Syrian Combatants Urged to Let Inspectors Visit Chemical Sites

LONDON — Pressure mounted on Syrian rebels on Monday to permit access to chemical weapons sites in areas under their control, as the head of the international watchdog on such toxic munitions said the rapidly shifting lines in the civil war made it difficult for inspectors to reach some locations.

Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday, told the BBC that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had been cooperating with inspectors who had reached 5 out of 20 chemical weapons production sites.

But some other sites had “access problems,” he said, reflecting perils and complexities facing inspectors who are trying to dismantle chemical weapons facilities as the war rages around them.

Some roads “change hands from one day to another, which is why we appeal to all sides in Syria to support this mission, to be cooperative and not render this mission more difficult,” Mr. Uzumcu said. “It’s already challenging.”

A Western diplomat in the Arab world, moreover, said that while the Syrian government was legally responsible for dismantling its chemical weapons, its opponents should cooperate in the process, as several chemical weapons sites were close to confrontation lines or within rebel-held territory.

“The international community also expects full cooperation from the opposition,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.

There were clear signs from inspectors in Syria “that the government is delivering on its responsibilities and the opposition needs to hear a clear signal that they must play their part, too, in making sure that the inspectors have free and unhindered access to the chemical weapons sites with complete safety and security,” the diplomat said. “However divided the opposition might be, it would look very bad if the government was seen to be cooperating fully, while inspections were held up because of problems with the opposition.”

The inspection team has not publicly cited any specific instance of opposition fighters impeding access to chemical weapons sites. As with deliveries of humanitarian assistance, the inspectors face a complicated and uncertain process which requires cease-fires with multiple parties among fluid lines of combat.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, for instance, said on Monday that four of seven aid workers abducted in northern Syria on Sunday — three of its staffers and a volunteer from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent — had been released. But there was no word on the other three abducted Red Cross personnel.

The inspectors began arriving in Syria on Oct. 1 under an agreement brokered by the United States and Russia for Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons capability after a poison gas attack on Aug. 21 in a suburb of Damascus. Mr. Assad has denied accusations from the United States that Syrian government forces were responsible for the attack, which killed hundreds of people.

The agreement to destroy Syria’s arsenal defused American and French threats to launch retaliatory military strikes against targets in Syria in reprisal for the attack.

Mr. Uzumcu said inspectors from his organization, which is based in The Hague, had been so close to the fighting that mortar shells had exploded “next to the hotel where our team is staying, and there are exchanges for fire not far from where they go.”

Last Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the peace prize to the organization, which was founded in 1997. The organization and the United Nations together have a team of about 60 experts and support staff in Syria, the BBC reported.

Mr. Uzumcu said the Nobel award had come as “a very big boost of morale to them.”

“They are working in very challenging circumstances in the field,” he said. “In awarding the prize, they said it was about recognizing the work of the past 16 years, but also the work that lies ahead, in Syria.”

The inspectors are facing a tight deadline set by the United Nations to complete their work by mid-2014.

In a report to the United Nations Security Council on Oct. 7, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that the most difficult phase of work would start in November, when the teams of inspectors and United Nations personnel — a total of about 100 people — turn to the task of destroying an estimated 1,000 tons of precursor chemicals and weapons after disabling production facilities.

On Monday, Syria became the 190th member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons by formally acceding to the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which is intended to rid the world of such munitions. Officials at the organization said there would be no formal ceremony of accession.

Highlighting the perils of working in Syria, activist groups there said a car bombing in a northwestern market town under rebel control in Idlib Province killed at least 12 people on Monday, The Associated Press reported. Some activists put the number of dead as high as 20.

Since it began as a crackdown on civil protest in March 2011, the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives. In recent days, car bombings appear to have become more prevalent, with two such attacks near the state television building in Damascus on Sunday.

(Source / 14.10.2013)

Hamas doesn’t take action for any side in Syrian conflict – spokesman

Palestinian militants take part in a protest against peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as possible U.S. attacks on Syria, in the northern Gaza Strip September 6, 2013. (Reuters)

Palestinian militants take part in a protest against peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as possible U.S. attacks on Syria, in the northern Gaza Strip September 6, 2013.

We believe that the Syrian people should decide on their future without any outside interference, Hamas’ representative in Lebanon Osama Hamdan says exclusively to RT’s Nadezhda Kevorkova.

Member of the Hamas politburo, the organization’s representative in Lebanon, its spokesman and negotiator Osama Hamdan says that Palestinian Sunnis are keeping their alliances with Shia Hezbollah and Iran and, contrary to what the media say, they don’t participate in jihadist operations in Syria.

He is analyzing the consequences of the Syrian war and Russia’s role in the US’s decision not to bomb Syria.

RT: Dr. Osama, we are meeting in Dahieh [predominantly Shia-Muslim suburb south of Beirut, Lebanon – RT]…

Osama Hamdan: Yes, we are in Dahieh. All the rumors that we had left Dahieh or had been asked to leave Dahieh are only rumors. We’ve had relations with Hezbollah for over 20 years. And no one can break us up. So we are still in Dahieh.

RT: Who are these people or forces that try to break up Hezbollah and Hamas?

OH: Many different people. Some of them are the enemies who unfortunately consider themselves friends of Hezbollah or Hamas. I want to state clearly – the relations between Hamas and Hezbollah are the business of Hamas and Hezbollah. If people have ideas, suggestions or even critical comments about Hamas and Hezbollah, we are ready to hear them out. But no one can dictate what the relations between Hamas and Hezbollah are supposed to be like. This is for Hamas and Hezbollah, for their members to decide.

RT: There were media reports about the meetings between Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran. Can we say that this is cooperation being restored?

OH: Hamas and Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran have never stopped meeting. Many would like to think that our relations fell apart. I have no desire to comment on these rumors and speculations. Meetings between Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are not news, because these meetings take place regularly. Yes, Hamas leaders went to Tehran and there were a few meetings with the Hezbollah leadership. This happens all the time. People who think that our relations are getting worse see something intriguing in this. But we don’t see anything out of the ordinary here. This is normal.

 

Palestinian Hamas supporters shout slogans during a multi-movement protest in Beirut (AFP Photo)Palestinian Hamas supporters shout slogans during a multi-movement protest in Beirut

RT: Did Hamas leaders visit Tehran after the presidential election in Iran?

OH: Yes, after the election.

RT: What does Hamas think about the current situation in Syria?

OH: Hamas uses some basic principles in its relations with allies, friends and sometimes even enemies.

We don’t interfere with internal affairs of our allies. But we try to have good relations with both sides – the authorities and the people. We think our mission is to support both.

We don’t think we have the right to support one side in any country. We are with the country, and we are for stability in the region, supporting those who want to do the will of the people.

As for Syria, everybody knows that we have good relations with the Syrian government. These were very specific relations. When problems started in Syria in March 2011, we took a certain approach. We did everything we could to help our Syrian friends find a peaceful solution and start a political dialogue. We believe that the Syrian people should decide on their future without any outside interference. We did all we could for 10 months, trying to come up with solutions and ideas.

We respected the position of our Syrian friends, but we couldn’t go against our own political principles, it would’ve destroyed us politically. So we had to say that we couldn’t take sides. When the situation demanded that we made a choice, we left the country. We didn’t become anybody’s enemies, we just left.

And we explained to the Syrians why we were leaving and they understood our reasons – not after 10 months, but in the first two weeks. We released a statement saying that the Syrian government supported the Palestinian issue and Hamas, that we had good relations, we respected it, but we also respected the people and believed that everybody must respect the will of the Syrians.

We released the statement on April 2, 2011 and stayed in Syria for about 10 more months, until January 2012. During this time we did everything we could to help, but unfortunately our help was denied.

What is happening in Syria now is very sad. Towns destroyed, people killed, there is constant fire. We believe that it is up to the Syrian people to find a solution. It has to be a Syrian decision, not something imposed from the outside.

 

A handout photo provided by Iran's Supreme Leader's office shows Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meeting with Ismail Haniya (L), Palestinian Hamas premier in the Gaza Strip, during a meeting in Tehran on February 12, 2012. (AFP Photo)A handout photo provided by Iran’s Supreme Leader’s office shows Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meeting with Ismail Haniya (L), Palestinian Hamas premier in the Gaza Strip, during a meeting in Tehran on February 12, 2012.

RT: Some media are circulating reports that allegedly some evidence was discovered after the battle in Al-Qusayr of Palestinian Hamas fighters having fought on the rebels’ and Al-Nusra Front’s side.

OH: This is a 100 percent pure lie. Some indeed are trying to circulate it, whereas we are open and transparent. If anyone asserts that Hamas people were fighting on Al-Nusra Front’s side they should tell us the names of these people.

It is way too easy to say that some Lebanese are collaborating with Al-Nusra Front, or that some Saudis are collaborating with Hezbollah, or that some Russians are fighting in Syria against Hamas, or against Hezbollah, or against the Armed Forces.

It’s way too easy to make any statements like these and simply say they are true without any proof behind them. It takes proof and evidence to substantiate claims. And the thing is that there is no proof in support of those allegations. Repeating some gossip many times over won’t make it any more real.

Hamas does not participate in action in Syria on any side. We believe it is not our duty to engage.

We believe that our duty is to oppose the occupation, and for that we need all the support we can get from people of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, all Arab people and the international community – we need their support to oppose the occupation and our enemy.

So we are not involved in the Syrian conflict on any side whatsoever.

And in principle, we are against bloodshed and violence as means of resolving any domestic conflicts. If people of a nation need to resolve some issues they should do so peacefully.

It is well-known that there is a huge difference between ideologies of Hamas and Al-Nusra Front, and therefore thinking that Hamas could have anything in common with Al-Nusra Front and even cooperate with them makes completely no sense at all.

Sadly, there are people who like to say things that make no sense and convince others to believe them.

We see our duty in opposing openly those who have occupied our land. We have made an open and clear statement that we are Palestinians, and if Syria were attacked by Israel we’d be fighting shoulder to shoulder with Syrians against the attackers as an external enemy that has occupied our land. Should the same happen to Lebanon, we’d also be ready to protect them – not as Hamas, but as Palestinians. We believe that no other nation should have to go through what we had to go through, i.e. the occupation. Al-Nusra Front is a completely different deal.

RT: How do you define Al-Nusra Front and what they are doing?

OH: They are fighting in Syria against Syrian people. They pursue false ideas. Their ideas are well-known and have nothing to do with ours.

Our goal, the goal of Hamas is to oppose the occupation and establish the Palestinian state that I’m sure will maintain a good relationship with the brotherly Arab and Islamic nations and the international community. The reason we are fighting the occupation is not for the sake of fighting. Not at all. We are only fighting because there is no other way to liberate our land. Over 20 years of the peaceful settlement process haven’t produced any results for the Palestinian people, thus the only way there is for us is to fight the occupation. This is what is happening in Lebanon, in the Gaza Strip, and sooner or later it will happen in the West Bank and in Palestine.

The lesson that history teaches us is that you can’t obtain freedom without fighting against the occupation.

 

A Turkish fighter of the jihadist group Al-Nusra Front, bearing the flag of Al-Qaeda on his jacket (C-back), holds position with fellow comrades on April 4, 2013 in the Syrian village of Aziza, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo. (AFP Photo)A Turkish fighter of the jihadist group Al-Nusra Front, bearing the flag of Al-Qaeda on his jacket (C-back), holds position with fellow comrades on April 4, 2013 in the Syrian village of Aziza, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo.

Russia did fight the Nazis. Russia didn’t give up despite the fact that the situation was often next to hopeless. Hundreds of thousands of the Russian people died fighting [according to Russian government figures, USSR losses within postwar borders now stand at 26.6 million – RT], yet you prevailed over the occupants. The same happened in Vietnam and anywhere in the world where people fought against the occupation. In cases like this, people have to sacrifice everything, but that’s the price of victory over the occupation. At the end of the day, after all the hardships and sacrifice, we will prevail. This is what we fight for as the Palestinian people. And we need help fighting. So why would we want to fight anyone instead of securing their help?

There many of those who like to accuse Palestinians of all sorts of things. Sometimes we need to speak up and refute the lies. I firmly believe that anyone making any statements must support them with evidence, otherwise they are nothing but lies.

RT: Why would anyone what to circulate this lie? There are forces who are consistently trying to make the entire world believe that Palestinians are fighting on the rebels’ side against their former allies i.e. Hezbollah and Syria. Why is that?

OH: Some forces are interested in promoting the idea of a religious war, be it between the state and the people, or between the Sunni and the Shia, or between Muslims and Christians. I believe that this is not the case, and I don’t believe there’s going to be a massive religious conflict.

Other forces have an issue with the relationship between Hamas and Hezbollah and they are trying to cause more trouble.

Still others seem to believe that they can make something happen by saying their wish many times.

However, I believe that words have no power unless they are backed by facts.

RT: Some are accusing Hamas of participating in bombings of the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque in the suburbs of Damascus and helping those who besieged the mosque.

OH: It is no secret that right next to the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque there is a refugee camp for Palestinians of the same name, the Sayyidah Zaynab camp. And it is no secret that Palestinians from that camp were the first victims of that incident and that they suffered more losses and damage than the Syrians.

 

Palestinians who fled violence in the Syrian refugee camp of Yarmuk are seen at the Masnaa Lebanese border crossing with Syria as people stamp their documents before entering Lebanon (AFP Photo)Palestinians who fled violence in the Syrian refugee camp of Yarmuk are seen at the Masnaa Lebanese border crossing with Syria as people stamp their documents before entering Lebanon

RT: Who did they suffer from?

OH: Unfortunately, from both sides. They were viewed as supporters of the rebels and as supporters of the regime at the same time by the parties to the conflict – while in fact the majority of Palestinians did not want to get involved at all. They have developed a good relationship with the people who come to pray at the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque.

They have developed close connections with Syrians. Many of them are married to Syrians.

All we wanted to do is to keep our people out of the conflict – while both the conflicting parties criticized us for not joining the conflict on their side.

As for how the people were actually involved, all you’re going to find is that Palestinians were victims to that conflict, not fighters – and that’s what’s still happening across Syria.

RT: Still happening?

OH: Yes, the clashes between the conflicting parties continue, and the Palestinians are caught in-between.

‘People failed to appreciate Russia’s position on Syria’

RT: What can you say about the use of chemical weapons in Syria?

OH: Until the investigation is completed, no one can say what really happened. But whoever it was it was a crime against humanity.

RT: If it was the rebels, how could they have obtained the chemical weapons?

OH: I do not know who was behind it – weather it was Syrian Army, or Free Syrian Army, or some other forces. This needs to be investigated.

RT: What do you think about Russia’ position on this situation?

OH: I can say that people failed to appreciate Russia’s position on the situation in the region.

RT: You mean that people would rather have the US bomb Syria?

OH: Of course not! I mean Russia’s overall position. No one has ever wanted the US to bomb Syria. We are completely against it. No one in the region would support the US bombings of Syria. If some party has issues with their government, that’s an internal business. But having an external intervention into the domestic conflict simply because there’s some party who wants to give you support by bombing your opponent – that’s totally unacceptable.

RT: Russia actually prevented this very possibility of bombing Syria, is it not how you look at this situation?

OH: You did the right thing if you prevented the US attack on Syria. But in all other instances we don’t want any interference in Syria’s internal affairs. So Russia was not interfering, but it prevented interference.

 

A Palestinian child takes part in a march organised by the ruling Islamic Hamas movement in Gaza's Nusseirat refugee camp on September 27, 2013 in commemoration of the September 28, 2000 outbreak of the devastating second intifada. (AFP Photo)A Palestinian child takes part in a march organised by the ruling Islamic Hamas movement in Gaza’s Nusseirat refugee camp on September 27, 2013 in commemoration of the September 28, 2000 outbreak of the devastating second intifada.

RT: Do you believe this is this the reason Russia is not popular among the people of this region?

OH: No. Our people were impressed by President Putin’s stance expressed in the following statement:“We are not defending the regime, we are defending the people of Syria.” I guess, had Russia explained its position more explicitly there would’ve been less misunderstanding and confusion.

Hamas didn’t want to be ‘part of the Syrian problem’

RT: Do you still have a chance of resuming the relations with the Syrian government if the situation changes?

OH: Actually, it’s not like we were good friends and then we stopped being friends. We wanted to avoid a conflict between supporting the resistance and supporting human rights in Syria. There shouldn’t be any conflicts here as these two principles go together hand in hand.

We left Syria because we didn’t want to be a part of the Syrian problem. As long as they respected our decision not to participate in this problem we accepted it. But when we were asked to participate in it we couldn’t stay there.

We’re not enemies. We’re talking about respecting the Syrian people, all of them, not just some of them. All we ask for is to respect our decision not be a part of the Syrian problem.

RT: Many people, particularly your enemies believe that the Syrian war pushed the Palestinian issue off the agenda. What’s your opinion of the Syrian war in light of this circumstance?

OH: The Israelis are free to do whatever they want. The more chaos and the less support for Palestinians, the more freedom they have. Indeed the Syrian situation has a negative impact on the Palestinian issue. That’s why we asked our Syrian friends to act as politically, peacefully and quickly as they can in order to finalize the situation, as its prolongation means more suffering for everyone.

RT: Don’t you have questions for such movements as Al-Nusra Front? They did invade Syria, but no such groups ever participated in fights for the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation. Why did that happen?

OH: It is a huge question. If anyone wants to fight an open fight they should go to Palestine and fight for the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation in Palestine.

RT: Maybe it’s worth inviting them?

OH: We aren’t inviting anyone. We’re resisting the occupation. Anyone supporting us and supporting freedom of people should know that we believe Israel is the most obvious apartheid system and the Palestinians are the most oppressed nation today. But it’s not really a question for us as to why one group or the other is doing something. They have their own ideas that I don’t accept.

When you do the right thing you will be rewarded. When you do the wrong thing it will play against you. If you help the Palestinians you will get your reward. The liberation of Palestine will change the situation in the region, whereas a continued occupation will increase the instability. So it’s up to everyone to decide what exactly they want to support. If you don’t want to see even more instability in the region you should resist the occupation of Palestine; however if you want the region to plunge into chaos you should be doing something else.

(Source / 14.10.2013)

Israel’s other anti-Arab purge

A trip through the Negev desert leads to the heart of a national nightmare

Israel's other anti-Arab purgeIsraeli troops search for gaps in the fence along the border between Israel and Syria near the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights.

From the podium of the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seamlessly blended frightening details of Iranian evildoing with images of defenseless Jews “bludgeoned” and “left for dead” by anti-Semites in nineteenth century Europe. Aimed at U.S. and Iranian moves towards diplomacy and a war-weary American public, Netanyahu’s gloomy tirade threatened to cast him as a desperate, diminished figure. Though it was poorly received in the U.S., alienating even a few of his stalwart pro-Israel allies, his jeremiad served a greater purpose, deflecting attention from his country’s policies towards the group he scarcely mentioned: the Palestinians.

Back in November 1989, while serving as a junior minister in the Likud-led governing coalition of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a younger Netanyahu told an audience at Bar Ilan University, “Israel should have taken advantage of the suppression of demonstrations [at China’s Tiananmen Square], when the world’s attention was focused on what was happening in that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the Territories. However, to my regret, they did not support that policy that I proposed, and which I still propose should be implemented.”

Now the country’s top official, Netanyahu has updated the smokescreen strategy. While the prime minister ranted against Iran in New York City and in a meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office, his government was preparing to implement the Prawer Plan, a blueprint for the expulsion of 40,000 indigenous Bedouin citizens of Israel from their ancestral Negev Desert communities that promised to “concentrate” them in state-run, reservation-style townships. Authored by Netanyahu’s planning policy chief, Ehud Prawer, and passed by a majority of the members of the mainstream Israeli political parties in the Knesset, the Prawer Plan is only one element of the government’s emerging program to dominate all space and the lives of all people between the river (the Jordan) and the sea (the Mediterranean).

Expulsions in the Desert

On September 9th, I visited Umm al-Hiran, a village that the state of Israel plans to wipe off the map. Located in the northern Negev Desert, well behind the Green Line (the 1949 armistice lines that are considered the starting point for any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations) and inside the part of Israel that will be legitimized under a U.S.-brokered two-state solution, the residents of Umm al-Hiran are mobilizing to resist their forced removal.

In the living room of a dusty but impeccably tidy cinderblock home on the outskirts of the village, Hajj al-Ahmed, an aging sheikh, described to a group of colleagues from the website Mondoweiss and me the experience of the 80,000 Bedouin living in what are classified as “unrecognized” villages. The products of continuous dispossession, many of these communities are surrounded by petrochemical waste dumps and have been transformed into cancer clusters, while state campaigns of aerial crop destruction and livestock eradication have decimated their sources of subsistence.

Although residents like al-Ahmed carry Israeli citizenship, they are unable to benefit from the public services that Jews in neighboring communities receive. The roads to unrecognized villages like Umm al-Hiran are lined with electric wires, but the Bedouins are barred from connecting to the public grid. Their homes and mosques have been designated “illegal” constructions and are routinely marked for demolition. And now, their very presence on their own land has been placed in jeopardy.

Under the Prawer Plan, the people of Umm al-Hiran will be among the 40,000 Bedouins forcibly relocated to American-Indian-reservation-style towns constructed by the Israeli government. As the fastest growing group among the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Bedouins have been designated as an existential threat to Israel’s Jewish majority. “It is not in Israel’s interest to have more Palestinians in the Negev,” said Shai Hermesh, a former member of the Knesset and director of the government’s effort to engineer a “Zionist majority” in the southern desert.

According to the website of the Or Movement, a government-linked organization overseeing Jewish settlement in the Negev, residents of the unrecognized villages will be moved to towns constructed “to concentrate the Bedouin population.” In turn, small Jews-only communities will be constructed on the remnants of the evicted Bedouin communities. They will be guaranteed handsome benefits from the Israeli government and lavish funding from private pro-Israel donors like the billionaire cosmetics fortune heir Ron Lauder. “The United States had its Manifest Destiny in the West,” Lauder has declared. “For Israel, that land is the Negev.”

When I met al-Ahmed, he described a group of 150 strangers who had suddenly appeared at the periphery of his village the previous day. From a hilltop, he said, they had surveyed the land and debated which parcels each of them would receive after the Prawer Plan was complete. Al-Ahmed called them “the Jews in the woods.”

Several hundred meters east of Umm al-Hiran lies the Yattir Forest, a vast grove in the heart of the desert planted by the para-governmental Jewish National Fund (JNF) in 1964. The JNF’s director at the time, Yosef Weitz, had headed the governmental Transfer Committee that orchestrated the final stages of Palestinian removal in 1948. For Weitz, planting forests served a dual strategic purpose: those like Yattir near the Green Line were to provide a demographic buffer between Jews and Arabs, while those planted atop destroyed Palestinian villages like Yalu, Beit Nuba, and Imwas would prevent the expelled inhabitants from returning. As he wrote in 1949, once Israel’s Jewish majority had been established through mass expulsion, “The abandoned lands will never return to their absentee [Palestinian Arab] owners.”

As darkness came to the desert, I set out with my colleagues into the piney woods of Yattir.  In a small car, we wound along its unlit roads until we reached a gate bristling with barbed wire. This was the settlement-style village of Hiran — “the Jews in the woods,” as al-Ahmed had put it. We called out into the night until the gate was opened. Then we parked in the middle of a compound of trailer homes. Like a shtetl in the Pale of Settlement, the hard-bitten Imperial Russian territory once reserved for Jewish residency, the place exuded a sense of suspicion and siege.

A bearded religious nationalist stepped out of an aluminum-sided synagogue and met us at a group of picnic benches. His name was Af-Shalom and he was in his thirties.  He was not, he said, permitted to speak until a representative from the Or Movement arrived. After a few uncomfortable minutes and half a cigarette, however, he began to hold forth. He sent his children, he told us, to school over the Green Line in the settlement of Susiya, just eight minutes away on an Israelis-only access road. He then added that the Bedouins were “illegals” occupying his God-given land and would continue to take it over unless they were forcibly removed. Just as Af-Shalom was hitting his stride, Moshe, a curt Or Movement representative who refused to give his last name, arrived to escort us out without a comment.

“The World’s Biggest Detention Center”

Only a few kilometers from Umm al-Hiran, in the southern Negev Desert and inside the Green Line, the state of Israel has initiated another ambitious project to “concentrate” an unwanted population. It is the Saharonim detention facility, a vast matrix of watchtowers, concrete blast walls, razor wire, and surveillance cameras that now comprise what the British Independent has described as “the world’s biggest detention center.”

Originally constructed as a prison for Palestinians during the First Intifada, Saharonim was expanded to hold 8,000 Africans who had fled genocide and persecution. Currently, it is home to at least 1,800 African refugees, including women and children, who live in what the Israeli architectural group Bikrom has called “a huge concentration camp with harsh conditions.”

Like the Bedouins of the Negev’s unrecognized villages, the 60,000 African migrants and asylum seekers who live in Israel have been identified as a demographic threat that must be purged from the body of the Jewish state. In a meeting with his cabinet ministers in May 2012, Netanyahu warned that their numbers could multiply tenfold “and cause the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” It was imperative “to physically remove the infiltrators,” the prime minister declared. “We must crack down and mete out tougher punishments.”

In short order, the Knesset amended the Infiltration Prevention Act it had passed in 1954 to prevent Palestinian refugees from ever reuniting with the families and property they were forced to leave behind in Israel. Under the new bill, non-Jewish Africans can be arrested and held without trial for as long as three years. (Israel’s Supreme Court has invalidated the amendment, but the government has made no moves to enforce the ruling, and may not do so.) The bill earmarked funding for the construction of Saharonim and a massive wall along the Israeli-Egyptian border. Arnon Sofer, a longtime Netanyahu advisor, also urged the construction of “sea walls” to guard against future “climate change refugees.”

“We don’t belong to this region,” Sofer explained.

In that single sentence, he distilled the logic of Israel’s system of ethnocracy. The maintenance of the Jewish state demands the engineering of a demographic majority of nonindigenous Jews and their dispersal across historic Palestine through methods of colonial settlement. State planners like Sofer refer to the process as “Judaization.” Because indigenous Palestinians and foreign migrants are not Jews, the state of Israel has legally defined most of them as “infiltrators,” mandating their removal and permanent relocation to various zones of exclusion — from refugee camps across the Arab world to walled-off West Bank Bantustans to the besieged Gaza Strip to state-constructed Bedouin reservations to the desert camp of Saharonim.

As long as the state of Israel holds fast to its demographic imperatives, the non-Jewish outclass must be “concentrated” to make room for exclusively Jewish settlement and economic development. This is not a particularly humane system, to be sure, but it is one that all within the spectrum of Zionist opinion, from the Kahanist right to the J Street left, necessarily support. Indeed, if there is any substantial disagreement between the two seemingly divergent camps, it is over the style of rhetoric they deploy in defense of Israel’s ethnocracy. As the revisionist Zionist ideologue Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote in his famous 1923 “Iron Wall” essay outlining the logic of what would become Israel’s deterrence strategy, “there are no meaningful differences between our ‘militarists’ and our ‘vegetarians.’”

During the Oslo era, the time of hope that prevailed in mid-1990’s Israel, it was the “dovish” Labor Party of Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak that began surrounding the Gaza Strip with barricades and electrified fencing while drawing up plans for a wall separating the West Bank from “Israel proper.” (That blueprint was implemented under the prime ministership of Ariel Sharon.)

“Us over here, them over there” was the slogan of Barak’s campaign for reelection in 1999, and of the Peace Now camp supporting a two-state solution at the time. Through the fulfillment of the Labor Party’s separationist policies, the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank have gradually disappeared from Israel’s prosperous coastal center, consolidating cities like Tel Aviv as meccas of European cosmopolitanism — “a villa in the jungle,” as Barak said.

With the post-Oslo political transition that shattered Israel’s “peace camp,” ascendant right-wing parties set out to finish the job that Labor had started. By 2009, when Israel elected the most hawkish government in its history, the country was still full of “infiltrators,” the most visible of whom were those African migrants, deprived of work permits and increasingly forced to sleep in parks in south Tel Aviv. According to a report by the newspaper Haaretz on a brand new Israel Democracy Institute poll on Israeli attitudes, “Arabs no longer top the list of neighbors Israeli Jews would consider undesirable, replaced now by foreign workers. Almost 57% of Jewish respondents said that having foreign workers as neighbors would bother them.”

Unrestricted by the center-left’s pretensions to tolerance, rightist members of the government launched a festival of unprecedented racist incitement. Interior Minister Eli Yishai of the Shas Party (replaced after the 2013 election), for example, falsely described African asylum seekers as infected with “a range of diseases” and lamented that they “think the country doesn’t belong to us, the white man.”

“Until I can deport them,” he promised, “I’ll lock them up to make their lives miserable.”

At a May 2012 anti-African rally in Tel Aviv, on a stage before more than 1,000 riled up demonstrators, Knesset member and former Israeli army spokesperson Miri Regev proclaimed, “The Sudanese are a cancer in our body!” Incited into a violent frenzy, hundreds of protesters then rampaged through south Tel Aviv, smashing the windows of African businesses and attacking any migrant they could find. “The people want the Africans to be burned!” they chanted.

As during other dark moments in history, eliminationist cries booming from an urban mob against a class of outcasts signaled a coming campaign of ethnic purification. And following the night of shattered glass, the cells of Saharonim continued to fill up.

Going South

Just as Western media consumers will find details about the Prawer Plan and the Saharonim camp hard to come by, casual visitors to the Negev Desert will find little evidence of the state’s more disturbing endeavors. Instead, highway signs will direct them to a little museum at Sde Boker, the humble kibbutz that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, called home.

In Ben Gurion’s memoirs, he fantasized about evacuating Tel Aviv and settling five million Jews in small outposts across the Negev, where they would be weaned off the rootless cosmopolitanism they inherited from diaspora life. Just as he resented the worldly attitude of Jews from Tel Aviv and New York City, Ben Gurion was repelled by the sight of the open desert, describing it as a “criminal waste” and “occupied territory.”  Indeed, from his standpoint, the Arabs were the occupiers. As early as 1937, he had plans for their removal, writing in a letter to his son Amos, “We must expel Arabs and take their places.”

Ben Gurion’s house is an austere-looking, single-story structure, sparsely furnished and poorly lit. The separate, spartan bedrooms he and his wife slept in are impeccably preserved, as though they might return home at any time. Nearby is a compact, somewhat shabby museum commemorating his legacy in a series of exhibits that do not appear to have been updated for at least a decade.

The site is a crumbling remnant of a bygone era that the country has left in the dust. The enlightened public of Israel’s coastal center has turned its back on the desert, preferring instead to face toward the urbane capitals of Europe, while the rest of the country draws increasing energy from the religious nationalist fervor emanating from the hilltops of the occupied West Bank. In the Negev, perhaps all that endures of Ben Gurion’s legacy is the continuous expulsion of the Bedouins.

On a gravelly path leading towards his home, a series of plaques highlight tidbits of wisdom from that Israeli founding father. One quote stands out from the others. Engraved on a narrow slab of granite, it reads, “The State of Israel, to exist, must go south.”

(Source / 14.10.2013)

UK NGO Prepares Lobby for Palestinians’ Rights

boycott israel_activists

A United Kingdom-based group is stepping up advocacy for human rights and justice in Palestine. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is gathering support for a National Lobby of Parliament for Palestine on November 27, according to a press release on the NGO’s website.

The organization will lobby the British government on 4 key issues:

1) Members of Parliament to challenge ethnic cleansing and discriminatory policies

2) Ban settlement goods

3) Respect for prisoners’ rights and an end to Israel’s illegal treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including children.

4) An end to the siege on Gaza

While the most visible advocacy will happen at the British Parliament in London, organizers are encouraging supporters to meet with their MPs one-on-one to discuss issues. They believe international pressure is key if Israel is to change its policies.

“It is our Parliament, they are our MPs – so let’s show them they must respect Palestinian human rights if they want our support.”

(Source / 14.10.2013)

Study Suggests Yasser Arafat Was Poisoned!

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Thirty-eight samples were taken from former Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat’s belongings. His widow, Suha Arafat, provided samples including underwear, a shapka hat, toothbrush, a hospital cap and sportswear, to be tested against 37 “reference” samples of cotton clothing that had been kept in an attic for a decade. The results seem to have confirmed what many Palestinians had said since his unexpected death: Yasser Arafat was murdered.

“Several samples containing body fluid stains (blood and urine) contained higher unexplained polonium 210 activities than the reference samples. These findings support the possibility of Arafat’s poisoning with polonium 210,” a Swiss radiation experts claimed.

The polonium on Arafat’s clothing “support the possibility” that the Palestinian leader was poisoned.

The findings were published in a report in The Lancet over the weekend. The Swiss the team previously provided some of the scientific details of their findings to media even while the study was in its earlier stages. It seemed to many that this conclusion would be inevitable, but now it is official, even while the study remains ongoing, being carried out separately by teams in France, Switzerland and Russia.

One of the authors of the study, Francois Bochud, who is head of the Institute of Radiation Physics, told Al-Jazeera on July 3 2012, that they “did find some significant polonium” on the sampled belongings of Arafat.

While Arafat had died at the age of 75, in France back in November 11 2004, doctors were unable to determine the precise cause of death. His body was later exhumed in November 2012 and samples were taken. The suspicion that Arafat was killed grew after the assassination of Russian ex-spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, which also yielded polonium residue.

“Since ingested polonium 210 is eliminated partly through faeces, the gastro-intestinal syndrome, associated with multiple organ failure, could be a predominant cause of death,” the authors of the study suggest.

Beatrice Schaad, head of communications at the Vaudois University Hospital Centre (CHUV) which is in charge of the institute, told AFP. “There is still no conclusion that he was poisoned,” even while they have now reached the point where they can say that the tests “support” the conclusion that he was.

(Source / 14.10.2013)

Eid Mubarak to all our readers

We rejoice with those who have done so much to offer hope to mankind — defying all odds, pursuing normality

It is important at this time of rejoicing across the entire Muslim world to take the time to think of those who must find it hard to celebrate.

We think of the mother in Aleppo mourning her dead children, and the millions in Syria who face death every day as the murderous civil war rumbles on with no end in sight.

We remember the people of Egypt who are becoming increasingly estranged as the Muslim Brotherhood persists in resisting the government, with an increasing death toll only fuelling lasting resentment.

We stand with the Palestinians who continue to live under a remorseless occupation without hope of an honourable peace, as their lives become harder and harder.

But at this time of Eid, it is also vital to remember the many Muslims who are showing the world how much Islam can offer humanity. Therefore we also remember the following:

We rejoice with the young Pakistani girl Malala Yousufzai who told the world that education should be a right for all, and so irritated the narrow extremists that they shot her in the head, from which she recovered and is now an outstanding example of a young Muslim woman seeking to improve the world.

We praise the Hedayah Centre set up by the UAE government under United Nations auspices to counter violent extremism across the world by encouraging the use of rule of law and human rights to undermine the use of religion as a tool to “exclude and marginalise”.

But most important of all, at this time of Eid, we celebrate with the millions of Muslims worldwide, from Iraq to Myanmar, from Libya to Afghanistan, who are struggling to live their lives with as much normality as possible in the midst of the tragic violence that surrounds them. We wish them well, their heroism in pursuing normality in the midst of strife humbles us and offers an inspiration for our own lives.

(Source / 14.10.2013)

Teenagers face 25 years imprisonment for allegedly throwing stones

 

Palestinian girl throwing stonesPalestinian youths throw stones at Israeli soldiers during protests in the village of Nabi Saleh Halmish near a Jewish settlement west of Ramallah

Nema Shamlawi and her family were sleeping when over 15 armed and masked Israeli soldiers raided their home in the West Bank village of Hares, during the early hours of the morning.

After searching the house and questioning her husband and sons they left, but not empty handed. Amidst Nema’s protests her youngest son Ali was blindfolded, handcuffed and instructed to kiss her and his sister goodbye.

Over six months on 16 year old Ali still remains inside an Israeli adult prison on charges of “stone throwing.”

“He still a child, he is 16 years old. What mind can understand that a child of just 16 years old can endure this much pain and suffering,” said his mother.

The day before Ali’s arrest, Israeli settler Adva Biton had been travelling with her three daughters back to her home in the settlement of Yakir, an internationally deemed illegal settlement, in occupied Palestine, when her car collided with a van on March 14th of this year, leaving one of her children severely injured.

While the driver of the van originally stated he pulled over to check what he believed to be a flat tyre, Biton reported to the police at the time of the accident that the crash had been caused by a group of Palestinian youths throwing stones at her car. The driver of the van later amended his statement to say he had noticed stones at the side of the road.

As a result the neighbouring villages of Hares and Kifl Hares faced a series of early morning raids led by Israeli soldiers in search of the alleged “culprits.” Over a matter of days 19 boys, one as young as 13, were arrested.

While most were released over the coming weeks, five remain behind bars in an Israeli military prison. After over a month of waiting, the boys were formally charged with attempted murder for throwing the stones that allegedly caused settler Biton to crash her car. One of these is Ali.

Alongside Mohammad Suleiman, Ammar Souf, Mohammed Kleib and Tamer Souf, Ali faces 25 counts of attempted murder, one for every stone allegedly thrown. If the prosecution is successful the boys may not be released until they turn 41- at the very best.

There is no eyewitness testimony of what happened, nor did the police receive any calls or complaints at the time the boys were allegedly throwing stones, neither do the boys have any history of criminal behavior.

“When I see his friends go to school, which the Israeli’s have forbidden him, or when I see his empty bed, or when I do not see him at the food table, I feel so sad and in so much pain,” said Nema Shamlawi.

The case

In the time that has passed since his arrest, Ali’s mother described her son as having faced the first three days without food and water, without trips to the bathroom, two weeks of continued solitary confinement with enforced sleep deprivation, beatings and threats to arrest his mother and sister.

Ali’s story seems to resonate with accounts of detention arising from other boys who have since been released. One boy who was found not guilty, despite being denied a lawyer during his interrogation, reported being placed in a windowless cell around 1m wide and 2m long; with no mattress or blanket to sleep on and with six lights continuously kept on, causing him to lose track of the time of day throughout his reportedly violent interrogation.

All five Hares boys have faced repeated court hearings, with the latest due to be held in October, but a verdict has yet to be reached. During this lengthy process, all five have reportedly confessed to throwing stones at Biton’s car, causing her to crash. Their confessions underpin the prosecution’s case.

However Ali’s mother says her son has claimed he was forced to sign papers which he did not know what they contained after many days of sleep deprivation. This is presumed to be his confession.

Despite no eye witnesses the prosecution relies, alongside the confessions, on statements given by 61 alleged witnesses. The boy’s attorneys are denied access to information which would show the credibility of these witnesses, some of whom claim to have been hit by stones on the same road and surfaced after widespread condemnation of what Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “terrorist attack.”

Yisrael Beytenu chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, was reported in the Jerusalem Post following the crash, as urging the incoming Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to change the IDF’s rules of engagement to instruct soldiers to open fire at “rock-throwing terrorists.” He said, “Rock-throwing [should] be treated like shooting using firearms.”

An IDF spokesperson commented on the case:

“Five defendants will stand trial for the attempted murder of three year old Adelle Biton. During questioning, all five admitted to committing the crimes, as well as acknowledged their presence at the scene of the crime.”

 

“We would like to emphasize that the defendants received all of their rights according to the law, including the right to avoid self-incrimination and the right to legal counsel over the course of the investigation.” But Ali’s mother sees a different reality. “He was a nice child who he didn’t like to hurt anyone, he was afraid to kill even an insect; he loves the life and peace. All his friends love him,” she said.

“Ali, now, is spending his time in the prison lonely, all the time crying , doesn’t see the sun and the air, doesn’t play like the other world’s children, doesn’t live his childhood as it should be.”

Detention of Minors

The case of the Hares boys is not an isolated incident. Currently there are 195 minors residing in Israeli jails. Since 2000 over 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system, with criminal responsibility set at the young age of 12, although children even younger have been detained, including the recent case of a 5 year old who was briefly detained for throwing a stone.

For Israeli children, the story is slightly different as Israel operates a dual legal system. A West Bank Palestinian child can be detained for four days before seeing a military judge compared to an Israeli settler child living in the same territory, who would only have to wait 24 hours before seeing a civilian judge.

The Palestinian West Bank child can also be held for 88 days longer before seeing a lawyer, has 67% less chance of receiving bail, and are eligible for prison two years earlier, according to infographics produced by Visualizing Occupation.

A UNICEF report published this year concluded, “The ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”

Stone throwing is the most common charge against minors, and for children over 14, can lead to a maximum sentence of 20 years. Whilst the prosecution rarely pursues longer sentences, there is conviction rate of nearing 100% for children charged with the crime. Israeli politicians, such as Lieberman have helped to define “stone throwing” boys as “terrorists” in the minds of Israel’s general public.

Israeli journalist Amira Hass published a powerful piece defending the practice of stone throwing by youth living under the oppression of a military occupation and challenging the ‘terrorist” nexus. “Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule,” she said. For the families who do not know when their children will be released from prison, held on charges on the basis of little evidence, the reality of the Israel’s policy in regards to Palestinian children reportedly throwing stones has had a devastating effect.

“They stole his childhood and his innocence. And when they took him from my lap and my hands, they left me to suffer and enter in this nightmare,” Ali’s mother said.

(Source / 14.10.2013)

THE REAL SACRIFICIAL LAMB

By Jafar M Ramini

Jafar Ramini

At this time of year, all able-bodied Muslims are expected to travel to Mekka and perform one of the most revered pillars of Islam, Al Hajj (The pilgrimage). Before they celebrate EID AL-ADHA they are required to offer a sacrifice of a lamb in memory of Ibrahim and his son, Ismail,

 Although the biblical story differs slightly from the Quoran, saying that the son to be sacrificed was not the first born, Ishamel, but Abraham’s second son, Isaac, the message is the same. The Angel of God stops Ibrahim/Abraham at the last moment saying, “now I know you fear God.” Ibrahim/Abraham releases his son, sees a ram caught in the bushes and sacrifices the ram instead.
I wonder, my fellow Muslims, when or if  that fear of God will come into our hearts and make us think of the ultimate sacrifice we are offering. Palestine. Not to God, but to our enemies.
We are told that prior to God asking the Prophet Muhammad to face Mekka in his prayers, Muhammad and the Muslim faithful used to turn to Jerusalem.  That is why Jerusalem is called the first qibla in Islam and Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third most revered mosque in the Muslim tradition after Mekka and Medina. Furthermore, it is said that the Prophet Muhammad, in his journey from Mekka to heaven stopped in Jerusalem and that journey is known in Islam as ‘Laylat Al- Mi’raj’.
Fellow Muslims, don’t you find it strange that none of us have so far lifted a finger to come to the aid of Jerusalem?
 In 1987, when the excesses of the Israeli settlers and the occupation army reached a zenith, the Palestinian people under occupation resisted as much as was humanly possible with the first intifada. Our Muslim brothers were nowhere to be seen. In 2000 when Arial Sharon, the then Prime Minister, and hundreds of Israeli settler extremists stormed Al Aqsa Mosque the Palestinians protested vehemently in what has become known as the second intifada. Our women, men, children and the elderly went into the streets and used stones to face the might of our formidable enemy. Again, their fellow Muslims were nowhere to be seen.
I am in no way pretending to be a Muslim cleric.  But I am a Muslim, I am a Palestinian and I am very indignant at the silence of the rest of the Muslim Ummah.
All people of the Muslim faith must have seen on the media the continued incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. They must have all seen the hoards of illegal, Zionist settlers and soldiers of the occupation forces and their leaders in the occupation government violating and desecrating these holy places.  The Israelis wander in and out at will.  They close the mosques for Muslim worshippers so as to allow the Jewish extremist settlers to use those holy places and perform Jewish rights.
Surely people of the Muslim faith have seen the Israeli flags, hoisted atop the dome of the Rock and the walls of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Ibrahimi Mosque.  I am also sure that many of us will have heard or read the repeated calls of many a Zionist leader to demolish Al-Aqsa Mosque to build The Temple of The Mount.
If you have, and if you are a true Muslim why aren’t you moved? At least, go in the streets of your various countries around the world and say to your leaders, ‘enough’. The very core of our religion has been shamed and violated. Do something about it. Instead, like the sheep that are about to to be sacrificed, you keep your heads down and your voices muted and do nothing.
Did I say nothing?  What you do in the name of protecting your own narrow tribal interests is join forces with our enemies and attack other Muslim lands and people. You sacrifice our natural resources, our men and our honour. Muslim jihadists flock from around the globe, in the name of our religion to kill Muslims and destroy Muslim’s land.  I wonder why you don’t direct your hoards towards the true enemies of Islam and Muslims. Do you need examples? Fair enough.  Look at what has been done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria and see what has been done to those Muslim countries that will inevitably lead to to further fragment the Muslim Ummah and inevitably the ultimate sacrifice of Palestine at the alter of imperialism and Zionism.
If you are a true Muslim, and a true follower of the faith and you see that the first ‘qibla’, Al-Aqsa Mosque is surrounded, threatened and violated with your brethren in Palestine in cages and you do nothing about it, what is the meaning of your ‘Hajj’?
Furthermore, let me draw your attention to the fact that your hosts in Mekka, the Saudi Government, have engaged the services of the British firm, G4 to ‘run the security during the Hajj period’. This is the same G4 who are running the check-points and the prisons, on behalf of the occupation forces in Palestine, making the lives of ordinary Palestinians and prisoners an unbearable experience on a daily basis.  Is that what has become of Islam?
The recently deceased Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, leader of the Israeli Shas Party said “he prayed for God to destroy Arabs without mercy because, in his view, they are all cockroaches that need to be killed”. In a speech delivered in 2004, Rabbi Yosef demanded the necessity of murdering Muslims, “for they are as dangerous as snakes and worms”. When Israelis killed around 1,500 Palestinians during the 2008-2009 War against Gaza, he remarked: “May God strike them [the Palestinians in Gaza] down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel.” His latest vile remarks against Palestinians were in 2010, when Rabbi Yosef said in a Saturday sermon: “Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this world”.
And yet, Abu Mazen was the first, if not the only, world leader to offer his condolences when this venomous creature died and continues to conduct futile negotiations with the Zionist occupiers of our land and offers more concessions. Most Muslim leaders are dealing with our enemies. If not openly, then clandestinely in the name of securing their shaky regimes. A glaring example of the shepherd being the enemy of his flock.
Let me remind you that in 1969, when Christian zealot, Michael Dennis Rohan set fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque the then Israeli Prime Minister, Mrs. Golda Meir said that she had hardly slept a wink that night, thinking it was the end of Israel as she knew it. She believed that the Muslim hoards would come to destroy them.  When she woke up next morning and all was calm she proclaimed that Israel was safe in this neighbourhood because the Muslims were a dormant nation.
As far as I can see, we are not only a dormant Ummah we, the Muslims, are languishing in a self induced coma.
As the Prophet once said, “ The time will come to pass when any Muslim holding onto his faith will feel as if he’s holding burning embers in the palms of his hands.”
Have we reached this time?
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Al Aqsa

JIHADISTS TAKE CONTROL AFTER 3 DAYS OF FIGHTING WITH FSA OPPOSITION LEAVING 50 DEAD IN ALEPPO

By Peter Clifford                   ©              (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-2/)

 

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

The power of the Jihadists appears to be on rise after reports said that following 3 days of fighting in Aleppo with other Opposition groups, almost 50 fighters have been left dead.

The battles  were between the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) linked Ababil Brigade. At least 30 members of Ababil are reported killed and another 14 from ISIL, with the death toll still rising.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Opposition Prepare to Launch A rocket in Aleppo Province

The clashes were over control of the Intharat, Bustan al-Basha and Masaken Hanano neighbourhoods, where the FSA battalion reportedly also did not have a good reputation. The fighting ended with ISIL having supremacy over those areas and in charge of all the checkpoints.

ISIL also put out a statement claiming that 90 members of the Kurdish militia YPG had been killed in clashes with the Jihadist group in the Atmeh area in Idlib province.

(EDITOR: True or not, the claims and internecine warfare take energy and resources away from the main fight against Assad and play directly into his “terrorist” propaganda, further weakening moral and practical support, for undisciplined and disunited Opposition groups, from Western powers.

In the more conventional battle between the Opposition and Assad’s forces in Aleppo, heavy fighting is reported this morning from around the Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman Mosque, which is in the central part of the city bordering the western half still controlled by the regime.

Opposition fighters also successfully targeted a observation CCTV camera below a window at a Government Research Centre in Aleppo, HERE: 

While at Safira, which the Government wish to regain to open supply routes between Aleppo and Hama, activists report that as many as 40 barrel bombs have been dropped on the town in 4 days, causing serious material damage and the residents to flee.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Double Suicide Attack on Al-Assad Media Centre

In Damascus, a double suicide car bomb explosion occurred in Umayyad Square outside the State TV headquarters and the Al-Assad media centre on Sunday evening, causing fires and extensive damage, though no casualty figures have been reported at the time of writing.

This recorded interview with someone broadcasting live from the media centre shows the explosions taking place in the background behind him.  He decided to abandon ship after the 2nd one, HERE: 

There is also a reported power outage this morning, Monday, in Damascus and several provinces, resulting from a power station “malfunction”, though where and what is causing that is not clear. “Power supply is down in several provinces in the centre, south and coastal regions of the country as a result of a malfunction at a power plant,” SANA, the state media quoted electricity minister Imad Khamis as saying.

In the south-west Damascus suburbs of Moadamiyeh and Dariya, although the Government would not allow humanitarian aid in, they did allow the International Red Cross to bring out 1500 civilians, mainly women and children, over the weekend, who were then allocated to shelters in other parts of the city.

The 2 areas are mainly Opposition controlled but have been under Government bombardment for months, with reports of people starving to death. Moadamiyeh was also subject to a chemical gas attack on August 16th. The Red Cross was not allowed to enter the suburbs to bring out or treat the wounded still there. There is video footage of the general evacuation, HERE:

Elsewhere is Damascus province, Opposition fighters seized a stock of 9K11 Malyutka wire guided anti tank missiles from the Brigade 78 site in the Qatana area, HERE: 

Also the attack by Opposition fighters on the pro-Assad Shia brigade headquarters of the Abu Al Fadl Al Abbas battalion in the  Sayyeda Zainab district (reported earlier, scroll down below) is said to have killed at least 37 pro-Government fighters from abroad, including militia from Lebanon, Sudan, Iran and Iraq.

There is also an unconfirmed report that the Opposition hit another cargo plane on the runaway at Damascus International Airport on Friday, setting it on fire.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Car Bomb Explodes in Darkush

In Idlib province this morning, a car bomb explosion at the town of Darkush is reported to have killed at least 22 and injured many more (some reports say 60 dead and 90 wounded).  The death toll is expected to rise as many of the injured are critically wounded.

The explosion took place in the market area of Darkush which is under Opposition control and lies on the Orontes river just a few kilometres from the border with Turkey. A brief video of the scene of devastation is HERE:

JIHADISTS MAKE MORE TROUBLE BY ABDUCTING RED CROSS WORKERS AND DESTROYING ANOTHER SHIA SHRINE:

Also in Idlib province on Sunday, 6 International Red Cross workers and a local Red Cross volunteer were abducted along with their vehicles in the Saraqeb area while travelling back to Damascus after delivering humanitarian aid items.

Jihadists in the area are thought to be the culprits once again, though no claims of responsibility or demands for their release have been made. Latest reports on Monday afternoon say that 3 have now been released but the others are still missing.

Heavy fighting is reported in the province around  Ma’arat Al-Numan with the Opposition destroying Assad troops and weapons and pounding Government positions with heavy artillery, HERE: 

In Deraa city, towards Jordan, 11 people (4 women, 3 children, including a baby, and 4 men) were killed in a regime shell bombardment of a market area during a prolonged battle with attacking Opposition forces. Fighting is also reported around the TB Centre and the Zubaida school in the city.

An unconfirmed report from activist sources additionally says another Government jet was hit by Opposition anti-aircraft fire in Deraa province, the 2nd this month, but was able to make an emergency landing.

In Raqqah city to the north-east of Syria loud explosions were reported yesterday in the vicinity of Base 17, the last remaining Government stronghold near the Opposition controlled regional capital. And in Hama, similar loud explosions and gunfire have been heard in the last 24 hours in the Tareeq Halab and Qusour neighbourhoods.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Al Waar neighbourhood of Homs after Recent Regime Shelling

In Homs province, following the attack on the oil refinery which destroyed most of the storage tanks (scroll down, see below), the Opposition took out 2 of the refinery’s pipelines along the Homs-Tadmur highway over the weekend, which deliver oil to the north and east, thereby virtually reducing the refinery’s oil producing capacity to nil. This recent brief video shows the scale of destruction in Homs, HERE: 

In Deir El-Zour clashes between the Opposition and the Government side are reported this morning, Monday, across the city, especially in the districts of Arrasafah, Arrushdiyah and Asin’aa.

Once again, Jihadists have not helped matters by destroying the Shia shrine of Sheikh Eissa Abdelqader al-Rifaiy in the Opposition-held town of Busaira, 45 km (30 miles) east of Deir El-Zour.

In addition to all the suffering described above, former torture victims of Assad’s prisons and detention centres have been describing their appalling treatment.  Al Jazeera has a video report, here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=iYK-dhbVY58

In Lebanon, they are struggling to cope with the huge influx of Syrian refugees and it is starting to impact economically on their relatively small economy, forcing them to put restrictions on who can and cannot enter the country.  Al Jazeera has another video report on the latest situation, HERE:

Russia and the US in their diplomatic games are pushing for a Geneva 2 peace conference but one of the main Opposition groups, the Syrian National Council led by George Sabra, which is part of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), has said it will withdraw from the SNC if they agree to take part in a peace conference prior to the fall of the Assad regime.

ASSAD “JOKES” THAT HE SHOULD HAVE RECEIVED THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE, BUT INTERNATIONAL LAWYERS ALREADY PREPARING HIS INDICTMENT INSTEAD:

Meanwhile it is reported that President Assad, in an interview with the Al-Akhbar newspaper, and commenting on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), “jokingly” said, “This prize should have been [given] to me.”

Claiming that “Syria has stopped producing chemical weapons since 1997, and has replaced them with traditional weapons, which are the determining factor in the battlefield,” Assad added however, that handing over the chemical weapons was a “moral and political loss” for his regime.

Talking about his regime’s alliance with Russia he said that the latter is not defending Syria, but it is rather defending itself. “With what they are doing, the Russians are not defending Syria, its people, its regime or its president; they are defending themselves. Syria’s stability and security is protected by politics more than it is by a military arsenal,” he said.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

“I Had to Sacrifice Syria to Save the Regime”

Lastly, at the same time as Assad was making his “joke”, it was announced that David Crane,the founding chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, an international war crimes tribunal that convicted Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, has led a new project to draft a 30-page blueprint for a Syrian Extraordinary Tribunal to Prosecute Atrocity Crimes in the Syrian conflict.

“Usually, the international community just sits back and waits and when a political solution is done and the killing stops, everybody scrambles to try figure out what to do,” Crane told the news agency AFP in an interview. “I thought ‘Well let’s be ready and have this on the shelf’.”

Working with the Syrian opposition, non-governmental organisations and staff at the University of Syracuse where he is now a professor, Crane’s team has mapped out the atrocities committed in Syria since the war began in March 2011. The catalogue of horror already stretches into three volumes and is growing.

Draft indictments have even been prepared against President Assad and his “top 10 henchmen,” Crane says and also against others including some opposition commanders, as well as foreign fighters.

After 2 years work, there was a strong preference for any court to be placed inside Syria, giving maximum access to victims and their families. You can read more, HERE:

Coup junta must stop threatening Gaza ~ by Khalid Amayreh

 

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Political figures affiliated with the puppet government of Egypt continue to make virtually daily threats against the Palestinian people in Gaza. The recurrent threats to invade Gaza and murder and maim Palestinians, say pundits in both Egypt and occupied Palestine, is a reflection of the failure and moral bankruptcy of the Sisi coup.

Sisi, the treacherous Egyptian defense minister who overthrew the only democratically-elected President in Egypt’s entire history had claimed that he intended to restore true democracy.

However, a 100 days into the bloody coup, Egypt is drenched in blood and becoming a failed state where massacres of innocent civilians are committed with impunity nearly on a daily basis and where the country’s justice system, which would have been the people’s last hope for a better tomorrow, has effectively become a rubber stamp in the hands of the criminal coup makers to imprison torture, murder and ban political opponents, especially members and supporters of Egypt’s largest and most popular political and social movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

In fact, a fleeting look at Egypt these days reveals a ramshackle country, failing in every conceivable respect. Yes, some Gulf Sheikhdoms and fiefdoms are desperately trying to prop up the fascist junta in Cairo with billions of dollars. However, it is amply clear that a body that is hopelessly plagued with an incurable disease will not respond even to the best medication.

As to the Egyptian army, it has reduced itself, thanks to Sisi, et al, to a violent and undisciplined secular anti-Islam militia, hounding and ganging up on everything Islamic in a country that prides itself on being a citadel of Islam. Interestingly, this is done in collusion with certain influential criminal elements within the Coptic Church and a handful of secular elements, inculcated with hatred and vindictiveness for Islam and Muslims.

Last week, the Sisi junta sought to exploit the 40th anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel in order to enhance its popularity. But the day, 6 October, ended only with the murder of more than 60 Egyptian men, women and children and the maiming of hundreds….all in order to underscore the “manliness and virility” of Abdul Fatah Sisi, the traitor of his country and murderer of his own people.

More to the point, thanks to Sisi’s follies, Egypt is now in a state of virtual civil war and an armed insurrection waged by frustrated Islamist elements worried that the criminal junta, in concert with the equally criminal Coptic Church, is trying to denude the country of its Arab-Islamic identity.

Unfortunately, these fears don’t seem to be unfounded. The new so-called “constitution” which is being prepared by anti-Islam elements who had failed in every election, is really aimed at de-Islamizing the country. This is what these people are saying shamelessly openly.

Of course, we all know that the “constitution” being worked on by people carefully chosen by the military junta, who are overwhelmed with vengeance toward anything Islamic, will not have the dignity of a toilet paper, even if 99.99% of the masses voted “Yes.”

This is because a criminal military junta that cancelled the legitimate constitution, usurped the collective will of the Egyptian people, overthrew the democratically-elected president and murdered thousands in cold blood can not be really trusted to hold free and fair elections.

Indeed, holding free elections would require a simple requirement: Honesty. Unfortunately, this essential commodity doesn’t exist within the coup makers and their puppet government.

Now, the coup makers and their mouthpieces and spokespersons are threatening Gaza, which resisted and withstood the mighty Israeli army for 24 days, when Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries couldn’t do that for more than few days.

The coup makers know deep in their hearts that the Palestinian authorities in Gaza have no interests in alienating whoever is in charge in Cairo. However, as the murderous junta in Cairo carries on its dirty hands tons of innocent Egyptian blood and as it is demonstrating day after day its utter failure and impotence to pacify a fledging armed insurrection, it is seeking a scapegoat, and the scapegoat must be Gaza, the thoroughly tormented and hermetically blockaded coastal Palestinian territory.

The coup authorities claim rather mendaciously that Gazans are taking part in attacks on Egyptian security targets. However, these authorities have failed to produce any shred of evidence corroborating their baseless allegations.

Nonetheless, an Egyptian foray or incursion into Gaza won’t be a boon for the bankrupt junta in Cairo. I have no doubt whatsoever that an Egyptian aggression on Gaza would boomerang sooner or later on the criminal traitors. It would be probably the ultimate occasion that would prompt the free Egyptian army to settle scores with Sisi and cohorts.

There is no doubt that all sincere Palestinians and Egyptians and Muslims everywhere hope and pray that the Egyptian armed forces will not besmirch its image, or what has remained intact of it, by invading Gaza and murdering Palestinians. Certainly, this would be an indelible badge of shame and dishonor upon Egypt for many years to come.

In the meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership in Ramallah must also do what it has to do to prevent a possible Egyptian aggression on Gaza. President Mahmoud Abbas is also called upon to rein in some of his big-mouth aides who don’t stop trying to induce the criminal junta in Cairo to invade Gaza.

At this crucial juncture, Palestinians need to enhance mutual trust, not conspire and connive against each other.

However, it is more than obvious that the cause of Palestinian national reconciliation will not be served by the unceasing ranting and raving by certain aides of Chairman Abbas in Ramallah. This is why Mr.Abbas would be doing a great service for the Palestinian national cause if he ordered people like Muhammed Habbash, his ambassador to Cairo and Fatah leader Azzam al-Ahmad to shut their mouths up.

(Source / 14.10.2013)