Sirte destroyed by NTC-NATO offensive in Libya

The Libyan town of Sirte has been all but destroyed and its inhabitants turned into homeless refugees. This situation has gone largely unreported, but those press reports that have emerged paint a picture of a city being reduced to ruins by attacks of the National Transitional Council (NTC) “rebels” and NATO bombing raids against which it has no defense.

“After weeks of intense fighting, Moammar Gaddafi’s home town appeared Saturday to have been largely destroyed, with most of its population fled and holes the size of manhole covers blown in apartment buildings and the ousted leader’s showcase convention center,” writes the Washington Post of Muammar Gaddafi’s coastal hometown of around 100,000 residents.

Once considered to be a showpiece of urban development in Libya, Sirte has been the target of NATO bombing and NTC attacks since shortly after the fall of Tripoli in late August. In the last ten days, it has been the object of an intensified offensive. The Post states that “the damage wreaked in Sirte raises the question of whether its residents will go quietly into the post-Gaddafi future—or retain a smouldering anger that could fuel an

The Telegraph in Britain, which backs Gaddafi’s ouster, nevertheless comments that Sirte, which once had “a brilliant panoply of university and hospitals, with a glittering seafront and a marble-lined conference centre to host leaders from around the world,” is now “a squalid ruin.”

“Rebel fighters gazing at the devastation concede it is difficult to see how much of it could ever be repaired and made habitable again,” it notes. “The shattered remains of housing blocks and the wreckage of once comfortable homes…are more reminiscent of the grimmest scenes from Grozny, towards the end of Russia’s bloody Chechen war, than of anything seen in Libya so far. And the area around the grid of streets where anything between 200 and 500 loyalists are still holding out have become a killing ground, with loyalists, civilians and forces of the new Libyan government dying by the

Former residents who have returned “found almost every house and building either damaged by a rocket or mortar, burned out or riddled with bullets. Water floods the streets and the city’s infrastructure is in tatters,” writes Reuters.

These events shatter the pretences on which the NATO war against Libya was launched—i.e. claims that the possibility that Gaddafi might carry out mass reprisals against protesters justified a NATO intervention to disarm him. Far from planning reprisals against defenceless protesters, the Libyan army soon faced a war in which they were outclassed by NATO forces intervening to support the “rebels.” Reports from Sirte now suggest that the NTC forces are now carrying out collective punishment in the city.

Reuters comments: “the ferociousness of the bombardment of Sirte and the burning of
homes that belong to Gaddafi family members and supporters has raised suspicions that some fighters loyal to the NTC are looking for reprisals.” It cited residents returning to Sirte and accusing NTC fighters “of demolishing and looting homes, shops and public buildings.”

“They envy and hate us because Muammar is from here. But we are just civilians. The revolutionaries are coming here for revenge and destruction,” said a Sirte resident.

Another resident, Abu Anas, states: “What’s happening in Sirte is revenge, not liberation. When someone comes and takes your personal car and destroys your home, this is not liberation.”

NTC forces “clearly feel no need for restraint in bombarding the Gaddafi loyalists. That’s especially true of the many fighters from Misrata, a city to the west scarred by a bloody siege by Gaddafi’s troops in the spring,” the Post comments.

Numerous reports indicate that the NTC forces are looting the town. “Orders from the National Transitional Council to outlaw looting have done nothing to deter the rebel
stragglers gutting abandoned buildings,” the Telegraph states.

Reuters reporters saw NTC fighters “roaming the streets of Sirte with chairs, tyres and
computers on the backs of their pickup trucks. Brand new BMW and Toyota cars were seen being driven away by the fighters and being towed outside of the city.”

Associated Press reporters “also saw trucks carrying equipment from Sirte’s airport, including red-carpeted mobile staircases, baggage carts, airplane towing vehicles and security screening equipment, all apparently meant for Misrata’s badly damaged airport. Smaller pickups were loaded with rugs, freezers, refrigerators, furniture and other household goods, apparently taken by civilians and fighters to be used in their homes or resold.”

Tens of thousands of residents have fled the city. However, Gabriele Rossi, the
emergency coordinator in Sirte for the Doctors without Borders charity organisation, told the Washington Post that doctors fear thousands of civilians may be trapped in the areas of the city still being contested: “We are extremely concerned for those people that are inside [Sirte] and cannot get access to health care.”

A doctor for Doctors without Borders in Sirte has estimated that 10,000 people remain trapped in the city, including women and children, some sick or injured.

According to CNN, Doctors without Borders personnel working at the Ibn Sina hospital are still dealing with 50 patients yet to be evacuated. They are “mostly people who have suffered violent trauma, severe burns and fractures, according to MSF. Almost all patients need daily dressing and immediate medical care. There are also some pregnant women in the hospital.

“There is no water supply in the hospital and one of four operating theatres has been shelled,” the charity said. “The medical staff has been working around the clock and are showing signs of exhaustion and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The total number of dead and injured in the onslaught cannot be determined. Information is scanter still regarding Bani Walid, also under NTC/NATO siege for weeks, which the NTC now claims to have captured.

The destruction of Sirte is a fitting testament to the true character of NATO’s “humanitarian intervention” into Libya. Begun with claims that military bombardment would save Benghazi, the illegal war of aggression has instead laid waste to large swaths of the country.

As for reconstruction, there are already indications that the imperialist powers intend to use the funds they have earmarked for Libya for further fighting, not rebuilding the
devastated country.

Reuters reported this week that the emergency “relief fund” set up in a Qatari account to circumvent sanctions—now worth over half a billion US dollars—will no longer be available “for providing emergency cash” and will be used “to invest in long-term projects… Thousands of Libyans fleeing fighting in the besieged cities of Sirte and Bani Walid are straining the resources of struggling nearby towns, but the emergency relief fund set up by foreign donors says it is no longer its job to help.”

In reality, only $130 million of the $500 million Temporary Financing Mechanism has been released and this has covered fuel, hospital bills and salaries.

Local authorities “say they have only received a fraction of the money they need to cope with the flood of families escaping the fighting” in Sirte and Bani Walid. “In Tripoli,
officials said the capital’s resources were also being tested by the arrival of thousands of internally displaced people and more money was needed to provide services in the capital.”

A local official said Tripoli has only actually received a paltry 15 million dinars, or $12.2 million.

“Most of Libya’s estimated $170 billion in frozen assets are still out of reach, and despite pledges by global powers to make money available, just one third of a promised
$15 billion has been unfrozen,” the report concludes.

Yesterday UK Foreign Secretary William Hague was in Tripoli to reopen Britain’s embassy, which was looted and torched in May in angry response to NATO’s air strikes. He marked this “watershed” moment with a promise of a paltry £20 million pounds
($32 million) for Libya’s stabilisation fund, another £20 million to support “political and economic reform,” and health care in the UK for at most 50 Libyans injured in the war.

( / 18.10.2011)


World leaders hope detainee swap gives peace boost

LONDON (Reuters) — World leaders voiced hope on Tuesday that a major prisoner exchange between Israel and the Palestinians would help reinvigorate a peace process frozen for more than a year.

But while the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas-ruled Gaza in return for 477 Palestinians detainees was celebrated on both sides, it did not address any core disputes that have bedeviled peace talks for 20 years, analysts said.

There was no sign from Israel, Hamas, or the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas that the Egyptian-brokered deal could be a starting point for dialogue.

Still, world leaders nevertheless saw room for hope in an improvement of the regional atmosphere laying groundwork for a revival of peace talks shelved last year over Israel’s continued expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“I would like to believe that this will permit the taking up again of discussions” between the Israelis and Palestinians, said French President Nicolas Sarkozy. “When everyone is speaking to each other, it facilitates things.”

“For France, it’s a very big relief, it’s a great joy and it proves that even in the most difficult moments, there can be hope,” Sarkozy said in southern France. Shalit holds dual French nationality and Paris has closely followed his plight.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Israel to build on the momentum provided by the release of Shalit to advance peace talks with the Palestinians.

“It provides a glimmer of hope in an often bleak scene that a successful negotiation can be carried out on this difficult subject,” Hague told Reuters during a trip to North Africa.

“In particular, we believe Israel should be ready to make a more decisive offer than Israeli leaders have made in recent years on the peace process to give talks a chance of success.

“I also hope,” Hague added, that “it will encourage Israel to relax the controls on the crossing points into Gaza. The extent of the controls has generally served to strengthen Hamas rather than to weaken them.”

Revival of peace process credibility?

Israel struck the prisoner swap deal with Hamas, which rules Gaza. Hamas does not recognize Israel and has refused to renounce violence, putting it at odds with Abbas who rules in the West Bank.

Analysts said the accord weakened Abbas, who has little to show for years of on-off talks with Israel, but world leaders looked to the agreement to have a broader, positive impact.

Middle East peace envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair told the BBC he hoped the prisoner swap “offers us a moment of opportunity, and not simply in respect of Gaza where Hamas are presently in charge, but also for a … revival of credibility in a peace process we really need to prioritize.

“What has happened offers a chance of a change of atmosphere, a change of context, but we’ve got to use that to push on and try to revive a credible negotiation for the two-state solution.”

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she counted on successful cooperation between Israel and Egypt leading to the prisoner exchange to defuse recent new tensions between the two, who signed a peace treaty in 1979.

“This would be an important contribution to the Middle East peace process,” the Merkel spokesman said, alluding to Cairo’s role as a mediator in Israeli-Palestinian disputes, particularly to do with security issues around Gaza.

German President Christian Wulff wrote to Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres and to Shalit’s parents saying the prisoner exchange was “a sign of a peaceful future for Israel and the region”.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Switzerland: “With this release, it will have a far-reaching positive impact to the stalled Middle East peace process.”

But most analysts were doubtful, seeing the prisoner swap as a one-off that did nothing to tackle yawning political, ideological and religious divisions between Israel and the Palestinians and even within their own camps.

Abbas wants a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital, alongside Israel. But his adversary Hamas does not accept the validity of peace talks.

Israel sees Jerusalem as its eternal, indivisible capital and major West Bank settlement blocs as a future part of the state. It wants continued control over a Palestinian state’s external borders.

Most Israelis in opinion polls favor a two-state solution, but their governing coalitions depend on rightist parties who back settlement expansion on land seen by Palestinians as crucial to their hope for a viable state.

Abbas is now pushing for recognition of statehood at the United Nations, a unilateral move opposed by Israel and its main ally, the United States. He is unlikely to retreat, especially with Hamas seemingly bolstered by the swap accord.

( / 18.10.2011)

Egypt’s government: designed for dictatorship

Will Egypt’s parliamentary elections bring the change needed or simply rebuild a
defunct system of government?

Cairo is a city of 20 million without a mayor, without a municipality and without an effective city government that represents its inhabitants. At the final metro stop on the Giza line is an informal neighbourhood sandwiched between the metro tracks and a water canal. Mounib was once a village outside Giza on the road heading south towards Aswan.

Today, Mounib is part of the informal urban sprawl spawned by government
negligence and lack of planning. In some respects, Mounib is a relatively
successful informal area: The buildings are well built with a maximum of six levels allowing sun and air to penetrate most residences, and there is a tightly-knit community. Living here is not cheap; the average home costs its owners nearly 50,000 Egyptian pounds (about $8,370), yet residents lead a precarious life and their fate is uncertain. Inhabitants in informal areas live at the mercy of the construction mafia, who build illegally with the discreet approval of bribed local government officials.

Running through this dense urban area is the Zumor Canal, which once irrigated rich agricultural land. No longer used for irrigation, water has become stagnant, and with the government’s refusal to manage waste in areas such as Mounib, the canal has transformed into a trash dump and a source of disease and infestation. Further north, where the canal passes through middle-class neighbourhoods, it has been filled and transformed into a green spine. Here, like the majority of Cairo, residents police themselves. A total informal way of life pervades that includes schooling, healthcare, food supply and social services. People here are friendly and welcoming and they know what needs to be done to better their community, but there are no channels for them to officially take part in civil society and government. Although this area is part of the capital and is reached by metro, it is at the periphery of the regime’s concerns. In Mounib, nothing has improved since Hosni Mubarak passed his presidential powers to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).

The local government officials responsible for this area are the same as before the January 25 revolution that deposed Mubarak, despite a recent court ruling to dissolve
local councils
. Residents consider local government as window dressing rather than an effective mechanism to better their lives, and the government institution as a whole is viewed as better avoided. Those local government officials form the base of an administrative pyramid that leads to a presidentially appointed governor at the top. Administratively, Cairo is a divided city split into three governorates each with a governor and an army of bureaucracy below him. Governor posts are reserved to former army and police officers, typically at the age of retirement.

‘Designed for dictatorship’

Egypt’s government is designed for a dictatorship: It is extremely centralised and tightly controlled by national policy, and local councils are void of power. Although Cairo’s three governorates have separate budgets and various departments, they largely depend on the country’s ministries, led by presidentially appointed ministers, to care for essential elements of the urban environment: housing, schooling, transport, parks, healthcare, etc. Governorate budgets largely go to paying salaries rather than public spending. There is no unified city government with elected local officials and a mandate to effectively manage the city. Instead, governors do the occasional
ribbon-cutting, and make hollow announcements regarding randomly selected projects that suit their whimsy.

Local councils that should directly manage a neighbourhood such as Mounib are firmly in the hands of members and friends of the now disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP). Over the past 30 years, local politics were dominated by personal relationships with party officials. Council seats were purchased and influential families controlled entire districts. Local councils are supposed to represent citizens’ interests to the national government. Cairo, with roughly 23 per cent of Egypt’s population, is represented in the national parliament with only 10 per cent of the seats. This means that the residents of Cairo with some of the highest population density in the country are underrepresented in a parliament that is typically dominated by a single party.

Residents in Mounib, like the majority of Egyptians, have no effective means to a political voice, to participate in government or to demand from authority something as urgent as cleaning the cesspool that runs through their neighborhood.

The ruling SCAF has been reluctant to make any fundamental changes to the system of governance. The court order to dissolve local councils has not been enforced. There have been no rules regarding former NDP members and their beneficiaries from dominating the political arena, and the fabric of the defunct system described above is fully intact. Governors have been appointed as was done before. The NDP’s controversial Cairo2050 plan, which calls for the dislocation of millions of inhabitants in the name of neoliberal development for the rich, has resurfaced after months of speculation over its fate.

Since February, 50 political parties have been registered and numerous political figures have emerged. Dominating public discourse have been voices from the Islamist side of the spectrum, who have insisted on keeping the conversation on issues of identity. The everyday concerns of citizens and inhabitants of Cairo such as transport, housing and waste have been conspicuously absent. When I last visited Mounib, residents were not concerned with national identity, the dichotomy between liberals and Islamists, the threat of a military regime or American interests in the region. They were concerned with the polluted canal, the uncollected waste, the mosquitoes infesting the area and the lack of official response. There is a deliberate gap that has been created between the people and the powerful, and the current transitional government is maintaining that gap.

Sandwiched community

The ruling SCAF has not shown any indication of its intention to implement or support real political reform in post-Mubarak Egypt. In fact, what has been taking place at an alarming rate is the rebuilding of the old regime with new partners and new names. After nine months in power, it is safe to assume that the SCAF has no intention of changing. Speaking at the 25th anniversary celebration of the national media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Noam Chomsky argued, “The US and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people.”

Chomsky explained that the main motive for this policy is a sense that the people of the Middle East are overwhelmingly anti-American and thus they should not be left to their own devices.

Despite the lucid statements by the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in support of democracy in the region, it is increasingly evident that the US is hoping to rebuild the Egyptian regime, and the SCAF is its partner. Internally, the SCAF is part of the old regime and is interested in maintaining the status quo.

Forgotten between the American vision for the region and the SCAF’s hunger for power is a community sandwiched between the metro tracks and a polluted canal in Cairo. Like other Cairenes, the people of Mounib want to live in a dignified city, but are deprived of true government representation to realise their aspirations.

( / 18.10.2011)

SJP Conference 2011: Day 3 Highlights

The third and final day of the National SJP Conference featured two rounds of intensive workshops and a closing session that capitalized on the urgency of formalizing an organized student movement in support of Palestinian rights.

The first round of workshops focused heavily on building the skills necessary to effectively combat prejudice, normalization, and propaganda and to systematically establish this cause as the ideal social movement. The second round of workshops focused on entire campaigns set to have a national impact in the coming year. Here is a sampling of the workshops offered to conference attendees:

Media Training

Presented by award-winning journalist Kristin Szremski and other notable guests, this workshop helped students understand the inner workings of the press. Certain customs, connections, and strategies must be implemented for maximum media exposure. It is important to utilize media as a means to spread awareness. The impact of one’s work as it applies to the general public can oftentimes be gauged by how much of the message is transmitted through mainstream media, and it is necessary to take advantage of the obvious benefits that come with interacting with the press.

The Question of Palestine in the Public Sphere: How to (and how not to) talk about Palestine

Although it is important to utilize the press as a means of accurately delivering a message to a global audience, it is equally important to understand how to strategically present the issue of Palestine to anyone, such as a YouTube audience, apolitical friends, a crowd of curious strangers, or a group of individuals supporting the Zionist ideology. This workshop was hosted by a diverse group of students who have identified the effectiveness of the tactics through their own experiences. Words play an important role in how the issue is framed, and the students who participated in this workshop left with a clear understanding of what it takes to ensure the issue is framed properly, accurately, and realistically.

Building Connections: Coalition Building on Campus

Coalitions between student groups are important particularly because they feature a synergistic effect: the product of the whole is greater than the products of each individual component combined. Because SJP’s work is grounded on the issue of social justice, the potential for coalition-building and networking is always high, especially with groups that also deal with social justice causes. This workshop showed students the importance of establishing coalitions and how to go about forming them. Although it is challenging to establish and maintain coalitions with so many different community and student groups, it is clear that the collaboration between such diverse crowds is better suited to mobilize the entire population for Palestinian rights.

Solidarity with Palestinian Political Prisoners

In light of the prisoner exchange recently agreed upon between Hamas and the Israeli government, the issue of political prisoners cannot be ignored. The purpose of this workshop was to highlight the various injustices faced by Palestinian prisoners currently held by Israel and to contrast their situations with Israel’s attitude toward Gilad Shalit. Of the thousands of Palestinians currently held behind bars, many of them have yet to be indicted or are being prosecuted without a fair trial. This is an issue that has typically been ignored by the mainstream media, but with the news of prisoner swaps dominating the headlines, this is the perfect time to spread knowledge about the thousands of Palestinians suffering torture and humiliation on a regular basis.

Upon completion of the two rounds of workshops, students convened for a final session to propose ideas for campaign expansions and to discuss the future of SJP on a national, regional, and local level.

( / 18.10.2011)

Martijn Kap stapt uit PVV-fractie PS

Met een brief van 18 oktober 2011 aan de commissaris van de Koningin, Wim van de Donk, heeft het Statenlid Martijn Kap te kennen gegeven dat hij uit de fractie van de PVV in Provinciale Staten van Noord-Brabant stapt.

Om hun moverende redenen hebben de fractie van de PVV en het Statenlid Kap besloten de samenwerking te beëindigen. Kap zal doorgaan als eenmansfractie. De naam van deze fractie is ‘Onafhankelijke Statenfractie Noord-Brabant’.
Dit betekent dat vanaf 18 oktober 2011 de fractie van de PVV in Provinciale Staten 7 leden (was 8) telt en Provinciale Staten van Noord-Brabant nu in totaal 10 fracties kent (was 9).

( / 18.10.2011)

Nog ruim 5200 Palestijnen vast in Israël

JERUZALEM – Israël heeft dinsdag 477 Palestijnen vrijgelaten in ruil voor de Israëlische militair Gilad Shalit.

Binnen twee maanden komen nog eens 550 Palestijnen op vrije voeten. In Israël worden nu nog ongeveer 5200 Palestijnen uit de bezette gebieden vastgehouden.

De meeste Palestijnen zitten vast in detentiecentra in Israël. Dat betekent dat de gedetineerden zelden of nooit bezoek kunnen ontvangen van familieleden. Israël weigert volgens mensenrechtenorganisaties vaak de hiervoor benodigde reisvergunning af te geven.



Sinds juni 2007 geeft Israël zelfs aan geen enkele inwoner van Gaza toestemming om familieleden te bezoeken in Israëlische gevangenissen.

In september zaten in Israël in totaal 164 Palestijnen vast van 18 jaar of jonger. Van hen waren er 35 tussen de 12 en 15 jaar oud. Eind augustus verbleven volgens de Israëlische autoriteiten 272 Palestijnen in administratieve hechtenis, wat betekent dat zij worden vastgehouden zonder proces.

Van Agt


Na de ruil van Palestijnse gevangenen tegen de Israëlische militair Gilad Shalit moet Israël haast maken met het opheffen van de de blokkade van de Gazastrook. Die oproep deed oud-premier Dries van Agt.

”Het momentum van de gevangenenruil moet benut worden om de blokkade onmiddellijk en volledig te beëindigen. Er is nu politieke druk nodig, ook van Nederland en de EU, om de Gazaanse burgerbevolking van het juk van de onmenselijke blokkade te bevrijden”, stelde Van Agt. De blokkade is volgens hem in strijd met het internationaal recht.

Van Agt bracht begin deze maand een bezoek aan de Gazastrook. Hij deed dat samen met onder anderen de oud-bewindslieden Laurens Jan Brinkhorst (D66), Jan Pronk (PvdA) en Bert de Vries (ex-CDA).

( / 18.10.2011)

Hundreds of thousands rally to celebrate prisoner release

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Ramallah and Gaza City on Tuesday in celebration of the release of hundreds of prisoners from Israeli jails.

More than 200,000 people rallied at al-Katiba square in Gaza City, a Hamas official involved in organizing the welcome rally said.

Israel freed 477 prisoners, most of them to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas leaders greeted former prisoners piling off buses bearing Red Cross insignia.

“We are going home with dignity, thank God,” one prisoner told Egyptian television from the bus.

Three cars belonging to the ruling Hamas movement followed by a Red Cross vehicle accompanied a convoy of eight buses carrying the prisoners to their waiting relatives in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah.

Hamas militants paraded through the streets of Gaza City celebrating the triumphant release, negotiated by the Islamist movement with Israel in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit.

A huge stage has been erected in al-Katiba square and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and released prisoner Yahwa Sinwar are scheduled to speak at the celebrations. Sources close to Hamas on Monday told Ma’an a third speaker would be a surprise addition to the agenda.

Hundreds of released prisoners will sit on the stage and break the walls of a symbolic jail built on the platform, officials said.

In the West Bank, classes were suspended so pupils could join sit-in tents and activities organized to welcome returning detainees, teachers’ union chief Muhammad Suwwan told Ma’an.

President Mahmoud Abbas addressed huge crowds at his compound as buses headed to Ramallah carrying the first prisoners released under the historic swap deal.

“We thank God that you returned safe and sound to your families, your brothers, and your homeland after this forced disappearance because you struggled for your homeland,” the president said.

“We pray that God enables us to see the rest of our sisters and brothers freed in this yard. Your sacrifices, and efforts and work were not in vain. You worked and struggled and sacrificed. You will see the results of your sacrifices in the independent Palestinian state.

“Brothers and sisters, your cause was and is still in our heart and minds. Our main worry was our brothers and sister in jails.”

Abbas referred to charismatic Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine secretary-general Ahmad Sadaat, two high profile prisoners who were left out of the deal.

“We will see, God willing, very soon, our brother Marwan Barghouthi and Ahmad Saadat whom we wish a quick recovery.”

Abbas thanked Egypt for its help in brokering the agreement, and promised to finalize reconciliation between his Fatah party and Hamas.

“Brothers and sisters, your families in homeland and in the world are with you everywhere. But I would like to tell you that all the merits, after God, are to our martyrs.”

( / 18.10.2011)

Happiness, tears as Palestinians greet freed prisoners

Crowds of Palestinians, many of them overwhelmed and in tears, welcomed home
hundreds of freed detainees in the West Bank and Gaza on Tuesday, under a landmark prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

In Gaza City, the Hamas government staged a massive rally welcoming home the first group of prisoners being exchanged for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The group’s top Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh addressed a crowd that Hamas said
numbered over 200,000, praising the kidnap of Shalit as a positive operation that had won the freedom of hundreds of Palestinians.

“Some described Shalit’s captivity as a worthless adventure but today they are proven wrong,” he told the cheering thousands gathered at the welcome rally.

Hamas, which earlier this year signed a reconciliation deal with its longtime rival faction Fatah, has emphasised that the deal brings home members of various factions and includes a Christian Palestinian.

“The sons of this people are one,” Haniyeh said. “Fatah sons are like Hamas and other factions are also sons to us.”

The prisoner exchange, under which Israel is releasing 1,027 Palestinian detainees in two stages, began to unfold early on Tuesday morning.

As Shalit was transferred to Israel via Egypt, Israel began to free a first group of 477 prisoners across the Palestinian territories and inside Israel.

In Gaza, they came across the Egyptian border crossing at Rafah in a convoy of eight buses accompanied by several Hamas cars and a vehicle belonging to the Red Cross.

On the Palestinian side they were greeted by relatives and high-ranking members of the Hamas movement, which inked the historic deal securing the prisoner releases in exchange for Shalit’s freedom.

Men wept as they embraced their sons and brothers, while women, some of them
draped in the Palestinian flags and the green banner of Hamas, ululated.

Raed Abu Lebdeh, who spent 13 years in prison, was overcome as he embraced
his 13-year-old daughter Miriam for the first time.

“It’s an indescribable joy to see my children,” he said, holding his weeping child to his chest.

“I feel as though I was born today, it’s the very first time that I’ve seen my father and been able to hug him,” she said.

Suhair al-Ghul, whose husband Omar was sentenced to life in prison, arrived at Rafah with her two sons, both armed and wearing the uniform of the Hamas armed wing.

“I can’t believe that my husband is back today, I’m just amazed,” she said.

“He spent 25 years in prison. He left behind his children and he’s returning to find 18 grandchildren.”

In the West Bank, dozens of prisoners were taken directly to the Muqataa, the seat of the Palestinian presidency in Ramallah, where thousands of people waved flags and danced.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas addressed the crowd, flanked, in a rare sign of unity, by members of the Hamas movement from the West Bank.

“Your sacrifices and your efforts and your work has not been in vain. You have sacrificed and fought,” he said, as the crowd chanted “God is greatest.”

“Your cause has been and remains in our hearts,” he added. “God willing we will see every single prisoner, male and female, return to their homeland.”

In the crowd, many seemed completely overtaken by the emotion of the reunion,
clinging to their relatives, and in some cases even fainting at the sight of them.

Israel is releasing a total of 1,027 detainees, the first 477 on Tuesday and a second group of 550 within two months.

Hundreds of those included in the exchange were convicted for their involvement in deadly attacks on Israelis, but the Palestinians regard the detainees as heroes, calling them political prisoners.

Among the returning prisoners, many expressed a sense of sadness that they were leaving behind other Palestinian detainees, including some high-profile figures who Israel refused to release.

Tawfiq Abdallah, 52, who served 26 years of a life sentence in Israeli prison, said it was difficult to describe his feelings.

“I feel a mixture of happiness and pain,” he said. “Happiness because I am out and can see the light, but pain at the brothers I have left behind.”

Nearby, 40-year-old Nayef Nidal, free after 17 years in prison, was similarly lost for words.

“I really can’t describe my feelings, but I hope all the mothers of the prisoners will be happy,” he said, collapsing into the arms of his relatives.

In east Jerusalem, families gathered near the Mount of Olives to receive their relatives, waiting from the early hours of the morning in the clear, cold air.

Mohammed Hussein Shehada was there to receive his daughter Sana, who was
imprisoned in 2002.

“I am so happy. I was really scared I would die before I saw her,” he said. “She is equal to 10 of my sons.”

( / 18.10.2011)


Conferentie “De 4 rechtgeleide kaliefen”

zondag 23 oktober · 12:30 – 18:00

Cultuur centrum berchem

driekoningenstraat 126
Berchem, Belgium

Gemaakt door:

Meer informatie
As salaam aleykoum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatoe,

Beste broeders en zusters….geliefden van Al-Mawada,

al-Mawada heeft de eer u uit te nodigen op zondag 23 oktober 2011 op onze conferentie met als titel “de 4 rechtgeleide Kaliefen -hun leven en hun voorbeeldige leiderschap-” Hiervoor hebben we 4 Nederlandstalige topsprekers uitgenodigd, Mohamed Chatouani, Remy Soekirman, Brahim Laytouss en Khalid Ben Haddou. Zij zullen het resp…ectievelijk hebben over Abou Bakr(ra), ‘Omar(ra), ‘Othman(ra) en ‘Ali (ra) Moge Allah(swt) met hen tevreden zijn.

In deze snel evoluerende samenleving waarin we leven en we eigenschappen zoals, waarheid en waarheidgetrouw, recht en rechtvaardigheid, nederigheid en bescheidenheid, inzichten en intelligentie begrippen zijn die veel te weinig voorkomen in onze gemeenschap, wilt al-Mawada een bijdrage leveren om deze te doen herleven. Deze eigenschappen en begrippen konden we terugvinden in het leven van De 4 rechtgeleide kaliefen, zij die een gehele gemeenschap wisten te motiveren

Zoals Huxley zei: “De waarheid zal niet ophouden met het bestaan omdat het wordt ontkent”, net zoals deze eigenschappen en begrippen die ontkent worden in de samenleving maar die wel bestaan.

Het beloofd een zondagmiddag te worden die gevuld zal worden met kennis, en hopelijk zullen we aan het einde van deze zondag meer inzichten hebben in het leven van de rechtgeleide Kaliefen

Fie amanilah

ps;Plaatsen zijn beperkt!!!

Deuren open: 12h30
Begin 13h:00

cultuurcentrum berchem
driekoningenstraat 126
2600 Berchem

Tickets: 5€

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Iqra,Abdijstraat 131 ,Antwerpen 2020
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