Palestine Today 12 21 2015

Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for Monday, December 21, 2015.

Israeli troops injures a Palestinian child in West Bank clashes and kidnap fishermen from Gaza seashore. These stories, and more, coming up, stay tuned.

Israeli forces shot and wounded a 14-year-old Palestinian boy with live fire during clashes in the outskirts of Silwad, in eastern Ramallah, on Monday afternoon, according to Palestinian medics. Ambulance crews said that Ahmad Jamal Qantawi, 14, was shot and wounded in his stomach, leg, and hand, and had suffered severe loss of blood.

According to media reports, clashes broke out between Palestinian schoolchildren and Israeli forces at the western entrance to Silwad.

Security sources said that Israeli forces had been chasing Palestinian schoolchildren in the area, when a number of Palestinian police arrived on scene ordered Israeli border police forces to leave and threatened to use their weapons if they refused.

Also on Monday, Israeli soldiers kidnapped, twenty-six Palestinians in different districts of the occupied West Bank, during extensive military invasions and searches of homes and property, the Palestinian Political Prisoners Society (PPS) has reported.

The PPS said most of the abductions took place in the southern West Bank district of Hebron, where the soldiers kidnapped eleven Palestinians. Additional kidnappings were also reported in in occupied Jerusalem, Tulkarem, Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem areas.

In other news, The Israeli Supreme Court is to release, on Monday, two Israelis accused of burning the Dawabsha family in the village of Douma, occupied Nablus, four months ago.

Media sources said that the Israeli police s expected to release other detainees accused of the crime this evening, provided that they stay under the house arrest. The Minister of the Israeli army, Moshe Ya’alon, said in a statement last week that the those who committed the crime of Dawabsheh family’s arson attack are identified for the Israeli army , but there is no evidence to bring them to trial or to charge them.

Elsewhere, Israeli navy attacked on Monday afternoon a Palestinian fishing boat off Gaza city shoreline and kidnapped all fishermen onboard.

Palestinian sources said the Israeli navy have kidnapped the fishermen and took them to the Israeli seaport of Ashdod.

And that’s all for today from the IMEMC News; this was the Monday, December 21, 2015 news round-up from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. For more news and updates, please visit our website at www.imemc.org. Today’s report has been brought to you by George Rishmawi and me Ghassan Bannoura.

audio Palestine Today 12 21 2015 3.1 Mb

(Source / 21.12.2015)

Gazan families visit jailed relatives

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The Israeli authorities allowed a group of Gazan families of Palestinian prisoners held at the Israeli Nafha jail to visit their jailed relatives via the Erez crossing early Monday.Spokesperson of the Red Cross, Suheir Zaqqut, told Ma’an that 57 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, including 16 children under the age of 16, headed to visit 47 jailed relatives.Zaqqut added that the Red Cross coordinates weekly visits for prisoners’ families.

(Source / 21.12.2015)

Injured woman among 25 Palestinians detained in West Bank

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) arrested overnight 25 Palestinians across occupied West Bank including a woman who was shot during her arrest.

Most of the arrests were reported in al-Khalil, south of the West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners Society said. 13 civilians were arrested in the city including a 45-year-old lady who was shot and injured during her arrest.

Ten other detainees were also arrested in different towns and villages of al-Khail province. Three minors were among the detainees.

Three other minors were among six detainees in occupied Jerusalem.

In Tulkarem, three citizens were kidnapped during an Israeli raid in the city while one detainee was taken in Silwad town in Ramallah.

Similar arrests were carried out in Bethlehem where two youths were kidnapped.

By the middle of November 2015, about 6500 Palestinian prisoners were being held in Israeli prisons and detention centers amid very difficult detention conditions.

(Source / 21.12.2015)

Israel is gradually eroding both Palestinian infrastructure and any hope for statehood

houses destroyed by Israeli airstrikes

File photo of houses destroyed by Israeli airstrikes

Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the world has been observing the gradual disintegration of any hope for Palestinian statehood. There is no clearer evidence of this than the severe neglect and active restriction and destruction of both Palestine’s historical and newly established infrastructure in the occupied territories. Specifically, transportation infrastructure in Palestine stands as a broken witness to the expansion of the Israeli state at the expense of the Palestinians.

While Israel seizes more control over Palestinian land and develops transportation infrastructure that serves only its own “desirables” – consisting of its citizens, army, settlers and tourists – Israeli governments have been imposing ongoing paralysing restrictions on the Palestinians and actively banning or destroying any prospect for the formation of an independent Palestinian state. Arguably, the backbone of any functioning state is its transportation network, and by targeting Palestinian transportation infrastructure, Israel is trying to break the back of the Palestinian bid for statehood.

Rail

The Jaffa–Jerusalem railway, which opened in 1892 under Ottoman rule, was the first railway to be built in Palestine and one of the first to be constructed in the Middle East. An important economic and social development at the time, the line was operated in turn by the French, the Ottomans and, after World War I, the British who were mandated to administer Palestine. The railway administration was transferred in 1920 to Palestine Railways, a company owned by the British Mandate government.

Prior to the 1948 Palestinian Nakba and establishment of the Israeli state, the Palestine Railways network became the target of frequent Zionist terrorist attacks carried out by organisations such as Irgun, Lehi and Palmach. These included bombing trains, stations, and road and rail links. Deteriorating security led to the closure of the line in 1948 as the British failed to protect the railway; it was later requisitioned and reopened as the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway operated by Israel Railways, which began passenger service in 1950.

As such, Israel’s heavy rail infrastructure dates back to before the establishment of the Israeli state, from the days of the Ottomans and the British Mandate. The transfer of power and control to the Israelis has since allowed Israel to expand and progress further as Israeli rail infrastructure continues to undergo constant expansion, manifested in the inauguration of the controversial Jerusalem Light Rail service in 2001.

In a 2009 report, the United Nations Human Rights Council described the Jerusalem Light Rail as infrastructure servicing settlements deemed illegal under international law. The line, which was offered as a means of fast and reliable transport through the city, further strengthens the position of Jewish-only illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and complements a network of roads that has been constructed to connect these settlements to the city centre. The line is still undergoing expansion and plans are in place to connect more settlements from the south to the north of the city. This effectively eliminates further prospects for the internationally-supported two-state solution whereby East Jerusalem would be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Furthermore, the West Bank and Gaza today are not only physically disconnected, but Palestinians living in either territory are generally not permitted to cross to or settle in the other. Only certain cases are allowed through the Israeli-controlled Erez Crossing between the West bank and Gaza, such as patients and businessmen acquiring Israeli permits. Therefore, a railway, or any Palestinian-controlled road network, connecting the West Bank and Gaza is out of the question as any movement or trade between them remains fully under Israeli control.

Air

After prolonged negotiations with Israel, and as part of the 1993 Oslo-Accords, Palestine was “given the right” to build an international airport in Gaza as long as Israel maintained full control of the airspace and flight operations, including routes and schedules, as well as running a “shadow” security system for checking passengers, cargo and aircrafts.

Indeed, the $86 million Gaza International Airport opened in 1998 in a red-carpet ceremony attended by former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and former US President Bill Clinton. “I am standing on Palestinian soil, and I have an airport, I have a flag, I have an airplane. This is our path to the independent Palestinian state,” Ahmad Abdel Rahman, general secretary of the Palestinian Cabinet, told the New York Times at the time.

Overlooking the continued restrictions, the opening of the airport was considered a sign of progress towards the formation of a Palestinian state. Thousands of passengers were flying Palestinian airlines to destinations across the Middle East. Besides its morale-boosting value, the airport was also meant to become an economic lifeline by boosting trade and perhaps bringing in tourists to the Mediterranean coastal strip. Three years later, however, Israel shut down the airport. As fighting intensified with the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Israeli F16 jets bombed the airport’s control tower and radar centre and its bulldozers tore up the runway where Palestinian planes had once landed.

For years, Palestinian leadership continued to push for the airport’s re-opening, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Israel has been expanding its main international airport, Ben-Gurion International Airport historically known as Lydda airport, in order to receive large numbers of Jewish immigrants as well as to accommodate the international travel of its citizens and visitors. Lydda airport was built in 1936 during the British Mandate for military purposes. Surrendered by the British in 1948, the newly declared State of Israel took over the airport that same year and has used it for travel ever since.

Today, Palestinians in the occupied territories have to rely on airports in Jordan and Egypt to fly abroad as they are not permitted to use the Ben-Gurion International airport, nor are they permitted to rebuild an airport of their own. For Gaza’s residents, the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing remains the gate to the outside world. As part of Israel’s siege of Gaza, and in coordination with Egypt, Egyptian authorities often close the crossing and only allow specific cases to leave the Strip. Since the military coup of July 2013 that overthrew Mohammad Morsi, Egypt has closed the crossing almost completely. In 2015, the border opened for a total of only 21 days, leaving thousands of patients, students and workers stuck in Gaza.

Sea

Once a crossroad for regional trade and travel, the Gaza seaport is the only Mediterranean port closed to shipping. Israel has been in total control of Gaza’s coastline and territorial waters since 1967, placing even further restrictions on the Strip’s trade activity and movement of its residents with the imposition of the siege in 2007.

As part of the 1993 Oslo Accords, and after a long series of negotiations with Israel, a $73 million contract for the reconstruction of the Gaza seaport and the training of port personnel was signed in 2000 between the Palestinian Authority and a French-Dutch consortium aiming to complete the project in 2002. Not long after, and with the eruption of the Second Palestinian Intifada, Israeli tanks and bulldozers attacked the port project, destroying buildings that housed some 80 administrative offices for the seaport construction project. This led the European consortium to pull out of the project, making it another casualty of the conflict with Israel.

A functioning harbour in Gaza, developed to incorporate passengers and cargo, would inject life into the Palestinian economy and give Gaza’s residents more access to the world beyond the narrow confines of the besieged coastal enclave.

Not only have movement and trade at the Gaza seaport been affected by Israeli restrictions, fishing activity has also suffered immensely, undermining the livelihoods of many Palestinians who rely on the sea to secure a living. As per the Oslo Accords, Gaza’s fishermen are allowed to sail out into the Mediterranean up to 20 nautical miles (37km). Since the imposition of the siege on Gaza, however, Israel has only allowed them to reach 3 nautical miles (5.6km) with recent agreements extending the limit to 6 nautical miles. Israeli fibres shoot at or confiscate the boats of and arrest fishermen who fish close to the limit or stray further. The UN indicated that this was a violation of the Oslo accord; yet citing security concerns, Israel insists it is another necessary restriction.

A European Parliament resolution on the blockade, following the Israeli military operation against the Turkish humanitarian flotilla that was boarded en route to Gaza in 2010, urged EU Member States to “take steps to ensure the sustainable opening of all the crossing points to and from Gaza, including the port of Gaza, with adequate international end-use monitoring.”

Despite the EU and UN resolutions and continued condemnation of Israel’s incessant violations of international law, as well as the clear failure of the Oslo accords, the disparity between the control and power Israel is allowed to assume over the Palestinians and the shackles and confining limitations placed on Palestinians themselves is reprehensible.

Today, the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank exceeds 400,000, in addition to over 200,000 in East Jerusalem. As Israel continues to expand and devour more Palestinian land, the prospects for a two-state solution shrink even further. Unless the international community pressures Israel into ending its occupation and Palestinians are able to enhance their infrastructure, move freely through their border crossings and engage in free trading activity, then the two-state solutions can be considered dead and buried.

(Source / 21.12.2015)

Is Saudi Arabia building an ‘Islamic NATO?’

Saudi soldiers march during Abdullah’s Sword military drill in Hafar al-Batin, near the border with Kuwait, April 29, 2014

In Riyadh, shortly after midnight on Dec. 14, Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohammed bin Salman surprised the world when he held a press conference — his first — in which he announced the formation of a new Islamic military coalition against terrorism. Predicated on the premise that Muslims have suffered more from terrorism than any other group, Mohammed argued that Islamic countries needed to transform the unilateral counterterrorism campaigns currently being carried out by more than 50 countries around the world into a collective effort to vanquish this “disease.”

While the timing of the announcement might lead some in the West to assume that it was in response to increasing calls from the international community — and especially the United States — for Islamic countries to “do more” in the fight against the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State (IS), Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries may have a different rationale.

From their vantage point, this coalition might in fact be a reaction to what they perceive as the international community’s (under US leadership) largely ineffective campaign against IS, which in their eyes, lacks a clear strategy and resolve and neglects the two main factors that have allowed IS to spread: Bashar al-Assad’s brutalization of Syria’s Sunni majority and Iran’s support of Shiite militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

It is not clear at this point whether the ultimate objective of this Saudi initiative is to create the Islamic equivalent of NATO, a formal military alliance with binding commitments from its member states. Nevertheless, the announcement is consistent with two prior decisions that suggested that while it is not rejecting the security framework agreed upon by the victorious powers following World War II and which became institutionalized in the United Nations Security Council, Saudi Arabia may be looking to lead alternative security frameworks.

The first decision was Saudi Arabia’s rejection of the United Nations Security Council seat it had won in the fall of 2013. The second was its announcement in March of this year that it would be leading an Arab military coalition in Yemen to restore the internationally recognized president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who had been ousted from the capital Sanaa by Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in late 2014. Taken in total, these three decisions — the rejection of the Security Council seat, launching a military campaign in Yemen and leading an Islamic coalition against terrorism — indicate that there has been a paradigm shift in Saudi Arabia: It is one that has redefined how the kingdom views its role in the Middle East and broader Islamic world as well as how it views the role of the traditional guarantor of stability in the region, the United States.

For much of its modern history, Saudi Arabia has been known as a status quo state — one that used its oil wealth and eminent status in the Islamic world to mediate between warring countries and sometimes between warring factions within a state. Its objective has often been to maintain the political order through quiet behind-the-scenes diplomacy. However, the unprecedented turmoil that has gripped the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, and which led to the ascendance of Saudi Arabia’s biggest regional foe, Iran, and the emergence of its sworn enemy, IS, has compelled Saudi policymakers to adopt a more assertive foreign policy. This new Saudi thinking is also a response to the perception that the United States has elected to disengage from the Middle East and that even when it did decide to act, it seemed to lack a clear strategy; its critics argue that one example of this was its airstrikes against IS strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

While the Saudis still favor American weapons and are continuing to share intelligence and consult regularly with the United States, they seem to have concluded that the United States has differing threat perceptions than theirs. Saudi Arabia’s two most pressing foreign policy priorities, the conflicts in Yemen and Syria, do not seem to be US priorities. Just as importantly, as the Saudis continued to repeatedly express their concern about what they deemed to be Iran’s destructive role in the region, the United States signed a historic nuclear agreement with Iran that could pave the way for reintegrating it into the international community.

While the United States is providing vital intelligence and logistical support to the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, the Saudis launched this unprecedented campaign after it became clear that the international community had no interest in taking forceful measures to reverse the Houthis’ military gains. The Saudis have succeeded in convincing 10 other Arab counties to support the ongoing campaign. The Yemen campaign is the ultimate expression of Saudi Arabia’s new, more assertive and independent foreign policy posture.

Saudi Arabia stunned the international community when it declined its first-ever seat at the United Nations Security Council two years ago. The Saudis issued a strongly worded statement that maintained that the ongoing carnage in Syria and the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians were “irrefutable evidence and proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and responsibilities.” While out of character at the time, the decision, much like the Arab and Islamic military coalitions since, suggests that the Saudis had become increasingly frustrated with the US-led international community and had elected to forge their own alliances to protect their national interests.

In the days following the Dec. 14 announcement, Saudi civilian and military officials provided some details about the objectives of this coalition. While Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir suggested at a press conference in Paris that a joint force acting under the command of the operations center in Riyadh was a possibility, Saudi military spokesman Ahmed Assiri was later quoted as saying that the coalition would be more focused on “coordinating” its members ongoing efforts rather than establishing a joint force. However both Jubeir and Mohammed were unequivocal in saying that the coalition was not predicated on sectarian considerations, implying that sect would not determine the identity of its members or the terrorist groups that would be targeted by it. The defense minister made clear that the coalition would not only target Sunni terrorist groups such as IS but that it would go after all militant groups that are destabilizing the region. Both he and Jubeir also maintained that the member countries would have discretion in terms of the level of support they provide the coalition. Mohammed also stressed that the coalition would consult with the “legitimate” authorities in the countries involved and that it would coordinate with the international community. While these remarks suggested that the Islamic coalition would complement the US-led effort against IS, the notion that it may be intended to supplant it should be given consideration.

In the weeks and months to come, more details should emerge about what the mandate of the coalition is and how it is supposed to operate. Somewhat ominously, some reports in the Western press have suggested that officials from some of the key member countries have expressed surprise at their inclusion in the coalition. Nevertheless the Saudis did follow through with their decision to reject the UN seat and have managed to sustain the military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen for nine months, defying conventional wisdom in the process. Whether the Saudis will succeed in leading an even bigger coalition to fight the international community’s most daunting challenge — religiously inspired terrorism — remains to be seen.

(Source / 21.12.2015)

Israeli Apartheid Wall destroys Palestinian lives (report)

On 29 March, 2002, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) conducted a large-scale military operation in the West Bank, called “Operation Defensive Shield”. During the operation, the Israeli forces raided many Palestinian towns and villages and committed heinous crimes against the Palestinians.

The operation brought to light the Israeli government’s plans to conquer more Palestinian lands and to expel the Palestinians from their own homes. A major step in these plans was to build the Apartheid Wall, or what Israel calls the Separation Wall.

The Israeli government commenced building the Apartheid Wall on 23 June, 2002, at a planned length of 770 km. Now, around 406 km, i.e. 52.7%, of the Wall is completed.

The Wall in numbers
The Wall is 60-150 meters wide in some areas. This includes a buffer zone and roads on both sides of the Wall that the Israeli military uses to watch the Wall. The Wall is 8 meters high, and it contains:
1. Barbed wires
2. A 4-meter wide and deep trench, aiming to prevent the vehicles and pedestrians from passing
3. Military patrol roads
4. A sandy road to track footsteps
5. An electric fence with an 8-meter high cement wall
6. Watchtowers with cameras and sensors

The Wall separates an area of 733 km2 of the Palestinian lands that falls behind the Wall from the West Bank. In other words, these 733 km2 would be under full Israeli control, besides the occupied lands of 1948.

The Wall would also occupy 220 km2 of Jordan Valley, east of Palestine. The Valley is a main source of food for Palestinians, and is also known as their “food basket”.

The Wall passes through eight Palestinian governorates. In Jerusalem, building the Wall accelerated in 2006-2007. It separates a number of heavily populated Palestinian neighborhoods, like Shufat and Kafr ‘Aqab.

Effects of the Wall
In spite of the claimed Israeli security motives behind building the Wall, it negatively impacts the Palestinian people and cause.

First: Effects on the Palestinian daily life
As the Wall passes through the West Bank, it negatively impacts the lives of 210,000 Palestinians, who live in 67 Palestinian towns and villages.

Because of the Wall, 13 Palestinian neighborhoods would be isolated between the green line and the Wall. Furthermore, a second wall would create a security belt, stranding 19 Palestinian neighborhoods in isolated areas.

The Wall would also hinder the Palestinians’ movement and would prevent them from reaching their farms and selling their goods and produce.

Second: Economic and environmental effects
37% of the Palestinian villages, cut with the Wall, would lose their economic resources. Moreover, 12 km of irrigation systems were destroyed.

Confiscating and bulldozing Palestinian farms would cost the Palestinians 6500 jobs, in addition to harming the olive oil industry and fruit and vegetable farming.

The Apartheid Wall would affect the Palestinian water resources, as the West Bank would lose 200 million cubic meters of the Jordan Valley water.

Third: Effects on movement
Statistics show that the Wall would violate the right of movement of two million Palestinians. They will have to seek Israeli permits to be able to reach their houses and farms in different Palestinian areas. Such restrictions would force at least 2.8% Palestinians to leave their homes and find other places to live in.

Fourth: Effects on education and medical sectors
Many Palestinian students and teachers were affected by the Wall, as it prevented them from reaching their schools, forcing 3.4% Palestinians to drop out.

On the medical level, it is getting increasingly difficult for Palestinians to reach the hospitals and medical centers to the east of the Wall, and the Palestinian villages to the west of the Wall have no medical services at all.

Fifth: Effects on Palestinian water resources:
The Israeli occupation has strategically chosen the path of the Wall in order to guarantee Israel as much water as possible and thus depriving Palestinians of a basic right. Once finished, the Wall will enable Israel to confiscate and control 165 water wells and 53 springs, which in total culminate into 55 million cubic meters annually. Furthermore, the Wall now means Israel controls an additional amount of 679 million cubic meters annually.

(Source / 21.12.2015)

Sheikh Sabri calls for intensifying Palestinian presence in al-Aqsa

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Head of the Islamic Supreme Council Sheikh Ikrema Sabri called on Sunday for intensifying Palestinian presence in al-Aqsa Mosque next Wednesday to mark the birthday of Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him.

“We must take advantage of this occasion to intensify our presence in the Mosque and to celebrate the Mawlid (the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad which is celebrated on the 12th day of Rabi’ al-Awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar) by narrating stories of the life of Prophet Mohammed to our children”, he said.

He pointed out that Prophet Mohammed was subjected last year to an offensive and incitement campaign under freedom of expression umbrella in total provocation to Muslims’ feelings around the world.

Sheikh Sabri called on the Arab and Islamic countries to stand united in defense of al-Aqsa Mosque in light of the escalated Judaization campaigns.

(Source / 21.12.2015)

ROJAVA UPDATE 169: MAJOR OPERATION UNDERWAY TO RECAPTURE TISHREEN DAM? ISLAMIC STATE LOOK WEAKER AND LESS ORGANISED SAY KURDS

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

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

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

Few details yet, but a major operation seems to be underway to attack Islamic State (IS) Jihadists around the Tishreen Dam on the Euphrates River south of Sarrin and possibly to capture the dam itself.

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Islamic State Fighters at Tishreen Dam

2 convoys of vehicles belonging to the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) have been seen heading for the western part of Kobane Canton and 3 x IS Jihadists have already been killed in fighting south of Sarrin.

Coalition aircraft are reported as bombing IS positions near the Tishreen Dam and the SDF is already engaging them in battle.

There are also reports that the IS Jihadists are installing explosives on the Tishreen Dam in a last stand move.

However, if the dam blew, there would be a wall of water rushing downstream and the most likely major casualty would be the people in the IS Syrian HQ at the city of Raqqah.

If the SDF can capture the Tishreen dam, they would then be in a strong position to move men and weapons for an attack on IS-held Jarablous nearer the Turkish border, though Turkey is likely to object to the presence of the Kurdish YPG fighters, who make up the major part of the SDF force, on the territory between Kobane and Afrin Cantons.

Moving southwards after crossing the dam, the SDF would also be in a position to attack Raqqah from another direction. However, nothing is clear yet and further information is awaited.

Elsewhere in the Rojava area, IS targeted another YPG checkpoint near Sabe’ Zlam in the Mount Abdul Aziz region and a second checkpoint came under fire near the town of Slouk north-east of Raqqah city with YPG casualties reported.

An exploding IS mine in the village of Twal Al-Aba in the northern part of Raqqah province also killed one person and wounded another.

According to the YPG, the Islamic State appears to be more and more in a desperate state. After losing both territory and hundreds of fighters they are sending in “waves of inexperienced suicide bombers” to try and stem the YPG/SDF advance.

Many of the vehicle bombs are exploded prematurely, caught in anti-VIEBD trenches or destroyed by gun or rocket fire.

In many cases the IS units do not seem to have any longer the ability to outflank the YPG/SDF positions “with experienced, hardened fighters capable of sizing objectives and repelling Kurdish counter attacks”.

And in Raqqah itself, according to a family that has fled, the price of food is going up all the time and Coalition airstrikes are “almost constant”.

You can read more in 2 Sky News reports, SkyNews1 and SkyNews2, where there is an interesting slide-show of makeshift oil production in Idlib province and videos in both.

The YPG has declared Tal Hamis in Hasakah province safe after clearing it of booby traps and mines and for the first time in 4 years some of its predominately Arabic population have been able to return. You can read more,HERE:

In Western Afrin Canton the 2nd Mobile Unit of the YPJ, and now part of the SDF, have been protecting the village of Bene. You can read more, HERE:

Their life may be made easier after an agreement was made between the YPG and Jaish Al-Thuwar and Jaish Al-Fatah, not to keep fighting each other near Afrin and the Sheikh Maqsoud Kurdish neighbourhood of Aleppo city.

How long this will hold is anyone’s guess, and there have already been reports of renewed firing on Sheikh Maqsoud district this morning, Monday. The agreement was brokered by the Shura and Conciliation Council in Aleppo.

Leishmaniasis, the skin disease, sometimes fatal, that is carried by sand flies and causes disfiguring pock marks on the face and body, has broken out in north-east Syria in villages near Qamishli and Hasakah.

Previously, a major outbreak had been reported among Assad’s troops near Palmyra. The latest cases have occured after IS fighters were driven out of Abdul Aziz, Tal Abayd and Tal Hamis, suggesting they may have brought the disease from the Palmyra area in the eastern desert of Homs province.

The Kurdish Red Crescent is treating the infections with injections of appropriate drugs. Video footage with English sub-titles, HERE:

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Turkey Frustrates Kobane Rebuilding Programme

In Kobane city where reconstruction has been underway for some months now, much of the building work has come to a halt after Turkey once again blocked the supply of building materials coming through the border crossing.

Local Kurdish officials are concerned that unless more houses for people to live in are completed this winter, thousands more as refugees will head for Europe.

VOA has a video report, in Kurdish only, but gives you some good visual footage of the regeneration.

Even worse, Turkey is still preventing the repatriation of bodies of YPG/YPJ fighters to the Kurdish communities in Turkey where they were born.

The family of Meliha Curuk, killed fighting IS near Al-Hawl for the YPJ, has been refused entry to Turkey for 41 days. Her family are reported devastated by Turkey’s cruel and inhuman action.

Bound to upset the Turkish Government further, Russian sources are reporting that the Turkish MP leader of the Kurdish HDP Party, Selahattin Demirtas, is due to meet the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, this week in Moscow.

Vice News has videos of a recent interview with Demirtas with English sub-titles.
syria-iraq-news-5Lastly on Rojava, please support the people of the destroyed city of Kobane this Christmas. They desperately need a school bus.

KOBANE CHRISTMAS APPEAL:

An appeal is underway to raise Euros 25,000 to buy a school bus to transport the smallest children to school from around Kobane.

Currently there is only one pre-school in Kobane and many children have to walk an hour each way to attend.

A bus would mean that the number of young children attending school would go up from 150 to 500.

This appeal aims to raise the Euros 25,000 in 25 days. Euros 8,464 so far, – only 7 days to go! Please contribute this Christmas (EDITOR: I have!) to Kobane’s reconstruction, (both USD, Euros and other currencies accepted by credit, debit card via PayPal at a genuine site) go HERE:

Over in Iraq, after US pressure, Turkey has agreed “to continue” its withdrawal of troops near Mosul where it been training Peshmerga and other fighters in battling IS. The Iraq Government, probably egged on by Russia, is insisting they leave immediately.

The Kurdish Peshmerga is claiming that it has killed 250 x IS Jihadists in the last week and also reports a fall in the fighting ability of the quality and ability of Islamic State combatants.

Reports from Mosul city itself say that IS beheaded 10 of its own men yesterday, Sunday, for “high treason” and evacuating their posts when engaged in battles with the Peshmerga. 6 of those executed were identified as Syrians, while the others were of foreign nationalities.

73 of their fighters were earlier executed in November for running away from fighting in Sinjar when the Peshmerga and other Kurdish and Yezidi units recaptured it in just 48 hours.

In preparation for forthcoming campaigns to retake Ramadi and Mosul, the Iraqi air force dropped leaflets on the 2 cities on Sunday.

Civilian residents were advised to leave Ramadi within the next 72 hours as attacks by the Iraqi military and the Coalition will be imminent after that time.

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Iraq Air Force Drops Leaflets on Ramadi and Mosul

 

Human Rights Watch Denounces Russia’s Extensive Use of Cluster Bombs in Syria

Spokesman for the Syrian Coalition Salem al-Meslet welcomed a Human Rights Watch’s report condemning the extensive use of cluster bombs in Syria during the military offensive carried out by the Russian and Assad regime forces against the Syrian people and rebel fighters since 30 September.

In a report released on Sunday, December 20, Human Rights Watch said that they documented the use of cluster munitions on at least 20 occasions since the Assad regime and Russia began their joint offensive on September 30. Human Rights Watch collected detailed information about attacks in nine locations where at least 35 civilians were killed, including five women and 17 children, and dozens were injured.

Two of the attacks hit camps for the displaced. For the other attacks, Human Rights Watch obtained visual confirmation of the cluster munition used and a second source confirmed the attack. Cluster munitions used in Syria recently which Human Rights Watch was able to confirm were manufactured in the former Soviet Union or the Russian Federation.

The joint military offensive by Russia and the Assad regime has seen extensive use of cluster munitions – inherently indiscriminate and internationally banned weapons.

The use of such ammunition violates United Nations resolution 2139 of February 22, 2014, which demanded that all parties involved in Syria end “indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas,” Human Rights Watch said. HRW also refuted a statement issued by the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates on November 9, 2015, in which the regime claimed that the Syrian Arab Armed Forces do not and will not use indiscriminate weapons.

“Syria’s promises on indiscriminate weapons ring hollow when cluster munitions keep hitting civilians in many parts of the country,” said Ole Solvang, deputy emergencies director. “The UN Security Council should get serious about its commitment to protect Syria’s civilians by publicly demanding that all sides stop the use of cluster munitions.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 21.12.2015)

Israeli forces shoot 9 university students on Tulkarem campus

TULKAREM (Ma’an) — At least 9 Palestinian students were shot and injured on Sunday when clashes broke out with Israeli forces outside a university in the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarem.Clashes erupted after a group of Israeli soldiers deployed at an Israeli military base illegally set up on the campus of Palestine Technical University- Kadoorie, locals told Ma’an.Soldiers reportedly advanced towards university buildings where they were confronted by students throwing stones.Palestinian medical sources at Tulkarem’s public hospital told Ma’an that several students were evacuated in Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances following the clashes.Four of the victims were hit with live ammunition in their lower extremities and five others were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets, medics said, adding that a paramedic was injured by a rubber-coated steel bullet while evacuating students.Dozens of others suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation, medics added.An Israeli army spokesperson did not have immediate information on the incident.Violence on the campus of Palestine Technical University has been near-daily in recent weeks.Following student-organized marches that started in October to protest Israeli violations and raids onto the university campus, administrators reported that Israeli forces had positioned themselves at a temporary base on university property.A head administrator of the university, Dirar Elayyan, told Ma’an earlier this month that non-students then began to enter the campus and throw stones at the Israeli base, prompting violent clashes that have severely interrupted normal campus life and left several students seriously injured.The university reportedly began preparations to build a wall to prevent the entrance of outsiders last month, however Israeli forces stopped the construction and confiscated a bulldozer, assaulting workers, Elayyan said.Palestinian leadership has recently requested international protection for Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory amid a recent increase in violence, but concrete moves have yet to be made to address the request.

(Source / 21.12.2015)