Ceasefire. So Israel decides to build 807 housing units in Occupied Jerusalem

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OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli Land Authority has published tenders to build 807 new housing units in Gilo settlement, south of occupied Jerusalem.

Israeli media sources said that 708 new housing units are planned to be established in Gilo settlement neighborhood.

Israeli authorities exploit the international preoccupation with the ongoing aggression on Gaza to step up Judaization schemes and projects in occupied Jerusalem in flagrant violation of international appeals to stop the illegal settlement building.

The new tenders coincided with the unprecedented and escalated attacks against al-Aqsa Mosque.

(Source / 27.08.2014)

Gaza: Medical care through war and truce

For 50 days, Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital has lived to the rhythm of fighting followed by ceasefire followed by fighting again. Then on 25 August, an open-ended ceasefire came into force, bringing a massive sense of relief to MSF teams and to the population of Gaza as a whole. But activity in the largest hospital in Gaza continues unabated. Until yesterday, the hospital was still receiving people wounded in recent bombings, as well as people injured over previous days who were unable to come for treatment until now.

MSF surgical teams continue to work shifts at Al Shifa hospital, alongside Palestinian Ministry of Health staff, as they have been doing since the Israeli army launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. As one MSF surgeon leaves, another one takes their place. Maurice, a thoracic surgeon, has just returned from Gaza. “I was operating on patients with chest and abdominal injuries,” he says. “Most were shrapnel wounds. Even a small piece of shrapnel less than 1 cm long can tear everything in its path and cause massive wounds to the lungs. More than half of the patients I operated on were women and children. “

Two other MSF surgeons are currently working in Al Shifa hospital, operating on patients with severe burns who require multiple surgery, doing plastic surgery and carrying out skin grafts, amongst other things. They are also called on to assist with especially difficult or long operations. The 60-bed Al Shifa hospital receives patients from across the Gaza Strip, and includes six operating theatres, an intensive care unit where burns victims are cared for, and an emergency room. The Palestinian medical staff are very experienced, but a number of hospitals in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged, and the workload in Al Shifa is so heavy that they still need outside support.

From 28 July to 10 August, MSF had three surgical teams working in Al Shifa hospital. There was a constant influx of wounded to the hospital during the ground offensive. The emergency room was overwhelmed, as were the operating theatres, with 30 to 40 seriously wounded patients arriving each day.

“Many patients had multiple shrapnel wounds caused by explosions, with chest, vascular and limb injuries,” says Kelly, an anaesthesiologist who spent almost four weeks in Gaza. “People in the vicinity of an explosion are burned by the heat, while the blast destroys their lungs and shrapnel penetrates their body. The shock wave can destroy the leg bones of a person who is standing, and both legs then need to be amputated – it’s terrible, but there’s no other solution. “

In seven weeks, MSF has sent 37 international staff to Gaza, including surgeons, doctors, nurses, administrators and project coordinators. Currently MSF has two surgeons, two anaesthetists and one intensive care nurse working in the hospital.

MSF also runs a clinic in Gaza City providing post-operative care to patients who have undergone surgery, who come to have their dressings changed and to attend rehabilitation sessions with a physiotherapist.

Activities in the post-operative care clinic over the past seven weeks have been dependent on the intensity of the attacks. At the height of the war, the clinic closed for 11 days, as it was impossible for patients either to reach the clinic on their own or to be fetched by MSF car. During this time, the team provided dressing kits for patients. When the clinic reopened, 20 to 40 percent of patients were able to come for their appointments. A number of patients, however, have still not been traced. Now the clinic is full. “It’s like a beehive,” says Dr. Abu Abed, MSF doctor. “As well as our former patients, we have been caring for new patients who were injured during the war. We saw more than 100 new patients between 1 July and 25 August. “

The medical aid MSF is providing in Gaza takes a number of different forms. As well as working in Al Shifa hospital and the post-operative care clinic, MSF has also ​​donated drugs and medical supplies to the central pharmacy in Gaza, to Al Shifa hospital, to Nasser hospital in Khan Younis and to Kamal Edwan hospital in Beit Lahiya. Perhaps most significant has been the successful collaboration between MSF teams and teams from the Palestinian Ministry of Health. With the blockade cutting off the entire population of Gaza from the outside world, in recent years Palestinian medical staff have been deprived of opportunities to share skills with international colleagues, to gain practical experience or to travel to medical conferences abroad. As a result, they have been appreciative of the chance to learn new surgical, anaesthetic and medical practices from MSF’s teams.

(Source / 27.08.2014)

Al-Sisi’s scandal in Libya

President Sisi

‘It is only natural for Al-Sisi and the countries supportive of his coup, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to take a stand against the revolutions of the Arab peoples who hope for freedom, dignity and justice because their governments do not represent their people.’

The New York Times newspaper has published statements by senior security officials that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates participated in the air strikes on the Libyan Dawn Forces linked to the February 17th rebels; Egyptian air bases near the border with Libya were used to launch UAE aircraft. The NYT also reported that the US was not aware of these strikes that were not only unconstructive, but also backfired. This emphasises the accusations made by the official Dawn Forces spokesman since the beginning of the fighting that Egypt and the UAE are both participating in the fight against Libya by means of air strikes; these claims were initially denied by the Egyptian foreign ministry, first by its official spokesperson, and then by Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi himself. The Egyptian coup leader has, therefore, been shown to be a liar in front of his people and the entire world; this is a global scandal on every level.

Al-Sisi is gambling and risking the lives of all Egyptians, not just the two million who work in Libya, by this reckless act that disregards all logic and strategic thought. He is endangering Egypt’s western border, as the Dawn Forces have taken control of Tripoli and tightened their control over the airport, defeating rebel General Haftar’s forces, which are backed by the UAE and Egypt. This prompted Al-Sisi to lie and deny Egypt’s involvement in the fighting, even though the exact opposite occurred; he was hoping to announce his support for defeating terrorism in Libya represented by the February 17th rebels.

It is only natural for Al-Sisi and the countries supportive of his coup, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to take a stand against the revolutions of the Arab peoples who hope for freedom, dignity and justice because their governments do not represent their people. Al-Sisi staged a coup against his own people and betrayed them before overthrowing his president and breaking his vows of office in leading the counter-revolution, but it seems that this is not enough for him; he now wants to be the leader of the counter-revolution in the entire Arab region.

Al-Sisi has become a threat to Egypt’s national security, as he is hostile towards the Palestinians in Gaza and is supporting the Zionist enemy in its war on Gaza, on Egypt’s eastern border, putting Egypt in danger. He is also in a silent conflict with Southern Sudan, and now he is supporting Haftar’s rebel forces in Libya and allowing them to use Egyptian airbases to launch aircraft to strike a neighbouring country on our western border. He is endangering the whole country. However, he should keep his mentor and idol, Gamal Abdel Nasser, in mind and remember what he did in Yemen and the disasters suffered there by Egypt; Nasser achieved nothing but the loss of his country’s gold, which was used to bribe tribal leaders. Egypt has been impoverished ever since. One of the most important consequences of Egypt’s war in Yemen was the great defeat by Israel in 1967. Ironically, at that time, Nasser said that he was fighting the reactionaries represented by Saudi Arabia; today, Al-Sisi is working hand in hand with the same reactionaries, and is even following their orders. Is anyone surprised by this?

(Source / 27.08.2014)

Half of Israeli Political-Security Cabinet Opposes Ceasefire Agreement

According to Israeli National Radio, Avigdor Lieberman (Foreign Minister), Naftali Bennett (Industry, Trade and Labor Minister), Gilad Erdan (Home Front Defense Minister) and Yitzhak Aharonovich (Internal Security Minister) oppose the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire agreement.

photo: Palestinian News Network (PNN)

The PNN reports that Naftali Bennett has requested that PM Benjamin Netanyahu hold a cabinet session, in order to discuss the truce agreement.

Netanyahu reportedly refused to do so, as he had already obtained the approval of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to make the decision for accepting the ceasefire agreement without previously consulting the Israeli Political-Security Cabinet.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni also criticized the agreement, saying: “It must include the basis for the disarmament of the Strip, to prevent the entry of arms and the growth of the Palestinian resistance. There should be an effective monitoring mechanism.”

Furthermore, several mayors and regional councils of areas near Gaza also expressed dissent over the agreement, stating that they fear more attacks over the coming months.

(Source / 27.08.2014)

Experts: ISIS makes up to $3 million daily in oil sales

The militant group is reportedly selling oil at half the international price

Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are making an estimated $3 million a day by selling crude oil captured from Iraq and Syria in black markets, experts say.

ISIS militants have seized a number of oilfields in Iraq and Syria over the past few months, and are now selling crude oil to finance their self-declared “caliphate.”

Analysts suggest that oil from areas under ISIS control is being sold at less than half of its international prices.

Iraqi oil industry officials estimate that ISIS raises more than $2 million a day form crude oil sails.

But U.S. estimations suggest the militant group makes is cashing in about $3 million a day.

It is believed that ISIS is selling crude oil at prices ranging from $25 per barrel to $60 per barrel, which amounts to almost half of the international crude oil price, averaged at $102 as of Wednesday.

“They sell it for $30 a barrel because it’s a black market. It’s not pegged to international standards for oil prices, which are over $100 a barrel,” Theodore Karasik, director of research and consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, told ABC News. 

Karasik said these oil sails are thought to make up a significant portion of the financial resources supporting ISIS.

“[ISIS] are trying to establish a state, and these types of revenues are important for the state’s formation because it makes up a significant chunk of their revenue,” he said.

“They can take over eastern Syria without oil revenue, but seizing these types of fields [like Shaar] are part of an ongoing plan to develop their own economic system.”

ISIS militants seized four small oilfields when they swept through northern Iraq in June and currently control oilfields in the oil-rich Syrian province of Deir al-Zor.

Such developments have prompted the United Nations Security Council last month to warn against trading in oil from “terrorist groups.” The Council also threatened to impose sanctions on nations that take part in such trades.

So far, the ISIS oil trading has been active with buyers in Jordan, Turkey, Syria and Iran, said Luay al-Khatteeb, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and serves as the director of the Iraq Energy Institute.

“ISIS controls smuggling routes and the crude transported by tankers to Jordan via Anbar province, to Iran via Kurdistan, to Turkey via Mosul, to Syria’s local market and to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where most of it gets refined locally,” Al-Khatteeb said in an interview with the CNN.

He said ISIS are seeking to become “self-sufficient” by funds made through oil revenues.

“At present, ISIS are trying to establish a self-sufficient state and a capital in what is known as the “Sunni triangle” (west and north Iraq), and oil production will be part of this,” he added.

(Source / 27.08.2014)

Israel-Gaza crisis: What are the terms of the peace deal and what do both sides want?


The peace in Gaza has so far held since Israel and Hamas declared a truce while the terms of a peace deal brokered by Egypt are agreed.

Although the 50-day conflict started with Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli operation to stop rocket attacks from Gaza, the aims of both sides are little changed since a previous ceasefire in 2012.

As part of the latest deal, both sides have agreed to address more complex issues underpinning the cycle of violence, including the release of Palestinian prisoners and Gaza’s demands for a sea port, with further talks starting in a month.

What immediate steps are being taken to maintain peace?

Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza have agreed to halt all rocket and mortar fire into Israel, which in turn will stop all military action including air strikes and ground operations.

What short-term changes are in the terms of the truce?

Israel will agree to open more of its border crossings with Gaza to allow an easier flow of goods, including humanitarian aid and reconstruction equipment. This was also part of a ceasefire agreement after the last conflict between Israel and Hamas in November 2012 but was never fully implemented.

In a separate agreement, Egypt will agree to open its eight-mile crossing into Gaza at Rafah.

Read more: Israel-Gaza conflict: 50-day war by numbers

HAMAS CLAIMS VICTORY AS TRUCE TALKS CONTINUE

VIDEO CAPTURES MOMENT ONE OF GAZA’S TALLEST BUILDINGS DESTROYED BY ISRAELI AIR STRIKES

Who will control the reopened entry points?

The Palestinian Authority, headed by ousted President Mahmoud Abbas, is expected to take over responsibility for administering Gaza’s borders from Hamas.

Israel and Egypt hope it will ensure weapons, ammunition and any “dual-use” goods are prevented from entering Gaza.

They also expect tight monitoring of imports of construction materials like cement and cast iron to make sure they are used to rebuild or build homes rather than tunnels that have been used to attack Israel.

How is Gaza going to be rebuilt after the bombing?

The Palestinian Authority will lead coordination of the reconstruction effort with international donors including the European Union, Qatar, Turkey and Norway.

Is Israel making any other concessions for Palestinians in Gaza?

It is expected to narrow the security buffer – a no-go area for Palestinians that runs along the inside of the Gaza border – reducing it from 300 metres to 100 meters if the truce holds. The move will allow Palestinians more access to farm land close to the border.

Israel will extend the fishing limit off Gaza’s coast to six miles from three, with the possibility of widening it gradually if the truce holds, but the Palestinians want to return to a full 12-mile international allowance.

This was also part of the previous ceasefire deal in 2012, and was briefly implemented before being rescinded in March 2013.

What requests has Hamas made?

The group wants Israel to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners rounded up in the occupied West Bank following the abduction and killing of three Jewish students in June.

Hamas initially denied involvement in the killings, but a senior official in exile in Turkey last week admitted the group did carry out the attack.

One of its major aims is having a sea port built in Gaza, allowing goods and people to be ferried in and out of the coastal enclave.

Israel has long rejected the plan citing security concerns but it is possible that progress towards it could be made if there are absolute guarantees

In antiquity, Gaza was a major port in the eastern Mediterranean and a critical point for spice trading. There have been plans to build a new port since the Oslo peace accords in the mid-1990s, but no progress has been made.

Hamas also wants its funds to be unfrozen to allow it to pay 40,000 police, government workers and other administrative staff who have largely been without salaries since last year. The funds were withheld by the Palestinian Authority.

In pictures: Israel-Gaza conflict

What does the Palestinian Authority want?

President Abbas, who was forcibly ousted by Hamas in 2007, wants to return as leader of the Palestinian Authority.

His Fatah party wants freedom for long-serving Palestinian prisoners whose release was dropped after the collapse of previous peace talks with Israel.

The Palestinians also want the airport in Gaza to be rebuilt and opened. Yasser Arafat International opened in 1998 but was shut down in 2000 after it was bombed by Israel.

What does Israel want in the long-term?

Israel wants Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza to hand over all body parts and personal effects of Israeli soldiers killed during the war.

The Government has said in recent weeks said it wants the full “demilitarisation” of Gaza and an end to the prospect of rocket attacks and possible terror attacks in Israel.

The United States and European Union have supported the goal, but it remains unclear what it would mean in practice and Hamas has rejected it as unfeasible.

(Source / 27.08.2014)

Should Israel’s leaders fear prosecution for the Gaza war?

By Alexander Knoops

The aims of the war, safeguarding thousands of citizens from rocket attacks, should override any arguments of alleged disproportionality at the ICC.

Gaza City's Sheikh Radwan neighborhood

A digger removes debris of a home destroyed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, August 20, 2014.

Two weeks ago, the Palestinian minister of foreign affairs, Riad al-Maliki,conferred with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The subject was the potential ratification of the Rome Statute by the Palestinian Authority in order to put the operations of the Israel Defense Forces and the prime minister of the State of Israel on trial for alleged war crimes committed by the IDF during operation Protective Edge.

How realistic is this scenario from a legal perspective? Apart from jurisdictional issues (can the Palestinian Authority now be considered a “state,” able to ratify the Rome Statute?) and apart from the risk that the Palestinian Authority might also be held responsible for potential war crimes committed by Hamas (using human shields within the context of an international armed conflict constitutes a war crime under the Rome Statute,) the ICC chief prosecutor faces numerous legal challenges.

One of these challenges pertains to the pitfall of applying “double standards.” The current policy of the ICC prosecutor, accused of selective judgment regarding whom cases are opened against, has been admonished by the African Union for its arbitrariness, especially in regard to the prosecution of particular African heads of state before the ICC.

Be this as it may, the ICC chief prosecutor faces a seemingly insurmountable legal precedent. One report, written for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which reviewed whether NATO attacks could be seen as proportional, could be used by the chief prosecutor as a guide in this complex case. In this case, NATO’s military operation towards the end of the Yugoslavia conflict included 10,484 airstrikes in urban areas during a two-and-a-half month period (March to June of 1999,) causing the deaths of approximately 500 innocent civilians.

The air strikes included the bombing of two civilian buses, which left 56 civilians dead and another 44 wounded, the bombing of a civilian train (15 civilian casualties) and an airstrike on the village of Korisa that caused the deaths of 87 civilians and injured 60.

Notably, the allegation that the death toll of 87 civilians caused by NATO in Korisa could be seen as a war crime was refuted by NATO, which argued that all precautionary measures were taken to prevent civilian casualties. This was the case, even though prior to the NATO bombardment, many civilian refugees had unexpectedly returned to the village and were subsequently used by the Serb forces as human shields, according to NATO.

The NATO air campaign was ultimately investigated by a commission of inquiry appointed by Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

In June 2000, the ICTY chief prosecutor decided not to press any war crimes charges against NATO or its leaders, based on the findings of this commission; it also adopted NATO’s aforementioned argument as to the use of human shields.

For the IDF and Israel’s prime minister, these findings leave little doubt that the ICC chief prosecutor most likely has no other option but to refute a criminal complaint by the Palestinian Authority. The ICTY report on the NATO bombing campaign says that potential war crimes committed by the NATO could not be proven, notwithstanding the number of civilian Serbian casualties. It furthermore emphasizes that as long as such airstrikes are not launched “intentionally” to take civilian life, whilst the available evidence does not show criminal intent, the burden of proof for war crimes cannot be met.

More importantly, and perhaps decisive for Protective Edge, are the ICTY observations on the proportionality principle: If an airstrike remains within the ambit of “a reasonable military commander’s purview,” whilst these casualties are measured against the military advantage pursued by the operation and are not “clearly disproportional,” the airstrike cannot be presumed a war crime.

In turn, as ICTY holds, the criterion of what makes something “clearly disproportionate” cannot be judged exclusively on one specific incident or in isolation of the overall aim of the military operation at hand; rather it should be determined on an “overall assessment” of the “totality of civilian victims against the goals of the military campaign,” whereby the “strategic (overall) target” is decisive.

The IDF’s overall aim of Operation Protective Edge revolved around the survival of the State of Israel, or at the least the protection of thousands of its citizens who were subjected to thousands of rocket attacks: a powerful military objective that can potentially override every argument of alleged disproportionality to be purported by the ICC Prosecutor. This overall aim was exactly NATO’s justification for using overwhelming military force against Serbia in 1999 by conducting 10,484 airstrikes in two-and-a-half months: namely, further preventing a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo.

The air strikes the U.S. is currently conducting against IS (formerly ISIS) in Iraq could become the ultimate litmus test for the eligibility of Operation Protective Edge and the prime minister of Israel in terms of a potential ICC case.

As exemplified by the ICTY inquiry into the 1999 NATO campaign, professional military forces showing allegiance to the laws of war should not be fearful for a potential ICC charge. Legal fear seems unwarranted; rather, fear for double standards may well be justified.

(Source / 27.08.2014)

The Islamic State Is Doomed — Unless We Intervene Further

Despite the Islamic State foolishly trying to show its strength through a beheading, the prospects for the group going forward are decidedly grim — unless, of course, the U.S. adds boots on the ground to its military power in the sky.

Islamic State

Fighters from extremist Islamic State group during a parade in Raqqa, Syria

A video circulated by Islamic State radicals last week purportedly showed kidnapped American war correspondent James Foley being beheaded by his captors. This video has shocked the world. As terror tactics go, onscreen beheading is something sure to stir up fear and anger, and as a propaganda device, it can’t be beat. Given that subtlety is clearly not the Islamic State’s strong point, the message being conveyed by the Islamic State in the harrowing clip is, “Mess with us, and you’ll get your head chopped off.”

Yet, one can’t help but think that the guerrilla army that swept across northern Iraq earlierthis summer isn’t protesting just a tad too much. The gory demonstration of the Islamic State’s power comes just as it is likely to be destroyed by the combined might of nearly every military actor and political power in the region. As such, one should actually take the beheading — which now appears to have been staged, with the actual beheading having taken place offscreen — as a demonstration not of the militant group’s strength and ruthlessness, but its weakness and vulnerability.

Recall that the beheading came after the initiation of full-scale bombing of the group by U.S. military airpower. While often belittled by those not subject to it and by counterinsurgency experts keen to point out that bombers are useless against guerrillas hiding among the population one is trying to control, U.S. airpower is devastating in the open field. This is especially the case when U.S. opponents mass in easily identified mobile columns and mass formations with little in the way of air defenses or early warning capabilities. To put it plainly: Operating in such a way with U.S. aircraft nearby is an invitation to be quickly and summarily incinerated.

Given that the Islamic State had adopted exactly those kinds of tactics in order to conquer much of non-Kurdish northern Iraq, it should come as no surprise that their forces are paying heavily. Indeed, much as the Taliban of 2001 found that their pick-up truck armadas of jerry-rigged Toyotas were no match for precision-guided munitions and high-altitude bombing, the Islamic State is learning that operating in the open in a similar manner when U.S. air power is around is a quick way to die. What’s more, Washington’s local allies on the ground, people who are no doubt working closely with U.S. forward air controllers — the guys on the ground who call down U.S. airstrikes, are emboldened by the strikes.

Such a combination of unrelenting aerial bombardment with local proxy troops proved incredibly deadly in Afghanistan in 2001, and there is no reason why a similar combination should not work well enough again to clear the ground for the advance of our Kurdish and Shiite Iraqi allies. Stiffened by Uncle Sam’s god-like ability to rain down fire from above, one can expect that the Islamic State’s open stay in and control of northern Iraq will be ending soon. Indeed, all allied ground forces have to do is, in theory, walk in and take territory — and they are starting to do exactly that.

Ground troops: A step in the wrong direction

While this should be no problem in the open no-man’s-land presently separating the Islamic State from its foes on the ground, when it comes to advancing on Sunni Iraq’s cities, theory and practice get a bit more muddled and it will require a bit more than just bombing and proxy infantry to prevail. No amount of military force can keep the restive region quiet without political buy-in from Sunni Iraq’s local tribal powerbrokers. Indeed, so powerful are they that Gen. David Petraeus famously bribed them — via the Sons of Iraq program and promises of inclusion in future national decision-making — to turn on the al Qaida-inspired elements that had previously embedded themselves within the Sunni population. Unfortunately, as the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, the government in Baghdad made the fatal mistake of reneging on promises made or implied by Washington to the Sunni groups, thereby allowing them to once again make overtures toward Islamist radicals.

Yet, even now the political impasse between Sunni Iraq and the Baghdad government that led the Sunni population to shift its support to the Islamic State over the past several months may be on the verge of resolving itself. The increasingly authoritarian Nouri al-Maliki has been ousted from his position as Iraq’s prime minister and a new coalition, led by Haider al-Abadi, is taking up governance of the rump Iraqi state. If, as seems likely, Abadi will make moves to be more inclusive of Iraqi Sunni interests then that in combination with bribe money — whether sourced from Iraq, the United States or Iran — and U.S. airpower will assuredly tip the balance of incentives faced by the Sunnis away from the beheading maniacs of the Islamic State and toward a Sunni-Shiite accommodation.

Once inked, such a deal will see the Islamic State rebels not only pushed back into northern Iraq’s Sunni population centers but also, importantly, stripped of popular support just at a time when they need it most. If all this comes to pass, then the Islamic State rebels will be scuttling back to war-torn Syria as quickly as their feet — for their Toyotas would have been turned into burned-out cinders by U.S. war planes by then — will carry them. Even then, there might be no safe place to stay, as Assad, despite recent setbacks, may yetstrike a deal with Washington to allow U.S. aircraft to attack the Islamic State within Syria itself.

So, despite all the Islamic State head-chopping, the prospects for the group going forward are decidedly grim. The powers that be seem set on annihilating them, and while it may take some time, the end point — mass numbers of dead Islamic State jihadists strewn all over northern Iraq — is all but certain. Their utility, most especially to the Iraqi Sunni leaders who called them in to make the point to Baghdad that it controls northern Iraq only through their sufferance, has been maximized. Point being made, the radicals — who, regardless of their accomplishments, are nonetheless very small in number — can nicely be done away with as the props and bargaining chips they were always meant to be.

Unless, that is, the U.S. snatches defeat from the jaws of victory by sending a large number of ground troops to do the fighting, occupying, and pacifying that the Iraqi government and its Iranian and Syrian allies should be doing on their own. Contrary to the opinion of U.S. hawks who seem to have learned nothing from our sorry, sordid history in this region, the sending of large contingents of U.S. forces to Iraq will merely allow the Iraqi Shiite and Kurds to sit back on their haunches and let Uncle Sam do all the heavy lifting. Even worse, it will allow our allies to renege on any deals that may have been struck with the Sunni tribal powers since the fall of al-Maliki, while simultaneously also further alienating the Sunnis — potentially enough to have them call the Islamic State radicals, or somebody like them, back in.

Take heart, though: The odds of continued Islamic State success going forward are getting very long and their inevitable defeat seems all but certain. But the question now is: Once the radicals are sent to their reward, will Iraq’s squabbling ethnic groups reach an agreement to share power and resources and so keep the country united and functioning? It’s an open question, of course, and as the civil war next door in Syria demonstrates, such squabbling could turn into an unending civil war rather quickly.

However, sending even more U.S. troops to Iraq beyond what is necessary to rain death from the skies and onto Islamic State fighters would do little to help induce — and likely much to hurt — just such a political resolution. America’s hawks might not like it, but a limited war with limited aims that puts most of the burden of ground fighting onto the backs of our proxies in Baghdad and Erbil is the only real option we have, barring a full pullout.

(Source /27.08.2014)

Syrian Coalition: Assad Regime Must Be Included in UN Resolution No. 2170

Mohammed Qaddah, Vice President of the Syrian Coalition, renews calls to make amendments to the UN Security Council No 2170 and include the Assad regime and Hezbollah in the list of terrorist organizations that threaten the region. “By taking this step the international community will be on the right track in the fight against organized terrorism which is sweeping the region.” Qaddah stresses that the problem is not in waiting for the regime’s consent to target ISIS positions in Syria, but with the decision itself as it excludes the Assad regime and Hezbollah militia from its list of targets,” commenting on remarks made by US Foreign Ministry spokeswoman who said that “when it comes to preserving our interests we will not wait for the approval of the Assad regime to allow airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.” Qaddah also said that “Syrian rebels have long been fighting ISIS and the Assad regime, not only in defense of our interests, but also on behalf of the whole world, without waiting for any international resolutions in this regard. We have also warned many times of the growing threat posed by this monstrous organization, which was allowed to grow and fester under the eyes of the Assad regime and the international community. When the world has finally begun to realize the danger posed by ISIS, the Syrian people were surprised by the UN Security Council’s exclusion of the arch terrorist and the godfather of extremism from its list of terrorism.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 27.08.2014)

Jerusalem faces largest surge in arrests since 2nd Intifada


Israeli SWAT police members secure a street during clashes with Palestinian protesters in the Shufat neighborhood in
Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, on July 3, 2014

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian communities in Jerusalem are experiencing the largest upsurge in detentions since the Second Intifada, with a marked increase in Israeli police brutality and the collective punishment of entire neighborhoods, local organizations say.
The mass detentions began following widespread demonstrations in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shufat after the murder of teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir on July 2.

Since then, over 770 Palestinians have been detained in East Jerusalem, according to Addameer prisoner rights group.

The arrests in Jerusalem took place parallel to a wide-reaching detention campaign in the West Bank, which saw between 800-1,000 Palestinians detained following the kidnapping of three Israeli youths on June 12.

Although the majority have been released, police brutality, the bail conditions set for detainees and a system of closures on Palestinian areas have made life difficult for individuals and whole neighborhoods alike.

Around 70 Palestinians detained are still in police custody, with many transferred to detention cells in Lod after the Russian Compound in Jerusalem reached full capacity.

“It’s collective punishment for all Jerusalem residents,” Mahmoud Qaraeen from the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan told Ma’an.

“The clashes and demonstrations following the killing of (Muhammad) Abu Khdeir made the police angry, and they imposed collective punishment on all of East Jerusalem.”

Israeli police have regularly closed off the neighborhoods of Issawiya and Silwan during the campaign, preventing residents from entering or exiting. Even workers from electricity and water companies have not been granted access, Qareen says.

Over 90 percent of the arrests happen during the night and the Wadi Hilweh Information Center reports that most of the time Israeli police officers do not know who they are coming to arrest. “They are not knocking,” Qareen says, “they break the doors and enter.”

“They break into the house and ask the mother or father: “Where are your children?” If they say they are sleeping, they ask their names, then choose which one to arrest.”

Three weeks ago Israeli forces raided the Abbasi family house and couldn’t decide which young family members to detain, so took all three to the police station, Qareen says.

Once detainees are released they can face heavy fines and Addameer says that the majority of detainees, mostly young men, face months of house arrest or are banned from certain areas of East Jerusalem, sometimes the areas in which they live.

Qareen says the campaign is deliberately intended to keep the Palestinian community “quiet.”

“They want to make us live like we are in a hotel, just eating and sleeping and doing nothing else. If anyone stands up to the occupation, they make us a criminal.”

Israeli soldiers arrest a young man during clashes in the West Bank village of Al-Ram on July 6, 2014 with people protesting against the murder of a Palestinian teenager

Police brutality

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has documented multiple cases of police brutality during the arrest campaign, and have called for an immediate review of the policy of officers wearing ski-masks during detentions.

In one arrest on July 11, masked police officers possessing no identification tags broke into the home of a 22-year-old resident of Issawiya at 3 a.m. and vandalized the house.

In another arrest on July 16, around 20 masked and armed policemen jumped over a fence and burst into a home in Shufat without identifying themselves. The Israeli officers handcuffed a 21-year-old man and covered his eyes with a cloth tied around his head.

ACRI also documented an incident in which the daughter of a Palestinian family opened the door to a masked officer in East Jerusalem, and was rifle-butted without provocation.

“Without faces and names, policemen are simply a group of unidentified, unknown gunmen barging into homes in the middle of the night – a practice characteristic of tyrannical regimes,” ACRI Attorney Yusef Karram said.

There has also been an unprecedented increase in the use of “Skunk” water in the weeks following the murder of Abu Khdeir, which is rarely used in East Jerusalem, but commonplace in the West Bank.

Ronit Sela, East Jerusalem project director for ACRI, told Ma’an that Skunk water was used on the second floor of commercial and residential buildings in densely populated areas like Saladin and Zahra Street during times when there were no riots, leaving behind a foul-smelling stench for days.

The group also documented the use of sponge-coated bullets in Shufat, with one resident losing an eye after being hit during protests and three journalists shot in the head and face despite being clearly marked as press.

Perhaps the starkest incident involving masked police officers was the beating of US-Palestinian teenager Tariq Abu Khdeir, whose assault was captured on camera on July 5.

“The result is intimidation. It is intimidating to have police in your house anyway but more intimidating when it is done by masked people. Using masked police against civilians is a common practice in regimes that choose to intimidate their societies,” Sela said.

Gavan Kelly, Addameer’s international advocacy coordinator, says that along with the use of masked officers, a notable difference in the recent arrest campaign is the lack of official arrest warrants.

“We expect it to continue, it still ongoing. How long it will continue for will depend, there is a lag in between the waves of arrests. They draw up lists and interrogate them, it is a continuous process.”

Kelly says that the mass arrests are a way of punishing the escalation in demonstrations and protests following the murder of Abu Khdeir, and also in relation to events in the occupied West Bank and the Israeli military offensive in Gaza.

Mass arrests are intended to have a “psychological impact not only on the individual, but also on the society as a whole,” Kelly says.

“Israel thinks that they will be able to suppress resistance, but it has the opposite effect. It will encourage Palestinians to continue protesting.”

(Source / 27.08.2014)