Archive for October, 2011

Hamas suspends work at Rafah crossing

GAZA, June 5 (Xinhua) — Hamas authorities suspended working at Rafah crossing point Sunday until reaching an agreement with Egypt on resuming the movement of travelers, officials said.

The move was also to protest Egypt’s decision to close the crossing on Saturday. Egypt said renovation work was behind the closure of the crossing, a week after the Palestinians praised Egypt for deciding to open the crossing permanently for the first time in years.

Hamas’ foreign affairs ministry is holding contacts with Egypt over recent problems that prevented dozens of Palestinians from traveling, said Ayoub Abu Sha’ar, director of the Palestinian side at Rafah crossing.

He added that Hamas suspended the work “because the mechanisms of traveling in the Egyptian side are not clear.”

A week ago, Egypt said it opened the crossing, the only gate for Gazans to the world bypassing Israel, permanently and regularly.

Work went fine the first four days after the crossing was opened, but then Hamas said that the movement of travelers was ” almost paralyzed,” blaming Egypt for the slow work.

Egypt said there were technical problems that delayed the work and that these troubles can be resolved through coordination.

Since Hamas took over Gaza by force in 2007, the crossing had been closed for most of the time. In June 2010, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered the crossing to reopen on regular basis, but conditions for travel were still difficult.

Source: Xinhua.

Syrian opposition ready for bigger meeting after Turkish election

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Syrian opposition is planning another meeting in Turkey to follow its conference in Antalya, hoping to receive more open support from Ankara after the June 12 general elections.

“Until the elections we don’t want to put the Turkish government in a tough position,” Khaled Khoja, a Turkish-based member of the Damascus Declaration committee, a Syrian opposition group, told the Hürriyet Daily News over the weekend.

“We haven’t fixed the schedule of the next meeting yet, but we will announce it within a few weeks as we wait for the elections in Turkey to end, so that the Turkish government’s stance could be clearer,” he added.

Members of the Syrian opposition met in Antalya, a Turkish Mediterranean city, last week and in Brussels over the weekend. Organizers hope their next conference in Turkey will be a larger one, representing the opposition within Syria in addition to exiled dissidents, and that Ankara will support their fight against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian opposition has not yet been able to get the support it expected from the Turkish government, but its members believe this is because of the upcoming election in Turkey.

“Turkey is preparing for elections. That’s why we understand the position of the Turkish government, but we hope this attitude will be changing after the elections,” said Khoja.

The Turkish government has thus far refrained from vocal criticism of Syrian President Al-Assad, who is being held responsible for the killing of protesters during the ongoing uprising in his country. Turkey has instead pressed the Syrian leadership for more reforms. During private conversations, however, Ankara has been telling Assad, “Make reforms, otherwise we’ll support the reformists,” Turkish diplomatic sources told the Daily News.

PM pledges more focus on Syria after polls

In a televised interview over the weekend, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his government would place much focus on the developments in the Middle East and North Africa after the elections.

“We cannot repeat our previous performance during the election time. I am actually quite interested in Syria at this time … I talked on the phone with Mr. Bashar al-Assad,” he said.

The Syrian president is misinforming the Turkish government, according to the Syrian opposition.

“Al-Assad is sending some messages to satisfy the Turkish government that he is going on with new reforms but we don’t believe it at all. This is just to satisfy the public opinion in Turkey and in the international community,” Khoja said.

Asked if they had any contacts within the Turkish government, he said: “At the low level we have some contacts but at the high level, no.”

The planned meeting after the Turkish elections will be more important than the Antalya meeting “because a lot of committees from Syria will gather here,” Khoja said.

“Now they are preparing in Syria to send representatives, some of whom are from Damascus. This will represent the real movement in Syria,” he added. “The opposition outside Syria can only support the movement inside Syria but since the movement in Syria will represent itself at that upcoming meeting, it will be more important.”

Khoja said the group chose Turkey as a venue for its meetings “because Turkey is in the middle of the active countries and it’s so easy to gather here without any visas.” Turkey and Syria abolished visa requirements for travel in 2009.

4 Syrians hospitalized in Turkey

Four Syrians who were wounded in the government’s crackdown on anti-regime protesters in Syria were brought to Turkey on Saturday, the Anatolia news agency reported. Two families came to the Syrian-Turkish border and asked for help from Turkish authorities, who called an ambulance and took the four injured Syrians to a hospital.

The Turkish Red Crescent has increased the number of tents set up in the southern province of Hatay anticipating a further influx of people from Syria. An additional 41 Syrians crossed into Turkey through Hatay’s Altinozu town.

Source: Hürriyet.

Rallies highlight ‘inalienable right to return’

By Mohammad Ben Hussein

AMMAN – Scores of activists joined residents of Baqaa refugee camp in commemorating the 44th anniversary of the June 1967 war, dubbed Naksa, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Participants in the rally chanted slogans against any possible deals that overlook their right to return to their homeland.

Organized by the Muslim Brotherhood movement, the rally kicked off in the central part of the camp, the largest in the country.

As protesters marched on the roads of the camp, they chanted pro-resistance slogans and denounced any attempts to settle them permanently in host countries.

“This is a day to remember the loss of Palestine, and to stress on our right to return,” said Ali Asmar, an activist from the Palestinian refugee camp.

Asmar called on the government to shoulder its responsibility of “protecting the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland.”

“We are being hosted by Jordan as refugees. Jordanian authorities have the responsibility to raise our case since we have become Jordanian citizens,” he said, expressing fear that a future agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel could lead to settling most refugees in host countries.

According to Mohammad Aqel, head of the Islamic Action Front (IAF) branch in Baqaa, the Palestinian Authority has no right to offer any compromise on the right of refugees to decide their destiny.

“People have been leading a difficult life for decades on hopes of returning to their homeland. They have suffered, sacrificed their blood and life for this cause. It is no one’s right to make a decision on their behalf,” he told The Jordan Times on the sideline of the protest.

Several groups in Jordan have joined others across the Arab region to voice concern over the future of refugees scattered in the Middle East.

Jordan hosts the highest number of Palestinian refugees who live in 13 refugee camps as well as in main cities, and the majority of them are Jordanian citizens.

Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes after Israel was created on their land in 1948. About 4.5 million refugees and their descendants now live in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank.

Syria’s Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai desert were also occupied during the six-day 1967 war.

The Golan Heights and the West Bank remain under Israeli occupation 44 years later.

Also yesterday, dozens of people reportedly rallied at the village of Karamah in the Jordan Valley, which is near the borders with the occupied Palestinian territories, to commemorate the Naksa.

Participants, who carried Jordanian and Palestinian flags, stressed their right to return to Palestine, rejecting what they called the conspiracy of a substitute homeland, referring to a campaign by Israeli extremist politicians who look at Jordan as the future state of Palestinians.

In a related development, opposition parties in Jordan on Sunday called on the UN to respect the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra.

In a memorandum handed to the UN office in Amman on the occasion of the Naksa, the parties said Israel has violated all international resolutions and committed war crimes against Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza, demanding holding Israeli war “criminals” accountable for the crimes against Palestinians, Petra said.

The opposition parties also called for the immediate release of Jordanian, Palestinian and Arab prisoners of war in Israeli jails.

6 June 2011

Source: The Jordan Times.

Jordanian MB Forms Political Alliance to Fight Corruption

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Disregarding ideological differences, Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, the Islamic Action Front, and leftist parties formed a National Reform Front (NRF) to combat corruption.

According to PM Ahmed Obeidat, the coalition was formed to create a national reform strategy. He asserted that the NRF’s priority is to put the country on the right democratic track and to fight corruption and tyranny which are Jordan’s main problems. He added that fighting corruption starts with reforming the regime itself.

Mohammad Masri, a researcher at the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies stated that Jordan’s corruption was similar to the situation in the region, referring to Tunisia, Egypt and Syria, where corruption was a key element responsible for the uprisings.

Since January, Jordan has been facing a protest movement demanding political and economic reforms, and an end to corruption.

Source: Ikhwanweb.

Haneyya: Palestinians on Threshold of Promising Future

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Prime Minister Ismail Haneyya said that Hamas had successfully merged between resistance of the Israeli occupation and governance and stressed that the Palestinians are on the “threshold of a new stage and promising future”.

The PM said so Friday evening to mark the grand opening of the Beisan tourist city in northern Gaza Strip.

“We have been able during the past years to combine between resistance and rule in parallel lines,” Haneyya said.

He pointed out that his government, run by Hamas for five years, has carefully selected its priorities in a way that has served the interests of the Palestinians and countered Israeli occupation policies.

“Priorities have gone parallel,” the Palestinian premier explained. “We gave precedence to the rifle when it had priority, and we gave precedence to liberation and then change. Today we give precedence to reconstruction.”

“This reconstruction [has been taking place] despite a lack of resources and the [Israeli] siege, but it offers a bright image of Islam and our Islamic civilization and government,” Haneyya said.

He also confirmed that the Palestinians are on the “threshold of a new stage and a promising future”, and stated that the recreational and tourist city would help serve the Palestinians.

Beisan is said to have been erected on a waste site that turned into a “green oasis”. It now includes various recreational facilities, such as sports fields, amusement parks, a zoo, beautiful landscape, and agricultural land.

Source: Ikhwanweb.

The Syrian regime’s crimes against children is met by silence in the Arab world

By Nehad Ismail

Most Arab States and Arab media have chosen to remain silent about the brutal crackdown by the Syrian regime against the unarmed civilian protesters. The international stance has been disappointing but the shameful Arab silence is baffling. The impotent Arab League had given the green light for the no-fly zone over Libya and supported the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which called for the protection of civilians in Libya. Yet the same Arab League has not taken any steps to protect the civilians in Syria.

If we exclude Alarabiya, Aljazeera and Asharq Alawsat, most Arab media kept quiet about the crimes of the Damascus regime.

Silence of the Jordan opposition

Even activists who instigate weekly protests in Jordan to demand reforms are very quiet about the massacres in the Syrian city of Dera’a which is a few kilometers away across the northern border of Jordan.

Well-known so-called vociferous opposition figures in Jordan who demand reforms and more democratization are in denial about the mayhem in neighboring Syria. Why when it comes to Syria have they suddenly transmogrified into Trappist Monks? This silence is explained by the fact that the Syrian regime has for decades been able to portray itself as the last citadel of Pan-Arab Nationalism projecting itself at the forefront of the so-called “rejectionist front”. This sort of stuff has been swallowed whole by the gullible Arab Street.

Crimes against children

The mutilated body of Hamza al-Khateeb, the 13 year old boy was returned by Bashar al Assad’s security forces to his family last week in Saida near Dera’a. The body was subjected to brutal beatings and extreme forms of physical torture such as cuts, burns, laceration, bruises as a result of whipping by cable and electrocution. The London Sunday Times reported on Sunday May 29th that “his eyes were swollen and black; there was a deep, dark burn mark on his chest. His neck was broken and his penis cut off”. The pictures of Hamza sent shock waves throughout the Middle East.

To add insult to injury, the Syrian Security thugs arrested Hamza’s father Ali al-Khateeb and forced him to tell the state media that his son was tortured and killed by Islamic extremists. The regime recruited doctors in government hospitals to say they had not seen any signs of physical abuse. How low can a frightened regime stoop to hide its crimes?

Last week the body of Murshed Aba Zaid, 18 was returned to his family. News Agencies reported that Murshed was shot in the face by Bashar’s thugs outside his home in Izraa north of Dera’a, he was taken to hospital for treatment but the security forces snatched him from his hospital bed. When his body was returned to his family last week, they found his neck and nose were broken and showed signs of burns. His abdomen had a huge scar.

Human Rights Watch reported that Syrian detention centers are the worst in the world for the mistreatment of detainees where torture is routine. Amnesty International reports that detainees were forced to lick blood off the prison floor and some were forced to drink from the lavatory bowls.

Yet despite the grisly murders by the Syrian regime; the Arab League remained silent. The Arab regimes remained silent. In the meantime, Walid al-Muallem, the Syria Foreign Minister had the chutzpah to chide the Arab ambassadors in Damascus for not condemning the US and EU for imposing sanction against certain individuals in Syria. None of the Ambassadors dared to remind the Foreign Minister of the Syrian regime’s crimes against the Syrian people. I haven’t heard a single condemnation from any Arab government or official.

Arab and international response has been slow and feeble. With a few exceptions (Qatar and Saudi Arabia) most Arab regimes and media remained silent. There has been no official protest about the collective punishments meted out such as the cutting off water supplies and electricity.

On May 16th the London Financial Times reported that Nick Harvey the UK Armed Forces Minister said it was “highly likely” that the ICC, the International Criminal Court would seek the arrest of BASHAR AL-Assad over his role in the violent crackdown on protesters. Whereas Hamas remained embarrassingly silent, Iran and Hezbollah decided to defend the Syrian regime. The Arab League’s silence is interpreted by many as backing a murderous regime and giving it the green light to continue with its brutal abuse of the Syrian people. We should not expect much from the international community either.

Russia and China are known apologists to the Damascus murderous regime. President Barack Obama has issued a mild reprimand which the Syrian brushed aside with contempt.

Source: Ammon News.

Saudi Arabia gives $400 mln cash grant to Jordan

June 04, 2011

AMMAN: Saudi Arabia gave Jordan a $400 million cash grant that will improve the country’s fiscal stability after extra social spending earlier this year widened the budget deficit, Jordan’s finance minister said.

Mohammad Abu Hammour told Reuters the cash grant will be channeled to infrastructure projects and capital expenditure which had been curtailed in a 6.369 billion dinar ($8.98 billion) revised budget last February that allocated more funding to a $650 million social package.

The Saudi grant would help Jordan consolidate its finances to ensure a robust upturn and maintain a 2011 budget deficit target at 5.5 percent of gross domestic product despite a soaring oil import bill and extra social costs.

Protests that have swept across North Africa and the Middle East reached Jordan and pushed the authorities earlier this year to introduce a social safety net to mitigate the impact of food inflation that many blame for the eroding standard of living among lower and middle class Jordanians.

“This will reflect positively on the level of services granted to Jordanians and will help to overcome some of the difficulties faced by the budget,” Abu Hammour said.

Jordan hoped to cut the budget deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2013, Abu Hammour said.

Jordan was also hoping its future alignment with the Gulf Cooperation Council which last month welcomed Amman’s future membership could bring financial benefits for its struggling economy.

The kingdom has traditionally had close business and economic relations with the oil rich region and businessmen hope better access to Gulf markets could boost Jordanian exports while easing labor restrictions could reduce unemployment.

The economy relies heavily on aid and remittances from a large expatriate labor force working in the Gulf.

Despite uncertainty from current unrest in the region, Abu Hammour said that he was confident and the outlook for the economy was “very positive” with more investment and tax incentives in the pipeline to attract higher foreign direct investment and regional capital inflows.

The government still maintained a 3.5 percent growth target his year, in line with IMF projections, seeing economic recovery gathering momentum, Abu Hammour said.

Source: The Daily Star.