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U.S. Commandos Capture Six ISIS Officials in Raids in Syria

WASHINGTON — For the second time in just over a week, U.S. Special Operations forces carried out helicopter raids against the Islamic State in eastern Syria, capturing six operatives including a senior official who the military said was involved in plotting and enabling terrorist attacks.
The Pentagon’s Central Command, which oversees U.S. troops in Syria, said in a statement on Tuesday that the main target of three predawn raids over the past 48 hours was a senior Islamic State Syria provincial official known as al-Zubaydi.

On Dec. 11, helicopter-borne america  known as Anas, killing him and an associate in a nearly three-hour gun battle in eastern Syria, the military said.

In this week’s assault, personnel from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., the American counterterrorism partner in northeastern Syria, accompanied the U.S. troops, the military said.

“These partnered operations reaffirm Centcom’s steadfast commitment to the region and the enduring defeat of ISIS,” Gen. Michael E. Kurilla, the head of the command, said in a statement. “The capture of these ISIS operatives will disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to further plot and carry out destabilizing attacks.”

The recent raids represent the latest in a string of setbacks this year for the Islamic State’s core leadership in Iraq and Syria, the most serious since the end of the jihadists’ so-called caliphate more than three years ago.

Late last month, the Islamic State announced that its overall leader, whose identity has remained shrouded in mystery, had been killed in battle in Syria less than nine months after taking charge of the terrorist organization.
Outside the Middle East, the group has experienced mixed success. Its branch in Afghanistan, which carried out a deadly attack against American troops in Kabul in August 2021, is locked in a stalemate with the Taliban government. But ISIS fighters have struck highly symbolic targets in Afghanistan, including Russian and Chinese interests.

Islamic State fighters, along with Qaeda cells, are gaining strength in West Africa, with the violence now threatening countries like Ghana, Togo and Benin. “I’m very preoccupied and worried about this trend of terrorism spreading south,” President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger said in an interview in Washington last week.

Overall, though, Colin P. Clarke, a counterterrorism analyst at the Soufan Group, a security consulting firm based in New York, said the Islamic State “will continue to present a threat, but that threat has been reduced significantly.”
No Americans were injured in the raids this week, officials said. An initial assessment indicated that no civilians were killed or injured, the military statement said.

Rami Abdul Rahman, an official with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group in Britain that tracks the conflict through contacts in Syria, said the raids were conducted between Deir al-Zour and Hasaka in the country’s east.

The fact that the Pentagon sent commandos to kill or capture the Islamic State officials, rather than using a less risky drone operation, indicated their significance.

The United States has worked for years with the Syrian Democratic Forces to fight the Islamic State in Syria, and several hundred U.S. forces remain in territory the group controls in northeastern Syria, near the Turkish border.
But that partnership has enraged Turkey, a U.S. ally and member of NATO, which views Syria’s Kurdish fighters as part of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The group has fought a bloody, decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state aimed at gaining independence or greater autonomy. Turkey, the European Union and the United States consider the insurgent group, known as the P.K.K., a terrorist organization.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has started a series of airstrikes against Kurdish militants in northern Syria in recent weeks and warned that a ground operation would soon follow.

The S.D.F. briefly suspended the joint counterterrorism operation with the United States, suspecting an imminent Turkish attack. Fearing the loss of their main counterterrorism partner in the region, American officials rushed to tamp down tensions, at least for the moment, and operations soon resumed.

The raids this month were the first major American counterterrorism operation in northeastern Syria since U.S. Special Operations forces carried out two strikes against ISIS in October that killed three senior figures responsible for arming and recruiting fighters and plotting attacks, according to American and Syrian Kurdish officials.


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Erdogan unveils Turkey’s first astronaut on election trail

Turkey’s first astronaut will travel to the International Space Station by the end of the year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday after an illness forced him to cancel several days of appearances.

Air force pilot Alper Gezeravci, 43, was selected to be the first Turkish citizen in space. His backup is Tuva Cihangir Atasever, 30, an aviation systems engineer at Turkish defense contractor Roketsan.

Erdogan made the announcement at the Teknofest aviation and space fair in Istanbul, the president’s first public appearance since falling ill during a TV interview on Tuesday. He appeared alongside Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and Libya’s interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh.

“Our friend, who will go on Turkey’s first manned space mission, will stay on the International Space Station for 14 days,” Erdogan said. “Our astronaut will perform 13 different experiments prepared by our country’s esteemed universities and research institutions during this mission.”

Erdogan described Gezeravci as a “heroic Turkish pilot who has achieved significant success in our Air Force Command.”

The Turkish Space Agency website describes Gezeravci as a 21-year air force veteran and F-16 pilot who attended the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology.

Wearing a red flight jacket, Erdogan appeared in robust health as he addressed crowds at the festival. Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 14, and opinion polls show Erdogan in potentially his toughest race since he came to power two decades ago.

Turkey is dealing with a prolonged economic downturn, and the government received criticism after a February earthquake killed more than 50,000 in the country. Experts blamed the high death toll in part on shoddy construction and law enforcement of building codes.

While campaigning for reelection, Erdogan has unveiled a number of prestigious projects, such as Turkey’s first nuclear power plant and the delivery of natural gas from Black Sea reserves.


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Israelis rally for 17th week against judicial overhaul plans

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested judicial overhaul proposals Saturday in the 17th weekly rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

The demonstrations have been ongoing since the beginning of the year, and organizers plan to continue, despite Netanyahu delaying the changes last month. The leaders of the mass protests want the proposals scrapped altogether.

“We are just getting started,” read a banner that demonstrators held at the main protest in Tel Aviv, Israel’s economic hub. Smaller demonstrations were reported in several parts of the country.

Spanish Prime Minister and Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez voiced support to the Israeli antigovernment protesters in a video message aired on a large screen in Tel Aviv.

We as Socialist International have always fought for freedom, equality, justice, and democracy. Yet, as many of you know, these are values that we cannot take for granted,” Sanchez said.

Protesters argue the proposed changes threaten Israel’s democratic values, hurting a system of checks and balances and concentrating authority in the hands of Netanyahu and his extremist allies.

They also say that the prime minister has a conflict of interest in trying to reshape the nation’s legal system at a time when he is on trial.

Such changes would result in weakening the Supreme Court, giving parliament, which is controlled by Netanyahu’s allies, authority to overturn its rulings and limiting its ability to review laws.

The protest gained support from the military’s elite reserve force, businesses, and large sectors of the Israeli community. But on Thursday, tens of thousands of right-wing Israelis who support the legal



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‘Total nightmare:’ As Florida insurance companies go insolvent, homeowners pay the price

Seminole county couple has three-year open claim because of insolvent insurer.

What happens when your property insurer goes out of business?

It is happening quite a bit in Florida and is leading to all policyholders paying more.

The Florida Insurance Guaranty is adding a 1% assessment to policyholders starting in October to cover claims for insolvent companies.

A Seminole County couple has lived without a fully functioning kitchen for three years because their insurer went out of business.

Sandra Braga Alfonso said what started as a leak under her sink has turned into a three-year nightmare.

She said there was already a fight with her insurer to pay out the claim, but then the company went under and it got worse.

Alfonso has a fridge and an oven but is missing lower cabinets, a stove, her normal sink, and a dishwasher.

“It has been a total nightmare,” Alfonso said.

It started in December of 2019 with a leak under her sink, she said.

She eventually discovered water in all her lower cabinets and in the sheetrock behind the cabinets, she said.

“The insurance company gave us approval to rip everything out that was damaged and now they don’t want to pay to put it back in,” Alfonso said.

The insurance company cut a check for $4,800, she said.

Of that $4,300 went to water mitigation to prevent mold. That left about $500, not nearly enough to replace her kitchen, she said.

“We’ve tried to settle, go to mediation, everything,” she said.

Finally, Alfonso and her husband filed a lawsuit against her insurer, but after two years of hearings and motions and waiting for a court date, her insurer went out of business.

She was with Capitol Insurance, but according to the Florida Department of Financial Services, Capitol was merged into Southern Fidelity, which is now one of 14 companies in liquidation.

“I’m over it. I just want my kitchen. I just want to be able to live again. I love to cook, and I can’t,” Alfonso said.

In the last year, Florida lawmakers have had three special legislative sessions to deal with Florida’s property insurance crises.

News 6 asked Alfonso if she thinks anything is being done in Tallahassee to help consumers with their insurance issues.

“No, it’s all for the insurance company,” she said.

One of the biggest moves made in Tallahassee over the last year is the legislature doing away with what is referred to as “one-way attorney’s fees.”

That means if you sued your insurer over a claim and won, the insurance company had to pay your attorney’s fees. Without it, Alfonso said she would never have been able to sue her insurer even though in her case, it didn’t do any good.

No. My husband’s retired. He’s on disability and he’s retired we’re on a fixed income,” Alfonso said.

Alfonso has now turned to the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, which handles the claims of insolvent property and casualty insurance companies.

They are still negotiating the amount it will take to fix her kitchen — more than three years later.

“I owned my first home when I was 20-something years old,” Alfonso said. “I’ve been paying my insurance premiums since I’m like 25, never filed a claim and look where I am now,” Alfonso said.


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