Archive for March, 2015


March 29, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) — Uzbekistan’s election commission said 91 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Sunday’s presidential election, where victory by longtime authoritarian leader Islam Karimov is a foregone conclusion.

The 77-year-old Karimov has led the former Soviet republic in Central Asia since the late 1980s and ruthlessly quashed all opposition to his rule. While Uzbekistan is untroubled by any immediate signs of unrest, the future of the country of 30 million people is colored with uncertainty amid a troubled security situation in neighboring Afghanistan and the lack of a clear succession plan should Karimov suddenly leave office.

Economic woes could also be in store as a knock-on effect of the looming recession in Russia, where around 3 million Uzbeks live and work. Russian news agencies, citing the Uzbek Central Election Commission, said turnout was 91 percent. Results will be released Monday.

Karimov faced three purely nominal rivals. In the previous election in 2007, he won 91 percent of the vote. A Russian parliament member who served as an election observer, Ilyas Umakhanov, said the citizens of Uzbekistan were voting for “further guarantees of stability and the social-economic development of the country,” the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Since gaining independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has pursued a policy of economic self-reliance and sought to balance its diplomatic relations with the West and Russia, playing them against each other. The United States installed a military base in the country after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was forced to abandon that facility in 2005 as relations between the countries soured following a violent government crackdown on rioters in the Ferghana Valley city of Andijan that is believed to have left hundreds dead.

Almost all Western media have been barred from reporting inside the country since that time. Independent journalists and activists face sustained harassment.

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Mar. 30, 2015

It’s the only television channel that broadcasts in the Crimean Tatar language, and soon it might be off the air forever. ATR, which broadcasts from Simferopol, could be shut down by the Russian authorities controlling the Crimean Peninsula. Its temporary license expires on April 1, and there is no sign that Russia’s broadcast regulator will renew it. The Crimean Tatar channel is one of the last independent voices on the peninsula following Russia’s annexation last year.

Ibraim Umerov, a spokesman for Crimean Tatars in Kyiv, worked for several years for Crimean media outlets, including ATR. He stopped by the Ukraine Today newsroom to explain why the channel is so important for the Crimean Tatar community and for the right to independent media.

Ibraim Umerov, Spokesman for Kyiv Crimean Tatar community: “ATR is not an oppositional channel…”

Umerov said the Russian authorities who seized the peninsula have cracked down of freedom of speech. Umerov said ATR is more than a news channel. It’s an important part of Crimean Tatar culture, showing documentaries and Crimean Tatar films as well as other specialty programs.

ATR has applied for a broadcast license under Russian law, but authorities have rejected their attempts citing murky administrative rules. Umerov and ATR journalists see it another way.

The Crimean Tatars, who make up about 10 percent of the peninsula’s population, have faced harassment under Russian occupation. Properties have been seized and activists have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, a former Soviet dissident and longtime leader of the Crimean Tatar community, was banned from re-entering Crimea after travelling to mainland Ukraine last year. Human rights groups, including Freedom House, have called the situation alarming.

Source: Ukraine Today.

Link: http://uatoday.tv/geopolitics/crimean-tatar-channel-faces-shutdown-by-russian-authorities-418577.html.

March 29, 2015

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram extremists killed 41 people, including a legislator, and scared hundreds of people from polling stations in the northeast, but millions voted across Nigeria Saturday in the most closely contested presidential race in the nation’s history.

In electoral violence elsewhere, three people including a soldier were shot and killed in political thuggery in southern Rivers state, and two car bombs exploded at polling stations in the southeast but no one was injured, according to police.

All the Boko Haram attacks took place in northeastern Nigeria, where the military Friday announced it had cleared the Islamic extremists from all major centers, including the headquarters of their so-called Islamic caliphate.

Nearly 60 million people have cards to vote, and for the first time there is a possibility that a challenger can defeat a sitting president in the high-stakes contest to govern Africa’s richest and most populous nation.

The front-runners among 14 candidates are President Goodluck Jonathan, a 57-year-old Christian from the south, and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, 72, from the predominantly Muslim north. Voters also are electing 360 legislators to the House of Assembly, where the opposition currently has a slight edge over Jonathan’s party. Voting for 13 constituencies was postponed until April because of shortages of ballot papers, electoral officials said.

Nigeria’s political landscape was transformed two years ago when the main opposition parties formed a coalition and for the first time united behind one candidate, Buhari. Dozens of legislators defected from Jonathan’s party.

Polling will continue Sunday in some areas where new machines largely failed to read voters’ biometric cards, said Kayode Idowu, spokesman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. That includes some areas of Lagos, a megacity of 20 million and Nigeria’s commercial capital on the Atlantic coast.

Even the president was affected. Three newly imported card readers failed to recognize the fingerprints of Jonathan and his wife. Biometric cards and readers are being used for the first time to discourage the kind of fraud that has marred previous votes.

Afterward, Jonathan wiped sweat from his brow and urged people to be patient as he had been, telling Channels TV: “I appeal to all Nigerians to be patient no matter the pains it takes as long as if, as a nation, we can conduct free and fair elections that the whole world will accept.”

Nigerians exercised extraordinary restraint, waiting hours in heat that rose to 100 degrees (37 degrees Celsius) in some places. Many remained for more hours after voting ended to witness the ballot count, determined to do their part to try to keep the elections honest.

“The high voter turnout and the dedication and patience of Nigerian voters is, in itself, a triumph of Nigerian democracy,” said the national counter-insurgency spokesman, Mike Omeri. He praised the bravery and commitment of military and security agencies that he said made the elections possible.

Struggling with blackouts that are routine, some officials counted ballots by the light of vehicles and cellphones. Earlier, before dawn, Boko Haram extremists invaded the town of Miringa in Borno state, torching people’s homes and then shooting them as they tried to escape the smoke. Twenty-five people died in the attack, Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima told a news conference in the city of Maiduguri.

“They had sent messages earlier warning us not to encourage democracy by participating in today’s election,” said Mallam Garba Buratai, a Miringa resident who witnessed the attack. Nigeria’s home-grown Islamic extremists say democracy is a corrupt Western concept and point to the endemic corruption as a reason to do away with it in favor of an Islamic caliphate.

Another 14 people were killed in extremist attacks on the town of Biri and Dukku, in Gombe state, according to police and local chief Garkuwan Dukku. Among the dead was a Gombe state legislator, Umaru Ali, said Sani Dugge, the local campaign director for the opposition coalition.

Two voters were killed in Boko Haram attacks on polling stations in the twin Gombe towns of Birin Bolawa and Birin Fulani, according to police. Witnesses said the gunmen yelled that they had warned people to stay away from polling.

In four other northeast towns in Yobe state, gunmen drove in and fired into the air, frightening people to flee into the bush and disrupting any voting, police said. Thousands of people, among more than 1.5 million forced from their homes by the Islamic uprising, lined up to vote at a refugee camp in Yola, capital of northeast Adamawa state and home to as many refugees as its 300,000 residents.

Refugee Elzubairu Ali does not know when she will be able to return to her home. “We have to wait for the time when the Nigerian army will totally wipe them (Boko Haram) out before we can go back,” she said after voting.

Yola resident and university lecturer Abdullahi Sani said, “I’m longing for a change, a positive change to affect the life of humanity, to protect their reputation, their lives and property . and to eradicate corruption finally.”

The failure of Jonathan’s administration to curb the insurgency, which killed about 10,000 people last year, has angered Nigerians in the north. International outrage has grown over another failure — the inability to rescue 219 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram nearly a year ago. The extremists have abducted hundreds more people since then, using them as sex slaves and fighters.

Nervous foreign investors are watching as Nigeria is Africa’s largest destination for direct foreign investment though its oil-dependent economy is hurting from slashed petroleum prices. The Islamic uprising has exacerbated relations between Christians like Jonathan, who dominate the oil-rich south, and Muslims like Buhari, who are the majority in the agricultural and cattle-herding lands of the north. The population of 170 million is almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.

Some 1,000 people were killed in rioting after Buhari lost to Jonathan in the 2011 elections. Thousands of Nigerians and foreign workers have left the country amid fears of post-election violence. In 2011, there was no doubt that Jonathan had swept the polls by millions of votes.

Now the race is much closer. Results are expected 48 hours after voting ends. If no clear winner emerges, a runoff will be held.

Umar reported from Maiduguri. Associated Press writers Jerome Delay in Kaduna, Shehu Saulawa in Bauchi, Adamu Adamu in Potiskum, Lekan Oyekanmi in Yola, Hilary Uguru in Port Harcourt, and Ben Curtis in Daura, also contributed to this report.

March 30, 2015

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — A two-day Arab summit ended Sunday with a vow to defeat Iranian-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen and the formal unveiling of plans to form a joint Arab intervention force, setting the stage for a potentially dangerous clash between U.S.-allied Arab states and Tehran over influence in the region.

Arab leaders taking turns to address the gathering spoke repeatedly of the threat posed to the region’s Arab identity by what they called moves by “foreign” or “outside parties” to stoke sectarian, ethnic or religious rivalries in Arab states — all thinly-veiled references to Iran, which has in recent years consolidated its hold in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and now Yemen.

The summit’s final communique made similarly vague references, but the Arab League chief, Nabil Elaraby, was unequivocal during a news conference later, singling out Iran for what he said was its intervention “in many nations.”

A summit resolution said the newly unveiled joint Arab defense force would be deployed at the request of any Arab nation facing a national security threat and that it would also be used to combat terrorist groups.

The agreement came as U.S. and other Western diplomats were pushing to meet a Tuesday deadline to reach a deal with Iran that would restrict its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

The Saudis and their allies in the Gulf fear that a nuclear deal between Washington and Tehran will free Iran’s hands to bolster its influence in places like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and in Sunni-ruled Bahrain, which has a Shiite majority. They believe the air campaign in Yemen and a joint Arab force would empower them to stand up to what they see as Iran’s bullying. The United States has sought to offer reassurances that a nuclear deal does not mean that Washington will abandon them, but they remain skeptical.

The Houthis swept down from their northern strongholds last year and captured Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September. Embattled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a close U.S. ally against a powerful local al-Qaida affiliate, first fled to the southern city of Aden before fleeing the country last week as the rebels closed in.

Speaking at the summit on Saturday, Hadi accused Iran of being behind the Houthi offensive, raising the specter of a regional conflict. Iran and the Houthis deny that Tehran arms the rebel movement, though both acknowledge the Islamic Republic is providing humanitarian and other aid.

On Sunday, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Adel al-Jubeir, said the Lebanese Hezbollah militia was also supporting the Houthis. The Saudi-led campaign, he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” is to protect Yemen’s “legitimate government from a group that is allied and supported by Iran and Hezbollah.”

A Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen on Thursday, saying it was targeting the Houthis and their allies, which include forces loyal to Yemen’s former leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Yemeni military officials have said the campaign could pave the way for a possible ground invasion, a development that Egyptian military officials say would likely commence after the airstrikes significantly diminish the military capabilities of the Houthis and their allies.

Yemen’s foreign minister, Riad Yassin, said the air campaign, code-named Operation Decisive Storm, had prevented the rebels from using the weaponry they seized to attack Yemeni cities or to target neighboring Saudi Arabia with missiles. It also stopped Iran’s supply line to the rebels, he told a news conference Sunday.

Military experts will decide when and if a ground operation is needed, Yassin said. “This is a comprehensive operation and (any ground offensive) will depend on the calculations of the military,” he said.

Iran has condemned the airstrikes against its Yemeni allies but so far has not responded with military action, though diplomatic and military officials said Iranian retaliation could not be ruled out.

“Iran for the first time in a very long time is basically seeing a counterattack. The Iranians were not expecting that Gulf monarchies, like Saudi Arabia, would be so bold as to confront this head on,” one Gulf official said.

The Saudi-led airstrikes “tore to pieces their game plan with regard to the Houthis, and they are not going to accept that,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

At the summit’s closing session, Elaraby said the Saudi-led air campaign would continue until all Houthi militias “withdraw and surrender their weapons,” and a strong unified Yemen returns. “Yemen was on the brink of the abyss, requiring effective Arab and international moves after all means of reaching a peaceful resolution had been exhausted to end the Houthi coup and restore legitimacy,” Elaraby said, reading from the final communique.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said the leaders from 22 nations also agreed to create a joint Arab military force whose structure and operational mechanism will be worked out by a high-level panel under the supervision of Arab chiefs of staff.

Elaraby said the chiefs of staff would meet within a month and would have an additional three months to work out the details before presenting their proposal to a meeting of the Arab League’s Joint Defense Council. Preparations for the force will be under the auspices of Kuwait, Egypt and Morocco — the former, present and next chairs of the Arab League.

“It is an important resolution given all the unprecedented unrest and threats endured by the Arab world,” Elaraby said. “There is a political will to create this force and not to leave its creation without a firm time frame,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri told a news conference.

The Egyptian military and security officials have said the proposed force would consist of up to 40,000 elite troops backed by jet fighters, warships and light armor and would be headquartered in either Cairo or Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

However, it is unlikely that all 22 member nations of the often-fractious Arab League will join the proposed force. Creation of such a force has been a longtime goal that has eluded Arab nations in the 65 years since they signed a rarely used joint defense agreement.

Iraq, whose Shiite government is closely allied with non-Arab and Shiite Iran, has said more time is needed to discuss the proposed force. Now in its fourth day, the Saudi-led air campaign has pushed Houthi rebels out of contested air bases, Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed bin Hasan Asiri told reporters. Airstrikes hit Houthi targets throughout Sunday, including air defenses, ammunition depots, and heavy weapons and vehicles the rebels had taken from government forces.

“The coalition operations in the coming days will increase pressure on the Houthi militias by targeting them. Whether it’s individual or group movement, there will no longer be any safe place in Yemen for the Houthi militias,” he told a news conference in Riyadh.

On Saturday, he said the strikes had targeted Scud missiles in Yemen, leaving most of their launching pads “devastated,” though he warned that the rebels could have more missiles. Meanwhile, Pakistan dispatched a plane Sunday to the Yemeni city of Hodeida, to try to evacuate some 500 citizens gathered there, said Shujaat Azim, an adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister. Azim told state-run Pakistan Television more flights would follow as those controlling Yemen’s airports allowed them. Pakistan says some 3,000 of its citizens live in Yemen.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj also tweeted Sunday: “We are doing everything to evacuate our people from Yemen at the earliest by all routes — land, sea and air.”

Associated Press writers Ahmed al-Haj in Sanaa, Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi and Jon Gambrell in Cairo contributed to this report.

March 06, 2015

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi forces pressed their offensive against the Islamic State group Friday, expecting to reach the outskirts of the militant-held city of Tikrit within hours, a day after the extremists reportedly “bulldozed” a famed archaeological site in the area.

The battle to wrest Tikrit — Saddam Hussein’s hometown — from the Islamic State is a major test for the Iraqi forces and allied Shiite militias fighting on heir side. The governor of Salahuddin, Raed al-Jabouri, said that Iraqi forces expect to reach Tikrit later Friday. He told The Associated Press they still have not made it to Tikrit’s east airport as some reports have suggested.

Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, has been under the control of the Islamic State group since June, when the Sunni militants made a lightning advance across northern Iraq, prompting Iraqi troops to flee and abandon their weapons.

On Monday, Iraqi security forces launched a large-scale operation in an effort to retake the city from the militant group, but the offensive was stalled somewhat, with military officials saying the militants strategically lined roads leading to the city with explosives and land mines.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said late Thursday that the IS militants “bulldozed” the renowned archaeological site of the ancient city of Nimrud in northern Iraq. The destruction is part of the group’s campaign to enforce its violent interpretation of Islamic law, destroying ancient archaeological sites it says promoted apostasy.

The ministry’s report could not be immediately independently confirmed. Nimrud was the second capital of Assyria, an ancient kingdom that began in about 900 B.C., partially in present-day Iraq, and became a great regional power. The city, which was destroyed in 612 B.C., is located on the Tigris River just south of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, which was captured by IS in June.

Earlier this week, a video emerged on militant websites showing Islamic State militants with sledgehammers destroying ancient artifacts at the museum in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city that also fell into IS hands last year.

The IS extremists’ rampage against priceless cultural artifacts has sparked global outrage. Also Thursday, the IS militants set fire to some oil wells outside Tikrit, an Iraqi oil official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to the media. The smoky fires were apparently meant to obscure targets from government bombing runs, part of the wide-scale operation that began Monday.

The Ajeel oil field, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) northeast of Tikrit, was one of at least four fields seized by the militants as a source of crude oil to sell to smugglers to finance their operations.

By W.G. Dunlop and Ammar Karim

Albu Ajil, Iraq (AFP)

March 13, 2015

Thousands of Iraqi forces have laid siege to jihadists holed up in Tikrit but the Islamic State group shrugged off setbacks by welcoming Nigeria’s Boko Haram group into its “caliphate”.

After making major gains in and around the city Wednesday, commanders were confident that Baghdad’s biggest victory yet against IS was only a matter of time.

“Now we are moving to the second phase of our plan,” Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi told reporters in Salaheddin province, of which Tikrit is the capital.

“We are very keen for our losses to be as low as possible. Time is on our side, we have the initiative,” he said Thursday, the 11th day of the offensive.

No one involved has provided casualty figures since the start of this latest and largest operation to retake Tikrit, which has been in IS hands since June.

But dozens of bodies are being driven south to Baghdad and the Shiite holy city of Najaf almost every day and, while government forces have had the upper hand, IS has done damage with suicide car bombs, booby traps and snipers.

“We don’t want to be rushed because we want to avoid casualties,” police Staff Major General Bahaa al-Azzawi told AFP in Albu Ajil, a village from which Tikrit can be seen across the Tigris River.

“Tikrit is sealed off from all sides,” he said.

All towns and villages on the river’s eastern bank were under the control of anti-IS forces Thursday.

Black and white IS flags on walls had been painted over with slogans cursing the jihadist group or praising Shiite militia groups.

Tikrit is on the west bank and, until sappers throw floating bridges across the river, the nearest bridge is in Samarra, nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles) to the south.

– Sunni tribes fighting –

Tikrit was the hometown of dictator Saddam Hussein, remnants of whose Baath party collaborated with the jihadists when they took over almost a third of the country last June.

With crucial military backing from neighboring Iran and a 60-nation US-led coalition, Baghdad has rolled back some of the losses.

It started with operations to secure the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf and bolster Baghdad’s defenses, then worked its way north, retaking Diyala province earlier this year.

Commanders see the recapture of overwhelmingly Sunni Arab Tikrit as a stepping stone for the reconquest of second city Mosul further north, which once had a population of two million.

Analysts say the battle for Tikrit is also a key test of how well the regular army can work with the myriad of militia groups and prevent reprisals against Sunnis.

The defense minister, himself Sunni, said he was impressed with the level of cooperation and played down concerns that victory in Tikrit could further alienate the minority community.

“What caught my attention and was very positive, was that I met a number of fighters, maybe more than 250, who are all sons of Tikrit,” he said.

“It sends a very positive message to the Iraqi people and lifts the spirit of the security forces.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to discuss the ongoing fight against IS with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of an investment conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt later Friday.

– Boko Haram accepted –

IS has countered every military loss lately by ramping up its propaganda war with ever more shocking videos of child fighters executing prisoners or of the destruction of some of the world’s most precious heritage sites.

On Thursday, the group released an audio recording presented as a speech by top IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani in which he formally welcomes Boko Haram into the IS fold.

Boko Haram had pledged allegiance to IS on Saturday but the move had yet to be formally accepted by IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for the Nigerian extremist group to become part of the “caliphate”.

“We announce to you to the good news of the expansion of the caliphate to West Africa,” Adnani said.

He insisted the group was “sure of its victory” regardless of the challenges.

“God is on our side and give us the strength to combat this armada of Crusader countries,” he said.

The group also released a video in which eight men from the region along the Euphrates River straddling Iraq and Syria are beheaded.

The video gives their names and accuses them of spying for a Syria-based rebel group opposed to IS, of supplying intelligence to the Iraqi forces and of torturing an IS member.

In Syria, where IS has also seized swathes of territory, more than 50 regime soldiers and jihadists were killed in heavy fighting in Latakia, President Bashar al-Assad’s home province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/IS_readies_for_Tikrit_last_stand_but_expands_to_Nigeria_999.html.

16 March 2015 Monday

The European Union gave the green light on Monday to a long-awaited pact with Bosnia, a first step towards possible membership of the bloc after years of political and economic stagnation.

The move is part of a new drive, led by Germany and Britain, to spur reform and address the anger and frustrations among ordinary Bosnians that fueled unprecedented civil unrest in February last year.

The Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) is a pre-accession pact that brings much-needed EU funds and a framework for further integration.

Bosnia, which is still trying to overcome the legacy of a 1992-95 war in which 100,000 people died, languishes behind its ex-Yugoslav peers on the road to EU accession. Its development has been stifled by a highly decentralized post-war system of government that divided power along ethnic lines and spawned huge networks of political patronage.

The SAA was originally signed in 2008, but sat gathering dust until Germany and Britain offered a plan for its formal adoption in exchange for a written commitment from leaders of Bosnia’s Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats to press ahead with reform.

Foreign ministers of the 28-nation EU said they had agreed to “proceed with the conclusion and entry into force” of the SAA.

They called on Bosnia’s leadership “to fully uphold its commitments and obligations … and to remain engaged with the European Union under the renewed approach and maintain the positive momentum by developing an initial agenda for reforms in consultation with the European Union.”

Brussels first wants to encourage economic reform to address high unemployment and widespread poverty, before tackling the thorny issues of political reform.

Progress may result in a formal application to join the EU.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/156639/eu-moves-ahead-with-bosnia-membership.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Hundreds of Palestinians from all levels of society have taken to the streets several times this week in protest at the severe electricity crisis hitting the Gaza Strip, QudsNet reported on Tuesday. Most of the demonstrators headed for the headquarters of the sole electricity plant in the center of the coastal enclave, which has been targeted several times by the Israel Defense Forces since 2006.

The protesters called for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamadallah to take responsibility for solving the problem of severe electricity shortages. They also called for the PA to deal with the Gaza Strip in the same way that it deals with the occupied West Bank.

According to the Head of Rafah municipality, Sobhi Abu-Ridwan, the shortages affect the work of local councils across the whole territory. “We are unable to run the sewage plants and water wells to fulfill the need of the residents,” he said. “This has led to massive problems in the service sector, and a lot of vital equipment has stopped working.”

Abu-Ridwan called for Abbas to step in immediately to put an end to the electricity crisis. He stressed that Gaza has been the victim of several Israeli wars and has been living under siege for eight years. “As such,” he insisted, “fuel for the electricity plant must be exempt from taxes.”

Representatives of several Palestinian factions were among the protesters. Fatah official Jalal Sheikh Al-Eid said that he took part to register his protest at the 20-hour electricity cuts every day in Gaza.

The leader of the Democratic Front, Nafeth Ghoneem, added: “If there is a political problem between Egypt and Gaza, its effect must not be extended to the livelihood of the people.”

The Egyptian city of Rafah supplies Gaza’s Rafah with a small amount of electricity. Last week, though, the Egyptian authorities cut the power line, only to reconnect it a few days later.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17699-popular-protests-against-electricity-crisis-in-gaza.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Hamas military wing Al-Qassam Brigades organised a military parade in the center of the Gaza Strip on Monday to mark the 11th anniversary of Israel’s assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Felesteen newspaper reported.

Hundreds of Al-Qassam fighters took to the streets holding pictures of Sheikh Yassin, while Gaza residents watched the parade.

The anniversary was also marked with the launch of the official Hamas website. Deputy Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh announced the launch of the Arabic website from the former home of Sheikh Yassin, which is now a small museum.

Hamas is to launch an official English website on 18 April, to mark the anniversary of the assassination of Hamas leader Abdul-Aziz al-Rantisi.

Sheikh Yassin was born in 1936 in Al-Jorah Village in Askalan, which is now known as the Israeli city of Ashkelon. He was forced to flee to Al-Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza.

He began his anti-occupation activities in the 1960’s and was sent to prison on many occasions as a result.

Yassin and a group of his close friends founded Hamas in 1987, the start of the first Palestinian Intifada.

On March 22 2004, the Israeli military targeted the elderly and wheelchair bound Yassin with three rockets just 70 meters away from a mosque. The attack also killed around 12 other residents.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17682-qassam-brigades-marks-11th-anniversary-of-sheikh-yassins-assassination.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas have seized electronic insects that were flying the skies of the Gaza Strip, according to Al-Majd, a security website close to Hamas.

Al-Majd reports that the devices are used by the Israeli authorities for spying and monitoring the positions and bases of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza.

It is also believed they are being used to search for Israeli soldiers reportedly kidnapped during the latest Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

An informed source told Al-Majd that Hamas electronic security units disassembled these insects and found pictures of the soldiers kidnapped during the war stored in their memories. They also revealed that they are being run and monitored via satellites.

“The electronic insects are the size of small birds and look as birds from far distances,” the informed source said. “They can easily fly and enter into buildings and other facilities through very small holes and fly easily inside them.”

The Israeli military launched a wide-scale offensive against the Gaza Strip last summer which resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 Palestinians. Around 73 Israelis were also killed, including six non-combatants. Two Israeli soldiers are reported to have been kidnapped by Hamas fighters in Gaza during the ground operation. However, the Israeli military have said that they were killed.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17681-hamas-seizes-spying-israeli-electronic-insects-in-gaza.