Archive for August 2nd, 2012

Panetta, Jordan’s king agree Assad must step down

August 02, 2012

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — A spokesman for U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the Pentagon chief and Jordan’s King Abdullah agree that Syrian leader Bashar Assad must give up power.

Spokesman George Little made the statement after Panetta met with the king in Amman on Thursday. Little said the two men discussed the prospects for a political transition after Assad is gone. They also discussed the problem of Syrian refugees entering Jordan, Little said.

Jordan was the final stop on Panetta’s five-day, four-country trip to the Middle East and North Africa.

Jordanians demonstrate urging closure of Israeli embassy

Sep 15, 2011

Amman – About 1,000 Jordanians demonstrated outside the Kaluti Mosque in Amman’s Rabia neighborhood Thursday night, urging for the closure of the Israeli embassy and the abrogation of the peace treaty with Israel.

Security forces cordoned off the area, set up metal barricades outside the mosque and later prevented the protesters from proceeding to the Israeli diplomatic mission, which was earlier evacuated.

The protesters, belonging mainly to the Islamic-led opposition, trade unions and pan-Arab groups, chanted slogans and raised placards urging the government to cancel the peace pact that Jordan concluded with Israel in 1994.

Activists earlier sent out messages on Facebook calling for a demonstration of 1 million people to storm the Israeli embassy. That effort failed to attract such large numbers, possibly because of the heightened security measures taken by the authorities.

‘The Koran is our constitution and jihad is our path,’ one of the slogans raised said.

‘No to the alternative homeland and we are going to burn Israel,’ another slogan said, referring to suggestions by extremist Israeli politicians for the setting up of a homeland for Palestinians in Jordan instead of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Thursday’s rally found inspiration from a demonstration in Cairo that ended last week with the storming the Israeli diplomatic mission in Egypt and the forced evacuation of its staff.

Source: Monsters and Critics.

Syria braced for Friday protests as unrest enters 7th month

Sep 16, 2011

Cairo/Beirut – Syria deployed tanks and army units across the country ahead of expected demonstrations on Friday, as the pro-democracy protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad entered their seventh month.

With the slogan ‘we are continuing until we bring down the regime,’ Syrian activists were planning to protest after Friday prayers, a traditional time for demonstrations.

‘We will not stop no matter what kind of brutal means this regime uses against us,’ Omar Idlibi, a spokesman for activist group The Local Coordination Committees, told the German Press Agency dpa.

Meanwhile, Syrian security forces continued large-scale searches for defectors, also in areas around the northern Lebanese-Syrian border.

A Lebanese man was wounded overnight by shots fired across the border in the Akkar region, hours after Syrian troops mistakenly shot at a Lebanese army unit in the area.

The Lebanese National News Agency said Ahmad Zeidan Ahmad was wounded by gunfire that struck homes in the Lebanese village of Kenayseh.

On Thursday, 15 soldiers from the Syrian Army briefly crossed into Lebanon while in pursuit of people ‘fleeing’ into the same area of Akkar.

‘A Syrian Arab Army patrol entered Lebanese territory at Mounseh in the north, crossing 200 meters into Lebanese territory while pursuing people who were fleeing over the border,’ said an army statement.

It added that a military vehicle was damaged by gunfire from inside Syria, and that the two armies were following up the incident.

Several hundred Syrian refugees and defectors have fled to areas in northern Lebanon and especially Akkar since anti-government protests started in mid-March.

An estimated 2,600 people have been killed in Syria during the government crackdown on protesters.

Source: Monsters and Critics.

Syrian Refugees Find Hard Times in Jordan Desert Camp

Written by Adam Nicky
Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Ex-patriates from the Syrian civil war question whether refugee status is better than violence at home

ZAATARI CAMP, JORDAN – Angered at having been forced from their homes and what they say is humiliation at the hands of aid group and local police, Syrian nationals who have crossed into neighboring Jordan to find refuge and an escape from life-threatening violence, complaining bitterly of life in the hurriedly set-up Zaatari refugee camp. Stormy weather and simmering heat adding to their misery, some of the refugees have begun protests, insisting they would be better off back home taking their chances with mindless artillery shells and snipers than in Jordan suffering in low standards of living, a lack of proper food and an absence of medical services.

Jordan security forces cordoned the camp and stopped protesters from leaving after hearing the demonstrators say they would prefer to return to temporary centers in the heart of border town of Ramtha, where the spent the past months, rather than continue living in the desert camp.

Abu Kamel, an activist from the restive city of Deraa, told The Media Line that refugees would rather face death under Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime than face humiliation abroad. The rugged and dark skin of Abu Kamal are symptoms of arduous life. The barrel chest man, speaking from beneath his thick mustache, said he arrived in Jordan two months ago after learning he was wanted by the air force intelligence services for giving a tour to UN observers in his home town of Harak. “They wanted me dead or alive. I had to leave my family behind and run for it,” he said, recalling scenes of horror on the border as he crossed under fire from Syrian border guards.

He almost didn’t make it. The 57-year old was shot and injured while trying to cross clandestinely to Jordan.

Another refugee, who gave his name as Abu Ahmed from Homs, echoed the anger of Abu Kamal. “They promised to provide good conditions, but the situation is bad,” he said. “Living in Homs under bombardment” is better than life in the desolate Zaatari camp.

“Until now, the situation is zero, as if we are not humans. I am saying we were sitting under bombardment, but it was more honorable and comfortable,” he added.

Both men have spent the past two months in the King Abdullah Reception Center for single men, most of whom are activists escaping prosecution by Syrian government forces.

When the crisis in Syria began, Jordan resisted the temptation of opening refugee camps on geopolitical and economic grounds, preferring instead to disperse asylum seekers within the urban population. But rising numbers of refugees and incoming aid helped Jordan reconsider its position. The first camp opened earlier this week and the government said as many as twenty camps could be opened in future.

The King Abdullah Center, a sports complex turned into a makeshift holding facility for refugees, has witnessed repeated clashes between refugees, police and staff from the United Nations agency for refugees, UNHCR.

Eye witnesses told The Media Line that authorities have sent tens of Syrian activists back to Syria for provoking protests at the center. But while UN officials defend the facility, saying they are doing their best to provide proper conditions, they complain of a lack of funding from the international community and call for patience among the refugees.

“When we have 1,400 to 2,000 people arriving every night, we have to do what we can. People make a decision that this maybe is a desert, but it is better to be here than to be in Syria at the moment,'” Andrew Harper, UNHCR representative to Jordan said as UN staff continued evacuating families from makeshift homes in Ramtha and Mafraq to relocate them in the camp.

Zaatari is set up on an area of 300 square kilometers and can accommodate up to 9,000 people. Jordanian officials said more camps will be opened in the near future on the Jordanian side of the border with Syria that covers 84 kilometers, running between the cities of Mafraq and Ramtha.

The Jordanian authorities estimate about 142,000 Syrians have come to Jordan since the uprising began, but diplomats say not all of them are classified as refugees. In Ramtha, dozens of arrivals refused to go to the new camp at Mafraq, saying they would rather return to Syria than stay in the desert.

Meanwhile, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said on July 29 that his country
will continue providing the safe haven that the Syrians seek but asked for help from the international community. “At the same time, given the numbers, the increasing numbers that we have seen in the last few months, we sought the assistance of friends around the world – the international community, international organizations, and in particular… UNHCR,” Minister Judeh said during a press conference.

Most Syrian refugees have found accommodations on their own or through Islamist charities and compatriots who had fled during an earlier wave of repression by Assad’s father, the late President Hafez Al-Assad, in the 1980s.

Syrian troops have tried to prevent refugees from crossing into Jordan by mining parts of the border, and in some cases, shooting at fleeing civilians, which has prompted Jordan to send armored reinforcements to the frontier.

Diplomats say there have been several instances of Jordanian and Syrian forces exchanging fire following the killing of refugees as they attempted to cross, while they were in the “no-man’s land” between the two countries.

Meanwhile, refugees in Zaatari camp say they have no choice but to endure the living conditions in hope that the crisis in their country ends very soon.

“We are suffering not only because of the difficult life here, but we are also worried about our country, our families and what the future holds for us,” said distraught looking Abu Kamal.

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