Archive for December, 2011

Clashes smear University of Jordan Student Union Elections


By Alaa Elayyan

AMMONNEWS – Clashes erupted throughout the day on Thursday at the University of Jordan (UJ) as students cast their ballots in the Student Union elections.

Security forces intensified their presence around the campus as several brawls erupted in various faculties, including the humanities, medicine, sciences, and engineering departments.

Two students were injured in the clashes and were transferred to the University of Jordan hospital for treatment.

University security guards worked to contain the various fights that erupted, as Public Security Directorate (PSD) personnel remained outside the campus near the main gates.

Meanwhile, Dean of the Humanities Department Dr. Abdullah Anbar announced on Thursday morning postponing the English Department elections until next week after clashes erupted there when students supporting one candidate prevented other students from casting their ballots.

Angry students stormed into the university’s President’s building after the department’s elections were postponed, leading UJ’s vice-president to meet with them to contain the incident.

UJ President Adel Tweisi told Ammon News on Thursday that head of the elections’ committee in the humanities department worked to contain the incident after young men covering their faces with scarfs and masks prevented female students from voting.

Students also vandalized university property in the Business Department and blocked the entrances to the engineering department.

Source: Ammon News.

Report: Hamas agrees to join PLO

Thursday 22/12/2011

CAIRO (Ma’an) — Hamas has agreed to join the Palestine Liberation Organization in a move intended to bolster Palestinian reconciliation, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

There was no immediate confirmation, but officials in Cairo said Hamas and Islamic Jihad expressed flexibility and indicated they would accept the PLO’s legitimacy.

The report came after President Mahmoud Abbas met Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Cairo to put “final touches” on an agreement to reconcile the leaders’ rival factions.

Officials from Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian National Initiative said late Thursday that they had accepted positions on an “interim leadership” of the PLO.

Ayed Yaghi, a PNI leader, said the small faction joined the PLO and that it was a natural position to take.

Head of the PNI Mustafa Barghouthi called it “a historic day in the lives of the Palestinian people with the development of a united national leadership as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PNI joined the PLO’s leadership framework.”

An Islamic Jihad leader, however, said that joining the “interim leadership framework” of the PLO did not necessarily mean it had formally accepted membership in the Palestinian body.

Khaled Al-Batsh told Ma’an that joining the organization requires a clear framework for how the PLO will be restructured.

He added that if there was an agreement concerning these issues, Islamic Jihad would become a member in the organization. However, if there was not, the group said it was still willing to contribute.

“We’re now in the phase of national dialogue,” he said. “We’re in the interim leadership framework, which will handle restructuring the PLO, and we hope to succeed.”

Source: Ma’an News Agency.

Syrian Sanctions Pose New Threat to Jordan’s Economy

Abdullah Omar
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

DEIR-ALLA, Jordan – In the lush orchards of Abu Emad in this Jordan Valley town, lemons and oranges glisten in the sun as the day of picking draws near. The valley’s year-round mild climate, fertile soils and relatively ample water supply have made it a winter garden of cucumbers, tomatoes and other produce destined for Europe, where they are unavailable from local growers during the winter.

But this season may be different as Arab League sanctions against Syria go into effect. That is because Jordan Valley farmers like Abu Emad send their best produce through Syria to Europe, where prices are better than anything they could expect at home. The farmers, already coping with debts and water shortages, have few alternatives to Syria.

“If I’m not allowed to export products through Syria, it will be a catastrophe for me and all the communities in the region,” said the scrawny 56 year old farmer. Unemployment in Jordan is already high and poverty is on the rise. This farm employs dozens of workers from impoverished Deir Alla and neighboring towns. “If a war starts, many people will be hurt, not only in Syria, but also in Jordan.”

Unlike Syria’s two other Arab League neighbors, Iraq and Lebanon, Jordan supported the sanctions and King Abdullah has hinted that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad should step down after more than 5,000 people have died in a crackdown against the government. But the economy of Jordan, an important ally of the U.S., can ill-afford another blow.

Repeated attacks on the pipeline from Egypt have stanched the flow of natural gas that was once Jordan’s primary source of energy. While Abdullah faces no threat to his rule, the country has been shaken by protests calling for reform and an end to corruption. Jordan is already saddled by a record $2 billion budget deficit this fiscal year and high unemployment.

Syria and its Mediterranean ports serve as a lifeline for the kingdom, an almost entirely landlocked country. Close to 30% of Jordan’s exports of fruits and vegetables, about $126 million in 2010, went through Syria to Europe as well as the closer markets of Lebanon and Turkey. The ministry has said that about 3,000 Jordanian trucks will have to stop working because of the sanctions.

Syria finally agreed on Monday to let Arab League observers into the country to monitor a deal it agreed to last month to pull troops from rebellious cities, free political prisoners and start talks with the opposition. Nevertheless, the head of the League said there is no immediate plan to lift sanctions that were imposed when Damascus at first refused outside monitors.

Meantime, Jordanian traders are complaining they are being targeted by the Syrian regime, with trucks facing delays at the border and attacks by loyalists as the vehicles head north to Turkey.

The sanctions include a travel ban against scores of senior Syrian officials, a freeze on government assets in Arab countries, a ban on transactions with Syria’s central bank as well as an end to all commercial exchanges with the Syrian government. The sanctions include a ban on dealing with the central bank of Syria as well as major companies that export to the region.

If they can’t find new markets for their fruits and vegetables, the Jordan Valley’s farmers risk seeing everything fall off their branches and rot. The oil-rich Gulf states represent an option, but fierce competition from other countries such as India and strict rules on imports will make it hard to find customers countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi or Qatar, he says.

Experts say other trade partners will have to be considered, including next-door Israel. But with the government already suffering I public opinion over the economy and political reform, expanding trade with the Jewish state would be a risky move. The two countries have a peace treaty but Jordanian popular opinion is hostile to Israel.

Sanctions will not only hit Jordanian farmers, but factories that use Syria as a route to import basic manufacturing products such as textiles and spare parts.

It will also hurt Jordanian families, which get the majority of their fruits and vegetables from Syria as well as wheat, cotton and other basic needs at an affordable price. Jordan imported some $187 million of Syria produce last year, according to Jordan’s Agriculture Ministry. Additionally, as pressure on Damascus intensifies and more refugees start to make their way to the kingdom, officials in Amman are concerned that will compound the economy’s woes by adding more mouths to feed.

All told, two-way trade between Syria and Jordan amounts to $400 million, a significant figure for a country of seven million people and an economy worth about $27 billion. Traders say imports from Lebanon would also become all too expensive if they are to be shipped through the Mediterranean and into the Red Sea Gulf of Aqaba

Jordan officials have sounded the alarm about the damage sanctions will impose if the kingdom’s special problems are taken into consideration. Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh has urged the other Arab countries to consider exempting the kingdom from the trade ban on Syria.

Jordan is believed to have received tens of millions of dollars from the Saudi and Qatari governments to help it accommodate an expected surge in the number of refugees. Experts say the kingdom could be given more cash from wealthier Arab League members to offset losses from cutting ties with Syria.

But Khalid Abdel Rahman, a farmer from the Jordan Valley town of Karama, expressed doubt about the aid money being spent effectively or going to deserving pockets.

“There is no transparency in these issues. If we receive aid, the government would give small amounts to certain people and leave others face the hardship by themselves,” he said.

Meanwhile, Amman has started seeking alternative routes for its exports. Talks have already held with Iraqi authorities to send trucks laden with exotic fruits and vegetables through northern Iraq and into Turkey, before reaching the European market. But the route is almost double the Syrian route and it through politically unstable areas, which will raise costs.

Source: The Media Line.

UNICEF welcomes release of Palestinian child detainees from Israeli prisons

JERUSALEM (BNO NEWS) — The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Monday welcomed the release of more than 50 Palestinian children from Israeli jails as part of Sunday’s prisoner swap agreement with Hamas.

The 55 released children are between the ages of 14 and 17. “We welcome this release of children by the Israeli authorities and we look forward to further progress on the issue of child detainees,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Special Representative in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The children were released as part of the second phase of a prisoner swap agreement with Hamas. Under the agreement, Israel agreed to free 1,027 prisoners in exchange for the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit who had been held in Hamas captivity in Gaza for almost six years. During the first phase in October, Israel released 477 Palestinian prisoners…

All prisoners released as part of the deal were forced to sign a document in which they pledge not to engage in terrorist activity in the future. Israeli officials previously said they will hunt down any released prisoners if they are found to have engaged in “terrorism” again.

According to UNICEF, a total of 161 Palestinians under 18 years of age were in Israeli military detention as of December 1. At least 106 Palestinian children remain in Israeli jails following Sunday’s release.

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Source: Newstro.

Second phase of prisoner swap ready

JERUSALEM, Dec. 14 (UPI) — Israeli prison officials listed 114 Palestinian detainees to be freed in the second phase of a prisoner swap, the Palestinian Prisoners Society said Wednesday.

Israel released 477 prisoners Oct. 18 and agreed to free an additional 550 detainees within two months in a deal with Hamas to secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israeli media said the remaining prisoners would be released soon if the country’s top court rejected petitions against the release, Ma’an news agency said.

Haaretz said the Israeli government worked with Egypt to choose which prisoners would be released. None of the prisoners had been convicted of killing Israelis, the official said.

Most detainees selected for release are affiliated with Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the official said.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Gaza people celebrates Hamas foundation


Al Qassam website – Gaza – Palestinian people is marking the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, foundation to affirm that it will continue all forms of resistance against the Israeli occupation until liberation, independence and the return of the Palestinian refugees.

Hamas in press statement said “On this day in the year 1987, our people started their revolution against the Israeli occupation, and made thousands of sacrifices for the sake of their land and holy sites,” Hamas’ statement reads, “Our people are still steadfast, determined to achieve full unity, and despite Israel’s excessive use of force, and bombardment, they are determined to achieve liberation, and to establish their independent state.”

The movement further stated that the Palestinian people, wherever their reside, share the strongest ties to their land and their identity, “…and will always remain united and determined to liberate Palestine and its holy sites.”

It also stated that all Arab and Muslim nations support the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people, despite the idleness of the international community, and the military and financial support the United States and other Western countries provide Israel with to maintain its illegal occupation of Palestine.

More than 1,500 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli forces during the first Intifada, while at least 120,000 were injured. Israel also arrested a total of 120,000 Palestinians and displaced more than 150,000.

The Ministry of Information in Gaza reported that the number of Palestinians who were killed since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada in late September 2000 until now, arrived at more than 7,404, including at least 1,859 children, and more than 800 women. The number of wounded Palestinians exceeded 42,400.

Source: Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades – Information Office.

University staff strike over taxes

Wednesday 14/12/2011

HEBRON (Ma’an) — University staff decided to strike from 10 a.m. Wednesday to protest the government’s failure to abolish taxes on their end-of-service pay.

The union said in a statement that a protest would be held outside ministry buildings in Ramallah to demand that Prime Minister Salam Fayyad implemented a promise to abolish the tax.

The union also demanded the payment of university budgets approved by the government, noting that delays in the payment caused late salaries.

Source: Ma’an News Agency.