Israeli military exercises on gaza borders

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The Israeli army started on Sunday military exercises in the Jewish settlements built on the 1948 occupied Palestinian lands adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

The Hebrew website 0404 said that the military drills will be taking place in Sderot, Netivot and Ofakim settlements bordering the Gaza Strip and will continue for three days, during which the region will be witnessing an active movement of military vehicles.

The website, quoting a spokesman of the Israeli army, said that the exercises fall in line with annual military drills to maintain the efficiency and readiness of the Israeli forces.

The drills come at a time when the Hebrew media point at a possible rising tension with the Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, after assassinating the Tunisian pilot engineer Mohammed Zawari last Thursday since the Movement held the Israeli Mossad responsible for the assassination.

The Israeli army has intensified its military exercises on Gaza borders since its last 2014 summer aggression on the Strip in a bid to thwart any attempt to carry out resistance operations against military targets or Israeli settlements near the besieged enclave.

(Source / 18.12.2016)

IOF arrests 3 Palestinians suspected of starting fire

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Israeli occupation forces (IOF) arrested three Palestinian civilians from Iskaka village in Salfit province after claiming they started fires near the settlement of Ariel, Hebrew media reported on Sunday.

Hamdan Lami, 19, Jawwad Thaher, 19, and Yazid Lami, 24, were arrested on November 26, according to the Israeli report.

In another context, the Israeli prosecution on Sunday pressed charges against four Jerusalemites for supporting Hamas and incitement via Facebook

According to the Israeli website Walla, the four Jerusalemites, from 17 to 20 years old, have been charged with “inciting to terrorism and violence” on Facebook in addition to supporting a “terrorist group” and other charges.

(Source / 18.12.2016)

IOF destroyed more than 1000 Palestinian businesses in one year

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Rami al-Hamdallah, the head of the Palestinian consensus government, said that the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) destroyed around one thousand Palestinian businesses and workshops in area C, which is under full Israeli control.

Al-Hamdallah appealed, during his meeting with the Australian minister for trade and investment Steven Ciobo on Sunday, to the international community to act to end the Israeli occupation and violations.

“We will not accept the current situation to continue since it minimizes the possibility of the two-state solution. What we need now is a true partner for peace,” al-Hamdallah added.

According to a statement by the government media office, al-Hamdallah briefed the Australian minister on the Israeli crimes and violations especially the ones related to extrajudicial killing of civilians, arrests, and illegal settlement building.

Al-Hamdallah stressed Palestine’s commitment to the two-state solution, pointing out the Palestinian demand to stop the settlement building in order to move forward with the peace process was not a pre-condition as Israel claims. He explained that settlement building in the occupied Palestinian land violated the international law and all UN resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian Question.

(Source / 18.12.2016)

27 more administrative detention orders issued against Palestinian prisoners

Israeli occupation authorities issued 27 administrative detention orders for periods between three and six months between 7 and 18 December, reported Palestinian lawyer Mahmoud Halabi of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society.

Halabi noted that seven of the orders were newly issued against prisoners who had just been arrested, while 20 were renewals of existing detention orders. Included among these was the order of renewal against Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal, member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, as well as that against Mohammed Abu Sakha, the Palestinian circus performer whose continued imprisonment for over a year has sparked international protests. Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council Azzam Salhab and ill academic lecturer Issam al-Ashqar also received new 6-month administrative detention orders during this time.

There are over 700 Palestinian prisoners imprisoned without charge or trial by the Israeli occupation under administrative detention orders. Issued for one to six months at a time, these orders are indefinitely renewable and Palestinians are routinely detained for years at a time with no charge, no trial, on the basis of secret evidence.

The orders issued are:

1. Shaher Jamil Al-Hih, from al-Khalil, 4 months, extension
2. Mahmoud Awad Al-Asakra, from Bethlehem, 6 months, new order
3. Ahmed Abdel-Basit Abu Raya, from al-Khalil, 6 months, new order
4. Bassem Abdel-Razaq Saed, from Ramallah, 4 months, extension
5. Nidal al-Hindi, from Ramallah, 6 months, new order
6. Jamal Awni Al-Aedam, from al-Khalil, 4 months, extension
7. Rami Mahmoud Beiram, from Ramallah, 4 months, extension
8. Sharif Mohammed Musallem, from al-Khalil, 6 months, extension
9. Salim Yousef Rajoub, from al-Khalil, 4 months, extension
10. Yasser Ibrahim Badrsawi, from Nablus, 4 months, extension
11. Jibril Diab Jiyawi, from al-Khalil, 4 months, new order
12. Omar Naji Nazzel, from El-Bireh, 3 months, extension
13. Hamza Ibrahim Jibril, from Bethlehem, 6 months, extension
14. Mohammed Faisal Abu Sakha, from Jenin, 6 months, extension
15. Malik Awad Abayat, from Bethlehem, 4 months, extension
16. Abdallah Abdel-Hafiz Yousef, from Nablus, 4 months, extension
17. Mohammed Yousef Awad, from al-Khalil, 4 months, extension
18. Mohammed Medhat Abdu, from Ramallah, 3 months, extension
19. Rami Rezeq Fadayel, from Ramallah, 6 months, extension
20. Abdel-Halim Nayef Izzedine, from Jenin, 6 months, extension
21. Ahmed Qasim Sheikh, from Bethlehem 4 months, extension
22. Salah Abdallah Zughbi, from Jenin, 6 months, extension
23. Fadi Abdel-Halim Daoud, from al-Khalil, 6 months, extension
24. Saddam Ghalib al-Saadah, from al-Khalil, 4 months, new order
25. Ismail Mohammed Al-Amsi, from al-Khalil, 6 months, extension
26. Azzam Naaman Salhab, from al-Khalil, 6 months, new order
27. Issam Rashid al-Ashqar, from Nablus, 6 months, new order

(Source / 18.12.2016)

Kurdish National Council Condemns War Crimes by Assad Regime, Russia & Iran in Aleppo

The Kurdish National Council (KNC) said that the Assad regime, Russia, and the Iranian militias are committing the most heinous war crimes against civilians in eastern Aleppo using all kinds of weapons, including internationally banned ones, in the brutal assault they have launched since november 15.

In statement distributed by the KNC’s foreign mission at the European Union, the Kurdish Council said that the regime’s onslaught on Aleppo has left thousands of civilian casualties. The Council, which is a key component of the Syrian Coalition, pointed out that rescue workers can not reach victims of the bombardment by regime forces and their allies on eastern Aleppo, adding that dozens of civilians were buried under the rubble of their bombed houses. The Kurdish Council also noted that the bombardment is targeting mainly residential buildings and vital civilian infrastructure, adding that regime forces and their allied foreign militias carried out summary executions against dozens of civilians who tried to escape the relentless bombardment.

The Council also criticized the inaction of the international community over the tragedy unfolding in Aleppo, stressing that the Assad regime and its allies have resumed bombardment of the city despite many appeals and calls to stop their operations and open safe corridors to evacuate civilians trapped inside.

The Kurdish Council appealed to the international community and human rights organizations to take real action to bring to justice pillars of the Assad regime and all those complicit in the atrocities taking place in Syria.

The Kurdish Council called upon the international community to shoulder its legal, humanitarian responsibilities to save the Syrian people and put an end to their suffering. It also called for a push towards finding a comprehensive political solution that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people.

The Assad regime can not be part of any possible solution as it is killing the Syrian people, destroying Syria, and allowing and terrorists groups to wreak havoc in Syria with the sole aim of clinging to power.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office / 18.12.2016)

4 Palestinian kidnapped, homes ravaged in predawn sweep by IOF

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The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) at dawn Sunday kidnapped four Palestinians and ravaged civilian homes in an abduction weep rocking the West Bank and Jerusalem.

At predawn time, the Israeli occupation army claimed responsibility for the abduction of three Palestinians on suspicion of involvement in anti-occupation activities.

The campaign targeted two Palestinian civilians from al-Duheisheh camp and another from Ramah Rabah in Bethlehem.

A PIC news correspondent said the IOF rolled into al-Duheisheh camp and kidnapped the two youngsters Khalil al-Bana and Ahmad al-Seifi after they wreaked havoc on their family homes.

Another IOF patrol stormed Ramah Rabah and kidnapped the 24-year-old Palestinian youth Mujahed al-Sheikh from his own family home.

Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation police kidnapped the Palestinian youngster Luay al-Rajabi from Silwan after they broke into his family home in Batn al-Hawa.

Over recent months, dozens of Palestinian youngsters have been kidnapped by the Israeli occupation army as part of Israel’s intents to quell anti-occupation activism across the occupied Palestinian territories.

(Source / 18.12.2016)

Russia and Turkey Pushed the West Out of Syria

Neither the U.S. nor European powers seem to have been aware that Russia and Turkey were negotiating a ceasefire and evacuation deal for Aleppo on Tuesday. After the capture of the ravaged but all-important city by Head of Syrian Regime Bashar al-Assad’s forces, this may be the new normal in Syria — one in which the West is more of a spectator than an active participant.

Though the evacuation, planned for 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, was delayed by an outbreak of fighting, with the sides blaming each other as usual, talks are continuing, and Western nations are not part of them. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday morning that it was “pointless” to talk to the U.S.; negotiations with Turkey would be “more effective than many months of a pointless hangout we have had with the United States.”

While the Western press discussed dire English-language tweets from the last rebel-held enclave of Aleppo, the Russians and Turks were talking to the rebels and the Assad regime, trying to finalize Assad’s victory. Their deal included a withdrawal plan for the rebels that would spare civilians further bloodshed — something that would enable Moscow and Ankara to burnish their humanitarian credentials and claim the mantle of peacemaker rather than kingmaker.

The U.S. had no idea about it. “I’m not aware that we had any indications that there were bilateral discussions to reach this kind of an arrangement,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said when asked whether State knew Turkey, a U.S. ally, was involved in the talks. “So I don’t know that there was any prior knowledge.” Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, seemed unaware that a deal had been struck when she delivered a prosecutorial speech to the U.N. security council, blaming Assad’s regime, Syria and Iran for “contributing to a noose around civilians” and asking, “Are you truly incapable of shame?”

At a press conference in Berlin Tuesday afternoon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande spoke of a “disastrous” and “heartbreaking ” situation in Aleppo, never indicating they knew a deal was in the works and slamming Russia for blocking talks. On Tuesday evening, Merkel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke to their Russian counterparts on the phone to discuss Syria, among other issues. By then, the deal had already been announced. The Kremlin readout of Merkel’s call with President Vladimir Putin says, “It was agreed to step up bilateral contacts” — a thinly veiled reference to Merkel’s dismay at being insufficiently informed.

This is what happens when Western powers are neither willing to fight nor amenable to a deal. U.S. and European hand-wringing has done little to help the people of Aleppo — something that will be remembered along with the bloodshed and the Assad regime’s ruthlessness. Countries that have been willing both to fight and to talk have stepped up as the real players.

Not that the interests of these players are perfectly aligned, however. Russia and Turkey have diverging interests in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a sworn enemy of Assad, Putin his ally. Erdogan has a major problem with the Kurdish enclaves in Syria which he believes serve to destabilize the situation across the Turkish border. Putin has quietly backed the Kurds, and Russia has insisted they take part in any talks on Syria’s future. A year ago, the Turkish air force shot down a Russian warplane after it briefly intruded into the Turkish airspace near the border, prompting a confrontation between Putin and Erdogan that lasted until Putin quickly and unequivocally supported the Turkish leader against a failed military coup.

There is no obvious solution to the Russian-Turkish differences on Syria short of the country’s partition into a “Russian zone” and a “Turkish zone” along the lines of the pre-World War I division of Iran between Russia and Britain, a possibility Turkey expert David Barchard raised in a recent article for the Middle East Eye. Perhaps things are moving toward this kind of a solution right out of the Great Game era: Putin and Erdogan have been talking on the phone before making each major move in Syria. Neither has felt the need to involve Western nations.

It is now clear that Russia only negotiated the previous Aleppo ceasefires with the U.S. as a smokescreen for operations that just had one goal — a military victory for the Assad regime. Turkey’s reticence is more troubling for the U.S. — but perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising. Turkey is the only North Atlantic Treaty Organization member that has dared to put boots on the ground in Syria in an operation it has called Euphrates Shield. It has the military capability to make gains without U.S. help. Russian acquiescence is more important for that than the approval of NATO allies.

(Source / 18.12.2016)

Palestinian factions: Zawari’s blood will not go in vain

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The Islamic and national factions in Gaza held the Israeli Mossad responsible for the assassination of the Tunisian engineer Mohammed Zawari, stressing that his blood will not go in vain.

In a statement issued by the Palestinian factions on Sunday, they praised the Tunisian people who have embraced the Palestinian resistance and supported the Palestinian people.

In another matter, the Palestinian factions blamed Israel for the worsening conditions of the Palestinian detainees Anas Shadid and Ahmad Abu Fara, asking the international organizations to immediately interfere and save their lives.

They also encouraged the continuation of solidarity events in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the hunger-striking detainees.

The statement called for the establishment of a committee to develop the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its provisional leadership framework, activate the previous reconciliation agreements (Cairo, Doha and al-Shati), and establish a national council that includes all Palestinian political spectra.

(Source / 18.12.2016)

UN blasts increase in arbitrary detention of Palestinian activists

In this file photo, an Israeli trooper punches Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro in the occupied southern West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron).

In this file photo, an Israeli trooper punches Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro in the occupied southern West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron)

The United Nations has denounced daily violations of human rights and international law by the Israeli regime in the occupied Palestinian territories, warning of an increase in the arbitrary detention of Palestinian rights activists.

“We have received a worrying number of complaints in recent months regarding human rights defenders, who are arrested and, in many cases, arbitrarily detained, often apparently as a direct result of their important work in their communities,” the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Michael Lynk, and the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, said in a joint statement on Friday.

The two senior UN officials further pointed to the cases of Issa Amro, the founder of the NGO of the Youth Against Settlements, and Farid al-Atrash, a Palestinian lawyer from the southern West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), who are being held in Israeli prisons over participation in a peaceful protest in February.

The UN experts also expressed concern over the harassment of Palestinian groups seeking to promote accountability and engage with the International Criminal Court over the Tel Aviv regime’s crimes in the occupied territories.

They called on Israeli authorities to respect human rights defenders’ “unfettered exercise of fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

“The right of all those who are seeking hope and participation in concrete, nonviolent action must be protected, particularly as we are seeing the deepening entrenchment of the Israeli occupation and the accompanying human rights violations,” the two UN special rapporteurs stressed.

(Source / 18.12.2016)

Why Bashar al-Assad remains popular among the Syrian people

Until the current crisis, Syria was a largely stable and peaceful nation since 1970 – the year Assad senior came to power. Syria’s turbulent history prior to 1970, however, gives one an insight into why contemporary Syrians want unity and associate peace with the Assad name.

Political stability is the goal to which all nations aspire. Those who have had it for sustained periods often forget that what is taken for granted in countries like the United States, is a precious gift to those in countries like Syria.

The centuries of on-and-off wars which ravaged Europe, largely came to an end in 1945. Since then, with the exceptions of the dreadful Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, Europe, like the English speaking parts of the New World, has not known armed conflict from external superpowers let alone sustained, bloody civil wars. The current war in Donbass is of course an exception, but the status of Donbass as a European region is up for debate.

By contrast, the history of Syria between 1946 and 1970 was one where political turbulence and civil strife was the rule, broken up by exceptional periods of peace that were hardly stable. Syria became fully independent of French mandate rule in 1946. Three coups of 1949 were followed by another in 1954. Of the new Arab states formed from former British and French mandates, Syria was in many respects, the least stable.

Signs of hope for Syrian stability arrived in 1958. Egypt’s success in the Suez War of 1956, broadened the appeal of Nassarist Pan-Arabism. Syria was the first country to officially sign up to the programme when Cairo and Damascus agreed to form the United Arab Republic. In spite of initial optimism, certain figures in the Syrian military became angered at supposed Egyptian dominance of the Republic, leading to a coup against the UAR in 1961 in which Syria was declared the fully independent Syrian Arab Republic.

The March 8 Revolution of 1963 brought the Ba’ath party to power. The new Ba’athist government was led by Prime Minister Salah al-Din al-Bitar, working closely with Michel Aflaq, one of the foremost thinkers of Ba’athism. This too would be short lived as events in Syria in 1966 led to an international split in the Ba’ath party. Al-Bitar fled to Lebanon and Aflaq to Iraq as the leftist Ba’ath hardliner Salah Jadid took power. Jadid’s rule became increasingly unpopular after Syria’s joint loss to Israeli forces in the Arab-Israeli War (Six Day War) of 1967.

When Jadid pushed for Syrian action against Jordan in order to aid Palestinians during the Black September crisis of 1970, less radical elements of the Ba’ath party led by Hafez al-Assad launched the Correct Movement which ousted Jadid and ushered in a period of increased stability following the turbulence of the 60s.

Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria from 1970 until his death in the year 2000. Whilst the Syrian military participated in the Arab-Israeli War of 1973 and engaged in longstanding interventions in the Lebanese Civil War, internally Syria became increasingly stable. If the story of Syrian history from 1946-1970 was one of continual instability, the story of Syria from 1970 till 2011 tells the opposite tale.

It was during this period that the Federation of Arab Republics was formed in 1972. Initially spearheaded by Libya’s Gaddafi, the idea was to create a federative model of Pan-Arab unity as opposed to the united state model of the United Arab Republic. Although highly popular with the populations of Syria, Libya and Egypt, the Federation collapsed in 1977. In spite of this, Syria’s internal stability remained largely unshaken throughout the 1970s and into the new millennium.

After 2003, Syria was one of the first countries in the world to unconditionally and without prejudice, accept refugees from the disastrous war America and Britain waged against Iraq. This is one of the reasons why the Western sponsored insurrections of 2011 in Syria are all the more tragic.

The Syrian people, like any people who have experienced a history of civil strife, coups and general political instability, crave the peace that is only possible with stable government. Bashar al-Assad who took over from his father in 2000, has remained in power despite the continued conflict. This is something no previous modern Syrian leader had been able to achieve, and until Russia came to Syria’s aid in the war against terrorism, Assad largely stood alone.

He could not have done this without the broad support of a Syrian people whom in the 1940s, 50s and 60s saw leader after leader come and go, often under the cloak of extreme violence. No people crave revolution. It is an entirely unnatural condition in the affairs of men and women.

Revolutions are typically born out of the localised greed of specific groups with very specific interests. Revolutions which occur in the name of the greater good are the exceptions which prove this rule.

The people of Syria have implicitly expressed their understanding of this reality. They want a prosperous country, a sovereign country, a country free from terrorism, a secular country and a country with healthy, patriotic voices of opposition.

The irksome term ‘moderate rebel’ is often used by mainstream media to portray the terrorists ravaging parts of Syria. In reality, by definition no rebel is moderate. An act of rebellion is necessarily an act of extremism and Syrians do not want to return to the 1960s, to an age of fighting, revolution and fear. They want what they have broadly had since 1970, peace and freedom. This is why President Assad still stands tall in Damascus.

(Source / 18.12.2016)