Israeli army orders evacuation of illegal Amona outpost within 48 hours


The wildcat settlement of Adei Ad, a Jewish-only outpost in the occupied West Bank

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli army has ordered the evacuation of the settlers from the illegal Amona outpost in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah within 48 hours, an army spokesperson said.Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday that the army had delivered a notice to the outpost, saying that the army would bar entry to Amona and not allow anyone to stay on the premises 48 hours after midnight on Monday, although the settlers claimed that they only received the order on Tuesday morning.The order required that the settlers remove their property from the illegal outpost by midnight Wednesday, and gave them the chance to petition the army within 48 hours.An Israeli spokesperson told Ma’an that “in accordance with government directives, the IDF is preparing for the evacuation of the Amona community. As part of the preparation, an eviction notice has been issued. The notice is intended to allow the evacuation of infrastructure and additional material components from the Amona community that were not previously included in the original eviction orders.”

The Israeli Supreme Court had ruled in December that Amona be evacuated by Feb. 8 for being built on private Palestinian land. However, Israeli authorities plans for the relocation of Amona settlers have been contested, as the planned new settlement housing units would be located on the private property of several Palestinian landowners in nearby villages.Meanwhile, Palestinian residents of the Ramallah-area village of Silwad were expecting a hearing later on Tuesday afternoon objecting to plans by Israeli authorities to confiscate lands from their village to build housing for settlers evacuated from the illegal Amona outpost.The objection, presented by human rights group Yesh Din lawyer Shlomi Zakariya, claims that Israeli authorities deliberately did not give enough time to Silwad residents to go through the Israeli plan in order to escape legal accountability, adding that the settler relocation would harm Silwad landowners and be tantamount to Israeli political submission to Amona settlers.

Yesh Din had previously stated that the Israeli government was “not concealing the fact that there is currently no plan for transferring the Amona settlers and therefore the only aim of a delay is to try to find how the law can be circumvented.”
The evacuation order comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing for the speedy passage of the controversial “Legalization bill,” which would see 16 of illegal Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank — excluding Amona — retroactively recognized by the Israeli government.
The bill states that any settlements built in the West Bank “in good faith” — without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians — could be officially recognized by Israel pending “minimal” proof of governmental support in its establishment.
However, Amona settlers threatened last week to renew their fight against imminent evacuation if the bill did not retroactively legalize all settlement outposts in the West Bank.
Rights groups have highlighted that, while settler outposts constructed in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government, all of the 196 government-approved Israeli settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are also built in direct violation of international law.
(Source / 31.01.2017)

Monitor: Al-Qaeda group unifies with jihadists in Syrian flashpoint


The al-Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Sham Front has unified ranks with jihadists in volatile northern Syria, a monitoring group reported Saturday, a move likely to stoke infighting among rival insurgents in the area.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added that Fatah al-Sham has merged with four factions including the powerful Noureddine al-Zinki movement and set up a coalition called the Levant Liberation Body.

The new alliance is led by Abu Jaber Hashem, an ex-commander of the Ahrar al-Sham, a conservative Islamist movement, which has been locked in fight against Fatah al-Sham in the north-western province of Idlib and adjacent province of Aleppo.

“This new entity will place pressure on other armed factions and push them to choose between either joining this entity led by Fatah al-Sham or becoming neutral in the fighting,” Mohammed al-Shami, a commander in the rebel Free Syrian Army, told dpa.

The alliance comes two days after Ahrar al-Sham merged with six rebel factions in response to a wide-scale attack mounted by Fatah al-Sham.

Clashes began as Fatah al-Sham launched an attack Tuesday on posts of Ahrar al-Sham in Idlib and Aleppo, after the al-Qeada-linked group accused rebel factions, which took part in talks held in the Kazakh capital of Astana earlier this week, of conspiring against them.

Fatah al-Sham has also accused some rival insurgents of supplying information to the United States to strike their posts in Idlib.

The militant group has lost several senior leaders in stepped-up US drone strikes in Syria over recent weeks.

Fatah al-Sham and the Islamic State extremist militia are excluded from an ongoing shaky ceasefire in Syria.

The truce, brokered by Russia and Turkey, went into effect at the end of December.

Despite the ceasefire, government forces and rebels fought for weeks in an area where the main source of water supplies to the capital Damascus is located.

On Saturday, regime forces and repair workers arrived at the springs in the Wadi Barada near Damascus under a deal with local rebels, the Observatory said.

Repair teams have begun examining the Ein al-Fijeh spring and water pumping station, and the capital’s supply may be reconnected within days, the watchdog added.

An estimated 5.5 million people in the Damascus region have suffered severe water shortages since the facilities were damaged in late December, several days into a government offensive on the rebel-held area north-west of the capital.

The warring parties blamed each other for the damage.

Repair crews began work on the spring in mid-January under an agreement between local rebels and the government, but were pulled out again a day later after a government-appointed mediator was shot dead under disputed circumstances.

The fighting in the Barada river valley around the spring was a source of contention at the two-day talks held in Astana between government and rebel negotiators.

Rebels insisted the fighting was a breach of the Russian-Turkish brokered ceasefire, while the government side said its operations in the area were aimed at terrorists and would continue.

The Astana talks saw both sides affirm their commitment to the truce.

The sponsors said they would set up a trilateral implementation mechanism for the ceasefire, although they gave no details as to how it would work.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Arab Lawyers Union to file objection against new Umm al-Hiran demolition orders


NEGEV (Ma’an) — The Arab Lawyers Union in Israel said Monday that it would attempt to file a court order to stop the demolition of newly donated mobile homes, which were delivered to the village of Umm al-Hiran on Sunday.

The union said in a statement that it would attempt to gain a court order, while members of the Joint List, which represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, would head to Israeli Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon to demand that he freeze the demolition orders.
Locals also reported that a sit-in tent would be set up in Umm al-Hiran for protesters and “supporters from all over the country.”
Israeli police forces had raided the unrecognized Bedouin community in the Negev region of southern Israel on Sunday, surrounding mobile homes that were donated the previous day to provide housing for families that were left homeless two weeks ago after Israeli authorities razed their homes to the ground.
Locals in the village said Israeli forces were preparing to dismantle the newly donated homes.
Residents of the village called upon Palestinian citizens of Israel and their leadership to head to the village to prevent Israeli authorities from carrying out the demolition.
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told Ma’an at the time he was not aware of the incident. A representative from the local Israeli municipality could not immediately be reached for comment on the impending demolition.
On Saturday, two mobile homes were delivered to Umm al-Hiran, ten days after Israeli authorities demolished more than a dozen structures in the community belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Eight homes and seven agricultural structures were razed to the ground in Umm al-Hiran on Jan. 18, hours after locals, activists, and Palestinian members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, gathered to resist the evacuation, sparking clashes with Israeli police that left two people killed under widely contested circumstances.
Leadership from Palestinian-majority villages in the Wadi Ara region in northern Israel donated one mobile home, while the other was donated by the Arab Lawyers Union after representatives of the union visited Umm al-Hiran and initiated a campaign on social media platform WhatsApp, raising 25,000 shekels (approximately $6,625), according to local sources.
A third mobile home donated by residents of the city of Jaffa in central Israel was also expected to arrive on Sunday.
(Source / 31.01.2017)

Does Syria really want to reconcile with Kurds?

A Kurdish fighter from the People’s Protection Units carries his weapon as he walks at the faculty of economics where a defaced picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seen in the background, Hasakah, Syria, Aug. 22, 2016

QAMISHLI, Syria — Syrian Kurds are working quietly but feverishly to build a state entity with its own security, economy and sociocultural bodies. But what if Damascus rejects this system and opts for war?

I recently traveled through the country, taking the main road controlled by the Syrian army between the airport and the compound of public offices outside Qamishli. Just past the government-controlled section of the road is an orgy of wall graffiti. Competing for space are posters of the Islamic State (IS), Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and the Free Syrian Army; black-framed photographs of those killed in clashes with the army; and portraits of imprisoned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.

On electricity poles flutter flags of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) — the defense forces of the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria, still known informally as Rojava. Streets are controlled not by the army, but by the Kurdish Asayish (a Kurdish security organization) units.

In a swath of land along the north, a pre-planned structure for autonomy is slowly taking shape from Qamishli to Hasakah, from Tell Abyad to Kobani and Manbij. Although they are not physically linked to the main body, Afrin and Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsoud district are considered parts of it.

Syrian officials I spoke with talk of first eroding organizations like IS and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and then regaining control of the area without fighting the Kurds — but also not allowing them to mutate into federalism. Kurds ultimately want to steer Syria to a federal structure and to have Rojava autonomy recognized in the constitution. War is the last thing the Kurds want. They are also aware that under current conditions, they cannot think of dividing the country or setting up an independent state.

Both sides are approaching a critical threshold that evokes incendiary questions: How will the Syrian regime manage with the Kurds? What will happen to Rojava if Turkey and Syria decide to cooperate? Can the Kurds risk fighting the Syrian army?

Kurds have already taken major steps toward a state structure with a constitution, a constituent assembly, popular committees, defense and security forces, and education and cultural institutions.

At the new guesthouse of the Asayish forces in Tell Abyad, I met with Omar Alloush, the foreign relations official of Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), which is the driving force of the autonomy process. He said TEV-DEM wants to apply the Rojava model throughout Syria.

What if that doesn’t work and it leads to war, I asked. He retreated a bit, saying, “If we cannot persuade the state, then we will turn to the people. There should be a referendum in the north and the government should accept its outcome. We don’t insist on federation or war. We are seeking a decentralized solution. We won’t accept a centralized or Baathist rule.”

Those remarks seem to summarize the determination, but also the realism, of the Kurds.

After two meetings arranged by Russians at Khmeimim air base between the regime and the Kurds, a third meeting was held in Damascus, but without any representatives of TEV-DEM and the Kurdish nationalist Democratic Union Party (PYD), the dominant forces of the region. Only the less influential groups were invited, which raised questions about Damascus’ intentions.

Alloush said that was a regime tactic to avoid a solution. “The PYD was not at Damascus because it has a defined, concrete project. Other Kurdish movements were there because they have no projects. In fact, our project is more suitable to the Syrian system,” he said, noting that the other groups want an independent Kurdistan. “The regime knows this, and that is why it invites parties it cannot reconcile with. The regime has reconciliation feasibility with the PYD, but the regime doesn’t want reconciliation.”

Inviting only Kurds to these meetings was not realistic, as Kurds are working with other communities. I asked Iso Gweriye, the head of the Syria Union Party and a member of the Syrian Democratic Assembly, about the nature of the Damascus meeting.

“Arabs, Kurds and Syriacs listed their demands in a joint statement after the first and second Khmeimim meetings. … We are open to meet and discuss. But we received no replies. We are saying all of Syria should become a federal system,” he said.

Gweriye said the regime is flexible on some issues, such as allowing Kurds to use their native language in education and to accept that all parties are responsible for security in their areas. “Damascus thinks of expanding the power of local administrations. They agree to Asayish to serve as local police, but they don’t want to discuss a comprehensive security system with them. For Damascus, the status of YPG, YPJ and Syrian Democratic Forces is not up for discussion,” he said.

He added that the future of Rojava depends on the attitudes of parties to the problem: “It is not a problem that can be solved by local forces. There can be no solution without the United States. Also Russia, Iran or Turkey cannot unilaterally bring about a solution.”

Turkish intelligence’s assassination teams

The Asayish guesthouse is a simple building constructed with local materials, including mud and stones outside the Qamishli town center. Sitting on a cushion near the fireplace is former journalist Cowan Ibrahim, the current chief of the Asayish forces.

Ibrahim, whose mother is a Kurd and father is an Arab, said that for them the Damascus regime is as much a threat as IS. He added, “Both are trying to provoke the Arab populace against Kurds.”

He referred to Turkey’s intensifying threat against Rojava, saying that Ankara, together with Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani, is trying to eradicate the autonomy movement in Rojava. Ibrahim accused Turkish intelligence services of assassinating the Kurds. “In the last three years, they killed eight PYD people. We tracked down the assassins and wiped them out by capturing 23 of them, all Arabs. We exposed their connections with Turkey,” he added.

Asayish: subject of contention with the regime

Ibrahim explained the rather informal, haphazard security in the region, which is lacking in communication and coordination among the various groups there. “We have no contacts with the regime. Let’s say one of our people is detained. There has to be someone in the middle who will enable us to contact the regime. Likewise, how is the regime going to contact us when we detain a regime policeman or soldier? Sometimes we use tribal chiefs to mediate, but we have no ready access to them,” he said. “We have serious problems with unofficial, disorderly forces affiliated with the regime.”

He then touched on the Christians. “We are careful with Christians. They are peaceful. Sutoro, the Syriac [Christian] local security unit, controls two neighborhoods in Qamishli, but we have a base 100 meters [109 yards] from them. We move in and out freely. They don’t interfere. We don’t interfere with their movements. Kurdish Asayish is careful not to enter the areas the regime controls, and their soldiers stay away from our areas. If a regime soldier or police want to pass through our area, he has to not be in uniform and unarmed. Otherwise, he will be detained,” Ibrahim said.

What is Asayish?

In Rojava, not only regime police and soldiers are subject to restrictions, but also anyone who comes from outside the region. Syrians who don’t hail from the Rojava area need a residence permit if they want to live there. They must have a resident of Rojava as their sponsor. Ibrahim said this visa-type arrangement is temporary and will be annulled when the situation in Damascus changes.

Ibrahim said Asayish today has 10,000 personnel in Jazeera, 3,000 in Afrin and 2,000 in Kobani canton. Half of the Asayish personnel in Jazeera are Arabs. In Tell Abyad, there are a few Turkmens. In the entire Asayish there are 300 Turkmens. About 30% of Asayish personnel are women. Members of the force are paid $120 monthly salaries. In Syria, civil servant monthly salaries are $80 to $100, so Asayish employment is attractive.

The Syriac police force Sutoro is subordinate to Asayish, but autonomous in its internal affairs. Sutoro is represented on the four-person Asayish executive board. Ibrahim laughed: “So, they tell us what to do but we can’t tell them what to do. If they want to appoint someone, all they do is inform us, but if we want to appoint someone we have to get their approval.”

Nobody can predict where bargaining in Damascus will end, but the regime cannot forever ignore the realities of the north. The Rojava autonomy movement, if nothing else, has introduced the idea of decentralization to the Syrian regime, hence local administrations have taken small steps to develop legislation.

Things will have to change. Even within the powerful Baath structure, there is discussion of shifting from Arab nationalism to Syrian nationalism. Very few Syrians will approve Kurdish autonomy, but there are some who say the regime could learn from the experience of the Kurds.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

State of tension prevails in Nafha prison


A state of tension has prevailed in Nafha prison after Israeli special forces violently stormed section 2 at dawn Tuesday.

A prisoner reported from the jail that dozens of Israeli special forces violently stormed and searched the section and subjected some of the prisoners to strip search.

The prisoners were then transferred to section 12, he added.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Pictures: Syrian Army intercepts American missiles destined for Nusra in southern Syria

Damascus, Syria (1:23 A.M.) – Syrian forces intercepted a smuggling car loaded with armament destined for the deignated terrorist group Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (formerly Nusra Front) in Dara’a countryside.

The shipment consisted of five US-manufactured TOW missiles, 30 grenade launcher rounds, dozens of RPG missiles, and a large amount of rifle ammunition. According to a Syrian Army source, the military received information about  this shipment and its designated destination through an anonymous rebel source (likely a rival faction).

Noticeably, there has been a spike in weapon smuggling in Damascus’s vicinity as the SAA managed to halt a series of TOW missile shipments last of which was in Barzeh district of Damascus. It is not unlikely that a foreign sponsor is invested in initiating a major battle in the capital where rebels find themselves increasingly isolated and choked with every passing day.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Photo story: Gilbert checkpoint impeding Palestinian daily life (January 2017)

In the old city of occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), Palestinians’ freedom of movement is impeded by a large number of Israeli checkpoints. In the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, many school-children and teachers are forced to pass at least one, often more, checkpoint daily on their way to school. The Israeli occupation seriously disrupts the right to education for Palestinians in al-Khalil.

One of the checkpoints that Palestinians have to pass in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood is the ‘Gilbert’ checkpoint in the heart of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood. This checkpoint divides the neighborhood, enforcing the Israeli forces’ checkpoint regime on Palestinian residents only. Israeli settlers enjoy full freedom of movement and rights in and around the illegal settlements. This photo-story of the Gilbert checkpoint illustrates what this limitation of movement means to Palestinian civilians in every day life.

Palestinian journalists were denied entry through the checkpoint, as they were on their way to Shuhada Street, to document Palestinian school children walking through checkpoints on their way to school.

Palestinian journalists were denied entry through the checkpoint. They were on their way to Shuhada Street to document Palestinian school children walking through checkpoints on their way to school.

Palestinian child is stopped on his way to school is stopped at the checkpoint, as the soldier decides to check his schoolbag.

Palestinian school-boy has to pass his school-bag for a bag-search, before being allowed to continue on his way to school.

Tel Rumeida, Gilberts Checkpoint

Israeli soldier searching the bag of a Palestinian woman. Officially, these bag-searches are for ‘security purposes’, but Israeli forces often arbitrarily search only some bags. At this checkpoint they mainly search women’s bags, while allowing men to pass without being searched. Palestinians are robbed of even the tiniest bit of privacy at the Israeli forces’ checkpoints.

Group of Palestinian school children passing through israeli military checkpoint

Group of Palestinian school children passing through Israeli military checkpoint. Children are not exempt from the Israeli forces policies and are forced to pass metal detectors daily. On their way to school. Israeli forces sometimes search their bags or force them to wait while checking another Palestinian.

Palestinian child passing through checkpoint and a large group of israeli forces on his way home.

Palestinian child passing through checkpoint and past a large group of Israeli forces on his way home. An ‘innocent’ childhood is denied to Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation. Sadly, they have to pass large groups of heavily-armed soldiers on the way to school. The practice of soldiers conducting exercises of how to shoot Palestinians to death at checkpoints in civilian Palestinian neighborhoods are the norm rather than the exception.

Palestinian school children passing israeli military checkpoint on their way to school

Palestinian school children passing Israeli military checkpoint on their way to school. These checkpoints often are the reason for Palestinian school-children to reach school late, as they might be delayed, denied to pass or searched.

Palestinian man is kept waiting for several minutes in front of the checkpoint, as israeli forces are checking his ID, violating his freedom of movement.

Palestinian man is forced to wait at the checkpoint, but forced to move several meters back, as Israeli forces check his ID, violating his freedom of movement.

Israeli forces are detaining a Palestinian woman at the checkpoint, unaware that a member of UN delegation is present.

Israeli forces are detaining a Palestinian woman at the checkpoint, unaware that a member of a UN delegation is present. According to international law and the recent UN resolution, Israeli settlements in the Israeli occupied West Bank are illegal.

Israeli forces trespassing Palestinian owned shop located in front of the checkpoint in Tel Rumeida.

Israeli forces ‘checking’ Palestinian shop located near the checkpoint. All commodities and general necessities have to be bought on the other side of the checkpoint, as the area locked up within the checkpoints has no shops. So, whenever a Palestinian needs to buy groceries, he or she must pass the checkpoint.

Palestinian school children passing israeli military checkpoint on their way to school

Palestinian school-children turn around as Israeli forces call them back. Having passed the metal detector doesn’t always mean that soldiers will allow you to pass: even after passing through the checkpoint, soldiers from time to time will stop and inspect Palestinians again.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Syria Warns US Safe Zones Would Be Unsafe & Violate Sovereignty

The safe zones were originally reported to be part of the refugee ban executive order, but was not contained in the final draft. The reports said the order was to give the State Department and Pentagon 90 days to come up with a plan for the safe zones.​

Bashar Assad

Syria’s President Bashar Assad is sworn for his third, seven-year term, in Damascus, Syria

President Trump has not signed the expected executive order on establishing safe zones in Syria, but the White House has insisted that Trump and Saudi King Salman had agreed to the idea during a weekend phone call. Syria has not been brought into the discussion, however, and that’s not sitting well with Syria.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned during a meeting with the UN refugee agency that any attempts to establish a safe zone without coordination with their government would be inherently unsafe, as well as a violation of Syrian national sovereignty.

There have been no details offered by the Trump Administration on what form the safe zones would take, and Pentagon officials were said to be quite concerned by what they considered an “ambiguous” proposal. Publicly, Pentagon officials had urged people to withhold judgement until more details were offered.

The safe zones were originally reported to be part of the refugee ban executive order, but was not contained in the final draft. The reports said the order was to give the State Department and Pentagon 90 days to come up with a plan for the safe zones.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Relatives of Palestinians killed in 2014 Gaza war break into Palestine TV office


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Dozens of relatives of Palestinians killed during the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip broke into the office of Palestine TV on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the Committee of slain Palestinians’ families, Alaa al-Birawi, told Ma’an that the family members entered the building in the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City, demanding to be given an opportunity to appear live on Palestine TV and discuss their demands to the Palestinian Authority.
One day earlier, members of the Committee of slain Palestinians’ families had shut down an office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Association for the families of the wounded and martyrs to protest the national organization’s failure to transfer allowances.
Al-Barawi added that the families threatened to shut down the office if their demands were not met.
A source in Palestine TV’s Gaza City office confirmed to Ma’an that live transmission from Gaza had stopped as a result of the situation.
They added that Palestine TV executives had suggested that families record their demands and appeals to be aired later, but that the relatives refused.
According to a PLO official, 2,000 families were still eligible to receive allowances more than two and a half years after the devastating Israeli offensive on Gaza as a financial compensation for the deaths of their relatives.
The 50-day offensive caused the deaths of 2,251 Palestinians, 1,462 of them civilians, and 72 Israelis, five of them civilians, according to UN documentation.
A recent report adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last week stated that the humanitarian situation in Gaza had “significantly worsened” since 2014, adding that 17,650 families, amounting to some 100,000 people, were displaced by the conflict.
At least 142 Palestinian families have lost three or more members in attacks on residential buildings during the Israeli assault, the UN reported, adding that there were credible allegations that the incidents amounted to war crimes.
The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007, when Hamas became the de facto ruling party in the territory. Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008.
The UN warned in 2015 that the besieged Palestinian territory could become “uninhabitable” by 2020 due to the crippling situation for Gaza’s more than 1.8 million inhabitants.
(Source / 31.01.2017)

Israeli Soldiers Abduct A Palestinian In Hebron

31 JAN
11:50 AM

Israeli soldiers invaded, earlier Tuesday, the West Bank city of Hebron, and abducted one Palestinian from his home. The soldiers also summoned a former political prisoner, from Beit Ola town, for interrogation.

Media sources in Hebron said several military vehicles invaded Abu Romman Mountain area, searched homes and abducted one Palestinian, identified as Zeidan Radwan Abu Aisha.

The soldiers also invaded Beit Ola town, west of Hebron, searched homes and summoned a former political prisoner, identified as Raed Abdul-‘Afo al-‘Emla, for interrogation in Etzion military base, north of Hebron.



(Source / 31.01.2017)