Monday, May 31, 2010

UNSC to meet over Israeli raid on Flotilla
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128498§ionid=351020202



The United Nations Security Council will convene to discuss the Israeli attacks against an international aid convoy bound for Gaza.

Diplomats at Security Council announced that the meting will take place on Monday afternoon but gave no further details.

The Israeli navy attacked the Freedom Flotilla aid convoy, which was carrying thousands of tons of supplies to the Gaza Strip.

At least 20 activists were killed and 50 others were injured in the attack, al-Aqsa television said.

The Israeli navy rerouted the ships to the port of Ashdod.

The Flotilla was seeking to break Israel's crippling blockade of Gaza and deliver basic necessities to the impoverished Palestinians living in the coastal enclave.

Iran Gen. calls for isolation of Israel
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128495§ionid=351020101


Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi says the international community must isolate Israel for attacking an aid convoy en route to the impoverished Gaza Strip.

"Israel triggered the countdown of its destruction by attacking the Freedom Flotilla," Brig. Gen. Vahidi said, condemning the attack on the Gaza-bound aid convoy, ILNA reported.

The Iranian minister added that the imposition of all-encompassing sanctions, severing all diplomatic, economic and political ties with the Zionist regime is the least the international community could do against Israel for committing such a horrendous crime.

Gen. Vahidi said the US, Europe and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must answer to the world public opinion why no action has been taken towards the nuclear disarmament of Israel, which is capable of committing such atrocities.

"This is an important test for the advocates of human rights which will show how committed they are to their slogans," Vahidi noted.

The Israeli forces launched an attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla en route to the besieged Gaza Strip on Monday, killing at least 20 people and leaving 50 others injured.

UNSC meeting urged on Israeli attack
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128474§ionid=351020204



Following the Israeli navy's attack on a convoy of aid ships bound for Gaza, Turkey has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

The Israeli navy stormed the Freedom Flotilla early on Monday, killing at least 20 people, mostly Turkish nationals and injuring 50 others, according to al-Aqsa television.

The convoy was intercepted in international waters, some 150km (90 miles) off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu cancelled his meetings in Washington to head to New York for the UN gathering.

Meanwhile, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said his country withdrew its ambassador to Israel.

Condemning Monday's assault, several European nations, including, Sweden, Greece, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Italy, and Ireland summoned Israeli envoys to their respective countries.

Tens of thousands of people across the world gathered to denounce the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid flotilla.

In Turkey's biggest city, Istanbul, people took to the streets to condemn the move. The protesters also attacked Israel's consulate in the city, prompting police to use water canon to disperse the crowd.

Meanwhile, the European Union is calling for a full inquiry into the Israeli attack on the humanitarian aid convoy.

The convoy, compromised of nine ships, was carrying 10,000 tons of supplies and hundreds of politicians, activists and journalists.

The flotilla was seeking to break Israel's crippling blockade of Gaza and deliver basic necessities to the impoverished Palestinians living in the coastal enclave.

Protests erupt against Gaza aid raid
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128466§ionid=351020202



Shock and outrage sweep through the world over a deadly Israeli strike on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla as protests erupt across the globe in condemnation of the attack.

On Monday, both foes and allies of Tel Aviv across the world closed ranks by condemning the early Monday raid on the six-ship Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which reportedly left some 20 people killed, mostly Turk nationals, and scores wounded.

In Turkey, hundreds of angry protesters took to the streets of Istanbul and gathered in front of Israel's consulate, shouting anti-Israeli slogans.

Also in the Turkish capital, Ankara, police struggled to contain hundreds of outraged demonstrators outside the residence of the Israeli ambassador.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Jordanian capital Amman, urging the government to shut down the Israeli embassy. The furious protesters also called for an end to the years-long Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Both Jordan and Turkey summoned the Israeli ambassador over the lethal attack.

In Kuwait, the parliament has held an emergency meeting over the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid fleet, which was carrying 16 Kuwaitis including an MP, the official KUNA news agency reported.

Iraq has also slammed the attack as a "new humanitarian disaster."

Khairallah al-Basri, a member of current premier Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, however, said the attack was not "unique" as such "shameful" Israeli crimes occurred every once in a while amidst global silence.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa had earlier slammed the raid as a "crime", saying the 22-country body was consulting to decide on its next step against Israel.

In Europe, condemnations were equally swift, as Sweden, Greece, Spain, Denmark and Norway summoned Israeli envoys.

According to al-Aqsa television, at least 20 people were killed and 50 others injured when the Israeli navy stormed the Gaza Freedom Flotilla early on Monday. The convoy was intercepted in international waters, some 150km (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza

EU demands inquiry into Israeli raid
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128449§ionid=351020605



Hours after the Israeli military attacked a Gaza-bound aid convoy, the European Union Foreign Policy chief calls for a full inquiry into the deaths of those on board the flotilla.

A spokesperson for the EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton expressed her regret on the loss of lives and use of violence as the news of Israel's attack on the Freedom Flotilla shook the world on Monday.

"On behalf of the European Union she demands a full inquiry about the circumstances in which this happened ... She calls for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossing for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza," Reuters reported the EU official as saying.

The condemnation came after Israeli forces launched an early morning attack on the international aid fleet en route to the besieged Gaza Strip.

According to the al-Aqsa TV channel, at least 20 people were killed in the attack and more than 50 others were wounded. Nine Turkish nationals were reportedly among those dead.

Amid public outrage over the Israeli act of violence, the Arab League, Turkey, and Iran were among the first to condemn the attack.

Palestine's democratically elected Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh also called on Arab leaders to take practical steps to end the siege on Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, as part of a global reaction to the deadly attack, Turkey, Sweden, Greece, and Spain summoned Israeli envoys to Ankara, Stockholm, Athens, and Madrid.

Israel envoys summoned across Europe
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128450§ionid=351020606



Greece, Spain and Sweden have summoned Israeli envoys to explain a deadly strike by Israeli navy commandos on a Turkish-sponsored humanitarian Gaza aid convoy.

The Greek foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday that it had summoned Israeli ambassador, demanding an "immediate" report on the safety of about 30 Greek citizens on board the boats targeted in international waters before reaching the Gaza Strip.

The foreign ministry said it asked for "immediate information concerning the safety of Greek citizens on board the boats... and stressed the need to take the necessary measures to ensure their security," AFP quoted the statement as saying.

Meanwhile, the Greek defense ministry announced Athens's decision to withdraw from joint military exercises with Israel in protest at Israel's raid which reportedly killed some 20 people and left more than 50 injured.

In Sweden, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt expressed concern over the reported casualties and said it was crucial to "quickly establish" what had happened with the Gaza-bound flotilla which was carrying pro-Palestinian activists and tons of humanitarian aid.

"We have summoned the Israeli ambassador to get information," said Bildt, who is currently visiting Italy, adding he had also been in touch with the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to ensure that the EU gives a "clear response during the day when we get a clearer picture of what has happened."

Spain, who holds the rotating EU presidency, also summoned Israel's ambassador for an explanation for the deadly raid on the six aid ships, aboard which were at least three Spanish aid workers.

In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle voiced "deep concern" at the reports of deaths caused by the Israeli attack on the aid convoy.

"The initial news is alarming," said Westerwelle, adding German officials were seeking more details into the incident.

The aid convoy Gaza Freedom Flotilla, co-organized by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), was carrying tens of thousands of humanitarian aid for the blockaded Gaza Strip, and had more than 700 Palestinian and international activists onboard.

Arab world condemns Gaza aid attack

















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128447§ionid=351020206



The Arab world has united to condemn the Israeli forces' attack on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip.

Arab League (AL) Secretary General Amr Moussa slammed the Monday's deadly raid against the humanitarian mission as a "crime."

"We condemn this crime, taken against a humanitarian mission and people. They were trying to help people. They were not on a military mission. Everyone should condemn this," Moussa told AFP. The AL chief said that the 22-member organization was now contemplating its "next step" against Israel.

Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas also termed the Israeli attack a "massacre," calling for a three-day strike in the West Bank, Press TV correspondent in Ramallah said. Abbas also warned that the lethal assault would jeopardize the US-sponsored indirect negotiations with Israel.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was also quick to slam the deadly Israeli raid as "dangerous and crazy", stressing that the action would only intensify tensions in the region.

"Lebanon firmly denounces this attack and calls on the international community, notably major powers... to take action in order to end this continued violation of human rights and threat to international peace," AFP quoted Hariri as saying.

Ibrahim Mousavi, the media spokesman for Lebanon's Hezbollah resistance movement, condemned the attack and offered sympathy to the families of the killed aid workers.

Meanwhile in Egypt, the opposition Muslim Brotherhood joined voice to slam the latest Israeli violence, urging President Hosni Mubarak to cut all Cairo-Tel Aviv ties. The movement also called on the Egyptian government to open the Rafah crossing.

Palestine's democratically elected Premier Ismail Haniyeh called on all supporters of the Palestinian cause to stage massive protests against Israel's "act of piracy," urging the Arab world to take "practical measures" to permanently end the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

At least 20 people were killed and 50 others injured when the Israeli navy stormed the Gaza Freedom Flotilla early on Monday. The convoy was intercepted in international waters, some 150km (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza.

Death toll from Gaza aid attack hits 20
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128431§ionid=351020202



The death toll from the Israeli navy's takeover of a Gaza aid convoy has risen to 20 while Israel carefully censors reports on the casualties from the attack.

Gaza Freedom Flotilla came under fire early on Monday by Israeli navy forces in international waters more than 150km (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza.

The six-ship aid fleet was soon stormed by commandos descending from helicopters.

At least 20 people were killed in the takeover of the Gaza aid convoy, al-Aqsa TV channel reported, saying that more than 50 people, including leader of the Palestinian Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah, were wounded in the attack.

The news trickled through the Israeli military censorship which has sought to block the reporting of any information about the casualties.

A report on the Israeli radio said the censorship was aimed at covering up the number of casualties brought to Israeli hospitals for treatment.

Meanwhile, Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer expressed regret for the deaths aboard the Gaza aid ships.

"The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities," he told Israel's Army Radio.

The comments come as the first official acknowledgement by Tel Aviv that the attack had turned fatal.

Israel had initially declined to comment on the reports of casualties from the takeover of the aid ships.

Israel 'attacks' Gaza aid fleet

















Source: Al Jazeera
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/05/201053133047995359.html


Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country's siege on Gaza, according to a Turkish aid agency being quoted by Turkish media.

At least two people were killed and more than 30 people injured, the report said early on Monday.

Footage from the flotilla's lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, appeared to show armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and helicopters flying overhead.

Earlier, the Israeli navy had contacted the captain of the Mavi Marmara, asking him to identify himself and say where the ship was headed.

Shortly after, two Israeli naval vessels had flanked the flotilla on either side, but at a distance.

Organisers of the attempted siege break, dubbed the Freedom Flotilla, then diverted their ships and slowed down to avoid a confrontation during the night.

They also issued all passengers life jackets and asked them to remain below deck.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists, including a Nobel laureate and several European legislators, are with the flotilla, aiming to reach Gaza in defiance of an Israeli embargo.

But Israel has said it will not allow the flotilla to reach the Gaza Strip and vowed to stop the six ships from reaching the coastal Palestinian territory.

The flotilla had set sail from a port in Cyprus on Sunday and aimed to reach Gaza by Monday morning.

Israel said the boats were embarking on "an act of provocation" against the Israeli military, rather than providing aid, and that it had issued warrants to prohibit their entrance to Gaza.

It asserted that the flotilla would be breaking international law by landing in Gaza, a claim the organisers rejected.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gaza aid flotilla attacked, two killed
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128420&sectionid=351020202


Israeli forces have attacked the international aid convoy Freedom Flotilla en route to the besieged Gaza Strip, killing at least two people and leaving more than 50 injured.

The attack came on Monday morning after Israel deployed warships and threatened to stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza.

Israeli navy forces and helicopters have taken over the ships in the humanitarian aid convoy and are using force against those on board, a Press TV correspondent reported.

Israeli soldiers have also reportedly detained activists accompanying the convoy.

In Gaza, Palestine's democratically elected Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh strongly condemned the attack on the flotilla and called on the international community to protect the aid mission.

The convoy carries 10,000 tons of supplies and hundreds of politicians, activists and journalists.

The flotilla was seeking to break Israel's crippling blockade of Gaza and deliver basic necessities to the impoverished Palestinians in the coastal enclave.

Israel flanks Gaza aid fleet

















Source: Al Jazeera
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/05/2010530233136303508.html



Israeli navy vessels have flanked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country's siege on Gaza.

Al Jazeera's Mohamed Vall, reporting from the flotilla's lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, said the Israeli navy contacted the ship's captain around 11pm (20:00 GMT) on Sunday, asking him to identify himself and say where the ship was headed.

Shortly after, two Israeli naval vessels flanked the flotilla on either side, but at a distance. An aircraft also flew overhead, though it was too far away to make out exactly what type of aircraft it was, our correspondent said.

The Israeli vessels had been expected to reach the flotilla only on Monday morning but arrived earlier, he added.

Slowing down

Although the navy did not attempt to intercept the flotilla's vessels, organisers of the attempted siege break said they diverted their ships and slowed down to avoid a confrontation during the night.

They also issued all passengers life jackets and asked them to remain below deck.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists, including a Nobel laureate and several European legislators, are with the flotilla, aiming to reach Gaza in defiance of an Israeli embargo.

But Israel has said it will not allow the flotilla to reach the Gaza Strip and vowed to stop the six ships from reaching the coastal Palestinian territory.

The flotilla had set sail from a port in Cyprus on Sunday and aimed to reach Gaza by Monday morning.

Two other ships were damaged over the weekend, and remained in port in Cyprus.

The organisers of the fleet, dubbed the Freedom Flotilla, said they might launch a second smaller convoy of boats on Tuesday, which would include the two damaged ships, plus a third that had yet to arrive.

The flotilla was originally made up of nine ships - from Turkey, the UK, Ireland, Greece, Kuwait and Algeria - carrying around 10,000 tonnes of aid, including cement, water purification systems and wheelchairs.

It was initially expected that the flotilla would set sail on Saturday, but it was delayed over the weekend due to mechanical problems and was forced to anchor off the coast of Cyprus.

Hamas welcoming committee

Hamas, the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip, have said that the flotilla was about to make history, sending "a strong message that the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip ... will be broken".

Nicole Johnston, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said there was a great deal of excitement there about the flotilla.

"There have been preparations going on at the port, drills, a Hamas welcoming committee ... but nobody knows if they will actually see this flotilla," she said.


"But one thing that the people of Gaza do appreciate is the international solidarity that they are feeling.

"It reminds people that they haven't been forgotten by the international community."

Israel said the boats were embarking on "an act of provocation" against the Israeli military, rather than providing aid, and that it had issued warrants to prohibit their entrance to Gaza.

It asserted that the flotilla would be breaking international law by landing in Gaza, a claim the organisers rejected.

Iran warns Israel against deploying subs
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128394§ionid=351020101



A top Iranian lawmaker has called for "serious measures" against possible Israeli threats, amid reports that Tel Aviv is to deploy submarines in the Persian Gulf.

According to a Sunday Times report, Israel plans to send three German-made submarines with nuclear cruise missiles to the Persian Gulf near the Iranian coastline.

"If the report on the entrance of Israeli nuclear submarines is true, this will be a threat to the Persian Gulf region's security," the head of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency.

"[Iranian] officials should seriously consider the issue and take the necessary measures to prevent this security threat in the region," he added.

Israel has never ruled out military action against Iran to halt the country's nuclear program. Iran says it will give a "crushing response" to any act of aggression.

Israel and the US, along with their Western allies, accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran has categorically denied the allegations, saying it has the right to a nuclear program for peaceful purposes as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Israel stations nuclear missile subs off Iran






















Source: Times Online
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article7140282.ece



Three German-built Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear cruise missiles are to be deployed in the Gulf near the Iranian coastline.

The first has been sent in response to Israeli fears that ballistic missiles developed by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, a political and military organisation in Lebanon, could hit sites in Israel, including air bases and missile launchers.

The submarines of Flotilla 7 — Dolphin, Tekuma and Leviathan — have visited the Gulf before. But the decision has now been taken to ensure a permanent presence of at least one of the vessels.

The flotilla’s commander, identified only as “Colonel O”, told an Israeli newspaper: “We are an underwater assault force. We’re operating deep and far, very far, from our borders.”

Each of the submarines has a crew of 35 to 50, commanded by a colonel capable of launching a nuclear cruise missile.

The vessels can remain at sea for about 50 days and stay submerged up to 1,150ft below the surface for at least a week. Some of the cruise missiles are equipped with the most advanced nuclear warheads in the Israeli arsenal.

The deployment is designed to act as a deterrent, gather intelligence and potentially to land Mossad agents. “We’re a solid base for collecting sensitive information, as we can stay for a long time in one place,” said a flotilla officer.

The submarines could be used if Iran continues its programme to produce a nuclear bomb. “The 1,500km range of the submarines’ cruise missiles can reach any target in Iran,” said a navy officer.

Apparently responding to the Israeli activity, an Iranian admiral said: “Anyone who wishes to do an evil act in the Persian Gulf will receive a forceful response from us.”

Israel’s urgent need to deter the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance was demonstrated last month. Ehud Barak, the defence minister, was said to have shown President Barack Obama classified satellite images of a convoy of ballistic missiles leaving Syria on the way to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, will emphasise the danger to Obama in Washington this week.

Tel Aviv, Israel’s business and defence centre, remains the most threatened city in the world, said one expert. “There are more missiles per square foot targeting Tel Aviv than any other city,” he said.

BP abandons 'top kill' effort


















Source: Al Jazeera
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2010/05/201053003734718415.html


Oil giant BP's latest effort to plug the broken wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico has failed, the company has said, adding it is time to "move on" and try other solutions.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday Doug Suttles, the company's chief operating officer, said that after three days of blasting mud and other materials into the well, engineers had been unable to stop oil from spewing into the ocean.

The so called "top kill" operation had pumped around 4.5 million litres of mud into the gushing well, but most of it escaped out of the well's damaged riser pipe.

"After three full days of attempting top kill we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well so we now believe.

In the six weeks since an explosion hit BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 workers, the leaking well has spewed some 68 million litres of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The spill is the worst in US history - exceeding even the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 off the Alaska coast.

BP has so far spent $940m to try to plug the leak and clean up the sea and soiled coast.

"This scares everybody, the fact that we can't make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven't succeeded so far," Suttles said.

"Many of the things we're trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5,000 feet."

Disappointment

News that the top kill attempt had failed was met with disappointment in the coastal fishing communities in the US state of Louisiana, where oil first made landfall in large quantities almost two weeks ago.

"Everybody's starting to realise this summer's lost. And our whole lifestyle might be lost," Michael Ballay, manager of the Cypress Cove Marina in the town of Venice, told the Associated Press.

The top kill operation was the latest of several failed attempts to plug the leaking well.

In the days immediately after the explosion BP engineers tried to use robot submarines to close valves on the massive blowout preventer atop the damaged well.

Two weeks later ice-like crystals clogged a 100-ton containment box the company tried placing over the leak.

And earlier this week engineers removed a mile-long siphon tube from the broken riser pipe after managed to extract a disappointing 3.4 million litres of oil from the well.

'Confident'

With pressure growing on BP to do more to contain the leak, Suttles said engineers were already preparing for the next attempt which would use robot submarines to cut off the damaged riser from which the oil is leaking.

They would then try to cap it with a containment valve in an operation that is expected to take between four and seven days.

"We're confident the job will work but obviously we can't guarantee success," Suttles said.

Cutting off the damaged riser was not expected to cause the flow rate of leaking oil to increase significantly, he added.

However other experts have warned that the operation is risky because a bend in the damaged riser pipe was likely to be restricting the flow of oil.

"If they can't get that valve on, things will get much worse," Philip W. Johnson, an engineering professor at the University of Alabama, told the Associated Press.

"It's a scary proposition."

BP engineers have said that a permanent solution to the leak, a relief well currently being drilled, will not be ready until August.

Gaza-bound aid ships leave Cyprus



















Source: Al Jazeera
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/05/201053062124985747.html


A flotilla of aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip has left Cyprus, organisers say.

Five ships left the island around 5am local time (2am GMT) and are expected to reach Gazan waters late on Sunday afternoon.

Two other ships were damaged over the weekend, and remain in port.


Organisers say they might launch a second smaller flotilla on Tuesday, which would include the two damaged ships, plus a third which has yet to arrive.

Breaking siege


"Now we are thinking of sending a second wave of boats including these two and the Rachel Corrie, which is still en route" from Ireland, said Audrey Bomse, an adviser to the Free Gaza Movement.


Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists are on board the flotilla, which aims to reach Gaza in defiance of an Israeli embargo on the territory. The flotilla was originally made up of nine ships -- from Turkey, the UK, Ireland, Greece, Kuwait and Algeria -- carrying roughly 10,000 tonnes of aid, including cement, water purification systems and wheelchairs.

It was initially expected that the flotilla would set sail on Saturday, but it was delayed over the weekend due to mechanical problems.

The boats were forced to anchor off the coast of Cyprus this weekend.


Hamas, the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip, have said that the flotilla was about to make history, sending "a strong message that the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip ... will be broken".

Israel said the boats were embarking on "an act of provocation" with the Israeli military rather than providing aid, and that it had issued warrants to prohibit their entrance to Gaza.

It asserted that the flotilla would be breaking international law by landing in Gaza, a claim the organisers angrily denied.

Israel has said that it will intercept the boats and detain those on board in the port of Ashdod.

Israel orders Navy to block Flotilla
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128235§ionid=351020202



Israel has tasked its Navy with intercepting the relief convoy of nine ships which is set to break the Tel Aviv-imposed siege of the Gaza Strip.

A number of Israeli warships were deployed on Saturday to confront the Freedom Flotilla, which is to depart from the Cypriot coast for the impoverished coastal sliver, The Hindu reported.

Press TV's correspondent Ashraf Shannon also said that there was a heavy presence of Israeli gunboats by Gaza's seashore.

The fleet consists of Turkish, Irish, British, and Greek vessels and was to take some 750 activists and around 10,000 tons of construction material, medical equipment and school supplies to Gaza.

Organizers, however, said on Saturday that at least two of the vessels are unlikely to make it as their hydraulic systems had broken down "under suspicious circumstances,” the German Press Agency (DPA) reported.

Under pressure from Tel Aviv's, Cypriot officials have refused to let the broken vessels to dock for repairs. Twenty-five international politicians, activists and artists were also barred from joining the group on Friday.

Best-selling Swedish author Hanning Mankell, who was prevented from joining the fleet in Cyprus said "restricting our freedom of movement will just contribute to further drawing the world's attention to the protracted and total limitation of the freedom of movement for inhabitants in Gaza."

Mankell called for the lifting of the blockade of Gaza.

According to the DPA report, the fleet will be deciding whether to set sail on Saturday or Sunday.

Tel Aviv has imposed a land, air, and sea blockade on Gaza since mid-June 2007, when the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas gained control of the territory. The restrictions have deprived the enclave's nearly 1.5-million people of food, fuel, and other necessities.

Israel has threatened to either jail or deport activists and politicians onboard the ships, should they reach the strip.

Chomsky slams Israel 'madness'
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128244§ionid=351020202



Renowned Jewish-American scholar Noam Chomsky has warned of a madness-charged Israeli war on Lebanon, amid Tel Aviv's recurrent threats against the country.

Tel Aviv could turn aggressive out of the "mentality of madness" which characterizes many across Israel, Chomsky said on Thursday, Ynet reported.

Suffering from a persecution complex, Israel could launch a war anytime it feels it is being cornered, he added.

The 81-year-old senior academic made the remarks during a meeting with leading Lebanese cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. The meeting came after Israeli officials prevented Chomsky from visiting the occupied Palestinian territories over his anti-Israeli stance.

Israel initiated offensives against Lebanon in 2000 and 2006 and was heavily defeated by the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah.

The regime recently initiated a number of military escalations near the Lebanese border after accusing Syria of supplying Hezbollah with Russian-made Scud missiles. Subsequently, Israeli staged military drills near the border, prompting Hezbollah to place its fighters on alert.

Fadlallah, for his part, said that Israel's irrational attitude would not push the regime into renewing its attacks. The "opposition's" resources of experience, potential, combat readiness and strategic plans can deter Tel Aviv from risking another war, he added.

The cleric also said that the main problem was the policies adopted by the United States which, he said, did not honor humanity.

Israel rejects plea of 189 countries
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128296§ionid=351020202



After the United Nations ratified a resolution calling for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moves to condemn the treaty.

The attack came after all 189 signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) reached a deal on Friday for the establishment of a Middle East without nukes.

The 28-page statement by the NPT members -- which was agreed upon following a month of wrangling -- called on all Middle East nations to attend a conference on ridding the region of weapons of mass destruction due to be held in 2012.

The Friday's agreement also stressed "the importance of Israel's accession to the treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards."

Reacting to the ratification, the Israeli prime minister issued a statement on Saturday announcing that Israel would not participate in the 2012 conference.

"Israel will not be able to take part in its [the resolution] implementation," AFP quoted Netanyahu as saying in the statement.

He went on to call the NPT resolution "deeply flawed and hypocritical," adding that, "It ignores the realities of the Middle East and the real threats facing the region and the entire world."

Israel is widely believed to be the sixth-largest nuclear power in the world and the sole possessor of an atomic arsenal in the Middle East.

For 40 years, with the help of the United States, Israel has successfully prevented its undeclared arsenal of approximately 200 atomic warheads from becoming public.

Meanwhile, the administration of US President Barack Obama earlier on Friday denounced the UN decision, expressing its strong opposition to the proposal of the inclusion of Israel in the NPT.

Portuguese slam austerity measures
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128316§ionid=351020605



Thousands of Portuguese public and private sector workers have protested austerity measures enacted by the government to avert a Greek-style debt crisis.

People took to the streets of the capital Lisbon on Saturday to denounce the plan that includes salary cuts and a freeze on public hiring. The protesters demanded that the government devise a long-term strategy instead to avoid the crisis in the country.

The General Union of Workers claims nearly 300,000 people joined the march in the Portuguese capital with placards and banners reading "Stop the rise in unemployment", "No to austerity" and "Those responsible for the crisis should pay for it."

The government's tough economic plan for the public is meant to soothe investor concerns over the country's creditworthiness and to fight debt contagion from Greece.

Portugal seeks to cut its budget deficit to 7.3 percent of the gross domestic product this year from 2009's 9.4 percent and then gradually reduce the deficit to 2.8 percent by 2013.

Manuel Carvalho da Silva, the Secretary General of the Confederation of Portuguese Workers (CGTP) says that the union is planning to escalate protests against the financial cutbacks. His union has left open the option of calling a general strike.

"We are committed to all the forms of resistance the constitution allows and (we) will decide on their timing and form depending on the government's actions," Carvalho da Silva said.

The CGTP believes that the austerity measures benefit investors at the expense of workers.

The government survived a confidence vote called earlier this month by the CGTP's political allies, the Communists, over the austerity program.

Portugal's second largest trade union confederation, the UGT, which is closer to the Socialists, refused to join Saturday's demonstration.

"There was no alternative" to the package of austerity cuts," AFP quoted Prime Minister Jose Socrates as saying.

"The truth is that the situation on the financial markets completely changed the rules of the game," he added.

According to the premier, Portugal must produce results by the end of the year.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Israel's new 'best friend'?

















By: Jon Elmer

Source: Al Jazeera
http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2010/05/2010527184439863164.html


When Binyamin Netanyahu arrives in Canada on Friday, immediately following the ceremony in Paris to introduce Israel to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it will mark the first visit to Ottawa by a sitting Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin in 1994.

During his last visit, in 2002, Netanyahu's closed door speech at Concordia University in Montreal sparked a riot that made headlines around the world.

In the years since, as Israel has found itself increasingly isolated on the world stage, successive Canadian governments have moved against the trend and deepened ties with Israel - something that Netanyahu is keen to protect.

"What Netanyahu is trying to do is cement the base," said Dr David Bercuson, the director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary and author of Canada and the Birth of Israel.

"The Israeli diplomatic position is deteriorating and he's trying to keep the stalwarts in place."

A peak in relations

While key Canadian diplomatic support for Israel dates back to the creation of the state, relations have never been stronger.

In early 2006, immediately following the election of Hamas, Canada was the first country in the world to boycott the new government, ahead even of Israel.

"Not a red cent to Hamas," said Peter MacKay, the then Canadian foreign minister, setting the tone for a crippling blockade that the United Nations has called "possibly the most rigorous form of international sanctions imposed in modern times".

Perhaps the high-water mark came in the summer of 2006, as Israel launched a massive military response to a Hezbollah raid on an Israeli patrol on the border with Lebanon.

As Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, was en route to the G8 summit in St Petersburg, Russia - during the first week of a war that saw some 1,400 Lebanese killed, the majority of them civilians - he made an impromptu three minute speech to the reporters on his plane, expressing unequivocal support for Israel's bombing of Lebanon.

"I think Israel's response under the circumstances has been measured," he said, backing Israel's right to defend itself and placing the "onus" for the war on Hezbollah.

As the death toll mounted in the days and weeks that followed, Harper did not budge from his position. In fact, he used the G8 summit and the subsequent gathering of the Francophonie to actively block ceasefire resolutions that were increasingly supported, even by the US.

That summer, Harper made headlines in the Middle East when he called Hezbollah and Hamas "genocidal" and MacKay characterised Hezbollah as a "cancer".

At a press conference in Jerusalem in early 2007, Tzipi Livni, the then Israeli foreign minister, described Canada-Israel relations in laudatory terms.

"Since its election in January 2006, the Canadian government headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper has maintained particularly warm relations with Israel," said Livni. "Bilateral and diplomatic ties are currently at their peak."

Livni also referred to Canada as being at "the forefront" of efforts to isolate Iran over the nuclear issue.

Successive Canadian naval deployments patrol the Iranian coast and the Straits of Hormuz with US aircraft carrier battle groups.

A political consensus

This support is not simply a reflection of a right-wing government.

"The differences between the Liberals and Conservatives are vastly overstated," said Bercuson, who is also a member of the Canadian Jewish Congress board of directors and a senior advisor to the Department of National Defence.

"Even in those periods when people might have said the Liberal government was more even-handed about the Middle East - that's more legend than reality."

In 2004, under Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, Canada abstained from the United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for Israel to respect the International Court of Justice ruling against its West Bank wall, which it called illegal, said should be dismantled and that those impacted should be compensated.

Palestinian security forces

Dr Mark Heller, the principal research associate at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies characterised the relationship between Israel and Canada as "entrenched and routinised".

"For a long time there have been good relations between the Canadian and Israeli defence establishments," he said.

On the ground in Israel and Palestine, active support has matched the rhetorical commitments.

In 2005, immediately following Israel's 'disengagement' from Gaza, Canada dispatched a top official from the Canada Border Services Agency, Denis Lefebvre, to advise Israel and the Palestinian Authority during the earlier stages of the blockade of Gaza.

It was at this juncture that Canada began funding and training Palestinian forces to monitor the sealed borders of the Gaza Strip, under the auspices of General Keith Dayton, the US security coordinator.

Known at the time as the Karni Project, named after the principle commercial crossing into Gaza, the initiative was a covert - though not clandestine - effort to train a pliable security force to work with Israel.

A Jerusalem Post analysis tabbed the project as "a prototype for the running of Palestine".

Provocations by Dahlan's security forces were seen by Hamas and many others, including neo-conservative David Wursmer, Dick Cheney's chief Middle East advisor, as precipitating the Hamas takeover in Gaza. The project, Wurmser told Vanity Fair, saw the US and its Canadian allies "engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship with victory".

On the heels of the Hamas takeover, Canada re-instituted its funding for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and redoubled its efforts to back Dayton's security forces training initiative to back appointed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and to prevent the Hamas government from taking power in the West Bank.

In many crucial ways, Canada is the heart of the Dayton project - 18 of the training officers are Canadian and 10 are American.

During his only public policy speech, at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 2009, Dayton lauded the role of Canadian forces officers, calling them his "road warriors" and his indispensable "eyes and ears" on the ground.

"The Canadians have been extremely helpful to us throughout," Fayyad told Al Jazeera last summer, citing Canada's efforts in not only the security sector but also governance and working at "international fora" in an effort to create legitimacy for Fayyad's impending unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.

Indeed, Canada recently removed longstanding funding for UNRWA, the agency responsible for Palestinian refugee affairs, and reallocated it to Fayyad's security project.

Canada dispatched a senior cabinet minister to Ramallah in January 2010 to announce the funding switch.

Vic Toews, the then head of the Canadian treasury, told the Palestinian Authority that the funding was being "redirected in accordance with Canadian values".

"Our paramount concern is the security of Israel," said Toews, who has since been promoted to minister of public safety, the Canadian equivalent to the interior ministry.

Forging economic and military ties

In early 2009, Canada deployed a fleet of leased Israeli drones in the service of its counterinsurgency war in Kandahar, Afghanistan, a contract that was extended earlier this month.

In February, the stock exchanges of Tel Aviv and Toronto signed a memorandum of understanding to deepen cooperation.

Dalton McGuinty, the premier of Ontario, Canada's largest and richest province, is in Israel this week on a trade mission looking to boost a trade relationship that has increased by 86 per cent since 2004, and tripled since 1996 when Canada and Israel signed a bilateral free trade agreement.

As the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement gains momentum, Canada stands in stark contrast to the international trend.

This is not lost on Israel's top leadership.

Netanyahu used the occasion of his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in November to single out Canada. "I know there are many Canadian friends with us here today," he said. "I wish to extend my thanks to Prime Minister Harper for his staunch support for Israel’s right of self-defence."

Flying immediately from Paris to Ottawa is not a coincidence. For Netanyahu and the Canadian government, it is a potent symbol of the unique relationship between Canada and Israel.

Israel vows to halt flotilla aiming to break blockade

















Source: The Independent
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-vows-to-halt-flotilla-aiming-to-break-blockade-1986213.html



Israeli warships were yesterday on full alert in the Mediterranean to prevent an eight-vessel flotilla carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists and an estimated 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies reaching the coast of Gaza.

Naval vessels were expected to confront the flotilla of cargo and passenger ships later today with the intention of diverting it to the Israeli port of Ashdod and away from its intended destination of Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The flotilla is the largest attempt yet to circumvent the three-year-old Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

While the Israeli authorities have indicated they want to minimise the risk of violence, Israeli media reported yesterday that they are prepared to take over the vessels by force if they ignore warnings not to cross from international waters into a 20 mile exclusion zone enforced by Israel along Gaza's coast.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused the participants of mounting a "cheap publicity stunt" and said that if they had been "really interested in the well-being of the people of Gaza they would have accepted the offers of Egypt or Israel to transfer humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, along with the other 15,000 tons sent every week."

Israel has previously said that if the flotilla agreed to head for the port of Ashdod it would send the aid supplies on to Gaza. Ordinarily, supplies to the Gaza strip are subject to a strict blockade that excludes most commercial goods, although those conditions would not necessarily apply to the flotilla.
But Edward Peck, a retired US diplomat who argued strongly against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, told The Independent from one of the vessels that the purpose of the flotilla was entirely humanitarian. "The boats are unarmed, the passengers are unarmed, and they pose no threat to Israel," he said by satellite phone 10 miles south west of Limassol.

Mr Peck said that one of the vessels, a freighter, had taken on a cargo in Athens of 180 motorised wheelchairs, 150 prefab dwellings and two water purification installations, plus medical supplies. "I have been on several trips to the Middle East to promote a resolution but I wanted to do something tangible instead of just talking," he said. He added he had heard unconfirmed reports that three vessels had mechanical problems.

The Israeli authorities have created a temporary detention centre in Ashdod for arrested passengers. Detainees are likely to face the choice of summary deportation or a trial in Israeli courts.

What's allowed into Gaza...

Fabric Softener: As well as other household and bathroom products, including shampoo and facial scrubs.

Wood: As long as it's intended for use in doors or windows – but not if it's suitable for larger-scale construction.

Canned Foods: Such as beans and meats, although canned fruits are excluded from the category.

...and what the blockade keeps out

Jam: Because it could be used to produce other goods for export. The same applies to fresh meat.

Musical Instruments: Because they are not classed as "basic humanitarian supplies".

Donkeys: And other live animals including cattle and chicks (but chick transportation cartons are permitted).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tensions rise over Gaza aid fleet



















Source: Al Jazeera
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/05/2010528431964325.html



Watch it LIVE!

Freedom Flotilla
http://witnessgaza.com/




The UN chief has called for restraint as some 700 activists from around world vow to deliver 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to break the blockade of Gaza.

Israel has cautioned that the Freedom Flotilla would be stopped, if necessary by force.

The nine-ship flotilla is by far the largest fleet of aid to try to reach the coastal Palestinian territory since Israel imposed its siege on it in 2007.

"We strongly urge that all involved act with a sense of care and responsibility and work for a satisfactory resolution," a spokesman for Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.

He restated UN opposition to the siege of Gaza and the lack of material to meet "basic needs, begin reconstruction, and revive economic life".

After the Israeli army announced a detention centre at Ashdod port for holding the activists, Greta Berlin, one of the flotilla organisers, said: "We have the right to sail from international waters into the waters of Gaza.

"The only illegal presence in the area is Israel."

Berlin said the Freedom Flotilla was on schedule to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Saturday with more than 10,000 tonnes of supplies, including water-filtration units and pre-fabricated homes.

Israel and Egypt have sealed Gaza off to all but very limited humanitarian aid since Hamas, the Palestinian political faction, took control of the territory in June 2007.

Israel says the Gaza blockade aims to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

For the majority of Gaza's population of 1.5 million people, the result has been impoverished living conditions.

'Absolute provocation'

Israel's foreign ministry said it had given warnings to the ambassadors of Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Sweden and Turkey - from where the ships set sail - that it had "issued warrants that prohibit the entrance of the vessels to Gaza".

The flotilla "is about to break international law", Yossi Gal, the ministry's director general, said.

Gal said that the flotilla was "an absolute provocation" and a "cheap political stunt", as there was no shortage of humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros attended an Israeli army news conference on Wednesday, where journalists were told that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

She said that the information to back up this claim was both incomplete and out of context: "This tells me what Gaza is getting in terms of supplies but does not compare this to how much Gaza needs to survive."

Israel has vowed to divert the ships to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.
It has said that Israelis on board would be arrested, Palestinians would be questioned by the Israeli secret service, and foreign nationals deported.

Part of the port has been cordoned off and prepared to deal with the activists, and large tents set up for immigration booths and areas for people to be searched.

Gal suggested the organisers should voluntarily head to Ashdod to unload the supplies so Israel or humanitarian agencies can deliver them to Gaza overland, but the flotilla organisers rejected the offer.

Hanin Zuabi, a member of the Israeli parliament who is on board the flotilla, told Al Jazeera that the activists intend to reach Gaza regardless of plans to stop them.

"If the Israelis try to stop us, this will be a huge diplomatic and political crises for them," Zuabi said.

"We have 50 states participating in this and are sending a very clear message to Israel - the international community is not accepting the siege on Gaza."

Peace laureates aboard

Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, on board the flotilla, said the activists travelling in the convoy included European parliamentarians, former US diplomats and Nobel peace laureates.

Berlin, the flotilla organiser, said: "This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege on 1.5 million Palestinians."

Fintan Lane, an Irish activist, said that they were determined to break Israel's blockade and will not be intimidated.

"The people of Gaza have a right to access to the outside world and the right to determine their own future," Lane said.

Huwaida Arraf, one of the organisers from the Free Gaza Movement, said: "Israel should not be under any illusion whatsoever that their threats or intimidation will stop us or even that their violence against us will stop us."

PR disaster

Some Israeli officials see the situation as potentially disastrous in terms of public relations.

"We can't win on this one in terms of PR," Yigal Palmor, a foreign ministry spokesman, said.

"If we let them throw egg at us, we appear stupid with egg on our face. If we try to prevent them by force, we appear as brutes."

Hamas officials say that Israel's threats to intercept the flotilla amount to "Zionist piracy".

"The occupation's threat to prevent the Freedom Flotilla from arriving in the besieged Gaza Strip is Zionist piracy and a violation of international law," Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas leader, said.

"The occupation is concerned about these ships... because they grant legitimacy to engagement with the Palestinian government and confirm that the attempts to isolate Hamas have failed."



Watch it LIVE!

Freedom Flotilla
http://witnessgaza.com/

US national security strategy redefined
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128070§ionid=3510203



President Obama redefines America's national security strategy, stressing multilateralism and revitalization of the country's economic and moral strength.

Released Thursday, the 52-page document considers terrorism as one threat to the homeland, along with natural disasters, cyber attacks and pandemics.

The document calls for multilateral approaches to world issues, making it different from the two security plans that were submitted by former US president G. W. Bush.

Still, it makes clear that "the United States must reserve the right to act unilaterally," the Los Angeles Times reports.

The document also urges the United States to build stronger ties to allies. It points to the emerging powers of India, Brazil and China and says the United States needs to manage the emergence of new powers.

Under a 1986 law, US presidents are required to annually present the Congress with a strategic statement. However, most administrations have not fully adhered to the requirement. The report is the first submitted by Obama.

The document is also used as a framework for strategy documents that are produced by other parts of the government, like the Pentagon's national defense strategy.

US, Brazil differences on Iran 'serious'
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128046§ionid=351020104



US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that the US and Brazil have "very serious disagreements" over Iran's nuclear program.

"Certainly we have very serious disagreements with Brazil's diplomacy vis-à-vis Iran," Clinton said on Thursday in her most candid remarks yet about Brazil's work with Turkey in brokering the Tehran declaration.

She went even further to say that efforts made by Brazil and Turkey to find a peaceful solution to Iran's nuclear issue have made the world "more dangerous."

"We think buying time for Iran, enabling Iran to avoid international unity with respect to their nuclear program, makes the world more dangerous not less," Reuters quoted Clinton as saying.

The declaration, signed by the foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, and Brazil, in the Iranian capital on May 17 commits Tehran to put 1,200 kg (2,640 lb) of its low-enriched uranium in escrow in Turkey in exchange for 120 kg (264 lb) of 20 percent-enriched nuclear fuel for the Tehran research reactor, which produces radioisotopes for cancer treatment.

One day after the Tehran declaration, the US submitted its draft sanctions resolution to the UN Security Council, saying it had convinced veto-wielding permanent members China and Russia to join its campaign.

Iran stresses that its nuclear program is a civilian one and its inalienable right given its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency and as it is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Israeli commandos to block Gaza activists
















Source: Associated Press
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100527/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_ships_to_gaza


ASHDOD, Israel – Israel on Thursday unveiled a massive makeshift detention center in the country's main southern port and announced the end of days of intense naval maneuvers, vowing to stop a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists trying to break a 3-year blockade of the Gaza Strip this weekend.

Military authorities said that masked naval commandos would greet the eight ships deep out at sea, escort the vessels to port and give each of the activists a stark choice: leave the country or go to jail.

But the tough response threatened to backfire by breathing new life into the activists' mission and drawing new attention to the oft-criticized blockade of Gaza.

"We know that we are sailing for a good cause," said Dror Feiler, 68, an Israeli-born Swedish activist who was on board a cargo ship headed from Greece to Gaza. "If the Israelis want us to pay a price, we will pay a price, but we will come again and again."

Some 750 activists, including a Nobel peace laureate and former U.S. congresswoman, have set sail for the Gaza coast in recent days, carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies. They are expected to reach the Israeli coast on Saturday.

The volunteers say they are bringing desperately needed materials to the area, which has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since Hamas militants violently took control in June 2007.

Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist group, says the blockade is needed to prevent the Islamic militants from developing weapons. It has condemned the flotilla as a publicity stunt, insisting there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and offering to deliver the aid through official channels.

"If they were really interested in the well-being of the people of Gaza, they would have accepted the offers of Egypt or Israel to transfer humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev. "Instead, they have chosen a cheap political stunt."

In recent days, Israel's navy chief, Vice Adm. Eliezer Marum, has overseen a series of drills simulating the boarding of ships and the transfer of passengers to shore, the military said. It said it would make every effort to avoid using force against the flotilla, but that naval commandos and attack dogs were prepared for a military confrontation if necessary.

"We have no intention of harming any one of these people, but with that said, we have a very clear mission to carry out. We will prevent them from entering the Gaza Strip," Marum said. The military has said that those arrested would be deported.

In Ashdod, authorities showed off three large white tents, equipped with computers and medical supplies. Officials said the activists would be identified, then placed on buses going straight to Israel's international airport for deportation. Those who refuse to go voluntarily will be taken to a nearby prison.

"We have to remember: These people are entering Israel illegally," said Maya Kadosh, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

Officials said the cargo would undergo a security check, and then be transferred to U.N. agencies for distribution in Gaza.

Israeli authorities have sharply rejected allegations that a humanitarian disaster is brewing in Gaza.

"There is no shortage of fuel, there is no shortage of medication, there is no shortage of any necessities in the Gaza Strip," said military spokeswoman Avital Liebovitch.

Israeli officials have launched a public relations blitz ahead of the flotilla's arrival, detailing the tons of supplies of food, medicine and other staples it allows into Gaza, and inviting reporters to view the transfer operations at the border. The official Government Press Office went so far as to release a sarcastically worded statement for the press encouraging journalists to visit one of Gaza's few luxury restaurants.

Critics say such claims are misguided. They note the blockade has failed to dislodge Hamas, hurt Gaza's weakest and fomented a bustling smuggling industry along the Egyptian border that has helped enrich Hamas and stocked store shelves with abundant but overpriced food and goods.

But it remains virtually impossible to repair damage to thousands of homes struck by a devastating Israeli offensive launched early last year to halt Hamas rocket fire.

Flotilla organizers say they have loaded the ships with some of the hardest items to procure, such as cement, lumber, and high-end medical equipment.

This is the ninth time that the Free Gaza Movement, the pro-Palestinian organization behind the effort, has sent a flotilla of supplies to Gaza. Israel permitted five deliveries to reach Gaza, but has not allowed any ships through since the military offensive that ended in January 2009.

Among the passengers are Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, a Holocaust survivor in her 80s, a retired U.S. army colonel and lawmakers from a dozen European countries.

In Gaza, Hamas officials were eagerly making last-minute preparations for the ships' arrival. Officials said hotel rooms have been booked for all the activists, police and medical teams had conducted drills, and tiny boats were ready to unload the aid ships, which are too big to enter Gaza's tiny port.

"We are hopeful these ships will reach the Gaza Strip. It's a humanitarian mission that flouts the siege," said Yousef Rizqa, deputy prime minister of the Hamas government.


NOTE: Associated Press writers Grant Slater in Jerusalem and Dalia Nammari in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.

Additional Links to News from the Freedom Floatilla:

Palestine Monitor
http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article1419

Gaza Friends
http://www.youtube.com/gazafriends

Witness Gaza (Live)
http://witnessgaza.com/

Oil spill recovery operation halted















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=127958§ionid=3510203



The US Coast Guard has recalled all 125 commercial fishing boats helping with oil recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico after reports of health problems.

The move raises questions over the safety of the clean-up operation in and around the Gulf of Mexico.

Crew members of three separate fishing vessels reported suffering from "nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains" on Wednesday afternoon.

"No other personnel are reporting symptoms, but we are taking this (recall) action as an extreme safeguard," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Robinson Cox.

Safety officers for the energy giant British Petroleum (BP), along with US Coast Guard officials and the Environmental Protection Agency, are investigating the incident.

The latest oil spill clean-up operation called 'Top Kill' is currently being carried out by BP in the Gulf of Mexico.

North Korea scraps peace accord















Source: Al Jazeera
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia-pacific/2010/05/201052761847357112.html


North Korea has said that it is scrapping a 2004 accord aimed at preventing accidental armed clashes with South Korea, as tensions continued to rise over the sinking of a warship.

In a notice to the South's armed forces on Thursday, the North's general chiefs of staff warned of an immediate attack if the South violates the disputed Yellow Sea border.

It also said that it will ban South Korean personnel and vehicles from entering a joint industrial park at the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

Meanwhile, a fleet of South Korean warships fired artillery and dropped anti-submarine bombs in a large-scale military exercise off the west coast of the country.

The navy said 10 warships, including a 3,500-tonne destroyer, fired artillery and dropped anti-submarine bombs as part of the one-day exercise.

Rising tensions

The developments came amid tensions on the divided peninsula that have risen since a team of international investigators said last week that a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine tore apart and sank a South Korean warship on March 26, killing 46 sailors.

But the North accused South Korea's government of falsely blaming it for the sinking, partly to help the ruling party in local elections due to be held next week.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, during a visit to South Korea on Wednesday, called on the international community to issue a strong response to the sinking of the ship.

"This was an unacceptable provocation by North Korea and the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond," Clinton said after talks with South Korean leaders in Seoul, the South's capital.

The sinking of the Cheonan "requires a strong but measured response", she said, adding that the US would consult South Korea and members of the UN security council on what the appropriate action would be.

Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley, reporting from Seoul, said Clinton's three to four hour stopover was to show US solidarity with South Korea and to brief officials there on what China - where Clinton had just visited - was saying about the situation.

Chinese influence

China, the North's only major ally who in effect bankrolls its economy, has studiously tried to keep out of the fray, urging calm and refusing to voice support for the international report on the Cheonan sinking.

On Wednesday, China's foreign ministry repeated calls for calm and restraint, with Zhang Zhijun, the vice-foreign minister, saying China had no first-hand information on the sinking.

"We have always believed that dialogue is better than confrontation," Zhang said.

Most analysts doubt either side would deliberately risk a war, but say there is a serious risk that small skirmishes along the heavily-defended border could turn into a broader conflict.

Some worry pushing Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, too far may leave him little choice but to fight back to try to save his family's more than 60-year hold over the destitute country as he tries to secure the leadership succession for his youngest son.

Iran warns Russia over nuclear stance
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=127898§ionid=351020101



Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned that Russia's stance against the Tehran declaration could turn it into an "enemy" of the Iranian nation.

"Russian leaders should not create a situation that makes Iranian people place Russia in the ranks of their historic enemies," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Kerman on Wednesday.

His comments came in response to Russia's decision to back a US-proposed UN Security Council resolution against Iran.

"Today, it has become difficult for us to explain [Russian President Dmitry] Medvedev's behavior to the Iranian nation. The [Iranian] people don't know whether they [Russian officials] are our friends or are after something else," the Fars news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

"If I were the Russian president, when taking decisions on subjects related to the great Iranian nation, I would think things through more," he said.

The Iranian president also warned the US to be careful not to miss the opportunity offered by the Tehran nuclear swap declaration.

Ahmadinejad said the declaration brokered by Turkey and Brazil could be the last chance to get things right.

According to the declaration, signed by Iran, Turkey, and Brazil on May 17, Tehran would ship 1200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey to be exchanged for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched nuclear fuel to power the Tehran research reactor, which produces radioisotopes for cancer treatment.

Israeli academics protest WB evictions
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=127929§ionid=351020202



Hundreds of Israeli university students and professors have staged a demonstration in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) to protest eviction orders against the Palestinians in the city.

Some 800 students and at least a dozen professors from Hebrew University staged a march on Wednesday afternoon to Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where settlers backed by Israeli authorities are forcing out Palestinian families, The Jerusalem Post reported on its website.

The Wednesday's march was the first "academic protest" in the neighborhood which together with the rest of the northeast al-Quds has been the scene of massive weekly Friday protests in the past months.

Polish-born Professor Ze'ev Sternhell from the university's Political Science Department described the rally as a "new step" in the protest movement in Sheikh Jarrah.

"And I think the fact that we're seeing so many people here today, also shows that we've reached a point of crisis and that dangerous things are happening here that need to stop," warned the professor.

Sternhell said the protest was prompted by "the suffering of those who were kicked out of their homes and others who fear they will be next" and "the political stupidity that allowed it to happen."

No confrontation was reported during the brief demonstration which ended when the protesters peacefully dispersed.

Amnesty raps Israel for crimes in Gaza
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=127937§ionid=351020202



Amnesty International has accused Israel of continuous violation of human rights in the Gaza Strip, condemning its ongoing siege of the Palestinian enclave.

In its annual report released on Thursday, the human rights watchdog praised a UN report on the Gaza war released last year by South African justice Richard Goldstone for highlighting Israeli violations during the conflict.

"Israeli forces committed war crimes and other serious breaches of international law in the Gaza Strip during a 22-day military offensive codenamed 'Operation Cast Lead' that ended on 18 January (2009)," Haaretz quoted the rights group as saying.

"Among other things, they carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians, targeted and killed medical staff, used Palestinian civilians as 'human shields', and indiscriminately fired white phosphorus over densely populated residential areas," Amnesty added.

The human rights group also charged the US and the European Union with obstructing international justice by using their positions on the UN Security Council to shield Israel from accountability for war crimes it committed during last year's Gaza war.

On the long-standing blockade of the Gaza Strip, Amnesty International condemned the move as a "gratuitous exacerbation of the privations" already suffered by Gazans.

"All too predictably, it hit hardest on the most vulnerable - children, the elderly, the homeless and the sick, including those in need of medical treatment outside," the website for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth quoted the human rights group as saying.

Amnesty's report, denoting the mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises in the besieged Gaza Strip, said shortages have left some 80 percent of Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid.

The report further condemned the blockade as "an outrage," a "flagrant violation of international law" and a disguise on a collective punishment of Gazans — ostensibly imposed to stop Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel.

Lebanon boosts defense near S border
















Source: PressTV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=127951§ionid=351020203



The Lebanese army has beefed up defenses along the country's southern border, launching a military exercise against a backdrop of Israel's ongoing war games.

Lebanon deployed its 11th infantry brigade along the western sector in the south, media reports quoted the country's al-Manar TV network as saying on Wednesday.

Security officials in Beirut said forces were deployed across the border with Israel "in order to thwart any possible offensive from the enemy, and close any loopholes that it might use during an attack scenario."

The officials also said the army was ready to counter any possible Israeli incursion.

The deployment came two days after Israeli forces, backed by military vehicles, took up combat positions near Fatmeh Gate and in the groves adjacent to Kfar Kila, prompting Lebanese troops and UN peacekeepers in the area to go on alert.

The Lebanese army said earlier on Wednesday its anti-aircraft artillery opened fire at two intruding Israeli warplanes flying at medium altitude over the Lebanese territory.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, had earlier warned about Israel's violation of Lebanese airspace, saying they were in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended a 33-day Israeli offensive on southern Lebanon in 2006.

The development comes amid ongoing Israeli military drills codenamed "Turning Point 4" in 68 different towns and cities - which is widely viewed as an indication of another Israeli war in the region.

The secretary general of Lebanon's Hezbollah resistance movement, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, vowed on Tuesday to respond to any renewed Israeli offensive on Lebanese territory.

"If we are targeted, we target them as well. [If] we are killed, we can kill. [If] we are forced to leave our homes, we force them to leave their homes. [If] we are confronted, we confront them and so they will have a real problem," Nasrallah said.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

North Korea cuts ties with South

















Source: Al Jazeera
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia-pacific/2010/05/201052632114537361.html


North Korea has severed key communication links with South Korea after vowing to cut all ties with its neighbour in response to the South's tightening of sanctions against Pyongyang over the deadly torpedoing of one of its warships.

In a statement early on Wednesday the North shut down communication lines between Red Cross authorities on either side of the border and also lines connecting maritime officials, Seoul's unification ministry said.

The move came as Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, arrived in the South Korean capital on Wednesday for talks with the country's president amid a sharp escalation of tensions on the peninsula.

After talks with South Korean leaders on Wednesday, Clinton told reporters Seoul had "the full support of the US" and called the sinking of the Cheonan "an unacceptable provocation by North Korea".

She also said "the international community has a responsibility and the duty to respond" to the sinking.

Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley, reporting from Seoul, said Clinton's three to four hour stopover was to show US solidarity with South Korea and to brief officials there on what China - where Clinton had just visited - was saying about the situation.

'Resolute'

On Tuesday, Pyongyang said "from now on it will put into force the resolute measures to totally freeze the inter-Korean relations, totally abrogate the agreement on non-aggression between the North and the South and completely halt the inter-Korean co-operation," according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

However, despite its angry rhetoric North Korean authorities allowed South Korean workers to enter the jointly-run Kaesong industrial park that is a lucrative source of income for the North.

It also did not cut military communication lines which are necessary for the Kaesong operations, Seoul's unification ministry said.

A spokesman for the ministry said the North had approved the entry of South Korean workers to the Kaesong industrial park, where companies from the South have factories employing some 40,000 low-cost North Korean workers.

The move to let in workers suggested that behind its tough stance, the isolated North was being careful not to take steps that will undermine its already tattered economy.

'Gangsters'

Seoul's financial markets, battered the previous day partly due to rising tensions on the divided peninsula, looked stable in early trading on Wednesday.

Tuesday's comments from the North marked a new high in tensions on the divided peninsula after the March sinking of the South Korean warship, Cheonan, which Seoul blamed on a torpedo fired by the North.

Pyongyang has said the accusation was tantamount to a declaration of war.

Referring to the South's government as "military gangsters, seized by fever for a war", North Korea said if the South crossed into its side of the disputed sea border - the scene of deadly clashes in the past - the North would "put into force practical military measures to defend its waters".

On Monday, South Korea's president cut all trade with the North and blocked its commercial ships from sailing through the South's waters.

He also said he planned to take the Cheonan sinking to the UN Security Council and vowed that the South would forcefully defend itself should the North show aggression again.

A report by international investigators last week accused the North, already under international pressure over its nuclear programme, of torpedoing the Cheonan corvette on March 26, killing 46 sailors.

But the North accused South Korea's government of falsely blaming Pyongyang for the sinking, partly to help the ruling party in local elections due to be held next week.

'Appropriate' response

On Tuesday Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said that Washington and Beijing would work together to come up with an "effective, appropriate" response to the sinking.

She said both sides should examine the issue over time, suggesting quick UN Security Council action was unlikely.

"[China] shares with us the goal of a denuclearised Korean Peninsula and a period of careful consideration in order to determine the best way forward in dealing with North Korea," she said.

But China, the North's only major ally who in effect bankrolls its economy, has studiously tried to keep out of the fray, urging calm and refusing to voice support for the international report on the Cheonan sinking.

On Wednesday, China's foreign ministry repeated calls for calm and restraint, with Zhang Zhijun, the vice-foreign minister, saying China had no first-hand information on the sinking.

"We have always believed that dialogue is better than confrontation," Zhang said.

In Washington, a spokesman for the state department called Pyongyang's approach "odd".

"I can't imagine a step that is less in the long term interest of the North Korean people than cutting off further ties with South Korea," PJ Crowley said.

'Readiness'

The US has said it "fully supports" South Korea's move to impose sanctions on the North, calling it "entirely appropriate".

And the White House has directed the US military to work closely with South Korea "to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression".

US and Japanese defence chiefs also discussed the issue at the Pentagon on Tuesday with Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, thanked his Japanese counterpart Toshimi Kitazawa for Japan's strong response to the Cheonan sinking.

A Japanese defence official told the Reuters news agency that the two discussed "future North Korean possible activity" during the 40-minute meeting.

The Pentagon said US, Japanese and South Korean defence chiefs would hold trilateral talks in Singapore next month on the sidelines of a security conference.

Most analysts doubt either side would deliberately risk a war, but say there is a serious risk that small skirmishes along the heavily-defended border could turn into broader conflict.

Some worry pushing Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, too far may leave him little choice but to fight back to try to save his family's more than 60-year hold over the destitute country as he tries to secure the leadership succession for his youngest son.

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