OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The al-Aqsa Mosque is only for Muslims, the Imam (Preacher) of the al-Aqsa, Sheikh Youssef Abu Sneineh, said as over 45,000 Muslim worshipers gathered for Friday prayers at the Mosque. Sheikh Abu Sneineh reiterated Muslims’ firm rebuff of Israel’s interference in reconstruction works at al-Aqsa and in the affairs of the Islamic Awqaf (Endowment) department in Occupied Jerusalem. The Imam called for intensifying presence at al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock in response to Israel’s arbitrary measures against Muslim worshipers. “Enough is enough!” Sheikh Abu Sneineh told the Israelis. “Jerusalemites will never forfeit a single inch of their holy city, land, and places of worship. You’d better stop playing with fire.” He urged the Israeli occupation authorities to release the bodies of slain Palestinian youths. He further called for keeping to the morals of peace and compassion advocated by the Islamic faith and for healing the national rift once and for all. Sheikh Abu Sneineh’s sermon was released in the presence of 45,000 Muslim worshipers who flocked to Occupied Jerusalem to perform noon prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque. Tight security measures were, meanwhile, imposed by the Israeli occupation intelligence across Occupied Jerusalem and around the al-Aqsa. A few hours earlier, an abrupt sweep launched across Occupied Jerusalem culminated in the abduction of 18 Palestinian youths and the closure of the main entrances to the Old City under the pretext of an anti-occupation stabbing attempt at 3 a.m. Israeli occupation policemen also wreaked havoc on civilian homes at the crack of dawn, at the same time as Israel’s alleged temple mount organizations had called for mass break-ins at the al-Aqsa on Sunday to mark the so-called destruction of the temple anniversary.
A general view during a plenary session at the Assembly of People’s Representatives in Tunis, Tunisia, July 30, 2016
Tunisia’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs submitted to parliament in mid-July a new draft law on the elimination of violence against women. Article 2 of the draft law extends to “all forms of gender-based violence directed against women by any perpetrator, whatever form it takes, without discrimination on the basis of birth, color, race, religion, thought, age, nationality, socio-economic conditions, civil status, health, language or disability.”
Under the draft law, punishment may extend to two years of imprisonment with a fine of 5,000 Tunisian dinars (roughly $2,300) against perpetrators of sexual harassment crimes. Article 16 of the draft law stipulates, “Whoever harasses women in a public place, be it through verbal or nonverbal behavior, or remarks that would offend them, shall be imprisoned for one year.”
The draft law has caused a wave of sarcasm on social media with people posting pictures and jokes on what might happen after the law is passed. Some joked that a simple look or smile at a woman on the street may lead the man to jail, while others posted a sarcastic picture of a baby who looked at a women before ending up in a correctional facility.
The new articles of this bill have tightened sanctions against the perpetrators of violence and harassment acts against women, compared to the Tunisian Penal Code’s provisions in force. Some of these provisions will be abolished under the bill in case it is ratified by parliament, such as Article 266 of the Penal Code that stipulates that sexual harassment crimes are punishable with a year of imprisonment and a fine of 3,000 dinars ($1,350).
The tight sanctions came in light of the alarming figures in regard to violence against women in Tunisia.
In March, the Center for Research, Studies Documentation and Information on Women revealed in a study titled “Gender-based violence in public spaces” that 53% of women in the study were subjected to violence in public places. The study, which was conducted between 2012 and 2015, said that 41% of the women questioned experienced physical violence in public places, while 75% of the women in the study were subjected to sexual violence in public places such as on the street or in the workplace.
The new bill defines violence against women as “any gender-based physical, mental, sexual or economic [abusive] act against women, causing them physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, including the threat of resorting to such acts, exerting pressure on them or denying them their rights and freedoms, whether in public life or in private.”
The controversy and sarcasm — which were centered on the tightened sanctions for harassment crimes — overshadowed the fact that the law is a big push for women to have access to advanced social and economic posts, by promoting gender equality and criminalizing all types of discrimination.
Article 3 of the draft law criminalizes economic abuse and defines it as “any action or abstinence from acting that would deprive women of economic resources, such as depriving them of money, income or vital needs, controlling their wages or income, and prohibiting or forcing them to work.” The same article also criminalizes “any distinction, exclusion or restriction denying women their human rights and freedoms on the basis of equality in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural domains.”
Women in Tunisia have faced great difficulties in the employment domain, as they have suffered from wage discrimination and have been paid less than men for doing the same work, especially in the private sector. Article 11 of the Public Employment Law of 1983 regulating jobs in the public sector prohibits any form of discrimination between men and women.
Law expert Mazen Korshide told Al-Monitor, “The Labor Code regulates employment in the private sector. Article 5 of said law prohibits any gender-based discrimination in general. Yet it does not clearly specify that men and women should receive equal pay. The law remains a theoretical text, which explains why some institutions violate laws and pay women less than men.”
A study published in March on the violation of women’s rights in the private agricultural sector, which was conducted by the Tunisian Association for Cultural Action, revealed that 99% of women do not receive equal pay as men for doing the same job. The study focused on Sidi Bouzid, in central Tunisia, and revealed that the economic and social rights of women working in the agricultural sector there are being violated.
According to the same study, 36% of participating women who work in the agriculture sector said that their job poses a risk to their health due to the exposure to sunlight, and that they were subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace. Such discrimination is contrary to Article 20 of the 2014 constitution, which stipulates that “citizens, male and female, have equal rights and duties, and are equal before the law without any discrimination.”
Article 46 of the constitution states, “The state is committed to protect women’s accrued rights and work to strengthen and develop those rights. The state guarantees the equality of opportunities between women and men to have access to all levels of responsibility in all domains.” In 2014, Tunisia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Nevertheless, the challenge facing the draft law once ratified by parliament is to what extent the legal text will help improve the status of women in reality, especially those new articles criminalizing harassment and violent crimes and prohibiting any form of discrimination against women in the workplace.
For her part, activist Fatma Riahi told Al-Monitor, “When reporting crimes of violence and sexual harassment, women will face family, social and even police pressure. Unfortunately in many cases victims are viewed as guilty and responsible for the harassment they were subjected to, because of the way they are dressed or the way they conduct themselves. Many victims choose not to resort to the judiciary out of fear of being placed under such pressure. This is why awareness of their rights should be raised so as to prompt victims to unveil such crimes, because silence, warding off the scandals and impunity come to the advantage of the perpetrators of violence and harassment crimes.”
Many laws and government actions in Tunisia are not in line with the 2014 constitution, and so this requires the ratification of laws guaranteeing gender equality in the various fields and preventing discrimination against women. For instance, women and men do not have an equal share in inheritance, as a man equals two women under Tunisia’s Personal Status Code. Despite the feminists’ calls to amend these laws, the legislative branch is preoccupied with the vote of confidence on the new government, countering terrorism and addressing the economic crisis.
Palestinian supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir take part in a rally calling for Khilafah, or Islamic rule, in Gaza City, June 5, 2013
Many of the ideological concepts and doctrines of Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) and the Islamic State (IS) are similar. They both believe in the goal of establishing Islamic caliphate rule and in the strict interpretation of Islamic law. The two groups differ, however, in one major respect: Hizb ut-Tahrir stands categorically against the use of violence and military means to realize its ideals.
“We are against any use of material means to accomplish our goals,” Musab Abu Arqoub, a Palestinian Hizb ut-Tahrir leader, told Al-Monitor by phone from the town of Dura, in the Hebron district.
Abu Arqoub, a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s media office, said that the 63-year-old Islamist party, founded by Palestinian judge Taqudin al-Nabahani in 1953, does not consider the liberation of Palestine its central cause. “Our central, existential cause is the re-establishment of the caliphate, and after that we would work for the liberation of Palestine as well as ridding the Muslim world of the pro-Western regimes that are ruling them.”
With Hizb ut-Tahrir opposed to using violent means to accomplish its goals, the Israelis have over the years largely left the movement alone. The same is true of the Palestinian government, which allowed the group to organize rallies in major West Bank cities this year to commemorate the 93rd anniversary of the fall of the caliphate in Istanbul, in 1923. After the death of Prophet Muhammad, various men have been declared caliph, giving them near absolute power in overseeing the Islamic nation. With the demise of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, the era of successive caliphs came to a close.
A doctor and an ideologue, Abu Arqoub said that Hizb ut-Tahrir has been consistent in its ideas and methodology since its establishment. “We have not changed,” Abu Arqoub said. “We try to persuade people about our ideas, which are focused on the need to bring back rule by the caliph. Our methodology is simply to convince people of our ideas.”
Abu Arqoub belittled recent Israeli threats to declare Hizb ut-Tahrir an illegal organization. “We are part of an international movement, and anyway, we do not recognize them,” he said. The spokesman did not say the word “Israel,” insisting on referring to it as the “Jewish entity.” He blamed the latest Israeli effort to declare Hizb ut-Tahrir an illegal organization on a “campaign led by the United States and Russia to brand the party a terrorist organization.”
Israeli Security Minister Gilad Erdan attempted on Aug. 8 to justify moving against Hizb ut-Tahrir by claiming that its members carried out violent acts against Israel, but did not provide any details. Abu Arqoub rejected the accusations. Erdan also justified taking action against the party by attempting to put it in the same category as the violent IS.
“It makes no sense to allow a group whose ideology is similar to that of IS to operate in Israel,” Erdan told the Israeli Channel 10. “I intend to do everything in my power to outlaw this organization.” Hizb ut-Tahrir has regularly and consistently rejected IS in public statements, speeches and rallies, asserting that the conditions for caliphate rule have not been established. They also vehemently rejected IS’ methodology, saying it is contrary to Islam.
Government and political sources who follow Hizb ut-Tahrir in Jerusalem and Jordan, where it is outlawed, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that they believe its activists were responsible for the protest that stopped Jordanian judge Ahmad Hleil from delivering a Friday sermon at Al-Aqsa Mosque in May 2015. The official had been invited to speak at the mosque, but was forced to abandon his speaking role because of protests by worshippers.
The sources also think the party’s supporters are responsible for thwarting Jordanian efforts to install cameras on Haram al-Sharif. Abu Arqoub strongly denied the allegations against his movement’s supporters.
“What happened at Al-Aqsa to the Jordanian official is a normal act by Muslims, but it was not an act by Hizb ut-Tahrir,” he insisted. “Our efforts are restricted to political and ideological issues, not the use of any material [means] to enforce our idea.”
That Israel and the Palestinian government have tolerated the movement for years is perhaps the best proof that Hizb ut-Tahrir is not a terrorist organization and does not call on its members to carry out violent acts. In fact, Hizb ut-Tahrir is often criticized for not doing anything except talk against Israel.
The Israeli military has not considered the movement to be harmful for 50 years, so it is difficult to believe that the party has suddenly become dangerous while its leaders continue to insist that the group continues to act only in a civil manner. Declaring Hizb ut-Tahrir an illegal terrorist organization at this time will certainly not bring an end to the movement, but it might make it more popular than it is today.
‘We feel like the world doesn’t care anymore. The world just wants to see these people die,’ says British aid worker in bomb-damaged hospital
Tauqir Sharif appeals to the world via a camera phone
An British aid worker in Syria on Saturday issued an impassioned plea for help from the international community as he described how a hospital in besieged eastern Aleppo in which he said he had spent the night had been hit by multiple air strikes.
Tauqir Sharif, who has been based in rebel-controlled northern Syria since 2012 and runs the Live Updates from Syria aid operation, said that the hospital had been struck four times on Saturday morning.
In a video message recorded on a mobile phone and posted on Twitter, Sharif warned of a potential health crisis as a result of the strikes.
“We need the whole world to understand that we are in a hospital in Aleppo city – right now we are being hit, this is a civilian population,” he explained, adding that the strikes hit the generator and smashed all the windows:
“We feel like the world doesn’t even care anymore. The world just wants to see these people die.”
As the video ends, he despaired of the lack of help from foreign powers.
“I feel like there’s not even a point of speaking to the camera anymore – just turn it off.”
The video does not make clear which hospital it was filmed in, but Sharif and other volunteers with Live Updates from Syria have run several convoys of aid into eastern Aleppo in recent months, despite efforts by pro-government forces to cut off supply routes into rebel-held areas of the city.
Attacks on hospitals by Syrian government and Russian planes have been commonplace throughout the civil war and have brought strong condemnation from the international community.
Aids groups have described July as one of the worst months for attacks on health facilities since the war began in 2011, with around 43 facilities either partially or totally destroyed.
On Friday, Russian air strikes hit a children’s hospital in northern rural Aleppo, killing at least two members of staff and rendering it out of service.
According to the Syria Live Network, many patients and workers were left injured and buried in the rubble of the hospital in Kafr Hamra.
Constant bombardment of medical facilities and the continuing exodus of people from Syria has meant that there are few healthcare workers now left in the city, the country’s second largest.
On Thursday, 15 of the last 35 doctors left in rebel-held eastern Aleppo wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama urging him to intervene to stop the bombardment of hospitals.
“We do not need tears or sympathy or even prayers: we desperately need a zone free from bombing over eastern Aleppo to stop the attacks, and international action to ensure Aleppo is never besieged again,” the doctors wrote.
“For five years, we have faced death from above on a daily basis. But we now face death from all around. For five years, we have borne witness as countless patients, friends and colleagues suffered violent, tormented deaths. For five years, the world has stood by and remarked how ‘complicated’ Syria is, while doing little to protect us.”
Despite a promise on Wednesday by Russia of a three-hour daily break in fighting to allow humanitarian aid into the city, there has been little respite from the violence.
DOHA, (PIC)– Member of Hamas’s political bureau Mousa Abu Marzouk has said that the differences with the Fatah faction should not exceed their limits, affirming that his Movement’s intention to participate in the municipal election was no surprise to Fatah. “Regardless of the disagreement between Fatah and Hamas, we will not allow it to reach the level of animosity despite attempts by some people,” Abu Marzouk stated on his Twitter page. “Our sole enemy is the occupation and the political rivalry should not go beyond boundaries,” he added. The Hamas official emphasized that his Movement seeks to serve its people through its participation in the municipal election, pointing out that he told senior Fatah officials about his Movement’s intention to participate in the election on condition of fairness and equal opportunity.
‘There’s no clear-cut moment the war is launched, it just gradually expands,’ noted one media analyst, who also noted that the mainstream media has largely ignored the expansion of the war on ISIS.
A photo from 2011 shows buildings ravaged by fighting in Sirte, Libya. Islamic State militants have controlled the city since August 2015. The U.S. military has announced ongoing airstrikes against targets in Sirte, and other Libyan cities
WASHINGTON — With little fanfare and minimal media attention, the United States recently began bombing yet another country, further expanding a fight against terrorism that has no clear end in sight.
Special forces ground troops, deployed by the U.S. and its Western allies, are also present in Libya. On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that a “small number” of U.S. and British ground forces are present in Libya, where they are coordinating air strikes and assisting the GNA troops.
Libya is now the fourth front in the American war against Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the terrorist group commonly known in the West as ISIS or ISIL), joining bombing campaigns and ground troops in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The expansion to Libya has been planned for months, according to The Intercept, and has no end in site. According to Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook, bombing “would continue as long as [the Libyan government] is requesting them,” and the campaign has no “end point at this particular moment in time.”
“The U.S. has long planned to spread its military campaign to Libya,” reported The Intercept’s Alex Emmons on Aug. 1. “In January, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the U.S. was preparing to take ‘decisive military action against ISIL’ in Libya.”
“The administration has argued that the 2001 AUMF applies to the war against ISIS, even though ISIS and al Qaeda are sworn enemies. Several members of Congress, including Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., have argued that the administration should seek congressional authorization to continue its war against ISIS. Such authorizations for the conflict have failed to gain traction in a divided Congress.”
But, he added, it’s not the first time the U.S. has ignored Congress when it comes to Libya:
“In 2011, the U.S. continued its Libyan campaign even after Congress rejected a resolution to authorize it. The White House even delivered a report to Congress that argued that the U.S.-led bombing campaign did not count as ‘hostilities’ under the War Powers Resolution. That resolution limits unauthorized conflicts to 180 days.”
The United States’ apparently endless “War on Terror” seems to have become so commonplace that the media hardly responds when it expands to new fronts, noted Adam H. Johnson, a media analyst from Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting.
“While the air strikes themselves were reported by most major outlets, they were done so in a matter-of-fact way, and only graced the front pages of major American newspapers for one day,” Johnson wrote in The Nation on Aug. 5. “The New York Times didn’t even find the news important enough to give it a front-page headline, instead relegating it to a quick blurb at the far-bottom corner of the page.”
Even alternative media seemed too distracted by the election to take much notice, Johnson added.
Johnson argued that, under President Barack Obama, the expansion of conflict has been made to seem “entirely banal” under what he calls the “frog in boiling water” method of warfare. “There’s no clear-cut moment the war is launched, it just gradually expands, and because media are driven by Hollywood narratives, they are victims to the absence of a clear first act,” he wrote.
He warned that, without public outcry, Obama’s wars are likely to continue to expand through the end of his presidency and beyond.
“This is the new normal, and it’s a new normal the press codifies every time it treats Obama’s ever-expanding war as dull and barely newsworthy,” Johnson concluded.
JENIN, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation army at dawn Saturday threatened to build a fence around Ya’bad town in Jenin if local young men continued to hurl stones at Israeli cars traveling on the nearby main road. Local sources told the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) that the Israeli army imposed a tight siege on the town on Friday evening before a large number of its troops stormed it at dawn today, amid intensive tear gas attacks. They added that several citizens suffered from inhaling tear gas inside their homes. During its campaign in the town, the occupation troops put up notices on the walls of some homes threatening to take harsh measures against Ya’bad residents if they did not prevent their children from stoning Israeli cars. The Israeli army also warned that it might surround the town with a fence if stone-throwing attacks persisted. According to the same sources, Israeli soldiers questioned and maltreated citizens in the town, with no reported arrests.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces reportedly detained at least four Palestinians and summoned another overnight Friday and early Saturday morning during military raids in the occupied West Bank.
In the southern West Bank, Israeli forces raided the headquarters of the Bethlehem district Zakat Committee at 4 a.m., destroying its doors and confiscating six computers as well as files containing information on orphans and the poor registered with the committee, Palestinian security sources said.
Located on Karkefeh street in central Bethlehem, the district’s Zakat Committee is among committees across the West Bank administered by the Palestinian Ministry of Religious Affairs to collect and utilize ‘zakat’, an Islamic tax, for the sponsorship of orphans and emergency assistance for poor families.According to Palestinian news agency Wafa, the Bethlehem office was most recently raided in Dec. 2015, when two safes and all documents were seized.
Also in Bethlehem overnight Friday, Israeli forces summoned a Palestinian for interrogation, identified by Wafa as Ala Awwad, who was reportedly ordered to appear before Israeli intelligence in the Gush Etzion detention and interrogation center.In the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, Israeli forces also detained three Palestinians after raiding and ransacking their homes in the village of Sair, east of Hebron city, according to Wafa.
The news agency identified the detainees as Abdul-Hadi Shalalda, Wahid Shalalda, and Munadel Shalalda.In Hebron city, Israeli forces also detained 27-year-old Khalil al-Jabari, 27, Wafa reported.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they were looking into reports of the raids.Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with a weekly average of 78 search and detention raids carried out since the start of 2016, and with 108 carried out just in the previous week, according to UN documentation.
Israeli forces commonly detain Palestinians during raids without evidence of any wrongdoing, subsequently sentencing the detainees for up to six-month renewable intervals without charge or trial and based on undisclosed evidence.
Israel appear to be increasing the use of solitary confinement against Palestinian child detainees to pressure them during interrogations. One 16-year-old boy spent 22 days in isolation.
“The practice of using solitary confinement on children, for any duration, is a clear violation of international law, as it amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and in some cases, torture,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP.
Children are confined in cells that barely fit a mattress while they undergo lengthy interrogations during which Israeli authorities attempt to extract confessions or more information on other people, according to DCIP.
“The cell was closed tightly and had no windows, except two ventilations gaps,” 17-year-old Rami K. told DCIP.
“The walls were gray, which hurt my eyes, and the surface was coarse, so I could not lean on them. The cell had a sink and a toilet, but the toilet had a nasty smell. The lights were on the entire time.”
Rami was held for 16 days in isolation while being interrogated. The interrogation was drawn out over hours, during which his wrists and ankles were bound to a metal chair.
Amit Heumann, the legal adviser to Israel’s UN mission, blamed Palestinians for Israel’s treatment of them.
“It is the responsibility of leaders everywhere to protect children at all costs, to protect them from the ravages of war and to shelter them in a protective environment, where children can thrive,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the Palestinians are failing at this most critical responsibility.”
“Instead of nourishing their youth with the dreams of a bright future, Palestinian children are fed a steady diet of hatred for Israel and glorification of violence in the lessons they learn in school, in the sermons they hear in the mosque and in the streets that are named after terrorists.”
Such debunked claims that “incitement” – rather than the reality of Israel’s military occupation – are to blame for violence, have long been a staple of Israeli government propaganda.
In its report, Human Rights Watch criticizes Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children under its occupation regime in the West Bank, where 500 to 700 children are brought before military tribunals annually, and an average of 220 children are held in prison each month.
But the line between Israeli civil and military law regarding children has become increasingly difficult to discern since violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli forces escalated in October 2015.
Last week, the Israeli parliament passed a new law allowing the imprisonment of children as young as 12.
Israel’s military regime in the occupied West Bank has always allowed the detention of 12-year-old Palestinians.
According to DCIP’s statistics, of the 440 Palestinian children in Israeli prison in February, 104 were between the ages of 12 and 15. This represents a four-fold increase from the number of young teens in prison prior to October 2015.
And though the law ostensibly applies to Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel alike, it was explicitly created to target Palestinians.
Imprisoning 12 and 13-year-olds will be permitted in cases where the child is convicted of so-called terrorism, a charge that almost exclusively applies to Palestinians.
“This law was born of necessity,” said Likud lawmaker Anat Berko, who proposed the measure. “We have been experiencing a wave of terror for quite some time. A society is allowed to protect itself. To those who are murdered with a knife in the heart it does not matter if the child is 12 or 15.”
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel warns that the Israeli parliament may soon allow life sentences for children under 14.
This is the latest amendment to Israel’s penal code that expands the criminal culpability of Palestinian children in order to allow harsher penalties.
Last year, the Israeli parliament imposed mandatory minimum sentencing and extended the maximum sentence on people who throw stones at traffic.
Israel also revived administrative detention against Palestinian children ostensibly living under Israeli civil law in the last year.