Saturday, January 31, 2009

Egypt Installs Cameras Along Border with Gaza to End Weapons Smuggling

Atlanta, Ga.

Egypt has begun to install cameras and motion detectors along the border they share with Gaza in order to prevent the smuggling of weapons by Palestinian militants.

While the cameras will monitor the border above ground the motion sensors will be able to detect activity through tunnels that have been used to smuggle in food, medicine and weapons for Palestinians.

Israel had destroyed many of the tunnels during their three-week offensive in Gaza but many still exist and some are being rebuilt. The Israelis have warned that if Hamas continues to bring weapons into Gaza then airstrikes will resume.

Palestinians have relied on the tunnels for basic needs as Israel continues a tight blockade.

Egypt: Overturning of jail sentences against editors welcome but concerns remain

Press Release
31 January 2009

Egypt: Overturning of jail sentences against editors welcome but concerns remain

The Egyptian authorities must stop prosecuting independent journalists for their writings, Amnesty International said as it welcomed the decision by a Cairo Appeals Court today to overturn the one year prison sentence handed out to four newspaper editors for publishing offences. The organization believes the case against the editors to be part of a concerted campaign by the authorities to stifle criticism.

“We are relieved that the four editors’ prison sentences have been overturned but the imposition of heavy fines and the prospect of trials on vaguely worded charges constitute unacceptable obstacles to freedom of the press in Egypt,” said Amnesty International.

The Agouza Appeals Court quashed the one year prison sentence handed out to editors Ibrahim Eissa of the daily Al-Dustour, Wael al-Abrashy of the weekly Sawt al-Umma, Adel Hammouda of the weekly Al-Fajr, and Abdel Halim Qandil, former editor of the weekly Al-Karama, but upheld the 20,000 Egyptian Pounds (around USD3500) fine against each of them. Their lawyers announced that they will take the case to the Court of Cassation.

In July 2006, a controversial press law was passed by parliament that further curtailed freedom of expression. Certain publishing offences, such as insulting public officials, continued to carry custodial sentences. Independent and opposition newspapers withheld publication for a day in protest at the new law and hundreds of media workers protested outside the Egyptian parliament.

All four editors were tried by the Agouza First Instances Court on 13 September 2007 and given the maximum sentence of one year in prison and 20,000 Egyptian Pounds stipulated under Article 188 of the Egyptian Penal Code for anyone who “malevolently publishes false news, statements or rumours that is likely to disturb public order".

One of the four editors, Ibrahim Eissa, had his six-month prison sentence for spreading false rumours about the health of President Mubarak reduced to two months by an appeals court in September 2008; he later received a presidential pardon in October 2008.

Editors of the independent daily Al-Masry al-Youm, Magdy Al-Gallad, and opposition newspaper, Al-Wafd, Abbas Al-Tarabily, as well as three journalists working for them have been tried for allegedly breaking the ban ordered by the court on publishing details regarding the court hearings in the trial of a prominent Egyptian businessman and a former member of the State Security Investigations services accused of the killing of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tameem. The trial will resume on 12 February 2009.

"We call on the Egyptian authorities to stop using the press law to muzzle freedom of speech and to recognize the important role a free and independent press in any society," said Amnesty International.

Public Document
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email: International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

Friday, January 30, 2009

Jordanian delegation turned away by Egypt at Rafah crossing

AMMAN, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- A Jordanian delegation of engineers was denied by Egypt to enter Gaza, local daily The Jordan Times reported Thursday.

The delegation was on a humanitarian mission to assess the situation on the ground and find ways to assist reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip, following the 22-day Israeli attacks, according to Jordan Engineers Association (JEA) President Wael Saqqa.

"I do not understand the refusal, particularly since we received written approval from Egyptian authorities through the Jordanian Foreign Ministry," Saqqa said.

According to Saqqa, Egyptian authorities told activists they were allowed to enter Gaza through the Israeli-controlled Karm Abu Salem crossing, but not via Rafah.

"We refuse to deal with Israel. If we wanted to go to Gaza through Israel, we would have done so from Jordan," he stressed.

The delegation was scheduled to meet with members of the Palestinian Engineers Association, in order to return to Jordan with an understanding of Gaza's rebuilding needs, according to the organization.

Earlier this month, the JEA donated two ambulances valued at 300,000 Jordanian dinars (423,729 U.S. dollars) to Gaza, where a three-week fight between Israel and Hamas has claimed over 1,300 lives and left thousands injured.

US military may install sensing equipment on Egypt’s border with Gaza

Maan News Agency
25 / 01 / 2009

Bethlehem – Ma’an – A group of six US military officers and engineers, including the US military attaché in Cairo, toured Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip in the town of Rafah, the BBC reported.

The men were reportedly looking into the possibility of installing high-tech sensing equipment to locate tunnels that are used to smuggle goods into Gaza.

Egypt says that it is willing to accept equipment or assistance from any country in order to help combat smuggling.

A team from the US Army Corps of Engineers has been in Egypt for months on a mission to help find and destroy the tunnels.

US military personnel have also reportedly been in Egypt for 40 days training Egyptian security personnel to use the new sensing equipment.

UPI - Egyptians make tunnel study on U.S. border

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- A delegation of Egyptian engineers has been sent to the U.S.-Mexico border to learn ways to destroy smuggling tunnels, The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday.

The U.S. government has already placed military engineers with tunnel detection equipment in the Sinai to assist Egyptians in uncovering and destroying Hamas's smuggling tunnels.

The Egyptian military also was expected to receive new tunnel detection equipment from Germany to be used along the Philadelphi Corridor, a strip of land along the border between Israel and Egypt.

The tunnels along the southern U.S. border are used to move drugs and illegal migrants into the United States from Mexico.

Israeli military officials said that Egypt, the United States and the European Union will begin holding regular meetings in the coming weeks on weapons shipments being sent to Hamas by Iran.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

American trade union memberships rise for second straight year

Union membership rises for second straight year
January 28, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid widening unemployment, home foreclosures and credit woes, union membership jumped to 12.4 percent of the work force last year.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the ranks of organized labor rose by 428,000 workers — the biggest annual gain since the government began compiling such data in 1983. It's also the second year in a row that unions have added to their ranks. Membership rose by 311,000 members in 2007, to account for 12.1 percent of workers.

Overall, union membership remains well below the peak of 35 percent during labor's heyday of the 1950s. Membership was about 20 percent in 1983, the first year the bureau began compiling the numbers.

Unions have moved aggressively to bolster organizing efforts in recent years, a move that apparently offset the loss of 2.6 million jobs from payrolls in 2008.

AP - IAEA head cancels BBC interview over Gaza aid row

January 28, 2009

VIENNA, Austria (AP) — The Nobel Peace Prize-winning head of the U.N. nuclear agency announced Wednesday that he was canceling interviews with the BBC over its refusal to air an appeal for victims of the Gaza conflict, adding an influential voice to a storm of criticism over the network's decision.

Mohamed ElBaradei said the BBC had violated "the rules of basic human decency" by not airing the appeal, which Britain's publicly funded broadcaster said would have damaged its impartiality in coverage of the conflict.

ElBaradei's outspokenness on the issue is unusual for the head of a U.N agency whose mandate has nothing to do with the Middle East or humanitarian issues but it is in keeping with his record.

The Egyptian-born diplomat, whose third and final term ends this year, has come under criticism from the U.S, and some other IAEA member nations in the past for comments on Iran, Iraq or other nations under examination for possible violations of nonproliferation commitments that they viewed as exceeding the agency's authority by straying from strictly technical issues.

ElBaradei's office said ElBaradei had canceled scheduled interviews with BBC radio and World
Service television because he believes the broadcaster's refusal to air the appeal "violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong."

His protest follows growing criticism of the BBC decision in Britain with lawmakers saying that more than 110 of their colleagues have endorsed motions criticizing the BBC's decision to keep the Gaza appeal off the air.

Sky News has joined BBC in deciding not to carry the charity appeal, but much of the criticism has focused on BBC because of its publicly funded status.

The BBC said the network regretted ElBaradei's decision and "audiences around the world remain interested in what he has to say about a range of topics and we hope he will do an interview at another time."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown refused to intervene in the controversy, telling the House of Commons Wednesday that "It is not for us to interfere with the independence of the BBC and of Sky."

Despite the inability to get exposure on BBC and Sky News, the aid agencies behind the appeal say they have been able to raise 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) for Palestinians in Gaza.

Among them are the Red Cross, Oxfam, and Save the Children. In the past they have raised money for victims of war, famine and natural disaster, with the help of broadcasters like BBC and Sky News.

The Gaza appeal, which was shown on several television stations Monday night and has since been placed on the Internet, shows crying and wounded children seeking help in the chaos of Gaza.

"These people simply need your help," intones a solemn male voiceover as the images portray the impact of three weeks of intense fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza. The fighting killed more than 1200 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

Some of the images show elderly Palestinian women crying as they stand on the rubble-filled spot where their homes used to stand.

The narrator, who is not identified, describes how the sewer system has collapsed, leading to serious public health risks, and describes the hospitals as overwhelmed and under-equipped. He adds that a donation of just 25 pounds ($35) would provide blankets for eight children.

"Please donate now," the appeal concludes, offering detailed instructions on how to send money.

The Israeli government has tried to stay out of the fray, declining to take a position on whether the broadcast should be shown.

*Associated Press writer Gregory Katz contributed to this report from London.

BBC Gaza appeal row: unions protest
Leigh Holmwood
Monday 26 January 2009

Broadcasting unions have branded the BBC's decision not to air the Gaza humanitarian aid appeal as "cowardly" and said the move risks being seen as "politically motivated".

In a joint letter to BBC director general Mark Thompson today, Jeremy Dear and Gerry Morrissey, the general secretaries of the National Union of Journalists and Bectu respectively, called on the corporation to change its mind and broadcast the appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee.

The BBC, along with Sky News, has refused to air the appeal saying it risked compromising its impartiality. However, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five will all air the DEC appeal this evening.

ITV1 will broadcast the appeal just before its 6.30pm national news bulletin and it will also air after Channel 4 News just before 8pm.

Complaints to the BBC over its refusal to broadcast the DEC appeal had reached 15,500 earlier today. Of these, 1,340 were by phone and the remainder by email.

In their letter, Dear and Morrissey – who together represent thousands of workers within the BBC – said the corporation's stance would "seriously hinder" DEC in getting its message across to the British public.

"The humanitarian crisis, in which innocent children are suffering, is likely to be prolonged as a result of the corporation's decision," they said.

"The justifications given for the decision – 'question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation' and risks of compromising its 'impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story' – appear to us cowardly and in danger of being seen as politically motivated and biased in favour of Israel.

"We, above all, understand the BBC's need to maintain editorial impartiality and we also understand the pressure journalists and the BBC come under from those who accuse the BBC of bias in reporting the Middle East.

"That said, we agree with those senior BBC journalists who say this is a decision taken as a result of timidity by BBC management in the face of such pressures – [former Middle East correspondent] Tim Llewellyn described this as 'institutional cowardice'.

"Far from avoiding the compromise of the BBC's impartiality, this move has breached those same BBC rules by showing a bias in favour of Israel at the expense of 1.5 million Palestinian civilians suffering an acute humanitarian crisis."

The two men asked why Israel was being treated differently when the BBC broadcast a DEC appeal about the Burmese cyclone in May 2008 despite it being an ongoing news story.

"Our members feel this makes the BBC appear pro-Israeli and indifferent to the plight of the victims of this conflict," they said. "How can airing such an appeal risk compromising the BBC's impartiality? We believe the BBC's decision not to show the appeal is wrong and we urge you to reconsider."

Both the NUJ and Bectu passed motions over the weekend condemning the BBC's decision not to screen the appeal while corporation journalists in London will tomorrow vote on a similar resolution at a chapel meeting.

The BBC is facing a growing revolt from its own journalists over its decision not to broadcast the appeal, with sources reporting "widespread disgust" within its newsrooms. However, BBC staff have said they have been told they face the sack if they speak out on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Stop the War coalition has said it will protest outside the BBC's Broadcasting House building in central London from 5.30pm today in a bid to put pressure on the corporation to change its mind.

REUTERS - Iran protests to Egypt over Gaza aid ship

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TEHRAN - Iran lodged a protest with Egypt on Tuesday over its failure to allow an Iranian ship to unload aid for Gaza in an Egyptian port, Iranian media reported.

Israel, which Iran does not recognise, ordered the Iranian ship away from the Gaza area in mid-January.

Iran said at the time that the vessel would head for Egypt, the only other country to have a border with the Gaza Strip.

Iran sought permission to have the ship unload in an Egyptian port, but this was not forthcoming, the reports said.

They said the head of the Egyptian interests section in Tehran had been summoned to hear Iran's protests.

"Tehran strongly protested about Egypt's failure to issue a permit for the Iranian ship, although

Iran repeatedly followed- up (on the issue)," ISNA news agency quoted a senior Iranian official as telling Egypt's top diplomat in Tehran.

An Egyptian diplomat confirmed his head of mission, Amre al- Zayat, had been summoned over the issue.

"We are going to follow up this request with Egypt," the diplomat told Reuters.

Iran and Egypt do not have full diplomatic ties but maintain interest sections in each other's countries.

Iranian officials have criticised Egypt for not doing enough to help the Palestinians and for closing its border, which Egypt shut after the Islamist group Hamas took control of the area.

Israel accuses Iran of arming Hamas. Tehran says it provides moral, financial and humanitarian support to the group.

Monday, January 26, 2009

South African doctor detained in Egypt

Johannesburg - A South African charity worker has been detained by Egyptian security officials en route to Gaza, The Star newspaper reported on Monday.

Dr Feroz Abukaker Ganchi was part of a humanitarian aid expedition headed by the Gift of the Givers Foundation, the report said.

The expedition was blocked from entering Gaza at the Rafah border post on Friday because Egyptian authorities wanted to question Ganchi, who is an emergency medical practitioner at an Upington hospital.

"They spoke to him for half an hour and then said he could go. But at the Rafah border they stopped him again and, without telling us anything, he was taken away by the Egyptian internal security," foundation chairperson Imtiaz Sooliman told The Star.

"He didn't say anything to me because I was still busy with the passports, but he told one of the team he was being taken away for questioning.

"We don't know why or where he has been taken. I contacted the Egyptian embassy and our foreign affairs department. Our government is trying to get access to him."

The foreign ministry said it was "in consultation with Egyptian authorities to find a resolution."

In 2004, Ganchi was arrested by Pakistani police for alleged involvement in "terrorist activities", the newspaper said.

- SAPA,,2-7-1442_2458966,00.html

Britain: The Spring Offensive

Infoshop News
Monday, January 26 2009

There's no doubt that the six weeks from March 28th - May 4th offers our anarchist movement a chance to move out of the shadows. Against the background of recession there has been rioting across Europe from Riga to Sofia. These are riots not by activists but by poor people hurting badly.

The Greek uprising has provided a fine example of anarchists being prominent in a wider social movement for radical change. In Britain the war on Gaza and the Heathrow runway decision has brought protests - and direct action - back on the street across the country. They are not yet focussed on the recession but they may become so.

The G20 summit in London on April 2nd provides an opportunity for all these strands across Europe to come together as in the PARIS DECLARATION calling for a mass demonstration in London on March 28th - Saturday before summit - and across Europe on April 1st-2nd. In London the Trade Unions, Stop the War are organising marches on April 2nd. THE BEHEADING CAPITALISM event by the folks behind J18 is planned for the same day.

Other anarchists are planning a large central London anarchist rally on the night of April 1st with speakers from across Europe. After G20 the European leaders move on to the NATO summit in Germany - sure to get the anarchists back on the streets.

To often momentum is built over a few events then dribbles away. But this year we have the Mayday marches, a planned UK anarchist conference in London over May2-3rd and a Reclaim the Streets event in Brighton on May 4th. The fates are with us comrades, the sheeps entrails are promising, all we need are a few portents and omens to kick the whole fucking thing off.


Source: A-infos

The Impartiality of the BBC - My Ass!

How the call for aid to Gaza left the BBC in the thick of battle
Plea from Disasters Emergency Committee broadcast without corporation's support for the first time in 46 years
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
By Paul Lewis and Leigh Holmwood

A televised appeal for victims of the humanitarian disasters in Gaza has been broadcast on all terrestrial channels except the BBC, which refused to back down on its decision not to show the film.

It was the first time in the 46-year history of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) that one of its humanitarian appeals was broadcast without the backing of the BBC, which claimed that doing so would compromise its impartiality.

The two-minute film, broadcast on ITV1 at 6.25pm last night just before the main evening news, began with images of Gaza's child victims. "The children of Gaza are suffering. Many are struggling to survive. Homeless and in need of food and water," the narrator said. "Today, this is not about the rights and wrongs of the conflict. These people simply need your help."

The appeal, shown later on Channel 4 and Five, quoted UN reports that 40% of Gaza is without electricity, with many thousands homeless. "Aid workers on the ground say that temporary shelters are finding it difficult to cope with the number of people now living on the streets."
The appeal made no mention of the word "Israel", sticking to a description of the humanitarian need in the Palestinian territory. "This is why the DEC has launched this appeal on behalf of its members. They just want to help save lives."

Earlier yesterday Sky News announced it would not be broadcasting the appeal either. But it was the BBC's refusal to broadcast the appeal that made headlines across the Middle East and by last night had prompted more than 15,500 complaints. Shortly before the appeal aired, protesters burned their television licences in front of a line of police outside Broadcasting House in London.
More than 110 MPs had signed an early day motion urging the BBC to reverse its decision. The BBC is also facing a growing revolt from its own journalists, who have been told they could be sacked if they speak out on the issue.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said after last night's broadcast it was "inclined not to comment", but added: "There is no doubt that any appeal which simply seeks to raise money for innocent civilians should be applauded."

Last night's broadcasts were the culmination of a saga that began at 3.42pm on Tuesday when an email dropped into the inbox of Diane Reid, a BBC official working in the office of the director general. The message from DEC chief executive Brendan Gormley was urgent, informing the corporation that all criteria had been met to authorise an emergency appeal for humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

The DEC, an umbrella group of 13 charities including the Red Cross and Oxfam, has broadcast dozens of humanitarian appeals since the mid-1960s.

Reid, the BBC's charitable appeals adviser, quickly forwarded the request to senior executives. The decision not to broadcast the appeal was reached in just over 24 hours. The DEC received a reply to its email at 5.47pm on Wednesday; it said the BBC, ITV and Sky - members of the broadcasters' steering committee - "could not reach consensus" on whether the appeal was suitable.

The reality was that the decision not to broadcast lay squarely at the door of the BBC, and specifically its director general, Mark Thompson, who had been considering the stance he would take. Thompson had told Sky, ITV, and the BBC Trust of his decision earlier that morning.

He had in fact been in discussions for over a week. With signals emerging from Israel that its military offensive in Gaza was drawing to a close, the DEC made it clear that if agencies were allowed into the territory it would seek to raise emergency funds to distribute medical equipment, food, blankets and clean water.

Anticipating that request, Thompson consulted the corporation's charity appeals advisory committee - made up of representatives of NGOs and international charities - about whether an appeal should be broadcast. They raised concerns that once the conflict had ended aid agencies could potentially have difficulties distributing supplies in Gaza. But by the time the DEC made its formal request on Tuesday, it was clear that humanitarian agencies were able to operate on the ground.

BBC sources said that as soon as the email was forwarded from Reid to Thompson he convened a meeting with six senior colleagues, including the deputy director general, Mark Byford, and executives from the global and domestic news divisions. Insiders say it was decided unanimously to reject the DEC appeal on the basis that it would harm the corporation's impartiality. However, in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme yesterday Thompson left no doubt as to who ultimately took the decision. "It's my decision as editor in chief of the BBC," he said. "Definitely."

It was a decision clearly opposed by senior figures in government, including the international development secretary, Douglas Alexander. By the weekend ITV, Channel 4 and Five had agreed to carry the appeal. Sky announced yesterday that like the BBC it would not broadcast the appeal because doing so could jeopardise the channel's "balanced and objective" reporting.

Richard Burden, the Labour MP who tabled the Commons motion criticising the BBC and Sky's refusal to broadcast the appeal, said last night he had the backing of 112 MPs. "Viewers and listeners can see the difference between a humanitarian appeal and politics - even if the BBC and Sky management cannot." His motion rejects the "unconvincing and incoherent" justifications given by the two broadcasters.

The BBC's refusal to give in to public pressure has angered some senior BBC journalists. Senior editors responsible for the BBC's Middle East output have said privately that - contrary to the public statements made by the BBC - they were never consulted over the decision.

"Feelings are running extremely high and there is widespread disgust at the BBC's top management," one source said. BBC journalists will convene at a meeting of National Union of Journalists today to discuss the crisis.

One emerging issue of concern is Thompson's claim that the BBC's stance on humanitarian appeals was "not a new policy" and was consistent with previous humanitarian emergencies. Defending his decision yesterday, he said the BBC had always taken a strong stance on stories "as complex and contentious as Gaza".

However, the BBC broadcast DEC appeals in the aftermath of the 1999 Kosovo war and 1990 Gulf conflict. In 1968 the BBC broadcast an appeal for victims of the Vietnam war. Over the last two years it has broadcast appeals for humanitarian aid for crises in Burma, Bangladesh, Sudan, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Neither has the BBC previously shunned humanitarian appeals in the Middle East. The second DEC appeal ever to be broadcast on the BBC, in June 1967, was a film calling for assistance for Palestinian and Syrian refugees displaced by the Six Day War. In 1982, the BBC helped raise £1,030,000 by broadcasting a DEC appeal for victims of Israel's invasion of Lebanon and the ensuing conflict.

Under guidelines agreed between the DEC and broadcasters, three criteria must be met to warrant a nationwide appeal. There must be substantial, urgent need in a humanitarian crisis, evidence that aid agencies can guarantee effective assistance on the ground, and sufficient "public awareness, and sympathy for" the humanitarian crisis.

Senior sources from DEC member charities are privately concerned that, since Thompson's arrival as director general, the BBC has "adopted a fourth criteria": that an appeal must not compromise impartiality. The BBC first used this justification in 2006 to reject a DEC appeal for victims of the Lebanon war.

Asked if the corporation's position had changed, the BBC said: "Preserving our impartiality is the BBC's main criteria when deciding whether to broadcast an appeal. Each case is judged on its merits. Our position on impartiality has not changed."

AFP - Israel will defend army against war charges: Olmert

January 26, 2009

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israel will grant legal protection for soldiers who fought in the three-week war in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday amid accusations of war crimes.

"The commanders and soldiers sent to Gaza need to know that they are completely safe from different tribunals and Israel will help and protect them," he said.

Olmert confirmed he had appointed Justice Minister Daniel Friedman to chair an inter-ministerial committee "to coordinate Israel's efforts to offer legal defence for anyone who took part in the operation.

"He will formulate questions and answers relating to the army's operations, which self-righteous people ... might use to sue officers and soldiers," the prime minister said.

Israel's military censor has already banned the publication of the identity of the unit leaders who fought against militants of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on the Gaza Strip for fear they may face war crimes charges.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki said the Israeli government's move would unlikely halt war crimes probes.

"The decision is not going to prevent governments and human rights organisations around the world to really seek clear legal cases against all Israeli leaders who are responsible for the death and destruction of the Palestinian people," he told journalists.

"More efforts will be seen in the future" to bring cases to justice, he said, adding "there is no immunity against legal actions."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday demanded that those responsible for bombing UN buildings in the Palestinian territory should be made accountable and accused Israel of using
excessive force.

UN schools and the main aid headquarters where tonnes of food was stocked were bombed.

Eight Israeli human rights groups have called on the Israeli government to investigate the scale of the casualties, describing the number of dead women and children as "terrifying."

Israel insists troops did their best to limit civilian casualties in a heavily-populated area and blamed Hamas for hiding behind civilians to fire rockets at southern Israel.

Gaza medics put the Palestinian death toll at 1,330 with at least another 5,450 people wounded. About 65 percent of the dead were civilians, including 437 children.

Ten Israel soldiers and three civilians died during Operation Cast Lead which ended last Sunday with a ceasefire.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, has said it was "undeniable" that Israel had used white phosphorus in crowded civilian areas, contrary to international law, charging that this amounted to a war crime.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Independent Union constitutional, says lawyer

Daily News Egypt

By Sarah Carr
First Published: January 19, 2009

CAIRO: The Independent General Union of Real Estate Tax Collectors has refuted suggestions made by Hassan Megawer, head of the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (EFTU), that the Independent Union was created in violation of the law.

Al-Masry Al-Youm quotes anonymous sources as saying that Megawer has sent a letter to Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali requesting that the Finance Minister not acknowledge the Independent Union, and that he deal exclusively with the General Union of Employees of the Banking, Insurance and Financial Sectors.

This official union is one of the 23 unions created under the umbrella of the state-controlled EFTU.

Workers in various sectors — including real estate tax collectors — are strongly critical of state-controlled trade union bodies which they allege represent the state’s, rather than workers’ interests.

In December 2008 real estate tax collectors announced the formation of the Independent Union.
The union grew out of the committee formed to represent tax collectors’ interests during the successful three-week strike and sit-in they led outside the Finance Ministry at the end of December 2007.

Haitham Mohamedein, the union’s official lawyer, told Daily News Egypt that Megawer made his comments after Ghali sent a letter to the Independent Union.

“The Independent Union sent two letters to the Finance Minister in which it listed various demands,” Mohamedein said.

“Last month Ghali wrote back addressing his letter to ‘the Independent Union’ – thereby acknowledging its existence.

“This acknowledgement made Megawer worried and prompted him to address this demand to Ghali.”

Mohamedein maintains that there is no basis in law for Megawer’s suggestion that Egyptian legislation prohibits the creation of trade unions outside the framework of the official trade union.

“Various treaties ratified by Egypt such as ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association and the right to organize provide for workers’ right to form their own trade union bodies.

“Egyptian Law 35 issued in 1976 meanwhile states that workers have the right to form a trade union body, but within the framework of the EFTU.

“Law 35 is arguably unconstitutional because it conflicts with both Article 56 of the Egyptian Constitution [which provides that ‘the creation of syndicates and unions on a democratic basis is a right guaranteed by law’] and the treaties ratified by Egypt.

“Once ratified, these treaties are incorporated into, and become part of, domestic law.”

Mohamedein suggests that Ghali has no choice but to deal with the Independent Union.
“This organized force is what really represents the real estate tax collectors: the official trade union has consistently shown itself to be ineffective,” Mohamedein explained.

“Tax collectors stand behind the Independent Union – Ghali has no choice but to deal with it.
“Megawer is unable to challenge the Independent Union so he’s gone to the Finance Minister, but if [Megawer] is unable to represent workers’ interests adequately, that’s the EFTU’s problem, not ours.”

Noam Chomsky on Gaza
Autonomous Media Network
Alternative News

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

By Sameer Dossani “Foreign Policy In Focus — January 16, 2009
Editor: Emily Schwartz Greco

DOSSANI: The Israeli government and many Israeli and U.S. officials claim that the current assault on Gaza is to put an end to the flow of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. But many observers claim that if that were really the case, Israel would have made much more of an effort to renew the ceasefire agreement that expired in December, which had all but stopped the rocket fire. In your opinion, what are the real motivations behind the current Israeli action?

CHOMSKY: There’s a theme that goes way back to the origins of Zionism. And it’s a very rational theme: “Let’s delay negotiations and diplomacy as long as possible, and meanwhile we’ll ‘build facts on the ground.’” So Israel will create the basis for what some eventual agreement will ratify, but the more they create, the more they construct, the better the agreement will be for their purposes. Those purposes are essentially to take over everything of value in the former Palestine and to undermine what’s left of the indigenous population.

I think one of the reasons for popular support for this in the United States is that it resonates very well with American history. How did the United States get established? The themes are similar.

There are many examples of this theme being played out throughout Israel’s history, and the current situation is another case. They have a very clear program. Rational hawks like Ariel Sharon realized that it’s crazy to keep 8,000 settlers using one-third of the land and much of the scarce supplies in Gaza, protected by a large part of the Israeli army while the rest of the society around them is just rotting. So it’s best to take them out and send them to the West Bank. That’s the place that they really care about and want.

What was called a “disengagement” in September 2005 was actually a transfer. They were perfectly frank and open about it. In fact, they extended settlement building programs in the West Bank at the very same time that they were withdrawing a few thousand people from Gaza. So Gaza should be turned into a cage, a prison basically, with Israel attacking it at will, and meanwhile in the West Bank we’ll take what we want. There was nothing secret about it.

Ehud Olmert was in the United States in May 2006 a couple of months after the withdrawal. He simply announced to a joint session of Congress and to rousing applause, that the historic right of Jews to the entire land of Israel is beyond question. He announced what he called his convergence program, which is just a version of the traditional program; it goes back to the Allon plan of 1967. Israel would essentially annex valuable land and resources near the green line (the 1967 border).

That land is now behind the wall that Israel built in the West Bank, which is an annexation wall. That means the arable land, the main water resources, the pleasant suburbs around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the hills and so on. They’ll take over the Jordan valley, which is about a third of the West Bank, where they’ve been settling since the late 60s. Then they’ll drive a couple of super highways through the whole territory — there’s one to the east of Jerusalem to the town of Ma’aleh Adumim which was built mostly in the 1990s, during the Oslo years. It was built essentially to bisect the West Bank and are two others up north that includes Ariel and Kedumim and other towns which pretty much bisect what’s left.

They’ll set up check points and all sorts of means of harassment in the other areas and the population that’s left will be essentially cantonized and unable to live a decent life and if they want to leave, great. Or else they will be picturesque figures for tourists — you know somebody leading a goat up a hill in the distance — and meanwhile Israelis, including settlers, will drive around on “Israeli only” super highways. Palestinians can make do with some little road somewhere where you’re falling into a ditch if it’s raining. That’s the goal. And it’s explicit. You can’t accuse them of deception because it’s explicit. And it’s cheered here.

DOSSANI: In terms of U.S. support, last week the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a cease fire. Is this a change, particularly in light of the fact that the U.S. did not veto the resolution, but rather abstained, allowing it to be passed?

CHOMSKY: Right after the 1967 war, the Security Council had strong resolutions condemning Israel’s move to expand and take over Jerusalem. Israel just ignored them. Because the U.S. pats them on the head and says “go ahead and violate them.”

There’s a whole series of resolutions from then up until today, condemning the settlements, which as Israel knew and as everyone agreed were in violation of the Geneva conventions. The United States either vetoes the resolutions or sometimes votes for them, but with a wink saying, “go ahead anyway, and we’ll pay for it and give you the military support for it.” It’s a consistent pattern. During the Oslo years, for example, settlement construction increased steadily, in violation of what the Oslo agreement was theoretically supposed to lead to. In fact the peak year of settlement was Clinton’s last year, 2000. And it continued again afterward. It’s open and explicit.

To get back to the question of motivation, they have sufficient military control over the West Bank to terrorize the population into passivity. Now that control is enhanced by the collaborationist forces that the U.S., Jordan, and Egypt have trained in order to subdue the population. In fact if you take a look at the press the last couple of weeks, if there’s a demonstration in the West Bank in support of Gaza, the Fatah security forces crush it. That’s what they’re there for.

Fatah by now is more or less functioning as Israel’s police force in the West Bank. But the West Bank is only part of the occupied Palestinian territories. The other part is Gaza, and no one doubts that they form a unit. And there still is resistance in Gaza, those rockets. So yes, they want to stamp that out too, then there will be no resistance at all and they can continue to do what they want to do without interference, meanwhile delaying diplomacy as much as possible and “building the facts” the way they want to. Again this goes back to the origins of Zionism. It varies of course depending on circumstances, but the fundamental policy is the same and perfectly understandable. If you want to take over a country where the population doesn’t want you, I mean, how else can you do it? How was this country conquered?

DOSSANI: What you describe is a tragedy.

CHOMSKY: It’s a tragedy which is made right here. The press won’t talk about it and even scholarship, for the most part, won’t talk about it but the fact of the matter is that there has been a political settlement on the table, on the agenda for 30 years. Namely a two-state settlement on the international borders with maybe some mutual modification of the border.

That’s been there officially since 1976 when there was a Security Council resolution proposed by the major Arab states and supported by the (Palestinan Liberation Organization) PLO, pretty much in those terms. The United States vetoed it so it’s therefore out of history and it’s continued almost without change since then.

There was in fact one significant modification. In the last month of Clinton’s term, January 2001 there were negotiations, which the U.S. authorized, but didn’t participate in, between Israel and the Palestinians and they came very close to agreement.

DOSSANI: The Taba negotiations?

CHOMSKY: Yes, the Taba negotiations. The two sides came very close to agreement. They were called off by Israel. But that was the one week in over 30 years when the United States and Israel abandoned their rejectionist position. It’s a real tribute to the media and other commentators that they can keep this quiet. The U.S. and Israel are alone in this. The international consensus includes virtually everyone.

It includes the Arab League which has gone beyond that position and called for the normalization of relations, it includes Hamas. Every time you see Hamas in the newspapers, it says “Iranian-backed Hamas which wants to destroy Israel.” Try to find a phrase that says “democratically elected Hamas which is calling for a two-state settlement” and has been for years. Well, yeah, that’s a good propaganda system. Even in the U.S. press they’ve occasionally allowed op-eds by Hamas leaders, Ismail Haniya and others saying, yes we want a two-state settlement on the international border like everyone else.

DOSSANI: When did Hamas adopt that position?

CHOMSKY: That’s their official position taken by Haniya, the elected leader, and Khalid Mesh’al, their political leader who’s in exile in Syria, he’s written the same thing. And it’s over and over again. There’s no question about it but the West doesn’t want to hear it. So therefore it’s Hamas which is committed to the destruction of Israel.

In a sense they are, but if you went to a Native American reservation in the United States, I’m sure many would like to see the destruction of the United States. If you went to Mexico and took a poll, I’m sure they don’t recognize the right of the United States to exist sitting on half of Mexico, land conquered in war. And that’s true all over the world. But they’re willing to accept a political settlement. Israel isn’t willing to accept it and the United States isn’t willing to accept it. And they’re the lone hold-outs. Since it’s the United States that pretty much runs the world, it’s blocked.

Here it’s always presented as though the United States must become more engaged; it’s an honest broker; Bush’s problem was that he neglected the issue. That’s not the problem. The problem is that the United States has been very much engaged, and engaged in blocking a political settlement and giving the material and ideological and diplomatic support for the expansion programs, which are just criminal programs. The world court unanimously, including the American justice, agreed that any transfer of population into the Occupied Territories is a violation of a fundamental international law, the Geneva Conventions. And Israel agrees. In fact even their courts agree, they just sort of sneak around it in various devious ways. So there’s no question about this. It’s just sort of accepted in the United States that we’re an outlaw state. Law doesn’t apply to us. That’s why it’s never discussed.

Sameer Dossani, a Foreign Policy In Focus contributor, is the director of 50 Years is Enough and blogs at

Anarchists Against The Wall, North American speaking tour
Wednesday January 21, 2009

Schachaf Polakow, a member of Anarchists Against the Wall, will be touring the U.S. and Canada from February 1st to March 9th. His presentation will include film and photos, and will focus both on AATW's recent work in solidarity with Gaza and our ongoing work in the West Bank.

Anarchists Against The Wall - North American speaking tour

Anarchists Against the Wall is a direct action group that fights against Israeli apartheid and oppression in all its forms, most recently also the atrocities in Gaza. For five years the group has waged a constant struggle against Israel's Wall. The work on the ground in the West Bank, alongside the Palestinian popular movement is breaking new ground in the joint struggle for Palestinian liberation. In

December 2008, Anarchists Against the Wall and the Bil'in Village Committee were jointly awarded the prestigious Carl von Ossietzky Medal---an award given annually by the Berlin-based International League of Human Rights, named after German Nobel Peace Prize winner Carl von Ossietzky who died in a Nazi concentration camp.

Now more than ever, it is critical to support the Israeli resistance movement against the state's attempted repression of our work. Members of Anarchists Against the Wall continually pay the price for our activism, including being shot, beaten, arrested and indicted. We desperately need funding for legal support for both Palestinian and Israeli activists who are arrested and charged in the course of the struggle.

Schachaf Polakow, a member of Anarchists Against the Wall, will be touring the U.S. and Canada from February 1st to March 9th. His presentation will include film and photos, and will focus both on AATW's recent work in solidarity with Gaza and our ongoing work in the West Bank.

Please see the tour schedule below, and help us get the word out. A highlight of the tour is bound to be a special evening with Noam Chomsky at Harvard Square, February 17th.

Tour dates...

AFP - Greek anarchists pay for senior's torched kiosk

Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

THESSALONIKI, Greece - Two months after her kiosk was torched in local riots an elderly woman from Thessaloniki has received an unlikely cash gift from anarchists to rebuild her life, a press report said on Tuesday.

"As anarchists, we felt we should support a fellow human victimized by blind violence," an organization calling itself Anarchist Initiative said in a statement sent to Eleftherotypia daily.

The anarchists set up a special bank account to support 74-year-old Harikleia Ananiadou and collected 13,000 euros ($18,000 US) for the cause.

"We gave what we could, even beyond our means, because we know that it would be difficult for her to make a new start at her age," initiative member Panagiotis Papadopoulos told Angelioforos daily.

"It was an act of solidarity to a woman who could be our mother," he added.
Ananiadou's kiosk burned down in November during clashes between youths and police on the sidelines of a street demonstration.

The government recently announced compensation packages for business owners who suffered damage in the wave of violence that swept the country in December following the fatal shooting of a teenage boy.

But Ananiadou says she missed out because her kiosk was gutted a month earlier.
"I received only empty promises (from the state) ... I feel very fortunate that these boys came along to help," she said.

REUTERS - Egypt dominance as Mideast mediator in doubt

Wed Jan 21, 2009

By Cynthia Johnston

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt stole the diplomatic limelight for its efforts to end recent fighting in Gaza, but its failure to achieve a negotiated truce leaves a question mark over Cairo's future as a preferred Arab mediator.

U.S.-ally Egypt, an Arab regional heavyweight with a peace deal with Israel, has long been treated as an indispensable go-between with Israel and Palestinian factions because of its close if often strained ties to both sides. But its record and role has been shaky of late.

Israel ended its military operation in Gaza unilaterally despite Egyptian efforts for a mediated truce. That came on the heels of a disappointing round of intra-Palestinian talks that failed to reconcile bickering Palestinian groups last year.

"The ceasefire was obviously led by Israel, so there is a limit to Egyptian influence," said Issandr el-Amrani, Egypt and North Africa analyst at the International Crisis Group, adding that Egypt also faced a credibility problem on the Arab side.

Egypt has angered many Arabs by enforcing an Israeli blockade on Hamas-run Gaza by refusing to open the Gaza-Egypt border to ordinary traffic for fear Israel will saddle Egypt with responsibility for the densely populated strip.

"Now the picture is looking muddled... There is obviously an enormous amount of resentment among Hamas leaders and Palestinians more generally against the role Egypt has played," Amrani added.

The real measure of whether Egypt can continue as an effective mediator is whether it can translate the shaky Gaza ceasefire into a mutual and longer-term truce, or mediate a settlement between Hamas and rival Palestinian group Fatah.

Among Egypt's assets as a mediator are its strong ties with Washington and its control of the Gaza-Egypt border, which should give it leverage with both sides. Palestinians want the border opened for regular traffic, and Israel wants Egypt to do more to stop weapons smuggling through cross-border tunnels.
"It looks like it took this war for Egypt to understand it has to do something, but it hasn't done anything yet. If arms are still smuggled, this will be deemed a failure," said Israeli security analyst Yossi Alpher.


Egypt, hoping to emerge with a deal that will cement its role as the sole Arab mediator, has already invited Israel and Palestinian groups to Cairo for talks on formalising the current truce, according to state media. That task, analysts say, is possible but not easy.

But it remains unlikely that risk-averse Egypt will take strong steps on tunnels -- in part to avoid alienating Sinai bedouin whose livelihoods depend on illicit trade with Gaza. Egypt is also unlikely to open the border in defiance of Israel.

Egypt has also failed so far to negotiate a deal for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in 2006.

Walid Kazziha, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo, said Egypt might be able to pull off a deal which ends the blockade of Gaza.

"But to go further than this, into (Palestinian) national unity, I think the Egyptians would be dreaming if they can do it without getting the consensus of other Arab parties, Qatar and Syria and the rest. They can't do it on their own," he said.

Meanwhile, other regional mediators are ready at the gate to step in if Egypt's efforts falter.

Analysts say Hamas could view states like Qatar and Turkey as more palatable mediators than Egypt. Cairo has not disguised its disdain for the Islamist group, which has roots in Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar, in particular, was behind mediation that ended 18 months of Lebanese internal conflict last year, bringing in a unity government that included Hezbollah -- an outcome that could make Islamist Hamas partial to Qatari mediation.

Egypt and its regional allies, however, managed to exclude Qatar and others from mainstream mediation in the recent Gaza war, blocking Qatar from hosting an Arab League summit on Gaza. A consultative meeting went ahead anyway.

Analysts say Egypt may not be able to stay on as the sole preferred regional mediator forever although a long-term track record of success -- it mediated a six-month Gaza truce in June, for example -- is expected to keep it in the game.

"In the future or the near future, we won't see just an ultimate role for one actor. There will be more roles for many actors," said political analyst Hala Mustafa of the al-Ahram Democracy Review.

"They (Hamas) will continue to come to Egypt. They will continue to listen. They will continue to put their conditions. But I think, when they want to settle, they will prefer another actor," she added.

(Additional reporting by Alistair Lyon in Jerusalem)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

AP - UN wants all Gaza borders opened


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said Tuesday that he's heading to Gaza and a top priority will be to get all border crossings opened not only for food and medicine but for desperately needed construction materials which Israel has refused to allow in since Hamas seized power in June 2007.

Holmes, who expects to arrive in Israel on Wednesday, told reporters "it's absolutely critical" that cement, pipes and other building materials are "unbanned" by Israel and allowed into Gaza to start rebuilding the war-ravaged Palestinian territory. "Otherwise, the reconstruction effort won't get off first base," Holmes said.

Holmes said Monday that hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid will be needed immediately to help Gaza's 1.4 million people and billions of dollars will be required to rebuild its shattered buildings and infrastructure.

Israel launched the war on Dec. 27 in an effort to halt years of militant rocket fire by Hamas on its southern communities and arms smuggling into Gaza. The Israeli government declared a cease-fire that went into effect early Sunday, and hours later, Hamas agreed to silence its guns, too.

Holmes said Tuesday the U.N. is trying to bolster humanitarian efforts in Gaza. "We need more food, wheat grain in particular," Holmes said.

Gaza also needs continuing supplies of fuel for its power plant, for hospital generators and for bakeries to bake bread, he said.

Holmes said a lasting and durable cease-fire and the reopening of all border crossings are essential to get humanitarian aid, commercial goods and construction materials into Gaza.

The temporary cease-fire doesn't include an agreement on the opening of border crossings, he noted.

"There's a lot of talk about it but it doesn't exist yet. So that's one of the points I'm very keen to pursue when I go there myself later this week," Holmes said.

Holmes said construction materials "were effectively to virtually 100 percent banned from entering into Gaza since the Hamas takeover in 2007, which meant even before these hostilities a lot of humanitarian projects which had been planned were not able to be completed."

He cited the repair of Gaza's sewage system, which was further damaged in the latest conflict, as an example.

"So it's absolutely critical that these kind of materials now be allowed into Gaza on a regular" basis, Holmes said.

Israel's use of white phosphorus against Gaza civilians "clear and undeniable"

Press Release
19 January 2009

Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: Israel's use of white phosphorus against Gaza civilians "clear and undeniable"

Amnesty International delegates visiting the Gaza Strip found indisputable evidence of widespread use of white phosphorus in densely populated residential areas in Gaza City and in the north.

"Yesterday, we saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army," said Christopher Cobb-Smith, a weapons expert who is in Gaza as part of a four-person Amnesty International fact-finding team.

"White phosphorus is a weapon intended to provide a smokescreen for troop movements on the battlefield," said Cobb-Smith. "It is highly incendiary, air burst and its spread effect is such that it that should never be used on civilian areas”.

“Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza's densely populated residential neighbourhoods is inherently indiscriminate. Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

White phosphorus wedges are scattered all around residential buildings and many were still burning on Sunday, further endangering the residents and their property; streets and alleys are full of children playing, drawn to the detritus of war and often unaware of the danger.

"Artillery is an area weapon; not good for pinpoint targeting. The fact that these munitions, which are usually used as ground burst, were fired as air bursts increases the likely size of the danger area,” said Chris Cobb-Smith.

Each 155mm artillery shell bursts deploying 116 wedges impregnated with white phosphorus which ignite on contact with oxygen and can scatter, depending on the height at which it is burst (and wind conditions), over an area at least the size of a football pitch. In addition to the indiscriminate effect of air-bursting such a weapon, firing such shells as artillery exacerbates the likelihood that civilians will be affected.

Amnesty International delegates found both burning white phosphorous wedges and their carrier shells (which delivered them) in and around houses and buildings. Some of these heavy steel 155mm shells have caused extensive damage to residential properties.

Among the places worst affected by the use of white phosphorus was the UNRWA compound in Gaza City, where Israeli forces fired three white phosphorus shells on 15 January. The white phosphorus landed next to some fuel trucks and caused a large fire which destroyed tons of humanitarian aid. Prior to this strike the compound had already been hit an hour earlier and the Israeli authorities had been informed by UNRWA officials and had given assurance that no further strikes would be launched on the compound.

In another incident on the same day a white phosphorus shell landed in the al-Quds hospital in Gaza City also causing a fire which forced hospital staff to evacuate the patients.

White phosphorus landing on skin can burn deep through muscle and into the bone, continuing to burn unless deprived of oxygen.


Separate unilateral ceasefires announced by Israel and by Hamas with effect from 18 January were not respected by either side. Israeli forces remained stationed in several areas of the Gaza Strip and on the morning of 18 January missiles fired by Israeli forces killed 11-year-old

Angham Rif’at al-Masri and injured her mother east of Beit Hanoun in the north
of the Gaza Strip. At the same time Palestinian armed groups fired several rockets into towns and villages in southern Israel, lightly wounding three Israeli civilians.

Note to editors
To arrange an interview with Donatella Rovera or Christopher Cobb-Smith in Gaza, please contact Brian Dooley in Gaza on +44 7904 398 357 (roaming mobile), ; or Nicole Choueiry in London on +44 7831 640170 (mobile),
Public Document
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Clashes follow Israeli 'cessation'

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Israeli military has continued its operation in the Gaza Strip, killing one civilian in Khan Younis and carrying out air raids in the north. The attacks came just hours after the country's prime minister declared an end to hostilities.

Ehud Olmert had said late on Saturday that Israel had "achieved its military objectives" to end the launching of rockets into Israel and disable the Hamas faction which rules the Gaza Strip.

But by Sunday morning, 10 rockets had been fired into Israel, and Palestinian fighters were engaged in an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers in Jabaliya.

Israel carried out aerial sorties, claiming to have hit rocket-launching sites.
One Palestinian civilian died near Khan Younis after being hit by mortar fire.

Recovery teams are working to pull bodies out of the rubble in areas that have so far been too dangerous to enter.

They have retrieved the bodies of at least 25 people, including children, and the number is expected to rise steeply.

The Palestinian faction Hamas - the de facto rulers of Gaza - was not consulted in Israel's unilateral cessation, and Hamas leaders say the "resistance movement" will continue to fight as long as Israeli troops remain inside the territory.

They also maintain their pre-war demand that Israel ends its crippling 18-month blockade of the Palestinian territory to allow for the free flow of goods in.

Ahmed Yousef, a Hamas adviser in Rafah, southern Gaza, told Al Jazeera on Sunday: "When Israel announced it is going to have a unilateral ceasefire to us while they're still in town, occupying Gaza, and they are not talking, or showing that they have accepted the initiative or proposal from Egypt, I think we have a right to defend ourselves.

"They know, as long as they are still in Gaza, we have to defend ourselves and we have to fire rockets, also to show the world community there are still Palestinians who are suffering from occupation and sanctions."

The toll last stood at 1,203 Palestinians killed during more than three weeks of Israeli onslaught in the territory.

According to UN and Palestinian medical sources, around 400 of the dead were children, and another 100 were women.

Thirteen Israelis have also died since the start of hostilities on December 27.
Medics reported pulling the bodies of 25 more Palestinians out of Gaza's rubble on Sunday.


Fighting broke out in Jabaliya on Sunday, as Israeli military aircraft dropped flares into the northern Gaza Strip.

Under the so-called cessation of its offensive in Gaza, the Israeli military said it would "respond to any attack against Israeli civilians or soldiers".

"We have heard a number of sustained gunshots," Al Jazeera's Zeina Awad reported from the Gaza-Israeli border.

"There is also a thick layer of cloud which would reduce the visibility on the ground in Gaza.

"We saw four rockets launched, literally within seconds of each other. We also heard the sirens going off in Israel."

Israeli reconnaissance drones and helicopters could be heard throughout the night, and Gaza residents said they could hear troops and tanks rolling through the streets.

Palestinians said they feared the assault could resume at any moment.

Night fighting

Israel kept up its assault until the last hour, carrying out more than 50 air raids overnight.

The Israeli military claims to have significantly damaged the capability of Hamas by killing a number of its senior commanders, as well as destroying its weapons stockpiles and smuggling tunnels.

Yet in the 24 hours before Israel's ceasefire, Hamas's military wing and other armed Palestinian groups were reported to have fired more than 30 rockets and mortar rounds over the border - a signal that it still has firepower.

Analysts exhibited only scepticism that the halt in violence would last.

Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, told Al Jazeera that the "unilateral ceasefire has no chance of being a durable ceasefire".

"Israel has tried many unilateral approaches and each one of them has simply made the situation worse for Israel," he said.

"There is no chance of any unilateral move by Israel having any success. It has to be a negotiated agreement that responds to the basic legitimate needs of both sides."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Ashamed to be a Citizen of Mubarak's (Pro-Zionist) Egypt

Friday, January 16, 2009

Qatar, Mauritania cut Israel ties

Jan. 16, 2009

Qatar and Mauritania have suspended economic and political ties with Israel in protest against the war in Gaza, Al Jazeera has learned.

The move announced on Friday followed calls by Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, for all Arab nations to cut ties with Israel.

Addressing leaders at an emergency Arab summit in Doha, the Qatari capital, al-Assad declared that the Arab initiative for peace with Israel was now "dead".

He said Arab countries should cut "all direct and indirect" ties with Israel in protest against its offensive in Gaza.

Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel and have Israeli embassies.

Summit demands

The Qatari-hosted Arab summit concluded on Friday with participants agreeing to present a Kuwaiti-hosted summit - to be held on Sunday - with a list of measures to end the conflict in Gaza.

Those measures include demanding that Israel stops its offensive in the Strip, is held responsible for "crimes" committed in Gaza and immediately re-opens all crossings.

The summit also agreed that all Arab countries should form a "sea-bridge" that would enable aid supplies to reach Gaza.

Speaking from Ankara, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said Israel should be barred from the United Nations while it continues to ignore UN demands to end the fighting in Gaza.

"How is such a country, which totally ignores and does not implement resolutions of the UN Security Council, allowed to enter through the gates of the UN?" he said.

Erdogan's comments came hours ahead of Friday's official visit to Turkey by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.

The Turkish leader also added his voice to widespread condemnation of Israel's bombing of a UN compound in Gaza on Thursday.

"The UN building in Gaza was hit while the UN secretary-general was in Israel ... this is an open challenge to the world, teasing the world," he said.

Diplomatic efforts to broker a ceasefire have intensified over recent days with emergency meetings being held in Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait and Egypt.

Arab divisions

However, Friday's emergency summit in Doha has highlighted divisions within the Arab world, with Egypt and Saudi Arabia declining to attend, preferring instead to send delegates to a separate meeting of foreign ministers in Kuwait.

The Palestinian political factions Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) did attend the Doha summit.

Hashem Ahelbarra, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Doha, said the delegates recognised the legitimacy of the Gazan factions, whereas Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Western nations have sidelined them from ceasefire talks.

"You have two camps: The so-called moderate Arab countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, some Gulf monarchies like the UAE, and those who are trying to say that we totally disagree with the US attempt to implement a new Middle East."

Ahelbarra said the "moderate camp" is uncomfortable with Hamas's ties with Iran and suspects that the Iranian leadership is using some Arab countries to further its influence in the region.

He said that the latter group believes it has the duty to convey the anti-war feeling of the Arab street and condemn Israel's actions.

Talks are continuing in Cairo over an Egypt-sponsored truce, with Amos Gilad, the Israeli chief negotiator, telling Egyptian officials Israel wants an open-ended ceasefire.

Israel is demanding that rocket fire from Gaza ceases and that an international force is established to prevent weapons being smuggled into Gaza.

Hamas want Israeli troops to be withdrawn from the Gaza Strip immediately and for all border crossings into the territory to be permanently re-opened.

While Israel says it reserves the right to use military action if under threat, its emergency security cabinet is expected to vote on Saturday in favour of a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, according to news agency AFP.

By Friday morning, 1,155 Palestinians have been killed and more than 5,200 injured since Israel launched its offensive on December 27. One third of the dead are children.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Venezuela and Bolivia Cut Diplomatic Ties with Israel
January 15th 2009
By Erik Sperling

Carora, ( -- Venezuela and Bolivia both broke off diplomatic relations with Israel Wednesday, citing its refusal to heed recent UN resolutions regarding the attacks on the Gaza strip, which have killed over one thousand Palestinians and injured nearly 5,000.

“Israel has repeatedly ignored the calls of the United Nations, consistently and shamelessly violating the resolutions approved by overwhelming majorities of member countries, increasingly placing itself on the margin of international law,” Venezuela’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “Israel’s state terrorism has cost the lives of the most vulnerable and innocent: children, women, and the elderly,” the statement continued.

The complete diplomatic rupture comes a week Venezuela expelled the Israeli ambassador from the country in protest of the Israeli strikes.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets in cities countrywide in recent weeks, with marches arriving to the doors of the Israeli and Egyptian embassies in Caracas.

Earlier in the day, Bolivian President Evo Morales announced a similar action by his government, including that it would formally accuse Israel’s leaders for war crimes in the International Criminal Court. “They’ve made the world move backwards with crimes against humanity that we haven’t seen since Rwanda and Yugoslavia,” Morales said.

Morales also called for the restructuring of the United Nations, blaming the “insecurity council” for its inability to bring an end to the attacks. “The international community cannot allow this genocide in Palestine to go on,” Morales insisted.

Bolivia’s ambassador to Venezuela, Jorge Alvarado, later announced that Bolivia, despite its own difficulties, would work with Venezuela to send food aid to the embattled Palestinian territory. Venezuela’s first aid shipment, containing 12.5 tons of medicine, arrived to Egypt last night.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

AFP - Jordanians burn Mubarak's pictures in anti-Israel demo

Tuesday, Jan. 13

AMMAN (AFP) — Hundreds of Jordanians demanded Tuesday that Egypt open its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip in a protest against Israel's war in the Palestinian territory.
Holding Jordanian and Palestinian flags as well as pictures of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, around 400 people took part in the demonstration outside Cairo's embassy in Amman amid tight security.

They vented their anger against Egypt and its President Hosni Mubarak, bearing banners that read: "Egypt's (truce) Initiative + Closure of Rafah Crossing = Zionist Massacres" and "Mubarak is Behind Gaza's Bloodshed."

Chanting "Mubarak is mean" and Palestinian president Mahmud "Abbas is mean," some demonstrators set ablaze pictures of the Egyptian leader.

"The Egyptian regime should open the Rafah crossing to aid our people in Gaza," Zaki Bani Rsheid of the powerful opposition Islamic Action Front told AFP.

"Are 1,000 Palestinian martyrs not enough to kick the Israeli ambassadors out of Amman and Cairo?"

Egypt shares the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, the only one to bypass Israel and which has been opened only sporadically since the Islamist movement Hamas seized power there in June 2007.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries which have made peace with the Jewish state.
The overall death toll from the conflict on the Palestinian side has risen to at least 940, including 280 children. A further 4,350 people have been wounded, according to Palestinian emergency services.

Egypt imprisons anti-Israel protesters

Press TV, Tehran
Tue, 13 Jan 2009

Egypt has detained more than 60 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in a protest against the Israeli offensive into Gaza.

Egyptian police took into custody 47 members of the opposition group on Monday in the Nile Delta city of Damanhour during a protest rally in support of those suffering in Gaza.

Police say the protesters were arrested for "obstructing traffic". Seventeen members of the group had been detained from their homes before the protest began on suspicion of organizing the demonstration.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the strongest opposition group in Egypt, says over 10,000 people had attended the rally condemning Israeli military action in the beleaguered sliver. Demonstrators also urged Cairo to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, criticizing the government for its complicity in the blockade of the strip.

The calls to open the border comes as reports confirm that Israeli planes conducting Gaza attack operations have used Egyptian airspace on several occasions. Egypt is seen throughout the Middle East as Israel's main accomplice in the imposition of the 18-month Israeli blockade on Gaza and has been subject to severe criticism.

Cairo has seen several anti-Israeli rallies since Tel Aviv waged war on Gaza on December 27. So far, at least 940 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive and more than 4,400 have been wounded.

Egyptian protesters have called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Cairo.

Anger over Egypt's Gaza policy still playing out on streets of Beirut

Daily Star Lebanon

By Mariam Saab
Special to The Daily Star
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

BEIRUT: Critics of Egypt's stance on Israel's offensive in Gaza rallied near the Egyptian Embassy in Beirut on Tuesday to burn a huge Israeli flag. Egypt has been heavily criticized over its refusal to open its Rafah crossing with Gaza and resistance to holding an Arab League summit on the crisis.

"Egypt should open its borders and free those trapped and suffocating in Gaza. It's a sad day when an Arab nation is complicit with Israeli aggression. They are witnessing genocide at their doorstep, and they won't open the door" said Dahila, 23, a student.

The border area sits above a network of tunnels which has allowed Palestinians in to access weapons and commercial goods, thereby partly circumventing an Israeli-led blockade begun in 2006 and tightened since 2007. Israel asserts that the border has been used specifically by Hamas to hoard arms.

"The crossing has two gateways: one in Egypt and the other is under Israeli control. As such Israel must agree to open the crossing in cooperation with Egypt ... The crossing has been opened to receive the sick and injured," the Egyptian Embassy said in a statement sent to The Daily Star. "Every country has the right to secure and manage its borders in the manner it deems necessary to preserve its national security."

"Egypt is in an unenviable situation. It cannot guarantee that the border will not be used to traffic arms. A lot of the criticism Egypt is facing here in Lebanon comes from the opposition in Lebanon, it's all about score settling with Egypt," said Osama Safa, head of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.

Due to it's geographic proximity and relations with both Hamas and Israel, Egypt has come under international scrutiny as the main regional broker in any ceasefire arrangement.

"These protests are a cheap attack against Egypt. They have not left any diplomatic stone unturned," Safa argued. "Whey would they be complicit with Israel? How could a Hamas delegation visit a country that is trying to kill them?", he asked, in reference to talks between Hamas representatives and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Tuesday.

But Fadia Kiwan, a professor of political science at Universite Saint Joseph, says Cairo's reluctance to join a summit is a mark of its bid to avoid any collective criticism.

"Egypt is embarrassed because the situation is becoming more complicated. I don't know to which extent Egypt can stay away from the pressure of our government and other governments asking for a summit" said Kiwan. "They don't want to be confronted by the responsibility to open the Rafah gate."

"The Lebanese government, by the same token, will never allow people to disrespect the Egyptian Embassy," she added. "They let people demonstrate, but they would never allow people to confront or attack the embassy. The government is close to the Egyptian attitude. We have a similar regime."

"The public is as divided on Egypt as it is on everything. I believe that any feelings of resentment toward Egypt [among the Lebanese public] will wither away as soon as the crisis does," Safa predicted.

In the third week of Israel's deadly assault on Gaza, demonstrations have continued throughout Beirut.

Protesters also rallied outside of the European Commission building on Tuesday angered over the rising death toll in the impoverished, now well over 900.

Monday, January 12, 2009

AFP - Israel says all weapons legal amid phosphorus claims

Jan. 12 (AFP)

JERUSALEM, The Israeli army on Monday insisted that all weapons being used in its Gaza campaign were within the bounds of international law amid accusations it was using controversial white phosphorus shells.

Asked whether the military was using white phosphorus, an army spokesman refused to confirm or deny the claim and insisted that everything being used was within the bounds of international law.

"All weapons used by the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) are in accordance with international law," he said.

"We are only using what is being used by other Western armies -- we are not using anything out of the ordinary," he said.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that Israel was only using legal weapons of the type used by other Western armies.

"Israel military forces only use munitions that are acceptable under international law and international convention," he said.

"The type of munitions used by Israel are similar, if not identical, to munitions used by other Western democracies, including NATO members."

His comments came a day after Dr Yusef Abu Rish, a doctor at Gaza City's Nasser hospital, said he had treated at least 55 people suffering burns caused by controversial white phosphorus shells.

Under international law, white phosphorus is banned for use against civilians, but is permitted if used for creating a smokescreen.

Earlier, Human Rights Watch had slammed Israel's use of white phosphorus which it said had been used in areas of Gaza City and the northern district of Jabaliya.

"Israel appears to be using white phosphorus as an "obscurant" (a chemical used to hide military operations), a permissible use in principle under international humanitarian law," HRW said in a statement.

"However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people... The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza's high population density, among the highest in the world," it said.

The group said its researchers in Israel had observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus which would spread the chemical over an area between 125 and 250 meters in diameter.

"Human Rights Watch believes that the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life," it said.

During Israel's 2006 war against Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, the army was accused of using cluster bombs -- the use of which is banned in civilian areas -- but Israel said they were only being used within the confines of international law.

White phosphorus is a toxic chemical agent which can cause severe burns.

Dispersed in artillery shells, bombs, and rockets, it burns on contact with oxygen and creates a smokescreen to hide the movement of troops.

It can be air-burst or ground burst and is not considered to be a chemical weapon.

White phosphorus shells are considered to be incendiary weapons which are not prohibited under the laws of war.

Use of such shells against military targets is regulated under Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons. Under the international laws of war, their use is banned where other weapons less likely to cause unnecessary suffering are available, HRW said.

AP - UN body condemns Israel over Gaza

The Associated Press

GENEVA — The top UN rights body has approved a resolution condemning Israel's military offensive in Gaza saying it has "resulted in massive violations of human rights of the Palestinian people.

"The Human Rights Council's 47 members voted 33 in favor and 1 against the resolution that also accuses Israel of systematically destroying Palestinian infrastructure and of targeting civilians and medical facilities.

European Union countries abstained and Canada voted against the resolution.

Some 870 Palestinians have died since Israel launched its offensive on Dec. 27 in response to Hamas rocket attacks.

The resolution approved in Geneva Monday urges an end to the rocket attacks but mentions neither Hamas nor violations of Israeli civilians' rights.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Israeli bomb shrapnel wounds 4 Egyptians

Sun Jan 11, 2009

ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) - Two Egyptian children and two police officers were wounded by shrapnel from Israeli bombs near a crossing point at Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip on Sunday, security sources said.

The children, aged two and five, and the two officers were the first Egyptians to be wounded by Israeli bombs since the Israeli offensive against Gaza began on December 27, and were taken to hospitals in el-Arish.

There were no details of the gravity of their injuries.

Witnesses said Egyptian houses near the border and government offices at the crossing were damaged by shrapnel on Sunday.

Israel has expanded its air campaign to the southern Gaza Strip, aiming at smuggling tunnels running under the border with Egypt, a network that is Gaza's lifeline to the outside world.
Israel says militants use the tunnels to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

One Egyptian border guard has been killed and two have been wounded in clashes with Palestinians trying to enter Egypt since the Israeli offensive began.

The Palestinian death toll in Gaza since December 27 stands at 874, many of them civilians, Gaza medical officials said. Israel says 10 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

*(Reporting by Yusri Mohamed, writing by Aziz El-Kaissouni; editing by Tim Pearce)

Long Live the Venezuelan Arab Republic!

Caracas protesters cheer Israeli envoy's expulsion
The Associated Press

January 8, 2009

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Protesters condemning Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip sprayed graffiti and hurled shoes at the country's embassy in Venezuela on Thursday, backing President Hugo Chavez's decision to expel the Israeli ambassador.

Demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and chanted "Gaza, hold on! The world is rising up!" Journalists estimated the crowd at about 1,000.

Protesters broke windows as they threw shoes and firecrackers at the seven-story building housing the Embassy and spray-painted "Israel Get Out" and "Long live a free Palestine" on its storefronts.

Chavez has ordered Ambassador Shlomo Cohen to leave in protest over the attacks in Gaza. Israel says Cohen was given until Friday to depart, and the nation is considering expelling Venezuelan diplomats in response.

"We are leaving without hate or rancor. On the contrary, we have much fondness for the Venezuelan people," Cohen told The Associated Press on Thursday at a gathering at a Jewish community center in eastern Caracas.

More than 700 have been killed since Israel launched the offensive Dec. 27, aiming to halt Palestinian rocket attacks into southern Israel.

The protesters included Venezuelans of Arab descent and Chavez supporters with no links to the Middle East.

"I disagree with them killing all those people," said Robert Cardenas, a 43-year-old art museum employee.

Chavez has long been critical of Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. He accuses the Israeli government of acting as an arm of Washington.

Jewish community leader Abraham Levy, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations, has said the diplomatic break attempts to demonize Israel. Venezuela's Jewish community numbers nearly 15,000.

*Associated Press Writer Rachel Jones contributed to this report.

War Crimes in Gaza on the Other Side of the Rafah Border Crossing

On Saturday (Jan. 10, 2009) the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing point was lined with physicians and surgeons from across the world who were anxiously awaiting authorization to enter the besieged Gaza Strip. American jet fighters (primarily F-16s & F-15s) in service of the Israeli Air Force were conducting brutal bombing and espionage sorties along the Egyptian-Gazan border.

Having been stranded on the Egyptian side of Rafah for five whole days, 15 Arab physicians (11 Egyptians, three Jordanians, and one Belgian) were finally granted permission, from Egyptian authorities, to enter the Gaza Strip for the provision of medical and humanitarian assistance; while numerous other medical teams (from Indonesia, Turkey, and Greece) remained stranded on the Egyptian side of Rafah.

A volunteer doctor from an Indonesian humanitarian NGO named Mer-C said "we've being attempting to get authorization to enter Gaza for three days now, but they just won't let us through. I really don't know why. We just want to get our supplies and doctors through to the hospitals in Gaza. The hospitals and doctors in Gaza need all the help they can get inside there. We'll keep on trying until they finally let us through."

Truckloads of medical and humanitarian supplies from Morocco, Algeria, and Libya were allowed in; while ambulances rushed maimed and wounded Palestinians into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing. Egyptian donations (usually collected and delivered by NGOs and ordinary citizens) are miniscule in comparison to those provided by the governments of Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Libya.

Speaking to journalists inside the Rafah crossing point Dr. Gilbert Mads, a German volunteer, said that "the Israelis have turned Gaza into something more inhuman than the Warsaw Ghetto. Have these people not learned from history?"

The doctor added "the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have become the personification of human dignity; while all the other states of the world are working against this human dignity. Why is it that medical supplies and doctors are being held-up on this side of the border? The hospitals in Gaza are critically under-supplied and Palestinian doctors are working there without electricity, without stretchers, without the most basic of medical equipment. These doctors are the most innovative and resourceful doctors I have ever seen. They use their cell phones to provide lighting for surgical operations, and big metal plates instead of stretchers. It is these Palestinian doctors who are the real heroes."

Meanwhile IAF jets were actively firing at targets near the Rafah border crossing with the latest and most technically advanced weaponry from the United States. Phosphorous bomblets, missiles, and massive bombs were being fired just a few hundred meters away from the Egyptian border. An Israeli surveillance and espionage blimp hovered over a watchtower along the Egyptian-Gazan border while small unmanned spy-planes buzzed back and forth over the besieged territory.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived at the Rafah border crossing (around 5pm) to assess the crisis in Gaza. Arriving in a heavily guarded motorcade the German foreign minister hung around for around one hour - speaking with officials and journalists. The minister is pressuring security officials in Egypt to enhance their anti-smuggling efforts along its border with Gaza - through the destruction of tunnels and the deployment of international "peace-keeping" forces there.

Although Steinmeier came to Rafah in order to promote the Egyptian-Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip, his arrival was “welcomed” with more Israeli bombs and missiles. Just minutes before his arrival Israeli fighter jets fired missiles along the Rafah border. Shortly after the minister had entered the crossing point a massive bomb exploded just a few hundred meters away, violently shaking the customs building in which he was.

Egyptian authorities are said to have rejected the idea of deploying international troops along the border with Gaza - since this "would infringe upon Egypt's sovereignty." Naturally the Egyptian government cares neither about Gaza's sovereignty nor about the territorial integrity of Palestine.

Mubarak's Egypt is attempting to portray itself as the mediator between Hamas and Fatah, when in fact it only speaks in support of Fatah, Zionist war crimes, and American imperialism.

Down with the pro-Zionist Mubarak Regime!