Assad is losing control, opposition victory probable: Russian diplomat

Mikhail Bogdanov’s remarks appear to reflect that Moscow has begun positioning itself for Bashar al-Assad’s imminent defeat. (Reuters)

Mikhail Bogdanov’s remarks appear to reflect that Moscow has begun positioning itself for Bashar al-Assad’s imminent defeat.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is losing control over Syria and an opposition victory cannot be ruled out, Russian deputy Mikhail Bogdanov said on Thursday, according to the state-run Itar-Tass news agency.

Crediting the significant gains by the rebels to an increasing support of external powers, Bogdanov said, “You need to look the facts in the eyes — the government regime is losing more and more control over a large part of the country’s territory.”

Although Russia has shielded Assad from international sanctions and continues to deliver weapons to the regime, Thursday’s remark is the first acknowledgement by a Russian official that the Syrian strongman could lose a bloody civil war.

The Kremlin’s special envoy for Middle East affairs added that Russia is working on plans to evacuate its citizens from the embattled country if necessary.

While Bogdanov didn’t signal Moscow’s readiness to edge closer to the West and approve sanctions against Assad’s regime, the statement appears to reflect that Moscow has begun positioning itself for his imminent defeat. “The battle for Damascus is about to begin and this battle could change the rules of the game,” he said.

Ensuing Bogdanov’s comments, Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, acknowledged the weakening of Assad’s hold on power and urged the Syrian president to take steps towards a political transition.

“I think the regime in Damascus is approaching collapse … it is only a question of time,” Rasmussen said, adding that Assad should “initiate a process that leads to the accommodation of the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”

(english.alarabiya.net / 13.12.2012)

Ransom deadline passes for Ukrainian reporter held in Syria

Dec 13 (Reuters) – Media freedom group Reporters Sans Frontieres said on Thursday it was extremely concerned for a Ukrainian journalist kidnapped inSyria, as the deadline passed for a huge ransom demand from a group threatening to kill her.

Anhar Kochneva, who had been reporting for Russian media outlets inSyria, was taken hostage in October near Homs.

“Her kidnappers, allegedly members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), have threatened to kill her tomorrow, Dec. 13 2012, if their demand for $50 million is not paid,” a statement from the Paris-based RSF and three other groups said ahead of the deadline on Wednesday.

The groups called on the new Syrian National Coalition, which has close ties with the rebel FSA, to secure the release of the reporter immediately.

“We also call on the French, British and U.S. governments, as well as the European Union, to fully engage the National Coalition in compelling the FSA to facilitate Kochneva’s release,” the statement said.

It added that as those countries had recognised the coalition as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people they bore a responsibility in highlighting to the coalition the need to respect human rights and condemn violations.

The coalition won recognition on Wednesday from “the Friends of Syria” group that opposes President Bashar al-Assad.

RSF said that Kochneva was known for criticising the Syrian opposition, which she had publicly accused of cruelty to civilians and prisoners.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said it was continuing dialogue with her captors and taking “all measures” to release her.

“Ukraine again expresses its deep concern over the situation around Anhar Kochneva who is illegally held in Syria by a group which calls itself a unit of the FSA,” it said.

In video messages posted by her captors over the last two months, Kochneva has appealed to Ukraine and Russia to meet their demands.

In one video message dated Nov. 28 she reads out a statement in Arabic admitting she had been working as a military interpreter with Russian and Syrian officers.

“We are deeply concerned that in both video appeals the journalist seems to be speaking under pressure,” RSF said.

Russia has shielded Assad’s government from U.N. Security Council censure, resisting Western pressure to join efforts to push him from power, and has condemned the recognition of the new coalition by the United States and its allies.

(www.reuters.com / 13.12.2012)

Save The Children Gaza Crisis Appeal

 

all enquires, please call Adam or Indy on 01903 88 44 11

or email adam@ukfpi.org

Jerry Garcia, Andy Warhol & Ringo Starr, for Gaza!

Between now and  Christmas Adam is to donate 100% of all the proceeds from his personal collection of limited edition Andy WarholRingo Starr & Jerry Garcia rugs to Save The Children’s Gaza fund.

If you aren’t in the market for one of our lovely rugs, you could still make a donation to help the children of Gaza.  If you are a UK taxpayer you can click on GIFT AID then the government will be forced to add 25p to every £1 you donate, even though it appears they would rather spend our taxes killing people abroad.

Please click HERE for a direct link to SAVE THE CHILDREN Gaza Crisis Appeal.

89p in every £ they receive will go direct to helping the children of Gaza

11p in the £ is used to advertise for more donations.

Adam’s rugs coming out of storage today, Thursday 29th November 2012,

on their way to the Save The Children Gaza Appeal rug sale in Arundel.

Andy Warhol: Diamond Dust Shoes 1980

Ink, diamond dust on polymer paint on canvas.  From a private collection Copyright: !996 The Andy Warhol Foundation/MMI NYC

335 x 250 cm  11′ x 8’3″ Limited Edition ~ signed

100% Pure New Zealand Wool:

Usual price £5,800 Special offer £4,800

100% of this sale will go to Save The Children, Gaza Crisis Appeal.

 

 

Andy Warhol: US Dollar

335 x 250 cm  11′ x 8’3″ Limited Edition ~ signed

100% Pure New Zealand Wool:

Usual price £5,500 Special offer £4,500

100% of the TOTAL SALE VALUE will now go to Save The Children‘s Gaza Crisis Appeal.

 

 

  

Andy Warhol: Flowers 1967

335 x 250 cm  11′ x 8’3″ Limited Edition ~ signed

100% Pure New Zealand Wool:

Usual price £5,500 Special offer £4,500

100% of the TOTAL SALE VALUE will now go to Save The Children‘s Gaza Crisis Appeal.

Also 200 x 140 cm  6’7″ x 4’7″ was £1,250 NOW £250  EX-DISPLAY, SOME WEAR.

 

 

Ringo Starr: RING O 1988

335 x 250 cm  11′ x 8’3″ Limited Edition ~ signed

100% Pure New Zealand Wool:

Usual price £5,500 Special offer £4,500

100% of the TOTAL SALE VALUE will now go to Save The Children‘s Gaza Crisis Appeal.

Also 274 x 182 cm  9′ x 6′ was £2,500 NOW £1,800 (I currently have TWO 9 x 6 RingOs)

Also 200 x 140 cm  6’7″ x 4’7″ was £1,250 NOW £600

 

 

floor or wall hanging: ANDY WARHOL: Red Elvis 1962: £200

about 2’8 x 2’10

ANDY WARHOL: BARBIE DOLL £200

 

Jerry Garcia: New York, New York 1968

335 x 250 cm  11′ x 8’3″ Limited Edition

100% Pure New Zealand Wool:

Usual price £5,500 Special offer £4,500

100% of the TOTAL SALE VALUE will now go to Save The Children‘s Gaza Crisis Appeal.

Also 274 x 182 cm  9′ x 6′ was £2,500 NOW £1,200

(www.adamsrugs.co.uk / 13.12.2012)

Europe gets a taste of Palestinian strawberries

Strawberries grown in Gaza are on their way to European supermarkets after Israel eases export restrictions. (Reuters)

Strawberries grown in Gaza are on their way to European supermarkets after Israel eases export restrictions.

Farmers in Gaza’s Beit Lahia are out in force in the coastal enclave’s strawberry fields. Israel has given them the green light to start exporting their produce to Europe, and the farmers are keen to fill as many boxes with their locally grown produce.

But strawberry farming is a costly and labor intensive process, and the farmers have already suffered a huge loss due to an export ban imposed on them by the Jewish state.
Observing those at work is Ahmed al-Shafai, Head of the Gaza Association for Marketing Fruit And Vegetables.

According to al-Shafai farmers in the coastal enclave have lost more than 300,000 U.S dollars due to Israeli export restrictions.

“We thought we were going to export on the 18th November, but Israel only gave us the permit from 2nd December, which meant that farmers suffer a great loss. How? Well instead of exporting the strawberries we sold them in Gaza for four shekels a kilo, when it was meant to be sold in Europe for 22 shekels, so we lost 18 shekels per kilo. Which meant that farmers lost, in this period of time before the 2nd December 1, 400,000 shekels, and this was a loss for the farmers,” he said.

Export restrictions aren’t the only obstacle facing the farmers. Palestinian produce is also competing with goods from neighboring Egypt, as well as European strawberries from the Netherlands and Belgium.

“The prices are very low in Europe, and the reason being is that there is produce from Netherlands and Belgium in the European markets and Egypt, the Egyptians have vast amounts in the European markets, and it’s Egyptian strawberries that we’re really competing with because the cost of Egyptian strawberries is cheaper than ours,” added al-Shafai.

Israel imposed restrictions on trade to Gaza in 2001 following the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising and tightened them further six years later in 2007, after Hamas seized power in the coastal enclave.

Despite some of the export limits being lifted, farmers packing boxes labeled with ‘Produce of Palestine’ aren’t optimistic about the situation.

“The strawberry season this year is really very difficult. With regards to exports, they promised us that we would export, but the prices weren’t good. The next thing they told us was that they threw them from the plane. And now they’ve given us a price of 11 shekels, that isn’t a good price, you can’t even get workers with that price, really producing strawberries is expensive,” said farmer Hussam Hamdon.

This is not the first time Israel has permitted exports of Palestinian strawberries and flowers from Gaza. It previously coincided with the enlargement of a logistics hub at the Kerem Shalom crossing point in the south.

Exports have been seen by Israel as highly suspect since March 2004, when two Palestinian teenagers infiltrated the Israeli port of Ashdod by hiding in a shipping container. They blew themselves up, killing 10 people, and the Jewish state has restricted imports to stop arms reaching Hamas and to weaken its hold on Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants.

Human rights groups and the European Union have repeatedly called on Israel to ease its blockade on Gaza.

The 27-nation European Union spends millions to support the private sector in Gaza via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the Palestinian Authority.

But ultimately, the EU says, Gaza must export to achieve greater economic independence.

Reviving exports could partly redress the economic reverses, creating new employment for up to 40,000 in the enclave, provided long-delayed reconstruction can commence.

More than half the population currently relies on U.N. food aid. Gaza also gets a regular supply of foreign-financed heavy fuel oil via a pipeline from Israel for its power generator, plus shipments of cooking gas and gasoline.

Israel still prevents a long list of goods into the territory – including many items needed for construction – arguing they could be used to manufacture of weapons.

(english.alarabiya.net / 13.12.2012)

Israel Is Set To Receive 5,000 US Bunker Buster Bombs For Delaying Its Attack On Iran

 

In March President Barack Obama reportedly offered Israel bunker-buster bombs and other advanced weapons in exchange for a postponing an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities until 2013.Bunker-busters are essential for an attack on Iran’s underground nuclear facilities since they can penetrate Tehran’s world renowned reinforced concrete.

It looks like the deal is finally going down as this week the U.S. Department of Defense notified Congress of a $647 million agreement to provide the Israel Air Force with 10,000 bombs — more than half of which are bunker-busters — along with 6,900 joint direct attack munitions (JDAM) tail kits, which convert existing unguided free-fall bombs into satellite-guided “smart” weapons.

Haaretz reported that the deal would serve to “renew the inventory of the Israel Defense Forces following the massive bombings in Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense,” and no doubt it will, but this is a pretty spectacular array of ordnance well beyond what Israel against Gaza last month.

Israel flew about 1,500 aerial bomb attacks in Operation Pillar of Defense, and reports on Twitter of bunker-busters came only sporadically in the latter half of the eight-day campaign. (Israel dropped Israeli-made bunker-busters on Gaza in ’08 as well.)

And the last time the U.S. sent Israel bunker-busters, in 2009, the sale included 55 GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators. This time around the U.S. is providing 1,725 BLU-109 and 3,450 GBU-39 bunker-buster bombs.

Last year The New York Times reported the U.S. refrained from sending the massive munitions before 2009 because “there were deep concerns that if the United States supplied bunker-busting bombs to Israel, it might be viewed as having tacitly endorsed an attack on Iran.”

 

Bunker Buster

YouTube

 

In any case Israel would most likely need U.S. help to attack Iran because Tehran’s Fordow facility is 295 feet underground.

The only weapon that can reach it is America’s biggest bomb, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). MOPs, each packing 5,300 pounds of explosives, are capable of penetrating 60 feet of reinforced concrete and detonating at more than 200 feet below ground.

In February Congress approved $82 million to upgrade the 30,000 pound bomb, and in August the Air Force reported it was upgrading on its B-1B “Lancer” multi-mission bomber. Both are scheduled to be complete in 2013.

(www.businessinsider.com / 13.12.2012)

Fabricating WMD “Evidence”: Israeli Covert Operation inside Syria to “Track Chemical Arsenal”

Israel's Mossad Teams up with Terror Group to Kill Iran's Nuclear Scientists

Israel is conducting a covert cross-border operation directed against Syria in liaison with NATO and the Pentagon.

After looking for a “smoking gun” in Iran earlier this year, Israeli special forces are now “tracking” Syria’s “stocks of chemical and biological weapons”, according to The Sunday Times.

“The cross-border operation is part of a secret war to trail Syria’s non-conventional armaments and sabotage their development. ‘For years we’ve known the exact location of Syria’s chemical and biological munitions,’ an Israeli source said, referring to the country’s spy satellites and drones. ‘But in the past week we’ve got signs that munitions have been moved to new locations.’” (Uzi Mahnaimi and Lucy Fisher Israel tracks Syria’s chemical arsenal, The Sunday Times 9 December 2012.)

Everyone recalls the WMD hype prior to launching the war on Iraq. It turned out that the Iraqi WMD threat was an outright fabrication.

Those involved in the Iraq WMD propaganda ploy are now applying their skills with a view to fabricating a WMD pretext to intervene in Syria. According to a report from the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, “Israelis ‘misread’ the Iraqi threat”. In 2003, the BBC wrote on the report’s findings:

Israeli intelligence miscalculated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein […] This contributed to the “false” picture painted by US and British services […]

“Israeli intelligence was a full partner with the US and Britain in developing a false picture of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction capability,” said the author of the report, retired Brigadier General Shlomo Brom.

“It badly overestimated the Iraqi threat to Israel and reinforced the American and British belief that the weapons existed.”

“From now on, when we present serious data on other countries, like Iran for example, who will treat us seriously?” Israel Radio quoted Israeli left-wing parliamentarian Yossi Sarid as saying. (Israelis ‘misread’ Iraqi threat, BBC,December 5, 2003)

In late March 2012 The Sunday Times reported that “Israel is using a permanent base in Iraqi Kurdistan to launch cross-border intelligence missions in an attempt to find ‘smoking gun’ evidence that Iran is building a nuclear warhead.” (Israeli spies scour Iran in nuclear hunt, The Sunday Times,March 25, 2012)

There is no evidence that Iran has nuclear weapons, even US intelligence agencies agree on that. Global Research ran a story on the Israeli covert op, potentially fabricating WMD evidence in relation to Iran. What is now unfolding in relation to Syria’s  alleged WMD is a rerun of previous attempts to funnel fabricated evidence into the news chain:

Western sources told the Times Israel was monitoring “radioactivity and magnitude of explosives tests” and that “special forces used Black Hawk helicopters to carry commandos disguised as members of the Iranian military and using Iranian military vehicles”. The sources believe “Iranians are trying to hide evidence of warhead tests in preparation for a possible IAEA visit”. (Cited in Report: Israeli soldiers scour Iran for nukes, Ynet, March 25, 2012)

The number of Israeli intelligence missions focussing on the Parchin military base in Iran has increased in the past few months, according to the article. During that period, Tehran has been negotiating with the IAEA which had requested to visit Parchin. According to Iran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, both parties had agreed in early February that the visit would take place in March. (Gareth Porter, Details of Talks with IAEA Belie Charge Iran Refused Cooperation, IPS,March 21, 2012)

The IAEA requested to visit Parchin in late January and late February, after having agreed to a visit in March. The IAEA thus requested to visit the military complex exactly at the same time Israel was intensifying its secret operations to allegedly search for a “smoking gun”. (Julie Lévesque, Fabricating a “Smoking Gun” to Attack Iran? Israeli Spies Disguised as Iranian Soldiers on Mission Inside Iran Global Research,March 27, 2012)

Israel’s covert operation in Syria is part of a longstanding intelligence agenda directed against the Damascus government.  According to intelNews:

[…]Israel’s covert activities against the Syrian government’s chemical and biological arsenal go back almost 30 years. Reputedly, some of the more recent such activities may have involved the targeting of Russian scientists.

Although Russia routinely denies it, it is believed that Syria’s non-conventional arsenal was significantly augmented in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the help of Russian retired general Anatoliy Kuntsevich […]

Interestingly, Kuntsevich died suddenly in 2003 onboard a flight from the Syrian capital to Moscow. It was widely speculated at the time that the Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency, may have played a role in the Russian general’s sudden death. In 2010, another retired Russian general, Yuri Ivanov, who had served as Deputy Director of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, died in unclear circumstances […]

According to reports in the Israeli press, the former GRU official was on his way to a meeting with Syrian intelligence officers when he went missing. Israel has never acknowledged having played a part in Ivanon’s death, but many suspect that Tel Aviv had been targeting the two Russians for quite some time. (Joseph Fitsanakis Israel special forces conducting cross-border operations in Syria, intelNews.org, December 10, 2012.)

This interpretation of events is plausible since targeted assassinations of foreign scientists by Israeli secret services have been acknowledged in the past:

The reduction [of Israel’s covert operations in Iran] runs across a wide spectrum of operations, cutting back not only alleged high-profile missions such as assassinations and detonations at Iranian missile bases, but also efforts to gather firsthand on-the-ground intelligence and recruit spies inside the Iranian program, according to the officials. (Karl Vick, Mossad Cutting Back on Covert Operations Inside Iran, Officials Say, TIME, March 30, 2012, quoted in Julie Lévesque,“Running Short of New Targets: Israel’s Secret Service is “Cutting Back on Assassinations” in Iran, Global Research, April 17, 2012.)

While Israel’s secret operation in Syria could conceivably also target Russian scientists, it should be understood that its ultimate objective is to reinforce the intense propaganda campaign pertaining to Syria’s chemical arsenal. This leak in The Sunday Times could be part of the ongoing psychological operation against Syria, with a view to building a pretext for waging a preemptive war on Syria.

Since the beginning of the armed insurrection in March 2011, the US  and its allies alongside the Western mainstream media have been blaming the Syrian government for committing atrocities directed against civilians, including the Houla massacre. According to independent media reports as well as the testimony of witnesses on the ground, these atrocities were committed  by the  US-NATO sponsored opposition forces.

The Syrian government has been demonized to such an extent by the mainstream media that if an attack were to occur, public opinion could easily be led to believe, without evidence, that the Syrian government is responsible for crimes against its own people.

This is a perfect context for a false flag operation or intensive propaganda involving chemical weapons. These allegations based on fake WMD evidence directed against the Syrian government could be used once again to pressure the UN Security Council to give NATO a “legal mandate” to intervene in Syria under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine.

CNN recently reported that the US and “some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria.” The Syrian government expressed its concerns in a letter to the UN:

What raises concerns about this news circulated by the media is our serious fear that some of the countries backing terrorism and terrorists might provide the armed terrorist groups with chemical weapons and claim that it was the Syrian government that used the weapons […] (Quoted in John Glaser, US Defense Contractors Training Syrian Rebels to Handle Chemical Weapons, Antiwar.com, December 10, 2012.)

(www.globalresearch.ca / 13.12.2012)

Israel’s Apartheid Policy

 

West Bank roads

A majority of Israelis recoil in horror at the very thought of emulating the regime of apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation once practiced in South Africa, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Yet that is what Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu considers less threatening than full-fledged Palestinian independence.

Apartheid is what gradually emerged in the West Bank under Israeli occupation since Israel’s victory in the Six Day War almost half a century ago.

In South Africa during the Cold War, apartheid was seen as the only effective defense against world communism. And the African National Congress saw the Soviet Union as its best bet for dismantling apartheid and establishing black majority rule.

Netanyahu and his Likud Party allies now view continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank as the lesser of two evils.

The bigger evil is Muslim extremism, ranging from the would-be Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship in Egypt to al-Qaida and its associated movements now gaining ground in Syria’s civil war and already comfortably ensconced in Iraq.

If the West Bank were turned over to Palestinian rule, Israeli hard-liners say Hamas hard-liners would quickly displace the moderate Palestinian Authority, recently elevated to non-voting member status in the U.N. General Assembly.

Today, some 320,000 Jewish settlers live in 132 settlements in the West Bank and another 200,000 moved into East Jerusalem, the two out of three areas Palestinians claim for an independent state of Palestine. Gaza is the third.

One Israeli member of the Knesset predicted that within 10 years more than 1 million Jewish settlers would be living in Palestinian territory, thus making the emergence of an independent Palestinian state well-nigh impossible.

Israel’s West Bank settlements are linked by a network of roads that Palestinians aren’t allowed to use. Israeli troops and police keep Palestinians on secondary roads and dirt tracks.

Netanyahu’s latest decision calls for the building of 3,000 new Jewish dwellings east of Jerusalem. These would sever any land link between the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem and what Palestinians see as their future capital.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Victor reiterated U.S. opposition to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

This didn’t rattle Netanyahu. He has heard it all before and he knows that the U.S. Congress will remain solidly on Israel’s side. Opportunities for direct negotiations to achieve a two-state solution were quashed time and again — with impunity.

Radical Islamists in the Middle East have espoused radical solutions for the creation of a Palestinian state. Iran’s navy is busy testing its mining capabilities for a possible showdown with the United States and Israel.

Iran has repositioned itself to mobilize against an anti-Muslim front if one should emerge.

Fundamentalist-controlled Egypt now threatens to scrap the peace treaty with Israel that returned the Israeli-occupied Sinai Peninsula to Egypt after the 1973 war. The treaty guaranteed the demilitarization of Sinai.

Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, north and south of Israel, are mortal enemies of the Jewish state. Syria, another hostile neighbor, appears to be falling prey to pro-al-Qaida extremists.

For Israel, it’s not rocket science to conclude it is surrounded by self-proclaimed enemies. In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Hamas is gaining in popularity, especially among the youth, against a moderate Palestinian Authority.

But Hamas in Gaza is also fearful of being outflanked offline by Salafist and Jihadist groups in Egypt.

Israel’s hard-liners are convinced that an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank would quickly fall prey to a panoply of extremists who would look to the Mediterranean Sea as Palestine’s new/old frontier — and a burial ground for all Jews.

Thus, for Israel’s hard-liners, continued occupation of the West Bank is the lesser of two evils.

It is hard for an Israeli policy planner to be optimistic about the outcomes of the Egyptian, Syrian, and Libyan revolutions.

Russia has also returned to the Middle East, backing the Assad regime in Syria and signing a large arms deal with Iraq, where the U.S. taxpayer spent $1 trillion on an ill-thought-through war that made Iran the dominant influence in Baghdad.

Sharply curtailed were plans for the largest and costliest ($1.2 billion) U.S. Embassy in the world in Baghdad.

As Russia regains influence in the region, it will hopefully persuade the religious zealots in Iran to shelve their nuclear weapons plans.

There is one critically important lesson the United States and its European and Asian allies should have learned in a chaotic Middle East: Arabs and Persians aren’t interested in Western models of democracy.

How to bring democracy to them isn’t the problem. How to deal with a different system is the crux of the geopolitical dilemma facing the second Obama administration.

(www.acus.org / 13.12.2012)

Spain seizes $36.5m worth of Mubarak assets

Millions of assets of ex-Egyptian president and associates located, including Marbella beach properties and luxury cars.

Mubarak has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the deaths of protesters during Egypt’s uprising
Spanish police have seized $36.5m in assets owned by Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president, and people close to him.

Egypt had made an international request to block the assets, including Marbella beach properties and luxury cars, of 130 people associated with Mubarak’s rule.

Spain’s interior ministry said on Thursday it had frozen $24m worth of the assets.

The properties include two houses in La Moraleja, a wealthy neighbourhood of Madrid, seven properties in the Mediterranean beach resort of Marbella, financial products in three banks and several expensive vehicles.

“The assets could come from crimes such as embezzlement or corruption,” a Spanish government statement said.

Egypt has asked several countries in Europe and elsewhere to locate assets of Mubarak and his associates.

Switzerland has also frozen assets of up to $441m linked to the former president.

Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for three decades, was forced out in February 2011 after a popular uprising.

In June, he was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the deaths of protesters during the uprising.

He is currently in a military hospital due to health problems.

(www.aljazeera.com / 13.12.2012)

Israel must stop attacks on Palestinian NGOs and human rights defenders

Early on Tuesday 11 December 2012, members of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) raided three Palestinian NGOs in Ramallah, seizing computers, work files and equipment and ransacking their offices in what Amnesty International says is part of a “pattern of harassment” against campaigners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“This Israeli raid against the Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association, the Palestinian NGO Network, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees is part of a wider onslaught against Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations and their staff,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director.

“It’s a pattern of harassment which seems designed to curtail their vital work.”

The Israeli authorities frequently restrict the movement of human rights defenders and other activists in the West Bank based on secret information, and prevent travel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. NGOs in Gaza were also directly affected by the recent Israeli military operation there.

Amnesty International has asked the IDF for information regarding the reasons for the raid but has not yet received a response.

Amnesty International has been particularly concerned by the Israeli harassment of Palestinian human rights NGO Addameer over many months, including the military orders that ban its chair, Abdullatif Ghaith, from entering the West Bank or travelling abroad.

The Israeli authorities frequently prevent Addameer lawyers from visiting the prisoners and detainees they represent. Most disturbingly, according to his lawyer, Addameer researcher and human rights defender Ayman Nasser was tortured during the lengthy interrogation following his arrest by Israeli forces on 15 October.

“Arbitrary restrictions on movement, attacks on human rights and civil society organizations, and torture of human rights defenders can never be justified. They must end now, and those responsible must be held accountable,” said Ann Harrison.

(www.amnesty.org  / 13.12.2012)