Russia, Turkey agree to ‘demilitarized zone’ along Idlib border
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Early release granted to drivers of terrorists who killed border cop

Decisions said to shock Hadas Malka’s family and even Israel Prisons Service, who say they are unaware of any past cases where security prisoners had their sentences reduced

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Border Police officer Hadas Malka was killed on June 16, 2017 in a stabbing attack near Damascus Gate. (Courtesy)
Border Police officer Hadas Malka was killed on June 16, 2017 in a stabbing attack near Damascus Gate. (Courtesy)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Monday’s events as they unfolded.

Opposition chair makes condolence visit to terror victim’s settlement home

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni makes a condolence visit to the home of Ari Fuld, who was stabbed to death yesterday in a terror attack at the Gush Etzion Junction.

“I came to comfort and hug the family of Ari Fuld, a hero who in his last moments fought and saved the lives of others,” Livni says in a statement following the visit.

“It was important for me to say to Ari’s grieving family that even if there are disagreements along the way, we all share a love of the nation and the state, the pain of the terrible loss, and the anger at the criminal terror in which we are united in fighting.

Earlier Monday, fellow Zionist Union lawmaker Eitan Cabel also paid a visit to the Fuld home in Efrat.

Turkey bolsters military presence in Syria’s Idlib

Turkey’s military has sent its most significant batch of reinforcements to the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib in weeks, reports say, as Ankara seeks to prevent a Moscow-backed assault by forces of President Bashar Assad.

The reports come as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi in a new bid to warn the Kremlin against seeking to take rebel-held Idlib by force.

Under a deal agreed with Russia, Turkey has already set up 12 so-called observation points inside Idlib aimed at monitoring a de-escalation of violence.

The Hurriyet daily says the reinforcements include tanks and other military hardware accompanied by a convoy of some 50 military vehicles.

They were sent over the border Sunday to the Turkish observation point of Jisr al-Shugur in the southwest of Idlib province.

It has been the latest move in recent days by Turkey to shore up one of its observation points but Hurriyet said it was the most significant sent in the current spike in tensions.

Idlib is seen as the last stronghold of armed opposition to Assad after Syria’s over seven year civil war. But some 60 percent of its territory is controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group, regarded as a successor to the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria.

— AFP

Saudi sovereign fund secures $11b loan

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund says it has secured its first ever international loan, boosting the kingdom’s diversification drive after its flotation of state oil giant Aramco stalled.

The Public Investment Fund says in a statement that it had obtained an $11 billion (9.4 billion euro) loan as “the first step in its strategic, medium-term debt funding program.”

The PIF had previously sought to raise billions of dollars through an initial public offering of shares in Aramco to fund projects that seek to reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil.

Diversification is a key focus of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to transform the Saudi economy through a slew of projects from high-tech startups to a new mega city.

But the Aramco IPO — once touted by Saudi officials as aiming to raise $100 billion — has hit the buffers, with executives at the oil giant citing unfavorable market conditions.

That prompted the PIF to turn to other sources to fund its programs.

The fund says that under the Future Investment Initiative launched in October 2017, it aims to beef up its assets to $400 billion by 2020.

— AFP

Opposition lawmaker files request for emergency Knesset hearing on Keyes affair

Zionist Union lawmaker Ksenia Svetlova has filed a request to convene an emergency session of the Knesset’s Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality in light of the sexual harassment accusations made against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesperson David Keyes.

Svetlova has also called on Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer to be summoned for questioning at this session following the revelation that the envoy had been alerted to Keyes’s conduct and chose not to report it.

Yesterday, the Civil Service Commission started looking into accusations against Keyes, who last week went on leave amid a flurry of allegations of sexual misconduct.

The commission’s Department of Discipline is also investigating the role of Dermer, who on Friday acknowledged that he was warned about Keyes’s alleged actions but failed to alert the relevant authorities.

Police recommend 6 months’ community service for former top cop convicted of indecent act

The Police Internal Investigations Department asks the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court to sentence former Jerusalem police chief Nissan “Niso” Shaham to up to six months of community service.

Shaham was charged in 2013 with sexual harassment, five counts of breach of trust and five counts of indecent acts for having sexual relations with multiple female police officers under his command who were much younger and of relatively low rank in the police.

However, in April, the Tel Aviv District Court acquitted him of most of the charges, citing flaws in the investigation. He was convicted on one count of an indecent act for kissing a police officer.

Construction starts in settlements increased threefold in second quarter of 2018

The number of construction starts for homes in the settlements increased threefold from the first to the second quarter of 2018 according to new figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The data shows that in the second quarter of 2018, construction for 794 new settlement housing units began, compared to 279 in the first quarter of the year.

In the first half of 2018, construction for 1,073 housing units was launched in the settlements, compared to 818 in the second half of 2017.

Germany rolls out world’s first hydrogen train

Germany has rolled out the world’s first hydrogen-powered train, signaling the start of a push to challenge the might of polluting diesel trains with costlier but more eco-friendly technology.

Two bright blue Coradia iLint trains, built by French TGV-maker Alstom, have begun running a 100-kilometer (62-mile) route between the towns and cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude in northern Germany — a stretch normally plied by diesel trains.

“The world’s first hydrogen train is entering into commercial service and is ready for serial production,” Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge says at an unveiling ceremony in Bremervoerde, the station where the trains will be refuelled with hydrogen.

Alstom has said it plans to deliver another 14 of the zero-emissions trains to Lower Saxony state by 2021, with other German states also expressing an interest.

Hydrogen trains are equipped with fuel cells that produce electricity through a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, a process that leaves steam and water as the only emissions.

Excess energy is stored in ion lithium batteries on board the train.

Other countries are also looking into hydrogen trains, Alstom said, including Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Italy and Canada.

In France, the government has already said it wants the first hydrogen train to be on the rails by 2022.

— AFP

In meeting with settler leaders, minister boasts of NIS 40 million investment in West Bank tourism

In a meeting with settler leaders, Yariv Levin boasts of having invested NIS 40 million ($11.15 million) in West Bank tourism over his past three years as minister.

“Tourism in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) is at a point of tremendous momentum,” he tells leaders of the Yesha settlement umbrella council, highlighting the grants his office has given to hotels over the Green Line.

“We now have a window of opportunity to make big moves in the tourism industry and this is a time of desire that should definitely be exploited. We will continue to establish and bankroll activities in Judea and Samaria in addition to establishing facts on the ground,” adds Levin.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (L) raises a glass at a new year’s toast with Yesha Council chairman Hananel Dorani and director general Yigal Dilmoni (R) on September 17, 2018. (Yesha Council)

Iran vows to protect civilians in Syria’s Idlib province

Iran says it is committed to protecting civilians if its Syrian regime ally launches a full-scale offensive on the country’s last rebel stronghold of Idlib province.

“The humanitarian issue is of significant importance to us,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi tells journalists in Tehran.

“In line with our policy of fighting terrorism and reclaiming Syria’s territorial integrity, we are highly determined to solve the Idlib issue so that the people are not harmed,” he adds.

Tehran is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s seven-year conflict, and has said it is ready to support an assault by regime forces on the rebel-held province.

Iran, Russia and Turkey met at a Tehran summit on September 7 to discuss the expected offensive against Idlib but were unable to overcome their differences.

Sixty percent of Idlib’s area is controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group, an alliance led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate.

Turkey has meanwhile bolstered its military presence in Idlib, with Ankara aiming to prevent a Moscow-backed assault by Assad’s forces who have massed around the province in recent weeks.

The United Nations and non-governmental organizations have repeatedly warned that such an offensive would unleash a “bloodbath” and “humanitarian catastrophe” in the area, which is home to three million people.

— AFP

PM vows to absorb 1,000 relatives of Ethiopian Jews already living in Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to bring in 1,000 relatives of Ethiopian Jews currently living in Israel.

The pledge follows a report of the Kan public broadcaster that Kiryat Gat chief rabbi Moshe Havlin forbade a prominent kosher catering company based in the southern town to hire Ethiopian workers until they can prove that they are Jewish.

“Yesterday I heard a racist remarks made against the Ethiopian Jews in Kiryat Gat. We are not willing to accept such racism against Ethiopian Jews,” Netanyahu says in a statement.

German far-right party members attended neo-Nazi festival

The far-right Alternative for Germany party is considering expelling three members who attended a neo-Nazi festival as it tries to avoid surveillance by the country’s domestic intelligence agency.

German news agency dpa reports that the party’s regional leadership in the northwestern city of Osnabrueck has stepped down after media reports that two of its members and a party employee took part in the “Shield and Sword” festival.

The event drew hundreds of neo-Nazis to the eastern town of Ostritz in April, with some participants openly displaying their support for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Alternative for Germany, which won almost 13 percent of the vote in last year’s national election, recently urged members not to associate with extremists after authorities said they were putting two youth branches under observation.

— AP

Woman said fighting for her life after boyfriend allegedly beat her at airport

A woman in her 30s is fighting for her life after allegedly being beaten by her boyfriend while waiting to enter Israel at Ben Gurion airport, the hospital treating her says.

The woman suffered serious head injuries and was in very serious condition, a spokesperson for Assaf Harofeh Medical Center says, adding that the woman was sedated and on a respirator and being treated in the intensive care ward.

According to Hebrew media reports, the couple had arrived on a flight from Kiev, Ukraine. They had been waiting at border control when her boyfriend allegedly attacked the woman, smashing her head into a wall.

The boyfriend was arrested and reportedly told police while being questioned that the woman stumbled and fell, hitting her head.

Some 2.2 million people were expected to pass through Ben Gurion during the month of September, which this year includes the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, according to Israel Airport Authority (IAA) figures.

Ex-deputy calls to investigate if Liberman linked to Manafort case

Former deputy defense minister Danny Ayalon calls for Israeli authorities to investigate who, according to US court papers, coordinated with Paul Manafort to tarnish the reputation of a Ukrainian political leader on behalf of Russia, following reports suggesting that “senior Israeli government official” was Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

The campaign against Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko and her supporters was designed to benefit Manafort’s client, the then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the pro-Russian Party of Regions, and  pressure the Obama administration to turn against her, according to US court documents filed against Manafort on Friday.

The indictment against Manafort did not name the Israeli official, but speculation in Israel has mounted that it could have been Liberman.

Speaking with Haaretz, Ayalon, who served under the then foreign minister Liberman when the Foreign Ministry issued a statement noting that Tymoshenko’s party had allied with an anti-Semitic party in October 2012 (Russian text), described the incident as “strange” and said Israelis deserved to know whether it was linked to the charges against Manafort.

“This is of interest to the Israeli public and to [Israel’s] security. The Israeli government has the means to obtain the information and know who is involved,” Ayalon says. “It’s true that according to American court protocol the names of those who are not charged are not published, but this case has nothing to do with American court rulings because this is not an American citizen.”

— Raoul Wootliff

Court: Driver suspected of killing teen may go to synagogue on Yom Kippur

A judge on Monday permitted Eli Bar Zakai — suspected of fatally running down a 13-year-old boy while drunk — to leave his home on Yom Kippur to pray at a nearby synagogue, but rejected his appeal to be released from house arrest.

Bar Zakai ran over Eylon Shalev-Amsalem in late August and was charged last month with manslaughter, causing grievous bodily harm, obstructing an investigation, tampering with evidence, drunk driving and speeding.

Health Ministry warns of measles outbreak after 3 return from Uman pilgrimage infected

The Health Ministry is warning of a potential measles outbreak among people who returned from the annual pilgrimage to the Ukrainian city of Uman last week.

The ministry says passengers traveling to Israel on three flights on September 12 were confirmed to have the measles, and warned that passengers on those flights were at risk of contracting the disease.

The statement said passengers on Ukrainian Airways flights PS101 and 779 and KLM flight 461 should see a doctor immediately.

The ministry said children, pregnant women and those suffering from auto-immune disorders were particularly susceptible to the disease.

Last month, the Health Ministry reported a massive increase in the number of reported cases of measles in Israel this year. It said 262 reported cases of the measles had been reported since the start of 2018, compared to only nine in all of 2016, and 33 cases in 2017.

Palestinian flotilla sets sail from Gaza toward Israeli shores — report

A flotilla has set sail from the northern Gaza Strip heading toward Israel’s maritime border, the Ynet news site reports.

Palestinians are also said to be burning tires nearby in a demonstration located on the northern coast of the enclave.

Trump’s Supreme Court pick ready to testify over sex assault allegation

US President Donald Trump’s conservative Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, strikes back at an allegation that he committed sexual assault as a teenager, saying he was ready to “defend [his] integrity” before the Senate.

“I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh says in a statement released by the White House in response to the accusation made by a California college professor.

“I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation from 36 years ago and defend my integrity.”

On Sunday, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, went public for the first time Sunday to accuse Trump’s pick of sexually assaulting her in the 1980s, prompting calls by opposition Democrats to postpone the nomination vote.

— AFP

Haley accuses Russia of violating North Korea sanctions

US Ambassador Nikki Haley accuses Russia of violating UN sanctions on North Korea and called on Moscow to cease its conduct.

“Its violations are not one-offs. They are systematic,” Haley tells the 15-member council, according to Reuters.

“The United States has evidence of consistent and wide-ranging Russian violations.”

Gaza health ministry appears to walk back claim 12-year-old killed by IDF

An official in the Gaza health ministry has appeared to walk back assertions made by Hamas that a 12-year-old who died over the weekend in the coastal enclave had been shot by IDF troops.

“The boy died of a head injury,” the anonymous source told Reuters, declining to give additional information and avoiding blaming the Israeli army for the child’s death.

The IDF has said its own evidence showed that the 12-year-old was hit by a rock thrown by protesters, and Gaza rights groups reported he died after being struck “with a solid object,” the AP reported earlier this week.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, by contrast, claimed Shady Abdel-al was killed by Israeli fire east of Jabalia in the northern part of the Strip.

Balloon attached to used hand grenade lands near Gaza border communities

Traffic police officers spotted a balloon tied to what appears to be a used hand grenade that had landed in a field between the southern towns of Re’im and Urim, authorities say.

Police sappers have been called to the scene and the road near where the balloon fell, Route 234 has been temporarily closed.

 

Bill Cosby’s wife wants ethics board to investigate judge

Bill Cosby’s wife wants a Pennsylvania ethics board to investigate the judge who is set to sentence her husband next week on felony sex assault charges.

Camille Cosby is renewing allegations that trial judge Steven O’Neill had a grudge with a key witness in a pretrial hearing. O’Neill sent the case to trial afterward, and Cosby was convicted this spring.

A family spokesman says Camille Cosby will be in Harrisburg to file a complaint Monday with the state Judicial Conduct Board. Defense lawyers have filed a similar motion in Montgomery County Court asking O’Neill to step down. Cosby faces up to 10 years in prison or more at the September 24 sentencing.

The Cosbys say they’ve hired a former FBI agent to investigate the alleged feud between O’Neill and witness Bruce Castor, a former prosecutor who declined to prosecute Cosby a decade earlier.

— AP

220-home project advanced for Jewish enclave in Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem

A Jerusalem municipal committee has advanced a project for 220 homes to be built in a Jewish enclave in the middle of an Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood.

The project for Nof Tzion in Jabel Mukaber is still in its early planning stages, but could still gain final approval in the coming months.

Supporters of the plan — which follows an advancement of a similarly controversial project in Beit Hanina — say it is part of their effort to “Judaize” the eastern part of the capital.

Russia, Turkey agree to ‘demilitarized zone’ along Idlib border

Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that the Kremlin has agreed with Turkey to create a demilitarized zone between rebels and Syrian government forces in Idlib.

Idlib is seen as the last stronghold of armed opposition to Assad after Syria’s over seven-year civil war. But some 60 percent of its territory is controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group, regarded as a successor to the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria.

— AFP

American basketball player says Bucharest stabbing was ‘hate-crime’

One of two American basketball players stabbed in Bucharest at the weekend claims the assault was a racially-motivated hate crime.

Darrell Bowie, 24, and Joseph McClain, 25, who signed for ACS Cuza Sport de Braila last month, were attacked in the city on Saturday night while out with team-mates.

Both men were rushed to a local hospital where they underwent surgery for wounds to the chest, stomach and, in the case of Bowie, to the lungs.

“It basically seemed like a hate crime, like he targeted us because we’re black,” McClain tells Romanian television channel Antena 3.

“We didn’t say anything to him. We were just there trying to enjoy ourselves.”

A suspect, believed to be in his 40s, handed himself in to police shortly after the attack, which police are treating as attempted murder.

Reports claim the suspect is reputedly violent and previously spent seven years in prison in Spain for rape and his role in a prostitution ring.

In 2011, an American basketball player, Chauncey Hardy, 23, died following injuries from a fight in a nightclub.

His aggressor was eventually jailed, in 2013, for seven years.

— AFP

Dozens of trains canceled as 35 train drivers call in ‘sick’

Israel Railways announces that dozens of trains have been cancelled after 35 drivers called in “sick.”

The rail company is accusing the drivers of holding an illegal strike, which began on Saturday night, when the drivers first notified that they were ill.

On Sunday, 13 trains were cancelled due to the lack of drivers. Today, 21 trains between Rishon Lezion and Lod have been cancelled, along with nine trains between Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.

Israel Railways says it had cancelled the routes with the fewest passengers to minimize disruption.

Former Oklahoma state senator gets 15 years in sex trafficking case

A former Republican state senator in Oklahoma has been sentenced to 15 years in prison on a child sex trafficking charge.

Ralph Shortey has been sentenced in federal court in Oklahoma City. He had faced a sentence of up to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Shortey pleaded guilty in November in exchange for prosecutors dropping three child pornography charges against him. He said the plea deal was in the best interest of him and his family.

The 36-year-old Shortey was arrested in March 2017, after police found him in a suburban Oklahoma City motel room with a then-17-year-old boy. He resigned shortly after the arrest.

Shortey was twice elected in a district covering south Oklahoma City and parts of two suburbs.

— AP

Terrorist who killed Ari Fuld said to have tried carrying out attack days prior

The 17-year-old Palestinian who stabbed Ari Fuld to death at the Gush Etzion Junction had attempted to carry out a similar attack just days prior.

On Friday, Khalil Jabarin arrived at one of the entrance points to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the flashpoint city of Hebron with a knife under his clothes, Hadashot news reports.

However, there had been an increased troop presence at the time, which is what is believed to have caused him to turn back.

Two days later, he chose a new location: the Gush Etzion Junction. He arrived Sunday morning, hid a knife in the bathroom on the second floor of the commercial center, and began to stake out the area.

Jabarin was stopped twice by Israeli security guards after arousing their suspicion. However, since he was not armed, the 17-year-old was let go.

He subsequently returned to the commercial center where he retreived the knife and proceeded to stab Ari Fuld, Hadashot news reports.

Parole board grants early release to drivers who ferried Hadas Malka’s killers

A parole board has granted early release to a second driver who ferried a group of Palestinian terrorists to Damascus Gate where they carried out a June 2017 attack that killed Border Police officer Hadas Malka.

The driver, whose release was granted today, is a resident of East Jerusalem and had been sentenced to 14 months in prison. His punishment was cut by a third.

The move followed the release of a second driver — a Palestinian from the West Bank — who similarly had his sentence shortened by a third. He had been slated to serve 16 months in prison.

The decisions have shocked Malka’s family, who according to Hadashot news was not consulted with by the parol board as typically required.

In addition, an official of the Israel Prisons Service told the news channel that he was unaware of previous cases where security prisoners saw their sentences shortened.

PM attempted to trade UN speech slot in order to appear on Israeli prime time — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to swap the slot for his UN General Assembly address with the president of Cyprus in order to speak during Israeli prime time and before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu is scheduled to speak at what will be 9:30 p.m. in Israel. According to Channel 10, his office had reached out to Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades who is slated to give his address at 6:00 p.m. — a time where Israeli news channels would likely cut away from broadcasts in order to carry an address live.

Such a trade would also have allowed Netanyahu to speak before Abbas, who is supposed to address the General Assembly three spots before the Israeli leader. Anastasiades, however, is the 6th speaker — well ahead of the PA leader who is positioned at number 15.

Channel 10 reports that while the Cypriot leader was said to have agreed to the trade, UN organizers rejected the move. The order of speakers has presidents addressing the body first, followed by prime ministers and Netanyahu’s trade would have tampered with that arrangement.

 

White House: Tariffs on $200 billion China goods to be announced ‘soon’

US President Donald Trump’s announcement on imposing punitive import tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese goods is expected “soon,” a White House official say.

Amid continued trade tensions with the world’s second largest economy, Trump “has not been satisfied with the talks with China on this (and) my guess is announcements will be coming soon,” economic adviser Larry Kudlow says on CNBC.

Kudlow declines to specify details of the expected announcement, but notes that news stories indicating Trump will impose 10 percent duties on $200 billion in imports are “more or less correct.”

— AFP

Coca-Cola looking at cannabis-infused drinks

Coca-Cola says it is studying the use of a key ingredient in marijuana in “wellness beverages,” as a growing number of mainstream companies develop cannabis-infused drinks.

“We have no interest in marijuana or cannabis,” Coca-Cola says in a statement. But iconic soft drink producer is “closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD (cannabidiol) as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world.”

Cannabidiol is a chemical in marijuana that does not have the intoxicating effects of THC, the major active ingredient that causes the “high.” It has been used to treat epilepsy and other maladies.

“The space is evolving quickly,” Coca-Cola says. “No decisions have been made at this time.”

Coca-Cola’s statement comes amid reports the company has held talks with Canada’s Aurora Cannabis to develop beverages. Some of Coca-Cola’s trademark cola products have struggled to grow sales in recent years due to health concerns.

Canada is set to legalize cannabis on October 17 after both houses of Parliament voted to make the drug available for recreational use.

That move has been seen as a potential prelude to further legalization in the United States, even though recreational use of marijuana is still only permitted in a handful of states.

Beer giant Molson Coors announced August 1 it was teaming up with Canadian medical marijuana grower The Hydropothecary Corporation to develop cannabis-infused non-alcoholic beverages.

Two weeks later, spirits company Constellation Brands announced a new $4 billion in investment in Canada’s Canopy Growth in exchange for a 38 percent stake in Canopy.

— AFP

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Russia, Turkey agree to ‘demilitarized zone’ along Idlib border

Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that the Kremlin has agreed with Turkey to create a demilitarized zone between rebels and Syrian government forces in Idlib.

Idlib is seen as the last stronghold of armed opposition to Assad after Syria’s over seven-year civil war. But some 60 percent of its territory is controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group, regarded as a successor to the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria.

— AFP