Archive for October, 2013

Syrian troops storm central village, killing 15

September 21, 2013

BEIRUT (AP) — Government troops backed by allied militiamen have stormed a predominantly Sunni village in central Syria killing at least 15 people, while opposition forces began an offensive near Aleppo to try to cut the army’s supply route to the northern city, activists said Saturday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack on the village of Sheik Hadid occurred late Friday and that the dead included two women and a child. It said the rest were men but did not know if they included rebel fighters.

The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said 26 people were killed in Sheik Hadid, including some who were killed with knives. Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, said at least two of the dead were stabbed to death.

The discrepancy in numbers could not be immediately reconciled. The assault came shortly after rebels captured Jalma, another village close to Sheik Hadid in Hama province, killing five soldiers. The Observatory said fighting raged Saturday in Sheik Hadid and nearby areas.

The civil war, which has left more than 100,000 dead, has taken increasingly sectarian overtones. Most of the rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad belong to the majority Sunni sect while his regime is dominated by members of his minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

The Observatory also reported clashes between fighters of two hard-line rebel organizations, al-Qaida’s Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and the Nusra Front, against Kurdish gunmen in the northern province of Raqqa. The group says 17 hard-liners and three Kurdish gunmen have been killed in the fighting since Friday.

Clashes between Islamic militants and Kurdish gunmen over the past months in northern Syria have left hundreds dead. Also in northern Syria, the Observatory said the rebels launched a wide offensive south of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, in an attempt to cut supplies to government forces in the contested metropolis.

The Observatory said rebels captured six villages south of Aleppo amid heavy fighting. It had on word on casualties. Rebels control large parts of northern Syria and some neighborhoods of Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial capital.

Meanwhile, Syria’s main opposition group rejected an offer by Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, to help in holding a national dialogue to end the Arab country’s crisis. The Syrian National Coalition’s statement came two days after Rouhani wrote in the Washington Post that Tehran was ready to facilitate talks between Assad’s government and the opposition.

Iran has been one of Assad’s strongest backers and is believed to have sent the Syrian government weapons and billions of dollars since the crisis began in March 2011. Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group has fought alongside Assad’s forces.

“The Iranian statement is ridiculous after all the blood that Iran participated in shedding … through its political, economic and military support to Assad,” said the SNC statement. “It is better if the Iranian leadership withdraws its military experts and fanatic fighters from Syria before coming with initiatives for the concerned parties. It (Iran) is part of the problem,” the statement said.

Al-Qaida group seizes town on Turkey’s border



An Al-Qaeda front group fighting in Syria on Wednesday overran the northern town of Azaz near the border with Turkey after fierce clashes with rebels, activists told AFP.

“The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has seized complete control of Azaz. They are in control of the town’s entrances,” said Abu Ahmad, an activist inside the town.

Another activist, a resident of the border town, confirmed the report.

“ISIS are in full control. They are detaining people from their homes, and they are manning all the checkpoints,” he told AFP via the Internet, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The development comes amid increasing reports of fighting in northern Syria between ISIS and non-jihadist rebels vying to bring down President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

In a sign that Syria’s conflict has grown highly localized in recent months, ISIS has fought side by side with rebels against government troops in other areas of the country.

In Azaz, reports emerged of continuing clashes.

Abu Ahmad said that after seizing the town, ISIS fighters were “on their way to the (nearby) Bab al-Salameh” border crossing with Turkey.

Bab al-Salameh has for months been under control of local rebels, chiefly the Northern Storm brigade.

News of the seizure of Azaz came after a battle lasting several hours between Northern Storm fighters and ISIS.

Among those reported killed in the clashes was Omar Diab, a media activist from Azaz.

Source: The Denver Post.


First group of Syrian refugees leaves for Germany

September 11, 2013

BEIRUT (AP) — A first group of Syrian refugees have departed Beirut International Airport for Germany where they will live in temporary new homes as Germany’s biggest relocation program gets under way.

Airport officials say the group of 107 refugees left on Wednesday for Hannover, Germany. They are the first group to be relocated under a German program for up to 5,000 Syrian refugees. U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said Tuesday that they include women at risk, people with serious medical conditions or others with special needs.

Unlike the makeshift arrangements for most of the 2 million refugees that have fled Syria’s civil war into neighboring countries, the program announced by Germany in March gives them the right to work under two-year residence permits that could be extended if Syria’s crisis continues.

UN: 7 million Syrians displaced by civil war

September 02, 2013

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The head of the U.N. refugee agency in Syria says 7 million Syrians, or almost one-third of the population, have been displaced by the country’s civil war.

Tarik Kurdi told The Associated Press on Monday that 5 million of the displaced are still in Syria while about 2 million have fled to neighboring countries. He says 2 million children are among those directly affected by the war.

Kurdi says U.N. assistance has been a “drop in the sea of humanitarian need” and that the funding gap is “very, very wide.” He says international donors have sent less than one-third of the money needed to help those displaced by the war.

More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed since an uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted in 2011.

Grenada, Haiti recognize the State of Palestine


NEW YORK (Ma’an) — Grenada and Haiti have officially recognized the State of Palestine in a ceremony held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on Friday, Palestinian Authority Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki said.

Al-Malki signed separate agreements to establish diplomatic relations with his Grenadian and Haitian counterparts. The agreement means that the states will exchange ambassadors.

“This recognition highlights the collective international approval of Palestinian rights,” said al-Maliki.

“It is a new success for Palestinian diplomacy,” he added.

Grenada and Haiti join more than 130 states worldwide that maintain diplomatic relations and recognize the state of Palestine.

In 2012, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution to upgrade Palestine to a “non-member state” at the United Nations, implicitly recognizing a Palestinian state.

The Czech Republic was unique in Europe, joining the United States, Israel, Canada, Panama and tiny Pacific Island states likes Nauru, Palau and Micronesia in voting against the move.

Source: Ma’an News Agency.


Thousands of Palestinians mark second intifada anniversary

September 28, 2013

GAZA CITY, Palestine: Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated Friday in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem to mark the anniversary of an uprising against occupation, clashing in places with Israeli forces.

In Gaza’s Nusseirat refugee camp, several thousand people answered a call by the enclave’s militant Hamas rulers to march in commemoration of the Sept. 28, 2000, outbreak of the second intifada, or uprising.

Another rally, near the border fence with Israel, ended with five people suffering the effects of tear gas fired by Israeli troops, Palestinian medical sources said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that “approximately 300 Palestinians” had entered a no-go zone adjacent to the fence.

“In order to disperse the gathering … soldiers used tear gas,” she told AFP.

At the Nusseirat rally, Hamas MP Mushir al-Masri called on West Bankers to launch a fresh revolt.

“We call on the masses of our Palestinian people in the West Bank to revolt against injustice and oppression and declare a third intifada against the Zionist entity,” he said.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, where Hamas has a strong following, stone-throwing protesters clashed with Israeli forces in the city center and Al-Fara camp, witnesses said.

Palestinian medics said that 10 people were lightly wounded by rubber-coated bullets and two by live fire.

And at Beitunia, near Ramallah and close to an Israeli prison where Palestinians are jailed, the army spokeswoman said troops used “riot-dispersal means” against about 150 Palestinians who hurled rocks and rolled flaming tires at them.

There were no reports of injuries at the time.

In Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, police said they arrested 12 people in confrontations in and around the walled Old City.

Palestinians burned tires and threw stones at policemen, lightly injuring one, following Friday prayers at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement.

The compound, home to Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock mosque, was the scene of a controversial September 2000 visit by then Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon, which inflamed Muslim sensitivities and was seen as the trigger for deadly violence that soon engulfed the occupied territories.

Over the next four years scores of Palestinian suicide bombers struck inside Israel as Israel sent tanks, bulldozers and fighter jets into cities and towns across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli-Palestinian summit in early 2005 was seen as signaling the end of the uprising but unrest lingers on.

Jerusalem sees regular clashes between Palestinians and police at the Al-Aqsa compound.

Jews worship at the adjoining Western Wall, venerated as the last remnant of the one supporting the Second Temple complex, which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.

They are not allowed, however, to pray inside the compound itself, which they say is the site of the biblical Jewish temples.

Source: The Daily Star.


25 Palestinian women killed in ‘honor’ crimes in 2013


NABLUS (Ma’an) — Twenty-five women have been killed so far this year in Palestine in so-called honor crimes, the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling says.

The latest victim, Thamar Zeidan, was found strangled on Saturday in the Tulkarem village of Deir al-Ghosoun, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported.

Her father allegedly admitted that he killed her.

A family member told Ma’an that Thamar had been a victim since she was young when she was forcibly married at the age of 15. She got divorced four years later.

“A few days ago, young men from the village caught a man from a neighboring village, allegedly, drunk near the victim’s house. He was taken to a police station, then he was released after family dignitaries intervened and ended the problem,” the relative said.

“Nevertheless, shortly after a traditional Sulha (‘truce’) was reached, villagers were surprised by a statement signed by the victim’s father and posted on public places and walls in the village. He announced in his statement that he disavowed his own daughter.”

Shortly after the statement was posted, the father allegedly strangled Thamar to death.

He publicly blamed Hamas lawmaker Abdul-Rahman Zeidan for forcing him to take his daughter’s life, after he created a petition with other family members to disown the father.

The father put up posters in the village saying that the lawmaker was trying to convince family members to sign a petition to disown him.

He allegedly killed his daughter shortly afterward.

Commenting on the accusations, Abdul-Rahman Zeidan said that 51 members of the Zeidan family had endorsed a statement disowning the woman’s father and expelling him from his house and the West Bank.

The father had run into difficulties with the family and the aim of the petition was to protect the honor of the Zeidan family, which is conservative and has its own customs and traditions, the lawmaker told Ma’an.

Asked about his attitude to honor killing, Zeidan (said) that he condemned killing of women for family honor, calling it an insult to the human soul and a violation of Islamic teachings.

An activist in the Tulkarem area, Sureida Abed Hussein, rejected the lawmaker’s statement, saying that “he did what he did in his capacity as a lawmaker representing the Hamas movement. This was indirect incitement against the woman.”

She said that in 2012, 13 women were murdered in ‘honor killings’ while in 2011 four women were killed.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights on Sunday issued a statement condemning the killing of Zeidan and calling for a serious investigation into the murder.

PCHR also called for “prosecuting perpetrators of ‘family honor’ murders, and dealing with such murders in the same manner as other crimes of willful killing, taking into consideration international human rights standards.”

Source: Ma’an News Agency.