Gaza’s new sailing school……..

On arrival to Gaza, one of our main objectives was the setting up of a sailing school. We strongly believe the sea will, insh’allah, one day be the route of freedom for the people of Palestine, freedom to sail their own waters, freedom to travel to the rest of the world without asking permission from another country and freedom to return.

With the help of  The Palestinian sailing  federation,  and its chairperson , the inspiring and always enthusiastic Mahfouz  Kabariti, we now have begun to teach a group of Palestinians the aspects of sailing and sea safety. Mahfouz’s enthusiasm has rubbed of on this small group, and despite intermittent electricity, no equipment and our main boat being a “model ship” they turn up every night they are asked.

We have begun with learning the different parts of the boat, the correct names of the boat, the rules of the sea and basic sea safety. Some of the class are on their way to Algeria this week to take part in International training for participation in the world championship in spain in 2014, so lately we have tried to concentrate on Dinghy racing.

Here in Gaza we have the use of a catamaran , in need of some repair, but our only form of sailing boat for now. twice, so far , we have managed to take her to sea for some practical training, not impossible but not ideal  without proper gear, but we had fun, hopefully learned  few things and definitely hope to make it a more regular thing.

At present we have 10 dinghy’s (5 lasers and 5 optimist  ) which have been donated to us by the Qatar sailing federation. .We are currently working hard to secure a route for these boat’s to get in as they are presently in storage in Cyprus. We are also working on trying to raise funds for additional equipment such as life vest’s, helmets and a rescue boat to accompany the dinghy’s.

Derek,   Jenny and Jeff ( photographer)  wish the boys  heading to Algeria all the best, we look forward to continuing to work with you and building up the sailing school in Gaza.

If you would like to help in any small way with this project or any of our projects here in Gaza , we have a donate  button withinstructions,  at the top of  each post in this blog

Catamaran Pictures by Jeff Bright,  FACEBOOK PAGE:  jeffrey bright photojournalist

As you can see from the pictures, she’s in bad need of repair and new sails.

  ( / 29.02.2012)

Israel orchestrates plot to penetrate Syrian territories

A picture taken from the Syrian side shows the Quneitra border crossing between Syria and the Israeli annexed Golan Heights .
Israel is reportedly preparing the grounds for military meddling in Syria by creating chaos in the southwestern Syrian province of Quneitra near the Israeli border.

Informed sources say Tel Aviv is making efforts to create an insecure and tense atmosphere in the Syrian border province of Quneitra in order to pave the way for the presence of UN observers there which will then be followed by Israeli forces.

The move comes after the failure of Western-backed attempts to create buffer zones along Syria’s border with Turkey and Lebanon.

According to informed sources, Quneitra’s residents are receiving phone calls and SMS from unknown parties, urging them to hold anti-government protest rallies and cause unrest in the border town. Sources also said unknown groups of people have entered the province in recent days, apparently for committing acts of violence in the region.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s recent call for the establishment of tents along the Syrian-Israeli border for the Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their country, is believed to be part of Tel Aviv’s new anti-Syria plot.

Israel openly supports armed groups fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, arguing that it would break the Iran-Syria nexus of resistance against Tel Aviv.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. The violence has claimed the lives of hundreds, including security forces.

While the opposition blames the Assad government, Damascus blames ‘outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorist groups’ for the unrest, asserting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.

( / 29.02.2012)

EU Heads of Mission Call for end to Blockade on Gaza

JERUSALEM, February 29, 2012 (WAFA) – European Union Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah Wednesday called on Israel to end its blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2006 and allow free movement of goods and people to and from Gaza.

In a statement issued following their first joint visit to Gaza this year, the EU Heads of Mission called for “further efforts and complementary measures to achieve a fundamental change of Israeli policy that allows for the reconstruction and economic recovery of Gaza including through the resumption of exports.”

“The EU reiterates again its calls for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza,” said the statement.

The Heads of Mission met in Gaza representatives of international organizations, civil society, women and the private sector. They also met with representatives from the Gaza fishing community at the harbor and visited projects funded by the EU and its Members States.

Denmark, Belgium and Sweden signed a lease agreement for a joint EU consular office in Gaza.

( / 29.02.2012)

Syria unrest: Surgeon tells of Homs makeshift hospital

Jacques Beres (27 Feb 2012)‘We just had to rinse our hands in alcohol and put our gloves on’

Jacques Beres is a 71-year-old surgeon and co-founder of the Medecins Sans Frontieres group. He has just returned from the besieged Syrian city of Homs where, in a makeshift clinic, he managed to treat dozens of people wounded during weeks of bombardment. He told the BBC News website what he saw.

“I spent 12 days in Homs, arriving via Lebanon. We planned the trip for several weeks. It was very dangerous to enter illegally so I made the journey with the help of a chain of intermediaries.

“One met me at the airport in Beirut. I landed in the evening and by 09:00 the next morning I was already in Syria. I had a rest at a farm and then progressed to Qusayr [three miles (4.8km) south-west of Homs], where I worked for a few days before making the journey into Homs.

“I was scared. It is only reasonable to have some fear. Bombs are never normal. I can’t really compare Homs to any other war zone I have worked in though – apart, perhaps, from Chechnya.

“Grozny is small and the town has a mixture of rural and urban areas. The houses in Homs are built in a similar way – there is no protection and, when they are hit, they collapse completely. Also, the ferocity of the attack and the repression are comparable.

“I was based in a makeshift operating theatre. Everyone is too scared to go to the state-run hospital – they are terrified of having a limb amputated, or of being kidnapped. Only the Syrian army soldiers go there now.

“It was just one operating theatre, in someone’s home. It was badly lit, the electricity was frequently cut. It was minimal, very basic. Marie Colvin came to visit us three days before she died.

Smoke from shelling in Homs, Syria (26 Feb 2012)Homs has been subjected to heavy shelling for nearly a month

“We did have running water but, as it was a private hospital, there was only water in some rooms – the bathroom and kitchen. There were no proper sterilisation facilities either – we just had to rinse our hands with alcohol and put them straight into our gloves.

“There was a Syrian team and a Syrian doctor who ran the hospital, who slept there and treated patients and kept everyone’s morale up. There were other surgeons who came and helped when they could.

“I operated on 90 people. We couldn’t help those who had been injured in the chest and the head, only those with wounds to the abdomen and below.

“The people there are convinced that they will win. They are very brave but they are also desperate at having been bombarded for so long. They think they have been abandoned.

“They are always watching television. The TV is always on, the news flows and they communicate via Facebook and Twitter. They know what is going on.

“I travelled there because it had to be done. It’s an emergency. It helps them a lot to see someone from abroad helping them. Plus, I’m very experienced in this field. You can gain a lot yourself from such an experience too – these people are immensely brave. They just want their freedom, they want to get rid of the tyrant. I’d like to return if I can.”

Map of Homs


( / 29.02.2012)

Tunisia planning to issue Islamic bond: banker

BAHRAIN (Reuters) – Tunisia’s government plans to issue the country’s first Islamic bond this year as it works to finance a budget deficit swollen by last year’s revolution, a senior Arab banker said on Wednesday.

“The Tunisian government is planning to issue an Islamic sovereign bond before the end of this year,” said Adnan Ahmed Yousif, chief executive of Bahrain-based Al Baraka Banking Group, an Islamic banking conglomerate with operations across North Africa.

“They’re very serious about it and are now in talks with banks. It will be Tunisia’s first sovereign sukuk,” Yousif, also chairman of the Beirut-based Union of Arab Banks, an industry association, told Reuters.

Al Baraka Bank has branches in Tunisia and is consulting with the government on Islamic finance. Tunisian finance ministry officials could not be reached for comment.

Before last year’s uprisings in North Africa, authoritarian governments restricted or refused to promote Islamic finance for political reasons. In the wake of the regime changes, growth in the industry is expected to accelerate.

A moderate Islamist party now dominates Tunisia’s government, which expects its budget deficit to rise to 6 percent of gross domestic product in 2012 from an estimated 4.5 percent for 2011 as it boosts spending to revitalise the economy after the turmoil of the revolution.

A sukuk issue could allow Tunisia to tap a pool of billions of dollars of Islamic investment funds in the wealthy Arab Gulf.

“I believe Tunisia has the potential to become the Islamic finance hub for Africa. It’s working towards having all the requirements needed for that,” Yousif said.

The Egyptian government is preparing to raise about $2 billion through its first issue of Islamic bonds, Sheikh Hussein Hamed Hassan, an Islamic scholar familiar with its planning, told Reuters this month.

( / 29.02.2012)

Palestinians invite Security Council to visit West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (right) greeted by locals during a recent visit to Israel (Edi Israel/Flash90)


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (right) greeted by locals during a recent visit to Israel
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians have invited the UN Security Council to visit the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, a move Israel says is an attempt to try to divert attention from getting back to direct negotiations to settle the decades-old conflict.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN observer, told reporters after a council meeting on the Mideast on Tuesday that he sent a letter inviting the 15 council members “to see with their own eyes the reality of the Palestinian people in the occupied territory” including Israel’s “illegal” settlement building.

Israel’s United Nations Ambassador Ron Prosor, who followed Mansour to the microphone, expressed surprise at the invitation saying “this is an attempt to try and divert attention, and again try and internationalize the conflict, and not really try and stick to what is important on both sides — and that is direct negotiations.”

Mansour and Prosor spoke after UN political chief B. Lynn Pascoe told the council that exploratory low-level talks in Amman, Jordan between the Israelis and Palestinians had stalled and prospects for resuming direct negotiations “remain dim.”

“The situation on the ground in both Gaza and the West Bank remains dangerous and ultimately unsustainable,” he said.

Pascoe urged Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to overcome the political impasse using an outline proposed by the US, U.N., European Union and Russia — the so-called Quartet — to try to reach a negotiated solution by the end of the year.

Mansour and Prosor each blamed the other side for the failure of the Amman talks, which ended in late January.

Mansour said that in five meetings in Jordan the Israelis introduced ideas that are in “complete contradiction with the global consensus” that negotiations must begin on the basis of pre-1967 war borders, with agreed land swaps, and that Israel’s security would be guaranteed by third parties but not a single Israeli soldier would be left on Palestinian land.

“The Israeli side is refusing to negotiate on the basis of the global consensus,” he said, expressing hope that the Security Council will try “to stop the situation from possibly exploding.”

Prosor said that before inviting the Security Council to the region, the Palestinians should send president Abbas to visit Gaza, which is controlled by his Islamic militant political rivals Hamas, who refuse to recognize Israel’s existence. He said Abbas hasn’t visited Gaza since 2007.

Prosor accused Abbas of flying from Jordan to Qatar where instead of responding to a serious Israeli package of proposals he signed a unity deal with Hamas and gave “a horrible speech trying to deny the connection between the Jewish people and the state of Israel.”

The Palestinians invited the Security Council to visit the Palestinian territories a year ago while a resolution was being debated that would have condemned “illegal” Israeli settlements and demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building.

The U.S., Israel’s closest ally, objected to the draft and proposed a weaker presidential statement which the Palestinians rejected. The United States then vetoed the resolution in February 2011 and blocked a council visit to the Palestinian territories.

The Security Council was holding closed-door discussions Tuesday afternoon on possible trips later this year and diplomats said the Palestinian invitation was certain to be raised.

( / 29.02.2012)

UK Drone Strikes: Peaking Behind the Curtain

We are publishing from today a list of known UK drone strikes in Afghanistan.
The list will be regularly updated when information becomes available.
The UK Drone Strike List is available here

In summary:

  • Some details of 80 (40%) of UK drone strikes have been revealed, information about another 150 UK drone strikes remains secret;
  • In February 2012 a British Reaper drone tracked a ”high value insurgent” over a period of eight hours before launching a drone strike
  • Two other reports in the list detail strikes that may possibly be targeted killings
  • UK drone strikes are regularly aborted at the last-minute due to the possibility of causing civilian casualties

The growing use of armed drones has raised a number of legal, ethical, political and moral questions. Most of  these questions however, are very difficult  to address without access to the  appropriate information  revealing how armed drones are actually being used.  While there is some public information about US drone strikes in Pakistan, there is very little information available about US and UK drone strikes in Afghanistan.

Drone Wars UK has repeatedly asked the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to release details of the circumstances of UK drone strikes.  Unfortunately all such requests are currently being refused.

Since June 2008 the Royal Air Force (RAF) has published a weekly report of its activities in Afghanistan.  The reports, called Operational Updates, although far from comprehensive, subjected no doubt to censorship, and apparently primarily produced to portray the RAF in a positive light, nevertheless give occasional brief details of  UK drones strikes.

While some mention of Reaper drones was made in the weekly reports in 2008 and 2009, it was not until January 2010 that a Reaper drone strike is first mentioned:

” During the week [a Reaper] fired a Hellfire missile which killed 12 insurgents who were massing to attack a target.”    

Since that first piece of information almost one hundred British drone strikes have been mentioned in the weekly reports.

Today we are publishing a list of UK drone strike compiled from the RAF operational reports.  We will regularly update the list, both from the RAF reports and hopefully from other sources when they become available.

A Partial Picture Only

We know from a Freedom of Information (FoI) request that there have been 248 British drone strikes to date (29 Feb 2012).  This means that the strikes recorded in the weekly Operational Updates represent only 40% of the total number of British drone strikes.  Details of the other 60% remain secret and unreported.  In addition the reports have obviously been self-selected by the RAF and none of the reports have been independently verified.  Tellingly a British strike that took place on 25th March 2011 in which at least four civilians were killed was not mentioned in the weekly reports and all reports of Reaper activity ceased for eight weeks after.

What is revealed

Of the 80 drone strikes that the RAF have given some details about in the weekly reports, about half (39) targeted “attacking insurgents”, “insurgents firing on friendly forces”,  or insurgents “preparing” or “massing” to attack. 17 strikes targeted insurgents who were “active”, “armed” or “committing hostile acts”.  It is not clear in all cases what this actually means.

Another 13 of the reported drone strikes were targeted against those said to be individuals or teams emplacing IEDs, with 6 strikes targeting weapons caches or explosive production facilities.

Two of the strikes were targeted at a “high value insurgent” and a “known insurgent”, while a third was detailed as “a significant operation”.  These could potentially be targeted killings.

Finally the updates twice report that missiles were diverted away from their targets after being launched from as civilians had approached the target area.  The weekly reports detail on a number of occasions the fact that strikes were terminated at the last possible moment because of danger to civilians.


Apart from the very first reported drone strike in 2010, no fatalities had been given.  However from June 2011 there appears to have been a change in policy as 17 of the 46 drone strike reported in that period included casualty figures. Of the 18 strikes reported that give such details there were a total of 52 reported people killed.

Missing Details

While it is helpful to have this ‘peak behind the curtain’, it is far too little information to make any proper judgement about the growing use of drones.  Apart from anything else, there is no detail at all about the other 60% (150 drone strikes) that have taken place.

In order to begin to answer the questions that have been raised by the growing use of armed unmanned drones, it is vital that more information is released about the circumstances of these strikes.  There cannot be proper public accountability for what is being done with this new type of weapon system until a proper, public, informed debate takes place.  Such a debate cannot happen without the release of further information.

( / 29.02.2012)

Book launch Paul Weller over Gülenbeweging en participatie Europese moslims

    • vrijdag 23 maart 2012
    • 19:30 tot 21:30
  • Rochussenstraat 221, Rotterdam
  • De vraag of de aanwezigheid van moslims in Europa voor spanningen in de samenleving zorgt, is niet meer aan de orde. Veel eerder moeten we ons afvragen voor welke uitdagingen zij ons stelt en welke kansen er liggen.

    De 240 pagina’s tellende bundel essays European Muslims, Civility and Public Life: Perspectives On and From the Gülen Movement handelt over deze uitdagingen en kansen. Internationale onderzoekers en academici beschouwen vanuit de Europese context de bijdrage die het gedachtegoed van de moslimintellectueel Fethullah Gülen levert aan burgerschapszin onder Europese moslims.

    De filosofie van deze Turkse educatie- en vredesactivist is onderscheidend, omdat zij trouw is aan de traditie en tegelijkertijd volledig verbonden met de moderniteit. Hiermee heeft Gülen een wereldwijde beweging van vrijwilligers geïnspireerd die zich inzet voor vrede, dialoog en tolerantie.

    Deze rijke collectie essays is geredigeerd door Paul Weller (Hoogleraar Inter-Religious Relations; University of Derby, Verenigd Koninkrijk) en Ihsan Yilmaz (Universitair hoofddocent Political Science; Fatih University, Turkije). Zij vormt een belangrijke bijdrage aan de studie van de beweging en civil society initiatieven van moslims in Europa.

    Professor Paul Weller is 23 en 24 maart a.s. in Nederland voor een book launch voor een breed publiek en interviews met de pers.


Israeli forces shut down two Palestinian television stations

Israeli soldiers take part in a military operation overnight in the West Bank on August 21, 2011.
The Israeli regime’s security forces have shut down two Palestinian television stations in the occupied West Bank after confiscating their broadcasting equipment and properties.
Palestinian employees said the Israeli troops stormed the buildings of Watan Television and Quds Educational Television in the city of Ramallah in the early hours of Wednesday in their crackdown on Palestinian journalists in the occupied lands.

“They came at 2 a.m. (0000 GMT) and took around 30 computers and all the transmitters. The station is totally shut down,” said Watan Television’s editor-in-chief Ali Daraghmeh.

“One of our guards tried to stop the army, but they told him they had official orders to close the station,” Daraghmeh said although the Israeli regime had not commented on the incident.

“At 3:00 a.m. (0100 GMT), the Israeli army entered the television station’s office and took all the transmitters, and the station is now unable to broadcast,” said Director of Quds Educational TV Haroun Abu Arra.

He added, “It was a surprise. We still don’t know why they confiscated the equipment and shut down the station, even though we work in areas belonging to the Palestinian Authority and we have a license from them.”

Palestinian journalists plan to hold a protest rally in Ramallah’s central square later on Wednesday to condemn the Israeli suppression of freedom of speech in the occupied lands.

( / 29.02.2012)

IOF soldiers arrest 390 Palestinians in February

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) arrested 390 Palestinians in February from various West Bank areas, a Palestinian human rights group said on Tuesday.

Ansar Al-Asra said in a statistics report that the detainees included old men, women, minors, liberated prisoners, journalists, and others.

It noted that the IOF soldiers savagely stormed homes in the detention process and wreaked havoc on them.

The group noted that the search campaigns focused on the provinces of Al-Khalil, Nablus, and Jerusalem.

It said that the soldiers and intelligence officers regularly break into homes of ex-prisoners who were freed in the prisoners’ exchange deal between Hamas and Israel late last year and interrogate and threaten them.

The group described the IOF practice as a “war on the Palestinian people”, urging the world community to pressure Israel into desisting from storming areas under control of the Palestinian Authority.

( / 29.02.2012)