FACT SHEET: 25th Anniversary of the First Intifada

Twenty-five years ago this weekend, a large-scale popular uprising by Palestinians began against Israel’s then 20-year-old military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Sparked by an incident in which four Palestinians were hit and killed by an Israeli driving in Gaza on December 8, 1987, Palestinian frustration at living under repressive Israeli military rule and Israel’s growing colonial settlement enterprise erupted, grabbing international headlines and drawing attention to the plight of Palestinians living in the occupied territories. On this 25th anniversary, the IMEU offers the following fact sheet on the First Intifada.


GAZA. Ahli Arab hospital, young Palestinian wounded during a demonstration in December 1988


– THE FIRST INTIFADA (1987-1993) –


    • During the First Intifada, Palestinians employ tactics such as unarmed demonstrations, including rock throwing against soldiers, commercial strikes, a refusal to pay taxes to Israeli authorities, and other acts of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance. They are coordinated largely by grassroots ad hoc committees of Palestinians in the occupied territories rather than the PLO leadership abroad.


    • In response, Israeli soldiers use brutal force to repress the mostly unarmed popular rebellion. Then-Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin implements the infamous “broken bones” policy, ordering security forces to break the limbs [WARNING: Graphic video] of rock-throwing Palestinians and other demonstrators.


    • More than 1000 Palestinians are killed by Israeli forces during the First Intifada, including 237 children under the age of 17. Many tens of thousands more are injured.


    • According to an estimate by the Swedish branch of Save the Children, as many as29,900 children require medical treatment for injuries caused by beatings from Israeli soldiers during the first two years of the Intifada alone. Nearly a third of them are aged ten or under. Save the Children also estimates that between 6500-8500 Palestinian minors are wounded by Israeli gunfire in the first two years of the Intifada.


    • In 2000 it is revealed that between 1988 and 1992 Israel’s internal security force, the Shin Bet, systematically tortures Palestinians using methods that go beyond what is allowable under government guidelines for “moderate physical pressure,” Israel’s official euphemism for torture. These methods include violent shaking, tying prisoners into painful positions for long periods, subjecting them to extreme heat and cold, and severe beatings, including kicking. At least 10 Palestinians die and hundreds of others are maimed as a result.


    • Approximately 120,000 Palestinians are imprisoned by Israel during the First Intifada.


    • In 1987, Hamas is founded in Gaza, formed from the Palestinian branch of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. During the 1980s, Israeli authorities encourage and tacitly support the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, viewing them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the PLO, part of a strategy of divide and conquer.


    • In 1992, in the face of protests from the international community, including the UN Security Council through Resolution 799, Israel deports more than 400 suspected members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to southern Lebanon, including one of the founders of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar, and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ top leader in Gaza today. Refused entry by the Lebanese government, which doesn’t want to confer legitimacy on Israel’s illegal deportation of Palestinians, the exiles spend a harsh winter outside in a no-man’s land limbo. Many observers consider this a turning point for Hamas, whose members are given assistance to survive by the Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah. In addition to basic sustenance, Hezbollah gives the Palestinians advice and military training honed during a decade of struggle against Israel’s occupation of Lebanon that began following the bloody Israeli invasion of 1982. Hamas subsequently begins to use suicide bombers against Israeli targets, a tactic that was a signature of Hezbollah’s resistance to Israel’s occupation. Under pressure from the US, Israel agrees to let the exiled Palestinians return to the occupied territories in 1993.


  • The First Intifada gradually tapers off in the face of brutal Israeli repression and political co-optation by the PLO, ending by 1993.


    • The outbreak of the First Intifada surprises nearly everyone, including Israeli military and intelligence officials, and the leadership of the PLO, which is then based in Tunisia after being forced out of its base in Lebanon in 1982 by Israel’s invasion.


    • The First Intifada creates immense international sympathy for the Palestinian cause, and leads to international pressure on Israel to address Palestinian demands for freedom and self-determination.


    • While initially caught off guard, the PLO under Yasser Arafat attempts to harness the Intifada and exploit it politically. In 1988, the PLO recognizes the state of Israel. This is a major and historic compromise on the part of the Palestinians, who effectively renounce claim to 78% of historic Palestine. (See map here.)


  • Despite this compromise and pressure from the international community, the Israeli government of Yitzhak Shamir (1989-1992) refuses to acknowledge the PLO or to engage in peace talks with Palestinian representatives. Frustrated at Israel’s intransigence, US Secretary of State James Baker famously reads off the White House switchboard telephone number during congressional testimony, adding to Shamir, who isn’t present, “When you’re serious about peace, call us.”

The Madrid Conference

    • Following threats by the administration of George H.W. Bush to withhold $10 billion in loan guarantees unless Israel ends settlement construction, Israeli Prime Minister Shamir finally agrees to meet with Palestinian representatives – but not PLO officials, despite the fact that the PLO is considered the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the UN and international community. Talks between Palestinians based in the occupied territories, who are in close contact with PLO officials behind the scenes, begin in Madrid in 1991.


  • Soon afterwards, in an attempt to bypass the Palestinian representatives sent to Madrid, the Israeli government begins secret negotiations with the PLO, weakened politically since the disaster of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and Arafat’s support for Iraq during the first Gulf War, believing it will be more willing to compromise on issues such as settlement construction and fundamental Palestinian rights like the right of return for refugees expelled from their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-9.


    • In 1993, the PLO and the government of Israel under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (1993-1995) exchange official letters in which the Palestinians formally recognize “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security. In return Israel only acknowledges the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Pointedly, Israel does not recognize or accept the notion of an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories.


    • The exchange of letters paves the way for the first of a series of agreements known as the Oslo Accords. In September 1993, Rabin and Arafat sign the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn. Oslo creates the Palestinian National Authority (PNA or PA), which is headed by Arafat.


    • Oslo is supposed to be an interim agreement leading to a final peace agreement within five years, however the Israeli government under Rabin (1992-1995) and subsequent prime ministers has no intention of allowing the creation of a genuinely sovereign Palestinian state in the occupied territories. Although Rabin publicly agrees to a settlement freeze, Israel continues to build Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land unabated. Israeli officials also refuse to agree to any provisions in Oslo that would explicitly call for an independent Palestinian state, going so far as to refuse to allow the title of President to be used for the leader of the Palestinian National Authority (in the years to come, this title slowly comes into common use by journalists and others, despite Israel’s opposition.)


    • During the Oslo years (1993-2000), Israel begins to impose more severe restrictions on Palestinian movement between Israel and the occupied territories, between the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and within the occupied territories themselves. This is part of a policy intended to separate Palestinians and Israelis, and to separate the West Bank from Gaza, which are supposed to be a single territorial unit under the terms of Oslo.


    • Israel also rapidly expands its settlement enterprise. Between 1993 and 2000, the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), nearly doubles, from 110,900 to 190,206 according to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Accurate figures for settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, which are mostly built and expanded before 1993, are harder to find, but as of 2000 the number of settlers in East Jerusalem stands at more than 167,000 according to B’Tselem. (See here for Peace Now’s up-to-date interactive “Facts on the Ground” settlement map.)


    • Settlements, which are illegal under international law, are strategically placed in locations to divide the occupied territories into a number of cantons, with Palestinian population centers isolated from one another and from the outside world. The settlements are connected to one another and to Israel by a network of roads and highways, most of which only Israelis are allowed to use, forming part of what has been dubbed Israel’s “matrix of control” over the occupied territories. Today, nearly 20 years after the start of Oslo, there are more than half a million Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.


    • In October 2000, Palestinian frustration at seven years of fruitless negotiations, during which time Israel further entrenches its occupation rather than rolling it back, boils over into a second, more violent uprising, sparked by a provocative visit by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, who is reviled by Palestinians for his brutal record as an officer in the Israeli military and as defense minister, to the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem.


  • In July 2010, a video surfaces showing Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to a group of settlers in 2001, when he was in the opposition, bragging that he had sabotaged the Oslo peace process during his first term as prime minister (1996-1999), stating: “I de facto put an end to the Oslo accords,” adding that “America is a thing you can move very easily.” In the video, he also tells the settlers that the way to deal with Palestinians is to “beat them up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable.”

(imeu.net / 08.12.2012)

Syrian opposition chief calls for talks to form transitional government

Opposition coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib said the Assad's regime was causing a Holocaust in the country. (Al Arabiya)

Opposition coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib said the Assad’s regime was causing a Holocaust in the country.
Syrian opposition coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib called Saturday for talks between all opposition groups to form a transitional government, saying his recently-formed coalition does not seek to hold on power and that it would dissolve after the country hold free elections.

In a televised speech shown on Al Arabiya, al-Khatib said the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has dragged the country into a “holocaust” and has destroyed the country and the army.

Khatib said the coalition is seeking greater recognition from more countries, adding that talks were underway to form a judiciary to be put in place immediately after the overthrow of the Assad’s regime in order to avoid chaos.

Khatib’s call came as opposition commanders from across Syria have joined forces under a united command they hope will increase coordination between diverse fighting groups and streamline the pathway for arms essential to their struggle against President Bashar Assad.

While many of the brigades involved in the fighting are decidedly Islamist in outlook and some have boasted about executing captured soldiers, two of the most extreme groups fighting in Syria were not invited to the opposition meeting in Turkey or included in the new council – a move that could encourage Western support.

Disorganization has bedeviled Syria’s opposition movement since its birth late last year, when some protesters gave up on peaceful means to bring down Assad’s regime and took up arms, forming the base of what became the Free Syrian Army.

But the movement has never actually been an army. Scores of opposition groups battle Assad’s forces across the country, many coordinating with no one outside of their own area. While some say they want a civil, democratic government, others advocate an Islamic state.

The new body, expected to be announced officially on Sunday, hopes to form the basis of a united opposition front.

Some 500 delegates elected the 30-person Supreme Military Council and a Chief of Staff on Friday and planned to meet soon with representatives from the opposition’s newly reorganized political leadership, participants said.

“The aim of this meeting was to unify the armed opposition to bring down the regime,” said a opposition commander from near Damascus who attended the meeting. “It also aims to get the situation under control once the regime falls.”

The move toward greater unity on the armed front comes as the U.S. and others try to strengthen the opposition’s leadership while sidelining extremist factions that have become a vital part of the opposition’s ground forces.

(english.alarabiya.net / 08.12.2012)

The Confessions of a Sniper: A Rebel Gunman in Aleppo and His Conscience


image: A Free Syrian Army’s sniper position in Al Qsair, Syria, Feb. 9, 2012.
A Free Syrian Army sniper position in al-Qsair, Syria, on Feb. 9, 2012

To the other men in his Free Syrian Army unit, he’s simply known as the Sniper, a 21-year-old army-trained sharpshooter who defected on Feb. 21 and joined their ranks. Few of his colleagues know his first name let alone his surname — and that’s the way he wants to keep it.

He hails from a Sunni military family in a town on the outskirts of Damascus, the capital. His uncle is a serving general in President Bashar Assad’s army, several of his other relatives are also high-ranking military officers. Apart from his parents and siblings, his relatives all think he’s dead — and that’s the way he wants to keep it.

A trim young man with closely cropped black hair and beard, he looks intense but calm as he sits in complete silence for hours, finger on the trigger, peering through the telescopic sight of his Dragunov sniper rifle. He’s careful not to let its barrel protrude through the double-fist-size peephole he has punched through an apartment wall lest it give away his location to the regime’s sharpshooters, some of whom are only about 50 m (165 ft.) away.

He may look calm, but he’s deeply troubled. After some nine months of fighting with several Free Syrian Army units, first on the outskirts of Aleppo and then in the city itself after the rebel push into it in late July, he has grown disillusioned with the fight and angry with its conduct. “I did this when it was clean,” he says. “Now it’s dirty. Many aren’t fighting just to get rid of Bashar, they’re fighting to gain a reputation, to build up their name. I want it to go back to the way it was, when we were fighting for God and the people, not for some commander’s reputation.”

He refused an order in November to fight a proregime, ethnic Kurdish militia in a Kurdish neighborhood of Aleppo that the rebels had entered. “Why should I fight the Kurds?” he says. “It’s a distraction. This isn’t our fight.”

Syrians in the opposition, whether armed or not, have often said that there may be a revolution after the revolution to unseat Assad. The fault lines differ depending on whom you talk to. Some envision a fight between Islamist and secular rebels; others between defectors and armed civilians; some say it will be ethnic, between Kurds and Arabs; others simply territorial, between rebel commanders in a particular area, irrespective of ideology. Others say it won’t happen. The Sniper, like many fighting men, thinks that it will, and that it will be ugly: “We will not become Somalia after Bashar falls,” he says. “We will have many Somalias in every province.”

It didn’t start this way — neither for this young rebel nor the revolution. “I think I’m unrecognizable now,” the Sniper says. “I never really thought I’d kill someone.” But since he defected, he has killed — 34 people who did not see his bullet coming, including, he suspects, his childhood friend Mohammad, a man who was “dearer to me than a brother.”

The Syrian revolution is also unrecognizable from 20 months ago, when Syrians first took to the streets in peaceful protests demanding freedom and dignity from a totalitarian leader who allowed little of either. The uprising soon morphed into an armed revolt as soldiers defected and men took up arms against the loyalist troops shooting into the crowds and going house-to-house looking for dissenters. As the conflict became deeper and bloodier, and the international community looked on impotently, armed rebels scrounging for help were increasingly compelled to compete for resources. Various backers — both Syrian and foreign, private and state-sponsored — entered the fray, picking their men on the ground and funneling weapons and money to them. The help wasn’t always free: it often required pledges of allegiance, which many rebels have said they made with little intention of keeping. The money and weapons haven’t really bought the rebels’ love or obedience, just their temporary gratitude.

Over the past few weeks, the rebels have made sizable inroads in many parts of the country, but in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and its once pulsating commercial hub, the intense firefights and dramatic capture of neighborhoods that marked the initial frenetic rebel push into the city have largely stalled. Although the government’s warplanes and heavy weapons continue to pummel various neighborhoods in the city and the rebels continue to try to pound their way forward, in many areas that fell out of government control early on, the fight has ground to a stalemate. In these districts, territory gained is measured in street corners and meters rather than neighborhoods. And the snipers reign. A few good sharpshooters can effectively freeze a front line by ensuring that any movement by their rivals will be costly.

And so rebel snipers, especially professionally trained ones, are in great demand. The Sniper says he has “been offered so much money, it is as if I am working for the mafia.”

“Some [rebel commanders] offered me money. Others would say, ‘Just tell me what you want.’ One told me, ‘I’ll bring your parents, take them to safety. Just come and work with me,’” he says. “It does not honor me to work with people like this who think they can buy and sell me.”

Instead, he has found a home with Liwa Suqoor al-Sha‘ba, an Islamist unit of the Free Syrian Army headquartered in Azaz, a town north of Aleppo in the vast band of countryside in rebel hands around the city. For the past few months he has been stationed in the northeastern neighborhood of Bustan al-Basha, a devastated wasteland emptied of all but three of its thousands of residents. “We cannot charge on [government] positions — if we do, they will eliminate us — nor can they advance on us,” he says. “It’s not that I’m tired, but I want something new. New territory. I’m sick of it here, I’m disgusted by it.” But he respects his adversaries, who he says have pinned the rebels down now for months.

He is always on the lookout for new sniper positions. “Are you ready?” he asks before running alongside me as we dash past regime snipers to minimize my chances of being hit. We walked through the deserted neighborhood, up darkened stairwells and through a maze of holes punched through apartment walls to avoid exposure on the streets. The Sniper kicked in locked apartment doors, moving through family rooms and kitchens with rotting vegetables as he searched for higher, better ground. He paused in one living room to feed fish in a tank. A few days later, he replaced the damaged locks on the apartments he had entered. In one flat, on the fifth floor, a blackened male corpse lay in what was a bedroom. The rubble strewn around the room from the gaping hole in the ceiling made it clear what killed the man. The stench was tear-inducing. Fat maggots crawled on the bloated corpse. Several rebels removed the body, wrapping it in a blue blanket. The next day the small group, along with the Sniper, returned, methodically removing the china from a dining-room cabinet and placing it in a dusty lounge room, before punching a small hole through the dining-room wall. The room looked out onto a government position in the shrubbery below and would serve as a new rebel outpost.

Still, on some days, the Sniper says, he doesn’t even fire a shot. He just watches and waits in nearly dark apartments with no power, alone with his thoughts. His victims, when he speaks of them, were all shabiha, progovernment paramilitary thugs — an easy term to dehumanize his enemies. But he knows that’s not quite true. He knows his childhood friend Mohammad was not a shabih. He says he doesn’t know if it was his bullet — or one of his colleagues’ — killed him.

“We were in school together. We grew up together. His mother was like my mother, that’s how close we were,” he says. The Sniper is pensive, takes several deep breaths and fidgets with his 10-mm handgun as he speaks of his friend, repeatedly flicking off the gun’s safety. The young men joined the army together and stayed in contact even after the Sniper defected. He was the only person outside of the Sniper’s immediate family who knew that he was still alive. “I would tell him to defect, he’d say, ‘Not yet, it’s still early.’ I’d say defect. I told him I’d come and get him, that I would go anywhere to see him, to help him defect, even to the gates of his brigade. Whatever he wanted, wherever he was, I would get him. He kept saying, ‘It’s still early, it’s early.’ He was scared that his family would go through the same thing my family went through.” The Sniper says his family members were interrogated, harassed, ostracized in their community. The only thing that saved them from greater harm, he suspects, was the clout of the loyalist military men in his family and the fact that they thought he was dead, not a defector.

Mohammad was eventually sent to Azaz, stationed at what was called the Shatt Checkpoint. Both the Sniper and his commander repeatedly urged Mohammad to defect, warning him that they planned to attack the checkpoint. He didn’t listen. “We were three snipers. We killed a colonel, a soldier and my friend. I don’t know which one I killed, I didn’t see their faces. They were soldiers in front of us, and we were ordered to kill them.” That was three months ago.

“He’s gone anyway, what good is thinking about it? I did — for a long time afterward. I thought, ‘Why? He was my friend. Why did I shoot at him? I shouldn’t have.’ But I have left those thoughts behind me. I have to move forward.”

Like many men on the front line, the Sniper has found solace in religion, but his is a politicized form of Islam. He speaks admirably of the extremist Jabhat al-Nusra group that has been responsible for some of the most spectacular suicide bombings against regime targets. “They are clean and doing good work,” he says. He wants to join them, if he can “cleanse” his body and mind, he says pointing to a red pack of Gauloises cigarettes. A day later, he quit smoking.

He was not always like this. An avid boxer before he was the Sniper, the young man lived in Hamburg for five years, returning to his homeland in 2010. He attended the Goethe-Institut in Damascus and says his Arabic was so poor, he could barely read. It has since improved to the degree that he now reads the Koran aloud to his fellow rebels. He has long since shelved his dream of returning to Germany and training as a boxer. In fact, he doesn’t want to survive the Syrian uprising and is seeking “martyrdom.” “I’m only comfortable on the front line,” he says. “My rifle has become not just like a part of my body, it is my life, my destiny.” He remembers his religious awakening, in the first assault he participated in. It was a hit on a checkpoint on the road to the town of al-Bab on Aleppo’s outskirts. “We ambushed them. There was an Islamist with me. My heart was filled with faith. He told me the only thing between me and paradise was this road, was dying on this road. I was sorry that I lived.”

A few days later, we returned to the issue of victims, of whether or not they are all shabiha, and his friend Mohammad. At the end of the day, I told him, he was a Syrian killing other Syrians. “I used to think about the people I’d killed, I’d think about their parents,” he says. “Yes, we are all Syrian, but we didn’t create these differences, they did. It is because I am Syrian, because these people, these civilians who are dying are Syrian, that I am doing this, that I am standing with and for my people. Those who are not standing with their people are not Syrian, they are traitors, and traitors must die.”

And Mohammad? Was he a traitor? No, he said, he wasn’t, but “I’ve accepted it now, and nothing matters to me any more.”

“Whoever is going to be in my sights will die. That’s it,” the Sniper says. “My heart has hardened. I returned to religion, but after I killed, my heart hardened. A sniper sees who he kills,” he says, pausing. “It’s hard. A sniper sees his victim.”

(world.time.com / 08.12.2012)

Morsi cancels executive immunity decree

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi. (Reuters)

Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi.

The Egyptian president has scrapped the declaration that sparked violent nationwide protests, replacing it with a text leaving his office subject to oversight, according to former presidential candidate Mohamed Selim El-Awa.

A referendum on a draft constitution will still go ahead as planned on December 15, al-Awa told a Cairo news conference.

“There is no power that would choose to prevent the people from participating in the referendum,” said Egyptian Vice President Mahmoud Mekky.

The electoral committee took made sure the referendum would be held on time, Mekky stated, adding that it could be held in several phases if the number of participating judges was insufficient.

Earlier, the country’s Prime Minister Hisham Qandil told local television that Morsi had ordered officials who attended a meeting with representatives of the opposition on Saturday to prepare the new text.

In a statement to Al-Mihwar, an independent television channel, Qandil did not give exact details about the amendments Morsi is hoping will calm the nation, but said the new text – drafted by officials including members of the judiciary – would be finalized by late Saturday or Sunday morning.

In an effort to quell the violent protests that have shaken the country for two weeks, Morsi was scheduled to meet with the opposition on Saturday. However, most of the opposition groups opted out, including the crucial National Salvation Front led by former presidential candidates Mohamed El Baradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa.

This despite the country’s military calling for a dialogue, while maintaining that it is its duty to protect the country.

“The armed forces … realize their responsibility to preserve the higher interests of the country and to secure and protect vital targets, public institutions and the interests of innocent citizens,” the military’s statement read. 

Local media hint that Morsi might soon reimpose martial law, which had been the status quo in Egypt for six decades until the overthrow of the Hosni Mubarak government.

Morsi’s November 22 emergency decree and the draft constitution days later sent the country into turmoil, where at least seven people were killed and hundreds more injured in riots nationwide. With the new decree, Morsi allocated himself overwhelming powers until the approval of a new draft constitution, which set to be completed by referendum on December 15.

(rt.com / 08.12.2012)

Iraq to host conference on Palestinian, Arab prisoners

RAMALLAH — The state of Palestine completed all preparations to hold international conference on Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israeli jails, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday.

Issa Qaraqi’, the Palestinian Minister of Detainees and Ex-Detainees, said that the conference will be held on Dec. 11-12 in the Iraqi capital of Bagdad.

Qaraqi’ said that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Secretary General of the league of the Arab States Nabil Al-Arabi will open the conference.

Qaraqi’ said that the conference will be held under the patronage of the Arab League and will be attended be several Arab countries, local, Arab and international human rights organizations. He added that the conference will also be attended by several prisoners released from Israeli jail and children of prisoners held in Israeli jails as well as international law experts.

The minister said that the “conference will discuss the legal status of Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails following UN recognition of a Palestine as non-member state and the decision’s effects on their issue.”

He added that the conference will “demand the international community and the UN Security Council to bear their responsibilities towards Israeli government’s measures against prisoners that contradicts with the simplest principles and laws of international community.”

“Israel carrying out a series of haphazard measures such as collective punishments, including depriving the prisoners of their rights to high education, the policy of isolating prisoners and preventing their families from visiting them, as well as imposing fines and neglecting their medical treatment are measures that contradict the simple human rights,” the minister said.

According to Qaraqi’, “Israel does not allow the prisoners to watch five satellite channels, bars the entry of newspapers and magazines into the prisons, obliges prisoners to meet their lawyers with their hands cuffed and separates prisoners who come from the same family.”

According to the recent Palestinian statistics, Israel is holding 4,700 prisoners in 23 prisons and detention camps in Israel and in the West Bank of whom 198 children, 8 females, 14 members of Palestine Legislative Council.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Prisoners Club (Nadi Al-Asir) said that 22 Palestinian prisoners have been in Israeli jails for more than 25 years.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had repeatedly said the Palestinians will not sign any final peace agreement before Israel shuts down all its prisons and releases all the Palestinian prisoners, which were rejected by Israel.

(www.saudigazette.com.sa / 08.12.2012)

Olmert says Israel facing unprecedented isolation

JERUSALEM (Reuters) — Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said on Saturday that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu was taking Israel into unprecedented isolation with its policy on Jewish settlements.

He singled out Israel’s recent announcement that it would build new settlement homes in the E1 corridor near Jerusalem. The plan has sparked international protest.

Olmert said such plans had been around for years. But making the announcement days after the United States sided with Israel against the Palestinians’ successful bid for de facto statehood recognition by the UN General Assembly was a slap in the face to Israel’s main ally.

“Bibi Netanyahu,” he said, using the prime minister’s nickname, “is isolating Israel from the entire world in an unprecedented way, and we will pay a high price in every facet of our lives, and the Israeli public should know it.”

The settlement plans have provoked worldwide condemnation, with the United Nations, the United States and the European Union all voicing criticism of the project which they see as complicating any attempts at peace with Palestinians.

In Berlin this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Netanyahu to avoid “one-sided moves”.

Olmert, speaking on Israel’s “Meet the Press”, said he did not embark on a widely expected bid to run in Israel’s upcoming January election due to a lack of unity in the center-left bloc, as well as lingering legal troubles.

A former head of the centrist Kadima party, Olmert was in July largely cleared of corruption charges that had forced him from office in 2008.

(www.maannews.net / 08.12.2012)

Hamas leaders praise resistance, unity at Gaza rally

Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal gestures to the crowd during a rally marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, in Gaza CityDecember 8, 2012.

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Hamas’ top officials on Saturday addressed teaming crowds gathered in Gaza City to celebrate the party’s founding, insisting on the right to resist Israel while emphasizing the importance of reconciliation with their Fatah rivals.

Party chief Khaled Mashaal, on his first visit to Gaza, told the crowds: “Resistance is the means not the end … for 64 years we have tried all other options but to no avail … there is no victory without resistance.”

The event marked the founding of the Islamist movement, and was also billed as a victory parade after Gaza militants were seen locally to have fended off an Israeli invasion during an eight-day bombardment last month.

Mashaal’s entry to the Gaza Strip on Friday after decades in exile, during which time he survived an Israeli assassination attempt, raised the celebratory atmosphere at the event.

The Hamas chief applauded his party’s military strategy, and thanked armed groups that fought alongside them during the Israeli assault, echoing praise by Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh during his festival speech.

“Jihad is the way to liberation, along with all types of national and diplomatic struggle … there is no value for all those types without resistance,” Mashaal said.

Mashaal reiterated support for President Mahmoud Abbas’ UN bid — which he called “a small but important step” — which sought recognition of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.

But he also stressed Hamas’ commitment to resisting Israel beyond the 1967 lines.

“Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land,” he told a sea of supporters at an open-air rally, the highlight of his three-day stay in Gaza.

“We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take.”

“We’ve tried negotiations and politics for more than 20 years … let’s review the political program,” Mashaal said.

“We do not fight Jews because they are Jews, but we fight Zionists because they are occupiers and abusers.”

Mashaal promised to Palestinians imprisoned in Israel that “it will not take us long before we free you from behind your bars.”

“The way we freed some of the prisoners in the past is the way we will use to free the remaining prisoners,” he said, evoking the prisoner exchange Hamas secured from Israel last year after it released an Israeli soldier its brigades had captured.

The leader had a conciliatory message for political rivals. Mashaal was behind last year’s reconciliation deal with Abbas, which stumbled after Hamas’ Gaza ranks rejected its condition of making Abbas head of a unity government.

A small Fatah delegation attended Saturday’s anniversary events for the first time since the 2007 fighting between both parties.

Mashaal told the rally: “Reconciliation means the unity of the political program … one prime minister and one parliament and one representative, which is the PLO.”

He said he supported holding national elections but Hamas should be a political partner whatever the outcome of the vote.

Hamas premier Haniyeh, introducing Mashaal, said the arrival of Palestinian leaders from abroad was the culmination of a political victory breaking the siege imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. Hamas politburo members Mousa Abu Marzouq, Izzat al-Rishq, and Saleh al-Arouri accompanied him.

During the recent Israeli assault, sympathetic governments in the region rallied in support of Gaza, and Haniyeh referred to the change in its strategic role since the Arab Spring.

“In 2008 war was declared on Gaza from Cairo, but in 2012 Gaza’s victory was declared from Cairo,” he said, referring back to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead war on Gaza, before a less-sympathetic President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in Egypt and Islamist President Muhammad Mursi elected.

Mashaal described his emotion at returning to his homeland in his festival address. “My feelings as I came close to the land and sky of Gaza made me feel I was in another world. I shed tears and flew in the sky,” he said.

“Gaza gave me back my soul,” he told the rally.

(www.maannews.net / 08.12.2012)

Saudi official: Gulf cannot ‘tolerate’ unrest

Saudi Arabia’s deputy foreign minister says the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council cannot tolerate instability that could lead to challenges to the Western-allied leaders from Kuwait to Oman


Angry protesters in the Bahraini capital Manama
A senior Saudi official says Gulf Arab states must quash any Arab Spring-inspired unrest or risk threats to their leadership across the oil-rich region.The comments by Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, the Saudi deputy foreign minister, echo calls by Gulf authorities to widen crackdowns on perceived opposition such as rights activists and Islamist factions.

His remarks also seek to justify the intervention last year in Bahrain by a Saudi-led Gulf military force after an uprising by the kingdom’s Shiite-led majority. Bahrain remains the Gulf’s main flashpoint.

Prince Abdulaziz says Gulf states “cannot tolerate instability” that could lead to challenges to the Western-allied leaders from Kuwait to Oman.

He spoke Saturday at an international security summit hosted by Bahrain.

(english.ahram.org.eg / 08.12.2012)

Hamas kicks off massive celebration

Hundreds of thousands crowded Al-Katiba square in Gaza city where a big platform was set up to host Hamas movement’s celebration of its 25th inception anniversary.

A masked commander of the Qassam Brigades delivered the first speech pledging to cut off the hands of the invaders.

He said that resistance factions did not employ all its power in the last Israeli aggression on Gaza, warning that if the Israeli returned to aggression the Qassam fighters would retaliate.

The Qassam commander said that the supremacy of Israel in the region was diminishing, urging the Israelis to return from where they came from.

Hamas kicks off massive celebration

Hundreds of thousands crowded Al-Katiba square in Gaza city where a big platform was set up to host Hamas movement’s celebration of its 25th inception anniversary.

A masked commander of the Qassam Brigades delivered the first speech pledging to cut off the hands of the invaders.

He said that resistance factions did not employ all its power in the last Israeli aggression on Gaza, warning that if the Israeli returned to aggression the Qassam fighters would retaliate.

The Qassam commander said that the supremacy of Israel in the region was diminishing, urging the Israelis to return from where they came from.
(Facebook / 08.12.2012)

FBI documents show Israeli pm worked in nuclear smuggling ring

Traffic can be seen passing next to a sign showing the direction into Israel's Sorek nuclear reactor center near the central Israeli town of Yavne Monday July 5, 2004. (AP Photo/str)

Traffic can be seen passing next to a sign showing the direction into ’s Sorek nuclear reactor center near the central Israeli town of Yavne Monday July 5, 2004. (AP Photo/str)

(MintPress) – A set of partially declassified FBI documents show that current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smuggled nuclear triggers out of the U.S. The seven pages detailed a number of front companies associated with the Israeli Ministry of Defense. While it is well known that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, little is known about the number and type of weapons the small Mediterranean country has in its arsenal.


Smuggling network

The report builds upon a previous cache of documents released, including material that provided the backbone of the tell-all book entitled, “Confidential: the Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon.” Arnon Milchan, Hollywood producer and author of the book, claims he was recruited as a member of Israel’s economic  division (LAKAM).

As an agent for LAKAM, Milchan learned how to set up front operations, fraudulent bank accounts and phony businesses. The operations took place as early as 1972 and continued through the most of the 1980s, mostly in Israel and in Los Angeles, Calif. The operations include a somewhat convoluted web of American and Israeli contacts set up to help expand the Israeli .

The documents show that Milchan worked extensively with Richard Kelly Smyth, a  engineer with the capability and knowledge to acquire components necessary for building nuclear weapons.

Additionally, the documents reveal that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked for the Heli Trading Company, an Israeli firm now revealed to be a front for obtaining nuclear technology.

The exchange between clandestine American and Israeli contacts may seem like the stuff of Hollywood, but much of the details came to light after Smyth was captured in Spain in 2001. Smyth had fled the U.S. after being indicted for violating the Arms Export Control Act in the 1980s.

Once detained, he was interrogated and convicted of exporting 800 nuclear triggers, called “krytrons,” to Israeli sources. The information provided by Smyth has given U.S. intelligence crucial information regarding the intimate relationship between Israeli and American  partners in the illicit arms trade.

The release of this information is salient given the increased hostilities between Israel and  at a time of fierce debate over Tehran’s supposed nuclear aspirations.


Nuclear proliferation in the 

Israel remains the lone nuclear power in the Middle East, possessing an undisclosed number of nuclear warheads. Estimates range from 75 to as many as 400 nuclear weapons.

David Ben Gurion, one of the founders of the Jewish state, placed great importance on obtaining nuclear weapons during his time as the first Prime Minister of Israel in the 1950s. Ben Gurion, like many of the founders of Israel, had palpable memories of the Nazi Holocaust in  just a few years earlier. As a result, Ben Gurion and his cohort believed that creating a well-armed state would prevent another Holocaust from occurring.

While Israeli development of a nuclear weapons program is known to the international community, little is known about the number and type of weapons because Israel has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect its nuclear program. This demand is one that Israel and the United States, among others, have put forth as a non-negotiable demand of Iran, a country that is suspected of enriching uranium for weapons use.

Israel has been engaged in a protracted  of words with Iran for over a year, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatening to strike Iran should the country develop the capability to develop a nuclear weapon. Iranian officials have insisted on numerous occasions that their nuclear program is only for peaceful, non-threatening civilian projects.

While the topic of nuclear disarmament may seem like an impossible one to broach, a full 64 percent of Jewish-Israelis would support making the Middle East a nuclear free zone, even if that meant giving up their own weapons, according to a New York Times poll.

(09.07.2012 / www.mintpress.net / 08.12.2012)