Palestinian, Syrian refugees who died at sea buried in nameless graves

Two men participate in a 21 October ceremony in San Leone, Sicily, to honor hundreds of refugees who died in two shipwrecks near Italy earlier this month.

Palestinian and Syrian refugees have been buried by Italian authorities in nameless graves because their families cannot collect their bodies.

A total of 206 Syrians and Palestinians were rescued and dozens of bodies were recovered from a ship that sank near Sicily on 11 October en route to Europe from Libya.

The 11 October disaster is the second major shipwreck to take the lives of refugees recently.

On 2 October, 360 persons, mostly Eritreans and Somalis, died when their boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Three dozen Palestinians were also among the dead in this earlier disaster, according to the group Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights.

Dozens more bodies remain in the wreckage of the ship that sank on 11 October, according to a Euro-Mid press release which strongly condemns Italy’s handling of the tragedy.

Earlier, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed concern that the boat had been fired upon when it set out from Libya.

In a Sicilian mausoleum, yellow signs on victims’ graves bear only the date of the shipwreck and a coffin number, but no names.

Some details about the ongoing tragedy were revealed by Hanine Hassan, a Euro-Mid researcher who has been monitoring recovery operations in Sicily.

Hassan wrote in a post on Euro-Mid’sFacebook page on Tuesday about the harrowing situation in Sicily, where she had seen 21 of the bodies:

I can’t describe what I saw yesterday. Most of the 21 bodies of the Syrian and Palestinian refugees were unrecognizable. We were able to recognize 5 bodies (2 Syrian women, 1 Syrian woman married to a Palestinian and their 2 children are still missing, 1 Palestinian woman and 1 one-year old Palestinian child). We called their families, some in Malta, others in Syria and informed them the bad news. The Italian government can only give the bodies and their belongings to the families if they are present here to receive them, which is not the case, so most of the bodies will be buried in nameless graves.

The families of many of the dead, who remain in Syria, will have no idea of the fate of their loves ones.

Millions of Syrians and more than 200,000 Palestinian refugees living in Syria have been displaced by that country’s ongoing civil war.

Euro-Mid’s documentation may help at a later stage to provide the families with information about what happened to their relatives.

“I kept seeing their faces in front of me all night. Their pictures before the shipwreck, happy, alive and their faces after they drowned,” Hassan wrote. “I could never express in words the pain of what I have been witnessing for the past six days.”

Protestors hold signs demanding to know why shipwreck survivors were not allowed to participate in victims’ funerals

Euro-Mid accused Italian authorities of “abject failure” in dealing with the shipwreck and acting in a manner “completely inconsistent with international standards and human rights principles.”

The group said authorities in Rome had refused to provide sufficient information about the incident and had refused to take DNA samples from the unidentified victims’ bodies before burying them.

“Italian authorities did not allow the surviving refugees of the sunken ship to participate in the burial of the victims in Malta or the Italian island of Lampedusa,” according to the statement.

Rather, “authorities buried the victims, whose bodies had been recovered by divers at the beginning of the incident, in cemeteries around Sicily, failing to perform funerals and without affording the victims and their families their established right to perform a burial and observe religious rites.”

As many as 200 missing

The full scale of the 11 October disaster may not yet be clear. According to Euro-Mid:

testimonies collected by the Euro-Mid Observer indicate that more than 450 people were onboard the ship that set out from Libya. Taking into consideration the number of bodies that have been retrieved so far, the number of missing victims amounts to over 200, consistent with the estimates made by the Maltese authorities.

Tragedies at sea

Last month, 28 people died when a boat carrying asylum-seekers Dozens more were unaccounted for.

The Australian government denied that it had failed to heed distress calls and send help in time.

Most of the passengers came from from the northern Lebanese region of Akkar according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Others were from Eritrea (of whom five died), six from Iraq (one died) and one Iranian family from which only one child survived. There were only 22 survivors.

Last year, more than two dozen Palestinians, forced out of Iraq, died at sea as they tried to reach Australia in a rickety boat from Indonesia.

EU governments failing refugees

The criticisms of Italy’s handling of the catastrophe have been echoed by other human rights organizations.

Today, Human Rights Watch called on EU governments to “urgently adopt measures to improve sea rescues of migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach Europe. The summit should also pledge more measures to facilitate access for refugees from Syria and protect their rights as they increasingly turn to dangerous boat migration.”

“The EU has pledged a lot of money to support Syria’s neighbors who are hosting refugees from the conflict, but member states have been less generous when it comes to providing refuge here in Europe,” said Judith Sunderland, acting deputy Western Europe director at Human Rights Watch.

“New proposals for increased monitoring of the Mediterranean need to focus on saving lives, not barring entry to the EU,” Sunderland added.

A memorial service was held on Monday near the port of San Leone, Sicily to commemorate the victims who drowned from both the 3 and 11 October shipwrecks

(Source / 23.10.2013)

Cabinet Emphasizes That Jerusalem is the Key to Peace


Cabinet stressed, during its weekly meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah, that Jerusalem is the key to peace, “no State of Palestine without East Jerusalem as its eternal capital”, stressing its rejection to the Israeli draft law aimed at preventing any Israeli withdrawal from East Jerusalem. Cabinet greeted the boycotting of West Jerusalem municipality elections by Palestinians Jerusalemites.

Cabinet condemned the killing of Mohammad Assi by Israeli forces in the town of Bil’in, west of Ramallah Tuesday morning, the arrest of three others, the attacks against journalists, the bulldozing of agricultural land planted with olive trees between Kufr Ni’meh and Bil’in village and the storming into Palestinian houses and the destruction of their furniture and properties.

Cabinet stressed that it is time for the international community to put an end to the constant Israeli violations in Jerusalem especially against Al Aqsa Mosque, warning that what Israeli extremist groups do, with the support of the Israeli government, put the entire peace process at risk and threaten security and stability in the region. Cabinet warned of the persistence of Israeli officials in their provocative and dangerous statements against the Palestinian Authority, and its President Mahmoud Abbas.

Cabinet pointed out that Israeli officials, ministers and Knesset members’ statements against negotiations, the two-state solution and the establishment of the State of Palestine, in addition to the insistence of the Israeli government to challenge all calls of the international community, the continued violations of international legitimacy through campaigns of incitement and settlement expansion and the dangerous escalation of aggression against our people and their properties in the so-called “C” areas, especially in the Jordan Valley and areas behind the wall, which included the demolition and confiscation of tents and houses, the destruction of roads and the uprooting of plantations, all serve as proof that Israel’s goals are the expansion, conversion and the looting of the Palestinian land, and not achieving a permanent solution which guarantees the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, establish an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, achieve a just and acceptable solution to the Palestinian refugees’ issue in accordance with 194 resolution and ensure security, stability and peace to both sides and to the region.

The Israeli government insistence to change the geographical and demographic status of Jerusalem, and its insistence on the confiscation of the city’s Arabic identity and the attempts to displace people, the ongoing attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque, in addition to the systematic and organized crimes of the settlers that target Palestinians and their properties on a daily basis with the encouragement of the Israeli government and the protection of the occupation forces represent a systematic policy to destroy any possible resolution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Cabinet stressed that the United Nations must take firm position against the Israeli government policies, and that the U.S. administration must also take fair and just stances to abide Israel by the rules of international law, and the cessation of its policies which aim at blowing the final status of negotiations, in order to protect and give the peace process a chance.

Cabinet emphasized the importance of the popular efforts of our people, the international community and all international institutions and human rights organizations to highlight the suffering of thousands of prisoners in Israeli prisons due to the medical negligence and the isolation and harsh treatment. Cabinet stressed the need to compel Israel to the international and humanitarian laws.

Cabinet warned of the seriousness of the financial crisis in the absence of aid, which deepens the situation faced by the Palestinian National Authority and limit its ability to meet its obligations and provide its services to our people. Cabinet expressed its appreciation to the State of Qatar which offered $150 million to support the PNA treasury, it also called on donor countries and the rest of the Arab brethrens to provide urgent financial assistance to cover the deficit in the public budget, and the need to respond rapidly to activate the Arab safety net and expand and activate the Arab summit resolutions on Jerusalem to strengthen the resilience of its people and their ability to confront Israeli schemes that target their presence.

Cabinet expressed its pride about the high spirit of responsibility among employees who worked hard on the construction and development of our institutions to provide better services to citizens. It also stressed that the government pertains great importance to the issues of its employees, as part of its steps to modernize the civil service law by the ongoing discussions with various unions, and its plan for the development of the civil service in accordance with modern standards to ensure a dignified life for all.

(Source / 23.10.2013)

Israeli occupation planning new railway into Occupied Jerusalem



OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) are planning the construction of a new railway line that would extend from the entrance of Jerusalem into the Old City.

Israeli financial daily “Globes” said on Wednesday that the Israeli ministry of transportation would launch the project in cooperation with Israel Railways and the municipality of Jerusalem.

It said that the railway would include the building of an underground station in the historical Mamunulla Islamic graveyard, adding that it would cost around 700,000 dollars.

Globes said that the plan is part of the bigger speed train Israel was building from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to the tune of two billion dollars, adding that the project is scheduled to be completed by 2018.

(Source / 23.10.2013)

Captive Hammad in serious danger

Jordanian captive Ala’a Hammad is passing through a life threatening stage after 175 days of hunger strike, Waed society for prisoners said in a statement on Wednesday.

It said that Hammad, who went on hunger strike on 1st May, was isolated from the outside world and was suffering from medical neglect in Israeli captivity.

The society said that the Israeli prison authorities were trying to pressure Hammad into breaking his strike, but he is adamant on continuing despite his exhaustion and worsening condition.

It said that Hammad, a holder of Jordanian passport, was deprived of seeing his wife and six children, adding that his wife and children had been living in Jordan for the past six years.

(Source / 23.10.2013)

Ambassador: Japanese delegation to visit Palestine in November

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A delegation of 65 Japanese will visit Palestine in November to participate in National Youth Week, Palestinian ambassador to Japan Waleed Siam told Ma’an Wednesday.

National Youth Week, according to the Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa, “includes all sectors of Palestinian youth and will reflect the Palestinian people’s determination for freedom and independence.”

Siam added that several Palestinians currently live in Japan – five as permanent residents and 47 as students at Japanese universities.

He said that 20 Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza hold Japanese citizenship, but that the Palestinians currently residing in Japan do not.

He said that in the past, any Palestinian child born in Japan was automatically endowed with citizenship. But after 2009, when Japan began to recognize Palestinian citizenship at the PA’s request, Palestinians could no longer obtain Japanese citizenship.

Due to support by the Japanese government, Palestinians enjoy comfortable living situations in Japan, Siam said.

(Source / 23.10.2013)

Abbas calls on corporations to cease activity in settlements

PA President Mahmoud Abbas met with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy Wednesday
BRUSSELS (Ma’an) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on international corporations Wednesday to cease doing business in Israeli settlements.

Abbas’s statement came during a press conference in Brussels after he met with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

This is not a step against Israel, Abbas said, but against the illegal settlements continuously being built on Palestinian land.

Still, Abbas vowed to commit to the 9-month time frame for negotiations set by U.S Secretary of State John Kerry.

Abbas said that Palestinians “want to live beside (Israel) and build bridges of peace with it,” but added that some Israeli policies, including construction of settlements, military activity and restrictions on the Palestinian economy, are hindrances to the peace process.

“We are working together with President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to ensure the success of the negotiations,” Abbas concluded.

Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians were relaunched in July under the auspices of the United States after nearly three years of impasse.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law. The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

(Source / 23.10.2013)

General Abdel-Fattah Sisi is No Colonel Gamal Abdel-Nasser

Sisi will be remembered for aborting the first democratic experiment in Egypt.
Sisi will be remembered for aborting the first democratic experiment in Egypt.

Nasser had first-hand experience with the 1948 war in Palestine when he and his infantry battalion were besieged by the Israelis, and he was wounded in a place called Fallouga. The defeat of the Arab armies by Israel, according to Nasser was caused by the corruption of existing Arab order, the monarchies, the regimes of the beys and pashas, the large landlords and the feudalists. The disastrous 1948 war set the stage for the 1952 coup under Nasser by virtue of his war record in Palestine and concern about Egypt that was a British colony.

The 1952 Egyptian military coup was staged by members of the “Free Officers” group under Gamal Abdel-Nasser’s leadership and later on developed into a revolution that established Egypt as an independent state and a major international player. Nasser came at a critical moment in history when Egypt was practically a British colony and the Egyptians were searching for a leader to free their country. Historians describe Nasser as one of the towering political figures of the Middle East in the 20th century. The military coup forced King Farouk to abdicate and sent him and his family aboard a luxurious yacht into exile in the Principality of Monaco. King Farouk was widely condemned by the Egyptian discontent public for his corrupt and ineffectual governance, the British continued occupation of Egypt, the foreign control over the Suez Canal and Egypt’s dismal failure in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Nasser paid the ex-king farewell on his way to exile with an honorary ceremony, and never considered subjecting him to humiliation or trial because Nasser had plans for Egypt that needed all his time and energy. He referred to the Egyptian people including the monarchy supporters, the Pasha class, members of the dominant al-Wafd Party and the land-owners as one family. This is what he described his government in one of his speeches: “It is the government that looks on all Egyptians as one big family.”

Nasser had an ideology, plans, strategy and roadmap for reforming Egypt’s economy and lifting the standards of living for the poor. His government’s most important events in the five years between 1952 and 1957 were the Land Reform and the start of industrialization. Land Reform was the policy on which Nasser based most of his regime legitimacy not only to keep the social peace, but as a means of transferring resources from agriculture to industry. Thus on July 23 1952, immediately after the coup had been successfully carried out peacefully and without firing a shot, its leaders issued a proclamation stated: “The General Headquarters have submitted demands for the promulgation of laws that help raise the standards of people. Foremost among such laws is for the limitation of land-ownership.”

The aims of Land Reform were to raise the standards of living of the peasants and to provide the participation in industrializing the country as an alternative form of investment for the wealthy landed group, who owned most of Egypt’s cultivated land. In a speech given on the second anniversary of the revolution, Nasser restated the aim of his revolution: “…The agrarian reform that has served the farmers has also rendered a service to the Egyptian capitalists…It has guaranteed profits in some cases and has granted many facilities to the capitalists who are willing to start new industry. This is the government of the whole nation, the government of the farmers, the workers, the students, the financiers, the businessmen, the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, the beginners and those who have attained success..”

Considering how small percentage (3%) of Egypt the area along the Nile River that can be inhabited or cultivated, Nasser was committed to expand the land available for agriculture by building the High Dam project at Aswan and reclaiming part of the surrounding desert. He made an agreement with the Soviets to help reclaiming 300,000 acres in Western Nubaria.

Nasser’s objective was the establishment of heavy ‘strategic’ industries that were the hallmark of the power of the West and the Soviet Union. These would produce the fertilizers, tractors, pumps, etc.. necessary for agricultural modernization. They would also produce basic consumer goods and consumer durables such as steel plates, Aluminum ingots, tubeless pipes, copper cables, and cement for the Egyptians and eventually for exports. Nasser believed that with urbanization, rising income and literacy, the birth rate would fall and the revitalized agricultural sector would feed a stable population. The average Egyptian would have his own dwelling, perhaps even a car. The state then would be able to tax the population’s growing prosperity to generate investment for further growth. That was his vision for Egypt and that would be within Egypt’s grasp at the end of a decade of planned growth. At a later stage, Nasser realized that the private sector was unable to undertake the task of modernization at an accelerated pace because of the lack of private capital and so he ordered the state including the military to take over many industrial functions. Nasser could have made the transition to democracy, ran on his domestic and foreign policy record and won elections, but unfortunately he did not.

Nasser made serious mistakes that contributed to the sad state in Egypt today while trying to implement his vision, but his armed forces never shed Egyptian blood in the streets and squares of Cairo. One of Nasser’s mistakes was surrounding himself with incompetent deputies and creation the template of the strong leader cult that became a model for his successors and for most revolutionary and non-revolutionary regimes in the Middle East. He created a powerful political class at the heart of the regime, the military officers’ class who believed they had been given popular mandate to rule Egypt; and ironically they adopted the lifestyle of the rich, except for Nasser himself who lived a simple lifestyle. His most trusted deputy, Abdel-Hakim Aamer miss-managed the 1958 Egyptian-Syrian merger that came to be known as the United Arab Republic (UAR). The UAR failed and Nasser made another mistake by promoting Aamer to the highest military rank. Aamer was responsible for Egypt’s crushing defeat by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.

Unfortunately, Nasser’s successors including General Sisi climbed to power by exploiting the enduring structure of an authoritarian state under the military that Nasser created, but without having his ambitious plans for improving the lives of the Egyptians.

Supporters of General Sisi, Egypt’s strong man, compare him with Nasser. The military uniform is the only thing in common between the two men. If Nasser is remembered for achieving Egypt’s independence from Britain, taking back the Suez Canal, building the High Dam and carrying out the Land Reform, General Sisi will be remembered for aborting the first democratic experiment in Egypt; for dividing the nation into “We-They” dichotomy based on difference of political views; for being the first Egyptian military general to order his forces to mow down hundreds and wound thousands of peaceful anti coup Egyptian protesters in what is called the August 14 Rabia al-Adawiya and al-Nahda squares massacres. And General Sisi is the first Arab leader to join Israel’s right wing parties by publically declaring contacts with Hamas Party that won the 2006 Palestinian Parliament elections, as acts of treason. General Abdel-Fattah Sisi is no Colonel Gamal Abdel-Nasser.

(Source / 23.10.2013)

Amid Syria’s Chaos, Assad Plans A Presidential Vote For Next Year

A U.S. state department official calls the idea “a farce.” Iran thinks otherwise.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a recent interview with a Lebanese TV station. “Personally, I don’t see any obstacles to being nominated to run in the next presidential elections,” he said. Sana / Reuters

ISTANBUL — The idea that Syria will follow through with presidential elections planned for next year amid a grinding civil war is met with derision from many of its citizens, including Samir Mattini, an opposition television host and commentator, who nearly shouts words like “shameful” and “joke” when the subject is broached.

Even before the war, the country’s elections were widely seen as rigged: President Bashar al-Assad claimed 97% of the vote when he last ran, uncontested, in a 2007 referendum. Now Syria is mired in a conflict that has seen at least 100,000 people killed and millions displaced. “There is no such thing as a valid election in a country like this where people are dying daily,” Mattini says.

Yet Assad is sending signals that he plans to press ahead with the vote — most recently in a TV interview that aired in Lebanon on Monday, during which he said he doesn’t “see any obstacles” to running again next year. Russia, one of Assad’s two main backers, has stuck fast to its insistence that he not be forced from office. Iran, the other, has gone further, with its foreign minister saying this spring that Assad “will take part” in the election “and the Syrian people will elect whomever they want.” An Iranian diplomat was keen to press this idea: “The Syrian people need to decide at the ballot box,” the diplomat said in a recent interview. “So, let’s put it to the Syrian people.”

These messages from Assad and his allies — and the fact that his forces have regained momentum — have many in the West, including U.S. officials, paying close attention to the prospect of next year’s vote. They doubt an election would be fair, and warn that Assad could use it to further strengthen his hand. “They’re not going to be in a position to say they can hold credible elections, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to hold a show election,” said Firas Abi Ali, the head of Middle East and North Africa forecasting at IHS Country Risk, a research firm in London. “It buys time, and it legitimizes the regime. And it allows Assad — and the Iranians and Russians behind him — to say, ‘I want a democratic Syria, and I want to resolve this conflict through elections, and my rivals don’t.’”

Assad wouldn’t win over opponents with that line, Abi Ali adds, but “in front of his own supporters he would look a lot better, and in front of the people who just want this conflict to end he would look a lot better. It would also have an impact abroad, in that the Russians and Iranians could hold [the election] up and say that it legitimizes their policy.”

A U.S. State Department officials says any election in Syria would almost certainly be a “farce” that couldn’t “pass a laugh test.” On top of longstanding concerns about fairness, Assad has lost control of much of the country, and more than 2 million Syrians now live abroad as refugees, further undermining the possibility of a credible vote, the official notes. But Assad might still succeed in using the election to boost his narrative. “There are many ways that the regime is winning the messaging war. The fact that we now see this conflict increasingly as extremists vs. the regime — that has been a regime narrative from the beginning. They have been masterful at handling that,” says the official, who declined to be named in line with department policy. “I’m sure [Assad] will use the elections in a similar way.”

At the same time, the official says the elections also present a unique — if slim — opportunity for negotiations on ending the conflict. “I don’t think anyone has ruled that out,” the official says. “I think a lot of people are zeroing in on this and saying, ‘What can we do with the idea?’”

The United States and Russia have been pushing to convene a peace conference in Geneva next month, though both Assad and his opponents have been skeptical about the idea. “Elections offer a moment that is already built into the calendar,” the official says. “And if there were a way to position them so that they could be held under legal auspices that would allow some form of genuine competition, and you could let the Syrian people vote, that would be an incredible way to end this conflict. It’s just that the hurdles to get there are enormous.”

The Syrian opposition’s leaders in exile have rejected the idea of negotiations with Assad, calling his departure a precondition for any talks. While some may be “starting to come around to the idea that they’re going to have to talk to the regime,” they’d be extremely unlikely to trust an election deal, says a State Department official familiar with the opposition. “They generally feel that any election would be totally illegitimate, because it would only be held in the areas the regime holds, and they would rig it, which would ostensibly be correct,” the official says. “They see it as another gambit by the regime.”

Many fighters on the ground, especially among the rebellion’s extremist elements, “are saying they will fight Assad to the death no matter what,” another State Department official adds.

Islam Alloush, a Damascus-based spokesman for the Army of Islam, a powerful coalition of rebel groups, dismisses the idea of a vote being held in areas under rebel control. “It’s impossible to have a polling station in my area. It’s completely liberated,” he says. “Everyone should know that Assad will not be removed from power unless it’s by military force.”

(Source / 23.10.2013)

90 percent of Gaza’s water unfit for drinking, says Falk

Richard Falk, a UN special rapporteur on Palestine, has used a new report on corporate complicity with the Israeli occupation to sound the alarm over how Israel is blocking Palestinians from access to their rightful share of water resources.Falk says Israel must halt the demolition of water collection facilities on the pretext that they operate without valid permits.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza has exacerbated water scarcity and the lack of adequate sanitation facilities. Delays and restrictions on the entry of materials through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing have stalled a number of water and sanitation infrastructure projects.

The Gaza Strip is almost completely reliant for its water on the underlying coastal aquifer. Israel uses a disproportionate share of water from this source for its own benefit.

Pollution caused by raw sewage and rising seawater infiltration make 90 percent of the water unfit for human consumption. Last year, the UN reported that the coastal aquifer could become unusable in 2016 with the deterioration becoming irreversible by 2020.

Tap water polluted

Polluted tap water has forced many families to buy expensive water from external vendors. As a result, the average consumption in Gaza has dropped to between 70 and 90 liters per person per day, which is below the 100 liters recommended by the World Health Organization.

Falk strongly condemns the targeting of water and sanitation facilities during Israeli military operations. Israel has destroyed at least 306 wells in Gaza since 2005. The repeated destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure has contributed to water scarcity in Gaza.

Israel also blocks Gaza’s inhabitants from using water from Wadi Gaza, a natural stream that originates in the Hebron mountains and flows to the Mediterranean Sea.

Israel denies Palestinians in the West Bank their rightful share of water from an underground mountain aquifer, according to Falk. It also prevents Palestinians from accessing water from the Jordan River. Under customary international law both water resources must be shared equitably. However, an estimated 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) enjoy approximately six times the amount of water used by the 2.6 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Settlers seize springs

Palestinians also lose water resources through Israel’s demolition of “illegal” water collection facilities and as a result of deep-water drilling activities by Israeli water companies. In addition, Falk received reports that Palestinian springs have been taken over by settlers and fenced off.

The unequal distribution of water resources has been sustained by the Joint Water Committee (JWC), which oversees and authorizes water projects in the occupied West Bank. Israel has used its veto power in the JWC to constrain the development of water infrastructure for Palestinian communities, particularly in Area C of the West Bank. Area C is a zone comprising more than 60 percent of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli political and military control.

All Palestinian water projects located in Area C need to obtain approval from the Israeli Civil Administration — the body overseeing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank — in addition to the JWC’s approval.

Between 1995 to 2008, the JWC rejected half of the Palestinian proposals for water projects while it rejected only one out of 135 Israeli proposals. Only four out of thirty Palestinian wastewater treatment plant proposals were approved by the JWC and their construction has been repeatedly delayed. There is only one functioning Palestinian wastewater treatment plant in the West Bank, which can treat less than 3 percent of sewage.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities profit from the occupation by treating almost 21 percent of sewage from the West Bank in facilities inside Israel. Those facilities are paid for by Palestinian tax revenues withheld by Israel. The treated wastewater is then reused for the exclusive benefit of the Israeli agricultural sector.

Falk criticizes the Palestinian Authority for not having been able to uphold Palestinian water rights and to embrace the right to develop water and sanitation facilities. Support from international donors for ad hoc solutions, such as financing desalination plants and sanitation facilities to meet the immediate needs of the Palestinian population, must go hand-in-hand with pressure on Israel to end its discriminatory policies.

(Source / 23.10.2013)

Syria says terrorist attack causes country-wide blackout

Syria was plunged Wednesday into a nationwide blackout, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

A “terrorist attack on the gas feeder line for a power plant” in southern Damascus led to “power outages in all provinces” and efforts were under way to restore it, Electricity Minister Imad Khamis told SANA.

Syrian activists were posting video to social media accounts showing what they described as a gas line fire near the Damascus airport. The video showed unidentified buildings in the dark, with a fire burning on higher ground behind the structures.

And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that a large explosion rocked Damascus late Wednesday. The blast targeted a government checkpoint and injured soldiers there, the London-based activist group said.

In London on Wednesday, at a meeting of the “Friends of Syria,” the head of Syria’s main opposition umbrella group laid out a list of conditions for participation in a conference to be held by the end of the year in Geneva with the goal of ending the bloodshed that has wracked the country since March 2011.

Ahmad al-Jabra, leader of the Syrian National Coalition, said they include:

— releasing prisoners;

— lifting the siege from affected areas and allowing the entry of aid;

— stopping the use in civilian areas of ballistic missiles, cluster bombs and fighters jets;

— the departure from Syria of Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces;

— the renewal without conditions of ex-pats’ Syrian passports;

— a commitment from President Bashar al-Assad to implement the provisions reached in the first such conference, dubbed Geneva 1;

— a declaration by al-Assad to accept a transition of power to an interim government body with executive powers, written in the constitution;

— an agreement by all sides that the transitional government is the sole source of legitimate law in the country;

— an agreement that the U.N. Security Council will guarantee any agreement under Chapter VII of its charter, which would allow military action;

— a timetable for the transition;

— stipulation that those responsible for war crimes against humanity be removed from power and held accountable.

British Foreign Minister William Hague told reporters Wednesday that al-Assad should play no political role in Syria.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said at least 33 people were killed Wednesday across Syria.

State-run SANA said at least 10 people were killed in “terrorist” attacks in Damascus and Aleppo.

(Source / 23.10.2013)