IOF confiscates bulldozer in Jordan Valley

Northern Jordan Valley, (PIC)– Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) confiscated a bulldozer in al-Ras al-Ahmar area in the Northern Jordan Valley.  The official in charge of Jordan Valley’s file in Tubas and Northern Jordan Valley, Mutaz Bsharat, said that an IOF unit broke into the home of Jamil Bani Odeh and confiscated the bulldozer which is owned by Ghassan Bani Odeh.

(Source / 03.07.2016)

The Political Role of Local Councils in Syria – Survey Results

Executive Summary

Omran for Strategic Studies conducted a survey of the local councils operating in areas under opposition forces that include 105 local councils from the following provinces: Damascus, Rural Damascus, Aleppo, Idleb, Dara’a, Al Quneitra, Homs, Hama, and Lattakia. The scope of the questionnaire focuses on the nature of the role that local councils play in areas under control of nationalistic opposition forces specifically. The questionnaire also asks responders to take into consideration the international diplomatic and political efforts to find a solution to the Syrian crisis based on the assumption that local councils are a key factor for stability during the current crisis and in a future transitional phase.
The results of the survey are as follows:

•    Local councils mainly fulfill a service role built upon the legitimacy they receive from the populace but at the same time hold great potential for political effectiveness.
•    The main mechanisms for forming local councils are general agreement and elections and there is a lesser dependence on appointments and individual activists’ efforts.
•    In general, local councils have good relationships amongst themselves as well as with nationalistic opposition groups.
•    Despite a general acceptance among local councils about the idea of negotiations, this does not translate into their acceptance of local truces.
•    A majority of the sample insisted on limiting the concept of negotiation to studying ways of establishing a transitional governing council.
•    A majority of the sample supports the Higher Negotiations Committee with the remainder of the sample taking an opposition position.
•    The local councils sample confirmed that the issue of Bashar Al Assad is the main issue preventing the success of any negotiations.
•    More than 2/3 of the sample prefers a decentralized administrative nationalistic governing structure for Syria in accordance with the local populace’s desire.
•    The services and civil peace are on the priority list for the local councils during the transitional phase.

Introduction

Local councils are one of the main products of the Syrian revolution since it expresses the change in the relationship with the capitol on one hand and a tool for managing the transitional phase on the other. Four years have passed since the creation of the local councils during which they achieved notable successes and passed through difficult obstacles. At the same time, international efforts are ongoing to push forward a political process through negotiations while investing in the local councils in this regard, taking into consideration the importance of local councils and their current roles giving them significant legitimacy from the ground. As such, it is of great importance to study local councils in their service and political roles with the objective of analyzing the nature of those roles and significant factors effecting each. In the end, there are recommendations on how to strengthen local councils as an engine for political momentum.

This analytical paper sheds light on the political role of local councils and its manifestations in the various local partial truces. The paper also attempts to analyze the relationship between local councils and both military and political opposition groups. In addition, the paper looks at local council positions on the negotiation process, specific criteria that local councils view as part of a political vision, their relationship with the Higher Negotiations Committee that represents the Syrian opposition and finally the obstacles facing local councils during the transitional phase.

Local Councils: Existing Service Role and Characteristics of an Emerging Political Role

Mechanism for forming local councils are limited to elections, general agreement, appointments, and individual activist efforts. The survey revealed that a majority, 57%, of surveyed local councils formed through a general agreement on a local level. 38% of the sample identified elections as the chosen mechanism. The results revealed the least dependence on appointments (3%) and individual activist efforts (2%) as mechanisms for forming local councils, both of which combined account for 5% of the respondents’ answers.

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**The fact that general agreements were the most used mechanism to form local councils is best understood as a result of the lack of security and stability in Syria, as well as the demographic changes in local communities which made it impossible for all the native residents of a locality to participate in elections. In addition, the general agreement mechanism allows local council members to avoid technical issues related to the election process (lists of candidates, election laws, voting centers, and vote counting). These technical processes require legal and technical expertise not widely available among the local councils.  When comparing these results with the results of a past study about local council needs conducted by Omran’s  Local Council’s Unit we found that there was a slight increase in the preference for elections with 35.75% in the previous survey and 38% in this recent survey.  This slight increase is as result of better organized local elections, higher participation, and better nomination processes – this is especially the case in Eastern Ghouta in Rural Damascus.


The roles played by local councils in areas controlled by nationalistic opposition groups depend upon the resources available to the councils, local support for the council, and a support network for fulfilling the council’s assumed role. The survey results showed that 57% of the respondents identified the councils’ roles as service oriented and focused on offering relief, infrastructure, health, and education services. The second largest group of respondents, 42%, identified the councils’ role as both service and politically oriented. These respondents identified the political activities of local councils as follows: public and political statements, attending political events, organizing protests, conducting community reconciliations, and conducting negotiations with the regime or other groups related to the regime. The remaining 1% of the respondents identified the local councils’ roles as purely political.

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**The service role of local council’s takes precedence over the political role despite the local council’s possessing great potential and strong political capital, as seen here:    
1.    Local legitimacy stemming from their representation of the local population through elections or general agreement;
2.    The notable success that local councils have displayed in filling the roles of state institutions in areas outside of Assad regime control and their ability to completely represent the political and ideological positions of local populations. Also, local councils are able to attract local talent and local leadership to participate in administrative affairs.
3.    Local councils have political legitimacy that extends from the regime’s acceptance of local councils as a legitimate party to negotiate with, as was the case in Zabadani, and in other cases international organizations and some nations depend directly on local councils to implement relief projects on the ground. Furthermore, local councils maintain working relationships with the political Syrian opposition and other local opposition actors who coordinate directly with the local councils on revolutionary and political matters.

The most significant challenges impeding a greater political role for local councils are:
1.    Local council members who believe that local councils should focus only on the service sector;
2.    Ongoing conflicts of interest between local councils and nationalistic armed opposition groups and political opposition groups.
3.    The lack of a stable political process in which the local councils can play an active and productive role other than providing service.


Local Councils and Opposition Powers: A Positive View on Intertwined Relations

In general, the survey results show that the sample has positive relationships with both the Syrian Opposition’s National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces and the Interim Government. The percentage of respondents who chose to describe their relationship with the NCORF as “Good” is 37%, while 25% described the relationship as “Bad” and another 38% as “Acceptable”. In regards to the Interim Government, 45% of the respondents described their relationship as “Good” while 21% described the relationship as “Bad” and another 34% described the relationship as “Acceptable”.

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The local councils also maintain positive relations with the armed nationalistic opposition groups with 89% of the respondents describing their relationship with such groups as “Very Good” or “Good” while another 10% described the relationship as “Acceptable” and only 1% as “Bad”.

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**The relationship between official opposition institutions and local councils are shaped by the following factors:

1.    Financial Support
2.    Political and international legitimacy
3.    Specific jobs and tasks
4.    Personal relations
Based on these factors, the positive relationship between the local councils and opposition institutions is explained as follows:
1.    Recognition by the local councils that any weakness in the role of the opposition institutions is due to outstanding factors, such as, regional and international state pressures more than shortcomings in the opposition itself.
2.    The local councils recognize the critical need for a central entity to organize the local councils and set their priorities. In addition, local councils need a political entity to provide a national platform to lead the political workings allowing the local councils to focus more on providing services and local administration.
3.    There are existing personal relationships between local council members and political opposition members as well as some of the local council members who are members of the official political opposition.
4.    Local councils depend partially on opposition institutions to communicate with supporters.

On another note, the relationship between local councils and the armed nationalistic opposition groups developed from a relationship of tension and conflicts of interest to a positive relationship with continued conflicts of interest but in varied forms. This change is best explained as follows:
1.    Armed nationalistic opposition groups recognizing the importance of the local council project in respect to administering civilian affairs and the need for the armed groups to assist local councils, which in turn increases the armed groups’ legitimacy.
2.    New councils and committees were formed to manage intervention by the armed groups into local council affairs giving the local councils increased independence and transparency when forming the council, choosing members, and setting priorities.


Local Councils and the Negotiation Process: Conditional Acceptance of a Political Solution Surrounded by Obstacles

The idea of a political solution gained wide spread political support, both regionally and internationally, especially following the increased security threats and exacerbating humanitarian crisis that were both spilling over the Syrian border. In the spirit of pushing the negotiation process forward the international community passed several UN resolutions and the Higher Negotiations Committee formed in Riyadh as a party to negotiate directly with the Assad regime instead of the Syrian National Coalition. The round of negotiations that followed these events did not produce any results in favor of moving towards a political solution. Since the local councils are the legitimate representatives of their localities and they have previous experiences negotiating directly with the regime, it was critical that we ask the local councils about their thoughts on the internationally sanctioned peace talks. 57% of the respondents accept on principle the idea of negotiating with the regime to reach a final solution while 38% rejected the idea and 5% did not give their opinion on the matter.

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It is notable that for local councils, accepting to negotiating with the regime for a final solution does not extend to the local councils accepting local truces with the regime. Two-thirds of the respondents rejected local truces with the regime because they believe those agreements fall in favor of the Assad regime while a little less than a quarter of the respondents expressed their support for local truces since the truces would revive the economies of besieged communities. Lastly, 15% of the respondents chose not to give their opinion on this matter.

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**Since 2013, the Assad regime and its allies have engaged in a number of truces with local actors in areas outside of Assad regime control. These areas are strategically important for the regime, due to either geographic reasons or demographics, and this is clear since the truces are concentrated in the areas around the capitol, Homs, Dara’a and Hama. The number of truces are approximately – regardless if they are ongoing or ended – 27 and several more that are currently under negotiation in Quneitra, Rural Damascus, and Dara’a.

The regime resorted to limited truces as a temporary solution due to two basic factors:
1.    Military – Security: The regime found that it is unable to follow through on a complete military victory due to its lack of human resources and multiple active battlefronts in a number of distant geographic locations thus forcing the regime to seek out temporary truces in strategic areas while giving up control in others.
2.    Politics: The regime pushed forward a vision for an all-encompassing political solution built upon meeting demands including redistributing power roles and including representatives from various communities in governance. On a local level, the regime sought to meet mainly humanitarian demands. As such, the regime forced the hands of the local councils to accept truces so that they could secure marginal benefits, at the forefront of which was easing the human suffering caused by the ongoing conflict and a lack of international efforts to help in this regard. Local councils secured a number of things from the truces including lifting sieges, releasing of prisoners, stopping shelling, and reviving basic services.

As for those who refused the truces, two thirds of the sample, their position is best understood as follows:
1.    The negative impact from truces on local living conditions.
2.    The regime fails to abide by the terms of the truces, especially those that call for releasing prisoners, allowing humanitarian aid from entering the city, and free movement for residents of the locations agreed to the truce.
3.    There are no strong guarantees for implementing the truces and weak oversight mechanisms.
4.    There is a fear that the truces will have a negative impact on the revolutionary movement through infiltration and drowning the truce areas in various crises.  


Despite the local councils’ acceptance of truces with the regime, they did have a list of prioritized conditions that the regime should abide by in order for the councils to enter into agreement with the regime:
1.    A complete ceasefire and end to all aerial bombardment
2.    Pulling out all foreign militias.
3.    Releasing prisoners.
4.    Lifting the siege of besieged locations.
5.    Allowing humanitarian aid to enter targeted locations.

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At the same time, the regime continued to place the fight against terrorism as the single priority and the only path towards a political solution. The opposition and the opposition forces insisted on their original demands including forming a transitional body with full executive powers to manage the transitional phase. In regards to the negotiable priorities, a majority of the local councils, 89%, believed that the entire negotiation process should focus on the issue of forming a transitional body with full executive powers while only 9% of the respondents felt that the negotiation process should focus on both the formation of a transitional body and the fight against terrorism.

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In regards to the relationship between local councils and the Higher Negotiations Committee 55% of the respondents believe that the Higher Negotiations Committee represents the local councils while the remaining percentage of respondents took an opposite position.

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As for the negotiation process and procedures, a majority of the councils expressed their support for negotiations but do not look positively at the processes and procedures on which the negotiations arestarted including a number of issues preventing the success of the negotiation process:
1.    The issue of Bashar Al Assad’s future.
2.    A lack of international pressure on the Assad regime to move seriously towards a political solution.
3.    The lack of a party that completely represents local residents in the negotiations.
4.    The lack of unity among nationalistic opposition forces.
5.    A weak performance by the political opposition.

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**The acceptance of local councils to engage in negotiations with the Assad regime is based upon several factors:
1.    Local councils are convinced that it is too difficult for any side to achieve an outright military victory given the current political conditions after the Russian intervention with ongoing international pressure to seek out a political solution to the crisis.
2.    The local councils use the negotiations to gain some marginal benefits like humanitarian access and other conditions mentioned previously.
3.    The negotiations put the regime in a sensitive position and test the regime’s seriousness in reaching a political solution.

Local councils accept negotiations on a conditional basis and these conditions form a political breaking point for the local councils:
1.    A complete ceasefire and end to all military operations.
2.    Pulling out all foreign militias.
3.    Implementation of all the humanitarian demands made in UN resolutions including the release of political prisoners,  lifting the sieges on besieged areas, and allowing the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid.
4.    Lifting the siege of besieged locations.
5.    Allowing humanitarian aid to enter targeted locations.
6.    Maintaining the unity of Syrian territory and administering the country through a transitional body with no role for Bashar Al Assad.
7.    Restructuring the military and security institutions on nationalistic principles. Holding accountable all those responsible for committing crimes against the Syrian people.

The local councils tend to focus their demands during negotiations on security and military related requests instead of humanitarian requests. This is best understood as a compounding of the humanitarian crises resulting from the worsening security situation and thus stopping the escalating violence and military operations will give the local councils more opportunities to focus on providing services and address the growing humanitarian crises.
Furthermore, despite almost half of the sample supporting the Higher Negotiations Council the remainder of the sample, a significant percentage at 45%, which we cannot disregard, do not consider the Higher Negotiations Council as their representative. This is explained by two main factors:
1.    The way the Higher Negotiations Committee formed some councils felt marginalized.
2.    Weak communication between the Higher Negotiations Committee and the local councils, and the committee’s failure to update the local councils on the latest political developments since the local councils are the closest too and the legitimate representatives of local residents.


In the proposals for a political solution, the issue of the structure of the state and its administrative a structure vary between a decentralized political state and a decentralized administrative structure.  The survey results revealed that a little more than two thirds of the sample favored a decentralized administrative structure while approximately one third of the sample preferred a decentralized political state.

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The majority of respondents, 98%, also expressed the need for a nationalized regulatory framework while only 2% rejected this idea.

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**The local councils’ preference for a decentralized administrative structure as a concept for administrating the Syrian state stems from the local councils’ desire to maintain the state’s current borders and giving local communities greater powers in a decentralized administration that ensure their service, development and cultural needs. On the other hand, a decentralized political state will result in the creation of a weak political system comprised of several competing political blocs ending up in constant political turmoil. Also, local councils support the creation of a nationalized framework for organizing their work and are committed to participate on a national level with other councils; and councils are also convinced that they need an established and agreed upon nationalized framework in which to coordinate their priorities and to use a reference when distributing roles.


A Hopeful Role and Challenges in the Transitional Phase

The transitional administrative phase will depend on the local councils due to their legitimacy and their built up experience in managing various issues during the crisis.  As for their priorities during the transitional phase, we can list them as follows:
1.    Providing basic services
2.    Strengthening civil peace
3.    Providing local security and economic development
4.    Promoting the political process

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The survey results also reveal that the local councils recognize that their role during the transitional phase depends on their ability to effectively deal with various challenges, including:
1.    Lack of resources
2.    Political polarization and social division
3.    Gaining legitimacy
4.    Security challenges

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**The local councils’ prioritizing provision of services during the transitional phase is understood as a manifestation of the local councils’ considering their main role as a service provision role, just as we have seen in previous results. Also, recognize that services are the main need of local residents and the local councils’ successful delivery of services gives them more strengthen their legitimacy with the local population and then on a national level. Local councils also try to reestablish safety and security in their communities since a lack of which is the main obstacle preventing councils from fulfilling their service roles. In addition, local councils recognize that a major challenge during the transitional phase is a lack of resources, which explains the great demand for services that would bring stability for local residents.


Conclusion

Local councils assume three main roles:
1.    Service role
2.    Political role
3.    Development role

Despite the survey showing that the local councils operating in areas under control of nationalistic opposition groups preferred to focus on service provision, there are instances where local councils did assume political roles. In some cases, local councils published statements in which they took political positions reflecting those of the local population who gave the councils their legitimacy; they attended political activities; organized protests; conducted community reconciliations; conducting localized negotiations with the regime or its allies; and offering their opinions on the national political negotiations.

In light of the political movement to push for negotiations that reach a final political solution for the ongoing crisis it is of great importance to increase the role of local councils and invest in them to strengthen the negotiating strength of the opposition. This will in turn give the political process momentum and protect the results of the political process from a counter revolutionary movement attempting to stop the revolution. It is easy for any observer to notice that local councils have a great potential to establish political groups with significant grass roots support exceeding that of any existing political groupings.

To achieve what we just described there must be an immediate and strong show of support to increase the resources and enhance the capabilities of local councils enabling them to withstand various challenges by:
1.    offering financial and institutional advice on human resources capacity building and training;
2.     And improving the local councils’ relationships with revolutionary institutions, both political and military, based upon properly identified roles and the proper distribution of responsibilities.

Additional part of Survey Sample

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Methodology

1.    Sample Pool
We took our sample from amongst the various provincial and related councils located in areas outside Assad regime, Islamic State, Syrian or Kurdish (PYD) control. And especially taking into consideration the councils’ abilities to conduct administrative tasks in their areas.
2.    Sample Size and Distribution
The sample size is a total of 105 out of 427 local councils including 62 council presidents, 32 executive council members, 11 local council members, and covers Rural Damascus, Aleppo, Idleb, Dara’a, Quneitra, Homs, Hama, and Lattakia. We chose the number of sub-council members in proportion to the number of sub-councils from province to province.
3.    Sample Reliability
We took great care to formulate the right questions and present them in an objective way to all the respondents regardless of their personal opinions or their expectations about the survey’s results.
4.    Survey Time Frame
Collecting the entire sample took one month. We contacted local councils between 1-1-2016 and 2016-2-3 and then reviewed the questionnaires, entered the data, and evaluated the results.
5.    Analytical Methodology
The analytical process is split into two sections accordingly with the stated goal of better understanding local council opinions and their knowledge of their service and political roles. In the first part of the analysis, we take into consideration the specific issues presented in the survey, such as the local councils’ influence on the political process, their opinions about political and revolutionary performance, and local councils’ political leanings. In the second part of the analysis, we focus on the administrative roles of local councils and the level of their commitment to the most important principles and responsibilities.

(Source / 03.07.2016)

European License For Israeli Torture: The EU-Israel LAW TRAIN Joint Project

New concerns arise as activists discovered the EU-Israel partnership through the LAWTRAIN Project in the framework of the EU HORIZON 2020. The project is meant to unify the methodology for interrogation among Israeli and EU police forces and is a de facto normalisation of Israel’s most cruel practices, including physical and psychological torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, threats, racial discrimination. With the risk of proliferation of Israeli practices in EU countries, European justice systems risk intensification of inhumane treatment, too. Recognising as legal the Israeli systems of oppression such as inhuman techniques of torture, the EU is violating its obligations under international law.

Stop the Wall started its advocacy campaign against the EU-Israeli cooperation in the framework of HORIZON 2020 in 2015. We have continued to express our concerns about the ongoing cooperation between the EU and Israel, and the LAWTRAIN project based among others on Israeli experience of illegal and inhuman techniques of interrogation is a vivid reminder to all that this cooperation has to stop now. The objective of the project is to unify methodologies of interrogation and to improve interrogation skills, as well as collaboration between police units in different countries. The risks of such a cooperation are not only the legitimation of Israeli illegal practices, but also the proliferation of racist, illegal, inhuman techniques and islamophobia in European countries.

To read more about the LAW TRAIN project see the briefing.

(Source / 03.07.2016)

Palestinian prisoner on 19th day of hunger strike in Israeli jail

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed has been on an open-ended hunger strike for 19 days running in protest at being held in administrative detention, without trial, right after the end of his 14-year sentence in Israeli jails. Supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) called for mobilizing mass solidarity rallies with hunger-striker Kayed until he is released from jail. A series of rallies has been staged across the occupied West Bank to push for releasing prisoner Kayed. Hunger-striking detainee Kayed, from Asira al-Shamaliya, in northern Nablus, was kidnapped by the Israeli occupation forces in November 2001 against the backdrop of his affiliation with the PFLP’s armed wing and his involvement in anti-occupation attacks against Israeli targets.  Kayed has reportedly been subjected to solitary confinement due to his anti-occupation activism in Israeli lock-ups.

(Source / 03.07.2016)

Gunmen attack Fatah meeting in Gaza City, injure 10

Fatah file

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Ten Fatah-affiliated Palestinians were injured on Sunday when unidentified gunmen attacked a meeting for the political party’s internal elections in the eastern Gaza Strip.A Fatah leader in the besieged Gaza Strip in charge of the internal elections, Nayif Khuweitir, told Ma’an that the voting process started at 1 p.m at Moonlight Hall in the al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City and went on “smoothly” for about two hours.At around 3 p.m, he said, gunmen attacked the election center with firearms, sharp weapons, and bats.Khuweitir identified one of the injured as Hussein Khuweitir, who received a gunshot to the foot and a stab wound to the head.Fatah leadership in the Gaza Strip denounced the attack, describing it as “unrepresentative” of the values of Fatah and the Palestinian people. Such behavior, a statement by Fatah added, serves only “enemies of the Palestinian national project,” and those who don’t want Fatah movement to progress.The statement did not give more details about the attackers, but implied that a breakaway faction of the Fatah movement was behind the attack.The most prominent former Fatah leader is Muhammad Dahlan, who was Fatah’s leading figure in the Gaza Strip before 2007. Dahlan was excluded from Fatah in 2011 over allegations of being involved in the death of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and in high-level corruption.The Fatah statement did not say that it suspected Dahlan supporters of being behind Sunday’s attack.

(Source / 03.07.2016)

Turkish aid bound for Gaza arrives to Israeli port amid backlash to rapprochement

Turkse hulp boot

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli demonstrators on Saturday reportedly attempted to block the delivery of aid to the besieged Gaza Strip from the Turkish cargo ship Lady Leila, which docked at Israel’s Ashdod port earlier that morning.According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the families of Israeli soldiers whose slain bodies are being held by Hamas or who are believed to be missing inside the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, staged a protest at the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the blockaded territory, aiming to prevent the aid from passing through.An Israeli police spokesperson could not immediately be reached to confirm reports that demonstrators had attempted to block the aid.The shipment, which contained some 11,000 tons of supplies, including 10,000 toys and 10,000 packages of food, embarked from Turkey’s southern port of Mersin on Friday.Turkey’s humanitarian aid delivery followed an agreement made with Israel on Sunday to normalize diplomatic relations between the two nations, ending a six-year standoff sparked by the 2010 Israeli attack on a Turkish aid ship attempting to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip which resulted in the death of ten Turkish activists.While Turkey notably conceded on its demand that Israel lift its near decade-long blockade on the Gaza Strip, Israel did agree to allow Turkey to deliver aid, with the stipulation that deliveries pass through the Ashdod port, to then continue to Gaza through land crossings.A statement from Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) welcomed the “donation to the ongoing Israeli effort to supply Gazans with products and merchandise, along with the hundreds of trucks that pass through Kerem Shalom each day full of goods, medical supplies, construction materials, electronic devices and more.”Families of Israeli soldiers slain during Israel’s 50-day assault on the Gaza Strip in 2014 protested at the crossing, slamming the normalization agreement for failing to demand the return of missing Israelis believe to be held by Hamas, according to Haaretz.However Turkey has reportedly issued a separate “letter of goodwill” promising to work with Hamas for the release of the missing Israelis.Hamas meanwhile has applauded the Turkish-Israeli agreement, representing a rare moment of consensus between Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and Israeli leadership.In a press conference following the finalization of the deal, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim claimed that Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip had been “largely lifted,” a statement met with shock by those disappointed that Turkey had conceded on pressuring Israel to fully lift the blockade after years of warnings and threats.Many reacted to the deal by saying it was proof that the Turkish government’s vehement opposition to the Israeli blockade had been a disingenuous diplomatic tactic to gain support in the region.In a statement published Friday, the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) argued that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s government “never broke its economic, military, or security ties with Israel,” in spite of “Turkish official propaganda that sought to tie the normalization of relations between the states to an end to the siege of the Gaza Strip.”The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007, when Hamas was elected to rule the territory.

Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008.

The UN has warned that unless current trends were altered, the Gaza Strip could become uninhabitable for residents in fewer than five years.
“The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza unlivable by 2020,” the UN’s development agency said in 2015.
(Source / 03.07.2016)

Israeli army cordons off al-Khalil for 3rd day

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)–  A security cordon has been imposed by the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on the southern West Bank province of al-Khalil for the third day running. A PIC news correspondent said the IOF soldiers have sealed off Palestinian towns and villages in and around al-Khalil. Violent clashes burst out shortly after the IOF rolled into Bani Na’im town, to the east, and attacked the Palestinian protesters with heavy spates of stun grenades and teargas canisters. The IOF kidnapped the sister of the slain Palestinian anti-occupation youth Muhammad Al-Tarayra from the city. Violent clashes with the Israeli troops also rocked the Fawar refugee camp, in southern al-Khalil, after the IOF soldiers wreaked havoc on civilian homes in search for the Palestinian instructor Fedha Hadeeb and policeman Tareq Hadeeb, along with another youth. The soldiers aggressively attacked the youngsters Luay Masharqa and Luay Hadeeb after they tied them to electricity poles. Confrontations flared up at the Beit Ainun crossroads, to the north, as large IOF troops have been deployed across the area to protect Israeli stone-throwers. An Israeli army patrol stormed the family home of the slain Palestinian girl Kalzar al-Aweiwi and forced the inhabitants out. The IOF further kidnapped Major General Khaled al-Madhoun from his home in Jabal al-Rahma, in al-Khalil. The assault culminated in the abduction of two youngsters from Bethlehem’s southern town of Beit Fajjar along with journalist Amjad Arafa from Occupied Jerusalem. A series of military checkpoints has been pitched by the IOF across al-Khalil, blocking Palestinians’ movement in and out. Meanwhile, a number of Palestinians have been left injured as Israeli settler gangs attacked vehicles driving in southern and western Nablus city.

(Source / 03.07.2016)

IMF Deals with Yemeni Central Bank under Houthis’ Control

IMF

Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher (R) listens to his aide during a cabinet meeting of Yemeni ministerial council held in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on May 18, 2016

London and Aden – Sources at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed that IMF official continue to deal with Yemeni Central Bank under Houthis’ control, despite Resolution 2216 that called the insurgents to hand over the state to the legitimate government.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that since the Central Bank is still functioning, IMF can’t cut deals with it.

According to Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, the government doesn’t take full responsibility for the destruction in the infrastructure.

He confirmed that the government will not sell gold or oil for its revenues to go to the Central Bank under insurgents’ control.

For the first time, bin Daghr condemned international community for still providing resources to the Central Bank.

Bin Daghr also criticized the so-called “economic truce” since it encouraged Houthis to further take money that was initially set for oil purchases.

According to bin Daghr, Yemen has the ability to overcome all the problems if the legitimate government was allowed to sell oil and free Ras Isa Refinery of Houthis’ control.

Prime Minister pointed out that will, not only solve the problems in Aden and other liberated areas, but it will also solve the electricity issues in Sanaaa, Taiz, al-Hadida, al-Mekla and other cities.

Bin Daghr added that the oil derivatives require an amount of 4 million dollars daily for Aden and nearby districts. He explained that providing this amount of money is of the responsibility of the Central Bank which became under insurgents’ control in March.

He stressed that the Central Bank is required to send the money to Aden as long as all governmental institutions are sending money.

Bin Dagher warned that excess spending would lead to lack of funds and thus leads to the inability to pay employees’ salaries including military personnel.

He added that everyone knows that Houthis’ only send few funds to Aden just to delude the international community that they are committed to the agreements. He explained that the government has evidence and documents that prove that Houthis are using the the money allocated for electricity and other facilities in Aden for their personal funding.

According to the prime minister, Houthis are taking about 33% of government’s expenditure for their military funding.

He concluded that when the government was aware of the problem when it returned to Aden, yet it preferred to come and try to solve what could be solved.

(Source / 03.07.2016)

The Killing of 6567 Civilians in the First Half of 2016

1271 civilians killed in June 2016

the First Half of 2016

SNHR has published its monthly report for the month of June in which it documented the killing of 1271 civilians in June and 6567 civilians in the first half of 2016 at the hands of the main influential parties in Syria.
The report points out the notable and relatively good decline in killing rates after the commencement of the Cessation of Hostilities statement on 27 February 2016 compared to the previous months since March 2011 especially in areas controlled by armed opposition factions given that other areas such the areas controlled by the Democratic Union Parties and the Syrian regime are not targeted with a heavily and daily aerial bombing which is the main cause behind the killing of more than 60% of victims, destruction of building, and displacement of residents. However, one day after the High Negotiation Committee decided to postpone its participation in Geneva talk on 19 April, government forces and Russian forces resumed bombing areas outside the Syrian regime’s control and the killing rates increased back to its former levels before the Cessation of Hostilities.

Additionally, the report notes that SNHR team encounters difficulties in documenting victims from armed opposition factions as many of those victims fall on battlefronts and not inside cities. Also, we aren’t able to obtain details such as names, pictures and other important details on account of the armed opposition forces’ unwillingness to reveal such information for security among other reasons. Therefore, the actual number of victims is much greater than what is being recorded.
The report notes that It is almost impossible to access information about victims from government forces and ISIS, and the margin of error is considerably higher due to the lack of any applicable methodology in this type of documentation. The Syrian government and ISIS don’t publish, reveal, or record their victims. From our perspective, the statistics published by some groups on this category of victims are fictitious and are not based on any actual data.
Therefore, the report only includes civilian victims who were killed by all parties and compare them
The report noted that 3417 civilians were killed by government forces in the first half of 2016 including 590 children (four children are killed every day), 422 women, and no less than 230 individuals due to torture.

The percentage of children and women among civilian victims is 30% which suggests that government forces are deliberately targeting civilians.
Also, the report recorded that 1378 civilians including 310 children and 179 women were killed by allegedly Russian forces.
Self-administration forces killed 78 civilians, including 10 children, three women, and two individuals due to torture.
Furthermore, 785 civilians were killed by extremist Islamic groups as follows:
ISIS killed 764 civilians including 103 children, 146 women, and seven individuals due to torture, while Al-Nussra Front killed 21 civilians including two children, one woman, and two individuals due to torture.
The report also recorded the killing of 462 civilians including 118 children, 109 women, and two individuals due to torture at the hands of armed opposition factions during the first half of 2016.
On the other hand, international coalition forces killed 127 civilians including 54 children and 22 women.
Additionally, the report documented the killing of 266 civilians including 70 children and 38 women who either drowned to death as they were feeling, or in bombings that were carried out by parties that SNHR has not been able to identify or by unknown armed groups to SNHR.
Also, the report included civilian death toll for the month of June 2016 where government forces killed 706 civilians including 101 children (four children are killed every day), 79 women, and 32 individuals at least due to torture.
The report also notes that 187 civilians including 57 children and 32 women were killed by allegedly Russian forces.

Furthermore, self-management forces (consisting mainly of the Democratic Union Party forces, a branch for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) killed 38 civilians including four children and two women.
ISIS killed 116 civilians including 19 children and 10 women.
The report also records that armed opposition factions killed 72 civilians including 17 children and 16 women, while international coalition forces killed 76 civilians including 39 children and 11 in June.
Also, 76 civilians, including 22 children and 11 women, either drowned to death as they were fleeing or in bombings carried out by parties that SNHR has not been able to identify or by unknown armed groups to SNHR.
The report emphasizes that government forces and Russian forces have violated the international human rights law which guarantees the right to life. In addition, there are tens of cases that fulfill all the elements of war crimes in relation to murder. Evidences and proofs, according to hundreds of eyewitnesses’ accounts, suggest that 90% at least of the widespread and single attacks carried out by government forces and its loyal forces were directed against civilians and civilian facilities.
Moreover, Extremist Islamic groups perpetrated a number of extrajudicial killings that amount to war crimes.

The report also notes that some of the armed opposition factions perpetrated extrajudicial killings that amount to war crimes as well. Additionally, the Democratic Union Party forces perpetrated war crimes through the crime of extrajudicial killing.
The report calls on the security council and the relevant international institutions to uphold its responsibilities with respect to the continuous and ceaseless killing crimes, and to press on the Syrian government to cease the indiscriminate and deliberate bombing against civilians.
Furthermore, the report considers the Russian regime, all Shiite militias, and ISIS foreign parties that are effectively involved in the killings, and holds it and all the funders and supporters of the Syrian regime legally and judicially responsible.

View full Report

(Source / 03.07.2016)

Israeli settler gangs attack Palestinians in Nablus

NABLUS, (PIC)– Israeli settler gangs at predawn on Sunday attacked Palestinian civilians and vehicles in the northern occupied West bank province of Nablus. Eyewitnesses said dozens of Israeli settlers cracked down on Palestinian citizens at the Hawara checkpoint and the Yitzhar crossroads, near the illegal Kadumim settlement, to the southwest of Nablus. A human rights group said the Palestinian citizen Yakoub Sawalheh, from Nablus’ eastern town of Azmout, sustained wounds after he was heavily beaten by the Israeli settlers near the Hawara checkpoint and in the presence of Israeli soldiers. Overnight, the IOF closed the Beit Fourik checkpoint, in eastern Nablus, for over a couple of hours after dozens of extremist settlers flocked to the area and vandalized Palestinian property.

(Source / 03.07.2016)