Archive for December, 2011

Russian intelligence facilities attacked in Syria

23 December 2011

At least 40 people have been killed and over 100 injured as a result of bombings in Damascus. Lebanese TV channel Al-Manar reports that the explosions have been carried out by “martyr bombers”.

It is also reported that facilities of Russian intelligence have been targeted. According to the latest information, booby-trapped cars have been undermined near the two centers of the security forces of Alawite regime. Most of killed and wounded are Syrian soldiers and intelligence agents. The Assad regime declared that “the attack had been organized by Al-Qaeda”.

The Guardian referring to Syrian TV says that the bombings in Syria were directed against Russian intelligence. Russia has repeatedly supported the current Syrian government that caused discontent among the local opposition. The world’s media outlets reported about several anti-Russian protests that had taken place in Damascus.

Russian experts also acknowledge that the explosions in Damascus were directed against Moscow and not against the Syrian government. That was stated by political analyst Alexei Malashenko from Moscow Carnegie Center.

Two explosions occurred a day after international observers had come to Syria. According to the plan of the League of Arab States, they should get a third-party view on the situation in the country.

According to UN statistics, the total number of victims of the Alawite regime in Syria has exceeded in recent months 5,000 people.

Department of Monitoring
Kavkaz Center

Source: Kavkaz Center.

Gaza Hamas leader leaves Gaza for first time since 2007


Hamas premier Ismail Haniya leaves Gaza Strip for regional tour that will take him to Egypt, Sudan, Qatar, Turkey, Tunisia, Bahrain.

GAZA CITY – Hamas premier Ismail Haniya left the Gaza Strip for a regional tour on Sunday for the first time since Israel and Egypt imposed a siege in 2007, his office said.

Sources in his office said that Haniya would visit Egypt and Sudan, after which he plans to go to Qatar, Turkey, Tunisia and Bahrain.

The primary purpose of the trip was to obtain “help and aid” to rebuild Gaza City, but Haniya was also likely to address the issue of Palestinian reconciliation in talks, they said.

Earlier reports suggested that Haniya is planning to move Hamas offices located in Damascus to Doha, following the ongoing unrest Syria is witnessing.

The brutal regime crackdown on protesters in Syria has presented an embarrassment for Hamas, which was embraced by President Bashar al-Assad and given a home in Damascus for several years.

However, staying in Syria would tacitly suggest that Hamas supports Assad, who has already become the loneliest and most isolated leader in the Middle East.

Haniya entered Egypt through the Rafah crossing, recently opened after remaining largely shut since June 2006 when Israel imposed a blockade after militants snatched soldier Gilad Shalit, who was freed in October in a prisoner swap.

The blockade was tightened a year later when the Islamist Hamas seized control of the territory, ousting forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Egypt had largely complied with the restrictions, although it occasionally opened Rafah — the only Gaza crossing that bypasses Israel — to allow aid in and students and medical cases out.

In May, Egypt officially reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, more than three months after Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak resigned, allowing people to cross freely for the first time in four years.

Haniya’s regional tour begins three days after Palestinian factions, including Hamas, met in Cairo to thrash out implementation of a surprise deal they signed in April.

The two factions had previously been at loggerheads ever since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007, leaving the Palestinian territories with rival administrations.

On Thursday, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Syria-based Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal discussed reforming the Palestine Liberation Organization, in a bid to allow the Islamist movement and 13 other Palestinian factions to join.

But cracks have emerged lately between the Damascus and Gaza branches of Hamas regarding future strategy.

Last month, Meshaal voiced support for “popular peaceful resistance,” which presumes that Hamas would ultimately renounce armed struggle against Israel.

He also said he was open to the creation of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including the West Bank and the Gaza strip with east Jerusalem as its capital.

Such a strategy in effect calls for a Palestinian state next to, and not in place of, Israel, and would be a departure from the position held by Hamas since its founding 24 years ago.

Source: Middle East Online.

Palestinian factions agree on unified government

Thursday 22 December 2011
Phoebe Greenwood in Tel Aviv

President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal finalize groundbreaking deal in Cairo after heated negotiations.

Rival Palestinian factions have agreed to form a unified government, which will be sworn in by the end of January. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal met in Cairo to agree the groundbreaking deal late on Wednesday after days of heated negotiation between representatives of Palestinian political groups led by Hamas and Fatah.

The talks, mediated by Egypt, are part of ongoing efforts to mend the factional divisions that split Gaza from the West Bank in 2007 and led to the collapse of the Palestinian legislative council. There has not been a functioning Palestinian parliament since.

Initial reports suggested that the announcement signaled Hamas’s return to the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is internationally recognized as representing the Palestinian people. But Fatah officials told the Guardian that the militant group is yet to sign the PLO charter, which would require it to lay down arms.

Ghassan Khatib, a spokesperson for Mahmoud Abbas, welcomed the progress, saying that in order to the achieve independence through the United Nations, the Palestinian Authority must prioritize reunification.

“We are hopeful the reconciliation will be successful,” Khatib said. “We cannot say we are ready for independence and statehood before we have a reunified Palestinian system.”

On Tuesday, the delegates agreed to set up both an electoral commission and a deadline for the establishment of a caretaker cabinet of technocrats. Both sides agreed that all political prisoners currently held in the West Bank and Gaza would be released by the end of January.

The issue of prisoners has been a critical sticking point. Officials in the Gaza Strip point out that since Abbas promised to release Hamas prisoners held by the Palestinian Authority at his last meeting with Meshaal in November, 89 members of the militant faction have been arrested in the West Bank.

Cynics within both factions maintain that the victories won at the Cairo summit are hollow. While Hamas has agreed to accept the foundation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, the militant group steadfastly refuses to abandon its armed resistance to the Israeli occupation or recognize the state of Israel.

“We want really to end this [division] but I am not optimistic,” a spokesperson for Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said earlier this week, indicating that the leadership of acting prime minister Salam Fayyad remained an obstacle. “Abu Mazen [Abbas] has said no government without Salam Fayyad. This is not negotiation.”

Fayyad is regarded with suspicion by Hamas.

Hamas officials also predict that heavy diplomatic and financial pressure applied by Israel and the US will ultimately prevent Mahmoud Abbas from forming a unity government.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has issued an ultimatum to the Palestinian leader, warning that he must choose between reconciliation with Hamas and peace with Israel, a stance confirmed by his spokesperson on Thursday.

“Hamas is openly against peace. Terrorism is not just a tactic it is their very being. The unfortunate reality is that if Abbas moves towards Hamas, he moves away from peace,” Mark Regev said.

Washington has indicated it will cut millions of dollars in funding to the Palestinian security infrastructure if the current leadership unifies with Hamas.

If the new Palestinian government is established in late January, its birth will coincide with the deadline presented to Palestinian and Israeli leaders by the Middle East quartet to present roadmaps to peace. The international mediating body has requested serious proposals on border and security issues from both governments by 26 January.

Source: The Guardian.

Kuwait donates 1 million to support Gaza preschool children

WASHINGTON, Dec 24 (KUNA) — The American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) organization late Friday said it was “absolutely thrilled and grateful” to receive a USD one million dollar donation from the Kuwaiti government to provide nutritional support to children in Gaza. The non-profit relief and development agency said that the substantial donation would provide vitamin-fortified milk and high-energy biscuits to over 17,000 pre-schoolers in Gaza, where the World Health Organization statistics show nearly four out of ten children under five suffer from anemia and malnutrition.

“This is something that’s near to our hearts and I think to everyone in the State of Kuwait that we look upon innocent children and hope that they have the basics of life. This is one of the things we’re trying to provide. This offers them a safety net so that the ravages of anemia and stunting are not something they have to live with day after day,” Bill Corcoran, President of ANERA told KUNA in an interview.

During a visit to ANERA’s Washington headquarters, Kuwait’s Ambassador to the US Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah told KUNA that this is the second donation from Kuwait to fund ANERA’s work with children in Gaza.

He added that Kuwait exerts many efforts to support the Palestinian people throughout the years, which reflect the deep Kuwaiti-Palestinian “distinctive and historic” relations.

He affirmed that the Palestinian issue is among the priorities of the Kuwaiti leadership, stressing the support of the Kuwaiti people to the Palestinians on all levels.

The Ambassador stressed that this donation comes to provide the simplest living requirements for the Gaza children in light of the “difficult political, economic and living conditions” there.

The Kuwaiti Government had also donated in March 2010 USD one million to fund ANERA’s Milk for Preschoolers program with children in Gaza. “This generous gift strengthens ANERA’s capacity to care for Palestinian children at their most vulnerable age,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait and ANERA board chairman Edward Gnehm, telling KUNA, “This really touches children and it touches the hearts of people. They do feel neglected, they do feel ignored by the world and this is a very special way to reach out to them. We are very much a part of their lives and we are happy to be partners with Kuwait.”

ANERA said the USD one million donation is a “valued endorsement of ANERA’s ability to deliver with the highest standards of accountability and responsibility.” For more than 40 years ANERA has been a leading provider of development, health, education and employment programs to Palestinian communities and impoverished families through-out the Middle East.

In 2011, the relief and development agency delivered more than USD 65 million of programs to the people of the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Jordan. This was up from the USD 51 million raised in 2010.

Source: Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

Jordan police fire tear gas on protesters

Fri Dec 23, 2011

Jordanian anti- and pro-government protesters have clashed in the northern city of Mafraq, forcing police to use tear gas to end the violence.

Witnesses say dozens from both sides, including police, were injured after thousands of members of the Bani Hassan tribe clashed with around 300 anti-government demonstrators demanding reforms in Mafraq on Friday.

Several shops were also destroyed during the clashes, AFP reported.

The demonstrators have reportedly sought refuge in a mosque and according to witnesses the situation is still tense in the city.

Bani Hassan, one of Jordan’s largest tribes, which supports the government, on Thursday warned against holding anti-government demonstration in Mafraq.

Similar anti-government rallies were held in the capital, Amman, and several other cities following the Friday Prayers.

Jordanians have been holding street protests demanding political reform, including the election of the prime minister by popular vote, and an end to corruption since January. There have been no calls for the king to be removed.

Since the beginning of protest rallies, Jordanian ruler, King Abdullah II, has sacked two prime ministers in a bid to avoid more protests. Awn al-Khasawneh, a judge at International Court of Justice, is Jordan’s third premier this year.

The king has also amended 42 articles in the 60-year-old constitution, giving parliament a stronger role in decision-making.

Source: PressTV.

Tunisian convoy en route to Gaza

Thursday 22/12/2011

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Tunisian medical aid convoy began its journey to Gaza on Thursday from Tunis, Palestinian officials said.

The convoy carrying four tons of medical aid left Tunis-Carthage International Airport earlier in the day, medical officials told Ma’an.

The coordinator of the medical services in the Gaza Strip said the convoy was organized by a Tunisian scout group and will arrive in Cairo and depart for Gaza shortly thereafter.

Some 11 scout leaders are part of the delegation, which is to visit Gaza’s hospitals and civil society groups before checking up on local scouts.

Source: Ma’an News Agency.

Jewish terrorism threat grows in West Bank

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Dec. 21 (UPI) — The Israeli military, already bracing for what could be the most devastating war in the Middle East, is also girding for a looming confrontation with Jewish extremists, mainly hard-liners from the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Extremists from ultra-Orthodox settler groups, who say God gave the region to the children of Abraham for all time, have been increasingly active in recent months.

This has taken place as the United States sought to pressure the Israeli government to relinquish the West Bank, or a large portion of it, as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

The smoldering crisis escalated sharply Dec. 12 when a mob of angry settlers stormed a regional military base near the Arab city of Qalqilya, stoned the brigade commander and his deputy and burned army trucks.

The right-wing hard-liners attacked the base because, they said, the military was preparing to shut down a settlement the Israeli Supreme Court had ordered closed in August.

Earlier, another group broke into a closed military zone on the border with Jordan and attempted to establish a settlement outpost before they were arrested.

These incidents, with troops under attack from fellow Jews, triggered an outcry in the Israeli media, with some commentators even speculating on “civil war.”

The liberal Haaretz daily warned that “the only ‘red line’ that has yet to be crossed is a scenario in which an Israeli citizen fires on soldiers. There are those in Israel’s security forces who fear that day is not so distant.”

The violence follows a growing number of so-called price-tag attacks by settlers on Palestinian mosques and churches, some of which were torched. These attacks are intended to dissuade the government from moving against illegal hilltop outposts, a tactic used by the more militant settlers to extend the settlement process.

Ironically, it was one devised in 1997 by Ariel Sharon, then foreign minister in Netanyahu’s first term as premier, who exhorted settlers to “seize the hilltops” to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.

The recent attacks are part of a larger hard-line campaign to prevent the government forcibly evacuating settlements, which the settlers see as a move toward an eventual sellout to the Palestinians.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon and others branded the attacks as terrorism, an epithet rarely used against Jews and the politically powerful movement representing the 300,000 settlers in the West Bank.

“There’s no question that this is terror behavior,” declared Barak, Israel’s most decorated war hero.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a right-wing hawk widely blamed for undermining the peace process, described the attack on the army as “intolerable.”

He directed security forces to be more aggressive against the militants and decreed they would be tried by military courts.

But he stopped short of calling the culprits “terrorists,” thus avoiding a politically dangerous clash with the settler bloc by equating the militants’ actions with stone-throwing Palestinian “terrorists.”

Indeed, the commotion, and the customary condemnations, underlines just how powerless the authorities are when it comes to Jewish terrorism and how success administrations have failed to rein them in.

Even the right-leaning Jerusalem Post was incensed by the attack on the army.

“What needs to be understood is that these settlers and far-right activists largely do not fear the police or the courts,” the Post’s military affairs correspondent Yaakov Katz, wrote.

“Past experience has shown that punishments tend to be minor and that’s in the rare instance where the case actually makes it court.”

Palestinians living in the West Bank, who have been under military occupation since 1967, are routinely tried by military courts where defendants’ rights are minimal.

Haaretz, which has long spoken out against Jewish terrorism and settler militancy, cited military documents indicating that in 2010 99.74 percent of Palestinians who appeared before military courts were convicted.

That’s 25 acquittals out of 9,542 cases.

Despite the government’s pledge to crack down of right-wing extremists it has in recent weeks approved settlement expansions in the West Bank and, more controversially, in Arab East Jerusalem where the Israelis have been systematically forcing out the Palestinian population for years.

Source: United Press International (UPI).