Archive for September, 2011

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).
Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2011/06/01/Palestinians-to-march-on-Israels-borders/UPI-87351306930394/.

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Palestinian makes artistic mark on passports

By JIHAN ABDALLA | REUTERS
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.
Link: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article442237.ece.

Armed residents put up resistance to Syrian Army

By BASSEM MROUE | AP
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.
Link: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article442250.ece.

Jordan opposition calls for government’s resignation

By ABDUL JALIL MUSTAFA | ARAB NEWS
May 31, 2011

AMMAN: Jordan’s main opposition party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), and the country’s strongest pro-democracy coalition on Monday urged the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit’s government for its failure to adopt the needed reforms.

“The way out of the deep crisis we experience lies in the formation of a national reform government, to be led by a national personality which believes in reforms and adopts a program with clear objectives, including the adoption of real, political and constitutional reforms,” the IAF said in a statement.

The IAF, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, considered last week’s resignation of two Cabinet ministers indicative of Bakhit’s failure to fight corruption and “the unprecedented political, economic and social crisis Jordan is grappling with.”

Bakhit said that the Justice Minister Hussein Megalli and Health Minister Yassin Hosban resigned on Thursday to concede responsibility for the ”mistakes” committed in their ministries that enabled the convicted businessman Khalid Shahin to flee from the country on Feb. 25.

In his resignation letter to the prime minister, Megalli said that he had decided to resign because he found the “path of reforms deadlocked.”

Local media on Monday expected more cabinet ministers to quit in connection with Shahin’s affair that dominated the thinking of the Jordanian public opinion over the past three months.

Shahin was serving a three-year jail term after the State Security Court found him guilty of bribery in his bid to obtain a 1.2-billion-dollar contract for the expansion of the country’s sole refinery.

The call for Bakhit’s resignation also came on Monday from the March 24 Youth group, which has set July 14 a date for a marathon rally to protest the failure to adopt the required political and constitutional reforms in the country, including an independent judiciary.

“We hereby promise our people that we will not back down in our struggle to accomplish radical reforms and disclose all corruption files and ensure punishment of those involved,” the gathering said in a strongly-worded statement.

Source: Arab News.
Link: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article442229.ece.

Armed residents put up resistance to Syrian army

By BASSEM MROUE – Associated Press, ZEINA KARAM – Associated Press
Mon, May 30, 2011

BEIRUT (AP) — Residents used automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades to repel advancing government troops in central Syria on Monday, putting up a fierce fight for the first time in their two-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime.

The escalation raised fears the popular uprising may be moving toward a Libya-style armed conflict.

Until now, the opposition against Assad has taken the form of peaceful protests by unarmed demonstrators, though authorities have claimed, without offering solid proof, that it was being led by armed gangs and propelled by foreign conspiracies.

Activists said residents of the towns of Talbiseh and Rastan, which have been under attack since Sunday in central Homs province, decided to fight back with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and at least four civilians were killed.

“They felt that they cannot sit back any more and pray for God to help them,” said one Homs resident who has wide connections in the province. He, like all residents contacted by The Associated Press, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Another two bodies were found early Monday in the area of Bab Amro cemetery, raising the death toll from the two-day crackdown in the country’s turbulent heartland to 15, said the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, which helps organize and document the protests. State media said four soldiers were killed.

“The army is facing armed resistance and is not able to enter the two towns,” the Homs resident said. “The army is still outside the towns and I was told that army vehicles, including armored personnel carriers, were set on fire.”

A second activist confirmed residents had fought back, but said it involved individual residents protecting themselves, as opposed to an organized armed resistance with an overall command structure.

“The protests began peacefully but the practices of security forces that humiliated the people eventually led to the use of arms,” he said. He said it was common for Syrians to have light weapons such as rifles in their homes, adding that in recent years weapons have been smuggled in from neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Iraq.

Homs has seen some of the biggest demonstrations against Assad since protests broke out in southern Syria in March and spread across the country — posing the most serious challenge to the Assad regime’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, which has drawn condemnation and sanctions from the United States and European Union.

Monday’s accounts were the first credible reports of serious resistance by residents taking up arms. It is not clear how widespread such resistance might be elsewhere, though there have been some reports of civilians fighting back in the town of Talkalakh near the border with Lebanon and the government and several rights group say more than 150 soldiers and policemen have been killed since the unrest began.

Details coming out of Syria are sketchy because the government has placed severe restrictions on the media and expelled foreign reporters, making it nearly impossible to independently verify accounts coming out of the country.

The Local Coordination Committees in Syria said Assad’s fighters hit Tabliseh with artillery early Monday and that snipers were deployed on the roofs of mosques. Syrian troops, backed by tanks, have been conducting operations in Tabliseh, Rastan and the nearby town of Teir Maaleh since Sunday.

“The situation is completely hopeless,” said a resident of Rastan reached by telephone who said he was barricaded in his home.

“There are dead bodies in the streets and nobody can get to them … The town is completely surrounded by tanks,” he shouted before the line was cut.

Rights activist Mustafa Osso said troops have detained hundreds of people since Sunday in Homs province.

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 revolt, despite U.S. and European sanctions, including an EU assets freeze and a visa ban on Assad and nine members of his regime.

In Geneva, the U.N.’s top human rights official said Monday the brutality and magnitude of repression in Syria and Libya against anti-government protests is “shocking.”

Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the crackdown in the two countries was marked by an “outright disregard for basic human rights.”

He urged the Syrian government Monday to allow a U.N. 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 detained hundreds of people since Sunday in Homs province.

Palestinian government deal by June 6: Shaath

May 29, 2011

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas expect to agree the make-up of a transitional government of independents by June 6, senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath said on Sunday.

Speaking at a news conference after meeting Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, Shaath declined to discuss potential ministers in the new government, which is mandated by a surprise unity deal signed by the two groups last month.

“It’s not my role to talk about the candidates,” he said, pointing out that a joint committee was studying potential ministers.

“There will be agreement between the parties on all the names by June 6,” he said.

Bitter rivals for decades, Hamas and Fatah are working to overcome their differences under the terms of a surprise reconciliation deal signed in Cairo last month.

The accord calls on the two sides to work towards integrating their rival security forces and reforming the Palestine Liberation Organization.

It also mandates legislative and presidential elections within a year, with a transitional government of independents being formed to lay the groundwork for the votes.

Shaath said on Sunday that the two sides were close to resolving another thorny issue — political prisoners.

Hamas and Fatah have routinely arrested each other’s members, with each side accusing the other of mistreatment and arbitrary detention.

The reconciliation deal calls for the release of all political prisoners from the two sides, and Shaath said political arrests had already been halted.

He said he expected that the two groups would close the political arrests “file” soon.

“There is full agreement on that,” he said. “The number of prisoners remaining in detention has shrunk and the file will be closed in upcoming days in accordance with the (unity) agreement,” Shaath said.

He gave no details about any planned prisoner releases.

The reconciliation deal signed by the two parties aims to end years of bitter rivalry that boiled over in 2007, a year after Hamas won a surprise victory in legislative elections, culminating in street battles between the two groups in Gaza.

Hamas routed Fatah, seizing control of the Gaza Strip and leaving Abbas’s party to run a parallel government unable to extend control beyond the West Bank.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

GIZ organizes a roundtable discussion on sustainable use of treated wastewater in agriculture in Jordan

2011-05-29

AMMONNEWS – On behalf the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German-Jordanian Water Program ‘Management of Water Resources’ held, on Sunday 29 May, a roundtable discussion on establishing a risk monitoring and management system for the use of reclaimed water in agriculture in Jordan, in accordance with the latest version of WHO guidelines.

It is worth mentioning that the proposed risk monitoring and management system consists of two major parts: The first looks into assuring sound and effective monitoring system for water, soil, and crops, while the second revolves around implementing all possible measures to eliminate or mitigate risks.

The roundtable aimed at bringing all stakeholders together to discuss the proposed risks of monitoring and management system, which was developed by interdisciplinary working group from the involved stakeholders. In addition, the necessary proceedings for efficient institutionalization of the proposed system were discussed.

The state crop-monitoring program for crops produced with treated wastewater, currently being implemented by the Jordanian Food and Drug Administration (JFDA), is perceived as one of the main achievement of the GIZ Water Program and considered as a corner stone in the monitoring system. The results of this program confirmed the safety of the crops being irrigated with treated wastewater, which gives irrefutable evidence that the reuse of treated wastewater in irrigation is a safe practice.

Jordan comes as one of the pioneer countries in field of modern irrigation techniques and treated wastewater reuse. The support of Jordan Valley Authority, represented by mega infrastructures (like dams, irrigation networks) in the Jordan Valley, paves the way for wider reuse of treated wastewater. One of the many advantages of treated wastewater reuse is save the use of synthetic fertilizers because treated wastewater is rich in plants nutrients. Results of intensive demonstration trials conducted jointly by GIZ and the Jordan Valley Authority, in collaboration with the Jordan Valley farmers, showed that each farm unit (35 dunum) can yearly save around JD1000 – 3000 which is equivalent to no less than JD4 million countrywide.

The Federal Republic of Germany and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan share a longstanding partnership in Development Cooperation. German-Jordanian development cooperation is focused on the water sector. The German Government through its implementing agencies (GIZ. KfW, BGR, CIM) aims at supporting Jordan with the establishment of a comprehensive integrated water resources management. Other German-Jordanian activities include school construction, renewable energies and capacity building.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GMBH is owned by the Federal Republic of Germany. We work worldwide in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development and international education. Our mandate is to support the German government in achieving its objectives in these fields. We provide viable forward-looking solutions for political, economic, ecological and social development in a globalized world. Sometimes working under difficult conditions, we promote complex reforms and change processes. Our corporate objective is to improve people’s lives on a sustainable basis.

Source: Ammon News.
Link: http://en.ammonnews.net/article.aspx?articleNO=12111.

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