Archive for September, 2011

Libyan children to receive treatment in Jordan


AMMONNEWS – The first group of Libyan children who have been injured during the current unrest sweeping the north African nation will arrive in Jordan next week to receive treatment at Jordanian hospitals.

According to Executive Director of the Jordan Private Hospitals Association PHA, Abdullah Hindawi, a total of 100 Libyan children will receive free treatment and medical care at a number of private hospitals in the Kingdom.

He said the children will arrive in four batches and will be flown by the Royal Jordanian Air Force in cooperation with the Royal Medical Services.

Hindawi added that the injured children were selected by a special Libyan medical committee in coordination with the PHA.

Source: Ammon News.

Eitan Appointed Envoy to Libya’s Rebel Council


AMMONNEWS – Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh on Wednesday appointed Fawaz Eitan to be the Jordanian commissioned envoy in Benghazi.

Eitan will serve as Jordan’s first diplomat to Libya’s rebel-led National Transitional Council.

Al Eitan will leave Jordan the next few days, official souces said.

The Foreign Ministry’s decision comes a week after Amman recognized the National Transitional Council as the “legitimate representative of the Libyan people.”

Source: Ammon News.

Govt Stabilizes Fuel Prices, Endorses Teachers’ Association Draft Law


AMMONNEWS – The cabinet on Tuesday approved the draft law to establish a teachers’ professional association, and decided to stabilize fuel prices for next month.

In its session headed by Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit on Tuesday, the cabinet endorsed the teachers’ professional association draft law in preparation to refer it to the Lower House of Parliament for endorsement during its extraordinary session expected to be held next month.

Also on Tuesday, the Oil Derivatives Pricing Committee in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources decided to stabilize 90 and 95 Octane gas prices, in addition to steady prices of Kerosene and residential propane gas for the time period between June 1st, 2011 until June 28, 2011.

Source: Ammon News.

Jordan pledges support for Libya rebel council

AMMAN May 24 (Reuters) – Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Joudeh said on Tuesday the kingdom recognized Libya’s rebel council as a legitimate representative of Libya’s people and planned to open an office in the rebel-held city of Benghazi.

Joudeh said Amman considered the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council (TNC) had organized a credible interim council that was committed to democracy.

“We consider it a legitimate representative of the Libyan people … It adopts stances that reflect the demands of the Libyan people and their hopes to move to a new stage,” Joudeh was quoted as saying by Petra state news agency.

U.S. ally Jordan last month said it sent fighter aircraft to provide logistical support for the no-fly zone over Libya and to protect aid flights from the kingdom.

It also took measures to freeze financial assets held by Muammar Gaddafi’s government.

Rebels are fighting to topple Gaddafi after his 41 years in power. NATO forces are bombing his forces but the conflict has been deadlocked for weeks.

The United States bolstered the credentials of the rebel National Transitional Council as a potential government-in-waiting on Tuesday when a senior U.S. envoy invited it to set up a representative office in Washington. (Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source: Reuters.

Lebanon security hit by political vacuum, Syria crisis

By Dominic Evans
Wed Jun 1, 2011

(Reuters) – Months of political paralysis and a crisis in neighboring Syria have harmed Lebanon’s security, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday, days after a bomb attack wounded six U.N. peacekeepers.

Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams said the attack, which followed the kidnapping of seven Estonians and a deadly incident last month on the Israeli border, was part of an “eroding and deteriorating” security situation.

Lebanon has been without a proper functioning government since January when the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its political allies brought down the government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who has Western and Saudi support.

Efforts to form a government have made little progress and the 10-week unrest in Syria has escalated tensions. Damascus ended a prolonged military presence in 2005, but remains a powerful player in a country still defined by the political and religious faultlines which fueled its 1975-1990 civil war.

“We see signs of the security situation deteriorating in general, and disturbingly that the institutions of the state are not responding in the way that they should,” Williams told Reuters at his U.N. office in the hills above Beirut.

He said the main concern was a political vacuum caused by the lack of government. Although Lebanese are accustomed to protracted wrangling over new cabinets, the current impasse was unusually fraught and likely to drag on for months, he said.

“The risk is greater now. One, because of the absence of a government. Two, because of the crisis in Syria. And three, because there is some fragility now along the Blue Line (U.N.-mapped frontier with Israel).”

The Israeli army fired on a demonstration at the Lebanese border village of Maroun al-Ras two weeks ago, killing 11 Palestinians marking the “catastrophe” 63 years ago of the founding of Israel, security sources said.

Similar protests may take place on Sunday’s anniversary of the 1967 war when Israel seized the Golan Heights and West Bank.


Seven Estonians are still missing after being seized in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley after crossing the border from Syria in March, in a kidnapping which Williams and EU envoy Angelina Eichorst described as a dark reminder of Lebanon’s civil war.

In another sign of fraying authority, rival security forces came close to confrontation last week in a standoff at a state-owned telecoms firm when caretaker Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahhas was denied access to the building.

“It is another indication of the deterioration in the security situation and the inability of state institutions to manage,” Williams said.

The political standoff and security fears also threaten Lebanon’s economy, with growth projections trimmed, tourism revenues expected to fall, and no progress on Lebanon’s plans to explore for oil and gas in the Mediterranean.

“I frankly find it distressing and troubling that the country is losing opportunities now. It’s obvious that the economic situation is deteriorating,” Williams said.

Friday’s bombing of the Italian peacekeepers, one of whom remains “in a very grave condition,” was the first such attack in three years on UNIFIL.

“We don’t see the attack in isolation,” Williams said. “Although it is the first on UNIFIL in a very long time we see the attack in the present security context.”

Expressing concern and surprise at Saturday’s announcement that Italy — which has the largest UNIFIL troop contingent — will cut its peacekeeping force to 1,100 from 1,780, Williams said he would travel to Rome next week for talks.

UNIFIL was expanded to about 12,000 troops and naval personnel under a U.N. Security Council resolution which halted the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in south Lebanon.

It operates alongside 15,000 Lebanese army troops who are deployed to keep the peace and prevent weapons transfers in an area which is a stronghold of Hezbollah guerrillas.

Despite a deadly border clash last August, Williams said the cessation of hostilities since 2006 had held “remarkably well.”

“What’s been achieved is stability on the Blue Line and in southern Lebanon for the first time in decades. In a way that is why I am most worried now.”

Source: Reuters.

Undefeated, Freedom Flotillas Expand

By Eva Bartlett

GAZA CITY, May 31, 2011 (IPS) – A gleaming new memorial towers in the center of Gaza City’s battered port. Flanked by flags of various nations whose citizens have sailed to the Gaza Strip to highlight the all-out siege on Gaza, the memorial’s inscription bears the names of the Turkish solidarity activists who died one year ago when Israeli commandos firing machine guns air-dropped onto the Freedom Flotilla, killing nine and injuring over 50 of the civilians on board.

On the one-year anniversary of the illegal Israeli attack on and abduction of over 600 civilians on the Freedom Flotilla from international waters, Gaza’s harbor bustles with people and energy: they have come to mourn the dead and to herald the coming boats of Freedom Flotilla Two. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya addresses the audience, thanking the Turkish activists and government for their continued solidarity with Palestine.

Since Free Gaza boats arrived in 2008 –the first blockade-breaking boats and first boats to dock at Gaza since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the Strip – the boat movement has grown exponentially. Free Gaza successfully docked in Gaza five times, with another four voyages violently thwarted by the Israeli navy.

The December 2008 sailing ended when an Israeli warship rammed a Free Gaza vessel carrying medical supplies, non-violent activists, surgeons and journalists. The February 2009 attempt ended with Israeli soldiers forcibly boarding the ship, beating and abducting the passengers from international waters. A June 2009 sailing was likewise forcibly halted by the Israeli navy, the passengers aboard abducted and deported.

The various vessels have carried non-violent activists, international television and newspaper journalists, European parliamentarians, Jews in solidarity with Palestine, including Holocaust survivors and Israeli activists and journalists, and even Palestinians unable to get out of Gaza for studies in universities abroad and those unable to enter Gaza to re-unite with family.

Israel’s pretext in blocking boats’ passage to and from Gaza is for security reasons, claiming weapons are being smuggled into Gaza. In each instance when a Free Gaza or Flotilla vessel has been forcibly absconded to Israel, only humanitarian supplies were found aboard. Rather than defeating the boat movement, Israel’s aggressions have had the opposite effect.

Vessels from Libya, Malaysia, and a boat carrying Jewish activists have all sailed for, and been blocked by Israeli gunboats from, the Gaza Strip. Two weeks ago, Israeli soldiers fired upon a Malaysian aid ship carrying piping for a sanitation project in Gaza, forcing it to dock in Egyptian waters.

In May 2010, Free Gaza, supported by Turkish humanitarian organization IHH, again sent vessels and activists sailing to the besieged Strip, this time accompanied by the massive Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara. As the six vessels with over 600 passengers in the Freedom Flotilla approached Gaza, Israeli commandos unleashed a barrage of machine-gun fire on the boats still sailing in international waters. Equipped with satellite streaming, the Israeli assault was videoed and broadcast to disbelieving viewers in Gaza and worldwide.

Keven Niesh, 53, a Canadian activist on board the Mavi Marmara, described the killings. “There were several guys who had two neat bullet holes side by side on the side of their head – clearly they were executed,” Neish told Counter Punch in an interview after the Flotilla massacre last year.

Undaunted by last year’s massacre, international activists have organized the Freedom Flotilla 2, due to sail in one month’s time with at least 10 boats and over 1,000 activists. Canadian and U.S. boats will join those of Europe, Turkey, and other nations.

Immediately following the massacre one year ago, Egyptian authorities partially opened the Rafah crossing. In an effort to deflect criticism, Israeli authorities subsequently announced they would ease the siege on Gaza. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)’s Mathilde De Riedmatten, in a May 2011 interview, noted that “the entry of goods into Gaza is also still highly restricted, not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of the particular items allowed.”

More recently, Egyptian authorities announced the continued opening of the Rafah crossing. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), however, notes that this change will not impact on imports, exports or Gaza’s economy. “These procedures will not ease the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population or change the economic situation caused by the strict closure imposed on the Gaza Strip,” a PCHR statement reads.

It calls for “lifting the Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip, opening the crossings for commercial transactions and allowing the freedom of movement of persons, including the movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, through the outlets that are controlled by the Israeli occupation forces.”

The siege on Gaza impacts drinking water (95 percent of Gazan water is below the World Health Organization standards), the sanitation system (untreated sewage is pumped into the sea daily for want of storage capabilities), and the agriculture and fishing sectors (farmers and fishermen are shot at on a daily basis by Israeli soldiers). Unemployment and malnutrition levels soar, power outages occur daily, impacting on hospital machinery, and Palestinians continue to live in what more and more outsiders are describing as an “open-air prison”. Renowned classical pianist Anton Kuerti, endorsing the Canadian boat to Gaza, says the siege has rendered Gaza “indistinguishable from a concentration camp.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon suggested nations prevent their citizens from sailing, saying governments should “use their influence to discourage such flotilla, which carry the potential to escalate into violent conflict.”

Free Gaza’s attorney Audrey Bomse stated “the flotilla violates no international laws or laws of the sea and so an outright ban on our sailing to Gaza is essentially a statement against the rights of the Palestinian people to control their own ports and lives.”

Turkey has demanded an apology and compensation from Israel to the martyred activists’ families, with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on NTV television warning “Turkey will give the necessary response to any repeated act of provocation by Israel on the high seas.”

As was Free Gaza’s goal, the expanded Flotilla aims to end the illegal siege on Gaza. The Canadian Boat to Gaza (CBG) will “challenge Canadian foreign policy and the uncritical support of Israeli war crimes by the current government.”

CBG’s David Heap says the Freedom Flotilla participants are not intimidated. “Where our governments have failed the Palestinians oaf Gaza, civil society must act instead.”

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS).

Israeli court extends detention of Hamas lawmaker

RAMALLAH, May 31 (Xinhua) — An Israeli court extended the detention of a Hamas lawmaker for another six months, the Hamas parliamentary bloc said Tuesday.

Nayef al-Rejoub, a West Bank-based Hamas official, was detained in December and has not been indicted or charged, the bloc said in a statement.

Al-Rejoub is one of dozens of Hamas lawmakers who were detained for the first time in 2006. Israel chased down Hamas West Bank- based officials after the Islamic movement kidnapped an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip.

Israel released most of the lawmakers, including Al-Rejoub, but arrested them again last year. By Tuesday, Israel still holds 10 Hamas legislators.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, demands Israel to release at least 1,000 Palestinian and Arab prisoners in exchange for the captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army arrested 12 Palestinians in the cities of Qalqilya and Jenin in the West Bank, Palestinian security sources said.

In Jenin, the Israeli forces also shut down a charity close to the Islamic Jihad movement, witnesses said.

Israel says most of the arrested are wanted activists.

Source: Xinhua.

Palestinians to march on Israel’s borders

BEIRUT, Lebanon, June 1 (UPI) — Palestinians plan to stage protests along Israel’s borders to mark the 44th anniversary of the Six Days War and Israel’s occupation, a Fatah official said.

Munir Maqdah, a Fatah official in Lebanon, said plans are under way to stage a peaceful march between Naqoura to the town of Khiam on Sunday, The Daily Star reported Wednesday.

Facebook campaigns call on Palestinians to march to Israel’s borders with Lebanon, Syria and Gaza to commemorate the Naksa, the 1967 war, the Lebanese daily said.

In the aftermath of the Six Days War, Israel occupied the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Sinai Peninsula.

“Our people are ready. The road to Palestine is covered with thorns,” Maqdah told the newspaper.

A Lebanese army source told the newspaper the army may prevent protesters from reaching Israel’s borders to prevent what occurred last month on Nakba Day when 11 protesters were killed. “The army has reservations about allowing protesters to reach the border … . We will not allow a repeat of what happened on Nakba Day, in terms of the killings of Palestinians,” the source said.

In last month’s protests of the 1948 creation of the state of Israel, a total of 14 Palestinians were killed.

Neeraj Singh, the spokesman for the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon, told the newspaper he had yet to receive official confirmation concerning marches in the area. He said it was the responsibility of the Lebanese army to protect the protesters.

Abdullah Abdullah, the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador in Lebanon, said the marches planned are to express rejection of Israel’s occupation and should not be violent.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Palestinian makes artistic mark on passports

May 31, 2011

RAMALLAH, West Bank: It is like no other passport control on earth. No stern official sitting behind a glass wall, no scanning of travel documents, no terse questions about where you are going. Instead, a lone artist greets arriving visitors and politely asks them if they would like an entry stamp.

Living in occupied territory, the Palestinians do not have the right to set up their own frontier controls. Anyone who passes through Israeli checkpoints is swiftly absorbed into the bustling streets of West Bank cities like Ramallah.

But art student Khaled Jarrar has decided to fill the institutional void with a dainty entry stamp of his own design, which he offers to foreigners as they tumble out of the buses.

“I believe in art that makes a difference, that talks about change. My art is making a political statement,” said Jarrar, spurning traditional galleries for Ramallah’s chaotic central bus station.

While many tourists arriving from nearby Jerusalem appear enthusiastic about the project, few are willing to hand over their precious passports for the sake of art.

Jeff Reynolds, a visitor from Canada, listens intently as Jarrar explains the idea behind the unofficial stamp, then politely declines, fearful that Israeli authorities will give him grief when he tries to fly home.

“I’m just worried about missing my flight at Tel Aviv airport if they question me for a long time about it,” he says, referring to security guards who grill passengers at length before they leave, asking where they went and whom they met.

Palestinians want to set up an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as their capital, on land the Israelis seized in the 1967 Middle East war.

Nearly 20 years of on-off peace negotiations have failed to secure an accord, and the Palestinians say they will now seek United Nations’ approval for a sovereign state in September.

Diplomats say this move stands little chance of success, meaning 35-year-old Jarrar might be the only Palestinian passport controller in the West Bank for some time to come.

His small, round stamp is circled with the words ‘State of Palestine’, written in Arabic and English. In the middle is a drawing of the Palestine Sun Bird flying near delicate flowers.

“In regards to the question of statehood, I think I have sent the message. I think I have done what I can,” says Jarrar, who has set up a Facebook page to promote his stamp — Live-and-work-in-Palestine.

After a string of polite rejections, Jarrar finally finds some foreigners eager to hand over their passports.

“I’m very supportive of the Palestinian cause, and I think this is occupation. So I find it outrageous that they don’t have the right to have their own authority,” says Morgana Benedetti, visiting the West Bank from Italy.

She asks Jarrar to put the stamp on page 9 of her passport — her favorite number — saying it is important for her to have both an Israeli and a Palestinian stamp.

“It’s silly, but it’s like a country. I get a stamp of Israel, but I don’t get a stamp of Palestine?” she says.

Source: Arab News.

Armed residents put up resistance to Syrian Army

May 31, 2011

BEIRUT: Syrian troops shelled a town in the center of the country Monday, and for the first time in the two-month-old revolt against the president, residents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades put up fierce resistance, activists said. State media said four soldiers were killed.

Most of the opposition to autocratic President Bashar Assad has taken the form of peaceful protests by unarmed demonstrators, though authorities have claimed throughout the uprising that it was being led by armed gangs and propelled by foreign conspiracies.

Two activists in the area said residents of two towns under attack in central Homs province since Sunday had taken up arms against troops and members of the security forces and that there were new casualties, though they did not know how many.

The Local Coordination Committees in Syria, which help organize and document the protests, said two bodies were found Monday morning in the area of Bab Amro cemetery, raising the death toll from the two-day crackdown in the country’s turbulent heartland to 11.

“The army is facing armed resistance and is not able to enter the two towns,” said a Homs resident who has wide connections in the province. “The army is still outside the towns and I was told that army vehicles, including armored personnel carriers, were burnt.” The other activist said the army “is being subjected to stiff resistance” by residents using automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in the two towns, Tabliseh and Rastan. He said many people are armed in Syria and over the past years weapons have been smuggled into the country from Lebanon and Iraq.

Syria has barred foreign journalists from entering the country and prevented coverage of the revolt, making it nearly impossible to independently verify accounts coming out of the country.

Monday’s accounts by the two activists, however, were the first credible reports of serious resistance by people who have taken up arms. It is not clear how widespread such resistance might be elsewhere in the country, but the government has claimed that more than 150 soldiers and policemen have been killed since the unrest began.

The Local Coordination Committees in Syria said military forces hit Tabliseh with artillery early Monday and that snipers were deployed on roofs of mosques.

Syrian troops, backed by tanks, have been conducting operations in Tabliseh and the nearby town of Rastan Teir Maaleh since Sunday.

Syria’s state-run news agency said four soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in Tabliseh.

Assad’s use of the military signals he is determined to crush the two-month-old revolt, despite US and European sanctions, including an EU assets freeze and a visa ban on Assad and nine members of his regime.

The uprising, which began in mid-March, is posing the most serious challenge to the Assad family’s 40-year rule. What began as a disparate movement demanding reforms has erupted into a resilient uprising seeking Assad’s ouster. Human rights groups say more than 1,000 people have been killed in the crackdown.

In Geneva, the UN’s top human rights official said Monday the brutality and magnitude of repression in Syria and Libya against anti-government groups is “shocking.” Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the crackdown in those countries is marked by an “outright disregard for basic human rights.” He urged the Syrian government Monday to allow a UN fact-finding mission to visit the country. The team has been awaiting Syria’s reply since requesting a visit on May 6.

Rights activist Mustafa Osso said troops have entered several towns in the restive Homs province and detained hundreds of people since Sunday. He added that since Sunday night, Rastan and Tabliseh have been subjected to heavy machine gun fire.

Residents of the Homs towns have held anti-regime protests since the start of the uprising. Those protests have increased recently, with crowds taking to the streets day and night to call for the fall of Assad’s regime, an activist said.

Osso said there were several demonstrations in different parts of Syria overnight, adding that there were no reports of security forces opening fire.

In recent days, many Assad opponents have been holding protests and candlelight vigils at times of the night when the security presence has thinned out.

Source: Arab News.