Archive | August 15th, 2014

Nazi Soldier wearing a ‘Deployed, Destroyed and Enjoyed Gaza 2014’ T-shirt

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Disgust as Israeli soldier spotted laughing and drinking in Jerusalem bar wearing a ‘Deployed, Destroyed and Enjoyed Gaza 2014’ T-shirt

  • Army reservist pictured wearing the T-shirt while drinking in a Jerusalem bar
  • Had the slogan ‘Deployed, Destroyed, Enjoyed, Gaza 2014’ on back
  • People disgusted with the shirt have taken to Twitter to express their views
  • Comes as a 72-hour ceasefire is due to expire at midnight
By JENNIFER NEWTON FOR MAILONLINE

PUBLISHED: 14:24, 13 August 2014 | UPDATED: 23:39, 13 August 201

An Israeli soldier has been spotted laughing and drinking in a bar wearing a T-shirt with the slogan ‘Deployed, Destroyed, Enjoyed, Gaza 2014’ emblazoned on the back. 

The man, thought to be an army reservist was pictured wearing the shirt while enjoying a drink and chatting with friends at a bar in Jerusalem in the early hours of Wednesday morning. 

Pictured from behind, the black shirt has the slogan in white lettering emblazoned across the back of the garment. 

The Israeli army reservist officer with his back to the camera, pictured  wearing the T-shirt referring to the Israeli forces' operations in Gaza

The Israeli army reservist officer with his back to the camera, pictured wearing the T-shirt referring to the Israeli forces’ operations in Gaza

And since the photo, snapped by an Associated Press photographer, surfaced today, people have taken to Twitter to express their disgust. 

Dara de Brun tweeted: ‘You have to question the mentality of someone who wears a t-shirt like this? #ICC4Israel’ .

Another Twitter user named Abid posted: ‘#gaza You have to question the mentality of someone who wears a t-shirt like this?’ 

While Kate Jackson wrote: ‘what kind of person wears a t shirt like this…surely illegal?#gaza’ 

People took to Twitter to express their disgust at the T-shirt worn by the soldier in a Jerusalem bar

People took to Twitter to express their disgust at the T-shirt worn by the soldier in a Jerusalem bar

 

This Twitter user, named Abid also criticise the T-shirt worn by the man while drinking with friends

This Twitter user, named Abid also criticise the T-shirt worn by the man while drinking with friends

The picture comes as 72-hour truce between Israel and Hamas is set to expire at midnight local time

The picture comes as 72-hour truce between Israel and Hamas is set to expire at midnight local time

Blast rocks Gaza just ahead of latest ceasefire with Israel

The picture comes as 72-hour truce between Israel and Hamas is set to expire at midnight local time with negotiators in Cairo trying to thrash out a more permanent ceasefire arrangement.

Since the latest truce went into effect on Monday, Israel has halted military operations in the coastal territory and Gaza militants have stopped firing rockets.

The ceasefire was meant to give the two sides time to negotiate a more sustainable truce and a roadmap for the coastal territory. 

Gaza truce extended for five days

During the ceasefire, people have strewn graffiti across the walls of buildings in Gaza, expressing their views on the conflict

During the ceasefire, people have strewn graffiti across the walls of buildings in Gaza, expressing their views on the conflict

Journalist Simone Camilli, who was killed while experts tried to diffuse an unexploded Israeli missile in Gaza

Journalist Simone Camilli, who was killed while experts tried to diffuse an unexploded Israeli missile in Gaza

The 35-year-old Italian national, had worked for the Associated Press since being hired as a freelancer in Rome in 2005

The 35-year-old Italian national, had worked for the Associated Press since being hired as a freelancer in Rome in 2005

AP CEO on journalist and translator killed in Gaza

A member of the Palestinian delegation to Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo said Wednesday that his team was considering an Egyptian proposal, which was tabled on Tuesday.

The Egyptian proposal calls for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, bringing some relief to the territory, according to Palestinian officials in the talks.

Meanwhile six people were killed, including three members of a bomb disposal unit and an Italian journalist, while the Palestinian team attempted to defuse an unexploded Israeli rocket in Gaza. 

The journalist was later named as 35-year-old video journalist Simone Camilli, who worked for the Associated Press, who died alongside his translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash. 

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Nazi Soldier wearing a ‘Deployed, Destroyed and Enjoyed Gaza 2014’ T-shirt

FINALLY! Parliament (UK) Accuses I$raHell of War-Crimes!

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Somebody did finally grow a pair!

Israel accused of war crimes (UK Parliament)

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on FINALLY! Parliament (UK) Accuses I$raHell of War-Crimes!

Nasrallah: Israel on a path towards “suicide” in Gaza

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The head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah gestures on July 25, 2014, during a rare public appearance at a gathering to mark Jerusalem Day from Beirut’s southern suburb. (Photo: AFP – Anwar Amro)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Friday praised the Palestinian resistance defending Gaza from Israel’s ongoing assault on the besieged strip, saying that Israel was failing in its war and headed on a path of suicide.

“Gaza today is holding funeral processions for its martyrs, and has achieved victory in resistance,” Nasrallah said in a rare live appearance from a complex in Beirut’s southern suburbs to mark the annual Jerusalem Day.

“When we reach day 18 [of the Israeli assault] and the Zionists together with the world are incapable of achieving any goal in Gaza, it means the resistance has achieved victory in Gaza.”

“[Former defense minister] Ehud Barak … had said in any future war waged by Israel in Gaza will lead to a very quick and decisive victory.”

“Gaza today is responding and saying ‘You the cowardly people who hide behind warplanes and kill children, if you confront our heroes you will be defeated and your army will be defeated’,” Nasrallah said.

“I say to the Zionists, You in Gaza are working within the circle of failure. Don’t go beyond Gaza to the circle of suicide,” Nasrallah added.

Over 800 Palestinians, the overwhelming majority of them civilians, have been killed since Israel launched its terror campaign against Gaza on July 8.

“The Israeli army didn’t go to war as an army which is fighting. It went as an army which kills children. This is the army we knew in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.

“We must salute the souls of the martyrs of Gaza and the wounded of Gaza and the mujaheddin and heroes of Gaza and the people of Gaza who are standing with steadfastness on this day,” he added.

Palestinian fighters in Gaza have vowed to press on with the war until Israel ends its eight-year-long land, air and sea blockade of the strip, which prevents the movement of people and goods, including the importation of basic necessities and medicine.

Nasrallah said those demands were just.

“The siege means death on a daily basis for the people of Gaza, not for 18 days but for years. I must repeat, there must be political, media, financial, material support and support with arms,” he said.

“We must remind everyone here, Iran and Syria together with the resistance in Lebanon, and especially Hezbollah in accordance with its capabilities, for many long years never spared any efforts in supporting the Palestinian resistance — politically, on media, morally, financially, from material angles, weapons, logistical support and expertise.”

Nasrallah also said despite all the attempts by Israel to divide Palestinians and force them to abandon their cause, they remained strong willed to return to their land.

“Despite all their pain and suffering and wounds and massacres and all the factors of despair and frustration, they did not surrender and they did not forget,” Nasrallah said.

“Palestinian people in and out of Palestine and in refugee camps, despite harsh living conditions and incentives for emigrating to Canada and Australia and Europe in order to fragment and divide this Palestinian human body, despite all this the Palestinians held on to their land and cause and farms and fields, and they rejected to surrender and to bow down.”

Posted in LebanonComments Off on Nasrallah: Israel on a path towards “suicide” in Gaza

Nasrallah’s speech affirms unity between Resistance factions, warns of Western plots in the region

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Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during a speech he delivered in Beirut’s souther suburbs on July 25, 2014. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)

By: Sami Kleib

Now is not the time to talk about disappointments and the past. It is more important for the Resistance to win in Palestine because its victory is a further step towards undermining the foundations of the other axis that protects Israel. The other axis includes not only the United States and a large part of the West but also a significant number of Arab regimes.

This was the essence of Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s speech yesterday, on International Quds (Jerusalem) Day. It is important that Hamas seize upon Nasrallah’s words, precisely at this fateful moment because it knows, more than anyone else, that many of the Arab regimes share Israel and its Western allies’ wish to destroy it. They intend to prolong the war to break Hamas’ infrastructure, its rocket capabilities and its communication network, and to kill its leaders. They intend to hem it in after the war, blame it for all the killing and destruction and not provide it with any help. Its adversaries believe that only this will create a popular grudge against against the Resistance group that would undercut its popular support. Hamas therefore can not wait for the salvation to come from outside, from states that brought down their allies in the Muslim Brotherhood. How will Hamas seize upon Nasrallah’s speech?Let’s first see what is new about this speech.

First of all, Nasrallah’s words went beyond Lebanon’s borders. He said frankly that Hezbollah supports all the factions of the Resistance without exception. By “without exception” he of course meant Hamas. Hezbollah not only supports Hamas, it is willing to do whatever it takes to provide support. This is a major commitment that Israel should listen to very well because it means a clear willingness to open another front against it, even though everyone is convinced of the futility of doing so now. Opening a front is a decision that will be taken by Hezbollah but in coordination with Syria and Iran. The message is clear.

Nasrallah linked the Israeli war with the larger conspiracy of the other axis in the region: “The US provides cover for the war… The thrones of some Arab regimes are bound to defend Israel… We are in the most dangerous era since the colonization of Palestine… We are witnessing the systematic destruction and dismantling of states, armies, peoples and societies, etc…” It was in this sense that Nasrallah said, “We feel that we are true partners of the Palestinian Resistance and its victory is a victory for all of us.” The shared destiny in this sense is clear.

The comparison that Nasrallah made between the war on Gaza and the one waged by Israel against Lebanon eight years ago carries a lot of significance and a lot of important and dangerous messages for Hezbollah’s adversaries in and outside Lebanon. Israel’s failure in the past prevented the creation of a new Middle East and the Gaza war today subverts another destructive project. Perhaps Nasrallah was thinking about what some Lebanese politicians and Arab rulers did during the 2006 war when he said: “I am sure that some Arab rulers are calling Netanyahu and asking him to continue… But the Resistance will impose a resolution on Israel like what happened in July 2006.” Here too there is a fateful link between the two wars. These allusions are perhaps intentional as the relationship between Hezbollah and the Future Movement is almost at a breaking point, while accusations continue to be invoked against Saudi Arabia and its role in Syria and Iraq.

Nasrallah paved the way for Hamas’ return to the Resistance axis. He openly called for “pushing aside differences and discord when it comes to the Palestinian people, Resistance and cause.” He did not deny that there are differences in opinion and political judgement but the most important thing is the victory of the Resistance. It is precisely here that Nasrallah purposefully recalled the role of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah in providing political, financial and military support to the Resistance in Palestine. This reminder now is very important to rectify the path and bring Hamas back on the right track.The speech is also important for Nasrallah, Hezbollah and the axis to which it belongs. This is a golden opportunity to redirect the compass. It is a historic moment that must be seized upon to rally the Arab masses who currently sympathize with Gaza and its Resistance. When Hezbollah’s secretary general appears willing to offer direct support to Gaza and its Resistance, when he rises above differences, he sets a stark contrast with the sense of abandonment by their regimes that the Arab people feel. There is a huge difference between a leader who says that your victories are our victories, you are going to win and the spiderweb (Israel) is going to collapse forever, and leaders who look for an excuse to destroy the Palestinian Resistance and provide a political and diplomatic cover for Israel.

At a time when the Arab world is going through a dangerous and bloody sectarian strife, it is important for the Shia leader of the Lebanese Resistance to reassert unity with the Sunni Palestinian Resistance. In its battle against its enemy, the nation must rise above sectarian and confessional sensitivities.

By linking between the destruction of holy shrines by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and others and the possibility of destroying al-Aqsa Mosque, Nasrallah’s message was broader and more comprehensive. It was an attempt to seek Islamic unity and support for the Resistance. In this sense too, there is a connection between the dangerous projects besetting the region and Israel’s war on Gaza.

The last and perhaps most important message addressed to the leaders of the opposing axis in the West and the Arab world confirms that Hezbollah will not leave the Resistance in Palestine alone. Usually, Israel, the West and Arab regimes take Nasrallah’s words seriously. Perhaps today more than ever, they should take them even more seriously. As the region hangs between divisiveness and coming to some sort of understanding, it is important that the axis to which Nasrallah belongs continues to send messages of strength because they serve as a deterrent and pave the way towards honorable settlements when the time for settlements comes.

It was enough to read the comments of thousands of people on social networking sites right after the speech to understand that when Nasrallah talks about Palestine, it becomes stronger and he becomes more eloquent.

Posted in LebanonComments Off on Nasrallah’s speech affirms unity between Resistance factions, warns of Western plots in the region

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah: The Resistance in Gaza is on quest for tangible victory

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Demonstrators in Gaza hold up a poster of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

In an exclusive six-hour-long interview with Ibrahim al-Amin, Wafic Qanso, Hassan Ileik, and Maha Zureikat from Al-Akhbar, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah took the time to discuss issues ranging from Syria, the recent Gaza war, the 2006 war with Israel, domestic Lebanese issues, and his own personal habits.

Al-Akhbar is publishing the interview as a multi-part series over the next two days. In this particular section, the interview focused on the recent Israeli war on Gaza.

To what extent did the war on Gaza in 2014 surprise you, especially since Hezbollah was cautious in the early days [of the war], in terms of its position and media performance. Was there fear that the Resistance was being lured into a trap?

Were the Palestinian developments expected? No, but they were not surprising either. Things surprise you if they happen out of context. Clearly the Israelis, not the Resistance, pushed matters in this direction since the kidnapping of the three settlers. The behavior of the Israelis was not the behavior of someone searching for kidnapped people. Under the pretext of looking for the three kidnapped settlers, they did all they could in the West Bank to wipe out Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front and everything that has to do with the structure of the Resistance. Things escalated and I am closer to the view that developments took a life of their own, and the Israelis went along and the Resistance went along, in the sense that neither of them planned for the war. Some, unfortunately, accused the Resistance of going to war to revive its political role or to resuscitate the Turkish-Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood axis. I don’t see it that way.The Israelis, who are observing the developments and transformations in the region, are not in a rush to go to war. But when events started happening, an opportunity and a threat presented themselves. The Israelis wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and the Resistance confronted this threat and tried to turn it into an opportunity. That is how we understand what happened. The Israeli side thought, since we went to war anyway, we might as well take advantage of this opportunity. Especially as Gaza is under siege, the Arab world is torn apart, the focus on regional and international affairs is elsewhere and the concerns of the Arab people are also elsewhere. In the early days of the war, Israel hit all the targets they knew of. However, rockets continued to be launched from Gaza. That is why Israel found itself facing a big problem. As for the Resistance, it was determined to use this war that was imposed on it as an opportunity to lift the siege. It is obvious that the Resistance is not looking for a symbolic victory to lift morale or for a face-saving way out, rather it is looking for a real achievement, namely, lifting the siege, even if it is costly.

This is a point of strength for the Resistance, first, because it is the wish of all the Resistance factions in Gaza and secondly, because there is a real popular will on the issue of lifting the siege. Perhaps people disagree with Hamas on issues like running the Gaza Strip, power and government, and the factions may disagree in their positions regarding regional events but the question of lifting the siege is a unanimous, popular demand for all Gazans.

This is our understanding of the nature of the battle. That is why when a cease-fire and a truce were suggested at the beginning, there was a consensus among the Resistance factions not to accept the offer without lifting the siege. From the beginning of the war, that was the goal of the Resistance. The Israelis, in my opinion, were stuck and they tried really hard to learn from the mistakes of the July War (2006 war on Lebanon.) From the beginning of the war on Gaza, Lebanon’s July War was present in the Israeli media.

Do you agree that the goals of the enemy were modest?

That is one of the lessons of the July War. The Israelis tried to learn from the lessons of the July War, but instead, they got stuck. That is why they did not specify a goal. I followed the war from the beginning, it is not clear to me what the goal was. There is no final official word on that. One speaks about toppling the Hamas regime, another speaks about disarming the Resistance or stopping the rockets or stopping the smuggling or manufacturing of rockets or destroying the tunnels. Even the question of the two prisoners, they are ignoring it as much as possible because they know they can not get them back without negotiations and without a price. They will not get to them through political or military pressure. The Israelis are in a predicament. Perhaps they thought the Resistance does not have the will to persevere and the people will not be able to withstand this level of sacrifice. I believe the enemy thought, as Shimon Peres did in the 1996 Grapes of Wrath operation, the Resistance’s stockpile of rockets will run out. Then they will say that they stopped the rockets without giving anything to the Palestinians. But their calculations did not pan out.

Did you receive a request from the Palestinians for direct intervention?

Brother Mousa (Abu Marzouk) talked about it. But no one from the other factions talked to us and I think they understand.

Does [Abu Marzouk’s] request reflect Hamas’ real position?

Had this request been serious, it would have been discussed within closed circles, not in the media. The lines of communication between us and Hamas were never severed, even during the period when it was said that our relationship regressed. The lines of communication exist and there are always contacts. He or one of Hamas’ leaders could have asked us to discuss the issue. But to bring it up in the media, in my opinion, raises questions and I did not find it appropriate. I don’t want to analyze, what matters are good intentions and understanding. Perhaps he believed the situation was difficult so he brought up the idea, but an issue of this importance and gravity should not be discussed through the media. That is why we did not follow up on the request in the media, because this issue – whether there is an interest to interfere directly or not – ought to be discussed between us.

Have you talked to Hamas about this issue?

No.

You did not discuss the matter?

We are always in contact but we did not talk about this issue and neither did they.In your opinion, how long did the Gaza war delay the next Israeli war on Lebanon?

I can say that it delayed it but I can’t say for how long. Because it is unclear under which circumstances and conditions the Israelis would wage a war if they wanted to. After the July War and the lessons they learned, the Israelis assume that any future war must lead to a quick, decisive and clear victory. In the July War, everyone said Israel was defeated but some might claim otherwise. This happened recently when some said they discovered that they won because the South Lebanon front was not opened, even though this front was not opened during the intifada after 2000, or during Operation Defensive Shield in 2008 or the eight-day war in 2012.

Since the July War, Israel insists that victory in any war in Lebanon must, first of all, be quick. It cannot take a long time and cannot turn into a war of attrition and bombing of cities. Second, a victory should be decisive, not limited or temporary and the war should achieve all the goals, not modest goals. Third, it has to be clear and unambiguous. The reason for this is their realization that any future war is going to be a lot more difficult in terms of its targets and the ability of the Resistance – its rocket capabilities and capabilities in all areas. The enemy cannot withstand a war of attrition. We see Israel today under pressure even though the number of rockets launched from Gaza on Tel Aviv and other areas is quite limited. They speak of the effectiveness of the Iron Dome but that is debatable because the Iron Dome might be able to intercept a limited number of rockets but it will face a real issue when there is a large number of rockets.

Israel worked hard to learn the lessons of the July War in terms of its training and equipment and tried to implement what it learned in Gaza. It assumed that it addressed all the gaps, not to mention that it has massive intelligence on Gaza. Nevertheless, they failed and they are the ones saying this, not us. So when they fail in their confrontation with Gaza, which is besieged and its capabilities are known, then surely they must seriously reconsider their calculations. I believe things are different after the Gaza war than they were before it.

What is your advice to the Palestinian Resistance and people in Gaza?

These are their convictions, their will and their culture. When a human being is given two choices, either surrender or fight, there is no choice between fighting and humiliation. The culture of the Resistance and the choice of the Resistance grew among the Palestinian people because they have no other option. They tried [with] the negotiations and they waited long enough for the regional and international situations to change. In relation to Egypt, a golden opportunity presented itself for Gaza and the whole Palestinian cause but it was soon lost. For the people living in Gaza, what choices do they have? Either resist or surrender to Israeli conditions or throw themselves in the sea or immigrate and join the refugee camps. I think after all these experiences, the Palestinians have no choice but the one they have chosen today. There is no choice here, in the sense that if a human being cares about his dignity, survival and existence, he resorts to this choice. There are people who surrender. The people of Gaza made up their minds not to surrender and to withstand the consequences of this decision, even if it was costly. They have confidence in the Resistance and that the path of the Resistance might yield results. Reason and logic – not slogans – say that they should fight.

Clearly there is a problem between the Resistance axis and the Egyptian leadership. The issue is not just about Hamas. How do you deal with the position of the Sisi government regarding the assault on Gaza and the pressure on the Resistance?

I want to borrow the words of one of the leaders of the Palestinian Resistance that Gaza’s problem is that it is caught between a problem of confidence with Israel on one hand – a fundamental and substantial problem – and between two axes on the other, the Qatari-Turkish axis and the Egyptian-Saudi-Emirati axis. The reasons for this division are understandable and well-known, but unfortunately it is a sharp and jarring division at a time when this division should be overcome one way or another. We, for example, after consultations with the brothers in the Palestinian factions and the brothers in Iran, suggested to the Iranians to get in touch with the Turks, Qataris, Egyptians and Saudis even if it is through the United Arab Emirates or Oman. As far as the Resistance axis is concerned, we are not concerned with scoring points or using the Resistance movement in internal and regional considerations. There is a fundamental goal, and that is stopping the war on Gaza and lifting the siege. When there are clashes, the priority is for people to talk to each other. But in the midst of the events, the Egyptian position, for example, was difficult as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi personally. Even the Qatari position towards Egypt, through Al-Jazeera, was negative. If you want to help Gaza, then you should talk to Egypt. The Palestinians themselves say that any solution or compromise is not possible without Egypt. This requires the two competing axes to give priority to Gaza over all the other discussions and conflicts, which has still not happened in an appropriate manner.

How do you see your relationship with Hamas in the future, not just as a political party, but also in terms of Iran and Syria, especially after the Gaza war?

Even before the Gaza war, we disagreed on Syria but contacts and meetings were never put on hold. Everything stayed normal.And the support?

Obviously, our entire situation was affected by the events in Syria, Iraq and the region. On the Syrian issue, in all the meetings we had, the concern was always to understand their position and for them to understand our position even if we disagreed on assessing what is happening. We had many discussions around this issue. Of course the Gaza situation redirects the path to its priorities so we can communicate and cooperate more. That will push the relationship between Hezbollah and Hamas and between Hamas and the Islamic Republic [Iran]. The Syrian question is different, complicated and requires more time. It is subject to regional developments and has no prospects in the foreseeable future.

Are we going to enter Jerusalem?

I have no doubt.

The public today wonders what we have to do with Palestine and why should we liberate Jerusalem?

The most dangerous problem we face today, whether it is with the Lebanese or Arab public, is to get to a point where the people of the region consider Israel’s existence normal. That it does not constitute a threat to the region and the people of the region and that, if it is a problem, it is so for the Palestinian people only and not for the rest of the people in the region. This has to do with politics, security and economics. First of all, Israel is an illegitimate entity and it is a threat to the region. It is a constant threat to the whole region. We cannot coexist with this threat, that is why the ultimate goal of the [Arab and Islamic] nation is to end Israel’s existence irrespective of the problems, sensitivities and everything that has happened and could happen between Palestinians and non-Palestinians, Shia and Sunni, Muslims and Christians. All the strife, sensitivities, disputes and struggles should not eradicate the culture that says Israel is a cancer, an absolute evil and a danger to the peoples and governments of this region and to their dignity and holy sites. Therefore, the ultimate goal should be to remove it.

[The Israelis] want to get us to the point [where we fight each other and forget about Israel]. There are times when they succeed but we should never get there. This is if we are talking politics, economics, security, military, environment and so on. If we are talking from an ideological standpoint, then this issue should not be subject to debate. When it comes to ideological issues, the popular space that is affected by moods and emotions contracts is narrower. People confirm that they have an ideological position on Israel and it does not change if we are on good terms with the Palestinians or not.

Therefore, Hezbollah’s relationship to the conflict with Israel, even in terms of the realities on the ground inside Palestine, is not up for debate.

Posted in LebanonComments Off on Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah: The Resistance in Gaza is on quest for tangible victory

Gaza talks make slow advances amid fragile ceasefire

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Palestinian boy Youssef, 8, smiles as he realizes he is being photographed as he rounds a corner near shelled-out apartment buildings while carrying bread to take back home to his father on August 14, 2014 in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip. (Photo: AFP – Roberto Schmidt)

A fragile ceasefire extension between Hamas and Israel entered its second day Friday as the two sides in the Gaza conflict ponder Egyptian-mediated efforts to secure a lasting peace.

Egyptian mediators brokered the five-day extension to an existing truce to allow for further negotiations on a long-term ceasefire to fighting that has killed 1,962 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side since July 8.

The calm held throughout Thursday, after a flurry of Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket attacks the previous night, even if great uncertainty persists on both sides about the future.

As the ceasefire continued, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Israel secured supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon last month without the approval of the White House or the State Department.

President Barack Obama’s administration, caught off guard as it tried to restrain Israel’s campaign in Gaza, has since tightened controls on arms shipments to Israel, the newspaper said, quoting US and Israeli officials.

Around 10,000 Israelis poured into Rabin Square in Tel Aviv late Thursday, police said, calling on the government and the army to end Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza once and for all.

It was the first major demonstration in Israel since the fighting began and organizers.

“This is a universal principle. We want to live in peace,” Alon Davidi, mayor of the southern town of Sderot, told the rally as Israel’s security cabinet met to discuss the mediation in Cairo.

“I have full confidence in the government and in the army, but at the same time I ask as mayor of Sderot that they put an end to this situation once and for all,” Davidi said.

Members of the crowd waved Israeli flags and held up banners calling for peace with the Palestinians and others scrawled with the words: “Occupy Gaza now!”

It is unclear how the occupation of the Gaza Strip is expected to bring peace to either Israelis or Palestinians.

In Gaza City’s battered Shujayeh neighborhood, Mohammed Ibrahim Aateysh was brewing sweet mint tea inside his destroyed home with his family.

“The ceasefire is nonsense. We want stability in the country,” he said wearily.

Hassan Zyada, a psychologist with the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, describes the latest conflict as easily the worst since 2006, with scores of Palestinians having lost multiple family members.

“Our expectation is that more than 30 percent of the people here in Gaza will develop a psychiatric disorder,” he said.

Even health professionals are not immune. Six members of Zyada’s own family were killed during the war: his mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and a nephew. He is now receiving counselling from the clinic’s chief therapist.

“Houses can be rebuilt and some physical wounds can be healed, but the people’s psychological condition needs more than money and time,” child therapist Rabeea Hamouda said. “It needs a big effort and persuasion, and overall it needs calm and stability.”

The Israeli army claimed six Palestinian rockets struck Israel during the night, including three after the new truce came into effect at midnight.

Israeli warplanes hit back with four air strikes, Palestinian security officials told AFP, saying the skies fell silent at around 3:00 am (0000 GMT).

The Egyptian foreign ministry said both sides had agreed to extend the ceasefire for five days to allow more time for thorny negotiations.

Palestinian chief negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed said the delegations had reached “agreement on many points” concerning the lifting of Israel’s eight-year blockade on Gaza but needed more time to settle a number of remaining disputes.

Israel confirmed it accepted the Egyptian proposal.

“We’re honoring the ceasefire and let’s see what Hamas does,” a senior official told AFP.

Israeli negotiators and various members of the Palestinian delegation have left Cairo for consultations with their respective bases and are not expected to return before Saturday night at the earliest.

The Israeli security cabinet met on Thursday and discussions were expected to continue on Friday.

Speaking to reporters in Gaza City, Hamas politburo member Khalil al-Haya said there was “still a real chance of reaching an agreement,” but only if Israel “would stop playing with words.”

If observed, the latest truce should herald potentially the longest period of calm in the five-week conflict. An earlier truce collapsed in a firestorm of violence on August 8.

Egyptian mediators have proposed that talks on a seaport and airport in Gaza be delayed until a month after a permanent ceasefire takes effect, according to documents seen by AFP.

Negotiations over the exchange of the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel would also be postponed.

An Israeli-imposed buffer zone inside the Gaza border would be gradually reduced, and eventually policed by forces under the command of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel has said it will facilitate Gaza’s reconstruction only if the enclave is fully disarmed, a demand rejected by the Palestinians.

The conflict has seen a surge in tensions in the West Bank, including Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Police arrested 52 Palestinians in east Jerusalem overnight, taking to more than 600 the number of demonstrators detained since unrest erupted in early July over the hate killing of a Palestinian teenager by Zionist extremists.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, GazaComments Off on Gaza talks make slow advances amid fragile ceasefire

Hezbollah leader reveals secrets of the July 2006 war

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Crowds celebrate the one year anniversary of the July 2006 War in Beirut’s southern suburbs. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

In an exclusive six-hour-long interview with Ibrahim al-Amin, Wafic Qanso, Hassan Ileik, and Maha Zureikat from Al-Akhbar, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah took the time to discuss issues ranging from Syria, the recent Gaza war, the 2006 war with Israel, domestic Lebanese issues, and his own personal habits.

Al-Akhbar is publishing the interview as a multi-part series over the next two days. In this particular section, the interview focused on the July 2006 war with Israel.

If we go back to the first day of the war, July 12, 2006, did you know that the operation to capture the two Israeli soldiers would be carried out that day? What measures did you take and how did things evolve after that?

Essentially, the decision to capture the Israeli soldiers had been taken in Hezbollah’s Shura [Council] months before the operation. In our mechanism of action, when the Shura [Council] makes a decision of this kind, the implementation and execution is tasked to the Jihad Council, which, according to the party’s system, is led by the secretary general. This council consists of leading jihad commanders. At the executive level, the matter was discussed in the Jihad Council from many angles, including the choice of the appropriate location to carry out a successful operation, the timing, the tactic, the operational plan, the participants, the commanders of the operation, and also possible reactions and the precautions that must be taken. All these issues are usually discussed in the framework of the Jihad Council, and decisions are made by consensus or near consensus, rather than being put to a vote.The location where the capture [of the soldiers] took place was chosen, the participating groups were selected, as well as the commanders for the operation. But it was not simple, and it took several months to make it happen. The men entered the area, and even into occupied Palestine, more than once. They would lurk there for a period of time and then leave, before returning again, waiting for the right opportunity. Sometimes, when targets were available, it was not always clear whether they were civilian or military. We stressed the need to capture soldiers and not settlers, lest it be said later that we kidnapped civilians. All this took time until the operation was executed. Of course, those in charge of managing the situation in Beirut, whether at the political, decision-making, or jihad [i.e. operational] levels were being apprised whenever we came close to carrying out the operation. No one was surprised. A few days before the operation was carried out, we had strong reasons to believe that the men would carry it out successfully within days.

During the operation, when the mujahideen advanced and captured the two soldiers, we were informed, and we took measures and precautions as planned in advance. The commanding group moved to the place it was supposed to be in within the first few minutes.

In the first hours after the operation, the repercussions were not major and serious. Everything predicted to happen in the first few hours and the first day was dealt with well, because we had prepared for it. After the success of the operation was verified, and that the prisoners had been taken far from the line of fire, where the enemy might advance, I moved from the operation room to the press conference. The capture of the soldiers was declared with a view to initiate indirect negotiations to secure the release of the prisoners held by the enemy.

How does the secretary general act in such moments? What is his role specifically? Did you have visions and plans on how to evacuate and move, and other arrangements?

The secretary general is a decision maker in managing jihad activities. Of course, he does not directly command jihad, combat, and field units, and does not run operations in the technical military sense. Jihad commanders, or those we call jihad lieutenants, are the ones who run operations on the field, jihad, and executive work. Of course, they coordinate with the secretary general, because the policies and decisions developed by the Shura [Council] are known to him clearly, and he has a mandate and a broad range of powers, and is apprised of the jihad situation, available capabilities, and the political situation. Therefore, the secretary general is a decision maker, even for matters that are related to the field sometimes. He makes decisions in consultation and sometimes in agreement with the members of the Jihad Council.Are there examples?

One example involves the areas we would target for bombardment inside occupied Palestine. The field [commanders] are not the ones who decide to bomb settlements today, Haifa tomorrow, and what’s beyond Haifa thereafter. This is a decision that we make. When a decision is made, the jihad commanders execute it, and coordinate between the units, the information officers, the artillery officers, and then launch rockets. That is, when we say we have entered the Haifa phase, then this is a decision we made. The type of weaponry used involves a decision. Targeting the Sa’ar 5 [corvette] is also a decision. This kind of decisions is usually made by the Jihad Council and the secretary general, in his capacity as the commander of the Jihad Council, in consultation and agreement with the brothers; it is the procedural parties that manage things [after that], while I am kept abreast.

Why do we say that this [i.e. these matters] entails a [major] decision? Because every step has its own set of circumstances. For example, attacking Sa’ar 5 meant we were attacking a high-value target with many implications. Secondly, since we were using a type of weapon for the first time, this meant that the Jihad Council had decided to reveal having a weapon not known before to be in the hands of the Resistance. After this decision, the discussion becomes technical, procedural, and executive, an aspect I have no relation to and I do not interfere in. This is a matter for specialists. Yes, when the brothers are in contact with me, they inform me if it’s “okay,” or whether there are obstacles or difficulties. But dealing with these matters is their responsibility.

There is another example related to the issue of bombing Tel Aviv. This is not a procedural issue, but a major decision. When the southern suburbs and other cities in the South and the Bekaa were being bombed, there was a serious discussion about whether we should bomb Tel Aviv or not. As a result of the discussion, we came out with the equation of bombing Tel Aviv in response to bombing Beirut. The southern suburb and other areas in the south and the Bekaa were coming under heavy bombardment anyway. We said: Let us establish a new equation. If we can, through it, protect Beirut or help protect it, for many reasons, then let it be, and it is the best course of action.

If this happened in 2006, would Tel Aviv have been bombed like it is being bombed today out of Gaza?

Certainly, and in a much stronger way. Even the Israelis know it. In the end, you’re talking about rockets of different calibers, types, and quantities. When we announced the equation of Beirut-for-Tel Aviv, it was serious. Certainly, we had the ability to strike Tel Aviv, otherwise we would not have made the threat or spoke about an equation we could not enforce.

Did you come under immediate danger during the war? If so, how close was the danger to you?

I did not come under any direct hit. The places I was in did not come under any attack. But, naturally, the [general] area we were in was bombed. This is normal.

Is it true that missiles landed near your convoy?

This is not true.

How did you spend your day in the first days of the war? We know that the executive arm was undertaking major tasks, and political negotiations had not yet started seriously. Did you continuously follow up on the progress of the war? Did you sleep well?

Not interfering in the battles means you are not running them. But you are involved in following up around the clock the developments on the battlefield: in the South, in the forward positions, and in other areas in the Bekaa, as well as the areas being bombed, the martyrs, the wounded, the displaced, the public, and the climate in the media and the political climate. All this needs close follow up.

Were you able to see your family during the war?

Yes, I saw them once.

Who was the first person you checked on when the war ended?

When the war ended, the possibility of movement was a little complicated. Remember, the war did not end with the ceasefire, but with the end of hostilities. We considered that we were still in the heart of the battle, and for this reason, directly after the war, and for a period of time, my movement remained limited.There are figures who insisted on meeting me, and I would tell them that this was risky for both myself and you. The brothers’ assessment was that the situation was dangerous, and that my appearance in a given place could put both myself and those present at risk. The only place I went to after the war was the place where the late Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah was in. I visited him with a number of brothers to thank him for his stance during the war. This was the only visit. During the war, the only people I would meet with were the brothers concerned with jihad activities.

On the home front, I would speak with Al-Manar and with the Media Relations division. Communicating within the internal network was no problem. The problem was in communicating through cellular phones or by radio. Sometimes, I would record a statement, which would then be broadcast over the radio to the men who did not have access to the internal network. This is what happened.

Did you visit the refugees displaced during the war?

The issue did not require personal visits because the nature of moving was difficult, but I was in touch with the brothers in charge of the refugees’ affairs. The party’s institution was entirely involved, and I was in touch with all officials. Thus, I had a clear daily briefing about the bombardment and destruction, and about the refugees and how their issues and problems were being dealt with. Naturally, the issue of the refugees and popular attitudes, and people and their mood, patience, and morale, was fundamental for us, and figured in our decisions.

Were you surprised by the stance of the displaced?

It was not surprising, but it was for many because they gambled on the refugees, and there was incitement in the media and elsewhere among them, in the schools and so on. Some political parties hoped that the refugees would come out in demonstrations, calling on the Resistance to stop or to disarm and surrender. There were efforts to make this happen. The great thing about the stance of the people is not just about their will, convictions, consciousness, and understanding, but it was that they still maintained all of this despite the war, destruction, displacement, death, and massacres, as well as the tremendous incitement. If there was national harmony, with everyone encouraging, supporting, and expressing solidarity, we would have given less credit to the people for their stance. But, in reality, there was a climate of demoralization, mistrust, and blaming the Resistance for everything that had happened, and attempts to induce people to come out in demonstrations; but they refused.

During the war, what was the most hurtful thing for you?

What hurt most were the massacres. The military men are usually hardened, yet our brothers, despite their courage and tenacity, were affected. Some of them would cry whenever they saw the women and children and the massacres. What hurts a lot is the targeting of civilians. Infrastructure and buildings can be rebuilt, and the displaced will return in the end, because it was clear for us that, God willing, we were going to prevail in the battle and our people would return to their homes, villages, neighborhoods, and cities. Many massacres took place, and it cannot be said that one hurt more than the other. But there was something particularly [hurtful] when the Imam al-Hassan complex was bombed, first because of the large number of martyrs there, and second, because of the rumors in Lebanon that the complex was targeted because the Israelis thought I was there. Of course, I did not go to that place at all at any moment during the war.

Who was the person you feared for?

I cannot say there was anyone specific. There was a number of brothers during the war that I worried about, including Hajj Imad [Mughniyeh], because I believed their survival was crucial to the course of the war, and I was always keen to know how they were faring.

What role did Syria have in the war, including the role of Brigadier General Mohammed Suleiman? How many martyrs were there from the Syrian army during the transfer of arms [to the Resistance]?

During the war, the transfer of arms, ammunition, and aid from Syria did not stop. It was not clear how long the war was going to last, so for this reason, [we judged that] the more capabilities, weapons, and ammunitions we had, the better the situation would have been. The possibility of transporting [weapons] was still there, even though the Israelis were targeting almost all crossings. Nevertheless, no martyrs fell from the Syrian army during the transfer [of arms], because there was no bombardment inside Syria, but only on the border crossings and inside Lebanese territory.

Regarding the martyr Brigadier General Mohammed Suleiman, I believe that the Israelis killed him because of his role before and during the war, as he was charged by President Assad to follow up this issue. His role was excellent and very positive, so after the war, the Israelis sought out Hajj Imad Mughniyeh and Brigadier General Mohammad Suleiman in Syria. Certainly, his assassination is linked to the July War. Some Arab media outlets spoke about internal liquidations. It is very clear for us, from investigations and information from the field, that Israel is behind it. During the war, no Syrian position was hit and no Syrians were killed. Of course, as we fought on the front we were reassured, and this is important, by having a rear base called Syria, prepared to supply us with weapons, capabilities, ammunition, rockets, and so on, without any reservation. For this reason, I understand what is happening in the Gaza Strip, which is fighting while under siege.

Is it true that President Bashar al-Assad was willing to fight on the Syrian front?

The possibility of the war spreading to Syria was there, because the Israelis blamed Syria partly for the Resistance’s steadfastness and its ability to continue fighting, and because it was revealed that part of the arms were either Syrian-made or Syrian-provided. How else would Hezbollah acquire, for example, Kornet missiles? The Israelis blamed Syria for supplying the Resistance with part of its weapons, which had a qualitative effect on the course of the war. For this reason, the possibility was there during the war, as a result of developments on the field, especially when talk began about a large-scale ground operation that would take place in the direction of Hasbaya, Rashaya, the Western Bekaa, and the Central Bekaa. Back then, nearly in the second week of the assault, General Assef Shawkat, with whom we had contact during the war, sent me a message asking for my opinion about an idea being discussed in Damascus, which held that in the event of a large-scale ground operation, Syria could find itself forced to intervene alongside the Resistance in the war. I do not claim that such a decision was made, but it was being discussed by the president and the decision-making group, who followed up on everything, and who had detailed information on what was going on. My answer was, after consulting with the brothers: You do not have to; things are not that dangerous, and our ability to fight a ground attack is very high. In fact, we wished for the Israelis to enter into a ground operation because then the features of the battle would have become clearer.Practically, the ground operation on the basis of which Syria would have considered entering the war did not happen, and the whole issue became moot. There was no subsequent discussion about it.

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Revenge for ‘Hajj Radwan’ will be double

You keep restating that Hajj Imad Mughniyeh is behind the two victories. What does this mean in practice?

According to the hierarchy in place in the party in the late 1990s, all executive Jihad activities were under the command of Hajj Imad, with a large number of brothers assisting him. This continued until his martyrdom. Thus, when the liberation happened in 2000 and the July War in 2006, it was Hajj Imad who was responsible for commanding the jihad work, though it cannot be said that during the July War, it was this or that person who was in charge specifically. We do not give all the credit to one person, because the July War was the collective work of the Resistance and within the overall national framework. But Hajj Imad played an essential and central role in the first victory and the second victory, and if he had remained alive, we would not have said he was the leader of the two victories.

What happened to your pledge to avenge him?

This is an open-ended subject. On more than one occasion, I said that some people assume a group of people, settlers or Israelis travelling to this or that country, could be targeted, or an operation could be carried out targeting Israel in a place and that would be the end of it. In truth, we do not think like this. We believe that revenge for Hajj Imad is double. First, in the context of the continuation of the Resistance structure, its development, and the development of its capabilities and capacities and readiness for any confrontation and to be victorious in any confrontation, because the name of Hajj Imad, the spirit of Hajj Imad, and the mind of Hajj Imad are present in all of this.

The second aspect is that the Israeli occupiers know that revenge will come even if after a while. They think we are looking for a person or a target that is equivalent to him. In reality, they have no one who is equivalent, to the political and moral standing of Hajj Imad. Does this mean [the target should be] a group of people, leaders, or decision-makers? Yes. The Israelis assume that the target would be of such a magnitude. For this reason, they have tightened their security measures around the prime minister, defense minister, and both current and former army and intelligence commanders. They assume that revenge for the martyr Imad Mughniyeh cannot be any less than that, even if after some time.

Do you recall you were once asked about him and you said “we do not know him and do not know where he is”?

I never said we did not know him. I once said, in the first interview I had with Télé Liban in 1993, in response to a question about whether Hajj Imad was a Hezbollah leader, I said no. In truth, at the time, Hajj Imad was indeed not in Hezbollah. Neither he, nor other brothers who are key people in the Jihad work had entered Hezbollah’s formations. They had an independent formation through which they operated, regardless of whether that formation continues to exist or not. This is a different subject, so as not to touch on sensitive matters.

Do you place the assassination of Hajj Hassan Lakkis in the context of the assassination of Hajj Radwan [Imad Mughniyeh], or was it to enforce a new Israeli red line because Hezbollah had crossed a red line somewhere?

I believe that it was part of the open-ended intelligence war with the enemy. The issue is not one of red lines. We know that there are a number of people that Israel would not hesitate to target if Israel can reach them, and would not observe any red lines, just like we would not in the context of the issue of Hajj Imad, which we have just been discussing. For us, there is also a group of targets related to the issue of Hajj Imad Mughniyeh, and this is part of the open-ended intelligence war between the Israelis and us.

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Gaza Holocaust: Nazi’s targeted and killed those with special needs in Gaza

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Palestinian children hold posters and banners outside an UNRWA school during a protest against the killing of children on August 10, 2014 in the southern city of Rafah, a week after the school was hit by an Israeli strike, killing at least 10 Palestinians. (Photo: AFP-Said Khatib)

During its war on the Gaza Strip, the Israeli occupation has worsened the plight of those whom life has already wronged. Its random and intentional targeting of civilians did not spare the mentally handicapped.

Gaza – Mohammed Matar, 38, was one such person. He used to make daily visits to the cemetery where his brother had been laid to rest, until he finally joined him in the afterlife after being hit by an Israeli drone missile. It was the 16th day of the war when Mohammed washed his brother’s grave with his own blood instead of water.

Mohammed frequently washed and laid flowers on the grave of his older brother Majed, who was shot and killed in the summer of 2007 by occupation forces in the east of Gaza. Majed’s martyrdom had struck Mohammed hard, because he was the one who paid him the most attention and care.

A few weeks have already passed since Mohammed, nicknamed “the wild one” was martyred, yet his older brother, Abu Awad, still cannot grasp the idea of losing him.

“He was peaceful and everyone loved him…he went as usual to visit his brother but they killed him,” Abu Awad, 45, sighed.

He said that he tried to stop his brother from going to the graveyard in Beit Lahiya, in the north of Gaza, because he was worried about him. But Mohammed kept repeating, “Majed is waiting, he wants water, I must go, I do not want him to be upset with me.” He then snuck out of the house without anyone noticing.

A few minutes later, an explosion was heard at a place close by and the media declared that a man was targeted at Beit Lahiya’s graveyard. Abu Awad felt at once that his brother was the target; he cried “Mohammed is there…. they killed him.”

He rushed to the graveyard to find paramedics gathering up what was left of Mohammed’s remains, which were scattered all over the grave of his brother Majed. On the same day, Mohammed became his brother’s neighbor, laying in a grave nearby and holding the title of a martyr.

Mohammed, however, was not the first special needs person to be killed by Israeli forces. Around the call of prayer on the dawn of the fourth day of the war, an F-16 jet fired two missiles at the Palestinian Charitable Association for the Disabled, hitting four special needs girls.In the south of the Strip, in the town of Khaza’a, a broken wheelchair was all that was left of 18-year-old Ghadir Abu Rjeileh. Her decomposed remains were scattered nearby as rescue teams had to wait 10 days before they were able to access the town.

Abu Rjeileh could not leave her besieged town with her family and hundreds of her neighbors during the second day of the land invasion.

Her brother Ghassan was shot in the hand by an Israeli sniper stationed on the roof of a house near the town’s entrance, as he pushed her wheelchair.

He revealed that they were attacked as they were getting out of their houses carrying white flags. He was severely injured and his sister was martyred.

“My sister was left sitting alone in the middle of the road in front of tanks. No one knew anything about her until we received a call from someone close to the region saying she was hit by a missile and was ripped to pieces,” he said.

With time, the young woman’s body started to decompose and to smell, but her wheelchair, her companion ever since she was child, remained standing as a witness to the crime committed against her.

Ghassan and his brother were able to return to the town on the morning of the first day of the three-day truce. Nidal, Ghadir’s 30-year-old brother found her dead body laid on the ground. He covered her with a sheet, sat next to her and cried.

In another case, the occupation’s army showed no compassion to 20-year-old Ahmed al-Awar, who also suffered from a handicap, as its planes bombed the building where the young man lived. He could not leave because his handicap restricted his movements, so he died a martyr and his body was retrieved from under the rubble.

Shahed al-Qirinawi was a blind seven-year-old child. She was playing with her sister Salwa inside their house in the town of al-Nassirat, in central Gaza. She had no clue the door that was supposed to protect her would fall on her as a result of the pressure emanating from a car that was bombed nearby. She was left with heavy injuries to her fragile body.

Her father Jihad said he left his little girls playing inside the house. Once he left, a municipality car was bombed and the door of their house was ripped off and hit his daughter Shahed.The wall also collapsed, hurting his other daughter Salwa.

The distraught father anxiously lifted Shahed while his older daughter carried Salwa and they all rushed to al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital located 500 meters away, as no ambulances were available. Shahed was later transferred to al-Shifa Hospital’s Medical Center due to the severity of her injuries, but she was later announced a martyr, after the many attempts to revive her heart failed.

Awni Matar, the chief of Gaza’s General Union for the Disabled denounced the international silence toward the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation in Gaza, urging human rights organizations and international bodies to provide the Palestinian people with international protection and take “real measures to hold those committing crimes against civilians in general, and particularly people with special needs, accountable.”

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Matar said the Israeli crimes went beyond all reason and humanity. [Israel] violated international agreements and charters, including article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the case of danger and humanitarian emergencies, which stipulates that member states should take all possible measures to insure the protection and the well-being of people with special needs who are found at risk, including in the situation of armed conflicts, humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters.

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Hezbollah leader warns ISIS is a growing threat to the region, must be defeated

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Demonstrators call for the end to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorism during a Kurdish demonstration in front of the White House on August 9, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo: AFP-Mandel Ngan)

Al-Akhbar conducted an exclusive six-hour-long interview with Hezbollah Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. In a multi-part series published over the last two days, journalists Ibrahim al-Amin, Wafic Qanso, Hassan Ileik and Maha Zureikat sat down with the party’s leader, where he discussed in detail issues ranging from Syria, ISIS, the recent Gaza war, the 2006 war with Israel, domestic Lebanese issues and his own personal habits.

The following section is focused specifically on the emergence of the Islamic State and its threat to region.

Some say Hezbollah began as an Islamist movement that did not believe in borders. At a later stage, it transformed into a national resistance movement that is Islamic in its nature. Today, it is a transnational resistance movement, fighting in Syria, in addition to news about its presence in Iraq and Yemen. To what extent is this precise and true? And to what extent do you agree with it?I would like to present things as they are, outside speculation and politics. Going to fight in Syria was, in the first place, to defend Lebanon, the Resistance in Lebanon, and all Lebanese without exception. The recent events in Ersal confirmed our perspective, even if our obstinate adversaries see it otherwise. Some people said we waged a preemptive war in Syria, but I don’t think this is precise; the war was at our borders.

Some March 14 factions today do not stop talking about sovereignty and nonintervention. They do not know, for example, that Ersal’s mountainside, extending for tens of kilometers, and several other mountainous areas in Bekaa have been occupied by armed Syrian groups since the beginning of the events. They established training camps, operations rooms, field hospitals, barracks, and meeting points inside Lebanese territory. That was before the first Hezbollah fighter went to Syria.

They tell us: you went there and brought them. But they have been here for a while. It has nothing to do with preemptive war. Qusayr is at the borders. Without the war waged in Qusayr, it was absolutely certain and this is confirmed every day that if it wasn’t for the Resistance, the armed groups would have quickly entered into Hermel and northern Bekaa. Our fighting in Syria does not contradict the national dimension of the Resistance, since we are defending our country at the borders. It is true we went to some areas inside Syria, but the battle was basically in the border regions.

What is more important is that everyone is threatened. What we used to say three years ago is today what everyone is talking about. Even our adversaries acknowledge that the situation in the region is a threat to [Lebanon’s] entities, regions, societies and peoples. It threatens the whole region and is beginning to impact the interests of major global powers. I believe it is the duty of all those who are able to be part of this battle to safeguard Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, the region, the Palestinian question, Muslims, Christians, and religious minorities.

Leave all theoretical, strategic, and tactical research aside and political and intellectual debate. There is a major threat, that conquers and moves forward, committing horrendous massacres, without any controls or limits in the intellectual, moral, religious, or humanitarian sense. There is a beast on the loose in the region. Should we thank or condemn those who fight this beast, to stop it from devouring the people of the region, its states, and entities? As for those who created and raised this monster, it is another matter, which will be dealt with later. I am still betting that a time will come when our opponents and those who remain unreasonable will tell us: you were right and thank you.

So you are certain this will happen?

The popular mood has changed. Politicians are the last ones who will change their frame of mind, since they are counting their benefits. Let’s take Ersal for example. Is the mood of its residents different today than it was before the recent events? Like some Future Movement leaders, we see them on the screens asking: is this how Ersal should be reawarded after it hosted and sheltered the refugees?

Of course, some people in Ersal did more than that, turning it into an advanced military base for armed groups. This was evident in al-Nusra Front’s statement following the events, which mentioned the mistake they committed in Ersal, because it meant so much for them. Through its geographic position, Ersal provided to the armed opposition – and I am not saying the residents of Ersal – what no other part of Lebanon could offer. So how did they reward the people of Ersal? Even before the recent battle, armed groups used to raid the town to steal, pillage, kill, and kidnap. Before the recent events, the people of Ersal asked for protection, because the de facto rulers were ISIS and al-Nusra.

Look at the mood of Christians in Lebanon. Didn’t it change? In northern Bekaa today, there is no longer March 8 Christians and March 14 Christians. Those who wanted to protect their home, village, or property were ready to carry guns, side by side with the army, to confront the armed Syrian opposition groups. There is no question about this. It is confirmed by data from the field and the villages. This mood is present today all over Lebanon. However, there are political figures who have an interest in belligerence. Today, there are those who say they will fight the battle against extremism, intolerance, and terrorism. Alright, show us what you mean. Although the Lebanese government does not have a list of terrorists yet, there are those who prepared this list and identified the terrorists.

Did MP Walid Jumblatt take his position in this context?

Definitely, this is part of his considerations. This monster called ISIS does not differentiate between friend and foe or ally and enemy and and it has no restrictions. Fighting these people is not a question of weapons and confrontation on the ground. The playing field should be established on thought, beliefs, culture, emotions, and feelings. It is not easy to reach the level of hatred, rancor, and emotional preparedness to spill the amount of blood they have. Is there anything similar in history? ISIS, according to the United Nations, buried Yazidi children and women alive. They turned slaughter into an art. How did they get to this point? This mentality was manufactured for years to reach such a level.Ultimately, who is in danger today? Look at the experience of ISIS in Syria. They killed everyone else. In Iraq, some say this is a war between Sunnis and Shia. How many Shia are in Ninevah and Salaheddine [provinces in North Iraq]? They killed Sunni mosque imams and Sunni tribal sheikhs who refused to pledge allegiance to the caliphate. They displaced a large number of Sunnis, demolishing their mosques and shrines before they did so to the Shia and their shrines. This is in addition to what they did to other minorities, like Christians and Yazidis. What logic allows one to displace tens of thousands to the mountains, besieging them until they die of thirst or hunger, watched by the world.

This threat does not know Shia or Sunnis, Muslims or Christians, Druzes or Yazidis, Arabs or Kurds. This beast is growing and expanding. There are certain fronts in Syria and Iraq that are making a stand against ISIS while some other fronts are witnessing local improvement on the terrain, in a city here or a village or town there. However, the capacity, preparedness, and resources available to ISIS are huge. This is a cause of concern to everyone and everyone should be worried.

For example, the Kurds made bad calculations. When things started happening in Mosul, the Kurds entered into disputed Iraqi territories and said they were not concerned with other areas. It was the responsibility of other Iraqis – Shias, Sunnis, Yazidis, and Christians – who should take care of themselves. The Kurdish leadership believed that ISIS will reach a point where it will stop its expansion and that they are not a threat to the Kurdish region. This could have been their analysis or based on guarantees by ISIS or its regional sponsors. However, when ISIS was only 30 to 40 kilometers from Erbil, the Kurdish leadership had to ask for US, Western, Iranian, Iraqi, or any other help.

ISIS does not have any borders. It is a real danger and many countries and sides are worried. One of the main features of the organization is its ability to attract all those who adopt al-Qaeda’s theories or Wahhabism. How difficult is it for someone from al-Nusra to join ISIS? There’s no problem there, since they possess the same ideology, idea, literature, behavior, and practices. Their dispute is institutional, between those who support Abu Mohammed al-Joulani and those who support Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the emir. So if someone from al-Nusra discovers that ISIS is achieving his goals, he will join them. ISIS is able to dissolve al-Nusra, not necessarily by military force, but by attracting al-Nusra members into [joining] ISIS.

Those who carry this takfiri Wahhabi [ideology] were being prepared for decades and billions of dollars were spent on them. Anywhere in the world, they can find hope, security, purpose, and the future in ISIS. Some countries know what they created and nurtured. Thus, their diagnosis of the threat of ISIS is more important and precise than ours for example, since they know what they have. Without exaggeration, there is actual terror in the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia today. This is the thought they have been teaching people for decades in the schools and curricula.Thus, we say there is a grave danger and everyone should be worried. There is a real threat against entities, societies, states, people, and, certainly, religious minorities. Inside the Islamic circle, all the confessional minorities are under threat; all the Ashaari Sunnis – who make up the majority of the sect – are in real danger. The threat is to their lives, money, honor, children, women, and everything they hold as sacred.

But we don’t want to create a state of terror among people. This danger can certainly be confronted, overcome, and defeated, but the situation needs to be taken seriously. In Qusayr, Qalamoun, and other places, we did not fight the Free Syrian Army, the secularists, or the liberals. We fought that ideology and defeated it. But people need to take a stand and be aware and on alert.

Concerning former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s return [to Lebanon], could it be that the Saudis have started to sense the need to pick up the pieces and hand over the leadership to the moderate current against terrorism?

It is possible.

In your recent meetings with politicians, you anticipated the ISIS incursion towards [Iraqi] Kurdistan before it occurred. Why do you think they headed north and steered away from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey?

Their time will come. Where there are followers of takfiri thought, there will always be fertile ground for ISIS. This exists in Jordan, Saudi, Kuwait, and the Gulf states. No state will be safe from the wrath of ISIS when its time comes, even if it believes it could provide support for this organization or try to exploit it. The Turks are in a similar situation. In any case, did ISIS parachute from the sky? Everyone knows which borders those fighters – who came from all over the world – had used to get in, who were their facilitators, and who provided them with money, weapons, and capabilities. From the start, we believed that they will taste their own poison. They created this serpent and it turned against them, whoever they are; the Americans, the Turks, or the Gulf States. Those who believe they could run this game and control its tools and directions are deluded and suspect.

Doesn’t some responsibility fall on the Syrian and Iraqi army in the growth of ISIS and delaying the confrontation?

We cannot blame Syria, since it started the confrontation with the armed groups at the start, regardless of who they were and their names.

Didn’t the Syrian army stay away from ISIS at one time?

There was no contact between the Syrian army and ISIS. In the Iraqi situation, there is great debate. What occurred in Mosul is a serious issue and was not due to ISIS heroism. Then why would they stop their incursion in many places due to the efforts of some official and popular Iraqi forces?

Do you think the advance of Baghdad has stopped?

As far as I know, yes – to a large degree.

What do you think of Baghdadi’s media presence?It is not his policy to appear in the media, but I think he appeared to solve a theological issue. When ISIS proposed him as caliph, this started a debate in the Muslim world among Sunni scholars about how to pledge allegiance to someone whose name and personality is unknown and when information about him is unavailable. It is forbidden to pledge allegiance to an unknown person; we should pledge to a known person. Thus, he was forced to come out and become known, to open the door for people being able to pledge allegiance to him, grounded in the nature of his administration and movement.

He traced his bloodline to Quraish, since there is a hadith [saying by the Prophet] which indicates that imams are from Quraish. According to the theological schools, the caliph must be from Quraish. However, the emir of a country, whether king, president, or prince, cannot be considered the Muslim caliph, who should be from Quraish. Since Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s project is the caliphate, he had to tell them he was from Quraish to legitimize the pledge. He wants to tell us he is from Quraish and a member of the [Prophet’s] house, since this question has an important impact for the both Shia and Sunnis.

The Sunnis love and respect the people of the [Prophet’s] house and this is not debatable. It is a special segment and sometimes there are errors in this distinction. For example, the term nawasib [those who raise] or nasibi is not a Shia term. It is an Islamic term, used by both Shia and Sunni scholars, which means those who raise/carry enmity towards the people of the house, peace be upon them, those who consider them as enemies, are malicious and offensive to them. This is not a Shia term. If you look at the books used by Sunni scholars to evaluate the hadithtellers, they would say so and so was a nasibi; they also use the term. The nawasib are a special case. Most Sunnis love and respect the people of the house, peace be upon them. But this love varies from place to place. Thus, [Baghdadi] says he is from Quraish and I am also from the people of the house. I don’t know if what he claims is true, is he Hassani or Husseini or Quraishi? God only knows.

Posted in LebanonComments Off on Hezbollah leader warns ISIS is a growing threat to the region, must be defeated

Hezbollah leader claims battles would have reached Beirut if party had not intervened in Syria

NOVANEWS
Supporters of Hezbollah carries a poster bearing the portrait of Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during a gathering to mark the “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) International Day” in Beirut’s southern suburb on July 25, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Anwar Amro)

Al-Akhbar conducted an exclusive six-hour-long interview with Hezbollah Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. In a multi-part series published over the last two days, journalists Ibrahim al-Amin, Wafic Qanso, Hassan Ileik and Maha Zureikat sat down with the party’s leader, where he discussed in detail issues ranging from Syria, ISIS, the recent Gaza war, the 2006 war with Israel, domestic Lebanese issues and his own personal habits.

The following section is focused specifically on the ongoing conflict in Syria and the characteristics of Hezbollah.

Does Hezbollah feel responsible for Shia Arabs (Twelver Shias, Ismailis, Alawis, etc.)?

There is always someone trying to promote this characterization of us. Hezbollah was established nationally and regionally as a resistance [movement] against Israel, and achieved in this battle great accomplishments and major victories. It was clear to Arab governments and all political forces that Hezbollah was among the serious forces, if not the most serious force, that have taken it upon themselves to confront the Zionist project. Consequently, there can be no questioning of the connection Hezbollah has to the conflict with Israel, and the realities on the ground in Palestine. For this reason, as [dramatic] developments came to the region, there were attempts to exploit [divisions] in every arena. In Egypt, because there is no Sunni/Shia [split], the schism was painted as opposition vs. the regime. The same thing happened in Libya and Tunisia. But in Iraq, they opted for sectarian incitement, and the countries and media outlets that took Iraq to that kind of incitement, during and after the US occupation, are well known. When the incidents erupted in Syria, they also turned the conflict into a sectarian one through agitation, incitement, and [inflammatory] rhetoric, mobilizing fighters from all over the world.For Hezbollah, when it offers any help or support in any one arena, its calculations are not sectarian, but are rather based on what we call the nation’s battle, the nation’s project, and the interests of our countries and peoples. For example, when the Americans occupied Iraq, part of the Iraqi popular mood was not on the side of the Resistance because of Saddam Hussein’s oppression of the Iraqi people, and because of successive wars and the embargo. This is normal because the people were exhausted. But, and this is no longer a secret, who was it that devoted its political discourse, and all its media capabilities, relations, and contacts, from day one, all the way to [forging] a relationship on the field with the Iraqi Resistance, especially in Shia circles? Hezbollah did not go to work in line with the Shia mood, but rather to work on this mood, and through any margin available for resisting the US occupation of Iraq.

Resistance took off in Iraq, and a large part of it was, to put in quotes, a Shia resistance, in the sense that the factions engaged in resistance were affiliated to Shia Iraqis. A large number of the operations were documented by video, but the Arab satellite channels, like Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya and others, refused to carry them. Isn’t that odd? Why did that happen? Because they did not – and this is not an accusation against Sunnis but against some regimes – want to acknowledge the existence of a Shia resistance with ties to the Iraqi Resistance.

From the outset, they opted for sectarian agitation in the Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebanese issues. They insist that the Resistance in Lebanon is Shia. We tell them this is a national Lebanese resistance [movement] for all Lebanese. It just happened that Shia live on the borders with the enemy entity, which is why they are the ones fighting, yet they insist we are a Shia and Iranian resistance, and so on. Those who want to continue using this characterization let them do whatever they want. But for us, we were keen from the beginning on stressing that our presence in Syria was not on a sectarian basis, and that we had helped resistance in Iraq on non-sectarian grounds as well. We have helped Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Palestinian factions, which happen to be Sunni. It has always attempted to cover up our contribution in Palestine to project upon us a sectarian motive. We say: Where we can defend Palestine, the Resistance Axis, and the people, where we can be present and where we can help, then we will do so. If Hezbollah has the will to defend its people and the cause of its nation, and is willing to do so, then this is not a crime or a sin. The question should be directed to the others: Why do you not shoulder your responsibilities and why do you not defend?

If Hezbollah had not fought in Qusayr and in Qalamoun, the last battle would not have been confined to Ersal alone. The Bekaa would have been “finished,” and they [the extremists] would have reached Mount Lebanon, Akkar, and the coast, and the battle would have been in Beirut and the South. This much is certain. Offering martyrs to save all these lives, dignity, and properties is a logical, religious, moral, patriotic, and humanitarian duty.

You said that Hezbollah is a phenomenon rather than a party, and therefore it represents all Shia, especially in the current climate. But those who (in times of peace) may be with the Resistance, may be against Hezbollah in matters of development, or municipal and parliamentary affairs, which has prompted accusations against Hezbollah of imposing itself on the Shia.I cannot accept this characterization. But at any rate, this is normal. Hezbollah is made of humans. There is an arena of sacrifices where it operates, where you may find all people are on its side, such as the arena of resistance. But in other arenas, this clarity may not be present for all people like it would be in the arena of resistance. People who operate in these other arenas may commit mistakes. The difference is that in certain areas, mistakes might appear, while in others, those engaged in action might make mistakes that people cannot see. In all cases, it is difficult for a group of humans, call it a party or a movement, to operate in all domains and please all people, or capture all their ambitions, hopes, and expectations.

Hezbollah has many advantages, at the level of ethics, seriousness, commitment, and faithfulness, but they are also human, who have certain capabilities and capacities. This is while bearing in mind that we, in many areas, are keen on diversifying [partners] and do not handle responsibilities alone, including in municipal affairs. There are many mayors for whose work, even when positive, Hezbollah cannot take responsibility. Sometimes, positive things could be the result of personal efforts rather than an agenda. On the issue of municipalities, there are norms and traditions that even Hezbollah could not bypass, including the subject of family representation. Municipal councils, even those affiliated to Hezbollah, cannot claim to be Hezbollah institutions. For this reason, in this regard, people need constant development. In addition, the conduct of individuals and officials, which varies from one place to another and between one person and another, their convictions and their moods, all these things play a role. What remains is the issue of resistance. I am with the notion that there is no problem even if people make a distinction, though I don’t mean making a full separation. A person might tell you: On the issue of resistance, I support Hezbollah, but on the municipal issue, I do not, or in trade unions, or on a stance on a particular piece of legislation. This is normal. At one time, I said: separate resistance as resistance and a just cause, from the attitude vis-à-vis Hezbollah or the dispute with Hezbollah that can start from supporting a certain mukhtar or student body in a university to the president of the republic. We can disagree on other issues, but [the question should be] how can we work without the dispute with people or political forces being reflected on the issue of resistance?

There is a feeling among people that despite offering many martyrs, no one appreciates it, which raises questions about its worthwhileness?

Even in Iraq, there were those who asked, like in Lebanon, what has brought Hezbollah to Syria? Some would debate us regarding the motive and causes. After what happened in Iraq, they have accepted our vision. Today, whether in Iraq or even in Syria, the popular mood is of concern to us, and the popular mood has begun to change. I am receiving a lot of gratitude.

From people or from politicians?

It has nothing to do with politicians. People in our environment are aware of this battle, and in other environments, this awareness is growing and so is the sense of danger. I have received very important messages. There are people who have reservations about talking in the media. As for the politicians, be confident that whatever we give them, they will never be satisfied nor will they acknowledge it. Unfortunately, there is a group of politicians who now have an automatic hostility [to us], unrelated to whether what we are doing is right or not. In some stages, international and regional actors had instructed groups affiliated to them to antagonize us, but their enmity has reached such an extent that even the actors who were behind them are telling them the priorities have now changed. There is no solution that works with these [groups].Can Syria help in earnest with an issue like the refugee issue, by allowing them to return?

The problem is, do the displaced want to return? We are all willing to help them. Some can return and live in safety and security. There are entire areas, in Damascus, Homs, Qalamoun, and elsewhere, where the militants fought the state for three years and then entered into the settlements, and today no one is harassing them. These were fighting, so how [can it be worse] for those who only fled? So let us look for the real reasons why some insist on taking refuge in Lebanon specifically. This requires a serious will among those refugees first, and a decision by the political forces second, to stop using the refugees against the regime, humanitarianly, morally, militarily, and politically. These [forces] are encouraging the militants to bring their families to Lebanon so that they can fight [more freely] there. Incidentally, I confirm that Lebanese support for militant groups in some Syrian regions continues, in terms of funding, arming, intervention, care, and guidance, though away from the spotlight. This is continuing and has not changed. What is required is a political decision to stop using the refugees, and subsequently, initiate cooperation with the Syrian government to return them to their country. What I know is that Syria is very willing to cooperate in this regard.

Does your participation in the war in Syria exhaust Hezbollah in terms of both men and material, and to what extent can Hezbollah bear this risk?

To say that it exhausts [Hezbollah] is an exaggeration. But in any case, the sacrifices Hezbollah has made in Syria, from the start of its intervention to the present day, remains much less than the sacrifices and costs Hezbollah and all the Lebanese would have had to pay later if had not intervened.

Has the fighting in Syria revealed tactics that Hezbollah wanted to keep as a surprise for the Israelis?

What has been prepared for Israel differs naturally from the battle we are fighting against the armed groups. I do not see that anything Hezbollah had prepared or hidden for the battle with Israel has been exposed. On the contrary, and this is one of the positive upshots – but not the reason to go to Syria naturally – this battle has imparted on us further experience, knowledge, and broader horizons that can be put to use in a better way in any future confrontation with the enemy, both in attack and defense. Israel is watching Hezbollah’s experience in Syria. A lot has been said in Israeli discussions, that Hezbollah, after the experience of Qusayr and Qalamoun, can implement lessons from those two experiences in a battle in the Galilee. The battle in Syria gives us an edge in any battle with the Israeli enemy, and nothing has been lost from our hands that would have been beneficial in the battle with the enemy.

Have you clashed with the Israelis inside Syria?

Directly, no.

Does Hezbollah’s presence in Syria help the people of the Golan Heights launch a popular resistance movement?This depends on their will. When you talk about resistance in any given area, if the people of that area, the locals living in that land, have a will to resist, you can be an element of help as had happened in Lebanon. In 1982, the Iranians and Syrians did not come to fight in Lebanon. There were Lebanese people who had the will to fight to liberate their land, so helping them was meaningful.

Both before and after the IED attack in Shebaa, there have been multiple attacks in the Golan. Is Hezbollah linked to those attacks?

What I know is that there is a real formation present there, a popular formation that expresses a certain will. They are the ones at work, not us.

Is it true that you met with Syrian dissidents recently, and that some have since changed their stances?

There is no need for those I met to change their positions. But I can say they understood our position.

Do you make distinctions among the elements that make up the Syrian opposition?

Practically, in the current reality, the external opposition no longer has any presence inside Syria. It did not have any presence to begin with, in my opinion, and had no influence in the Syrian interior. They are a group of political, cultural, or intellectual figures who were brought together in the framework of a certain political project. The majority of them live on the doors of embassies, hotels, and remain at the doors of embassies and hotels. This is not just my opinion, but their own opinion. Major symbols in the so-called national opposition coalition say this in meetings with their Lebanese friends. They say that they just talk and meet and issue statements, and that they had only grown more divided by the embassies and [foreign] powers, and the so-called Friends of Syria group. This is the reality of the opposition abroad. So where is this opposition in the political and the field equation today? It has no value or influence. The field is run by the armed groups. Even the Free [Syrian] Army was not an army, but a group of separate armed groups that sometimes coordinate with one another and many times fight with one another over spoils, checkpoints, and border crossings. Practically now, a large part of the battlefield is with ISIS, and a smaller part with al-Nusra Front, and another part with what has been recently called the Islamic Front. As for national, secular, or civil groups, they do not exist anymore. I don’t want to quote [US President Barack] Obama on this, but he is an expert on them. The American ambassador ran a large part of the opposition. Now, the opposition on the ground is made up of mostly extremist armed groups that fight one another. This has been the ultimate outcome of the situation. Even if we want to find certain political forces in the opposition to engage them in dialogue or for a settlement, we will not find any.

Posted in LebanonComments Off on Hezbollah leader claims battles would have reached Beirut if party had not intervened in Syria

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