November 30, 2010

Israel accused over murder of Iranian scientist

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast.
Press TV - Unknown terrorists detonated bombs in the vehicles of Dr. Majid Shahriari and Professor Fereydoun Abbasi in separate locations on Monday morning between 7-8 a.m. local time.

Shahriari was martyred immediately, but professor Abbasi and his wife sustained injuries and were transferred to hospital.

Both men were professors at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran.

"The sworn enemies of the sacred establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran have once again shown their savage character by martyring [Iranian] scientists," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Monday.

Iran's enemies in vain try to obstruct the path of the Iranian nation's progress towards knowledge and development, Mehmanparast added.

"These inhumane crimes are carried out by the terrorist groups connected to the Zionist Regime [of Israel] with the support of countries advocating human rights," the Iranian official said.

Tehran Police Chief Brigadier General Hossein Sajedinia said a motorcycle approached Shahriari's car and attached a bomb to the car which exploded a few seconds later.

He added that in a separate incident terrorists attached another bomb to Abbasi's car and escaped. He noted that the professor and his wife were wounded in the attack and are now in good health.

Resolution 1747 adopted by the United Nations Security Council in March 2007 against the Islamic Republic cited Abbasi's name as a "nuclear scientist," thus suggesting that perpetrators behind the assassination could be traced through those who included the professor's name in the UN resolution.

Iran has blamed Israel and Western powers for the terrorist attacks, hinting at the possible connection between the recent remarks of the head of the British intelligence agency (MI6) about Iran and the European Parliament's new stance regarding anti-Iran terrorist group.

On October 28, John Sawers accused Iran of pursuing clandestine nuclear activities and said spying is crucial to stop Tehran's nuclear program.

"Stopping nuclear proliferation cannot be addressed purely by conventional diplomacy. We need intelligence-led operations to make it more difficult for countries like Iran to develop nuclear weapons," Sawers said.

Last week, the European Parliament issued a declaration, urging Washington to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) from its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

The European Union took the MKO off its blacklist in 2009. The terrorist group has been on the US terror list since 1997.

The MKO is listed as a terrorist organization by much of the international community and is responsible for numerous acts of terror and violence against Iranian civilians and government officials.

The organization is also known to have cooperated with Iraq's former dictator Saddam Hussein in suppressing the 1991 uprisings in southern Iraq and the massacre of Iraqi Kurds.

Video: Israeli Occupation Forces fire on international protesters

On the International Day of Solidarity with the People of Palestine demonstrators expressed their solidarity by painting messages of support on a wall in Beit Hanoun and demonstrating against the ongoing siege of Gaza. Despite this entire event being completely peaceful, Israeli occupation forces shot at the protesters.  


November 28, 2010

Wikileaks Under Attack

Wikileaks has previously released documents relating to Iraq and Afghanistan. (BBC)

Wikileaks is "under a mass distributed denial of service attack", the organization reported on its Facebook page.

The website informed its followers on Twitter that "El Pais, Le Monde, Speigel, Guardian & NYT will publish many US embassy cables tonight, even if WikiLeaks goes down."

This week the U.S. government has shut down dozens of Web sites without court order.

Wikileaks is set to dump leaked classified documents, cables and secret communiqués involving Israel and the United States, the main funder of Israeli occupation.

Earlier today Israeli district police found no criminal wrongdoing in the actions of the Border Police soldiers who left an American art student without an eye after getting hit in the face with a tear gas canister at a protest in Qalandiyah six months ago.

Israeli occupation forces continue abducting Palestinian children and using them as human shields.

November 26, 2010

British Aid Convoy Enters Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A humanitarian convoy that set out from London in October entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt Thursday evening.

A member of the Road to Hope convoy, identifying himself as Shabz from London said it felt "great" to be in Gaza. "We've got toys for the children, equipment for the hospitals. We've got blankets," he said, speaking on the phone from the road from Rafah to Gaza City.

Speaking from London, convoy spokeswoman Leyla-Rubaina Hyda said that only 37 members of convoy had been permitted to enter.

Egyptian authorities banned several others, including some who had participated in the Turkish-backed "Freedom Flotilla" in June in which nine people were killed by Israeli commandos who boarded the Gaza-bound ships.

One man who had been onboard the Turkish Mavi Marmara vessel, Irish activist and former US Marine Ken O'Keefe, was permitted to enter Gaza, Hyda said.

The convoy brought a consignment of some 30 vehicles and £500,000 ($788,750) in humanitarian aid. The activists and their cargo arrived in the port city of El-Arish on Thursday after Egypt refused to allow the group to enter the country overland from Libya.

The Road to Hope mission also earned notoriety three weeks ago when a Greek ship's captain held 10 members of the convoy captive after an apparent dispute over payment. Greek commandos boarded the ship after the captain brought the group against their will to the port of Piraeus.

"This has been an incredibly long road to Gaza and it highlights the incredible obstacles and potential dangers of helping the people of Palestine," O'Keefe said in a statement posted on his website earlier on Thursday.


Israel bulldozes Palestinian agricultural projects worth hundreds of thousands of dollars

Several Israeli units demolitiong a Palestinian village.

NABLUS (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces demolished two agricultural projects south of Salfit in the northern West Bank on Wednesday, Palestinian officials said.

Both projects were funded by the Palestinian Finance Ministry and were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. [It is likely that much of the financing came from US aid.]

The mayor of the village of Deir Istiyya Nathmi Salman saidan that Israeli forces raided Wadi Qana area near the village and declared the area a closed military zone.

He said crews from the Israeli Civil Administration and the Society for Protecting Nature in Israel arrived with bulldozers which demolished the Wadi Qana rehabilitation project which cost the Palestinian finance ministry 120,000 US dollars.

Salman added that a water canal was destroyed and parts of a reservoir and a water network carrying water to orange groves were confiscated. The fence surrounding the project was also removed.

The official also said Israeli forces raided the area known as Beer Abu Ammar near Qarawat Bani Hassan village. They destroyed a land reclamation project and confiscated equipment there. The project was also funded by the Palestinian ministry of finance.

According to local sources in Qarawat Bani Hassan, Israeli forces also arrested the mayor of the town, Abdul Karim Rayyan in an attempt to disperse to residents who clashed with the invading soldiers.

The soldiers had attacked the farmers who were at the scene and arrested mayor of the town Abed Al-Karim Rayyan in an attempt to disperse to residents and to intimidate them.

Ayoub Issa, a resident of the town said dozens of farmers rushed to the area in an attempt to fight back the soldiers.

He added that the Israeli authorities had ordered the owners of the lands months earlier not to continue working on these on the grounds that Israel declared the area "state land."

Settlers to link two settlements

In a separate incident, Israeli settlers bulldozed some 50 dunums of Palestinian farmland near the village of Jalud, south of Nablus, in the process of constructing a road between two nearby settlements, officials said.

PA settlement affairs official Ghassan Daghlas said "Settler bulldozers had overturned the lands between the settlements of Shillo and Shavut Rachel located west of Jalud in an attempt to link the two."

He added that the road under construction between the two settlements was a part of a plan to seize new land in order to expand the two settlements.

WATCH: Israeli Ethnic Cleansing of A Palestinian Village

November 25, 2010

Israel rejects Swiss scientist's article that Mossad killed German politician

Mossad agents wanted in connection with the killing of a senior Hamas official. The suspects are accused of using fake passports bearing their own pictures, but the names of innocent citizens. Twelve of the passports used were British. The other 15 on the list are reported to have used stolen identities from Australian, French, Irish and German citizens.

Ma'an - Israel rejected Monday a claim by a retired Swiss chemistry professor that the murder of a German politician 23 years ago had the hallmarks of a Mossad assassination.

Uwe Barschel, premier of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, was found dead in a Geneva hotel room in 1987. The cause of death was on overdose of a sleeping drug. His family has never accepted the view of most pathologists that Barschel, 43, committed suicide.

The professor, Hans Brandenberger, revived on Sunday his longtime contention, based on tissue analysis, that Barschel was incapable of deliberate action at the time when the drug, cyclobarbital, and a hypnotic substance, noludar, entered his body.

Brandenberger said he spoke out after his retirement gave him the leisure to read for the first time a 1994 book, The Other Side of the Deception, by US-based author Victor Ostrovsky, who claims to be a former Mossad agent.

The book suggests Mossad killed Barschel at the hotel with drugs and made the death look like suicide.

In an article published Sunday in the newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Brandenberger, 89, said his tissue findings fitted "astonishingly well" with the method of secret assassination described in the book.

Yigal Palmor, Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman, rejected the speculation.

"There's no basis on which one could connect Israel to this case, he said in Jerusalem. Asked if Germany should re-open its own inquiry, he said, "It's not up to us to tell the German authorities what they should do or not do."

Welt am Sonntag quoted those Germans who believe Barschel was murdered as calling for a fresh inquiry.

Ostrovsky's 1994 book claimed Barschel was killed because he knew about alleged Israeli arms sales to Iran.

Israeli spokesman Palmor said Ostrovsky was not a credible author.

"Half of what he says is lies, and the other half is invented, Palmor said.

Swiss prosecutors have always rejected Brandenberger's urging to treat Barschel's death as a murder.

The suicide thesis is that Barschel drank a lethal cocktail of sedatives in the wake of an unsavory political scandal in his state which culminated in his resigning as premier nine days before his death.

Brandenberger's thesis is that a murderer gave Barschel a tasteless "knock-out" drug in a glass of wine to make him compliant, then forced him an hour later to swallow the lethal overdose.

The Swiss professor argues that the timeline can be proved from the varying concentrations of the drugs in different organs.

But no suspects were ever seen in Geneva, and no other evidence for murder was ever found.

American roots artist makes his Palestine debut

Bill Kirchen and his band perform at Ma`an studio in the southern West Bank
city of Bethlehem, 22 November 2010. (Maan Images)

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Grammy-nominated American roots musician Bill Kirchen made his Palestine debut Monday, in a special performance highlighting his week-long tour through the occupied West Bank.

The guitarist, singer, and songwriter, who has performed for audiences in the US and around the world for more than 40 years, was in Bethlehem for a workshop in a refugee camp after a televised performance at Ma'an studio.

In the region on behalf of the US Consulate General in Jerusalem's Palestinian-American cultural exchange program, Kirchen said he was looking forward to meeting local musicians to "find a common ground and play together."


Kirchen's performance Monday was one of several in Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus, and East Jerusalem introducing his band's unique mix of “rockabilly,” which includes elements of rock, blues, and bluegrass.

"We call it roots music," Kirchen said. "We draw on the blues that came over from Africa originally and settled in the southern states in the US. Music that started in England, ballads that started in England and morphed into American culture music.

"It comes under the general heading of roots rock ‘n’ roll, I think, best, with a lot of country influence and some boogie-woogie, some swing influence. Music that's drawn from the roots of music that, if it's American music, ended up in America."

His visit is funded by a performing arts initiative grant from the US Department of State, and received special funding from the US Consulate and America House, both of which are located in occupied East Jerusalem.

"It's really a pleasure for us to host Bill Kirchen and his band," Frank Finver, the US consul for press and cultural affairs, told Ma'an. "They've been here a few days, and we don't want them to leave."

Finver said the US hosts programs "very often. We try to bring American artists -- musicians, dancers, visual artists, and guests speakers -- to really show what America's all about, to exchange cultural ideas and learn about Palestinian culture."

Kirchen is accompanied by his band, including vocalist Louise Kirchen, percussionist Jack O’Dell, and bassist Maurice Cridlin. The group will share the stage with Palestinian rock group Sheibat for performances in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Kirchen performed a community concert at Cinema Jenin and Al-Hambra Palace in East Jerusalem, and will close out the tour Tuesday at the Movenpick Hotel in Ramallah. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open 7:30 p.m.

November 23, 2010

Israeli missile strike injures 4 family members -- 1 only 2 years old -- celebrating holiday

A Palestinian man surveys the damage from the previous day`s Israeli airstrike in
the Gaza town of Deir Al-Balah on 20 November 2010. (Jared Malsin)
By Jared Malsin

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (Ma'an) -- The most intense Israeli airstrikes in months disrupted what had been a quiet holiday for one Gaza family.

Sulaiman Abu Mustafa, an olive and eggplant grower with a small farm near the border with Israel outside of Deir Al-Balah, was celebrating the Eid Al-Adha holiday with his family in his yard when the strike took place. Abu Mustafa's uncle and aunt were visiting -- there were around 20 people outside the house.

At 3 p.m. an Israeli F-16 fired a missile at an empty house across the street, blasting chunks of concrete into the air, then hurtling down on Abu Mustafa's house. He said the family scrambled to take shelter behind their house, but had no time to react.

The concrete chunks injured four people, including Abu Mustafa's mother, who was wounded in the abdomen, and his brother who was struck in the head. His two year old son who was also hurt, he said.

Abu Mustafa's home and yard was strewn with debris from his neighbor's house that came crashing through his roof, leaving perforations in the ceiling. One of the walls was also cracked by the force of the explosion.

Abu Mustafa said he called an ambulance, but the family was forced to wait a half hour for help to arrive. Because their house is only 400 meters from the Green Line, emergency responders have to request permission from the Israeli army, via the Red Cross, to enter the area.

The Israeli military said launched four separate airstrikes on Gaza on Friday—three in the afternoon and one late at night—in response to a series of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza. According to Israeli news reports, the shelling included homemade projectiles, mortars, and one Grad missile, and caused no injuries. This barrage in turn, was in response to an Israeli airstrike that killed a member of the Army of Islam militia, and his brother, in the middle of Gaza City at sundown on Wednesday.

In a statement announcing the airstrikes on Friday, the Israeli military said it was bombing "terror-linked sites" in Deir Al-Balah and Khan Younis.

Abu Mustafa emphatically denied that there was any activity by Palestinian armed groups in the area. "This area is very calm, the people here are peace-loving. This land is farmland, and the people here subsist off of what they grow on their farms, like olives."

He told Ma'an: "I heard on the news that Israel said it was targeting terrorists who fired rockets, resistance or terrorists or I don't know what, and the Army of Islam. There is no truth in these words."

He added that, unlike many other areas directly along Gaza's border with Israel, there have been very few incident of soldiers firing on farmers. Abu Mustafa's farm lies adjacent to an Israeli military position, including a remotely-operated gun turret, and a gate in the border fence used by military forces to enter the Strip.

Abu Mustafa said that the house that was the target of the missile was owned by the Sharufa family, who live primarily in Gaza City, and only visit the farmhouse once or twice a month. When Ma'an visited, all that remained of the two-story house was a crater.

Identities of those injured in the Deir Al-Balah bombing:

1. Roqaya Abu Mustafa, 53
2. Wijdan Abu Mustafa, 29
3. Abdel Aziz Abu Mustafa, 20
4. Ibrahim Abu Mustafa, 2

Video: Israeli Occupation Forces kidnap teen in Bil'in home overnight

Israeli occupation soldier abducts Palestinian children.

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- A 16-year-old boy was kidnapped from his family home in the central West Bank village of Bil'in overnight, Israeli military officials confirmed.

Officials from the village popular committee said armored military jeeps and personnel carriers entered the area at approximately 2:30 a.m., stormed the home of Adeeb Abu Rahmah, who was detained 17 months earlier, and arrested his son Mohammed, blindfolded him and took him to a waiting jeep.

According to a statement from the village popular committee, witnesses described a group of masked soldiers forcefully entering the house without showing a warrant.

An Israeli military spokesman said the teen was arrested on "suspicion of participation in violent and illegal riots."

The spokesman said allegations made by the popular committee that photographer Haitham Khatib was assaulted by soldiers as he documented the detention were misplaced.

Khatib "disturbed the soldiers during a regular arrest campaign," he said, adding that he was asked to leave. When he refused and continued photographing, the spokesman said, "he was removed from the scene." 



Israeli army continues to abduct children and use them as human shields, Defence for Children International reported

A few days before a Palestinian farmer was beaten by Israeli soldiers after he asked them to open the agricultural gate and allow him access to his farm land.

Related Videos: 

EU: Israel failed to ease blockade of Palestinian territory

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visits a UN warehouse in Jabaliya refugee
camp in the Gaza Strip on 18 March 2010. (Maan Images)

BRUSSELS (Ma'an) -- Israel has failed to live up to its commitments on easing the blockade on the Gaza strip, the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Monday.

Israel pledged to loosen its grip on the Palestinian enclave in June, reacting to the international outcry caused by its at-sea shooting in late May of nine Turkish activists, who were trying to break the blockade.

But five months on, Ashton said there were not enough goods flowing in to meet the humanitarian and reconstruction needs of the territory, which is ruled by Hamas, the radical group classed as a terrorist organization by the EU and the United States.

"Gaza remains a source of great concern for me ... at the present time, we think that what's happened with Gaza is unsatisfactory, the volume of goods is not increasingly as significantly as it needs to," she said, speaking on behalf of all EU foreign ministers.

She also urged Israel to allow exports out of Gaza and to let in construction material that the local United Nations agency (UNRWA) wants to use to rebuild schools.

"It is absolutely essential that the economy is allowed to recover and that people are allowed to invest in their futures," Ashton pointed out.

The EU's top foreign policy official spoke as Israeli-Palestinian peace talks remained in limbo, following the expiry in September of an Israeli freeze on new settlement activity on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"Not surprisingly there is a lot of concern with the current lack of progress and with the ongoing settlement activities," Ashton commented.

November 22, 2010

Israeli soldiers beat Palestinian farmer

Israeli occupation forces abduct a Palestinian child.

SALFIT (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian farmer said he was beaten by Israeli soldiers on Friday morning, after he asked them to open the agricultural gate and allow him access to his farm land in the northern West Bank village Az-Zawiya, west of Salfit.

Mu'taz Ribhi Abu Nab'a, 22, said the incident occurred at 11:30 a.m., as he waited to cross the gate to his land, on the far side of the separation barrier.

A force made up of men and women refused to let him through the gate. Instead, he said, soldiers beat him, strip-searched him and hand-cuffed him before transferring him to a military base.

Abu Nab'a further said that female soldiers humiliated him and took photos with him.

When he asked an Israeli officer why he was being beaten and humiliated, the young farmer said, he was told "Because you deliberately disturbed us and made us go to the gate early in the morning." Abu Nab'a said the officer in charge then accused him of attempting to break down part of the barrier. The farmer said he denied the charge and informed the soldier that he knew there were monitoring cameras which would have documented him.

He also told the soldier he had a permit issued by Israeli authorities giving him permission to access his land.

According to Abu Nab'a, soldiers ultimately freed him in Hebron, more than 60 kilometers south of his home town, but only after he was served with a summons ordering him to go the Israeli intelligence office in Tulkarem on Monday for further interrogation.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said she could not look into the report without the Palestinian's ID number.

Related Videos: 

Israel army showed 'intent to kill' in Gaza shelling of two teens and grandfather

Walid Abu Oda holds flachettes, metal darts, from a shell that killed his son Ismail,
16. In addition, his son`s friend Hussam Abu Sayed, 17, and Ibrahim Abu Sayed,
91, died in the attack in the northern Gaza Strip on 12 September 2010.
(MaanImages/Jared Malsin)

By Jared Malsin

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip (Ma’an) -- On 13 September, a day after Israeli tank shells decapitated his 16-year-old son, Walid Abu Oda went back to his family's northern Gaza farm in a vain search for the head.

Asked how he was coping with the loss, he said, "How do you think it feels to lose a son, to see your son without his head?"

The killing of Walid's son, Ismail Abu Oda, along with his friend Hussam Abu Sayed, 17, and his grandfather Ibrahim Abu Sayed, 91, is raising questions about whether Israel has taken sufficient strides to bring it's army into compliance with international humanitarian law.

The incident was similar to previous incidents, such as those described in judge Richard Goldstone's UN-mandated report on Israel's winter war on Gaza. Human rights groups say the September killings and others only underscore the importance of implementing the report's call for investigations and accountability.

A lack of credible investigations, by Israel or international bodies, into these and other allegations makes it likely that Israeli soldiers will continue to violate the laws of war in Gaza. The dearth of probes "makes it very easy for the soldiers and the commanders first to shoot and second to get away with it," said Mahmoud Abu Rahmah, a spokesman for the Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights.

Immediately following the shelling, the Israeli military announced it was merely “returning fire” at “suspects” who, they claimed, fired rocket-propelled grenades at Israeli forces.

Initial reports in the Israeli media repeated the military’s claims verbatim. "Shells kill three as IDF targets militant on Gaza Strip border,” declared the headline that ran in the next day’s edition of Haaretz.

“1 terrorist dead, 4 wounded in IDF response to Gaza attack,” reported The Jerusalem Post. Ynet: “IDF on Gaza incident: Suspects tried to fire anti-tank rockets." Not to be outdone, the settler-run Arutz Sheva announced: “IDF Kills Two in Firefight with Gaza Terror Infiltrators.”

While Haaretz identified the three victims as a grandfather and two teenagers, the other news portals simply reported, as fact, that the three were “suspects,” “militants,” “terrorists.”

Two days later the military backtracked, admitting what Palestinian witnesses had said all along: the three were civilians.

Brig. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg would later clarify in a statement sent to journalists that "we understand from a re-creation that we undertook that the three casualties were not involved in act of terror." The statement insisted, however, that one of the Palestinians had picked up an RPG launcher and aimed it at Israeli forces stationed along the border.

The case yielded a number of questions: Why did the army initially declare the three to be militants? Why did the Israeli soldiers decide to shoot in the first place?

The Israeli military did not respond to repeated requests for answers to these and other questions.

In Gaza, witnesses, relatives of the victims, and human rights experts told Ma’an that there was no basis for Israel’s claims that the three appeared to pose a threat to military forces.

All these sources stressed that the three victims visited the border area nearly every day, and were known to the soldiers stationed there. They also point out that the area where the shelling took place is in plain view of army installations on the northern border, a fact that Ma’an verified in a visit to the site. Ma'an found no evidence that anyone in the area was holding an RPG-launcher.

Eid killings

Ismail Abu Oda had been a quiet kid who attended prayers at the local mosque, and while he had only a ninth-grade education, was a talented mechanic: “He could spend 10 days in a [mechanic’s] shop and gain 10 years’ worth of knowledge,” his father says. He was saving money to buy a motorcycle.

Walid Abu Oda recounted the day, the third day of the Eid Al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

The day of the shelling, Ismail and Hussam decided to accompany the elderly shepherd to his land, bringing chicken with them to make a barbeque to mark the holiday. “As I had promised my son, I bought them chicken,” he said. Walid did not join the three because he was attending a religious festival in Gaza City.

He said the two teens arrived around 10 a.m., sitting and talking while the elderly man, Ibrahim Abu Sayed, the owner of the land, watched over the sheep. They lit a fire and grilled the chicken.

Late in the afternoon, Walid Abu Oda said, the first tank shell fell, still some distance from the three. (The Al-Mezan Center said this first shell landed some 200 meters away.)

“My son called and said the rockets were coming,” Abu Oda said. He left the festival, in Gaza City, and rushed to return to Beit Hanoun. After the first call, he said, “I had a feeling that I had lost my son.”

When a second shell exploded closer to the group, the three began herding the flock of 30 sheep into a barn, in order to evacuate.

A third shell then exploded, hitting the wall of the barn.

“When I was near Jabaliya I got another call.” It was a relative calling to say his son had been killed.

“I saw my son in the hospital morgue, without a head,” Abu Oda said. Ismail had been decapitated by flachettes, small metal darts contained in certain tank shells used by Israel. He showed Ma’an some of the flachettes that had been found near the bodies, along with a fragment of the tank shell.

The two boys and the grandfather were dead. All but one of the 30 sheep were slaughtered.

Investigations carried out by Al-Mezan confirmed Abu Oda’s account. Abu Rahmah, the Al-Mezan spokesman, recently conducted a field visit in connection with the probe that found Israeli forces fired two shells toward the three Palestinians before the deadly shot.

The third shot was a shell containing flachettes, he confirmed, that hit the brick wall of a sheep barn where one of the teens was attempting to bring the sheep to shelter.

“The young man got the sheep and put them in the barn. He was closing the door when the shell hit him.”

“The shell hit a brick wall. This helped the splinters [flachettes] go back in the opposite direction and hit the two men,” Abu Rahmah said. The other two were standing 12 to 15 meters northeast of the barn when the shell exploded.

“The selection of the weapon and the way it was used gives us some info about the intent,” he added. “There is evidence that the intent was to kill the three persons with three shells.”

Photos taken that day by a Belgian photojournalist show the bodies laying in the morgue wrapped in white cloth. Hussam Abu Sayed, wearing an orange shirt, dried blood coming from his mouth and ears, a chunk of the skull missing above his right eye. Ibrahim Abu Sayed’s head was apparently intact except for a deep puncture in the right cheek.

Victims' 'familiar faces'

Muhammad Abdel Aziz Abu Oda operates a farm adjacent to the area where the three were killed. His farm, where he grows olive and lemon trees, is the last human encampment on the edge of the “buffer zone” where anyone who enters is shot on sight by the Israeli army.

Abu Oda told Ma’an he comes to his land every day in coordination with the Israeli military. He also said that the three victims of the 12 September shelling visited the area every day. “The soldiers knew them,” he said in an interview on his land bordering the buffer zone.

Al-Mezan's Abu Rahmah also confirmed this impression, saying the three would have been “familiar faces” for the soldiers stationed on the border.

He claimed Palestinian guerillas never came to the area because it lies in plain sight of the watchtowers along the border.

Ismail Abu Oda’s father also said that he had never known of fighters visiting the area where the killings took place. “If my son had worked with the resistance, I would not be sad; I would be proud,” he said.

November 21, 2010

Israeli occupation forces take four Palestinians prisoner in West Bank

Israeli occupation forces point their rifles at Palestinian school girls.

NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained four Palestinian men from the northern West Bank village of Madama during the early hours of Saturday morning, in an operation which included home searches and allegations of vandalism.

The home invasions came two days after forces entered the village in search of young men believed to have thrown Molotov Cocktails toward cars on a settler road in the area.

Member of Madama village council Hassan Ziyada told Ma’an that several Israeli military vehicles raided the village at 2 a.m., and entered a number of homes and ransacked them in what appeared to be a search operation.

Following the home invasions, four young men were detained, the official said, identifying them as 24-year-old Mahmoud Abdullah Qit, 23-year-old Mursi Nizar Ziyada, 25-year-old Basim Arran Nassar, and 20-year-old Asadullah Wajieh Qit.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the detentions.

Israeli air attacks on Palestinian Territories continue

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A second Israeli attack targeted the southern Gaza Strip overnight, with military officials confirming airstrikes on a smuggling tunnel and local sources saying air and artillery strikes also targeted the Gaza airport early Saturday morning.

Witnesses said shells hit the Yasser Arafat airport - destroyed during the Second Intifada in 2000 - and artillery strikes followed, causing further damage to the bombed-out structure. Officials in the south said the strikes were preceded by two hits to smuggling tunnels in the Yebna and Nahda areas of Rafah.

An Israeli military spokesman said the Israeli airforce targeted two tunnel sites in southern Gaza, as part of what has been an ongoing assault said to be a response to projectile fire from militant groups in the area. He said forces identified a direct hit, though no injuries were reported by Gaza medical officials.

The spokesman said strikes did not target the Arafat airfield, but noted flares were used in foggy conditions. He said he was not aware of any artillery strikes on the area.

Following the strikes, the militant wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's General Command unit said their fighters fired four mortar shells toward the Israeli military base at Kissufim, east of Khan Younis. The brigades said in a statement that the attack came in retaliation for the assassination of two brothers in Gaza on Wednesday.

On Friday afternoon, six Gaza residents were injured in three air strikes on the coastal enclave, medics said.

The Israeli military confirmed the strikes in a statement, and said the attacks targeted "terror sites" in the Strip, adding that "direct hits were identified."

The strikes targeted sites in the southern and central Gaza Strip. Four were injured in a strike on Deir Al-Balah, where shelling targeted a two-storey home. The injured, who included two women, were transferred to hospital, Gaza medical services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiyya said.

Two attacks targeted Khan Younis in southern Gaza. One strike on the southern area injured a man and a child, who were transferred to the Nasser Hospital, Abu Salmiyya said.

No injuries were reported from the third strike, which hit a farmers' field.

The army said the strikes were in response to projectiles launched from the Strip into southern Israel. A military spokesman said two strikes hit central Gaza and targeted "terror tunnels." He could not specify the target of the third strike, which he said hit southern Gaza.

According to the military, ten mortar shells and one grad rocket had been fired since Thursday, causing damage. No injuries were reported.

A long-range rocket fired on Friday from Gaza into Israel exploded near the Negev desert town of Ofakim without causing any casualties, the army said. A military spokesman said the rocket was "the first of its kind for several months."

Grad-type rockets have a range of up to 40 kilometers, about twice the distance of the homemade Qassam rockets usually used by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

The attack came hours after local police said Israeli warplanes bombed the shoreline south of Gaza City, where a loud explosion was heard in Gaza just after 1 a.m.

On Thursday, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for firing three mortar shells towards an Israeli intelligence headquarters along the Gaza border.

The An-Nasser Salah Ad-Din Brigades said in a statement it launched three shells at the facility behind the Kerem Shalom military base east of Rafah along the border between Israel and Gaza in the south.

A military spokeswoman said the shells landed in the Eshkol Regional Council.

The operation came in response to the assassination of two brothers who were members of the radical Army of Islam group, the PRC statement said. An Israeli drone targeted a car carrying the brothers, Islam and Muhammad Yassin, on Wednesday. Israel claimed they were plotting to attack Israeli citizens in Egypt's Sinai.

November 20, 2010

Funny Video: "Don't Call Me an Israeli"

Following their concert at the Cork Jazz Festival (2005), Gilad Atzmon & The OHE were invited to the BBC studio. The BBC interviewer is Gerry Godley (the Artistic Director of Improvised Music Company). Gerry made the mistake of calling Gilad an Israeli.


Al-Hariri: Israel not fit for peace

Israel is the main reason why the peace process in the Middle East failed, says Lebanon's Prime Minister, Saad Al-Hariri.

Education at gunpoint II

A school of Palestinian refugees.
By Ramzy Baroud

I recall the first sentence of my fifth grade essay on “Education and Youth”. Written with the occasional aid of my father, and dotted with clichés, it might have read something like this:

“Youth is the backbone of any nation, and education is essential to arm the youth with the knowledge they need to lead their societies toward change, progress and prosperity.”

The grayish blue pencil I used to write my essay with was one of several items handed annually by United Nations Relief and Works Agency staff to refugee children in many schools scattered throughout the Gaza Strip.

My Arabic teacher was Abu Kamal Al-Hanafi, a wonderful man with a terrible temper, who was also the Imam of the local mosque. My classroom had exactly 62 students. My desk was as old as the Israeli occupation of Gaza, if not older. The roof was filled with holes, creating an exciting spectacle as birds flew in and out, often nesting in available spaces. Watching these scenes made the brutish Arabic grammar lessons bearable, and eased the fear caused by Abu Kamal’s bouts of anger and the occasional Israeli gunfire in and around the refugee camp.

While the introduction to my “Education and Youth” essay was clichéd and I may not have known what many of the terms actually meant, its overriding sentiment remains as true for me now as it ever was.

I remembered my essay as I read about the first World Education Forum in Palestine, which took place in several regions throughout historic Palestine, including Jerusalem, Nazareth, Yaffa, Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip. Those who were denied access by Israeli authorities had their own conference in Lebanon. The event, which started on October 28, lasted four days.

The problems faced by the education system in Palestine were difficult enough during my childhood. Now they have compounded to unforeseen levels, with the educational sector divided between two educational ministries in Gaza and the West Bank, the former under Israeli siege and the latter under military occupation. Were it not for UNRWA, the already severe obstacles would have become completely insurmountable long ago. But today even UNRWA is struggling with depleting funds and political haggling between competing Palestinian authorities and an ever atrocious Israeli occupation.

According to statistics provided by the United Nations IRIN news agency and recently cited by IPS, 39,000 children in Gaza had no available school to attend following the recent Israeli war. The United Nations has put the number of schools and kindergartens that were destroyed or severely damaged by the Israeli onslaught during the 2008-2009 war at 280. Considering earlier problems of a barely standing educational infrastructure, malnourished pupils and devastated family incomes, one can only imagine the impact of the latest blow.

As if the damage caused by Israel was not enough, the Palestinian Authority has also done its fair share of harm.

According to the Palestine Monitor, a news site affiliated with the Palestinian National Initiative party, the head of the Ministry of Education proclaimed in his message to the conference: “Through education we will become a prosperous nation, and will obtain a life that allows us to live in freedom. We are a people who can live and learn despite the problems we encounter. We will continue to improve education, so that future generations can live peacefully.”

I can humbly concede that this statement is much more impressive than my fifth grade proclamations. But as well-meaning and accurate as the assessment sounds, one can hardly absolve the Palestinian leadership of its own share of the blame.

Following the clashes between Fatah and Hamas, which lead to the ousting of Fatah from Gaza in 2007, thousands of teachers refused to return to work. They were paid by the West Bank leadership and resuming work under Hamas might have meant the freezing of their salaries by rival Fatah. The Hamas government were left with the formidable task of filling the vacant posts at very short notice. Many schools were also destroyed during the war, and many teachers and students were killed or wounded. Since the families of most students were poorer than ever under a harsh Israeli siege, bringing the educational system in Gaza back to its old status was almost impossible.

Gaza might be the most referenced example, for obvious reasons, but the education debacle in Palestine hardly stops there. With every extra mile added to Israel’s already gigantic annexation wall, and with every new military checkpoint, more and more Palestinian students in the West Bank are held back - from school, from opportunities, from a better life.

Palestinians living in third class status in today’s Israel, struggling against constant attacks on their identity and history also have numerous challenges to overcome.

On top of the problems created by military occupation, discrimination and political factionalism, other challenges, which also exist in other Middle Eastern societies, such as adult literacy and gender equality, are also very much relevant in Palestine. These too need to be addressed.

The World Education Forum conferences were accurately named “Education for Change.” But in order for this change to take place, rival Palestinian factions must not politicize education. If complete unity eludes them at the moment, they should at least unify their ministries of education, even if temporarily, under the auspices of a third Palestinian party.

Needless to say, the Israeli occupation and the siege must end. No healthy educational system can ever be fostered under the boots of soldiers and at gunpoint.

More, regional and international solidarity is essential to help Palestinians achieve a semblance of normalcy in their educational system under the current difficult circumstances.

The good news is that I got a full mark on my Arabic essay on “Education and Youth.” Whether the parties involved will ever agree that “education is essential to arm the youth with the knowledge they need to lead their societies toward change, progress and prosperity” remains to be seen. Personally, I will maintain my fifth grade position. I now understand what it actually means.

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). More of his writings can be found on his website,

Abbas: US aid to Israel must not be linked to talks

Israeli occupation forces attack a Palestinian woman.

DUBAI (AFP) -- President Mahmoud Abbas said he refuses to link the troubled Middle East peace process with a US offer of additional military aid to its Israeli ally, in a newspaper interview published on Friday.

"We refuse to allow the offer of planes be linked in any way to a freeze on settlements," he told the London-based Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.

"We have nothing to do with all that. This is our position and it will not change," said Abbas, who insists on a renewed Israeli moratorium on settlement building before he returns to direct US-brokered peace talks with Israel.

"The United States is an ally of Israel and we can not prevent that," said the president.

"But let their aid be carried out far removed from the Palestinian peace negotiations and not be used as a pretext for giving more weaponry to Israel," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to consider a renewed moratorium in exchange for a package of US incentives, reportedly including the delivery of an additional 20 warplanes to Israel.

Washington's aim is to bring Abbas back to the negotiating table.

Direct peace negotiations resumed on September 2 but collapsed three weeks later when Netanyahu refused to extend restrictions on settlement expansion which expired in late September.

November 19, 2010

Israeli soldiers block Palestinian boy scouts from picnic and mosque

Israeli occupation forces beat a Palestinian boy.

HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces stopped a scout march Thursday approaching the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, onlookers said.

The group was marching toward As-Sadaka park in the Old City where an eid event was taking place, the event coordinator said.

Majed Aby Subeh said forces forbade the scouts from entering and "attacked them." Mus’ab Abu Sneneh, 15, sustained injuries.

Israeli court approves Jewish-only housing in predominantly Palestinian neighborhood

An Israeli occupation soldier points his gun at a Palestinian woman and her child.

By Jillian Kestler-D'Amours

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- A recent Israeli Supreme Court decision to give the green light to an organization that intends to build a Jewish-only apartment complex in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of Ajami in Jaffa has local residents and associations up in arms.

“We are very disappointed from the decision of the [Supreme] Court,” said Sami Abu Shahadeh, the Coordinator of Darna, The Popular Committee for Housing Rights in Jaffa.

“The result of this decision is that it is legal and legitimate to build a settlement in the heart of the Ajami neighborhood, which has a vast Arab majority. The settlement is closed only for national, religious Jews, and this means that anyone who is living now in the Ajami neighborhood – Arab or Jew – is not allowed to have an apartment in the project which is built nearby his house,” he said.

Indeed, with the Supreme Court’s ruling, Be’emunah, a settler movement that aims to create ideological and religious Jewish communities in cities with large Palestinian populations, was given the go-ahead to build 20 apartments in the heart of Ajami.

28 Palestinian residents of Jaffa were petitioning against the Israeli Lands Authority, which sold land tenders to Be’emunah.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal on the basis that it was theoretical in nature, insomuch as “the rights to the land already have been granted to a real estate purchasing company created by Be'emunah.”

The court found that while it was important for the ILA to oversee the selling of land in a non-discriminatory way in the future, “the appeal is against a done deal, and the requested support is no longer practical. There is no longer a practical possibility of taking away the respondents' rights to the plot of land,” Haaretz reported.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights and Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights had joined the residents of Ajami in this latest appeal.

According to Abu Shahadeh, the reasoning behind the court’s decision was problematic.

“Now, the Israeli Land Authority is not allowed to do the same mistake again, which means to give the land of the state to a group which is a racist group. If this was a mistake in [Supreme Court President Dorit] Beinisch’s point of view, why is [the ILA] allowed to do it in Jaffa?” he said.

“If it's wrong, she should have stopped this settlement from being built in the Ajami neighborhood. If it's not wrong, she shouldn't have written in her decision that in the future, such things should not happen. So there is a contradiction in her decision from my point of view.”

The legal battle over the Ajami neighborhood began in May 2009, when the ILA first awarded the winning bid over the land to Be’emunah. Soon thereafter, Palestinian residents in the neighborhood argued in the Tel Aviv District Administrative Court that providing housing to religious Jews alone constituted discrimination.

In July 2010, the residents of Ajami were in Jerusalem to petition the Israeli High Court against the proposed plans.

“The land is public land and therefore the Israeli Land Administration that must decide what the designation of the land should be. When it marketed this land to the entire public, a private entrepreneur can’t come and decide to sell the apartment to public X and not Y. That he will not sell it to Arabs, for example, or to people who aren’t religious,” Attorney Gil Gan-Mor, from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said at the time.

“We don’t accept the fact that this private entrepreneur can decide on his own that he will sell to X and not Y. This is discrimination that we do not accept. The Israeli Lands Authority is failing in its responsibility to manage the land and this is unacceptable and leads to discrimination,” Gan-Mor said.

Ultimately, for Sami Abu Shahadeh, the recent decision was not only extremely disheartening, but it highlighted the increasing assault of the Israeli state on its Palestinian citizens, especially those living in so-called “mixed” cities like Ramla, Lod and Jaffa.

“Every citizen is asked to be loyal according to [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman's agenda. And if you don't fit into Lieberman's agenda, you will either be imprisoned – like a big part of the Palestinian leadership now in Israel, they are in the prison, for no good reason – or, you are all the time spoken about as a demographic threat,” Abu Shahadeh said.

“The general feeling is a huge amount of frustration [among the Palestinian citizens of Israel]. People are very frustrated. They are becoming very afraid from racist policies and racist attitudes of the Jewish majority towards them. We are talking about [one of] the most basic rights which is housing, and if you are not having your right to build yourself a house or buy yourself a house in the area that you were born in, this is transfer.”

Jillian Kestler-D'Amours is a reporter and documentary filmmaker based in East Jerusalem. More of her work can be found at

Israeli occupation forces close entire Palestinian village for home raid

An Israeli occupation soldier shoots a bound, blindfolded Palestinian.

NABLUS (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces entered the Nablus-area village of Madama on Wednesday night, searching for young residents allegedly behind a Molotov Cocktail-throwing incident earlier in the day.

Member of the local village council Hasan Ziyadeh said that during the raid soldiers closed down the town, preventing residents from leaving their homes and searched several residential buildings under the cover of gunfire before detaining one man.

Twenty-four-year-old Amir Nassar, the official said, was taken from his home by one of the ten military vehicles which entered the village during the raid. The official said he believed soldiers were looking for rock-throwers.

Amid the chaos of the raid, Ziyadeh said, ambulances could be heard heading to a nearby settlement.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said two Molotov cocktails were thrown toward a settler road in the area, prompting troops to search for those behind the incident. She said the man detained was suspected of involvement in the incident.

November 17, 2010

The SOTT Report #1 - The Road to Hope Convoy

The SOTT Report's Joe Quinn speaks with Ken O'Keefe in Athens following the abduction of members of the Road to Hope convoy that was attempting to bring much needed aid to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

For more information, read the article on here.

Inshallah - A Documentary Journey Through Gaza

This is the preview trailer for a twelve part series; a virtual tour of the Gaza Strip from the Erez border crossing in the north to the Rafah crossing in the south.

The project (formerly called If William Can't Come to the Mountain) is being created to bring you the viewer to the Gaza Strip to better understand conditions on the ground. It is a picture that, like any community, is varied and complex.

That said, Gaza, is the only community on earth completely under a military and political siege by a hostile neighbor, Israel.

Every aspect of daily life in Gaza is controlled by an external force; where and how residents of Gaza can travel, what they are allowed to purchase in their stores, where and when they can build, how much international aid is allowed to enter, what goods and services can be exported. Virtually every aspect of the human condition.

It is under this reality that the Gaza Strip struggles with its political and economic future.

The phrase "Inshallah" is heard daily. It's literal translation being if Allah so wills it" In practice it is used by a population that feels their fate is not completely in their own hands.

The twelve chapters are being posted for review and comment here. All feedback is welcomed and much appreciated.

Thank you for watching.

2 Palestinians killed in Israeli air strike

Palestinian police survey the remains of a car destroyed in an Israeli airstrike
that killed two Palestinians, in Gaza City on 17 November 2010. (Maan Images)

GAZA CITY -- Israeli aircrafts targeted Gaza's most populous city Wednesday, killing two Palestinian men.

The strike came at sundown on the second night of the Eid Al Adha holiday, in a busy section of the city.

Medical officials at Ash-Shifa Hospital identified the deceased as Muhammad Yassin and his brother, Islam Yassin. Muhammad Yassin was dead when he arrived at the hospital, his upper body covered in burns, while Islam underwent surgery, including the amputation of his left arm, before dying.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed the assassination, which was the second in two weeks.

She said "a senior operative belonging to the terrorist group Army of Islam was targeted" because the group, a radical Islamist organization, was plotting to attack Israeli citizens in the Sinai.

Settler convicted of kidnapping, beating Palestinian teen

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A Jerusalem District Court convicted a settler of three counts of assault, battery under aggravated circumstances, kidnapping for the purpose of causing grave bodily injury, and one count of animal abuse in a decision issued on Sunday.

Israeli human rights group Yesh Din represented the victim, a 15-year-old boy from the southern West Bank town of Khursa, who was left by his attackers in a field, bound, naked, and unconscious.

The boy after attack. (Photo courtesy of Yesh Din)

The incident, which tool place on 24 July 2007, was, according to statements by the group, "one of the most severe cases ever handled by Yesh Din."

Lawyers said the boy was kidnapped by two assailants near the Esh Kodesh outpost. The two offenders battered him, and left him naked, wounded, and bound in an open field.

Following a police investigation, one of the suspects was apprehended and indicted. The defendant, Zvi Struk, resident of the settlement of Shilo, was charged with battery under aggravated circumstances and kidnapping for the purpose of causing grave bodily injury – felonies that bear a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment. His trial opened in the Jerusalem District Court on February 2009.

According to the indictment, the offenders battered their victim using the barrel of a rifle, dragged him on the ground, bound his eyes and hands, and took him to an unknown location.

There, he was beaten again, stripped of his clothes, and left in an open field and tied while unconscious. After regaining consciousness, he managed to free himself, and ran to the nearest road where he was picked up by a passing motorist.

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November 16, 2010

Settlers torch Hebron olive trees

IMEMC - Farmers from Surif, north of Hebron, went to their land on Tuesday to find that many of their trees had been set on fire by settlers. According to the Palestinian Solidarity Project, based in nearby Beit Ummar, about 85 trees were destroyed.

Shaban Atiya Al-Hur and Ahmed Atiya Al-Hur have farmed the Al-Hajahat area of Surif all their lives. This morning both men attended their land to find that settlers from the nearby Bat Ayn settlement had destroyed 85 of their olive and fig trees.

The trees were destroyed by deliberately lit fires and amount to around half the trees in the area. The fires were started at approximately 9:30am and lasted for around half an hour.

Employment and economic opportunities for Palestinian residents of the region are extremely limited and the loss of these trees will have a devastating impact on the families of the affected farmers. Whilst the trees can be replanted, it will take several years before they can again produce to the same extent as the destroyed trees. There is also a real risk that the settlers will destroy any new trees or that the land will be annexed by the Israeli military for settlement expansion.

Destruction of trees and crops is a frequent tactic of the settlers in an attempt to intimidate the local Palestinian population and assist in the annexation of the land by the Israeli military for settlement expansion.

No Israeli police or military attended the scene. 

WATCH: Settlers Stealing Land 

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