Archive for October 6, 2013



An Al-Qaeda front group fighting in Syria on Wednesday overran the northern town of Azaz near the border with Turkey after fierce clashes with rebels, activists told AFP.

“The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has seized complete control of Azaz. They are in control of the town’s entrances,” said Abu Ahmad, an activist inside the town.

Another activist, a resident of the border town, confirmed the report.

“ISIS are in full control. They are detaining people from their homes, and they are manning all the checkpoints,” he told AFP via the Internet, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The development comes amid increasing reports of fighting in northern Syria between ISIS and non-jihadist rebels vying to bring down President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

In a sign that Syria’s conflict has grown highly localized in recent months, ISIS has fought side by side with rebels against government troops in other areas of the country.

In Azaz, reports emerged of continuing clashes.

Abu Ahmad said that after seizing the town, ISIS fighters were “on their way to the (nearby) Bab al-Salameh” border crossing with Turkey.

Bab al-Salameh has for months been under control of local rebels, chiefly the Northern Storm brigade.

News of the seizure of Azaz came after a battle lasting several hours between Northern Storm fighters and ISIS.

Among those reported killed in the clashes was Omar Diab, a media activist from Azaz.

Source: The Denver Post.


September 11, 2013

BEIRUT (AP) — A first group of Syrian refugees have departed Beirut International Airport for Germany where they will live in temporary new homes as Germany’s biggest relocation program gets under way.

Airport officials say the group of 107 refugees left on Wednesday for Hannover, Germany. They are the first group to be relocated under a German program for up to 5,000 Syrian refugees. U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said Tuesday that they include women at risk, people with serious medical conditions or others with special needs.

Unlike the makeshift arrangements for most of the 2 million refugees that have fled Syria’s civil war into neighboring countries, the program announced by Germany in March gives them the right to work under two-year residence permits that could be extended if Syria’s crisis continues.

September 02, 2013

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The head of the U.N. refugee agency in Syria says 7 million Syrians, or almost one-third of the population, have been displaced by the country’s civil war.

Tarik Kurdi told The Associated Press on Monday that 5 million of the displaced are still in Syria while about 2 million have fled to neighboring countries. He says 2 million children are among those directly affected by the war.

Kurdi says U.N. assistance has been a “drop in the sea of humanitarian need” and that the funding gap is “very, very wide.” He says international donors have sent less than one-third of the money needed to help those displaced by the war.

More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed since an uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted in 2011.

September 28, 2013

GAZA CITY, Palestine: Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated Friday in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem to mark the anniversary of an uprising against occupation, clashing in places with Israeli forces.

In Gaza’s Nusseirat refugee camp, several thousand people answered a call by the enclave’s militant Hamas rulers to march in commemoration of the Sept. 28, 2000, outbreak of the second intifada, or uprising.

Another rally, near the border fence with Israel, ended with five people suffering the effects of tear gas fired by Israeli troops, Palestinian medical sources said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that “approximately 300 Palestinians” had entered a no-go zone adjacent to the fence.

“In order to disperse the gathering … soldiers used tear gas,” she told AFP.

At the Nusseirat rally, Hamas MP Mushir al-Masri called on West Bankers to launch a fresh revolt.

“We call on the masses of our Palestinian people in the West Bank to revolt against injustice and oppression and declare a third intifada against the Zionist entity,” he said.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, where Hamas has a strong following, stone-throwing protesters clashed with Israeli forces in the city center and Al-Fara camp, witnesses said.

Palestinian medics said that 10 people were lightly wounded by rubber-coated bullets and two by live fire.

And at Beitunia, near Ramallah and close to an Israeli prison where Palestinians are jailed, the army spokeswoman said troops used “riot-dispersal means” against about 150 Palestinians who hurled rocks and rolled flaming tires at them.

There were no reports of injuries at the time.

In Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, police said they arrested 12 people in confrontations in and around the walled Old City.

Palestinians burned tires and threw stones at policemen, lightly injuring one, following Friday prayers at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement.

The compound, home to Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock mosque, was the scene of a controversial September 2000 visit by then Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon, which inflamed Muslim sensitivities and was seen as the trigger for deadly violence that soon engulfed the occupied territories.

Over the next four years scores of Palestinian suicide bombers struck inside Israel as Israel sent tanks, bulldozers and fighter jets into cities and towns across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli-Palestinian summit in early 2005 was seen as signaling the end of the uprising but unrest lingers on.

Jerusalem sees regular clashes between Palestinians and police at the Al-Aqsa compound.

Jews worship at the adjoining Western Wall, venerated as the last remnant of the one supporting the Second Temple complex, which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.

They are not allowed, however, to pray inside the compound itself, which they say is the site of the biblical Jewish temples.

Source: The Daily Star.



NABLUS (Ma’an) — Twenty-five women have been killed so far this year in Palestine in so-called honor crimes, the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling says.

The latest victim, Thamar Zeidan, was found strangled on Saturday in the Tulkarem village of Deir al-Ghosoun, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported.

Her father allegedly admitted that he killed her.

A family member told Ma’an that Thamar had been a victim since she was young when she was forcibly married at the age of 15. She got divorced four years later.

“A few days ago, young men from the village caught a man from a neighboring village, allegedly, drunk near the victim’s house. He was taken to a police station, then he was released after family dignitaries intervened and ended the problem,” the relative said.

“Nevertheless, shortly after a traditional Sulha (‘truce’) was reached, villagers were surprised by a statement signed by the victim’s father and posted on public places and walls in the village. He announced in his statement that he disavowed his own daughter.”

Shortly after the statement was posted, the father allegedly strangled Thamar to death.

He publicly blamed Hamas lawmaker Abdul-Rahman Zeidan for forcing him to take his daughter’s life, after he created a petition with other family members to disown the father.

The father put up posters in the village saying that the lawmaker was trying to convince family members to sign a petition to disown him.

He allegedly killed his daughter shortly afterward.

Commenting on the accusations, Abdul-Rahman Zeidan said that 51 members of the Zeidan family had endorsed a statement disowning the woman’s father and expelling him from his house and the West Bank.

The father had run into difficulties with the family and the aim of the petition was to protect the honor of the Zeidan family, which is conservative and has its own customs and traditions, the lawmaker told Ma’an.

Asked about his attitude to honor killing, Zeidan (said) that he condemned killing of women for family honor, calling it an insult to the human soul and a violation of Islamic teachings.

An activist in the Tulkarem area, Sureida Abed Hussein, rejected the lawmaker’s statement, saying that “he did what he did in his capacity as a lawmaker representing the Hamas movement. This was indirect incitement against the woman.”

She said that in 2012, 13 women were murdered in ‘honor killings’ while in 2011 four women were killed.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights on Sunday issued a statement condemning the killing of Zeidan and calling for a serious investigation into the murder.

PCHR also called for “prosecuting perpetrators of ‘family honor’ murders, and dealing with such murders in the same manner as other crimes of willful killing, taking into consideration international human rights standards.”

Source: Ma’an News Agency.



GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The body of a Palestinian man was returned to Gaza late Monday after he died in an Egyptian prison.

Yousef Amro Abu Zayed, 51, was detained in Egypt because his visa had expired. He died three days ago but his family were unable to bring his body back until Tuesday.

The circumstances around his death are unclear, his family say, although there were no signs of torture.

Egyptian authorities have detained a number of Palestinians, claiming that their visas have expired.

Source: Ma’an News Agency.



RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Four new Palestinian ambassadors were sworn in by President Mahmoud Abbas in his office in Ramallah Monday, according to the official Palestinian Authority’s news agency Wafa.

Marwan Tubasi was sworn in as ambassador of Palestine to Greece, while Issa Qassisiya was sworn in as ambassador to the Vatican. Mary Antwanit Seden was sworn in as ambassador to Hungary. Abdul-Hafith Nofal was sworn in as ambassador to South Africa.

Source: Ma’an News Agency.


September 25, 2013

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Lebanon’s president said Tuesday that his country was struggling under the weight of at least a million Syrian refugees as the U.S. pledged tens of millions of dollars in aid to offset the costs of the war spillover.

Michel Suleiman spoke of the crisis in his country in his address to world leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Hours earlier, he met with President Barack Obama, who praised Lebanon for its generosity in welcoming refugees fleeing the crisis in neighboring Syria.

Obama announced $339 million in additional humanitarian aid in response to Syria’s crisis, including $74 million for Lebanon. He also said the U.S. was sending $8.7 million to help Lebanon’s military protect its borders against terrorist threats and illicit goods.

Suleiman said Lebanon is overwhelmed by Syrian refugees who have reached around a fourth of Lebanon’s population of 4.5 million. He said the burden of hosting them was beginning to take on “an existential dimension” for his nation.

The impact of Syria’s refugees on Lebanon will be the focus of a meeting Wednesday on the sidelines of the General Assembly. The meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon will draw donors and others to discuss the dimensions of the crisis.

The Washington-based World Bank has concluded a quick assessment at the request of the Lebanese government to determine the economic and social impact of spillover from the conflict in Syria and the financial resources Lebanon will need to cope with it. It was done in preparation for Wednesday’s meeting.

Lebanon faces billions of dollars in lost economic activity, and the massive influx of refugees is overwhelming public services and risks driving up unemployment and poverty rates, according to the assessment.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim met Suleiman on Tuesday to begin work on a plan for coping with the Syrian spillover. He thanked Lebanon for its generosity and discussed how the World Bank and the international community can do their part so that Lebanon does not shoulder the costs alone, according to a World Bank statement.

“We now have a clear picture of the costs Lebanon faces for sheltering nearly a million refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria,” Kim said. The assessment covered the period of 2012-2014 and is meant to both guide government policy and provide a basis for coordinating global support.

It concluded that Syrian refugees in Lebanon could reach 1.3 million by the end of 2013. “If the conflict continues, there could be as many as 1.6 million refugees in Lebanon by the end of 2014,” said Inger Andersen, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa region.

The demand on public services has surged along with the population. If things continue on the same course, rising demand will drive up government expenditures by an estimated $1.1 billion for 2012-2014. Government revenues are expected to drop by $1.5 billion because of interrupted trade and an erosion of business and consumer confidence, the assessment found.

More than 170,000 Lebanese will be pushed into poverty by 2014, and unemployment could double to more than 20 percent over the same period, the World Bank said. Up to $1.6 billion will be needed to maintain the quality of social safety nets and health and education systems, and to restore access to pre-crisis levels, according to the World Bank report. In addition, services such as electricity, waste management, transportation and water will need additional investments to meet the needs of the Lebanese population and the refugees.

October 01, 2013

AMMAN: Three Jordanian men have been arrested for carrying posters supporting Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, a judicial official said on Tuesday.

“The three men were arrested last week. They were carrying posters with the slogan of Rabaa,” he told AFP.

The yellow posters show a black hand with four fingers raised, symbolizing Cairo’s pro-Morsi Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp, which was broken up on August 14, sparking clashes that killed hundreds of protesters.

“The state security court charged the suspects on Monday with acts the government does not approve that would harm Jordan’s relations with a brotherly Arab country,” the official said.

“One of the suspects was accused of insulting heads of states. The authorities found text messages on his mobile phone’s Internet messenger application WhatsApp that insult the Jordanian regime and other regimes.”

The three face up to three years in jail if convicted, the official said, adding that the court refused to release them on bail.

Jordan was among the first countries to welcome the July 3 military coup ousting Morsi, which was strongly condemned by the kingdom’s Muslim Brotherhood.

King Abdullah II, who himself faces challenges at home from Islamists, was the first head of state to visit Egypt, 17 days after the coup.

Source: The Daily Star.


Friday, 27 September 2013

Retired Egyptian Brigadier General Safwat Al-Zayyat said on Wednesday that Islamist control of the borders between Syria and Jordan embarrasses the Jordanian government.

The military expert, who often appears on Al-Jazeera, suggested that the current position of the Salafist Al-Nusra Front, which is fighting against the regime in Syria, is an “embarrassment for the Jordanian government”.

Therefore, Al-Zayyat expects that the Al-Nusra Front will concede control over the crossing to the Free Syrian Army, a solution that is more acceptable to the Jordanians.

There are many ideological differences between the Jordanian government and the Al-Nusra Front. The Jordanian government and other regional and international governments accuse the Front of being affiliated to Al-Qaeda.

Source: Middle East Monitor.