Friday, February 23, 2018

Monthly Archives: September 2014

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Israel announced plans on Sunday to expropriate 400 hectares (988 acres) of Palestinian land in the Bethlehem area in the south of the occupied West Bank, the military said.
“On the instructions of the political echelon… 4,000 dunams at (the settlement of) Gevaot is declared as state land,” the army said, adding that concerned parties have 45 days to appeal.
It said that the step stemmed from political decisions taken after the June killing of three Israeli teenagers snatched from a roadside in the same area, known to Israelis as Gush Etzion settlement bloc.
Israel has named three Palestinians from the southern West Bank city of Hebron as being behind the murders.
The Etzion settlements council welcomed Sunday’s announcement and said it was the prelude to expansion of the current Gevaot settlement.
It “paves the way for the new city of Gevaot”, a statement said.
Settlements watchdog Peace Now expressed alarm.
“As far as we know, this declaration is unprecedented in its scope since the 1980s and can dramatically change the reality in the Gush Etzion and the Bethlehem areas,” it said.

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Ukraine said Russian tanks had flattened a small border town and pro-Russian rebels had made fresh gains in its east, as EU leaders signaled on Saturday they would threaten more sanctions against Moscow over the crisis.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, attending an EU summit in Brussels, said he was hoping for a political solution, but warned that his country was on the brink of full-scale war.
Russia has repeatedly dismissed accusations from Kiev and Western powers that it has sent soldiers into its neighbor, or supported pro-Russian rebels fighting a five-month-old separatist war in Ukraine’s east.
But Ukraine military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists in Kiev that Russian tanks had entered the small Ukrainian town of Novosvitlivka on the border with Russia and fired on every house.
“We have information that virtually every house has been destroyed,” Lysenko added, without giving details on when the reported attack took place. Ukraine’s daily military briefings typically cover the previous 24 hours.
Lysenko said the rebels had made new gains just east of the border city of Luhansk, one of the rebels’ main strongholds, after opening up a new front in another area last week.
“Direct military aggression by the Russian Federation in the east of Ukraine is continuing. The Russians are continuing to send military equipment and ‘mercenaries’,” Ukraine’s defense and security council said in a separate Twitter post.
Kiev and Western countries say recent rebel gains were the result of the arrival of armored columns of Russian troops, sent by Russian President Vladimir Putin to prop up a separatist rebellion that would otherwise have been near collapse.
There was no immediate fresh comment from Russia on Saturday. Putin on Friday compared Kiev’s drive to regain control of its rebellious eastern cities to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in World War Two.
“No time to waste”
EU leaders meeting in Brussels appointed Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as president of the European Council, giving hawkish Kremlin critics in Eastern Europe new influence in the bloc.
According to a draft statement from the summit, the EU leaders were set to ask the European Commission and the EU’s diplomatic service “to urgently undertake preparatory work” on further sanctions that could be implemented if necessary.
French President Francois Hollande stressed that a failure by Russia to reverse a flow of weapons and troops into eastern Ukraine would force the bloc to impose new economic measures.
“Are we going to let the situation worsen, until it leads to war?” Hollande said at a news conference. “Because that’s the risk today. There is no time to waste.”
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU was prepared to toughen sanctions against Russia but also that it wanted a political deal to end the confrontation.
“We are ready to take very strong and clear measures but we are keeping our doors open to a political solution,” Barroso said at a news conference with Ukraine’s president.
Poroshenko said the crisis was close to a tipping point.
“I think we are very close to the point of no return. The point of no return is full-scale war, which already happened on the territory controlled by separatists,” he said.
He added, however, that a trilateral meeting on Monday involving representatives of Kiev, Moscow and the European Union could produce a ceasefire.
Shots fired
The crisis started when Ukraine’s Moscow-backed president was ousted by street protests in February after he ditched a pact with the EU that would have moved the ex-Soviet republic firmly toward Europe and away from Russia.
Russia denounced the pro-Western leadership that took over as “a fascist junta” and went on to annex Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. Pro-Russian separatists then rebelled in Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking east in April, setting up ‘people’s republics’ and declaring they wanted to join Russia.
A senior UN human rights official said on Friday nearly 2,600 civilians, Ukrainian government forces and rebels had been killed in a conflict which has led to the biggest Russia-West crisis since the Cold War.
In Kiev, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said a group of pro-Ukrainian fighters had broken out of encirclement by pro-Russian rebels near Donetsk early on Saturday, though other reports suggested many remained trapped.
Defense Minister Valery Heletey also ordered a clamp-down on information coming out of Ilovaysk, a town to the east of Donetsk.
Indicating government forces were being pulled back from the area, Heletey said on his Facebook page: “As soon as the danger for Ukrainian units has passed, all open information for the current period relating to the withdrawal of forces from Ilovaysk will be published.”
Last week pro-Russian rebels opened a new front in a separate, coastal territory along the Sea of Azov and pushed Ukrainian troops out of the town of Novoazovsk. They are now threatening the strategic port city of Mariupol.
Several shots were fired on Saturday at a car carrying Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, but he escaped unscathed, another separatist leader, Sergei Kavtaradze, told Reuters.
“Zakharchenko wasn’t hurt. His driver was wounded and is being operated on,” Kavtaradze said, adding that an operation was under way to catch whoever had fired the shots.

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The head of the Fijian army said on Sunday negotiations for the release of 44 soldiers seized by an al Qaeda-linked group on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights were being pursued but he worried there had been no word on where his men are being held.
The UN peacekeepers from Fiji were detained by Islamist militants on Thursday, one of several groups attacked in the volatile frontier between Syria and Israel.
The United Nations and Manila said on Sunday all of more than 70 Philippine troops trapped by Islamists in a different area of the frontier were now safe, but it is still not known where the Fijians are being held. [ID:nL5N0R00UC]
“We still at this stage cannot confirm the exact location of our troops. We are continuing negotiations at all levels,” Fijian Army Commander Brigadier General Mosese Tikoitoga told a media conference in Fiji on Sunday.
He said they had been assured that the men were being treated well and had come to no harm, he said.
“However, we are still very concerned that we cannot confirm at this stage their exact location, whether they are still in Syria or whether they have been moved to neighboring countries,” Tikoitoga said.
The Fijian and Philippine troops are serving with UNDOF in the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War.
Syria and Israel technically remain at war and UNDOF monitors the area of separation, a narrow strip of land running about 70 km (45 miles) from Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border to the Yarmouk River frontier with Jordan.
The United Nations said earlier on Sunday that 40 Philippine troops had been moved to safety during a ceasefire agreed with “armed elements” in the area shortly after midnight local time.
“Greatest escape”
In Manila, General Gregorio Catapang, the Philippines’ armed forces chief, told a news conference that Israel and Syria helped in what was the “greatest escape” of Filipino troops after engaging about 100 Islamist militants surrounding them in a seven-hour firefight. The troops escaped in the middle of the night while the rebels were sleeping, he said.
“This attack prompted UNDOF to reposition our troops to a more secure position within the mission area,” Catapang said.
He said all Philippine troops from two camps, known as Position 68 and Position 69, in the area had been moved to a third location, known as Camp Ziuoani.
On Saturday, 32 Philippine peacekeepers were rescued from Islamists who fired on Position 69 and trapped them for two days, the United Nations said. Catapang said Irish UNDOF troops helped in the rescue. It was not known if any rebels were killed or wounded in the operation.
But later that day, UN diplomatic sources said militants had reinforced their siege of the other 40 Philippine peacekeepers still trapped at Position 68.
The UN media office said in a statement that “shortly after midnight local time on 31 August, during a ceasefire agreed with the armed elements, all the 40 Filipino peacekeepers from UN Position 68 left the position. The 40 peacekeepers arrived in a safe location one hour later.”
Earlier on Saturday, a Reuters cameraman spotted 11 UN armored vehicles returning to their base in Israeli-controlled territory about 12 hours after the peacekeepers came under fire at around 6 a.m. (0300 GMT).
The 44 UNDOF peacekeepers from Fiji were detained by militants 8 km (5 miles) away from the Philippine troops.
A commander with the Islamist Nusra Front, a group linked to al Qaeda, told Reuters the Fijian peacekeepers had been detained because UNDOF was aiding the government of President Bashar al-Assad and had ignored the suffering of the Syrian people.
Rebels of al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front have been battling the Syrian army in the area and have wrested control of the border crossing at Quneitra, which is operated by the United Nations.
UNDOF has been deployed “since 1974 to ensure the safety and protection of the borders with (Israel), the usurper of the lands of the Muslims, at the same time it completely ignored the daily shedding of the Muslims’ blood on the other side of the border”, part of a Nusra Twitter message said.
It said the Fijian troops were being treated well and were in good health.
A UN official said a number of UNDOF contingents participated in the rescue on Saturday, assisted by Israeli and Syrian forces.
UNDOF has 1,223 peacekeepers in the zone from six countries: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.
The United Nations said this week the Philippines had decided to pull out of UNDOF and from a UN force in Liberia, which is struggling with an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.
Austria, Japan and Croatia have all pulled their troops out of UNDOF due to the deteriorating security situation and spillover from the Syrian war.

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Thousands of protesters massed outside the residence of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday to demand he step down, after efforts to find a negotiated solution to the country’s political crisis failed.
Pakistan has been gripped by unrest for more than two weeks, with protest leaders Imran Khan and Tahir ul-Qadri saying they will not back down unless Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns. On Saturday Sharif once again said he would not go.
Security forces fired tear gas at protesters on Saturday night and the opposition said a woman was killed in the clashes. Police were not immediately available for comment.
Late on Friday, up to 8,000 protesters, some armed with clubs, had gathered outside parliament, with police on standby.
Pakistan’s military stepped in this week to try to defuse the unrest. Qadri said the army had offered to mediate in the stand-off.
Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million, has been ruled by the military for half of its entire history and has repeatedly oscillated between civilian and military rule.
Although the army’s role is key to how the crisis unfolds, few believe the army is bent on seizing power again.
Nevertheless, its public intervention has demonstrated how fragile Pakistan’s democracy is, more than a year after Sharif swept to office in the country’s first democratic transition of power.
Sharif has displeased the army by trying to strengthen civilian rule and improve relations with India and Afghanistan, and the latest conflict has given the military an opportunity to sideline him on security and foreign policy issues.
Sharif also angered the military by putting the former army chief, Pervez Musharraf, on trial for treason. Musharraf ousted Sharif in the 1999 coup.
The army’s involvement is likely to unnerve some Pakistanis but it also offers Khan and Qadri a face-saving solution to end their deadlocked protest as both are seen as close to the military.

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Egyptian stock indices recorded a relative increase at the end of Monday session kicking off the week’s trading, supported by purchases of Egyptian investors.
Arab and foreign investors on the other hand favored selling.
The market capitalization for the shares of listed companies fell back by about LE378 million at the end of the trading session to reach LE8.523 billion. Trading amounted to about LE6.981 million. 
The main index of the Egyptian stock market EGX 30 rose by 0.12 percent to reach 83,946 points, while the index of small and medium shares EGX 70 rose by approximately 0.26 percent to reach 44,660 points. The broader EGX 100 rose by 0.11 percent to stop at 1170.1 points.
Edited translation from MENA

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Egyptian furniture exports had reached LE1,000,533 for the first six months of 2014, up until July.
Egyptian Furniture Export Council (EFEC) indicated to increase in exports between January and July 2014 compared to the same period in 2013 by 1.06 percent.
Ihab Idris, EFEC chief, said furniture industry in Egypt requires support by taking quick decision regarding importing of furniture from China and Turkey.
The flow of Chinese imports threatens the Egyptian industry, Idris said, adding that they access the country with tariffs lower than their real value, which harms the Egyptian industry as well as the chance to receive high customs from the items. Idris stressed the necessity to take measures to confront the situation.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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