Obama orders US special forces to ‘assist’ militants in Syria

Two US Special Operations Forces soldiers in Afghanistan in 2013

Two US Special Operations Forces soldiers in Afghanistan in 2013

The United States is sending Special Operations Forces  troops to Syria to “assist” militants fighting against the government and the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group, in an apparent breach of President Barack Obama’s promise not to put US “boots on the ground” there. 

Senior US administration officials said on Friday that there will be some 50 troops deployed in the Middle East region to “train, advise and assist” so-called vetted militants, the BBC reported.

A top official told the British broadcaster that this does not indicate a change in US strategy but an “intensification” of the military campaign.

The US Department of Defense has also been “consulting” with the Iraqi government to establish a Special Operations taskforce, with a number of US troops aiming “to further enhance [US] ability to target ISIL leaders and networks” across the Syria border in Iraq, a senior administration official told the Guardian on Friday.

The White House on Friday claimed that Obama was not backtracking on a promise not to put boots on the ground in Syria.

“Our strategy in Syria hasn’t changed,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “These forces do not have a combat mission.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry said that US officials have been discussing deploying Special Forces troops in Syria “for months.”

“The president has been determined that we are going to increase our efforts against Daesh,” Kerry said on Friday in Vienna, where he held talks with his Russian and Iranian counterparts on the Syrian crisis.

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference on October 30, 2015 in Vienna, Austria

The top US diplomat insisted that the timing of the news was just a “coincidence.”

Senior national security advisers to Obama have recommended measures that would put a number of Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria and expand military involvement in Iraq), The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The debate over the proposed options reflects growing White House frustration with the failing campaign against Daesh (ISIL).

The new changes, which would position American “advisers” closer to combat in Iraq, also come as Defense Secretary Ashton Carter presses the military leaders to deliver new measures for greater military involvement in long-running conflicts overseas.

The recommendations have been put forward at the request of Obama and his national security team who are concerned that the battle in Iraq and Syria has reached a deadlock and is in need of new ideas.

The new measures were generated by field commanders and thoroughly examined by Obama’s senior advisers, including Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry, in a series of meetings over the past few weeks, according to thePost.

The president’s top advisers have reportedly not endorsed costly and ambitious options such as imposing no-fly zones or buffer zones that would require tens of thousands of ground troops to be effectively implemented.

The newly proposed Special Operations forces in Syria would reportedly work in tandem with US-backed militants and Kurdish fighters, supported by American air power, to mount an offensive on northeastern city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of Daesh.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The crisis has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people so far and displaced millions of others.

(Source / 30.10.2015)

68 Palestinians, Including 13 Children And A Pregnant Woman, Killed This Month; 921 Wounded

The Health Minister has reported that 68 Palestinians have been killed, and 921 Palestinians have been shot and injured with live Israeli army rounds, since the beginning of this month, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, while 855 were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, and 208 suffered fractures and bruises after being assaulted and beaten by soldiers and fanatic settlers.

Soldaten schietend Jeruzalem

Soldiers shooting at Palestinians in Jerusalem (image from uprooted palestinians blog)

Fourteen Palestinians suffered burns due to Israeli gas bombs, and concussion grenades, while more than 5000 Palestinians suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Killed On Thursday:

Palestinian Teen Killed In Hebron, Second In Three Hours

Young Palestinian Man Killed By Israeli Army Fire In Hebron

Man Dies In Jerusalem After Soldiers Delayed Ambulance

The names of those killed by the army in October:

West Bank and Jerusalem:

1. Mohannad Halabi, 19, al-Biereh – Ramallah. Shot after allegedly grabbing gun and killing two Israelis. 10/3
2. Fadi Alloun, 19, Jerusalem. Israeli claim of ‘attack’ contradicted by eyewitnesses and video. 10/4
3. Amjad Hatem al-Jundi, 17, Hebron.
4. Thaer Abu Ghazala, 19, Jerusalem.
5. Abdul-Rahma Obeidallah, 11, Bethlehem.
6. Hotheifa Suleiman, 18, Tulkarem.
7. Wisam Jamal Faraj, 20, Jerusalem. Shot by an exploding bullet during protest. 10/8
8. Mohammad al-Ja’bari, 19, Hebron.
9. Ahmad Jamal Salah, 20, Jerusalem.
10. Ishaq Badran, 19, Jerusalem. Israeli claim of ‘attack’ contradicted by eyewitnesses. 10/10
11. Mohammad Said Ali, 19, Jerusalem.
12. Ibrahim Ahmad Mustafa Awad, 28, Hebron. Shot at protest by rubber-coated steel bullet in his forehead. 10/11
13. Ahmad Abdullah Sharaka, 13, Al Jalazoun Refugee camp-Ramallah.
14. Mostafa Al Khateeb, 18, Sur-Baher – Jerusalem.
15. Hassan Khalid Manassra, 15, Jerusalem.
16. Mohammad Nathmie Shamassnah, 22, Kutneh-Jerusalem.
17. Baha’ Elian, 22, Jabal Al Mokaber-Jerusalem.
18. Mutaz Ibrahim Zawahra, 27, Bethlehem. Hit with a live bullet in the chest during a demonstration.
19. Ala’ Abu Jammal, 33, Jerusalem.
20. Bassem Bassam Sidr, 17, Hebron.
21. Ahmad Abu Sh’aban, 23, Jerusalem.
22. Riyadh Ibraheem Dar-Yousif, 46, Al Janyia village Ramallah( Killed while harvesting olives)
23. Fadi Al-Darbi , 30, Jenin – died in Israeli detention camp.
24. Eyad Khalil Al Awawdah, Hebron.
25. Ihab Hannani, 19, Nablus.
26. Fadel al-Qawasmi, 18, Hebron. Shot by paramilitary settler, Israeli soldier caught on film planting knife near his body.
27. Mo’taz Ahmad ‘Oweisat, 16, Jerusalem. Military claimed he ‘had a knife’. 10/17
28. Bayan Abdul-Wahab al-‘Oseyli, 16, Hebron. Military claimed she ‘had a knife’, but video evidence contradicts that claim. 10/17
29. Tariq Ziad an-Natsha, 22, Hebron. 10/17
30. Omar Mohammad al-Faqeeh, 22, Qalandia. Military claimed he ‘had a knife’. 10/17
31. Mohannad al-‘Oqabi, 21, Negev. Allegedly killed soldier in bus station in Beer Sheba.
32. Hoda Mohammad Darweesh, 65, Jerusalem.
33. Hamza Mousa Al Amllah, 25, from Hebron, killed near Gush Etzion settlement.
34. Odai Hashem al-Masalma, 24, Beit ‘Awwa town near Hebron.
35. Hussam Isma’el Al Ja’bari, 18, Hebron.
36. Bashaar Nidal Al Ja’bari, 15, Hebron.
37. Hashem al-‘Azza, 54, Hebron.
38. Moa’taz Attalah Qassem, 22, Eezariyya town near Jerusalem. 10/21
39. Mahmoud Khalid Eghneimat, 20, Hebron.
40. Ahmad Mohammad Said Kamil, Jenin.
41. Dania Jihad Irshied, 17, Hebron.
42. Sa’id Mohamed Yousif Al-Atrash, 20, Hebron.
43. Raed Sakit Abed Al Raheem Thalji Jaradat, 22, Sa’er – Hebron.
44. Eyad Rouhi Ihjazi Jaradat, 19, Sa’er – Hebron.
45. Ezzeddin Nadi Sha’ban Abu Shakhdam, 17, Hebron. Shot by Israeli military after allegedly wounding soldier, then left to bleed to death.
46. Shadi Nabil Dweik, 22, Hebron. Shot by Israeli military after allegedly wounding the same soldier, then left to bleed to death.
47. Homam Adnan Sa’id, 23,Tel Rumeida, Hebron. Shot by Israeli soldiers claiming ‘he had a knife’, but eyewitnesses report seeing soldiers throwing a knife next to his dead body. 10/27
48. Islam Rafiq Obeid, 23, Tel Rumeida, Hebron. 10/28
49. Nadim Eshqeirat, 52, Jerusalem. 10/30 – Died when Israeli soldiers delayed his ambulance.
50. Mahdi Mohammad Ramadan al-Mohtasib, 23, Hebron. 10/30
51. Farouq Abdul-Qader Seder, 19, Hebron. 10/30

Gaza Strip:

52. Shadi Hussam Doula, 20.
53. Ahmad Abdul-Rahman al-Harbawi, 20.
54. Abed al-Wahidi, 20.
55. Mohammad Hisham al-Roqab, 15.
56. Adnan Mousa Abu ‘Oleyyan, 22.
57. Ziad Nabil Sharaf, 20.
58. Jihad al-‘Obeid, 22.
59. Marwan Hisham Barbakh, 13.
60. Khalil Omar Othman, 15.
61. Nour Rasmie Hassan, 30. Killed along with her child in an Israeli airstrike. 10/11
62. Rahaf Yihiya Hassan, two years old. Killed along with her mother in an Israeli airstrike. 10/11
63. Yihya Abdel-Qader Farahat, 23.
64. Shawqie Jamal Jaber Obed, 37.
65. Mahmoud Hatem Hameeda, 22. Northern Gaza. 66. Ahmad al-Sarhi, 27, al-Boreij.
67. Yihya Hashem Kreira.
68. Khalil Hassan Abu Obeid, 25. Khan Younis. Died from wounds sustained in protest earlier in the week.

Non-Palestinian killed by Israeli mob:
Eritrean asylum-seeker Haftom Zarhum killed in Beer Sheva bus station by angry mob who mistook him for a Palestinian- 10/18

Names of known Israeli casualties during the same time period:

1 & 2. 10/1 – Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, both aged around 30 years old, killed in drive-by shooting near Itamar settlement.
3. 10/3 – Nahmia Lavi, 41 – Rabbi for Israeli military. Killed in Jerusalem stabbing attack near Lion’s Gate when he tried to shoot the attacker but had his weapon taken.
4. 10/3 – Aaron Bennet, 24. Killed in Jerusalem stabbing attack near Lion’s Gate.
5. 10/13 – Yeshayahu Kirshavski, 60, bus shooting in East Jerusalem
6. 10/13 – Haviv Haim, 78, bus shooting in East Jerusalem
7. 10/13 – Richard Lakin, 76, bus shooting in East Jerusalem (died of wounds several days after the attack)
8. 10/18 – Omri Levy, 19, Israeli soldier with the Golani Brigade who had his weapon grabbed and turned against him by an Israeli resident.

An additional 2 Israelis that were initially claimed to have been killed in attacks were actually killed in car accidents.

(Source / 30.10.2015)

Israel says ‘legalizes’ hundreds of settler units in West Bank

Two Palestinians walk near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, in the occupied West Bank, north of Ramallah on April 7, 2015 (Photo by AFP)

Two Palestinians walk near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, in the occupied West Bank, north of Ramallah on April 7, 2015

Israel says it has retroactively “legalized” some 800 units in four settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The decision which came amid heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories had been taken two weeks ago but was reported in the Israeli media on Friday.

The units included 377 in the Yakir settlement, 187 in Itmar and 94 in Shilo in the northern West Bank, as well as 97 more in Sansana in the south of the occupied Palestinian territory, according to the Israeli interior ministry.

The Israeli regime is under fire over its settlement activities. The international community regards as illegal all Israeli settlements which are built on the occupied Palestinian territories and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.

The Israeli regime had also in July authorized 300 new settler homes to be built in Bet El in the central occupied West Bank.

Over half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank in 1967.

The announcement comes amid a series of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters since the beginning of the month. The clashes have left at least 71 Palestinians dead.

Earlier on Friday, Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus after accusing them of staging stabbing attacks.

Also on Friday, a Palestinian young protester was run over by an Israeli military jeep north of the city of al-Bireh, near Ramallah, in the central occupied West Bank, footage of the incident showed.

Israeli forces apparently blocked and assaulted medics who were attempting to reach the hit person, the video showed.

(Source / 30.10.2015)

Palestinian doctors in Europe mobilize mass protest over Israeli crimes

BERLIN, (PIC)– Palestinian Doctors in Europe on Thursday evening called on the European parliament to take urgent steps to stop Israeli aggressions on the Palestinian people and medical crews.

Palestinian Doctors condemned Israeli attacks on the Palestinian medics and paramedics as they provided assistance for casualties and civilians shot and injured in the ongoing Jerusalem Intifada.

The group’s chairman Mondher Rajab said in a press statement: “We cannot turn blind eyes and deaf ears to the flagrant violations committed by the Israeli occupation forces and settler gangs.”

“All stakeholders and decision-makers everywhere in the world have to assume their responsibilities vis-à-vis such Israeli attacks on the Palestinian people,” he said. “This is just a historic, ethical, and humanitarian duty.”

Head of the foreign and academic affairs at the Palestinian Doctors group, Nizar Badran, urged the chairwoman of the Palestinian committee in the European Parliament, Martina Anderson, along with other MEPs to take up their allotted missions in defending international laws and standing up for Palestinians’ inalienable rights.

Earlier, on Wednesday the Palestine Medics and Pharmacists association in Germany filed a petition to the Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Parliament Speaker, and the Minister of Health, urging the state government to urgently step in and work on protecting medical and paramedical teams in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian Healthy Ministry kept record of over 200 attacks, by the Israeli occupation army, on emergency and ambulance crews since the start of October.

The association further pushed for lifting the Rafah border crossing so as to allow Palestinians from the blockaded Gaza Strip to undergo urgent medical therapy and facilitate hospitals’ access to urgently-needed medical kit.

(Source / 30.10.2015)

Israel expands detention without trial to minors in East Jerusalem

A Palestinian youth pictured working at a bread stand in Jerusalem’s Old City

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities last week placed three Palestinian minors from East Jerusalem under administrative detention, a move rights group say is unprecedented in the city, as Israel heightens security measures amid a month of deadly violence.

On Oct. 19, Fadi Abassi, 17, and Mohammed Ghaith, 17, were arrested following dawn raids on their homes in the neighborhood of Silwan, according to Defense for Children International – Palestine.
Days earlier on Oct. 16, Kathem Sbeih, 17, was detained from his family home in Jabal al-Mukkabir, a neighborhood at the heart of current tensions which Israel earlier in the month sealed off from the neighboring East Talpiot settlement with concrete blocks and a wall.
The policy of administrative detention — which dates back to emergency laws under the British Mandate — came under intense scrutiny earlier this year following a 65 day hunger strike by Palestinian detaineeMuhammad Allan to protest his detention without trial.
In April, the United Nations Human Rights Office explicitly criticized the policy following the detention without trial of Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar, calling on Israel to end the practice once and for all.
Despite this, the policy — which relies on secret information withheld from the accused and their lawyers — has been widely implemented since the escalation of violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In East Jerusalem, the policy is authorized under an Emergency Powers law, which allows the Israeli Minister of Defense to administratively detain any individual deemed a threat to public or state security.
Israel has been declared as being in a “state of emergency” since 1948, effectively meaning arbitrary detention can be imposed on any individual at anytime, according to rights group Adalah.
Since the beginning of October, at least 94 administrative detention orders have been issued against Palestinians, with 24 in East Jerusalem alone, Rafat Sub Laban, a lobbying and advocacy unit coordinator at Addameer, told Ma’an.
There were around 343 Palestinians imprisoned under the policy as of the end of September.
The orders issued against the three Palestinian teenagers this month are simply an expansion of this policy, albeit unparalleled. 
The last time an administrative detention order was issued for a Palestinian minor was in 2011, according to DCI, but the child was from the occupied West Bank.
“We believe this is unprecedented by Israeli authorities to put children from East Jerusalem under administrative detention,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability director of DCI – Palestine, told Ma’an.
“It’s part and parcel of the ideology and policies of Israeli authorities to suppress the Palestinian people who are living there.”
All three teenagers were detained on charges of throwing stones at Israeli police vehicles and questioned at the Oz and al-Mascobiya interrogation centers.
Israeli police then informed Abasi on Oct. 20 that Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon, had issued him with a six month detention order.
A day later, Ghaith and his lawyer were informed of a three month order, while Sbeih was told on Oct. 26 that a three month detention order would be upheld.
DCI says that neither Abassi or Ghaith were informed of their right to remain silent and were not allowed to consult a lawyer prior to their interrogation, which took place without the presence of a family member.
Abassi’s father, Hassan, told Ma’an that Fadi was detained from their home as other members of the family were made to wait in a separate room.Fadi dropped out of school but had recently signed up to be part of a sports club. After he was arrested the family knew nothing of his whereabouts until they contacted a lawyer, but Hassan said he wasn’t surprised by the arrest.
“That is the life now of every youth in Jerusalem,” he told Ma’an.
Palestinian youths pictured at a checkpoint in the Old City of Jerusalem
‘Injured, killed or detained’
The official reason given for the children’s arrest was that they were an “immediate and severe threat to the national security of Israel,” Sub Laban says, a generic justification for detention without trial based on emergency laws.
Palestinian children in East Jerusalem are in theory meant to be tried under Israeli civil law, like their Jewish counterparts, where there are more safeguards, but in the case of Fadi, Mohammed, and Kathem, they are being treated like Palestinians from the West Bank living under Israeli military law.
DCI says that applying the policy to children from East Jerusalem is part of an escalation in repressive security measures imposed against Palestinians in general, with over 106 Palestinian children injured and at least 13 killed since Oct. 1.
A range of policies, including harsher sentencing for stone-throwers and relaxing live-fire regulations, have put Palestinian children directly at risk.
“Israel is trying to restore security, but children are losing their freedom and are being denied liberty and their human rights. It violates Israel’s international and domestic obligations,” Bashar Jamal, an Advocacy Officer with DCI, says.
“Children are falling victim to the situation.”
Sub Laban, from Addameer, says there is now a trend to use administrative detention instead of charging Palestinians with actual crimes.
DCI says the three teenagers should be tried or released, as they are effectively being imprisoned by the Israeli state.
The group says it is especially concerned that the youths were originally brought in on stone-throwing charges but then transferred to administrative detention, with no evidence presented from their interrogations.
“It’s an escalation in the violation of children’s rights. Their rights are violated on a regular basis, but there has been an escalation in October,” Jamal, from DCI, says.
“Now it’s either they get injured, killed or detained.”
(Source / 30.10.2015)

Israel to deliver bodies of 5 Palestinian teenagers killed in Hebron

Bayan al-Esseily, 17, shot dead after alleged attack in Hebron on Oct. 17, 2015

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities have decided to deliver the bodies of five Palestinians killed in Hebron, the governor of the district told Ma’an on Friday.

Governor Kamel Hmeid said that the bodies of Bayan al-Esseily, 17, Dania Irsheid, 17, Hussam al-Jaabari, 17, Bashar al-Jaabari, 15, and Tareq al-Natsheh, 16, would be delivered by Israeli authorities.
The location of the transfer has still not been determined, Hmeid added, noting that Israeli authorities said they require “calm” in Hebron before they return the bodies.
All of thePalestinianteenagers were shot dead by military checkpoints in the center of Hebron after alleged knife attacks.
Hebron has seen a particularly high death toll in recent weeks with at least 13 Palestinians shot dead since late September — in every case after an alleged stabbing attempt — and one Palestinian activist dying from excessive tear gas inhalation.
At least 65 Palestinians have been killed this month.
Dania Irsheid, 17, was killed near Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque on Oct. 25
(Source / 30.10.2015)

Russia’s Entry into Syria Worsens Killings of Medical Workers on War’s Front Lines

Syria aanval op artsen

As global talks on Syria take place in Vienna, we look at the dangers to medical workers on the front lines of the world’s deadliest conflict. Nearly 700 medical personnel have been killed in Syria since the war erupted in March 2011. The group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) says there have been more than 300 attacks on health facilities—with the Syrian regime responsible 90 percent of the time. According to Doctors Without Borders, airstrikes in Syria have killed at least 35 patients and medical staff since an escalation in bombings late last month. Russian airstrikes have damaged six Syrian health facilities this month, killing at least four civilians and wounding six medical staffers. We are joined by PHR’s Widney Brown and a Syrian doctor who fled his country under the cover of night.


TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen have been devastating for civilians, but recent attacks laid bare the dangers to medical personnel, as well. The latest figures from Doctors Without Borders say the U.S. airstrike on its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killed 30 people—13 workers, 10 patients and seven others who remain unidentified. Another 27 staffers were injured along with an unknown number of patients and caretakers. The bombing left the 94-bed trauma center in ruins and hundreds of thousands of Afghans without a critical surgical facility. Doctors Without Borders has accused the United States of a war crime and demanded an independent international probe.

Just three weeks later, another Doctors Without Borders hospital was destroyed in Yemen, this time by the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition that has waged war there since March. Doctors Without Borders says hospital staff and patients managed to escape as the facility was hit multiple times over a two-hour period Monday night. The hospital’s roof was marked with the Doctors Without Borders logo, and GPScoordinates had been shared with the Saudi-led coalition multiple times. Doctors Without Borders says the attack will leave 200,000 people without access to medical care.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Syria, the world’s deadliest conflict, has also been the deadliest for medical workers. Nearly 700 medical personnel have been killed since the war erupted in March of 2011. The group Physicians for Human Rights says there have been more than 300 attacks on health facilities, with the Syrian regime responsible 90 percent of the time. According to Doctors Without Borders, airstrikes in Syria have killed at least 35 patients and medical staff since an escalation in bombings late last month. Twelve Syrian hospitals were targeted, six were forced to close. The group Physicians for Human Rights says Russian airstrikes have damaged six Syrian health facilities this month, killing at least four civilians and wounding six medical staffers.

The violence against health workers in Syria was the focus Thursday of a major demonstration in New York City. Hundreds of medical professionals and volunteers donned white coats and took part in a die-in near the United Nations. They lay on the ground to represent the nearly 700 colleagues who have lost their lives.

DR. DEANE MARCHBEIN: Healthcare personnel, hospitals, ambulances are being targeted, which means that whole communities don’t have access to care. Our Syrian colleagues, many of them are like the only remaining medical providers in communities of tens of thousands, a hundred thousands. They are taking great personal risk to provide access to healthcare for their community. We stand in solidarity. I’ve worked in Syria. I’ve worked in support of Syria. And the Syrian people are asking, “Has the world forgotten about us? Do they know what’s happening? Do they know that people—that snipers are targeting doctors or nurses?” This is horrible. It’s unacceptable.

DR. CONRAD FISCHER: Various people and various groups are specifically targeting hospitals, because they know that if they wipe out the first responders and the doctors, all the injured will die. If you injure—one of the things people don’t know about an explosive device is that the actual number of people injured, for each person killed, is actually 20 to one. So when you hear on the news that one person died, you have to multiply it by 20. You get rid of the doctors, then those 20 people don’t make it.

AMY GOODMAN: Thursday’s protest came on the eve of international talks on the Syria crisis in Vienna, Austria. Iran, a key Assad regime ally, is taking part for the first time after the U.S. stopped objecting to its involvement.

We’re joined now by two guests. Widney Brown is with us. She is director of programs at Physicians for Human Rights, which helped organize Thursday’s die-in at the U.N. to protest the killings of medical professionals in Syria. And we’re joined by a Syrian doctor who’s using the pseudonym Majed Aboali to protect his identity and safety. He’s a Syrian health worker from East Ghouta and coordinator for the United Medical Office of East Ghouta. He fled Syria last year, now lives in Turkey.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Talk about the die-in and what’s happening in Syria. We’ll also talk about the bombings of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan and Yemen.

WIDNEY BROWN: Well, the attacks on hospitals and the killing of medical workers in Syria is at a scale that we simply have never seen before. And it’s undermining a really long-established norm, a 150-year norm, that says hospitals and medical providers must be protected in conflict, not targeted. So what’s happening in Syria is devastating both to the healthcare infrastructure and the ability to help people who need healthcare services, either because they’re victims in the bombing themselves or for other medical needs. And at this point, as you said, 90 percent of the attacks on hospitals, we’ve been able to confirm, are by the Syrian government. And about 95 percent of the killing of doctors and other medical professionals, again, is by the Syrian government.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But the protest was at the United Nations. What can the United Nations do in this conflict?

WIDNEY BROWN: Well, the U.N. Security Council is charged with maintaining international peace and security. And for nearly five years, it’s been completely paralyzed with regard to the conflict in Syria. Now, they did pass a resolution where they explicitly said the Syrian government and all other parties to the conflict must stop the attacks on hospitals, schools and attacks on civilians. And it said in that resolution, if there’s evidence of noncompliance, they will take further action. That was two years ago. I’m not sure what more evidence they need, but we need stronger actions by the U.N. Security Council.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Majed Aboali, tell us your story. You come from Ghouta?

DR. MAJED ABOALI: Yeah, I came from eastern Ghouta, which is just 10 kilometers from the great capital Damascus. It’s a besieged area since November 2012, where there is no electricity. After just five days, we will celebrate the third anniversary of being without electricity in this area. There is no pure water. There is no food. It’s completely besieged. We are struggling just to get our food.

I worked there—I was born there, actually, and I worked there ’til May 2014, where I could be no more, because I have family, and they have the right to live. And my decisions to stay and to help people, supporting medical assistance, supporting heath assistance and field hospitals, to provide health services for people and to treat the injuries, maybe would affect my family. And I just want my kids to be safe. So I decided that my decisions would affect my son and his future. He has a right to have a safe school, at least. He has a right to have a good health system. So I fled out with my family in May 2014. I’m working now now in Gaziantep.

AMY GOODMAN: Where?

DR. MAJED ABOALI: In Turkey, Gaziantep. It’s a city in the south that most of the Syrians will prefer to live in, because—it’s just not because it’s near to the Syrian borders. You can feel that you are very close, that you’re home, and you can at least be in contact with people there.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: When you were in Syria, you and your colleagues were forced to build, in essence, an underground health system?

DR. MAJED ABOALI: Yeah, actually, hospitals were targeted from the first day of the revolutions. And doctors were shot to death. Doctors were tortured to death in the prisons of the regime. So, actually, in my area, which is about—now it’s about 500,000 people living there, and it’s besieged, and before it was more than 1 million. When the regime pulled the forces on the ground outside of this area and began his strategy of putting it in siege, he stopped all the services inside this area. So, before—that happened November 2012. Before, we were treating the injuries, because they were not allowed to be treated in the hospitals of neither the public hospital or the private hospitals. They would be arrested with the doctors who are treating them. So we were just treating them away from the regime’s security. Now we have to provide all health services for the people who are living in this area. So you have to provide primary healthcare, dialysis unit, cardiologists have to work—all kind of health services. It’s too dangerous to work over the ground, so we began to use basements and to dig under the ground to build our hospital. It’s not healthy to have a hospital under the ground. It’s not—it’s a shame on this world that a doctor have to work under the ground just to be safe.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to the Ghouta attack in 2013—Ghouta, where you come from. Hundreds of Syrian civilians died in a chemical attack in Ghouta. The incident nearly caused the United States to launch military strikes in Syria after the Obama administration accused forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, of carrying out the attack. This is President Obama speaking on PBS days after the attack.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When you start talking about chemical weapons, in a country that has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world, where, over time, their control over chemical weapons may erode, where they’re allied to known terrorist organizations that in the past have targeted the United States, then there is a prospect, a possibility, in which chemical weapons, that can have devastating effects, could be directed at us. And we want to make sure that that does not happen.

AMY GOODMAN: Russia and the U.S. eventually reached a deal to have Syria destroy its chemical stockpiles. You were there when the chemical attack took place. Can you describe what you saw two years ago?

DR. MAJED ABOALI: Well, I think, as we are in New York, New Yorkers can understand a lot what I’m talking about, because it’s too similar to 9/11. You are at your work. We were at home. Me, for myself, I was at home. All the people were sleeping, most of the eastern Ghouta. Doctors were on shift, as usual. We’re used for receiving like bombs and shelling and airstrikes, but suddenly it was like a massacre. It was not the first chemical attack, but we used to receive 15 to 20 patients that were affected by a chemical attack. Suddenly hundreds of people began to came to the hospitals. They were sleeping—kids, women. Kids came with their sleeping suits. I think New Yorkers can understand that very much. It was like you can do nothing for this. Doctors stand hopeless and helpless in that night. It’s too hard to take the decisions—who will you treat before, because he have most chance to live, and who we have to delay, because you have not enough staff, you have not enough equipment, you not enough medical supplies. I think even a civilized city, which have a good equipment, which have a good capacity, will not be able to deal with such a disaster.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what were the symptoms as the patients came in? How many ended up dying, that you could tell?

DR. MAJED ABOALI: Well, actually, the symptoms are the same, but the degree of the symptoms were different from a patient to another. That depends upon how much he was closer to the center of the attacks. Well, the lack of breathing was the main thing that we had to deal with. Actually, experts considered it as a sarin attack. We, as medical—

AMY GOODMAN: Sarin gas?

DR. MAJED ABOALI: Yes, sarin gas. We, as medical staff, all our experience is to describe the symptoms, so that we described the symptoms exactly for the experts, for the United Nations mission which entered the eastern Ghouta. And it was there already. The mission was in Damascus when the chemical attack happened. And the experts considered it as a sarin attack.

Actually, it’s not a matter if it was sarin or it was chlorine or what is the weapon that the regime used. It was mentioned that the weapons, the chemical weapons, of the regime was destroyed, but a lot of Syrians in the same area were killed, more than the people who were killed in that night. After one year and the first anniversary of the chemical attack, we, as a medical office there, looked at our statistics. How many people were killed by airstrikes? They were double from the people who were killed by the chemical attack. How many people were killed by siege, from starvation and from lack of medical supplies? Many of them were killed, more than the number who were killed that night. Actually, what happened that night is still going ’til now, doctors standing hopeless today in the same eastern Ghouta. Today, just four hours ago, an airstrike targeted a market, and 47 people died in the same area. But no one care, because it’s not a chemical attack.

AMY GOODMAN: You protested, Widney Brown, outside of the United Nations. What are you calling on the U.N. and the U.S. to do?

WIDNEY BROWN: Well, the U.N. and—

AMY GOODMAN: And this is about attacks on hospitals in Syria.

WIDNEY BROWN: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Increasing attacks, Doctors Without Borders are saying, by Russian attacks on hospitals?

WIDNEY BROWN: Yes, we’re also documenting attacks on hospitals by Russian airplanes. We’ve confirmed several. MSF, as you know, has announced that they’ve had 12 attacks just in October. The Russians started bombing, I think, the last day in September. So, obviously, we’ve got Russians using what they say is smart bombs in attacking hospitals. So now doctors are trying to survive both Syrian air force barrel bombs and guided missiles from the Russians.

What we’re calling on the U.N. to do is—the U.N. has imposed no sanctions against Syria since the start of this war. The only existing sanctions against Syria are actually from the assassination of Hariri in Lebanon. So they’ve taken none of the measures that they can take to try to address the violations that are happening here. So we’re calling on them to take action. They themselves envisioned it in the resolution that they did pass calling for a halt to the attacks on hospitals, the killings of doctors, etc.

(Source / 30.10.2015)

Palestinian residents of Hebron required to register in preparation for severe new restrictions

IMG_1623

Palestinians gather in the street to be registered in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood in occupied Hebron. It is being reported that the area will be closed off completely for people who are not residents of the area and who are not registered within the next few days.

“For the people living in the area, it will become like a prison. For people living in Hebron, the closure of Tel Rumeida will mean that the city will be split in two”, says local resident to international activists.

IMG_1622

The names and ID-numbers of the people living in the area are being written down by soldiers on long lists, and there are dozens of Palestinians standing around Gilbert checkpoint waiting to hand over their information or be forced out. Even for the residents who will be allowed in the area, this will mean severe restriction of their movement. Every time Palestinian residents of Tel Rumeida & the area around Ibrahimi mosque (between checkpoints 209 and 29) cross a check point to get to their home, the soldiers will have to search the long list for the name.

IMG_1612

It is not the first time the Israel has imposed such restrictions on the residents of the area. In 1994 after the Illegal settler extremist Baruch Goldstein committed a massacre in the Ibrahimi Mosque, similar measures were taken. At that time, Palestinian residents refused registration and were punished with a six month 24-hour-curfew and only allowed a few hours a week during which the residents could buy food.

Due to the increase in violence by army and settlers against Palestinians they do not dare to refuse registration this time.

IMG_1609

(Source / 30.10.2015)

Modern radicalism has ‘no boundaries,’ says Tunisian foreign minister

The panel discussion was followed by an official opening night dinner attended by delegates, which had Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi as the keynote speaker

The foreign minister of Tunisia – which has seen thousands of its youth join extremist groups in Syria and elsewhere – said on Friday that unlike the past, modern terrorism has “no boundaries.”

“We did not overcome the threat because in the past, we looked at terrorism and tackled it as if it was an isolated phenomenon. But today, it has multiple forms and no boundaries,” Taieb Baccouche said at an opening session of the Manana Dialogue in Bahrain, held by the UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank.

As of the end of 2014, some 3,000 Tunisians have flocked to Syria to fight against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, with many joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). According to estimates, Tunisia is the largest exporter of ISIS fighters in the region.

In the same panel discussion, Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani said that the current definitions of terrorism were in need of change.

“We need stop having these discussions about how we the definitions of terrorism are. The Houthis’ coup in Yemen is terrorism. In Syria and Iraq, terrorism. And Palestine with the Israeli occupiers as well,” Zayani said.

“It’s high time we start talking about containment of all this violence,” he added.

No positive interventions

Meanwhile, Yemeni foreign minister Riyadh Yaseen said the only way to address the chaos in the region is to convince Iran to “stop interfering in the internal affairs of others.”

Since late March, a Saudi-led coalition has bombed Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen, in a bid to put the internationally-recognized government back in power.

“In Yemen’s history, there were no positive interventions from Iran in terms of education, infrastructure or development. The bulk of those came from the Gulf, the U.N., but not Iran. They have only ever exported to us arms and brainwashing of our youth,” he said.

For her part, the U.N.’s Development Programme administrator Helen Clark said that without sustainable development focusing on the young generation, there could be no peace in the region.

The focus of her observations centered on the “21st century high-tech phenomenon” surrounding ISIS’ capabilities in reaching the Arab’s world young men and women.

“When you look at the weeks and months they take to groom people online and tracking the foreign jihadists’ movements, these are very sophisticated measures,” Clark said.

“And I raise the question whether we are taking sophisticated set of techniques ourselves in countering it? But we are where we are and we can’t rewind the clock backwards,” she added.

The panel discussion was followed by an official opening night dinner attended by delegates, which had Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi as the keynote speaker.

(Source / 30.10.2015)

Israeli soldiers tell Palestinians: ‘We will gas you until you die’

Israel’s separation wall pictured from Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem

By: Megan Hanna

Megan Hanna is a freelance photographer and journalist based in Palestine.On October 29, Israeli military forces issued a disturbing message to residents of Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, telling them that unless they stopped throwing stones “we will gas you until you die.”Israeli military forces raided the camp and fired tear gas and flash grenades indiscriminately at people’s windows, balconies, and down the narrow streets, allegedly in response to Palestinian youths throwing stones at the Israeli separation wall that borders the community.During the raid, an Israeli soldier in a military vehicle addressed theprotestersand residents of the camp through a loudspeaker in Arabic. The disturbingincidentwas caught on film.“Inhabitants of Aida, we are the Israeli occupation forces, if you throw stones we will hit you with gas until you die. The children, the youth, and the old people, all of you – we won’t spare any of you”.During the assault of theprotesters,Qassan Abu Aker, 25, was arrested. The speakerphone announcement continued, “We have arrested one of you, he’s with us now. We took him from his home, and we will kill him while you’re watching as long as you throw stones.”The chilling message concluded: “We will blind your eyes with gas until you die, your homes, your families, brothers, sons, everyone”.

Subsequently after the announcement, Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bulletsindiscriminatelyin the streets.
The use of force was so extreme that children from Aida’s two communitycentersand residents of nearby houses had to be evacuated to another part of the camp, and at least one youth was taken to hospital with respiratory problems.The clashes are part of a spate of violence that has unfolded across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory over the past month, in which at least 64 Palestinians and 9 Israelis have been killed.
Alongside the disconcerting language used to inspire terroramongthe residents — the majority of whom weren’t involved in the stone throwing — the film provides evidence of a member of the Israeli army admitting to the potentially lethal application of tear gas.
Last week, on Oct. 21, Hashem al-Azzeh, 54, died in Hebron due to excessive tear gas inhalation used by Israeli forces to subdueprotesters, and two days earlier an elderly woman in the Batan el-Hawa area of Silwan, East Jerusalem, died from the effects of tear gas fired during clashes.
“In this statement, we see — among a range of potential criminal offences — a public threat to kill Palestinian civilians, and to execute a prisoner,”Simon Reynolds, Legal Advocacy Coordinator at the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, told Ma’an.
“Though such threats are appalling, they are not necessarily surprising. In light of the mounting civilian death toll among Palestinians, such threats merely add words to the deed.
“What we are seeing is an apparent policy of lawlessness in which Israeli forces can wield deadly force with virtual impunity. Especially troubling is that this is a policy that seems to have, at the very minimum, the tacit acceptance of the highest levels of government.”Numerous rights groups havepubliclycondemned Israel’s disproportionate military response while policing demonstrations and responding to alleged attacks.
“Indiscriminate or deliberate firing on observers and demonstrators who pose no imminent threat violates the international standards that bind Israeli security forces,”Kenneth Roth, executive director of Humans Rights Watch said on Oct. 11, after a HRW research assistant was shot and injured whileobservinga demonstration near Ramallah.
Earlier this week, Amnesty International demanded that Israel stop unlawful killings in occupied Palestinian territory, stating that Israeli forces appeared to have “ripped up therulebook.”
“There is mounting evidence that, as tensions have risen dramatically, in some cases Israeli forces appear to have ripped up the rulebook and resorted to extreme and unlawful measures,”Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International said.“Intentional lethal force should only be used when absolutely necessary to protect life,” he added. “Instead we are increasingly seeing Israeli forces recklessly flouting international standards by shooting to kill in situations where it is completely unjustified.”
In February last year, Amnesty released a report entitled ‘Trigger-happy’, which found that Israeli forces display a “callous disregard” for human life, with near total impunity for the killing of Palestinian civilians in cases examined since 2011.
(Source / 30.10.2015)