Haniyeh’s speech shows unity in resistance

By Ramona Wadi                ©              (Source / 24.03.2014)

Ismail Haniyeh

Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza commemorated the 10th anniversary of the targeted assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin at a rally organised by Hamas under the banner “Loyalty and adherence on Martyred Leader’s Anniversary”. The rally was also held in remembrance of two other Hamas leaders assassinated by Israel, Abdul-Aziz Al-Rantisi and Ibrahim Al-Makadima.

In a speech which captured the essence of resistance and liberation throughout the decades of colonisation, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh emphasised the contrast between Palestinian resilience against Israel’s perpetual aggression and the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s surrender to the unacceptable negotiations which are leading to further expansion of the Zionist settler-colonial state.

Quoted in AlRay, Haniyeh affirmed Hamas as a resistance movement, stating; “Take all the [political powers] and positions and keep the homeland, do not give in Jerusalem; do not give in the right of return.”

Haniyeh’s speech highlighted the divisions enforced upon Palestinians by Israel and the PA, both accomplices in deconstructing Palestinian resistance into terrorism. Evoking differences between the inherent endorsement and participation with regard to resistance and the PA’s divisive approach in persisting with the imperialist-brokered negotiations, Haniyeh declared; “Today’s festival stands as a popular referendum on a resistance programme. The peace process has failed to fulfil anything; only polished the image of the Zionists and provided a cover for their aggressive practices of settlement, Judaisation and terrorism.”

The bastion of resistance embodied by Palestinians in Gaza was illustrated by articulating a metaphor which evoked Sheikh Yassin – both facing restrictions of immense magnitude which were transformed into formidable and unyielding affirmations of the anti-colonial struggle.

Condemning the illegal siege on Gaza, Haniyeh also denounced recent comments by Israeli ministers who speculated about the necessity of infiltrating the territory, using “terror” as a pretext for further land grabs and control.

“Why punish Gaza? Was it because it took up the rifle against Israel? We are living through a difficult stage and harsh challenges, but we are not terrified and we are not defeated,” Haniyeh said.

Perhaps the most evident assertion regarding Palestinian unity was uttered during the remembrance of the recent murders committed by Israel in which three resistance fighters in Jenin were annihilated. “The martyrdom of three Palestinians of different political affiliations confirms that resistance unites Palestinians and the peace process scatters them.”

Meanwhile, Israeli intentions of aggression against Palestinians in Gaza escalated on Sunday as messages disseminated on social media networks urged for a bombardment of the enclave during the rally, deeming the gathering “an opportunity” to kill the maximum number of Hamas members.

“We have to drop bombs on this rally regardless of the results. The reaction would be an international protest for a month and then we can live safely for 40 years,” one message read.

While Hamas remains targeted as a terror organisation in a manner which suits colonial and imperialist plans for sustained aggression against Palestinians, Israel is not only allowed the opportunity to perfect its impunity, but also to flaunt the limitless abundance it has been granted by the international community under the auspices of the UN’s futile rhetoric of concern. Had the rally been targeted, undoubtedly the result would have been equivalent to the aggressive prediction of the Zionist inciters.

In light of the constant confirmation of international complicity maintaining the illegal settler-colonial state, the unifying and logical message of Hamas should be proclaimed prior to any rhetoric of compromised peace. This would allow the resistance movement and Palestinians the opportunity to create the dynamics of a movement that operates from within the collective history of all Palestinians in a manner which ensures the preservation of memory as an essential component of the continuous historical struggle for liberation.

U.N. Report Faults Syria and Rebels for Blocking Relief Supplies


Syrians on Sunday inspected a damaged neighborhood in Aleppo, which activists said was the target of a government airstrike. 

A month after the Security Council ordered warring parties in Syria to let aid workers into besieged areas and stop indiscriminate attacks on civilians, the office of the United Nationssecretary general says that the Syrian government continues to delay or ignore requests for access and that relentless fighting among opposition groups has also kept many areas of the country inaccessible.

The findings are part of a 14-page reportdocumenting the response of the Syrian government and its rivals to the Council’s Feb. 22 resolution. The document is likely to spur fierce arguments among the members of the deeply divided Council over who is to blame, but it is unlikely to result in any immediate enforcement measures.

Food rations have been held up at government checkpoints; medicines have been removed from aid trucks; visas are held up for United Nations officials; and a hard-won agreement to let aid through the land border from Turkey ran into trouble when customs officials at the border said they had not received a green light from Damascus.

All the while, the United Nations estimates, 200 people are killed on average each day. The office of the secretary general described the obstacles as “extremely challenging.” The report urged the Syrian government to streamline aid convoy procedures, speed up visa approvals and instruct local officials to comply with approvals given in Damascus. It urged the opposition to “strengthen control and command structures” to ensure aid workers can operate safely in areas they control.

“Delivering lifesaving items, in particular medicines, remains difficult,” the report concluded. “And the assistance reaching people continues to fall far short of what is required to cover even their basic needs.”

The report went on to say that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assadhad kept up its use of barrel bombs, which contain hundreds of pounds of explosives and shrapnel like metal shards or nails. They are considered weapons of indiscriminate killing of civilians, and their continued use is something Syria’s critics are likely to seize upon. On Monday, Human Rights Watch said that it had identified at least 340 sites in opposition-held neighborhoods in Aleppo that had been damaged in recent months, and that most of them “have damage signatures that are strongly consistent with the detonation of barrel bombs.”

But the United Nations report also blamed opposition forces for their continued use of suicide attacks and car bombings, and it singled out attacks on Christians by Islamist fighters in a town called Ar Raqqa.

The report says United Nations agencies have continued to be denied access to 175,000 Syrians who are besieged by government forces and 45,000 by the opposition.

The report pointed to the United Nations’ efforts to get food and medicine to Madamiyet Elsham, where it has sought permission to enter 15 times since March 2013. Permission finally came from Damascus a week after the Council resolution was passed, but there were obstacles.

First, the aid convoy could not enter because opposition groups in the area said they needed more time to prepare to receive the supplies. Then, government officials delayed the convoy, conducted “lengthy searches of relief supplies” and said medicines could not be taken to opposition-held areas. When the convoy finally started moving on March 18, pro-government forces said aid could only be delivered to government-held areas. The convoy turned back. No aid reached where the United Nations said it was needed.

Then there is the matter of getting relief across the land border into hard-to-reach areas inside Syria. The resolution ordered Syria to allow cross-border aid convoys, and last Thursday, in a significant breakthrough, the first of 80 trucks began crossing in from Turkey into northeastern Syria. The trucks were packed with food, mattresses and medicines meant for an estimated 500,000 people. But after the first day, Syrian customs officials told the United Nations that they had not received permission from Damascus to let the convoy pass on the second day.

“We had not anticipated that,” said Nigel Fisher, the United Nation regional humanitarian coordinator in Amman. After further talks with Damascus, the aid convoy was allowed to resume on Saturday and Sunday.

The aid convoy traveled through areas controlled by Kurdish groups that the Turkish government considers to be a terrorist outfit. Mr. Fisher said Turkey had sought assurances that the United Nations would press for other border crossings as well, but did not block the aid convoy. “The Turkish authorities did not impose any impediments. They did express the hope that other crossings would be opening up as well,” Mr. Fisher said.

A truce in the Old City of Homs allowed workers to deliver food and evacuate more than 1,300 people from that rebel-held area in February. Among those evacuated, the report said, 150 men are still being held by the government. United Nations monitors suspended their visits to the screening facility in early March after the building was struck by mortar fire.

(Source / 24.03.2014)

Al Jazeera once again removes Joseph Massad article on Palestine

Al Jazeera English has once again removed an article by Columbia University professor Joseph Massad hours after publishing it.

The article, “The Dahlan Factor,” appeared for several hours on the Qatar-based broadcaster’s website this morningat this link, but was later removed without explanation.

The article had been extremely popular, appearing in the fifth spot on the website’s “What’s Hot” section.

In May 2013, there was a major scandal when Al Jazeera English censored a previous article by Massad, a regular contributor, due to political interference in the editorial process, after the broadcaster came under intense criticism from Zionists.

Following an uproar over the censoring of Massad, his article “The last of the Semites” was restored.

Removed again

Imad Musa, manager of online for Al Jazeera English, told The Electronic Intifada today that he personally took the decision to remove “The Dahlan Factor” which looked at the increasingly bitter conflict between Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas on the one hand, and the Palestinian warlord Muhammad Dahlan on the other.

Musa said that Massad’s article “didn’t meet our legal standards at all. It actually had elements of defamation, slander and libel.”

Asked why it had been published in the first place, Musa said, “we do have some loopholes in our editorial workflow. But we’re only human and we make mistakes.”

Musa would not provide specific examples of problems with the article, restating only that “it contained a series of legal problems which are unacceptable to us.”

Musa denied that there had been any complaints from outside Al Jazeera and said that concerns had been raised internally, before he made the final decision to remove the article.

Massad’s response

Massad sent this statement to The Electronic Intifada:

I sent an article to the editor I deal with at Al Jazeera English, Ms. Omayma Abdelatif on Saturday 22 March. She wrote me back within a few hours describing the piece as a “most insightful and timely piece.” She asked me to provide ”a few links here and there to support what you say.”

I promptly did so and sent her back the article with a number of links. She was also helpful by sending me one link that she thought I would find helpful. I did. I sent her a final copy of the article on Sunday 23 March.

She informed me that “We are having it up tomorrow.” This morning when I woke up, she had sent me a copyedited version with some queries and editorial suggestions. I approved them all. There was a suggestion that I remove one paragraph on Egyptian billionaire and head of Orascom Communications Naguib Sawires as “out of topic” but I refused and explained how it is linked to the Egyptian role in the matter at hand.

The article ran at about 9:30 AM EST but at 10:32 AM I received a phone call from Imad Musa who asked me to provide a reference about a claim regarding Sawires and asked me to change the language about the accusations made by Dahlan and Abbas against one another regarding the murder of Arafat.

I agreed to both suggestions, and sent him a link to the Sawires part. He wrote back saying that he prefers not to use the Sawires claim. Then I discovered that the article was removed after 1:50 PM. I wrote him immediately inquiring about it but he did not answer. I received an email from Omayma at 2:03 PM informing me that the piece had been removed for legal reasons even though the legal question had never come up before and I provided the links to all the claims that I made and for which they asked me to provide links.

Asked if he feared that today’s removal of Massad’s article without any public explanation would again appear as censorship, Al Jazeera’s Musa said he didn’t and that Al Jazeera acted with complete “transparency.”

Musa was also in charge of Al Jazeera English’s website when Massad’s article was censored last May.

Here is an image of Massad’s article as it appeared on Al Jazeera English and the full text is below.

Massad’s article: The Dahlan factor

The Israeli and US betting on the Dahlan horse will only increase the resolve of the Palestinians and their supporters.

Last updated: 24 Mar 2014 14:52

Joseph Massad

Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University.

This article was updated to clarify some of the comments made by the author.

The recent resurrection of Mohammad Dahlanby several Arab governments, Israel and the US is a most important development for the future of the Palestinian cause, Palestinian Authority (PA)-Israel negotiations, and Hamas-ruled Gaza. Dahlan is viewed, by many Palestinians, as the most corrupt official in the history of the Palestinian national movement (and there are many contenders for that title).

Dahlan, it would be recalled, was the PA man in charge of Gaza after the Oslo Accords were signed, where he commanded 20,000 Palestinian security personnel who were answerable to the CIA and to Israeli intelligence. His forces would torture Hamas members in PA dungeons throughout the 1990s.

His corruption, at the time, was such that he allegedly diverted over 40 percent of taxes levied against the Palestinians to his personal account in what became known as the Karni Crossing Scandal in 1997.

Dahlan, who has been accused repeatedly by both Hamas and Fatah of being an agent of US, Israeli, Egyptian, and Jordanian intelligence, would attempt to stage a US-organised coup against the democratically elected Hamas government in 2007 in Gaza, an attempt that backfired on him and ended with his eviction from the Strip (I had forewarned about the coup several months before it occurred).

A simultaneous coup led by Abbas and his Israeli- and US-backed security forces in the West Bank was successful in dislodging the elected Hamas from power. Dahlan retreated to that mainstay of US and Israeli power, namely the PA-controlled West Bank, where he began to hatch new plots with his multiple patrons to undermine not only Hamas but also Abbas, whose position he begrudged and coveted.

Indeed the Americans and the European Union (the latter on US orders) began to pressure Abbas to appoint Dahlan as his deputy, making it clear that they would like to see Dahlan succeed Abbas. Abbas resisted the pressure and refused.

In the meantime, Dahlan, has been accused by Hamas and the PA of allegedly plotting several assassination attempts that targeted several Palestinian officials, including Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyyah and Fatah ministers in the PA. Accusations that he persistently denied. His involvement in the 2010 Mossad assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai included having two of his Palestinian death squad hit men (later arrested by Dubai authorities) assist in the operation, a charge he also denied. His personal wealth was conservatively estimated in 2005 by an Israeli think tank at $120m.

Once Dahlan’s schemes became too obvious to ignore, Abbas stripped him of power and chased him out of the Ramallah Green Zone in 2010. He moved to Mubarak’s Egypt and later, following the ouster of Mubarak, to Dubai (and on occasion Europe) where he remained until his more recent resurrection by the heirs of Mubarak who now sit on Egypt’s throne.

A man for all patrons

Dahlan’s power lies in his ability to serve the agenda of multiple patrons. For the Israelis, he is a ruthless, corrupt power-grubbing man who would do their bidding obediently were he to come to power in Gaza or the West Bank. Both the Americans and the Israelis see him as especially willing to sign on an American-sponsored Netanyahu deal without equivocation.

For the Egyptians and the Gulf monarchies (and he is said to be a business partner with a Gulf ruler), he would look after their interests and obey their orders by eliminating any resistance to a US-imposed Palestinian final surrender to Israel and by eliminating Hamas once and for all.

For the Egyptian coup leaders, whose coup replicated Dahlan’s 2007 Gaza coup, except successfully, he could rid them of Hamas, which they see as an extension of the power of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and render their relations with Israel even closer than they already are. Dahlan’s most important role, however, is the one that the Americans need him for, namely, to replace Abbas should the latter fail to sign on to the final surrender that Barack Obama and John Kerry have been cooking at the behest of Netanyahu in the past few months.

Just as George Bush Jr and Bill Clinton terminated the services of Arafat after the latter proved unable to sign off on the final Palestinian surrender demanded of him at Camp David in the summer of 2000 (an inability that would arguably cost him his life at the hands of Abbas or Dahlan – depending on which of the two you talk to – acting at the behest of the Israelis, and very likely the Americans), Obama will terminate the services of Abbas should he fail to sign the US-sponsored surrender. Indeed, even if Abbas does sign such a deal, as he is approaching his 80th birthday, Dahlan will be needed and ready to take over after his death.

It is in this context that Egyptian army top brass recently visited Israel for a whole week while the Egyptian private TV station Dream (owned by a Mubarak businessman ally, Ahmad Bahgat) aired an interview with Dahlan in which he attacked Abbas, in yet another effort to delegitimise the latter.

Dahlan was offered the support of the rightwing Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris (infamous for his cutting off cellular phone lines in Cairo during the Egyptian uprising in January 2011 on the orders of Mubarak’s security apparatus), who sang Dahlan’s praises (as well as those of Mohammad Rashid, aka Khaled Salam, a former Arafat aide and another allegedly corrupt embezzling fugitive) as one of the most honest businessmen he ever worked with and then proceeded to denounce Abbas as a “liar”.

Indeed Sawiris, who has previously had business investments in Israel, went as far as claiming that had Palestine had “three men” like Dahlan, “it would have been liberated by now”.

Meanwhile, after months of closure of the borders with Gaza and harassment of Palestinians in Egypt by the heirs of Mubarak, the daughter of late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, Huda, who, like the rest of her siblings, had already paid abject public obeisance to the coup leader, published a letter to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyyah, accusing him and Hamas of terrorism targeting Egyptian soldiers in Sinai.

Moreover, with the elimination of Syria as a refuge for the exiled Hamas leaders, the Saudis and the UAE are tightening the grip on Qatar, the new base for the exiled Hamas leadership and the sponsor of the MB. They are also hoping that some of the concessions Iran would pay for its new modus vivendi with the US would include abandoning support for Hamas.

The takeover plan

As an Egyptian court has recently joined Israel and the US in banning Hamas from the country and considering it a terrorist organisation and as the Israelis have threatened openly this week that an invasion of Gaza will be necessary, the plan for a Dahlan take-over is hatching slowly but surely. This is viewed as such a threat that Abbas dispatched his supporters and cronies to the streets of Ramallah to prove to the Americans and the Israelis that he still commands much support in the West Bank.

The competition between Abbas and Dahlan is essentially one where each of them wants to prove that he can be more servile to Israeli, US, Egyptian, and Gulf interests while maintaining legitimacy and full control of the Palestinian population.

The details of the plot are not clear. They could involve an invasion of Gaza from the Egyptian and the Israeli sides (and Egyptian officials have already threatened to carry out such an invasion a few weeks ago), a coup of sorts in the West Bank, and even assassinations of Haniyyah and/or Abbas.

All bets are off at the moment, as Abbas, like Arafat before him, is offering complete obedience to US and Israeli diktat and will go much farther than Arafat did, but he understands too well that he would lose all legitimacy and control were he to sign the final humiliating surrender that the US and Israel are insisting on. Dahlan of course will have no such worries.

As for Hamas, which, unlike the MB, is a resistance movement and not a political party, it cannot be rounded up or crushed so easily, and the entry of Dahlan into Gaza, let alone the West Bank, will usher in a civil war that could likely end in his defeat yet again, short of a full Israeli invasion of Gaza to return him to power (Dahlan has also been accused by the PA of collaborating with the Israelis in their 2008 invasion of Gaza and has recently been accused in aiding the ongoing counter-revolution in Egypt).

The same scenario would be repeated in the West Bank.

The future of the Palestinian people is in danger and the enemies of the Palestinians surround them inside and outside Palestine. The Obama-Israeli-Egyptian-Gulf plans for liquidating their cause and their rights continue afoot.

However, just like past corrupt Palestinian leaders were unsuccessful in liquidating the rights of the Palestinians and their cause, the Israeli and US betting on the Dahlan horse will only increase the resolve of the Palestinian people and their supporters that Palestinian resistance will only cease after the final liquidation of Israeli state racism and colonialism in all its manifestations throughout historic Palestine.

(Source / 24.03.2014)

UN official censures Israel for illegal settlements


An Israeli soldier looks on as Israeli settlers throw stones at the car of a Palestinian journalist near Ramallah on March 7, 2014.

An Israeli soldier looks on as Israeli settlers throw stones at the car of a Palestinian journalist near Ramallah on March 7, 2014

Construction of illegal settlements by the Israeli regime, and settlers’ attacks against Palestinians are the major source of human rights violations in the occupied West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem), says a top official from the United Nations.

During the UN’s Human Rights Council in the Swiss city of Geneva on Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also voiced concerns over an increase in violence in and around the besieged Gaza Strip by Israeli forces.

“Israeli settlement-related activities and settler violence are at the core of many of the violations of human rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” Pillay said, adding such activities “also violate the entire spectrum of Palestinians’ social, cultural, civil, and political rights.”

“Despite repeated calls for Israel to cease settlement activity, ongoing settlement construction, and acts of settler violence continue with devastating consequences for Palestinian civilians,” said the UN top official.

UN observers in the West Bank documented “a dramatic increase in fatalities and injuries in incidents of use of force by Israeli security forces” in 2013, said Pillay, who is a former judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.

The UN and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.

(Source / 24.03.2014)

22 million follow Hamas event on social media

22 million follow Hamas event on social mediaThousands attended the festival in the Gaza Strip

Though the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Hamas’ founders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdul-Aziz Al-Rantisi ended more than 24 hours ago, related hashtags on social media sites are still active.

March 23 marked the anniversary of the assassination of the quadriplegic 70-year-old Yassin by three rockets launched from Israeli helicopters towards him while he was being pushed home on his wheelchair. Around 10 people were also killed in the attack.

The remembrance, which was held in the Gaza Strip, was considered by activists on social media as a referendum on Hamas’ popularity in the besieged enclave.

Israel and Egypt have imposed a siege on Gaza since 2006, when Hamas, the resistance movement which believes in the right of Palestinians to have a sovereign state, won in the general parliamentary elections.

Israel has been trying to push the Palestinians in Gaza to reach a point of suffering that makes them revolt against Hamas’ rule.

However, the numbers that took part in the commemoration and the number of social media users who used hashtags related to it were much higher than expected.

More than 22 million Twitter users from around the world followed the celebration hashtags. Famous Arab politicians, religious clerics and activists were among the social media users who used the hashtags including religious scholars Sheikh Nabeel Al-Iwadi and Sheikh Hamid Al-Ali, both from Kuwait.

The most circulated pictures on Twitter were a landscape picture for the huge number of attendees and that of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Popular Twitter hastags for the event:

(Source / 24.03.2014)

Occupation forces increasingly concerned about resistance in Jenin


Another officer in the Central Command asserted that Jenin has turned into the most dangerous and worrying area in the West Bank.

Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank warned on Sunday that Jenin could become the capital of Palestinian resistance once again, stressing that this scenario is now a cause of concern for the military.

In remarks that were quoted by Israeli newspaper Maariv, an Israeli officer pointed to the rise of operations that targeted occupation forces while they are carrying out arrests. The latest such case took place during the raid against Al-Qassam Brigades activist Hamza Abu Hija and two of his comrades in the Jenin refugee camp at dawn on Saturday.

The newspaper quoted Israeli military sources as saying that the Palestinian militants in Jenin are becoming the leaders of the resistance in Jenin, similar to how Jenin, Nablus and Hebron were all resistance strongholds before the invasion of the West Bank in early 2002 in the context of “Operation Defensive Shield”.

Maariv stated that the Jenin refugee camp returned to the spotlight recently after Islam Tobasi, an Islamic Jihad activist, was killed last September, and another Palestinian was killed in an armed confrontation in December of last year.

The newspaper added that while the detentions are running smoothly in the rest of the West Bank, the situation in the Jenin refugee camp is different: the military forces are repeatedly facing violent and armed confrontations wherein occupation forces are attacked by militants carrying small arms, light weapons and IEDs.

Maariv also pointed out that during the arrests carried out in Jenin, it takes residents only a few seconds to gather by the hundreds around occupation forces to besiege them.

Informed sources at the occupation’s regional Central Command, which is responsible for Israeli units and brigades located in the West Bank, believe that operations in the Jenin refugee camp will no longer pass smoothly as they had done in recent months.

Another officer in the Central Command asserted that Jenin has turned into the most dangerous and worrying area in the West Bank. The Central Command leadership is kept on high alert and expects emergencies to occur every time occupation forces carry out operations inside the camp. The source noted that while arrests usually take place smoothly elsewhere without the occurrence of deaths, the situation is different in Jenin.

The Israeli army stated that its forces that took part in the assassination of Al-Hija at dawn on Saturday faced vigorous resistance.

(Source / 24.03.2014)


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



After 4 days of fighting and deaths of both sides of at least 130 men on Saturday and Sunday alone, Opposition fighters have captured the border town of Kasab in Latakia province and the main crossing into Turkey.

The Assad regime continues to deny this, as this would be the loss of their last direct connection with Turkey along their northern border, but all the video evidence this morning, Monday, says otherwise. It is also a blow to the regime to lose the crossing in Latakia province which is considered Assad’s Alawite heartland.


First Picture of Opposition Fighters at Kasab Border Crossing

Assad’s forces are desperately shelling the mountainous area around Kasab this morning and dropping barrel-bombs on the edge of the town in an attempt to retake it. Unfortunately their plans came unstuck yesterday when the Turkish military shot down one of their jets attacking Kasab.

It is not clear whether the plane was hit by Turkish jets or by anti-aircraft fire from the ground, however the Turks say it violated their airspace, while the pilot, who ejected safely, claims he was 7 kilometres inside Syria, (English sub-titles), HERE:

The BBC has video reports of the distant smoking wreckage, which fell in Syrian territory in the mountains, HERE:

Assad’s Foreign Ministry in Damascus issued a statement whining on about “unjustified military aggression against Syrian sovereignty in the Kasab border region over the past two days proves its implication in the events in Syria” and made a complaint to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, that Turkey was allowing “terrorists” to launch attacks on Syria from the Turkish side of the border.

Kasab, as well as being a major crossing point to Turkey, is just 5 kilometres from the Mediterranean, thus, potentially, allowing the Opposition to reinforce their fighters from the sea.

Video footage received from Kasab shows the Opposition fighters in complete control of the border control buildings, HERE: and a drive-through the centre of Kasab (note the now destroyed statues of Hafez Al-Assad, President Bashar Assad’s father), HERE:

Another video shows the road into the town, most of whose Christian Armenian residents have fled, past the Church, HERE:


Hafez Al-Assad Gets a New Flag in Kasab

More video footage shows fighting for control of Tower 45, a TV and communications relay mast on a hill just south of Kasab, HERE:

As well as shelling and bombing Opposition positions, the Assad regime believed to be sending reinforcements to the area. However, the battles have been costly in terms of manpower, especially as one of those killed was Hilal Al-Assad, the President’s cousin.

Hilal Al-Assad was in charge of Assad’s National Defence Force, which grew out of the Shabiha, the armed militia. His funeral was held this morning, Monday. One unconfirmed report says that Hilal Al-Assad was shot by a compatriot.

Reports Sunday said that Hilal Al-Assad’s son, following his father’s death, was roaming Latakia city with a group of Shabiha shooting at anyone and anything and loud explosions of unknown origin were heard across the city.

Also reported dead in the battles around Kasab, but unconfirmed, is Mihrac Ural (Ali Kiyali), a Turkish Communist supporting Assad who was attending a meeting at the same house in Kasab when it was hit by an Islamic Front rocket. Mihrac Ural is widely believed to be responsible for the massacres of Sunni civilians in Banias in May 2013.

This interesting article by an Assad regime defector, shows for the first time how another of Assad’s cousins, Rami Makhlouf, the industrialist, and Maher al-Assad, the Syrian President’s brother, set up the Shabiha, the armed militia charged with stopping and killing peaceful protestors in “any way possible”, including torture and murder, in 2011HERE:


Near Aleppo city, where Opposition fighters have been making progress in recent weeks moving in from the north-west, activists report the killing of a second senior Assad officer, Brigadier General Samea Yusuf Abbas, in charge of the Republican Guard and second in command to Maher Al-Assad.

He is believed to have been killed in fighting around Al-Layramoun. Opposition fighters have taken a number of buildings in the area but others still under regime control can be seen in the distance. The Air Force Intelligence building is one of their targets.

Nearby, Opposition fighters have also captured Tel Shuwehneh, (Caution dead bodies), HERE: though the regime strikes back by almost, but not quite, taking out the Opposition flag, HERE:

On the southern Aleppo front around Aziza, and not far from Aleppo International Airport, Opposition fighters are gaining ground and using tanks and heavy weapons to push forward, HERE: and HERE:

Opposition fighters are also reported to have captured the Police Station in the Old City, which means that they almost have the whole of the Aleppo Citadel surrounded. This home-made mortar cannon was used in the attack,HERE:

There are also rumours in Aleppo that the regime is sending reinforcements to try and reach Aleppo Central Prison which has been under siege for months, though given all that is going on elsewhere, Assad’s resources must now be severely stretched.

Latest map of Opposition positions around Aziza and south-west of Aleppo city, courtesy of Cedric Labrousse. ClickHERE: and click map again for larger version:


Latest Map of Opposition Position in South Aleppo 22.03.14

Assad’s ability to reinforce his troops in the Aleppo is also seriously being hampered by Opposition attacks in Hama province where they target the many highway through Khanasser.

15 of Assad’s soldiers were reported killed in an ambush on the highway at the weekend and the Opposition completely destroyed this T55 regime tank at Morek, HERE:

On the same route from Hama to Aleppo, just to the north of Morek, Opposition fighters have had yet more success over the weekend, taking no less than 5 barriers and checkpoints around the town of Khan Sheikhoun, 3 to the east and 2 to the north. The town is now completely surrounded.

At the Nemer checkpoint in Khan Sheikhoun Opposition fighters seized tanks and artillery, HERE: And the fighters stormed the Ghadeer barrier, HERE:

After attacking the Tbeish and Al-Barrad checkpoints 26 Islamic Front and Al-Nusra Front fighters were injured and 5 killed, 18 of the wounded being transported to Turkey for treatment. They also captured the La-Marzarfa barrier,HERE:

Northern Hama map courtesy once again of Cedric Labrousse, here:


Opposition Advancing in Northern Hama Countryside 23.03.14


In Deraa province activists say that Opposition fighters are attacking the bases of Assad’s 12th Armoured Brigade and the 175th Artillery regiment which are on either side of the town of Ezra, north-east of Deraa city.

In Damascus province, video has emerged of ammunition and weapons gained by the Opposition after capturing Assad’s desert supply base 559 in a remote part of the Qalamoun region, HERE: and another of an dramatically accurate shot on an Assad-controlled water tower in Western Ghouta with an anti-tank missile, HERE:

The Opposition have also been firing Grad missiles at the airbases at Al-Naseryia in Eastern Qalamoon, HERE:  and Al-Dumeir, HERE:

There are additionally reports this morning, Monday, that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has shot down an Iranian made drone reconnaissance aircraft over Drosha in the Damascus countryside.

Yet another man is reported to have died from malnutrition in the Yarmouk Refugee camp and 5 people, including a child, killed by a shell landing on the central Al-Rija Square.

EDITOR: Lastly, you may have wondered if Assad was really “winning” after all the media coverage of the regime taking Yarbroud and Krac Des Chevaliers. These are however of more interest to Hezbollah which is desperate to stop Sunni insurgents crossing the border into Lebanon and attacking their towns and cities with car-bombs.

In fact they are claiming today, according to the Daily Star that one of their undercover units penetrated 11 kilometres into Oppsosition territory on Sunday and blew up 3 expert Opposition bomb makers and their 4 bodyguards at a house in the Qalamoun region.

The reality on the ground however, suggests that something else is taking place. With ISIS, the extreme Jihadists, largely out of the equation and mainly now confined to Raqqah and eastern Aleppo (and sickeningly still beheading by all accounts), the significant and more moderate Opposition are better organised, better co-ordinated and better armed.

Suddenly, the multi-faceted brigades seem to be working together in many diverse parts of Syria, popping up where Assad’s hugely stretched forces are least expecting them. They are are also better armed, both capturing more and more tanks and heavy weapons and, judging from video, using anti-tank missiles effectively in all sorts of situations.

Watch this space …. I sense a significant seed change.


Spoof Magazine Cover Featuring Assad’s Wife, Asma

PA ministers to visit Jerusalem hospital in budget crisis

PA minister of health Jawad Awwad
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Two Palestinian ministers will visit the al-Maqasid Hospital in East Jerusalem to discuss a severe financial crisis the hospital has been facing for several years.

A public information officer of the Palestinian ministry of health confirmed Monday that minister Jawad Awwad and minister of finance Shukri Bishara would visit al-Maqasid Hospital Tuesday. Omar al-Nasr added that the ministry had been following up with the financial crisis and the protests by employees in the central East Jerusalem hospital.

The al-Maqasid Hospital, on the Mount of Olives, is the main recipient of patients referred by the PA ministry of health from the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The hospital has been suffering from a crippling financial crisis in the past few years. The administration and the employees’ union say the crisis emerged because the PA doesn’t pay regularly on behalf of hundreds of patients referred by its ministry from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Al-Nasr highlighted that the ministry transferred in February and March 6,129,000 shekels to the hospital. More money will be transferred, he added, when the government transfers it to the ministry’s budget.

(Source / 24.03.2014)

Syrian Coalition: FSA Consecutive Gains Will Yield Important Results

Khalid Saleh, head of the Media Office, said that “the gains made by the opposition fighters in Latakia province, especially the capture of the Kassab border crossing and the 45th observatory, are a military victory that will have important results during the next stage.” Regime forces use the 45th observatory to launch bombs into civilian areas in Mount Turkman.” Saleh also said that “we carefully follow the news coming from Aleppo, where the FSA has been advancing on regime forces in the north and center of the city, in addition to the successive victories in Dara’a province. We renew our confidence in all the revolutionary forces that defend civilians and are committed to the principles of the revolution all across Syria, most notably the FSA battalions in al-Hasakah province for standing against the crimes committed by ISIS.” Saleh concluded his remarks stressing that “FSA fighters continue to prove their unshakable resolve that they are able to achieve victories. They also demonstrate that they are determined to liberate Syria while staying true to the principals of the revolution by defending Syrian citizens against Assad’s crimes and crimes of extremist groups.”
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 24.03.2014)

Israeli jets perform mock raids over Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli fighter jets on Monday evening performed mock air raids in Gaza’s airspace.

Witnesses said that loud sounds were heard as Israeli fighter jets roared low over Gaza, causing panic among residents.

Earlier, the Israeli army fired an artillery shell into the northern Gaza Strip, witnesses told Ma’an.

Locals said that the shell landed in the Buart Abu Samra area of Beit Lahia.

No injuries were reported. It was not immediately clear if the shell caused damage.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said she was not familiar with that incident.

(Source / 24.03.2014)