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Dagelijks archief 29 december 2013

Palestinians, Resistance Exposed Unprecedented Big Defamation Campaign: Abu Zuhri

Sami Abu Zuhri

Sami Abu Zuhri

Gaza, ALRAY – Islamic Resistance Movement-Hamas said that the Palestinian people and resistance are exposed to an unprecedented big defamation campaign by the Egyptian official media, reaffirming that it did not intervene in the internal national Egyptian affairs.

The movement pointed out in a statement released by its spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri, that Egyptian ambassador’s announcement demonstrates an attempt to provide cover for the Egyptian media propaganda against Hamas and the Palestinian people.

“The Egyptian ambassador must explain to the public how the detainee Hasan Salamah, who is imprisoned in the occupation prisons since 1996 to 1200 years, attacked the Egyptian prisons recently,” Abu Zuhri posted on his Facebook page on Saturday.

Abu Zuhri called to stop “The big unjust campaign” against the Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian people.

He also said,“If the others have any credibility, they have to stop their support to those who are shamed with the security cooperation with the Israeli colonial occupation.

(Source / 29.12.2013)

Saudi Arabia ‘to give Lebanon army $3bn grant’

 

Crowds of mourners have been gathering at a mosque in Beirut

Saudi Arabia is to give Lebanon’s army a grant of $3bn (£1.8bn, 2.8bn euros).

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman made the announcement in a televised address after the funeral of a senior Lebanese politician killed in a car bomb attack. He said it would help fight terrorism.

Mohamad Chatah, a Sunni Muslim, was a staunch critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah movement that backs him.

Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah have taken opposite sides in the Syrian conflict.

Coming to the boil

“The king of the brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is offering this generous and appreciated aid of $3bn to the Lebanese army to strengthen its capabilities,” Mr Sleiman said in his address.

He said it was the largest assistance provided in Lebanon’s history and would be used to buy weapons from France.

French President Francois Hollande said his country would “meet” any demands for weapons from Lebanon during a visit on Sunday to Saudi Arabia aimed at boosting commercial ties with the kingdom.

“I am in touch with President Sleiman… If demands are made to us, we will meet them,” he said.

President Sleiman said the Saudi aid would finally allow the Lebanese army to “confront terrorism” and put an end to the proliferation of arms.

The BBC’s Arab Affairs Editor Sebastian Usher said the president indirectly touched on a dangerous taboo in Lebanon – the unchecked power of the Shia movement, Hezbollah.

That issue is coming to the boil due to the conflict in neighbouring Syria where Hezbollah is fighting on the side of President Assad, our correspondent says.

Heinous crime

The Saudis back the other side – the mostly Sunni rebels. The kingdom also supports the pro-western March 14 alliance in Lebanon, of which Mohamad Chatah was a leading member.

Lebanon has been hit by a wave of attacks linked to heightened Sunni-Shia tensions over the Syrian war.

Mr Chatah was buried on Saturday amid tight security.

The former Lebanese minister and opposition figure was killed by a car bomb on Friday, which also killed six other people and injured at least 50.

Site of the explosion in Beirut (27 December 2013)
Mohamad Chatah was on his way to a meeting when the car bomb exploded
Relatives mourn over the coffins of Mohammed Chatah and his aides in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday 29 December
Mr Chatah was buried by a mosque by Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square

No-one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Mr Hariri implicitly accused Hezbollah of carrying it out.

Hezbollah rejected the accusation, calling the bombing a “heinous crime, which comes in the context of a series of crimes and explosions aimed at sabotaging the country”.

Syria also denied any involvement in the attack.

(Source / 29.12.2013)

Official: Israeli commanders not welcome to visit Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The governor of the Bethlehem district said Sunday that Israeli military commanders were not welcome to visit the area, after he received a request for military officials to visit Bethlehem while off duty.

Abd al-Fattah Hamayil said in a statement that “the chief of the occupation army’s central command” along with other military officials requested to visit Bethlehem in plain clothes, without providing further details.

The officials are unwelcome, Hamayil said, because of the “occupation’s ongoing atrocities” against the city.

He cited the Israeli army’s raid of central Bethlehem on Thursday as an example, saying Israeli soldiers “savagely destroyed dozens of stores in the city.”

“If the Israeli occupation’s leaders and commanders want to visit Bethlehem, they have to enter the city in military tanks and armored vehicles.”

An Israeli army spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Bethlehem is located in Area A, the less than 20 percent 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 / 29.12.2013)

Wat brengt Israël ons in 2014?

By Engelbert Luitsz                 ©                    (http://www.alexandrina.nl/?p=2819)

Najialali1

Tekening van de beroemde tekenaar Naji Al Ali, die in 1987 in Londen werd vermoord.

Sinds de journalist Joseph Dana weg is bij het bloggerscollectief +972 heb ik hem nog slechts sporadisch gelezen. Maar afgelopen week kwam ik een aardig stuk van hem tegen in The National. In Tide of world opinion is turning firmly against Israel’s occupation beschrijft hij het afgelopen jaar en kijkt vooruit naar wat we redelijkerwijs kunnen verwachten.

Hij begint met de constatering dat het opmerkelijk is dat er in 2013 geen oorlog was in Palestina. Wel veel geweldshandelingen, maar geen grootscheepse aanval. Het afgelopen jaar wordt vooral gekenmerkt door een status quo die zich volledig heeft vastgebeten. Onder status quo wordt dan verstaan de voortgaande bezetting van de Westelijke Jordaanoever en de Gazastrook, met een heel dun laagje vernis van internationale goedkeuring.

De Palestijnse Autoriteit ontpopte zich als de hoeder van de Israëlische belangen op de Westelijke Jordaanoever.

Van het arresteren van belangrijke zakenlieden tot de snelle onderdrukking van bijna elk niet-gewelddadig protest tegen de bezetting, was de Palestijnse Autoriteit (PA) druk met het intomen van gevaarlijke politieke activiteiten die de status quo in gevaar zouden kunnen brengen.

Elk spoor van volksbewegingen die hadden moeten leiden tot een Arabische Lente is verdwenen. De opmerking van president Abbas in Zuid-Afrika, dat men Israël niet zou moeten boycotten, duidt volgens velen op collaboratie met de vijand.

Wat we in 2013 ook zagen, de afgelopen maanden op zeer schrijnende wijze, is het volledig isoleren van de Gazastrook van de Westelijke Jordaanoever. Ook een strategie die al jaren liep en die dit jaar voltooid lijkt te zijn.

En het jaar begon relatief goed. Hamas was als de morele winnaar uit het bloedbad van november vorig jaar gekomen – Operatie Wolkkolom. Er kwam financiële steun uit Turkije en Qatar en de Moslimbroederschap in Egypte leek ook een goede rol te kunnen spelen.

De snelheid waarmee die situatie veranderde was echter een belangrijke les in hoe de koloniale fundamenten die Israël in de Gazastrook had neergelegd, met de stilzwijgende samenwerking van het Egyptische leger, in de praktijk functioneren. Bijna van de ene dag op de andere werden de tunnels tussen de Gazastrook en Egypte – levenslijnen naar de buitenwereld – vernietigd. Anti-Palestijnse sentimenten staken overal de kop op in Egypte, toen de Palestijnen als de eeuwige zondebokken voor de problemen van het land werden neergezet.

En de Palestijnse Autoriteit deed alsof het niet hun probleem was en hield z’n mond dicht. Voor 2014 is het dan ook niet te verwachten dat er iets van verzoening komt. Als de Palestijnen het onderling niet eens kunnen worden, hoe groot is dan de kans dat het tussen hen en Israël wel lukt?

Niemand gelooft dat de pogingen van John Kerry voor de Verenigde Staten iets zullen opleveren. Het probleem is niet oplosbaar volgens de extreem-rechtse Israëlische politicus Avigdor Lieberman, het kan alleen “beheerst” worden. En dat is ook wat de door de Amerikanen geleide besprekingen lijken te doen. Er is uitgelekt dat Israël in ieder geval nog 10 jaar militaire aanwezigheid wil hebben op cruciale locaties op de Westelijke Jordaanoever. En in verband met de vrijlating van een aantal gevangenen deze week is er opnieuw aangekondigd een flink aantal joodse woningen te gaan bouwen.

Ondertussen gaat het prima met de Israëlische economie. De grote gasvoorraden in de Middellandse Zee bieden het vooruitzicht dat de joodse staat een belangrijke energieleverancier zou kunnen worden. 2014 ziet er dus rooskleurig uit voor de kolonie, zou je zeggen. Maar niet volgens Joseph Dana.

De dood van Nelson Mandela heeft de angst doen rijzen dat de internationale gemeenschap het zionistische verhaal niet langer slikt. President Peres en premier Netanyahu lieten verstek gaan bij de herdenkingsdienst voor Mandela (respectievelijk wegens “griep” en “geldgebrek”). Waarschijnlijk, schrijft Dana, wilden ze echter niet te veel aandacht vestigen op de nauwe banden die Israël had onderhouden met het blanke minderheidsregime tijdens de Apartheid.

Vlak daarna besloot de invloedrijke American Studies Association (ASA) Israël te isoleren in saamhorigheid met de globale boycotbeweging (BDS). Het was direct te merken aan de lawine aan artikelen en beschuldigingen die volgden, en door een aantal universiteiten die zich distancieerden van de ASA. Wie geïnteresseerd is kan hier een reactie lezen van leden van Trinity College, Connecticut,  op de wilde aantijgingen aan hun adres.

Ook de joodse studentenorganisatie Hillel van het prestigieuze Harvard blijkt nu minder eensgezind te zijn dan altijd werd aangenomen. Dit was altijd een machtig zionistisch bolwerk binnen de universitaire wereld; ook andere universiteiten werden door hen belaagd als daar kritische geluiden over Israël werden gehoord. Maar er is een interne strijd gaande over het recht op een open debat, zonder dat je meteen uit de groep wordt gezet. Dit is veelbetekenend: Members of Jewish Student Group Test Permissible Discussion on Israel.

Dana zegt dat de grootste angst van Israël is dat hun verhaal niet langer klakkeloos geslikt wordt. Zo lang hij zich kan herinneren werd alles geframed in termen van veiligheid en strijd, maar nu ontkomt niemand er nog aan dat het gaat om de rechten van mensen die onderdrukt worden. Nooit eerder haalde een Palestijnse film over de bezetting de Oscars, nooit eerder werd er in de grote kranten openlijk een discussie gevoerd over het niet-gewelddadige verzet van de boycotacties.

Al tientallen jaren heerst de angst bij de Israëlische beleidsmakers dat de internationale gemeenschap zich tegen het land zou keren zoals het dat deed tegen Zuid-Afrika. Ik ben er zeker van dat we volgend jaar het begin van die verandering zullen zien. Het zou ironisch genoeg wel eens kunnen betekenen dat de internationale gemeenschap zowel de Israëli’s als de Palestijnen tegen zichzelf gaat beschermen.

Dat er iets gaat veranderen geloof ik ook wel, al ben ik minder optimistisch dan Dana. De extremistische krachten die tot in elke vezel van de Israëlische maatschappij zijn doorgedrongen, zijn niet bang voor een gewelddadig conflict. En voor zover ik weet zou het de eerste keer zijn dat een kernmacht tot de orde wordt geroepen en zich structureel laat omscholen tot een fatsoenlijk land.

Of de Israëlische regering de beproefde formule van een oorlog gaat gebruiken om het volk weer achter zich te krijgen, weet ik niet. Ik kan het ook niet uitsluiten. Als “de internationale gemeenschap” daadwerkelijk de stem van het volk is, is er hoop; is het zoals gebruikelijk de stem van een paar corrupte leiders dan staan de Palestijnen en ons allemaal barre tijden te wachten in het nieuwe jaar.

Ambassador: 3 agreements with Russia to be signed next year

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian ambassador to Russia said Sunday that Palestinian-Russian relations would show great improvement in 2014.
Relations between Palestine and Russia are already greatly improving, Fayed Mustafa told Ma’an. But he said they would improve even more as a result of President Mahmoud Abbas’ scheduled visit to Russia in January.

He said three agreements would be signed during the visit: one between the Russian and Palestinian ministries of health, one between their ministries of interior, and a third between the Russian and Palestinian customs agencies.

The three agreements will entail training staff, participating in events, and mutual cooperation, Mustafa added, without providing further details.

(Source / 29.12.2013)

Gaza’s Commercial Crossing Re-Opens, Fuel allowed in

RAFAH, December 29, 2013 (WAFA) – Israel reopened Sunday Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) border crossing with Gaza following a four-day closure, according to the head of the Coordinating Committee for the Entry of Goods into the Gaza Strip, Raed Fattouh.

The opening of the crossing would allow entry of badly needed products into Gaza, mainly industrial fuel to run its electricity company’s power generator, which stopped functioning two days ago after it ran out of fuel.

Gaza farmers will also be able to export eight truckloads of strawberry and tomato to Europe.

Fattouh said 330 truckloads of goods, agriculture products and aid supplies, as well as two truckloads of cement and 46 truckloads of gravel intended for UN-implemented projects would be allowed entry.

In addition to the industrial fuel intended for the power plant, a limited amount of benzene, diesel and cooking gas would also be allowed entry to the Gaza Strip.

(Source / 29.12.2013)

Hamas: We will remain on the path of martyrs until Palestine is liberated

 

GAZA, (PIC)– The Hamas Movement said it would remain adherent to its resistance approach and following the path of martyrs whatever the sacrifices until all national goals have been achieved.

This came in a press release issued by Hamas on Sunday on the fifth anniversary of Al-Furqan battle.

The Movement reiterated its rejection of the peace negotiations with the Israeli occupation state and stressed that the Palestinian people did not give anyone a mandate to negotiate the occupation on their behalf, and thus they are not bound by any agreement between the Palestinian Authority and the occupation.

“[During Al-Furqan battle], the Israeli enemy wanted to break the will of the resistance spearheaded by Hamas, but our steadfast people responded, ‘We will not leave our land or forsake the resistance whatever the sacrifices,'” Hamas stated.

“Al-Furqan battle has become the legend of the era after the occupation withdrew from the environs of Gaza dragging tails of their defeat and failure behind them, and proved that the strong will of our people is tougher than all its tanks, warplanes and internationally banned weapons,” Hamas added.

Hamas also highlighted that the stifling blockade on Gaza would never succeed in eliminating the resistance in the field or isolating it politically.

“Hamas along with the resistance forces will continue to be capable of springing surprises in the face of those besieging the Palestinian people, and will prove, as days go by, that it is deeply rooted in the hearts of its people and nation and that its enemies are too weak to succeed in breaking the Movement or force it to retreat from the path of resistance and liberation,” the Hamas Movement underlined.

(Source / 29.12.2013)

Gaza fishermen suffer 85 percent income loss as Israeli siege, attacks continue

Palestinian fishermen bring their catches ashore at the port in Gaza City.

On 17 December, Palestinian fishermen and their supporters erected a tent — a traditional venue for protest, as well as celebration and mourning — inside the Gaza seaport.

“It was to highlight the situation, the crimes of the Israelis against fishermen here,” said Amjad al-Shrafi, treasurer of the General Union of Fishermen. “We wanted to send a message about the blockade against the fishermen and how we cannot fish freely.”

The protest, organized under the title Free the Holy Land Sea, ended two days later with the delivery of a letter to the nearby office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, demanding international protection for fishermen.

Over three days, hundreds of well-wishers visited a crowded tent decorated with banners and posters supporting fishermen. The organizations represented on its walls ranged from human rights centers to prisoner support groups.

Under fire

“One of our main goals was to push governments around the world to force Israel to give fishermen free lives and let us sail without any limits,” al-Shrafi said. “It’s our right to sail freely in our waters.”

“Another was to pressure the Israeli forces to release the boats and fishermen they have captured.”

Palestinian fishermen in coastal waters off the Gaza Strip frequently come under fire byIsraeli naval forces, which target their boats on both sides of a boundary imposed by Israel.

Israel deploys its gunships into Palestinian waters using an information technology infrastructure administered by Hewlett-Packard (“Technologies of control: The case of Hewlett-Packard,” Who Profits, December 2011).

Through its subsidiary, HP Israel, the US corporation won a contract to run the Israeli navy’s computer and communications network in August 2006 (“HP Israel wins navy IT outsourcing contract,” Globes, 14 August 2006).

The fishing area permitted by Israel, which doubled in size as part of the ceasefire agreement ending eight days of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip and retaliatory fire by Palestinian resistance groups in November 2012, now officially reaches six nautical miles from the shore.

But fishermen say the Israeli navy often shoots at them and sometimes captures them and their boats well within the zone it ostensibly allows them.

Captured

Fishermen and supporters hold posters with images of colleagues captured by Israeli forces, in Gaza City on 19 December 2013.

“We were far from the prohibited zone, 500 meters away,” said Saddam Abu Warda, a 23-year-old fisherman whom the Israeli navy captured along with his 18-year-old brother Mahmoud around 9am on 10 November.

“They were shouting, ‘You must get out of here in five minutes.’ We had to cut the net to pull it out of the water. Then they started to fire bullets close to our hasaka [small boat]. As they came close to us, their boat looked like a big building with lights.”

The Abu Wardas’ small boat had no engine. “We tried to escape by paddling quickly,” Saddam Abu Warda said. “They forced us to take off our clothes and raise our hands. They were firing bullets in the air and in front of our hasaka. One soldier was shouting, ‘You have to leave your hasaka and get in the water.’ I was shocked. I couldn’t move. I didn’t know why.”

Finally, gunfire forced the brothers into the cold water. “They didn’t stop firing bullets over our heads,” Abu Warda said. “I was far from my brother. He started shouting, saying, ‘I am injured.’ He wasn’t able to keep swimming. I swam back to my brother to try and save him. His blood was [spilling] in the water. Then two small boats came close to us. They pulled my brother from the water. They didn’t take me.”

When Abu Warda reached the Israeli gunship, he lost consciousness after soldiers bound, hooded and kicked him. He awoke in a detention facility in Ashdod, a port in present-day Israel beside his brother Mahmoud, whose right abdomen was stitched by military physicians. The brothers said that Israeli bullets caused the wound.

During an interrogation after he awoke, an Israeli soldier tried to convince him otherwise. “I told him, ‘Three of your gunboats were around us. They were firing bullets. My brother’s blood was everywhere in the water. He was injured by your soldiers.’”

After a lengthy interrogation that continued both in Ashdod port and after their transfer to a detention center by the Erez crossing between Gaza and present-day Israel, Israeli forces released the Abu Wardas into the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun around 10pm — 13 hours after their capture. Their boat and its equipment remained behind.

“We have three hasakas in the Ashdod port,” Abu Warda said of his family’s prior losses to the Israeli navy.

Severe damage

The Abu Wardas’ experiences echo many more documented in a new report by thePalestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). The PCHR, which supported the Free the Holy Land Sea campaign, is translating the document — already published in Arabic — into English.

Over four years, from 1 September 2009 through 31 August 2013, the Israeli navy killed two fishermen, wounded 24, and captured 147, according to the report. The navy also seized 45 boats and destroyed or damaged 113 more.

The report also records the losses incurred by about thirty bombings of four fishing ports during Israel’s November 2012 attacks on the Gaza Strip, including damages to an additional 80 boats and destruction of a health clinic and a youth center used by fishermen.

“There was severe damage to different fishing facilities during the military offensive,” said Khalil Shaheen, director of PCHR’s economic and social rights unit.” At the ports in Gaza City, Middle Area, Khan Younis and Rafah, different facilities were targeted and destroyed.”

“The report also documents the impact of the total damage to fishermen and the fishing sector,” Shaheen added. “One of the main impacts was the loss of 85 percent of income in the fishing sector, as the result of access restrictions and the naval blockade.”

Casualties have continued to mount in the four months since the period covered by the report ended. The PCHR publishes regular reports on human rights abuses in Gaza. These reports indicate that Israel has shot at fishermen at least 37 times since September, as well as seizing six boats.

“I would like to thank all the solidarity campaigns who were involved in this action and show solidarity with Palestinian fishermen,” al-Shrafi said.

“We ask that the international community continue to pressure their governments, to ask for dignity and a free life for us.”

(Source / 29.12.2013)

Lebanon anti-Syria bloc rejects unity government

A policeman stands guard at the site of a bomb blast, which killed Lebanon’s former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah, in downtown Beirut, Dec. 28, 2013

Lebanon’s anti-Syria bloc on Saturday rejected joining a government with Hezbollah, a day after it lost Mohammad Chatah, an influential member, in a car bombing in the capital.

Ever since a caretaker government headed by former Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned nine months ago, political parties have been unable to agree on a new administration.

“Today we propose a government composed of representatives of our camp and of centrists, without Hezbollah,” Fares Souaid, secretary general of the March 14 bloc, told Agence France-Presse.

“We have, in the past, participated in national unity governments [with Hezbollah], made compromises, initiated dialogue to try and convince this party to stop resorting to violence and killing to reach its political goals,” said Souaid.

However, the “killing machine has not stopped,” he added.

Rising tensions

The Friday attack in Beirut came during rising tensions and political crisis in Lebanon linked to its war-torn neighbor, Syria.

Hezbollah has sent thousands of armed men to Syria to back President Bashar al-Assad’s troops, in defiance of repeated calls to keep out of the conflict.

The March 14 bloc was created in 2005, after former premier Rafiq Hariri was assassinated.

Assad’s opponents in Lebanon blame Hariri’s killing and that of 12 other high-profile politicians, intellectuals and security officials on the Syrian regime.

Although an international outcry over Hariri’s assassination forced Assad to withdraw Syrian troops from Lebanon later that year, Damascus has continued to exert significant influence through its allies.

After Mikati resigned in March, pro-March 14 politician Tammam Salam was named to take his place but the country’s deep divisions have prevented the formation of a new government.

Hezbollah has proposed the formation of a national unity government, bringing together its allies, March 14 and centrist ministers – insisting that they must control key departments such as the foreign and interior ministries.

(Source /29.12.2013)

Gitmo inmate Shaker Aamer’s year-end plea

An Amnesty International protest in Washington calling for the release of Shaker Aamer

His case has been one of the most contentious to come out of Guantanamo Bay, but in an adamant show of optimism, Shaker Aamer wants to continue using the controversy to his advantage.

In a year-end interview with Al Arabiya News, the inmate talks of why he wants the “eyes of the world” on his plight, his ultimate goal of returning to his family, his day-to-day life at the Cuba-based U.S. prison and why “1984” by George Orwell is still his favorite book.

Shaker Aamer pictured in Guantanamo.

Detained without charge since November 2001, Saudi-born Aamer, 45, is the last British citizen to be held at Guantanamo. He is described by his lawyers at Reprieve, a London-based legal action charity, as a “natural leader who is known for his concern for others.”

He has spent most of his time in solitary confinement, despite being cleared for release by both President Obama and President Bush and despite U.S. authorities now accepting that there is no case against him.

According to documents published in the Guantanamo Bayfiles leak, the U.S. military Joint Task Force on Guantanamo believed in November 2007 that Aamer had led a unit of fighters in Afghanistan, where he was captured in 2001. However, he has never been charged with any wrongdoing or gone to trial.

He informed his lawyer of how British MI6 officers were present when he was allegedly assaulted and interrogated at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan – where he was known as “Prisoner No. 5.” His legal counsel was also present when Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, whose statements were used to justify the Iraq war, was interrogated by U.S. forces.

“Shaker’s own government has been saying that they want him back home to his family where he belongs, yet unfortunately there are subversive forces even in the UK who have a different agenda,” Reprieve’s director, Clive Stafford Smith, said in a statement this year.

“Some MI6 agents want him to go to Saudi Arabia, where he won’t be able to talk any more to the Metropolitan police about all the things he has witnessed.

“But a man who has been effectively declared innocent cannot be locked away forever to save [a] national embarrassment. Shaker must be returned to London at once,” Smith added.

In response to human rights concerns about the status of Guantanamo detainees, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale told Al Arabiya News that officials are “aware of the complaints leveled by the human rights groups who insist that the detention facility at Guantanamo should be closed.”

“As President [Obama] has repeatedly stated, it is inefficient, it is wildly expensive, and it exists outside America’s best interests. But, until the U.S. Congress changes the law, the Department will continue to humanely safeguard the detainees in our charge and continue to responsibly transfer those who are eligible.”

Aamer became one of the most prominent inmates to join the mass hunger strike at the prison in March 2013, prompting a British government e-petition calling for the immediate return of Shaker to the UK. But after these efforts failed and as 2013 nears its end, Aamer continues to fight for his freedom.

The last information Reprieve received from Shaker was that the hunger strike figures were increasing. According to Shaker, the numbers are going back up and there are now 29 hunger-strikers, including him, with 19 being force-fed. “The strike is back on,” Shaker said.

Q&A with Shaker Aamer, British prisoner at Guantanamo Bay

Q: Can you give us a feel of interactions between the prisoners and their captors at the moment?

You need to know that until today, when we are moved from point A to point B in Guantanamo, we are addressed as packages. So I am a package en route to the hospital or they say that “the package has been picked up.” It is enough that we are called “packages,” but no one cares how we feel as human beings.

If they don’t want someone to go somewhere for any reason, they will conduct a very bad search [these include scrotum searches that have been the subject of much controversy].

They have been freezing us in our block for a long time now. They can use everything as a punishment, from air, water, light, food, clothes, medicine, recreation, nail clippers, hair clippers, showers, TV, cleaning items, fans, air conditioning, books [and] legal documents.

A UK-based campaign petitioning for the release of Shaker Aamer.

Q: Has the hunger strike helped with your case in any way?

We started the last strike in February. President Obama eventually took notice and restated his promise to close Guantanamo Bay. So we gave him time to make good on his word. Yet here we are, and the main problem remains unchanged. Still more than fifty percent of the detainees have been cleared, and yet we are still here.

Q: Is your case becoming increasingly political? Are British spies jeopardizing your chances of freedom and pushing for you to remain in legal limbo?

One reason I can think of [for the extenuated detention] is that some of the government’s branches (i.e. MI5 and MI6) do not want me back in the UK for their own reasons and because they think that my return to the UK is going to be troublesome to them. I believe that [British Foreign Minister] William Hague was sincere when he wrote to me, but unfortunately it seems others are undermining what he is trying to do behind the scenes. I was very upset last month with the authorities here confiscated Hague’s letter to me for no reason.

Also, remember they first cleared me for release in 2007 and told me they would send me to Saudi Arabia, but were surprised when I refused to go anywhere except to my wife and children in London. Under Obama I have been cleared again by all six of the main U.S. national security agencies. David Cameron has personally raised my case with Barack Obama.

Q: There has been widespread coverage of Guantanamo, do you still believe the prisoners’ stories should get more attention?

The eyes of the world are the only thing that will ever get me home to my family, I think, so thank you for your attention to this issue. You can see from the fact that the U.S. military is now suppressing the hunger strike’s figures that they want everyone to forget us and move along.

Shaker Aamer, whose family live in south London, with two of his children.

Q: How would you describe your psychological state of mind?

But by God (Allah) they will never break me. Indeed, they are broken before my eyes, because justice always will prevail, the sun will always shine and darkness will disperse.

I don’t get enough sleep to organize myself so that I can read and live normally, although 1984 by George Orwell is still my favorite book. William Hague, the rest of the British government, and the world in general should know how I am really living and suffering – heath wise and mentally.

Q: What is keeping you going?

My primary goal always has been and always will be to be with my family. My secondary goal is going to be to work with a university to document the history of Guantanamo and to do what I can to ensure justice for everyone there. And that includes all the guards who have been mistreated.

In the end it will be a sweet memory and it will mean a lot to us, because we will have done our part to try to change what is wrong with the world and make it a place of greater justice.

Q: Would you like to send across any further message about your imprisonment?

If I had been sent back to London in 2007, I would “only” have missed the first five years of my youngest child’s life. I mention Faris because I have never met him; ironically he was born on the day I got to this ghastly place.

I should say that I miss my wife and my other three children with the same deep love as I miss Faris. Can you imagine not being able to touch your wife or your children for – as of today [the date of the phone call in December 2013] – four thousand three hundred and twenty days and nights?

(Source / 29.12.2013)