Settlers Burn Cars, Home, Trees In Jerusalem

A group of extremist settlers torched, late on Saturday at night April 27, nine cars that belong to the United Nations in its headquarters in Jabal Al-Mokabbir, south of occupied East Jerusalem. The settlers also burnt a Palestinian car, a home and trees in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in the city, several injuries have been reported.

FIle - Maale Adumim Settlement - IMEMC
FIle – Maale Adumim Settlement

Resident Mahmoud Al-Maghrebi, told the Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) that armed extremist settlers burnt his car in Sheikh Jarrah, and also burnt a home that belongs to one of his relatives leading to excessive damage, and three injuries.

He added that a 65-year-old woman and two young men suffocated after inhaling smoke resulting from the fires, and were moved to a local hospital.

Al-Maghrebi further stated that the settlers torched gardens that belong to the Al- Maghrebi, Ja’ouni and Al-Khatib families, and that the police did not open an investigation after claiming that they have to wait for the report of the Israeli Civil Defense teams “to determine the causes of the fires”, WAFA reported.

Maisa Abu Ghazala of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center quoted UN sources in Jerusalem stating nine of the UN cars have been burnt, and that the UN refrained from revealing any further information.

Extremist Israeli settlers in occupied Palestine are responsible for hundreds of similar attacks, in addition to other attacks targeting Muslim and Christian holy sites, graveyards, and Palestinian orchards.

(Source / 28.04.2013)

Israel gives up white phosphorus, because it doesn’t photograph well

A certain air of nostalgia dominated Maarivs headline last Thursday: “Due to criticism in the world, IDF parts ways with white phosphorus”: just like the old Galil assault rifle and the old two-way radios that generations of soldiers grew familiar with. A couple of years ago we learned the IDF was giving up its cans of preserved meat (the kosher version of SPAM). Now, it’s white phosphorus that we say goodbye to.

[Twilight. The IDF and white phosphorus exchange a final gaze. A sad violin tune is heard. Curtain down.]

So the IDF is looking for a replacement for the white phosphorus bombs. A senior officer in the ground forces explained: “As we learned during Cast Lead, it [white phosphorus] doesn’t photograph well, so we are reducing the supply and we will not purchase beyond what we already have.”

“It doesn’t photograph well.” In all honesty, the man is right.

This item caught me by surprise. The IDF is giving up white phosphorus? Wait a minute; the IDF never used white phosphorus during Cast Lead. So how exactly do you give up something you we never had? Chemical weapons are something the Syrians use, no?

Okay, after a while the army did remember that it had been confused, and it did use white phosphorus, but only in open territories and not against people.

Okay, then the IDF remembered that it got it wrong again and that it did use white phosphorus in urban areas. Two hundred bombs, actually. But this was only in order to create a “smoke screen,” and there is nothing wrong with that. And if there was something wrong, it’s insignificant and unintentional, and it would be thoroughly investigated, so that no stone is left unturned.

That’s all nice and well, except that at least 12 Gazans met their horrific death this way, burned to death by white phosphorus. Among them were three women, six children and a 15-month-old baby girl. Dozens more suffered burns from the material which continues to burn through flesh and tissue until it reaches the bone. Doctors in Gaza were helpless in treating the unfamiliar burns. Israel didn’t give them time to prepare themselves; white phosphorus shells hit Al-Quds Hospital and completely burned the top two floors.

These facts were already known in the first days of Cast Lead. Human Rights Watch published a thorough investigation – one of the most thorough I have read – of Israel’s use of white phosphorus and its devastating effects. IDF soldiers who took part in the Gaza campaign also testified on the extensive use of white phosphorus, including direct fire on houses suspected of being booby-trapped (and not for “masking” purposes as the IDF later claimed).

Indeed, the outcome “didn’t photograph well,” and that’s the reason the IDF is parting ways with white phosphorous. Not, god forbid, the hell that Ghada Abu Halima went through from the moment she was burned by white phosphorous and lost five family members, up until her death two and a half agonizing months later. Ghada managed to give her testimony and to have her photo taken, which “didn’t look good,” and “burdened Israeli hasbara [propaganda],” as the Maariv reporter put it.

The lessons of Cast Lead – and more accurately, the lessons of the Goldstone committee – were already partly implemented during Operation Pillar of Cloud. The smoke that rose over Gaza five months ago wasn’t white phosphorus, but the goal was the same. Masking. So nothing is seen or photographed. It worked well with the Israeli media, which anyway doesn’t take much interest in Gaza, in war and in peace, so there is no danger that things “look bad.” It didn’t work as well with the foreign reporters, despite and perhaps because of the message the IDF sent them when its bombs knowingly targeted a press building in Gaza. Thus the gap continues to grow between Israeli self-perception and its image in the world.

Right now, someone is sitting at a drawing desk in Rafael or Elbit (Israeli arms manufacturers), trying to figure out how to invent the next magic weapon – the one that removes the idea of freedom from Gazans’ minds and at the same time, and “photographs well.” The development plan has already been approved, the budget is on its way and the pilot is only a matter of time. In the weapons lab called Gaza, testing is part of the battle. Yet this weapon will fail too — as will the one that comes after it. As long as we have eyes, nothing that Israel does in Gaza will “photograph well.” You hear that over at Rafael? Maybe you should simply cut to the heart of the problem? Right-wing groups like Im Tirzu already get it: deal with those who can see.

(Source / 28.04.2013)

Jobless man sets self-ablaze in Tunisia revolt town

In March, a Tunisian named Adel Khadri, who works as a cigarette vendor, immolated himself in Tunis. Tunisian paramedics rush to carry him.

A young jobless man set himself ablaze and was seriously wounded on Sunday in front of the town hall of Sidi Bouzid, birthplace of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, witnesses said.

Brahim Slimani, 23, doused himself with petrol and set himself alight in front of the closed town hall, to the alarm of passers-by who rushed to his rescue.

He was taken to the local hospital where doctors said he had third degree burns over three-quarters of his body.

Witnesses said the man did not utter a word before his action but a friend told AFP that he was unemployed and living in poverty.

The number of people committing suicide or trying to take their own lives has multiplied since a young Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, in a drastic act of protest against police harassment.

Mohamed Bouazizi’s death ignited a mass uprising that toppled ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali the following month and touched off the Arab Spring.

Limited economic prospects, especially in the neglected interior, were key factors behind Tunisia’s revolution. Two years on, nearly a quarter of the population lives in poverty, with unemployment at around 18 percent.

(Source / 28.04.2013)

Creeping dispossession destroys Palestinian agrarian communities

The existence of the illegal Adei Ad settlement outpost harms Palestinians not just physically but also financially, and leads to the abandonment of Palestinian villages.

Farmer and soldier (Anne Paq / Activestills)

An Israeli soldier holds a Palestinian farmer’s tools

The Israeli media stopped, in recent years, paying attention to assaults of Palestinians by settlers, unless it is a particularly severe case, such as an assault on an 80-year old farmer. One of the issues which isn’t even touched upon as far as the media is concerned – and hence, the majority of Israelis – is the fact that the outposts’ very existence often constitutes theft, quite literally.

The outpost Adei Ad, which is the case study of our new report, “The Road to Dispossession,” sits on the lands of four Palestinian villages: Al Mughayer, Qaryut, Jaloud and Turmusaya. The clearest case is that of Al Mughayer.

As we’ve seen, the creation of an outpost creates several rings of damage around it. The first ring is the territory of the outpost itself, which often grows quickly. The second ring is the outpost’s perimeter, and the third is the land which Palestinian farmers may enter just twice a year, subject to military approval and coordination. The farmers of Al Mughayer are not allowed access to their own lands, and someone found a way to take advantage of that fact: on several occasions, Israelis made their way to Al Mughayer’s olive groves and pillaged them just days before the owners received permission to work the lands. The founder of Adei Ad, Boaz Melet, was convicted of trespassing in such a case, and two other settlers are still on trial for such charges.

Enraging as these thefts may be, the major financial damage is not caused by theft but by the destruction of property and preventing access to it. The residents of the four villages complain time and again about their trees being cut down, burned, and in a few rare cases poisoned. The police’s reaction – well, there’s not much to say about it, except one fantastic sentence worth quoting: “The complaints are often general, and do not point out specific suspects.” Did you get that? The Keystone Cops are not all that good at investigating crimes, unless you point out the suspects to them.

Aside from damage to trees and land, the main offense is the result of the outpost’s very existence: a prohibition on entering substantial parts of the villages’ land. In Qaryut, they estimate yearly damage at about NIS 2 million (roughly $500,000), assuming each dunam (1/4 of an acre) generates revenues of about NIS 800 (roughly $200) per year. This calculation does not take into account the value of the land itself.

Since Adei Ad and other outposts were built on its lands, the IDF has forbidden residents of the village of Jaloud from accessing 9,937 dunams (2,455 acres); the villagers have abandoned 319 more dunams (79 acres) due to fear of violence by Israeli citizens – violence which the army is supposed to prevent but fails to (bringing to mind the old military adage that, “‘I can’t’ is just another way of saying ‘I don’t want to’”). The villagers have only about 5,965 dunams (1,474 acres) left – the worse parts of the land, hardly arable and mostly rocky. In short, most of the village’s lands were practically nationalized for the benefit of a small number of outpost dwellers. The residents of Jaloud estimate the damage they suffer to be the equivalent of NIS 6.4 million (roughly, $1.6 million), assuming each dunam generates revenues of about NIS 800 per year.

Al Mughayer used to mainly be an agricultural town; it no longer is. Whereas 500 of its residents used to make their living from agriculture, now they number about 30. Its pastures used to feed about 15,000 sheep; now fewer than 4,000 are left. The residents of Al Mughayer go out to work their lands in large groups of 15 to 20 people, so as to deter the Israeli marauders; in many cases this tactic proves inefficient. Some of the village’s land was abandoned, simply because there is no point in tilling it: Israeli citizens will destroy the crops or steal them.

All this has several more implications. As soon as it occupied the territories in 1967, Israel ceased the process of registering lands there, a process started by the British and the Jordanians. The villagers’ lands are considered to be in their possession, but not registered to them. A plot of unregistered land, which is also uncultivated because Israeli citizens (supported by the IDF) terrorize its owners, is liable to be confiscated at some point by the state and declared “public lands,” or as they are often called, “state lands.” Once they are confiscated, they are very likely to be allocated to the settlers. This, after all, is the reasonable explanation for the acts of terror: an attempt to make farmers abandon their land so that with time, it can become the property of those who dispossessed its owners.

Another reason is that an agricultural community cannot sustain itself when it is robbed of its lands. Three of the four villages – the exception being Al Mughayer – report a significant abandonment of their villages. Subsequently, in the future this will allow the official annexation of these territories to Israel – a plan openly promoted by recently elected Economy and Commerce Minister Naftali Bennet.

These acts of terrorism, carried out with the silent approval of all the Israeli authorities, are not isolated incidents and are not a coincidence. It’s a system. And when the Israel media ignores it, it tacitly collaborates with it.

(Source / 28.04.2013)

Yet Another Evacuation, and Ever More Scorched Lands

On 24 April 2013 occupation forces burnt dozens of dunums (1 dunum = 1000 m2) of grazing lands in Khirbet Samra and gave evacuation orders to three bedouins communities in the northern Jordan Valley.

Yesterday the army set fire to dozens of grazing lands in a direct attempt to prevent the Palestinian people from bringing their animals to graze there.

These orders were given to the communities of Ein Il Hilwe, Al Maleh and Khirbet Samra, affecting around 600 individuals.

On 29 April 2013 the families will be forced to leave thier homes and the surrounding areas, depending on their specific order, for a period of between 10 and 24 hours. During this time all of the affected will have to wait this out several kilometers away from their lands, many of them being forced to sleep outside in the open air, often with young children. They will not know with any centainty whether they will be allowed to return, or how the army will treat their land and their belongings in their absence.

The supposed reason that the army have given for this “necessary” evacuation is that they lands are required for military training, and thus that it will be dangerous for the communities to remain, despite not requesting the same “necessary” evacuation procedures from the surrounding settler communites. This is one of the many ways that the occupation forces use time and again to push people out of their land.

56 % of the Jordan Valley is considered by Israel to be a “firing area.” A large part of this area is inhabited by Palestinian communities who face daily harassment from the settlers and the army.

(Source / 28.04.2013)

Gunmen surround foreign ministry in Libya capital

TRIPOLI (AFP) — Gunmen on Sunday surrounded Libya’s foreign ministry demanding it be “cleansed of agents” and ambassadors of ousted dictator Moamer Gadhafi and warned they will spread their protest if their demands are not met.

The group prevented staff from entering the building in Tripoli, AFP correspondents said.

Around 30 vehicles, some mounted with anti-aircraft guns, and dozens of armed men surrounded the office, they reported.

An official, who declined to be named, admitted that the gunmen’s demands were “legitimate” but he said it did not justify “paralyzing the whole work of a ministry” and criticized the group’s “extremely offensive” behavior.

The gunmen said they wanted the ministry to be “cleansed of agents” of the former regime and stressed they will stand their ground until their demands are met.

They also warned they could spread their action to other ministries.

“Political exclusion is an obligation,” one of the gunmen said, adding that former regime officials still hold key jobs at the foreign ministry.

The General National Congress, Libya’s highest political authority, is studying proposals for a law to exclude former Gadhafi regime officials from top government and political posts.

The proposed law could affect several senior figures in the government, and has caused waves in the country’s political class.

In March, demonstrators encircled the assembly, trapping members in the building for several hours as they called for the adoption of the law.

After the siege was lifted, gunmen targeted Congress chief Mohammed Megaryef’s motorcade without causing any casualties.

Libya’s government is struggling to assert its influence across the country, where former rebels who fought Gadhafi in the 2011 uprising still control much of the territory.

(Source / 28.04.2013)

Morsi steps back from confrontation with judges

CAIRO (AFP) — President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday stepped back from a confrontation with the Egyptian judiciary over a proposed new law that would see several thousand judges sacked, proposing a conference to ease disputes.

During a meeting with judges, Morsi agreed to host a conference on Tuesday to resolve disagreements over the proposed new law that would lower the retirement age from 70 to 65, affecting nearly 3,000 judges, his spokesman said.

Morsi pledged to “personally adopt” the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting and send the amendments to the legislature, Ehab Fahmy said in a televised statement.

Morsi has repeatedly clashed with the courts since his election last June, and his supporters have staged protests demanding the judiciary be purged of loyalists of ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak who was overthrown in a 2011 uprising.

Egyptian courts have overturned several of Morsi’s decisions, including a decree to hold parliamentary elections this April and his controversial sacking of a Mubarak-era state prosecutor.

Judges spearheaded a widespread backlash against the Islamist president in November when he adopted wide-ranging powers that put his decisions above judicial review. Morsi has since repealed that decree.

(Source / 28.04.2013)

Army Bombards Southern Gaza

Sunday at dawn, April 28, 2013, the Israeli Air Force bombarded two areas west of Khan Younis, and west of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip; damage was reported but no injuries.

File - PNN
Media sources in Gaza reported that the army fired at least three missiles into an area believed to be a training center for a resistance group west of Khan Younis, and a land west of Rafah.

The sources added that several Israeli war jets were seen and heard flying over different parts of the coastal region throughout the night and during early dawn hours.

The attacks came shortly after the army claimed that a homemade shell was fired from Gaza into Nativot Israeli settlement, close to the border with Gaza, leading to no casualties or damage.

The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, reported that its training center, located west of Khan Younis, was targeted by Israeli missiles leading to excessive damage but no casualties.

A second air strike followed the first this time targeting a vacant area west of Rafah, also leading to no casualties.

(Source / 28.04.2013)

Syrian army ordered to use chemical weapons, defected general tells Al Arabiya

A former army general from the chemical weapons branch, Zahir al-Sakit, said he was instructed to use chemical weapons.

The Syrian government ordered the use chemical weapons against the Free Syrian Army (FSA) during select battles with Syrian regime forces, a defected general told Al Arabiya late Saturday.

A former army general from the chemical weapons branch, Zahir al-Sakit, said he was instructed to use chemical weapons during a regime battle with the FSA in the southwestern area of Hauran.

But instead, Sakit disobeyed the orders and swapped the chemicals with disinfectant water he called “Javel water.”

“I was given orders to execute the use of poisonous chemicals in caves and tunnels that are used by the Free Syrian Army, but I mixed all chemicals with water and used Javel water instead,” Sakit said.

According to Sakit, prior to his defection, no chemical weapons were used on his watch in battles against the FSA.

“I assure you that I ordered all chemical weapons to be buried and I can point out the exact locations of those chemicals,” Sakit added.

The U.S. and Britain have previously accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in Damascus after results of the smuggled soil samples showed presence of chemicals that were used in the capital’s suburbs.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday warned Syria that using chemical weapons would be a “game changer,” after the U.S., Israel and Britain all cited signs that the regime attacked with the deadly agent sarin.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon has called on Syria to approve a U.N. mission of inspectors to probe the alleged use of chemical weapons in the spiraling two-year conflict.

Meanwhile, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Saturday that claims chemical weapons have been used in Syria should not become a pretext for a foreign military intervention.

“If there is serious evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, it should be presented immediately and not concealed,” said Bogdanov, who is Russian President Vladmir Putin’s Middle East envoy, during a visit to Beirut.

(Source / 28.04.2013)

Israeli warplanes strike Gaza Strip

Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City, November 21, 2012.

Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City, November 21, 2012.

” Over 160 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed and about 1,200 others were injured in Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip from November 14 to 21, 2012.”

Israeli warplanes have carried out three airstrikes on Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip, witnesses say.

Palestinian witnesses said that the Israeli aircraft bombarded areas in the southern town of Khan Younis and near the town of Rafah in southern Gaza during the early hours of Sunday.

There have been no reports of casualties.

The Israeli military confirmed the airstrikes.

In early April, Tel Aviv also conducted airstrikes on Gaza for the first time since a truce ended an eight-day Israeli war on the Palestinian territory in November 2012.

Over 160 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed and about 1,200 others were injured in the Israeli attacks from November 14 to 21.

Gaza has been blockaded by Israel since June 2007, a situation that has caused a decline in the standard of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment, and unrelenting poverty.

Israel denies about 1.7 million people in Gaza their basic rights, such as adequate healthcare and education.

(Source / 28.04.2013)