Tunisia PM designate says has formed new government

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki (R) receives the list proposed government members from PM designate Mehdi Jomaa on January 26, 2014 in Tunis
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki (R) receives the list proposed government members from PM designate Mehdi Jomaa on January 26, 2014 in Tunis

Tunis (AFP) – Tunisia’s premier-designate Mehdi Jomaa said Sunday he has presented the president with the list of his proposed cabinet of independents, under a roadmap aimed at ending months of political crisis.

“I have submitted the list of members of the proposed government to be subjected to a confidence vote in the National Constituent Assembly,” Jomaa announced, saying he hoped it would secure the vote “as quickly as possible”.

Jomaa, industry minister in the outgoing Islamist-led government, called his caretaker cabinet “an extraordinary team which is aware of the challenges”, adding that its “mission is not easy”.

Under the roadmap agreed by Tunisia’s divided factions, the lineup consists of non-political figures who will be responsible for leading the country to fresh presidential and parliamentary elections this year.

But Jomaa has chosen to keep Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou in his post, despite the demands of his critics that he step down alongside his Islamist party Ennahda.

The premier designate drew up his final list after failing to muster sufficient political consensus by Saturday’s deadline, and after President Moncef Marzouki asked him on Sunday to continue his efforts.

The formation of a technocrat administration to lead Tunisia to fresh parliamentary and presidential elections is the cornerstone of an accord reached last year to end a major political crisis triggered by the assassinations of two prominent opposition politicians.

Also on Sunday, the constituent assembly was due to vote on a long-delayed new constitution, another key requirement of the political accord.

(Source / 26.01.2014)

Israeli forces fire towards residential area in Shijaiyeh

Gaza, ALRAY – Israeli occupation forces(IOF) on Saturday evening opened gunfire towards citizens’ houses lying in al-Shijaiyeh neighborhood east of  Gaza City.

According to ALRAY correspondent, the eastern borders of  Shijaiyeh witnessed unusual movement of Israeli military vehicles, coupled with shooting fires towards the west area.

Earlier on the same day, the IOF fired shells towards east of the Khan Younis governorate town of al-Qarara and towards fishing boats off the ​Gaza City coast.

Local media reported that machine guns of the Israeli artillery in the vicinity of the Ahrash outpost east of al-Qarara opened fire toward agricultural land of the bordering town.

No one was reported injured in the firing.

The escalation comes amid Israeli threats directed to Gaza with a full-scale offensive, while the later says it’s committed to maintaining Egypt-mediated cease-fire agreement which followed an eight-day aggression that led to 167 Palestinians mostly civilians killed.

(Source / 26.01.2014)

Libyan kidnappers say Egypt diplomats released

 

A general view of security in front of the Egyptian embassy in Tripoli January 25, 2014.
The five abducted Egyptian diplomats by Libyan former rebels were released late Sunday, one of the kidnappers told Al Arabiya News Channel.

The release took place after Libya was in talks with Egypt to resolve the hostage crisis after gunmen kidnapped the diplomats in Tripoli in retaliation for Egypt’s arrest of a top Libyan militia commander, Shaban Hadiya.

One of the kidnappers said they agreed to release the diplomats with “good intentions,” and admitted “responsibility,” acknowledging what they did “was wrong.”

“They [Egypt] can make sure by calling the Libyan interior ministry,” he said.
“The Egyptian government asked us to release the diplomats, then they will release him [Hadiya],” the kidnapper added.

Hadiya also known as Abu Obeida, was not released by Egypt.

The kidnapper defended Hadiya when he rejected accusations that the militia commander belonged to al-Qaeda extremist group.

“Abu Obeida is a Salafist and not part of al-Qaeda.”

Asked to explain the reason behind his arrest, he was unable to give a clear answer but insisted that Hadiya was innocent.

He also rejected widely circulated claims that his group was behind briefly abduction of Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in Tripoli in October of last year.

Commander Shaban Hadiya.

Kidnapped within 24 hours

The Libyan rebel group grabbed five diplomatic staff from their homes in the Libyan capital within 24 hours, including the cultural attaché, on Friday.

Kidnappers on Saturday called Al Arabiya News Channel, demanding Hadiya’s release in 24 hours and put one of the Egyptian diplomats on the line to plead with their government to meet the demands.

Hadiya commands the Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, a powerful militia, which denied it was involved in the Egyptian kidnappings.

The abduction of five diplomats in the Libyan capital illustrated the fragility of government control over former rebels and militias who two years ago helped topple Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed revolution.

Heavily armed ex-fighters, militiamen and Islamist militants who battled Qaddafi forces have refused to disarm and often remain more loyal to their brigades, tribal leaders or local regions than to the new Libyan government.

The Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries is nominally under the control of chief of staff to work with the armed forces, but the militia has before used military muscle to make political demands on the state.

Operations Room commanders denied any involvement in the diplomat abductions. But on Friday, they had warned of a response if Hadiya were not released.

The group said he was arrested visiting Egypt with family for medical treatment.

Egypt’s ambassador to Libya and other diplomats and their families arrived on Saturday back in Cairo after the government evacuated the embassy in Tripoli and the consulate in Benghazi as a precautionary measure.

(Source / 26.01.2014)

Iraqi planes, artillery strike rebel-held Falluja

Iraqi security forces check vehicles as they take part in an intensive security deployment in Ramadi, 100 km (62 miles) west of Baghdad January 26, 2014. REUTERS-Stringer

A member of Iraqi security forces aims his rifle during an intensive security deployment in Ramadi, 100 km (62 miles) west of Baghdad January 26, 2014. REUTERS-Stringer
Iraqi security forces take part in an intensive security deployment in Ramadi, 100 km (62 miles) west of Baghdad January 26, 2014. REUTERS-Stringer

1 OF 3. Iraqi security forces check vehicles as they take part in an intensive security deployment in Ramadi, 100 km (62 miles) west of Baghdad January 26, 2014.»

(Reuters) – Iraqi government forces battling al Qaeda-linked militants intensified air strikes and artillery fire on the rebel-held city of Falluja on Sunday, and at least seven people were killed, according to hospital officials and tribal leaders.

Religious and tribal leaders in the city, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, said they feared an imminent assault by the army to expel militants and end a three-week standoff that has driven thousands of people from their homes.

Iraqi security forces have set up a loose cordon around Falluja and have clashed sporadically with insurgents inside. But they have held off from an all-out offensive, to give community leaders and tribesmen time to convince the gunmen to withdraw.

“There is no time left for talks and we’re afraid a military solution is looming,” said a local cleric in Falluja, the scene of two major battles with U.S. troops in 2004. “A third Falluja battle is at the doors”.

On Sunday morning, al Qaeda-linked militants attacked an army post in southern Falluja, seizing two Humvee vehicles and destroying a third, local sources said.

A Reuters witness saw gunmen driving the Humvees, in which they were holding four people wearing Iraqi army uniforms captive.

Hospital officials in Falluja said 42 people had been wounded by the air strikes, artillery and mortar shelling.

Four civilians have been killed in Falluja over the past two days. It was not clear if militants had sustained casualties.

The al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is also fighting in neighboring Syria, took control of Falluja and parts of nearby Ramadi on January 1 with the help of sympathetic armed tribesmen.

A government military offensive in recent days drove al Qaeda fighters from large desert areas they had been controlling along the Syrian border in western Iraq.

NO DEADLINE

Iraqi security officials said no deadline had yet been set for a military operation in Falluja, but voiced concern that further delay may allow insurgents to strengthen their positions.

“We have not received green light to start an assault, but the longer we wait means al Qaeda could get more powerful and complicate our job to defeat them,” said a special forces officer.

In Ramadi, where tribesmen have helped the army counter the al Qaeda insurgents, official sources said militant groups had retaken the eastern areas the city after security forces withdrew.

The Ministry of Defense said that 20 ISIL militants had been killed in the military operation in eastern Ramadi.

More than 65,000 people have fled the fighting in Falluja and Ramadi during the past week alone, the United Nations said on Friday.

Violence in Iraq climbed back to its highest level in five years in 2013, with nearly 9,000 people killed, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

At least 19 people were killed in other attacks across the country, and the bodies of three men were found with their hands tied behind their backs and bullet wounds in northern Shi’ite areas of Baghdad, police said.

Gunmen opened fire at a military check point killing four soldiers on the western outskirts of Baghdad, and a roadside bomb went off in a commercial street in the Abu Ghraib district, leaving two others dead, police said.

A former army officer was killed along with his wife when gunmen using silenced weapons broke into their house and police said a parked car bomb exploded near a mosque on the northern outskirts of Baghdad, killing three more.

The mayor of the town of Saadiya, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad and one of his body guards were shot dead by unidentified gunmen, police said.

Further north, three car bombs went off in the city of Kirkuk, killing five people and wounding 14, police and medical sources said. An army captain was killed and three soldiers were wounded when gunmen opened fire on their patrol in a village north of the city.

(Source / 26.01.2014)

BDS: SODASTREAM UPDATE | MAY 2013

Soda Stream’s main production facility still operates in the settlement industrial zone of Mishor Edomim. However, recent publications suggest that the company is preparing the ground for a future withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Origin of SodaStream Products

In the last few months, SodaStream representatives have repeatedly claimed that the company’s products distributed in Western Europe are manufactured within Israel and not in the SodaStream’s main factory in the settlement of Mishor Edomim.

As Who Profits demonstrated before, in 2012 the Alon Tavor site in the northern part of Israel was mainly a warehouse that handled the painting and assembly of the machines, while the Ashkelon site solely manufactured the flavored syrups. This didn’t prevent the company from spreading disinformation.

Comparing SodaStream annual reports for 2011 and 2012 to the American Stock Exchange, revels what seems to be a new strategy (see: http://bit.ly/PrnAQx |  http://bit.ly/12ZZ4h1).

While the 2011 report’s production section opens with the statement: “Most of our products are manufactured at our two Israeli facilities, in Mishor Edomim, east of Jerusalem, and in Ashkelon, on the Mediterranean coast”(P. 36), the 2012 report declares: “We now manufacture our products in over 20 locations around the world”. Immediately afterwards the company elaborates:

“Most of our products are manufactured at our facilities in Mishor Edomim, in disputed territory sometimes referred to as the”West Bank,” in Alon Tavor, in northern Israel, and in Ashkelon, on the Mediterranean coast of Israel […] We also outsource theproduction of certain components of our products to subcontractors in Israel and in China. In addition, we conductCO2 refilling in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and the United States (P.20).

Thus, SodaStream doesn’t operate 20 manufacturing facilities worldwide, but two in Israel and one in the OPT. The missing 17 production sites are allegedly the anonymous outsourced sites in Israel and in China (that only produce “certain components” of the soda stream products) and CO2 refilling stations. This misleading description creates the impression that the main factory in Mishor Edomim is a relatively negligible part in an international production chain, while in fact it is still Soda Stream’s core factory.

What really happens in the Alon Tavor Site?

The main new addition to Soda Stream manufacturing system as described in the 2012 report is the Alon Tavor site. In an interview to the Israeli newspaper – Globes (April 2013), CEO – Daniel Birnbaum declared:

“The products we manufacture at the Alon Tavor plant are sold in countries such as Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, and France, even though we have another plant at Mishor Adumim, because of the sensitivity in these countries to Israeli products manufactured beyond the Green Line.”

Yet, a thorough reading in the 2012 report refutes Birnboum’s claims, as the vast majority of SodaStream’s production process remains in the Mishor Edomin factory. The report details the various manufacturing functions taking place in Mishor Edomin, which include “metals, bottle blowing, machining, assembly, cylinder manufacturing, CO2 refills and cylinder retesting.” Comparing the scope of these activities with the plastic injection, painting, printing and assembly taking place in Alon Tavor, exposes a simple fact: full SodaSream products can’t be manufactured in the Alon Tavor site. Therefore, products distributed in Europe and elsewhere must originate in the West Bank.

Developing Manufacturing Capabilities within Israel

 Although at the moment SodaStream’s claims’ on full manufacturing capabilities within Israel are false, there are indications that the company is starting to develop production lines inside the Green line. At the third quarter of 2012, SodaStream started constructing a new factory within Israel, in the Lehavim Industrial zone in Negev desert. The company evaluates that the first stage of the construction will be completed in approximately 18 to 30 months. The 2012 annual report emphasizes, “Upon completion of the first phase, the new site will have all production capabilities necessary to produce all of our products”.

In addition, during April 2013, Birnbaum announced that the company is tripling the size of the Alon Tavor site, even as it continues to build a plant at the Lehavim industrial zone in the Negev (See, Globes: http://bit.ly/XTcadR).

Only time will tell if the construction of the new factory in the Negev and the expanding of the Alon Tavor site will mature into a full withdrawal from commercial activity in the occupied Palestinian territories. Until then, Who Profits research team will continue to monitor SodaStreams’ activities and to publish periodic updates on the developments.

(Source / 26.01.2014)

Settlers attack Palestinian farmers in Beit Ummar

Israeli settlers take pictures of an elderly Palestinian shepherd after he was pushed on the ground near the southern hills of the West Bank city of Hebron on Jan. 25, 2014
HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian farmers and their families in the Wadi Abu al-Reesh area in the southern West Bank near Beit Ummar on Saturday evening, a local spokesperson said.

Muhammad Ayyad Awad, a spokesman for Beit Ummar’s local committee against settlement activities, told Ma’an that settlers wearing masks and white uniforms threw stones at farmers and swore at them both in Arabic and Hebrew.

Awad highlighted that some of the attackers carried rifles.

The farmers had to leave their fields immediately because many of them were accompanied by their children and they were worried for their safety, added Awad.

Israeli troops arrived, he said, to protect the attackers.

The soldiers watched as settlers vandalized olive trees and instead of stopping them, the soldiers inspected the identity cards of the Palestinian farmers and prevented them from taking photos with their mobile phones.

The mayor of Beit Ummar Nasri Sabarnah arrived along with officers from the Palestinian military liaison who documented the attack and received an official complaint from the mayor.

In 2012, there were 353 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Over 90 percent of investigations into settler violence by Israeli police fail to lead to an indictment.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

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

(Source / 26.01.2014)

FPJ: Israel fabricates claims about Gaza to justify the targeting of civilians

 

GAZA, (PIC)– The forum of Palestinian journalists (FPJ) warned against the gravity of the media campaign that was launched recently by the Israeli occupation to prepare the world’s public opinion to accept its justifications to bomb civilian areas and structures in any intended war on the Gaza Strip.

In a press release on Sunday, the forum said that this campaign included alleged press remarks made by Israeli military officials and unnamed sources, amplifying the military capability of the Palestinian resistance and claiming that it uses mosque minarets to set up surveillance cameras to monitor the movement of the Israeli army in border areas.

The resistance is also propagated to cache its rockets and weapons in places beneath residential buildings and use civilian areas for its resistance activities, among other claims intended to justify Israel’s intents to bomb mosques, populated areas and civilians.

The forum urged the Palestinian media outlets to launch counter campaigns exposing such Israeli media claims and provide the true picture of the situation in Gaza.

(Source / 26.01.2014)

Women and children ‘can leave Syria’s Homs’

Government says women and children in besieged parts of the city can go ‘immediately’.

Women and children in the besieged districts of the city of Homs can leave “immediately”, the Syrian government has said as peace talks between it and the country’s oppositon continued.

“I assure you at this second if the terrorists allow the women and children to leave Old Homs, they can leave immediately,” deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mokdad, told a news conference on Sunday after the third day of negotiations between the warring sides.

“We shall also provide them with shelter and medicine and all the necessities for life.”

The government asked the opposition to provide names of other civilians who may wish to leave the siege imposed by its forces, mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said at the news conference in Geneva.

“They are asking for the names of civilians to make sure they are not armed people,” he said.

Mokdad said the government had tried in the past to evacuate women and children but had been prevented by “terrorists”. The government routinely labels as terrorists all armed opposition groups.

The rebel-held Old Homs districts in the centre of the city have been under tight siege from President Bashar al-Assad’s troops since June 2012. Thousands of residents there live in dire conditions, amid an acute shortage of food and medicine.

Brahimi said he was hoping an aid convoy could enter Homs on Monday.

“We are ready to allow any humanitarian aid to enter in coordination with UN organisations in Syria,” Mokdad said.

He also called on the international community to lift sanctions on the country and said that the opposition should join him in that appeal.

Earlier on Sunday, Syrian government officials in Geneva told Al Jazeera that a convoy was ready to enter the areas under siege, but that the officials needed to coordinate security efforts to ensure its safety.

‘Children in jail’

Sunday’s round of negotiations primarily focused on the release of detainees from the country’s prisons.

The opposition says it has submitted a list of tens of thousands of people – including thousands of women and children – being held in government-run jails.

Mokdad denied that any children were being held.

Brahimi said the government had, in turn, requested from the opposition a list of people being held by the different opposition groups.

“The opposition has agreed to collect names of detainees from the armed groups they have an authority over or communication with,” Brahimi said.

The ongoing negotiations between the rival Syrian delegations are based on a June 2012 communiqué, known as Geneva 1, which lays out a political transition plan for Syria. It also calls for an end to fighting and for the creation of humanitarian corridors to besieged areas.

(Source / 26.01.2014)

HRW slams Kuwaiti jail, deportation of online activist

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) — Human Rights Watch on Sunday condemned as “shocking” a Kuwaiti court’s five-year jail sentence followed by deportation against an online rights activist for criticizing the emirate’s ruler on Twitter.

A lower court imposed the sentence on Abdullah Fairouz Abdullah Abd al-Kareem, 30, on January 9 for posting comments on the microblogging website deemed offensive to the emir.

The court also ordered Kareem to be deported after serving the jail term although he has the right to Kuwaiti citizenship.

The court acknowledged that Kareem had won a final court ruling over his right but he has so far not obtained the citizenship card and thus the court treated him as a foreigner.

Under Kuwaiti law, foreign residents are deported by courts if they receive jail sentences for any serious crime.

Kareem’s mother is Egyptian and his father Kuwaiti. It is not clear what passport he carried when he won the right to Kuwaiti citizenship.

“The judgement against Kareem is shocking,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“We hope that the exile sentence is not a new strategy by the prosecution to chill political commentary in Kuwait,” he said.

Kareem is not a member of the Kuwaiti opposition but a prominent rights activist.

The New York-based HRW said that Kuwaiti authorities should drop the charges and not contest Kareem’s already lodged appeal.

“Since a political crisis in June 2012, Kuwaiti authorities have ramped up efforts to limit free expression, with courts sentencing at least 18 politicians, online activists, and journalists to prison terms for ‘offending’ the emir,” HRW said.

“Kuwait has made clear through the recent string of cases that it is willing to trample on people’s rights to protect the emir from criticism,” it said.

(Source / 26.01.2014)

Syria peace talks to focus on prisoners

GENEVA (AFP) — The fates of the thousands jailed, kidnapped or missing in Syria will be on the table Sunday as the country’s warring sides pursue UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva.

A day after sitting together for the first time in the same room, delegates from President Bashar Assad’s regime and the opposition resumed closed-door talks with UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi acting as go-between.

Brahimi said Saturday’s meeting had been a “good beginning”, with the two sides discussing aid to besieged residents in rebel-held areas of the central city of Homs.

He said Sunday’s talks would focus on “a lot of people who have lost their freedom,” including the “thousands and thousands of people in the jails of the government.”

Prisoner releases could start, he said, with “women, old people and people underage.”

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi told reporters in Geneva the issue of prisoners needed to be discussed “without discrimination”, with the focus also on people held by rebel forces.

“We must be precise on the issue of prisoners. There are also thousands of people who have been kidnapped, some who have been missing without a trace for two-and-a-half years,” he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a key watchdog, estimates that some 17,000 people have gone missing in the war, tens of thousands are being held in government jails and thousands kidnapped by armed groups including Islamist militias.

It has described conditions in government prisons as “horrific”, with overcrowding, supply shortages and outbreaks of disease.

A UN-mandated probe last month said Syrian government forces were waging a campaign of enforced disappearances to terrorize the population, amounting to a crime against humanity.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that “untold numbers” have disappeared in Syria and that it has not been able to visit any of the country’s prisons in the last two years.

The harsh treatment of Syrian prisoners was thrown into the spotlight when former international prosecutors released a report this month alleging the “industrial-scale” torture and killing of 11,000 detainees by the regime.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said before the Geneva talks that the regime was “ready to exchange lists and develop the necessary mechanism” for prisoner swaps with the rebels.

Brahimi said he also hopes a deal can be reached on sending aid convoys on Sunday or Monday to Homs, where hundreds of families in the Old City are living under siege with near-daily shelling and the barest of supplies.

“If we achieve success on Homs we hope that this will be the beginning,” Brahimi said.

Despite the failure to agree on any concrete proposals, Saturday still marked progress after the regime on Friday accused the opposition of obstructing the negotiations and threatened to walk away.

Pulled together by the United Nations, Russia and the United States, the two sides are meeting in the biggest diplomatic push yet to stem Syria’s bloodshed after nearly three years of civil war.

The opposition insists the talks should focus on Assad leaving power and the formation of a transitional government based on an agreement reached during a first peace conference in Geneva in 2012.

The regime says Assad’s role is not up for debate at this conference — dubbed Geneva II — and denies that the initial Geneva deal requires him to go.

The opposition has said talks on security and aid are only a “prelude” and it wants to start discussions on the core issue of a political transition on Monday.

Expectations are very low for a serious breakthrough at the talks, which are expected to last about a week, but diplomats have said simply bringing the two sides together for the first time was an important step.

With no one appearing ready for serious concessions, mediators are focusing on short-term deals to keep the process moving forward, including on localized ceasefires, freer humanitarian access and prisoner exchanges.

Erupting after the regime cracked down on protests inspired by the Arab Spring, Syria’s civil war has claimed more than 130,000 lives and forced millions from their homes.

Pitting Assad’s regime, dominated by the Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam, against largely Sunni Muslim rebels, the war has unsettled large parts of the Middle East.

(Source / 26.01.2014)