Elders delegation meets Abbas, discusses Palestinian reconciliation

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Former world leaders Jimmy Carter and Gro Harlem Brundtland met with President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Saturday, concluding a three-day visit by the Elders aimed at promoting peace.Former US President Carter said that they discussed the direction of Palestinian leadership with Abbas, and that the Elders were particularly concerned with reconciliation efforts and the need for holding Palestinian elections.Carter and former Norwegian Prime Minister Brundtland offered their assitance toward that end, and expressed their wish that “forthcoming elections will bring peace and unity, and benefit all Palestinians.”Carter added: “We hope that some time we’ll see elections all over the Palestinian area and East Jerusalem and Gaza and also in the West Bank.” He said that elections would “be an important step for Palestinians.”Abbas acknowledged the importance of ending internal Palestinian division in order for the national consensus government to perform its duties, and also accepted the need to prepare for presidential and legislative elections.No election has been held in the occupied territories for nearly a decade. Abbas’s presidential mandate expired in 2009, but he has remained in office since there has been no election.Elections were supposed to take place within six months of April last year, following the Fatah-Hamas agreement that led to the formation of a national unity government.However, they have put on hold indefinitely since then, causing outcry from Hamas who say Abbas has failed to fulfill his promises.In recent days, the unity government has come under intense pressure, with one senior Hamas official branding it a “failure” late on Friday.MP Ismail al-Ashraq said that Hamas no longer supports the unity government of politically-independent technocrats and demands a government comprising all Palestinian factions.Al-Ashraq reiterated Hamas’ demand that elections be held as soon as possible.The official’s comments came less than a week after a government minister announced that the unity government had cut off contact with Hamas following a high-profile government visit to Gaza that ended in disarray on Apr. 20.The visit, aimed at resolving an employee dispute between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority and Hamas, came to an abrupt end when the delegation of eight ministers alleged that Hamas prevented them from leaving them their hotel or meeting with anyone.
‘Animosity and Misunderstanding’Abbas also used his meeting with the Elders to emphasize the importance of speeding up reconstruction efforts in Gaza, in particular pressing the need for donor countries to meet their pledges.Brundtland said it was unfortunate that she and Carter had not been able to visit the Gaza Strip, although she said, “we have had a chance to discuss with people who know the issues in Gaza.”The delegation had initially been scheduled to visit the coastal enclave but at the last minute cancelled the trip, giving no reason.Highlighting the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was one of the delegation’s key aims during the visit.In a statement released on their official website, the Elders said that since their last visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories in October 2012, they have watched “with dismay the intensification of animosity and misunderstanding between the two parties.”The statement said: “the steadily deteriorating situation in Gaza must be reversed: the enclave has been under siege for eight years, and in 2014 suffered the third of three devastating wars since 2008/09.”The statement said: “Reconstruction is painfully slow.”While former US President Carter has long been an outspoken critic of Israeli practices in the occupied territories, Brundtland served as Prime Minister of Norway when the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 and has maintained a close interest in the faltering peace process since.During their three-day visit, the two Elders have spoken with a range of Palestinian and UN officials. They also met with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, as well as Yehiel Hilik Bar, Secretary-General of the Israeli Labor Party, to discuss the Labor Party’s view on the peace process.

(Source / 02.05.2015)

Israeli naval forces open fire at Gaza fishing boats

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Gaza City early Friday, witnesses told Ma’an.An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma’an that when a vessel deviated from the designated fishing zone, the forces told the vessel to halt and fired warning shots into the air, after which the vessel returned to shore with no injuries or damage reported.The exact distance of the fishing boat from shore at the time of the incident was not given by witnesses or the Israeli spokeswoman.Restrictions on fishing zones off the coast of the Gaza Strip have been heavily enforced by Israeli forces as part of a blockade imposed on the strip since 2006.Israel agreed to expand the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast as part of last summer’s ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, however fishermen are regularly prevented from fishing within the agreed limits.Israeli naval forces have shot and killed three fishermen in recent months.Palestinian fishermen face near daily fire from Israeli forces, Gaza-based watchdog al-Mezan Center for Human Rights reporting 29 attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinian fisherman between Sept. 1, 2014 and March 15, 2015.Due to high frequency of such attacks, however, live fire at fishing boats often goes unreported.Friday’s incident came one day after Israel returned 15 fishing boats Thursday that it seized in recent years off the blockaded coast.Fishing union chief Nizar Ayyash told AFP at the time that the return of 15 boats was welcome but demanded that Israel hand back dozens more vessels still in its possession and criticized frequent Israeli attacks on local fishermen.”It is true this is the first time Israel has returned fishing boats… but its forces fire at fishermen before they’ve even exceeded the imposed limit, especially off southern Gaza,” he said, adding that Isreali forces are still holding over 60 boats.The blockade imposed by Israel has devastated the livelihood of the around 4,000 fishermen living in the coastal enclave.

(Source / 02.05.2015)

Freedom Flotilla 3 to sail to Gaza next summer

GAZA, (PIC)– Coordinator of the International Committee to Break the Siege of Gaza Zaher Birawi revealed that Freedom Flotilla 3, of at least three boats, will sail to Gaza next summer.

A preparatory meeting will be held in Greece on May 16 and 17 to finalize the logistical and administrative arrangements, Birawi added.

No details would be revealed in the meantime so that we do not give a lead to the Israeli occupation to put pressures on the countries that would be the starting point for the flotilla, he continued.

He pointed out that many prominent figures would participate in the flotilla including the former Tunisian president Mohamed Moncef Marzouki.

The three boats are almost ready to sail, he affirmed.

In 2010, a Freedom Flotilla 1 of six boats led by Mavi Marmara boat was attacked by Israeli Navy forces in the international waters while on its way to Gaza. On the Mavi Marmara boat, the Israeli soldiers murdered ten unarmed activists.

In 2012, Freedom Flotilla 2 consisting of 12 boats attempted to sail from Turkey and Greece. Most of the boats were prevented from leaving their ports; however three of them sailed towards Gaza and were attacked by the Israeli Navy. The boats were illegally confiscated by Israel.

(Source / 02.05.2015)

Israeli forces suppress Palestinian journalists march

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A number of Palestinian journalists were injured on Saturday when Israeli forces suppressed a peaceful march organised by journalists to mark World Press Freedom Day.Israeli forces fired tear-gas canisters and stun grenades into the crowd of journalists marching in Bethlehem.Among the injured were the head of the Union of Palestinian Journalists Abd al-Nasser al-Najjar, member of the union’s general committee Muhammad al-Laham, and Reuters photographer Muhammad Abu Ghaniyyeh.Al-Najjar said that the march was carried out to express “our refusal to systematic Israeli suppression policies against journalists even as they express their right of coverage and freedom of expression.”The march headed to the northern entrance of Bethlehem city and faced Israeli soldiers at the “300” checkpoint.Protesters held signs condemning Israeli attacks and violations against journalists in the field.As of April, 20 Palestinian journalists were being held in Israeli prisons, including six detained in 2015 alone.Furthermore, last year was the deadliest ever for journalists working in the occupied Palestinian Territories, according to the Gaza Center for Press Freedom.Seventeen journalists killed during the 50-day Israeli offensive on Gaza last summer, including an Italian photographer working for Associated Press.The center said Israel had committed 295 separate “violations of press freedom” across the occupied Palestinian Territories.Israel arrested or detained an unspecified number of journalists, denied freedom of movement to local media workers wanting to leave the blockaded Gaza Strip, and partially or completely destroyed 19 buildings housing editorial operations during its bombardment of the territory during the conflict.Palestinian authorities also committed 82 violations of press freedom, the center said, including arresting or summoning 28 journalists, and injuring or assaulting 26 more.
(Source / 02.05.2015)

Bahrain is ruthlessly crushing dissent and torturing its own citizens, yet Britain is heaping it with praise

The idea peddled by the UK that the country is reforming is a complete myth

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond met with the Crown Prince of Bahrain earlier this week. He was there to discuss their

“shared regional and strategic goals” and “reaffirm the UK’s commitment” to strengthening their ties with the Gulf monarchy.

Just a day earlier, a Bahraini court had extended the detention of one of the country’s most prominent human rights activists, Nabeel Rajab, for another two weeks. His alleged crime? Tweeting about torture and the war in Yemen.

Hammond has previously told the House of Commons that Bahrain, a long-standing ally and former protectorate of the UK, is “a country which is travelling in the right direction” and “making significant reform”. Last April, the Foreign Office even went as far as to predict that the country’s “overall trajectory on human rights will be positive” due to the “judicial and security sector” reforms being implemented. Delighted by the assessment, pro-government media in Bahrain repeated the Foreign Office’s claims with approval.

In 2014 Philip Hammond went to Bahrain to announce that the Royal Navy will set up a permanent base in the countryIn 2014 Philip Hammond went to Bahrain to announce that the Royal Navy will set up a permanent base in the country

A year later, Amnesty International have published a report which points to a much bleaker picture of Bahrain’s alleged progress in implementing reform. Their research finds that, contrary to the Foreign Office’s predictions, “the human rights situation today remains dire and little has changed in practise”. Reforms have “so far proved inadequate” and have had “little impact” on the ground. “Torture remains rife”, “repression is widespread”, and impunity has been “entrenched”, rather than challenged, by the “inadequate investigations” led by state institutions set up apparently to bring greater accountability to Bahrain’s allegedly highly abusive security forces.

A case in point is the sentencing to death in February of three Shi’ite men accused of involvement in a bombing which killed three police officers in March 2014. Two of the defendants claim to have been forced to confess under torture, the details of which, as documented by both Amnesty and Bahraini human rights groups, are horrifying.

Abbas al-Samea, a 25-year-old teacher, says he was taken from room to room in Bahrain’s notorious Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) where he was sexually assaulted, burnt with cigarettes and given electric shocks on his genitals. Sami Mushaima, also detained at the CID, says he was punched in the mouth until he lost his front teeth, beaten all over his body and anally raped with an unknown object. Along with their co-defendant Ali Abdulshaheed al-Singace, both men were later found guilty in a trial which was widely condemned as unfair by human rights organisations.

According to Amnesty, the use of torture in cases like this “appears to be systematic”. Women and children are not exempt either. In November last year, at least thirteen women were arrested and allegedly tortured for organizing a public referendum in the run-up to parliamentary elections which were boycotted by the opposition. Around six months prior to that, Rayhana al-Mousawi was sentenced to five years in prison on charges which she confessed to after allegedly being beaten, stripped naked and threatened with rape and electric shocks. Even children as young as thirteen havereportedly been tortured on a “routine basis” to extract forced confessions.

Under the reforms initiated by the government in response to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), alleged abuses like these were supposed to have been stamped out and the officers responsible brought to justice. Amnesty’s report, however, finds that the institutions set up to do this are “not sufficiently independent, impartial or transparent” and have “largely failed to have a significant impact” on the ground.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), for example, was established by the Bahraini government in 2012 to “determine the criminal liability of government officials” responsible for abuses. Yet according to Amnesty, their investigations have “resulted in relatively few cases of alleged human rights violations being referred for trial, and most that have gone to trial have resulted in acquittals or…the imposition of lenient sentences that failed to reflect the gravity of the case.”

Judicial reform – cited by the Foreign Office as evidence of Bahrain’s improving human rights record – has seemingly also had little impact in practise, with Human Rights Watch (HRW)concluding last year that “Bahrain’s problem is not a dysfunctional justice system, but rather a highly functional injustice system. “ HRW’s UK director David Mepham has since dismissed the Foreign Office’s claims of judicial reform as “unfounded” and said “there is simply no basis” for its assertion that Bahrain’s “trajectory on human rights will be positive”.

If anything, the human rights situation is getting worse. In the last five months, several of the country’s most prominent human rights activists – including Nabeel Rajab, Zainab al-Khawaja and Maryam al-Khawaja – have been sentenced to jail. Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of the country’s largest opposition movement al-Wefaq, has also been put on trial for allegedly inciting regime change.

The space for political opposition is Bahrain is thus disappearing quickly. According to the democracy-monitoring NGO Freedom House, the level of freedom in the country has declined year on year since the reform process began. In view of the available evidence, HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director Joe Storkconcludes that “it’s difficult to see how anyone could claim with a straight face that Bahrain is on the path to reform. Unfortunately”, he says, “Bahrain’s allies in the West, in particular the UK, have become adept at seeing only what they wish to see.”

(Source / 02.05.2015)

The Saudi rebel prince: the Saudi regime masterminded and its ISIS-affiliated pawns committed the Charlie Hebdo shooting

Talal bin Abdulaziz, AKA Red Prince, the octogenarian Saudi prince and the favorite son of the Saudi State founder –King Abdulaziz–vociferously criticized  his half-brother and bitter enemy King Salman for prorogating virulent Wahhabi ideology  and harebrained foreign policies which instigates young Saudis to join terrorist groups wreaking havoc on the troubled Middle-East and beyond.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world named after its ruling family, has witnessed formidable political tremors ever since the late Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz died in Jan. 2015.

“…there is an overwhelming evidence which substantiates my earlier claims that Saudi intelligence’s third division—responsible for overseas’ operations — has indeed hatched the wicked plot of Charlie Hebdo attack in collaboration with an illegitimate régime to fulfill their common objectives,” Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) quoted the exiled Saudi Prince Talal, during a press conference yesterday at InterContinental London Park Lane. According to political observers, Talal’s blatant comments could be construed as anti-Semitist amid the increasing rumors of an alleged Israeli role in the horrific tragedy of 11 French journalists callously massacred by Islamist militants.
Prince Talal has a long record of animosity towards the Saudi monarchy as it reached its acme during 1960s when the Red Prince defected to Egypt under the Pan-Arab President Gamal Abdel Nasser and began to attack his brothers.
Being well-known for his relatively liberal political views and regarded as one of the leading figure among Saudi émigré. Prince Talal has voiced his renunciation of surprising reshuffles in the labyrinthine of power — dramatically changing the line of succession — which in turn harbinger a gloomy political future for the oil-rich kingdom.

In the meantime, Muqrin bin Abdulaziz— the former Saudi Crown Prince who was humiliatingly sacked when his brother, King Salam ascended to the throne—has issued a communiqué on Friday stating that he would not take the oath of allegiance and urged the Saudi nation to  rise up and topple Salman’s tottering, puppet regime and establish a democratic government.

(Source / 02.05.2015)

Jimmy Carter calls situation in Gaza ‘intolerable’ eight months after war

Former US president, in Jerusalem with former Norwegian prime minister, says residents ‘cannot live with the respect and dignity they deserve’

jimmy carter gro harlem brundtland

Former US president Jimmy Carter and former prime minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, both members of the Elders group of retired prominent world figures, address journalists on 2 May after their meeting with the Palestinian president in the West Bank city of Ramallah

Former US president Jimmy Carter said Saturday that eight months after a bloody war in the Gaza Strip the situation there remains “intolerable”.

Carter and his delegation were supposed to visit the isolated territory but earlier this week called it off, citing unspecified security concerns. Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, Carter said he was still determined to work for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

“What we have seen and heard only strengthens our determination to work for peace,” he said. “The situation in Gaza is intolerable. Eight months after a devastating war, not one destroyed house has been rebuilt and people cannot live with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed in the 50-day summer war between Israeli forces and Hamas militants who fired rockets into Israel.

Earlier in the day, Carter, 90, visited Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and laid a wreath on the grave of former leader Yasser Arafat.

Carter was accompanied by Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway and fellow member of his Elders group.

But Carter was shunned by Israeli leaders who long have considered him hostile to the Jewish state.

Although he brokered the first Israeli-Arab peace treaty during his presidency, Carter outraged many Israelis with his 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. He has also repeatedly reached out to Gaza’s Islamic Hamas leaders, considered terrorists by much of the west.

Carter did meet with a group of Israelis living in towns bordering Gaza and heard about life under the threat of rocket attacks and militant infiltrations from Gaza. But he said that he had no interest in meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has ignored him in the past.

“This time we decided it was a waste of time to ask,” Carter said. “As long as he is in charge, there will be no two-state solution and therefore no Palestinian state.”

(Source / 02.05.2015)

President Khoja Meets With Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador

President Khoja met with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah Al-Mouallimi yesterday in New York. The two sides discussed the recent proposals and political initiatives on Syria and the latest series of rebel gains on all fronts.

President Khoja profusely thanked Mouallimi for the positions the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken in support of the Syrian revolution and the rights of the Syrian people to freedom and dignity.

Mouallimi stated his country will do whatever needed to help the Syrian people regain their rights and to ensure the unity of the Syrian people and the integrity of their country.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 02.05.2015)

Islamic Jihad militant dies during ‘mission’ in northern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The Islamic Jihad on Saturday announced the death of a gunman from the group’s military wing in the northern Gaza Strip.The group said in a statement that Nasim Khalil Naim was killed during a “Jihadist mission,” without giving further details.A number of fighters have been killed by accidents during military training exercises in the Gaza Strip in recent years.

(Source / 02.05.2015)

Israeli forces shoot, injure 3 teens near Ramallah

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Three Palestinian teenagers were shot and injured with live rounds on Friday when Israeli forces opened fire on them during clashes in al-Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah.They were taken to hospital for treatment with light to moderate injuries.Several others were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets.Al-Jalazun camp is the site of frequent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian youths.In April, Israeli forces injured 12 Palestinian youths in the camp, three with live fire and a further nine with rubber-coated steel bullets.Two weeks before that, thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral in al-Jalazun of a young man who succumbed to his wounds after being shot by Israeli forces during a protest near Ramallah.At the time, the head of a popular committee in the refugee camp, Mahmoud Mubarak, said that the camp was being “systematically and unnaturally” attacked by Israel, and that there were nearly daily clashes and injuries taking place.

(Source / 02.05.2015)