US to increase military aid to Israel if it spends more on American equipment

Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.

The United States has offered to increase its military aid to Israel on the condition that Tel Aviv spends more of the aid on the purchase of American equipment and fuel rather than on its domestic products.

Israel and the US have been engaged in negotiations over a memorandum of understanding for an aid package to replace the current one that expires in 2018.

The US offer outlined in a letter by National Security Adviser Susan Rice and co-authored by the White House’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shaun Donovan includes a pledge to substantially increase the aid package, worth some $30 billion over 10 years, and ink a new deal that would constitute “the largest pledge of military assistance to any country in US history”.

The next 10-year deal could top $40 billion, and would include a 10-year pledge to fund Israel’s missile defence systems, the New York Times reported.

Under the existing agreement, Israel is permitted to spend about 25 per cent of the aid it receives outside the US and another 13 per cent on fuel for its aircraft.

According to paper, the arrangement originated in the 1980s to build up Israel’s defence industry, which has thrived, helping Israel to become one of the top 10 arms exporters in the world and US competitor.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported a senior US official as saying that this stipulation “no longer serves Israeli or US interests. We would like to modify it.”

“It doesn’t make sense from a US perspective,” the source added. “We want more of the assistance to be spent in the US on US companies helping to support economic growth and jobs creation here at home.”

(Source / 05.07.2016)

UNRWA: 80% of Gazans depend on humanitarian assistance

Gaza armoede

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — UNRWA distributed thousands of meals to Palestinian refugees in the besieged Gaza Strip during the holy month of Ramadan, the agency said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that 80 percent of the population in Gaza are dependent on humanitarian assistance.Following the financial assistance given by Emirates-based Khalid Bin al-Nahyan Foundation, UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing aid to Palestinian refugees, was able to distribute 9,809 hot meals for 26,557 Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the statement said.Vulnerable Palestinian refugees, defined by the agency as those making less that $1.47 a day and without access to meals during Ramadan, were provided coupons that allowed them to access their meals from 20 community-based organizations operating throughout the small enclave.The food program was implemented under an UNRWA program called “Feeding the Fasting” aimed at easing food security in the small Palestinian territory during the month of Ramadan.The statement also highlighted the crippling economic effects of Israel’s near decade-long siege, which has plummeted the unemployment rate to a startling 41.2 percent in the beginning of 2016, according the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.Approximately 80 percent of the population in Gaza are dependent on international humanitarian assistance, UNRWA reported.“While in the year 2000, UNRWA provided approximately 80,000 refugees in Gaza with food assistance, this number has increased to more than 930,000 today – almost 70 per cent of the refugee population and over 50 per cent of the total population,” the statement added. The majority of the more than 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are sealed inside the coastal enclave due to the continuation of a military blockade imposed by Israel and upheld by Egypt on the southern border.The UN has warned that the Gaza Strip would become uninhabitable for residents by 2020, pointing to the devastation of war and the crippling effects of Israel’s blockade.

(Source / 05.07.2016)

Palestinian woman shot, wounded by Israeli gunfire near Salfit

SALFIT, (PIC)– A Palestinian woman was shot and injured Tuesday evening for allegedly carrying out a stabbing attack near the Israeli settlement of Ariel illegally built in Salfit to the north of occupied West Bank. Israeli 0404 website claimed that Israeli forces opened fire at a Palestinian woman after she allegedly attempted to stab an Israeli soldier at a junction west of Ariel on Tuesday afternoon. No Israelis were injured in the incident, the sources added. The woman was shot in her chest and limbs and left bleeding for long hours without receiving any medical treatment, eyewitnesses told the PIC reporter. Israeli forces prevented a Palestinian ambulance from reaching the scene and providing medical assistance, but an Israeli ambulance was later seen taking the woman away.  Following the alleged attack, Israeli forces intensified their presence in the area and imposed a tight cordon around the nearby town of Hares, north of the city.

(Source / 05.07.2016)

Top Egypt Islamist says he ‘fully supports’ reconciliation with state

Abboud el-Zumar speaks during an interview with Reuters in his home after his release from Liman Tora Prison at Helwan, south of Cairo, March 17, 2011

CAIRO — Recent days have witnessed a new cycle of conflict pitting the Muslim Brotherhood against Gamaa Islamiya. The latter was the Brotherhood’s foremost ally following its fall from power on July 3, 2013. Yet Ibrahim Munir, the Brotherhood’s deputy supreme guide, accused Gamaa Islamiya of responsibility for the violence that broke out during the period of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule. His accusation drove Abboud el-Zumar, a prominent leader and member of the Gamaa Islamiya’s Shura Council, to demand that ties between the two groups be frozen.

Gamaa Islamiya was not just another member of the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, which was founded in 2013 following the Brotherhood’s ouster. It was the alliance’s largest partner after the Brotherhood and participated in protests and sit-ins across Egypt’s various squares. It paid much in the blood of its members to defend the Brotherhood.

To fully understand the extent of the current conflict between Gamaa Islamiya and the Brotherhood and the degree to which it has impacted the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, as well as the much-discussed potential reconciliation between the Islamist movement and the state, Al-Monitor held a wide-ranging interview with Zumar, a prominent leader in Gamaa Islamiya considered not only one of its most important figures but its mastermind. He was an officer in Egypt’s military intelligence before being imprisoned in 1981 on charges of assassinating former President Anwar Sadat. He was subsequently released from prison in 2011, following the January 25 Revolution, after becoming the oldest political prisoner in Egypt.

In the course of his interview with Al-Monitor, Zumar addressed many topics, foremost among them the issue of reconciliation with the state. He stressed Gamaa Islamiya’s support for the notion of a comprehensive reconciliation with the state to end the state of perpetual conflict, and the belief that the nation is in need of someone to lead it out of its ordeal. He also expressed his view that the fall of the state at the present time would lead to destruction and chaos.

Zumar harshly criticized the current leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, saying that it “has exhausted its allies,” failing to heed Gamaa Islamiya’s advice and “driving us into a brick wall.” He said its platform is characterized by “condescension toward its comrades and excluding others” and it is “not fit to represent the other factions in any potential political negotiations.”

Concerning the Muslim Brotherhood conditioning any reconciliation with the state on the return to power of President Mohammed Morsi, Zumar said that if the Brotherhood “sticks with the condition of Morsi’s return to power once again, then there is no point in entering into any negotiations with the state.” He added, “It doesn’t make sense that Morsi is now wearing a red prison jumpsuit, while a faction of the Brotherhood is still demanding his return to power.”

Zumar said that carrying out the execution orders being issued against a number of Brotherhood leaders only sharpens the ongoing struggle and opens up the gateways to evil while foreclosing any attempts at reconciliation, out of the belief that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s popularity has clearly declined since he assumed power.

The full text of the interview follows:

Al-Monitor:  The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy was launched immediately after the Brotherhood fell from power with the goal of returning former President Mohammed Morsi to power once again. After the passage of nearly three years, where does the alliance stand?

Zumar:  It is true, albeit very unfortunate, that the Muslim Brotherhood has slipped out of the alliance and effectively moved to the so-called Revolutionary Council. Its presence in the alliance is now very marginal, having failed to attend many of [our] meetings and downgraded its representation there. This has had a negative impact on the alliance.

I believe that the Brotherhood found what it was looking for in the Revolutionary Council, and therefore no longer cares about its partners in the Alliance to Support Legitimacy.

Al-Monitor:  The recent past has witnessed a great deal of back and forth between the Muslim Brotherhood and Gamaa Islamiya, particularly following the statements of the Brotherhood’s deputy guide who charged Gamaa Islamiya with responsibility for violence during the term of former President Hosni Mubarak. Why have relations between the Brotherhood and Gamaa Islamiya deteriorated in this fashion?

Zumar:  Unfortunately, the current Brotherhood leadership’s attack on Gamaa Islamiya was not the first of its kind. A few other Brotherhood leaders had previously attacked Gamaa Islamiya, and the latest attack by the deputy general guide of the Brotherhood, Ibrahim Munir, in the British House of Commons sought to lay blame on Gamaa Islamiya and disassociate themselves [from that violence]. It was unacceptable and unjustified. It confirmed that the Brotherhood’s current leadership is not fit to represent the other [Islamist] factions in any potential political negotiations.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s current leadership has exhausted its allies. It has not heeded our counsel, and it has insisted on driving us into a brick wall, despite our advice having proven sound time and again. The core problem lies in the fact that the Brotherhood’s program is built on condescension toward its comrades and excluding others. I believe that this is one of the main reasons that prompted their fall from power so quickly.

Al-Monitor:  You demanded that relations be frozen with the Brotherhood’s present leadership due to this covert and overt attack on Gamaa Islamiya, so that sound relations could be re-established between you. What mechanisms are there for building strong ties with the Brotherhood? What conditions does Gamaa Islamiya have for establishing those relations?

Zumar:  I did, in fact, propose that Gamaa Islamiya freeze relations with the current leadership of the Brotherhood because of what you mentioned earlier: the attack by Brotherhood leaders, both covert and overt, on Gamaa Islamiya, as well as their condescension and their desire to remain within the “Revolutionary Council Camp” while still [receiving] aid for their oppressed political activists, whom we are defending, among others.

The best evidence for the Brotherhood’s condescension toward their comrades is that they would not apologize for the words that Ibrahim Munir let slip until after [we] called to freeze ties with them.

This proposal touched on the core of my convictions, that the Brotherhood’s present leadership has failed to lead during this stage, and refused to evaluate its past experience at ruling Egypt. It has refused even to disclose to its allies what its future vision is concerning its crisis in Egypt. That is, if it really has any vision. It doesn’t make sense for us to follow a leadership without knowing what its plan for the future is. This caused me to present this proposal to the council, which is concerned with the vision and decision-making.

I reiterate to you that sound relations cannot be built between Gamaa Islamiya and the Brotherhood in the shadow of these crises. If Gamaa Islamiya defeats it — and I think that it cannot — then we will have to think about how to deal with it.

Al-Monitor:  How do you view the conflicts within the Brotherhood itself? Has the Brotherhood failed in developing itself and altering its operating mechanisms following its fall on July 3, 2013?

Zumar:  The disputes within the Brotherhood have become clear to all. And, unfortunately, these conflicts have been reflected in the alliance. They have had a major influence on the alliance, weakening its performance. I believe that the reason for these internal conflicts racking the Brotherhood returns to the failure of the current leadership in achieving its goals — returning to power — and to their collision with reality, to their refusal to engage in self-examination or to accept any solutions to bridge the gap, particularly those solutions that have been proposed by some prominent religious scholars, such as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. He launched an initiative in which he called on the Brotherhood to reconstitute the Brotherhood’s [Leadership] Council and [Guidance] Office.

The best evidence for the existence of fundamental disputes within the Brotherhood is that the condition that Morsi return to power is not fully agreed upon internally even now, despite the gravity of that position. Indeed, it doesn’t make sense that Morsi is now wearing a red prison jumpsuit, while a faction of the Brotherhood is still demanding his return to power, and discussing him serving out three more years of his term!

Al-Monitor:  Some websites affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood have accused Gamaa Islamiya of making deals with the present regime to abandon it and withdraw from the alliance. What truth is there to this?

Zumar:  This accusation is baseless, and there isn’t a shred of truth to it. We, Gamaa Islamiya, have borne [the consequences of] the Brotherhood’s failure despite our disagreement with them as to how best to govern the state, during Morsi’s administration. We advised them to be faithful, but they did not listen. It should be enough to show the falsity of this accusation to note that Sheikh Issam Darbalah died in prison, as did some of Gamaa Islamiya’s leaders, including Sheikh Izzat al-Salamuni. Many of our leaders remain in prison, including Dr. Safwat Abd al-Ghanni, Sheikh Mustafa Hamzah, Sheikh Alaa Abu an-Nasr and others. For the last four straight years, the Egyptian authorities have not even permitted me to travel to perform the religious obligations of the hajj or the umrah. Put simply, any talk about deals with the state is categorically untrue.

Al-Monitor:  Various political forces and members of the House of Representatives have called for reconciliation with the Islamist movement, for reintegrating it into society once again. Does Gamaa Islamiya support reconciliation with the state? What conditions does it have?

Zumar:  We fully support the notion of a comprehensive reconciliation with the state, a reconciliation that will end once and for all this state of perpetual conflict, for the simple reason that the country needs someone to take it by the hand, lead it out of its ordeal and into future horizons of popular harmony and consensus.

Furthermore, we must distinguish fully between the Egyptian state and ruling regimes that come and go. This distinction demands that we stand alongside the Egyptian state and its institutions in order to prevent its collapse. Even if that means that an “undesirable” political regime would remain in power until reforms can be brought about through legitimate mechanisms, guaranteeing the enforcement of the popular will through the ballot box. For the fall of the state would, at the present time, mean chaos and destruction that would lay waste to [our] rights, shed blood in vain and cost lives without justification.

We as Gamaa Islamiya support any just political solution that is premised upon doing right by all the oppressed sons of this nation, whether they be members of the Muslim Brotherhood, members of the police, the army or civilians, along with the participation of all in building their country without marginalization and in accordance with a clearly delineated vision of the future.

Al-Monitor:  Does Gamaa Islamiya set the return of Morsi as a condition for this reconciliation?

Zumar:  In my personal estimation, Morsi’s term ended with his ouster on July 3, 2013, and the Egyptian state entered a new phase. Even the group that believes that Morsi must complete his term in office in its entirety [should acknowledge that] this period also came to an end on June 30 of the same year.

What concerns us now is how to get Morsi out of prison and dismiss all the charges against him. I believe this is a fundamental condition for any reconciliation with the state.

Al-Monitor:  What will Gamaa Islamiya do if the Brotherhood sets Morsi’s return to power as a condition for reconciliation?

Zumar:  The Brotherhood must know well that if it sticks with the condition of Morsi’s return to power again, then there is no point in entering any future negotiations with the state. Gamaa Islamiya, in making its decisions, will rely upon the Shura Council and General Council only.

Al-Monitor:  Some have spoken about an impending initiative of Gamaa Islamiya with the present regime that would require the release of all its leaders from prison and returning them to political participation in exchange for withdrawing from the Brotherhood-led National Alliance to Support Legitimacy. Is Gamaa Islamiya ready to launch an initiative with the current regime?

Zumar:  There are no initiatives with the state. These are merely rumors, and absolutely baseless ones.

Al-Monitor:  What truth is there to the [reports of] conflicts within Gamaa Islamiya, especially after Sheikh Asim Abd al-Magid proposed founding the “Alliance of the Virtuous,” which did not place the return of Morsi to power at the top of its list of priorities?

Zumar:  There is no truth to [reports of] any conflicts within Gamaa Islamiya. Disagreement is a natural thing and a sign of [internal] democracy. Gamaa Islamiya has its institutions, the Shura Council and the General Council. The Development and Building Party has independent institutions of its own as well: the political office, the supreme council, the General Secretariat, the General Council. If a member of Gamaa Islamiya or the party presents a proposal, it will be discussed before the relevant body for a decision to be made. If it is agreed upon, then that proposal becomes the official position of the party or Gamaa Islamiya. If, however, it does not meet with acceptance, then it remains the personal opinion of the one who proposed it. We don’t have any problem with proposing political opinions or proposals, whether inside Gamaa Islamiya or the party, since everyone abides by the final decisions reached by either the party or Gamaa Islamiya.

Al-Monitor:  Gamaa Islamiya was founded with the goal of waging armed jihad in the 1970s. Then it undertook a number of revisions and announced that it had embarked on a peaceful course since the January 25 Revolution in order to achieve its goals through political participation. What are these revisions, and why did Gamaa Islamiya renounce violence?

Zumar:  Gamaa Islamiya did not “renounce” violence, because violence has never been an integral part of its program. Not since day one. Gamaa Islamiya strives for peaceful preaching, but we were subjected to manifest repression in the era of President Mubarak. Many of our leaders were assassinated, many of our members were arrested, our mosques were assaulted, the sanctities of our members’ homes were violated, pushing some of our members to taking up arms. But this was an exception to the rule.

Nevertheless, after a period of conflict, exploited by the Mubarak regime to tarnish the image of Islam and stigmatize it as [supporting] terrorism — of which it is innocent — the historic leaders of Gamaa Islamiya launched an initiative from a Sharia premise and a realistic vision. They launched a cease-fire initiative in 1997, until Gamaa Islamiya returned to its natural state of peaceful preaching, as it had been before. And after the revolution of Jan. 25, 2011, Gamaa Islamiya turned toward establishing a political party bearing the name “Construction and Development.” It received a license by judicial ruling, and began building the institutions of a party and choosing its leaders through free and transparent elections so that it might fulfill its role through a political vision characterized by wisdom, objectivity and awareness of the course of events, all within the framework of the constitution and the law.

Al-Monitor:  Why did Gamaa Islamiya’s leadership not take the initiative by proposing an initiative to the state, as happened in the 1990s?

Zumar:  As I said, we might support any initiative, or accept any initiative aimed at reconciliation with the state. We are totally ready for this.

Al-Monitor:  The state has faced a number of challenges, foremost among them armed groups in the Sinai Peninsula that have declared open season on members of the army, police forces and civilians. What’s your view of this?

Zumar:  During the administration of Morsi, there was a real opportunity to effect a comprehensive resolution of Sinai’s problems, a resolution not limited to the security aspect alone, but one that would have relied on social development, putting an end to the problem of the marginalization of Sinai’s inhabitants, who have been deprived of the right to own lands, the right to be appointed to important positions like that of an officer in the army, police or judiciary. These matters are very important. Indeed, they are no less important than security solutions.

In truth, the current political regime has recently begun to take an interest in solving Sinai’s problems and establishing development projects. But at least so far, these efforts have not borne any fruit on the [political] level.

Al-Monitor:  Are those groups supported by the Brotherhood or any foreign entities?

Zumar:  That is a question to be decided by the Egyptian judiciary alone, in the investigations that are currently ongoing on this matter.

Al-Monitor:  Do you believe that the movement of political Islam, and in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, has lost its popularity on the Egyptian street?

Zumar:  The Muslim Brotherhood is a large group and has undertaken massive efforts in the realm of charitable work. No one can deny this. Egyptian society now feels a vacuum following the cessation of its charitable activities. It suffices for me to say that the so-called Ramadan bags, which the Brotherhood used to put together to support the poor, have been greatly affected. Even some of the state’s institutions have hastened, in an attempt on their part to fill this void, to distribute large quantities of this support to citizens in poor areas.

As I said, I reject the idea that members of the Brotherhood or the broader movement of political Islam be removed from state institutions. That would constitute an act of injustice and an irreparable breach. Unless this principle is adopted, every faction that rises to power will exclude all others from institutions of state, and this must not happen.

Al-Monitor:  Do you believe that the state will carry out sentences of execution against leaders of the Brotherhood after the stages of litigation conclude?

Zumar:  In my view, the sentences of execution in and of themselves represent a problem confronting the government, insofar as [carrying them out] would create martyrs and open wide the gates of evil and conflict, as well as shut the door to [possible] resolution of these crises. Moreover, I imagine that the Court of Cassation, with its legal understanding, judicial wisdom and realistic view, can deliver the state from this awkward situation and cancel any orders of execution on its own. Especially if most of the charges are [some form of] incitement to violence, something that, in truth, does not comport with the Brotherhood’s program.

Al-Monitor:  After the passage of three years since the fall of the Brotherhood’s rule, how do you view the term of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi? Do you believe that he still enjoys the same popularity that he did when he came to power?

Zumar:  I believe that this period is a very sensitive and delicate one. The difficulties and problems are growing, even despite the massive efforts being taken to resolve them. Egyptians have seen the launch of many giant projects, but ones flawed by their inability to show any direct return for them. It would have been sounder had the first effort been focused on small and medium projects with a quick return for the average citizen’s income [at a time when] many are suffering from rising costs of living and don’t believe that their hopes for improved incomes, hopes which have been promised to them by the president over two years ago, have been realized.

I recently wrote an article under the headline “Popularity doesn’t last,” in which I warned against being deceived by popularity, for it cannot be reconciled with [political] practice. This is what has happened with the popularity of President Sisi. It has clearly diminished, as many of his supporters have moved over to the opposition camp.

Yet he still has a ripe opportunity before him in what remains of his term. He can rearrange the priorities so that effecting a truce with God will stand at the top of the list. Such a truce would include dealing justly with the oppressed, establishing justice and bringing the corrupt to account. And, as I mentioned earlier, I believe in the importance of acting to convene a national reconciliation and restoring cohesion to the various divisions of the people so that they can truly act as one hand, as they did on Jan. 25. In such a way, they can finally secure the aspirations and goals of this revolution, as represented in providing a decent living, guaranteeing freedom and social justice. There is no doubt that this is possible if intentions are sincere and if we all resolve together to raise this country up into the ranks of the great nations.

(Source / 05.07.2016)

Al-Araqib villagers protest 100th demolition of Bedouin village, demand freedom for Bilal Kayed

araqib-bilal3

On 3 July, Palestinians of Al-Araqib village gathered in the Naqab desert to protest against the 100th demolition of their village by Israeli forces – and to stand in solidarity with Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed, on open hunger strike since 15 June against his administrative detention without charge or trial, imposed on him following the expiration of his 14.5 year sentence in Israeli prisons on 13 June.

Al-Araqib is an “unrecognized” Palestinian Bedouin village in the Naqab desert, whose lands were expropriated by the Zionist state under the “Land Appropriation Law of 1953,” and the villagers internally displaced. After years of struggle under military rule and following it, many of the people of Araqib returned to their lands in the 1990s to reestablish their life on the land, and was home to about 300 residents when it was demolished for the first recent time in July 2010. Al-Araqib is one of dozens of so-called “unrecognized” Palestinian Bedouin villages, where the state refuses to connect the villages to the national water and electricity grid, provide health and educational services, or support any basic infrastructure, despite the residents’ status as Israeli citizens allegedly entitled to equal rights. Instead, the state attempts to push the Bedouin families to “planned cities” like Rahat, preventing them from accessing a traditional Bedouin lifestyle or their agricultural lands.

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On 29 June 2016, the village was demolished for the 100th time. Not only does the Israeli state attack and demolish Palestinian residences throughout Palestine, making clear the status of Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship as an oppressed and excluded indigenous people alongside all other Palestinians (in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza; in exile and diaspora as refugees) – it also attempts to bill them for the repeated demolitions, demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars from the villagers for “costs” for demolishing their homes.

Meanwhile, across the road from Al-Araqib, the Israeli state supports, irrigates, and funds the Jewish-only settlement of Givot Bar, established ten years ago by the Or Movement, a Zionist settler movement that aims to “Judaize” the Naqab and the Galilee, in partnership with the Jewish National Fund. The villagers’ land is classified by the state as “recreational,” with a JNF-sponsored forest scheduled to be planted on their land – and 3,500 native citrus and olive trees uprooted and destroyed in order to make way for it.

araqib-bilal4On 3 July, villagers of Araqib, including the president of the Popular Committee to Defend Al-Araqib, Ahmad Khalil Abu Medeghem, gathered for their weekly protests asserting their right to defend their land and to stand in solidarity with Bilal Kayed.

13592565_496335577234358_4383384952949567734_nKayed, 35, has been on hunger strike since 15 June demanding his freedom; he was ordered to administrative detention without charge or trial upon the completion of his 14.5 year sentence in Israeli prisons on 13 June. He is joined by hundreds of fellow prisoners taking part in hunger strikes and other protests demanding his freedom; his case is seen as threatening a dangerous precedent of indefinite imprisonment of Palestinian prisoners upon the completion of their sentences. International protests in cities around the world, as well as mass marches and protests throughout Palestine, have gathered in the past three weeks to demand Kayed’s immediate release.

(Source / 05.07.2016)

B’Tselem: Eyewitness report casts doubts on army’s narrative in Palestinian woman’s killing

Hebron Sarah Taraya vermoord

A screenshot of a video reportedly showing the moment when Sarah Tarayra was killed by Israeli forces in Hebron on July 1, 2016

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Eyewitness testimony and video footage have cast doubts on the Israeli narrative surrounding the death of a Palestinian woman on Friday in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported on Tuesday.On July 1, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian woman, identified as 27-year-old Sarah Tarayra, after she allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing attack against border police officers near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron’s Old City.According to B’Tselem, Israeli police stated that Tarayra was taken to a small room at a Hebron checkpoint because she “appeared suspect,” only to unsuccessfully attempt to stab a policewoman, at which point the police said another officer “responded quickly and carried out a precise and targeted shooting towards the terrorist until she was neutralized.”However, B’Tselem said in a statement that an account by a Palestinian bystander present on the scene that day who filmed part of the encounter contradicted official police reports that Tarayra — whom was identified by the NGO as Sarah Hajuj — represented an imminent threat when she was killed by Israeli border police officers.B’Tselem claimed that the information it had received indicated “that the Border Police officers could almost certainly have stopped Hajuj with non-lethal means, thereby rendering the shooting unjustified.”According to the witness, a scuffle was heard coming from the room in which Tarayra was being held, after which two Israeli officers were seen exiting while coughing and covering their faces with their hands. The witness added that the second police officer to exit the room was holding pepper spray in her hand, as B’Tselem said that photographs of Tarayra’s body showed “remnants of pepper spray” on her face.A video shot by the eyewitness from that moment on showed at least six Israeli officers standing outside of the open room when they started running away from the door for a reason left unclear in the footage, and fired at least four shots.

“At that stage, police officers had already sprayed her face with pepper spray, a substance that usually has a highly debilitating effect on people, Therefore, the argument that shooting to kill was necessary and the only way of stopping Hajuj under those circumstances is untenable,” B’Tselem wrote.“There was clearly no justification for excessive gunfire when Hajuj no longer posed a threat, carrying it out just with a view of killing her.”B’Tselem denounced what a number of groups have termed a “shoot to kill” policy by Israeli forces, which has led to the “extrajudicial execution” of a number of Palestinians despite circumstances in which they could have been apprehended without the use of lethal force.“This open-fire policy has been broadly backed by senior politicians and high-ranking military commanders, granting immunity to individuals implementing it. It is these leading figures who bear the moral and legal liability for the death of Palestinians in such circumstances,” B’Tselem stated.More than 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis and some 32 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians since a wave of unrest first swept across the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel in October.The majority of Palestinians allegedly carrying out attacks have been shot dead on site, but investigations by rights groups have reported that a number of Palestinians killed did not pose sufficient threat for the use of lethal force at the time of their death.The Hebron area in particular grew as the epicenter of upheaval. The checkpoint near the Ibrahimi Mosque, where Friday’s incident took place, is located in Hebron’s Old City, parts of which had been designated as a “closed military zone” by the Israeli army since November amid dozens of cases in which more than 40 Palestinians were killed.Palestinian residents of the Tel Rumeida area were forced to register under a number system in order to enter or exit the neighborhood, and locals have reported heavier restrictions imposed by the army that B’Tselem has referred to as “draconian measures.”While the closed military zone status was lifted mid-May following a period of relative calm, severe restrictions on movement for Palestinians in Hebron remain, particularly in the area designated as H2 — under full Israeli military control — which encompasses the Ibrahimi Mosque and much of the Old City.

(Source / 05.07.2016)

In 2007, Seymour Hersh Predicted U.S., Saudi Arabia & Israel Would Destabilize Syria

Nine years ago, the award-winning investigative journalist warned that U.S. support for extremists in Syria would lead to destabilization and civil war in the region.

He exposed the My Lai massacre, revealed Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia and has hounded Bush and Cheney over the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, and as far as back as 2007 Seymour Hersh has been challenging the official narrative on Syria.

He exposed the My Lai massacre, revealed Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia and has hounded Bush and Cheney over the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, and as far as back as 2007 Seymour Hersh has been challenging the official narrative on Syria

MINNEAPOLIS — The Syrian civil war has created chaos throughout the Middle East, given rise to an unprecedented refugee crisis, and helped fuel terrorism internationally.

Award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh predicted many of these events nine years ago in a detailed report for The New Yorker and warned that the United States and its allies in Israel and Saudi Arabia were helping to foment the unrest. Hersh began:

“In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The ‘redirection,’ as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.”

During the final days of the George W. Bush administration, Hersh reported that the Pentagon increasingly blamed Iran and Hezbollah, a Lebanese resistance force supported by Iran, for the destabilization in Iraq caused by the U.S.-led invasion and war.

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East,” Hersh continued.

He reported that the U.S. and its allies in Saudi Arabia began supporting Sunni-led extremist forces in Syria, despite the fact that these rebel groups had ties to al-Qaida, the terrorist network responsible for attacks elsewhere in the region and the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. Hersh wrote:

“The Saudi royal family has been, by turns, both a sponsor and a target of Sunni extremists, who object to the corruption and decadence among the family’s myriad princes. The princes are gambling that they will not be overthrown as long as they continue to support religious schools and charities linked to the extremists. The Administration’s new strategy is heavily dependent on this bargain.”

The Bush administration’s Middle East maneuvering also brought another key ally into closer diplomatic relations with the Gulf kingdom:

“The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.”

WikiLeaks’ archive of diplomatic cables confirms much of Hersh’s reporting, including Saudi Arabia’s function as a key source of funding for Sunni terrorists and Israeli and U.S. plans for regime change in Syria through support of extremist rebels, which date back to at least 2006.

The alliance between the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Israel has more to do with attempts to control the region’s vast energy resources than religious differences or any perceived threat posed by Iran or Syria, according to a September analysis by Mnar Muhawesh, founder and editor-in-chief of MintPress News. Muhawesh wrote:

“The true agenda to hijack Syria’s revolt quickly became evident, with talking heads inserting Syria’s alliance with Iran as a threat to the security and interests of the United States and its allies in the region. It’s no secret that Syria’s government is a major arms, oil and gas, and weapons ally of Iran and Lebanon’s resistance political group Hezbollah.”

President Barack Obama has largely continued Bush’s agenda in the region.

In his 2007 report, Hersh interviewed Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, who suggested the United States’ true goal was to radically change the balance of power in the Middle East. What Nasrallah said nearly a decade ago offers a remarkably accurate description of the state of the region today:

“Nasrallah said he believed that President Bush’s goal was ‘the drawing of a new map for the region. They want the partition of Iraq. Iraq is not on the edge of a civil war—there is a civil war. There is ethnic and sectarian cleansing. The daily killing and displacement which is taking place in Iraq aims at achieving three Iraqi parts, which will be sectarian and ethnically pure as a prelude to the partition of Iraq. Within one or two years at the most, there will be total Sunni areas, total Shiite areas, and total Kurdish areas. Even in Baghdad, there is a fear that it might be divided into two areas, one Sunni and one Shiite.’”

Although Hersh won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his reporting on the 1968 My Lai Massacre, in which American soldiers murdered hundreds of of Vietnamese civilians, his more recent work — includingaccusations that American soldiers raped boys in front of their mothers in Iraq and an investigation into the real circumstances of Osama bin Laden’s death — often draws criticism from the mainstream media.

Hersh, in turn, has criticized the mainstream media for trading “their integrity for access” to government officials.

“I still read the newspapers and scream every morning,” he told Jared Malsin, of the Columbia Journalism Review, last year. “I screamed at The New York Times this morning.”

Watch “Full Show 4/26/16: Seymour Hersh Exposes the Truth About Obama’s War on Terror” from The Big Picture RT:

(Source / 05.07.2016)

Family of slain youth to go homeless as Israel orders demolition

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Tuesday notified the demolition of the family home of the slain Palestinian youth Muhammad Tarayra on the second day of Muslims Eid al-Fitr. The IOF soldiers rolled into al-Khalil’s eastern town of Bani Na’im, in the southern occupied West Bank, and notified the demolition of Tarayra’s family home, which covers an overall area of 250 square meters, on July 7. Over recent days, the IOF soldiers have sealed off the main entrances to Bani Na’im town and rummaged into civilian homes. The assault culminated in the abduction of youngster Muhammad Hassan Ehmeidat. Other youths were summoned for interrogation in the process. 19-year-old Muhammad Tarayra was killed by the Israeli occupation army last Thursday after he had carried out an anti-occupation stabbing attack in the illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, in eastern al-Khalil province.

(Source / 05.07.2016)

PA halts dealing with Quartet after damning report

Mohammad Shtayyeh

Mohammad Shtayyeh. [File photo]

The Palestinian Authority has decided to halt all dealing with the Middle East Quartet after it published a report criticising the Palestinian government and its commitment to the peace process, the Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported today.

The report, published on 1 July, sharply criticised Palestinian groups for glorifying individuals who carry out deadly attacks and called on Palestinian leaders to “cease incitement to violence”.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, told Al-Hayat: “The report only discussed the goals, not the reasons. The first reason for the failure of the peace negotiations is the settlements that ruin the two-state solution.”

“Thus, if any party wants to reinvigorate peace talks, it must face the truth and suggest a way to talk about how and when the occupation will end.”

In its report, the Quartet also questioned Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution following its policy of increasing settlement construction. “This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state,” the report said.

Among its strongest recommendations: “Israel should cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, designating land for exclusive Israeli use, and denying Palestinian development.”

(Source / 05.07.2016)

Report: US-Backed Syrian Rebels Engaged In ISIS-Style War Crimes

Amnesty International says Syrian rebel groups believed to be backed by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are responsible for abductions, torture and summary killings in north and north-western Syria.

A Free Syrian Army fighter takes position close to a military base, near Azaz, Syria, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

A Free Syrian Army fighter takes position close to a military base, near Azaz, Syria, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012

While most of the reports on war crimes in Syria center on either ISIS or the Syrian government, they are by no means the only ones committing such crimes, as a new report from Amnesty International details “chilling” abuses committed by a number of different groups, including several US-backed rebel factions.

The report singles out three US-backed groups, the Nour al-Din Zanki Movement, the Levant Front, and the Free Syrian Army’s 16th Division, as being involved in torture and abuse of minorities and peaceful activists, along with carrying out summary executions of captured pro-government fighters.

The details of the abuses greatly resemble those the US has railed against ISIS over, accused of kidnapping Christian priests, killing people accused of being gay, and torturing journalists for reporting in ways seen unfriendly to their factions.

Amnesty’s Middle East Director Philip Luther noted that the civilians had initially “welcomed an escape from brutal Syrian government rule,” but that those hopes for a better future quickly failed as the rebels started adopting the exact same policies of abuse.

The US often brags about how well it vets the various rebel factions it chooses to subsidize, but more than once those groups have ended up siding with al-Qaeda or ISIS when push comes to shove, and this reports suggests that even the groups that have managed to remain in America’s pocket are war criminals.

This reflects what many analysts have said about the US arms smuggling and subsidy programs for years, that “moderate” armed factions are scarcer than hen’s teeth in Syria, and that the administration has been backing some very unseemly groups and passing them off as “moderates.”

(Source / 05.07.2016)