Syria Crisis: More Humanitarian workers killed in Syria

Reacting to the announcement by the Czech NGO “People in Need” that three members of their national staff were killed in the city of Aleppo in Northern Syria yesterday, Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, has made the following statement:

“I was deeply shocked and saddened by this dreadful news. I share the grief of our partner “People in Need”, and send my condolences to them and especially to the families of the victims.

Once again, humanitarian workers have sacrificed their lives in service to humanity. The Syria crisis is fast becoming the most dangerous crisis for the humanitarian community with deaths and kidnappings being reported on too regular a basis. There has been an estimated 33 Syrian Arabic Red Cross volunteers and 13 UN staff members killed since the outbreak of the conflict, and numerous abductions of aid workers.

What is particularly tragic is that these attacks will again result in the reduction of the ability of humanitarian workers to provide assistance to those in need. It is an additional punishment on the long-suffering Syrian population. The safeguard of those providing humanitarian aid as well as complete and unhindered access must be ensured by all parties in the conflict.”

(Source / 09.01.2014)

Sarah: Russia Blocking the UNSC Statement Is an Attempt Divert Geneva II’s Focus

Fayez Sarah, the Coalition’s political and media advisor, said that “Russia’s blocking of a UN Security Council statement condemning Assad’s daily bombing of Aleppo aims to divert Geneva away from its objectives through insisting on making the fight against terrorism the conference’s primary objective.” Sarah points out that Geneva II can be a conference to fight terrorism, including the terror practiced by the Assad regime against the Syrian people. Combatting terrorism also means tackling the military, political and financial support Assad has been receiving from his allies.” Sarah stresses that the conference must call for ending the terrorist acts carried out by the foreign militias that fight alongside Assad’s troops, namely the militias of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah and Iraqi Abu al Fadl al Abbas Brigade and other terrorist gangs.” Moreover, Sarah said that Moscow’s blocking of the issuance of a UN Security Council statement is “an attempt at escalating the situation and making the position of the Coalition harder through blaming us for disrupting the conference.” Sarah went on: “Russia’s position is not new and it reveals the unholy alliance between Russia and the Assad regime. This alliance is not based solely on political interests, but also on economic interests that these mafia regime seek to maintain. Russia has blocked a British-drafted UN Security Council statement condemning the Syrian government attacks on the city of Aleppo, diplomats said. It was the second time in a month that Russia objected to a western bid to slam President Bashar al-Assad’s air assault against Syria’s biggest city that has killed hundreds since December 15th. Aid groups say that Scud missiles and barrels packed with explosives and shrapnel have been dropped on schools, markets and hospitals in Aleppo, killing more than 700 people. Britain circulated a draft press statement expressing “outrage” at the government attacks on civilians to the other 14 members of the council Tuesday. The statement needs the agreement of all members to be released, and Russia on Wednesday objected, insisting all references to Aleppo be taken out, diplomats said.
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 09.01.2014)

World Bank Funded Landfill Off Limits To Palestinians

Israel is refusing to allow Palestinians the usage of a World Bank funded landfill to the south of Jerusalem, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

image: PNN

The Palestinian News Network (PNN) reports that the new landfill was intended to serve the Palestinian population, but that the Israeli government is refusing operation of the landfill if the Palestinian Authority, who runs it, doesn’t agree to serve illegal Israeli settlements in addition.

The landfill is the first modern landfill in the southern West Bank. Since its use has been forbidden, some Palestinian communities have been forced to dump their garbage at non-authorized sites, posing the risk of serious environmental hazards such as pollution of ground water.

(Source / 09.01.2014)

“I did all that I could do for Palestine,” says freed prisoner Said Tamimi

Said Tamimi returns home to Nabi Saleh on 31 December 2013.

If one thing can still unite and mobilize all Palestinians, regardless of their political affiliations or where they live, it is the struggle of our political prisoners in Israeli jails.

The recent US-brokered deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to release prisoners who were jailed before the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, has left many of us with conflicting emotions.

“Indefensible decision”

True, the release of any prisoner — let alone one who has spent over 20 years behind bars – is always a reason for celebration. Yet the announcement by the Israeli government that 104 prisoners will be released — a number that has now risen to 109 — was part of a deal to start yet another round of futile negotiations between Israel and the PA.

As most Palestinians view these talks with suspicion and a sense of despair, the planned release of the long-serving prisoners was used by the PA to justify its indefensible decision to resume negotiations with Israel.

Furthermore, it was obvious from celebrations that the PA organized in Ramallah that it is seeking to exploit the prisoners’ issue to score political points and boost its low credibility among ordinary Palestinians.

Even worse, all three rounds of releases that have taken place so far have been accompanied by announcements from Israel that it will expand its settlements in the occupied West Bank. This underscores once again that Israel is using these negotiations to entrench the occupation.

Joy

Nonetheless, it is important to remember that the releases have brought joy to a number of families. One Palestinian activist who is related to a pre-Oslo political prisoner said: “Look, you might say I am selfish, but I support anything that brings about the release of those prisoners. You are talking about prisoners who have spent more than twenty years in jails, who have been forgotten by most of us and whose families are dying to see them free. And if negotiations are the only way to accomplish their release, then so be it.”

The activist, who asked to remain anonymous, added: “The Israelis are building new settlements and grabbing our land with or without negotiations. This is the first time that I support negotiations simply because it means the prisoners are going to be released.”

While such a position overlooks the dangerous consequences of the negotiations and is driven by emotions, it is easy to understand where it comes from, particularly when you meet some of the prisoners concerned.

Among the Palestinian prisoners released on 31 December was Said Tamimi from Nabi Saleh, a village near Ramallah renowned for holding regular protests against the Israeli occupation since 2009.

Said was arrested on 9 November 1993, along with Bassem Tamimi, who has played a prominent role in the protests over the past few years. (As well as belonging to the same extended family, both men are close friends).

Torture

While Bassem was later released after enduring severe torture which caused partial paralysis, Said was convicted of killing an Israeli settler and sentenced to life imprisonment.

“The worst torture I suffered happened during the first few months of my arrest, especially in interrogations,” Said Tamimi told The Electronic Intifada. “Things got easier as years passed on, but the harassment continued. We were occasionally gassed, beaten or subjected to humiliating and violent searches by prison guards.”

Born in Nabi Saleh in March 1972, Said never met his father, who was murdered by the Israeli secret service Mossad in al-Baddawi refugee camp in Lebanon when Said was still an infant.

Said Tamimi’s involvement in Palestinian popular resistance began early in the first intifada that erupted in late 1987. Tamimi was studying at an orphanage in Jerusalem at the time.

His first arrest came when he was only 17. He was detained for almost a year.

Hiding

Shortly afterwards, Tamimi was forced to go into hiding as Israeli occupation forces began chasing him. His mother Fatima, now in her late seventies, said. “They ran after him for almost two years before finally capturing him. I was thinking of him all the time, wondering where he was sleeping and if he was eating.

“On one rainy night I was sleeping and imagined hearing his footsteps and him shouting and calling my name. I opened the door and saw no-one outside. Apparently I was dreaming.

“Said’s two elder brothers were arrested too during the first intifada and his sister was killed by militants from the Abu Nidal Organization,” a defunct armed splinter group that is believed to have been in the pay of several foreign governments.

“Said is the closest to my heart, perhaps because he’s the youngest and was deprived of seeing his father, but he is also the one who tormented me the most [through his involvement in resistance],” Fatima said.

For 16 of Said’s twenty years in jail, his mother — commonly known as Umm Said — was only allowed to see him through glass during visits. “The first time I was allowed to hug him because of my age, I passed out and lost consciousness,” she said.

“I could not believe that I finally hugged and kissed him. The prison guards were surprised at my reaction, and I remember telling them ‘You killed his father when he was a toddler and you are now imprisoning him for life.’”

“During one of my visits to Said I was ordered to take off my clothes to be allowed in. I had to do it because I wanted to see Said. There were other women with me who were visiting their imprisoned brothers. They refused to be strip-searched and since then they have been denied visits to their brothers.”

Anyone who attends the weekly demonstrations in Nabi Saleh knows Umm Said. She used to throw rocks at Israeli forces before her health deteriorated.

“Proud of my mother”

During one Friday protest, Israeli soldiers stormed into her house screaming that she was hiding one of the demonstrators. She responded by throwing shoes at the soldiers and kicking them out of her house. “I remember seeing her on television and I was incredibly proud of her, proud that she is my mother,” Said said.

Umm Said suffered a stroke on 1 June last year. Asked if he was afraid that his mother might die before his release, Said said: “My mother’s illness made me feel like I was inside two prisons. I wanted to get out to make up for all the suffering she has gone through during my absence and also wanted her to compensate me for all the tenderness I have been denied. Yes, I was scared but my mother and I had made a pact when I was jailed that she would stay alive until my release.”

His mother said: “Perhaps the only thing that gave me power to survive was the hope of seeing Said soon … we knew that he would be released because his name was on the list but we did not know in which round and that affected me greatly. Due to my condition of my health, I could not visit him for the last eight months.”

One particularly emotional moment came when the brothers Ahmad and Nizar Tamimi — two life-long friends of Said — were released as part of the prisoner exchange dealreached between Israel and Hamas in 2011.

“Nizar and Ahmad were crying for me because their happiness was not complete as Said was not released with them,” Umm Said said. “They bawled and embraced me, but I was happy for them. They were like my sons, they grew up with him. I told Said that now two of my sons have been released and the next is surely on the way.”

Said Tamimi, along with some other prisoners from the West Bank, arrived at the PA’s Ramallah compound, the Muqataa at 3am on 31 December. But his mother had to wait for two more hours to meet him in Nabi Saleh.

“I only believed that he was free when he entered the house and hugged me,” she said. “I actually still cannot believe that he is here. Even when he is sitting next to me, I still fear that this is a dream. I just hope that every mother can experience the feelings I had when I saw Said.”

No regrets

Now that he is finally free, his mother has talked to him about getting married. “She has already started looking for a wife for me,” Said said with a smile.

“But I think it’s still too early. Now I feel like a little child who is rediscovering life and getting to recognize all the new faces and places around him. Of course, I want to have a family and continue my studies but now I want to adapt to life outside prison and spend as much time with my mother as possible.”

Said Tamimi has no regrets. “I know that I paid a very heavy cost but I don’t regret taking the path of resistance because I believe in the cause and what comforts me is the knowledge that I did all that I could do for Palestine.”

Even for those of us who staunchly oppose the PA’s negotiations with Israel, it is impossible not to be overwhelmed with happiness for Said Tamimi and all the prisoners who are finally tasting freedom.

(Source / 09.01.2014)

3 injured in Israeli airstrike on southern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Three Palestinians were injured after an Israeli airstrike targeted the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, medical officials said.

Gaza’s health ministry spokesman, Ashraf al-Qidra, told Ma’an that an Israeli plane fired a missile at a three-wheeled vehicle east of Khan Younis, injuring two men.

A child standing by the window in a nearby house was injured by broken glass.

All three were taken to Kamal Nasser hospital in Khan Younis for treatment.

Earlier, Israeli military vehicles crossed around 200 meters into a border area east of Khan Younis, forcing farmers to flee the area.

Eyewitness said that Palestinian fighters then fired several mortar shells at the vehicles.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said “earlier this morning three mortars were fired from Gaza at Israeli forces operating adjacent to the security fence in southern Gaza. An hour later, the IDF targeted terrorists in Gaza who were identified as preparing to fire rockets at Israel.”

(Source / 09.01.2014)

Two international activists to be deported after their arrest is declared illegal

Yesterday, Wednesday 8th January, at approximately 11am in Khalil (Hebron), Vincent Mainville and Fabio Theodule (Swiss and Italian citizens respectively), were arrested by Israeli border police officers.

The two international activists were first detained while trying to stop Israeli forces firing live ammunition and tear gas canisters towards a group of Palestinian youth and children throwing stones towards the soldiers.

Israeli forces accused the two activists of trying to assault a border police officer and obstruction of military action. Both activists are committed to non-violent solidarity work.

Vincent and Fabio were handcuffed and transferred to Jaabara police station, where they were left in the handcuffs for over three hours before finally being allowed to contact legal representation.

The two activists attended Hasharon court this morning in Jerusalem; they were escorted by Israeli border police and were handcuffed throughout the night. When they arrived in the courthouse they were escorted to several different rooms before being led outside the court without seeing their lawyer. Vincent and Fabio were then taken to the immigration center where deportation procedures were begun without a court hearing.

Although the judge later ruled that the activists had been illegally arrested, it was too late to prevent their transfer to immigration and therefore prevent their deportation.

The activists are now being held by Israeli forces and it is not known how long they will be held for before they are deported from the country.

(Source / 09.01.2014)

The Prophet never beat women or servants or animals

Green Dome in Medina Prophet Muhammad

By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Prophet Muhammad never struck a woman or a servant or an animal. He never beat anyone for any reason and he never hit anything unless he was defending himself in battle.

Aisha reported:

مَا ضَرَبَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ خَادِمًا لَهُ وَلَا امْرَأَةً وَلَا ضَرَبَ بِيَدِهِ شَيْئًا

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, did not strike a servant or a woman, and he never struck anything with his hand.

Source: Sahih Muslim 2328, Grade: Sahih

The Prophet warned us that Allah will retaliate on the Day of Judgment against those who wrongly beat others.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَنْ ضَرَبَ ضَرْبًا اقْتُصَّ مِنْهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

Whoever strikes someone will receive retribution for it on the Day of Resurrection.

Source: Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 185, Grade: Hasan

Likewise, the Prophet warned us that Allah will punish those who torture others.

Hisham ibn Hakim reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُعَذِّبُ الَّذِينَ يُعَذِّبُونَ فِي الدُّنْيَا

Verily, Allah will torture those who torture people in this world.

Source: Sahih Muslim 2613, Grade: Sahih

Beating a servant and causing harm to him is a major sin. If a Muslim beats his servant, the Prophet commanded the servant to be set free.

Ibn Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَنْ ضَرَبَ غُلَامًا لَهُ حَدًّا لَمْ يَأْتِهِ أَوْ لَطَمَهُ فَإِنَّ كَفَّارَتَهُ أَنْ يُعْتِقَهُ

Whoever strikes his servant without limit or slaps him, then the expiation for the sin is to emancipate him.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1657, Grade: Sahih

In the case of a wife who commits major sins, the Prophet gave permission for men to strike their wives without causing pain as a symbolic gesture intended as a last resort to correct her behavior.

Ikramah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

اضْرِبُوهُنَّ إِذَا عَصَيْنَكُمْ فِي الْمَعْرُوفِ ضَرْبًا غَيْرَ مُبَرِّحٍ

Strike them if they disobey you concerning good conduct, a striking without severity.

Source: Tafseer At-Tabari 9377, Grade: Hasan

For this reason, classical scholars placed strict limits on this and recommended a man use nothing more than a handkerchief.

Fakhr Al-Din Ar-Razi said:

أن يكون الضرب بمنديل ملفوف أو بيده ولا يضربها بالسياط ولا بالعصا

It should be a striking with a folded handkerchief or his palm, and he should not strike her with whips or clubs.

Source: Tafseer Ar-Razi 4:34

Nevertheless, the Prophet never did this himself and he criticized men who strike their wives harshly and without a just cause.

Abdullah bin Zam’ah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

بِمَ يَضْرِبُ أَحَدُكُمْ امْرَأَتَهُ ضَرْبَ الْفَحْلِ أَوْ الْعَبْدِ ثُمَّ لَعَلَّهُ يُعَانِقُهَا

How does one of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then embrace her?

Source: Sahih Bukhari 5695, Grade: Sahih

Iyas ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَقَدْ طَافَ بِآلِ مُحَمَّدٍ نِسَاءٌ كَثِيرٌ يَشْكُونَ أَزْوَاجَهُنَّ لَيْسَ أُولَئِكَ بِخِيَارِكُمْ

Many women have come to the family of Muhammad complaining about their husbands hitting them. These men are not the best among you.

Source: Sunan Abu Dawud 2146, Grade: Sahih

Indeed, Allah has prohibited men from harming their wives as a means to correct their behavior.

Allah said:

وَلَا تُضَارُّوهُنَّ لِتُضَيِّقُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ

Do not harm them in order to straighten them.

Surah At-Talaq 65:6

If a Muslim man violates these strict limits and he abuses his wife, the Prophet considered this a just cause for divorce.

Yahya ibn Sa’eed reported: Habeeba bint Sahl was the wife of Thabit ibn Qais ibn Shammas and it was mentioned to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, that Thabit had struck her so she appeared at the door of the Messenger of Allah. The Prophet said him:

خُذْ مِنْهَا وَخَلِّ سَبِيلَهَا

Take your dowry and let her go.

Source: Sunan Ad-Darimi 2200, Grade: Sahih

Some people mistakenly think the Prophet abused Aisha because of her statement:

فَلَهَزَنِي فِي صَدْرِي لَهْزَةً أَوْجَعَتْنِي

He nudged me firmly on the chest.

They have mistranslated the word here to mean a beating or striking, but the word used in this tradition is lahaza which means a nudge or a light push. This type of contact was a common teaching mechanism of the Prophet, to grab the attention of his companions before delivering a lesson. After the Prophet nudged her chest, he taught her the following supplication:

يَرْحَمُ اللَّهُ الْمُسْتَقْدِمِينَ مِنَّا وَالْمُسْتَأْخِرِينَ وَإِنَّا إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ بِكُمْ لاَحِقُونَ

May Allah have mercy on those who have gone ahead of us and those who will come later. If Allah wills, we will join them.

Source: Sunan An-Nasa’i 2307, Grade: Sahih

This teaching mechanism is similar to how the Prophet would behave with his other companions.

Abu Dharr reported:

فَضَرَبَ بِيَدِهِ عَلَى مَنْكِبِي ثُمَّ قَالَ

The Prophet struck my chest with his hand and he said…

Source: Sahih Muslim 1825, Grade: Sahih

This “striking” is not meant to cause pain but rather to grab their attention before teaching an important lesson.

In all things, the Prophet recommended us to be kind and gentle to others, as kindness is given a special reward from Allah.

Aisha reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ رَفِيقٌ يُحِبُّ الرِّفْقَ وَيُعْطِي عَلَى الرِّفْقِ مَا لَا يُعْطِي عَلَى الْعُنْفِ وَمَا لَا يُعْطِي عَلَى مَا سِوَاهُ

Verily, Allah is gentle and He loves gentleness and He rewards for gentleness what is not granted for harshness. He does not reward anything else like it.

Source: Sahih Muslim 2593, Grade: Sahih

We should be especially kind and gentle with our spouses and family members, as it is a sign of Allah’s favor.

Aisha reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ بِأَهْلِ بَيْتٍ خَيْرًا أَدْخَلَ عَلَيْهِمْ الرِّفْقَ

If Allah the Exalted intends goodness for a household, He lets gentleness come over them.

Source: Musnad Ahmad 23906, Grade: Sahih

The Prophet enjoined kindness and gentleness even for the animals and he warned us not to beat them.

Aisha reported: I was upon a camel which was misbehaving so I began to strike it. The the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

عَلَيْكِ بِالرِّفْقِ فَإِنَّ الرِّفْقَ لَا يَكُونُ فِي شَيْءٍ إِلَّا زَانَهُ وَلَا يُنْزَعُ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا شَانَهُ

You must be gentle. Verily, gentleness is not in anything except that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything except that it disgraces it.

Source: Musnad Ahmad 24417, Grade: Sahih

For these reasons, the Prophet would not strike any person or animal. Even if we are beaten wrongly by someone, the way of the Prophet is to ask Allah to forgive our oppressors and to abandon thoughts of revenge.

Ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ عَبْدًا مِنْ عِبَادِ اللَّهِ بَعَثَهُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ إِلَى قَوْمِهِ فَكَذَّبُوهُ وَشَجُّوهُ فَجَعَلَ يَمْسَحُ الدَّمَ عَنْ جَبِينِهِ وَيَقُولُ رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِقَوْمِي فَإِنَّهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Verily, a servant of Allah was sent to his people and they denied him, rejected him, and made blood spill from his forehead and he said: O Lord, forgive my people for they do not know.

Source: Musnad Ahmad 4047, Grade: Sahih

Therefore, we should do our best to emulate the example of the Prophet. He never hit a woman or a servant or an animal, and he never hit anything unless he was fighting in self-defense. The Prophet would be gentle, patient, forbearing, and forgiving with his family, his wives, his servants, and even the people who abused him.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

(Source / 09.01.2014)

The “good” versus the “bad” jihadis

Al-Nusra front fighters.

As clashes between the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and numerous rebel brigades rage across northern Syria, NOW spoke with activists, fighters, and journalists on the ground to get their perspectives on the conflict. They were asked to address four fundamental questions: Who is fighting ISIS? What does life under the “Islamic state” look like? Why did the campaign start now? And what can we expect in the coming months?

Who is fighting?

Since clashes erupted between ISIS and other rebel groups, sources have disagreed over which rebel brigades have been participating in the fighting.

“The Islamic Front did not participate at all; all of the news about it participating in the clashes against ISIS are rumors. The brigades that are fighting ISIS are associated to the FSA only, even if some of them are defined as Islamic brigades: they are associated to the FSA, and contrary to various reports, are not under the umbrella of what is called the Islamic Front,” insisted Kurdish-Syrian political analyst Massoud Akko.

Indeed, the Islamic Front never officially announced its participation in the war against ISIS, even in northern Aleppo when the Atareb battles erupted. But Islamic Front spokesman Islam Alloush contested Akko’s statement. He told NOW,”The Islamic Front is present in Raqqa.We assure you that we are repelling back any alleged attacks on our front or on the civilians and mujahedeen fighting against Assad’s regime, even if ISIS provokes the attacks.” Alloush continued: “Our front, however, stands with any type of truce or agreement and reconciliation to be established between all of the mujahedeen under one condition: to maintain the rights of civilians and mujahedeen whose rights have been violated by ISIS members and hold any ISIS member accountable if necessary by holding fair trials.”

Asked about who was participating in the fighting in northern Syria, Manhal Barish, activist and member of the SNC, said, “What happened is that ISIS crossed all of the red lines and gained a lot of enemies. What made the situation even worse is ISIS killing a member of the newly-formed brigade, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF), in Atareb/Aleppo,” he explained. “That is when the clashes erupted between the rebels and ISIS. ISIS quickly withdrew from its strongholds because the SRF attacked all of its positions at once, preventing ISIS from reassembling in one area.”

Manhal Barish

Barish listed the participants as the following: “the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, including the Farouq Brigade, the Union of the Syrian Clans, 11 other factions, and defected fighters from other brigades; the Islamic Front, with the Ahrar al-Sham in Raqqa, Maskana, and Manbaj, Souqour al-Sham, and al-Tawhid, which has a significant presence in Aleppo; the Jihadis’ Army; and the Nour al-Din Zinki Brigade.”

Jimmy Shahinian, a Syrian activist who was forced to flee Raqqa with the arrival of ISIS, agreed that large groups of the Islamic Front, Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, and some FSA brigades are participating in Raqqa battles against ISIS.

But an ISIS source who wished to remain anonymous insisted that “we are not fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra.” He told NOW, “Jabhat al-Nusra is on our side and together we will face the enemies. The Islamic State of Iraq andal-Sham will not give up on the Syrian revolution; we will keep on fighting the brigades who are attacking us.”

With ISIS being driven from areas like Aleppo, Jabhat al-Nusra’s stance on these developments has remained unclear. Nusra’s spokesperson in northern Syria, who asked to remain anonymous, told NOW, “We tried to contain the tension of all sides, we tried to avoid the clashes: after all, ISIS was one of our divisions.

However, we could not ‘sit back and watch’ anymore, and now we are working on coming to some sort of agreement between all sides.”

However, Syrian activist Ghassan Yassin
agreed that almost all of the factions and FSA brigades are participating in the war against ISIS. He explained that “this war against ISIS contributed in uniting many rebels, brigades, and fractions aiming for one goal: kicking ISIS out of our land, Syria.”

Life under the islamic state

Akko remembers how the Syrian regime withdrew from Raqqa only to deliberately hand it to ISIS. “We in [the opposition] are certain that ISIS is a division related to the Syrian regime,” he said.

Producer and filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia told NOW, “There is no doubt that the current move against ISIS happened because of public pressure. The Syrian communities are fed up regarding the presence of ISIS in certain areas. This apparently led to setting aside all differences within Syrian society, uniting it and creating a wave of refusal and rejection concerning ISIS’s presence and behavior,” he said. “There is no doubt that the ISIS project is not about establishing an Islamic state anymore: I see it as a chaotic project, a project that benefits from the chaos happening now and the chaos yet to come, a project to sabotage the chances of stability.”

When asked why other rebel brigades chose to confront ISIS, activist Souad Nofal replied, “I think that the group executions that ISIS practiced aimed at reflecting one idea: Assad is your best option as Syrians, this is an example of what would succeed him.”
Asked why ISIS settled in Raqqa, she responded, “Because the area has always been a field of experiments. The population in Raqqa is simple: they lean on religion and have rural mentalities, and it is a tribal society.

It was easy for groups like ISIS to use religion to bring the leaders of the clans to their side.”

Historically, she said, the Baath Party used the same technique, benefiting from the leaders of the clans to gain power in Raqqa.

The simplicity of the society transformed it to a more welcoming environment, which eventually received groups like ISIS. Yet like all societies, members stood up and acknowledged the game played by such groups.

For Shahinian, nothing really changed between what he calls the ISIS era and the regime era. They both practiced the same security methods with activists, insisted Shahinian, who was previously detained by the regime. “I can tell you why they chose Raqqa… for groups like ISIS, it is the perfect environment for them to grow and develop and gain popularity.”Shahinian told NOW that the growth of ISIS “started from the suburbs of Idlib all the way to the suburbs of Aleppo. Raqqa was one of the first cities to be liberated from the Syrian regime; that’s when they attacked and took control of it.”

The activist recalls how what started with 110 jihadis soon developed to more than 600, and with promises of both money and power, what ISIS calls “muhajireen” joined them from all over the world.

Other activists agreed with this characterization. During its presence in Syria, ISIS showed no interest in implementing projects aimed at supporting the Syrians and fighting the Syrian regime, argued Yassin, who described how ISIS simply occupied liberated areas. “So an FSA brigade liberates a village in northern Aleppo, for example. All that ISIS does is occupy it, so we now have to re-liberate cities. ” He said, “This confrontation was going to happen sooner or later. We are glad that it happened now so that we would have time to focus the upcoming confrontations on the Syrian regime and invest more in taking the regime down. It hurts us as Syrians to be fighting among each other, but ISIS is here to terrorize Syrians and not to contribute in the process of liberating any parts of Syria anymore.”

Ziad al-Homsi, who was abducted by ISIS in October 2013 like many other media activists, said: “I was watching what ISIS was doing to our revolution silently. There wasn’t much for me to do with them robbing and assaulting our beloved revolution, a revolution that cost us the loss of the souls of our loved ones.” He continued: “We were fighting with the Syrian regime because it used to insult us in detention. That regime never had any type of respect for Syrian citizens, and now ISIS treats us even worse than the regime whenever it takes over liberated areas.” Homsi characterized the confrontation between the Syrians and ISIS as a “second revolution.” “It is the right time to adjust the path of the Syrian revolution, to take back what is ours. Yes, we are angry. We are angry because they kidnapped what is ours, they transformed and reshaped our freedom so that it would suit them.”

“There are international attempts toward resolving things in Syria, not to mention the regional changes added to the concerns of the Syrian populace and the wounds caused by ISIS and its allies,” Homsi explained. “People woke up and found a new occupant. Now they are trying to get rid of them. It’s now up to the Syrians to acknowledge what’s best for their country,” he added.

The rebellion
quote 1

Akko believes that the FSA could have combatted ISIS from the first day of its spread in Syria. “I just don’t know why they delayed this battle up until now. What’s ironic is that ISIS used to terrify people with slaughtering them in Aleppo and Raqqa; why is this strong organized terrorist group all of a sudden weaker and just leaving its areas of control?”

Photojournalist Mezar Matar has traveled through Raqqa, Aleppo, and Idlib during the fighting. “The battles are timely,” he said. “It is an international decision before Geneva II, for most of the FSA brigades and Muslim [sic] Front’s decisions were not made by them. It seems that a decision was made: take ISIS down, be generous with weapons if FSA’s war is against ISIS now.” Rhetorically speaking, this international decision aims at showing great support for the campaign against ISIS. The battle in Raqqa is wider than expected because it is an ISIS stronghold: “It’s where you might

locate one of the biggest detention spaces in Syria,” Mezar said.

Yassin agreed with this characterization. “The time frame of the battle is important, fighting ISIS changes what’s planned for Geneva II: ‘war against terrorism,'” he said.

Atareb is known to be a stronghold of the FSA, with only one ISIS headquarters. Recently, according to activists, ISIS started spreading more in the area, kidnapping many civilians, fighters, and activists like Nazem Barakat, Mosaab Mansour, the leader of the Atareb Martyrs Brigade,” and killing many, among them Ali Obeid, whose family includes a large number of defectors from the Syrian Arab Army. When news of ISIS’s plans to invade the village and widen its control there, Atareb’s residents decided to confront the group. ISIS then began besieging the area, cutting off roads, and clashes erupted.

quote two

According to Souqour al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham, it was the death of Dr. Abu Rayan that triggered the start of this campaign against ISIS. An Ahrar al-Sham activist explained, “The leaders of our brigades did not want to be the ones to start the confrontation with ISIS, for they know the consequences of this for Syria’s revolution and current situation. We can honestly say that the media had a major role in forming a strong public opinion convicting ISIS, which has been accused many times of kidnapping journalists and media activists and insulting civilians and never proved its innocence.”

ISIS sourcesagreed on the importance of the media campaign, though they denied their role in Dr. Abu Rayan’s death. “It all started because of the media campaigns spread against ISIS,” said an ISIS source. “It is well-played by the FSA and its allies. Then they clashed with us in the field blaming us for the death of Dr. Abu RayanThey want to shut down the light of Islam, the light that we are hoping to spread across the region, so they attacked us in Iraq’s Anbar and in Syria’s Atareb at the same time.”

Another ISIS source spoke to NOW, denying the group’s involvement in the kidnappings and killing in Atareb: “We are not to be held accountable for what we did not do, especially the murder of the leader Nazem Barakat. We also had nothing to do with many kidnappings of activists and leaders in northern Aleppo.”

However, members of ISIS who witnessed the start of the Atareb clashes did not entirely agree. “Some of the emirs of the Islamic states made a mistake by letting things escalate and get to this point, especially those in charge of northern Idlib and Aleppo’s west suburbs,” said another ISIS spokesperson. “Emirs and members of the Islamic State still refuse to be held accountable for any of the kidnappings that happened in Aleppo and its suburbs.”

What comes after?

Nyrabia argued that the campaign against ISIS “might lead to regional political changes regarding Geneva and that the Syrian revolution is now fighting against terrorism, not against Assad. Also, other extremist forces found in these [brigades] take advantage of this opportunity to appear as ‘liberals’ in comparison with ISIS, which raises concerns about the ‘post-ISIS era,'” he said. “Therefore, this is not a complete revolution, nor is it a complete social awakening, but a great chance to regain the weight of civil society in the revolution.”

“The important part now is to re-confirm that the Syrian society, not only Islamists, not only armed groups, but the Syrian society as a whole, is still capable of implementing pressure and influencing the forces that have authority over the Syrian revolution and its decisions,” Nyrabia continued.”ISIS won’t disappear from Syria, yet it can be restored to its original definition: a terrorist group conducting suicide bombings against the Syrian opposition, Syrian rebels, and other religious minorities in Syria.”

“What’s necessary now is to forbid ISIS and similar groups from controlling cities and towns in Syria. Raising their flags on any building in Syria shouldn’t be acceptable,” Nryabia concluded.

When asked what to expect in the days ahead, Akko said, “Another possible scenario would be the Syrian regime shelling Raqqa just like it is shelling Aleppo, killing both rebels and ISIS jihadis. That is why it is important for the FSA to organize itself in preparation to control Raqqa, avoiding the chaos that might be caused later on from individuals and other armed groups in the area.”

quote three

“I do not think that FSA will manage to take control of Raqqa, for there are no FSA forces initially installed in that area. So far, the brigades that are present there are only there to combat ISIS.” Akko added, “I do not think that it is planned for those brigades to settle in Raqqa. They joined the fight from Deir Ezzor and the suburbs of Aleppo and they will eventually go back to their bases.”

When asked the same question, Nofal replied, “I sadly can’t predict what [will happen] in the upcoming days, but I fear that ISIS may regain power and balance. ISIS is a well-trained and well-armed group. I think that the decision to combat them was not rational: the leaders of other rebel groups did not take into consideration that the only ones suffering both ways are the people of Raqqa,” she said.

Matar said that Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani’s call for a settlement “will not ease the ongoing battles at all.The battle will continue. Sadly, we won’t get rid of ISIS easily, even if they physically leave. We fear for wider terrorist attacks, car bombings, etc…”

“We can expect two scenarios” Shahinian explained: “If ISIS takes control, this will lead to the execution of whoever fought against it at some point, i.e. the brigades mentioned earlier. Others who disagree with ISIS’s Sharia will have to flee the areas of its control. If ISIS surrenders, according to FSA leaders, each fighter will be held accountable for his/her crimes. Fair trials will be held.”
Homsi insists, “I still have faith, we still have faith in our revolution against Assad, for we are the people, and the victory is always on the people’s side, whether it is against ISIS, Assad, or any tyrant.”

When NOW asked Homsi if the campaign would work, he said, “Why wouldn’t it work? That’s the right question.”

(Source / 09.01.2014)

Report: Boy splashes chlorine on Palestinian women in Jerusalem

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A 12-year-old ultra-orthodox Jewish boy on Thursday splashed a Palestinian woman with chlorine at a light rail station in Jerusalem, Israeli media reported.

Channel 2 reported that the woman did not require medical attention, but filed a complaint with the police. She claimed the attacker acted out of racist motives.

Police are looking for the boy, the report said.

(Source / 09.01.2014)

Israel, Palestine and two-state settlements

Harry Goldstein’s assertion (Letters, 7 January) that the Palestinians were “offered [a state] in 1947 and refused, preferring to make war onIsrael“, must be challenged. The Palestinians were told that 56% of their existing state of Palestine was to be taken away and made into a Jewish state, even though half of the population of the “Jewish” area was Arab. Since the Jews made it clear they wanted even more than the 56% and would take it by force, the Arab armies, far smaller in number and less well-armed than the Jews, moved up to the border of the Jewish state, in an attempt to protect the remaining territory they had been allocated, and stop Israel taking those areas by force. They failed either to stop the Jewish armies or to prevent them expelling Palestinian Arabs from a land in which they had once formed 90% of the population.
Karl Sabbagh
Author of Palestine: A Personal History

 

• Peaceful co-existence between the Jewish and Palestinian people was never on the agenda of Israel’s early leaders: Ben-Gurion in 1948 was an advocate of what he euphemistically called “compulsory transfer” of Palestinians from their homeland. Little seems to have changed under the current leadership: as if the ethnic cleansing of the 40s and 50s was not sufficient, the separation wall now snakes its way through the occupied territories, severing Palestinian communities from their places of work and their land. It is difficult to imagine how a peace process can survive the insidious effect of continued land confiscation, bypass roads linking settlements, checkpoints, house demolitions. How ironic seem to us today the key words of “co-ordination” and “co-operation” which echo through the Oslo accords of 1993 and 1995.
Charles Milne
Hereford

 

• The Palestine National Council formally accepted a two-state settlement in 1988, and in 1993 the PLO recognised “the right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security” within its pre-1967 borders.
Leon Rosselson
London

(Source / 09.01.2014)