The untold suffering of Palestinian children (190 in detention now)

ActivismIsrael/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
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 Urgent Appeal – Children of Beit Ummar
The  town of Beit Ummar is situated halfway between Bethlehem and Hebron, in  the occupied West Bank, and has a population of around 13,500. The town is located approximately three kilometers south of the Israeli settlement block of Gush Etzion and adjacent to the settlement of Karmi Zur. Every Friday, residents of Beit Ummar hold a demonstration near Karmi Zur in protest against being denied access to their agricultural land. Each year, numerous children from the village are arrested during demonstrations, or in the middle of the night, and accused of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and settlers. Since January 2009, DCI-Palestine alone has documented 26 cases of children from Beit Ummar being arrested mostly on suspicion of throwing stones. According to the United Nations, a total of 43 children were arrested from Beit Ummar in 2010, rising to 27 children arrested in the first two months of 2011.

Report on routine detention of children in Beit Ommar
The Palestine Solidarity Project reported today that Yousef Abu Hashem, a 19-year-old Palestinian from the southern West Bank village of Beit Ommarwas released from Israeli prison after he was arrested six months ago by Israeli soldiers.  
The Bureau of Statistics at the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Prisoners has revealed that the Israeli occupation authorities are still detaining nearly 190 Palestinian children, “in circumstances that are similar to those under which adults are detained, in terms of location, cruelty and inhuman treatment, as well as poor nutrition and health care”. In a press statement, the Bureau said the occupation authorities “have never excluded children from their arrest campaigns, whether individual, collective, random or organised”.
Today, on the 5th of April, Al-Zaytouna Centre marks the Palestinian Child Day by reminding its readers of its book on The Suffering of the Palestinian Child under the Israeli Occupation. It is available for free download in both Arabic and English. A Fact File is also available to show the violations of the Palestinian child’s most basic human rights, and how much these children are harmed, mistreated and even killed. This book is about the various dimensions of the suffering of the Palestinian children under the Israeli occupation. These children whose basic rights are conitnuously violated, and whose psychological, health, educational, and social status is most alarming; all in a concise, simple, academic and interactive style.
Ethnic Cleansing / Land Theft & Destruction / Exile & Restriction of Movement

Demolition routine in the Jordan Valley
Dafna Banai – Khabis is a wage laborer, the poorest of the poor. He, his wife and their five children stood 20 meters away, the soldiers standing between them and the house, watching Civil Administration personnel dumping their belongings, sacks of lentils and rice tearing and spilling everywhere. Blankets and mattresses, schoolbooks and clothing – all tossed around as if they were garbage.
IOA imposes hermetic closure on West Bank
The Israeli occupation authority has imposed a hermetic closure on the West Bank on Saturday and Sunday on the occasion of the Jewish Passover.

The Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers will meet later this month, officials said on Wednesday, but the rare talks may only sharpen differences that have brought peace negotiations to a standstill…. More than 800 [settler homes] are planned for an area called Har Homa, whose expansion would effectively block off East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their future capital, from the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the West Bank, said Lior Amihai, spokesman for the Peace Now group.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — UK foreign secretary William Hague on Thursday condemned the announcement of new settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories.  ”I am disappointed to release a statement on renewed Israeli settlement activity,” Hague said. ”As the Occupying Power of the Palestinian Territories, the Israeli government has an absolute requirement to uphold international law and to fulfil its commitments. It is important that we voice our concerns when the Israeli government fails to do so.

Palestinian leader wins UK deportation appeal

British immigration tribunal rules in favour of Sheikh Raed Salah in appeal against government’s deportation order.

Ben Gurion`s 1937 letter includes ‘We must expel Arabs and take their place’, Adam Horowitz

Right-wing groups accused dissident historian Ilan Pappי of misquoting a 1937 letter by David Ben Gurion. The full text now translated by the Institute for Palestine Studies shows that Ben Gurion did write what Pappי attributed to him. As quoted, Ben Gurion hoped that the Arabs would freely cede the Negev to a future Jewish state, as “they have no need of it”, but if they prove obdurate the Jewish state would make use of its military strenth and enact a forced removal of Arabs.

Violence Against Palestinians / Raids

Two Palestinian children wounded in explosion of IOF ordinance
Two Palestinian children were wounded on Saturday in the explosion of an army ordnance, left over by the Israeli occupation forces east of Rafah to the south of the Gaza Strip.
Two Residents Injured in Rafah
Palestinian medical sources reported, Saturday, that two residents were injured after the Israeli army fired a missile at their motorcycle near Al-Fadliyya School, in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
One of the most important WikiLeaks documents on Israel was a cable describing a February 2010 meeting between the Israeli and US militaries in which Amos Gilad, an Israeli defense official, says, “we don’t do Gandhi very well.” Gilad’s right. The Israeli army’s crackdown last night on the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum is only the latest example of how Israel deals with the popular resistance movement in Palestine. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) routinely raid West Bank villages that resist settlements and the separation barrier, and arrest, harass and beat residents, including protest leaders.

Villagers confront IOF attempt to storm their village
Citizens in Beit Uwa village, west of Al-Khalil, resisted the Israeli occupation forces’ attempt to storm their village on Friday night, locals said.

Israeli rights group urges army to investigate Land Day death
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem wrote Thursday to the country’s military advocate urging a military police investigation into the death of a protester on Land Day in Gaza.  Israeli forces used live fire against the demonstrators at Erez crossing. Several dozen youths were shot in the arms or legs and sustained light wounds, B’Tselem says.  ”It appears that soldiers used live ammunition despite having tear gas at their disposal, which they also used,” the rights group said. 

Detainees and Prisoner News
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Reporters Without Borders says it is concerned about an increase in arrests and prosecutions of ‘netizens’ and journalists in in the West Bank. ”The authorities are taking utterly disproportionate measures against journalists,” the group said Friday. The organization is particularly worried about the health of Asmat Abdul Khaleq, who was transferred to hospital six days after being arrested by the security services in Ramallah in late March. She is accused of insulting President Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook. RSF urges the authorities to “free her at once and drop all the charges against her.”

Palestinian hunger striker hospitalized after fainting
A Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike has been transferred to a hospital after his condition deteriorated, a local news agency has said. Hasan al-Safadi has been on hunger strike for 33 days and was taken to Ramla prison hospital after he fainted in the prison where he is being held without charge, the Ma’an news agency reported late on Friday.

Palestinian journalist Ahmed Daghlous was hit in the head on Friday by an Israeli tear gas canister during a protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, a local source said. Daghlous was with a number of journalists and 100 protesters when Israeli troops began firing tear gas canisters, with one striking the Palestinian reporter, causing his head to bleed. ”He was about 75 meters away [from the Israeli troops when he got struck]. He should be ok,” Dylan Collins, a freelance journalist at the scene, told Al-Akhbar.

IOA retains journalist behind bars despite appeals for his release
The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) retained Mohammed Anwar Mona, the correspondent of Quds Press, behind bars for the fifth day in a row, ignoring international calls for his immediate release.

Three Egyptian Detainees Declare Hunger-Strike
Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) reported Saturday that three Egyptian political prisoners, held by Israel at the Nafha prison, declared an open-ended hunger-strike demanding their release.

Hunger Strikers’ Families Demand International Intervention for the Strikers
Hunger strikers’ families, in Jenin, stated that the occupation bears full responsibility for the strikers’ lives, appealing to all human rights and humanitarian organizations to stand with them.
IOA imposes sanctions on prisoners for their solidarity with colleagues
Attorney Jawad Boulos said that Israeli guards in Gilboa jail have recently repressed and imposed fines and penalties on the prisoners for their solidarity with fellow prisoners on hunger strike.

IOA renews administrative detention of heart patient
The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) has renewed the administrative detention of Awadallah Eshtiye, a member of Salem municipal council, for four months despite undergoing heart surgery last week.
Popular Protests
Palestinian, Israeli and International Activists Beaten During Beit Ommar Weekly Demonstration
On Saturday, April 07, 2012, Palestinian, Israeli and international activists joined the weekly demonstration in Beit Ommar, by the separation fence between Beit Ommar and the settlement Karmei Tsur. Karmei Tsur settlement was built on stolen Palestinian land, and many Beit Ommar farms can no longer access their land due to the settlement and the separation fence.

BDS / Solidarity

Appeal by Jews addressed to the Embassy of Israel in Berne
Communique Observation of human rights Appeal by Jews addressed to the Embassy of Israel in Berne An Appeal by Jews who feel concerned by the observation of human rights in the occupied territories has been handled over to the attention of the Government of Israel.
As we write this piece, more than 5,300 Palestinians are imprisoned in Israeli jails. Zero Israelis are imprisoned in Palestinian jails. A total of 24,813 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967. Zero Israeli homes have been demolished by Palestinians since then. Some 172 Jewish-only settlements and 101 “outposts” have been erected on confiscated Palestinian land. Zero Palestinian settlements exist on any Israeli land. These facts and many like them make clear that what is happening in Israel and the Palestinian territories is not simply a “conflict.” It’s a decades-long colonial campaign led by the Israeli military that aims to disenfranchise the indigenous race and to purify the land of non-Jews by implementing an apartheid system
Zionist objects to the principle of boycott against Israel, but practice boycott against any critics of Israel
“Thompson has attracted the ire of many Jewish and Zionist supporters for her stance, with many blogs and users of social media calling for her films to be boycotted.
The Olympia Superior Court judge hearing the Olympia food coop anti-BDS lawsuit held a hearing to determine the penalties that the plaintiffs would pay the defendants, whose position was upheld in an ant-SLAPP ruling that dismissed the case.  Lawyers for the food coop made a claim for $400,000 in fees and penalties.  Of this, $160,000 constitutes the total penalties to be paid by statute by the losing plaintiffs to the sixteen coop defendants.  The remainder is legal fees the defendants attorneys ran up in mounting their defense.

Lethal Hawkademia and BDS
‘It can never be business as usual. Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. [Ben Gurion University] is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli defence forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation.’ — Desmond Tutu.
Israel’s strategy of “pinkwashing” — using its supposedly stellar record on gay rights — to obscure abuses of Palestinian human rights has done more to provoke than to quiet criticism.
In the one week since their Guardian letter, ‘Dismay at Globe invitation’ to the Israeli Habima theatre, was published, signatories such as Emma Thompson and Mark Rylance have been vilified in some quarters. TheJewish Chronicle was expected to hit back the hardest; it has been following the story since late last year, even before Habima’s planned involvement in the Globe to Globe Shakespeare festival aroused opposition, initially from the Israeli organisation Boycott from Within.
“There’s nothing like celebrating the Passover with Matzah dipped in blood of Christian and Muslim children… : ) hmm” That is what Ido Kozikaro, wrote on his facebook during the beginning of the Passover, the Jewish holiday- Pesach. Matzah is  the unleavened bread traditionally eaten by Jews during the week-long Passover holiday.
Political Developments / Other News

Convicted Of Murder, Treason; 3 Palestinians Executed In Gaza
The Hamas-run Ministry Of Interior in the Gaza Strip announced Saturday that it executed three Palestinians who were previously sentenced to death by hanging, and added that one of them was convicted of treason for collaborating with Israel, and two were convicted murder.

DOHA, Qatar (Ma’an) — Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal said Saturday that his faction stood behind those demanding freedom and dignity in the Middle East.  Addressing a conference on Jerusalem in the Qatari capital, Mashaal said Hamas’ leaders and institutions are united and said it operates democratically, just not publicly. ”I would like to reiterate that Hamas makes mistakes, but it has also had successes,” he said. Hamas remains committed to armed resistance and rejects other options which have weakened the nation, he told the conference. 

Mishaal: Jerusalem is the core of the Palestinian issue
Chairman of Hamas political bureau Khaled Mishaal, during his speech at the Fourth Jerusalem Festival on Friday night, asserted that Jerusalem would be only restored by resistance.

Mitt Romney and Benjamin Netanyahu Are Old Friends
The friendship between Mitt Romney and Benjamin Netanyahu, little known to outsiders, is now rich with political intrigue.
Analysis / Op-ed / Human Interest

Kelly: The Mideast that Christie never saw
As Governor Christietoured Jerusalem one day last week, the brother of one of North Jersey’s leading Palestinian activists walked the dusty alleys of the Kalandia refugee camp eight miles away and wondered about a basic staple of life. Would he have running water? No — not on this day.

“I’m appalled that when I talk about the neoconservatives somehow it’s twisted to be some sort of a racist comment,” long-shot candidate Lee Whitnum said in response to U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy. “This is documented fact. The neoconservative role in the taking down of Iraq [with an] unnecessary war is fact. It’s not opinion.”  “I’m dealing with whore here who sells his soul to AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee], who will say anything for the job,” Whitnum explained, pointing towards Murphy and then adding that state Rep. William Tong was “ignorant” for defending him. “What I would like to propose is a prosecution of settlers here, American settlers, who go to Israel and maim or kill in the Promised Land. Since 2000, 66,000 of the indigenous culture have been killed, many of them by American settlers. This is viewed all over the Middle East and we are hated for this worldwide.”

‘I’ve been duped’ — America’s travel guide Rick Steves says our media black out the brutal occupation, Annie Robbins 
I’ve been duped. Do you know the frustration you feel when you believed in something strongly and then you realize that the information that made you believe was from a source with an agenda to deceive? I just watched a powerful and courageous documentary called Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land. It certainly has its own agenda and doesn’t present balanced coverage. Still, it showed me how my understanding of the struggles in the Middle East has been skewed by most of our mainstream media. I saw how coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian problem is brilliantly controlled and shaped. I pride myself in understanding how the media works… and I find I’ve been bamboozled….

In his controversial new poem, “What Must Be Said,” Günter Grass felt obliged to anticipate the utterly predictable reaction: “the verdict ‘Anti-semitism’ falls easily.”
Jewish dissidents from across the English-speaking world explaining why they, to a greater or lesser extent, support Palestinian rights in Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists.

Activist enters day 58 of hunger strike
Prominent Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has entered his 58th day of hunger strike in detention as protests for his release continue, Press TV reports.

A leading Bahraini human rights defender serving a life sentence for his role in anti-government protests last year must be released immediately, Amnesty International said, amid fears the activist is at risk of death after 50 days on hunger strike. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, 52, is a former protection co-ordinator with Frontline, an NGO which supports human rights defenders. He was arrested in April last year for being one of the leaders of anti-government protests. He was tortured in custody and sentenced to life imprisonment in a grossly unfair trial by a military court last June. “Bahrain must ensure that Al-Khawaja is released immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

Bahrain hunger striker’s daughter arrested
Zainab al-Khawaja detained at protest for father, who has been moved to military hospital due to deteriorating health.
The family of detained Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja on Friday sent out an urgent appeal for his release as he teeters closer to death after 57 days of a hunger strike. ”His wife was told that his pulse is so weak he may go into cardiac arrest at any minute. Time is short and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja may die at any time,” Maryam al-Khawaja, his daughter, said in a statement. Abdulhadi, 51, also a Danish citizen and founder of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to life in prison in June 2011 for organizing peaceful protests calling for democratic reform in Bahrain. His imprisonment continues despite a recommendation by a government-established commission in November that all political prisoners be released unconditionally.
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja moved to army hospital nearly two months into hunger strike, as thousands protest his detention.

Bahraini forces injure protesters
Several people have been injured in Bahrain as the Saudi-backed regime forces attacked protesters in a demonstration against the Al Khalifa regime in the village of Dair.
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja may be transferred to custody of country where he also has citizenship as protest enters 59th day.
Bahrain is considering a request from Denmark to transfer political prisoner Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, on hunger strike for almost two months. State media in the Gulf kingdom said a request had been made by Danish Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal, citing the prisoner’s Danish citizenship. Human rights organisations have called for Mr Khawaja to be freed. His daughter Zainab has been protesting over her father’s worsening condition. Having been arrested on Thursday at a rally, she was released on Saturday but vowed to continue her campaign for her father’s release. Mr Khawaja has been moved to a hospital clinic and is being fed intravenously after 58 days on hunger strike. He is protesting against a life sentence he received for his role in anti-government protests by Bahrain’s Shia Muslim majority last year. A special security court convicted him of trying to overthrow Bahrain’s royal family, who are Sunni Muslims.

‘US chooses silence on Bahrain crisis’
In Bahrain, thousands of protesters have come out to the streets calling for the release of prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.
Bahrain: The Dublin-based human rights organisation Front Line Defenders has appealed on behalf of its former employee Abdulhadi al-Khawaja (51) who is on the 59th day of a prison hunger strike in Bahrain. A statement from the organisation said the condition of Mr al-Khawaja, who has dual Bahraini and Danish citizenship, had deteriorated and he had been transferred to hospital. Executive director Mary Lawlor said yesterday: “We call on the Bahrain government to exercise mercy and immediately allow Abdulhadi al-Khawaja to travel to Denmark for medical treatment as requested by the Danish foreign minister. We further call on the United Nations, the European Union and the US and UK governments to issue public statements to this effect.”
Formula One’s governing body kept a close eye on the situation in Bahrain on Friday as calls for this month’s grand prix to be postponed gathered pace due to continuing violence. On a day when protestors clashed with police while more than 5,000 people demonstrated in the north of the capital Manama to demand the release of a jailed activist on hunger strike, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) made clear that it was aware of the latest events.
“The FIA is constantly monitoring and evaluating the situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain,” said a spokesman for the Paris-based body.

The Lede Blog: Bahrain Activist’s Hunger Strike Belies Image of Calm Ahead of Formula One Race, ROBERT MACKEY
Two weeks before Bahrain is scheduled to hold a prestigious international motor race, the kingdom’s attempts to project an image of calm were shattered on Friday when the police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters in the capital, Manama.
UK ‘exporting surveillance technology to repressive nations’
Fears that software similar to that which government wants to use in Britain is being sold to monitor dissidents abroad. Privacy International said it had visited international arms and security fairs and identified at least 30 UK companies that it believes have exported surveillance technology to countries including Syria, Iran, Yemen and Bahrain. A further 50 companies exporting similar technology from the US were also identified. Germany and Israel were also identified as big exporters of surveillance technology, in what is reportedly a £3bn a year industry.

Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, a soft-spoken Bahraini who turned 51 yesterday, is a prominent human rights activist who has received  international recognition for his advocacy. He is the co-founder and former Preisdent of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He has been Middle East and North Africa Protection Coordinator of Front Line Defenders, a member of the International Advisory Network in the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies. 

“Shouting in the Dark”: Film Chronicles Bahrain’s Pro-Democracy Uprising Against U.S.-Backed Rule
As Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is near death on the 58th day of a hunger strike protesting his imprisonment, we look at an award-winning documentary that tells the story of the uprising in Bahrain with extraordinary footage shot entirely undercover by Al Jazeera English reporters. It’s called “Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark.” We speak with the film’s director, May Ying Welsh, the only Western journalist to stay throughout the violent government crackdown on demonstrators, as well as the doctors and nurses who treated them.
Alkhawaja may die in Bahrain to the disregard of Western media
Angry Arab chief Bahrain correspondent wrote this:  ”Zainab Alkhawaja has been arrested after clinging onto the gate of the prison complex screaming for her father. She will be charged with assaulting an employee and will be detained until Saturday. She has started her hunger strike in solidarity with her father. Meanwhile there are protests all over the villages. The security forces are responding with excessive force. One woman has already been killed – I think from excessive inhalation of tear gas but I’m not sure. You also have prisoners who were supposed to be released refusing to leave unless they release AlKhawaja. People I’ve talked to are hysterical or are just feeling extremely nervous and sad. Noone wants to see him die. He has become a symbol for the uprising to many. He spent his entire life fighting for the rights of Bahrainis. The pro-regime’s salafis are forgetting that he fought for the release of guantanamo bay detainees not only in Bahrain but the rest of the Gulf. You get the feeling that whether they let him live or die this is a turning point. But a turning point to where and what? I have no idea. It is scary watching these events unfold. I am disgusted by the tweets of some members of the royal family and the regimes supporters. Where is their humanity? At the beginning I told myself surely they will release him but now after reading the foreign ministers tweets where he had the audacity to “inquire” whether hunger strikes are against islamic law (he wants to know by friday for some reason), I am not too sure. As photographer Mazin Mahdi said, this may be the worst mistake the regime has ever made, even worse than demolishing the pearl roundabout (not quoting his exact words).   The last time I felt this helpless was in March 2011 where they were going from house to house, from car to car, street to street, kidnapping and arresting people. I was scared to death just watching helplessly, waiting to see if someone I care about dearly was next. Now we are waiting again – will he die or will he live? God help his family. Who knows – by the time you see this email he may have already died. But I am clinging to the little hope I have left.” [end]
Sectarianism in Bahrain
“In social media, Shi’ites and protesters are attacked as “monkeys”, “traitors” and “followers of Iran“, picking up a frequent charge that politicized Shi’ites are pawns of the Islamic Republic, a large non-Arab, Shi’ite Gulf neighbor.  In the northern, mainly Sunni, district of Muharraq, al Qaeda slogans are among the graffiti on some walls and a large poster outside a Sunni Islamist party’s headquarters depicts a donkey with the caption: “I’m going to dialogue!”  Hardcore Sunnis are alarmed by talks that the powerful royal court minister has held in recent weeks with the leading Shi’ite party Wefaq and secular opposition groups on a possible dialogue to halt turmoil that has deterred investors and slowed economic growth to 2.2 percent last year from 4.5 percent in 2010.  ”The worst thing is happening now in Bahrain, that the state is flirting with the followers of the Safavids,” wrote Sunni Islamist Mohammed Khalid on Twitter, using the name of a 16th century Persian dynasty to refer to Iran and Shi’ites. “The Sunnis are on the point of exploding.”  Host to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, Bahrain has remained turbulent in the year since the authorities quelled Shi’ite-led protests that erupted after popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Daily street protests and clashes have caused continuing casualties.”
Sudden realization dawned on me today- one split second and everything became quite clear. Or did it? AbdulHadi AlKhawajah, as described by his exiled daughter Maryam, is “the godfather of human rights in Bahrain.” For over a year now, pro-democracy revolutionaries have taken to the streets of Bahrain in an attempt to overthrow the tyrannical ruling regime of the AlKhalifa monarchy. They have been killed, injured, raped, imprisoned, tortured in the most gruesome and horrific of ways- yet they are undeterred. The Arabic word for steadfast, صمود, has become the most accurate of words to describe the resilience and persistency of the Bahraini revolution and has been delivered via social media site Twitter as a unified symbol of all Bahrainis willing change in the “chat language” variation of “9umood”.
Egyptian officials say recent rocket attack on Eilat, along with Egypt’s denial that it was fired from the Sinai, have created tension that puts peace treaty at risk.
“No need to fear us.” That was the Muslim Brotherhood’s message to the US in 2005. Seven years later, they are trying to offer the same reassurance.

Egypt presidency nomination race heats up 
Potential candidates for Egypt’s presidential election don’t have long left to register.   The deadline for nominations is on Sunday.
An administrative court in Egypt on Saturday blocked opposition figure Ayman Nur from running in next month’s presidential election, the official news agency Mena reported.

Egypt’s former spy chief to run for president
Omar Suleiman says he will contest election two days after he ruled himself out of the race.
Egypt Salafi candidate likely to be barred
Electoral commission says Hazem Abu Ismail’s mother held dual nationality, likely barring him from presidential poll.

Egypt’s Islamist group names cleric banned to enter France for president
An ultraconservative Islamist party in Egypt has put forward a leading Muslim cleric recently banned from entering France as its presidential candidate. The Gamaa Islamiya, or Islamic Group, said Saturday that it has chosen Safwat Hegazy, a prominent imam who took part in last
Egypt’s most powerful political group, the Muslim Brotherhood, announced Saturday it is nominating the head of its party as a back-up candidate for president in the face of attempts to disqualify their primary nominee.

In Egypt’s Tahrir Square, die-hard revolutionaries linger
Those left from the uprising that brought down Hosni Mubarak last year live in tents in Cairo’s iconic plaza, harassed and cursed, but mostly forgotten.,0,5098974.story
Iran lawmaker: Country can produce nuclear weapons
Iran has the knowledge and scientific capability to produce nuclear weapons but will never do so, a prominent lawmaker has said.

Iran non-oil exports surge 29% despite sanctions
Iran’s non-oil exports surged 29 percent to nearly $44 billion in the year to mid-March despite tough Western sanctions to rein in Tehran’s disputed nuclear drive, according to officials and data.
A senior Iranian MP has said Tehran is open to negotiations over its disputed nuclear program, assuming a “win-win” agreement can be reached, state media said. Parviz Sorouri, a senior member of Iran’s powerful parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, said the country supported measures aimed at achieving “positive and win-win” results in its talks with the world’s six major powers. But Sorouri said that unless there was concessions from the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) little would be achieved at upcoming talks.
A senior Chinese diplomat said on Friday an attack on Iran would invite devastating retaliation that would envelop the region and destabilize the global economic recovery, and added that the international community had to restrain itself from war. Iran is locked in a dispute with the West over its nuclear program, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes. Israel and the United States have threatened military action against Iran unless it abandons activities which the West suspects are intended to develop nuclear weapons.

18 Killed in Iraq As Kurds Question Baghdad’s Motives in Hashemi Escape to Kurdistan
The Kurdish Blocs Coalition demanded to know why Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi was allowed to travel from Baghdad to Kurdistan even though an arrest warrant had already been issued. Meanwhile, at least 18 Iraqis were killed and 14 more were wounded.

Sabean graves desecrated in Iraq’s Kirkuk
A Sabean cemetery in Iraq’s multi-ethnic northern city of Kirkuk has been vandalised this week, with some 20 graves desecrated, a local official belonging to the dwindling sect said on Thursday.
Iraq: Video Appears to Show Top Saddam Deputy
A video posted online purports to show Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the highest ranking member of Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime still at large, lashing out against Iraq’s Shiite-led government.

Inside Story – is Iraq’s government on the verge of collapse? 
As Iraq’s government has put national reconciliation talks on hold, we discuss the issues behind the growing divisions.
Saudi Arabia

Saudis hold anti-regime demos in Qatif
Anti-regime protesters have once again flooded the streets in the Saudi town of Qatif in the oil-rich Eastern Province, calling for the release of a prominent human rights activist, Press TV reports.
Turkey’s top Muslim cleric slams Saudi mufti over his call to destroy churches
Turkey’s top imam blasted the Saudi grand mufti’s call to “destroy all the churches” in the Gulf region, saying that the announcement is in total contradiction to the peaceful teachings of the Muslim religion. Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Mehmet Görmez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, said he cannot accept the Islamic religious order –fatwa — issued by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikh, adding that the mufti’s remarks run contrary to the centuries-old Islamic teachings of tolerance and the sanctity of institutions belonging to other religions.
The contemporary Saudi-led counterrevolution, fierce as it has been throughout the Arab world, is perhaps most relentless inside the Kingdom’s own borders. US-trained and armed security forces have been dispatched more thoroughly throughout the country to thwart any potential signs of public gatherings or protests. In the last year alone, at least eight Saudi nationals have been killed for partaking in public protests. This is in addition to the unrelenting police brutality against unarmed civilians that has injured numerous men and women. Further, hundreds have been illegally detained across the country for supporting calls for reform and protest. Such violence and intimidation is not only reserved for those who have attempted to take to the streets. Dozens have also been forbidden from travel, placed under house arrest, or banned from writing in the Saudi press simply for criticizing the status quo. Others have been forced to sign formal pledges not to engage in acts that “challenge state laws and norms.” Several blogs have been shut down, and two twitterers have been arrested and t

For 13-year-old Hossam, the “ultimate pain” of his torture at the hands of the Syrian forces was when the “terrifying person” with the “huge body” wearing “black and black” drove a screwdriver up into his big toe nail before ripping it out with pliers. ”He was shouting at me, ‘You want freedom? You want to topple the regime?’ And he beat me. They asked me, ‘What is your name? What is your father’s name? Where are you from? Why did you join the protest?’ He showed me a video and said ‘Isn’t that you?’ I said no and he beat me. ‘Isn’t that you?’ No. He beat me. ‘Isn’t that you?’ Yes. He beat me more.”
Violence intensified in Syria on Saturday, opposition activists and government media said, raising concerns ahead of next week’s UN-backed ceasefire deadline. Each side accused the other of increasing assaults in the run-up to the truce, due to take effect early on Thursday if government forces begin pulling back from towns 48 hours earlier in line with UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan. The military attacked Deir Baalba district in the restive city of Homs, killing 17 people in what the grassroots Local Coordination Committees opposition group called a “massacre.”

Almost 130 dead in Syria ahead of deadline: NGO
Nearly 130 people were reported killed across Syria on Saturday, 86 of them civilians, as regime forces pressed a protest crackdown three days ahead of a deadline to cease fire and pull back.

Syria’s Idlib province says violence worsening
Bashar Assad’s government says it has begun a gradual pullout from the region in accordance with a U.N.-backed peace plan, but rebels believe the opposite is happening. AREHA, Syria — Five times a day, for 15 years, the muezzin made the call to prayer from the mosque’s minaret, which rose high above the roofs of the modest homes surrounding it.,0,5890085.story

Syria unrest widens Sunni-Shiite divide: experts
The conflict in Syria, pitting majority Sunnis against rulers from an offshoot of Shiite Islam, is increasing sectarian tension that is closely linked to political discord in the region, experts say.
Islamic group raising $70 million for Syria relief
A major Islamic organization says it will raise $70 million for humanitarian relief in Syria, estimating that some 1 million people there are in need of aid.

Nearly 700 Syrians ‘flee to Turkey in one day’
Nearly 700 Syrian refugees poured into Turkey in 24 hours, bringing to more than 24,000 the total who have sought safety in the neighbouring country, a Turkish official said Saturday.

Lebanese city welcomes Syrian refugees 
Lebanon has seen an increase in the number of people from violence-torn Syria seeking sanctuary. Tripoli, in Lebanon’s north, continues to welcome new arrivals from the neighbouring country despite economic hardships that make supporting a new influx of people harder. Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin reports from the Lebanese city.
Thousands of demonstrators turned out in the Syrian capital on Saturday to show their backing for President Bashar Assad’s ruling Baath party on the 65th anniversary of its creation. Government supporters gathered in the central Sabaa Bahrat Square, waving the red, black and green national flag and portraits of Assad as patriotic music blared from loudspeakers. ”God, Syria and Bashar – that’s all,” was among the slogans chanted.

Russia’s foreign minister urged Syrian peace envoy Kofi Annan on Thursday to also put pressure on the rebels after the UN Security Council called on the regime to keep a deadline on troop withdrawals. The foreign ministry said Sergei Lavrov told Annan by telephone that Moscow backed the Security Council statement with the understanding that a second deadline for the armed opposition to lay down weapons would also be imposed. ”The minister stressed that not only the Syrian authorities, but also the opposition must take concrete steps” toward peace, it said in a statement.

Kurdish leader: No to arming the Syrian opposition

The international community should support a transition to democracy in Syria, but shouldn’t arm the rebel fighters, Kurdistan regional President Massoud Barzani said in Washington Thursday. ”It’s important that the future government of Syria be a democratic coalition that protects the rights of Kurds and all other Syrians,” Barzani said at a Thursday speaking event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He said the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) supports whatever dialogue and negotiations that the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition may enter into and said that the safety and security of Syrian Kurds was a high priority. As for the Kurdistan National Council of Syria, a recently formed umbrella group representing Kurdish opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Barzani said the KRG would help, but not with weapons.
Other / U.S.
In his first film Semaan bil Dayaa (The One Man Village) in 2009, Simon Habre (b. 1975) addresses the events during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) in which Christians were expelled from Mount Lebanon. In his soon to be released second film, a documentary named al-Hawd al-Khamis (Gate #5), the young director tackles another chapter of Lebanon’s Civil War. The story is told in the words of his father and his truck driver friends, who used to transfer goods from the port of Beirut. It is a journey in which we visit characters that lived through the brutal closing stages of the war.  But, did the director succeed in presenting something new about that “black era”?
A Lebanese collegiate network established “to develop Lebanese-American students academically and professionally” and provide them with “professional career opportunities” is doing so through “info-sessions” financed and run by the CIA.

Jordanians demonstrators call for release of activists
Nearly 1,500 Jordanians demonstrated on Friday across the country to demand the release of 19 detained political activists charged with insulting the king, and also calling for reforms. In the capital Amman, more than 400 Islamists and trade unionists held a sit-in near the University of Jordan to condemn corruption and the detention of the young activists. ”The country is being destroyed because reformists are jailed while the corrupt are protected,” former MP Ahmad Kafawin of the Muslim Brotherhood told demonstrators who chanted: “The people want to reform the regime.”

The Lebanese army is in negotiations with the US to buy equipment used in the occupation of Iraq, the US embassy in Beirut confirmed on Wednesday. The army has already bought a number of American military items used in Iraq, but Al-Akhbar understands that negotiations are ongoing for a larger deal. Among the items being considered are 4×4 humvee vehicles, as well as armor and other non-lethal gear. A statement from the Embassy said some deals had already been signed.

Seymour Hersh: U.S. Trains and Facilitates MEK Terror Attacks in Iran, Richard Silverstein 

“We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications.”

Rachel Maddow defended the legally fuzzy bombardment of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, and other nations in an interview with Howard Stern. In Maddow’s words the drones, “don’t change the politics of it [war] that much.” In reality, however, the politics have changed markedly because of the US military’s use of their stable/panoply of death-inducing/mass immolating drones. And it is, moreover, exceedingly unclear what is meant by Maddow’s comments as, for example, families have embarked upon lawsuits against the US government for innocents, non-terrorists, and non-combatants — who have been unceremoniously snuffed out — by the legally hazy, and decidedly unmanned aerial drones.


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