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Solar Panels Could Save Patients In Gaza’s Hospitals, Thanks To A New Fundraising Campaign

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TAREK LOUBANI

WASHINGTON — The electricity is there one second and cut off the next. Each time it goes, it can take a struggling patient’s life with it.

That’s a lesson Tarek Loubani, a Canadian emergency room doctor, has learned over four years of volunteering to treat residents of Gaza.

Israel has imposed restrictions on the Palestinian enclave, home to 1.8 million people, since the area was fully taken over by the elected militant group Hamas in June 2007. Israel sees the blockade as necessary to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons it can turn on Israeli civilians and soldiers. Gaza has been turned into a war zone multiple times since that blockade began, most recently last summer as Israel launched a military incursion against Hamas that killed thousands and damaged everything from United Nations schools to critical infrastructure.

As a result, the economy is in shamblesand key services like electricity and water — politically charged because they are largely provided by Israeli utility companies — operate at unimaginably low levels when compared with countries like Canada, Loubani’s home, or even just across the border in Israel.

Because the power supply in Gaza is so fickle, often running for only a third of day, Loubani said working in Gaza means providing medical treatment in ways that would shock his colleagues back in Ontario.

“Imagine that I have to do a chest tube to get blood or air out, if someone’s fallen or gotten hit by a bullet or bomb … instead of taking time and doing the procedure safely as in Canada, I just pop the trocar in,” Loubani told The Huffington Post, referring to a medical device used to drain bodily fluids. “It’s not normally used in this procedure, and if you tell any doctor I know, ‘Oh, I put in chest tubes by slamming in a trocar,’ they’ll say it’s craziness.”

Loubani said he sees the electricity situation as “catastrophic.” And he’s had enough. Though he’s a doctor by training, the young Canadian is now taking on the role of a fundraiser and visionary. Here’s what he and a team of other medical practitioners have cooked up: a plan to keep Gaza’s hospitals running for the community’s most desperate patients using a resource no blockade can cut off — the sun.

Loubani, along with fellow doctors Ben Thomson and Dalal Dahrouj of the University of Western Ontario and filmmaker Amy Miller, started a campaign called EmpowerGAZA late last month. Its goal is to raise $200,000 over the summer through online crowdfunding and July gala dinners in the Canadian cities of Toronto and London. The campaign is associated with a registered charity in Canada, Islamic Relief Canada, and will likely be implemented by the United Nations Development Program once funding is secured. It aims to provide around-the-clock electricity to the emergency rooms, operating rooms and intensive care units of four Gaza public hospitals.

The first $200,000 — the goal of EmpowerGAZA’s Indiegogo campaign — is meant to cover the cost of installing solar panels on one of those hospitals. Two others will require $200,000 each, while the fourth hospital, one of Gaza’s largest, will need $600,000.

After 22 days, the campaign had raised about $68,000 from around 370 people, according to EmpowerGAZA’s Indiegogo page.

Loubani and Dahrouj, two of the doctors behind EmpowerGAZA, told HuffPost they began thinking about the project in September of last year, weeks after Israel endedan offensive into Gaza that claimed more than 2,100 Palestinian lives and saw 73 Israelis killed by militants. The International Criminal Court is investigating potential war crimes that occurred during the conflict.

Dahrouj said she became interested in the project after hearing from Loubani about the results of a needs assessment he had conducted in Gaza.

“A lot of people want to help, and there’s a lot of things people can help with,” she told HuffPost. For her, she said, the question was, “What is it the Palestinians find that they require at this point? Based on that needs assessment and discussions with multiple key players, the biggest problem is the inconsistency of providing medical care.”

gaza hospital

A Palestinian man reacts as he stands next to the bodies of the three children from the al-Rifi family killed in an Israeli military strike, at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital on Aug. 21, 2014. Israeli airstrikes killed at least six Palestinians, four of them children, that day in the Gaza Strip, the spokesman for emergency services said. Shifa Hospital is one Gaza facility that has already installed solar panels to power its intensive care unit

“I cannot imagine operating under those conditions,” she added. “Something I do believe in and advocate for is that everyone be allowed the basics of medical care. Everyone will get a winning situation out of it.”

The solar power approach seemed like the solution for a number of reasons, Dahrouj and Loubani said. Gaza’s sunny climate was a big factor. But even more important was the fact that others had already taken advantage of the climate and harnessed solar energy.

Two Gazan hospitals already use solar panels to run their intensive care facilities without electricity interruptions, Loubani told HuffPost. Among them is the Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s main medical referral facility, which Loubani said installed its solar capabilities with Japanese assistance and has had a steady stream of power to the intensive care unit since.

He added that the private use of solar power is catching on as well. “Right now, any home that can afford it is installing solar power,” Loubani said. “One of our side goals is that if we bring in the knowledge and infrastructure, the ancillary effect will be that more people can install it in their homes.”

The Canadian doctor said he hopes for that in the future because many Gazans currently rely on electricity produced by diesel generators that are “incredibly loud and incredibly dirty.”

Solar power is “a little expensive but it works,” said Muhammad Sbaita, a Gazan interpreter who spoke with HuffPost. He added that he was saving up to buy a solar panel that could give him eight hours of electricity a day — doubling his supply and helping him with his business.

If it’s fully funded, the EmpowerGAZA project hopes to expand at least one hospital’s capacity within six months. “We want to do the [four] hospitals one by one, build on our success and build on lessons learned,” Loubani said. He added that he hopes to be able to bring in supplies that might otherwise be impossible to obtain in Gaza because of the Israeli blockade. A UNDP spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost that the organization is in talks with EmpowerGAZA to help find solar panel suppliers for the project.

tarek loubani

Tarek Loubani, one of the Canadian doctors behind EmpowerGAZA, stands in front of solar panels on the roof of Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest medical facility

Loubani said the EmpowerGAZA team wanted to avoid making an overtly aggressive political statement — or working with organizations other than the official Palestinian Ministry of Health — despite the difficulties the blockade and Israel’s behavior in Gaza have created for the medical situation there.

“There’s a lot of ways in which we could have done this, like a campaign that would have played on people’s political prejudices,” he told HuffPost. “I suspect that if we ran a negative anti-Israel campaign, we might make more money. We’re not interested in that. We don’t care about Israel. This project makes sense during occupation and after occupation, this project makes sense ecologically as well as politically. What we want to be part of is building Palestinian civil society.”

That civilian aspect of the crowdfunded campaign is especially important to EmpowerGAZA, Loubani added, because of the way institutions have failed to adequately respond to the humanitarian crises in Gaza.

“This is work that should be done by governments and major international funders,” he said. “They’re failing in their duties and that’s where we as citizens have to step up. We all know that our governments are failing the people of Gaza in terms of their health care — which ultimately fails the people of Gaza in terms of the prospects for peace.”

(Source / 26.05.2015)

Written by altahrir

May 26, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Zorg / Health

Tagged with ,

Meet The Tiny Country Pushing For Huge Change In Palestine

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By Ramona Wadi

Malta’s foreign minister tells MintPress: “If Israel continues to expand, there is going to be no land left for a two-state solution. There are volumes of condemnation but no concrete action against Israel.”

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VALLETTA, Malta — In the course of a joint endeavor between the Maltese Foreign Ministry and the University of Malta, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki gave a public lecture at the Old University in Valletta, Malta, on May 8, in which he discussed the two-state paradigm and Palestine’s recent accession to the International Criminal Court.

The theme, “Developments in the Middle East Peace Process in relation to the region,” introduced by al-Maliki is defined by “waiting.” Ever since he entered into politics, al-Maliki said, waiting has constituted a major part of the peace process. Palestinians have been “asked to wait, and to keep waiting, hoping that the future will be better than it is today.”

Al-Maliki described this tactic — which has been enforced most notably by Israel and the United States, and which has clearly contributed to the fragmentation and colonization of Palestine — as an “interesting approach” imposed by the international community upon the weakest element of the equation, Palestinians. Meanwhile, al-Maliki affirmed that the “interesting approach,” with reference to the waiting game, manifests itself in visible changes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that prevent “an emerging, viable independent State of Palestine.”

Giving an overview of the peace negotiations that commenced in July 2013 and continued until April 2014, during which the Palestinian Authority engaged in discussions with Israel and the U.S., al-Maliki described how the initial nine-month time frame was used as a premise to further extend the talks. “The U.S. asked us to wait until they can visualise and derive a conclusion,” he asserted.

It was then, according to al-Maliki, that the PA sought recognition from the U.N. Security Council through repeated submissions of draft resolutions to end the Israeli occupation. During that same period, al-Maliki says the U.S. instructed Palestinians to “wait until Israeli elections, and then we were asked to wait until the formation of the Israeli government. We were told not to think about submitting another draft resolution before June 30 to allow time for the Iran and the P5+1 nuclear agreement.”

Al-Maliki continued: “No one asked Israel to wait while they changed realities on the ground through settlement expansion. So the Palestinian Authority decided it wouldn’t wait any more, or listen to waiting discourse.”

The ICC: A double-edged sword

Speaking about the draft resolutions submitted by the PA to the Security Council, al-Maliki explained that the U.S. pressured other Security Council members to withdraw their support for the draft resolution.=

“Nigeria, a non-permanent member of the UNSC, could not resist the pressure,” he said. “With Boko Haram overtaking the army and continuing to take hostages, Nigeria is dependent upon military security advisers from the U.S. and Israel.”

He continued, explained that Nigeria was threatened by both the U.S. and Israel, which asserted that the PA’s draft resolution would result in the withdrawal of security advisers, leaving Nigeria to deal with Boko Haram alone.

Any future draft resolution to be submitted to the Security Council — the latest being an endeavor embarked upon by France — should be based upon three elements, which al-Maliki identified as: “defined parameters, mechanisms to implement the defined parameters and a date by which to end the Israeli occupation.”

Meanwhile, he described the new Israeli coalition government as “a government of the right wing focused upon the settlement enterprise” and characterized by three particular elements: instability due to the coalition winning 61 seats out of 120, united in an anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian approach, and unwilling to provide Palestinians with an opportunity to negotiate within the parameters of the two-state hypothesis.

Discussion of Palestine’s accession to the ICC on April 1 was characterized by al-Maliki as Palestine “utilizing available legal means” which led Palestinians to sign 35 international treaties with the intention of bringing Palestine closer to international law and provide protection through membership in the signed treaties. Further, he described Palestine as “the only country in the world signing treaties without reservations.” Affirming the need for other countries’ support, al-Maliki stated that the University of Malta will be helping the PA in preparing statements and drafting reports related to conventions signed.

Yet he also described Palestine’s accession to the ICC as a double-edged sword, saying: “If justice is not delivered through the UNSC which has failed Palestine, then we have the right to pursue justice through the ICC.” Expressing “pride” about the decision taken, he noted that the preliminary investigations will focus on Gaza and settlement expansion — the latter of which allows “penetration of the enemy through the military, political and security aspects.”

Al-Maliki’s talk reflected the elimination of anti-colonial struggle which is synonymous with the PA. The focus on “occupation” as opposed to colonization was also reflected in al-Maliki’s concluding remarks on the ICC: “We know we will not get full justice — we know we will get partial justice.”

“The future is bleak”

During al-Maliki’s visit to the island, Malta and Palestine signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation between small and mid-sized businesses. The agreement, signed by al-Maliki and Maltese Foreign Minister Dr. George Vella, took place even as Malta announced the details for two scholarships for Palestinian post-graduate students at the University of Malta. For 20 years, Malta has offered educational opportunities for Palestinians studying diplomacy through the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies (MEDAC).

The scholarships in “Conservation and Management of Built Heritage” and a master’s degree program in Humanitarian Action are framed within the context of the two-state paradigm. As the call for application states: “The main objective of the international community’s engagement in Palestine is the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the state of Israel.”

In comments to MintPress News on whether the subject areas can provide a challenge to anti-colonial struggle, Vella stated that the call for scholarships in both subject areas was demanded by the Palestinians themselves. “The course in Conservation and Management of Built Heritage was specifically requested by Palestinians themselves,” he said. “They asked for two more scholarships to strengthen that area. I cannot tell what the assessment as regards outcome will be on their end.”

Vella explained:

“When we are speaking about heritage, it is important to also include Palestinian villages and culture, rather than restrict the interpretation to conventional historical heritage. Israel is destroying Palestinian villages, embarking upon a process of oblivion through settlement expansion. But it is the up to the Palestinians themselves to determine how to utilize the course in their circumstances.”

He also discussed Malta’s support for the “two-state solution” as stipulated by the international community, which diverges from the anti-colonial struggle. “Malta is one of the countries at the helm of offering support for Palestine. In fact, during our meetings with al-Maliki we discussed ways of strengthening the European Union’s support for Palestine,” he said, adding:

“However, it is not possible to negate the fact that Israel has tremendous power through relations with the U.S. and other European countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic. We have conducted visits — I have visited Gaza twice. We are chairing the Committee on Palestinian Rights at the United Nations.

We have also issued various statements condemning settlement expansion. It is an anti-colonial struggle, but what else can Malta do? Settlement expansion goes against international law, but in the meantime, what is going to stop Israel? All criticism of Israel is vetoed and no one implements the resolutions. In my last meeting with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman I specifically told him that they should be ashamed of themselves for the murder of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”

The newly-formed Israeli coalition government, which boasts of ministers such as Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who head education and justice, respectively, is expected to escalate colonial violence against Palestinians.

“This government is made up of extremely rightist individuals who will further oppress Palestinians. Netanyahu has kept the foreign ministry to himself for now — many think the idea is to lure Herzog or Livni into the coalition. Despite resigning from his position as foreign minister, Lieberman still has the power to influence political decisions,” Vella explained.

He concluded:

“I told al-Maliki the future is bleak. If Israel continues to expand, there is going to be no land left for a two-state solution. There are volumes of condemnation but no concrete action against Israel.”

(Source / 22.05.2015)

Written by altahrir

May 22, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Ramona Wadi

Tagged with , ,

ASSAD’S TROOPS BREAK OUT FROM NATIONAL HOSPITAL AT JISR AL-SHUGHUR – MANY KILLED, CAPTURED OR INJURED

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By Peter Clifford            ©                     (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

This morning, Friday, in broad daylight, the remaining Assad troops trapped inside the National Hospital, which they had set up as a base, south of Jisr Al-Shughur in Idlib province, made a run for it.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Desperate Assad Forces Flee National Hospital, Jisr Al-Shughur

The estimated 200 men were clearly alarmed by Opposition video released on the Internet showing the digging of a tunnel for a bomb to be placed under the National Hospital building, HERE:

An Opposition commander has said that the news was deliberately leaked to “encourage” the pro-Assad fighters to leave.

The trapped men were also thought to be running out of food and water.

An attempted Government helicopter drop of barrels of supplies earlier in the week failed and Opposition fighters were very grateful for the bottles of fresh water and tins of (apparently) Iranian tuna fish that fell from the sky, HERE:

There were also reports that the Assad regime had lost contact with the trapped men, probably because batteries had finally run down, but possibly to maintain radio silence before this morning’s break-out.

7 of the soldiers tried to escape yesterday and 2 were killed and 5 were captured. Those captured said that many soldiers wanted to give themselves up or defect, but officers inside the National Hospital building were ordering anyone wishing to defect shot dead.

Some co-ordination with the Syrian Army and Air Force outside must have been taking place as intense fighting broke out Thursday evening and again this morning just before the break-out, between Assad forces and the Opposition on the frontlines south and east of Jisr Al-Shughur.

The Air Force also made a reported 50 airstrikes with rockets and barrel-bombs on Opposition positions around the National Hospital, but some of those strikes are thought to have killed their own escaping men.

When it came, the break-out consisted of 2 groups of men running off in different directions and seeking cover along a corridor 1 kilometre west of the Orontes River and hoping to make it to Government lines to the south. This is an early video of the break-out, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Opposition Fighters About to Enjoy Supplies Delivered by Syrian Air Force

Recent reports suggest that around 50 of Assad’s soldiers were killed initially, 65 taken prisoner, including officers (one being Brigadier Mahmoud Sabha) and another 50 or so are still on the run being hunted down in olive and orange groves.

The Opposition are now in complete control of the National Hospital building.

There is a second video of the escape, HERE:

Putting its usual sad spin on events, the Syrian state media, SANA, published the following this morning:

“The force defending the national hospital of Jisr al-Shughour carried out today morning a tactical manoeuvre and managed to break the siege successfully,” a military source told SANA. The soldiers have been freed and left the hospital, carrying their dead or injured fellow members, and are heading to army posts in Idlib countryside.

SANA reporter in Jisr al-Shughour city, which is located in western Idlib province, said the soldiers are now out of the hospital.”

A SANA reported in Jisr Al-Shughur will be news to the Opposition alliance.

Now that the siege is over, the “Army of Conquest” Opposition group will now be able to concentrate on taking the rest of Idlib province. Several more checkpoints around Ariha have fallen, and it is now only a matter of time before the town falls under Opposition control.

More video has emerged of the captured Mastoumah Army base, in particularly all the hundreds of cases from the shells fired on Opposition towns and villages in the last 18 months, (Arabic only) HERE:

A Reuters report confirms today’s event at Jisr Al-Shughur.

The first video, just released Friday afternoon, from inside the totally wrecked National Hospital can be seen,HERE:

KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 93: FIGHTING KURDS LIBERATE 20 MORE VILLAGES, REPEL COUNTER ATTACKS & CLEAR STRATEGIC MOUNTAIN:

In Cizire Canton in their major operation to take Mount Abdul Aziz (also known as Mount Kizwanan), the YPG/YPJ freed the village of Xerra in the foothills from Islamic State (IS) insurgents and captured the nearby hilltops of Izea and Radar.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kurdish Forces Reclaim Mount Abdul Aziz, Cizire Canton

They have also liberated the villages of Tal’a, Meraqib and Medîne on the trail towards the mountain and in the above operations around 11 x IS Jihadists are reported killed.

On Tuesday night there were also IS attacks on the frontline near Serêkaniyê, hitting the villages of Til Xenzir, Til Bîlal and Til Boxa areas, but the strong Kurdish defences held and IS repelled, with an IS armoured personnel carrier and 4 other military vehicles destroyed and another 20 x IS fighters shot dead.

2 Kurdish fighters also lost their lives.

Since Wednesday’s capture of the mountain, mopping up operations have continued in villages along the Khaber River between Tel Tamir and Hasakah.

Today’s report, Friday, says that these operations have cleared the villages of Hiseniyê, Til Hefyan, Til Nasrî, Til Şamîran, Til Huda, Til Goran, Til Fêda, Til Belo’a, Xerîta, Selîbiyê, Skaka, Hemaniyê, Şeîra and Xebîş from IS fighters.

Operations to clear mines and booby-traps from the villages are now ongoing.

A video of the YPG/YPJ on Mount Abdul Aziz can be seen, HERE:

K Barakat, who acts as the Interior Minister for Cizire Canton, said in a statement that Coalition airstrikes played a crucial role in the liberation of the mountain.

Arab and Christian Assyriac militia also took part in the fighting with the YPG and a number of civilians, including Christians, who had earlier been kidnapped by IS were freed.

Recent reports say that the Assyrian villages of Tel Shamiram, Tel Nasri and Ghibish have also now been freed, with an armoured vehicle captured and 17 more IS Jihadists killed.

There is also heavy fighting going on at the western outskirts of Serêkaniyê, with loud explosions ringing out across the Canton.

In Kobane Canton on Tuesday night, the combined YPG/FSA force liberated the village of Mencûkê on the eastern front, killing 11 x IS Jihadists, and seizing weapons and ammunition plus 2 vehicles, including one laden with explosives.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

IS Burning Crops to Punish Civilians in Face of Kurds Advance

Fighting erupted at 3.00 am Wednesday morning at the villages of Qilhaydê, Nûrelî and Zerik which IS fighters tried to retake.

However, battles continued until yesterday, Thursday, leaving 23 x IS fighters dead, including a senior commander known as Abu Jaabil Ansari.

Large stocks of AK-47s, machine guns, rockets, hand grenades and medical equipment were recovered, but at the cost of another 2 lives of YPG fighters.

On the eastern front again, another YPG operation near the village of Bîrerêp resulted in the destruction of an IS vehicle and the wounding of 2 of their men.

On the same front, last night Thursday into Friday, IS attempted to retake Korik but were eventually repelled, leaving another 25 x IS Jihadists dead and 1 YPG fighter.

Again Ak-47s, hand grenades, a rocket launcher, ammunition and other useful materials were recovered.

Thursday night on the southern front in Kobane Canton, several YPG positions came under prolonged mortar fire for several hours, but so far no serious casualties are reported.

In the US this week at the Pentagon, Air Force Colonel Patrick Ryder said, “Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria have done very well, and really represent a hostile force in ISIL’s backyard that has caused them some significant problems there.”

On Tuesday through to Wednesday am US Central Command (Centcom) reports 2 airstrikes in Kobane Canton destroying 4 x IS fighting positions and hitting 2 tactical units.

On Wednesday through to Thursday morning 5 more airstrikes are reported, this time destroying 2 x IS fighting positions, 2 x IS mortar positions and an IS vehicle.

These strikes may well relate to the mortar attacks reported on the southern front above and also to an outbreak of heavy fighting around the Grain Silos north of Sarrin. 4 airstrikes were reported by local sources on IS positions at the Grain Silos within an hour.

As they retreat, IS are also punishing civilians about to be liberated by the YPG by burning their crops, which would normally be ready to harvest in June, and blowing up their houses.

Over the same 2 day period reported by Centcom above, there were also 8 airstrikes near Hasakah and one each near Raqqah and Aleppo, the latter destroying an IS vehicle bomb.

The good news from Kobane city itself is that children can now go to school without fear of IS or barrel-bombs and there are signs that life is returning to some level of normality, as these pictures show.

Lastly, take a look at @BikeFoundry on Twitter. They are selling Kurdish badges of various kinds at £1 each to raise money for the Kurdish cause in Syria. Help if you can.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Happy Kids – No IS – No barrel Bombs (1)

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Happy Kids – No IS – No barrel Bombs (2)

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Life Returns to Kobane

Written by altahrir

May 22, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Posted in Peter Clifford

Tagged with , ,

KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 92: 26 ISLAMIC STATE VEHICLES AND 170+ JIHADISTS DESTROYED IN 48 HOURS AS KURDS/COALITION DRIVE THEM OUT

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By Peter Clifford                 ©               (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Once again, most of the action in the last 2 days has dramatically been in Cizire Canton.

Opposition sources in Syria are reporting that in a 48 hour period this week, and with the help of concentrated Coalition bombing, between 170 and 180 Islamic State (IS) fighters were killed.

SYRIA and  IRAQ NEWS

YPG With Weapons Captured from Islamic State

YPG forces, in a rapid advance, also announced that they took control of parts of Mount Abdul Aziz yesterday evening, Tuesday (west of Hasakah city), discovering US made artillery (presumably looted from Iraq), large amounts of ammunition and missiles at IS positions on the top.

By midday today, Wednesday, the YPG had announced it had captured the whole of the mountain. This gain will give the Kurds control of the highest peak in the region.

On Monday, the YPG/YPJ, in addition to all their other recent gains (scroll down – see below) had managed to surround IS in a group of 10 villages.

IS attempted 4 counter-attacks, including deploying 2 vehicle bombs, but neither exploded as intended.

Finally, in a desperate attempt to escape, the IS Jihadists fled the villages in numerous small groups but as they were being carefully monitored, the majority were soon killed.

Eventually the villages of Til Tal, Qahîre, Selmasa, Dişîşa, Dişîşa Beggara, Sikr Hêmir (which consisted of houses in 3 separate locations), Dibsa and Til Xelîfa were all cleared of IS fighters.

With the loss of one of their number, the YPG’s own estimate is that 180 IS fighters were killed in this week’s operations so far. In addition 1 x IS tank, 3 military vehicles, a van used to prepare and transfer ammunition and a machine gun were destroyed. 15 x IS prisoners were also taken into custody.

Also acquired as a result of these successes were 8 x IS pick-ups and a motorcycle, a Konkors anti-tank missile launcher, 15 AK-47s, 12 x RPG rocket launchers and 41 rockets, 13 radios and numerous day and night vision binoculars and goggles, thermal scopes and other useful military items.

A number of other villages in the Tel Tamer region are also surrounded by the Kurds, with as many as another 100 x IS Jihadists trapped inside according to latest reports and the YPG expect to take them soon. Yesterday IS fighters trapped near Tal_Nasri, Ghabsh and Tal_Shamiram, were heard screaming for support over the radio. However, more and more it looks as thought IS are in retreat from the rural areas and are likely to concentrate their future attacks on the cities and larger inhabited locations.

Effective Coalition airstrikes have clearly moved things forward. US Central Command (Centcom) reports 6 airstrikes in Cizire Canton on Sunday through to Monday am and another 7 on Monday through to Tuesday morning.

The total tally was no less than 21 x IS vehicles and 5 armoured vehicles destroyed, 8 fighting positions and a shipping container destroyed, plus hits on 3 large and 5 small tactical units – hence the large number of fatalities.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Living in the Rubble of Kobane

On the south-eastern front of Kobane Canton on Monday night, a joint YPG/YPJ/FSA force liberated the villages of Şewik, Koçgar (60 kilometres out from Kobane city) and Berbihesên, driving out the IS Jihadists.

While IS casualties were not immediately obvious, in another operation near Cêbariyê on the southern Kobane Canton front, 1 x IS fighter was reported killed.

Video footage shows the YPG advance on the cement plant and villages on the eastern Kobane Canton front which were recaptured last Friday, (English sub-titles) HERE:

In Kobane city itself a ceremony was held this morning, Wednesday, at the Martyr’s Cemetery to honour the YPG/YPJ fighters who had died in defence of the city and Canton.

You can read more and watch the video (English sub-titles), HERE:

Slowly – very slowly – the rebuilding of Kobane is underway, with running water restored to 2 of the least damaged districts out of 13 and more water and sewage pipes crossing the border to be laid in the destroyed city.

But the job is immense and around 60% of the citizens there have little expectation of outside help. There is now an estimated 500,000 tons of rubble heaped on the streets which would take 100 trucks 10 months to move – so far there are just 5 trucks on the job. You can read more in The Christian Science Monitor.

The latest Kobane Situation Map from @Chuck Pfarrer is, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Kobane Canton Situation Map 18.05.15

ASSAD REGIME IGNOMINOUSLY REMOVED FROM ITS LAST BASE IN IDLIB PROVINCE – PALMYRA ALSO LIKELY TO FALL:

In another spectacular show of skill, planning and force, the rightly named “Army of Conquest”, an Opposition alliance of Islamic orientated brigades and the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), yesterday captured Assad’s last remaining base in Idlib province.

After just 3 days of battle, Mastoumah military base just collapsed under a concerted Opposition attack after the loss of the nearby hill and village of the same name earlier this week (scroll down – see below) and Assad’s troops and militia were seen running for their lives to get away to nearby Ariha.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Assad’s Mastoumah Base Falls to Opposition Advance

The Opposition fighters have lost around 16 men, but the pro-Assad losses are likely to be considerable more.

Pro-Government fighters can be seen on the run,HERE:

Video from the storming of Mastoumah camp is,HERE:  and you can see what it was like inside the base after the takeover, (Arabic only)HERE:

This video shows activist reporters from Orient TV interviewing very happy fighters (Arabic only) in Mastoumah village with smoke pouring from the remains of the military base in the distance and shots of destroyed Syrian Army tanks and vehicles, HERE:

In Opposition-held Idlib city, the mosques announced the victory and local people handed out food in the streets to celebrate.

In the battle for the camp a T-55 tank was destroyed, HERE:  and a BMP armoured vehicle, HERE:

Interestingly, (EDITOR: What justice!) the removal of the Assad regime from Mastoumah comes 4 years to the day after Government security services massacred local people in the same village peacefully demonstrating against the President. Many were killed and injured as they tried to get away. This is the original video from May 20th 2011, HERE:

UNCEF Supplies For Refugees Found in Assad Military Stores

UNICEF Supplies For Refugees Found in Assad Military Stores

More footage from Mastoumah with captured vehicles and many excited (bearded) fighters, HERE:  The regime is believed however to have fired stores of weapons and ammunition before departing. What was discovered at the camp was stores of UNICEF Family Hygiene Kits, still in the originally boxes and clearly not delivered by the regime to the people for whom they were intended.

Spoils from the earlier capture of the village of Muqbalah can be seen, HERE:

As convoys of Assad’s forces fled from Mastoumah towards Ariha they were harassed and shot at by Opposition fighters, (Arabic only and caution – some dead bodies) HERE:

How long Assad’s troops remain in Ariha remains to be seen. There are already reports of arguments and fights between Assad’s elite “Tiger” force and members of the pro-Assad National Defence Force (NDF) after the withdrawal from Mastoumah.

Convoys of Government soldiers have been seen leaving Ariha for Mahmpel Barrier, 20 kilometres to the west and several checkpoints to the east of Ariha are said to have already fallen today, Wednesday, to Opposition fighters.

After taking Mastoumah, the “Army of Conquest” has also taken control of Nahlaya and Kafr Najd, 2 large villages near Ariha town, which is now surrounded on 3 sides. The FSA also destroyed a regime tank at Ma’taram near Ariha, HERE:

Given the fall of the Mastoumah base, there is probably no hope, , short of a “miracle”, for the 150/200 Assad troops still trapped in the remains of the National Hospital to the south of Jisr Al-Shughur. The Syrian Air Force has kept up a barrage of air attacks on the town but these have not dislodged the Opposition fighters there.

The Opposition remain very firmly in control of the road between Ariha and Jisr Al-Shughur, as evidenced by the following 2 videos. In the first one the Opposition bring a large supply truck to a grinding halt with a TOW anti-tank missile, HERE:

Some time later, a regime BMP armoured vehicle is sent to hook up with the truck and tow it away. The same TOW team strike again, this time destroying the BMP, enjoy HERE:

Situation Map around Ariha after the fall of the Mastoumah military base, courtesy of @archicivilians, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map at Ariha After Fall of Mastoumah 20.05.15

Over in Palmyra, out in the desert in Homs province, things are not looking much better for the regime. Seemingly in anticipation of a defeat, Government soldiers emptied all the artifacts from Palmyra Museum this morning, Wednesday. The only remaining hospital in the southern part of the city has also been exclusively reserved for troops and is now closed to civilians, whatever their injury.

Latest reports say that the Islamic State have control for the second time of northern parts of the city and are now in the city centre, capturing the state security building, a bread factory, other regional Government buildings and the National Hospital building and now look set to take the rest of the city, despite air attacks from Assad’s Air Force.

Reports on Wednesday afternoon say that IS have now taken the Youth Barrier in the city centre, the largest and supposedly strongest in the city and Assad’s NDF has begun evacuating all civilians Palmyra/Tadmour city.

Syria and Iraq NEWS

Celebrations in Idlib at the Fall of Mastoumah

The Assad regime is also under attack at several points in and around Aleppo, both with IS who are attacking the Sheikh Najar industrial area and Qweires airbase, fighting with the YPG defending the Kurdish neighbourhood of Sheikh Maksoud, and in the north of the city where they are fighting an Opposition alliance around Handarat.

In Ghouta, just east of central Damascus, another Opposition alliance is attacking Syrian Army Base 39 and has broken through the first defence line, HERE:

And in Western Ghouta, not far away Opposition fighters captured a T-55 tank and large stocks of weapons and ammunition after overrunning a Government checkpoint on the Al-Salam highway near Khan Al-Sheeh.

The only glimmer of hope for the Assad regime at the moment is that Hezbollah are reported to have taken more mountain tops away from the Opposition in the Qalamoun region between Damascus and Lebanon.

More leaked documents from the Assad regime have emerged, shedding light on its relationships with journalists, legal and PR firms and other countries, and how the Assad family regards its citizens. NOW Media from Lebanon has the stories in a series of exclusive articles – take your pick or read them all.

Lastly, the Mother of Austin Tice has given a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, appealing for the release of her son who has now been missing for 3 years. Surprisingly, recent information suggests he is still alive somewhere in Syria and is not being held by any Opposition faction or any extreme religious group. Reuters has a report.

Written by altahrir

May 20, 2015 at 7:36 pm

Posted in Peter Clifford

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KOBANE/CIZIRE UPDATE 91: IN LAST 4 DAYS ANOTHER 27+ VILLAGES RECAPTURED AND 80 ISLAMIC STATE FIGHTERS KILLED ACROSS 2 CANTONS

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By Peter Clifford              ©                  (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

On Friday, combined YPG/FSA forces on the eastern front of Kobane Canton launched an operation which regained the Guris Cement Plant and no less than 10 more villages.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Jubilant Kurdish Fighters Infront of Recaptured Cement Plant

The villages liberated include Edîfê, Diçkiram, Şerebanî, Korpiling, Bîrxas, Bîrnasir, Gocekmêt, east and west Sefêriyê and east and west Yedûkî. The village of Sulûxke was also freed from Islamic State control, as well as 3 strategic hills in the area.

Initial reports said that 17 x IS Jihadists had been killed and large amounts of equipment gained. As well as binoculars, night vision equipment, 4 radios and 2 vehicles, the Kurdish led force also recovered 14 AK-47s, RPG rockets and launchers, mortar rounds and thousands of bullets.

Advancing further on Saturday, 4 more villages were also freed; Sheshê, Girikê Hemêr, Korik and north Bîrnasir and another 13 x IS Jihadist reported killed.

2 x IS military vehicles and a motorbike were seized this time, along with more rockets and launchers, hand-made mines, hand grenades and more AK-47s plus stocks of ammunition.

EDITOR: I have often reported on this page on YPG blowing up IS suicide vehicle bombs before impact. This is how it is done with concentrated fire until they get a result, here:

https://youtu.be/Sg8WiTwSTfQ

To give you some idea of the booty recently recovered from the Islamic State, take a look at this, at least 500 mortar shells, HERE:

Joint operations by the YPG/YPJ and the FSA on the eastern front in Kobane Canton can be viewed, HERE: and more with co-ordinated Coalition airstrikes on IS positions, HERE:

In Cizire, the Kurds eastern Canton, they launched a major operation in memory of Rubar Qamishlo, one of their experienced commanders who was killed recently in fighting near Tel Tamer.

By Sunday night, yesterday, they had seized the villages of Um El Mesamîr Ereb, Um El Mesamîr Rojava, Heci Qedrî, Hiwêce, Tel Hemam and El Mesamîra, all within 10 kilometres of Tel Tamer, and hemming in an Islamic State force.

23 x IS Jihadists were killed in this operation and many more wounded. In another operation near Tel Hemam village a further 3 x IS Jihadists were killed and 2 of them captured alive, with an IS tank and 3 x IS military vehicles destroyed.

16 kilometres north-west of Hasakah city on Saturday at Tel Hirmiz, a major battle with IS resulted in another 20 of their fighters killed.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

YPJ Fighters on the Frontline

Once again this follows a successful operations in Cizire on Friday night through to Saturday morning retaking Gozeliyê and Şiwêş, with 4 x IS Jihadists killed, and another on Saturday night capturing Lîlan, Emriya, Rêhaniyê Rojava and Abu Heyya Remo Farmlands (12 kilometres to the west of Tel Tamer) as well as Til Fîtêtat and Hûda villages, killing a further 6 x IS fighters

Total number of YPG/YPJ fighters killed across Cizire in all these engagements reported as 5.

EDITOR: This brings, by my reckoning, the number of villages recaptured in the last 4 days to 27+ and around 80 x IS fighters killed across the 2 Cantons.

DETAILS EMERGE OF US SPECIAL FORCES ATTACK IN SYRIA, AND ASSAD REGIME’S ELECTRICITY/GAS SUPPLIES UNDER THREAT:

In Idlib province, the demolition of Assad’s last defences in the province continues, with a major attack on Mastoumah base still underway and nearby villages falling to the Opposition.

The Al-Nusra Front set off another vehicle bomb near the camp and had quickly taken Mastoumah Hill by Sunday night and the village of the same name just to the north of the military base. You can see the explosion on this video at around 1.20, HERE:

13 of Assad’s troops were reported killed as the Opposition surrounded and took over Mastoumah school, also capturing an ammunition depot in the village.

A recent video of the entrance to Mastoumah camp is, (Arabic only) HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Opposition Destroy Assad Armoured Vehicle Near Kufayr

To the south-west of Matoumah, Opposition fighters captured the village of Muqbalah after Assad’s forces retreated under attack, HERE: and they are now attacking Nahlaya, both just north of Ariha.

Journalist/activist Hadi al-Abdallah watched the fighting over the weekend,HERE: but almost came a cropper himself, bullets whizzing overhead, HERE:

The Assad regime attempted to send reinforcements from Ariha to Mastoumah but it came under Opposition fire and was stopped according to Opposition sources.

Similar sources also reported that a Syrian Army officer, Colonel Asef Suleiman, was executed by the regime in Jorin for refusing to lead a convoy to rescue Masoumah.

A good supply of anti-tank missiles and launchers is clearly helping the Opposition considerably. So far 5 regime tanks have been destroyed in the assault on Mastoumah.

Near Kufayr the Opposition destroyed an armoured vehicle, HERE: and in the same area, a second one, HERE:

Near Al-Fanar just above Ariha, a T55 tank was destroyed, HERE:  and another tank near the Sawmill Barrier not far from Jisr Al-Shughur, HERE:

The Assad regime did not have much luck sending in supplies to its troops still trapped in Jisr Al-Shughur National Hospital either. Five packages containing water, cigarettes and other supplies fell straight into Opposition hands,HERE:

The only way the Assad regime can effectively strike back at the moment is using its air power. 96 people are reported killed across Syria in airstrikes on Saturday alone, including 18 children and 12 women. 56 of the deaths were in Idlib province.

Courtesy of ‏@archicivilians, this is a situation map for the area around Masoumah Syrian Army camp, here:

SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS

Situation Map of Area Around Mastoumah

In Aleppo, Assad’s Air Force “helpfully” dropped a barrel-bomb on a major depot operated by the Syrian Red Crescent.

In Deir Ez-Zour province more detailed reports have started to emerge of US Special Forces ground attack on a compound at Al-Amr in the Omar Oil field. The compound was formerly home to oil-field workers but is now occupied by Islamic State officials and pro-IS civilians.

In the early hours of last Saturday morning a team from the US Delta Force flew under cover of darkness from Iraq in UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

Coalition aircraft passed over over the target compound at around 1.00am without shelling, as they had done for the last 10 days, and the helicopters arrived at around 3.00am.

Fighting broke out immediately and 19 IS fighters, including 12 foreign fighters were killed almost immediately. One of the main targets of the strike, Abu Sayyaf, a Tunisian in charge of managing the Islamic State’s oil revenues and other finances, and who they hoped to capture alive, was also killed in the clashes.

However, his wife Umm Sayyaf, was arrested and brought back to Iraq, along with a freed Yezidi woman who had been used as a slave. Dogs were used by the special forces troops and 2 woman at the compound were reported bitten.

There are around 50 houses in the compound, which includes a swimming pool and tennis courts and approximately 1,000 people live there.

The operation lasted around 20 minutes and all of Delta Force left the area unhindered and with no reports so far of casualties. Coalition aircraft bombed the nearby oil-fields shortly after.

According to local sources, IS were stunned by how the Americans knew exactly in which house to find Abu Sayyaf. Since the raid all the civilians have been removed from the compound and checkpoints set-up around it.

There have been some suggestions that the real target of the operation was Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the chief Islamic State spokesman, as he and Abu Sayyaf were often know to be together.

Syria state media, Sana put out a stupid statement that it’s “commandos” had killed the Islamic State “Oil Minister” but later withdrew the claim.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

Regime Troops in Palmyra Fire Artillery at IS

Over in Palmyra in Homs province, the regime also claimed that that it had stopped the IS advance into the city and pushed them out of the northern suburbs, but latest reports suggest that this is little more than a regrouping after as many as 30 regime airstrikes.

Street fighting is reported near the main hospital and at the Bkhitan Barrier and IS has released several hundred inmates from the prison.

A barrage of IS rockets falling on civilian areas in Palmyra today, Monday, is also said to have killed 5 people.

2 of the rockets landed in the garden of the archaeological museum, but did not destroy any antiquities.

The Assad regime is reported to have lost at least 150 men in fighting at Palmyra and nearby gas fields (including Brigadier General Haidar Ali Asaad, the head of the regime’s Palmyra operations and 2 more of Assad’s cousins, Brigadier General Mou’tadh Deeb and Colonel Muhammad Makhlouf) where IS also took over large stocks of ammunition and weapons.

The gas fields which finally fell to IS control late Sunday are north-east of Palmyra at Al-Hail and Arak, 40 and 25 kilometres (25 and 15 miles) respectively from the city and are vital for the Syrian Government’s generation of electricity to supply areas under its control.

In Iraq, a total of 500 men were reported killed on both sides in the battle for Ramadi, which is now almost completely under Islamic State control, the Syrian Army reportedly having fled once again obligingly leaving large amounts of military vehicles and equipment behind.

A force of several thousand Shiite militia has been assembled to try and get Ramadi back and to stop IS marching on Baghdad. IS now controls continuous territory all the way from Aleppo province to the Iraqi capital, though its overall territorial hold is actually shrin

Written by altahrir

May 19, 2015 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Peter Clifford

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Does solidarity activism prioritise symbolism over resistance?

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By Ramona Wadi

Ramona Wadi

The military court at Israel’s Ofer Prison in Betunia has reinstated the prison sentences of five political detainees released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011. The five detainees are Mahdi Assi from Nablus, Khaled Makhamreh and Nayef Shawamreh from Hebron, Wa’el Abu Jalboush from Jenin, and Samer Issawi from Jerusalem; all were rearrested in 2014 during the prelude to Operation Protective Edge, in a sweep called “Operation Brother’s Keeper”.

The Palestinian Authority facilitates the arrest of former political prisoners through its security coordination with Israel. Hence, its complicity should also extend to the military court’s reinstatement of jail sentences. PA officials know full well that in July last year, Ze’ev Elkin drafted bill in Israel that sought to imprison Palestinian ex-political prisoners on the regurgitated pretext of “eliminating terrorism”.

According to the International Solidarity Movement’s Facebook page, a protest about this was held yesterday in Gaza which was attended by representatives of a number of Palestinian factions, including Sami Abu Zuhri from Hamas, Mariam Abu Dakka from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Khaled Al-Batch from Islamic Jihad. The PA has, so far, remained largely silent about the issue, relegating the consequences imposed upon Palestinian resistance efforts to nothingness. In contrast, in 2013 PA Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad Al-Maliki declared Issawi’s administrative detention to be a “war crime” and one of the cases that would be submitted to the International Criminal Court, should Palestine become a signatory.

However, in a recent talk organised by the Maltese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the University of Malta, during which both the two-state compromise and accession to the ICC were discussed, Al-Maliki stated that “partial justice” is all that the Palestinians could ever aspire to achieve at the international institution. In doing so he affirmed the degree of acquiescence that the PA has endorsed through its existence and negotiations with the settler-colonial state.

Issawi’s hunger strike protest against the unjust prison sentence and administrative detention enforced upon him by Israel garnered international attention, with petitions and pleas eventually paving the way for discussions that led to his release. His family, however, were still persecuted by Israel; Issawi’s sister, Shireen, a lawyer who campaigned tirelessly for her brother’s release, remains in detention, as does his brother Samer.

Palestinian prisoners and the unjust reality of administrative detention seem to have elicited a much less outraged response this time, raising concerns about whether it was actually the legal violation of human rights that captured the world’s attention the last time round, or the fact that such symbolism was embodied by Issawi; thus was the process rendered into a drama rather than a brutal reality affecting Palestinian families. Various other hunger strikes were initiated by other political prisoners, in solidarity with other Palestinians facing human rights violations and as a protest against prisoners’ conditions in Israeli jails. These, however, were reported as a routine event worthy of just a few isolated mentions, whereas Issawi was catapulted to global prominence by solidarity campaigns.

For all the alleged international solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners, though, it seems as if activism in the name of human rights and freedom is now also in peril of being manacled to sensationalism. Issawi may have benefited temporarily from the global hype, yet the possible absence of another hunger strike initiated by him might provide specific insight as to how solidarity activism willingly falls into the trap of prioritising symbolism over Palestinian resistance.

(Source / 14.05.2015)

Written by altahrir

May 14, 2015 at 10:07 pm

Posted in Ramona Wadi

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MUSLIM DEPICTIONS OF MUHAMMAD – THE HILYE

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With Prophet Muhammad ﷺ being so central a figure in Islam, it would be natural for generations of Muslims to have had a desire to depict him artistically. However, all four Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence have strict prohibitions on visualizations of the Prophet. As a result, Muslim artists had to find alternate methods of depicting Muhammad ﷺ through calligraphy.

In the Ottoman Empire, an art form known as the hilye developed. It combined hadiths that described the appearance and character of the Prophet (known as al-Shama’il al-Muhammadiyya) collected by Imam al-Tirmidhi (824-892 CE) with thuluth style calligraphy, the most prominent form of calligraphy in the Ottoman Empire.

The most common form of the hilye was produced by the great Ottoman calligrapher Hafiz Osman Efendi (1664-1698 CE). The description of the Prophet (translated below) adorns the center of the canvas, usually in a circular or crescent shape. It is bounded by the names of the Prophet’s ﷺ closest companions and the first four caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. At the bottom of the panel would be verses from the Quran and the artist’s name and date. This style of hilye became the standard, emulated by generations of Ottoman calligraphers.

The standard description of the Prophet ﷺ used in hilye’s came from his cousin and son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib and was recorded by Imam al-Tirmidhi. Below is an English translation of it:

Transmitted from Ali, may God be pleased with him, who, when asked to describe the Prophet, peace be upon him, would say, “He was not too tall nor too short. He was medium sized. His hair was not short and curly, nor was it lank but in between. His face was not narrow, nor was it fully round, but there was a roundness to it. His skin was white. His eyes were black. He had long eyelashes. He was big-boned and had wide shoulders. He had no body hair except in the middle of his chest. He had thick hands and feet. When he walked, he walked inclined, as if descending a slope. When he looked at someone, he looked at them in full face. “Between his shoulders was the seal of prophecy, the sign that he was the last of the prophets. He was the most generous-hearted of men, the most truthful of them in speech, the most mild-tempered of them, and the noblest of them in lineage. Whoever saw him unexpectedly was in awe of him. And whoever associated with him familiarly loved him. Anyone who would describe him would say, ‘I never saw, before him or after him, the like of him.’ Peace be upon him.”

Hilye Gallery

Written by altahrir

May 13, 2015 at 9:32 pm

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