VIDEO: ISIS TERRORISTS OPENLY COMMUTE ON SUBWAY IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY

ISIS enjoys support in Turkey, a member of NATO

by KIT DANIELS | INFOWARS.COM | SEPTEMBER 20, 2014

A new video shows alleged Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists using public transportation in Istanbul, Turkey, without fear of local authorities, emphasizing the support ISIS enjoys in the NATO country.

Filmed in an Istanbul subway, the video shows the two men wearing ISIS gear while commuting through the Turkish city of over 14 million people.

The men appear calm and relaxed in public, which would be expected given that not only are stores within the NATO country selling ISIS merchandise, but the Turkish government has also trained ISIS militants to fight in Syria.

“At least one clothing shop was found in Bagcilar, a working class district near the outskirts of Istanbul, selling T-shirts, hats, cargo pants and bandanas with Islamic State imagery,” Fox News reported.

Turkey is one of the largest sources of foreign fighters for ISIS and many of these militants received training and equipment from the Turkish government near the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where American personnel and equipment are located.

“…After training in Turkey, thousands of ISIS fighters went to Iraq by way of Syria to join the effort to establish an Islamic caliphate subject to strict Islamic law, or Shariah,” Aaron Klein of WND reported.

The centuries-old conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims and the trillions of dollars in potential oil and gas revenue in Syria are both key factors motivating the Sunni-dominated Turkish government to aid Islamic militants trying to overthrow the Shia Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad.

In 2011, Syria announced the discovery of a promising gas field in the city of Homs, which, not surprisingly, became a battleground between Assad’s forces and ISIS, preventing Syria from fully tapping into the field.

Syria also rivals Turkey as one of the most strategic locations for natural gas pipelines to flow into Europe from Asia.

“Syria is the site of the proposed construction of a massive underground gas pipeline that, if completed, could drastically undercut the strategic energy power of U.S. ally Qatar and also would cut Turkey out of the pipeline flow,” Klein also reported. “Dubbed the ‘Islamic pipeline,’ the project may ultimately favor Russia and Iran against Western energy interests.”

But like the gas field in Homs, the construction of the 3,480-mile pipeline has also been delayed by Syria’s war with ISIS.

This is definitely to Turkey’s benefit, which views the proposed Islamic pipeline through Syria as a threat to its goal of becoming the main transit point for oil and gas flowing from East to West.

And if Syria falls to ISIS, Turkey stands to gain trillions.

EXCLUSIVE Found: The Islamic State’s Terror Laptop of Doom Buried in a Dell computer captured in Syria are lessons for making bubonic plague bombs and missives on using weapons of mass destruction.

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EXCLUSIVE
Found: The Islamic State’s Terror Laptop of Doom
Buried in a Dell computer captured in Syria are lessons for making bubonic plague bombs and missives on using weapons of mass destruction.

BY HARALD DOORNBOS
HARALD DOORNBOS IS A JOURNALIST BASED IN ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN.

ANTAKYA, Turkey — Abu Ali, a commander of a moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria, proudly shows a black laptop partly covered in dust. “We took it this year from an ISIS hideout,” he says.
Abu Ali says the fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which have since rebranded themselves as the Islamic State, all fled before he and his men attacked the building. The attack occurred in January in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib, close to the border with Turkey, as part of a larger anti-ISIS offensive occurring at the time. “We found the laptop and the power cord in a room,” he continued, “I took it with me. But I have no clue if it still works or if it contains anything interesting.”

As we switched on the Dell laptop, it indeed still worked. Nor was it password-protected. But then came a huge disappointment: After we clicked on “My Computer,” all the drives appeared empty.
Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Upon closer inspection, the ISIS laptop wasn’t empty at all: Buried in the “hidden files” section of the computer were 146 gigabytes of material, containing a total of 35,347 files in 2,367 folders. Abu Ali allowed us to copy all these files — which included documents in French, English, and Arabic — onto an external hard drive.

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The laptop’s contents turn out to be a treasure trove of documents that provide ideological justifications for jihadi organizations — and practical training on how to carry out the Islamic State’s deadly campaigns. They include videos of Osama bin Laden, manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another.
But after hours upon hours of scrolling through the documents, it became clear that the ISIS laptop contains more than the typical propaganda and instruction manuals used by jihadists. The documents also suggest that the laptop’s owner was teaching himself about the use of biological weaponry, in preparation for a potential attack that would have shocked the world.
The information on the laptop makes clear that its owner is a Tunisian national named Muhammed S. who joined ISIS in Syria and who studied chemistry and physics at two universities in Tunisia’s northeast. Even more disturbing is how he planned to use that education:
The ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals.
The ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals.
“The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge,” the document states.
The document includes instructions for how to test the weaponized disease safely, before it is used in a terrorist attack. “When the microbe is injected in small mice, the symptoms of the disease should start to appear within 24 hours,” the document says.
The laptop also includes a 26-page fatwa, or Islamic ruling, on the usage of weapons of mass destruction. “If Muslims cannot defeat the kafir [unbelievers] in a different way, it is permissible to use weapons of mass destruction,” states the fatwa by Saudi jihadi cleric Nasir al-Fahd, who is currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. “Even if it kills all of them and wipes them and their descendants off the face of the Earth.”
When contacted by phone, a staff member at a Tunisian university listed on Muhammed’s exam papers confirmed that he indeed studied chemistry and physics there. She said the university lost track of him after 2011, however.

A photo of Muhammed S. found on his laptop. This image has been digitally altered.
Out of the blue, she asked: “Did you find his papers inside Syria?” Asked why she would think that Muhammed’s belongings would have ended up in Syria, she answered, “For further questions about him, you better ask state security.”
An astonishing number of Tunisians have flocked to the Syrian battlefield since the revolt began. In June, Tunisia’s interior minister estimated that at least 2,400 Tunisians were fighting in the country, mostly as members of the Islamic State.
This isn’t the first time that jihadists have attempted to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Even before the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda had experimented with a chemical weapons program in Afghanistan. In 2002, CNN obtained a tape showing al Qaeda members testing poison gas on three dogs, all of which died.
Nothing on the ISIS laptop, of course, suggests that the jihadists already possess these dangerous weapons. And any jihadi organization contemplating a bioterrorist attack will face many difficulties: Al Qaeda tried unsuccessfully for years to get its hands on such weapons, and the United States has devoted massive resources to preventing terrorists from making just this sort of breakthrough. The material on this laptop, however, is a reminder that jihadists are also hard at work at acquiring the weapons that could allow them to kill thousands of people with one blow.
“The real difficulty in all of these weapons … [is] to actually have a workable distribution system that will kill a lot of people,” said Magnus Ranstorp, research director of the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College. “But to produce quite scary weapons is certainly within [the Islamic State's] capabilities.”
The Islamic State’s sweeping gains in recent months may have provided it with the capacity to develop such new and dangerous weapons. Members of the jihadi group are not solely fighting on the front lines these days — they also control substantial parts of Syria and Iraq. The fear now is that men like Muhammed could be quietly working behind the front lines — for instance, in the Islamic State-controlled University of Mosul or in some laboratory in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital — to develop chemical or biological weapons.
In short, the longer the caliphate exists, the more likely it is that members with a science background will come up with something horrible. The documents found on the laptop of the Tunisian jihadist, meanwhile, leave no room for doubt about the group’s deadly ambitions.
“Use small grenades with the virus, and throw them in closed areas like metros, soccer stadiums, or entertainment centers,” the 19-page document on biological weapons advises. “Best to do it next to the air-conditioning. It also can be used during suicide operations.”

NATO chief eyes more bases in E. Europe to confront Russia

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Under the pretext of an ‘overt’ Russian threat, NATO is pushing for a ‘readiness action plan’ that will bring the Cold War military bloc closer to Russian borders than ever – even despite objections from some NATO members.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the 28-nation military bloc, which meets next week in Cardiff, Wales, would attempt to overcome internal opposition and agree to the deployment of military bases near the Russian border.

Two NATO warships heading to Black Sea

Amid the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, which is fracturing the country along east-west ideological lines, NATO is preparing to install for the first time military “reception facilities” in Eastern European countries, including Poland and the three Baltic countries: Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

“We have something already called the NATO response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed,” Rasmussen said in an interview with several European newspapers. “Now it’s our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very, high readiness. In order to be able to provide such rapid reinforcements you also need some reception facilities in host nations. So it will involve the pre-positioning of supplies, of equipment, preparation of infrastructure, bases, headquarters.”
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The bottom line, according to the NATO chief, is that there will be “a more visible NATO presence in the east.”

Asked whether there would be permanent NATO presence in Eastern Europe, he said, “The brief answer is ‘yes’. To prevent misunderstanding, I use the phrase ‘for as long as necessary’. Our eastern allies will be satisfied when they see what is actually in the readiness action plan.”

Rasmussen, whose term expires on September 30, said the new NATO forces in Eastern Europe could be “deployed within hours.”

Needless to say, NATO’s militarization of the region will not sit well with Moscow, which has watched with increasing alarm since the collapse of the Soviet Union – despite pledges from the Western military bloc not to expand further east – as NATO continues its march towards Russia’s western border.

Currently, the Polish port city of Szczecin, which military experts anticipate will serve as one of NATO’s new “reception facilities,” represents NATO’s easternmost military presence.

Ironically, NATO’s latest enlargement plans are being opposed not just by Russia, but by its very members, some of whom do not see the point in aggravating tensions with Moscow.

It should come as no surprise that the United States and the United Kingdom, distant as they are from any potential fireworks on the European-Russian border, favor a military escalation in Eastern Europe. Other major NATO members, however, including France, Spain and Italy, have expressed serious reservations to the plans.

Meanwhile, Germany, NATO’s second strongest member, remains uncommitted to the expansion plans.

This should come as no surprise considering the recent deterioration in relations between Washington and Berlin.

Paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team participate in training exercises with the Polish 6 Airborne Brigade soldiers at the Land Forces Training Centre in Oleszno near Drawsko Pomorskie, north west Poland, May 1, 2014. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel)Paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team participate in training exercises with the Polish 6 Airborne Brigade soldiers at the Land Forces Training Centre in Oleszno near Drawsko Pomorskie, north west Poland, May 1, 2014. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel)

Germany was forced to take a critical new look at its powerful American partner following Edward Snowden’s shocking NSA revelations, which showed massive US and UK spying on German citizens. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal mobile phone was caught up in the international surveillance net.

Remarkably, Rasmussen asserted that Russia “does not consider NATO a partner,” when it was NATO that flat-out refused Russian participation in the controversial US missile defense system, also planned for Eastern Europe. Such cooperation, had it been given the green light, would have sealed the so-called reset between the two Cold War-era foes, bringing to end years of mutual suspicion and antagonism. Instead, the US and NATO opted to keep Russia on the sidelines, ensuring nothing less than another full-blown arms race.

Speaking on the subject of Crimea’s decision to hold a referendum to join the Russian Federation under the threat of military attack by pro-Kiev forces, Rasmussen commented that “nobody had expected Russia to grab land by force.”

At the same time, the outgoing NATO chief reiterated claims – surprisingly without providing any sort of unassailable proof, in this age of advanced surveillance equipment – that Russia is actively participating in the Ukrainian upheaval.

“We have seen artillery firing across the border and also inside Ukraine. We have seen a Russian military buildup along the border. Quite clearly, Russia is involved in destabilizing eastern Ukraine … You see a sophisticated combination of traditional conventional warfare mixed up with information and primarily disinformation operations. It will take more than NATO to counter such hybrid warfare effectively,” Rasmussen was quoted as saying.

NATO officials, however, have admitted their intelligence is not perfect.

“We can only watch from 23 miles (37km) up,” one official told the Guardian.

Ukrainian servicemen rest in the shade next to an armoured vehicle topped with a Ukrainian flag as they take up a position near the eastern city of Debaltceve, in the region of Donetsk, on July 30, 2014. (AFP Photo/Genya Savilov)Ukrainian servicemen rest in the shade next to an armoured vehicle topped with a Ukrainian flag as they take up a position near the eastern city of Debaltceve, in the region of Donetsk, on July 30, 2014. (AFP Photo/Genya Savilov)

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko is to attend the NATO summit, where the 28-member bloc has prepared four ‘trust funds’ to finance Ukraine’s military logistics, command structures, and cyber defense forces, and to pay overdue military pensions.

Yet somehow Rasmussen was able to say of Russia’s embattled neighbor.

“Ukraine follows its own path…It is actually what we will decide to do at the summit, to help them build the capacity of their security sector, modernize it,” he said.

Meanwhile, it looks as if Rasmussen will be passing around the proverbial hat during next week’s summit, looking to collect more money from NATO members, even as their own countries are facing economic turmoil amid IMF-enforced austerity measures.

“Since the end of the Cold War we have lived in relatively good weather. Now we are faced with a profound climate change. That requires more investment,” said the NATO chief.

It will be interesting to see how many member states take up this latest challenge, which threatens to ratchet up European-Russian tensions to levels not seen since the Cold War.

Meanwhile, there is no question as to how Russia views NATO’s relentless eastward encroachment.

“No matter what our Western counterparts tell us, we can see what’s going on,” President Putin said in July at an emergency Security Council meeting in Moscow. “As it stands, NATO is blatantly building up its forces in Eastern Europe, including the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea areas. Its operational and combat training activities are gaining in scale.”

Putin stated that NATO’s military build-up near Russia’s border, which includes the US-built missile defense system, is not just for defensive purposes, but is an “offensive weapon” and an “element of the US offensive system deployed outside the mainland.”

‘Bad Boys’ jihadist cell could be key to identifying UK militant who killed Foley

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Five men who left Britain in October last year have been shown on CCTV footage leaving the UK to join the Islamic State under the guise of taking a vacation in Turkey. One of the men could now be the key to identifying James Foley’s murderer.

CCTV footage shows the ‘Britani Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys’ making their way through Gatwick Airport en route to join the militant group Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIS or ISIL.

The five men from Portsmouth bought tickets on low-budget carrier Thomas Cook to the Turkish resort of Antalya in October, the Daily Mail reported.

The group’s members have been identified by British authorities as Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, 25, Mashudur Choudhury, 31, Assad Uzzaman, 25, Mehdi Hassan, 19, and Mamunur Roshid.

Now, 10 months later, Rahman, who worked as a shop assistant at UK clothing chain Primark until being sacked in September 2013, a month before leaving to take part in the jihadist movement, was reportedly killed in a gun battle in Syria last month.

Choudhury is in prison, convicted of travelling to Syria to receive terrorist training, the Telegraph reported. He will be sentenced on September 19.

Choudhury, who once ran a Muslim youth group, has been accused of being the ringleader and blamed for recruiting his friends. Others suggest he was simply a willing volunteer; a married father of two, with children aged five and two, who was desperate for a change of scene, the paper reports.

Choudhury was allegedly aided by Ifthekar Jaman, 23, the first of the Portsmouth jihadists to go to Syria. Jaman was killed in December while reportedly taking part in an assault on a major arms depot in eastern Syria.

Jihadist dropout
British security services are keen to re-interview Mashudur Choudhury, as he may have been in contact with the suspected killer of James Foley, a US journalist whose videotaped beheading last week prompted a manhunt by UK authorities.

An image grab taken from YouTube video ‘ISIS Beheading of Journalist James Foley Captures World’s Attention’An image grab taken from YouTube video ‘ISIS Beheading of Journalist James Foley Captures World’s Attention’

One security expert said on Saturday: “MI5 will be hoping that prison has had a sobering effect on Choudhury. As a British jihadist, he may well have rubbed shoulders with the gang behind James Foley’s murder.”

When the five British would-be jihadists arrived in Turkey, an intermediary took them over the Syrian border. In Syria, instead of embarking in a violent armed struggle, Choudhury was made to do mundane chores, such as cooking, washing and looking after children in a makeshift nursery.

Authorities believe that Choudhury failed the IS training selection process and was sent home only three weeks after arriving. Upon his return, he was arrested after a tip-off about his activities from someone in the local community and he is now awaiting sentencing.

Around 30 UK citizens every month are now travelling to Syria and Iraq across the frontier, in a journey dubbed the “Jihad Express.” About 500 British citizens are believed to have travelled to Syria to join militant groups, though some have estimated that figure could be up to three times higher.

The issue of preventing extremism in the UK and how to stop British citizens travelling to Syria to join extremist militant groups has generated a great deal of controversy. As UK Special Forces seek the British-born Islamic State jihadist suspected of murdering Foley, the government is redoubling efforts to stop Brits from going to Syria and to prosecute those who return.

UK’s anti-terror scheme a ‘failure’
Meanwhile, a senior figure in the Muslim Council of Britain said the government’s anti-terrorism strategy has “failed.” Deputy Secretary General Harun Khan told BBC Radio 5 live the Prevent scheme was having a “negative impact” and in fact alienated young Muslims and pushed them towards radical groups.

Prevent, which is part of the government’s broader counter-terrorism strategy, aims to “stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism,” by mentoring people that are at the risk of “being drawn into terrorist activity.”

Khan said some people were “lost and disenfranchised” and vulnerable to radicalization as they felt they could not express their views.

A former senior Muslim UK Army officer reiterated this view. British society, its political class and community leaders must share the blame for the “jihad generation” of young Britons joining the Islamic State, Afzal Amin said on Sunday.

In an interview with The Independent he argued that young Muslims in Britain have been left disenfranchised by politics and let down by imams and other community leaders.

“That so many of them feel so disenfranchised with us and then turn to this gang of brigands cloaked with a false version of Islam is not their fault. It is our fault: we who are the society in which they were born, went to school, were raised and became young, independently minded adults. We have failed them, and any successful prognosis must be based on an accurate diagnosis,” Amin said.

An image grab uploaded on June 19, 2014 by Al-Hayat Media Centre shows Abu Muthanna al-Yemeni (C), believed to be Nasser Muthana, a 20-year-old man from Cardiff, Wales, speaking in an online video titled “There is no life without Jihad” from an undisclosed location (AFP Photo / HO)An image grab uploaded on June 19, 2014 by Al-Hayat Media Centre shows Abu Muthanna al-Yemeni (C), believed to be Nasser Muthana, a 20-year-old man from Cardiff, Wales, speaking in an online video titled “There is no life without Jihad” from an undisclosed location (AFP Photo / HO)

Home Secretary Theresa May proposed changes to the law to target extremists and radicalization in the UK last week. She said she was “looking again at the case for new banning orders for extremist groups.” She has also publicly reiterated her office’s ability to strip Brits fighting abroad of their citizenship.

The UK currently has no consistent policy on who can and can’t travel abroad to fight. London Mayor Boris Johnson on Monday suggested a law that would assume anyone visiting a war zone without first notifying authorities is doing so for terrorist purposes. Boris Johnson also became the latest politician to demand that suspected IS militants returning to the UK are stripped of their citizenship.

On Tuesday, Downing Street rejected Johnson’s plan as a “kneejerk” response.

“The discussions on the level of response are ongoing. Things will need to be looked at. We are very clear that this is a generational struggle that we face where part of this whole challenge will be tackling the ideology too. It is not one about kneejerk response [with] specific proposals. It is about approaching these things – patient and resolute,” the spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron said.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also rejected calls for tougher measures to combat the threat of British jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria.

Decisions on whether to pursue charges when presumed militants return home are made on a “case by case basis,” a Home Office spokeswoman said. “If the military of any country operate outside of the law, they [Britons fighting abroad] can of course be investigated appropriately, but that would generally be for war crimes or domestic criminal offences,” the office said.

Turkey: ‘We’re ready to increase food exports to Russia’

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As Moscow banned food imports from the West, Turkey voiced its readiness to increase its exports of agricultural products to Russia, Turkish economy minister has said.

“Turkey is a major supplier of food and agricultural produce to Russia. It is ready to increase its food exports to Russia if necessary,” Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said in an interview with Itar-Tass.

The two countries have recently reached an agreement to increase the number of Turkish food suppliers to Russia. A delegation from Russia’s agricultural watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor (the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phyto-Sanitary Control), visited Ankara for negotiations in the search for alternative food supply sources following the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU, Russia’s top food supplier, the US, the EU, Australia and Canada.

To reciprocate, on August 6 Russia introduced a full ban for imports of beef and pork (fresh, chilled, refrigerated, pickled, dried or smoked meat), poultry and any poultry edible products, fish, cheese, milk, dairy products, vegetables, including root vegetables and tuber crops, and fruit from Australia, Canada, the EU, the US and Norway.

Moscow is now set to ensure country’s food supply security by finding new suppliers in countries that have not joined the sanctions against Russia. Some of the country’s closest neighbors, China and Turkey, have been among the first candidates for a lucrative offer to extend their share of the Russia market.

Reuters / Alessandro GarofaloReuters / Alessandro Garofalo

Turkish food suppliers would do their best to ensure sufficient good quality, inexpensive food products to Russia to replace European food supplies, the Turkish minister said.

Last year, Turkey’s agricultural export to Russia reached $1.18 billion, with fruits and vegetables making up nearly 75 percent ($877 million) of the total turnover. In 2014, Turkish agricultural exports to Russia have so far totaled $409 million.

Zeybekci said that Turkey exported $17 billion worth of agricultural products in 2013, of which fresh fruit and vegetables accounted for less than 14 percent ($2.3 billion). Russia bought 6.9 percent of Turkey’s global exports of agricultural products.

Reuters / Umit BektasReuters / Umit Bektas

The head of the Russian agricultural watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, Sergey Dankvert, announced on Thursday that his agency has held talks with 16 countries as alternative supply sources for the Russian food market. Moscow has been talking to Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Paraguay, Peru, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Uruguay to replace American, Australian, Canadian and European food suppliers.

The EU Council has already demanded that third countries not to take advantage of the new trade opportunities brought by the conflict between Russia and western states, and to resist seeking to replace European food on the Russian market, in what it is claiming is a move to promote international unity and compliance with international law.

The European Commission is now assessing the losses from Russia’s countersanctions in anticipation of a special meeting of 28 EU agriculture ministers to be held in September to discuss possible countermeasures.

Moscow has been warning Western countries for months that sanctions are counterproductive, and has said it will first and foremost strike back against countries imposing them.

According to Russian customs data, Western imports now affected by sanctions totaled $9.1 billion in 2013. The EU, with its $6.5 billion worth of now-sanctioned products, would suffer the most, with non-EU member Norway following, with $1.2 billion worth of mostly fish products. The other countries that joined the sanctions would lose less, as the US has a $843.8 million food trade turnover with Russia. Canada’s bilateral trade is $373.6 million and Australian agricultural exports to Russia were estimated at $182 million.

Russia bans agricultural products from EU, USA, Australia, Norway, Canada

Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree on the full ban for imports of beef, pork, poultry meat, fish, cheese, milk, vegetables and fruit from Australia, Canada, the EU, the US and Norway.

The ban will last a year, starting August 7.

READ MORE: Putin bans agricultural imports from sanctioning countries for 1 year

The Prime Minister also said Russia has stopped transit flights by Ukrainian airlines to such destinations as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey, adding that the country was considering a ban of transit flights for European and US Airlines to the Asia-Pacific region.

Western sanctions were a “dead-end track”, but Russia has been forced to respond to the measures taken by the western countries, Medvedev added.

Alcohol imports from both the EU and the US will not be restricted.

“We are actually speaking of an embargo on imports of whole categories of products from countries which have introduced sanctions against Russian organizations and individuals,” Medvedev said.

Dmitry Medvedev instructed the Federal Customs Service (FCS) to see that the banned imports could not cross the Russian border.

The Russian PM has also warned against possible attempts to use the situation to drive up prices.

“I would like to warn that attempts to gain from price speculation in this situation will be roughly stopped,” Medvedev said.

The Russian PM added that Moscow still had a lot of trading partners abroad, which it had not placed on the retaliatory sanctions list.

Russia’s agricultural watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor has announced plans to increase imports from Chile, which could include vegetables, fruit, fish, shellfish, meat and milk.

“Imports of fish, which last year amounted to 53,000 tons, may grow two or three times. Shellfish imports might increase from 3,000 tons to 15,000-20,000 tons,” the watchdog said in a statement.

Medvedev said he sincerely hoped”our partners’ economic pragmatism will prevail over bad political decisions, and they will think before trying to frighten Russia and impose restrictions on it. And mutual trade and economic partnership will be restored in the volumes which existed before. We would have liked that to happen.”

In 2013, Russia imported $6.7 billion of meat and meat products in total. The largest suppliers came from now-banned countries like Denmark (6.6% of total Russian meat products), Germany (6.4%), USA (5.3%), and Canada (3.8%).

Reuters / Ilya NaymushinReuters / Ilya Naymushin

Unique opportunity
Medvedev believes the year-long embargo Russia is imposing will boost domestic agriculture. He acknowledged that Russian farmers would have to come a long way, but said it was a unique opportunity to develop facilities to substitute for imports.

“We are only lagging behind in production of certain varieties of meat and milk. We have to catch up and our farmers are ready to do so, especially if we help them.”

Triggered by the ban, Russia’s domestic production of agricultural products could grow by about $10.8 billion in the next 18 months, Russian Agriculture Minister Nikolay Fyodorov, told ITAR–TASS.

The Governor of the Krasnodar Region, Aleksandr Tkachev has been quick to react to the news by saying farmers in the region will use the chance to replace imported goods with their own produce.

“I have spoken to the heads of agricultural enterprises, concerning the presidential decree on the ban of imports of Western agricultural goods,” Tkachev said, as cited by ITAR-TASS. “The mood is on the whole optimistic. Krasnodar farmers have received a strong stimulus to use all of their potential.”

Krasnodar is already a big agricultural player in Russia. The region is the third biggest producer of meat and eggs in the country and the fourth biggest producer of milk.

The Astrakhan Region in Russia’s south also said it was ready to increase agricultural production by 20–25 percent next year.

“There’s a real possibility that all the low quality goods, which have been imported, will not appear on the Russian market again. The country’s agriculture is now being given a historic chance for a breakthrough, to increase production, the variety of goods, and to improve processing technology,” the Governor of the Astrakhan Region Aleksandr Zhilkin, told ITAR-TASS.

Banning certain imports from the West will provide “historic opportunities” for Russia’s more distant territories in the Ural Mountains and in the Far East.

“Russia is the richest country in the world and has unique marine resources that unfortunately go abroad. However, the demand for these products on the international market are very high,” Irina Yarovaya, a Duma member from Kamchatka, said.

The new rule will help Russia develop its agriculture sector and make it easier for Russian farmers to market their products, Igor Rudensky, head of the Duma Committee on Economic Policy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship said.

HAMAS FIRES ROCKETS ON ISRAEL, ENDING 12-HOUR LULL

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BY KARIN LAUB AND IAN DEITCH
ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas said it fired five rockets at Israel late Saturday after rejecting Israel’s offer to extend a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire by four hours, casting new doubt on international efforts to broker an end to 19 days of fighting.

Hamas said two of the rockets were aimed at Tel Aviv. Police in Israel’s second-largest city dispersed a peace rally attended by several thousand people because of the threat, a spokesman said.

In Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers met earlier Saturday to find ways to transform Saturday’s initial 12-hour lull into a sustainable truce.

In Gaza, thousands of residents who fled the violence streamed back to devastated border areas during the cease-fire to find large-scale destruction: fighting had pulverized scores of homes, wreckage blocked roads and power cables dangled in the streets.

In the northern town of Beit Hanoun, Siham Kafarneh, 37, sat on the steps of a small grocery, weeping. The mother of eight said the home she had spent 10 years saving up for and moved into two months earlier had been destroyed.

“Nothing is left. Everything I have is gone,” she said.

More than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed and more than 6,000 have been wounded over the past 19 days, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.

Across Gaza, more than 130 bodies were pulled from the rubble Saturday, officials said. In southern Gaza, 20 members of an extended family were killed before the start of the lull when a tank shell hit a building where they had sought refuge, al-Kidra said.

Israel says it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, including sending evacuation warnings to residents in targeted areas, and blames Hamas for putting civilians in harm’s way. Israel has lost 40 soldiers and two civilians, and a Thai worker also has been killed.

“There is no proof that any kind of gratuitous damage is being inflicted,” said Israeli legislator Ofer Shelah of the centrist Yesh Atid party. Israeli troops are “fighting with an enemy dug in within the civilian population, dug in underground or within the houses there,” he said, adding that “those are the consequences of such a fight.”

Israel launched a major air campaign in Gaza on July 8 and later sent ground troops into the Hamas-ruled territory in an operation it said was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire and destroying cross-border tunnels used for attacks.

Later Saturday, Israel decided to extend the 12-hour lull by four more hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Saturday. However, Israel set its own terms for the extended truce, saying it would continue to demolish Hamas military tunnels.

The Israeli military said that through Saturday’s lull, troops uncovered four more tunnel shafts.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri later said that the group rejected the four-hour extension. Shortly after that, Hamas claimed responsibility for firing five rockets at Israel, including two at Tel Aviv. The Israeli military said three rockets fell in southern Israel.

Al-Kidra said that a 36-year-old Palestinian man was killed by a sniper near the central Gaza town of Deir el-Balah shortly after the 12-hour truce ended.

In Paris, Kerry met with European foreign ministers and later with foreign ministers from Qatar and Turkey to try to salvage truce efforts.

On Friday, Israel rejected a proposal by Kerry and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to halt fire for a week and to begin talks during this period on easing the border blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Hamas has said it would not halt fire until it won guarantees that the border blockade, enforced by Israel and Egypt, would be lifted.

Any new border arrangements for Gaza would likely give a role to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the main political rival of Hamas.

Hamas had seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, triggering the Gaza blockade by Israel and Egypt. However, Abbas, who heads the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, reached a power-sharing deal earlier this year with Hamas. Under the deal, a government of technocrats headed by Abbas was to prepare for new elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

Egypt wants forces loyal to Abbas to be posted on the Gaza side of the mutual border before considering open the Rafah crossing there, Gaza’s main gate to the world.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris that he and his counterparts from other nations are calling on both sides to negotiate a sustainable cease-fire.

Such a truce should meet Israeli security concerns, but also “the Palestinians’ expectations in terms of economic development and access to Gaza,” he said. “We are convinced of the need to involve the Palestinian Authority in achieving these objectives.”