Wednesday, April 29, 2015

King Salman of Saudi Arabia safeguards the powerful position of his own family branch

Mohammed bin Nayef
Mohamed bin Nayef, the new crown pince
King Salman bin Abdel Aziz of Saudi Arabia has removed his half-brother Muqrin as crown prince, replacing him with his nephew prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Also he elevated his son, Mohammed bin Salman, to the position of deputy crown prince.It is the most important repositioning of power among the royal family since King Salman assumed the throne in January. The appointments, announced in a decree from the royal court, thrust a new generation of Saudi princes into the line of succession.
The reshuffling means that the ''Sudairi'' family branch again has safeguarded its leading position within the Saudi royal familiy.
The Sudairi's were originally called the ''Sudairi seven'' after the seven sons that the first king and founder of Saudi Arabia, Abdel Aziz bin Saud, had with his favorite wife, Hassa al-Sudairi. Among the seven were king Fahd, and the once powerful princes Sultan, Turki, and Nayef, the father ofthe new crown prince, who all died in the recent past. The Sudairi branch was always considered to be the most powerful branch of the family, but under the previous king, Abdallah who belonged to a different branch, it lost this position. Temporarily as it appears now, because with the accession of king Salman, also a Sudairi, to the throne in January, it was back in business. And with the recent appointments it can be sure to retain its powerful position for decades to come.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

US Congress moves to make BDS illegal en put pressure on EU

The finance committees of the U.S. House and Senate have approved amendments to a trade bill that equate boycotts of West Bank settlement products with boycotts of Israel, strengthening efforts by the Israeli right to silence opponents of West Bank settlements. Both committees approved the amendments unanimously. Each committee then approved its version of the trade bill on a split vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats divided for and against.
The nearly identical amendments require U.S. trade negotiators to “discourage politically motivated actions” by foreign countries and international organizations that aim to “penalize or otherwise limit” commercial relations with Israel or “persons doing business in Israel or in territories controlled by Israel.” The Senate Finance Committee took its action on Wednesday evening and the House Ways and Means Committee

Monday, April 27, 2015

Hezbollah keep silent about Israeli attack at Syrian-Lebanese border

Source: YNet
Apart from the reported Isareli attack at depots belonging to Hezbollah at the Lebanese -Syrian border, Israeli papers reported that Israeli troops on Sunday killed four men who tried to plant a bomb along the border between Syria and the Syrian Golan Heights annexed by Israel.

Hezbollah refused to comment Sunday on reports that Israel targeted its interests on the Syria-Lebanon border over the weekend.News outlets reported Saturday that Israeli fighter jets hit Syrian and Hezbollah targets on the Syria-Lebanon border overnight Friday. When contacted by The Daily Star, a Hezbollah spokesman refused to confirm or deny the reports.
According to sources quoted by Al-Jazeera, the attack in the Syrian region of Qalamoun targeted the 155th and 65th Brigades of the Syrian Army, which deal with strategic weapons and long-range missiles. The sources reported several explosions in the Syrian towns of Al-Qutayfa, Yabroud and Qara on the outskirts of Damascus.
Al-Arabiya news channel reported that the attack targeted Syrian weapons depots, and that Wednesday Israel allegedly attacked two weapons convoys, reportedly killing one person.
Sources confirmed to Lebanese news site Elnashra Saturday that Israel had attacked Syrian posts near Qara.
The Israeli Army declined to respond to the reports. Syrian regime-affiliated media and Hezbollah-affiliated media have not reported the attack so far.
Sources told Israel’s Ynet that the Israeli air force has carried out several raids against targets in Syria, including depots storing weapons meant for Hezbollah, since the conflict there started four years ago.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Saudi coalition announce a new phase of the military activities against Yemen

A portrait of the Saudi king Salman amidst debris of the Saudi Cultural Centre in Sanaa, caused by an Saudi airstrike on a nearby weapons depot (Photo Reuters, 21 April 2015)

The Saudi-led coalition bombing Yemen for almost a month announced on Tuesday the end to its military operation, but a Saudi spokesman said forces would continue to target the Iran-allied Houthi movement as necessary.
"Operation Decisive Storm has achieved its goals...(including) removing the threat to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries especially in terms of heavy weapons," said a statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA.
"With its end, the new Operation Restoring Hope begins with the following goals: continuing to protect civilians, continuing to fight terrorism and continuing to facilitate the evacuation of foreign nationals and to intensify relief and medical assistance to the Yemeni people."

Egyptian ex-president Morsi and other Ikhwan-leaders get 20 years for 2012 Ettihadiya-riots

Mohamed Morsi
Cairo's Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced 15 defendants, including ex-president Mohamed Morsi and prominent Muslim Brotherhood figures Essam al-Erian and Mohamed al-Beltagy, to 20 years in maximum security prison and a five-year parole on Tuesday in the so-called Ettihadiya case.clashes in 2012.  The 15 defendants were convicted of inciting violence against protesters. They were found not guilty of premeditated murder and the possession of unlicensed weapons.
Two other defendants, Gamal Saber and Abdel Hakeem Ismail, were sentenced to 10 years in maximum security prison. It was he first verdict issued against Morsi, who is standing trial in four other cases.

ISIS kills 35 in Iraq and about 30 in Libya

 Thirty Ethiopian Christians appear to have been beheaded and shot by ISIS in a sickening new propaganda video. Above, at least 16 men are marched down a beach in Libya by militants before they are killed
Ethiopian Christians are marched on a Libyan beach to be decapitated  by ISIS (Photo AP, see also below)

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has killed at least 35 people in two separate mass killings in Iraq, according to local sources. The sources told Al Jazeera that the armed group, which controls large swathes of territory in western and northern Iraq, killed 24 of its Sunni critics in Kirkuk province, including seven elders from several different tribes. The men were said to be vocal opponents of the armed group, but were not allied to the government in Baghdad.
In a separate incident, the armed group posted pictures online on Monday purporting to show the killings of 11 men believed to be Shia fighters from the Popular Mobilisation Forces that formed after a call by Shia leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to fight ISIL.

Dozens killed in Sanaa after bombardment of missile base

Residents said the explosions sent shockwaves across the city with civilians fleeing from their homes in the aftermath.
At least 46 people have been killed in the Yemeni capital after Saudi-led air strikes targeted a suspected weapons base held by Houthi fighters.
Health officials told Al Jazeera on Monday that more than 300 people were wounded when warplanes reportedly struck a Scud missile base in Faj Attan, a district in western Sanaa, that sparked a series of explosions.
Thick black smoke billowed into the sky as scores of nearby houses and vehicles were destroyed leaving the streets littered with debris.
"It was like the doors of hell opened,'' resident Mohammed Sarhan told the Associated Press news agency.
"I felt the house lift up and fall," he said.

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to understand the slow violence against the Palestinians

Settler occupied Gawi house in Sheik Jarrah, January 19, 2010
The house of the Gawi family in Sheikh Jarrah (Jerusalem) taken over by settlers. (The picture is from 2010)

Teju Cole in The Guardian:
Not all violence is hot. There’s cold violence too, which takes its time and finally gets its way. Children going to school and coming home are exposed to it. Fathers and mothers listen to politicians on television calling for their extermination. Grandmothers have no expectation that even their aged bodies are safe: any young man may lay a hand on them with no consequence. The police could arrive at night and drag a family out into the street. Putting a people into deep uncertainty about the fundamentals of life, over years and decades, is a form of cold violence. Through an accumulation of laws rather than by military means, a particular misery is intensified and entrenched. This slow violence, this cold violence, no less than the other kind, ought to be looked at and understood.
Near the slopes of Mount Scopus in East Jerusalem is the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Most of the people who live here are Palestinian Arabs, and the area itself has an ancient history that features both Jews and Arabs. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem are in a special legal category under modern Israeli law. Most of them are not Israeli citizens, nor are they classified the same way as people in Gaza or the West Bank; they are permanent residents. There are old Palestinian families here, but in a neighbourhood like Sheikh Jarrah many of the people are refugees who were settled here after the nakba (“catastrophe”) of 1948. They left their original homes behind, fleeing places such as Haifa and Sarafand al-Amar, and they came to Sheikh Jarrah, which then became their home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Security Council imposes arms embargo on Yemeni Houthis

Saudi artillerie firing towards Houthi positions in north Yemen.(Photo Reuters)

The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo Tuesday on the leaders of Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son.The resolution, approved in a 14-0 vote, is aimed at ending the Houthi military action against supporters of current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia.The resolution also demands that the rebels end their military campaign.
Russia, which had insisted on an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict, abstained.
The resolution imposes the weapons embargo on five men: Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, second-in-command Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, military commander Abd al-Khaliq al-Houthi, Saleh and the former president's eldest son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The council called on all countries, especially Yemen's neighbors, to inspect cargo headed to Yemen if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe it contains weapons.In addition, the council imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on the Houthi leader and Saleh's son. The same sanctions had already been imposed on the other three men last November.The resolution demands that all Yemeni parties,especially the Houthis, end violence and quickly resume UN-brokered negotiations aimed at a political transition.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Casualties mount and humanitarian crisis worsens in Yemen

Smoke billows from a Saudi-led airstrike on Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Insurgents seem to have protected many of their weapons stockpiles from bombardments.
Smoke from an Saudi airstrike on Sanaa last Wednesday (Photo AP)

The United Nations called, Friday, for an immediate “humanitarian pause” of at least a few hours each day in Yemen to allow urgently needed humanitarian aid to reach conflict-affected areas in the country.
Two aircrafts carrying medical aid provided by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross landed Friday, in Sana’a. This aid is the first batch to reach the Yemeni capital Sana’a since the start of Saudi-led airstrikes against Yemen in late March. However, relief agencies warned that there is an urgent need for more aid.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced that it sent a load of aid to Aden along with a team of five Doctors, earlier this week.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Johannes Van der Klaauw, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said that basic services suffer from collapse, pointing out the lack of food and fuel added to a sharp rise in the basic commodities’ prices.

Fourth death sentence for leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

Mohamed BadieMohammed Badie

Fourteen men, including Muslim Brotherhood leaders, were sentenced to death on Saturday, for setting up an "operation room" at the protest camp that supported ousted president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo's Rabaa Al-Adawiya area in the summer of 2013, among other charges.
Brotherhood supreme guide Mohamed Badie, the son of leading member and businessman Hassan Malek, Omar, as well as leading member Saad El-Hoseiny are among those who received the capital punishment.
Former Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan and leading member Saad Emara were sentenced to death in absentia.
The sentences, pronounced at a televised court session on Saturday, can be appealed before Egypt's highest civilian court in a process that could take years to reach a final verdict.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Looting in Tikrit was symptom of deep animosity between Sunni tribes

 Above, a fire rages through a building. Militiamen have also spray-painted the names of their groups on homes and other buildings, officials added
 Building set ablaze by unknown assailants in Tikrit after it had been retaken by the Popular Mobilisation Troops. (Photo Reuters).

Arson and looting incidents in Tikrit after the Iraqi army recaptured the city last week from fighters with the Islamic State (IS) have highlighted the deep divisions between Sunni tribes that supported IS and Sunni tribes that opposed it, fAl-Jazeera English reported.
Hundreds of homes and stores in Tikrit were set ablaze after they were looted by unidentified people last week. Tikrit is one of the biggest Iraqi cities dominated by Sunni Muslims. It was seized by IS last summer.

"Many of the houses were destroyed by air strikes or artillery shelling by our troops. But the deliberate burning of the other houses and stores began when the troops of the Salahuddin local police got into the city. They were targeting the properties of Daesh members and their collaborators," an officer of the Popular Mobilisation Troops told Al-Jazeera.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Saudis clamp down on protests against intervention in Yemen in their Eastern province

The above video was shot on Sunday  in the eastern city of Awamiya, where Saudi security forces broke up  peaceful protests against the Saudi actions against Yemen. The intensity of the shooting is incredible - one would belive this is a war zone.
The Saudis are always very concerned about the situation in their Eastern province, mainly in the city of Qatif, or nearby cities like Awamiya. The reason for their concern is that the Eastern province is not only oilrich, but also inhabited by Shiites. The official Saudi press agency SPA mentioned that a Saudi policeman was shot dead and three were wounded, during a raid which devolved into a gun battle in Awamiya. During the raid automatic weapons, pistols and communication equipment were retrieved, and four men were arrested, according to this account.

New York Times: Many of Saddam's former men now have positions in IS

President George W. Bush in December 2004 awarded the Presidential Freedom Medal to L. Paul Bremer III. Bremer had ben the highest American in Command in occupied Iraq. During his term he disbanded the regular Iraqi army and removed thousands of Baath-members from their positions. lateron many of them were recruited by Al-Qaeda.   

The New York Times (and The Indepeint) carry an article about the army of the Islamic State (IS/Daesh)  being ''stuffed'' with former Baathist allies of Saddam Hussein: 
 When Abu Hamza, a former Syrian rebel, agreed to join Isis, he did so assuming he would become a part of the group’s promised Islamist utopia, which has lured foreign jihadists from around the globe.
Instead, he found himself being supervised by an Iraqi emir and receiving orders from shadowy Iraqis who moved in and out of the battlefield in Syria. When Abu Hamza disagreed with fellow commanders at an "Islamic State" meeting last year, he said, he was placed under arrest on the orders of a masked Iraqi man who had sat silently through the proceedings, listening and taking notes.
Abu Hamza, who became the group’s ruler in a small community in Syria, never discovered the Iraqis’ real identities, which were cloaked by code names or simply not revealed. All of the men, however, were former Iraqi officers who had served under Saddam Hussein, including the masked man, who had once worked for an Iraqi intelligence agency and now belonged to the Islamic State’s own shadowy security service, he said.
(For the rest of the article click here)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Air strikes in Yemen continue in spite of urgent calls for humanitarian ceasefire

Gravediggers at work in the village of Bani Matar, west of  Sanaa. In this village 9 civilians including six children were killed by air strikes of the Saudi led coalition. (Photo AFP)

Saudi-led air strikes against Houthi rebel targets have continued unabated in Yemen, hours after the Red Cross called for a 24-hour ceasefire to give aid workers a chance to address the growing crisis in the country. Fighting between rebels and forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi for control of the southern city of Aden also continued on Saturday. The UN says more than 500 people have been killed in the past two weeks and nearly 1,700 wounded. Residents in Aden say parts of the southern port city have been without water or electricity for two days.
The aerial bombardments reportedly focused on the capital Sanaa. Hisham al-Omeisy, a youth activist based in Sanaa, told Al Jazeera that the air strikes on Saturday were the heaviest he had witnessed since they began 10 days ago."To make matters worse, the targets are not just the military bases in the capital, they are also political bureaus of the Houthis around the city" in residential areas, Omeisy said.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Rouhani: 'Nuclear deal is first step towards new relationship with the world'

The deal promises to end years of crippling sanctions against Iran and locals could not contain their joy
Joy in the streets of Tehran after the breakthrough was announced.  (Photo EPA)

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani said on Friday that a framework for a nuclear deal was just the first step toward building a new relationship with the world. In a televised speech he said the nuclear talks were just the start of a broader policy of opening up. "This is a first step towards productive interactions with the world. Today is a day that will remain in the historic memory of the Iranian nation," he added. "Some think that we must either fight the world or surrender to world powers. We say it is neither of those, there is a third way. We can have cooperation with the world."
U.S. President Barack Obama also hailed the agreement, which was the most significant step towards rapprochement  between the twio countries since the Iranian revolution of 1978, as a "historic understanding". Diplomats, however, cautioned that hard work lies ahead to strike a final deal.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Houthis have taken central Aden

Yemeni Houthi fighters and their allies seized a central Aden district on Thursday, striking a heavy blow against the Saudi-led coalition that has waged a week of air strikes to try to stem advances by the Shi'ite group.
Hours after the Houthis took over Aden's central Crater neighborhood, they marked another symbolic victory by fighting their way into a presidential residence overlooking the neighborhood, residents said.
The southern city has been the last major holdout of fighters loyal to Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled Aden a week ago and has watched from Riyadh as the vestiges of his authority have crumbled.
"Terrified residents have been fleeing from neighbourhood to neighbourhood since 3am local time," Bashraheel Hesham, a local journalist, told Al Jazeera on Thursday after fighting spread across the city. "A lot of dead bodies are still spread around the streets as it is not safe to go out to clear them."

Islamists kill at least 15 soldiers and 2 civilians in northern Sinai

Egyptian security forces in the northern Sinai (Getty Images) 

Ambushes by armed men in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula have killed at least 15 soldiers and two civilians, according to Egyptian security and medical officials. The attacks early on Thursday, that also wounded at least 19 other soldiers and several more civilians, came as Egypt continues its battle against armed groups operating in the northern Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Gunmen opened fire on soldiers with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at five separate checkpoints throughout the northern Sinai region including near Sheikh Zuweid, east of the provincial capital of al-Arish, the Agence France-Press news agency reported.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Airstrikes in Yemen kill 23 factory workers, UN warns:Yemen is on the verge of collapse

The burning dairy factory in Hodaida (Photo

An air strike on Yemen's Red Sea port of Hodaida has killed 23 workers at a dairy factory, medical sources said, in what appears to be one of the biggest cases of civilian deaths in a Saudi-led campaign against Houthi rebels.
Residents near the Hodaida dairy factory said it was located near an army camp loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, while medical sources in the city said the casualties had all been workers at the plant. The strike on Tuesday night had also destroyed a fuel store, the residents told Reuters news agency.
The incident is part of an aerial campaign by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim states to stop Houthi fighters and former president winning control of the country and reinstating Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. However, after seven nights of bombings targeting both the Houthis and forces loyal to Saleh, the coalition has not managed to secure Hadi's control over his last remaining enclave of rule in the southern port of Aden, a key aim of the campaign.

Iraqi army recaptures most of Tikrit

مدينة تكريت وضواحيها 9e31783d69.gif

Iraqi government forces have made major advances against Islamic State (IS) militants in Tikrit, officials say.Army officials claimed on Tuesday that as much of 75% of the city had been recaptured, including the city centre and government headquarters, but not yet the palace of formere president Saddam Hussein.
There are about 3,000 Iraqi soldiers and police fighting to liberate the city, with support from about 20,000 Iran-backed Shia militias, known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation units, as well as local tribesman and residents. The Shia militias eralier said that theu=y would boycot fighting as long as the US was carrying out air strikes. Some of the militias, though, appear to have reversed this decision.
IS militants seized Tiqrit last summer. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Twitter that Tikrit, which was Saddam Hussein's hometown, had been "liberated" from IS occupation, but reports said fighting for large parts of the city was ongoing.