Hijab Urges De Mistura to Focus on Agenda of Upcoming Geneva Talks Instead of Selecting the Opposition Delegation

Riad Hijab, General Coordinator of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) criticized remarks made by the UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura about his intention to interfere in the formation of the opposition delegation to the upcoming Geneva talks. Hijab called on the UN envoy to focus on the agenda of negotiations instead.

In comments posted on Twitter on Wednesday, Hijab stressed that “selecting the Syrian Opposition delegation is not the business or specialism of De Mistura.” He added: “De Mistura’s preoccupation should be to determine the agenda of negotiations based on the Geneva 1 Communique.”

The UN special envoy for Syria on Tuesday said he has asked the UN Security Council to postpone the UN-facilitated talks that had been scheduled for 8 February in Geneva until 20 February.

The HNC spokesman Salem Meslet said that the decision to postpone the talks does not serve the interest of the Syrian people or the oppositions’ preparations for the talks. He said that the decision was made in response to a request by the Assad regime’s allies.

At a press conference following a closed UNSC session on Tuesday, De Mistura said that “if by the 20th of February, the opposition will not be ready to come up with a unified group, I will have…to apply what I have not yet applied, which is a prerogative that the UNSC 2254 gave for the special envoy to actually select the [opposition] delegation in order to make sure that it can be as inclusive as possible, including women-which has not been the case-and as effectively representing the spectrum of both armed groups and the political opposition.”

Meanwhile, the Assad regime carries on with the mass forced displacement operations aimed at bringing about a demographic change in Syria. Local residents in the Wadi Barada valley northwest of Damascus have been forced to leave to Idlib province in the wake of a fierce assault by regime forces and the Hezbollah militias, which the UN envoy has ignored.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office / 01.02.2017)

New Israeli government plan to connect illegal settlements with cities

Image of the roads connecting Israeli settlement and Arab neighbourhoods [file photo]

Image of the roads connecting Israeli settlement and Arab neighbourhoods [file photo]

The Israeli transportation ministry is preparing a plan to develop the network of settler-only roads in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, Quds Press reported on Tuesday.

“It is a large project and it will cost the Israeli government about 850 million shekels ($225m),” Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told local television.

Katz noted that the new project would give a big push for the development of the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, similar to what is happening with the road network for the settlements in Galilee in the north of Israel and the Negev in the south.

“The project will meet the expectation of the rising birth rate of the Jewish community, as well as the rising living standards and the increasing use of cars,” explained the minister. “It will include tunnels, subways, roundabouts, highways and a light rail network.”

He pointed out that the project is aimed at connecting the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank with mega cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

All of Israel’s colony-settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are regarded as illegal under international law.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

PFLP Prison Branch: Isolation of Walid Daqqa an attempt to subject him to slow death

The occupation prison administration isolated Comrade Walid Daqqa on January 25, 2017, transferring him from Ketziot prison to solitary confinement in Ramon prison, under the pretext of unauthorized communication with his lawyer. This is a flimsy excuse being used to target the comrade because he represents an influential leadership role in the prisoners’ movement as one of its key figures, particularly at this time of the targeting of the Palestinian people in occupied Palestine ’48 through home demolition, killings in cold blood and the adoption of racist laws in the occupation Knesset, as part of the systematic displacement and targeting of the Palestinian people.

The isolated comrade is from the village of Baqa, detained since 1986 and serving a life sentence alongside his comrades Ibrahim and Rushdi Abu Mokh. He has suffered years of severe health problems. We urge all forces to pressure to ensure his treatment and care for his health. The targeting of Comrade Daqqa is a part of the targeting of the symbols of all of the national liberation forces in occupied Palestine, and the targeting of those who raise the banner of memory and national identity, such as Comrade Daqqa.

We hold the occupation and its prison administration fully responsible for the life and safety of Comrade Walid Daqqa and see this isolation as an attempt to sentence him to slow death. We in the PFLP Prison Branch and the national and Islamic forces and the prisoners’ movement have sent a clear message to the prison administration that they will be held accountable for the consequences of isolating Walid, and the seriousness of this decision.

In this context we urge all national and Islamic forces and the struggling Palestinian masses to launch a broader struggle in support of the comrade Walid Daqqa and all isolated prisoners.

It should be noted that Comrade Daqqa has a distinctive experience within the prisons as a leading cadre of the prisoners’ movement and has become a prominent writer whose stories and writings about the life of prisoners have been published and widely shared outside the prisons, including inspiring a play performed in multiple theaters.

The comrade has also played an important role in terms of academic education for prisoners and himself completed his masters degree in ptison. Because of his continued commitment, prominence and charisma, he has remained continually targeted by the prison administration.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Bloody Struggle among Comrades in Aden

April 20, 2015: People queue to fill containers with water amid an acute shortage of clean drinking water in Sana'a. Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters

April 20, 2015: People queue to fill containers with water amid an acute shortage of clean drinking water in Sana’a

Washington- CIA archive declassified documents on People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, previously known as South Yemen in the seventies and eighties of the past century. Any researcher specialized in Yemeni affairs will come to realize that this region was almost shut in front of the U.S. intelligence to an extent that the agency entrusted with spying over the world failed to figure out what happened in the bloody Massacre on the morning of Jan. 13 .

CIA Version of the South Incidents

On Feb. 4 1980, a memorandum consisting of three pages was sent from one party to another in the CIA. Most of the parties opposing the regime escaped, were executed or imprisoned. Yet, according to the memo, communication remained between regime members and exiled comrades in the north, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The First Coup

In June 1969, the most radical wing of National Liberation Front (NLF) conducted the first coup that ousted the moderate leadership. In 1970, procedures were taken to diminish the tribal identity and prevent residents in the six provinces from using their tribal nicknames.

The memorandum described the seventies of the past century as a phase that witnessed a conflict over power between two eminent leaders in the country: Salem Rabih Ali and Abdul Fattah Ismail who took over power after the second coup in June 1978 when Salem was assassinated and many of his followers fled to the north.

Military Arrogance

Another CIA report tackled the rule of Ali Nasir Muhammad and the conflicts which introduced the massacre of 1986. Conflicts originated from the fact that Ali Nasir moved some of his rivals to positions that seemed important but were actually not.

Soviet Power

Moscow is unwilling to fall into the trap of Yemeni political conflicts, revealed the report. It did not want to risk its position in the country through siding with one party over the other. Direct intervention in political conflicts in Aden is unnecessary because Moscow has the ability to affect the policy of South Yemen through calls with the government – the soviet power in the Yemeni Socialist Party and the Yemeni government is huge.

January 13 Massacre

A report was issued on Jan. 14, one day after the massacre of Jan. 13 in Aden, however information it was blatantly insufficient.The report focused on the return of Abdul Fattah Ismail from Moscow shortly before the coup to prove that Moscow stood behind the coup. But later on, what happened appeared to be a massacre that targeted four leaders, not a coup.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Israeli Soldiers Abduct Three Palestinians Near Bethlehem

01 FEB
7:20 AM

Israeli soldiers abducted, on Tuesday evening, three Palestinians while trying to cross the “Container” roadblock, northeast of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank.

Local sources said the soldiers stopped the three Palestinians and questioned them, before abducting them.

One of the abducted Palestinians has been identified as Omar Rajoub, 18, a student of Birzeit University, in central West Bank.

They were taken prisoner after the soldiers closed the roadblock, and initiated extensive searches of cars and residents, while inspecting their ID cards, and interrogated many of them.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Local Truces and Demographic Change in Syria

TDA released the first-ever survey of Syrians’ views on local truces – offering lessons for how future truces can avoid past mistakes.

“As world powers fill the airways with opinions about what is best for Syria, we thought it important to find out what Syrians themselves think,” said TDA Executive Director Mutasem Alsyoufi. “In our new survey, Syrians from the regions where local truces have been attempted thus far identify significant flaws with these agreements that any nationwide peace proposal will have to avoid in order to succeed.”

TDA surveyed 1,261 Syrians March 1 – April 19, 2016, to solicit their views on local truces between the regime and residents. Of those surveyed, 1,031 were located in areas where truces have been agreed in Rif Damascus (Barzeh, al-Qaboun, Babibla, Yalda, Bait Sahem, al-Tal and Madaya) and in Homs (al-Wa’er).  Two hundred and two respondents were former residents of these areas, but forced to leave due to truce terms, and are now residing in the northern suburbs of Homs or Hama.

Among the most important findings of the survey is that most Syrians view the local truces as savage war tactics which force civilians to succumb in the face of starvation and siege, as opposed to viewing them as sustainable peace efforts. “Given the one-sided nature of these truces, respondents do not believe they will lead to real peace – offering a cautionary tale to policymakers seeking to craft a nationwide agreement,” Alsyoufi said. Further findings from the survey support this view in alluding to the regime’s main objective of establishing a ‘useful Syria’, whilst pushing all armed and non-armed opponents to the northern countryside in which they remain exposed to the attacks by both regime and ISIS.

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(Source / 01.02.2017)

Israeli Soldiers Abduct Two Palestinians In Tubas And Tulkarem

01 FEB
10:05 AM

Israeli soldiers abducted, on Wednesday at dawn, two Palestinians in the West Bank districts of Tubas and Tulkarem, during violent invasions and searches of homes. The soldiers also invaded the al-Khader town, south of Bethlehem, and shut down a carwash facility.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) in Tubas, in central West Bank, said the soldiers invaded and searched several homes in ‘Aqaba town, north of the city, and abducted two Palestinians.

The PPP identified the two Palestinians as Amro Ahmad al-Masri, 24, who is also a student of the Al-Quds Open University, and Salah Yassin Ghannam, 23.

In Tulkarem district in northern West Bank, the soldiers invaded Safareen village, north of the city, searched homes and abducted Abdul-Fattah Mohammad Zeidan, 20.

In related news, several army vehicles invaded the al-Khader town, south of Bethlehem, before breaking into a carwash facility in the Nashash area, at the southern entrance of the town, and shut down a carwash facility.

Ahmad Salah, the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Colonies in al-Khader, said the soldiers weld the facility shut, and added that it is owned by two Palestinian detainees, who were taken prisoner last month.

Salah added that the detainees have been identified as Abdul-Mon’em Mohammad Salah, and his brother Dirar.

The army posted a notice on the main door of the facility, stating that “it was shut down because its owners endangered the lives of Israelis,” Salah stated.

In related news, the soldiers abducted a young Palestinian man, allegedly carrying a weapon, after the army stopped a Palestinian bus and searched it, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Syria rejects Russia’s suggestions on autonomous communities in Syria, including Kurds

The Syrian government has rejected Kurdish autonomy to be included in a new draft constitution for the country being written by Russia.

Article 40 in the draft constitution called for decentralized “people’s societies”.

“The Kurdish cultural self-ruling systems and its organizations use both the Arabic and Kurdish languages equally,” the draft reads.

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), however are refusing to budge that federalism can be the only solution.

The Syrian government has rejected local autonomy or recognition of the Kurdish language on an equal level to Arabic.

The difficulty would also mean that other minority languages would also need to be recognized including Greek, Aramaic, Turkish and many others that the PYD have not advocated for.

According to the Syrian state media, during the Syrian peace talks in Astana last week, the Syrian government envoy Bashar Jaafari, said that the issue of federalism would be decided “by all Syrians and not decided unilaterally by a single component,” adding that all ideas “even one as crazy as federalism, must be put to a democratic vote”

“It’s completely unacceptable for a group of people to decide to create a statelet and call it federalism,” Jaafari continued.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Trump and aides donated to illegal Israeli settlements

Image of Israeli illegal settlements [file photo]

Image of Israeli illegal settlements [file photo]

US President Donald Trump and a number of his aides had donated thousands of dollars to illegal Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian territories, The Washington Post revealed yesterday.

The American newspaper revealed that Trump and his senior aides have strong links with the Israeli Jewish settler community, including within the settlement of Beit El, which is located deep in the occupied West Bank near the city of Ramallah where the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority (PA) is located.

Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Jewish settlers in Beit El, which was established in 1977, while Post indicated that Trump himself made a $10,000 donation in 2003.

David Friedman, who was chosen by Trump to be the new US ambassador in Israel, is the president of the American Friends of Bet El Institutions, which raises about $2 million a year.

According to The Washington Post, the website of this organisation says it has helped bring about an influx in young couples and is working to create “facts on the ground” to prevent international attempts to uproot the community.

The newspaper noted that Trump’s ties with the illegal settler community could overturn decades-long US policy on dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It might give Israel more freedom to build without censure from Washington, which previously considered West Bank settlements “illegitimate”.

The paper noted that the first signs of a shift emerged last week, when Israel had made a bold announcement of 2,500 new settlement units in illegal settlements located in the occupied West Bank, including some in Beit El, which Trump has not yet condemned.

“We are now more hopeful,” The Washington Post quoted Yael Ben-Yashar, who has lived in Beit El for 20 years and acts as the settlement’s spokeswoman and runs tours, as saying last week. “We think it may be a new era.”

(Source / 01.02.2017)

News agencies still whitewashing Israeli forces’ lethal violence

Image of Israeli forces brutally arresting a Palestinian youth [File photo]

Image of Israeli forces brutally arresting a Palestinian youth [File photo]

By Ben White

Many media outlets are continuing to repeat important mistakes when it comes to covering the killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces, errors that result in a whitewashing of the routine violence of Israel’s occupation, and ultimately, biased coverage.

When I wrote about this issue last year (see here, here, and here), I focused on the output of news agencies like Reuters and The Associated Press (AP), on the basis that their reports go global, and that their coverage – perhaps more than other outlets – is perceived as objective (or striving to be).

Unfortunately, the flaws that have characterised the reporting of events since autumn 2015 have persisted into 2017 – as the following examples demonstrate.

On 10 January, Israeli forces shot and killed Mohammad Salhi, during a night raid of the al-Far’a refugee camp near Tubas. Salhi was killed in his own home, in front of his mother. The Israeli army claimed Salhi was attempting to stab the soldiers when he was shot; his family denies it.

So how did Reuters report the incident? The headline itself is a bad start, though sadly routine: ‘Israeli troops kill knife-wielding Palestinian in West Bank raid: military’. This sets the tone for the whole piece, which begins with the army’s version of events.

“Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian who the military said tried to attack them with a knife during a raid on Tuesday to detain suspected militants in a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.” Later, a military statement is quoted, which claimed that “forces called on the attacker to halt and upon his continued advance fired towards him, resulting in his death.”

Sandwiched in between those paragraphs is reference to a statement by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, who said that Salhi “was ‘executed in cold blood’ by soldiers in the courtyard of his home, in front of his mother.”

The killing of a Palestinian civilian in his own home merited 141 words of copy – of which, 91 words were used to repeat the Israeli army’s version of events. But it gets worse. Reuters contextualises the killing of Salhi by stating that “Israeli forces regularly carry out raids in the West Bank against suspected militants and arms caches.”

In fact, the arrest raids conducted by Israeli forces typically target political activists, human rights campaigners, and journalists. Some raids are purely for the purpose of harassment. And, note how this sanitising of one of the most egregious aspects of Israel’s military occupation is stated as fact.

The Reuters report then finishes by summarising fatalities since October 2015. Again, look carefully: Israelis (and two Americans) were “killed in a wave of Palestinian street attacks.” Palestinians, however, were “killed in violence.”

So, Israelis are killed by Palestinian attacks – but Palestinians die at the hands of agency-less ‘violence’. Reuters also uncritically notes how “Israel says that at least 158 of them [Palestinian fatalities] were assailants while others died during clashes and protests.”

The Associated Press story was arguably worse. The headline simply stated: ‘Israel troops shoot dead knife-wielding Palestinian attacker’ – without even acknowledging this was the army’s story. The tiny report (130 words, including context), only provides the military’s version of events, simply observing that “Palestinians said…[Salhi] was shot dead in his home” (which does not help much).

The context paragraph, meanwhile, states: “Since September 2015, Palestinian attackers have killed 40 Israelis and two visiting Americans in mainly stabbing attacks. During that time, 231 Palestinians, mostly attackers, have been killed by Israeli fire.” Palestinian ‘attackers’ killed Israelis, and Palestinian ‘attackers’ were killed.

Now, contrast the copy filed by Reuters and AP, seen around the world of course, with other accounts of the same event. One camp resident, for example, was cited by two different outlets (one Israeli, one Palestinian) as testifying that Israeli soldiers shot Salhi “for no justified reason”, describing the killing “as an execution.”

Another resident cited by Al Jazeera said that “Salhi was awakened by surprise and he found himself face-to-face with the soldiers.” He added: “Apparently Salhi did not know what was going on, so he confronted the soldiers to protect his ailing mother and family when he was shot.”

What is important to note here is that these news agencies, and other media outlets, so often omit any such details and accounts that contradict the Israeli authorities’ version of events. And this kind of flawed reporting has become the norm, rather than an exception.

Consider the killing of 17-year-old Qusay Hassan al-Umour, shot dead on 16 January by Israeli soldiers suppressing an unarmed protest in Tuqu’ village near Bethlehem. On the day in question, Reuters filed a brief report, which stated:

“Israeli border police shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian youth during a clash with protesters in the occupied West Bank on Monday, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. The violence erupted near the town of Bethlehem between a crowd of stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli troops.”

Reuters then quoted an Israeli spokesperson: “Hundreds of rioters hurled rocks at the security forces in the area. Due to the extent of the violence, border police fired 0.22 calibre rounds toward a main violent instigator, resulting in his death.”

Once again, a brief, even cursory, report of the killing of a Palestinian – the killing of a child at that – and one that only references a statement by the Israeli authorities. Qusay is not even named.

Video footage, meanwhile, shows how Israeli forces opened fire on the unarmed teen from some distance, confirming that he could not possibly have been posing any sort of threat when he was shot. Soldiers then dragged his body to their jeeps – it is not clear whether he was already dead.

A final example, again, just from the first few weeks of 2017. On 17 January, Israeli occupation forces killed 44-year-old husband and father Nidal Daoud Mahdawi, in what authorities claimed was a thwarted stabbing attack at a checkpoint outside Tulkarem.

This is how Reuters reported the incident, in a story topped by the headline ‘Israeli soldiers shoot dead a Palestinian assailant – military’:

“Israeli troops on Tuesday shot dead a Palestinian who had tried to stab a soldier at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank, a military spokeswoman said. ‘Responding to the imminent threat, forces fired towards the attacker, resulting in his death,’ she said in a statement.”

And that was it: a 46-word paraphrase of the Israeli army’s press release.

A video of the killing, however, undermines the Israeli authorities’ story. The camera shows Nidal standing quietly, alone, when a soldier shoots near him. Only then does he move, beginning to walk, as more shots are fired. He breaks out into a run, and is brought down by the fatal shots.

In a recent, passionate op-ed, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote: “When the people killed are Arabs, nobody cares. When a soldier is killed in an accident, it’s front-page news. But when a Palestinian is killed while just waking up at home, nobody cares.”

Regrettably, this kind of attitude has, by neglect or design, come to shape influential news agencies’ coverage, helping to whitewash the violence of Israel’s fifty-year-old military occupation.

(Source / 01.02.2017)