Syrian rebels want foreign fighters gone

The opposition Free Syrian Army is turning against foreign fighters in Syria’s civil war, arresting some 200 outsiders with ties to al-Qaeda groups.

The FSA had given members of the al-Qaeda-backed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, 24 hours to surrender and leave the country, before arresting around 200 of them, spokesman Loauy Mokdad told CNN.

“Now, we repeat that we don’t want any foreign fighters in Syria,” Mokdad said, equating the ISIS fighters with the Syrian regime. “We do not want any terrorist groups in Syria. We will not allow them to make bases in Syria.”

The move comes as infighting between the Free Syrian Army and Islamist groups have threatened to tip the balance among rebel forces toward militant groups and away from more secular brigades.

The FSA gave the ISIS an ultimatum and accused the group of killing FSA officers and committing crimes against civilians.

“After six months attempting to hijack our revolution and after they controlled some liberated areas and after they start to force our people to act like Islamic state, we gave so many warnings to them, that’s something not acceptable for us,” Mokdad said.

In a sign of the escalating tensions, two Syrian human rights watchdogs claim that Islamic fighters with ISIS executed 30 people in the northern Syrian province of Idlib Saturday.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists, said that the 30 victims were “field executed” after being kidnapped at checkpoints in the province.

The victims included civilians and fighters from rival factions, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

ISIS forces have increasingly come into conflict with FSA fighters and other hard-line anti-Assad factions while attempting to enforce their strict form of Islamic sharia law on areas coming under their control across northern Syria.

ISIS on Saturday issued its own ultimatum Saturday, giving the FSA 24 hours to free their prisoners, or they will leave their joint posts with the FSA in Aleppo.

(Source / 04.01.2014)

War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields

War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza's Offshore Gas Fields

Five years ago, Israel invaded Gaza under “Operation Cast Lead”.

The following article was first published by Global Research in January 2009 at the height of the Israeli bombing and invasion under Operation Cast Lead.

In the wake of the invasion, Palestinian gas fields were de facto confiscated by Israel in derogation of international law

A year following “Operation Cast Lead”,  Tel Aviv announced the discovery of  the Leviathan natural gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean “off the coast of Israel.”

At the time the gas field was: “ … the most prominent field ever found in the sub-explored area of the Levantine Basin, which covers about 83,000 square kilometres of the eastern Mediterranean region.” (i)

Coupled with Tamar field, in the same location, discovered in 2009, the prospects are for an energy bonanza for Israel, for Houston, Texas based Noble Energy and partners Delek Drilling, Avner Oil Exploration and Ratio Oil Exploration. (See Felicity Arbuthnot, Israel: Gas, Oil and Trouble in the Levant, Global Research, December 30, 2013

The Gazan gas fields are part of the broader Levant assessment area.

What is now unfolding is the integration of these adjoining gas fields including those belonging to Palestine into the orbit of Israel. (see map below).

It should be noted that the entire Eastern Mediterranean coastline extending from Egypt’s Sinai to Syria constitutes an area encompassing large gas as well as oil reserves.

 

War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields

January 8, 2009

The December 2008 military invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Forces bears a direct relation to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves. 

This is a war of conquest. Discovered in 2000, there are extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline. 

British Gas (BG Group) and its partner, the Athens based Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) owned by Lebanon’s Sabbagh and Koury families, were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority.

The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21,  2007).

The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline.(Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).

The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.

The BG Group drilled two wells in 2000: Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. Reserves are estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. These are the figures made public by British Gas. The size of Palestine’s gas reserves could be much larger.


Map 1

Map 2

Who Owns the Gas Fields

The issue of sovereignty over Gaza’s gas fields is crucial. From a legal standpoint, the gas reserves belong to Palestine.

The death of Yasser Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority have enabled Israel to establish de facto control over Gaza’s offshore gas reserves.

British Gas (BG Group) has been dealing with the Tel Aviv government. In turn, the Hamas government has been bypassed in regards to exploration and development rights over the gas fields.

The election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 was a major turning point. Palestine’s sovereignty over the offshore gas fields was challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court. Sharon stated unequivocally that “Israel would never buy gas from Palestine” intimating that Gaza’s offshore gas reserves belong to Israel.

In 2003, Ariel Sharon, vetoed an initial deal, which would allow British Gas to supply Israel with natural gas from Gaza’s offshore wells. (The Independent, August 19, 2003)

The election victory of Hamas in 2006 was conducive to the demise of the Palestinian Authority, which became confined to the West Bank, under the proxy regime of Mahmoud Abbas.

In 2006, British Gas “was close to signing a deal to pump the gas to Egypt.” (Times, May, 23, 2007). According to reports, British Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened on behalf of Israel with a view to shunting the agreement with Egypt.

The following year, in May 2007, the Israeli Cabinet approved a proposal by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert  “to buy gas from the Palestinian Authority.” The proposed contract was for $4 billion, with profits of the order of $2 billion of which one billion was to go the Palestinians.

Tel Aviv, however, had no intention on sharing the revenues with Palestine. An Israeli team of negotiators was set up by the Israeli Cabinet to thrash out a deal with the BG Group, bypassing both the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority:

Israeli defence authorities want the Palestinians to be paid in goods and services and insist that no money go to the Hamas-controlled Government.” (Ibid, emphasis added)

The objective was essentially to nullify the contract signed in 1999 between the BG Group and the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat.

Under the proposed 2007 agreement with BG, Palestinian gas from Gaza’s offshore wells was to be channeled by an undersea pipeline to the Israeli seaport of Ashkelon, thereby transferring control over the sale of the natural gas to Israel.

The deal fell through. The negotiations were suspended:

 ”Mossad Chief Meir Dagan opposed the transaction on security grounds, that the proceeds would fund terror”. (Member of Knesset Gilad Erdan, Address to the Knesset on “The Intention of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Purchase Gas from the Palestinians When Payment Will Serve Hamas,” March 1, 2006, quoted in Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza’s Coastal Waters Threaten Israel’s National Security?  Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, October 2007)

Israel’s intent was to foreclose the possibility that royalties be paid to the Palestinians. In December 2007, The BG Group withdrew from the negotiations with Israel and in January 2008 they closed their office in Israel.(BG website).

Invasion Plan on The Drawing Board

The invasion plan of the Gaza Strip under “Operation Cast Lead” was set in motion in June 2008, according to Israeli military sources:

“Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago [June or before June] , even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.”(Barak Ravid, Operation “Cast Lead”: Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008)

That very same month, the Israeli authorities contacted British Gas, with a view to resuming crucial negotiations pertaining to the purchase of Gaza’s natural gas:

“Both Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler agreed to inform BG of Israel’s wish to renew the talks.

The sources added that BG has not yet officially responded to Israel’s request, but that company executives would probably come to Israel in a few weeks to hold talks with government officials.” (Globes online- Israel’s Business Arena, June 23, 2008)

The decision to speed up negotiations with British Gas (BG Group) coincided, chronologically, with the planning of the invasion of Gaza initiated in June. It would appear that Israel was anxious to reach an agreement with the BG Group prior to the invasion, which was already in an advanced planning stage.

Moreover, these negotiations with British Gas were conducted by the Ehud Olmert government with the knowledge that a military invasion was on the drawing board. In all likelihood, a new “post war” political-territorial arrangement for the Gaza strip was also being contemplated by the Israeli government.

In fact, negotiations between British Gas and Israeli officials were ongoing in October 2008, 2-3 months prior to the commencement of the bombings on December 27th.

In November 2008, the Israeli Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructures instructed Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to enter into negotiations with British Gas, on the purchase of natural gas from the BG’s offshore concession in Gaza. (Globes, November 13, 2008)

“Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler wrote to IEC CEO Amos Lasker recently, informing him of the government’s decision to allow negotiations to go forward, in line with the framework proposal it approved earlier this year.

The IEC board, headed by chairman Moti Friedman, approved the principles of the framework proposal a few weeks ago. The talks with BG Group will begin once the board approves the exemption from a tender.” (Globes Nov. 13, 2008)

Gaza and Energy Geopolitics 

The military occupation of Gaza is intent upon transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel in violation of international law.

What can we expect in the wake of the invasion?

What is the intent of Israel with regard to Palestine’s Natural Gas reserves?

A new territorial arrangement, with the stationing of Israeli and/or “peacekeeping” troops?

The militarization of the entire Gaza coastline, which is strategic for Israel?

The outright confiscation of Palestinian gas fields and the unilateral declaration of Israeli sovereignty over Gaza’s maritime areas?

If this were to occur, the Gaza gas fields would be integrated into Israel’s offshore installations, which are contiguous to those of the Gaza Strip. (See Map 1 above).

These various offshore installations are also linked up to Israel’s energy transport corridor, extending from the port of Eilat, which is an oil pipeline terminal, on the Red Sea to the seaport – pipeline terminal at Ashkelon, and northwards to Haifa, and eventually linking up through a proposed Israeli-Turkish pipeline with the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Ceyhan is the terminal of the Baku, Tblisi Ceyhan Trans Caspian pipeline. “What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel’s Tipline.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 23, 2006)


Map 3

(Source / 04.01.2014)

Egyptian judge dismissed for visiting pro-Morsi protest

Founding member of ‘Judges for Egypt’ activist group is removed from his position on charges of political bias
Waleed

Founding member of ‘Judges for Egypt’ Waleed Sharabi
A judicial disciplinary committee has removed a judge from his position as punishment for his presence at a pro-Brotherhood protest.Waleed Sharabi, a spokesman for the Judges for Egypt group, was referred to a disciplinary committee in October for being present at a protest in Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Cairo.

Protesters gathered at Rabaa for two months after the ouster of the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi from the presidency in July, demanding his reinstatement. Sharabi’s presence at the camp was viewed as bias towards a particular political faction, a violation of the judicial law.

Judges for Egypt was founded by a group of reformist judges after the 2011 revolution, and helped monitor the 2012 presidential elections, won by Morsi. The group has been accused of affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.

On 23 December, several founding members of Judges for Egypt were summoned on charges of forming a group that disturbs security and social peace, and of inciting strife among judges.

The summoned judges include former presidential advisor to Mohamed Morsi, Mahmoud Mekki, former deputy head of the appeals court, Mahmoud El-Khodeiry, and former head of the Judges Club, Zakaria Abdel-Aziz. The three figures played leading roles in the pro-judicial independence protests in 2005-7 during the presidency of Hosni Mubarak.

The Judges for Egypt group announced on 17 December on their official Facebook page that they planned to boycott the upcoming referendum on the constitution amended after Morsi’s ouster, which they termed “the constitution of the military.”

According to a source from the Supreme Electoral Commission, only judges who are under investigation or have been suspended from duty will be barred from supervising elections.

Some sources have claimed that all members of Judges for Egypt will be excluded from monitoring the upcoming polls, along with all judges who signed the so-called “Rabaa statement” in support of Morsi.

The referendum will take place on 14-15 January.

(Source / 04.01.2014)

2014: Failure of Palestinian Authority, BDS Success to Continue

There is no evidence that the PA plans to change course in 2014.  (Photo: UN/file)
There is no evidence that the PA plans to change course in 2014.

2013 was a year in which the so-called peace process charade was allowed to continue, leading Palestinians on yet another futile journey of broken promises. Meanwhile, the Israeli colonial project in the West Bank and East Jerusalem carried on unabated. But it was not entirely a year of doom and gloom either, for the global boycott campaign (BDS) has taken off like never before, surpassing the capricious Palestinian leadership and its confined political platforms.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is an unsuccessful leader, to say the least. But a much harsher judgment can arguably be made. When he out rightly rejected the boycott of Israel in an interview while attending the service of South Africa’s iconic leader Nelson Mandela, many Palestinians went on to describe his words as an act of treason. “We don’t ask anyone to boycott Israel itself. We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel,” he was quoted.

The irony is that an international boycott movement was another facet of the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa. For Abbas to reject boycotting in the Palestinian context – of the very country that is responsible for military occupation, countless war crimes, the siege on Gaza, violation of numerous international laws, the Apartheid Wall and for much more – while attending Mandela’s funeral is a testament to Abbas’ own political and moral bankruptcy.

Yet merely two weeks after Abbas’ statement, his chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, was once more threatening to take Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it carried on another settlement expansion scheme in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Erekat is understandably angry that the rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu plans to build another 1,400 homes for illegal settlers in several colonies, including 600 in Ramat Shlomo, which is located in the West Bank but was illegally annexed into occupied East Jerusalem. 800 other homes will be built in various settlements in the occupied West Bank, which Israel plans to keep in any future agreement.

“We strongly condemn this and consider it damaging for the peace process”, said Erekat. He described Netanyahu’s move as “a war crime”. Even by the ever tolerant standards of the PA, its officials have invoked the term ‘war crimes’ on so many occasions, and threatened to resort to the ICC, a threat that, of course, was never carried out.

Yet, there is no serious drive championed by the Palestinian leadership calling for punitive measures against Israel, only a halfhearted step that was taken in November 2012, when Palestine exacted international recognition in the UN, becoming a non-member state. Faced by Israeli obstinacy and a growing resentment among Palestinians of Abbas and his authority’s mounting corruption and failures, the Palestinian leader had no option but to seek anything that could be promoted by his jubilant supporters in the occupied territories as a ‘victory’. Abbas returned home to be greeted as a liberation hero by his loyalists in Ramallah, a stunt that didn’t fool many.

But in theory, the recognition also meant that if the PA agreed to sign up to the ICC’s Rome Statute, it could finally take Israel to the criminal court. Other practical steps could have also been taken, whereby Palestine could join dozens of international organizations, and hold Israel accountable for its continued crimes to whichever capacity possible. None of that took place to the dismay of Palestinians and their supporters.

What did happen is that last July, Abbas and his negotiators were dragged back to yet another round of useless and unconditional negotiations. And as they negotiated, the Israeli government had in fact sped up construction in its colonies in the West Bank and tightened the siege on Gaza. It was such a mockery that on Nov 13, the entire Palestinian negotiation team had resigned in protest.

But since “the man in charge” – according to a senior US administration official, quoted in CNN – is Saeb Erekat, then, such resignation meant very little. “We’ve seen Saeb Erakat do this before where he’d threaten to resign because he’s not happy with the way talks are going but … he ends up taking it back and continuing with the negotiations.”

It is an embarrassing spectacle, really, and the PA doesn’t seem to notice, or perhaps care. Instead of marching to The Hague with utter resolve, and putting Israel on the defensive for once, Erekat continues to use the same worn out tactic, used by Abbas himself in the past, of empty threats, which don’t seem to even register on the Israeli or US radar.

There is no question that the PA is in a much weaker position than Israel. The latter, aside from its military strength and total domination over every aspect of Palestinian life, is unconditionally supported by the US administration. While the Obama administration did dare choose a course of action regarding Iran that is not consistent with the wishes of the Zionist lobby in Washington, and its ever enthusiastic supporters in Congress, it remains beholden to the wishes of the lobby regarding Palestine.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has proved once again that it is not individuals, but established policies that control US behavior in the Middle East. His latest proposal, based on the work of 160 US officials, including retired US Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, went as far as Netanyahu had hoped for to ensure Israel’s ‘security’, should a Palestinian state be established. According to the rightwing Israeli daily, the Jerusalem Post, Kerry’s ‘ideas’ in the proposal include Israeli control over Palestine’s borders with Jordan, and continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley.

The Americans are bending over backwards for Israel as they have no reason not to: the lobby still has the upper hand in shaping US foreign policy regarding Israel and Palestine, and the PA is proving to be as accommodating as both Israel and the US expect of it. Disappointingly, the few available outlets that could in fact empower the Palestinian leadership such as supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and resorting to such international bodies as the ICC, are either shunned out completely or simply used as a tactic of empty threats.

There is no evidence that the PA plans to change course in 2014. The sorry legacy of Oslo will continue, as well as Israeli’s illegal colonial projects, the American peace process charade, and all the rest. But what will continue to change is that the BDS movement is moving ahead with or without Abbas and Erekat, whose claims to leadership are merely that of titles and hollow prestige.

(Source / 04.01.2014)

Analysis: Israel, Palestinians face hard choices

Ahmad Khalaf prays outside al-Aqsa mosque after he was released from an Israeli prison, in Jerusalem’s old city Dec. 31, 2013.

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry returns to the region Thursday, the American message to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders is clear: It’s time to start making hard decisions.

Kerry is bringing his own ideas for the outlines of a peace deal, and early indications are that the plan will include hard-to-swallow choices for both sides.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would likely have to recognize Israel’s pre-1967 war frontier as the starting point for border talks with the Palestinians, an ideological reversal that would put him on a collision course with his hardline base.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fears he’ll be pressured to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, a step he believes would abrogate the rights of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

A senior State Department official said Kerry would not impose ideas or seek final answers on this trip. Instead, he is allowing time for debate during the visit, which includes meetings with Netanyahu on Thursday and Abbas on Friday.

However, the official suggested that the leaders will eventually have to decide whether they are on board and that qualified acceptance watered down by reservations is not sufficient.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiations resumed last summer, and just four months remain until a U.S.-set target date for a final agreement.

Underlying the ongoing impasse is the lack of agreement on ground rules. Kerry hopes that progress will be possible once the two sides agree on the outlines of a deal.

Kerry has kept his ideas for a framework under wraps, but has said the contours of a deal are known after two decades of intermittent negotiations.

The U.S. says a Palestinian state should be established alongside Israel, with the border between them based, with some modifications, on Israel’s 1967 frontier, before it captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians seek all three areas for their state, but agree to minor land swaps.

“I think that if you’re going to be realistic about what the solution is, it’s hard to see how you can end up anywhere else than there,” the State Department official said Tuesday.

Netanyahu has so far refused to accept the 1967 lines as a reference.

Doing so would imply Israeli willingness to partition Jerusalem and its sensitive religious sites, give up most of the West Bank and uproot tens of thousands of close to 600,000 Israeli settlers living on occupied land. Such ideas are anathema to Israel’s right-wing, including many in Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, following a dramatic decision by Israel’s most famous hawk, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Netanyahu has sent conflicting signals, accelerating settlement plans in recent months but also telling Likud legislators this week that a leader is measured by his ability to make tough decisions.

Trying to divine Netanyahu’s intentions has become a national obsession.

Ofer Shelah, a legislator in the centrist Yesh Atid party, Netanyahu’s largest coalition partner, said Netanyahu is still hedging.

“There aren’t any signs that he already made a Sharonian decision and is moving toward it,” said Shelah. Still, Netanyahu is aware of the risks of a collapse of the negotiations, including Israel’s growing international isolation, Shelah added.

Others said Netanyahu is struggling with the decision.

“If he decides to say yes to the ’67 lines, he has to say no to his party,” said political commentator Akiva Eldar. “This is as difficult (for him) as it is for … an Orthodox Jew to eat pork on Yom Kippur. It goes against everything he believes in.”

Those favoring a partition deal say Netanyahu can move forward even without the support of his political allies. Opposition lawmakers have said they would support him.

“It depends on one person, the prime minister,” said Meir Shetreet, a former Likud legislator and now the parliamentary chairman of Hatnua, the dovish party of chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni. “If he accepts it, he will have the full support of a majority in the Knesset and (the) majority of the people.”

An opinion poll Wednesday indicated that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians favor a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but that support drops when respondents are given specifics to ponder.

Meanwhile, Israel TV’s Channel 2 reported that the government, responding to U.S. pressure, has canceled a decision to announce this week that it is promoting building plans for 1,400 more settlement apartments.

Regev declined comment.

For Abbas, the biggest concern is that he will be asked to make concessions on the fate of refugees by recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland, his aides said. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled in the war over Israel’s creation in 1948. These refugees, and their descendants, now number several million people.

The refugee issue is so charged that Palestinian leaders have largely avoided public debate on the matter, while insisting that Israel recognize at least the principle of a “right of return.”

Israel has emphatically ruled out absorbing large numbers of refugees, saying this would dilute the state’s Jewish majority.

Abbas aides said they don’t know what Kerry will propose on this trip. However, during a policy speech last month, Kerry listed “recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people” as one of the elements of a deal.

Israeli officials say they need such recognition as proof of Palestinian intentions. “We have to know that once a Palestinian state is to be established, it is going to end the conflict and not just be a platform for continuing conflict,” said government spokesman Mark Regev.

Palestinians argue that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would mean dropping the demand for a right of return and also forfeiting the rights of Israel’s 1.7 million Arab citizens. The Palestinians have already recognized the state of Israel and believe this is sufficient.

“Israel also wants us to accept its narrative of history and to give up our narrative, culture and history,” former Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Ishtayeh told reporters last month.

Analysts said Abbas would find it hard to make such a concession up front, without any actual gains in negotiations.

For now, Abbas is talking tough. He informed President Barack Obama in a recent letter that recognition of a Jewish state is one of his red lines.

In a New Year’s speech, he warned that “we will not hesitate for moment to say no, regardless of the pressure, to any proposal that contradicts … the national interests of our people.”

(Source / 04.01.2014)

Ariel Sharon’s son Gilad calls on Israel to ‘flatten Gaza’

Gilad Sharon, the son of Ariel Sharon the former Israeli prime minister who was felled by a stoke in 2005, called on the country’s armed forced to crush terrorism in Gaza by laying siege to the Palestinian territory.

Ariel Sharon's son Gilad calls on Israel to 'flatten Gaza'

Mr Sharon said the government should force the leadership of Gaza to capitulate by cutting off all supplies
 19 Nov 2012

Mr Sharon, an activist for the opposition Kadima party said that Israel’s south would only be calm when Israel would be able to declare total victory over Hamas and other radical groups in the city.

Otherwise the alternative would be to reoccupy the territory that his father ordered a withdrawal from in 2005. To do so the army should unleash an all-out assault. “Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too,” he wrote in the Jerusalem Post.

Mr Sharon, who is also a major in Israel’s reserve forces, said the government should force the leadership of Gaza to capitulate by cutting off all supplies.

“There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire,” he wrote.

“Were this to happen, the images from Gaza might be unpleasant – but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared.

While the elder Mr Sharon, one of the most distinguished soldiers in Israel’s history, remains incapacitated, Gilad claimed recently he can communicate with his father by gestures and eye movements.

The youngest son of the family, Gilad was the gatekeeper to his father during his time in office. He now manages the family farm in the Negev desert.

A storm of hostile comments was triggered on Twitter by the remarks.

“Why did JPost publish Gilad Sharon’s horrible, racist call to kill innocent Arabs to protect “truly innocent” Jews?” asked Tim Jacob Wise.

(Source / 04.01.2014)

Dit is een heel mooi verhaal…moeite waard om ff te lezen

By Marianna Laarif

Dit is het verhaal van een gewone man
Die handelt in strijd met Allah’s plan
Wanneer u uzelf hierin weerspiegelt ziet
Heb dan berouw en zondig verder niet

Het was eens midden in de nacht
Toen de dood een bezoekje bracht
De slapende riep: “Wie klopt daar aan?”
“Ik ben Israel, laat me binnengaan”

De man kreeg het koud en weer heet
Rilde, badend in het doodszweet
Schreeuwende tegen zijn slapende vrouw
“Laat hem weggaan…alsjeblieft…gauw!”

Engel des Doods, neemt mijn leven niet
Ik ben nog niet klaar zoals je ziet
Mijn familie is afhankelijk van mij
Geef me toch nog wat tijd erbij

De Engel klopte, weer en weer
“Vriend, je leven nemen doet niet zeer
Het is je ziel waar Allah om vraagt
Het helpt niet als je nu nog klaagt

Hysterisch, huilend riep de man
“O Engel, de dood, ik ben zo bang ervan
Ik geef jou goud, ik word je slaaf
Maar zend me toch niet naar het graf”

“Laat me erin vriend”, zei de Engel toen
“Kom uit je bed, ga de deur opendoen
Want, laat jij me nu niet zelf erin
Dan kom ik door de deur als een Djinn”

De man pakte een pistool om zich te beweren
Net alsof dat de Engel zou kunnen deren
“Ik schiet je hoofd eraf,
Dan ga jij wellicht naar je eigen graf”

Maar de Engel stond al naast zijn bed
“Vriend, je ondergang is al ingezet
Engelen sterven immers niet, dom mens
Leg je pistool neer, het is Allah’s wens

Waarom ben je bang, vertel eens man
Om te sterven volgens Allah’s plan?
Glimlach nu maar en laat geen traan
Wees blij dat je tot hem terug mag gaan

O Engel, ik schaam me dood en buig mijn hoofd
Vergeten was ik Allah, Zijn Naam zij geloofd
Werken voor geld, verdeed ik mijn tijd
Zelfs niet denkend aan eigen gezondheid

Allah’s geboden gehoorzaamde ik niet
Vijf keer bidden? Dat deed ik niet
Ik zag de Ramadan komen en gaan
Maar had geen tijd vol berouw te staan

De plicht van de Hadj heb ik uitgesteld
Dat vond ik zonde van mijn tijd en geld
Alle liefdadigheid heb ik genegeerd
Wel heb ik steeds meer rente begeerd

Ik zag geen kwaad in een slokje wijn
Vond het gezellig met vrouwen te zijn
O Engel, neemt me Alsjeblieft niet mee
Spaar mijn leven nog een jaar of twee

Dan gehoorzaam ik de regels van de Koran

Kijk keer bidden van nu af aan
Het vasten en Hadj zal ik volbrengen
En me niet in andermans zaken mengen

Ik zal aan anderen geen rente vragen
En liefdadigheid, alle dagen
Ik zal me niet over een wijnglas buigen
Maar van Allah’s EENHEID getuigen

Wij Engelen doen alles op Allah’s bevel
Wij kunnen niets doen tegen zijn Wil
De Dood is voorbeschikt voor iedereen
Man, vrouw of kind, uitgezonderd geen

Dit is je laatste moment, kom erbij
Je verleden trekt aan je voorbij
Hoewel ik je angsten begrijpen kan
Is het nu te laat voor tranen, man

Jarenlang heb je op aarde kunnen leven
Je hebt nooit geld aan armen gegeven
Je ouders heb je nooit gerespecteerd
En nooit iets van je fouten geleerd

Je negeerde dagelijks de roep van de Adhaan
Je las nooit een stuk uit de Koran
Beloften verbrak jij altijd, je leven lang
Voor jou waren zelf je vrienden bang

Goederen opgepot, gigantische winst
Jouw personeel verdiende het minst
Geld verdienen was je grootste plezier
Ontspannen deed je met gokken en bier

Met vitaminepillen hield jij je gezond
Terwijl je nooit aan iemands ziekbed stond
Ook heb je nooit aan iemand een liter bloed gegeven
Voor het redden van een andermans leven

O mens, je hebt zoveel verkeerd gedaan
En met hulpacties aan de kant gestaan
Jij hebt andere mensen nooit vergeven
Kijk maar zelf terug op je leven

Het Paradijs voor jou? Geen idee!!
Eerder de hel, een grote vlammenzee
Je kunt je zonden niet afbetalen
Ik ben hier om je ziel te halen

Er is een triest eind aan dit verhaal
De man had tot dan geen enkele kwaal
Sprong schreeuwend uit zijn bed, kwam ten val
En viel plotseling dood….Hartaanval????

O, lezer, wellicht heeft dit verhaal
Voor U een boodschap.
Als de dood komt, zijn we onvoorbereid
Dus gebruik iedere minuut van uw tijd en gedenk Allah die u
het leven heeft gegeven en tevens zal ie het van je ontnemen..
Verander uw leven nu het nog kan en toon berouw
Zodat u HET PARADIJS binnen kan gaan Insha Allah!!!

Islamist militants’ secret role in Syrian rebels’ successes

ISTANBUL // Jabhat Al Nusra, the Sunni Islamist rebel group with links to Al Qaeda, has been quietly expanding its activities in southern Syria, working alongside western- and Arab-backed rebels in military operations aimed at ousting the regime of President Bashar Al Assad.

Al Nusra and other radical Islamist groups have dominated the anti-Assad insurgency in the north and east of Syria but until recently, they have been less numerous in Deraa and elsewhere in southern Syria.

While refraining from calling public attention to their activities, Al Nusra is now rising in the south. Its fighters have entered into secret, ad hoc and often uneasy alliances with units of the more moderate, western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA).

“They offer their services and cooperate with us, they are better armed than we are, they have suicide bombers and know how to make car bombs,” an FSA fighter explained.

Many FSA commanders and secular opponents of Mr Al Assad and his regime refused to talk about Al Nusra, saying the group was irrelevant in Deraa, a tribal area with a tradition of moderate Islam. But others admitted that Al Nusra’s role in fighting in southern Syria is far greater than publicly acknowledged.

“The FSA and Al Nusra join together for operations but they have an agreement to let the FSA lead for public reasons, because they don’t want to frighten Jordan or the West,” said an activist who works with opposition groups in Deraa.

“Operations that were really carried out by Al Nusra are publicly presented by the FSA as their own,” he said.

A leading FSA commander involved in operations in Deraa said Al Nusra had strengthened FSA units and played a decisive role in key rebel victories in the south.

“The face of Al Nusra cannot be to the front. It must be behind the FSA, for the sake of Jordan and the international community,” he said.

Deraa, where the revolution broke out in March 2011, lies in a heavily militarised area close to Syria’s borders with both Jordan and Israel. Adding to the strategic importance, it is also seen by rebels as a gateway to Damascus and a location they must seize in order to win a war that has claimed more than 120,000 lives and forces millions to flee their homes.

Efforts by insurgents this important southern zone to disguise Al Nusra activities there extends to withholding information from a rebel command centre in Jordan.

“In many battles Al Nusra takes part, but we don’t tell the operations room about it and sometimes we’ll even say that Al Nusra fighters are really from the FSA to enable them to move more easily across borders,” the commander added.

The operations room has been trying to prevent the arms from reaching Al Nusra, which has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia and whose leader, Abu Mohmmad Al Jolani, has sworn fealty to Al Qaeda head Ayman al Zawahiri.

According to opposition sources, this command centre, which helps channel weapons and battlefield advice to FSA units inside Syria, is housed in Jordanian intelligence headquarters and staffed by Western and Arab military officials, allegations Jordan denies.

Outgunned by regime forces with their artillery and aircraft, however, FSA units say that they have little choice but to be pragmatic in their alliances and that regardless of Al Nusra’s ideology, its fighters provide much needed firepower.

Despite their cooperation in carrying out attacks against Mr Al Assad’s forces, FSA commanders said the weapons supplied to them by the operations room have not been shared with Al Nusra fighters.

There is, however, an agreement to share the spoils from successful operations, with Al Nusra getting at least 20 per cent of any weapons seized in joint raids on regime bases, they said.

Al Nusra’s expanding presence and influence in southern Syria is testament to its effectiveness on the battlefield. Rebels and opposition figures in Deraa described it as tightly knit, highly motivated and better equipped than other factions.

“Everything they have is the best. The best weapons, cars and people, they are the best at what they do, they have a man who does their fundraising, he’s a genius, their military operations man is another genius, they’re really professionals,” a FSA commander said with grudging respect.

Details of their finances are a tightly held secret, although private funds from Gulf Arab donors are believed to be a major source of income.

“My men have fought without pay and sometimes without proper food for months, “ said the FSA commander. “We dream of raising US$100,000 (Dh367,290) every few months but Al Nusra [in Deraa] is getting US$300,000 (Dh1.1 million) or more a month without any problems,” he said.

“I don’t believe that is just private funding. I’m sure there is some government backing for them, a government somewhere is approving that kind of funding,” he added.

For the moment, FSA units remain more powerful than Al Nusra in Deraa province, in part because they are more numerous. Although exact figures are impossible to compile, rebels in Deraa said that Al Nusra fighters numbered in the hundreds, not thousands, unlike FSA affiliated units.

Yet Al Nusra has a growing influence out of proportion to its numbers.

In September, Al Nusra took over a key border point on the Syrian-Jordanian frontier, a move that prompted Jordanian authorities to close the crossing.

A deal between the FSA and Al Nusra saw its fighters moved away from the border, although they remain in the Old Jumrek area, a zone between the border and the city of Deraa.

“They pulled back. It’s symbolic but the international community and the Jordanians will not deal with us if they stay and they [Al Nusra] realise that. They don’t want to make unnecessary problems,” an FSA officer said.

In Deraa feelings are mixed among civilians and the FSA about the relative merits and dangers of a growing, Al Qaeda-affiliated group, even if it has proven to be less aggressive towards other rebels than the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), another Al Qaeda faction that has grown powerful in Syria but which has little, if any, presence in Deraa.

ISIL is dominated by foreign fighters, while Al Nusra is overwhelmingly Syrian, according to analysts and rebels.

“We know the people in Al Nusra. They are our sons, we can talk to them and don’t need to be afraid of them,” said a leading opposition figure from Deraa. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he retains contacts with Al Nusra and the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC).

He and others in Deraa and the SNC have argued that engaging with Al Nusra will help moderate the group, while trying to ignore it or marginalise it will only make it more extreme and popular.

In Deraa, an experiment in cooperation is underway, and the group is working alongside local sheikhs and clerics in one Islamic court, earning a grudging respect for its work in administering justice.

Others say that more moderate forces are courting danger by working alongside Al Nusra.

“Al Nusra doesn’t trust us and we don’t trust them. They make us promises the future and they say they will not force their views on the people but we don’t believe them,” said an FSA commander from Deraa.

There have been moments of dangerous tension, including last month when an FSA fighter was shot at an Al Nusra checkpoint for refusing to stop, as well as arguments over ideology and the ultimate aim of the revolution.

“They are quiet and cooperative now because we are still more powerful, but the moment they are stronger than us, they will push us aside and do what they want,” the FSA commander said.

(Source / 04.01.2014)

Rival rebel factions clash in Syria

Violence in Aleppo and Idlib comes as protesters rally against al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

ISIL fighters have been blamed for kidnapping journalists, aid workers and activists in Syria
Fighters from several Syrian rebel factions have engaged in fierce battles against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in what activists say is growing resistance to the al-Qaeda-linked group’s grip on several areas of the country.

Sixteen ISIL fighters were reportedly killed in the fighting in Aleppo and nearby Idlib on Friday, while at least 42 other ISIL fighters were wounded in Idlib alone.

Meanwhile, protesters in opposition-held parts of Syria chanted slogans condemning the al-Qaeda affiliate.

Ammar, an activist on the ground, described it as “the start of the revolution against ISIL”, according to AFP news agency.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut in Lebanon, said the developments could signal a turning point in the war.

“We are seeing clashes in more than one area, which could signal the coming of a major clash,” our correspondent said.

ISIL and Western-backed rebel forces are all fighting to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but tensions between different groups have been rife in recent months.

Several opposition factions, including a number of fighters united under the name “Army of Mujahedeen”, were involved in Friday’s fighting, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and local activists.

Both the Islamic Front and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, two key groups made up of tens of thousands of opposition fighters, also condemned ISIL on Friday.

“We call on ISIL to withdraw immediately from Atareb… and remind them that those who freed Atareb [from the Syrian government] are those you are fighting today,” the Islamic Front said.

In Idlib, 20 civilians were injured in the fighting, while a media activist was killed in Aleppo, AFP reported.

Anti-ISIL protests

The fighting comes two days after ISIL reportedly tortured and murdered a leading opposition figure, doctor Hussein al-Suleiman, known as Abu Rayyan.

His death was the latest in a string of beatings, kidnappings and killings attributed to the group, and prompted protesters to take to the streets under the slogan, “Friday of the martyr Abu Rayyan”.

Amateur video shot in Aleppo on Friday reportedly showed protesters chanting: “Free Syrian Army forever! Crush ISIL and Assad!”

Another video shot on Friday from the opposition-held town of Kafr Takharim, in Idlib governorate, showed protesters running through the street as gunfire rang out. The Observatory and opposition activists said ISIL fired on the protesters.

Abu Leyla, an Idlib-based activist, told AFP via the Internet: “I’d say about 90 percent of people in the opposition areas are against ISIL”.

“They use violence and abuses to crush dissent. They are only Islamic in name. All they want is power,” he said.

Opposition-held areas of northern and eastern Syria have seen a wave of kidnappings over the past six months that has targeted journalists, aid workers and activists. Al-Qaeda-linked groups are suspected of being behind many of the abductions

More than 130,000 people have been killed since the war in Syria broke out in 2011.

(Source / 04.01.2014)

Palestine envoy death ‘not an accident’

A blast that killed the Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic this week ‘was not an accident’, despite an official theory to the contrary, the envoy’s daughter says.

‘What is certain is that it was not an accident,’ Rana al-Jamal, who lives in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, told the Czech newspaper Dnes in an interview.

Her father, Jamal al-Jamal, the 56-year-old ambassador to Prague since October, was fatally wounded on New Year’s day by an explosion in the Palestinian diplomatic mission’s premises.

Czech police have excluded an assassination, instead advancing the theory that the blast was caused by an anti-theft device inside a safe Jamal was manipulating.

They also said unregistered weapons were found inside the mission in violation of diplomatic treaties.

Palestinian officials have given contradictory accounts.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki has described the death as an ‘accident’ caused by an old safe booby-trapped to explode if opened the wrong way.

But a spokesman for the Palestinian embassy said the safe in question was new, often used, and contained ‘no built-in anti-theft system’.

The ambassador’s daughter said she was convinced the explosives were put inside the safe when the diplomatic mission was recently moved from a different address in the Czech capital.

‘A political or other motive’ could be behind her father’s death, she said, without elaborating.

‘I don’t know and I won’t mention anyone.’

(Source / 04.01.2014)