Yahya Al-Amoudi, a 10 year old innocent bystander shot by an Israeli soldier

Yahya Al-Amoudi

Yahya Al-Amoudi (C)

A white bandage covers half of Yahya Al-Amoudi’s face and bright smile as he plays video games. Meanwhile, his siblings ask to play and his older brother Zakariya, 12, pats him on the shoulder every time he walks by.

Yahya lost his eye as the price paid for being a child in the Shuafat refugee camp, where there are constant clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. With their house being so close to the camp’s military checkpoint, the lives of Yahya and his siblings are always at risk.

His mother explained how the incident occurred, describing her panic when she heard that her son was injured. “His sister Amal ran into the house and told me that her brother was hit by a rubber bullet,” she said. “I rushed out without thinking to take my son to Zughayar medical centre near our house. I called my brother who rushed over to help. Yahya had gone to pick up Amal, who’s 5, from school when clashes between the occupation forces and some young men broke out near the checkpoint. He was unable to escape before being hit by a rubber bullet fired by a soldier.”

Yahya’s mother also talked about how the Israeli soldiers hindered her efforts to take Yahya to a medical centre in Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem when she tried to pass through the military checkpoint. The soldiers stopped the Red Crescent ambulance carrying Yahya and asked for his birth certificate, despite the fact that they could see that he was seriously injured. Yahya’s mother told the soldiers repeatedly that he had nothing to do with the clashes that occurred, hoping that they would allow them to pass through the checkpoint. After testing her patience, the soldiers did allow them to pass through and head to the medical centre. There he was referred to Hadassah-Ein Kerem Medical Centre because of the severity of his injury.

“I couldn’t even tell his father what had happened; one of his friends told him, so he left his job in Tel Aviv and hurried over to the hospital,” said Yayha’s mother. “When the police officer came to question me about the incident, while I was at the hospital, he claimed that Yahya’s injury was caused by a rock thrown by the children at the camp. I denied this and the medical report confirmed that the injury was caused by a rubber bullet. How could a rock cause 11 fractures in the face, the loss of my child’s eye, and break his nose?”

Yahya underwent four operations in his first two days in hospital. It took many hours to remove the left eye, stitch his face and secure the “screws” in his mouth. There was a possibility that his right eye would also be affected, so the doctors put a cast on his nose and platinum in his face to prevent his eyes from moving from their sockets. This made it difficult for him to speak because of the wires in his mouth. The family is waiting for an appointment in Haifa to measure him for a glass eye, rather than a plastic one; the surgery costs about $2,600.

Yahya’s mother expressed her concern about scraping together the money for the next surgery. “The treatment for Yahya’s injury, as well as the cost of transportation to the hospital, his medication and the food for his special diet, is costing us a lot; more than we can afford,” she pointed out. “Any financial help we receive is used to buy Yahya’s medication. He cannot eat anything other than liquids and vitamins prescribed by the doctor. He needs to take his vitamin drink five times a day, but he only drinks it three times a day because that is all we can provide him with. If we cannot gather the money for his upcoming surgery, it will have to be postponed, causing him more harm.”

Yahya’s condition is now much better, thank God, insisted Yahya’s mother. “In the beginning, he was very afraid of the sounds of gas bombs and bullets, and asked us to close the windows; he still does any time clashes occur nearby.” The boy was also terrified of the weapons that the Jewish settlers carry with them at all times, but the presence of his friends and family around him has helped him to regain his courage and patience and has raised his morale significantly. “His uncle held a party for him in the neighbourhood, to which he invited all of his friends, in order to make him feel better. His friends carried him on their shoulders and treated him like a hero. Many of the children came on a daily basis to visit him and check on him.”

Yahya’s family has filed a complaint to prosecute the individual responsible for injuring him, and there is a lot of evidence supporting their claim, such as the medical report which proves his injury, the rubber bullet Yayha was hit with, and video footage documenting the injury. There are also witnesses who were present at the scene. Yahya’s mother explained that there are five documented cases of eye injuries among children in the camp, suggesting strongly that the Israelis target children deliberately.

(Source / 11.06.2015)

Extremists Continue to Storm Al-Aqsa

Tens of extremist Israeli settlers, again, stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque under heavy police protection, Thursday morning.

Al Aqsa2

(file photo)

The settlers broke into the mosque from Al-Maghareba Gate, while witnesses said that police assaulted two Palestinian children who happened to be near the gate when the settlers passed through.

Information Coordinator of Al-Quds, Al-Aqsa Affairs Centre Mahmoud abul-Ata said, according to Days of Palestine, that 32 extremist settlers broke into the mosque and conducted a religiously natured “tour” around it.

“They performed mythical rituals in several areas,” he said. “Palestine worshipers sometimes undermine their desecration of the mosque but, this time, they were heavily protected by the Israeli special police.”

Abul-Ata confirmed the assault on the two children, noting that Palestinian children attend summer camps organised in the yards of the mosque.

“The police locked the children in a certain corner, keeping them without movement until after the settlers left the Mosque,” Abul-Ata said.

To be noted, more than ten Palestinian men and women who had been banned to enter into the mosque by Israeli authorities, were sitting at Al-Silsila Gate.

(Source / 11.06.2015)

Egypt’s Sisi cancels South Africa visit amid calls for his arrest

Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

The Egyptian president was supposed to arrive Friday in Johannesburg to lead his country’s delegation in an African Union summit

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Thursday cancelled a trip to South Africa to attend the African Union Summit after a group of lawyers filed an official legal request for his arrest.

The Egyptian president was supposed to arrive Friday in Johannesburg to lead his country’s delegation in the African summit titled “Enabling African Women,” which will take place on June 14 and 15.

“We believe Al-Sisi committed war crimes and crimes against humanity for the horrendous killings that resulted from the (2013) coup in Egypt,” attorney Yousha Tayoub, a member of the South African Muslim Lawyers Association, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.

A well-informed African diplomatic source told Anadolu Agency that Al-Sisi would not participate. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that Egypt had officially informed the host country that Al-Sisi would not participate in the summit, and that PM Ibrahim Mehleb will lead the Egyptian delegation instead.

A former military commander, Al-Sisi is widely seen as the architect of the 2013 coup against President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president and a Muslim Brotherhood leader.

At the time, the South African government had vocally criticized Morsi’s ouster and the subsequent crackdown on political dissent waged by Egypt’s army-backed government.

(Source / 11.06.2015)

BDS 10 years on, Israel eyes ‘strategic threat of the first order’

Launched by Palestinians a decade ago, the BDS movement has sparked action around the world – and fear among the Israeli elite

People demonstrate against BDS in Cape Town on 13 February, 2015

With the 10th anniversary of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement coming up next month, the international drive to isolate Israel has been capturing world headlines and causing concern at the top echelons of Israeli society.

Earlier this month, there was an international stir about whether or not Stephane Richard, the CEO of French telecoms giant Orange, had become one of the world’s most prominent businessmen to come out in support of BDS, although he quickly denied the allegations and said his comments had been taken wildly out of context. Shortly before that, BDS drew widespread attention when global soccer organisation FIFA were pressed to ban Israel.

The Palestinian football association withdrew its request to have Israel suspended from FIFA at the 11th hour, but BDS leaders remained firm in their insistence that more needed to be done.

The BDS movement started on 9 July, 2005, when 171 Palestinian civil society organisations banded together and decided to try a new approach to fight the occupation. Since then, the movement has expanded to include hundreds of campaigns on six continents.

They range from pushes for investors such as churches, trade unions and universities, to divest from companies holding Israeli military contracts, to consumer boycotts, calls for musicians and other artists to cancel appearances in Israel, and demands for governments to impose sanctions.

Each of these diverse efforts shares three common demands from Israel: end the occupation and colonisation of Arab lands and demolish its West Bank separation barrier; give full equality to its minority of Palestinian citizens; and allow the return of Palestinian refugees.

The goals, activists say, lend unity and cohesion to the diverse movement.

“Many – both opponents and proponents of justice – questioned the viability and the ‘practicality’ of the three demands,” said Riham Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and co-founder of Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel.

“[But] the fact that we have had so many unions, churches, academic groups (students and faculty), community organisations, and even government agencies respond to the call shows the potential of this movement.”

The focus on demands also allows for innovation, said Maia Hallward, a professor of political science and international affairs at Kennesaw State University and author of Transnational Activism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. “It is adaptable to different contexts and can be linked to other movements.”

A global framework also makes it particularly accessible. Unlike many of the world’s conflicts, which offer observers elsewhere few opportunities to act, the BDS movement affords supporters of Palestine a clear path.

“BDS was a tool for the international community to say that if you actually don’t like what is going on with the occupation, and don’t like what Israel is doing, here’s something you can do,” said Rabab Abdulhadi, an associate professor of ethnic studies at San Francisco State University and founding member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel organising collective.

‘Tremendous boosters’

Over the past decade, Israel’s own actions have helped fueled the movement, with new activists and campaign successes following successive Israeli military operations.

“All of these crimes and massacres have served as tremendous boosters of the BDS campaign,” said Ofer Neiman, a member of the Israeli group Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within. “Many people all over the world have realised the nature of the regime in Israel.”

In particular, the unprecedented toll of last year’s offensive in Gaza spurred the movement in traditional bastions of support for Israel, such as the United States and the UK, he explained.

These efforts include drives for divestment by student bodies and university administrations, as well as academic boycotts of Israeli institutions.

The combination of these more local initiatives with larger drives, like the one to secure the suspension of Israel from FIFA, appear to have seriously rattled the Israeli leadership.

In a meeting with the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities this month, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called academic boycotts a “strategic threat of the first order”.

“I did not think there would be a genuine danger to Israeli academia, but the atmosphere in the world is changing, making it impossible not to see this issue as a strategic threat,” he said.

Council chair and Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) president Peretz Lavie told Rivlin that: “Anti-Israel student organisations were once very few; now they are at all the leading universities.”

Ruth Arnon, the president of the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities, sounded similarly concerned.

“We cannot ignore the fact that BDS has garnered massive public relations toward the boycott,” she said.

Then, in a cabinet meeting last Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned: “We are in the midst of a great struggle being waged against the state of Israel, an international campaign to its name.”

This rhetoric has been backed by action and Israel has been busy dedicating more time and energy to trying to squash BDS.

Israel has now pulled out all the stops to have Orange stay in the country. Netanyahu has invited the company’s CEO to visit the country, with Richard says that he is “radically opposed” to any trade boycott of Israel.

On 25 May, Netanyahu appointed Gilad Erdan as minister of public security, strategic affairs and public diplomacy, making him responsible for Israel’s response to both BDS activism and Iran’s nuclear programme.

Israel’s “national institutions” – ostensibly private but serving key roles in public administration – have also increased their activities.

The Jewish Agency, a predecessor of the State of Israel now responsible for coordinating Jewish immigration, announced on 19 May that it had responded to campus BDS campaigns by recruiting operatives at over 80 colleges and universities.

Last weekend, top pro-Israel funders, led by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, hosted representatives of lobby groups at a private Las Vegas summit to “find best strategies” for countering Palestine supporters on campus. The gathering reportedly raised $20mn to support their own campus campaign, with a goal of raising $50mn.

Israel and its supporters also seek to hamper the movement through legislation and litigation.

In recent years, Israel has adopted a law subjecting BDS advocates to civil penalties, tried unsuccessfully to prosecute 12 activists in France, levied legal challenges against critical academics such as University of Sydney’s Jake Lynch, and even contemplated suing a US co-op for choosing to boycott Israeli products.

‘They often backfire’

Such heavy-handed measures, however, generally fail. And the latest gambit in the US – a raft of state legislation penalising the movement – seems no more likely to succeed.

Late last month, Abraham Foxman, director of the US-based Jewish non-governmental organisation, the Anti-Defamation League, warned fellow Israel supporters: “Legislation that bars BDS activity by private groups, whether corporations or universities, strikes at the heart of First Amendment-protected free speech, will be challenged in the courts, and is likely to be struck down.”

After threatening last month to prosecute BDS supporters under Canadian hate crime laws, the country’s Ministry of Public Safety appeared to pull back from that position under broad criticism.

The failures of these efforts, some activists say, illustrate one of the movement’s strengths.

“BDS is a grassroots movement,” S. El-Said, a member of the Swiss group BDS-Suisse, told MEE. “Israel cannot call a president of a country to stop it.”

Many facing measures to curb the BDS movment also expect them to have the opposite of their intended effects.

“Threats to repress BDS seem designed to intimidate activists and discourage those who might be inclined to participate in campaigns from doing so,” Sid Shniad, a member of the Independent Jewish Voices Canada national steering committee, said. “But as with all campaigns rooted in censorship and suppression of information, they often backfire.”

‘Focuses solely on Israeli occupation’

Yet BDS still faces a raft of serious internal challenges that could undermine the movement and its effectiveness as it continues to grow.

Having adapted to include a wide range of activities that include boycotts of products produced by Israeli settlements in the West Bank and divestments from arms merchants, some supporters have begun to worry that the broad appeal of certain aspects of the movement could be obscuring the depth of its vision.

These campaigns, most activists agree, are the easiest to organise and win, particularly in Western countries. But viewed outside the movement’s context, they can fail to convey its support for Palestinian refugees and those living inside Israel itself, a division that could fragment the movement.

“Despite the clarity of the demands, the largest part of the movement still focuses solely on Israeli occupation,” Barghouti said. “We need to figure out ways to more clearly delineate campaigns that promote all three of the demands of the movement.”

Adding to these concerns, some critics of the movement have voiced support for its campaigns focused on the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but not the return of refugees and better treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel who are economically and socially excluded.

In 2012, ‘Zionist BDS‘ proponent Peter Beinart defended a South African measure supported by BDS activists to require the labeling of settlement products. “By distinguishing between products from democratic and non-democratic Israel, South Africa is reinforcing the green line, and thus reinforcing Israel’s legitimacy inside its original boundaries,” he wrote. Those who oppose such separate labelling “are playing right into the one-statist BDS movement’s hands,” he added.

In March, political scientist Norman Finkelstein, a supporter of two states, rankled BDS activists by praising what he considered their willingness to compromise.

“They’ve had a real impact,” he told MEE. “But it’s been at the expense of their own platform,” he added, apparently referring to the movement’s three demands. “Every BDS victory has been at the cost of the platform.”

Critics of the movement often highlight its demand for the return of Palestinian refugees. Finkelstein warns that “if we end the occupation and bring back 6 million Palestinians and we have equal rights for Arabs and Jews, there’s no Israel.” Beinart echoed these criticisms, adding that its demand to end the occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights was “nuts”. Meanwhile, some Palestinians wonder if the BDS campaign reaches far enough.

Writer and photographer Yazan Khalili wrote last year that BDS’s immediate agenda “allows the apparatus that created the atrocities to survive and continue existing. In a way, it is like giving people freedom in South Africa but keeping the apartheid system in place”. As the movement gets ready to mark its 10th birthday, such debates are only set to continue.

(Source / 11.06.2015)

Photographer Shot by Israeli Forces, Refused Treatment

Israeli security forces fire tear gas towards Palestinian protesters on May 16, 2015 next to Huwarra checkpoint south of Nablus

journalist pnn

Israel has barred a Palestinian photographer allegedly shot in the eye by Israeli forces from entering occupied East Jerusalem for specialist treatment, the injured photographer told AFP on Wednesday.

Nidal Shtayyeh, who works for Chinese news agency Xinhua, was wounded while covering a small demonstration at Huwarra checkpoint, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, on May 16.

As he was covering the rally, Shtayyeh was hit in the face by a rubber bullet which entered his eye, causing serious damage, he told AFP.

“The march was peaceful and no stones were thrown, no photographers were taking any pictures,” he said, accusing soldiers of firing sound bombs at the photographers without any provocation.

“I raised my camera to my right eye to take a picture, but a soldier shot me in my left eye with his rifle, and the rubber bullet went through my gas mask’s glass eye cover and into my eye.”

An Italian camerawoman was also injured during the same demonstration which came as Palestinians commemorated 67 years since the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, when an estimated 760,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

At the time, Israeli forces said at least 100 Palestinians had been throwing stones and petrol bombs, and that the forces had responded with “riot dispersal means.”

Shtayyeh’s injury comes as rights groups criticize Israel for disproportionate use of force against unarmed civilians during such demonstrations.

While crowd control weapons are intended to be non-lethal, many methods used by Israeli forces can cause death, severe injury, and damage to property, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem.

Shtayyeh was rushed to Rafidiya hospital in Nablus for initial treatment but was prescribed specialist help at St John’s eye hospital in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 in a move considered illegal by the international community, and Palestinians living in the West Bank, are often barred by Israel from crossing into the city, which they consider their capital.

As a Palestinian living in the West Bank, Shtayyeh had to apply for an Israeli permit to enter, however Israeli authorities turned down his request.

He tried again two more times — once through the Red Cross and once through a private Israeli lawyer. But both requests were rejected.

A spokesman for the Shin Bet internal security agency did not have an immediate response.

Shtayyeh’s lawyer, Itai Matt, told AFP that his client had been informed it was the Shin Bet preventing his entry, despite his having been granted such permission in the past.

According to Matt, Israeli security services “regularly bar entry to anyone wounded by the army”.

“They even bar entry to wounded children seeking treatment in Jerusalem, because they are worried that anyone wounded will try and take revenge after their treatment,” he said.

Xinhua did not respond to AFP’s requests for a comment on the incident.

Shtayyeh is one of nearly 1,000 Palestinians to be injured by Israeli forces since the start of 2015, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Israeli military courts rarely prosecute members of Israeli forces who cause injury or death . From 2000-2012, only 117 of 2,207 investigations opened by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division were indicted, about 5% of the total files opened, according to Israeli human rights group Yesh-Din.

Shtayyah’s injury and inability to access treatment comes as groups Foreign Press Association and Reporters Without Borders have alleged that Israeli forces deliberately target press covering demonstrations.

(Source / 11.06.2015)

Report: 59,000 Palestinian Children Physically Abused by Israel

Israeli authorities have detained an estimated 95,000 Palestinian children since occupying the West Bank in 1967.

Israeli authorities have detained an estimated 95,000 Palestinian children since occupying the West Bank in 1967

Israeli troops regularly abuse detained Palestinian children with beatings, sleep deprivation and verbal abuse, according to a disturbing new report. Tens of thousands of Palestinian children may have been abused by Israeli soldiers, according to a damning report by a human rights group Wednesday. “It is estimated that since 1967, some 95,000 (Palestinian) children may have been detained (by Israeli forces), of which 43,000 were arrested in night raids and 59,000 physically assaulted,” stated Military Court Watch (MCW), a West Bank-based nongovernmental organization. MCW’s figures are based on a study conducted between 2013 and 2015. It uses current rates of detention to estimate how many Palestinian children have been taken into Israeli custody since the 1967 Six-Day War. The war concluded with Israel occupying the West Bank. The report also accuses Israeli forces of widespread abuse of children since 2013. Out of 200 child detainees interviewed by MCW, 187 reported having their hands tied within 24 hours of arrest, generally with plastic ties for “prolonged periods.” “These ties are frequently described as being ‘painful’ or ‘very painful” and in some cases cut into the minor’s wrists and cause the hands to turn blue,” the report stated. While 93 percent of child detainees had their hands bound, 62 percent reported some form of “physical abuse.” MCW reported many children were deprived of sleep, while others were “left outside in the elements for extended periods of time whilst tied and blindfolded.” The overwhelming majority of child detainees were not informed of their rights, and 94 percent were “denied access to a lawyer until after their interrogation.” The disturbing report comes just two days after Israel was excluded from the United Nations’ list of child rights violators. Human rights groups had demanded U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon include Israel on the list, after over 500 children were killed during Israel’s 2014 offensive against Gaza. Most of those child casualties were less than 12 years old. Ban’s own Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, accused Israeli forces of “grave crimes against children,” including intentionally bombing Gazan schools and hospitals. If Israel had been included on the list, it would have joined the ranks of recognized child abusers such as the Taliban, Nigeria’s Boko Haram militant group, and the Islamic state group. While the Taliban notoriously uses children in suicide bombings, both Boko Haram and the Islamic State group have been accused of widespread rape and other forms of sexual abuse against minors.

(Source / 11.06.2015)

MEMO Profile: Hafez Al-Assad (12 March 1971 – 10 June 2000)

Hafez Al-Assad

Hafez Al-Assad

‘The corrective movement’: Hafez Al-Assad, President of Syria

Of the five members of the Ba’ath Party’s Military Committee who seized power in Syria in 1963, Hafez Al-Assad went the furthest. Of the other four, one took the blame for Syria’s loss of the Golan Heights during the Six Day War and was pushed out of politics; one committed suicide; a third was assassinated; the other died in prison after 25 years.

Assad was born into a modest family in Qurhada in Syria’s north-western mountains, a village which was said to be 10 kilometres from the nearest road. He went to school in Latakia at a time when less than a quarter of Syrian children received an education. According to Patrick Seale’s unofficial biography, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East, he inherited his father’s love of books, poetry and Arabic language.

Much has been made of the Assad family’s Alawi background and what it means to have members of a minority Shia Muslim sect rule over a predominantly Sunni Muslim country. Assad senior did not surround himself entirely by other Alawites, though; amongst those associates whom he kept close was a Palestinian Christian speechwriter and a Palestinian soldier who was his bodyguard. His foreign minister, chief aide and first three prime ministers were Sunni Muslims. Ultimately, the military was where a number of Assad’s loyal contacts and alliances lay. After joining the military academy in Homs, Assad joined the flying school at Aleppo, graduating into the air force in his early twenties.

In the period between France’s exit of the country in 1946 and Hafez Al-Assad becoming president a number of coups rocked Syria. Hence, Assad’s arrival on the scene (what he labelled the “corrective movement”) and his ability to hold power for the next thirty years is regarded by most observers as characteristic of one of his strengths – stability. He also set about portraying himself as a man of the people by visiting remote provinces of the country and talking to the people who lived there. According to Seale, he would bring back “sackfuls” of complaints for his staff to deal with.

Perhaps one of the most defining moments, or losses, in Hafez Al-Assad’s life was the Six Day War with Israel in which Syria lost the Golan Heights. He believed that this defeat could be overturned and Syria’s position vis-a-vis Israel became the vanguard of his presidency. His image as an Arab leader willing to confront Israel was confirmed on 6 October 1973 when his forces attacked the occupying Israeli forces in the Golan Heights; at the same time, taking such a stand isolated him. His co-belligerents Egypt and Jordan went on to sign separate peace treaties with Israel.

To face Israel Assad needed friends and so he moved Syria closer to the Soviet Union. As Patrick Seale recognises, though, “he grasped early on that the Soviet Union’s friendship for the Arabs would never match the United States’ generous, sentimental and open-handed commitment to Israel.” Israel’s presence was particularly unsettling for a region that had been under the control of both the Europeans and the Ottoman Empire within living memory.

Assad was known to be an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause, but his involvement in the Lebanese civil war tarnished this reputation immensely. The “red-line” agreement saw the White House issue support for Syria to take a constructive role in the civil war; the chief architect of the agreement, then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, felt that if Assad could be tempted to crush the Palestinians in order to prevent an Israeli attack on Lebanon it would discredit the Syrian leader and curb Soviet power.

It worked. Assad sent in troops, sieges were broken and Palestinians were massacred. Whilst Assad’s relationship with the Palestinians and the Soviet Union took a severe blow, Israel’s relations with Lebanese Christians were strengthened.

Following Assad’s intervention in Lebanon in 1976 there was a series of explosions and assassinations in Syria, many of which were attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood. On 16 June 1979, Alawite officer cadets were assembled in the dining hall of the Aleppo Artillery School when gunmen opened fire on them, killing up to 83. Assassins targeted members of the government and prominent Alawites.

Internally, Assad’s biggest threat came from the Brotherhood. In retaliation for an assassination attempt on Assad in 1980 his brother Rifaat led the Defence Brigades in committing the Tadmor Prison massacre; 1,000 prisoners were killed. The notorious prison was known for holding many members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The crackdown on the group reached its apogee in 1982 in Hama. Regime soldiers rolled into the city and spent three weeks massacring the residents before the air force was sent in to finish off the job. Tens of thousands were killed, mosques were flattened and whole neighbourhoods were destroyed.

The ability to crush opposition to his rule was a prominent theme throughout Assad’s presidency. He had succeeded in eliminating other members of the Military Committee, tried to wipe out the Brotherhood and would later banish his brother Rifaat when he suspected that he was moving closer to his own position as president. Yet, despite his opposition to Israel and the west also being a presidential norm for Hafez Al-Assad, Syrian troops were sent to fight in the 1990 Gulf War on the American side. It is claimed that he went on to conduct peace talks with Israel, which stalled thanks to Tel Aviv’s refusal to give back the Golan Heights.

During his 30 years in power Assad cut basic food prices in Syria and built schools, hospitals, roads, damns and railways. The economy grew with foreign aid reaching £600 million from a starting point of £50 million. At the same time, he established an authoritarian state, curtailed freedom of speech and secured his tenure with 99 per cent “yes” referendums. He was Chief Judge, gave himself the power to dissolve parliament and permitted civilians to be tried in military courts and tortured in secret prisons.

Hafez Al-Assad died on 10 June 2000. His eldest son Basil was a lieutenant colonel in the military and was being groomed to take over as president when he was killed in a car crash on 21 January 1994. Basil’s brother, Bashar, was recalled from London where he was training as an ophthalmologist and pushed through the military in preparation to take over as head of the Assad dynasty; Bashar remains at the helm in Damascus to this day.

(Source / 11.06.2015)

7 Palestinian prisoners isolated for over a year

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Seven Palestinian prisoners are held in Megiddo prison solitary confinement for more than a year amid very difficult detention conditions, Palestinian rights group said Thursday.

The Palestinian Prisoners Society said in a press release that the seven isolated prisoners are deprived from family visits for more than a year.

The prisoner Mohamed al-Bal, who is sentenced for 12 years, has been isolated for a year and a half of year where he was allowed to meet his family only one time since his arrest in 2008.

The prisoner Issam Zin al-Din, who is arrested in 2006 and sentenced to life term, threatened to launch an open hunger strike in case his family visit ban has been continued.

For his part, the prisoner Hussam Omar, who has been sent to solitary confinement on September 2013, stressed the urgent need to end Israeli punitive measures against Palestinian prisoners.

(Source / 11.06.2015)

Erdogan blasts West for destabilizing Syria by supporting Kurdish ‘terrorists’

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan (Reuters / Umit Bektas)

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the West of destabilizing Syria by supporting Kurdish “terrorist groups,” while bombing Arabs and Turkmens.

The impassioned remarks were made in Erdogan’s first appearance since the general election. He called on all political parties to act “responsibly” in forming a coalition government, after his Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its parliamentary majority at the polls on June 7.

The West, which has shot Arabs and Turkmens, is unfortunately placing the PYD (the political wing of the YPG) and PKK in lieu of them,” Erdogan said in a speech at the Ankara chamber of commerce.

The Kurds have a strong presence in Syria, Iraq and Turkey and have proved a formidable enemy to Islamic State (IS), earning international backing for standing up to extremists.

On the other hand, the ethnic group has been historically locked in a fierce struggle of wills with Turkey over its status as a nation.

Meanwhile the Kurdish-linked People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has for the first time managed to get into the Turkish parliament.

This is a difficult situation for Erdogan, who is a US ally on the one hand, but has been showing very negative attitudes toward the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces, which the US has been trying to aid in the fight against IS.

The Turkish leader is uncomfortable with the military gains made by the Kurds in Syria, alleging their links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whom he’s called “terrorists” on multiple occasions, and who have been fighting the Turkish government in an insurgency lasting more than 37 years.

While delivering the remark, Erdogan has used the opportunity to again strike at the perceived ineffectiveness of the US-led air-strike campaign against IS terrorists.

On Thursday Turkey said it was taking measures to limit the influx of Syrian refugees whose numbers soared recently due to fighting between Kurdish forces and jihadists.

Over the last week, 7,000 refugees had fled to Turkey and another 6,600 had joined them since Wednesday, a Turkish official told AFP.

Turkey will not accept entries onto its territory from Syria except in case of a humanitarian tragedy,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said after visiting the Akcakale border crossing on Wednesday.

Kurtulmus also reaffirmed Ankara’s anger against EU nation’s which have accepted only a small portion of Syrian refugees as opposed to Turkey which has taken over 1.8 million Syrian refuges since the start of the conflict in 2011.

'Kurdish Revolution?' - cacianalyst.org on Turkey  https://soundcloud.com/rttv/kurdish-revolution-cacianalystorg-on-turkey

(Source / 11.06.2015)

Al-Nusra Front Attacks Druze Villagers in Idlib Province

As the Assad regime continues to kill more Syrians and rain more barrel bombs on rural Idlib, where dozens were killed, the Syrian people are deeply shocked by news of the death of dozens of Druze young men at the hands of elements of Al-Nusra Front in the village of Qalb Lawzeh of Mount Simmaq in rural Idlib. The killings occurred during an armed clash between elements of Al-Nusra Front and residents of the village following an attack launched by Al-Nusra.

“While we emphasize our commitment to the unity of the Syrian people and the safety of all components of Syrian society, we strongly condemn all forms of infighting which is usually exploited by many sides and only serves the interests of the Assad regime and critics of the Syrian revolution. This incident will also be exploited to mislead the international public opinion through circulating false news about the incident, as with what happened in yesterday’s unfortunate incident when false reports of summary executions and rape were spread online,” said Salem El Meslet, in response to this tragedy.

“Revolutionary forces operating in the area acted quickly to contain the situation and have contacted with concerned sides at home and abroad, thus foiling attempts to further fuel the situation. We cannot but commend the role played by some of these forces, for example, but not limited to, Ahrar al-Sham, Al Sham Corps and other rebel factions and the provincial council in coordination with the Syrian Coalition. These contacts succeeded in containing the situation and in preventing more bloodshed,” El Meslet stressed. “We need to maintain co-living and national unity that rises above sectarianism while struggling against injustice and oppression.”

As part of these moves to contain the situation, President Khoja recently spoke with Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon, and also from leaders of the Druze community who all emphasize the Syrian national unity and the Arab Syrian Druze identity.

The Syrian Coalition further stresses its commitment to preserving the unity of the Syrian people and Syria’s demography, calling for protecting all components of the Syrian society and for ensuring they are not forced out of their homes. It also calls for achieving security in the areas of religious and ethnic minorities and for working out mechanisms to ward off all forms of strife and sedition.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 11.06.2015)