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)
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)
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)
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.
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.”
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.”
28 February 2014 22:22 (Last updated 28 February 2014 22:25)
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)
(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)
|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 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)
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)