Palestinian homes in Beirut’s Dbayeh camp face demolition threat

BEIRUT (Ma’an) — The Palestinian refugees of Dbayeh refugee camp east of Beirut are worried about the future of their homes after the Dbayeh municipality issued a decision to demolish dozens of Palestinian houses in the camp.

Palestinians had prepared repairs for their homes in the face of the approaching winter season, but now fear that they will be left homeless instead.

In response, PLO representatives in Lebanon decided to hold an urgent meeting at the Palestinian Embassy in Beirut to follow up on the demolition orders in Dbayeh.

The meeting will include the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabour, Fatah’s central committee member, Dr. Nabil Shaath, Fatah’s secretary of PLO factions in Lebanon, Fathi Abu al-Aradat, the commander of the Palestinian National Security forces in Lebanon Subhi Abu Arab, Hamas representative in Lebanon, Ali Barka, a member in the PFLP office, Salah al-Yousef, an official of the DFLP, Ali Faysal, PFLP official, Marwan Abed al-All, and the director of the Ambassador’s office, Khalid Obadi.

Consultations have already been held with officials in the Lebanese government, calling on them to stop the demolition orders and to reach an agreement through dialogue.

There are an estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Around 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes inside Israel during the 1948 conflict that led to the creation of the State of Israel, and today their descendants number around five million, spread across the world.

(Source / 22.11.2013)

Israeli forces raid home of recently released Palestinian prisoner

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces raided al-Arrub refugee camp north of Hebron on Friday and handed a notification to a former prisoner, Najeh Mohammad Mikbel, 54, demanding he meet with Israeli intelligence forces.

Najeh Mohammad Mikbel spent 24 years in the Israeli jails, and was only released in late October as part of a negotiated prisoner release between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, family said.

The brother of Najeh Mohammad Mikbel said that the Israeli forces handed a notification to his brother to meet with Israeli intelligence after raiding the house and caused many damages.

Najeh Mohammad Mikbel was released on October 29 after 24 years in Israeli jails. He was released as part of the second round of Israel’s release of 104 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails since before the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993.

5,200 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails as of Oct. 2013, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. Another 1,280 are in Israeli prisons for being inside Israel without permits.

Since 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel, representing 20% of the total population and 40% of all males in the occupied territories.

Under international law, it is illegal to transfer prisoners outside of the occupied territory in which they are detained, and the families of Palestinian prisoners’ face many obstacles in obtaining permits to see their imprisoned relatives.

(Source / 22.11.2013)

Rebels take key town from army: watchdog

BEIRUT: Rebels in Syria seized a key town on Friday in Qalamoun province that has been under army control since the outbreak of the conflict, a monitoring group and the opposition said.

Hundreds of rebels now control most of Deir Attiyeh, with the exception of the Bassel hospital and a small hill, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The majority Christian town north of Damascus is home to 10,000 people and is situated on the strategic route linking the capital to Homs in central Syria.

It was seized by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al Nusra Front, as well as other Islamist fighters, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers on the ground for its reports. The opposition National Coalition welcomed the capture of Deir Attiyeh.

“After fierce fighting lasting several days, the (mainstream rebel) Free Syrian Army in Damascus province has successfully liberated the town of Deir Attiyeh in the Qalamoun area,” the Coalition said in a statement.

“It is a success that exposes the lies of the regime (of President Bashar Al Assad) about fictitious victories,” the opposition added.

The rebel advance comes three days after the army took Qara, which for many months had been under opposition control.

A Syrian security source told AFP “the terrorists that were expelled from Qara have found refuge in… buildings on the edges of Deir Attiyeh and the army is currently handling the problem.”

Assad’s regime refers to the armed opposition as “terrorists.”

His army, backed by Shiite fighters from Lebanon’s Hizbollah, has fought rebels all week in several areas of Qalamoun, which is strategic because it is near the Lebanese border.

Regime warplanes on Friday staged 16 air strikes on Qalamoun, the Observatory said.

Seperately, the Observatory said a fierce battle for control of a Syrian military base near the northern, opposition-held city of Raqqa has killed 24 rebels and the government troops have managed to hold on to the complex.

Opposition fighters had launched an assault on the base on Wednesday, according to the Observatory.

Sporadic clashes were still underway on Friday for the facility, known as Base 17 because it houses the Syrian army’s 17th Brigade, said the Observatory’s chief, Rami Abdurrahman.

(Source / 22.11.2013)

Egypt’s Salafi party rejects military trials for civilians

Egypt's Salafi party rejects military trials for civilians


Egypt’s Nour Party, has rejected a constitution article on military trials for civilians, after it was approved by a 50-member panel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, a head representative of Gamaa Islamiya’s political wing has called for a week-long truce.

Egypt’s Salafi-led Nour Party has rejected an article approved by a constitution-amending panel that allows military trials for civilians.

“The new article is no worse than a similar article in the 2012 constitution,” Talaat Marzouq, assistant deputy leader for legal affairs, told Anadolu Agency.

On Wednesday, the 50-member panel amending Egypt’s constitution approved an article specifying cases of military trials for civilians.

The article allows military trials for civilians involved in attacking army barracks, military facilities, camps, vehicles, military zones and border areas.

The text stipulates that anybody who exposes military secrets or attacks military personnel while on duty should be brought to military courts.

The amendment of Egypt’s 2012 constitution is a main component of an army-imposed “roadmap” for political transition following the ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi.

Gamaa Islamiya leader calls for ‘week-long truce’ in Egypt

A leader of the Construction and Development Party, the political army of Gamaa Islamiya, has called for a “week-long truce” to help prepare for dialogue to resolve Egypt’s lingering political crisis.

“We call for a week-long dialogue between all parties,” Khalid al-Sherif said in a statement late Thursday.

He said during the proposed period, military-backed authorities should halt arrests and security crackdowns while the National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy, the main support bloc of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, stops demonstrations.

“This will help create a favorable climate for fruitful dialogue between all parties,” he said.

Egypt has remained in a state of turmoil since the military establishment deposed elected president Mohamed Morsi in July following mass protests against his presidency.

Supporters of the ousted president have been staging rallies on a daily basis to denounce what they describe as the “military coup” against Morsi and demand his reinstatement.

The call came shortly after the killing of two policemen in attacks and one day after the killing of 11 Egyptian soldiers in a bombing targeting their bus in the Sinai Peninsula.

“Revenge, divisions and polarization are dominating the homeland, which requires from all parties to sit to dialogue,” al-Sherif said.

(Source / 22.11.2013)

West media ignore massacre of Christians in Syria

Western media outlets have come under criticism from Christians in Syria for turning a blind eye to atrocities carried out by Takfiri terrorist groups against the Christian community in the war-torn country.

A new report by the news service of the Pontifical Mission Societies highlights the massacre of 45 Christians in the village of Sadad, northeast of Damascus.

The killing marks the biggest massacre of Christians in the Syrian conflict which began in March 2011.

The report also blamed the foreign-backed Takfiri militants for the massacre, and denounced the US government and its mainstream media for remaining silent on the mass murder.

More Christians are now fleeing their homes as the persecution is worsening in militant-held territories in the north.

Christians say kidnapping, rape and execution of Christians are being carried out by Takfiri militants and those affiliated with the so-called Free Syrian Army.

Nearly three years of foreign-sponsored militancy in Syria has taken its toll on the lives of more than 100,000 people, according to statistics compiled by the United Nations, which also show that millions have been displaced due to the turmoil.

The UN has repeatedly warned about the humanitarian situation in the country, saying that over nine million people are in need of urgent aid due to the crisis.

(Source / 22.11.2013)

European MPs to Ashton: Make Israel pay for settlements

A total of 114 members of the European Parliament signed and delivered an open letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton Thursday to ensure she implements the EU guidelines on Israeli settlements, scheduled to take effect next month, January 2014.

The guidelines stipulate that any Israeli entity that wants to receive funding and loans, participate in a project or compete for grants or awards given by foundations or agencies of the EU will have to submit a statement declaring that they have no direct link to the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights – all territories Israel occupied in 1967 and which the EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over.

While it was originally understood that this meant the EU would require Israel to stop all operations beyond the Green Line if it wanted to continue to benefit from cooperation, it became clear that the guidelines are trying to make sure that specific European grants and prizes are not part of projects in the occupied territories.

Click here for everything you need to know about the EU guidelines

Since the guidelines were announced in July, Israeli government officials have been scrambling to combat the effort, negotiating with EU representatives to try and find a “compromise” – essentially a way to get around the restrictions. Israel is specifically concerned about its ability to join the Horizon 2020 program – an $80 billion research program that just passed in European Parliament today (Thursday) –  that would provide Israeli institutions with around 600 million euro over the next seven years  for various technology and research projects.

As Noam Sheizaf reported here last month, Israel is trying to find a way so that as long as an Israeli entity is headquartered behind the Green Line, it will still get EU funding, even if it has operations in the occupied West Bank. This is exactly what the EU members who signed on to this letter are trying to prevent.

According to an adviser in the EU parliament who prefers to remain nameless, Israeli negotiators have already succeeded in removing any mention of the guidelines in the Memorandum of Understanding being negotiated right now, potentially undermining the entire purpose of the guidelines.

“If EU funds end up in settlements EU loses. Plain and simple. If Israel manages to continue business as usual despite the guidelines and settlements continue to receive EU funds, then EU leaders look very weak. Yet again.”

Here is a portion of the letter sent today to Ashton (the full letter is below):

Dear High Representative,

We are writing to call your attention to certain serious concerns regarding the arrangements about to be concluded that will determine the terms of Israel’s participation in a range of EU programmes, including Horizon 2020. We wish to call on you to take the steps that remain necessary to ensure that no form of EU-funded support is provided to Israeli entities established in the settlements, which are illegal under international law, or to activities or operations of Israeli entities taking place in those settlements under any of these programmes.

As an ENP country, Israel is entitled to participate in a range of EU programmes, including Horizon 2020. The Guidelines published by the Commission on 19th July 2013 should apply to all these programmes, current and future.

In all cases, the EU must respect its own positions and commitments in conformity with international law on the non-recognition by the Union of Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied since June 1967. In all cases, no EU-funded support of any kind may be provided to Israeli entities established in Israeli settlements or to settlement-based activities. (Emphasis mine).

MEP Margrete Auken, a member of the Greens in in the EP and vice-chair of the Delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council, described the impetus for the letter to +972: “When we noticed the potential legal loophole we decided to send an open letter to Catherine Ashton who must take action to ensure that EU funds don’t end up in settlements.

“Israeli negotiators are tough and clever, said Auken, “and Catherine Ashton needs to know she has the support from the European Parliament to hold her own and stay alert. The world community again and again declares Israeli settlements illegal. Now we need action behind the words so Israel feels the consequences of breaking international law time and again.”

In effect, these members of parliament are asking the EU to simply follow through on a policy that has been their formal position for decades – just like the U.S.

(Source / 22.11.2013)


By Peter Clifford              ©             (


In the last 48 hours heavy fighting has been reported around the Division 17 Syrian Army base north of Raqqah city in north-east Syria.

Opposition Fighter Burns Assad Regime Flag in Aleppo

Although Raqqah city has been under Opposition control for some time, the Army base to the north of it has stubbornly resisted siege.  On Wednesday Opposition forces launched another attack and are now moving forward inside the base, HERE:

So far the Opposition fighters have captured the munitions store below the watertower and are currently attacking the officers housing complex, using their own tanks and field guns, HERE:

The battle has not been without cost.  Assad’s Air Force bombed Opposition positions inside the base yesterday and a total of 24 Opposition fighters are so far reported killed.

However, attempts to reinforce the remaining Government troops with supplies failed as the  parachutes drifted into the hands of the Opposition. At the time of writing the remaining Government forces are holding out but a conclusion to this battle is expected soon.

In Deraa city at the opposite end of the country to the south, fierce battles are continuing in the eastern part of the regional capital where Opposition fighters are advancing in the Tariq al-Sadd district towards the Central Prison.

A Government convoy sent to reinforce positions at the prison and coming from an air base to the south-east of the city, was intercepted and 3 BMP armoured vehicles, 2 armed pick-ups and 20 troops destroyed.

In Hama province, where Opposition areas have been subjected to constant air attacks, a barrel-bomb dropped by helicopter on KfarZita town did not explode.  Local people bravely dismantled it, HERE:


In Aleppo, fighting also continues around the Base 80 area just north of the International Airport and activists report that 15 members of Assad’s National Defense Force (NDF) were killed in clashes.

Opposition fighters also repulsed a major regime assault on their positions at the Ummayad Mosque, continuing the destruction of much of its ancient infrastructure, HERE:

The recent death of the esteemed and well respected leader of the Liwa Al-Tawhid Brigade, Abdul Qader Saleh, may not have been in vain. This morning, Friday, news has emerged from Aleppo of the merging of 6 of the Opposition’s most important and more moderate factions.

Dubbed as the “Islamic Front”, Abu Firas, spokesman for Liwa Al-tawhid, said that besides his own brigade, the others were Ahrar al-Sham, the Army of Islam, Suqour al-Sham, Liwa al-Haq and the Ansar al-Sham battalions. All the groups are moderate Islamist.

Hopefully, this will bring a turn around in the fortunes of the Opposition, as much of Assad’s recent gains have been put down to opposition disunity.

The Jihadists however continues their selfish destruction, alongside one report that they have cut down a 150 year old tree because locals “were worshipping it instead of Allah”.

And yesterday, Thursday, the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), is reported to have pushed a moderate Opposition Islamic group, Suqur al-Islam, out of a key Idlib province border town on the frontier with Turkey.

The town, Atma, was vital in the importation to Syria of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, weapons, ammunition and aid for the displaced.

However Mustafa Waddah, the head of Suqur al-Islam, is said to have confiscated 7 truck loads of weapons for himself, sent across the border by General Idriss for wider distribution.  Some accuse the FSA and ISIL of colluding in the take over.


This brings to the fore, the other major problem in Syria of Opposition brigade leaders turning into Mafia style warlords, milking the local area to enrich themselves and their followers.

This long but interesting report describes how various Opposition groups are now positioning themselves to control oil-fields and wheat supplies and ripping apart the old state run structures, imposing their own authority, HERE:

There are just as many “monsters” forming on the other, pro-Assad side it seems. This report describes how a former civil servant is now a local commander of a Baath Brigade, sporting bling and expensive smartphones and riding in an upmarket SUV.

Opposition Groups Fighting Each Other for Control of Oil

The author of the article, Edward Dark, concludes “that civil wars were definitely the worst type of war. They spawn monsters and make beasts out of ordinary men”. And asks questions that apply to these “commanders” on both sides: “How will these people ever go back to civilian life when this is all over? How can they help rebuild a shattered nation?”
You can read more, HERE:

Lastly, indications that the Assad regime is under strain, fearing increased Opposition numbers while desperate for new recruits.

According to the Al-Joumhouriya newspaper, President Assad told a group of visiting Lebanese March 8th politicians that “a [rebel] army of 20,000  soldiers is being prepared in Jordan under international and regional supervision.”

Apparently, Assad went on to say, “This army might attack Daraa and try to advance in order to make up for the [Oposition’s] losses in Damascus’ outskirts and to re-encircle the capital.”

True or not he is perhaps reacting to reports of increased support for the Opposition from Saudi Arabia after the failure of the US to strike against Assad’s military.

Additionally, reports from inside Syria say that tHe High COmmand of the Defense Ministry and the National Army has opened its doors to volunteers who hold a basic certificate in education or higher to become “commandos” in the special forces.  Contracts are for 2 years and subject to renewal if requested.

Hearing the news, the FSA issued a statement warning that any person who join the regime forces be it in the Commandos or special forces or Shabiha (armed militia) would
automatically become a direct target for Opposition fighting battalions.

A picture from Syria to raise the spirits a little – “Brothers in Grime” ….

“Brothers in Grime”


Assad and Hezbollah also fear the nuclear deal

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Someone asked me recently why the Gulf countries are worried about the possibility of American-Iranian reconciliation?

I told him that everyone, not only the Gulf countries, is worried. Despite its influence in the United States, Israel is also concerned about this possibility and is openly expressing its fears. Those who do not express their feelings, such as the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, are also sweating from fear.

I have already written in details about the concerns of the Gulf states. President Barack Obama’s administration might rush to reach a solution making Iran free of crippling sanctions in exchange for ending its military nuclear program. Obama’s administration might also allow Iran to limit its nuclear program in such a way as to affect the Arab countries on the other side of the Gulf waters. These are the concerns in the Gulf region.

The Syrian regime and Hezbollah are troubled by the Geneva talks between the six world powers and Iran, for different reasons.They are afraid that Iran would abandon them at the negotiating table to retain its military nuclear project.

Iran’s government will need to abandon Bashar al-Assad’s regime and therefore end the Syrian tragedy

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

To prove its serious will to change, Iran’s government will need to abandon Bashar al-Assad’s regime and therefore end the Syrian tragedy. Moreover, Obama will not be able to convince Congress about any reconciliation deal with Iran unless there is special interest to Israel in it. This is why Tehran’s regime will have to undertake disarming Hezbollah as well. Without such sacrifices, the congress will not approve on political reconciliation with Iran.

As for abandoning Assad’s regime, Iranians will probably volunteer to get rid of it, because they know that its survival is impossible; therefore Iran would use it as a mere bargaining chip to improve its negotiating terms.

The end of the status quo

Iran’s allies, Assad and Hezbollah, are worried about the “5+1” negotiations but they cannot stop them. The end of this status quo – a political situation allowing their existence – will most likely cause the end of these regimes. Hezbollah, which represents a complete entity in Lebanon, was brought into being after Iran’s conflict with Israel: when this conflict ends, there would be no need for Hezbollah anymore, and it will surely be disarmed in order to move to a new status quo.

As for Assad’s regime, when Bashar took power after the death of his father in 2000, he established strong bonds with Tehran’s regime; he got involved in the assassinations of Lebanese leaders and undertook the so-called Iraqi resistance tasks in the past decade.

Today, the majority of the world believes that it is a criminal regime and many want Assad to step down, including his Russian allies.

Iranians know that Assad’s regime has expired. It has become a burden and protecting his rule means sending more troops, which will weigh down Iran in order to match the massive Gulf-Saudi spending efforts to overthrow Assad.

These are reasonable and logical possibilities instigated by the Geneva negotiations but we do not know either the priorities or beliefs of the Obama administration.

(Source / 22.11.2013)

Israeli forces attack protests across East Jerusalem, dozens injured

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces opened fire on protests against the Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem and neighborhoods immediately east of Jerusalem on Friday, leading to dozens of injuries among Palestinians, including gunshot wounds to the head.

Clashes broke out at near Abu Dis, Qalandia, and in Issawiya neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Friday afternoon.

Clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters at Kabsa Junction between al-Ezeriya and Abu Dis just east of Jerusalem.

Local popular resistance committee spokesman Hani Halabiya said that dozens participated in a protest against the wall in the area. Israeli forces fired tear gas rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition at them. Palestinian protestors responded by throwing rocks at them and burning tires.

Halabiya added that clashes also broke out near al-Ram and Qalandia junction, where dozens suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation as a result of Israeli attacks on protestors.

Dozens of Palestinians were also injured with rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades in clashes with Israeli forces in Issawiya, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

A local committee in the area said that Israeli forces raided the neighborhood and closed its entrance on Friday.

They fired stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians, who responded by throwing rocks at them.

Some of the injured were taken to nearby medical centers for treatment.

One was injured with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the mouth, one in the head, and others were struck in their lower limbs.

Protests against the Israeli occupation also broke out Friday afternoon in other cities and villages across the West Bank, including Bilin, Nabi Saleh, al-Masara, Tuqu, and Kafr Qaddum.

Israel began building the separation wall in 2002, and the route has been the target of regular demonstrations by border towns whose land is cut off by its path.

Israel has regularly confiscated large plots of Palestinian land in order to build the wall. When the 435-mile barrier is complete, 85 percent of it will have been built inside the occupied West Bank.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the separation wall was illegal and “tantamount to annexation.”

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 / 22.11.2013)

Syrian Coalition: We Will Attend Geneva II Only as a Single Unified Delegation

Faruq Tayfur, Vice President of the Syrian Coalition, emphasized the need for unity in the negotiating team going to Geneva II and said that “the London 11 Communique is the basic reference for the position of the Syrian Coalition concerning Geneva.” Tayfur also said that “the Coalition will form two teams in order to clarify its position with regards to attending Geneva II. It will assign one of them to explain the position of the Coalition and its principles towards Geneva to the FSA, local councils and other revolutionary blocs in Syria. The other team will talk with the international community to present the demands of the Syrian people and their expectations of the Geneva conference.” The VP of the Coalition rejected any role for Iran in Geneva II saying they are “a partner in the killing of Syrians, and so much a part of the problem that it is impossible for them to be part of the solution.” Tayfur also criticized the indifferent attitude of the international community towards the Syrians killed, in addition to the Russian position, which he described as unwilling to listen to other points of view. Likewise, the Syrian Coalition Secretary-General, Badr al-Din Jamous, said that “the negotiating team for Geneva II will be determined exclusively by the Syrian Coalition, and that the Coalition will not attend Geneva just to attend, but in order to achieve the objectives of the conference as represented by the terms of the Coalition.” The official spokesman for the Syrian Coalition, Louay Safi, insisted that the Coalition “will not accept the presence of any other political body other than the Coalition itself during the negotiations at the Geneva II Conference”, saying “the Coalition is the only political body that represents all facets of the Syrian opposition and is the only authority in determining the members of the negotiating team for the conference.” Safi cautioned the international community that “the Coalition’s decision regarding participation in Geneva II is inseparable from the details that emphasize the necessity of Assad stepping down and transferring power to a transitional governing body with full presidential powers, including military and security.” It also stipulated that in addition to the above the Coalition required “the introduction of relief convoys to all besieged areas and the immediate release of all detainees.” The FSA has also said that at this time they would welcome any “political solution based on accountability for the offenders and the formation of a transitional body with full authority” that would ensure the absence of Bashar and his cronies in the future of Syria.
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 22.11.2013)