Archive for January 14th, 2016

Erdogan: Do those who support Syrian regime value human life?

Friday, 04 December 2015

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday asked if a regime that kills its own citizens or those that support it value human life, in an apparent reference to Syria and Russia.

Speaking during the commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Erodgan said: “Can a regime that killed 380,000 of its citizens with chemical and traditional weapons and displaced 12 million others have any relation to humanity? Can those who provide unconditional support to this regime, regardless of its massacres, and make every blatant effort to keep the regime in power, give value to human life?”

“Do you believe that those who kill children, civilians and innocent individuals standing in line for bread, under the pretext of combating Daesh, have a sense of humanity?” he asked.

The Turkish president noted that those with disabilities make up 10 per cent of the world’s population, according to UN statistics, pointing out that those with disabilities make up 13.3 per cent of Turkey’s population.

Erdogan stressed the Turkey is continuing its efforts to provide the conditions that allow for individuals with disabilities to rely on themselves and not remain in need of assistance and to provide more opportunities for them to work.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Turkish ambassador: Palestinian blood is expensive and Israel must stop violating it

Friday, 04 December 2015

“Israel must know that the blood of the Palestinian people is expensive”, Mustafa Sarnic, the Turkish ambassador to the Palestinian Authority (PA), said, noting that Tel Aviv’s policies prompted Palestinians to rise up to “defend” Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Sarnic stressed the need to fully remove the blockade of the Gaza Strip and called on Islamic countries to stand alongside the Palestinians.

In his statements to Felesteen newspaper, Sarnic added that the Israeli side must stop its violations against Palestinian people.

He added that Al-Aqsa Mosque “belongs to all Muslims and is holy land.”

“Palestine is the land from which the heavenly journey of Muhammed (pbuh) began and the first direction of prayer for Muslims, so everyone, not just Turkey but all Islamic countries, must stand alongside Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and the Palestinian people as we always do.”

With regards to the Israeli blockade, Sarnic said: “The blockade imposed on the Palestinian people must be completely lifted, especially in the Gaza Strip.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Once accommodating neighbors now turn back Syrian refugees

January 13, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — After taking in a million Syrian refugees, Lebanon has quietly changed course in recent months, forcing refugees to return to Syria — where they are at risk of persecution or death — or stay illegally, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

The situation is drawing attention at a time when Turkey and Jordan have also tightened their admission policies. A Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday warned that Lebanon’s new regulations have “set the stage for a potentially explosive situation.”

Even as conditions in Syria deteriorate in a fifth year of war, Lebanon last week forcibly repatriated 407 Syrians who were stranded at Beirut airport after Turkey tightened its visa restrictions with little notice. It was by far the largest such forced repatriation to date.

Amnesty International called the action “an outrageous breach of Lebanon’s international obligations,” which require that it not return vulnerable people to a conflict zone. “Syrians have no value here. They’ve closed the door on us,” said a 34-year-old refugee from Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital in northeastern Syria, who is now living and working as a doorman in Beirut. He refused to be named for fear of expulsion.

Lebanon in 2015 reversed a longstanding open-door policy for Syrians that allowed them to enter the country and reside here relatively unencumbered. At a minimum, they must now pay $200 per adult for a permit that lasts between six and 12 months, to say nothing of the onerous bureaucratic process that accompanies each application.

Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, said most of refugees have lost their legal status over the past year because of the new regulations. “That’s not just an abstract notion. If you don’t have legal status, you basically cannot cross any checkpoints. So men cannot leave the house,” said Houry.

Security checkpoints dot the country’s Bekaa Valley and the north, where most Syrians are living. “That means you have to send the kids to work, because they aren’t usually stopped. It also means if a woman gets sexually harassed, she cannot complain to the police, because she will be arrested,” Houry said.

The situation is similar in Turkey, which has over two million refugees. Ankara began implementing visa restrictions for Syrians entering the country as part of its efforts to stem the flow of migrants into Europe. That decision reversed a long-standing agreement that allowed visa-free entry to Syrians.

Jordan insists it has kept its borders open to Syrian refugees since the start of the conflict in 2011. However, it has increasingly tightened its admissions policy. A remote stretch of desert between Syria and Jordan has been the only land access route for Syrian refugees since mid-2013. In recent months, growing numbers of refugees have amassed in an area near a berm, awaiting entry. Government spokesman Mohammed Momani said earlier this week that about 16,000 refugees are gathered there. He said 50 to 100 are allowed in each day, with priority given to women, children, the elderly and the ill, adding that “security is the first priority.”

The U.N. refugee agency warned in December that conditions at the berm are deteriorating and that a majority of those waiting for admission, often for months, are women and children. The U.N. refugee agency says Jordan hosts about 630,000 refugees. In recent months, thousands have left by plane to Turkey and from there to Europe, while others have gone back to Syria. The exodus was sparked, in part, by further cuts in assistance to refugees by cash-strapped aid agencies.

Syrians now have two avenues to stay in Lebanon, either by relying on their precarious status as a United Nations-registered refugee, or by finding a Lebanese citizen to sponsor them. Human Rights Watch said obstacles on the U.N. route were increasingly pushing Syrians into the murky sponsorship trade.

“The sponsorship requirement is a recipe for abuse,” said Houry. Of the 40 refugees interviewed for the report, only four have been able to renew their residency since January 2015. Over a million Syrians are registered as refugees with the UNHCR in Lebanon — equivalent to one-quarter of the resident population — though the number has declined over the past year as families find their conditions untenable. They are thought either to have returned to Syria or attempted a perilous escape to Turkey or Europe.

Over 90 percent of the refugees are trapped in debt, and 70 percent live below the poverty line, according to a recent United Nations study. Anti-refugee sentiment has crept into the fragile Lebanese political order as the war in Syria drags on. In October 2014, months before the new residency regulations came into effect, the government voted to stop receiving refugees, and in January, it prohibited the UNHCR from registering any more.

The U.N. estimates around half of Syria’s population has been displaced, perhaps the starkest indicator of the ruthlessness of the war. Another Syrian refugee in Beirut, who identified himself by his nickname Abu Ali to remain anonymous to Lebanese authorities, said he came to Lebanon in 2012 and this year lost his residency because of the new regulations.

“I can’t put my daughter in school because we are now illegally residing in the country,” he said, speaking at the sandwich shop he works at in Beirut. Short of options in Lebanon, some families have pooled resources to send a husband or son to Turkey, where they can then set off for Europe, seeking asylum.

An official at Lebanon’s General Security bureau, in charge of immigration and border control, denied that the new restrictions are aimed at forcing Syrians to return. “There was a lot of pressure at our border, and we had to organize our criteria for entry,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

“It is not to force people to leave.”

Associated Press writer Zeina Karam contributed to this report.

Aid convoys reach outskirts of 3 besieged Syria villages

January 11, 2016

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Aid convoys arrived to the outskirts of a besieged rebel-held town near the Lebanese border on Monday with enough supplies to last for a month, as another convoy headed to two besieged villages in northern Syria — part of a large-scale U.N.-supported aid operation in the war-ravaged country, Syria’s official news agency and aid groups said.

A group of residents gathered at the main entrance to Madaya, hoping to receive desperately needed food and medicine. The town, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) northwest of Damascus, has been blockaded for months by government troops and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Opposition activists and aid groups have reported several deaths from starvation in recent weeks.

The U.N.-supported aid operation was agreed on last week and appeared to be proceeding Monday. Syria’s Red Crescent President Abdul Rahman Attar said the convoy reached the outskirts of Madaya shortly after midday, according to a statement posted on the organization’s Twitter account.

A similar convoy reached the outskirts of the Shiite villages of Foua and Kfarya in Idlib province, both under siege by rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Assad Hezbollah, which is fighting in Syria alongside Assad’s forces, reported on its Al-Manar television channel that 40 trucks were expected to enter the northern villages, with another 40 headed to Madaya.

The situation in Madaya is the latest example of both sides using hunger as a weapon in Syria’s war, now in its fifth year. The town has attracted particular attention in recent days because of reports of deaths and images of severely malnourished residents that have circulated across social media. The images prompted a media war two weeks ahead of a new round of peace talks between the government and opposition expected to take place in Geneva.

Some government supporters have used social media to mock the photos, saying they were fake, while others claimed it was the rebels who were withholding food from needy residents. The aid group Doctors Without Borders says 23 patients have died of starvation at a health center it supports in Madaya since Dec. 1 — including six infants under 1 year of age and five adults over the age of 60.

Yacoub El Hillo, the U.N.’s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, said almost 42,000 people in Madaya are at risk of further hunger and starvation. In Madaya, Al-Manar showed a group of people including women and children waiting for the convoys at the town’s main entrance. In interviews, they accused fighters inside of hoarding humanitarian assistance that entered the town in October and selling them to residents at exorbitant prices.

“Our children are dying of hunger,” a school teacher told the station, saying she walked to the entrance of the town to make sure she received the assistance directly. The U.N.’s World Food Program has said it will ship one month’s worth of food for more than 40,000 people to Madaya from Damascus, and enough for 20,000 people to Foua and Kfarya from the city of Homs.

Also Monday, SANA reported that rocket, presumably fired by rebels, hit a residential neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo, killing three children and wounding two other people. It said the Syrian army had begun a large offensive in the countryside to the west of the city.

And in the northern village of Kafranbel, two prominent activists were released after being detained by the extremist Nusra Front. The two men, Raed Fares and Hadi Abdullah, were abducted by Nusra, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, in an early morning raid Sunday that saw their opposition radio station, Radio Fresh, shut down.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and other sources inside Syria, reported their release some 12 hours later. The release was also noted on the station’s social media pages. In Damascus, Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli reasserted his country’s support for Syria at a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart, Mohammad al-Shaar.

“The Syrian government has demanded our support against terrorism and we, anyway, stood alongside (President Bashar) Assad, who enjoys his people’s support,” he said. “We see the conditions in Syria are moving forward in a good way.”

Associated Press writers Brian Rohan and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.

Fatah hails Assad and Egyptian army in anniversary celebration

Monday, 11 January 2016

The Palestinian Fatah movement has hailed the regime of Bashar Al-Assad and the Egyptian army during a celebration of its 51st anniversary in Damascus, Quds Press has reported. The secular movement also attacked Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood during the event, which was attended by Fatah officials from Syria and the occupied West Bank, as well as regional Ba’ath Party leader Arkan Al-Shofi.

Surrounded by a heavy security presence, the speakers at the celebration stood under two large portraits of Syrian President Assad and Fatah’s leader — and Palestinian Authority President — Mahmoud Abbas.

West Bank Fatah leader Jamal Mohesin spoke to the audience about the daily suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. He described the Israeli prime minister as the “new Nazi and current Hitler” who receives full support from the United States, the “leader of universal terror.” He insisted that any regional coalition which does not blacklist the Israeli occupation is “not right”, pointing out that Israel wants neither a Palestinian state nor even a tiny state in the Gaza Strip.

Mohesin praised the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, accusing the movement of forging a coalition with the United States and Turkey to establish a state in Gaza. “All hail the Egyptian army which undermined the conspiracy and ended the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,” he said.

The Fatah official claimed that the Brotherhood is directed by Turkey, Qatar and NATO. In closing, he criticized “the sedition” of Shaikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and accused Al-Jazeera of “trying to corrupt the ideology of the Arab nation.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Jordan stops charging Palestinians for work permits

Monday, 11 January 2016

The Jordanian Cabinet yesterday issued a decision to exempt temporary Jordanian passport holders from work permit fees, noting that stamps and any additional costs should be collected under the Labor Law.

Jordan had previously imposed fees on the work permits of temporary Jordanian passport holders, most of whom are Gazans residing in Jordan. The decision sparked protests and criticism in light of the deteriorating living conditions of people in the Gaza Strip.

According to unofficial estimates, the number of Gazan Palestinians living in Jordan ranges from between 700,000 and 900,000. They do not enjoy full citizenship rights, and they are not allowed to work in the official state institutions or study in government schools and universities. Rather, they study under the “parallel” education system or the international system applied in Jordanian state universities.

Gazans in Jordan are given identity cards and a passport without a national number.

Palestinian refugees living in Jordan who are not from Gaza and who came to the country after the 1948 and 1967 wars enjoy full citizenship rights.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Algeria gives PA treasury $26m

Monday, 11 January 2016

Algerian Ambassador to the Arab League Nazir Al-Arbaoui gave the Head of the Arab League Nabil Al-Arabi a cheque for $26 million as a contribution to the Palestinian Authority’s budget, Al-Resalah newspaper reported.

Al- Arbaoui said this is Algeria’s contribution towards the Arab League’s annual support for the PA’s budget.

A statement issued by the Algerian embassy in Cairo said that by handing over the cheque, Algeria has “completely fulfilled its pledges to support the resistance of the Palestinian people.”

It also said that this donation expresses the “continuous” Algerian support for achieving the legal Palestinian goal which is the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Qatar will continue aiding Palestine, reconstructing Gaza

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Qatari Ambassador Mohammed Al-Emadi said yesterday that his country will continue aiding Palestine and reconstructing what the Israeli occupation destroyed in the Gaza Strip, Felesteen newspaper reported.

Al-Emadi met with the Deputy Palestinian Parliament Speaker Ahmed Bahar in his office in Gaza and passed the greetings of the Qatari Emir to the Palestinians and to the people of Gaza, stressing that the Qatari support for Gaza will continue.

He also said that the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza would continue to guarantee the entrance of the materials needed for the reconstruction of houses destroyed by the Israeli occupation.

The Qatari ambassador said that his country is doing its best to guarantee a “decent” life for Palestinians, noting that it is working to solve the electricity crisis.

Meanwhile, Bahar hailed Qatar’s support for the Palestinian people, pointing out that Qatari has been carrying out vital projects in Gaza.

Source: Middle East Monitor.