Four killed in fresh suicide attack on Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia’s Dammam

Four people have been confirmed killed by a bombing attack in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province capital of Dammam

The aftermath of an attack at the al-Anoud mosque in Saudi Arabia’s city of Dammam

Four people were killed in Saudi Arabia on Friday afternoon when a suicide attacker detonated outside a Shia mosque in the Eastern Province, according to official reports.

However, a much higher death toll was avoided because two young civilian guards stopped the bomber entering the al-Anoud mosque in provincial capital Dammam, according to locals at the scene.

The attack was later claimed by Islamic State.

Early on Friday afternoon a male attacker attempted to enter the only Shia mosque in Dammam wearing an abaya – a black cloak worn by women – but found the female entrance was closed, witnesses told Middle East Eye.

The attacker then returned to the main gate of the mosque and tried to go inside, where an estimated 1,000 people were attending Friday prayers. He was barred from entering by two young men – Mohammed Hassan Ali bin Isa and Saeed Abdel Jaleel Jumaa al-Arbash – who had been tasked with manning a civilian checkpoint.

The attacker then detonated his bomb, around one to five metres outside the mosque entrance, killing himself and the two civilians guards, as well as one other person whose identity remains unknown.

The two young men were hailed as heroes by those at the scene.

“They saved a lot of lives by stopping the bomber from getting inside the mosque,” a local, who asked to remain anonymous, told Middle East Eye. “They are both heroes.”

Mohammed Hassan Ali Bin Isa (L) and Saeed Abdel Jaleel Jumaa al-Arbash (R)

Saeed had recently returned from studying in the United States and got married “a few days ago,” according to locals.

Mohammed’s mother, Kowther al-Arbash, is a high-profile writer for Saudi daily al-Jazira. News of her son’s death was greeted by an outpouring of support online for Arbash.

A statement from Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, however, said that the state’s security services had been responsible for “foiling” the mosque attack.

Footage posted online reportedly recorded the moment of the explosion, as heard from inside the mosque.

(Source / 29.05.2015)

Day after partially opening it, the army closed the Beitin-Ramallah road. Reason provided: Palestinian drivers did not obey a stop sign erected to favor settler traffic

Repaved Beitin Road, closed to Palestinian traffic. Photo: Iyad Haddad, B'Tselem 26.5.2015

Repaved Beitin Road, closed to Palestinian traffic

In the last few days, the Israeli authorities completed the reopening of the road that connects Palestinian villages Beitin and others in the northeast Ramallah District with the city of Ramallah via the DCO checkpoint. Due to existing restrictions in the DCO checkpoint, the opening allowed access to Ramallah only for the use of private vehicles and in one direction only. However, this partial improvement in the freedom of movement of Palestinian area residents was short-lived: only one day after the much-publicized reopening of the road, the army blocked it off with rocks. The grounds given were that some of the Palestinian drivers did not obey a stop sign placed on the road in order to give the right of way to Israeli settlers from Beit El. The original closure of the Beitin junction to Palestinians was in order to allow Beit El settlers exclusive use of the road on their way to route 60.

The repaving of the road, which the army blocked with a dirt pile 15 years ago, was recently completed. On Monday, 25 May, the Palestinian DCO notified the Beitin village council that the road was now open for traffic. Although the Beitin road used to be the main route for 60,000-70,000 Palestinians to reach Ramallah, the army placed a stop sign at the exit from the village to the road, so that the 6,000 settlers of Beit El would receive the right of way. It should be noted that the settlers waged a campaign against reopening the road to Palestinians. The next day, 26 May, the Palestinian DCO passed the Beitin village council a message from the Israeli DCO that the road had temporarily been reclosed as Palestinian drivers were not obeying the stop sign.

The Israeli DCO demanded that the local councils of the villages using the road place additional stop signs before the junction and speed bumps along the road, and that until such a time, the road would be reclosed. The DCO asked that the Beitin council block the road itself, but as the council replied that it did not have the proper engineering equipment to do so, the army blocked the road with rocks and stated it will reopen once alterations have been made.

Harming all Palestinian motorists in the northeast Ramallah District because some drivers committed a traffic offense is unacceptable. However, the major problem lies with the Israeli authorities’ manipulative use of the promise to reopen the Beitin road after 15 years. Reopening the road will not, in itself, significantly improve access to the city of Ramallah as long as the authorities continue to forbid public transport and commercial traffic through the DCO checkpoint, and even the exit of private Palestinian vehicles through it (except those holding VIP cards). Forcing tens of thousands of Palestinian drivers on the Beitin road to give right of way to several thousand settlers from Beit El symbolizes the Israeli policy to favor the interests of settlers over the Palestinian population in the West Bank.

Settler bus drives through Beitin Road, while army blocks Palestinian traffic once again. Photo: Iyad Haddad, B'Tselem 26.5.2015

Settler bus drives through Beitin Road, while army blocks Palestinian traffic once again

Background

The Palestinian village of Beitin in the West Bank numbers some 2,300 residents. It lies northeast of Ramallah, on Route 60, on a junction that connects Ramallah and el-Bireh with Palestinian villages to the east, whose population numbers some 60,000-70,000 residents.

In 2001, at the beginning of the second intifada, the army blocked access from the village of Beitin to Ramallah. Since then, tens of thousands of Palestinians have had to travel to their main district city via long, tortuous routes. The result has been isolation of these villages which harmed the area’s daily life and economy.

Beitin Road, blocked for 15 year, before the repaving. Photo: Iyad Haddad, B'Tselem, 4 Oct. 2012

Beitin Road, blocked for 15 year, before the repaving

The residents of these villages led a lengthy struggle to open the road and the DCO checkpoint. HaMoked, The Center for the Defence of the Individual even petitionedIsrael’s High Court of Justice on their behalf, demanding that the checkpoint be opened to Palestinian traffic. In March 2015, the heads of the regional Palestinian councils met with representatives of the Israeli and Palestinian DCOs and with officials from USAID. In the meeting, the Israelis announced that the section of the road from Beitin to Ramallah would soon be reopened to traffic via the DCO checkpoint, and that later, depending on developments on the ground, the checkpoint would also be opened to traffic heading towards Beitin. They also informed that the DCO intended to again enable access from the nearby village of Burqah to Ramallah, after the army closed off that road in the same period (see B’Tselem report on the isolation of Burqah: “The Invisible Walls of Occupation”). The Israeli DCO further announced that Palestinian movement through the checkpoint would be limited to private cars only. Public transport and commercial vehicles will not be allowed through it. Lastly, the representatives stated that Palestinian pedestrians would be allowed through the checkpoint in both directions but that the DCO advised against it, as walking along the roadside in its current condition is unsafe.

Palestinian residents of the area told B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad that the promised change – which has so far lasted a day – would not be a major improvement on access to Ramallah. Merchant ‘Abd al-Kareem Nasser Shawar, a resident of Burqah and owner of supermarket in Beitin, explained:

Opening the Beitin road is a good step, but it will have no effect on me. For me, that road is still closed because I can’t carry any goods on it. I have to do a detour through the villages of ‘Ein Yabrud, Dura al-Qara’, al- Jalazun, el-Bireh, and only then I reach Ramallah. It’s about 25 kilometers and a 30-40 minute drive.

Kana’an ‘Abd al-Jaleel Hamed, a resident of Beitin who works as a taxi driver in the village, added:

The road was only reopened for private cars and in one direction only, towards Ramallah. That means that all the workers, laborers and students who don’t own cars are still forbidden to take that road to Ramallah. All those people will still have to take taxis the long way, that passes through all the villages, instead of a five-minute drive through the checkpoint. It’s also a huge waste of time for us, the drivers, because it’s not financially worthwhile. The trip can take a long time, because you pick up and unload passengers along the way. A ‘special’ (private) taxi to Ramallah via the long way costs 50 shekels today. If they let us drive through Beitin, it would cost only 20 shekels.

Saleh Hamed ‘Ata, a resident of el-Bireh who works at a butcher shop in Beitin, related how he will have to continue walking to work and back because public transport will not be allowed on the Beitin road:

I started working at the butcher shop a few months ago, when they began easing the restrictions at the DCO checkpoint. I take a taxi from my house, in el-Bireh, until City Inn Hotel and from there I walk to the checkpoint. The walk until the butcher stop within the village is about one kilometer. At the end of the day, around 8:00 or 9:00 P.M., I go back the same way – cross the checkpoint on foot and then take a taxi to my home in el-Bireh. It’s scary in the dark, because I’m afraid that settlers or soldiers will attack me. Still, it’s better than taking a taxi the long way. When I used to travel to work like that, it would sometimes cost me up to 500 shekels a month, which is about 20% of my salary, and it was also a huge waste of time. Sometimes I just sleep over at my grandmother’s in Deir Dobwan. Opening the road for drivers of private cars won’t really help me because I don’t own car. So I have no choice but continue walking to work.

(Source / 29.05.2015)

Saudi airstrikes kill seven more people in Yemen

Yemeni children run amidst the rubble of a house destroyed in a Saudi airstrike in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a, May 29, 2015. (© AFP)

Yemeni children run amidst the rubble of a house destroyed in a Saudi airstrike in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a, May 29, 2015

New airstrikes conducted by Saudi Arabia against Yemen have claimed the lives of at least seven people in the impoverished Arab country.

Saudi warplanes attacked a hospital and a house in the Bani Hashish district of the western province of Sana’a on Friday, killing seven people and injuring several others, the Yemeni al-Masirah TV network reported.

An unspecified number of people were also killed and wounded in airstrikes on the Dar-al-Sharif area of the Tayal Khawlan district in Sana’a Province.

Two Saudi air raids were also reported at the entrance of the central province of Ma’rib with three others in the al-Arish district of the southern province of Aden on Friday, according to al-Masirah.

Casualties were also reported as Saudi jets pounded residential areas in the al-Ashraf district of Ma’rib, al-Masirah added.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV reported that the Zabouh military base in the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a was also targeted by Saudi warplanes.

Saudi jets also attacked a house in the Razeh district of the northwestern province of Sa’ada.

A Houthi fighter points to a house destroyed in a Saudi airstrike in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a, May 29, 2015

According to figures released by the United Nations, about 2,000 people have been killed and over 500,000 displaced as a result of the conflict in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has been conducting military strikes against Yemen since March 26 without a UN mandate.

(Source / 29.05.2015)

Why is the media ignoring Israel’s alliance with al-Qaeda?

Asa WinstanleyAsa Winstanley

Since January, I have been ploughing a lonely furrow in this column by covering what is certainly one of the most under-reported stories in the world right now: Israeli involvement in the war in Syria.

Almost unnoticed by the mainstream media, Israel’s occupation forces in the Golan Heights have been in alliance with the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s official franchise in Syria. This alliance certainly includes logistical support and may even extend as far as arming al-Qaeda rebels in south-western Syria.

In January, I showed how the reports of UN peacekeepers in the Golan had talked of regular contacts between rebel forces in that Israeli-occupied sector of Syria. They also observed, according to a June report, Israeli soldiers “handing over two boxes to armed members of the opposition” from the Israeli-occupied side to the Syrian-controlled side.

According to further reports by UN peacekeepers, such interactions continued after Quneitra (a town containing a key checkpoint between the Israeli-occupied and Syrian-controlled sectors of the Golan) was overrun by the Nusra Front.

In March, I wrote on how an Israeli army spokesperson had now confirmed these reports. He clarified that this extended to logistical support in the form of medical aid to al-Qaeda rebels. “We don’t ask who they are, we don’t do any screening,” the unnamed Israeli military official told the Wall Street Journal. “Once the treatment is done, we take them back to the border [sic – ceasefire line] and they go on their way [in Syria],” he said.

For several years now there have been propaganda reports in the Israeli press about how Israel is supposedly playing a purely “humanitarian” role in the Syrian war, by treating civilians and sending them back. But this has now been exposed as propaganda. If that were really the case, Israel would be treating combatants from all sides in the Syrian war and furthermore it would arrest suspected al-Qaeda militants. But in reality, all reports confirm that the Israelis are treating only the “rebel” side, including the al-Qaeda militants that lead the armed opposition in that area of Syria (as indeed they do in much of the country). The key difference that disproves the propaganda line, and proves an active Israel-al-Qaeda alliance is that, after treatment, instead of arresting them, the al-Qaeda fighters are sent back to fight in Syria. There is no chance at all that, in the event that Israel captures injured Hamas, Hizballah or Iranian combatants alive, it would send them back to Gaza or Syria to “go on their way”, as the unnamed Israeli official put it.

After all, Israeli forces in that area have, during the course of the war, made several air-strikes on what they claimed were Hizballah targets in Syria. If Israel were genuinely opposed to al-Qaeda, it would hit their positions too. But it seems that Israel prefers al-Qaeda over Hizballah and Iran.

In April, I reported how Israel had started to cover up its alliance with al-Qaeda. It seems that the propaganda line about their humanitarianism had not been bought by many, so they took measures to stop too much being revealed. Sedqi al-Maqet, a pro-government Syrian activist from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, was arrested, with a military gag-order initially banning the Israeli press from reporting the case. Al-Maqet had used his residence in the Golan to report from his Facebook account in Arabic about contacts he said he had witnessed between Israeli armed forces and what he termed terrorists active in the Syrian-controlled sector of the Golan. One of these videos, aired on Syrian state TV, was used to charging him with “spying”.

Since those reports, there have been further confirmations of the Israeli-al-Qaeda alliance. The most oblique of these came from David Ignatius, the Washington Post associated editor and foreign affairs columnist. Earlier this month he wrote that “Jordan and Israel have developed secret contacts with members of the Jabhat al-Nusra group along their borders.”

The second new confirmation came from the Israeli press in the form of Ron Ben Yishai, an Israeli war reporter for Yediot Ahronot, a popular Israeli tabloid. The report, which included video (vetted by the Israeli military) of a hospitalised Syrian rebel (possibly an al-Qaeda militant) with a obscured face, mostly took the usual propaganda line, singing the praises of the wonderful morality of the glorious Israeli army.

In the video, Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Itzik Malka claims of the 1,600 wounded he said have arrived in Israel from Syria, “the majority are women, children and elderly people” (my emphasis). That’s another implicit acknowledgement that Israel is treating wounded militants from Syria (the majority of whom in that area are al-Qaeda). And Ben Yishai himself in the article accompanying the footage states that “wounded Syrians have been arriving almost daily to the security fence, seeking medical help. It is likely that most if not all of these nationals are rebels from the rival jihadist Islamic State and al-Nusra Front groups”.

All this would be a massive scandal were an official “enemy” of the West, like Iran, or the Syrian government, credibly reported to have aided a terrorist group like al-Qaeda. We would have been bombarded with headlines about it, much like we are currently bombarded with headlines about the evils of the “Islamic State”.

But why has all this been pretty much ignored by the mainstream press? Last month, I tried to draw some of the strands together, and suggest how this Israeli-al-Qaeda alliance fits into the wider fight in Syria and the region, especially the latest al-Qaeda offensive in Syria.

We can say with confidence that the mainstream press in the West supports Israel, and so does not find it convenient to report on this scandalous Israeli-al-Qaeda alliance in Syria. But it’s crucial to understand that this is part of a wider pattern in which the West’s alliances with (to say the least) morally-dubious regional actors are ignored, downplayed or actively disguised by the media.

As I have argued previously, the US and the UK were in large part to blame for the rise of the forces that eventually became the “Islamic State”. They can be said to have created “Islamic State,” since the 2003 invasion of Iraq (and especially the very consciously sectarian policy of divide and rule that the occupation regime enforced there) created the swamp in which al-Qaeda in Iraq (which later became the “Islamic State in Iraq,” which in turn re-branded and became the “Islamic State of Iraq and Sham” when it expanded into Syria and is now know as just the “Islamic State”) was born.

But, reports the sterling investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, a newly-declassified Pentagon report has now proven that Western intelligence agencies were aware, as far back as August 2012, that “Islamic State” could arise and furthermore they even wanted it to happen.

The Defense Intelligence Agency report stated that “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime”. Today, the so-called Islamic State’s power base is in the east and north of Syria, and it controls most of the regions around Deir al-Zor, the regional capital of that eponymous eastern region. The city itself is still contested between regime and ISIS forces.

The report (revealed by an American conservative group’s freedom of information request) clarifies in a preceding paragraph that “supporting powers” is a reference to “Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey”. The term “western countries” here is likely supposed to include Israel. In any event, such intelligence is likely to have been shared with Israel.

So with Israel aware that the West was engaged in such cynicism with al-Qaeda-type groups in Iraq and Syria, it’s no wonder Israel feels itself permitted to engage in an active alliance with al-Qaeda in Syria.

(Source / 29.05.2015)

Beyond The Middle East: The Rohingya Genocide

“Nope, nope, nope,” was Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott’s answer to the question whether his country will take in any of the nearly 8,000 Rohingya refugees stranded at sea.

Abbott’s logic is as pitiless as his decision to abandon the world’s most persecuted minority in their darkest hour. “Don’t think that getting on a leaky boat at the behest of a people smuggler is going to do you or your family any good,” he said.

But Abbott is hardly the main party in the ongoing suffering of Rohingyas, a Muslim ethnic group living in Myanmar, or Burma. The whole Southeast Asian region is culpable. They have ignored the plight of the Rohingya for years. While tens of thousands of Rohingya are being ethnically cleansed, having their villages torched, forced into concentration camps and some into slavery, Burma is being celebrated by various western and Asian powers as a success story of a military junta-turned democracy.

“After Myanmar moved from dictatorship toward democracy in 2011, newfound freedoms of expression gave voice to Buddhist extremists who spewed hatred against the religious minority and said Muslims were taking over the country,” reported the Associated Press from the Burmese capital, Yangon.

That “newfound freedom of expression” has cost hundreds of people their lives, thousands their properties, and “another 140,000 Rohingya were driven from their homes and are now living under apartheid-like conditions in crowded displacement camps”.

While one may accept that freedom of expression sometimes invites hate speech, the idea that Burma’s supposed democracy has resulted in the victimisation of the Rohingya is as far from the truth as it gets. Their endless suffering goes back decades and is considered one of the darkest chapters in Southeast Asia’s modern history. When they were denied citizenship in 1982 – despite the fact that it is believed that they descended from Muslim traders who settled in Arakan and other Burmese regions over 1,000 years ago – their persecution became almost an official policy.

Even those who take to the sea to escape hardship in Burma find the coveted salvation hard to achieve. “In Myanmar, they are subjected to forced labor, have no land rights, and are heavily restricted. In Bangladesh many are also desperately poor, with no documents or job prospects,” reported the BBC.

And since many parties are interested in the promotion of the illusion of the rising Burmese democracy – a rare meeting point for the United States, China and ASEAN countries, all seeking economic exploits – few governments care about the Rohingya.

Despite recent grandstanding by Malaysia and Indonesia about the willingness to conditionally host the surviving Rohingya who have been stranded at sea for many days, the region as a whole has been “extremely unwelcoming,” according to Chris Lewa of the Rohingya activist group Arakan Project.

“Unlike European countries – who at least make an effort to stop North African migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean – Myanmar’s neighbors are reluctant to provide any assistance,” he said.

Sure, the ongoing genocide of the Rohingya may have helped expose false democracy idols like Noble Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi – who has been shamelessly silent, if not even complicit in the government racist and violent polices against the Rohingya – but what good will that do?

The stories of those who survive are as harrowing as those that die while floating at sea, with no food or water, or, sometimes even a clear destination. In a documentary aired late last year, Aljazeera reported on some of these stories.

“Muhibullah spent 17 days on a smuggler’s boat where he saw a man thrown overboard. On reaching Thai shores, he was bundled into a truck and delivered to a jungle camp packed with hundreds of refugees and armed men, where his nightmare intensified. Bound to shafts of bamboo, he says he was tortured for two months to extract a $2,000 ransom from his family.

“Despite the regular beatings, he felt worse for women who were dragged into the bush and raped. Some were sold into debt bondage, prostitution and forced marriage.”

Human rights groups report on such horror daily, but much of it fails to make it to media coverage simply because the plight of the Rohingya doesn’t constitute a “pressing matter”. Yes, human rights only matter when they are tied into an issue of significant political or economic weight.

Yet, somehow the Rohingyas seep into our news occasionally as they did in June 2012 and later months, when Rakhine Buddists went into violent rampages, burning villages and setting people ablaze under the watchful eye of the Burmese police. Then Burma was being elevated to a non-pariah state status, with the support and backing of the US and European countries.

It is not easy to sell Burma as a democracy while its people are hunted down like animals, forced into deplorable camps, trapped between the army and the sea where thousands have no other escape but “leaky boats” and the Andaman Sea. Abbott might want to do some research before blaming the Rohingyas for their own misery.

So far, the democracy gambit is working, and many companies are now setting offices in Yangon and preparing for massive profits. This is all while hundreds of thousands of innocent children, women and men are being caged like animals in their own country, stranded at sea, or held for ransom in some neighbouring jungle.

ASEAN countries must understand that good neighborly relations cannot fully rely on trade, and that human rights violators must be held accountable and punished for their crimes.

No efforts should be spared to help fleeing Rohingyas, and real international pressure must be enforced so that Yangon abandons its infuriating arrogance. Even if we are to accept that Rohingyas are not a distinct minority – as the Burmese government argues – that doesn’t justify the unbearable persecution they have been enduring for years, and the occasional acts of ethnic cleaning and genocide. A minority or not, they are human, deserving of full protection under national and international law.

While one is not asking the US and its allies for war or sanctions, the least one should expect is that Burma must not be rewarded for its fraudulent democracy as it brutalizes its minorities. Failure to do so should compel civil society organizations to stage boycott campaigns of companies that conduct business with the Burmese government.

As for Aung San Suu Kyi, her failure as a moral authority can neither be understood nor forgiven. One thing is sure, she doesn’t deserve her Nobel Prize, for her current legacy is at complete odds with the spirit of that award.

(Source / 29.05.2015)

ISIL takes control of airbase in Libya’s Sirte: Report

The image, released by ISIL on February 18, 2015, shows purported members of the Takfiri militant group parading in a street in Sirte, Libya. (© AFP)

The image, released by ISIL on February 18, 2015, shows purported members of the Takfiri militant group parading in a street in Sirte, Libya

Takfiri ISIL terrorists have reportedly taken control of an airbase in the northern Libyan coastal city of Sirte.

The move, reported on Friday, comes as the terrorist group has been seeking to expand its presence beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria, the two countries where it has been engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.

The al-Qardabiya airbase in central Sirte fell into the hands of ISIL, said Mohamed al-Shami, a spokesman for the Tripoli-based Libyan government.

The Misrata-based so-called 166th Battalion forces withdrew from the seized airbase late Thursday.

Meanwhile, the ISIL terrorist group posted a statement on Twitter, touting the airbase’s takeover by its militants.

Emergence in Libya

In February, ISIL released a video on the web that showed the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians.

Egypt’s military carried out a series of airstrikes against militant targets in the city of Derna in retaliation for the slaughter of the Copts. Derna, located roughly 300 kilometers (about 190 miles) from Libya’s border with Egypt, has been regarded as a base for ISIL in eastern Libya.

In the same month, the ISIL media outlet published photos showing members of the Takfiri militant group parading on the streets of Sirte.

Over the past few months, there has been occasional fighting between ISIL and the Libya Dawn faction, which has been tasked by the government in Tripoli for the security of Sirte.

The government in Tripoli is not internationally recognized.

(Source / 29.05.2015)

Turkish aid to Gaza this year hits $75.6m

Palestinian child holding Turkish flag under a destroyed building

Turkey to provide aid to the Gaza Strip so far this year amounts to $75.6 million

A spokesman for Turkey’s ministry of foreign affairs has revealed that aid to the Gaza Stripso far this year amounts to $75.6 million. In the past ten years, explained Tanju Bilgic, Turkey’s total aid to Palestine has reached $369 million; in 2014 alone, the figure was $76.3 million.

Bilgic pointed out that during the Gaza reconstruction conference held in Cairo last October, Turkey pledged to provide $200 million in aid between 2015 and 2017. “The total value of the projects that we have completed in Gaza as of 2015 through the premier’s Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is nearly $1.5 million,” he said, “while $25.8 million is the value of on-going projects.” That’s in addition to projects that are planned to be implemented with a value of approximately $11.3 million.

“We are about to start distributing aid introduced this year by the prime minister’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the Turkish Red Crescent worth $34 million,” added Bilgic. He noted that Turkey would continue its work without interruption in order to meet all the needs of the Palestinians.

According to Anadolu, diplomatic sources report that Turkish Foreign Minister Mouloud Jawish Ihsanoglu told the Council of Foreign Affairs of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation in Kuwait that he had met his Palestinian counterpart, Riyad Al-Malki and discussed Turkey’s aid to Palestine.

Turkse hulp

(Source / 29.05.2015)

UN recommendation to blacklist Israeli army

NAZARETH, (PIC)– The UN special representative for children and armed conflict Ms. Leila Zerrougui has recommended to blacklist Israeli army along with terror organizations which are involved in war crimes against children, Israeli media reports said Thursday.

Yediot Aharanot newspaper revealed that the UN blacklist to be issued in the coming days includes al-Qaeda, Taliban, and the Islamic State, in addition to a number of terrorist organizations.

The recommendation was based on a report confirming Israel’s involvement in killing more than 500 Palestinian children and the injury of 3300 others during its summer aggression on Gaza.

“The Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon tends to reject the recommendation due to the Israeli continued pressures and threats,” according to the newspaper.

The newspaper also pointed out that pro-Palestinian human rights institutions are exerting pressures for their parts to pass the recommendation.

UN senior officials have also called on Ki-moon to ignore Israeli pressures and to blacklist Israeli army, the sources added.

(Source / 29.05.2015)

A ‘war on terror’ that terrorised the world

A 'war on terror' that terrorised the world

PSR argues 1.3 million people have died due to the US’s war on terror [AFP]

A report by PSR argues that the number of civilians killed by the ‘war on terror’ amounts to a war crime approaching genocide, says Sophia Akram.

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), a Nobel Peace Prize-winning group of health professionals, released a report in March called ‘Body Count‘, which details the number of deaths that have been caused by the ‘war on terror’ waged by the Bush administration after 9/11.

Bush’s ‘war on terror’ sent a clear message that terrorist organisations and regimes would not be tolerated, and pre-emptive military operations would be embarked upon. But the corrosive term was abandoned by the UK in 2007, followed by the Obama administration six years later.

PSR forensically tallied the death counts from operations waged in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the results are startling. They calculated that at least 1.3 million people died as a result of the strategy.

The report takes into account the results of the renowned 2006 study by the LancetThe human cost of war in Iraq: A mortality study 2002-2006‘, that suggested the number of Muslims that had been killed amounted to genocide. Its calculation that 655,000 had died in Iraq was widely discredited. However, PSR and other commentators believe this is unjust.

The 2006 Lancet study used a survey of 1,849 households to estimate that by 2006 approximately 655,000 people had died in Iraq because of the ‘war on terror’. This figure was controversial because it was significantly higher than other studies. Iraq Body Count (IBC), calculated that during the same period 43,000 Iraqis had been killed.

Critics of the Lancet study focused on every conceivable distortion. They argued, for example, that the sample was too small, only households with many casualties had been interviewed, respondents made up deaths for political reasons, and that the figure was only an estimate.

PSR forensically tallied the death counts from operations waged in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

However, the method used by the Lancet study is widely accepted by experts, and no other representative study has faced the same level of scrutiny.

Death certificates were produced for 90 per cent of those recorded as having been killed by the study, debunking claims that respondents may have lied about figures. Even if figures have been distorted by 10 to 20 per cent, the death toll is indefensible, which may explain why so much effort has gone into sweeping the results under the carpet.

A further look at IBC data exposes large gaps in information. This is due, for example, to a lack of reporting in areas known to have suffered heavy fighting, and figures sometimes contradict facts.

For example, Ahmed Di’aibil from Najaf province said that in Najaf, a city of 600,000 south of Baghdad, 40,000 unidentified corpses had been buried since the war began. IBC, however, has only recorded 1,354 victims in Najaf.

PSR analysed IBC figures, as well as those in the Lancet report and other studies on the Iraq war and civilian casualties, to argue the Lancet study’s estimate was plausible.

The Lancet studies differs from other studies because it includes figures of those who have been indirectly killed due to the war by, for example, malnutrition or disease.

The long awaited results of the Chilcot Inquiry, the UK’s public inquiry into the country’s role in the Iraq war, whose publication date has been repeatedly delayed, is unlikely to agree with the PSR.

Based on its much lower casualty figures, IBC has insisted that the inquiry pays special attention to the high casualty figures. However, it has argued that the inquiry has failed to treat the issue of civilian casualties “as a matter for serious investigation”.

Adam Ingram, the British minister of state for the armed forces from 2001-2007, admitted there was no real count of civilian casualties in Iraq, but argued providing one would not have changed facts on the ground.

But the war itself that was of questionable legality, was opposed by many in the UK, and any official figure would have increased opposition to the ‘facts on the ground’.

The result of not having a casualty count meant, according to a study by the AP news agency, that many Americans believed only 9,000 people had been killed in the war.

PSR’s investigation concludes that more than one million died as a consequence of the Iraq war. Now add on the 220,000 deaths in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan.

According to PSR this scale of death and misery amounts to a crime against humanity approaching genocide.

Genocide is defined in international law, and is not just about big numbers. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states it is an act or acts carried out ” with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

That argument is beyond this article, but such death and destruction should surely inform future governments of their responsibilities towards humanity.

(Source / 29.05.2015)

Palestinians withdraw call to suspend Israel from Fifa

Sepp Blatter overrules attempt to refer status of Israeli clubs to UN, prompting Palestinian Football Association to drop suspension motion

The Palestinian Football Association has withdrawn its call to have Israel suspended from Fifa in a chaotic last minute climbdown at the congress of football’s governing body in Zurich. Following days of negotiations, and the mediation of Fifa president Sepp Blatter, the Palestinian moves at the scandal-ridden congress appeared comprehensively outmanoeuvred by feverish Israeli lobbying and the opposition of senior Fifa officials, including Blatter.

As details of an impending deal emerged, the Palestinian delegation came out of the last round of talks expecting the congress to vote on an amendment to refer the main sticking point, the status of five Israeli clubs based in illegal settlements on the West Bank, to the United Nations.

But the Palestinian move was overruled by Blatter, to the clear dismay of the Palestinian delegation, whose lawyer tried to appeal from the floor. Instead, the issue will be referred to a new Fifa committee.

Palestinian delegation members complained after the vote that the amendment voted on was not the one it had drawn up, which called explicitly for UN referral.

The announcement came at the end of a long day in which Palestinian delegation members had insisted they would not back down on the suspension vote.

The PFA has accused Israel of hampering its activities and restricting the movement of players between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel cites security concerns for the restrictions it imposes and the country’s football association and has argued that it has no control over security forces.

Fifa has been trying to settle the matter for two years. Blatter this month travelled to the region to meet Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to try to avoid a vote, which would have seen Israel join only two other countries in being suspended – apartheid era South Africa and Yugoslavia.

Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub announced the delegation’s change of position only as he mounted the podium to speak.

“I decided to drop the suspension but it does not mean that I give up the resistance,” he said to scattered applause. “A lot of colleagues who I respect and I appreciate explained to me how it is painful for them to hear in this family about the issue of suspension,” said Rajoub.

Palestinian sources confirmed that Rajoub had been under huge pressure to withdraw the suspension motion from delegates. “It is true everyone was putting pressure on him to withdraw,” said one. Blatter has always made clear he opposed a vote on suspension.

Following the withdrawal of the request to suspend Israel over claims of its racist and discriminatory policies towards Palestinian football, 90% of delegates voted to set up a new monitoring inspections committee to oversee a mechanism to ensure movement of players and equipment.

The size of the vote in favour of the motion – 165-18 – is likely to be the only consolation for the Palestinian side, which has been pushing a long-term campaign over what it says are Israeli abuses of Palestinian football.

The outcome seemed certain to be a cause for celebration for Israel.

The effective removal by Blatter of the issue of referral to the UN followed complaints before the vote from members of the Palestinian delegation to the Guardian and other journalists that Fifa officials were attempting to prevent a vote on the substantive issue of the settlement teams.

The threat to suspend Israel had been overshadowed in any case by the explosive allegations of corruption within the world football body as the Zurich congress opened. Announcing his decision to withdraw the suspension motion, Rajoub said he had been persuaded by approaches from other figures involved in world football, including South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale.

Israeli Football Association president Ofer Eini, addressing the congress after Rajoub, told delegates: “Let’s leave politics to the politicians while we play soccer the best we can.”

Commenting on the outcome, Netanyahu said: “Our international effort has proven itself and led to the failure of the Palestinian Authority attempt to oust us from Fifa.”

(Source / 29.05.2015)