Israelis Kill Palestinian on Gaza Border

W460

Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian on the border with Gaza and wounded another, sources on both sides told Agence France Presse on Sunday .

The 30-year-old man, shot east of El-Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on Saturday night, was named as Hussein Awadallah from Nuseirat refugee camp in the center of the Palestinian enclave.

A Gaza health service official said the body was returned to the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army said the man had been seen behaving suspiciously in an area close to the border fence where explosive devices had been planted in the past.

“Later on, he began crossing the fence with a suspicious object in his possession,” a military spokesman told AFP. He said that after warning shots were ignored, soldiers fired at the man.

A military source said he was subsequently found to be unarmed.

On Sunday afternoon, Palestinian medical sources said another Palestinian was shot east of Gaza City when the Israeli army opened fire at citizens near the border fence.

An Israeli military spokeswoman told AFP that a group of Palestinians had approached the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip, where “they began meddling with it while hurling rocks.”

After requests “to stop and step back,” the soldiers “fired warning shots in the air” and when the Palestinian still “failed to comply”, the troops “resorted to firing toward the lower extremities of the key instigators.”

A security source said the Palestinian was “lightly injured.”

(Source / 11.08.2013)

“All I want is my land”

Abed Abed-Rabbeh is standing on the dirt road looking anxiously at the bulldozers further up the hill. The Israeli bulldozers are digging a sewer system for the nearby illegal settlement of Har Gilo. Everyday, the bulldozers get closer and closer to the land that has belonged to his family for generations.

Abed Abed-Rabbeh (Photo by: Ida Vanhainen)
Abed Abed-Rabbeh

The Abed-Rabbeh family has been farming the land of Wallajah village since before anyone can remember. Abed grew up in a large farming family and was taught early in life the importance of the farmland.

“My grandfather use to tell me that if you take good care of the land, it will take good care of you. And it was true, we grew everything back then, zucchinis, olives, almonds and tomatoes bigger than you have ever seen.”

Situated in a lush valley with access to numerous fresh water springs, it is easy to see why this was a prosperous place. Back then, the village consisted of more than one and a half thousand people, mostly farmers, on an area of almost 2000 dunums. Since then, everything has changed.

After the Nakhba in 1948, the Green Line separating Israeli and Palestinian territory was drawn, cutting off about 70% of the old village. Even though a majority of Wallajah’s inhabitants, including the Rabbeh family, fled to live in nearby refugee camps, they kept returning by day to cultivate their land.

“The soldiers used the hilltops as watchtowers back then, shooting at my grandparents harvesting, but they kept coming back,” Abed says laughing proudly.

After the six-day-war in 1967, Israel seized the remains of the village and later started the construction of the illegal settlements Gilo and Har Gilo. Today, the Gilo Settlement houses more than 40,000 Israelis, while the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) estimates the remaining population of the Wallajah village to be no more than around 2000. In 1993, when the Oslo accord was signed, the village became Area C, and therefore under full Israeli control.

“I was raised with the resistance. I am one of the last of my brothers who kept coming back here. After the Oslo accords I started to realise that [the Israelis] were taking my land away from me bit by bit,” he explains in a more grim tone.

In 1999 Abed therefore made the decision to permanently move in to a cave-like shelter to protect his land and his crops.

“If I would move elsewhere I could be a wealthy man, now I can’t even afford a package of cigarettes, but I still have my land,” he says as he reaches out for the package we brought with us as a gift.

“They tried everything to get rid of me. First they took away the irrigation-system by transforming the springs into swimming locations for the settlers and forcing me to buy 200 NIS water tanks for my crops every month, and then they do this to the road” Abed says as he points in the direction of the dirt road now rutted by the bulldozers.

Abed has been arrested by the Israeli police several times. Last time he was arrested it was because of the door he put on his cave-residence to shelter it from the cold winter wind. This was an illegal act according to Israeli law since he did not have the permit to build anything on “Israeli land.” The postponed trial will be held in Jerusalem in September later this year.

“When I was a boy, me and my grandfather built a shelter here beneath the big almond tree. When no one saw us we used to hide away from the hot summer days there. He told me stories as the sun wandered the sky…” Abed’s storytelling fades away as he loses himself to nostalgia.

We end the interview and Abed starts showing us his crops and the richness of nature. As we get lost among leaves and berries he is smiling like a boy. I begin to realise that Abed’s love for his land stretches beyond political activism; it is a part of him.

Before we leave, Abed gives us a handful of sun-warmed plums and says: “I’m a peaceful man with nothing against the Israelis, we are all humans. All I want is my land.”

Abed’s story is a story of resistance, but also a story of a simple man, just waiting for his tomatoes to ripen as the bulldozers move closer.

(Source / 11.08.2013)

Welcome to Palestine: tear gas and coffee

I came to Palestine last Tuesday and joined the weekly protest held on Friday the 8th of August in Kafr Qaddum. The demonstration represented non-violent resistance against the land grab and for the freedom of movement in the village. Kafr Qaddum was my first demonstration in Palestine in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, self-determination, human rights and international law.

Tear gas spread throughout the village (Photo by Al Masira Kafr Qaddum )
Tear gas spread throughout the village

In the past years the village has gone through several attacks by Israeli soldiers and police who raid the village in the night, threatening the population. Even children under 18 years old are menaced with arrest and when arrested, are beaten along with other Palestinians.

Yesterday as we got off the service (shared taxi), soldiers started firing tear gas and sound bombs directly at protesters. They had invaded the village and chased after Palestinians and several international and Israeli activists throughout the village. Even though I knew the answer I asked two international comrades who were there with me: ‘has the demo begun?’ – ‘No, that’s the pre-demo.’ I can now easily reply to anybody asking me the same. Actually, since early that morning soldiers and police (with at least three jeeps) had entered the village, scaring people and filling the air with so much gas people could hardly breathe.

After one of the first clashes between the Palestinian youth and the soldiers had begun, everyone started running everywhere trying to protect themselves as best as possible. I ran like a hare, taking shelter in a Palestinian house where I was welcomed by a beautiful Palestinian woman dressed in white. A Palestinian man (I understood later he was her son, living in Dubai and returned to the village for the Eid holiday) and a bunch of children all of different ages, from three to 11 years old were also in the house.

I went up onto the roof where children behaved as “special watchers” running from one corner to another following the soldiers’ movements and screaming when they were throwing tear gas canisters and alerting the shebab (Arabic word for Palestinian youth) hiding in different areas of the village. I was offered a cup of coffee which I accepted with joy, longing for something strong and needing to drink so much because I couldn’t make enough saliva.

Kafr Qaddum is a small village situated near the top of a hill facing the illegal settlement of Qedumin, which was established on Palestinian land and has been expanding to take over more privately owned Palestinian land. Furthermore the road to Nablus from the village was shut by the army with a roadblock in 2003 and this obstruction means an extra 14 kilometres distance to travel out of the village. The journey is emblematic of the restriction of movement imposed by the Israeli authorities on Palestinians in the West Bank.
The man started questioning me about the international presence in the village, showing he was curious about us, especially about why we decided to leave our own countries and come to Palestine struggling beside Palestinians in support of “another population’s cause”. He was puzzled but happy when I replied that it is our duty to act and stand up for Palestinians and that we speak out for them not only because as internationals we think they all have a right to resist, but as we are all human beings, we should take part in this cause for freedom and speaking out against ongoing violations of human rights amongst many oppressions that the Palestinians have been subjected to for more than 60 years. As we are generally Europeans or Western citizens coming from countries that strongly support Israeli apartheid through economic, cultural and institutional ties, we have the duty to speak out and stand up for international law and the human rights of Palestinians, with the best of efforts.

After the conversation, I joined comrades once again as the struggle was still going on. The demonstration ended but this time the soldiers and police were stopped from arresting protesters but not from injuring people. Children aged 4, 6 and 7 years old and a 75 year old woman suffered badly from tear gas inhalation when it was thrown and shot directly into their homes.

This is the daily life for Palestinians. This is their enduring resistance. Long live Palestine!

(Source / 11.08.2013)

Israel ‘destroying Palestinian peace talks’ with plans to build 1,200 more settler homes

Samia Nasser (left), the wife of Muhammad Ibrahim Nasser who has been jailed in Israel’s Ramon Prison since 1985, waits for the announcement of the final list of prisoners who will be released at her home in the West Bank village of Safa near Ramallah.

Samia Nasser (left), the wife of Muhammad Ibrahim Nasser who has been jailed in Israel’s Ramon Prison since 1985, waits for the announcement of the final list of prisoners who will be released at her home in the West Bank village of Safa near Ramallah.

RAMALLAH //Israel was accused yesterday of destroying new Palestinian peace talks before they begin with plans to build 1,200 more settler homes on occupied land.

The settler announcement overshadowed the expected release tomorrow of 26 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

It was also a calculated snub to the US secretary of state John Kerry, who brokered talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders expected to resume in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

“No country in the world takes orders from other countries about where it can and cannot build,” the Israeli housing minister Uri Ariel said.

Jewish settlements are a major obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state. The last round of peace talks in 2010 collapsed because the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, refused to stop building them.

Israel is trying to “destroy the negotiations before they start and destroy the principle of the two-state solution”, the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

His deputy, Mohammed Shtayeh, accused Israel using “peace negotiations as a smoke screen for more settlement construction”.

Mr Erekat stopped short of threatening to boycott Wednesday’s meeting but the new settlement plans infuriated other Palestinians, including Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

“The leadership, including Abbas, are extremely angry,” a PLO official said. He said news of the settler expansion plans broke just after the Palestinian leader met Washington’s special envoy to the peace talks, Martin Indyk, in his Ramallah compound.

“I don’t think Indyk had any idea that Israel was going to announce this,” the official said.

More than 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which along with the Gaza Strip were captured by Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Their presence on land wanted for a future Palestinian state, and the basis on which its borders would be decided, were among the hurdles to resuming the peace talks, in which israel is being represented by its justice minister, Tzipi Livni, and Isaac Molcho, a confidant of Mr Netanyahu.

Officials on both sides held preliminary discussions last month with Mr Kerry in Washington, at which they agreed to nine months of talks for concluding a peace deal.

The secretary of state has vested considerable amounts of American effort and prestige in resuming peace talks, having visiting the region six times since the beginning of the year to cajole Israeli and Palestinian officials back to talks.

Part of the inducements he offered for a Palestinian return to negotiations was persuading Israel to release from jail 104 Palestinians who have been held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords. The first of the four phases of that release is scheduled for tomorrow, and the Israeli cabinet met yesterday to select the first 26 prisoners to hand over to the Palestinians.

To accommodate Mr Netanyahu and his pro-settlement government, Mr Kerry appears to have successfully persuaded Mr Abbas to drop his key demand – a halt to settler construction.

He also appears to have persuaded the Palestinian leader to drop his other demand – that Israel use as a basis for negotiations the borders that existed before the 1967 war.

(Source  / 11.08.2013)

Hamas security forces crack down on Fatah in Gaza

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Hamas security forces have launched an arrest campaign against Fatah leaders and affiliates in the Gaza Strip, Fatah said in a statement on Sunday.

Hamas security forces raided the home of Fatah official Abed al-Aziz al- Maqadma on Thursday, confiscating his computer and mobile phone.

He was taken to internal security headquarters in northern Gaza, where he is still being detained.

Hamas security forces also detained Fatah officials Issa Darwish and Hussein Abu Hilayel on Friday, with both officials still being held for unknown reasons.

Abed al-Jawad Ziyada, Walid Sbeih, Jalil Ishteiwi, and Raed Abu Hussein were summoned for questioning for participating in Fatah activities.

Fatah said the arrests were flagrant assaults and violate previous arrangements made during reconciliation talks, which agreed to end to politically motivated arrests.

The party called on Hamas to end all violations against its members.

A Fatah MP on Friday warned of an impending security campaign by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, after its security forces raided the homes of several Fatah leaders in the enclave.

Majed Abu Shamallah said Hamas forces raided the home of Khalil Abu Hasna, the executive director of the National Commission for Development and Islamic Solidarity, early Friday morning.

The MP said Hamas forces confiscated Abu Hasna’s cell phone, laptop, documents and his children’s iPad.

(Source / 11.08.2013)

Thousands of Algerians protest spate of militant attacks

AZZEFOUN, Algeria (AP) – Thousands of Algerians have taken to the streets in a northern coastal town where three police officers were recently killed to denounce a spate of militant attacks.

The protesters paraded peacefully on Sunday through the streets of Azzefoun, about 150km east of the capital, Algiers, in a region known as an Al-Qaeda hideout. The demonstrators’ signs said they refused to submit to “fundamentalist blackmail” or a “terrorist fate”.

But they also criticised the government for failing to protect the town’s citizens.

Three police officers were shot dead in a militant ambush in Azzefoun last week. It was the third militant attack in a week in the Kabylie region, the last Algerian hideout for Al-Qaeda, which has been largely defeated in the rest of the North African country.

(Source / 11.08.2013)

Palestinians Oppose Fake Peace Talks

palestineflag

They begin Tuesday in Washington. They’re orchestrated to fail. Israel and America don’t negotiate. They demand unconditional surrender.

PA coup d’etat president Abbas is a longtime collaborator. Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat’s a convenient stooge.

He, Abbas and other PA conspirators represent Israel, not Palestine. They’re well rewarded for doing so. Their history reflects duplicity and betrayal. They enforce Israeli harshness.

On July 28, Addameer headlined “The Palestinian Authority police thwart demonstration in Ramallah against political negotiations; arresting four and attacking dozens of demonstrators, among them Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar.”

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) activists resist occupation. They challenge repression.

They accuse Israel of “brutal aggression against our people – murder, destruction, assassination, house demolitions, the uprooting of trees, land expropriation, settlement expansion, the continued construction of the Apartheid Wall, a suffocating political and economic siege, torture, and massive oppression.”

They support right over wrong. Israel calls them terrorists. They’re heroic. They encourage public opposition to fake talks. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, demonstrated peacefully.

They did so against Abbas’ “willingness to concede against the position of the Palestinian national consensus and even the decisions of the PLO institutions themselves.”

About 200 participants marched, said PFLP. They waived Palestinian flags. They support prisoner rights. Thousands of political ones languish in Israel’s gulag. It’s harsh. It’s merciless. It’s one of the world’s worst.

They protested against forfeiting Palestinian rights. They headed for Abbas’ presidential (al-Moqataa) compound.

PA police blocked them. They attacked them. They did so violently. They beat them. They targeted men and women. Many were hospitalized.

According to Addameer:

“The actions of the police were a deliberate, premeditated attack on peaceful demonstrators that included members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), such as Khalida Jarrar, who also acts as the Chair for the committee on prisoners in the PLC.”

“According to our research team, once the demonstration dispersed, the police went to Ramallah Hospital to prosecute the injured, and arrested at least three, without allowing them to receive appropriate treatment.”

“One other demonstrator has reportedly been arrested as well.”

“Addameer considers the police forces’ egregious acts today as an illustration of the continuing political suppression that the PA practices against the Palestinian people despite their right to express their refusal of the PA’s policies.”

Addameer strongly condemned the attack. Doing so violates Palestinian Basic Law. It spurns Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), stating:

“The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

ICCPR’s Article 18 (1) states:

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

“This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

Article 19 (1) and (2) state:

“Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.”

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

On July 28, PFLP officials denounced what happened. They blamed Abbas for ordering brute force, saying:

He acted “contrary to the decisions of Palestinian national institutions, including the PLO Central Council – and reflects a culture of recklessness, irresponsibility, lack of accountability, and disregard for the law and the national traditions of our people.”

They demand “those who ordered and implemented this violence be held accountable for their actions.”

They added that this protest initiates a “popular movement” against occupation harshness. It’s a “struggle for Palestinian rights.” It’s about “creating an alternative national strategy of resistance.”

It’s “to achieve the rights of our people.” It’s for diaspora Palestinians right of return. It’s for long denied “self-determination, independence, sovereignty, and our capital in Jerusalem.”

PFLP said hundreds marched in Ramallah. Others protested in Gaza. They’re tired of betrayal. They want leaders representing them.

According to PFLP leader Maher al-Taher:

“The primary goal of the US and Israel in this return to negotiations is to prevent the explosion of the situation in Palestine in the face of the occupation, and to cut the route to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court to prosecute the leaders of Zionist terrorism.”

Taher urged Palestinians everywhere to “reject and condemn” what’s planned. Talks benefit Israel and America. They harm Palestinians. They’ve done so for decades.

PFLP official Mariam Abu Daqqa urged a popular “campaign to reject the return to negotiations, involving the masses of the Palestinian people and pressuring Palestinian officials to not go to Washington.”

Palestinian rights are inalienable, she said. They won’t be bargained away. They won’t be traded for money or special privileges.

They won’t bring “economic peace. Palestine is Palestine from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) Sea.”

“Palestinian refugees will return.” Another Oslo won’t be tolerated. Resistance will continue against “impose(d) submission, settlements, normalization, and absurd negotiations.”

A Final Comment

Israel media said cabinet ministers agreed to release 104 longterm  Palestinian prisoners. They include 14 Arab citizens. Implementation will be in four stages. Initial ones are affected within weeks. Others will come out in groups over nine months.

A previous article explained a duplicitous process. Concessions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Pledges are systematically broken. It’s longstanding Israeli policy.

Israel holds thousands of political prisoners. More are arrested regularly. Hundreds may replace dozens released. Freed prisoners are ruthlessly hounded.

Many are rearrested. Their families and friends are threatened. They don’t have a moment’s peace. They’re denied free movement. They remain prisoners in their own country.

Palestinians have been persecuted for decades. Rogue PA officials share responsibility. This time’s no different. Betrayal’s virtually certain. It’s preordained.

It’s happening while Israel wages war. It’s brutalizing Gazans and West Bank residents. On July 28, Israeli radio’s Arabic service said warplanes again bombed Syria.

It’s the fifth time since January. Trucks allegedly carrying Syrian missiles were targeted. Washington supports Israeli aggression. Ban Ki-moon’s indifferent. He one-sidedly supports Israel. He always has. So do Western leaders.

Israel talks peace. It wages war. It’s longstanding Israeli policy. Rogue states operate that way. Israel’s one of the worst.

(Source / 11.08.2013)

Sri Lanka Buddhist mob attacks Colombo mosque

Special Task Force commandos stand guard outside a vandalised mosque in Colombo on 11 August 2013 Hardline Buddhist groups have mounted a campaign against Muslim and Christian targets

A Buddhist mob has attacked a mosque in the Grandpass area of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, leaving at least five people injured.

Buddhists and Muslims clashed after the attack, and police imposed a curfew in the area.

Last month, a group of Buddhist monks had protested near the mosque, demanding it be relocated.

In recent months, hardline Buddhist groups have mounted a campaign against Muslim and Christian targets.

Several houses were also damaged in Saturday’s clashes. Two of the injured were policemen guarding the mosque.

A Muslim resident of the area said that a mob threw stones at the mosque when worshippers were performing evening prayers, the BBC’s Azzam Ameen reports from Colombo.

The police and special task force commandos were dispatched to the area and have been able to bring the situation under control, a police spokesman told the BBC.

Buddhists monks had reportedly protested against the presence of the mosque but had agreed to allow Muslims to continue praying there until the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

Damaged houses in GrandpassSeveral houses were also damaged in Saturday’s clashes

But area Muslims says Sri Lanka’s religious affairs ministry had given them permission to continue using the site and had also provided special police security due to the threat of possible attacks.

Fears of persecution

The past year has seen mounting religious tension in the country as hardline Buddhist groups have attacked mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, as well as churches and clergy.

In February, one group also called for the abolition of the Muslim halal system of certifying foods and other goods.

Buddhist hardliners accuse Muslims and Christians of promoting extremism and trying to convert Buddhists to their own faiths.

Both Muslims and Christians have denied the accusations, correspondents report.

The Buddhist Sinhalese community makes up three-quarters of Sri Lanka’s population of 20 million.

During Sri Lanka’s bitter civil war, the Muslims – a small Tamil-speaking minority, about 9% of the population – kept a low profile, but many now fear that ethnic majority hardliners are trying to target them.

(Source / 11.08.2013)

Three Displaced Rohingyas Kidnapped by Myanmar’s Security Force

Akyab (Sittway), Arakan– Around 11:20 PM on 10th August 2013 night, Hlun Tin (Myanmar’s Security Force) kidnapped three displaced Rohingyas from the village of Baariza Fara (Ohn Daw Gyi), Akyab (Sittway). Nothing has been heard of them since then.

A local Rohinya witness reported the account as follows.

“At 11:20PM last night, Hlun Tin (Secuirty Force) abducted three Rohingyas who were trying to enter the village of Baariza Fara (Ohn Daw Gyi). Then, they were forced to strip off their clothes and to put on Hlun Tin uniforms. So, they were made to look similar to and take after Hlun Tin Force. Then, they were abducted without much notice of their fellow Rohingyas.

Taking some photographs of these three Rohingyas in uniform, Hlun Tin, then, took them to Set-Ro-Ja river nearby Ohn Daw Gyi. There, Hlun Tin handed them over to some Rakhine terrorists from the village of Paing-Lan-Pyin. The three Rohingyas are:

1)    Hla Maung S/o Hussain Ahmed (Age-32)

2)    Ismail S/o Yusuf (Age-42)

3)    Abdul Hussain S/o Arno Meah (Age-21)

Afterwards that, we don’t know where they were taken to by the Rakhine terrorists. Till date, they have been out of contact. Nothing has been heard of them since then. We feel that they might probably killed by the Rakhine terrorists.”

Meanwhile, another Rohingya [from the camps of Baariza Fara (Ohn Daw Gyi)] died in Sittway government hospital around 4 O’ Clock on 11th August 2013 morning. He was, Jamal Hussain S/o Ezhar Meah (Age-50), one of those who got injured during the shoots out by the security in the camps of Badua Dayl (Baw Du Pha) and Barriza Fara (Ohn Daw Gyi).

 

Release all Rohingya Elders, Intellectuals and others arrested arbitrarily

Release all Rohingya Elders, Intellectuals and others arrested arbitrarily

(Source / 11.08.2013)

Assad sends air force to prevent rebel advances in home province

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Warplanes bombed a village in Syria’s north overnight in an apparent effort by President Bashar al-Assad to prevent rebels fighting him from advancing on communities in the stronghold region of his Alawite sect.

Assad’s forces are on the defensive in his family’s home province of Latakia, and recent rebel gains across northern Syria, including a military air base captured last week in Aleppo province, have further loosened his grip on the country.

Assad controls much of southern and central Syria, while insurgents hold northern areas near the Turkish border and along the Euphrates valley towards Iraq. The northeast corner of the pivotal Arab state is now an increasingly autonomous Kurdish region. (http://link.reuters.com/puw22v)

The mainly Sunni Muslim insurgents are battling to overthrow Assad, whose minority Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, in a civil war which erupted two years ago when mainly peaceful protests against his rule were put down with force.

As many as 20 people were killed in the air strikes on the village of Salma, including 10 civilians, six Syrian fighters and four foreign fighters, the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said on Saturday.

Amateur video footage posted on the Internet showed a large apartment block with all its outside walls blown out. Men, some in military fatigues, were seen loading bodies onto a pickup truck.

Salma is a Sunni village in the Jabal Akrad mountain range which overlooks the Mediterranean. Salma-based rebel forces comprised of mainly Islamist brigades, including two al Qaeda-linked groups, have killed hundreds in offensives this month and have seized several Alawite settlements.

Rebels captured the religiously-mixed village of Kharratah two miles (three km) south of Salma, video posted online by rebels on Friday showed. The insurgents could be seen walking around the village, surrounded by green fields and orchards. No civilians could be seen and houses appeared to be empty.

ALAWITE REGIONAL STRONGHOLD AT STAKE

Assad has deployed extra forces in the region and the air raids reflected an urgent priority to protect the main region of his Alawite sect – 12 percent of Syria’s 21 million people.

The president’s forces have also been pushing to retake lost ground in neighbouring Aleppo province, where insurgents have made significant headway over the past few weeks.

After the rebel capture last month of Khan al-Assal, a town southwest of Aleppo city, activists said on Saturday soldiers killed 12 civilians, including a woman, in a nearby town.

The government accuses rebels of executing 123 people in Khan al-Assal and activists say the killing in Tabara al-Sakhani, 12 miles (20 km) to the south, could have been retaliatory.

Rebel-controlled districts of Aleppo city, once Syria’s commercial hub but now partly reduced to rubble by the conflict, were also bombarded by army artillery, the Observatory said.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in the 28-month conflict and 1.7 million Syrians have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries, the United Nations says.

Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for more than four decades, has relied on Alawite-led army units and security forces from the start, but has turned increasingly to loyalist militia armed and funded by Damascus to fight the rebels.

He has also enjoyed staunch support from Middle East Shi’ite powerhouse Iran, neighbouring Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah movement and the Assads’ longtime arms supplier Russia.

His fragmented foes have received little military aid from Western powers that want Assad removed but are wary of the growing presence of radical Islamists in the rebel ranks.

(Source / 11.08.2013)