News of Syria 30.01.2012

#Homs Heavy fire in Bayyada neighboiurhood by the surrounding security checkpoints as well as dropping stun grenades

#Lattakia sec forces are conducting a random arrest campaign and raiding homes in the Qneines area amid an electricity blackout

#Hama The regime’s army is shelling the Madeeq Citadel using heavy artillery

“Pimp My Ride” Syrian Revolution style near #BabaAmrhttp://twitpic.com/8dp1pp #FSA #Homs #Syria via @Samsomhoms

#Aleppo sec forces and Shabeeha storm Furn Alnoor Street in the area of Furdous amid intense gunfire

Hasakeh Ferhan Hamed Moukhlef al-Jabouri was martyred under torture at the hands of sec forces stationed at the Political Branch

I know it’s not Friday, but #FF @DarthNader if you’re following the Syrian revolution!

In lattakia, #syria, regime thugs burned to death 3 children of a doctor wanted by security forces

Gunfire ‘everywhere’: Street battles rage in Damascus, #Syriasuburbs

(01-30-2012) #Homs | (18+) Child Tahyyat Muhammad Al-Muhammad murdered by Assad force

A car belonged to #FreeSyrianArmy #FSA near my home here in central #Syrian city of #Homs with revolution flag

#Aleppo sec forces enforced a curfew in al-Fardous area and closed all the shops amid random arrests

#Hama Heavy gunfire from security checkpoints from Hadder #Aleppo Road and Qusoor areas

50 #Idlib Saraqeb More than 50 tanks surround the city and regime forces are randomly shelling in advance of a raid

(01-30-2012) Al-Rastan | #Homs | Free Syria Army destroys Assad tank – FS

Islamic aid to Gaza grows, despite restriction

International Islamic aid agencies maintain a presence in Gaza.

GAZA CITY (IRIN) – Secours Islamique France is a respected aid agency, part of the global Islamic Relief network based in the UK, but when it comes to helping Palestinians in Gaza, its operations are challenged by both Israeli bureaucracy and its own “no-contact” policy with Hamas officials within the Strip.

Hamas is branded a “terror” organization by many western countries, despite the party’s victory in the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections. That requires Secours Islamique France, and all other international charities working in Gaza, to tread extremely carefully to avoid falling foul of anti-terror legislation.

US rules, specifically their definition of providing support to terrorism, are the most stringent, according to a paper on counter-terrorism and humanitarian action by the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG), part of Britain’s Overseas Development Institute. “In the US, no knowledge or intention to support terrorism per se is required [for criminal responsibility] if support is knowingly provided to a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” says the report.

In the UK, “having reasonable cause to suspect” that support will contribute to terrorist activity is enough to attract criminal responsibility.

This notion of “support” under US and UK anti-terror legislation means that, for example, when Secours Islamique France distributes milk and fortified biscuits daily to 10,000 pre-school children in Gaza, it must only deal directly with the schools, to avoid any contact with the education ministry.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza, tightened after Hamas seized power in 2007, is an additional impediment to international organizations operating in the territory, increasing costs and affecting project oversight.

In terms of access by international staff, Secours Islamique France has repeatedly applied for permission to enter Gaza via Israel, but is refused each time, according to country director Adel Kaddum. The group is still awaiting the verdict on its 2010 request to officially register as an international non-governmental organization in Israel; Islamic Relief UK, which delivers aid in 25 countries, applied several years ago but has yet to be approved.

Sharpened by Islamophobia

While all charities operating in Gaza face similar frustrations, an aid worker, who asked not to be identified, said Israel’s objection to assistance reaching Hamas was sharpened by Islamophobia when that aid was delivered by Muslim charities.

At the practical level, Islamic organizations face greater movement and access restrictions than other agencies because some are banned by the Israeli authorities, according to Ahmed Shurrab, including his own agency, Interpal.

But the restrictions are not insurmountable. “Israel has denied requests for permits for humanitarian staff to enter Gaza, but with the Rafah crossing [along the Gaza-Egypt border] functioning better, we [expect] international staff may be able to enter,” Muslim Hands International director Saed Salah said.

Financing, however, can be a problem, with US anti-terrorism legislation complicating transfers to organizations operating in Gaza. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), under the US Treasury Department, administers and enforces economic sanctions against countries, groups and individuals deemed a threat.

“Banks are very sensitive, particularly in Gaza, and even if an entity is not marked by OFAC, it can still be assessed as a risk,” said the governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority, Jihad Al-Wazir.

Blacklisted

Interpal was defined as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” that aids Hamas and was blacklisted by OFAC in 2003.

“Due to the banks being threatened by the US that they will lose their US operating licence if they deal with ‘terrorists,’ we do not have full and open banking facilities,” Interpal’s Gaza field office manager, Mahmoud Lubbad, said. “That makes life difficult, but not impossible.”

Interpal’s UK headquarters are able to make euro-denominated transfers directly to its implementing partners in Gaza.

The UK’s Charity Commission has launched two investigations into Interpal, and on both occasions concluded that the evidence did not substantiate Washington’s claim that the organization was linked to political or militant activities.

In an out-of-court settlement in 2005 the Board of Deputies of British Jews said it should not have described Interpal as a “terrorist organization,” in response to a libel suit filed by Interpal against the Board.

“We believe it was a political decision made at the request of the Israeli foreign ministry,” said Lubbad. “There was no due process, no investigation beforehand (and despite subsequent open invitations for the US government to send investigators to look us over, they have never been taken up) and it is a costly exercise to even request to be removed from the ‘terrorist’ list.”

International Islamic organizations step up activities

However, despite the movement and access restrictions on humanitarian staff and supplies, and obstacles to the transfer of funds into Gaza, the number of Islamic organizations working with the vulnerable in Gaza is actually increasing.

Ten new Islamic agencies have opened offices in Gaza since Israel’s large-scale military operation in Gaza — Operation Cast Lead — ended in January 2009, bringing the total to 24, according to Ayman Ayeish, information director of the Hamas-led Interior Ministry in Gaza. A total of 75 international organizations and about 900 local organizations maintain offices in Gaza.

(electronicintifada.net / 30.01.2012)

‘Israeli’ superdrone explodes in the sky

Heron TP drone
Heron TP drone

 Occupied Palestine…(SaebPress)—Sunday morningan ‘Israeli’ unmanned aerial vehicle Heron TP, also known as the IAI Eitan, has crashed during a joint operation performed by the ‘Israeli’ military and the developer company of the unmanned aerial vehicle (Heron TP), near the Tel Nof airbase, south of Tel Aviv.

‘Israeli’ occupation army’s radio reported that the Heron TP exploded after the crash. Nobody on the ground has been injured, and an investigation has been launched into the cause of the crash.

The all-weather fully-automatic UAV was designed for strategic reconnaissance, and carries a whole payload of sensors, optical and infrared cameras and is equipped for fire-control, also reportedly having assault capabilities; tested on the Gaza Strip.

Thought to be the biggest UAV in the world, the Heron TP is the largest ‘Israeli’ UAV with a 26-meter-long wingspan. It can fly for up to 45 hours with a cruise speed of 300 kilometres per hour, and is able to cover a distance of 10,000 kilometres.

The Heron TP can carry a payload of 1,000 kilograms. The drone is also capable of launching missiles. The IAI Eitan was passed into service in February 2010

Tel Nof airbase, or Air Force Base 8, is one of Israel’s three principal airbases. It was built by the British as the UK’s main airbase on Palestinian occupied land, and used to be known as Ekron Airbase

In late 2011, both of France and the UAE decided to purchase the Israeli Heron TP.

(saebpress.com / 30.01.2012)

In Palestine, to Exist Is to Resist


Bilin leader with bassem grave

A Bil’in leader next to a Bassem grave.

Behind the headlines, Palestinians are using nonviolent direct action to protest the status quo.

BY MELINDA TUHUS

Few readers of mainstream media are aware of Palestinians’ longstanding creative efforts to use non-violent direct action in their struggle for self-determination.

WEST BANK, PALESTINE – On November 15, Mazin Qumsiyeh and other Palestinian activists boarded public bus number 148, an Israelis-only bus that normally takes Jews from the Israeli West Bank settlement of Ariel to Jerusalem. The bus took the group to the Hizma checkpoint, just outside the northern entrance of Jerusalem, where activists resisted authorities’ efforts to remove them. Eventually, as a camera broadcast the action online, eight people were pulled from the bus and arrested. They were charged with “illegal entry to Jerusalem” and “obstructing police business.”

Qumsiyeh hopes this recent “freedom ride” – possible because a bus driver let them ride by mistake, he said – will spark the same kind of response that its namesake did across the United States in the early 1960s, when interstate bus trips helped end racial segregation in the South. Qumsiyeh, author of Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment, says other examples of nonviolent resistance include protests of the separation barrier (which many Palestinians call an “apartheid wall”) that has effectively turned 10 percent of Palestinian land into Israeli land since its construction began in 2002; school girls holding class in the street when they can’t get to their schools because of Israeli interference; and farmers braving Israeli intimidation to harvest olives. “For us to exist on this land is to resist,” says Qumsiyeh, who teaches at Bethlehem and Birzeit universities.

Most readers of mainstream media in the United States think of the First Intifada (1987-92) as the stone-throwing uprising and the Second Intifada (2000-2004) as the attack of the suicide bombers. They may have heard of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, started in 2005 by more than 170 Palestinian civil society groups. (The movement aims to curtail benefits accruing to businesses that benefit from the occupation.)But few are aware of Palestinians’ longstanding creative efforts to use nonviolent direct action in their struggle for self-determination. Those efforts, from the tax revolt in Beit Sahour during the First Intifada to creative actions led by Palestinians like Qumsiyeh, are often supported by both international and Israeli activists. And they are proliferating.

Ghassan Andoni, cofounder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and a leader of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People, says nonviolent direct action by Palestinians opposed to the Israeli occupation started before the First Intifada. “Activities included throwing military identity cards issued by the occupation as a way to tell the occupier that we don’t recognize your authority and there is no contract between us,” Andoni said in an interview in Bethlehem in mid-November. “Then we stopped paying taxes and submitting monthly reports saying, ‘No taxation without representation.’”

The First Intifada also saw the creation of autonomous communities all over the West Bank. “We established our own economy to detach from the occupation,” Andoni explained. Large protest marches and solidarity campaigns were also organized with international activists and Israelis. ISM has staged “die-ins” in front of Israeli tanks, and its members have chained themselves to homes the Israeli government wants to demolish, and obstructed the Israeli army from imposing a curfew. As popular resistance among Palestinians has spread, Andoni increasingly sees ISM’s role as supporting local nonviolent initiatives.

Bil’in, a village near Ramallah, is one such initiative. Residents of Bil’in have mobilized against Israel’s West Bank security barrier. Since construction of the fence began there in 2005, villagers have staged various events. After the release of the film Avatar, with its story line of the occupation of Pandora and the rape of its resources, Palestinians painted themselves blue to look like Pandorans. On another occasion, they lugged a television to the fence and cheered their favorite teams during a World Cup tournament to show that normal life would go on.

Bil’in activists photograph and videotape every protest. “The camera is our gun,” says Iyad Burnat, who heads the resistance committee in the village. In 2011 the barrier was moved a short distance away from its initial location in Bil’in, on orders from the Israeli High Court. But much of the village remains on the Israeli side of the fence, and protests continue.

What is the ultimate goal of nonviolent action, beyond stopping the security wall and ending the occupation? “One state or two states?” is not the right question to start with, Qumsiyeh says. “The right question to ask is, ‘What is the right thing to do that will guarantee the safety and security and peace and humanity of everybody in the long run?’ Once we can agree, we’ll work toward that.”

(inthesetimes.com / 30.01.2012)

Mijn leven tussen en met de Alawieten. De clan van Assad (de leeuwen).

Beschrijving

Het boek gaat in hoofdzaak over mijn leven tussen en met de Alawieten, de clan van Assad, Syrië, de huidige regeringspartij, waar momenteel een burgeroorlog aan de gang is. Het boek weerspiegelt de huidige situatie en de situatie in de de jaren 90, toen ik er verbleef. Mijn verblijf daar, met tussenpozen in Nederland en Duitsland geven een weerspiegeling van het leven onder een dictatoriaal regime, wiens macht zich ver over de grenzen van zijn eigen land reikt. Mijn ex-man een Syriër, is directe familie van Bashar al-Assad en is dus direct gelinkt aan de regering.
Mijn leven in een land wat tamelijk gesloten was tot het eind van de jaren 90. Tot op de dag van vandaag zijn de gebeurtenissen in het land actueel te noemen en het eind van de revolutie, burgeroorlog, of zoals de regering het daar pleegt te zeggen een terroristische samenzwering van het westen met terroristische elementen in Syrië, zijn nog niet in zicht.
(Sonja van den Ende / www.mijnbestseller.nl / 30.01.2012)

Campaign launched against French purchase of Israeli drones

Posted on December 30, 2011 by Ali Abunimah on Electronic Intifada

French boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigners have called on their government to abandon a €318 million deal to buy Heron TP drones from Israel Aircraft Industries. Meanwhile, senior members of France’s Senate have called publicly for the country to abandon the purchase on grounds that the Israeli drones are unsuited to the needs of the armed forces.

Campaign against Israeli drones

A petition launched by Campagne BDS France urging the government to end the deal and calling for an immediate military embargo on Israel has already garnered more than 1300 signatures. The text states:

No to the purchase by France of 318 million euros worth of Israeli drones!
An immediate military embargo against Israel!

On 20 July the French Ministry of Defence took the scandalous decision to buy from Israel more than 318 million euros worth of war weapons.  When this outlaw state is guilty, day after day, of grave violations of international law, when there is a climate of austerity, when there are calls for demilitarization and for sanctions against Israel’s impunity, we are outraged by the disgraceful choice made by the Ministry of Defence.

Israel has a well established record of violations of international law and human rights, on display in its various military operations and aggressive attacks, incursions and occupations of Palestinian territories and other Arab countries, in its abusive and indiscriminate use of force and in the deliberate targeting of civilians and infrastructure. All of which result in a ceaseless repetition of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The BDS French Campaign joins the Palestinian BNC in calling for an immediate military embargo against Israel, similar to that imposed upon South Africa in the past.  We demand the immediate cancellation of the contract to purchase drones from Israel.

Decision to buy Israeli drones “surprises” French Senate

Earlier this month, the vice-chairs of the foreign affairs and defence and armed forces committees of the French Senate wrote an open letter in Le Monde strongly opposing the decision. The four senators, two from President Nicholas Sarkozy’s UMP party and two from the Socialist opposition, wrote (my translation):

On July 20, the Minister of Defence, Gérard Longuet, chose to equip our forces with the Heron TP, manufactured by the Israeli company IAI [Israel Aircraft Industries] and imported by Dassault. This decision caused surprise in the Senate. When a state undertakes to equip its forces it must be done impartially, in a rational, that is to say, measurable manner: at what price, what specifications, and what industrial sovereignty? If possible it must reconcile all these objectives, otherwise it must prioritize the security of its soldiers and the effectiveness of its armed forces.

The senators added that the Israeli drone was unsuited to French needs. The Heron TP, they wrote, is “big, slow and vulnerable in degraded weather conditions.” They advocated purchasing the US-made Reaper drone instead.

Their support for the Reaper underscores that the senators, while strongly opposing the Israeli drone, did not raise any ethical concerns about the purchase. Their opposition – according to their words – is strictly on technical merit.

Nonetheless, with a significant core of opposition to buying from Israel already in place it may well be easier for BDS campaigners to bring more public pressure to abandon the deal.

French campaign follows in Finland’s footsteps

The campaign in France echoes a long-standing citizens’ initiative in Finland to get that country to abandon a possible deal to buy Israeli drones.

The Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja had already gone on record, while in opposition, against purchasing the Israeli weapons on ethical grounds and recently condemned Israeli “apartheid.”.

Last July, the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT) came out publicly in support of an arms embargo on Israel and called for an end to “all military-related training and consultancies with the Israeli army, military companies and academic research institutions.”

(www.bdsmovement.net / 30.01.2012)

Indonesia Hospital in Gaza to Be Completed

Gaza, Palestine

VIVAnews – The construction of Indonesia Hospital (RSI) in Gaza, Palestine is nearing to be completed. Chairman of MER-C’s Presidium, Jose Rizal Jurnalis, said the first work is almost 80% completed.

“The first stage of RSI Gaza construction is almost done,” he told VIVAnews, Thursday, Jan 26.

He said that if no significant hurdles get in the way, then the structural work will be completed in 2 months. Jose Rizal acknowledged that while some sections are complete, the first-stage construction of  RSI Gaza should have been worked out by February..

“However, we dealt with many obstacles in the field which had delayed the construction project,” he said. “It is very normal, as doing construction work in a conflicting zone is not easy.”

Since the beginning of the hospital’s construction, problems seemed to have surrounded the project. “The difficulties vary from getting volunteers to enter Gaza to start the construction and to getting the needed materials collected as they must be supplied through tunnels,” he said.

“Moreover, the Gaza is not secure because of the non-stop attacks from the Israelis that caused the construction work to be temporarily halted many times.”

However, he said, the volunteers didn’t give up.

“It is really unimaginable that the work which felt like a dream in the beginning is progressing so far,” said Jose Rizal.

He said that from a far, the RSI Gaza has an octagonal shape similar to Qubbah Sakhra in Masjid Al-Aqsha. “The building can be seen standing upright.”

The Indonesia hospital was built with the assistance of the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C) on a piece of waqf land located in Bayt Lahiya, North Gaza.

The cornerstone was laid by the Chairman of the House of Representatives on June 29, 2010. The Rp13 billion fund to build this 60×60 meter hospital was provided by Indonesians.

(us.en.vivanews.com / 30.01.2012)

Bleker: binnen drie maanden convenant ritueel slachten

kippen

Kippen in een slachterij in Aalten, vóór het halal slachten.

Met een convenant wil staatssecretaris Bleker (Economische Zaken, Landbouw en Innovatie) het dierenwelzijn bij ritueel slachten verbeteren. Dat schrijft hij in een brief aan de Eerste Kamer.

Het convenant tussen betrokken religieuze organisaties, vertegenwoordigers van de slachthuizen, dierenartsen, wetenschap en NGO’s zou volgens Bleker binnen drie maanden tot stand kunnen komen. Een veterinaire commissie onder leiding van de voorzitter van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Maatschappij voor Diergeneeskunde zou volgens Bleker kunnen adviseren over de totstandkoming en uitvoering van het convenant.

Geen meerderheid verbod op ritueel slachten in Eerste Kamer

Vorige week werd duidelijk dat het wetsvoorstel voor een verbod op ritueel slachten geen meerderheid krijgt in de Eerste Kamer. Eerder stemde de Tweede Kamer met een ruime meerderheid voor het voorstel van de Partij voor de Dieren. Tijdens het debat vorige week beloofde Bleker met een brief te komen waarin hij een compromis in de vorm van een convenant voorstelt.

In het convenant zouden onder meer afspraken gemaakt kunnen worden over kwaltiteitseisen aan slachthuizen, het verkorten van de bewustzijnsperiode na de halssnede, het aantal noodzakelijke halssnedes en de opleidingseisen aan het slachtpersoneel. Ook zouden afspraken kunnen worden gemaakt over specifieke behoefte voor te slachten dieren.

In de brief schrijft Bleker dat bijvoorbeeld een registratieplicht voor slachthuizen ervoor kan zorgen dat het convenant wordt nageleefd. Als een slachthuis zich niet aan de afspraak houdt dan zou dat kunnen leiden tot intrekking van de registratie om onbedwelmd ritueel te mogen slachten.

Partij voor de Dieren ziet niks in convenant

De Partij voor de Dieren liet vorige week na het debat al weten niets te zien in een convenant. PvdD-voorzitter Marianne Thieme:

“De staatssecretaris kwam plotseling met een convenant, maar dat is wat de grote partijen al jaren doen: de landbouwsector de ruimte geven. Het dierenleed zal er niet minder door worden.”

In NRC Handelsblad zegt Bleker vandaag dat hij niet begrijpt dat de Partij voor de Dieren het convenant niet ziet zitten. Hij vindt dat de partij op deze manier bijzonder veel bereikt heeft. Bleker:

“Onbegrijpelijk dat de Partij voor de Dieren daar niet blij mee is. Ik heb Thiemes nummer 2, Esther Ouwehand, ook wel eens gevraagd of ze bereid is tot enige compromissen op punten die ik ook belangrijk vind, zoals bij het transport van dieren. Nee, was het antwoord. Dat kan ik dus niet begrijpen. Je wilt toch resultaat boeken voor de dieren?”

(www.nrc.nl / 30.01.2012)

Russia: Syria ready to talk with opposition

Syrian National Council rejects Moscow-brokered talks, saying president must first stand down, as fighting continues.

Syria’s opposition has refused to hold talks to end the country’s escalating violence, after Russia said that Syrian authorities had said they were prepared to hold talks with the opposition in Moscow.

Russia, which has resisted Western calls to back UN sanctions against Damascus, had suggested to the government and the opposition that they should meet in the Russian capital for “informal contacts” without any preconditions.

“Our offer has already received a positive response from the Syrian authorities,” Russia’s foreign ministry said on Monday.

Russia continues to block a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for a transfer of power in Syria, where it maintains a naval base at Tartous, near Latakia.

The head of the opposition Syrian National Council said that the opposition rejected all such talks with Damascus until President Bashar al-Assad steps down.

 

“The resignation of Assad is the condition for any negotiation on the transition to a democratic government in Syria,” Burhan Ghalioun told the AFP news agency.

The Russian foreign ministry had warned the Syrian opposition that Moscow was counting on its participation in the talks.

“We are expecting that the opposition will also give their assent in the next days and put the interests of the Syrian people before any other ideas,” it said.

Moscow’s diplomatic moves came at a time of mounting concern that the clashes between the opposition and security forces have become even deadlier, with at least 160 people killed in the past two days, according to activists.

The UN has said that thousands of people have died since the uprising began in March.

Call for action

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday that the UN Security Council “must act” on Syria to end Assad’s “violent and brutal attacks” against demonstrators.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the United Nations in New York, said that French diplomats are claiming that the resolution now has a majority of votes in the Security Council.

“All diplomatic muscles are being flexed here in New York in an attempt to win support for a resolution that is put forward by Morocco in the Security Council… But it comes down to China and Russia who have both expressed concern over the resolution.”

Clinton said that she would travel to the United Nations on Tuesday to “send a clear message of support to the Syrian people: we stand with you”.

“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the escalation of the Syrian regime’s violent and brutal attacks on its own people,” Clinton said in a statement.

“The Security Council must act and make clear to the Syrian regime that the world community views its actions as a threat to peace and security. The violence must end, so that a new period of democratic transition can begin,” she said.

The Syrian National Council warned on Monday of a possible “massacre” of hundreds of young men rounded up by security forces in a town near Damascus.

It voiced “fears over a possible liquidation of hundreds of young men that Syrian security services have gathered in a public square in Rankus,” 40km north of the capital, in a statement received in Nicosia.

Security forces “raided Rankus this morning, backed by tanks and rocket-launchers … and launched a campaign of arrests,” it said.

Meanwhile, fierce street battles were reported in many other suburbs of Damascus, where security forces were said to have pushed rebel fighters back from their positions in Douma, Saqba and Hamuriyeh.

An activist named Kamal, speaking to the Reuters news agency by telephone from the Al-Ghouta area on the eastern edge of the capital, said that security forces had re-occupied the suburbs.

“The Free Syrian Army has made a tactical withdrawal. Regime forces have re-occupied the suburbs and started making house-to-house arrests,” he said. A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army appeared to confirm that account.

Gunbattles were also reported in the towns of Deraa and Bab Amr.

Meanwhile, state media said “terrorists” had blown up a gas pipeline in the central province of Homs near the border with Lebanon, causing a leak of about 460,000 cubic metres of gas.

Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from neighbouring Turkey, said this was not the first attack on pipelines in Syria.

“There have been at least five previous attacks since the start of the uprising. Damaging infrastructure is very much part of the strategy of the opposition forces. […] It seems everything is in play now, perhaps even for either side.”

The escalation in violence comes days after the Arab League suspended its beleaguered observer mission in the country, where activists have been calling for Assad to step down since last March.

Arab League condemned

Russia on Sunday strongly criticised the Arab League decision to halt its observer mission in Syria, saying the situation demands additional deployment of monitors and not their suspension.

“We would like to know why they are treating such a useful instrument in this way,” Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said during a visit to Brunei.

“I would support an increased number of observers,” Lavrov said. “We are surprised that after a decision was taken on prolonging the observers’ mission for another month, some countries, particularly Persian Gulf countries, recalled their observers from the mission.”

Our correspondent said Russia’s support for Asad’s government remained crucial. “What we understand is until he feels Russia will stop backing him, Bashar al-Assad will tough it out,” she said.

The Arab League suspended its observer mission on Saturday as the bloodshed in a crackdown on anti-government protests gathered momentum. Several hundred people have died in the past four days alone.

Lavrov said that he did not back those Western countries that said the mission was pointless and that it was impossible to hold dialogue with Assad’s government.

“I think these are very irresponsible statements because trying to sabotage a chance to calm the situation is absolutely unforgivable,” he said.

Syria also voiced its dismay and surprise over the Arab League decision to halt its observer mission.

“This will have a negative impact and put pressure on [Security Council] deliberations with the aim of calling for foreign intervention and encouraging armed groups to increase violence,” Syria Television reported on Saturday.

(www.aljazeera.com / 30.01.2012)

Israeli Soldiers Drive Tractor Over Palestinian’s Legs

Israeli Soldiers Drive Tractor Over Worker’s Legs to Stop Palestinians from Building a House on Their (Occupied) Lands

‘Today is the Sabbath, and I pray with all my heart that all American Zionists see the pictures below and tell me how an ideology of Jewish separatism that has deprived several million Palestinians of any rights can be justified in today’s world.
Two days ago a brave and noble Palestinian man — we don’t know his name– was building a house in the occupied West Bank when Israeli soldiers told the Palestinians they could not build on their land. The village is al-Dirat near Hebron– Area C, under Israeli control.
The man refused to move. The Israeli army drove a tractor over his legs. The tractor belonged to the Palestinians. The Israeli army had seized it. The man was hospitalized.’

(www.europeanphoenix.com / 30.01.2012)