Saturday, February 25, 2012

Real News Video : Egyptians Combat State Media Propaganda

Egyptian State media demonizes the revolution

More at The Real News

Syria's bloody tyrant, by Chris Riddell

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)
Chris Riddell, Saturday 25 February 2012

Shoot the journalists: Syria's lesson from the Arab spring

The killing of the foreign correspondent Marie Colvin and the photographer Rémi Ochlik in the siege of Homs has led to growing international pressure on the regime of Bashar al-Assad

Peter Beaumont
The Observer, Saturday 25 February 2012

"The media centre in the Homs suburb of Baba Amr is nothing more than a family house. Once it had four storeys and a satellite dish on the roof. Reporters, photographers and cameramen had been forced to move there after their previous bolthole came under attack.

Two weeks ago, the top of the house was reduced to rubble during a visit by a CNN television crew, who had placed their own dishes there to broadcast live footage. The assault continued until the dishes were knocked down.

If other evidence were needed that the building had been targeted, before the attack last week that led to the deaths of the Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and the French photographer Rémi Ochlik, it was supplied by another of the group that travelled to Homs with them, Jean-Pierre Perrin, who described how the building's own dish had been peppered with sniper rounds.

Even after their deaths, the regime has continued to attack Colvin and Ochlik. Footage was shown on state television on Saturday of their bodies, accusing them of being "spies."

The regime of Bashar al-Assad has learned the lessons of the Arab spring when it comes to dealing with the media – both citizen journalists and international outlets. As the Committee to Protect Journalists noted in a 2011 report, the regime quickly "enforced an effective media blackout" as soon as the protests began last March....."

Syria: more killed in shelling of Homs as bid to evacuate journalists fails

Residents of besieged suburb of Baba Amr say they feel abandoned after failure of 'Friends of Syria' peace conference

Tracy McVeigh, Saturday 25 February 2012

"....After its ambulances had been allowed to leave the city with 27 people on Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that it had resumed negotiations with both sides to enable more civilians to be brought out. There was still no sign of progress on the evacuation of the western journalists injured in the rocket attack that killed reporter Marie Colvin, 56, and the French photographer Rémi Ochlik, 28, on Wednesday.

The Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy, who has shrapnel wounds in his legs, and the French reporter Edith Bouvier, who has a broken leg, remain in Homs, as do two other western journalists, Javier Espinoza, from the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, and a French freelance reporter, William Daniels, who are unhurt. Efforts are continuing to get them out, along with the bodies of their colleagues...."

It Is The Oil Again, Stupid! Somalia promises west oil riches as diplomats vow to defeat al-Shabaab, Saturday 25 February 2012

"They expect the oil to flow within weeks. Coming from two miles underground, the crude should reach the arid plains of Puntland in the north-east corner of Somalia by April.

Around the same time, Somali diplomats say an offensive against al-Shabaab militia in the south of the country, backed by US drone strikes, should have damaged the Islamist group's "effective fighting capability"....

So the real corporate goal may well be not what is due to arrive on the surface next month but what is known to be under the Indian Ocean off Somalia's coast – where sovereignty is unclear.

Drilling in Puntland by the Canadian firm Africa Oil began last month and transitional government officials, in London for David Cameron's conference, said pipelines to the country's ports had been laid....."

Britain leads dash to explore for oil in war-torn Somalia

Government offers humanitarian aid and security assistance in the hope of a stake in country's future energy industry

Mark Townsend and Tariq Abdinasir, Saturday 25 February 2012

"Britain is involved in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in Somalia, with the government offering humanitarian aid and security assistance in the hope of a stake in the beleaguered country's future energy industry.

Riven by two decades of conflict that have seen the emergence of a dangerous Islamic insurgency, Somalia is routinely described as the world's most comprehensively "failed" state, as well as one of its poorest. Its coastline has become a haven for pirates preying on international shipping in the Indian Ocean.

David Cameron last week hosted an international conference on Somalia, pledging more aid, financial help and measures to tackle terrorism. The summit followed a surprise visit by the foreign secretary, William Hague, to Mogadishu, the Somali capital, where he talked about "the beginnings of an opportunity'' to rebuild the country.

The Observer can reveal that, away from the public focus of last week's summit, talks are going on between British officials and Somali counterparts over exploiting oil reserves that have been explored in the arid north-eastern region of the country. Abdulkadir Abdi Hashi, minister for international cooperation in Puntland, north-east Somalia – where the first oil is expected to be extracted next month – said: "We have spoken to a number of UK officials, some have offered to help us with the future management of oil revenues. They will help us build our capacity to maximise future earnings from the oil industry."...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Red Cross negotiates Homs evacuations

"The International Committee of the Red Cross says it's negotiating with the Syrian government to evacuate injured from the city of Homs and provide urgent medical aid.
The local partner of the organisation, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, says it evacuated 27 people on Friday. But some activists say they don't trust the aid group.
Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports."

"الشرق الأوسط": البنتاغون يعد سيناريو للتدخل في سوريا على غرار كوسوفو

"النقلت جريدة"الشرق الأوسط" عن مصدر عسكري أميركي أن وزارة الدفاع الأميركية "البنتاغون" تعد سيناريو للتدخل في سوريا اعتمادا على تدخل حلف شمال الأطلسي "الناتو" في كوسوفو سنة 1998، بعد أن فشل مجلس الأمن في إصدار قرار لوقف عمليات القتل التي كانت تقوم بها حكومة يوغسلافيا هناك إثر معارضة روسيا مشروع القرار، وامتناع الصين عن التصويت.

واشار المصدر إلى أن السيناريو يبدأ بتأسيس منطقة أمنة لإيواء السوريين اللاجئين بالقرب من الحدود مع تركيا، وبتقديم مساعدات إنسانية لكل السوريين، أولا عن طريق منظمة الصليب الأحمر الدولية، ثم عن طريق قوات من حلف الناتو تنطلق من تركيا. وأضاف المصدر أن البنتاغون لا يتوقع أن تغير كل من روسيا والصين تأييدهما لنظام الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، لكن السيناريو يعتمد على موافقتهما على تقديم مساعدات إنسانية لكل الشعب السوري، ووقف إطلاق النار من جانب كل الأطراف، في إشارة إلى المعارضة السورية المسلحة، وإرسال مبعوث خاص من الأمم المتحدة ليدرس الوضع في سوريا، ثم يرفع تقريرا إلى مجلس الأمن.

وقال المصدر إن السيناريو حذر جدا لأنه يضع في الاعتبار القوة الهائلة للقوات السورية المسلحة، وخاصة السلاح الجوي السوري. ولهذا، يركز السيناريو على عدم إرسال قوات أرضية إلى سوريا، طبقا لخطة المرحلة الأولى لحرب كوسوفو التي اشتركت فيها طائرات حلف الناتو، والتي لم يقتل خلالها أي جندي أميركي. وأن السيناريو يمهد لإعلان منطقة حظر طيران على خطى كوسوفو، وأيضا، على خطى حظر الطيران فوق العراق، قبل الإطاحة بنظام الرئيس العراقي الأسبق صدام حسين.

Al-Jazeera Video: Empire - Egypt: The promise and perils of revolution


"As the military refuses to relinquish power, many Egyptians are wondering what more they have to do and asking whether Egypt underwent a popular uprising, an Islamic revolution or a military coup."

Al-Jazeera Video: "Friends" aim to help fractious Syrian opposition

"Despite a meeting of more than 60 nations in Tunis to come up with a solution to the escalating violence in Syria, important questions remain: How exactly will the so-called "Friends of Syria" help, and who will receive their assistance?

Some nations want to intervene directly with military forces, others want to supply the opposition with more arms, and still others prefer only humanitarian and diplomatic efforts.

On the ground, the "Free Syrian Army" remains ill equipped, under assault and far from cohesive."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian refugees flood shanty towns in Lebanon

"At least 25,000 Syrians fearing brutal violence at home have fled across the border to Lebanon, taxing aid workers from both countries.

Workers attempting to shelter the refugees have been forced to place as many as four families in the same room, while other Syrians who left with few belongings now face $200 monthly rents for homes that are little more than outhouses.

Meanwhile, they are starved for news of loved ones in embattled cities such as Homs, where communications blackouts mean the fates of many are unknown.

Al Jazeera's James Bays reports from Lebanon."

The new Cold War has already started – in Syria

By Robert Fisk

".....No, we are not going to involve ourselves in Syria, thank you very much. Because the new Cold War in the region which Hague was blathering on about has already started over Syria, not Iran. The Russians are lined up against us there, supporting Assad and denouncing us. Just what reaction Putin expects from any Assad replacement is a mystery. Nor will a "new" Syria necessarily be the pro-Western democracy that Hague-Hague and others would like to see.

The Syrians, after all, will not forget the way in which the Brits and the Americans silently approved of the infinitely more terrible massacre of 10,000 Syrian Sunni Muslims at Hama in 1982. Indeed, today marks the 30th anniversary of that onslaught, staged by the Defence Brigades of Bashar al-Assad's Uncle Rifaat.

But, like Hague-Hague, Rifaat also has a doppelgänger. Far from being the killer of Hama – a term he fiercely disputes – he is now a friendly and retired gentleman, living in style and protection quite close to Hague-Hague's desk. Indeed, if Hague-Hague turns left outside the Foreign Office and nips through Horseguards Parade, he can drop by and meet the man himself in – where else would he live? – Mayfair. Now that would be a disaster in world affairs, wouldn't it?"

Egypt’s Salafists go after Hamas’ Haniyeh

Bikya Masr

"CAIRO: Egypt’s ultra-conservative “Salafists Call” condemned Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniya shortly after he led a prayer in the al-Azhar Mosque on Friday, saying he met with Shiite leaders last week while all the killing in Iraq is ongoing and Sunnis are attacked almost daily.

We refuse that Haniya leads the prayer in Egypt’s largest Sunni mosque after he shook hands with the Shiites, and Egypt is the country of the Sunni al-Azhar [and we] do not accept a man who put his hand into the hand that kills Sunnis in Iraq and Syria,” said a statement released by the Salafi Call on Friday.

Haniya is visiting Egypt for meetings with Egyptian officials on Gaza and the peace process with Israel.

The Call said that Haniya, who is being supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, follows a method of “lying, cheating and cunning and plays on all fronts after he shook hands with Shiite in Iran and Hezboallah and Bashar al-Assad and now he comes to Egypt to shake ours, despite he never condemned Assad even once.”

What is the difference between Jews, Hezbollah and Iran when they are all gathered in going against God’s word and wish to break down Islam,” continued the Call.

“There is no difference between the massacres in Syria and Gaza, they are all Muslims,” the group added.

“Why do we only care about al-Aqsa and Jihad there and ignore Aleppo and the rest of Syria.”

The Call went on to criticize the Muslim Brotherhood, who in their opinion, tried its hardest to get Haniya to Egypt and failed to support the bearded police officers [Now you are talking! This is the biggest challenge facing Egypt now!] in their battle with the ministry of interior.

A number of police officers want to go against the code of the ministry and let their beards grow as they see it as part of their Islamic identity."

Tawakkul Karman: The fight must go on

Bikya Masr

"SANA’A: Yemen’s 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman told reporters on Friday that she would continue to fight in “Change Square” until the government fulfills all the demands of the youth.

The young activist, who reluctantly cast her vote earlier in the week to the benefit of President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi after having called the one-man elections a sham, said she participated as she wanted to show her opposition to President Ali Abdullah Saleh [You can do better than this Tawakkul; this is a very lame explanation for your flip-flopping. I used to think better of you; by voting in a sham "election" you have become a sham yourself!.]

“Saying yes to Hadi meant rejecting Saleh’s rule, so for that I supported the elections. However, I call now on the coalition government to implement all the necessary reforms and to transition Yemen onto the path of democracy,” Karman said....."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Deserters Battle Assad from Turkey

The Free Syrian Army Front

By Oliver Trenkamp, on the Turkish-Syrian Border

(18 photos included)

"At first they served the regime, but now they are fighting against it. Operating out of southern Turkey, units of the Free Syrian Army, driven by hatred toward Assad, are infiltrating their home country and fighting soldiers loyal to the dictator. SPIEGEL ONLINE visits the troops......"

Three questions for Marwan Bishara: Determining Syria’s future in Tunisia

Al Jazeera's senior political analyst looks at diplomatic efforts to secure peace in Syria.

"As officials from more than 70 countries gather to explore options for peace in Syria, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst offers his scrutiny of the meeting.

What do you make of the 'Friends of Syria' meeting in Tunisia?

Despite the attendance of so many countries and international organisations, the "Friends of Syria" meeting rang hollow, in light of the disagreement among the "friends" and the absence of the doubters - notably Russia and China....

That's why the more effective and actionable results of the Tunisia gathering are more likely to come out of the hallway discussions and backroom deals than the official meeting and its final statement....

....However, it will be the attempts by certain countries to arm the opposition that will prove a game changer....

What do you make of the absence of Russia and China?

What does the future hold for Syria?

....If Assad had listened to the voice of reason and the agony of his people from the outset, perhaps there would have been a chance for reform and reconciliation.

The Syrian regime has now lost all legitimacy and there is no more room for reconciliation under Assad's leadership. It's just too late for that.

Already more than a quarter of the population is either on the streets on directly implicated by the mass demonstrations, and is in direct confrontation with the forces of the regime. With more than 7,000 killed - and many more injured and displaced - the window of opportunity for reconciliation has long since closed.

Moreover, the expected collapse of Syria's currency and the regime's inability to pay salaries to its soldiers and bureaucrats will, for all practical purpose, destroy whatever technical legitimacy it commands in the country - and perhaps lead to its implosion from within.

In the meantime, in the absence of Arab consensus and with a lack of serious international diplomatic pressure, arming the opposition renders the escalation towards civil war all but imminent - short of an implosion within the regime's inner circles.

It's a zero sum game that will probably, at the end of the day, leave everyone on the losing side."

Hosni Mubarak's mafia ending

At first Egyptians simply wanted Mubarak out. But the more they learn, the more calls for execution grow

Ahdaf Soueif, Friday 24 February 2012

"...In the year since his removal the mood of the country has grown more harsh. The symbolic nooses the western media are so fond of showing only started to be hung in Tahrir Square and outside the courtroom months into the revolution. The appetite of the protesters was never for summary justice; they wanted a fair and comprehensive trial and were prepared for it to take time. But how much time? As the trial dragged on we learned more and more about the systematic ruin that the man had been overseeing: our ruin, brought to life before us – the industries dismantled, the ministries bankrupted, the water poisoned, the gold and ancient artefacts spirited away, the foreign debt accumulated and embezzled, the lives wasted.

And while we were absorbing this information we knew that Mubarak continued to live in luxury....

And we see it against the fact that the armed forces, headed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) – Mubarak's boys whom he left in charge of us – have engineered confrontations with the people in which around 200 civilians have been killed and 12,000 court-martialled. No wonder the mood has turned, and in place of the simple "Leave!" we now hear demands for execution.

And yet, in a sense, the trial has become a sideshow, a distraction. It allows Scaf and the current powers to promote the perception that the big crimes that continue to be committed are not theirs, but are organised by, if not Mubarak, then his sons through their still active network.....

The mood of the country is that Mubarak deserves and should get the maximum sentence possible. In Egypt that would be execution. But the Scaf, with their devotion to hierarchy, to form, to respect (for armed forces bosses, that is), will find it hard to see the man who for 30 years was their commander-in-chief get the sentence he deserves. Judge Ahmad Rif'at has set the date for his sentencing in early June. Mubarak is 84. Will he survive? And most importantly: what happens to Egypt's money and Egypt's falsely incurred debt?"

Hamas prime minister backs Syrian protests against Assad

Ismail Haniyeh becomes first leader of Palestinian group to publicly rebuke patron as he hails bravery of protesters, Friday 24 February 2012

"Gaza's Hamas prime minister has expressed support for Syrian protesters seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Ismail Haniyeh's comments were the first time a senior leader of the Palestinian group has publicly rebuked its longtime patron.

Speaking after Friday prayers at Egypt's al-Azhar mosque, Haniyeh said Hamas commended "the brave Syrian people that are moving toward democracy and reform".

Assad has long hosted and supported leaders of Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, but the group has significantly reduced the presence of its exiled leaders in Syria since the start of the uprising against the Syrian regime 11 months ago.

Some of the top Hamas leaders now spend most of their time in Qatar, Egypt and Lebanon as the group tries to distance itself from Assad's brutal crackdown on opponents.

Haniyeh's speech was another sign of Hamas's drift away from its long-term backers Iran and Syria, as it finds new allies in the region. Its isolation has eased since its parent movement, the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, gained political influence in the region – including in Egypt – in the wake of the Arab spring uprisings.

Al-Azhar is a major religious institution in the Muslim world, and the platform given to Haniyeh was another show of support for Hamas.

Haniyeh asked the Muslim and Arab world to defend Jerusalem against what he portrayed as Israeli attempts to weaken the Arab identity of the city. He recited an Arabic poem that says that the path to Jerusalem starts in Cairo.

Several Brotherhood members stood by Haniyeh as he addressed thousands of worshippers crammed into the mosque, pledging support for the Palestinians and for Hamas.

The crowd cheered when Haniyeh said Hamas would not recognise Israel......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Clashes at Jerusalem shrine

Hamas ditches Assad, backs Syrian revolt

Leaders of Hamas turned publicly against their long-time ally President Bashar Assad of Syria on Friday, endorsing the revolt aimed at overthrowing his dynastic rule.
The policy shift deprives Assad of one of his few remaining Sunni Muslim supporters in the Arab world and deepens his international isolation. It was announced in Hamas speeches at Friday prayers in Cairo and a rally in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas went public after nearly a year of equivocating as Assad's army, largely led by fellow members of the president's Alawite sect, has crushed mainly Sunni protesters and rebels.

In a Middle East split along sectarian lines, the public abandonment of Assad casts immediate questions over Hamas's future ties with its principal backer Iran, which has stuck by its ally Assad, as well as with Iran's fellow Shiite allies in Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

"I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform," Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, visiting Egypt from the Gaza Strip, told thousands of Friday worshipers at Cairo's al-Azhar mosque.
"We are marching towards Syria, with millions of martyrs," chanted worshipers at al-Azhar, home to one of the Sunni world's highest seats of learning. "No Hezbollah and no Iran.

"The Syrian revolution is an Arab revolution."

Contemporary political rivalries have exacerbated tensions that date back centuries between Sunnis -- the vast majority of Arabs -- and Shiites, who form substantial Arab populations, notably in Lebanon and Iraq, and who dominate in non-Arab Iran.

Hamas and Hezbollah, confronting Israel on its southwestern and northern borders, have long had a strategic alliance, despite opposing positions on the sectarian divide. Both have fought wars with Israel in the past six years.

But as the Sunni-Shiite split in the Middle East deepens, Hamas appears to have cast its lot with the powerful, Egypt-based Sunni Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose star has been in the ascendant since the Arab Spring revolts last year.

Hamas makes its choice 

"This is considered a big step in the direction of cutting ties with Syria," said Hany al-Masri, a Palestinian political commentator. Damascus might now opt to formally expel Hamas's exile headquarters from Syria, he said. 

The imperial way: US decline in perspective

Imperialism is still with us, but power has become more broadly distributed in a diversifying world.

Noam Chomsky

"This is the second of a two-part article by Noam Chomsky on the decline of US power. You can read the first part here.........

Israel and the Republican Party

Similar considerations carry over directly to the second major concern addressed in the issue of Foreign Affairs cited in part one of this piece: the Israel-Palestine conflict. Fear of democracy could hardly be more clearly exhibited than in this case. In January 2006, an election took place in Palestine, pronounced free and fair by international monitors. The instant reaction of the US (and of course Israel), with Europe following along politely, was to impose harsh penalties on Palestinians for voting the wrong way.

That is no innovation. It is quite in accord with the general and unsurprising principle recognised by mainstream scholarship: the US supports democracy if, and only if, the outcomes accord with its strategic and economic objectives, the rueful conclusion of neo-Reaganite Thomas Carothers, the most careful and respected scholarly analyst of "democracy promotion" initiatives.

More broadly, for 35 years the US has led the rejectionist camp on Israel-Palestine, blocking an international consensus calling for a political settlement in terms too well known to require repetition. The western mantra is that Israel seeks negotiations without preconditions, while the Palestinians refuse. The opposite is more accurate. The US and Israel demand strict preconditions, which are, furthermore, designed to ensure that negotiations will lead either to Palestinian capitulation on crucial issues, or nowhere......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Al Jazeera interviews Tunisia's president Moncef Marzouki

"Moncef Marzouki, the Tunisian president, tells Al Jazeera military intervention is not an option for Syria."

Guardian Video: Sunday Times photographer injured in Syria appeals for help

Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy appeals for help to get out of Homs. Conroy was injured in the rocket attack that killed Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remy Ochlik. In a separate video posted on YouTube, wounded French journalist Edith Bouvier also appeals for help to get out of Homs, Friday 24 February 2012

‘Friends of Syria’: Push to End Indiscriminate Shelling

Humanitarian Aid, Safe Passage for Civilians Essential

Human Rights Watch
February 24, 2012

"(Tunis) – Governments at the “Friends of Syria” meeting in Tunis on February 24, 2012, should enlist the support of Russia and China to push Syria to stop its indiscriminate shelling of residential neighborhoods in the city of Homs, Human Rights Watch said today. They should also press Syria to allow delivery of humanitarian aid and permit safe passage for all civilians who wish to leave.

Since February 3, Syrian army shelling of Homs has killed at least 373 people, according to Syrian monitoring groups, and wounded hundreds of others, including women and children. Local residents who spoke to Human Rights Watch estimate that at least 20,000 residents remain in the Baba Amr neighborhood – the hardest hit area. Video footage from Homs reviewed by Human Rights Watch indicates that the army has used Russian-made 240mm mortar systems against Homs. These systems fire the world’s largest high explosive mortar bomb, designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks” according to a Russian arms merchandizing catalogue.

“The indiscriminate attacks on populated areas with heavy-duty weapons in Homs and other cities demonstrate the price of blocking an international consensus to end the horrific human rights violations in Syria,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Russia and China have a particular responsibility to put pressure on Syria, given that they vetoed Security Council consensus, and Syria has so far shown itself impervious to condemnation by most other states of its actions.”....."

Syria: Humanitarian access urged in Homs

24 February 2012

"Humanitarian aid agencies must be allowed immediate and unhindered access to Homs and other affected areas, Amnesty International said today.

The Bab ‘Amr district of the city has come under intensive shelling for more than 17 days, during which time Amnesty International has received the names of 465 people reported to have been killed in Homs.

“The accounts we are hearing from Homs are increasingly dire, with people lacking the most basic amenities,” said Ann Harrison, interim Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“The Syrian authorities must immediately cease this relentless bombardment and allow full, immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to affected areas."

Residents of Bab ‘Amr have told Amnesty International that the shelling and exchanges of fire have destroyed the electricity and water networks, and there is little prospect of them being restored...."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Syrian regime accused of crimes against humanity by UN

A UN list of senior Syrian officials who should face investigation is reported to include the president, Bashar al-Assad

Julian Borger and Peter Beaumont
The Guardian, Thursday 23 February 2012

"The UN has accused the Syrian regime of "crimes against humanity" – including the use of snipers against small children – and has drawn up a list of senior officials who should face investigation, reportedly including President Bashar al-Assad.

The UN report was delivered as two journalists injured in the attack that killed Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Rémi Ochlik issued dramatic appeals to be evacuated from the besieged city of Homs, where they are trapped.

A video of Edith Bouvier, a reporter for Le Figaro who suffered serious leg injuries, was released by activists in the city who say she is too badly wounded to be moved without an ambulance and guarantee of safe passage. In a second video released shortly after, Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy, who was also injured in the attack, made a similar appeal for evacuation.

Western officials urged Damascus to give immediate humanitarian access to trapped civilian populations in Homs and elsewhere, including the evacuation of the western journalists, but said the lack of a security council mandate meant they were powerless to provide assistance without the regime's permission.

The UN report found evidence that "army snipers and Shabbiha gunmen [from pro-Assad militias] posted at strategic points terrorised the population, targeting and killing small children, women and other unarmed civilians. Fragmentation mortar bombs were also fired into densely populated neighbourhoods."

It said: "Security agencies continued to systematically arrest wounded patients in state hospitals and to interrogate them, often using torture, about their supposed participation in opposition demonstrations or armed activities.".....

The report details how businessmen helped hire and arm informal pro-government militias known as the Shabbiha.

"In a number of operations, the commission documented how Shabbiha members were strategically employed to commit crimes against humanity and other gross violations," it said.

The report also identifies 38 detention centres "for which the commission documented cases of torture and ill-treatment since March 2011"."

Al-Jazeera Video: Prominent Syrian journalist talks to Al Jazeera about escape

"Hani Al Malazi was a prominent journalist who had worked for Syrian state television for nine years.

But he fled from the country after receiving death threats for not supporting the government.

Now living in the UAE city of Dubai, he shares his story with Al Jazeera."

Al-Jazeera Video: ما وراء الخبر - إرتكاب القوات السورية جرائم حرب


"اتهامات الأمم المتحدة للقوات السورية بارتكاب جرائم تنفيذا لأوامر عليا في الجيش والحكومة
تقديم ليلى الشايب
تاريخ البث 2012/02/23
الضيوف :
شريف بسيوني
فرج فنيش

اشتباكات بين فلسطينيين مؤيدين ومعارضين لنظام الأسد في رام الله

اشتباكات بين فلسطينيين مؤيدين ومعارضين لنظام الأسد في رام الله

"غزة- (د ب أ): قالت مصادر فلسطينية إن عراكا بالأيدي وقع الأربعاء بين شبان تظاهروا وسط مدينة رام الله في الضفة الغربية لتأييد نظام الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، ومعارضين تصدوا لهم.
وقالت المصادر، لوكالة الأنباء الألمانية، إن نحو ثلاثين شابا حاولوا التظاهر وهم يرفعون صور الأسد والأعلام السورية، إلا أن شبابا أخرين تصدوا لهم بالتظاهر ضد النظام السوري وما وصفوه بـ"المجازر" التي يرتكبها ضد الثورة الشعبية.

وهتف مؤيدو الأسد له ولحكومته ضد ما يحاك من (مؤامرة) ضد سورية.
وأضافت المصادر أن عراكا بالأيدي وقع بين الجانبين قبل أن تتدخل الشرطة الفلسطينية وتفرق المظاهرتين.

وهذه هي المرة الأولى التي تشهد فيها الضفة الغربية مظاهرات مؤيدة للأسد، في حين كانت مظاهرات اخرى انطلقت في السابق دعما للثورة الشعبية في سورية.

وترفض السلطة الفلسطينية التعليق رسميا على الموقف في سورية التي يقطنها ألاف من اللاجئين الفلسطينيين.

Guardian Video: Injured French journalist Edith Bouvier in Homs appeals for help

In this video journalist for the French newspaper le Figaro, Edith Bouvier, appeals for help to get out of Syria after she was injured in the same rocket attack that killed Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remy Ochlik. Bouvier and Time photographer William Daniels are in the outskirts of Homs under the care of a Syrian doctor, Thursday 23 February 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria uprising fuels local tensions in Turkey

"Up to 10,000 Syrians have fled to neighbouring Turkey seeking safety since the government cracked down on protesters. Many of them have been living in refugee camps in towns close to the Syria border for the last eight months.

These refugees are increasingly calling for international intervention in their home country to help topple Bashar al-Assad's government.

However, many Turkish Alawites - a branch of Shia Islam to which President Assad's family belongs - living in the city of Antakya have come out against intervention in Syria, calling it "imperialist intervention".

Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reports from the Syria-Turkey border."

Real News Video (with transcript): Assad and the Sectarian Game in Syria

Elaine Hagopian: Syrians are caught between horrors of Assad and sectarian forces with external support

More at The Real News

AIPAC Declares War

by Philip Giraldi, February 23, 2012

"The American people don’t particularly want a new war in the Middle East, but apparently Congress and Washington’s most powerful lobby do. Thirty-two senators have co-sponsored a resolution that will constrain the White House from adopting any policy vis-à-vis Iran’s “nuclear weapons capability” that amounts to “containment.” The senators include the familiar figures of Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both of whom have persistently called for military action. They and the other senators have presented their proposal in a particularly deceptive fashion, asserting that they are actually supporting the White House position, which they are not.....

You might well ask how the United States wound up in such a pickle. Many Americans are beginning to wake up to the fact that it is disgraceful that a small country like Israel should be able to dictate U.S. foreign policy in a key part of the world, but the current situation is actually far worse than that. This is the case of a foreign government’s lobby consisting largely of American citizens using its clout to avoid registering as a foreign agent while narrowing the policy options through its friends in Congress and the media in such a way as to make war inevitable. Some might call it treason. Such people should be denounced and marginalized before they send off another wave of young Americans to die on their behalf while beggaring the rest of us, but instead, senators and representatives will be lining up to cheer them in a month’s time. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison must be spinning in their graves. "

Moscow stirs itself on Syria

By M K Bhadrakumar
Asia Times

"With the "Friends of Syria" (FOS) grouping sponsored by the Western powers and their Arab allies scheduled to hold its first meeting in Tunis on Friday, Russian diplomacy has shifted gear into a proactive mode. The Kremlin was a beehive of diplomatic activity on Wednesday.

The venue of the birthplace of the "Arab Spring" for the FOS to gather might, prima facie, give an impression that the name of the game is high-flown rhetoric and nothing more.

But that is not how Moscow views the developing paradigm. It estimates that Tunis with its Mediterranean climate and languid look has been carefully chosen as a deceptive location for the West to launch a concerted assault on the citadel of President Bashar al-Assad and to legitimize it in the world opinion. Moscow senses that the final assault on Syria by the United States may not far off, although the US propaganda makes it out to be that the Barack Obama administration is on the horns of a dilemma, torn apart by an existential angst.....

A Russian commentary on Wednesday analyzed that the co-relation of forces in the heart of the Middle Eastern region is changing dramatically:

Syria is developing a special relationship with Iraq, which sympathizes with Syria's efforts to stabilize the domestic situation. It is quite probable that with the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Iran, Iraq and Syria will at some point naturally form a loose, tripartite alliance in the Middle East. Given that the majority of the Iraqis are Shiite and Iran's growing influence in Iraq in the last few years, such a scenario is by no means improbable.

The Kremlin diplomatic initiatives on Wednesday seems to have factored in the emergent regional scenario."

Were Marie Colvin and journalists deliberately targeted by Syria's army?

Nicolas Sarkozy has said the journalists in Homs were 'assassinated'. Here, Peter Beaumont assesses the evidence

Peter Beaumont, Thursday 23 February 2012

Is there any other evidence that the regime is targeting those involved in telling the story in Homs?

As well as Colvin and Remi, a prominent citizen journalist, Rami al-Sayyed, was also killed the day before. In addition, a group of activists trained by the organisation Avaaz, including several medical volunteers attempting to reach the press centre and two other citizen journalists, were found executed with their hands tied near Bab Amr after trying to reach the injured and dead reporters.

CNN staff, who had used the same media centre in an earlier visit to Homs, have indicated that they believe the Syrian military targeted their dishes on the roof with artillery fire.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has said the Assad regime appears to have a policy of intimidation against journalists to enforce a news blackout, a policy it believes has become more violent. It claims: "By controlling local news reports and expelling or denying entry to dozens of foreign journalists, the Syrian government has sought to impose a blackout on independent news coverage since the country's uprising began almost a year ago, CPJ research shows. But along with the intensity of the conflict, the dangers to the press have risen dramatically in recent months – both for independent citizen journalists and the international journalists who have smuggled themselves into Syria at extremely high risk."....."

Syrian leaders listed by UN for crimes against humanity

Panel of UN experts says senior Syrian officials, including, it is claimed, President Assad, could face investigation

Peter Beaumont, Thursday 23 February 2012

"The United Nations has drawn up a list of the most senior officials in the Syrian regime, including, it is claimed, President Bashar al-Assad himself, who it says should be investigated for ordering "crimes against humanity" and other gross human rights violations.

The sealed report prepared by the UN-appointed independent international commission of inquiry on Syria has been handed over to the UN high commissioner for human rights.

While it accuses both parties to the conflict of torture and extra-judicial executions, it says that the opposition's rights violations are in no way "comparable in scale and organisation" to the abuses being carried out by the Assad regime, which have led to thousands of deaths.

The news of the report's delivery came as the Syrian city of Homs endured its 20th straight day of shelling, which has claimed hundreds of lives including those of the Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin and the French photographer Rémi Ochlik......"

Steve Bell on Syria

Marie Colvin Killed in Syria, and the Story She Paid With Her Life to Tell

by Peter Bouckaert
Human Rights Watch

"She took to wearing a black patch over the eye she lost when shot in the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2001, and always seemed to have a notepad and a pen in her hand. She was inevitably in the midst of war’s chaos before the rest of us got there, proudly filing, as she did on Tuesday, as “the only British newspaper journalist” at the scene. She was a legend to all of us who cover conflict, and universally beloved for her inspiring courage and deep commitment to the work of reporting.

On Tuesday, after she filed her horror-filled account from Homs for her paper, The Sunday Times, she got in touch on Facebook to tell me just how horrific the situation in Homs was. We had worked closely together in Libya for the past year, strengthening an occasional friendship over the years into a deep and affectionate bond. As she was preparing to enter Syria last week, we compared notes several times, looking at the routes into the besieged city of Homs and assessing the risks she would face. Her drive and determination to report—to witness—overcame all of her fears, and she was absolutely determined to get in, somehow.....

Marie was a legendary reporter—she lived to report from war zones. The situation on the ground in Homs left her deeply shaken and feeling powerless, frustrated with the international politics that were paralyzing any coordinated international response to stop the horrific civilian casualties. On her last day of life, she watched a baby’s life slowly drift away, a casualty of the same shelling that would rob us of her just 24 hours later.

Not many of us have the courage and strength to experience war at such close range, and her powerful, loving voice is now forever silenced."

Saudi Arabia: Trial of Riyadh protester ‘utterly unwarranted’

22 February 2012

"The trial before a state security court of a Saudi Arabian school teacher arrested nearly a year ago after he arrived to demonstrate on the “Day of Rage” in Riyadh is an affront to his basic rights, Amnesty International said today.

Khaled al-Johani stood trial today before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, a tribunal set up in 2008 to try detainees held on terrorism-related charges. The court adjourned his case until early April.

“Khaled al-Johani shouldn’t be standing trial in any court for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” said Philip Luther, Interim Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“The fact that he is appearing before a court that was originally established to handle terrorism-related charges only adds insult to injury.”

“This trial is utterly unwarranted. We call on the Saudi authorities to release him and others held on similar charges immediately and unconditionally.”....."

Ahhhhh....The "New" Egypt: Egypt’s FJP: President must be Muslim, commit to Islamic values

Bikya Masr

"CAIRO: The head of Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, said on Wednesday that the next president of Egypt must “embrace the same religion of the majority [COMMENT: In a true democracy, where all citizens have equal right of citizenship, there is no such thing as a majority based on religion. The majority is supposed to be a political majority.]of the Egyptian nation and be committed to the Islamic approach,” stressing that his party will have no candidate in the upcoming presidential election...."

Q&A: Nir Rosen's predictions for Syria

Journalist who recently spent time travelling the country draws on his experiences to consider Syria's fate.

Nir Rosen

"Journalist Nir Rosen recently spent two months in Syria. As well as meeting members of various communities across the country - supporters of the country's rulers and of the opposition alike - he spent time with armed resistance groups in Homs, Idlib, Deraa, and Damascus suburbs. He also travelled extensifvely around the country last year, documenting his experiences for Al Jazeera.

This is the final of a series of interviews he gave to Al Jazeera upon his return. Catch up by reading his comments on Syria's armed opposition, the country's protest movement, sectarianism and daily life in Syria

Al Jazeera: To quote General David Petraeus in Iraq: 'Tell me how this ends.'

Nir Rosen:
The regime can survive for a long time, even if it steadily loses control of territory within the country. It is very unlikely that there will be any large-scale international military intervention. In Washington, there is a great deal of frustration. Zionists and advocates of the muscular use of US power, including several Republicans, are calling for Obama to arm the opposition. Even the neoconservatives are climbing out from under their rocks to call for a US military intervention. Fox News has seized on this cause too.....

Only a "Hama" could change the equation. Nobody can say exactly what that would entail, because "Hama" has become an epithet, a symbol, it just means for something terrible to happen. So, until now there is no Hama-type event that the opposition or international media could use to give leaders in Turkey or the West a pretext for humanitarian intervention or to delegitimise the country's leadership. Such an incident would have to be so grave that international opponents would use it to obliterate the Russian and Chinese veto in the United Nations, and to criminalise those two countries for their backing of the Syrian regime....

If the struggle drags on, the local civilian "political" leadership of the revolution will lose influence, and the more moderate Sufi sheikhs who exercise an influence over armed groups will also lose control. The insurgency and its supporters will become increasingly radicalised. They will condemn those leaders who looked to the outside world for support, and those who called for restraint. Those voices who say Islam is the only solution will become loudest; those voices calling for a declaration of jihad will be raised, and they will, in my opinion, target Sunni rivals as well as Alawites and other minorities. This scenario is also possible if the regime kills or captures enough senior leaders of the revolution.....

The insurgency will gradually carve out autonomous zones, from Idlib to Hama to Homs and approaching the suburbs of Damascus. Foreign intelligence agencies will eventually provide covert assistance to the insurgency. But Iranian - and possibly Russian - advisers will likely provide advice to the regime in counter-insurgency. So parts of the country will fall into opposition hands, and parts will remain in the hands of the regime. Alawites in Homs may flee to the villages they originally came from. Christians will flee to their former villages or to Damascus. Both of these trends have already started. Sunni remaining in Latakia will be vulnerable, and in the event of Alawites returning to Latakia's mountain villages, fleeing from other parts of the country, the region's Sunni may also be forcibly displaced.

In this scenario, some villages in rural Hama and Homs governorates will fight between each other. Damascus will see further assassinations and bombings. Working class Alawite neighborhoods of Damascus, where members of the security forces live - such as Ish al Warwar, Mazze 86 and Sumeria - will be besieged, or face reprisals from angry Sunni. In Aleppo, powerful rival Sunni clans - who hate each other and have access to arms - will turn on each other and feud as soon as the state weakens. The elites of Aleppo might once have preferred for the Assads to stay in power, but increasingly they are giving up hope that he can pull them back from the abyss...."

Pioneering new forms of intervention

Foreign intervention may be the lesser of two evils in Syria - but could still result in a chaotic aftermath.

By Mark LeVine

"Irvine, CA - Ramy Syed, the Syrian activist and videographer known as "Syriapioneer" - who was killed the other day by the Syrian government forces whose brutal violence he helped expose to the wider world - wasn't a pioneer in the normal sense of the word.

He wasn't the first person to use cell phone cameras and YouTube to show the world the horrific reality of state-sponsored violence against civilians. Egyptian activists have been showing videos of police torture for years, while Libyan activists last summer gave the world a front row seat to the protests, and then insurgency, against Gaddafi - whose own demise, or at least the moments surrounding it, were also filmed and broadcast for the world to witness via social media.

But for the sheer volume of postings - 835 in total, the last four of them posthumous - and the brutality of the evil they depict, Syed had few equals. To watch just a handful of the videos he put up over the last seven months is to move beyond the increasingly politicised arguments over whether or not there should be outside military intervention to stop the bloodshed in Syria, and into the frame of blood and death that has come to define life for untold tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Syrians.

Anyone who rejects intervention should spend half an hour on Syed's video channel or Facebook page and see if they still hold the same view. Watching even a few videos gave me the same feeling I had last summer when speaking with Libyan refugees in Tunisia. Geopolitics and imperial games suddenly don't matter as much; as a young woman talked about relatives under siege in Misrata or an elderly man talked of a grandson stranded in Benghazi, their voices shook as they implored listeners to persuade their governments to support the rebels.....

And so it will be in Syria, where any foreign military intervention will unavoidably empower the very forces and networks that, assuming they emerged victorious, will find it hardest to support a truly broad and democratic transition in Syria, one that would afford all citizens a fair and level political and economic playing field....

Given all that Ramy Syed sacrificed for bringing the reality of Assad's death machine to the world, the least we all can do is heed his request and do our best to push our governments not merely to condemn and even intervene to stop the violence, but to change the ultimate goals behind their broader foreign policies, which for decades stood by while Assad father and then son, ruled Syria with an iron hand as long in so doing he didn't interfere with, and even preserved the regional and even global order against which the cries "The people want the downfall of the system!" are now being heard, in Syria and across the Arab world."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Syrian regime's bombardment of Homs goes on with at least 80 more dead

Residents of besieged city say they are preparing for final onslaught as tanks columns further bolster regime positions

Martin Chulov, Wednesday 22 February 2012

"The bombardment of the city of Homs by the Syrian military continued unabated on Wednesday with at least 80 deaths in besieged enclaves, where residents say they are preparing for an imminent final onslaught.

Tank columns were on Tuesday seen streaming from Damascus towards Syria's third city and are reported to have reinforced positions that have already been barraging the suburbs of Bab al-Amr and al-Khalideyah for almost three weeks.

The relentless assault has taken on a new dimension in the past seven days, with increasingly heavy artillery fired as attempts have been made to negotiate a daily ceasefire and open a humanitarian corridor to allow aid into the neighbourhoods cut off from the rest of the city.

Up to 60 of those reported killed in Homs on Wednesday were killed in an afternoon artillery barrage. Activists said some military defectors who have joined a rebel army were among the dead.

"This was in one part of the city only," said one activist. "The shelling was with very heavy weapons. It was not mortars or rockets."

Up to 20,000 residents of the besieged areas remain unable to leave amid desperate shortages of food and water. Global campaigning group Avaaz claimed seven of its activists were executed on Wednesday while trying to bring medical supplies into the city to treat residents wounded by the shelling....."

Al-Jazeera Video: Foreign journalists killed in Homs shelling

"Two foreign journalists have been killed in Homs, activists say, as shelling of a district of the Syrian city continued amid warnings of an escalating humanitarian crisis.

Omar Shakir, an activist in the city, told Al Jazeera that the deaths of Marie Colvin, a US reporter working for the UK's Sunday Times newspaper, and French photographer Remi Ochlik occurred as a building used by activists as a media centre was shelled on Wednesday."

Al-Jazeera Video: Revolution Through Arab Eyes - The Factory

"A glimpse into life inside Egypt's Mahalla textile factory - a place renowned as a cauldron of revolt where striking workers first inspired the Egyptian uprising."

Foreign Intervention in Syria? A Debate With Joshua Landis & Karam Nachar

"With estimates of well over 5,000 deaths, the uprising in Syria is believed to be the Arab Spring’s bloodiest conflict to date. As the toll mounts, calls are growing for the international community to intervene by arming rebels fighting the Assad regime and even direct military intervention. We host a debate on the merits and pitfalls of foreign intervention in Syria with two guests. "I’m not opposed to helping the opposition — the problem right now is that we are not sure who to arm," says Joshua Landis, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and editor of Syria Comment, a daily online newsletter on Syrian politics. We’re also joined by Karam Nachar, a cyber-activist and Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University working with Syrian protesters via social media platforms. "There’s a humanitarian disaster unfolding on the ground," Nachar says. "[The world has] a moral responsibility to protect the Syrian people."......"

Assad Bond, by Khalil Bendib

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Egypt-US Standoff Could Hit 40,000 NGOs

By Cam McGrath

"CAIRO, Feb 22, 2012 (IPS) - The ongoing crackdown by Egypt’s military rulers on a handful of civil society groups accused of receiving illegal foreign funds has far-reaching implications for the estimated 40,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the Arab world’s most populous country.

Thousands of NGOs – engaged in everything from nature conservation to eradicating illiteracy and sheltering women from domestic abuse – are collateral damage in a row that threatens Egypt’s longstanding relationship with the U.S.

"This dispute is affecting all NGOs in Egypt that rely on foreign donors for grants," the director of a Cairo- based non-profit organisation told IPS. "Unless it is resolved soon, hundreds if not thousands of NGOs will be forced to shut down.".....

Activists say the government’s witch-hunt of foreign-funded non-profit groups has altered the way ordinary Egyptians view civil society. Many NGO workers claim they no longer feel welcome in the neighbourhoods where they serve the poor, and some have been forced out by angry mobs accusing them of being foreign agents.

"Everything has come to a standstill until this dispute is resolved," said the administrator of a small NGO."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you support the arming of the Syrian opposition by Washington?

With over 2,300 responding, 78% said yes.

Greece......Saved! By Dave Brown

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Video: Marie Colvin Inside Homs

My husband, Khadr Adnan, has shed a light on Israel's disregard for human rights

Through his own suffering, Khadr has helped expose the plight of Palestinians held under 'administrative detention' by Israel

Randa Musa, Wednesday 22 February 2012 08

"The name of my husband, Khadr Adnan, has now become known across the world. Four months ago he was unknown outside of our homeland, Palestine. His hunger strike of 66 days has transformed him into a global figure and a shining symbol of my people's struggle.

Our life was turned upside down on 17 December 2011 when Israeli troops raided our home in Araba village, south of Jenin, in the occupied West Bank. It was about 3am when they broke down the doors and stormed into our house......

We are well aware that the Israelis may try to renege on this week's agreement – as they have done with the recent prisoner exchange deal – by re-arresting the freed prisoners. But for every occasion there will be a response, and I have no doubt my husband would not hesitate to resume his stoic struggle, with even more strength and determination.

For me, the most difficult part of this ordeal has been the knowledge that at any time I could receive a phone call announcing that my husband is dead. But this is the price for our freedom. It is the indispensable sacrifice needed so that our children would enjoy a life of freedom and dignity.

To the free world, the millions who heard of Khadar and supported him by calling for his release, I extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation."

Syrian unrest: Homs under fire - interactive

The government attack on rebel-held areas of Homs has continued for a nineteenth day

Paddy Allen and Paul Scruton, Wednesday 22 February 2012

Marie Colvin: 'Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice'

Today it was confirmed that the war correspondent Marie Colvin has died in the Syrian city of Homs. In November 2010 she gave the following speech on the importance of war reporting

Marie Colvin, Wednesday 22 February 2012

"....We do have that faith because we believe we do make a difference.

And we could not make that difference – or begin to do our job – without the fixers, drivers and translators, who face the same risks and die in appalling numbers. Today we honour them as much as the front line journalists who have died in pursuit of the truth. They have kept the faith as we who remain must continue to do."

Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin killed in Syria

Marie Colvin dies along with French photographer Remi Ochlik after shell hits safe house for journalists in Homs

Martin Chulov, Wednesday 22 February 2012

"The veteran Sunday Times correspondent, Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik have been killed in the Syrian city of Homs after a shell hit the house in which they were staying.

Two other foreign reporters as well as seven activists from the ravaged Bab al-Amr neighbourhood were also wounded in the deadliest attack on western media since the Syrian uprising began almost one year ago. One of the wounded is the Sunday Times photographer, Paul Conroy, who was travelling with Colvin.

Colvin, a decorated correspondent with more than 30 years of experience in conflict zones, and Ochlik, who last month won a World Press Photo award, died instantly when the artillery shell struck the safe house that had been provided for them by local activists.

The house was located next to a hospital and had been the main refuge for all reporters who had made it to Bab al-Amr in the face of a relentless barrage by regime forces over the past three weeks.

An activist for the campaigning group Avaaz who witnessed the attack on Wednesday morning said: "I left the house after it got struck and headed to a house across the street. The shelling continues and the bodies of the journalists are still on the ground. We can't get them out because of the intensity of the shelling even though we're only a few metres away from them."

Another witness told the Guardian that rockets continued to rain down on the area as the wounded tried to escape the bombed house. A graphic video poster on the internet showed the two-story house in ruins – a scale of damage that could only be caused by a heavy artillery round. Two bodies were visible in the rubble......."

Egypt: Systematic failure to rein in security forces

Amnesty International
22 February 2012

"A year after the uprising, Egypt's security forces continue to kill protesters with the same brutal tactics used in Hosni Mubarak’s last days in power, Amnesty International said after concluding that riot police yet again used excessive force in policing protests in Cairo and Suez.

The protests earlier this month followed the Port Said tragedy in which more than 70 football fans from Al-Ahly club were killed after a football match on 1 February.

The organization found that, between 2 and 6 February, the Ministry of Interior’s Central Security Forces (riot police) used excessive force, including firearms, to disperse angry protests, killing at least 16 people and injuring hundreds of others.

"The behaviour of the security forces in dealing with these protests is unfortunately very reminiscent of a time many Egyptians thought they had left behind after the ‘25 January Revolution’," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“Promises of reform of the security forces continue to ring hollow in the face of the killing of more than a hundred protesters in the last five months.”

“Not only have the authorities not reformed the security forces but evidence of the use of rubber bullets and live ammunition is met with denial and accusation of foreign interference by Egyptian officials.”......."

Israeli decision to release Palestinian detainee in April ‘insufficient’

"The Israeli authorities’ decision to release a Palestinian detainee by mid-April is insufficient, Amnesty International said amid reports that he has agreed to end his 66-day hunger strike.

The organization has urged Israel to release Khader Adnan immediately to allow him to receive urgent medical treatment. The 33-year-old baker – allegedly affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement – is at immediate risk of death after more than 10 weeks on hunger strike.

“A deal which will see Khader Adnan released on 17 April unless significant new evidence emerges is insufficient when he needs urgent medical treatment to save his life now,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Interim Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Even if reports that Khader Adnan has agreed to end his hunger strike are true, this does not mean he is out of danger nor does it lessen the need for highly specialized medical care.

He cannot constitute a ‘security threat’ in his current condition and should be released from custody immediately. The Israeli authorities have revealed no evidence justifying his continued detention.”...."