Egypt cancels gas deal with Israel

Egyptian energy companies, citing a trade dispute, have terminated a deal to supply Israel with natural gas in a step that may further erode bilateral ties strained by a popular revolt that toppled Egypt’s pro-Israeli leader last year.

An Israeli partner in the business made the step public on Sunday but an Egyptian firm said the decision to cancel the deal had been made on Thursday.

Israel, which relies on Egypt for 40 percent of its natural gas supply, worried about facing further energy cuts after a series of sabotage attacks on the pipeline running through the volatile Sinai peninsula contributed to shortages.

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz expressed “great concern” about the suspension, saying it had set “a dangerous precedent which casts a shadow on the peace agreements and the peaceful atmosphere between Egypt and Israel”.

Egypt was the first of two Arab countries to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.

The Egyptian decision was announced in Israel by Ampal-American Israel Corporation, partner in the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), which operates a cross-border pipeline supplying gas to Israel.

Ampal said the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company had told EMG they were “terminating the gas and purchase agreement”.

The company gave no reasons for the Egyptian decision but said legal redress was under consideration.

“EMG considers the termination attempt unlawful and in bad faith, and consequently demanded its withdrawal,” Ampal said in a written statement.

EGYPTIAN FIRM CONFIRMS DECISION

Mohamed Shoeib, chairman of the Egyptian company EGAS, confirmed the decision, saying the 20-year-old deal with Israel had been terminated on Thursday.

Shoeib told Egypt’s Hayat TV that “EGAS ended the deal because the other party didn’t fulfill its commitments”.

The Egyptian decision followed a dispute over damages caused by a series of blasts on the pipeline supplying Israel, via the Sinai desert region on its border where lawlessness has risen since President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011.

Explosions have caused extensive disruptions in service in the past year, and Israel has warned residents to expect electricity outages in high demand summer months, and that it needed to speed up efforts to seek alternative supply lines.

Ampal and two other companies have been seeking $8 billion in damages from Egypt for not safeguarding their investment against the pipeline blasts.

It said EMG “initiated arbitration” against EGPC and EGAS last October, accusing the Egyptian firms of a “longstanding failure to supply the gas quantities owed”.

Ampal said in its statement on Sunday that in light of the cancellation, EMG, Ampal and EMG’s other international shareholders were “considering their options and legal remedies as well as approaching the various governments” concerned.

Shoeib denied the decision bore any diplomatic significance.

“It is a trade dispute not a political issue,” he said.

Israel had to evacuate embassy staff in Cairo after riots there in September, an incident that highlighted threats to relations, though a new ambassador has since taken up residence in the Egyptian capital.

(www.reuters.com / 22.09.2012)

Palestinian dies of wounds he sustained 9 years ago

Palestinian dies of wounds he sustained 9 years ago

 

GAZA – A young Palestinian man died on Thursday evening of wounds he sustained nine years ago by occupation forces’ fire, after a long battle with his injuries.

Local sources said that the young Iyad Saeed Sheikh Khalil, 24, from al-Nasser neighborhood in Gaza City, died on Thursday of wounds sustained in April 9, 2003.

An Israeli military tank penetrated, on that date, into Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip and fired machine guns towards a number of school students seriously wounding Sheikh Khalil with a bullet penetrating his spinal cord resulting in hemiplegia.

Sheikh Khalil had been transferred between several hospitals; in Gaza, the West Bank, the territories occupied in 1948, Egypt and Jordan.

Several days ago, Sheikh Khalil was transferred to the hospital after his health condition worsened, where he died Thursday evening.

(www.qassam.ps / 22.09.2012)

Farwana: 4500 Prisoners in Israeli Jails including Women and Minors

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Friday 21st September, Abdul Nasser Farwana, a researcher in prisoners’ affairs and a released prisoner, said that in Israeli prisons there are around 4500 prisoners in 17 prisons and detention centres such as: Nafha, Rimon , Shata, Jalbou’, Eshel, Ashkalon, Hasharon, Hadarim, al-Ramlah, the Negev, Ofer and Majedu.

He also said that among the prisoners there are 198 minors inside prisons, who are subjected to all kinds of torture. There also seven female prisoners and on top of them the prisoner Lina al-Jarbouni who has been in prison for 10 years. Inside prisons, there are 215 administrative detainees who were detained without any trial or charge, 14 deputies, ex-ministers and a number of political, academic and professional leaders.

Farwana revealed that there are hundreds of sick prisoners who suffer from physical and psychological diseases, dozens suffer chronic diseases and their health condition deteriorated in light of medical negligence policy by the Israeli prison Service (IPS). These prisoners are in need for an immediate intervention to save their lives.

Farwana also revealed that there are 20 Arab prisoners from different nationalities including Jordan, Syria and Egypt, some of them are detained for more than 10 years.

Farwana added that 530 prisoners spent life sentences in prison, and there are 21 prisoners who spent in jails more than 25 years.

Farwana condemned the Israeli authority for the huge violations and crimes committed against prisoners, and he called on institutions to activate the case of prisoners on all levels and support them.

(english.pnn.ps / 22.09.2012)

Quartet action needed to keep Palestinian villages on the map

Palestinians facing eviction, Al Fakheet, Hebron. Credit: David Levene/Oxfam
Yasser and Hajah, like many families in Hebron hills, are facing eviction

Quartet action needed to keep Palestinian villages on the map

“The families we work with are terrified that any day they could lose their homes.”
David White
Country Director for CARE International

Demolitions have tripled in three years, with villages in Hebron Hills now under threat

The government of Israel’s eviction and demolition plans for 13 Palestinian villages in the Hebron Hills [1] come as demolition and displacement rates have hit a three-year high, adding to the uncertainty about the future for Palestinians living in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank, a group of 30 aid, development, and human rights organizations warned today.

The communities are targeted for demolition or expulsion from the area as the government of Israel plans to use the land for the expansion of an Israeli settlement and to create a closed military zone [2].

The organizations are calling on the Middle East Quartet, who will be meeting informally on Monday, 24 September in New York, to visit the affected communities and address the violations that are happening on the ground. The agencies said the Quartet needs to move beyond words and deliver a concrete plan of action that keeps Palestinian families in their homes while working to ensure all parties are meeting their obligations under international law. The Quartet’s plan must, therefore, press the government of Israel to immediately reverse policies and practices that violate international human rights and humanitarian law and lead to forced evictions, forced displacement, and demolitions in Area C.

Multiple warnings

Nishant Pandey, Country Director for Oxfam said:

“The Quartet has issued 39 statements condemning the government of Israel’s violations of international law, yet the number of people displaced by unlawful demolition of Palestinian homes continues to increase at an unprecedented rate. Words have so far failed to bring meaningful change to people’s lives and the Quartet must now show Palestinians and Israelis that it is committed to working towards a just, durable peace.”

The demolition and eviction plan for the Hebron Hills would leave 1,650 Palestinians homeless [3], without access to the land they need for farming and raising animals to feed their families. Many of them are already living in substandard conditions because of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian building in Area C.

Respecting human rights

Ann Harrison, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director for Amnesty International said:

“The Quartet must face the facts on the ground in the occupied West Bank: escalating demolitions and whole villages threatened with forced eviction. Ensuring respect for international human rights and humanitarian law should be the cornerstone of the Quartet’s work. Only if it confronts these ongoing violations head on can the Quartet contribute to a just and sustainable solution.”

The threat to villages in the Hebron Hills comes as new figures reveal that the rate of demolitions has tripled in the past three years, with the average number of people displaced increasing 98 percent during this same time [4].

Demolitions must end

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said:

“It’s time for the Quartet to stop the euphemisms: Israel’s demolitions of Palestinian homes and other structures without military necessity violate its obligations as an occupying power. The Quartet should press the government of Israel to end these violations immediately.”

The agencies said that the increasing concerns of Palestinians in areas which they were working with had prompted them to speak out now. Oxfam has recently had a mobile veterinary unit impounded in the area and was given notice that it is not permitted to enter the villages where it is working to help 148 families earn a decent living raising goats and sheep. A number of other agencies have received demolition or stop work orders for aid projects in the villages.

David White, Country Director for CARE International said:

The families we work with are terrified that any day they could lose their homes and the health clinic provided by CARE International. Tomorrow they could wake up and everything they have worked their entire lives to build could be gone. We are providing people with essential health services, but no amount of humanitarian or development assistance can help people overcome this feeling of despair. The Quartet needs to put forth a plan of action that brings the security people desperately need to lead a dignified life.”

Related links

3 facts about Israeli settlements and their impact on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley

Oxfam’s response in the Gaza crisis

(www.oxfam.org / 22.09.2012)

Hamas condemns UN Jewish refugee conference

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to add compensation for Jews who came from Arab and Muslim countries as a condition for any future peace deal, Israeli media says.

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Hamas on Saturday denounced a Israel-backed UN conference to discuss claims that Jews who used to live in Arab countries were forcibly expelled.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that “those Jews were not refugees as they claim. They were actually responsible for the displacement of the Palestinian people after they secretly migrated from Arab countries to Palestine before they expelled the Palestinians from their lands to build a Jewish state at their expense.”

He added: “Those Jews are criminals rather than refugees. They are the ones who turned the Palestinian people into refugees, and for that reason, the Hamas movement views this conference as a dangerous, unprecedented move which contributes to the falsification of history and reversing of facts.”

The conference, to discuss recognizing as refugees Middle Eastern Jews who immigrated, was denounced by Arab envoys at the UN who lodged unsuccessful protests to call it off.

But Israeli leaders considered it a victory for a population that is increasingly being linked to the peace process with the Palestinians.

“Between the walls of the UN we are starting to bring justice to the Jewish refugees who were tortured, persecuted and driven away, and whose rights were revoked,” said Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, according to Israeli media.

“We are 64 years late, but it’s never too late to bring justice and discuss the historic facts.”

Hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern Jews left predominantly Arab countries amid growing hostility following the establishment of Israel in the late 1940s.

Israel had also drafted a “Law of Return” that granted instant citizenship to anyone who can claim Jewish lineage. Most immigrants had no modern ties to the land.

At the same time, over 700,000 Palestinians were driven from or fled historic Palestine and today make up the largest refugee population on earth.

Israeli media reported a week earlier that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was preparing to add compensations for Jews who came from Arab and Muslim countries as a condition for any future peace deal.

PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said in response that there was no connection between Palestinian refugees and Israelis whose families are from Arab countries, but he supported their right of return.

“We are not against any Jew who wants to return to Morocco, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere. I believe no Arab state rejects the Jewish right of returning to their native lands,” he said.

(www.maannews.net / 22.09.2012)

Nile University students protest downtown

Dozens of Nile University students staged a protest at the Journalists Syndicate in downtown Cairo Saturday demanding the return of their facilities currently being used by Zewail City of Science and Technology.

The protesters raised banners accusing Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail of serving “Israeli and American interests.” Some of the students’ parents were also present at the protest.

Mostafa Shamaa, one of the protesting students, told Al-Masry Al-Youm, “The government failed to offer solution [to the conflict], then it went to arrest us in an illicit way.” He added that students will continue protesting until they get back their campus.

Minister of Higher Education Mostafa al-Sayed Mossad said Tuesday that a proposed solution to the conflict between Nile University and Zewail City of Science and Technology includes granting the university new buildings.

A committee including members of the ministries of Higher Education, Housing and Urban Development and Justice has suggested giving the university new facilities instead. The proposed buildings in 6th of October City have all the utilities that a scientific institution would need, Mossad said.

However Shamaa said the proposed buildings is not appropriate even for a high school. “How would it be a place for scientific research?” he asked.

Since late August, Nile University students have been protesting the public prosecutor’s decision to hand the campus over to Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail. The demonstrators claimed that the Nile University administration had paid LE62 million for the right to use the campus for 99 years, and demanded that their campus remain in Zewail City and that they be allowed to use its laboratories and facilities.

Security officers forcibly broke up a sit-in on Monday held by Nile University students at the Zewail City of Science and Technology campus, arresting five of the demonstrators.

On Tuesday morning, the students returned to their sit-in outside the campus. Mariam Ibrahim, one of the protesting students, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that they wouldn’t end their demonstration until their facilities and buildings are returned to the university.

(www.egyptindependent.com / 22.09.2012)

UK Muslim protesters hit French embassy

British Muslims have held a rally outside the French embassy in London in protest to the sacrilegious portrayal of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The protesters who shouted slogans against the magazine condemned its offensive move and called for those responsible for insulting Islam’s prophet to be put on trial.

The demonstrators were especially angry about the western hypocrisy concerning freedom of speech as France has banned related rallies by Muslims while allowing the publishers of the cartoons go unpunished citing freedom of speech.

The protesters also drew parallels between a French court ban on the publication of nude pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton by a French magazine and the courts’ refusal to ban the holy prophet’s cartoons as yet another sign that the western governments’ talk of democracy is no more than hypocrisy.

“This is not acceptable. This is not freedom of speech. We want the French government to take action against the people who have done this,” AFP quoted a protester named Untuaz Ahmad as saying.

The insulting cartoons have triggered worldwide condemnation from Muslims.

Islamic world’s outrage has been fueled by the fact that the cartoons were published within days of an offensive US-made film about Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) that triggered days of huge demonstrations across the Muslim world as well as in non-Muslim countries like Australia, Britain, the United States, France and Belgium, among others.

(www.presstv.ir / 22.09.2012)

Rebel group ‘moves command centre to Syria’

FSA commander says shift from Turkish territory in preparation for offensive as clashes are reported near Jordan border.
Syria’s main rebel group says it is moving its command centre from the Turkish border into Syria itself in preparation of an offensive against President Bashar al-Assad’s troops in Damascus.

Riyad al-Asaad, commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), announced the move on Saturday in a video message from Syria, the first since the group founded its command centre in Turkey at the beginning of the 19-month conflict.

“To the Syrian people, its freedom fighters and all the armed factions, we are glad to let you know that the leadership of the FSA has moved into Syria following arrangements made with other brigades that included securing liberated areas with the hope of launching the offensive on Damascus,” Asaad said.

He said the FSA has felt pressure by the international community to take a leading role in post-war Syria. Asaad said the FSA rejected those offers, reiterating that the people of Syria should decide the future of the country.

 

“Since we left our country we suffered all sorts of regional and international interference and political pressure, we were isolated. Their goal was to have the FSA replace Assad once he is gone, but we categorically made it clear that we would never betray our people reiterating that only the Syrians should decide their future institutions.”

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Akcakale on the Turkey-Syria border, said the rebels have been cautiously edging forward, taking territory 5km inside Syria.

“The move of the command centre is not necessarily a massive breakthrough because the FSA is still very much dependent on Turkey for its supply lines,” he said.

‘Border clashes’

In Saturday’s other developments, Syrian government troops and rebels clashed near a border crossing with Jordan, opposition activists said.

 

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra talks about rivalries within the Free Syrian Army

The fighting, accompanied by heavy shelling from government troops, raged on Saturday near the busy Al-Nasib border crossing located on a highway linking the Syrian and Jordanian capitals, according to the activists.

Egyptian Middle East News Agency (MENA) quoted a high-ranking Jordanian official as denying the reports about clashes between Jordanian and Syrian armies.

The official confirmed that Jordanian soldiers shot in the air to distract the Syrian soldiers from chasing refugees during their attempts to cross the border.

Meanwhile, a witness told Reuters news agency that rebel fighters shot down a fighter jet as it flew over the northern town of Atarib in Idlib province.

The witness, an independent journalist who asked to remain anonymous, said rebel fighters were attacking a military base near the town when the jet flew over and rebels shot it down with anti-aircraft guns.

Vastly outgunned, rebels say they need surface-to-air missiles to take down fighter jets and helicopters used by the Syrian military to bombard opposition strongholds.

Anti-aircraft guns

Fighters use outdated anti-aircraft machine guns that are welded to pickup vehicles but they are inaccurate and useless if the military aircraft fly above a certain altitude.

On August 27 fighters shot down a helicopter on the outskirts of Damascus and three days later rebels said they had brought down a jet in Idlib, near the Turkish border.

Elsewhere in Syria, activists said government jets bombarded areas in Yabroud, near the capital Damascus, and pro-rebel districts in the embattled northern city of Aleppo.

In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

Al Jazeera’s Nacer El-Bedri reporting from Aleppo said the attack by one of the main brigades of the Free Syrian Army took place around 6am, local time on the western side of Aleppo.

“The attack took place against the regiment 46 which is one of the last outpost regiments based in the city pf the
Aleppo, which is one of the elite, special forces.

“They surrounded the base and they attacked it by RPJ – by morter, and the Syrian Free Army claim that they managed to overrun and take control of the base.

“The information that we have is that they have managed to inflict heavy damage onto on the outpost and surrounding check points, but we have no confirmation that they have been able to outrun it,” said our correspondent.

Independent verification of reports out of Syria is constrained by media restrictions imposed by the government in Damascus.

At least 150 people, mainly near Damascus and Aleppo, were killed across Syria on Friday, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Also on Friday, Iraq has barred a North Korean aircraft from using its airspace on suspicion it was carrying weapons for Syria, regional media reported.

Earlier this week, US officials accused Iraq of allowing Iran to fly arms to Syria using the Iraqi airspace, a charge denied by the Baghdad government. North Korea and Iran are allies of Assad.

Activists say more than 27,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the uprising in Syria, which began with peaceful street protests that provoked a military crackdown and mushroomed into civil war.

Despite calling for Assad to step down, the West is wary of arming disparate rebel groups.

(www.aljazeera.com / 22.09.2012)

Hamas: 120 members detained in West Bank in days

Hamas said 120 party members had been arrested or summoned to report to security services since Wednesday.

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Hamas said on Saturday that security services in the West Bank have continued to round up their members, after a spate of arrests on Wednesday was criticized by human rights groups.

A Hamas statement said 120 party members had been arrested or summoned to report to security services since Wednesday.

It said detainees are from Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, Askar refugee camp in Nablus, Jerusalem-area village Qatanna and Qalqiliya.

On Wednesday, Hamas and Palestinian rights group said around 60 people were detained overnight.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned the campaign and called on the Palestinian government in Ramallah to fully comply with the law and stop political arrests.

Palestinian Authority security services spokesman Adnan Dmeiri said Thursday the arrests were conducted legally and not based on the detainees’ political views. He said Hamas was exaggerating the number of arrests, but did not provide alternative figures.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in a brief civil war in 2007, ushering in a half decade of rivalry with Fatah-dominated authorities in the West Bank. Both sides accuse regularly each other of politically-motivated arrests.

(www.maannews.net / 22.09.2012)