Egyptian opposition attacks Brotherhood-backed NGO draft law

Protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi flee from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes along Qasr Al Nil bridge, which leads to Tahrir Square, in Cairo May 17, 2013.

Egypt’s main opposition bloc said on Saturday that a Muslim Brotherhood-backed bill to regulate human rights groups and other private organizations was an attempt to stifle their work.

The National Salvation Front (NSF), an alliance of liberal and leftist opposition parties, said the draft law submitted to the Shura Council, which for now has legislative powers, was more restrictive than laws under deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.

The NSF said in a statement that the bill “seeks to reproduce a police state by putting into law the role of security bodies in overseeing the work of civil society groups.”

Human rights groups have also criticized the law, which stipulates that non-governmental groups (NGOs) must be vetted by a committee partly drawn from the security services and must get official permission to receive funds from abroad.

“This can allow these entities to refuse funding for rights groups that monitor elections or work to fight torture … there is an insistent position by the ruling regime driven by lack of political will to take any reform initiative towards democracy and respect for human rights,” the NSF statement said.

Under Mubarak, NGOs ran into trouble over funding by Western countries and such constraints have continued after his fall.

Last year, when Egypt was still under interim army rule, an investigation into the work of international NGOs, including some U.S.-based groups, led to a crisis in ties with Washington.

Mokhtar al-Ashry, head of the legal committee of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told Reuters the bill would ensure freedom for NGOs and that the security apparatus would provide only one of nine members on the committee overseeing their activities and funding. Asked why any security official should play such a role, Ashry ended the conversation.

Earlier this month, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said the draft law risked betraying the ideals of Egypt’s 2011revolution and said governments restricting civil society work” risk slipping quickly into authoritarianism”.

The NSF said it would back another bill drafted by a coalition of 50 civil society groups.

(Source / 18.05.2013)

13 year-old boy shot and beaten by settlers, leg broken

At about 2pm on 16 May, a 13 year-old boy was shot at and beaten by settlers; he broke bones in his leg running from the shots at him and from being beaten. After falling, the boy was threatened with his life by settlers, but soldiers arrived and stopped the settlers from killing him before threatening the young boy with three guns while he lay injured and immobile on the ground.

The young Qaryut boy here has his entire right leg in a cast, expecting a potential surgery.

The young Qaryut boy here has his entire right leg in a cast, expecting potential surgery

Initial medical attention was not allowed during the time Israeli soldiers had taken the boy into their custody, implying that he would be treated in an Israeli ambulance. However, three hours later, the boy had to be picked up, untreated, by the Red Crescent and taken to Rafidia hospital in Nablus.

When solidarity activists saw the boy, his entire right leg was wrapped in a cast. Later he described that he was sitting on his land which is close to an illegal Israeli settlement bordering Qaryut and famous for attacks such as olive tree torching. Settlers shot at him and he ran from the shots. When he fell, the settlers beat him and were going to kill him, but soldiers arrived and told the settlers could not. Afterwards, the soldiers also shouted at the boy with guns pointed at him.

The boy may undergo surgery for his broken bones.

Just two days before this attack, Qaryut faced an olive tree torching attack from another nearby illegal Israeli settlement and the village has a history of well-documented settler attacks on its land.  In addition, Israeli military have closed a Qaryut road to Nablus and Ramallah for Palestinian use as the road is not far from illegal Israeli settlements on Qaryut land. Currently, 15 mostly young Qaryut men have been arrested for activism in peaceful demonstrations against the key road’s closure.

Nablus' Rafidia Hospital took this X-ray showing the teenager's broken bones from his attack (photo: ISM)

Nablus’ Rafidia Hospital took this X-ray showing the teenager’s broken bones from his attack

(Source / 18.05.2013)

Israeli forces close road linking villages to Ramallah

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli forces on Saturday blocked a road between Ramallah and Deir Jarir with cement blocks, witnesses said.

The road connects Deir Jarir and neighboring villages to Ramallah and Jericho. Locals said they will be forced to take a long and bumpy detour to Ramallah via Qalandia.

The closure followed frequent clashes in the area between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters.

The mayor of Deir Jarir, Imad Ulwei, condemned the road’s closure as collective punishment in response to peaceful protests.

Protests are held in the area every Friday against Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land in Deir Jarir, Silwad and surrounding villages to expand the Ofra settlement.

(Source / 18.05.2013)

Egypt blocks Gaza border, Hamas calls continued closure ‘unjustified’

Angered by kidnapping of seven Egyptian policemen by Islamist gunmen in Sinai, Egypt keeps Gaza crossing closed Friday and Saturday, leaving hundreds of Palestinian travelers stranded.

Palestinians walk toward the Egyptian border crossing with Gaza in Rafah, Egypt

Palestinians walk toward the Egyptian border crossing with Gaza in Rafah, Egypt, Friday Aug. 10, 2012

Egyptian police angered by the kidnapping of seven colleagues by Islamist gunmen kept a crossing into the Gaza Strip closed again on Saturday, stranding hundreds of Palestinian travelers, witnesses said.

The protest began on Friday when police strung barbed wire across the Rafah border post and chained up the gates, local residents said, a day after the abductions.

Gunmen demanding the release of jailed Islamist militants had seized seven policemen and soldiers on a road between the Sinai towns of el-Arish and Rafah.

Three of those abducted had worked at the Rafah border crossing, locals said.

“We will not open the crossing until the kidnapped soldiers are freed and the interior minister arrives to listen to our demands so that these attacks on us are not repeated,” one of the protesting policemen said on Saturday.

Hardline Islamist groups in North Sinai have exploited the collapse of state authority after the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 to launch attacks across the border into Israel and on Egyptian targets.

The protesting policemen called on Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, to help free their colleagues.

Security sources said on Saturday all seven hostages remained missing, retracting their report the previous day that one policeman had been released.

A spokesman for the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, criticized the Egyptian police action and said contacts were under way to resolve the standoff.

“There are promises to follow up on the matter, but in spite of these promises the suffering is still building up. We consider the continued closure of the crossing unjustified and incomprehensible,” Sami Abu Zuhri told Al Jazeera television.

(Source / 18.05.2013)

Israeli official: Assad preferable to extremist rebels, The Times of London reports

According to Israeli intelligence officer quoted in report, weakened but intact Syria under President Bashar Assad is better for Israel and region than takeover by Islamist rebels.

Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech at the parliament in Damascus, Syria.

Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech at the parliament in Damascus, Syria in 2012.
Israel prefers the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria to continue than see a takeover of the country by rebel Islamist militants, The Times of London reported Friday, quoting an Israeli intelligence official.

“Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos, and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there,” the official said, according to the report.

According to the Times, the senior intelligence officer in the north of Israel said a weakened but stable Syria under Assad is not only better for Israel but for the region as a whole.

Another defense official was quoted saying it is more likely than initially estimated that Assad will remain in power.

“We originally underestimated Assad’s staying power and overestimated the rebels’ fighting power,” the source said.

The report in the Times comes a day after the United States said the Russian missile shipment to Syria will embolden Assad and prolong the conflict.

(Source / 18.05.2013)