UN decries ‘excessive’ use of force by Israel against Palestinians

Israeli soldiers gather around the body of a Palestinian man after killing him at the illegal settlement of Beit Hadassah in the center of the occupied city of al-Khalil (Hebron), on October 29, 2015. (AFP photo)

Israeli soldiers gather around the body of a Palestinian man after killing him at the illegal settlement of Beit Hadassah in the center of the occupied city of al-Khalil (Hebron), on October 29, 2015

The United Nations has strongly denounced the Tel Aviv regime for using “excessive use of force” to curb the ongoing Palestinian uprising across the occupied lands. 

Cecile Pouilly, spokeswoman for the UN human rights office, on Tuesday warned that “the response from Israeli security forces has resulted in alleged attackers, protesters and even bystanders being killed and injured.”

“We again voice deep concern over reports of excessive use of force by Israeli forces,” she said.

The senior UN rights official demanded an independent investigation into killing of all Palestinians by Israeli forces.

Pouilly also reiterated that “all instances of the use of force resulting in death or injury by law enforcement officers should be the subject of prompt, independent and impartial investigations.”

Cecile Pouilly, spokeswoman for the UN human rights office

The UN official also warned the Israeli regime that “punitive demolitions of Palestinian houses and the withholding of bodies of alleged attackers from their families can only aggravate this situation.”

In recent months, Israeli forces have destroyed the family homes of several Palestinians for allegedly attacking Israelis.

“We continue to be gravely concerned at the unrelenting violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel,” Pouilly said, adding, “We call on both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to act decisively to de-escalate the situation.”

Also on Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed the escalation of tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories on Israel’s continued aggression and its illegal settlement activities.

The Israeli regime’s imposition of restrictions in August on the entry of Palestinian worshipers to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) has become the lightning rod for the surge of recent confrontations.

Palestinians are angry at growing violence by Israeli settlers at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and their attacks on Palestinian properties, saying the Tel Aviv regime seeks to change the status quo of the compound.

More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in the recent escalation of violence since the start of October. Nearly 20 Israelis have also been killed in the clashes.

(Source / 15.12.2015)

Hanging strawberries in Gaza

Gaza Strawbery farming

Gaza farmers have succeeded in growing hanging strawberries for the first time. The first successful crops of the season were harvested this week, sources in Gaza confirmed.

Hanging strawberries need to be planted in troughs and grown in greenhouses. Growing strawberry in Gaza is one of the professions through which farmers and their families are able to make money between October and February during the harsh winter months.

Palestinian farmers in Gaza are trying to improve their crops as much as possible in order to get the most benefits from them in a very limited time, fearing Israeli strikes on their land that threaten to damage their main source of income.

(Source / 15.12.2015)

Yair Lapid distributes anti-BDS booklet to Israeli travelers at Ben-Gurion airport

Yair Lapid

Yair Lapid is keen for Israeli citizens to do their bit in the fight against the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign

Israeli opposition politician Yair Lapid was at Ben-Gurion airport on Tuesday morning to distribute copies of a new booklet designed to help Israelis travelling abroad defend the actions of their government.

In particular, Lapid is keen for Israeli citizens to do their bit in the fight against the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The booklet, titled ‘Israelis for Israel: How to fight against BDS lies?’, has been produced by Yesh Atid, the political party chaired by Lapid. Some 35 party activists accompanied their leader in his trip to the airport.

The Yesh Atid publication describes BDS as “an anti-semitic movement established by the global Jihad organizations.” In fact, the BDS call was issued by a broad cross-section of Palestinian civil society groups in 2005.

According to Arutz Sheva, the anti-BDS booklet “marks the culmination of an ongoing campaign Lapid has launched over the past several months against anti-Israel propaganda, including meetings with top officials and Jewish communities across the globe to discuss the issue.”

Anti BDS

Below is the translation of the booklet by Ofer Neiman.

We are at war. The BDS movement for boycott divestment and sanctions is circulating an inconceivable amount of lies about us, fabricated photos and concocted testimonies. The goal – slandering Israel in the world, isolating us, causing us to turn into a hated and illegitimate state.

We must not abandon the field. Not everyone is an anti-Semite, not everyone is against us. But we simply need to explain our side.

If we conduct this struggle with determination and wisdom, we can win, but each and every one of us should enlist.

We are Israelis. And when our house is attacked, we come forward to protect it. It’s in our genes. There is no right wing here and there is no left wing. When facing the outside we are one.

You are now departing from Israel.

We have prepared a small booklet for you, and to counter everything being circulated, we have written the truth. We have not invented anything, it’s all information based on facts. With this booklet you can respond to every argument and reject any incitement.

In this war – we are all messengers.

May you travel safely and return safely.

Yair Lapid

BDS propaganda vs our truth

Argument 1: Members of the BDS movement are peaceful human rights activists.

Our truth: BDS is an anti-semitic movement established by the global Jihad organizations. Its activity has been recognized as an anti-semitic hate crime in France and in the US. Those standing behind it have clandestine ties to Hamas, in whose charter the call for total annihilation of the Jews occurs 12 times. In spite of the attempt to portray it as a nonviolent movement, the BDS movement has never condemned violence targeting Israelis or Jews.

Argument 2: The occupation is the root cause of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Our truth: The conflict and terrorist actions by Palestinians against the Jews in Israel began long before Israel gained control of the Territories. As early as the 1940s the Palestinian leadership collaborated with the Nazis against the Jews, and terror actions against Israel began long before the Territories were occupied. If the Territories are the problem, how can these account for the fact that in the year 2005 Israel left the Gaza Strip down to the last [square] meter, and since then nearly 20,000 rockets have been launched at the civilian population.

Argument 3: The Jewish people have no right to a state in the territory of Israel.

Our truth: Our historical and national right to a state in Israel is based on a well-documented 3000 year-old connection. The right was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly on November 29 1947. Across the world there are 130 states with a Christian majority, 49 states with a Muslim majority, 3 with a Hindu majority, and only one Jewish state on land amounting to 1/800 of the size of the entire Arab world.

Argument 4: Israel does not recognize the right of the Palestinians to a state and is not interested in an agreement.

Our truth: Since the 1930s Palestinians have rejected no less than 5 proposals for a territorial agreement. As early as 1947 the Jewish community recognized the right of the Arabs to an independent state alongside Israel. The Arab side rejected this proposal and went to war. Twice – in the year 2000 and in the year 2006 – Israel offered them more than 90% of the Territories so that they could establish a state on these, and they refused. In the year 2005 Israel left Gaza, leaving behind 3000 greenhouses which had been owned by Jewish residents. Instead of giving these to the residents of Gaza, Hamas destroyed these greenhouses, and invested hundreds of millions of dollars of the aid money sent from states of the world to build tens of terror tunnels and rocket launching sites intended for carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.

Argument 5: Israel is robbing the Palestinian economy.

Our truth: The Palestinian economy is slowed down due to corruption in the Palestinian Authority. There are countless examples of this, including a European Union report stating that economic corruption in the Palestinian Authority has led to the loss of aid worth 2 billion Euros just in the years 2008-2012. One example of many: documents leaked from the Palestinian Authority have proven that corruption still exists. In the summer of this year documents were leaked proving that an aide to Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] had asked the foreign minister of Bahrain for the sum of 4 million dollars to finance a private residential complex for private elements in the Palestinian Authority.

Argument 6: Israel is a racist state.

Our truth: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and all its citizens – Jews, Muslims and Christians – enjoy equal rights. The party representing Israeli Arabs is the third largest party in the Israeli Knesset, with significant political power. Israeli law mandates appropriate representation for Israeli Arabs in senior positions in the public sector. Israeli Arabs serve as public officials in government ministries, as lawmakers in the Knesset, as officers in the IDF and as judges, including the Supreme Court.

Argument 7: Israel is an apartheid state with a separation fence.

Our truth: The security fence does not create separation on an ethnic or religious basis, its purpose is merely to prevent the infiltration of terrorist elements into Israel, it is an existential necessity and every state would have been compelled to take action for the security of its citizens, of any sector. Its objective is merely security-oriented. One year after the construction of the separation fence, a sharp decline of 30% in the number of terrorist attacks was recorded and the number of Israelis being killed decreased by 90%. On the day Palestinian terror comes to an end, the fence will be removed.

Argument 8: The BDS movement strives for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.

Our truth: The movement does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. The boycott movement speaks of a single state from the Jordan River to the sea – this is a code name for the elimination of all Jews from all areas in Israel, not just the West Bank. Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the movement says: “the two-state idea was wrong in the first place. Ending Israeli control of the Territories is only a first stage on the road to fulfilling the vision of dismantling Israel.” He is an Israeli Arab and a resident of Akko, enjoying all that Israel has to offer. The fact that he is free attests to the power of the only democracy in the Middle East. The movement is not interested in a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel, but denies the very existence of Israel. It conceals this from its naïve supporters in the West.

Argument 9: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root cause of the terror problem across the world.

Our truth: since Israel was founded, 67 years ago, 12 million Muslims have already been killed across the Arab world by other Muslim as part of religious conflicts which have nothing to do with Israel. The attempt to blame the Jews is a new manifestation of old anti-Semitism in which Jews are to blame for everything. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is desirable and most Israelis support it, but it will not resolve the Sunni-Shiite conflict, it will not destroy ISIS, and it will not stop Iran from funding terror. The attempt to blame terror on Israel provides terrorists with excuses and assists terror.

Read: Israeli companies giving millions of shekels to illegal West Bank settlements

(Source / 15.12.2015)

As unrest grows, Hamas proposes controversial solution to unpaid public sector salaries

Palestinian health ministry employees  hold placards during a protest against not receiving their salaries, in Gaza City on June 30, 2014. (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Since Israel began withholding funds to the Gaza Strip following the Hamas victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, the payment of Gaza public sector employees has been a bone of contention between the rival Palestinian parties and a driver of internal unrest in the Gaza Strip. Despite promises from the national consensus government, more than 50,000 government workers in Gaza have not received their regular salaries since early 2013. Now, as anger is rising, Hamas is proposing a solution that is already proving controversial.

Disastrous Impact

Along with the closure policy Israel maintains on the Gaza Strip, the salaries crisis has deteriorated economic and social conditions. Many workers in Gaza cannot repay their debts and experts warn of the negative political and social repercussions of the situation.

Sumaia Madi, works as a nurse in one of the government clinics in Gaza city, and feels that she and her peers, have been politically blackmailed and manipulated through the Palestinian political polarization. “I am a mother of five children whose lives are based on my work and what I should have earned from it to meet their essential needs,” Sumaia said, who instead of receiving her salary at the end of every month, receives a meager payment of less than $200 every three months.

Hussam Saied can’t pay his debts to the grocery store next to his home. “Wherever I meet [the store owner], he keeps asking me to repay my debts which have exceeded $900 so far,” Saied said. “This problem has turned my life into a living hell. I used to be a financially independent person, but things have got out of control making me socially and financially insecure person,” Saied added.

Moreover, the overall economic situation in Gaza is worsened by the unpaid salaries since this has decreased the overall purchasing power. In response, the investment sector is expected to be paralyzed as there is not sufficient public demand. Ahmed Khier ran three separate clothes shops in the past. Now he has closed down two of them as less customers come to knock on his doors. “My work has been severely curtailed, people can barely feed their children. Stylish clothes have become a luxury thing these days,” Khier said.

Hamas suggests a solution      

When Israel started withholding funds from Gaza Hamas government workers were denied their salaries, but the Palestinian Authority continued paying the salaries of its 70,000 workers who were no longer working. The contrast in policy between the two groups became a source of the internal tension in Gaza.  Thus, Hamas has been focused on finding a way to pay its government employees to mitigate the rise of the social and economic tension.

On November 22, Hamas Political Bureau member Ziad al-Zaza announced that public employees will receive their entitlements through land distribution, and their municipal and electricity debts will be reset.

Hamas said it conducted its own studies to test the feasibility of this proposal, though some politicians expressed doubt toward Hamas suggestion.

Ameera Deni, who works as a doctor in al Shifa hospital, was not happy with the solution. “The government should pay me the more than $30,000 I am owed, and instead they want to give me a piece of land in a remote area, what shall I do of it?!”, Deni asked.

On the other hand, Monna Suhail who works a janitor in the hospital was unclear what she thought about it. “I am exhausted, I want a solution at the end. Some people told me that I can resell it to earn money,” Suhail said.

Human Rights organizations based in Gaza welcomed the decision, and said all workers need to be reassured about their salaries very soon without prejudice based on political affiliations.

(Source / 15.12.2015)

George Washington University apologizes for Palestinian flag removal

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After Palestine Legal wrote to George Washington University (GWU) demanding that the warning letter that was issued to Palestine-American student Ramie Abounaja be withdrawn, the student finally received an apology on December 10 from university president Steven Knapp.

Palestine Legal welcomed the university’s apology to Abounaja for the discriminatory removal of his Palestinian flag that was hanging outside his dorm window.

“I have personally apologized to the student for this unfortunate incident and assured him that the university’s actions were in no way a response to his expression of his beliefs or opinions,” said President Knapp in a statement.

The warning letter that was issued to Ramie by the university was removed from his file. In addition, the university has agreed to revise its policy so that it can be ensured that this policy is applied in a consistent manner in the future.

Students for Justice in Palestine had started a petition calling on the university to apologize for their actions. It received over 1,300 signatures.

SJP also released a statement after the apology.

“We are very pleased that President Knapp apologized and rescinded GW’s warning letter to Ramie Abounaja. We appreciate his willingness to work with students to address concerns, and are glad the University ensured that in the future, pro-Palestinian expression will not be unfairly targeted in a different manner than the political speech of their peers,” it said.

(Source / 15.12.2015)

After Fayyad’s visit, what’s next for Hamas?

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad speaks during an interview in the West Bank city of Ramallah, June 10, 2010

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — It has been said that in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interest. Political visions often change and shift, even if this means dealing with political opponents and enemies, and this is what is happening today with Hamas.

This saying describes the alliances and political movements taking place today in the Palestinian arena. This paradigm also seems to be at the core of Hamas’ policy in communicating with its Palestinian political opponents and in building bridges of cooperation based on interests. The two-day visit of Salam Fayyad, the former Palestinian prime minister and member of parliament in the Palestinian Legislative Council, on Dec. 2 to the Gaza Strip under the auspices of Hamas was the most recent tactic in the movement’s politics.

Fayyad’s visit came within the framework of an invitation from the House of Wisdom Institute. Ahmed Youssef, a Hamas leader and the secretary-general of the institute, said the aim of the visit was to discuss views and ideas put forth by Fayyad in an attempt to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.

Youssef told Al-Monitor that Hamas gave the green light to the visit. “Hamas approved the visit of Fayyad to the Gaza Strip as no senior politicians can enter Gaza without the knowledge and approval of the movement. Hamas appraised the visit and provided security to prevent the occurrence of any tension or disturbances,” he said.

Youssef believes that Hamas, by agreeing to receive Fayyad, was conveying the message that Gaza is home to all Palestinians and is not limited to a certain faction or party.

“Fayyad is a known political figure. He was minister of finance in the unity government before the [Palestinian] split in 2006 and halfway through 2007, and he has been known for his integrity. Following the tragic division events in June 2007, he was appointed as prime minister of the caretaker government. At the time he took a series of decisions such as halting the payment of some employees’ salaries, and we are well aware that the Palestinian security apparatuses, the Palestinian Authority (PA), President Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah movement were behind them. These decisions came as reprisal measures for Hamas’ control over Gaza. Yet Fayyad does not deny that he bears some responsibility of the actions that were made, and he is ready to be held accountable,” Youssef added.

Before Fayyad’s visit, Gaza opened its doors in 2013 to Hamas’ most prominent political opponent, Mohammed Dahlan, who has launched social and economic projects in the Gaza Strip through some of his allies there. Dahlan was dismissed from Fatah in June 2011 on charges of corruption within the movement.

Dahlan started in 2013 and is still carrying out charitable and social projects in the Gaza Strip. This raised several questions about Hamas’ new strategies in dealing with its political opponents.

According to Youssef, Hamas allowed Dahlan to work in Gaza as it needs to turn the page and to benefit from his influence and presence in the Gazan street in order to ramp up popular support to some issues, not to mention his capabilities, by relying on his ability to provide aid to the Gaza Strip to help mitigate the suffering of the citizens.

However, Youssef believes that this tactic could also be a political maneuver on the part of Hamas, especially since the PA did not respond to the movement’s attempts at rapprochement and approval to some initiatives and agreements, such as the Shati Agreement (Beach Refugee Camp Agreement) signed between Fatah and Hamas in April 2014. This prompted Hamas to play other cards and reach out to Fatah figures who are former opponents of the movement, such as Fayyad and Dahlan.

“During most of his visits to Cairo, Abbas has made many remarks harming Egypt’s relationship with Gaza. We, in Hamas, are well aware that Abbas is behind the suffering of Gazans, starting with the closure of the Rafah crossing, tunnels and incitement, which we saw on the part of security apparatuses that have claimed that Gaza is sheltering terrorists. Sadly, the PA has caused Gaza a great deal of harm,” Youssef said.

“Fayyad, on the other hand, comes with a vision and an initiative, seeking to expedite reconciliation and create a platform for communication to end division. This is also the case of Dahlan, who has offered many initiatives and projects such as collective weddings, whereby several young couples, who cannot afford the costs of a wedding, are wedded at the same time. Thus it would be worthy dealing with them, as they benefit citizens through their projects,” he added.

Al-Monitor tried to contact Fatah officials in Gaza to comment on Fayyad’s visit to the Gaza Strip and Hamas’ openness to its political opponents, but they refused to comment on the issue.

Political analyst Akram Atallah told Al-Monitor, “Hamas has been facing a great deal of pressure, which prompted it to be open to its opponents. Had the situation been the same in Gaza — where Hamas used to have the upper hand in every matter — it would have continued to manage it as a de facto authority. However, given the obstacles, stalemates and its failure to run the Gaza Strip — which it has been controlling for nine years — Hamas had to look for partners, such as Fayyad and Dahlan, to help it out of its crisis.”

“Hamas has been facing hardships in managing the Gaza Strip, which pushed it to search for parties to break the stalemate. Also, the movement has been accusing Abbas of turning his back to the reconciliation and of evading agreements, such as the Beach Refugee Camp Agreement. Hamas is trying to sway his opponents, such as Dahlan and Fayyad, to pressure Abbas. Should an agreement be reached with them, this would suggest that Hamas has the ability to forge new allies, which could pressure the president,” Atallah said.

Atallah also said that Hamas is banking on its relationship with Dahlan to defuse the tension with Egypt. With Fayyad, on the other hand, Hamas could forge new alliances in the Palestinian arena in the face of Abbas.

(Source / 15.12.2015)

Israel’s objectives for its wall on the Gaza border

By Dr Adnan Abu Amer

File photo of Al-Qassam Brigade soldiers at a parade during their graduation ceremony

File photo of Al-Qassam Brigade soldiers at a parade during their graduation ceremony. While unable to defend against Israel’s aerial bombardment, the brigade inflicted severe casualties on Israeli ground troops during last Summer’s offensive

Since the end of the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza, the enclave’s borders have been witnessing mutual mobility by the Israeli army and Hamas fighters, with each sending the other messages to warn against the imposition of new realities on the ground. Such messages are represented by the digging of tunnels on one side, and continuous Israeli incursions on the other. Israel’s latest announcement about establishing a security wall is, therefore, raising questions about its security goals and military objectives.

Out of nowhere, Minister of Defence Moshe Ya’alon said that the Israeli army will begin building a security wall on the Gaza border to face the tunnels dug by Palestinians and stop their infiltration. Perhaps the decision came in response to calls made by settlement leaders for the border area to be equipped with the means of detecting and sending warnings when tunnels are being dug. They sent a letter to Ya’alon to put things in place to protect the lives of settlers from infiltration by Palestinian fighters from Gaza.

Even though the construction of the wall and excavations along the border have to be seen in the context of the tightening of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and although Palestinians have the options available to face them, the international community is called upon to assume its responsibilities towards these Israeli violations. It is significant that the timing of the announcement about the border wall coincided with the outbreak of clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and the Israeli army as part of the intifada; Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israeli soldiers if they go anywhere near the border.

Meshaal: Hamas has been inspiring model of steadfastness

There has been little total calm in Gaza since Israel’s summer offensive last year. Tension has often flared up but, so far, not into armed confrontation. Both Hamas and Israel seem keen to avoid that at the moment.

We do not know what kind of wall or fence that Israel is going to build. Will it be a barrier in the form of a deep trench alongside the existing fence? Or will it be similar to the Apartheid Wall built within the occupied West Bank? Whatever it is, the decision to build it means that Israel feels that it is no longer able to have its soldiers preoccupied with the security of the settlements close to the Gaza Strip, despite pressure from the settlers, who fear the possibility of the Palestinians digging tunnels under their homes.

The border wall may increase the crisis facing Hamas, represented by the tightening of the blockade by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The Egyptians have destroyed most of the “lifeline” tunnels under their border with Gaza, and have flooded the border zone with seawater.

Although the Palestinians don’t believe that the Israelis will try to block tunnels by building an underground wall, as the cost would be too great, they may imitate the Egyptians and dig a deep trench filled with water to deter the construction of tunnels. A third scenario would involve Israel’s construction of a wall along the border and the installation of more sophisticated surveillance systems.

Whatever the government in Tel Aviv opts for, the Palestinians have the means to deal with any military action on the Gaza border; their experience during Israel’s offensives in 2008, 2012 and 2014 suggests that the resistance has the capability to tackle anything that the Israelis choose to do.

Hamas: No prisoner swap until all previously released detainees are free

Hamas does not believe that any Israeli barrier on the Gaza border will bring security to the settlers, because the Apartheid Wall on the West Bank does not provide full protection for the illegal settlers there. Moreover, Israel apparently has serious security concerns about Gaza – either by a full-scale war against Hamas or cross-border operations targeting soldiers and settlers – so it is obviously in a race against time to seal the border as effectively as possible.

(Source / 15.12.2015)

ROJAVA UPDATE 167: SDF ADVANCING ON ARISHA AND SHADDADI, WHILE YPG DESTROY 2 BOMB-LADEN DRONES OVER KOBANE

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

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

 

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

The Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) is currently heavily shelling the Islamic State-held town of Arisha, 33 kilometres south of Hasakah.

syria-iraq-news-5

Bomb-Laden IS Drones Shot Down by YPG

In the latest heavy artillery and mortar bombardments over the weekend 4 x IS vehicles were destroyed and 15 x Islamic State (IS) Jihadists killed.

At the same, the SDF is already on to its next target, Shaddadi, reportedly making a big advance towards the eastern outskirts of the town yesterday, Sunday.

Over the last 2 months, the SDF Kurdish-Arabic alliance, which includes Syriac Christians, has recaptured 220 villages and towns across Hasakah province.

Syriac Christian women, taking their lead from the YPJ, have even formed their own fighting brigade with around 50 of them completing training so far, HERE:

However, the IS campaign remain relentless with a suicide bomb attack on Suluk north of Raqqah on Friday and major attacks on Ain Issa and Sarrin over the weekend. With the help of Coalition air support both attacks were repelled.

In the attack on Sarrin 4 x IS Jihadists were killed and an ammunition depot destroyed.

In another interesting development, the Kurdish YPG shot down 2 drones over Kobane Canton, both of which were laden with bomb material. One of them exploded, but no injuries were recorded.

IS has also claimed responsibility for the triple truck bomb attack on Tal Tamar last week, which has now killed 25, more dying of their injuries.

The success of the SDF campaign can be seen in this video report from Sky News.

US Central Command (Centcom) reports that on Friday 5 Coalition airstrikes were carried out in Syria, one strike hitting an IS tactical unit at Manbij in Aleppo province and destroying both an IS building and an IS drone.

4 other strikes on Friday hit 4 separate IS tactical units, damaged 4 x IS buildings and wounded 2 x IS fighters.

Saturday’s Centcom report reports 7 strike targets in Syria, with significant damage at Abu Kamal, Raqqah, Ain Issa, Manbij and Mar’a.

In the last few months, the Coalition has moved to attack what the military call “dynamic targets”, moving vehicles in the open desert, including oil tankers, 400 of which have now been demolished.

“When they move now, the Coalition has a better sense where they [IS] will be moving to and by what routes and stopping points along the way, and it makes eastern Syria a far more target-rich environment,” said an analyst. You can read more (and watch latest Obama video on IS) in USA Today.

syria-iraq-news-5

Syriac Christian Female Fighter Plays with Dogs at SDF Training Camp

And on another positive note, the Austrian Parliament has voted to approve a plan to help in the reconstruction of both Kobane in Syria and Sinjar in Iraq, despite the fact that Turkey is almost certain to complain.

Turkey in now in trouble again after it was ordered by the Iraqi Government last week to remove troops stationed at Bashiq to the north-east of Mosul.

The Turkish soldiers were invited there some time ago by the former Governor of Mosul to help train Peshmerga and other fighters for the upcoming battle against IS to retake Mosul city.

Now, probably encouraged by the Russians and the Iranians, the Iraq Government has made a complaint to the UN Security Council about the Turkish “incursion”.

Turkey’s President Erdogan, as usual, is refusing to remove his soldiers, though there were troop movements today, Monday, which suggest they may be located elsewhere, perhaps Iraq Kurdistan which generally has better relations with the Turkish Government.

Reports this morning say that there has been heavy fighting in a western suburb of Mosul over the weekend between Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Islamic State, after IS attacked the Peshmerga HQ west of Mosul with 2 car bombs.

Both vehicles were destroyed before they reached their targets. The Kesk suburb of Mosul is 25 kilometres west of the city centre. At least 5 x IS Jihadists were killed in the fighting, with one Peshmerga fighter dying later from his injuries.

IS were also pushed back after they attacked the village of Mashouq and the Peshmerga claim that as many as 50 x IS Jihadists were killed in Coalition airstrikes on the outskirts of Mosul yesterday, Sunday, near the village of Al-Haytham. 15 Coalition airstrikes were reported in Iraq on Saturday.

There is also a report that 3 journalists from Mosul, who have been in hiding for 3 months after being sentenced to death, have escaped to Iraq Kurdistan after they were smuggled out of Mosul, IS subsequently confiscating their houses.

ASSAD’S FORCES RECAPTURE AIRBASE AFTER 3 YEARS IN OPPOSITION CONTROL, AND ISLAMIC STATE ACCUSED OF MURDERING THE DISABLED:

After a month of intense fighting, Assad’s troops backed by Hezbollah recaptured the airbase at Marj al-Sultan just east of Damascus in the Opposition stronghold of Eastern Ghouta today, Monday.

syria-iraq-news-5

Suspected Russian Cluster Bomb Attack on Douma

While Assad’s forces have control of the base, fighting continues in the nearby town where Opposition fighters are holding out.

The price of the capture has been heavy with at least 14 Hezbollah fighters killed here and elsewhere in Syria in the last 48 hours.

The Opposition fighters have had control of the base for the last 3 years, so a serious defeat for them.

On Sunday Government and Russian airstrikes and rocket fire killed 45 civilians, including 10 children, in the Opposition suburb of Douma, also in Eastern Ghouta.

In retaliation, the Opposition continued their bombardment of Government held areas of Damascus sending 50 shells and mortars into Dahiyat Al-Assad, Jaramana, Al Wafidin, Al Malki and Umawyyin Square in the centre of the capital, killing 8 including a child and wounding 35.

In Aleppo province Russian airstrikes targeted the Islamic State in Manbij and East Aleppo as well as the Al Nusra-Front (ANF) and other Islamic groups near Deir Jamal.

ANF however claimed that it had killed as many 80 pro-Assad Shiite mercenaries as they tried to retake the village of Banes south of Aleppo city.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) took out an excavator in the same area belonging to the Shiite militias with a TOW missile, HERE:  and also hit Aleppo International Airport and the nearby Nairab military airport with a barrage of rockets destroying vehicles and planes over the weekend.

In the northern part of Hama province the Opposition advanced to take the Zor Al-Heisa barrier between Helfaia and Taibat Al-Imam and captured the village of Al-Buwaydah.

This footage shows FSA fighters taking out an Assad ammunition truck with a TOW missile in an enormous blast on the Ghab Plain, HERE:

While in the northern part of Homs province, Opposition fighters destroyed an Assad 23mm gun with another anti-tank missile, HERE:

Just days after the declaration of a significant ceasefire between the Government side and the Opposition (scroll down – see below) IS triggered a bomb explosion in a Government area of the city killing at least 16 people and injuring many more.

The IS bomber set of his car containing 150 kilos of explosive and set exploded himself with a suicide belt, according to information released by IS.

In Idlib province, the Al-Nusra Front and Islamic groups are starting to show their true colours by issuing an order today, Monday, imposing an austere dress code on women in Idlib city.

The order instructs women to start wearing abayas (long over-garments that cover all of the body) which must be “black, dark brown or blue and bear no decorations or embellishments”.

Men are also forbidden to sell women’s underwear and female manikins must only be displayed inside stores with their faces covered and not outside. The decree was wrapped up in religious language with much mention of “honour and chastity”. You can read more, HERE:

Echoing President Putin’s burbling last week (scroll down -see below), the Chief of the Russian Army General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, was quoted as repeating to visiting foreign military attaches on Monday the assertion that the Russian Air Force is making “30 – 40 airstrikes in support of the FSA every day and supplying them with weapons”.

Later in the day this was contradicted by Vladimir Kozhin, Vladimir Kozhin, President Putin’s aide for military and technical cooperation, who said that Russia does not supply the FSA with weapons. EDITOR: Clearly, pandering to Assad’s whims, the Russians don’t know what the hell they are doing!

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The Russian Warship, the Smetlivy

Over the weekend, a Russian warship, the Smetlivy, anchored off the Greek island of Lemnos, shot small arms fire at a Turkish fishing boat that came too close, though the Turkish captain of the vessel claimed  not to have noticed.

The Turkish military attaché was summoned in Moscow, while Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said Russia’s reaction was “exaggerated” and Turkey’s patience “has a limit”.

The next scheduled summit between President Erdogan and President Putin has also been cancelled.

If the next rather sensational report is true, the Islamic State has sunk to new depths of depravity.

According to the Opposition activist group Mosul Eye in Iraq, IS has issued an “oral fatwa” authorising its members to “kill newborn babies with Down’s Syndrome and congenital deformities and disabled children”.

Mosul Eye says they have been monitoring the birth of children with disabilities and many have been born to women married to foreign fighters. So far they have recorded the confirmed deaths of 38 babies who have been killed with either lethal injection or suffocation. You can read more, HERE:

The same paper, the Mirror, also carries a report of SAS (UK special forces) action near Mosul. Apparently the UK unit were called in to attack a suspected IS bomb factory. As five men in heavy coats, despite the hot weather came out, a SAS marksman shot one of them from 800 metres, triggering a suicide belt explosion that killed another 2. A second shot to the head killed a 4th Jihadist and a third bullet killed the fifth as he ran back inside. (EDITOR: A good story anyway – but hopefully true!).

Lastly, where does all the Islamic State’s oil go? A map, courtesy of Radio Free Europe and an article by NOW Media, explain the detail – it’s all in the middlemen.

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How Does Islamic State Oil Get on the Legal Market?

 

Israeli companies giving millions of shekels to illegal West Bank settlements

Bank Hapoalim

One of the corporate donors uncovered in the investigation, Bank Hapoalim, was blacklisted by Germany’s largest bank Deutsche Bank (DB) in 2014 as an ‘unethical company’ because of its involvement in funding settlement activities in the West Bank

Israeli companies are donating millions of shekels to illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), an investigation published in Ha’aretz newspaper has revealed.

According to the paper, in Israel, “whether you are buying milk or chocolate spread, talking on the phone or using banking services, you may be unknowingly making a small contribution to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

Documents analysed by Ha’aretz show that private and publicly-held Israeli companies donated to settlements to the tune of “millions of shekels over the last decade.”

Donors have “ranged from corporate giants like the dairy conglomerate Tnuva, cellular carrier Cellcom and Bank Hapoalim to smaller companies like chocolate manufacturer Hashachar Ha’ole and Leo Shachter diamonds.”

Recipients of such donations have included Itamar settlement, near Nablus, as well as Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva, established in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The latter received 20,000 shekels from the publicly-owned Israel Petrochemical Enterprises in 2011.

Read: Denmark’s largest pension fund blacklists German cement firm over links to Israeli occupation

Yitzhar yeshiva, meanwhile, described in the paper as “one of the most extremist institutions operating on the West Bank”, received donations from construction and waste removal company Zvi Cohen and Brothers, and Barak Hass, which deals in financial planning and mortgages.

Other companies who were found to have donated to settlements or settler groups in the OPT included medical equipment manufacturer Elbit Ultrasound and mobile phone provider Cellcom.

Ariel University, situated in a major colony in the West Bank, “received more than 5.5 million shekels in donations, some of it from public companies” in 2012.

Donors to the settlement-based university have also included Bank Leumi, Bank Otsar Ha-Hayal, and and Bank Hapoalim, all who gave money for scholarships at the institution.

(Source / 15.12.2015)

Ghadiri: Launching Political Process Not Linked to Designation of Terror Groups

Vice-president Nagham al-Ghadiri stressed that launching a political process in Syria should not be linked to the designation of terrorist groups.

In a meeting between the Coalition’s political committee and an adviser to the French government on Syria, Pascal Ross, Ghadiri emphasized that for the designation of terrorist groups in Syria to be fair, it must include the Hezbollah militia, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and all other sectarian militias.

Ghadiri made it clear that the political process must begin with confidence-building measures, calling on Russia, a partner to Assad’s crimes, to stop its aggression against the Syrian people.

The two sides discussed the outcome of the Riyadh conference and the meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People group held in Paris on Monday.

Mr. Ross explained that the Friends of the Syrian People group supported the final statement issued by the Syrian opposition after the meeting in Riyadh.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 15.12.2015)