Yemenis wait in line to buy bread from a bakery in the city of Ta’izz, on April 22, 2015
Saudi Arabia has targeted “all food and fuel depots” during its month-long deadly aerial assaults against Yemen, a Russian diplomatic source says.
“They (Saudis) used to bomb all the arms, food and fuel depots they had information on, as well as military camps” in Yemen, RIA Novosti news agency quoted the anonymous source at the Russian Embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, as saying on Sunday.
The source added that the new round of Saudi military operation include selective airstrikes aimed at the destruction of “ ‘manpower’ and ‘technology’ in areas of combat operations in the provinces of Aden, Lahij, Abyan, Taizz, Shabwah, Marib, Sa’ada.”
Saudi Arabia launched its air campaign against Yemen on March 26 – without UN mandate – in a bid to undermine the Ansarullah movement and to restore power to the country’s fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
A picture taken on April 8, 2015, shows a damaged building following a Saudi airstrike in the capital, Sana’a
On April 14, Riyadh announced the end of the first phase of its military operation, which has claimed the lives of about 1,000 people, including over 140 children, and injured thousands more in 27 days.
However, sporadic airstrikes have continued with Saudi bombers targeting civilian and military positions across the Arab country over the past days.
Earlier this month, Colonel Sharaf Luqman, the spokesman for Yemen’s armed forces and popular committees, said civilians and infrastructure have been the target of the Saudi aggression, describing the Riyadh regime as “the international supporter of terrorism.”
(Source / 26.04.2015)
Hamas said Peres’ visit to Morocco would only make Israel look better in front of the rest of the world
Palestinian resistance faction Hamas on Sunday called on Morocco to reconsider an expected visit by former Israeli President Shimon Peres to the kingdom.
“We have hopes that the King and government of Morocco will reconsider Peres’ visit to their country,” Hamas said in a statement.
It also called on all other Arab states to reject all forms of normalization with Israel.
Hamas said Peres’ visit to Morocco would only make Israel look better in front of the rest of the world.
It added that the visit would also open the door for what it described as “perilous” normalisation with the self-proclaimed Jewish state.
Peres is expected to pay a visit to Morocco to attend the Clinton Global Initiative’s First Middle East and Africa Conference between May 5 and 7.
The conference will be held in the central Moroccan city of Marrakesh.
The former Israeli President paid a visit to Morocco on July 23, 1986, when he was the prime minister of Israel.
(Source / 26.04.2015)
OF Air Force strikes resistance cell in the Occupied Golan, one day after a reported Syria strike.
An IOF aircraft struck on Sunday evening a resistance cell that was preparing to place an explosive device in the occupied Golan on the occupied Palestine border with Syria.
Around 9:30 P.M. Israeli Occupation troops watching the border noticed four figures approaching the fence between occupied Palestine and Syria and placing the bomb. The IOF aircraft then struck the cell, killing three of the resistance fighters, according to the IOF. In all likelihood the fourth fighters was also hit.
The development emerged a day after it was reported that Israel attacked Syrian army bases where Hezbollah stored long-range missiles late Friday night.
According to a report in Al Arabiya, the airstrikes targeted the bases of the 155th and 65th strategic missile brigades, stationed in Qalamoun, near the Syria-Lebanon border. Residents of nearby cities Yabroud and Qarah reported hearing explosions.
In January, two Israeli occupation soldiers were killed and seven were wounded after Hezbollah fired an anti-tank missile, striking an Israel Occupation Forces vehicle in the Golan area near the Lebanon border. Mortar shells were fired toward nearby areas.
IOF forces responded with artillery fire, shelling several targets in southern Lebanon. A Spanish UNIFIL soldier was killed in the strikes.
(Source / 26.04.2015)
Palestinians in the West Bank city of al-Khalil attend the funeral of a 20-year-old youth killed by Israeli troops, April 26, 2015
Thousands of Palestinians have participated in the funeral of a West Bank youth shot dead by Israeli regime forces outside the Ibrahimi Mosqued in al-Khalil (Hebron) for allegedly stabbing an Israeli soldier.
The funeral procession for 20-year-old Mahmoud Abu Jheisha was held on Sunday at the Amari Mosque in his hometown of Idhna, west of al-Khalil, where relatives and friends paid their final tributes, before his burial at the local cemetery, Ma’an News Agency reported.
Those attending the event reportedly chanted slogans condemning persisting crimes by the Israeli regime forces.
Body of the Palestinian youth shot dead by Israeli soldiers during his funeral on April 26, 2015
Speaking at his funeral, Abu Jheisha’s father Yahya denied that his son had stabbed the Israeli soldier and called on Palestinian authorities to refer his son’s shooting death to the International Criminal Court.
The Ibrahimi Mosque, believed to be the burial site of Prophet Abraham, is of religious significance to both Muslims and Jews, and has historically been a flashpoint between Palestinians and Israelis, particularly after a US-born Jewish settler massacred 29 Palestinians inside the mosque in 1994.
Nearly 700 settlers live in 80 homes in the city center of al-Khalil, surrounded by nearly 200,000 Palestinians.
The settlements — illegal under international law — are protected by the Israeli regime’s military forces in the tightly controlled city, where many streets are off limits to Palestinians.
(Source / 26.04.2015)
Minister of Labor Mamoun Abu Shahla
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The national unity government has cut off contact with Hamas in the wake of a high-profile visit to Gaza that ended in disarray last Monday, Minister of Labor Mamoun Abu Shahla told Ma’an on Sunday.Abu Shahla said: “There has been no contact between the government and Hamas since the return of the ministerial delegation, which was unable to achieve its aims due to restrictions imposed by Hamas.”The government delegation of eight ministers was visiting the coastal enclave in a bid to tackle an employee dispute with Hamas.Since last year, when Fatah and Hamas formed a unity government, Hamas has demanded that the government regulate the salaries of its 50,000 employees, who took up their positions when the movement seized power in 2007, and replaced 70,000 former Palestinian Authority employees.However, the Fatah-dominated PA has pledged to return the 70,000 former employees to their positions, saying that the Hamas workers would only be hired “according to need.”The government delegation, which arrived in Gaza last Sunday, had intended to register these former employees, but they allege that Hamas prevented them from carrying out their work by confining them in their hotel. The delegation departed the next day.A Hamas spokesman rejected the claims, saying the ministers had refused to leave the hotel.Abu Shahla said: “The actions of Hamas during the delegation’s visit will not go unnoticed and certainly there will be consequences.”The labor minister said he was not optimistic about the next steps as officials seek to close the developing rift.He also said it was unlikely that Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah would visit Gaza this week.”Hamdallah was scheduled to visit Gaza tomorrow after returning from Indonesia, but there is currently no talk of the visit,” Abu Shahla said, noting that the decision ultimately lay with the president.He said that he believed the subject would be discussed during a government meeting next Tuesday.
Warning over Gaza reconstruction
Abu Shahla warned that reconstruction would suffer in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip if the unity government was unable to take control of ministries across the coastal enclave.He said that foreign funding would not come through unless unity government officials were clearly established in power, adding: “There are commitments to donors.”He said that a government reshuffle was scheduled in coming days adding that Hamas had previously been consulted on this issue.At the end of last month, Minister of the National Economy Muhammad Mustafa, who had been overseeing reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip, resigned from his position.There was widespread speculation that Mustafa’s resignation came following criticism of the slow pace of reconstruction.Large swathes of Gaza remain in ruin following a devastating Israeli offensive on the coastal enclave last summer that left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead and 100,000 homeless.However, Abu Shahla said on Sunday that Mustafa “remained on top of his work as Minister of the Economy,” and was awaiting the government reshuffle.
(Source / 26.04.2015)
Prosecution Failed to Show Former President Complicit in Violence
(Beirut) – The first trial of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy was compromised by due process violations, the appearance of bias and an absence of conclusive evidence. He was convicted on April 21, 2015, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
A review of the prosecution’s case file summary by Human Rights Watch found little evidence other than the testimony of military and police officers to support Morsy’s conviction for complicity in the unlawful detention, torture, and intimidation of protesters carried out by top aides and Muslim Brotherhood supporters when he was president in December 2012. The full judgment has not yet been made public.
“The prosecution’s case was founded on the conjecture that Morsy was responsible simply because of his relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “Whatever political responsibility Morsy may have, the prosecution didn’t establish his criminal guilt in this case.”
The verdict against Morsy and 14 other co-defendants, six of them in absentia, was the first against him since he was arrested and removed from office by the military in July 2013. He faces five other ongoing prosecutions. Morsy’s defense team said they would appeal the conviction.
The charges against the 15 defendants arose from a deadly street fight between supporters and opponents of Morsy outside Egypt’s Ettihadeya presidential palace on the night of December 5-6, 2012. The violence followed days of demonstrations against a decree issued by Morsy that November which placed himself, as president, and the Constituent Assembly above judicial review.
A Human Rights Watch review of an 80-page summary of the prosecution’s case showed that the allegations against Morsy relied primarily on the testimony of Maj. Gen. Mohamed Zaki, the commander of the Republican Guard, a division of the army tasked with protecting the presidency. Zaki testified that there “must have been” an agreement between Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood to disperse anti-government protesters by force but gave no evidence to support his hypothesis.
After the military arrested Morsy on July 3, 2013, and deposed his government, it held him in incommunicado detention without charge or judicial process for 23 days. Officially, his imprisonment began only on July 26, when the authorities announced an investigation against him, but they did not transfer Morsy to Borg al-Arab Prison in Alexandria until November 4, 2013, for his first court appearance. At least two of his aides and co-defendants were held without judicial process until August 4, 2013, and a third was charged two days later.
Under Egyptian law, prosecutors must see and question a detainee within 24 hours of arrest and decide whether to order the person detained, pending further investigation.
Lawyer Mohamed al-Damaty, spokesman for the defense team, said that they were able to visit Morsy only once, in November 2013. He said that meetings with Morsy’s co-defendants were irregular and affected their right to consult with lawyers.
He told Human Rights Watch that defense lawyers raised the concerns about limited access to their clients with the court, but that the court ignored them. He said that Morsy never appointed a lawyer to defend himself, as he refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court.
Another defense lawyer told Human Rights Watch that the defense team did not call any witnesses – who could have included other members of the presidency or Republican Guard – out of fear they would be arrested or otherwise harmed. The lawyer, who asked not to be named, also said that the soundproof glass barrier erected around the defendants’ cage throughout the trial violated their due process rights because it prevented lawyers from speaking to their clients and sometimes prevented the defendants from hearing the judge.
By contrast, Mohamed Abd al-Aziz, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers and a member of Al Haqaniya law firm, told Human Rights Watch that members of five Egyptian nongovernmental organizations had attended the trial’s 38 sessions and that there were no major flaws, unlike in other high-profile cases concerning the Muslim Brotherhood.
Prosecutors failed to investigate anyone for killing or injuring any Morsy supporter during the December 2012 clashes. Of the ten people killed that day, only three were included in the prosecutors’ file, creating an appearance that the case was politically motivated against the Brotherhood, which the new government labeled a terrorist organization in December 2013.
The December 5, 2012, clashes left at least 10 people dead, seven believed to have been Morsy supporters, and 748 injured. During the fighting, Morsy supporters unlawfully detained, abused, and interrogated at least 49 anti-government protesters before turning them over to police the next day, Human Rights Watch found.
On December 6, 2012, while prosecutors were still conducting investigations, Morsy claimed in a nationally televised speech that opposition protesters had “confessed” to being “hired thugs” paid to “use weapons.”
Human Rights Watch called on prosecutors at the time to examine responsibility for the protesters’ deaths and the security forces’ failure to intervene and to investigate leaders of the Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), who publicly called for their supporters to arrest anti-Morsy protesters that day.
“It’s positive that prosecutors followed through on their investigation into those who may have detained and abused protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012,” Whitson said. “But prosecutors’ neglect of the deaths of Brotherhood supporters and disregard of the failure of the security forces to intervene undermine any claim that justice was done.”
The Prosecution Case Against Morsy
The case began after some of the abused protesters filed suit against the government, supported by prominent Egyptian nongovernmental groups and human rights lawyers, but prosecutors kept it under investigation until September 1, 2013, two months after the coup, when they referred Morsy and the others to trial.
Prosecutors charged 11 Brotherhood members and aides, including Morsy’s deputy chief of staff, office director, and personal secretary, with killing, unlawfully detaining and torturing opposition protesters, as well as intimidation, threatening to use violence, and carrying unlicensed firearms and ammunition. They charged Morsy and three others with being accomplices to those crimes “by way of incitement, agreement and aid,” and Morsy specifically faced the charge of “agreement.”
Under Article 40 of the Penal Code, prosecutors needed to prove that Morsy had “agreed with another on perpetrating the crime and [that] the crime [took] place on the basis of such agreement.”
Cairo criminal court Judge Ahmed Sabry, who presided over the trial as a special circuit judge assigned to hear cases of terrorism and national security, convicted Morsy of agreeing to the intimidation, illegal detention, and torture of protesters. He acquitted all the defendants of the murder and firearms charges.
According to Maj. Gen. Zaki’s testimony, he twice refused orders from the presidency to disperse the opposition protesters at the palace. He first refused when Morsy called him at 2 a.m. on December 5, saying that dispersing the protesters would be “completely impossible…without losses,” and refused again later that morning when Deputy Chief of Staff Asaad al-Sheikha, also a longtime Brotherhood member, asked him to remove the remaining tents and protesters. Zaki said it would be a “disaster” to do so.
Zaki’s testimony said that al-Sheikha decided that “his men and supporters of his group,” meaning the Brotherhood, would disperse the sit-in themselves, and that at a meeting later that day attended by Morsy, Zaki, al-Sheikha and Chief of Staff Rifaa al-Tahtawy, al-Sheikha said that “anyone who approaches the presidential palace will meet his doom.”
Zaki’s testimony said that Morsy left the palace earlier than usual that afternoon but that when opposition protesters began to “prevail” over his supporters during the clashes that escalated later that night, he called Zaki “more than six times,” asking him to separate the two sides with tanks and armored vehicles. Zaki did not say how he responded.
Testimony from other witnesses, including an officer and a major in the Republican Guard, indicated that they saw al-Sheikha and Ahmed Abdellaty, Morsy’s office director, ordering supporters to attack opposition protesters and helping to detain protesters, but none presented evidence that Morsy had planned the confrontation or the abuses and interrogations that followed.
Aside from Zaki, only two of the 78 witnesses whose testimony is recorded in the prosecution summary asserted that Morsy was complicit in the abuse and detentions. Osama al-Gindy, chief of Central Administration for Presidential Security, testified that he had attended the group meeting with Morsy on December 5 and that Morsy was later aware that opposition protesters were being unlawfully detained at the walls of the palace but took no action to stop it.
Testimony from Ahmed Fayed, chief of General Administration for Presidential Security, indicated he had been at the same meeting and also asserted that there had been an “agreement” between Morsy and his aides to disperse the sit-in by force and detain protesters. Neither Fayed nor al-Gindy provided other evidence to support their claims.
Many of the witness testimonies agreed that al-Sheikha had overseen the detention of opposition protesters and tried to hold them inside the palace.
The testimony from Ahmed Gamal al-Din, the interior minister at the time of the incident, said that Morsy should have called on his supporters to withdraw from the palace area, but he did not accuse Morsy of complicity in the violence. Gamal al-Din’s testimony accused Ayman Hohod, Morsy’s personal secretary, of recruiting Morsy’s supporters in agreement with the Brotherhood and the FJP. Gamal al-Din testimony said that he eventually reached an agreement with Saad al-Katatny, the party chairman, to withdraw Morsy’s supporters, and that when Gamal al-Din told Morsy about the agreement, Morsy ordered al-Sheikha and Abdellaty to carry it out.
Morsy, a long-time member of the Brotherhood, resigned from the group after winning Egypt’s first democratic presidential election in June 2012 and gave up his chairmanship of the FJP, though he remained a party member. Relations between the Brotherhood and the party remained close: al-Katatny, the party chairman, and Essam al-Erian, the deputy chairman, had both been high-ranking Brotherhood officials. On the night of the clashes, al-Erian, who was tried together with Morsy and sentenced to 20 years in prison, called on supporters in television interviews and social media posts seen by Human Rights Watch to “surround the thugs” and “arrest them all,” declaring that “the president will not change his mind” about the November 2012 decree removing judicial review.
But Morsy’s ties to those who called for confrontations do not amount to evidence of his criminal guilt, and prosecutors did not present evidence that he was complicit in decisions by his aides or party colleagues to send supporters to confront opposition protesters, Human Rights Watch said.
(Source / 26.04.2015)
Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria did not have a good winter. His forces lost a provincial capital, Idlib, and despite repeated efforts could not even seize northern and eastern suburbs adjoining Damascus. There were also failures in Aleppo and Dara‘a. He had to relieve heads of two of the regime’s four secret police services. The economic situation worsened.
These events are not surprising. Despite constant Western media assessments that Assad’s situation is secure, the reality is that the Syrian war is one of attrition, and minority regimes usually do not fare well in prolonged wars of attrition.
The Assad regime still enjoys some military advantages and support from Iran and Russia, which helps to prolong the conflict. Yet some recent developments may in fact be indicators of the beginning of the end.
Inability to defend and to counterattack. Although the armed opposition announced its plan to attack the provincial capital of Idlib weeks in advance, the regime lacked forces to reinforce the city, which it lost on March 28 a week after the battle started. The regime has since tried to assemble forces for a counterattack, but its gains have been minimal. At the other end of the country, near the Jordanian border, the regime lost the regional stronghold of Busra Sham on March 25 and then the important Nasib border crossing on April 2—the last functioning crossing with Jordan. Regime counterattacks in those areas also stalled. In sum, the regime appears broadly on the defensive now, and its hold on western Aleppo appears insecure due to the vulnerability of its supply lines.
Increased dissent within the inner regime. There are four secret police agencies that are the foundation of the regime’s power, and in mid-March the regime publicly announced that the heads of two of them had been fired. The removal of Political Security Director Rustum Ghazaleh and Syrian Military Intelligence Chief Rafiq Shehadeh was unprecedented. There are unconfirmed reports that Ghazaleh and Shehadeh fell out over the regime’s dependence on Iran; there also are unconfirmed reports that in the wake of the argument Ghazaleh had to be hospitalized after he was physically attacked.
Their sacking follows the departure of Hafez Makhlouf, Assad’s first cousin who was the general security chief of the sensitive Damascus bureau and who left the country, reportedly to Russia or Belarus, last autumn. Makhlouf, Ghazaleh, and Shehadeh all were members of the inner circle, and their departure within six months indicates significant internal discord in the regime, which had not been seen during the war’s first three and a half years.
If this was not enough, Assad recently ordered the arrest of Munther al-Assad in the Assad home province of Latakia. Munther was not in the regime’s inner circle, but he is a locally prominent member of the Assad family on many countries’ sanctions list because of his material support to the regime. One unconfirmed report claimed that Munther was in contact with Bashar’s uncle Rifaat, who is living in opposition in Paris. This may turn out to be false, but the very top Syrian leadership is a family affair directed by the Assads and Makhloufs, and signs of serious dissension are therefore unusual and important.
Signs of dissent within the regime support base. After tens of thousands of casualties, there are hints that the relatively small Alawi community is tiring of the battle and wants out. The regime’s conscription drives in Latakia and Damascus have not met with public support. Instead, there are stories of families trying to get their sons out of Syria. (In contrast, the Iraqi Shi‘a responded robustly to Ayatollah Sistani’s call for them to mobilize to fight the Islamic State in Iraq.) Moreover, the Shout of the Nation (Sarkhat al-Watan) movement among the Alawi community has survived despite regime efforts to root it out after it was established in the wake of heavy regime casualties with the loss of Tabqa airbase in the summer of 2013. Meanwhile, the regime has attempted to mobilize Syrian Druze communities, but so far they appear more inclined to maintain neutrality despite the proximity of Islamic State elements.
Greater willingness to talk peace. The regime flatly refused to discuss political issues at the Geneva 2 conference in January-February 2014. By contrast, it sent a delegation to Moscow to discuss a political track in January and March 2015. The regime is more comfortable negotiating with tamer opposition elements in Moscow than with the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces in Geneva, but its willingness to accept any political talks is new. Moreover, its tone was more positive at the conclusion of a second round of talks in Moscow, where its delegation head saidthat the government and opposition representatives had reached “common ground on a number of important issues.” (Some opposition representatives later renounced their agreement to this “common ground” when the government refused to offer any confidence-building measures.) This is not to suggest that Assad is ready to quit, but rather that he is less able to stiff the Russians or even ruin hopes among some of his support base that the civil war nightmare can end.
In the peculiar circumstances of the Syrian regime, the above are all signs of weakness, and its leaders know it. We may be seeing signs of the beginning of their end.
(Source / 26.04.2015)