Palestinian prisoners in Ashkelon prison abused in nighttime raid

prison-cellIsraeli prison authorities in Ashkelon prison have engaged in a series of repressive and violent raids against Palestinian prisoners, reported Palestinian lawyer Karim Ajwa, on October 7.

Special units referred to as Nachson, along with police, stormed Section 3 and Room 13 in the prison, ransacking the prisoners’ belongings in a raid he called provocative and humiliating to the prisoners, who were removed from the room. Nasser Abu Hamid, a representative of sick prisoners, said that the forces damaged the prisoners’ belongings for no apparent reason, noting that the prisoners in Room 13 include sick and elderly prisoners, for whom the incident was painful and tiring.

The raid lasted several hours. Ajwa noted that these raids are ongoing and abusive and are now a routine part of reprisals practiced by Israeli authorities against Palestinian political prisoners.

(Source / 07.10.2013)

Abbas tells MKs Israel should stop incursions into Palestinian cities

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – A meeting in Ramallah Monday between President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Knesset members was “positive,” a senior Fatah official said.

Participants addressed the means to support the ongoing peace negotiations and to overcome all obstacles, said Muhammad al-Madani, the head of a PA committee for interconnection with Israeli society.

Speaking to Ma’an via telephone, al-Madani highlighted that Abbas told the Knesset delegation that the Palestinians remained supportive of a two-state solution on the basis of internationally recognized legitimacy. Abbas also reiterated that the Palestinian side denounced killings and aggressiveness by any party.

“The Palestinian side denounced the attack in Psagot settlement, the killing in Hebron, the murder in Qalandiya refugee camp and the Israeli incursions into Palestinian cities and the ongoing settler assaults against our people,” al-Madani added.

Monday’s meeting, he said, was a follow up to a meeting in the Knesset in September.

Al-Madani asserted that meetings with Israeli politicians at different levels were seeking to prepare for future political moves and to prepare Israeli society for peace. Such meetings, he said, are also attempts to deter the Israeli right-wing forces who oppose the two-state solution. The meetings will continue in future, he said.

Official Israeli radio quoted Abbas as saying that security coordination with Israel “has reached the highest point”. Abbas demanded that Israel stop incursions into Palestinian cities which are under full Palestinian control.

Abbas also called for a joint Palestinian-Israeli committee to fight incitement to resume its work.

The president sent his condolences to the family of Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef.

(Source / 07.10.2013)

US credits Syria’s Assad over chemical arms destruction

DAMASCUS (AFP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad can take “credit” for moving quickly to eliminate his regime’s chemical arms, the United States said Monday, as disarmament experts said Damascus was being “cooperative”.

Speaking in Indonesia, US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the start of work to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons under the terms of a UN Security Council resolution.

“The process has begun in record time and we are appreciative for the Russian cooperation and obviously for the Syrian compliance,” he told reporters after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“I think it’s extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were being destroyed,” Kerry said.

“I think it’s a credit to the Assad regime, frankly. It’s a good beginning and we welcome a good beginning.”

(Source / 07.10.2013)

Is Assad winning?

Bashar al-Assad

Bashar al-Assad and his proponents make their defeats look like victories. Their detractors do the opposite. So while heavily bruised, Assad projects an image of a strong man beaming with confidence. His opponents come across as whiners who want the world to defeat Assad for them, while they have failed – for two years – in electing a body that would represent all of them.

And even though the Syrian opposition – inside of Syria and outside of it, military and non-military – has displayed incompetence, Assad has still suffered heavy losses. This is due to his many faux pas and the strength of Islamist terrorists, mostly non-Syrian, who have bloodied Assad and his irregular militias, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Perhaps it is time for Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah to rethink his Syria plan. It has been four months since the joint Assad-Hezbollah force conquered Qusayr. But for all the talk about a reversal in fortunes, Assad and Hezbollah have yet to show other significant gains. So long for the Hezbollah “elite force” that many thought would tilt the balance in Assad’s favor.

Syria has proven to be bigger than what Hezbollah can chew. With numbers of fighters on either side counting close to 100,000, estimates indicate that Hezbollah can muster 20,000 fighters at most. And the crux of Hezbollah’s force, mainly non-professionals, cannot be deployed for long tours. This leaves the militia thinly stretched, especially given that after “clearing,” Assad and Hezbollah have to hold territory they re-conquer, which means they have to leave fighters behind and strain the numbers available for further attacks.

The inability to sweep, however, does not mean Assad is losing. Assad’s force is mechanized and entrenched in heavily fortified bunkers on the hills around Damascus. The Assad-Hezbollah firepower and military gear are far more superior to those of the rebels.

So while Assad is not winning, he is not losing either. Assad has lost control over vast territory outside of the corridor that he controls between Damascus and the mountainous northeast, which increasingly looks like a hard nut to crack, and probably needs weapons that are not at the disposal of rebels.

That’s all good news for Assad. But not losing his core territory is very different than ruling the whole of Syria, which the Assads controlled for decades.

Assad has been obsessed with “clearing” Damascus and its vicinity. His forces have employed sustained bombardment, while his infantry has tried to make inroads, with little success. The presence of rebels in suburbs, from where they can hit Assad’s motorcade, undermines his attempt at projecting an image of normalcy that he and his wife, Asma, try hard to show on Instagram and social media websites.

Maybe it was this frustration that made Assad launch his chemical attack on Ghouta on August 21.

We now know that the attack was halted, perhaps after Assad felt a backlash. Whatever Assad’s plan was, he certainly wanted to clear the rebel-controlled suburbs. He failed, and the chemical attack made America move its warships for a punitive strike, which even though was designed not to topple him, would have taken out the clear military advantage that he has over the rebels.

Russia too felt that its protégé had gone rogue, and it made way for the Americans to strike. But Secretary of State John Kerry’s gaffe gave the Russians something to toy with diplomatically, and hence stop the attack.

Seeing that America had stepped down, maybe for good, Russia and Iran now race to crack a deal with Washington over Syria. This race is bad news for Assad.

For Russia and Iran to take over Syria, they would need to show America some concessions. Moscow has so far forced Assad to admit that he sits on a giant chemical arsenal, to promise to dismantle it, and to accept talking to the opposition in Geneva, including armed groups.

For its part, Iran wants something different than Geneva. In return for abandoning uranium enrichment up to 20 percent, Tehran wants a free hand in Syria, meaning sponsors cut off the anti-Assad opposition, and Assad or Hezbollah be given a freehand to win the civil war. While Washington might stomach such a deal, it is unlikely that Assad can stay if the US and Iran become buddies. Syria will be ceded to Iran, but Assad will have to be disposed of. Washington and Tehran can always find another Maliki for Syria.

For Assad, the days of balancing Russia against America and Arab countries against Iran are long gone. Bruised and unable to get himself out of trouble, Assad will have to settle for whatever others decide for him. His fate is not in his hands anymore, which means he can’t be winning.

“For Assad, the days of balancing Russia against America and Arab countries against Iran are long gone.”

 (Source / 07.10.2013)

What is there in common between Gen. Musharraf and Gen. Al Sisi?


General Sisi Vs General Musharraf

In the aftermath of the military coup in Egypt on 3 July 2013, comparisons to other countries came thick and fast. For the optimists, there was Turkey, where the army had ousted governments who had become unpopular, and held new elections to allow a seedling of democracy to take root. After coups in 1980, 1993, and 1997, Turkey is now held up as an example of functioning democracy in the region. For the pessimists, there was Algeria, where a brutal civil war ensured after an election was delayed in 1991. A more ambiguous comparison was Pakistan, a country which has spent half its short life under military dictatorships, but which finally seems to be on the road to democracy.

The immediate comparisons between Pakistan and Egypt are obvious. Both are large, populous countries with a Muslim majority. Both have powerful armies, which on the one hand are criticised for advancing their own economic and political interests, but on the other are viewed with respect by much of the population. Both have a colonial legacy, meaning that current political systems were set up to accommodate a dominant foreign elite. Upon independence, this inherently un-egalitarian structure arguably rendered the transition to democracy more difficult. In both nations, social conservatism is dominant, with greater support for political Islam than for secular western values in terms of numbers. Yet both are reliant on American aid, and are also home to a strong segment of liberal opinion. Perhaps even more strikingly, much like Egypt’s recent coup, all of the military takeovers in Pakistan have initially met with popular support.

Of course, caution must be taken when comparing any two countries. Turkey does not share Egypt’s colonial history; Algeria had an existing tradition of insurgency after its war of independence with France; Pakistan has endured not one, but five military coups.

But while a comparison can never be absolute, some lessons can be drawn from the exercise. Pakistan’s most recent coup took place on 12 October 1999, when General Pervez Musharraf, the head of the army, overthrew the democratically elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. In a drastic turning of the tables 15 years later, Sharif is currently serving a third term as premier, having been voted back into office this year, while Musharraf is under house arrest in Islamabad, awaiting trial for treason (among other charges).

There were some immediate similarities to the recent overthrow in Egypt. Both Sharif and Mohamed Morsi, the ousted president of Egypt, head up socially conservative, right-wing, religious parties. In Sharif’s case, this was the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and in Morsi’s, the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite being democratically elected, both men had been criticised for not behaving democratically while in power. In Egypt in 2013, Morsi was accused of failing to engage other parties while he pushed through his own movement’s Islamist agenda – most notably, on the rushed rewrite of the Constitution. He was also accused of unfairly promoting his Muslim Brotherhood cronies to senior positions. In Pakistan in 1999, people complained that Sharif was failing to consult parliament, while his main advisers were his father and brother. Both men were systematically working to undermine the power of the judiciary. When Sharif was ousted by the army, there were street celebrations from secularists, social activists, and opposing political parties. The news of Morsi’s fall was similarly greeted with jubilation.

Of course, there are several key differences too. For a start, the small public celebrations seen after the ousting of Sharif were by no means on the same scale as in Egypt. The days leading up to the deposition of Morsi saw mass protests on the streets, from liberal secularists who felt that the revolution of 2011 – in which dictator Hosni Mubarak was toppled – had been hijacked by Islamists and conservatives. The army exploited this genuine wave of discontent to stage their takeover, explicitly positioning themselves as the guardians of the people’s wishes. While most military coups in Pakistan were met with popular support, it was never quite on this scale. The size of the protests in Egypt was such that military involvement to restore the peace was to be expected; if not military involvement to remove the government. Accordingly, on taking command, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, the head of the Egyptian army, handled things somewhat differently to Musharraf.

The 1999 coup in Pakistan was a clear power-grab. Sharif had tried to sack Musharraf, because tensions between the two men were high. Each blamed the other for the military and political disasters of the Kargil War. Musharraf, who was in Sri Lanka when he heard that he was being removed, immediately boarded a commercial plane back to Pakistan. Sharif ordered the plane to be diverted, and then tried to stop it from landing. The Pakistan army seized the control tower and allowed the plane to land. Troops took control of the state-run Pakistan Television Corporation in Islamabad, encircled the Prime Minister House, took control of international airports, and cut international phone lines. When television service was restored, a short message announcing that Sharif had been removed was displayed on the screen, and several hours later, a pre-recorded television address by Musharraf was aired. Here was the army physically taking over state institutions, using force to seize control of the state. The coup was bloodless, but this was a military operation.

In Egypt in 2013, there had been several days of mass protests to mark Morsi’s one year anniversary in office. The situation had escalated and turned violent in certain areas. On 1 July, the second day of protests, the army issued a 48 hour ultimatum to Morsi and his party: meet the people’s demands, or face military intervention. Morsi hit back that he would “defend the legitimacy of my elected office with my life”. The 3 July deadline arrived. Tanks drove through the streets of Cairo, Morsi was placed under house arrest, and senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood were detained. In a televised address, Sisi announced that he had removed Morsi from power, suspended the Constitution, and would be calling new presidential and Shura Council elections. The military appointed the Chief Justice, Adly Mansour, as the interim president, and gave him responsibility for forming a transitional government of technocrats.

Perhaps the key difference in the mechanics of the two coups was in how each general chose to frame it. In his televised address, Sisi was flanked by religious and political leaders of all stripes. Among them were the top liberal candidate, Mohamed El-Baradei (who later resigned from the interim government over violent crackdowns on opposition supporters), the head of the Coptic Church, and the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar. Each of these figures spoke in turn to back the coup. Unlike Musharraf’s power-grab, Sisi attempted to paint his as a preservation of democracy, rather than a subversion of it.

This difference in approach is most obviously demonstrated by the fact that Musharraf very directly took control in 1999, naming himself Chief Executive. By contrast Sisi – so far, at least – has preferred to step back from the limelight, appointing a transitional government headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court. Sisi himself took the position of defence minister – although there is little doubt as to where power really lies.

After Musharraf’s takeover, the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared that the coup was legal, but that army rule must be limited to three years. In 2002, when this deadline arrived, Musharraf held a national referendum on whether his rule should be continued. Unsurprisingly, in a poll widely criticised as fraudulent, he won 98 per cent of the vote. He subsequently became President, and stayed in office until he was forced to resign in 2007.

In the days immediately after the coup, the Egyptian military put forward a roadmap for national reconciliation, with endorsement from a broad base of different actors. That may have been undermined by the violent suppression of Muslim Brotherhood supporters that followed, but it still demonstrates that the Egyptian army made active attempts to appear to be safeguarding the democratic process with the support of other groups. Whether the army makes good on its promise to hold new free and fair elections remains to be seen.

Upon seizing power, Musharraf paid the most cursory lip service to democracy. In his televised address to the nation he said: “Quite clearly, what Pakistan has experienced in the recent years has been merely a label of democracy, not the essence of it. Our people were never emancipated from the yoke of despotism. I shall not allow the people to be taken back to the era of sham democracy.” But unlike Sisi, he did not talk of elections or roadmaps. Any hopes for a swift democratic transition were put to bed when he declared a state of emergency, suspended the federal and provincial governments, and appointed himself Chief Executive.

This is partly down to the different political contexts of Egypt in 2013 and Pakistan in 1999. While both countries were facing economic turmoil and International Monetary Fund bail-outs, there were substantial differences too. Egypt remains in the throes of a democratic awakening, and in 2011, the military dictator Hosni Mubarak was ousted by a popular revolution after three decades in power. Against this recent background, the military had to exploit the wave of secular discontent in order to oust Morsi: it could not look like the old guard stepping back in (although, subsequently, several members of Mubarak’s cabinet were appointed to the interim government). If the army had appeared to be acting unilaterally, mass protests would have continued and escalated. Instead, Sisi positioned himself and the army as the “guardians of the people’s will”.

By contrast, 1999 was the fifth military coup in Pakistan. While democracy has always been held up in the country as an ideal, in practice, people have often found civilian leaders to be corrupt and ineffective. The immense dominance of the military means even when they are not directly running the country, civilian leaders have limited powers. The narrative of the army stepping in to clear up the mess left by corrupt politicians was already well established in Pakistan before the 1999 coup.

Musharraf’s coup was bloodless. When the army initially seized power in Egypt in 2013, it was similarly described as bloodless – but that soon changed, with violent clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and the armed forces costing scores of lives in the days and weeks after the takeover. El Baradei, the liberal politician who was initially supportive of the ouster, resigned over the violent suppression of the opposition. This harsh crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood was all the more surprising because many of the movement’s supporters had seen Sisi as one of their own. Known to be a religious person, prior to the coup, he had in fact been suspected of being a secret member of the group. However, like other military men, he was also an ardent supporter of Egypt’s nationalist President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and it is quite possible that he shares the common military distrust of the Brotherhood as an organisation.

Born in 1954, Sisi came from a modest background, growing up in the Gamaleya district of Cairo. The army was a natural choice for an ambitious young man without much education or money, and he quickly moved up the ranks, although he does not have any combat experience. Mike Giglio, Newsweek’s Middle East correspondent, noted that it is “incredibly difficult to dig up even the smallest personal details” about Sisi, concluding that the General is “very, very conscious about image control”. Despite the brutal crackdowns against protesters in the early days of the takeover, Sisi has generally remained popular. Giglio went so far as to claim that “if Sisi did run in the upcoming elections he would win by a landslide – even his enemies admit that.”

At the time when he seized power, Musharraf was also popular, and he became one of Pakistan’s longest-serving rulers, surviving numerous assassination attempts and plots. The Delhi-born son of an Urdu-speaking family that migrated to Pakistan after the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, after seizing power, he quickly appointed a cabinet of technocrats – much like Sisi’s interim government. He arrested Sharif and charged him with hijacking, kidnapping, attempted murder, and treason, for attempting to stop Musharraf’s flight from landing. Sharif would have faced the death penalty, but under pressure from the US and Saudi Arabia, was allowed to go into exile. As Morsi languishes in an undisclosed location in Egypt, many are similarly questioning whether he will receive a fair trial. The specifics of how Musharraf’s time in power played out – with the war on terror, liberalisation of the media, and an ongoing tussle with the judiciary – are not relevant to the current aftermath of Egypt’s coup. But looking at the current situation in Pakistan could be. In 2006, Sharif signed a Charter of Democracy with his rivals, the Pakistan People’s Party. It was a striking contrast to the embittered relations between the two parties that had characterised the past, but demonstrated a drive from both parties to build the strength of democracy and not criticise each other to the extent that the nation became vulnerable to military intervention. During the last parliament, President Asif Ali Zardari, who was wildly unpopular, made constitutional changes that devolved power to the provinces and reduced the power of the president. During his time in opposition, Sharif, who has now been returned to power, did not seek to undermine the government too vociferously. In a piece looking at possible lessons for Egypt from Pakistan, Reuters journalist Myra McDonald notes: “the politicians learned: if they were to claw power away from the army, they had to set the rules of the game among themselves”.

As a result of this – and also because of the increased power of the media, which increased exponentially after being freed up by Musharraf – the country recently saw its first democratic transition from one elected government to another in its whole 65 year history. Egypt is at the beginning of its democratic experiment, and it is inevitable the path will not be smooth. Under Mubarak, political opposition was suppressed to such an extent that the infrastructure for a functioning, pluralistic democracy simply does not exist. In the latest round of mass protests, the secularist and liberals who objected to Morsi’s policies and style of leadership arguably made the mistake of thinking that their enemy’s enemy was their friend, and embracing army intervention. Going forward, it seems that the best tactic would be for civilians to work on building up their political systems rather than bowing to – or even calling for – army intervention. Pakistan’s democracy is still fragile and at a fledgling stage of its development, but if there are any lessons to be learned, that is it.

(Source / 07.10.2013)

Update on the situation of Palestinian women prisoners


lina_jarbouniThe Palestine Information Centre reported that thirteen Palestinian female prisoners are still held in Hasharon Israeli prison suffering very difficult detention conditions amid the deafening silence of human rights institutions and international community.

Lena Jarboni, 34, from Buttof village inside the Green Line, was arrested since 2004 and sentenced to 17 years on charges of helping resistance elements. She spent 11 years behind Israeli bars where she suffers from swelling in her feet and severe and endless headache. Lina has undergone a surgery. The IOA refused to release her in Wafa al-Ahrar prisoners exchange deal.

Inam Hasanat, 30, from Bethlehem, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to two years imprisonment with a fine of 1,000 shekels for attempting to stab an Israeli settler at a military checkpoint.

Nawal Saadi, 56, from Jenin, a mother of five children, was arrested from her house in 2012 without being sentenced till this moment. Nawal is charged with smuggling money to a“terrorist group”. She suffers high blood pressure and constant fatigue amid a deliberate medical negligence to her health condition.

Mona Ka’adan, 42, from Jenin, was arrested several times by Israeli forces most recently was on November 2012 from her home on charges of smuggling funds to organize a “hostile group”. Her mother died while she is in custody. Her fiancé is also detained in Israeli jails and sentenced to life.

The Jerusalemite prisoner Intisar Sayyad, 38, was arrested on November 2012 and sentenced to 30 months on charges of attempting to kill a settler. She is a mother of four children.

The university student Alaa Abu Zaytun, 22, from Nablus district, was arrested on her way to college on September 2013 at an Israeli military checkpoint. She was sentenced, after weeks of investigation, to two years’ imprisonment.

Nahil Abu Aisha, 23, from al-Khalil, was arrested near the Ibrahimi mosque on March 2013 under the charge of trying to stab an Israeli soldier.

Inam Kanmbo, 44, from the city of Jerusalem, was arrested while participating in a march denouncing the death in an Israeli occupation jail of prisoner Maysara Abu Hamdiya in due to medical negligence.

Tahrir Algueni, 27, from Nablus district, was arrested on May 2013 with her brother Saddam Algueni.

Donya Wakid, 27-year-old from the city of Tulkarem, was arrested from her home in May 2013. Her family did not receive any information about her since her arrest. She suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.

Linan Abu Ghalam, 32, from Nablus, was arrested during a visit to the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948 on August 2013 with two other Palestinian women, Lina Jawabra, who was released after one month in detention, and Maysar Atyani. Linan was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

The activist in prisoners’ issue Myassar Atyani, 49, from Nablus, was arrested in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948 where she was sentenced to three months.

Ayat Mahfouz, 20, from al-Khalil, was arrested in August 2013 near the Ibrahimi Mosque, on charges of possession of a knife. Her detention was few months after her release where she spent two months in Israeli jails.

For his part, the director of Ahrar center for prisoners’ studies, Fuad al-Khuffash, said that that the Palestinian female prisoners suffer very difficult detention conditions due to the IPS deliberate medical negligence, ill-treatment, humiliating strip search, and being deprived of family visits.

Hasharon Israeli prison was built during the British Mandate years, and is known for its poor ventilation, clamminess and insect infestations. Besides housing the Palestinian female prisoners, the complex contains also juvenile Israeli female prisoners.

(Source / 07.10.2013)

When the Boys Return: New film examines child prisoners

masterposter-580x333_340_220Palestine News Network published the following report on October 4 about a new film that looks at child prisoners in Israeli jails and how imprisonment of children impacts their lives. For more information about the film, please see its website:

“When the Boys Return,” directed by Tone Andersen, is a documentary addressing the challenges that Palestinian youths face in Israeli jails pre, during and post detention, with a focus on the process of reentering society after their detention. The documentary presents a detailed view into the lives of 12 children, and how they are affected by their time in detention.

The film shows just a fraction of the 7,500 Palestinian minors aged between 12 and 18 who have gone through the Israeli prison system over the past 11 years.

The Israeli army often arrests young Palestinian men at night. Usually, the charge is stone-throwing and the average sentence is two years. Many display symptoms of post-traumatic-stress disorder when they are released from their detention.

“When the Boys Return” has won several awards in European film festivals, including Stockholm and al-Kazeera for documentary films, and was shown on European television stations in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Britain and Holland.

The YMCA office in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour, and representatives from the Norwegian consulate to Palestine in Ramallah, organized a showing of the film in the Russian Culture Center in Bethlehem.  Attendants of the event included Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe, General Director of Palestinian Prisoners’ Ministry Munkid Abu Atwan, Head of Prisoners’ Society in Hebron Amjad al-Najjar, Executive Manager of the YMCA Nader Abu Amsheh and several Palestinian minors who had been imprisoned, along with their families.

Executive Manager of the YMCA, Nader Abu Amsheh, welcomed the audience and thanked Minister Issa Qaraqe and the film’s director, Anderson, for discussing the issue of minor ex-detainees and their lives upon release.

He commended Anderson for having conducted extensive research and having accompanied the detained minors on their journeys inside the Israeli jails, adding that the 1-hour film took four months to be shot.

Abu Amsha told PNN that the film aims to show the suffering of detained minors, and expose the challenges that youths confront as they try to rebuild their lives in the face of the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Norwegian film director Tone Anderson, who lived in Palestine for a number of years before shooting “When the Boys Return,” thanked the Norwegian consulate to Palestine for sponsoring the film and praised the efforts of the YMCA and its staff for their cooperation in Hebron and Bethlehem. She also thanked her co-assistant director Raghad Mukarker who worked with her on the film, despite all the difficulties they encountered during the film’s shooting.

Anderson told PNN that she knows the truth about what’s going on in the West Bank, unlike how the situation is displayed in Western media. She adding that the Western media doesn’t focus on issues like the one touched on in the film.

After the screening, Anderson called the minor ex-detainees to the stage where they talked about their experiences and held a discussion of the film.

Click this link for a short and exclusive interview with Anderson about “When the Boys Return.”

(Source / 07.10.2013)

Rafah crossing to open for 5 days, officials say

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Egyptian authorities will open the Rafah crossing with Gaza on Tuesday until late Sunday, Egyptian officials said.

The Rafah crossing was opened on Monday to allow Palestinian pilgrims to travel to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage.

There have been frequent closures of the Rafah terminal in recent weeks due to political unrest in Egypt and violence in the Sinai peninsula.

After the July coup, which deposed president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s army has repeatedly closed the Rafah border crossing and destroyed hundreds of tunnels that Gazans used for years to import fuel, building materials and other goods.

The Rafah crossing has been the principal connection between Gaza’s 1.8 million residents and the outside world since the imposition of an economic blockade by the State of Israel beginning in 2007.

The blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans.

(Source / 07.10.2013)

Bahraini official calls Zionist regime “new friend”

TEHRAN, Oct. 7 (MNA) – A high-ranking official in Bahrain has implicitly labeled Israel as the new friend of the regime in Manama.
Bahrain Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary for Regional and (P)GCC Affairs Hamad Ahmed Al Amer called on searching for a new political friend, after publishing via his Twitter account an Israeli article that tackles the Arab-Israeli cooperation to dismantle the Iranian nuclear program.
The Bahraini official’s tweet provoked a number of his followers who asked him to openly announce that the Zionist usurper is his friend, the International Shia News Association reported on Sunday.
Hamad al-Amer responded almost positively, alleging that the Palestinians have reached an agreement with the Israelis to restore their rights. The Bahraini official also published the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements in which he attacked Iran.
Bahrainis have been staging demonstrations since mid-February 2011, demanding political reforms and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests.
Scores have been killed, many of them under torture while in custody, and thousands more detained since the popular uprising in Bahrain began.
Protesters say they will continue holding anti-regime demonstrations until their demand for the establishment of a democratically-elected government and an end to rights violations are met.
(Source / 07.10.2013)

Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai says Nato caused ‘great suffering’


Hamid Karzai: ‘What we wanted was absolute security and a clear-cut war against terrorism’

President Hamid Karzai has criticised Nato for failing to bring stability to Afghanistan in over a decade there.

“On the security front the entire Nato exercise was one that caused Afghanistan a lot of suffering, a lot of loss of life, and no gains because the country is not secure,” he said.

He said Nato had incorrectly focused the fight on Afghan villages rather than Taliban safe havens in Pakistan.

Mr Karzai has just six months remaining in office until a successor is elected.

“The return of the Taliban will not undermine progress. This country needs to have peace”

Hamid Karzai”

“I am not happy to say that there is partial security. That’s not what we are seeking. What we wanted was absolute security and a clear-cut war against terrorism,” Mr Karzai said of the Nato campaign.

Speaking in one of his last major interviews before stepping down, he told BBC Newsnight that his priority now is to bring peace and security to Afghanistan, including a power-sharing deal with the Taliban.

He said that his government was actively engaged in talks with the hardline Islamic group with this aim in mind:

“They are Afghans. Where the Afghan president, the Afghan government can appoint the Taliban to a government job they are welcome,” he said. “But where it’s the Afghan people appointing people through elections to state organs then the Taliban should come and participate in elections.”

Women’s rights

He dismissed concerns that bringing the Taliban back into government would sacrifice the tenuous gains on the status of women made in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has come a long way from 2001, from the days of the Taliban’s oppressive Islamist rule. But it has cost hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives.

And as the Afghans argue with the United States about a bilateral security agreement that will formalise post-war relations, its president continues to be an ally one day, and an opponent the next.

Hamid Karzai has long had a troubled relationship with his Western backers. And whether it is fighting the Taliban or nation-building, he has often had very different objectives, especially from the US.

When I interviewed him 18 months ago he seemed frustrated, especially with the United States. But this time, Mr Karzai seemed more relaxed, clearly feeling that his concerns about the Nato operation had finally been heard in capitals around the world.

Now, with only six months until elections for his successor Mr Karzai is looking to establish his legacy. He says the most important thing for him is that he is seen as the man who did his utmost to defend and unite the new Afghanistan.

But it has come at a price. He lives under armed guard and has survived at least six assassination attempts.

“The return of the Taliban will not undermine progress. This country needs to have peace. I am willing to stand for anything that will bring peace to Afghanistan and through that to promote the cause of the Afghan women better,” he said.

“I have no doubt that there will be more Afghan young girls and women studying and getting higher education and better job opportunities. There is no doubt about that; even if the Taliban come that will not end, that will not slow down,” he added.

Before the elections for Mr Karzai’s successor the United States is keen to finalise a bilateral security agreement which will also formalise US-Afghan relations following the 2014 Nato troop withdrawal.

The US wants this signed by Mr Karzai, to avoid it becoming an election issue. However, the Afghan leader told Newsnight he was in no hurry to sign a pact:

“If the agreement doesn’t suit us then of course they can leave. The agreement has to suit Afghanistan’s interests and purposes. If it doesn’t suit us and if it doesn’t suit them then naturally we will go separate ways.”

The US is becoming more and more pessimistic about the issue and has said it will consider a zero troops option.

Troop drawdown

Mr Karzai has had troubled relations with his Western backers in recent years for openly criticising Nato, whom he has accused of having no respect for Afghan sovereignty.

“Our government is weak and ineffective in comparison to other governments, we’ve just begun. But the big corruption, the hundreds of millions of dollars of corruption, it was not Afghan”

Hamid Karzai

In 2009, US President Barack Obama described Mr Karzai as an unreliable and ineffective partner. However, speaking to Newsnight Mr Karzai dismissed the claim saying he was characterised in this manner “because where they want us to go along, we don’t go along. They want us to keep silent when civilians are killed. We will not, we cannot”.

He said that in the years immediately following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan he had had good relations with the-then President George W Bush as in “those beginning years there was not much difference of opinion between us”.

“The worsening of relations began in 2005 where we saw the first incidents of civilian casualties, where we saw that the war on terror was not conducted where it should have been.”

Mr Karzai said the war should have been conducted “in the sanctuaries, in the training grounds beyond Afghanistan, rather than that which the US and Nato forces were conducting operations in Afghan villages, causing harm to Afghan people.”

Afghan womenLack of significant progress on women’s rights was a factor in Norway reducing aid to Afghanistan

There has also been much criticism of the Afghan government’s failure to deal with corruption, which along with lack of progress on significantly improving women’s rights, saw Norway cutting some its aid to the country last week.

“Our government is weak and ineffective in comparison to other governments, we’ve just begun,” Mr Karzai said. “But the big corruption, the hundreds of millions of dollars of corruption, it was not Afghan. Now everybody knows that. It was foreign.

“The contracts, the subcontracts, the blind contracts given to people, money thrown around to buy loyalties, money thrown around to buy submissiveness of Afghan government officials, to policies and designs that the Afghans would not agree to. That was the major part of corruption,” he said.

(Source / 07.10.2013)