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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Israel abused Hamas officials

3 August 2006

Hamas officials who were detained by Israel in the occupied West Bank accuse their Israeli jailers of abusing them, the BBC reported.

Three top Hamas officials, who were freed this week after two months detention, said they were abused and maltreated at the hands of Israeli interrogators and complained of poor living conditions in detention.

Wasfi Kabha, Palestinian Minister for Prisoners' Affairs, told the Associated Press news agency that he had been released because there was no evidence to back Israeli claims that he belonged to a terrorist organization.

"I spent 11 days under heavy interrogation," he said by telephone from the West Bank town of Jenin.

"They would take me at 0500 in the morning, hands and legs cuffed, and place me in a chair without a back until 1700.

"The only rest I got was during the sirens when Hezbollah launched rockets at Israel. They would take me down into a cell underground and they would leave to take shelter somewhere in the jail."

Mr Kabha added that his cell was a small place with four dirty mattresses on the ground and with two very dirty and old blankets".

Hasan Khurayshah, a deputy speaker in the Palestinian parliament, and Palestinian Finance Minister Omar Abdal Razeq also said that they were abused in Israeli jails.

"Everybody was treated in the same bad way," Khurayshah said.

"They bound our legs and hands to a chair and put blindfolds so we could not see anything. There was very little water and food and they were unfit for human consumption. The jailers were cursing and insulting us."

Israel arrested more than 64 Hamas cabinet ministers, lawmakers and activists in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to pressure the Hamas-led Palestinian government, whose armed wing is part of three other resistance groups who captured an Israeli soldier on June 25.

Israel has launched a deadly offensive in the Gaza Strip in the wake of the soldiers' capture.

The brutal military campaign has so far killed more than 126 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

More killed as Israel pounds Beirut, Gaza

3 August 2006

Israel resumed its deadly air strikes on the Lebanese capital, Beirut, as Israeli occupation forces moved back into southern Gaza, the Herald Sun reported.

The Israeli army said more than 70 air strikes were carried in Lebanon overnight.

Witnesses said at least four huge blasts rocked the southern Beirut suburb of Dahieh, a Hezbollah stronghold that has been frequently shelled by Israel since the fighting began three weeks ago.

There were also air raids on a bridge in the northern region of Akkar, roads near Lebanon’s border with Syria, and in the Bekaa Valley.

In southern Lebanon, Israeli ground troops and Hezbollah fighters are still battling for control of at least five villages along the border, where Israel has launched ground incursions with more than 10,000 soldiers.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials say more than 70 Hezbollah rocket attacks hit northern Israel. The resistance group has fired at least 300 missiles into Israel on Wednesday, some of which landed up to 70 km inside the Jewish state; the deepest so far.

At least 900 Lebanese people, mostly civilians, have been killed and more than 3,000 wounded since Israel launched its deadly offensive in Lebanon, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said in a video message to Muslim leaders meeting in Malaysia.

About 55 Israelis, most of them soldiers, have been killed.

In a separate development, UN diplomats say the UK, France, and the U.S. are working on a UN resolution calling for an immediate end to the fighting. The three countries want to present the resolution to the other 12 members of the UN Security Council later on Thursday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said there will be no ceasefire until an international force is deployed in southern Lebanon. He also said that Israel would have the right to respond to Hezbollah attacks even after the deployment of the international force.

Meanwhile, the Israeli armys probe into the Qana massacre concluded that the deadly attack was a mistake.

The report claimed the building where more than 60 civilians were sheltering was thought to be a hiding place for Hezbollah fighters.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of committing war crimes after the Qana attack, which killed more than 54 civilians, many of them children.

Residents flee Lebanese cities

A quarter of Lebanons population one million had been displaced as a result of the Israeli bombardment, according to Prime Minister Fuoad Siniora.

In the virtually empty port city of Tyre, street cats and dogs have taken over the streets. Shops are closed and construction sites are quiet. The smell of the rubbish heaps fills the city. The silence is broken only by the cries of the cats, according to an article on AFP.

Just last week, Tyre was home to about 100,000 people, both residents and refugees from other war-torn areas. Now, some 10,000 people remain in the city, which is completely cut off from the outside world.

Israel bombed the highway. Some roads are open towards the south and east, but the route is too risky due to Israels bombardment.

The residents who remained have no where to go.

"We're waiting for them (the Israelis)," said Hajje, a 70-year-old woman who owns a grocery shop in Tyre. "They want to do to Lebanon what they've done in Iraq. But we won't let them. We're ready

"They have always failed, and they will fail again," says Hajje, who hangs a huge portrait of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on the shop wall.

Another resident agrees, showing that Hezbollahs resistance against Israel has boosted the groups image among ordinary Lebanese.

"The Israelis tried four times, and they were pushed back four times," says Ali, referring to the fighting which preceded Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000.

"The warriors are the strongest of all, and thanks to them Lebanon will survive," he added.

UN warns of environmental crisis

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) warned of an environmental crisis and called for immediate action after thousands of tons of heavy fuel from the bombed Jiyyeh power plant, 30 km south of Beirut, spread to the Syrian coastline, AFP reported.

The UNEP warned that the longer a spill of 110,000 barrels of oil isnt cleaned up from Lebanons coast, the more severe the environmental impact will be. It also said that the oil slick have arrived on Syrias coast after affecting more than 80 km of the Lebanese coastline.

"Now it has become even more vital to take immediate action. In addition to the humanitarian circumstances, an environmental catastrophe is threatening the Mediterranean region," said Paul Mifsud, UNEP's coordinator for the Mediterranean Action Plan.

"Hostilities must cease to guarantee immediate safe access to the affected area," he stressed.

Lebanese Environment Minister Yacub Sarraf told AFP between 10,000 and 15,000 tons of heavy fuel oil have spilled out into the sea, adding that cleaning up Lebanons beaches would cost between 45 and 50 million dollars and would not be finished until next summer.

Gaza air strikes kill 7

In Gaza, Israeli troops, backed by tanks and bulldozers, pushed further into the south, closing off the eastern entrance to Rafah, a town on the Gaza-Egypt border, and taking positions at the Gaza air port, security officials said, according to the BBC.

Correspondents say the incursion is the deepest into Gaza since the start of Israels month-long offensive.

As Israeli troops took up positions, Israeli jets carried out air strikes, killing more than seven people, including a child, and injuring more than 26 others, residents said.

Two more people were wounded when a tank shell hit their house, medics said.

The Israeli army claimed that the raids targeted Palestinian resistance fighters who were about to launch anti-tank rockets at Israeli forces.

Israeli launched a deadly offensive in Gaza last month to pressure the Hamas-led government, whose armed wing is part of three other resistance groups who captured an Israeli soldier.

More than 140 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since the assault began. The United Nations says the dead include 35 children.

On Wednesday, UN officials renewed warnings of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is suffering food, water and electricity shortages as well as repeated Israeli incursions, air strikes and shelling.

Arab states must repudiate ties with Israel now

2 August 2006

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 31 July 2006

Palestinians demonstrate in the West Bank town of Ramallah against the Israeli offensive in Lebanon, 30 July 2006. An Israeli air strike on Qana killed more than 54 people, 37 of them children, in south Lebanon. (MaanImages/Mushir Abdelrahman)

The scenes of carnage from Qana, where ten years after an almost identical massacre, rescue workers are pulling the broken bodies of children from the rubble, break the heart and generate a deep and boiling anger. But it is not enough to point the finger at Israel's war criminal government which carried out the atrocity, nor the United States administration, which encourages Israel, funds and arms it. We must also demand that all those with the power to act do so immediately.

Over the past two decades, "moderate" (pro-American) Arab governments including Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Morocco, Tunisia, Qatar and Oman have established ties with Israel, their public rationale being that integrating Israel into the region and normalizing it will encourage moderation on Israel's part. Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have formal agreements with Israel; the other states various official and unofficial ties. At the 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut, Arab governments unanimously reached out to Israel offering full peace in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal only from the territories Israel occupied in 1967, allowing it to maintain its hold on all the land Zionist militias seized from the Palestinians whom they ethnically cleansed in 1947-48. Israel is giving its answer to the Beirut offer by destroying Beirut and all of Lebanon.

Israel has rejected all Arab peace initiatives, no matter how far-reaching and generous, in favor of continued colonial expansion and occupation. It has taken these peace moves as signs of Arab weakness and as a license for further aggression. The Israeli public (except for Palestinian citizens of Israel) almost unanimously supports Israel's massacres in Lebanon and Palestine, and until Israelis start to feel there is a price in terms of international isolation, we cannot expect that to change. And as long as Israeli colonialism remains unchallenged by supine governments, millions of people will see 'non-state actors' like Hizbullah and Hamas as their best option to protect their most fundamental interests, and the power and popularity of such groups will grow as governments consign themselves to irrelevance. Israel and its allies need to ask themselves why demonstrators are shouting the name of Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah from Cairo to Ramallah to Doha, and stop deluding themselves that millions of people are merely puppets of some Syrian-Iranian conspiracy.

Arab states must publicly break their ties with Israel, not merely as an expression of the overwhelming outrage and grief of their own citizens, but as a strategic message to Israel that it will face total and permanent isolation if it does not change course. Arab governments should also support the growing global civil society campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Days after Israel began its premeditated rampage in Lebanon, using the July 12 Hizbullah operation against Israeli military forces on the border as a pretext, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia condemned the Israeli actions. But what attracted attention was their apparent laying of the blame at Hizbullah's doorstep. Egypt and Jordan issued a joint statement on July 14 warning against "the region being dragged into 'adventurism' that does not serve Arab interests." Just the day before, a Saudi official had used the same word when he told the SPA news agency that, "It is necessary to make a distinction between legitimate resistance (to occupation) and irresponsible adventurism adopted by certain elements within the state."

The common interpretation both in the Arab and western media was that these three US-allied governments had implicitly joined up with the American-Israeli axis to take on "radical" and popular forces in the region, specifically Hizbullah and Hamas, that resist Israeli colonialism. The Washington Post, citing "senior Israeli and U.S. officials" reported on July 16 that, "Israel, with U.S. support, intends to resist calls for a cease-fire and continue a longer-term strategy of punishing Hezbollah, which is likely to include several weeks of precision bombing in Lebanon." The same report stated that, "Whatever the outrage on the Arab streets, Washington believes it has strong behind-the-scenes support among key Arab leaders also nervous about the populist militants -- with a tacit agreement that the timing is right to strike." ("Strikes Are Called Part of Broad Strategy; U.S., Israel Aim to Weaken Hezbollah, Region's Militants," The Washington Post, 16 July 2006).

Yet as Israel failed to achieve the quick victory that its generals promised, and as Hizbullah fought stubbornly and skillfully, gaining support and respect from every corner of the region, calculations started to change rapidly. The New York Times reported that Saudi Arabia and Jordan which "were initially more worried about the rising power of Shiite Iran, Hezbollahs main sponsor, are scrambling to distance themselves from Washington." ("Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah," The New York Times, 28 July 2006)

Saudi Arabia hurriedly announced a $1.5 billion aid package to help rebuild Lebanon and Jordan made a public show of sending humanitarian aid. But the damage was already done. "Tent after green tent stands just off one of Beirut's fashionable shopping areas, part of a field hospital sent by Jordan to treat Lebanese wounded," Reuters reported on July 28. "Jordanian soldiers sit idly in the shade nearby and a peek into one tent reveals the beds are empty. Lebanese casualties are rejecting aid from Jordan in protest at what they view as its failure to press for an end to Israeli air strikes in the 17-day-old war against Hizbollah." A Lebanese worker near the field hospital stated, "They've been here three days and we have seen no casualties treated here... They cannot give the green light for this strike against us and then show up to treat us. We don't want their sweetness or their bitterness." ("Lebanese wounded turn cold shoulder on Jordan aid," Reuters, 28 July 2006)

Hours after the Qana massacre, Jordan's King Abdullah II released a statement which "strongly condemned the ugly crime of the Israeli forces in Qana" The statement reiterated Jordan's calls for "an immediate ceasefire."

Such statements are welcome and necessary but unlikely to be sufficient. Israel, as it has shown time and again, is not swayed by words. On the contrary, it deliberately twists and misinterprets them whether from friend or foe. Following the failure of last week's Rome summit Israel claimed it had a "green light" from all the participating states to continue bombing Lebanon. (Although Israel certainly does have a green light from the United States, which is rushing more bombs to kill Lebanese civilians to Israel, this public boasting by Israel was embarassing enough to the U.S. that State Department spokesman Adam Ereli termed it "outrageous.")

Arab states must end their long forbearance which sends the message to Israel that the lives of their citizens are cheap. Action is required no less for the best interests and domestic and international standing of these governments as for the region as a whole. In Jordan's case it would only be exercising rights and responsibilities that are contained within its 1994 peace treaty with Israel and thus could not even be interpreted as violating the treaty's spirit or letter. The peace treaty was supposed to be one element in a wider regional peace that has failed to materialize due to Israel's aggressive construction of new colonies on occupied Palestinian land and refusal to withdraw from occupied Lebanese and Syrian territory. The preamble to the treaty states that Israel and Jordan aim at "a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 in all their aspects." In Article 2 of the treaty, both states commit themselves to "respect and recognize the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the region."

Israel's continued and deepening occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territory, violations of their sovereignty, blatant interference in the internal affairs of Palestinians and Lebanese, and its mounting atrocities which have claimed Jordanian and Egpytian as well as thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian lives are not only crimes against humanity but violations of Israel's treaty commitments. Jordan and Egypt have a right and obligation to respond.

Arab governments have a slim chance to play a genuine leadership role and prove that their earlier positions were simply being misinterpreted and exploited. Breaking off relations may seem like a small step in the current circumstances, but it is the minimum they must do and it will set an example for other international actors such as the EU and the UN who have also failed in their international responsibilities, siding with the aggressor against the victim and thereby enabling Israel's unspeakable crimes.

After Qana, Jordan's foreign minister Abul-Ilah al-Khatib urged the international community "take a firm stand against the aggression." Amman and Cairo should lead the way with more than words.


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