Six ladies arrested upon leaving Al-Aqsa Mosque

Palestinian worshipers undermined a tour planned by 28 Zionist settlers who stormed the Mosque

Israeli occupation forces arrested on Monday morning six Palestinian women while they were leaving Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Meanwhile, 28 Israeli settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque from Al-Magharbeh Gates under heavily military protection

Days of Palestine, Jerusalem –Israeli occupation forces arrested on Monday morning six Palestinian women while they were leaving Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Q Press, a media centre dedicated for Al-Aqsa news, reported that the Israeli occupation forces stopped the six ladies, held their IDs for a while and then arrested them.

According to Q Press, the six ladies were turned into an unknown destination, however, they are fasting.

Meanwhile, 28 Israeli settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque from Al-Magharbeh Gates under heavily military protection.

Palestinian worshipers, who are heavily existed inside the Mosque since the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan, undermined the settlers’ visit, pushing them to cancel a tour around the Mosque.

(Source / 22.06.2015)

Palestinian member of Knesset to join third Gaza flotilla

10 Turkish activists were killed when Israeli commandos raided the Mavi Marmara ship which was part of the Free Gaza flotilla in May 2010

JERUSALEM (AFP) — An announcement by a Palestinian member of Israel’s Knesset that he plans to join a flotilla seeking to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza caused outrage Monday among the country’s political class.Basel Ghattas, an MK with the Joint List, sparked controversy after he announced he would join other parliamentarians and public figures from around the world in the latest attempt to reach Gaza by ship later this month.Ghattas said in an open letter that the flotilla aimed to end Israel’s blockade by focusing international attention on the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza living in “disgraceful, prison-like conditions” as part of a total siege which constitutes “collective punishment and is a brutal violation of international humanitarian law.”The MK urged Israeli security forces to allow the boat to arrive at its destination with its aid on board.The Israeli Foreign Ministry declared in May that Israel “will not allow unauthorized vessels to enter its territorial waters,” according to Israeli media.Gaza has been subjected to an Israeli blockade for nine years, which includes a complete ban on ships entering or leaving the coastal enclave’s waters.Pro-Palestinian activists have repeatedly tried to reach the Gaza Strip by sea but have been blocked by the Israeli navy.In May 2010, Israeli commandos staged a botched raid on a six-ship flotilla which ended in bloodshed that claimed the lives of 10 Turkish nationals and sparked a crisis with Ankara.Hanin Zoabi, a female Palestinian MK who was on board at the time, was roundly denounced by the Israeli political establishment as a traitor — with Ghattas now facing a similar outcry.”It is the gravest thing possible that an Israeli MP would join the flotilla whose aim is to help the Hamas terror organisation,” said Israeli Immigration Minister Zeev Elkin from the ruling right-wing Likud party.”Israeli law does not allow anyone to serve in parliament who supports a terror organisation,” he railed in an interview with army radio.Israeli Deputy foreign minster Tzipi Hotovely said that joining the attempt to run the blockade was evidence Ghattas was working against Israel.”The participation of an Arab Israeli MP alongside those who want to fight against Israel is a demonstration of activity in the service of the enemy under the sponsorship of parliamentary immunity,” she said in a statement late Sunday.She said the foreign ministry had been working around the clock to prevent the flotilla from reaching Israel’s territorial waters.One of the boats involved in the bid is a Swedish trawler called “Marianne of Gothenburg” which set sail from Sicily on Friday evening.It is expected to meet up with several other vessels in the coming days to form what is being referred to as the Freedom Flotilla III, organizers say.They are expected to try and reach Gaza before the end of the month.The blockade on Gaza compounds the devastation caused by three Israeli military operations in the besieged territory since 2008, leaving huge swathes of Gaza in ruins and causing permanent damage to basic infrastructure due to restrictions on the entry of building materials.

(Source / 22.06.2015)

Kurdish YPG Militias Prevent Fact-finding Mission from Entering Tal Abyad

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units militias (YPG) on Monday blocked entry of members of the fact-finding committee to the border town of Tal Abyad. The committee was set up by the Syrian Coalition in collaboration with the Interim Ministry of Justice, civil society organizations and rights groups.

This came after numerous attempts by the committee to enter the town. It previously made a formal request to the Turks and to the YPG, which has recently taken control of the border crossing from the Syrian side. It was expected that the fact-finding committee would enter Tal Abyad and the surrounding villages to assess the situation and listen to testimonies from residents about the incidents that accompanied driving ISIS out of the town.

About 2,000 Syrian refugees who fled into Turkey crossed back Monday as a border gate reopened a few days after ISIS militants were ousted from the frontier town of Tal Abyad.

The fact-finding committee accompanied the returnees at the border crossing to ensure they return to their villages.

The committee began its work on Saturday and met with dozens of displaced families from the town of Tal Abyad and the surrounding villages to assess the situation and the conditions that accompanied their fleeing from their homes. It is working on drafting a report summarizing the events that occurred during the past few days.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 22.06.2015)

Lessons from the UN Gaza report: Next stop, ICC?

The Human Rights Council’s independent inquiry is full of suspicions of war crimes. More important is what it has to say about how Israel investigates those allegations, and what that means for the International Criminal Court.

Palestinian school girls walk across a destroyed part of Shujayea neighborhood, Gaza city, November 4th, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/

Palestinian school girls walk across a destroyed part of Shujayea neighborhood, Gaza city, November 4th, 2014

To the relief of Israel and the chagrin of many others, the UN report into last summer’s war in Gaza is not an indictment of Israel. It does not declare conclusively that Israel committed war crimes and it is certainly not one-sided. The Human Rights Council report released on Monday is valuable, nevertheless, when read as a preview of what might transpire in a much more consequential body investigating the 2014 war — the International Criminal Court.

The independent commission of inquiry does not have any real authority. Although its researchers and on-the-ground support staff from the OHCHR are highly respected and among the more credible international organizations doing such research in Gaza, its work still goes to one of the most politicized and almost satirically anti-Israel bodies in the international system — the UN Human Rights Council.

Furthermore, the lack of access Israel and Hamas provided to the commission of inquiry greatly reduces its ability to make any definitive conclusions. The report is peppered with language like: “may amount to war crimes”; “strong indications that … amount to a war crime”; and, “if confirmed … would constitute a war crime.” The only instance about which war crimes are spoken of declaratively is the case of the extra-judicial executions of Palestinian collaborators in Gaza.

But even if the commission of inquiry had been given full access, and if it were able to gather enough evidence to say definitively that war crimes were committed, it still cannot do anything about it. That’s where the ICC comes in.

An Israeli APC along the Gaza border, July 9, 2014. (

An Israeli APC along the Gaza border, July 9, 2014

Ironically or not, the question of whether war crimes were actually committed is not the most significant factor that will determine whether the ICC launches any criminal investigations or hands down indictments on Gaza. Certainly, without suspected war crimes there would be no investigations or indictments. But in order for the ICC to have jurisdiction over suspected crimes in the first place, certain conditions must be met — first and foremost, a concept called complementarity.

Complementarity means that if Israel investigates its own soldiers for suspected violations of international law, and if it does so in good faith, then the ICC has no jurisdiction. But once the ICC believes that Israel is unwilling or incapable of investigating itself then it may indeed have jurisdiction over war crimes committed by its citizens.

And here is where the UN report gets interesting. Nobody was surprised by the sexier sections and conclusions of the report. The headlines published across the world on Monday — “UN Gaza report slams Israel, Hamas for possible war crimes” — could have been written six months, or even a year ago. A much less exciting section, on accountability, is where we can begin to draw conclusions that might be indicative of what might happen down the road in the ICC.

The UN report notes a number of significant shortfalls in Israel’s systems for investigating its own military. Israel’s Military Advocate General, for instance, faces significant conflicts of interest when deciding when to investigate and prosecute soldiers: the same IDF lawyers that advise soldiers and officers on the legality of their actions in combat are later asked to judge whether their conduct was legal. Secondly, the report notes that war crimes themselves do not exist in Israeli law, making their prosecution understandably difficult. Thirdly, the concept of command responsibility does not exist in Israeli military law, meaning that lowly soldiers are most often those who face consequences for seemingly isolated acts. And lastly, the rates of investigations, indictment and conviction into alleged war crimes are very low.

From a cursory review, one might be tempted to conclude that the UN report indicates Israel is not sufficiently fulfilling complementarity, thus increasing the risk of the ICC jurisdiction. Indeed, in its conclusions, the report expresses “[concern] that impunity prevails across the board for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law allegedly committed by Israeli forces.”

But the report’s choice of words is greatly important. Whereas it declares that Palestinian investigatory actions are “woefully inadequate” and, in the case of Gaza completely absent, Israeli investigative mechanisms are described merely as having “flaws” and room for improvement. The report’s authors “look forward” to seeing the results of pending domestic Israeli inquiries. In other words, the UN commission of inquiry believes that Israel has the mechanisms in place to investigate itself; only its willingness is called into question.

When International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda decides whether to launch an official investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Gaza, there will be an incredibly high bar forshowing that the complementarity test has been met. Even the UN inquiry, dispatched by one of the most politicized international body, has now shied from declaring that Israel is incapable of investigating itself. Showing that it is unwilling to do so will be a monumental task for Bensouda.

(Source / 22.06.2015)

Palestinian Sentenced To 17 Months Over Facebook Posts

The Israeli District Court in occupied Jerusalem sentenced, on Monday morning, a young Palestinian man to 13 months of imprisonment, with an additional four months suspended, for what the court called “incitement,” on his Facebook page.


Mohammad Mahmoud, a lawyer with the Ad-Dameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association, said Odai Mofeed Bayyoumi, 23 years of age, was taken prisoner on December 16, 2014.

Mahmoud said the court sentenced Bayyoumi to 13 months, and added four months suspended, “because he is a former political prisoner.”

Bayyoumi, from Kafr ‘Aqeb neighborhood, in Jerusalem, was transferred to different detention centers since his abduction.

On Tuesday, May 19, an Israeli court sentenced a Palestinian man to eight months of imprisonment, with an additional six months suspended, for activity on social media.

The Jerusalem detainees’ families committee said that the Israeli magistrate’s court had handed the sentence to Sami Jamal Faraj Ideis, 28, from Shu’fat after he was convicted of inciting anti-Jewish violence and supporting “terror” in posts and comments on Facebook.

(Source / 22.06.2015)

Germany releases Al Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour

Respected journalist had been controversially detained at Berlin airport at Egypt government’s request.

Mansour's lawyer said that with the court decision, the Al Jazeera journalist can now leave Germany [Reuters]

Mansour’s lawyer said that with the court decision, the Al Jazeera journalist can now leave Germany

German authorities have released Al Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour, who had been detained at Berlin airport at the request of the Egyptian government.

Accompanied by his lawyers, Mansour greeted his supporters after his release on Monday, and thanked the German court for its decision.

“I extend my thanks and appreciation to the honest and honourable judges of Germany,” he said in Arabic.

“Thanks to people around the world who supported me in the last days,” Mansour added. “I’m free, I’m free, I’m free.”

Earlier reports had said a court in Germany was about to consider Egypt’s request to extradite Mansour, one of the Arab world’s most respected journalists.

Related: No Interpol warrant for Al Jazeera journalist

Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from Berlin earlier, said a temporary detention investigative judge concluded his investigation with Mansour on Sunday, after which he was transferred to Moabit prison in Berlin.

Our correspondent said that the court and Mansour’s lawyers are “making the arrangements for his departure.”

Saad Djebbar, one of Mansour’s lawyer, said that while his client was “very happy” about the court’s decision, he was also “very said” that the Al Jazeera journalist was detained in the first place.

Another lawyer Patrick Teubner said that with the court decision, Mansour could now leave Germany.

Dozens of supporters of Mansour had protested in front of the Berlin court building where he was held.

Fazli Altin, another lawyer of Mansour, said that Germany was getting involved in a “politically tainted case”.

Mansour was arrested at Berlin’s Tegel airport on Saturday as he tried to board a Qatar Airways flight from Berlin to Doha, Qatar.

Mansour’s lawyer explains German detention case

Responding to questions on Mansour’s arrest, a German foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters news agency earlier that no one would be extradited from Germany if the defendant risked facing the death penalty.

More than 25,000 people had signed a petitioncalling on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to release Mansour.

For its part, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Egypt to stop pursuing Al Jazeera journalists.

Mansour’s detention is the latest in a long series of legal entanglements between Egypt and the Al Jazeera network.

According to court documents, he was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison, alongside two Muslim Brotherhood members and a preacher, for allegedly torturing a lawyer in Tahrir Square in 2011, a charge both he and Al Jazeera have rejected.

Reacting to the German court’s decision, Al Jazeera’s acting director general Mostefa Souag called Mansour’s detention “an unfortunate incident.”

“We are pleased that the mistake has been rectified. We hope that this will be a lesson to the Egyptian authorities that the rest of the world values freedom of the press. Rather than trying to expand their war on journalists, they should free the journalists they have on trial and in jail in Cairo, including Baher [Mohamed] and [Mohamed] Fahmy, and end the action against those tried in absentia.

“I’d like to place on record my sincere thanks to everyone who intervened on behalf of Ahmed, including diplomats, politicians, NGOs and the thousands who signed the Avaaz petition. We look forward to welcoming Ahmed home.”

(Source / 22.06.2015)

Ramadan, maand van de Koran!

[Ramadanbericht nr 10]

Alle lof zij aan Allah. Hij Die met Zijn barmhartigheid de schepping niet aan haar lot heeft overgelaten, maar boeken heeft neergezonden en profeten heeft gestuurd als leidraad voor de mensheid. En alle lof zij aan Allah dat Hij ons heeft geëerd met het beste boek, de Koran, en de beste profeet, Mohammed, vrede zij met hem.

Ramadan is de maand van de Koran. In deze gezegende maand is het neerzenden van de edele Koran, met de tussenkomst van de engel Jibriel, op onze nobele profeet Mohammed vrede zij met hem begonnen. Allah zegt:
“De maand Ramadan is (de maand) waarin de Koran is neergezonden als leiding voor de mensheid …” [2:185] 

Het veel aandacht besteden aan de Koran in deze gezegende maand was de gewoonte van onze profeet, zijn metgezellen en de moslims na hen. Ieder jaar, gedurende de Ramadan, nam Jibriel de Koran door met de profeet en in het jaar waarin hij overleed, deed hij dat twee keer.

De Koran is vanaf het moment van de openbaring, tot aan de dag van vandaag, ongeëvenaard gebleven. Allah heeft de Arabieren, welke bekend stonden om hun welbespraaktheid, in meerdere verzen uitgedaagd om met een gelijkwaardig boek te komen of slechts met een gelijkwaardig hoofdstuk. Allah zegt: 
“En als jullie in twijfel verkeren over wat Wij hebben neergezonden aan Onze dienaar (Mohammed), brengt dan een gelijkwaardig soerah voort …”  [2:23]
In een ander vers verduidelijkt Allah dat zij hier nooit toe in staat zullen zijn:
Zeg: “Al zouden de mensen en de djin’s (geesten) bij elkaar komen om met iets gelijkwaardig aan deze Koran te komen, dan zouden zij niet met iets gelijkwaardig kunnen komen. Al zouden zij elkaars helpers hierbij zijn.” [17:88]
Meer dan 14 eeuwen zijn verstreken en niemand is in staat geweest om deze uitdaging aan te gaan! 
Beschermd boek
De Koran is vanaf het moment van openbaring, tot aan de dag van vandaag, onveranderd gebleven, omdat Allah waakt over Zijn boek. Allah zegt:
“Voorwaar, Wij zijn het Die de vermaning (Koran) hebben neergezonden en voorwaar, Wij beschermen het.” [15:9] 
Dit boek is onze trots. Allah zegt:
“Wij hebben aan jullie een boek neergezonden waarin zich jullie trots bevindt, begrijpen jullie dan niet?” [21:10]
Het leven volgens en het handelen naar dit boek is de reden van trots en aanzien voor de moslims. 
Leiding, genezing en barmhartigheid 
Dit boek is voor de gelovigen leiding, genezing en barmhartigheid. Allah zegt:
Zeg: “hij (de Koran) is voor de gelovigen leiding en genezing.” [41:44]
In een ander vers zegt Allah:
“En Wij zenden de Koran als genezing en barmhartigheid voor de gelovigen.” [17:82]
Dit boek is genezing voor de lichamelijke ziektes en voor de ziektes die het hart kunnen treffen, zoals de ziekte van twijfels en de ziekte van excessieve lusten en begeerten. De Koran is tevens een remedie tegen verdriet en depressie.

Voeding ziel
Allah heeft dit boek ruh genoemd, wat ziel betekent. De Koran is namelijk de essentiële voeding van de ziel. Allah zegt:
“Wij hebben aan jou (Mohammed) een ‘Rúh’ geopenbaard …” [42:52]

Net zoals het lichaam haar voeding nodig heeft, zo heeft ook de ziel deze hard nodig.
Allah heeft dit boek licht genoemd. Allah zegt:
“Geloof in Allah en Zijn boodschapper en het licht dat Wij hebben neergezonden …” [64:8]
De Koran leidt de gelovige uit de duisternissen van onwetendheid en twijfels, naar het licht van kennis en zekerheid.

Beter en beter
De Koran nodigt niet alleen uit naar het goede, maar naar het betere. Allah zegt:
“Voorwaar, deze Koran leidt naar het betere …” [17:9]

Wie de leiding van de Koran volgt is daarom continu in verbetering, op alle aspecten van het leven.

Onderwerpen Koran
De Koran vertelt o.a. over de schepping van de mens, van de hemelen en de aarde, over de Grootheid van Allah en Zijn mooie Namen en vrome Eigenschappen en dat Hij de Enige is Die het recht heeft om aanbeden te worden (Tawheed).

De Koran nodigt uit naar alle vrome eigenschappen, zoals vrijgevigheid, oprechtheid, loyaliteit, zachtmoedigheid en een goede omgang met de ouders en de echtgenote.

De Koran waarschuwt tegen al het slechte, zoals afgoderij (shirk), onrecht, gokken, alcohol, overspel en zedeloosheid.

De Koran vertelt over de Dag des Oordeels, over de zin van het bestaan, over de voorgaande volkeren en hun profeten, over het Paradijs en de daden die leiden naar het Paradijs, over het Vuur en de daden die leiden naar het Vuur. Allemaal op een manier die de gelovigen doet huiveren.

Koran lezen
“Uthmaan – moge Allah tevreden met hem zijn – zei: ‘Als jullie harten rein waren, zouden deze geen genoeg krijgen van (het reciteren van) het Boek van jullie Heer.” 

De profeet vrede zij met hem zei over de verdienste van het lezen van de Koran:
“Wie een letter leest van het boek van Allah heeft (als beloning) een hasanah, en elke hasanah wordt vertienvoudigd.” [Tirmidhi]
Voor degenen die in staat zijn om vlot de Koran te lezen, is het de bedoeling dat zij deze minimaal één keer uitlezen in de Ramadan. Maak een schema en je bent klaar.
Wie wat minder vlot de Koran leest, leest wat binnen zijn vermogen is. Degene die moeite heeft met het lezen van de Koran, heeft twee beloningen: een beloning voor het lezen van de Koran en een beloning voor de moeite, zoals dat in een overlevering staat.
Voor onze broeders en zusters die de Arabische taal niet machtig zijn, is het onderhand geen tijd om daar verandering in te brengen? Het leren van de Arabische taal is een investering waar jij jouw leven lang profijt van zult hebben. Moeilijk is het niet, het enige wat het vereist is een wil.

Misschien dat het een idee is voor degenen die niet in staat zijn om de Koran te lezen dat zij naar een recitatie van de Koran luisteren en vervolgens met bijvoorbeeld de Nederlandse vertaling van de Koran meelezen, zodat ook zij in deze gezegende maand met de Koran bezig zijn.

Nog een tip: zet de smartphone af en toe uit als je werkelijk van deze gezegende maand wil profiteren met rust en aanbidding.

Beste broeders en zusters:
We leven in een tijd waarin de Koran nauwelijks meer deel uitmaakt van het leven van een moslim. Als er al een exemplaar thuis ligt, dient dit enkel als decor.

De jongeren verkiezen, uit onwetendheid, het luisteren naar muziek boven het luisteren naar prachtige recitatie’s van de Koran, die overal online te vinden zijn. Geobsedeerd, of beter gezegd, gehypnotiseerd als ze vandaag de dag zijn door muziek dat in werkelijkheid niet meer is dan onzinnig geschreeuw en promotie van zedeloosheid, schaamteloosheid en vulgair taalgebruik. Muziek dat met de dag grover en eerlozer wordt en toch blijven onze jongeren trouwe luisteraars. 

Het dagelijks uren bezig zijn met het lezen van berichtjes hier en daar op Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter e.d. weerhoudt ons van het lezen van dit geweldig boek.

En dan klagen dat we ongelukkig zijn en dat we ons niet goed voelen? We keren de bron van ons geluk de rug toe en dan verwachten we gelukkig te zijn? Allah zegt:

“Wie Mijn Leiding volgt zal niet dwalen en ook niet ongelukkig zijn. En hij die zich afwendt van Mijn Vermaning: er zal dan voor hem een benauwd leven zijn” [20:123-124] 

Dat is precies wat velen vandaag de dag ervaren: een benauwd leven.

In een van de smeekbedes, die een remedie is tegen depressie, staat de Koran centraal. De profeet vrede zij met hem was gewoon om te zeggen:

“O Allah laat de Koran rust en blijdschap voor mijn hart zijn, en licht in mijn borst, en mijn verdriet en zorgen doen verdwijnen.” [Ahmed]

De Koran en het leven naar de richtlijnen van de Koran is wat ons geluk zal brengen in dit leven en in het hiernamaals. Het dagelijks lezen van de Koran, al is het slechts een pagina, zegent het leven, opent deuren naar het goede en doet vele problemen als sneeuw voor de zon verdwijnen. 

Moge Allah ons allen doen terugkeren naar de Koran en deze rust en blijdschap voor onze harten laten zijn en onze zorgen en verdriet ermee doen verdwijnen.

Student aan de Universiteit van Medina, Saudi Arabië.

5 Ramadan 1436 /  22 juni 2015

Buddhist monks seek to ban schoolgirls from wearing headscarves in Burma

Influential group of monks also plans to encourage people to vote for candidates who ‘will not let our race and religion disappear’ in this year’s elections

A group of school girls pass a woman wearing a burka in Afghanistan. Muslims living in Myanmar ‘need to obey the law and regulations of the country’, said Ma Ba Tha monk U Pamaukkha

An influential group of Buddhist monks in Burma is proposing to ban Muslim schoolgirls from wearing headscarves, in the latest sign of growing religious tension in the country.

The Organisation for the Protection of Race and Religion, a panel of monks known locally by the acronym Ma Ba Tha, said the headscarves were “not in line with school discipline”.

Ma Ba Tha held a conference in Rangoon at the weekend. Some 1,300 monks from monasteries around the country gathered to discuss plans to promote a nationalist agenda as the country heads toward landmark elections later this year.

In a list of recommendations released late on Sunday, Ma Ba Tha told its members to lobby the government to put further restrictions on the country’s beleaguered Muslims, and included references to the wearing of either headscarves or burqas.

“We will demand seriously for the government to ban Muslim students wearing the burqa in government schools and to ban the killing of innocent animals on their [Muslims’] Eid holiday,” it said, referring to Muslim cultural practices that Buddhist nationalists believe go against the culture of Buddhist-majority Burma.

Explaining the move, Ma Ba Tha monk U Pamaukkha said: “When they [Muslims] live in Myanmar, they need to obey the law and regulations of the country. We are not targeting or attacking their religion.”

The group also said it would “show the people the right track” when it came to the elections, expected in November, encouraging people to vote for candidates who “will not let our race and religion disappear”.

The group would keep monitoring “crimes by non-Buddhists” and using Facebook to spread news about alleged threats to Buddhism in Burma, its statement said.

Ma Ba Tha was officially formed in June 2013, when bouts of inter-communal violence were spreading around the country, with Buddhist mobs targeting members of the Muslim minority. Riots have been triggered by social media posts reporting alleged rapes of Buddhist women by Muslims.

Inter-communal violence in western Burma’s Rakhine State the previous year displaced some 140,000 people, mostly stateless Muslims identifying themselves as Rohingya, who have since taken to the sea in their thousands fleeing oppressive conditions, sparking a regional human smuggling crisis.

The monks have already proved their ability to wield influence over Burma’s quasi-civilian government, which replaced a military junta in 2011. After a Ma Ba Tha signature campaign, president Thein Sein’s administration drafted four laws restricting interfaith marriage and religious conversion, banning polygamy and limiting population growth.

While the laws have met with little resistance in a parliament dominated by former and serving military officials, so far only the population control law – which enables officials to restrict women to one child every three years – has been passed.

The prominent nationalist monk U Wirathu spoke at the conference on Saturday, pledging that Ma Ba Tha would increase its pressure on the government to pass the remaining laws.

The monk also extolled the growth of Ma Ba Tha in its first two years. “It’s as if we’ve come from the sky,” he said.

The group of monks is at the vanguard of a nationalist movement that threatens to overshadow gains made by Burma’s reformers, with many suggesting it has the backing of an anti-reform faction in the ruling elite.

David Mathieson, a senior researcher on Burma for Human Rights Watch, said: “The Ma Ba Tha have become an unaccountable and arrogant political force based on extremist religious and social views, like a fifth column using Buddhism to serve shady political and economic interests.”

(Source / 22.06.2015)

ISIS: the military response in Iraq and Syria

US-led air strikes against ISIS continue in Iraq and Syria, alongside a training programme to build the capacity of Iraqi security forces. What part does the UK play and is this enough?

Jump to full report >>

The United States has led airstrikes against ISIS (also known as ISIL or Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria since August 2014. Offensive military action has so far been restricted to air operations in support of local forces, providing reconnaissance, surveillance and attack capabilities.

Training is also being provided by a number of coalition countries to the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in the north of the country; while the US is also leading a programme of training for moderate opposition forces in Syria.

Who is in the coalition?

The coalition against ISIS is being led by the United States. According to the Department of Defense, more than 60 countries are assisting in efforts to counter ISIS from measures to restrict the flow of foreign fighters and foreign financing, to participation in the training of Iraqi, and local, security forces and offensive military operations in Iraq and Syria.

The United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Jordan, Canada and Denmark have all conducted air strikes in Iraq. With the exception of Canada, all have been reluctant to intervene militarily in Syria. Iran is also reported to have conducted airstrikes in eastern Iraq, although not in coordination with the US-led coalition.

So far only the US, Canada, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have participated in airstrikes in Syria. The UK is conducting surveillance reconnaissance operations over Syria.

The United States, the UK and a number of other coalition countries have also deployed military personnel on the ground in Iraq to train Iraqi and Kurdish security forces. These are not combat troops and are not deployed in an offensive role.

Legal basis

Military action in Iraq is being conducted at the request of the Iraqi government, which coalition partners consider provides a firm legal basis for operations in that country.

The reluctance of many coalition partners, including the UK, to intervene in Syria, however, is because of concerns over the legality of such military action.

Duration of the mission

It is widely acknowledged that the campaign against ISIS will be longstanding. During the Commons debate in September 2014 David Cameron warned Members of Parliament that “we should not expect this to happen quickly. The hallmarks of this campaign will be patience and persistence, not shock and awe.”

The UK’s contribution

In September 2014 Parliament voted to support offensive military action in Iraq. However, that vote did not extend to offensive operations in Syria.

RAF Tornado GR4 and the Reaper remotely piloted air system (RPAS) have since conducted reconnaissance missions and airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, with support aircraft including the new Voyager tanker/transport aircraft.

Reaper and Rivet Joint aircraft have also been authorised to fly surveillance missions over Syria.

The UK is the second largest contributor to the coalition air campaign.

Since November 2014 the UK has been providing training and military advice to the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in the north of the country.  In early June 2015 the Government announced that a further 125 British military personnel would deploy to Iraq in order to bolster that training mission.

The UK is also participating in the US-led programme to train moderate Syrian opposition forces.

Approximately 900 British military personnel will be involved in operations against ISIS. 630 of those personnel are deployed in the region in support of the air campaign; while 275 personnel will be on the ground in Iraq providing training and military advice. Those personnel are not combat troops.

The net additional costs of the military air operation (Tornado, Reaper and air-to-air refuelling) are being met from the Treasury Special Reserve; while the costs of training and equipping the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, and the provision of key enablers, are being met from the MOD’s £50 million Deployed Military Activity Pool (DMAP).

Boots on the ground?

Combat troops have been explicitly ruled out by the UK and other countries involved in the coalition, amid debate about the reliance on air power alone. However, the fall of Ramadi in May 2015 and the advances that are being made by ISIS has led many to reignite the debate about whether ‘boots on the ground’ is the next logical step.

(Source / 22.06.2015)

Abbas sees no place for Hamas in new govt, says French FM

Abbas , Fabius

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah June 21, 2015

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Sunday told visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that any new Palestinian unity government should not include Hamas, France’s top diplomat said.

The remarks came on the eve of a key meeting of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to discuss forming a new cabinet after the government collapsed this week amid a deepening rift with Hamas, the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip.

Abbas is thought to be seeking to replace the government of technocrats — formed last year to overcome rivalry between Palestinian factions — with a government of politicians.

“(Abbas) told me this government of national unity could only include women and men who recognise Israel, renounce violence and who are in agreement with the principles of the (Mideast) Quartet,” Fabius said at a press conference in Jerusalem after holding talks with Abbas in Ramallah.

Noting that those conditions ruled out Hamas, Fabius added: “And that suits us perfectly.”

The Islamist Hamas group has been designated a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.

The Palestinian unity agreement signed in April 2014 had sought to end seven years of bad blood between Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas.

Abbas’s move to dissolve the government came at a critical time, with Hamas sources saying it is holding separate, indirect talks with Israel on ways to firm up an informal ceasefire that last August ended a 50-day war against Gaza.

It was not immediately clear whether the government’s collapse on Wednesday was directly linked to the talks.

Fabius said he had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the contacts with Hamas.

“If I understood his response, it means that somehow, I don’t know how, there are conversations about Gaza and about improving the humanitarian situation” in the blockaded territory, Fabius said.

Sunday’s meetings in Ramallah and Jerusalem were part of efforts by Fabius aimed at reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that have been comatose since a major US push for a final deal ended in failure last year.

(Source / 22.06.2015)