SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Israeli warplanes have carried out three airstrikes on Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip, witnesses say.
Palestinian witnesses said that the Israeli aircraft bombarded areas in the southern town of Khan Younis and near the town of Rafah in southern Gaza during the early hours of Sunday.
There have been no reports of casualties.
The Israeli military confirmed the airstrikes.
In early April, Tel Aviv also conducted airstrikes on Gaza for the first time since a truce ended an eight-day Israeli war on the Palestinian territory in November 2012.
Over 160 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed and about 1,200 others were injured in the Israeli attacks from November 14 to 21.
Gaza has been blockaded by Israel since June 2007, a situation that has caused a decline in the standard of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment, and unrelenting poverty.
Israel denies about 1.7 million people in Gaza their basic rights, such as adequate healthcare and education.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A Palestinian inmate ended a prolonged hunger strike Tuesday after reaching a deal with Israeli military prosecutors for early release, his lawyer and family said.
Samer Issawi, whose fast helped fuel weeks of protests in the West Bank this year, will be allowed to return home to East Jerusalem after he serves eight more months, his attorney, Jawad Boulus, said.
Issawi, 33, had refused food for 227 days, receiving only infusions of water, vitamins and other supplements, Boulus said. Israeli and Palestinian officials feared an outbreak of violence in the West Bank if he died in prison.
Issawi embarked on the hunger strike to protest his arrest in July for allegedly violating the terms of a previous release by traveling to the West Bank.
He was one of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners freed in 2011 in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Issawi was originally arrested in 2002 in connection with a number of shooting attacks on Israeli vehicles and sentenced to 26 years in prison.
After his latest arrest, Issawi had expected to serve the rest of his sentence, but he will be granted amnesty under Tuesday's deal, Boulus said.
The agreement was signed in the presence of Assawi's sister and attorney at Israel's Kaplan hospital, where he has been under medical observation. Issawi had rejected release offers that would have required him to go to Europe, the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, Boulus said.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) Most of Lufthansa's, Germany's national airline, domestic, European and long-haul flights have been cancelled due to strikes by ground personnel and cabin crews.
"Due to strike action announced for April 22, nearly all Lufthansa flights to German and European destinations must be cancelled," the airline announced in a statement.
The firm said it had scheduled only around 20 of its usual 1,650 short-haul flights for Monday, and warned that long-haul routes would also be seriously affected.
At Frankfurt airport, Europe's third-busiest hub, 46 out of 50 intercontinental flights would be scrapped, with long-haul flights from Munich also grounded.
Services union Verdi called the strike after three rounds of pay talks with management ended without agreement.
Verdi is demanding a 5.2 percent pay increase for 33,000 Lufthansa ground staff, plus employees of various subsidiaries, as well as cabin crew members who are Verdi members.
The escalating pay dispute threatens to cause transport chaos across Germany, Europe's largest economy.
It comes a month after Lufthansa cancelled nearly 700 out of a total 1,800 flights due to half a day of warning strikes.
Lufthansa board member Stefan Lauer said the action, described as a 24-hour warning strike, was "de facto an all-out strike" that was "a completely excessive measure that can in no way be justified in view of the current state of negotiations".
Verdi has accused management of "playing with employees' fears about their future and their jobs" in refusing to make any concrete guarantees.
The union has complained that the offer proposed by management represented an increase of less than one percent over a period of one year.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – US-led foreign forces have bombed a religious school in Afghanistan's northern Balkh province, killing several people, Press TV reports.
According to police authorities, at least two people were killed in the attack. However, locals put the number at three.
Five others were said to have sustained serious injuries in the assault, which has outraged local residents, as reports by police indicated that the attack had not been coordinated with Afghan security forces.
Meanwhile on Saturday, hundreds of Afghans took to the streets to protest the killing of two civilians by the US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan's eastern province of Kapisa.
The demonstration in the eastern town of Tagab came on the heels of an overnight attack by foreign soldiers that killed two Afghans.
In 2001, the United States, along with its allies, invaded Afghanistan under the pretext of battling terrorism. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but the country remains gripped by insecurity despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops.
The United Nations has said that the number of civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan has dramatically increased in the first three months of 2013 compared to the same period last year.
Many civilians have lost their lives in US-led operations in various parts of Afghanistan over the past decade, with Afghans becoming increasingly outraged at the seemingly endless number of the deadly assaults.
Washington claims that its airstrikes target militants, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks. -www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Guards have swept through communal cellblocks at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and moved the inmates into one-man cells in an attempt to end a hunger strike that began in February.
"Some detainees resisted with improvised weapons, and in response, four less-than-lethal rounds were fired. There were no serious injuries to guards or detainees," Navy Captain Robert Durand said in a news release on Saturday.
He said the action was taken because detainees had covered windows and surveillance cameras to block the guards' view into the cellblocks.
"Round-the-clock monitoring is necessary to ensure security, order, and safety as detainees continued a prolonged hunger strike by refusing regular camp-provided meals," Durand said.
He said medical personnel had examined each detainee afterwards.
There were no serious injuries from the rounds, which included a modified shotgun shell that fires small rubber pellets as well as a type of bean-bag projectile, said Army Col. Greg Julian, a spokesman for Miami-based US Southern Command, which oversees the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba.
"I know for sure that one detainee was hit but the injuries were minor, just some bruises," Julian said.
The detention camp at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba holds 166 men, most of them captured more than a decade ago in counter-terrorism operations.
Saturday's early-morning sweep took place in Camp 6, a medium-security building where 80 to 100 detainees lived in cells that open into communal bays where they could eat, pray and watch television together.
As part of the hunger strike, prisoners had been refusing to let food carts enter some of the bays.
Earlier in the week, Durand said 43 prisoners were taking part in a hunger strike, including 11 who were being force-fed liquid nutrients through tubes inserted into their noses and down to their stomachs.
The practice is considered torture by some.
The hunger strike began in February to protest the seizure of personal items from detainees' cells. Some prisoners told their lawyers that their Qurans had been mistreated during the cell searches, which the US military denied.
Attorneys, military officials and human rights monitors have all said the hunger strike was partly an expression of frustration over the prisoners' unresolved fate.
About half of them have been cleared for release or transfer, but the US Congress has made it increasingly difficult to move prisoners out of Guantanamo and President Barack Obama has failed to implement his 2009 order to shut down the detention camp.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Air strikes have hit bakeries and hospitals among other civilian targets in Syria, a watchdog reported Thursday, accusing the Syrian government of killing thousands in such raids it said amounted to war crimes.
"Individuals who commit serious violations of the laws of war wilfully, that is intentionally or recklessly, are responsible for war crimes," Human Rights Watch said in a report titled "Death from the Skies."
"Syrian government air strikes that have deliberately or indiscriminately killed civilians appear to be part of systematic and widespread attacks against the civilian population that Human Rights Watch previously found amount to crimes against humanity," it added.
Basing its findings on investigations in rebel-held areas of three war-torn provinces, the New York-based group documented air strikes on four bakeries and two hospitals, along with other civilian targets.
One hospital in the northern city of Aleppo, the Dar al-Shifa, had suffered at least four attacks alone.
"In village after village, we found a civilian population terrified by their country's own air force," said Ole Solvang, a Human Rights Watch emergencies researcher. "These illegal air strikes killed and injured many civilians and sowed a path of destruction, fear, and displacement," he added.
Citing a network of activists, HRW said that "air strikes have killed more than 4,300 civilians across Syria since July 2012."
The report detailed the use of highly explosive munitions that sometimes flattened several houses in a single attack.
'We didn't recognise him'
One resident of the northern town of Azaz told HRW that at least 12 members of his family were killed in a bombing of their homes on August 15 last year.
"I buried 12 of my family members... including my father, my mother, and my sister; my brother's wife as well," said the man identified as Ahmed. "Walid, my brother, was cut into pieces. We didn't recognise him at first. We buried my brothers' children also. The youngest was 40 days old," he added.
One of the explosive devices used in attacks on Azaz was a powerful fragmentation bomb "that has a casualty-producing radius of 155 metres," said the watchdog.
Other types of munitions used by the Syrian army were cluster bombs, ballistic missiles and incendiary weapons, said HRW.
"It is important to stress that these attacks are ongoing. On Sunday, an air strike on Aleppo city killed 17 civilians. A week ago, a cluster bomb attack killed another 11," Solvang told the AFP news agency.
The organisation meanwhile called on the international community to help put a stop to violations in Syria.
"Human Rights Watch calls on governments and companies to immediately stop selling or supplying weapons, ammunition, and material to Syria, given compelling evidence that the Syrian government is committing crimes against humanity, until Syria stops committing these crimes," said HRW.
Solvang acknowledged that Russian and Chinese vetoes in the UN Security Council had so far blocked any international action on Syria. But he said "that should not stop concerned governments from stepping up their own efforts to press the Syrian government to end these violations."
Last month, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad said it "categorically" rejected a UN Human Rights Council decision to prolong an enquiry on Syria, calling the group's work "biased and imbalanced."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Forty-one prisoners have now been classified as hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay, though none of them are in hospital, the prison’s spokesman said. Inmates maintain that the actual number is over three times higher.
Follow RT’s day-by-day timeline on Gitmo hunger strike
Navy Capt. Robert Durand said that the slight increase, up one from Thursday, takes into account all prisoners who have missed at least nine consecutive meals.
He added that two prisoners who had been hospitalized for dehydration have now been released, and eleven more are being force-fed to keep them from losing enough weight to endanger their lives.
The US military has continued to engage in the controversial process of forced feeding – an act the UN has compared to torture- despite opposition from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) monitoring the prisoners’ condition.
Despite the officially recognized figure, prisoners and their attorneys have long maintained that 130 out of the camps 166 detainees have already joined the hunger strike.
The hunger strike, which reportedly began around February 6, “was precipitated by widespread searches of detainees’ Qur’ans – perceived as religious desecration – as well as searches and confiscation of other personal items, including family letters and photographs, and legal mail, seemingly without provocation or cause,” Fifty-one attorneys wrote to defense secretary Chuck Hagel on March 14.
US authorities have summarily denied the prisoners’ claims.
On Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Washington to close Guantanamo Bay in an uncharacteristically strong statement from the UN.
Pillay, who characterized the prison hunger strike as a “desperate” but "scarcely surprising” act, expressed her “deep disappointment” that the US government had not followed through on its four-year-old pledge to shut down Guantanamo Bay.
“We must be clear about this, the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold,” Pillay said in a statement.
She further condemned “the continuing indefinite incarceration of many of the detainees,” saying it “amounts to arbitrary detention,” a violation of international law.
Of the 166 detainees, who hail from 23 different countries, only nine have been formally charged or convicted of a criminal offense.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Palestinians are expected to hold a general strike and observe a day of mourning following the death of a Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail due to lack of medical attention.
People across the Palestinian territories will join the strike on Wednesday, a day after the death of Maisarah Abu Hamdiah, a 64-year-old prisoner, who had been suffering from throat cancer.
Acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas has blamed the Israeli regime for refusing to grant Abu Hamdiah an early release.
Abbas said the death of Hamdiah showed the Tel Aviv regime’s “arrogance and intransigence over the prisoners.”
Abbas also stated that the Palestinian Authority had worked to get the prisoner released for treatment but the Israeli regime “refused to let him out, which led to his death.”
Nabil Abu Rudeina, Abbas’s spokesman, also said the regime of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was responsible for the death of the Palestinian prisoner.
Meanwhile, Salam Fayyad, the acting premier of the Palestinian Authority, also condemned Tel Aviv and called for an international inquiry into Hamdiah’s death.
On Tuesday, Palestinian prisoners in several Israeli jails protested the death of Abu Hamdiah.
People also demonstrated across the occupied West Bank. In the city of al-Khalil (Hebron), Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at nearly 300 angry demonstrators. Three people were reportedly injured in another demonstration held in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- There's been a lot of chatter recently about "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," a new online infographic which shows a chilling visualization of all estimated deaths in Pakistan caused by U.S. drone strikes, including children and civilians, based on estimates from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and New America Foundation. Whether you agree with the numbers, or the politics, behind this particular project (put together by the data visualization firm Pitch Interactive), at least it's sparking debate. And that's got to be a good thing -- there's still so much we don't know about this highly controversial issue.
To say that the use of drone strikes is a polarizing topic would be a vast understatement. In U.S. policy circles, it's projected as an effective counter-terrorism tactic, whereas globally, it is often seen as tacit abuse of state sovereignty. And that's before you get to the debate over potential international law and human rights violations.
Take, for example, the use of drone strikes to target al-Qaida, the Taliban and their affiliates in the restive tribal belt of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. There are a variety of studiesavailable regarding the accuracy, reliability and ultimate effectiveness of this tool of war, and, using the same data, analysts can come to very different conclusions depending on their particular point of view, or -- in some cases -- that of their employers.
For some, the percentage of civilian deaths is the criterion, and for others, denying the terrorists sanctuary is a critical benchmark. The problem is a lack of credible data (and consensus) regarding exactly how many terrorists have been killed by drone strikes and who those terrorists are. Thus, objectivity has become another victim in the process.
In my assessment, the ground realities that must be kept in mind in this analysis include:
- al-Qaida and its affiliates are on the run due to drone strikes -- there is a near consensus on this point among all types of analysts.
- Pakistan's government (both military and civilian) was fully on board, except perhaps for the past year, which means the sovereignty issue was not relevant in many cases.
- Mainstream and moderate Pukhtuns in Pakistan were by and large okay with drone strikes because they did what they and Pakistani security forces couldn't -- however, this is seldom expressed in public.
- A significant number of drone victims (likely in the 50-60 percent range by local estimates) have been civilians (including women and children) and this in turn caused higher recruitment for militant groups.
- The network of local spies who identify targets on ground have their own ethnic, tribal and political vendettas to settle as well, which causes "collateral damage."
- Anti-U.S. feelings in Pakistan increased substantially as a result of this strategy, weakening the U.S.-Pakistan counterterrorism cooperation.
Some of these facts may sound contradictory, and that is because they are. The truth is we don't know whether U.S. drone strikes have killed more terrorists or produced more terrorists.
Regardless, killing terrorists is only a stopgap arrangement. A corresponding and parallel development strategy for bringing the tribal areas into mainstream Pakistan is in dire need in order to empower girls like Malala Yousafzai, who challenged the insufferable Taliban worldview by standing up for education. This inclusiveness has long been the missing component in U.S. policy, and tragically, it remains so. Dismantling the al-Qaida network is a worthwhile goal, but de-radicalization is equally important.
It is not that there has been no U.S. investment in education, but rather, the dilemma is lack of balance in use of hard and soft power. In some cases bureaucratic hurdles delayed implementation of well-intentioned development plans. Inter-agency disconnect is yet another challenge. Pakistan's malfunctioning counterterrorism policy and entrenched regional rivalries only exacerbate the situation.
There were roughly 350 drone strikes in the tribal areas since 2004, atan exorbitant cost (even though drone strikes offer a cheaper option in comparison to "boots on ground"). But how many schools were opened in the region over the same period of time? The answer is distressing, as the number of schools has actually declined sharply .
Damages to more than 460 schools throughout the tribal belt at the hands of Taliban has in fact displaced 62,000 children, including 23,000 girls, from school. It doesn't require very high intelligence to guess that in the absence of schools, and with an increase in violence, what kind of future awaits these kids. Drone strikes may take out some of those who destroyed these schools, but that is hardly a sustainable solution to the larger problem.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- North Korea has escalated its military and diplomatic confrontation with America, responding to US military drills with a bellicose declaration that its rockets were ready to hit American bases in the Pacific.
In the latest of a volley of military threats and purple rhetoric, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, warned that "the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists in view of the prevailing situation". The official KCNA news agency said Pyongyang and Washington could only settle their differences by "physical means".
The agency also released pictures of Kim and his senior generals huddled in front of a map showing strike possibilities on both US coasts. Pyongyang has rockets that could easily wreak carnage on Seoul, but its longer-range missiles that might hit US Pacific bases are unproven and experts are sceptical of the threats.
"He finally signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets of the KPA (Korean People's army), ordering them to be on standby for fire so that they may strike any time the US mainland, its military bases in the operational theatres in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea," KCNA said.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported there had been additional troop and vehicle movements at the north's mid- and long-range missile sites, indicating they may be ready to fire.
Yonhap quoted a South Korean military source who said "sharply increased movements of vehicles and soldiers" had been detected recently at the sites.
Later on Friday, at the main square in Pyongyang, tens of thousands of North Koreans turned out for a 90-minute mass rally in support of Kim's call to arms, Associated Press reported. Men and women, many of them in olive drab uniforms, stood in arrow-straight lines, fists raised as they chanted: "Death to the US imperialists." Placards in the plaza bore harsh words for South Korea as well, including: "Let's rip the puppet traitors to death!"
The latest flurry of hostile language came after the US flew two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the peninsula on Thursday, dropping dummy munitions in joint military drills with South Korea. They flew from the US and back in what appeared to be the first exercise of its kind, designed to show America's ability to conduct long-range, precision strikes "quickly and at will", the US military said.
The US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, said the decision to send B-2 bombers to join the military drills was part of normal exercises and not intended to provoke North Korea. Hagel acknowledged, however, that North Korea's belligerent tones and actions in recent weeks had ratcheted up the danger in the region, and, he said, "we have to understand that reality".
Russia and China, both of which share a border with North Korea, both called for restraint. In thinly-veiled criticism of the US manoeuvres, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, expressed concern that "unilateral action is being taken around North Korea that is increasing military activity".
Pyongyang stepped up its rhetoric this month after the UN agreed a new round of sanctions to punish a nuclear test conducted on 12 February. Many experts believe the rancorous statements are aimed more at a domestic audience than at international adversaries.
"These sorts of threats are not new," said Dr James Hoare, the former British chargé d'affaires in Pyongyang. "It's theatre — it's like Peking opera, with lots of shouting and stamping.
"That said, it's always dangerous because if you up the rhetoric, someone might make a mistake."
Tensions run higher during joint US-South Korean military drills, such as the current exercise, Foal Eagle. Seoul and Washington say the drills are defensive, but Hoare noted that they are also "big, and threatening" and that North Korea has always reacted to them.
Adam Cathcart, an expert on North Korea at Queen's University, Belfast, said: "North Korea was completely levelled by American power in 1950-53. They had no air cover whatsoever. That did profound things to society and their concept of American power.