For many villages in Area C, landmines have become a regular feature of daily life. Israeli military training zones occupy nearly 30% of the land, often based around civilian areas, leaving unexploded ordnance (UXO) that cause horrific injuries to local residents. We spent a few days with the victims to see how they live with the constant terror.
Rafat Al-Rushayida is 24, he has lived his whole life in the bedouin village east of Bethlehem that shares his name. Al-Rushayida has played host to a military training zone since 1967, which has now expanded into 50% of the village’s land. He and four young friends showed us what the soldiers left behind.
If children find a bomb it is custom to surround it with rocks as a warning to others.
Awad Al-Rushayida, father of Rafat, was crippled by a landmine last year and has been unable to work since. “They (Israeli army) don’t make it safe because they want the land. They want us to leave”, he says.
At least seven Iraqi civilians were killed during a joint US-Iraqi raid in the outskirts of Fallujah on Wednesday, in the deadliest incident involving U.S. occupation troops since the United States declared an end to its combat operations in Iraq on Aug. 31.
Iraqi officials said eight civilians were killed, while the U.S. occupation military claimed four suspected members of al-Qaeda in Iraq and two civilians died in a firefight that erupted as forces tried to capture a presumed member of the group who allegedly was responsible for attacks in the region.
Despite the official end of the U.S. combat mission, about 4,500 U.S. Special Operations forces remain in Iraq.
Iraqi officials in Anbar province said U.S. and Iraqi troops began raiding houses at 3 a.m. in Jubil, about 30 miles west of Baghdad. Among the dead, they said, were a 70-year-old man and three of his sons, who were all asleep in their yard when they were killed by a grenade. A fourth son died at a hospital, the Iraqi officials said.
Troops also entered a second house in the area and killed Yaseen Kassar, a former Iraqi military commander, Iraqi officials said, as well as two people in a third house.
It was not immediately clear whether the troops had been looking for Kassar or any of the other people killed.
“The security situation in Fallujah may deteriorate because of what happened today,” said Abdulfattah Izghear, a local city council member. “We asked U.S. troops and the Iraqi government to explain this unjustified action and this naked aggression against civilians.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is in charge of the Iraqi Special Forces, ordered an investigation into the incident, the state-run network al-Iraqiya reported.
JERUSALEM — Jerusalem’s Qeresh family said friends and neighbors helped them resist what witnesses described as an attempted home take over on Wednesday.
The event reportedly began in the early morning in the As-Sa’diyah neighborhood in the old city of Jerusalem, as Israeli settlers entered a wing of the family home and allegedly began removing furniture.
Family members said young men from the neighborhood came to the scene, and forcibly prevented the settlers from taking the furniture out of the home.
“The settlers tried to throw the furniture,” one man told Ma’an, and added that police were not called, as the family feared its sons would be detained for preventing the settler action.
The attempted take over came as Israeli and Palestinian leaders met less than four kilometers away at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Residence, for the latest round of direct peace talks.
Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said that if settlement projects continue in Palestinian areas, including East Jerusalem, he will walk away from talks.
Latest in 14-year settler battle for home
The Qeresh family continues a court battle following the 29 July forcible entry of two settler families into the home.
At the time, Israeli National Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said two Jewish families entered the building “based on documents claiming that they owned the property.”
Police said they were examining the documents presented by two Jewish families who evicted the Qeresh families from their home. A police spokesman said the day after the forcible eviction, that he had “no idea whatsoever” as to how long it would take police to verify the papers.
He explained that if police decided the documents were authentic, the matter would be transferred to court.
According to Qeresh family members, the matter was transferred to courts, which put a freeze on settler action on the home, including the removal of furniture, until the matter was decided.
Fatah official for Jerusalem Affairs Hatem Abdel Qader said publicly that the documents presented by settlers to police were fake, noting the settlers who entered the homes were part of a Jewish group that lost a lawsuit in 1996, wherein they sought to take over the same home but failed to sufficiently prove ownership.
Palestinian defendants proved to an Israeli court that the home was owned by Kamal Handal and rented by the Qeresh family, Abdel Qader said following the July attempt.
“This armed burglary is considered an attack on a Palestinian home and will not pass silently,” he added at the time.
AL-KHALIL — Israeli troops raided the south Al-Khalil neighborhood of Wadi al-Hurriya Thursday morning and arrested Subhi Kafisha, 46, the brother of MP Hatem Kafisha, five days after he was released from a PA intelligence prison in Al-Khalil.
MP Hatem Kafisha said the Israeli force entered the neighborhood at 1:00 am Thursday morning and arrested his brother Subhi without specifying the reason for his arrest.
Subhi Kafisha was released the night of Eid al-Fitr after he was detained by PA militia intelligence in a recent campaign against Hamas MPs and their relatives in the West Bank.
Informed Palestinian sources reported that Israeli forces stormed a number of neighborhoods in Al-Khalil and arrested several ex-detainees and Hamas affiliates.
The same sources said Sheikh Mustafa Shawir, 55, a prominent Islamic figure in Al-Khalil, was taken into custody after he was released several months back from Israeli jails.
Sufyan Jumjoum, a 15-year prisoner released about a year ago, was also arrested, as was Sheikh Marwan Sarsour.
The Palestinian Authority arrested Anas Saeed and others waiting for him moments after leaving the Israeli Ofer prison before they reached their homes in Al-Khalil.
Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers arrested four Palestinians on Thursday in Jenin and Nablus after searching their homes. Local sources said Israeli forces arrested Ahmed Hisham Kamil, 26, and Yousef Ahmed Sabri Assaf, 27, after storming their homes in Qabatiya town, Jenin district.
Israeli forces raided the Old City of Nablus and arrested Moataz al-Wawi and Younis Sabri after raiding the neighboring village of Kafr Qalil. Local sources said they heard gunfire and stun grenades during the incursion.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the country plans to triple its trade volume with Iran within five years, stressing the importance of ties with Iran.
“Our bilateral trade ties have reached $10 billion … when we complete our preferential trade agreement we can reach a bilateral trade volume of $30 billion in five years,” Reuters quoted Erdogan as saying on Thursday.
“Why can’t we establish a mechanism of unrestricted trade with Iran similar to the one we have with Europe? I personally don’t see any reason why we should not be able to accomplish this,” he said in the Iran-Turkey Business Forum, Anatolia News Agency reported.
“Just as we are Iran’s gate into Europe, Iran is our most important gate into Asia,” Erdogan said, adding that economic cooperation between the two countries could be further expanded, IRNA reported.
The Turkish prime minister said the “geographic proximity” offers the two countries unique opportunities to improve their “commercial and economic ties.”
Earlier Thursday, Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, who also attended the forum, stressed the importance of expanding ties between the two countries’ private sectors.
“We intend to promote economic cooperation with Turkey, Syria, Iraq and other countries in the region,” he said.
WASHINGTON – During a round of media interviews last month, Gen. David Petraeus released totals for the alleged results of nearly 3,000 “night raids” by Special Operations Forces (SOF) units over the 90 days from May through July: 365 “insurgent leaders” killed or captured, 1,355 Taliban “rank and file” fighters captured, and 1,031 killed.
Those figures were widely reported as highlighting the “successes” of SOF raids in at least hurting the Taliban.
But a direct correlation between the stepped up night raids in Kandahar province and a sharp fall-off in the proportion of IEDs being turned in by the local population indicates that the raids backfired badly, bolstering the Taliban’s hold on the population in Kandahar province.
Night raids, which are viewed as a violation of the sanctity of the home and generate large numbers of civilian casualties, are the single biggest factor in generating popular anger at U.S. and NATO forces, as Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal conceded in his directive on the issue last March.
Nevertheless, McChrystal had increased the level of SOF raids from the 100 to 125 a month during the command of his predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, to 500 a month during 2009. And the figures released by Petraeus revealed that McChrystal had doubled the number of raids on homes again to 1,000 a month before he was relieved of duty in June.
The step up in night raids has been overwhelmingly concentrated on districts in and around Kandahar City. It began in April as a prelude to what was then being billed as the “make or break” campaign of the war.
The response of the civilian population in those districts can be discerned from data on the Taliban roadside bombs and the proportion turned in by the population. Increasing the ratio of total IEDs planted found as a result of tips from the population has been cited as a key indicator of winning the trust of the local population by Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, head of the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).
But JIEDDO’s monthly statistics on IED’s turned in by local residents as a percentage of total IEDs planted tell a very different story.
The percentage of Taliban roadside bombs turned in had been averaging 3.5 percent from November 2009 through March 2010, according to official statistics from JIEDDO. But as soon as the SOF raids began in Kandahar in April, the percentage of turn-ins fell precipitously to 1.5 percent, despite the fact that the number of IEDs remained about the same as the previous month.
The turn-in ratio continued to average 1.5 percent through July.
There is a similar correlation between a sudden increase in popular anger toward foreign troops in spring 2009 and a precipitous drop in the rate of turn-ins.
In the first four months of 2009, turn-ins had averaged 4.5 percent of IED incidents. But in early May 2009 a U.S. airstrike in Farah province killed between 97 and 147 civilians, according to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. As popular outrage over the biggest mass killing of civilians in the war spread across the country, the ratio of turn-ins fell to 2.1 percent of the total for the month, even though IEDs increased by less than 20 percent.
Then McChrystal took command and ordered a quadrupling of the number of night raids. The turn-in ratio continued to average just 2.2 percent for the next five months.
In Kandahar, as elsewhere in Afghanistan, popular anger at foreign troops was undoubtedly stoked by the inevitable killing and detention of the innocent people that accompanies SOF night raids.
According to the figures released by Petraeus, for every targeted individual killed or captured in the raids, three non-targeted individuals were killed and another four were detained.
Based on past cases of false reporting by SOF units, a large proportion of the 1,031 killed in the raids and identified as “insurgents” were simply neighbours who had come out of their homes with guns when they heard the raiders.
Gen. McChrystal referred to that chronic problem in a statement on his directive on night raids last March. “Instinctive responses” by an Afghan man to “defend his home and family are sometimes interpreted as insurgent acts, with tragic results,” McChyrstal said.
SOF units have routinely reported those killed under such circumstances as insurgents rather than as innocent civilians.
When an SOF unit raided the home of a low-level commander in Laghman province on Jan. 26, 2009, 13 men came out of nearby homes. They were all killed and later included in the tally of Taliban reported killed in the raid.
The problem of false reporting was brought to light most dramatically after a botched SOF raid in Gardez Feb. 12, when two men who emerged from buildings in the compound targeted by an SOF unit were shot and killed. Within hours of the raid, ISAF issued a statement describing the two men as “insurgents”.
That falsehood was later revealed only because the two men happened to be a police official and a government prosecutor. In the same incident, the SOF unit accidentally killed three women, two of whom were pregnant, but reported to headquarters that the women had been found tied up.
McChrystal defended the SOF unit against charges by eyewitnesses that its members had tried to cover up the killing, even after the head of the Afghan interior ministry investigation of the incident publicly declared that the testimony was credible.
The figure of 1,355 insurgents “captured” in the raids given out by the International Security Assistance Force is also highly misleading. In response to an IPS query about the figure, ISAF public affairs officer Maj. Sunset R. Belinsky confirmed that the figure “reflects insurgents or suspected insurgents captured during operations”.
In fact, the vast majority were simply swept up because they happened to be present in a house or compound targeted in a raid.
An ISAF press release Sep. 8 illustrates how such a larger number was accumulated. In a raid on the compound of a suspected “insurgent commander” in Paktika province Sep. 7, the SOF unit ordered all occupants to leave the compound and detained “several suspected insurgents” after “initial questioning”.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have never released figures on what proportion of Afghans detained as suspected insurgents were eventually released because of lack of evidence. Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, who reviewed U.S. detainee policies in early 2009, was reported by The Guardian Oct. 14, 2009 to have concluded that two-thirds of the detainees still being held by the U.S. military as Taliban insurgents were innocent.
The claim of 365 “insurgent leaders” killed or captured is also highly misleading.
At his confirmation hearing in June, Petraeus referred to the targets of SOF raids as “middle and upper level Taliban and other extremist element leaders”.
That terminology was later abandoned, however. When questioned about the figure last month, an ISAF official, speaking on condition of anonymity, conceded that it was not clear what authority the targeted “leaders” had. There is no organisational diagram for the Taliban, the official told IPS, and Taliban fighters are not organised in military units.
The vast majority of those “leaders”, it appears, were low level Taliban personnel who are easily replaced.
*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.
Saudi Arabia is about to buy another $60bn worth of military hardware from the US, and even The Guardian is dutiful in parroting, without question, the accepted western narrative :
The sale, under negotiation since 2007, is aimed mainly at bolstering Saudi defenses against Iran, which the US suspects will achieve a nuclear weapons capability within the next few years. The transfer of advanced technology, mainly planes, is to provide Saudi Arabia with air superiority over Iran.
Ignoring the fact that miltary aircraft (which form the bulk of the deal as we know it) are pretty much useless against a nuclear missile, especially one that does not exist, $60bn buys a mind boggling amount of firepower, so that must mean that Saudi Arabia’s military capacity right now is woefully insufficient compared to Iran’s, right?
Saudi military spending already dwarfs Iran’s by a factor of six. Indeed, by head of population, Saudi is the world’s biggest purchaser of military hardware.
Global Firepower has a direct comparison of the two nations’ military strengths, and it turns out that Iran’s military is only superior in terms of manpower numbers.
So if Iran’s intention is to send waves of soldiers marching across the desert, then maybe Saudi has something to fear.
But when it comes to “air-based weapons”, Global Firepower puts the relative numbers (before this deal) at Saudi 453, Iran 84. (Bear in mind also that Iran’s aircraft are widely described as museum pieces by military analysts, because the sanctions mean that Iran has no access to spare parts or modern technology).
So why does Saudi need 84 new F-15 fighter jets, 70 upgraded F-15s, 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 “Little Birds”, just to fight a land army?
And when you consider the reality that Saudi has the full support of all the US military bases in the region, the suggestion that Riyadh has something to fear from Tehran is laughable.
So if the numbers don’t add up, what about the politics? Well, the suggestion that Iran is keen to invade Saudi Arabia makes even less sense than the suggestion that Tehran intends to attack Israel, and the Arab world knows it.
As King Abdullah of Jordan said recently, the Arab world is much more concerned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than any Iran issue.
And, as a major survey of the Arab public opinion found recently, the Arab majority not only agrees with King Abdullah but is in fact very sympathetic of Iran’s right to nuclear technology, with a majority saying a nuclear-armed Iran may in fact be a good thing for the region.
Amjad Atalla of New America Foundation has an excellent summary of this whole debate here.
And the American Foreign Policy Project covers many of the myths and nuances of the military and security debates concerning Iran here.
So, if the mainstream media have missed the point, then what is really going on?
Well, with America suffering it’s worst recession in 60 years, the biggest arms contract ever signed would certainly be a welcome boost to earnings in the military industrial sector.
And as I blogged a year ago, Saudi Arabia has always been keen to buy as much favor in Washington as it can, because it’s concerned that any hint of warming relations between DC and Tehran would almost by definition be a threat to Riyadh’s regional hegemony.