Israeli missiles struck a research center near Damascus, setting off explosions and causing casualties, Syria's state news agency reported May 5. If confirmed, it would be the second Israeli strike on targets in Syria in three days. Two previous Israeli air-strikes, one in January and one on May 3, targeted weapons reportedly bound for Hezbollah. (AP, May 5) On May 4, a former senior official in the Bush administration said the use of chemical weapons in Syria might have been an Israeli-instrumented "false flag operation." Retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, told Current TV: "We don’t know what the chain of custody is. This could’ve been an Israeli false flag operation, it could’ve been an opposition in Syria... or it could've been an actual use by Bashar Assad. But we certainly don’t know with the evidence we’ve been given. And what I'm hearing from the intelligence community is that that evidence is really flakey." (JP, May 4)
A Catholic monastery and convent in the secluded Cremisan Valley outside Bethlehem lost a seven-year legal battle against the construction of Israel's "separation barrier" across its land on April 24. The wall will surround the convent and primary school on three sides, confiscating most of its land. A small gate will be built to allow nuns and monks to access the Salesian Monastery and Convent in order to "guarantee their right of freedom of religion." The gate will also allow farmers and landowners to access their lands on the other side of the wall, although they will need permits to reach them.
Long term hunger striker Samer Issawi ended his protest action on April 23 after signing an agreement with Israel which guarantees his release, his lawyer Jawad Bolous said. The deal will see Issawi released to his hometown of Jerusalem after serving eight months in jail, after 266 days of refusing food in protest against his rearrest by Israeli forces. The agreement was signed at Kaplan Medical Center in Israel where Issawi is currently being held, and both his uncle and brother were present at the signing, Bolous said.
The Assad regime's use of chemical weapons is announced as a "red line"—the favored metaphor of Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, now alarmingly accepted by the US media, at least. Israel yesterday said the line has been crossed. Brigadier-General Itai Brun, head of IDF military intelligence, told an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv: "There's a huge arsenal of chemical weapons in Syria. Our assessment is that the [Assad] regime has used and is using chemical weapons." Brun cited photographs of victims that showed them foaming at the mouth and with contracted pupils. "To the best of our understanding, there was use of lethal chemical weapons. Which chemical weapons? Probably sarin." And John Kerry, speaking at a NATO meeting in Brussels, called on the alliance to make preparations to respond in the event of chemical weapons threatening a member (meaning Turkey). (The Guardian, April 23)
Long-term hunger striker Samer Issawi on April 17 called for "rage and solidarity" to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day. "Greetings to all without exception. I urge all the noble people of our Arab and Muslim nation as well as the free people of the world to turn April 17 into a day of rage and solidarity with Palestinian prisoners," Issawi wrote in a letter sent through his lawyer from his hospital bed. "The voice of those heroes who have sacrificed and are still making sacrifices for the sake of the freedom of their people and land, and in defense for Muslim and Christian holy places in the holiest spot on the globe, should be heard."
For a fourth consecutive day April 5, young Palestinians in Hebron clashed with Israeli troops in protests over the death of an elderly prisoner in Israeli custody. The fiercest clashes took place in Bab al-Zawiya neighborhood in the center of Hebron April 4 after the funeral procession. Young protesters hurled stones, empty bottles and fire-bombs at Israeli troops who in turn used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas canisters. At least 20 protesters were injured. Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, 63, died April 2 at Israel's Soroka Hospital. Although he was diagnosed with cancer in January, it apparently went untreated; according to his lawyer, Rami Alami, he was only given painkillers and antibiotics. Palestinian officials charge that Israeli authorities refused to treat his cancer, ultimately causing his death. (Ma'an News Agency, April 5; Ma'an News Agency, Daily Beast, April 4)
Peru's Congress has opened a high-profile investigation into a contract with Israeli security firm Global CST, entered into by the previous government of Álan García, after an audit by the Comptroller General of the Republic found irregularities in the deal. The probe concluded that the Peruvian state had lost $16 million when the firm failed to fulfil terms of its contract with the Armed Forces Joint Command. A congressional oversight commission has questioned three former cabinet members in the scandal—ex-housing minister Hernán Garrido, and ex-defense ministers Ántero Flores Aráoz and Rafael Rey—as well as ex-Joint Command chief Gen. Francisco Contreras. Special anti-corruption prosecutor Julio Arbizu has called on García himself to testify before what is being called the Mega-Commission, and for the attorney general's office, or Fiscalía, to investigate the former president.
Such a perverse historical irony. Israel's draconian restrictions on freedom of movement in the occupied West Bank provide the circumstances for religious ritual and political protest to converge seamlessly, as Palestinian Christians' attempt at a Good Friday procession in Jerusalem is perforce converted into a demonstration for rights and dignity. The Romans provided the template for a universal metaphor of oppression in Palestine 2,000 years ago. The new Romans became, over time, Byzantine Greeks, Seljuk Turks, Christian Crusaders, Mamluk mercenaries, Ottoman Turks, British colonialists—and now Jews. Can this possibly be good for the Jews? From Al-Monitor, March 29: