The Middle East: Monday morning briefs

Seven Syrians treated in Israel

ISRAEL21c  reports: For the first time since fighting broke out in neighboring Syria, seven Syrian residents were brought into Israel for medical treatment. Officials at Ziv Medical Center in Safed said today that the seven were in stable condition. IDF soldiers serving along the Israel-Syrian border first noticed the victims early yesterday afternoon. The Israeli soldiers carried them across the border into Israel to treat them in First Aid. “An IDF force administered medical care to the wounded men near the border fence and they were taken for further treatment,” read an IDF Spokesperson’s statement. Ziv Medical Center director Dr. Oscar Ambon said the Syrians suffered wounds to their limbs, stomach and internal injuries. Ambon said one of the wounded is still in critical condition and must undergo a second surgery. He said the other six are in moderate but stable condition – and some of them may require additional operations. The IDF said its policy does not allow any breach of the border fence, “with the exception of special humanitarian cases.” Reports today said it remained unclear whether the seven were rebels who took part in the battles or innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.

Editor’s note: Safed. We remember the 102 Israeli Jewish school children from Safed, who on a school trip, were taken hostage in 1974 by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) while sleeping in a school in Ma’alot, some 35 kms from Safed. The Ma’alot massacre, 22 of these school children were among those killed by the hostage takers.

Terrorism and human rights: Shawan Jabarin, human rights organization director and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist activist, recently visited France to participate in the anti-Israeli campaign.

As reported by Israel’s The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center:  On February 1, 2013, Shawan Jabarin, who heads the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, paid a visit to France. For several years the Israeli judicial authorities prevented him from leaving the country. The visit was part of the anti-Israeli campaign being waged by his organization in France, and was held under the aegis of several human rights and pro-Palestinian organizations, among them the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (HDH), a French human rights NGO establish in 1898; ACAT-France (a French organization which opposes capital punishment); the France-Palestine Solidarity Association; Amnesty International; and La Plateforme des ONG françaises pour la Palestine, a French umbrella network of pro-Palestinian NGOs. During his stay in France Jabarin reportedly met with French diplomats and members of Parliament (whose identities are unknown to us).

Arab Potash Company looks to import natural gas from Israel

The Jordan Times reports: Contacts are currently under way between the Arab Potash Company and its counterpart in Israel, through a US company, on the possibility of importing natural gas from the Dead Sea area, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. This fuel would be inexpensive and clean and would be used by Arab Potash Company factories at the Dead Sea, the statement added. The ministry said the purpose of importing gas from Israel is to reduce the production costs of these factories, adding that no agreement has been reached yet. The ministry also dismissed as baseless news carried by media outlets on secret talks between the Kingdom and Israel on importing natural gas.

Banned in Iran: Barbie, ‘Simpsons’… and Buddha

The Irish Examiner reports – Buddha statues have joined Barbie dolls and characters from The Simpsons as banned items in the conservative Muslim nation of Iran. Authorities are confiscating Buddha statues from shops in the Iranian capital, Tehran, to stop the promotion of Buddhism in the country, according to a report in the independent Arman daily. Iran has long fought against items such as Barbie toys to defuse Western influence, but this appears to be the first time Iranian authorities are showing an opposition to symbols from the East. The newspaper quoted Saeed Jaberi Ansari, an official for the protection of Iran’s cultural heritage, as calling the Buddha statues symbols of “cultural invasion”. He said authorities will not permit a specific belief to be promoted through such items. Ansari did not say how many Buddhas had been seized, but the “cleansing” would continue…

 Three Hezbollah fighters, 12 Syrian rebels killed in clashes

The Daily Star, Lebanon, reports:  Three Hezbollah fighters and 12 Syrian rebels were killed in fierce battles near Syria’s border with Lebanon, security sources said Sunday, as the Syrian opposition accused the party of “military intervention” in the neighboring country’s bloody conflict. The fighting, the worst near the border with Lebanon since the uprising erupted in Syria nearly two years ago, underlined Hezbollah’s increasing involvement in the Syrian crisis. It also renewed fears of the Syrian conflict between government troops and opposition groups fighting to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad spilling over into Lebanon. “In the past two days, 12 Syrian rebels were killed and 30 wounded, while three Hezbollah members were killed and 14 others were wounded in battles,” a Lebanese security source told The Daily Star… During the battles that raged with Syrian rebels over the weekend in Qusayr, Hezbollah fighters managed to impose their control on some territory and houses vacated by residents of Shiite villages, the source said. 

Egyptian Military: Destruction of Egypt-Gaza tunnels ongoing

Egypt Independent reports: Armed Forces Spokesperson Ahmed Mohamed Ali has said that the destruction of smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza is ongoing, while adding that there are an estimated 225 tunnels under the border. “It has been announced that every tunnel has several entrances, some of which are inside the houses of Egyptians that couldn’t be revealed. This means we have around 550 tunnel entrances,” Ali told the Palestinian Maan news agency. Ali added that efforts were ongoing to fill the tunnels with water or otherwise destroy them. Tunnels have been used to smuggle merchandise from Egypt to Gaza, which has been blockaded by Israel since Hamas took power in 2007. Israel has called on Egypt to destroy the tunnels, fearing that weapons were being smuggling to Hamas.

Khamenei challenges US on atomic bomb

Gulf Times, Qatar reports: Iran has no intention of developing nuclear weapons, but if it wanted to the United States could not thwart it, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said yesterday. “We believe nuclear weapons must be abolished and we have no intention of building” such weaponry, Khamenei said in remarks posted on his website leader.ir. But, Khamenei said, “if Iran had such intentions, the US could in no way prevent it” from making an atomic bomb. The West and Israel suspect the Islamic republic is masking the development of an atomic weapons capability under the guise of a nuclear programme that Iran insists is purely peaceful. US President Barack Obama last week urged Tehran to “recognise that now is the time for a diplomatic solution” to the nuclear stand-off.

Libya arrests four on suspicion of proselytizing

Arab News, Saudi Arabia reports:  Libyan authorities in the eastern city of Benghazi have arrested four people suspected of carrying out Christian missionary activities, a security official said yesterday. “An Egyptian, a South African, a South Korean and a Swede who holds a US passport, were arrested on Tuesday at a printing house, where they were printing books calling for conversion to Christianity,” Hussein bin Hameida told AFP. “Libya is a Muslim country and preaching another religion is a crime under Libyan law,” he said. Bin Hameida said an investigation was still under way and the suspects “will be handed over to the intelligence services soon.” The main Catholic Church’s clergyman in Libya have said that Christians are being driven out of eastern Libya. The Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, has said the situation was “critical” and the “atmosphere very tense.” Two religious communities in the east of the country — the Congregation of the Holy Family of Spoleto and the Franciscan Sisters of Child Jesus — were forced to leave “after being pressured by fundamentalists.”

Iran will never shut down Fordo: MP

Tehran Times reports: Iranian MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi has said that the Fordo uranium enrichment facility will never be closed down. Boroujerdi made the remarks in an interview with the Persian service of ISNA on Sunday in reference to the news reports saying that world powers plan to offer to ease sanctions barring trade in gold and other precious metals with Iran in return for Iranian steps to shut down the newly expanded Fordo uranium enrichment plant. Reuters quoted Western officials as saying on Friday that the offer was to be presented to Iran at February 26 talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and they acknowledged that it represented a relatively modest update to proposals that the six major powers had put forward last year. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the officials said their decision not to make a dramatically new offer in part reflected skepticism that Iran was ready to make a deal ahead of its June 14 presidential election. “Fordo is not different from our other nuclear sites because passive defense (measures) have been implemented there, and in view of the Zionist regime’s repeated threats, it is logical and sensible that we implement passive defense (measures) at our sensitive centers like nuclear sites,” said Boroujerdi, who is the chairman of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee. “Fordo will never be closed because it is certainly our national duty to safeguard our nuclear and vital centers against the enemy’s threats,” he said. “This offer means helping the Zionist regime carry out its threats and target our facilities.”

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