Palestinian fishermen mystified after bloodied Mobula ray fish wash up on Gaza beach

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Palestinian fisherman have been left mystified after hundreds of bloodied Mobula Ray fish were found washed up on a Gaza beach.

Around 220 of the fish appeared on the Gaza City beach yesterday, the Times of Israel has reported.

It is thought to be the first time in five years that fishermen are catching the ray fish in waters off Gaza.

The sea creatures were promptly carted off to market where one fisherman said they could fetch up to $1.50 per kilo.

The fish, which are from the same family as Manta rays can reach a width of up to 17ft.

(Source / 01.03.2013)

Did Prophet Muhammad Initiate Wars Against Peaceful Neighbors?

 

Was Islam spread by the sword

By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org

Question:

Did Muhammad declare war against people because they did not embrace Islam?

Answer:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, did not initiate war against anyone who offered to make peace with him. War is a last resort in Islam for the physical defense of the community and it is not a means to force people to enter Islam. Peaceful coexistence among different religions is highly preferred over conflict.

Allah said:

وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ

Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Verily, Allah does not like transgressors.

[Surah Al-Baqarah 2:190]

Ibn Abbas considered it an act of transgression – mentioned by this verse – that a Muslim would attack someone who offers him peace. He said:

لَا تَقْتُلُوا النِّسَاءَ وَلَا الصِّبْيَانَ وَلَا الشَّيْخَ الْكَبِيرَ وَلَا مَنْ أَلْقَى إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلَمَ وَكَفَ يَدَهُ فَإِنْ فَعَلْتُمْ هَذَا فَقَدَ اعْتَدَيْتُمْ

Do not kill women, or children, or old men, or whoever comes to you with peace and he restrains his hand from fighting; for if you did that, you would certainly have transgressed.

[Tafseer At-Tabari, verse 2:190]

Al-Baydawi considered “initiating the fighting” to be an act of transgression. He writes in his commentary:

وَلاَ تَعْتَدُواْ بابتداء القتال أو بقتال المعاهد أو المفاجأة به من غير دعوة أو المثلة أو قتل من نهيتم عن قتله

The verse: Do not transgress, (2:190) means by initiating the fighting, or by fighting those protected by a peace treaty, or by fighting those who never received the call to Islam, or to commit mutilation or to kill whomever it has been forbidden to kill.

[Tafseer Al-Baydawi, verse 2:190]

Ibn Al-Qayyim summarizes these points by saying:

وَلَمْ يُكْرِهْ أَحَدًا قَطُّ عَلَى الدِّينِ وَإِنَّمَا كَانَ يُقَاتِلُ مَنْ يُحَارِبُهُ وَيُقَاتِلُهُ وَأَمَّا مَنْ سَالَمَهُ وَهَادَنَهُ فَلَمْ يُقَاتِلْهُ وَلَمْ يُكْرِهْهُ عَلَى الدُّخُولِ فِي دِينِهِ

The Prophet never forced the religion upon anyone, but rather he only fought those who waged war against him and fought him. As for those who made peace with him or conducted a truce, then he never fought them and he never compelled them to enter his religion.

[Hidayat Al-Hayara 237]

In addition to the Quran’s exegesis, we have two concrete examples from the Prophet’s biography in which he applied the principle of non-aggression.

Abu Sukainah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

دَعُوا الْحَبَشَةَ مَا وَدَعُوكُمْ وَاتْرُكُوا التُّرْكَ مَا تَرَكُوكُمْ

Leave the Abyssinians alone as long as they leave you alone; and leave the Turks alone as long as they leave you alone.

[Sunan Abu Dawud, Number 4302, Sahih]

Ibn Rushd said:

مَا رُوِيَ عَنْ مَالِكٍ أَنَّهُ قَالَ لَا يَجُوزُ ابْتِدَاءُ الْحَبَشَةِ بِالْحَرْبِ وَلَا التَّرْكُ لِمَا رُوِيَ أَنَّهُ عَلَيْهِ الصَّلَاةُ وَالسَّلَامُ قَالَ ذَرُوا الْحَبَشَةَ مَا وَذَرَتْكُمْ وَقَدْ سُئِلَ مَالِكٌ عَنْ صِحَّةِ هَذَا الْأَثَرِ فَلَمْ يَعْتَرِفْ بِذَلِكَ لَكِنْ قَالَ لَمْ يَزَلِ النَّاسُ يَتَحَامَوْنَ غَزْوَهُمْ

It is narrated from Malik that he said it was not permissible to initiate war against the Abyssinians or the Turks because of the saying of the Prophet: leave the Abyssinians alone as long as they leave you alone. Malik was asked about the authenticity of this tradition, and although he did not recognize it, he said: the people continue to avoid attacking them.

[Al-Bidayat Al-Mujtahid, Kitab Al-Jihad]

Therefore, the Prophet had forbidden the Muslims from initiating war against the Turks or the Abyssinians if they did not attack first. This is the practical application of the non-aggression principle mentioned in the verse 2:190 and others. As Allah said:

فَإِنِ اعْتَزَلُوكُمْ فَلَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ وَأَلْقَوْا إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلَمَ فَمَا جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ عَلَيْهِمْ سَبِيلًا

So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause for war against them.

[Surah An-Nisa 4:90]

Furthermore, the Quran has commanded Muslims to make peace with those who offer peace. Allah said:

وَإِن جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

If they incline to peace, then incline to it and rely upon Allah. Verily, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.

[Surah Al-Anfal 8:61]

In this regard, Ali ibn Abu Talib reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّهُ سَيَكُونُ بَعْدِي اخْتِلَافٌ أَوْ أَمْرٌ فَإِنْ اسْتَطَعْتَ أَنْ تَكُونَ السِّلْمَ فَافْعَل

Verily, after me there will be conflicts or affairs, so if you are able to end them in peace, then do so.

[Musnad Ahmad, Number 697, Sahih]

Conclusion

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, did not initiate war against peaceful neighbors. Muslims have been forbidden from fighting those who do not fight them. Likewise, Muslims have been commanded to accept peaceful coexistence from those who offer peace.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

(Source / 01.03.2013)

Medical mission to help teen who lost leg in Syrian fighting

Playing pool is one of Mohammed Jammous’ favorite pastimes. Jammous, who was hurt in the Syrian civil war, will receive a prosthetic leg.

Mohammed Jammous wanted to be a teacher until an artillery shell killed a close friend and led to an above-the knee amputation of his left leg.

Now, the 14-year-old Syrian hopes to become a doctor who treats child amputees.

Mohammed learned a little about that career Thursday when he had his first appointment with a surgeon at Texas Orthopedic Hospital.

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund identified Mohammed and Fatima Asafar, an 18-year-old woman from the West Bank, as needing surgery not available in their home countries and arranged to treat them in Houston this month.

The child-focused nonprofit organizes medical missions to the Middle East and arranges for American and European physicians to donate services not available locally. Hatim Kahyyal, a volunteer with the local chapter, said the group provides free surgeries for about 4,500 kids a year.

“That’s not nearly enough,” Kahyyal said.

Antiquated care

Dr. Gary Brock and prosthetist David Baty will fit Mohammed with a prosthetic, determining Thursday he won’t need major surgery to mold his stump.

Dr. Gregory Stocks, who traveled to the West Bank last summer on a mission with the relief fund organization, will perform hip replacement surgery Friday on Fatima. She was born with a dislocated hip that causes constant pain and has ground an inch of bone off her right leg.

Dr. Gary Brock holds his first consultation with translator Duha Ayish and Mohammed Jammous, 14.

“There’s not the equipment or expertise,” Stocks said of the West Bank. Although the doctors he met are dedicated, he said their techniques and equipment compare to 1980s American care.

As their doctors were interviewed, Mohammed and Fatima laughed and spoke in Arabic about canceled flights on their way to Texas.

Fatima, who understands and speaks a little English, tried not to cry as a relief volunteer rubbed her back and Stocks spoke about her initial fear that the surgery would prevent her from having children; gratefully, she was told it wouldn’t.

“I’m looking forward to not living with the pain,” Fatima said through a translator.

As she walked out of the conference, she repeatedly said in English, “Thank you.”

Revolt ‘had to happen’

Sitting on a couch in the Memorial area of Houston, Mohammed described the day he lost his leg, speaking through his host, real estate developer Bassam Bazari.

Mohammed and other Syrians who had lined up for bread at a bakery ran to a bunker when fighting broke out one August day. He and two friends thought they had eluded danger when the streets went quiet.

As they left, though, it started again, and he was among the 12 injured.

Because of the fighting, it took his family a day to leave Da’el, just nine miles north of Daraa where the civil war started in 2011. It took another day to travel the 20 miles south to the Jordanian border, where military forces gathered. Three days after Mohammed was hit, a bad infection forced physicians at the Za’atari refugee camp to amputate the teen’s leg.

In the first 11 months of the Syrian civil war, 500 children had been killed and another 400 tortured or sexually abused after arrest, according to a United Nations Children Fund estimate from February 2012.

Pausing before he continued speaking, Mohammed played with the fringe on a Syrian flag draped over his shoulder, an emblem of the flag pinned to the other.

“The revolution had to happen because the regime was very oppressive,” Mohammed said. The teen is glad about the push for democracy despite everything that’s happened to him, his family and friends.

Mohammed said he’s thankful for his host family and their offer to enroll him in school once he knows how long he will stay for physical therapy. The teen has missed more than a year of studies because of the fighting, which has damaged schools and forced many families to hide inside their homes all day.

“There’s no electricity and nothing to do,” he said. “It’s constant fear and sadness.”

Smiling, Mohammed said he’s eager to continue school, but for now has enjoyed living a normal life again.

(Source / 01.03.2013)

Cash-strapped Egypt considers offering pyramids, other monuments for rent

An Egyptian man waits for tourists to take them on camel rides at the Giza pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo. The country’s economy has taken a huge dip after foreign tourists fled during Egypt’s uprising. (AFP)

An Egyptian man waits for tourists to take them on camel rides at the Giza pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo. The country’s economy has taken a huge dip after foreign tourists fled during Egypt’s uprising.

Egypt’s finance ministry sent a proposal to the country’s antiquities ministry to consider offering key monuments, including the pyramids, to international tourism firm as a quick solution to generate funds needed to overcome the financial crisis, an official has said.

Rumors about the proposal, which some described as preposterous, have circulated online for weeks.

But on Wednesday, Adel Abdel Sattar, the secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, in an interview with Egypt’s ONTV channel confirmed the existence of a proposal to offer Egypt’s monuments, including the pyramids in Giza, the Sphinx, the Abu Simbel Temple and the temples of Luxor, to international tourism firm.

There have been reports that the rich Gulf state of Qatar, which strongly supported efforts to oust former president Hosni Mubarak from power, is interested in a deal to exploit Egypt’s most precious historical assets for a period of five years. The return for Egypt would be a substantial amount of money, estimated at $200 billion, enough to pay the country’s national debt and heal its economic woes for years if not decades to come.

Abdel Sattar confirmed the proposal to rent out Egypt’s monuments but denied that Qatar or any Gulf state was involved.

Abdel Sattar said he was “surprised” at the end of January when the finance ministry forwarded him a proposal by Abdallah Mahfouz, identified as an Egyptian intellectual, to offer in a public auction the rights to exploit Egypt’s most famous sites to international tourism firms.

Sattar said the proposal indicated that such a move would provide a quick solution to the country’s financial deficit as it will generate about $200 billion over five years.

Despite his objection to the proposal, Sattar said he sought legal advice from the Ministry of State of Antiquities and following a meeting with the Supreme Council of Antiquities the ministry decided to send rejection letter to the finance ministry.

(Source / 01.03.2013)

Israeli highway hits Palestinian village “like a tsunami”

Residents of Beit Safafa protest the four-lane highway which that will cut through their town in Jerusalem, 16 January. The road is being constructed on privately-owned land designated for building houses in the densely-populated town and will connect the various Jewish settlement colonies in the Hebron area to Jerusalem.

Residents in Beit Safafa, south of Jerusalem, are resisting a planned highway that will cause irreparable harm to their village.

Highway 50, as the project is known, is planned to connect the Gush Etzion bloc of Israeli settlements with settlements in the northern part Jerusalem. The project is part of Israel’s wider plan for asserting its control over the greater Jerusalem area, as it continues to annex and confiscate lands south of the city in violation of international law.

Beit Safafa and the nearby village Sharafat were divided in the 1970s by the construction of Gilo road, built to connect the newly-built settlement Gilo to the city. Beit Safafa and Sharafat, historically inseparable, will now be divided into four parts with the construction of Highway 50.

This plan has triggered mass protests in a village which has not witnessed large-scale resistance since the first intifada. The road is being built by the Moriah-Jerusalem Development Corporation.

Environmental and health hazards

The family of Alaa Salman, a 39-year-old goldsmith, are among those affected by the construction of Highway 50. Besides losing land to this project, Highway 50 passes right in front of Salman’s house, resulting in environmental and health hazards to the neighborhood. He is now a local leader in the protests against the construction of the road.

“In 1985, the [Jerusalem] municipality started confiscating the land,” he said. “We did not understand what was happening at the time.

“In the early 1990s, when they approved Road 4 project [as Highway 50 was originally known], the municipality started uprooting the olive trees. The residents erected a tent on the confiscated land.”

Salman recalled that the project was frozen following pressure from Yossi Sarid, then a member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Sarid was also the environment minister inYitzhak Rabin’s government at the time. The environmental objections were made to protect the wildlife — particularly deer — in the adjacent valley.

Procedures “reversed”

Construction of the road began on 28 September last year. Under regular procedures, the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality would publish an official map of the project and seek residents’ approval before they started the construction. But that was not the case this time.

“The municipality was afraid that the majority of the residents of Beit Safafa would object,” said Salman. “They reversed the procedure. They started the construction first. They expected us to be silent, but they were surprised.”

Fifteen families approached the lawyer Qais Nasser as soon as the construction work began. The families and 150 residents filed an objection to the project in the Jerusalem district court.

More than 234 dunums of privately-owned Palestinian land were confiscated for Highway 50 (a dunum is roughly equivalent to 1,000 square meters). More than 100 families will be affected by the construction of this road.

Expanding to 100 meters in width and 1.8 km in length, Highway 50 effectively puts the residents and the houses on both sides of the road at risk. The houses along the road will not enjoy the mandatory distance from a highway that the municipality has set for safety reasons. Those houses may also be demolished under orders from the Israeli authorities at some stage.

The Administrative Council of Beit Safafa has joined the families’ efforts and hired lawyer Muhannad Jbarah to join Nasser in mounting a legal challenge.

“Refused to listen”

Mohammed Aliyan, the council’s chairman (also known as Abu Dahoud), said that Highway 50 is will chop up the village into separate cantons.

“Four years ago, the municipality started sending letters to the council about the project,” he said. “I was not in the council back then. I was appointed only two years ago.

“We refused the road. When I became the chairman, we tried to talk the municipality out of the project. They refused to listen to us.”

The council proposed an alternative plan. “We approached a roads engineer to work on an alternative plan for the road,” said Aliyan. “The alternative plan suggested a tunnel in the al-Safih area in Beit Safafa that will minimize the harm. But the municipality rejected our plan.”

The municipality refused to consider the council’s objections. In September, the municipality sent a letter to the council, informing it that work on the road would start immediately.

“We started negotiating with the municipality at first,” said Alaa Salman. “But then we discovered that they were not taking us seriously.”

Protests and arrests

On 15 November, the families went to the Jerusalem district court, demanding the halt of the construction. Then on 22 January — the same day as Israel’s general election — the residents organized their first demonstration, when hundreds of Beit Safafa residents walked along the route of Highway 50. This protest was followed by several others in front of the Jerusalem municipality’s headquarters and the Knesset. A protest tent has been erected on the confiscated land.

During the protests, at least seven persons, including minors, were arrested on different occasions. They were all released the following day with conditions that ban them from participating in further protests.

On 10 February, the district court dismissed the case. “Highway 50 is a political decision,” said Salman. “It is over the heads of the district court.”

Aliyan said that Nir Barakat, the mayor of Jerusalem, recently called him for an urgent meeting during which Barakat pleaded that the issue of Highway 50 not be politicized. “Barakat claims that he is obliged to execute this project that was planned before he took office,” Aliyan said. “I told him it is out of my hands. The residents consider the project a tsunami that hit the village.”

Barakat has also met some families from Beit Safafa. This meeting was scheduled to last for an hour and 15 minutes but continued for three hours. “It was clear the mayor was afraid of the popular movement in Beit Safafa,” said Aliyan. “He tried to pay us off with many incentives, including approving a new school that we have been demanding for years.

Serving the settlements

“Part of the construction in Highway 50 will include a wall similar to the apartheid wall in the West Bank. We cannot accept an apartheid wall in the heart of Beit Safafa. We are steadfast in our position. We will not stop the popular movement. We will seek all ways to stop the project.”

Although their lands are being confiscated for Highway 50’s construction, this road will not serve the 12,000 Palestinians living in Beit Safafa. The road follows a series of settlement projects undertaken on the land of Beit Safafa over many decades.

Last year, 3,800 settlement units were approved by the Jerusalem Municipality in Givat Hamatos, a settlement east of Beit Safafa. Road 10 is another project planned to connect settlers to the main roads; it also involves the confiscation of privately-owned Palestinian lands in Beit Safafa.

After Israel’s establishment in 1948, most of the land north of Beit Safafa was confiscated to expand the industrial zone of Talpiot. In 1967, the southern and eastern part of Beit Safafa were occupied by Israel. Less than five years later, the settlement of Gilo was built.

In 1948, the surface area of Beit Safafa covered more than 4,800 dunums. Today, only 1,800 dunums remain. But Israel’s incremental colonization of Palestinian land is not going without a challenge.

“They tell me that it is not my business since I personally did not lose land for the project,” said Aliyan. “What happens in Silwan [in East Jerusalem], Ramallah, Hebron, Gaza and Akka is our business. And the issue of Highway 50 is a concern for all of us.”

(Source / 01.03.2013)

Do you want to help Blind Children with an Education?

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These children are always in need of funds and a lot of love from the people of the world. Stay blessed and rest assured, your money and love will help provide these children with health services, educational needs and other extra curricular activities. Thank you.

A campaign to raise funds for the visually impaired and blind children At Al-Sharooq School Beit Jala in the OCCUPIED territories West Bank.The money raised will go towards theireducation providing braille books, medical treatments and toys for the children.

The school provides MEDICAL care and EDUCATION to children From remote poverty stricken villages and REFUGEE camps.

The School also provides boarding facilities for children who come from far Away areas within the occupied territories and receives NO FUNDING from big charities the children come to Al Sharooq School From the ages of 3 YEARS and up .

Together we can raise the money that these children need.

So please get donating

HELP YOUNG BLIND CHILDREN LIVE A LIFE WITHOUT LIMITS

The Rehabilitation Program

This program is designed to rehabilitate and prepare blind and visually impaired children to integrate into the local community and attend regular mainstream schools.

The program focuses on mobility training and daily living skills, as well as Braille training, both in Arabic and English.

Development programs, such as music, swimming and field trips, are offered by the school to give blind children the chance to experience different activities designed to enhance their social and cultural standards.

Al-Shurooq School receives blind and visually impaired children between the ages of 3 – 14. Since the large majority comes from poverty-stricken remote villages and refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, the school provides full accommodation and medical care.

The school consists of two stages of rehabilitation:

  • The Kindergarten stage: Children between the age of 3-6 years are accepted to follow a special program designed to offer educational, social and psychological services. These aim at enhancing the children’s academic and daily living skills.

  • Preparatory stage: This program is designed for blind children above the age of six who are capable academically to follow the Palestinian national syllabus. This enables them to continue, once integrated, with the same syllabus.

Development programs such as music lesons, swimming lessons and computers are also taught. Computer studies are taught at the age of eight. The use of special software with speech synthesizers both in Arabic and English allow blind children to hear the text and guide themselves through the different programs, including surfing the net.

The Support And Follow-Up Program:

After spending 4-5 years at the Rehabilitation Program, and based on individual assessments, the children gain enough independency and self confidence to enable them to integrate back into their local community, live independently with their families and attend local mainstream schools, therefore enhancing their chances of equal opportunity.

Initially, and through weekly visits to ensure successful integration, the social worker continues to provide support to the children, their families and new teachers. Once the child is properly settled, visits are carried out monthly.

The Society provides blind and visually impaired children with essential aids, tools and appliances needed; such as Braille typewriters (Perkins Braillers), Braille paper, Braille school textbooks, magnifiers, canes and tape recorders.

Also, the Society provides local government schools, into which its blind children integrate, with a Braille-n-Print device. The device transcribes Braille text to English or Arabic text, therefore allowing teachers at regular schools to follow and fairly evaluate the work done by blind children.

The support and follow-up program continues through regular visits to the Society, even after the children get into university.

Braille Book Production Unit:

A computerized Braille book production unit became operable at the Society in 1996. The transformation of books from Arabic and English texts into Braille is carried out by typing the exact text on the computer and a special software converts it to Braille text. With the use of a special Braille printer, the text is printed on a specific type of paper used solely for that purpose. The text is revised and edited before the book is finally covered and bound.

School textbooks go out on loan for a nominal yearly charge, since the purchase of such books is highly expensive.

Braille Book Library:

Upon its establishment in Jerusalem in 1962, the main objective of the Society was to produce books in Arabic and English Braille and to establish a library.

In 1996, the Society opened an additional branch of the library in Beit Jala, to facilitate access to blind people living in the southern districts of the West Bank, unable to enter Jerusalem.

To date, the library holds around 3,000 books printed in Braille, including school textbooks, literature and history books, the Holy Quran, novels and scientific articles both in English and Arabic.

Summer School Program:

A one-month summer school program is held every year to “newly integrated” children as well as to children at the rehabilitation program. The program aims to enhance the children’s abilities and skills in areas of apparent weakness. On an individual basis, children follow an intensive program depending on their essential needs.

Summer school also provides extra-curricular activities, such as handicrafts, field trips and swimming lessons. This enables the children to share experiences, knowledge, develop hobbies and interests and mostly to break up the monotony of summer days.

Child Sponsorship Program:

Sponsoring a blind child would cover his/her expenses at the Society, which include tuition, development activities, full accommodation and medical care.

Training Programs:

  • Continuous education program: As an essential part of its activities, the society carries out workshops for the staff members to enhance and promote their knowledge and experience in dealing with children with special needs.

  • Social program: The society holds different social programs throughout the year, which aim at enhancing the social standards of the blind and visually impaired.

  • Computer training program: In addition to training blind and visually impaired children on the use of computers, the Society holds computer training for blind and visually impaired adults, using speech synthesizers in both English and Arabic.

(Source / 01.03.2013)

Syria crisis: European countries expected to start arming rebels

Syrian opposition representative in UK says ‘breakthrough’ is expected after relaxation of EU rules

William Hague in Rome

William Hague at the Friends of Syria meeting in Rome, where he stressed that military aid was possible in future.

Some European countries are expected to break with Washington and start supplying the Syrian rebels with weapons in the next few months, the representative of the Syrian opposition in Britain has told the Guardian.

The National Coalition’s London representative, Walid Saffour, predicted that by the next meeting of the western and Arab Friends of Syria group in Turkey, due in late spring or early summer, “there will be a breakthrough that will end the restrictions of the European countries”.

“This would be for the ammunition we require, the quality weapons we need to deter the Syrian regime from using aeroplanes and Scud missiles to bomb villages and bakeries,” Saffour said. “We on the ground are advancing steadily but we are suffering from a lack of ammunition. We expect that to change at the next Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul.”

Another opposition figure involved in supplying the rebels said there had been a noticeable relaxation in recent days of the strict restrictions the US and Turkey had put on arms flows over the Turkish border. He claimed a Syrian army helicopter and a Mig warplane had been shot down in the past two days, for the first time by imported missiles.

“These were not weapons that had been captured from Syrian army bases as before. These were released from the Turkish warehouses. These are weapons the opposition had purchased previously but had not been allowed to take across the border,” the opposition source said.

“Before, 23mm was the maximum calibre for anti-aircraft guns permitted and we were allowed to bring in RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] but not armour-piercing shells. But there is a major shift on the ground now. The policy is changing.

“I think the shift in American attitudes goes far beyond the official reports. I think that Washington knows it can no longer allow to let the problem fester.”

The EU formally changed its arms embargo on Syria on Thursday to allow the supply of armoured vehicles, non-lethal military equipment and technical aid to the opposition. The move came as the US secretary of state, John Kerry, made his first trip to a Muslim nation since taking office, visiting Ankara, where he met Turkish leaders to discuss Syria.

While Saffour did not name the countries he expected to supply arms, the British government, which took the lead in pushing for the relaxation of the sanctions, is expected to act swiftly in reaction to the new EU rules. Foreign secretary, William Hague, is due to make a statement to parliament next week detailing the new equipment and training the UK will give the rebels. The aid is expected to include civilian vehicles – reinforced to provide protection against shelling – of a kind the British government is already supplying to UN aid workers operating in Syria.

On British insistence, the EU embargo will come up for review in June and the UK is expected to push for a further relaxation in what can be provided to the opposition if there is no let-up in the two-year-old conflict, in which more than 70,000 people are estimated to have died.

Speaking at the Friends of Syria meeting in Rome on Thursday, Hague stressed military aid was possible in the future. “That will be an important decision, of course, and has its own risks, and that is why we haven’t done that so far. But I don’t rule that out,” he said.

A British official said: “We are going to keep on raising the pressure on the Assad regime. The Friends of Syria meeting in Rome was not the end of a process. It is the beginning of a process.”

Saffour, the National Coalition’s representative, said: “If the EU embargo doesn’t change, then some of the EU countries will change their policy – if not openly, then quietly.” He said US officials had also told the coalition that the White House policy of providing non-lethal aid only would come under review in the next few months, as new members of Barack Obama’s administration, such as Kerry and the defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, enter the internal debate.

There have been reports over the past few weeks that the flow of arms to rebel fighters has increased markedly, including some anti-tank weapons made in the former Yugoslavia. The Croatian government has denied reports that its arms industry supplied some of the weapons.

Ivica Nekic, the managing director of the Croatian arms export agency, said: “We would be aware of any sale from Croatia, and no Croatian weapons have been sold to anyone in Syria.”

Asked about reports that Croatian arms were supplied through Saudi Arabia, Nekic said Croatia had only sold the Saudi military helmets and was in the process of negotiating a sale of pistols. Asked about other customers in the Middle East, Nekic said: “We sell to more than 50 countries around the world. I can’t speculate on every country, and every sale we make. It would not be correct.”

Muhannad Hadi, the World Food Programme’s regional emergency co-ordinator for Syria and neighbouring countries, said the British donation of armoured cars had already saved the lives of WFP staff delivering food aid on both sides of the lines.

“They turned out to be a life-saving tool. Our weapons were attacked four times in the past several months, by mortar. And the thing is nobody was injured.”

The WFP currently supplies food to 1.5 million people in Syria in all 14 of the country’s governorates, and in many parts of the country there are pockets with unknown populations which are beyond the agency’s reach because of fighting. Hadi said the WFP hoped to increase the number of recipients to 2 million this month and 2.5 million next month, but was facing a critical shortage of funding.

“If we don’t have funds in May for Syria, there will be serious problems. There will be breaks in the pipeline. Food needs a lead time to bring it in, with shipping and logistics, so we need the funds very, very soon.”

(Source / 01.03.2013)

Why Twitter actions for hunger strikers should be supported

 

#Palestinianheroes, trending on February 16#Palestinianheroes, trending on February 16It has been roughly a month since concerned citizens of the world have been gathering on Twitter every day at 2pm EST/7 pm GMT/ 9pm Palestine time, to tweet for the cause of Palestinian prisoners in administrative detention. These trending actions are initiated and maintained by activists of the Free Samer Issawi Campaign, active on Twitter under the handle@samerissawi1 and on Facebook here.

The purpose of these actions has been to mobilize world attention for those protesting against this inhumane Zionist practice through courageous hunger strikes, like Samer Issawi, Ayman Sharawneh, Tariq Qa’adan and Jaafar Azzedine.

Although in the beginning, these ‘Twitterstorms’ had only limited success, by now they have managed to become major daily rally points for citizens around the world to express their solidarity and give a voice to the hunger strikers and other prisoners. Nowadays, it not often happens that the activists fail to get their daily hashtag to trend on the Worldwide trends list.

 

#supportIssawi trending on February 8#supportIssawi trending on February 8Much of this increased success can be attributed to the involvement and support of pro-Palestine organizations and prominent activists whose participation mobilizes their adherents and supporters to join in sending tweets with the assigned hashtag of the day. This beautiful harmonious cooperation illustrates how there are still many solidarity groups who are able to rise above the level of petty criticism and factionalism. The ‘we didn’t initiate this, so we are not participating’ attitude fortunately is not as widespread as it sometimes may appear to be.

All the same, there are still activists who have a Twitter account who refuse to participate in anything that has not been sanctioned by their own group, or by the people they view as their opinion leaders. Some even venture to express their belief that these actions are counterproductive and useless. Nevertheless, in previous periods some of these same activists and groups showed no such hesitation when similar daily actions were initiated – often by these same people – for other hunger strikers such as Khader Adnan and Hanaa Shalabi.

I therefore categorically dismiss these attitudes. For example, I was never among the initiators of any of these campaigns, including the present one, but a very active participant in all. I have no degree of understanding for such attitudes, and unlike some others do not feel the need to see these actions sanctioned by any (pro-)Palestinian celebrity or organization in the world in order to feel that I am ‘allowed’ to participate.

#DefendIssawi199 trending on February 9#DefendIssawi199 trending on February 9When the ‘Twitterstorm’ is active, pro-Palestinian Twitter users are practically forced to remember those ailing in Israeli prisons. If the tag makes it to the Worldwide trends list – which it usually does – some neutral Twitter users may become curious about it. Journalists may choose to ignore what they see on that list, but still the impression will have been created in their minds that the cause of Palestinian political prisoners enjoys significant support among citizens of the world. All these effects matter. They make a difference, without the pretense of them being ground-breaking.

Will these Twitter actions magically cause the release of the hunger striking prisoners? Of course not. Do they help in maintaining and creating awareness among activists and supporters about the importance of their courageous refusal of food in Israeli jails? Of course they do. What arguments does one need to confabulate to maintain that they don’t? Have these actions been able to draw media attention to this cause? Yes indeed they have, and they have been more effective in this sense than some of the written articles in activist media, even though I would be the last one to contend that these are not of great importance as well.

I therefore wish to express my immense gratitude to those many Twitter users who, day after day, join us when we hit the Twitterwaves with hashtags calling for justice for Palestinian political prisoners. Check out the hashtags on Twitter, and you will be able to see for yourself who these wonderful people are. If you wish to join their ranks, please also read these tipswhich help make these trending actions effective.

#OpHunger200 trending on February 10#OpHunger200 trending on February 10Also, I wish to issue a call to all Palestine-supporters to endorse these trending actions, and better yet, to participate. If you are on Twitter anyway, it doesn’t require any extra effort to add the hashtag to your Palestine tweets (using copy/paste works wonders). It’s like seeing people walking in a pro-Palestine demonstration in a town, and facing the decision to either join in or continue shopping. One hour of your time will perhaps be sacrificed for a cause you already believe in – is that such a great sacrifice?

Finally, a note to the critics. Whatever your mysterious motives or arguments are against these actions, and with all due respect for your contributions to the Palestinian struggle, we have no intention whatsoever to stop doing this. If that is bad news for you, then allow me to add that I don’t feel in the least sorry for you about this. Watch the images on this page of World Trending hashtags – which is only a selection from what trended successfully – and expect many, many more of these to come.

 

Doc Jazz

 

Samer Issawi trending on February 12Samer Issawi trending on February 12#OpDignity trending on February 12#OpDignity trending on February 12

#HungryValentine trending on February 14#HungryValentine trending on February 14#IssawiRage trending on February 15#IssawiRage trending on February 15

#PalestinianHeroes trending on February 16#PalestinianHeroes trending on February 16#Issawi4Palestine trending on February 17#Issawi4Palestine trending on February 17

#ReleaseIssawi trending on February 18#ReleaseIssawi trending on February 18#PalestinianResistance trending on Feb 19#PalestinianResistance trending on Feb 19

#Justice4Issawi trending on February 21#Justice4Issawi trending on February 21#PalHungerIntifada trending on February 24#PalHungerIntifada trending on February 24

#HungerStrikerIntifada trending on Feb 25#HungerStrikerIntifada trending on Feb 25#Justice4Palestinians trending on Feb 27#Justice4Palestinians trending on Feb 27

#HungerStrikeResistance trending on Feb 28#HungerStrikeResistance trending on Feb 28#ZionismCrimesAgainstHumanity on March 1#ZionismCrimesAgainstHumanity on March 1

 

(Source / 0103.2013)

Palestinian premier says civil resistance way to statehood

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (C) reacts from tear gas fired by Israeli army during a protest marking the 8th anniversary of their campaign against the controversial Israeli barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah March 1, 2013. (Reuters)

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (C) reacts from tear gas fired by Israeli army during a protest marking the 8th anniversary of their campaign against the controversial Israeli barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah March 1, 2013.
Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad said at a protest in the West Bank on Friday that the ongoing civil resistance to Israeli occupation was the right way to achieve statehood.

He was taking part along with other Palestinian leaders in a weekly demonstration near Bilin village, which marked the eighth year of such protests by villagers against the encroachment of the Israeli barrier on their lands.

Protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers who fired tear gas, and Fayyad was forced to breathe through a cloth.

“Today we are celebrating the renewal of hope,” Fayyad said in a speech, calling what the people of Bilin had achieved in raising awareness of their struggle “a miracle.”

“Our people will not take the wrong route; they know very well by instinct and experience what brings success and what brings failure, and they will not err on the way to a Palestinian state,” he added.

Fayyad was referring to the recent rise in the number of clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army in the West Bank during demonstrations in solidarity with detainees.

The clashes, which have resulted in dozens of wounded Palestinians, revived the notion of a possible “third intifada,” but the Palestinian leadership has sought to make sure that the events do not escalate into a full-blown uprising.

“The Israelis want chaos and we know it, but we won’t let them,” Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said earlier this week.

Weekly protests against the separation barrier are held near Bilin and the nearby village of Nilin.

Clashes also took place in the northern West Bank on Friday, and a military spokeswoman told AFP that hundreds of Palestinians were throwing stones and rolling burning tires at soldiers at Kafr Qaddum, west of Nablus, and Hawwara.

The army was responding with riot dispersal means, she said, and had detained three Palestinians at Qafr Qaddum and another three at Hawwara.

In east Jerusalem, some 300 Palestinians were clashing with Israeli forces in Abu Dis, the spokeswoman added.

A similar number of Palestinians were protesting a planned road that would infringe on the lands of the village Beit Safafa, and police said eight people were arrested for blocking traffic there.

Israel began work on the barrier in 2002 at the height of the second intifada, and has defended its necessity, pointing to a drop in attacks as proof of its success.

The Palestinians says the barrier is a land grab, pointing out that when complete, 85 percent of it will have been built inside the West Bank.

The International Court of Justice ruled in a non-binding 2004 decision that parts of the barrier built inside the West Bank were illegal and should be torn down, but Israel has not complied.

In 2011, Israel changed the route of the barrier, distancing it from Bilin towards a nearby Israeli settlement, following a high court decision.

(Source / 01.03.2013)

UAE’s ENEC applies for license to build 3rd, 4th nuclear reactors

The UAE’s Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR) granted ENEC a license for the construction of the first two reactors last July. (AFP)

The UAE’s Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR) granted ENEC a license for the construction of the first two reactors last July.

The United Arab Emirates’ Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC) has applied to the Gulf Arab state’s nuclear regulator for a license to build the oil-exporting country’s third and fourth nuclear reactors, the state news agency WAM reported on Friday.

In December 2009, the OPEC member country awarded a group led by Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) a contract to build four 1,400 megawatt nuclear reactors to meet surging demand for electricity.

The UAE’s Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR) granted ENEC a license for the construction of the first two reactors last July.

The first reactor is expected to start operating in 2017, and the others by 2020.

Pouring concrete for the first reactor at the Braka site, located on the west of UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi, began last July. The same process for the second reactor is expected to begin before the middle of this year, WAM reported.

(Source / 01.03.2013)