Friday, January 31, 2014

More financial aid from Gulf for Egypt: $ 5,8 billion

Saudi Arabia is expected to give Egypt up to $4 billion in additional aid in the form of central bank deposits and petroleum products, Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Ahram reported on Thursday.
The UAE is also expected to contribute $1.8 billion to the new aid package in the form of fuel shipments, the source added.
Citing an unnamed ministerial source, the newspaper said the package would be worked out during a visit next week to the oil-rich kingdom by Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi.
According to Al-Ahram, half of the latest Saudi aid package is expected to be deposited at the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) before the end of January, with the other half to be delivered in the form of fuel shipments
Gulf Arab states have pledged $12 billion to Egypt since the 3 July overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

One of the defendants in Morsi´s ´jailbreak´ trial was dead in 2011, another in jail

The trial against the former Egyptian president for charges that they conspired with Hamas and the Lebanese group Hezbollah to help escape more than 20,000 inmates from three Egyptian prisons during the early days of the January 2011 popular uprising, opened Tuesday in Cairo. Among the 131 defendants in the trial, 70 are Palestinians being tried in absentia, some of them alleged Hamas members.
Prosecutors said that over 800 fighters from Gaza had infiltrated Egypt and stormed the prisons with RPGs and heavy armaments, killing several policemen and inmates. Four policemen were reported kidnapped in the attacks. The defendants face charges of damaging and setting fire to prison buildings, murder and attempted murder, as well as looting prison weapons while allowing prisoners from "Hamas, Lebanon's Hezbollah, and the Brotherhood" as well as other "jihadists" and "criminals" break out of the jails.
Morsi and the 130 co-defendants are also accused of "carrying out a plot to bring down the Egyptian state and its institutions."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tunisia adopts new constitution and names caretaker cabinet

Tunisia gets new constitution and caretaker cabinet
The new Tunisian prime minister Mehdi Jomaa (L) hands the list of proposed minister of his cabinet over to president Moncef Marzouki. (Photo AFP /Fethi Belaid)

Tunisia's lawmakers adopted a new constitution Sunday and the prime minister named a caretaker cabinet tasked with organising fresh polls -- two key goals of the revolution that touched off the Arab Spring three years ago.
The  Constituent Assembly adopted the new charter, seen as one of the most modern in the Arab world, with an overwhelming majority of 200 votes in favour, 12 against and four abstentions.
"This day will be proudly remembered in history," Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar said.
"All Tunisian men and women can identify with this constitution, which preserves our past accomplishments and lays the foundations of a democratic state," he said.
The drafting of the new constitution lasted two years and exposed a deep rift between the Islamist movement Ennahda, now Tunisia's largest party, and the secular opposition. But after months of political crisis and sporadic violence, Tunisia now seems to be on course to achieve some of the goals of the uprising that toppled the dictator-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. In taking these steps it seems to be miles ahead of its neighbours Libya and Egypt, which remain mired in instability and political deadlocks three years after the Arab Spring.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Egypt will hold presidential elections first - stepping stone to installation of Sisi as strongman?

Egypt will hold a presidential vote before electing parliament, President Adly Mansour said on Sunday, reneging on a roadmap and increasing the likelihood that army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will be elected as head of state within months.
Parliamentary elections were supposed to happen first under the timetable agreed after the army deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July following mass protests against his rule.
"I have taken my decision to amend the roadmap for the future in that we will start by holding the presidential elections first followed by the parliamentary elections," Mansour said in a televised speech.
Critics have campaigned for a change of the roadmap, saying the country needs an elected leader to direct government at a time of economic and political crisis and to forge a political alliance before a potentially divisive parliamentary election.
Opponents say it risks creating a president with unchecked power. Were that Sisi, who is widely tipped to win, it would put the army back in command, like the position it was in after president Mubarak was deposed and before president Morsi was elected. 
Update:  On Monday 27 January president Adly Mansour promoted general Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi to the rank of field marshal, the highest military rank of the country, in a move that further strenghtened the suspicions that al-Sisi shortly will announce his candidacy for the post of president. 

Yemen concludes national dialogue

President Abed Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi at the closing ceremony of the National Dialogue. (AFP)

Yemenis concluded a national dialogue Saturday aimed at drafting a new constitution and establishing a federal state. The talks were launched in March 2013 as part of a UN-backed transition that saw president Ali Abdullah Saleh step down after 33 years in power.
The nation's political factions gave interim President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, whose two-year term had originally been due to end with elections in February 2014, an extra year after delays in the transition to democracy. He will oversee a shift to a federal system intended to accommodate southern separatist demands for more autonomy.  Hadi, who will head a special committee, was also tasked with the drafting of a new constitution within three months. He was also mandated to reshuffle the cabinet and restructure the Shura Council, the consultative upper house of parliament, to give more representation to the south and to Shi'ite Muslim rebels in the north. Southerners have strongly opposed proposals for a federation of six units -- four in the north and two in the south -- instead of one each for the formerly independent north and south, fearing that their influence would be diluted. Southern separatists have been demanding to revive the state that merged with North Yemen in 1990.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

At least 64 killed in Egypt during demonstrations on third anniverary of ''25 January''

Demonstration by the Revolutionary Path Front at the Journalists' Syndicate. (Photo Revolutionary Socialists). lateron Sayyed Wezza, a member of the 6 April movement that took part in the demonstration was shot dead.  

Updated: The death toll from clashes in Egypt on Saturday's anniversary of the 2011 uprising has risen to 64, Egypt's forensic authorities' spokesperson told Ahram Online.
The toll on 25 January only includes those in Cairo and Giza, spokesman Hisham Abdel Hamid said. Post-mortem examinations showed at least 58 of the deaths were caused by gunshot wounds and one by birdshot, Abdel Hamid added.  In east Cairo's Mattariya district alone, 26 were killed when police violently dispersed a demonstration by Morsi supporters.  
 Earlier the ministry communicated that also two people died in Minya, in addition to one fatality in Alexandria,  249 people were injured in the clashes in Giza, Cairo, Alexandria, Fayoum, Ismailia, Minya, Assiut and Beni Suef, acccording to the Health ministry.  Security sources told Ahram Online that at least 300 people have been arrested in today's protests across Egypt.
 In Suez a  car bomb detonated outside a Central Security Forces (CSF) camp, 16 people were injured in the attack, the ministry of health said in a statement.
 Security was increased around major squares and roads nationwide, but failed to prevent the violent clashes across the country. In downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square, the situation was calm as crowds rallied to celebrate in a festive atmosphere. Gunshots were heard earlier in the day, but this did not deter people from gathering in the square waving portraits of general Sisi and pro-government banners. The mood was celebratory, with protesters holding up posters of Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, while dancing to pro-military song "Teslam al-Ayady."Ther clashes however took place elsewhere. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Four explosions in Cairo kill six people, damage Islamic Museum

the Cairo security headquarters
Building of the Cairo Security Directorate after the blast, (Photo: AhramOnliner/Mai Shaheen).


On Saturday again a bomb exploded, the fifth after four exposions a day earlier. The bomb exploded near a police academy in Cairo, but made no victims. Meanwhile the group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) claimed responsibility for the attacks.This group which has its roots in teh Sinia, also claimed responsibility for the attack in Mansoura in December (see below) that killed 16 people. (end of update)

Four separate bomb attacks in the Egyptian capital Cairo killed at least six people on Friday, just one day before the anniversary of the 25 January uprising.of 2011.
A large blast ripped through a security building in central Cairo early on Friday, killing four and injuring 76 others, according to the health ministry. At least one person was killed when a primitive bomb exploded after being thrown at a police vehicle near a metro station in Giza. A third bomb exploded in Talbiya, near a police station not far from the Giza pyramids, but caused no fatalities. Later on in the afternoon, an explosion near a cinema theater in Giza’s Haram caused at least one fatality.
The explosion at the Cairo Security Directorate in Bab El-Khalk district, which took place at around 6:30am local time and was heard across several parts of the capital,. blew out the windows of the building and stripped off parts of its façade. Interior ministry spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif told state TV that a car bomb might have been used. in the Cairo attack,

South Sudan and rebels sign ceasefire

South Sudan's government and rebels signed a ceasefire on Thursday to end more than five weeks of fighting that divided Africa's newest nation and brought it to the brink of civil war.
U.S. President Barack Obama, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Security Council welcomed the news, but several diplomatic sources in New York said they were worried the killing could continue.
Fighting between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing the vice president he sacked in July, Riek Machar, erupted in mid-December. Thousands of people have been killed and more than half a million people have fled their homes, prompting the regional grouping of nations, IGAD, to initiate peace talks. More than 70,000 people have sought refuge at U.N. bases around the country after peacekeepers, in an unusual move, opened their gates to them.
The pact is expected to be implemented within 24 hours of the signing, mediators said.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rouhani: Iran wants full nuclear deal and seeks investments

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani smiles during a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 23, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich
 Iran is determined to negotiate a comprehensive deal on its nuclear program with major powers so it can develop its battered economy, President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday, inviting Western companies to seize opportunities now.
Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Rouhani said Tehran was negotiating with the United States as part of a "constructive engagement" with the world and wanted Washington to back up its words with actions. An interim deal with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany (the P5+1) came into force this week. This granted Iran a limited easing of the sanctions in return for temporary constraints on its uranium enrichment and nuclear development. Most sanctions, including a severe squeeze on Iran's access to the international financial system, remain as yet in force and the United States has stressed Western companies should not regard Iran as "open for business".

'' In first weeks of January Iran hanged almost 50 people''

Kashan Seven prisoners were hanged in the prison of Kermanshah (western Iran) on Thursday, reported Iran Human Rights quoting Iranian state media. Five of the prisoners were convicted of trafficking of 102 kilograms of various narcotic drugs and two were convicted of murder said the report.  None of the prisoners were identified by name.
According to the official and unofficial reports received by Iran Human Rights near 50 people have been executed in different Iranian cities since the beginning of 2014.
The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and on summary executions, Christof Heyns, on 22 January called on the Government of Iran to urgently halt the abrupt surge in hangings in the country since the start of 2014.

Gunmen kill five policemen in Egypt's Beni Sueif governorate

Masked gunmen riding motorcycles killed five Egyptian policemen in an attack on a checkpoint south of Cairo on Thursday, the Interior Ministry said.
The attack in the province of Beni Suef, 100 km  south of Cairo, was carried out by men riding two motorcycles, a ministry statement said.They opened fire heavily on the forces at the checkpoint," the statement said. Two policemen were wounded.There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Bombings and shootings targeting security forces have become commonplace since Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was deposed by the army last July after mass protests against his rule. The state has declared itself in a war on terror, and declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group on December 25. The Brotherhood has said it remains committed to peaceful activism.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Leader of Houthi's killed on his way to peace talks in Yemeni capital Sana'a

Unknown assailants shot and killed a leader of the Yemeni Shi'ite Muslim Houthi group in Sanaa on Tuesday while he was on his way to attend reconciliation talks in the Yemeni capital, officials at the talks said.
They said the gunmen opened fire on Ahmad Sharafeddin, a former dean of the school of law at Sanaa University. Sharafeddine died on the spot.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the assassination, but another Houthi leader, Abdulkarim al-Khiwani, accused hardline Sunni militants of carrying out the attack.
The Houthi group has fought hardline Sunni Salafis in northern Yemen since October before a ceasefire was reached earlier this month to relocate the Salafis to another city some 250 km (155 miles) away. But clashes have continued in other parts of northern Yemen with tribesmen allied to the Salafis.

Ban Ki Moon withdraws invitation to Iran to attend Syria conference

The 'Petit Palace' in Montreux, where the Syria-conference will be held. 

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon withdrew a last-minute invitation to Iran to attend peace talks on Syria on Monday after the Syrian opposition threatened to boycott this week's conference. Ending nearly 24 hours of confusion that dismayed diplomats who have spent months cajoling Assad's opponents to negotiate. Ban's spokesman said Iran was no longer welcome at the initial day of talks at Montreux, Switzerland on Wednesday.
The opposition immediately withdrew its threat to stay away from the conference known as Geneva-2. We appreciate the United Nations and Ban Ki-moon's understanding of our position. We think they have taken the right decision," Monzer Akbik, chief of staff of the coalition's president, told Reuters. "Our participation is confirmed for 22 January.''
Ban's spokesman has said that he made the invitation to Iran after Iranian officials assured him they supported the conclusion of a U.N. conference in 2012, known as Geneva-1, which called for a transitional administration to take over power in Syria - something neither Assad nor Tehran have been willing to embrace.However, throughout Monday Iranian officials made clear that they were not endorsing that conclusion as a basis for the talks."If the participation of Iran is conditioned to accept Geneva I communique, Iran will not participate in Geneva II conference," Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's ambassador to the UN said. Russia said there was no point in a conference without Iran. It did not immediately react to Ban's change of heart. "Not to ensure that all those who may directly influence the situation are present would, I think, be an unforgivable mistake," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Syrian National Coalition will attend ''Geneva'', the Islamic Front however rejects the talks

The Yarmouk camp in Damascus, in July 2013. (Reuters). 

The deeply divided Syrian National Coalition finally agreed Saturday to join the international peace conference, saying it wanted to remove Assad from power. The Coalition had been under intense international pressure to attend the conference, which aims to find a way out of the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people and made millions homeless since March 2011.
The exiled Coalition voted by 58 votes to 14 with two abstentions and one blank vote at a meeting in Istanbul to attend the so-called Geneva II talks. That meant just 75 of the around 120 opposition delegates took part in the secret ballot, in a sign that strong disagreements persist.
 Leader Ahmad Jarba said the umbrella group would be there with the sole aim of removing Assad from power. "The Geneva II negotiation table is a one-way road aimed at achieving all the demands of the revolution... and first and foremost stripping the butcher (Assad) of all his powers," he said.

Howver, the Islamic Front, an alliance of several Islamist fighting forces that represents a large portion of the rebels on the ground, said on Sunday it rejected the talks. Syria's future would be "formulated here on the ground of heroism, and signed with blood on the front lines, not in hollow conferences attended by those who don't even represent themselves," Abu Omar, a leading member of the Islamic Front, said on his Twitter account.It means that even if the talks reach an unlikely breakthrough in the three year old civil war, it will be harder to implement it on the ground.

More than 35 countries will gather in the Swiss cities of Montreux and Geneva on Wednesday for talks on setting up a transitional government to lead the country, in line with a 2012 deal.

The United Nations hopes the talks will bring about a political transition in the country, and US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that Syria's future had no place for Assad. Syria, however, said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week that its focus at the peace conference would be on fighting "terrorism.”

More than one third of Egyptians voted for the Constitution

More than 98 percent of voters backed the new Egyptian constitution in a referendum this week, authorities said on Saturday. The results reminds us of the old days of Mubarak, who used to win elections with similar results.  The turnout, however, was below 40%, lower than some officials had expected.
The vote advances a transition plan that army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi unveiled after deposing Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July following mass protests against his rule. The remaining two stages of this road map are presidential and parliamentary elections.
The "yes" vote was 98.1 percent, and 38.6 percent of eligible voters took part, the head of the Election Committee, Nabil Salib, told reporters. Although below 40% the turnout exceeded the 32.9 percent turnout in a referendum that backed the previous Islamist-tinged constitution under Mursi in 2012.
The new constitution could lead to an outright ban on Islamist parties and strengthens the political grip of the already powerful military establishment.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

''France under president Hollande more than doubled its evictions of Roma people''

Around 150 Roma were forcibly evicted from this informal settlement in Noisy-le-Grand, an eastern suburb of Paris.
Settlement in Noisy-le-Grand, an eastern suburb of Paris, from where Roma were evicted in 2012. (Photo Amnesty International).

 The European Roma Rights Centre and the French League for Human Rights on 14 January published in a joint statement that the French evictions of Roma people have more than doubled in the year 2013 as compared to the previous year. This happened in spite op the fact that president François Hollande before his election at the presidency had denounced the eviction policy of his predecessor Sarkozy.
The two organisations wrote:   

French authorities forcibly evicted more than 21.537 Romani migrants in 2013, more than double the total for 2012. Law enforcement officers carried out 165 evictions affecting almost 19.380 people. There were 22 evictions due to fire, affecting 2.157 Roma.
The figures, gathered by the Human Rights League (LDH) and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), are not comprehensive. Many more Roma may have been affected. In comparison 9,404 Roma were forcibly evicted by authorities in 2012 and 8.455 in 2011, according to data collected by the same organisations.
Forced evictions continued almost everywhere without credible alternative housing solutions or social support. NGOs and various institutions (such as the French Ombudsman) have highlighted that government policy is ignored – an interministerial circular of 26 August 2012, which ordered local authorities to carry out a social assessment of Roma in any eviction - is rarely implemented and superficial at best. It often resembles a population census rather than a real and lasting attempt at social inclusion.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Netanyahu wants to retain a fourth settlement bloc in negotiations with Abbas

Construction in Beit El in February 2013 ( 

According to a report Thursday on Army Radio, Netanyahu has been seeking to define a fourth bloc of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, in the vicinity of Beit El, that Israel would retain in any future agreement with the Palestinians.
The report, which cited an unnamed senior Israeli official involved in the negotiations, harked back to previous reports that the Israeli negotiating team has brought up the option of renting or purchasing land from the Palestinian Authority. The older reports did not specify which swaths of land Israel would seek to retain.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined The Times of Israel’s request for comment.
Located near the Palestinian administrative capital of Ramallah, the Beit El bloc joins three other West Bank areas — the Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel blocs — over which Israel wishes to retain control, even after the signing of a peace agreement. In peace proposals that have been under discussion in the past, , it was proposed that Israel swaps land of an equal proportion to compensate the Palestinians for these territories.
The three blocs, together with the Beit El area, constitute a combined 13 percent of the West Bank.
Netanyahu wants to annex the four blocs but, according to the Israeli source, at this stage opposes compensating the Palestinians with a land swap of equal size and quality. The source added that the Palestinians had rejected the idea that Israel buys or leases some of the lands on which the settlement blocs rest. 

Grave found of unknown Egyptian king of the Abydos dynasty

-An American excavation mission from the University of Pennsylvania uncovered the name of an ancient Egyptian king from the Abydos dynasty during the second Intermediate Period (1650 BC) during routine excavations south of Abydos archaeological site. According to a statement by the Ministry of State of Antiquities (MSA), the name of the king is Sneb-Kay. His name was found on Tuesday engraved on a wall of his tomb.
The discovery shed more light on Abydos local families that ruled the nome during the Second Intermediate Period, considered one of the most critical phases of ancient Egyptian history. Joseph Wagner, head of the American mission, stated that the tomb neighbours the tomb of King Subek Hotep of the 13th dynasty and the newly discovered tomb can be dated to a dynasty called Abydos mentioned by archaeologist K.Rhyholt, although the ruling tenure of the king is still a mystery. He added that the poor state of the tomb shows that Egypt was suffering bad economic conditions.
Ali El-Asfar, head of the ancient Egyptian Section at the MSA, said that the tomb was built with blocks previously used in tombs of the Middle Kingdom. Remains of a wooden sarcophagus still bearing the king's skeleton were also found. The skeleton of Pharaoh Senebkay was originally mummified but his body was pulled apart by ancient tomb robbers.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Revolution in Egypt is Alive But Not Well

July 2013: general al-Sisi announces the deposition of president Morsi.
By Noha Radwan
Last July, it appeared that the Egyptian revolution of 2011 had run its course. It was displaced by a  discourse of totalitarian ultra-nationalism that has left an entire nation, save for the supporters of the Muslim Brothers, enchanted with a soft spoken army general. Someone who takes it upon the armed forces to provide the Egyptians with the tender loving care the revolution has failed to provide, to paraphrase some of his own communiqués. Or so it appeared in July.
Six months later, some signs of a resurgence of the revolutionary spirit are becoming palpable. The hegemony of the discourse of “the people, the army, and the police united,” which would have been deemed a bad joke prior to June 2013 but reigned supreme among the masses hostile to the Brotherhood afterwards, is fraying. Strikes of the Egyptian blue collar workers have resumed. And a small core of committed individuals and groups such as the Revolutionary Socialists, 6 April, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, and several others, who remain committed to the goal of a civil government dominated by neither the Brotherhood nor Mubarak’s old regime and his military, are still continuing on the road taken in 2011.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sharon the ''man of peace''

 Today the man died who in 1982 engineered the butchery in the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut (about 3000 women, old people and children killed, according to the book that the journalist Amnon Kapeliouk of Le Monde diplomatique wrote about the massacre), who started the disastrous and unnecessary and bloody war in Lebanon in 1982, who was the commander of the infamous Unit 101 (Qibiya, and numerous killings in Gaza), and who was Israel´s prime minister in 2002 at the time of Operation Defensive Shield (and the onslaught on Arafats compound and the Jenin camp). And now that Sharon is dead, he is called a courageous man, and someone who ´´sought to become the architect of a peaceful future´´.  
This was expected, of course. It is because he withdrew from Gaza and supposedly made an offer of peace to the Palestinians. That he also started the building of ´The Wall´´ around the settlements on the West Bank, ostensibly for the purpose of incorporating them into Israel proper, seems to be somewhat forgotten. (As most people always have been misreading Sharon´s speech of 18 December 2003 at Hertzliya, where he announced his plans). It is therefor worth to remember what Dov Weisglass, Sharon´s close adviser at the time (2004), had to say about the withdrawal: 
"The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Haaretz.
"And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress." 
 "The disengagement is actually formaldehyde," he said. "It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."
Unfortunately Sharon´s memory cannot easily be erased.  

Israeli settlements in Jordan Valley suffer from BDS

APTOPIX Mideast Israel Boycott Hits Home
A Thai worker sits in a back of a truck load with flowers in the fields of the West Bank Jordan Valley Jewish settlement of Petsael. (AP).

NETIV HAGDUD, West Bank (AP) — An international campaign to boycott Israeli settlement products has rapidly turned from a distant nuisance into a harsh economic reality for Israeli farmers in the West Bank's Jordan Valley.
The export-driven income of growers in the valley's 21 settlements dropped by more than 14 percent, or $29 million, last year, largely because Western European supermarket chains, particularly those in Britain and Scandinavia, are increasingly shunning the area's peppers, dates, grapes and fresh herbs, settlers say.
"The damage is enormous," said David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, which represents about 7,000 settlers. "In effect, today, we are almost not selling to the (Western) European market anymore.
Israel has played down the impact of the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions launched by Palestinian activists in 2005 to pressure Israel to withdraw from occupied lands.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Israel announces plans for almost 1.900 new housing units in occupied territory

Part of the settlement of Efrat, in the background the Palestinian village of Khirbet Abdullah Ibrahim (Reuters)  

Israel announced plans on Friday to build almost 1,900 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, settlement watchdog Peace Now said. The housing ministry announced the plans for 1,076 units in annexed East Jerusalem and 801 in the occupied West Bank, Peace Now spokesman Lior Amihai told AFP. Together the plans amount to 1877 new units. 
Last Monday Israel already announced plans for the construction of 272 new housing units in occupied territory. All in all this come down to 2149 units.
The paper Haaretz precises that tenders were released for the construction of 600 housing units in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo, a satellite of East-Jerusalem. In addition, also tenders were published for the construction of 532 units in other parts of East Jerusalem: 182 units in Pisgat Ze'ev, 294 in Ramot and 56 in Neve Yaakov. These last plots were marketed in the past but found no buyers at the time. They were now put back out on the market.
As for the West Bank the plans consisted of 227 housing units in Efrat, 78 in Alfei Menashe, 86 in Karnei Shomron, 40 in Ariel, 75 in Adam, 24 in Beitar Illit, 102 in Immanuel and 169 in Elkana.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dutch pensionfund PGGM withdraws investments from five Israeli banks

Bank Leumi branch | Oranit Settlement | May 2011 | Photographed by Who ProfitsBank Leumi office in settlement Oranit. (Photo Who Profits)

A new achievement for BDS: the Dutch pension fund company PGGM, one of the largest such companies in the Netherlands with an invested capital of about 150 billion euro, has withdrawn its investments from Israel’s five largest banks because they have branches in the West Bank and are involved in financing construction in the settlements, Haaretz reports. Over the past few months, PGGM contacted Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, the First International Bank of Israel and Israel Discount Bank and informed them that their ties with the settlements created a problem in view of the opinion issued in 2004 by the International Court of Justice in The Hague about the building of ´´The Wall´´ on the West Bank. In this opinion the Court judged that the settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are illegal and violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as this article states that the occupying power is not allowed ´´to deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The Israeli banks responded that Israeli law doesn’t allow them to cease providing service to entities connected to the settlements. Nor, given the daily reality in which the banks operate, would this even be feasible, according to Haaretz.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

South Sudan peace negotiations have a difficult start

Members of South Sudan rebel delegation attend the opening ceremony of South Sudan's negotiation in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 4, 2014. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
South Sudanese rebel delegation in Addis Abeba at the opnining of the talks. (Reuters)

South Sudan rejected rebel calls for an immediate release of detainees after the two sides met briefly for the first time on Tuesday seeking to end fighting that has left the world's newest state on the brink of civil war.
The Meetings in neighboring Ethiopia are aimed at brokering a ceasefire to halt three weeks of violence that has killed at least 1,000 people and driven 200,000 from their homes.The fighting, often along ethnic faultlines, has pitted President Salva Kiir's SPLA government forces against the rebels loyal to Machar.
The talks opened on Tuesday but quickly took a break for consultations in Juba about the fate of the 11 detainees, arrested last year over an alleged coup plot. The rebels had initially demanded their release before the negotiations.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fighting against ISIS in Anbar province of Iraq is still going on

 Sunni tribesmen seize buildings in Iraqi city
Members of the Iraqi Dulaim tribe in action in Falluja. (AFP)

Iraqi security forces and allied tribesmen have retaken areas in the central cities of Ramadi and Fallujah from Islamist insurgents. A correspondent in Ramadi for RFE/RL said police forces and their Sunni tribesmen allies had taken back police stations in several neighborhoods in the city that had been ransacked and occupied by militants. But he said some parts of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, were still controlled by the insurgents, and fighting was continuing. He said security forces made less progress against insurgents in nearby Fallujah, where neighborhoods near the highway to Baghdad are controlled by the Al-Qaeda-linked rebels.
Many insurgents took part in Friday Prayers along Fallujah's main street, some carrying black Al-Qaeda flags. There was no clear count of killed and injured from the latest clashes, but some reports spoke of dozens of casualties.
The militants are trying to defend police stations and government buildings they seized on January 1-2, after army forces withdrew on the orders of prime minister Maliki, who hoped that calm would return after the trops left.

Major confrontation between ISIS and other Syrian rebel formations

A major confrontation has broken out between the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Syria’s other rebel militias, writes Joshua Landis  It is being led by a newly organized front, called the Front of Syrian Revolutionaries. But many other militias have also declared war on ISIS, insisting that it must abandon its attempt to establish a state and that its fighters must either integrate into Syria’s other militias or quite the country altogether. Fighting between Free Syria Army militias and ISIS has been widespread in the countryside of Aleppo and Idlib. Lanndis presents a map of who is fighting whom and where. (In order to see it and for the rest of the arcticle click here).

Reuters adds: One group of fighters battling ISIL was the newly formed Mujahideen Army, an alliance of eight brigades who accused the al Qaeda affiliate of hijacking their struggle to topple Assad.
They said ISIL fighters were "undermining stability and security in liberated areas" through theft, kidnapping and trying to impose their own brand of Islam, and vowed to fight them until ISIL was disbanded or driven out of Syria.

Fourteen people shot dead during demonstrations and clashes throughout Egypt

Supporters and opponents of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi clash at Nasr City district in Cairo, January 3, 2014. REUTERS- Mohamed Abd El Ghany
 Clashes in Nasr City, a district of Cairo. (Photo Reuters)

Egypt witnessed a day of violent clashes between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the police at a level unparalleled in more than two months. The ministry of health said on Saturday that 14 people were killed and 62 injured in clashes across the country on Friday. 17 police officers were also injured, according to a senior security source.
Reuters reported that according to the Health Ministry five people were killed in different districts in Cairo. A security source said they died from bullet wounds. One of the five was a man who was shot dead by the protesters after he yelled insults at pro-Brotherhood demonstrators marching near his house, the source said.A male protester and a woman were shot dead in the coastal city of Alexandria, medical and security sources said. It was not clear whether the woman was a protester or an onlooker. Two were shot dead by police in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia after a march set off from a mosque after midday prayers, medical sources said. In the rural province of Fayoum, southwest of Cairo, three protesters, including a student, died from bullet wounds to the chest and head,local Health Ministry official Medhat Shukri told Reuters. Another university student was shot dead during clashes in the southern town of Minya.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Darfur Bar Association demands due process in case of arrested blogger

The Darfur Bar Association (DBA) has demanded that the responsible authorities follow legal procedures with regard to the arrest of the Darfuri activist and blogger Tajeldin Ahmed Arja or release him immediately.Arja was detained on Tuesday, 24 December, on the orders of President Omar Al Bashir at a meeting of Presidents, Ministers, and Darfuri notables in the Friendship Hall in Khartoum. Arja openly criticised Al Bashir and the President of Chad, Idris Deby, holding them both responsible for the war and killings in Darfur.
The head of the DBA, Mohamed Abdallah El Doma, told Radio Dabanga that neither Arja's family nor his lawyer have not been allowed to visit him. The authorities have not disclosed his whereabouts or what he has been charged with.

Bomb in Hezbollah neighbourhood of Beirut kills five

Five people were killed and 75 others were wounded Thursday when a car bomb ripped through a neighborhood of the Beirut southern suburbs where Hezbollah enjoys broad support, security sources told The Daily Star. 
The car bombing in Haret Hreik, a densely populated neighborhood of the southern suburb, is the latest security incident to hit increasingly volatile Lebanon. The attacks are linked to the ongoing crisis in Syria, particularly Hezbollah’s military support there to President Bashar Assad.
The 4.15 p.m. blast caused plumes of black smoke to blanket the Beirut skyline as ambulances and paramedics rushed to the neighborhood.
Parked vehicles and buildings in the commercial, residential area were severely damaged in the blast.

Egyptian minister accuses Hamas of involvement in Mansoura bombing

The Egyptian minister of the Interior, Mohamed Ibrahim, has accused Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas of providing logistical support to a bomb attack on 24 December 2013 in Mansoura that killed 16 people and injured more than 130.
Ibrahim, who spoke to reporters at a press conference on Thursday, also claimed a Muslim Brotherhood member had admitted to involvement in various crimes in Mansoura and to having links with Hamas. According to Ibrahim, Amer Mosaad, a 30-year-old commerce faculty graduate who "belongs to the Brotherhood," has admitted entering the Gaza Strip via tunnels with Ahmed El-Sayed and Mohamed Ahmed, who are also Brotherhood members, as well as a Palestinian, Mohamed Mahmoud. The assailants communicated with Gaza-based Hamas,which is an ideological offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, for help and support ahead of the Mansoura bombing, Ibrahim added.