Hamas exposes details of Kerry-Abbas meeting in Amman

Al Qassam website- Gaza- Hamas has warned of the serious implications of the ongoing negotiations between the PA and the occupation fearing that such negotiations will culminate in a second Oslo accord in which the PA will recognize the occupation as Jewish state and the latter will recognize a Palestinian state with borders that will be agreed after complete normalization of relations with all Arab countries.

Hamas published a report about the details of the serious outcomes of the two meeting held between U.S. envoy John Kerry and PA president Mahmoud Abbas during July in Amman.

According to the report, the resumption of talks will end the historical Palestinian-Israeli conflict in addition to normalizing the relations between the Arab league and the Israeli occupation in return of recognizing a Palestinian state within borders to be agreed upon.

The report pointed out that the Israeli-Palestinian talks will last between three to nine months without pre-conditions, noting that Jordan also participates in meetings relating to refugees, Jerusalem and borders issues.

The borders will be declared by the negotiating parties and based on land exchange plan between the PA and Israel, the report added, noting that settlement construction plans will be frozen except the large settlement schemes located in the vicinity of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley.

The intended agreement will provide the Israeli settlers in the frozen settlements with the Palestinian or Israeli citizenship or both together, while it will allow some Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza to reunite, others will be encouraged to immigrate to Arab countries, especially Gulf States and those countries will be “convinced” to issue them with citizenship.

According the agreement, east Jerusalem will be under international, Palestinian, Israeli, and Jordanian administration for ten years. Some prisoners who served more than 20 years in Israeli jails and do not pose a security threat will be released.

PA president Mahmoud Abbas will call for legislative and presidential elections in the West Bank just after the peace talks resumption.

The report pointed out that Abbas has sent on July 7 Dr. Nabil Shaath to Moscow secretly and urgently to inform the Russian leadership by the new agreement where he got a Russian preliminary approval.

Hamas has got these exclusive details from sources that have participated in the meetings between the Palestinian and Israeli parties and Kerry.

(Source / 15.08.2013)

INCREASING DISAFFECTION WITH JIHADISTS AS THEY DRIVE FSA OUT OF RAQQAH AND DETAIN OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS IN ALEPPO

By Peter Clifford             ©                   (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-2/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Many Opposition supporters in Syria are becoming increasingly disaffected with and alarmed at the behaviour of the extreme Islamist group The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

ISIS consists mainly of foreign fighters whose philosophy and aim is to declare an Islamic state consisting of Syria, Iraq and Palestine (known as Sham or greater Syria) strictly controlled by orthodox Sharia law.

To give you an idea of what this would be like, ISIS have already detained men and held them incarcerated for a few days because “they were not praying properly”.

Raqqah Was the First Entire City to Fall to the Opposition

Raqqah Was the First Entire City to Fall to the Opposition

Effectively, if Jihadists like ISIS take over Syria, the population will be swopping one dictatorship of the extreme right for one on the religious right which would be equally, if not more, brutal.

Activists already believe that ISIS are holding hundreds of Opposition supporters in their detention centres.

In Raqqah, the only city in Syria completely controlled by the anti-Assad Opposition, things came to head between this week after a series of violent clashes between ISIS and the local FSA battalion, the Ahfad Al-Rasul Brigade, a number of fighters killed on both sides.

On Wednesday night, local citizens of Raqqah demonstrated infront of the ISIS headquarters in the central square calling for an end to the fighting between the 2 armed groups, who are ostensibly both supposed to be fighting the Assad regime, though Ahfad al-Rasul has accused ISIS of working with the Syrian Government.

During the demonstration shots were fired from the ISIS HQ at the unarmed demonstrators and some were injured, HERE:

Wednesday night’s demonstration followed others over the last few weeks by local people demanding that ISIS release numerous detainees, including members of Raqqah’s civil society who were attempting to put a new civilian administration in place to run the city for the benefit of all.  ISIS clearly has other ideas.

Late on Tuesday, Jihadists from ISIS detonated a car bomb infront of an Ahfad Al-Rasul command post in the city, killing 5 of their fighters, and have since gone on to drive Ahfad Al-Rasul from all the positions they held in the northern suburbs of the city, killing many of the FSA fighters.

“They wanted to take our munitions and weapons,” an official from Ahfad Al-Rasul has said and to “take over the whole city”. Surviving members of Ahfad Al-Rasul units have now retreated to the Raqqah countryside.

It is almost certain, according to activist reports, that they have executed Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a well respected pro-revolution Catholic priest who had met with ISIS in Raqqah in early August to negotiate the release of detained activists.

There are also reports that ISIS is responsible for the disappearance of the anti-Assad activist, Abu Mayam, well known for his chants at weekly protests in the city of Aleppo.  Activists have staged protests infront of the gates of the ISIS headquarters in the eastern part of Aleppo city, calling for his release.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com.syria-news

Jihadists Trying to Take Control in Syira

The Jihadists groups like ISIS and their sister group Jabhat Al-Nusra, initially welcomed in Syria, have been particularly successful in the current conflict for 4 main reasons.

Firstly, because of their deeply held religious beliefs they are disciplined and obey orders and secondly, they are brave and fearless believing that death is martyrdom which will be instantly rewarded in heaven.

Thirdly, they have received large amounts of money from religious donors outside Syria, enabling them to buy substantial quantities of weapons. And fourthly, they are very good at ingratiating themselves with the poorer, and perhaps more pious, members of Syrian society by freely distributing money, food and essential supplies such as full butane gas tanks for cooking and heating.

For some of these reasons, the Jihadists have also been more successful in taking control of Opposition areas in northern Syria than in the south, where educational levels are sometimes higher and the FSA have better access to arms supplies directly from Jordan. There is an excellent article by Michael Weiss on this, recommended reading, HERE:

OPPOSITION FIGHTERS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF ASSAD’S DISTRACTION IN LATAKIA BY STEPPING UP RAIDS IN IDLIB, HAMA AND DEIR EL-ZOUR:

In Hama province on Tuesday, as many as 18 Opposition fighters were killed near the town of Morek after Government forces shelled their positions and hit ammunition stockpiles. Opposition fighters have been more active in Hama province in recent weeks, combining together to attack Government installations.

Hama province is also adjacent to Homs, and Morek sits astride the main highway between Homs and Aleppo.  By controlling Morek, the Opposition has been able to prevent Assad reinforcing his units in Aleppo.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Revolutionary Art in Northern Syria – RYK

Further north in Idlib province, Opposition fighters intensified their attacks on a former brick factory yesterday, Wednesday, which has been used as a major Assad base for months. This was followed, shortly after midnight in the early hours of this morning, Thursday, by the exploding of a bulldozer filled with TNT at the gates of the factory.

The explosion produced a huge fire-ball that was seen and heard across the towns and villages of central Idlib. If the Opposition can take this site, one of the few remaining that Assad holds in the province, then the way will be clear to attack Idlib city.

Also in Idlib province, Opposition fighters are reported to have raided the Syrian Army base at Al-Hamidiya near Ma’arat Al-Numan, storming the site and capturing heavy weapons and ammunition before retreating.  A number of Syrian Army rocket launchers near Ma’arat Al-Numan are also reported destroyed by Opposition action.

Another excellent article of recommended reading, from Robin Yassin-Kassab in the Guardian, on a journey to Kafranbel, the Opposition held town famous for its pithy cartoons and comment, HERE:

In Aleppo city Opposition fighters have destroyed a Government tank near the Hanano barracks, while in the suburbs there are continuing reports of clashes between the FSA and Kurdish militia units resulting in the death of an Opposition commander and several fighters.

Activists are also reporting today, Thursday, that Jihadists have executed 2 young Shia men from the Opposition besieged  Shiite-majority towns of Nubul and Zahra north of Aleppo city.

In Deraa province to the far south, progress by Opposition forces is still being made and currently, under heavy regime bombardment, they are still attempting to advance from Naima into the eastern entrances of Deraa city.

In Latakia, the Opposition forces are still holding their own, with the Syrian Army making little progress at dislodging them from the villages they occupy.  Numerous airstrikes have been made against the Sunni village of Salma and heavy fighting, with many dead on both sides, has been reported around the villages of Ubin and Aramo.

While the Assad regime are having difficulties deploying tanks in mountainous terrain, the Opposition seem well equipped, launching Grad missiles from the Latakia highway against Syrian Army positions.

The Opposition are additionally making good progress in Deir El-Zour and have been backed up by reinforcements from other areas. In this video a vehicle bomb destroyed a Syrian Army post within the grounds of a private school, HERE: and these buildings were filmed burning in the Hwieyqa district where most of the current fighting is taking place, HERE:

SIEGE OF HOMS CONTINUES, BUT ANOTHER ASSAD AIRCRAFT REPORTED DESTROYED OVER THE DAMASCUS COUNTRYSIDE:

In Homs the Government siege continues on Opposition held areas which are almost completely surrounded, but some pressure has been removed with Assad needing to turn his attention, and troops, to the attack on Latakia, the family heartland. This map shows the current position, Opposition held areas in Green.  Click HERE, courtesy of @dawnslight6,  for a larger version.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Syria Map of Opposition Regime Areas in Homs

In Hasakah province to the north-east, ISIS is continuing its attacks on the Kurdish militia in control of the Turkish border town of Ras Al-Ain, from where they were driven out last month, and there are reports of frequent clashes between the two sides throughout the region.

In Damascus, the Government continues to fire rockets into the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in an attempt to dislodge Opposition fighters and has kept up a bombardment on most of the Sunni suburbs of the capital, but without any signs that the regime is making any real “progress”.  Opposition brigades seem well equipped and strong enough to resist the barrage.

In the Damascus countryside Opposition fighters overran the ceramics factory at Adra being used by the Syrian Army as a base and destroyed portraits of Assad at the earliest opportunity, HERE:

This afternoon, Thursday, there are also new reports that Opposition fighters have shot down another Assad aircraft over the Khalkhala Military Airport in East Ghouta in the Damascus countryside.

In a vain attempt at creating an air of “normality” the Assad regime has lifted restrictions on the sale of foreign currency to private individuals but it must be purchased at banks at “rates fixed by the central bank”.

A UN team charged with investigating chemical weapons attacks has at last, after much prevarication, arrived in Damascus to start its work.

And Ahmed Jarba, the President of the Opposition Syrian National Council, SNC, has called for the unification of Opposition fighters into a force that could eventually become a national army.

This has been met with rage by Jihadists and criticism even within the SNC, some thinking that the move is too premature.

“We need this army so that it becomes the foundation of a new army, that has air defense capabilities… tanks, logistical support, medical units,” said Jabra. The SNC has also been working on a plan for contingency measures and a new state once the Assad regime falls.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Destruction in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp

Abbas says ‘all issues’ raised in talks with Israel

RAMALLAH (AFP) — President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday all key issues were discussed at a new round of peace talks with Israel, but he declined to elaborate because of an agreed news blackout.

“We can’t speak now about what happened,” he told a joint press conference with UN chief Ban Ki-moon at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

At the request of Washington, Israel and the Palestinians have so far maintained a strict news blackout on the US-brokered talks.

“We discussed the issues which are always on the table: borders, Jerusalem, settlements,” Abbas said.

“Until now we didn’t speak about what happened (in the talks) and when there is something we shall tell you.”

Ban, who arrived from Jordan, called upon both sides to avoid actions which could disrupt the fragile negotiations, which resumed on Wednesday in Jerusalem after a three-year hiatus.

In Amman earlier, he urged Israelis and Palestinians to show “patience” to give the peace talks a chance of success, Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency reported.

He “called on the Israelis and the Palestinians to have patience and do all that they can for the success of their negotiations and achieve the needed progress with the help of the international community.”

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met for around five hours on Wednesday in a new round of direct peace talks, which broke down in September 2010 in a bitter row over Jewish settlements.

The United States has been prodding the sides for several months to return to the negotiating table.

Ban, who is to meet both Israel’s prime minister and president on Friday, said he was pleased “to visit the state of Palestine.”

The UN General Assembly on November 29 upgraded Palestine to the status of non-member observer state by a vote of 138 votes in favour, nine against and 41 abstentions.

The Palestinian Authority now uses the “State of Palestine” in diplomatic correspondence and has issued official stamps for the purpose.

Israel maintains that Palestinian statehood can only be obtained through a negotiated settlement of their decades-old conflict.

In Jordan, Ban met with King Abdullah II to discuss the peace process and the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled to the kingdom, the palace said.

He “stressed he is committed to working with the international community in order to increase aid to Jordan and help minimize the burden of dealing with the Syrian refugees,” it said in a statement.

Ban is on a tour of Jordan, Israel and Palestine aimed at buttressing the peace process.

(Source / 15.08.2013)

Israel’s Sweden ambassador compares Palestinian prisoners to mass killer Breivik

The ambassador’s remarks have caused a storm in Sweden, and have garnered harsh criticism from the families of Breivik’s victims.

Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.

Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.

The Israeli ambassador in Stockholm, Isaac Bachman, speaking to Swedish government radio Tuesday, compared Israel’s release of 26 Palestinian prisoners to releasing right-wing extremist Anders Breivik, who was responsible for the massacres on the Norwegian island of Utøya in 2011.

The ambassador’s remarks have caused a storm in Sweden, and have garnered harsh criticism from the families of Breivik’s victims.

“The horrors that [the Palestinian prisoners] did, to put it in a Scandinavian understanding, it’s like what happened in Norway with Breivik,” said Bachman, explaining that Israel has not received enough credit from the international community for releasing the prisoners.

“Imagine if Breivik was released as a gesture of some sort,” he added, explaining that Israel was not getting enough credit for agreeing to the release. “Research has shown that these people will return to crime. It’s not easy to get public support for releasing these people.”

According to the Swedish English-language news website TheLocal.se, both survivors of Breivik’s massacre and family members of the victims have expressed outrage over the Israeli ambassador’s comments.

“I think it is ridiculous to compare this with a mass murderer from Norway,” Trond Blattmann, whose son Torjusdatter was killed when Breivik opened fire on Utøya, told The Local. “There’s no similarity at all. This is a ridiculous way to talk.”

Bjørn Ihler, who survived the massacre by hiding from Breivik, also said that the comparison “does not make sense.”

“Breivik was a solo terrorist whose actions were based purely on an unreal situation. The situation in the Middle East is very different. There is a real fight for Palestinian freedom going on,” said Ihler.

In July 2011, Breivik traveled to the Norwegian Island of Utøya, near Oslo, to an event being held at a Workers’ Youth League summer camp. Breivik wandered about the island before perpetrating the massacre that claimed the lives of 77 young boys and girls. It took a whole hour for police to arrive on the scene and arrest him. In addition to the shooting on Utøya, Breivik rigged a car bomb next to government offices in Oslo. Eight people were killed in the blast. In August 2012, Breivik was convicted and sentenced to 21 years in jail — the maximum punishment for murder according to Norwegian law.

(Source / 15.08.2013)

Cairo massacre: After today, what Muslim will ever trust the ballot box again?

This marks a tragic turning point, from which it will take Egypt years to recover

The Egyptian crucible has broken. The “unity” of Egypt – that all-embracing, patriotic, essential glue that has bound the nation together since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952 and the rule of Nasser – has melted amid the massacres, gun battles and fury of yesterday’s suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood. A hundred dead – 200, 300 “martyrs” – makes no difference to the outcome: for millions of Egyptians, the path of democracy has been torn up amid live fire and brutality. What Muslim seeking a state based on his or her religion will ever trust the ballot box again?

This is the real story of today’s bloodbath. Who can be surprised that some Muslim Brotherhood supporters were wielding Kalashnikovs on the streets of Cairo? Or that supporters of the army and its “interim government” – in middle-class areas of the capital, no less – have seized their weapons or produced their own and started shooting back. This is not Brotherhood vs army, though that is how our Western statesmen will mendaciously try to portray this tragedy. Today’s violence has created a cruel division within Egyptian society that will take years to heal; between leftists and secularists and Christian Copts and Sunni Muslim villagers, between people and police, between Brotherhood and army. That is why Mohamed el-Baradei resigned tonight. The burning of churches was an inevitable corollary of this terrible business.

In Algeria in 1992, in Cairo in 2013 – and who knows what happens in Tunisia in the coming weeks and months? – Muslims who won power, fairly and democratically through the common vote, have been hurled from power. And who can forget our vicious siege of Gaza when Palestinians voted – again democratically – for Hamas? No matter how many mistakes the Brotherhood made in Egypt – no matter how promiscuous or fatuous their rule – the democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the army. It was a coup, and John McCain was right to use that word.

The Brotherhood, of course, should long ago have curbed its amour propre and tried to keep within the shell of the pseudo-democracy that the army permitted in Egypt – not because it was fair or acceptable or just, but because the alternative was bound to be a return to clandestinity, to midnight arrests and torture and martyrdom. This has been the historical role of the Brotherhood – with periods of shameful collaboration with British occupiers and Egyptian military dictators – and a return to the darkness suggests only two outcomes: that the Brotherhood will be extinguished in violence, or will succeed at some far distant date – heaven spare Egypt such a fate – in creating an Islamist autocracy.

The pundits went about their poisonous work today before the first corpse was in its grave. Can Egypt avoid a civil war? Will the “terrorist” Brotherhood be wiped out by the loyal army? What about those who demonstrated before Morsi’s overthrow? Tony Blair was only one of those who talked of impending “chaos” in bestowing their support on General Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi. Every violent incident in Sinai, every gun in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood will now be used to persuade the world that the organisation – far from being a poorly armed but well-organised Islamist movement – was the right arm of al-Qa’ida.

History may take a different view. It will certainly be hard to explain how many thousands – yes, perhaps millions – of educated, liberal Egyptians continued to give their wholehearted support to the general who spent much time after the overthrow of Mubarak justifying the army’s virginity tests of female protesters in Tahrir Square. Al-Sisi will come under much scrutiny in the coming days; he was always reputedly sympathetic to the Brotherhood, although this idea may have been provoked by his wife’s wearing of the niqab. And many of the middle-class intellectuals who have thrown their support behind the army will have to squeeze their consciences into a bottle to accommodate future events.

Could Nobel Prize-holder and nuclear expert Mohamed el-Baradei, the most famous personality – in Western eyes, but not in Egyptian – in the ‘interim government’, whose social outlook and integrity looked frighteningly at odds with ‘his’ government’s actions today, have stayed in power? Of course not. He had to go, for he never intended such an outcome to his political power gamble when he agreed to prop up the army’s choice of ministers after last month’s coup.  But the coterie of writers and artists who insisted on regarding the coup as just another stage in the revolution of 2011 will – after the blood and el-Baradei’s resignation – have to use some pretty anguished linguistics to escape moral blame for these events.

Stand by, of course, for the usual jargon questions. Does this mean the end of political Islam? For the moment, certainly; the Brotherhood is in no mood to try any more experiments in democracy – a refusal which is the immediate danger in Egypt. For without freedom, there is violence. Will Egypt turn into another Syria? Unlikely. Egypt is neither a sectarian state – it never has been, even with 10 per cent of its people Christian – nor an inherently violent one. It never experienced the savagery of Algerian uprisings against the French, or Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian insurgencies against both the British and the French. But ghosts aplenty will hang their heads in shame today; that great revolutionary lawyer of the 1919 rising, for example, Saad Zaghloul. And General Muhammad Neguib whose 1952 revolutionary tracts read so much like the demands of the people of Tahrir in 2011.

But yes, something died in Egypt today. Not the revolution, for across the Arab world the integrity of ownership – of people demanding that they, not their leaders, own their own country – remains, however bloodstained. Innocence died, of course, as it does after every revolution. No, what expired today was the idea that Egypt was the everlasting mother of the Arab nation, the nationalist ideal, the purity of history in which Egypt regarded all her people as her children. For the Brotherhood victims today – along with the police and pro-government supporters – were also children of Egypt. And no one said so. They had become the “terrorists”, the enemy of the people. That is Egypt’s new heritage.

(Source / 15.08.2013)

In Egypt carnage, struggle to lay out the dead

Egyptians mourn over bodies wrapped in shrouds at a mosque in Cairo on Aug. 15.
CAIRO (AFP) — The further the black-clad Egyptian policemen tightened the noose on the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp, the more desperate became the search for a place to lay out the protesters felled by their gunfire.

Amid a swarm of hissing bullets, two protesters barged into the garden of the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque compound in east Cairo, carrying a man whose face was masked in blood.

Others offered them directions to makeshift morgues. “Take a left.” “No, take a right.” They stumbled with their macabre burden, leaving behind smears of blood on bystanders. “Just leave him here,” one finally advised.

The morgue of the makeshift field hospital, in one of the small buildings in the mosque compound, had filled up with corpses soon after police and soldiers began their operation to clear the protest camp, after dawn on Wednesday.

Then the corpses, some with their brains shot out, encroached on the living in the nearby field clinic, in another building.

A bearded, elderly man was brought in breathing heavily, his brain partially revealed where a bullet had landed, and his eyes wide open as if in amazement.

“Say the shahada,” a man standing over him said, referring to the Muslim profession of faith. “I’m sure he already did,” another said, scrutinizing the dying man’s face, who appeared unaware of his surroundings.

More and more dead kept being brought in, some with fresh blood pouring from their heads. Soon the field hospital became part morgue part clinic.

A few buildings away, a room with a wall almost partitioning it in two was filled with corpses.

They were stacked so close that one had to apologetically walk on them, as if on stepping stones in a pond of blood, to count them all.

More bodies kept arriving. On the third floor of the Rabaa medical center, 20 bodies were packed in a corner, past stretchers bearing other wounded men.

Outside the mosque, which sits on the crossroads used by supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi as a protest camp, the police bulldozed through barricades and shot their way closer and closer.

Several protesters on the front lines traded fire with the security forces. Most ran up to them with stones and petrol bombs.

Along the crossroads men sat on pavements between tents, watching placidly as bullets whizzed overhead, a stray occasionally finding a random target.

“Did you just see that?” one man said to an AFP correspondent when a bullet dropped a protester who had been standing, watching the clashes, several meters away. “You speak English?” the man asked again, in response to an expletive in English.

Nowhere was safe. In a room on the second floor of a mosque building above the field clinic, a bullet crashed through a window and grazed a man sitting on a chair just outside the room. He shut the door, as if annoyed by a draft.

Some protesters huddled together to pray. Others milled around aimlessly. They had already become inured to random, sudden death.

The health ministry said on Thursday 202 people were killed in Rabaa al-Adawiya.

(Source / 15.08.2013)

Beirut blast generates wide condemnation

 BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said the car bomb attack in the Beirut southern suburbs was a “terrorist act” that bore the fingerprints of Israel.

The car bomb attack in the Beirut southern suburb of Ruwaiss –  a stronghold of Hezbollah- claimed the lives of at least 16 people and wounded over 200. Security sources earlier put the death toll at 22.

“This is a criminal act that bears the fingerprints of terrorism and Israel and is aimed to destabilize Lebanon and deal a blow to the resilience of the Lebanese,” Sleiman said.

Hezbollah’s political rival in Lebanon, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri condemned the attack and called on the Lebanese not to be dragged to strife.

Hariri described the suburbs explosion as a “horrific crime” that targeted innocent civilians in the southern suburbs.

“The blast is part of a terrorist scheme that aims to sow strife and evil across Lebanon which is grappling  to stay at bay from the crisis in the region,” Hariri said in a statement released by his media office.

In a statement released by his media office, Speaker Nabih Berri blamed Israel for the massive explosion and urged the Lebanese to unite in the face of looming dangers.

“This crime only serves the Israeli enemy that is working on dealing a blow to the components of national unity in Lebanon,” Berri added.

Hezbollah that  has come under wide condemnation for fighting alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad in several regions in Syria has yet to issue an official statement about the blast.

But echoing Hariri and Berri, Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad told NBN TV that the explosion was a “very dangerous act” but highlighted that Hezbollah and its supporters will not be dragged to strife.

Fayyad said regardless of the perpetrators “in case it’s Israel or terrorist organizations” that stand behind the attack the Lebanese must unite. Several Syrian rebel groups issued threats against Hezbollah and vowed to target it.

Shortly after the explosion on Thursday, a previously unheard of group calling itself the “Brigade of Aisha, the Mother of the Faithful” claimed responsibility for the attack.

“I ask our supporters to remain calm,” Fayyad said. “We should all unite at this stage to find solutions to our problems.”

For her part, U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly condemned the attack and called on Lebanese groups to remain calm and exercise self-restraint.

Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi  “strongly condemned” the blast on the southern suburbs and passed on condolences to the victims’ families.

Lebanese political leaders from across the divide also condemned the car bomb attack in the Beirut southern suburbs – a stronghold of Hezbollah- which claimed the lives of 20 people and wounded over 120.

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt condemned what he called the “terrorist attack” which targeted “innocent civilians.” He accused Israel of plotting the afternoon blast.

Jumblatt extended his condolences to the residents of the Beirut southern suburbs.  The Druze leader urged for a swift formation of a new national unity government government, where all political groups will be represented, in a bid to avoid the country further deterioration of the security situation.

Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam dubbed the attack as “barbaric and cowardly” adding that it could be confronted through the Lebanese people’s unity and their insistence to solve their divergences.

Hezbollah’s Christian ally Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun said  “extremist rhetoric” adopted by the majority of Lebanese groups stood behind the attack. “No one is innocent,” Aoun said.

Head of the Future Parliamentary bloc former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora also condemned the attack saying he felt “anger and compassion” for the victims.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said attacks on any specific region in Lebanon were tantamount to an attack on Lebanon as a whole. He called on security forces to exert necessary efforts  to uncover perpetrators.

(Source / 15.08.2013)

Bennett calls for killing Palestinians instead of detaining them

images_News_2013_08_14_Salimi20100809142503890_300_0[1]

NAZARETH, (PIC)– Tadamun foundation for human rights said that the Israeli minister of economy Naftali Bennett indirectly called on Tuesday for killing the Palestinians rather than arresting and later releasing them.

The foundation stated that Bennett, a noted right-wing Zionist figure, described on his facebook page the Palestinian prisoners to be released soon by the Israel side as murderers who should be killed.

According to the foundation, Bennett also called for stopping to name the Palestinian prisoners as detainees because as he claimed they were arrested for killing Israelis and not because of traffic violations.

He also said that the detention of the Palestinians are no longer a deterrent to them, so he pledged to work on having the Israeli army to reconsider its methods when dealing with what he described as the criminals.

Tadamun foundation considered such remarks by Bennett as indirect incitement to killing the Palestinians instead of detaining them, pointing that Bennett strongly opposes the idea of releasing Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to resume the peace process.

(Source / 15.08.2013)

Palestinians welcome home prisoners to the West Bank in late night celebration

release 04
Released Palestinian prisoners with President Mahmoud Abbas at the Muqata, greeted by cheering family members and supporters, 14 August 2013.

Mahmoud is 16 and in a few minutes he will hug his father for the first time. They have never touched, at least not that Mahmoud can recall because for most of his life his father was incarcerated in an Israeli prison.

“I am the youngest son. I was only three or four years old when my father was arrested. I don’t even remember it.” During family visits a glass wall separated father and son, voices heard through telephone alone. But now that Sabih Abed Hammed Borhan is being released late Tuesday night, Mahmoud will finally have his first memory of a paternal embrace.

release 09
Mahmoud (left) and Laif waiting for their father’s release.

Borhan is one of the 26 Palestinian prisoners benefiting from a “goodwill gesture” by Israeli officials as a prelude to direct peace negotiations. He and the eleven others were taken to Ofer prison just after 12 am on Wednesday morning. They were then transferred to the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah for a raucous reunion. The remaining 14 were driven to the Gaza Strip via the Erez Crossing in white vans with thin strips of tinted glass for windows. Israeli officials said the nighttime release and dark windows were to prevent a repeat of the Shalit exchange photo-ops of Palestinians flashing the “V for victory” hand sign. For many Israelis the release is considered a free pass for those who convicted violent crimes.

release 03
Parade of bagpipers preform moments before the released Palestinian prisoners arrive at the Muqata.
release 02
Palestinians cheer in anticipation of their family member’s release from prison.

Before his 2001 arrest at a flying checkpoint in the West Bank on his way to work, Borhan had already served 13 years in prison. Most of his adult life was spent in a dingy cell away from his family. He’s done time in nearly every Israeli detention facility. In his first conviction, Borhan was given six life sentences. Then he was let out early in 1994 by yet another prisoner release timed with peace talks. But during the second Intifada he was re-arrested and under military order 186 his first sentence was reinstated alongside his latest conviction.

The opening six years were the toughest, though, said Borhan’s family. His mother and sister were denied visits that Israel grants to close relatives. Typically “first degree” family members can secure weekly permits to the prison from the International Committee for the Red Cross. But in Borhan’s case inexplicably both mother and sister were deemed not affable under the policy.

Still Mahmoud was able to make the five-hour trip from Kfar Ra’a near Jenin to gaze at his father through a transparent shell. From the age of four Mahmoud would go as often as he could, but after he turned 16, the visits stopped. “They do this a lot actually,” noted a representative from Addameer, a prisoners’ rights group, explaining at age 16 when Palestinians register for an ID card, entry into Israel becomes complicated. During Ramadan for example, children under 16 can enter Jerusalem on Fridays. But after 16, Palestinians have to file for permits, as an adult would, with adult permit rejection rates.

“The hope was there,” said Hanan Esmir, 46, Borhan’s sister. “We would always pray that he would get out.” Esmir last saw her brother six months ago. At the Muqata she sits with other women waiting on loved ones. A few seats away is Ikhlas Natsheh, 42, her sister who is preparing to greet both a husband and a brother.

Ikhlas’s husband Jamil Abdel Wahab Natsheh had one of the longest incarcerations of the group. He was arrested in 1991 for accessory to murder in the death of an IDF solider. He was part of the get-away car. For this he was sentenced to a steep penalty of over 20 years. Yet for the Israeli public the consensus is that Israel is letting murders and terrorists get off easy. Family members of deceased Israelis killed by Palestinians in this prisoner release petitioned against the “goodwill gestures.” They argued crimes were too grave and threat too great for early discharge. However, hours before the men were driven out of a detention facility in Ramle, Israel the High Court rejected the petition.

Although Natsheh’s family was elated, Ikhlas was quick to point out her husband was only four months away from completing his sentence anyway. In fact many of the prisoners released were a few years from finishing out their terms, casting doubt on the magnitude of the Israeli move which functioned as a replacement for the Palestinian demand of a stop to settlement construction in order to proceed with peace negotiations. In addition to the prisoner release, this week Israel also broke news on expanding settlements and even held a groundbreaking ceremony in occupied East Jerusalem.

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Released prisoner (right) hugs relative at a welcoming ceremony at the Muqata.
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Palestinians carry released prisoner through crowed to reunite the former detainee with his family.

Just before 1 am supporters and family members congregated towards a small podium at the edge of the Muqata. Social media updates indicated the white vans driving the men were already at Ofer prison, the transfer point from Israeli custody to Palestinian. Mahmoud Abbas then emerged from a door in the stone wall behind the platform, along with the released men. Everyone went wild and for a moment the president had a mandate from his people. “Abbas, Abbas!” was chanted as if the Palestinian leader himself had brokered the deal, rather than the Israeli Prime Minister’s office deciding all of the terms of the conditional release.

“Tell the released prisoners, and we tell you that the rest of the prisoners will come out. You are just the beginning and the rest will come,” said Abbas before being swept away in a convoy. After the prisoners who were on stage with him rushed down a small detachable staircase, they were lifted by crowds and literally carried towards their families. It was all tears and hugs. This was family reunification under occupation. Sure these men are called national heroes, and there were some flags for political parties, but mood was more personal: husband kissing wife, mother caressing child, and Mahmoud finally feeling his father’s skin against his.

Once the family members finished taking turns tightly holding the now freed men, friends and unknown supporters shook their hands and pressed their cheeks to one and another. Then just as they were carried into the crowd, the newly released were lifted again and carted to a metal detector exiting the Muqata. The whole event lasted about an hour.

(Source / 15.08.2013)

Israel’s prisoner release doesn’t legitimize “negotiations”

Hosni Sawalha is welcomed by his family’s in Azmout village in the West Bank, after he was released from prison by Israel on 14 August.

When I heard that the Palestinian Authority agreed to resume negotiations with the Israeli occupation, I fell into a depression. Here we go again, I thought.

It is a repeat of the what followed the 1993 Oslo accords, time after time.

Yet again, the Israelis are represented by Tzipi Livni, who as a member of the government played a key role during Israel’s 2008–2009 invasion of Gaza.

And opposite her, once again, is Saeb Erekat as Palestinian “chief negotiator.”

How could the blood of the 1,400 victims killed during that massacre be forgotten so quickly? How could Erekat share the same table with her, as he did at a Ramadan iftar at the house of US Secretary of State John Kerry, exchanging smiles in the name of “diplomacy” and “realism”?

Fake “confidence-building measures”

As part of the deal to resume these talks, Israel agreed to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners, in phases, as a so-called “confidence-building” measure and to encourage progress. Most of the prisoners have nearly completed their sentences.

The first 26 were freed on 13 August, 11 to the West Bank and 15 to Gaza.

Confidence? Progress? The same buzzwords were used about the Oslo accords two decades ago. Has no lesson been learned?

As Addameer notes, “over 23,000 Palestinians have been released since 1993 as ‘goodwill measures’ during various negotiations and peace talks. However, in that same period, at least 86,000 Palestinians have been arrested, including children, women, disabled persons and university students.”

Currently Israel holds more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Such “confidence-building measures” are a sham!

In fact, what Israel has been doing all along is accelerating its settlement-building measures. Since 1993, the number of settlers in the occupied West Bank has continued to grow, as Palestinians, impoverished and squeezed, continue to be displaced by Israeli home demolitions and land confiscation.

Since its creation, the Palestinian Authority has served as Israel’s first line of defense against any Palestinian resistance to this colonization.

Because of inaction, and global acceptance of decades-long brutality and land theft – as long as Israel is committing it – the number of illegal Israeli settlers is now more than 600,000.

Of course, just days before the next round of talks were supposed to start, Israel has announced plans to add 1,200 more settler homes.

How could we return to negotiations based on this same framework with the same US mediators?

Nothing left to give

The Palestinian experience of the “peace process” is this: Israel does not want peace. It wants our land and our water. It wants to destroy our heritage, and it wants us to leave our homes, just as it is about to force 40,000 more Palestinian Bedouins out of their homes.

Saeb Erekat, of all people, knows – and this was exposed by the leaked Palestine Papersin 2011 – that when he offered Israel almost all the settlements, and the right of return of our refugees, it wasn’t enough. Israel still demanded more.

“What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalaim in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarised state … what more can I give?” Erekat told an American official in 2010.

Although he supposedly “resigned” after these revelations, Erekat and all the other discredited people, who should never be representing Palestinians in the first place, are back for more.

Remember that the Palestinian Authority had vowed not to return to negotations until Israel agreed to freeze settlements. They couldn’t even keep that promise. How could they be trusted to protect any Palestinian rights?

The meaning of peace

As much as peace is a dream for the Palestinian people, I sometimes wish I could wipe out the word “peace” from the dictionary.

We do hope to see a just peace, but with those who really want peace, not with such a brutal occupier whose talk of peace while playing the victim serves as an obscene cover for unrelenting crimes against our people.

Prisoners give us hope

The unyielding stance of many former prisoners and the families of detainees towards such compromises has always revived my hope.

Their opposition was not softened by the news of the prisoner release, and they are the ones who know best what it is like to be imprisoned or have a loved one in prison.

They were some of the first people who organized rallies in Gaza protesting the resumption of negotiations describing them as nothing more than “concessions.”

I was delighted to see their anger directed at the Palestinian Authority, which some of them accused of betrayal.

Detainees and released prisoners have an unmovable willingness to remain patient, to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to bring justice to our people, without a flicker of hesitation.

At the same time they affirm that the liberty of any prisoner is a victory that neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority can spoil.

We must not let the use of our detainees as a political tool dampen the joy that their families and communities feel at seeing them return home.

Israel cannot steal people’s joy

At midnight, on 14 August, the Palestinian people were due to witness the first prisoners come home.

The Israelis deliberately released the prisoners very late, likely to prevent as many people as possible from gathering to celebrate their freedom.

However, thousands of people in Gaza and the West Bank welcomed them home from Israel’s “graves for the living,” with Palestinian flags, fireworks, songs and chants of freedom.

And we know that all of these releases come with no guarantees: whenever Israel decides to take their liberty back, they will be re-arrested.

“At least 12 prisoners who were re-arrested after their release in the October 2011 prisoner exchange are currently facing the possibility of serving the remainder of their previous sentences,” Addameer notes.

But nothing will stop us rejoicing for every mother who fought to live long enough to hold her son in her arms once again, or for children having to live as orphans with only their father’s image in their minds or hanging on the walls, finally seeing their dad in person.

And all Palestinians waiting for justice, or waiting to come home, will be inspired by the patience of the families who overcame decades of absence and suffering as they crossed endless Israeli apartheid checkpoints and endured racist and humiliating treatment to see their beloved for 45 minutes at a time through a glass screen.

Just one prisoner released from Israel’s narrow and dirty cells, unfit for humans, is a victory.

No applause for the PA

But there’ll be never be applause for the Palestinian Authority, which, while giving up our basic rights, trades with Palestinians’ emotions towards their loved ones in Israeli prisons in order to give legitimacy to endless rounds of futile negotiations.

While forgetting its own crimes against us, including the countless ones for which no one has ever been held accountable, Israel always tries to highlight a few cases to paint Palestinians as monsters.

Over the decades, some 750,000 Palestinians have been in Israel’s prisons. They are the ones who willingly took on their shoulders the struggle to bringing back freedom, dignity and a just peace for their oppressed people.

For that they were willing to sacrifice the most precious of things: their freedom. We demand the release of all Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and call for an immediate end to the abominable treatment of Palestinian detainees. Resistance to a brutal military occupation is not a crime, but a duty.

Our people’s sacrifices and ongoing suffering under this merciless occupation will not go in vain.

Freedom for all Palestinian political prisoners!

(Source / 15.08.2013)