Fahd: Assad’s Departure Is the Revolution’s Central Demands That No One Has the Right to Waive

Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Ilah Fahd reiterated that Assad’s departure is still the revolution’s central demand, stressing that no one has the right to give up this demand. He said that waiving this demand means relinquishing the basic rights of the Syrian people as well as ignoring the fact that half a million people have been killed by the Assad regime and thousands are still detained in Assad’s prisons. The demand for Assad’s departure must not be subject to negotiations, he stressed.

Fahd said the talks due to be held in Astana will be focused on the consolidation of the ceasefire agreement and have nothing to do with political negotiations. Talks on the political process will be held in Geneva where the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) is the only body mandated to represent the Syrian people.

Fahd stressed the need for the FSA and rebel groups to unite under the goals and slogans of the revolution and its demands as doing otherwise will not serve the revolution, he added. There should be no goals or agendas but those of the revolution, Fahd stressed, adding that anyone who is outside this framework will not be part of the revolution.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office + Okaz Newspaper)

Palestinian, Israeli leadership react to deadly police raid of Bedouin village


RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat condemned Israeli authorities for the “crime” committed Wednesday during a demolition campaign in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, during which a Palestinian citizen of Israel was shot dead by Israeli police and an Israeli policeman was killed, and numerous Palestinians were injured.

Erekat accused the Israeli government of reacting to attempts by the international community to achieve peace between Palestinians and Israelis by escalating a policy of “racism, ethnic cleansing, and the evacuation of indigenous Palestinians from their lands, in a desperate attempt to Judaize the country.”
He called attention to the estimated 1.7 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who “are living amid the racist system of Israel,” adding that the demolition Palestinian homes in the Israeli city of Qalansawehad “continued in Qalandiya refugee camp yesterday and in Umm al-Hiran today.”
Erekat stressed that the international community’s silence towards Israeli actions only bought time and immunity for Israel to commit more crimes, adding that the situation “requires an immediate and urgent international intervention to stop this chaos before it’s too late.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that not holding Israel accountable regarding its role as an occupying power “lessens the credibility of countries who demand reviving and realizing the two-state solution.”
The ministry argued that Israel’s belligerence in the face of international conventions “calls for an international ethical wakening to punish Israel for its violations, and to end its occupation of Palestine.”
According to the ministry, the government led by right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “escalated its aggression against Palestinian existence by conducting daily attacks and field executions against unarmed Palestinian citizens in an attempt to escape its internal crises and take advantage of international and regional changes.”
The statement added that Israel’s aggressive actions exemplified the “spread of racism and extreme violence in Israeli society,” and indicated a “deep state of political confusion in dealing with Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.”
Israeli leadership divided over killing of Abu al-Qian
Meanwhile, Israeli officials were deeply divided on Wednesday over their accounts of Wednesday’s deadly police raid in Umm al-Hiran, as far-right ministers and Knesset members claimed that Yaqoub Abu al-Qian was shot dead while carrying out a deliberate car ramming attack, with Israeli police suggesting he was affiliated to the Islamic Movement and could have been influenced by the so-called Islamic State.
However, numerous witnesses said Abu al-Qian was shot by Israeli police while driving normally, which caused him to spin out of control and crash into policemen, and family members denied his affiliation to the Islamic Movement, insisting he was just a high school math teacher.
Members of the Joint List, which represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Knesset,accused police of intentionally covering up the fact that they shot al-Qian in cold blood.
Joint List MKs — including Hanin Zoabi, Jamal Zahalqa, Ahmad Tibi, and Aida Touma-Suleiman — had traveled to Umm al-Hiran to help locals opposing the demolition, when the head of the coalition, Ayman Odeh, was injured after being shot in the head by police with sponge-tipped bullet.
MK Gilad Erdan of the ruling Likud party, who also serves as Israel’s public security minister, accused Odeh of traveling to Umm al-Hiran to “incite violence” and warned that there might be “criminal implications for him.”
He also said on social media that “any attempts to murder police securing a court-ordered evacuation will get the same response,” referring to the killing of al-Qian.
Erdan was quoted by Israeli media as saying that “violence and terrorism will not win over the rule of law,” adding that he “hopes this won’t become a day that marks a turn in the relationship between the Bedouin and state authorities. But if it does, MK Ayman Odeh has greatly contributed to the matter.”
Israel’s Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant meanwhile condemned “the Bedouin violence that awakened this morning,” calling to answer such violence “with a firm hard and uncompromising measures,” Israeli news site Ynet quoted him as saying.
He called on Israeli police and on Erdan “to increase the enforcement in the Negev and demolish all additional illegal homes in the Umm al-Hiran area today.”
He also accused the Palestinian MKs of “using their status and immunity to disturb security forces as they’re carrying out their assignments. The participation of Joint List MKs in the Bedouin’s protest against the evacuation causes unrest, constitutes incitement, and encourages violence.”
MK Zoabi reacted with outrage to Abu al-Qian’s killing and the demolition campaign, saying that Wednesday’s events were “just like when the Palestinians were expelled in 1948,” Ynet quoted her as saying.
She slammed Israeli media sites for repeating the police version of events, asserting that “this was an incident of expulsion as part of an overall plan of expulsion. You can’t turn it into a vehicular attack.”
“Show what police are doing to people. There are eyewitnesses. Ask the MKs and don’t listen to police who are lying over and over again,” she reportedly said, highlighting Israeli authorities’ record of failing to open investigations into killings of Palestinians by Israeli police.
Tibi for his part said that “The (Israeli) state treats its Arab citizens as enemies, and that is why even when they are protesting against the demolition of a house — which is part of their basic right for a roof over their heads –they are being shot and killed, and (police) are attacking both citizens and MKs.”
Tibi suggested that Netanyahu was “trying to cover up his own problems by creating a conflict and crisis with the Arab public,” referring to the fact that the Israeli prime minister is currently under police investigation.
Meretz MK Issawi Frej agreed with the assertion, saying that “the deeper the investigation, the deeper racism and violence go.”
“The prime minister realizes the only way to divert the attention from the investigations against him is to go to war against the Arab public. After the initial battle in Qalansawe last week, today was the official declaration of war,” Frej said.
(Source / 18.01.2017)

Israeli settlers damage olive trees near Ramallah-area village


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers damaged olive trees belonging to Palestinians near the village of Turmusayya in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on Wednesday.Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that 12 trees were damaged, and that the perpetrators had graffitied slogans in Hebrew on nearby rocks, which notably called for “revenge.”Al-Samri added that Israeli police had opened an investigation into the case.Settlers often carry out attacks on Palestinians and their property, known as “price tag attacks.”Many Palestinian activists and rights groups have accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers and soldiers committing violent acts against Palestinians.According to Israeli NGO Yesh Din, over 85 percent of investigations into violence committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians are closed without indictments and only 1.9 percent of complaints submitted by Palestinians against Israeli settler attacks result in a conviction.Yesh Din spokesperson Gilad Grossman told Ma’an in May — ahead of the release of a Jewish extremist arrested in the wake of a deadly arson attack that killed three members of the Palestinian Dawabsha family in the occupied West Bank last summer — that the dearth of adequate policing by Israeli forces in the West Bank is largely due to lack of ability as well as willingness to address ideologically-motivated crimes against Palestinians.Attacks by settlers are often carried out under the armed protection of Israeli forces who rarely make efforts to protect Palestinians from such attacks.Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law, with recent announcements of settlement expansion provoking condemnation from the international community.According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were a total of 107 reported settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in 2016.

(Source / 18.01.2017)

‘US gave ISIS escape route from Mosul to Syria; now civilians are paying the price’

‘US gave ISIS escape route from Mosul to Syria; now civilians are paying the price’

Islamic state fighters

The US-led coalition should destroy ISIS to take away the shine that would attract others to the cause, and to prevent them from having a second foothold somewhere else, journalist Adel Darwish told RT.

A large group of ISIS terrorists has started an offensive against a key government air base in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor.

RT: ISIS has been trying to gain control of the Deir ez-Zor air base for years, and now their numbers have risen. Given the proximity to Mosul in Iraq, is there a connection?

Adel Darwish: Of course there is a connection there. The plan was to destroy ISIS. When they [Islamic State] captured Mosul that was quite a boost for them; that’s when they declared a caliphate. So recapturing it, yes, it may an emotional setback; it will deprive them of the propaganda of recruiting young Muslim men.

However, if the coalition led by America were quite serious about destroying ISIS, and the Iraqi army and the Kurdish forces wanted to surround Mosul and systematically destroy the fighters there. President Obama and the Americans insisted on leaving them and leaving them an escape route in order – in their words – “to avoid civilian casualties” – by giving them an escape route.

What happened is they gave them an escape route to go to Syria – to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor – and now those civilians in Deir ez-Zor are suffering… On the political front, you should destroy [ISIS] in order to take away the shine that would attract others to the cause and to prevent them from having a second foothold somewhere else…


RT: In December 2016 there was a series of US-led coalition air strikes near the Deir ez-Zor Airport, but now they aren’t doing anything. Why the change?

Adel Darwish: I think that is very much to do with two issues. One, the success of the Russian and Syrian army coalition there in recapturing eastern Aleppo, and a setback for the terrorists, and that didn’t go down well with the Obama administration. They saw that as a Russian victory. They saw that they are setting peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, with America being sidelined. So they want to pay back Russia, which is a very silly game to play.

The second one has to do with the American internal politics that the Obama administration is outgoing. We have the Trump administration coming in two days time. They want to make life difficult for the new administration, because the new administration is making sort of a more friendly gesture toward Russia. That should have been taken out of the calculation all together and focus on fighting terrorism, fighting ISIS.

RT: Could there be a policy shift when the new US administration takes over in the White House?

AD: President-elect Trump is committed to fighting terrorism with security forces, who are focusing on undermining him. Will they let him do so or not – well, we will have to wait and see.

‘Position in Mosul weak’

Paul Antonopoulos, Deputy Editor, Al-Masdar News

RT: ISIS has been trying to gain control of the Deir ez-Zor’s air base for years, and now their numbers have risen. Given the proximity to Mosul in Iraq, is there a connection?

Paul Antonopoulos: There is this a distinct connection, and the main reason for this is because Deir ez-Zor remains a thorn in the back side of ISIS. So they are never secure in their defense of Mosul as long as several thousand ISIS members are holed up trying to take on the government in Deir ez-Zor. So effectively they are using 14,000 soldiers to try and overrun the city. These 14,000 soldiers can be used to bolster Mosul. But as long as they distracted in Deir ez-Zor, their position in Mosul remains weak.

RT: Does it seem like the US is handing responsibility for fighting ISIS to the Syrian army, by letting them escape from Iraq into Syria? Or on some level is this inevitable in terms of just the nature, how the fighting is done there?

PA: It seems inevitable, but we must remember that the US committed air strikes against the Syrian army positions… just outside of Deir eEz-Zor. They said this was an accident – and my home country in Australia was involved in these airstrikes. This led to the murder of over 80 Syrian soldiers. This allowed ISIS to overrun the positions that the Syrian army had been fighting for years to take this very important position. And since the US airstrikes against the Syrian army, ISIS has just being able to continually push toward Deir ez-Zor. Now we’re in this position where there is a very real chance that they could completely overrun the city. This directly correlates to the airstrikes that I have just spoken about.

(Source / 18.01.2017)

PEC preparatory committee visits Netherlands


The preparatory committee of Palestinians in Europe Conference, scheduled to be held next April, visited Amersfoort city in the Netherlands.

During the visit, the preparatory committee met with the Palestinian community in the Netherlands and briefed them on the PEC’s main aims.

The committee also called for their active participation in the upcoming event.

The preparatory committee of Palestinians in Europe Conference has earlier declared its intention to visit a number of cities in the Netherlands prior to the event.

(Source / 18.01.2017)

Bahraini, Yemeni Officials: Iran Is the One to Change Its Policies

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (Reuters)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani

Manama –Iran should change its policies in the region and Saudi Arabia plays an important role in fighting terrorism, two Bahraini and Yemeni officials confirmed.

The officials’ statement came in response to President Hassan Rouhani’s announcement asking Saudi Arabia to “take the right decision”, end its military intervention in Yemen and stop what he called its meddling in Bahraini affairs.

Bahraini Minister of Information Affairs Ali al-Rumaihi told Asharq al-Awsat that it’s about time Iran change its policies in the region so that everyone can cooperate with it. He pointed out that Saudi Arabia has never interfered in the domestic Bahraini affairs, and is rather a supporter of what is best for the Bahraini kingdom.

Rumaihi pointed out that Saudi Arabia is fighting terrorism and has a vital role in the stability and security of the region.

The Bahraini minister added that Rouhani’s statement should be directed at Iran, because it should change its strategies.

Yemeni government spokesperson Rajeh Badi said that Iran ignited the war in Yemen, adding that Rouhani’s announcement is the biggest evidence of its involvement in the ongoing struggle.

The spokesperson confirmed that Riyadh didn’t intervene in Yemeni affairs and is fighting terrorism.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Badi said that Saudi Arabia backed the legitimacy in Yemen and led an Arab coalition to support Yemen. He added that Iran and its militias, Houthi and Saleh, have been defeated in Saada, Maerib, and other districts.

According to Badi, what Rouhani said reflects Iran’s suffer due to its failure.

The spokesperson wondered who initiated the war, stressing that if Tehran seriously intended to stop the war, it should have suspended Houthi and Saleh’s militias. He added that both Houthi and Saleh formed a coalition sponsored by Iran.

(Source / 18.01.2017)

Hanna: We reject relocating US embassy to Jerusalem


Atalla Hanna, Greek Orthodox archbishop of Sebastia, said on Wednesday that the Palestinian people will not yield to any blackmail or pressure aiming to undermine their determination, dignity, and national constants which are completely non-negotiable.

This came during a meeting on Wednesday between Archbishop Hanna and a delegation of American university students who came to the Palestinian territories in a research visit and to express their solidarity and sympathy with the Palestinian people.

The delegation visited a number of Palestinian provinces and met with many officials. They arrived today in Jerusalem and started their visit to the holy city by meeting Archbishop Atalla Hanna.

Archbishop Hanna briefed the delegation about the situation in the Palestinian territories especially in Jerusalem showing the Palestinian people’s refusal of the new US administration’s threats to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. “This threat is a provocative act that cannot be accepted by any Palestinian, Arab or free man in this world,” he said.

He added that regardless of the American politicians’ statements, there are people in Palestine under occupation who fight for their freedom and dignity and have national aspirations.

He stressed that the US political leadership’s ignorance of the rights of the Palestinian people doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

(Source / 18.01.2017)

Detainee Jaradat Declares Hunger Strike

18 JAN
10:07 AM

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported that an ailing Palestinian detainee, who is held in solitary confinement in Asqalan Israeli prison, declared an open-ended hunger strike, demanding receiving the urgently-needed medical treatment.

The PPS said that Anas Ghaleb Jaradat, 36, from Sielet al-Harethiyya town west of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, suffers from a jaundice of the liver, but the Israeli Prison Authority is denying him the right to the needed specialized medical treatment.

His brother Meqdad Jaradat held Israel responsible for Anas’s serious health deterioration, and voiced an urgent appeal to human rights groups to intervene.

Meqdad stated that the head of the Asqalan Prison told him that Meqdad was diagnosed with a kidney disease, but has been placed in solitary confinement for the past nine months, and has been denied family visits for more than two years.

Meqdad was abducted by the soldiers on May 11, 2003, and was sentenced to 35 life-terms and additional 35 years.

The family voiced an urgent appeal to human rights and legal groups, including the Red Cross, asking them to visit him and to intervene to ensure he receives the needed treatment, without violations, as stated by all international treaties.

(Source / 18.01.2017)

Dear Donald Trump: A letter from Palestine

‘The US must start treating Palestinians as equals to Israelis.’

Palestinian human rights defender from the city of Hebron, Issa Amro

By Issa Amro

My name is Issa Amro. I’m a 36-year-old Palestinian human rights defender from the city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where I work with an organisation called Youth Against Settlements.

While we live thousands of kilometres apart and have never met, my fate is more closely linked to the office you will hold, and the choices a US president makes, than many might think. The United States’ military, economic and diplomatic support has allowed Israel to continue its occupation of Palestinian lands, upholding their racist, apartheid regime.

I have not spent my youth thinking about my career or travelling the world, the Israeli chokehold on our society limits my opportunities on both those fronts. Instead, I have been engaged in near-daily confrontations with hostile settlers and an occupying army, both of whom want me, my family and my friends to leave our land and never return.

We have had to walk long, circuitous routes home, as Israeli settlers often block the way to our houses or the market – even blocking our children from getting to school. Israel often denies Palestinians the right to travel along certain roads.

OPINION: Israel’s never-ending crimes – It’s not just settlements

Settlers have also attacked me verbally while I was giving tours of Hebron, hurling insults at me, or worse, making threats against my life. I’ve been stopped, frisked and beaten, sometimes on my own property.

Later this year, I will stand trial in a military court on a series of trumped-up charges that are years old in what many see as a targeted attack on my human rights activism. I could spend several years in jail if convicted, and of course, I’m afraid to lose that precious time. I am also afraid that the intimidation I am facing will dissuade other young Palestinians from following my example and engaging in the non-violent human rights work we so badly need.

I wish my story were unique, but for nearly 70 years, millions of Palestinians have lived under a brutal Israeli military dictatorship, which grants us few rights – we don’t even have the right to protest peacefully, steals our land for settlements that are in violation of official US policy, and imprisons us in isolated enclaves.

Meanwhile, Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up about 20 percent of the population, suffer from widespread systematic discrimination because they are not Jewish, and Palestinian refugees expelled by Israel are denied their right to return to their homeland.

Hebron is a regular flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with some 200,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israeli settlers living in the city

The United States is a wonderful country in many ways, and on my trips there I have come to know a wonderfully diverse community of people, many of whom have dedicated their lives to working for human rights and equality. But the US policies towards Palestine and Israel are unjust and inconsistent with its noble ideals of freedom, human rights, and democracy.

READ MORE: Dear Donald Trump – A letter from a Syrian refugee

In fact, it was reading the works of giants such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and your own civil rights pioneer, Martin Luther King Jr, that convinced me to spend my life using nonviolent methods of resistance to forge a path forward for myself and my people. I owe a great deal of my fortitude and strategy to King and thinkers like him.

And yet, the US has increased military aid to Israel to $38bn over the next decade. Many American presidents have called on Palestinians to reject violence and to engage in peaceful protest, like the freedom rides, or the arts and music campaigns at checkpoints that my colleagues and I stage.

Yet, when Israel cracks down on nonviolent Palestinian human rights defenders like myself, the US does nothing. The reality is that the vast majority of Palestinians want the same things that Americans and others want: to live in freedom and dignity; to be able to go to school and to work without being suffocated by restrictions on our movements; to be able to raise our children and give them a prosperous future.

I am lucky to say that I work closely with many Americans who hope to see the Palestinian dream of equality realised. But beyond my colleagues and allies, recent polls demonstrate a promising shift, and show that a growing number of Americans want their government to pursue policies that advance Palestinian freedoms, rather than enable the continuation of Israeli apartheid.

If you, the next president of the United States, want to make progress towards a just and lasting peace in the region, then the US must start treating Palestinians as equal to Israelis, and must begin to pressure Israel into respecting Palestinian rights. It is, after all, a founding principle of your great country: All people are created equal.

As Palestinians, we are struggling to live in a society where our equality is a matter of fact, not fiction.

Sincerely yours,

Issa Amro

(Source / 18.01.2017)

Syrian Army attempts to lift the siege on Deir Ezzor Airport

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:15 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has launched a powerful attack this evening to recapture the Deir Ezzor Cemetery, Jirayah village, and Harabish District from the Islamic State terrorists.

Backed by Syrian and Russian airstrikes, the Qassem Group of the Republican Guard forces stormed the Deir Ezzor Cemetery’s eastern perimeter, where they were met with strong resistance from the Islamic State terrorists entrenched around this site.

If the Syrian Arab Army is successful in recapturing the Deir Ezzor Cemetery from the Islamic State terrorists, then the air force will once again be able to land helicopters at the military airport.

The video footage above is from the Panorama area of western Deir Ezzor; this is one of the most critical sites the Syrian Arab Army has to secure in order to push back the Islamic State terrorists.

According to a military source in Damascus, the runways at the Al-Qamishli Airport are flooded with fighter jets preparing to assist the Syrian Arab Army in Deir Ezzor.

These fighter jets flying from Al-Qamishli to Deir Ezzor have carried out nonstop airstrikes against the Islamic State, destroying a number of their armored vehicles and killing several of their terrorist combatants.

The battle will likely intensify tonight, as the Syrian Arab Army attempts to reopen their strategic roadway from the provincial capital to the military airport

(Source / 18.01.2017)