7 Iraqi security personnel killed as unrest surges

Members of the Iraqi security forces stand guard on an armored vehicle outside the Anbar province police headquarters on Jan. 26, 2014 in Ramadi

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Gun attacks north of Baghdad killed seven members of Iraq’s security forces Tuesday, the latest in a surge in violence fuelling fears the country is slipping back into all-out conflict.

Coupled with a deadly standoff between security forces and anti-government fighters in the western province of Anbar, unrest this month has left more than 850 people dead, the worst prolonged period of bloodshed since Iraq began emerging from a brutal sectarian war in 2008.

On Monday the United States said it plans to sell Iraq 24 Apache attack helicopters in a $4.8 billion deal to help the country fight militants while foreign leaders have urged the Shiite-led government to address long-term grievances in the disaffected Sunni community to undercut support for militancy.

In Tuesday’s deadliest violence, five soldiers and one Sahwa anti-Qaeda militiaman were killed in a gun attack on their joint checkpoint near the restive city of Baquba, north of Baghdad, security and medical officials said.

The shooting comes a day after two policemen and a Sahwa fighter were shot dead and then decapitated near Samarra, also north of the capital.

The Sahwa are a collection of Sunni Arab tribal militias that moved against their co-religionists in Al-Qaeda and joined with the US military from late 2006 onwards, helping turn the tide of Iraq’s insurgency.

Sunni militants regard them as traitors and often target them, as well as Iraq’s security forces.

Also on Tuesday, a police intelligence officer was kidnapped and killed with a single gunshot to the head in the northern city of Kirkuk, a security officer and a doctor said. The body bore signs of torture.

More than 850 people have been killed so far this month as a result of violence in Iraq, more than three times the toll for January 2013, according to an AFP tally.

It comes as security forces are locked in battles with militants, including those affiliated with the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in Anbar, a mostly-Sunni desert region west of Baghdad that shares a border with Syria.

The standoff has forced more than 140,000 people to flee their homes, the UN refugee agency said, describing this as the worst displacement in Iraq since the 2006-2008 sectarian conflict.

(Source / 28.01.2014)

Morsi tried for jailbreak as top Egypt police officer murdered

An image grab taken from Egyptian state television shows deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in the accused cage in a makeshift courtroom at a police academy on the outskirts of Cairo on Jan. 28, 2014
CAIRO (AFP) — Ousted president Mohamed Morsi was defiant as he went on trial Tuesday for a prison break during the 2011 uprising, as a top police official was murdered in another sign of Egypt’s instability.

The trial, and other violence in which a police guard was gunned down outside a Cairo church, came a day after the military backed army chief Field Marshall Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led Morsi’s ouster in July, to run for office in his place.

Morsi, dressed in a white prison uniform, gesticulated angrily from the glass cage in which he and 21 co-defendants were held.

“Who are you,” he demanded to know, adding, “Do you know who I am?”

“I am the president of the republic. Who are you? Let me hear your voice; I don’t hear you,” he shouted defiantly.

In response, a judge said “I am the president of the Cairo Criminal Court.”

Among those in the dock was the supreme guide of Morsi’s now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie.

In all, 131 people are on trial, including dozens of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas and Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Most of them are being tried in absentia.

Reading the charges, a prosecutor said the “Muslim Brotherhood defendants coordinated with Hamas and Hezbollah to spread chaos and trigger the downfall of the state.”

“Eight hundred foreign militants and jihadists infiltrated through illegal tunnels and seized a 37-mile border stretch. They attacked security and government buildings and killed many police officers.”

He said “three prisons were attacked and more than 50 policemen and prisoners were killed, while more than 20,000 criminals escaped”.

The trial was later adjourned until Feb. 22.

In the latest bloodletting, police General Mohamed Saeed was leaving his Cairo home when gunmen on a motorbike opened fire at him, hitting him in the head and the chest before fleeing, security officials said.

Saeed, who was the head of interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim’s “technical department,” died in hospital.

Hours later gunmen opened fire from a car at policemen guarding a church in the capital, killing one and wounding two. One was arrested, while two others fled on foot.

Since July, Egypt’s Christian community has faced several attacks, with pro-Morsi Islamists accusing them of backing his ouster.

Interior minister Ibrahim himself was targeted by a car bomb in September, but he escaped unhurt.

Al-Qaeda inspired group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or Partisans of Jerusalem, claimed that attack and has also said it was responsible for some of the deadliest bombings in Egypt since Morsi was deposed.

It said it carried out four bombings against police that killed six people Friday, a day before the third anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Precarious security situation

Tuesday’s shootings reiterate the precarious security situation prevailing across Egypt since then, which has worsened since July.

At least 1,400 people, mostly Morsi supporters, have been killed in a relentless crackdown on Islamists, according to Amnesty International, while scores of policemen and soldiers have also fallen to militant attacks across Egypt.

Since Thursday, at least 13 policemen have been killed across the country, while four soldiers were killed in Sinai, according to an AFP tally.

Morsi is already on trial for inciting the killings of opposition activists during his presidency and faces two other trials that have yet to begin.

Tuesday’s trial date was symbolic as it marked the third anniversary of the prison break from Wadi Natrum jail, which took place as the uprising against Mubarak approached a fever pitch.

Morsi and several Muslim Brotherhood leaders had been arrested by Mubarak’s security forces two days earlier to stop them from participating in protests called for Jan. 28, 2011.

That so-called Friday of Rage was a turning point in Mubarak’s downfall, as thousands of people attacked and torched police installations, prompting the hated interior ministry’s forces to withdraw from the streets.

Morsi, Egypt’s first civilian and freely elected president, was ousted following massive protests against his one-year rule.

The wildly popular man behind that, army chief Sisi is now expected to put himself forward as a candidate in the presidential election to be held by mid-April.

To his supporters, Sisi is the best option for ending three years of instability that has helped to wreck the economy.

On Saturday, thousands poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square to back a Sisi candidacy, after he said he required “public demand” to stand in the election.

(Source / 28.01.2014)

IPS extends administrative detention of four Palestinians

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Gaza, ALRAY – Solidarity Foundation said that the Israeli occupation authorities on Monday renewed the administrative detention of four prisoners, including a Hamas leader.

The foundation’s officer in charge of administrative detention file Osama Maqboul said that “the Israeli intelligence extended the administrative detention of Hamas leader Raafat Nassif to 6 months”

“Nassif  is scheduled to be presented before a court martial on February 4, 2014 so that his jail term would be fixed,” the foundation’s website reported.

Nassif is a former prisoner who served more than nine years in Israeli prisons.  His administrative detention has been renewed several times, according to the human rights organization.

Israeli forces arrested Nassif on February 2, 2013 from his home located in Tulkarem city, after being released on November 11, 2012 having spent 42 consecutive months in  administrative detention.

The Israeli authorities also upheld an order to keep three Palestinians from Ramallah under administrative detention, it added, who are Abdullah Saafin from Bitounia for 6 months, Ibrahim Sneif for 6 months, and Rami Ais for two months.

On October  25th, 2013, 180 administrative detainees announced a series of protest actions such as boycotting courts and clinics, and returning their meals  in a protest action against the policy of administrative detention.

Israel keeps holding 13 Palestinian lawmakers in its prisons, including 9 administrative detainees without trial or charge.

The administrative detainee is a term called on every Palestinian detainees who is arrested by Israeli occupation and kept in prison without charge or trial for six renewable months.

(Source / 28.01.2014)

Abbas gives ‘reasonable’ 3-year plan for Israeli withdrawal

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    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

TEL AVIV: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory should take place within a three-year period under any final Middle East peace deal.

“Those who are proposing 10 to 15 years (before a withdrawal) do not want to withdraw at all,” Abbas said in an interview screened on Tuesday at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies taking place in Tel Aviv.
“We say that in a reasonable time frame, no longer than three years, Israel can withdraw gradually,” he said.
His remarks came as an April deadline loomed for faltering US-backed peace talks, which have been in deadlock notably over the issue of future security arrangements.
Israel wants to maintain a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley, where the West Bank borders Jordan, but the Palestinians insist Israeli troops withdraw completely, making way for an international force. “We have no problem with there being a third party present after or during the withdrawal, to reassure Israel and to reassure us that the process will be completed,” Abbas said.
“We think NATO is the appropriate party to undertake this mission.
“The Palestinian borders must, in the end, be held (controlled) by Palestinians and not by the Israeli army,” he added.
Abbas reiterated Palestinian demands that a two-state solution be based on the lines which existed before the Israeli occupation of 1967, and stressed the importance of having annexed east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
“A solution will bring Israel recognition from 57 Muslim countries, a clear, straightforward and diplomatic recognition between these countries and Israel,” Abbas said.
“I hope the Israeli people can understand what it is to be in an ocean of peace, from Mauritania to Indonesia, rather than in an island of peace as it is at the moment.”
He said he would happily meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in person, during a visit by either man to each other’s Parliament.

(Source / 28.01.2014)

Palestinians urged to embrace resistance

 

Palestinian BoyBritish support for the Zionist colonisation project intensified the subjugation of Palestinians, resulting in violent repression of their civil resistance. The Balfour Declaration and its consequences for Palestinians accelerated the evolution from non-violent resistance to armed resistance, particularly in the aftermath of the Nakba (1948 Catastrophe) and its fragmentation of Palestinian identity

The illusions of establishing a Palestinian state based upon the US-brokered negotiations have shifted discourse partly to incorporate the necessity of resistance. Tawfik Tirawi, a senior Fatah official, has admitted the futility of the negotiations publicly and called upon his movement to embrace resistance. In a televised message on Lebanese channel Al-Mayadeen, Tirawi stated: “I’m talking about all kinds of resistance, but within a unified Palestinian framework that is agreed to by all sides in Fatah and factions outside of it. As part of our plan, we will choose the correct form of resistance and act accordingly.” Calls for resistance were also endorsed earlier this month by the Palestinian ambassador to Cuba, Akram Sameh.While Tirawi’s calls for resistance offer a rhetorical alternative to the compliance exhibited prior to the commencement of the negotiations, an ideology and implementation of resistance has not been conveyed coherently. As a pre-condition to the negotiations, Mahmoud Abbas forfeited the right to resort to international organisations in return for the release of Palestinian political prisoners. This stance was contradicted by the Palestinian representative to the UN, Riyad Mansour, who claimed that the failure to implement the two-state solution would lead Palestinians to assert their claims for land and legitimacy through other means, including resistance and recourse to international organisations. Such organisations, including the UN, have consistently proved their allegiance to imperialist demands. Yet, an agreement relinquishing the right to such recourse strengthens imperialist impunity, which expects the indigenous population to remain subservient to the settler-colonial state and the ensuing fragmentation of Palestinian identity.

Palestinian resistance can be traced back to the 1880s, coinciding with the earliest plans for the colonisation of Palestine. British support for the Zionist colonisation project intensified the subjugation of Palestinians, resulting in violent repression of their civil resistance. The Balfour Declaration and its consequences for Palestinians accelerated the evolution from non-violent resistance to armed resistance, particularly in the aftermath of the Nakba (1948 Catastrophe) and its fragmentation of Palestinian identity. Colonial appropriation of land necessitates a continuous and state-sanctioned violence against the indigenous population that serves various objectives, including the deconstruction of legitimate Palestinian resistance in order to consolidate the dominant and illegal narrative. The establishment of the Palestinian Authority and its security collaboration with Israel compromised resistance and its integral relationship to Palestinian identity, capitulating to Western misrepresentation of resistance. So far, Palestinian resistance remains ensconced within narratives which glorify, advocate or slander a legitimate right from which the PA has alienated itself consciously. However, it is necessary to combat the contemporary compromise which has been asserted countless times by the PA in its embrace of negotiations and denial of collective Palestinian aspirations.

Reverting to resistance would provide the opportunity for unification of Palestinians as a nation dispossessed by settler-colonialism. If resistance is to be incorporated by the PA, its leaders need to put an end to security and other collaboration with Israel. At present, Tirawi’s statement is ambiguous and risks becoming irrelevant, if the articulation of resistance remains conditioned by the outcome of the negotiations. Furthermore, the PA must divest itself of its collaboration with the imperialist-sanctioned settler-colonial state, reconcile itself with Palestinian history and terminate its role in deconstructing and depriving Palestinians of their right to assert and defend collective memory. Sustaining any form of agreement with Israel renders discourse pertaining to resistance a mere interlude to divert attention away from the perpetual loss of land and nationhood.

(Source / 28.01.2014)

Lawyer demands ‘truth’ on Salafist death at U.S. embassy in Tunis

Members of the Tunisian army guard outside the American embassy in Tunis.
The lawyer representing 20 Salafists given suspended sentences over an attack on the U.S. embassy in Tunis demanded the “truth” Tuesday about the killing of four assailants, hinting that embassy staff were responsible.

Defense lawyer Monaem Turki branded as “political” the appeals trial of the 20 suspects, which comes after Washington sharply criticized the original sentences for being far too lenient.

The judge, after a brief hearing on Tuesday, adjourned the case until March 25.

Only three of the accused were present in court, an AFP journalist reported, with Turki saying the majority had not been summoned to the trial.

“The affair has become political, because the United States has put pressure on the [Tunisian] government” since the first ruling, he told AFP after Tuesday’s hearing.

“We are calling for the truth about those who killed the four protesters on September 14 [2012]. We don’t know if it was the Tunisian police or the embassy security,” he added.

Hundreds of angry Islamist protesters attacked the U.S. mission in Tunis after an American-made film mocking their religion was published on the Internet, unleashing a wave of violence across the Muslim world.

Four of the assailants were killed and dozens wounded in the violence, with an inquiry holding Tunisian police responsible and stating that the embassy’s security personnel did not intervene to protect the mission, which was badly damaged.

The protesters also torched a neighboring American school.

The public prosecutor decided last May to appeal the two-year suspended jail terms given to the 20 suspects for their roles in the attack, after Washington said it was “deeply troubled” by the leniency of the sentences, which were also criticized by the Tunisia government.

Around 80 suspects are still awaiting trial for their alleged participation.

Tunisia’s Islamist-led government accused the radical Salafist group Ansar al-Sharia, led by a former Al-Qaeda fighter in Afghanistan known as Abu Iyadh, of orchestrating the attack, but none of the suspected organizers of the attack have been arrested.

Earlier this month, Washington added Tunisia’s branch of Ansar al-Sharia and its fugitive leader, whose real name is Seifallah Ben Hassine, to the U.S. terror blacklist, along with affiliated organizations in Libya.

Since the 2011 revolution that overthrew the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has been rocked by waves of violence blamed on hardline Islamists, who were suppressed by the former dictator.

(Source / 28.01.2014)

Morocco, Algeria trade accusations over Syrians

RABAT, Morocco — Morocco and Algeria, North Africa’s two most powerful countries and biggest rivals, are accusing each other of mistreating Syrian refugees.

The Algerian ambassador in Rabat was summoned by the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday to complain about what Morocco described as a rise in the expulsion of Syrian refugees into Morocco from Algerian territory.

“Morocco profoundly deplores this inhuman act, more so because it involves women and children in an extremely vulnerable situation,” said the ministry statement.

Morocco’s Interior Ministry said that between Sunday and Tuesday some 77 Syrians, including 18 women and 43 children had been expelled. These statements follow up on similar accusations in Moroccan media over the past week.

The spokesman for Algeria’s Foreign Ministry, Amar Belani, said Thursday that the stories of expulsions were complete lies by the Moroccan “pseudo-media that specializes in nauseating bubbling of the anti-Algerian media swamp.”

Algerian security forces along the border told the Algerian state news agency on Monday that in fact it was the Moroccans who were expelling Syrians into Algeria.

“The gendarmes refused access to the national territory to Syrian refugees that the Moroccan authorities wanted to expel to Algeria,” said Col. Mohammed Boualleg of the border police. “It was after this refusal that the Moroccan authorities called on their media to wrongly accuse the Algerians of expelling Syrians.”

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in Syria in 2011, at least 2.4 million people have fled Syria, mostly to neighboring countries, according the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. But Morocco is a major jumping off point for immigrants, usually from sub-Saharan Africa, seeking entry into Europe.

In the past, when Morocco has caught Africans who entered from Algeria hoping to cross into Europe, it expelled them into the deserts along the border with Algeria.

According to rights activists in Oujda, Morocco’s far eastern city near the Algerian border, most of the Syrian refugees cross the border voluntarily seeking to join relatives already in the country.

“I can’t say what’s going on along the entire Moroccan-Algerian border, but this is what I have found from the testimonies I have gathered without being able to confirm or deny that Algerians are expelling Syrians,” said Mohammed Kerzazi, a member of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights in Oujda.

“It’s above all a humanitarian drama because Morocco does not give them refugee status and there are more and more of them in Oujda since June 2013,” he added, estimating they were in the hundreds.

Algeria and Morocco are regional rivals with a closed border between them. Algeria also supports an independence movement in the Western Sahara region annexed by Morocco.

(Source / 28.01.2014)

Iran says Israel using nuclear issue to hide ‘crimes’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Jan. 24, 2014
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran said Tuesday that Israel is using Tehran’s nuclear program to distract from its “crimes” against the Palestinians, during a rare visit by an official from the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Israel, along with Western countries, has long accused Iran of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian program — charges denied by Tehran — and Israel criticized a landmark nuclear deal reached with world powers in November.

“Under the pretext of Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy (program), the Zionists have always tried to distract governments and nations’ public opinion from their own crimes in Palestine,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a statement.

He made the remarks during a visit to Iran by Jibril Rajub, a senior official in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which is currently engaged in US-brokered peace talks with Israel.

Rajub, a senior member of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, said the group “will not stop the resistance until the establishment of an independent Palestinian government” in east Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel.

He called on the “Iranian people and their government to redouble their support of the Palestinians against the occupation and against Israel’s plans to Judaise the Holy City and expel its inhabitants.”

The agreement reached with world powers requires Iran to curb or halt its nuclear activities for six months in return for sanctions relief, and is aimed at buying time for the negotiation of a comprehensive agreement to resolve the decade-long dispute.

Israel, the region’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, views Iran’s atomic program as its greatest threat and, like the United States, has not ruled out military action to halt or slow Iran’s nuclear drive.

Iran does not recognize Israel and has long supported armed groups committed to its destruction, including the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.

(Source / 28.01.2014)

No construction, no jobs

January 28, 2014. On October 13, the Israeli Ministry of Defense turned off the tap to one of the main driving forces of economic growth in the Gaza Strip: the construction industry. Seventy thousand people made a living in the sector, more than half of them employed directly by it. The construction sector accounted for 27.6% of Gaza’s GDP in the second quarter of 2013. Until June of 2013, the private sector mainly used construction materials purchased via the tunnels from Egypt. Today, given reduced tunnel activity, the sector relies on transfer of materials from Israel.

Over the years, it’s estimated that Gaza has developed a shortage of about 75,000 housing units. The Gaza Housing Ministry estimates that due to population growth, the demand increases by 800-1,100 housing units per year, not counting upwards of 3,000 homes which were destroyed in military operations and have yet to be re-built.

Israel has enforced an almost complete ban on the entrance of construction materials to Gaza for the past three and a half months. The little that enters via Israel today goes to 10 projects managed by UNRWA and UNDP. In the meantime, thousands of people have joined the ranks of the unemployed and the lives of many have ground to a halt – couples cannot get married because of the shortage in new housing units, housing costs are on the rise and construction companies were forced to lay off their employees.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense agreed this week to allow 1,000 tons of cement into Gaza for the repair of damage caused by last month’s big storm. This one-off “humanitarian gesture” will make little more than a small dent in the overall shortage in the Strip.

The Ministry of Defense claims that construction materials Israel sold to Gaza in the past were used to build a tunnel from Gaza into Israel and that the ban is meant to prevent the building of more tunnels. However, they aren’t saying when the ban might be lifted or whether any alternatives that would cause less harm to Gaza’s residents have been considered. Are Gaza residents doomed to live their entire lives without construction materials? If the answer is no, then until when? Does Israel have no other strategy for tackling the challenge posed by the digging of tunnels, one that does not cause substantive harm to the well-being and future of 1.7 million people?

(Source / 28.01.2014)

Syrian Coalition: We Presented a Proposal to the Regime Delegation to Form a Transitional Governing Body without Assad

The delegation of the Syrian Coalition presented a document that details the mechanism of the forming a transitional ruling body with no role for Assad to the regime’s delegation. It will furthermore lead to establish democracy and political pluralism in Syria. Louay Safi, spokesman for the Syrian Coalition slammed the “insistence of the regime’s delegation on holding Assad superior to the homeland. It is very strange how their personal interests take precedence on the blood of the Syrian people.” Safi also said that the Assad regime seek to foil the transition process, which indicates they are not interested in a political solution.” He also described the behavior of the regime’s delegation as “politically bankrupts who is looking for excuses to evade its commitment to the terms of Geneva I.” Furthermore, Safi stresses that the Assad regime “is not willing to fight terrorism, which is considered one of its most important pillars, especially after the exposure of his relationship with ISIS, which the FSA seek to eradicate from all parts of Syrian.” He also expressed surprise of that the regime’s denial of the presence of Hezbollah in Syria despite the latter’s recognition of sending its militia to fight alongside Assad. Safi stresses that the Assad regime seeks to displace what remains of the residents of Homs instead of allowing the entry of food and medical supplies to the besieged areas. “We refused evacuating the besieged civilians in Homs, as we see in this an attempt to change the demography of the city and to achieve certain political and military goals at the expense of the security and safety of the Syrian people.”
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 28.01.2014)