A selection of news reports for Monday, June 06, 2011.
Spat with Egypt shuts Rafah border crossing
JORDAN TIMES: – Palestinian officials have suspended operations at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, in protest at what they say is Egyptian lack of cooperation at the terminal. Palestinian officials said on Sunday that they had halted operations on their side of the border crossing, after disagreements about capacity and coordination. The crossing was closed on Saturday, with the Palestinians saying Egypt halted operations without warning, stranding angry Palestinian travellers on the Gaza side of the terminal, unable to cross into Sinai. But on Sunday morning, it was Palestinian officials who closed the crossing, with terminal head Ayub Abu Shaar saying it would remain shut until officials on both sides came to an agreement on its operation. A senior Hamas official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, accused the Egyptian side of foot-dragging.
Lesotho Recognizes Palestinian State within 1967 Borders
PALESTINE NEWS AGENCY: – Fatah Commissioner of International Relations, Nabil Shaath, said Monday that the Kingdom of Lesotho had recognized the Palestinian state within 1967 borders. The African country told its permanent representative at the United Nations to contact the Palestinian representative to start procedures to open diplomatic representation between the two states, said Shaath. He added that the Republic of Malawi had also reiterated its previous recognition of the Palestinian state within 1967 borders.
Diplomats hint of impending Israeli war
THE DAILY STAR, LEBANON: – Western diplomats are talking about the possibility of a large-scale Israeli war against Lebanon in the coming months, saying that Israel had finalized military, logistic and intelligence preparations for such an aggression. These diplomats add that the political crisis in Lebanon could be exploited by some influential regional forces to achieve their own ends, highlighting the decline of Syria’s role in Lebanon due to the anti-regime protests which have been sweeping Syria since mid-March. This recalls the saying, “Lebanon’s security is Syria’s security,” and there is increasing talk that Lebanon and Syria could be witness to events that recreate the image of the Middle East based on new rules set by the major world powers. Amid this gloom, a European diplomat, who is closely following developments in the Arab region including the Syria regime’s crackdown on the opposition, which received additional support during their conference in Antalya last week, said that the reforms promised by Syrian President Bashar Assad remain only in the realm of possibilities, without serious attempts at their implementation.
Iranian delegation visits Lebanese-Israeli border
THE DAILY STAR, LEBANON: – KFAR KILA, Lebanon- Iran supports the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, which will be fulfilled through Palestinian’s resistance, Iranian officials said Sunday during a visit to the Lebanese-Israeli border to mark the 44th anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The head of the cultural committee at the Iranian Shura Council, Gholam Ali-Haddad Adel, led the delegation, which included head of the economic development committee, Mosbahi Mokaddam and Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Rokn Abadi. Adel voiced Iran’s support for the Palestinian and Lebanese causes, as he raised the Palestinian flag at “Iran’s garden” in Kfar Kila. “The purpose of our visit is to send the message to the Palestinian and Lebanese youth and the resistance that Iran stands by them,” Adel said. The delegation toured Adeysseh, Fatima Gate, Kfar Kila and Maroun al-Ras, where 11 Palestinian protesters were shot dead by Israeli troops on May 15 in a Nakba anniversary march.
Israeli forces kill 20 protesters in Golan
KUWAIT TIMES: – MAJDAL SHAMS, Golan Heights- Israeli troops opened fire yesterday as protesters from Syria stormed a ceasefire line in the occupied Golan Heights, with Damascus saying 20 demonstrators were killed. Hundreds of protesters rushed the ceasefire line, cutting through barbed wire as they tried to enter the Golan Heights in a repeat of demonstrations last month that saw thousands mass along Israel’s north. Similar protests were held in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. The marchers, who had organized on Facebook, passed by Syrian and UN outposts on their way to the frontlines. In Majdal Shams, on the occupied Golan, Israeli troops opened fire as demonstrators sought to push through the mined ceasefire line, which had been reinforced with several rows of barbed wire blocking access to a fence. “Despite numerous warnings, both verbal and later warning shots in the air, dozens of Syrians continue to approach the border and IDF (Israel Defence Forces) forces were left with no choice but to open fire towards the feet of protesters in efforts to deter further actions,” an army spokesman . . .
On deaf ears: Obama’s message to Israel
AL JAREEZA, QATAR: – Late May’s extraordinary sequence of speeches and meetings involving US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – and the commentary surrounding it from official circles in both countries – did not make for an edifying interlude. The week beginning May 19 will not be remembered for displays of farsighted statecraft, or high moral courage. What we saw instead was brash, unapologetic chauvinism from Netanyahu, an outright refusal of moral leadership from Obama, and acts of political cowardice and opportunism from the US Congress outrageous even by the low standards of that frequently ignominious body. But that is not to say that the week’s display was not useful. On the contrary, much of importance was accomplished. Now, more clearly than ever, we can see the future. For if there were any questions remaining about the current nature and direction of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, May’s events have put an end to them. Zionism is far from dead, and will surely survive, at least in altered form. But a fundamental change in the nature of the Israeli state has become inevitable.
Israel unveils first of 50 solar power fields
ARAB NEWS, SAUDI ARABIA: – Israel’s Arava Power unveiled the country’s first commercial solar power plant on Sunday, showing it off to government ministers and dignitaries, and announced plans to erect dozens of other solar array fields, whose total cost could reach $2 billion. The 100 million-shekel ($30 million), 4.95 megawatt plant in the agricultural community Kibbutz Keturah which is due to be hooked up to the national grid in the next few weeks, is the first of about 50 photovoltaic power fields that Arava said it will build throughout the southern Negev desert by the end of 2014. Israel has set a goal of having 10 percent of the energy it consumes coming from renewable sources by 2020. But there is still some disagreement within the government on how best to proceed, which could delay Arava’s plan. Arava, which is 36 percent owned by German conglomerate Siemens, said it secured 80 percent of the funding for the Keturah plant from Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s second-largest bank.
IAEA turns up heat on Syria, Iran
UAE, KHALEEJ TIMES: – UN atomic watchdog chief Yukiya Amano turned up the heat on Syria and Iran — both accused of illicit nuclear activity — as the body’s policy-making board of governors began meeting here Monday. Tehran and Damascus are both accused of actively blocking the International Atomic Energy Agency’s long-running investigations into illegal nuclear activity. At the end of May, Amano released two new reports in which he said Iran was continuing to stockpile low-enriched uranium, in defiance of multiple UN sanctions, and refusing to answer allegations of possible military dimensions to its contested nuclear programme. Syria, for its part, is accused of building an undeclared atomic reactor at a remote desert site and has not allowed UN inspectors access to locations, data or individuals who could help clear up the allegations. Addressing the IAEA’s governors on the first day of their traditional week-long June meeting, Amano defended his decision to go public with his assessment that a suspect site in Syria was “very likely” to have been an undeclared nuclear reactor, as alleged by the United States. “The Syrian government was given ample time by the agency to cooperate fully concerning the Dair Alzour site, but did not do so,” Amano said, according to a copy of his speech circulated to journalists. “Nevertheless, we had obtained enough information to draw a conclusion. I judged it appropriate to inform member states of our conclusion at this stage as it was in no one’s interest to let this situation drag on.
German activists set sail for Gaza in support of Freedom Flotilla
DAILY NEWS, ISTANBUL: – A humanitarian aid ship will set sail for Gaza from the German port city of Hamburg on June 19 to support an international initiative to break the Israeli siege by sending ships carrying humanitarian supplies. The ship, named Freedom Flotilla II, is sponsored by Professor Udo Steinbach, a well-known German expert on the Middle East, and the German Initiative to Break the Siege of Gaza. Former German deputy Norman Paech has also expressed his support for the enterprise and said the embargo on Palestine was against international law. Paech was onboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010, when Israeli commandos boarded the ship and killed nine Turkish activists. The vessel was part of the “Freedom Flotilla,” a group of ships carrying international activists trying to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. The president of the German Jewish Community, or DIG, Reinhold Robbe, criticized Professor Steinbach and said he was letting radical people use his name and academic renown, urging him to give up his support for the flotilla, according to the Anatolia news agency. German journalist Peter Wolter and Swedish writer Henning Mankell will also be onboard the flotilla. All aid ships bound for Gaza are expected to meet in Greece on June 27.
Brotherhood’s party officially declared
THE EGYPTIAN GAZETTE: – The Committee of Parties’ Affairs on Monday gave a final and official nod to the Freedom and Justice Party, which was created by the Muslim Brotherhood, to become the first party declared after the fall of Hosni Mubarak regime. “The Freedom and Justice Party is officially recognized as of today (on Monday) after meeting all requirements stipulated by the New Parties Law,” read a statement from the judicial committee. It added that this statement should be issued in the official Gazette within ten days. The Freedom and Justice Party was created by the Muslim Brotherhood and forwarded a notification to the committee two weeks ago. The Free Egyptians Party, another new party spearheaded by telecom business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, is expected to submit its notification to the committee today (on Tuesday).