Gaza: Israeli planes spray chemicals, ruin farmland

A Gazan farmer told Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity that Israeli planes have sprayed harmful pesticides for four straight days this week [file photo]

A Gazan farmer told Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity that Israeli planes have sprayed harmful pesticides for four straight days this week [file photo]

The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza said that crops near the border with Israel were ruined after Israeli planes sprayed them with harmful chemicals.

The ministry said the losses affected approximately 3,000 square meters of crops.

Wael Thabit, a senior official at the ministry, told Anadolu Agency that Israeli planes sprayed pesticide along the eastern border of Gaza, especially in Deir al-Balah and Khan Yunis.

The harmful pesticides killed off crops, including beans, peas, wheat, barley and spinach, according to Thabit.

A Gazan farmer told Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity that Israeli planes have sprayed harmful pesticides for four straight days this week.

Gaza, which has been ruled by Palestinian resistance movement Hamas since 2007, lacks basic infrastructure and is subject to an Egyptian-Israeli blockade.

Since the 2013 coup against Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, Egyptian authorities have kept the Rafah border crossing – Gaza’s only gate to the outside world that is not under Israeli control – tightly sealed.

The ongoing closure of the Rafah crossing has served to deprive the Gaza Strip’s roughly 1.9 million inhabitants of vital commodities, including food, fuel and medicine.

(Source / 25.12.2015)

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in Gaza demo for 3rd Friday in a row

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian and injured several others during demonstrations in the Gaza Strip for the third Friday in a row, the Ministry of Health said.

Hani Rafiq Wahdan, 22, was shot in the head near the al-Shujayyia neighborhood east of Gaza City, a spokesperson for Gaza’s Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, told Ma’an. Nine others were hit by live fire.Clashes broke out between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli forces across the Gaza Strip, with four injured east al-Bureij refugee camp, including one shot with live fire in the chest, al-Qidra said.Six others were shot in the al-Faraheen area east of Khan Younis, and one Palestinian was shot near the Erez crossing, al-Qidra added.An Israeli army spokesperson did not have immediate information but told Ma’an they would look into the incidents.Last Friday, 20-year-old Mahmoud Muhammad Saed al-Agha was shot dead by Israeli military forces in clashes near Khan Younis, one week after Sami Shawqi Madhi, 41, was also killed during a Friday demonstration in the besieged enclave.The three are among at least 21 Palestinians to be killed in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 1, the majority shot during demonstrations, and two — a 2-year-old and her pregnant mother — killed in an Israeli airstrike on their home.

(Source / 25.12.2015)

Mentally disabled Palestinian killed by Egyptian border guards

GAZA, (PIC)– A mentally disabled Palestinian was shot and killed Thursday evening by Egyptian gunfire south of the border city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, after he tried to cross the sea borders between Gaza and Egypt.

Palestinian security sources said that the Egyptian soldiers opened fire at the young man after he tried to cross into the Egyptian shores.

The sources affirmed that the young man was mentally disabled.

Eyewitness told Anadolu news agency that Palestinian border guards tried to prevent the young man from crossing the sea borders; however, he managed to escape and to enter into the Egyptian sea borders for few meters.

No Egyptian source has commented on the incident.

Since Abdulfattah al-Sisi came to power in Egypt after the 2013 ouster of the democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt has implemented increasingly harsh measures on the Gaza border.

(Source / 25.12.2015)

Syrian diplomat says US plans for creating Greater Middle East stand behind ‘Arab spring’

The concept of the Greater Middle East envisioned amassed American economic aid to the Arab and other Moslem countries that would achieve the most sizable successes in democratization of society

Syrian ambassador to Moscow Riyad Haddad

Syrian ambassador to Moscow Riyad Haddad

MOSCOW, December 24. /TASS/. Lurking behind the ‘Arab spring’ are the US plans to create the so-called Greater Middle East and to impede the rise of a multipolar world in this way, the Syrian ambassador to Moscow, Riyad Haddad told a news conference on Thursday. “The ‘Arab spring’ grew over into an ‘Arab fire’, dealt a blow to the region and left a disaster in its wake,” he said. “Restoration [of the region] will take up decades now.”

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The Americans’ drive towards materialization of their plans threatens international peace and stability, the ambassador said. “The so-called ‘new revolutionaries’ are seeking to push us a whole millennium backwards, as they declare all the achievements of civilization to be the attributes of depravity the fact that threatens all countries of the world without exception,” he said. “The West that declared a war on terrorist after the 9/11 managed to defeat Iraq and Libya easily but along with this it is displaying feebleness in fighting with the Islamic State. The West wants to struggle with terrorism, which it created with its own hands.” “Russia’s decision to counteract terrorism facilitated the efforts to lay down the strategic groundwork for consigning the unipolar world to history,” Haddad said. “The Russian leadership displayed its prudence as it adopted a correct strategy, which undermines the very foundations of terrorism.”

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He accused Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia of supporting the extremists. “The airstrikes delivered by the Russian Aerospace Force are dozens of times more efficacious than the actions of the US-led coalition,” Haddad said. The concept of the Greater Middle East was put forward in the US in 2004. It envisioned amassed American economic aid to the Arab and other Moslem countries (from northwestern Africa to Afghanistan to Pakisktan) that would achieve the most sizable successes in democratization of society.

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In part, Washington linked economic aid to the setting-in of pro-democracy regimes in the aforementioned countries. Many politicians and observers in the Islamic world size up this initiative as the striving to superimpose the American model of democracy on the Islamic world, which is alien to it. They maintain the ‘Arab spring’ that swept across a range of Arab countries in the form of revolutions and wiped out their ruling regimes as a product of this policy.

(Source / 25.12.2015)

Foreign complicity in Israel’s crimes must end: Activist


Palestinians show solidarity with hunger striking prisoners

Press TV has interviewed Joe Catron, a member of the International Solidarity Movement in New York, about over two dozen Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails going on hunger strike in the occupied Palestinian territories in protest against inhumane treatment by Israeli forces.

The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: We are seeing more rallies being held in the occupied territories against Israel’s violations, now we are seeing Palestinian inmates held in Israeli jails trying to take things in their own hands and go on hunger strikes. What reaction is there going to be from the international community to these acts of desperation by Palestinian prisoners?

Catron: Well I think this new hunger strike should be seen in the context of Israel’s overall wave of repression, of Palestinian resistance. In recent months since the beginning of October, it has imprisoned well over a thousand new Palestinian political prisoners and its mistreatment of these prisoners is systematic, consisting not only of torture specially during the initial interrogation period but also denial of health treatment, legal and family visits and any number of problems with living conditions ranging from inadequate insulation to inedible food.

So these are people who have a great deal to fight for not only and ultimately winning their freedom but simply securing the basic dignity of their day-to- day lives. In terms of international reactions, I think it will depend on what the grassroots supporters of these prisoners among popular movements are able to force foreign governments and other overseas institutions to do.

Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinian political prisoners like its occupation of Palestine as a whole is able to continue only with the support of what is called the international community, whether actively like as in the case of the United States by providing arms and weapons or in the best case by any number of other states that simply look the other way and perhaps issue ineffectual statements from time to time.

So I would not expect that much from governments of their own accord. It will depend entirely on people and what they are prepared to force governments to do.

Press TV: When we are talking about Palestine we are talking about decades and decades of repression. We just had news that the UN brokered a deal between the Syrian army and ISIL (Daesh) terrorists. Why do you think the UN is not stepping up to do something when it comes to the plight of Palestinians?

Catron: Well I think international institutions like the UN as well as foreign states have faced no cost or very little cost for their complicity in Israel’s crimes. It carries out these atrocities ranging from its mistreatment of political prisoners to its ongoing wave of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank to periodic massacres of Palestinians in Gaza. Institutions like the UN support in some cases these crimes. The UN has over 22 million dollars in contracts with G4S, a notorious Israeli prison contractor that equips the prisons and detention centers where the torture of Palestinian political prisoners takes place.

There are growing global efforts to force the UN as well as foreign governments to end their complicity in Israel’s ongoing crimes against the Palestinians but up until now they have not faced as much of a cost as will be necessary I think to force them to do so.

(Source / 25.12.2015)

Palestinians in Syria desperately need Yarmouk truce

Remaining Palestinians ‘living in deeply abject conditions in Yarmouk’, UNRWA spokesman tells Al Jazeera.

A man points to what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by Syrian army in Yarmouk earlier this year [File: Moayad Zaghmout/Reuters]

A man points to what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by Syrian army in Yarmouk earlier this year

A deal brokered by the United Nations hopes to end the suffering of thousands of residents stuck between a government-imposed siege and armed opposition groups in a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus.

The deal, which has not been confirmed yet, will permit the exit of fighters from armed opposition groups from Yarmouk camp and the nearby neighbourhoods of al-Hajar al-Aswad and al-Qadam, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory also said that the deal will allow hundreds of Palestinian families to be moved from the camp to calmer areas in Damascus.

Unconfirmed reports by activists said busses started arriving and transporting armed groups from Yarmouk and nearby areas on Friday afternoon.

Home to Palestinian refugees and Syrians, Yarmouk has been the site of intense fighting between the Syrian government and its allies, on the one hand, and armed opposition groups, including the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of the Levant and Iraq (ISIL) group.

Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), said that there have been “persistent reports” of negotiations towards a truce or ceasefire in Yarmouk over the last three months.

“These reports are credible and UNRWA is taking them seriously, although they have not been officially or formally confirmed, and details have been vague,” Gunness told Al Jazeera.

Like Syrians across the country, Palestinians in refugee camps, including Yarmouk, have been caught in the crossfire as fighting rages on between government forces and armed opposition groups.

READ MORE: Yarmouk camp victim of water wars in Syria

UNRWA has been unable to access Yarmouk since late March, shortly before ISIL fighters invaded on April 1 and took control of more than 90 percent of the camp.

Most ISIL fighters pulled out of the camp’s interior within days, but the group controls many surrounding areas. Al-Nusra Front still maintains a heavy presence inside the camp.

In December 2012, the Syrian army killed dozens of civilians when it bombed and besieged Yarmouk, putting up checkpoints and heavily restricting the entry of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies.

Although the UN removed Yarmouk from its list of besieged communities in July, residents and humanitarian groups say the situation has only worsened.

In 2014, reports emerged of hundreds dying from starvation and others suffering mass malnutrition. Many residents were reduced to eating stray animals and grass in order to survive as Syrian soldiers blocked the delivery food and medicine.

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare tea as they rest inside a building near the frontline against what they said were ISIL fighters in the Yarmouk camp

‘Trying to survive’

“UNRWA demands that any arrangements being negotiated in and around Yarmouk must include guarantees for a durable cessation of hostilities, for the protection of civilians, and for safe, uninterrupted humanitarian access for UNRWA and other humanitarian actors,” Gunness said.

Reports indicate that the health situation inside the camp has severely declined in recent months. In August and September, a typhoid outbreak spread quickly throughout the camp and impacted at least 90 people.

“There are several thousands of civilians living in deeply abject conditions in Yarmouk,” Gunness continued, adding that access is “urgently needed to enable UNRWA to deliver food, clean water, winter supplies, healthcare, and other humanitarian assistance and services”.

Once home to nearly 200,000 Palestinian refugees and Syrians, the local population has plummeted to an estimated 5,000 – 8,000 civilians, according to the Yarmouk-based Jafra Foundation humanitarian group.

“Those who stayed are the poorest people, the ones who didn’t have the means to leave, such as children or families without parents and other vulnerable groups,” Wesam Sabaaneh, a coordinator at the Jafra Foundation who visits Yarmouk regularly, told Al Jazeera.

“Today the [fighters] will leave the camp, but we are waiting to find out who will control it after,” he said, explaining that rumours have spread that Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis, a Hamas-affiliated armed group, may attempt to take control of Yarmouk.

Aknaf Bait al-Maqdis fought ISIL and Nusra in April, but most of their ranks were pushed out of the camp at the time. Between April and August, Nusra and ISIL assassinated more than 30 local Palestinian leaders, mostly from Hamas.

“There are no more Hamas leaders left in the camp at the moment,” Sabaaneh said. “They are dead or had to leave.”

Due to border closures for registered Palestinian refugees, most of Yarmouk’s displaced population was uprooted to elsewhere within Syria’s borders. “They cannot go to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, so they are just trying to survive,” Sabaaneh added.

Yarmouk residents inspect a site hit by what activists said were barrel bombs thrown by Assad forces on May 26, 2015

‘Most vulnerable’ 

Palestinians in Syria are the descendants of those dispossessed during Israel’s 1948 establishment, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were made into refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere.

“Most of the problems that happen in the Palestinians camps are the same ones Syrians face, but the biggest issue is that Palestinians have no option of leaving,” he said.

At least 3,084 Palestinians have been killed since the Syrian uprising started in March 2011, according to the UK-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria. Another 1,022 are locked up in Syrian prisons and at least 282 cannot be accounted for.

Since the initially unarmed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad started nearly five years ago, it has turned into a full-blown civil war that has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people, according to UN estimates.

Yarmouk is only one of several Palestinian refugee camps hit hard by the fighting. An estimated 70 percent of the Daraa camp has been damaged by the fighting, while the al-Sbeineh camp has been completely evacuated by Syrian government forces, the Action Group reported.

An estimated 500,000 Palestinians in Syria were registered by the UN as refugees before the start of the uprising, but that number has since dropped.

Within Syria, Jafra estimates that more than 100,000 Palestinians still live in areas with little or no access to humanitarian aid.

“The Palestinian people in Syria are the most vulnerable people in the country because they already refugees without representation,” Sabaaneh said. “Who has spoke up for Palestinians in Syria? Who has helped us?”

READ MORE: Lessons from Yarmouk

According to Sabaaneh, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) is “not doing anything to help” Palestinians in Syria, while Palestinian political parties “have been more concerned with their own interests”.

“We have never seen any hope from the UN,” he added.

He estimates that Yarmouk will need “at least one year” before it is inhabitable. “There is a lot of destruction in the camp,” he said.

(Source / 25.12.2015)

Israeli troops kill one Palestinian, wound 11 others in Gaza protests

Israeli troops attacked, using live gunfire, four different protests held in different parts of Gaza Friday, wounding six people near Khan Younis, wounding four people in al-Boreij, wounding one near Erez, and killing one young man in al-Shejaiya, east of Gaza City.

Hani Wahdan Gaza

Hani Wahdan, killed in Gaza

Hani Rafiq Wahdan, 22, was shot in the head near the al-Shejaiya neighborhood east of Gaza City, according to a spokesperson for the Gazan Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra. He died on the scene.

In al-Boreij refugee camp, in central Gaza, clashes broke out between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli forces after the Israeli forces invaded the camp and began firing on demonstrators. Some of the demonstrators then responded by throwing stones, according to local sources.

Six others were shot in the al-Faraheen area east of Khan Younis, and one Palestinian was shot near the Erez crossing, according to the Palestinian Health Minister for the Gaza Strip.

The attacks on the demonstrations in Gaza occurred at the same time as similar assaults on non-violent demonstrations against the Israeli Annexation Wall and settlements in a number of West Bank villages.

These demonstrations take place weekly, after Friday prayers, and have been continuing for over ten years in many of the villages.

Organizers say that they are attempting to demonstrate their resilience in the face of the ongoing brutal military occupation by Israeli forces, and the continuous theft of Palestinian land by the Israeli government and paramilitary settler forces.

(Source / 25.12.2015)

Tomeh: Assad Does not Deserve to Sit at the Negotiating Table

Prime Minister of the Syrian Interim Government, Ahmed Tomeh, said that Assad does deserve a seat at the negotiating table, adding that the Syrian opposition agreed to negotiate with its regime out of keenness to serve the interests of the Syrian people and to put an end their suffering.

Tomeh was speaking earlier today at a press conference with interim ministers of health and communications at the interim government’s headquarters in Gaziantep, Turkey.

“Having always done everything in our power to end the suffering of the Syrian people, we agreed to participate in the upcoming Geneva negotiations, which will be resumed in January, after running out of all other options to end the suffering of our people.”

Tomeh urged Arab and friendly countries to support the Syrian people against the Assad regime and the Russian aggression, adding that many Syrians are in urgent need for food, medicine and heating.

“Syrians have been going through tragic conditions and immense suffering caused by Assad’s daily massacres that have even surpassed those that took place during World War II. We, therefore, call upon the friends of the Syrian people to step up humanitarian support for the Syrian people, especially with the onset of winter.”

Tomeh added that Russian airstrikes have so far forced nearly 500,000 Syrians out of their homes. He criticized the international community for lack of commitment to the pledges it made towards helping the Syrian people.

“The Russians consider the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups as terrorists. They are bombing civilian and military targets alike,” he added.

Tomeh also said that since the start of the Russian aggression on Syria on late September, Russian warplanes have targeted 14 hospitals, 14 aid warehouses, 9 educational facilities, 22 bakeries and 14 infrastructure facilities.

Tomeh concluded his remarks calling on the international community to provide the Free Syrian Army with advanced weaponry to ward off the Russian air attacks on Syria.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 25.12.2015)

Gazan arrested after attempt to cross Israeli border fence

GAZA, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Thursday night arrested a Palestinian young man from the Gaza Strip after he tried to infiltrate into the 1948 occupied lands.

Local sources said that the IOF arrested the young man near the security fence to the east of al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops fired flares as they were combing the eastern areas of central Gaza.

Local sources said that Israeli soldiers stationed at the Kissufim military post, south of Gaza, fired flares over the eastern parts of Deir al-Balah district and the refugee camps of al-Bureij and al-Maghazi, amid intensive drone overflights.

(Source / 25.12.2015)

PA detains 16 in fear of terrorist attacks during Christmas season

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Authority detained over a dozen Salafists in the Bethlehem area over the past few days, reportedly in effort to thwart potential terrorist attacks in the holy city during the Christmas season, Israeli media reported.

Sixteen in total were detained by security forces after the PA suspected that the Islamic State planned to target Christian tourists visiting Bethlehem, according to reports by Ynet, the English publication of Israeli news site Yedioth Ahronot.No information was given regarding the actual involvement of those detained in terrorist activity.PA officials met in Bethlehem earlier this week to map out how ot respond to the potential threat, where attendees decided to deploy large numbers of security forces into the city as well as to make arrests, Ynet reported.Four detainees were put into administrative detention and four IS supporters were also detained from other areas of the West Bank, according to the report.As IS and other extremist elements have spread across neighboring countries in the Middle East, Palestinian leadership in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip have voiced concern over the potential growth of extremism in the occupied Palestinian territory.Despite the concern, support for the Islamic State group remains minuscule among Palestinians, according to recent polls by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.A poll conducted earlier this month reported that an overwhelming majority of 88 percent of Palestinians believe that IS is a radical group that does not represent true Islam.Seven percent, meanwhile, said the group did represent Islam.PLO Central Council member Muhammad Shtayyeh said earlier this month that while extremist groups have yet to take hold in the popular Palestinian public, such a reality could not be guaranteed if both the Israeli occupation and Palestinian political woes were not addressed.“If today there is not one single Palestinian with Daesh or Al-Qaeda, can we really maintain this situation? I put this as a question mark and as a warning, this situation is very fragile,” Eshtayyeh said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State groupFrustration has grown among Palestinians against their leadership, particularly members of the PA, who have maintained a relative quiet through recent turmoil in the occupied Palestinian territory.Shtayyeh emphasized at the time the necessity for Palestinian leaders to “bridge the gap between the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership” if the current situation is to improve.The official also said the ongoing Israeli military occupation and the violent policies it implements on Palestinians must also end in order to avoid the potential spread of extremism.

(Source / 25.12.2015)