Hamas to release 7 Fatah prisoners as unity gesture

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Gaza’s Ministry of Interior on Wednesday announced that it would release seven imprisoned Fatah members held in custody for security reasons.

A spokesman for the ministry, Ibrahim Salah, told Ma’an that “upon a decision by the prime minister, the ministry will release seven Fatah-affiliated prisoners as a first stage.”

Salah said he hoped Fatah would make a similar gesture in the West Bank.

Hamas and Fatah have secretly resumed reconciliation talks in an attempt to finalize an agreement.

On Monday, AFP reported Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh as saying that “The (Hamas) government will allow all Fatah members who are from Gaza and who left the Strip (in 2007) to return, without any preconditions,” apart from those accused of killing Hamas members during intense factional fighting that year.

The division between the two Palestinian factions began in 2006, when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections.

In the following year, clashes erupted between Fatah and Hamas, leaving Hamas in control of the Strip and Fatah in control of parts of the occupied West Bank.

The groups have made failed attempts at national reconciliation for years, most recently in 2012, when they signed two agreements — one in Cairo and a subsequent one in Doha — which have as of yet been entirely unimplemented.

(Source / 08.01.2014)

Syrian Coalition: Temporary Resignations are Attempts to Express Personal Views

Farouk Tayfur, vice president of the Syrian Coalition said that “the resignations of some Coalition members are temporary and an attempt to express their personal views towards the results of the presidential elections held by the General Assembly.  Tayfur added that “mass resignations are illegal, as the real resignations must be submitted individually and directly to the Coalition. Only five resignations can be considered legal.” Tayfur denied that the subject of participation in Geneva II was the reason for the resignation of some members. “Our attitude towards participation in the conference has not changed and is clear, that Geneva II must be based on Geneva I Communique,” he stressed. Tayfur also said that “the Syrian Coalition will meet the Friends of Syria Group on January 12th in Paris, and will visit Moscow before January 17th to explore the Russians’ attitudes towards the conference. Our decision towards participation in the conference will be based on those talks.” Tayfur called on those who withdrew to be present in the next General Assembly meeting. “If you they do not respond, then the components they belong to must send substitutes for them to attend the meetings.” Tayfur lampooned statements made by the regime’s Minister of Information. “He is not a political element in the structure of the regime. He is even politically and legally uninformed, and is making such statements to explore the political reactions of the other sides, he said. Tayfur points out that the invitation sent by the UN Secretary General to the Syrian Coalition to attend the conference stated clearly and explicitly that “the conference must be based on the terms of Geneva I, which is the formation of transitional ruling body with full authority, including over the military and security apparatuses.”
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 08.01.2014)

Israeli officer carries out night raids on Jenin homes of ex-detainees

Israeli forces in a night rain on West Bank homes (Safa Images)

Israeli forces in a night rain on West Bank homes

Gaza, ALRAY – Israeli troops Tuesday overnight stormed a number of Palestinian homes across Jenin city, including of ex-prisoners affiliated with Islamic Jihad.

Ex-prisoner Ja’far Izziddin told local media that “An Israeli military force broke into his home in a barbaric manner,”

He said that “apparently a newly-appointed Israeli intelligence officer wanted to converse with me,”

“The officer threatened me with arrest once I am held for ‘abusive acts’, noting that the break-in period lasted for quarter an hour,” he said.

In a related vein, Safa Press reporter said Israeli forces raided the home of Islamic Jihad leader and former hunger-striking detainee Khader Adnan in Jenin’s Araba refugee camp.

Adnan refused to talk or shake hands with the military occupation officer, the reporter added. The force left after six minutes.

The officer also stormed the home of Tariq Qa’dan and asked him some questions. Their visit is reportedly just for ‘talking’.

According to Palestinian Center for Human Rights’s weekly report (December 26, 2013 to January 1, 2014), Israeli forces conducted 53 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. 

At least 40 Palestinians, including 18 children, were arrested during that period.

(Source / 08.01.2014)

Saudi unveils terrorists’ brutal crimes in Syria

A group of terrorists in Syria (File photo)

A group of terrorists in Syria
A Saudi militant has unveiled the amount of brutal crimes committed by terrorists against Syrian people based on their interpretation of religion, a report says.

On his eighth trip to join the fighting against government forces in Syria, in August, Abu Khattab saw something that troubled him: two dead children, their blood-soaked bodies sprawled on the street of a rural village near the Mediterranean coast. He knew right away that his fellow militants had killed them, New York Times reported on Tuesday.

Abu Khattab, a 43-year-old Saudi hospital administrator, went to demand answers from his local commander, a notoriously brutal man named Abu Ayman al-Iraqi. The commander brushed him off, saying his men had killed the children “because they were not Muslims,” Abu Khattab recalled recently during an interview in Syria.

It was only then that Abu Khattab began to believe that the war in Syria was not in accord with God’s will. But by the time he returned to Riyadh, where he now volunteers in a program to discourage others from going, his government had overcome its own scruples to become the main backer of the Syrian terrorists, including many extremists who often fight alongside militants loyal to Al-Qaeda.

The disillusionment of Abu Khattab — who asked that his full name be withheld because he still fears retribution from extremists — helps illustrate the great challenge now facing Saudi Arabia’s rulers: how to fight an increasingly bloody and chaotic proxy war in Syria using zealot militia fighters over whom they have almost no control.

The Saudis fear the rise of al-Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria, and they have not forgotten what happened when Saudi militants who had fought in Afghanistan returned home to wage a domestic insurgency a decade ago. They officially prohibit their citizens from going to Syria for war, but the ban is not enforced; at least a thousand have gone, according to Interior Ministry officials, including some from prominent families.

But the Saudis are also bent on ousting the Syrian government, which they see as an enemy. Their only real means of fighting them is through military and financial support to the Syrian terrorists. And the most effective of those terrorists are extremists whose creed is often scarcely separable from Al-Qaeda

(Source / 08.01.2014)

More Israeli demolition in Nablus


Israeli authorities demolishing a Palestinian home in JerusalemIsraeli authorities demolishing a Palestinian home in Jerusalem

Israeli occupation forces have demolished Al-Taweel Hall in Aqraba, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, as soldiers delivered further demolition notices for a mosque and 5 homes in the same area.

The Common Services Officer in the district, Qais Awad, told Quds Press on Monday that the Israeli bulldozers have also demolished an energy project, which was being prepared for the electricity and lighting to Al-Taweel Hall and a number of stables used by local people. Ranching is a major source of income for the locals.

Al-Taweel has been targeted by the Israelis for several years. Local residents have been driven from their homes. Their land has been annexed by illegal Jewish settlements and is also used by the Israeli army for”exercises”.

(Source / 08.01.2014)


By Peter Clifford             ©                 (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3)



As of this morning, Wednesday, the extreme Jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) have been driven out of all the areas they controlled in Opposition-held eastern Aleppo.


Opposition Fighters Deployed in Aleppo Against ISIL

The battle this morning was for the Children’s Hospital which ISIL was using as its Aleppo headquarters and which sits alongside the National Hospital and the Eye Hospital in a medical complex at Qadi Askar district in eastern-central Aleppo, not far from the Aleppo Citadel.

300 prisoners were reported released from an ISIL prison at the Children’s Hospital, including Opposition media activists and fighters from other Opposition groups.

The remaining ISIL fighters, the majority of whom are not Syrians, have removed themselves to Al-Inzarat on the north-eastern outskirts of Aleppo, taking with them a number of foreign prisoners, possibly journalists.

The assault to remove ISIL because of its aggressive Islamic control and brutality, has been led by the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, the Army of the Mujahideen and the Islamic Front, many units of whom were formerly with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Moderate Islamic fighters first drove ISIL out of the National Hospital on Monday and captured the Eye Hospital yesterday where they were confronted with the horrific sight of more than 50 executed prisoners, many with their hands still tied behind their backs.

Some of the dead prisoners were believed to be medics, and others media activists or fighters from other Opposition units.

This is a video of the carnage wrought by ISIL, but do not watch if you will be offended by graphic images of numerous dead bodies, (not easy viewing), HERE:

(EDITOR: One can only speculate as to why they think such behaviour is “condoned by God”, justified in any way and part of any decent religious philosophy. Just bloodthirsty madness)

Abu Loqman, a prominent leader of ISIL in Raqqah, is reported killed in the Aleppo battles which are estimated to have killed more than 300 people on all sides between last Friday and yesterday.

At least 100 ISIL fighters are dead in the clashes, including 34 foreign fighters who were summarily executed by other Opposition fighters in the Jabal al-Zawiya area of Idlib province.

The death toll for moderate Islamist and non-Islamist fighters from the clashes stands at more than 150 and a further 46 civilians were either caught in the crossfire or executed by ISIL.

A commander of one of the victorious Opposition groups is quoted as saying, “Free Aleppo is now under the complete control of the Free Syrian Army. One can now roam freely in the free part of Aleppo without coming across any fighter or headquarters belonging to ISIS.”

This is an interview with a 10 year boy released earlier from an ISIL prison in Tel Rafa’at, (Arabic only, but his face and voice induce compassion), HERE:

A car-bomb, allegedly set by ISIL, is reported to have killed 20 more moderate Opposition fighters in the city of Darkoush in Idlib province.


Fighting continues between ISIL and other Opposition groups in Tal Abyad in the northern part of Raqqah province and another car bomb, reportedly set by ISIL, destroyed the HQ of Opposition Liwa Anwar al-Haq Brigade in the city.

ISIL Fighters in Raqqah Central Square

ISIL Fighters in Raqqah Central Square

Also in Tal Abyad, Liwa’ Jabhat al-Akrad (the Kurdish Front Battalion) managed to release yesterday 12 Kurdish civilians who were kidnapped by ISIL a month ago.

In Raqqah city itself ISIL are said to be still holding out in the former regime Governorate building they use as an HQ but are surrounded by other Opposition fighters. Hundreds of prisoners are believed to be still held there.

Moving southwards through the city, moderate Opposition fighters have taken control of other ISIL buildings including the Greek Orthodox Church, the Water Foundation, some mills, the Church of the Martyrs, the postal building and military and state security facilities.

At Kafr Zeta in Hama province where ISIL were forced to abandon another base, a mass grave was discovered after their departure containing 12 bodies, including 4 women and an identified 16 year old boy and a lawyer from Morek.

ISIL are also reported to have abandoned their only base in Deir Ez Zour in eastern Syria.

The head of Al Qaeda linked Al Nusra Front in Syria, Abu Mohammed Al-Julani, called for a truce between the battling Opposition groups yesterday saying, “(The fighting) risks costing us dearly on the ground if it continues”, accusing ISIL of having a “flawed policy” and having played “a key role in fuelling the conflict”.

Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the spokesman for ISIL, retaliated a few hours later with a statement calling on all its militants to “crush them (the other Opposition fighters) totally and kill the conspiracy at birth”.

He also went on to threaten members of the Syrian National Coalition, saying “Everyone who belongs to this entity is a legitimate target for us, in all places, unless he publicly declares his rejection of that group and of fighting the mujahideen.”

Meanwhile the fight against the Assad regime continues.

The Opposition Islamic Front is reported to have captured the regime’s 111 Brigade base in the Sheikh Suleiman district in the north-west part of Aleppo city and there is an unconfirmed report that the FSA has taken control of the city of Qamishli in north-east Syria’s Hasakah province.

And the Assad regime’s attacks on innocent civilians continues also with an estimated 600 people killed by barrel-bombs in 3 weeks. The latest barrel-bomb attacks were on the Damascus suburb of Douma where a very young baby was recovered life from the rubble.


Newborn “Reborn” After Assad Barrel-Bomb Attack in Damascus

Detention of Palestinian political prisoner Zaher Shishtary extended

zaher-shishtaryThe occupation military courts extended the arrest and detention of Zaher Shishtary, coordinator of the committee of Palestinian factions in Nablus and spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, on January 8. Shishtary was seized on October 4, 2013 as offices and homes were raided in the Nablus area by occupation military forces.

Palestinian activist Myassar Atyani reported that the Salem military court extended his detention until his next hearing on February 5. He is being held in Megiddo prison.

(Source / 08.01.2014)

Al Qaeda controls more territory than ever in Middle East


A man reacts after what activists said was an air raid by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Marja district of Aleppo on Monday, December 23. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:A man reacts after what activists said was an air raid by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Marja district of Aleppo on Monday, December 23. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:

(CNN) — From around Aleppo in western Syria to small areas of Falluja in central Iraq, al Qaeda now controls territory that stretches more than 400 miles across the heart of the Middle East, according to English and Arab language news accounts as well as accounts on jihadist websites.

Indeed, al Qaeda appears to control more territory in the Arab world than it has done at any time in its history.

The focus of al Qaeda’s leaders has always been regime change in the Arab world in order to install Taliban-style regimes. Al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri acknowledged as much in his 2001 autobiography, “Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet,” when he explained that the most important strategic goal of al Qaeda was to seize control of a state, or part of a state, somewhere in the Muslim world, explaining that, “without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing.”

Now al-Zawahiri is closer to his goal than he has ever been. On Friday al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq seized controlof parts of the city of Falluja and parts of the city of Ramadi, both of which are located in Iraq’s restive Anbar Province.

Anbar is home to predominantly Sunni Muslims, who feel that that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki treats the Sunnis as second-class citizens.

Sectarian tensions in Anbar recently burst into several all-out revolts against the government, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as the al-Qaeda affiliate there is known, quickly seized the opportunity to notch some battlefield victories.

Government forces increased their presence around Falluja in response and on Tuesday tribal leaders issued a statement urging people who had fled the city or stopped reporting to work to return.

Iraq violence: Assessing U.S. role

al Qaeda re-emerges in fight over Iraq

ISIS is also operating in Syria, where it has established a presence in many areas of the Aleppo and Idlib Governorates in the northwest. In August, ISIS launched a propaganda series on video highlighting their activities in Syria, which includes interviews with fighters; the “graduation” of a group of mujahedin “cubs” (aged about 7 to 10 years old) from training, and sermons at local mosques preaching al Qaeda’s interpretation of Islam.

The al-Nusra front has claimed to control parts of at least a dozen Syrian towns. Those include sections of the ancient city of the Aleppo in the northwest, where fighters have been filmed running a community fair and preaching al Qaeda’s values to crowds of children.

The group has also released videos on jihadist websites claiming that it is providing services to the people of several towns in the governorate of Idlib, which borders the Aleppo Governorate to the west. Al Nusra claims that it is a quasi-government and service-provider in the towns of Binnish, Taum, and Saraqib.

Al-Nusra fighters allied to al Qaeda function like a government in areas they control in Syria. The group provides daily deliveries of bread, free running water and electricity, a health clinic, and a strict justice system based on Sharia law in the eastern Syrian city of Ash Shaddadi, where it also took control of the city’s wheat silos and oil wells.

In September a CNN reporting team concluded, “Al Qaeda has swept to power with the aim of imposing a strict Islamist ideology on Syrians across large swathes of Syria’s rebel-held north.”

In sum, al Qaeda affiliates now control much of northern and northwestern Syria as well as some parts of eastern Syria, as well as much of Anbar province, which is around a third of Iraqi territory.

Al-Nusra is engaged in a protracted fight to maintain a foothold in the eastern city of Dayr al-Zur, where, as in Ash Shaddadi, the militants have their hands on an energy source, this time in the form of natural gas.

On Friday the group released a video on a jihadist website claiming it was grinding some 10 tons of wheat each day to provide bread for the residents of Dayr al-Zur. In the video, a bearded man who identifies himself as part of al-Nusra gives a National Geographic-esque tour of a wheat silo where bags of wheat are filled, weighed, and transported to a bread-making facility, where industrial mixers churn dough.

Similar videos released throughout the second half of 2013 depict al-Nusra fighters providing health care, legal services, electricity and food to civilians in the cities of Daraa, Homs, Hama, and even the suburbs of the capital Damascus, where the government still enjoys fairly secure authority.

Al Qaeda’s expansion in Syria will not continue unchecked, though. Many Syrians are unhappy about being ruled by the strict jihadist militants. Over the past several days fighting has broken outbetween ISIS and an alliance of various rebel factions in Syria, including al-Qaeda’s other affiliate in the country, the al-Nusra Front. This fighting has taken a toll on ISIS, which has been forcedto withdraw from a number of key Syrian towns as a result of attacks by the other rebel groups.

The infighting amongst Syrian rebels is not good news for the fate of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but it could prompt the United States to increase its shipments of arms and supplies to “moderate” Syrian rebels in the FSA. However, even an increase in U.S. aid to the rebels would be unlikely to sway the conflict significantly, which means al-Assad will remain in power and the war will continue as it has over the past three years.

Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that the United States will “do everything that is possible to help” the Iraqi government control al Qaeda’s expansion in Anbar, but stressed that no American troops would be sent back to the Middle Eastern nation .

Last month, the United States quietly sent Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones to the Iraqi government to support their fight against increasing al Qaeda-related violence.

This weaponry is unlikely to make a substantial difference to the mounting violence in Iraq where violence has returned to the levels it was in 2008, near the height of the Iraq war. Indeed, by any reasonable standard Iraq is now mired back in a civil war. Last year almost 8,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the conflict, according to the UN.

For the United States the widening reach of al Qaeda in the Middle East doesn’t necessarily translate into an immediate threat at home. So far only a handful of Americans have fought in the Syrian conflict alongside al Qaeda’s affiliates there so concerns about some kind of “blowback” from the Syrian war in the U.S. are, at this point, unfounded,

European countries are rightly concerned, however. Many European countries have seen their citizens drawn to the Syrian war; more than a hundred from Britain and many dozens from countries like Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, according to multiple European officials we have spoken to. These countries are concerned that the retuning veterans of the Syrian conflict might launch terrorist attacks in Europe.

In October for instance, British authorities arrested militants who were allegedly planning a terrorist attack. Two British officials who work on counterterrorism issues told us that that the militants had recently traveled to Syria.

The United States and its allies should therefore make a careful effort to track the foreign fighters who have joined jihadist groups fighting in Syria.

(Source / 08.01.2014)

Ennahda Party to step down after deal on election commission


Tunisian flag

Tunisia’s Ennahda-led government is set to resign in the next few days to make way for an interim administration once government and opposition parties agree on the makeup of the election commission, mediators said on Tuesday. The Ennahda Party agreed last year to hand over power to a transitional government once a new constitution was complete, an election commission is formed and a date for elections is set. The country has been beset by a political crisis.

Three years following the uprising that ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia stands on the threshold of its transition to full democracy following a deadlock between Islamist and secular parties.

The country’s Constituent Assembly began voting last week on the final parts of the new constitution. On Tuesday, political parties began working out how to resolve disagreements over the composition of the electoral commission to oversee the elections to be held later this year.

The mediators, led by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Ali Larayadh has expressed his full readiness to step down as soon as an agreement on the nine members of the election commission is reached. Bou Mbarki, the Deputy Secretary-General of the UGTT, said that once the parties have reached an agreement, the transfer of power will be made. This is expected to be within the next two days.

The Tunisian parties have already named Mehdi Juma, an engineer and a former minister, to act as interim prime minister in a non- partisan government to govern until the elections are held.

The agreement between Ennahda and the secular opposition in Tunisia contrasts sharply with the instability affecting Libya, Egypt and Yemen, where leaders were also toppled in the 2011 Arab Spring.

(Source / 08.01.2014)

The forgotten plight of Palestinians amid the war in Syria

A worst case scenario is unfolding in Syria. And Palestinian refugees, particularly in the Yarmouk refugee camp, are paying a heavy price for Syria’s cruellest war. They are starving.

“At least five Palestinian refugees in the besieged refugee camp of Yarmouk have died because of malnutrition, bringing the total number of reported cases to 15,” said UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Guinness.

Other estimates, especially those reported by local residents, say the number is much higher.

The camp, which is located south of Damascus, had once housed nearly 250,000 Palestinians, including 150,000 officially registered refugees.

Three years of brutal war later, Yarmouk is now nothing but ruins and is home to only around 18,000 residents who couldn’t escape to Lebanon, Jordan or elsewhere.

Reporting for the BBC from Damascus, Lyse Doucet said: “Aid officials in Damascus recently told me ’the gates of Yarmouk were slammed shut in July’ and almost no aid has been allowed to enter since then.”

A minor Palestinian group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – the General Command, has tried to control Yarmouk on behalf of the Syrian government, an act that the refugees rejected.

There has been a semi-consensus among Palestinians that they should not be embroiled in Syria’s war.

However, the warring parties – the Syrian government, the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other Islamic groups – desperately tried to play every card at their disposal to weaken the other parties.

The result has been devastating and is taking place at the expense of innocent refugees.

Aside from the 1,500 reportedly killed Palestinians and thousands more wounded, the majority of the refugees are once again on the run, although in more perilous circumstances.

According to a statement by UNRWA, “Of the 540,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria, about 270,000 are displaced in the country and an estimated 80,000 have fled. 51,000 have reached Lebanon, 11,000 have identified themselves in Jordan, 5,000 are in Egypt and smaller numbers have reached Gaza, Turkey and farther afield.”

The UN agency goes on to report that “those who have reached Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt face risky legal limbo compounded with living conditions so difficult that many decide to return to the dangers inside Syria.”

Yarmouk has been at the heart of that tragedy.

The refugee camp was established in 1957 to shelter thousands of refugees who were expelled from Palestine at the hand of zionist militias in 1947-8.

Despite the fact that it was located in Syria, Yarmouk remained close to the pulse of the Palestinian tragedy, as hundreds of men were killed fighting against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

But the latest disaster is the worst to strike the refugee camp. In December 2012, rebels of the FSA tried to gain control over the camp.

Fierce fighting ensued, followed by aerial bombardment of Yarmouk by government planes. Dozens were reportedly killed and thousands fled for their lives.

The failure has been across the board. Typically, the so-called international community is at the forefront of this shocking episode.

“There’s deep frustration in the aid community that a world which came together to deal with Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal cannot do the same when it comes to tackling a deepening humanitarian crisis,” reported Doucet, quoting an aid official: “I have never seen a humanitarian crisis on this scale which does not have a security council resolution.”

The disgrace hardly ends here, for some in the Palestine solidarity movement had ceased to think of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return as an issue that is at the heart of the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

They mobilise around the same issues which are located within the territorial and political parameters imposed by the Oslo accords.

According to that logic, Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and so on are not a top priority for action and mobilisation, even if they are killed by the hundreds or starve to death.

By paying greater attention to Palestinian refugees in Syria, one is hardly calling for ignoring the horrible reality under which the Syrian people continue to suffer.

But Palestinian refugees have no legal status, no political representation, no serious international support, no leadership truly concerned by their plight, no place to go to nor place to return to. They have nothing – and now they are starving.

There can be no rationale to explain why the Syrian government and the rebels insist on embroiling the Palestinians into their war which is accumulating into an assortment of many war crimes that refuse to end.

The international community and Palestine solidarity groups everywhere must place Palestinian refugees at the top of their agenda.

Food should never be a weapon in this dirty war and Palestinians should never be starving to death.

(Source / 08.01.2014)