Saudi, Egypt and Israel work together in Gaza attack .

Article of Friday, 25 July 2014

The war on Gaza is planned and orchestrated by Israel, Saudi and Egypt, a report by DEBKA-Net-Weekly said yesterday.

According to DEBKA the three-way cooperation has set up the following guidelines for the operation in Gaza:

  1. Israel and the IDF will fight to smash Hamas’ military might and downgrade its political influence.
  2. The military operation will come to a close only when all its objectives are achieved.
  3. The three leaders will not permit any outside party, including the US, to interfere in their direction of the war.
  4. The oil-rich Saudi kingdom will cover a portion of the war costs incurred by Israel.
  5. When the war is over, Saudi Arabia and some of the Gulf emirates, led by the UAE and Kuwait, will pay for repairing the damage caused by the fighting in the Gaza Strip.
  6. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel are of the same mind about the absolute necessity to dismantle Hamas’ military strength, including its arsenal of rockets and network of assault bunkers.
  7. Once the IDF has destroyed Hamas as a terrorist power, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority will get down to installing a new government and security mechanisms in Gaza City to fill the void left by Hamas’ defeat.

“Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Fatah Al-Sisi and Netanyahu… [are] in constant communication on the war’s progress and confers on its next steps. Our sources reveal daily conferences, and sometimes more, between King Abdullah and President Sisi over a secure phone line,” the newsletter said.

DEBKA, thought to have close ties with Israeli intelligence agencies, said the world leaders go to great lengths to ensure their alliance remains undiscovered “given the political and religious sensitivities of their relationship”. Fearful of having even their secure lines intercepted, they prefer to send secret missions to visit each other and discuss the ongoing conflict.

“Israel keeps a special plane parked at Cairo’s military airport ready to lift off whenever top-secret messages between Sisi and Netanyahu need to be delivered by hand. The distance between Cairo and Tel Aviv is covered in less than an hour and a half,” DEBKA explained.

Since the beginning of the Israeli operation which they have dubbed “Protective Edge” Israel has killed 808 Palestinians, and wounded over 5,000, mostly women, children and elderly, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Israeli sources said that the operation has resulted in the killing of 32 Israeli soldiers and three civilians, while 435 people were wounded, mostly suffering from panic attacks, in addition to 90 soldiers.

(Source / 19.01.2016)

Palestine: 2015 in Review

Palestine: 2015 in Review

Ali Dawabsheh​, killed along with his parents when their home was torched by Jewish extremists on July 31, 2015 in the occupied West Bank


Quick Facts

  • Approximately 170 Palestinians were killed and 15,377 were injured by Israelis in 2015.
  • Israel destroyed or dismantled 539 Palestinians homes and other structures in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2015, displacing 742 people.
  • Over the first half of 2015, the number of new settlement units completed in the occupied West Bank increased 54.8% over the same period in 2014. There are now approximately 650,000 Jewish settlers living in the occupied territories.
  • There are more than 11,000 outstanding demolition orders against Palestinian structures in “Area C” of the occupied West Bank.
  • There were 6,800 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel as of December 2015, including 660 held under “administrative detention” without charge or trial and 470 children.

Palestinians Killed & Injured by Israelis

  • According to the United Nations, as of December 28, 170 Palestinians had been killed by Israelis in the occupied territories and Israel in 2015. Additionally, approximately 15,377 Palestinians had been injured by Israelis in 2015, approximately 14% of who were shot with live ammunition.

Excessive Use of Force by Israeli Soldiers & Police

In at least four incidents, Palestinians were deliberately shot dead by Israeli forces when they posed no imminent threat to life.

  • Over the course of 2015, Israeli soldiers and police continued to use excessive, deadly force against unarmed Palestinians demonstrating against Israel’s repressive, nearly 50-year-old occupation regime, as well as Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis. Live ammunition and massive amounts of tear gas were widely used against unarmed Palestinian protesters, injuring thousands. At least one Palestinian, 54-year-old peace activist Hashem Azzeh from Hebron in the occupied West Bank, died as a result of tear gas inhalation on October 21.
  • Israeli forces also carried out a series of summary executions of defenseless Palestinians, as documented by Amnesty International in a report released in October, entitled “Israeli forces in Occupied Palestinian Territories must end pattern of unlawful killings.” The report detailed “at least four incidents in which Palestinians were deliberately shot dead by Israeli forces when they posed no imminent threat to life, in what appear to have been extrajudicial execution.”


Attacks by Jewish Extremists Against Palestinians & Their Property

  • During the course of 2015, extremist Israeli settlers and others continued to attack Palestinians and their property, including destroying olive trees and other crops, as part of an effort to push them off their land.
  • The most serious act of violence carried out by Jewish extremists against Palestinians in 2015 was the murder of three members of the Dawabsheh family, including an 18-month-old baby boy and his parents, whose home was set on fire on July 31 in the town of Duma in the occupied West Bank. A second child, a four-year-old boy, survived the attack.
  • Extremist Israeli Jews also continued to set fire to and vandalize Palestinian mosques and churches in the occupied territories and Israel, part of a long string of hate crimes against Palestinian places of worship going back several years. In February, a mosque near Bethlehem was set on fire by Jewish settlers and in June Jewish extremists set fire to the historic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in northern Israel.


Ongoing Impunity for Israelis Who Attack Palestinians

  • During 2015, Israeli soldiers, police, and settlers continued to enjoy virtual impunity for abusing and killing Palestinians. Only in the most high profile cases that attracted international media attention did Israeli authorities make any serious attempt to hold the perpetrators accountable, and even in those instances individuals were treated more leniently than Palestinians accused of the same crimes.
  • Notable cases included:

The chance that a complaint submitted to the Israel Police by a Palestinian will lead to an effective investigation, the location of a suspect, prosecution, and ultimate conviction is just 1.9 percent.

  • The lenient treatment accorded the police officers charged with assaulting 15-year-old American citizen Tariq Abu Kdheir, who was beaten nearly to death by two masked Israeli police officers during protests in occupied East Jerusalem in July 2014 in an incident that was captured on video. Only one of the officers was charged with any wrongdoing, and he was sentenced to just 45 days community service for the brutal assault.
  • Ongoing delays in the case of the Israeli border police officer charged with manslaughter in the murder of unarmed 17-year-old Nadeem Nawara, who was shot with live ammunition while posing no threat to anyone at a demonstration in May 2014 in the town of Beitunia in the occupied West Bank, in an incident that was captured on video by a CNN film crew. Another unarmed teenager, 17-year-old Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Salameh, was shot and killed with live ammunition in virtually identical circumstances in the same spot just over an hour later, however no one was ever charged in his death.
  • The long delay in charging anyone in the arson murder of three members of the Dawabsheh family in the town of Duma in the West Bank in July, and the lenient treatment accorded some of the suspects, one of whom was released to house arrest at the end of December.​

“Soldiers’ practice of standing idly by has been documented for decades by both government agencies and human rights organizations, which have warned about its serious implications. Yet despite this, the military has thus far refrained from drafting operating procedures and standing orders that clearly and comprehensively set out the sequence of actions soldiers must perform during violent incidents involving Israeli citizens.”

Palestinian Homes & Other Structures Destroyed by Israel

  • According to the UN, Israel destroyed or dismantled 539 Palestinians homes and other structures in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2015, displacing 742 people. Most of the structures were destroyed because they were built without permission from Israel’s occupation authorities, which is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
  • According to official Israeli statistics, there are more than 11,000 outstanding demolition orders against Palestinian structures in “Area C” of the occupied West Bank, which according to the terms of the supposedly interim Oslo Accords falls under complete Israeli military and administrative control. As noted by the UN, “Due to the lack of adequate planning and discriminatory allocation of public land, it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits [from Israel] in most of Area C.”
  • Additionally, 19 homes belonging to the families and neighbors of Palestinians accused of attacks against Israelis were destroyed on punitive grounds. These demolitions amount to collective punishment, which is illegal according to international law.


Palestinians Imprisoned by Israel

  • According to the prisoner rights group Addameer, as of December 2015, there were 6,800 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, including 660 held under “administrative detention” without charge or trial, as well as 470 children.


Abuse of Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Custody

Israeli Incitement

  • During 2015, Israeli soldiers, police, and prison authorities continued to systematically abuse and torture Palestinian prisoners. As noted in a fact sheet released in June by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI): “Torture is still used routinely and systematically against ‘security’ prisoners, with the state’s knowledge and agreement.” In May 2015, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that the use of torture by Israel’s internal secret police, the Shin Bet, had risen sharply since the summer of 2014.
  • Forms of torture include the beating of prisoners, forcing them to sit in painful and stressful positions for long periods of time, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme heat and cold, solitary confinement, and threats to them and their families. This pattern is consistent with previous years, as documented by Amnesty International and other human rights groups.
  • In July, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed a law allowing the force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners, despite criticism from Israeli and international medical and human rights organizations that it’s a form of torture.

Settlement Growth

Private US citizens have given more than $220 million in US tax-deductible donations to settlement groups over the past five years.

  • Over the course of 2015, Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian in violation of international law and official US policy continued to expand steadily. Today, there are approximately 650,000 Jewish settlers living in the occupied territories.
  • In September, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported that over the first half of 2015, the number of new settlement units completed in the occupied West Bank had increased 54.8% over the same period in 2014. It also reported a 49.6% increase in the number of settlement units starting construction. In contrast, inside Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 borders there was an increase of just 6.9% in completed housing construction over the same period in 2014, and a 7.9% increase in housing starts.
  • In occupied East Jerusalem, settler groups backed by US funders continued their campaign to “Judaize” Palestinian areas, in particular the Old City, and the neighborhood of Silwan, which is located adjacent to the Old City, by evicting Palestinians from their homes and taking them over.
  • In December, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper published a series of articles exposing how private US citizens have given more than $220 million in US tax-deductible donations to settlement groups over the past five years via US-based front groups, even though settlements violate both official US policy going back decades and international law.


Continuing Israeli Provocations Around the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount

  • During 2015, messianic Jewish extremists —including senior government officials — continued their campaign to assert Jewish Israeli control over the historic Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, known as the Temple Mount to Jews, with the ultimate goal of destroying the Dome of the Rock shrine and the Al Aqsa mosque and replacing them with a Jewish temple. Their ongoing provocations were one of the main causes of the recent surge in violence in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.
  • The Israeli government also continued to fund radical messianic groups like the Temple Institute, and to provide police escorts to Jewish extremists visiting the Noble Sanctuary, as well as to Jewish extremists who make an annual march through the streets of the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem chanting racist and violent slogans like “Death to Arabs” and calling for a Jewish temple to be built in the Noble Sanctuary.
  • In November 2015, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper published an article titled, “Religious Public Schools Teach Children to ‘Long for the Third Temple’ ,” which documented how Israel’s ministry of education is working with the Temple Institute to indoctrinate Israeli schoolchildren into the messianic Temple Mount movement. The article also noted that the Israeli government funds the Temple Institute, which has received approximately $500,000 (USD) over the past five years.
  • In October, Israel’s hardline Deputy Foreign Minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party and adherent of the Temple Mount movement, Tzipi Hotovely, caused controversy when she declared in an interview: “It’s my dream to see the Israeli flag flying on the Temple Mount.” Her statement contradicted repeated public claims from Netanyahu that he and his government have no intention of changing the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary, and that Palestinian claims to the contrary are baseless incitement.


Continued Israeli Restrictions on the Palestinian Economy

Palestinians are getting poorer on average for the third year in a row.

  • In 2015, the Palestinian economy in the occupied territories continued to be constrained by restrictions on the movement of people and goods imposed by Israel’s occupation regime, particularly in Gaza where Israel’s illegal siege and blockade of the tiny coast strip remained in place. As a result, the Palestinian economy in the occupied territories remains deeply reliant on aid from international donors.
  • At the end of September, the World Bank issued a report, which noted “Palestinians are getting poorer on average for the third year in a row.” The report predicted that gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the occupied West Bank would only be 1.8% in 2015. However, with population growth of 3%, GDP in the West Bank actually likely shrunk per capita in 2015. In Gaza, GDP growth was expected to be 6.5%, however the starting measuring point was much lower in Gaza because of the siege and blockade, and repeated Israeli military assaults that have devastated industry, agriculture, and public infrastructure.
  • The World Bank report also noted that unemployment remains a major problem for the Palestinian economy, particularly in Gaza where the overall unemployment rate was 42%, in the first half of 2015, with the youth unemployment rate at more than 60%. In the West Bank, the unemployment rate dropped from 18% to 16%, but only because more Palestinian laborers were allowed to enter Israel to find work.

Increased Repression of Palestinian Citizens of Israel

  • Over the course of the year, racism, repression, and incitement against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up approximately 20% of the population, continued to grow to alarming levels.
  • The wave of repressive laws passed in recent years targeting Palestinian and left-wing Jewish citizens of Israel continued, most notably with the Supreme Court’s upholding of the so-called “boycott law,” which allows for lawsuits to be filed against any individual or organization that call for boycotts of Israel or of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. In late December, a proposed bill targeting Israeli NGOs who receive foreign funding and document Israeli human rights abuses was passed by Netanyahu’s cabinet and sent to the Knesset for approval, in a move criticized by the US government. These recent laws are in addition to the dozens of laws already in place that privilege Jewish citizens and discriminate against non-Jewish ones.
  • In March, then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for Palestinian citizens of Israel who aren’t loyal to the state to be beheaded, stating: “Those who are against us, there’s nothing to be done – we need to pick up an ax and cut off his head.” The same month, in the last days of a close election campaign, Prime Minister Netanyahu issued a thinly veiled race-baiting plea to Israeli Jews on his Facebook page, warning: “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls.”
  • In 2015, the Israeli government also continued its efforts to push Bedouin citizens off their traditional lands in the Negev desert (Naqab to Palestinians) in southern Israel, part of a plan to “ Judaize” the area by repopulating it with Jewish citizens. In May, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the government could remove the Bedouin residents of the town of Umm al-Hiran — who are Israeli citizens — and build a town for Jews, named Hiran, in its place.

(Source / 19.01.2016)

EU pushes for lifting Israeli siege on Gaza

BRUSSELS, (PIC)– The European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers Council called, on Monday, for the need to take swift steps to produce a fundamental change to the political, security and economic situation in the Gaza Strip, including the end of the closure and a full opening of the crossing points.

According to a statement by the EU Foreign Ministers, all stakeholders must commit to non-violence and peace in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The EU urged the Palestinians to make the reconstruction of Gaza an overarching national priority especially as regards to health, energy and access to water.

According to the EU, the Palestinian Authority must fully resume its governmental functions in Gaza, as it is an integral part of a future Palestinian state.

The lifting of restriction on movement of people, services and goods – particularly those designated as ‘dual-use items’ – is needed to allow reconstruction efforts and basic service delivery, the EU added.

The EU welcomed progress on the Duma investigation and called on the Israeli occupation to hold all perpetrators of settler violence to account.

The Foreign Ministers said fundamental change of policy by the Israeli occupation with regard to the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in Area C, will significantly increase economic opportunities, empower Palestinian institutions and enhance stability and security.

Recalling that settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two state solution impossible, the EU reiterated its strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, such as building the separation barrier beyond the 1967 line, along with the demolitions and confiscation – including of EU funded projects – evictions, forced transfers of Bedouins, illegal outposts and restrictions of movement and access.

It urged the Israeli occupation to end all settlement activity and to dismantle the outposts erected since March 2001, adding that settlement activity in East Jerusalem seriously jeopardizes the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both States.

The EU expressed its commitment to ensure that – in line with international law – all agreements between the Israeli occupation and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.

The EU urged all Palestinian factions to engage in good faith in the reconciliation process, vowing that that the EU will continue its support to Palestinian aspirations for Statehood.

The EU called upon the Palestinian unity government to work towards genuine and democratic elections for all Palestinians. To this end, the EU called on all Palestinian factions to find common ground and to work together to address the needs of the Palestinian population.

The Council voiced deep concern that the continuing cycle of violence has led to a serious loss of human life in the occupied Palestinian territory in recent months.

(Source / 19.01.2016)

Despite civil war, Somali and Ethiopian refugees flock to Yemen

Nearly 100,000 Ethiopians and Somalis have travelled to Yemen by boat in 2015

According to the latest UNHCR data, 92,446 people arrived in Yemen by boat last year

Nearly 100,000 Ethiopians and Somalis have travelled by boat to Yemen in 2015 despite the conflict raging there, the UN said on Tuesday, warning about the dangers of the journey.

“Clearly it’s extremely dangerous, both for the journey and for what they meet inside Yemen,” UN refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told AFP.

His warning came less than two weeks after 36 people drowned trying to reach Yemen on 8 January.

Ninety-five people have reportedly drowned while trying to make the journey last year, making it the second deadliest year recorded to date on that route, Edwards said.

The high death toll reflects the large numbers still trying to reach Yemen, even as the country has collapsed into a brutal civil war.

According to the latest UNHCR data, 92,446 people arrived in Yemen by boat last year – a full two-thirds of them since the conflict in the country escalated dramatically in March.

That marks one of the highest annual totals in more than a decade, UNHCR said.

Nearly 90 percent of the arrivals, 82,268, hailed from Ethiopia, while the remainder came from Somalia, it added.

Edwards described the figures as “disturbing,” lamenting that “people still seem to be uninformed about the severity of the situation in Yemen”.

Some 6,000 people – around half of them civilians – have been killed in Yemen since conflict there escalated last March with the start of a Saudi-led bombing campaign against rebels, according to UN numbers.

More than 2.5 million others have become internally displaced and another 168,000 have fled Yemen since March, the UN said.

Yemen now hosts 264,615 asylum seekers, of which over 250,000 of them come from Somalia, according to UNHCR.

September 2015 marked the most severe month, with over 10,000 people migrating across the Arabian Sea – a 50 percent spike over August.

Edwards said smugglers were clearly organising the boatloads of people headed to the war-torn country and suggested the information they had and were sharing about the situation on the ground was not completely accurate.

“People continue to arrive despite unprecedented escalated internal conflict in Yemen, and tragically more people continue to lose their lives trying to cross the sea in overcrowded, unseaworthy boats,” Edwards told reporters in Geneva.

In the incident on 8 January, 106 people had been on a boat heading for Yemen when it ran into difficulties, Edwards said, quoting information from Somaliland authorities.

There were 70 survivors – all but one of whom was Ethiopian – and 36 people perished, he said.

(Source / 19.01.2016)

Father of slain Palestinian attacker released from Israeli custody

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli Prison Service released Palestinian prisoner, Abd al-Salam Abu Ghazaleh, on Tuesday after holding the man under administrative detention for three months, Palestinian sources said.Abu Ghazaleh was detained shortly after his son, Thaer, was shot dead on Oct. 8 after carrying out a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv.He had since been held without charge or trial under Israel’s administrative detention policy. On Oct. 19, Israel’s magistrate court had initially ruled to release Abu Ghazaleh after interrogating him for several hours about “revenge statements” he had supposedly made after his son’s death, however the prosecution challenged the order and presented an appeal to the central court.Palestinian sources added that Israeli authorities have continued to withold the body of Abu Ghazaleh’s son. Detaining family members of alleged Palestinian attackers is common practice in Israel’s judicial system, as is issuing demolition orders for family homes of Palestinians detained or killed by Israeli forces.

The practice has been utilized more often since the latest wave of upheaval sparked in October.
(Source / 19.01.2016)

Hunger-striking journalist receiving ‘forced treatment’

An elderly man looks at pictures of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails during a protest in East Jerusalem on April 15, 2010

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli authorities have been forcing treatment on Palestinian hunger striker Muhammad al-Qiq in violation of medical ethics, medical rights group Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) said Tuesday.In a statement, the group Israel called on doctors in HaEmek Hospital in Afula to “stop forcing treatment upon (al-Qiq) and pressuring him to end his hunger strike.”PHRI spokesperson Lital Grosman stressed that the forced treatment did not amount to force-feeding, a controversial practice approved by Israeli lawmakers in July last year that Israeli doctors have so far refused to implement.PHRI’s announcement came a day after one of the group’s lawyers visited al-Qiq. The 33-year-old journalist from the southern West Bank town of Dura has now been on hunger strike 55 days to protest his administrative detention — internment without trial or charge.The rights group said it was “clear” that al-Qiq had been “occasionally subject to medical treatment against his will and consent, in violation of medical ethics and the Patient’s Rights Law.”It said the hunger striker had been “hooked up against his will to an infusion of salts and vitamins, and blood was taken with the permission of the hospital’s ethics committee. “Al-Qiq was tied to the bed and forcefully held down by prison wardens while a member of the medical staff made the infusion. For four days al-Qiq remained tied to the bed, hooked up to the IV drip, while pleading for its removal, to no avail.”On Thursday, PHRI said that doctors removed the drip and did not re-administer it. However, doctors attempted on Friday to pressure him to take a can of liquid food in order to break his strike.PHRI said that these actions “contradict the World Medical Association’s declarations on hunger strikers, to which medical personnel in Israel are committed, including the Malta Declaration which forbids both applying pressure to end a hunger strike and forced medical treatment.”It also cited the Tokyo Declaration, which it said “forbids physicians’ participation in torture, including the forced feeding or treatment of hunger strikers.”PHRI said the actions had not been enough to “break” al-Qiq’s hunger strike and did not constitute force-feeding, but that they “constitute significant violations of medical ethics.”Despite assurances from the hospital that it “had no intention or desire” to force-feed its patients, Grosman expressed concerns that doctors would continue to apply pressure on al-Qiq to break his strike. “We hope the medical staff will respect his wishes,” she said. The group added that the Israeli Prison Service had so far not responded to a request that an independent physician be allowed to see al-Qiq.Rights groups and medical experts consider force-feeding tantamount to torture, with the Israeli Medical Association stressing last year that its doctors would “continue to act according to medical ethics, which prohibit doctors from participating in torturing prisoners.”On Monday, PHRI and Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer submitted a petition “demanding to halt the shackling of al-Qiq to his bed, arguing that he poses no danger or could not escape and that there is no justification for his shackling.”PHRI condemned Israel’s use of administrative detention — describing it as “the basis of this and previous hunger strikes” — and called for al-Qiq’s immediate release.In recent months, Israel has dramatically increased its use of administrative detention, with the number of detainees denied trial soaring from around 340 in September to some 660 by the end of December.

(Source / 19.01.2016)

Jubeir: Syrian opposition should choose delegates

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks during a press conference following a meeting with his French counterpart at the Saudi Foreign Ministry on January 19, 2016 in the capital Riyadh

Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday no one should dictate to the Syrian opposition who represents them at peace talks, as a proposed Jan. 25 meeting looked set to be delayed by differences over who will attend.

The planned Geneva talks are part of a peace process endorsed by the U.N. Security Council last month in a rare display of international agreement on Syria, where a five-year-old civil war has killed at least 250,000 people.

The world body said on Monday it would not issue invitations to the talks between Syria’s government and opposition until major powers pushing the peace process reached agreement on which rebel representatives should attend.

“The Syrian opposition is the party which decides who represents it in the talks, and the higher committee that emerged from the Riyadh conference is the concerned party and they are the ones who decide who represents them in the talks,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in Riyadh.

“No other party is allowed to impose on the Syrian opposition who represents them in the talks with Bashar al-Assad,” he added, at a joint news conference with visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday that the United Nations will proceed with issuing invitations “when the countries spearheading the ISSG (International Syria Support Group) process come to an understanding on who among the opposition should be invited”.

The countries driving the diplomatic initiative on Syria include the United States, Russia and other European and Middle Eastern powers, among them rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

U.N. diplomats say it looks increasingly likely that the U.N.-brokered talks between Syria’s government and opposition will be delayed.

The opposition, at a meeting in Riyadh last month, set up a 34-member body to oversee the talks.

The peace process calls for negotiations aimed at setting up a transitional government and eventual elections.

Western-backed Syrian opposition groups have said they want government sieges to end before talks can start. The United Nations says government and opposition sieges have put civilians at risk of starvation.

(Source / 19.01.2016)

Hamas welcomes EU’s decision to freeze agreements with Israel


GAZA, (PIC)– The Hamas Movement has welcomed the European Union (EU) foreign affairs council’s decision to freeze its agreements with Israel in the Palestinian areas occupied in 1967 and described it as an important step in the right direction.

In press remarks to the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) on Tuesday, senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan considered; however, such a European step “insufficient”, and called for necessarily imposing economic sanctions on Israel and holding it accountable for committing crimes against humanity.

Radwan also urged the EU to end all kinds of support for Israel in response to its violations against the Palestinian people.

(Source / 19.01.2016)

Major West Bank checkpoint to be severely restricted

NABLUS (Ma’an) — A major Israeli military checkpoint in the northern West Bank district of Nablus will be shut for designated hours every day starting Wednesday, Palestinian officials said.Osama Mansour, head of the Palestinian military liaison in Nablus, told Ma’an that the Israeli authorities notified the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday that the Huwwara checkpoint would be closed to south-bound traffic leaving Nablus during the morning and evening rush hours.North-bound traffic traveling into the district via the checkpoint would still be permitted, Mansour said.He said the restrictions would apply to vehicles crossing through Huwwara between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. as well as between 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.The Orta checkpoint will be opened during the designated times to provide an alternate route for those travelling out of Nablus, Mansour told Ma’an, adding that the restrictions would remain in place until further notice.An Israeli army spokesperson had no immediate comment.The Huwwara checkpoint is a major thoroughfare for both Palestinians as well as Israelis living in illegal settlements, and has been site to frequent confrontation between local Palestinians and Israeli military and settlers in recent months.Israeli settlers late Monday reportedly threw stones at Palestinian vehicles near the checkpoint while Israeli soldiers stood by and watched, locals told Ma’an at the time.Medical sources said that several Palestinians were injured when a checkpoint gate was suddenly closed, shattering the glass of a Palestinian vehicle.Israeli forces on Sunday shot and killed 21-year-old Wissam Marwan Qasrawa after he reportedly attempted to stab an Israeli soldier stationed nearby the Huwwara checkpoint.He is one of at last eight Palestinians to be killed near Huwwara since unrest increased in the occupied Palestinian territory in October.The new restrictions beginning Wednesday are likely to affect a number of the over 200,000 Palestinians living in the Nablus district for whom the Huwwara checkpoint is one of just four checkpoints through which residents may travel.

(Source / 19.01.2016)

Israeli ministry slams EU for ‘double standard,’ PA for incitement

An Israeli settler raises an Israeli flag at the E1 settlement area on Dec, 9, 2007, near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday slammed the EU Council’s most recent conclusions on the Middle East peace process, released on Monday, as being biased against Israel by ignoring the Palestinian Authority’s “responsibility” for the current political situation on the ground. In a press release, the Israeli ministry said “the EU continues to apply a double standard in relation to Israel, ignoring the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for the diplomatic stalemate and the incitement feeding the current wave of Palestinian terrorism.”The EU’s statement was praised by PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi, who said the PLO felt “encouraged” by the EU’s statements.Ashrawi specifically applauded the EU’s assertion that any EU agreements with Israel will not be applicable to areas occupied by Israel since 1967, including Israeli settlements in occupied West Bank.Most of the EU Council’s 11 conclusions focused on highlighting established EU policies towards the conflict. However, the council did emphasis the importance of “upholding the status quo” at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, an issue that in October helped spark the current wave of unrest in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. The council also asked that “all parties to refrain from any action that would worsen the situation by way of incitement or provocation” and called on all parties “to condemn attacks when they occur.”Specifically, the council encouraged Israel to continue to make progress on the Duma investigation, referring to an arson attack in July in which Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian home, burning an 18-month-old baby alive, killing the child’s mother and father, and severely injuring the couple’s 4-year-old son. The council did not make mention of any specific Palestinian attacks on Israelis that have occurred during the past three months. Israel’s foreign ministry accused the EU of “discriminat(ing) against Israel,” and said that the EU’s current approach “prevents the EU from being an honest broker in the conflict.”Ashrawi, who mostly praised the EU’s statements, did criticize the body for “allocating equal blame,” which Ashrawi said “fails to take into account the power asymmetry between the belligerent occupier and a vulnerable side under occupation whose rights are being willfully violated.”While both Palestinian and Israeli leadership have accused each other of inciting and encouraging the current wave of upheaval, the EU praised “both sides for upholding security coordination in the light of an extremely challenging situation.”

(Source / 19.01.2016)