Posts Tagged ‘ Levant News ’

Thousands across Jordan protest corruption, reform delay

May 20, 2011

Amman – Thousands took to the streets in Amman and other major Jordanian cities after Friday prayers to protest what demonstrators saw as the government’s failure to fight corruption and the delay in adopting political and economic reforms.

Protesters in particular called for the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit’s government and the dissolution of the lower house of parliament.

At least two demonstrations were organized in Amman by the Islamic-led opposition and trade unions to protest police use of force Sunday to disperse hundreds of activists trying to reach the Israel-controlled border with the West Bank to express support for Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes in Israel.

At least 25 people, including 11 policemen and a number of journalists, were injured in the clashes that were condemned by the country’s main media establishments.

A demonstration was also organized Friday near the Israeli embassy in the neighborhood of Rabia, with participants calling for the closure of the Israeli diplomatic mission and the abrogation of the peace treaty Jordan concluded with the Jewish state in 1994.

In Tafileh, 180 kilometers south of Amman, hundreds of demonstrators chanted slogans and raised placards urging Bakhit to resign, saying he had failed to adopt the required reforms as tasked by King Abdullah II, witnesses said.

Rallies were also reported in the city of Zarqa, 30 kilometers east of Amman, and in Karak, 120 kilometers south of the capital.

Demonstrators criticized the government for allowing the departure from the country of prominent businessman Khalid Shahin, who was serving three years in jail after the State Security Court found him guilty of bribery in connection with a petroleum refinery expansion deal.

The sharp rise in the number of demonstrations on Friday came after a lull of three weeks to give the government time to adopt the demanded political reforms, foremost the drafting of new laws for elections and political parties, organizers said.

Source: Monsters and Critics.

Abbas awards Palestine Star to Amr Moussa

Friday 20/05/2011

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas has awarded Amr Moussa the Palestine Star on conclusion of his role as secretary-general of the Arab League, officials said Friday.

Palestinian Authority Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad Al-Maliki said Abbas granted the medal to Moussa in appreciation of his brave and supportive stances toward Palestinians as leader of the Arab body.

Abbas also commended the Arab League chief’s continued support to the Palestinian leadership in its efforts to defend Palestinian rights and establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, Al-Maliki said.

The medal is the highest honor awarded by the PA. A ceremony to deliver the award would be held on Abbas’ next visit to Cairo, Al-Maliki said.

Source: Ma’an News Agency.

Gaza group rejects U.S. terror classification decision

GAZA, May 20 (Xinhua) — A Gaza-based extremist group on Friday rejected a recent U.S. decision that labeled it a foreign terrorist group.

“We completely reject this decision and consider it unfair,” said a spokesman for the Army of Islam, calling himself Abu Al- Abbas. “This American decision only aims at harming Islam,” he said.

The U.S. State Department said the group was responsible for kidnapping Americans, Britons, New Zealanders over the past few years in the Gaza Strip. It noted the group, comprising former members of various Palestinian groups, threatened the security of Israel and Egypt.

The al-Qaida-inspired group appeared in 2006, when it joined the Islamic Hamas movement in capturing an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid near Gaza. A year later, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip by force. The State Department did not mention anything about the kidnapping of soldier Gilad Shalit.

Abu Al-Abbas said his people did not use Arab lands near Gaza in their attacks on Israel. Earlier this year, Egypt, then in the final days of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, accused the Army of Islam of being responsible for a deadly attack at an Alexandria church on the eve of the New Year.

A Brussels-based conflict and politics research organization, the International Crisis Group, said recently that ties between Hamas and Jihadist groups in Gaza have shifted from cooperation to confrontation.

The first confrontation was in 2009 when one of these pro-Qaida groups defied Hamas’ rule and declared an Islamic emirate in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. Hamas crushed the group after hours of deadly clashes.

In April, Hamas also killed two members of a similar group after they captured and killed a pro-Palestinian Italian activist, Vittorio Arrigoni, also in Gaza.

Source: Xinhua.

Turkish NGO reiterates plans for second Gaza flotilla

May 20, 2011

Istanbul – The Turkish non-governmental organization that was the main sponsor of an aid flotilla to Gaza last May that ended in the killing of nine pro-Palestinian activists by Israeli forces reiterated its plans on Friday to launch another flotilla in June.

Bulent Yildirim, the chairman of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), said the Freedom Flotilla 2 would set sail in the last week of June and again attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Yildirim said the flotilla, which is being organized by the IHH and 21 other groups, would consist of 15 ships with a total of 1,500 activists from more than 100 countries.

‘If you interfere this time, it will be your loss,’ Yildirim said, addressing the government of Israel.

Turkish-Israeli relations have been at rock bottom since Israeli commandos shot eight Turkish citizens and a Turkish-American onboard the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships in the flotilla, in international waters.

Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel and demanded an official apology and compensation from Israel in response to the attack, which was condemned by many countries.

Israel has refused to make an apology or consider compensation, saying it acted in self-defense.

The IHH had previously announced that it would send a second flotilla on the one-year anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident but later decided to delay the launch until after Turkish parliamentary elections on June 12.

The United States has warned Turkey that sending another flotilla to the Gaza Strip would not be helpful, Turkey’s semi-official Anatolia Agency reported Thursday.

‘In the year since the last flotilla episode, Israel has changed the humanitarian regime for Gaza, (and) made very clear that there are alternative ways to get humanitarian assistance to Gaza,’ Philip Gordon, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, was quoted as saying.

‘We have asked [the Turkish government] to make clear to any Turkish NGOs that might want to send a ship that they should really find this other path,’ Gordon said at a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

Yildirim criticized the United States’ government’s support for Israel, which he said was isolating itself internationally due to its treatment of the Palestinians.

‘This is just one step in the path towards freedom,’ he said. ‘If you don’t stop this unjustness, the entire Arab Spring will fail,’ Yildirim said.

Source: Monsters and Critics.

Kuwait elected to U.N. rights panel instead of Syria

By Patrick Worsnip
Fri May 20, 2011

(Reuters) – Kuwait was among 15 nations elected on Friday to the U.N. Human Rights Council after Syria, under pressure over its crackdown on protesters, dropped its bid for an Arab slot on the controversial panel.

Kuwait stepped into the race last week after Western countries persuaded Arab states that Syria was not a suitable candidate. In a General Assembly vote, the Gulf emirate was elected along with India, Indonesia and the Philippines on a clean, or uncontested, slate of Asian nations for three-year council terms.

Africa and Western Europe also presented clean slates but there were contested votes for Eastern Europe — where the Czech Republic and Romania defeated Georgia — and Latin America, where Chile and Costa Rica edged out Nicaragua.

The 47-nation Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, is the main U.N. body charged with monitoring member states’ compliance with international rights norms.

Critics say it spends too much time denouncing Israel while ignoring violations by Sri Lanka, Bahrain, China, Russia and other countries. Libya, elected to the council last year, is suspended because of its civil war.

Syria told a closed meeting of Asian U.N. members on May 11 it had agreed to swap candidacies with Kuwait, which was set to run for the council in 2013, and drop out of the 2011 race, diplomats said.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari denied at the time that the decision was connected with events in his country, where troops and tanks have killed hundreds of anti-government demonstrators in recent weeks.

He said the move was based on “reconsidering our priorities” and Syria would run for the council in 2013.


Even though Syria was not standing up for membership, five of the 192 countries in the General Assembly voted for it on Friday, assembly president Joseph Deiss said in announcing the results. Because the ballot was secret it was unclear who they were.

Elected for the so-called “Western European and others” group were Austria and Italy, while Burkina Faso, Botswana, the Congo Republic and Benin were elected for Africa.

Human rights groups have hailed the fact that Syria will not be elected this year but, as they have done in past years, criticized the clean slate system under which regional groups present only as many candidates as seats are available.

“Without competition for seats on the Human Rights Council, the membership standards set by the General Assembly become meaningless,” said Peggy Hicks of New York-based Human Rights Watch. “Manufactured slates of candidates may be easier for states, but they are bad for the council.”

Geneva-based group UN Watch said Kuwait and Congo were “not qualified” to be on the council.

Kuwait’s “ruling family largely sets the policy agenda and dominates political life. Formal political parties are banned,” it said, adding that the country limits freedom of the press and assembly and has no independent judiciary.

In Congo, the group said, recent elections were “marred by irregularities,” press freedom was limited and the judiciary was subject to corruption and political influence.

The defeat of Nicaragua was a setback for left-wing governments in the Latin America group, which also includes Caribbean states.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

Source: Reuters.

Renewed Protests in Amman Blast Corruption


By Banan Malkawi

AMMONNEWS – Hundreds of Jordanians on Friday protested in central Amman against government corruption and called for genuine political and economic reforms.

The demonstration, organized by political opposition parties, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Jordanian Professional Associations, marched from King Abdullah I Mosque to the Interior Ministry Circle, chanting anti-corruption slogans and accusing the government of “slacking” in implementing reform measures.

Over 1,500 protestors marched amidst heavy security presence, and were blocked from reaching the Interior Ministry Circle, where major clashes had taken place on March 24th during a youth sit-in, leaving over 100 injured and one protestor dead.

Friday witnessed several major protests throughout Jordan, calling for reforms and blasting government and security forces’ violent handling of pro-reform demonstrations last week.

Other protests also took place near the Israeli Embassy in Amman calling for annulling the Jordanian-Israeli peace process, and others in Karak, Tafileh, and Zarqa governorates.

Muslim Brotherhood leader Zaki Bani Ersheid blasted that the widespread economic corruption in the country is caused by political corruption, leading to the loss of trust and confidence in the government.

He stressed that tangible reform cannot materialize unless powers are given to the people.

Bani Ersheid criticized US President Barack Obama’s speech delivered on Thursday, blasting that the American administration is the “power that gives international legitimacy, enables corruption, and creates corrupt governments in the region.”

In referring to the “Arab Spring,” the Islamist leader applauded the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and addressed Arab leaders warning “you either implement reform, or be ousted.”

On his part, Head of the Jordanian Engineers’ Professional Associations Abdullah Obeidat noted that the demands of the Jordanian people are legitimate and that what “we ask for here is much less than what peoples of other countries are demanding.”

He stressed that the regime and the government ought to respect the people, blasting that “we were surprised that the government did indeed implement reforms; however they were security reforms.”

“An opposition activist used to be taken to a jail cell and beaten there, now, activists are being beaten by security forces publicly in the streets,” he added.

Obeidat charged that the widespread corruption in the country has transformed Jordanians in both the public and private sectors into a deprived and poor society that is facing grave economic conditions.

An activist in the March 24th Youth Movement, Abdul Rahman Hassanain, said that the movement is preparing for a major demonstration that would surpass the sit-in two months ago at Gamal Abdul Nasser Square (Interior Ministry Circle).

Senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Hammam Saeed told Ammon News during the protest that the movement is part of the Jordanian society and that their protest today is part of the popular demands all Jordanians are demanding.

“We do not act individually, our activism is part and parcel of the demands of the Jordanian street,” he added.

The protestors chanted slogans against corruption, and calling for freedom, reform, and change.

Chants included:

“Change and reform are the demands of the people,”

“Freedom where are you, the government stands between us and you,”

“The people demand saving the economy.”

* Additional reporting by Shaheera Khatatbeh and Heba Malkawi

Source: Ammon News.

Flotilla group calls for UN escort, a ‘stunt’ says Israel

Thursday, May 19, 2011
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

As a new aid convoy to Gaza readies to sail at the end of June, organizers say they are willing to have their cargo inspected and their ships escorted by international observers. Israel dismisses the move as a ‘publicity stunt,’ while supporters of the flotilla in the EU have questioned the legal necessity of such an escort.

Organizers of the Turkish branch of the aid flotilla set to leave for Gaza at the end of June have said they are willing to have their cargo inspected and their ships escorted by international observers.

Israel, however, has dismissed the move as a “publicity stunt,” while supporters of the flotilla in the European Union have questioned the legal necessity of such an escort.

“We are ready to talk with everybody. Already we have started these kinds of visits for the European Parliament, for the United Nations to make some solution,” Hüseyin Oruç, an administrative board member of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview Tuesday.

“All these boats can be checked by the U.N., or the European Parliament’s commissions. We are ready to show all the details of our preparation,” he said. “They can check [the boats] in the ports, they can check on international waters, they can guide us, they can guide the distribution of all items in Gaza. It’s open to all international mediators.”

An Israeli official dismissed the proposal as a “publicity stunt,” saying that Israel is always willing to accept, process and transmit Gaza-bound aid.

“That obviously won’t happen,” an Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Daily News. “All the international players, [U.N. chief] Ban Ki-moon, [EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs] Catherine Ashton have all called the move provocative.”

The İHH is organizing the Mavi Marmara and an additional cargo ship as the Turkish part of what will be a 15-boat aid flotilla. On its voyage to Gaza last year, the Mavi Marmara was attacked by Israeli forces who boarded the ship and killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American onboard.

Last week, a group of American congressional representatives sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asking him to discourage the flotilla from “provoking a confrontation” with Israel in a bid to “save lives.” The Turkish government’s response so far has been that the letter was incorrectly directed to them, as the flotilla is being organized by civilian, nongovernmental organizations that the government does not control.

The İHH, responding to the letter, echoed the Turkish government response, saying that the group had no contact with the Turkish government, but added that Israel was in fact the party that the U.S. Congress needed to address to avoid another crisis.

“Also we are asking all these congresspeople, if you are looking for the solution, don’t ask the prime minister of Turkey. Why are you not asking the Prime Minister of Israel? They need to talk with [Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Oruç said.

Regarding the possibility of an EU parliamentary commission escorting the flotilla, a spokesman for the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, the party with the second largest representation in the EU Parliament, said the party has been supportive of the flotilla, but had not seen any proposal regarding a European escort.

“I question the necessity” of an international escort for the ship, said Tony Robinson, head of press and communications for the alliance.

International participation

This year the Mavi Marmara will have 500 people onboard, 400 of whom will be of nationalities other than Turkish, Oruç said. The remaining 100 will be Turks, of whom 50 will be journalists.

“On the first [Mavi Marmara aid trip] there were 38 nationalities; on the second flotilla it will be more coverage. About 100 nationalities will be on the boat. Only a very limited number of Turkish people will be on the Mavi Marmara,” Oruç told the Daily News.

Those on the ship will be mostly from the media and “representatives of societies” and local communities, he said.

The İHH has also sent two aid flotillas to Libya in recent weeks, one to Misrata, besieged by Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, and one to rebel-held Benghazi.

According to Oruç, “all international forces” involved in NATO operations in Libya supported the İHH flotilla to these besieged cities – something he said indicated a double standard imposed on the İHH in its attempt to distribute aid.

“Gaza people have the same right as Misrata people,” Oruç said.

The İHH was scheduled to address members of the media at a press conference Friday morning.

Source: Hürriyet.