Second ‘Prisoner X’ held in top secret in Israel

A view of Israeli Ayalon prison in Ramle near Tel Aviv on Feb. 14, 2013

JERUSALEM (AFP) — A second ‘Prisoner X’ was being held in top-secret conditions in the same jail where an Israeli-Australian spy took his his own life in 2010, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Court documents cited by Haaretz newspaper said the prisoner was being held in another wing of Ayalon prison at the same time as Ben Zygier, an alleged Mossad spy whose mysterious arrest and subsequent suicide shocked Israel and Australia when it hit the headlines in February.

The documents show the second prisoner had already been convicted without saying what his crime was.

The prisoner, who was being held under similar conditions to Zygier, was not named and it was not clear from the papers whether he was still incarcerated, Haaretz said.

Zygier, who was initially referred to as “Prisoner X” before the Australian press identified him as an agent for Israel’s shadowy Mossad spy service, was found hanged in a supposedly suicide-proof cell in Block 15 of Ayalon prison in December 2010 with Israel going to extreme lengths to cover up his existence and the reason for his imprisonment.

Haaretz said the second prisoner was being held in Block 13 and that like Zygier, his case was being handled by the Shin Bet internal security service and the prison’s intelligence officers.

The paper said the information was included in an appendix to a transcript of hearings and decisions on the Zygier case, which was released by the Central District Magistrates Court following a Haaretz request.

Avigdor Feldman, a lawyer who visited Zygier just days before his death and who specializes in security cases, told army radio that certain assumptions could be drawn from a detainee being classified as ‘prisoner X.’

“They are Israeli, they work in institutions linked to security whose activities are shrouded in secrecy,” he said.

“And their detention demonstrates the failure of these organisations which are not capable of preventing offences such as those for which these agents have been arrested,” he said.

Two months ago, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which broke the original story about ‘Prisoner X’ in February, said that Zygier had been arrested after unwittingly sabotaging a top-secret spy operation to bring home the bodies of Israeli soldiers missing in Lebanon.

(Source / 09.07.2013)

Russia claims Syria rebels used sarin at Khan al-Assal

A photo released by Syria's state news agency purportedly showing victims of a chemical weapons attack at Khan al-Assal (19 March 2013)Syria’s government and rebels accuse each other of using chemical weapons

Russia says it has evidence showing a projectile that hit a northern Syrian village contained the nerve agent sarin and was most likely fired by rebels.

Moscow’s permanent representative to the UN told reporters that the findings were the result of an independent investigation requested by Damascus.

Both sides have accused each other of attacks involving chemical weapons.

The incident in Khan al-Assal, outside Aleppo, on 19 March left at least 27 people dead and dozens injured.

Last month, the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry said there were reasonable grounds to believe that “limited quantities of toxic chemicals” had been used at Khan al-Assal, as well as in three other attacks.

“The projectile involved is not a standard one for chemical use”

Vitaly ChurkinRussian permanent representative to the UN

But it had “not been possible… to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator”, it added.

The inquiry also called on the Syrian authorities to allow a team of UN chemical weapons experts into the country – a request Damascus has so far refused because of disputes over access to areas that the UK and French governments also want investigated.

‘No credible reporting’

On Monday, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, revealed that its Syrian ally had asked Russian experts to look into the Khan al-Assal attack.

They had visited the location where the projectile landed and taken their own samples, which were then analysed at a Russian laboratory certified by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Mr Churkin said.

The chemical agent was carried by a “Bashair-3 unguided projectile”, which was produced by the Bashair al-Nasr Brigade, a rebel group affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, he alleged.

Continue reading the main story

What is sarin?

  • One of a group of nerve agents invented by German scientists as part of Hitler’s preparations for World War II
  • Huge secret stockpiles built up by superpowers during Cold War
  • 20 times more deadly than cyanide: A drop the size of a pin-head can kill a person
  • Called “the poor man’s atomic bomb” due to large number of people that can be killed by a small amount
  • Kills by crippling the nervous system through blocking the action of an enzyme
  • Can only be manufactured in a laboratory
  • Very dangerous to manufacture

“The results of the analysis clearly indicate that the ordnance used in Khan al-Assal was not industrially manufactured and was filled with sarin.”

“The projectile involved is not a standard one for chemical use,” Mr Churkin added. “Hexogen, utilised as an opening charge, is not utilised in standard ammunitions. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that it was armed opposition fighters who used the chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal.”

Mr Churkin said the report had been submitted to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose spokesman said he took “seriously all credible allegations”.

The UK and France sent letters to the secretary general in late March which reportedly detailed evidence based on witness interviews and soil samples that chemical weapons had been used on multiple occasions, including at Khan al-Assal.

In mid-June, the US said its intelligence agencies believed government forces had used chemical weapons, including sarin, “on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year”, resulting in an estimated 100-150 deaths.

Following Mr Churkin’s announcement, a UK government spokesman told the BBC: “We will examine whatever is presented to us, but to date we have seen no credible reporting of chemical weapons use by the Syrian opposition, or that the opposition have obtained chemical weapons.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US had also “yet to see any evidence that backs up the assertion that anybody besides the Syrian government has the ability to use chemical weapons, [or] has used chemical weapons”.

“Our ability as an international community to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria is hampered by Assad’s refusal to allow a United Nations investigation.”

Sarin is considered 20 times as deadly as cyanide and is impossible to detect due to its odourless, tasteless and colourless properties. The agent attacks the nervous system, often causing respiratory failure and can cause death within minutes of exposure.

(Source / 09.07.2013)

De intentie voor het vasten & de sahoer (ochtendmaaltijd).

De intentie:

Morgen, 10 Juli, is de eerste dag van de gezegende maand Ramadan. Dit houdt in dat de intentie voor het vasten van Ramadan vóór aanvang van fajr (ochtendgebed) moet zijn genomen. Vanwege de volgende overlevering:

Wie geen intentie voor het vasten heeft vóór fajr, zijn vasten is niet correct. [Bayhaqi]

Vraagstuk:

Moet deze intentie dagelijks voor iedere dag afzonderlijk worden genomen of volstaat de intentie – om de hele maand te vasten – aan het begin van de maand?

Antwoord:

De geleerden verschillen hierover in mening, de grootgeleerde shaych al-‘Uthaimeen – moge Allah hem genadig zijn – neigt naar de mening dat de intentie aan het begin van de maand volstaat. Wellicht dat dat de sterkste mening is.

Wel moet daarbij in acht worden genomen dat degene die het vasten heeft verbroken, vanwege bijvoorbeeld ziekte reis of menstruatie, zijn intentie moet vernieuwen indien hij of zij de volgende dag weer van plan is om te vasten.

De sahoer:

Het valt onder de manieren van het vasten om de vastende dag met sahoer te starten. Dit was de gewoonte van onze nobele profeet salla allaho ‘alaihi wa sellam en zijn metgezellen.

De profeet salla allaho ‘alaihi wa sellam zegt: “Nuttig de sahoer, want de sahoer is gezegend.” [al-Boecharie]

En hij salla allaho ‘alaihi wa sellam zegt: “Nuttig de sahoer, ook al is het slechts een beetje water.”[ibn Hibbaan]

De sunnah van sahoer is om deze uit te stellen tot aan het einde van de nacht, vlak vóór fajr aanbreekt. Dus als je bijvoorbeeld aan een kwartier genoeg hebt voor de sahoer, nuttig je deze een kwartier vóór fajr.

Van de voordelen van het nuttigen van sahoer kort vóór fajr, is dat je het fajrgebed tijdig verricht, vóór zonsopgang. Beter kan je de dag niet beginnen!

Ook is de tijd van sahoer een gezegende tijd voor du’a (smeekbede) en het vragen van vergiffenis. Allah heeft zijn vrome dienaren geprezen in de Qoraan voor het feit dat zij Hem op dat tijdstip vergiffenis vragen:

En in de ashaar (tijd vóór fajr) vragen zij om vergeving.” [51:18]

Ps. Het kwartier voor tijd stoppen met eten wordt door de geleerden beschouwd als een innovatie en overdrijven in het geloof. Je mag eten tot fajr aanbreekt.

Weet dat het bereiken van deze gezegende maand op zich een grote gunst is, en ga er niet vanuit dat je er volgend jaar ook bij zal zijn.

Tot slot richt ik mij nogmaals tot onze broeders en zusters die het gebed hebben gelaten of daar laks mee zijn. Dit is de tijd om terug te keren. Dit is de tijd voor oprecht berouw. Niet morgen en ook niet straks, maar nu.

Moge Allah de meest Verhevene ons helpen bij het nuttig besteden van deze gezegende maand en ons vergeven voor onze tekortkomingen.

Abulfadl, student aan de Universiteit van Medina. Saudi Arabië.

30 Sha’baan

Makkelijk los te laten, maar moeilijk terug te nemen

By Marianna Laarif

Een vrouw herhaalde een roddel die ze gehoord had over een buur. Binnen een paar dagen kende de hele gemeenschap het verhaal. De betreffende persoon was diep gekwetst en beledigd.

Later kwam de vrouw die verantwoordelijk was voor het verspreiden van de roddel er achter dat het volledig onwaar was. Ze had enorm veel spijt en ging naar een wijze oude man om te vragen wat ze kon doen om de schade te herstellen.

“Ga naar de markt” zei de oude man “haal een kip en slacht hem. Op weg naar huis, pluk je de veren en gooi ze één voor één langs de weg.” Ook al was ze verrast door dit advies, deed de vrouw toch wat haar gezegd was.

De volgende dag zei de wijze man: “Ga nu alle losse veren die je gisteren hebt laten vallen weer ophalen en breng ze terug naar mij.”

De vrouw volgde dezelfde weg als de dag ervoor maar de wind had alle veren weg geblazen. Na uren zoeken keerde ze terug met slechts drie veren in haar hand.

“Zie je” zei de oude man “het is makkelijk om ze te laten vallen, maar onmogelijk om ze terug te krijgen. Zo is het ook met roddelen. Het kost weinig moeite om een roddel te verspreiden maar als je dat eenmaal gedaan hebt kun je de fout nooit meer helemaal ongedaan maken

Wa alaikom assalam warahmatu Allah wabarakatuh

New Hunger Strike Update from Addameer and Information on all Striking Prisoners

Since our latest update several days ago, there have been a number of developments in Palestinian hunger strikers’ cases. Addameer’s newest report is below, followed by additional updates:

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association issued the following statement on July 9 with the latest updates on striking prisoners:

9 July 2013 – Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association can confirm 12 individual hunger strikes in Israeli prisons.palestinian-hunger-strike

Ayman Hamdan has been on hunger strike for 73 days in protest of his administrative detention. Initially he was held in isolation in Ofer Prison as punishment for initiating a hunger strike, but has since been moved to Asaf Haroveh Hosptial where his health continues to worsen. Ayman’s brother Ahmad engaged in a one week hunger strike from 24 June – 1 July in solidarity with his brother.

Imad Batran has been on hunger strike for 64 days in protest of the extension of his administrative detention for an additional 6 months. According to his lawyer, Ahlam Haddad, he has lost 26 kilograms and is suffering from several health problems. Despite this, he continues to be shackled to his bed at Assaf Haroveh Hospital at all times. He is currently only drinking water and taking salt and sugar.

Ayman Tabeesh has been on hunger strike for 48 days in protest of his administrative detention as well. He is currently held in Ramleh Prison Hospital. Ayman’s brother Mohammad Tabeesh also started a hunger strike in solidarity with his brother. Mohammad is a former administrative detainee who is now serving an 18 month sentence. Mohammad, who has been on hunger strike for 28 days, is continuously subjected to beatings by the prison guards at Ofer and has been moved from isolation in Megiddo Prison to Jalameh Prison, where he is currently detained.

Adel Hareebat has been on hunger strike for 48 days in protest of the renewal of his administrative detention order, which was confirmed for an addition 4 months on 23 May 2013. As punishment for engaging in a hunger strike, he was moved to isolation in Ofer Prison until his health condition deteriorated to the point that he had to be moved to Ramleh Prison Hospital. The prison hospital doctor told Adel that his hunger strike is putting his life in danger due to his other health conditions, however an appeal submitted by his lawyer against his administrative detention was rejected by the military court.

Husam Matir, who is serving a life sentence, was moved into isolation in Askalan Prison for starting a hunger strike 39 days ago. His main demand is that he be recognized as a prisoner of war.

Five of the prisoners who hold Jordanian citizenship also continue to be on hunger strike for 69 days and are in very dangerous health conditions. Abdallah Barghouthi is currently being held in Afoula Hospital. Mohammad Rimawi, Munir Mar’ee and Alaa Hammad are all held in Sukora Hospital and Hamza Othman is held in Ramleh Prison Hospital.

Addameer can also confirm the hunger strike of Iyad Abu Khdeir started his second hunger strike on 7 June 2013 in protest of his continued detention despite the completion of his 8 year sentence. Iyad’s first hunger strike was for 22 days from 13 May – 3 June 2013.

Awad Sa’eedy also engaged in a hunger strike for 15 days from 20 June to 5 July 2013 in protest of his isolation in Ayshel prison. Awad has been held in isolation since April 2012 as a punishment during the mass hunger strikes in April and May 2012. Awad suspended his strike on the promise that he will be removed from isolation and detained in Hadarim Prison.

**

Khaled Hroub, who had been on hunger strike since June 15, ended his hunger strike earlier in the week. Hroub had demanded to be placed with his brother Younis, also imprisoned by the Israeli occupation. Younis Hroub will be released today, June 9, from administrative detention in Negev prison. Younis earlier conducted a 66-day hunger strike demanding his release from administrative detention. He was previously arrested by Israeli occupation forces in 2002 and served six and a half years. He was re-arrested on July 10, 2012 and held in administrative detention.

**

Hussam Mattar, who has been on hunger strike for 39 days, was transferred on July 9 from isolation in Ashkelon prion to the Ramle prison clinic. His wife reported that he is suffering from her husband is suffering from severe pain in the head and kidneys, as well as poor vision and heart disease.

**

See the following updated chart (data from Palestinian Prisoners Society) on the hunger strikers and the date they launched their strikes:

Palestinian prisoner’s name

Date of Hunger Strike

Ayman Issa Hamdan 04/28/2013
Muneer Mari 05/02/2013
Abdullah Barghouti 05/02/2013
Alaa Hammad 05/02/2013
Mohammad Rimawi 05/02/2013
Hamza Othman Al-Dabbas 05/02/2013
Imad Batran 05/07/2013
Adel Hareebat 05/23/2013
Ayman Al-Tabeesh 05/23/2013
Hossam Mattar 06/01/2013
Mohammed Al-Tabeesh 06/12/2013
Eyad Abu Khudair 06/17/2013

(Source / 029.07.2013)

Abul-Fotouh: Egyptian army should stay away from politics

Strong Egypt Party leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh said ousted president Mohammad Mursi relied on incompetent people to run state affairs.

Egypt’s moderate Islamist and Strong Egypt Party leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh urged on Tueday the military to stay away from politics in order to protect itself.

During a special interview with Al Arabiya, Abul-Fotouh also said that the “demonization of the Muslim Brotherhood is threatening state institutions,” including the military, which he said was the only institution not damaged by the previous regime of Hosni Mubarak.

The former Brotherhood member said Mursi failed to adopt a policy of partnership and cooperation with other political forces. He added that the Mursi also relied to incompetent people to run state institutions.

Abul-Fotouh said he was “surprised” by the amount of anger against Mursi.

Abul-Fotouh was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and served in its Guidance Bureau from 1987 until 2009. He broke away from the Islamist movement in 2011 to run for presidential elections.

He also helped found al-Gamaa Islamiya during the 1970s.

(Source / 09.07.2013)

At start of Islamic fasting month, Ban appeals to all parties in Syria to stop violence

Pictured, a child takes shelter in an abandoned building in Al-Hassake city

9 July 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed to all parties in Syria to put down their weapons during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, adding that this gesture could help build momentum towards peace.

In a statement issued last night, Mr. Ban noted that Ramadan is one of four months in the Islamic calendar during which fighting is supposed to stop.

“For the sake of the Syrian people, therefore, I would like to call on all parties in Syria to respect this religious obligation for at least, at a minimum, one month,” Mr. Ban said.

“I am not calling for a contractual cease-fire or a negotiated truce. Nor am I referring to a measure limited to any one area. I am calling for every military unit of the regular army and the Free Syrian Army, for every person holding a gun, to stop fighting and offer this month of peace as a collective present to their people – and to do so across Syria.”

This will be the third Ramadan that Syrian people mark since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad. Since then, as many as 100,000 people have been killed, almost 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced.

“I am aware that some may see this call as unrealistic,” Mr. Ban said. “Lasting peace will only come through serious negotiation. But I am convinced that the Syrian people have every right to ask this of all those who claim to be fighting in their name. These are the kinds of gestures that can build hope and momentum toward peace.”

Mr. Ban also called for the release of detainees by Government forces and opposition groups, saying there are reliable reports of hundreds of women and children who are detained in various official and non-official centres across the country.

“I appeal to all sides for the immediate release of all these detainees. I call on President Bashar Al-Assad to intervene personally to end this treatment and release all prisoners,” he said.

Mr. Ban acknowledged that lasting peace will only come through negotiation, and reiterated the UN would continue to work with Russia and the United States to build on their agreement to achieve a political solution to the crisis and organize a conference in Geneva that would bring Syrian parties to the negotiating table.

 


Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. 

“As the United Nations and others work actively to prepare the conditions for a successful peace conference on Syria, the Syrians themselves should use the holy month of Ramadan of the Year 1434 in the Islamic Calendar to make a symbolic but powerful contribution to open the way to the solution of the crisis in their country,” Mr. Ban said.

“In issuing this appeal for a peaceful Ramadan in Syria, I would like to invite all in the international community who voice concern for the people of Syria – governments, international and non-governmental organizations, the humanitarian community, religious leaders, and others – to add their voices publicly in support. A clear message must be sent that yet more violence is not the way. The Syrian people deserve no less.”

UN agencies will also continue their humanitarian support to those affected by the conflict, he added.

Speaking to reporters in New York, the World Food Programme (WFP) Emergency Coordinator for Syria, Muhannad Hadi, stressed that it is extremely important that aid continues to flow into Syria until the crisis is over, as there are many families inside the country that now depend entirely on UN assistance for food.

“[People] don’t have credit cards, they can’t borrow, prices have skyrocketed where food is available […] we have come to a stage in many places in Syria where either food is delivered by the World Food Programme, or they will go hungry.”

At the same time, Mr. Hadi drew attention to the increasingly difficult conditions that his agency is facing, including multiple checkpoints and getting caught in crossfire.

“We cross lines every day. It is extremely difficult and extremely challenging, but it is our determination that keeps us going,” he said, adding that WFP provides assistance to both Government and non-Government controlled areas.

Mr. Hadi also urged continued support, noting that WFP needs $27 million every week to assist 4 million people inside Syria and approximately 3 million in neighbouring countries.

(Source / 09.07.2013)

Palestinian children work Israeli settlements

Some children reportedly earn just 25 per cent of the wage they are entitled to.

A Palestinian child labourer picks sweet peppers in an Israeli settlement
Jordan Valley, occupied Palestinian territories – Small, frail bodies move systematically in the orchards, picking and cleaning fruit and vegetables, placing them into containers, before finally loading them onto trucks. Like clockwork, every day between 5am and 2pm, these Palestinian children work inside illegal settlements in the Jordan Valley to help their families, having left the idea of school far behind.

Ismai’l is just 16, but dropped out of high school and turned to work in the settlement of Argaman to provide for his 12-member family, and to help his older brother pay for his university tuition. He works in the fields for up to eight hours, sometimes seven days a week, depending on the season.

“I want to continue going to school in the future but hopefully… before I become too old to finish,” said Isma’il, who hails from the Jordan Valley village of Al Zubeidat. “Now I cannot go back because money for the family is our necessity and this is what needs to be done.”

The number of Palestinians working inside Jordan Valley settlements varies between 10,000 and 20,000 depending on the season, according to Ma’an Development Centre, a Ramallah-based capacity-building organisation. Children make up between five and ten percent of these workers.

These child labourers either live in Jordan Valley villages such as Al Fasayil, Al Jiftlik and Al Zubeidat, or hail from the rest of the West Bank, notably the south Hebron Hills, where living conditions are dire, unemployment is high and water is scarce. Most often, the children follow in the footsteps of family members in the same line of work.

Leaving school behind

The child workers drop out of high school at the age of 15 or 16 because settlement jobs most often provide the only means of survival for them and their families.

“Most kids look at working in settlements as the only option to get a better life,” said Chris Michael, advocacy coordinator at Ma’an Development Centre. “There are many cases of men in their thirties or forties who have been working in settlements since they were 14.”

The fact that most of the Jordan Valley can’t be developed… forces these children to say: ‘This is my life, my father can’t work, my brother is at university, so working in settlements is our only means of survival.’

Chris Michael, Ma’an Development Centre

The high drop-out rate is partially attributed to the Jordan Valley’s weak educational system, hampered by a lack of adequate infrastructure and a large number of students in each due to Israeli restrictions on building.

According to a Ma’an report, “approximately 10,000 children living in Area ‘C’ started the 2011/12 school year learning in tents, caravans, or tin shacks which lack protection from the heat and cold. Furthermore, nearly a third of Area ‘C’ schools lack adequate water and sanitation facilities”.

The reportParallel Realities: Israeli Settlements and Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley, also found that many of the schools had received demolition orders, or have pending stop-work orders from the Israeli authorities.

Children end up working in settlements, either by request from family members or by their own accord. Muhammad, 16, is from Al Fasayil and works in the nearby settlement of Tomer, where he picks and packages sweet peppers in the summer, and works the date plantations in the winter.

Muhammad ended up dropping out of school because he felt that making money was a better option than finishing high school. “School was not equipping me for my future,” he said. “There are many people who even go to university and don’t find work, so it will not be any different for me.”

The Jordan Valley is particularly susceptible to this phenomenon, with 95 per cent of the land is designated Area C, which under the Oslo Accords, places it under Israel’s full administrative and security control. This area is either peppered with settlements and closed-off military zones, or earmarked for “nature reserves”.

“You have a lot of Palestinian villages that have agricultural land in Area C, which means Palestinian families need permits to get to it, that there are certain hours they’re allowed to go, and that they’re only permitted to use certain equipment, all meaning they cannot compete with the Israeli settlers for exports – in terms of pricing or quality,” Michael said. “So they end up leasing their land and leaving for work in the nearby settlements.”

The Jordan Valley has the potential to be the breadbasket of the West Bank because of its fertile land and abundant water resources. But very little land or access to aquifers are available to Palestinians, who are confined to only about five percent of the territory – making it difficult to cultivate or develop crops. Harsh living conditions that are a direct result of Israeli land confiscations, control of water resources and the separation wall eventually push Palestinians to work inside illegal settlements.

Defying labour laws

The Jordan Valley is home to approximately 60,000 Palestinians, while 9,500 Israelis live in the area in 37 settlements, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Once inside these settlements, child workers clean, lift boxes, pick and package vegetables and fruit, working in temperatures that can reach 50° Celsius in the summer, and earning between 50-90NIS ($14-$25) for an eight or nine-hour work day.

Their meagre earnings constitute 25-50 per cent of what they are entitled to under Israeli labour laws, which include a minimum wage of 23.12NIS ($5.75) per hour, as well as healthcare and paid sick leave – none of which is afforded to Palestinian workers. But according to Kav LaOved, an Israeli workers’ rights group, “Israeli employers in the settlements and industrial zones in the West Bank continue to routinely deny the rights of their Palestinian workers on a much larger scale… This gross violation of Palestinians’ labour rights by Israeli employers in the West Bank is made possible because there is almost no law enforcement against violators”.

A spokesman for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories – an Israeli military office that deals with civilian issues in the occupied territories – said they were not familiar with the issue and that no claims regarding the employment of children had been submitted to them.

“We emphasise that the Civil Administration does not issue working permits for Palestinians under the age of 18. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor is in charge of the enforcement of this kind of phenomena,” it said in a statement.

The ministry, however, said it was not authorised to enforce all labour laws within what it called the “disputed” territories of the West Bank, both as it concerns “Palestinians and non-Palestinian residents”.

“Currently, the legal situation is such that the ministry is authorised to enforce only the Minimum Wage Law (1987) and the Foreign Workers Law (1991),” a ministry statement said. “The main bulk of the Israeli labour laws are not applicable to the residents (Jews or Arab–Israelis or Palestinians) living in the West Bank.”

The ministry said it was working closely with the ministry of justice “to change the current situation by amending the relevant legislation administered by the Civil Administration in such a way that the labour laws could be enforced within the Israeli controlled parts of the West Bank. We are hoping to see a breakthrough that would enhance our law enforcement with the legal authority required for the implementation of all labour laws in the Israeli controlled parts of the West Bank”.

Settlers ‘claim ignorance’

The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions – a national trade union representing Palestinian workers – called the phenomenon a “complicated problem” that requires concerted efforts by many organisations. “We have  launched a campaign to raise awareness about this issue,” said Khawla Elayyan, who heads the union’s child labour department. “We have held meetings with families, students and local bodies to resolve this issue. But there aren’t enough official inspectors to ensure children aren’t being taken advantage of. And we have no jurisdiction in Israeli settlements.”

Most often, children working in settlements do so through a Palestinian waseet, or “go-between”, who collects a one-time or monthly fee in exchange for finding work for them.

“The waseet goes after kids because he knows he can exploit them,” Michael explained. “So this is another way the settlers can get away with it; they can claim ignorance by laying responsibility at the door of their “labour organiser’.”

Children who aren’t from the area are forced to live in squalid conditions in humid storage units, sometimes 20 at a time, Michael added. “The fact that most of the Jordan Valley can’t be developed, even though Palestinians are 85 per cent of the population there, forces these children to say: ‘This is my life, my father can’t work, my brother is at university, so working in settlements is our only means of survival.’ That’s the general mindset.”

(Source / 09.07.2013)

In photos: Palestinian workers’ everyday nightmare at Israeli checkpoints

Palestinian men line up at the Eyal checkpoint in the northern occupied West Bank city of Qalqiliya. Thousands of Palestinian men arrive at the checkpoint before dawn due to the long delays that keep them waiting for hours as they attempt to enter Israel for work.

The Eyal terminal at the city of Qalqiliya is one of forty fixed checkpoints located along the boundary between the occupied West Bank and Israel. The terminals are part of an elaborate system of physical and administrative obstacles that Palestinians must navigate in order to enter Israel to work. Every Sunday thousands arrive to the terminal before sunrise to begin their workweek; for many it’s the start of a 12-plus hour day which will begin and end at the same metal turnstile.

Eyal checkpoint was opened in 2004 after the completion of Israel’s wall that completely surrounds the city of Qalqiliya. The economic effects of Israeli movement restrictions on Palestinians in this region have been particularly acute, requiring many men and women to make the tortuous journey to Israel for work. These pictures were taken between 3:45am and 7am on 11 May 2013 and underline both the dehumanizing nature of the occupation and the resolve of the Palestinian people who face these hardships every day.

The Palestinian men must first pass through a series of remotely-controlled metal turnstiles, a feature of many checkpoints operated throughout the West Bank. At Eyal, a private security officer controls the flow of workers from an enclosed booth, unlocking the gate and allowing Palestinian passage into Israel one person at a time.

A Palestinian man has a coffee at one of the numerous food stalls that line the road leading up to the checkpoint. The makeshift booths serve the thousands of workers passing through Eyal in the early hours.

With food, coffee and cigarettes in hand, Palestinian men walk to get in the line that will lead them through the caged pathway at Eyal checkpoint.

The movement restrictions that dominate Palestinian life in the occupied West Bank are well-represented at Eyal. As one man waiting in line said simply: “Life here is a series of cages.”

A section of Israel’s wall is visible in the background, purportedly built as a security measure but in effect annexes occupied West Bank land. Once completed, the wall will extend more than 700 kilometers — twice as long as the boundary between Israel and the West Bank — with 85 percent of the wall built in Palestinian territory, thus becoming the de facto border. In Qalqiliya, the barrier confines the city in every direction, cutting the town off from its surrounding land and neighboring communities.

A car cuts through a line of Palestinian men as they wait just outside the enclosed passageway that leads to the entrance of the checkpoint. A constant stream of cars and taxis ferry people from the surrounding area to the checkpoint that serves as the main entrance point into Israel for Palestinian workers throughout the area.

Muslim Palestinians pray at the Eyal checkpoint before crossing into Israel.

As the morning light arrives, the surrounding military infrastructure comes into focus. From the checkpoint and beyond, the Qalqiliya region is dominated by walls, fences and towers.

An imposing Israeli military tower looks down over the workers as they pass through the checkpoint. Eyal is one of forty permanent Israeli checkpoints that control Palestinian movement.

A Palestinian youth runs a makeshift coffee stand while his father sits beside a fire before getting in line to cross into Israel.

A Palestinian man lights a cigarette while waiting to cross through the checkpoint.

Palestinian men smoke cigarettes before getting into the line that will take them through the Eyal checkpoint to their jobs inside Israel. The majority of those passing into Israel to work are middle-aged men who work in Tel Aviv. Israel will only allow work permits for those over 35; young persons, especially men, are considered a security risk.

A Palestinian youth takes a break from working at a makeshift coffee stand at the Eyal checkpoint. Vendors sell food and drinks at the checkpoint to the thousands of men who cross the border each day to reach their jobs inside Israel.

A Palestinian man grimaces in pain as he pushes through the single gate that serves as the only entrance to the Eyal checkpoint. The gate frequently locks without warning, forcing the men to wait in a crowded, fenced-in enclosure.

A man rises above the crowd in an attempt to orchestrate the passage of an increasingly restless the crowd. A security officer can be heard shouting commands in Hebrew over the loudspeaker, threatening the Palestinian crowd with more delays.

Two Palestinian men wait to cross through the Eyal checkpoint. Many wait on the edges of the crowd, waiting for a lull in the crowding, which usually doesn’t happening until later in the morning. The permit system in place allows passage of certain people at specified times, and all who pass through Eyal must return through the same terminal.

The sun rises on a crowd of Palestinian men still waiting to file through the single gate into the Eyal checkpoint. There will be a large crowd trying to get the checkpoint for hours still.

(Source / 09.07.2013)

Egypt Islamists reject poll plan drawing army warning

Supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi gather in front of Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque on July 9.

CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt’s army-installed interim leader set out plans on Tuesday for new elections by early next year, which were immediately rejected by the ousted president’s Muslim Brotherhood, drawing a stern warning from the military.

The Brotherhood, which has refused to accept the overthrow of its champion Mohamed Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, slammed the transition blueprint as an attempt to salvage last week’s coup which would do nothing to end an increasingly bloody conflict.

The army warned it would brook no disruption to what it acknowledged would be a “difficult” transition.

The blueprint unveiled by caretaker President Adly Mansour is intended to replace the controversial Islamist-drafted constitution which he suspended following last week’s coup.

A committee will be set up to make final improvements to the draft before it is put to a referendum.

Parliamentary elections will then follow within three months and Mansour will announce a date for a presidential election once the new parliament has convened.

Hours after its unveiling, Mansour named a vice president and a prime minister, his spokesman Ahmed al-Muslimani said.

The military has come under huge international pressure to swiftly install an interim civilian administration, pressure that has only intensified since gunfire killed 51 Islamist protesters outside a Cairo army base on Monday.

Former finance minister Hazem al-Beblawi was named prime minister. Former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace laureate, was named vice president for foreign affairs.

Even though ElBaradei was its designated negotiator in talks on the transition, the grassroots Tamarod campaign which organized the mass protests that led up to Mursi’s overthrow complained it had not been consulted on the transition plan.

Tamarod spokesman Mahmud Badr said the movement would make proposals for changes to the blueprint, which it would present to Mansour later on Tuesday.

The Brotherhood rejected the plan outright.

“A constitutional decree by a man appointed by putschists… brings the country back to square one,” senior Brotherhood official Essam al-Erian said in a Facebook posting.

But the army warned against any disruption of the plans.

A statement read out on state television said neither the armed forces nor the people of Egypt would accept “the stalling or disruption” of this “difficult and complex” period.

The Brotherhood held fresh protests on Tuesday against both Mursi’s ouster and the fatal shooting of at least 51 activists outside the Cairo headquarter of the elite Republican Guard.

“Each province is organizing funerals and rallies (Tuesday), and each province will have a central sit-in,” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad told AFP.

At Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, where Mursi supporters have been camping out for nearly two weeks, several thousand demonstrators, worn out by the heat, listened to speakers urging them to remain steadfast in their demands for his reinstatement.

Mansour ordered an independent inquiry into the bloodshed outside the Guard’s HQ, which sparked expressions of concern and condemnation from around the world.

The Brotherhood released the names of 42 people killed in the shooting, as the interior ministry and military said two policemen and a soldier were also killed.

Emergency services chief Mohammed Sultan said at least 51 people were killed and 435 wounded.

Emotions ran high as people searched for the names of missing loved ones on a list of the dead in hospital, where dozens of bodies were laid on the bloody floor of a makeshift mortuary.

The army warned it would not allow anyone to threaten national security, urging protesters to stay away from military installations and to end their sit-ins.

International condemnation of Monday’s bloodshed poured in, with Germany expressing “shock” at the violence, Turkey calling it an attack on “humanity” and Brotherhood backer Qatar urging “self-restraint” and “unity”.

The United States called on the Egyptian army to exercise “maximum restraint”, while also condemning “explicit” Brotherhood calls to violence.

The Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, had called for “an uprising by the great people of Egypt against those trying to steal their revolution with tanks” in response to Monday’s killings.

In the Suez Canal city of Port Said, gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on a church early Tuesday, wounding a man, witnesses said.

Mursi’s single year of turbulent rule was marked by accusations he failed the 2011 revolution that ousted autocratic president Hosni Mubarak by concentrating power in Islamist hands and letting the economy nosedive.

(Source / 09.07.2013)