Settlement data ‘implicates Israel’ + Secret Israeli database reveals full extent of illegal settlement (this is OLD news!!!)

A leaked report on Jewish settlements in the West Bank shows that the Israeli government was complicit in illegal construction on land owned by Palestinians, an Israeli human rights group says.

Yesh Din said on Friday that the classsified information, compiled by the Israeli defence ministry, would allow it to help Palestinians sue the Israeli government for damages.

Michael Sfard, Yesh Din’s legal counsel, said the information was a “severe indictment” of Israel’s military and government.

Israeli authorities are “systematically violating international law and the property rights of Palestinian residents,” he said in a statement.

The information leaked to the group shows that in three out of every four settlements in the West Bank at least some of the construction was completed without proper permits, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.

The daily said the database showed that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure like roads, schools, synagogues, and even police stations was carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinians.

In one settlement, Elon Moreh, 18 houses were built on private land, the reports says. In another, Efrat, a park and a synagogue were built on privateland, and in a third, Ariel, a college was built without legal approval.

Yesh Din said it would begin running advertisments in Palestinian newspapers to encourage people to take legal action, and will also offer legal counsel, the statement from the group said.

The database focuses on the 120 West bank settlements that have been authorised by the Israeli government since it occupied the territory in 1967. About 100 other unauthorised outposts have also been established by settlers.

The settlements are illegal under international law and the so-called “road map” setting the course for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations calls for a halt to their expansion.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli government on the conclusions of the report.

Ref: Al Jazeera

Read more here “Secret Israeli database reveals full extent of illegal settlement”

Israel; Always the Victim – Not even close!

Israel has successfully portrayed itself as the victim with the duty to defend its people, but the reality is that everyone has the right to defend its people and to live in security. These are not luxuries to be enjoyed by Israelis alone in the Middle East.

The Israelis insist that the latest violence began when Hamas “ended” a six month truce. I didn’t know there was a truce.

During this six-month truce, the International Middle East Media Center (a collaboration of international and Palestinian journalists) reported that the Israeli army killed 23 Palestinians, wounded 62, and kidnapped 38 residents in the Gaza Strip.

Truce? What truce?

In terms of the daily life for Palestinians in Gaza, Israel has been blocking medical supplies, food, and fuel on a regular basis for the past two years. Prior to the latest attacks, many have died from treatable illnesses due to the blocking of medical supplies. A Reuters article (12/30/08), citing research from Save the Children (UK), noted that 70% of Palestinian children already had a vitamin A deficiency and almost half of children under age two were anemic due to the border blockade. Early last year, a Toronto Star article (2/11/08) featured Palestinians from Gaza who have been driving on cooking oil due to fuel shipments being blocked.

What would Israel’s response be if the situation were in reverse?

Sadly, our media has not covered these tactics. Instead, it has generally chosen to publicize the Israeli spin of victimhood.

Israel. Always the victim.

Even with the Israeli Army’s revelation in a January 4, 2009 Haaretz article that they overestimated Gaza’s rocket severity, Israel won’t give up its victimhood card. The bombing continues, as does the self-righteousness that comes with it.

Perhaps, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe put it best in his recent article, “Israel’s righteous fury and its victims in Gaza.” He wrote, “The self-righteousness is a powerful act of self-denial and justification. It explains why the Israeli Jewish society would not be moved by words of wisdom, logical persuasion or diplomatic dialogue.”

Israel. Always the victim.

Though we live in the 21st century, it seems that maybe our Western world (specifically the US) has been caught in a time warp. There are those who actually think that it can atone for the crimes of WWII by giving Israel the green light to commit more crimes against humanity. But ignoring Israel’s embargo of food, medicine, fuel, and the killings of Palestinians actually dishonors the memories of those who were murdered for who they were during WWII.

Just because there are no ovens or gassing in the current conflict doesn’t mean that it is less of a genocide or holocaust. And when Israel intentionally blocks humanitarian goods and aims to make life so miserable that Palestinians will want to leave all the while dehumanizing them in the process, Israel is committing genocide.

Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide does not make exceptions for motive. In other words, using Hamas as an excuse is unacceptable. The Convention discusses “Deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to destroy a group includes the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the group’s physical survival, such as clean water, food, clothing, shelter or medical services. Deprivation of the means to sustain life can be imposed through confiscation of harvests, blockade of foodstuffs, detention in camps, forcible relocation or expulsion into deserts.”

It is what it is and whitewashing it doesn’t change the reality, regardless of the Israeli spin.

In recent days, the inter-active forums on the internet have been filled with pro-Israel posts referring to Palestinians as vermin who should be exterminated. These Hitleresque statements, of course, are said within the context of self-righteousness and victimhood.

Israel. Always the victim.

At some point, I have to believe that even those who have abused this card will tire of it.

Someday.

For now, the words of respected journalist and media reform advocate, Bill Moyers, come to mind. “Democracy without honest information creates the illusion of popular consent at the same time that it enhances the power of the state and the privileged interests that the state protects.”

We need to think about that as our corporate media becomes more of a mouthpiece for the government and less interested in hard reporting and truth-telling.

Israel. Always the victim? Not even close.

Ref: PalestineChronicle.com.
– Sherri Muzher J.D. with emphasis in International Law. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

“B’tselem Engangers Arabs” (the landtheifs barks and threatens)


This is how the look, smell and barks.
The colonalists. The people with “jewish identity” that say that a peace organisation in the “democracy” of Israel is hateful and starts unrests. And even would enganger arabs! Which arabs? Oh, yeah the palestininans the local population. Ofcourse they are an ideology motivated organization. That state represenatives from Israel and Jerusalem visits and promises illegal things to these settlers, that is not ideology. And it goes on and on and on…

Welcome to Israeli banality!
Where “right” is always so far to the right that hatred and racisim is a way of cheaper living.

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Shady land deal unfolds from West Bank to California strip mall

The transformation of a piece of West Bank land from a Palestinian field into a Jewish settlement has roots in an unlikely place – Orange County, California – and in a document that a man supposedly signed more than four decades after the date of his death.

Unfolding from the West Bank’s terraced olive groves to a strip mall in a Los Angeles suburb, the story of this posthumous deal offers a rare glimpse into the underworld of straw companies and middlemen through which chunks of land move from Palestinian to Israeli hands. Each transaction further complicates an Israeli withdrawal that would be key to any peace agreement.

The land now houses a thriving Jewish settlement, another of the facts on the ground that strengthen Israel’s grip on the West Bank and outrage the Palestinians. Such property deals are driven by the settlers’ belief the land is their God-given right; the cooperation of Israel’s governments, even those that have talked peace; and cash from wealthy donors, many of them American Jews.
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In this case, a 2004 document shows a Palestinian farmer named Abdel Latif Sumarin sold a plot long tended by his family near the village of Burqa, east of the city of Ramallah, to a company with an Arabic name. The paper contains Sumarin’s signature in clear English script and that of a California notary.

But an Associated Press investigation that made use of court papers, public records and interviews in the West Bank, Israel and the U.S., shows that the document is a poorly executed forgery.

There’s no evidence Sumarin ever visited America, his family says he couldn’t write English, and public records show he died in 1961. The notary in California says he did not sign the paper either.

The land now houses part of Migron, one of the some 100 unauthorized outposts established by settlers in the West Bank over the past decade. The six acres (2.5 hectares) of rocky soil are caught up in two court cases in Israel and investigations by Israeli police and, it appears, the FBI.

Sumarin’s grandson, Abdel Munam Sumarin, can see the trailers and utility poles of Migron from his living room in Burqa. As one of his grandfather’s heirs, he has appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court to get the land back; other Palestinians who say they own plots occupied by the settlement have joined the suit.

“The connection between us and our land is like religion. It’s our family. It’s not about money – you can’t state its worth in money. Money goes, but the land remains,” said Sumarin, 51, a preacher at a mosque in a neighboring village.

Beginning next to a hilltop cell phone antenna in 2001, Migron is home to 45 young families. It was never officially approved by Israel’s government, but the government nonetheless provided security, an access road, and infrastructure for electricity and water.

Anyone who examines the Israeli military’s West Bank land records can find the owner of Parcel 26, Lot 23: Abdel Latif Sumarin of Burqa, his name still listed on documents long after he died and bequeathed the land to his children.

The settlers say they purchased the land in 2004, after they had already effectively seized it. They cite a document bearing Sumarin’s name and the stamp and signature of notary public D.K. Shah, who runs the Postal Annex, an office-services business in a strip mall in the Los Angeles suburb of Tustin, about 7,600 miles from the West Bank.

Documents signed in strange places – and crooked deals – are not unusual in the lucrative and clandestine trade in Palestinian-owned land. Another recent challenge to a settler land deal in the town of Hebron involved forged documents, and a third revolved around Israeli businessmen who set up a notary with a prostitute, filmed their encounter, and then blackmailed the man into signing a sales document in Cyprus.

Palestinian society sees selling land to Israelis as treason, and the bullet-riddled corpses of Palestinian land dealers turn up every so often around the West Bank. To protect sellers, the deals are secret and almost never registered.

That allows several kinds of scams. Sometimes, Palestinians cheat the settlers by taking heir money and not turning over the land, or selling land they don’t own. Other times, settlers falsely claim they’ve purchased Palestinians’ land.

On Feb. 12, 2004, according to a document the Migron settlers provided to an Israeli court, a person identifying himself as Abdel-Latif Hassaan Sumrain (Elmatin), a previous resident of the Village of Borka Ramallah now residing in Orange County, California, appeared before Shah, the California notary.

Sumrain gave the number of a California ID card and confirmed he received an unspecified payment for turning his land over to a company called Elwatan Ltd. In Arabic, el-watan means homeland, a name that appears to have been a cynical joke by the Israeli settlers who founded the company to buy Palestinian land.

Court documents list the company’s address as 17 Six-Day War St. in Jerusalem, but a woman who answered the main door to the two-story residential building said she had never heard of it. She refused to give her name.

The notary’s document also doesn’t stand up. It contains several misspellings, including Sumarin’s name and that of his El-Mu’atan clan – mistakes that could easily have been made by someone working off a document in Arabic, which is largely written without vowels.

A check of California records shows the ID number the seller gave belongs to an Ernie Mario Mendoza. A man who answered the phone at a Poway, Calif., number for Mendoza did not appear to have heard of the case and refused to answer questions.

A Palestinian Authority document shows that Sumarin died in 1961, when his grandson says he was around 80. The grandson and a grandnephew said the elder Sumarin was buried near a fragile olive tree in the village cemetery. From there, Migron is visible on a hilltop to the east.

The El-Watan company was set up by an Israeli local government in the West Bank that was headed until recently by Pinhas Wallerstein, a prominent settler leader.

“The person who sold us the land was very much alive at the time, and living in the United States,” said Wallerstein, adding that the settlers had paid millions of dollars for the small plot. He said the document transferring ownership was genuine to the best of my knowledge.

“If anyone was guilty of fraud,” Wallerstein said, “it was the seller, who may have tricked the settlers into believing he was the Palestinian owner. He did not present evidence for that claim, which if true would mean the settlers spent millions without verifying the seller’s identity.”

The company has a photocopy of the seller’s California ID and a videotape of him, Wallerstein said. But he would not make them available to the AP, saying they would eventually be introduced as evidence in court.

Shah told the AP in Tustin that he never signed the document and that the stamp on it was not authentic. Copies of Shah’s real signature provided by Orange County officials do not match the signature on the Sumarin document.

“It’s not my writing,” Shah said. “Somebody did fraud, I guess.”

He said he had been questioned by FBI agents and was not allowed to reveal more details. The FBI’s Los Angeles office said only that it does not confirm or deny investigations.

Hillel Cohen, a Hebrew University expert on Palestinian collaboration with Israel, said the forgers likely would not have hesitated to use a dead man’s name since Palestinians registered as owners of West Bank land are often dead or live abroad.

He said it was reasonable to expect that no one would even notice the supposed sale, let alone check its authenticity. Although Israeli watchdog groups like Peace Now and Yesh Din have tracked sales of Palestinian land in recent years, these forgers might still have been playing by the old rules, said Cohen.

“If no one cares, you don’t get caught,” he said.

Dror Etkes, an Israeli peace activist behind the legal action against Migron, said the crude forgery demonstrated the settlers’ confidence. If they were more afraid, they would do it more professionally, he said.

The Israeli government has not recognized the Sumarin sale or any other land purchases at Migron, and is pushing a compromise deal to move Migron elsewhere in the West Bank. But the Migron settlers say they won’t move and are fighting to prove their ownership in a Jerusalem court. The process could take years.

Itay Harel, a social worker who lives on the Sumarin plot in Migron, insisted the sale was legitimate, although he refused to discuss it in detail. He also made clear that from the settlers’ perspective, the sale was beside the point.

“This land belongs to the people of Israel, who were driven off it by force,” Harel said, referring to the defeat and exile of the Jews by Rome in A.D. 70. He said no Palestinian had a rightful claim to any part of the West Bank.

“Anyone who claims the land is his is lying, and it is said that if you lie enough times, you start believing it,” he said.

Ref: Haaretz

Read more about The Migron disgrace or about the ongoing offical Israeli policy of stealing land here “Israel ‘funded illegal outposts’

Jurists tell Barak: Don’t shell Gaza population centers

Israel should not use artillery fire to target rocket-launching militants in the Gaza Strip if the fire is aimed at populated areas, the defense establishment’s legal adviser recently told Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

“Artillery fire is permissible only in relatively open areas,” Ahaz Benari wrote in the legal opinion. “Artillery fire at urban areas is problematic, if the assessment is that the chance that the shell will hit the launchers is relatively low, while the risk that many civilians will be hurt is substantial.”

Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi have previously expressed doubts about an extensive Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza now. Benari’s opinion appears to be backed by leading military prosecution officials, though Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has yet to express a firm opinion on the matter. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has promised to hold a cabinet meeting on the issue shortly.

Benari wrote the legal opinion December 7, after cabinet ministers called for a reexamination of the steps Israel is using to counter Qassam fire. The opinion reviews international law on the matter and finds that while there is no wholesale ban on artillery fire at sites from which rockets were launched, the fire should be aimed at military targets and be able to distinguish between the target and civilians or civilian property.

The opinion also states that if damage to civilians or their property is expected as a result of the artillery fire, the IDF must make sure the damage is not much greater than the expected military benefit – an expression of the legal principle known as proportionality.

Meanwhile, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired seven Qassam rockets and mortar shells on southern Israel yesterday, causing no injuries. Defense officials said last night that even though Hamas leaders are saying the cease-fire with Israel will not be extended past Friday, the organization has not completely given up on continuing the lull.

The IDF developed a detailed procedure for artillery fire in Gaza in 2006, which approves shooting only in open areas and mandates that a distance be kept from buildings. But the IDF halted its use of artillery fire altogether after accidentally killing 18 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza town of Beit Hanun in November 2006, even though the artillery fire was meant to target open areas.

The legal opinion also addressed the creation of ghost towns in Gaza, involving the eviction of Gazans from their homes in areas Palestinian militants use for launching rockets, as an Israeli response to the rocket fire. Benari said international law allows Israel to warn the residents of the intended IDF artillery response and evacuate a particular area for a short time. But even then, he said, the IDF cannot engage in carpet bombing, which would lead to the intended massive destruction of property that does not constitute a legitimate target. He said Israel must also take into account that some civilians will remain in the area even if they are advised to leave.

Ref: Haaaaaretz


So they plan, the murders.

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THE RIGHT TO RETURN, A BASIC RIGHT STILL DENIED*

Palestinian refugees represent the longest suffering and largest refugee population in the world today.

• In 2005, there were approximately 7.2 million Palestinian refugees, equivalent to 74% of the entire Palestinian population which is estimated at 9.7 million worldwide.

• The breakdown of the refugee population is as follows:

During the creation of the Zionist state in 1948, approximately three quarters of a million Palestinians were forced to become refugees. Together with their descendants, more than 4.3 million of these refugees are today registered with the United Nations while over 1.7 million are not. According to The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), one-third of the registered refugees live in 59 U.N.-run camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip sections of Palestine. The majority of the rest live in and around cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and of neighboring countries.
Approximately 32,000 Palestinians also became internally displaced in the areas occupied in 1948. Today, these refugees number approximately 355,000 persons. Despite the fact that they were issued Israeli citizenship, the Zionist state has also denied these refugees their right to return to their homes or villages.
When the West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied in 1967, the U.N. reported that approximately 200,000 Palestinians fled their homes. These 1967 refugees and their descendants today number about 834,000 persons.
As a result of home demolitions, revocation of residency rights and construction of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian owned-land, at least 57,000 Palestinians have become displaced in the occupied West Bank. This number includes 15,000 persons so far displaced by the construction of Israel’s Annexation/Apartheid Wall.
• The Right to Return has a solid legal basis:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 13 affirms: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country.”
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [Article 5 (d)(ii)], states: “State parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination on all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, color, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of … the right to leave any country, including one’s own, and to return to one’s country.”
The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights [Article 12(4)], states: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

Moreover, the Principle of Self Determination guarantees, inter alia, the right of ownership and domicile in one’s own country. The UN adopted this principle in 1947. In 1969 and thereafter, it was explicitly applied to the Palestinian People, including “the legality of the Peoples’ struggle for Self-Determination and Liberation”, (GAOR 2535 (xxiv), 2628 (xxv), 2672 (xxv), 2792 (xxvi)). International law demands that neither occupation nor sovereignty diminish the rights of ownership. When the Ottomans surrendered in 1920, Palestinian ownership of the land was maintained. The land and property of the refugees remains their own and they are entitled to return to it.

• In 1948, the international community felt a deep sense of responsibility for the mass dispossession, ethnic cleansing and the Zionist transfer policy that began then. United Nations Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte, who was later assassinated by a Zionist terrorist hit squad, stated: “It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes, while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine” (UN Doc Al 648, 1948). This remains true today as any Jew, regardless of national origin, can gain automatic citizenship while Palestinian Arabs are denied their right to return to their own homeland.

• Consistent with International Law, The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 194 on December 11, 1948. Paragraph 11 states: “the [Palestinian] refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

• UN General Assembly Resolution 194 has been affirmed by the UN over 130 times since its introduction in 1948 with universal consensus except for Israel and the U.S. This resolution was further clarified by UN General Assembly Resolution 3236 which reaffirms in Subsection 2: “the inalienable right of Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return.”

• Israel’s admission to the UN was conditional on its acceptance of UN resolutions including 194. Denying the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands is a war crime and an act of aggression which deserves action by the international community. The international community can apply sanctions on Israel until it complies with international law.

• The right of refugees to return is not only sacred and legal but also possible. Demographic studies show that 80% of Israelis live in 15 percent of the land and that the remaining 20% live on 85% of the land that belongs to the refugees. Further, of the 20%, 18% live in Palestinian cities while the remaining 2% live in kibbutzim and moshavs. By contrast, more than 6,000 refugees live per square kilometer in the Gaza Strip, while over the barbed wire their lands are practically empty. Ninety seven percent of the entire refugee population currently lives within 100 km of their homes. Fifty percent live within 40 km. While many live within sight of their homes.

• The inalienable rights of refugees are not negotiable. International law considers agreements between an occupier and the occupied to be null and void if they deprive civilians of recognized human rights including the rights to repatriation and restitution.

• The US is bound by its laws not to fund regimes that violate human rights and basic freedoms. There is no more elemental right than one’s right to his/her home and to live in his/her land. The US could use the leverage of the massive financial support it gives to the State of Israel to press for this right.

*Sources:

Ref: Al-Awada

Syria accuses US of deadly raid

Syria has accused the United States of killing at least eight people in a helicopter raid in the country’s east, close to the border with Iraq.

The government condemned the act as “serious aggression” and summoned the senior US and Iraqi envoys to Damascus to protest against the raid, the Syrian Arab news agency (Sana) reported on Sunday.

A US military official speaking on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press in Washington that the raid by US special forces were targeting al-Qaeda-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq.

“We are taking matters into our own hands,” AP quoted him as saying.

Syrian state television said American helicopters raided the village of Sukariya, which lies 550km northeast of Damascus, before flying back towards Iraqi territory.

“Four American helicopters violated Syrian airspace around 4:45pm local time [13:45 GMT] on Sunday,” state television and Sana news agency reported.

During the raids, two of the helicopters landed and dropped off eight US soldiers, who then entered a house, Syrian media reported.

“American soldiers … attacked a civilian building under construction and fired at workmen inside, causing eight deaths,” the reports said.

Children killed

The government said civilians were among the dead, including four children.

“Syria condemns this aggression and holds the American forces responsible for this aggression and all its repercussions”

Syrian government statement
“Syria condemns this aggression and holds the American forces responsible for this aggression and all its repercussions. Syria also calls on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities and launch and immediate investigation into this serious violation and prevent the use of Iraqi territory for aggression against Syria,” a government statement said.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, there have been some instances in which American troops crossed areas of the 600-km border in pursuit of fighters, or aircraft violating Syria’s airspace.

But Sunday’s raid, if confirmed, would be the first conducted by aircraft and on such a large scale.

Akram Hameed, one of the injured who said he was fishing in the Euphrates river, told Syrian television he saw four helicopters coming from the border area under a heavy blanket of fire.

“One of the helicopters landed in an agricultural area and eight members disembarked,” the man in his 40s said. “The firing lasted about 15 minutes and when I tried to leave the area on my motorcycle, I was hit by a bullet in the right arm about 20 metres away,” he said.

Syria TV showed what it said was the injured wife of the building’s guard, in bed in hospital with a tube in her nose, saying that two helicopters landed and two remained in the air during the attack.

US reaction

The alleged attack came just days after the commander of US forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an “uncontrolled” gateway for fighters entering Iraq.

US Major-General John Kelly said on Thursday that Iraq’s western borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan were fairly tight as a result of good policing by security forces in those countries but that Syria was a “different story”.

IN VIDEO

US raid on Syrian soil
“The Syrian side is, I guess, uncontrolled by their side,” Kelly said. “We still have a certain level of foreign fighter movement.”

However, Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Hughes, a spokesman for US forces in western Iraq, said the US division that operates on the Iraqi side of the border was not involved in Sunday’s incident.

A Pentagon spokesman in Washington said he had no immediate information on the reported strike but would check further while the White House and CIA declined to comment.

The US and the US-backed Iraqi government frequently say Damascus is not doing enough to stop anti-US fighters, including those from al-Qaeda, from crossing the border into Iraq.

The area targeted by Sunday’s raid lies close to the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which in the past has been a crossing point for fighters, weapons and money used to fuel the armed Sunni opposition against Iraq’s Shia-led government.

Thabet Salem, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera that the US had appeared to have taken the building workers for infiltrators.

“The Syrian government will be very worried because from the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003 until now, nothing has happened [in Syria]. There have maybe been a few cases, but nothing like eight people killed inside Syria,” he said.

“It will raise questions as to why this is happening at this moment – towards the end of the current US administration.

“Syria has deployed large numbers [of security staff] and they have checkpoints every four kilometres along the border. The Syrians have, according to my information, stopped five or six thousand people trying to cross the Syria-Iraq border throughout the last few years.”

Iraq security

The raid comes 10 days after Iraqi forces arrested seven Syrian “terrorist” suspects at a checkpoint near the city of Baquba, a base for al-Qaeda fighters, the Iraqi government said.

But last month, Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s president, told his US counterpart George Bush that Iran and Syria no longer pose a problem to Iraqi security.

Syria’s first ambassador to Iraq in 26 years took up his post in Baghdad this month, bringing more than two decades of discord between the nations to an end.

In September, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said she had met Walid Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister, to discuss Middle East peace efforts.

Syrian and American diplomats said the talks touched on Iraq, Lebanon and Middle East peace negotiations.

Ref: Al Jazeera