Gaza: Egypt Poisons the Water, Israel Does the Massacres

gazadonkey

It seems as though almost the whole world is determined to turn its back on the Palestinians and behave as though the piecemeal, slow-motion destruction of Palestine is not just inevitable, but in fact of no importance. This is particularly obvious in Gaza. In complete violation of the U.N. Charter, the world’s great powers look on complacently while both Egypt and Israel enforce the illegal blockade against Gaza’s people. Under President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, Egypt has used its very real fight against terrorism to justify its role in the blockade. But Egypt is now going far beyond merely sealing its frontier with Gaza by engaging in terrorism of its own – environmental terrorism – to attack the civilian population of Gaza by destroying the aquifer that provides much of Gaza with fresh water for drinking and irrigation.

After Israel’s military campaigns against the civilian population of Gaza it seemed impossible to imagine anything worse than that genocidal armed aggression. But President Al-Sisi’s government has taken up attacking Gaza’s water supply where even the Israeli government has refrained from acting. Egypt is implementing a plan to flood with contaminated seawater the few remaining tunnels that have been Gaza’s economic lifeline for a decade or more. By systematically flooding the frontier area in question, the Egyptian government will poison Gaza’s water supply by irreversibly salinating it. That same aquifer network provides water to Egypt’s own territory and population in the affected area, many of whom have been displaced to make way for the Egyptian government’s plan to flood Gaza’s tunnels.

This plan to destroy Gaza’s tunnels is far from new. Nizar al Wahidi, Director for Extension Projects of Palestine’s Ministry of Agriculture, told our contact, New Zealand writer Huda Julie Webb Pullman, currently in Gaza, that the plan had been proposed seven years ago under President Mubarak who was himself reviving an old Israeli plan to flood Gaza’s tunnels. Back then Palestinian officials suggested that if Egypt wanted to flood the tunnels they should at least do so with fresh water. President Mubarak’s government decided the plan was too expensive and abandoned it. Now President el-Sisi’s government is proceeding with plans to pump a million gallons of seawater a month into its frontier area with southern Gaza for a whole year. The sea water will be pumped from a marine area already contaminated with sewage, creating a grave potential public health risk on both sides of the frontier.

According to Nizar al Wahidi, no Environmental Impact Assessment has been done taking into account the geophysics, hydrology and soil structure. The aquifer is Gaza’s main fresh water resource. Egypt’s plan will render many thousands of hectares of agricultural land permanently unproductive, because the rate of salination will make it impossible to recover the land for agricultural use. Al Wahidi says that for Gaza the plan means the loss of 3,000 water wells in the first year after pumping begins. The water supply to Rafah city located on the frontier will be affected immediately. Right now, the Egyptian authorities have dug the moat that will channel the contaminated seawater to and along the frontier area and also laid the pipes that will inject the water into the tunnels, thus poisoning the aquifer. The last phase of the engineering work to begin implementing the plan is to complete the pumping installation and its intake pipeline from the sea.

The Palestinian authorities have already discovered sinkholes appearing as a result of test flooding by the Egyptian engineers. Mazen Samir al Banna of the Palestinian Water Authority told Webb Pullman he fears full scale pumping may begin within a couple of weeks. Just as the economic blockade of Gaza is illegal so are Egypt’s plans to deny fresh water to people in Gaza. Egypt is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversitywhich came into force on Dec. 29, 1993. That Convention itself is supplemented by other conventions that give more precision to the applicable principles in various relevant areas. In the case of international water management, the U.N. Watercourses Convention is the relevant U.N. instrument. Egypt has not signed that Convention, but the United Nations General Assembly adopted it as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses on May 21, 1997 and the Convention came into force in Aug. 2014. Earlier, in 2008, the U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution 63/124 on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers.

Even without being party to the U.N. Watercourses Convention, Egypt is obliged to follow basic norms of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Article 3 of the Convention states that parties have “the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction”. Article 5 of the Convention states that parties will “cooperate with other Contracting Parties, directly or, where appropriate, through competent international organizations, in respect of areas beyond national jurisdiction and on other matters of mutual interest, for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.” Article 14 of the Convention binds parties to minimize damage to neighboring States.

Egypt’s obligations under Articles 3 and 14 of the Convention on Biological Diversity are spelled out more precisely in the UN Watercourses Convention and the Law of Transboundary Aquifers, particularly the obligation not to cause transboundary impact. Article 27 of the Convention on Biological Diversity provides the procedure to be followed to resolve disputes. In this case Egypt is flagrantly violating its obligation to seek a negotiated settlement to Palestinian objections to its plan to destroy Gaza’s sources of fresh water. Egypt’s government has made clear it has every intention of maximizing the damage to Gaza’s aquifer in categorical violation of its obligation to avoid adverse impact on Palestine, which while still not quite a full State thanks to support for the colonialist arguments of the Israeli government from the United States and its allies, is an independent territory beyond Egypt’s own jurisdiction.

In an email interview this week, we were able to ask Mazen al Banna of Palestine’s Water Authority his view of the Egyptian plan to flood Gaza’s tunnels.

Tortilla con Sal: Is Egypt making any arguments to justify this environmental terrorism?

Mazen al Banna: I do not know the Egyptian argument for this project, but I know that this project will double the siege of Gaza and kill the both the humans and the environment in the southern area of Gaza and it will have indirect consequences on all sectors in Gaza Strip, the existing water crisis, the agricultural, the food security, the economy, the social and at the end the national security of Palestinians .

TcS: Surely such action is completely illegal? What are the relevant international laws? If Egypt’s action affects its own population, presumably they are violating their own laws too, is that true?

Mazen al Banna: In 2009, the U.N. Assembly issued a Resolution I think 63/124. If I am correct the Resolution talks about the law of transboundary groundwater aquifers, it talks about the principles and rules that should govern the relation between the countries that share the same aquifer, one of these is the obligation not to make a major harm even if the activities are done inside the sovereignty of any of these countries .

TcS: Do you think this action is being carried out in coordination with the Israeli authorities? What other political considerations would influence Egypt to take such extreme illegal action?

Mazen al Banna: In history, this project was going to be implemented by the Israeli Occupation in 2003, in the corridor of Philadelphia south of Gaza strip to prevent weapons smuggling as the occupation declared at that time. Then in 2009-2010, Mubarak, the preceding Egyptian President, started to construct the metallic wall and so on, but the Arab Spring caused him not to complete that project. Now the present Egyptian President el-Sisi is doing that, this project is done to double the siege on Gaza’s people.

TcS: If the remaining tunnels are flooded how soon would the population in Gaza begin to suffer the consequences? What would be the immediate effects? What would be the medium and long term effects on Gaza?

Mazen al Banna: The immediate consequences are the collapse of nearby buildings, roads, water and waste water infrastructure, waste water treatment plant in Rafah City in the vicinity of the borders, six municipal wells exist near the borders, they will be affected very soon, agricultural wells near the borders will be affected, so the agricultural sector will be affected and economic and social impacts will result. The medium and long term consequences will be the destruction of agricultural soil, the groundwater aquifer; the drinking water sector (the groundwater desalination plants in the area will not be able to produce desalinated drinking water, so the Palestinian citizen will be thirsty); the agricultural sector and the economical sector – no jobs, poverty increase, high levels of prices regarding agricultural products, we may need to import such products from outside; the social impacts, immigration to outside or to north of Gaza. This will result in putting pressures on the existing natural resources and other resources like lands, high levels of living, on water resources in north of Gaza etc.

The Palestinian authorities are calling on international governments and non-governmental human rights and environmental organizations as well as regional Arab and Islamic organizations to urge the Egyptian government and the Egyptian army to cancel this catastrophic project which will destroy the environment in both Gaza and Egypt as well as devastate both Palestinian and Egyptian lives. As usual, the governments of North America and Europe and their enormous media and human rights apparatus do little more than observe complacently while a foreign government, in this case Egypt, proceeds with the destruction of the Palestinian people’s land and lives.

For more information contact:

Nizar Al Wahidi – Telephone: +970 59 8936 625 / E-mail : nizar_alwahidi@yahoo.com

Mazen Al Banna – Telephone: +970 59 8858 662 / E-mail : bannamazennew@hotmail.com

(Source / 21.10.2015)

Mass march in Tunisia stands with Palestinian people

tunis4The Popular Front of Tunisia called a mass demonstration on Avenue Habib Bourgiba in Tunis in support of the Palestinian people’s uprising and denouncing the brutal Zionist aggression against the Palestinian people. The demonstration included the participation of crowds of Tunisians, including lawyers, journalists, popular organizations and political figures.

The march raised slogans expressing outrage toward the positions of Arab governments on Palestine, carrying Palestinian and Tunisian flags, PFLP banners, and posters of the martyrs and prisoners, including imprisoned PFLP General Secretary Comrade Ahmad Sa’adat and imprisoned Lebanese struggler in French prisons, Comrade Georges Abdallah.

The protest also comes in conjunction with other movements in Tunisia at this time, in particular the popular demand to abolish the so-called Reconciliation Act, which paves the way for the return of corrupt business figures to economic and political power.

The event also included a tent in solidarity with Georges Abdallah, in which young Tunisians sent solidarity messages to the imprisoned comrade and denounced the French state’s ongoing imprisonment of a liberation struggler.

IOA imposes tax on Palestinian closed home in O. J’lem

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) imposed Tuesday evening Arnona tax (property tax) on a Jerusalemite family despite the fact that their home was closed by an Israeli order a year ago.

Local sources told the PIC reporter that Israeli police forces stormed the home of the Jerusalemite martyr Uday Abu Jamal and imposed Arnona tax on his family.

Israeli authorities have closed the family home by force last November after Uday Abu Jamal, 22, carried out, along with Ghassen Abu Jamal, 27, an attack on Israeli soldiers.

The two young men were gunned down by Israeli security forces during the attack that killed five soldiers.

(Source / 21.10.2015)

Israeli troops executed two boys in West Bank

These two executions brings the number of Palestinians executed on Tuesday to five

Israeli occupation forces executed on Tuesday night two Palestinian boys in Al-Khalil’s Old City, southern occupied West Bank.

The Israeli occupation forces sighted the two boys when they returned home and opened fire at them, claiming they were in the area to stab settlers

Days of Palestine, West Bank –Israeli occupation forces executed on Tuesday night two Palestinian boys in Al-Khalil’s Old City, southern occupied West Bank.

Palestinian sources identified the two boys as Bashar Nidal al-Jabari, 15, and his cousin Hussam Jamil al-Jabari, 17.

The boys were executed at a military Israeli checkpoint near Al-Rajabi Building in the H2 area in the center of the city, known for Israelis as Kiryat Arba Settlement.

Witnesses said dozens of settlers from Kiryat Arba marched in the area, making noise and causing instability.

Israeli occupation forces demanded that Palestinians remain at homes in order not to mix with the settlers, fearing clashes between the Palestinians and settlers.

According to relatives, the two Palestinian boys went to buy bread for their family before the march of the settlement, the Israeli occupation forces sighted them when they returned home and opened fire at them, claiming they were in the area to stab settlers.

This execution brought Tuesday’s death toll to five Palestinians; four in occupied West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip.

Spokesperson of the Israeli occupation forces commented on the execution: “Two suspects approached a military post in Hebron [Al-Khalil]; one of the assailants stabbed a soldier, with forces shooting both suspects.”

(Source / 21.10.2015)

IDF Kills Hebron Peace Activist, Hashem Azzeh

Hashem Azzeh was the Israeli government’s worst nightmare.

First, he was Palestinian. Second, he was educated, a medical doctor. Third, he was a leader in his community. Which brings us to his next offense, he was a peace activist. Finally, and perhaps most aggravating for the Israeli state, he adamantly refused to be forced from his home in Hebron’s Old City – though the IDF and Israeli settlers, who lived in houses perched right above his, never tired of using intimidation and violence to try and push Hashem and his young family from their home.

IDF soldiers are a constant presence in the Old City, providing cover for the approximately 500 Israeli settlers who lord over and terrorize the tens of thousands of Palestinians who live in this part of Hebron.

Today, October 21, those soldiers killed Hashem Azzeh.

Hashem Azzeh with his young daughter (date unknown)

Hashem Azzeh with his young daughter

Hashem was not someone who could be cowed or silenced by fear. Even after being sentenced by the IDF to house arrest for several years, a punishment that caused him to lose his medical job with the UN, Hashem did not stop advocating for the liberation of his people.

He managed a psychological support group for members of his community, encouraging them to speak about the trauma that was a part of their daily lives. Together with his wife, Nisreen, he created a social enterprise for Hebron’s young Palestinian women, helping them to learn skills and earn money to support themselves and their families.

Hashem Azzeh and his wife, Nisreen (date unknown)

Hashem Azzeh and his wife, Nisreen

When members of his community were in need of help, Hashem was there to support them. In July, we published an article about one of the people touched by Hashem’s caring character: eighty-year-old Zahirah Eweidah Dandees. Known as “Um Mohammad,” she is among the countless Palestinians in Hebron “who have been victims of the settler-state repression machine.”

Recently, Um Mohammed was forced from her home by settlers, and refused re-entry by the IDF, who barred the front door of her house. Homeless and without any close family in the city, Um Mohammed found a friend in Hashem, who arranged for her to stay in a house across the street from her own, ensuring the elderly woman had a roof over her head. Hashem also helped Um Mohammed secure legal representation to undertake the lengthy court battle to try and get her house back.

hasmeh-azzeh

Hashem Azzeh and Um Mohammad, Hebron’s Old City, 2015

In many ways, Hashem was Hebron’s unofficial spokesperson. Only this past Saturday, October 17, he was quoted in a piece for the Middle East Eye, describing the impunity with which settlers in the Old City have been killing young Palestinians: “The settlers feel confident that they have a free pass to kill Palestinians here,” he said. “We have asked the soldiers to help stop the settlers but they said it’s not their role and that we should leave the city.”

(Hashem Azzeh describing the violence he and his family experienced at the hands of Israeli settlers and the IDF)

Hashem would regularly give tours of the Old City to internationals, educating them about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, generally, and his city, more specifically. He was bold and would not shy away from standing a few feet from an armed IDF soldier and recounting, for tour participants, the Israeli government’s litany of violations and crimes against the Palestinians.

One of Hashem’s many friends (he was a man who made friends so easily) had this to say about his passing:

The heart is heavy tonight upon the news of Hashem Azzeh passing away little over 2 hours ago through tear gas inhalation fired upon him by the Israeli army.
He was a man who showed the world the courage and resistance of Palestine.
He stood for what he believed and that belief inspired a generation.
He rejected millions from the Israeli government to sell his land, his land was his pride and his pride was Palestine.
I remember him talking to us in his home in Hebron where his wife made us the most amazing food. He told us of his struggle, his battle to simply survive each day. Israeli settlers poisoned his trees, cut off the water supply, fired upon his home, they broke into his house and beat him and his wife, Nisreen, causing her to miscarry her baby on two separate occasions, I could go on.
But today his pain is gone forever but he left a legacy that will forever survive.
My heart bleeds for his family, I pray Allah protects them from the evil they have endured.
May you finally find your peace Hashem and may Allah grant you the highest of heavens.
Palestine will be free.

Another friend, Milla Katerina Tuominen said this:

It was just couple of months ago when I visited Hashem and his family at Tel Rumeida settlement in Hebron (al-Khalil). Today I heard that this old Palestinian man had been killed by tear gas from the Israeli army. He was a medical doctor who had founded a voluntary clinic in his neighborhood. He was famous for inviting everyone to his house regardless their religious or ethnic background and served as a perfect example of non-violent resistance despite having faced a lot of violence and hardship himself. Unfortunately his killers will never face any consequences for their actions. I want to convey my sincere condolences to his wife and four children.

Yet another friend, who asked to be identified as “Yasmin,” said this about Hashem:

This is my friend Hashem Azzeh. A husband, a father and an inspiration to all. He was killed today by the Israeli Occupation Forces in Occupied Hebron. I feel so incredibly honoured to have known someone so courageous and so determined to free the people of Palestine and resist the oppressor. I cannot even begin to put into words how special he was; there’s no doubt about it, he truly touched the heart of every individual he ever met. He’s daily life was spent informing people about the struggle to live in an apartheid city where being Arab means you are constantly subject to violence and abuse by illegal armed settlers. Today is truly a loss for Palestine, but In the words of Hashem “we will win, we will be free” ‫#‏الله‬يرحمه‪#‎freepalestine‬

In killing Hashem Azzeh, the Israeli government has undoubtedly removed a thorn from its side. But Hashem’s work does not end with his life. There are tens of thousands of people in Palestine who will carry it forward. His legacy will remain vibrant and alive, through them, no matter how hard the Israeli government may try and eliminate the Hashem’s of the world.

hashem-azzeh

Hashem Azzeh

(Source / 21.10.2015)

Israeli rabbis: killing Palestinians ‘religious duty’

Even Israeli politicians believe only in killing Palestinians, not solving the issues with them peacefully

Israeli Jewish Rabbis have declared the killing of Palestinian resistance fighters

“It is prohibited to keep the Palestinian alive after the operation, because if he is left alive, there is a fear that he would be released and then he would kill others,” Eliyahu wrote on Facebook

MEMO –Israeli Jewish Rabbis have declared the killing of Palestinian resistance fighters “a religious duty”, Israeli media reported on Sunday.

Israeli news website Walla reported that right-wing rabbis replied to questions including: “Am I allowed to kick the insurgent, hit him or shoot him in order to kill him after he has been arrested or is this prohibited?”

Rabbi Rav Benzion Mutzafi replied: “It is not only desirable to do so, but it is a religious duty that you hold his head down to the ground and hit him until his last breath.”

Mutzafi expressed anger towards Rabbi David Staph’s response. Staph said it is prohibited for people to attack a Palestinian perpetrator of an operation after he has been injured or when he is posing no danger.

Mutzafi responded: “Do not listen to Staph because those who have mercy on the cruel will end up being cruel toward the righteous.”

Chief Rabbi of the city of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu called for all Israeli police officers and soldiers who allow Palestinian resistance fighters to live after their arrest.

“It is prohibited to keep the vandal alive after the operation, because if he is left alive, there is a fear that he would be released and then he would kill others,” Eliyahu wrote on Facebook.

(Source / 21.10.2015)

54-year-old Palestinian dies from tear gas inhalation in Hebron

Hebron

HEBRON (Ma’an) — A 54-year-old Palestinian died on Wednesday from excessive tear gas inhalation during clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in Hebron, medical sources said.A doctor in Hebron’s government hospital told Ma’an that the Palestinian, identified as Hashem al-Azzeh, had a previous history of cardiac disease.Locals told Ma’an that he was a resident of the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron, and was at Bab al-Zawiya in central Hebron when he suffered excessive tear gas inhalation.He was rushed to hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead.Fierce clashes erupted across Hebron on Wednesday after two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead late on Tuesday after allegedly attempting a stabbing attack at a military checkpoint.Several Palestinians were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets during the clashes at Bab al-Zawiya as well as on Tareq Bin Ziyad Street in Hebron, while several others suffered excessive tear gas inhalation.Meanwhile, in the Dawwara area of Sair in northern Hebron, another Palestinian was reportedly shot and wounded with a live round in the chest during clashes there.

(Source / 21.10.2015)

ROJAVA UPDATE 152: CONFUSION OVER LEGAL DECLARATION OF TEL ABYAD AUTONOMY AND QUAMISHLI AIRPORT CLOSED FOR “MILITARY OPERATIONS”

By Peter Clifford              ©           (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)
http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA NEWS  IRAQ NEWS

Amid confusion in the media, Tel Abyad, the northern Syrian town on the Turkish border captured from the Islamic State by the Kurdish YPG in June, has today declared itself a democratic self-regulating administration under Kobane Canton.

SYRIA NEWS

Tal Abyad Declares Itself An Independent Administration Under Kobane Canton

Earlier reports said that the Kurds had declared a “fourth Canton in Rojava”, but this is not the case.

Geographically, Tal Abyad lies midway between Kobane and Cizire Cantons and is run by a Council made up of local Kurdish, Arab and Christian community members and tribal leaders.

Further to the north-east it is reported that Qamishli airport in Hasakah province has been closed to civilian traffic “while planes are repaired”.

However, civilian flights have been relatively rare since Russian military flights began in Syria.

Most people think it has been closed for Assad regime or Russian military air force operations.

For civilians it has made life difficult as it prevents people in the north-east from visiting the western provinces of Damascus, Hama and Homs when travelling overland is already far too dangerous.

Most of the current military flights seem to be moving military equipment and/or the injured.

The Daily Beast reports on the willingness of Kurdish and Arab fighters to join together to attack the Islamic State in their Syrian HQ, Raqqah, but lacking the money, weapons and resources.

While The National reports on the women of the Kurdish YPJ.

SYRIA NEWS

Situation Map for North-East Syria

ASSAD VISITS MOSCOW IN 1st TRIP OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY SINCE 2011 BUT CONTINUES TO MAKE LITTLE PROGRESS ON THE GROUND IN SYRIA:

In his first trip outside Syria since the war began in 2011, President Assad yesterday, Tuesday, visited Moscow for talks with President Putin, the visit only being announced today, Wednesday, after his return.

SYRIA NEWS

Putin and Assad Met in Moscow on Tuesday

According to the video of the meeting released after the event, Assad burbled about Russia’s involvement having stopped “terrorism becoming more widespread and harmful” and Putin in turn burbled on about the hope of a “long term resolution … on the basis of a political process with the participation of all political forces, ethnic and religious groups”.

President Putin also thanked Assad for coming despite the “dramatic situation” back home. The BBC has more detail with video reports.

And the New York Times has additional reporting too.

Back home in Syria things do remain dramatic with Assad’s forces and their allies, backed by Russian airstrikes making minimal advances or none at all on 5 fronts.

South of Aleppo, the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) Sultan Murad Brigade has had no less than 10 “kills” of Assad armour and hardware in 2 days with US-made TOW anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM).

Clearly these are becoming the most successful weapons of the war. For the uninitiated they work on identifying targets emitting any infra-red light, usually any heat source such as a tank engine or other vehicle or a field gun of some sort, recently used.

Once they have found that source the operator can lock the missile on and it is wire-guided to its destination, usually with devastating results.

On Monday alone, the Opposition fighters are reported to have destroyed 6 Government tanks, 2 BMP armoured vehicles 1 Shilka tank, 1 x 57mm cannon and several technicals (armed pick-ups).

The Opposition hit a caterpillar earth mover on the Al-Waddihi front, HERE:  and a BMP armoured vehicle near Khan Tuman, HERE:

(EDITOR: On what I call the “chicken front” on the Aleppo frontline) The Opposition also destroyed a tank, HERE:and a armed technical, HERE:

(EDITOR: As you will see from these 2 videos all the chickens in the area are now traumatised and paranoid and either won’t lay any eggs for at least a year or are automatically laying large quantities of scrambled egg! :) )

The BBC has a report on the fighting south of Aleppo. Situation map courtesy of @SyriaDirect, here:

SYRIA NEWS

Situation Map for Aleppo Showing Assad’s Objectives

In Latakia, the FSA Coastal Brigade blew up an Assad 23mm gun on Mount Durin using a Fagot ATGM, HERE:  but also lost their commanding officer, Captain Basell Zimou, in a Russian airstrike. Captain Zimou defected from the Assad military in 2011.

Russian airstrikes are reported to have killed 107 people across Syria on Monday, 57 of them in the Latakia village of Biz al-Khirbeh in the Jabal Akrad mountain range. 23 died in Aleppo province and 12 in Homs province.

There are also unconfirmed reports that an Opposition mortar shell struck a Russian stronghold in the Nabi Younis district of Latakia city on Monday around midnight, killing 3 Russian military personnel and wounding as many as 15. Russia has “denied” the claim.

Iranian/Hezbollah sources are also reporting the death of Nader Hamid, an Iranian who led Iran’s Basij volunteer militia force (the equivalent of Syria’s National Defence Force) many of whom are now thought to be fighting in Syria. Hamid apparently died of injuries sustained in fighting the Syrian Opposition in Quneitra province some days ago.

On the Hama front Opposition fighters regained some ground around the grain silos at Manoura on the Ghab Plain and destroyed another bulldozer with an ATGM, HERE:

SYRIA NEWS

Iran Testing Explosive Attack Drones in Syria

There are also reports of Iranian armed drones being used in Idlib province against the Opposition Ahrar al-Sham base in the town of Ma’ar Shimmareen near Ma’arat Al Numan.

Iran has been testing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) packed with explosives for some time.

They identify their targets from the air and then deliberately fly into them, exploding on impact.

Like Russia with its untested Kalibr cruise missiles, Syria has now become trial ground for all sorts of new weapons.

5 of these small aircraft apparently targeted the Ahrar Al-Sham base, killing a civilian who was close to the area.

Abu Hamid, an Ahrar Al-Sham commander, said, “It is difficult to see [these] planes because [of] their low noise and small size, which makes the chances of shooting them [down] very slim.”

He said their destructive capacity was like an 82mm mortar round but with “higher fragmentation”. You can read more, HERE:

On the Homs front, Opposition fighters took out another Assad ATGM, HERE:  and are reported today, Wednesday, to have destroyed 4 tanks, 3 BMP armoured vehicles, 2 Shilka tanks, captured 3 more BMP armoured vehicles and killed 100 of Assad’s troops and allies. Clearly Assad is not having it all his own way.

In Damascus, the Opposition Rahman Corp have been testing a new DIY howitzer on the battlefield near Deir Salman in Eastern Ghouta, HERE: and Opposition fighters also managed to shoot down a Government reconnaissance aircraft over the heavily bombed Jobar district.

On the refugee front, 17,000 people are reported to have left the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan last week and returned to southern Syria.

SYRIA NEWS

A Vigil in Beirut for Father Paulo

While a defected Islamic State Jihadist is claiming that he saw the Catholic Priest Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who was kidnapped in 2013, alive in an IS prison in Tabaqa in September 2015.

In August other sources said he had been executed. You can read more, HERE:

According to information received about IS, they are now recruiting any male between the age of 14 and 40 to replenish the loss of fighters from Coalition and (a few) Russian airstrikes, plus battles with the Kurds, and are preventing any male under 40 from leaving Raqqah province.

While in Iraq in Anbar province near Hit, acting in their usual “humane” way, IS are also reported to have executed 6 women, some of them over 60, for “allowing” their sons to join the Iraqi Army.

Locals report that IS additionally killed 4 Arab tribal leaders and a number of children last week for the same “recruitment” reasons. You can read more, HERE:

On the international front , Canada’s Prime Minister elect, Justine Trudeau, says he will withdraw the 6 Canadian CF-18 fighter jets operating with the Coalition in Syria and Iraq, but will “continue to engage in a responsible way”. 70 Canadian troops training Kurdish units in Erbil in Iraq Kurdistan will stay in post.

At the same time, the US yesterday, Tuesday, deployed a dozen A-10 ground-attack planes, known as Warthogs”, to its base in Incirlik in southern Turkey to deploy in operations in Syria.

A-10s typically fly lower and more slowly than other aircraft but are designed to withstand hits from armour-piercing shells and could be used effectively in supporting Opposition ground troops in Syria.

The US and Russia also agreed terms and rules to avoid accidental collisions of aircraft over Syria yesterday, Tuesday, including specific communication frequencies and communication channels on the ground.

The Russians however were still angry apparently that the US will share no other intelligence or agree other areas of cooperation. The US continues to see Russia’s intervention on the side of Assad as “unhelpful” and counter productive.

SYRIA NEWS

US A-10 “Warthog” Ground Attack Plane

 

Lebanon’s landscape of refugee despair

For Syrian refugees in Lebanon, it’s been difficult to put much distance between themselves and their homeland – physically or psychologically

The view from the mental health room at the new Doctors Without Borders (MSF) clinic in the Lebanese town of Majdal Anjar showcases a scene typical of today’s Bekaa Valley. In the distance, a tented settlement housing refugees from Syria is featured against a mountainous backdrop, beyond which lies the Syrian city of Zabadani. This summer, battle sounds from the city reverberated across Majdal Anjar.

As we sit by the window, Tarek Baydoun – one of MSF’s volunteer mental health counselors – mentions an occasional fear that a stray missile will come flying over the mountain. (It wouldn’t be the first case of a direct hit on an MSF healthcare centre, that achievement having already been accomplished by the recent US airstrikes on the organisation’s hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.)

Indeed, for the estimated two million Syrian refugees currently residing in Lebanon, it’s been difficult to put much distance between themselves and the homeland – either physically or psychologically.

According to Baydoun, who often sees four or more patients per day, the most common psychological afflictions facing Syrian refugees involve depression and severe anxiety. In children, enuresis – or bedwetting – is a frequent manifestation of mental strife. The causes of mental troubles, Baydoun says, have to do not only with stressful and traumatic experiences accumulated in war-torn Syria but also with difficulties adjusting to the new reality in Lebanon, where refugees have been given a less-than-warm reception.

The close quarters into which many refugees are forced – with multiple families often inhabiting a single room or tent – are themselves incubators for stress. Add to that the abundance of cases in which refugees are unaware of the fate of a close family member. After the son of one of Baydoun’s female patients disappeared in Syria, she spent two years in denial of his probable death. During her counselling sessions with Baydoun, the woman came to accept that, in order to facilitate her own eventual psychological recovery, she needed to view her son as definitively dead and thus allow the grieving process to take its course.

MSF’s mental health activity manager Rima Makki, who accompanied me to the Bekaa, added that this lack of information – the very fact of not knowing exactly what to cope with psychologically – can be “traumatic in itself”.

This is not to imply, obviously, that refugees don’t also have more straightforward issues with which they must cope. Case in point: two sisters-in-law I met at one of Majdal Anjar’s 25 tented settlements, where I was taken by Makki and another MSF worker who enjoyed a high level of camaraderie with the residents. The sisters-in-law fled to Lebanon from the Syrian city of Homs three years ago after being wounded by fragmentation bombs. The younger one shyly pulled up the sleeve of her shirt to reveal a patch of mangled skin.

The other woman, who had been pregnant at the time of the attack, held in her lap the product of the pregnancy: a giggly three-year-old daughter, clad in a worn out sweater with pictures of bears and the English words “winter clothes to hibernate”. Following the fragmentation bomb incident and the escape to Lebanon, the woman said, she’d found it nearly impossible to sleep and panicked at mundane sounds such as those made by cars – an inconvenient arrangement, to say the least, given the tented settlement’s location on the side of a road.

‘We cannot see anything’

As Makki explained to me, part of MSF’s approach to mental health in the Bekaa is to collaborate with primary healthcare providers to reduce the frequency with which psychosomatic problems are incorrectly assumed to have purely organic rather than mental causes. Problems might include heart palpitations and shortness of breath, as well as bedwetting.

There are other factors, too, that impede the proper diagnosis and treatment of psychological issues, in Lebanon and beyond. These range from a lack of awareness of treatment options to the stigmatisation of psychological suffering, via which sufferers are made to believe that such perceived weakness is not societally acceptable. To that effect, MSF conducts awareness sessions both at its primary healthcare clinics in the Bekaa Valley and within the community itself, including in the tented settlements. In the Bekaa alone, MSF currently has four mental health programs in various stages of development.

It goes without saying, meanwhile, that the world in general could use an awareness session on the psychological side of the refugee crisis. The dearth of discussion about this subject might well have something to do with the fact that so many sectors of the global populace are loath to regard refugees as human beings in the first place.

When I asked one group of refugees in Majdal Anjar how they envisioned the future, a few of them put their hands over their eyes and said: “We cannot see anything.”

An older man at another tented settlement down the road noted the number of young people in the camp who, he said, were departing for Europe on “boats of death”. The risks of such passage were unimportant, according to his analysis, because the refugees saw themselves as practically dead already.

The refugees I talked with had nothing but praise for MSF’s operations – words of appreciation that did not extend to some of the other NGOs in the area, which, they said, often appeared to operate on a policy of feigned helpfulness.

So while there may be no cure in sight for the mass-scale despair that inevitably attends refugee crises, at least there are some palliatives.

(Source / 21.10.2015)

Former Israeli PM to be tried over Mavi Marmara in US

The Mavi Marmara ship sails in the Bosphorus of Istanbul during a commemoration of the incident

US citizen Furkan Dogan’s family sues former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in California Federal Court on grounds that he is responsible for civilian casualties including Dogan in Mavi Marmara ship

Turkish media reported that US citizen Furkan Dogan’s family is suing former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Federal Court for the Central District of California on the grounds that he is responsible for civilian casualties, including the death of Dogan by ordering a maritime raid into the Mavi Marmara ship.

Nine Turkish citizens including Dogan who was a dual citizen of the US was killed, when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara in a bungled raid, and a 10 activist later died from heavy wounds.

The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla took place on international waters in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Mavi Marmara was a Comoros-flagged passenger ship, owned by a Turkish NGO – the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) – and was one of six civilian ships in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, targeted by an Israeli military operation on May 31, 2010.

Ehud Barak was the defense minister of Israel at the time of the attack and will be the first Israeli top official to stand on trial in a US courtroom, where he could be accused of international terrorism, according to Turkish media accounts.

Barak canceled his trip to France on June 13 2010, following threats of charges against him and other Israeli officials under the principle of universal jurisdiction by Pro-Palestinian activists including the wives of Cevdet Kiliclar and Necdet Yildirim, who were killed by Israeli commandos during the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara.

The case of Dogan’s family vs. Barak will feature well-known attorneys under the coordination of Stoke & White Law Offices led by Professor Geoffrey Nice QC (Queen’s Counsel) – who was a deputy prosecutor in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) during the trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević.

In addition, Rodney Dixon QC, who defended former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, following the military coup in the country, along with famed US lawyers Haydee Dijkstal and Dan Stormer, who will also be part of the legal team for the Dogan’s family.

In a relative development, the recent application of IHH lawyers to the International Criminal Court (ICC) appealing against the previous decision by court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda not to pursue the case, was accepted by ICC on May 7.

Therefore, the Pre-Chamber of the ICC will hear testimonies from relatives and attorneys of those who were injured and killed, and this could also significantly pave the way for the prosecution of Israeli actions during the raid.

In May 2012, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Turkey filed charges against leading members of the Israeli army including Israeli army Chief of Staff Gabiel Ashkenazi, Navy commander Eli Marom, Air Force Intelligence Chief Avishai Levy, and Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin, who were implicated in planning and implementing the attack.

The Chief Prosecutor has charged each of them with first-degree murder, assault and torture. The indictment called for ten life sentences to be imposed on each suspect.

The four “fugitive suspects” were indicted by the Istanbul’s 7th Heavy Penal Court, after its panel of judges voted unanimously to do so on May 28 2012. They were accused of inciting murder and injury in the 144-page indictment.

The court issued an arrest warrant in absentia and a red notice for the suspects in May 2014.

There have also been two international probes into the incident. The first inquiry was the UN Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission (UNHRC) report, which found that Israeli actions were “disproportionate” and “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality” and displayed “willful killing.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also undertook another investigation called the Palmer Report which concluded the Israeli actions on the Mavi Marmara were “excessive and unreasonable.”

The Gaza flotilla was set up by an international coalition called the Free Gaza Movement, which included the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and the IHH. Its aim was announced to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, which was strengthened in 2007 when Hamas took over Gaza.

During the Israeli offensive on Gaza at least 2,160 Palestinians were killed – mostly civilians, including dozens of children – and some 11,000 were injured, according to data from United Nations and Palestinian officials.

The UN said that 67 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians were also killed in the offensive.

(Source / 21.10.2015)