JERUSALEM — Egypt has explained to Israel that the Rafah crossing will not be used to transfer goods, and restrictions will be imposed on the movement of individuals, Israel radio reported Thursday.
According to political sources quoted in the report, Egyptian authorities are aware of the risk that “terrorist elements” could pass through Rafah, the sole non-Israeli entrance point, and Cairo will act accordingly.
Egypt said Wednesday it would open the crossing on a daily basis in a bid to ease the blockade.
The measure, which will come into force Saturday, will give Gazans a gateway to the world as Rafah is the only crossing which does not pass through Israel.
The frontier will now be opened for eight hours a day from 9:00 a.m., with the exception of Fridays and public holidays, Egypt’s official MENA news agency said.
Until now, it had been open only intermittently, mainly for Palestinians who can prove humanitarian need. … Full article
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joined its affiliate in Bahrain, the Bahrain association of Journalists (BJA) in condemning the savage beating and inhuman treatment of reporter Nazeeha Saeed who was arrested on 22 May over the story she had filed about the repression of anti-government protesters.
The female reporter, who was covering the uprising for France24 and Radio Monte Carlo in the of Pearl Square area, suffered severe injuries at the Rafa police station where she was badly beaten by her interrogators. She also bore torture marks, according to the reports.
“We are appalled by this senseless and cruel treatment of a working journalist and we urge the Bahraini authorities to hold accountable the officers involved,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. “The brutal behavior of security forces towards Saeed shows there is no end to media repression in Bahrain and the world must make it clear that these gross violations of peaceful protesters’, women’s and journalists’ rights will not go unpunished.”
Saeed was summoned to the Rafa police for questioning over her report on the death of Ali Abdelhassan who was allegedly killed by security forces during the anti-government protests of 17 February 2011. She was detained for 12 hours during which she reportedly was savagely beaten and tortured. After her release, the French consulate arranged for the journalist to receive medical treatment in France due to the gravity of her condition.
The BJA has also called for a full investigation into the allegations of torture and requested from the authorities a copy of the complaint made by the reporter, stressing the need for transparency and independence in the investigation in this case.
The IFJ has accused the Bahraini government of widespread intimidation and systematic harassment against journalists which have already led to the arrests and sackings of at least 68 media personnel in the country since the start of the protests for political reforms.
In April of this year President Barack Obama, claiming powers vested in him during an “International Economic Emergency” and “National Emergency” signed Executive Order 13572; Blocking Property of Certain Persons With Respect to Human Rights Abuses in Syria. Essentially, it gives him the power to seize assets of Syrians suspected of being complicit in human rights abuses.
This incredibly vague standard gives the president the power to determine who ends up with the control of wealth in Syria. The EO describes the broad accusations that can be deemed sufficient enough by the State Department or Treasury Department to render asset seizures:
(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, or to have participated in, the commission of human rights abuses in Syria, including those related to repression;
(ii) to be a senior official of an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order;
(iii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, the activities described in subsection (b)(i) of this section or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to Executive Order 13338, Executive Order 13460, or this order; or
(iv) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to Executive Order 13460 or this order.
If events leading up to Libya’s “liberation” are any indicator, this Executive Order is the first step in engaging in an interventionist “humanitarian war”. In February of this year Obama signed an eerily similar Executive Order 13566, Blocking Property and Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related to Libya. Again, Obama declared the situation in Libya a “national emergency” in order to obtain the power to economically assassinate Qadhafi and anyone loyal to him:
I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, his government, and close associates have taken extreme measures against the people of Libya, including by using weapons of war, mercenaries, and wanton violence against unarmed civilians. I further find that there is a serious risk that Libyan state assets will be misappropriated by Qadhafi, members of his government, members of his family, or his close associates if those assets are not protected. The foregoing circumstances, the prolonged attacks, and the increased numbers of Libyans seeking refuge in other countries from the attacks, have caused a deterioration in the security of Libya and pose a serious risk to its stability, thereby constituting an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.
This Executive Order was executed less than a month before the U.N. Security Council resolution for the so-called “No-Fly Zone” that has now festered into nightly bombings of Libya’s capital city and the actual targeted assassination of their sovereign leader.
This appears to be the modern imperial playbook for starting preemptive humanitarian wars for the purpose of regime change. Step one; seize the assets of the group currently running a country to weaken them. Step two; build strategic popular support for humanitarian intervention. Step three; bomb the humanity back into the country and kill the rightful leader. Step four; install globalist puppets to control the flow of the country’s currency and assets. Step five; move on to the next “oppressive” regime, bypassing the mirror of conscience.
One thing is for certain, Syria is next on the globalist chopping block despite the West’s clear involvement in spearheading the opposition movement there. The U.S. president can now conveniently claim the powers of international economic emergency and national emergency to circumvent any checks and balances to justify nearly any act of imperial tyranny. And 2011 is shaping up to be a Blitzkrieg by Western powers to take out the remaining global chess pieces that oppose their domination.
From the G8 summit, Reuters reports:
The external financing needs of oil-importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa will exceed $160 billion over the next three years and donor countries must step in to help, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday.
In a report to the Group of Eight meeting in Deauville, France, the IMF urged G8 industrial nations and rich Arab partners to develop an action plan that lays out what help they could provide countries in need.
“The region needs to prepare for a fundamental transformation of its economic model,” Masood Ahmed, in charge of Middle East and Africa at the IMF, told journalists on the sidelines of a Group of Eight meeting in northern France.
“This will be greatly facilitated if international players including the G8 can enter into strategic partnership with these countries…where incentives are linked to a social agenda.”
Supporting the IMF’s call for deeper indebtedness to support the supposedly threatening democratic upheaval in the region, U.S. President Barack Obama said:
First, we’ve asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruptions of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron:
Leading nations’ financial support for the so-called Arab Spring will reduce extremism and immigration, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said. The UK is giving £110m over four years for political and economic development in North Africa and the Middle East. At the two-day G8 summit in France, the UK and US are pushing for other pledges of financial support. Mr Cameron said the summit should send a message to the countries of the Arab Spring that “we are on your side”.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said it is critical that Group of Eight leaders deliver firm commitments to help Tunisia and Egypt during their two-day summit in France. Speaking at a press conference, G8 summit host – French President Nicolas Sarkozy – said it is critical that the popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt succeed. He said mobilizing “considerable aid” is among the central goals of the G8 meeting here in Deauville.
Lest anyone think the three leaders’ putting taxpayers’ money where their mouths are in support of Arab democracy might be a betrayal of the West’s “unwavering ally” in the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured a sycophantic U.S. Congress that the “Arab Spring” is kosher:
Fifteen years ago, I stood at this very podium. By the way, it hasn’t changed. (Laughter.) I stood here and I said that democracy must start to take root in the Arab world. Well, it’s begun to take root, and this beginning holds the promise of a brilliant future of peace and prosperity, because I believe that a Middle East that is genuinely democratic will be a Middle East truly at peace.
BRUSSELS — The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, said Thursday that ships from 12 European countries have expressed willingness to participate in the “Freedom Flotilla 2” mission next month to break the Israeli siege on Gaza.
Rami Abdo, the spokesman of the campaign, said in a written statement on Thursday that ships from France, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland announced they would participate in the humanitarian mission in addition to eight other ships from eight European countries.
In this regard, Abdo urged the international community and countries of the participating vessels to provide the necessary protection for those ships to achieve their mission, adding that European legislators and MPs in addition to hundreds of activists and supporters of the Palestinian cause would go with the ships.
He added that more ships were joining the Flotilla despite Israeli threats that the Israeli navy would assault them if they approached the besieged coastal Strip where nearly 1.7 million Palestinians had been under siege for five years now. “The participants are determined to achieve their noble mission at any cost,” Abdo said.
He also described the Egyptian decision of opening the Rafah crossing point permanently for Palestinian citizens as “positive,” saying it was a step in the right direction but he noted that opening of the crossing was limited for individuals and not for goods.
“Goods are still forced to pass through Israeli-controlled checkpoints, and thus, it would take long time before it could reach Gaza, yet, there are a lot of basic humanitarian needs that couldn’t be delayed and must reach the needy people in Gaza very fast”, Abdo underlined.
KUALA LUMPUR — Activists on a Malaysian aid ship that had been bound for Gaza refused to hand their cargo to Egypt on Thursday, saying they feared it would end up in Israel.
They had tried to land in Gaza last week but changed course when the Israeli navy fired warning shots.
Matthias Chang, who is heading the mission for the Perdana Global Peace Foundation, told AFP the group was not consulted when the Malaysian and Egyptian governments worked out a deal to end the impasse.
Chang said Egypt had insisted the cargo be discharged and transported via Kaern Shalom, at the Israeli border in Gaza.
“We are not assured that this cargo would in fact be delivered to Gaza, as in the past… most of the humanitarian aid was laid to waste in Israel,” he added.
Chang also questioned Cairo’s refusal to allow the cargo, consisting of 4.6 miles of sewage pipes, to be transferred via the Rafah crossing — Gaza’s only crossing that bypasses Israel — given that it would be open this weekend.
“This turn of events demonstrates the insincerity of the Egyptian government and their implicit endorsement of the illegal siege when they explicitly stated they would permanently open the Rafah crossing,” Chang said.
Egyptian state media have said the Rafah border crossing would open on a daily basis starting Saturday.
Perdana Foundation adviser Mukhriz Mahathir, a son of former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, told AFP they were unhappy with Cairo’s actions.
“We are disappointed that it has come to this as we were hopeful that with the new government there would be substantial change in regard to the way they treat Palestinians and Gaza but this is clearly not the case,” he said.
“We urge the Egyptian government to allow the aid ship to dock and unload the pipes and ensure that they are delivered to Gaza via the Rafah crossing,” Mukhriz added.
However, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said Kuala Lumpur and Cairo were working to enable the MV Finch, which has been refused entry to El-Arish for the last 10 days, to dock and unload its aid, according to a statement.
Anifah and his Egyptian counterpart urged “the parties concerned not to resort to any unnecessary action that could further aggravate the situation.”
The 12 activists and crew onboard the MV Finch aborted their second attempt to land in Gaza on Monday after engine trouble, and are anchored in a waiting area off the Egyptian port of El-Arish. … Full article
Is Iceland’s Rejection of Financial Bullying a Model for Greece and Ireland?
Last month Iceland voted against submitting to British and Dutch demands that it compensate their national bank insurance agencies for bailing out their own domestic Icesave depositors. This was the second vote against settlement (by a ratio of 3:2), and Icelandic support for membership in the Eurozone has fallen to just 30 per cent. The feeling is that European politics are being run for the benefit of bankers, not the social democracy that Iceland imagined was the guiding philosophy – as indeed it was when the European Economic Community (Common Market) was formed in 1957.
By permitting Britain and the Netherlands to blackball Iceland to pay for the mistakes of Gordon Brown and his Dutch counterparts, Europe has made Icelandic membership conditional upon imposing financial austerity and poverty on the population – all to pay money that legally it does not owe. The problem is to find an honest court willing to enforce Europe’s own banking laws placing responsibility where it legally lies.
The reason why the EU has fought so hard to make Iceland’s government take responsibility for Icesave debts is what creditors call “contagion.” Ireland and Greece are faced with much larger debts. Europe’s creditor “troika” – the European Central Bank (ECB), European Commission and the IMF – view debt write-downs and progressive taxation to protect their domestic economies as a communicable disease.
Like Greece, Ireland asked for debt relief so that its government would not be forced to slash spending in the face of deepening recession. “The Irish press reported that EU officials ‘hit the roof’ when Irish negotiators talked of broader burden-sharing. The European Central Bank is afraid that any such move would cause instant contagion through the debt markets of southern Europe,” wrote one journalist, warning that the cost of taking reckless public debt onto the national balance sheet threatened to bankrupt the economy.
Europe – in effect, German and Dutch banks – refused to let the government scale back the debts it had taken on (except to smaller and less politically influential depositors). “The comments came just as the EU authorities were ruling out investor ‘haircuts’ in Ireland, making this a condition for the country’s €85bn (£72bn) loan package. Dublin has imposed 80 percent haircuts on the junior debt of Anglo Irish Bank but has not extended this to senior debt, viewed as sacrosanct.” (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph.)
At issue from Europe’s vantage point – at least that of its bankers – is a broad principle: Governments should run their economies on behalf of banks and bondholders. They should bail out at least the senior creditors of banks that fail (that is, the big institutional investors and gamblers) and pay these debts and public debts by selling off enterprises, shifting the tax burden onto labor. To balance their budgets they are to cut back spending programs, lower public employment and wages, and charge more for public services, from medical care to education.
This austerity program (“financial rescue”) has come to a head just one year after Greece was advanced $155 billion bailout package in May 2010. Displeased at how slowly the nation has moved to carve up its economy, the ECB has told Greece to start privatizing up to $70 billion by 2015. The sell-offs are to be headed by prime tourist real estate and the remaining government stakes in the national gambling monopoly OPAP, the Postbank, the Athens and Thessaloniki ports, the Thessaloniki Water and Sewer Company and the telephone monopoly. Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister and chairman of the Eurozone’s group of finance ministers, warned that only if Greece agreed to start selling off assets (“consolidating its budget”) would the EU agree to stretch out loan maturities for Greek debt and “save” it from default.
The problem is that privatization and regressive tax shifts raise the cost of living and doing business. This makes economies less competitive, and hence even less able to pay debts that are accruing interest, leading toward a larger ultimate default.
The textbook financial response of turning the economy into a set of tollbooths to sell off is predatory. Third World countries demonstrated its destructive consequences from the 1970s onward under IMF austerity planning. Europe is now repeating the same shrinkage.
Financial power is to achieve what military conquest had done in times past. Pretending to make subject economies more “competitive,” the aim is more short-run: to squeeze out enough payments so that bondholders (and indeed, voters) will not be obliged to confront the reality that many debts are unpayable except at the price of making the economy too debt-ridden, too regressively tax-ridden and too burdened with rising privatized infrastructure charges to be competitive. Spending cutbacks and a regressive tax shift dry up capital investment and productivity in the long run. Such economies are run like companies taken over by debt-leveraged raiders on credit, who downsize and outsource their labor force so as to squeeze out enough revenue to pay their own creditors – who take what they can and run. The tactic attack of this financial attack is no longer overt military force as in days of yore, but something less costly because its victims submit more voluntarily.
But the intended victims of predatory finance are fighting back. And instead of the attacker losing their armies and manpower, it is their balance sheets that are threatened – and hence their own webs of solvency. When Greek labor unions (especially in the public enterprises being privatized), the ruling Socialist Party and leading minority parties rejected such sacrifices, Eurozone officials demanded that financial planning be placed above party politics, and demanded “cross-party agreement on any overhaul of the bail-out.” In other words, Greece should respond to its wave of labor strikes and popular protest by suspending party politics and economic democracy. “The government and the opposition should declare jointly that they commit to the reform agreements with the EU,” Mr. Juncker explained to Der Spiegel.
Criticizing Prime Minister George Papandreou’s delay at even starting to sell state assets, European financial leaders proposed a national privatization agency to act as an intermediary to transfer revenue from these assets to foreign creditors and retire public debt – and to pledge its public assets as collateral to be forfeited in case of default in payments to government bondholders. Suggesting that the government “set up an agency to privatize state assets” along the lines of the German Treuhandanstalt that sold off East German enterprises in the 1990s,” Mr. Juncker thought that “Greece could gain more from privatizations than the €50 billion ($71 billion) it has estimated” (Evans-Pritchard).
European bankers had their eye on the sale of as much as $400 billion of Greek assets – enough to pay off all the government debt. Failing payment, the ECB threatened not to accept Greek government bonds as collateral. This would prevent Greek banks from doing business, wrecking its financial system and paralyzing the economy. This threat was supposed to make privatization “democratically” approved – followed by breaking union power and lowering wages (“internal devaluation”). “Jan Kees de Jager, Dutch finance minister, has proposed that any more loans to Greece should come with collateral arrangements, in which European state lenders would take over Greek assets in the event of a sovereign default.” (Peter Spiegel, Financial Times.)
The problem is that ultimate default is inevitable, given the debt corner into which governments have recklessly deregulated the banks and cut property taxes and progressive income taxes. Default will become pressing whenever the ECB may choose to pull the plug.
The ECB makes governments unable to finance their spending
Introduction of the euro in 1999 explicitly prevented the ECB or any national central bank from financing government deficits. This means that no nation has a central bank able to do what those of Britain and the United States were created to do: monetize credit to domestic banks. The public sector has been made dependent on commercial banks and bondholders. This is a bonanza for them, rolling back three centuries of attempts to create a mixed economy financially and industrially, by privatizing the credit creation monopoly as well as capital investment in public infrastructure monopolies now being pushed onto the sales block for bidders – on credit, with the winner being the one who promises to pay out the most interest to bankers to absorb the access fees (“economic rent”) that can be extracted.
Politics is being financialized while economies are being privatized. The financial strategy was to remove economic planning from democratically elected representatives, centralizing it in the hands of financial managers. What Benito Mussolini called “corporatism” in the 1920s (to give it its polite name) is now being achieved by Europe’s large banks and financial institutions – ironically (but I suppose inevitably) under the euphemism of “free market economics.”
Language is adapting itself to reflect the economic and political transformation (surrender?) now underway. Central bank “independence” was euphemized as the “hallmark of democracy,” not the victory of financial oligarchy. The task of rhetoric is to divert attention from the fact that the financial sector aims not to “free” markets, but to place control in the hands of financial managers – whose logic is to subject economies to austerity and even depression, sell off public land and enterprises, suffer emigration and reduce living standards in the face of a sharply increasing concentration of wealth at the top of the economic pyramid. The idea is to slash government employment, lowering public-sector salaries to lead private sector wages downward, while cutting back social services.
The internal contradiction (as Marxists would say) is that the existing mass of interest-bearing debt must grow, as it receives interest – which is re-invested to earn yet more interest. This is the “magic” or “miracle” of compound interest. The problem is that paying interest diverts revenue away from the circular flow between production and consumption. Say’s Law says that payments by producers (to employees and to producers of capital goods) must be spent, in the aggregate, on buying the products that labor and tangible capital produces. Otherwise there is a market glut and business shrinks – with the financial sector’s network of debt claims bearing the brunt.
The financial system intrudes into this circular flow. Income spent to pay creditors is not spent on goods and services; it is re-invested in new loans, or on stocks and bonds (assets in the form of financial and property claims on the economy), or increasingly on “gambling” (the “casino capitalism” of derivatives, the international carry trade (that is, exchange-rate and interest-rate arbitrage) and other financial claims that are independent of the production-and-consumption economy. So as financial assets accrue interest – bolstered by new credit creation on computer keyboards by commercial banks and central banks – the financial rake-off from the “real” economy increases.
The idea of paying debts regardless of social cost is backed by mathematical models as complex as those used by physicists designing atomic reactors. But they have a basic flaw simple enough for a grade-school math student to understand: They assume that economies can pay debts growing exponentially at a higher rate than production or exports are growing. Only by ignoring the ability to pay – by creating an economic surplus over break-even levels – can one believe that debt leveraging can produce enough financial “balance sheet” gains to pay banks, pension funds and other financial institutions that recycle their interest into new loans. Financial engineering is expected to usher in a postindustrial society that makes money from money (or rather, from credit) via rising asset prices for real estate, stocks and bonds.
It all seems much easier than earning profit from tangible investment to produce and market goods and services, because banks can fuel asset-price inflation simply by creating credit electronically on their computer keyboards. Until 2008 many families throughout the world saw the price of their home rise by more than they earned in an entire year. This cuts out the troublesome M-C-M’ cycle (using capital to produce commodities to sell at a profit), by M-M’ (buying real estate or assets already in place, or stocks and bonds already issued, and waiting for the central bank to inflate their prices by lowering interest rates and untaxing wealth so that high income investors can increase their demand for property and financial securities).
The problem is that credit is debt, and debt must be paid – with interest. And when an economy pays interest, less revenue is left over to spend on goods and services. So markets shrink, sales decline, profits fall, and there is less cash flow to pay interest and dividends. Unemployment spreads, rents fall, mortgage-holders default, and real estate is thrown onto the market at falling prices.
When asset prices crash, these debts remain in place. As the Bubble Economy turns into a nightmare, politicians are taking private (and often fraudulent) bank losses onto the public balance sheet. This is dividing European politics and even threatening to break up the Eurozone.
Breakup of the Eurozone?
Third World countries from the 1960s through 1990s were told to devalue in order to reduce labor’s purchasing power and hence imports of food, fuel and other consumer goods. But Eurozone members are locked into the euro. This leaves only the option of “internal devaluation” – lowering wage rates as an alternative to scaling back payments to creditors atop Europe’s economic pyramid.
Latvia is cited as the model success story. Its government slashed employment and public sector wages fell by 30 per cent in 2009-10. Private-sector wages followed the decline. This was applauded as a “success story” and “accepting reality.” So now, the government has put forth a “balanced budget amendment,” to go with its flat tax on labor (some 59 percent, with only a 1 percent tax on real estate). Former U.S. neoliberal presidential candidate Steve Forbes would find it an economic paradise.
“Saving the euro” is a euphemism for governments saving the financial class – and with it a debt dynamic that is nearing its end regardless of what they do. The aim is for euro-debts to Germany, the Netherlands, France and financial institutions (now joined by vulture funds) to preserve their value. (No haircuts for them). The price is to be paid by labor and industry.
Government authority is to lose most of all. Just as the public domain is to be carved up and sold to pay creditors, economic policy is being taken out of the hands of democratically elected representatives and placed in the hands of the ECB, European Commission and IMF.
Spain’s unemployment rate is 20 per cent, much as in the Baltics, with nearly twice as high an unemployment rate among recent school graduates. But as William Nassau Senior is reported to have said when told that a million Irishmen had died in the potato famine: “It is not enough!”
Can anything be enough – anything that works for more than the short run? What “helping Greece remain solvent” means in practice is to help it avoid taxing wealth (the rich aren’t paying) and help it roll back wages while obliging labor to pay more in taxes while the government (i.e. “taxpayers,” a.k.a. workers) sells off public land and enterprises to bail out foreign banks and bondholders while slashing its social spending, industrial subsidies and public infrastructure investment.
One Greek friend in my age bracket has said that his private pension (from a computing company) was slashed by the government. When his son went to collect his unemployment check, it was cut in half, on the ground that his parents allegedly had the money to support them. The price of the house they bought a few years ago has plunged. They tell me that they are no more eager to remain part of the Eurozone than the Icelandic voters showed themselves last month.
The strikes continue. Anger is rising. When incoming IMF head Christine Lagarde was French trade minister, she suggested that: “France had to revamp its labor code. Labor unions and fellow ministers balked, and Ms. Lagarde backtracked, saying she had expressed a personal opinion.” This opinion is about to become official policy – from the IMF that was acting as “good cop” to the ECB’s “bad cop.”
I suppose that all that is really needed is for people to understand just what dynamics are at work that make these attempts to pay in vain. The creditors know that the game is up. All they can do is take as much as they can, as long as they can, pay themselves bonuses that are “free” from recapture by public prosecutors, and run to their offshore banking centers.
Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street economist and Distinguished Research Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC).
Israeli forces have shot and wounded three Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip as Tel Aviv continues its grip on the coastal sliver.
The fishermen’s boat caught fire after the incident which left the three Palestinians injured, AFP reported.
Palestinian officials in Gaza say the attack is not the first of its kind and aims to tighten the screws on fishermen living in the territory.
This comes after tens of fishermen organized a sit-in in the port of Gaza on Thursday, calling on the international community to intervene and help lift the Israeli maritime siege, reduce restrictions on their operations, and provide them with international protection.
The Israeli military controls Gaza’s territorial waters, but under 1993 Oslo Accords it has agreed to allow fishing boats to sail into the Mediterranean for up to 20 nautical miles.
However, over the past decade, Gaza fishermen have been able to fish only in a narrow stretch of water up to three miles and even within that restricted area they come under increasing Israeli attacks.
According to health officials in Gaza, at least 10 Palestinian fishermen have been killed and dozens wounded since 2010.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that Britain seeks to play a bigger part in the Libya war as it is set to deploy Apache attack helicopters to the North African country.
Despite mounting pressure over Britain’s involvement in the Libya war and the opposition of the UK anti-war unions to the government’s foreign policies, the British government has taken another step to increase NATO military intervention in Libya.
Cameron, Defense Secretary Liam Fox and the military chiefs have finally decided to send four Apache attack helicopters to Libya to aid the NATO operation, along with more warplane deployments.
While the presence of the Apache helicopters would risk the lives of the Libyan civilians, Shadow Defense Secretary Jim Murphy said the British troops must have the best military equipment possible in Libya.
“Libya appears to have slid into stalemate and this move represents an intensification of military efforts. This decision will put British service personnel in greater danger. The Government needs to be clear with the British public about why this is necessary now and the military purpose behind this move,” he said.
Asking for greater description of the coalition’s endgame, Murphy said, “Many will worry that the British military commitment should not be open-ended, and so we need to hear more from Ministers on their political strategy to achieve the objectives of UN resolution 1973.”
Claiming NATO needs to increase pressures on Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi, Cameron said that “the time is right to turn the screw.”
According to sources, the helicopters and their pilots are presently exercising in the Mediterranean, preparing to be deployed to Libya.
The helicopters can swiftly attack small targets in the urban areas, which are not possible by the currently used jets.
Meanwhile, a Downing Street spokesman has reportedly said, “Ministers have given clearance in principle for the deployment of attack helicopters in Libya. It is a matter now for military commanders to make decisions on deployment.”
The French government has also announced that it will be deploying the French Tiger attack helicopters to Libya, in a move to increase military pressures on Gaddafi.