Gaza Awareness Conference with Lowkey, Jody Mcintyre and Yvonne Ridley!

zondag 12 juni · 18:00 – 21:00

Banqueting Hall, Civic Centre

Barras Bridge
Newcastle upon Tyne

Gemaakt door:

Ride to Gaza with support from Tyneside PSC, Tyneside Stop the War Coalition and local councillor Dipu Ahad are holding a Gaza Awareness Conference with all proceeds going to Ride to Gaza who will use this to provide kindergartens in the refugee camps of Gaza through our partner there, Help Initiative (HI).

The event will include guests LOWKEY, JODY MCINTYRE, YVONNE RIDLEY, BAMO MC and many more, who will be speaking to you about… the ongoing crisis faced by the Palestinian people.

Tickets for this event are £10 and many have reserved tickets already so please be quick to book your place to avoid disappointment! This event was a massive success in Blackburn on 9th April where the event sold out.

See you there!

To reserve a ticket please send an email to

Stalls are available for the event, please contact the above email address if you would like to book a stall

We will have PALESTINE national team FOOTBALL shirts (HOME and AWAY) these will be on SALE on the day for only £10!! Money raised from these will also be going to ‘Ride to Gaza”. Please note that these were sold out very quickly at our Blackburn event so let us know when you book your ticket if you would like to reserve one and let us know the preferred size.

Arrangements will be made for MAGHRIB SALAAH for both Men and Women…it would be advisable to attend in the state of Wudu due to limited facilities.



The Islamic revival witnessed recently has resulted in rekindling Islamic feelings and made many Muslims more sensitive and heedful to the teachings of Islam not only in the field of worship but in other areas of daily life. Practices and behaviours are subject to more scrutiny lest they might be objectionable to Islam, and new patterns and customs are prevailing amongst large sectors of Muslims. The question of whether a patient may be physically examined by a doctor of the opposite sex has been revisited, and many Muslims are naturally eager to get clear about the issue.

Islamic emotion is welcome. But when emotion is transformed into emotionalism there is a risk of going beyond the teachings of Islam in a desperate attempt to uphold them. Islam does not know ultra-Muslims, or uphold fiery fanaticism. To stop short of Islam, or to exceed beyond it, are both outside the spacious circle of Islam, and are both non-lslamic. Unless Islamic emotions are harnessed by proper knowledge of Islam and governed by it, they remain an enemy. More visible than the contemporary proper Islamic revival-which is indeed a fact-is its surrounding haze of overzeal and fanaticism which is not part of the revival but is even one of the hindrances it faces. Naturally it is more visible since it is the superficial and noisy crust. With heated emotion not reigned by proper knowledge the heirarchy of Islamic priorities becomes mixed up, peripheral trivial issues aquire more significance than basic ones, divisiveness amongst muslims for divergence of honest opinion are inevitable and the very roots of Islam are struck at in the process of preserving some twigs and offshoots. Islam’s totality and comprehensiveness becomes reduced to unending debate about rites, dress, food, drink and scattered other minutae.

Chapter IX

It was perhaps symtpomatic of this climate then that upon starting the Faculty of Medicine in Kuwait, I was visited by a group of students of thefirst entering class, who were keen Muslims and therefore horrified with the idea of going into the dissecting room for their anatomy class and having to look at parts of female cadavres. Approving of me as a Muslim, they came to seek my views on that crisis. With the prospect of going to their clinical in the hospital wards two years later, when they would examine patients of both sexes, including thirteen weeks in obstetrics and gynaecology, the importance of alleviating their anxiety and upon solid Islamic grounds was obvious. Apart from that private visit, I made it a point to incorporate this and similar matters in their course on ‘History of Medicine’ in which I was co-teacher, and later on in ‘Islamic Aspects of Obstetrics & Gynaecology’ which has been part of our curriculum of obstetrics & gynaecology since the school started. But the general public also needed that education, and I had to step into the arena with a series of press articles and television and radio programs in a few countries wherever I could have access, as well as in various conferences and in my earlier book “Topics In Islamic Medicine” ( lst edition 1984, publ. Islamic Organization of Medical Sciences, Kuwait). Let us look at the subject in proper Islamic context.

The medical corps in the army of prophet Mohammad peace be upon him, was an all-woman corps. It comprised a group of Muslim ladies, with proper medical training according to the state of the art in those times. They were called the ‘asiyat’ or lady healers, and would join the army and strike camp at the margin of the battlefield, perhaps the prototype of what later became the field hospital. It was amongst their duties to go into the battle, carry the wounded soldiers back to their camp and attend to their treatment. The site of the wound on the body never paused a problem or raised an objection to their role in shouldering the medical responsibilities. Perhaps Muslims in those early days of Islam had more important pre-occupations than the fastidious splitting hairs that we sometimes see in our present day. It was thus established since the days of Badr and Uhud battles that the general rules governing the concealment of certain body parts from the sight of the others were waived for the purpose of medical treatment; as a legitimate exception from the general rule. Islam endorses ever a wider role for women. During the battle of Uhud, at a stage when the military situation became very critical to Muslims after an initial victory which lured some troops to disregard previous orders, one of the lady healers, by the name of Nussaiba threw away her medical kit and drew sword and shield and vigorously joined the battle. She was amongst the few who rallied to the prophet and fought in his defence. She was twice wounded and at the conclusion of the battle the prophet commended her, bravery and devotion and said: “Wherever I looked, to the right or to  the left or ahead, there she was: fighting for me and defending me.”

Medical treatment, entailing the inspection of the body of the patient from the opposite sex is therefore legitimate according to the tradition of the prophet. Over the ages, jurists have upheld this statute. Under all other circumstances the ‘awra’ should be covered. The ‘awra’ is the part of the body that should be covered from strangers. In men it includes the genital region or, more restrictively, from the navel to knees. In women the body should be covered save for the face and the hands (some jurists allowed feet and ankles, and sleeves up to the elbows for the necessity of work or profession). The ‘awra’ is to be concealed even if the looker is from the same sex, although of course looking at the same sex is less provokative.”

One of the truths of the medical profession, seems to be beyond the comprehension of some critics outside the profession. In medical practice the  human body ceases to exhibit its attraction as a focus of seductive temptation. What the doctor sees in the patient is a system of integrated and interrelated structure and function. The doctor checks it as a mechanic checks an engine, trying to locate what went wrong and why.   Doctors undergo a process of professionalization starting from the day they entered medical school. A nonmedical person might lack this feeling but should not deny it.   We go down to the clinic, the bed side and the operation theatre not as men or women but as doctors.  The language of anatomy, physiology, pathology and therapy absolutely displaces that of beauty and sex.  Exceptions are rare and are abnormal, and are minimized even more by the rules of professional ethics that make the presence of a third party (usually the nurse) mandatory during clinical examination.

Some critical persons are especially conditioned against the practice of obstetrics & gynaecology with respect to the male doctor. Completely lost to their (myopic) views is the fact that the body of the patient is also exposed to the doctor in other specialities, whether physician, surgeon, neurologist, dermatologist, orthopaedist to name but a few. An operation for haemorrhoids exposes the same operation field as for gynaecological operation. Pelvic examination might have to be performed to palpate the lower reaches of the body cavity even in nongynaecological conditions. The cry against one field of medicine therefore does not seem to be well founded.

The enlightened outlook of old jurists many centuries ago should have closed the door against our latter day overzealots, but the real crisis is lack of knowldge. Old writings remain to our day the model of broad mindedness, progressiveness and maturity in both Islamic sincerity and Islamic intellect. In his book “Al-Mughni” written in the eighth century Ibn Quadama, an authority of the Hanbali sect wrote: ‘ ‘It is,permissible for the man doctor to Inspect whatever parts of the woman s body that, the medical examination warrants for this is considered a necessity and this was written over seven centuries ago. ‘Al-Adab Al-Shariyya’ written by Ibn-Muflih also of the Hanbali school-relates an interesting account: “Marwathi asked Abu Abdullah about a woman who had incurred a fracture and the bone-setter found it necessary to lay his hands on her to manipulate the fracture. The answer was a clear consent since that was a medical necessity. So he went a step further and told that the bone-setter who wanted to apply a splint, wanted to expose her chest and lay his hands over it during the treatment, and again the answer was a straightforward approval. “The same page in the same book bears the clear statement: A man doctor may inspect the ‘awra’ of a woman ’s body as far as the medical examination warrants, if only a male doctor is available to treat her, even if he has to look to her private parts. This same would be true if a man is ill and there is but the woman doctor to treat him. she may inspect his body even his private parts.” The same is reaffirmed by other authorities such as judge Abu- Yaala of the Hanbali and Ibn Abdeen of the Hanafi schools.

Some contemporary hardliners linger a bit too much at statements like ‘if only a man doctor is available mentioned in the previous text. Not long ago, a member of parliament in a Middle Eastern country expressed disquiet during a parliamentary session at the practice of obstetrics & gynaecology by male doctors, and officially made the proposal that only women doctors should conduct obstetrics, and summon the help of the man doctor only when complications arise and the situation becomes one of   “compelling necessity”, to use his terminology. We can perhaps respect his opinion, but since he based his arguments upon ’the teachings of Islam’ , we find it inevitable to disagree. If his views were Islamically correct, and the male master doctor is to be invited only when the situation is really bad, one cannot help enquiring: and how was this male super specialist made? Had he been sent as a student to the medical school only to be taught the management of complicated and desperate situations? Could he have mastered the difficult without vast experience of the easy? Could he have reached the top without diligently climbing from bottom to top?

Beginning at the beginning, there is unanimity, including even the ultraradical, that society should have doctors of both sexes, whatever the duties later to be assigned them. It does not take much thinking to know that in the preparation of the young man or young woman to become a doctor , it is imperative for them to examine the body of both sexes. If we delete the male body from the curriculum of women medical students it will not be possible to make women doctors out of them. Similarly it will not be possible to make men doctors if we delete the study of the female body from the curriculum of male students. The nature of medical studies has no room for such ideas. The making of the doctor starts with the making of the generalist. At a later stage specialization will entail the in-depth study of a certain discipline, retaining full awareness of relations and interactions with other body functions and systems, otherwise key-hole medicine is produced, where concentration on a minute aspect overlooks very relevant and operating interactions.

That society should make its doctors is a religious duty on society, of the type called ‘Fardh Kifaya’ ie that which can be carried out by some members of society on behalf of the community at large. Another Islamic dictum proclaims that whatever is necessary to uphold a religious duty becomes of itself a duty. Applying this to making doctors, it becomes clear that from the time of going into medical school, a legitimate exception from the rules of concealing the ‘awra’ immediately operates.

Instead of singling out obstetrics & gynaecology for attack, it would have been more logic-illogic as it is to shout the cry of “Women doctors for women and men doctors for men’, whether in general practice or in anyone of the specialities. Is it possible? Is it feasible? Is it the right step to take?

Women are half of the society are women doctors one half of the medical force? Would they ever be? Can women doctors assume half the number of the members of every specialty? Some health authorities have tried to compel women graduates to take up obstetrics & gynaecology in the way of military. drafting. It did not work. It would be against legitimate personal choices. Many a woman doctor would prefer to take up a specialty devoid of hard work and very uncomfortable hours with emergency calls during day or night. To do that at the expense of home, husband and children is acceptable only to the few and shunned by the many. The few women who opt to specialize in obstetrics & gynaecology find it distasteful to be regarded as’ ‘woman’, and not as doctor, and in public (government) hospitals, employing salaried full time doctors, an overdemand of over-religious women patients for women doctors caused the women doctors to counter demand not to be discriminated against on the basis of their sex. To the majority of the patients, however, the priority is given to their faith in the doctor and ability to treat or operate on them irrespective of the doctor’s sex.

What if a woman patient requests to be examined by a woman doctor? The Islamic answer is of course to answer her request as far as it is possible. We should not judge people for their opinions, and it is part of good medical care to make our patient content. Some women have inherent shyness to expose their body to a doctor of the opposite sex. Some have their religious views and these should also be respected but without in any way compromising the educative role of the Muslim doctor, be it to the public or to the individual patient. In this and in other issues, the Muslim doctor is not one who takes off his Islam as he puts on the white coat. In tolerance of opposing views, and in a most graceful way of talk, we have seen the simple presentation of the truth about Islam alleviate ” much anxiety, and relieve many a fellow Muslim from burdens that God never intended to impose on them.

( / 05.05.2011)


A U.S. Jewish Lawyer and Israeli Law Firm Attack the First Amendment

In an effort to silence objectivity towards the Jewish state of Israel the U.S. Jewish lawyer David I. Schoen, along with the Israeli law firm Nitsana Darshan-Leitner & Co. have filed a $5 million lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his publisher Simon & Schuster over Carter’s ground breaking and thought provoking book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

This seems to be a new tactic Jewish interests are using to smash any speech they see as not flattering to Israel. In 1990 the Israeli government itself took direct action to override the United States Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of the press when they stopped the sale of the book By Way of Deception for one day through a preliminary injunction. Thankfully the American courts defeated the Israeli preliminary injunction.

This was the first time one country attempted to stop the publication and/or sale of a book in another country. One of the reasons Israel wanted to prevent people from reading this important book was because it explained why Israel withheld intelligence information which could have prevented the October 23, 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine’s barracks in Beirut, Lebanon which killed 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel and 3 U.S. Army soldiers. The reason they withheld this information from their “ally” the United States was because of their belief that the deaths of this magnitude would push America to wage war against the Palestinians and other enemies of the Jewish state.

The Israeli/Jewish strategy seems to be to frighten authors and publishers into not writing or publishing anything critical about Israel for fear of a huge lawsuit. In fact, Simon & Schuster released a statement saying the lawsuit will have  “a chilling effect on free speech.”

On David Schoen’s website he states that he has “a deep personal interest in and commitment to Israel.” Too bad he doesn’t feel the same way about American, the U.S. Constitution and freedom of speech and of the press.

This crazy Jewish superiority can be traced to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament with teachings such as the Hebrews/Jews being “above all people that are upon the face of the Earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6) This twisted thinking is at the heart of the neoconservative movement and war machine. Leo Strauss, the godfather of the neoconservative movement, believed and taught that society should be based on the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. It is this neoconservative thinking which makes American foreign policy in the Middle East so pro-Israel it actually puts America’s interests behind Israel’s. It has brought us the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq and will bring us many more unnecessary wars, death and suffering if people don’t wake up and do something.

( / 05.05.2011)

Yemen: growing concerns over unrest

Over three months have passed since the outbreak of civil unrest in Yemen. As violence has spread, the casualty toll has increased steadily. The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent Society are determined to do whatever it takes to alleviate the suffering of the people.

“Dozens of people have been injured in a number of clashes in Sana’a and elsewhere,” said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Yemen. “Yemen Red Crescent volunteers and medical personnel have been caught up in the violence on several occasions, which has made it difficult for them to provide life-saving first aid where protests have occurred.”

ICRC is renewing its appeal to both the authorities and the demonstrators to respect and protect the injured and all medical personnel, facilities and means of transport, and to grant safe passage to anyone in need of medical care. In addition, it is reiterating that all medical personnel and first-aid workers must exercise strict impartiality in treating the injured.

“Since February, we have been administering first aid and taking people with life-threatening injuries to various medical facilities,” said Elias Manna’, the head of the Yemen Red Crescent branch in Sana’a. “We have 60 first-aiders in Sana’a ready to be dispatched 24 hours a day. Nevertheless, any obstruction of our work could cost someone his life – that is why we are in constant contact with all those involved. We remind them of our neutral and impartial role so that they may let us get through to the injured.”

The ICRC stepped in immediately at the beginning of the unrest to provide support for the Yemen Red Crescent in Sana’a and Aden, and has now widened the scope of its assistance to include at least two other major cities, Seyoun and Taiz, east and south of Sana’a, respectively.

While the unrest is widespread, some areas have remained calmer although the difficulties, from a humanitarian point of view, are far from over. It was only two weeks ago that some 80,000 residents of Sa’ada, in the north of the country, were without water for more than a week because of damage caused to the network. The ICRC had to take quick action to ensure that people had enough clean water while its water engineers repaired and replaced equipment.

Also in the north, in the governorate of Amran, the needs in terms of water, food and medical care of more than 11,700 residents and displaced people remain sizable. Although some ICRC activities intended to remedy the situation were delayed over the past month owing to tensions in the governorate and throughout the country, the organization continues to do its utmost to help.

ICRC emergency response

In April, the ICRC continued to support the efforts of the Yemen Red Crescent and medical facilities to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance in the capital Sana’a and elsewhere. In particular, the ICRC:

  • supplied 10 stretchers, over 50 first-aid kits and six tents to the Yemen Red Crescent in Sana’a and Aden for use at first-aid posts; it also supplied 40 stretchers, 20 first-aid kits and 80 aprons with the “star of life” logo to emergency ambulance services and medical committees in Aden governorate;
  • donated dressing materials and intravenous fluids to help treat victims of an explosion in the south-eastern governorate of Abyan who were taken to the “22nd of May Hospital” and al-Jumhouriya Hospital in Aden;
  • financed the running costs for April and May of 10 Ministry of Health ambulances in Aden city and provided them with dressing materials, first-aid bags and stretchers;
  • provided training in first aid, humanitarian principles, and safer access procedures in the field for nearly 500 Yemen Red Crescent trainers and volunteers in Sana’a, Aden, Taiz and Seyoun; it also provided training in first aid for 20 Ministry of Health ambulance service providers and 40 medical committees in Aden governorate.

Clean water

In a country known for its severe water shortages, supplying clean water to conflict victims remains one of the ICRC’s top priorities. Over the past month, the ICRC has:

  • urgently replaced a dysfunctional generator with a new one at Tulumus water-pumping station to restore the availability of clean water to Sa’ada city’s 80,000-strong population (including displaced people). The ICRC is in the process of repairing an additional backup generator damaged in recent fighting. During the weeks when the network was down, the ICRC transported 450,000 litres of water per day to ensure that the population survived;
  • continued to supply the 8,500 inhabitants of the six camps for displaced people in Sa’ada governorate with clean water on a daily basis;
  • continued to supply over 11,700 residents and displaced people in Amran governorate with 68,000 litres of clean water each day;
  • continued to make water available to some 21,000 local residents in the governorates of Aden, Lahj, Shabwa and Abyan, in the south and south-west of the country, by repairing water-supply networks;
  • upgraded 28 wells in mosques and public spaces in the city of Aden to ensure that clean water is available to the general population in case of shortage;
  • built four latrines and upgraded the water network in the Sana’a deportation centre for the 80 people detained there.

Health care

Over the past three weeks, the ICRC has:

  • provided medicines and other medical items to ensure that the three Ministry of Health centres in Sa’ada governorate, the Yemen Red Crescent health centre and 12 other health-care facilities in the governorate, including in the six camps for displaced people, could continue to function. Together, these primary health-care facilities carried out some 12,500 consultations during the first three weeks of April alone;
  • provided medicines and other medical items for the ICRC-supported health-care centres of Khaiwan al-Medina and Al-Harf in the north of Amran governorate. The centres carried out some 2,400 consultations during the first three weeks of April alone.

Food and other essential items

During the month of April, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent:

  • distributed two one-month food rations – wheat grain, rice, beans, oil, sugar and salt – to more than 10,000 displaced people in the camps of Aal Thabet, Mandaba and in Sa’ada city, in Sa’ada governorate, and provided nearly 6,200 displaced people with hygiene kits;
  • continued to support the Department of Animal Health in its efforts to control the spread of a screw-worm outbreak in Amran governorate by treating over 10,000 animals in April alone;
  • provided training for 14 technicians from the Department of Animal Health involved in the screw-worm treatment campaign.

Detainee-welfare and tracing activities

Over the past month, the ICRC:

  • carried out four visits to people in the custody of the Political Security Prison, the Central Prison and the immigration detention facilities in Sana’a. After each visit, findings and recommendations were conveyed confidentially to the detaining authorities;
  • organized nine video-teleconference calls and 22 telephone calls between families and their relatives held at the US detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Bagram, Afghanistan;
  • helped forward around 70 Red Cross messages (containing brief family news) between families in Yemen and relatives detained at Guantanamo Bay, and some 30 Red Cross messages between families in Yemen and relatives detained in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon;
  • helped exchange over 180 Red Cross messages between refugees from the Horn of Africa and their families;
  • succeeded in determining the whereabouts of four missing individuals and restored contact between them and their families;
  • continued to provide food, hygiene items and basic health-care items in cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent for 200 people awaiting deportation;
  • visited six women held in prison, and continued working with the Yemen Red Crescent to enhance their literacy, sewing, embroidery, weaving, handicraft, and computer skills.

For further information, please contact:
Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Sana’a: tel: +967 1 213 844 or +967 711 94 43 43
Hicham Hassan, ICRC Geneva: tel: +41 22 730 25 41 or +41 79 536 92 57

( / 05.05.2011)

Egypt and Israel heading for crisis

Israeli officials have expressed alarm at a succession of moves by the interim Egyptian government that they fear signal an impending crisis in relations with Cairo.

The widening rift was underscored yesterday when leaders of the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation pact in the Egyptian capital. Egypt’s secret role in brokering the agreement last week caught both Israel and the United States by surprise.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the deal “a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism”.

Several other developments have added to Israeli concerns about its relations with Egypt, including signs that Cairo hopes to renew ties with Iran and renegotiate a long-standing contract to supply Israel with natural gas.

More worrying still to Israeli officials are reported plans by Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing into Gaza, closed for the past four years as part of a Western-backed blockade of the enclave designed to weaken Hamas, the ruling Islamist group there.

Egypt is working out details to permanently open the border, an Egyptian foreign ministry official told the Reuters news agency on Sunday. The blockade would effectively come to an end as a result.

The same day Egypt’s foreign minister, Nabil Elaraby, called on the United States to recognise a Palestinian state — in reference to a move expected in September by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

Israel and the US have insisted that the Palestinians can achieve statehood only through negotiations with Israel. Talks have been moribund since Israel refused last September to renew a partial freeze on settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

According to analysts, the interim Egyptian government, under popular pressure, is consciously distancing itself from some of the main policies towards Israel and the Palestinians pursued by Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president overthrown by a popular uprising in February.

Mubarak was largely supportive of Israel and Washington’s blockade policy to contain Hamas’ influence. Egypt receives more than $1.3 billion annually in US aid, second only to Israel.

But the popular mood in Egypt appears to be turning against close diplomatic ties with Israel.

A poll published last week by the Pew Research Centre showed that 54 per cent of Egyptians backed the annulment of the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, with only 36 per cent wanting it maintained.

Israel’s Yedioth Aharonoth daily reported this week that Egyptian social media sites had called for a mass demonstration outside the Israeli embassy tomorrow, demanding the expulsion of the ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon.

In comments to several media outlets last weekend, unnamed senior Israeli officials criticised Egypt’s new foreign policy line. One told the Wall Street Journal that Cairo’s latest moves could “affect Israel’s national security on a strategic level”.

Another unnamed official told the Jerusalem Post that “the upgrading of the relationship between Egypt and Hamas” might allow the Islamic movement to develop into a “formidable terrorist military machine”.

Silvan Shalom, Israel’s vice-premier, told Israel Radio on Sunday that Israel should brace for significant changes in Egyptian policies that would allow Iran to increase its influence in Gaza.

Egypt’s chief of staff, Sami Hafez Anan, responded dismissively on his Facebook page to such statements, saying, “Israel has no right to interfere. This is an Egyptian-Palestinian matter.”

In a sign of Israeli panic, Netanyahu is reported to be considering sending his special adviser, Isaac Molho, to Cairo for talks with the interim government.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has repeatedly complained to visiting European ambassadors and US politicians about what he regards as a new, more hostile climate in Egypt.

Late last month Elaraby said Egypt was ready to “turn over a new leaf” in relations with Tehran, which were severed after the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty more than three decades ago.

Egyptian offiials have also warned that the supply of natural gas to Israel may be halted. The pipeline has been attacked twice on the Egyptian side, including last week, in acts presumed to be sabotage.

Even if Egypt continues the flow of gas, it is almost certain to insist on a sharp rise in the cost, following reports that Mubarak and other officials are being investigated on corruption charges relating to contracts that underpriced gas to Israel.

Yoram Meital, an expert on Israeli-Egyptian relations at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, said Egypt’s policy change towards Gaza threatened to “provoke a severe crisis in Egyptian-Israeli relations” by undermining Israel’s policy of isolating Hamas.

With the toppling of Mubarak’s authoritarian regime, Meital noted, the Egyptian government is under pressure to be more responsive to local opinion.

“We are at the beginning of this crisis but we are not there yet. However, there is room for a great deal more deterioration in relations over the coming months,” he said.

Analysts said Cairo wanted to restore its traditional leadership role in the Arab world and believed it was hampered by its ties with Israel.

Menha Bahoum, a spokeswoman for the Egyptian foreign ministry, told the New York Times last week: “We are opening a new page. Egypt is resuming its role that was once abdicated.”

That assessment is shared by Hamas and Fatah, both of which were looking to Egypt for help, said Menachem Klein, a politics professor at Bar Ilan University.

He noted that Abbas had lost his chief Arab sponsor in the form of Mubarak, and that the Hamas leadership’s base in Syria was precarious given the current upheavals there.

With growing demands from the Palestinian public for reconciliation, neither faction could afford to ignore the tide of change sweeping the Arab world, he said.

Meital said: “We are entering a new chapter in the region’s history and Israeli politicians and the public are not yet even close to understanding what is taking place”.

( / 05.05.2011)

Syria army begins pullback from protest centre

A convoy of 40 military vehicles pulled out of the town of Daraa as the Syrian army began a pullback from the protest centre it has locked down since April 25.

Some 350 soldiers travelling in around 20 armoured personnel carriers and a similar number of trucks all bearing photographs of President Bashar al-Assad drove out of the town around 10 am (0700 GMT). “We have begun our withdrawal after completing our mission in Daraa,” said General Riad Haddad, director of the military’s political department. “The army will have pulled out of Daraa completely by the end of the day.”

( / 05.05.2011)

Netanyahu rejects Palestinian unity deal

Israeli prime minister calls reconciliation pact between Hamas and Fatah “a tremendous blow to peace”. 

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has rejected a Palestinian unity agreement, calling it a “tremendous blow to peace”.

His comments on Wednesday come after representatives of Palestinian factions met in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, to mark a landmark reconciliation pact signed a day earlier.

Khaled Meshaal, the leader of the Hamas movement, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of Fatah, attended a ceremony, meeting face-to-face for the first time since 2006.

“What happened today in Cairo is a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism,” Netanyahu told reporters during a visit to London.

He criticised Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas for striking a deal with Hamas.

“The only way we can make peace is with our neighbours who want peace. Those who want to eliminate us, those who practice terror against us, are not partners for peace,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu added that a great struggle was under way in the Middle East “between the forces of democracy and moderation and the forces of tyranny and terror”.

“I think the fate of the Middle East and the fate of peace hangs in the balance [depending on] which force wins out.”

‘No to blackmail’

Abbas brushed off Netanyahu’s criticism and launched a scathing attack on Israel, saying that “we reject blackmail and it is no longer possible for us to accept the [Israeli] occupation of Palestinian land”.

He also said reconciliation with Hamas was an internal Palestinian affair.

“They are our brothers and family. We may differ, and we often do, but we still arrive at a minimum level of understanding.”

Abbas also said Israel could not continue to act as “a state above the law” and called for an end to construction in Jewish settlements on lands the Palestinians wanted for a future state.

“Mr Netanyahu, you must choose between settlements and peace,” he said.

Britain has cautiously welcomed the agreement.

“We hope that Palestinian unity between Fatah and Hamas will be a step forward,” prime minister David Cameron’s spokeswoman said.

“Clearly we will judge any Palestinian government on its actions. We want the Palestinian government, if it emerges, to reject violence and engage in a meaningful peace process.”

Cameron also said Britain believed the wave of Arab uprisings had brought an opportunity to push forward the Middle East peace process.

Meanwhile, many Palestinians see a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas as crucial for their drive for an
independent state in territories Israel occupied in the 1967 war.

Fatah and Hamas have been bitterly divided since June 2007 when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, routing Fatah loyalists that effectively split the Palestinian territories into two separate entities with separate governments.

( / 05.05.2011)

Israel Raids Hebron and Arrests Palestinians

HEBRON, May 5, 2011 (WAFA) – Israeli forces demolished homes and tents Thursday and uprooted hundreds of trees in Khirbet Um Nir, in Hebron governorate south of the West Bank, according to local sources.

Rateb al-Jabour, head of the popular committee for the resistance of the wall and settlements, said Israeli forces arrested a number of Palestinians and beat them and a number of reporters. Several were rushed to the hospital as a result.

He said Israeli forces periodically target the area and demolish homes and tents to force the Palestinians to leave, in order to seize their lands.

Forces also raided a nursery owned by a Palestinian farmer in Wadi al-Qif, northwest of Hebron, searched it thoroughly and handed his brother an order to report to Israeli intelligence.

In the village of Turqumiya, forces raided the town, searched many homes and detained one Palestinian for several hours, according to local sources.

Security sources told WAFA that Israelis detained a Palestinian policeman from the town of Ithna west of Hebron and gave him an order to report to Israeli intelligence.

Soldiers also raided other towns of Hebron, set up checkpoints and checked the identity cards of drivers and passengers.
( / 05.05.20110

Nederland erkent Libische verzetsraad

Nederland zou de door Libische rebellen opgezette Nationale Libische Raad als de officiële vertegenwoordiging van het land erkennen.

Dat meldt persbureau Reuters donderdag op gezag van een woordvoerder van de opstandelingen tegen het regime van Muammar Kaddafi. Ook Spanje en Denemarken aanvaarden volgens de zegsman het verzetsorgaan, dat zich heeft opgeworpen als spreekbuis van de opstand tegen de dictator Kaddafi.

Volgens de BBC ontkennen zowel Nederland al Denemarken het bericht. Het ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken was niet direct bereikbaar voor commentaar.

“Na de vergadering volgen er wellicht nog meer landen”, aldus woordvoerder Mahmoud Shammam, doelend op de Libië-top die donderdag in de Italiaanse hoofdstad Rome wordt gehouden.

Eerder erkenden Frankrijk en Italië de rebellenraad al als ”enige legitieme vertegenwoordiging van het Libische volk”.

( / 05.05.2011)