Tuesday, January 27, 2015

UNRWA funds dried up, forced to halt payments to Gazans who lost their homes

Beit Hanoun in Gaza (Photo Bahaa Salman)

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Tuesday that it cannot afford to repair Gaza homes damaged in last year's war with Israel because donors have failed to pay. "The agency has exhausted all funding to support repairs and rental subsidies," the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said in a statement. "$5.4 billion was pledged at the Cairo (aid) conference last October and virtually none of it has reached Gaza. This is distressing and unacceptable."
UNRWA said that the homes of more than 96,000 Palestine refugees were destroyed or damaged during the conflict. They made up the vast majority of the more than 100,000 homes that were hit during the 50-day conflict between Israel and Gaza's Islamist de facto rulers Hamas.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Egyptian police kill woman activist

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Shaima with the flowers she was going to lay at the monument shortly before she was shot. The man next to her in the green puillover was aslo hit.  

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a leading member of the Egyptian ''Socialist Popular Alliance Party'', was shot dead on Saturday during a march top commemorate the uprising of 25 January 2011 in downtown Cairo. The party organized a march on Saturday afternoon from their headquarters in Hoda Shaarawy Street to Talaat Harb Square. Shaimaa, who was going to lay flowers at the monument of the fallen revolutionaries on Tahrir Square, was shot in the face with birdshot. She collapsed in the arms of her husband and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Security forces also used tear gas and arrested a number of demonstrators, including Talaat Fahmy, the party's secretary general.

Friday, January 23, 2015

King Abdallah dies, Salman new Saudi king

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz speaks at the opening ceremony of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Mecca in this August 14, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Hassan Ali/Files

Saudi Arabia's King Abdallah has died, state television reported early on Friday and his brother Salman became king, it said in a statement attributed to Salman.
King Salman has called on the family's Allegiance Council to pay allegiance to Muqrin as his crown prince and heir.
"His Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdallah bin Abdelaziz, who passed away at exactly 1 a.m. this morning," said the statement.
Abdallah, thought to have been born in 1923, had ruled Saudi Arabia as king since 2006, but had run the country as de facto regent for a decade before that after his predecessor King Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Yemen: president and government tender resignation

Yemeni Prime Minister Khalid Bahah (left) and president Abed Rabbo Mansur al-Hadi in Oktober 2014. Both tendered their resignation on Thursday. (Photo al-Sahwa) 

Yemen's president tendered his resignation Thursday after a week-long standoff with Shiite militia but the speaker of parliament refused to accept it and called an emergency session, officials said.
President Abed Rabbo Mansur Hadi submitted his resignation just hours after receiving the resignations of Prime Minister Khalid Bahah and his cabinet, presidential adviser Sultan al-Atwani said. Their resignations came after a week in which the Houthi militia, who have controlled much of the capital since last September, abducted a top Hadi aide, overran his palace and laid siege to the prime minister's residence for two days.
But the speaker of parliament refused to accept Hadi's resignation when it was submitted by aides and called an emergency meeting of lawmakers for Friday, a senior official told AFP.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Houthis occupy Yemen's presidential palace

Houthi fighters entered Yemen's presidential palace after a brief clash with the compound's security guards, witnesses and security sources told Reuters, a day after some of the worst battles in the capital in years.
Guards at the presidential palace housing the main office of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said they handed over the compound to Houthi fighters after a brief clash.
 Witnesses said there was a brief clash between a Houthi force and palace guards. Witnesses also said they saw the Houthis seize armored vehicles that had been guarding the entrances to the palace.
The Houthis on Monday fought artillery battles with the army near the presidential palace, in some of the most intense fighting in Sanaa in years, and surrounded the prime minister's residence. Nine people were killed and 90 wounded before a ceasefire came into force on Monday evening.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Fierce fighting in Yemeni capital between Houthis and governmental forces

Yemen clashes
Houthi fighters in position near the presidential palace in Sanaa. (Photo Reuters) 

Fierce fighting between troops and Shia Houthi rebels has erupted in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, with the presidential palace and PM's convoy attacked. Prime Minister Khaled Bahah's motorcade was shot at after he left a meeting with the president, though no-one was hurt, the information minister said. An unknown number of people haven been killed. Bodies are lying in the streets of Sanaa.
Clashes began early on Monday in one of the most serious challenges to the government for months. The spark of the latest spasm of violence appears to be rooted in the Houthis' rejection of a draft constitution that divides the country into six federal regions. The Houthi's last year overrran the capital and many other parts of the country and Hadi and Houthis accuse each other of not implementing a UN- brokered peace deal, reached in September, that called for Hadi to form a new national unity government and reform the country's government agencies, while the Houthis would withdraw their fighters from cities they seized.
Houthis also accuse Hadi of financing and harboring al Qaeda militants. Hadi's government says the Houthis use the accusation as an excuse to seize more territory.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Israel kills seven in attack on Hezbollah in Syria, including Iranian general and son of Imad Mughniyeh

Jihad Mughniyeh at memorial service for his father
Jihad Mughniyeh with in the background his father Imad, who was killed by Israel in 2008. Jihad Mughniyyeh had been appointed Hezbollah's commander in the Quneitra area in Syria only a few months ago.

Updated. An Israeli helicopter strike in Syria killed six members of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement including the son of group's late military leader Imad Mughniyeh, an Iranian general and an important military leader of Hezbollah, sources close to Hezbollah said.  A source close to Hezbollah told AFP the killed military leader was Mohammed Issa also known as “Abu Issa,” a senior commander responsible for Hezbollah operations in Syria and Iraq. Iran confirmed Monday that a general of its elite Revolutionary Guards died in the strike.
"General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and a number of fighters and Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah) forces were attacked by the Zionist regime's helicopters," a statement on the Guards' website said.
The four other Hezbollah casualties were identified as: “Sayyed Abbas” Abbas Ibrahim Hijazi; “Kazem” Mohammed Ali Hassan Abu al-Hassan; “Daniel” Ghazi Ali Dawi; “Ihab” Ali Hassan Ibrahim." Iran did not confirm or deny earlier reports that said six Iranians had been killed in the airstrike.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saudi Arabia beheads woman on the street in Mecca

The authorities in Saudi Arabia on Friday publicly beheaded a woman in Islam’s holy city of Mecca. Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim, a Burmese woman who resided in Saudi Arabia, was executed by sword on Monday after being dragged through the street. 
She was convicted of the sexual abuse and murder of her seven-year-old step-daughter. The video shows how the woman screamed “I did not kill. I did not kill,'' but was kept down by police officers. In another video it was seen that it took three blows to complete the execution, but that one was removed by YouTube.
Mohammed al-Saeedi, a human rights activist, told the Middle East Eye that there are two ways to execute people in Saudi Arabia. “One way is to inject the prisoner with painkillers to numb the pain and the other is without the painkiller. This woman was beheaded without painkillers – they wanted to make the pain more powerful for her.”

Prosecutor International Criminal Court opens preliminary probe into Israeli war against Gaza

Beit Hanoun, Fall 2014 (Photo Bahaa Salman)  

The International Criminal Court's prosecutor on Friday opened an initial probe to see if war crimes have been committed against Palestinians, including during last year's Gaza war. "Today the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine," her office said in a statement, adding it may lead to a full-blown investigation.
 Bensouda said her office would conduct its "analysis in full independence and impartiality."
"A preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process of examining the information available in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with a (full) investigation," Bensouda said. Depending on her findings, Bensouda will decide at a later stage whether to launch or quash the investigation, based on the initial probe.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Since attack on Charlie Hebdo 60 Islamophobic incidents in France

French police forensic scour the scene of an explosion at a kebab shop damaged following an explosion near a mosque, in Villefranche-sur-Saone, eastern France
French police at the scene of an explosion at a kebab shop thatw as damaged following an explosion near a mosque in Villefranche-sur-Saone.

Twenty-six mosques around France have been subject to attack by firebombs, gunfire, pig heads, and grenades as Muslims are targeted with violence in the wake of the Paris attacks.
France’s National Observatory Against Islamophobia reports that since last Wednesday a total of 60 Islamophobic incidents have been recorded, with countless minor encounters believed to have gone unreported. Amongst the incidents, a mosque in Le Mans was hit with four grenades, and gunfire directed through one of its windows.
While Islamophobic incidents are nothing new, there appears to have been a marked increase in attacks in the wake of the shootings at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Egypt will destroy an additional 1.200 homes in Rafah at the Gaza-border

Destruction in Rafah during the Egyptian operation in November 2014.

Egyptian authorities have begun implementing phase two in the flattening of large swaths of Rafah where over 2,000 families live, and the widening of the buffer zone between the Egyptian border town and the Gaza Strip.
According to Egyptian reports, the second phase involves destroying everything standing across an additional 500 meters from the border area, on top of the 500 meters already cleared several months ago. Some 1,220 homes and structures housing 2,044 families will be demolished, after nearly 800 homes and buildings were demolished in the first phase. Egypt announced it was setting up the buffer zone after 30 Egyptian soldiers were killed and dozens more wounded in an October 24 suicide bombing.
Both sides of the border are densely populated as the city of Rafah originally extended in both directions, a growth that was the result of the Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula for more than a decade following the 1967 war. In the early 2000s Israeli authorities demolished thousands of homes in Palestinian Rafah in order to create a 300-meter buffer zone on the Egypt border, but after the pull-out in 2005, many moved back into the area.

HRW: Yemeni authorities should hold security forces accountable for death of activist

Yemeni authorities should credibly and impartially investigate the apparent extrajudicial execution of a leading political activist in Aden on December 15, 2014, and bring those responsible to justice, Human Rights Watch says. Khaled al-Junaidi, 42, died from a gunshot to the back after witnesses saw members of Yemen’s Special Security Forces take him into custody in an armored vehicle.
The authorities stated that a committee was appointed to investigate the killing, but no arrests have been made. Previous investigations into alleged criminal violence by Yemen’s security forces have often failed to disclose their findings or result in prosecutions.
“The Yemeni government has an abysmal record of holding security force members accountable for serious rights abuses,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “Failing to seek justice in the killing of Khaled al-Junaidi will only fuel anti-government resentment and send a message that the security forces are beyond the reach of law.”
(Read further on site of Human Rights Watch)