The Muslim Brotherhood Sends a Message of Peace and Goodwill to Their Coptic Brothers and Sisters

The Muslim Brotherhood Sends a Message of Peace and Goodwill to Their Coptic Brothers and Sisters

The Muslim Brotherhood would like to wish our Coptic Christian brothers and sisters a most blessed and joyous Christmas.

The Muslim Brotherhood would like to wish our Coptic Christian brothers and sisters a most blessed and joyous Christmas.

As we take stock of a year just passed and look forward with hope to another New Year, we reflect on the shared lessons both faiths hold dear. We remember, together, the life of our Mother, the Lady Maryam and her son and legacy God bequeathed to humanity through her. We take solace in their trials and are inspired by their triumphs.

We pray to God Almighty that the coming year is one where true democracy, hope and justice are reborn in Egypt. May this New Year herald the return to a state of peace and security where all Egyptians can, once again, live and work together in harmony and with mutual respect regardless of religious affiliation.

May God bless Egypt – her land and her people.

– Ameen.

The Muslim Brotherhood London Press Office

(Source / 07.01.2014)

Israel’s attacks on Palestinian fishermen in Gaza flaunt international conventions

(Photo by Charlie Andreasson)

On Saturday, 4th January, the Israeli navy shot at five fishermen and their boat, ahasaka,  three nautical miles from the shore of Gaza, well within the highly-restricted part of Palestine waters in which the occupation forces officially allow them to fish. Despite damage to the boat, and water that flooded it, Majed Baker, age 55, and his four relatives managed to return to port and get the boat onto shore. A total of nine bullet holes were counted, some below the waterline.

Previously, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Information in Gaza, the Israeli military had restricted waters in the north. It thereby expanded the nautical “buffer zone” by Israeli waters through military force, and without declaring its intentions in advance. Nor has it made any statement in retrospect. The restriction of the fishing waters in the north is confirmed by the affected fishermen. The same pattern can be discerned in the rest of the increasingly narrowed zone. According to Zakaria Baker, coordinator of the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees (UAWC)’s fishermen’s committee, all boats that tried to sail further than four miles from the coast have been attacked since the beginning of the year, and the “buffer zone” in the south, by Egyptian waters, has been curtailed drastically. This means boats in Rafah must sail north along the coast for some distance before they can venture into fishing grounds.

These restrictions affect the fishing industry severely, especially now, during the peak season. As a result of Israeli aggression, the total catch has fallen by 42% since 2000, and the number of registered fishermen has declined from about 5,000 in the 1980s to less than 3,000 today, according to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Attacks and shootings against Palestinian fishermen, sometimes resulting in fatal and other injuries, arrests and seizures of boats, and destruction of fishing gear, are common and documented by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Since neither the Palestinian fishing industry nor fishermen themselves endanger the State of Israel, these abuses cannot be understood as anything other than collective punishment, which violates the fourth Geneva Convention, Article 33.

Behind all the numbers and statistics lurk people. When an occupying power, in this case Israel, is allowed to continue to violate international conventions by the world community, it allows other nations to do the same. This erosion of established conventions is a threat to the people they are meant to protect, and can eventually affect relations between states. The attack on the five fishermen is therefore a concern for the entire international community, and not an internal matter between Israel and those living under its occupation.

(Source / 07.01.2014)

My Entry into Gaza and the Story of Hala

Three year old Hala Abu Sabikha was killed whilst playing in her yard.

Three year old Hala Abu Sabikha was killed whilst playing in her yard.

Before leaving for Gaza I was well aware of the statistics in the region which has been under siege since 2007. 54 percent of households face food insecurity with 38 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Due to lack of fuel, the Gaza Power Plant runs at 45 percent capacity, leading to daily blackouts of eight to twelve hours. The Gaza aquifer provides 90 percent of Gaza’s water with only ten percent of that water meeting the standards of being suitable for consumption. Unemployment is at 45.2 percent, with only 40.3 percent of working-age Gazans in the labor force. Youth unemployment is at more than 47 percent. However, being well aware of the numbers and seeing the devastation of an entire population living under a constant siege via land, air and sea are two completely different things.

We arrived to the gruesome reality of the Gazan population-the funeral of a 3 and half year old girl, Hala Abu Sbeikha. She had been martyred by an Israeli tank which had fired at her home. During the Gaza Massacre of 2008/9 it was widely circulated on the news that 313 children had been killed. For me too, 313 had merely become a number to use when trying to expose the racist ideology that governed Israel today-Zionism. I had forgotten what this number meant. I, along with the rest of the world, had forgotten that 313 little angels, innocent of any crime besides that of being Palestinian and not Israeli, had not lived the lives they should have.

We arrived at little Hala’s house, situated in the al-Maghazi refugee camp which is in close proximity to the Israeli border and often a target of Israeli fire, to be awakened to the stark reality of what the death of one little child meant. We saw the side of Hala’s house completely destroyed- an entire home reduced to rubble within a minute. It was the middle of winter and freezing, and I thought about the fact that the Abu Sbeikha family would have to deal with not only the coldness left in their hearts by Hala’s absence but the harsh winters of Gaza as well that night- and for many more nights to come too undoubtedly. We stood in little Hala’s garden where her blood was still evident on the bricks- as she played with her two other sisters (both of whom were in hospital with injuries as well) a piece of shrapnel penetrated her neck and stole her precious life.

We met Hala’s mother, whose strength as she held one of Hala’s younger sisters was enough to move mountains. She stood there, the epitome of resilience and faith, representing what I would soon come to realize lay in the heart of every Gazan- an unconquerable hope and steadfastness you will never find in another population in the world. We witnessed Hala’s funeral procession, as the community of al-Maghazi did what seemed to have become something they were accustomed to- laying a 3 and half year old girl to rest amongst the olive groves. I wondered if the world would have been as silent as the atmosphere was in al-Maghazi that morning if Hala had been an American girl?  Probably not.

We drove past a school in a region called al-fakhoora. During the Gaza massacre of 2008/9 many children slept over at this school and had stayed away from their homes- their parents thinking it would be a safe haven for their children. Little did they know that Israel’s indiscriminate killing and targeting of a civilian population knew no bounds, and the very street outside the school where a group of children were playing football was bombed. 40 children were murdered instantly. It was surreal driving through the very street where the remnants of the world’s silence and stench of hypocrisy towards the people of Gaza was so evident.

Sometimes, surviving the onslaught from Israel is not always the safer option for the children of Gaza. “There is a significant deterioration in the psychological well-being of Palestinian children who are living in the Gaza Strip, especially after the recent war,” Ayesha Samour, director of the Psychiatric Hospital in Gaza, told IRIN. According to a study by NGO Ard al-Insan in Gaza, 73 percent of Gaza children are still suffering from psychological and behavioral disorders, including psychological trauma, nightmares, involuntary urination, high blood pressure and diabetes. Samour said children in Gaza were being denied a normal childhood because of the insecurity and instability in their environment. He said a culture of violence and death had pervaded their mentalities, making them angrier and more aggressive.

This was the sad, yet real, beginning of our trip to Gaza. We knew all about the fuel shortages present in Gaza due to restrictions on goods and basic amenities imposed on the 1, 8 million strong population. While we were there the reality of it all became apparent. We arrived in Gaza in the evening, having been held on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing for 4 hours. Gaza was in total darkness. The intensity of the desert darkness was so extreme that you could barely see your hand in front of you. On our arrival each household was receiving only 6 hours of electricity a day, and by the time we left (8 days later) this had been further reduced to just 4 hours. What did these numbers mean? If electricity was restored at 2am, mothers had to wake up at two in the morning to complete their household chores.  Because of the northern winter sunset at 5pm, households were plunged into complete darkness for the rest of the night- forcing families to do whatever they could by candlelight. It meant students, who were busy with exams when we were in Gaza, had to study by candlelight or whatever other means necessary and yet they still persevered. It also meant more deaths, and we were shocked to hear of the death of a 6 year old girl due to smoke inhalation while we were there.

Personally, this trip was a huge eye-opener. Gaza is not about numbers- it is about the humans living there. It is about the real struggles they face every day.  The real truth is they have to bury their children and survive under abnormal conditions being starved of amenities which the rest of the world takes for granted. Through all this, it is the warmth of their hearts; the unbelievable strength of their spirits and the unrelenting desire to live that moved me most. The democratically elected government, Hamas, rules Gaza in the best possible way that they can. Creating the most amenable living conditions for their citizens is obviously their primary concern, implementing laws to make living for the besieged population as livable as is humanly possible under the severest siege environments.

Gaza is very much alive. Their faith and hope does not allow them to give up in a situation which I am convinced any other population would have already perished.

(Source / 07.01.2014)

Dat waren pas tijden waarin de levens van Moslim waarde hadden!

By Marianna Laarif

Umar ibn Abdul Aziz was de khalief in de tijd dat moslims gevreesd waren vanwege hun legers en jihad.

Het is overgeleverd dat een moslim samen met zijn vriend liep ergens bij de grens van het moslim rijk. En opeens zag hij een leger van de romeinen waar niemand iets van wist. Ondanks dat zijn vriend het hem afraadde, hij viel ze in zijn eentje aan. Hij vocht zo hard dat hij steeds dieper in het leger kwam totdat het hele leger in tweeën scheurde en hij aan de achterkant uitkwam. Toen draaide hij zich om en ging weer door met hun vechten. Ze hadden zoveel moeite om hem te verslaan en te doden, dat ze dachten: “kijk wat één moslim kan doen, laat staan een heel leger van moslims!”

Dus hoe bedoel je dat deze moslim niet was overtuigd van het paradijs en Allah? Als hij zoals ons van de wereld hield dan zou hij rennen en een leger halen, maar ondanks dat hij gedood werd heeft hij toch gewonnen, want de trauma die hij hen leverde was beter dan een heel leger! Zoals een iemand zei: “Ik heb mijn ziel(leven) aan Allah verkocht, en wanneer je iets verkoopt(aan een betrouwbaar iemand), kan het jou dan schelen wat de verkoper ermee gaat doen?”

Umar ibn Abdul Aziz kreeg een brief van de Romeinen, en zij wilden een vredes akkoord sluiten met de Moslims. Ze wilden jiziah (beschermgeld) betalen en onder de Islamitische Staat leven. Umar vond het goed en hij stuurde een boodschapper naar hun toe, met een paar brieven waar zij zich aan moesten houden en die zij moesten tekenen.

Dus de boodschapper van Umar kwam in het land van de Romeinen en allerlei belangrijke mensen van de Romeinen kwamen naar hem toe.

Terwijl hij met hun aan het praten was, vielen zijn ogen op iets verbazingwekkend. De boodschapper zag een man, wiens ogen waren uitgehaald en die op zijn handen en voeten rondjes liep als een ezel. En hij herhaalde steeds: “Lailaha il Allaah” en “Subhan’Allaah” de hele tijd. Elke keer als hij stopte werd hij geslagen met een zweep.

Dus iedereen wou met de boodschapper van Umar ibn Abdul Aziz praten, maar hij liep naar die man toe. De boodschapper was zeer verbaasd over deze man, want toen leefden de Moslims niet in het land van de ongelovigen. De boodschapper zei: “Asalamu Alaikom!” De man antwoordde: “Walaikom Salaam, een Moslim in het land van de Romeinen?” De boodschapper antwoordde: “Ja, ik ben de boodschapper van Umar ibn Abdul Aziz. Wat is er met u aan de hand?” Hij antwoordde:

“Ik heb een verhaal. Ik ben van het koninklijke familie. Toen ik over Islam hoorde zei ik: “Ashadu ana lailaha il Allaah, wa Ana Mohammada rasoel Allaah”. De leider zei tegen mij: “Jij hebt twee keuzes. De eerste keuze is dat je met mijn dochter trouwt en ik geef je mijn rijkdommen, maar je moet Islam verlaten, want ik kan niet iemand in mijn familie hebben die Moslim is”. Ik zei tegen hem: “Nee, dat zal niet gebeuren”. De leider zei toen: “Je tweede keus is dat we jou ogen uitplukken en we behandelen je als een ezel totdat je sterft”. En ik zei:

“Ik neem de tweede keuze”.

Wat denk je dat de boodschapper van Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz toen deed? Ging hij zitten en vredes akkoorden sluiten? Zei hij: “Dit is een romein, wat heb ik nou met romeinen te maken?” Nee, bij Allaah, hij pakte zijn brieven en ging weglopen zonder hun aan te kijken. Dit was een gewone Moslim toen he, geen Khalief of Ameer van de Moslims! De boodschapper ging terug naar Umar ibn Abdul Aziz en vertelde aan hem wat er was gebeurt. Wat deed Umar? Zei hij tegen hem:

“Waarom gaf je hun niet wat zij wilden o dwaas?! Ze wouden vrede, geef ze vrede! Kus hun voeten, laat ze tevreden over ons zijn! Waarom kwam je terug?!”

Zei hij dat? Nee, dat zouden onze leiders doen. Maar niet Umar, niet Umar ibn Abdul Aziz!

Umar riep een schrijver en beval hem te schrijven:

“In de naam van Allah, van Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, de Ameer van de gelovigen, naar de HOND van de Romeinen! Wallahe’l Aziem, als jij die man niet naar mij toebrengt, onder sterke bewaking, in mooie kleren, Wallahe’l Aziem, ik kom persoonlijk naar je toe en stap op je land en op je nek!”

Dat was maar een Moslim en kijk hoe onze voorvaderen hebben gehandeld. Vandaag de dag sterven honderden duizenden Moslims en het enige wat onze leiders doen is slapen in hun paleizen, waar zelfs hun wc’s van marmer en goud zijn terwijl de bevolking van honger sterft!

De brief bereikte de leider van die Romeinen en hij begon te trillen uit angst. En hij ging persoonlijk die man ophalen en gaf hem mooie kleren en hij stuurde hem bewaakt naar Umar ibn Abdul Aziz. Hij stuurde een brief mee en schreef daarin: “Is dit de man die u zocht? OK, laten we nu over vrede praten”. Umar zei toen:

“Weg met jou en met je vrede!”

Dat waren pas tijden waarin de levens van Moslim waarde hadden!

Amid tensions, what lies ahead for Egypt-Qatar diplomacy?

Will tensions simmer down or flare up? Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour (L) and Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim pictured.

Since the July 2013 ouster of Egypt’s former President Mohammad Mursi, seething tensions have been etching away at Egypt and Qatar’s bilateral relations, after the Gulf state had shown staunch support for the toppled leader.

Now, ties between both countries have reached boiling point amid the Gulf state’s recent anger at Egypt’s treatment of Islamist supporters and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The clash between both countries intensified when Egypt’s foreign ministry summoned Qatar’s ambassador to Cairo on Saturday following a statement from the Qatari side which lashed out at the Egyptian interim government.

Ousted Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi (L) speaks with former Qatari leader Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in August 2012.

In strongly-worded remarks, Qatar had said the recent decision to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group was “a prelude to a shoot-to-kill policy” against demonstrators.

“The decision to designate popular political movements as terrorist organizations, and labeling peaceful demonstrations as terrorism, did not succeed in stopping the peaceful protests,” the Qatari foreign ministry statement said.

“It was only a prelude to a shoot-to-kill policy on demonstrators,” the statement published by state news agency QNA said. It said that “inclusive dialogue” between all sides was the only solution to Egypt’s crisis.

By summoning the Qatari ambassador, Cairo’s response was an ultimate rejection of the statement.

Egyptians burn a Qatari flag during a protest against what they say is Qatar’s backing of Mursi.

“This is a clear warning to the Qatari rulers that mirrors Egyptian publish opinion, which is against Qatar’s aims,” Abdel Latif el-Menawy, Egyptian political analyst and former head of Egypt’s News Center, told Al Arabiya News.

“In the Gulf Cooperation summit last month, Qatar had promised to review and remedy its ties with Egypt. Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim had said he would work on this, but he has not kept his promise.”

Egypt has always been keen in maintaining ties with Qatar but the later has chosen to side with the Brotherhood at the expense of ties with Egypt, Mohamed al-Saeed Edrees, head of Arab and Regional Studies Department at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, was quoted as saying by local press.

“Egypt always hoped that Qatar would respect their bilateral ties as a fellow Arab state and not interfere in its internal affairs,” he added.

“The Doha statement shows that Qatar goes on its pro- Brotherhood policy regardless of its ties with the Egyptian leadership,” the expert said.

Since security forces forcibly dispersed the two Cairo camps of protesters loyal to the ousted Islamist president in August last year, top Brotherhood officials have been rounded up by authorities.

From grassroots members to general guide Mohammad Badie, who was arrested on August 20, no stone has been left unturned and security sources have said thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members have been arrested.

Anger at Al Jazeera

Now, Egypt’s interim government views Qatar, along with the Doha-based Al Jazeera news network, as backers of the Muslim Brotherhood, which it officially declared a terrorist organization on Dec. 25.

Last week, Egypt’s general prosecutor detained several journalists for 15 days for broadcasting graphics on Al Jazeera, alleging that they damaged Egypt’s reputation.

Qatar needs to understand the will of the Egyptian people and encourage stability

Abdel Latif al-Menawy

On Sunday, foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty cited violations by Al Jazeera and its Egyptian affiliates, accused of pro-Brotherhood bias.

“Egypt reiterates that it will not allow any country or external party to interfere in its internal affairs under any name or justification,” Abdelatty said.

“Any country that tries to do so would carry the responsibility for the consequences,” he added. Egyptian authorities had charged that the journalists “made live broadcasts of news that harms homeland security, spreading rumors and false news to Qatar’s Al Jazeera channel without permits.”

Al Jazeera, meanwhile, has said it has demanded the immediate release of the journalists and has launched an online campaign to drum up support for the reporters.

“Correspondent Peter Greste, producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed as well as cameraman Mohamed Fawzy are being held in custody after arrested by security forces on Sunday evening,” the network said in a statement.

Al Anstey, managing director of Al Jazeera English, said: “It is outrageous to be treating bone fide journalists in this way. The allegations that are being made are totally false and unfounded.

“We operate in Egypt legally. The team were working on a number of stories to show our viewers around the world all aspects of the ongoing situation in the country, and every member of our team has huge experience carrying out the highest quality journalism with integrity.”

‘Don’t want your money’

In September last year, Egypt returned $2 billion that Qatar had deposited with its central bank, after talks to convert the funds into three-year bonds broke down, central bank Governor Hisham Ramez had announced.

During Mursi’s one year in power, Qatar had “lent or gave Egypt $7.5 billion,” according to Reuters news agency. In May, Qatar had sent Egypt $3 billion, of which it converted $1 billion into three-year bonds.

Ramez told Reuters that the Qatari authorities had agreed to convert the entire remaining $2 billion but then changed their minds.

“They wanted to postpone it, then they said they would do it like they announced last time, and then they came back with some amendments, doing part and postponing the other part for a time, which we found not suitable for us,” he said.

“So we just repaid the deposit.”

But since Mursi’s ouster, Egypt has been cushioned by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, who have have pledged Egypt $12 billion in grants and interest-free loans.

“I would assume they are fairly relaxed about their short-term finances and they can rely on aid from other Arab countries,” Simon Kitchen, a Cairo-based strategist with EFG Hermes, told the news agency at the time.

But such a string of events has cast doubts on whether Egypt’s ties with Qatar may now mirror Cairo’s current relations with Turkey, which have also soured since Mursi’s ouster.

In November, Egypt expelled the Turkish ambassador after it accused Ankara of backing organizations seeking to undermine the country’s stability, in reference to the Brotherhood. Turkey reciprocated shortly after by declaring the Egyptian envoy persona non grata.

“I expect that if Qatar does not quickly remedy the situation, ties between both countries could easily transform into a situation similar to Turkey,” Menawy said.

“Qatar needs to understand the will of the Egyptian people and encourage stability,” he added.

(Source / 07.01.2014)

300 Yarmouk refugees to be transferred for medical treatment

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Around 300 hundred Palestinian refugees from Yarmouk camp are due to be transferred for medical treatment in Damascus, a PFLP-GC official said Tuesday.

Hussam Arafat said that the Syrian government accepted a request from PFLP-GC Deputy Secretary-General Talal Naji to make the transfer, which will begin on Wednesday.

The Syrian Red Crescent and ambulances will be used to transfer the refugees to medical centers and hospitals in the the capital.

Arafat said it was “urgent” that competing militias and factions ended the crisis in the camp.

Earlier, a PLO official said that four militant factions remain in Yarmouk camp in violation of an agreement to secure peace for its residents.

PLO executive committee member Ahmad Majdalani told Ma’an that four factions remain in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus, despite the fact that nine factions — including the four — previously signed an agreement promising to withdraw.

The factions are Jebhat al-Nusra, Daish, Ibn Taymiyya, and a fourth unnamed faction, he said, referring primarily to a number of Wahhabi militant groups opposed to the Syrian regime.

The withdrawal of the factions is meant to allow the camp to become a neutral zone and to pressure the Syrian regime to end the 7-month-long siege of the camp, which has led to at least 30 deaths from starvation.

Fatah leader Abbas Zaki told Ma’an in mid-October that Yarmouk’s population of 250,000 had dwindled to 18,000 after two and a half years of conflict in Syria.

The Syrian conflict, which began as peaceful protests in March 2011 but developed into a civil war, has killed more than 120,000 people and prompted millions to flee their homes.

(Source / 07.01.2014)

Five years after Cast Lead, Gaza wounds remain unhealed

First moments of Al Fakhoora school shelling (Getty Images)

First moments of Al Fakhoora school shelling

Gaza, ALRAY – Although five years have passed after Israel’s 2008-2009  aggression under so-called Operation Cast Lead, Palestinians in Gaza have yet to collect their pieces.

Still they remember the very scenes of the 22-day-long war which brunt didn’t spare humans, stones, or even trees.

On this day five years ago, the Israeli warplanes rained while phosphorus bombs on a Gaza school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

The air attacks caused horrific human casualties among the people who fled their bombing-risked homes to take refuge in the school, leaving 41 Palestinians dead and many injured with different levels of body burns, while many others were infected with physical disabilities.

Since then, the Al Fakhoora school, which lies in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip remained a witness to Israel’s inhuman violence for the huge amount of bombs used against this civilian facility and the people inside.

The incident also stands as a witness to Israel’s arbitrariness, as it didn’t mind that the UNRWA informed the Israel Defense Forces of the coordinates of all of the schools it’s running to avoid being targeted.

Iyad Abu Askar, whose home was targeted in the shelling describes to ALRAY reporter that day as “gloomy”.

Remembering the moments before the Israeli fighter jets hit his home, he said “before the sunset of Tuesday, all the residents next door to Al Fakhoora school, my family and me were evacuating our homes for fear of being targeted; just minutes later, our home got shelled by the Israeli artillery stationed to the northern border of North Gaza governorate,”

The shelling led to the killing of my brother, Khaled, 21, Imad, 16, and my cousin aged 28, Iyad said.

 “I couldn’t bear seeing my brother Khaled with the shrapnel sweeping his body and my cousin with his torn apart leg and bleeding neck,” he followed.

“These scenes still are still fresh in my mind as well as all those who lost their loved ones,” he said, adding that all the affected families from the Al Fakhoora bombing “are going to hold a sit-in in the locality to demand the world to punish the perpetrators of the heinous massacre,”

Fayez Quddas, who was injured in the bombing, recounts to ALRAY “the was raging while were living a state of horror from Israel’s unguided strikes,” he said.

“Our home was showered with shells without a notice,” he said. “Before I fell unconscious, I cannot remember but my friend Khader Zeidan who was injured in the head and died, and my brother Abed, 29,”

“I feel that pain every day. I am now disabled as a result of pieces of shrapnel that hit my left leg and right side,” he said.

At approximately 3:30 on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 6, 2009, the Israeli artillery targeted Al Fakhoora UN school in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip with three shells that landed on the school and its environs.

The shell remnants led to the death of more than 42 people, including 14 children. One of the shells landed on the home of Deeb family, killing 10 of its members, including 4 children.

The Al Fakhoora school was not a safe haven to the 1.800 terrified people of the Jabalya refugee camp who fled to it fearing their unprotected homes.

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Funeral prayer for the 41 Palestinians massacred in the shelling

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(Source / 07.01.2014)

Al-Maleh: Recognition of Geneva I by Iran Necessary for Geneva II Participation

Haitham al-Maleh, legal committee head, stresses that the Assad regime “is against going to Geneva II, as that means the handover of power and the formation of the transitional ruling body. However, Assad has been trying to reverse this fact through his attempts, alongside Russia and Iran, to divert the main focus of Geneva II, which is the formation of a transitional governing body without any role for Assad to play.” Maleh also points out that “we support a political solution, wherever it was, but it must be based on the terms spelled out in Geneva I. We also don’t reject the participation of Iran provided that it recognizes the Geneva I Communique as a basis for negotiations, as well as after the Iranians pull back all their troops who are fighting with more than 25 factions inside Syria.” Furthermore, Maleh stresses that “we simply will not go to Geneva II to negotiate with someone who is occupying our country.” Maleh said earlier that “Russia is fully aware that Assad cannot play any role in the transitional phase, the Russians are absolutely certain of Assad’s downfall. However, they need real guarantees to ensure the safety of their agent in the region, considering the fate of the ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Louay Mokdad, FSA’s media and political coordinator, said earlier that Assad seeks to “create an atmosphere of terrorism through these terrorist bombings fitting well with his political agenda ahead of Geneva II, instead of releasing detainees and the opening of humanitarian corridors and other requirements that are able to ensure the success of the international efforts to bring about a political solution.” Abdul Basit Sida, political committee member, described the clichéd talk about terrorism reiterated by Iran, the Iraqi government and the Assad regime ahead of Geneva II as “immoral attempts by the Assad regime to hammer home his political agenda at the international conference, after the Assad regime and its allies declared that the primary objective of the conference is fighting terrorism and not handing over of power.”  Sida also said that the Assad regime “not only kills the Syrian people to hold on to power, but also starts killing the Russian and the Lebanese people to mislead the international community and the entire world to persuade them that the real conflict in Syria is with terrorism and not with the Syrian people.” Sida was referring to the terrorist bombings that hit Russian and southern Beirut, one of Hezbollah’s most important strongholds.
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 07.01.2014)

Iraq delays Fallujah assault as 29 killed in Ramadi

RAMADAI, Iraq (AFP) — Iraqi troops will delay assaulting the militant-held city of Fallujah, an officer said Tuesday, citing fear of civilian casualties, as fighting and missile strikes in nearby Ramadi killed 29 people.

Parts of Ramadi — the capital of Anbar province, west of Baghdad — and all of Fallujah have been outside government control since last week.

It is the first time militants have exercised such open control in major cities since the height of the insurgency that followed the 2003 US-led invasion.

“It is not possible to assault (Fallujah) now” over concerns about civilian casualties, defense ministry spokesman Staff Lieutenant General Mohammed al-Askari told AFP.

Attacking the Sunni-majority city would also be extremely politically sensitive, as it would inflame already high tensions between the Sunni Arab minority and the Shiite-led government.

It would also be a major test for Iraqi security forces, which have yet to undertake such a major operation without the backing of American troops.

Overnight, security forces and allied tribesmen sought to retake south Ramadi from fighters loyal to Al-Qaeda-linked group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but the assault failed.

“Security forces and armed tribesmen tried last night to enter areas controlled by ISIL fighters in the south of the city,” a police captain told AFP.

“Clashes between the two sides began about 11 p.m. last night and continued until 6 a.m.,” he said, adding that “security forces were not able to enter these areas and ISIL fighters are still in control”.

Four civilians were killed and 14 wounded, said Ramadi hospital’s Dr Ahmed Abdul Salam, who had no casualty figures for security forces or militants.

Later Tuesday, missile strikes in Ramadi killed 25 militants, Askari said.

Three loud explosions were heard outside Fallujah early Tuesday, a witness said, as the army deployed reinforcements.

“Today, the army sent new reinforcements, including tanks and vehicles, to an area about 15 kilometers east of Fallujah,” a police captain told AFP.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called on residents to expel ISIL to stave off a military offensive.

But senior tribal leader Sheikh Ali al-Hammad told AFP Monday ISIL had left Fallujah, and that it was now held by tribesmen.

US working with Iraq to isolate Al-Qaeda

As violence in Anbar entered its second week, the Pentagon said Washington would accelerate delivery of 100 Hellfire missiles, which were due to be sent to Iraq in the next few months.

Colonel Steven Warren said an additional 10 ScanEagle surveillance drones would also be supplied.

Warren said Washington was working with Iraq to develop a “holistic strategy to isolate Al Qaeda-affiliated groups so the tribes working with the security forces can drive them out of the populated areas”.

But he reiterated statements by US Secretary of State John Kerry that no American forces would enter the fray.

Fighting erupted near Ramadi on December 30, when security forces cleared a year-old protest camp where Sunni Arabs had demonstrated against what they see as the marginalization and targeting of their community by the government in Baghdad.

The violence spread to Fallujah, and militants moved in and seized the city after security forces withdrew.

Maliki had long sought the closure of the protest camp, dubbing it a “headquarters for the leadership of Al-Qaeda”.

But its removal has come at the cost of a sharp decline in Anbar’s security situation.

Both Ramadi and Fallujah were insurgent strongholds in the years after 2003, and Fallujah was the target of two major assaults in which US forces saw some of their heaviest fighting since the Vietnam War.

They eventually wrested back control of Anbar from militants, with the support of Sunni Arab tribesmen who formed the Sahwa (Awakening) militias, which allied with US troops against Al-Qaeda from late 2006.

But two years after US forces withdrew from Iraq, Sunni militants have regained strength, bolstered by the war in neighboring Syria and widespread Sunni Arab anger with the central government.

Iraq also suffered violence outside Anbar on Tuesday, when a suicide bomber detonating an explosives-rigged lorry near a police station in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing five people and wounding 66.

(Source / 07.01.2014)