Abu Marzouk: Political hypocrisy behind Gaza’s tragic situation

GAZA, (PIC)– Political hypocrisy and double standards have been at the origin of Palestinians’ tragic state of affairs in the blockaded Gaza Strip, senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk said on Facebook.

“What has such a silence over the implementation of the reconciliation accord been maintained for?”, Abu Marzouk wondered.

“To whoever remains mum over the security coordination and attempts to infanticide democracy . . . you know very well the entire truth; you know very well who truly wants to heal the rift and who doesn’t, who implements the bonds and who doesn’t. But you prefer silence for fear of being castigated,” he said.

“Why on earth don’t you strike a comparison between the situation in blockaded Gaza and that in the West Bank? Has the situation been the same?” Abu Marzouk added.

He attributed the tragedy in the besieged coastal enclave to “political hypocrisy” and the “greed to survive” at the expense of Gazans.

“You don’t want to be part of any solution to Gaza. It is much easier for you to accuse other parties and whitewash yourselves. Such has been your policy of double standards,” the Hamas leader stated.

“How easily can you forget the efforts made by Hamas to work out the crises . . . . You know very well that had not Hamas been there in Gaza, survival would have been almost impossible,” he said.

Abu Marzouk added that Gaza has been paying a steep price for clinging to its tenets and right to resistance and liberation.

(Source / 20.01.2016)

Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa Mosque and climb Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock

This is the first incident where the settlers have climbed the Dome of the Rock Mosque [file photo of muslim worshippers outside the Dome of the Rock mosque, which resides within the Al-Aqsa compound]

Israeli settlers have stormed repeatedly Al-Aqsa Mosque compound over the last two days, and on Thursday even climbed the Dome of the Rock Mosque. The settlers were led by the radical Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who is the former head of the Temple Institute. He was accompanied by a journalist on Thursday who carried a camera to document the attack, while settlers reportedly engaged in verbal altercations with angry Muslim worshipers defending the mosque. Witnesses reported that Rabbi Glick returned to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque twice on Friday, joined by groups of Jewish settlers whom he lectured to about the alleged Temple.

The settlers have now become accustomed to storming the mosque regularly, usually touring around the yards starting from the Mughrabi Gate and then going to Al-Marwani Mosque, Rahma Gate, Al-Asbat Gate and King Faisal Gate until the Alqtanin Gate, exiting from Al-Selselah Gate. However, this is the first incident where the settlers have climbed the Dome of the Rock Mosque.

The General Director of Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs, Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, has condemned the incident and described it as a provocative and dangerous step. Meanwhile, the Islamic-Christian Committee to support Jerusalem and its holy sites issued a press statement affirming that the incident represents “a flagrant violation against places of worship” and pointing out that the Israeli occupation authorities have almost completed their efforts to Judaise Al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings and are preparing to announce it as a Jewish synagogue.

In related news, Israeli occupation forces arrested three young Palestinian men from inside Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday and took them to a police station in the occupied city of Jerusalem.

(Source / 20.01.2016)

Jewish settlers attack Palestinian cars at Huwara checkpoint

NABLUS, (PIC)– A horde of Jewish settlers last night attacked a number of Palestinian vehicles at Huwara military checkpoints, south of Nablus city.

Local sources told the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) that the settlers hurled stones at Palestinian cars in full view of the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint.

They added that several cars sustained material damage and some passengers suffered injuries in the attack.

(Source / 20.01.2016)

Why Sudan wants to stop the ‘spread of Shiism’

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir waves to the crowd upon returning from surgery in Saudi Arabia, at Khartoum Airport, Nov. 14, 2012

KHARTOUM, Sudan — ‪Increasingly, Sudan appears to be assuming greater space in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy. Last year, Sudanese warplanes and troops joined the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Moreover, Sudan is the only country, besides Bahrain, which has joined Saudi Arabia in recently cutting diplomatic relations with Iran. This followed the attacks on Saudi diplomatic compounds in Iran after the execution of Saudi Shiite Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Of further note, Riyad’s announcement‪ of a 34-member coalition against the Islamic State includes Sudan, which as recently as 2013 saw its President Omar al-Bashir banned from flying over Saudi airspace en route to Iran. While the “Islamic Coalition” is not a military alliance, Khartoum’s involvement in Yemen effectively makes it a military partner of Riyadh, cooperation for which it has reportedly received $2.2 billon.

Mindful of the above, has Sudan really gone pro-Saudi? Or is it just increasingly anti-Shiite?

Sudan’s acceptance of Saudi Arabia’s “cold hard cash,” as one report describes it, does not in itself signal a fundamental change in Sudan’s political orientation. Indeed, while the sensational political shift toward Riyadh is new, Saudi investment in Sudan is not. The Saudis have long been the biggest single investors in Sudan, having pumped an estimated $11 billion into the country — and particularly in agriculture. For instance, almost all of Sudan’s sheep and mutton exports go to Saudi Arabia, one of the reasons why sheep is exorbitantly expensive for Sudanese — even in rural areas, where an animal goes for some $200.

Sudanese moves against Shiite political power in the region also suggest that there is more to Khartoum’s repositioning in its foreign policy than just the lure of petrodollars from abroad. The Islamic Coalition initiative has already been criticized for ignoring the Shiite and Shiite-related elements of the regional political structure — for instance, excluding both Iraq and Syria apparently due to their close ties to Iran. In this vein, it should be borne in mind that the Saudi-led war in Yemen is also widely seen as a proxy war against Shiite Iran and its allies. For Sudan, this endorsement of — and participation in — efforts to freeze out Iran is new. Until recently, Tehran and Khartoum had maintained good relations for decades, particularly in the field of weapons trade and the exchange of armaments more generally. Commenting on this, and the Sudanese government’s simultaneous closure of Iranian centers and cultural institutes, Yassin Ibrahim of the University of Al-Nileen in Khartoum told Al-Monitor, “[The government] wants to stop the spread of Shiism.”

Indeed, Sudan now appears to be more than ever before focused on countering the “spread of Shiism,” as some put it. Yet, its current pro-Saudi posture is in essence ambiguous. On the one hand, it is clear that the Saudis and the Sudanese are consciously crafting a mutually convenient financial and political alliance. However, the relationship is perplexing from a sectarian angle. Riyadh has long since championed Wahhabism, the predominant brand of Islam within its borders. And indeed, as one UK-based Sudanese academic told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, due to the sensitivity of Sudan’s sectarian makeup, “In recent years Salafism has increasingly taken root.” However, Salafists in Sudan have failed to attain a strong political platform. They have instead continuously had a tense relationship with the central government, and also with adherents of Sufism, another branch of Islam that is predominant in Sudan.

The most prominent Salafist group is known as Ansar al-Sunnah, which literally means “followers of the tradition of Prophet Muhammad.” Naturally, its emergence has been seen as a direct result of Sudan’s links with Saudi Arabia. Indeed, a high-ranking member of the group who also serves as a government official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Ansar al-Sunnah has widespread relations with Saudi Arabia, and it has taken the approach of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab [the founder of Wahhabism].” Ansar al-Sunnah, through its members, is vocal at universities and in fraternities, and builds at a prolific rate, particularly when it comes to the construction of religious schools and mosques.

Apparently now joined by a strong common interest in fighting Shiism, Sudan’s government and Ansar al-Sunnah should in theory be in agreement with each other. The Saudi version of Salafism is widely known for its vitriol against Shiism and other branches of Islam, including Sufi and Sunni schools of thought. The Sudanese brand of Salafism appears to be no exception to this rule. Sheikh Mustafa al-Mukhtar, an Ansar al-Sunnah imam based in northern Sudan, told Al-Monitor that Sufism and Shiism have “nothing to do with Islam.” The UK-based academic, who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, agrees, “They do not speak against them [Sufis] publicly, though privately, they would like the demise of all Sufi orders in Sudan and elsewhere among Muslims.” The Sudanese official also displayed the same attitude, saying that “the execution of the Shiite rejectionist Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr is satisfying and necessary for [Saudi Arabia], because he was destabilizing the[ir] security … and the Holy Mosques.”

However, things are more complex than that in Sudan. The Sudanese official who is also a member of Ansar al-Sunnah told Al-Monitor, “Ansar Al-Sunnah is a group [that has] deviated from the path of teaching people the religion. They became involved in politics and started to think about ruling the country.” This link between the spread of Salafism and related Salafist political influence has been witnessed elsewhere in the past: In a 2013 study of Egypt, Tunisia, Bosnia, Pakistan and Indonesia, the European Parliament concluded, “Financial aid granted by Salafists/Wahhabists, whether by institutional or private [donors], systematically pursues a goal of political influence.” Ansar al-Sunnah sternly rejects accusations of its intentions to seize power — especially after its official entry into the Cabinet last June, when Mohammed Abu Zaid Mustaf, one of the group’s members, was appointed minister of tourism. Ansar al-Sunnah Imam Mukhtar used the political trajectory of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood as an example to be avoided in his conversation with Al-Monitor. “This is not about changing the government. We want the middle path — it’s not about force, it’s about belief,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, the relationship between the central government and Ansar al-Sunnah has been and — despite the group’s recent inclusion in the Cabinet — continues to be, tense. The authorities have tried to contain the Salafist group’s activities, and in return Ansar al-Sunnah has accused the government of harassment, criticizing the latter on a regular basis. Yet, for Sudanese such as Ibrahim of Karthoum’s University of Al-Nileen, on balance, it is “a good thing that Salafists are allowed to be in Sudan, as they provide the money to construct public services that the government does not.” Thus, in the grander scheme of things, it seems that Bashir appears to be resorting to accommodation rather than confrontation in his efforts to contain the group.

In sum, while Sudan’s shift to Saudi Arabia may appear surprising, the reality is that the relationship between the two countries is complex — and far from new. If anything, the future of the new partnership between the two countries will likely be told from the future of groups, such as Ansar al-Sunnah, and the development of their alleged ties with Saudi Arabia.

(Source / 20.01.2016)

Palestinian shot, injured near Gaza borderline

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Palestinian was shot and injured by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday near the borderline with Israel, Gaza’s Ministry of Health said.Spokesman for the ministry, Ashraf al-Qidra, told Ma’an that a 42-year-old Palestinian man was shot moderately in the foot near the Karni crossing southeast of Gaza City.An Israeli army spokesperson did not have immediate information but told Ma’an they were looking into the incident.Israeli forces frequently open fire on Palestinians inside of or near a military-imposed “buffer zone” on both land and seaside borders of the besieged enclave.The exact limits of the zone are unclear but enforced with live fire, putting the lives of Palestinian farmers and fishermen who work near the border at risk. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported 41 incidents of live fire on the borderlines during December 2015 alone.Last week a Palestinian was killed and three others were injured by Israeli artillery fire in the northern Gaza Strip after the Israeli army said the four planned to attack forces on the border.Days later, several explosive devices were located by Israeli military forces on the borderline that had reportedly been planted prior to the deadly Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014.

(Source / 20.01.2016)

Facebook censors Syrian, Lebanese media pages in mass shut down

Facebook censors Syrian, Lebanese media pages in mass shut down

In a mass crack-down on Syrian and Lebanese journalism today, Facebook has closed down several news-media pages, leaving their hundreds of thousands of followers confused and perturbed.

Among the pages shut down are the Syrian television stations Sama TV, its sister channel Addounia TV, Syrian News Channel, Alikhbaria, as well as the Lebanese Al Mayadeen, based in Beirut and known as the ‘Al Jazeera of the Arab world’. Most of the pages were non-government organisations, privately owned and funded.

The sudden shut down has been attributed by followers to ‘mass reports’ in which large groups of Facebook users with opposing views target the pages they want censored. Often these movements are run by ‘paid trolls’ who have been known to be funded by entities associated with governments or corporations.

In these cases, the reports are usually not related to violations of Facebook’s community standards. Instead their purpose is to suppress free speech as well as damage the organisations financially, as they rely on social media outlets for revenue.

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world who rely on these pages for breaking news have now been left in the dark.

(Source / 20.01.2016)

Israel transforms the town of Beit Rima into a “training battlefield”

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation army pursues systematic harassment against the inhabitants of the town of Beit Rima, northwest of Ramallah, through large-scale military exercises that involve hundreds of Israeli soldiers.

Jerusalem Center for Israeli-Palestinian studies highlighted that it has monitored through a group of volunteers the incursion of hundreds of foot soldiers into the town in one day followed by military vehicles via all its entrances.

The center indicated that “the Israeli army aimed to shock the town’s inhabitants with sudden and violent raids into the homes of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and other homes of citizens who do not belong to any faction, causing great destruction in these homes.”

The center recorded about 30 storming incidents of homes in the town through the “frightening” raids the Israeli army carries out during the incursions.

The center also documented that “the Israeli occupation army randomly fired shots at citizens’ cars and heavily fired tear gas at the houses.”

This attack coincides with the announcement of the Israeli army its intention to carry out a broad military training in the West Bank that simulates real incursions and large-scale arrest operations.

The center said, “This training policy within Palestinian population centers has become a well-known army policy, as it had practiced this type of training more than 36 times in three years in the Jordan Valley, the town of Silwad, Palestinian refugee camps, including Jenin and Qalandia, in addition to the hamlets near Yatta town.”

The center pointed out that “the young Palestinian men in the town met the Israeli attack with steadfastness and confrontation that lasted until after midnight.”

The center warned of “condoning this policy, which has caused a number of devastating effects on the Palestinian citizens of Beit Rima, including: the children’s constant fear as a result of the scary storming of Palestinian homes, a state of insecurity among the Palestinian families as a result of the possibility of sudden incursions, in addition to big economic losses that resulted from destroying Palestinians’ homes.”

These training operations also caused the destruction of agricultural crops, as what happened in the villages of Yatta area and the Palestinian Jordan Valley, and the violation of the sanctity of Palestinians’ homes that caused both physical as well as psychological harm as the residents were beaten and humiliated.

Beit Rima is one of the Palestinian towns renowned for its history of struggle against occupation. One of the biggest commando attacks in the Palestinian history, namely the assassination of an Israeli minister, was carried out by one of its inhabitants, while one of its sons is serving the highest sentence in the history of the Israeli judiciary.

(Source / 20.01.2016)

Israeli forces detain 25 Palestinians across West Bank

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces detained at least 25 Palestinians in predawn raids in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank on Wednesday, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.In Tulkarem in the northern West Bank, Israeli forces detained seven Palestinians from the city’s Thinaba neighborhood, Palestinian security sources said.The detainees were identified as Thaer Mahmoud Assaf, 32, Kamil Kamal Ahmad, 23, his brother Mutasim, 22, Mumin Ahmad Abdullah, 25, Amjad Nasser Khreisha, 30, Uday Tayseer Irmeilat, 25, and Ahmad Qandil, 30.The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said in a statement that Israeli forces detained five teenagers from East Jerusalem. They were identified as Mufid Abu Khalid, 16, Mahdi Abu Hummus, 17, Yousif Shweiki, 17, Ahmad al-Abbasi, 16, and Muhammad Burqan, 15.Israeli forces raided Qalandiya refugee camp south of Ramallah and detained 21-year-old Mahmoud Hasan Shuani from his home. Shuani was shot in his foot by Israeli forces a year ago, locals said.Meanwhile, in the Bethlehem district in the southern West Bank, Israeli forces raided the village of Beit Sahour and detained 18-year-old Ahmad Radwan Hamamra and another unidentified man, Israeli police said, adding that hunting rifles and ammunition were found in one house.The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society confirmed Hamamra’s arrest, and said four other teenagers were detained in the Bethlehem area, identified as Tawfiq Yakoub Hananiya, his brother Mahir, Humam Hussein Abd al-Nabi, 19, and Muhammad Theib Shakarnah, 15.The organization further reported that four Palestinians were detained in the Nablus district in the northern West Bank. They were identified as Alaa Salim Bani Shamsa, Iyad Nayif Odeh, Muhammad Mousa Said, and Haytham Aqra.Said and Aqra were detained at the Zaatara checkpoint south of Nablus, the statement read.In Hebron district, locals said Israeli forces stormed the town of Sair and detained two teenagers identified as Mahmoud Shehadah Limtour, 16, and Majd Sultan Jabarin, 16.Locals added that Israeli forces also ransacked the homes of Mahmoud Shalaldah and his brothers Muhammad and Ahmad.Israeli forces also stormed al-Fawwar refugee camp south of Hebron and detained Qusay Ayman Titi from his home.An Israeli army spokesperson only had information on nine arrests overnight, one in Qalqiliya district, one in Ramallah district, four in Bethlehem district, and three in Hebron district.She said that one Palestinian detained in northwest Ramallah and two in southwest Bethlehem were “Hamas operatives,” while the others were detained for “illegal activity.”Israeli forces have detained hundreds of Palestinians since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory at the beginning of October.Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer estimated in December that Israel was holding 6,800 political prisoners, including 470 child prisoners.

(Source / 20.01.2016)

Fears grow over health of hunger-striking Palestinian

Lawyers decry court date proposed by Israel for detained journalist Mohammad al-Qeq fearing he could die before hearing.

Al-Qeq is a married father of two who has been on hunger strike for almost 60 days [Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA]

Al-Qeq is a married father of two who has been on hunger strike for almost 60 days [Abed Al Hashlamoun

The hearing of a hunger-striking Palestinian journalist whose weight has fallen below 30kg must be moved forward in order to save his life, the defendant’s lawyers said.

The Israeli Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it would consider an appeal to release 33-year-old Mohammad al-Qeq, a Palestinian journalist engaged in a 58-day hunger strike, on February 25 – a date many have said is too far away.

“He’s in a very bad situation. He fell into his third coma in recent days, and his weight has dropped to 30kg,” Ashraf Abu Sneina, al-Qeq’s attorney, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday. “This week, he only drank water twice.”

Al-Qeq began his hunger strike on November 24 in protest of Israel’s administrative detention.

Administrative detention is a practice in which Israel jails Palestinians for renewable six-month intervals on “secret evidence” without charge or trial.

READ MORE: Hunger-striking Palestinian reporter’s appeal rejected

Abu Sneina fears his client will starve to death before the ISC hears his case.

“For him, there’s no time, and we’re doing our best to make sure he doesn’t die in prison,” the lawyer continued.

Al-Qeq is a correspondent for the Saudi-owned channel al-Majd, a network that broadcasts across the Arab world.

He is the father of two children, and from the Dura village near Hebron in the south of the occupied West Bank.

A group of fellow Palestinian journalists have launched a hunger strike in solidarity with al-Qeq.

Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian minister of prisoners affairs, also confirmed the detainee’s third lapse into a coma.

“He is now very weak and has lost considerable weight,” Qarage told Al Jazeera, adding that the proposed court date “is too far given his condition”.

Days after al-Qeq was transferred to the Afula hospital in northern Israel, he received treatment by force from physicians.

OPINION: Israel’s torture method – force-feeding

A press release by a prisoners’ rights group, Addameer, quoted him as saying the Ethical Medical Committee of the hospital said he would be forcibly treated on January 10.

“Later that day, a group of jailers forcibly held his arms and legs, after which the doctors placed the IV in his vein,” which was kept in his arm until January 14, Addameer said.

Of the estimated 6,800 Palestinians behind bars in December, at least 660 were administrative detainees, according to Addameer.

Officials from Afula hospital declined Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

The Israeli Knesset passed a law in June 2015 codifying force-feeding of hunger strikers.

The move was met with criticism from international organisations, including the United Nations, and the Israeli Medical Association (IMA), which said that force feeding constitutes torture.


Dr Tammy Karni, the IMA’s ethics chief, has before said: “Those who understand medicine realise that trying to force-feed patients on a prolonged hunger strike can result in worse damage than a continuation of the strike.”

However, Gil Siegal, a professor of law at Tel Aviv’s Ono Academic College, defended the practice.

“Even the United States allows force-feeding, not just in Guantanamo, but in prisons. It’s the same in the United Kingdom. The legitimate debate over Palestinian political rights obfuscates this issue,” he told Al Jazeera.

“W\hen you’ve saved the life of former hunger striker, is he happy or is he sad? I can say that they’re always happy,” Siegel continued.

“Though there are specific examples, such as a do-not-resuscitate order, it is legitimate to save patients from themselves.”

Lawyer Abu Sneina said the journalist has no plans to end his hunger strike.

“He told me he will continue until the end,” said Sneina.

(Source / 20.01.2016)

Israel plans to seize West Bank farmland

Israel plans to appropriate a large tract of agricultural land in the occupied West Bank, Israel’s Army Radio says, a move that has angered Palestinians and is almost certain to draw international criticism.

Wednesday’s report said the land, covering 154 hectares, was in the fertile Jordan Valley close to Jericho, an area where Israel already has many settlement farms built on land Palestinians seek for their own state.

The appropriation, which Army Radio said would be announced shortly but was not immediately confirmed by the Israeli Defence Ministry which administers the West Bank, comes at a time of increased international condemnation of settlement policy.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, described Israel’s reported move as a violation of international law. She challenged the international community to hold Israel to account.

“Israel is stealing land specially in the Jordan Valley under the pretext it wants to annex it,” she told Reuters.

“This should be a reason for a real and effective intervention by the international community to end such a flagrant and grave aggression which kills all chances of peace.”

The report said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon had already signed off on the appropriation and that technical details were being finalised ahead of a declaration expected soon.

The Defence Ministry declined to comment.

The land, already partly farmed by Jewish settlers in an area under Israeli civilian and military control, is situated near the northern tip of the Dead Sea.

For years, Israel has drawn intense criticism for its settlement activities. Most countries regard the policy as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

On Tuesday, US State Department spokesman John Kirby reiterated the United States’ opposition to Israel’s settlement building, which usually begins with land seizures.

“We remain deeply concerned about Israel’s current policy on settlements, including construction, planning, and retroactive legalizations,” he said.

(Source / 20.01.2016)