Assad’s advisor: Israel has undercover fighters in Syria

Bouthaina Shaaban

Bouthaina Shaaban
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s media advisor says Damascus has information about Israeli undercover fighters in Syria, adding even Zionist officers are supervising the battles in the country.

Bouthaina Shaaban made the remarks to Beirut-based Al-Miyyadeen television on Monday.

The advisor also said that Israel is using weapon convoys as an excuse to strike in Syrian and Lebanese territories.

On February 24, it was reported that Israeli fighter jets struck a weapons convoy along the Syrian-Lebanese border.

The Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah has confirmed that Israel targeted one of its bases in a recent air raid and vowed to retaliate.

Hezbollah condemned the act of violence, saying it would respond to the Israeli air attack near the village of Janta.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad himself also told an Argentinean newspaper a few months ago that Israel is assisting the militants fighting in Syria.

“Israel is directly supporting the terrorist groups in two ways,” he claimed. “Firstly it gives them logistical support, and it also tells them what sites to attack and how to attack them.”

(Source / 04.03.2014)

Saudi prince refuses to use Israeli crossing into West Bank

Al Waleed becomes first high ranking Saudi to visit Ramallah

 

Ramallah: Plans for the visit of the Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal to the West Bank were changed at the last minute after the prince refused to enter the West Bank through an Israeli-controlled border crossing.
According to Palestinian officials in Ramallah, Al Waleed was due to cross the Shaikh Hussain crossing, locally known as Al Karamah, to make a historic trip to Ramallah as the first Saudi ruling family member to visit the West Bank in modern times.

The prince however refused to use the land crossing as it is controlled by the Israeli occupation.

Jordan subsequently provided the prince with a helicopter so he could be taken directly to the Palestinian Presidential Headquarters, the Mukataa, in Ramallah for his several hour long visit instead of going by land.

Al Waleed has previously visited the Gaza Strip twice.

A senior Palestinian official told Gulf News that the Palestinian leadership was informed about the Prince’s refusal to enter the Palestinian territories via the road crossing at the last minute and that the air alternative was offered by the Jordanians to make the visit possible.

The cooperation of Jordanian authorities played a central role in coordinating the Prince’s air travel with the Israeli authorities that occupy the West Bank and control its entry and exit points.

Officials from the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) had originally coordinated the Prince’s visit with the Israelis, but on learning that the Shaikh Hussain is an Israeli-controlled crossing, Prince Al Waleed refused to go through the necessary entry procedures despite a Palestinian pledge that an official Palestinian delegation would meet the Prince at the crossing to complete all official procedures.

Saudi Arabia does not recognise the Israeli regime and does not engage in any contact with it.

The Israelis however also control the airspace over the West Bank, and it is likely that Jordan coordinated his entry with the occupation authorities, with whom it has signed a peace treaty.

“We secured Israeli permission for Prince Al Waleed to enter the [occupied] Palestinian territories. As soon as his name was mentioned to the Israelis, the initial approval for the visit was secured,” said the official.

“It would have been extremely embarrassing for the Israelis to reject an entry permit for Prince Al Waleed and we had Israeli pledges that the prince would not be searched at all and that he would be treated with the utmost respect on the crossing. The Israelis promised they would treat the Prince in an extraordinary way,” he said.

“The Prince, however, refused all those preparations and demanded to fly to Ramallah. On arrival at the airfield of Al Mukataa, Prince Al Waleed laid a wrath of flowers at the grave of the former Palestinian iconic leader Yasser Arafat.”

“Prince Al Waleed then moved to Movenpick Hotel where he met Palestinian business people.”

“Later the Prince was to visit Al Ersal Centre in Ramallah before returning to Al Mukataa where he was scheduled to meet with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”

“During the meeting, the President was to decorate the Prince with a significant Palestinian medal.”

After visiting some neighbourhoods of Ramallah, including Al Tira, Prince Waleed Bin Talal was to leave Ramallah for Jordan in the Jordanian helicopter.

“There have been several reservations about this kind of visit from the Saudi side,” said the Palestinian official, adding that “this was a very important visit for all Palestinians as such a visit will encourage other Saudi and Arab business people to visit the West Bank.”

“A visit to a prisoner does not mean in any way normalisation with the jailer, but it is meant to demonstrate support and solidarity with the prisoner,” said the official. “Prince Al Waleed is a prominent international figure and this visit has significant political, social and economic dimensions,” he said.

The official said that the visit delivers a clear message that the Palestinians remain an integral part of the Arab and Muslim worlds and that the Arabs are fully aware of the Palestinian suffering under the Israeli occupation.

(Source / 04.03.2014)

Saudi ministry dismisses preachers for their political views

The Saudi Ministry of Endowments dismissed a number of preachers which it claimed “politicised the Friday sermons, turning them to political speeches.”

The deputy minister for Mosque Affairs, Abdel-Mohsem Al-Alsheikh, said in a statement Monday that the decision “came after seven months of monitoring the preachers”, referring to the period after the July 3 coup led by Egyptian defense minister Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi against the democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi.

He said the ministry monitored 25-30 preachers whose sermons “leaned towards politics”.

“People do not need to listen to such sermons. They only need religious advice derived from the Quran and Sunnah,” he said.

(Source / 04.03.2014)

11-year-old left to die after Israeli soldiers open fire

 

Fadel Abu Odwan, 11, was left alone and bleeding heavily for three hours after Israeli soldiers opened fire on him at the Gaza border fence on February 21.

Ramallah, March 4, 2014—An unarmed Palestinian child was gravely wounded and left without medical attention for three hours after Israeli soldiers opened fire on him at the Gaza border.

On February 21, 11-year-old Fadel Abu Odwan was on his way to help his brother bring in the sheep from their grazing area near the Gaza border fence. Israeli soldiers approached and opened fire on him, leaving him to lie bleeding and unable to move, in full view of the soldiers, for three hours before medical attention was sought.

Speaking to DCI-Palestine from hospital, Fadel recalls lying on the ground after he was shot in the leg and the groin while running away from the soldiers. “I would lift my hand and look up and see the sky, and realise I was not dead yet, so I would close my eyes again and wait for death.” He remembers his thoughts vividly. “I was thinking I am going to die, I am going to be a martyr.”

On the way to meet his brother, Fadel had been stopped by three Palestinian officers stationed at their usual spots near the fence. They took the slingshot that he carries for hunting birds and proceeded to play with it, shaking it at the fence and using it to throw stones, ignoring his requests that they return it.

Fadel describes how at that point two Israeli military jeeps approached from the other side of the border at full speed. “I started running so fast because I was scared of them and thought they would shoot us. I ran for about 100 meters (328 feet) away from the fence.” He was brought to a halt by the bullet, which passed through his groin and lodged itself in his left leg.

He lay bleeding for an hour before he heard an Israeli soldier calling to him, telling him to crawl toward them. When it became apparent that Fadel was unable to move, the soldier went to cut the fence, but was given orders to stop. Fadel was left alone losing blood for a further hour, 150 meters (492 feet) away from the fence and the two Israeli jeeps and a tank stationed there.

As it got darker, Fadel heard dogs barking. “I looked around and saw eight black dogs sniffing about three metres (10 feet) away from me. I realised they were about to eat me because they sniffed the blood. I could not defend myself because with every move, I felt excruciating pain.” The soldiers fired shots to ward off the dogs, but no attempts to provide medical attention were made.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCI-Palestine said, “This is a horrific example of Israeli soldiers injuring children with impunity. When a child is shot and left for hours without being given medical attention the perpetrators must be brought to justice.”

After three hours, Fadel was rescued by his brother and cousins and taken to hospital. His medical report shows that he underwent surgery to remove his testicles and was subsequently placed in intensive care. Fadel’s doctor said, “This injury will cause Fadel lifelong physical and psychological damage, and will certainly affect his ability to marry and have children.”

Fadel is now one of the many children to have been injured by Israeli forces at the Gaza border fence, with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) documenting at least six children wounded and one killed in shootings in the area since the beginning of 2014.

“They shot me for no reason,” said Fadel, who remains in hospital. “They could have rescued me, but they just left me there for three hours. I will never forget what they did to me.”

(Source / 04.03.2014)

Palestinians won’t recognize Israel: Fatah leader

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

A top Palestinian official has denounced the Israeli premier’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Nabil Shaath, a leader of the Palestinian Fatah movement, said on Tuesday that Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand for such recognition, and his insistence on maintaining Israeli troops along the Jordan Valley in a future Palestinian state, were “totally rejected.”

Speaking to AFP, he said Netanyahu’s speech was tantamount to “an official announcement of a unilateral end to negotiations.”

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu told the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that Tel Aviv wants an accord to resolve the conflict with Palestinians, but they must first recognize Israel as a Jewish state — a demand which Palestinians reject.

On Sunday, Shaath had called on Israel to halt settlement activities and release Palestinian prisoners, if it wants to extend the talks, which are set to end in April.

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators began a fresh round of talks in July 2013. Since the resumption of the direct talks, Palestinians have objected to a number of issues, including the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks broke down in 2010 after the Tel Aviv regime refused to halt its settlement construction.

On Monday, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released data showing that Tel Aviv began to work on 2,534 settlement units in the year 2013, compared to 1,133 in 2012.

Israel’s settlement construction remains one of the main obstacles to the regional peace.

(Source / 04.03.2014)

Palestinian Authority conditions talks timeframe extension

Acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas

Acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas

The Palestinian Authority says extending talks with Israel beyond the April deadline, is conditioned on a moratorium on Israel’s settlement constructions in the occupied territories. 

On Monday, acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas said: “The only way we will agree to extend talks is if [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu declares a freeze in settlement construction….”.

The Palestinian official further said the Israeli premier had to release “additional prisoners beyond the next installment [of Palestinian prisoners sentenced before the Oslo Accords in 1993].”

US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on the Palestinian authority to extend talks with Israel beyond April.

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators began a fresh round of talks in July 2013. Since the resumption of the direct talks, Palestinians have objected to a number of issues, including the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank including East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks broke down in 2010 after the Tel Aviv regime refused to halt its settlement construction.

Also on Monday, Israel’s central bureau of statistics released data showing that Tel Aviv began to work on 2,534 settlement units in the year 2013, compared to 1,133 in 2012.

Israel’s settlement construction remains one of the main obstacles to the regional peace.

(Source / 04.03.2014)

Syria has relinquished about a third of its chemical weapons: OPCW

 

MS Taiko is pictured from onboard Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad at Latakia February 10, 2014, during its second pick up of chemical weapon from Syria. REUTERS/Marthe Brendefur/Norwegian Armed Forces/NTB Scanpix

MS Taiko is pictured from onboard Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad at Latakia February 10, 2014, during its second pick up of chemical weapon from Syria.

(Reuters) – Syria has shipped out about a third of its chemical weapons stockpile, including mustard gas, for destruction abroad, the global chemical arms watchdog said on Tuesday.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague said Damascus had now handed over six consignments of the toxic agents it declared to the OPCW as part of a Russian-U.S. deal struck last year.

The OPCW said it had confirmed two more shipments headed for the northern Syrian port of Latakia. They are to be transferred to the U.S. ship MV Cape Ray and commercial destruction facilities in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Syria had also submitted a revised plan to remove all chemicals from its territory by the end of April 2014, the OPCW said. That proposal was being negotiated at an executive council meeting at the OPCW that began Tuesday morning.

Damascus missed deadlines in December and February to hand over chemicals, and diplomats are concerned it will also miss a final, politically significant deadline of mid-2014 to completely give up its chemical stockpile.

“Given delays since the lapse of the two target dates for removal, it will be important to maintain this newly created momentum,” OPCW chief Ahmet Uzumcu told delegates at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The Syrian government has reaffirmed its commitment to implement the removal operations in a timely manner,” Uzumcu said, adding that Syria now has all the equipment it needs to give up remaining chemicals, including armor for the protection of shipping containers.

But Western diplomats said the revised timetable was too slow for several Western countries, which say the chemical agents must be shipped out by the end of March if a final June 30 deadline agreed for complete destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons program is to be met.

The United States said it needs 90 days to destroy roughly 500 metric tons of the most poisonous substances in the arsenal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syria declared a total of 1,300 metric tons of chemical weapons to the OPCW, the Nobel Peace prize winning body that is jointly overseeing the destruction process with the United Nations.

“Nearly one third of Syria’s chemical weapons material has now been removed or destroyed,” Sigrid Kaag, the head of the joint OPCW/U.N. mission told the OPCW. “This is good progress and I expect further acceleration and intensification of effort.”

(Source / 04.03.2014)

Obama’s interpretation of peace and the intention to restrict Palestinian resistance

Heroic illusions with regards imperialist intervention and rhetoric about a hypothetical peace agreement characterised an interview which US President Obama granted to Bloomberg.

During a discussion hailing the restraint of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to declare his allegiance to Palestinians, the intentional division of Palestine to accommodate a compromised Palestinian state and the misplaced defence of Israel’s fabricated legitimacy, Obama has attempted an external imposition of consent upon a population that lacks adequate political representation.

With diplomacy propelling Abbas to the false prominence that the US is fond of articulating, Obama applauded proof of complicity as symbolic sincerity on behalf of the PA president, declaring he has “proven to be somebody who has been committed to non-violence and diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue”. This statement sets the precedent for the rest of the interview, which manipulates realities into misconceptions about settler-colonialism and resistance driven by ambiguous statements regarding peace, thus allowing the US to shift dialogue regarding its constant implementation of violence.

The language used throughout the interview is a veneer to promote the incessant protection of the Zionist state while focusing on the alleged attempt to relinquish the maintenance of the settler-colonial project. It is by using terms such as “conflict” and “issue” that violence becomes a concept that reinforces Israel’s expansive and oppressive character. There is no restriction upon the fluidity of Israel’s borders – only a “permanence” that does not take into consideration the illegality of any Israeli borders declared upon land usurped from the indigenous population.

Throughout the interview, Obama’s endorsement of violence was thinly veiled, with references to permanence and peace compromised by the ominous superiority of Israel, supported by the US and its allies, including international organisations. Israel is portrayed as an isolated entity, which only depicts a sliver of reality. While international scrutiny has indeed increased, the settler-colonial state remains defended by its accomplices.

The commitment to Israel’s security as upheld by the US and the compromised international community is the essence of the violence resulting from the unflinching protection bestowed upon the settler-colonial state.

Settlement construction is the reason given by Obama for the possible disintegration of the current negotiations. However, Obama has been careful to isolate settlement construction within a temporary framework devoid of historical ramifications, thus allowing the settler-colonial state to remain disassociated from “occupation”.

While settlements are part of an impediment to any concocted agreement, the current trend of magnifying forthcoming construction as an isolated phenomenon does not challenge the existence of Israel’s settler-colonialism, which can also be interpreted as a tangible metaphor of refined violence since the Nakba of 1948.

Isolating settlements from the historical colonisation plans for Palestine is nothing but an interim measure providing a semblance of discussion which can be woven within the forthcoming compromised framework.

The recent shift in rhetoric concerning Abbas’ willingness to recognise Israel as a Jewish state was also incorporated within the wider framework disseminated by Obama, in which Israel’s security concerns are portrayed as the prerequisite to the fulfilment of any peace agreement.

Palestinians are only included in the framework to depict the alleged difficulties that the international community would be facing, “if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign state is no longer within their reach”. Here, Obama intentionally fails to articulate the difference between resistance to achieve self-determination and the abomination of a state based upon fragmented territory.

Obama’s interpretation of peace restricts Palestinian resistance; hence the portrayal of Abbas as absolute and integral to the negotiations. The renewed allegiance between Abbas and imperial violence directed against the people he claims to represent has been affirmed. Palestinians are erroneously generalised into a population whose aspirations are always articulated through the imperialist concept of freedom within constraints to which the indigenous population is expected to conform.

Obama states that his visits to the region have highlighted to him the aspirations of a people who desire the lifting of restrictions. Giving priority to Israel’s legitimacy and security concerns renders any semblance of freedom for Palestinians within the current negotiations flawed and constantly subjected to the Zionist state’s demands.

To exacerbate further Obama states that “the voices for peace within the Palestinian community will be stronger with a framework agreement and that Abu Mazen’s position will be strengthened with a framework for negotiations.” The contradiction is evident – Palestinians clamouring for freedom through various means of resistance have nothing in common with the fraudulent Palestinian representation.

Partly through Abbas’ compliance, the definition of the Palestinian state has eroded into a concept endorsed by the mainstream narrative, regardless of its consequences upon Palestinians, particularly the flaws which prohibit the implementation of the right to return. It is disassociated from the majority of Palestinians and allows Israel and the international community to avoid accountability for the establishment of the settler-colonial state and previous plans for colonisation.

Furthermore, Abbas is expected to comply with entities whose endorsement of violence has been routinely exhibited. US Secretary of State John Kerry has formulated plans for Israel’s alleged security concerns “that are unprecedented in detail, unprecedented in scope,” through collaboration with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and the US former commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen. The caricature of resistance against future oppression as terrorism is already enshrined within Obama’s concept of peace – a cycle which is constantly refined to uphold the absolute impunity granted to Israel.

Obama also attempts to alienate his audience from the legitimacy of resistance by alleging that “Hamas would be greatly damaged by the prospect of real peace”. As with other conjectures within the interview, the dubious statement should be addressed as a peripheral projection upon the validity and necessity of resistance.

The imperialist context of interference and coercion substitutes the ramifications of further oppression of the indigenous population under the current negotiations for “real peace”, disrupting the sequence through which peace can be achieved. Any alleged damage to Hamas as an embodiment of resistance is an assumption that seeks to promote Abbas’ ability to bargain over Palestinian freedom. Hence, Obama’s delusion over any possible damage to Hamas should elicit a more defined argument in favour of resistance among Palestinians, as well as the dismantling of the settler-colonial state as a precondition to any peace negotiations.

(Source / 04.03.2014)

Israeli forces arrest 3 Palestinian boys in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli police on Tuesday arrested three Palestinian boys in the Old City of Jerusalem, a Ma’an reporter said.

The three were identified as Murad al-Tarhouni, Muhammad Abu Sneineh, and Ahmad Abu Gharbieh, all between the ages of 13 and 14.

Police took the boys to al-Wad police station, then transferred them to al-Qashla station.

An Israeli police spokesman said he was not familiar with the arrests.

Israeli forces detained 31 children in the Palestinian territories throughout the second half of February, according to a report by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information.

Figures from the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ affairs show that there are 187 Palestinians under the age of 18 currently held in Israeli jails.

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

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

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 / 04.03.2014)

At AIPAC, Netanyahu launches “desperate” attack on BDS movement

BDS movement “will fail,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told cheering AIPAC delegates.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today launched a frontal assault on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

“One movement that’s definitely on the wrong side of the moral divide is the movement to boycott Israel, the so-called BDS,” Netanyahu told the cheering delegates, in his keynote speech to the annual gathering of the powerful Israel lobby group AIPAC in Washington, DC.

“That movement will fail,” Netanyahu predicted.

While claiming that people were “flocking to Israel” for its technology from all over the world, Netanyahu warned, “I don’t want you to get complacent – because the fact that they’re going to fail doesn’t mean that the BDS movement shouldn’t be vigorously opposed.”

“Anti-Semites”

Netanyahu proceeded to defame supporters of Palestinian human rights in the crudest terms: “Throughout history, people believed the most outrageously absurd things about the Jews, that we were using the blood of children to bake matzos, that we were spreading the plague throughout Europe.”

Those who support BDS today are just as bad, Netanyahu asserted: “Those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot. They should be exposed and condemned. The boycotters should be boycotted.”

This speech is Netanyahu’s highest profile attack on BDS, although last summer, he put responsibility for fighting against the movement for Palestinian rights into the hands of the “Ministry of Strategic Affairs.”

Israel is also placing dedicated anti-BDS operatives in its foreign embassies.

In recent months, top ministers in Netanyahu’s government have repeatedly declared that BDS is the “greatest threat” Israel faces.

Desperate

Responding to his remarks, Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, the Palestinian civil society coalition that leads the BDS movement, said in an emailed statement:

“Netanyahu’s desperate attack on the BDS movement comes as European pension funds are blacklisting Israeli companies and banks, as Israeli concert organizers find it increasingly difficult to persuade artists to perform in Israel and as governments begin to take action to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law.”

“At its core, the BDS movement is a movement against Israel’s systematic discrimination and apartheid policies. The BDS movement is opposed, as a matter of principle, to all forms of discrimination, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia. The world is growing increasingly weary of Israel’s attempts to conflate criticism of its violations of international law with anti-semitism.”

Ziadah is right. It’s hard to see how people who are not already on board with Netanyahu will be swayed by his invective.

If Israel’s only answer to people all over the world who are horrified by its oppression of Palestinians and ongoing theft of their land, is to call them “bigots,” then Netanyahu should fully expect the BDS movement to grow.

(Source / 04.03.2014)