Archive for July 27th, 2011

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/.

Israel detains Islamic Jihad leader without charge or trial

Monday 16/05/2011

JENIN (Ma’an) — Israeli military authorities on Monday sentenced an Islamic Jihad leader to six months in prison without charge or trial, a detainees’ center said.

Sheikh Bassam Al-Sadi will be held at Ofer military prison near Ramallah under administrative detention, the center said.

Al-Sadi was detained immediately after Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo, the center noted, adding that he was detained only two months after finishing an 8-year sentence in Israeli prisons.

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has recorded thousands of cases of administrative detention in which Palestinians have been detained “for prolonged periods of time, without prosecuting them, without informing them of the charges against them, and without allowing them or their attorneys to study the evidence.”

Israeli military officials can hold detainees in administrative detention for up to six months, but the term is indefinitely renewable.

Detainees can spend years in Israeli prisons without ever knowing what they are accused of. Their lawyers are not told what the charges are, undermining their ability to defend their clients.

“In practice, Israel breaches international law, while misusing the powers given to military commanders in the Administrative Detention Order,” B’Tselem says.

Source: Ma’an News Agency.
Link: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=388301.

Al-Nakba in Jordan – Shame has a new name

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

By Julie Webb for Scoop

Following Friday’s peaceful event, over a thousand people on Sunday commemorated Al-Nakba by traveling from Amman to the Square of the Unknown Soldier, outside the town of Karameh, in the Jordan valley, several kilometers from the border with Israel.

Al-Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’, is the term describing the mass deportation of a million Palestinians from their cities and villages in 1948, including massacres of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of Palestinian villages, to establish the State of
Israel.

Not much has changed in the intervening years – except, perhaps, for the identity of the persecutors.

Sunday’s event at the Square of the Unknown Soldier, some eight kilometers from the King Hussein Bridge border crossing, was attended by hundreds of women and children, as well as young Palestinians who have never set foot in their own country.

But on Sunday it was not Israeli forces shooting them, beating them, throwing rocks at them, and trying to drive them away, it was Jordanians.

Jordanian police, Jordanian security forces, Jordanian gendarme, Jordanian hired thugs viciously attacking unarmed and peaceful Palestinians gathering to mark this significant day, in this significant location.

Karameh, where in 1968 Jordanian forces successfully fought alongside the Palestine Liberation Organization to repel the invading Israeli army. Karameh, whose name means “Dignity.”

To what will surely be their eternal shame, Jordanian forces brutalized Palestinians for their dignified reminder to the world of their continued oppression by Israel.

The actions of the Jordanian security forces are incomprehensible – there was no attempt to cross the border – the crossing is some 8km away.

The accompanying photos show the Palestinian gathering, calm and peaceful, with young Palestinians joining hands in front of the police line to keep the families at a respectful distance. This video shows what I saw happening shortly afterwards, when three men walked down the road to leave, shortly after those photos were taken.

I had to hide the camera when we were surrounded by police and goons pursuing them, who ripped stakes out of the ground to use as weapons. Minutes later, more men armed with sticks and rocks attacked the crowd, aided and abetted by the uniformed thugs. This was but the first of several unprovoked, and completely unjustifiable, attacks with rocks, pieces of wood, teargas, and live fire over the next few hours on the unarmed Palestinians, the media, and a few foreigners there in support.

Scores were injured, with at least 19 requiring hospital treatment – one person shot in the stomach is now in a satisfactory condition.

The insult of Jordan’s unprovoked attacks on Palestinian dignity – and in the town of that name – and its apparent protecting of Israeli interests, will, like Al-Nakba itself, undoubtedly resonate throughout Jordan and beyond.

Shame, Jordan, SHAME.

Source: Scoop.
Link: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1105/S00153/al-nakba-in-jordan-shame-has-a-new-name.htm.