Middle East Monitor - Creating New Perspectives Bringing you the latest and up-to-date news from the Middle East. We go one step further, facilitating a better understanding of the issues facing the Middle East. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/component/content/frontpage Wed, 23 Jul 2014 01:24:05 +0000 MEMO en-gb The Lancet: Leading doctors and scientists denounce Gaza violence https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12997-the-lancet-leading-doctors-and-scientists-denounce-gaza-violence https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12997-the-lancet-leading-doctors-and-scientists-denounce-gaza-violence The LancetMore than 20 leading doctors and scientists from the UK and Italy denounce ongoing Israeli military aggression in Gaza in a letter to The Lancet, published today.

Signatories

  • Paola Manduca, Professor of Genetics, University of Genoa, Italy
  • Sir Iain Chalmers, James Lind Library, Oxford.
  • Mads Gilbert, Professor and Clinical Head, Clinic of Emergency Medicine, University Hospital of North Norway.
  • Derek Summerfield, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College,London.
  • Ang Swee Chai, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, London.
  • Alastair Hay, Dept of Environmental Toxicology, University of Leeds.
  • Steven Rose, Emeritus Professor of Life Sciences, Open University.
  • Hilary Rose, Professor Emerita, University of Bradford.
  • Angelo Stefanini, MD, Public Health, Bologna, Italy
  • Andrea Balduzzi, Zoologist, University of Genoa, Italy
  • Bruno Cigliano, MD, Paediatric Surgeon, University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy.
  • Carmine Pecoraro, MD, Nephrologist, Santobono Children Hospital, Naples, Italy,
  • Emilio Di Maria, MD PhD, Medical Genetics,University of Genoa, Italy
  • Franco Camandona, MD, Gynaecologist, ASL3, Liguria, Italy
  • Guido Veronese, MD, Clinical Psychologist, University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy
  • Luca Ramenghi. MD, Neonatology, Gaslini Childrens’ Hospital, Genoa, Italy
  • Marina Rui, Chemist, University of Genoa, Italy
  • Pierina DelCarlo, MD, Paediatrician, Massa, Italy
  • Sergio D’agostino, MD, Paediatric Surgeon, Hospital Vicenza, Italy.
  • Silvana Russo, MD, Pediatric Surgeon, Santobono Children Hospital, Naples, Italy.
  • Vincenzo Luisi, MD, Paediatric Cardiac surgeon, Massa Hospital, Italy.
  • Stefania Papa, Environmentalist, University of Naples, Italy.
  • Vittorio Agnoletto, MD, University Statale, Milan, Italy
  • Mariagiulia Agnoletto, Psychiatrist, Milan, Italy

"On the basis of our ethics and practice, we are denouncing what we witness in the aggression of Gaza by Israel," write the authors. "We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression."

"We are appalled by the military onslaught on civilians in Gaza under the guise of punishing terrorists. This is the third large scale military assault on Gaza since 2008. Each time the death toll is borne mainly by innocent people in Gaza, especially women and children under the unacceptable pretext of Israel eradicating political parties and resistance to the occupation and siege they impose."

The letter states that tightening blockades imposed on Gaza by Israel in the last year have not only caused starvation and poverty for residents of Gaza, but have also resulted in a dangerous lack of access to medicine and healthcare.

"Wounded and sick people cannot leave easily to get specialised treatment outside Gaza. Entries of food and medicines into Gaza have been restricted and many essential items for survival are prohibited. Before the present assault, medical stock items in Gaza were already at an all time low because of the blockade. They have run out now."

"As we write, the BBC reports of the bombing of another hospital, hitting the intensive care unit and operating theatres, with deaths of patients and staff. There are now fears for the main hospital Al Shifa. Moreover, most people are psychologically traumatised in Gaza. Anyone older than 6 years has already lived through their third military assault by Israel."

"None of these are military objectives. These attacks aim to terrorise, wound the soul and the body of the people, and make their life impossible in the future, as well as also demolishing their homes and prohibiting the means to rebuild."

"We as scientists and doctors cannot keep silent while this crime against humanity continues. We urge readers not to be silent too. Gaza trapped under siege, is being killed by one of the world's largest and most sophisticated modern military machine. The land is poisoned by weapon debris, with consequences for future generations. If those of us capable of speaking up fail to do so and take a stand against this war crime, we are also complicit in the destruction of the lives and homes of 1·8 million people in Gaza."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:35:02 +0000
Premeditated murder: the Shuja'iyya massacre and Israeli criminality https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/debate/12996-premeditated-murder-the-shujaiyya-massacre-and-israeli-criminality https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/debate/12996-premeditated-murder-the-shujaiyya-massacre-and-israeli-criminality Ben White65-year-old Ahmed Suleiman Akram al-'Atawai and his 10-year-old grandchild Tala were running from Israel's onslaught on Shuja'iyya. As they fled, they were hit by Israeli artillery shells, and died.

They were among the dozens of victims Sunday, when Israeli forces pulverised the Gaza City district. Some, like Ahmed and Tala, were cut down in the streets; others were killed when shells hit their homes. A paramedic, killed as he attempted to rescue the wounded. The 'Ayad family, hit by a missile from an Israeli warplane, killing ten, including three children.

Palestinians and reporters who visited the scene reported scenes of total devastation. An estimated 72 were killed Sunday in Shuja'iyya, including "at least 17 children". Amnesty International described the impact of "intense Israeli bombardment", with "more than 200" wounded as "civilians were forced to flee under fire". A man who went back to look for his family was shot dead by Israeli forces in front of human rights observers.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) doctors working in Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City reported that "women and children comprised most of the wounded" arriving Sunday morning. Audrey Landmann, MSF medical coordinator in Gaza, said Israel's ground offensive has meant "indiscriminate" bombing, and noted that "those who die are civilians".

The shocking fact is that these dozens, hundreds, of personal horror stories are the result of deliberate decisions taken by the Israeli army. On the day of the attack, IDF officers boasted that they were "taking off the gloves". Even as the ground offensive got underway late Thursday, Israeli tanks had "received an order to open fire at anything that moved".

The targeting of Shuja'iyya, according to veteran military analyst Ron Ben-Yishai, was about the Israeli army "cementing itself in the enemy's psyche as a beast one should not provoke". It is this "objective", he wrote, that "is the essence of the deterrence" sought by Israel.

As images emerged of the massacre, an Israeli army officer "expressed concern that the level of casualties in Shuja'iyya could erode [international support]...and create diplomatic pressure to end the operation sooner than expected". A similar sentiment was expressed by Israel Hayom's military correspondent, who admitted that the "high civilian death toll" in Shuja'iyya could have a detrimental effect on the Israeli operation's "international legitimacy".

Even as Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel tried to dismiss claims of a "massacre", he acknowledged that "the intensity of [Israeli] fire increased only after the force had sustained many casualties". This echoes a report by right-wing Israeli news service Arutz Sheva, that "heavy casualties" dealt to Israeli soldiers contributed to "a furious response by the IDF". In other words, the killing of civilians in the name of revenge and deterrence.

Israeli "commanders in the field" predicted that "if fighting continues", the "level of destruction" in Shuja'iyyeh "may reach that seen in the Dahiyeh neighborhood in Beirut in 2006". There, Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure in what became known as the 'Dahiyeh doctrine'. Note that the day before, Harel had called Shuja'iyya "not particularly significant from a military perspective".

The Israeli media blithely dismissed any concerns about the massacre "from a legal standpoint", on the basis that the army had warned Shuja'iyya's residents in advance. This is not just grossly inadequate – it is itself evidence of war crimes. As Amnesty International stated yesterday, "issuing warnings to evacuate entire areas does not absolve Israeli forces of their obligations to protect civilians under international humanitarian law".

This point was also made by Israeli NGOs in a joint statement which emphasised how "sending alerts or providing warnings to residents does not transform them, or their homes, into legitimate military targets, and does not exempt the army from its duty to avoid executing indiscriminate attacks in the area". Israel's "cynical use of legal terms" to justify "death and destruction" received further specific condemnation by Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem.

In fact, those groups had warned ahead of time, even as the IDF was dropping leaflets and issuing evacuation orders, that such a step could very likely presage an attack that would "cause extensive, mortal harm to civilians and much property damage". The military, they wrote, "must not assume that all residents have indeed left their homes", as they said was done during Operation Cast Lead.

There is also a similarly disturbing precedent from Israel's attack on Lebanon in 2006, when Israel justified an attack in Qana on the basis that Hezbollah used the area for missile launches, and, that the IDF had warned residents in advance to leave. Human Rights Watch, among others, slammed this argument, saying that notice of an impending bombardment "does not give [the IDF] carte blanche to blindly attack".

Thus whether it is the targeting of family homes, or the indiscriminate shelling of neighbourhoods like Shuja'iyya, Israel's attacks on Gaza – including the justifications for them – are taking the shape of repeated war crimes and urgently need to be treated as such.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ben White) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:03:03 +0000
Israeli media describes killing of officer as a 'decisive blow' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12995-israeli-media-describes-killing-of-officer-as-a-decisive-blow https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12995-israeli-media-describes-killing-of-officer-as-a-decisive-blow Lt. Colonel Dolev KedarThe Israeli media revealed that an army lieutenant was killed yesterday along with three soldiers in an ambush laid by the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades fighters near the Naraam settlement in the northern Gaza Strip, Al-Mesryoon news website reported.

The Al-Quds news website quoted Israel's Channel 10 as saying: "Lt. Colonel Dolev Kedar, Commander of Geffen Battalion is the highest ranking officer to be killed since the start of the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian resistance and that his death represents a decisive blow to the Israeli army."

The Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas, said that a special unit had used a tunnel to infiltrate the Israeli territory near the Naraam settlement wearing Israeli army uniforms and lured a group of Israeli soldiers, including Kedar, clashing with them and killing them all.

According to an investigation conducted by the Israeli army and published by Channel Ten, the army discovered the unit but did not attack it thinking it was an Israeli force.

The Brigades said in a statement that "an elite combat unit consisting of twelve members has infiltrated into the Israeli territory and carried out an attack east of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, inflicting heavy losses to the Israeli army."

According to the statement, the unit which was divided into two groups ambushed the Israeli patrol unit which consisted of two army jeeps, attacking the first jeep with RPG shell burning it and killing the soldiers on board. The statement pointed out that one of the two groups withdrew from the site but was bombed by an Israeli helicopter while the second one was engaged in violent clash with an Israeli special unit that arrived at the scene.

The Qassam Brigades confirmed that 10 fighters were lost in the operation, while two more returned to their bases safely, however the Israeli army said that only nine fighters were killed in the incident.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:50:36 +0000
Shabak former chief: Israel must occupy Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12994-shabak-former-chief-israel-must-occupy-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12994-shabak-former-chief-israel-must-occupy-gaza Yuval DiskinThe former head of Israel's internal security service 'Shabak', Yuval Diskin, has said that Israel needs a strategic solution for the current crisis that would include deep penetration into the populated area of Gaza while seeking a long term settlement.

In an article published on Tuesday in Yedioth Ahronoth, Diskin said that the battle with Hamas will not end soon without a political manoeuvre in addition to the ground war that is being executed by the Israeli army. Even if a ceasefire is reached in the next few days, he added, this will be an expression of the lack of a real decisive military outcome.

He went on to say: "It is obvious that Israel possesses the military might that would enable it to outlast Hamas; there is no room for comparison between the two sides. The internal front is willing to pay the price until the problem of the long term missiles is resolved. The iron dome is doing quite well and is helping in prolonging the ability of the masses to remain steadfast. The process of destroying the offensive tunnels is very necessary. Both political and security levels are behaving as cautiously as necessitated by the combat in an extremely complex field."

He said: "The more important problem is that Hamas has nothing left to lose because it is already in a very bad situation. It has a severe crisis with Egypt and has no real allies apart from Qatar and Turkey, which are searching in vain for something to associate them with the events. Hamas and Gaza's economic situation is at its worst. It is unable to pay salaries to its men and to workers in the strip. The feeling of isolation and besiegement is deeper than ever before. What is still harder is that the reconciliation process, which from Hamas point view was a strategic action aimed at improving its conditions and acquiring legitimacy, has now failed."

Diskin pointed out that "during the last year Hamas became increasingly desperate and is willing to pay a heavy price in order to set on fire, once more, the strategic playing cards. Israel found itself being drawn into a crisis for which Hamas prepared itself well over the past few years from a military perspective. It is now exploiting rather harshly all the weak points of the Strip in order to bring down the siege and international isolation and in order also to achieve an important gain within the internal Palestinian arena".

He went on to say: "The government of Israel has the option of continuing and even deeming the ground operation right into the populated areas where the Hamas leaders are hiding and where the rocket launchers are hidden underground. Such effective military pressure will considerably reduce, and even end, the firing of rockets and evolve for the state of Israel a number of options to resolve the crisis ranging between full occupation and cleansing of the Strip and stopping the operation when Hamas feels the pressure on it and agrees to accept the conditions proposed to it."

He added: "We can understand the government's lack of enthusiasm for deepening the operation into densely populated areas inside the Strip. This would be a first class military, humanitarian and political challenge. And it will have a very painful human cost. Nevertheless, I believe that real gains can be made in this operation. Even if it were to encounter fierce resistance pockets in some places, in my opinion, the ability of Hamas' military arm to remain steadfast in direct confrontation with the Israeli army is a lot less than they tend to believe. The problem is that without this operation, we shall end up with an extremely problematic status quo, which means a mutual bloodshed without the ability to resolve decisively."

According to the writer, the public in Israel wants, before anything else, a stable and long term ceasefire with a strategic solution to the missile threat and the threat of the offensive tunnels as well as for the threat of extreme terrorism in the Gaza Strip.

He said: "Israel must achieve a very significant gain before the onset of complications such as the evolution of other fronts in the West Bank and the staging of protest rallies by Israel's Arab citizens or even the eruption of the northern front. No less serious than all of this would be the rapid erosion of the international mandate the state of Israel enjoys at the moment."

The writer noted that "should Hamas reject the political initiatives and continue to insist on military confrontation, Israel should appear determined to continue all the way until it occupies the Strip fully and bring down the Hamas regime. There would be no real victors in this scenario. The fighting in this case will leave many dead on both sides. Eventually, the Hamas regime will fall and the state of Israel may need to stay there for a year or two until it is able to cleanse the region from terrorist elements and from the many infrastructures of terrorism that were built there."

Diskin concluded by saying that "should we need to do this we might as well begin to think now too about scenarios of the political conclusion to this process. Israel should, therefore, stop behaving like an ostrich and adopting strategic obscurity. It should bravely define its borders and come up with an honest peace plan consistent with the basic interest of acquiring recognised and fixed borders and of keeping Israel Jewish and democratic. Israel should also use an iron fist in dealing with terrorism and should extend the other hand for a political settlement."

Source: Arabi21

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Yuval Diskin) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:29:31 +0000
Sorry Gaza, Egypt is besieged at the moment https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/12993-sorry-gaza-egypt-is-besieged-at-the-moment https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/12993-sorry-gaza-egypt-is-besieged-at-the-moment Mahmoud SadeeqThe events happening today are what the Zionists wanted out of the 3 July military coup in Egypt. They understood the coup early on when they made an effort to overthrow President Mohamed Morsi's government when he surprised them by dealing direct blows during their 2012 war on Gaza. The current period is when Israel will test its new strategic treasure in Cairo and reap the rewards of their plan; it will also test how much control it has over neighbouring governments after the coup against the elected president, by seeing how strong its contacts are in the new government.

I would like to remind those who stay silent about Gaza that Morsi turned Egypt into an operations room to respond to the Zionist aggression and Egypt was a link between all the political and resistance forces in the region; it was visited by the Turkish prime minister, the Emir of Qatar, and the head of the political bureau of Hamas. Morsi played all his cards at once against the Zionist enemy to exhaust all political options and put Israel's aggression directly in the line of fire of the angry people. This was understood by the political circles in Israel. He also recalled the Egyptian ambassador from Israel, opened the Rafah crossing and sent the Egyptian prime minister to Gaza while it was being attacked. Supplies and aid were sent in, putting a political stranglehold on the other side.

Today, we see the standard of loyalty from those who claim to be the elite as they fuel popular fascism with their rotten understanding and make their livelihood by calling on Israel to hit Gaza and end the Palestinians' resistance to the occupation. Some have called Netanyahu directly to tell him to strike Gaza. Do not be surprised; this is the stage that Egypt is going through at the moment, a time when its evil has spread across the country and honourable individuals have all but disappeared. I never imagined before now that I would see in Egypt individuals who want to bury the resistance and regard the resistance members as their strategic enemy, regardless of whether or not they agree politically with Hamas. However, our national constants, values, ethics and conscience do not allow us to overlook these matters as easily as the corrupt media does now.

The Zionist enemy does not work in vain and has always been skilled at corralling the unruly people in the region, until Morsi was elected president and surprised Israeli decision-makers with the accuracy of his moves during the 2012 crisis. However, normal service was resumed very quickly, albeit less discretely. The Israelis exploit the region's preoccupation with the hot topics of Iraq and Syria in order to strike at the capabilities of the resistance and provoke the situation in Egypt even more, putting the coup alliance and opposition groups under more pressure. In addition to this, launching a military strike on Gaza tests regional reflexes, especially after Iran's rapprochement with the US over its nuclear programme. Moreover, the timing of the strike is a political brownie point for Israel's ruling coalition and weakens the Palestinian negotiators. Israel will not provide the coup leader with services in exchange for those provided to Israel; instead, it will gather more points from the mess made by the politicians in Egypt.

The Palestinian issue cannot be uprooted from the hearts of the Egyptians who have been raised to believe that the enemy threatening us are the Israelis and their supporters, not the resistance fighters who defend the honour of the nation. We are past the point of talking about the revolutionary slogans that ignite the hearts of the people and drive them to support the Palestinian cause, and we will not assess the coup government and its performance during the confrontations and conflicts along the eastern border of Sinai.

I cannot say that we are at a standstill, although the political elite and forces in Egypt have imprisoned the Muslim Brotherhood and are now counting on the positions of the men who had betrayed their religion. Where are they now and what are their positions? Can they voice their anger at the murder of innocent children and the violation of all international conventions and international laws, the support for which they insist upon continuously? Or was that macho-rhetoric only reserved for Morsi's rule, and has the coup leader been successful in not only locking up these men, but also taking their voices away?

We are sorry Gaza; those who were defending you are now in prison. However, your cause remains in our hearts, and although the positions change and vary, victory is coming.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Mahmoud Sadeeq) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:53:20 +0000
Egyptian TV presenter: The Israelis completely control the media in Egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12992-egyptian-tv-presenter-the-israelis-completely-control-the-media-in-egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12992-egyptian-tv-presenter-the-israelis-completely-control-the-media-in-egypt Tawfiq OkashaVIDEO

Egyptian television presenter Tawfiq Okasha, one of the loudest mouthpieces of the Egyptian regime and President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, who led the military coup last July which saw the deaths of over 8,000 Egyptians, has spoken openly on television about his views on Israel. A video showing different clips of Okasha speaking about his views has been published on YouTube and Facebook.

Speaking as a guest on the political-commentary satellite channel Faraeen, of which he is the owner and principal anchor, Okasha spoke of controlling the people. He explained: "We create a people of weak minds so that from a distance, we can, by using the economy, control them to believe that it [their situation] is their fate, and they don't have a choice."

Okasha continued: "Who is it who created this philosophy, the philosophy of American media schools? It is the teachers of the Jewish media, upon whose hands I was taught.

"The children of Israel completely control the media in Egypt." He said this fact is "official". Okasha swore by God three times that this is a fact. It's not only the media in Egypt Okasha continues, but in all Arab countries, giving the example of Saudi-owned satellite channel MBC.

In a clip from Okasha's talk show on Faraeen channel, he claimed that he would be going to stand outside the American Embassy that week, after which he would be going to Israel. "I respect them and I respect their mentality. And by the way they respect me very, very, very much," he said, telling the viewers: "Do you know why this is? Because when they train someone, and they see that that person has become successful, they respect them" referring to himself.

Another short clip from his talk show shows Okasha angry about Gaza, saying in the Egyptian dialect what translates to be: What are you talking about Gaza? Who cares? To hell with Gaza.

In another interview, Okasha was asked whether he would accept an invitation to be a guest on an Israeli channel, to which he affirmed in the positive, saying that of course he would like to relay his thoughts to the Israeli citizens.

In the same interview he was asked: "Do you acknowledge that the Jews have a right over the lands [of Palestine]?" to which he answered "Yes, of course".

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +0000
Is the Arab Spring still on course? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/12991-is-the-arab-spring-still-on-course https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/12991-is-the-arab-spring-still-on-course Abderrahim ChalfaouatThe military coup in Egypt and the lengthy revolt in Syria have blurred the once steady progression of the Arab Spring. Consequently, commentators and researchers alike have shifted to describing the events as the "Arab Autumn" or the "Arab Winter", indicating the Spring's demise and awful, cold outcomes. These descriptions were triggered by the initial rise of Islamist parties to power and subsequent problematic political scenarios as new governments tried to save ailing economies, solve social problems and face counter-revolutions.

It looks as if the fluctuating situation in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region includes some success for counter-revolutions which have toppled democratically-elected governments, maintained some despotic rule and smothered long-standing popular hopes for dignity, equality of opportunity, freedom of expression, good governance and the rule of law. Even so, a reconsideration of certain standpoints seems necessary. The signs that the Arab Spring is still on course outnumber those of a slowing down and return to the pre-2011 MENA status quo.

Claiming that the Arab Spring is a total failure would require one of two things to occur: either all post-2011 governments will be ousted and new despots take over, or the collective psyche surrenders to despotism as if no change occurred in 2011. Neither seems likely at the moment.

Tunisia has witnessed several attempts to cripple the governments from within. The murder of Chokri Belaid and Mohammed Brahmi, two leftist leaders, prompted accusations that the Ennahda-led government couldn't protect its opponents. Street protests demanded government change. As a result, both Hamadi Jebali and Ali Larayedh, two Islamist, post-Ben Ali prime ministers, resigned. Yet, protecting the nascent democratic experience has been prioritised by different political leaders. Interim President Moncef Marzouki's secular, pro-democracy background, has allowed him to ease ideological cleavages and tense negotiations, encouraged by moderate Islamists and liberals. Today, the Troika still leads Tunisia; a new constitution was passed and the Constituent Assembly resumed meetings, while calls for government change have waned. As the parliamentary and presidential elections are expected on 23 October and 26 November respectively, optimism persists, despite security challenges and a vulnerable social stability. That is why the Fragile States Index 2014 report places Tunisia in high warning category five, after China but before India, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

In Palestine, the performance of the resistance groups against Israel's Operation Protective Edge attacks has surprised Israeli forces as well as most observers. The escalation has taken place as the main Palestinian factions were being positive about the unity government, following the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. Both the agreement and the resistance efforts are reminiscent of the atmosphere in 2011 when a deal was reached between Israel and Hamas to exchange Sergeant Gilad Shalit for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, the largest number ever released in one deal. Notwithstanding all military, economic and diplomatic efforts to release him, Shalit spent five years in captivity in Gaza. Only the conditions created by the Arab Spring could prompt the exchange and amplify its effects, the spirit of which continues today with the steady development in resistance capabilities.

Even in Egypt, the military coup faces dire problems. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has increased taxes and withdrawn subsidies, which may bring protesters back onto the squares made famous by the revolution. The country today depends totally on foreign aid, especially from America, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Besides the unprecedented smothering of public freedoms in Egypt, the performance of the current regime over the escalation in Gaza has the potential to aggravate the situation. During the Mubarak era, Tzipi Livni, Israel's then foreign minister, announced its 2008 Operation Cast Lead from Cairo. Mubarak agreed to strengthen the siege on Gaza with a steel wall in Rafah. In stark contrast, Morsi's reaction to Israel's 2012 Operation Pillar of Defence initiated "a new strategic realignment in the Middle East". He functioned as "the pivotal international player in the process that eventually led to the ceasefire agreement", according to an IPRIS Viewpoints analysis. Between the two models, scrutinising eyes look out for the role that Al-Sisi will play, especially now that Israel has revealed its coordination with Egypt, which deprives the coup of much public support.

Protests about the absence of the rule of law, public freedoms and good governance persist in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. Despite the "lead through fear" policy depending on mass death sentences, mass detentions, car bombs, blazing churches and religious divides, street marches in Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere still challenge the coup government. Many people of Egypt resorted to a different tactic to defend their Arab Spring by boycotting the presidential elections. State-owned vehicles toured towns and villages to encourage voting; media anchors shouted at viewers to go to vote; the elections committee extended the polling days, but it was all in vain. The turnout was seriously low. Al-Sisi felt deceived by the people who had asked for military intervention on 3 July last year. It is felt generally that the outcome was indicative of a backlash against the global and local acceptance of the coup.

As far as Morocco is concerned, a serious check for the economic and political health of the country is Bank Al-Maghrib's annual report. In the 2013 report, Dr Abdellatif Jouahri, the bank's governor, noted that the GDP rose from 2.7 per cent to 4.4 per cent, the budget deficit and the current account deficit decreased from 7.4 per cent to 5.5 per cent and from 9.7 per cent to 7.6 per cent respectively, while keeping inflation at a rate of 1.9 per cent, despite the international economic crisis and regional instability. In addition, the youth continue to size up public policies and denounce violations of the law, such as when a Spanish paedophile received a royal pardon. Protesters took to the streets of Rabat and Casablanca in August 2013, which pushed the Royal Palace to issue three decrees in two days revoking the pardon. A senior official retired as a result of the scandal.

Finally, In Libya, rebel General Khalifa Haftar's uprising is faltering because it hit the wrong target. Instead of solidifying efforts to build up state institutions from scratch, even via political opposition, the Karama ("Dignity") campaign that he launched on 16 May aimed to overthrow the results of the ballot box and dismantle the Muslim Brotherhood in the country. Similar to the coup in Egypt, Haftar's attacks created turmoil. With wishful thinking, he planned for and expected help from the US, Al-Sisi's Egypt and some Gulf states. However, due mainly to his association with these same backers, he has been unable to replicate the Egyptian model. Despite his ability to spread chaos, there are doubts about his real intentions. In the long run, either the way will open for political reconciliation or the country will break into two, but it is not expected to surrender wholesale to Haftar.

A failed state just a short hop across the Mediterranean from Europe and at the heart of North Africa will be unacceptable to EU governments and the Libyans. The logical solution and way forward, therefore, is political, not military. This, apart from anything else, suggests that the Arab Spring is here to stay.

The writer is a Moroccan researcher and writer in media, culture and society, and MENA politics.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Abderrahim Chalfaouat) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:19:30 +0000
Conflict over religion and state in Egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/12990-conflict-over-religion-and-state-in-egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/12990-conflict-over-religion-and-state-in-egypt Egyptian security froces storming Al-Fatah mosqueThe conflict over religion and state in Egypt has gone through many phases and forms, but two stand out. The first is the struggle over the "civil" nature of the state between the Islamic movements on one side and the so-called "civil forces" on the other. The second extended and grew from the moment the military coup was staged until the moment Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was inaugurated as president and his subsequent actions.

It is useful to examine the Egyptian scene as a "civil state" which, according to the discourse, expresses the demand for the modern state that the political and intellectual elite has aspired for following what they believe is the demise of the Islamic or religious opposition. The term "civil state" itself comes from modern political thought and is based on the principle of citizenship, the rule of law and refraining from using religion to achieve political objectives. However, those studying events after the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi will find that it is moving steadily in the opposite direction, away from the concept of the civil state under the sponsorship of the civil forces, either towards the perceptions of the state and the logic of its work, or towards the function of religion within the state.

In terms of perceptions regarding the state, we find that the notions of citizenship and equal rights have been eliminated by the law banning demonstrations and the labelling of all dissenting views as terrorism. In addition, we have the politicisation of the judiciary and its rulings which have failed to provide justice for the martyrs of the revolution; instead, they have prosecuted the Muslim Brotherhood and some of the revolutionary icons.

The relationship between the state and the people has been redefined, whereby the latter are merely witnesses summoned upon demand, mandate or in silence while the new government and its political, media and cultural leaders speak on their behalf. The people are cursed and insulted if the government is not applauded or given a mandate, as was the case during the last presidential election, after which all a modern state's mechanisms for providing the means for the expression of the popular will were disabled.

The relationship between the president and the people is no longer a contractual relationship, as it is in a modern state, but is based partly on the supposed "love" of the people for the ex-defence minister/president, and partly on the "sanctity" of the military establishment, and the "obedience" imposed by Egyptian "nationalism" which is neither defined nor identified, but confined to the concept of "with us" or "against us". We also have the "individuality" of the leader which degenerates to the level of letting down the entire nation due to an emotional reaction when Al-Sisi refers to the country as an "embrace" for the people. He ran for president for personal reasons, including his "dreams"; there was nothing partisan or political about the decision. A political programme is, therefore, an added bonus rather than a priority or even a duty.

All of this comes after a revolution that awakened the popular will and freedom of choice by means of modern state democratic mechanisms, such as elections, referendums and the overflowing freedoms that emerged during the revolution and shortly after it, as well as in terms of organised demonstrations with clear political demands and the opening up of the public sphere to various political actors and views.

Regarding the function of religion in the state after the coup, it is said to contradict the idea of the civil state. The new government emerged with religious legitimacy from Al-Azhar, the Coptic Church and the heads of the Salafist movement. This use of religion was a firm approach that made Al-Sisi's religiousness a fundamental issue.

On the level of language, concepts, and logical thinking, the Al-Azhar Sheikh established the legitimacy of the coup on the theory of "the lesser of two evils", a theory associated with necessity. This resonated with writer M. H. Heikal, who referred to Al-Sisi as the "candidate of necessity".

The Head of the Department of Comparative Jurisprudence at Al Azhar University, Saad El-Din Hilaly, had considered the then defence and interior ministers to be "messengers" of God who came with a religious task. This was later repeated by Al-Sisi in a meeting with the Sufi Sheikhs when he spoke about staging the coup "in the service of Islam", that he asks for "reward" from God and that He accepts his deeds, which have actually resulted in thousands of casualties.

In addition to this, the entire "religious perspective" is evident through the "presidential inauguration" speech during which Al-Sisi referred to what he called "the renewal of religious discourse". He explained the function of religion in the public sphere, and said that the state which advocates for this renewed discourse is knowledgeable in the "true religion" and "preserves our system of values and ethics", while "maintaining the true image of our Islamic religion and forming the minds and hearts of Muslims."

Al-Sisi's "innovative" religious vision, which is in alignment with the idea of the "sultan state" that preserves religion, is reflected in the concept of freedom, the framework of which includes "religious and moral laws and rules". It is also reflected in the measures taken by the Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments) that, after taking office, included the re-organisation of religious affairs ranging from sermons and mosques to the religious discourse itself and its content.

In my opinion, the most dangerous matter is the Mubarak and coup governments' use of the religious institutions as a tool to "legitimise" volatile political choices, which has implicated the icons of the religious institution in three sins: blatant contradictions, acting as muftis (religious jurists) when the government requires a fatwa (religious opinion), and abandoning the language of jurisprudence for the language of politics.

Such contradictions include the fact that "official" fatwas are in line with the existing or dominant power, despite the fact that the issue and context remains the same, and the only variable is the position of the mufti.

The ruling regarding demonstrations was changed by Ali Gomaa from banned during Mubarak's rule, to being allowed after the fall of Mubarak, then back to banned once again after the ouster of Morsi. He explained his opposition to the January Revolution as fear of strife and bloodshed, but after the military coup, he allowed bloodshed and the killing of protestors, using a historical term to label them as "Kharijites", saying "whoever kills them is closer to God than them".

The same thing happened with Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb. He deemed protesting impermissible during Mubarak's reign, and after Mubarak was overthrown, he deemed protests to be a "national liberation movement". He then issued a statement saying that "confronting any national peaceful demonstration with force, armed violence and bloodshed contradicts the Charter of Governance between the nation and their rulers, thus diminishing the legitimacy of the authority". Since he supported the coup, all the bloodshed resulting from the military coup is considered to be a case of "the lesser of two evils".

I cannot explain this serious contrast in the "fatwas" which are considered to be "a declaration of God's judgment regarding the situation" by citing jurisprudence. The political system and government declared these muftis to be part of the state institutions and followed their orders. We could view these fatwas as "jurisprudent fatwas" if they had not been so in tune with the government and its needs; if they had distanced themselves from the government's political position; and if they did not label other contradicting fatwas as "political".

Jurisprudence disputes have historic traditions, the most important of which is that they recognise the legitimacy of all interpretations on principle, but I cannot find a trace of such a concept in the "official fatwas" because they are issued to perform a political function by muftis who oppose the Muslim Brotherhood; they hold religious positions that would be threatened if the Brotherhood's authority is established.

The second sin that these muftis committed is that they have become muftis serving the needs of the government. We only see them speaking during political occasions that suit the powers-that-be, while they are absent in the contexts that suit the community, such as their positions on the state's bloodshed, attacks on mosques and human rights violations.

Moreover, their fatwas correspond constantly to the position of the government, leaving no distance between it and the opinion, or between the will of the president and the religious ruling. Their discourse is only aimed at the general public, and does not address the behaviour or policies of the government or institutions of state.

Going back to what I had said in the beginning of this article, I find that the latest phase of the last presidential elections exposed the magnitude of the second and third sins (their transformation into muftis serving the purpose of the government, and their preference for the language of politics). We have witnessed many frequent appearances of the religious figures for the sake of stressing one idea: the duty of the people to participate in the elections due to the coup government's fear of a boycott.

I cannot read into the motives behind these fatwas and statements in isolation from the media and political context which promotes the participation in the elections in order for the new government's arrangements to succeed, as well as to confront the contrasting fatwas that call for boycotts of the elections. We must ask why the institution has made an appearance here, but was absent during the previous elections during Morsi's rule. Duties should not change from one era to another. The Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the Egyptian Grand Mufti and the Awqaf Minister all agreed on the idea of participating in the elections, opposing the boycott and persecuting anyone calling for the boycott.

This duty to participate in the elections was also voiced in other formats. The Al-Azhar Sheikh claimed that it was "the responsibility and duty of every sacred national, and they will not be pardoned from this duty until they vote." He repeated the same thing when he made a statement on behalf of Al-Azhar to Shawki Allam, the Supreme Mufti, when he said, "It is an urgent national responsibility" and, to the Awqaf Minister, that it is "a religious duty and every individual will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment"; those boycotting the elections "will bear the sin of withholding testimony."

This responsibility is voiced by those claiming to represent the "rule of religion" by either being a religious or national duty in order for the decisions of religion and the state to be the sole choice of the government. However, we are facing a political operation in a "state" established on freedom of choice and popular will and, based on this, they are not supposed to influence the will of the voters through any coercive means, religious or governmental.

It is ironic that those calling for the duty to participate in elections are basing their calls on an incorrect jurisprudence standard by considering the elections as a "testimony". According to Islamic Law, testimony is "proving the truth for another individual against another in a judicial session" while elections are a popular choice and giving the state the authority to manage public affairs.

If we study the matter of religious testimony with these muftis, we would depart from the logic of the modern state, because testimony has conditions to be accepted, and it provides justice for the witnesses. The basis of justice in Islam would eliminate a large number of individuals from the right to vote if we wanted to go down the road of religious testimony.

Leaving the area of jurisprudence and resorting to pure politics has driven the official muftis to misguide their opponents and label them as traitors and infidels for the sake of a purely "discretionary" issue based on personal choice and political preferences; this is true in the logic of jurisprudence or in the logic of the modern state.

The Al-Azhar Sheikh considered the fatwa to boycott the elections as "abnormal, biased and misleading" and those who issued such fatwas as having "betrayed their countries and sold their religion to the devil"; they were not "fatwas, rather a mockery." Shawiki Allam said the same thing, and added that it "lacked the criteria considered when issuing fatwas."

If we take a look at these "misguided and misleading, treacherous individuals", as described by the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the Grand Mufti and the Minister of Awqaf, we find that they include individuals such as Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Sheikh Mohamed El Hassan Ould Dedew (Mauritania), Ahmad Raissouni (Morocco), Abdul Majid al-Zindani (Yemen) and others who were pioneers and established the jurisprudence of interests and the foundations of issuing fatwas decades ago.

It is ironic that the Islamists who have hesitated for so long to hand over legitimacy to the approach of elections, and then considered them "procedural" because the supreme reference is to God, are now fighting over the necessity of political action, elections and boycotts, but by means of the crossing between the logic of the modern state and the logic of historical jurisprudence.

I have noted this whole debate to say that the conflict over the "civil state" was neither real nor based on principles. Instead, it was an investment in hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood, overlooking all principles and ideas. The Egyptian elite has allied with the military and acknowledged the severe regression in the achievements of the revolution and the modern state, and has now accepted what was once considered blasphemous. For example, we see Abdul Muti Hijazi and Salah Fadl appearing on Egyptian television stations to praise the only "democratic elections" Egypt has seen in six decades (which brought Al-Sisi to power) and that these elections protected them from the "Islamic Sultanate" that the Brotherhood would have brought.

Translated from Al Jazeera net, 19 July, 2014

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Moataz Al-Khateeb) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:04:49 +0000
Belgian PM condemns Israel's attack on Shujaya https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12989-belgian-pm-condemns-israels-attack-on-shujaya https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12989-belgian-pm-condemns-israels-attack-on-shujaya Prime Minister Elio Di RupoThe Belgian prime minister has condemned Israel's "disproportionate" use of force in Gaza and the attack it carried out in the neighbourhood of Shujaya.

An explosion in violence in the Middle East, tragic loss of civilian lives and the worsening humanitarian conditions have led to a "descent into terror," Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said Tuesday in a written statement.

"Although I accept Israel's legitimate security measures, I also condemn the completely disproportionate use of force by the Israeli military, including the attack on the neighborhood of Shujaya," Di Rupo said.

Di Rupo, joining calls for Israel and Hamas to immediately call a ceasefire and for both sides to display complete respect for international law, asked EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, as well as the international community, to end the violence and increase pressure on Israel and Palestine to return to negotiations for a permanent solution.

"The international community must undertake every endeavor in order to secure the lives of everyone living in the region, including the people of Gaza, under conditions they can accept," said Di Rupo. "Israel's security needs must be protected, and other elements including humanitarian aid, trade, goods, and migration to and from Gaza must immediately resume, which means that talks must begin without preconditions."

In all, 72 Palestinians have lost their lives and more than 400 people have been injured in attacks by the Israeli military in Gaza's Shujaya neighborhood.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:14:15 +0000
Israel annihilates 50 families in Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12988-israel-annihilates-50-families-in-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12988-israel-annihilates-50-families-in-gaza Eur-Mid Observer logoIsrael has escalated its targeting of civilians in Gaza during its ongoing onslaught on the Strip for the sixteenth consecutive day in an unprecedented manner, a European human rights organisation said today.

The Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, based in Geneva, Switzerland, said the Israeli troops increased their targeting of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip in recent days.

The organisation confirmed that around 50 Palestinian families were targeted, wiping out entire families since the start of the Israeli onslaught on Gaza on July 7. The number of victims from families completely decimated reached 213.

Euro-Mid warned against further escalation in the targeting of Palestinian families. It noted that Israeli fighter planes bombed the house of the Abu Jami' family to the east of Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip. The house consisted of three floors where five families lived. The attack on Sunday evening resulted in the death of all 26 people inside the house, including 18 children. Only three people survived.

The observatory also denounced the Israeli forces for targeting the house of Al-Kilani family in Al-Salam Building next to Al-Isra' tower in the centre of Gaza on Monday evening. The attack resulted in the death of 11 people including five children and their parents and siblings.

The total number of raids carried out by the Israeli army since the start of its onslaught, according to the observatory, has reached 15,041 of which 4,349 were with missiles, 4,367 with shells from the sea and 6,325 with artillery shells.

The observatory noted the targeting by Israeli fighter planes of mosques. Since the start of the onslaught, it said, 45 mosques were hit of which seven were razed to the ground.

According to the observatory 10 hospitals and medical clinics were targeted since the start of the onslaught. This is in addition to six water desalination and sewage treatment plants that serve more than 600,000 citizens.

It stressed that these examples of the targeting of Palestinian families, and such noticeable rise in the number of civilian victims during the past few days, provide a perspective that unless there is some strong deterrent nothing will change on the ground.

More than 609 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's latest assault on the Gaza Strip, most have been women and children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

According to the Israeli officials, 27 Israeli soldiers and two civilians have so far been killed. Ninety Israeli soldiers were wounded. Hamas' military wing, Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, say they have killed 45 Israeli troops.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:06:52 +0000
Lebanese TV stations unite news broadcast in solidarity with Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12987-lebanese-tv-stations-unite-news-broadcast-in-solidarity-with-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12987-lebanese-tv-stations-unite-news-broadcast-in-solidarity-with-gaza One PalestineEight major Lebanese TV channels yesterday evening aired a united news broadcast entitled "Palestine...You're not alone", in solidarity with the people of Gaza against the Israeli aggression which has led to the killing of more than 600 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

The half hour news broadcast was aired at 20:10 and included reports covering the humanitarian dimensions of the Israeli aggression on Gaza.

Uniting for Gaza

The stations who took part in the initiative were:

  • Tele Leban
  • Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC)
  • Al-Jadeed TV
  • MTV
  • NBA TV
  • Al-Manar TV
  • Future TV
  • OTV

Editor-in-Chief of the As-Safir newspaper, Talal Salman who launched the initiative told AFP: "We suffered similar pains and it is only natural to tell the people of Gaza that we are with you.

"We cannot send them aid or arms but at least we can raise our voice and say we are with you, your cause is fair and we share your pains and sufferings. It is the only thing we can."

Salman pointed out that "it is the first time that the Lebanese TV channels take this step" noting that despite their political and partisan difference, the channels responded to the initiative due to the scale of the disaster.

LBC Chief Editor Lara Zelaum said the news broadcast was a "joint effort in every sense of the word including technical and editorial levels to salute the people of Gaza and their children."

Zelaum said: "We have limited capacities, but it is a simple gesture to the Gaza Strip, to tell the people there that we see and stand in solidarity with them."

Social networking sites launched a hash tag in solidarity with the Gaza Strip to coincide with the united broadcast. One user wrote on Twitter: "This is Lebanon embracing your wounds through its visual media in a symbolic gesture. We assure you that you are not alone, your enemy is the entire nation's enemy."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:44:01 +0000
Netanyahu's misplaced quest for legitimacy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/12986-netanyahus-misplaced-quest-for-legitimacy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/12986-netanyahus-misplaced-quest-for-legitimacy Benjamin NetanyahuDuring a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ensured the continuation of twisted rhetoric by evoking the deaths of Israeli soldiers as an ultimate expression of misplaced patriotism. Speaking at the Kirya Military Headquarters, the massacres committed during the operation it has called "Protective Edge" were described as the settler-colonial state's efforts in fighting "the battle against terror, which is part of the historic campaign to harm us since the foundation of the state".

Netanyahu also expounded upon Hamas' refusal to accept the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. According to the Times of Israel, opposition to the ceasefire served to bolster Israel's alleged "widespread international legitimacy", providing the brutal army with "the opportunity to deal with the 'strategic effort' of tunnel attacks".

Netanyahu's comments were echoed by Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon and an unnamed senior Israeli official. Ya'alon hinted at a long operation following the destruction of tunnels in Gaza, while the Israeli official maintained the regurgitated argument involving the usual concoction of tunnels, terrorism and allegedly humanitarian concern for civilians in the form of ineffective warnings prior to a new bout of murder. "Our operation is against terrorist targets. In Shujaya there's production, storage and launching of rockets at Israel. You also have the terror tunnels used by Hamas terrorist operatives to infiltrate Israel in order to maim and murder."

While the world is left in no doubt as to the entity perpetrating maiming and murder, international complicity, hypocritically and intentionally misconstrued by Netanyahu as "legitimacy", remains Israel's best ally. The United Nations and its affiliated organisations indulge in citations of statistical data, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon usurps the temporary limelight by uttering statements concealing the brutal vengeance unleashed by the monstrosity the UN created through its endorsement of settler-colonialism in Palestine. Both tactics – the quoting of statistics and patronising statements attempting to portray an equal conflict, aid Netanyahu's strategy of creating an imaginary "terror" entity in order to assign blame. World leaders have defended Netanyahu's narrative, presumably the murdered Palestinian civilians in Gaza stand as testimony to the gruesome Zionist narrative of defending the fabricated "homeland".

In addition, "Protective Edge" is being perceived by Israel and its allies as an opportunity to further endless "peace" negotiations, indicating PA President Mahmoud Abbas' detachment from Palestinians' reality and the absolute adherence to Zionist narrative. Abbas has repeatedly distanced himself from Palestinian resistance, invoking diplomacy as a preferred option to recognising Palestinians' right to armed struggle and liberation of the entire territory. Recently, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro hinted at US attempts to enforce PA influence in Gaza as an allegedly strategic step in the aftermath of the current Israeli-inflicted bloodbath.

Contrary to Netanyahu's assertions, there is no historic campaign to "harm" the Zionist state. Hamas and other Palestinian resistance factions fighting colonial violence seek the liberation of historic Palestine – an absolute eradication of the settler-colonial state. "Protective Edge" is a massacre reflecting Zionist oppression to expand its illegal presence in Palestine. Hence, obliterating the myth of Israel and its manifestation remains a legitimate struggle that should be internationally endorsed.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ramona Wadi) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:38:22 +0000
Israel recognises one of its soldiers went missing https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12985-israel-recognises-one-of-its-soldiers-went-missing https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12985-israel-recognises-one-of-its-soldiers-went-missing Al-Qassam's spokesperson Abu-ObaidaThe Israeli occupation army announced on Tuesday morning that one of its soldiers went missing during Sunday's clashes with Hamas fighters inside Palestinian territory, Israeli media reported.

Hamas's military wing Al-Qassam Brigades revealed on Sunday that its fighters had captured an Israeli soldier during clashes within the borders of the Gaza Strip.

Al-Qassam's spokesperson Abu-Obaida said: "Now, the Israeli soldier Oron Shaul is in the hands of the Palestinian resistance."

The revelation prompted massive celebrations within the Palestinian territories, including the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israel initially denied the capture but recognised the death of seven soldiers. However, on Tuesday morning the Times of Israel published the following statement by the occupation army:

"In the early hours of Sunday, 20 July 2014, an armoured vehicle carrying seven soldiers of the Golani Brigade was severely damaged in battle.

"Last night, the seven families of soldiers who were involved in the incident were briefed on the circumstances of the attack.

"The identification process of six of the soldiers killed has been completed and confirmed. The efforts to identify the seventh soldier are ongoing and have yet to be determined."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:28:17 +0000
Turkey declares three days of mourning for Gaza victims https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12984-turkey-declares-three-days-of-mourning-for-gaza-victims https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12984-turkey-declares-three-days-of-mourning-for-gaza-victims Turkish flag flys at half-mast to mourn the victims in GazaTurkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç told journalists on Monday that his government has declared three days of mourning for the Palestinian victims killed in Israel's war on Gaza, Turkish news agency Anadolu reported.

After the government's bi-weekly cabinet meeting, Arınç announced that the three days of mourning, which is aimed to support Gaza's resistance against Israel, would start from Tuesday.

Despite growing calls for a halt to the two weeks of fighting, the violence against Gaza has raged on. Israeli jets, tanks and artillery have constantly pounded the densely populated coastal strip, killing at least 585 and wounding more than 3,650 others, most of them civilians.

Arınç, who is also the government's spokesperson, said Ankara "curses the massacre" by Israel and its ruthless mass punishment against the Palestinian people.

He called upon Israel to immediately stop striking the Gaza Strip, noting that this is the official demand of the Turkish government. He reiterated that his country has been in contact with all sides aiming to reach a ceasefire.

The Turkish official said that the position of his country is to support the oppressed and stand beside their rights, not to back the strong. "We support the Palestinian cause and stand for it in all international institutions," he said.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:22:29 +0000
El-Beltagy's lawyer requests surgery for his client https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12983-el-beltagys-lawyer-requests-surgery-for-his-client https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12983-el-beltagys-lawyer-requests-surgery-for-his-client Mohamad Beltagy (center), seen here at his sentencing, with Mohammed Badie and other Muslim Brotherhood leadersThe lawyer representing Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamead El-Beltagy requested he be allowed to undergo medical surgery to treat his abdominal hernia under the supervision of his physicians Dr Medhat Assem and Dr Mohammed Yusuf.

The Cairo Criminal Court listened to El-Beltagy and Islamic preacher Safwat Hegazi's legal representative who said that he insists on all the objections he presented to the court during the last hearing especially against ​​placing his clients in a glass cage which separates them from the court in clear violation of the law.

El-Beltagy's lawyer pointed out that, although his clients were physically present in the court room, they are in total isolation.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:18:23 +0000
Hamas to the world: Gaza has decided to break its siege https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12982-hamas-to-the-world-gaza-has-decided-to-break-its-siege https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12982-hamas-to-the-world-gaza-has-decided-to-break-its-siege Ismail HaniyehDeputy Head of Hamas's Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh addressed the world on Monday, saying: "Gaza has decided to break its siege with blood, steadfastness and resistance."

Israel has been imposing a strict siege of Gaza for about eight years, and yet the international community and most Arab countries have done nothing to challenge this illegal blockade.

Speaking on Al-Aqsa television, Haniyeh stressed that the Palestinians in Gaza had decided not to retreat from their position and reaffirmed the demands of the Palestinian fighters: "Stopping the Israeli aggression, lifting the siege with all of its consequences, releasing all prisoners freed in the 2011 exchange and guaranteeing that there will be no repetition of Israeli aggression."

Haniyeh pointed out that: "These are consistent and just humanitarian demands, in keeping with international law and the previous agreements." He called for all free nations to support the demands of the people in the Gaza Strip until the end of the bloodbath in Gaza.

Criticising Israel's massacres in Gaza, he said: "The Israeli massacres against civilians in Gaza are proof of its inability to face the Palestinian fighters."

Regarding the resistance, he said: "Resistance and national unity will achieve the Palestinian demands." He added that popular support for the Palestinian resistance gives it more strength to stick to its demands, "which are the people's demands".

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:12:34 +0000
Israel 'deliberately' targets healthcare institutions in Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12981-israel-deliberately-targets-healthcare-institutions-in-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12981-israel-deliberately-targets-healthcare-institutions-in-gaza Smoke trails when Israel shelled the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza Strip, left four Palestinians killed and more than 20 wounded on Monday, July 21,2014VIDEO

The Palestinian ministry of health in the Gaza Strip said on Monday that the Israeli occupation has been "deliberately" targeting healthcare institutions since the beginning of the war, Anadolu news agency reported.

During a press conference at Al-Shifa, the main hospital in Gaza, Deputy Assistant of the Health Minister Medhat Moheesin said: "So far, Israel has targeted 25 healthcare institutions. The last was Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deerul-Balah, in central Gaza Strip, which was hit by 25 artillery shells at midday." The strike killed five Palestinians and left more than a dozen wounded.

Moheesin denounced these attacks for violating international law and war conventions, saying that they go against "the most basic humanitarian morals".

He added that several paramedics were also killed while trying to evacuate casualties from those areas hit hardest by Israeli strikes. The last one was killed in Shajaiya alongside a firefighter and a journalist. All of them were killed while wearing distinctive uniforms.

Regarding the massacre in Shajaiya, he warned of an imminent environmental disaster because Israel continues to prevent the evacuation of those killed remaining under the rubble. He also expressed fears that there might be some wounded still alive who need immediate help.

Since Sunday, the Israeli occupation has been preventing paramedics and firefighters from evacuating casualties or extinguishing fires in the Shajaiya, Tuffah and Zaytoun neighbourhoods.

Moheesin called upon the world to demand the opening of the Rafah Crossing in order to let in urgent humanitarian aid, including medical staff and supplies. He also appealed to all interested organisations to work for the protection of Palestinian healthcare institutions in Gaza.

Israel has killed 584 Palestinians and wounded more than 3,650 since the beginning of its massive assault on the Palestinians in Gaza. Most of the casualties are children, women and the elderly.

** The video below may not be suitable for all **

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:03:45 +0000
Hamas: 'No ceasefire has been reached, we reaffirm our conditions' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12980-hamas-no-ceasefire-has-been-reached-we-reaffirm-our-conditions https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12980-hamas-no-ceasefire-has-been-reached-we-reaffirm-our-conditions File photo of soldiers of the Palestinian resistance group Al-Qassam BrigadeHamas would agree to a temporary calm to allow humanitarian aid to get into Gaza, however it will not agree to a ceasefire until the terms and demands of the resistance are agreed to, member of the group's political bureau Mohamed Nazzal said this morning.

Nazzal denied, in an exclusive statement to Al-Resaleh Net, reaching an agreement for calm between Hamas and Israel for humanitarian purposes, contrary to media reports.

He confirmed the existence of talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, in order to discuss ways to reach an agreement for a ceasefire.

Adding that his movement still rejected the Egyptian initiative, but did not reject the role of Egypt in a future agreement, and welcomed any dialogue which takes into account the resistance's terms and conditions.

First, he explained, Hamas will discuss the ceasefire, and then negotiate on the prisoner of war who was captured during the ongoing offensive in Gaza.

Nazzal explained that the movement refused a return to the 2012 agreement because circumstances have now changed.

The leader of Hamas said that the Palestinian resistance has a lot of surprises for Israel on the field, and will continue to defend its people, pointing out that prisoners of war form a milestone in the battle.

He added that capturing prisoners of war is a strategic move for the resistance, one that has become a nightmare for Israel.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:51:39 +0000
Al Jazeera accuses Israel of targeting its Gaza office https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12979-al-jazeera-accuses-israel-of-targeting-its-gaza-office https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12979-al-jazeera-accuses-israel-of-targeting-its-gaza-office Avigdor LiebermanAn Israeli tank shelled Al Jazeera news network's office in Gaza City on Tuesday, one of the network's correspondents in the embattled enclave said.

"Al Jazeera's office was targeted this morning with two shells from an Israeli tank stationed on the Gaza Strip's eastern border," Tamer al-Mishal told Anadolu Agency.

"The staff managed to exit safely but the office sustained damage," he added.

Al-Mishal went on to say that the Qatar-owned network will continue to broadcast from Gaza, where an ongoing wide-scale Israeli offensive continues to wreak havoc on the blockaded coastal enclave.

Since July 7, Israeli warplanes and navy, and more recently ground troops, have pounded the embattled coastal enclave with the stated aim of halting Palestinian rocket fire.

At least 583 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the unrelenting attacks.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was quoted by the Israeli daily Haaretz on Monday as saying that his government was seeking to bar Al Jazeera from broadcasting from Israel.

Several journalists have reportedly been wounded in seperate Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate has accused Israeli forces of killing Palestinian cameraman Khaled Hamed while on duty during an indiscriminate shelling on the Shujaya neighborhood in eastern Gaza City.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement Friday that it was "alarmed" by Israeli airstrikes on buildings housing media outlets in Gaza, saying that Israeli military forces know the locations of such outlets.

Israel's military operation, dubbed "Operation Protective Edge," is the self-proclaimed Jewish state's third major offensive against the densely-populated Gaza Strip – which is home to some 1.8 million Palestinians – within the last six years.

Report by Hedaya al-Saidi for Anadolu Agency

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:49:25 +0000
50 parliamentary candidates compete for Iraq's presidency https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12978-50-parliamentary-candidates-compete-for-iraqs-presidency https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12978-50-parliamentary-candidates-compete-for-iraqs-presidency Jalal Talabani with Kosret ResulAn Iraqi state-run newspaper reported yesterday that 50 Iraqis nominated themselves for the post of president in the next elections.

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim Al-Jabouri announced the acceptance of candidacy applications from those willing to compete for the post of president of the Republic of Iraq.

State-run newspaper Al-Sabah said: "The number of candidates who have applied to nominate themselves for this position have reached 50 from across all components of Iraqi society. This is an unprecedented situation as this post has always gone to the Kurdistan Alliance and to be exclusive for the National Union Party, led by current President Jalal Talabani."

The newspaper explained: "Although the Kurds, represented by Jalal Talabani, have had this post for two consecutive terms, they are facing a dilemma over proposing a new name that would be acceptable to all Iraqi forces, with the absence of Talabani from the new candidates list. This seems to have resulted in a dilemma in choosing a new name that would be acceptable by all the Kurdish forces, making their position vague up to the minute with the presence of four candidates, each of them supported by some forces and rejected by others."

The newspaper added: "As for Fuad Masum and Adnan Mufti, the first has health conditions that prevent him from running for this post and the second does not enjoy any support from within the leadership of the National Union except for his good relationship with Massoud Barzani, president of the province."

Al-Sabah explained: "Amid the busy time the Kurds are having trying to choose a candidate who is appealing among the Kurdish parties, other candidates from different blocs and different components, who refuse the idea of the presidency exclusivity to only one component, considering their nomination the first step in breaking the barrier of quotas and a step on the road of having a real democratic process, away from the agreements held in closed halls and dark corridors."

The media outlet noted that "among the 50 candidates who do not meet the political consensus terms is: candidate Hussein Al-Musawi, who had previously nominated himself to compete with Jalal Talabani in the last election in 2010; MP Fawzi Tarzi, who is close to Al-Sadri movement led by Muqtada Al-Sadr; MP for the Coalition of Iraq Shaker Ketab; and the independent MP Mehdi Al-Hafez, who works as the legislation chairman in the current Iraqi parliament."

It is expected that the parliament will hold a session tomorrow to elect the president and two vice presidents.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:42:17 +0000
UN Human Rights Council to hold emergency session on Gaza tomorrow https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/12977-un-human-rights-council-to-hold-emergency-session-on-gaza-tomorrow https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/12977-un-human-rights-council-to-hold-emergency-session-on-gaza-tomorrow UNHRC Meeting RoomThe United Nation's Human Rights Council is holding a special meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip in response to a request ​made by Egypt, Palestine and Pakistan.

A statement issued by the Council yesterday and published on its official website reads: "The President of the Human Rights Council received a letter on Friday July 18 signed by the Permanent Representative of Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine containing the request to convene the Special Session."

According to a statement of the Geneva-based Council, the majority of the council's Member States supported the request. The Human Rights Council has 47 Member States and in order for a Special Session to be convened, the support of one-third of the Council - 16 or more - is required.

A high-level Egyptian diplomatic source said that his country had agreed with the Arab and Islamic group in Geneva to submit a request to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations for holding an emergency session to discuss the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip.

The source added: "The meeting aims to discuss the deteriorating situation in Gaza, especially after the rise in the number of those dead and injured, and to ensure protection for civilians."

This comes as Egypt attempts to activate an initiative which it had proposed, last week, for a ceasefire in Gaza, which includes the cessation of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian factions, the opening of border crossings and facilitating the movement of persons and goods through border crossings in light of the stability of the security situation on the ground.

Hamas has rejected the initiative because it "does not respond to the Palestinian conditions".

Previously, a source close to Hamas said that that the Palestinian resistance factions had submitted its demands to Qatar, Turkey and the Arab League.

The source said that the Palestinian factions have six demands to accept a truce in Gaza, the most important of which is lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip.

Since July 7, the Israeli Air Force has been attacking different parts of the Gaza Strip, in a military operation that Israel called "Operation Protective Edge", which has resulted in the death of 604 citizens, and the injury of about another 3,500 Palestinians in Gaza.

On the other hand, the operation caused the death of 27 Israeli soldiers.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:39:49 +0000
Palestinian security services working to undermine efforts to launch new intifada https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12976-palestinian-security-services-working-to-undermine-efforts-to-launch-new-intifada https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12976-palestinian-security-services-working-to-undermine-efforts-to-launch-new-intifada Palestinian policemen prevent protesters during a demonstration against the Israeli military action in Gaza Strip at the Beit Eil near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 20, 2014Palestinian security services cracked down on Monday night on a demonstration of angry Palestinians protesting against the Israeli occupation's war on the Gaza Strip.

The protesters took to the streets of the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah and headed towards the Israeli settlement of Beit El, in the north of the city; however, Palestinian Authority (PA) security services fired tear gas at the protestors, blocking the way to the settlement.

Clashes erupted and three protesters and three security staff were wounded in the clashes. PA security services banned journalists from covering the incident.

After about one hour of clashes, PA security services reportedly withdrew and the protesters continued towards the settlement. Several similar protests have been reported in previous days amidst calls to stop security cooperation between the PA and Israel.

Al-Arab Al-Yawm newspaper quoted a PA security official as saying that PA President Mahmoud Abbas gave directives to deal strictly with citizens attempting to ignite a third intifada. Abbas does not believe that resistance is the way for Palestinians to regain their rights.

For this reason, the PA security services are being deployed in the areas where it is possible for Palestinian youths to clash with Israeli occupation forces or settlers.

The PA security official told the newspaper that security forces had received clear directions from high-level political and security officials to prevent Palestinian youths from reaching any of the Israeli occupation army's checkpoints in order to "protect the lives of these youths".

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:24:13 +0000
Senior Zintan leader asks Ghannouchi to mediate a ceasefire in Tripoli https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12975-senior-zintan-leader-asks-ghannouchi-to-mediate-a-ceasefire-in-tripoli https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12975-senior-zintan-leader-asks-ghannouchi-to-mediate-a-ceasefire-in-tripoli Libya - Tripoli International AirportHead of Libya's Al-Qimmah Party and a prominent Zintan Brigade leader, Abdullah Naker said he called the head of Tunisia's Ennahda Party Rashid Ghannouchi and asked him to mediate a ceasefire around the Tripoli International Airport, the Anadolu news agency reported.

Naker told Anadolu: "We have confidence in this man, therefore we asked him to mediate a real ceasefire agreement and we reiterate our calls to save the Libyans blood. No one can win this battle because those who die every day are the Libyans," adding "we are defending ourselves at the airport and cannot understand all of this hostility against us. Arms and force will not solve our problems today. Only unity can solve Libya's problems."

Naker pointed out that his brigades hope to clear Libya from the weapons and to allow the Libyans to express their differences in the squares and fields peacefully and without fighting. He said: "the forces attacking the Sawa'eq and Al-Qaqa'a battalions accuse them of allying with the renegade General Khalifa Haftar which is untrue. We have no relationship with Haftar. We are against terrorism and with the construction of the Libyan state."

A source close to Ghannouchi's office confirmed that Naker had indeed requested his mediation. The source, who requested anonymity, told Anadolu: "We are examining the possibilities of reconciling the Libyan brothers."

The Libyan capital, Tripoli witnessed on Sunday the most violent clashes since the start of the fighting between the Libyan Revolutionaries joint Operation Room from the city of Misrata, northwest, against the Al-Qaqa'a, Sawa'eq and Madani battalions from the town of Zintan who took control of the airport since the overthrow of the former regime of late Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The Libyan Ministry of Health announced that 47 were killed and 120 were injured during clashes between the warring battalions for the control of the airport.

On Thursday, Libya closed its airspace, excluding the eastern region during the day, due to the difficulty to control air traffic.

The clashes led to the destruction of the aircrafts parked at the airport and prompted the United Nations to withdraw its employees.

On the same day, the Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz asked the UN Security Council approve the deployment of an international mission to stabilise and rebuild the institutions in his country.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:19:18 +0000
Kuwait withdraws citizenship from opposition members https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12974-kuwait-withdraws-citizenship-from-opposition-members https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12974-kuwait-withdraws-citizenship-from-opposition-members Kuwaiti ParliamentThe Kuwaiti Cabinet decided yesterday to withdraw the Kuwaiti citizenship from two pro-opposition members and their families and to close several associations belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, the Anadolu news agency reported.

The cabinet revoked the citizenship of Ahmed Jaber Kadhim Al-Shammari, owner of Al-Youm satellite channel and Al-Alam Al-Yaoum newspaper for reasons of "public interest" and that of former opposition MP Abdullah Al-Barghash claiming he acquired the citizenship "through fraud".

The government threatened last week that it will take all necessary procedures against those suspected of trying to "destabilise" the country in the wake of protests which erupted last month demanding the release of opposition leader, former MP Musallam Al-Barrak who was arrested on charges of insulting the judiciary.

Al-Barrak was released on July 7.

Observers said the measures target naturalised Kuwaitis who have joined the opposition.

The Kuwait News Agency said the cabinet decided, during its weekly meeting yesterday, to withdraw the Kuwaiti nationality from Ahmed Jaber Kadhim Al-Shammari and his family based on Article 13 of the 1959 Kuwaiti Nationality Law No. 15.

The article provides that, upon the Interior Ministry's request, the Kuwaiti nationality can be revoked "if the competent authorities received sufficient evidence of involvement in actions that could undermine the state's economic or social system or belonging to a foreign political body."

The government said the Kuwaiti nationality was revoked from Abdullah Ayed Al-Barghash and his brothers; Saad and Nasser and Nora according to the Nationality Law which stipulates that "the Kuwaiti citizenship is revoked if found to be obtained unlawfully on the basis of fraud or false statements or inaccurate certificates. However the government did not explain the actions that lead Al-Barghash to lose his citizenship.

The cabinet's decision was based on report submitted by Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammed Khaled Al-Sabah.

The government said last week that it will act with an "iron fist" to defend the state's prestige and commissioned the Interior Ministry to take all necessary measures to ensure the stability and security.

The Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, Hind Sabih Barak Sabeeh presented on Sunday, the actions taken by her Ministry against associations that seemed to have acted contrary to the Kuwaiti NGOs Law.

Sabeeh did not list the names of organisations affected by the Ministry's actions but Kuwait's Gazette newspaper said the cabinet decided to withdraw the licenses from six charitable associations for violating the charitable work law.

The paper pointed out three of the six organisations belong to the Social Reform Association, led by the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait, and three others belong to the Islamic Heritage Revival Society, run by Salafists.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:13:43 +0000
Ghannouchi: 'There's a difference between those who act to stop the aggression and those who collude with the occupation' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12973-ghannouchi-theres-a-difference-between-those-who-act-to-stop-the-aggression-and-those-who-collude-with-the-occupation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12973-ghannouchi-theres-a-difference-between-those-who-act-to-stop-the-aggression-and-those-who-collude-with-the-occupation Sheikh Rashid GhannouchiThe Head of the Tunisian Islamic party Ennahda Sheikh Rashiid Ghannouchi yesterday evening rebuked the Egyptian authorities' refusal to receive a Tunisian plane equipped with medicines and medical aid for the Gaza Strip.

Ghannouchi said, during a telephone call with Al-Jazeera, that the Egyptian authorities refused to give consent for this plane to land at the nearest airport to the Strip, despite explaining that the plane was carrying medical aid and medicines for Gaza which is suffering from a severe shortage of medicines and medical supplies.

He indicated that the plane was supposed to return to Tunisia carrying the wounded and injured from the ongoing Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.

Ghannouchi added that there are "movements that want to make Gaza bleed and send it back to the old ages," and "there is a difference between those who act to stop the aggression and those who collude with the occupation."

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki revealed last week that his country intended to send a plane full of medical aid and medicines to the Gaza Strip.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:09:18 +0000
EU extends suspension of sanctions on Iran until November https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12972-eu-extends-suspension-of-sanctions-on-iran-until-november https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12972-eu-extends-suspension-of-sanctions-on-iran-until-november Mohammad Javad ZarifThe European Union decided yesterday to extend the suspension of sanctions imposed on Iran specified in the Joint Plan of Action agreed by P5+1 and Iran last year until November 24, the Anadolu news agency reported.

An EU statement said: "The suspension of sanctions allows the provision of insurance and transport in relation to the Iranian crude oil sales to current customers, import, purchase or transfer of Iranian petrochemical products as well as trade in gold and precious metals with the Iranian government and public bodies."

The six world powers decided on November 24, 2013, to ease sanctions imposed on Iran under the Joint Plan of Action, also known as the interim agreement with Iran in Geneva, until they reached a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear file.

The EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton and the foreign ministers of the P5+1 agreed, during their meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last Saturday in Vienna to extend the suspension of sanctions until November 2014 from its original deadline on July 20.

This year, Iran and P5+1 held six rounds of talks without reaching a final agreement due to disagreements over several issues, mainly Iran's nuclear future, the permitted number of centrifuges and the Arak nuclear plant.

P5+1 include the five permanent members of the UN Security Council; United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:03:10 +0000
The truth about Israel's new war on Gaza – the energy rush https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/12971-the-truth-about-israels-new-war-on-gaza--the-energy-rush https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/12971-the-truth-about-israels-new-war-on-gaza--the-energy-rush Gas PipelineWhile Israel has deployed its media machine, telling the world that it has the right to defend itself against foreign aggression, arguing that no country should ever be made to tolerate systematic terror, even though under international law such narrative holds no legal ground as Israel has been de facto occupying Gaza, rendering null and void the notion of Gaza as a foreign entity, little has been said of Israel's real motives.

To quickly settle Israel's argument that it legally and morally can and should defend itself against any aggression coming from Gaza, it is important to understand that the Gaza Strip is not, under international law, a sovereign state, it is an occupied land, therefore Israel cannot declare war on its people, rather it owes its people protection.

As explained by Nura Erakat in a report published in Intifada Palestine, "Military occupation is a recognised status under international law and since 1967, the international community has designated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as militarily occupied. As long as the occupation continues, Israel has the right to protect itself and its citizens from attacks by Palestinians who reside in the occupied territories. However, Israel also has a duty to maintain law and order, also known as 'normal life', within territory it occupies. This obligation includes not only ensuring, but prioritising, the security and well-being of the occupied population. That responsibility and those duties are enumerated in Occupation Law."

As for Palestinians in Gaza they do however have an inherent right to resist foreign occupation. Such right is again, protected under international law.

But as the following arguments will attempt to demonstrate all the above, the contradicting narratives, the political manipulations and media campaigns, are but a distraction from far more pragmatic realities and maybe truth – the war on Gaza has little to do with sovereignty, terror, politics or even religion, rather it has everything to do with energy.

If Israel is so keen on levelling Hamas it is essentially because the faction has categorically refused to discuss an energy sharing agreement whereby Israel would have access to Gaza's gas resources.

Let us all remember that Israel faces an energy crisis of biblical proportion and that Gaza's untapped and unexploited billions of dollars represent a fortune and a lifeline which Tel Aviv will not tolerate to go to waste.

As noted by Tascha Shahriari-Parsa: "Operation Protective Edge is the war of a colonial state dedicated to expanding its theft of Palestine's natural resources ... incarcerating and bombing its people in the world's biggest open air prison, while growing rich at their expense."

Rather than a bunch of lunatic radicals animated by the savagery of the crusades, Zionists are actually quite a practical bunch. What they seek in Gaza is merely access to Palestine's underground riches. Whatever happens on the surface is just there to act as a public distraction, a ploy designed for the masses so that Israel could commit grand larceny in perfect impunity under the very nose of the ever pliable world community. Who after all would dare deny the plight of martyr Israel?

To borrow the words of Tascha Shahriari-Parsa when she wrote a report for The Ecologist: "Behind the operation, behind the mass Israeli and US propaganda attempting to justify the massacre, and behind the death of every child in Gaza is a conflict rarely discussed - an imperialist conflict and a contradiction that rests on Israel's ambitions to appropriate and profit from Gaza's natural gas resources."

Palestine's vast natural resources

Let us go back to 2000 when British Gas (BG) discovered that Gaza sat on an estimated $4 billion worth of natural gas. Needless to say that this discovery came as a shock to Israel, as suddenly Gaza, this little slither of land which Palestinians have been discarded upon, this purgatory which Zionists imagined to crush Palestinians' hopes and dreams, became a key geo-strategic priority. Come hail and high waters, Israel would have to gain access to those resources.

Since BG made its first estimation, it was established that Gaza's gas reserves are far greater than first anticipated. According to Michel Chossudovsky, a Canadian economist and prominent analyst, Gaza is basking in as much wealth as the State of Kuwait.

Rather than live in abject poverty, Gaza should be a vibrant business hub, a brilliant economic success. Instead, it has been withering away under Israel's blockade, forced to scrap and beg for its daily bread, its people reduced to servitude.

Let us remember that Israel's maritime blockade coincides with BG's discovery. Let us remember that it is since 2000 that Israel has denied Palestine access to its territorial waters, thus infringing on international law and de facto putting Gaza under siege; all because Israel wants to pillage Palestine's resources.

Not convinced yet?

Well, let us refer to an interesting and rather revealing comment made by former Israeli army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon back in 2007 when he laid bare Israel's true motives. Answering comments in regards to Gaza's gas riches, he noted: "Proceeds of a Palestinian gas sale to Israel would likely not trickle down to help an impoverished Palestinian public. Rather, based on Israel's past experience, the proceeds will likely serve to fund further terror attacks against Israel. A gas transaction with the Palestinian Authority will, by definition, involve Hamas. Hamas will either benefit from the royalties or it will sabotage the project and launch attacks against Fatah, the gas installations, Israel - or all three ... It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement."

What Ya'alon is really saying is that since Hamas will unlikely agree to a deal with Israel, Israel needs therefore to eliminate Hamas, by declaring its faction a terror organisation – even though many would argue that it is a resistance movement, according to international law.

Israel needs gas now!

So why a war now? To put it bluntly, Israel cannot wait any longer. Plagued by high unemployment and rising inflation, Israel needs to find a viable solution to both its energy crisis and mounting economic difficulties – financing an eternal war can be rather costly.

According to Israel's own projection, the state will face an aggravated energy crisis by 2020. Earlier this July, Haaretz published a report in which it quoted the excerpt of a report written by chief scientists from the Energy and Water Ministry and the Environmental Protection Ministry, explicitly mapping out Israel's energy crisis. It read "We believe Israel should increase its [domestic] use of natural gas by 2020 and should not export gas. The Natural Gas Authority's estimates are lacking. There's a gap of 100 to 150 billion cubic metres between the demand projections that were presented to the committee and the most recent projections. The gas reserves are likely to last even less than 40 years!"

Israel is quite simply running out of time. If recent mass protests in Israel in regards to depreciating living conditions and social injustice are anything to go by, officials indeed feel a great sense of urgency.

As Israel's needs increase, so has its determination to by-pass international law, as before Israel's will nations should only bow and recoil in awe.

Since whatever Israel cannot negotiate it will obliterate, beginning of course with Hamas, the war on Gaza came as a natural development to Israel's geo-strategic realities.

Let us remember that the last time Israel marched on Gaza, in 2008, its military deployment also aligned with its contracting of BG to discuss critical negotiations around Gaza's natural gas. A coincidence? Maybe not.

This new war on Gaza is a colonial war. This new war on Gaza has little to do with self-defence or terror or sovereignty... it has however everything to do with Israel's neo-imperialistic ambitions.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Catherine Shakdam) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:27:52 +0000
David Cameron displays contempt for international law https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/12970-david-cameron-displays-contempt-for-international-law https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/12970-david-cameron-displays-contempt-for-international-law Amelia SmithDavid Cameron came to power in 2010 promising service cuts unprecedented since 1945. He has since stripped down the NHS and axed over 600,000 public sector workers (a figure which could reach up to a million by the next election), trebled university tuition fees and cut benefits for the disabled. Up to 1 million people are now employed on zero hour contracts and millions more survive on less than the national minimum wage.

With a prime minister who has little respect for his own citizens' rights to maintain an adequate standard of living, what chance do the people of Gaza have of getting help from Britain to realise their basic human rights?

It's hard to give statistics for the latest Israeli atrocities in Gaza as they are changing for the worse all the time. According to the Ministry of Health, as I write, Israel's offensive on the Strip has left almost 600 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, and over 3,000 injured. UNRWA says that at least 83,000 Palestinians are taking refuge in schools belonging to the agency in the enclave. The Israelis claim that 27 soldiers and 2 civilians have been killed.

Over the weekend tens of thousands of Britons took to the streets of London and marched from Downing Street to the Israeli embassy in Kensington to call for an end to the military action against the people of Gaza, and justice and freedom for Palestine. Inside number 10, meanwhile, Cameron reiterated British support for Israel and its right to defend itself against terror attacks. His comments fly in the face of international laws and conventions, which Israel breaches with apparent impunity. His pro-Israel bias and contempt for those laws is clear, but is Cameron speaking for the people of Britain when he offers the rogue state such support?

Ironically, as part of his wave of cuts, Cameron urged British MEPs to back a European Union budget cut, the first in the EU's history. Yet he did not mention the EU's generous provision in research and development subsidies to Israel Aerospace Industries, a world leader in the drone market. In other words, Cameron will not support Gaza in any way, but EU taxpayers can still help to fund the Israeli war machine.

On 20 July, Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 that "Israel has a right to defend itself against these rocket attacks coming from Gaza, but must do so in a way that is proportionate." He was asked three times whether what was happening now was proportionate, to which he replied: "Israel does have the right to protect itself and the best way to avoid Palestinian loss of life in Gaza is for Hamas to stop firing rockets from Gaza and in those circumstances the world would not expect any kind of Israeli action against Gaza."

Nobody is firing rockets from the occupied West Bank, but Palestinian houses there continue to be destroyed by the Israelis. After the Belfast Agreement a rocket-propelled grenade, thought to be launched by the IRA, hit the MI6 building in central London. A series of explosions rocked the British capital but the government did not send the RAF to bomb Belfast.

In 2009, in an official statement, David Miliband admitted that equipment used by Israel to attack Gaza in the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead "almost certainly" had components manufactured in the UK. According to the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK, in 2013 Israel received nearly £8 billion worth of arms and military equipment from the UK, via 400 export licences, including components and spare parts for assault rifles, F16 fighters, Apache helicopter gunships and combat drones. This flow was not suspended back in 2008, during Operation Pillar of Cloud in November 2012, or in the current Operation Protective Edge.

However, George Osborne called for further sanctions against Russia on Monday after the downing of a commercial Boeing 777 in Ukraine. On 16 July EU leaders met to discuss who would fill top EU positions, to discuss new sanctions on Russia and the situation in Gaza.

They agreed to target Russia with 6 restrictive measures, including potentially suspending the implementation of EU bilateral and regional cooperation programmes with Russia. For Gaza, the statement simply welcomed on-going efforts by regional partners to establish a ceasefire and called on Hamas to agree on such a deal. Why did they not also call for sanctions on Israel?

Cameron may not be able to stop the war on Gaza singlehandedly but an outright condemnation of the attacks would damage Israel's image in the west. He could also scale back on military cooperation with Israel and order criminal investigations into crimes against innocent civilians. There is little hope of this happening, though. The Tory-led coalition government has granted immunity from prosecution on two occasions so that Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni could visit Britain, even though she has authorised military operations against civilians in the Gaza Strip.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Amelia Smith) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:20:40 +0000
Israel was wrong to think it could destroy Hamas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/12969-israel-was-wrong-to-think-it-could-destroy-hamas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/12969-israel-was-wrong-to-think-it-could-destroy-hamas Azzam TamimiSome dedicated PhD student in a decade or two might be able to discern truth from falsehood in the Israeli narrative as to why the recent war on Gaza was waged. What is certain is that Hamas did not want the war, at least not at this time.

It does not require genius to conclude that the circumstances were not in Hamas' favour. With an extremely hostile regime in Cairo and unfriendly, even conspiring regimes, in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Amman, it was the Israelis who might have been tempted to attack this most vulnerable entity in their backyard.

Israelis relied in their assessment of Gaza's vulnerability on what a well-placed Israeli official described as the four forces that matter most in the region. Israel, Egypt and Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, are three guaranteed forces that wish to see Hamas weakened and Gaza demilitarised.

The fourth force is the Gaza population, a certain segment of which - representing Fatah and who lost out when Hamas took over - is undoubtedly hostile to the movement and would wish to see it wither away.

The siege and the regime of sanctions in place for the past seven years were further tightened on the Strip in the hope of inciting more Gazans to turn against Hamas. Egypt's destruction of the tunnels and Iran's suspension of its sponsorship of Ismail Haniyeh's government in the wake of disagreement over Syria made life in Gaza increasingly unbearable.

Pre-empting what seemed a serious challenge to Hamas' authority and exploiting Abbas's own predicament as a result of his deadlocked negotiations with Netanyahu's administration, the movement opted to enter into a reconciliation pact that saw it relinquish authority in favour of a national unity government.

An uprising against Hamas inside Gaza seemed unlikely. Yet, the Israelis were constantly reminded by the Sisi military regime in Cairo that the time was unlikely ever to be better for an onslaught on Gaza. However, the Israelis had their own reckoning based on what they claimed was accurate intelligence.

Hamas military wing, they claimed, had been building up a huge arsenal perceived by the Israelis as a potential existential threat. They blame this partly on the year Dr. Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, spent in office before he was toppled in a military coup.

That was the year, they say, that Morsi allowed the passage into Gaza of arms and military equipment as well as machinery for the manufacture of weapons and ammunition. These are said to have passed through hundreds of tunnels, which were later destroyed by Sisi's regime, and which Israel now says it is fighting to eradicate further.

They blame it too on Muhammad Dhaif, chief commander of Hama's military wing the al-Qassam Brigades, who they believe wields more decision-making power than anyone else within Hamas.

Israeli top officials go as far as to claim that Hamas political leaders in Gaza and Doha were simply bypassed by the military commanders who sought an escalation with Israel for their own purposes. This is a view the Israelis share with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

The perceived military threat was not confined to Gaza. Israelis claim that over the past year there were numerous attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers or Jewish settlers in the West bank at the rate of one operation a week, upon direct orders from Muhammad Dhaif in Gaza. They all failed, they maintain, except for the very last one that ended with the killing of three young Jewish settlers in the Hebron area. In conclusion, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt agree among them that the military wing of Hamas is the real problem whose remedy might inevitably require surgery in the form of a new war.

The Israelis refuse to accept any responsibility for the deteriorating economic situation in Gaza and are completely blinded to the impact of Jewish settler activities on the situation in the West Bank. When told that their siege of Gaza and occupation of the West Bank are the root causes of all their problems, they shift responsibility immediately to their partners in Cairo and Ramallah.

It is well known that without their close collaboration with the Egyptian authorities the siege on Gaza could not be maintained and without their security coordination with the Palestinian Authority, the occupation might have ended a long time ago.

It is for this very reason that the first Egyptian initiative to end the current war was cooked up jointly by the three partners in Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Cairo. Its objective was to impose a ceasefire that would compel Hamas to consent to demilitarisation and the restoration of security within Gaza to Ramallah. It is no wonder that the movement was never consulted. It is probable that the three partners knew that their initiative would be turned down by Hamas and it is very likely that they designed it in a fashion that would ensure a Hamas rejection.

The Israelis needed time to continue and expand their onslaught with a measure of legitimacy derived from Hamas's rejection of the ceasefire proposal. There were also suggestions that another purpose of the Egyptian initiative was to torpedo a proposal the Qataris and the Turks were working on with the cooperation of Hamas and the knowledge and consent of the Obama Administration.

Inside Gaza there are two contrasting pictures. The first is the picture of the humanitarian catastrophe brought about by the Israeli bombardment. The majority of the 570 Palestinian casualties in Gaza so far have been civilians, with women and children making up a high percentage of those killed. Entire neighbourhoods have been levelled to the ground and thousands of families have been displaced and forced to seek shelter in UNRWA schools or with relatives. Some have become homeless.

The other picture is one of defiance on the part of the entire population, despite the severe losses and damages, we have seen determination and resilience on the part Gaza's many guardians, led by Hamas's Izziddin Al-Qassam fighters.

As the war progresses, the number of Palestinian casualties will multiply daily. Yet, at the same time the number of Israeli soldiers killed or wounded will keep rising. Israeli military casualties are already at unprecedented levels compared to all previous encounters.

Not only that, but at the time of publication, Hamas had one Israeli soldier in captivity. The plan is to capture more, and more are likely to be captured if the war continues for much longer. The performance of Gaza's guardians has clearly improved and they have learnt from past engagements with Israel.

They seem to be better trained, better armed, more skilful and appear to have acquired a wealth of tactics which are allowing them to be more lethal than ever before.

One thing, though, is invariable and that is the belief that not only are they defending what is theirs and was theirs long before their parents' and grandparents' - going back thousands of years - but also that they have nothing to lose but a lot to gain.

When you are pushed into corner and starved, slapped and kicked, you will face a simple choice - die or be free. One may add to this the belief that dying whilst battling the invading enemy is the straight path to heaven, an escape from the hell of this world to the Garden of Eden.

What dominates the Israeli mind-set must be the exact opposite of all of this. The mere presence of the Palestinians, whether in the West Bank, in the Gaza Strip or in the 1948 Palestinian land (which is now Israel), reminds Israelis of the essence of their own presence in this land. They are the newcomers, the invaders, the occupiers and the oppressors who until recently were not here and are now dwelling on somebody else's remains. This is what the existential threat is truly about. It is the belief that as long as there are Palestinians around, Israel is not safe, let alone when some of these Palestinians start acquiring means of empowerment, like weapons.

It is exactly for this reason that Israel can never feel at ease or in peace. When the victim of a robbery passes by the burglar, or vice versa, the latter loses any sense of safety or tranquillity. The Israelis know that out of the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, no less than 1.5 million are refugees whose parents or grandparents were driven out of their homes in what is modern-day. They refuse to forget that their relatives fled in the face of armed Zionist gangs that came from Eastern Europe and subsequently from other corners of the earth. The same applies to the Palestinians of the West Bank and it is rare to find a Palestinian such as Mahmoud Abbas who publicly relinquishes his right to his ancestral home.

So what can be done now, and I mean right now? The people of Gaza will not surrender themselves or their guardians and their wounds and grief will not weaken their resolve or support for the resistance. So, the Israelis may still be able to kill many more Palestinians and the Palestinians will be able to kill and perhaps capture more Israeli. Fearing a spill over, the international community may step in and say enough is enough. Brokering a ceasefire will need credible and 'neutral' mediators.

The current regime of Egypt is definitely not qualified.

Together with the Israelis, the Egyptian military rulers are party to the conflict. A third party mediator needs to be completely detached from the milieu of hatred that dominates the mind-sets of both the Israelis and the Egyptian generals. And any ceasefire mediation effort will have to address Hamas as a real and principal party to the conflict, rather than the elephant in the room. The ceasefire agreement will also have to be about more than just stopping the war and there will have to be an outline for a long-term process to end the causes of the tension, namely the siege, the sanctions, the prisoners and the constant threat posed by settlers to the Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank.

Israeli leaders might have thought that waging a war on Gaza was an opportunity to rid them of a potential existential threat, but what matters is that the people of Gaza, and Hamas in particular, hope that Israel's new misadventure will open the door for them to rid themselves of oppression once and for all.

This article was first published on the Middle East Eye

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Azzam Tamimi) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:15:46 +0000
French interior minister defends ban on protests https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12968-french-interior-minister-defends-ban-on-protests https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12968-french-interior-minister-defends-ban-on-protests Bernard Cazeneuve"The scale of the riots in the suburb of Sarcelles in Paris, following an unauthorised demonstration yesterday, would have widened without a decision to ban the demonstration," French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said in defence of a ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris last weekend.

The minister's remarks came in response to a question from reporters about whether he regrets the decision to ban demonstrations in Paris over the weekend. The minister stressed that the "ban" came after information about the demonstration, which was supposed to take place during the weekend, had been collected. Cazeneuve also pointed out that the cities of Nice and Lille, where demonstrations were also prevented, did not witness riots.

Cazeneuve explained that no ban on protests exists, but necessary procedures would rather be taken in the event protests threaten public order.

The minister added that the French people should behave properly with respect to the anti-Semitism that is growing in their country. He criticised the burning of a shop during Sunday's protests, because its owner is Jewish, saying, "some people seek to export the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to France".

Cazeneuve said that he understood the emotional responses to what is happening in the Gaza Strip, but would not allow violence to spill over into France, causing a wave of anti-Semitism.

The minister expressed his belief that there are a small group of radical Muslims in France that harms the reputation of the other Muslims who believe in tolerance and in the principles of the French Republic.

The suburb of Sarcelles in Paris witnessed, on Sunday, an unauthorised demonstration that involved riots, during which at least four cars were burned, car windows were smashed and a number of shops were burnt. Following the demonstration, police arrested 44 people, seven of which were referred to the courts.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:09:39 +0000
Medecins Sans Frontieres calls for Israel to stop striking civilians in Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12967-medecins-sans-frontieres-calls-for-israel-to-stop-striking-civilians-in-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12967-medecins-sans-frontieres-calls-for-israel-to-stop-striking-civilians-in-gaza Doctors without Border - MSFDoctors Without Borders (MSF) has called on Israel to halt its aggression against the Gaza Strip, noting it is complicating efforts to provide medical care to casualties.

In a statement published on its website on Sunday, MSF said that most of the victims of Israeli fire are civilians. It also said that Israeli forces target paramedics.

"The majority of the dead and wounded in Gaza are civilians and medical workers are also coming under fire," the statement said.

The organisation also said it had witnessed two paramedics, who were killed and two others who were injured whilst trying to rescue wounded from Sheja'ia. It said that an MSF vehicle came under fire as an Israeli attack took place just about 300 metres away.

"A clearly identified MSF vehicle escaped an air strike 300 metres away," MSF statement said. It added that the Israeli authorities had promised secure movements for the organisation from the Erez border crossing to Gaza City.

In addition, MSF cited its field coordinator in Gaza, Nicolas Palarus, who said: "the United Nations shelters are now overcrowded and hygiene conditions are extremely worrying."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 19:02:44 +0000
Erdogan: The US, not Turkey should reconsider its statements on Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/12966-erdogan-the-us-not-turkey-should-reconsider-its-statements-on-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/12966-erdogan-the-us-not-turkey-should-reconsider-its-statements-on-gaza Tayyip ErdoganTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the remarks made by US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki who described his statements on Gaza as "offensive and wrong".

"The US is the one who has made offensive and saddening statements up to now... if America still says 'Israel is exercising its right to self-defence' in the face of these [developments]. America has to engage in some self-criticism here. America is the one who is being offensive," Erdogan said in an interview with the Turkish TV sitation TGRT.

He criticised the US' insistence on describing the war on Gaza as a form of self-defence by Israel despite the fall of 500 tonnes of explosives on the Gaza Strip and the killing of more than 500 Palestinians.

The Turkish prime minister called on the US to act fairly towards international issues and to contribute to the enforcement of world peace.

"Just like we feel offended when they make their statements, they should have no problem with us speaking our minds," he added.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 18:59:31 +0000
Mass protest in Rabat in solidarity with Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12965-mass-protest-in-rabat-in-solidarity-with-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12965-mass-protest-in-rabat-in-solidarity-with-gaza Tens of thousands of Moroccans staged a popular protest to denounce the Israeli assault on Gaza and to show solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Protesters raised banners condemning Israeli aggression on Gaza and praising the resolve of the Gaza Strip in the face of Israeli aggression.

The protest was organised by the Justice and Charity movement, Morocco's largest Islamist movement, in addition to the Working Group for Palestine and the Moroccan Association for the Support of the Palestinian Struggle (two NGOs), the Justice and Development Party, and several other political and civil society groups.

It comes after Morocco called for an immediate halt of the Israeli assault on Gaza, describing it as unacceptable and unjustifiable. Morocco accused Israel of violating international law and all humanitarian values.

The Moroccan Foreign Ministry expressed concern about the Israeli ground operation in Gaza, warning that it will increase the bloodshed, complicate the situation, widen the circle of tensions, and spread the culture of hostility and hatred.

Ministers who attended the demonstration included:

 Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Salaheddine Mezouar

Minister Delegate to the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Logistics Najib Boulif

Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Ouzzine

Minister of Parliamentary Relations and Civil Society El-Habib Choubani

Minister of Tourism Lahsen Hadad

Minister of Culture Mohamed Amine Sbihi

Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Managers Training Soumia Benkhaldoun

Minister Delegate to the Ministry of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment Hakima El-Haite

Other prominent political leaders and heads of political parties also took part in the protest.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 15:24:55 +0000
LIVE BLOG: Foreign and commonwealth office questions https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/event-review/12964-foreign-and-commonwealth-office-questions https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/event-review/12964-foreign-and-commonwealth-office-questions

Foreign and commonwealth office questions

MPs will ask the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond and his team, questions on international affairs

We will be live blogging throughout the session.

This live blog will begin from 11:30am BST on July 22, 2014

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 22 Jul 2014 06:00:00 +0000
47 killed in clashes over Tripoli airport https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12963-47-killed-in-clashes-over-tripoli-airport https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12963-47-killed-in-clashes-over-tripoli-airport More than 47 people have been killed and 120 injured during clashes between rival militias to control Tripoli International Airport, Libya's Health Ministry announced yesterday.

A ministry spokesman told AFP that the death toll does not include victims who were killed in clashes on yesterday, which is believed to be the most violent day since the outbreak of fighting. The figures also do not include cases that have been evacuated to field hospitals and were not documented in hospital records.

According to a local official, the battles that took place yesterday left at least five civilians dead.

Mohamed Abdel Rahman said the victims were killed after a rocket fell on their homes in the district of Qasr Bin Ghashir near the airport.

Tripoli International Airport has been closed since July 13 following attacks by Islamist militias from the city of Misrata, 200 kilometres east of Tripoli.

The militias try to force the Zintan Brigades, 170 kilometres southwest of Tripoli, to leave the airport which fell under their control in 2011 along with other military and civilian sites in the south of the capital.

Gilani Aldahish, a security official at the airport told AFP: "The airport suffered on Sunday morning from a mortar attack, missiles and artillery tanks."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 15:03:07 +0000
Israel shells Gaza hospital; four Palestinians killed https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12962-israel-shells-gaza-hospital-4-palestinians-killed https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12962-israel-shells-gaza-hospital-4-palestinians-killed IMAGES

Four Palestinians were killed on Monday when Israel shelled the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza Strip, a Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman has said.

"Four people were killed and nearly 20 others injured when Israel shelled the hospital," spokesman Ashraf al-Qodra told Anadolu Agency.

He described the shelling of the hospital, located in the town of Der al-Balah, as a "war crime."

"Israel has crossed all red lines and international norms. What is happening is a crime and a massacre," he said, appealing to the International Committee of the Red Cross to intervene to rescue injured Palestinians and protect medical institutions.

Since July 7, at least 509 Palestinians have been killed – mostly civilians – and more than 3150 injured in unrelenting Israeli attacks on the besieged coastal enclave.

Sunday was the deadliest day yet of Israel's two-week-long onslaught, with at least 110 Palestinians – including 72 in Shujaya, a residential area of eastern Gaza City – killed by Israeli air and artillery attacks.

Israel's military operation, dubbed "Operation Protective Edge," is the self-proclaimed Jewish state's third major offensive against the densely-populated Gaza Strip – which is home to some 1.8 million Palestinians – within the last six years.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:45:15 +0000
Pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris turns violent https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12961-pro-palestinian-demonstration-in-paris-turns-violent https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12961-pro-palestinian-demonstration-in-paris-turns-violent IMAGES

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the French capital, Paris, clashed with anti-riot police yesterday for the second consecutive day defying a ban on their rallies.

The unrest erupted in the city of Sarcelles, north of Paris, which has a large Jewish community.

French news reports said that police used rubber bullets against protesters who ransacked shops and burned cars.

The French government condemned the riots saying the violence that occurred has prompted the police to resort to using repression.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, during a commemoration ceremony of Jews deportation from Paris during World War II, that violence was "unacceptable" and linked it to what he described as "a new form of anti-Semitism" in the suburbs where the majority of immigrants live, stressing that "attacking any Jew, is an attack against France".

The French police arrested 44 protestors yesterday in the province of Barbès, northern Paris, during the riots.

Police said they banned the organisation of pro-Palestinian demonstrations for security reasons.

Seventeen policemen were wounded in clashes with teens who threw stones, bottles and other objects at the security forces.

Tens of demonstrators and bystanders were also slightly injured during the confrontations.

Valls said the violence which erupted proves that the Interior Ministry was right to ban the demonstration, stressing that "France will not allow provocateurs to nourish conflicts between its communities".

Earlier, President Francois Hollande said he will not allow conflicts from the Middle East to be transferred to France, which hosts the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:20:43 +0000
Minister: Turkey doesn't sell oil to Israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12960-minister-turkey-doesnt-sell-oil-to-israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12960-minister-turkey-doesnt-sell-oil-to-israel Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz denied media reports that his country sells jet fuel and gas to Israel, World Bulletin quoted him saying yesterday.

In press statemente Yildiz said: "Israel's occupation of Gaza is a serious obstacle to the development of energy projects in the East Mediterranean region."

He admitted that a number of firms use Turkey as a transit route for transporting oil to Israel.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:10:47 +0000
Iraq requests explanation from Jordan about opposition conference https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12959-iraq-requests-explanation-from-jordan-about-opposition-conference https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12959-iraq-requests-explanation-from-jordan-about-opposition-conference Jordanian FlagThe Iraqi government announced yesterday that it expects an explanation from the Jordanian authorities about its decision to host the Iraqi opposition conference last week, Jordan's Al-Ghad newspaper reported.

A senior Jordanian diplomat said that Jordan will make no further comments on the issue and suffices with the government's remarks two days ago about calling its ambassador in Baghdad to Amman for consultations.

The Iraqi foreign Ministry quoted a government statement on its website saying it expects an explanation from the Jordanian authorities to justify this position, which comes against Jordan's confirmation of its commitment to perpetuate the relationship with Iraq and non-interference in its internal affairs.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian source told the newspaper yesterday, that "if Jordan receives a formal request for clarification from Iraq, it will deal with it according to diplomatic norms."

An Iraqi Foreign Ministry statement said: "The Iraqi government received with extreme astonishment the news of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan's hosting a conference attended by figures and groups who are involved with the killing of Iraqis and who are seeking to undermine the political process and the democratic achievements made ​​by all components of the Iraqi people.

"Allowing such conferences to be held in Amman is an interference in the internal Iraqi affairs and a violation of the diplomatic norms and contradicts the international positions of the United Nations, the League of the Arab States, the European Union, the permanent members of the Security Council, and international public opinion in support of the political process and the democratic transitions in Iraq."

The statement concluded: "The Iraqi government, after summoning its ambassador to Jordan, and before taking further decisions, expects an explanation from the Jordanian authorities to justify this position, which comes against the confirmations of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan's commitment to perpetuate the relationship with Iraq and non-interference in its internal affairs."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:09:39 +0000
Israeli hotels to suffer losses of $125m due to Gaza invasion https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12958-israeli-hotels-to-suffer-losses-of-125m-due-to-gaza-invasion https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12958-israeli-hotels-to-suffer-losses-of-125m-due-to-gaza-invasion Israeli hotels and resorts have experienced a wave of cancellations for the second week in row amid the escalating Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported yesterday.

The newspaper reported that the Israeli Ministry of Tourism said that this year was set to see a peak in foreign and domestic tourism in Israeli cities and resorts, but the Israeli military operation in Gaza ruined all expectations. Some of those who cancelled their holidays were summoned by the army to take part in the war on Gaza, according to Haaretz.

Hotels are expected to lose $99 million from foreign visitors who have cancelled their planned trips into the country and a further $24.9 million from Israeli visitors.

Israel has continued its operation on Gaza for two weeks. The Israeli assault has resulted in the death of 508 Palestinians and the injury of 3,150. According to the Israeli army, 13 Israeli soldiers were killed and 101 were injured.

A week earlier, Yedioth Ahronoth revealed that thousands of flights to Israel were cancelled and thousands of tourists who had been spending their summer vacations in Israel fled the country due to the deteriorating security situation.

More than 30,000 tourists have pushed forward their departure flights in fear that the escalation of the war could lead to the closure of the Ben Gurion International Airport.

Approximately 3.5 million tourists visited Israel in 2013, according to the Israeli Central Bureau for Statistics.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:46:55 +0000
Israeli occupation massacres two families overnight https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12957-israeli-occupation-massacres-two-families-overnight https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12957-israeli-occupation-massacres-two-families-overnight Israeli occupation forces massacred overnight two Palestinian families, killing at least 35 people from these two families, paramedics said.

Occupation forces targeted the four-story building of the Abu-Jamei family in Bani-Suhaila City in the south of the Gaza Strip, killing 25 family members and wounding several others.

One of the family members, who survived the massacre, said that their relatives came to their house to stay with them after they had been pushed to leave their own homes for security.

He explained that not long afterwards, at the time of the Iftar, an Israeli F16 rocket hit their house without any pre-warning.

In Rafah, in the far south of the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupation forces targeted another house at dawn, killing ten members of the same family. The number of wounded is still unknown.

According to an official medical source, the attacks against these two families bring the number of Palestinian families massacred during the on-going Israeli war on Gaza to 32.

The source said that the medical situation in the hospitals of the Gaza Strip is disastrous because of the strict Israeli siege. He said that the hospitals are suffering from severe shortages of spare parts for medical equipment and medicines.

Over the past two weeks, Israel has been waging a massive military campaign against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing more than 500 people and injuring thousands.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:45:27 +0000
Algeria, Tunisia to carry out joint military operations against terrorism along the border https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12956-algeria-tunisia-to-carry-out-joint-military-operations-against-terrorism-along-the-border https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/12956-algeria-tunisia-to-carry-out-joint-military-operations-against-terrorism-along-the-border Leaders of the Tunisian and Algerian armies have agreed to launch a series of parallel military operations along the border areas as part of a long-term security plan to eliminate terrorist groups from the region, the Addustour news website reported.

The leaders agreed to implement a series of limited military operations in five key areas in Tunisia and in the border area with Algeria.

The decision comes after the Algerian Army received approval from the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, President of the Republic, Abdelaziz Bouteflika to carry out two operations along the Algerian-Tunisian border.

According to the joint security plan, the operations will target the Kasserine Governorate in Tunisia and the border areas linking the south-west of Libya with southern Tunisia as well as areas of the governorates of Wadi, Tebessa and Biskra in Tunisia and Souk Ahras and Khenchela in Algeria.

A security source told Algeria's El-Khabar newspaper that the security plans include military operations against specific targets as well as combing some sites and enhancing security measures on the roads, lanes and paths across the border.

According to the source, the timing to launch the combing operation, which will involve at least 8,000 soldiers from the Algerian army elite forces and between 5,000-6,000 Tunisian military personnel, depends on information gathered through aerial surveys of the targeted regions.

The source said the security plan includes preventive measures to curb the Salafist jihadist groups' activities in the border area and military operations against the armed groups and other activities related to intelligence gathering.

"The security plans include strengthening security control points, sharing information and activating surveillance and aerial surveys on both sides of the border area," the source explained.

The two sides have also decided to activate security investigations of terrorist recruitment networks in Tunisia and eastern Algeria.

The security agreement includes depriving terrorist groups from their sources of funding and the means to live.

Tunisia is said to have decided to create security cells to prevent Salafist groups from collecting funds, denying their funding sources and monitoring the flow of funds and jihadists arriving from Libya to Tunisia.

Meanwhile, Algeria has tightened its control over the flow of money and smuggling operations between the two countries to prevent its use to finance terrorist activity.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:39:33 +0000
A glimpse into Egypt's Al-Qanatar women's prison https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/12955-a-glimpse-into-egypts-al-qanatar-womens-prison https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/12955-a-glimpse-into-egypts-al-qanatar-womens-prison Omaima HalawaOn 14 August 2013 Omaima Halawa, her brother and two sisters, were caught in the bloody confrontations between security forces and Muslim Brotherhood protesters at Rabaa square. The siblings were arrested, but whilst Omaima and her sisters spent three months at Al-Qanatar female prison before they were released, their brother, Ibrahim, remains behind bars.

In 2013 Omaima, and her two sisters Fatima and Somaia, Irish by upbringing but Egyptian by blood, returned to Egypt on their annual summer visit, unaware that this year's trip would be nothing like before.

While in Cairo, Omaima, a 20-year-old media student, heard about the Rabaa al-Adawiya Square demonstrations, "We wanted to see what was happening with our own eyes." The sisters took to the square, where they quickly got involved with the peaceful sit in. "The atmosphere was amazing, I had never experienced anything like it."

However, the tables were soon about to turn.

When the confrontations between the security forces and the Muslim Brotherhood supporters, calling for the return of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, began, Omaima found herself surrounded by the security forces, bulldozers and army tanks. Then the shooting began. "We thought at first that it was firework, but it was gunshots," Omaima explains. It was 14 August 2013, a day that would become known as the "Rabaa massacre," as security forces shot with live ammunition at the protesters. "It became a warzone," Omaima tells me. "We had nothing to defend us with." Omaima's sister soon got hurt and the sisters sought refuge in Rabaa mosque together with hundreds of other demonstrators. However, the mosque became a target and it would take Omaima and her sisters long into the night before they were able to leave.

As the confrontations continued, Omaima, her sisters and her brother Ibrahim, took to Ramses square. "I couldn't stay at home," Omaima says, "My humanity didn't allow me." As the intensity of the demonstrations rose the sisters ended up in al-Fath mosque where she estimated that somewhere close to 1 000 people were trapped, unable of leave. From within the mosque, Omaima's sister Fatima was able to inform Al Jazeera English about what was happening around her.

After around twelve hours trapped within the mosque tear gas started to fill the air and Omaima was separated from her siblings and fainted. When she woke up she was outside the main entrance, surrounded by security personnel. "The security forces kept telling me: Don't worry the girls will be going home," but before she knew it the security forces started to beat, and sexually harass, her. "I felt how they started to touch me in my private parts and I was pulled to the ground. My dress, t-shirt and pants were ripped off." They only stopped as Omaima was lying on the street, but before she knew it she was thrown into a police van with other protesters.

Omaima was taken to Tora prison, where she, together with her two sisters, were held for four days. "Tora was the worst place, I can't even try to make you understand. We were treated like animals." Omaima describes how 600 men were kept in a cell for an estimated 50 people. "In the middle of the night we were blindfolded and taken into investigation, we were not allowed a lawyer, nor to defend ourselves."

After the four days they were told they would be going home. But Omaima was not taken home, instead she was brought to Al-Salam Military Campus. "Here we were kept in an underground cell, without electricity." Omaima and her sisters were united with 15 other girls who had been taken from another Cairo based mosque. "Then, in the middle of the night, we were taken to Al-Qanatar women prison."

Omaima was detained based on 16 charges, including participation in a demonstration and involvement in a terrorist organization. However, the law against street protesting was only established in the end of November 2013 and the Muslim Brotherhood was designated a terrorist organization in December.

But Omaima and her two sisters were among the 3 000 that, according to Amnesty, had been arrested by the security forces between 3 July and September, accused of involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Wiki Thawra, which is independently monitoring events in Egypt since the revolution of 25 January 2011, the same figure exceeded 41 000 by 15 May 2014.

Upon arrival at Al-Qanatar Omaima was searched by a nurse. "She started to yell at me to strip naked in front of her and then, without telling me anything she began to search me... even my private parts," Omaima says and continues, "I was so shocked and I was crying so hard. She told me if I didn't stop crying she would beat me. I was trying to tell her that I was a virgin but it was so hard to find the words."

The 18 girls from the mosques were taken to a cell, where they were given a supervisor, a "Mama." "She is a prisoner like you but she is sentenced to death, she was a killer. She controlled everything - when to go to the bathroom, when we could eat, when and how we were allowed to sit, everything!"

After four days the sisters' mother was allowed to visit. "My mom got us some food," Omaima says. But because she and her sisters were politically motivated prisoners the visits were strictly surveyed, no private talks allowed, police officers were listening to each and ever word.

Bribing was also an important part of the visiting system, "We had to give a portion of what we had received from our mother to the police officer, the searcher and to the "Mama." The "Mama" usually took whatever she wanted."

Despite the girls' young ages, Omaima turned 21 within the prison walls and her sisters were 23 and 28, the treatment was harsh. "Anyone who came in for protesting was considered part of the Muslim Brotherhood, so we were all hated and beaten by the other criminals, even the police officer lady who was taken care of our cell screamed at us and called us names, everyday. It was a constant form of mental torture."

Omaima and her siblings are all Irish citizens, children of Hussein Halawa, an imam at Ireland's largest mosque. But their foreign passports didn't help them. "The Irish consulate visited us frequently, but more could have been done," Omaima sighs.

In November 2013, after three months, the sisters were, for the first time, taken to a court. "I hope those three months taught you a lesson" was all the judge told them and they were all of a sudden free to go. Why were they suddenly released? Omaima has no idea. "Nobody tells you anything."

Omaima's brother, Ibrahim, taken at the same time as his sisters, remains at Al-Salam Military Campus. "We don't know why, they say nothing." Ibrahim was scheduled to have a hearing in mid-July but it was, without reason, postponed to 12 August.

"All I really want now is for my brother to be released," Omaima concludes.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Christine Petré) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:31:01 +0000
Erdogan: Israel a terrorist state following in the footsteps of Hitler https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12954-erdogan-israel-a-terrorist-state-following-in-the-footsteps-of-hitler https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12954-erdogan-israel-a-terrorist-state-following-in-the-footsteps-of-hitler Recep Tayyip ErdogenTurkish Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of being a terrorist state following in the footstep of Adolf Hitler.

In his speech before a campaign rally in the Hatay province on Sunday, Erdogan said Israel is committing massacres in Gaza.

Reuters news agency quoted him as saying that Israelis "have no conscience, no honour, no pride. Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism."

He hailed the people of Gaza, saying: "From here, I salute the brave heroes of Gaza."

Erdogan prayed that justice would come to "the oppressed Palestinians, who are breaking their Ramadan fast with death and martyrdom."

Erdogan also prayed for "all those enduring repression in Egypt, Syria and Iraq."

He addressed Shia leaders, urging them to "refrain from sectarianism", adding: "Aren't we all Muslims? Why then are there so many victims? 200,000 people have been killed in Syria and you still do not consider President Al-Assad as a killer. How could you defend him? How could you defend a murderer for the sake of a doctrine?"

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:28:15 +0000
Qatari Emir calls for immediate action to stop Israeli ‘war crimes’ in Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12953-qatari-emir-calls-for-immediate-action-to-stop-israeli-war-crimes-in-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12953-qatari-emir-calls-for-immediate-action-to-stop-israeli-war-crimes-in-gaza Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani has called for the international community to act quickly to stop the war crimes being carried out by Israel against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

According to the Qatari News Agency, the Emir delivered his remarks during a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The meeting was held on Sunday in the Qatari capital, Doha. Both officials discussed the ongoing situation in Palestine, focusing on the Gaza Strip.

The news agency also reported that Ki-moon informed the Qatari Emir about the efforts being exerted by the UN to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza.

During the meeting, Sheikh Tamim stressed that the international community "has to afford international protection for the Palestinians and to bear the moral and legal responsibility to end the strict siege of the Gaza Strip in order to let the Palestinians live in dignity."

The Emir said that his country has not yet put forth a proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, but warned that the international community's inability to put an end to the Israel's daily crimes would produce "intolerable humanitarian results".

Israeli occupation forces have been carrying out a massive assault against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 508, including 112 children, 41 women and 25 elderly. The number of wounded is 3,150, including 904 children, 533 women and 25 elderly.

Israel announced that it had lost 20 occupation soldiers on the ground and dozens have been wounded; some were discharged from hospital while others are still being treated.

More than 1.8 million Palestinians have been living under a strict siege imposed by Israel since mid-2007, when Hamas swept the secular Fatah movement from the enclave after it refused to recognise the Islamic movement's victory in the 2006 general elections.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:18:39 +0000
Newspaper investigation reveals Israeli soldier was likely captured https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12952-newspaper-investigation-reveals-israeli-soldier-was-likely-captured https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12952-newspaper-investigation-reveals-israeli-soldier-was-likely-captured Palestinians react following the members of Ezz-Eddin Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas Movement, capture a Israeli soldier after the Al-Qassam raidHamas's military wing Al-Qassam Brigades announced on Sunday that it had captured an Israeli soldier named Oron Shaul. Some Israeli officials have since denied the claim; however, the Israeli military spokesperson has neither confirmed nor denied the capture.

Arabs 48 website investigated the situation and came to the conclusion that the Palestinian fighters' claim to have had captured an Israeli soldier is likely to be true. The website investigated the Facebook page of the soldier Oron Shaul as well as Israeli military statements.

Scanning the soldier's personal Facebook page, Arabs 48 said it found several messages of condolences posted by Shaul's friends over his death. Shaul reportedly received the excellence award from former Israeli President Shimon Peres on the 66th anniversary of the founding of Israel.

However, when studying the Israeli military's most recent list of soldiers confirmed dead, Shaul's name had been removed.

Israeli sources said that there are still seven unidentified soldiers in the forensic centre.

Spokesperson of Al-Qassam Brigades Abu-Obaida said the number of Israeli casualties is higher than the numbers being announced by Israel. In a televised speech, Abu-Obaida announced the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier, also providing his name and military number.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:06:28 +0000
Israel's Operation Protective Edge: Why now? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/12951-israels-operation-protective-edge-why-now https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/12951-israels-operation-protective-edge-why-now Fadi ElhusseiniAnother Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip; it's not the first and won't be the last if the political equation in the region does not change. With the previous offensives launched by Israel on Gaza, several military goals were declared. This time, "Operation Protective Edge" comes within a different context, with new domestic, regional and international factors at play. These conditions, by and large, are more prosaic and complex and have been key elements in determining Israel's goals for this operation, as part of a larger strategy that goes beyond the war itself.

A clear change in the map of world politics has underlined a rising Russian role. With Moscow's fundamental stance on the Syrian crisis and clear US and EU bewilderment towards the Ukraine and Crimea, Russia's political weight cannot be overlooked any more; fading US influence has become a fact.

China has revised its position and role in the Middle East and opted to stay away from the limelight, maintaining its interests but with a lower voice. This was seen as the best option in order to halt its sliding popularity in the region due to its obvious support for the Syrian regime.

Regionally, this Israeli war comes when the events of the Arab Spring continue to surprise all observers. The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, by force in Egypt and voluntarily in Tunisia; the escalated crisis in Syria; and the unprecedented chaos in Iraq, Yemen and Libya are cases in point. On the other hand, Iran managed to defuse international pressure and has been successful in reviving and preserving the diplomatic track of its nuclear file.

In Israel, a volatile ruling coalition has been facing mounting domestic criticism. Several domestic and economic difficulties have pushed many Israeli intellectuals and politicians to call repeatedly for the dissolution of the current government. In Palestine, the aggression on the Gaza Strip comes shortly after the long awaited national reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah; a new deadlock in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations (Israel has been widely blamed for this stalemate); and a wave of violence in the West Bank, started by the killing of three Israeli settlers and followed by the murder of a Palestinian teen in cold blood.

Israel had constantly asked the Palestinian Authority to choose between reconciliation with Hamas and peace. For this reason, Israel could not hide its irritation at Palestinian reconciliation and the resultant unity government, and threatened the moderate PA with serious consequences. In response, its closest allies called upon Israel to put the Palestinian new government to the test and to give it a chance.

In light of the noticeable decline in Israel's international popularity, its frustration was expressed in condemnation of the US administration's willingness to work with the new Palestinian government. It is bizarre to see Israeli leaders accusing the Palestinian Authority of isolating Israel globally.

In this vein, one should concede that the Palestinian leadership has succeeded in building bridges with people and governments around the world. The international community has become closer to the Palestinian narrative on peace and international campaigns to boycott Israeli institutions and products have grown to include civil societies, universities and official positions.

Considering the above, the Israeli government had to find a way out of its domestic crisis and international dilemma. Domestic cohesion often requires governments to find an external bogey; the US has played this card at least since the start of the Cold War and it is not a novel strategy by any means. Concocting an external crisis, therefore seems to have been a foregone conclusion, but what, who and where, especially at this critical juncture for the Middle East?

Israeli decision-makers had a number of options. There is a broad swathe of anti-Iran sentiment in Israel, for example, and considerable popular support for a military strike on Tehran's nuclear sites, although polls showed that Israelis are lukewarm about the Sisyphean task of attacking Iran unilaterally.

So what about the northern front? Hezbollah may cause Israeli leaders to have sleepless nights but they are fully aware of the strategic, logistic and military capabilities that the Lebanese militia possesses. Moreover, the Israeli government is also aware that Hezbollah's involvement in Syria and its losses there have not exhausted the movement enough to make military surprises on Israel's northern border unlikely.

That leaves the Palestinians. Whether it is true or not that Israel "fabricated" the killing of the three settlers by hiding the "fact" that they were actually killed in a car crash which was covered-up to provide the government with the "kidnap and murder" story, is irrelevant. The real fact is that Israel has been itching to pick a fight with the Palestinians. The military and political planners knew that no amount of bloodletting on the Palestinian front would bring down international condemnation or major losses; nor even garner much media attention given the current regional and international chaos.

Hence, Israel blamed Hamas for killing the settlers, which the Islamic movement still denies. Before the government could benefit in this respect from the deaths, however, a number of Jewish settlers abducted and burned alive a Palestinian teenager.

As a result, Israel decided to transfer the battle wholesale to the Gaza Strip, intending to get Hamas embroiled in a confrontation and bring the movement to its knees. There was a specific sequence to Israeli attacks on the besieged territory; unpopulated open areas were targeted first and there was a gradual shift until Israel is now hitting anywhere and everywhere. This was done with the aim of pushing Hamas and other resistance groups into retaliating by firing rockets across into Israel.

Fully aware of the limited effectiveness of, and thus threat from, the Palestinian rockets, the Israeli government succeeded, despite some criticism, to unite its citizens against the perceived threat coming from the Gaza Strip and so distract attention away from domestic problems and international crises. Images of Israelis in bomb shelters were shown worldwide; the Palestinians, of course, have no such places to seek refuge from Israeli bombs and missiles.

Israel's gains have not stopped at the domestic level. With every rocket fired from Gaza, the government gets closer to other goals. Whereas many in the international community had started to accept the Palestinian position and condemn Israel's disproportionate violence, the rockets fired from Gaza brought them back to the Israeli side. Led by the usual suspects in Washington, London and Paris, we were told that Israel has the right to "defend itself", regardless of its excessive use of force and the horrifying death toll among the Palestinians.

Not limited to these gains, Operation Protective Edge dealt a heavy blow to the Palestinian unity government. Any plans for it to implement the reconciliation agreement and prepare for national elections have been side-lined, with priorities changed by Israel's fait accompli. In addition, Israel depended, as it has always done, upon the contradictory positions taken by the Palestinians on how to deal with such aggression, creating another setback for reconciliation.

The only military goals that Israel's offensive can hope to achieve are to damage the capabilities of the Palestinian resistance groups, who are presumed to have a limited stock of weapons, destroy the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt and continue the siege.

It was always on the cards, therefore, that the Israelis would accept an unconditional ceasefire. Hamas's rejection of the Egyptian ceasefire initiative was unexpected, placing the Israeli government in the position of having to consider an unplanned ground operation. The longer the operation lasts and the more losses that Israel suffers, the more likely that it will seek new terms with amendments to the 2012 truce in an agreement acceptable to its citizens.

Hamas and the Palestinian resistance groups, meanwhile, will not accept languishing in the besieged Gaza Strip any longer; they are unlikely to agree to the terms of the 2012 truce again. Finding an outlet to the world beyond its borders has become sine qua non; this could be the Rafah border crossing, a sea port or even an airport. It is obvious that neither Hamas nor the disgruntled and weary Palestinians in Gaza would accept a return to the detested status quo.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fadi Elhusseini) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:57:24 +0000
Arab Doctors Union calls on UN to open 'humanitarian corridors' in Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12950-arab-doctors-union-calls-on-un-to-open-humanitarian-corridors-in-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12950-arab-doctors-union-calls-on-un-to-open-humanitarian-corridors-in-gaza UN logoThe Arab Doctors Union called on the United Nations to swiftly intervene to help open "humanitarian corridors" in the embattled Gaza Strip, a statement said today.

The ADU expressed its concern about the "disastrous humanitarian conditions" in Gaza and the targeting of medical teams and ambulances.

The union called on "all concerned parties" to immediately open humanitarian corridors for civilian victims of the Israeli onslaught. It demanded the international community exercise pressures on all relevant parties.

This morning, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza reached 469 civilians.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:55:28 +0000
Speaking to Netanyahu, Cameron 'reiterates the UK's strong support for Israel' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12948-speaking-to-netanyahu-cameron-reiterates-the-uks-strong-support-for-israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12948-speaking-to-netanyahu-cameron-reiterates-the-uks-strong-support-for-israel David CameronBritish Prime Minister, David Cameron discussed with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu the latest developments in the Gaza Strip in a phone call yesterday, the Anadolu news agency reported.

The Cabinet Office said in a statement that Cameron told Netanyahu: "UK's strong support for Israel's right to take proportionate action to defend itself."

The statement added that Cameron "expressed condolences for the deaths of Israeli troops" while showing "concern about mounting civilian casualties in Gaza".

Cameron said: "The the way out of the spiral of violence was for both sides to observe a lasting ceasefire in line with the initiative that was put forward by Egypt."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:51:18 +0000
Davutoglu: Israeli oppressors cannot defeat the Palestinians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12947-davutoglu-israeli-oppressors-cannot-defeat-the-palestinians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/12947-davutoglu-israeli-oppressors-cannot-defeat-the-palestinians Ahmet DevatogluTurkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that by using oppression, Israel will not achieve its intended goals in Gaza and Palestine because "nothing is stronger than a nation revolting for the sake of justice," Anadolu news agency reported.

Speaking during a Ramadan iftar ceremony on Sunday, Davutoglu said that ever since the start of the latest escalation, he has been making "intensive contacts" with the different Arab and international parties for the sake of stopping the Israeli aggression.

He hailed the Palestinian people, saying they are "brave and unbreakable in the face of Israel's aggression".

"The unjust Israelis will be held accountable and punished in this life and in the afterlife," Davutoglu said, adding that, "The day will come when Palestinians regain their rights and bring their oppressors to justice."

He also reaffirmed that Turkey will continue to stand "day and night" with the Palestinian people and their struggle.

Over the past two weeks, Israel has been waging a massive military campaign against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing more than 500 people and injuring thousands.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:47:57 +0000