Archive | August 14th, 2011

Worsening economic crisis sees violent repression escalate

Proletarian Online

Two years after Ian Tomlinson was killed by a baton-wielding policeman, there has finally been an inquest verdict that the killing was unlawful.

In the words of the foreman:

“Mr Tomlinson was on his way home from work on 1 April 2009, during the G20 demonstrations. He was fatally injured at around 19.20 in Royal Exchange Buildings, the passage near to the junction with Cornhill, London EC3. This was as a result of a baton strike from behind and a push in the back by a police officer, which caused Mr Tomlinson to fall heavily. Both the baton strike and the push were excessive and unreasonable. As a result, Mr Tomlinson suffered internal bleeding, which led to his collapse within a few minutes and his subsequent death. At the time of the strike and the push, Mr Tomlinson was walking away from the police line. He was complying with police instructions to leave Royal Exchange Buildings, the passage. He posed no threat.”

That these facts came to light at all is down to the fact an American businessman in a nearby building made a video-recording of what happened and made it available, totally undermining the cover-up that usually follows acts of police brutality. The state’s response to this form of evidence has been to make it illegal to photograph or video policemen!

In this case, however, the Crown Prosecution Service has been forced to reverse its original decision not to bring a charge of manslaughter against the police officer in question, PC Simon Harwood.

What this affair has uncovered for all to see is the iron fist of the bourgeois state, which comes down hard on any mass mobilisation for fear that the masses, if not tightly constrained, will one day threaten bourgeois rule – which is, after all, rule by a tiny minority of the population over the vast majority.

The agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement have been highly effective at stressing the need for protests to be ‘peaceful’ at all times, so that 2 million people can march against imperialist war in the streets of London but be safely ignored by the bourgeoisie. However, as the crisis of capitalism worsens, and more and more people see their hopes for the future destroyed and their standards of living collapse, anger does begin to mount, and it becomes much more difficult for the labour lieutenants of capital to defuse it by the usual prescription of long walks and soporific speeches by the great and the good. Anticipating this, the bourgeoisie is now seeking to frighten people off going to demonstrations altogether.

The Tomlinson enquiry has ripped off the veil of British bourgeois democracy to reveal not a glorious beauty but a vile monster, which lashes out wantonly to frighten people into submission. It has shown that it is not even a question of punishing people who have actually dared to take up arms against bourgeois rule – nobody has been doing anything of the sort – but simply of terrorising everybody so that they will never even [I]think of challenging the capitalist order.

This is why there are so many unprovoked attacks on demonstrators. This is what lies behind the practice of ‘kettling’, keeping demonstrators penned in for hours, not allowing anybody to leave even individually to go to the bathroom, and treating them as violent maniacs if they so much as ask to be allowed to leave.

Ian Tomlinson was just such a ‘violent maniac’. He wasn’t even a demonstrator; he just wanted to go home. He was unarmed, middle-aged, unfit, harmless – the ideal target for police brutality.

After Ian Tomlinson’s death, the machinery for absolving the police from responsibility went into overdrive. After all, this crime was only committed on orders from above not to be afraid to let the demonstrators have it. If the plods are going to continue to obey such orders, then they have to be protected from any consequences.

The attempt at a cover-up proves that the order to dish out violence came from above and was not just random brutality on the part of an individual police officer. It started with the original forensic pathologist, who ‘overlooked’ the fact that the victim’s abdomen was bloated with blood (a consequence of being shoved so hard that he fell violently). The pathologist proclaimed that Ian had died of a heart attack, a conclusion that three other pathologists have since unanimously disputed.

Moreover, when three police officers based at Hammersmith & Fulham station, having recognised Tomlinson’s photograph after his death, reported that they had seen him being attacked by another police officer, their reports mysteriously were not passed on to the pathologist. If there was no intention to cover up, the pathologist would surely have been asked to report specifically on the question of whether the police action caused a fatal injury. As it was, the information was suppressed.

Police brutality is an increasing feature at demonstrations in London – not only at the one protesting the G20 but also at those in support of Palestine and those against increasing student fees. However, only a tiny minority of police assaults are reported, since there is generally no evidence available to the victim – the police have access to CCTV footage; the public do not.

A tiny woman, Nicola Fisher, was assaulted at the G20 demonstrations by Police Sergeant Delroy Smellie, who slapped her in the face and then struck her with a baton while she was walking away from him. He was charged with assault, but was acquitted, in spite of compelling video evidence. (See – Accused G20 Police officer cleared )

There were two notorious incidents at last year’s student demonstrations. One, for which there is video evidence, is of a wheelchair-bound sufferer from cerebral palsy being very roughly dragged out of his wheelchair and across the road by police thugs. He had earlier been struck by a baton. In an interview with the BBC, the interviewer drew attention to the fact that the young man, Jody McIntyre, describes himself online as a “revolutionary”, as if, although he hadn’t been in a position to threaten anybody physically on the demonstration, somehow it was OK for the police to justify their assault against him with this information afterwards – so much for freedom of thought and freedom of expression!

In spite of the video evidence showing the brutality used against Jody, the Independent Police Complaints Commission found that the police were not guilty of any impropriety but had actually acted in Jody’s best interests (!), while the earlier baton strike was deemed to have been ‘inadvertent’.

Another student, Alfie Meadows, nearly died after being hit on the head with a police baton as he was trying to leave the demonstration. He was only saved by emergency brain surgery – after the police had tried to stop him getting medical help. No independent video evidence has been forthcoming in his case, but it has now been announced that he is being charged with violent disorder along with 10 other young people. Alfie Meadows’ case comes up at City of Westminster magistrates’ court on 9 June.

The courts are, of course, also part of the bourgeois state machine, and normally use any excuse for siding with the police, as they did in Nicola Fisher’s case. We will see when the manslaughter case against PC Simon Harwood and the violent disorder case against Alfie Meadows come to trial this month whether there are any limits on their shamelessness. If there are, it will only be as a result of public pressure for justice.

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Rage against capitalism; the working class fights back


Statement by CPGB-ML, 9 August 2011


The riots that broke out in Tottenham, north London, on the night of Saturday 6 August, and again over subsequent nights, spreading first to communities across London, and then to cities around the country, represent the spontaneous anger of broad sections of working people, particularly the poorest and most oppressed, at police violence, racism and the increasingly intolerable burden of the capitalist crisis that they are being forced to carry, not only through cuts but also through high unemployment and dead-end jobs.

Until now the British working class had been relatively quiescent in the face of increasing police repression and worsening living conditions and social provision, but the events of the past few days have changed all that and shown once more the fighting spirit of the British proletariat. Young working-class people in particular have shown that they are not prepared to lie down indefinitely while they are kicked like a dog by the lickspittles of the British ruling class.

The immediate catalyst for the riots was the police shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of three, who was killed by police in the early evening of Thursday 4 August in the Tottenham Hale area as he was on his way home to the nearby Broadwater Farm estate by minicab.

Mark’s killing was reportedly part of a planned police operation, forming part of Operation Trident, which is supposedly directed at ‘gun crime’ in the African Caribbean community, and was carried out by CO19, a specialist firearms unit.

As is generally the case in instances where a member of the public is killed by the police, initial reports emanating from the police are contradictory and untrustworthy. The police will naturally seek to cover their tracks and, in best mafia style, cover for one another. The bourgeois press can also be expected to play its part. The ongoing News International scandal has shone a light on the corrupt relationship between the police and the media, who are both, at the end of the day, servants of the same billionaire masters.

We have seen such police lies and cover-ups again and again, from Blair Peach through to more recent cases, such as those of Jean Charles de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson, Kingsley Burrel and Smiley Culture. As a result, families of the bereaved in particular, and working-class communities in general, know that they cannot rely on the police for truth or for justice. They are learning that they need to organise and fight back.

In the case of Mark Duggan, the police initially claimed that one of their officers only escaped serious injury because his radio got in the way of a bullet. However, on 8 August, the Guardian reported that initial ballistics tests have shown that this bullet was police issue. Far from there having been an exchange of fire, latest reports suggest that the only non-police issue firearm found anywhere near the scene was concealed in a sock and therefore not in any way ready for use.

In response, Mark’s family and friends called a peaceful vigil outside the local police station on Saturday 6 August. Whole families and young children joined the protest, with homemade placards, shouting, “No justice, no peace.”

Frustration mounted as police continued to refuse any dialogue with protestors or to provide Mark’s family with any explanation as to how he came to be killed. Stafford Scott, a long-time community organiser in the area, commented:

“If a senior police officer had come to speak to us, we would have left. We arrived at 5pm; we had planned a one-hour silent protest. We were there until 9pm. Police were absolutely culpable. Had they been more responsive when we arrived at the police station, asking for a senior officer to talk with the family, we would have left the vicinity before the unrest started. It is unforgivable [that] police refused dialogue.”

It further appears that the first night of rioting was sparked by the brutal police beating, with shields and batons, of a 16-year-old girl taking part in the protest. The Guardian reported:

‘They beat her with a baton, and then the crowd started shouting “run, run”, and there was a hail of missiles,’ said Anthony Johnson, 39. ‘She had been saying: “We want answers, come and speak to us.”‘

Laurence Bailey, who was in a nearby church, described seeing the girl throw a leaflet and what may have been a stone at police.

Bailey said the girl was then ‘pounded by 15 riot shields’. ‘She went down on the floor but once she managed to get up she was hit again before being half-dragged away by her friend,’ he said.

It was following this vicious assault on a teenage girl that groups of young men reportedly started to attack police cars.

The Guardian described the composition of the rioters on the first night in Tottenham as follows:

The make-up of the rioters was racially mixed. Most were men or boys, some apparently as young as 10.

But families and other local residents, including some from Tottenham’s hasidic jewish community, also gathered to watch and jeer at police.

A teenage woman who had been a friend of Mark Duggan’s told a reporter from Socialist Worker:

“When I saw jewish people out tonight too I was happy. I thought, ‘It’s not just us’. They gave bread out to us. It isn’t just kids out tonight. It’s everyone.”

Whilst the shooting of Mark Duggan provoked the initial protests in Tottenham, the subsequent riots reflect the hatred felt towards the police in black, working-class and poor communities throughout London and up and down the country, as well as the anger and despair engendered by grinding poverty.

They are a spontaneous protest against deaths at the hands of the police, stop and search, which is running at record levels, poor educational and health provision, poor and overcrowded housing, lack of amenities (in the borough of Haringey where Tottenham is located, eight out of a total of 13 youth clubs were closed just last week) and unemployment (Haringey has one vacancy for every 54 jobseekers).

Predictably, much is made of the acts of looting that are an inevitable feature of such spontaneous outbursts. However, they should not be allowed to detract from the main character of the events, namely a justified revolt against police killings and repression, racism and poverty.

Moreover, it is capitalist society itself that flaunts its luxury goods at the poor, sending out a message that you are scarcely human if you don’t possess a flatscreen plasma TV and the latest designer labels, while at the same time depriving masses of people of jobs, or paying wages too miserly to enable these goods to be bought.

Meanwhile, some ‘looters’ have been reported as making off with such essentials as toilet rolls and disposable nappies. Others have kept their focus clearly on symbols of state repression. The Guardian reported:

A group of young men emerged from Haringey and Enfield magistrates court wielding hammers.

They had shunned the temptation of the looted stores to break seven windows in the courthouse. It is a place some rioters presumably visited in the past; others are likely to be summoned in the near future.

Of course, politicians from all the bourgeois parties have rushed to condemn the protestors as criminals and have promised nothing but increased and more brutal repression. Hundreds have already been arrested. Yet it is the worthies of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties who, in the service of the British capitalist class, are the real criminals, presiding over class war at home and imperialist war abroad.

It is important to note that the black Labour MPs have been no less vociferous than any others in branding their constituents as criminals and calling for increased police repression, including not only Tottenham MP David Lammy but also Hackney’s Diane Abbott, darling of much of the ‘left’ and erstwhile heroine of the opportunist ‘Black Section’ movement in the Labour party.

These parasitic scoundrels owe their petty positions and place precisely to the earlier struggles of the black communities they now openly despise. This is a salient reminder that what is at issue is not a race-based struggle that can in the end only benefit a thin layer of opportunists who seek to jump aboard the bandwagon, but a struggle against racism and capitalism in which all working people, whatever their skin colour, have a stake and should play their part.

Another darling of the left, Ken Livingstone, has made much of his own record of increasing police numbers while he was in office as Mayor of London, and has no doubt endeared himself greatly to senior Met officers by using the unrest in London as an excuse to demand that the government ditch its planned cuts to the police force.

Events of recent days have shown once again that poor working-class communities know fully well that the police are not a neutral or benign body dedicated to serving the community and helping old ladies across the street, but a ruthless gang of thugs dedicated to violently upholding the rule of the rich. To put it in Marxist terms, they are a special body of (increasingly) armed men, whose job is to enforce the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

The young people on the streets are also learning a lesson that the capitalist class would very much rather they quickly forget. Namely, that if enough people rise up simultaneously and in enough places, there is not much the ruling class can do to stop them, since the police and others who make up the forces of the state are actually very few in numbers compared to the masses of the working class.

The crucial lesson that the working class urgently needs to learn is that the real source of their misery and frustration is the capitalist system of production. This system is kept in place by the hirelings of a handful of billionaires, who grow richer by the hour while pressing down hard on those who work to create those riches. As economic crisis threatens the billionaires’ profits, they are pressing even harder, reducing to a minimum and below not only workers’ wages, but also the social benefits they need, while being quite unable to provide work for millions more people who need a decent job.

Communists support and defend the oppressed when they rise up, but we have seen massive uprisings before, generally in the same communities as current events, for example in 1981 and 1985. But so long as capitalism remains in place, it continues inexorably to impoverish the working class; and overthrowing capitalism is impossible without conscious organisation for that purpose, for which trustworthy proletarian leadership is required. So long as capitalism remains in place, the real gains of workers’ struggles, however magnificent, are transient and reversible – precisely why the events of previous years are being repeated today.

Communities certainly need to form themselves into self-defensive bodies to resist the police and other agents of bourgeois repression. But above all the working class needs its own general staff, which can lead not only in defensive struggles but also in the struggle to overthrow the increasingly criminal rule of the bourgeois class of heartless billionaires whose system treats the millions of working-class people as vermin.

This general staff can only be a communist party, guided by the science of Marxism Leninism: the accumulated wisdom of more than a century and a half of struggle by the working people of the whole world. The CPGB-ML is fighting to build such a party and welcomes class-conscious people to join its ranks. With your help, we can organise to enable the working class to seize power and build a new society where it is the interests of working-class people that will determine what we build and how we live, rather than the requirements of the rich to make profits.

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The Spirit of Rachel Corrie Mission to Gaza: Breaking the Illegal Siege The Blockade Runners Part II

By Julie Lévesque

Global Research Editor’s Note


The following text recounts how the Gaza siege was almost broken by a lone humanitarian ship.

What the Spirit of Rachel Corrie achieved, its crew and passengers, constitutes an outstanding act of courage and determination, taking the Israeli Navy totally by surprise.

Global Research’s Julie Lévesque participated in this mission to Gaza organized by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF). This is her vivid account of the Spirit of Rachel Corrie mission, pertaining to the day by day life on the ship, recounting in detail the actions of those who, acting in solidarity with Palestine, put their life in danger with a view to breaking the illegal Israeli siege of Gaza.

On May 16, 2011, when the Spirit of Rachel Corrie entered Palestinian waters undetected and was attacked by patrol boats of the Israeli Navy, the Western media in chorus decided not to cover this pathbreaking event…

Michel Chossudovsky, August 7, 2011

“The Navy has prevented and will continue to prevent the arrival of the ‘hate flotilla’ whose only goals are to clash with IDF soldierscreate media provocation and to delegitimize the State of Israel,” –Israel Navy commander Adm. Eliezer Marom warning to the Gaza flotilla organizers (Anshel Pfeffer, Israel Navy commander: ‘Hate flotilla’ to Gaza must be stopped, June 19, 2011)

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has published a list of people who are classified as anti-Semitic in 2010. I am listed among the top 10. I suppose what I had said in 2010 is regarded by the Jewish [Wiesenthal] Centre as slurs but I was merely exercising my right to free speech to speak up against what I considered as injustice. I condemned Israel for breaking international laws, carrying out an illegal siege of Gaza, attacking and seizing the Mavi Marmara and the Rachel Corrie in international waterskilling nine Turkish aid workers, and continuing to deprive the suffering people of Gaza of medical supplies, construction material and food.” (Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, The Anti-Semitic, Former Prime minister of Malaysia, December 24, 2010)

Click here for the first part of this article: The Blockade Runners Part I

The idea of sending flotillas to Gaza originally came from former Malaysian Prime Minister and Perdana Global Peace Foundation’s (PGPF) founder Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. For decades now he has been a very outspoken advocate of the rights of the Palestinians. Like most people who take a firm a stand against the illegal actions of the state of Israel, he was labelled “anti-Semitic”. This type of ad hominem attack is the only stratagem left for those who wish to defend an illegal and immoral occupation.

PGPF’s goal is to make war a crime. “We can not allow people to kill and glorify killing. We need to change the mindset and reject war as a means of settling  disputes. This is the beginning of a very long saga which will take many years,” explained Tun Mahathir.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s keynote address at the War Crimes
Conference and Exhibition in October 2009

In 2010, PGPF joined the Freedom Flotilla with the “Rachel Corrie”. This year it decided to act alone and send its ship, the “Spirit of Rachel Corrie” (SRC), ahead of the Freedom Flotilla II. The mission’s ultimate goal was to “bring liberty in Gaza” and “prove to the world that Israel has no right to impose this illegal siege”, Mahathir told the participants of the mission about to set sail on the SRC.

In the light of the recent failed attempt of the Freedom Flottilla II, the SRC mission can be considered a success: it is the only ship this year to have entered Palestinan waters. Its modus operandi should serve as an example for future attempts to break the illegal siege of Gaza.

Humanitarian “False Flag Operation”

May 11, 2011, a ship registered as the MV Finch flying the Moldovan flag left the Greek port of Piraeus unnoticed. It was the Spirit of Rachel Corrie Mission (SRC). On board were 12 crew members and passengers: 7 Malaysians, 2 Indians, 2 Irish and 1 Canadian.

Fearing that they would be prevented to sail to their destination, the organizers of the mission opted for a low profile rather than a big media campaign. They neither disclosed where they were leaving  from, nor where they were going to.

It turned out to be a good idea. Unlike the Freedom Flotilla II which was supposed to sail to Gaza, they were able to leave the Greek port of Piraeus without any form of encroachment and sail towards Palesitne.

It should be noted that in December 2010, the Jerusalem Post reported that a “[m]ulti-million deal [was] in the works to sell weapons system for Hellenic Air Force’s F-16 fleet”, and that given Greece’s poor economy, “officials said they were seeking creative ways for Greece to pay for the systems”. (Yaakov Katz, Israeli defense industries in talks with Greek army, The Jerusalem Post, December 12, 2010. Emphasis added)

The report further stated that the ties between Greece and Israel have improved “since May’s navy raid on a Turkish flotilla” following which, “Turkey cut off all military and political ties with Israel”. (Ibid.)

Had the Greek authorities known of the Spirit of Rachel Corrie’s (SRC) ultimate destination, they would have prevented it from leaving Greek waters, as they did with this year’s “Freedom Flotilla”.

May 16, 6am. Sailing out of Egyptian waters five days later, the SRC entered Palestinian waters undetected, to the great surprise of Palestinian fishermen, dazed at the view of foreign passengers on a ship waving and smiling at them.

Boats try to break the siege regularly. Not ships.

“Palestine! Palestine!”, they yelled with astonishment pointing at the water, probably thinking the captain was lost.

“We’re going to Gaza!” one of the passengers yelled back. Gaza? And they started pointing in that direction, nodding, smiling and yelling “Gaza! Gaza!”

They could not believe it.

Since everyone was soon expecting an encounter with the Israeli Navy, that moment lightened the atmosphere on the ship. But not for long. The ship continued its course until the passengers and crew saw two speed boats from the Israeli Navy coming towards the ship.

“They’re coming.” said Jenny Graham, the Irish activist. She started making a call with a satellite phone when the first machine gun shots were fired.

Half of the passengers ran for cover in an enclosed area on the deck. Other passengers and crew members went inside on the bridge.

The Israeli navy contacted the captain, Abd Jalil bin Mansor, who explained the ship was delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza and that there were no weapons on board. He was asked to turn around. He refused.

“I’ve been instructed to go to Gaza.”

Captain Jalil Mansor explaining the route chosen to penetrate Palestinian waters.

Meanwhile, three rounds of shots were fired. “Welcome to my world”, said Jenny, stoic, to the people lying down beside her on the deck.

From there, no one could see where the “warning shots” were going or where they were coming from. Every once in a while we could get a glimpse of the boats circling the ship.

One of the passengers was praying, the other one had his hands up to show he had no weapons, although we were the only ones who could see him.

Derek Graham had been through this before. He was outside smoking a cigarette, looking straight at the man behind the machine gun with his arms wide open, inviting him to shoot.

Seeing him, Alang Bendahara, reporter for the News Straits Time stood up on the deck to get some footage of the boats shooting.

Then we heard the Israeli navy screaming to the captain, “Turn around! Turn around now or we’ll shoot you!”

The captain obeyed. The ship changed its course.

Another round of shots was fired even though the captain had followed the navy’s orders.

Then the Egyptian navy, which never noticed the ship entering and leaving their waters, responded to repeated calls from the Israeli navy and asked them to stop shooting. They did.

As the ship was escorted back in Egyptian waters, the Israelis thanked the Egyptians for their cooperation on the siege and went on firing at the tiny and vulnerable fishing boats.

As they usually do, as Jenny explained outraged. “Our ship being shot at is going to make the news. Not the shooting of the little fishermen boats. The sad thing is, this is their daily life!”

The SRC was kept in the waiting area of El-Arish Port in Egypt for seven weeks. The ship tried to head back to Gaza through Egyptian waters a week after its first attempt. As it was escorted out of Egyptian waters by the Egyptian Navy, which had ordered the captain to head to international waters, the ship experienced technical difficulties and was escorted back in the waiting area in El-Arish.

During the first few days in the waiting area at the port of El-Arish, Egyptian fishermen were
prohibited from approaching the ship. Since the food  was running low, Derek and Satya, one
of the Indian crew members, launched the zodiac to go buy some fish but came back empty

A few days later, fishermen were allowed to come near the MV Finch and sell fresh fish.

Apart from the two Irish activists and Matthias Chang, no one else on the ship had engaged in such an adventure before. Chief engineer Zainuddin Mohamed’s reason for accepting to go on this mission was simple: “I wanted to see for my own eyes what is going on there.” Captain Jalil Mansor aknowledged: “I have come to a point in my career where I needed a challenge.” Since he had military training in the past, the captain was not intimidated by the Israeli navy’s gunfire and rather “enjoyed” his confrontation with them.

“Honestly, I wish we had been taken by the Israelis”, admitted one of the Malaysians who whished to remain anonymous. “Malaysia has no diplomatic relations with Israel so it is the only way I can enter the country, if they arrest me and take me there. I’m a little disappointed.”

Malaysian journalists Alang Bendahara from the News Straits Time and Mohd Faizal Hassan

Although they were not taken to jail, people on board the Finch were, in a sense, imprisoned on the ship. They were not told why they were being prevented from leaving the ship and were promised countless times that they would be allowed to dock the next day. The Canadian embassy in Egypt confirmed that the matter was in the hands of military intelligence and that the Egyptian Ministery of Foreign Affairs was not the one handling the issue.

The people on board showed tremendous solidarity for several days by refusing to leave in small groups: it was all or nothing.

From the first day in El-Arish, the Egyptian port authorities promised
that the ship would be allowed to dock and that the passengers would
be allowed to disembark the next day. Leader Matthias Chang and
Chief engineer Zainuddin Mohamed after one of many broken
promises, almost two weeks after entering Palestinian waters.

Since the ship was not allowed to dock in El-Arish, the only way to get fresh water was to
have it delivered by tug boat in the wating area. The heavy containers had to be carried
and emptied one by one by the people on board. All the seafarers on board said they
had never experienced that before.

The original crew members and passengers were finally all allowed to leave the ship on June 3, 18 days after they entered Palsetinian waters. Three of the Malaysians had decided to leave on May 31. The new crew was kept in Egyptian waters for another month. On July 6, the cargo was unloaded and delivered to Gaza shortly after, on July 12. The cargo, however, was not delivered to Gaza through the Rafah crossing. The cargo was brought through Karem Shalom, into Israel.

Egyptian Promises

Since May 28, the Rafah crossing was supposed to have been opened for people and humanitarian aid, according to statements of the Egyptian government.

This did not happen. The Egyptian authorities refused to let the PGPF’s humanitarian cargo go through Rafah, even though it was humanitarian aid: UPVC pipes to restore the sewage system in Gaza, where a water crisis is raging and which affects not only Gazans, but neighbouring countries including Israel and Egypt.

The destruction of the sewage system in Gaza by the Israeli army has led to 50 to 80 million liters of raw sewage being released in the Mediterranean daily.

The SRC cargo was instead delivered through Karem Shalom, in Israel. The cargo was considered as reconstruction material, which Israel requires to be delivered through its illegal checkpoints. While they were on the ship, the original 12 passengers and crew members were given that option and had refused categorically that the cargo be transferred through Karem Shalom, or any other Israeli checkpoint.

All crew members and passengers with a makeshift banner rejecting any compromise to their
goal: breaking the siege. From left to right: Alang Bendahara, Satya Prakash, Chandan Sharma,
Faizal Hassan, Jenny Graham, Matthias Chang, Julie Lévesque, Jafri Arifin, Zainuddin Mohamed,
Jalil Mansor, Derek Graham, Radzillah Abdulla.

The refusal of the Egyptian authorities to allow for the shipment of the humanitarian cargo through Rafah suggests that the interim military government is taking its orders from Tel Aviv and Washington. While the SRC was stranded in Egyptian waters, the crew and passengers on board were told that the ship would not allowed to dock for “security reasons”. The matter was in the hands of Military Intelligence.

Military Intelligence is attached to the Ministry of Defense headed by Mohamed Hussein Tantawi Soliman who is the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces and de facto head of State.

In turn, Hussein Tantawi is a permanent liaison with his counterpart in Tel Aviv, Ehud Barak, as well as with Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Washington. (Michel Chossudovsky, BREAKING NEWS: Humanitarian Ship to Gaza is a Floating Prison: Cairo is Obeying Orders from Tel Aviv, May 5, 2011)

In March 2011, shortly after Mubarak was ousted from office, a political analyst for the Egyptian Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies stated:

“Egypt will […] take a stronger stance against Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and will play a more positive role supporting the Palestinian cause”. (Heba Fahmy, No drastic, immediate change in Egypt’s foreign relations, say analysts, Daily News Egypt, March 29, 2011

The outcome of the SRC mission indicates that the post-Mubarak Egyptian government, rather than taking a “strong stance against Israel”, is still working hand in glove with Israel and the US. The Egyptian people however, from navy personnel to fishermen, have demonstrated strong support for the Malaysian mission to Gaza.

In recent developments, however, Egypt allowed a British aid convoy called Miles of Smiles 4 reach Gaza through the Rafah crossing in late July. Meanwhile, the UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices in the Occupied Territories was allowed to enter Gaza for the first time in July, 43 years after its creation. (IPS, End blockade now, says UN group in rare Gaza visit, August 1, 2011)

The committee condemned “the horrible living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza and the devastating impact of the Israeli economic blockade”, as well as the “continuing disregard of its obligations under international law”. “The economic, educational, psychological, health and social conditions are affected by the blockade,” stated the Sri Lankan ambassador to the UN, adding that “Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza contravened the human rights of the people of Gaza and international humanitarian law and standards”. (Ibid)

Once again, a UN committee denounces Israel’s illegal actions. Over the years though, these accusations have proven to be useless because only the Security Council can impose sanctions on Israel and it never has. In fact quite the opposite: Israel’s illegal actions have been protected on numerous occasions by a US veto on UN Security Council Resolutions critical of Israel.

Even though they are labelled by Western governments and the UN as “useless”, humanitarian aid convoys, flotillas and lone attempts to break the siege have had a tangible impact on the lives of Gazans.

The sewage pipes brought by the Spirit of Rachel Corrie are now in Gaza, which is facing a major water crisis.

Physicians for Human Rights Israel issued a report in 2010 entitled: “Humanitarian Minimum: Israel’s Role in Creating Food and Water Insecurity in Gaza”. It addresses the impact of the Israeli blockade on public health in the Gaza Strip.

It states that “watery diarrhea and acute bloody diarrhea […] are the major causes of morbidity among the population”, and that those disease, “according to the World Health Organization (WHO), are caused by an unsafe water supply, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene” (Physicians for Human Rights Israel,Humanitarian Minimum: Israel’s Role in Creating Food and Water Insecurity in Gaza, December 2010, p.69)

PGPF employees Farlina Said and Maizatul Akmar Mohd Naim in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Radzillah Abdulla from FELDA (Federal Land Development Authority), a Malaysian governmental
organization, and Jenny Graham shortly after leaving Greece.

Lessons from a “Humanitarian False Flag Operation”

So far this year, the lone ship Spirit of Rachel Corrie was the ship to enter Palestinian waters and “put a hole” in the blockade. Although it did not break the siege, it should be considered as a small victory against the illegal occupant, and its strategy should be taken into account by those who wish to break the siege in the future.

1- Favor a media blackout: To avoid being foiled, any attempt to break the siege should be concealed. The media should be alerted only when the goal has been reached or when the vessel has been prevented from reaching it. Big media campaigns may have the advantage of shedding the light on the illegal siege, they also reveal information which hampers the endeavor and serves the illegal occupant. The ultimate goal of such undertakings should remain to break the siege, not publicize it.

2- Conceal the departure location: The country of departure should be disclosed only to those who need to know for logistic purposes.

3- Conceal the destination: The authorities of the country of departure should be given an alternative destination.

4- Use deception: The Malaysian SRC mission, or MV Finch, was flying the Moldovan flag. The Israelis must have been aware that PGPF was sending a ship to Gaza since it was announced by the Malaysian organization a few weeks before the mission was launched. Only the dates were kept secret. The Israelis were probably expecting a vessel flying the Malaysian flag.

5- Get a fast boat or ship: The MV Finch could not go faster than 6 nautical miles an hour. Had it been faster, it could have reached the port of Gaza.

Satya Prakash and Chandan Sharma, the two Indian crew members. 

June 3, 2011 The last “ship prisoners” are released and join the land team in El-Arish.





















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It is astonishing to find that the British press that is so quick to tell us about the ‘true’ nature and motivations behind each mass protest in the Arab world, is somehow intellectually lame in its attempt to grasp their own huge scale riots at home. Until now, I have failed to see even a single worthy analytical attempt to understand the full meaning or significance of the current violent events taking place on the streets of cities all over the UK. British papers have been  outlining the events as being driven by, associated with, and defined by hooliganism.  They talk to the victims, and sometime even manage to interview some protagonists and perpetrators.

But, amongst such shallow, sensationalist coverage, we are still missing the most important information. What is the demography of the riots? Who is leading it? Does it have any leaders? Is there an ideology behind it all? Why do they loot, what do they loot, and from whom do they loot? And most importantly, what is the meaning of it all?

The events we saw in the past week  in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and Manchester were possible signs of disintegration within British society. Some sectors within the society were  clearly saying “we have had enough of it.” The truth is that these people we see rioting on our streets have been drifting away for quite some time, and no one has shown any concern, and now they are clearly not interested anymore in obedience to any notions of law and order. They do not see any great value in it. And the reason for that may be simple — there is simply not much in it for them.

What we see in Britain is not a political protest. It is not a battle with any coherent call for justice. Neither is it an outburst of mere racial hatred.  It is none of those things — and yet, considered in its entirety, it comprises and manifests all of those factors at once. It is actually a rejection of the entire system. It is a clear manifestation and forceful expression of generations who have lost all hope in a society that does not convey any prospect of a future for them — what we now see in British cities is young people who are putting the current system on trial. It is a spontaneous eruption of a demand for recognition.

For the obvious reasons not many in Britain are willing to listen to the desperate and urgent message voiced by the deprived. But I think that we must try to understand what is going on here.

If you want to know why the British media fail to understand what is happening, the answer is fairly straightforward – though they are there to transmit an image and appearance of freedom of speech, liberty and the spirit of enlightenment, large parts of the British media are deeply embedded as an inherent part of a wider system which they serve and bolster.

As a nation, we claim to believe in democracy — though we often enough kill en masse in the name of freedom. Closer to the truth is the fact that we are submerged in a culture of self-love, and hence, we simply find it impossible to imagine that anyone within our proximity would dismiss our ‘greatness.’ And yet, here is the bad news — it is clearly all spinning out of control now — for far too long, we have been celebrating our ‘greatness’ at the expense of our underprivileged neighbours. Clearly, our next door neighbours do not buy into this notion of freedom and liberty, since they do not posses the means to celebrate such freedom: they are left out, excluded from the game.

When I was young, I used to wonder what I would do when I had to finally support myself, and indeed, there were many options to choose from: education was available for most of us; but more than anything else, there were jobs to be found, since there were many different industries. I knew, for instance, that I would always be able to at least settle in a factory job and support myself and my future family. But Britain doesn’t offer any of that anymore. There are no jobs. There are no industries, and from this year, higher education will not be a viable option for countless youngsters.

Tragically enough, our politicians do not appear to be at all concerned with these matters: British politicians, much like other Western politicians, seem impervious to the austere challenges faced by our youth, and the implications of all of these events for their future and their sense of hope. It has been convincingly argued that Western Liberal democracy is simply there to merely set parameters, and to create the appropriate conditions for big businesses. Such a state of affairs is certainly true in Britain. The democratic system in Britain can be more accurately described as a form of subtle, perfidious and devious political oppression that simply gives the appearance of the ‘true reflection of our own will’. It gives the false impression that ultimately, the current order is nothing but fulfillment and reflection of ‘our own personal choice.’

The truth of the matter is actually far simpler — the Western political system is there to maintain consumerism, and to keep big business going. Our civil freedom is reduced to a simple set of entitlements: we are free to consume, to buy, to spend, to purchase, to acquire, to lease, to hire, and to rent. And yet, there is a big problem here that will not go away, because as we move up the ladder of our consumer existence, more and more people are falling behind. As the more fortunate among us proceed upward, more and more youngsters are realising that they will never even be able to join the game.

On the one hand we are subject to a ‘dictatorship of commoditisation’; we are trained to identify with a set of gadgets and brands, and yet, on the other hand, an increasing number of the people around us  are left out — they can barely afford to possess these objects of desire, and find themselves removed from the ‘identity game’. They become faceless, their existence denied, left to wander,  ghost-like, wrapped in training suits in a society driven by ruthless hard capitalism and sheer greed.

Such a reading of the riots in London may well help us to grasp the fact that many looters were apparently happy to be pictured by the press as they were seen in the streets  with their  new possessions. For the first time, they also had a chance to join the Western ‘symbolic order’. They smile at the camera, showing off their entry card into our society. They don’t want to be faceless anymore — they insist to be seen.

Lamentably enough, British politicians seem to be very enthusiastic about ‘moral interventionism’ in other countries. But I believe that the time is ripe for Britain to be subjected to a true form of moral interventionism — an influx of spiritual ideas that would redeem us all from mammon-seeking and hard Capitalism.  Yet it is increasingly clear that within the British political spectrum we will not find any such force that could lead to such a transformation, and that is indeed both a volatile and tragic situation.


Gilad Atzmon’s New Book: The Wandering Who?

  You can now pre-order the book  or





‘Gilad Atzmon‘s The Wandering Who? is a series of brilliant
illuminations and critical reflections on Jewish ethnocentrism and
the hypocrisy of those who speak in the name of universal values
and act tribal. Relying on autobiographical and existential experiences,
as well as intimate observations of everyday life, both
informed by profound psychological insights, Atzmon does what
many critics of Israel fail to do; he uncovers the links between
Jewish identity politics in the Diaspora with their ardent support
for the oppressive policies of the Israeli state.

Atzmon provides deep insights into “neo-ghetto” politics. He
has the courage – so profoundly lacking among western intellectuals
– to speak truth to the power of highly placed and affluent
Zionists who shape the agendas of war and peace in the Englishspeaking
world. With wit and imagination, Atzmon’s passionate
confrontation with neo-conservative power grabbers and liberal
yea sayers sets this book apart for its original understanding of the
dangers of closed minds with hands on the levers of power.
This book is more than a “study of Jewish identity politics”
insofar as we are dealing with a matrix of power that affects all
who cherish self-determination and personal freedom in the face
of imperial and colonial dictates.’

Professor James Petras, Bartle Professor of Sociology at Binghamton
University, New York, author of more than 62 books including The
Power of Israel in the United States.


Oppose NATO Bombing of Libya



The current bombing of Libya is now entering its 6th month and there is no end in sight.

The leading nations in the NATO intervention (Britain and France) have entered the unrest in Libya for blatantly their own interests. As the Daily Telegraph said:

“…staying out of other people’s quarrels in the most volatile and oil-rich region on the planet is not a realistic foreign policy.”

Democracy and Double Standards: We were told that they “rebels” needed military assistance so they could establish a democracy for the Libyans. Yet at literally the same time NATO intervened in Libya, the West said nothing about Saudi Arabia’s military intervention to crush the democracy movement in Bahrain.

Al-Qaeda and Hypocrisy: We are told that NATO in Afghanistan is fighting al-Qaeda and Islamic extremism and that this fight against Islamic extremism is keeping us safe here. Yet in Libya, NATO is in alliance with al-Qaeda “rebels”. Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary has said that this alliance is “inevitable”. Which is closer to Europe, Libya or Afghanistan?

Money for war and Austerity: We are told the government needs to make “cuts” because of the banker’s economic crises. The government bailed out failed businesses (i.e. the banks). This did not stop the same bankers awarding themselves bonuses. The government now wants to cut spending on social services. Yet it has been spending £36 million a day on bombing Libya. It is said come the autumn, the government expenditure on bombing Libya is to rise to £1 billion.

Failure of past Western Interventions: Western intervention in the last 10 years, in Iraq and Afghanistan, has made the situation worse in that it has fuelled more strife and killing. What makes our politicians think that Libya will be any different?

For more information on the current situation in Libya go to:

Libya is a nation rich in natural resources. The Libyan situation should be decided by all Libyans and solely between Libyans.

Stop the bombing for a peaceful negotiated settlement.

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French journal of record peddles Zionist propaganda

David Cronin

Yesterday, I was in a Brussels coffee shop, where I picked up a copy of Le Monde. In a section marked “The laboratories of the future”, the French daily had a full-pagefeature about the Israeli Institute for Technology in Haifa, which is better known as the Technion.

Described by the paper’s headline writer as a “high-tech Eden”, the university was lavished with praise for its innovative work on treating Parkinson’s disease and sending microsatellites into Space. Peretz Lavie, the university’s president, was quoted as arguing that the Technion was a model for coexistence between Israeli and Palestinian students and that there would be peace in the Middle East if everyone else could follow the Technion’s example. Indeed, the only hint that the region’s problems may encroach on the campus was in a paragraph about how students sometimes have to drop their books to fight Israel’s wars (such as the attack on Lebanon in 2006).

It seems clear that Laurent Zecchini, the author of this piece, either relied entirely on the university’s authorities for information or had no interest in exploring its military links further. For if he did a little googling, he should have easily found acomprehensive study on the Technion by Tadamon!, a Palestine solidarity organization based in Canada.

Harmony in Haifa?

That study confronts the Technion’s official drivel. Far from being a place of harmony, Palestinian students in Haifa have been treated in an overtly racist manner. Last year, 10 such students were arrested when they staged a protest against Israel’s murder of nine activists on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Yet there were no arrests of Zionist students who organized a larger counter-demonstration, which unlike the Palestinian one, was not authorized by the police.

Furthermore, the Technion has a history of close cooperation with the Israeli arms companies Rafael and Elbit, both of which supplied weapons used in the offensive against Gaza in 2008 and 2009. Technion has even joined forces with Rafael to run a business administration course specifically geared for that company’s managers.

Had Zecchini felt inclined to do a little more homework, he might also have got in touch with the Alternative Information Center, a campaign group working in Jerusalem and the West Bank. It has drawn attention to how Technion’s inventions include a remote-controlled bulldozer, designed to help the Israeli military demolish Palestinian homes.

The Technion, incidentally, is taking part in numerous EU-financed scientific research activities. And these activities have been enjoying some uncritical media attention of their own lately.

Mesmerized by murder

Home in Dublin last month, I saw an article in The Irish Times celebrating how the EUwill be devoting a mammoth €7 billion to research in 2012. As the author of the article, Conor O’Carroll from the Irish Universities Association, didn’t acknowledge that Israel (including its arms industry) will be among the beneficiaries of this largesse, I contacted the paper’s editors asking if I could write an opinion piece rectifying this omission. Not a chance, I was told; the news agenda is way too crowded at the moment.

Somehow, though, The Irish Times has been able to find space in the not-too-distant past to promote Israel’s scientific triumphs. In May, it ran a puff piece about how Israel has “the highest density of start-ups in the world” and how it has been able to turn its “intermittent wars” to its advantage. “Military units often act as incubators for tech start-ups,” journalist Ian Campbell wrote. Mesmerized by this success story, Campbell forgot to trace how the products of this enterprising culture end up as tools of oppression.

Both Le Monde and The Irish Times are considered journals of record in their respective countries. It is a measure of how amenable they are to Israeli spin, that they are happy to present Zionist canards as undisputed facts.

Reading them often reminds me of my favorite comment from George Orwell: “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”










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‘I feel like I’ve saved a life’: the women clearing Lebanon of cluster bombs


An all-female team is doing the hazardous and painstaking work of removing unexploded Zio-Nazi ordnance from the 2006 war
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Only up close does it become clear that some of the bulky figures in armoured vests scouring the fields of southern Lebanon for unexploded cluster bombs are wearing hijabs under their protective helmets.

Once local teachers, nurses and housewives, this group of women are now fully trained to search for mines and make up the only all-female clearance team in Lebanon, combing the undergrowth inch by inch for the remnants of one of the most indiscriminate weapons of modern warfare.

Leading the women in the field is Lamis Zein, a 33-year-old divorced mother of two and the team’s supervisor. She was one of the first recruits for the team, which was set up by the de-mining NGO Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).

“When I heard they were recruiting I applied straight away,” said Zein. “At the beginning men were surprised to see us in the field, wearing the same protective equipment as men, doing demolitions of bombs like men. But we work together well as a team of women. We share things that we wouldn’t with male colleagues. We are good at what we do and we are showing that women can do any kind of job.”

Their painstaking task became necessary five years ago this week, after IsraHell rained cluster munitions on southern Lebanon to a degree the UN condemned as a “flagrant violation of international law“.

Fighting had begun in July 2006 when Hezbollah, attack the Zio-Nazi state  with rocket, went one step further and ambushed an Zio-Nazi patrol, killing two soldiers and kidnapping two more. By mid-August ceasefire talks were on the cards. But Nazi final assault in the last 72 hours before peace on 14 August was to fire as many as 4m cluster bomblets into southern Lebanon.

Cluster bombs burst open in mid-air and release bomblets that are supposed to detonate on impact, but many of the ones fired on Lebanon did not explode, lying on the ground instead like landmines with the potential to blow up at any time. The women’s team works in tandem with other teams of searchers, all co-ordinated by the Lebanese army, to clear up the unexploded ordnance that still litters the countryside.

“Women are more patient than men,” said Zein. “That is why we are good at this job. We work more slowly – and maybe we are a little more afraid than men.”

Whatever the sex of those searching the undergrowth, the risks are still the same – one careless move and they could lose a leg. The previous day a searcher in another de-mining team was injured, reminding everyone of the dangers of the job. Everyone has their blood type embroidered on their vests for good reason.

“My kids always worry about me, especially yesterday when they heard about the accident,” says Abeer Asaad, team member and mother to five daughters. “They asked me to quit my job yesterday, they were so scared.”

“I was unemployed when I heard that NPA was recruiting women for a de-mining team and I applied without telling anyone, not even my husband. When he found out he didn’t want me to do it. I was scared too. Just hearing the word ‘bomb’ would make you scared. But when I began to work it was different, especially when you are careful all the time and follow the rules. You need to be alert and focused when you are in the field, and you must check the ground slowly.”

Zein too says her family have come to accept her job after four years in the field. “I was an English teacher for eight years. I wanted a change, and this could not be more different than teaching.

“Of course, my family was worried but now they ask me every day how many clusters I found, how many I destroyed.”

She is the only woman in the country to be trained in explosives demolition and at the end of the day detonates the bomblets they find. “I am so happy when we find them and I can carry out what I have been trained for.”

They have found 38 bomblets in the field they have been working in since May, and two on the road up to the site which vehicles use every day. Others who have come so close to bomblets have not been so lucky. There have been nearly 400 casualties, including more than 50 deaths, since 2006.

It was a year after the war that Rasha Zayyoun joined the list of casualties. Life had been returning to normal for the then 17-year-old and her family after the devastation of the previous summer. Her father brought home a bushel of thyme he had harvested for Rasha to clean, but neither of them noticed a bomblet hidden among the leaves. As she began work her finger got caught on the device and thinking it was a piece of rubbish, she threw it aside. As it hit the ground it exploded. Rasha lost her left leg below the knee.

“It was so painful. It was like torture,” she said at her family home in the village of Maarakeh where she is trying to build a life for herself as a dressmaker. “I have a prosthetic leg now but I can only walk for a few minutes on it.”

Stories like Rasha’s are what make Asaad sing and dance when she finds a bomblet. “I feel like I have saved a life,” she beams. “If I find a cluster and take it out, then there will be no victim from it. The feeling is beyond description.”

“We feel like we are doing something for Lebanon,” says Zein. “We are making it safe for children to play in the fields and we are letting farmers go back into their fields to earn money for their families.”

Lebanon is spearheading efforts to convince more countries to sign an international treaty banning cluster bombs and next month it is hosting an international convention to promote the cause.

But while the debate on the use of cluster bombs continues, for the women of NPA’s Team 4 another working day is over. By 3pm, with the temperature higher than 40C, the women pack up their kit, pile in to a minivan and head back to their families.

Zein tallies up their achievements for the day: 330 sq metres cleared, one cluster bomblet found and destroyed, all the team home safe.

It has been a good day, But with 18m sq metres of land still to clear, there are many more to find before their job is done.

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Clinton urges (orders) states to cut ties over crackdown



US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged all countries to cut their political and economic ties with Syria.

She said buying oil and gas from Syria and exporting arms there were giving President Bashar al-Assad “comfort in his brutality”.

Mrs Clinton’s comments came as large anti-government protests continued despite a harsh army crackdown.

Activists said at least 16 people died on Friday as protesters came under fire in towns and cities across the country.

More than 1,700 people have died and tens of thousands have reportedly been arrested since the uprising against the 41-year rule of Mr Assad’s family began in March.

Correspondents say there is little the US can do to directly pressure the Syrian regime, with which it has few ties or shared interests.

So Washington has been stepping up the pressure on Europe, Russia and China, to use the leverage that they do have, and on Friday Mrs Clinton extended the pressure to all those with ties to Damascus.

“We urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Assad weapons, those countries whose political and economic support give him comfort in his brutality, to get on the right side of history,” she said.

Despite all the killings and arrests, protesters are still braving the dangers to keep the uprising alive, even in areas where defiance has been repeatedly suppressed.

Now, they are taking fresh heart from the mounting outside pressure on Mr Assad to stop the violence and relinquish power.

Among others, the Americans are getting increasingly impatient. There is not much they can do themselves to pressure a regime with which they have few ties or shared interests.

There has been no real sign on the ground of a serious response by Mr Assad to all the pressure from the outside world, beyond promises and a few cosmetic gestures. But the mounting outside pressure is certainly reinforcing the belief of the activists that they can do it.

Washington has stopped short of calling for Mr Assad to stand down, instead seeking unity in the international community so Mr Assad cannot say it is only the US or the West that is against him,

But Mrs Clinton reiterated the view that he has “lost the legitimacy to lead and it is clear that Syria would be better off without him”.

The US has imposed sanctions against Damascus and has said these could be increased, while calling on other countries to follow.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait have all recalled their ambassadors from Damascus while Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has described the methods used by the Syrian security forces as “unacceptable”.

‘Worshippers shot’

Activists say thousands of people took to the streets again on Friday to demand an end to Mr Assad’s rule. Protesters came under fire in the central city of Homs, Hama, the capital Damascus, Deir al-Zour in the east and Aleppo and Idlib near Turkey’s border.

Syrian state television admitted there had been small demonstrations after Friday prayers, but activists said they were far bigger and more widespread.

The highest reported casualties were in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, where a woman and a 16-year-old were named among those who died. Syrian state TV said two security men had been shot dead in the capital.

Thousands of people came out to protest in Deir al-Zour, said activists. Soldiers reportedly fired live ammunition as people left two mosques, sending worshippers running for cover in alleyways.

“Assad wants to finish off the uprising before international pressure becomes too much for him. But people have gone out of almost every major mosque in Deir al-Zor, metres away from tanks that occupy every main square and roundabout,” one resident told Reuters news agency.

Abdel Rahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there had been a major army assault with tanks and troop carriers on Kahn Sheikhun, in north-western Idlib province, killing at least one woman.

In Hama, which came under heavy bombardment last week, activists said mosques were surrounded by soldiers and people were being stopped and searched at checkpoints “every 200m”.

Witnesses say the number of people being killed has risen during the current fasting month of Ramadan, as opponents of the regime stage protests after evening and early-morning prayers.

 Bashar al-Assad says his government is cracking down on “armed terrorists” 
“We used to have 20 killed every Friday but now this number is being killed almost on a daily basis,” one man told the BBC.

Meanwhile, rights groups accuse the regime of targeting hospitals and arresting doctors for treating injured protesters.

“Any doctor who is discovered giving help to the injured is targeted and arrested,” one Syrian doctor – who did not want to be named – told the BBC.

There are reports of troops preventing the wounded from reaching hospitals in some areas, and even of removing the bodies of dead protesters from hospitals. Activists say this is to make it harder to calculate the number of people killed in the regime’s campaign to quash dissent.

International journalists face severe restrictions to reporting in Syria, and it is hard to verify reports.

Mr Assad has reiterated promises of political reform, while remaining adamant his government would continue to pursue the “terrorist groups” he has blamed for the unrest.

His opponents say the regime’s failure to propose any serious reforms has merely entrenched the feeling of protesters.

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Ahmadinejad: Iran will respond ‘decisively’ to U.S., IsraHell attacks


Iranian president tells Russia Today news network that although Iran would retaliate harshly in the event of attack, there is no reason to launch a strike against the Islamic republic.


Iranian President Ahmadinejad warned that he would respond harshly to any attempts by Israel or the United States to launch a war against the Islamic republic in an interview with Russia Today news network on Saturday, saying Iran would give a “decisive response” to any strike.

“We have a saying in our language: If someone throws a smaller stone (at you), you should respond with a bigger stone,” the Iranian president said, adding, “we will defend ourselves within our capabilities.”

Ahmadinejad told the Russian news network that the U.S. and Israel “wish to do it (launch an attack against Iran), they want to do it, but they know about our power. They know that we are going to give them a decisive response.”

Despite this warning, the Iranian leader expressed hope in the interview that such a reality would never materialize, claiming there is no reason to launch a strike against Iran.

Ahmadinejad then went on to accuse Israel of being a regime that depends on terror, occupation and aggression.

The international community has called on Iran to halt its nuclear program, leveling sanctions against the Islamic country, however, Iran claims the program is for peaceful purposes and continues to enrich uranium.

Earlier this year, former Mossad head Meir Dagan said that an air force strike against Iran’s nuclear installations would be “a stupid thing.”

Dagan claimed that Iran has a secret infrastructure for its nuclear program which is working in parallel with the legitimate, civilian program, but only the latter is under international inspection.

“Any strike against that [the civilian program] is an illegal act according to international law,” Dagan said. Dagan says that contrary to the situation in Iraq in which the nuclear plant of Saddam Hussein was bombed in 1981, Iran has dispersed its nuclear sites across the country, making an effective attack difficult. He added that Iran has a proven ability to move its nuclear infrastructures from place to place, in order to hide them from international inspectors and intelligence services.

“If someone in Iran decides to build a laboratory for centrifuges [for uranium enrichment] in the basement of some school he has no problem doing this,” Dagan said.

Dagan warned that an air force strike against Iran has “potential for significant complications and it is best to avoid war(s) with non-beneficial results and also those with no lasting effect. It is important to remember that war is only one option among many alternatives.”

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