaign to suppress opposition.
The White House has announced a partial lifting of sanctions on Burma in recognition of progress in its democratic transition. Restrictions are to be dropped on state-owned banks and businesses, although some 100 companies and individuals linked to the armed forces will remain iced. This relaxation comes at the request of longtime democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, who although barred from holding the presidency is effectively the country’s leader following November's elections. But human rights concerns remain—especially around the fate of the Rohingya Muslims, persecuted and made stateless by the military junta that has now (mostly) surrendered power. And the multiple ethnic insurgencies in Burma's opium-producing northern mountains, while receiving less world media attention lately, continue to vex the country.
Israeli authorities implemented a full closure on the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip on June 10, adding to a long line of punitive measures that have been carried out since the deadly attack in Tel Aviv two days earlier. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that all passages to the West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip would be sealed until Monday June 13 at midnight after an army "situation assessment," with the exception of humanitarian and medical cases. However, the spokesperson said Palestinians from the West Bank with permits to attend Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem would be allowed passage. The sealing of the West Bank and Gaza is one of several punitive orders that have been implemented by the Israeli government following an attack in Tel Aviv that left four Israelis killed and another six wounded.