Israeli army storms Palestinian civil defence headquarters in Salfit 21 March 2014

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Israeli army storms Palestinian civil defence headquarters in Salfit 21 March 2014 \The Israeli army stormed the Palestinian Civil Defence headquarters in the Salfit governorate in the northern part of central West Bank early on Friday morning and arrested three of its employees, The Civil Defence Public Relations office revealed in a statement that: “Dozens of Israeli soldiers stormed the civil defence headquarters in Salfit at around 2:30 am and sabotaged the office’s equipment, wireless devices and landlines. The soldiers then arrested three Palestinian employees who were working the night shift: Rida Tayseer Madi, Nabeel Mahmoud Bani Nemra and Ahmed Abdullah Bani Nemreh.” The statement added that, “The Israeli army stayed for nearly an hour, during which time they also destroyed the fire fighting equipment and office furniture.” Neither the Israeli army nor the Palestinian side was available for immediate comment on the incident or its causes. The Israeli military forces regularly invade Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank and detain Palestinians under the pretext of security reasons.

(Source / 21.03.2014)

Egypt to hold mass trial of Mursi supporters

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi, wave a flag bearing the ‘Rabaa’ sign during a protest in Cairo, Dec 9, 2013

More than 1,200 supporters of ousted President Mohammad Mursi are set to go on trial Saturday facing charges of committing violence during a police crackdown on two protests sites in Cairo last August.

Among the defendants in the trial, dubbed as the largest in Egypt’s history, will be the general guide of Mursi’s now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, sources told Agence France-Presse.

The trial to be held in Minya, south of the capital, will investigate alleged attacks by Mursi supporters against individuals and public property in southern Egypt back in August.

Erupted violence

The violence erupted after authorities broke up two pro-Mursi protest camps in Cairo’s al-Nahda Square and Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.

Hundreds of people died in the assault on those camps and in subsequent clashes that day.

Amnesty International says at least 1,400 people were killed in those clashes and in violence since then, while thousands more have been arrested.

Mursi, who was deposed in July last year by the military after a popular uprising, is himself is on trial in three different cases, including one for inciting the killing of protesters outside a presidential palace during his tumultuous one year in power.

(Source / 21.03.2014)

Smuggling rings exploit fleeing Rohingyas

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HAT YAI, Thailand- Myanmarese Muslims feel they have little choice but to leave their homeland

He had already endured a treacherous journey down the Bay of Bengal, squeezed in the belly of a fishing trawler, then squashed in a pickup truck as it hurtled down Thailand’s southern coast. Malaysia, his final destination, was tantalisingly close.

But under the towering trees of a rubber plantation, the smuggler who had brought Abdul Musid, a 30-year-old from Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority, this far gave a new demand: Pay more or be left behind. When Musid pleaded that he had no more money, the smuggler kicked him in the groin and left him for dead.

A villager found Musid and brought him to the hospital here for treatment, doctors said, after the other captives in the smugglers’ camp, also Rohingya men from Myanmar, fled with their jailers before a raid by the Thai authorities.

Violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority by the Rakhine ethnic group, driven by an extreme Buddhist ideology, has led tens of thousands of Rohingya to flee in the last 18 months through smuggling rings that pledge to take them to Malaysia, a Muslim country that quietly accepts the desperate newcomers.

Thailand is the way station where the Rohingya, denied citizenship in Myanmar by national law, arrive on fishing boats converted to human cargo vessels. If they have money to pay unscrupulous brokers, they leave quickly for neighbouring Malaysia.

But those who cannot afford to pay languish in smugglers’ camps hidden in the jungle across southern Thailand, or in the abysmal detention cells of the Thai immigration authorities.

Despite Thailand’s long history of absorbing refugees from conflicts in nearby countries like Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as members of other ethnic groups from Myanmar, the country has declined to grant the Rohingya temporary shelter or basic services.

Custody deaths

The government refuses to assess their requests for asylum, human rights groups say, instead subjecting them to detention so harsh that some die in custody. Arguments by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that Thailand should treat the Rohingya like other refugees have failed to convince the Thai government, the agency said.

Instead, the government has authorised what it calls “soft” deportation of the Rohingya: moving them out of detention cells, placing them into wooden boats at the southern port of Ranong, and sending them out into the Andaman Sea. There, they are picked up again by smugglers who, human rights groups charge, are often in league with Thai officials. Those who cannot pay ransom for passage to Malaysia are forced into indentured servitude on Thai plantations and fishing vessels, rights groups say.

The Thai government would like Myanmar to accept the Rohingya as citizens, said Major General Thatchai Pitaneelaboot, the commander of immigration in Songkhla, in southern Thailand, whose detention cells are filled with the refugees. Barring that, he said, “they come here illegally, without permission, and we have to deport them.”

Many Rohingya, having lost their livelihoods in the violent attacks on their communities, feel they have little choice but to flee Myanmar, formerly Burma. They are easy prey for the well-oiled smuggling networks run by Thais, Malaysians and the Rohingya themselves, some of whom start the smuggling chain in the villages and displaced camps of Rakhine, the northern state where most of the 1.3 million Rohingya in Myanmar live.

More than 2,000 Rohingya are believed to be missing at sea, presumed drowned, since June 2012, when the violence against them first erupted in Rakhine, said Chris Lewa, coordinator of the Arakan Project, a human rights group specialising in the Rohingya. In all, about 80,000 Rohingya have left Myanmar by sea since then, Lewa said.

Desperate efforts

The people who perish in the camps are usually those unable to pay the brokers who demand $2,000 (Dh7,346) for their release to Malaysia, Thai immigration officials said.

Desperation drives the Rohingya to flee Myanmar, but the perilous journey leaves many in equally dire straits. Increasing numbers have arrived in Malaysia with paralysis caused by chronic malnutrition and physical abuse during long confinement in the smugglers’ camps in Thailand, according to the UN refugee agency in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.

In an interview at the hospital where he was recovering from his wounds, Musid said he had left Myanmar after Rakhine Buddhists seized his farmland and he struggled to make ends meet as a fisherman. Two Rohingya brokers convinced him that life was better in Malaysia and said that for $600, they would get him there.

He had no hope of raising such a large sum, but with a down payment of $35, he agreed to a deal that would allow him to pay the rest of the money once he found work in Malaysia. Soon after, he boarded a small wooden craft that took him and many others to a trawler waiting in international waters off the coast of Bangladesh.

After five days at sea with little water or food, the boat landed somewhere on the southern coast of Thailand. The group spent two days or so in a makeshift jungle camp, and then Musid was crammed with about 20 men into the back of a pickup truck.

When the road trip ended near the Malaysian border about 10 hours later, he said, five of the men, so weakened by the hardships of the previous weeks, were dead.

He was then detained in a warehouse with other Rohingya as brokers badgered him for money for the final leg of the trip to Malaysia, despite the deal he had struck to pay once he arrived. He told them he had no money and no relatives who could send any.

As the camp was hastily disbanding, Musid said, his handler again demanded money and handed him a cellphone to call someone in Malaysia.

Thai initiative

Embarrassed by deaths in the camps and reports of officials’ selling Rohingya from immigration centres into smuggling rings, the Thai immigration authorities recently invited reporters to inspect camps that officers had raided, visits designed to show that Thailand was acting against the smugglers.

On sloping ground amid a plantation near Songkhla, on the border with Malaysia, 531 Rohingya had been kept like animals in open-air pens made from wooden poles lashed together with bicycle chains.

Islamic head caps, scraps of tarpaulin, a broken flashlight and scattered rice grains near the ashes of a fire attested to the grim makings of the camp.

A raised wooden platform served as a jerry-built watchtower from which overseers had monitored the inmates, each worth thousands of dollars either in ransom for their freedom or as indentured labourers.

It was from a camp like this in southern Thailand that Fortify Rights, a human rights organisation that researches ethnic groups in Myanmar, recorded a conversation between a Rohingya broker, his two Rohingya captives and a Rohingya businessman in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, who was trying to secure the freedom of the captives, his nephews.

Those without money are sold as cheap labour onto fishing boats that work the Gulf of Thailand, said Matthew Smith, the executive director of Fortify Rights, a long, hard servitude that makes the dream of Malaysia ever more distant.

(Source / 21.03.2014)

How is Iraq doing eleven years after the US-UK invasion?

US support for the al-Maliki government ignores the crimes against humanity, rampant corruption and widespread human rights’ abuses.

Iraq bombCivilians inspect the aftermath of a massive bomb attack northeast of Baghdad, January 2014

Kenneth Pollack, who has worked for the CIA and the National Security Council, was a prime advocate for the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq.

He published a book called “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq” that was considered widely to be a very convincing case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or was close to obtaining them. But Pollack, like many other war advocates who populated the airwaves of US media in the months prior to invasion, was wrong.

As bloody violence continues to erupt in Iraq, Pollack has not stopped being an advocate of greater US involvement or aid in Iraq, even though it has only helped to enable Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to further develop his brutal security forces.

A senior fellow for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, he spoke before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in December 2013 and declared, “It is a great credit to this committee that at a time when the nation appears determined to forget our interests in Iraq, you refuse to do so. It is absolutely vital.”

“Since 2003, the United States has invested an enormous amount in Iraq, and the future of Iraq remains of great importance to the interests of the United States and our allies. Iraq has replaced Iran as the second leading oil exporter in OPEC, and projections of future low oil prices are highly contingent upon the continued growth of Iraqi oil exports. Remembering that virtually every postwar American recession was preceded by an increase in oil prices, Iraq and its oil production remain critical to the prosperity of the United States,” he added.

This was his first expressed concern: the future of oil production. He then proceeded to address the resurgence of al Qaeda and other issues in Iraq.

Pollack is emblematic of those who the world can quite clearly see were wrong. On the ten-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion, he still maintained, “Saddam didn’t have the capability we were ascribing to him — we were absolutely wrong about that — but he did have the motivation. He thought about nuclear weapons in a way most of the world does not. What we’re getting from the tapes of conversations among his inner circle is that he says they need to acquire nuclear weapons to wage war against Israel. There’s no sign this is bluster at all.”

Essentially, it may not have worked out as well as it could have, but, in the end, something had to be done.

Pollack is one of the few voices that can be found still writing about what they think the United States should be doing in Iraq. Like former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who served in President George W. Bush’s administration, he remains interested in the prize of oil in Iraq and how more of the country’s oil reserves could be liberated. But, to increase production, that requires a country that is not racked by violence.

He fantasized last year, “In an alternative universe, the United States might re-intervene in Iraq, redeploying tens of thousands of soldiers to restore everyone’s sense of safety and allowing the political process to heal again. In this universe, the United States is never going to intervene in Iraq again, nor will the Maliki government ever request that we do so.”

The result of the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq so the US government could make the country a client state and secure control of the country’s oil reserves has been horrific for Iraqis.

Dahr Jamail, one of the only American journalists still covering Iraq, reported this month for Truthout that Maliki’s forces had killed “at least 109 civilians” and wounded 632 people since they started to shell Fallujah in January. Doctors, residents and NGO workers, who he spoke with, accused the government of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.”

Maliki’s forces prevented medical supplies from entering Fallujah. A doctor said that many houses and a mosque were attacked. Shells hit a hospital. Tens of thousands of families have been displaced and have had very little food or water.

There are possibly a few US military trainers in Iraq and less than 10,000 military contractors, but, for the most part, Jamail said, the US has maintained power and control by selling “$20 billion worth of arms to the Maliki government in the forms of helicopters, tanks, missiles, ammunition, communications equipment and training.” And, when Fallujah erupted into violence in January, President Barack Obama’s “administration put a rush on shipping artillery equipment and missiles over to the Maliki government again to be used against the people of Fallujah.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) produced a report on the abuse of women in Iraq’s criminal justice system. Thousands of Iraqi women are “imprisoned by a judicial system plagued by torture and rampant corruption.” Convictions are based on confessions “obtained under torture and ill-treatment.” Women are threatened and suffer beatings. Trial proceedings are unfair and “fall far short of international standards.”

An Iraqi woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch, “Israa Salah,” spoke to HRW in a death row facility. She had crutches, as she had suffered “nine days of beatings, electric shocks with an instrument known as ‘the donkey,’ and falaqa,” a form of torture where the victim is “hung upside down and beaten on their feet.” This happened in March 2012 and left her “permanently disabled.” She had a split nose, back scars and was burned on her breasts. She was executed in September 2013, even though lower courts had dismissed charges because she only confessed to a crime after being tortured.

Women are sexually assaulted or raped by prison guards. “Fatima Hussein,” who is a journalist accused of murdering a parliamentarian’s brother and of marrying an al Qaeda member, was physically and sexually tortured. Colonel Ghazi blindfolded her and tied her to a column. She was electrocuted with an electric baton. Her feet and back were hit with a cable. Her hair was pulled. She was tied naked to the column. Cigarettes were extinguished on her body. She was later handcuffed to a bed and forced to give oral sex. Then, with blood all over her, she was raped three times and Ghazi “would relax, have a cigarette and put it out” on her buttocks and then start violating her again.

The 2013 country report from the State Department on Iraq fully acknowledges the torture ongoing in the country. It concluded, “A culture of impunity largely protected members of the security services, as well as those elsewhere in the government, from investigation and successful prosecution for human rights violations. Corruption among officials across government agencies was widespread and contributed to significant human rights abuses.” However, this corruption has not stopped the sales of weapons to Maliki’s government. There have been few condemnations of Maliki or any public requests from the Obama administration for him to resign and be held accountable for crimes against humanity.

Iraqis suffer from grotesque and terrifying birth defects as a result of depleted uranium that was used by the US military. In Fallujah, a courageous woman, Dr. Samira Alani, has taken on the burden of dealing with newborns who have, as Jamail said, “massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, baby’s being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies,” and “cyclops babies literally with one eye.”

Maliki’s government executed 169 people last year. The government refuses to acknowledge the dysfunction of the criminal justice system and stop executing a number of people who are innocent. Maliki even rebuked the United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon while standing next to him in a joint news conference because Ki-moon had urged the country to halt executions.

Birth defects, rape, torture, and executions—these are the residual effects of the US military occupation. Troops may have withdrawn, but in the aftermath, the country is being ruled by someone who some Iraqis refer to as a “Shia Saddam.”

Yet, in the United States, with the exception of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’sdocumentary , “Why We Did It”, mentions of Iraq focus on whether the war was “worth” fighting, if gains of US troops are being lost in Fallujah and how America might overcome its “war-weariness.” Russia’s actions in Crimea have led pundits to wonder if Americans can pull themselves together and find a way to show “strength.”

On the anniversary of the invasion, The Atlantic announced that David Frum, a former speechwriter for Bush who wrote the “Axis of Evil” speech and war for oil, would be joining the media organization as a senior editor.

Any day of the year the organization could have made this announcement. But this is how Americans show contempt for the people of Iraq: by giving promotions to war advocates as we ignore the sheer scale of the injustice and horror we have wrought.

Over 1 million Iraqis died. Iraqis tortured cannot get the US to acknowledge what happened to them at the hands of US forces or contractors. Their suits are dismissed in courts. They struggle to heal. And US military veterans, who discover the reality of what they did, are offered little support. They suffer from homelessness, mental illness and commit suicide in record numbers.

There is no sense of responsibility among journalists in the US media to ensure that there is consistent coverage of Iraq, the least this country could do. Maybe that’s because these people helped fuel the climate that made it possible for the premeditated crime of invading Iraq to occur. Less coverage makes it possible to avoid having to further confront the role they played in a chain of events that now sees Iraq experiencing violence daily.

(Source / 21.03.2014)

Thousands pray in the streets amid Aqsa mosque restrictions

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Thousands of Palestinian worshipers performed prayers in the streets of Jerusalem on Friday after Israeli authorities imposed age restrictions on entering the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

Men under 50 were forced to pray in the streets as Israeli authorities imposed restrictions around the Old City to accommodate the Jerusalem Marathon.

Several main roads were closed and a number of checkpoints set up around the Old City as thousands ran in the event.

The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage said in a statement that Israel is trying to discourage Palestinian from praying at the holy site by imposing frequent restrictions.

Last Friday, the compound was mostly empty after Israeli authorities prohibited all Palestinians under the age of 40 from praying there and set up barricades at the compound’s entrances to limit their access.

The restrictions come only two weeks after Israeli authorities imposed similar restrictions, barring Palestinians under the age of 50 from praying in the compound. Those restrictions led to protests both in Palestine and abroad, as many feared such limitations were part of a broader strategy to limit Palestinian access to the compound.

(Source / 21.03.2014)

Dissolve Palestinian Authority , Abbas’ son says

The son of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on his father to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, end the negotiations with Israeli and seek a one-state solution.

In a rare interview with the New York Timespublished on Wednesday, Tareq Abbas expressed his rejection of the idea of extending the negotiations with the Israeli occupation and said the Palestinian Authority (PA) must take action and press for statehood through international organisations in response to Israel’s continued settlement construction.

He also suggested his father dissolve the PA and hand over the responsibility of the West Bank to Israel once again.

Tareq, 48, is a prominent businessman and the vice president of the Arab Palestinian Investment Company, which he co-owns with his brother, Yasser.

“If you don’t want to give me independence, at least give me civil rights,” Tareq told the Times.

He asserted that both Palestinians and Israelis must live in a single state and have the same rights and duties and become equal in citizenship. He said a two-state solution had failed so a one-state solution is more viable.

“That’s an easier way, peaceful way. I don’t want to throw anything, I don’t want to hate anybody, I don’t want to shoot anybody. I want to be under the law.”

(Source / 21.03.2014)

Israel pressures U.S. to give Apaches to Egypt

 

Israel pressures U.S. to give Apaches to Egypt

Israel is seeking to persuade the U.S. administration and senior Congressmen to reconsider an earlier decision to freeze aid to Egypt, including the sale of advanced Apache combat helicopters, an Israeli official said on Wednesday.

The official told Haaretz newspaper that Israel’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer and other embassy diplomats talked about the matter with high-ranking U.S. officials in the past week.

The Israeli diplomat also raised the issue during meetings with Congressmen, according to the newspaper.

Relations between Cairo and Washington became tense following the Egyptian army’s ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi last July.

The U.S., which has given Egypt billions of dollars in aid since Cairo ratified a peace treaty with Israel in 1981, froze part of the aid, including the delivery of arms to the army, following Morsi’s ouster.

The Israeli official claimed that Israel had told the U.S. administration and the Congressmen that supplying Egypt with the Apache helicopters will be crucial to Cairo’s fight against militants in Sinai and will improve regional security.

Egypt has launched an all-out war against what it describes as “militant groups” in Sinai, which has seen an upsurge of violence since Morsi’s overthrow.

According to Haaretz, there is a considerable opposition to resuming U.S. military aid to Egypt before elections are held and elected institutions took over in the country.

The Israeli daily said that the issue of U.S. aid to Egypt has come up in talks between top officials at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and their counterparts in the White House and Pentagon.

It went on to claim that a delegation of top Egyptian army officers and officials from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited Israel last week.

A senior Israeli official was quoted as saying that the delegation was in Tel Aviv for a week, holding meetings, hearing reviews of the security situation and even touring in the country.

(Source / 21.03.2014)

BBC says no to occupation profiteer G4S after major campaign

A campaign which was joined by notable figures including film directors Ken Loachand Mike Leigh, and novelist Ahdaf Soueif, calling on the BBC not to award a multi-million pound security contract toG4S appears to have been successful.

This month, the £80 million ($132 million) contract to provide “manned guarding and security services” across all the BBC’s premises was awarded to G4S’ rival, First Security. The three-year contract, which has an option to be extended for two extra years, comes into effect on 1 April.

The campaign to block any successful bid from G4S was launched early last year when the bidding process was announced, and was co-ordinated by the Stop G4S Network.

In April, the Network sent an open letter to BBC director general, Tony Hall, pointing out that: “G4S directly supports Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands through provision of guards to illegal settlements and electronic systems in checkpoints as part of the illegal ‘Apartheid Wall.’”

The letter continued: “It supplies security services to prisons and detention centers within Israel which hold Palestinian prisoners illegally transferred from the occupied territories in violation of the Fouth Geneva Convention. These include children, despite the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory.”

The letter was signed by more than 100 people, including Loach, Leigh and Soueif.

Many patrons of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), a member of the Stop G4S Network, also signed on, including the author William Dalrymple, poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah, and member of parliament Jeremy Corbyn.

Lawyers for Palestinian Human RightsJews for Justice for Palestinians, and Football Beyond Borders were among the groups to add their signatures to a letter which demonstrated the strength of feeling against such a lucrative contract going to a firm so complicit in Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians.

Welcome news

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 people signed PSC’s petition to the BBC, which called on the organization not to spend licence fee-payers’ money — the compulsory charge paid by most UK households to finance the public broadcaster — on a deal with G4S.

Sarah Colborne, director of PSC, welcomed the news that the BBC had passed over G4S.

She said: “We are delighted that the BBC has taken on board the concerns of their viewers and listeners and not awarded this lucrative contract to G4S.

“The BBC must be well aware by now of the controversy that surrounds G4S’ involvement in human rights abuses against Palestinians. For the BBC to associate itself with such a company would have been deeply damaging to the BBC’s reputation.”

G4S’ role in Palestine is not the only stain on its record, however. Today it was announced that three men who worked as security guards for G4S are to be charged with manslaughter over the death at Heathrow airport of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan man who was being forcibly deported in 2010.

Mubenga, 46, died after falling ill as the aircraft was about to take off. He had been restrained by the G4S security guards.

G4S is also at the at the center of allegations over rioting and the death of a detainee on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, where the Australian government has hired the firm to operate an offshore detention facility for asylum seekers.

The awarding of the contract is the first time the BBC has chosen one national security provider to cover all its premises. A BBC spokesperson confirmed to The Electronic Intifada that the organization does not have any separate contracts with G4S.

Series of blows

The BBC’s decision is the latest in a series of blows to G4S, whose annual general meeting in 2013 was upstaged by activists from PSC, War on Want and Stop G4S, who posed as shareholders in order to confront board members with their company’s involvement in human rights abuses.

In December 2013, the Dutch trade union, Abvakabo, severed its links with G4S. Three months earlier, the Dutch Green Left party (GroenLinks) announced it would no longer make use of G4S security services for its national office in 2014 due to the company’s “activities in Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.”

In the last four months in the UK, universities and student unions in London, Kent, Southampton and Dundee have severed or voted to sever links with G4S, a move replicated in Norway by the universities of Bergen and Oslo.

And so the BBC’s decision highlights what G4S must already know — that the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions is growing and working and no amount of slick PR will be able to gloss over the reputational damage caused by association with Israel’s human rights abuses.

(Source / 21.03.2014)

UN monitor accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing, apartheid

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CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk speaks on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories in Geneva on Friday

GENEVA: A UN rights expert who probes Israel’s conduct toward Palestinians on Friday accused the Jewish state of a campaign of ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies.

“The realities on the ground are worsening from the point of view of both international law and from the point of view of the Palestinian people,” Richard Falk, an 82-year-old American who is an emeritus law professor at Princeton University, told reporters.

Falk is due to step down this month as the UN Human Rights Council’s monitor for the Palestinian territories taken over by Israel in 1967 — the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Since he was appointed in 2008, he said, Israel has built more settlements in Palestinian territories, imposed “collective punishment” on Gaza, demolished homes and repeatedly deployed “excessive force.”

He also accused Israel of a “systematic and continued effort to change the ethnic composition of East Jerusalem” by voiding Palestinians’ residence permits, confiscating property and allowing unlawful Israeli settlements there.

“This is systematic discrimination on the basis of ethnic identity, with the objective of creating a different demographic in Jerusalem,” he said, calling it a form of “ethnic cleansing.” “All of these features that are objectionable from the point of view of international law have continued and intensified during my six years,” he said.

“What is called occupation is now more widely understood to be a form of annexation, the embodiment of apartheid in the sense that there’s a discriminatory dual system of law, giving legal protection to the Israeli settlers and subjecting the Palestinian population under occupation to a continuing existence without rights,” he added.

Falk has repeatedly locked horns with Israel, the United States, Canada and some human rights groups for positions including labelling Israel’s 2008 offensive against Gaza a war crime, and urging a boycott of companies helping Israel’s settlement drive in the Palestinian territories.

Washington has said he should quit his UN role, which like other rights monitors at the world body he holds on an unpaid, voluntary basis.

Falk has brushed off the criticism.

“Anyone who is 10 percent objective would come to similar conclusions about international law and international morality to the conclusions I’ve reached on the main issues that are in contention,” he said.

(Source / 21.03.2014)

Bomb explodes on runway of Libya’s main airport in Tripoli

Passengers look at a flight information monitor after the reopening of the airport in Tripoli March 21, 2014. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Passengers look at a flight information monitor after the reopening of the airport in Tripoli March 21, 2014.

(Reuters) – A bomb exploded on the runway of Libya’s main airport on Friday, the transport minister said, highlighting the deteriorating security situation in the north African country almost three years after Muammar Gaddafi was ousted.

Supposedly one of the best guarded places in Libya, unknown people managed to get onto the runway at Tripoli International Airport, plant an explosive device at dawn and detonate it using a timer, Transport Minister Abdelqader Mohammed Ahmed said.

Authorities closed the airport, the gateway into Libya, for several hours. There is little traffic after midnight as foreign airlines avoid late flights due to the poor security at night in the capital, where the government is unable to control militias which helped oust long-time leader Gaddafi in 2011 but have kept their guns.

“There was a small explosion,” Ahmed said. “When security and the airport protection force arrived they found a timer.”

Officials had first suspected rockets fired by militias had landed on the runway as gunfire could be heard during the night in the capital. Rival militias often fight over territory or influence in Tripoli or the rest of the country.

Authorities reopened the airport by using first an alternative runway. Mainly Libyan airlines restarted operations in the afternoon.

“We cancelled all flights,” said the country head of a foreign airline with several daily flights to Tripoli.

European carriers such as Lufthansa and British Airways fly to Tripoli apart from Arab carriers.

Ahmed said authorities would improve airport security but analysts say the nascent police and army, still in training, are no match for battle-hardened militias seizing at will oil fields or ministries to grab power and oil revenues.

(Source / 21.03.2014)