Egypt seizes rockets believed smuggled from Libya
CAIRO: Egyptian security said on Thursday that it had seized a large weapons cache of surface-to-surface rockets and a mortar, probably smuggled from its western neighbor Libya. Security found the arsenal, which included 50 rockets, a mortar, thousands of bullets and seven assault rifles, in a convoy of three vehicles traveling eastwards from the western city of Marsa Matruh. A security official said the weapons were probably smuggled from Libya, and added that three men in the convoy were arrested. Weapons from Libya, where heavily armed rebels overthrew and later killed veteran dictator Moammar Gadhafi with NATO help last year, are believed to have found their way through Egypt to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Al-Qaeda’s North Africa franchise said late last year that it had also acquired some of Gadhafi’s arsenal, in comments reported by a Mauritanian news agency. - The Daily Star, Lebanon.
Galloway: “Viva Palestina 6″ convoy to Gaza soon”
GAZA: The British MP George Galloway revealed that a new aid convoy entitled “Viva Balastaina 6″ will head to the besieged Gaza strip in an attempt to break the Israeli siege imposed on it since over six years. Galloway pointed out that the convoy has already left the city of Bradfordand will enter the Syrian territory in its way to Gaza in the coming days. In a ceremony to honor him in Beirut, Galloway said “The convoy consists of trucks , ambulances and buses loaded with humanitarian aid collected from different countries around the world,” noting that there are British and Malaysian activists in the convoy.” He expressed his surprise over criticisms by some parties to the convoy, noting that the convoy aims to reach Gaza and break the Israeli siege on it. It should be noted that the British MP George Galloway is the most British MP supporting the Palestinian people where he implemented a lot of activities and convoys to support the Palestinian cause. – Alresalah, Egypt.
Iran funding Yemeni separatist conference in Beirut – Yemeni official
LONDON: A Yemeni official informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Yemeni authorities have banned a number of MPs and officials from travelling to Beirut to attend the Yemeni opposition summit there which is being financed by Iran under the supervision of Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp [IRGC]. The Yemeni official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that “the Yemeni government has banned a number of MPs affiliated to the Wefaq organization from travelling to attend a conference that will also be attended by Ali Salim al-Beidh and representatives of the Huthi movement in the Lebanese capital Beirut” adding “this conference is taking place under the supervision of Hezbollah and the IRGC, and is being financed by Iran.” The source said that the objective of this conference is to disrupt the political process in Lebanon and circumvent the Gulf Initiative. The Yemeni official also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “Iran has named its new ambassador to Sanaa; however the Yemeni government refused to accept his credentials because he was previously a senior officer in the IRGC.” -Asharq Al-Awsat, UK.
Jews stage pilgrimage to ancient Tunisia synagogue
DJERBA, Tunisia: A Jewish pilgrimage to the oldest synagogue in Africa on Tunisia’s Djerba Island began Wednesday under tight security after it was cancelled last year following the revolution. About 500 Jews from Europe and 1,000 Jewish Tunisians started gathering on the Mediterranean island before heading to the 2,500-year-old Ghriba synagogue, said Perez Trabelsi, head of the Tunisian Jewish community. “Everything is going properly. I am satisfied,” Trabelsi said of the heavy police and military deployment on the island. There were an estimated 100,000 Jews living in Tunisia when the north African country gained independence in 1956, but the vast majority quickly relocated to France, the former colonial power. But, with roughly 1,500 members, Tunisia still has one of the largest Jewish communities in the Arab world. The pilgrimage previously attracted tens of thousands of visitors, but turnout declined dramatically following an April 2002 attack at Ghriba claimed by Al Qaeda that killed 21 people. The event was cancelled last year with the country on edge following a January uprising that toppled long-serving dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda Party that won October elections has pledged to protect the interests of the Jewish minority. But the country has seen a rise in demonstrations by adherents of an extreme-conservative Salafist strand of Islam who have called for the creation of a more rigid Islamic state in post-Ben Ali Tunisia. Salafist groups shouted “anti-Semitic” slogans during January rallies that coincided with a visit to Tunis by Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza… The Jordan Times.
Syrian regime can’t last ‘very long’: Turkish leader
SLOVENIA: Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said here on Monday that Syria’s regime cannot not continue in power for long and urged the international community to stop a humanitarian crisis. “I don’t believe that any regime can stand to work under these principles for very long,” Erdogan told a joint news conference with his Slovenian counterpart Janez Jansa during a one-day visit to the EU member state. Turkey is “opposed to the regime in Syria… nobody should expect us to stand by the people who are oppressing”… Turkey, once a strong ally of Syria, broke with Damascus after Bashar al-Assad’s regime began cracking down on dissent in mid-March last year. More than 11,000 people have perished in the violence, activists estimated. -Kurdish Globe, Iraq.
Palestinian airline resumes flights
The Palestinian national carrier, grounded since 2005, has resumed operations with flights between Egypt’s El-Arish and Amman, its director general told AFP on Thursday. “We started yesterday from Amman to El-Arish and from El-Arish to Amman,” Palestinian Airlines director general Zeyad Albad said. “We are going to have flights from El-Arish to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) soon too, and we are trying to set up some new routes to Turkey and the (United Arab) Emirates,” he said. Albad said the resumption of flights was intended to make life easier for Palestinians travelling from Gaza through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt. El-Arish, in northern Sinai, lies around 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Rafah crossing. “It’s designed to help people who are coming out of Gaza to other places. Before now they had to go 400,500 kilometres (250,300 miles) to the nearest airport,” Albad said. “It’s very difficult for them, especially for those with families and in the summer, so we are trying to relieve the pressure on them.” Albad said the resumption was also good for Palestinian Airlines, which has seen its four-plane fleet grounded since 2005. “It’s for our benefit too. Now we are flying our two Fokkers, which carry 60 people and are good for the flight to Amman,” he said… For now the airline will operate two flights a week between Amman and El Arish. Albad said flights to Jeddah could start as soon as next week, if Saudi permission came through, and that a flight to Mecca catering to pilgrims was also being studied. -Khaleej Times, UAR
Palestinians isolated and short of funds — Fayyad
RAMALLAH, West Bank: Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Tuesday the Palestinians may have “lost the argument” on the international stage for an independent state but cautioned that continued Israeli occupation was unsustainable. In an interview with Reuters, Fayyad struck a note of discord with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by calling for elections that have long been delayed because of deep political divisions between the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. He also warned his administration’s future was clouded by severe financial strains and said the Palestinians had failed to galvanize a distracted world behind their cause. “I think we are losing the argument, if we have not already lost the argument. But that doesn’t make our position wrong,” said the former World Bank economist, a political independent who has had strong support amongst Western powers. Arab unrest, the US presidential elections and financial crises in Europe had combined to knock the Palestinian issue off the global agenda more than 18 months after peace talks with Israel broke down in a dispute over Jewish settlement building. “What is the biggest obstacle we face? The state of marginalization. It is unprecedented,” he said. “The Israelis have managed to successfully trivialize our side of the argument,” he added… Fayyad said Palestinians must get their own house in order before they could hope for long-cherished independence, which most world powers continue to support in principle. “I do not believe we will be able to get a state unless we are able to reunify our country,” he said of the political divide that has split the West Bank from the coastal enclave of Gaza, governed since 2007 by the Islamist group Hamas. -Arab News, Saudi Arabia.
17 Turkish officers held in probe of 1997 military coup
TURKEY: Seventeen serving and former Turkish military officers were held and transferred to an Ankara court Wednesday in a long-running probe into a 1997 bloodless coup. The detainees were due to testify in court over their alleged involvement in the overthrow of Turkey’s first Islamist head of government, Necmettin Erbakan, reported the Anatolia news agency. On Tuesday, police carried out raids in nine provinces and detained 17 serving and former military officers — six of them serving generals, media reported. They are accused of “trying to topple the government, or partially or totally impeding its activities,” pro-government Sabah daily reported. On Tuesday, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced uneasiness about the ongoing waves of arrests and called for a swift finalisation of the legal case launched by prosecutors. “We are seriously disturbed by these arrests. The steps that need to be taken must be taken and (the case) must be finalised,” he said. The accusation targeting military officers is widely seen as part of efforts by the current Islamist-led government to roll back the military’s influence in politics… Turkey is currently holding dozens of officers, some of them retired, on suspicion of plotting to oust the latest Islamist-led government which took over in 2002. -Times of Oman.
Former PPP chief’s son ‘killed in Albania’
BETHLEHEM: The son of the former chief of the Palestinian People’s Party was killed Wednesday in an explosion in Albania, his relatives said. Unknown assailants planted a bomb near the gate to Anwar Riziq’s home, his relatives told Ma’an. Riziq, from Beit Jala, had traveled to Albania for work. His family believes he was the victim of a conflict between the company he worked for and rival firms. Riziq’s late father Fuad Riziq was secretary-general of the PPP. - Maan News Agency, Palestinian Territories.