and other news from Sunday in Palestine:
Settlers / Land, property, resources theft and destruction / Ethnic cleansing
Settlers destroy farms and trees near Nablus, unleash dog on 66-year-old
18 Dec – Nablus – PNN – In an overnight attack, Israeli settlers destroyed farmland and cut down trees on the outskirts of Tel village, near Nablus in the northern West Bank … “The extremist settlers came from the Hafat Gilead settlement,” said Douglas, “which is considered a den of extremists launching attacks in the past month against surrounding villages.” Meanwhile on Saturday, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) National Office to Defend Land and Resist Settlement released a report entitled “Forced Commerce in Jerusalem” that said two residential buildings in Jerusalem had been demolished by Israeli forces in the past week.
Israel orders evacuation of Nablus village
Israeli forces have ordered residents of Khirbet Tana, a tiny Palestinian village to the east of Nablus in the northern West Bank, to evacuate their homes and depart the village within the next 24 hours. Israeli forces threatened to confiscate property, including sheep, once the deadline passed.
Brooklyn-Jenin: Why didn’t the judges prevent the demolition in Lod? / Udi Aloni
19 Dec – As fifty children lose their homes under the auspices of the Supreme Court the question should be asked: Does the Supreme Court act in the service of a racist ideology in the spirit of Rabbi Eliyahu and his cohorts? … when they got home, the home was utterly destroyed. Fifty children stood shocked in front of their seven demolished homes, the uprooted palm tree and the water bursting out of the broken pipe; they stood frozen in front of the offhandedly thrown out furniture and the cries of their mothers facing the destructive power all by themselves.
Settler guards in Silwan
Silwan, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) 19 Dec — Israeli settlements throughout Silwan are guarded 24 hours a day by a vast force of heavily armed security guards, who ensure the settlement’s “protection” through constant patrols of the premises and surrounding neighborhoods in armored vehicles, and an extensive network of surveillance cameras. While the settlements themselves are private enterprises, the guards’ salaries are paid by the Jerusalem Municipality. The guards enjoy a close relationship with the Israeli police, who frequently accompany and assist them in their security work. While Jewish settlers in Silwan defend the guards’ presence as a “protective force”, for Palestinian residents they constitute an armed and dangerous militia. Numerous instances of settlers guards’ use of live ammunition against civilian residents have been documented.
HRW: Israeli settlements ‘displace’ Palestinians
JERUSALEM (AFP) 19 Dec — Palestinians in the occupied West Bank lack basic amenities and are effectively being forcibly displaced by discriminatory Israeli policies, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Sunday … “While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp — not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes.” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev criticized HRW, saying evidence from recent years showed “that Human Rights Watch has allowed an anti-Israel agenda to pollute its objectivity.”
Violence / Incursions / Provocations
Palestinian teen reported injured in north Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) 19 Dec — Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian shepherd Sunday on the northern Gaza border, locals said. Ijmei’an Abu Ihweishel, 19, was herding sheep when soldiers shot him in the leg, they said.
Israeli forces storm Bethlehem hospital
Israeli forces stormed a hospital near Bethlehem on Sunday and demanded its admissions records for the past 48 hours, staff and witnesses said. Edmund Shehadeh, director of the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation, in Beit Jala, said soldiers surrounded the hospital before storming its ER and demanding the records at gunpoint … In Jerusalem, Israeli police said they found the dead body of a US woman who went missing near the city and were investigating if she was the target of an attack. It was not clear if the incidents were related.
Five Gazans dead in Israel raid: medics, security (AFP)
GAZA CITY 18 Dec – Five Palestinian militants were killed as Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip late on Saturday, Israel’s military and Palestinian sources said … The raid targeted Deir el-Balah in central Gaza, they said … Security services of the Hamas Islamist movement which rules the Gaza Strip confirmed that the five Palestinians, all aged around 20, died in an Israeli air raid and were to be buried on Sunday. The witnesses said the dead militants, former members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the Committees of Popular Resistance, belonged to one of the radical Salafist groups in Gaza that have recently stepped up attacks against Israel.
Medics recover bodies of 5 killed in Gaza strike
GAZA CITY 19 Dec — Gaza Strip medical officials said Sunday that ambulances had collected the shredded bodies of five Palestinian operatives after they were targeted by an Israeli airstrike hours earlier. Medics identified the deceased as Abdullah Shreihi, Ahmad Al-Assar, Khalil At-Taweel, Ashraf Abu Sabt, and Ahmad Az-Za’lan, all of Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. Israel’s military said its forces hit central Gaza to take out a squad of militants about to fire rockets.
Body of slain US woman found near Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (AFP) 19 Dec — Israeli police on Sunday found the body of a missing US tourist, apparently stabbed to death … Police launched a massive manhunt for Christine Logan, after her British-Israeli friend, Kaye Susan Wilson was found by passers-by on Saturday night, tied up and suffering multiple stab wounds … on Sunday, [Israeli police spokesman Micky] Rosenfeld said the investigation was focused on the assumption the attack was “nationalistically motivated” based on “the fact that they were tied up and the way that they were stabbed.” … A court-imposed gag order barred publication of new details of progress in the investigation.
Activism / Solidarity / Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions
Palestinians embark on the ‘Intifada of Graves’
Haaretz 19 Dec – For the past week, representatives of the Popular Palestinian Committees (PPC) have been urging West Bank residents to bury their dead in Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank, identified as Area C. The plan has been endorsed by several ministers in the Palestinian Authority, who back the initiative as a way to influence conditions on the ground pre-final status negotiations, which at this point seem elusive … The Intifada of Graves, the label given to the plan by proponents, has been called a land grab by some Israeli politicians, including the head of the Yesha Council, Danny Dayan. He called on the Israeli government to take action against this “alarming phenomenon,” and to “take care of the interests of the entire nation.”
Demonstrator suffers head injury after being hit directly by tear gas projectile in Nabi Saleh
(with photos, video from there and Ni`lin 17 Dec) Army stops ambulance carrying injured demonstrators three times before letting it continue to a Ramallah hospital. Clashes between army and demonstrators continue into the night as the army used tear gas, rubber bullets, sound bombs and live ammunition while taking over civilian houses.
Bil`in veiled by tear gas
(with video 17 Dec) Soldiers reacted aggressively to this week’s demonstration with a barrage of tear-gas projectiles directed at the demonstrators from behind the barrier…The exceptionally large amounts of tear-gas, which could be strongly sensed even at the edge of the village’s built-up area, force the majority of demonstrators to disperse. A small group that managed to hold its ground by the gate despite the gas, was also eventually mush back by the lack of breathable air.
St. Louis protest makes Israeli newspaper Ynet:
Pro-Palestinian dance wows shoppers
18 Dec – Watch St Louis solidarity group denounce Motorola, which they claim is assisting ‘Israeli Apartheid’ … Among the dancers, many of whom appeared in traditional Muslim dress, was the 86-year old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, who has previously tried to enter the Gaza Strip and went on a hunger strike when entrance was denied.
Guerrilla ad campaign in San Francisco
19 Dec – We got these pictures in the mail
Gaza-bound activists arrive in Turkey
19 Dec – Asia’s first humanitarian aid convoy bound for the besieged Gaza Strip has arrived in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir. Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine (APSP) convoy arrived in the biggest town in the Turkish region on Sunday after travelling through Iran. The caravan was warmly greeted with crowds of Turkish and Kurdish residents in the area. The group of 50 pro-Palestinian activists was flagged off from New Delhi, India on December 2.
Asia to Gaza caravan to reach Syria tomorrow
Kozhikode: The 130 delegates on board the Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan of the Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine will reach Syria tomorrow (December 20) … The 130-member convoy includes people of all faiths and religions, men and women, from India, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Bahrain and Azerbaijan. People from Kuwait, Lebanon and Jordan are yet to join the convoy as are the Iranian Parliamentarians, representatives of Turkey and others from Egypt. The Indian Lifeline to Gaza, as the Indian team is called, consists of 50 people from different states, representing various student organizations, civil society groups and trade unions etc like the Awami Bharat (Feroze Mithiborwala), Solidarity Youth Movement, Student Islamic Organisation (Shaheen K Moidunni) and the New Trade Union Initiative (Ashim Roy).
Released prisoners minister: I was imprisoned to keep me from my village
18 Dec – Former Minister of Prisoners Affairs Wasfi Qabaha, recently released after a week of administrative detention in December and seven years in and out of Israeli prisons, told PNN he was most recently detained to “keep me out of my village.” Qabaha said he was denied permission to visit his village of East Barata’a after the death of his father nearly two weeks ago.
Each of these detainees has a family / Buma Inbar
18 Dec – …The detention of a Palestinian has many implications for family members, and not only with regard to the judicial process itself. It is not so well known that such a detention is enough to immediately put all first-degree relatives of the detainee on the list of those denied entry to Israel, on the theory that one of them might seek revenge. The arrest of one youthful member of the family turns the entire family into security risks. Simple calculation shows that the “club” of detainees gets every month dozens of new “members”.
Siege / Restriction on movement / Rights violations / Humanitarian issues
Gaza: 1 crossing operates partly
GAZA CITY 19 Dec — Israeli authorities partly opened the southernmost Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the blockaded Gaza Strip, while the bulk goods Karni terminal in the northeast remained closed.
Gaza suffers from severe shortage of cooking gas
19 Dec – …The reduction of gas shipments coincides with the winter, during which the demand of gas increases, said Hamada, adding that most of Gaza’s gas stations are closed on Saturday. For two months, Israel has been allowing only 80 tons of gas in per-day, while Gaza needs about 250 tons every day, Hamada said.
EU urges Israel to do more on Gaza crossings
20 Dec – The European Union says Israel has to go beyond its recent easing of the Gaza Strip blockade and guarantee the “unconditional” opening of the border into the territory run by the militant Palestinian Hamas group.
Malta’s foreign minister visits the Gaza Strip
19 Dec – Malta’s Foreign Minister, Tonio Borg, has issued a call for serious and tangible efforts to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip. During a short visit to the Strip on Friday, he promised his country’s financial assistance for several projects operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), as well as the fishing sector.
Security for who? Checkpoint network in Silwan continues to grow
19 Dec – Silwan, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) — Residents of Silwan are accustomed to the road blocks and flying checkpoints frequently erected by Israeli forces in their village. The road blocks have become commonplace particularly in the districts of Wadi Hilweh and Wadi el-Rababa, through both of which run the two main entrances to Silwan. In Wadi Hilweh, Israeli police’s “security checks” of Palestinian vehicles and their passengers cause regular congestion of the busy street and continue to bring pointless delay and disruption to the lives of countless residents … The photographer for Silwanic on this report was verbally abused by soldiers as he attempted to approach the checkpoint and ordered to stay away from the area.
Workers on strike protesting humiliation at checkpoint
TULKAREM 19 Dec — Palestinian workers from the Tulkarem district in the northern West Bank, who work in Israel and Israeli settlements, went on strike Sunday protesting ill treatment by security guards who man a local checkpoint. Head of the taxi drivers union in Tulkarem Muhammad Yasin told Ma’an that about 2,000 workers were on strike. He alleged that employees of the Israeli company which runs the the At-Tayba (Ephraim) checkpoint deliberately humiliate workers as they cross.
Gaza children labour to help families
19 Dec – Young people are driven by poverty to work long hours at the expense of their education – Among the loads of automotive parts, equipment and heavy machinery along the two-way roads of Azgola in the west of Gaza city are many children working. Ahmad Al Kurd is one of them.After four hours of continuously intense work, a rather wearisome smile seemed to light up the oil-smeared face of Ahmad when had was called for a tea break. With ragged clothes that have been worn to shreds, the 15-year-old boy appears to have become used to this line of work that not only requires the skills of a qualified auto body mechanic but also a strict attendance from nine in the morning until six in the evening, six days a week.
Racism / Sexism / Discrimination
Bat Yam rally: ‘Arabs dating our sisters’
19 Dec After a rabbis’ letter instructing Jews to not sell or rent apartments to Arabs, racist behavior reaches new low: An organization called Jews for a Jewish Bat Yam is expected to protest on Monday against the “assimilation of young Jewish women with Arabs living in the city or in nearby Jaffa.”
Students targeted after rabbis’ anti-Arab edict
18 Dec – PSYCHOLOGY student Osama Ghanaim was woken early one night last month by a mob of 60 ultra-Orthodox Jews chanting ”Kill the Arabs” outside his flat. ‘Then they stoned my house,” Ghanaim said this week. ”Rocks broke through my front windows.” After the crowd dispersed, Ghanaim, who is one of 1400 Arab Israeli students enrolled at Safed Academic College, in northern Israel, found a poster on his front door warning him to move out. ”The poster said they would set fire to the house, so I called the police,” Ghanaim said. ”The police took four hours to come to my house, and they did nothing. I have not heard a thing from them since.”
Victimized by rabbis who lack God’s image / Shulamit Aloni
Haaretz 19 Dec – …Recently, we have been the victims of the disgrace and envy of various ultra-Orthodox men who have united with their old-fashioned and obsolete rabbis to shame women and keep them away from the words of the Torah. This includes the disgrace at the Western Wall and the humiliating obligation to enter buses from the back door and sit separately from their families. According to them, even a 7-year-old girl is considered a woman who must sit at the back of the bus. Now those same Haredi men are removing the women from city sidewalks in favor of the “black-uniformed men”
HRW: US ‘should link aid’ to Israeli settlements
JERUSALEM (AFP) — The United States should penalise Israel by withholding from its massive annual aid a sum equal to the amount Israel gives in subsidies to West Bank settlements, Human Rights Watch said Sunday. In a 166-page report, the group called on the international community to penalise Israel for “discrimination” in the West Bank, comparing the services enjoyed by settlers with those of neighboring Palestinian villages. … “The United States, which provides $2.75 billion in aid to Israel annually, should suspend financing to Israel in an amount equivalent to the costs of Israel’s spending in support of settlements, which a 2003 study estimated at $1.4 billion,” the report said. “Similarly, based on numerous reports that US tax-exempt organisations provide substantial contributions to support settlements, the report urges the US to verify that such tax-exemptions are consistent with US obligations to ensure respect for international law,” it added
100 Israelis meet Abbas in Ramallah
19 Dec – At Mukataa compound, PA leader tells Mitzna, Oron and other leading figures Netanyahu told him settlement freeze could not be extended due to fear of coalition’s collapse. Palestinians agreed to international presence in West Bank, he adds. Ashrawi: Wall between us not only physical
Abbas to Israeli MKs: Help us not to miss the chance for peace
Haaretz 19 Dec – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hosted dozens of Israeli legislators and activists Sunday, and urged them to relay a simple message to the Israeli public – he is serious about negotiating a peace deal and that the Palestinians will never again resort to violence. Sunday’s meeting at Abbas’ West Bank headquarters was attended by about 100 Israeli Jews, including members of parliament, peace activists and journalists. The legislators were from Labor, Kadima and Meretz, the three Israeli parties that support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Palestinian negotiator says peace process in ‘deep coma’ (AFP)
18 Dec – BEIT SAHUR, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – A Palestinian negotiator late Saturday said the peace process with Israel was in a “deep coma” and that US proposals for resuming talks were “totally useless”. “I don’t think we are to resume the negotiations soon,” Nabil Shaath told journalists at Beit Sahur, near Bethlehem in the West Bank.
Palestinians still hope for state by summer (AP)
19 Dec – JERUSALEM – Palestinian plans to establish a state by summer in agreement with Israel remain on track and they do not intend to seek alternatives such as unilateral recognition from the international community, a top Palestinian official said in a special interview with Israeli TV aired Saturday.
Mubarak blames Israel for deadlocked talks
19 Dec – Egyptian president tells his parliament in Cairo that Jewish state’s security depends on peace, not on military force or occupation. US President Obama urges Turkey to improve its relations with Israel
PFLP, Fatah to meet in Cairo
GAZA CITY 19 Dec – A delegation representing leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is scheduled to go to Cairo Sunday for two-day meetings with another Palestinian delegation representing Fatah.
Obama urges Israel and Turkey to ‘do everything’ to repair ties
In interview with Hurriyet, U.S. president says its relations with Turkey are more important than ever ‘even when we disagree’.
Hamas in dispute with UN over school trips for Palestinian pupils
19 Dec - Hamas, the Islamist movement ruling the Gaza strip, has asked the United Nations to stop exposing Palestinian children to the Holocaust during trips organised for outstanding students from Gaza, and instead concentrate on Palestinian victims … Hamas also said that “the minds of the children are not big enough to understand the suffering of all the victims around the world”, adding that “the Palestinian suffering caused by the Jewish occupiers is enough of an example”. In the statement, Hamas suggested that instead of organising trips to the US, the UN should take the Gazan children to Vietnam, the US prison in Guantánamo Bay or Abu Ghraib detention facility in Iraq.
New Yad Vashem program aims to teach Arabs about the Holocaust
14 Dec (AP) Six decades after the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial has launched a new effort to educate the country’s Arab minority – many of whom either deny the horror or undermine its scope. Like their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza, many of Israel’s 1.2 million Arabs resentfully view the Holocaust as the catalyst of their own suffering. While studying the Nazi genocide is mandatory in Israeli schools, there’s little empathy among Arabs for its Jewish victims. In a new project, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is offering seminars to Arab teachers, hoping to wrest contemporary Mideast politics from the historical events of the Holocaust.
PM Fayyad comes to Beit Sahour to celebrate Christmas
(with photos) 18 Dec – Bethlehem – PNN – Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad came to Beit Sahour, the village in which—according to the traditional Christmas story—a group of shepherds were said to have seen the star announcing the birth of Jesus Christ, and lit the municipal Christmas tree … Beit Sahour is a village of about 12,000 people southwest of Bethlehem, the traditional site of Jesus Christ’s birth. The tourism industry of the village, which is 80% Christian, burgeons as Christmas approaches.
In photos: Fayyad lights Beit Sahour Christmas tree
(15 photos, not all of Fayyad!)
No room at the inn as Bethlehem booms for Christmas
19 Dec – The little town is packed to overflowing, a reflection of a new tourism boom which is defying the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank. “You won’t find a room in Bethlehem,” says George Saadeh, Bethlehem’s deputy mayor. With Christmas only a few days away, the city is already dressed in its festive clothes. Green garlands hang above the narrow streets and silver stars are fixed to the walls … The Palestinian Authority estimates that by year’s end, up to 2 million visitors will have passed through the biblical city. Moreover, about half of them will have stayed in the city and eaten at its restaurants and cafes, thus aiding the local economy. Despite its enduring centrality to Christianity, Bethlehem is actually very small, with a population of about 28,000 people, only 27 per cent of whom are Christians.
Egypt: Explosives seized on Gaza border
EL-ARISH 19 Dec — Egyptian security forces on Sunday morning seized a secret weapons cache in a desert area in Sheikh Zwayyid city, 10 kilometers from the border with the Gaza Strip, Egyptian security sources said … The cache included 14 cannon cartridges, 11 grenades, and old ordnance, seemingly collected to use their gunpowder, the Egyptian security sources said.
Israel sonic booms ‘making crocs randy’
JERUSALEM (AFP) 19 Dec — Sonic booms created by Israeli warplanes speeding across the sky are having the unintended consequence of launching hibernating crocodiles into mating mode, the daily Maariv reported Sunday.
Analysis / Opinion / Human interest
The Israeli left has been orphaned / Gideon Levy
In Israel’s nationalistic society, there are still several hundred thousand citizens who think otherwise, but have no alternative leadership to identify with and guide them.
US needs peace more than Israel or Palestinians / Zvi Bar’el
Haaretz 1 Dec – The continuation of the Arab-Israeli crisis, the nexus of which is in Palestine, threatens American interests no less than the war in Afghanistan and Iran’s nuclear program.
Gaza’s social network
19 Dec – “People outside expect us all to be wrapped in keffiyehs … and to be stalwarts of the Palestinian cause every second of every day, and we feel we don’t want to disappoint them but we are human beings and sometimes we just want to blog about what’s on our mind”. These words were spoken by a blogger from Gaza at a meeting in July which brought together 11 bloggers who use the Internet to tell readers all over the world about the reality of life in the Strip.
‘We will continue to sing': DAM’s Suhell Nafar interviewed
17 Dec – DAM is a Palestinian hip hop trio from Lod, a mixed Palestinian and Jewish town about 20 kilometers from Jerusalem. Comprised of Tamer Nafar, Suhell Nafar and Mahmoud Jreri, the members of DAM are from a neighborhood with a history of drug abuse and violence. Like African-American hip hop acts, the members of DAM turned to music at a young age to articulate the harsh realities of urban life and the institutional realities of living in a country that not only views them as a suspicious “other” but as the enemy within.
Lebanon at standstill ahead of Hariri indictments
BEIRUT (AFP) 19 Dec – The Beirut government is in paralysis, business deals are on hold and rumours abound as Lebanon anxiously awaits indictments by a UN tribunal probing former premier Rafiq Hariri’s murder.
Discovery of Israeli ‘spy cameras’ is good news for Hezbollah / Harel & Issacharoff
16 Dec – Supposed Israeli spy activity in Lebanon serves Hezbollah interests by reminding the Lebanese public that Israel, not Hezbollah, is the real enemy.
Saturday: 8 Iraqis wounded
Reports of violence are still scant following the Ashura observances, but at least eight Iraqis were wounded in at least three explosions in Baghdad. Meanwhile, the Electricity Ministry has opened bidding to foreign companies on four new power stations that could boost production. Last summer, the lack of electricity led to riots in southern Iraq.
Ex-soldier talks about slaying of Iraqi family
19 Dec (AP) – LOUISVILLE, Ky. – An Iraq War veteran serving five life terms for raping and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her parents and sister says he didn’t think of Iraqi civilians as humans after being exposed to extreme war zone violence.
Iraqi Kurds slam anti-rally law
19 Dec – Thousands of Iraqi Kurds have taken to the streets of the northern city of Suleymaniyeh to protest against a recent law restricting the right to demonstrate. Last week, the rule was signed into law by Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government. More than 2,000 people, holding placards and chanting slogans, attended Saturday’s peaceful protest.
Iraq lifts ban on Sunni politicians
18 Dec (Al Jazeera) – Parliament voted 109-61 on Saturday to allow Saleh al-Mutlaq, a former legislator of the cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition, and two others to return to political jobs. Haidar al-Mullah, an Iraqiya spokesman, said the decision marked a major step toward assuring Sunnis that they will not be sidelined in the new Shia-dominated government which Nouri al-Maliki plans to announce on Monday.
Iraq plans to build 4 power plants
19 Dec – Iraq plans to set up four power plants with a total of 2,750 megawatts capacity within 18 months to overcome electricity shortage in the war-torn country. The electricity ministry says the power stations would be constructed in cities of Basra, Samawa, Diwaniya and Amarah.
Blackwater killings: ‘US at fault’
17 Dec (Al Jazeera) – The security company formerly known as Blackwater has told a US federal judge that the US government, and not the company itself, should be held accountable for a 2007 shooting by its contractors that killed 17 Iraqis in Nisour Square in Baghdad.
Arab states defense spending to hit $80 bln in 2015
19 Dec – DUBAI (Al Arabiya) The combined defense budget of the GCC states and Jordan is on the increase, with an expected $68 billion rise in defense spending in 2011, a UAE-based newspaper reported on Sunday. “This is expected to grow to about $80 billion by 2015. It is expected that the overall defense spending in the Middle East will cross $100 billion by 2015… led by Saudi Arabia,”
Child labour helps war-torn Afghan families survive (Reuters)
18 Dec – KABUL: Afghan Abdul Wahab swings a heavy sledgehammer down onto a red hot piece of metal to mould it into a truck part, sweat dripping down a face marked with grime and soot from the fire, and with a focus rare for an 11-year-old. Wahab is one of about 1.2 million Afghan children in part or full time work, the government says, in a country where war, poverty, widespread unemployment and a preference for large families have created a huge underage labour market.
America’s new mercenaries / Tim Shorrock
As American commanders meet this week for the Afghanistan review, Obama is hiring military contractors at a rate that would make Bush blush.
U.S. / WikiLeaks
Think tank plans study on US treats detainees (AP)
17 Dec – NEW YORK – A nonpartisan legal think tank plans to study U.S. treatment of terrorism detainees, partly out of concern that the country’s policies lack clarity and can be manipulated to permit abuse or torture in dangerous times, members of a task force appointed to conduct the study said Friday.
WikiLeaks: PA requested Rafah to open to Gaza-Egypt exports
19 Dec – The PA pressed the US to use its influence to secure the opening of the Rafah crossing for Gazan exports into Egypt, according to a Wikileaks document released Saturday. The Palestinian team also pressed the US to ensure clearance of commercial cargo imports at Kerem Shalom from Egypt into Gaza by PA and Israeli customs inspectors and the expansion of the categories of travelers able to use Rafah passage to include journalists and third country nationals of Palestinian heritage.
Bank of America cuts off WikiLeaks payments
18 Dec – Bank of America Corp. Friday evening said it was joining other financial institutions in declining to process payments intended for WikiLeaks.
Journalists at Pentagon daily barred from WikiLeaks
18 Dec (AFP) The Pentagon has banned journalists with the popular defense daily Stars and Stripes from consulting leaked diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, prompting charges of censorship.”The editorial independence of Stars and Stripes and its readers’ right to news free of censorship are being threatened by an overly broad and misdirected response to the Wikileaks debacle,” the daily wrote.
Biden: US in pursuit of ‘hi-tech terrorist’ Assange
19 Dec (AFP) WASHINGTON – The US Justice Department is exploring a legal pursuit of Julian Assange, said Vice President Joe Biden, who described the WikiLeaks founder as a dangerous “hi-tech terrorist.” “We’re looking at that right now,” Biden told NBC’s Sunday talk show “Meet the Press,” but the vice president stopped short of elaborating on just how the administration could act against the head of the organization whose release of thousands of classified US diplomatic cables has enraged Washington.