Category Archives: News

Israel seizes most West Bank land in 30 years

via Al Jazeera

Palestinians and US officials condemn move that will connect West Bank settlements to those in south Jerusalem.

Wadi Fukin, occupied West Bank - Residents of Wadi Fukin have grown accustomed to the sounds of construction. This lush village, which sits just west of Bethlehem along the Green Line, is surrounded on three sides by Israeli settlements that are constantly growing.

Dotted with olive trees and natural springs, the village of 1,200 people is known for its harvest of organic turnips, cabbage and chili peppers. But this small community has borne the brunt of heavy settlement activity for many years. One of the Jewish settlements surrounding the village, Beitar Illit, is so large that it is one of only four settlements in the West Bank classified by Israel as a “city”.

Israel seizes most West Bank land in 30 years

Sunday brought even more bad news for Palestinians here: Israeli authorities announced that nearly 400 hectares of land nearby – in what they refer to as the Etzion settlement bloc – are now “state land”. This means they are no longer privately owned by Palestinians, and therefore can be used for possible settlement construction.

A settlement watchdog group, Peace Now, called the Israeli move the largest land-grab since the 1980s. Building here would ensure territorial continuity between the Green Line and the settlements of Beitar Illit, Kfar Etzion, and Gevaot, and would help link West Bank settlements such as Gush Etzion directly with Jerusalem, cutting off Palestinian access in the process.

“The land is very close to the border and … is a very strategic area,” said Yariv Oppenheimer, general director of Peace Now. “For Israelis it will connect some of the settlements into south Jerusalem, and for Palestinians it’s land that can allow them to expand villages around Bethlehem also south to Jerusalem.”

RELATED: Palestinians ‘suffocating’ in Jerusalem

Last year the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 new settlement units on the site known as Gevaot. Construction there, Israel said, did not constitute a new settlement because Gevaot has been designated as a neighbourhood of Alon Shvut, an existing settlement several kilometres down the road.

“We were surprised early this morning to find the Israeli civil administration and military handing out warning slips and putting up signs declaring the appropriation of more than 2,000 dunams [200 hectares] for the expansion of three settlements that surround the village,” said Ahmad Sukkar, head of the Wadi Fukin village council.

How is it possible that this is state land? I inherited this plot of land from my father, and him from my grandfather. We already live in a prison that prevents us from expanding for population or agricultural needs.

- Mohammad Assaf, Wadi Fukin resident

Israel says that the land – from Beit Furik and the nearby villages of Surif, Husan and al-Jabaa – is slated to be part of its own borders in any permanent solution it reaches with the Palestinians in the future.

“How is it possible that this is state land?” said Mohammad Assaf, a village resident. “I inherited this plot of land from my father, and him from my grandfather. We already live in a prison that prevents us from expanding for population or agricultural needs.”

Washington slammed as the move as “counterproductive” to peace efforts, which have been put on hold by Israel since Palestinians signed 15 international human rights treaties and Fatah and Hamas forged a unity pact in April. Talks were also suspended as Israel launched a 50-day military offensive in Gaza which claimed the lives of some 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians; and 71 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

“This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes … is counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians,” a US State Department official said. “We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision.”

The Israeli military gave no reason for the move announced on Sunday. A spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories only confirmed that “according to the instructions of the political leadership at the end of the operation ‘Brother’s Keeper’, [we] started the process of declaring around 4,000 dunams at Gevaot in the Etzion region as state lands”.

Israel Radio, however, said the move was a response to the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli settler teenagers who were hitchhiking in the occupied West Bank in June.

RELATED: West Bank prisoners face Israeli re-arrest

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said the move affects Israel negatively as it embarks on a post-Gaza-war diplomatic campaign.

“Now, when we need to mobilise the world to prevent processes against Israel and work together with moderate forces, anything that could deflect attention onto us and cause criticism of us harms those things we are trying to achieve,” she said.

Similarly, Peace Now’s Oppenheimer said the move does not support moderate Palestinian forces who are actively seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

“I think this is a huge mistake [by Israeli premier Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Oppenheimer told Al Jazeera. “The message [from] this action is when you approach Israel about a peaceful solution, the outcome is settlement activity. And when you are Hamas firing missiles at Israel, then Israel is ready to speak with you.”

This Israeli move has cast a spotlight once more on land confiscations and settlement expansion in the West Bank, which the US partially blamed for the breakdown in talks between Palestinians and Israelis earlier this year.

“Under the cover of its latest campaign of aggression in Gaza, Israel pursued a stepped-up campaign of violence [and] settlement expansion [in the West Bank],” said Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi. “Today’s announcement clearly represents Israel’s deliberate intent to wipe out any Palestinian presence on the land and to wilfully impose a de facto one-state solution,” she added.

Meanwhile, residents of Wadi Fukin and the nearby villages have 45 days to appeal in an attempt to stop this land-grab.

“In 1948, we had 12,000 dunams [12 square kilometres] of agricultural land,” Sukkar said. “Today that number has dwindled to 2,600 [dunams]. We are only allowed to farm on 250 dunams of those. That’s why we will go to the [Israeli] courts. We will not stand idly as Israel carves up and snatches our land.”


Case filed against Pakistan protest leaders

via Al Jazeera

The Pakistani government has brought a case against two opposition leaders at the centre of the anti-government protests that has seen the state television headquarters in the capital stormed earlier in the day.

Police station secretariat in Islamabad has registered a case under an anti-terrorism act against politician Imran Khan, religious leader Tahir-ul-Qadri and hundreds of their supporters for organising riots, damaging state buildings and attacking security forces.

Anti-government protesters briefly occupied the building of state television, PTV, and cut transmissions of the broadcaster’s news services in Urdu and English for 45 minutes. Transmission was resumed after paramilitary soldiers arrived at the building and cleared it.

Amid the political chaos, the country’s powerful army chief Raheel Sharif met the beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. No statement was issued after their meeting in the capital.

But on Sunday the army had said that further use of force to resolve the escalating political crisis would only worsen the situation.

The opposition leaders have been calling for the resignation of Sharif over allegations of corruption and vote rigging in the last year’s general elections won by Sharif’s party.

Protesters have been trying to reach government buildings for the last three days, and have been staging sit-in for the past three weeks.

The case against Khan – a former cricketer – and Qadri – a Canada-based religious leader – has been opened in the framework of First Information Report (FIR).

Meanwhile, Khan demanded the Islamabad police chief to immediately release all the arrested supporters of his party Tehreek-e-Insaf as well as supporters of Pakistan Awami Tehrik, the political movement of Qadri.

The cricketer-turned politician also said that they were going to lodge a FIR against the government for murdering peaceful protesters. Earlier, condemned the storming of the state television building.

Immigration Court Gives First Approval of Asylum for Domestic Abuse

from News – AllGov

The Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals ruled last week that women who are domestic violence victims who are unable to leave their relationship are members of a particular class that can qualify for asylum in the United States.


Aminta Cifuentes fled Guatemala in 2005 with her two children after enduring abuse from her husband including weekly beatings, rape and being doused with burning paint thinner. She sought help from Guatemalan police, but was told they wouldn’t intervene in a domestic dispute.

Her petition for asylum in the United States was originally denied, but the appeals board ruled (pdf) that battered spouses such as Cifuentes were members of a “particular social group,” which could qualify for asylum if they prove they are persecuted in their home country. Members of such groups must prove that their home governments are involved in the persecution or unwilling or unable to stop it, according to the Associated Press. The Pan American Health Organization reported in 2012 that from 2008 to 2009 more than a quarter of Guatemalan women said they had suffered physical or sexual violence from a spouse or partner at some point in the relationship.


“Women who have suffered violence in these cases can now rely on the legal principles established in this ruling,” Karen Musalo, a professor and director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, who was an adviser to Cifuentes, told The New York Times. “A judge can no longer say, ‘I believe these horrible things happened to you but this is just a criminal act, this is not persecution.’” 


For now, the ruling applies only to women from Guatemala and those applying for asylum will have to meet strict requirements to get it.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

U.S. to Consider Spousal Abuse In Immigration Claims (by Alicia A. Caldwell, Associated Press)

In First for Court, Woman Is Ruled Eligible for Asylum in U.S. on Basis of Domestic Abuse (by Julia Preston, New York Times)

Matter of A-R-C-G- et al., Respondents (pdf)

Can I Apply for Asylum If I’m From Guatemala? (Nolo)

U.S. May Grant Asylum Rights to Victims of Spousal Abuse (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Pakistani protesters briefly occupy state TV

via Al Jazeera


Islamabad, PAKISTAN - Anti-government protesters have broken into the building of state television, PTV, in central Islamabad and cut transmissions of the broadcaster’s news services in Urdu and English for 45 minutes.

Protesters, led by religious leader Tahir-ul-Qadri and politician Imran Khan, have been trying to reach government buildings for the last three days. They have been calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The South Asian nation’s powerful military said on Sunday that further use of force to resolve an escalating political crisis would only worsen the situation. Pakistan’s army chief Raheel Sharif met Sharif on Monday.

Paramilitary soldiers of Pakistan Rangers have arrived at the building briefly after the occupation and cleared it without any clashes taking place at the scene.

There were no clashes with the Rangers as protesters appeared to listen to them and back down. Rangers are now protecting the building and PTV News is back on air, after being off-air for about 45 minutes.

Before the arrival of the soldiers, local media showed live footage of a crowd of men streaming into the building after breaking through its gate.

In the footage, protesters were inside the building, with broken glass and other damage visible. Baton-wielding protesters were seen walking through the corridors.

Both channels went dark during that time, before having their transmission replaced by another non-news state-run channel called PTV Home.

Khan condemns incident

The opposition leaders, Qadri and Khan, seem to be distancing themselves from the invasion of the building.

Khan, addressing his supporters right after the incident said: “None of our activists will be inside PTV. None of our activists should enter the buildings of the PM house and others.”

We will expel whoever has entered these buildings. You should be protecting these buildings.

Imran Khan, opposition leader,


“No one, for God’s sake, should enter any building… We are being damaged by this. These are not our people. We will expel whoever has entered these buildings. You should be protecting these buildings,” he added

Shahid Mursaleen, Tahir-ul-Qadri’s spokesman, told Al Jazeera that some people were angry at the pro-government news reporting by the state television.

“They think that they were not reporting the oppression and how people had been oppressed by the government… Qadri said not to enter any buildings, but some protesters just got out of control. We do not approve of entering the buildings,” he said.

Thousands of opposition activists have been camped outside parliament since August 15 demanding removal of Sharif, alleging poll rigging and corruption.

Several rounds of talks between the government and the opposition have failed to avert the crisis thatescalated violence over the weekend.

Al Jazeera

Expert: U.S. Police Training in Use of Deadly Force Woefully Inadequate

from Alternet

90 percent of the police budget goes to salaries…and nothing is left for training, says Maria Haberfeld.

Maria Haberfeld is a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. A veteran of the Israel Defense Forces who also served in the Israel National Police, she has conducted research on police forces in multiple countries, and has also written many books on terrorism and policing, includingCritical Issues in Police Training. We spoke on Friday about the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the shooting of Kajieme Powell by St. Louis police, which wascaught on video. Powell, brandishing a steak knife, approached officers, saying “Shoot me!.” As reported by the Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said lethal force was permitted under department rules if a knife-wielding attacker is within 21 feet of police.

Paul Waldman: Did you think what the officers did [in Powell's shooting] was appropriate? It seems pretty clear that that’s standard operating procedure.

Maria Haberfeld:Yes it is, absolutely.

PW: Are those procedures adequate to deal with those kinds of situations?

MH: The procedures are adequate; what’s not adequate is the way police officers are trained. That’s the problem, and this is something I’ve been talking about for decades. The majority of police officers are overwhelmingly trained with a focus on the technical part of use of force, and are not trained enough in the emotional, psychological, physiological aspects of use of force. And of course, the social aspects of use of force: how this all plays later on within the community, how it impacts police-community relations.

So the use of force is not something that should stand alone. Unfortunately, in most of the training academies, it does stand alone, even if there is some rhetoric about, "Oh yes, we integrate [it] into other modules.” The reality is—and I look at police training all the time, in various jurisdictions around the country and around the world—that’s not the case, unfortunately.

PW:So, is most of [that training] focused on "Here’s how to protect ourselves"? It seems that’s the message when you hear police representatives talk about this. Their focus is, obviously, that police work is very dangerous, and if there’s any kind of a threat at all, we’re going to neutralize it.

MH: Yes, but how you perceive the threat is a subjective thing, and how you go about neutralizing the threat is also a subjective thing, even though they’re trained around this continuum of force that allows them to go from one step to another, or skip a number of stages based on their assessment of the situation. Their assessment of the situation sometimes can be exaggerated based on their previous experience, based on what’s going on in any given moment, based on the bystanders’ reactions. So it’s a very complicated and complex issue that cannot be just explained by: "We have the right, we are authorized, and it’s our discretion."

There are a host of variables that go into things. And those variables, at least in my mind, should be constantly addressed, and not end with the police officer graduating from police academy, and then the only thing they have to do is to qualify twice a year whether or not they can still carry a weapon. But this qualifying twice a year is focused completely on the technical aspect of use of deadly force.

PW: One thing I’ve seen in the discussions about this is, for instance, that the police in England and Wales fire their guns only a few times in a year.

MH: Because they’re not armed.

PW: So that raises a couple of questions. If most of them are not armed, what do those police do if they don’t have guns, and they’re confronted with a suspect who, say, has a knife?

MH: First of all, there are a few countries where police forces are not armed—Ireland would be the other one. The British police have units that are armed, and if there is a situation that would require an armed backup, then the backup is called for. But a situation like this, where they have somebody with a knife, it’s a simple explanation. It goes back to training. Police forces in U.K., in Ireland, in other countries where police forces are not armed, they have a much more extensive, in-depth training than we have. An average training in the United States is fifteen weeks. Fifteen weeks is nothing. Police forces in other countries have twice, three times as long training as we have here.

It’s all about how police officers are prepared to deal with people who pose threats to them or to others. This is not something that we should save money on, but to me, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We are saving money on police training, saying that it’s very expensive to have longer training. And I think it’s irresponsible in a democratic society to say that a profession that has the authority to use deadly force, we just should shorten the training because a longer training is too expensive. Basically, what we’re doing is putting a dollar sign on people’s lives, both police officers and members of the public.

PW:So that means that if you’re a policeman someplace else—England, France, Germany—you’re going to be trained so that you’re better capable of talking that person down and getting them to put down their knife or their pipe or whatever it is that they have?

MH: No doubt in my mind, based on what I am seeing in police training in other countries, that police officers are better prepared to deal with the public over there than the ones we have here. No doubt in my mind, based on the research that I have done over the years.

PW: Do you think that a controversy like this one will make police forces around the country more likely to reexamine how they do their training?

MH: No.

PW: It won’t make any difference at all?

MH: No, and I’ll tell you why. Ninety percent of the police budget goes to salaries in any department. So, whatever is left is allocated to equipment and some other stuff, and nothing is left for training. The majority of police departments around the country don’t have in-service training. So if you don’t have the money, you’re not going to re-examine.

PW: Well that’s a little depressing.

MH: It is depressing. I’ve been writing about this for twenty years, it’s very depressing to me. [Most] police departments in the United States are not NYPD or LAPD. Police departments in the United States are exactly what we’re seeing—the Ferguson police department, fifty cops. This is the average size of a police department in the United States. So you can understand that a department of that size is not going to get any resources. This is very sad, and this is why I’ve been talking about the need to centralize law enforcement in the United States, to professionalize their response to the public, not just about use of force, but about everything.

Because policing is not just about the high-profile incidents, it’s also about how they perform on a daily basis vis-à-vis the public. But this requires skills, this requires education, this requires training. An average police department, all they care about is whether you have a GED, and you didn’t use drugs in the last three years. I mean, it’s ridiculous. If somebody looks at this a little bit closer, then it’s really scary.

PW: Is the training and the resulting way the cops deal with the public—not just about the use of force but about everything—do you think that is superior in other Western countries, too?

MH: Absolutely. I don’t think, I know, because I do research with police departments in other countries, I see their training, I visit the departments, their police academies. That’s what I’ve been doing for almost twenty years, so I know exactly that it’s superior over there—not in each and every country, but the majority of police forces in democratic countries today —yes, absolutely.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Hong Kong police disperse pro-democracy group

via Al Jazeera

Hong Kong police have used pepper spray to disperse pro-democracy activists who stormed a security check-point at a venue where a senior Chinese official was explaining Beijing’s decision not to grant the former British colony full democracy.

Footage broadcast on cable television on Monday showed police spraying protesters with what appeared to be pepper spray, outside the hall where Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the Chinese assembly, was speaking.

Then as Li started to speak, a separate group of pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers and protesters heckled him, briefly suspending his speech and the meeting.

Veteran dissident lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung started shouting him down, his fist raised in the air.

Leung was then joined by a dozen pro-democracy lawmakers and some younger demonstrators who unfurled a banner in front of the lectern where Li was speaking from and chanted: “The central government broke its promise, shameless.”

On Sunday, Beijing ignited anger in the special administrative region after it rejected demands by pro-democracy activists for Hong Kong’s right to freely choose the city’s next leader in two years.

China’s National People’s Congress said the city’s next chief executive will be elected by popular vote in 2017, but insisted on its right to pick the candidates.

After the decision was announced, activists vowed an “era of civil disobedience” including mass sit-ins of the international trading hub’s financial district.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Hong Kong, said that competing demonstrations are being staged in city, with pro-China group outnumbering the pro-democracy group.

Our correspondent said that demonstrators sympathetic to China insisted that Hong Kong remains under the control of Chinese government and that “nothing will come out from angering Beijing”.

Under socialist system

Delivering his speech in Mandarin in the largely Cantonese speaking city, Li repeated Beijing’s insistence that China will not tolerate a leader who is disloyal to the mainland.

“Anyone who does not love the country, love Hong Kong or is confrontational towards the central government shall not be the chief executive,” he said.

“(Those who) wish Hong Kong will become an independent political entity or will change the country’s socialist system will not have a political future.”

Li flew into Hong Kong from Beijing late on Sunday and was forced to drive past a crowd of largely student protesters who had gathered outside his hotel, in the kind of scenes that would be unthinkable on the Chinese mainland.

China took reins of Hong Kong from Britian in 1997. It allows some degree of civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including free speech and the right to protest.

Chinese state media on Monday said those embarking on a civil disobedience campaign were destined to fail.

The government-published China Daily said: “The people of Hong Kong have a critical decision to make: to embrace a hitherto unprecedented level of democracy, or the disruptive, reckless political gamble to be staged by the radicals.”

Al-Shabaab attack intelligence site in Somali capital

via Euronews

Al-Shabaab militants have attacked a national intelligence site in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu killing three soldiers and a civilian.

A suicide car bomb was detonated outside before gunmen stormed the building where prisoners are held in underground cells.

Militants did not manage to reach the cells and seven were killed in a gun battle.

At least two Pakistan anti-government protestors dead

via Euronews

At least two people have been killed and more than 400 injured in anti government protests overnight inPakistan.

Around 8,000 protesters gathered outside parliament over the weekend demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation.

Police baton-charged the crowds and fired tear gas and rubber bullets after hundreds of protesters attempted to storm parliament. They got as far as the main entrance where the army is deployed before being pushed back.

Pakistan has been gripped by unrest for more than two weeks.

Pakistan’s government says it is trying to re-open talks with opposition groups but protest leaders Imran Khan and Tahir ul-Qadri say they will not back back down until Sharif resigns. Protesters claim the 2013 election which brought Sharif to power was rigged.

Pakistan’s military stepped in this week saying it would mediate between the two sides.


UN peacekeepers’ “greatest escape” from Syrian rebels as they sleep

via Euronews

It’s been revealed that 40 UN peacekeepers made a daring escape under the cover of night after being held siege by Syrian Islamist militants for two days.

The Filipino troops, who are based in the Golan Heights UN buffer zone, had been engaged in a seven hour gun battle on Saturday from around 100 militants after they refused to surrender with their weapons.

Then, while the rebels were sleeping, the 40 men fled from the UN encampment, travelling across the hills for nearly two hours, before meeting up with other UN forces who took them to safety.

General Gregorio Pio Catapang, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said: “Currently, Filipino peacekeepers from both positions 68 and 69 have been successfully repositioned to Camp Ziouani. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United Nations will not compromise the safety and security of our troops while in the pursuit of their duties.”

Capatang added “we may call it the greatest escape.”

A UN official said they were helped by Israeli and Syrian governments, with Syrian government forces firing at the rebels to weaken their positions.

On Saturday, 32 other Filipino peacekeepers had been rescued from a different base with the help of Irish UN troops. Forty-four Fijian soldiers still remain in the hands of the insurgents.

Anti-spying march attracts thousands in Berlin

via Euronews

Thousands of people have filled the streets of Berlin to protest against spying and data collection.

Marching under the slogan “freedom instead of fear,” they claimed privacy is being violated in the name of security.

Around 80 organisations and civil rights groups, including Amnesty International, called for the demonstration which has taken place annually since 2006.

The protesters marched from the Brandenburg Gate to the chancellery.