Archive for July, 2011

Flotilla group calls for UN escort, a ‘stunt’ says Israel

Thursday, May 19, 2011
FADIL ALİRIZA
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

As a new aid convoy to Gaza readies to sail at the end of June, organizers say they are willing to have their cargo inspected and their ships escorted by international observers. Israel dismisses the move as a ‘publicity stunt,’ while supporters of the flotilla in the EU have questioned the legal necessity of such an escort.

Organizers of the Turkish branch of the aid flotilla set to leave for Gaza at the end of June have said they are willing to have their cargo inspected and their ships escorted by international observers.

Israel, however, has dismissed the move as a “publicity stunt,” while supporters of the flotilla in the European Union have questioned the legal necessity of such an escort.

“We are ready to talk with everybody. Already we have started these kinds of visits for the European Parliament, for the United Nations to make some solution,” Hüseyin Oruç, an administrative board member of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview Tuesday.

“All these boats can be checked by the U.N., or the European Parliament’s commissions. We are ready to show all the details of our preparation,” he said. “They can check [the boats] in the ports, they can check on international waters, they can guide us, they can guide the distribution of all items in Gaza. It’s open to all international mediators.”

An Israeli official dismissed the proposal as a “publicity stunt,” saying that Israel is always willing to accept, process and transmit Gaza-bound aid.

“That obviously won’t happen,” an Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Daily News. “All the international players, [U.N. chief] Ban Ki-moon, [EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs] Catherine Ashton have all called the move provocative.”

The İHH is organizing the Mavi Marmara and an additional cargo ship as the Turkish part of what will be a 15-boat aid flotilla. On its voyage to Gaza last year, the Mavi Marmara was attacked by Israeli forces who boarded the ship and killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American onboard.

Last week, a group of American congressional representatives sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asking him to discourage the flotilla from “provoking a confrontation” with Israel in a bid to “save lives.” The Turkish government’s response so far has been that the letter was incorrectly directed to them, as the flotilla is being organized by civilian, nongovernmental organizations that the government does not control.

The İHH, responding to the letter, echoed the Turkish government response, saying that the group had no contact with the Turkish government, but added that Israel was in fact the party that the U.S. Congress needed to address to avoid another crisis.

“Also we are asking all these congresspeople, if you are looking for the solution, don’t ask the prime minister of Turkey. Why are you not asking the Prime Minister of Israel? They need to talk with [Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Oruç said.

Regarding the possibility of an EU parliamentary commission escorting the flotilla, a spokesman for the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, the party with the second largest representation in the EU Parliament, said the party has been supportive of the flotilla, but had not seen any proposal regarding a European escort.

“I question the necessity” of an international escort for the ship, said Tony Robinson, head of press and communications for the alliance.

International participation

This year the Mavi Marmara will have 500 people onboard, 400 of whom will be of nationalities other than Turkish, Oruç said. The remaining 100 will be Turks, of whom 50 will be journalists.

“On the first [Mavi Marmara aid trip] there were 38 nationalities; on the second flotilla it will be more coverage. About 100 nationalities will be on the boat. Only a very limited number of Turkish people will be on the Mavi Marmara,” Oruç told the Daily News.

Those on the ship will be mostly from the media and “representatives of societies” and local communities, he said.

The İHH has also sent two aid flotillas to Libya in recent weeks, one to Misrata, besieged by Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, and one to rebel-held Benghazi.

According to Oruç, “all international forces” involved in NATO operations in Libya supported the İHH flotilla to these besieged cities – something he said indicated a double standard imposed on the İHH in its attempt to distribute aid.

“Gaza people have the same right as Misrata people,” Oruç said.

The İHH was scheduled to address members of the media at a press conference Friday morning.

Source: Hürriyet.
Link: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=gaza-flotilla-seeks-un-escort-as-israel-dismisses-move-as-8216stunt8217-2011-05-19.

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UNRWA union strikes in Gaza, says 3 dismissed unfairly

Wednesday 18/05/2011

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Palestinians working for the UN refugee agency in Gaza announced a comprehensive strike for Wednesday, over the dismissal of three employees union officials say were wrongfully let go.

The strike will last all day Wednesday through Thursday, and see all of UNRWA’s unessential services, like schools, clinics, and administration offices close. Nearly 11,500 workers will walk out of their jobs, effecting 238 schools and 25 clinics.

According to head of the workers union Salim Al-Hindi, three men were dismissed from their jobs because they had at some point come under investigation by local Gaza security forces. The three were all found not guilty but according to the official were fired anyway.

Details of the cases were given as follows:

K.H.W., a teacher, had “problems between him and his cousins,” was investigated by local police and found innocent

A.A., a worker in environment health who was arrested by government security forces after being charged with involvement in the Rafah mosque take-over in 2009, when a Salafist group declared the city an Islamic emirate, an incident that ended in a mass gunfight leaving 22 dead. AA, however, was questioned and released without charge.

A.A., an employee in the services department, he was arrested along with two friends; all were charged with possession of prohibited drugs. The worker was interrogated by local security departments who released him without charge, but detained his two friends.

Al-Hindi called the dismissals “arbitrary,” and was effectively an “execution of the workers and their families,” who would have no other source of income.

“There must be respect for dignity,” the official said, asking that the men be returned immediately to their post.

UNRWA spokesman in Jerusalem Chist Gunnes said “The staff members were dismissed following an inquiry and subsequent review, and under new internal justice procedures agreed between UNRWA and the unions they have the right to appeal.”

Source: Ma’an News Agency.
Link: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=388783.

Syrian activists call general strike in new tactic

By ZEINA KARAM | AP
May 18, 2011

BEIRUT: Syrian protesters have called for a one-day nationwide general strike, urging students to skip school and workers to bring commerce to a halt in a new strategy of defiance against government crackdowns that appear to be turning more brutal and bloody.

The strike, planned for Wednesday, marks a shift by opposition forces to strike at President Bashar Assad’s regime from new angles: its economic underpinnings and ability to keep the country running during two months of widening battles.

A sweeping popular acceptance of the strike call would be an embarrassing blow to Assad and show support for the uprising in places, such as central Damascus, where significant protests have yet to take hold and security forces have choked off the few that have taken place.

“It will be a day of punishment for the regime from the free revolutionaries … Massive protests, no schools, no universities, no stores or restaurants and even no taxis.

Nothing,” said a statement posted on the main Facebook page of the Syrian Revolution 2011.

The strike call came as the United States and European Union planned new sanctions against the Syrian leadership.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters that the tighter measures could be imposed in the coming days.

Meanwhile, watchdog groups and Syrians fleeing into neighboring Lebanon added to the accounts of violence.

A Syrian rights activist, Mustafa Osso, said government agents chased and beat students taking part in a protest against Assad’s regime at a university in Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest largest city. Security officials in Lebanon said at least 170 people entered the country Tuesday, including a 2-year-old girl with a shrapnel wound in her chest.

Syrians pouring over the Lebanon border in recent days have described horrific scenes of execution-style slayings and bodies in the streets in the western town of Talkalakh, which has been reportedly encircled by security forces.

Osso, head of the Kurdish Organization for the Defense of Human Rights and Public Freedoms in Syria, said there were reports of gunfire in Talkalakh on Tuesday, but it was not clear whether there were injuries.

At least 16 people — eight of them members of the same family — have been killed in recent days in Talkalakh, a town of about 70,000 residents, witnesses and activists said.

Syria’s official news agency said eight soldiers and policemen were killed Tuesday and five others were wounded while pursuing fugitives in Talkalakh and nearby areas. The report said security forces arrested several fugitives and confiscated a large amount of weapons.

Syria’s top rights organization has said that the crackdown by Assad has killed more than 850 people since protests erupted in mid-March in the most serious threat to his family’s 40-year dynasty. Thousands of others have been detained.

A pro-democracy activist in the central city of Homs expressed support for the nationwide strike, calling it “the only way to hurt the regime without putting people’s lives at risk.” But the activist, speaking by phone to The Associated Press, doubted the response would be big.

“The majority of businessmen and merchants are either supportive of the regime or fear for the businesses. They have too much to lose,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Anthony Skinner, an analyst at Maplecroft, a British-based risk analysis company, said he expected the current conflict to become even more protracted and bloody.

“Although the crackdown has failed to snuff out dissent, protests have also not gained sufficient momentum to overextend the armed forces,” he said.

On Tuesday, the National Organization for Human Rights said in a statement that at least 41 people were killed in the past five days in the villages of Inkhil and Jassem near the southern city of Daraa, where the rebellion took root.

Ammar Qurabi, the head of the human rights organization, also said a “mass grave” with 24 bodies, and another containing seven bodies including a father and his four sons, were discovered in Daraa on Monday. Calls to Daraa on Tuesday seeking to verify the reports were unsuccessful.

International rights watchdog Amnesty International urged Syrian authorities to carry out a prompt, impartial investigation into reports of the graves.

“If true, these reports of multiple corpses buried in a makeshift grave show an appalling disregard for humanity,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director.

A Syrian Interior Ministry official dismissed the reports about a mass grave in Daraa as “completely baseless.” The unnamed official, quoted by state-run news agency SANA, said Tuesday that the “allegations came in the context of the campaign of provocation, slander and fabrication” against Syria.

The official said an “armed terrorist group” opened fire on a police vehicle near Homs, killing two policemen and wounding four others, including an army officer.

Assad has blamed the unrest on armed thugs and foreign agitators. He also has played on fears of sectarian strife to persuade people not to demonstrate, saying chaos would result.

Source: Arab News.
Link: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article411728.ece.

Jordan opposition skeptical over Jordan’s admission to GCC

By ABDUL JALIL MUSTAFA | ARAB NEWS
May 18, 2011

AMMAN: A coalition of Jordanian opposition parties on Tuesday warned against the “political and security implications” of the decision by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders to admit Jordan into the oil-rich Arab bloc.

The Higher Coordination Committee of the Opposition Parties held an emergency meeting to discuss the offer in detail on Tuesday and cautioned that the move could lead to the normalization of ties between the GCC countries and Israel.

“The committee welcomes any step that boosts the joint Arab action in general, but the ongoing political developments in the region and the reported proposals for resolving the Arab-Zionist conflict stir concerns over the objectives” of Jordan’s admission to the GCC,” the panel said in a statement.

“Therefore, we warn against the political and security backgrounds of this step which sparks suspicion that it could facilitate the process of normalization with the Zionist enemy, which has been an objective the United States sought to achieve for a long time through putting pressure on Arab countries, particularly the GCC states,” it added.

The committee, which comprises the Islamic Action Front (IAF) and six other Pan-Arab and left-leaning political parties, also cast doubt on the possibility of improving the living standard of the Jordanian people as a result of Jordan’s accession to the 30-year-old alliance.

GCC leaders, who met in Riyadh last week, welcomed the admission of the two pro-West Arab monarchies of Jordan and Morocco to the bloc and invited their foreign ministers to open talks with their counterparts in the GCC with a view to working out the details of the process.

If Jordan joins the GCC, it will be the only Arab state in the expanded entity that maintains official diplomatic ties with Israel.

Jordanian press and analysts have also warned that such a step could jeopardize the country’s fledgling political reform and involve security risks and possible enmity with Iran.

Jordan’s joining of the GCC is expected have figured largely in King Abdallah’s talks with US President Barack Obama at the White House Tuesday.

Source: Arab News.
Link: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article410658.ece.

The Jordanian street and the pro-democracy protests

WARNING: Article contains propaganda!

* * * * *

By RAY HANANIA
05/17/2011

Yalla Peace: True democracy will not come to the Hashemite Kingdom before a Palestinian state is created.

As citizens across the Arab world have risen in protest against decades of dictatorship in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Syria, one might ask why the same hasn’t happened in Jordan?

In all the other countries, the protests seem to share a major characteristic. The governments reflect an element of the population’s religious or tribal minorities, while the protesters have been left out of power. Libya’s troubles are more tribal, Syria’s are more tribal and religious, and Egypt’s troubles are a combination of religious and secular rivalries.

In Libya, dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi comes from one of the country’s 140 tribes. The war in Libya is a civil war, fueled in large part by the interference of Western powers, including NATO and the US.

The NATO-American alliance was not hesitant to arm and protect the protesters in Libya, while the same Western powers sat back and watched as Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak was slowly pushed from power.

Egypt’s future remains uncertain. It’s a nation made up of several power bases, the largest including secular Muslims, Orthodox Coptic Christians and religious Muslims under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was not behind the protests there, and neither were the Coptic Christians. But once Mubarak was removed from office and a military junta took control, the divisions were quickly highlighted by friction. Today, the Coptic Christians are under siege, and their future in Egypt remains uncertain.

In Syria, the ruling regime is controlled by the Alawis or Alawites, a mystical minority branch of Islam that is closer to the Shi’ites than to the Sunnis. Sunni Muslims are the more dominant in the Arab world. The Shi’ites in the region are predominantly Persian, and closer to Iran.

The majority of the Syrian population are Sunnis, although there is a substantial Christian community there too.

But the religious sects are more tribal in Syria, making Bashar Assad and his Alawite minority which control the government an easier target. Bashar’s father, Hafez Assad took control of Syria in a coup in 1970, following rising protests from the Alawite community against the Sunni Muslim and Christian governments.

Jordan is unlike any of the others. The Jordanian people are mainly Beduin Arabs. Jordan was created from the Fertile Crescent lands of Syria and Palestine, occupied by the Allies after World War I. Palestine was divided into two areas, Trans-Jordan to the East of the river and Palestine to the West. This was based on the British decision to limit Jewish migration to Palestine.

The 1948 war pushed more than 750,000 Palestinian refugees into Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Gaza came under Egyptian control, and the West Bank came under Jordanian control.

The 1967 war pushed more Palestinians, including 1948 refugees, into Jordan. Today, it has about two million Palestinians. Most have become Jordanian citizens, with only 167,000 remaining in refugee camps. That explains Jordan’s dilemma.

The relationship between the Jordanian and Palestinian Arabs has always been tenuous.

While the rest of the Arab world opposed the partition of Palestine, Jordan’s King Abdullah I favored it. In fact, King Abdullah had grand visions of a Greater Arabia to include Iraq, Palestine and Syria (where his brother Faisal had once served as king, but was ousted by the French). Faisal later became king of Iraq.

King Abdullah I was assassinated by a Palestinian when he visited the al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem in 1951.

The Jordanian-Palestinian populations live in a forced political detente in Jordan. Jordanian Arabs are deathly loyal to the monarchy. The vast majority will not rebel against King Abdullah II, fearing that the country will come under Palestinian control.

Jordan’s monarchs have also been more Western, and have allowed a greater sense of democracy to exist, even though the government is controlled by the king himself and ruled by a parliament subject to the king’s whims.

There have been some protests, but they are inhibited by this population balance. And Jordan’s king has the strongest Western backing of any Arab regime. True democracy will not come to a significant part of Jordan’s population, at least not before a Palestinian state is created, and with those Palestinians in Jordan given the choice to live there.

That’s why there are no pro-democracy protests in Jordan.

Source: The Jerusalem Post.
Link: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=221026.

‘Disi water uncontaminated’

By Abeer Numan

AMMAN – The water of the Disi basin is not polluted and is potable, Jordanian Geologists Association President Bahjat Al Adwan said on Tuesday, dismissing a report on a news website claiming otherwise.

Adwan, speaking to The Jordan Times over the phone, denied claims that the basin water is radioactively contaminated.

Adwan said the water does have radon, but the gas disappears as soon as the water is pumped from the underground and reaches the surface.

“As soon as the water is pumped out, a chemical reaction occurs between the air and the gas, causing it to fade away,” said Adwan, adding that water is safe for human consumption and that such reports are damaging.

Any deep-seated underground water has some sort of radioactivity, said Elias Salameh, a University of Jordan professor of hydrogeology and hydrochemistry.

Once the water is pumped out, it is checked for radioactivity, he said, noting that if any high concentration is found, the water is treated.

University of Jordan mineralogy Professor Hani Khouri confirmed that the water is uncontaminated and that radioactivity is a natural occurrence.

“In the case of any remaining radiation, it is easily removed through aeration and filtration processes,” Khouri said.

The Disi water conveyance project, slated for completion in 2013, entails the construction of a pipeline to convey water from the ancient Disi aquifer in southern Jordan to Amman.

The project is expected to provide the capital with 110 million cubic meters of water through the pipeline that will pass through several water stations in Maan, Tafileh, Karak and Madaba.

Ten per cent of the Disi basin is in the south of Jordan and 90 per cent in Saudi Arabia, which uses it for agricultural and drinking purposes.

18 May 2011

Source: The Jordan Times.
Link: http://www.jordantimes.com/index.php?news=37584.

IAI plans display of missiles

TEL AVIV, Israel, May 17 (UPI) — Israel Aerospace Industries reports it will present a new maritime application for its Jumper autonomous artillery system in Singapore this week.

Other systems by IAI, its division and subsidiaries on display at the Singapore International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference include unmanned aerial vehicles, radars and surveillance payloads.

“IAI is always striving to achieve new goals and extract its abilities to the max,” said Itzhak Nissan, president and chief executive officer of IAI. “In this maritime exhibition we shall present our advanced technologies and products, which deliver (to) our clients the best solutions in all fronts.”

Jumper — designed and manufactured by the MLM Division MLM Division of Systems, Missiles and Space Group — is a precision tactical weapon system launched from a Vertical Launcher Hive to strike targets at ranges of up to 31 miles.

The VLH can be deployed on a truck or on the ground or on a vessel deck for sea-to-land fire support.

The VLH is composed of eight or more canistered missiles and one integrated command and control unit. Each Jumper missile is GPS/INS equipped.

IAI is also showing its Naval Barak-8 long-range missile defense and air defense systems; the Naval Lahat advanced Laser Homing Attack Missile; its fixed-wing Maritime Heron unmanned aerial system and naval rotary UAV; and Multi-function Surveillance Track and Guidance Radar and Advanced Lightweight Phased Array Naval Radar Vertical Takeoff/Landing System.

Source: United Press International (UPI).
Link: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2011/05/17/IAI-plans-display-of-missiles/UPI-69631305626143/.