>

Situations in the Sinai

On January 15, the US mobilised the Connecticut National Guard Detachment 2, Company I, 185th Aviation Regiment of Groton to be deployed to the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, “to support the Multinational Force and Observers”.

The unit left Connecticut Jan. 15 for Fort Benning, Ga., for further training and validation. The unit operates C-23C Sherpa aircraft and has deployed three times in the last seven years in support of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The unit will provide an on-demand aviation asset to the Multinational Force and Observers commander to support its mission of supervising the security provisions of the Egypt/ Israel Peace Treaty.

Chief Warrant Officer Four James Smith of Ivoryton commands the aviation unit.

Here’s a list of US deployments in the Sinai and a breakdown of the constituency of the multinational force.

The US contributes three units collectively known as Task Force Sinai:[8]

* Force HQ – 40 personnel
* Infantry Battalion (USBATT – drawn from National Guard units)- 425 personnel currently members of the Illinois Army National Guard to be replaced in early 2011 by the Maryland National Guard[9]
* Support Battalion – 235 personnel consisting of:
o Headquarters
o Medical Company consisting of Dental, Medical, Physical Therapy, Veterinarian, and Preventative Medicine.
o Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment (EOD)
o Aviation Company

As far as I can discover, the deployment has yet to reach its eventual destination and was routine.

Considering the lengthy buildup to the present people’s revolution in Egypt however, and telltale Wikileaks cables, it is difficult to imagine that the US has not been prepared for such an eventuality and pre-planned with Israel and Egypt tactical contingency moves in the Sinai including the present jointly coordinated remilitarisation off the Sinai by Egypt, despite the multinational force’s role ostensibly being the enforcement of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

As Yossi Gurvitz notes:

The entrance of Egyptian military forces into Sinai is prohibited by the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, to which the US is a guarantor. Lisa Goldman and myself tried to get a reply from the IDF Spokesman, to no avail. The spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, gave Goldman the following response: “We will have to analyze the situation. We are under clear instructions not to make any comment on the Egyptian situation, no matter what. So it’s not as though we’ll have an answer later on. You’ll just have to wait and see, okay?”

According to Laura Rozen:

Several foreign policy scholars and former officials have been urging the U.S. administration for months to prepare for the end of the Hosni Mubarak era and the instability that would accompany it.

However, according to General James Mattis yesterday:

The United States has no plans to redeploy troops or ships in response to the unrest roiling Egypt and the instability in Tunisia and Jordan, the head of the U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.

On a visit to London, Gen. James Mattis said military leaders and lawmakers were closely watching developments, but stressed that he had no orders to rearrange his forces in response.

“These issues do not call for a military solution right now,” Mattis said. “There’s no reason right now for any shift in military forces, or anything like that. I’ve not received any orders.”

Mattis spells out the primary US strategic interest:

… he said it was unlikely events in Egypt would lead to difficulties for ships passing through the Suez Canal – another major concern for lawmakers and businesses.

The canal is the key route to the Mediterranean and used to avoid the longer and perilous path around Africa to the Atlantic Ocean.

“When you look at the fiscal impact of that on whoever is in a position of authority in Egypt, I just can’t imagine a motive to shut that down,” said Mattis, who succeeded Gen. David Petraeus as head of the military’s Central Command in August.

Related Links

With the anger, Bedouin youth now present a face of triumph. “It is a revolution,” one says simply.
US embassy cables: Egypt’s strategic importance to the US

President Mubarak and military leaders view our military assistance program as the cornerstone of our mil-mil relationship and consider the USD 1.3 billion in annual FMF as “untouchable compensation” for making and maintaining peace with Israel. The tangible benefits to our mil-mil relationship are clear: Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the U.S. military enjoys priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace. We believe, however, that our relationship can accomplish much more. Over the last year, we have engaged MOD leaders on developing shared strategic objectives to address current and emerging threats, including border security, counter terrorism, civil defense, and peacekeeping. Our efforts thus far have met with limited success.

Israel + Egypt (+ the US too) coordinating Sinai moves
Rights NGO claims that Israeli planes carrying crowd dispersal weapons have arrived in Egypt
Report: Egypt request crowd dispersion equipment from Israel
Israel denies sending riot gear to Egypt
Why is the Egyptian Army in Sinai?
Made in the USA: Tear Gas, Tanks, Helicopters, Rifles, and Fighter Planes in Egypt Funded and Built Largely by US Defense Department and American Corporations
Israel agrees to some Egyptian troops in Sinai
Three Decades of Weapons, Training for Egypt Keep U.S. in Loop
MAHALLA RIOTS: ISOLATED INCIDENT OR TIP OF AN ICEBERG?

The key question is, will the localized incident in
Mahalla spark a wider movement? The government is clearly
focused on containing unrest. Even while the riots were
still winding down, PM Nazif traveled to Mahalla, paid
bonuses to factory workers and praised those who did not join
in the riots (ref D). The government has also accelerated
arrests of activists in Cairo (ref E). The organizers of the
April 6 strike — distinct from Mahalla — have already
called, via Facebook, for a follow-on national strike on May
4, Mubarak’s eightieth birthday. Even regime insiders have
acknowledged the political savvy behind this tactic —
channeling current outrage towards the next big event. The
GOE responded with a press release announcing that President
Mubarak will give a May 5 speech to “underline Egypt’s keen
to desire to protect the rights of laborers and accentuate
the role they can play in the development process …. and to
reiterate the government’s commitment to safeguard the
interests of workers against any backlashes they might face
as a result of the economic reform program.” More broadly,
the government continues to address the shortage of
subsidized bread by using military bakeries and distribution

Egypt Links

In Pictures: Egypt protests
Voice-To-Tweet
Why Are Americans Blocked From Watching Al Jazeera English?
U.S. Scrambles to Size Up ElBaradei
Live blog Feb 1 – Egypt protests
Protesting At Tahrir Square
Al Jazeera report from Tahrir Square 8:30am, February 1
A Virtual “March of Millions” in Solidarity with Egyptian Protestors
On the eve of the ‘march of a million people’
The human wall protecting Cairo museum.
The widening double standard
An Egyptian Woman Speaks Out
Australians in Egypt frustrated by embassy
Live blog Feb 1 – Egypt protests
Erdogan Tells Egypt’s Mubarak He Should Listen to His People

Palestine / Israel Links

Hope ends here: The children’s court at Ofer Military Prison
Could US abandon Israel too?
Settlers start to cultivate Palestinian land east of Al-Khalil
Unprovoked attack on local shop, pregnant woman gassed
Google unveils Web-free ‘tweeting’ in Egypt move
Israeli critics open up on US ‘abandonment’ of Mubarak – ziofascists:

Another strain of this criticism, articulated most forcefully by Yediot Aharonot columnist Eitan Haber, who was a top aide to Yitzhak Rabin, is that this sends a dreadful message to Israel.

Obama threw Mubarak “to the dogs,” Haber wrote in a column that appeared on Monday.

“America, which waves the banner of ‘citizens rights,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘freedom of information,’ turned its back in a day on one of its most important allies in the Middle East.

Obama sold Mubarak for the pot of lentils of popularity among the Egyptian masses,” Haber wrote, adding that the US president did this without a true understanding of the Middle East.

“Our conclusion in Israel needs to be that the man sitting in the White House is liable to ‘sell’ us over night.

The thought that the US might not stand by our side in the day of need causes chills. God help us.”

This theme was also picked up by former Mossad head Danny Yatom, who said in an Israel Radio interview that the US treatment of Mubarak was a dangerous message to Washington’s allies in the region – including Israel – that they could not rely on America.

Yatom said Washington’s first error was not in more aggressively supporting the opposition in Iran when it took to the streets against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the summer of 2009.

By contrast, Yatom said, “there is an important relationship” between the US and Egypt, with Egypt an important layer in Washington’s regional policy.

“The way Obama and Hillary Clinton abandoned Mubarak at once is very problematic, and I think hints to other allies – for instance Israel – that these things can happen under certain grave circumstances to us as well, and to others.”

Yatom said the US erred in talking – as Clinton did on Sunday – of an orderly transition to lasting democracy, and should have instead sufficed with demanding reform.

They should have supported him [Mubarak], but demand more reform,” he said. “I think he would have responded.”

Israel shocked by Obama’s “betrayal” of Mubarak
Can Israel only make peace with dictators?
Netanyahu must prepare for a new regional order
Bernard-Henri Lévy Indicted! – Tariq Ali
U.S. Interests in Egypt: A Proposed Statement of U.S. Policy – the AIPAC/WINEP mix
It’s never been about Palestine – neocon John Podhoretz
Amnesty International Condemns Makhoul Sentence

Wikileaks Links

Whistleblower ‘isolated’ in US jail
Julian Assange calls for support from Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Assange’s lawyer says FOI inspired WikiLeaks

Other Links

Afghan elite ‘plundered $900m’ from leading bank
United Nations must intervene to protect Sri Lanka’s media
Government accused as Sri Lankan news office is torched

‘Democratic’ Land Theft

The leaked minutes of a meeting in 2008 between Palestinian, U.S. and Israeli officials show a senior Palestinian proposing that Israel annex all but one of its major Jerusalem settlements as part of a broad deal to end their decades-old conflict.

EgyptAh, to be a ‘democracy’- apartheid Israel can flaunt international law and steal land, sponsor Palestinian ‘leaders’ without a mandate of the people from whom Israel steals, who then give away even more land behind Palestinians’ backs. How could Israel then be accused of stealing?

The Palestinian Papers blow the cover off the iniquitous deals which Abbas and his cohorts have done on the sly with their Israeli bosses. What chance for the end of the gross indignity of Israeli apartheid when the perpetrators of this discrimination are covertly and not so covertly assisted by those who shill as ‘Palestinian leaders’?

At this time, Nelson Mandela’s wise words on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People are a beacon and warning.

“Even during the days of negotiations, our own experience taught us that the pursuit of human fraternity and equality — irrespective of race or religion — should stand at the centre of our peaceful endeavours. The choice is not between freedom and justice, on the one hand, and their opposite, on the other. Peace and prosperity; tranquility and security are only possible if these are enjoyed by all without discrimination.”

One remembers also the second point in the preamble of the United Nations Charter:

“to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”

Right now, expansionist, warmongering zionists are quivering with bloodthirsty anticipation at the thought Arabs might oust their tyrants. Yossi Gurvitz analyses:

‘… it is sickening to see the Israeli consensus demanding that when Arabs think of their future, they should imagine a hobnailed boot crushing their faces forever, in order to protect Israelis from their own fears. This concept demonstrates, again, how much Israelis view Arabs as savages who can neither govern themselves, nor develop. They always need a strongman to keep them down. This concept tells us much more about Israelis than about their neighbours.’

Israel’s friend, Mubarak is a nice chappie, really

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rejected calls from protesters to resign and said he would name a new government to promote democracy as protesters clashed with police into the night, setting buildings on fire and swarming armored cars.

Kevin Rudd is milquetoast, omitting condemnation of Mubarak’s outrageous oppression and police violence against peaceful protestors and journalists.

Well the political situation is highly fluid, as a number of my colleagues from elsewhere around the world have said. We have long supported democratic transformation across the Middle East. We have equally strongly argued that this transformation should occur peacefully and without violence. That remains our view in terms of recent developments in Egypt as well.

Even Hillary Clinton was more supportive of protestors:

“We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters, and we call on the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain the security forces,”

Yet Hosni Mubarak is in power because the West has supported him.

Mubarak is in power in Cairo with the west’s blessing, approval, support, sponsorship, funding and arms. Democrat and Republican presidents, Labour and Conservative prime ministers, have all cosied up to Egypt’s “secular” tyrant, a self-proclaimed but ineffective bulwark against “Islamic extremism”, since he assumed the presidency in 1981.

One of the Wikileaks cables released yesterday confirms how Mubarak imprisons poets, bloggers and journalists with gay abandon. And thus, I give him doggerel:

‘There was an old despot called Hosni
whose mind was suspicious and lazy,
for when poems are writ,
he quivers his lip,
and looks for the poet not meaning.’

‘There was an old fool called Mubarak
who hated all literary dialect
while his back was turned,
Hosni’s ears would burn,
as poets would cleverly paint him black’

Palestine / Israel Links

Let’s not forget Israel loves autocrats to maintain its life
WB mourners clash with Israeli troops
Ian McEwan should turn down the prize
Ian McEwan can’t escape the politics
The Papers of Opprobrium
Apartheid entity has vacancy sign up : “New hosts required for mutually beneficial oppression, belligerence and land grabs. No democracies in the Middle East need apply”.
Israel fears radical takeover in Egypt – hasbara in full flight
Diana Buttu on the Palestine Papers
1/21/11, Update: Tear gas death triggers mobilization against Israel’s lethal tear gas
Bernard-Henri Levy with another stupid ill-informed tirade
Eroding Israel’s Legitimacy in the International Arena : latest hasbara strategy with a partial list of BDS and other triumphs against Israeli apartheid.
Israel staunchly on the side of Arab tyrannies
Paraguay joins Latin American neighbors in recognizing Palestinian state
Feeds are from activists and citizens on field via phone, if you have verified news you can contact us by phone or sms on Lebanese number +961.70.520837 or email

Egypt/Tunisia Links
Anti-riot document says: 1-Let protesters through streets, don’t block them. Don’t shoot unless commanded #Egypt #Jan25
4 hours ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply
@ArabRevolution ???? ?? ???????
RT @TrellaLB Secret document reveals the anti-riot police game plan http://fun.ly/93v0 #jan25 #Egypt

Feeds are from activists and citizens on field via phone, if you have verified news you can contact us by phone or sms on Lebanese number +961.70.520837 or email
@alexismadrigal u published Egyptian protestor’s tactics, will u do same 4 Mubarak’s thugs? http://bit.ly/ghaK8M #Jan25 #Egypt @theatlantic
Feeds are from activists and citizens on field via phone, if you have verified news you can contact us by phone or sms on Lebanese number +961.70.520837 or email
Israel to boost security on Egypt border
Please @alexismadrigal u published Egyptian protestor’s tactics, will u do same 4 Mubarak’s thugs? http://bit.ly/ghaK8M #Jan25 #Egypt
The Great Arab Revolution and the Gulf States
From The Angry Arab: Word of caution
Not Found
Tunisie : l’héroïsme ordinaire des femmes
Mubarak’s appointment of military men to top posts continues Egypt’s martial style of rule
The Egyptian Intifada
Tunisia: How We Got Here and the Task Ahead
A Manifesto For Change In Egypt
The Protest Movement in Egypt: “Dictators” do not Dictate, They Obey Orders
18 Ways to Circumvent the Egyptian Government’s Internet Block
Egypt protests leaves at least 18 dead
Just Whose Side Are Arab Armies On, Anyway?
US to review aid to Egypt, WH spokesman says
Egypt: Night Falls, After Day of Rage
Mubarak Refuses to Quit, Fires Egyptian Cabinet as Protesters Defy Curfew
Busting Egypt’s web blackout
Egyptian Intifada Rap
The truth about Egypt
Amid Digital Blackout, Anonymous Mass-Faxes WikiLeaks Cables To Egypt
BBC journalist arrested and beaten by Egyptian police
Australian media coverage has been pathetic
Rallies in support of Egyptian rebels in Melbourne and Sydney – what about other Aussies??
Egypt Is Burning, and It Is Not a Facebook or Twitter Event

@SultanAlQassemi: El Baradei now speaking to Al Jazeera “We want to build a new Egypt, built on democracy & human rights”

“We want a new constitution, & for Egypt to catch up with civilisation” “Mubarak’s speech was a let down. He ignored everyone”

El Baradei “HE wants to change the govt, he is responsible for this govt. He is taking the will of the Egyptian people lightly”

“The Egyptian people welcomed the Army on the street. The Army is a friend of the people, the protests yesterday were peaceful”

All the buildings that were attacked & burned belonged to the NDP & police that repressed the Egyptian people for 30 years”

If the army wants peace to return they must assist the people to change this regime. No Egyptian or Arab wants Egypt to fail”

“If the army believes that the imposed curfew will secure the buildings then I am with it, but we have until 7pm to protest ”

“We have the right to live with freedom & liberty in our own country. I learnt of my house arrest on TV, not sure if it’s true”

“This is their stupid way (house arrest). There are five million Egyptians who agree with my demands of change of regime”

“I will join the protests today and in the media and in any other way so that we achieve change today, not tomorrow”

“I will do my best, others can have opinions about me. They are welcome if they agree with me or not”

“My goal isn’t popularity or presidency, I want to serve my country. I have enough (personal) business”

“There were many international calls. I have many friends. Governments also called to ask about me yesterday”

“The Europeams & the Americans called me. I was disappointed by the US position on Egypt, the US adjusted their position later”

“The Europeans & the Americans called me. I was disappointed by the US position on Egypt, the US adjusted their position later”

“The US govt must choose between the govt of Egypt or the people of Egypt. I have personal respect for Obama”

“I spoke to them (US govt) to assure them of my well-being.”

“If the US govt wants a friendly Egypt they must stand with the people not with the regime”

“The translations were wrong, I said Egypt is ready for a new democratic govt & I won’t run under these conditions”

“I said that if the Egyptians wanted me to assume a transitionary (leadership) role I will not let them down”

“The goals of the movement I have founded are similar to other opposition parties, there must be free elections”#

“We need reform after 30 years, a society that respects knowledge. I am before anything an Egyptian”

“My goal is change. I said Mubarak must leave. I’m not sure that he will leave. Protests will continue if he doesn’t leave

There can be conciliatory solution. A new constitution where Egyptians have the right to choose their representatives”

“Articles 86 & 87 in the conditions must change to allow any Egyptian willing to run & international election observers”

“Articles 86 & 87 in the conditions must change to allow any Egyptian willing to run & international election observers

“Egyptians must choose their leader, who becomes president is up to Egyptians”

RT @TravellerW: “@ElBaradei, We’ll vote for any of the men or women who took the streets while u were skiing in Salzburg”

Wikileaks Links

WikiLeaks: The Next Generation
Right war, right reasons: day Gordon Brown came clean on Iraq
New York Times Robbery of Wikileaks
Assange’s collaborators get their knives out
Anonymous arrests shine a light on some (much) bigger issues

Other Links

Ayn Rand took government assistance while decrying others who did the same
Ayn Rand Received Social Security, Medicare
Mandela’s life and times
Blair sister-in-law wants him tried for Iraq crimes
United States, Japan told time running out to deal with debt
Aboriginal Day of Remembrance
Protest outside Egyptian embassy in Yemen

Gaza Updates – Suffering & Injustice Continues

Many thousands of people are still homeless after Israel’s attack on Gaza. Dwellings for rent are scarce as hen’s teeth, rents are soaring, as are prices for even rudimentary bedding.

Some 4,000 homes were destroyed and about 17,000 badly damaged, according to a recent UN Gaza flash appeal. Some 50,000 people took shelter in UNRWA (UN agency for Palestinian refugees) facilities during the height of the conflict and tens of thousands have been staying in very cramped conditions with family and friends.

No’oman (who declined to give his family name) told IRIN he, his two wives and 10 children were given five minutes to evacuate their home in Neusarat on 8 January. His 16-year-old cousin was killed in the attack which completely destroyed his home.

“Our family lost everything – furniture, two cars, more than $500,000,” said No’oman, who reckoned his home was targeted because his brother works with Islamic Jihad.

Hamas has given the family $2,000 as emergency relief compensation.

The family has taken shelter in a nearby unfinished building. The bare-bones structure lacks heating or a decent water supply.

Mattresses, blankets and plastic sheeting are hard to find in Gaza and have gone up in price. Thin mats can be found for 200 shekels (about $200); tents are not available, according to local residents.

“Hamas is providing quick relief for those whose homes were destroyed – between $500 and $2,000 per household,” Hamas political leader Ghazi Hamad, head of borders and crossings, told IRIN. “And food assistance, like sugar, oil and blankets.”

UN agencies like UNRWA and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as well as international aid organisations like CARE, are looking to buy building materials and emergency relief items on the local market, but say they are unavailable.

“We have allowed humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza. The question is about goods that might have dual uses, like fertilizer which can be used to manufacture explosives,” deputy spokesperson of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Andy David told IRIN by telephone.

And cement is somehow linked with explosives?

“I found an apartment for the family for $180 per month, which is expensive,” said Ahmed, now sleeping in his car. “I can’t find a mattress – I am looking for blankets, but so far all I have is glass and a cooking gas cylinder.”

Chris Gunness, an UNRWA spokesperson, said there was no longer anyone living in UNRWA schools or facilities and that 8,000 people had been relocated to apartments with monthly rent assistance from UNRWA. He also confirmed that hundreds of tents had been distributed.

In the north of Gaza, farmers and activists are being shot at by the Israeli military. The mainstream media are remarkably blind to the many acts of attrition committed by Israel since its declaration of a ‘unilateral’ truce, yet when a puny militant rocket lands in Israel damaging a car, the story dominates the news, and Israel retaliates with devastating air strikes.

This report is from the brave volunteers of ISM.

Israeli soldiers again opened fire on Palestinian farmers and international Human Rights Workers (HRWs) on Thursday 5th February, as they attempted to harvest parsley in agricultural land near the Green Line.

Returning to farm-land of Al Faraheen village, in the Abassan Jedida area, east of Khan Younis, where soldiers had opened fire on Tuesday 3rd February, farmers and HRWs were able to harvest the parsley crop for only half an hour, before soldiers again began to shoot. A number of shots were fired into the air, before the soldiers started to aim in the direction of the farmers and international accompaniment. Bullets were heard to whiz past, close to people’s heads.

This behaviour on the part of the Israeli soldiers was an almost exact repeat of their response to the presence of the farmers and internationals, in the same area of farm-land, two days before. On the Tuesday, however, the group was able to harvest for two hours before soldiers began to shoot. Whilst farmers had hoped to be able to wait-out the shooting, in order to continue harvesting, it quickly
became clear that the situation was too dangerous for that to be possible.

The farmers of Al Faraheen are particularly aware of the level of danger they face when entering farm lands that are within 1 km of the Green Line – after watching their friend and colleague, 27 year old Anwar Il Ibrim, from neighbouring Benesela, killed by a bullet to the neck while he was picking parsely in the same area, just one week before.

Ma’an is reporting that moves to a truce are proceeding and are likely to be concluded with the existing Israeli government after the election. The new government won’t be installed till 6 weeks or so after the election

Israel is continuing its collective punishment of the Gazan people by disallowing the transportation of cement through the borders.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian source said that Hamas and other factions will most likely agree on a truce on Monday.

Raffi Eitan, Israeli Minister of Pensioner Affairs, stated Sunday that a prisoner-swap deal could be conducted within the coming weeks.

Eitan, who is currently in charge of evaluating the demands of Hamas regarding the release of 1400 detainees, said that a swap deal could be concluded before a new coalition government is formed in Israel.

In an interview with the Israeli Army Radio, Eitan said that there is a strong possibility that such a deal will be concluded with Hamas by the current Israeli government.

“By experience, we know that forming a new government could take up to six weeks”, Eitan added.

Furthermore, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that according to Egyptian sources, Hamas agreed to the Israeli demand of linking the issue of fully opening border terminals with the issue of releasing Shalit.

Haaretz added that this issue allowed further progress towards declaring a ceasefire by connecting a full opening of the border terminals with the release of Shalit.

Yet, the Egyptian sources said that it remains unclear when a breakthrough would be achieved.

Haaretz reported that Egypt is promoting a plan which includes opening the crossing to function 80% of their capacity when a ceasefire deal is reached.

But Israel is still demanding to ban certain materials from entering the Gaza Strip; this includes cement and iron among other materials. Banning the entry of cement and Iron would prevent rebuilding thousands of homes and facilities destroyed during Israel’s “Cast Lead” offensive.

Israel said that an agreement on cement and other materials would only be allowed reached after the release of Shalit, thus linking the fate of thousands of homeless residents with this issue, and placing further pressure on Hamas to accept the Israeli stance.

Here’s another result of the inhumane border blockages – UNWRA may suspend aid delivery due to a lack of plastic bags.

The distribution by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency may end Monday because there are not enough plastic bags to hand out the food, a UNRWA spokesman told the Jerusalem Post.

The shortage is caused by a restriction on imports of raw materials into Gaza out of fear they will be stolen by Hamas. The pellets used to manufacture the bags are on the restricted list.

According to Press TV, republished in Palestinian Pundit, ICC lawyers intending to investigate Israeli war crimes, have been prevented by Egypt, for now at least, from entering Gaza.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) set up the committee. Four French and Norwegian lawyers comprise the committee. The ICC had earlier started preliminary analysis into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Gaza war.

French and Norwegian lawyers from Amnesty International on Thursday had attempted to enter the impoverished Palestinian sliver through Egypt’s Rafah crossing with Gaza.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, as well as B’Tselem, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, have filed a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

The criminal case is expected to focus on the Israeli atrocities, including charges of using disproportionate force, white phosphorous bombs and depleted uranium in the densely populated area.

The group intended to collect evidence and testimonials on “Operation Cast Lead” which killed over 1,300 Palestinian and wounded nearly 5,500 others, a large number of them women and children. The evidence was to be submitted to the International Court before Sunday, February 8th.

Egyptian authorities, however, prevented the four member group from crossing the border, arguing that for now only displaced Palestinians can enter the territory thought the crossing.

Free Gaza activist Theresa McDermott has turned up in an Israeli dungeon.

Scottish activist Theresa McDermott has been found in Ramleh prison four days after she was “disappeared” by the Israel government after being forcibly removed from a seaborne Lebanese aid mission to Gaza. In early February Theresa responded to a call for support from internationals from the organizers of a Lebanese humanitarian aid voyage to Gaza aboard the Togo flagged ship, Tali. Theresa was one of only 9 passengers aboard the cargo ship on February 4, 2009 when Israeli gunboats intercepted it, boarded and forced the ship to Ashdod port in Israel.

All the passengers and crew aboard were released on Thursday, February 5 except Theresa. Between Thursday evening and Sunday morning there was no word about Theresa’s whereabouts except several false stories saying that “Britons” had departed to London. Finally on Sunday, Theresa was able to call her brother John in Scotland to say she was in Ramleh prison in Israel.

According to Al Jazeera journalist Salam Khodr, when the ship was boarded, the passengers were beaten and kicked by Israeli soldiers before being removed from the ship.

No information has been provided by Israeli officials about why Theresa has been detained, what the charges are if any and why her detention was concealed. When the British Consulate in Israel was contacted for assistance in finding Theresa, staff refused to help locate Theresa saying they couldn’t provide assistance to a UK citizen unless she personally requested it. Members of the Scottish Parliament including Pauline McNeil and Hugh O’Donnell, who were part of a fall delegation to Gaza aboard the Free Gaza boat, Dignity, are working with the British government to ensure that Theresa receives the protection and assistance to which she is entitled.

Theresa went to Gaza with the first Free Gaza boats in August and returned with the ship Dignity for a second voyage. She is a respected, long time human rights activist who has worked with the International Solidarity Movement in Palestine as well as with Free Gaza. At home in Scotland she works for the Post Office. The Israelis found only medical and other humanitarian aid on the Tali but refused to return the ship. The status of its humanitarian cargo is unknown.

Other snippets:

Israel war leaves crude graffiti in Gazan homes

Hamas is going all out to secure international recognition of Palestine’s unique position as a nation of occupied, oppressed people yearning for a state.

Instead of offering a hudna with the Occupier, Marshouk wants only a tahdia – a period of calm.

Hamas regards its offer as a Tahdia, an Arabic word indicating non-aggression in a stand-off, usually described as a “calm”. A longer-term Hudna, or ceasefire, would be withheld until a peace agreement that would see Israel withdraw from Palestinian territory.

“Israel owns the West Bank and Gaza Strip right now but if it withdrew from these and let the Palestinians have access to Jerusalem, we would turn our face to rebuild our lives and live alongside as in other parts of the world,” said Mr Marzouk.

Two strands of indirect negotiations with Israel have converged. One arrangement would allow the rebuilding of shattered parts of the Gaza Strip in return for an end to rocket attacks. Another deal would see the release of a captured Israel soldier, Cpl Gilad Shalit, in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas are proving to be skilful negotiators – capitalising on Israel’s abysmal stature in the world, an increase in Hamas popularity throughout Palestine and the advent of George Mitchell, for whom it appears they have respect. Holding out for an end to the occupation is the just, appropriate tactic and hopefully timing is right to achieve it.

“History has shown that you have to take by force your rights from Israel,” said Mr Marzouk. “You can’t make peace unless you make Israel pay the price of occupation. It’s the only strategy.”

Ultimately Hamas is waiting for President Barack Obama and his regional envoy George Mitchell to abandon what it describes as George W Bush’s “with us or against us” approach, probably after the new Israeli government emerges after Tuesday’s election.

“George Mitchell is a unique American, the first official to make a report calling on Israel stop the settlements,” said Mr Marzouk. “He made peace in Ireland by allowing the Republicans to hold their dream while dealing with a different reality on the ground.”

Tony Blair, the Middle East peace envoy, recently declared that direct negotiations with Hamas are inevitable but Mr Mitchell has insisted the US boycott will continue.

But Hamas senses its moment has come and is emboldened enough to claim its covert discussions with the West occur more frequently than in most alliances. “We talk to many official and unofficial agencies, sometimes two or three daily,” he said. “They choose to keep the dialogue secret and we respect that, after all we can’t say we are a normal country or a normal state party.”

Secret communications with Hamas which should have averted a wasteful, criminal war against the Gazan people had not Israel’s insane warmongers already planned their massacre several months prior are revealed by Gershon Baskin.

My talks with the Hamas leader in Europe focused on two main issues: convening a secret direct back channel and linking the prisoner exchange for Schalit’s release to the renewal of the cease-fire and the ending of the economic siege on Gaza. For about two years Hamas has rejected the linking of the prisoner exchange with the cease-fire and the end of the siege. Since, however, this was the initial position of Hamas immediately following the abduction of Schalit, as was communicated to me some three weeks after the abduction – a call for a cease-fire, opening the borders and the prisoner exchange – I appealed to the Hamas leader to go back to the original demands, but to include an agreement to bypass the Egyptian mediators through a direct secret back channel.

I returned to Israel and 10 days before the war broke out I wrote to Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that Hamas was willing to open a direct secret back channel for a package deal that would include the renewal of the cease-fire, the ending of the economic siege and the prisoner exchange for the release of Schalit. I further indicated that Hamas would be willing to implement the agreement on Rafah which included the stationing of Palestinian Authority personnel loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas in Rafah and a return of the European monitors. I communicated the same message to Noam Schalit and asked him to make sure that Ofer Dekel, who is charged with the Schalit file by the government, received the Hamas “offer.”

I waited for a response from one of the people who received my letter.

Nothing. No response. When the war broke out I understood that the decision to go to war had already been taken and that the government preferred to teach Hamas a lesson rather than negotiate a new cease-fire and the release of Schalit. I understood that the leaders believed that they could bring about a regime change in Gaza, even if this was not the stated goal of the war. Why would we negotiate with Hamas if we expected to bring about the fall of Hamas?

OVER THE PAST DAYS the media has been filled with reports that there is a new breakthrough in the talks for the release of Schalit: “Hamas is willing to link the end of the economic siege with the release of Schalit.” When I read this I said to myself – enough lies and spins.

What did this war achieve? What has changed? Has Israel gained its military deterrence? Has Israel changed the security reality in the South? Is Gilad Schalit at home? Has Hamas reduced its basic demands for the release of Schalit? No, no and no! Israel is negotiating now for exactly what could have been achieved without going to war. Israel spent $1 billion on the war, caused some $2 billion worth of damage in Gaza, more than 1000 people have been killed, thousands of lives have been destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis lived through weeks of terror; millions of Palestinians suffered the bombardment of their towns, cities and refugee camps – what is the result? More hatred, more extremism and more support for fanatics and their ideas – on both sides of the Gaza border.

If the transition government of Olmert does bring Schalit home before the new government is formed, it will pay the exact price that it could have paid nearly 950 days ago. The price then was as unreasonable as it is today; the problem is that there is simply no other way of bringing Gilad home. Hamas has not changed its price. The war in Gaza did not create any positive developments. It has not changed the price. It has not enabled a new breakthrough. It has weakened the moderate leadership of Abbas. It has weakened the moderates in Gaza. It did not achieve the goals that our leaders hoped it would.

The war was supported by 94 percent of Israelis because they really believed it was a “war of no choice.” Lies, lies and lies. There was a choice. That choice was made – our leaders preferred war regardless of the cost. We don’t negotiate with terrorists. We won’t talk with Hamas. They don’t recognize our right to exist, and we don’t recognize that they were elected in democratic elections. Instead we hit them first and then we talk. We planned the war rather than planning how to avoid the war. That is the doctrine of the government. Now we can talk with Hamas? Isn’t that what the government is doing today?

Perhaps the talks are not direct, but we are negotiating with Hamas.
The agreement that will be reached will be exactly what I proposed to Olmert, Barak and Livni 10 days before the war began.

More background information on the dispossession of the people of Palestine by the Zionist enterprise, by Stephen Lendman in his article, “A Short History of the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict: Past Is Prologue”.

Al Jazeera offers a stellar interview with senior Hamas political leader Mahmoud al-Zahar who favours truce with Israel.

My attendance, along with a delegation of senior [Hamas] figures, reflects the real desire of Hamas’s leadership inside and outside the Palestinian territories to end this crisis by upholding the truce in a way that guarantees the rights of the Palestinian people. To give them back their rights in rebuilding what the occupation has demolished via a ceasefire.

Al Jazeera: Is it believed such a truce would be for the benefit of the Palestinian people and Hamas and to lift the siege imposed on the Strip?

Zahar: Absolutely. Our project is not “armed action”. The “armed action” is a part of the resistance.

We have repeatedly explained the concept of resistance. The resistance is, first rejection of the occupation and the injustice, the resistance is rejection of abuse of rights. This idea led to [the emergence] of Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, under this name, before it fired a single bullet at the Jews.

Therefore, we want to continue the comprehensive programme of the resistance. But we also want to give ourselves a chance to rebuild what the occupation has demolished – as long as the Israeli side will stop its aggression against the Palestinian people.

Those who view Hamas as an enemy to Egypt are wrong. Those who believe that Hamas may be dangerous to the national security of any Arab state are wrong.

Al Jazeera: Do you view your movement as a resistance group or as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood group?

Zahar: This is not the issue. Syria has very good relations with Hamas, but terrible relations with the Muslim Brotherhood group. More than 24,000 people were killed in 1982 by the Syrian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood group.

It is wrong to be confined by a particular experience.