Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Claims Responsibility for the Egypt Bus Attack that Killed Christians

By: Yamillet Brizuela
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MINYA, Egypt –  The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (“ISIL”) on Saturday, May 27 claimed responsibility for the attack on buses transporting Coptic Christians in Egypt that occurred earlier. These Coptic Christian bus passengers were on their way to volunteer at the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor. This attack killed 29 men and children and wounded at least another 25.

Relatives of victims mourned on Friday, May 26, during a funeral service for those killed by the attack on a Coptic Christian caravan near Minya, Egypt. Photo courtesy of AP.

The eyewitnesses described that the attack began with gunmen shooting the windows of the buses. After firing at the windows, the gunmen then boarded the buses, shooting and killing all the men on on board. The gunmen then shot at the feet of the women and children. Some children were killed, and the gunmen took all the gold the women were wearing.

The eyewitnesses also made a note that one of the gunmen had a camera, which means the gunmen may release footage of the attack in the future.

On Friday, May 26, Egyptian fighter jets carried out six air strikes directed at camps in Libya which Cairo says have been training militants behind the Egypt attack.

Following the Minya shooting and Egypt’s counterattack, President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said that Egypt would not hesitate to carry out further strikes against camps that trained people to carry out operations against Egypt.

For more information, please see:

AlJazeera- Egypt Launches Strikes Libya After Minya Attack – 27 May 2017

Los Angeles Times- Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt that Left Dead- 27 May 2017

New York Times – Gunmen in Egypt Force Christian Pilgrims from Buses and Kill 28 – 26 May 2017

Reuters- Egypt air raids on Libya after Christians Killed- 27 May 2017

Reuters- Egypt Says Air Strikes Destroy Militant Camps after Attack on Christians- 27 May 2017

Reuters- Grief, Rage in Egyptian Church after Copts attacked by Gunmen- 27 May 2017

U.S. News & World Report- Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Egypt Attack – 27 May 2017

U.S. Strikes a Syrian Pro-Assad Regime Convoy

By: Yamillet Brizuela
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

AL-TANF, Syria – The U.S. military carried out an air strike on Thursday, May 18, against the supporters of President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime convoy and Iranian-backed militia that neared a Western special forces unit and US-backed rebels’ base in al-Tanf.

Residents walk through damaged streets at town of Zabadani in the Damascus countryside on 18 May 2017. Photo Courtesy by AP.

On Friday, May 19, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (“SOHR”) reported that at least eight members of the pro-Assad regime forces were killed, most of them were of non-Syrian nationalities. SOHR reported that the airstrike destroyed at least four vehicles which were carrying supporters of the regime, suggesting that injuries from the destruction could cause the death toll to rise.

Syria and Russia claimed the U.S airstrike on the convoy was “government terrorism” that caused a “massacre” which killed several people, both civilians and soldiers in al-Tanf. Specifically, the Syrian government stated that the airstrikes were a “blatant attack on forces fighting terrorism.” The Russian government claimed the airstrikes violated Syria’s sovereignty.

On the other hand, the U.S. claimed the airstrike was “defensive” in nature. The U.S. Defense Secretary reported that the U.S. military determined that the convoy posed a threat to the U.S. and partner forces; he also claimed that Russia was warned prior to the airstrike that the convoy was “getting too close to coalition forces.”  The U.S. claimed airstrike to be a signal to President Bashar Assad to keep his forces out of a zone where U.S.-backed rebels are fighting the Islamic State group, and that they will continue to defend themselves against any threat to the coalition or its allies in the area.

This airstrike has been the second of such confrontation between the United States and the pro-Assad regime. In April, U.S. President Donald Trump authorized the launch of dozens of missiles against the Shayrat airbase, destroying a number of key Syrian military assets, in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on civilians believed to have been conducted by the Assad regime that week.

In addition, U.S President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip as president began on Friday, May 19, in the Middle East. Syria’s war and Arab-Israeli peace are said to be the top of his agenda.

For more information, please see:

ABC News- Syria Says US Airstrike Killed Several Soldiers Near Jordan- 19 May 2017

Aljazeera- Syria, Russia Condemn US-led Strike on pro-Assad Forces- 20 May 2017

BBC- Syria and Russia Condemn US-Led Attack on pro-Assad Forces- 19 May 2017

Malaysia Sun- U.S. Claims it Launched Defensive Strikes on pro-Assad Troops, but Syria and Russia Claim Dozens of Civilians and Soldiers Killed- 20 May 2017

Middle East Eye- Syria War: Russia Claims US Attack Killed Civilians- 19 May 2017

Reuters- Syrian Negotiator Calls U.S. Strike ‘Terrorism’ and a ‘Massacre’- 19 May 2017

Reuters- U.S. says Iranian-Directed Convoy Targeted by U.S. Strike in Syria- 19 May 2017

SOHR- 8 Killed Mostly non-Syrians in targeting by Coalition’s warplanes for a Military Convoy of the Regime Forces and the Militiamen Loyal to them in the Syrian Desert- 18 May 2017

Week 4 of Palestinian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike

By: Yamillet Brizuela
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RAMALLAH, West Bank – May 14, 2017 marked the 28th day of the mass hunger strike by approximately 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons to protest their administrative detention. This hunger strike started on April 17, 2017, with hopes of drawing international attention to the plight of prisoners. They aim to put pressure on Israeli authorities to spur a change in policy.

About 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons are on their 4th week of a hunger strike. Photo Courtesy of Reuters.

The prisoners’ demands involve improvements to prison living condition which they believe, currently, violate basic human rights. They also denounced the torture, ill-treatment, and medical negligence of them by Israeli authorities. The Palestinian prisoners further denounced Israel’s practice of administrative detention, which allows for internment without trial or charge for six-month intervals that can be renewed indefinitely.

Other demands include: more family visits, education options, and public telephones, and are protesting unfair trials, detention of children, medical negligence, and solitary confinement.

Having lived off only salt water and now entering the 4th week of the hunger strike, a conversation of force-feeding the prisoners has arisen. Force-feeding violates international human rights standards.

Under international human rights law, prisoners must be guaranteed basic human rights, which include the right to maintain a family life and freedom from torture and other forms of CIDT, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has called on Israel to ensure that prisoners on hunger strikes are not subjected to force-feeding or other medical treatment against their will, as it could amount to torture.

However, without negotiations with prisoners by the Israeli authorities, it is highly likely that prisoners would suffer permanent health damage and possible death.

For more information, please see:

Aljazeera – A Timeline of Palestinian Mass Hunger Strikes in Israel – 12 May 2017

Aljazeera – Palestinian Shot Dead by Israeli Forces in Nabi Saleh – 12 May 2017

Aljazeera – Palestinian Hunger Strike Highlights Medical Neglect – 12 May 2017

Daily Times – Palestinian Hunger Strikes- 13 May 2017

Ma’an News Agency – Palestinian Prisoners Enter 27th Day of Mass Hunger Strike – 13 May 2017

Ma’an News Agency – Funeral Held for Palestinian Killed by Israeli Forces During Solidarity March- 12 May 2017

Palestine News Network- Israeli Doctors Reject Force-Feeding Prisoners on Hunger Strike – 10 May 2017