Thursday, July 30, 2015

Evidence of war crimes - Amnesty looked into Israel's carnage of August last year in Rafah

The aftermath of Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in southern Gaza after the capture of Lieutenant Hadar Goldin
Rafah after the Israeli attacks. (Photo AP)

Amnesty Internationale has, together with the ondon group Forensic Architecture, investigated what happened when during the Opeartion Protetive Edge of last summer in te Gaza-Strip, one of their soldiers was kidnapped on the 1st of Augustus in Rafah adn teh military invkoed to so called ''Hannibal Directive''. This is one of their conclusisons:
There is overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces committed disproportionate, or otherwise indiscriminate, attacks which killed scores of civilians in their homes, on the streets and in vehicles and injured many more. This includes repeatedly firing artillery and other imprecise explosive weapons in densely populated civilian areas during the attacks on Rafah between 1 and 4 August. In some cases, there are indications that they directly fired at and killed civilians, including people fleeing.

Here follow some excerpts from the summary of their report:
 On 1 August 2014 Israel and Hamas agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire that would take effect at 8am that day. Three weeks after Israel launched its military offensive on Gaza, thousands of Palestinians who had sought refuge in shelters or with relatives prepared to return to their homes during the anticipated break in hostilities.
In Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip, a group of Israeli soldiers patrolling an agricultural area west of the border encountered a group of Hamas fighters posted there. A fire fight ensued, resulting in the death of two Israeli soldiers and one Palestinian fighter. The Hamas fighters captured an Israeli officer, Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, and took him into a tunnel. What followed became one of the deadliest episodes of the war; an intensive use of firepower by Israel, which lasted four days and killed scores of civilians (reports range from at least 135 to over 200), injured many more and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and other civilian structures, mostly on 1 August.

Saudi Arabia: More than 100 executions this year 
Saudi authorities have carried out 100 executions since January 1, compared with 88 in all of 2014, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported. Of the 2015 executions, 47 were for nonviolent drug offenses.
 “Saudi authorities have been on a campaign of death this year, executing more people in six months than all of the previous year,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of HRW. “It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia executes so many people, but to execute people convicted in nonviolent drug offenses shows just how wanton these executions are.”
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Saudi Arabia’s state news agency, said in news releases that only 14 of the 100 prisoners executed so far in 2015 were convicted of Hadd (“limit”) crimes for which Islamic law mandates a specific punishment, including the death penalty, while 30 were sentenced under the Islamic law concept of Qisas, or eye-for-an-eye retribution for murder. Judges based their sentences for the other 56, including the 47 for drug-related crimes, on judicial discretion. Saudi Arabia has no penal code; thus for many crimes for which people are convicted, what constitutes a crime, the proof required to prove it, and the sentence it carries are entirely up to a judge to decide.

Iran: ''570 executions in first half of 2015''

Iranian authorities have executed at least 570 prisoners in the first half of 2015, an increase of about 40% compared to the first half of 2014. According to reports by Iran Human Rights (IHR), at least 1,900 people have been executed since the election of President Hassan Rouhani in June 2013. It is the highest execution rate in more than two decades.
Iran Human Rights, July 1, 2015: Since the election of President Hassan Rouhani and a significant improvement in relations between Iranian and western officials, the rate of executions in Iran has been its highest in more than two decades. At least 570 people have been hanged to death in the first six months of 2015, representing an average of more than three executions per day. IHR once again calls on the international community to take Iran’s use of the death penalty seriously and show adequate reaction to it.
“The dialogue between the West and Iran has apparently failed to improve the situation of the human rights in Iran,” says Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson for IHR.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

After joining fight against IS, Turkey attacked Kurdish bases and arrested some 600 people

Police in plain clothes arrested 251 ISIS supporters
 In massive operations Turkey arrested about 600 Kurds and IS-supporters all over Turkey on Friday and Saturday.(Photo AFP)

Turkey said on Saturday that its fighter jets hit militant camps of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq overnight, and Turkish ground forces struck the PKK and Islamic State fighters in northern Syria. The strikes against PKK targets are likely to be a major blow to the stalled Kurdish peace process.
Turkey also started a massive operation to arrest Kurds and IS sympathizers all over teh country. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said at a press conference on Saturday that in addition to 302 people detained on Friday, 288 more were detained in operations that took place in 22 provinces throughout the night and early on Saturday. “As of now, a total of 590 terror-linked people who pose potential threat to Turkey are under detention,” he said. Turkish police launched first raids on Friday targeting ISIL, the PKK and the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) in 13 provinces across Turkey and detained 297 suspects.
Early on Saturday police teams raided addresses in a number of provinces, including İstanbul, Ankara, Konya, Adana and Erzincan and detained many people. In Adana, 54 people were detained in an operation that targeted ISIL and the Patriotic Revolutionist Youth Movement (YDG-H) -- an affiliate of the PKK.

Saudi airstrikes in Yemeni province of Taiz kill 120 civilians

 File photo of Houthi militants preparing for an attack on Aden Airport on May 3rd 2015
Houthis on the way to the aiport of Aden, The picture is from May 2015

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed more than 120 civilians and wounded more than 150 after shelling a residential area in the Yemeni province of Taiz on Friday evening, security officials, medical officials and witnesses said.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters, said that most of the houses in the area were leveled and a fire broke out in the port city of Mokha. Most of the corpses, including children, women and elderly people, were charred by the flames, they said.
Ahmed Mohammed al-Mouzay, a resident of the area who participated in rescue operations, said most of his neighbors had passed away. Many of the dead and wounded were transported in private cars or in animal-drawn carts drawn to hospitals, he added.

Tunisia adopts draconian anti-terror law

The Tunisian parliament adopted a new anti-terror law overnight Friday aimed at beefing up powers to confront a jihadist threat following deadly attacks but which has been slammed by rights groups as draconian. The law was adopted after three days of debate by 174 members of parliament with ten abstentions and no votes against, according to an AFP tally.
The new legislation comes after a gunman massacred 38 tourists on a Tunisian beach in an attack claimed by Islamic State group (IS) on June 26. In March an attack on the Bardo museum in the capital Tunis that was also claimed by IS left 21 tourists dead.
The law replaces legislation from 2003 which was adopted under the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and rights groups say was largely used to crush dissent, in particular then-banned Islamist party Ennahda, which today is one of the main players in Tunisian politics.
While the law was widely supported by both secular and Islamist parties, it has been strongly criticised by rights groups and NGOs.
"This law poses a real threat to rights and liberties in Tunisia," said Amna Guellali, the Human Rights Watch representative in Tunis.
Criminal lawyer Ghazi Mrabet agreed the law was a bad sign, saying: "You can't fight terrorism with regressive reforms."
Critics have condemned the fact the law brings back capital punishment for a number of offences, after a de facto quarter-century moratorium on executions. The death penalty can apply to anyone who "knowingly murders someone enjoying international protection", a reference to people such as diplomats and international civil servants. Another article refers to people who commit rape during the course of a terrorism-related crime.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

University finds one of the oldst copies of the Koran in its library

Koran at Birmingham UniversityWhat may be the world's oldest fragments of the Koran have been found by the University of Birmingham. Radiocarbon dating found the manuscript to be at least 1,370 years old, making it among the earliest in existence. The pages of the Muslim holy text had remained unrecognised in the university library for almost a century.
 The manuscript had been kept with a collection of other Middle Eastern books and documents, without being identified as one of the oldest fragments of the Koran in the world. When a PhD researcher, Alba Fedeli, looked more closely at these pages it was decided to carry out a radiocarbon dating test and the results were "startling". The tests, carried out by the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, showed that the fragments, written on sheep or goat skin, were among the very oldest surviving texts of the Koran. These tests provide a range of dates, showing that, with a probability of more than 95%, the parchment was from between 568 and 645.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Six dead in Giza after police attack Brotherhood demonstration

Picture of the street protest by Ahmae Ziada.

Clashes between police and protesters left at least six dead and three injured in Giza on Friday morning, according to Health Ministry officials.
The violence reportedly broke out after supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi led a number of small marches after the Eid morning prayers.
On Thursday evening, a message allegedly sent by Morsi from prison was published on the Muslim Brotherhood's official website. The statement called on Morsi's supporters to continue the revolution,saying, "My unshakable confidence in victory knows no bounds.Your revolution will be studied by all peoples, so persist to victory, for in it lies the salvation of this homeland."
The state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram quoted security sources as saying that nearly 300 Muslim Brotherhood supporters gathered in protest in Talbiya on Friday morning. Sources claimed that the protesters fired live ammunition and fireworks at local residents, then opened fire on security forces when they arrived, provoking a gun battle. Fifteen people were arrested in the incident, according to Al-Ahram.

Raprochement between Hamas and Saudis, Khaled Meshaal pays visit to king Salman

King Salman
Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and other top officials from the Palestinian militant group met with Saudi Arabia's King Salman and senior Saudi leaders on Friday, a Hamas source said, in the first meeting between the two sides for years.The meeting brought together top members of Hamas political wing with the Saudi king, crown prince and defence minister in a possible rapprochement between the conservative United States-allied kingdom and the traditionally Iran-allied party.
"The delegation discussed Palestinian unity and the political situation in the region. This meeting will hopefully develop relations between Hamas and Saudi Arabia," the source told Reuters.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Eid said!

I wish my muslim readers a good Eid al-Fitr. كل سنة وانتم طيبين

Palestinians celebrate Eid alFitr at destroyed Farouk Mosque in Gaza
Palestinians pray in the Farouq mosque in Rafah (Gaza) that was destroyed during the Operation Protective Edge.The picture was taken during Eid al-Fitr in 2014. (Photo Demotix)

Leaked NSA files: Israel in 2008 murdered Syrian general

Israel was responsible for the 2008 murder of a top security aide of Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to secret US intelligence files.
Brigadier General Mohammed Sleiman was shot in the head and neck on Aug. 1, 2008 by a small team of Israeli commandos as he enjoyed a dinner party at his luxury seaside home on the Syrian coast, said The Intercept website, citing the leaked files.The Israeli military team then escaped by sea.
"The internal National Security Agency document, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, is the first official confirmation that the assassination of Sleiman was an Israeli military operation," said the website.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Main points of the nuclear agreement of the 5 + 1 with Iran

L’accord de Vienne sur le nucléaire iranien prévoit un système de contrôle et de limitations qui va de cinq à vingt-cinq ans.
The participants at the final stage of the negotiations.

The 5 + 1 (US, Russia, China, France, Great Britain, + Germany) finally, after almost ten years of negotiations reached an agreement with Iran over ways to control Iran's nuclear program. The main issue, the French newspaper Le Monde writes, was to get a mechanism in place that would guarantee that Iran's breakout time, the time it would need to produce enough enriched uranium for the production of an atomic bomb, would be fixed at at least a year. The mechanism will stay in place during the next ten years.
The agreement reached in Vienna will reduce in ten years the number of centrifuges that enrich uranium from 19.000 to 5.060.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Egypt tells the foreign press how to behave and launches watchdog

The government of Egypt has launched a monitoring office run by its State Information Service (SIS) to verify information included in foreign media reports about the country. According to the Huffington Post, the Fact Check Egypt office will seek to verify foreign reports and sources they rely on. It said the office’s staff was trained by the US "media ethics" news site iMediaEthics and works in tandem with the Egyptian government's SIS. The move follows days after foreign correspondents received a ''style guide'' on how to write about islamist insurgents and the Muslim Brotherhood. The guide proscribed that Islamists and Muslim Brothers cannot be called names that evoke reminiscences of the Islam, but can only be alled terrorists, rebels, bandits and insurgents.
 The US online newspaper states that many reporters who covered the terrorist attacks in North Sinai earlier this month had been contacted by FactCheckEgypt via e-mail in order for them to adapt their reports to the government’s statements, setting a deadline for the request to be met.
 The fierce wave of attacks against army forces in the restive peninsula have been covered with reports that differ on the number of troop deaths. While foreign reports put the death toll for army personnel at between 30 and 60, the army spokesperson counted only 17 deaths.
 The conflicting reports prompted Egypt, in its pending anti-terrorism bill, to stipulate a jail term of at least two years for journalists who report terrorism-related information that is at odds with the government’s statements.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Omar Sharif 1932-2015

Omar Sharif with his wife, the actress Faten Hamama, in Cairo (Photo AFP) 

 Omar Sharif, the famous actor in films like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, died today Friday 10 July, of a heart attack in a
hospital in Cairo. He was 83. Only a couple of months ago his son Tareq had announced that he was suffering of Alzheimer's disease. Omar Sharif was not only an well known Hollywood star. At the beginning of his career he played in more than 20 Egyptian films, which made him also a darling of the Egyptian audiences.
He was born in Alexandria in 1932 as Michel Demitri Chalhoub, son of a Christian Lebanese family. His father was an importer of wood. He studied physics and mathemathics in Cairo and worked five years with the family business before he began his acting career in 1953 with a role in Sira`fi'l-Wadi (Struggle in the Valley), directed bij Youssef Chahine and with actress Faten Hamama, whom he would marry one year later. For this purpose he had to convert to the Islam. In the meantime he had adopted Omar el-Sharif as his ''nom de guerre''.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hillary and her opposition to a change in the policy towards Israel

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to supporters at organizing event at a private residence, Saturday, July 4, 2015, in Glen, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Photo AP
Politico gave an account of the letter that Hillary Clinton wrote to Jewish leaders about her opposition to BDS and her support for Israel. It is clear that the Israeli peace camp has not much to look forward to if she will be the next Democratic candidate for the US presidency.

Hillary Clinton has penned a letter to mega-donor Haim Saban and Jewish organization leaders expressing her strong and unequivocal support for Israel in the face of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, known as “BDS.”
“I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority,” she writes, asking for aid working “across party lines” to “fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”
The former secretary of state has pushed foreign policy to the backburner so far in her presidential campaign, focusing instead on domestic economic issues. But her letter comes as she has tread carefully while discussing the negotiations over a nuclear deal with Iran — something Jewish donors and supporters of Israel are watching closely.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Egyptian security forces kill 9 Muslim Brothers

 The Egyptian army used Apache helicopters in the battle against the attack by the Islamists in the Sinai (see below).

Nine Muslim Brotherhood leaders were killed by police on Wednesday, with conflicting reports on the conditions of their death.The Interior Ministry said in a statement that Brotherhood leader Abdel Fattah Ibrahim was leading a meeting, held in Cairo's October 6 suburb, to discuss "plots" to carry out "terrorist" attacks. 
The police said they were shot at upon approaching the meeting point, adding that they responded with fire killing Ibrahim and 8 others.
The deceased also include Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Nasser al-Hafi, the deputy director of investigation in Giza, Magdi Abdelaal said earlier on Wednesday.
According to the police statement, preliminary information indicated that this group has supported all recent "acts of violence and assassinations". On Monday, prosecutor general Hisham Barakat was assassinated in a car bomb attack in Cairo.
However, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Montaser said the leaders who were killed were "unarmed", adding that the reports on clashes with security forces are "lies", in a statement posted on a Brotherhood website.The spokesman added that the meeting took place in an apartment and that they were discussing supporting the "orphans of martyrs".

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tens of Egyptian military killed in coordinated attacks in Sinai

Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi speaks at the funeral of the slain prosecutor general Hisham Barakat. (Photo Mena/Xinhua)

Islamic State militants launched a wide-scale coordinated assault on several military checkpoints in Egypt's North Sinai on Wednesday in which 50 people were killed, security sources said, the largest attack yet in the insurgency-hit province.It was the second high-profile attack in Egypt this week. On Monday, the prosecutor-general was killed in a car bombing in Cairo. President Sisi said he would bring in tougher legal measures in coming days after the killing of the prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, the most senior Egyptian official to die in such an attack in years.
The attacks raise questions about the government's ability to contain a Sinai-based insurgency that has already killed hundreds of police and soldiers.
Islamic State's Egyptian affiliate, Sinai Province, claimed responsibility for the Sinai attacks in a Twitter statement.
The army had said five checkpoints were attacked by about 70 militants and that soldiers had destroyed three landcruisers fitted with anti-aircraft guns. Without giving a breakdown, the army spokesman said the death toll among soldiers and attackers had increased.
The militants have previously carried out some big attacks that have killed scores of security personnel, but in general they have focused on smaller-scale attacks.
Wednesday's incident marks the biggest onslaught yet.