A bit of history

Early History:
The area now called Palestine is believed to be among first areas in which mankind permanently settled, with the city of Jericho perhaps the earliest known city in the world. From around 10,000 BCE, when the first agricultural settlements were formed, the land of Canaan emerged, enduring until their eventual assimilation with the Philistines and later Israelites. Subsequently, the area variously was conquered by the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Empires.

Islamic Era:
The 7th century CE saw the founding of Islam and the establishment of the Caliphate across the Middle East. The Caliphate under Umar (after whom Beit Ommar is named), saw a huge expansion, including into the territory which is now Palestine. The 19th century saw the conquest of Palestine by the Ottoman Empire, who ultimately ruled until their collapse in the aftermath of the First World War.

Twentieth Century:
In 1919, the League of Nations granted a mandate over Palestine to Britain, who proceeded to promise the land, variously, as an independent Arab republic (in exchange for the Hashemites’ assistance in inciting the Great Arab Revolt) and as a Jewish homeland (in the Balfour Declaration). At the time of the Second World War, many Jews, fleeing from the Holocaust, migrated to Palestine and joined an aggressive campaign for statehood. When the British Mandate expired, the State of Israel was declared, claiming 55% of Palestine. In the ensuing war, the West Bank was occupied by, and ultimately annexed into Jordan; with Gaza administered by Egypt.

In 1967, the Six Day War saw the West Bank and Gaza, along with the Sinai and Syria’s Golan Heights, occupied by Israel, which, with the exception of Sinai, returned after the Yom Kippur War of 1973, they remain to this day. This left Palestine in a state of limbo, not a part of any state.
In 1988, Yasser Arafat’s PLO took the step of officially declaring Palestinian statehood and, in September 2012, 138 members of the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status from ‘observer entity’ to a Non-Member Observer State. As UNGA decisions cannot be vetoed, this overwhelming majority was sufficient to ensure that statehood was recognised.

Today, Palestine remains under military occupation, with the number of illegal settlers living in the West Bank now exceeding 350,000; a figure which is growing all the time. Furthermore, less than one fifth of Palestinian territory us under the full control of the Palestinian authorities, whilst almost two thirds is under full Israeli control.

(Source / 10.01.2014)

Saudi regime intensifies war against Hezbollah

Saudi against Hezbollah

Recently, the British newspaper The Independent published an article by a leading Irish journalist, Patrick Cockburn, which described the “ferocious war waged by assassination, massacre, imprisonment and persecution that has killed tens of thousands” of Shiites in the world, including in the Muslim countries where they form a vulnerable minority.

This war is being led by Saudi Arabia and especially by the Saudi intelligence service´s chief, Bandar bin Sultan, through terrorist Wahabi groups under his control, including some having links with al-Qaeda.

The goal of Saudi Arabia is to overthrow or destroy all the governments and movements which are allies or friends to Iran, including Bashar al-Assad´s government in Syria, the Nouri al-Maliki´s government in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In this sense, Hezbollah has become a main obstacle for the Saudi plans to dominate the Middle East. To the dismay of the Saudi regime, Hezbollah´s success in withstanding the Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006 increased its popularity in the whole Islamic word. Its participation in the Syria war was important in order to abort Saudi and Takfiri plans to overthrow the Assad government and to set up a Taliban-style government in Syria under Saudi control.

Hezbollah fighters helped the Syrian army to achieve a strategic victory in Al Qussair and have played an important role in protecting Syria and Lebanon from terrorist gangs.

In order to force the party to leave Syria, or even destroy it, Saudi Arabia has launched a four-way strategy.

Baseless accusations against Hezbollah

Firstly, Saudi allies have been trying to blame Hezbollah, and its participation in the Syrian conflict, for all the problems of Lebanon. Saad Hariri, a billionaire leader of the Saudi-supported Future Movement, has even tried to link Hezbollah with some attacks in Lebanon, like the one that killed Mohammed Shatah, one of his associates.

He has also used these claims to press for a new Lebanese government more aligned with Riyadh, Paris and Washington.

After the attack, Hariri, speaking from his self-imposed exile in Paris, immediately pointed the finger of blame at Hezbollah. “Those who assassinated Mohamad Shatah are the ones who assassinated Rafik Hariri (Saad’s father),” he asserted.”

This was a reference to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that was instigated by the Bush administration and whose goal was to give it a pretext to punish Washington´s opponents in the Middle East. However, according to Lebanese media, the beneficiary of the attack and the most likely author of these attacks was Israel or another ally of the Western powers.

Due to the claims of his former chief investigator, anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah Detlev Mehlis, the tribunal first blamed four generals allied with Syria -who were imprisoned for four years before being released without charge- and then alleged that some Hezbollah members could be responsible. The tribunal is to reopen in The Hague in January.

Hezbollah rejected the accusation that it was behind Shatah’s murder, calling the bombing a “heinous crime, which came in the context of a series of crimes and explosions aimed at sabotaging the country.” Syria also denied any involvement in the attack.

Saudi-supported takfiris against Hezbollah

Next, Saudi Arabia has launched a proxy war against Hezbollah by using different Takfiri terrorist groups against the party. The strategy is to open a war front against Hezbollah in Lebanon in order to force it to bring its troops from Syria. This strategy uses provocations such as the three bomb attacks in Dahiyeh (the Southern Suburb of Beirut, which is considered as the main stronghold of the Resistance Party).
On July 9, 2013, 53 people were wounded after a bomb exploded in a busy shopping street of Dahiyeh on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan. A faction of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed responsability.

On August 15, 2013, a month after the first bomb, another car bomb blast hit the Suburb. At least, 21 people were killed and 200 wounded in the massive explosion; the majority of whom were children. An unknown group linked to the Syrian opposition claimed responsibility for the attack.

On November, 2013, two…bombers struck the Iranian Embassy in southern Beirut in an attack claimed by the al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades.

On January 4, 2014, another attack took place in Haret Hreik, also in the Suburb, killing 6 people and injuring several dozens. Significantly, Takfiri groups struck at almost the exact same place that the Israeli air force targeted in the 2006 July War. The street is home to several buildings that were restored after the Israeli war. Hezbollah used to hold its main Ashura events right here too. In short, it is one of the most famous streets in Dahiyeh.

According to the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, residentes “seemed to all agree on the identity of the perpetrators: Salafi takfiris. Overheard often among the crowds was the name Bandar bin Sultan, the infamous Saudi intelligence chief. Some people were shouting “Death to the House of Saud,” as many people believe Prince Bandar is the preeminent sponsor of the extremist groups they accuse of carrying out the attack. This is the way, they say, in which the House of Saud is showing its gratitude to the people of Dahiyeh, which defeated Israel and brought about the first indisputable Muslim victory against the nation’s enemy.”

Al-Akhbar added: “It is clear that the popular mood, after the attack in Dahiyeh, was convinced now more than ever of the need to confront extremist groups in Syria and Lebanon. Perhaps the perpetrators thought that by striking at innocent civilians, they would drive them to renounce Hezbollah, or put pressure on the Resistance Party to withdraw from Hezbollah. However, the opposite happens after each attack.”

The Dahiyeh bombing took place as the same time as Saudi citizen Majid Al-Majid, head of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, tied to al-Qaeda, was arrested. He is the man who allegedly ordered the attack against the Iranian embassy in Beirut. However, he died in prison of “kidney failure” some days after. Riyadh did its best to persuade the Lebanese autorities to extradite him to Saudi Arabia…

Al-Majid was arrested on his return from Syria, where he had forged a cooperation pact with Abu Muhammad Al-Jolani, head of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, which fights Bashar al-Assad´s government. This agreement would have provided the Syrian takfiris with a logistical base in South Lebanon. Another al-Qaeda-linked group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham…, has also threatened Hezbollah and promised to strike the party´s strongholds in Lebanon.

A government without Hezbollah

Thirdly, Saudi Arabia and its allies in Lebanon want to isolate Hezbollah by creating a government excluding this party. While Hezbollah and the other parties of the 8 March coalition have been proposing a national unity government, the 14 March forces, led by Saad Hariri, reject this.

Hariri was present in a recent meeting between  King Abdullah and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman in Riyahd and also met French President François Hollande in the same city. It shows his complete coordination with his Saudi sponsors in the design of a strategy against Hezbollah and its allies in Lebanon.

Hariri and Saudis have pressed Suleiman to set up a so-called “neutral” government (actually formed by pro-14 March figures) even though they know that it will not have the parliamentary support. This is seen as an open attack on Hezbollah and the 8-March forces, which have promised, for their part, a “surprise reaction” if Suleiman goes ahead with that plan.

However, the last terrorist attack in Dahiyeh seems to have led Suleiman to have second thoughts. According to the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, 14 March forces see now him as “weak because he has not formed the government he has promised many times.” They say that “every time President Suleiman vows to form a neutral government and is about to take the plunge, a blast goes off here or an assassination takes place there, putting his plans on hold.”

“Suleiman’s advisers partially admit that the government he had intended to form was directed against Hezbollah and the Amal movement. Therefore, it is impossible after the Dahiyeh bombing to shove a provocative government down the throat of Hezbollah and Amal supporters. They know the parliamentary majority would not allow them to form a March 14 government, as MP (Druze leader) Walid Jumblatt and his bloc insist on his decision not to give a vote of confidence to such a government”, Al Akhbar said. Moreover, influential Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, has also showed his opposition to a such government of “accomplished facts” and has called for dialogue and forming a government in which all parties participate.

French arms paid by Saudi Arabia against Hezbollah

The fourth front opened by Saudi Arabia against Hezbollah is maybe the most dangerous. During the recent meeting between King Abdullah and his new friend and ally, French President François Hollande, both reached an agreement to send a 3 billion-worth French weapon shipment to the Lebanese army. The weapons will be entirely paid by Saudi Arabia. Media reported that it is the biggest ever military export to Lebanon.

Hollande made it clear that the weapons would not be used “where they should not” (against the Israeli army), so the only logic conclusion is that they are intended to be used against Hezbollah if a 14-March-controlled Presidency or government decide so.

In order to show his personal gratitude to Saudi rulers, Suleiman ended a speech in which he talked about this issue by saying “Long live Saudi Arabia”, an expression which was both condemned and mocked by Lebanese journalists and commentators.

Ibrahim al-Amin, a leading Lebanese commentator, accused Suleiman of being willing to become the spokesman of the Saudi king and his friend, Zionist Hollande, in order to seek their support to continue in his post, as his term ends in May 2014.

“During the last visit to Riyadh, the author of this generosity (the Saudi king) said it was the duty of the Lebanese army fight Hezbollah, disarm it and prevent it from entering Syria”, Amin wrote. He added that the clear goal of the agreement was to strengthen the Saudi allies in Lebanon and wondered why Iranian and Russian offers to send weapons to the Lebanese army had been rejected. Moreover, he said, the French-Saudi initiative should be approved by the Lebanese government and the Parliament and not to be accepted just by the Presidency.

US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the murder, saying, “The Obama Administration supports Lebanon as its leaders work to bring those responsible for this heinous and cowardly attack to justice under the rule of law.”
The UN Security Council condemned “any attempt to destabilize Lebanon through political assassinations and demanded an immediate end to the use of intimidation and violence against political figures.”

On Saturday, President François Hollande of France, the former colonial power, called on Lebanon not to let the assassination disrupt the presidential elections due in May. Hollande is currently in Saudi Arabia for talks with King Abdullah. He is expected to discuss “the need to preserve stability in Lebanon,” the Syrian conflict, and Iran’s nuclear programme.

Hariri, by alleging that the same people who had murdered his father had carried out Shatah’s assassination, may have said more than he intended.

A number of analysts have pointed out that Hezbollah has no interest at exacerbating tensions at this time. Hariri’s Sunni Future Movement is discredited for its right-wing economic policies and support for Israel in the 2006 war, and its political rival Hezbollah has been able to block any moves against it. Hezbollah fighters helped Assad push back opposition forces in Syria, while its leaders have been engaged in talks with Washington following the US deal with Iran in October.

Lebanon’s political system, notorious for corruption and nepotism, has been deadlocked for months. Prime Minister designate, Tammam Salam, has been unable to form a government since Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the country’s richest businessman, resigned in March.

Legislators—unable to agree on a new electoral law allocating seats according the relative weights of different religious groups—were forced to postpone the parliamentary elections scheduled for last June until November 2014, citing “political deadlock and the civil war in neighbouring Syria.”

The tiny country faces an economic and social catastrophe. The Syrian conflict has devastated the Lebanese economy, which is inextricably linked to Syria. Tourism, its main earner, has plummeted, as has foreign investment from the [Persian] Gulf.

Crucially, nearly a million Syrians have sought refuge from the fighting in Lebanon. According to the latest estimates by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, one in five residents are Syrian refugees. This has altered the country’s demographics, increasing the Sunni population, and tied its fate immediately to the war in Syria.

The government has refused to provide camps for refugees, fearing they will become permanent like the Palestinian camps. Living in abject poverty, refugees have accepted work at any wage, displacing local workers, exacerbating social and sectarian tensions. In the absence of a progressive political alternative, this has provided a fertile breeding ground for militant recruitment.

The government continues to spend on projects that benefit wealthy businessmen and local banks, whose deposits exceed $130 billion—three times Lebanon’s GDP and twice public debt, which is now equal to 146 percent of GDP.
The political vacuum left by the Future Movement has been filled by Salafists, funded and armed by Saudi Arabia.
The assassination is also aimed at further drawing Lebanon into the Shia-Sunni sectarian bloodletting the United States and its allies have stoked in Syria and helping derail any rapprochement with Iran.

It comes after a series of bombings targeting Hezbollah and Iran. These include the assassination of Hassan al-Laqis in December, widely attributed to Israel; an attack in November on the Iranian embassy that killed 23 people and wounded more than 140 attributed to forces allied with Saudi Arabia; and seven bombs and rocket attacks, as well as car bombs targeting Hezbollah along the Beirut-Damascus highway through the Beka’a valley.

In early December, Salafists targeted Lebanese army forces in the southern city of Sidon, home to Ain al-Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp, and …militants. Sidon is strategically located between the Beka’a Valley, a Hezbollah stronghold, and the only road to the south and the border with Israel.

Given this political context, it is not implausible to suppose that Shatah’s killing, coming amid dismay in Riyadh and Tel Aviv over Obama’s failure to attack Syria and his negotiations with Iran, was an attempt by Saudi- or Israeli-backed forces to break up the negotiations and lay the ground for war.

Israel for its part shelled southern Lebanon after two rockets landed across the border in northern Israel. It follows heightened tensions when Israel shot two Lebanese troops after an Israeli soldier was killed two weeks ago.
Last month, the Jerusalem Post carried a report that claimed Israel’s army believed that Hezbollah “is carrying out massive preparations” for war with Israel, the justification for a massive build-up of forces to confront the group.
At least 23 people were killed and over 140 injured Tuesday in a…bomb attack targeting Iran’s embassy compound in Lebanon. Most of the dead were passersby in the predominantly Shiite southern Beirut neighborhood of Janah, where the embassy is situated. Iran confirmed the death of its embassy’s cultural attaché.

An al-Qaeda affiliated group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack in a tweet by its “spiritual mentor,” Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat. The Brigade has reportedly vowed to continue such attacks until Iran and Hezbollah, an Iranian-allied Lebanese Shiite militia, cease militarily supporting Syria’s government.
Tuesday’s atrocity aimed to escalate tensions in the region, while the US and its allies carry out high-level talks with Iran over its nuclear program, and with the Syrian …[goverment] to arrange a diplomatic settlement with the US-backed,  al-Qaeda-linked Syrian opposition.

Today Iran will resume negotiations in Geneva over its nuclear program with the so-called P-6: the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. Earlier this month, Iran and the P-6 nearly struck an interim agreement….This agreement would reportedly return only $5 billion of the tens of billions of Iranian oil revenues currently frozen in foreign bank accounts.

Several US allies in the region with ties to al-Qaeda, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, have indicated that they are adamantly opposed to these talks. They insist the sanctions must remain until Iran’s civilian…[energy] program has been completely dismantled. Their demands, cloaked behind unsubstantiated charges that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, reflect their fear that a rapprochement between the US and Iran would reduce their importance as US allies.

The claiming of responsibility for the bombing by an al-Qaeda-linked group suggests that the atrocity was likely carried out with support from these US allies. Saudi Arabia in particular has longstanding ties to al-Qaeda, whose first leader, Osama bin Laden, came from one of the kingdom’s wealthiest families. Saudi Arabia has, along with Qatar, emerged as one of the main backers of the al-Qaeda-linked Syrian opposition forces.

Janah residents themselves blamed the Saudis for the bombing. A New York Times report said a local woman could be heard near the site of Tuesday’s bombing shouting, “May God send Bandar to hell! This is the Saud family.” Prince Bandar Bin Sultan is the Saudi intelligence chief and the organizer of its financial and military support for its …proxies in Syria.
Speaking in Rome, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed the bombing on the rise of al-Qaeda-linked…militants in Syria. These … have been armed and supported by the United States and its allies.

“We already see the consequences of the extremist forces in Syria,” Zarif said. “The same organizations are killing people on the streets of Baghdad. … It is a very serious problem, and I believe once we see a flare-up of the tension that is boiling in Syria, there will be hardly a possibility of stopping it at the Syrian border [and] even within the Middle East.”

While not directly accusing Saudi Arabia of being behind Tuesday’s atrocity, Syria’s Foreign Minister said it was an outcome of the Saudi and Qatari monarchies’ support for al-Qaeda-aligned…militants.

Tuesday’s bombing underscores the extreme tensions and the threat of war that has now spread throughout the region, for which US imperialism is principally responsible. Over the past decade, it has waged a series of illegal wars to shore up its strategic dominance in the world’s most important oil exporting region. It invaded and occupied Iraq, mounted a “humanitarian” war for regime change in Libya…and has repeatedly threatened Iran with war.

Little more than two months ago, Washington was on the verge of launching a direct attack on Syria. Amid rising divisions within the US foreign policy establishment over the advisability of full-scale war—due to the role of al-Qaeda in Syria, warnings from Iran and Russia of a wider war as they supported Assad, the Pentagon’s reluctance to enter into such a war without first launching a full-scale assault on all its potential enemies, and deep popular discontent with US war threats—the Obama administration pulled back from war at the last minute.

It carried out a tactical shift in its policy, opening negotiations with both Syria and its main regional ally, Iran. Washington aims to force Iran to accept US hegemony in the Middle East, throw open its economy to the US transnationals, and secure Tehran’s cooperation in stabilizing the region—from Afghanistan to the Eastern Mediterranean—under US hegemony. If it cannot secure these predatory objectives via diplomacy, Washington can as abruptly return to the path of war as it turned to talks in September.

The sudden shift stunned and angered Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are vocally seeking to break up the negotiations and lay the ground for war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly accused the Obama administration of preparing to deliver Tehran the diplomatic victory of the century. He sent senior officials to Washington to lobby for the US Congress to impose still harsher sanctions on Iran, and proclaimed that Israel will not necessarily be bound by any deal signed by the P5+1—an implicit threat of a unilateral Israeli military strike on Iran.
In an interview with the Financial Times published Sunday, Netanyahu’s former national security advisor Yaakov Amirdor boasted that Israel has the military capacity to halt Iran’s …[energy] program “for a very long time.” He then added that if Hezbollah retaliated against an Israeli attack on Iran, Israeli ground forces would “go into (Lebanon’s) urban centers”—i.e. would mount a full-scale invasion of Lebanon.

To show its displeasure at the Obama administration’s “diplomatic opening” to Iran and its failure to launch a war against Syria, Saudi Arabia recently refused to take a UN Security Council seat it spent years lobbying for.
Saudi Arabia also recently offered to assist an Israeli attack on Iran. In addition to allowing Israeli jets to fly over Saudi airspace, Riyadh has reportedly offered to supply tanker planes, helicopters and drones. A diplomatic source told the London Sunday Times, “Once the Geneva agreement is signed, the military option will be back on the table. The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs.”
Tuesday’s bombing is also aimed at further drawing Lebanon into the Shia-Sunni sectarian bloodletting the United States and its allies have stoked in Syria and helping derail the proposed US-Russian-led talks over Syria. It is the latest in a series of bombings targeting Lebanese Shiite neighborhoods stretching back to the beginning of the summer.

Already both Hezbollah and its US-allied Sunni rival, the Future Movement, are ranged on different sides in the Syrian conflict, with sections of the Sunni elite organizing and financing Lebanese Sunni Islamists to join the Syrian conflict. The Future Movement solidarized itself with the Al Qaeda forces that attacked the Iranian embassy, saying the bombing was Hezbollah’s fault because of its support for the Syrian government.
The [so-called] Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on Saturday claimed credit for a…car bombing that took at least four lives and wounded dozens in a Hezbollah-controlled suburb of Beirut Thursday, marking the first attack by the group in Lebanon.
If ISIS’s claim is accurate, the operation would indicate that the al-Qaida affiliate[d group] has infiltrated a third Middle Eastern country even as it faces challenges to its control of parts of northern Syria and portions of Iraq’s Anbar Province.

“Clearly, al-Qaida in Iraq wasn’t kidding when it changed its name to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria,” said Will McCants, a former State Department adviser and military expert. “The breadth of its current operations reflects its ambition to establish a caliphate controlling the entire Levant.”

But the group also risks “spreading itself too thin and making too many enemies,” he added.

On Saturday, ISIS forces remained in control of the western Iraqi city of Fallujah, which they’d captured on Friday. But they were fighting to maintain control of major outposts in northern Syria, where they faced a fierce offensive from Syrian militants who once had viewed the group as an ally in the fight to topple President Bashar Assad.

Fierce fighting between ISIS and Syrian militant groups was reported in a dozen locations, with militant spokesmen claiming that ISIS had been ejected from at least eight towns and villages in Idlib Province and from the town of Atarib in Aleppo province. Militants also reported they had recaptured the border crossing with Turkey at Bab al Hawa.

Multiple reports from militant activists said that anti-ISIS fighters were arresting family members of the al-Qaida group.
ISIS, however, had repulsed a militant push in Kafr Zeta in Hama Province, according to reports, and remained in control of the strategic Idlib province town of Saraqeb, which sits astride the Aleppo to Damascus highway.

ISIS fighters also reportedly executed dozens of people as they fled the town of Harem ahead of militant attackers, and had ordered up reinforcements from their forces in Raqqa. They also threatened via Twitter to withdraw from the frontlines inside the city of Aleppo – a step, they said, would make it possible for pro-Assad forces to recapture that key northern city.

In Iraq, the group reportedly resisted assaults by both Iraqi government forces and local tribal leaders Friday night and Saturday to maintain control of all of Fallujah and perhaps as much as half of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province.

“Fallujah is under the control of the [so-called] ISIS,” the French news agency AFP quoted a senior security official in Anbar as having said on Saturday. AFP reported at least 65 people died Saturday in Iraqi fighting.
The incidents in three counties highlighted the group’s growing regional influence. But it was difficult to know whether the group’s activities in widely separate areas were coordinated. One analyst said that the group’s actions were likely to be dictated by the vastly different issues it faces in each place.

“While ISIS is operating in three countries, each has to be separated by local context,” said Aaron Zelin, a blogger and researcher…for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “In each country, ISIS has differing strengths and weaknesses.”

Al-Qaida in Iraq fought pitched battles against U.S. forces in that country that claimed hundreds of American lives, and the U.S. campaign to force it from Fallujah in 2004 is considered the bloodiest single battle of the Iraq war. Its resurgence in Anbar is tied to Iraq’s internal political rivalries …
The group has been active in Syria’s conflict since the early days of 2012, and is thought responsible for the establishment of the Nusra Front, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that has played a critical role in militant military successes over the past two years.

In April, al Qaida in Iraq announced that it was changing its name to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and that Nusra would become part of it. But Nusra’s leaders objected, and the two groups have remained separate, though allied.

ISIS’s statement on the Lebanon blast warned that the bombing was the start of a campaign against the Lebanese group Hezbollah for its military role in helping the Syrian… [goverment] survive the three-year civil war that has claimed the lives of more than 130,000 people.

The statement called the bombing “a first small payment from the heavy account that is awaiting those wicked criminals.”

Lebanon has been roiled by tensions and clashes over both Hezbollah’s strong military support for Assad and by a number of …other communities that have sent material support and men to fight alongside the militants. Car bombings, rocket attacks and even kidnappings have targeted both communities and incidents have begun occurring with more frequency, casting doubt on Lebanon’s…stability.

Al-Qaida-related militants have long sheltered in Lebanon. The founder of al-Qaida in Iraq, a Jordanian militant named Abu Musab Zarqawi, is believed to have spent time here before he moved to Iraq in response to the U.S. invasion there.

The Saudi citizen who was said to be the head of another al-Qaida affiliate, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which claimed responsibility for November’s…bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, is believed to have lived in the Ain el Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon before he was captured by Lebanese authorities in December.

Lebanese authorities, who only acknowledged they were holding Majid al Majid last week, announced Saturday that he had died in custody. Details were scarce as Majid, who had been designated a terrorist by the United States in 2012, had been held and interrogated in a “secret location,” according to Lebanese authorities, who claimed Majid had suffered from a severe kidney ailment that required periodic dialysis. The statement from the Lebanese prosecutor investigating the embassy bombing said that these health issues were to blame for his death.

Meanwhile, the identity of the Lebanese man thought responsible for Thursday’s car bombing in southern Beirut provided more indications of the cross-border links. Lebanese authorities announced that DNA tests confirmed that the bomber was Qutaiba al-Satem, a 20-year-old man from the Wadi Khaled region of northern Lebanon, a bastion of support for the Syrian militancy.

A local news outlet reported that al-Satem had left Lebanon to fight alongside Syrian militants in the Syrian border town of Yabrud, which is currently held by the militants despite an ongoing offensive by the Syrian army and its allies Iran and Hezbollah.

Investigators are trying to piece together al-Satem’s activity in recent months and are examining his phone records to determine who he had been in contact with in the weeks leading up to the deadly bombing, according to the report.
Saudi Arabia as a government for a long time took a back seat to Qatar in funding militants in Syria, and it is only since this summer that they have taken over the file. They wish to marginalise the al-Qaida franchisees such as Isil and the al-Nusra Front while buying up and arming enough…war-bands to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The directors of Saudi policy in Syria – the Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, the head of the Saudi intelligence agency Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the Deputy Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan – plan to spend billions raising a militant Sunni army some 40,000 to 50,000 strong. Already local warlords are uniting to share in Saudi largesse for which their enthusiasm is probably greater than their willingness to fight.

The Saudi initiative is partly fuelled by rage in Riyadh at President Obama’s decision not to go to war with Syria after Assad used chemical weapons on 21 August, 2013. Nothing but an all-out air attack by the US similar to that of Nato in Libya in 2011 would overthrow Assad, so the US has essentially decided he will stay for the moment.

Saudi anger has been further exacerbated by the successful US-led negotiations on an interim deal with Iran over its nuclear programme.

By stepping out of the shadows in Syria, the Saudis are probably making a mistake. Their money will only buy them so much. The artificial unity of militant groups with their hands out for Saudi money is not going to last. They will be discredited in the eyes of more fanatical militants as well as Syrians in general as pawns of Saudi and other intelligence services.

A divided opposition will be even more fragmented. Jordan may accommodate the Saudis and a multitude of foreign intelligence services, but it will not want to be the rallying point for an anti-Assad army.

The Saudi plan looks doomed from the start, though it could get a lot more Syrians killed before it fails. Yazid Sayegh of the Carnegie Middle East Centre highlights succinctly the risks involved in the venture: “Saudi Arabia could find itself replicating its experience in Afghanistan, where it built up disparate…[militant] groups that lacked a unifying political framework. The forces were left unable to govern Kabul once they took it, paving the way for the Taliban to take over. Al-Qaida followed, and the blowback subsequently reached Saudi Arabia.”

ISIS said it had “struck its stronghold in the so-called security zone in southern suburbs of Beirut on Thursday … in the first small installment of a heavy account that awaits these shameless criminals.”

If confirmed, it would be the first time that ISIS had claimed responsibility for an attack in Beirut, which has suffered a wave of bombings since last summer, mostly targeting civilians in the southern suburbs of Beirut whose residents mostly support Hezbollah.

(Source / 10.01.2014)

Israel plans 1,400 new homes in occupied territories amid fragile peace talks

A crane is seen next to homes in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim (Reuters / Ammar Awad)A crane is seen next to homes in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim

Israel has published tenders for 1,400 new homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, once again putting the US-brokered push for a peace deal between the Jewish state and the Palestinians under threat.

The announcement was expected in December, after Israel freed 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners as part of the US-brokered deal to secure the resumption of peace negotiations between the sides.

However, it was delayed till Friday in order to allow US Secretary of State John Kerry to conclude his visit to the region.

The American effort saw Israel and Palestine returning to the negotiation table after a three-year break in July last year. The talks are set to last until April.

But the Palestinians have numerous times warned that the expansion of settlements in territories, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, could derail the peace process.

According to the list by Israel’s Housing Ministry, 801 housing units are planned to be constructed in the West Bank and another 600 in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

The ministry also re-issued tenders for 582 homes in East Jerusalem, which previously failed to attract bids from contractors.

Anti-settlement watchdog, Peace Now, said that in the six months since the resumption of the peace talks, Israel has already announced plans for 5,349 new homes in the occupied territories.

“These latest tenders could cause negotiations to break down and destroy Kerry’s efforts,” Yariv Oppenheimer, Peace Now general secretary, is cited as saying by Reuters.


Reuters / Baz Ratner The Palestinians, who want to build an independent state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, abandoned by Israel in 2005, see settlements as a major obstacle.

It was the settlements issue, which led to a breakdown of the previous round of talks between the sides back in 2010.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the recent expansion, saying the tenders deal with homes in blocs that would remain Israeli under any future peace accord.

Despite a major part of the international community considering settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal, over 500,000 Jewish settlers live in the occupied territories.

Israeli Arabs outraged by foreign minister’s plan

A proposal that some of the towns and villages of Israel’s Arab minority should be handed over to a future Palestine in exchange for parts of the West Bank where Jewish settlers reside, may also hamper the peace process.

According to AP, the idea came from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is known as the leading voice in the country’s so-called nationalist camp, which is skeptical about the idea of even talking to the Palestinians.

Lieberman reputedly stressed that he won’t support any peace deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, if it doesn’t include his demand.

Nobody will be uprooted from their homes as the border will simply be adjusted to put Arab towns inside Palestinian territory, the FM said.

However, the proposal was rejected by all the interested parties, which are the Palestinians, the Israeli Arabs and top Israeli politicians.

The Israeli Arabs “are citizens of Israel and stayed in their historical home land and no one has the right to change their reality,” Mohammad al-Madani from Palestine’s ruling Fatah party told AP. “The right wing Israeli wants to get rid of those people just because they are Arabs.”


Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Reuters / Ariel Schalit)Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

According to former adviser to Yasser Arafat, Ahmad Tibi, current Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said Lieberman’s proposal didn’t come up during the peace talks and would have been immediately rejected if it had.

“Citizens are not chess pieces to be moved around at will and this just heightens our sense of estrangement from the state,” Tibi stressed.


Mohammad al-Madani, a member of Abbas’ Fatah party, said that while the movement represents Palestinians all over the world, Israeli Arabs were “a special case.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres and Interior Minister Gideon Saar have rejected the FM’s plan, with Prime Minister Netanyahu making no public comments on it.

Israel’s Arabs represent about 20 percent of the country’s population of 8 million people.

They come from those, who decided to remain in the Jewish state upon Israel’s establishment in 1948, in contrast to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were driven away.

West Bank landfill dispute

Israel is also reportedly blocking the operations of a brand-new landfill, which was funded by the World Bank to serve the Palestinian population of Jerusalem, Haaretz wrote.

The country’s Civil Administration demands the Jewish settlements in the area be allowed to use the waste deposit as well, the paper said.

The Al-Minya landfill was built east of Bethlehem over the last two years, but with the facility situated in the Israeli controlled West Bank’s Area C, it required the Civil Administration’s approval for construction.

It’s the first modern landfill in the southern West Bank, which has the capacity of sealing the earth to prevent waste from leaking into the ground waters.

Anti-settlement activist, Dror Etkes, told the Haaretz newspaper that he learned from one of the Al-Minya operators that the site’s construction is complete, but the Civil Administration is preventing it from working.

The Israeli authorities claim the Palestinians went back on the deal for the site to be operated as a regional landfill, despite the World Bank making it clear last year that Al-Minya should be used for Palestinian purposes only.

With the dispute ongoing, waste in the area is being dumped at environmentally hazardous private landfalls, or simply burnt in the streets.

(Source / 10.01.2014)

Israeli forces shoot 4 protesters in al-Jalazun camp clashes

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Four Palestinians were injured by live bullets during clashes with Israeli soldiers in al-Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah on Friday, locals said.

Israeli forces chased Palestinians down the alleys of the camp and fired live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas at Palestinians who threw stones and empty bottles in return.

No Palestinians were detained during the clashes, despite the attempts of Israeli forces.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that “violence and illegal riots” had erupted in the camp and Israeli forces used “riot dispersal means” to contain them.

She said that Israeli forces subsequently resorted to opening fire with “22 caliber bullets towards the instigators’ lower extremities.”

“Four hits were confirmed,” she added.

In December, an Israeli sniper shot dead a 15-year-old Palestinian boy in the back in al-Jalazun refugee camp.

Human Rights Watch said on Sunday that there was no evidence of “any threat to life that would justify such a killing,” by Israeli forces.

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 / 10.01.2014)

Palestinian prisoner loses his eyesight

Ramallah (Alresalah.ps) — Official sources confirmed that Eyad Mahmoud Nassar, a Palestinian Prisoner, from the city of Tulkarem, has lost his eyesight completely, as a result of deliberate medical negligence.

 The Ministry of Detainees and Ex-detainees in the Ramallah government affirmed that Nassar has been held captive in Israeli detention centers since 20 August 2002, and was sentenced to 30 years of detention. He lost vision in his left eye completely, and then he went blind due to the Israeli medical negligence and procrastination in giving him necessary treatment.

 Nassar lost vision in his right eye because he was hit and injured by a shrapnel in 2002, when the Israeli occupation forces broke into his house and arrested him.  He currently suffers from chronic pain in the head and left eye.

 The Ministry of Detainees and Ex-detainees said on Sunday that the ministry asked the occupation authorities to give a Palestinian specialist the permission to diagnose Nassar  but in vain.

 The ministry confirmed that Israeli is fully responsible for the deterioration of Nassar’s health conditions.

(Source / 10.01.2014)

Israeli forces release 9 detained Palestinian children and 1 youth

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces freed nine Palestinian children and one youth from detention on Friday after the intervention of Palestinian military liaisons, according to a Palestinian security source.

The released teenagers were from across Hebron and Ramallah governorates and were all detained by Israeli forces on the pretext of throwing stones.

The official source in the military liaison identified the released detainees from Hebron city, Halhoul, and at-Tabaqa, all in Hebron region, as: Mohammed Nafez Hussein Abu Sneineh, 16, Solomon Imad Tuwaya, 14, Uday Imad Tuwaya, 16, Essam Emad Muhammad Tuwaya, 12, Ali Saeed Junaidi, 12, Qusay Kamel Atrash, 13, al-Montaser Ballah Munther Muhammad Abu Atwan, 14, and Safwan Talal Abu Sneineh, 19.

The other detainees were identified as Mahmoud Ibrahim Jaidy, 13, from Abud, and Abdullah Kheir al-Tamimi, 14, from Deir Netham, both towns in the Ramallah region abutting settlements and completely surrounded by areas under Israeli military control.

Director of the military liaison in Hebron Major Nadir Haji said that the liaison was ready to provide protection for all Palestinians, especially children.

He called on all Palestinians to immediately report any arrests, and especially those of children, so that the Palestinian military liaison could help work to secure their release.

According to Defense for Children International, between 500-700 Palestinian children are detained by Israeli forces in the West Bank and prosecuted in Israeli military courts. DCI estimates that 8,000 Palestinian children have been detained since 2000.

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

(Source / 10.01.2014)

Indonesia’s poor donate $15 million to build a hospital in Gaza

Indonesians build hospital in Gaza

An Indonesian non-governmental organisation has collected nearly $15 million from Indonesia’s poor and rich alike to build the first Indonesian hospital in the Gaza Strip. The hospital, which will serve those Palestinians living in northern Gaza, is nearly finished and awaiting some equipment before it starts receiving patients. It is due for completion in May.

Southeast Asian countries are known for their strong support for Palestine, especially the Muslim communities who spend many efforts to visit and support Gaza. Fikri Fikri, a 24 year-old young man from Sumatra, is a volunteer at Indonesia’s Medical Emergency Rescue Committee, known as MER-C. He and 28 other Indonesians have been in Gaza for nearly four months to finalise building the hospital.

Fekri told Quds.net that: “We are nearly 30 people between workers, engineers, doctors and technicians. Many of us have already returned home because the work here is almost completed.” Fekri described how “Indonesian civil society groups in Jakarta collected donations from people who were happy to support Gaza, even though many of them suffered uneasy financial situations.”

When asked if they face any problems in Gaza, Fekri responded that: “The people like us here. We have only encountered a small problem with the local Ministry of Health because the organisation wanted to have an office near the hospital but the ministry refused to allow this. But we will solve it.”

Fekri, who studies sharia at the Islamic University of Gaza, explained how: “We have taken risks to complete the hospital. It’s a nice feeling to help the wounded in Gaza who suffer from Israeli aggression. We have come here and we know that it’s not easy, but we are happy. I have learned Arabic in an acceptable way. However, I’m not married so I miss my home and my country.”

Abu Mohammed, a 42 year-old Indonesian engineer who joined the mission, said: “I feel sad sometimes because I have been here for so long. I feel lonely, but because I work for Palestine and Gaza, I am proud of what I do. We are nearly done. There are a few Indonesian workers here who take a symbolic wage. They all came to work for Palestine. We should finish our work and transfer the hospital’s administration to the Local Ministry of Health in May 2014. We work near the borders and it is unsafe. I do not know how to describe my feeling when I hear the explosions and Israeli airstrikes; however, I am ready to die for Palestine and for the weak and the just. I am going to be very happy when the hospital is completed and ready to serve the people of Gaza and when I return safely to my family in Jakarta.”

The Health Ministry of the Hamas-led government in Gaza and Indonesia’s MER-C signed a memorandum of understanding on 21 November 2011 stipulating the financing of the hospital.

Shadi Abu Herbein, the deputy director of the hospital, explained that the hospital is established on an area that is 3000 square metres and has 100 beds, eight of which are for the intensive care unit, ten for the reception, and four rooms for surgeries.

(Source / 10.01.2014)

British activist detained entering Israel, facing 10-year ban

Gary Spedding was detained after landing in Tel Aviv ahead of meetings with parliamentarians and activists. He says his phone was hacked and contacts extracted. 

A high-profile member of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party and a long-standing activist for human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories, Gary Spedding, was detained on arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday and told would be deported and banned from the country for 10 years. Speaking from the airport, after being held for eight hours, Spedding told +972 that the interrogating officers hacked into his mobile phone, and copied email addresses and telephone numbers. He also said no reason for his impending deportation was given, except that he was a “liar” and a “security threat.”

“I flew in to Tel Aviv from London Luton at about 4 p.m. local time,” Spedding told +972.  ”When I got to passport control the guy asked me to step aside and wait. After about an hour, three people came and took me to a room. They questioned me and took my phone, asking for my security code. I wouldn’t give my code but agreed to type it in to show the phone was a real phone. What I didn’t realize is that somebody is standing behind me and watching me do it. My Hebrew is not very good, but good enough to pick up he was reading out the digits I was typing to the rest of the security team. ” Spedding said the security team then logged onto his mobile phone without permission and scanned through his contacts, text messages and email, copying some of the content manually onto a notepad.

“They told me they’d hold me for nine days until my return flight, so as not to have to pay for my deportation,” Spedding said. The security team questioning Spedding then changed, and one official told him a decision was made to deport him and ban him from Israel for 10 years. “I was told this was a fact, not a threat, and there was nothing neither I or my government could do,” said Spedding, who is a dual Australian and British citizen.

The activist was still being held near Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday night, and the state’s plans regarding his deportation were not immediately clear. “I’m just one guy, sitting here at Ben-Gurion, pretty tired and not feeling so good but apart from that, I’m ok,” Spedding sought to stress when commenting on the attention news of his detention had attracted on social media networks. “This kind of shit happens to Israeli and Palestinian activists all the time, as we all know, and nobody speaks up as much for them.”

Spedding, 23, is a well-known member of the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland, and is hoping to contest a seat in next elections to the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016;  he is not yet an approved party candidate. He said that on this visit he had been expecting to meet with Palestinian and Israeli activists and officials, including MKs, to discuss a variety of projects, with a particular emphasis on Northern Ireland’s transition from armed conflict to political process.

As erstwhile leader of the Queen’s University, Belfast, Palestine Society, Spedding had clashed with pro-Israel voices in Ireland and beyond, prompting one pro-Israel commentator to write an entire book titled “Dear Gary: Why You’re Wrong About Israel.” (Full disclosure – I traveled from London to Belfast as a guest speaker of the society in March 2012.) Spedding also repeatedly clashed with some pro-Palestine activists, including ones he felt had allowed themselves to slip from criticism of Israeli policies and politics to ultra-nationalism or anti-Semitism. He has written op-eds for a number of online publications, including Huffington Post UK, Belfast Telegraph, and +972.

If Spedding does indeed get deported, he won’t be the first one – Israel has deported and banned dozens of solidarity activists over the past decade, from ISM members to international activists picked up at Palestinian demonstrations. To my knowledge, no explanation has ever been given for any deportation or ban, except the oblique “security risk.” No evidence implicating any deported activist in any violence has ever been produced.

Anyone with any inside knowledge of why Israeli services thinks any of this makes Israel any safer or better-looking is invited to contact me over email (dimi at 972 dot com); full discretion guaranteed.

Update: On Friday morning, the British embassy was told Gary was a threat to Israel because he was very popular on the social networks and could start demonstrations if allowed into the country.

Update (Friday evening): Gary was deported with a 10-year entry ban to Israel.

Correction: This article has been amended to reflect that Spedding is not an approved candidate for the Alliance Party at previous or future elections. The Alliance Party has, however been in contact with Gary and in a statement to +972 said it is “extremely concerned for his welfare,” adding that it trusts UK consular officials will afford him all the necessary support.

(Source / 10.01.2014)


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


The fighting in Syria just got a whole lot more complex this week with moderate Opposition fighters battling against the Jihadists and Jihadists fighting among themselves amid accusations that some factions are in fact working for Assad.


And the Suffering Just Continues

The fighting that erupted a week ago between more moderate Opposition groups and the extreme Jihadist group allied to Al Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (known as ISIL or ISIS), is believed to have claimed the lives of more than 500 people.

According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), so far they have documented, during the infighting, the killing of 85 civilians, 240 members of the moderate Opposition brigades and 157 members of ISIL – but there are believed to be many more deaths as yet unrecorded.

Most of the infighting has been in Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqah provinces, with the more moderate forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamic Front (IF) making gains in Aleppo and Idlib, while in Raqqah ISIL are putting up a stronger fight to hold onto the regional capital.

Almost all the previously held Opposition areas in southern, eastern and northern Aleppo are now under the control of the FSA and the Islamic Front but fierce battles with ISIL continue in the north-western outer suburbs of the city around Kfar Hamra and Hretan.

This video shows fires burning and gunfire near Hretan, HERE: while the Jabhat al-Akrad Brigade, a group of Kurdish fighters allied to the FSA, prevented ISIL from penetrating a northern housing area, including killing a suicide bomber before he detonated, HERE:

Jabhat al-Akrad also took over school from ISIS in the Al-Haidariya neighbourhood, HERE:

North-east of Aleppo city, at Al-Bab, ISIL ambushed a group of people including Opposition fighters and civilians, killing 18 of them, and later shelled the town with 57mm cannon.

Outside Al-Bab ISIL also took control of Qabasin city and a number of buildings in Tadev but in the north-east city of Manbej, the Islamic Front declared a 72 hour curfew and mobilised all its units against a possible ISIL attack.

In the western part of Aleppo province, ISIL detonated a car-bomb at a moderate Opposition checkpoint near the entrance to Taydil village and tried to take over the town of Kafr Halab in the south-west.

Also to the south-west of Aleppo City, the moderate Opposition attacked ISIL positions which they were holding at the former Assad helicopter airfield, Base 46, near Atareb. ISIL retaliated, by shelling from Base 46, Opposition territory in Aleppo city which it had formally held.

Moderate Opposition positions were also attacked by Assad’s war planes between Atareb and Urem al-Kubra and also on the road north-east of Aleppo between Al-Bab and Bzaa, give rising to an increasing suspicion that somehow, in some devious way, ISIL is linked to the Assad regime.

These accusations have been appearing for some time on the Internet and have gained strength since repeated barrel-bombing of civilians in Raqqah but not once an attack on ISIL’s very obvious headquarters buildings around the city.

Moderate Opposition fighters have also discovered the passport of an ISIL commander in recaptured Jarablous, Abu Hafas Al-Masri, which clearly contains an entry visa for Shia Iran – rather odd for a supposedly Sunni fighter.

It is also reported that since January 3rd ISIL has carried out 14 cars-bomb or suicide bomb attacks against the moderate Opposition – an intense record that it has never attempted against the Assad regime.

The allegations of secret collaboration between ISIL and the Assad regime have been repeated this week by the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, although he disingenuously lobbed the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the PYD, Turkey’s arch enemy, into the mix as well. You can read more, HERE:


In Raqqah city, the only regional capital completely under Opposition control, ISIL have put up a stronger fight against moderate Opposition forces to retain control of their main HQ in the central Governorate building and have also pushed back to take over the Al-Mashalab district in the south-east, capturing the headquarters of fellow Jihadists, the Al Nusra Front (AFN). That both Al Qaeda aligned groups are now fighting each other has added another complicated dimension to the conflict, though AFN is considered far less extreme and often freely collaborates with the FSA and the IF in campaigns against the Assad regime.

Map of Raqqah Showing ISIL and Moderate Positions 10th Jan

Map courtesy of Cedric Labrousse. Moderate Opposition in Green, ISIL in Black.

On the approaches into Raqqah city there have been heavy clashes between ISIL and the IF at the Naem and Dalla roundabouts and the moderates succeeded in pushing ISIL out of the National Hospital area of the city.

After ISIL withdrew under pressure from the Sbahih barrier on the western approaches to Raqqah city, traffic can be seen flowing much more easily, HERE:

ISIL have generally remained stronger in Raqqah as opposed to other provinces as they have direct supply lines to ISIL in Iraq, which is currently in control of the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, lined up against the Iraqi Army and local tribal groups.

Anbar province in Iraq, abutting the Syrian border, is ISIL’s stronghold and is broadly Sunni, as opposed to the majority Shia Governments in both Iraq and Damascus.

To the north of Raqqah city on the Turkish border, the IF took control of the frontier post from ISIL and the FSA sent the Faruq Brigade to back them up, though ongoing clashes with ISIL are being reported, both sides pulling in more reinforcements.

In Deir Ez Zour, ISIL abandoned their one base in the city and sent their fighters to Raqqah, while in the desert of the same province the FSA captured 10 members of the Shabiha, Assad’s armed militia, HERE:

In Idlib province, ongoing battles are reported this morning between ISIL and the moderate Opposition around Darkoush, but the moderates forced ISIL out of Al-Dana on the Turkish border, freeing a number of detainees from an ISIL prison there. ISIL units are reported to have retreated across the regional border to Darat Izza in Aleppo province.


An attempt by Opposition brigades to break Assad’s siege of Opposition-held areas of Homs late on Wednesday and early Thursday is reported to have failed after the insurgents were ambushed in the Government controlled Khaldiya district as they attempted to get out of the Old City.


An Opposition Fighter Besieged in Homs

According to reports from both sides between 37 and 45 Opposition fighters were surrounded and killed and grisely videos on the Internet confirm the fact.

In Rastan, also in Homs province, in violent fighting between Opposition brigades, ISIL is reported to have killed another 18 people in a massacre and fighters were wounded and killed on both sides.

At Krack des Chevalier, the ancient Crusader town, Assad’s forces are reported to be preparing to make an attempt to storm the entrance to the castle and break into the citadel.

As a result of the Opposition attacks on the extreme Jihadists of ISIL, it is reported that the US may resume “non-lethal aid” (EDITOR: Though they actually need “lethal aid” to finish the job of getting rid of Assad) to the moderate brigades of the FSA, though the Americans remain deeply suspicious of the Islamist Front alliance (FI).

FI, who say they were acting in defence of the FSA against ISIL,  have returned the warehouses at Atmeh on the Syrian/Turkish border in Idlib province to FSA control. The warehouses apparently still contain non-lethal aid supplied by the Americans such as field rations, first aid kits and vehicles, but some light arms and ammunition are missing.

8 countries (the US, UK, China, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Norway) are now involved in the complex process of removing Syria’s chemical weapons for neutralisation and destruction.

On Tuesday, the first 60 tons, of a total of 700 tons, of chemicals was loaded in containers onto a Danish ship at the Syrian port of Latakia and this is now offshore heavily guarded by the military of Russia, China and Scandanavia.

Once more containers have been loaded, the Danish ship will sail for Italy where they will be unloaded and trans-shipped to a specially prepared US vessel, the MV Cape Ray, for destruction at sea into a relatively harmless sludge that can be processed anywhere.

Another 150 tons of priority 2 chemicals will be removed from Syria by the UK’s Royal Navy and destroyed at chemical processing plants in Britain.  You can read more in the Telegraph, HERE:


Hydrolysis Processing Plant for Destroying Chemical Weapons

Israel boycott growing “much faster” than South Africa campaign, says Omar Barghouti

Omar Barghouti

Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement co-founder Omar Barghouti was in Chicago this week to speak on a panel on academic boycotts at the Modern Language Association (MLA) conference.

He also spoke to Jerome McDonnell on WBEZ’s Worldview (use the player above to listen).


An MLA meeting would not normally make headlines but Barghouti’s appearance has provoked alarmist articles in the Israeli and US media, including in Haaretz and The Wall Street Journal.

Following the American Studies Association’s (ASA) landslide vote to endorse the academic boycott of Israel in December, Israel and its supporters fear that the much larger MLA – with 30,000 members in 100 countries – is heading in the same direction.

No boycott resolution is currently on the MLA’s agenda, but there is a resolution on academic freedom in the occupied territories which is seen by some as a trial balloon.


Barghouti dismissed complaints from Israel supporters that the MLA panel lacked “balance.”

While there were a range of views represented, Barghouti said organizers were not required to host opponents of their views.

“For example, if you’re having a panel on rape, you’re not required to have a rapist or somebody who supports rape to counter those who oppose rape but have different views about opposing rape,” Barghouti told WBEZ.

Barghouti also detailed Israel’s systematic attacks on Palestinian academic freedom and education including the total shut down of all schools and universities during the first intifada in the late 1980s and Israel’s bombing of schools and universities in Gaza five years ago.

BDS is about opposing a comprehensive Israeli “system of racial discrimination,” Barghouti explained.

“Warm news”

Barghouti lauded the decision announced this week by PGGM, a $200-billion-dollar Dutch pensions firm, to divest from Israeli banks due to their involvement in Israel’s illegal colony construction in the occupied West Bank.

He called the PGGM decision “warm news” in the “very cold weather of Chicago” and noted that it was “unprecedented” in its scope since the pensions giant divested from all Israeli banks, not just their operations within the occupied West Bank.


Barghouti also responded to the statements by several dozen university presidents condemning the ASA boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

“BDS is a grassroots movement. We do not expect presidents of universities in the United States – who are closer to CEOs than to real presidents in an academic sense,” to endorse it, Barghouti said.

“Their main function is fundraising and they see BDS as hurting their fundraising and thus the automatic support for Israel right or wrong plus the omission of Palestinians, including Palestinian academic freedom.”

“We rely on the fast-growing movement among academics, among students on campus. Israel is very aware and so are we about the growth of BDS on US campuses. So the fact that they gathered eighty presidents of universities to defend Israel and attack the BDS movement is no surprise to us because most of those presidents were against divestment from South Africa. The tide changed.”

Barghouti said that progress in the BDS movement against Israel was “much faster” than the progress made by the campaign against apartheid South Africa when he was a student in the United States in the 1980s.

(Source / 10.01.2014)