Archive | February 3rd, 2014

Zio-Nazi Regime gave settlers $42 million ‘compensation’ for building freeze

NOVANEWS

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Zio-Nazi Livni, Labor leaders demand investigation into secret  payments, some of which were in turn used by pro-settler lobby group

Times of Israel

The Israeli government secretly channeled 148 million shekels (over $42 million) to the local city councils that administer settlements across the West Bank in recent years, to “compensate” them for city taxes they did not receive because of a government-imposed settlement-building freeze in 2009-2010.

News of the secret payments, reported by Israel’s Channel 2 News on Friday night, provoked an immediate demand by the opposition Labor Party for an investigation by the Attorney General and the State Comptroller into what it said could be illegal funding. Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni also promised to investigate the affair.

According to the TV report, furthermore, some of the secret government payments were in turn transferred by the local settlement city councils to the Settlers’ Council, a private group that lobbies for the settlements and frequently conducts activities criticizing the government for policies deemed as damaging to the settlers. Israel’s Supreme Court has already ruled that use of public funds by the Settlers’ Council to fund such activities is illegal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed the temporary building freeze on West Bank settlements in November 2009, and it ended in September 2010. It was introduced by Netanyahu under pressure from the Obama administration, as part of an effort to draw the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table. PA President Mahmoud Abbas did resume talks with Israel toward the end of that period, but he walked away from the talks soon after, and Netanyahu refused to extend the freeze. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians were then stalled for almost three years before the current negotiations began last July.

Because of the freeze, the building of thousands of scheduled homes in the settlements was delayed, and the local councils apparently argued to the government that they should be compensated for the city tax revenue they would have received from residents of those homes had they been built. Thus, every year since the freeze, the government has secretly paid money to the various settlement councils in compensation, the TV report said. To date, the total amount of public money handed over is 148 million shekels.

In turn, the report continued, a substantial portion of this money was passed on to the Settlers’ Council lobby group. The Settlers’ Council acknowledged receiving some such monies, the TV report said, but stated that it had done nothing illegal.

Livni said she would look into the matter. The Settlers’ Council was headed for part of the period in question by Naftali Bennett, who led a campaign against the building freeze and who now heads the pro-settler Jewish Home party in the Israeli government. Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, opposes Palestinian statehood, and is a bitter rival of coalition partner Livni, who heads Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians.

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US NGO Uncovered in Ukraine Protests

NOVANEWS
CANVAS: The Belgrade US-Financed Training Group Behind the Carefully-Orchestrated Kiev Protests
colorrevolutions
The recent protests in Ukraine have the stench of a foreign-orchestrated attempt to destabilize the government of Viktor Yanukovych after he walked away from signing an EU Association Agreement that would have driven a deep wedge between Russia and Ukraine. Glamor-star boxer-turned political guru, Vitaly Klitschko, has been meeting with the US State Department and is close to Angela Merkel’s CDU political machine in Germany. The EU association agreement with Ukraine is widely resisted by many EU member states with deep economic problems of their own. The two EU figures most pushing it—Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski—are both well known in the EU as close to Washington. The US is strongly pushing the Ukraine EU integration just as it had been behind the 2004 failed “Orange Revolution” to split Ukraine from Russia in a  bid to isolate and weaken Russia. Now Ukrainians have found evidence of direct involvement of the Belgrade US-financed training group, CANVAS behind the carefully-orchestrated Kiev protests.

A copy of the pamphlet that was given out to opposition protestors in Kiev has been obtained. It is a word-for-word and picture-for-picture translation of the pamphlet used by US-financed Canvas organizers in the 2011 Cairo Tahrir Square protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak and opened the door to the US-backed Muslim Brotherhood.[1] The photo below is a side-by-side comparison:

The photo left is from Tahrir Square; the right from Kiev and here below is the English original used by the Belgrade CANVAS NGO:

 

Canvas, formerly Otpor, received significant money from the US State Department in 2000 to stage the first successful Color Revolution against Slobodan Milosovic in then-Yugoslavia. Since then they have been transformed into a full-time “revolution consultancy” for the US, posing as a Serbian grass-root group backing “democracy.” [2] Who would ever think a Serbian-based NGO would be a front for US-backed regime change?

The Strange Ukraine “Opposition”

Direct sources in Kiev that I have contacted report that the anti-government protestors have been recruited with money from among university students and unemplyed to come by bus into the heart of  Kiev. The revealing aspect is the spectacular emergence of champion boxed Vitaly Klitschko as presumably the wise politician guiding Ukraine’s future. No doubt spending your career beating other boxers unconscious is a superb preparation for becoming a statesman, though I for one doubt it. It reminds of the choice of a low-grade Hollywood movie actor, Ronald Reagan as President. But more interesting about “opposition” spokesman Klitschko is who his friends are.

Klitschko is being backed by US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. Nuland, former US Ambassador to NATO, is a neo-conservative married to leading neo-conservative hawk, Robert Kagan, and was herself a former adviser to Dick Cheney. [3]

Klitschko is also very friendly with German Chancellor Merkel. According to a recent Der Spiegel report, Merkel wants to support Klitschko in his bid to become Ukraine’s president in 2015. [4]

More evidence that a darker agenda lies behind the “democracy” opposition is the fact that the demands of the protestors went from demanding accession to the EU to demanding the immediate resignation of the Yanukovich government. Klitschko and the opposition used an unfortunate police crackdown on protesters to massively expand the protest from a few hundred to tens of thousands. On December 18, the government took the wind partly out of the Klitschko sails by signing a major economic agreement with Moscow in which Russia agreed to cut the price of Russian gas exported to Ukraine by a third, down to $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters from the current level of more than $400, and to buy $15 billion of Ukraine’s debt in eurobonds. That gives Ukraine breathing room to avoid a sovereign debt default and calmly negotiate over its future.

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Endnotes:


[1] SysAdmin, Pamphlets in Ukraine handed out during protests and pamphlets that were handed out in Egypt, December 12, 2013, accessed in http://12160.info/photo/photo/show?id=2649739%3APhoto%3A1376645.

[2] Nebojsa Malic, Invasion of the Mind Snatchers: Empire’s Revolution Business, AntiWar.com, June 24, 2011, accessed in http://original.antiwar.com/malic/2011/06/23/invasion-of-the-mind-snatchers/.

[3] NTDTV,Ukrainian Opposition Vitaly Klitschko Meets US Official Victoria Nuland, December 6, 2013, accessed in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0miz548u0WY.

[4] Die Zeit, Merkel unterstützt Klitschko, 8. Dezember 2013, accessed in http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2013-12/merkel-klitschko-ukraine.

– See more at: http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2014/01/07/us-ngo-uncovered-in-ukraine-protests/#sthash.3rewcQ9z.dpuf

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Iran FM: I$raHell must restore Palestinian rights

NOVANEWS

palestinianboy 

Zarif  challenges the West to  earn the  trust of the Iranian people; Israeli officials remain in the room during his speech

Times of Israel

Israel must restore the rights of the Palestinians if it hopes to ever achieve peace, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif said at a security conference here on Sunday.

“Of course we don’t make the same statement the previous government made,” he said, alluding to the bellicose tone of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration. “But [Israeli] policies have deprived the Palestinian people of the most elemental rights. Until this is discussed the crisis is not going away. Unless the rights of the Palestinian people are restored… there won’t be… a solution.”

Unlike the case at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the UN in September, the Israeli delegation remained in the room while Zarif spoke. However, he received a cool reception, as Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor stayed seated when Zarif shook hands with other delegates before taking the podium.

Israel has consistently criticized the international community for its policy vis-a-vis Iran’s disputed nuclear program and has accused Tehran of using the negotiations and an ensuing interim agreement as a stalling tactic in an attempt to develop nuclear weapons capabilities. Iran denies that its program is aimed at developing such capabilities.

Addressing ongoing negotiations with world powers, Zarif told the Munich Security Conference that his country was prepared to move ahead, assuring Western diplomats that Tehran had the political will and good faith to reach a “balanced” long-term agreement.

He told a gathering of the world’s top diplomats and security officials that his country and Western nations were at a “historic crossroads” and just beginning to build the trust necessary for a long-term agreement.

“I think the opportunity is there, and I think we need to seize it,” he said.

The comments came after Zarif met one-on-one with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the conference Sunday morning.

Kerry reiterated to Zarif the importance of both sides negotiating in good faith, and of Iran abiding by its commitments, according to the State Department. The Iranian official described it as a “good meeting.”

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency struck a deal November 11 granting UN inspectors wider access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. The deal is parallel to an agreement reached with world powers November 24 in Geneva to have Iran halt its most sensitive uranium enrichment activities in return for an easing of Western sanctions over its nuclear program.

“That’s an important beginning; it’s not the end of the road,” Zarif said of the two deals. “There are important questions and we are prepared to address them.”

IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said he could report that “practical measures are being implemented as planned” by Iran, and that there would be new negotiations over the next phase on February 8.

Iran also has agreed to a new round of negotiations on February 18 in Vienna with a six-nation group of world powers: the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

“What I can promise is that we will go to those negotiations with the political will and good faith to reach an agreement, because it would be foolish for us to only bargain for six months — that would be [a] disaster for everybody,” Zarif said.

He said Iran and the international community needed to restore mutual trust, and averred that Tehran’s end goal was “a good solution — a balanced solution.” He added that “an unbalanced solution is inherently not stable.”

“Believe me, you do not possess the monopoly on mistrust — there is a lot of mistrust in Iran,” he told the audience. “Iranians believe, with good reason, that the West wants to deprive Iran of its ability to have access to technology.”

Zarif said that “the answer at the end of the day is you need to put aside all narratives and take concrete steps.”

Implemented January 20, the agreement with world powers will be in effect for six months while further negotiations are held aimed at reaching a permanent agreement eliminating concerns that Tehran might use its nuclear program to build nuclear weapons.

Tehran denies such aims but says it is ready to reach a deal in exchange for full sanctions relief.

Under the six-month deal, Iran has agreed to halt its 20 percent enrichment program, which produces uranium just steps away from military grade, but will continue enrichment up to 5%. It also will convert half of its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to oxide, and dilute the remaining half to 5%.

In return, the US and the EU simultaneously announced the lifting of sanctions on petrochemical products, insurance, gold and other precious metals, passenger plane parts and services. They also plan to release $4.2 billion in Iranian assets of oil revenues blocked overseas, in eight installments over six months.

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Iran receives $500 million in frozen assets

unclesam

First  installment  of $4.2 billion  deposited in  Swiss bank account as part of Geneva agreement, breathing new life into economy

Times of Israel

Iran has received the first instalment of $4.2 billion in frozen assets as part of a nuclear deal with world powers, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told ISNA news agency Saturday.

Unblocking the funds under the landmark deal in which Iran agreed to roll back parts of its nuclear programme and halt further advances is expected to breathe new life into its crippled economy.

“The first tranche of $500 million was deposited in a Swiss bank account, and everything was done in accordance with the agreement,” Araqchi said.

Iran clinched the interim deal in November with the P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — and began implementing the agreement on January 20.

Under the agreement, which is to last six months, Iran committed to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent, halting production of 20 percent-enriched uranium.

In return, the European Union and the United States have eased crippling economic sanctions on Iran.

A senior US administration official told AFP last month that the first $550-million instalment of $4.2 billion in frozen assets would be released from February.

“The instalment schedule starts on February 1 and the payments are evenly distributed” across 180 days, the US official said.

Iran and the P5+1 will also hold a new round of talks in Vienna on February 18 in a bid to discuss a comprehensive solution to Tehran’s contested nuclear programme.

Major world powers and Israel fear that Iran is trying to develop an atomic bomb, but Tehran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful.

Also on Saturday, the official IRNA news agency quoted the head of the civil aviation authority, Alireza Jahanguirian, as saying that Iran will soon receive spare parts for its ailing civilian fleet.

Jahanguirian said the parts would arrive within two weeks as part of the sanctions relief agreed in Geneva in November.

But the November deal foresees an easing on sanctions imposed on several sectors, including Iran’s car industry and petrochemical exports, as well as allowing civil aviation access to long-denied spares.

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Boycott of I$raHell ‘immoral, unjustified,’ Naziyahu says

NOVANEWS

Netanyahu2

jpost

Efforts to boycott Israel are neither moral nor justified, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, amid a growing public sense that the boycott and divestment movement is gaining traction.

Moreover, Netanyahu said, these efforts will not achieve their aims.

“First of all, they cause the Palestinians to become entrenched behind their obstinate positions and push peace farther away, and secondly, no pressure will cause me to give up Israeli vital interests, first and foremost the security of Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu’s comments came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry said at the Munich Security Conference that the Israeli-Palestinian status quo is not sustainable and illusory.

“You see for Israel there is an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up,” Kerry said. “People are very sensitive to it, there is talk of boycott and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?”

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told reporters at the beginning of the meeting that Kerry’s words were “offensive and unacceptable.” He said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with “a gun against its head.” Steinitz also said that this could harm the negotiations by increasing the Palestinian motivation to torpedo them. A failure of the talks, according to this logic, would be blamed on Israel, thereby increasing the boycott calls.

Following Netanyahu’s comments, Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud Beytenu) commended the prime minister for his “hard line” against Kerry.

“[US President Barack] Obama and Kerry are acting unilaterally and only putting pressure on Israel,” Hotovely said. “[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] is calmly maintaining his positions, while Israel is being told to make painful concessions that endanger it and its citizens. That is not how negotiations should be run.”

Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked pointed to what she said is faulty logic behind Kerry’s threat: “While in 2013, Israel had a record high in imports, Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to lay the groundwork for an economic boycott.”

The prime minister also faced criticism from the Left in relation to his handling of the peace process.

“Netanyahu exposed us to the threat of sanctions, which is even more dangerous than Iran,” MK Merav Michaeli (Labor). “Israeli security is a fantasy if we don’t have a diplomatic treaty, and that includes our economic security.”

Michaeli called for Netanyahu to “wake up, take responsibility for the country and stop being prime minister of the settlers, be every citizen’s prime minister.”

With Israeli politicians pouncing on Kerry for allegedly encouraging a boycott against Israel, the State Department issued a statement Sunday urging that Kerry’s words be portrayed “accurately.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Kerry has a “proud record of over three decades of steadfast support for Israel’s security and well-being, including staunch opposition to boycotts. Just last year, while briefing Foreign Ministers at an EU conference in Vilnius on his peacemaking efforts, he urged them to refrain from implementing these types of measures.”

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Assad ‘armed to the teeth’ and ‘stockpiling’ weapons of mass destruction

NOVANEWS

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jpost

The Sunday Times quoted both Israeli and Russian sources as claiming that Syrian President Bashar Assad is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction in Alawite enclaves on the western coast of Syria.

According to the Times, these sources report that the work has been ongoing despite the first round of peace talks between Assad’s regime and the rebels, held last week in Geneva. The talks are largely seen as having been inconclusive.

One source stated that Assad has turned over only four percent of the regime’s chemical weapons and that the regime will miss this week’s deadline to send all toxic agents for destruction abroad.

Israel believes that the collected arsenal is mainly consistent of chemical warheads for missiles and warheads, and that it is concealed within the Alawite enclave on Syria’s western coast. One IDF source said about Assad’s defense of the Alawite region between Latakia and Turkey that, “This region is now totally fortified and isolated from the rest of Syria.”

Assad’s apparent strategy is to defend the Alawite sector, a western diplomat stated. “The reason for some of the worst ethnic cleansing and murder of Sunni civilians on the edge of the Alawite enclave in places like Homs, was to give better protection to the Alawites.”

The Alawites, an Islamic sect, represent only 12% of the Syrian population. About 75% are Sunnis.

The continued collapse of Syria as the civil war drags on was discussed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah of Jordan recently, where both shared concern over Assad’s plan to carve out a heavily armed Alawite state.

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Syria chemical weapons: Kerry asks Russia to hasten removal

NOVANEWS
putinrussianbear

US Secretary of State John Kerry has asked Russia to press its ally Syria into speeding up the removal of chemical weapons.

The US says only about 4% of chemical weapons declared by the Syrian government have so far been removed.

Mr Kerry raised the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, officials said.

Syria’s chemical weapons are due to be removed and destroyed by 30 June.

Under the terms of the UN-backed plan, Syrian authorities are responsible for packing and safely transporting the chemical weapons to the Mediterranean port of Latakia.

The first consignment of 16 tonnes, from two Syrian sites, left Latakia on 7 January.

A further shipment left on 27 January, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

“Secretary Kerry pressed Foreign Minister Lavrov to push the regime for more progress on moving the remaining chemical weapons within Syria to the port in Latakia,” the US State Department official said.

Washington considered progress so far to be “unacceptable”, the official added.

The OPCW, which is overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal, has been meeting in The Hague to discuss the operation’s progress.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (file image)
John Kerry met his Russian counterpart at the Munich Security Conference

Earlier this week, the US ambassador to the OPCW, Robert Mikulak, said “the effort to remove chemical agent and key precursor chemicals from Syria has seriously languished and stalled”.

“The spotlight now is on Syria to proceed without further delay to comply with its obligations and make this effort a success,” he added.

Denmark and Norway are providing cargo ships and military escorts to take them to Italy, where they will be loaded onto a US Maritime Administration cargo ship, MV Cape Ray.

The materials will be destroyed in international waters.

Correspondents say failure to eliminate the weapons could expose Syria to the threat of sanctions, although these would have to be supported in the UN Security Council by Russia and China which have so far refused to back such measures.

Map of the Mediterranean
  • 1. The Syrian authorities are responsible for packing and safely transporting the chemical weapons from 12 sites across the country to the port of Latakia. Russia has supplied large-capacity and armoured lorries, while the US has sent container drums and GPS locators.
  • 2. Russia is providing security for loading operations at Latakia, for which the US has supplied loading, transportation and decontamination equipment. China has sent 10 ambulances and surveillance cameras, and Finland an emergency response team in case of accidents.
  • 3. Denmark and Norway are providing cargo ships and military escorts to take the chemicals to the container port of Gioia Tauro in Italy. Russia and China are also providing naval escorts and the first consignment of 16 tonnes left Latakia on 7 January.
  • 4. In Italy, the “most critical” chemical agents will be loaded onto the US Maritime Administration cargo ship, MV Cape Ray, to be destroyed by hydrolysis in international waters. Less-toxic chemicals will be shipped by Norwegian and Danish vessels for disposal at commercial facilities.

Peace talks

Also in Munich, Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi to discuss the lack of progress in the Syria peace talks in Geneva.

The talks ended on Friday with rival Syrian delegations trading insults.

Mr Brahimi later told a panel on Syria at the conference: “We have failed somewhere.

“We can say it is an intractable problem, it is difficult. But somewhere there is a failure.”

However, Mr Brahimi said he hoped the talks would resume in Geneva on 10 February in a “more constructive” mood.

The Munich Security Conference is an annual event held to discuss military and political affairs.

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Kerry: We Stand With Ukraine’s People

NOVANEWS

ned

Secretary of State John Kerry met with Ukrainian government officials and opposition leaders Saturday, voicing the United States’ support for the opposition’s goals even as protests raged in Kiev and across the country.

On the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Kerry told Ukrainian opposition leaders Vitali Klychko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and Petro Poroschenko that they have the backing of the United States.

The United States supports the “democratic, European aspirations” of Ukrainians, Kerry said, according to a senior State Department official, and endorses the opposition leaders’ efforts “to defend democracy and choice for the people of Ukraine.”

In his speech to the Munich conference, Kerry said the U.S. and European Union “stand with the people of Ukraine,” reports CNN.

Kerry’s comments come as the turmoil in Ukraine reaches its peak, with violent demonstrations consuming large parts of the capital and the legal status of anti-government demonstrations bitterly disputed by both sides. After several days of hedging, President Yanukovych signed two conciliatory bills Friday, one that provides general amnesty for protestors and another that rolls back recent restriction on the right to assembly.

Kerry urged the government to soften its hardline stance in a separate meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara.

He voiced concern about human rights issues in Ukraine, saying the government should release prisoners, reform political structures to protect democratic checks and balances, and “form a technical government that can address Ukraine’s economic problems and meet the European aspirations of its people,” said the official.

Four protestors have died in the demonstrations, and hundreds arrested. There have been recent reports of kidnappings and torture by the administration, and protestors have reported a series of disappearances.

Demonstrations began in Kiev when President Yanukovych reneged on a trade agreement that would have brought the country closer to the E.U., in favor of an agreement that strengthened ties with Russia and included a much-needed $15 billion loan. With Ukraine’s future uncertain, Russia has halted its disbursements at $3 billion, though it is now seeking to reassert its authority in Kiev.

 

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Lebanese hold rally to protest Saudi terrorism

NOVANEWS
The mother of 18-year-old Maria al-Jawhari holds up her daughters
The mother of 18-year-old Maria al-Jawhari holds up her daughters’ sweater during her funeral in the town of Hermel, near the Syrian border in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa valley, on January 22, 2014.
Lebanese protesters have gathered outside the Saudi Embassy in Beirut to slam what they called the negative role of Saudi Arabia in the region, reports say.

Chanting slogans against the Saudi policies in the region, protesters on Saturday accused Riyadh of fueling unrest and sectarianism in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

“We consider Saudi Arabia to be the number one exporter of terrorism in the Arab world, because it is funding all Takfiri organizations that are killing our people from Tripoli to Beirut to Sidon,” a protester said.

The demonstrators say the Al Saud regime has been using its petrodollars to finance al-Qaeda-linked and Takfiri groups with the sole aim of destabilizing the region.

The demonstrators also chanted slogans against Saudi spy chief Bandar bin Sultan, calling him a warlord.

syria

Recently, Lebanon has witnessed a wave of deadly bombings claimed by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists.

In the latest incident of fatal attacks, a car bomb went off in the border city of Hermel on Saturday. Four people died and over a dozen others were wounded in the bombing.

Wanted by the US, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Iran, Saudi terrorist Majed al-Majed was the head of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group which claimed responsibility for the Nov. 19 twin suicide bombings outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. The attack killed 25 people, including Iran’s cultural attaché.

 

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Syrian anchor Elissar Moualla shocks opposition at Geneva talks

NOVANEWS
Elissar Moualla
Elissar Moualla
Among dozens of Syrian and foreign journalists covering the Syria peace talks in Geneva, Elissar Moualla stands out.

The popular Syrian news anchor, working for the state-sponsored Syrian TV, never misses an opportunity to confront the opposition delegation.

With a loud and agitated voice, she asks tough questions in press conferences and she challenges statements the opposition representatives make in the more informal media hub, the garden of the UN headquarters.

“Can you tell me why the armed groups [you support] are holding women and children hostage in Homs?” she yells to an opposition spokesman.

“You claim you want to stop the fighting, but do you have control over the armed groups?” she asks another.

The conference in Switzerland is the first time the Damascus-based anchor has interacted with the Western-backed political opposition trying to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

She says the opposition representatives were “shocked” when they faced reporters from Syrian state media. “Even though they are trained to answer journalists’ questions, this is the first time they’ve been grilled by journalists coming from inside Syria. This is why they couldn’t deliver their messages as effectively as they wanted,” the 37-year-old told Al Jazeera.

For Moualla, the peace conference is a media parade – but also a battlefield of countries she believes are trying to meddle in the affairs of her country.

“This is the first time I see how big is this game of nations and how the fighters in Syria are manipulated,” she says as she sips her coffee in the press bar at the UN building, where the US- and Russian-backed talks are taking place.

“For the first time I pity the [opposition] fighters because I realize just how misled they are. They think they are fighting for the cause of freedom or a religious cause or whatever cause it is. But in reality, they are fighting the battles of other countries,” Moualla says.

“Despite all the suffering they have caused, I still cringe every time I watch them dead on TV. I don’t like them and I hate extremism, but I am human,” Moualla says.

“I always tell my colleagues: ‘When you film them, do not take these harsh images; they are humans. Cover them when you film them.'” She then quickly adds: “Those same people would kill me if they saw me.”

Many rebel groups consider state media employees legitimate targets because they defend the Syrian government. Presenting the views of her channel has come at a great cost for Moualla, who says she has received a barrage of death threats and vicious bashing. “I receive countless phone calls and messages. They once threatened to kill my father. And the swearing is as ugly as it can get”.

Going from her home in a flashpoint area on the outskirts of Damascus to her workplace in the center of the capital is also a daily challenge. She recounts the day she thought her life was nearing its end: “One time, three armed men wearing black bands around their heads tried to attack me in my car after they recognized me. They ran away after the police arrived. I will never forget that day.”

Her parents, who lived in the coastal province of Latakia, have left their hometown and moved to Damascus because they are worried about her safety.

But the threats have not deterred her from carrying on with her job. She remembers her colleagues who lost their lives and says some other pro-government journalists suffer even more than she does.

At least five employees of Syrian TV have been killed in the conflict, and the fate of one of Moualla’s friends in the channel, Mohammad Saeed, remains unknown after he was kidnapped.

Over the past three years, scores of journalists reporting on the Syrian conflict have been killed, arbitrarily arrested, subjected to enforced disappearances or tortured.

Moualla believes that the government’s narrative of events in Syria has now become an undeniable truth. “Nobody can deny it,” she says. “The government is defending its territory from terrorists.”

Moualla says that the coverage of the Syrian conflict by most media organizations has been biased, whether intentionally or unintentionally. She says atrocities committed by opposition forces have not been covered well by foreign media and the Syrian state media.

The government has at times covered up crimes committed by armed groups in divided cities like Homs, to prevent a rift among the people, she says. “The government demanded from reporters [of state media] that they do not film these atrocities, so that the Christian wouldn’t view the Muslim in a negative way, so that the Alawite wouldn’t view the Sunni in a negative way.”

“The Syrian army is killing, but it’s killing the terrorists,” Moualla insists. “There is a truth that should be acknowledged: They are monsters. They are monsters that have been released on Syrian land. Not humans. Some of them hold Syrian citizenship. But they have lost all ability to live in a normal society.”

Moualla will leave the peaceful city of Geneva for war-riddled Damascus, and return to the same death threats, the same sounds of shelling, and another news bulletin full of blood and death.

 

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