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Israel’s new government begins, Netanyahu era ends

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(Last Updated On: June 14, 2021)

The first Israeli government in 12 years not led by Benjamin Netanyahu got down to business on Monday, with the former prime minister shying away from a handover ceremony with successor Naftali Bennett.

The right-wing leader’s record run in office ended on Sunday with parliament approving, by a razor-thin majority of 60-59, a new administration led by Bennett, a nationalist whose views mirror Netanyahu’s on many issues.

In Tel Aviv, thousands turned out to welcome the result, after four inconclusive elections in two years.

“I am here celebrating the end of an era in Israel,” said Erez Biezuner in Rabin Square.

“We want them to succeed and to unite us again,” he added, as flag-waving supporters of the new government sang and danced around him.

A combative Netanyahu, 71, said he would be back sooner than expected.

“If we are destined to go into the opposition, we will do so with our heads held high until we can topple it,” he told parliament before Bennett was sworn in.

The traditional handover ceremony was not scheduled at the prime minister’s office, where Netanyahu was expected to meet Bennett later on Monday to brief him on state matters.

The last time Netanyahu was unseated as Israel‘s leader, in 1999, he ended his first term in office with a glass of wine in his hand and affable words of welcome to then-Labour party leader Ehud Barak, who defeated him at the polls.

 

“Sour, grumpy, not stately – Trump-like until the final moment,” Yossi Verter, a political affairs commentator, wrote in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.

Asked why there would be no such scene now, Topaz Luk, a senior aide to Netanyahu, told Army Radio: “That’s just what happens.”

Netanyahu, he said, was “filled with motivation to topple this dangerous government as quickly as possible”. Luk declined to disclose Netanyahu’s comeback strategy, pointing only to the new administration’s slim margin of support in parliament.

Luk said the incoming government was receiving briefings from Netanyahu’s diplomatic and security advisers to ensure an orderly handover.

After holding its first meeting late on Sunday, Bennett’s new cabinet was invited for a traditional group photograph, showcasing incoming governments, at the official residence of President Reuven Rivlin.

With little in common other than a desire to unseat Netanyahu, the patchwork coalition of right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties largely plans to avoid sweeping moves on hot-button issues such as policy towards the Palestinians, and to focus instead on domestic reforms.

Palestinians were unmoved by the change of administration, predicting that Bennett, a former defence chief who advocates annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, would pursue the same right-wing agenda as Netanyahu.

Under the coalition deal, Bennett, a 49-year-old Orthodox Jew and high-tech millionaire, will be replaced as prime minister in 2023 by centrist Yair Lapid, 57, a popular former television host.

U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated Bennett and Lapid, saying he looked forward to strengthening the “close and enduring” relationship between the two countries.

Addressing parliament on Sunday, Bennett put Biden on notice that he would follow in Netanyahu’s footsteps in opposing any U.S. return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal abrogated by former President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu was Israel‘s longest-serving leader, and had served consecutive terms as prime minister since 2009.

He used his global stature to resist calls for Palestinian statehood, describing it as a danger to Israel‘s security. He sought to bypass the Palestinian issue by forging diplomatic deals with regional Arab states, on the back of shared fears of Iran and its nuclear programme.

But he was a divisive figure at home and abroad, weakened by repeated failure to clinch a decisive election victory, and by a corruption trial in which he has denied any wrongdoing.

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ANDSF to launch offensives in north to retake fallen districts

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are expected to start offensives in Balkh province and across the country to retake fallen districts and areas, said Bismillah Mohammadi, acting minister of defense on Tuesday during a trip to Balkh.

According to Mohammadi, if the Taliban think they can win militarily, they are wrong.

“Hopefully we will witness our offensives across Afghanistan and we will recapture areas one after another,” said Mohammadi.

He also praised ANDSF for their achievements in Balkh, Samangan and Herat provinces.

“It is our obligation to defend the country until our last breath. We assure people that yesterday Kaldar was recaptured and earlier one district in Herat was recaptured,” said Mohammadi.

The acting minister of defense said that people, especially youths, stand by the ANDSF to defend the country.

“When I assessed the situation in Mazar, I saw that most people who stand by ANDSF were youths. Not only in the north but in all Afghanistan, uprising forces were established to defend people,” added Mohammadi.

During his visit to Balkh, Mohammadi also met Afghan army soldiers.

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Well known Afghan comedian gunned down in Kandahar

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

A well-known local comedian, Nazar Mohammad, who was known as Khasha Jawan, was gunned down on Tuesday, allegedly by the Taliban, in Kandahar, sparking widespread condemnation.

According to sources, Khasha Jawan was assaulted by the militants before being killed.

He was allegedly then dragged out of his house, with his hands tied behind his back and his body dumped in the Dand district of Kandahar.

A video doing its rounds on social media shows the militants assaulting Khasha Jawan before killing him.

Vice President Amrullah Saleh wrote on his Facebook page that Khasha Jawan was executed by the Taliban in a “kangaroo court.”

“Footage of the moments before the execution of Khasha Jawan Kandahari in a kangaroo court shows that the Taliban does not abide by Sharia; they have no court, no law, and no humanity,” Saleh said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture and Information stated that Khasha Jawan sent out strong messages through “art and allegory” to the people.

Waheed Omer, Director General at the Office of Public and Strategic Affairs of the Afghan government, stated: “Footage of Taliban killing a bound local comedian in Kandahar is a drop [in the ocean compared to] the massacre campaign that the Taliban has waged across Afghanistan.”

“Please don’t look the other way. Raise your voice on whatever stage that you have access to. These savages are after rooting our people out,” Omer tweeted.

The Taliban, however, stated that Nazar Mohammad was a member of the Afghan security forces.

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Taliban negotiating team member’s son killed in clashes in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

Anas Haqqani, a member of the Taliban’s negotiating team, confirmed Tuesday that the son of Mohammad Nabi Omari, a member of the Taliban leadership and negotiating team, was killed in a battle with government forces.

In a tweet, Haqqani confirmed the killing of Omari. But he did not give any further details.

The Afghan government also confirmed that Abdul Haq Omari, who was the deputy chief of the Taliban military wing in Paktia province, was killed in a clash with Special Forces.

Meanwhile, Shaheen 209th Military Corps claims that a Pakistani army officer Javed was killed by NDS forces.

According to the Corps, he was a serving Pakistani army officer and was leading the Taliban in Logar, Paktia, and Paktika provinces and was killed on Tuesday morning in an operation by NDS 01 unit.

The Corps also said that a commander of tactical training and head of the Taliban Red Unit in Faryab province, along with seven of his fighters was killed.

“Qari Hayatullah, known as Osama, the head of the Taliban’s red unit and commander of the Taliban’s tactical and terrorist training for Faryab province, was killed Monday afternoon in a joint operation by defense and security forces in the village of Deh Azizan in the Sabz area of Pashtun Kot district,” read the statement.

During the operation nine other members of the group were wounded, the Corps added.

The Taliban has not commented yet.

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