Archive | March 10th, 2012

16 killed and 30 injured in Gaza

NOVANEWS
16 killed and 30 injured in Gaza from Israeli attacks 

In the past 24 hours,  across Gaza, Israeli airstrikes killed 16 Palestinians, and injured 30 others.

Fresh Israeli air raids kills at least one person and injures 2 others in Rafah in the south of the Gaza strip. Their motorcycle was hit by a missile fired from a drone

The latest deaths came as Israeli drones fired missiles in Khan Younis killing  Mansour Abu Nusaira and Hussein Hamad earlier this morning.

Israeli troops have opened fire at the funeral procession of some of those killed last night. 4 people have been shot and injured at the cemetery.

Last night Israeli warplanes hit the Palestinian legislative council, and 3 people were  killed in this attack…

16 people have been killed, and over 20 injured so far in a series of air strikes. Many sites and places have been targeted throughout the Gaza strip.

In an air raid in central Gaza city last night, missiles hit a garage in Yarmouk Street. 4 people have been injured in this attack.

Another aid raid targeted a house in northern Gaza.

A statement from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the bloc “is following with concern the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and in the south of Israel”.

“I very much deplore the loss of civilian life. It is essential to avoid further escalation and I urge all sides to re-establish calm.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned the rockets fired towards Israel from the Gaza Strip in retaliation to the murders.

Clinton said in a meeting with Opposition leader Tzipi Livni in New York that “Israel has the right to defend itself”

France also called for restraint and a return to calm in a statement issued by foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

Paris was “greatly concerned by the new episode of violence in Gaza and southern Israel,” especially as civilians were at risk, the statement said.

“We condemn the firing of rockets and the humanitarian consequences of this violence and deplore the civilian casualties,” it added.

Egypt on Saturday condemned the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip, calling on Israel to immediately end the air strikes that have claimed the lives of at least 15 Palestinians since Friday.

Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said “Egypt is deeply alarmed” by the Israeli attacks and demands that they immediately stop

Yesterday afternoon, an Israeli F16 airstrike on a car in the Tal el hawa district resulted in the death of 2 Palestinians, and left one critically injured. One of those murdered was Mahmoud Hanani, who was one of the 1,000 people freed in the recent prisoner swap. Mahmoud was 44 and was the secretary general of the Palestinian Resistance Committee.

Names of the 15 Palestinians killed Gazans in the last 24 hours:
Zuhair Al-Qaysi, 49 years old and his son in law Mahmoud Hanani 44 years old.
Yahya Dahshan 27,
Mohammad Haraha, 24
Obid Al-Gharabliu, 22
Hazem Qureqi, 22
Shadi Seeqali, 27.
Fayeq Sameer, 28
Motasem Hajjaj, 22
Ahmad Hajjaj, 22
Moahamd Al-Mogari, 25.
Mahmoud Nejam, 22
Moahamamd Al-Ghamri, 26
Hussain Barham, 51
Kamala Nusirah, 21

Mahdi Abu Shawish

 

 

 

 

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Press TV News and Analysis

NOVANEWS

by crescentandcross

ed note–My apologies, but I still have not yet figured out how to embed Press TV’s

videos that have not been posted to Youtube. Those wishing to see my interview will

need to go here

US Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has blamed Afghan prisoners for

the burning of the Holy Qur’an by US troops in the country.

While addressing his supporters in the city of Meridian, Mississippi, Gingrich said that

Afghan prisoners used the pages of the Muslim holy book to transmit messages “and

it’s a pity that the religious leaders in Afghanistan aren’t condemning the people who

were defacing the Qur’an. Because, it is those people who are responsible for the

Qur’an ending up being burned, because if they hadn’t defaced it, it wouldn’t have been

confiscated.”

Press TV talks with Mark Glenn, author and journalist from Idaho, who discusses the

various comments made by presidential candidates in the US regarding the burning of

the Holy Qur’an and how Americans are fed with daily dosages of Islamophobia.

What follows is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV:

As bad and grievous as the act of burning of the Qur’an is, having done it purposely and then

defending it like Gingrich have been doing, makes the gravity of offence even greater now

doesn’t it?

Glenn:

Absolutely and there’s just one thing I’d like to correct concerning what the

newscaster said before in his report. He used the word insensitivity of American troops

towards the Islamic culture. And it is not insensitivity its outright contempt. I mean we have

to understand that these act are not anomaly, they’re not unexplainable by any means.

Here in America, we are fed a daily dose of Islamophobia, and hatred of all things Arabic

and Islamic.So these troops going over there and performing these kinds of acts, this is

not something not to be expected. And I would go a step further by saying, that these acts

more than likely are deliberate, these types of things, just like the news report coming up

concerning Abu Ghraib, these things are done to inflame the Islamic world so that this clash

of cultures will continue for Israel’s benefit.

Press TV:

Now Gingrich isn’t the first Republican candidate to defend the burning. How do you see

this affecting the sentiments of Afghans towards the US forces in the country?

Glenn:

Well, Kaneez let’s just be honest about it, even if they hadn’t burned the holy book of the

Muslim, the fact of the matter is, is that what the United States and NATO have done to

Afghanistan, having destroyed the lives of tens of millions of innocent people, by comparison,

and I don’t say it demean the Islamic holy book, but we have to put things in perspective.

Whether the troops had done this to the Qur’an or not, is irrespective in the larger picture,

with what have been done to the people themselves, their country has been destroyed, innocent

people are being killed everyday.

And so you know, it’s just unbelievable, really it is something that, you know, the same people

have to pinch once in a while and ask themselves, I’m I really seeing this, is this really taking

place. You know we have these presidential candidates, such as Gingrich, such as Santorum,

such as Romney, who are out there defending this act of absolute barbarism.

I mean, what if it was the Afghan troops that were desecrating the Holy Bible, the

New Testament, or doing something that were disrespectful towards the person of Jesus Christ,

my goodness we wouldn’t hear the end of it.

But when it is done to the Afghan people, all of a sudden we’re supporting to forget about it,

we’re supposed to laugh, and in the case in which he deals with his comments, where he’s

justifying in saying it’s the fault of the prisoners themselves. I really can’t believe that I’m

actually hearing this myself. But then again, you’re dealing with candidates that know that

they have to stand on the good side with the Jewish lobby if they stand any chance of being

elected for the presidency.

Press TV:

Indeed, but such comments will indeed not be well received by the Muslim population in the US.

Has the right-wing conservative managed to completely alienate a large base of voters?

Glenn:

Yes I do believe that is the case, and I think that this has been the case for some time. I don’t

think that this latest act, on the part of Gingrich and his fellow criminals seeking the highest

office in American politics.

I don’t think that it did a whole lot of extra damage, I think that the damage here in the

United States which results to the Muslim community, with respect to the right-wing, the

Republican Party, it has been severely damaged ever since the days of George Bush.

So as bad as Gingrich’s comment were, as bad Santorum and Romney’s comments were,

I think in essence it really was beating a dead horse, and I think if anything, all these

shows is that Gingrich and co., they will say anything, anything to appease to Jewish lobby,

in this country,  in the hopes of getting elected.

Posted in USAComments Off on Press TV News and Analysis

Pakistani PM Gilani–US Drone strikes are attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty

NOVANEWS

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday said that Pakistan desired relations with the United States on the basis of mutual respect and interest without compromising its national sovereignty.

In an interview with Jim Middleton of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s programme Newsline, the prime minister said the two countries were working as partners for the common goal of fighting extremism and terrorism. He was asked whether the relations between the two countries were returning to normal after the deadly strike that killed scores of Pakistani soldiers along the Pak-Afghan border.

Gilani termed the United States an important country and said Pakistan did not wish to spoil its relations with it. Gilani said the Parliamentary Committee on National Security had already prepared recommendations for new terms of engagement and cooperation with the United States, ISAF and NATO.

About the unilateral drone strikes, the prime minister said that Pakistan considered these attacks against its sovereignty and pointed that the people also saw it as an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty and against the people. He said the matter had been raised with the US authorities.

When questioned about the success of the drone attacks in decapitating al Qaeda leaders, he said it was besides the point, the matter was of the sovereignty of the country.

He said Pakistan and the United States had cooperation in defence and intelligence but stressed that actionable and credible intelligence was needed to be passed on to Pakistan for action.

The prime minister said no war could be won without the support of the masses and to win a war it was essential to get the support of the entire nation and the backing of the people of Pakistan.

About the relations with Afghanistan, he said both the countries had suffered a lot in the war against terrorism and said they should work together to fight their common enemy.

Gilani said Afghanistan’s stability was vital for Pakistan’s sability and said Pakistan desired its neighbour to be stable as it was in the interest of Pakistan’s sovereignty. He said it would also bring prosperity to the entire region.

The prime minister said both the countries had suffered a lot and the world now realised the importance of Pakistan as being “part of the solution and not part of the problem”.

He said that political reconciliation was the only answer for stability in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, as military operations did not offer permanent solution to any problem.

About winning a majority in the Senate, he said, the government was moving in the right direction for a victory. When asked whether the government faced any challenge from Imran Khan or saw him as a formidable threat, Gilani said “He is nowhere near as we have a two-thirds majority in the Upper House and the National Assembly, with the help of our coalition partners.”

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Russia opposes ‘unbalanced’ new UN draft on Syria

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Russia said Friday it opposed an “unbalanced” Washington-backed UN draft resolution on Syria because it failed to call for a simultaneous halt in violence by the government and rebels.

The warning came amid tense consultations over a draft resolution aimed at showing the Damascus regime that world opinion had turned against it after nearly a year of violence which, according to the opposition, has claimed nearly 8,500 lives.

Russia and China had previously blocked two UN initiatives because they singled out President Bashar al-Assad for blame and world powers have been under pressure by Moscow to tone down their condemnation of the regime.

Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the text under discussion today was still “unbalanced”.

“Its main problem is the absence of a simultaneous call on all sides to take practical steps in the context of ceasing fire,” Gatilov told the Interfax news agency.

Gatilov said Russia was receiving reports that the UN Security Council intended to put the resolution up for a vote at a meeting on Monday and he strongly discouraged world powers from going ahead with the plan.

“It is unacceptable to tie the adoption of any text with a deadline. The time factor is not the most important thing,” Gatilov said.

“The most important thing is to find a text that is realistic, without ambiguity, and aimed at a stable settlement,” he stressed.

A draft of the new resolution obtained by AFP “demands” that the Syrian government “immediately” cease all violence and “calls” on opposition groups to “refrain from all violence” once these conditions are met.

The use of the word “calls” is pointedly weaker than the “demands” made to the Syrian government.

Gatilov’s comments underline Russia’s long-held view that the West was taking a biased approach to the crisis with the aim of ousting Assad, a long-time Russian ally.

Russia has also accused the West of considering its own military campaign against Assad after using NATO-led forces to eliminate the regime in Libya, another erstwhile Moscow ally.

Moscow’s representative to the United Nations on Wednesday accused Libya of helping to train Syrian rebels.

Russia’s prime concern with the draft resolution appears to be that it might allow rebels to swarm cities held by Assad’s army and eventually oust him from power.

“It is unrealistic to expect one side (the Syrian government) to cease its use of force when it knows that the other will occupy the vacated territories,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this week.

Lavrov was set to travel to Cairo on Saturday for talks aimed at explaining Moscow’s position to his critical counterparts from the Arab League.

China Friday announced it too was sending an envoy to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France to explain its position on Syria.

The Kremlin said President Dmitry Medvedev had also sent a personal message about Syria to King Mohamed VI of Morocco — the sole Arab state on the 15-member Security Council.

Gatilov said Russia was still willing to work with the West and regional powers on finding an acceptable compromise.

“The goal is the same — to find a text that contains equal demands on both sides,” Gatilov said.

Russia’s firm stance comes amid Western fears of an even more aggressive tone from Moscow following Vladimir Putin’s crushing win in this month’s presidential elections.

Putin battled with the West throughout his 2000-2008 presidency and led the campaign in Moscow against the air assault on Libya while serving as prime minister under outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev.

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Bomb-Iran Week Turns ‘Syrious’

NOVANEWS

by Jim Lobe

This week was supposed to be all about Iran – at least, that’s how Israel and its powerful U.S. lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), had planned it – and why the U.S. should prepare to bomb it very, very soon if its leadership doesn’t cave into Western demands to abandon its nuclear program.

By week’s end, however, the most urgent foreign policy issue with which U.S. policy-makers – and their media camp followers – were grappling was whether to bomb Syria first instead.

Remarkably, the sudden deviation was triggered by Tuesday’s dramatic call on the floor of the Senate by Republican Sen. John McCain for the U.S. to provide decisive support to rebels battling to oust the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

“The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power,” declared McCain, whose strategy was swiftly endorsed by his two hawkish fellow-travelers, Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham and independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

“The United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad’s forces,” he declared, touching off a vigorous new debate that radiated from the Capitol to the Pentagon and the White House about how deeply and how violently to become involved in yet another predominantly Muslim Middle Eastern country.

While Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rejected McCain’s proposal, the administration appears to be moving closer to providing some forms of “non-lethal” equipment to the opposition by week’s end.

What was most remarkable about the move by the “Three Amigos”, as they are sometimes called in part, was its timing.

It came just as some 13,000 activists, energized by three days of juicy anti-Iran red meat dished out by everyone from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the top three Republican presidential candidates, as well as the Republican and Democratic leadership of both houses of Congress, were being bussed from AIPAC’s annual extravaganza at the Washington Convention Center to Capitol Hill.

The mission was to persuade their elected representatives that the spinning by the mullahs of even one centrifuge to enrich uranium on Iranian soil posed an “existential” threat to Israel, if not quite yet to the U.S. itself, and was hence “unacceptable”.

Indeed, every conference delegate received a folder filled with detailed talking points topped by a slick, four-page colored pamphlet with grim photos of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Leader Ali Khamenei, and a missile, complete with launch pad, entitled “Iranian Nuclear Weapons Capability: UNACCEPTABLE.”

No talking points on Syria at all were included. In fact, out of the literally scores of breakout briefing sessions that ran continuously between plenary sessions during the AIPAC conference, only one dealt directly with Syria.

That’s why the abrupt change of subject by the Three Amigos, all staunch advocates of Israel and great admirers of Netanyahu (with whom McCain and Graham had just met the week before in Jerusalem after which they publicly they publicly deplored President Barack Obama’s failure to align U.S. policy toward Tehran with their host’s), was so perplexing.

“It was incredibly poor timing by McCain to call for bombing Syria,” observed Heather Hurlburt, the executive director of the National Security Network (NSN), a foreign policy think tank close to the Obama administration. “I don’t know what it looks like to call for bombing Syria the same week (that) you’re calling for bombing Iran.”

Of course, there is a connection, and neo-conservatives (whose views are most reliably represented in the Senate by the Three Amigos) have worked increasingly assiduously at establishing it in the public mind as Syria has slowly slid toward civil war over the past year.

The Assad regime, they never cease to point out, has been Tehran’s closest and sometimes only ally in the Arab world, and its ouster would constitute a serious setback not only to its regional reach and influence, but also to another of Israel’s most dangerous foes, Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

“The end of the Assad regime would sever Hezbollah’s lifeline to Iran, eliminate a longstanding threat to Israel, bolster Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, and inflict a strategic defeat on the Iranian regime,” McCain argued. “It would be a geopolitical success of the first order.”

In that respect, he and the neo-conservatives have argued, U.S. military intervention in Syria would be “very different” from last year’s intervention in Libya, which the Three Amigos also strongly supported.

In addition to the moral and humanitarian concerns on which Washington, NATO, and allied powers justified their intervention against Gadhafi, military action against Assad would also serve U.S. “strategic and geopolitical interests”, McCain asserted.

McCain’s argument partly echoed a much-noted New York Times op-ed by a former director of Israel’s Mossad, Efrain Halevy, who, significantly, has been one of the main figures in that country’s national security establishment who has publicly questioned the wisdom of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Entitled Iran’s Achilles Heel‘, the article argued that Iran’s eviction from Syria would “…visibly dent its domestic and international prestige, possibly forcing a hemorrhaging regime in Tehran to suspend its nuclear policies. This would be a safer and more rewarding option than the military one.”

Unlike McCain, however, Halevy did not recommend direct military intervention in Syria, suggesting instead that Assad would go the minute that Russia, Assad’s main arms supplier and diplomatic protector, was persuaded to drop its support, a strategy that the Obama administration appears to be pursuing.

Although individual members have occasionally spoken hopefully about Assad’s demise, Netanyahu’s government has mostly kept a discreet silence on Syria. This reflects, among other things, concerns that chaos and civil war in such a heavily armed state, the possible ascendance by the Muslim Brotherhood or more radical Islamist forces, or both could prove more threatening than continued rule by the Assad dynasty, which, despite its support for Hezbollah, has kept its common border with Israel quiet for almost 40 years.

It has been far more comfortable focusing international attention on Iran’s nuclear program and the necessity for the U.S. to take military action to stop it or to at least give Israel the wherewithal to do the deed. That was supposed to be the message coming out of the AIPAC conference and amplified by friendly Republican presidential candidates this week.

But for U.S. neo-conservatives, who generally feel they know better than Israel’s government what is in its interests, the Assads have long been seen as Public Enemy Number One, and their present weakness represents the best opportunity in decades.

Indeed, the ultimate goal in the strategy laid out in the infamous 1996 “Clean Break” paper prepared by prominent neo-conservatives for Netanyahu on the eve of his first term as prime minister was Syria’s destabilization. The overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein – for which the paper was best known – was simply one step toward that aim.

During the 2006 war with Hezbollah, neo-conservatives encouraged Israel to expand its military campaign into Syria, and, more than any other identifiable political faction, they have called consistently for Washington to provide material and military assistance – as former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz did in a long column in the Wall Street Journal did this week – to the opposition for many months.

Posted in Iran, PoliticsComments Off on Bomb-Iran Week Turns ‘Syrious’

Dorothy Online Newsletter

NOVANEWS

Dear Friends,

 

Well by now you all know the big news, surely: Israel ‘exterminated’ a leader of a Palestinian organization, and the Palestinians did what Israelis knew they would do: they returned fire.

 

The situation has escalated, and I would guess that more Palestinians will die before this ends, and Israelis will be lucky if none of them is hurt.

 

La Clinton once again opens her mouth: “Israel has a right to defend itself,” she shouts!  But even Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, says that this time Israel started the fray.  So, don’t the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves?  Not that I support violence of any kind, but why does she signal out Israel, which has the 4th most powerful military in the world?

 

Apart from that, the question is why Israel’s leaders would want to start ‘action’ on a Jewish holiday, which brings crowds out to celebrate in costumes and parades?  This question has been bugging me since it all began.  I do not accept Israel’s excuse that the guy that was assassinated was planning an attack.  I personally have heard the army lie more than once, when I have attended this or that demonstration and then heard the IOF’s interpretation of what happened.  And Bibi is known to be a non-truth teller.

 

The only reason that seems to me to explain why Israel began all this mess is that its leaders have decided either to test the new missile destroyers as The Iron Dome or to get an inkling of what Israel can expect from Gaza should Israel attack Iran.  The long and the short of it is that once again inhabitants of Israel’s southern communities are living in shelters, and inhabitants of Gaza are wondering who next?

 

The first 2 of the 5 items below are reports on this episode, the one from the Independent, the other from Haaretz.  The latter tends to present the Israeli picture, whereas the Independent is more objective.

 

Item 3 contains a video (as well as text) showing how the IOF violently disperses a peaceful demonstration on International Women’s Day.

 

Item 4 relates some of the problems that a village situated between the wall and the green line faces.

 

Item 5 also contains a video, this one of Bi’lin’s Friday demonstration.

 

Let’s hope that there will be no more killing, injuring, destroying.  Enough.

 

Dorothy

+++++++++++

1 The Independent

 

Saturday, 10 March 2012

 

Toll from Israel Gaza strikes now 14 militants [now15. D]

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/toll-from-israel-gaza-strikes-now-14-militants-7553514.html#

 

Ibrahim Barzak

 

The worst exchange of strikes between Israel and the Gaza Strip so far this year entered its second day today, as Israeli aircraft carried out raids that have so far killed 14 militants according to a Palestinian count, and militants responded with nearly 100 rockets.

 

The flare-up began yesterday with a strike on a commander who the Israelis say was planning an attack. This unleashed a fierce rocket barrage by Palestinian militants from the coastal territory toward Israel’s southern border communities. One of those rockets seriously wounded an Israeli civilian and sent families scattering into bomb shelters.

 

By midday today, militants fired 92 rockets at Israel — far more than the total number fired from the beginning of this year until this exchange of strikes began, a military spokesman said. He spoke anonymously in line with military regulations.

 

Egypt said it was trying to shackle together a cease-fire to halt the violence, but truce hopes seemed distant.

 

Gaza residents said they could hear the low whooshing noise of militants firing rockets from border areas toward Israel.

 

In the skies above them Israeli drones hovered, making tinny noises. Hundreds of Palestinian mourners gathered on the streets to bury their dead. They were carried in coffins, their bodies too torn up to be wrapped up in cloth, as Muslim tradition dictates. Masked militants among them sprayed machine gun fire above their heads in angry grief.

 

On Israel’s southern border areas, residents were told to stay home and to refrain from holding large outdoor events.

 

Palestinian militants said they would press on.

 

Gaza’s Hamas rulers condemned the Israeli strike but, pointedly, their militants did not fire rockets at Israel. Still, Israel’s military said it would hold the militant group responsible for any attacks that initiated from Gaza.

 

The Palestinian militants were killed in eight airstrikes overnight and this morning, said Gaza health spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya. He said some 20 more civilians were wounded by flying shrapnel from the exploding missiles, some of which targeted militants deep in civilian areas of the crowded territory.

 

The most recent airstrike targeted two Palestinian militants on a motorbike in the border town of Bani Suheila in the south-east of Gaza, Abu Salmiya said.

 

The flare-up began midmorning yesterday, when an Israeli airstrike targeted the commander of one of the militant groups behind the abduction of an Israeli soldier five years ago.

 

Zuhair Al-Qaissi’s killing prompted Palestinian militants in Gaza to fire over 92 rockets at Israel so far, according to the latest count by Israel’s military.

 

The military said its air defence systems intercepted some 25 rockets before they landed.

 

Some of the militants killed were planning to fire rockets, said Palestinian militant spokespeople. Other militants were targeted, but it wasn’t immediately clear why.

 

Three militants walking on Gaza City’s main upscale boulevard were hit by an airstrike last night, leaving a shallow gash in the road. Another was hit while driving a car in the central Gaza City town of Deir al-Balah.

 

The Israeli military said it targeted Zuhair al-Qaissi, the commander of the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, a militant group closely aligned with Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

 

It was the highest profile killing Israel has undertaken against militants in the coastal strip in several months.

 

The military said al-Qaissi was plotting an infiltration attack into Israel similar to the raid from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula that they claim he orchestrated in August, which killed eight Israelis and injured 40 more.

 

The militant group has never taken responsibility for the attack.

 

The explosion tore apart al-Qaissi’s blue sedan and killed his son-in-law, Mahmoud Hanini — himself a top PRC field commander. Another low-ranking Gaza militant also died.

 

That strike unleashed the furious Palestinian response.

 

“(We) won’t give this occupation a free truce while our leaders and heroes are being killed,” said Abu Mujahid, spokesman for al-Qaissi’s group.

 

“Although the price will be difficult, there is no choice,” he said.

 

Israel said it would continue to defend its civilians.

 

“The (army) is prepared to defend the residents of Israel and will respond with strength and determination against any attempt to execute terrorist attacks,” the military said in a statement. The military warned Hamas would “bear the consequences” of any attacks launched from Gaza.

 

Egypt’s envoy to the Palestinians said Israel had violated a long-unspoken truce on the Gaza border and called for calm.

 

“We are calling on all sides to return to a cease-fire,” said Egyptian consul Yasser Usman from the West Bank city of Ramallah.

 

Gaza’s Hamas rulers condemned the Israeli strike. But in a pointed message, they did not let their militants fire rockets at Israel. Instead, they quietly allowed other Palestinian militants to unleash salvos.

 

In previous flare-ups, Hamas has used such a strategy to allow Palestinian militants to burn off their anger, with an eye towards the exchange of strikes eventually quieting down.

 

The Popular Resistance Committees are responsible for dozens of deadly attacks against Israelis and its members are among the most active rocket launchers from Gaza into Israel.

 

But the group is mostly known for carrying out the 2006 abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit and holding on to him for more than five years until he was freed for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners last year.

 

Israel often targets Gaza militants it says are preparing attacks, but tensions have been relatively calm in recent months with Israel mostly targeting smuggling tunnels from Egypt and refraining from attacking individuals. Al-Qaissi, who is also known as Abu Ibrahim, is the highest profile casualty in Gaza since his predecessor, Kamal Nairab, was killed seven months ago in a similar fashion.

 

The Israeli military insisted it did not want an escalation but said it was “prepared to defend the residents of Israel.”

 

AP

++++++

2 Haaretz

Saturday, March 10, 2012

 

More rockets fired from Gaza as violence in Israel’s south runs into second night

Hundreds of thousands of students in Israel’s south will not attend school on Sunday; Since Friday, nearly 100 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza.

 

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/more-rockets-fired-from-gaza-as-violence-in-israel-s-south-runs-into-second-night-1.417706

 

By Barak Ravid, Gili Cohen , Avi Issacharoff, Yanir Yagna and Natasha Mozgovaya

Tags: Gaza Gaza rockets IDF Hamas Islamic Jihad

After a several hours of quiet on Saturday, more rockets were fired toward southern Israel in the evening, bringing the total number of rockets fired over the weekend to over 100.

 

Schools was called off in Sunday in Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva, Ashdod and other regional councils in Israel south, affecting some 207,000 students.

 

Late on Saturday, five rockets were fired toward Eshkol Regional council. In response, IAF planes struck a Gaza munitions plant.

During the escalation that began on Friday, the Iron Dome system intercepted 28 of the 31 rockets it targeted. The missile defense system is designed to only intercept rockets identified as heading toward populated areas.

 

Also on Saturday, Palestinians said that an Israeli air strike killed two people riding on a motorcycle in Gaza’s Khan Younis, bringing the total number of militants reportedly killed to 15.

 

Victoria Nuland, U.S. State Department Spokesperson said the U.S is “deeply concerned by the renewal of violence in Southern Israel.” She added that the U.S. condemns “in the strongest terms the rocket fire from Gaza by terrorists into southern Israel in recent days, which has dramatically and dangerously escalated in the past day. We call on those responsible to take immediate action to stop these cowardly acts.”

 

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton criticized on Saturday the barrage of rockets fired from Gaza to Israel. Meeting with Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni at Newsweek’s annual Women in the World Summit in New York, Clinton added that “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

 

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with regional council heads in Israel’s south and said Israel will continue to strike whoever plans attacks on Israeli citizens. “We will improve the home front defenses even more,” Netanyahu said, “also by purchasing more Iron Dome systems, which proved themselves again this weekend.”

 

On Friday afternoon, the Israel Air Force launched a strike in Gaza and killed the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhir al-Qaisi, who was believed to be planning a large terror attack on Israel’s southern border.

++++++

3  Saturday, March 10 2012

Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine

 

|Haggai Matar

http://972mag.com/watch-army-disperses-international-womens-day-demonstration-in-west-bank/37516/

 

WATCH: Army disperses International Women’s Day demonstration in West Bank

More than 250 Palestinian and Israeli women and men were attacked by military forces at a demonstration at the Qalandia checkpoint. Several injuries were reported, including one woman who was hospitalized after being shot with a rubber-coated bullet.

Palestinian women facing soldiers near Qalandia checkpoint (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Palestinian women facing soldiers near Qalandia checkpoint (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

The demonstration started Thursday at noon, with some 200 Palestinian women marching from Ramallah towards Qalandia – the main checkpoint on the way to Jerusalem. Demonstrators chanted slogans and held tri-lingual signs linking the feminist struggle with the struggle against the occupation. The women were joined by an international delegation, including European Parliament Member and former Vice President Luisa Morgantini, and later on by several dozen Israeli women from the Women’s Coalition for Peace.

Upon nearing the checkpoint the demonstration was suppressed by Israeli army and Border Police forces, who at first used stun grenades and the “skunk” water canon, and then moved on to “the scream machine”, tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. All this took place on the main road towards the checkpoint, which was, as always, packed with a row of cars waiting to be searched, whose drivers suffered collateral damage from the soldiers’ attack.

 

After several attempts to proceed in spite of the army’s acts, most women retreated back toward Ramallah, and as the soldiers started following them, several youth began throwing stones. Clashes went on for a while. Several demonstrators were injured, and one needed medical treatment after being shot with a rubber-coated bullet.

“The 8th of March symbolizes an accumulated struggle for women all around the world for freedom and justice”, said Amaal Khresha of the Palestinian Women’s Working Association for Development. “For Palestinian women under the occupation, this day is a day of marking the struggle against the occupation.” Arabia Mansur of the Women’s Coalition for Peace added that occupation and militarism will never enable the development of a society that offers women a life of happiness and dignity. “We must put a stop to the sort of education which teaches children to see reality through the barrel of a gun, and women have to stop participating in such education,” said Mansur.

The demonstration also focused on solidarity with administrative detainee Hana Shalabi, who is now on the 24the day of a hunger strike. As reported before here, Shalabi’s physical condition is deteriorating, and a decision in her appeal against her detention order is due beginning of next week.

At about the same time, several hundred Jewish and Palestinian women with Israeli citizenship demonstrated for Women’s Day in the streets of Tel Aviv, demanding civil rights, equality, and fair employment.

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4 Saturday, March 10 2012

Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine

 

Between a wall and a Green Line: Palestinian life in ‘Seam Zone’

http://972mag.com/between-a-wall-and-a-green-line-palestinian-life-in-seam-zone/37537/

 

By Ariel Bardi

Al’Seefer lies uphill from the settlement of Beit Yatir, just beyond the South Hebron Hills, but the tiny Palestinian village feels worlds apart from the 33-year-old settlement. Indeed, the daily lives of Al’Seefer’s residents, some 60 in number, are mired in extraordinary logistical challenges on account of the village’s physical location: flanked by the Green Line on one side and by the separation barrier on the other, it belongs to the no man’s land known as the Seam Zone.

http://972mag.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/IMG_8110.jpg

Al’Seefer (photo: Ariel Bardi)

Visually, the two agricultural communities make for incongruous neighbors. One has been carefully cultivated from the roots up, the other systematically neglected. The extent of their stark economic disparities is immediately apparent: Beit Yatir, its telltale red-roofed homes planted like crops in neat, rectilinear rows, presides imposingly over the hilly terrain. Al’Seefer merely blends in. Due to strict bans on construction, the village’s building materials are often limited to tarp and corrugated sheet metal, while its remaining houses are left woefully derelict.

Still, while Al’Seefer’s economic disadvantages may be in plain view, restrictions on the small community’s mobility – in many ways, a far greater problem – go largely unnoticed. Due to their unique location, village residents, as the saying goes, are stuck “between a rock and a hard place,” corralled by their northern neighbors, yet forbidden from formally entering into Israeli territory. (read “Stuck,” a report on Al’Seefer by Hebron International Resource Network.) The majority of the villagers are children, many of school age, who must make their way across the checkpoint every morning in time for the first bell, a process that can take up to an hour.

Mahmoud A’buqbeita, 45, is speaking out about the routine hardships he and his family face, in the hopes that something will change. His problems are numerous: the closest accessible water source lies just beyond the checkpoint. Villagers are legally forbidden from driving a car with Israeli license plates, so they either maneuver carts to the border, then walk, or else make the entire day’s journey on foot. Medical care presents the same logistical quagmire, and many residents of Al’Seefer, including Mahmoud’s elderly mother, mostly make do without. Al’Seefer families also receive no visitors, as their family and friends are unable to cross the checkpoint without proper documentation. Villagers themselves must obtain special permits every three months in order to remain on their own land.

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Members of the A’buqbeita family in their home (photo: Ariel Bardi)

Mahmoud and his family hosted me for a couple of days as I compiled research on their perilously complicated living situation. Though my time with them was brief, I was able to observe first-hand the effects of their social and physical isolation. The open fields and scattered hills that surround the family’s small plot of land belie a gnawing claustrophobia, to which I had already succumbed by the second morning. The family of fourteen and I, along with three other researchers, had spent the previous evening piled in front of a small television set. At the time of my stay, the family received only an hour or so of electrical power per day from Mahmoud’s brother, who has obtained Israeli citizenship – and thus far better amenities – through his Nazareth-born wife. In honor of our visit, however, we were treated to a full evening’s viewing entertainment; the ten A’buqbeita children were enthralled. I asked the family how they tended to wile away the wintry evening hours with no lights, let alone several channels’ worth of programs. They told me that they sit in the dark, or sleep.

In considering the largely invisible restrictions that have been placed on the family’s range of movement, I couldn’t help but think of the electronic fences that encircle the lawns of certain American suburban homes – invisible barriers, but ones still deeply felt by those they’re designed to keep in.

On the other hand, the checkpoint, which divides Al’Seefer from the rest of the West Bank, is a permanent, observable presence. It snakes around the green line in order to keep Beit Yatir on the Israeli side of the barrier, leaving the village entirely cut off and vulnerable to settler intimidation, a persistent fear. The village children must pass alongside the settlement on the way to their nearby elementary school, and are often victims of harassment from drivers traveling along the busy road. I escorted several children to their classes on my last morning with the A’buqbeita family. While they made it through the checkpoint in record time with four internationals in tow, it was clear how such a procedure – repeated twice daily – could prove intolerable. The children’s stoic, habitual acceptance of this frustrating formality helps to contextualize the more mundane implications of life under occupation, when all that it appears to involve is a lot of waiting around.

The quality of life in Mahmoud’s home improved shortly after my visit: the household is now outfitted with solar panels, courtesy of the Israeli activist group COMET-ME, which provides renewable energy solutions to off-grid communities throughout Palestine. On February 27, the Israeli Civil Administration issued demolition orders to four communities in the Southern Hebron Hills, on the grounds that they lack permits; earlier in the month, COMET-ME had also been given stop work orders for two other electrification systems. While Mahmoud’s family is still with power, COMET-ME estimates that over 500 people will be affected by the ruling. Until then, the communities, which, much like Mahmoud’s, are rural and isolated, will keep waiting, with nowhere to go.

Ariel Bardi is a PhD student at Yale University.  She is in Israel and the West Bank researching and photographing settlements.

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Friday victory for the captive Hana    Al-Shalabi    

Two citizens were injured in addition to dozens of cases of suffocation  from poison gas in the village of Bil’in ,west of Ramallah.

Two citizens were wounded ,Abdullah Mohammed Yasin, 19 years old, was shot by a rubber bullet in his back .Aed al Khateeb ,18 years old, got a rubber bullet in his leg, in addition to dozens of cases of asphyxiation from poison gas in the weekly march organized by the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil’in. The march comes to  support the Palestinian prisoners, especially the prisoner Hana Shalabi  in her hunger strike  which started 23 days ago. The march included the participation of people of Bil’in , Israeli and international peace activists.

The march  began after Friday prayers from the centre of the village heading  to the land which was liberated last June. Participants raised Palestinian flags and yellow banners with a picture of the captive leader Marwan Barghouti,  they chanted slogans, called for national unity, national slogans for the departure of the occupation , destruction of the apartheid wall, slogans for the Palestinians to remain faithful to Palestinian constants and to support Jerusalem, they also called for freedom of Palestinian prisoners

 Upon the arrival to Abu Lemon area , protesters were able to remove some of the barbered wire, made holes, and broke through the fence , then the soldiers who were situated behind the concrete wall shot rubber bullets , stun grenades and canister tear gas toward the participants. This caused the injury of  two citizens and caused suffocation of dozens of participants .Some young demonstrators threw stones at the soldiers.

For its part, the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil’in denounced the arbitrary decision by the Court towards  the photographer captive Hamza Bornat, that sentenced him to18 months  in prison and a 5000 NIS fine. This sentence comes after four months of his arrest, knowing that this arrest is the second one after he was arrested two years ago and sentenced  to  9 months in prison because he took part in a peaceful demonstration in Bil’in.

Bil’in 7th International Conference

10-13 April 2012

 Dear Martin Linton

On behalf of The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee & the Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements, it is my honour to invite you to participate in the 7th International Conference for Popular Struggle in Bili’n the 10th – 13th of April 2012.

For this reason your participation will be of great significance; as an International Support Committee of Popular Struggle in Palestine will be formed.

The program for this year’s conference includes panel discussion, field trips to exposed areas in the West Bank, introductions to coordinators of the popular committees in Palestine and discussions of the current situation.

The main tentative themes of the conference will include

1.       First day in Bil’in (Ramallah) : Opening

                                                                  Experience and updates from the ground

                                                                 Palestinian-Israeli relations; between joint work and normalization

2.       Second day in Hebron (old city):  social media (creative means in popular struggle)

                                                                          Political parties and popular struggle

                                                                          International Solidarity Movement speaking (Global Intifada)

3.       Third Day in Silwan (Jerusalem): Jerusalem

                                                                 BDS Movement

4.       Fourth day in Bil’in : Central demonstration

 Looking forward to see you in Bili’n

 The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

&

The Popular Struggle Committee of Bil’in

majdarmajdar@gmail.com

00970(0 598403676

00970(0 568403676

  Bil’in –Palestine 

 

The Israeli Ofer Court   sentenced photographer Hamza Suleiman Yassin Bornat from the village of Bil’in west of Ramallah  to 18 months  in prison and 5000 NIS fine  two days ago . 


The Israeli Ofer court sentenced  photographer Hamza Suleiman Bornat  for the second time two days ago.

The first time was  in 2010 when he was  only 17years old  and sentenced  to  9 months in prison because he took part in a peaceful demonstration . 

After his release he became a student at  the Secondary School in Bil’in.

As he was arrested again ,he is unable to  take the Tawjehe exams and to finish school and therefore deprived from education  for the second time .

His “crime” was to take pictures of Israeli solders in Al Nabi Saleh during the a demonstration four months ago .

He was also known to work as photographer volunteer for the Friends of Freedom and Justice Society and its media centre documenting the crimes of the occupation.

In a message to the world (The Occupation crime committed against the  Children ).

I want the world to know what is going on in Palestine  against children and how children and young people are treated under Israeli occupation

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ZIO-NAZI MASSACRES IN GAZA

NOVANEWS

NAZI’S STRIKES  GAZA..ONE DAY THIS NAZI REGIME WILL BE ELIMINATED  FROM THE FACE OFF THE EARTH

Nazi at work in Gaza

Palestinian medical officials said Friday that a total of 12 people had been killed and about 19 injured in a series of Zio-Nazi air strikes in the Gaza Strip.

They named the latest fatality, killed in a pre-dawn raid on the central Gaza Strip town of Deir el-Balah, as Mohammed al-Ghamry, 26, and said that four others were wounded there.

The Zio-Nazi raids came as Palestinians fired dozens of rockets and mortar rounds into the Nazi regime, injuring four people, one seriously, Gestapo military sources said.

One Nazi strike, on a car travelling in the Tel El-Hawa neighbourhood west of Gaza City, killed the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zohair al-Qaisi, and fellow member Mahmud Hanani, the group said.

The PRC threatened retribution for Qaisi’s death.

The attacks came in response to Palestinian mortar and rocket fire which started on Friday morning. The Nazi military said that since then about 40 rockets and mortar rounds had landed in the Nazi regime.

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LOL!!!! IsraHell is only Mideast state ‘safe for Christians’, envoy to U.S. says

NOVANEWS

 

ed note–The pic above is of Jewish ‘comedienne’ Sarah Silverman, infamous for saying during one of her schticks ‘I hope the Jews did kill Christ…I’d f****** do it again, in a second…’

Before reading the ridiculous comments of the lying Ambassador Oren, make sure to check out the following videos. 

Haaretz

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is safe for Christians, Israel’s ambassador to the United States Michael Oren wrote in an op-ed column for the Wall Street Journal on Friday, comparing what he said was the suppression of Christian communities in Arab states to the twentieth-century expulsion of Jews from these nations.

In his article, Oren cited the continuing violence against Egypt’s Coptic Christians, the burning of Iraqi churches, a Saudi ban on Christian worship and the desecration of the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank as instances indicating a threat to Christianity in the Muslim world, adding that conversion “to Christianity is a capital offense in Iran, where last month Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death.”

The Israeli official went on to compare what he called a sweeping action against Christian communities in the Arab world to the expulsion of 800,000 “from Arab countries, mostly following the Six-Day War.”

Ultimately, Oren concludes, the only place in the Middle East where Christians aren’t endangered, but are actually flourishing, is in Israel.

“Since Israel’s founding in 1948, its Christian communities (including Russian and Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians and Protestants) have expanded more than 1,000%,” he added.

Oren concluded the article, in which he cites the exodus of Palestinian Christians from the West Bank and Gaza over increased pressure by Islamist groups such as Hamas, by syaing that the “extinction of the Middle East’s Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude.”

“Yet Israel provides an example of how this trend can not only be prevented but reversed. With the respect and appreciation that they receive in the Jewish state, the Christians of Muslim countries could not only survive but thrive,” Oren wrote.

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US Zionist senator says naval blockade of Iran should be considered

NOVANEWS

Sen. Levin Addresses the AIPAC Policy Conference

An international naval blockade of Iranian oil exports should be considered before any resort to air strikes against the country’s disputed nuclear program, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee said on Friday.

“That’s, I think, one option that needs to be considered” to boost pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear program in line with U.N. Security Council resolutions, Democratic Senator Carl Levin said in an interview taped for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program.

He said any such blockade should be preceded by lining up alternative oil supplies to avoid a price spike on world crude markets. Iran is OPEC’s second-largest oil producer and the world’s third-largest petroleum exporter.

Levin was responding to a question about possible ways of increasing pressure short of combat, including imposition of a “no-fly zone” over Iran.

Such moves “could be very effective,” he said. “I think (these are) options that whoever is willing to participate should explore, including Israel and including the United States.”

Iran is widely suspected of enriching uranium, and other activities, as a prelude to building nuclear weapons. Tehran says the program is aimed at producing civilian nuclear power.

The international response to Iran’s nuclear program has evolved into a widespread consensus for substantial sanctions and other pressure, paired with incentives and diplomacy, to head off the possible development of nuclear arms.

Israeli leaders have said, however, that time is running out before they could feel compelled to launch military strikes to stop or delay the program.

Levin voiced optimism that increasingly strict sanctions, including an oil purchase embargo by the European Union to take full effect by July 1, might force Iran to relent.

“Not because it doesn’t want a nuke – I think it does – but because the price that it’s going to have to pay” in terms of isolation would be too high, said Levin, whose committee has an oversight role for the U.S. Defense Department.

Levin said President Barack Obama should seek congressional authorization before any U.S. resort to military action against Iran. But he noted that presidents from both parties had maintained they were not bound to do so as commander in chief of U.S. armed forces.

A senior Obama administration official, asked about Levin’s remarks, said, “Our focus remains on a diplomatic solution, as we believe diplomacy coupled with strong pressure can achieve the long-term solution we seek.”

WOULDN’T BE SURPRISED IF ISRAEL ACTS

Levin said he would not be surprised if the Jewish state, which regards a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence, took military action within “months.”

“I would say that a strike is likely” if Iran continues to refuse to curb its nuclear program, he added. He said U.S.-supported Israeli missile defense programs had undercut Iran’s ability to retaliate against Israel for any strike.

Asked why Israel alone should be allowed to have nuclear arms in the region, Levin cited the Holocaust, the genocide of about 6 million European Jews during World War Two by Nazi Germany, and what he called similar threats throughout history.

In addition, he said, Israel still faced a threat of being wiped out by some of its neighbors, “so it’s a deterrent against that kind of a threat.”

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Syria’s Bashar al-Assad firmly in control, U.S. intelligence officials say

NOVANEWS

washingtonpost.com

A year into the uprising in Syria, senior U.S. intelligence officials described the nation’s president, Bashar al-Assad, on Friday as firmly in control and increasingly willing to unleash one of the region’s most potent militaries on badly overmatched opposition groups.

The officials also said Assad’s inner circle is “remaining steadfast,” with little indication that senior figures in the regime are inclined to peel off, despite efforts by the Obama administration and its allies to use sanctions and other measures to create a wave of defections that would undermine Assad.

Assad “is very much in charge,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official responsible for tracking the conflict, adding that Assad and his inner circle seem convinced that the rebellion is being driven by external foes and that they are equipped to withstand all but a large-scale military intervention.

“That leadership is going to fight very hard,” the official said. Over the long term, “the odds are against them,” he said, “but they are going to fight very hard.”

The comments, provided by three intelligence officials on the condition of anonymity to share candid assessments, were the most detailed to date by U.S. analysts on the status of the uprising, which began last March.

The officials said the regime’s tactics have taken a more aggressive turn, and newly declassified satellite images released Friday show what officials described as “indiscriminate” artillery damage to schools, mosques and other facilities in the beleaguered city of Homs in recent weeks.

Overall, they described Syria as a formidable military power, with 330,000 active-duty soldiers, surveillance drones supplied by Iran and a dense network of air defense installations that would make it difficult for the United States or other powers to establish a no-fly zone.

“This is an army that was built for a land war with the Israelis,” said a second senior U.S. intelligence official. After the regime hesitated to attack civilian population centers earlier in the conflict, its “restraint . . . has been lifted,” the official said.

Diplomatic visits

Syrian forces continued their month-long shelling of the opposition stronghold of Homs, in the west-central part of the country, on Friday, according to news reports. Thousands demonstrated in other parts of the country ahead of a visit by Kofi Annan, the special envoy of the United Nations and Arab League. Annan, who arrived in Damascus on Saturday, met with Assad later in the day to press for a political solution to the crisis.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who visited Homs this week, said she was “devastated” by what she saw in the ravaged city. “There are no people left,” she said.

Amos, speaking in Turkey after visiting refugee camps along the Syrian border, said the Assad government had agreed to a “limited assessment” of humanitarian needs but had refused “unhindered” access for aid organizations and “asked for more time” to consider U.N. proposals for extended assistance for civilians.

In Washington, the intelligence officials cited a number of factors protecting the regime from collapse. Not least among them is the level of motivation in an inner circle convinced that yielding power will mean death or life imprisonment.

U.S. intelligence has also detected an escalation in lethal support from Syria’s closest ally, Iran. Officials said that Iran had previously been supplying mainly training and equipment to suppress opposition forces but has recently begun sending small arms and sophisticated equipment for monitoring and penetrating rebel groups.

Iran has shared equipment and expertise developed during its efforts to put down its own internal rebellion in 2009. Syria also has a small fleet of unarmed drones that appear to have been supplied by Iran before the uprising began, the officials said.

They portrayed the political opposition to Assad as disorganized and hobbled by a lack of experienced leadership. The officials described efforts to unify and attract a broader following among Syria’s minority groups — another objective of U.S. policy — as having limited success. The Syrian National Council, dominated by exiles who are mainly Sunni Muslims, has been trying to attract Christians, Druze and Kurds away from Assad.

Fears that the opposition will oppress minorities or worse have been regularly stoked by the regime, which is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Opposition forces

The intelligence officials also echoed concerns expressed by U.S. military leaders in congressional testimony this week about providing weapons to the armed elements of the opposition. They are equipped mainly with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, giving them little firepower compared with Assad’s formidable forces.

An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers have defected and form the bulk of the Free Syrian Army. It is organized loosely, without effective command and control, and it has few links to the political opposition, according to U.S. intelligence accounts.

Protecting those forces would be a daunting task. One of the officials said that Syria’s air defenses include hundreds of surface-to-air missile sites and thousands of antiaircraft artillery installations.

Describing the dimensions of the challenge, this official said that Syria, barely one-tenth the size of Libya, has an army four times as big with five times the air defense assets, most of it supplied by Russia.

So far, the officials said, the bloodiest attacks against the regime appear to have been carried out by al-Qaeda elements seeking to slip unannounced into opposition groups that do not seem eager to have any affiliation with the terrorist network.

The U.S. officials said that al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq has reversed the flow of a pipeline that once carried fighters and weapons through Syria to battle U.S. forces at the height of the Iraq war.

“That network is still there,” said the first U.S. intelligence official, who acknowledged that the size and composition of the al-Qaeda presence in Syria is unclear. Some al-Qaeda members may be Syrian, others Iraqis.

The officials said their judgment that AQI — as the Iraq affiliate is known — was behind vehicle bombings that killed dozens of people in Damascus and Aleppo in December and January is based more on the nature of the attacks than independent evidence of al-Qaeda involvement.

The greatest damage done so far to Assad’s regime has been economic, intelligence officials said. Sanctions imposed by the United States and the Arab League, as well as European curbs on importation of oil, have caused spikes in unemployment, fuel prices and budget deficits in Damascus.

Over the long term, the officials said, economic hardships may be the most effective tool for unseating Assad. Still, the first U.S. intelligence official said, “to this point, we have not seen that having an effect on the regime’s ability to prosecute the war.”

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