Part 14 of a series recounting the findings of South African jurist Richard Goldstone’s UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.
Bethlehem – Ma’an - When the Al-Bader flour mill was destroyed on 9 January 2009, the strike happened without prior warning, raising questions about the efficacy or seriousness of the warnings system used by Israeli forces during their devastating assault on Gaza last winter.
Odder still was that in two prior instances, Israel did warn mill owner Rashad Hamada that its jets intended to strike immanently, leading to two evacuations of the mill, neither of which ended in strikes.
On 30 December 2008, a recorded warning was left on the flour mill’s answering machine by Israeli forces, indicating that his building should be evacuated immediately. The approximately 45 workers in the mill at the time were evacuated.
“We received a recorded message by telephone on a landline asking us to evacuate the mill. This call came from Israel,” Hamada said, in testimony to Richard Goldstone’s UN inquiry.
“We evacuated the factory of all workers, a total evacuation and waited until the next day. The factory was not hit.”
Following the evacuation, Hamada called a business associate in Israel, explained what had happened and asked him for advice. The associate spoke with contacts in the Israeli military, and had been told that, although the mill had been on a list of proposed targets, they had decided not to proceed with the strike. Hamada did not receive any information as to why his mill might have been targeted.
Based on these conversations and the fact that there had been no strike, the mill’s employees returned to work the next day. Work continued for a number of days as flour ran out across the Strip, until a second recorded warning was received on or around 4 January 2009.
“We received another message,” Hamada said. “We were told to evacuate the factory. The factory was evacuated.”
Again, there was no attack. “They were put into a state of fear as a result of the false alarms,” Goldstone’s report states.
Hamada received a call later in the week from his business associate in Israel, who said Israeli forces told him the mill would not be hit. The employees returned to work in light of the information.
Then on 9 January, without warning, “we received a call from the guard telling us that the factory was targeted by air with a missile and that it had caught fire. After 15 minutes, he called us again and told us that there are tanks approaching the area and that the factory was targeted with tank fire. We immediately informed the [Red Cross] and the Civil Defense in order to put out the fire in the mill,” Hamada said.
The flour mill was hit by an airstrike, possibly by an F16. The missile struck the floor that housed one of the machines indispensable to the mill’s functioning, completely destroying it. In the next 60 to 90 minutes the mill was hit several times by missiles fired from an Apache helicopter. These missiles hit the upper floors of the factory, destroying more key machinery.
Hamada recounted: “What happened at the mill is a total destruction, a total destruction of the whole production line of the factory. Because this factory, in fact, is vertical, the equipment is set vertically. There are six floors. The production line was destroyed from the sixth floor to the ground floor. Three floors, the fifth, sixth and fourth, were destroyed including all the equipment, total destruction, therefore the building and the equipment. And the other three floors, the first, second and third floors, they were totally burned.”
Adjoining buildings, including the grain store, were not hit. The strikes entirely disabled the factory, which has remained in disrepair because of the siege on building supplies. Even amid subsequent food shortages, a large amount of grain remains at the site but cannot be processed.
“During the war, the mill was working 24 hours a day and we had also been working 24 hours a day one month prior to this date; we were working around the clock,” Hamada said. “As for the targeting, it is because a flour mill [was] working. There were four flour mills that were not producing and were not targeted.”
Israeli forces occupied the disabled building until around 13 January. Hundreds of shells were found on its roof after the soldiers left. They appeared to be 40-mm grenade machine-gun spent cartridges.
Attacks on the foundations of civilian life in Gaza
Goldstone’s team said Hamada and his brother provided information that was corroborated by other representatives of the Gaza business community with whom the investigators discussed the context and consequences of the strike on the flour mill.
The consequences of the strike on the flour mill were significant, his report states. Not only are all the employees out of work, the capacity of Gaza to produce milled flour, the most basic staple ingredient of the local diet, has been greatly diminished. As a result, the population of Gaza is now more dependent on the Israeli authorities’ granting permission for flour and bread to enter the Gaza Strip.
“From what we could see on the ground and from what we had in Gaza, this flour mill was the only flour mill for the past ten years providing for the needs of the Gaza Strip in wheat,” Hamada said. “It is well-known everywhere in Gaza. And in Israel, they know that Al-Bader Flour Mill [which is] the strategic reserve of flour for the strip, was there.”
“There is no flour mill that works except ours and it was shelled. I do not want to give conclusions. It is well-known, this is a flour mill that works and that provides for the needs of the country. It was targeted because we are in a state of war. There is no peace. What I know is that war is war. We hope that all of this will end and will be replaced by peace and that we will forget about these hearings.”
The Israelis have apparently not investigated the flour mill’s destruction, according to the report, nor made any suggestion that the site was targeted for military purposes.
Nevertheless, Hamada rejected any suggestion that the building was at any time used for any purpose by Palestinian armed groups. They pointed out that all of the buildings and factories were surrounded by a high wall and manned by at least one guard at night.
“There is no resistance there,” Hamada said. “After the end of the war, I went to have a look and I asked are there any combatants that died here, any Israelis that died? Not at all, nobody told me of any kind of resistance in the whole area.”
I do not know what they were targeting, I wasn’t there,” Hamada conceded. “However, I saw the results of the firing in the flour mill, … Testimony has to be real, it’s a word of truth, I cannot tell you what they targeted or who they targeted. What I did see are the empty bullets in the factory, on the factory roof, that’s what I saw.”
He added, however, that “All the factories in the eastern region were destroyed. Did they also have resistance? I don’t know, but what I do know is that vital factories were targeted. Why? Because war is war, I say it again, and we want peace, enough war.”
Addressing the UN mission directly, Hamada added: “We do not want words, we want acts. We want the United Nations to take action. We have been suffering for two full years under siege. We did not see the United Nations doing anything for us. We see that in Darfur there is a problem, the whole world goes running to Darfur, in Cambodia and Laos, everywhere in the world, but here, when we speak of the Palestinian people, everybody closes his ears, they do not want to hear about us or our problems.”
Starvation as a method of warfare is prohibited
No other buildings in the industrial compound belonging to the Hamadas were damaged at the time of the strikes. “It appears that the strikes on the flour mill were intentional and precise,” Goldstone’s final report states.
Hamada and his brothers are well-known businessmen. Israeli authorities did not appear to consider them either before or after the military operations to be a threat, given the unrestricted issuance of their Businessman Cards and their ability to travel to Israel afterwards.
“The issuance of a Businessman Card is no trifle, especially in the context of the ongoing restrictions on trade. It is not plausible that the Israeli authorities would issue such a document to any party it regarded with suspicion,” the report notes.
As for whether the flour mill could have been deemed a military objective, Goldstone notes that the building was one of the tallest in the area and would have offered extensive views to Israeli forces. The mission notes that taking control of the building might be deemed a legitimate objective in the circumstances.
“However, by 9 January the Israeli armed forces were fully aware that the flour mill could be evacuated at short notice by using the warning message system. If the reason for attacking the mill was to gain control of it for observation and control purposes, it made no sense to bomb the principal machinery and to destroy the upper floors.
There is also no suggestion that Israeli forces considered the building to be a source of enemy fire, the report states.
“The nature of the strikes on the mill and in particular the precise targeting of crucial machinery on one of the mid-level floors suggests that the intention was to disable its productive capacity,” Goldstone alleges. “There appears to be no plausible justification for the extensive damage to the flour mill if the sole objective was to take control of the building. It thus appears that the only purpose was to put an end to the production of flour in the Gaza Strip.”
According to the report, “there has been a violation of the grave breaches provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Unlawful and wanton destruction which is not justified by military necessity would amount to a war crime.”
Having concluded that the strikes were without any military justification, and therefore wanton and unlawful, the mission found it useful to consider if there was any non-military purpose to the strikes. “The aim of the strike, if not military, could only have been to destroy the local capacity to produce flour.” Thus, according to Goldstone, the question is whether such deliberate destruction of the sole remaining flour-producing capacity in the Gaza Strip can be described as having been done for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population.
International law, the report describes, prohibits acts whose specific purpose is the denial of sustenance for whatever reason, including starvation, forced displacement or anything else. “In short, the motive for denying sustenance need not be to starve the civilian population. Indeed, the motive is irrelevant.”
Due to the ongoing Israeli-led blockade, Gaza’s civilian population is increasingly dependent on external humanitarian assistance, whose arrival depends on permission from Israeli authorities. While it is not suggested that starvation is imminent, the health and welfare of the population at large have been profoundly affected by the blockade and the military operations.
“The only reason why starvation is not imminent however is precisely the provision of humanitarian assistance. Without such assistance Gaza’s civilian population would not be able to feed itself,” the report notes.
“States cannot escape their obligations not to deny the means of sustenance simply by presuming the international community will fill the gap they have created by deliberately destroying the existing capacity.
“From the facts ascertained by it, the Mission finds that the destruction of the mill was carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population, which is a violation of customary international law,” the report concludes, “and may constitute a war crime.”
By Bill Gross | PIMCO | Excerpt
Here’s the problem that the U.S. Fed’s “exit” poses in simple English: Our fiscal 2009 deficit totaled nearly 12% of GDP and required over $1.5 trillion of new debt to finance it. The Chinese bought a little ($100 billion) of that, other sovereign wealth funds bought some more, but as shown in Chart 2, foreign investors as a group bought only 20% of the total – perhaps $300 billion or so. The balance over the past 12 months was substantially purchased by the Federal Reserve. Of course they purchased more 30-year Agency mortgages than Treasuries, but PIMCO and others sold them those mortgages and bought – you guessed it – Treasuries with the proceeds. The conclusion of this fairytale is that the government got to run up a 1.5 trillion dollar deficit, didn’t have to sell much of it to private investors, and lived happily ever – ever – well, not ever after, but certainly in 2009. Now, however, the Fed tells us that they’re “fed up,” or that they think the economy is strong enough for them to gracefully “exit,” or that they’re confident that private investors are capable of absorbing the balance. Not likely.
International Solidarity Movement | January 8, 2010
An overwhelming force of Israeli military soldiers converged on farmlands outside Qaryut today as villagers attempted to replenish their endangered lands with water and new olive trees. Despite the overbearing army presence, residents’ convictions were strong enough for them to stand their ground and finish work for the day.
Villagers entered the Qaryut’s eastern farmlands following the midday prayer, carrying 200 baby olive trees donated by Palestinian Agricultural Relief and the Ministry of Agriculture. Facing the busy Nablus – Ramallah Road 60 route, and the Israeli settlements of Shilo and Eli behind them they set to work planting the new trees in the land oft neglected by farmers from fear of settler or army reprisal.
As residents worked the land, others began clearing the large earth mound that had been constructed across the small dirt road serving as Qaryut’s sole link to Road 60. Residents reported Israeli bulldozers shifting the earth mound in to place on January 6th, a repeated attempt of the military to block farmers from their land. The villagers’ work alerted the attention of Shilo settler security, who were sighted on the hilltop overlooking the farmland, photographing the proceedings.
Israeli Occupation Forces arrived soon after. One hummer carrying 20 soldiers immediately entered the area, shouting aggressively at the Palestinians that they had no right to be working their own land.
“I decided to approach the captain,” said Rayed, resident of Qaryut and co-organiser of the event. “He started to yell at me in Hebrew and I told him, this is Palestine. We don’t speak Hebrew here, we speak Arabic – or maybe English.”
The captain became enraged, but switched to English and informed Rayed that he and the villagers must return to their homes within 5 minutes, before the soldiers “started their work.”
“I said to him, what work?” recounts Rayed. “What is your work? To kill us? Well, he became very angry at that. But I told him that we will keep planting our trees, this is all we came here to do. The security of Israel will not be compromised by us planting some trees.”
By this time 11 more military jeeps had arrived, comprising a force of some 50 soldiers in total who quickly surrounded the farmland where the villagers continued to work. The trees planted successfully in the ground, the villagers prepared to leave as once again the soldiers became aggressive.
“They started shouting at us for leave, to go home,” says Rayed. “We were already on our way, but we didn’t need them to yell at us. They looked like they were about to attack. The captain approached me and demanded that we not intefere with the roadblock. I told him that the roadblock prevents tractors from accessing the crops, and that it is obvious the purpose of the roadblocks’ location is to make it easier for the settlers to conquest the land. If it was anything else, they’d put it directly at Road 60.”
The roadblock has been an ongoing impediment to Qaryut’s residents freedom of movement, and preventing farmers from accessing their lands. Several successful demonstrations were held last year when international solidarity activists joined hundreds of local protesters in removing the roadblock by hand, only for military bulldozers to rebuild it the following day.
Press TV – January 9, 2010 10:21:48 GMT
Iran and Turkey plan to set up a joint industrial zone on their shared border, a Turkish official has announced.
Turkish Industry and Trade Minister Nihat Ergun made the remarks after a meeting with Iran’s Industry Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian in Ankara on Friday.
Ergun noted that the two sides have agreed to form a committee to discuss the establishment of the joint industrial area in a way to boost economic cooperation.
”A technical committee consisting of 10 persons from each side has been established. The committee will work on the establishment of an industrial zone on the joint border, ” ILNA news agency quoted Erdun as saying.
The Iranian and Turkish officials also discussed ways of increasing industrial cooperation.
Separately, Turkish State Minister Zafer Caglayan said that Turkey’s exports to Iran reached $1.7 billion in the first 11 months of 2009.
After a meeting with Mehrabian in Ankara on Thursday, Caglayan said Tehran is an important partner for Turkey and that the volume of trade between the two countries has risen to $10 billion in the past eight years.
By Alison Weir | CounterPunch | January 8, 2010
In your recent column in the New York Times, “Ten for the Next Ten,” you wrote: “I’ll place my hopes on the possibility — however remote at the moment — that…people in places filled with rage and despair, places like the Palestinian territories, will in the days ahead find among them their Gandhi, their King, their Aung San Suu Kyi.”
Your hope has already been fulfilled in the Palestinian territories.
Unfortunately, these Palestinian Gandhis and Kings are being killed and imprisoned.
On the day that your op-ed appeared hoping for such leaders, three were languishing in Israeli prisons. No one knows how long they will be held, nor under what conditions; torture is common in Israeli prisons.
At least 19 Palestinians have been killed in the last six years alone during nonviolent demonstrations against Israel’s apartheid wall that is confiscating Palestinian cropland and imprisoning Palestinian people. Many others have been killed in other parts of the Palestinian territories while taking part in nonviolent activities. Hundreds more have been detained and imprisoned.
Recently Israel has begun a campaign to incarcerate the leaders of this diverse movement of weekly marches and demonstrations taking place in small Palestinian villages far from media attention.
The first Palestinian Gandhi to be rounded up in this recent purge was young Mohammad Othman, taken on Sept. 22 when he was returning home from speaking in Norway about nonviolent strategies to oppose Israeli oppression and land confiscation. He has now been held for 107 days without charges, much of it in solitary confinement.
The second was Abdallah Abu Rahma, a schoolteacher and farmer taken from his home on Dec. 10, the only one to be charged with a crime. After holding him for several days, Israel finally came up with a charge: “illegal weapons possession” – referring to the peace sign he had fashioned out of the spent teargas cartridges and bullets that Israel had shot at nonviolent demonstrators. (One such cartridge pierced the skull of Tristan Anderson, an American who was photographing the aftermath of a nonviolent march, causing part of his right frontal lobe to be removed.)
The third was Jamal Jumah’, a veteran leader in the grassroots struggle, who was taken by Israeli occupation forces on Dec. 16th and is now being held in shackles and often blindfolded during Kafkaesque Israeli military proceedings.
Palestinians have been engaging in nonviolence for decades.
When I was last in Nablus I learned of a massive nonviolent demonstration that had occurred in 2001 – estimates range from 10,000 to 50,000 Palestinian men, women, and children taking part in a nonviolent march. All sectors of Nablus had joined together in organizing this – public officials, diverse parties, religious, secular, Muslim, Christian.
Modeling their action on images of Dr. Martin Luther King, they marched arm-in-arm, believing that Israel would not kill them and that the world would care. They were wrong on both counts. Israeli forces immediately shot six dead and injured many more. And no one even knows about it. At If Americans Knew we are currently working on a video to try to remedy the last part; there’s nothing we can do about the dead.
But there’s a great deal you can do, Bono. You can use your talent and celebrity to tell the world these facts. You can write a New York Times op-ed about the Palestinian Gandhis in Israeli prisons and call for their freedom. You can sing of these Palestinian Martin Luther Kings you wished for, and by singing save their lives.
For the reality is that nonviolence is only as powerful as its visibility to the world. When it is made invisible through its lack of coverage by the New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN, Fox News, et al, its practitioners are in deadly danger, and their efforts to use nonviolence against injustice are doomed.
In the New York Times you publicly proclaimed your belief in nonviolence. Now is your chance to demonstrate your commitment.
* * *
Killed by Israeli forces while demonstrating against the Israeli wall being built on Palestinian land [http://palsolidarity.org/2009/06/7647]
5 June 2009:
Yousef ‘Akil’ Tsadik Srour, 36
Shot in the chest with 0.22 calibre live ammunition during a demonstration against the Wall in Ni’lin.
April 17, 2009:
Basem Abu Rahme, age 29
Shot in the chest with a high-velocity tear gas projectile during a demonstration against the Wall in Bil’in.
December 28, 2008:
Mohammad Khawaja, age 20
Shot in the head with live ammunition during a demonstration in Ni’lin against Israel’s assault on Gaza. Mohammad died in the hospital on December 31, 2009.
December 28, 2008:
Arafat Khawaja, age 22
Shot in the back with live ammunition in Ni’lin during a demonstration against Israel’s assault on Gaza.
July 30, 2008:
Youssef Ahmed Younes Amirah, age 17
Shot in the head with rubber coated bullets during a demonstration against the Wall in Ni’lin. Youssef died of his wounds on August 4, 2008.
July 29, 2008:
Ahmed Husan Youssef Mousa, age 10
Shot dead while he and several friends tried to remove coils of razor wire from land belonging to the village in Ni’lin.
March 2, 2008:
Mahmoud Muhammad Ahmad Masalmeh, age 15
Shot dead when trying to cut the razor wire portion of the Wall in Beit Awwa.
March 28, 2007:
Muhammad Elias Mahmoud ‘Aweideh, age 15
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Um a-Sharayet – Samiramis.
February 2, 2007:
Taha Muhammad Subhi al-Quljawi, age 16
Shot dead when he and two friends tried to cut the razor wire portion of the Wall in the Qalandiya Refugee Camp. He was wounded in the thigh and died from blood loss after remaining in the field for a long time without treatment.
May 4, 2005:
Jamal Jaber Ibrahim ‘Asi, age 15
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Beit Liqya.
May 4, 2005:
U’dai Mufid Mahmoud ‘Asi, age 14
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Beit Liqya.
February 15, 2005:
‘Alaa’ Muhammad ‘Abd a-Rahman Khalil, age 14
Shot dead while throwing stones at an Israeli vehicle driven by private security guards near the Wall in Betunya.
April 18, 2004:
Islam Hashem Rizik Zhahran, age 14
Shot during a demonstration against the Wall in Deir Abu Mash’al. Islam died of his wounds April 28, 2004.
April 18, 2004:
Diaa’ A-Din ‘Abd al-Karim Ibrahim Abu ‘Eid, age 23
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.
April 16, 2004:
Hussein Mahmoud ‘Awad ‘Alian, age 17
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Betunya.
February 26, 2004:
Muhammad Da’ud Saleh Badwan, age 21
Shot during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu. Muhammad died of his wounds on March 3, 2004.
February 26, 2004:
Abdal Rahman Abu ‘Eid, age 17
Died of a heart attack after teargas projectiles were shot into his home during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.
February 26, 2004:
Muhammad Fadel Hashem Rian, age 25
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.
- Hide quoted text -
February 26, 2004:
Zakaria Mahmoud ‘Eid Salem, age 28
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.
Notes and Sources:
(1) Israeli was first exposed in the West by the London Times in the late 1970s. Foreign Service Journal [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/opinion/03bono.html] wrote about Israeli torture of Americans in June, 2002, and Addameer [http://addameer.info/?p=496] gives specifics today.
(2) Al Haq, the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists – Geneva, writes: [http://freemohammadothman.wordpress.com/2010/01/] “…as part of their repression campaign, which coincided with the release of the Goldstone Report, the Israeli forces have re-launched daily dawn raids in villages affected by the Wall, arresting youths and children, for the purpose of extracting confessions about prominent community leaders advocating against the Wall, and continued to intimidate activists by destroying their private property and threatening them with detention. Finally, Israel has directly targeted the Grassroots “Stop the Wall” Campaign [http://stopthewall.org/index.shtml]by arresting and intimidating its leaders…His village, Jayyous, has been devastated by the Apartheid Wall
(3) Human Rights Watch [http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/12/04/israel-end-arbitrary-detention-rights-activist] found that “”The only reasonable conclusion is that Othman is being punished for his peaceful advocacy…”
(4) Abdallah Abu Rahma was taken [http://www.popularstruggle.org/freeabdallah]when “eleven military jeeps surrounded his house, and Israeli soldiers broke the door, extracted Abdallah from his bed, and, after briefly allowing him to say goodbye to his wife Majida and their three children — seven year-old Luma, five year-old Lian and eight month-old baby Laith, they blindfolded him and took him into custody.”
On Jan. 6th Abdallah wrote: [http://palsolidarity.org/2010/01/10429]:
“I mark the beginning of the new decade imprisoned in a military detention camp. Nevertheless, from within the occupation′s holding cell I meet the New Year with determination and hope…. Whether we are confined in the open-air prison that Gaza has been transformed into, in military prisons in the West Bank, or in our own villages surrounded by the Apartheid Wall, arrests and persecution do not weaken us. They only strengthen our commitment to turning 2010 into a year of liberation through unarmed grassroots resistance to the occupation.
“The price I and many others pay in freedom does not deter us. I wish that my two young daughters and baby son would not have to pay this price together with me. But for my son and daughters, for their future, we must continue our struggle for freedom…”
(5) Tristan Anderson was shot [http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5324] with a high-velocity canister after photographing a nonviolent protest in Ni’lin on March 13, 2009. His ambulance was held up for a period of time by Israeli forces before finally being allowed to take him to a hospital. Video of parents’ press conference [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcK_4ksR1fw]
(6) Israeli forces interrogated Jamal Juma’ and then “brought him back home, handcuffed, and searched his house while his wife and three children watched. Then they took him off to prison.” – CounterPunch [http://www.counterpunch.org/hijab12242009.html ] Despite being held for 20 days, [http://stopthewall.org/latestnews/2152.shtml] no charges have yet been brought against Jamal.
(7) The Nablus march mentioned above took place on March 30, 2001, on Jerusalem Street in the south of Nablus, leading to the Huwara checkpoint. This was on what Palestinians call the “Day of the Land” or “Land Day” (information on Land Day can be seen at http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/255.shtml).
(8) In our study of the Associated Press, “Deadly Distortion,” [http://www.ifamericansknew.org/media/ap-report.html] we commented: “…our analysts looked at hundreds of articles that AP published on topics relating to the Israel/Palestine issue, and noted a number of additional patterns that merit further examination… Nonviolence movement. Palestinian resistance efforts have included numerous nonviolent marches and other activities, many joined by international participants, Israeli citizens, and faith-based groups. This nonviolence movement has been an important topic in the Palestinian territories, with growing numbers of people taking part – in 2004 the Palestinian News Network reported on 79 major demonstrations that were exclusively nonviolent. Yet, we did not find any reports in which AP had described a Palestinian demonstration or other activity as nonviolent or utilizing nonviolence.
Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, [http://www.ifamericansknew.org/] which provides information about Israel-Palestine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She phoned and faxed Bono’s management company Principle Management [http://www.fanmail.biz/25157.html] at both their New York and Dublin locations in an effort to contact him but has not yet received a reply. She suggests that others may wish to do this as well: 212.765.2330 / fax: 212.765.2372.
Press TV – January 9, 2010 08:15:32 GMT
Venezuela has scrambled two F-16 fighter jets to ward off a US ‘military plane’ amid reports of “US trespassing the country’s airspace.”
President Hugo Chavez has ordered the fighters to confront a US P-3 maritime patrol aircraft that had purportedly violated Venezuela’s airspace, Reuters quoted the Venezuelan president as saying on Friday.
“They are provoking us … these are warplanes,” Chavez noted, showing a picture of the plane, which he said, had taken off from US military bases on the Netherlands’ Caribbean islands and from neighboring Colombia on two separate occasions.
He said the Venezuelan fighter jets forced the US plane away after the ‘incursions.’
Meanwhile, Pentagon officials have denied the charges and expressed unawareness of the latest development.
“We can confirm no US military aircraft entered Venezuelan airspace today. As a matter of policy we do not fly over a nation’s airspace without prior consent or coordination,” Reuters quoted an unnamed Defense Department Spokesperson as saying on January 8.
The US Southern Command claims that its surveillance operations are ‘only’ meant to counter drug trafficking in South America.
By Agence France Presse | January 09, 2010
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Human rights group Amnesty International urged Israel on Friday to release or fairly try three Palestinian jailed for protesting against the West Bank separation barrier. The three, two of whom are held without charges, may be “prisoners of conscience, held for legitimately voicing their opposition to the fence/wall,” Amnesty said in a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
“These men have all been involved in campaigning against the building of this construction, much of it on the land of the occupied West Bank, and we fear that this is the real reason for their imprisonment,” said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program.
“If this is the case they must be released immediately and unconditionally,” he said.
Jamal Juma, coordinator of the Stop the Wall campaign, has not been charged with any offence since his arrest on December 16 and has not had access to his lawyer.
He is held under Israeli military law, which applies to the occupied West Bank.
“As someone who holds a Jerusalem ID card, according to Israeli law his case should be handled under the country’s civil, not military, legal system,” the London-based human rights watchdog said.
Mohammad Othman is also held without charge since September 22. He was arrested upon his return from Norway where he met activist groups and campaigned against the wall, Amnesty said.
Abdullah Abu Rahma, who heads Popular Committee Against the Wall in the West Bank village of Bilin, was arrested on December 10.
He has been charged with incitement, stone-throwing, and possession of arms, the latter for collecting spent cartridges and tear gas grenades used by Israeli forces to disperse anti-wall protesters.
“These three men are all well known for their defense of the human rights of Palestinians. In the unlikely event that there are genuine grounds to prosecute these men, they should be charged with recognizable criminal offences and brought promptly to trial in full conformity with international fair trial standards,” said Smart.