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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Palestinians Increasingly Marginalized And Abandoned As Zionist Noose Tightens

Rebel Voice has presented many articles on the Palestine Crisis. The suffering of the people there at the bloodied hands of the Israeli state is the stuff of nightmares. Yet it continues unabated.
Since the arrival of the arch-fascist, Trump, the Israeli regime has become further emboldened, and gods knows they were bad enough beforehand. Conditions in what remains of Palestine are deteriorating at an increased pace. The Israeli policies of Apartheid and ethnic cleansing are designed to bully the indigenous people into leaving the home of their ancestors so that foreignersfrom Brooklyn and London can squat on the vacated land. It is a crime against humanity and a war crime and recognized as such by the international community, yet the governments do nothing.
The following article provides an overview of all the Palestinians are being forced to face in their daily struggle to survive, as Israel is lauded by western governments and media.

Khan Al-Ahmar Exposes the Misplaced Priorities of the PA and the International Community

Residents of Khan al-Ahmar block Israeli bulldozers to stop the demolition of their village. (Photo: Oren Ziv,
The Palestinian Authority and the international community made a PR spectacle out of Khan Al-Ahmar and its impending demolition. Suffice to say that when facing human rights violations which are listed as war crimes, protocol is given precedence and the media follows suit. Two recent statements testify to this collective experimentation upon the Palestinian people.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor warned that Khan Al-Ahmar’s demolition would constitute a war crime under the Rome Statute. Fatou Bensouda will, she added, “continue to keep a close eye on the developments on the ground.” It is worth noting that the situation in Palestine has been under preliminary investigation at the ICC since 2015 and the rhetoric remains stagnant in concordance with the bureaucratic procedures that allow war crimes to be committed rather than prevented.
Meanwhile, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah paid a so-called “solidarity visit” to the threatened village in which verbal distinction between the people and the politicians was blurred.  “Our presence here today in Khan Al-Ahmar carries a message that says we are going to fight to defeat the deal of the century,” Hamdallah declared.
Whose presence was he referring to? The PA’s presence is a symbol devoid of any symbolism, diplomatic or otherwise; it’s an authority without authority. There will be no official PA presence in Khan Al-Ahmar when the Israeli bulldozers roll in and rhetoric about fighting the deal of the century will be spouted forth at another opportune time and place.
While the fate of the Bedouin village has indeed attracted international attention, there is a constant failure to note that all such forced displacements from 1948 onwards are part of Israel’s plan to colonize all of historic Palestine. The insistence on framing this eviction as detrimental only to the two-state compromise is not only inaccurate but also dangerous.
To what extent is Khan Al-Ahmar important to the international community? Is it because there is a commitment to uphold human rights — if so, why are they not being upheld? — or is there some value to be derived from maintaining the clearly obsolete two-state rhetoric? It is not difficult to guess that human rights have little to do with what is happening. This should prompt collective outrage at the international community’s own abuse and exploitation of Palestinian rights depending on whether they concur with the accepted paradigm.
The PA and the international community have tethered Palestinians to future hypothetical support. Furthermore, there is an adamant refusal to view Khan Al-Ahmar’s demolition as another macabre chapter in a long history of forced displacement of the Palestinian people. Historically, the villagers’ struggle is not unique, yet we are forced to view it as an isolated incident.
The difference lies beneath the perception. Palestinian communities targeted with forced displacement are aware of their solitary predicament in relation to the political unraveling of their cause. The PA’s alignment to Israel and the international community, on the other hand, leaves it with little choice other than to continue the charade of allegedly protecting Palestinian rights while failing, more than ever, to find a foothold for its survival beyond what is dictated to, and implemented by, itself as an institution created to defend Israel. Like the international community, PA officials have attempted to tie Khan Al-Ahmar to the two-state delusion in vain, while the community has persisted in its resistance within the framework of historic Palestine.
– Ramona Wadi is a staff writer for Middle East Monitor, where this article was originally published. She contributed this article to

US Blind Eye: Khashoggi’s Death ‘Unacceptable’…Trump Needs Saudi Money, Alliance to Face Iran!

Again it’s the American administrations’ double standards that govern the international scene.
Calling Saudi Arabia a crucial ally against Iran that purchases billions of dollars-worth of US weapons, Donald Trump lamented Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s “unacceptable” death but praised Riyadh for making the first arrests in the ongoing probe.
“It is a good first step. It is a big step,” Trump said, admitting, though, that “some questions” do remain and that he will be dealing with Congress on how to proceed to address the issue. “Saudi Arabia has been a great ally but what happened in unacceptable,” Trump emphasized.
Trump further stated: “I would prefer if there is going to be some form of sanction, or what we may determine to do if anything.”
“But I would prefer that we don’t use as retribution, canceling the $110 billion-worth of work, which means 600,000 jobs.”
“They have been a great ally in the Middle East. We need them as a counter-balance to Iran. So it’s not the simplest solution. It’s not the simplest situation to be in,” Trump reiterated, expressing hope that “it will get solved, it will get solved.”
Trump said he was going to call Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for more details and that Riyadh already promised him a “full report” into what happened to Khashoggi, a journalist who wrote for the Washington Post, after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
According to numerous reports citing Turkish officials familiar with the probe, the journalist was ambushed by Saudi agents, cruelly tortured and murdered.
When faced with a threat of potential retributions by the US and other world powers amid the widening outrage over its alleged complicity in Khashoggi’s death, Riyadh finally admitted that the journalist lost his life a “fist-fight” inside the embassy.
Amid the ongoing investigation, Saudi authorities also announced the detention of 18 suspects in the case. Furthermore, King Salman fired top spy officials and issued orders to overhaul the General Intelligence Agency, a task he assigned to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
 Related Artticles

NYT: Uproar Over Dissident Rattles Saudi Royal Family, King Has No Capacity To Handle Crisis

As international outrage grew at Saudi Arabia over the apparent killing of the Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, an alarmed King Salman dispatched a senior royal to address the matter with Turkey’s president.
Prince Khalid al-Faisal returned home from Ankara with a bleak message for the royal family: “It is really difficult to get out of this one,” Prince Khalid told relatives after his return, one of those family members recalled this week. “He was really disturbed by it.”
Saudi Arabia is facing perhaps its greatest international crisis since the revelation that its citizens planned and carried out the attacks on September 11, 2001.
Members of the ruling family are increasingly worried about the direction of the country under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old favorite son of King Salman and the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler.
But unlike 2001, when the royal family came together to protect its collective interests, this time that may not be possible. Instead, there is deep concern, as royals search, so far in vain, for a way to contain the crown prince, who has consolidated power so completely that nearly everyone else is marginalized.kha
The one person who could intervene is the king himself, but senior princes have found it nearly impossible to bring their concerns to the 82-year-old monarch, and some doubt he is fully aware of what is happening or willing to change course.
“The king has no capacity to handle it,” said an employee of a senior prince, speaking on condition of anonymity like others in this article because of fear of repercussions.
Speaking of Crown Prince Mohammed, he said, “He is No. 1 and No. 2.”
Since the Saudi state was founded in 1932, the royal family has at times been torn by disagreements, even an assassination. But the thousands of princes and princesses who make up the House of Saud have ultimately found ways to preserve the dynasty. There was simply too much at stake to let family rifts get in the way of lavish lifestyles, exorbitant allowances and unrivaled privileges.
Then came Crown Prince Mohammed — young, brash and eager — who has systematically dismantled the system of consensus that kept the peace for decades.
With all the power in his hands, the crown prince also abandoned the traditional Saudi foreign policy style that used quiet, behind-the-scenes deal making and checkbook diplomacy. Instead, he moved aggressively, launching a disastrous military intervention in Yemen; kidnapping the Lebanese prime minister; and rupturing relations with Qatar and Canada. Meanwhile, he marketed a new Saudi Arabia abroad in which a dynamic economy would boom and women would drive.
That pitch won over fans who saw him as exactly the kind of leader the kingdom needed to shake off its conservative past. Among those fans was the Trump administration, which made him the pillar of its Middle East policy.
But his rise irked many of his cousins, who now fear the worst as they helplessly watch the kingdom’s reputation become toxic.
Turkish officials have said a 15-member hit team from Saudi Arabia was waiting for Mr. Khoshoggi and dismembered him inside the consulate. It seems unlikely that such an operation could have been undertaken without the crown prince’s knowledge.
Such a prospect has created something the prince’s relatives thought they’d never see: a problem they cannot buy their way out of. And none appear willing or able to match the young prince’s Machiavellian tactics.
“They aren’t a particularly draconian bunch,” said another longtime associate of the royal family, describing the philosophy of some princes as, “We just want to eat burgers and go on foreign holidays.”
Associates of the royal family say that senior princes don’t have the access to King Salman that they had to previous kings, making it hard to voice concerns. Some princes cannot enter the royal court or the king’s palace unless their names have been placed at the door ahead of time, one member of the royal family complained.
Otherwise, they see the king at official events where it is considered bad form to raise thorny issues or they visit him at night when he is playing cards, also a bad time for serious talk.
At the same time, Prince Mohammed has been scrambling to mitigate the damage. One Western adviser said that even he had been taken aback by the outrage.
“He was in real shock at the magnitude of the reaction,” the adviser said.
The palace turmoil has been reflected in Saudi Arabia’s shifting explanations for what happened to Mr. Khashoggi. For weeks, the government officials insisted that he had left the Istanbul consulate shortly after he arrived and they had no idea of his whereabouts.
Early Saturday, Saudi state-run media said Mr. Khoshoggi had been killed in a fistfight inside the consulate and that 18 unidentified Saudis were being held in connection with his death. It was the kingdom’s first admission that Mr. Khoshoggi was dead.
The crown prince has steadfastly rejected the pleas of Wall Street executives to postpone an investor conference he is scheduled to host next week in Riyadh, even as one after another participant has canceled because of the scandal, including United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Instead, the crown prince formed a crisis committee of representatives of the intelligence agencies, Foreign Ministry and security services to update him throughout the day on the latest in the Khashoggi scandal. He has recalled his younger brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the ambassador to Washington, accelerating plans to name him as a kind of national security adviser to bring order to what largely has been an ad hoc policy process.
The royal court has threatened to retaliate against any moves taken against the kingdom, suggesting it might use its influence on the oil markets as leverage over the global economy. One closely allied commentator suggested that sanctions against the kingdom could push it and the Muslim world “into the arms of Iran.”
The terse announcement early Saturday that Khashoggi died inside the consulate during a fight appeared to be part of a strategy of acknowledging his death but shifting the responsibility away from the crown prince.
Officials were known to have been weighing whether to blame Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy head of intelligence and a confidant of the young prince. People with knowledge of the plan said it would accuse General Assiri of having orchestrated a plot intended to capture Mr. Khashoggi but that it ultimately killed him — an explanation the Saudis hope will help to shield the crown prince from further recriminations.
On Saturday, General Assiri was removed from his post, state media reported, along with at least three other high-level officials. It was not made clear whether the dismissals had any connection to the Khashoggi case.
While Saudi Arabia was traditionally ruled by senior princes who divided major portfolios and made big policy decisions by consensus under the king, many of those once once-powerful princes have seen their power cut. Some have been removed from prominent posts. Others were locked in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton last year on accusations of corruption made by Crown Prince Mohammed. Still others and their families are banned from travel and too scared they might be arrested to speak up.
Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the previous crown prince and counterterrorism czar, remains under virtual house arrest. He, his wife and their two daughters found out earlier this year that their Saudi bank accounts had been drained, a relative said.
The sons of the former king, Abdullah, who died in 2015, have been neutralized. One was removed as the head of the National Guard, accused of corruption and stripped of assets, including the horse track he inherited from his father. His brother, a former governor of Riyadh, is detained, as is another son of another former king. Yet another brother is hiding out in Europe, scared that he could be kidnapped and sent home.
That leaves only the crown prince’s father, King Salman, to check his power.
“There is one person inside Saudi Arabia who can challenge Mohammed bin Salman and it is the king,” said Joseph A. Kechichian, a scholar at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.
But the king must consider not only the stain of the Khashoggi issue on his son’s reputation, but also how to continue the reform program known as Vision 2030 that the crown prince has begun, Mr. Kechichian said.
Others question whether the king’s health allows him to grasp all that is happening.
“One worries about the mental state of King Salman,” said Madawi al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and author of many books on Saudi Arabia. “Is he really in a position to make these decisions at this late age?”
Removing such a powerful crown prince could prove hugely disruptive, and few princes would want the job with a resentful Mohammed bin Salman scheming against his replacement. But one Western diplomat with long experience in the kingdom suggested that the king might check the young prince by reducing his power, perhaps redistributing control of the security services to other respected princes.
“The brand has been irreparably tarnished — domestically they really do need to do something to rein MBS in,” the diplomat said, referring to the crown prince by his initials. “They need to do something to corral him.”
One of the few with the stature to urge the king to make such a shift might be Prince Khalid, who flew to Ankara to see the Turks. A son of the late King Faisal and now governor of Mecca Province, Prince Khalid, 78, is esteemed in the family as measured and intelligent. That the king sent him on such a touchy mission indicates that he already has the monarch’s trust. His half brother, Prince Turki al-Faisal, was a longtime friend and patron of Mr. Khashoggi in the decades when he worked in the Saudi establishment before he turned critical of Crown Prince Mohammed.
Some foes of the crown prince have hoped for a challenge for the throne from the king’s brother, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz. Prince Ahmed, 73, is the youngest of seven sons of the late King Abdulaziz who all shared the same mother, Hussa bint Ahmed al-Sudairi. The Sudairi seven, as they were known, formed a powerful bloc within the family and passed the throne from brother to brother — a pattern that might have extended to Prince Ahmed if King Salman had not redirected the line of succession to his own son.
So critics of Prince Mohammed were electrified last month when Prince Ahmed addressed protesters on the street in London who were chanting against the royal family over the war in Yemen.
“What does this have to do with the Al Saud?” Prince Ahmed said, in comments caught on video. “Those responsible are the king and his crown prince.”
When asked about the war in Yemen, he replied, “I hope the situation ends, whether in Yemen or elsewhere, today before tomorrow.”
Source: NYT, Edited by website team

Can The Saudis Take A Turkish Punch?

These are tough times for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. 
The rock star royal who was until recently touted by the Western press as the face of the new, investor-friendly and more tolerant Saudi Arabia is now fighting to keep his seat at the table.
The diplomatic inferno ignited by the medieval-style murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is burning through one loyal subject after another, and rumors are rife that Bin Salman will soon be consumed by the flames.
The fallout from the Khashoggi affair, which commenced on October 2 when the journalist walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, never to be seen again, tells us that Bin Salman never saw the arsonist coming.
Although Khashoggi’s disappearance has all the makings of a great crime flick – the intrigue, the hit team, the brutal murder and even the love angle – it still needed that spark at the right time. Enter Turkey. Through a drip feed of information, the Turks have transformed Khashoggi’s disappearance into an account of a grisly murder, and then into an account of a grisly murder ordered by the top echelons of power in Riyadh.
It must be said that there is little reason to doubt the accuracy of the information being released, regardless of the official Saudi version of events released late on Friday night.
And despite the initial buzz about iWatches, iPhones and recordings obtained through Apple devices, whispers in Istanbul say the consulate was bugged. As such, it is only logical to assume that the Turkish intelligence agencies have more in the way of evidence – and much more.
Now the question is what sort of concessions are the Al Sauds willing to make to keep audio, and maybe even video recordings of Khashoggi’s final moments, out of Al-Jazeera’s and CNN’s newsrooms?
The so-called joint Saudi-Turkish investigation, Mike Pompeo’s shuttle diplomacy and the skillfully crafted media campaign all suggest that negotiations are well underway.
According to sources cited by France’s Le Figaro newspaper, the climax of those negotiations may very well see the appointment of a new deputy crown prince in Saudi Arabia – Bin Salman’s younger brother Khaled, to be exact – who will gradually assume the leadership role.
But speculating about Bin Salman’s future is as complex an issue as trying to figure out who knew what and when about Khashoggi’s disappearance.
These matters involve competing interests in the highly polarized US domestic political arena, as well as the wider Western world, and its anybody’s guess who is going to be left standing when the dust settles.
However, Turkey’s motivations for shaking down Riyadh are slightly more straightforward.
A crisis of confidence 
Turkish-Saudi relations have been plagued for years by differences over numerous regional issues.
In Syria, Ankara has fully integrated itself into an alliance with Iran and Russia, whereas the Saudis are continuing to work with the Israelis and Americans to prolong the conflict.
Meanwhile, the Turks see Iran as one of the most important strategic partners in the region, while Riyadh treats the Islamic Republic as its arch nemesis.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also expressed dismay over Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Qatar, offering Doha both military and political support.
But before Erdogan had the chance to make his foreign policy U-turns back in 2016, rogue members of his military tried to knock him off his armchair.
The Turkish president, who was almost killed in the ensuing violence, is unlikely to have forgotten that Persian Gulf monarchies played an important role in his attempted demise.
So, when Khashoggi touched down in Istanbul earlier this month, the Turks probably decided that the timing was perfect to make their move against the Saudis.
In truth, the timing could not be better. The Saudis are coming under growing international criticism over the bloodbath in Yemen, as well as other human rights violations both at home and abroad.
More importantly, perhaps, recent weeks have seen US President Donald Trump – Riyadh’s most high-profile ally – repeatedly express dissatisfaction with the Saudi royals.
Last month, Trump stood before the UN General Assembly and criticized oil-pricing practices, and then he bragged about how he told the Saudi monarch that he “wouldn’t last two weeks in power without [US] support”.
Whatever the motivations for these outbursts, they appear to have gone down very well with the leadership in Ankara.
Almost immediately after Khashoggi’s disappearance, the Turks let the Americans know that they had damning evidence about what happened inside the consulate.
Turkey then proceeded to show Washington that it had no desire for another collision with the Trump Administration by quietly releasing American pastor/agent Andrew Brunson.
That prompted Trump to say that Ankara’s gesture could “lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States and Turkey!”
Trump’s tone towards the Saudis, on the other hand, simultaneously sharpened as he threatened “very severe” consequences if Riyadh was found guilty.
“It’s bad, bad stuff,” the US president said this week.
In essence, this “bad stuff” has not only eased US pressure on Ankara, but also created a crisis of confidence in the Al-Saud family among Western political and business elites.
The severity of the crisis in Riyadh is further underscored by the growing number of high-profile Western firms backtracking on their previous commitments to the Saudis and pulling out of Bin Salman’s so-called “Davos in the Desert”, high-profile investors’ conference.
But perhaps even more significant are reports that King Salman has been forced to reassert authority and check his son’s power.
Turkey has clearly thrown a punch, and one has to wonder, what will Saudi Arabia look like when and if Al Saud gets up again?

Palestinians Increasingly Marginalized And Abandoned As Zionist Noose Tightens

Rebel Voice has presented many articles on the Palestine Crisis. The suffering of the people there at the bloodied hands of the Israeli state is the stuff of nightmares. Yet it continues unabated.
Since the arrival of the arch-fascist, Trump, the Israeli regime has become further emboldened, and gods knows they were bad enough beforehand. Conditions in what remains of Palestine are deteriorating at an increased pace. The Israeli policies of Apartheid and ethnic cleansing are designed to bully the indigenous people into leaving the home of their ancestors so that foreignersfrom Brooklyn and London can squat on the vacated land. It is a crime against humanity and a war crime and recognized as such by the international community, yet the governments do nothing.
The following article provides an overview of all the Palestinians are being forced to face in their daily struggle to survive, as Israel is lauded by western governments and media.

Excuses, Excuses when the Stone-Thrower is an Israeli Settler and the Victim is Palestinian

Palestinian Aisha Al-Rawbi, a mother of eight, died after Jewish settlers stoned her car in the West Bank. (Photo: via Social Media)
In 2015, Israel approved a law that stipulated a 20-year prison sentence for individuals caught throwing stones. The intention was to target Palestinians involved in resistance activities, despite the discrepancies between armed Jewish Israeli settlers and Palestinians in terms of weapons available for them to use. “Tolerance towards terrorists ends today,” commented Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
“A stone thrower is a terrorist and only a fitting punishment can serve as a deterrent and just punishment.”
Yet despite claiming that Palestinians who throw stones during clashes “provoke” unwarranted violence, stone throwing by Jewish Israeli settler-colonists has many precedents and victims and is usually overlooked. The latest Palestinian victim of Jewish stone-throwers was Aisha Al-Rabi who was killed last Friday while on her way home in the car. Settlers hurled stones at the family car, killing Aisha and injuring her husband Yacoub.
Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin described the killing and subsequent attachment of blame to Jewish settlers as “a scrap of an incident”. He added, “It is quite galling that it takes an incident like this in relation to a Palestinian vehicle for it [stone throwing] to be raised on the agenda.”
In fact, B’Tselem has documented many instances of settler-colonial violence, including stone throwing by extremist Jews on many occasions. The Israeli rights group has pointed out that there is an absence of law enforcement in such cases.
The Israeli media gives priority to detailing clashes between stone-throwing settlers and the Israeli military, which usually end in a tally of those injured and a notification of temporary arrest. There is an explicit difference in punishment and media portrayal between settler violence and Palestinian resistance. The former is exempt from punishment, whether the violence is directed against Palestinians or the Israeli military; the latter, meanwhile, is criminalized.
Al-Rabi’s case crossed a red line as regards media coverage due to settlers causing her death by stone throwing, hence the need for her murder to be downplayed by Levin. His comments indicate that close scrutiny of Jewish Israeli settler stone throwers is unacceptable to right-wing politicians, particularly when the victim, who was killed, is a Palestinian.
However, if the context is taken into consideration, it is clear that the Israeli state has manufactured a culture of impunity for stone-throwing (and other) crimes by its settler population. This precise bequeathing of impunity is evidence of the colonial state’s dependence upon its settlers, no matter that they live in illegal settlements, to preserve its existence.
While condemning the murder, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov failed to address settler stone throwing, focusing instead upon the attack as creating “a new cycle of violence that would further undermine the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.” This was not, however, a “new cycle of violence”; to describe the crime this is to absolve the Israeli colonial state and its settlers of embracing stone throwing as the means to terrorize Palestinians merely for being the indigenous inhabitants of historic Palestine.
Palestinian stone throwers, facing heavily armed settlers and the military, face harsh sentences and at times even extrajudicial murder for daring to resist the colonial violence endorsed by Israel. Al-Rabi’s killing was an unprovoked terror attack. Will Shaked’s misplaced words, directed against Palestinians, be fully invoked against Jewish Israeli settler stone-throwers when, as in this case, the end result is murder? Or will it be yet another example of excuses, excuses but no justice from Israel’s Justice Minister?
– Ramona Wadi is a staff writer for Middle East Monitor, where this article was originally published. She contributed this article to

Saudis now say Khashoggi killed in consulate, after claiming he left alive

Saudis say Khashoggi died after fight broke out between journalist and ‘people who met him’ inside consulate

Friday’s confirmation marks astounding reversal from earlier statements by Saudi officials (Reuters)
Saudi Arabia confirmed late Friday that Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate in Istanbul.
In a statement on Saudi state television, the country’s chief prosecutor said a fight broke out between Khashoggi and “people who met him” in the consulate. The brawl resulted in Khashoggi’s death, the prosecutor said.
The confirmation marked an astounding reversal from earlier statements by Saudi officials who insisted that Khashoggi had left the consulate alive shortly after entering it on 2 October, when he was last seen publicly.
Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman insisted earlier this month that Khashoggi had left the consulate. “Yes. He’s not inside,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg published on 5 October. “My understanding is he entered and he got out after a few minutes or one hour.”
Saudi media also reported that Riyadh fired top general Ahmed al-Assiri and a senior adviser to the royal court, Saoud al-Qahtani. Mohammed Bin Saleh Al Rumeih, a pilot and assistant to the intelligence chief, was also dismissed.
‘My understanding is he entered and he got out after a few minutes or one hour’
–Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Last week, Turkish officials told MEE and US media outlets that Saudi Arabia was preparing to admit Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, but would attempt to absolve bin Salman of any responsibility. The New York Times reported on Thursday that Riyadh was looking to blame Assiri for the murder in an effort to shield the crown prince from blame.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who earlier pledged to “sanction the hell out Saudi Arabia” if it was involved in Khashoggi’s murder, was quick to express his scepticism about the latest Saudi account.
“First, we were told Mr Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement,” he wrote on twitter. “Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince.”
Democratic representative Adam Schiff tweeted: “The claim that Khashoggi was killed while brawling with 15 men dispatched from Saudi Arabia is not at all credible. If he was fighting with those sent to capture or kill him, it was for his life.”
Still, President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia’s explanation was credible, Reuters reported. Speaking to reporters after a rally in Glendale, Arizona, Trump said Saudi Arabia’s announcement on the circumstances of Khashoggi’s death was a “good first step.” He also said he prefers that any sanctions against Riyadh not include canceling big defense orders.
Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said earlier in a statement: “We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancée, and friends.”
A Turkish source who has listened in full to an audio recording of the Saudi journalist’s last moments told Middle East Eye that Khashoggi was tortured and killed in seven minutes inside the building.
“There was no attempt to interrogate him. They had come to kill him,” the source told MEE.
Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, who has been identified as the head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department, was one of a 15-member squad who arrived in Ankara earlier that day on a private jet.
Tubaigy began to cut Khashoggi’s body up on a table in the study while he was still alive, the Turkish source said.
On Friday night, a tweet that Qahtani, the dismissed adviser, wrote last year began making the rounds again on social media: “Do you think I rebuke (others) on my own accord without direction? I am an employee and a loyal executer to the orders of my master, the king, and my master, his highness the crown prince,” he wrote at the time.
The Saudi prosecutor added that the investigation was still underway and 18 suspects had been arrested so far.
A Saudi official familiar with the investigation told Reuters that the crown prince “had no knowledge of the specific operation” that resulted in Khashoggi’s death.
“There were no orders for them to kill him or even specifically kidnap him,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity and adding that there was a standing order to bring critics of the kingdom back to the country.
“MBS had no knowledge of this specific operation and certainly did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody. He will have been aware of the general instruction to tell people to come back,” the official said.
Saudi state TV outlet Alekhbariya also reported that King Salman was forming a committee – to be headed by the crown prince – that will be tasked with “reconstructing the leadership of general intelligence, modernising its system and clearly defining its responsibilities”.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Arabia’s king spoke by phone late Friday, stressing the importance of maintaining full cooperation between Ankara and Riyadh as they investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The leaders also shared information on the independent investigations being conducted by both countries, Anadolu said.
An unidentified Saudi official said in a statement late Friday that the kingdom expressed its “deep regret” over the incident. He added that discussions with Khashoggi in the consulate “did not go as required and developed in a negative way, leading to a fight” that in turn led to the journalist’s death “and to their attempt to conceal and cover what happened”.