Israeli warplanes bomb Gaza, two injured


(File photo)

Gaza, ALRAY – Two Gaza people have been injured in two separate Israeli bombings on Thursday evening.

Israeli fighter jets raided on farming land in Gaza’s al-Nafaq district, where hundreds of homes just cleared from the floods of Alexa storm, leaving one injured.

They also bombed a military training zone that belong to al-Qassam Brigades in central Gaza Strip near Netsarim area, a freed Israeli colony. One civilian was reported injured.

Ashraf al-Qidra, Spokesman of Ministery of Health, said one moderate injury case has been admitted to al-Shifa Hospital.

Israeli occupation military launched two days earlier on Tuesday 12 air raids and shells on the Gaza Strip, killing Hala al-Buhairi, a three-year-old girl from al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza Strip, and injuring 14 others.

This evening escalation comes on the eve of the fifth anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, which lasted for 22 days from December 27, 2008 to January 17, 2009. The Israeli onslaught claimed the lives of more than 1400 Palestinians and injured thousands.

(Source / 26.12.2013)

Israeli actors protest settlement plans

Laborers work at the construction site of a housing project at an illegal Israeli settlement in East al-Quds (Jerusalem), December 2012.

Laborers work at the construction site of a housing project at an illegal Israeli settlement in East al-Quds (Jerusalem), December 2012.

A group of three Israeli stage actors have protested Tel Aviv’s settlement construction in the occupied West Bank by refusing to perform in a play before a theater there.

On Thursday, the Cameri and Beit Lessin theaters said in a joint statement that the three members had declined to perform at the theater in Ariel, which is a settlement inside the occupied West Bank.

“This is not a boycott. It’s my own little protest against a government policy that continues to build settlements,” one of the members said.

On Wednesday, an Israeli official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that he “expects” an announcement on new settlements next week, but declined to explain more.

Israeli media also published reports regarding the announcement of “massive construction” plans by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week, with some saying that 1,000 to 2,000 new settlements may be built.

The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem) in 1967.

The United Nations and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.

Israel is particularly sensitive to such sentiments as it is constantly battling against international efforts to impose economic, cultural and academic boycotts upon it over the settlements.

(Source / 26.12.2013)

Israel launches airstrikes in Gaza in response to rocket attacks

The airstrikes targeted a weapons manufacturing facility and a weapons storage facility. (File photo)

The Israeli military says it has carried out airstrikes on two targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a pair of rocket attacks.

The army said Thursday’s airstrikes targeted a weapons manufacturing facility and a weapons storage facility. It says “direct hits were confirmed.” Palestinian officials say there were no injuries.

The aerial attacks came hours after Palestinian militants fired two rockets into southern Israel. No injuries were reported.

Earlier this week, a sniper in Gaza shot and killed an Israeli civilian who was working along the border, prompting Israel to respond with airstrikes and artillery fire. It was the heaviest fighting between the sides in more than a year.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, says Israel “will not tolerate daily aggression” from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

(Source / 26.12.2013)

Will Palestine see real solidarity in 2014?

Palestinians have been “prevented from building a nation.”

Last year I took part in a TV program on RT about the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood at the United Nations.

During this talk show, Raanan Gissin — an adviser to Ariel Sharon when he was prime minister — recommended that the Palestinians should build their own nation, instead of turning to other countries “including Iran” for help.

I recalled this debate when I heard that 2014 had been named as the UN’s “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”

Living in Gaza, I can’t be expected to know everything that happens in occupied East Jerusalem and the wider West Bank. I can’t, therefore, gauge what progress has been made there in building a Palestinian state. But I have heard that Israel is continuing to steal Palestinian land by expanding its settlements.

I was born and raised in Maghazi refugee camp here in Gaza. When I was growing up, houses in Gaza’s refugee camps were very modest, most of them having asbestos-tiled roofs. The roads were narrow and mostly unpaved.

My own house — located in the center of the camp — was the same until 1991, when part of the house was rebuilt with cement and steel. It was a happy moment for me and my family.

Maghazi’s population has increased steadily over the years and is now around 35,000, including both refugees and the area’s other inhabitants. Yet the power supply to the camp has been the same for three decades. The same can be said for many other places in Gaza.

It was only recently that the main street leading into the camp was rebuilt and had street lights placed along part of it. That was thanks to a donation from Qatar.

Wanting to “show off”

I was 13-years-old when the first intifada broke out in 1987. Despite the unrest, I was determined to keep our house looking well. A 20-year-old neighbor, Ibrahim, approached me once when I was cleaning the front door.

Ibrahim said that maybe I wanted to “show off” for a representative of the UN’s secretary-general, who was scheduled to visit soon.

“Yes, I do,” I replied. “Why not? The world needs to know that we are a nation.”

I still believe that today. So when I think of what Raanan Gissin said, I am reminded that we, Palestinians, have deep historical roots. We are determined to build our nation.

Leave us alone

The best advice that Gissin could give would be for Israel to leave us alone, to lift theblockade it has imposed on Gaza and to stop building settlements in the West Bank.

The truth is that we have been prevented from building a nation. In 1993, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank took over control of their own municipal affairs for the first time since 1948, thanks to an agreement between Israel and the PLO. It was seen as a remarkable achievement for the Palestinians.

In Gaza, the Palestinian Authority established an international airport and began work on a seaport. Israel began destroying our infrastructure after the second intifada erupted in 2000. Twelve years ago, the airport was reduced to rubble by Israeli tanks and bulldozers.

In 2004, a power generation plant was opened in Gaza. Yet in 2006, it was bombed by Israeli warplanes. The damage has been lasting. The power crisis we face today has meant that I am writing this article with the help of electricity stored on a battery.

The UN has given us only limited help to build our nation. Its main activities here have involved distributing food aid and constructing and repairing schools and clinics and the homes of impoverished refugees.

Only recently UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, announced that it will expand a small health clinic for Maghazi. The expansion is long overdue.

Every year since 1948, the UN has marked 29 November as the international day of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Now we are going to have a whole year of solidarity.

Will the solidarity be real? Or will we just get more words and no real action?

(Source / 26.12.2013)

IOF opens fire at Palestinian houses northern Gaza



GAZA, (PIC)– Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) opened heavy fire Thursday morning at Palestinian agricultural lands and houses in Beit Hanoun town northern Gaza Strip.

Eyewitnesses said that Israeli forces stationed at the border area northern Gaza Strip opened fire at agricultural lands. No casualties were reported among the farmers.

The shooting targeted a number of nearby homes, the sources added without mentioning any injuries.

Israeli warplanes launched two days ago several air raids on different areas in the Gaza Strip killing a baby girl and wounding 14 others.

(Source / 26.12.2013)

Report: US to supply Iraq with spy drones

A ScanEagle drone sits on the deck of the USS Ponce, on December 6, 2013 in Manama, Bahrain.

The United States is sending Iraq dozens of missiles and surveillance drones to help it combat a recent surge in al-Qaeda-backed violence, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

The weapons include a shipment of 75 Hellfire missiles purchased by Iraq, which Washington delivered to the country last week, the newspaper said.

The daily wrote that 10 ScanEagle reconnaissance drones – smaller versions of the larger Predator drones that once were frequently flown over Iraq – are expected to be sent by March.

Administration sources told the Times that the delivery comes as the Iraqis had virtually run out of Hellfire missiles.

The shipments are being sent as Baghdad confronts the worst wave of militant violence in half a decade.

Recent attacks, including the bombing Wednesday of a market near a church in Baghdad, have killed at least 44 people across Iraq, in the worst bloodletting since 2008 when the country was just emerging from a brutal period of sectarian killings.

Militants frequently attack places where crowds gather, including markets, cafes and mosques, in an effort to cause maximum casualties.

More than 6,700 people have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of 2013, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.

(Source / 26.12.2013)

Analysts: Egypt Brotherhood may radicalize after terror listing

Two Egyptian women, supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, sit in front police standing behind barbed wire outside the HQ of the Republican Guard in Cairo on July 8, 2013
CAIRO (AFP) — The military-installed government’s listing of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group signals determination to uproot its vast grass-roots network, possibly radicalizing the Islamists as they go underground, analysts said.

Security forces had already decimated the group following Islamist president Mohamed Morsi’s overthrow in July, with more than 1,000 people killed and thousands more imprisoned, including the Brotherhood’s top leadership.

The last major crackdown on the Brotherhood, by president Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s, led several members to break off and form more radical groups that are now seen as precursors to Al-Qaeda.

Now analysts fear a similar process could unfold, with a new generation of activists breaking from the Brotherhood’s more cautious leadership, most of whom are imprisoned with little communication to the outside world.

“It is impossible to dismiss the idea that at least a fringe group of the repression’s victims will choose counter-violence and join the jihadists,” said Francois Burgat, a Beirut-based expert on Islamist movements.

The decision to list the Brotherhood as a terrorist group came after the deadly bombing of a police station on Tuesday that killed 15 people and was claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, an Al-Qaeda inspired group spearheading attacks in the Sinai peninsula that have killed scores of police and soldiers since Morsi’s overthrow.

The group has no known link to the Brotherhood, and Wahhabi militant groups have long criticized the Brotherhood’s refusal to take up arms and its embrace of elections, seen by radicals as un-Islamic.

But the government blamed the Brotherhood for the bombing, and Morsi along with other top Islamists already face trial for allegedly colluding with militants to carry out attacks.

Following the terrorist designation, anyone taking part in the protests the Brotherhood has held on a near-daily basis demanding Morsi’s reinstatement could be sentenced to five years in prison, according to the interior ministry.

Possessing Brotherhood literature, or supporting them “verbally or in writing” is also punishable by up to five years in prison, it said in a statement.

Repression could foster violence 

The 85-year-old Brotherhood was the most well-organized opposition group during decades of dictatorship and prevailed in a string of polls held after the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

But in the group’s early days it did not shy away from violence. The Brotherhood was responsible for a string of assassinations in the 1940s, and was accused of trying to assassinate Nasser, the pan-Arab nationalist icon, in the 1950s.

That led to a major crackdown in which Brotherhood members were jailed and tortured, leading some to break away and form armed groups that went on to launch a wave of attacks on security forces and foreign tourists.

But the Brotherhood itself renounced violence in the 1970s, and instead focused on social work and grass-roots political organizing.

But Morsi’s overthrow, just one year after becoming Egypt’s first democratically elected president and the jailing of top leaders could prompt younger cadres to rethink their tactics.

“We may discover this has had a negative impact, the absence of an organization,” said one Brotherhood spokesman, who requested anonymity.

The crackdown has come amid a groundswell of loathing and distrust of the Brotherhood that built up during Morsi’s rule, which could erode the group’s long-held belief that it could bring about a more Islamic Egypt through social work and political advocacy.

The organization itself is likely to remain committed to its stated strategy of peaceful protest, said Omar Ashour, a senior lecturer in Middle East politics at the University of Exeter.

“Internally they have been preaching since the late sixties that taking up arms is illegitimate and ineffective,” he said.

But “if you decapitate the leadership, especially if the leadership is not pro-violence, you could end up with members taking up arms.”

(Source / 26.12.2013)

Netanyahu says Hamas responsible for any Gaza fire

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) waves as he attends an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva on Dec. 26, 2013
HATZERIM AIR FORCE BASE, Israel (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Gaza rulers Hamas were responsible for any attacks from the Palestinian enclave, after deaths on both sides.

“We have recently been subject to attacks against us,” he said at a pilots’ graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim air force base in southern Israel.

“Israel holds Hamas responsible for all the attacks launched on us. We will strike at those who attack us, and at those who support them,” he said in remarks that were also broadcast on radio.

Confrontations between the sides peaked on Tuesday, when a sniper inside the Gaza Strip killed an Israeli fixing the border fence.

Israel retaliated against “terror sites” in Gaza using warplanes and tanks, killing a toddler and wounding at least six people.

The sniper attack has been attributed to a small Palestinian faction unrelated to the Islamist Hamas.

An ensuing tense quiet has held, despite Palestinians in Gaza firing a projectile that hit an uninhabited area in southern Israel early on Thursday.

A military spokeswoman told AFP it caused no damage or injuries.

On Thursday night a second projectile fired from Gaza “landed in open ground causing no damage”, according to a military spokesman.

Speaking at the same air force ceremony, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel would not accept the “trickle of terror from the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is sovereign.”

The week before the sniper attack, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian scavenging for metal and plastic scraps near the border, and wounded at least 4 Gazans in attacks across the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces frequently shoot at farmers and other civilians inside the Gaza Strip if they approach large swathes of land near the border that the Israeli military has deemed off-limits to Palestinians.

The “security buffer zone” extends between 500 meters and 1500 meters into the Strip, effectively turning local farms into no-go zones.

According to UNOCHA, 17% of Gaza’s total land area and 35% of its agricultural land were within the buffer zone as of 2010, directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of more than 100,000 Gazans.

The Gaza Strip has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by the State of Israel since 2006.

(Source / 26.12.2013)

Arafat probe result ‘politically motivated’

MOSCOW: The Swiss expert who examined samples of Yasser Arafat’s remains dismissed as a “political declaration” a statement on Thursday by Russian researchers excluding radiation poisoning as the cause for the Palestinian leader’s death.

“The Russians, they make claims without providing any data, without providing any scientific arguments, for me that is empty, a political declaration,” said Francois Bochud, director of the Lausanne Radiophysics Institute.

Vladimir Uiba, the head of Russia’s Federal Medical-Biological Agency (FMBA), told a news conference in Moscow on Thursday that Arafat “died a natural death and not from radiation.”

Uiba said on Thursday the view was now unanimous as the Swiss “withdrew their statements and agreed” with the Russian study.

“We have completed all the studies. The person died a natural death and not from radiation.”

“We’ve completed an expert evaluation, and everyone agreed with us. Moreover, even the Swiss withdrew their statements and agreed, and the French confirmed our conclusions,” Uiba told reporters in comments confirmed by his spokesman.

But Bochud criticised the Russians for not releasing their report.

Bochud was the co-author of a report released on Nov.7 that found high levels of polonium, up to 20 times the normal level.

This is “totally false,” Bochud said. “Our point of view has not changed, that’s for sure.”

Bochum said that the Swiss had not received a copy of the Russian study, and that Palestinian officials who had seen it said the results were similar to the Swiss data.

“But to claim the opposite with same data seems to be really fallacious,” said Bochud.

It said the findings were consistent with radioactive poisoning without saying conclusively that Arafat’s death was due to the polonium.

Arafat died in France on Nov.11, 2004 at the age of 75, but doctors were unable to specify the cause of death. No autopsy was carried out at the time, in line with his widow’s request.

His remains were exhumed in November 2012, partly to investigate whether he had been poisoned with radioactive polonium, a suspicion that grew after the substance was used to assassinate Russian ex-spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
(Source / 26.12.2013)

Israeli forces storm heart of Bethlehem in rare daytime raid


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces raided the center of the southern West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Beit Jala on Thursday afternoon, detaining four Palestinians under heavy armed escort.

In a rare daytime raid into the heart of Palestinian Authority-controlled areas, Israeli army forces accompanied by special plain-clothes soldiers raided several homes in the center of Bethlehem after passing through the center of nearby Beit Jala.

A Ma’an correspondent said that Israeli forces stormed several homes with police dogs and caused extensive damage to Palestinian private property in order to detain four civilians.

The civilians were identified as Omar al-Harimi, 46, and his son Samy, 21, as well as Abd al-Salam Souman, 45, and his son Muhammad, 14.

The Ma’an correspondent added that Israeli forces had blockaded the neighborhood and declared the area around it a “closed military zone,” preventing the entry and exit of local residents amid heavy gunfire.

The correspondent added that Israeli forces also pointed green lasers at journalists and local residents during the raid to prevent their movement.

On Wednesday night, Israeli forces stormed the neighborhood of Wadi Maale, also located near the center of Bethlehem. During that raid, they raid the homes of two Palestinian civilians, Hamzah al-Kamel and Shehadah Muhammad Shehadah and detained them.

Israeli forces also raided a third home, but the unidentified resident fled the house before Israeli forces could detain him or her.

Both Bethlehem and Beit Jala are located in Area A, the less than 20% of the West Bank that is under Palestinian civil and military control according to the Oslo Accords.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

(Source / 26.12.2013)