Archive for February 20th, 2014

Hamas rejects intl. forces in Palestine

Sun Feb 16, 2014

The Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, has expressed its opposition to the idea of international troops being stationed in a future Palestinian state under a deal between the Israeli regime and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“From time to time we hear people making offers during the negotiations, primarily about the idea of an international force following the retreat of the (Israeli) occupier,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement released on Saturday.

He added that the presence of an international force in a future Palestinian state would be “just like the Israeli occupation.”

He further urged US Secretary of State John Kerry and others to revise their positions, stressing that Hamas would not let anyone undermine its rights.

This is while the Israeli regime insists on keeping a military presence along the Jordan Valley that runs down the eastern flank of the occupied West Bank, bordering Jordan. However, the Palestinians have rejected such an idea.

“This so-called Kerry plan was put together by the Americans and the Zionist entity to eradicate the Palestinian cause. We will not let such an agreement give away our people’s rights,” Zuhri said, calling for “a united front of factions to reject the talks and their outcome.”

Earlier on Saturday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh slammed the talks and said the Palestinian resistance movement would not be bound by any deal with Israel.

“The so-called American framework is not binding for us,” he added, referring to the US framework for the negotiations.

The US secretary of state is planning to unveil a framework document as part of the US-brokered talks between Israel and the PA.

Since the resumption of the direct talks, Palestinians have also objected to a number of other issues including the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Source: PressTV.


Lebanese PM belatedly forms his Cabinet

February 15, 2014

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s prime minister formed a Cabinet more than 10 months after taking office on Saturday, including a wide range of political groups after bridging serious divisions among them mostly over Syria’s civil war.

Tammam Salam’s 24-member national unity Cabinet was announced at the presidential palace and includes members of the Western-backed coalition as well as those of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its allies.

Fears of a spillover of Syria’s civil war to its smaller neighbor have intensified pressure on Lebanon’s rival faction to make concessions, facilitating Salam’s job. “This is a unity Cabinet that represents at the present time the best formula for Lebanon with all the political, security, economic and social challenges it is facing,” Salam told reporters shortly after his government was announced. “The national interest Cabinet was formed with the spirit of gathering, not divisions, and meeting, not defiance.”

Salam said the Cabinet aims to “strengthen national security and stand against all kinds of terrorism.” He said that the Cabinet will also face the social issue of nearly a million Syrian refugees who fled for safety in Lebanon, which has a population of some 4 million.

The Cabinet is not expected to remain in office long, as a new government should be formed after President Michel Suleiman’s six-year term ends in May and a new head of state is elected. The Syrian civil war has spilled over into neighboring Lebanon and sharply divided its population, who support rival Syrian groups.

Many Shiite Muslims in Lebanon back Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, while Sunnis support rebels trying to remove him from power. Clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groups have killed scores of Lebanese over the past months. A wave of car bombs also claimed the lives of dozens.

Hezbollah openly sent fighters to Syria last year to fight along Assad’s forces while some Sunnis have joined the rebels. The Western-backed coalition, known as March 14, had previously said it will not take part in any national unity government until the militant Hezbollah group, Lebanon’s most powerful, withdraws its members fighting in Syria.

March 14’s leader, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said last month that he is ready to share power with Hezbollah if it helps in ending the Cabinet formation deadlock. Hezbollah has also abandoned an earlier demand that it be given, along with its allies, veto power in the new Cabinet.

In April last year, the vast majority of legislators chose the British-educated Salam to form the Cabinet. He replaced Najib Mikati who abruptly resigned a month earlier over a political deadlock between Lebanon’s two main political camps and infighting in his government.

Mikati, who had served as prime minister since June 2011, headed a government that was dominated by Hezbollah group and its allies. Salam is the son of the late former Prime Minister Saeb Salam, and leans politically toward the Western-backed anti-Hezbollah coalition. He studied in Britain and has degrees in economics and business administration.

He will be holding the top post in the country that a Sunni Muslim can hold. Lebanon’s politics are always fractious, in part because of the sectarian makeup of the country’s government. According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim. Each faith makes up about a third of Lebanon’s population.

Salam’s Cabinet included only one woman, Alice Shabtini, who was named Minister of Displaced People. As in the previous government, Hezbollah holds two posts. The U.N. Security Council issued a statement saying that it “appealed to all Lebanese people to preserve national unity in the face of attempts to undermine the country’s stability and stressed the importance for all Lebanese parties to respect Lebanon’s policy of disassociation and to refrain from any involvement in the Syrian crisis.”

Israel unveils “Super Heron” MALE drone

Jerusalem (XNX)

Feb 19, 2014

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) on Tuesday unveiled the newest “Super Heron” drone at the Singapore Air Show, an aircraft that “redefines” Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial systems, said in a statement of IAI.

The newest drone features a heavy fuel engine and a propulsion system that enable it to operate at an altitude of 30,000 feet ( about 9 km), fly 1000 km when linked to satellite communications, and remain aloft for 45 hours, according to IAI’s report at a press release.

“Its forte lies in the enhanced triple-redundant avionics, processing capabilities, operational flexibility, and simple integration of more diversified payloads, among other features,” an IAI spokeswoman told Xinhua.

The Super Heron is a significantly upgraded version of the “Shoval,” the first Heron-type drone to had entered service in the Israel Air Force (IAF) in 2007, where it has since been used in intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR), maritime patrol and other missions, and has been sold to 20 foreign customers.

The IAI spokeswoman clarified that the Heron family continues to be dominated by the Heron TP, also known as Eitan, a fourth- generation craft delivered to the IAF in February 2010 which can reportedly be armed with missiles for long-range strategic strikes.

“Super Heron is positioned between the Shoval and the TP, and was developed to meet requirements specified by leading customers, ” the spokeswoman said.

According to the statement, IAI’s various drones have accumulated over 1.1 million operational flight hours around the world, while the Heron family has accumulated 250,000 operational flight hours worldwide.

Source: Space War.


Israel begins sending African migrants to Uganda

February 19, 2014

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has begun sending dozens of African migrants to Uganda, an Israeli official said Wednesday, a move that has sparked concerns that they are being coerced into going to a country that may not keep them safe.

The resettlement of people in Uganda, and perhaps other countries, marks a new phase in Israel’s campaign to rid itself of thousands of Africans who have poured into the country in recent years. Migrants and activists said the arrangement, which includes a one-way ticket and a stipend, is questionable because it is unclear if there is an official agreement with Uganda that would secure the migrants’ status. They said the new arrivals risk deportation to their home countries, where they may face conflict or persecution.

Uganda, for its part, denied any deal. The Israeli official said Israel paid $3,500 each in recent weeks to about 30 migrants who agreed to leave for Uganda, though he, too, said there was no formal agreement in place. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media on the matter.

Israel says the relocations are done on a voluntary basis. About 50,000 Africans, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have poured into Israel in recent years across the southern border with Egypt. The Africans say they are asylum-seekers fleeing persecution and danger. Israel says they are looking for employment, but it does not deport them because they could face danger in their conflict-ridden homelands. Critics say Israel has dragged its feet on reviewing the migrants’ claims for refugee status.

Israel has grappled with how to deal with the influx, which has caused friction with locals and alarmed authorities who say Israel’s Jewish character is threatened by the presence of the Africans. Israel has built a fence along the border with Egypt, all but stopping the influx, passed a law that allows for the migrants’ detention and said it has a deal with an unidentified country to host some of the Africans until they are able to return home. It has used financial incentives in the past to encourage other African migrants to return home.

Rights groups say Israel has an obligation to protect the migrants, in part because of Israel’s history of taking in Jewish refugees following the Holocaust, and because it is a signatory to the U.N. refugee convention.

“We are very concerned that these deportations are clearly not taking into consideration the safety and well-being of the deportees,” said Elizabeth Tsurkov, of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, an advocacy group.

Ugandan officials denied any deal was in place. “We are not privy to such an arrangement,” said David Kazungu, a Ugandan government commissioner who is in charge of refugees. Israel’s Interior Ministry and the prime minister’s office declined to comment.

Tsurkov said Israel’s policies toward the migrants have forced many to accept the relocation offer. A recent amendment to an Israeli “infiltrators” law allows Israel to detain newly arrived migrants for up to a year.

The Interior Ministry also has begun ordering more veteran migrants to report to a new detention center in the southern desert when they try to renew visas that previously allowed them to stay in the country.

The Holot detention center is meant to be an “open” facility, where residents can come and go. But they must sign in several times a day and sleep there, making it impossible for them to stray far or hold jobs. Those who violate the rules, or reject what Israel calls “invitations” to report there, can be sent to a nearby prison.

The offers to relocate to a third country, and the threat of being sent to Holot, are part of a broader strategy to rid Israel of anyone it determines does not meet refugee status. In a speech last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “continue to work to return the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who crossed the border.”

One Eritrean migrant who accepted the offer to move to Uganda said he did so because his options in Israel — detention or economic hardship — were bleak. He said that upon entering Uganda, he was given a two-month tourist visa, and he was not certain what his status would be once that period expired.

The 32-year-old man, who asked not to be identified for fear he would be sought out by Ugandan authorities, had worked menial jobs in Israel for two years. “I didn’t want to go to Holot. That’s why I left,” said the man, who spoke to The Associated Press by phone from Kampala, Uganda. “Without a visa, you can’t work. Without work you have no money. If you don’t have money, how do you live in Israel?”

He said he approached Israel’s Interior Ministry to ask how he could leave the country. He was offered a free ticket and some cash if he went back to Eritrea or else a free ticket to fly to Uganda. Fearing for his life should he return to his homeland, which is widely seen as one of the worst human rights violators, he chose Uganda, where he has lived for the past month.

Jack Zaidan, a migrant from Sudan’s Darfur region who is still in Israel, said at least five Sudanese migrants he knows accepted the offer because of the situation in Israel. He said their fate in Uganda was uncertain.

“There is no protection in Uganda. You arrive and two days later police will catch you and send you away,” he said.

Associated Press reporter Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda, and Associated Press writer Daniel Estrin contributed to this report.