Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes Trita Parsi,President of the National Iranian American Council, for a discussion of the struggle for power in the Middle East. Drawing on the perspective of the Realist School of International Relations Theory, he focuses on the region’s dominant powers–Israel and Iran–and examines the evolution of their relations with each other and with the United States, the world’s only superpower.
Israeli police say they have arrested two Jewish settlers over an apparent assault of Palestinians that was filmed as part of a human rights project.
An adult male and a minor were arrested in Susia settlement overnight and will appear in court on Tuesday. B’Tselem human rights group has been giving Palestinians video cameras as part of its Shooting Back scheme. The footage shot on 8 June shows four masked figures walk up to some shepherds and attack them with clubs.
The settlers gave us a 10-minute warning to clear off from the land Thamam al-Nawaja
An elderly Palestinian and his wife were hospitalised after the incident and their nephew was wounded.
The wife, Thamam al-Nawaja, said the settlers had given them 10 minutes to leave an area where they were grazing their animals; when they refused to move the settlers came and beat them.
The footage, which the BBC was given exclusive access to, was shot by Mrs Nawaja’s daughter-in-law, who dropped the camera after the initial blows.
Ms Nawaja’s injuries were a fractured cheek bone and a broken arm.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the BBC News website that the arrests were made as a result of enquiries at Susia settlement, near the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron, and the investigation would continue. He said police were examining the footage closely. They were inquiring into the whether there had been any “provocation” for the apparent attack and whether all the Palestinians in the footage where indeed shepherds.
Friction between Israeli settlers and local Palestinians frequently erupts into violence.
Human rights groups say the Israeli police and the judiciary often show leniency towards the settlers, who live on land captured by Israel in the 1967 war with support from the Israeli state. The authorities deny such accusations.
An Israeli is always right by divine.
An Israeli is never a wrongful terrorist, murderer, tortyrer or lier but
a diffrent kind a virtouse and good one. Not even when proven the contrary!
Racisim and colonalism comes in many shapes and forms.
Baseballing down people that have all rights to be in one area is nothing
but nazi methology and ideology. Apologising for it is subscribing to it.
Disgusting? No just “bizness as usuall” in Eretz Israel, wherelse?
Kate Allen, the UK director of Amnesty international said: “Israel has the right and obligation to protect its citizens, but as the occupying power in Gaza it also has a legal duty to ensure that Gazans have access to food, clean water, electricity and medical care.
“Punishing the entire Gazan population by denying them these basic human rights is utterly indefensible. The current situation is man-made and must be reversed.”
Israel removed settlements and withdrew its forces from inside Gaza in 2005 but maintains control of most of Gaza’s land, sea and air access.
After inter-Palestinian fighting left Hamas in de-facto control of Gaza in June, Israel closed the territory’s borders, allowing only shipments of vital goods into Gaza.
Israel’s defence ministry rejected the report, blaming Hamas for the hardships in Gaza.
“The main responsibility for events in Gaza – since the withdrawal of Israel from the territory and the uprooting of the settlements there – is the Hamas organisation, to which all complaints should be addressed,” Major Peter Lerner, a defence ministry spokesman, said in a statement.
The Israeli defence ministry also said medicines and medical equipment are shipped into Gaza with no limitation. On Wednesday, the military said it allowed 69 truckloads of supplies into Gaza, including basic food and baby formula.
However, Zahir Janmohamed, the Middle East advocacy director for Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera: “The Israeli government needs to lift the blockade, humanitarian assistance is not reaching Palestinians and if things continue the way they are, then I’m worried that even more chaos will erupt.”
Ref: Al Jazeera
A one-month-old baby girl has been killed in crossfire after Israeli forces re-entered Gaza, Palestinian officials have said.
A senior Islamic Jihad fighter also died after soldiers in 25 armoured vehicles entered the territory on Tuesday night and clashed with Palestinian fighters before pulling back about two hours later.
Several Islamic Jihad fighters were also arrested in the operation.
The clashes come just a day after Israel ended a six-day ground operation in Gaza which left 120 Palestinians dead.
Israeli defence officials said it was a “pinpoint'” operation aimed at fighters but medics said the baby was killed in the crossfire and at least eight fighters and three civilians were wounded.
The armoured column entered Gaza through the Kissufim crossing. Witnesses said that, during the clashes, Israeli tanks fired shells and helicopters fired missiles.
Talks in limbo
The operation came as the visiting US secretary of state failed to win a public commitment from the Palestinian president on Tuesday to resume negotiations towards a peace treaty with Israel.
Mahmoud Abbas, who on Sunday suspended negotiations in protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, urged Israel to halt military operations to create the atmosphere for talks.
Condoleezza Rice told a joint news conference with Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah that “we look forward to the resumption of those negotiations as soon as possible”.
But Abbas sidestepped a question on when talks might get under way.
“I call on the Israeli government to halt its aggression in order that we can afford the necessary atmosphere to conduct the negotiations,” he said, without setting any timeframe for their resumption.
Rice blamed Hamas for obstructing talks and having “no interest in peace”.
But while she said the “US understands the right of Israel to defend itself” against rocket attacks, she said many innocent people had been caught in the crossfire.
“Israel needs to be very cognisant of the effect of its operations on innocent people,” she said.
Israel had pulled back its troops from the Gaza Strip on Monday, before Rice’s arrival in the region.
But a senior Israeli official said that the pull-back would only be a “two-day interval” during her visit.
Ref: Al Jazzera
The head of Israel’s airforce, Major-General Eliezer Shkedi, was visiting a base in the coastal city of Herziliya last week. For the 50-year-old general, also the head of Israel’s Iran Command, which would fight a war with Tehran if ordered, it was a morale-boosting affair, a meet-and-greet with pilots and navigators who had flown during last summer’s month-long war against Lebanon. The journalists who had turned out in large numbers were there for another reason: to question Shkedi about a mysterious air raid that happened this month, codenamed ‘Orchard’, carried out deep in Syrian territory by his pilots.
Shkedi ignored all questions. It set a pattern for the days to follow as he and Israel’s politicians and officials maintained a steely silence, even when the questions came from the visiting French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner. Those journalists who thought of reporting the story were discouraged by the threat of Israel’s military censor.
But the rumours were in circulation, not just in Israel but in Washington and elsewhere. In the days that followed, the sketchy details of the raid were accompanied by contradictory claims even as US and British officials admitted knowledge of the raid. The New York Times described the target of the raid as a nuclear site being run in collaboration with North Korean technicians. Others reported that the jets had hit either a Hizbollah convoy, a missile facility or a terrorist camp.
Amid the confusion there were troubling details that chimed uncomfortably with the known facts. Two detachable tanks from an Israeli fighter were found just over the Turkish border. According to Turkish military sources, they belonged to a Raam F15I – the newest generation of Israeli long-range bomber, which has a combat range of over 2,000km when equipped with the drop tanks. This would enable them to reach targets in Iran, leading to speculation that it was an ‘operation rehearsal’ for a raid on Tehran’s nuclear facilities.
Finally, however, at the week’s end, the first few tangible details were beginning to emerge about Operation Orchard from a source involved in the Israeli operation.
They were sketchy, but one thing was absolutely clear. Far from being a minor incursion, the Israeli overflight of Syrian airspace through its ally, Turkey, was a far more major affair involving as many as eight aircraft, including Israel’s most ultra-modern F-15s and F-16s equipped with Maverick missiles and 500lb bombs. Flying among the Israeli fighters at great height, The Observer can reveal, was an ELINT – an electronic intelligence gathering aircraft.
What was becoming clear by this weekend amid much scepticism, largely from sources connected with the administration of President George Bush, was the nature of the allegation, if not the facts.
In a series of piecemeal leaks from US officials that gave the impression of being co-ordinated, a narrative was laid out that combined nuclear skulduggery and the surviving members of the ‘axis of evil’: Iran, North Korea and Syria.
It also combined a series of neoconservative foreign policy concerns: that North Korea was not being properly monitored in the deal struck for its nuclear disarmament and was off-loading its material to Iran and Syria, both of which in turn were helping to rearm Hizbollah.
Underlying all the accusations was a suggestion that recalled the bogus intelligence claims that led to the war against Iraq: that the three countries might be collaborating to supply an unconventional weapon to Hizbollah.
It is not only the raid that is odd but also, ironically, the deliberate air of mystery surrounding it, given Israel’s past history of bragging about similar raids, including an attack on an Iraqi reactor. It was a secrecy so tight, in fact, that even as the Israeli aircrew climbed into the cockpits of their planes they were not told the nature of the target they were being ordered to attack.
According to an intelligence expert quoted in the Washington Post who spoke to aircrew involved in the raid, the target of the attack, revealed only to the pilots while they were in the air, was a northern Syrian facility that was labelled as an agricultural research centre on the Euphrates river, close to the Turkish border.
According to this version of events, a North Korean ship, officially carrying a cargo of cement, docked three days before the raid in the Syrian port of Tartus. That ship was also alleged to be carrying nuclear equipment.
It is an angle that has been pushed hardest by the neoconservative hawk and former US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. But others have entered the fray, among them the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who, without mentioning Syria by name, suggested to Fox television that the raid was linked to stopping unconventional weapons proliferation.
Most explicit of all was Andrew Semmel, acting deputy assistant Secretary of State for nuclear non-proliferation policy, who, speaking in Rome yesterday, insisted that ‘North Koreans were in Syria’ and that Damascus may have had contacts with ‘secret suppliers’ to obtain nuclear equipment.
‘There are indicators that they do have something going on there,’ he said. ‘We do know that there are a number of foreign technicians that have been in Syria. We do know that there may have been contact between Syria and some secret suppliers for nuclear equipment. Whether anything transpired remains to be seen.
‘So good foreign policy, good national security policy, would suggest that we pay very close attention to that,’ he said. ‘We’re watching very closely. Obviously, the Israelis were watching very closely.’
But despite the heavy inference, no official so far has offered an outright accusation. Instead they have hedged their claims in ifs and buts, assiduously avoiding the term ‘weapons of mass destruction’.
There has also been deep scepticism about the claims from other officials and former officials familiar with both Syria and North Korea. They have pointed out that an almost bankrupt Syria has neither the economic nor the industrial base to support the kind of nuclear programme described, adding that Syria has long rejected going down the nuclear route.
Others have pointed out that North Korea and Syria in any case have also had a long history of close links – making meaningless the claim that the North Koreans are in Syria.
The scepticism was reflected by Bruce Reidel, a former intelligence official at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Centre, quoted in the Post. ‘It was a substantial Israeli operation, but I can’t get a good fix on whether the target was a nuclear thing,’ adding that there was ‘a great deal of scepticism that there’s any nuclear angle here’ and instead the facility could have been related to chemical or biological weapons.
The opaqueness surrounding the nature of what may have been hit in Operation Orchard has been compounded by claims that US knowledge over the alleged ‘agricultural site’ has come not from its own intelligence and satellite imaging, but from material supplied to Washington from Tel Aviv over the last six months, material that has been restricted to just a few senior officials under the instructions of national security adviser Stephen Hadley, leaving many in the intelligence community uncertain of its veracity.
Whatever the truth of the allegations against Syria – and Israel has a long history of employing complex deceptions in its operations – the message being delivered from Tel Aviv is clear: if Syria’s ally, Iran, comes close to acquiring a nuclear weapon, and the world fails to prevent it, either through diplomatic or military means, then Israel will stop it on its own.
So Operation Orchard can be seen as a dry run, a raid using the same heavily modified long-range aircraft, procured specifically from the US with Iran’s nuclear sites in mind. It reminds both Iran and Syria of the supremacy of its aircraft and appears to be designed to deter Syria from getting involved in the event of a raid on Iran – a reminder, if it were required, that if Israel’s ground forces were humiliated in the second Lebanese war its airforce remains potent, powerful and unchallenged.
And, critically, the raid on Syria has come as speculation about a war against Iran has begun to re-emerge after a relatively quiet summer.
With the US keen to push for a third UN Security Council resolution authorising a further tranche of sanctions against Iran, both London and Washington have increased the heat by alleging that they are already fighting ‘a proxy war’ with Tehran in Iraq.
Perhaps more worrying are the well-sourced claims from conservative thinktanks in the US that there have been ‘instructions’ by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney to roll out support for a war against Iran.
In the end there is no mystery. Only a frightening reminder. In a world of proxy threats and proxy actions, the threat of military action against Iran has far from disappeared from the agenda.
Ref: The Observer