Syrian Coalition Welcomes the Formation of the Syrian National Turkmen Party

Fayez Sarah, member of the Political Committee, welcomes the formation of the Syrian National Turkmen Party, during a conference held by the General Assembly. “The formation of such parties enriches the democratic process in future Syria,” Sarah said. Mohammed Wajeeh Juma’a, the party’s chairman, said that “this party is composed of Syrians who recognize the rights of Turkmens in Syria. It aims to revive and activate the Turkmen’s role in building a state of justice and equity. It will also work on preserving the unity and integrity of Syria’s territory.” He also said that “the formation of the party stems from the grievances and aspirations of all Syrian Turkmen to define the objectives and principles and develop the plans and programs to topple the Assad regime. After we are victorious, there will be no injustice to any Turkmen nor diminution of their rights, as the party believes that the people’s demands are as a basis for his work. Human rights and the rights of citizenship will be the basis for the next constitution.” Wiesel Dalmaz, the Turkish custodian of Syrians in Turkey, said that “all sects and ethnic components of this region have co-lived for more than 1,000 years. Turkey does not have any ambitions in Syria and has always stood with the Syrian people and will remain so in spite of all the difficulties we are facing.” He also said “that the streets of Syria today have become targets for barrel bombs. Hundreds of families have been flocking to the Syrian-Turkish borders. The streets are completely empty, and all that remains are ghost towns. The Free Syrian Army fought against Assad’s forces, but now the Assad regime has replaced his troops with external terrorist militias such as Hezbollah, ISIS and the PYD.” Juma’a defines the political vision of the party as “based on several points, namely “the Syrian Turkmen are an integral part of the fabric of Syrian society. The Turkmen’s national identity is complementary to their national identity. They have the right to officially speak their own language and practice their customs and traditions and to hold educational conventions and cultural relations with Turkish nationals outside Syria to serve the interests of the Turkmen people, and in way that does not collide with Syria’s national interests.” Moreover, the party stresses that Syria “is the final home for all Syrians. Therefore, any launch a separatist or sectarian or divisive calls are unacceptable whatever the motives. We also see the principle of citizenship is the foundation that connects citizens to their homeland and to each other. We emphasizes the building of a state based on the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, and the right to participate in public affairs for all citizens, the people are the source of legitimacy and all authorities, respect for human rights, protection of freedom of thought and expression, and freedom of the press and.” The party also emphasizes the need for “the existence of a national body for the transitional justice, reconciliation, ending grievances, holding accountable those involved in human rights violations and revealing the fate of the missing. The party also seeks to “adopt a national strategy for restoring the role of the woman all their rights. It also aims to build a modern economic system based on the balance between economic freedom and keeping the role of the state in economic life.”
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 02.03.2014)

Fatah official slams Hamas in Cairo

 

Azzam Al-AhmadAzzam al-Ahmad said that Fatah denounces all interference in Egyptian affairs, whether by Hamas or any other Palestinian faction

An official from the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, Fatah, has criticised Hamas, saying that the resistance group did not announce its position on political reconciliation until it was accused of interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs. Azzam al-Ahmad made his remarks during a visit to Cairo to meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk.

 

Al-Ahmad said that Fatah denounces all interference in Egyptian affairs, whether by Hamas or any other Palestinian faction. He pointed out that Hamas denies the accusation but the movement’s practices “give out negative signals”.

“We are keen to stop these interventions,” he insisted. “When the reconciliation efforts resumed recently, we stressed to Hamas that it should act as a Palestinian national movement and stop interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs,” the Fatah Central Committee member said. He expressed his hope that Hamas is aware of this reality and will stop “interfering” and prevent its media outlets from doing likewise.

According to Al-Ahmad, he not only met Abu Marzouk in Cairo but has also had contact with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip. He claimed that he was waiting for a response from Hamas, which needs more time to proceed with the reconciliation process. “The Gaza Strip and the Palestinian cause have no future if the division remains. We must seek all ways to end the split. The Palestinian leadership and Egypt coordinate non-stop about the situation in Gaza Strip,” he claimed.

A spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that Al-Ahmad and Foreign Minister Fahmy discussed the ongoing negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The minister gave his full support to the Palestinian position as well as to the reconciliation efforts and the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. The Fatah official blamed Israeli “intransigence” and unwillingness to compromise for the impasse following the meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris recently.

(Source / 02.03.2014)

Riyadh Book Fair bans ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ books for threatening ‘intellectual security’

 

Riyadh Internation Book Fair900 publishing houses from 32 countries will participate in the Riyadh Internation Book Fair

Saudi authorities will ban Muslim Brotherhood books in the upcoming Riyadh International Book Fair, scheduled for Tuesday March 4, under the auspices of King Abdullah Bin Abdel-Aziz.

900 publishing houses from 32 countries will participate in the fair.

The Saudi Al-Iktisadiyah newspaper quoted the President of the Saudi Publishers Association Ahmad Al-Himdan as saying that Muslim Brotherhood books will not be sold at the fair, adding: “We will not allow anyone to exploit the book fair to leak any banned books that would constitute a threat to intellectual security.”

“We will not allow the circulation of books written by ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups. So the reader should be reassured that the book fair does not include any book that threatens security or incites to violence and misleading ideas.”

Deputy Information Minister Abdel-Aziz Al-Okail said: “whatever violates the religious and political principles of the Kingdom is considered banned, whether it belongs to a country or a party.”

Nevertheless, Al-Okeil claimed that the Riyadh book fair enjoys “a greater margin of freedom” compared to other Arab book fairs.

Saudi authorities announced on Saturday the barring of 350 publisher from participating in the book fair “for failure to abide by the fair’s criteria and conditions.”

(Source / 02.03.2014)

Senior Palestinian official says prisoners cost economy $250m

 

Mohammed ShtayyehMohammed Shtayyeh urged donor countries to fulfil their financial pledges to the Palestinian Authority

The President of the Palestinian Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) has said that the 5,100 prisoners held by the Israelis costs the local economy around $250m per annum. Mohammed Shtayyeh told France 24 on Sunday, “The Palestinian economy needs these young men to be part of the workforce.”

Shtayyeh, who is also a member of the Fatah Central Committee, pointed out that the Palestinian Authority provides monthly salaries to prisoners inside Israeli jails. “As such, Israel not only deprives the economy of their skills but also forces the PA to spend much-needed funds for no return.”

The unemployment rate in the occupied Palestinian territories was 28.6 per cent in 2013 with almost 301,000 out of work, most of them young people. Unemployment among Palestinian graduates reached 48 per cent last year.

Shtayyeh urged donor countries to fulfil their financial pledges to the Palestinian Authority: “The Palestinian government has ratified the 2014 budget, which is estimated at $4.2 billion, including a deficit of $1.2 billion that should be used to pay public sector employees as well as a $400m deficit in public sector projects.”

Local economists argue that the PA budget should focus on essential spending due to the authority’s financial crisis. The published budget is subject to much debate amongst ordinary Palestinians who regard it as overblown.

(Source / 02.03.2014)

Israeli army looks to recruit Palestinian Christians

 

Palestinians scuffle with Israeli soldiers in the center of the West Bank city of Hebron, on February 21, 2014.
Occupied Jerusalem– Compulsory military service was imposed on the Druze community in Israel in 1956 and on the Circassian community in 1958. Druze and Circassian girls and religious Druze however are exempt from service in the army. The percentage of Druze who serve in the Israeli army is about 83 percent according to Israeli army statistics and the Israeli media. There are also 1,100 Bedouins who are voluntarily serving in the Israeli occupation army in addition to hundreds of Palestinian Muslims and Christians.
In 1961, the Israeli authorities established the National Civil Service as an alternative to compulsory military service for religiously observant Jewish girls. This service has become a way out for girls who face social constraints and can not serve in the army.

The National Civil Service has also served as a loophole to attract young Palestinian men and women to serve the Jewish state. At the end of their service, they receive a special card just like a discharged soldier and they become subject to the orders of the region commander in the occupation army who can call them up for service if the state is exposed to a terrorist attack. That is tantamount to being available for reserve duty which applies to discharged soldiers. In other words, it is a kind of conscription.

Young Palestinian men and women fall for the trap of benefits and privileges granted after serving, oblivious to the fact that the occupation is always racist and the Israeli authorities could not care less about their agents’ services and they often abandon them.
When the Israeli authorities passed a law to recruit Arab youth into the occupation army, they knew what they were doing. Israel not only tried to impose its control on the entire Palestinian land and its people with its occupation and create minorities with its racist policies. Thinking long-term, Israel has always sought to wipe out the Palestinian identity among 1948 Palestinians and to indoctrinate them with a Zionist Israeli consciousness to the point where Arabs of all sects come to see themselves as Israeli.
The Israeli authorities were able to get the signature of about 16 figures that they decided were the representatives of the Druze community in order to force young Druze men to serve in the Israeli army. They created a battalion for them called the Sword Battalion and deployed Druze soldiers in all of the occupied Palestinian territories in order to reinforce its policy of divide and rule, whereby it creates a stereotypical image of the assimilated Druze in the Israeli security establishment.
The main goal of the Israeli state was to separate the Druze community from its Palestinian roots. Some members of the Druze community learned to de-emphasize their Arab Palestinian identity and emphasize instead their Israeli Druze identity. But the integration of the Druze community in Israeli politics and their representation in Zionist political parties did not put a stop to a persistent opposition to mandatory conscription in the occupation army from the day it began. The numbers of young Druze men who refuse to serve has increased lately. Despite their alleged integration, what happened with the Druze community is proof that the policy of rights in return for duties is deceptive and illusory. Close to 80 percent of Druze-owned lands were confiscated and thousands of homes are threatened with demolition.
Yaman Zidane is a lawyer, human rights activist, and one of the founders of the movement Refuse, which opposes the mandatory conscription imposed on the Druze community of Palestine and all other kinds of conscription.
He says: “There is a contradiction between what is said by political bodies and military information on one hand and the data provided at the national security conference held annually in the settlement of Herzliya on the other. The Israeli political media and the army-owned media claim that more than 80 percent of young Druze men serve in the army. According to their claims, it is a higher percentage than that of Jewish conscripts. However, every year, dozens of young Druze men are jailed because they refuse military service either for nationalist reasons or simply because they see no benefit in this service. According to the conference, 50.4 percent of young Druze men dodge compulsory military service or do not finish their service. The percentage of loyalty to Israel among Druze youth declined from 4.4 percent in 2002 to 2.3 percent in 2012.”
About 500 young Muslim men and women serve in the Israeli occupation army and the National Civil Service at a time when the Israeli occupation accuses Muslims of extremism and terrorism.
Lately, some groups have emerged calling for the recruitment of male and female Palestinian Christians into the occupation army. It is more dangerous than a simple phenomenon. It has turned into an actual practice as a growing number of Christians have joined the military in 2013. The number of Christians recruited into the ranks of the occupation army and the National Civil Service is almost 650 men and women according to statistics conducted by Dr. Yusri Khaizaran. This number sets off alarm bells for all those involved in and are active within the 1948 Palestinian community.
Father Gabriel Nadaf, a former Orthodox Christian priest in Nazareth, launched a forum to recruit young Christians into the Israeli army several years ago and managed to register it as an association in 2012.
He received support from extreme right-wing Israeli associations like Im Tirzu (If You Will It), an organization that seeks to spread Zionist ideas not only within Jewish Israeli society but also among non-Jews as well. This group calls for expelling Palestinians out of the country.

Dr. Azmi Hakim, leader of the Greek Orthodox community council in Nazareth, said: “Unfortunately, the government project to recruit Palestinian Christians is not a new one. In 1956 there was a desperate attempt spearheaded by a Catholic bishop, called Bishop Hakim, which failed when Arab leaders stood united against his factional scheme. Since the Israeli authorities want to divide us into sects and confessions, they do not deal with political parties as representatives of the Arab masses. Instead they want sectarian, tribal and familial leadership. To implement this project, they attempted to recruit clerics to their side. After a short search they found what they were looking for in Nadaf who answered their call without hesitation.”

This is a Zionist authoritarian project planned meticulously in the offices of the Defense Ministry, the Shabak – the Israeli security agency – and the office of the prime minister. Nadaf is a mere puppet in the hands of this elite, and the authority which mobilized support for him and his partners among some racist Zionist organizations, Hakim added.
Targeting Christians did not come out of thin air. It is the result of an apartheid policy that Israel has adopted towards Palestinians since it occupied their land. The Druze, Bedouins, and Circassians were the first victims and now the tragedy is being replayed by targeting Christians. Focusing on their recruitment into the army is an attempt to isolate Christians within sectarian boudaries as happened with the Druze. They invented a so-called Druze nationalism with the help of some governmental studies that claim that Druze are originally not Arab. Similar claims are now being regurgitated by some who claim that Christians are originally not Arab and promote the idea of military service.
Nadim al-Nashef, founder and director of Baladna, also known as the association for Arab youth, in Haifa said: “Recruiting Christian youth into the Israeli army is based on three notions. The first is that Christians are not Arab. They are Aramaic and not part of the region. The second is protecting Christians in the occupation state in light of the changes in the Arab world. Christians were the first to pay the price for the war in Iraq, Egypt and Syria with the rise of groups like al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The third is exploiting the fertile environment left in the wake of familial and political differences in some cities and villages to scare Christians if they don’t take up arms.”
The crisis in Nazareth between Islamist movements and secular movements created a fertile ground for Nadaf and his aids to emerge and try to control the scene, exploiting the general environment to launch a catastrophic initiative that makes the occupation seem like a refuge, opening its arms to Christians in this Islamist and extremist Arab world.
“It is surprising and shocking that this Orthodox Christian man would call on Christians to join the soldiers of the occupation state. The history of the Orthodox sect throughout the ages bears clear witness to its members affiliation with nationalist and patriotic causes. They are the pioneers of leftist, Marxist and secular movements,” said Dr. Yusri Khaizaran.

Asked if this was the emergence of a new Antoine Lahad (the leader of the South Lebanese Army militia that collaborated with Israel during Lebanon’s civil war), Dr. Hakim replied: “I can not compare Lahad and Nadaf because of differences in geography, place and time. Lahad presided over an armed militia to protect Israel but the priest involved in military recruitment in this case can not be the head of a militia. He is simply peddling the idea that Christians serving in the army will protect Christians who are under threat from their Muslim brethren, even though we have called for international protection from Israeli apartheid policies that we all suffer from, Muslims, Christians and Druze.”

Is Israel trying to form an alternative to the South Lebanon Army? “I don’t think so because the Israeli occupation army does not allow armed gangs or militias to exist within its state. The issue is nothing more than a scheme to plant the seeds of strife between members of the same population and to divide them into sects and denominations. The occupation army does not need Christian recruits to protect it but it can use them in military intelligence because of their mastery of the Arabic language, even though they might deny their Arab identity,” said Dr. Hakim.
For Yaman Zidane, “We have to stand up to this conspiracy by raising collective awareness and prevent them from fragmenting the Palestinian social fabric even more by emphasizing that we are one people, our concerns are the same and we share the same destiny. In addition, we need to create real alternatives such as developing non-curricular frameworks as an alternative to curricular educational frameworks and developing institutions within Arab Palestinian society. This creates work opportunities and support and contributes to our economic independence which has a positive impact on intellectual independence.”
Some Arab youth have lost their cultural, national and historical identity and assimilated into Israeli society thinking that they might enjoy equality and better work opportunities by abandoning their Palestinian identity. What is worse is their lack of a real understanding of the National Civil Service and the new trap that has been set for them. But the most dangerous part is that the people behind these schemes have come out in public with no sense of shame. They have gained fame and money for marketing the occupation and its army.
(Source / 02.03.2014)

Turkey approves financial aid to Myanmar Muslims

28 February 2014 22:22 (Last updated 28 February 2014 22:25)

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) and UN agreed to financial aid to Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

NEW YORK

Turkey and UNICEF agreed Friday to send US$1.82 million in humanitarian aid to support displaced Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

The money is planned to be used to provide clean water and to improve hygiene conditions for Rohingya Muslims who have been forced live within Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps.

The sum was collected through a humanitarian aid campaign for Rohingya Muslims organized by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency.

Senior UNICEF official Dominique Hyde said the organization is grateful to Turkey for delivering aid to the displaced Rohingya population in Myanmar and also congratulated Turkey for its open door policy for Syrian refugees.

The Rohingya of Myanmar are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world according to the UN. They have suffered pogroms at the hands of Rakhine Buddhist extremists and now as many as 100,000 are left to languish in camps that have turned into ghettos. Their citizenship was removed in 1982, making them stateless.

Approximately 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims live in Myanmar.

(Source / 02.03.2014)

Myanmar: End Mass Arrests of Muslim Men and Boys in Rakhine State, Protect At-Risk Communities

(Bangkok, January 23, 2014)—The government of Myanmar should act immediately to bring an end to attacks and abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Fortify Rights said today. The government should end the mass arrests of Muslim men and boys and ensure due process rights for all those detained in areas surrounding the site of recent mass killings of Rohingya in Du Char Yar Tan village, Maungdaw Township. Unfettered access to the area should be granted to humanitarian organizations, independent observers, and national and international media.

Du Char Yar Tan is the site of the January 14 suspected killing of a police sergeant and ensuing retributive attacks against Rohingya Muslims by state security forces and local Rakhine Buddhist residents. Fortify Rights confirmed that at least 40 Rohingya from the village were killed and several hundred were forcibly displaced in the last week. The actual number of deaths may be higher, but information is circumscribed by government-imposed restrictions on access to the area.

Following the attacks, local officials purportedly issued a verbal order on January 14 for Lon Htein riot police to indiscriminately arrest all male Rohingya, including children over age ten, in areas surrounding Du Char Yar Tan. Arrests have been carried out since January 14. As of January 22, Fortify Rights confirmed men and boys from the village have gone into hiding to avoid arrest.

“These arbitrary detentions broaden the scope of the human rights violations in the area and should be immediately brought to an end,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights. “There needs to be accountability for this wave of horrific violence in Maungdaw Township but mass arrests of Muslim men and boys are not the way.”

The central government of Myanmar and Rakhine State government officials have repeatedly denied that any violence or killing took place in Maungdaw Township, apart from the death of the police sergeant and allegations that Rohingya “mobs” attacked police. Local authorities have attempted to isolate the area for the last several days. Residents have been prevented from returning and independent observers and media have been effectively denied access to the area.

“The government should immediately provide unfettered humanitarian access to the area and grant access for national and international media,” said Matthew Smith. “The authorities can’t defensibly speak the language of human rights reform while sealing off the site of yet another massacre in Rakhine State.”

The residents of Du Char Yar Tan should be allowed to return home under the protection of security forces brought in from outside Rakhine State, Fortify Rights said.

Since violence erupted in Rakhine State in June 2012, hundreds have been killed, at least 145,000 Muslims have been displaced, 40,000 others are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, and tens of thousands have fled the country by sea. A year and a half after initial violence, displaced Rohingya in Rakhine State still lack adequate shelter, drinking water, latrines, and health care, despite assurances from state and central governments.

A series of events in Maungdaw Township in the last two weeks led to the latest outbreak of severe violence in Du Char Yar Tan village, also known as Kiladong, which is home to at least 3,500 Rohingya Muslims, most of whom are stateless.

On January 9, 23 Rohingya from Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township were traveling through Maungdaw Township, reportedly with the intention of fleeing the country, when they encountered a group of Rakhine Buddhists outside Du Char Yar Tan village, Maungdaw Township. The group of Rakhine allegedly abducted eight of the Rohingya while the others fled. On January 11, local Rohingya allegedly discovered a fresh grave with visible body parts in the area.

Late in the evening on January 13, a small group of plain-clothed Lon Htein riot police and local Rakhine entered Du Char Yar Tan village and unsuccessfully attempted to detain Rohingya men. Rohingya villagers repelled them from the village before any arrests were made.

Hours later, on January 14, Lon Htein and armed Rakhine returned to Du Char Yar Tan village in greater numbers. Both civilian Rakhine and Rohingya were armed with sticks, knives, and swords, evidently in preparation for a violent confrontation. Local sources and others tell Fortify Rights that a police sergeant was abducted at that time and allegedly killed by Rohingya.

The sergeant’s disappearance prompted a third and sizable “security” operation by Lon Htein in the early morning hours of January 14, ostensibly to determine the whereabouts of the police sergeant. At that time, most Rohingya men and boys—who typically flee when security forces are thought to be approaching, as they bear the brunt of violence and abuse—fled the village in fear, leaving behind mostly women and children. Lon Htein and armed Rakhine entered the village from the main north-south Maungdaw road and brutally attacked Rohingya who had not yet fled. Muslim-owned properties in the village were looted.

No officials have been prosecuted or held accountable for abuses against Rohingya since the outbreak of violence in Rakhine State in June 2012. State-sanctioned killings, torture, and other mistreatment perpetrated against Rohingya have been well documented.

In August 2012, Myanmar President Thein Sein established a 27-member “investigative commission” to “reveal the truth behind the unrest” in Rakhine State and “find solutions for communities with different religious beliefs to live together in harmony.” On April 29, 2013, the commission released a long-awaited report, which failed to address abuses by state authorities or the need for accountability for human rights violations, effectively denying any wrongdoing by the state.

Fortify Rights called on the government of Myanmar to support an independent, transparent, international investigation into human rights violations and humanitarian deprivations in Rakhine State, in partnership with national Myanmar partners.

“What we’re seeing is a protracted pattern of atrocities inflicted upon Rohingya, in addition to abuses they’ve endured for decades,” Matthew Smith said. “The authorities in Naypyidaw and Rakhine State are unable or unwilling to put an end to the violence. An international investigation is long overdue.”

(Source / 02.03.2014)

New violence shatters truce in Syria’s Yarmuk

File - A young boy eating as women wait to receive food parcels from the UN agency in Syria's besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, south of Damascus, on February 24, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / HO / UNRWA)
File – A young boy eating as women wait to receive food parcels from the UN agency in Syria’s besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, south of Damascus, on February 24, 2014.
 

DAMASCUS: Firefights and shelling on Sunday shattered a weeks-old truce at the Yarmuk Palestinian camp in Damascus, but a ceasefire allowed residents to return to another besieged area near Syria’s capital.

Syria’s three-year conflict is estimated to have killed more than 140,000 people, forced millions to flee the homes, and taken a brutal toll on children increasingly threatened by disease.

On Sunday the United Nations said millions of children across the Middle East were to be vaccinated against polio after the crippling illness resurfaced in Syria for the first time in 15 years.

Meanwhile some good news emerged with Spanish journalist Marc Marginedas released by jihadists in Syria after six months in captivity, said his employer El Periodico newspaper.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front and the pro-regime Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command had resumed hostilities in Yarmuk.

“The truce has been broken,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The ceasefire had taken hold on February 10 when Al-Nusra withdrew its fighters from Yarmuk after months of fierce battles between rebels and forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

The army laid siege to the camp, trapping tens of thousands of people inside, including Palestinian refugees and Syrians who had fled violence from other parts of the country.

The camp’s population shrunk to 40,000 from more than 150,000 and conditions deteriorated to the extent that residents were forced to eat grass to survive, with some dying of starvation, activists have said.

In January the UN Relief and Works agency (UNRWA) began distributing aid in Yarmuk after clinching a deal with the warring parties, with 7,500 food parcels handed out since then.

At least one person was killed in Sunday’s renewed violence, the Observatory said.

Activists said the fighting and shelling erupted when Al-Nusra jihadists returned to Yarmuk.

“I was out filming and suddenly the shelling started. You should have seen the children: they were terrified,” said activist Rami al-Sayed.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness deplored the fighting and called for it to end in order to allow the resumption of aid operations.

“UNRWA demands that all parties in Yarmuk cease hostilities and seek to resolve their differences exclusively by peaceful mean,” he said on Tweeter.

In Moadamiyet al-Sham, southwest of the capital, families displaced by fighting were returning to inspect their homes, visit relatives and consider if it was safe to return for good.

Moadamiyet al-Sham was once home to 100,000 people, but fighting, bombing and an army blockade forced tens of thousands to seek shelter elsewhere.

In December, rebels and President Assad’s regime agreed a truce, after the town had been besieged for more than a year by government forces.

“We’ve been told everything is calm now, so we’ve decided to return just to see the house,” a mother of two who fled 14 months ago told AFP at an army checkpoint on the edge of the town.

Some 15,000 people still live in Moadamiyet al-Sham, where aid has trickled in since the truce was clinched, but basic services apparently are still lacking.

“Electricity is still cut off inside,” said another women, accompanied by her four children.

In Madrid, El Periodico newspaper said Marginedas, who was abducted by jihadists on September 4 in central Syria, had been released at dawn and was undertaking medical tests in Turkey.

The UN Children’s Fund UNICEF said on Sunday that mass vaccinations against polio had been launched in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria and an operation was to get underway March 9 in Lebanon.

Inside Syria, the campaign was targeting 1.6 million children, it said.

(Source / 02.03.2014)

Israel limits access to al-Aqsa Mosque

Israel has imposed severe restrictions to prevent Muslim worshippers from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque, Press TV reports.

During this week’s Friday prayers, thousands of Palestinians including men under the age of 50 were banned from entering or praying in the holy site.

As a result, thousands of people held prayer services on the streets near the mosque while Israeli soldiers encircled them.

Dozens of Palestinians were injured when Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse those protesting the restrictions.

Tel Aviv claims that the restrictions have been put in place to prevent unrest.

However, critics argue that they are imposed after a Knesset (Israel parliament) debate about Israel’s control over the holy site.

“The Israelis are finding more ways to prevent Palestinians from entering al-Quds and Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud el-Habbash told Press TV.

“Friday was a miserable day for those who simply want to pray. Israelis set up checkpoints inside and outside the mosque and banned thousands from entering al-Aqsa. This is a humiliating attack on religious freedom and against international law.”

Palestinian activist Ahmad Assaf told Press TV that the ban is just a minor episode in numerous violations the Israelis have committed against the rights of Palestinians.

On February 25, Knesset discussed a plan to annex the site, but the debate did not result in a vote or any practical measures.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has condemned the debate as a “dangerous escalation,” calling it part of Israel’s goal to “Judaize Jerusalem.”

The Palestinian Authority and the resistance movement Hamas have also warned against Israeli plans to impose “sovereignty” on the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

(Source / 02.03.2014)

Powers killed nuclear scientists to halt Iran progress: Rouhani

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has slammed the hegemonic powers for assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists, reiterating that Tehran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

“The hegemonic powers assassinated our scientists in a bid to halt Iran’s process of development and progress,” said Rouhani at a Sunday ceremony in Tehran.

The Iranian chief executive added that industrial nations try to maintain their domination through their control and monopoly of key technologies.

Rouhani also pointed to the West’s allegations against Iran’s nuclear energy program and the inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Tehran’s nuclear activities.

“All of them (Western powers) knew that the nuclear science in this country is on the peaceful path and they had no doubt about it. The Agency conducted thousands of hours of inspections in the country and announced that there has been no indication of diversion in [Iran’s nuclear] activities from the peaceful path toward military [purposes].”

Stressing that Iran’s missile industry is solely for defense purposes, Rouhani further added that industrial nations have violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by refusing to provide peaceful nuclear know-how to other signatories.

Iran and the UN nuclear body signed an agreement in November 2013 to outline a roadmap for bilateral cooperation on certain outstanding issues. Under the deal, Iran agreed, on a voluntary basis, to allow IAEA inspectors to visit Arak heavy water plant and Gachin uranium mine.

The UN nuclear agency’s inspectors visited Arak heavy water production plant on December 8, 2013, as the first step to be implemented under the Iran-IAEA agreement.

(Source / 02.03.2014)