Israel’s Gaza policy: “The Essential Terrorist”

 JERUSALEM—Mainstream media outlets are marred with depictions of Palestinians as kuffiyeh-draped militants who indoctrinate in their children a “culture of hate” and take up arms against their morally superior, democratic and pluralistic Israeli opponent. Equally flawed and Orientalist in character, more subtle presentations frame debates in strictly policy-oriented lexicon and fail to contextualize Palestinian political violence against a historical backdrop of  the infinitely greater violence inherent to forced dispossession, colonization and occupation.

The late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said wrote in a 1986 essay, “Whether the deflection will be longstanding or temporary remains to be seen, but given the almost unconditional assent of the media, intellectuals and policy-makers to the terrorist vogue, the prospects for a return to a semblance of sanity are not encouraging.”

Little has changed today.

Following in suit, The Daily Beast’s Open Zion blog recently ran a policy analysis penned by Benedetta Berti that examines Israel’s practice of isolating the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and prescribes expanding the terms of the November 2012 ceasefire agreement to sustain lasting stability between the Jewish state and the narrow coastal enclave.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media will trudge on presenting Palestinians in colorless shades, what Edward Said referred to as “the essential terrorists,” while most Western ears only tune in to the cries of the “civilized.”

Berti argues that indirect, Egyptian-brokered talks between Hamas and the Israeli government “represent a step in the right direction.” In short, she postulates that “the terms of the November 2012 ceasefire agreement provides a chance” to add a political component to Israel’s Hamas-Gaza policy by “invest[ing] in the talks and mov[ing] with greater urgency towards revoking the isolation policy in Gaza, recognizing the window of opportunity to reach a stable ceasefire with Hamas.”

She also notes that the Egyptian government plays a keystone role in the drama, adding that the Morsi regime can work to normalize the Rafah border and put an end to the lucrative tunnel smuggling which brings in not just weapons but food, vehicles, medicine, and other simple necessities of which Palestinians in Gaza are otherwise deprived.

While Berti’s final prescription—ending the asphyxiating blockade—is sound, her basic chronology of the post-November 2012 Israeli offensive fails to grasp the power dynamics of the ongoing violence.

“In the past few months, Israel began to lift the some of the restrictions in place,” she writes. “For example, Israel has extended Gaza’s fishing zone by three nautical miles, and, for the first time since 2007, authorized the import of construction raw materials intended for the private sector.”

She goes on to lament that the state has begun to renege on this easing of restrictions “in response to rocket attacks by Salafist groups within Gaza” on March 22 and April 8.

Putting aside the resounding irony that Hamas military commander Ahmad Jabari had the terms of a long-term truce in his hands at the moment he was killed in a targeted assassination on 14 November 2012, as revealed by Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, Israel began to renege on restriction easing much sooner than March and April 2013.

Hollow Commitments

On 23 November, less than 24 hours after agreeing to stop firing on Gazans in the “buffer zone” between the Strip and southern Israel, soldiers shot and killed 20-year-old Anwar Qudaih for allegedly attempting to infiltrate Israeli territory.

Within three months of the agreement that put an end to the eight-day “Operation Pillar of Defense”, Israeli military forces had killed four Gazans with live ammunition fire, injuring an additional 91 people. Furthermore, soldiers had shot on Gazans 63 times, executed at least 13 incursions, and arrested 30 fishermen for venturing past the three nautical mile marker off the coast. Despite additional concessions to ease limitations on economic traffic, exports from the Gaza Strip continued to hover around five percent of the pre-2007 levels.

Throughout this entire period, which concluded on 22 February, a mere two mortar shells—and zero rockets—had been hurled into southern Israel.

In late March, Palestinian NGO Al-Mezan and Israeli NGO B’Tselem each released reports condemning the excessive arrests of fishermen. According to Al-Mezan, by this time “Israeli forces arrested 44 fishermen, confiscated nine boats, and damaged fishing equipment on five separate occasions” since the ceasefire went into effect.

B’Tselem concluded that “a fishing range of six nautical miles is far from meeting the needs of the population in the Gaza Strip and guaranteeing the livelihood of those who are dependent on the fishing industry,” adding that Israel is required to allot Gazans with a zone of 20 nautical miles under the Oslo Agreements.

The Jerusalem Fund has also kept a scrupulous and up-to-date list documenting dozens of unprovoked and one-sided ceasefire violations on Israel’s part, such as firing on civilians near the border, using a gunboat to assault a fisherman within one nautical kilometer of Gaza’s shore, and using tanks and bulldozers to destroy homes and farmland, among other contemptible breaches.

While Israel only formally retightened said restrictions in April, its initial commitment to them had been largely confined to words.

Balance as Bias

By insinuating that Israel only started to dismiss the terms of the ceasefire in March and April this year, and as explicit responses to rocket fire from anonymous “Salafist groups” in Gaza, Berti ignores the fundamental power imbalance between an encaged population of 1.7 million Palestinians (some 1.1 million of which are registered refugees from 1948) and a country with an ostensibly bottomless barrel of American funding and military aid.

The November 2012 “war” is apt testimony to this conclusion: According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs, at least 103 Palestinian civilians died, 1,399 were injured, and 450 homes were destroyed or severely damaged. Israel, on the other hand, incurred five fatalities, three of which were civilians.

Supporters paint the country as a fragile entity being pushed towards destruction rather than one of the world’s largest military powers, and the New York Times and its corporate media cadres parrot absurd claims about the roots of the latest bout of fighting, ignoring history and the boundless suffering inflicted by Zionist colonialism, and depicting it as a scuffle between two roughly tantamount forces—a ludicrous misrepresentation.

But Israeli policy, the siege of Gaza included, has always strived to entrench its hegemonic designs on the remains of Palestinian land by imposing geographical, political, and social divisions to obstruct Palestinian unity by using a web of colonial tactics. Framed always in ahistorical and security-related terms, these policies have been draped in pearls and sold to a largely sympathetic post-9/11 Western audience.

Key facts tend to escape popular analyses, which generally assume that the West Bank is the entirety of Palestinian land under occupation following the 2006 disengagement from Gaza.  Never mind that Israel completely controls access to the strip by land, air, and sea; that Israeli forces designate the amount of calories that each person in Gaza can consume each day; that “years of conflict and closure have left 80 percent of the population dependent on international assistance,” according to UNRWA; and that extrajudicial targeted assassinations have continued without pause.

And what of the fact that Hamas, mere mention of which ostensibly justifies all Israeli transgressions, virtually had to be dragged kicking-and-screaming into the November 2012 fighting?

Intent aside, Berti’s call to end the isolation of Gaza joins this tone deaf choir by furthering the myth that Israel’s Gaza policy is informed solely by security considerations and as a reaction to supposedly uniform Palestinian militancy and not another bloody attempt to maintain hegemony over a besieged people. As Palestinian spoken word poet Rafeef Ziadeh plainly put it, “These are not two equal sides—occupier and occupied.”

The most recent bombings of Gaza City—which solicited little response from a populace that has surely lost the capacity for surprise at the sight of warplanes, drones, and other machines that deliver indiscriminate murder—drive home the broader picture. While Israel yet again pummels Gaza into submission, its colonial settler front, motivated by a toxic blend of nationalism and zealous religiosity, continues to chop up the West Bank at a breakneck pace.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media will trudge on presenting Palestinians in colorless shades, what Edward Said referred to as “the essential terrorists,” while most Western ears only tune in to the cries of the “civilized.”

(Source / 18.05.2013)

Assad says he won’t step down

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a newspaper interview Saturday he won’t step down and will instead “face the storm,” raising new doubts about a U.S-Russian effort to get Assad and his opponents to negotiate an end to the country’s civil war.

In the Syrian capital Damascus, meanwhile, a powerful explosion went off in the Ruken al-Deen neighborhood, killing three people and wounding five, Syrian state TV reported. It said the blast was caused by a car bomb and that experts are dismantling other explosives in the area.

On the diplomatic front, Syria’s political opposition has said any transition talks must lead to Assad’s ouster. However, the Syrian leader told the Argentine newspaper Clarin in comments published Saturday that he won’t leave before elections are held in his country, and suggested he might seek another term.

Assad’s comments were the first about his political future since the U.S. and Russia agreed earlier this month to try to bring the Syrian regime and the opposition to an international conference for talks aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Such a gathering is envisioned for next month, but no date has been set, and neither the Assad regime nor the Syrian National Coalition, the main Western-backed coalition group, has made a firm commitment to attend.

The Syrian president’s remarks highlighted the difficulties the U.S. and Russia face in getting the two sides to agree on the terms of negotiations.

More than 70,000 people have been killed and several million displaced since the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011 and escalated into a civil war.

Assad has dismissed those trying to topple him as foreign-backed terrorists. Many in the political opposition say the Syrian president and his inner circle cannot be expected to negotiate in good faith after they brutally suppressed peaceful protests.

In his comments Saturday, Assad appeared to play down the importance of any international conference, saying Syria’s future will be determined by its people and dismissing any possible role the U.S. and others might play.

“We have said from the very beginning that any decision about reforms in Syria or any other political action are local decisions and it is not permissible that the U.S. or any other state interfere in them,” he said.

Assad compared himself to the skipper of a ship riding Syria’s turbulent seas, saying “the country is in a crisis and when a ship faces a storm, the captain does not flee.”

“The first thing he does is face the storm and guide the ship back to safety,” Assad was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “I am not someone who flees from my responsibilities.”

An audio clip from the interview was posted on the Clarin website, with his Arabic comments dubbed into Spanish and translated into English by The Associated Press.

(Source / 18.05.2013)

Israeli forces open fire on Palestinians, injure 11

Israeli forces fire tear gas at Palestinian demonstrators following a protest against the confiscation of Palestinian land by Israel in the occupied West Bank town of Deir Jarir, east of Ramallah, on 17 May 2013.

Israeli troops shot and wounded nine Palestinians near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday night, and injured two others north of Hebron, security officials and medics said.

Palestinian security officials said that Palestinians from the Jalazoun refugee camp, near Ramallah, were hurling stones at Israeli motorists near an illegal Jewish settlement before coming under fire from soldiers.

They said that six of the injured were sent home after receiving first aid at a Palestinian hospital and three were kept in, although none of them was in life-threatening condition.

An army spokeswoman said that troops opened fire with 0.22 ammunition after tear gas and rubber bullets failed to disperse the crowd of about 50 people engaged in “a violent disturbance.”

Earlier in the day, troops fired tear gas at Palestinians demonstrating against the confiscation of land by Israel in the nearby village of Deir Jarir.

On Saturday the Israeli army used road blocks to shut the main road connecting Deir Jarir and other villages with Ramallah near the location of the attack, according to the head of the village council Imad Alawi.

Alawi told Wafa news agency that the road is the only direct passage to Ramallah for seven villages in the area. Its closure means Palestinians travelling to Ramallah must now take an extended route through the notorious Qalandia checkpoint.

It was unclear if the closure was directly linked to incidents on Friday.

And also on Friday, in al-Arrub refugee camp north of Hebron, Israeli forced shot two Palestinians with rubber-coated bullets, breaking the jaw of one man, and hitting the other in the hand, according to medics.

Luay al-Badawi was hit in the face with a plastic-coated bullet that broke his jaw, and then shot again in the head, Red Crescent official Nasser Qabaja told Ma’an news agency.

Badawi is in a critical condition in Al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron, Qabaja said.

Witnesses said a second man, who was not identified, was shot in the hand.

Locals said clashes erupted after Israeli forces stormed the camp. Residents confronted the soldiers and threw stones at them, and the soldiers fired tear gas and rubber coated-coated bullets.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers responded to a “violent riot in which Palestinians hurled rocks at Israeli security forces” with “riot dispersal means.”

She told Ma’an that forces used rubber bullets and that two Palestinians were injured.

(Source / 18.05.2013)

PHOTOS: Activists put new settlement ‘on notice’

 

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A Palstinian activist shows a bulletin to Israeli soldiers warning against future settlement activity in the Ush Ghrab area of Beit Sahour.

Activists organized by Bethlehem’s Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements marched to the Ush Ghrab area of Beit Sahour last Sunday to protest the establishment of a new Israeli settlement called “Shdema”. The activists posted bulletins near the entrance to the area, putting the settlers on notice, stating in part:

The people of Beit Sahour reject any Israeli presence under any pretense including the so-called “rallies” or “education”. Settler presence is considered a crime … per international law. Beit Sahour, known for popular resistance, will take measures if and when the next colonial settlers try to come to Ush Ghrab, Beit Sahour.

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Activists march with a banner calling for the resistance against settler presence in Beit Sahour.

Some background, according to Electronic Intifada:

Ush Ghrab (“Crow’s Nest” in Arabic) has witnessed multiple turnovers of military control over the last century. Because of its location, sandwiched between Bethlehem and Jerusalem with a 360-degree view of several Palestinian villages, the area served as a continuous military post first under the Ottomans, then the British, then the Jordanians, and over the last 40 years as an Israeli military base up until April 2006, when the army unilaterally withdrew from the post.

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Activists march near the Israeli military tower at Ush Ghrab.

Last week, Haaretz reported on more recent developments at the site, which now is accessible only to the Israeli military and settler activists:

After the IDF abandoned the site, officials of Beit Sahur planned to build a hospital and an amusement park there. Upon hearing of these plans, members of the right-wing settlement movement Women in Green began visiting the location and demanded that the deserted base be turned into a Jewish community. In 2010, the IDF agreed to re-establish the base. A pillbox was stationed there, staffed with soldiers to keep both sides from taking over the land.

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Activists confront Israeli soldiers blocking access to the site, which settlers call “Shdema”.

Nevertheless, Col. Yaniv Alaluf, the commander of the Etzion Brigade, recently granted the settlers’ request to renovate the buildings on the abandoned base, which the settlers call Shdema and the Palestinians call Ush al-Ghrab. The main building on the site has been painted. Chairs have been placed inside, the window frames restored and an exhibit mounted that describes the history of the place. Alaluf also allowed the settlers to hold events there, including one held last Independence Day. However, passersby who come to the hill, including Palestinians, are turned away with the claim that it is a closed military zone.

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An activist posts a bulletin with the text quoted above warning against further settler activity at the entrance to the site.

Dror Etkes, a researcher of the settlements who worked for the non-profit organization Yesh Din in the past, said, “The army base was vacated years ago when the army found there was no longer a need to maintain it for security reasons. But in this affair, the army is showing itself once more as the willing indentured servant of the settlers by allowing them to take over the place gradually on various ludicrous pretexts.”

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An activist confronts soldiers with a sign reading “WARNING: This is illegally occupied land.”

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Smoke from concussion grenades thrown by Israeli soldiers engulfs protesters.

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Soldiers interfere with the work of a Palestinian video journalist covering the demonstration.

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An activist receives medical treatment for a concussion grenade that injured his elbow.

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A spent concussion grenade lies on the ground near soldiers blocking the road.

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Soldiers guard the entrance to the site.

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A bulletin posted by activists remains near soldiers blocking the road.

(Source / 18.05.2013)

Foreign Ministry clarifies stance on Syria

Syria stance not changed, Al-Assad has no place in Syria’s future says Foreign Ministry

A Free Syrian Army soldier from a Kurdish brigade with a flower at the end of his AK-47 in Aleppo (AFP Photo/ File Photo)

A Free Syrian Army soldier from a Kurdish brigade with a flower at the end of his AK-47 in Aleppo

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Kamel Amr has “expressed surprise” in response to media reports that the Egyptian stance on Syria had changed.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement on Friday clearly outlining the Egyptian position on the Syrian crisis, stressing that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his inner circle have no place in the future of Syria.

The statement asserted that Egypt has stood with the Syrian people since the start of the revolution and called for a response to “the legitimate aspirations for change and democracy through a political process leading to the transfer of power”. The ministry also pointed out that President Mohamed Morsi has repeatedly expressed his support for the Syrian people, most recently on a visit to Brazil.

The ministry’s statement said that Egypt has repeatedly expressed its support for Arab League efforts to pursue negotiations between the opposition and “representatives of the regime who have not stained their hands with the blood of the Syrian people”.

The statement also pointed out that Egypt has “actively participated” in international and regional meetings and initiatives to find a solution to the crisis, the most recent being Amr’s participation in a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Abu Dhabi last Monday. The ministry stressed that Egypt has “communicated intensively with all spectrums of the Syrian opposition, urging them to unite their vision and agree on a common negotiating position”. Egypt will intensify these efforts further in the coming days, said the ministry.

The ministry also highlighted that Egypt has proposed an initiative itself to help solve the crisis. Morsi proposed the formation of a quartet comprising of Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia in August 2012. In the last few weeks Morsi’s assistant on foreign relations and international cooperation Essam El-Haddad has travelled to both Iran and Turkey to discuss the initiative. El-Haddad said at the beginning of May that there would be a ministerial quartet meeting “soon”.

The statement from the ministry comes before a Friends of Syria meeting, which will be held in Amman on 22 May. Amr will participate in the meeting along with his counterparts from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

(Source / 18.05.2013)

Wist jij…

By Marianna Laarif

Wist jij dat er een dag zal komen..
Wist Jij dat er een dag zal komen waarop we allen zullen terug keren?
Wist Jij dat je deze dag In een Doodskleed moet?
Wist Jij dat je die dag geen kant op kunt?
Wist Jij dat je al je rijkdommen moet achter laten?
Wist Jij dat je al je trots moet achter laten?
De dag Waarop we Allen uit onze graven zullen worden opgewekt.

Wist Jij dat Deze Dag De Dag Des Oordeels Genoemd Wordt?
De Dag Waarop Er paniek zal zaaien onder de mensen.
De Dag waarop we zullen worden gesplitst.
Je Ouders die Je niet kunnen redden, je Vrienden Die je niet kunnen redden.
Je Ouders die niet aan je denken, je vrienden die niet aan je denken.

Wist jij dat een ieder aan zichzelf zal denken?
Ikke Ikke Ikke En de rest Kan Stikken.
Wist Jij Oh Dienaar van ALLAH dat je op die dag zult beseffen dat je niets aan die rijkdommen hebt gehad!
Wist Jij oh Dienares van ALLAH dat we ons zelf alleen onrecht aan doen als we denken aan wereldse zaken.

Oh Dienaar van ALLAH Vergeet Niet dat je straks in een Doodskleed gestopt wordt.
Waar blijven je dure kleding? DIE ZIJN WEG!
Oh Dienaar van ALLAH vergeet Niet dat je straks geen smoes kunt verzinnen.
Waar blijft je beste smoes? DIE KAN JE EN DURF JE STRAKS NIET TE VERZINNEN!
Oh Dienaar van ALLAH Vergeet Niet dat je straks alleen in de duisternis van het graf zal liggen!!
Waar zijn al die mensen die je dagelijks gezelschap hielden? WEG JE STAAT ER HELEMAAL ALLEEN VOOR!

Oh dienaar van ALLAAH oh Dienares van ALLAH
Vergeet niet dat ALLAH SWT Barmhartig is
Oh dienaar van ALLAH, Oh Dienares van ALLAH
Vergeet niet dat ALLAH Swt de Genadevolle is!
Oh Dienaar van ALLAH, oh dienares van ALLAH
Als we weten dat dit leven een beproeving is en dat we niets mogen meenemen BEHALVE ONZE DADEN EN ZONDES waar doen we het dan nog voor???

Oh Dienaar van ALLAH oh dienares van ALLAH
Laten we Leven voor het goede!!
Laten we Werken voor een plekje in DJANATOEL FIRDAWS!

Is dat teveel gevraagd?
Waarom Werken We wel voor onze werkgever?
Ojee Als we niet werken dan worden we Ontslagen!

Waarom komen we op tijd voor onze lessen op school?
Ojee Als we niet op tijd komen dan mogen we de les niet meer in!

Waarom Werken we niet voor die hasanat?
Wetend dat onze Heer Ons Zal belonen!

Waarom verrichten we onze gebeden niet op tijd?
Wetend&Hopend dat onze Heer onze gebeden accepteert!

Tunisia heightens security as Salafists vow to defy ban

A police officer checks in the back of a van at a checkpoint near the police headquarters on a road to the city of Kairouan May 18, 2013.

Tunisian security forces deployed in strength on Saturday after Salafist movement Ansar al-Sharia called on its hardline Islamist supporters to defy a government ban on its annual congress.

There was a heavy police presence at tollbooths along the main highway from the capital to the central city of Kairouan where the Salafists have vowed to hold Sunday’s gathering, AFP correspondents reported.

Police were singling out for checks the private minibuses that ply between Tunisian towns, with special attention paid to men with beards, as sported by Salafists.

Inside the city, helicopters hovered overhead and police checkpoints were set up, while special units were deployed in the square facing the mosque which is the venue for the congress.

A local police officer, declining to be named, said: “We have taken all measures to ensure the meeting does not go ahead… We will not allow those coming for this congress to enter the city.”

Meanwhile, maps were posted on Facebook pages close to the Salafist movement locating the checkpoints and possible routes to avoid them.

Ansar al-Sharia had urged its supporters to travel to the venue in groups in a bid to get past police.

“We advise our brothers coming to Kairouan to travel in groups and not to be separated because the agents of the tyrant are blocking most intersections and provoking our brothers by showing their weapons,” it said on its Facebook page.

In Tunis, large numbers of police vans and army trucks were visible both in the city center and in neighborhoods regarded as Salafist strongholds.

As tensions mounted, a U.S. embassy travel advisory warned Americans against travelling to Kairouan, saying “large rallies and demonstrations are possible” if the congress goes ahead.

“There is the potential for disruption to traffic in the area of Kairouan and possible confrontations with security forces. The embassy recommends against all travel to Kairouan during this period.”

The Salafists have been blamed for a wave of violence across Tunisia, including an attack on the U.S. embassy in September that left four assailants dead.

Ansar al-Sharia is considered the most radical of the extremist groups that emerged after the 2011 revolution that ousted veteran strongman Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

The group’s fugitive leader, Saif Allah Bin Hussein, a former al-Qaeda fighter in Afghanistan, warned last week he would wage war against the government led by moderate Islamist party Ennahda, accusing it of policies in breach of Islam.

The interior ministry on Friday said Ansar al-Sharia posed a threat to public order as it confirmed the ban on the planned congress.

“We have decided to prohibit this gathering, which would be in violation of the law and because of the threat it represents to public order,” it announced.

Ahead of the ministry’s announcement, Ansar al-Sharia, which does not recognize the authority of the state, warned that it would hold the government responsible for any violence.

“We are not asking permission from the government to preach the word of God and we warn against any police intervention to prevent the congress from taking place,” spokesman Seifeddine Rais said.

Rais said more than 40,000 people were expected to attend.

The interior ministry retorted that “all those who defy the authority of the state and its institutions, who try to sow chaos, who incite violence and hatred will bear all the responsibility”.

It promised a tough response to “anyone who tries to attack the forces of order” and said the police and army are on “high alert to protect the security of citizens and their property”.

Radical Islamist group Hizb ut Tahrir condemned the interior ministry ban but also appealed to Ansar al-Sharia to postpone the congress to avoid bloodshed.

“We say to Ansar al-Sharia that we consider it wise and a priority to announce the postponement of the congress, placing the whole responsibility for it on the government,” the group said in a statement.

Otherwise, “Sunday will be a day of bloody confrontation.”

The Salafists, who advocate an ultra-conservative brand of Sunni Islam, have been blamed for a spate of attacks on police in recent months.

(Source / 18.05.2013)

Hamas says talks underway to reopen Rafah crossing

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The Hamas-run Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gaza said Saturday that talks are underway with Egypt to reopen the Rafah crossing.

The crossing on Gaza’s border remained shut for the second day on Saturday as Egyptian police closed the gates in protest at the kidnapping of their colleagues.

“The ministry of foreign affairs is holding talks with senior officials in Egypt to re-open the Rafah crossing and ensure the safe return of people stranded by the closure,” deputy foreign minister Ghazi Hamad told Ma’an.

Maher Abu Sabha, the general director of crossings and borders, said 800 Palestinians were stranded on the Egyptian side of the crossing on Saturday morning.

The number was expected to reach 1,000 by the end of the day. Most travelers are waiting in hotels in el-Arish for the crossing to reopen. They include sick people who had received medical treatment abroad, pilgrims and students who study abroad.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry announced a state of alert along its border with Egypt on Thursday in case the kidnappers tried to smuggle the Egyptian servicemen into Gaza.

Early Thursday, gunmen ambushed two minibuses in Wadi al-Akhdar, between el-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid cities, and kidnapped seven Egyptian servicemen en route to Cairo for their monthly vacation, Egyptian security officials told Ma’an.

(Source / 18.05.2013)

Iraq violence kills 8

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Violence in Iraq killed eight people, including a police officer, his wife and two children, on Saturday, while gunmen kidnapped 10 security force personnel, officials said.

Gunmen broke into the home of the administrator for the Rashid area, south of Baghdad, killing one of his guards, an interior ministry official said.

They then moved to the nearby house of Captain Adnan al-Obaidi, a police officer in an anti-terrorism unit, and killed him, his wife and their two children, the official said.

A medical official confirmed the toll.

Gunmen also shot dead the imam of a Sunni mosque near the main southern port city of Basra, police and a Sunni endowment official said.

Near Ramadi, west of Baghdad, security forces attempted to arrest Mohammed Khamis Abu Risha, who is wanted in connection with the killing of five soldiers, sparking clashes with armed tribesmen in which two of them were killed, a police captain said.

Mohammed Khamis, the nephew of power tribal sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, who is a key supporter of Sunni anti-government protesters in Anbar province and also led the uprising against Al-Qaeda in the province from 2007, confirmed that two members of his tribe were killed.

Hundreds of gunmen then gathered in the area of the Anbar Operations Command headquarters near Ramadi, the captain said.

In another incident in the Ramadi area, gunmen ambushed a patrol and kidnapped 10 security force personnel, a police lieutenant colonel said.

The area is one of the main centers of the Sunni protest movement in Iraq, which began almost five months ago.

Demonstrators from Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority accuse authorities of marginalizing and targeting their community, including through wrongful detentions and accusations of involvement in terrorism.

While the government has made some concessions, such as freeing prisoners and raising the salaries of Sunni anti-Al-Qaeda fighters, underlying issues have not been addressed.

(Source / 18.05.2013)

Israeli forces arrest 5 in East Jerusalem

Israeli police pictured during clashes at the al-Aqsa mosque compound.

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces arrested five people in East Jerusalem on Saturday as clashes broke out during a march near the old city, witnesses said.

Dozens of people took part in a demonstration near Damascus gate to protest Israeli violations at al-Aqsa mosque, locals told Ma’an. Israeli forces moved to suppress the march and fired tear gas canisters, water canons and rubber-coated steel bullets at protestors.

Israeli forces also clashed with young men along the Nablus road, adjacent to the old city.

Five people were arrested, including Abdullah, Abbasi, 21, and Suleiman al-Zaghal, 20, witnesses said.

An Israeli police spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

On Friday, dozens of Palestinians in Jerusalem protested after Israel granted access to Israeli right-wingers at the al-Aqsa compound. Protesters raised Palestinian flags and chanted for the protection of al-Aqsa in a rally in the Old City.

Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at the protestors.

On Thursday, Israeli forces closed the al-Aqsa mosque, banning non-Muslim visitors from the compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.

UNESCO will send a fact-finding commission on May 20 to investigate ongoing Israeli measures in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority minister of foreign affairs said this week.

(Source / 18.05.2013)