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40 Palestinian children diagnosed with illnesses in Ofer lock-up

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RAMALLAH, (PIC)– 40 Palestinian children locked up in the Israeli Ofer jail have been suffering from various diseases, a rights group reported Thursday. The Civil Liberties Defense Center said following a visit paid by lawyer Ibtissam Anati to the Ofer lock-up that 40 Palestinian children have been diagnosed with diseases, including critical health disorders. 276 children are held in the Ofer prison, 17 among whom aged between 14 and 15 years old. 17-year-old Mus’ab Ghneimat, held in the Ofer jail, was injured with three bullets in his right leg. Other detained minors have been diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes, along with stomach and pancreas disorders. The center raised alarm bells over the critical health condition of prisoner Azam Shalalda, who was kidnapped by an Israeli undercover unit from al-Khalil’s public hospital. Shalada was hit with 10 bullets in his leg, stomach, and neck. He underwent a surgery of artificial artery transplantation and got part of his stomach removed. The lawyer also sounded the alarm over the various illnesses endured by 20 Palestinian detainees in the Ramla prison clinic.

(Source / 12.02.2016)

Written by altahrir

February 12, 2016 at 8:24 pm

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By Peter Clifford            ©             (


Reports from Aleppo province say that the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) has taken control of more of the road between Aleppo and Turkey near Kafr Atun, just south of the Menagh military airbase.

And today, Wednesday,there are unconfirmed reports that the SDF has taken over the Menagh base itself, which was until now held by Opposition fighters since they seized it from the Assad regime. Whether this take over is by force or agreement is not yet clear.


Syrian Refugees at the Bab Al-Salman Border Gate to Turkey

If by agreement, the presence of the SDF will presumably stop the Russian Air Force bombing there and at the same time allow the Opposition fighters to concentrate on stalling the Assad regime advance near Aleppo.

Kurdish sources are are also reporting that 221 young Arab men from villages recently liberated from the Islamic State (IS) near the Tishreen Dam have in the last month enlisted in the SDF. 50 Turkmen who have completed training at Tal Abyad have additionally joined the YPG.

Electricity generated at the Tishreen Dam is now reaching Kobane for the first time in 4 years.

Thousands of displaced refugees from Aleppo are currently resident in camps, schools and other public buildings across Kurdish Afrin Canton, while an estimated 35,000 are camped near the Turkish Border at the Bab Al-Salman gate.

While Turkey continues to refuse to open the frontier, despite requests from both the UN and the EU, they have allowed ambulances across to bring back to Turkey the sick and the injured for treatment and supplied truck loads of food, blankets and other humanitarian supplies.

Medicin Sans Frontieres (MSF) says that all the camps for displaced persons along the Syrian/Turkish border are full to capacity and that in and around the Syrian border town of Azaz, families are sleeping on the ground in what is still winter weather.

To make matters worse, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that it has recorded 506 deaths from Russian bombing in and around Aleppo since February 1st, dozens of the victims civilians and 23 of them children.

Meanwhile Turkey’s President Erdogan is furious at both the recent visit of US President Obama’s anti-IS Coalition envoy Bret McGurk to Kobane city and a statement from a US State Department spokesman that the US does not regard the YPG as a terrorist organisation.

Late yesterday, Tuesday, the US Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry to explain the remarks.

Both Erdogan and his Prime Minister, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, have said that the US must decide who it is partnering in the fight against IS: Turkey or the YPG (which it sees as a mere offshot of the PKK with whom it is fighting in southern Turkey). You can read more, HERE:


Kurdish Commander Offers to Donate Kidney to Sick Girl

Over in Iraq, reports coming out of Mosul, the IS “capital” say that the Jihadists executed by firing squad on Sunday no less than 300 Iraqis, mostly civilian activists and former members of the Iraqi Army and security services. The men were shot at various locations across the city and buried in mass graves.

Yesterday, Tuesday, IS are also reported to executed Wathiq Abdulwahab, reporter of the local Hadbaa newspaper in Mosul, after he was accused of taking photographs of a detention centre.

The Iraqi Army however, is reporting complete control now over Ramadi after weeding out the remaining IS fighters from pockets across the city.

Also from Iraq comes the heart-warming story of a Kurdish counter-terrorism commander who has not only offered one of his kidney’s for the daughter of a Peshmerga fighter, but said he will pay for the operation itself.

15 other Peshmerga turned up at the hospital with similar offers after the story of the girl’s suffering from kidney failure went viral on social media. You can read more, HERE:


In addition to the earlier contingent of Opposition fighters allowed to cross through Kurdish Afrin Canton (scroll down – see below), activist sources are reporting sight of a 100 vehicle convoy carrying men, weapons and ammunition leaving the northern countryside of Idlib province on Tuesday and crossing towards Aleppo province.

Assad’s forces, supported by recently liberated gunmen from the Allawite villages of Nubl and Zahraa, have so far failed in their campaign to take nearby Dahrat Al-Qar’aa. 5 confirmed deaths of Assad’s fighters and militiamen were reported, though more casualties on both sides are likely.


Tafas Medical Centre Hit by Russian Bombing

From Daraa province in southern Syria, Medicin Sans Frontieres (MSF) is reporting yet another Russian airstrike on one of its medical facilities at the town of Tafas.

3 people were killed and 6 injured, including a doctor on his way into the hospital who was knocked unconscious and wounded by shrapnel.

In what appears to be a deliberate policy by the Russians, MSF say that 13 of its medical centres in Syria have been hit by bombs since January 1st 2016. You can read more in the Guardian.

As well as in Aleppo province, with the help of Russian bombing, the Assad regime appears to making advances in Daraa province in southern Syria. On Monday it was reported that the Syrian Army had agreed a local truce with the villagers of Ibtaa and Dael, 2 villages that lie on the A5 highway running south from Sheikh Miskeen to Daraa city.

Under the agreement, 22 detainees will be released, local men will be allowed to keep their weapons and the Army will stay beyond the periphery of the villages as long as they have free passage to and from Daraa.

The Opposition fighters in Daraa province were doing well until the Military Operations Centre (MOC) in Amman, Jordan, called in the commanders of the Free Syrian Army units operating in southern Syria and told them to stop directing their fire power towards Assad and his allies and to direct it against the Islamic State instead.

The commanders, whose supply of weapons and ammunition had virtually dried up in recent months from the MOC who had effectively been directing the southern campaign against Assad, were promised more and better equipment if they complied with this request. Reluctantly, most FSA groups seem to have done so.

In Damascus on Tuesday, a suicide car bomb exploded outside a police officer’s club in the regime Masaken Barzeh district and near a busy vegetable market. 20 people are reported killed including 5 police officers, and many more injured. IS has claimed responsibility.

At Madaya in Damascus province, the town formerly under chronic siege by the Assad regime, vehicles of the International Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent have come under fire as they evacuated people sick from malnutrition on Tuesday night. However, no casualties were reported and the affiliation of the gunmen is unknown.


Anisa Al-Assad Dies Aged 86

President Assad’s mother, Anissa Makhlouf Al-Assad, is reported to have died in Damascus on Saturday aged 86. She was also the wife of former Syrian dictator Hafez Al-Assad.

It maybe that the Opposition decided to give her a rousing send-off. Unconfirmed reports say that four missiles hit Qardaha, the Assad family home and site of the Assad family burial mausoleum in the Latakia mountains on Tuesday while the funeral was in progress.

Reliable sources say 3 of those present were killed and 13 injured, including family members.

Other than Assad supporters, few will mourn the mother and wife of several monsters.

On Monday, UN human rights investigators published a report on Syria and in particular on thetreatment of civilians in detention by the Assad regime, which it described as operating “a government policy of extermination — a crime against humanity”.

The report was based on the testimony of 500 survivors of detention. At least 200 had seen fellow detainees killed, usually at the hands of the security forces.

“Children as young as 7 years old were among those who died in Government custody. The parents of a 13-year-old boy arrested during a 2011 protest in Sayda next saw his body when it was returned to them dead and mutilated.

A survivor who was detained in Homs recalled watching an elderly man die after prison guards burned his eyes with a cigarette, stabbed him with burning metal, and hung him from his wrists. It took three hours to kill him. Others were starved to death or died from untreated pre-existing conditions”.

The report also mentioned ill-treatment by Opposition and Islamist groups, but overwhelmingly the Assad regime is by far and away the main violator of human rights in Syria. You can read more about this sickening regime, HERE:


Some of Assad’s Torture Victims

Written by altahrir

February 10, 2016 at 8:40 pm

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Forbidden love tales in Israel…

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By Jamal Kanj

Jamal Kanj

How can a two-year-old novel become a best seller? Censorship is the short answer. The most important question is, however, why would the “Jewish democracy” censor a love fiction between a Jew and non-Jew?

The banned book Borderlife was based on a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man. According to Haaretz newspaper, the novel was recommended in 2015 for Hebrew high school literature classes by “a professional committee of academics and educators, at the request of a number of teachers.”

The Israeli Ministry of Education rejected the fiction work for fear it would corrupt young Jewish minds. In explaining its decision, the ministry wrote “Intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threaten the separate identity.” The Israeli Education Ministry wrote that “young people of adolescent age don’t have the systemic view that includes considerations involving maintaining the national-ethnic identity of the (Jewish) people and the significance of miscegenation.”

In layman’s terms, the educational authorities in the only “democracy” in the Middle East wanted to protect the fledgling Jewish minds from the plague of assimilation and intermarriages between people of different races. Wasn’t this what Adolph Hitler had advocated for the Aryan race?

But in an Orwellian love is hate doublethink, Dalia Fenzig, the head of the Israeli ministry committee that decides the Hebrew Literature matriculation reading list, told Israeli Army Radio: “The (love fiction) book could incite hatred…”

Fenzig further implied that Israeli societal racism rendered the book unfit for Israeli students. “Many parents in the state school system would strongly object to having their children study the novel,” she said.

Shlamo Herzig, the ministry’s head of literature studies that recommended the book was more forthright in addressing Israeli structural racism: “The acute problem of Israeli society today is the terrible ignorance and racism that is spreading in it.”

In a newspaper interview with the Telegraph, Israeli book author Dorit Rabinyan talked about the real fundamental issue for banning her work.

“My book’s only ‘harm’, if you want to call it that, is that a young (Israeli) person may get another perspective on Palestinians to the one they’re being exposed to by politicians and the news … he’s a Palestinian and a full human. That is the power of the book and  the reason for it to be banned.”

It is worth noting that the book’s author is anything but an ardent Zionist. She espoused the racist Zionist ideology that gave her Jewish parents the right to emigrate from Iran to live on land stolen from native Palestinians. This is while, like most Zionists, she rejects the right of those Palestinians to return to their homes.

Not surprising, the whole fiasco was very likely engineered by the ex-American, Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett who previously said such things as “when Palestinians were climbing trees, we already had a Jewish state” and “I’ve killed lots of (Palestinian) Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that.”

Bennett sees his educational role, “in the only ethnocentric diplomacy” as the national custodian to ensure Jewish blood remains pure and Palestinian-free, even in fiction tales.

In the face of blatant Israeli ethnocentric racism against non-Jews, the  onus is on Jewish civil rights organisations, especially those advocating equality in the US and Europe to speak up against Jewish racism in Israel.

Jewish organisations cannot demand justice and equality when in the minority, while supporting a government perpetuating inequality under a self-proclaimed Jewish state majority.

* Mr Kanj ( writes regular newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.

Written by altahrir

February 10, 2016 at 11:32 am

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The blockade on Gaza, now in its ninth year, and recurrent cycles of armed violence and conflict do not only affect the people of Gaza in physical and socio-economic terms, but also expose the population to high levels of psycho-social stress.

“Approximately one third of the over 1.2 million Palestine refugees who are receiving primary health care services through the 21 UNRWA Health Centres across Gaza show symptoms of mental and social disorders,” UNRWA Chief of Health Programme Dr. Ghada Al Jadba said in summarizing the situation.

As part of its continuous efforts to mitigate these dire aspects of life in Gaza and to improve its services, on 31 January the Agency launched a pilot project in Saftawi Health Centre, in North Gaza, to fully integratemental health care and psycho-social support within its primary health care services.

“The integration of mental health services within its primary health care is a turning point for the Agency, meaning that UNRWA is seeking to provide more comprehensive services to Palestine refugees, especially children and their families, who are approaching our Health Centres,” commented Mr. Bo Schack, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, during his opening speech at the launch event at Saftawi Health Centre, which was attended by community representatives and representatives from the World Health Organization(WHO) together with various senior UNRWA staff members and the Health Centre personnel.

The pilot project is based on the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme which aims at providing persons who experience mental health, psycho-social or neurological disorders with appropriate and accessible immediate care. The pilot project recognizes that people’s well-being is related to their physical and mental health and thus a holistic care approach, consistent with the UNWRA Family Health Team model, is required.

Prior to the launch of the pilot project, the UNRWA Health Programme, in cooperation with the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme, in December 2015 initiated training for all Saftawi Health Centre personnel to provide them with specific skills to identify and address psycho-social stress symptoms of patients during their regular work in providing health care for Palestine refugees.

Learnings from the pilot will inform the further rollout as UNRWA plans to implement the integration of mental health services and psycho-social support within its primary health care in all 21 Health Centres across Gaza.


UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall,  projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 81 million. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

(Source / 03.02.2016)

Written by altahrir

February 3, 2016 at 11:35 pm

Posted in Zorg / Health

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West Bank: Weer 60 kinderen dakloos

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By Engelbert Luitsz

hebron huizen vernield

Iets ten zuiden van Hebron, op de Westelijke Jordaanoever, heeft Israël enkele tientallen woningen vernield in de dorpjes Jinba en Halawa. Er stonden 40 “constructies” op het programma, maar door tussenkomst van de katholieke mensenrechtenorganisatie Society of St. Yves, bleef het vooralsnog beperkt tot 23 vernielingen. Dat betekent wel dat er middenin de winter weer 78 Palestijnen dakloos zijn, waaronder 60 kinderen.

Zoals gebruikelijk werd het leger ingezet om ervoor te zorgen dat alles gladjes zou verlopen. Bovendien werd de omgeving afgezet en werden er voertuigen en zonnepanelen in beslag genomen. Er is de afgelopen jaren erg veel geschreven over de manier waarop de Palestijnen van de Westelijke Jordaanoever verdreven worden. Naast grootschalige fraude en het vervalsen van eigendomsbewijzen, kunnen gebieden worden aangemerkt als park of militair oefenterrein. Dat zijn de methoden die worden gehanteerd wanneer de mensen niet uit zichzelf vertrekken, nadat hun leven jarenlang zo ondraaglijk mogelijk wordt gemaakt.

De Israëlische journaliste Amira Hass schreef er vandaag over in de krant Haaretz.

Dit zijn twee van de 12 dorpen in het gebied die al 17 jaar een juridische strijd voeren om hun evacuatie en vernietiging te voorkomen, bedoeld om het gebied tot een militaire oefenzone te maken. De EU heeft de acties van de dorpelingen op de voet gevolgd en heeft herhaaldelijk aangegeven dat het een evacuatie ziet als het gedwongen verwijderen van een beschermde bevolkingsgroep, in strijd met het internationaal recht.

De dorpen zelf dateren uit de 19e eeuw, maar de huizen die gesloopt werden waren vrij nieuw en gebouwd van baksteen met zinken daken. De natuurlijke aanwas maakte het onmogelijk daar te blijven zonder nieuwe onderkomens te bouwen. Maar aangezien Israël het gebied rondom de dorpen al in de jaren 70 had aangemerkt als een militaire zone waren er geen constructieplannen en dus is alles wat de Palestijnen bouwen “illegaal”. Israël heeft een lange adem, maar de gedachte achter de plannen van 30 jaar geleden wordt steeds duidelijker. Hass schrijft:

Op 16 november 1999 heeft het leger 700 inwoners onder dwang verwijderd. Huizen en waterbronnen werden vernietigd en hun eigendommen werden afgenomen. De inwoners kwamen zonder huizen te zitten en zonder mogelijkheid in hun levensonderhoud te voorzien.

Grootschalige fraude

Het spiegelbeeld van de manier waarop Palestijnen onteigend en verdrongen worden, vinden we bij de joodse nederzettingen. Daar wordt juist volop gebouwd en in vele gevallen volstrekt illegaal.Een paar jaar geleden bleek weer eens dat het zionisme allesbehalve een lokale aangelegenheid in Palestina is. De Nederzettingen Divisie van de Zionistische Wereldorganisatie (WZO) kwam onder vuur te liggen toen bleek dat er al jarenlang documenten waren vervalst om zo’n 250 constructies in de joodse nederzetting Beit El te bouwen. Chaim Levinson berichtte in 2013 over dat geval in de krant Haaretz. Drie zaken vielen op (zeker als je het vergelijkt met de manier waarop men omgaat met Palestijnse eigendommen):

  • Zelfs toen de WZO niet meer kon ontkennen dat het hier ging om vervalsingen en het bouwen op gestolen grond, ging men niet naar de politie, maar nam men contact op met de orthodoxe gemeenschap van Beit El;
  • De leiding van de orthodoxe gemeenschap stapte naar de rechter om te verbieden dat Palestijnen zich met klachten tot de officiële instanties zouden wenden. Het was onaanvaardbaar dat dit naar buiten zou komen en dat daarmee “de goede naam van de jesjiva [joodse gemeenschap] zou worden aangetast”.
  • Deze gevallen van fraude vinden ook plaats in andere nederzettingen, alleen – voor zover bekend – op minder grote schaal dan in Beit El.

Maar meneer Levinson ging verder. Afgelopen maandag luidde de kop Bijna alle landovereenkomsten van illegale nederzettingen zijn vervalst, blijkt uit onderzoek. Hier gaat het om de “aanschaf” van onroerend goed in de zogenoemdeoutposts, niet officieel erkende nederzettingen. Levinson:

Een onderzoek door een fraude-onderzoeksteam heeft aan het licht gebracht dat 14 van de 15 zogenaamde aankopen van onroerend goed door Al-Watan – een bedrijf dat geleid wordt door de pro-nederzettingenactivist Ze’ev Hever en in handen is van het extreem rechtse Amana – frauduleus waren. (…)

Wanneer de regering in de afgelopen jaren probeerde illegale nederzettingen [outposts] in de regio Binyamin te ontruimen, verklaarden woordvoerders van Al-Watan dat zij het land van de Palestijnse eigenaren hadden gekocht. De documenten bleken vaak vervalst te zijn.

Het is gewoon regeringsbeleid

Adam Aloni, onderzoeker bij de mensenrechtenorganisatie B’Tselem, laat in een overzichtsartikel zien hoezeer de regering zelf betrokken is bij de verdergaande expansie op de Westelijke Jordaanoever.

Een analyse van het ministerie van Defensie laat zien dat in verreweg de meeste gevallen (ongeveer 75%) van nederzettingenbouw op de Westelijke Jordaanoever, de bouwprojecten – soms grootschalige – werden uitgevoerd zonder de noodzakelijke vergunningen of in strijd met de vergunningen die waren verleend.

Het effect van deze expansie op de Palestijnse bevolking moet niet onderschat worden. Niet alleen zorgt de infrastructuur tussen de joodse nederzettingen voor een grote beperking van de bewegingsvrijheid van Palestijnen, de nederzettingen staan ook op strategische locaties, zodat een aaneengesloten Palestijns gebied onmogelijk is geworden, en ze staan ook nog eens op de vruchtbaarste stukken grond, waarmee ze de waterhuishouding van het gebied onder controle hebben. De beschrijving van Aloni laat maar weer eens zien waarom de wanhoop onder de Palestijnen daar overal aanwezig is:

Israël heeft de Palestijnse bewoners van de Westelijke Jordaanoever in een planmatige wurggreep, terwijl er tegelijkertijd plannen worden goedgekeurd voor nederzettingen die al een oppervlakte van 28.217,4 hectare beslaan, gelijk aan 8,5% van Gebied C. Bovendien heeft Israël grote gebieden toegewezen aan de gemeentelijke autoriteiten van de nederzettingen, waardoor Palestijns gebruik van het land onmogelijk wordt gemaakt en Israël een reserve creëert voor toekomstige uitbreiding van de nederzettingen.


Een lange, voorspelbare weg

Meer dan 150 jaar geleden financierde de joodse bankier Moses Montefiore een windmolen net buiten Jeruzalem, enkele jaren later gevolgd door de joodse wijk Mishkenot Sha’ananim (“vreedzame woonplaats“). Het “proto-zionisme” van Montefiore werd niet veel later opgevolgd door het politiek zionisme met een veel grotere ambitie:het stichten van een joodse staat in heel Palestina ten koste van de oorspronkelijke bevolking.

Al bij het Tweede Zionistische Congres in 1898 werd de Jewish Colonial Trust opgericht, de voorloper van de Bank Leumi, tegenwoordig Israëls grootste bank. In 1901 werd hetJoods Nationaal Fonds opgericht met als doel geld in te zamelen om land aan te  kopen en een jaar later kwam de bank met de bedrieglijke naam Anglo Palestine Companynaar Palestina. In 1920 werd daar dan nog een “vakbond” aan toegevoegd, deHistadrut. De Histadrut was lang de machtigste organisatie in het latere Israël. Deze organisatie hield zich bezig met het – vaak hardhandig – promoten van “joodse arbeid” en “joodse productie” ten koste van de Palestijnse.

Zoals we eerder zagen speelt ook de Zionistische Wereldorganisatie een belangrijke rol. Deze combinatie van financiële pressiemiddelen, het boycotten en bedreigen van Palestijnse bedrijven en het onder druk zetten van joden om geen Palestijnen in dienst te nemen, heeft in de loop der tijd geleid tot de situatie die we nu zien. Naast de talloze legalistische instrumenten die werden ingezet om het land over te nemen, waren er natuurlijk de veroveringen van grote delen van Palestina in 1948 en 1967. En alsof dat allemaal niet genoeg was, nam men ook nog eens z’n toevlucht tot het vervalsen van documenten om op kleinere schaal de plannen door te voeren.

De 60 Palestijnse kinderen die nu in de koudste maand van het jaar op straat worden gegooid zullen niet de laatste slachtoffers van de zionistische expansie zijn. Zelfs de schaamteloze retoriek van premier Netanyahu kan de wrede werkelijkheid van de bezetting niet langer verbloemen, zoals gelukkig enkele regeringsleiders beginnen in te zien.

(Source / 03.02.2016)

Written by altahrir

February 3, 2016 at 9:16 pm

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By Peter Clifford          ©         (


On Saturday morning, Islamic State (IS) units attempted to send in a suicide vehicle bomb against YPG fighters protecting the Tishreen Dam in the south-west of Kobane Canton.


View of the Tishreen Dam

Spotting the vehicle, a YPG team was dispatched to intercept it, destroying the vehicle and killing 3 x IS fighters and wounding a fourth.

Also on Saturday, IS once again attacked in the Ain Iss area in the southern part of the Canton near the village of Abdul-Razaq. The YPG led a search operation and found a small weapons cache of rifles, machine guns and mines as well killing 3 x IS Jihadists and capturing 2 more.

The YPG General Command has also issued a statement warning the Turkish Armed Forces to stay out of Rojava after they crossed the border on Thursday and Friday last week near the village of Sermisax, 13 kilometers to the west of the city Derik.

The Turks fired at local Kurds who gathered near the border to protest the incursion, but fortunately there were no casualties.

The Coalition is reported to have bombed the IS-held town of Shaddadi on Sunday, north of Raqqah, hitting several IS checkpoints and a weapons storage centre. 14 x IS Jihadists guarding the checkpoints were reported killed according to local sources.

US Central Command (Centcom) reports 5 airstrikes in Syria on Saturday, 2 near Hasakah hitting IS tactical units, destroying an IS structure and 2 x IS fighting positions and other strikes near Raqqah, Ayn Issa and Mar’a, destroying a crane and hitting 2 tactical units. The same day, 18 strikes were made in Iraq.

In Aleppo city, both the Al Nusra Front (ANF) and the Islamist Opposition group Ahrar Al-Sham (AAS) attacked the Kurdish district of Sheikh Maqsoud on Saturday with mortars. In an immediate response, the YPG attacked a position on the Jandol Road, from where the attack originated, and destroyed 3 vehicles and a communications centre.

6 fighters from ANF and AAS were killed in the operation and another 8 wounded and taken prisoner.

Also in Aleppo, in retaliation for a barrel-bomb attack by the Assad regime on Sheikh Maqsoud (scroll down – see Rojava Update 179 below), the YPG attacked an Assad security checkpoint with mortars. 4 pro-Assad fighters were killed and 7 injured.


Obama’s US Envoy on IS Meets Kobane Administration

Meanwhile, while the Kurds appear to have, for moment at least, been excluded from the Syria “Peace Talks” in Geneva, a high-level delegation from the US-led International Coalition made a 2 day visit to northern Syria at the weekend.

The delegation, which included British and French representatives plus most interestingly, President Obama’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Brett McGurk, met with Kobane Canton Adminstration officials in Kobane City on Saturday and then with senior officers of the Syrian Democratic Force to discuss the campaign against the Islamic State.

McGurk’s visit, the first by a top US diplomat to Rojava, appears to be a deliberate attempt to assuage Kurdish anger over their exclusion from the talks in Geneva.

Despite not having a formal invitation, a Kurdish team, led by PYD co-chairman Saleh Muslim, travelled to Switzerland last week and based themselves in Lausanne, ready to step forward to Geneva if called.

According to US sources, the Kurds were discreetly asked to leave Switzerland on Saturday after Turkey said it would not participate in the talks if the Kurds remained. US Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken apparently called Saleh Muslim to discuss “Washington’s view on the Kurdish issue and the peace talks” and assurances have been made that the Kurds will be involved “at a later date”.

Returning to Syria, Saleh Muslim said the Kurds would not recognise an agreements made under Geneva 3 unless their had been Kurdish participation in making those agreements. You can read more, HERE:

Over in Iraq, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concern about the preservation of the sites of mass graves on and around Mount Sinjar, where 25 locations have been identified, 19 of them confirmed.

Already, many of the graves have been disturbed before experts can evaluate them and catalogue the remains of victims executed by the Islamic State as they rampaged across northern Iraq. You can read more at HRW.

40 kilometres east of Mosul, IS launched a mortar attack on a Peshmerga security centre in the Khazir district on Sunday evening, killing 8 Kurdish fighters and wounding another 6.

In Mosul city itself, IS are reported to executed on Sunday 4 Kurdish civilians from the Shabak clan for “spying for the Peshmerga” and on Friday another 20 of its own Jihadists for “abandoning their posts in western Mosul without permission”. The Jihadists were beheaded, according to local reports.


As well as rejecting the Kurds, the “Peace Talks” got off to a shaky start on Friday, with only the Syrian Government delegation, led by Syria’s UN envoy, Bashar Jaafari, having arrived.

Jaafari started off well in typical “conciliatory” style by branding all Opposition representatives as “terrorists”, and the Opposition team, known as the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) did not even make a decision to attend at all until late Friday night.

Arriving in Geneva over the weekend, the HNC insisted that they would not negotiate with Assad’s representatives until women and children were released from government jails, air strikes on civilians ended and aid was allowed into besieged towns.

Meeting with the UN mediator Staffan de Mistura on Sunday, the Opposition were given some hope that the Assad regime will go some way to meeting those demands. Talks are expected to last for 6 months but not “face-to-face”.

Initially, “proximity talks” will take place with delegations in separate rooms and UN mediators moving between the parties to try and negotiate some steps forward. The BBC has a rather grim assessment of the likelihood of a “positive” outcome.


Aftermath of Triple Explosion Near Sayyida Zeinab Shrine, Damascus

In a statement of some kind the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a huge bomb attack in southern Damascus early on Sunday morning near the Sayyida Zeinab shrine.

Sayyida Zeinab was the grand-daughter of Prophet Mohammed and the shrine is of major importance to Shia Islam with regular visitors from all over the Moslem world.

Hezbollah has gone out of its way to protect the shrine and even now in the height of the war, many pilgrims travel there from Iran.

Altogether, there were 3 explosions near the shrine, one from a car bomb and 2 from suicide belts. The car bomb was exploded at the bus station in the Koua Soudan area and after people came to help the injured, two suicide bombers blew themselves up nearby.

Many death toll figures have been widely quoted, though the latest from Syria’s Ministry of Interior is 50 dead and 110 injured.

According to sources inside Syria, President Assad has replaced the commander in charge of the Republican Guard, the country’s elite unit charged with protecting the leadership.

Out goes Badiaa Ali and in comes one of Assad’s cousins from his mother’s side, Brigadier General Talal Mahklouf. Human Rights Watch (HRW) identified Mahklouf as one of the officers responsible for the brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations in Syria in 2011. The officer commanding the surrounded garrison in Deir Ez Zour has also got the sack.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has documented the deaths of 4,680 people in Syria in January 2016 – 1,345 of them civilians, including 295 children and 190 women. The other 3,335 deaths were roughly split between the pro and anti-Assad combatants on the two sides, including IS.

Interestingly, Free Syrian Army (FSA) founder, Colonel Riad Al-Asaad, has said in an interview that the FSA is holding prisoner a “large number” of Iranian, Hezbollah and pro-Assad Shia militia fighters, including officers and an Iranian Captain. Asaad assured the interviewer that these prisoners were being looked after well.

Meanwhile, fighting goes across Syria. In Latakia the Opposition, having lost territory, have moved to a more “hit and run” campaign, destroying a Syrian Army ammunition truck with a TOW missile, HERE:

In their usual “compassionate” manner, Assad’s or Russian planes bombed a tented refugee camp in northern Latakia on Saturday in an attempt to drive the pro-Opposition residents out of the province and into Turkey.

In Hama province, Opposition fighters have gained ground, taking over all of Al-Buwaydah and destroying 2 of Assad’s tanks and a BMP armoured vehicle.

In Idlib province an exchange of prisoners between the regime and Islamist Opposition groups at the 2 Alawite villages of Kafraya and Al-Fuah has taken place, the second stage of an agreement reached in January, along with humanitarian access to Madaya near Damascus. The regime released 27 prisoners, the Islamists 18.


Syrian Red Crescent Aid Convoy Approaches Madaya on January 14th, 2016

However, Medicin Sans Frontieres (MSF) is reporting that another 16 people have died from malnutrition in Madaya since humanitarian aid agencies gained access in January after a worldwide outcry, bring the total that have starved to death there to 46.

According to their estimates there are 320 outstanding cases of malnutrition and 33 so severe that they require urgent medical treatment. The Syrian Red Crescent said that they were allowed access on Saturday but only to make assessments, not to deliver aid.

This moving report from Marianne Gasser of the International Red Cross on her visit to Madaya says it all:

“A cold rain was falling as the men carried the small bundle towards me. They were insisting I should take it. A crowd had gathered. The only light came from the phones we carried; there had not been electricity for months.

The men stopped and slowly, carefully unwrapped the blanket. At first, I could not make out what was inside. Then it suddenly dawned on me that it was an old man”.

You can read more (recommended reading) via the BBC.

In Deir Ez Zour heavy fighting is reported today, Monday, in the northern outskirts of the city, around Assad Base Brigade 137 and to the south-west, despite an estimated 200 airstrikes by Russian jets. Heavy casualties reported on both sides.

Also today, the Assad regime launched a new attempt to gain ground north of Aleppo city around Duwayra Al-Zeytoun and Bashkuy but latest reports suggest it is not going to plan, with Opposition fighters destroying Assad’s tanks, an armoured vehicle and a technical (pick-up with mounted heavy machine gun) and retaking villages they had lost earlier to both the regime and the Islamic State.

Written by altahrir

February 1, 2016 at 9:41 pm

Posted in Peter Clifford

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Rights of Palestinian Israeli citizens…

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By Jamal Kanj    Jamal Kanj

January 31, 2016

Palestinian civic organisations inside Israel have declared January 30 the Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Israeli citizens.

Israel was established in 1948 on the ruins of more than 500 native towns and villages and the forceful displacement of approximately 780,000 Palestinians. Only 153,000 Palestinians remained under what became Israel. Of which, approximately 25 per cent became refugees in their own country when their homes were destroyed and their land was expropriated by the new state.

Palestinians who continued to live in what became Israel were governed until 1966 by martial laws under appointed Jewish military governor. Unlike Jews, Palestinians couldn’t travel inside Israel without special military permit, lived under the threat of curfew, administrative detention and expulsions. Israel expropriated their land allegedly for military use before they were turned over for the exclusive civilian use of Jewish citizens.

No wonder in 1948, Palestinians owned 80pc of the land. Following the establishment of Israel, their land had shrunk to less than 3.5pc. The same laws were used extensively in the West Bank to confiscate Palestinian land, which were later handed to Israeli settlers to build “Jewish only” colonies.

Israel has two systems: One for its Jewish citizens and another for Palestinian non-Jewish citizens.  In education, a 2001 report by Human Rights Watch described Israeli run Palestinian schools “a world apart from government-run Jewish schools.” A Committee on Arab Education inside Israel found in 2005 that Israel spent an average of $192 a year on Palestinian students compared with $1,100 for Jewish students.

These discriminatory policies translated to great economic disparity between Jews and non-Jews. As a result, they are under-represented in civil service, high technology and financial sectors while over-represented in meagrely paid low-skilled trades. For example, out of 150,000 employees in the high-tech sector, only 460 are Palestinians.

Palestinian Israeli citizens represent 20pc of the population. They, however, account for more than 50pc of the impoverished families in Israel. In fact, out of the 40 Israel communities with the highest unemployment rates, 36 are Palestinian towns.

Discrimination in health care at an early age is equally striking. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in December 2014,  infant mortality rate among Palestinians is more than double the rate of Jewish babies -2.5 for Jewish babies and 6.3 for Palestinians.

On the housing front, discrimination is more blatant. Since 1948, Israel has established more than 1,000 new Jewish cities and towns on the land expropriated from it original Palestinian owners. On the other hand, Israel did not build one single new (non-Jewish) Palestinian community despite the fact that their population grew 10-fold.

Israel building policies choke Palestinian communities by restricting construction permits and demolishing homes of Palestinians as in the case of December 15, 2015 in the town of Tamra. Currently, there are active official orders to demolish 50,000 homes purportedly built without government permits.

Another salient case of Israeli discrimination against non-Jewish Israeli citizens is the Prawer-Begin plan to depopulate 35 unrecognised Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Negev desert. In one instance, Israel demolished and Palestinians rebuilt the village of Al Araqeeb 93 times in the last five years.

The Prawer-Begin plan is part of a larger racist strategy aimed to increase the sparse Jewish population in the Negev desert by building 22 new Jewish communities. This is while eradicating Palestinian villages that predated the establishment of the state Israel.

In the face of the unmitigated wave of additional formalised discrimination by the current ultra-right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinians inside Israel are bringing their grievance to the attention of the international community. Israel can’t continue to use the Jewish victims of the Holocaust to justify its racist and malevolent policies against non-Jewish citizens of Israel.
* Mr Kanj ( writes regular newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.

Written by altahrir

January 31, 2016 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Jamal Kanj

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