Saturday, July 14, 2012

Syria massacre: Assad's forces 'shot anything moving'

The small town of Tremseh has suffered what may be the single worst atrocity of the Syrian uprising, say eyewitnesses

Martin Chulov in Beirut, Saturday 14 July 2012

"Residents of the battered Syrian town of Tremseh have described being chased from their homes and hunted down by regime forces after seven hours of shelling during a major assault that left more than 150 people dead last Thursday.

The first observers to reach the devastated town on Saturday described widespread scenes of destruction, and many residents appeared to be too traumatised to talk about their ordeal. The massacre in the small farming community of 6,000 to the north-west of Hama is being described as the worst single atrocity of the Syrian uprising.

Two eyewitnesses from Tremseh who spoke to the Observer blamed regime forces and the pro-regime militia, the Shabiha, for the attack, which has seen many of its residents flee and left more than 100 people missing. "We don't understand why they attacked us," said a local woman, Umm Khaled. "We haven't brought harm to the region. All we've done here is hold demonstrations."

Khaled, who had lived in Tremseh – a Sunni Muslim enclave – all her life, said people trying to flee through nearby fields were shot dead as they ran. She claims some of the bodies were taken away by regime forces and that others were handcuffed, then summarily executed.....

In a recent report on Houla, the UN said it could not say who was responsible for the massacre, which killed 108 people, but implied that regime forces and their backers had played a role. The two Tremseh witnesses who spoke to the Observer claimed that some of their attackers came from the direction of Alawite villages, which they named as Safsafeyeh, Tal Sikeen and Falha. "Relations between us and the Alawite villages were always peaceful but some of the Shabiha did come from there," said Mohammed.

Umm Khaled said: "We had no problems with them for a long time, but now we fear them. We don't want to go near their villages."......"

Exclusive: Red Cross ruling raises questions of Syrian war crimes

Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday Prayers in Houla near Homs July 13, 2012. Placard read,''Kofi Annan get out of Syria''.

"(Reuters) - The Red Cross now views fighting in Syria as an internal armed conflict - a civil war in layman's terms - crossing a threshold experts say can help lay the ground for future prosecutions for war crimes.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions setting down the rules of war, and as such is considered a reference in qualifying when violence has evolved into an armed conflict.

The independent humanitarian agency had previously classed the violence in Syria as localized civil wars between government forces and armed opposition groups in three flashpoints - Homs, Hama and Idlib.

But hostilities have spread to other areas, leading the Swiss-based agency to conclude the fighting meets its threshold for an internal armed conflict and to inform the warring parties of its analysis and their obligations under law.

"There is a non-international armed conflict in Syria. Not every place is affected, but it is not only limited to those three areas, it has spread to several other areas," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan told Reuters in response to a query.

"That does not mean that all areas throughout the country are affected by hostilities," he said.

The qualification means that people who order or commit attacks on civilians including murder, torture and rape, or use disproportionate force against civilian areas, can be charged with war crimes in violation of international humanitarian law......

"What matters is that international humanitarian law applies wherever hostilities between government forces and opposition groups are taking place across the country (Syria)," Hassan said. "This includes, but is not necessarily limited to Homs, Idlib and Hama."

Andrew Clapham, director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, said the ICRC assessment of the conflict, which he shared, was important.

"It means it is more likely that indiscriminate attacks causing excessive civilian loss, injury or damage would be a war crime and could be prosecuted as such," Clapham told Reuters.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a speech on June 26 that his country was in a state of war.


The rules impose limits on how fighting may be conducted, so as to protect civilians and ex-combatants not taking part in the hostilities.

They require the humane treatment of all people in enemy hands and the duty to care for the wounded and sick. It also means parties to the internal conflict are entitled to attack military targets, but not civilians or civilian property......

In areas of Syria which are outside of the hostilities but also hit by violence linked to civilian demonstrations, international human rights law - which bans extrajudicial executions, torture and arbitrary arrests - continues to apply, according to the agency.

"In particular, measures taken against such demonstrations with the purpose of restoring order must respect international law and standards governing the use of force in law enforcement operations," Hassan said."

Al-Jazeera Video: UN monitors visit site of Syria 'massacre'

"UN observers in Syria have visited the village of Tremseh in central Hama province, where scores were killed this week.

Opposition activists say Syrian military forces killed dozens of people in the village of Tremseh on Thursday.

The UN investigation comes as Arab nations decide to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the deteriorating situation in Syria."

Massive Demonstration in Yarmuk by Palestinians cursing the soul of Assad

Resistance Media and AlKhbar would not dare show this

"تشييع شهداء مخيم اليرموك في دمشق 14-7-2012

Kofi Annan: An Accomplice to Mass Murder

Kofi Annan: An Accomplice to Mass Murder

Palestinians inside Syria demonstrate against regime in Yarmuk Camp

Egypt's Presidential Election: The Brotherhood, Egypt's military and the U.S

by Larry Everest
Global Research

"Sixteen months after the Egyptian people rose up and drove the hated U.S. puppet Hosni Mubarak from power, the country has elected a new president. On Sunday, June 24, a week after the June 16-17 run-off voting, Egypt's Constitutional Committee named Mohammed Morsi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood the winner over former general Ahmed Shafik. Shafik was the candidate backed by Egypt's military which has run the country for the last 52 years.

The U.S. government and media called the vote Egypt's "first free and fair election." The Brotherhood, Egypt's military, and the U.S.—which had been closely involved in these events—all praised the outcome as a victory for "democracy," the transition from military rule to civilian control, and a big step toward fulfilling the aspirations of Egypt's 90 million people and completing their "revolution."

Egypt's vote may have served the agenda of the defenders of Egypt's intolerable social order, including the U.S., at least for now. But for the Egyptian people, it will not bring or open up possibilities for any meaningful change. Instead it is but another maneuver to keep the chains of oppression firmly around their necks....."

The struggle against the toxic politics of casualty numbers in Syria

The count of the death toll is imperfect, but attempts are being made to replace unsubstantiated rhetoric with reliable records

Hana Salama, Saturday 14 July 2012

".....This contributes to an overall perception that deaths in the Syrian conflict are essentially unverifiable – a perception reinforced by the UN, which stated that it had stopped reporting Syrian casualty figures after December 2011 on the grounds that they were becoming "too difficult to verify".

But is this perception well grounded? We at the campaign Every Casualty think not.

Despite the chaotic escalation of violence, civil society groups operating both within and outside Syria have continued to systematically record deaths on a daily basis. Although the work of these groups is often questioned on the grounds that they are part of the political opposition to the Assad regime, the data they produce should be judged by the data collection and verification methods they adopt and by how transparent they are about their methods and the nature of their sources.

Take verification first. One of the Syrian groups, Insan, has been recording violent deaths in Syria since 2006, using what it calls a multiple-source verification process. Other groups such as Syria Tracker, Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Violation Documentation Centre, have been collecting and compiling casualty information in different parts of the country, resolutely compiling the information they receive from local activists and local co-ordination committees as the security situation worsens. This includes names of the dead, often accompanied by videos of their funerals and pictures.

Despite limited access to crisis areas in Syria and the very significant security risks, whenever possible this casualty information is fed back to the affected local population for corroboration and correction. Moreover, these organisations are aware of each other's work and often compare their casualty records......"

Syria: UN must be given immediate access to investigate reports of Treimseh killings

13 July 2012

"Reports of mass killings in the Sunni town of al-Treimseh (or Tremseh) are further proof of the urgent need for UN monitors to be granted full and immediate access to all parts of the country to conduct independent investigations into human rights abuses, Amnesty International said today.

According to Syrian opposition sources, scores of people were killed on Thursday morning when the Syrian army and security forces along with pro-government militia known as Shabiha, attacked al-Treimseh near the city of Hama. Syrian state-run media have blamed “terrorist groups” for the killings.

UN mission chief Major General Robert Mood said today that UN observers are ready to go to Treimseh when a ceasefire is in place. He confirmed continuous fighting yesterday in the area of Treimseh, including the use of mechanized units, indirect fire and helicopters and said that observers were ready to go and seek verification of the facts if and when there was a credible ceasefire.

"The UN must be allowed unfettered access to investigate such incidents,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director. "Without an independent presence to investigate the facts, it is impossible to verify what really happened."

Nonetheless, we know that a pattern of abuses has been widely reported in many areas where government forces have indiscriminately shelled towns and villages, unlawfully killing civilians, followed by incursions by the shabiha militia who have killed not only opposition fighters, but also many civilians, mainly men and boys.

"The findings of our recent field investigations in Syria, verified this pattern. Amnesty International documented evidence of grave violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed by the Syrian army in towns and villages around Idlib, Aleppo, Jebel al-Zawiyah and Jebel al-Wastani areas."......"

المشروع الصفوي والمشروع "الصهيوأميركي"

على أن المشروع الأميركي الصهيوني (المدعوم غربيا) سيبقى التحدي الأكثر خطرا على الأمة لجملة من الاعتبارات، أولها الاحتلال الصهيوني لفلسطين واستمرار دعمه غير المحدود من قبل واشنطن والغرب، وثانيها مناهضة هؤلاء جميعا لمشروع الأمة في التخلص من الفساد والاستبداد، وصولا إلى قدر من التعاون والتكامل العربي الذي ينهض بالأمة جمعاء، والذي يتجلى اليوم في مساعي إجهاض مسيرة الربيع العربي بكل الوسائل الممكنة، بالتعاون مع الأنظمة الخائفة من زحف ذلك الربيع نحو حياضها.

ما نريد قوله هو أن على عقلاء الأمة أن يعيدوا ترتيب أولوياتها بحيث لا تدفعنا مواجهة المشروع الإيراني نحو تجاهل مخاطر المشروع الأميركي الصهيوني الذي كان ولا يزال الأكثر تهديدا للحاضر والمستقبل في آن، فضلا عن دعمه لاحتلال فلسطين التي ينبغي أن تبقى قضية الأمة المركزية حتى لو انشغلنا عنها مؤقتا بالربيع العربي، لاسيما المواجهة مع طاغية سوريا كحليف إستراتيجي لإيران، وكنقطة انطلاق نحو إعادة الأخيرة إلى حجمها الطبيعي كجارة للعرب، إلى جانب تركيا؛ الركن الثالث في المنطقة.
إن عداء المشروع الأميركي الصهيوني لأمتنا هو عداء بنيوي لا مجال لتغييره بحال من الأحوال، بينما يمكن لعلاقتنا مع إيران أن تغدو علاقة جوار حسن حين تتخلص من غرور القوة الذي تلبّسها خلال السنوات الماضية، فضلا عن تباين حجم الخطر بين المشروعين في حال استمر مسار الصدام.

أما المسألة الدينية فلا حل لها بغير الحوار الذي يمنع الاستفزاز، معطوفا على حرية الاعتقاد في منطقة قدرها أن تعيش التعددية العرقية والطائفية والمذهبية، من دون أن ننفي إمكانية حدوث تغيرات ما في منظومة المذاهب والأفكار لجهة اللقاء على كلمة سواء في يوم من الأيام.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Backer of NY ads exposing Palestinian land-loss says response has been ‘astounding’ and news ‘coverage is pouring in’

Henry Clifford's advertisement at the Chappaqua Metro-North train station July 10, 2012.
(Photo: Seth Harrison / The Journal News )

Last night I talked to Henry Clifford, the 83-year-old Connecticut man who paid for the smashing ads on New York commuter train platforms that describe the dispossession of Palestinian lands over the last century.

"I've been plowing this field for many years and I am absolutely astounded by the response I've received, and the news coverage," the former financier said. "We've been begging for coverage for years. Now it's pouring in."

He said he had been interviewed by CBS, Fox News, NBC and many radio stations, and the questions were fair ones.

Terrified villagers tell of the horror of Tremseh

Chilling evidence of Syria's worst atrocity as bodies are packed into mass graves

The Independent

"Crammed into the Tremseh village mosque, women and children wailed prayers over row after row of corpses yesterday before the bodies were carried outside, packed into mass graves and buried. Overwhelmed by the scale of the slaughter, the tiny village about 25km outside the city of Hama had run out of traditional white burial shrouds, instead using curtains and tablecloths to wrap the dead.

Videos posted online showed scores of bodies lined up in the mosque. Some purported victims were charred black by fire, another appeared to have had his throat slashed.

What transpired is hazy but, if estimates of as many as 220 victims are confirmed, it would make the massacre that unfolded in this sheep-farming village on the banks of the Orontes River and home to just 9,000 residents the bloodiest atrocity committed by the Syrian regime yet......

"When she arrived for the first few hours she was so afraid and traumatised," he said. "Her children still can barely speak and her husband was arrested by soldiers during the attack."

The stories she reported back were brutal. Yesterday morning, when she visited a neighbour's house destroyed by fire, the air was thick with the smell of burning flesh and inside were two charred corpses. She believes they were locked in and burnt alive.

A local doctor Munsef al-Naji who was found treating two wounded men was dragged outside and shot in the head. "The villagers are still worried that the Shabiha will return," the woman's brother continued. "At the moment we are still desperately trying to get people out. The situation is dire.""

Syria used helicopters and tanks in Tremseh 'massacre', confirms UN

Kofin Annan 'appalled' after UN monitors verified use of heavy weaponry in attack believed to have killed more than 140 people

in Chulov in Beruit and Matthew Weaver
, Friday 13 July 2012

"The head of the UN monitoring mission in Syria has said that helicopters and tanks were used to shell a town in the centre of the country before a massacre that is believed to have killed more than 140 people on Thursday.

General Robert Mood, who has led the UN presence in Syria since April, said his members were ready to enter the town of Tremseh if a truce there took hold. He said monitors stationed in the area had personally verified that heavy weapons were directed against Tremseh on Thursday.

Late on Friday the UN said observers had been unable to contact the local military commander responsible for the area near Tremseh and its members had been refused access. It claimed the Syrian air force "continued to attack populated urban areas on a large scale" and said its observers had logged more than 100 explosions in an "ongoing military operation".

Residents of the small town of around 6,000 people said they were attacked from outlying areas late on Thursday after many hours of shelling. They blamed the attack on loyalist forces and a pro-regime militia known as the Shabiha which has been accused of being at the vanguard of other mass killings during recent months......"

US manipulation of news from Syria is a red herring

The big picture is clear. A slaughter is under way in Syria, largely carried out by government forces and militias

Julian Borger, Friday 13 July 2012


".....If you are of a conspiratorial turn of mind you could do a bit of research on me after reading this article and find that I spent more than eight years in Washington (aha!) and about 18 months in Jerusalem (the Mossad connection) and you may well find pictures of me with Ratko Mladic, and Radovan Karadzic, where I maintain I was conducting interviews but which could have had a much more underhand connection.

You would be wasting your time. Even if I had been paid or programmed to falsify everything I write about Syria, my controllers would be powerless to alter people's perceptions of what is going on there. The news is streaming out by Skype, emails and satellite phones, and in the testimony of refugees. We rely heavily on our correspondents on the ground to gather information directly inside Syria. They do not spend much if any time on the phone to SNC spokespeople in Washington. Likewise most of the reports on the latest butchery in Tremseh came not from the SNC, but from rebels and activists in the area, and are treated for the time being as unconfirmed.

The bigger picture, however, is abundantly clear. A slaughter is under way, largely carried out by government forces and allied militias. Whether this should mean western military intervention is quite another question. It is hard to see how air strikes could stop the killing, but authorising the international criminal court to start a full investigation into who is responsible would seem like a step in the right direction.

Nothing could be more important than working out how to respond to the brutality in Syria. We ought to be having that debate. Investigating the pedigrees of cherry-picked individuals on each side is not the way to arrive at the right answer."

Al-Jazeera Video: Empire - Egypt: A second republic?

"Making history at the epicenter of the Arab world, Egypt has democratically elected and inaugurated an Islamist and a former political prisoner as its new president.

For a moment the country can take a breath, as the daily grind of getting a country back to work takes over.

But while one issue is resolved, many others remain -- the future of the parliament, a constitution still unwritten and a military that seems determined to hold on to control of much of the Government and a substantial segment of the country's economy."

World's Faith in Capitalism Erodes as Financial Crisis Continues: Survey

Common Dreams

"The financial crisis that has bred unemployment, austerity, and economic pain across the global for nearly fives years is also battering the reputation of the system many believe to be its main cause: "free market" capitalism.

According to new global poll by Pew Research, only half or fewer -- in 11 of 21 nations surveyed -- now agree with the statement that people are better off in a "free market" economy than in some other kind.

In nine of the 16 countries for which there is trend data since 2007, before the financial crisis began, support for capitalism is down, with the greatest declines in Italy (down 23 percentage points) and Spain (down 20 points).

Support for capitalism is greatest in Brazil, China, Germany and the U.S, says the report. The biggest skeptics of the free market are in Mexico and Japan....."

Egypt’s New Unions Face Uncertain Future

By Cam McGrath

"CAIRO, Jul 13 2012 (IPS) - The independent trade unions that have sprung up across Egypt over the last 17 months face an uncertain future, caught between Islamists and the military and operating under labour laws that have not changed since Hosni Mubarak was in power.

The government and business owners don’t want to respond to workers’ demands or give them rights, so they are opposed to seeing workers establish independent syndicates,” says Kamal Abu Eita, a leader of the independent union movement.

Under Mubarak, all unions were required to be part of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), which propped up the regime by blocking any industrial action that would undermine the state’s authority or supply of cheap labour. Membership in the state-controlled body was mandatory for most public sector employees, and union dues were automatically deducted from their salaries.

Activists say the colossal labour organisation worked to prevent its four million members from holding strikes or negotiating for better salaries. It also mobilised large numbers of workers for pro-government rallies and bussed them to polling stations during general elections to vote for the ruling party.

Successive regimes recognised the power of organised labour and used ETUF to control it,” Tamer Fathy, an expert on labour movements tells IPS. “It was basically an arm of the regime since its creation in 1957.”.....

Many activists believe Egypt’s two main powers, the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, are trying to rebuild ETUF as a counterweight to newfound syndical liberties. They claim the generals – opposed to organised labour – have sought to contain worker movements by criminalising strikes and preserving Mubarak-era labour laws....

Muslim Brotherhood leaders once supported trade syndicate pluralism, but now favour a model that prohibits workers from organising more than one union within any given enterprise. Legislators affiliated to the Islamic group have attempted to hijack the proposed Trade Union Liberties Law – originally intended to support independent unions – and transform it into a bill that bars union pluralism.

Setbacks in formulating progressive legislation could undermine the growth and legitimacy of independent unions. But defiant labour leaders point out that they did not wait for Mubarak’s permission to establish independent unions, and they have no intention of waiting for his successors to approve them."

Syria: at least 200 killed in Hama province massacre, say activists

If confirmed, killings in village of Tremseh would represent single biggest massacre since uprising began

Julian Borger
The Guardian, Thursday 12 July 2012

"....A statement by the Hama Revolutionary Council said: "More than 220 people fell today in Tremseh. They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions.

"It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Tremseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Tremseh, told Reuters.

Sameh said he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents.

"Every family in the town seems to have had members killed. We have names of men, women and children from countless families," he said, adding that many of the bodies were taken to a local mosque......."

Guardian Video: More than 200 killed as Syrian regime attacks Tremseh, say activists

WARNING: This video contains images of the wounded and dead. Syrian rebels say an attack on the town of Tremseh, near the besieged city of Hama, has killed more than 200 people. The Hama Revolutionary Council said the village was surrounded, then bombarded with shells and tank rounds, Thursday 12 July 2012

Why I defected as Syria's ambassador to Iraq

Nawaf al-Fares explains why he resigned as both Syria's ambassador to Iraq and as a member of the ruling Baath Party.

"....Dear military men… your mission is to defend the nation against any external threat… have your people become your enemy? Is that what you have learned at your military academies? Is it your slogan: Homeland, Honour and Loyalty?Where is honour if you are killing your people?

Where is the homeland and loyalty? The homeland is all the people and not a single individual [in reference to Bashar al-Assad] and loyalty is to the people and not to a dictator killing his people.

Dear brothers, people still cling to hope and there is still time… Turn your guns towards the criminals from this regime…be loyal to the people as you have pledged when you joined the army and took the military oath.

I call all Syrian people to unite and don't let the wicked regime to seed sedition among you. By being united, Syria will be defended and the victory will be achieved, Allah willing.""

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: 'More than 150' dead in Syrian army crackdown

"Syrian government troops using tanks and helicopters have killed more than 150 people in the central region of Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has told the AFP news agency.

"Government troops bombarded the village using tanks and helicopters," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said on Thursday, putting the death toll at more than 150.

Rula Amin reports from neighbouring Lebanon."

Al-Jazeera Video: لقاء اليوم - نواف الشيخ فارس

The influential Syrian general who could bear Assad no more

The Tlass family were once acolytes of the Assad dynasty, but as the regime crackdown targeted their fellow Sunni clansmen, they hatched a plan to flee to Paris. Julian Borger, Martin Chulov and Kim Willsher report on what the escape of Manaf Tlass reveals about the strategy of the 'Friends of Syria'

Martin Chulov in Rehanliya, Julian Borger and Kim Willsher in Paris, Thursday 12 July 2012

"....While the exile opposition wait, a second top Sunni has followed Tlass's example and bolted. Nawaf al-Fares, the Syrian ambassador to Baghdad and the head of an influential tribe on the Syrian-Iraqi border, fled to Doha, in a defection believed to have been organised and financed by Qatari intelligence, to raise a rebel banner in the Gulf, telling Syrian soldiers to "turn your guns on the criminals" in the Damascus regime......

"Manaf had decided to defect very early on in the revolution and got in touch with the FSA to plan ahead. They advised him to stay in place as he would serve them better being on the inside rather than the outside.

"The same instructions had been given to a very large number of acting officers as they fed the Free Syrian Army with operational information and troop movements giving the FSA enough notice about impending attacks to avoid casualties and plan counter attacks," the opposition figure said.....

A turning point came last August when a delegation of senior Hezbollah officials came to Damascus and was due to eat an Iftar meal, to break the Ramadan fast.

The Hezbollah men asked Manaf what he thought about Assad's handling of the situation, according to one Syrian source.

"The response came fast and dry – 'a donkey'," said the source. "In Arabic, the poor animal occupies a very low level in the hierarchy of the animal kingdom and the term is generally used to denote a clueless person with no intelligence whatsoever.

"Taking it as an insult, the Hezbollah team got up and apologised for not being able to have dinner there as they made up other excuses.

"As Firas and Manaf stood up to accompany their hosts out, which is customary in these events, their father asked to sit down and let the guests leave unaccompanied, a sign of derision in Arab customs."......

The intimate link with the French elite has led to speculation that the escape of the youngest son and most pivotally placed member of the family was stage-managed by French intelligence.

It does seem clear that the solicitation of defections by members of the Sunni elite has become an important strategy for the Friends of Syria states to weaken the Assad regime, especially in view of their continuing failure to persuade the Russians and Chinese to back sanctions.

Only national governments like France and Qatar have the wherewithal to offer the protection, security, and financial rewards necessary to lure away acolytes like Manaf Tlass, calculating correctly that it was self-interest that had bound them to the regime in the first place."

Syria: Bashar al-Assad's shrinking circle

The fact that high level defections are happening does not of itself shorten the terrible war that is going in Syria

Editorial, Thursday 12 July 2012

".....The fact that high level defections are happening does not of itself shorten the terrible war that is going on there. But it does speak to the sectarian and tribal fissuring that is taking place under the pressure of these extreme forces. The defection of Syria's ambassador to Baghdad, Nawaf al-Fares, is important not just because of who he is – a Sunni bestowed with the honour of being Syria's first ambassador to Iraq in three decades. It is also about the people Fares represents. He is head of the Uqaydat tribe which straddles the Syrian-Iraqi border and is highly armed. If Fares's parting message to the Syrian military to turn their guns on the criminals of the regime is heard, it will be heard by his own tribe first. His defection opens up a whole new eastern front for the opposition which stretches well into Iraq. Other tribal areas have yet to follow suit and an important meeting will take place in Cairo next week, but the area of Syria on which Mr Assad can count is shrinking. As importantly, if other Sunnis follow Fares's lead, it means that the regime is retreating back to its ethnic Shia Alawite core. Each defector becomes an added asset to the opposition. The dialogue that the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, says has now started with Brigadier General Manaf Tlass who fled to Turkey a week ago, will provide not only a clearer picture of what is going on at the heart of the regime. It also provides the foundation for the transitional Syrian government that will eventually replace Mr Assad...."

Syrian opposition activists: more than 250 dead in Hama village massacre

Forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad have killed more than 250 people – mostly civilians –in Tremseh, activists say
, Thursday 12 July 2012

"More than 250 people have been killed by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the village of Tremseh in Hama province, according to opposition activists.

The Revolution Leadership Council of Hama told Reuters that most of those killed were civilians. The opposition activists said the village had been attacked by helicopter gunships and tanks, and that pro-government militia men then moved in and carried out execution-style killings......."

New Massacre in Syria

At last 250 people have been killed in a new massacre committed by the Syrian forces in al-Tremsa in Hama on Thursday, Al Arabiya reported citing Syrian activists. 
Activists at the Syrian Revolution Commission told Al Arabiya that scores of dead bodies were scattered in houses and in farms in al-Tremsa, while more than 150 dead bodies have been piled up in al-Tremsa mosque. 

Activists said that helicopters have targeted the trucks carrying the humanitarian aid on their way to al-Tremsa, while the government troops shelled the village using tanks and missiles.

The Syrian National Council called for a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting over the new massacre in al-Tremsa and urged the U.N. observers to head to the village to document the mass killing.

The Syrian state TV, meanwhile, said that “terrorists” have committed the massacre and that the Syrian government forces have entered the village only after the residents asked for their help.

نواف الفارس: الأسد أوهمنا بالإصلاحات

"قال السفير السوري لدى العراق نواف الفارس الذي أعلن انشقاقه قبل يومين، إنه كان مع الثورة منذ اليوم الأول وضد كل الممارسات الخاطئة، وأشار ضمن برنامج "لقاء اليوم" على قناة الجزيرة إلى أن الرئيس بشار الأسد أوهم من حوله باتخاذ إجراءات إصلاحية لم ينجز منها أي شيء، وأعرب عن عتبه لموقف رئيس الوزراء العراقي نوري المالكي من الثورة السورية، معتبرا أن إيران تساهم في المشكلة وليس الحل.

وبخصوص توقيت انشقاقه، قال الفارس إنه كانت لديه ظروفه الخاصة وظروف مهمته، مشيرا إلى أن وعود النظام بالخطوات الإصلاحية كانت وهما وسرابا ولم تكن سوى مزيد من القتل والدمار.

ورغم ذلك فقد كان لديه أمل بالتغيير، مشيرا إلى أن "بشار الأسد رئيس سوريا سابقا والمجرم حاليا" تحدث عن "خطوات إصلاحية متقدمة كلفنا بنقلها إلى الشعب والشارع"، تتعلق بحزب البعث والإدارة وتعدد الأحزاب وبالدستور الجديد والديمقراطية، و"أوهمنا بقناعته بأن العالم يتغير ونحن يجب أن نتغير".

بيد أن تلك الوعود لم تغير أي منهج من مناهج الدولة، حيث أشار الفارس إلى أن الدستور الجديد لا يختلف عن الدستور القديم لأن كل شيء بيد الرئيس، وبخصوص المادة الثامنة في الدستور القديم التي تم إلغاؤها وتتعلق بأن حزب البعث هو القائد للدولة والمجتمع، واعتبر هذه المادة منتهية منذ زمن وأن "الحزب مجرد غطاء لقيادة فرد دكتاتور".

وبشأن انشقاقه، قال الفارس إنه كان حريصا على عدم إحراج السلطات العراقية، خاصة أن بغداد لها علاقات مع النظام السوري، مشيرا إلى أنه اتبع طريقة خاصة وبعلاقات خاصة استطاع الخروج من العراق وأعلن انشقاقه بمعزل عن المسؤولين العراقيين.

ورفض الخوض في تفاصيل وأسلوب انشقاقه، مكتفيا بالقول إنه تم بالتنسيق مع الثوار خاصة على الأرض، وأنه على تواصل مع الداخل: الجيش الحر والتنسيقيات والثوار.

ورغم إشارته إلى أن المعارضة في الخارج بذلت جهودا، فإن الفارس أشار إلى وجود عتب عليهم "وتقصير وفجوة كبيرة بين الداخل والخارج".

وأكد أنه سيلعب دورا كبيرا بشد أزر الثورة مع الداخل، وأنه متواصل بالأساس مع الجيش الحر، وأن انشقاقه سيؤثر بشكل كبير على النظام، مشيرا إلى أن النظام لا يملك أصلا إلا البنية العسكرية والأمنية، ولكن حتى هذه البنية بدأت بالتفكك وكثرت فيها الانشقاقات.

كما أكد السفير المنشق أن الثورة ستنتصر وأن الحق يؤخذ بالقوة، حتى لو قدم الشعب السوري مائة ألف ومائتي ألف ومليون شهيد، مشيرا إلى أن الشعب مقتنع بأن الأسد لن يرحل بدون قوة بعد ما "قتل 30 ألفا وغيب عشرات الآلاف وسجن مئات الآلاف وهجر الملايين"، مقللا من تأثير المبادرات الدولية على النظام السوري المستمر في جرائم القتل.

وعتب الفارس لموقف رئيس الوزراء العراقي نوري المالكي من سوريا، واصفا إياه "بالمتناقض مع حقيقة الأشياء، وهي أن نظام بشار الأسد قتل آلاف العراقيين، وهذا الشيء يدركه المالكي والمسؤولون العراقيون بالمفخخات والتفجيرات والقاعدة.. الأسد عقد اتفاقات شرف مع القاعدة" لتسهيل مرورهم إلى العراق.

وأعرب عن استغرابه لموقف إيران الداعم للنظام السوري، مشيرا إلى أن المذهب الشيعي يقوم على مرتكز أساسي وهو المظلومية ومظلومية الحسين ورفع الظلم، متسائلا "أين أنتم من الظلم الواقع على الشعب السوري؟".

وبخصوص الدعوة إلى إشراك إيران في الحل بسوريا، قال إن طهران "تساهم في المشكلة فكيف تساهم في الحل؟ وهي من الأسباب المشجعة لبشار الأسد للاستمرار في الحكم"، معتبرا أن إيران غير مقبولة و"الجهة الدولية التي ساهمت في سفك دم الشعب السوري غير مقبولة، والثورة ستستمر وتنتصر رغما عن إيران والطاغية بشار الأسد".

Why is EU’s Catherine Ashton defending Israel’s use of administrative detention?

By Ali Abunimah

"Just days before Israel released Palestinian football hero Mahmoud Sarsak from three years of detention without charge or trial, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs apparently gave her stamp of approval to Israel’s widely condemned practice of “administrative detention.”

In response to a question from members of the European Parliament, the EU’s top foreign affairs official pointedly refused to condemn Israel’s practice, even as Amnesty International has again called on Israel to end it once and for all.

Currently more than 300 Palestinian political prisoners are held by Israel without charge or trial......"

What next for Syria? Live Q&A with Martin Chulov

Martin Chulov has reported for the Guardian from Syria's civil war. Put your questions to him on the conflict, the region and the challenges of covering it

Martin Chulov, Thursday 12 July 2012

"Seventeen months after the Syrian uprising began, the country is in the depths of a sectarian civil war.

Large areas of the country are beyond the control of Bashar al-Assad's security forces. Gulf states, backed by the US, are supplying weapons to the opposition and some jihadi fighters are thought to be moving in from the east.

Martin Chulov has been inside Syria many times while covering the crisis for the Guardian. For his latest dispatch he visited northern Syria and found a wasteland where there is no government, little money and the cost of fuel is so prohibitive that people have returned to cooking with firewood......"

Guardian Video: Syria's ambassador to Iraq defects

Syria's ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf al-Fares announces his defection. He says he is joining the revolution against President Bashar al-Assad, becoming the first senior diplomat to quit the embattled government. In this video broadcast on al-Jazeera, al-Fares calls on Syrian soldiers to follow his lead and turn their guns on the Damascus leadership, Thursday 12 July 2012

Syria: Evidence of Cluster Munitions Use by Syrian Forces

Online Videos Appear to Show Remnants of the Weapons

Human Rights Watch

"(New York) – A pair of videos posted online by a user believed to be a Syrian activist on July 10, 2012, appear to show cluster munition remnants, Human Rights Watch said today. The images include Soviet-produced unexploded submunitions and a bomb canister, apparently found in Jabal Shahshabu, a mountainous area near Hama.

An activist in the area told Human Rights Watch that the region where the cluster remnants were allegedly found has been under sustained bombardment by Syrian forces over the past two weeks.“These videos show identifiable cluster bombs and submunitions,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. “If confirmed, this would be the first documented use of these highly dangerous weapons by the Syrian armed forces during the conflict.”

Arms experts from Human Rights Watch and the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining said that one video shows the remnants of a RBK-250 series cluster bomb canister, while the second shows at least unexploded 15 AO-1Sch submunitions, small fragmentation bomblets that are delivered by RBK bombs. Both the RBK cluster bomb and AO-1Sch submunitions are Soviet-made......."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria ambassador to Iraq defects

"Syria's ambassador to Iraq has defected in protest at the military crackdown by Assad's forces against a 16-month uprising. In exclusive statement to Al Jazeera, Nawaf al-Fares said that his decision came in the wake of what he described as horrible massacre committed against the Syrian people by the regime. Nicole Johnston reports."

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's isolation is growing

The defection of Nawaf al-Fares shows that the conflict is sliding inexorably into a primarily ethnic civil war

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor, Wednesday 11 July 2012

"The defection of Syria's ambassador to Baghdad marks the second time in a week that Bashar al-Assad has been deserted by a top Sunni ally, suggesting that the isolation of the Allawite core of the regime is accelerating, and that the conflict is sliding inexorably into a primarily ethnic civil war.

Like Manaf Tlass (below), the Republican Guard general whose defection became known last Thursday, Nawaf al-Fares is part of the Syrian Sunni elite, whose alliance with the Assad family and the Allawite security apparatus was the pillar on which the Syrian Ba'ath party regime was built. As that pillar crumbles, what is left is a heavily armed, highly militarised Allawite minority with its back to the wall in the face of a vengeful, if fragmented, Sunni majority.

Fares is an especially significant figure. His selection by Assad in 2009 as Syria's first ambassador to Baghdad in three decades was a high honour reflecting his status in Syrian society. He was the head of the Ba'ath party in his home city of Deir ez-Zor, the seventh largest in Syria, as well as serving as governor of the sensitive Quneitra province, along the Israeli border.

Most importantly, Fares is the Syrian head of the Uqaydat tribe which straddles the Syrian-Iraqi border along the Euphrates river. They and other border tribes have long been a powerful force in the region's history and some observers see them as the key to Assad's survival......."

Syria ambassador to Iraq defects

Nawaf al-Fares issues an exclusive statement to Al Jazeera confirming that he has defected and urges others to join.


"Syria's ambassador to Iraq has defected in protest at the military crackdown by Assad's forces against a 16-month uprising.

In exclusive statement to Al Jazeera, Nawaf al-Fares said that his decision came in the wake of what he described as horrible massacre committed against the Syrian people by the regime.

"I announced my resignation as Syrian ambassador to Iraq as I also declare my defection from the Syrian Baath party," said Fares on Wednesday.

"I urge all honest members of this party to follow my path because the regime has turned it [the party] to an instrument to kill people and their aspiration to freedom."

Fares also called upon the military to join the ranks of the Syrian revolution, pointing out that such a move would help defend the homeland against any foreign enemy and "not the killing of the people".

He also urged all Syrians to come together and be patient in front of what he called attempts by the regime to divide them.

A veteran of Assad's rule who held senior positions under the late president Hafez al-Assad, Fares is from Deir al-Zor, the eastern city on the road to Iraq, which has been the scene of a ferocious military onslaught by Assad forces.

'Political blow'

Unlike earlier defections, such as that of Manaf Tlas, a Syrian general and personal friend of Assad, Fares's defection deals a harsh blow to the Syrian government.

"People are losing confidence in the Assad regime," Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics told Al Jazeera.

"If you go outside Aleppo or Deraa or Hama, [the rebels] are extremely focused," Gerges said

Morsi pledges respect for Egypt court rulings

Statement by new president emphasises commitment to judicial decisions and to dialogue with all political forces.



Are Israeli Settlements Legal? Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah vs. Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin

Democracy Now!

"An Israeli government committee has affirmed the country’s self-proclaimed right to build settlements throughout the occupied West Bank, and recommended the legalization of dozens of settler outposts that have not received government authorization. The International Court of Justice has already ruled that all of Israel’s West Bank settlements are illegal, but Israel has said it would only consider dismantling scattered outposts that it has not officially approved. The settlers have used the outposts to seize even more Palestinian land than has already been taken. We host a debate between Jonathan Tobin, Senior Online Editor of Commentary magazine, and Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story - Egypt's ongoing power struggle

"Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's newly elected president, reopened a parliament that the military rulers had dissolved. But the country's top judges insist their ruling that led to the military action remains valid. And now there is a political, legal and social storm in the wake of the president's action. The country is divided over the legality of and the reasons for Morsi's decision. His supporters insist the president is returning legislative power to the people while opponents maintain he is undermining the rule of law. Last month Egypt's constitutional court ruled that part of the electoral process was unconstitutional, finding that one-third of seats supposed to be filled by independents had in fact been occupied by party representatives, and recommended that the whole of parliament be dissolved. As executive authority at that stage, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), then decreed the closure of parliament and barred MPs from even entering the premises. By reversing that decree the newly elected president is essentially beginning to define the degree of executive authority he believes has been ceded by SCAF. And he is also denying SCAF's insistence that it will continue to hold full legislative power until a new constitution is drawn up and a parliament is re-elected. In immediately holding a formal session, the parliament is signalling its backing for the president. But by adjourning within minutes and referring the matter of its legal status to the courts, the parliament has also signalled its willingness to uphold the rule of law. So, is it a constitutional crisis, a political showdown or both? Inside Story, with presenter Mike Hanna, discusses with guests: Hisham Kassem, a veteran journalist and publisher; Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo Univeristy and an author of several books on Egyptian foreign policy; and Sameh Fawzy, a political analyst."

The Mystery of Arafat’s Death

by Ray McGovern, July 11, 2012

".....And More Polonium Too?

Israeli investigative journalist Michael Karpin wrote about polonium in his 2006 book, The Bomb in the Basement: How Israel Went Nuclear and What that Means for the World. Karpin reveals that exposure to polonium, the radioactive substance used to poison Litvinenko, killed several Israeli scientists a few decades ago.

These Weizmann Institute scientists were exposed to the same dangerous substance that was found at a number of London sites Litvinenko had visited, as well as in three British Airways planes that flew the Moscow-London route.

According to Karpin, in 1957 a leak was discovered at a Weizmann Institute laboratory operated by Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The Israeli authorities did not admit that the leak and the deaths were connected, but people close to one fatal casualty confirmed that the state took responsibility for the accident and compensated his family.

Having learned how lethal polonium can be, it seems clear in retrospect that Israeli scientists set out to learn all they could about polonium poisoning. From Litvinenko’s demise it seems clear the Russians have had a parallel program. Or, maybe… do you suppose…?

Israel runs a major defense research institute specializing in biology, medicinal chemistry, and environmental science at Nes Ziona, 20 miles south of Tel Aviv; it is called the Israel Institute for Biological Research. With 350 employees, including 150 scientists, it is suspected of also developing biological toxins for use by Israeli intelligence for assassinations. This is probably where Israel conducts its research on polonium.

More bullets in the magazine; polonium/“stealth assassination”; drones with “Hellfire” missiles — whatever. Life (the life of some, that is) is cheap. And assassinations are us......"

Guardian Video: Gaza's healthcare system in crisis

Medical staff and the parents of patients discuss the effect of five years of Israeli blockade and Hamas rule on Gaza's healthcare system. Power cuts and shortages of drugs and equipment mean patients are suffering. Those in urgent need of medical care often seek treatment in Israel – but permission to travel is not always granted, Wednesday 11 July 2012


Bahrain urged to free imprisoned activist

Amnesty International
11 July 2012

"Bahrain must immediately release a prominent human rights activist and prisoner of conscience sentenced to three-month's in prison following his conviction for libel, after the authorities took exception to a post he made on Twitter, Amnesty International said today.

Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was arrested on 9 July, just hours after a court in the capital Manama sentenced him for libel following a complaint made against him by the people of al-Muharraq area, north of Bahrain, for “publicly vilifying the al-Muharraq people and questioning their patriotism with disgraceful expressions posted via social networking websites”.

"Nabeel Rajab's imprisonment is the latest example of how, despite government promises to introduce reforms following its violent crackdown on protesters in 2011, few improvements have been seen on the ground. It’s clear that repression of freedom of expression is continuing with impunity in Bahrain," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director.

"Like many others in Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab is a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. He should be released immediately and all other charges or convictions against him dropped or overturned. The authorities must also act to ensure that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without fear of reprisal."........."

Syria: To oppose, or not to oppose?

The opposition movement inside and outside the country must walk a fine line between independence and intervention.

By Maher Arar


"Deciding whether or not to oppose Syria's rulers has been the recent dominant preoccupation of many anti-imperialist and left-leaning movements. This hesitant attitude towards the Syrian struggle for freedom is nurtured by many anti-regime actions that were recently taken by many Western and Middle-Eastern countries, whose main interest lies in isolating Syria from Iran. However, I believe a better question to ask with respect to Syria is whether the leftist movement should support, or not support, the struggle of the Syrian people.

What I find lacking in many of the analyses relating to the Syrian crisis, which I find oftentimes biased and politically motivated, is how well the interests of the Syrian people who are living inside are taken into account. Dry and unnecessarily sophisticated in nature, these analyses ignore simple facts about why the Syrian people rebelled against the regime in the first place......

Exaggeration of 'outside influence'

Now to claim that there is no outside, foreign interference in Syria's internal affairs is to deny the obvious. But in my opinion this "interference" has been exaggerated (the analyses I've read with respect to this issue are based on speculations that are not supported by facts on the ground). Yes, there are countries who have always had a strong desire to see the Syrian-Iranian marriage fall apart. But to what extent these countries are influencing events on the ground is far from certain. For instance, the efforts reportedly led by Qatar and Saudi Arabia to equip the rebels with heavy arms have not yet borne fruits, and it seems the FSA is mostly using light to medium weapons.

Most of these weapons have either been bought from corrupt army officers, or are acquired by raiding weapons caches. Qatar and Saudi Arabia reportedly would want to make sure that weaponry would only be distributed to those groups that would pledge allegiance to them. While some groups may accept the deal, it is far from certain that all groups would accept any preconditions - as recently reported by Time magazine.

While the CIA may be present near the Syrian-Turkish border, all evidence points to the fact that the US is not very keen to arm the rebels, out of fear the arms would eventually fall in the hands of al-Qaeda and like-minded groups. In fact, Washington, despite the anti-Assad rhetoric we read about in media headlines, is not very keen on replacing the Assad regime with one whose allegiance to the US would be uncertain.

This explains why the US has so far reportedly refused to supply weapons to Syria's armed opposition. The latest discussions that took place in Geneva demonstrate that the US still prefers "a political solution" (whatever that means).

The fact that Syrian revolutionaries are not receiving the help they need to win the battle against the Syrian regime will certainly prolong the conflict. While many Syrians are disappointed by this indifference, I believe it is better for the future of Syria and its independence.

Syrians have already demonstrated mind-boggling courage and determination. They have made sizeable gains over the past year and they will certainly continue to make more. The signs are clear: the murderous Assad army, the regime's iron first, is disintegrating, albeit slowly. While it is no reason to celebrate, it is the Syrians' last hope, and if I were living inside Syria, I would hope the same."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How obsession with "nonviolence" harms the Palestinian cause

Palestinians do not have to tailor their resistance to the liking of the oppressor class and their supporters.

(Mahfouz Abu Turk / APA images)

In recent years, western discourse surrounding the Palestinian cause has employed a few new — and superficial — adjectives to describe Palestinian resistance: Palestinian “nonviolent” resistance, Palestinian “peaceful” resistance, Palestinian “popular” resistance, Palestinian “unarmed” resistance. And the ever so popular Palestinian “Gandhi-style” resistance.

This discourse has been adopted by the Palestinian popular struggle committees, born after the success story of the occupied West Bank village of Budrus that embarked on popular protests and managed to regain 95 percent of its lands that were expropriated by Israel’s apartheid wall in 2003. However, the obsessive, fetish-like concentration on a specific type of resistance has in one way or another contributed to the delegitimization of other forms of resistance, while simultaneously closing off open discussion on what popular resistance actually is.

More Protests in Qatif, Saudi Arabia

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you see that the separation of South Sudan has accomplished stability?

With about 600 responding so far, 86% said no.

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian workers face mistreatment in Lebanon

"Many Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries to escape the violence.

In Lebanon, the conflict has reignited tensions between the local community and Syrians.

They built some of Beirut's best homes and skyscrapers, but Syrian workers say they have never felt at home in Lebanon and more importantly they do not feel safe.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin reports from Beirut."

Annan: An Accomplice to Mass Murder

(Courtesy of

Bahrain's Doctors, by Khalil Bendib

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Alive and victorious: Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak home after epic 3 month hunger strike -photo

By Ali Abunimah

"Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak was greeted joyously in Gaza today as he returned home from the Israeli prison where he was held for three years without charge or trial and without visits from his family.

According to AP, Sarsak was taken to hospital in Gaza where, “he emerged from an ambulance and kissed his parents and siblings.”

Sarsak staged an epic three month hunger strike that brought him to the edge of death, which he ended last month after Israel met his demands and agreed to free him on this date......"

Three dead after more Syrian shells hit Lebanon

"(Reuters) - Three people were killed when Syrian mortars hit villages in northern Lebanon on Tuesday, as violence in Syria continued to spill across the border.

Residents said they had been under fire for five hours overnight, and that there had been sporadic shelling in the area for days.

One Lebanese man was killed by the shelling, and two Syrians living in Lebanon died when they were hit by a car speeding away from an area under fire, residents told Reuters.

It was the second fatal attack in three days. Three people were killed by mortar fire from Syria at the weekend and President Michel Suleiman ordered an investigation......"

The Arab Spring has given way to an Islamist summer, but not in Libya

By Kim Sengupta
The Independent

"Of the countries of the Arab spring that overthrew repressive regimes, the conflict in Libya was the most vicious and prolonged. This led to the conclusion that the people who would emerge in power would be the Islamist fighters who were increasingly in evidence.

The victories of Enhada in Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, neighbouring states which had gone through their own uprisings, helped to reinforce the vision of resurgent religious groups sweeping all before them.

But Libya is where this narrative seems to have turned to a different page. Despite their organised campaigns – bankrolled, it is claimed, by their sponsors in Qatar and Saudi Arabia – the results for the Islamist parties appear to be poor......

However, being a non-Islamist and not being beholden to foreign theocratic states has not been a bad thing at the polls. Even in the conservative east a common theme has been that Libyans are a Muslim people and don't need to be told how to be Muslims. The perceived influence of the Gulf countries is a source of resentment and, for some, a reason to turn away from the hardline religious parties.

A group of students in Benghazi assured me that Abdul Hakim Belhaj – a former guerrilla leader who is suing the British government for its part in his rendition – was so much in Qatar's pocket that even his party colours were that of Qatar Airways. In fact there is a definite difference in shades, but the young men were convinced that they had seen the true colours of the Islamists."

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gideon Levi in Haaretz: Israeli water torture

Water torture
IDF confiscates water containers from Palestinians and Bedouins in Jordan Valley.
By Gideon Levy
"The containers are these people’s only water source. In recent weeks, Avi has confiscated about a dozen containers, leaving dozens of families with children in the horrific Jordan Valley heat, to go thirsty."

Al-Jazeera Video: Violence follows arrest of Saudi shia cleric

"Two people have been killed during street protests in the Saudi Arabian city of Qatif that eruptd following the arrest of a prominent government critic. Activists say security forces opened fire on protesters, but the Interior Ministry denies any fighting took place. Al Jazeera's Joanna Blundell reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: Captured Syrian soldier defects to opposition

"Homs has seen some of the worst violence between government and opposition forces. Activists claim an increasing number of Syrian soldiers based there have been defecting. Al Jazeera's James Bays went to Homs province sent this exclusive report."

Al-Jazeera Video: James Bays comments on Syrian defections

"As the battles in Syria grow more intense, it is extremely difficult to work out what is going on in the country's multiple front lines. Al Jazeera's James Bays reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: Egypt's top court rebukes president's decree

"The speaker of Egypt's parliament has called for MPs to meet on Tuesday following an earlier decision to dissolve the Parliament. President Mohamed Morsi ordered Parliament back to work - overturning the military council's move to dissolve it nearly a month ago. Egypts highest court is now deciding whether the president's order is legal. Al Jazeera's Imran Khan reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: Rula Amin reports from Beirut on Syria

"While high-level meetings were taking place in Damascus, fighting continued in other parts of Syria. Al Jazeera's Rula Amin is watching developments from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon."

Al-Jazeera Video: كيلو يدعو طلاس لإدارة مرحلة مابعد الأسد

"دعا ميشال كيلو رئيس المنبر الديموقراطي السوري المعارض دعا روسيا إلى القيام بدور ايجابي للتوصل الى حل سلمي في بلاده.
واقترح كيلو خلال محادثات مع قيادات روسية في موسكو شخصية مناف طلاس لإدارة المرحلة الانتقالية في سورية ما بعد بشار الأسد.
تقرير/ جمال العرضاوي

Army APC attack unarmed demonstrators in Aleppo killing 15

For those who claim that FSA is responsible for the escalation of violence in Syria please enjoy this  video:

A Word on the Tlass Departure

Comment by Mysaloon

Something stinks to high heaven. First there is the defection of Manaf Tlass, a Republican Guard General, son of Mustafa, the former Syrian defence minister under Hafez Assad, and friend of the latter's son, Bashar. In one news story I heard Tlass referred to as a member of the Damascene "aristocracy", and then we hear reports that Michel Kilo gives a radio interview to a Russian station saying that Tlass is an acceptable head for a transition government.

Firstly I don't think the Tlass family are members of any "aristocracy". No offence but the town of Rastan is not known for its riches, it is a military town, and its sons find a career in the military far more appealing than the other opportunities available to them. The Tlass' have done well under Assad's forty year rule, and they have considerable wealth. I don't remember hearing them have any issues about corruption, torture and regime heavy handedness during the eighties. Tlass junior's departure today is even more suspect now that the Assad regime appears to be on the way to collapse.
So why is he now being pushed as a potential successor to Assad? I think he ticks all the boxes. He is charismatic, handsome, wealthy and comes from a military background. That means he is respected by Assad's old guard - both the new and the old. His friendship of Assad might mean he won't pursue Assad and his family should the latter leave power, and the country could safely retain its security apparatus under a new Sunni dynasty, the Tlasses. I find myself wondering if this is the result of some compromise between Russia and the West, with both sides not very happy about this revolution, and neither of them wanting the country and the region to crumble into oblivion.

Iran is quietly watching from the sidelines, and it is no coincidence that Annan has hurried between Damascus and Tehran; most likely to deliver the final ultimatum offered by the West. Whatever the contents of this final lifeline are, the alternative is a very destructive war. The FSA will definitely see an upsurge in supply from the West and the Gulf states. Ultimately this means a catastrophic refugee situation. It is clear by now that the Gulf states intend to herd all Syrians fleeing the violence into refugee camps, as the GCC has been denying visas to all Syrians for months.

This is a particularly devastating and humiliating option for many Syrians, as their other routes, whether to Turkey, which will be perilous, or to Lebanon, which might just be a case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Not many people realise this, but Damascus in particular is packed with families that have left Homs, Hama and the neighbouring areas and rents in the capital have sky rocketed in the past year. If war reaches Damascus then where will these people go? And how will they be fed, clothed and sheltered? Clinton is not joking when she warns of an impending catastrophe, but the real question is whether Assad cares or not. The mantra chanted by his supporters, "Assad or the country burns" might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tlass might be the least worst option, but this still isn't good enough for a country that has given over fifteen thousand lives for its freedom, and tens of thousands of refugees and prisoners. I doubt that all these people died to replace an Alawite dictator with a Sunni one, but I'm confident about one thing, and that is that Syria's freshly grown grass roots will now, and should remain, the final line of defence for the Syrian people's liberties and fight against oppression. It is now more vital than ever that these grass roots groups and coordination committees dig in and consolidate. The hard work really begins once Assad goes.