Archive for March, 2015

Hezbollah leader slams Saudi intervention in Yemen

March 27, 2015

BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group unleashed a tirade against Saudi Arabia on Friday over its intervention in Yemen, calling it “surprising and painful,” and suggesting Riyadh would suffer a “humiliating defeat” if it didn’t resolve the conflict through negotiations.

Hassan Nasrallah rejected Riyadh’s claim that it had assembled a coalition to conduct airstrikes against Shiite Houthi rebels in order to save Yemen, an operation named “Decisive Storm.” He said that since Israel was created in 1948 “there has been no decisive storm or even a decisive breeze” to help the Palestinians.

Hezbollah, like Yemen’s Houthi rebels, is supported by Iran, which Saudi Arabia views as its main regional rival. Iran has openly armed and assisted Hezbollah since its creation, but both Iran and the Houthis deny it has sent arms to the Yemeni rebels.

“The real reason (for the war) is that Saudi Arabia lost its control and dominance in Yemen and the aim of war is to restore control and hegemony over Yemen. Period,” Nasrallah said. He condemned what he called a “Saudi-American aggression on Yemen, its people, army, installations, present and future.” The Hezbollah leader called for a political solution in Yemen, warning Saudi Arabia that it will not win the war.

“Throughout history, invaders were defeated and the invaders were humiliated,” Nasrallah said. “The rulers in Saudi Arabia still have an opportunity in order not to face a humiliating defeat.” Nasrallah said the countries taking part in the military campaign should review their policies. “Should the region go to war because of Saudi money?” he asked.

In some of his harshest comments to date, Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia of sending suicide attackers to Iraq and of creating the Islamic State group. Addressing Saudi Arabia, he said Iran had expanded its influence in the region because “you are lazy, losers, and you don’t take responsibility.”

Popular protests against electricity crisis in Gaza

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Hundreds of Palestinians from all levels of society have taken to the streets several times this week in protest at the severe electricity crisis hitting the Gaza Strip, QudsNet reported on Tuesday. Most of the demonstrators headed for the headquarters of the sole electricity plant in the center of the coastal enclave, which has been targeted several times by the Israel Defense Forces since 2006.

The protesters called for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamadallah to take responsibility for solving the problem of severe electricity shortages. They also called for the PA to deal with the Gaza Strip in the same way that it deals with the occupied West Bank.

According to the Head of Rafah municipality, Sobhi Abu-Ridwan, the shortages affect the work of local councils across the whole territory. “We are unable to run the sewage plants and water wells to fulfill the need of the residents,” he said. “This has led to massive problems in the service sector, and a lot of vital equipment has stopped working.”

Abu-Ridwan called for Abbas to step in immediately to put an end to the electricity crisis. He stressed that Gaza has been the victim of several Israeli wars and has been living under siege for eight years. “As such,” he insisted, “fuel for the electricity plant must be exempt from taxes.”

Representatives of several Palestinian factions were among the protesters. Fatah official Jalal Sheikh Al-Eid said that he took part to register his protest at the 20-hour electricity cuts every day in Gaza.

The leader of the Democratic Front, Nafeth Ghoneem, added: “If there is a political problem between Egypt and Gaza, its effect must not be extended to the livelihood of the people.”

The Egyptian city of Rafah supplies Gaza’s Rafah with a small amount of electricity. Last week, though, the Egyptian authorities cut the power line, only to reconnect it a few days later.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17699-popular-protests-against-electricity-crisis-in-gaza.

Qassam Brigades marks 11th anniversary of Sheikh Yassin’s assassination

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Hamas military wing Al-Qassam Brigades organised a military parade in the center of the Gaza Strip on Monday to mark the 11th anniversary of Israel’s assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Felesteen newspaper reported.

Hundreds of Al-Qassam fighters took to the streets holding pictures of Sheikh Yassin, while Gaza residents watched the parade.

The anniversary was also marked with the launch of the official Hamas website. Deputy Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh announced the launch of the Arabic website from the former home of Sheikh Yassin, which is now a small museum.

Hamas is to launch an official English website on 18 April, to mark the anniversary of the assassination of Hamas leader Abdul-Aziz al-Rantisi.

Sheikh Yassin was born in 1936 in Al-Jorah Village in Askalan, which is now known as the Israeli city of Ashkelon. He was forced to flee to Al-Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza.

He began his anti-occupation activities in the 1960’s and was sent to prison on many occasions as a result.

Yassin and a group of his close friends founded Hamas in 1987, the start of the first Palestinian Intifada.

On March 22 2004, the Israeli military targeted the elderly and wheelchair bound Yassin with three rockets just 70 meters away from a mosque. The attack also killed around 12 other residents.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17682-qassam-brigades-marks-11th-anniversary-of-sheikh-yassins-assassination.

Hamas seizes spying Israeli electronic insects in Gaza

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas have seized electronic insects that were flying the skies of the Gaza Strip, according to Al-Majd, a security website close to Hamas.

Al-Majd reports that the devices are used by the Israeli authorities for spying and monitoring the positions and bases of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza.

It is also believed they are being used to search for Israeli soldiers reportedly kidnapped during the latest Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

An informed source told Al-Majd that Hamas electronic security units disassembled these insects and found pictures of the soldiers kidnapped during the war stored in their memories. They also revealed that they are being run and monitored via satellites.

“The electronic insects are the size of small birds and look as birds from far distances,” the informed source said. “They can easily fly and enter into buildings and other facilities through very small holes and fly easily inside them.”

The Israeli military launched a wide-scale offensive against the Gaza Strip last summer which resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 Palestinians. Around 73 Israelis were also killed, including six non-combatants. Two Israeli soldiers are reported to have been kidnapped by Hamas fighters in Gaza during the ground operation. However, the Israeli military have said that they were killed.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17681-hamas-seizes-spying-israeli-electronic-insects-in-gaza.

Jordan and Russia sign $10 billion agreement for nuclear power plant

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Jordan and Russia signed a framework agreement on Tuesday for the construction and operation of the first nuclear power plant in the kingdom at a cost of $10 billion. The deal, which came after nearly a year and a half of talks, is “important” because it constitutes the legal and political framework of support for the kingdom’s nuclear power plant project and determines the general principles of cooperation between Amman and Moscow in this regard, said the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC).

The agreement was signed by the President of the JAEC, Khaled Toukan, and the General Manager of Russia’s state-owned Rosatom Company, Sergei Kiriyenko. The two sides had initialed the agreement in late November, and it was approved by the Jordanian cabinet recently.

Jordan chose Rosatom in October 2013 as the best placed company among those who had tendered for the contract. When built, the power plant will produce 2,000 megawatts. The JAEC statement revealed that Rosatom will pay 49.9 per cent of the total cost; the Jordanian government will pay the remaining 50.1 per cent. The two 1,000-megawatt reactors will be built in Amra, in the north of Jordan.

Toukan said that the agreement preserves Jordan’s sovereignty, and Jordanian law will be in force during the 60 years expected lifespan of the plant. He stressed that the agreement protects the state investment, ensures the supply of fuel for the reactor, and gives a future option for the Jordanian government to return the used fuel to Russia. The deal will be submitted to the cabinet in Amman before being presented to parliament.

According to Kiriyenko, the Russians will employ their 70 years of experience in the field of nuclear power in the project. He referred to the high degree of professionalism employed by Jordan’s nuclear experts, which has won the respect of Russian technicians. He added that Russia is currently training Jordanian staff to work in the nuclear program which will pave the way for strategic cooperation and scientific research.

Russian technology is currently being used to construct at least 20 nuclear reactors, around half of which are in Russia itself. Kiriyenko stressed that they are built with the capability to withstand the devastating earthquakes which affect the region.

Russia was among the first countries with which the Jordanian government signed a nuclear cooperation agreement. Amman and Moscow signed a deal on 22 May 2009 for the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

In an earlier statement, Toukan said that the total amount spent by Jordan since the start of the project in 2008 up to 2013 was $93.2 million. Just under half of the $98.7 million borrowed from South Korea for this purpose was spent between 2001 and 2013.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17697-jordan-and-russia-sign-10-billion-agreement-for-nuclear-power-plant.

Arabs make unprecedented gains in Knesset

18 March 2015 Wednesday

The Joint Arab List – a coalition of four Arab political groups led by Aiman Ouda – won 14 seats in Tuesday’s polls, coming in third after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and the center-left Zionist Union alliance.

The 14-seat win will mean the largest Arab presence in Israel’s Knesset since the first Knesset polls in 1949, which were held one year after Israel’s establishment on occupied Palestinian territory.

The Arab Alliance is comprised of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash), the National Democratic Assembly (Balad), the Islamic Movement in Southern Israel, and the United Arab List.

Dov Khenin, a left-leaning Jewish politician who ran on the Joint Arab List’s ticket, managed to clinch a seat at the new assembly.

Israeli-Arab parties won 11 seats in 2013 polls, before early elections were ordered in late 2014 due to rifts within Netanyahu’s coalition government.

Nearly 1.6 million Arabs live in Israel, accounting for more than 20 percent of the self-proclaimed Jewish state’s roughly eight-million-strong population.

Israeli-Arab party leaders note that Arab turnout in previous Knesset polls had usually hovered at around 50 percent.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, for its part, expressed disappointment over the victory of Netanyahu’s Likud.

Veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said earlier Wednesday that the poll results had “buried” the Palestine-Israel peace process.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/news/156721/arabs-make-unprecedented-gains-in-knesset.

Split of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood blow to regional group

March 16, 2015

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood has formally split after 70 years — a breakup blamed on long-running ideological disputes, but also on a government attempt to further weaken what was once the country’s main opposition group.

The split deals a new blow to the region-wide Brotherhood movement, which has been outlawed as a terror group by close Jordan allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In Jordan, some warned that the government’s apparent divide-and-control policy could backfire by pushing more Brotherhood supporters into the ranks of extremists like the Islamic State group, seen as the main threat to the country’s stability.

The new, officially licensed Brotherhood offshoot defines itself as a strictly Jordanian group, saying it cut ties with the regional movement to avoid being branded as militant. “We were concerned that we would be considered as a terrorist organization if we continued to be a branch of an organization branded as a terrorist group,” the group’s leader, Abdel-Majid Thnaibat, told The Associated Press.

The larger Brotherhood faction, still loyal to the regional movement, alleged the government engineered the division to weaken the group. “This is a coup sponsored by the regime,” spokesman Murad Adaileh told the AP.

Jordan’s government has declined to address the allegation. The split was formalized earlier this month when the government licensed Thnaibat’s breakaway faction, and the core movement promptly expelled the defectors.

The status of the second faction now remains unclear. A government official said that while Thnaibat’s group registered with the authorities, the other faction “did not correct” its status, suggesting it is legally vulnerable. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue with reporters.

It’s not clear if Jordan’s authorities eventually will outlaw the original movement, which is deeply rooted in Jordanian society through its social outreach and welfare system. There have been some signs of a crackdown in recent months, including the arrests of about two dozen activists and the sentencing of the group’s No. 2 — Zaki Bani Ersheid — to 18 month in prison for criticizing the Emirates.

The problems have put the Brotherhood in Jordan at its lowest point in years. It has no representation in parliament because of self-imposed election boycotts and is losing some of its young to extremist groups.

“The Brotherhood, by relative standards, is fairly innocuous, it’s not a significant threat to the kingdom,” said David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank. “Many are asking what (is the) utility of kicking the Brotherhood when it is down.”

The division was preceded by long-running ideological disagreements between “doves” and “hawks,” exacerbated by 2007 Gaza takeover of the Islamic militant Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood.

The doves emphasize their Jordanian identity, want to keep Hamas at arm’s length, appear more willing to play by the restrictive rules set by the monarchy and want to focus on “dawa,” or preaching. The hawks criticize government policies more openly, particularly Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel, embrace Hamas and see the Brotherhood as a transnational movement.

Tribal identities also appear to play a role, as Thnaibat and some of his key supporters are members of Jordan’s Bedouin tribes, while some of the leading hawks are descendants of Palestinian refugees.

For years, the Brotherhood was Jordan’s largest and most cohesive opposition group, seeking political reform, but stopping short of seeking the ouster of the king. With the hawks in charge, friction between the Brotherhood and the government has grown in recent years.

At the same time, the Jordanian Brotherhood has been weakened by regional developments in recent years, including the growing ideological competition from Islamic extremists following the outbreak of the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

Some warn the government crackdown could radicalize Brotherhood supporters and help swell the ranks of the Islamic State group. Jordan has taken on a high-profile role in a U.S.-led military coalition that carries out airstrikes against the militants, after they burned a captive Jordanian pilot to death in a cage. Jordan’s King Abdullah II has framed the battle as an ideological fight to the finish.

Others say the Brotherhood is responsible for losing supporters. “The Muslim Brotherhood failed to deal with the young generation and to lead them in the right direction,” said Mahmoud al-Kharabseh, a pro-government legislator.

Analyst Labib Kamhawi said the Brotherhood’s troubles offered an opportunity for the government to encourage the split. “Jordan is simply trying to trim the Brotherhood in power and size, to be able to manage it easily,” he said.

It’s not clear how the rival factions will now deal with each other, and whether court battles over the Brotherhood brand and the movement’s properties, such as hospitals and real estate, are looming.

Adaileh alleged that trying to entangle the Brotherhood in legal battles is part of the government’s alleged strategy of weakening the movement. Thnaibat left open the possibility that his group will participate in future elections after the Brotherhood boycotted the last two rounds over claims the system favored tribal candidates. He also said his group would try to persuade the rank and file to join them.

“We are going to contact our Brothers in the provinces to explain to them why a Brother shouldn’t stay in an illegal organization,” he said.

Daraghmeh reported from Ramallah, West Bank.