Archive for March 5th, 2018

Turkey ‘concerned’ over Haniyeh terror listing

February 2, 2018

Turkey on Friday expressed concerns over the US decision to add Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s name to its terrorist blacklist.

In a written statement, Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Hami Aksoy said Turkey is “concerned that this decision of the US Administration, which disregards the realities on the ground, could undermine the Middle East Peace Process, including the efforts for intra-Palestinian peace and reconciliation.”

“We also hope that the decision will not have a negative impact on our country’s humanitarian assistance and economic development activities towards Gaza,” Aksoy said.

“It is obvious that this decision, which overlooks the fact that Hamas is an important reality of Palestinian political life, cannot make any contribution to the just, comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

On Wednesday, the US government dubbed Haniyeh a “specially designated global terrorist” and imposed a raft of sanctions against him.

On its website, the US State Department said Haniyeh had “close links with Hamas’ military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians.”

The US Treasury Department, meanwhile, also added Haniyeh to its sanctions list, essentially freezing any US-based assets he might have.

The designation also bans individuals and companies from engaging in financial transactions with the Hamas leader.

Haniyeh has been a vocal critic of US President Donald Trump’s decision late last year to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — a move that drew widespread condemnation and protests from across the Arab and Muslim world.

Washington’s recent policy decisions, Haniyeh said after the US move, had served to confirm that “the US Administration can no longer be considered an honest broker… in the so-called peace process.”

On Wednesday evening, Hamas slammed the US decision to add Haniyeh’s name to the terror blacklist, saying the move had revealed the “depth” of Washington’s longstanding bias towards Israel.

“This decision reveals the depth of US bias towards Israel, which has reached the level of a partnership in the aggression against our people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Anadolu Agency by phone.

The move, he added, “specifically targets the Palestinian resistance.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180202-turkey-concerned-over-haniyeh-terror-listing/.

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UNICEF: 85% of Syrian children in Jordan live in poverty

February 26, 2018

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that 85 per cent of Syrian refugee children in Jordan live below the poverty line.

In a statement released yesterday, the UN body said Syrian families are struggling to meet their basic needs, including feeding, educating and protecting their children.

According to the study, 94 per cent of Syrian children are under five years old and suffer from “multidimensional poverty”, meaning that they are deprived of a minimum of two out of the following five basic needs: education, health, water and sanitation, child protection and child safety.

Four out of ten Syrian families in host communities in Jordan are food insecure while 26 per cent are vulnerable to food insecurity.

“Forty-five per cent of children aged 0-5 years old do not have adequate health services, including vaccination,” it said.

UNICEF’s study revealed that 38 per cent of Syrian children are not enrolled in formal education or have dropped out of school because of distance, cost, lack of space or being bullied.

Moreover, 16 per cent of children aged 0-5 years old do not have birth certificates, which will present them with additional challenges and risks in the future.

It is estimated that Jordan hosts 1.3 million Syrians, only half of whom are registered refugees.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180226-unicef-85-of-syrian-children-in-jordan-live-in-poverty/.

Syria militias dissolving due to lack of funds

February 26, 2018

Syrian paramilitary groups fighting alongside the regime are being dissolved due to lack of funds, according to Syrian news agencies.

The Syrian Observer reported that thousands of Syrians fighting alongside militias loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad left their groups and joined regime forces because they were not getting paid. It’s believed that members of the militia groups have not received their salaries for six months.

A separate Syrian news agency reported over the weekend that as many as 10,000 fighters have not been paid for six months, and that about half of them have joined the regime’s army in the last few weeks.

Reports mentioned that the National Defense militia operating in eastern Homs countryside had been dissolved, leaving a very small number stationed at the checkpoints surrounding Al-Houla area and the northern Homs countryside.

A Syrian source commenting on the development learned that large numbers of these fighters who had joined the Syrian army were affiliated with the militia groups belonging to businessman Rami Makhlouf.

One disgruntled fighter who was a former member of the National Defense militia said: “I lost vision and half my hearing in the battles, my right arm was amputated, my body was splintered, I fought on most fronts until I was paralyzed, but I did not receive my salary for six months, and there is no income for me and my children except for the salary.”

A report by Syrian news agency Zaman Al Wasl claims that the problem around payment of militia groups was due to a combination of sharp differences between the leader and their founder in Homs and the expected end to the conflict which has seen fighting against opposition forces reduced with missions drying up for militia groups.

Regime loyalists are said to be demanding accountability of the leaders of the militias who stole millions of Syrian pounds while others paid with their lives to defend them and the Assad regime.

Some 5,400 troops are said to have joined the army over the past two months, mostly from the paramilitary forces in the eastern Homs countryside. The Syrian government opened offices in two centers is Homs to attract former militias.

Citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the report claimed that since the start of the conflict in Syria, more than 119,000 pro-regime forces have been killed, including 62,000 troops, tens of thousands of loyalist militiamen, and 1,556 fighters from Hezbollah.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180226-syria-militias-dissolving-due-to-lack-of-funds/.

Gaza’s first ‘child friendly school’ opens to students

March 1, 2018

Gaza got its first ever “child friendly school” yesterday on the ruins of Jamal Abdul Nasser School which was completely destroyed during Israel’s 2014 bombardment of the besieged enclave.

Serving 800 pupils, the new school was built by a Qatari education foundation and UN bodies with design input from children and the local community.

The school was opened by Al Fakhoora, a program of the Qatari funded initiative, Education Above All (EAA) Foundation. It was completed in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Donors of the project are confident that Jamal Abdul Nasser School can now also serve as an emergency shelter for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) during times of conflict. In its press release, the EAA said that the new building is designed to be “environmentally friendly, child-centered and fully accessible for all students. Renewable energy is provided by solar panels, the design incorporates a double wall system, double-glazed, shatter-proof windows, and thermal insulation in the ceiling and floor.”

There are a number of distinctive additions to the school’s multi-purpose halls. “Features of the multipurpose buildings include: flexible learning spaces, an extensive library, IT facilities, breakout spaces, a multi-purpose sports facility and an on-site health facility, providing crucial psychosocial support and child protection services,” said EAA. “The halls are also specially designed to serve as emergency shelters for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) during times of conflict, with gender-sensitive accommodations, emergency power and water networks, and improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities”.

Representatives from UNDP, UNICEF and EAA Foundation were all present at the school opening, as well as returning students from Al Fakhoora’s “Dynamic Future’s scholarship program”. EAA applauded the returning students who have previously completed their education as a result of Al Fakhoora funding.

“We are extremely proud to be part of building this innovative school in Gaza for a community who deserves the highest quality of education facilities. Education is a fundamental human right, one that is crucial to the future of the Palestinian state. By investing in their future, we enable these young people to play a key role in rebuilding their communities, unlocking their full potential,” Farooq Burney, executive director of EAA Foundation’s Al Fakhoora program, said.

The UN was equally effusive in its remarks. Roberto Valent, UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator, said: “UNDP welcomes the opening of the first child-friendly school in Gaza. We are confident that the school, with the support from Qatar Fund for Development, through Al Fakhoora, and in partnership with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, will become a positive example of ensuring appropriate conditions for education. Most importantly, this model will ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all children and adolescents, with a focus on those left behind.”

UNICEF Special Representative Genevieve Boutin added: “The completion of work at the Jamal Abdul Nasser School is an opportunity to reflect on how this project has helped not only rebuild schools, but also catalyze additional investments in children and young people across Gaza, thanks to generous support from Al Fakhoora, a program of the Education Above All Foundation, and the Qatar Fund for Development.”

Boutin applauded the contributions of children in Gaza in the “design of a safer and more child-friendly school” adding: “We also supported the training of 400 school counselors and 10,000 teachers to provide students with crucial psychosocial support and child protection services, and help them develop life skills and peaceful conflict resolution techniques. All these efforts have contributed to a more positive learning environment, giving us all hope in a better future.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180301-gazas-first-child-friendly-school-opens-to-students/.

US plans May opening for embassy in Jerusalem

February 24, 2018

The US plans to open its embassy in Jerusalem in May, the State Department said on Friday. This will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) and the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine.

“We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening,” said State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “The embassy will be gradually expanded in existing consular facilities in the Arnona neighborhood, while the search for a permanent site has already begun for a longer-term undertaking.”

Nauert added that the interim embassy will have office space for the ambassador and a small staff. An annex on the Arnona compound will be opened by the end of next year.

Trump administration officials said that Congress has been notified of the impending move. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed off on the security plan for the new embassy on Thursday.

According to Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, though, the US move shows a “determination to violate international law, destroy the two-state solution and provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people as well as of all Arabs, Muslims and Christians around the globe.”

Izzat Al-Reshiq of the Hamas Political Bureau said that this move “needs an urgent and strong Palestinian, Arab and Islamic response.” He called upon the PLO and Arab and Islamic states which recognize Israel “to withdraw their recognition immediately.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180224-us-plans-may-opening-for-embassy-in-jerusalem/.

Israel is now arming seven rebel groups in Syria

February 28, 2018

The illegal Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights has now been in place for more than 50 years. This substantial territory, part of southern Syria, was conquered by Israeli occupation forces in the 1967 war.

The majority of the Syrian population in the territory was then either expelled, or fled towards safety. Israel demolished their homes, buildings and entire villages in the Golan in order to build Jewish settlements where they once stood.

In 1981, in defiance of the United Nations and international law, Israel annexed the Golan Heights. This move – unrecognized even by Israel’s allies – was intended to solidify Israel’s de facto control of the occupied Syrian territory, giving it a gloss of legalistic self-recognition. What’s more, over the past few years Israel has used the cover of the long-running and bloody war in Syria to expand its control of the Golan, far into the rest of the south of its neighbor’s sovereign territory; it wants as much control as possible.

As I wrote here last summer, Israel is now establishing a buffer zone in the south of Syria, extending from the Golan. Working with local proxies in the south, Israel is establishing what its front organisations claim is a “safe zone”.

That summer we learned that Israel was supporting a “border force” rebel group between the Golan and the rest of Syria to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. In the years prior to that, Israel had worked to support Al-Qaeda-linked groups in the south of Syria. This support took the form of treating wounded fighters in Israeli hospitals across the border, before sending them back to Syria to fight the regime.

The latest news is that Israel’s arming of proxy forces in Syria seems to be escalating. A report in Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz last week stated that Israel is now arming “at least” seven rebel groups in the Golan, which are “getting arms and ammunition from Israel, along with money to buy additional armaments.”

The groups in question all report a recent increase in Israeli aid. This comes in the wake of various states, including Jordan and the US, scaling down their armament operations in Syria. As Haaretz reported, “In January, the Trump administration closed the operations center the CIA ran in Amman, the Jordanian capital, which coordinated aid to rebel organisations in southern Syria. As a result, tens of thousands of rebels who received regular economic support from the US have been bereft of this support.”

The Israeli aim here seems to be twofold. First of all, it is to keep the armed forces of Iran and Hezbollah – the Syrian regime’s allies – away from the boundary line of the Golan. The quickest way to do this is to make sure that there is a feasible armed opposition in that area.

Secondly, Israel’s arms proliferation program is intended to promote its official strategic objective in the region; to “let both sides bleed” in order to prolong the war for as long as possible. Weakening Syria and its allies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran, is an important goal for Israel and its superpower backer, the United States. Even more important is the goal of making sure that the war carries on.

All of this is in addition to the general Israeli goal of controlling the maximum amount of land that it can grab and keep. The buffer zone that Israel is stealthily attempting to extend as much as 40 kilometers further into Syria is being achieved through front groups posing as supposedly “non-governmental” aid organisations, as well as covering the salaries of rebel fighters and sending funding to buy arms.

These bogus “civil society aid” groups backed by Israel in the south of Syria – extending its Golan occupation – are a front. In reality, they are a way to extend Israeli proxy control throughout the region.

All of this is very much out of the Israeli play book in Lebanon. Between 1982 and 2000, Israel illegally occupied the south of Lebanon. After the 1982 invasion — which reached as far as Beirut — Israel withdrew to a “buffer” zone in southern Lebanon. Instead of occupying the zone with Israeli soldiers, much of the work was handled by Lebanese proxy forces. These puppet armed groups oppressed the population on behalf of Israel. This soon led to armed resistance to the Israeli occupation, and it was in this environment that Hezbollah was born.

Israel illegally occupied the south of Lebanon until 2000, when the resistance led by Hezbollah drove out the main Israeli proxy, the so-called South Lebanon Army. Today, Israel is attempting to establish what is, in all but name, a “South Syria Army”. Whether it succeeds is questionable but, as the history of Lebanon shows, even if it does, Israel is unlikely to maintain control in the long run.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180228-israel-is-now-arming-seven-rebel-groups-in-syria/.

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