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‘How UN schemers screwed up Middle East Peace prospects for all time’

by Stuart Littlewood, source

Why, after 65 years, is the Palestinian homeland still under foreign military occupation and total blockade when international law and the United Nations say it shouldn’t be?

And why have the Palestinians been pressured – yet again – to submit to ‘direct negotiations’, lamb versus voracious wolf, to haggle and plead for their freedom?

The answer appears to lie in the deliberate hash made of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967. Here is what it said:

The UN Security Council…

Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,

Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter,

1. Affirms that the fulfilment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories [i..e. Gaza, West Bank including Jerusalem, and Golan Heights belonging to Syria] occupied in the recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

2. Affirms further the necessity

(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;

(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

3. Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

 4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.

It was adopted unanimously.

Article 2 of the UN Charter referred to states, among other things, that all Members “shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered” and “shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”.

Nothing too difficult there for men of integrity and goodwill, one would have thought. But after 45 years nothing has happened to give effect to these fine words or to deliver the tiniest semblance of peace, or allow the Palestinians to live in security and free from threats or acts of force. As for law and justice, these words seem to have been dropped from the UN dictionary.

This dereliction of duty began with careless use of language – or more exactly the non-use of a particular word, the “the” word which should have been inserted in front of “territories” but was deliberately omitted by the schemers who drafted the resolution.

No Intention of Making ‘Israel’ Withdraw

Arthur J. Goldberg, the US Ambassador to the UN in 1967 and a key draftee of Resolution 242, stated: “There is lacking a declaration requiring Israel to withdraw from the (or all the) territories occupied by it on and after June 5, 1967. Instead, the resolution stipulates withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal. And it can be inferred from the incorporation of the words ‘secure and recognized boundaries’ that the territorial adjustments to be made by the parties in their peace settlements could encompass less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territories.”

According to Lord Caradon, then the UK Ambassador to the UN and another key drafter, “The essential phrase which is not sufficiently recognized is that withdrawal should take place to secure and recognized boundaries, and these words were very carefully chosen: they have to be secure and they have to be recognized. They will not be secure unless they are recognized. And that is why one has to work for agreement. This is essential. I would defend absolutely what we did. It was not for us to lay down exactly where the border should be. I know the 1967 border very well. It is not a satisfactory border, it is where troops had to stop in 1947, just where they happened to be that night, that is not a permanent boundary … ” In a 1974 statement he said: “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of 4 June 1967… That’s why we didn’t demand that the Israelis return to them and I think we were right not to.”

Professor Eugene Rostow, then US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and also helping to draft the resolution, went on record in 1991 explaining that Resolution 242 ”calls on the parties to make peace and allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until ‘a just and lasting peace in the Middle East’ is achieved. When such a peace is made, Israel is required to withdraw its armed forces ‘from territories’ it occupied during the Six-Day War – not from ‘the’ territories nor from ‘all’ the territories, but from some of the territories, which included the Sinai Desert, the West Bank, the

Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.” Israel was not to be forced back to the fragile and vulnerable Armistice Demarcation Lines (the ‘Green Line’).

So according to Rostow Israel would get to keep some unspecified territory it seized in war. Goldberg and Rostow were both Jewish by the way, and Zionists. Extraordinary how the US always wheels in such people to ‘resolve’ an Israeli-provoked Middle East crisis when there’s no shortage of non-Jews for the task. Like Kerry has recruited Martin Indyk to supervise the bogus peace talks in Washington…

In the meantime Arab leaders had picked up on the fact that the precious “the” word in relation to territories was included in other language versions of the draft resolution (e.g. the French document) and it was therefore widely understood to mean that Israel must withdraw from all territories captured in 1967. Unfortunately, under international law, English is the official language and the English version was the conclusive reference point.

For Israel Mr Eban said: “The establishment for the first time of agreed and secure boundaries as part of a peace settlement is the only key which can unlock the present situation and set on foot a momentum of constructive and peaceful progress. As the representative of the United Kingdom indicated in his address on 16 November, the action to be taken must be within the framework of a permanent peace and of secure and recognized boundaries. It has been pointed out in the Security Council, and it is stated in the 1949 Agreements, that the armistice demarcation lines have never been regarded as boundaries so that, as the representative of the United States has said, the boundaries between Israel and her neighbors: “must be mutually worked out and recognized by the parties themselves as part of the peace-making process” [1377th meeting, para. 65].

“We continue to believe that the States of the region, in direct negotiation with each other, have the sovereign responsibility for shaping their common future. It is the duty of international agencies at the behest of the parties to act in the measure that agreement can be promoted and a mutually accepted settlement can be advanced. We do not believe that Member States have the right to refuse direct negotiation with those to whom they address their claims. It is only when they come together that the Arab States and Israel will reveal the full potentialities of a peaceful settlement.”

‘Acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible’, right?

So here was Israel, cued by the devious drafters, pressing for direct negotiations as far back as 1967 sensing that defenseless and impoverished Palestine, conveniently under their military jackboot, would be ‘easy meat’.

But the Russian, Kuznetsov, wasn’t fooled. “In the resolution adopted by the Security Council, the ‘withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict’ becomes the first necessary principle for the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Near East. We understand the decision taken to mean the withdrawal of Israel forces from all, and we repeat, all territories belonging to Arab States and seized by Israel following its attack on those States on 5 June 1967. This is borne out by the preamble to the United Kingdom draft resolution [S/8247] which stresses the ‘inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war’. It follows that the provision contained in that draft relating to the right of all States in the Near East ‘to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries’ cannot serve as a pretext for the maintenance of Israel forces on any part of the Arab territories seized by them as a result of war.”

He insisted that this was the basic content of the resolution and how it had been interpreted by all the members of the Security Council. “In the resolution presented by Latin American countries [A/L.523/Rev.1] and in that submitted by non-aligned States [A/L.522/Rev.3], the provision relating to the withdrawal of forces was stated so clearly that it could not possibly have been misinterpreted.”

He added that the most important task was secure the withdrawal of Israel forces from all territory occupied by them as a result of aggression.

Your average native English speaker would not have been fooled by a missing word either. To the man on the Clapham omnibus “withdrawal from territories occupied in the recent conflict” plainly means “get the hell out of there”.

US Secretary of State Dean Rusk writing in 1990 remarked: “We wanted [it] to be left a little vague and subject to future negotiation because we thought the Israeli border along the West Bank could be “rationalized”; certain anomalies could easily be straightened out with some exchanges of territory, making a more sensible border for all parties…. But we never contemplated any significant grant of territory to Israel as a result of the June 1967 war. On that point we and the Israelis to this day remain sharply divided. This situation could lead to real trouble in the future. Although every President since Harry Truman has committed the United States to the security and independence of Israel, I’m not aware of any commitment the United States has made to assist Israel in retaining territories seized in the Six-Day War.”

1967 borders not good enough? Back to the ’47 lines, then,

Resolution 242 in any event should have specified a line to which Israel’s forces had to withdraw, even if it didn’t represent the fullest extent. How else was a genuine ‘peace process’ supposed to get off the ground? Was one party supposed to bargain from a position of intolerable weakness, still under brutal military occupation, half starved, isolated and imprisoned within the disconnected remnants of his homeland?

As to those much-bandied words “agreed and secure boundaries”, had UN members so easily forgotten about the Palestinian lands seized and ethnically cleansed before 1967? You know, those important towns and cities and hundreds of villages that had been allocated to a future Palestinian state but were seized by Jewish terrorist groups and Israel militia while the ink was still drying on the 1947 UN Partition Plan? Actually, recognized borders do exist. They were set down in the Partition and incorporated into UN Resolution 181. They are “recognized” because they were duly voted on and accepted by the Zionists and their allies, were they not?

As everyone knows, Israel has never declared its borders nor respected the UN-specified borders. It is still hell-bent on thieving lands and resources, so no border is ever secure enough or final. Nor is the Israeli regime likely to agree to secure borders for a Palestinian state, should one ever emerge. So going down the talks path again and again to seek sensible agreement is fruitless. Borders should be imposed by the proper international bodies and enforced. That has to be the start-point. Adjustments can then be made with mutual consent.

Incidentally, Article 33 of the UN Charter says that parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger international peace and security, shall first of all seek a solution by negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.

A judicial settlement? That would be something to see.

Article 37 then says: “Should the parties to a dispute of the nature referred to in Article 33 fail to settle it by the means indicated in that Article, they shall refer it to the Security Council. If the Security Council deems that the continuance of the dispute is in fact likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, it shall decide whether to take action under Article 36 or to recommend such terms of settlement as it may consider appropriate.”

Article 36 declares that “in making recommendations under this Article the Security Council should also take into consideration that legal disputes should as a general rule be referred by the parties to the International Court of Justice in accordance with the provisions of the Statute of the Court.”

What is this if not a legal dispute? The UN, having twiddled its thumbs, now has much to do to get to grips with the problem it created nearly 66 years ago.

With all these options apparently open to the Palestinians, why have they again allowed themselves to become locked in discredited ‘negotiations’ with a disreputable enemy that keeps them under brutal occupation and holds a gun to their heads? Indeed, why does that mighty guardian of world peace, the UN, permit it?

The UN, for its part, has proved itself time and again not fit for purpose. On the Middle East it remains especially dysfunctional. We all know it, and we’re all in despair. Except the Israelis and their loathsome pimps – they’re having a laugh.

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Iran campaigning for key position on UN committee: Diplomat

Press TV

Iran is campaigning for a key position on a UN committee that deals with disarmament and international security despite opposition from the Israeli regime, an Iranian diplomat says.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Iran’s UN mission confirmed Tehran’s bid to be the rapporteur of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee for its 68th session due to begin in October, Reuters reported.

Kuwait is another contender for the position. The 193-member committee deals with all disarmament and international security issues, cooperation in the maintenance of international peace and security, as well as principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments.

Campaigning for the position is a “normal routine by a member state,” said the Iranian diplomat.

The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, in a statement expressed the opposition of the Israeli regime to Tehran’s bid for the key position.

Israel’s opposition to Iran’s plan comes as Tel Aviv is widely believed to be the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Furthermore, Israel, believed to possess between 200 to 400 nuclear warheads, is a non-signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and continues to defy international calls to join the treaty.

This is while Iran is a committed signatory to the NPT and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ban asks Rwanda for proof of links between UN peacekeepers, Hutu rebels

Press TV

Rwanda must provide evidence to support its claims that UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo discussed collaboration with Rwanda’s Hutu rebels, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says.

In a letter to the president of the UN Security Council this week, Rwanda’s ambassador to the UN, Eugene-Richard Gasana, said that UN intervention brigade commanders in Congo met with rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The FDLR is made up of the remnants of Hutu fanatics who committed the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo also wrote a letter to the UN secretary general about the same issue.

In a letter to the Rwandan foreign minister, Ban “notes with deep concern the allegations that meetings have taken place between senior commanders of the MONUSCO and the Intervention Brigade and the (FDLR),” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Friday.

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) has 17,000 peacekeepers in Congo — the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world.

On March 28, the UN Security Council passed a resolution, which not only renewed the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo for one year, but also created a special intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups, above all March 23 movement (M23) rebels in eastern Congo.

The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the army.

Ban said there was nothing substantial thus far to back up the allegations of the Rwandan government.

“Following initial inquiries within MONUSCO, (Ban) has no reason to believe that senior commanders of the Force Intervention Brigade would meet with the FDLR to discuss matters related to their ‘tactical and strategic collaboration’,” Ban said in the letter, according to Nesirky.

The UN spokesman added that it was “important to ensure that these allegations are properly addressed… (and) has thus requested that the Rwandan government share as soon as possible any concrete evidence it may have to substantiate these claims.”

The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in the eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.

Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.

Obama’s nominated UN envoy: We’ll push for ’Israel’ seat on security council

Al Ahed news

US President Barack Obama decided to appoint Samantha Power as the American ambassador to the UN.

In an attempt to secure the Zionist entity’s support, Power said during her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday: “The United States has no greater friend in the world than “Israel”.”

She further pledged to combat the so-called “unacceptable bias” against “Israel” at the global body.
“Just as I have done as President Obama’s UN adviser at the White House, I will stand up for “Israel” and work tirelessly to defend it,” she said.

Power also promised to fight to help “Israel” obtain a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council.
“The Security Council seat is one that has eluded “Israel”, despite its many contributions across the years, and I commit to you wholeheartedly to go on offense, as well as playing defense on the legitimation of “Israel”, and we’ll make every effort to secure greater integration of “Israeli” public servants in the UN system.”

Speaking before Foreign Relations Committee, Power also expressed support for increasing pressure on Iran and maintaining the option of military force to deter its development of a nuclear weapons program.
“”Israel”-not Iran, not Sudan, not North Korea-is the one “country” with a fixed place on the Human Rights Council’s agenda. “Israel’s” legitimacy should be beyond dispute, and its security must be beyond doubt,” Power said in her testimony.

“There is no shortcut” to a negotiated settlement of the “Israeli”-Palestinian conflict, she told the committee. “Unilateral Palestinian statehood measures just won’t work.” Power said the US needs to “deter” such unilateral efforts.

MKO committing rights violations: UN special envoy to Iraq

Press TV

Outgoing UN special envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler has slammed the leaders of the terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) for human rights violations in Camp Hurriya in Iraq.

Addressing the UN Security Council On Tuesday, Kobler said, “Of increasing concern are the human rights abuses in Camp Hurriya itself by the camp leadership. Hundreds of daily monitoring reports suggest that the lives of Camp Hurriya (formerly known as Camp Liberty) members are tightly controlled.”

“A significant number of residents have reported to UN monitors that they are not free to leave the camp, to participate in the resettlement process offered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to contact family members outside Iraq or to have contact with other relatives even within the camp itself,” the UN special envoy to Iraq added.

The UN envoy added that some MKO members had complained about being deprived of medical treatment by the group’s leaders.

The MKO – listed as a terrorist organization by much of the international community – fled Iran in 1986 for Iraq, where it received the support of Iraq’s executed dictator Saddam Hussein, and set up a camp (Camp Ashraf) near the Iranian border.

In December 2011, the United Nations and Baghdad agreed to relocate some 3,000 MKO members from Camp New Iraq, formerly known as Camp Ashraf, in Diyala Province, to Camp Hurriya – a former US military base near Baghdad International Airport.

The UN seeks to relocate the MKO members to third countries as part of its agreement with Baghdad to facilitate the group’s complete exit from Iraq.

Kobler said in June that 71 members had been transferred to Albania, and Germany had also proposed to accept around 100 members.

The group is notorious for carrying out numerous terrorist acts against Iranian civilians and officials.

Tehran has repeatedly called on Baghdad to expel the terrorist group, but the US has been blocking the expulsion by pressuring the Iraqi government.

UN Human Rights chief: Whistleblowers need protection

by Carlos Latuff

UN Human Rights chief: Whistleblowers need protection

Al Manar

In her first reference to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s case, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay has called on all countries to protect the rights of those who uncover abuses and stressed the need to respect the right for people to seek asylum.

Commenting on the fugitive former US intelligence contractor, who is presently wanted by the US for leaking classified details of its surveillance programs, Pillay noted that undue surveillance could amount to an infringement of human rights.

“National legal systems must ensure that there are adequate avenues for individuals disclosing violations of human rights to express their concern without fear of reprisals,” said Pillay.

“Snowden’s case has shown the need to protect persons disclosing information on matters that have implications for human rights, as well as the importance of ensuring respect for the right to privacy,” she added.

Snowden appeared with human rights activists during a press event at Sheremetyevo International Airport on Friday, during which he expressed thanks for “all offers of support or asylum I have been extended,” which so far include Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua.

At the same time, Snowden indicated that he would seek asylum from Russia, at least for the time being, until such time as travel to Latin America would be possible.

Meanwhile, the White House warned Russia not to offer the former intelligence contractor a “propaganda platform,” while the US ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, called a member of the humans rights delegation on Friday and asked her to pass on a message to Snowden that he was not considered a whistleblower by the US, reports the Guardian.

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Asylum for Snowden won’t stop Greenwald from publishing more leaks

RT

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has indicated that he is willing to halt his leakage of US secrets, a condition for gaining Russian asylum, though the journalist who first published information from those leaks intends to continue.

Glenn Greenwald, a journalist working with both the British Guardian newspaper and Brazil’s O Globo, had been in direct contact with the now fugitive Snowden and coordinated with the former intelligence contractor ahead of publishing information on secret online surveillance programs.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that asylum for Snowden would be offered only under the condition that he releases no further information that could prove damaging to the US. Greenwald, however, has indicated that he would consider the intelligence provided by Snowden already in his possession fair game.

“There are many more domestic stories coming, and big ones, and soon,” Greenwald wrote in an email to Politico on Friday.

“Given everything I know, I’d be very shocked if he ever asked me that,” Greenwald told Politico when asked if he would halt publishing any sensitive information if Snowden were to ask.

“I’d deal with that hypothetical only in the extremely unlikely event that it ever happened, but I can’t foresee anything that would or could stop me from further reporting on the NSA documents I have,” he added.

On Friday, Snowden said that he would remain in Russia until able to get safe passage to Latin America, where he has been offered political asylum by Venezuela as well as Honduras. Comments made during a meeting with human rights activists at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport Friday also indicated that he intended to renew a petition for asylum from Russia.

“Snowden is serious about obtaining political asylum in the Russian Federation,” said Vyacheslav Nikonov, a lawmaker who attended the meeting at the Moscow airport, reports The Guardian.

Most recently, Greenwald in conjunction with several reporters with O Globo published further information showing the existence of a wide array of surveillance programs tracking citizens of South American countries.

O Globo cited documents this week indicating that from January to March of 2013, NSA agents carried out “spying actions” via the ‘Boundless Informant’ program, which collected telephone calls and Internet data. Agents also used PRISM from February 2 to 8 this year, O Globo said.

Essentially all of Latin America is reported to be targeted for surveillance, including Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and El Salvador. The most intense surveillance according to O Globo seems to have been directed at Colombia, a key US ally in the so-called War on Drugs, as well as Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico.

Comments by Greenwald to Politico on Friday suggest that the journalist already has a backlog of leaks to work with, and that any agreement Snowden were to make with a foreign government in regards to conditions of political asylum would be independent of Greenwald’s publication of that information.

Meanwhile, Snowden released a statement on Friday via WikiLeaks, which has orchestrated his legal defense as well as asylum petitions, to convey that he would accept all offers of political asylum made to him.

“I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future,” Snowden stated during his meeting with rights activists and lawyers at Sheremetyevo.

“I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted,” he told the meeting.

Russia ready to send troops to replace Austria in Golan, UN rejects

Al Ahed news

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow will send Russian forces to replace the Austrian Battalion operating within the UN Disengagement Observer Force [UNDOF] if the UN Asks to.

Russia Today website quoted Putin as saying that “Because of the complicated situation in Golan, we can replace the Austrian units which will withdraw from the area with Russian units in case all the region’s countries agreed and the UN Secretary-General asked to.”

He said that UN Secretary-General ban Ki-moon asked Russia, during his last visit to the country, to raise the volume of its forces in the UN-organized peace-keeping missions.

In response, UN Secretary-General Spokesperson Martin Nesirky voiced gratitude for Russia’s offer, but said that the disengagement agreement in the Golan doesn’t permit accepting the Russian suggestion.

“The agreement stipulates that the five permanent members of the Security Council cannot deploy peacekeeping forces in the Golan,” he added.
For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke to UN leader Ban Ki-moon about Putin’s offer on Friday. Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin explained the offer to the Security Council.
Churkin said the United Nations should rethink the ban on troops from the major powers in the UN. force.

He said the ceasefire accord to halt the 1973 war between Syria and “Israel” “was signed 39 years ago at the height of Cold War and the whole context of the war of ’73. Now the context is completely different and UNDOF seems to be in dire straits,” said Churkin.
“We are offering essentially to rescue UNDOF,” he added.
This comes as the United Nations scrambled Friday to find fresh troops for the occupied Golan Heights peacekeeping force, which Russia said is in “dire straits” as it offered to help.

It is also trying to persuade Austria to slow down its withdrawal.

“I think we are in a serious situation and we need to work together to try and protect the mission from collapse,” said Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, Security Council president for June, after the talks.

The pullout of the 377 Austrian troops will leave UNDOF with just 341 troops from the Philippines and 193 from India. Japan and Croatia have also withdrawn in recent months as battles between Syrian government and opposition forces spread into the ceasefire zone.

The Philippines has said it is considering its future in UNDOF.

Russia blocks UN ‘declaration of alarm’ on Syria’s Qusayr

Russia blocks UN ‘declaration of alarm’ on Syria’s Qusayr, diplomats say

Press TV

Russia has reportedly blocked a ‘declaration of alarm’ by the United Nations Security Council over the situation in Syria’s strategic town of Qusayr.

The draft, which was presented by the UK, voiced “grave concern about the situation in Qusayr.”

Western diplomats say Russia rejected the resolution because the UN had failed to release a statement when Qusayr was seized by foreign-backed militants in Syria.

Such UN statements need unanimous agreement of the Security Council.

According to the diplomats, Moscow once again insisted that the best way to resolve the Syrian crisis was “through intensive diplomacy.”

Qusayr is located near Syria’s border with Lebanon and is now mostly under the control of the Syrian army.

The United Nations has called for a ceasefire in Qusayr.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos and UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay said in a joint appeal on Saturday, “We understand there may also be as many as 1,500 wounded people in urgent need of immediate evacuation for emergency medical treatment, and that the general situation in al-Qusayr is desperate.”

Hundreds of militants have reportedly arrived in Qusayr to counter the Syrian government forces, who backed by the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, have made major gains in the fighting.

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Syrian Army Proceeds Operations, Seizes Sarin Cylinders in Hama

Al Manar

The Syrian Army proceeded its operations in several areas across the country, as it confiscated two cylinders of Sarin Toxic gas used by foreign-backed militants in the city of Hama.

Official news agency, SANA, reported on Sunday that the Syrian Army tightened its control over Damascus-Homs Highway near Harasta city, as it inflicted major losses on the armed groups who were attacking the towns in the area.

The agency quoted an official source as saying that “an army unit clashed with an armed terrorist group in the neighboring farms to al-Miliha town and killed the majority of its members, whereas another army unit destroyed a fortification for the armed groups to the west of al-Shifonia town.”

The source pointed out that two heavy machineguns were destroyed to the east of al-Zabadani city and some 20 militants from so-called “Ahrar al-Sham battalion” were killed.

In Aleppo’s Khan al-Assal, an army unit clashes with militants near Indomie factory killing most of them, among them snipers, while another unit killed leaders of the armed groups in al-Shaar area and destroyed their weapons and ammunition, SANA quoted another official source as saying.

The source added that two 23mm anti-aircraft machineguns and a number of Nusra Front dens were destroyed in Handarat, in the vicinity of Aleppo Central Prison.

The agency also reported that the Syrian Army has delivered several blows to the armed groups in several areas of Deir Ezzor, Hama and Lattakia.

Sarin Cylinders in Hama
Meanwhile, the Syrian army seized two cylinders of the nerve agent sarin during an operation in the city of Hama.

Syrian media say the operation was carried out against a militant hideout in the city’s al-Faraieh neighborhood on Saturday.

Sarin is a colorless, odorless liquid gas which causes respiratory arrest and death. The poisonous agent has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction in UN Resolution 687.

UN blacklists terrorist al-Nusra front, Turkey seizes sarin with militants & foreigners fighting in Syria

UN Blacklists Terrorist al-Nusra Front Active in Syria

Al Manar

The UN Security Council blacklisted the terrorist al-Nusra Front on Thursday as an alias of al-Qaeda movement in Iraq.

The US mission to the United Nations told media outlets that none of the 15 council members objected to blacklist al-Nusra.

The UN decision will subject the group to sanctions including an arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze, diplomats said.

Last month, al-Nusra pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. It is one of the most effective forces fighting the Syrian government taking advantage of internationally banned chemical weapons.

The group claimed responsibility for the fatal bombings targeting civilians and government institutions across Syria, and its militant mercenaries have joined other Syrian insurgent brigades.

Syria had urged the UN Security Council in late April to list the radical group al-Nusra Front as a terrorist one, but Britain and France countered with a proposal to list it as an alias of al-Qaeda instead.

Videos of executions and torture arried out by al-Nusra militiamen have become increasingly common in online media.

Syria was hit by a violent unrest since mid-March 2011, where the Syrian government accuses foreign actors of orchestrating the conflict, by supporting the militant opposition groups with arms and money.

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Two Bahraini Soldiers Fighting for Al-Nusra Front Killed in Syria

Al Manar

Following the uproar caused by the death of the Bahraini Abdol Rahman Adel Hasan Hamad (19 years old) who was fighting for Al-Nusra Front in Syria, social networks have circulated news about the death of Bahrainis killed in Syria as they were fighting for Al-Nusra front.

Abdol Aziz al-Othman, 17 years, and Abdol Rahman al-Othman, 21 years, from Bahraini town of Aarad, were killed in last October in Syria during the army clashes with the militant groups.

Social networks circulated the news and clarified that the two killed belong to the Bahraini Defense forces.

A photo posted on social networks showed Abdol Aziz al-Othman wearing the Bahraini Defense forces uniform standing by gunmen in Syria.

As was the case when Bahraini former deputies met the opposition militants in Syria, the Bahraini regime still refuses to comment on the news, although Al-Nusra Front has been blacklisted Thursday by the United Nations as a terrorist group.

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Turkey seizes sarin in homes of anti-Syria militants, reports say

Press TV

Turkish security forces have confiscated two kilograms of the nerve agent sarin after raiding the homes of militants from the terrorist al-Nusra Front fighting against Syria, Turkey’s media report.

Several Turkish newspapers reported on Thursday that two kilograms of sarin gas as well as heavy weapons were discovered during raids on the homes of 12 members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front in Turkey’s southern city of Adana, located some 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the border with Syria.

The terrorists, who were allegedly planning a large attack in the city, were formally detained on the order of Adana’s top court, Turkish media reported without clarifying their charges.

Turkish authorities have not confirmed the media reports yet.

Adana’s governor Huseyin Avni Cos has denied the confiscation of sarin.

The incident took place weeks after two car bomb attacks killed 52 people and injured over a hundred others in the border town of Reyhanli in Turkey’s southern province of Hatay on May 11. Turkish protesters blamed Ankara for the attacks due to its support for the armed groups inside Syria.

On May 5, the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria also said it found testimony from victims and medical staff that showed foreign-backed militants had used the nerve agent in Syria. Sarin has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction in UN Resolution 687.

On March 19, over two dozen people were killed and many others injured when militants fired missiles containing a chemical substance into a village near the northwestern city of Aleppo, according to a report by Syria’s official news agency SANA.

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UK Foreign Office confirms Briton killed in Syria

Press TV

The UK Foreign Office has confirmed that a Briton fighting alongside foreign-backed militants was killed in Idlib, Syria.

The 23-year-old man, named as Ali Almanasfi, was among three Westerners who were ambushed by Syrian government forces in their car while traveling through the northwestern province on Thursday.

Syrian state-run television reported that a 33-year-old American woman, identified as Nicole Lynn Mansfield, and the two others were members of al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.

The TV footage showed a black car covert in bullet holes and three bodies laid out with multiple gunshot wounds. It also showed a cache of weapons, a computer, a hand-drawn map of a government installation, and a flag belonging to the terrorist group.

“We understand that a British National has been killed in Syria. Their family have been informed and we are providing consular assistance,” said a Foreign Office spokesperson.

Britain has played a major role in fanning the flames of unrest in the Arab country by arming and training militants fighting against the Syrian government.

UN General Assembly vote reflects shift in Syrian public opinion

by FRANKLIN LAMB, source

It’s not hard to find critics of the Assad government in the Governorate (Muhafazat) of Homs or for that matter, to varying degrees in Syria’s other thirteen Governorates according to Syrian analysts interviewed by this observer and reports from human rights groups including lawyers representing dissidents in Syria. However, after nearly 27 months of turmoil, the public opinion pendulum is markedly shifting back in support of the current regime.

One international political result was registered at the United Nations this past week when a US-Qatari-Saudi drafted General Assembly Resolution that was designed to increase pressure on the Assad government stumbled badly and fell far short of what the Saudi Ambassador to the UN and other US allies predicted would be an overwhelming vote in favor.

Effect of shift in popular opinion in Syria

Over the past four or five months it has become increasingly clear that public opinion in Syria is shifting for reasons that include, but are not limited to the following:

While inflation at the grocery stores in probably the most common complaint heard from a cross-section of society here, the population is adapting somewhat to higher prices and it appears to credit the government for efforts, some successful, to soften the impact of the illegal US-led sanctions that target this same Syrian population for purely political reasons to achieve regime change.

While Syrians demand dignity and freedom from oppressive security forces and an end to corruption, as all people do in this region and beyond, they are witnessing a return to near normalcy with respect to supplies of electricity, benzene, mazout fuel oil, bus schedules, schools, and a host of public services such as garbage collection, street sweeping, park maintenance, and sympathetic traffic cops who are rather understanding of short-cuts taken by drivers and pedestrians due to “the situation”.

In addition, public service announcement and even text messages demonstrate that the government is aware of the degree of suffering among the population, accept partial blame, and are focusing on remedial measure and crucially, ending the crisis with its horrific bloodshed. One observes here a definite trend of the pulling together of a high percentage of Syrians who share a very unique history and culture and who are deeply connected to their country and who are increasingly repelled by the continuing killing from all sides including the recent barbarisms of body mutilations and summary executions videotaped and broadcast on utube by [armed group] elements. The latter who these days come from nearly three dozen countries, paid for and indoctrinated by enemies of Syria’s Arab nationalism and deep rooted pillar of resistance to the occupation of Palestine.

In addition, many among Syria’s 23 million citizens, who initially supported the uprising following government reaction to event in Deraa in March 2011, now have serious second thoughts about who exactly would replace the current government. Events in Syria are also making plain that the army is still loyal to the Assad government, and according to Jane’s Defense Weekly, is actually gaining experience and strength as well as the well-known fact that as western diplomats are admitting, the “opposition militias” are hopelessly fractured, turning one another, many essential mafia outfits, and beginning to resemble their fellow [armed groups] from Libya, Chechnya and in between.

Opinion in Damascus and surrounding areas visited this past week, confirms this observers experience the past five months of a sharp and fairly rapid shift in opinion that now strongly favors letting the Syrian people themselves decide, without outside interference, whether the Assad regime will stay, and indeed, whether, the Baathist party will continue to represent majority opinion, not through wanton violence but rather via next June’s election. Many express confidence in the run up to this critical vote, noting that the election will be closely monitored by the international community to assure fairness.

Perhaps aided by the current glorious May weather, a certain optimism, that was more scarce in the past, pervades many neighborhoods.

For different reasons, foreign powers, including the USA, Turkey, European Union, the UK Jordan and even the majority population of the six Gulf Cooperation Council family run countries, according to Pew Research, are shifting their earlier positions which were based in part of the US administration, NATO, and Israeli assurances that the Assad government would surely fall quickly, “A matter of days, not weeks” US President Obama promised. That was two years ago.

As noted above, this trend has accelerated since the UN General Assembly vote with last weeks which did not go as planned on the biased and politicized non-binding draft resolution on Syria.

The public reaction in Syria and across the Middle East is substantially that the “Friends of Syria” non-binding GA resolution contradicts the reality on the ground, backs terrorism in Syria and hinders the international efforts to help achieve a political solution to the crisis in this country. Only 107 states voted in favor of the resolution, 12 against while 59 countries, mostly from Africa and Latin America, abstained from voting.

One reason the vote fell short of the 130 favorable votes that the basically same resolution garnered the past two times is that it is widely viewed as ignoring the crimes and atrocities committed by the armed – groups in Syria and the flow of thousands of international terrorists backed by the West, the Gulf states and Turkey who provide them with weapons and money. According to the Russian delegate, backed by several other speakers, “the resolutions ignores all the terrorists’ heinous crimes and denounces what it called the escalation of the attacks by the Syrian government”. Afterward one Latin American Permanent Representative told Inner City Press that the count would have been below 100 if not for some “last minute arm-twisting.” As it turned out, 15 countries didn’t vote at all, opting to “get coffee,” as one African Permanent Representative put it before the vote.

Syria’s Ambassador al-Jaafari exposes a hoax in the Gulf

Syria’s permanent Envoy to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari said his country regretted the adoption of a biased and unbalanced UN resolution, thanking the countries that rejected the resolution “for their responsible positions which support the UN principles and the international law articles”. He noted that the decrease in the number of countries that voted in favor and the increase of numbers of those who abstained from voting indicates the growing international understanding of the reality of what is happening in Syria due to the foreign interference, support of terrorism, the spread of extremism and incitement besides the refusal of dialogue.

“We rely on the UN and its member states to support Syria and its people against the culture of extremism and terrorism, and to encourage the comprehensive national dialogue to peacefully resolve the Syrian crisis.” he said. In a statement released after the vote on the UN draft resolution on Syria, al-Jaafari He said that the French delegation had foiled the issuance of a number of UN press releases to condemn the terrorist acts committed by al-Qaeda-linked armed groups in Syria which claimed the lives of thousands of Syrians as it foiled a UN release to condemn the attempt of assassination of the Syrian Premier.

After Qatar’s ambassador spoke in favor of the resolution his country drafted (and re-drafted several times), Ja’afari revealed that there existed an e-mail, from the representative of the Syrian opposition given to Syria’s embassy in Qatar, showing Qatar’s involvement in the kidnapping of UN peacekeepers by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade. He read out a phone number from the e-mail as several Gulf diplomats grimaced or scowled, and three left the Chamber.

Visibly stunned, the UK Permanent Representative Lyall Grant called the whole matter “deeply confusing”. Another Permanent Representative, from a militia contributing country, said that if true, it’s “very problematic.” The reasons include the fact that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had just thanked Qatar for its roles in the release of the UN Peacekeepers the earlier kidnapping of whom the Qatari government may have planned, paid for and executed.

Meanwhile, Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky said he would not disclose any more about the “negotiations to free the peacekeepers or who was behind the crime.”

Score a major diplomatic victory for Syria’s UN Ambassador as public opinion shifts in favor of the Assad government and pressure as well as certain optimism builds in the run-up to the Geneva II conference being organized by the White House and the Kremlin.

‘Professor Falk graces Lebanon and gets an ear full

by Franklin Lamb, Al Manar

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Palestine, Professor Richard Falk, Prof emeritus of Princeton University, came to Lebanon last week on an unofficial visit to survey opinion while fact finding the condition of Palestinian refugee’s camps. It was the Professors first visit to Lebanon since the fateful summer of 1982. Back then, en route by sea to Beirut, which was under Israeli siege and blockade, Richard was Vice-Chair part of the Sean McBride Commission of Inquiry into Israeli crimes against Lebanon. Mid-way between Cyprus and Lebanon, the Zionist navy, in a blatant act of piracy on the high seas, intercepted, boarded and commandeered their vessel. Eventually, under reported American pressure via US Envoy Morris Draper’s telephoned profanity to Tel Aviv, the pirates allowed Falk’s delegation to disembark at the port of Jounieh, just north of Beirut. Draper, who like so many US diplomats, claims he finally “saw the light” after retiring, told this observer that “I never swore so much in my life as I did at those sob’s during that summer of 1982 and after I learned the details of Israel’s choreography of the Sabra-Shatila massacre!” And Ambassador Draper added, “The world will never know the extent of Israeli crimes until Washington threatens to cut off all aid until they open their archives on this period.”

Professor Falk, as he mentioned during several events here, including a first-rate conference on the status of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and their struggle for the most elementary civil rights to work and to own a home, organized by the Institute of Palestine Studies, came to Lebanon not to offer counsel to Lebanon’s sects or even to the Palestinians. (The IPS, (http://www.palestine-studies.org) founded in 1969, is considered by this observer and many others, as the most reliable and authoritative source of information on Palestinian affairs and the Arab-Israel conflict.)

Falk came to listen and to learn. He did both. He focused intensely on each speaker, scribing hurried notes regarding the current conditions of Palestinian refugee education and health status in Lebanon’s 12 camps and two dozen “gatherings,” reports that were presented by several NGO’s working here.

Falk and others in attendance at the briefings found the findings sobering and alarming. They included but are not limited to, the following:

There are currently 42,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria who have been forced into Lebanon as a result of the crisis in Syria. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East – UNRWA -reported to the IPS workshop, that they expect 80,000 Palestinians by the end of the year. Others estimate the December 2013 number will exceed 100,000. UNWRA is basically out of money and cannot continue to meet its mandate for aiding Lebanon’s Palestinians much less those arriving from Syria and the rate of more than two dozen families per day. On 5/5/13, the popular committee representative at Jalil Camp near Baalbec said they receive on average 8 families per day, with dozens living in the Jalil camp cemetery.

Palestinians camps here remain a site of control and surveillance by the Lebanese Army. People’s mobility and access to construction materials have been restricted by the army check points at the entrance of camps. Palestinian refugees are forbidden by law – since 2001 – to own or inherit real estate in Lebanon; consequently when a Palestinian dies, even if she or he inherited property between 1948-2001, before a wave of revenge led to the 2001 racist law, the property goes to Sunni Muslim Dar al-Fatwa one of the richest real estate holding entities in Lebanon. Accused of deep corruption by some, their leadership has a history of opposing full civil rights for Palestinian refugees here remain opposed to home ownership.

According to figures from the popular committees in Lebanon’s refugee camps, 30,660 Palestinians fled into Lebanon from Syria. Around 5,000 remain in the Bekaa, close to the Syrian borders, in two main gatherings, al-Jalil (3,616 refugees) and central Bekaa (1,652).In the North, Baddawi hosts 3,616 and Nahr al Bared 1,316.In Beirut, Burj al-Barajneh hosts 2,628 refugees, Shatila and the surrounding areas 2,000, and Mar Elias 732. In the South, 7,876 refugees arrived to Ain al-Hilweh and 1,304 are dispersed around Saida. Mieh wa Mieh camp hosts 1,012, with an addition 2,160 in Wadi al-Zaineh. Further south to Tyre, refugees from Syria are distributed among Shabriha (144), Rashidieh (392), Bass (368), Burj al-Shemali (2,500), Qasimiyeh (172), and Jal al-Bahr (78).

According to the UN’s humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, seven million people need humanitarian assistance in Syria. “The needs are growing rapidly and are most severe in the conflict and opposition-controlled areas” of the civil-war ravaged country, the global body’s humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the U.N. Security Council. Amos cited data showing there are 6.8 million people in need — out of a total population of 20.8 million — along with 4.25 million people internally displaced and an additional 1.3 million who have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

Palestinian refugee children also have limited access to the public educational system in Lebanon. Only 11 per cent of “foreign” children can access free public education in Lebanon while many refugees can’t afford the high tuition fees of private schools. Palestinian refugees who attend one of the 58 UNRWA begin at age seven since UNWRA cannot afford pre-school level education, while the elementary sector comprises more than 60% of students, 28% in intermediate and only 10% at the secondary level. While the attendance rate for 7 year olds is 98.6%, by the time they reach age 11 attendance falls to 93.4%. From these figures, the primary level school completion rate cascades to only 37%, due to astronomical dropout rates. The above figures reveal that education levels have been indeed progressively dropping in recent years. This is further supported by the passing rate in the Brevet Official exams (official diploma qualifying entry into secondary) which was in some schools as low as 13.6% in some schools according to the UNRWA results of Brevet exams, despite the average passing rate in UNRWA schools being 43% for the 2009-10 academic year.

The most recent household survey of Palestinian refugees carried out by the American University of Beirut showed that two thirds of Palestine refugees are poor. The extreme poverty rate in camps (7.9%) is almost twice of that observed in gatherings (4.2%). The study also developed a Deprivation Index based on components of welfare which included components such as good health, food security, and adequate education, access to stable employment, decent housing, and ownership of essential household assets. The Deprivation Index showed that 40% of Palestine Refugees living in Lebanon are deprived. The study also reported that 56% of refugees are jobless and only 37% of the working age population is employed (Hanafi et al. 2012). It is unsurprising that the poor socio-economic situation often encourages students to leave school to get a paid job.

Despite the importance of education fewer Palestinian refugee students are actually interested in continuing their higher education. Lack of motivation to learn, is believed to be one of the main reasons for the high dropout rates. Palestinian refugees’ access to Lebanon’s public university is limited by their status as foreigners, and their access to private universities is restricted by a lack of resources to pay tuition fees (Hroub, 2012).

The old cliché that stated that “The Palestinians are the most educated Arab nation”, just a myth nowadays. This educational hemorrhage amongst young Palestinians has been attributed to a number of factors such as the deteriorating socio-economic conditions amongst Palestinian refugees and the growing disillusionment with schooling and the benefits it brings. Palestinian students also suffer from an education acculturation as they are forced to learn only the Lebanese curriculum without being able to access the country’s system. The following section examines these three main challenges.

Statistics indicate that just under half of the classrooms in public schools have less than 15 students per class while 20 % are overcrowded with 26 to 35 students per class. However, in UNRWA schools, the average number of students per classroom is 30 making them the most crowded classrooms in Lebanon.

With respect to the UN refugee agency, (UNHCR) the current situation in both Syria and among the more than 450,000 Syrian in Lebanon is only marginally better than the conditions of arriving Palestinians. As Maeve Murphy, UNHCR’s Senior Field Coordinator in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, explained on 5/5/13, near the Nicolas Khoury Center in Zahle, Lebanon, during an interview among a sea of hundreds of waiting Syrians, some waiting for three months or longer just to get registered, it too is now unable to meet its mandate for the same reason as UNRWA and the World Food Program. Ms. Murphy reported that over 453,000 Syrians have either registered with the U.N. agency or are waiting to register. An additional several hundred thousand people are thought to be refugees but haven’t approached the U.N.

Complicating the desperate situation of Palestinian and Syrian refugees seeking sanctuary in Lebanon is the fact that millions of Syrian refugees face food rationing and cutbacks to critical medical programs because oil-rich Gulf states have failed to deliver the funding they promised for emergency humanitarian aid, an investigation by James Cusick for The Independent on Sunday has found.

Pledges for $ 650 minion in donations from various sources including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, made during the January 2013, Kuwait UN emergency conference, have yet to materialize.

The World Food Program (WFP), the food aid arm of the UN, says it is spending $19m a week to feed 2.5 million refugees inside Syria and a further 1.5 million who have fled to official camps in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. By July, the WFP says, there is no guarantee that its work on the Syrian crisis can continue. A spokesman told the UK Independent, “We are already in a hand-to-mouth situation. Beyond mid-June – who knows?”

The emergency conference in Kuwait – hosted by the Emir of Kuwait and chaired by Mr Ban Ki Moon – promised to bring a “message of hope” to the four million Syrian refugees. Mr Ban proclaimed the outcome a shining example of “global solidarity in action”. The reality has been markedly different. Oxfam recently issued an appeal: “The League of Arab States must urge all Arab countries that have pledged to the Syrian crisis, to be transparent and to share information about their commitments, and mechanisms for fulfilling their pledges.”

Mousab Kerwat, Islamic Relief’s Middle East institutional funding manager, said: “It’s better for countries to stay away from donor conferences than to attend and make pledges they don’t intent to keep. As a minimum, they should communicate where their pledges have gone in a transparent process.

According to American University of Beirut researcher, Rosemary Sayigh thinking of the future of the Palestinian refugees can lead us in two alternative directions: i) what is likely? or ii) what do we hope and struggle for? “The likelihood in the near future is that fighting in Syria will get worse, the camps will further attacked, and there will be more displacement and more refugees. Thus what we should work for in the short term is: i) more international support for UNRWA; and ii) a change in the mission of the UNHCR allowing it to extend protection to Palestinian refugees both inside and outside Syria, include pressure on Lebanon to abolish its entry and residence taxes on Palestinian refugees; iii) whatever regime is established in Syria at the end of the civil war should be pressed to allow all refugees to return to their former homes, and all camps to be reconstructed.”

If Professor Falk was weary as he left Lebanon from all the data he was presented, it would be understandable. But given his history as a supporter of resistance to occupation and oppression, his assurances that he will continue his work armed with the above sampling of data gives rise to new hope for Palestinian and Syrian refugees from Syria and to those who support their right to return to Palestine.

Freed UN peacekeepers cross into Jordan from Syria & Saudi Arabia funds al-Nusra terrorists

Freed UN peacekeepers cross into Jordan from Syria

Press TV

A group of 21 UN peacekeepers held hostage by foreign-sponsored militant groups in Syria have crossed the border into Jordan after their release, Jordanian officials say.

Jordanian government spokesman Samih Maaytah said Saturday that Filipino peacekeepers “arrived in Jordan, they are on Jordanian land now.”

On March 6, the militants in Syria detained 21 soldiers, who are part of a 300-strong Filipino peacekeeping unit stationed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Olivia V Palala, the Philippines Ambassador to Amman, confirmed the release of the peacekeepers, saying they had arrived in Jordan from Syria.

The hostages were held in the village of Jamlah, in southwestern Syria, near the border with Jordan and the Golan Heights.

Following the hostage-taking, the armed groups circulated a video on the Internet, showing a number of militants with the peacekeepers.

The militants had said they would not free the hostages until Syrian government forces withdraw from the area surrounding the village…

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Saudi spy agency funds al-Nusra terrorists in Syria: Report

Press TV

The Saudi intelligence agency has provided financial support for the terrorist al-Qaeda-linked group of al-Nusra Front in Syria, a report says.

Citing foreign intelligence sources, the Intelligence Online Newsletter said Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Presidency (GIP), which is led by Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, took advantage of its communications with terrorists in Iraq to help establish al-Nusra Front.

“Thanks to funding from the General Intelligence Presidency and support from the Saudi intelligence in Lebanon, al-Nusra was able to swiftly arm its forces,” the report stated.

The Intelligence Online Newsletter also confirmed Saudi confidential documents indicating that the Saudi Interior Ministry had sent a military official into Syria in line with Riyadh’s plans to provide the militants with money and weapons…

Syria militants abduct UN peacekeepers in Golan, “Israel” concerned

Al Manar

Gunmen in Syria seized on Wednesday seized 21 UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights ceasefire zone between Syria and the Zionist entity.

UN officials said on Thursday negotiation with the militants were under way in order to free the peacekeepers, who are from the Philippines, diplomats said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called for their “immediate” release and demanded the Syrian government and the armed opposition respect their “freedom of movement and security”.

The UN said it was trying to negotiate the release of the soldiers, while an opposition spokesman said the troops would be held until Assad’s forces pull back from a Golan village.

Officials in Manila urged the troops, who are part of a 300-strong Filipino peacekeeping unit, to be released immediately.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who read the Security Council statement on the situation, said the opposition have made demands directed at the Syrian government, but gave no details.

The United Nations has reported a growing number of incidents in the Golan over the past year. It has sent extra armored vehicles and communications equipment to reinforce security for the mission.

For its part, “Israel” expressed its concern on Thursday that the UN woul pullout its peacekeeping force from the Golan after the incident.

AFP quoted an “Israeli” official as saying that “this kidnapping is likely to convince countries who participate in this force to bring their troops home, which would undoubtedly create a dangerous vacuum in no man’s land on the Golan.”

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that “since its creation, this force has fulfilled its mission which was to keep the peace.”

AFP said that the Zionist entity now “fears that the departure of UNDOF troops could leave a vacuum in the ceasefire zone between Syria and the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights, leaving it open to infiltration by hardliner militant groups.”

UN demands prosecution of Bush-era CIA crimes

RT

A United Nations investigator has demanded that the US publish classified documents regarding the CIA’s human rights violations under former President George W. Bush, with hopes that the documents will lead to the prosecution of public officials.

Documents about the CIA’s program of rendition and secret detention of suspected terrorists have remained classified, even though President Obama’s administration has publicly condemned the use of these “enhanced interrogation techniques”. The US has not prosecuted any of its agents for human rights violations.

UN investigator Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, said that the classified documents protect the names of individuals who are responsible for serious human rights violations.

“Despite this clear repudiation of the unlawful actions carried out by the Bush-era CIA, many of the facts remain classified, and no public official has so far been brought to justice in the United States,” Emmerson said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council, according to Reuters.

Kept in secret prisons around the world, the CIA’s detainees were subjected to torture including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and various other interrogation techniques that violate human rights. The detainees were often subjected to clandestine transfers to secret prisons known as CIA ‘black sites’.

“There is now credible evidence to show that CIA ‘black sites’ were located on the territory of Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania and Thailand, and that the officials of at least 49 other states allowed their airspace or airports to be used for rendition flights,” Emmerson said, describing how suspected terrorists were often detained without being charged for any crimes, receiving extradition procedures or having access to lawyers.

Emmerson has urged the US to prosecute any public official who was involved in setting up the CIA “black sites” at which human rights or legal violations occurred. Even though the Obama administration has condemned those who promoted the use of such facilities for inhumane procedures, the administration has taken no steps to punish any of its public officials. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the Justice Department would not take legal actions against those who “acted in good faith” and followed the guidelines provided by the Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush era.

But without names and details about the involvement of US officials at CIA black sites, the government is maintaining a level of secrecy and “perpetuating impunity for the public officials implicated in these crimes,” Emmerson said. A Senate committee led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) previously investigated the CIA’s interrogation program and may have had complete access to classified information about it.

Emmerson has called for this information to be published “without delay, and to the fullest extent possible.”

While the UN special rapporteur lacks the power to force the Obama administration to release this information, his report puts further pressure on the US government to expose a practice it publicly condemns, but continues to keep secret.

Birds of prey: The record of impunity for Israeli military aircraft

(Lebanon-Palestine border, Israeli troops, file photo)

by Brenda Heard, Friends of Lebanon

Since March 1978, for thirty-five years, the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon, UNIFIL, has been monitoring the conflict between Israel and Lebanon— the tension, the daring, the mayhem, the killing.  The enthusiastic efforts UNIFIL made in the early years soon waned.  Perhaps it was the politics, perhaps it was the frustration of an ineffectual mandate, or perhaps it was losing 279 troops to-date.    Whatever the cause, public statements from UNIFIL seem to have settled into a laissez-faire yawn.

For instance, when the Head of Mission, Major-General Serra, recently held a regular tripartite meeting with senior officers from the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israel Defence Forces, he stated (23 January 2013) that he “was pleased to see the positive engagement of both the parties on all the issues.”   It had been a “generally quiet period in the area of operations,” he said, “with both parties maintaining a strong commitment to the cessation of hostilities.”

Yet exactly one week later, Israeli military executed a bombing mission at the Lebanese-Syrian border.  Warplanes bombarded a scientific research centre in Jamraya, injuring five employees and killing two.  It seems Major-General Serra’s portrayal of Israel having a “strong commitment to the cessation of hostilities,” perhaps offered to be politically correct at the time, was rather off the mark.

The New York Times immediately reported that Israel had carried out a pre-emptive strike targeting an alleged arms convoy headed for Lebanese Hezbollah.  The next day, Ambassador Ja’afari, Syrian Permanent Representative to the UN, made a formal statement to the UN General Assembly and Security Council (A/67/721—S/2013/70).  He confirmed the deadly hit on the research centre—which had been unsuccessfully targeted over a period of months by armed insurgents.  But he flatly denied reports of the arms convoy.

Regardless of what was actually bombed, the incentive to attack was clarified by Israeli Defence Minister Barak at the Munich Security Conference four days later.  Barak stated that the bombing was “another proof that when we say something we mean it” and that “We say that we don’t think that it should be allowed to bring advanced weapon systems into Lebanon, the Hezbollah, from Syria, when Assad falls.”  In fact he repeatedly asserted that the defeat of President Assad would be a “major blow” to both Iran and Hezbollah, that they would both “pay the price.”  Like all statements emanating from the Israeli government, Barak’s stance was imbued with a sense of entitlement to judge his neighbours, to whom he was overtly hostile.

Former US intelligence official Matthew Levitt, currently an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, offered a forthright assessment: “Israel is able to fly reconnaissance flights over Lebanon with impunity right now,” he said.  The potential of Hezbollah’s having anti-aircraft weapons, he explained, was a “real concern” as it “could cut into its [Israel’s] ability to conduct aerial intelligence.”

Impunity is the key term here, because such conduct is illegal.  Israel’s routine overflights—characterised by UNIFIL in 2009 as not only a “humiliation to the Lebanese government and UNIFIL,” but also an “act of war,” —have been acknowledged by all parties to have been a problem since August 2000.  Nonetheless, Israel has consistently invoked its quest for security, which is held to supersede not only the security of all others, but also the dictates of international law.  On 14 November 2012, for instance, the UN Security Council reported:

“The Israel Defense Forces continued to make almost daily intrusions into Lebanese airspace.  During the reporting period, in addition to the significant number of unmanned aerial vehicles overflying Lebanese territory, UNIFIL observed several air exercises, including formations of multiple fighter jets.  These overflights are violations of resolution 1701 (2006), as well as of Lebanese sovereignty. UNIFIL has continued to protest all air violations, calling on the Israeli authorities to cease them immediately.  The Government of Lebanon also protested the violations, while the Government of Israel continued to maintain that the overflights are a necessary security measure.”  (S/2012/837 reporting period from 29 June to 30 October 2012)

The habitual overflights violate not just Resolution 1701, but dozens of Resolutions dating back to1968 warning Israel to respect the sovereignty of Lebanon.   The issue was most famously spelled out with UN Resolution 425 (1978), recalled in all subsequent Resolutions, which

“Calls for strict respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries; Calls upon Israel immediately to cease its military action against Lebanese territorial integrity and withdraw forthwith its forces from all Lebanese territory.” (S/RES/425 (1978), 19 March 1978)

In addition to the numerous bombing missions over the years, though, the Israeli birds of prey have been relentless in their mock raids and reconnaissance.  The government of Lebanon has dutifully complained to the United Nations.  For example in the last year (originals listed here):

  • January 2013 A/67/718–S/2013/68 (47 air violations in December 2012)
  • December 2012 (A/67/685–S/2012/945) (46 air violations in November 2012)
  • December 2012 (A/67/620–S/2012/911) (57 air violations in October 2012)
  • November 2012 (A/67/536–S/2012/809) (50 air violations in September 2012)
  • September 2012 (A/67/397–S/2012/723) (95 air violations in August 2012)
  • September 2012 (A/66/898–S/2012/691) (82 air violations in July 2012)
  • August 2012 (A/66/876–S/2012/6010 (82 air violations in June 2012)
  • July 2012 (A/66/863–S/2012/557) (100 air violations in May 2012)
  • May 2012 (A/66/817–S/2012/375) (113 air violations in April 2012)
  • May 2012 (A/66/780–S/2012/262) (77 air violations in March 2012)
  • April 2012 (A/66/771S/2012/174) (71 air violations in February 2012)
  • March 2012 (A/66/744—S/2012/156) (64 air violations in January 2012)
  • March 2012 (A/66/725–S/2012/123) (notes 9,611 land/sea/air violations since Resolution 1701)

Every single month Israeli military aircraft have made repeated circles up to and including Beirut.  Yet UNIFIL’s assessment last month was nearly verbatim from six previous tripartite meetings: November 2012October 2012August 2012July 2012May 2012March 2012.  Somehow, hundreds of violations were swept under the rug as “discussed.”  Somehow, continual violations translated to “full support and commitment” to implement Resolution 1701.  Not a mention of the drones or the “formations of multiple fighter jets” by which Israel blatantly transgressed Lebanese territorial sovereignty.

It has been argued that Israel should not be bound by Resolution 1701 because Hezbollah, as the primary resistance force in Lebanon, has remained armed.  Firstly, UN Resolutions do not subscribe to the all-or-none approach; they specify obligations to each party separately.  Secondly, prior to the formation of Hezbollah Resistance there were already 28 UN Security Council Resolutions condemning Israel’s aggressions against Lebanon.[1] Thirdly, Resolution 1701 states that prohibitions on weaponry “shall not apply to arms, related material, training or assistance authorized by the Government of Lebanon or by UNIFIL.”  And the noted “consent of the Government of Lebanon” is indeed expressed in the 2011 Ministerial Statement of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet:

“The government is committed to work on ending Israeli occupation to remaining Lebanese occupied territories; in addition to ending Israeli aggressive practices and spying operations that violates Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.  The government adheres to the right of Lebanon through its people, army and Resistance to liberate and retrieve the Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shouba Hills and the Lebanese part of the Ghajar Village, as well as to defend Lebanon in confronting any aggression through all legitimate and accessible means and to hold on to its right to use its water and oil resources and to consolidate its maritime borders.”

No one, not even Israel, denies that these egregious violations take place on a regular basis.  But there is always an excuse: Israel and its enablers insist that the violations are merely a necessary security measure.   Israeli Defence Minister Barak was quick to blame the Jamraya airstrike on the stubborn Syrian/Lebanese resistance; “we don’t think that it should be allowed,” he said.

Predictably, both the US and the UK quietly supported the airstrike.  The American response was a shrug of the shoulders and a warning—not to Israel, of course—but to Syria and Hezbollah.  The British responded likewise, avoiding any hint of impropriety from Israel, while frowning squarely at Syria and Hezbollah.

As for the overflights, the UK loosely urges “both countries to fulfil all their obligations under UNSCR 1701 and to avoid any provocative actions.”  But when asked whether they were “making representations to the Government of Israel about reports of Israeli aircraft staging mock air raids over southern Lebanon,” the British stance was clarified:

“While our officials in Israel are aware of these reports, our lobbying of the Israeli Government focuses on the most urgent issues including those that pose the greatest threat to the Middle East peace process or to the lives of ordinary citizens in the region.  This specific issue has not been raised with the Israeli authorities.  An absence of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon remains a priority for the UK and our international partners.  We are monitoring developments closely.” (11 June 2012)

Behind the scenes, though, is the darker side of politics.  As a cable from the US Embassy in Beirut reveals, for example, in November 2006 then-UN Special Adviser on the Situation in the Middle East Michael Williams “expressed pleasant surprise by the willingness of the Israelis to talk about the issue” of overflights.  He and fellow UN officials “were most encouraged by their talks with Israeli military intelligence, where they reportedly heard that overflights could cease if the USG [United States Government] would provide needed intelligence through other channels.”  Williams expressed hope that the US and Israel would be able to “develop arrangements through which Israeli overflights of Lebanese territory would cease.”

During his February 2007 visit to Israel, Williams discussed Resolution 1701 with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and staff.  As a cable from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv reveals, the UN has not always backed UNIFIL.  According to both the Ministry and UN staff,

“Williams surprised his hosts by expressing ‘understanding’ for the reasons behind Israel’s continued overflights of southern Lebanon.  UN staff said he thanked the GOI [Government of Israel] for decreasing the number of flights and ending provocative operations that UNIFIL interpreted as mock bombing runs against international units and facilities.  At the same time, he stressed to the GOI that all overflights are violations of UNSCR 1701 and cautioned that he would have to say so in public if asked.”

A year and a half later, Williams was appointed the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon.

Similarly, in October 2006, as a cable from the American Embassy in Paris reveals, the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs was “consulting closely with French intelligence services on ways to share more intelligence with Israel to obviate the need for overflights.”  The French encouraged the Israelis to be more discreet.  They “privately assured Israel” that UNIFIL’s Force Commander Major General Alain Pellegrini—as he had spoken of a possible expansion of UNIFIL’s rules of engagement to prevent overflights— “would soon be reassigned.”   He left the post in February 2007.

The Lebanese National News Agency has reported at least 31 breeches of airspace so far in February.  Yet the international community has turned a blind eye toward Israel’s contempt for international law.  UNIFIL, with its average annual budget of over $500 million (A/C.5/66/SR.31), files the same protests it has filed for decades and seems uninterested in challenging Israel directly—at least not publicly.  Israel has continued undaunted in its military occupation of regional skies.  Such rogue conduct has developed through years and years of pushing the boundaries, through a pattern of aggression and impunity.

[1] 262 (1968); 270 (1969); 279, 280, 285 (1970); 313, 316, 317 (1972); 332, 337 (1973); 347 (1974); 425, 427, 434, 436 (1978); 444, 450, 459 (1979); 467, 474, 483 (1980); 488, 490, 498 (1981); 501, 508, 509, 512 (1982).

Brenda Heard is founder and director of Friends of Lebanon, London. The article was contributed to the Silver Lining blog.