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 61 
 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:34 AM 
Started by Sunyata - Last post by Rad
Living with loss in Gaza – in pictures

Guardian photographer Sean Smith documents bereaved and wounded Palestinians trying to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the conflict with Israel

Sean Smith   
 theguardian.com, Tuesday 12 August 2014 16.41 BST   

Click to view: http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2014/aug/12/living-with-loss-in-gaza-in-pictures

 62 
 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:31 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Gaza ceasefire expires at midnight with deal to end conflict yet to be reached

Israeli delegation still pushing for demilitarisation of strip but hoping for extension to truce with Hamas, says military official

Orlando Crowcroft in Jerusalem
theguardian.com, Monday 18 August 2014 11.27 BST   

The five-day ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip expires at midnight, with no firm indications that Egyptian mediators in Cairo have succeeded in securing a deal to end the five-week conflict.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said on Sunday that Hamas should not expect to achieve a diplomatic victory out of the war, which has left almost 2,000 Palestinians – many of them civilians – 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians dead.

"From the first day, the Israeli delegation to Cairo has worked under clear instructions: insist on the security needs of the state of Israel. Only if there is a clear response to our security needs will we agree to reach understandings," he said.

A military official told the Guardian on Monday that the Israeli delegation was still pushing for action on the demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip, a divisive issue as Hamas and Islamic Jihad have repeatedly ruled out giving up their weapons.

But he added that the delegation was hoping for an extension to the ceasefire later on Monday, and that Israel would be content for the time being for an "exchange of quietness for quietness".

Palestinian sources in Cairo also suggested to the Haaretz newspaper that there was a general appetite for the truce to continue, saying that the conflict was "being talked about in the past tense".

On Sunday, Israel extended a safe zone to three miles for Gazan fisherman working in the waters off the Gaza coast in an apparent concession to Hamas, which has insisted that the seven-year blockade of the strip is lifted. But there were signs on Monday that Israel was also bracing itself for rocket fire once the ceasefire ends, with reports that trains between the southern city of Ashkelon and the border town of Sderot had been cancelled.

Overnight in the West Bank, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) levelled the Hebron homes of two men suspected of kidnapping and killing three Israeli teenagers in June, and sealed the house of a third man suspected of being involved.

The man believed to have planned the kidnapping, Hussam Qawasme, has been held by Israel since July while two others, Marwan Qawasme and Amer Abu Aysha are still on the run.

The bodies of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Sha'er and Naftali Frankel were found in a shallow grave outside Hebron in July, the first in a string of events that led to the conflict in Gaza.

***************

Living with loss in Gaza – in pictures

Guardian photographer Sean Smith documents bereaved and wounded Palestinians trying to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the conflict with Israel

Sean Smith   
 theguardian.com, Tuesday 12 August 2014 16.41 BST   

Click to view: http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2014/aug/12/living-with-loss-in-gaza-in-pictures

****************

‘My wife thinks I will come home in a box’ – and three days later Gaza bomb disposal expert was dead

The Guardian
Jason Burke in Gaza City
Wednesday 13 August 2014 14.49 BST

Rahed Taysir al-Hom was buried in the sandy soil of the cemetery of Jabaliya, the rough Gaza neighbourhood where he had grown up, at 1pm on the third day of the ceasefire.

His funeral was quick, attended by a hundred or so mourners, and accompanied by a short sermon from a white-turbaned cleric, a sobbing father and some shots fired from a Kalashnikov by a skinny teenager.

Two breeze blocks and a ripped piece of cardboard with his name scrawled on it now mark the grave of a personable man with an easy smile, hollow eyes and a quiet intensity that was entirely understandable given his job.

The 43-year-old father of seven lies next to his brother, a Hamas fighter killed in an Israeli air strike two weeks ago. But the Hom who died on Wednesday was not a warrior. He was head of the sole bomb disposal unit of Gaza’s northern governorate and his job was to protect several hundred thousand people from the unexploded ordnance that now litters the streets, fields and rubble of many homes.

Hom, who died when a 500kg bomb he was trying to defuse exploded at 10.30am on Wednesday, was an incidental casualty of a month-long war that no one seems able to stop.

Three of his colleagues and two journalists were killed with him. He was well aware of the risks he was taking but believed in his work.

One day last week, while the last tenuous ceasefire held in Gaza, Hom received 70 calls. In this conflict alone, he had dealt with 400 “objects”.

“I try to do as much as I can,” he said at the weekend as he drove from site to site in the northern town of Beit Lahia, accompanied by the Guardian.

“Every time I hear that someone has been injured by a bomb on the ground I feel very sorry. This is my responsibility. But we are very limited and don’t have proper equipment. My wife thinks I will come home one day in pieces in a box.”

Hom had been defusing bombs, rockets and shells for five of his 20 years in the Gaza police. He had some training from international experts but gained most of his skills “on the job”.

He had no protective clothing and used basic tools – screwdrivers, pliers and cutters – as he worked to make everything safe, be it Hamas rockets which had fallen short of their mark or bombs dropped by Israeli warplanes.

Helmets, body armour and screening devices, supplied after the last conflict in 2012, had worn out or were broken.

“We have been working all the time,” he said. “There is a danger to people when there is a bomb in their house. It is risky, of course, but we have to do it.

“So far we have had no injuries in my team, praise be to God,” he added, though one of the team had been killed in an air strike at home a month ago.

Over the weekend, before the latest ceasefire came into force, Hom dealt with a dozen or so urgent incidents. His work was slowed by frequent pauses as Israeli missiles hissed overhead, sometimes exploding only a few hundred metres away.

In Beit Lahiya, he defused a 1,000kg bomb that had landed in a bike repair shop. Hossein Rabieh Salem, the 48-year-old owner, had been sleeping for several nights with his family of 18, above the storeroom and the live weapon. “Where can I go? I shut my eyes and trust in God,” Salem said.

Unable to immediately render the bomb safe, Hom assured the worried mechanic he would return with a truck to pick it up and transport it to the football field opposite his police station where all the ordnance – defused or live – was dumped. There, in untidy piles, lay shells and bombs and Hamas rockets, glinting in the strong Gaza sun.

Among them was a bomb lifted, still live, from the home of the Filfils in a quiet residential neighbourhood in the north of Beit Lahiya.

Jazia Filfil, 60, remembered how, as the dust began to clear from her living room after the air strike last month, she saw a huge metal object half buried in the rubble where a three-piece suite had once been. She had no idea what it was.

“They dropped a truck on our home,” she shouted to her husband and sons. When the family worked out that the object was no truck, they called Hom.

“He is very brave but he was very slow in coming. We had the bomb in our house for weeks,” Filfil said on Sunday. Hom, listening, laughed away the complaint, joking that his “customers” were never happy.

Over a lunch of beef kebabs, snatched rapidly down a Beit Lahiya side street, Hom spoke about his worried wife, his two sons and five daughters, and his wider family.

His 33-year-old brother died in an air strike two weeks ago, he said. Abdel Jawad al-Hom had joined the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas, after another brother had died following imprisonment in an Israeli jail in the early 1990s when Hamas had set out to derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“He was very angry and joined as a teenager, maybe he was only 12 or 13, and rose up the ranks. He was a commander in the Beit Lahiya area. He was in a friend’s house on the frontlines when it was bombed and was martyred with two other fighters,” al-Hom said.

So far the conflict has killed 1,900 people in Gaza, mostly civilians. The UN has said that around 200 fighters from Hamas and other groups have been killed. Israeli officials say the total is much higher.

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have died. Three civilians in Israel have been killed by rocket fire.

On Wednesday, as Hom set out to defuse the 500kg bomb which killed him, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were continuing indirect talks in Cairo aimed at a putting a durable ceasefire in place.

The explosion was so loud it was heard five miles away, said Maher Halewi, the chief of Hom’s police station. Doctors at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City were working to save the lives of four men wounded in the blast who remained in a critical condition on Wednesday afternoon. The al-Shifa, like hospitals across Gaza, is chronically short of medical supplies after treating thousands of wounded during the conflict.

Within two hours of his death, Hom’s remains were taken to the Beit Lahiya hospital and then to the al-Auda mosque in Jabaliya. After noon prayers and a blessing, a procession jogged through the crowded streets, past the donkey carts, the fruit stalls and the battered Mercedes taxis to the cemetery.

A crackling voice from a loudspeaker a block away called people to a Hamas rally this afternoon to show support for the Palestinian delegation in Cairo.

An Israeli drone buzzed overhead.

Relatives shovelled sand over Hom’s remains, wetted the mound with water from a plastic jerry can and stood back, forming a line to shake hands with the mourners.

The cleric called for “revenge on the Jews” and for the blessing of God on the deceased and on the community. Shots rang out as the skinny teenager raised his Kalashnikov once more. Then, within minutes, it was over and the mourners were gone.

*****************

In Torn Gaza, if Roof Stands, It’s Now Home

By JODI RUDOREN
AUG. 17, 2014
IHT

GAZA CITY — Telltale signs of the displaced are everywhere in Gaza.

Tiny sandals are scattered on the doormat of a lawyer’s office above downtown Gaza City’s main street: The tiny feet belong to the children who have been living inside since July 20. Upstairs, in the dental laboratory where Mohamed Efranji fashions crowns and veneers, there are trays of onions, potatoes, red peppers and tomatoes to feed three families who now call it home.

At the Rimal Salon at the edge of the Beach refugee camp, two hairdressers have brought their 10 younger siblings to stay. On Tuesday, their mother was making macaroni on a camp stove in a mirrored back room where brides usually primp. Around the corner, a colorful blanket blocked a doorway to a long-closed Internet cafe where 13 more people have set up house in two high-ceiling rooms that lack both running water and working electric outlets.

Scores of families have hung sheets and scarves from every available tree and pole to create shady spaces on the grounds of Al Shifa Hospital; in the unauthorized camp, a 3-month-old slept one recent morning in a wire crib lined with cardboard.

The damage to Gaza’s infrastructure from the current conflict is already more severe than the destruction caused by either of the last two Gaza wars.
OPEN Interactive Map

On Sunday, more than 235,000 people were still crammed into 81 of the United Nations’ 156 schools, where classes are supposed to start next Sunday. “The chances of that,” acknowledged Scott Anderson, deputy director of the agency that runs them, “are zero.”

After a month of fierce fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants that killed more than 1,900 Gaza residents, the extension of a temporary cease-fire through Monday was a great relief. But with an estimated 11,000 homes destroyed and many more severely damaged, Gaza’s housing and humanitarian crises are just beginning, and the uncertainty over the timing and terms for a more durable truce makes recovery planning elusive.

“Our fate at the end will be in the street,” lamented Alia Kamal Elaf, a 35-year-old mother of eight who has been staying at a school since fleeing the Shejaiya neighborhood in east Gaza City at the onset of Israel’s ground incursion on July 17.

The destruction has been far more severe than in previous rounds of Israeli attacks, especially in Shejaiya, the northern border town of Beit Hanoun and the southeastern village of Khuza’a, where little at all is left. Palestinian leaders plan to ask international donors for $6 billion at a conference scheduled for September, but there are many challenges money cannot solve.

The Hamas-run government that ruled Gaza since 2007 resigned in June, but the Palestinian Authority has yet to take control of its ministries. So who will assess damage or coordinate reconstruction?

Israel currently bans the import of construction materials for private projects, citing security concerns. In any case, several of Gaza’s cement-mixing plants and other factories that make doors, windows and floor tiles have been reduced to rubble.

Many aid workers think cash grants would provide the most efficient relief: People could fix homes that are still standing, rent new spaces or offset expenses as they cram in with relatives. But the United States will not give cash directly to people because it is too complicated to determine their possible connections with Hamas, which is deemed a terrorist organization by Washington.

“We’ll get lots of money to rebuild homes we can’t rebuild, but we won’t get the money to help these people help themselves,” said Robert Turner, director of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides education, health and other services to the 70 percent of Gaza residents who are classified as refugees. “You cannot do widespread shelter construction unless construction material is free and available in the local market. Which it’s not, and is it ever going to be?”

Turkey, Qatar and other nations have offered to send mobile homes. But Mr. Turner sees this as a wasteful step in the wrong direction. Each unit costs about $15,000, he said; the agency’s standard rental subsidy in Gaza is $150 per month, or $3,600 for two years. A permanent home can be built for $40,000.

“There are three problems,” Mr. Turner said. “People hate them, they’re really expensive, and you set up these ghettos.”

The agency is facing a similar dilemma over its shelters, where some families have now been for 36 days. About 350 children have been born at the shelters; on Wednesday, United Nations employees staged a boisterous wedding for one displaced couple. Still, there are no showers.

Mr. Anderson, Mr. Turner’s deputy at Unrwa, said Thursday that he planned to start having showers installed in the coming days — at least at the 15 schools across the strip where the agency expected to keep shelters open even after the conflict officially came to a close. Already, he is placing a nurse and health educator at each site in the hope of staving off outbreaks of meningitis, lice and scabies. Soon, the agency will replace daily distribution of canned food, which costs $1.60 per person, with cheaper, twice-weekly boxes of pantry supplies.

“We cannot throw people out of the shelters,” Mr. Anderson said. “It’s the gray area of wanting to do the best we can to provide dignified living conditions, but also not wanting to turn the shelters into hotels where people want to stay.”
Continue reading the main story

There seems to be little danger of that.

People at the schools complain of incessant flies and fetid bathrooms. Ms. Elaf, the woman worried about ending up on the street, said she has but one mattress for her eight children, ages 8 to 16. Another woman staying at the same school yanked down her 7-year-old son’s shorts to show an angry red sore on his thigh. The classrooms smell. Hallways are filthy and often wet. Family fights are becoming more frequent.

Conditions are worse on the grounds of Shifa Hospital, where neither food nor water is provided to the makeshift camp that sprawls outside the internal medicine building, next to the X-ray department, between the emergency room, the morgue and the maternity ward. Many of the tents are made from sheets that say “Palestinian Health Ministry” in Arabic.

The brothers Hamouda have an actual tent, provided, they said, by a “do-gooder” in week four of their stay. Half the ground is covered with cardboard, the other half with woven mats. In the corner is an old soda bottle half filled with fiery red pepper sauce, a Shejaiya standard.

“We count the days as we sit in a tent,” said the youngest of the three men, Moamar, 42, on day 35.

“Here,” said the middle brother, Abdullah, 45, “each day equals a year.”

The oldest, Muhammad, 48, said that if the cease-fire held, he would go to the spot where the family’s home was “and wait for a tent — I’ll put a tent in the street and sit there.”

But Moamar disagreed. “We will stay here until they bring a solution for us,” he said. “My opinion is that we stay here, as a pressure tool.”

Their wives have been staying with relatives, as an estimated 200,000 of the temporarily displaced have done. Even this, considered the best alternative, has its downside: Religious women and girls must wear long sleeves and cover their hair at all times because they are not in their own homes; many are not allowed to sit in courtyards or on stoops because they do not know the neighbors.

Those who have managed to find spots to rent said they were paying double the prewar rates: One group of 12 was pulling furniture from the Beit Hanoun rubble the other day to take to a fourth-floor unit in the Sheikh Zayed complex, with no elevator, for $200 a month. Hani Zeyara, who is from Shejaiya and slept for weeks at the makeshift Shifa Hospital camp or in a park, said he had finally found an empty store: 260 square feet for $100 a month.

Adel al-Ghoula, 28, has already pitched a tent, of sorts, in front of the pile of debris that used to be the home where he lived from the age of 13, just across the road that runs close to Gaza’s eastern boundary. He used wire to tie two-by-fours to the iron fence lining the road, and then to tie colorful cloths, many of them torn or singed, to the wood. Inside, wooden pallets are propped on rocks and strewn with worn cushions, forming seats in the shade.

The date, grape, olive, fig, walnut and lemon trees are all gone. A stone arch doorway and wrought-iron gate are basically the only things left standing of what Mr. Ghoula said had been a four-story building housing six families — 50 people — as well as several first-floor businesses. Mr. Ghoula had owned two sewing machines and made women’s shoes.

“This is the remains of my computer,” he said, picking up a piece of black plastic. “This is my daughter’s handbag.” It was red, with sparkles; she is 4.

He put a sign on the pile, “Home of the al-Ghoula Family,” to ward off looters, perhaps attract assessors or just signal to neighbors: We are still here.

“We must rent a place, but we should still come here every day and sit here,” Mr. Ghoula said as a stranger on a donkey cart stopped for a drink of fresh water. “To receive people. To tell the world: We are rooted in our land, until death.”

 63 
 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:21 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
For Chinese, Pope Seems Worlds Away in South Korea

By EDWARD WONG
AUG. 17, 2014   
IHT

BEIJING — Pu Ge sat on a green bench outside Beijing’s oldest Catholic cathedral and stared at the ornate gray edifice, contemplating God and his shepherd. She said she had thought that Pope Francis would stop in China during his current trip to Asia.

“I thought he would visit a church here and we would get a chance to meet him,” said Ms. Pu, 27, a dance teacher. “I would like to meet him, but it seems so distant.”

Given the long history of tensions between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese state media have been less than forthcoming with reports about the pope and the Catholic establishment. Broad coverage of the pope’s first visit to East Asia, which began Thursday in South Korea, was absent here.

The sparse news treatment is indicative of the party’s continuing attempts to maintain a tight grip on Catholicism, as the number of Chinese followers grows each year, and as those followers try by various means to learn more about Pope Francis.

The Vatican has just as great an interest in them, and also in trying to improve relations with the Communist Party. There have been signs of some warming, even if the establishment of formal ties remains years or decades off, if the party permits it at all.

While addressing bishops south of Seoul on Sunday, the pope referred cordially to China and other Asian nations with which the Vatican does not have formal relations, in his strongest outreach yet to those governments. “In this spirit of openness to others, I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all,” he said.

He then deviated from a prepared text, according to The Associated Press. “I’m not talking here only about a political dialogue, but about a fraternal dialogue,” the pope said, assuring that “Christians aren’t coming as conquerors” to strip away any nation’s “identity.” The important thing, he said, was to “walk together.”

Breaking with tradition on Thursday, the Chinese government allowed the pope’s jet to fly through Chinese airspace as he traveled to Seoul. While above China, the pope broadcast via radio telegram a message to Xi Jinping, the Chinese president and party leader, offering his best wishes and blessings of peace.

Li Zhigang, a volunteer at the Xuanwumen Cathedral in southern Beijing, where Ms. Pu was sitting outdoors on Friday afternoon, said: “Of course, we’d like his blessings to be realized. Chinese Catholics are devoted followers of the pope.”

Mr. Li, 55, was among a dozen people praying that afternoon inside the church, known formally as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It was established in 1605, when the Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci set up residence near here.

The priests and nuns of Xuanwumen are on one side of a sharp divide in Chinese Catholicism, which is one of five religions recognized by the party. This cathedral is officially approved by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a state organization that, to the chagrin of the Vatican, controls the practice of Catholicism in China, including the appointment of bishops.

On the other side of the divide are the so-called underground churches, which exist nationwide and are tolerated by local officials. At those churches, discussion of the pope and his authority is more open than at the official cathedrals. About half of China’s approximately 15 million Catholics worship at underground churches, said Lionel Jensen, an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in religion in China.

“In the end,” Mr. Jensen said, “the numbers cannot tell us what is seen on the ground, that Catholic services are increasingly well attended, even packed, and that the Vatican is aware that the popularity of Catholicism is growing.”

That is the case at an underground church outside the city of Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province, where the Rev. Dong Baolu leads a parish of about 2,000. Despite the growing number of Catholics in China, Father Dong said he did not anticipate a visit here by the pope anytime soon.

“There is no way to establish formal diplomacy now,” he said in a telephone interview. “That is because a real Communist Party won’t tolerate independent religion. Even if you’re allowed to follow your faith, that’s within its control. There is no way that it will allow you to follow foreign leadership.”

He said it was a “good thing” that Pope Francis had been allowed to fly over China, but also questioned the terms of whatever agreement had been reached between the Vatican and the Chinese government to permit it.

“I think the deal itself is bad for those churches that are loyal and true and underground, because the Communist Party’s policy hasn’t changed,” Father Dong said. “Religion is still under the leadership of the Communist Party.”

Pope Francis, in his visit to Seoul, called for efforts toward reconciliation between North and South Korea. Meanwhile, President Park Geun-hye urged North Korea to give up its nuclear ambition.
Publish Date August 14, 2014. Image CreditPool photo by Kim Hong-Ji

Even at the official Xuanwumen Cathedral, people understood the realities.

“Of course, South Korea is more developed as a Catholic country than China,” said Chen Kuo, 29, a clothing salesman. “But the fact that the pope chose to go to Korea rather than China makes me feel disappointed in the Chinese government’s policies toward Catholicism and Catholics.”

Some young Chinese Catholics made it to South Korea to see the pope, while others trying to go there were stopped by local officials, said Ren Dahai, who heads a Catholic charity in Hebei Province.

One young woman outside Xuanwumen Cathedral said the priest who leads her worship group in Hebei Province had announced that some people from the congregation were traveling to South Korea.

“Someone in my group said he had seen the pope in Rome,” said the woman, Hu Kangya, 18, on summer break before entering university. “I was so envious.”

Mr. Jensen, the American scholar, said that the pope’s passage above China was “a small but singular event,” and that his message to both Mr. Xi and the Chinese people “was another promising gesture of communication between the Vatican and Beijing, even more so as the Foreign Ministry made a statement of their interest in constructive dialogue.”

Mr. Jensen continued: “The general trend in Vatican and Chinese Communist Party relations has been toward decreasing friction, and thus overall improvement. However, this is only from comparison with the more violent vitriol and threats that characterized Beijing’s past relations with the Holy See.”

Mr. Jensen said he thought that “there are some in the party who do believe that China’s status as a modern nation with global presence and responsibilities must come to terms with the widespread growth of Christianity in China, and this means a reasonable accommodation with the Vatican.”

*************

Thousands in Hong Kong Rally in Support of China

By MICHAEL FORSYTHE and ALAN WONG
AUG. 17, 2014
IHT

HONG KONG — Tens of thousands of people marched under a blistering sun in Hong Kong on Sunday to express their opposition to a pro-democracy movement that has threatened to bring Asia’s biggest financial center to a standstill if the government does not open up the nomination process for electing the city’s top leader.

Protesters, many waving Chinese flags, streamed into Victoria Park in the midafternoon before the march, and the contrast with a rally held July 1 by pro-democracy organizers was stark. Most of the participants in Sunday’s rally were organized into groups corresponding to Chinese hometowns, schools or, in some cases, employers, easily identifiable with their matching T-shirts and hats. Middle-aged and elderly people dominated Sunday’s march, while young people dominated last month’s march.

In speech, they often employed the political lexicon of China’s ruling Communist Party. Typical was Kitty Lai, an investment adviser wearing an orange T-shirt and a baseball cap emblazoned with the logo of the Hong Kong Federation of Fujian Associations, a group that represents people from the coastal province across from Taiwan. She said shutting down the Central business district would cause chaos.

“We want everything to be stable,” Ms. Lai, 50, said in Mandarin Chinese. “We want everybody to live harmoniously.”

Organizers of the July 1 rally estimated that more than 500,000 had taken part in that demonstration, which ended with the arrests of hundreds of participants, including some lawmakers, after they staged an overnight sit-in in the Central district.

Hong Kong’s police said 111,800 people left Victoria Park on Sunday for the march, more than the 98,600 they recorded for the July 1 march. Yet photographs taken at the peak points of both marches, at the same location, show many more people on the street on July 1. An independent count by Hong Kong University put the maximum number of participants on Sunday at 88,000, compared with a maximum of 172,000 on July 1.

The protesters on Sunday wanted to show their opposition to Occupy Central With Love and Peace, an umbrella organization encompassing a wide section of Hong Kong society, including students, Christian religious leaders and some bankers. Occupy Central leaders have vowed to bring Central to a standstill with a sit-in should the national legislature and the city government insist on a plan for nominating the chief executive that bars candidates unacceptable to Beijing. That plan could be set in motion at the end of this month, when the National People’s Congress in Beijing is to issue guidelines to the Hong Kong government on how it can write new election rules.

The Alliance for Peace and Democracy, which organized Sunday’s event, said it had gathered 1.4 million signatures in its petition drive against Occupy Central. Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong’s chief executive, signed it, as did a former chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa. In June, about 800,000 people participated in an Occupy Central referendum that was overseen by a university polling group.

“Hong Kong people desire peace. They’re not afraid of speaking out, and the silent majority has spoken,” Robert Chow, a spokesman for the alliance, said in an interview. “Why should they follow Occupy Central and try to hold Hong Kong hostage? If they really want universal suffrage, negotiate with Beijing. Negotiate with the government.”

Under the laws that have governed Hong Kong since its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 from British control, the territory is to move to a system of universal suffrage for picking the chief executive in the 2017 election. But any plan must pass the city’s legislature with a supermajority. Pro-democracy leaders have enough seats in the 70-member Legislative Council to scuttle any proposal should it fail to meet their demands, assuming they stay united.

Some business associations, including leading United States accounting firms, have warned that a protest movement that shut or slowed down Hong Kong’s Central district would harm the city’s image and its economy. China’s vice president, Li Yuanchao, has called the Occupy movement “unlawful.”

“We’re fine the way we are,” said Anita Kwan, a resident in her 40s, speaking in Cantonese, the native language in Hong Kong and much of neighboring Guangdong Province. “Occupy Central damages Hong Kong’s stability and reputation.”

Top Chinese officials overseeing Hong Kong are set to meet with the territory’s legislators in the mainland city of Shenzhen, which abuts Hong Kong, on Thursday in the prelude to the vote by the National People’s Congress.

On Sunday in Victoria Park, the police presence was light, and mostly there to help guide the peaceful demonstrators across intersections. Many participants brought along their Indonesian and Filipino domestic helpers, who also donned the T-shirts and hats, with some given Chinese flags to wave.

After the demonstrators had left, the detritus of protests, including posters, water bottles and flags, was strewed across the park, in contrast to the aftermath of pro-democracy rallies, when volunteers patrolled the ground, cleaning up everything, including wax from candle drippings.

The organizers of Occupy Central said on their Twitter account that the anti-Occupy rally on Sunday should help motivate their own movement. “If the horrifying vision of HK manifested by anti-Occupy doesn’t make us fight harder for real democracy,” the group said, “something’s wrong with our side.”

 64 
 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:16 AM 
Started by Rose Marcus - Last post by Rad
Pope Urges Divided Koreas to Unite as 'One People'

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 August 2014, 07:14

Pope Francis urged the divided Koreas to unite as "one family, one people" in a spirit of mutual forgiveness at a mass Monday that coincided with a South Korea-U.S. military drill condemned by the North as a prelude to war.

"Forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation", although it may seem "impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant", Francis said at a special mass for inter-Korean peace and reconciliation in Seoul.

"All Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people," the pope said, as he wound up a five-day visit to South Korea.

The mass, in the capital's Myeongdong cathedral, was one of the most anticipated events of the visit, and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye was among the congregation.

The pope's message was cloaked in a religious context and he avoided any overt political statement, with no mention of the repressive level of control exerted by the regime in Pyongyang over all religious activity.

"Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences," he said.

- North Korea threat -

The mass coincided with the launch of an annual South Korea-U.S. military exercise involving tens of thousands of troops to test combat readiness for a North Korean invasion.

North Korea has repeatedly called for the exercise to be canceled, and on Sunday its military joint chiefs of staff threatened to "mercilessly open the strongest... pre-emptive strike" if it goes ahead.

The Korean peninsula was divided in 1948 and the split was solidified by the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded without a peace treaty leaving the two Koreas still technically at war.

Church officials in the South had sent several requests to Pyongyang to send a group of Catholics to attend Monday's mass, but the North declined the offer, citing its anger at the joint military drill.

At the very moment Pope Francis landed in South Korea at the start of his visit on Thursday, North Korea carried out a series of short-range rocket launches into the sea off its east coast.

Pyongyang later insisted it had no intention of upstaging the visit, and said the tests had been timed to coincide with the anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

In his first public comments on arriving, the pope had stressed that peace on the divided peninsula could only be achieved through dialogue, "rather than ... displays of force".

The Catholic Church, like any other religion, is only allowed to operate in North Korea under extremely tight restrictions, and within the confines of the state-controlled Korean Catholics Association.

It has no hierarchical links with the Vatican and there are no known Catholic priests or nuns.

A recent report compiled by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry into human rights in North Korea concluded that practicing Christianity outside the state-sanctioned church amounted to a "political crime".

"Today's mass is first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family," Francis said Monday.

"The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to reestablish the original bonds of brotherly love," he added.

 65 
 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:16 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
S. Korea, U.S. Start Military Drill despite North Threats

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 August 2014, 07:15

South Korea and the United States on Monday launched an annual military drill, Seoul's defense ministry said, despite condemnation by North Korea which has threatened a "merciless" retaliatory strike.

The beginning of the "Ulchi Freedom Guardian" exercise, which will last until August 29, came as Pope Francis led a mass for inter-reconciliation in Seoul at the end of the five-day trip to South Korea.

Although largely played out on computers, the drill involves tens of thousands of South Korean and U.S. soldiers and is aimed at testing combat readiness for a North Korean invasion.

According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, this year's drill will, for the first time, simulate the response to a nuclear attack threat, using a strategy of "tailored" deterrence developed last year at annual South Korea-U.S. defense talks.

North Korea has repeatedly called for the exercise to be cancelled, and last week its military joint chiefs of staff threatened to "mercilessly open the strongest... pre-emptive strike" if it goes ahead.

South Korean officials said its military would be on a heightened state of alert during the exercise.

"If the North commits a provocative act, we would retaliate strongly", a high-ranking military official told journalists.

***********

Pope Urges Divided Koreas to Unite as 'One People'

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 August 2014, 07:14

Pope Francis urged the divided Koreas to unite as "one family, one people" in a spirit of mutual forgiveness at a mass Monday that coincided with a South Korea-U.S. military drill condemned by the North as a prelude to war.

"Forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation", although it may seem "impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant", Francis said at a special mass for inter-Korean peace and reconciliation in Seoul.

"All Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people," the pope said, as he wound up a five-day visit to South Korea.

The mass, in the capital's Myeongdong cathedral, was one of the most anticipated events of the visit, and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye was among the congregation.

The pope's message was cloaked in a religious context and he avoided any overt political statement, with no mention of the repressive level of control exerted by the regime in Pyongyang over all religious activity.

"Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences," he said.

- North Korea threat -

The mass coincided with the launch of an annual South Korea-U.S. military exercise involving tens of thousands of troops to test combat readiness for a North Korean invasion.

North Korea has repeatedly called for the exercise to be canceled, and on Sunday its military joint chiefs of staff threatened to "mercilessly open the strongest... pre-emptive strike" if it goes ahead.

The Korean peninsula was divided in 1948 and the split was solidified by the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded without a peace treaty leaving the two Koreas still technically at war.

Church officials in the South had sent several requests to Pyongyang to send a group of Catholics to attend Monday's mass, but the North declined the offer, citing its anger at the joint military drill.

At the very moment Pope Francis landed in South Korea at the start of his visit on Thursday, North Korea carried out a series of short-range rocket launches into the sea off its east coast.

Pyongyang later insisted it had no intention of upstaging the visit, and said the tests had been timed to coincide with the anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

In his first public comments on arriving, the pope had stressed that peace on the divided peninsula could only be achieved through dialogue, "rather than ... displays of force".

The Catholic Church, like any other religion, is only allowed to operate in North Korea under extremely tight restrictions, and within the confines of the state-controlled Korean Catholics Association.

It has no hierarchical links with the Vatican and there are no known Catholic priests or nuns.

A recent report compiled by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry into human rights in North Korea concluded that practicing Christianity outside the state-sanctioned church amounted to a "political crime".

"Today's mass is first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family," Francis said Monday.

"The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to reestablish the original bonds of brotherly love," he added.

 66 
 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:13 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Imran Khan warns Pakistan ministers his supporters could storm parliament

Tehreek-e-Insaf party leader says he cannot control anger of his 'freedom marchers' if government does not resign over fraud claims

Jon Boone in Islamabad
The Guardian, Sunday 17 August 2014 14.30 BST   

The Pakistan opposition leader Imran Khan has warned the country's government that thousands of his supporters will storm Pakistan's parliament and other sensitive buildings if his demand for its immediate resignation was not met.

The threat, issued during a late night rally in Islamabad on Saturday, raises the stakes of his so-called "freedom march" against alleged electoral fraud that has been marred by a disappointing turnout and monsoon rainfall.

The government has vowed to protect buildings inside the city's "red zone" and says 30,000 security force members are on hand to keep protesters out from the area, already barricaded with shipping containers.

Late on Sunday, thousands of supporters of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party began moving towards a large stack of containers on a major avenue leading to the red zone. Television pictures showed riot police gathering on the other side.

Analysts say a violent confrontation with authorities could be the only way to save his much-heralded protest, which some have already written off as a flop.

Khan set off from the city of Lahore on Thursday for a slow drive to the capital, where it was hoped a massive sit-in would force the resignation of prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and force fresh elections. But he has failed to attract anything like the million supporters he claimed would attend and other leading political parties have so far refused to offer their support.

Serious unrest in the capital may force an intervention by Pakistan's powerful military – the only conceivable way many commentators believe Sharif could be ousted given the prime minister's huge parliamentary majority.

"I'm controlling the anger of my workers," Khan warned, citing the example of the 2011 protests in Tahrir Square that toppled the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. "But I will not able to control it for long."

A parallel protest has been ongoing a few blocks away led by Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a cleric who despite being based in Canada commands a devoted following among Barelvi Muslims who watch his regular television broadcasts and his support his charitable foundation.

Qadri has dismissed Khan's calls for fresh elections, arguing Pakistan's democracy is so compromised by corrupt politicians that the country should be ruled by a "national government" of technocrats.

Despite the presence of the two charismatic leaders the crowds have been far smaller than expected. Most estimates suggest the number of people peaked at about 50,000, with Qadri attracting considerably more.

Hostile quarters of the media have highlighted the fact that Khan slipped off to rest at his nearby hilltop mansion on Friday, despite promises he would remain on the streets among his supporters. He did manage a few hours under the stars the following night however.

Also sparking media outrage was footage of the PTI's most powerful elected official, Pervaiz Khattak, the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, dancing at the rally on Saturday night. Critics said he should have been at work overseeing relief efforts in his province, which has been hit by monsoon floods that have killed at least 18 people.

 67 
 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:10 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Kurdish forces take parts of Mosul dam from Isis fighters

General reports success and ongoing fighting in offensive launched after US air strikes near critical Iraqi dam

Agencies in Dohuk and Baghdad
theguardian.com, Sunday 17 August 2014 14.17 BST   

An Iraqi security official said on Sunday Kurdish forces have taken over parts of the country's largest dam, which was captured by the Islamic State (Isis) extremist group earlier this month.

General Tawfik Desty told the Associated Press that peshmerga forces backed by Iraqi and US warplanes started the operation to retake Mosul Dam early on Sunday.

Desty, a commander with the Kurdish forces at the dam, which was seized on 7 August, said they now control the eastern part of the dam and that fighting is still underway.

The US launched airstrikes against Isis fighters more than a week ago, in a bid to halt its advance across the north. The extremists control vast swaths of Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Kurdish forces supported by American warplanes have mounted an offensive to retake Iraq's largest dam, a formidable hydroelectric complex critical to both power supplies and irrigation in the region, from jihadi fighters, as reports emerged of another grisly episode of mass slaughter perpetrated by the extremists in a village in northern Iraq.

US central command said on Saturday that fighter jets and drones had destroyed or damaged four armoured personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armoured vehicle.

The US engagement is aimed at helping the Kurds turn the tide against the Isis extremists who have swarmed through parts of northern Iraq from bases in Syria, seizing towns and cities and slaughtering opponents indiscriminately.

Villagers said Isis militants drove into a settlement on Friday, rounded up men and teenage boys, lined them up and shot them. The reports came from several men who survived the massacre in Kocho. Senior Kurdish official Hoshyar Zebari said that jihadists "took their revenge on its inhabitants, who happened to be mostly Yazidis who did not flee their homes".

Fear of an impending genocide against members of Iraq's Yazidi minority, whose faith is anathema to the Sunni Muslim extremists, was one reason Washington cited for air strikes it began on 8 August.

Human rights groups and residents say Isis fighters have demanded that members of religious minorities in Iraq's Nineveh province, where Kocho is located, either convert or leave, unleashing violent reprisals on any who refused.

Mohsen Tawwal, a Yazidi fighter, said he saw a large number of bodies in Kocho on Friday.

"We made it into a part of Kocho village, where residents were under siege, but we were too late," he told Agence France-Presse by telephone. "There were corpses everywhere. We only managed to get two people out alive. The rest had all been killed."

The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, arrived in Iraq on Saturday to meet officials and assess what help is needed.

****************

US bombers help Kurds retake dam as Obama writes to Congress
   
Martin Pengelly in New York and agencies
theguardian.com, Sunday 17 August 2014 23.24 BST      

The US on Sunday launched two waves of air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) militants in northern Iraq, in the most extensive American military operations in the country since the withdrawal of ground troops in 2011.

The strikes helped Kurdish peshmerga fighters to regain control of the strategically important Mosul dam captured by militants two weeks ago.

“Mosul Dam was liberated completely,” Ali Awni, an official from Iraq’s main Kurdish party, told AFP, a statement confirmed by two other Kurdish sources.

Early in the day US aircraft, for the first time including land-based bombers, carried out 14 strikes. Later, US Central Command confirmed further strikes had been carried out by “fighter and attack aircraft”.

In a letter to Congress, outlining the rationale and justification for the strikes, Obama said the integrity of the dam was crucial to the security of the US embassy in Baghdad. The US has consistently cited the security of US personnel in Baghdad as cover for its military operation to support the Kurds.

Sunday’s first strikes were the first time that bombers as well as fighter jets and drones had been involved in the current air campaign, which began on 8 August alongside drops of humanitarian aid to Yazidi refugees marooned on Mount Sinjar.

A statement from US Central Command said the 14 strikes had been carried out “to support humanitarian efforts in Iraq, and support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defence forces”. Isis fighters around the dam and the Kurdish capital of Irbil were hit nine times on Saturday.

“US military forces continued to attack [Isis] terrorists in Iraq Sunday,” the statement said, “using a mix of fighter, bomber, attack and remotely piloted aircraft to successfully conduct air strikes near the Mosul dam.”

The statement said the strikes damaged or destroyed “10 armed vehicles, seven Humvees, two armoured personnel carriers and one checkpoint”, and added that all aircraft involved had “exited the strike areas safely”.

The second statement from Central Command said the second wave of strikes, which were not numbered, had “destroyed three armed vehicles, a vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft artillery gun, a checkpoint and an IED emplacement”. All aircraft involved were again reported to have returned.

In his letter to Congress, Obama said the strikes had been authorised in order to “recapture the Mosul dam”. He added: “These military operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to support the Iraqi forces in their efforts to retake and establish control of this critical infrastructure site, as part of their ongoing campaign against the terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ Isis.”

Since Isis militants captured the dam, which supplies electricity and water to a vast area of northern Iraq, two weeks ago, fears have been expressed that they could cut off water or electricity or orchestrate a massive and catastrophic flood.

In his letter, Obama said: “The failure of the Mosul dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger US personnel and facilities, including the US Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace.”

In a statement, the National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said: “This mission is consistent with President Obama’s directive that the US military protect US personnel and facilities in Iraq.”

In his letter, Obama – who on Sunday broke his vacation in Massachusetts to return to Washington – said: “I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution … I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.”

Another commander said peshmerga forces had crossed the Tigris river. Speaking anonymously, the commander told the AP the advance was encountering roadside bombs and buildings rigged with explosives. He also said the Iraqi government had delivered 16 military Humvees and mechanised bomb-disposal equipment, and said his fighters needed further military supplies.

Kurdish fighters were also reported to be advancing on Mosul; witnesses said they had taken two mainly Christian towns, Batmaiya and Telasqaf, 18 miles from the city.

The US and international humanitarian mission has been aimed at helping refugees from the Yazidi religious minority, who have been persecuted by Isis. On Saturday, witnesses said militants had executed 80 Yazidi men from the village of Kocho and abducted their wives and children; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the execution of 700 Yazidis across the border in eastern Syria.
Yazidi men flock to join military camps and fight against Isis.

Around 100 Yazidis demonstrated in the town of Dohuk on Sunday, saying they wanted to travel to Turkey but were being prevented from doing so.

“They can’t protect us,” Reuters quoted one as saying. “The Islamic State came to our villages and killed hundreds. We don’t want to stay in Iraq, they will kill us sooner or later. I want America to help me. The peshmerga are not letting us through.”

Some Yazidi men have been training with Kurdish fighters in camps on the Iraq-Syria border, in order to join the fight against Isis.

 68 
 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:06 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Turkey to Look into Claims of German Spying

by Naharnet Newsdesk
17 August 2014, 14:10

The Turkish authorities will thoroughly investigate a report that Germany has been spying on its NATO ally since 2009, a senior official said Sunday, saying the claims need to be taken seriously.

German weekly Der Spiegel reported that the German secret service the BND has been spying on Turkey since 2009, as well as accidentally intercepting at least one telephone conversation of US Secretary of State John Kerry.

"I am off the opinion that this needs to be taken seriously," said Mehmet Ali Sahin, the deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

"Definitely, our government and foreign ministry will carry out the necessary research about the allegations in the magazine," he added in televised comments.

But Sahin also said Spiegel's story needs to be approached "cautiously", recalling the rocky relationship between the prominent news magazine and the AKP.

During his victorious presidential election campaign, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will become president on August 28, launched repeated attacks against Spiegel.

The magazine hugely irritated the ruling party with a major cover story -- written both in German and Turkish -- ahead of the polls that was sharply critical of Erdogan's strongman rule.

"Der Spiegel is not a magazine that sees favorable dreams about Turkey," said Sahin. "It makes very unfair news about the AKP and especially about Recep Tayyip Erdogan," he added.

****************

Gul 'Frozen out of Running' for Turkey PM

by Naharnet Newsdesk
17 August 2014, 18:26

Turkey's outgoing President Abdullah Gul is not being considered as a possible successor to Recep Tayyip Erdogan as prime minister, a senior ruling party official said Sunday.

Erdogan is set to be sworn in as president on August 28 after his first-round election victory, and some observers had seen his longtime ally Gul as a possible replacement as prime minister.

But amid speculation of a growing rift between Gul and Erdogan, the deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Mehmet Ali Sahin, said the outgoing president had no chance of becoming premier.

"After his term expires Abdullah Bey will not be able to become prime minister... because he is not a member of parliament," Sahin said, using a traditional Turkish form of address.

Reports on Saturday said the AKP strongly favored Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, an Erdogan loyalist, becoming the new prime minister.

But Sahin said in televised comments there was "no resentment" within the party about the exclusion of Gul, given that the reasons for his ineligibility were clear.

Some analysts have argued that the whole succession process has been set up with the specific aim of making sure Gul cannot become premier and party leader.

The AKP executive committee is due to meet this Thursday to agree on who will simultaneously hold both the posts of premier and party leader.

Sahin was equivocal about what role Gul could play in the future as Turkey prepares for 2015 legislative elections.

"Time will tell which duties fall on who," he said.

Gul co-founded the AKP with Erdogan but in recent years has taken a more conciliatory approach than the combative premier, particularly after the anti-government protests of 2013.

His exclusion will disappoint those -- particularly in financial markets -- who hoped that Gul would play a moderating influence in an Erdogan presidency.

The Milliyet daily on Sunday reaffirmed Davutoglu was the frontrunner to become prime minister in a government that appears set to be filled with Erdogan loyalists.

The head of Turkey's secret service, Hakan Fidan, was a likely choice to replace Davutoglu as foreign minister, although Europe Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was also under consideration, it said.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, the government's economic pointman who is highly respected by markets, could leave the government and be replaced by top party official Numan Kurtulmus.

 69 
 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:04 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
 SPIEGEL ONLINE
08/18/2014 02:14 PM

Targeting Turkey: How Germany Spies on Its Friends

By SPIEGEL Staff

For more than a year now, German officials have criticized the US for the NSA's mass spying on Europeans and even Chancellor Angela Merkel. Now, embarrassing revelations show that Germany has inadvertently spied on Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, and has also deliberately targeted Turkey.

It was mid-July, and the German government had something it could be a bit proud of. For the first time in the never-ending spying affair, it had reacted quickly, unanimously and toughly. A spy for the Americans had been exposed inside Germany's foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), and the government in Berlin ordered the CIA's top official in Germany to leave the country, demonstrating to Washington that it refused to put up with just anything. Berlin seemed to be going on the offensive.

It didn't last long. Four weeks later, Chancellor Angela Merkel's team is backpedaling. On Friday, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the BND -- even if apparently unintentionally -- had eavesdropped on a telephone conversation by then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The revelation made Merkel's dictum, "Spying among friends? That's unacceptable," ring a bit hollow.

Information obtained by SPIEGEL indicates that the affair goes beyond Clinton. Last year, it also drew in Clinton's successor, John Kerry, when he was mediating in the Middle East between the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Arab states. At the time, the recording of at least one Kerry conversation was apparently immediately deleted by the BND under orders.

The fact that Clinton's conversation apparently wasn't deleted is one of many oddities in the NSA scandal that is filled with them. And it is the product of a number of unfortunate coincidences within the BND.

'By-Catch'

For years, the BND has intercepted satellite telephone conversations from its listening station in Bad Aibling in Bavaria in order to obtain knowledge of the Islamist terrorist scene. But intelligence sources now say that US office holders have also fallen into the BND's crosshairs while making satellite telephone calls from airplanes. Sources described it as a kind of unintentional "by-catch".

That's how Clinton got caught in the BND's net in 2012. The former secretary of state had telephoned with former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. At the time, he was serving as the joint UN-Arab League special envoy for the Syrian crisis. Annan had just left the latest negotiations in Syria and wanted to provide Clinton with an update.

Following protocol, staff at BND headquarters prepared a several-page-long transcript of the conversation and passed it along to senior agency officials. They in turn ordered that the transcript be destroyed. Sources say that the document was not forwarded to Merkel's Chancellery.

But the person tasked with destroying the transcript was Markus R., an employee in the agency's Areas of Operations/Foreign Relations department, who also turns out to be the same man recently accused of serving as an agent for the Americans.

R. apparently had no intention of immediately destroying the transcript. Instead, he allegedly added it to the other 217, in some cases highly sensitive, BND documents that he is suspected of having delivered to the Americans. German investigators discovered the documents on a USB stick during a search of R.'s home at the beginning of July.

Further Deep Blow to German-American Ties

The Americans have now turned the tables and, in internal discussions, are accusing the Germans of hypocrisy. The official line in German security circles is that "allied countries were not and are not our reconnaissance targets". Sources also pointed out that, since the middle of last year, the BND has been under orders by the Chancellery to immediately purge any such by-catch -- it isn't even supposed to be forwarded to senior officials in the foreign intelligence agency. Still, the case represents another deep blow in German-American relations that are already battered.

On Friday, high-ranking members of the German government expressed deep frustration over the matter. Sources in Berlin said government officials had ordered a comprehensive assessment report on the eavesdropping by-catch from the BND. The report is also expected to go beyond the accidental by-catch to address what promises to be an even more explosive issue.

Among the documents allegedly pilfered by Markus R. is one addressing a second, highly sensitive matter: the so-called "order profile" with which the federal government determines the BND's working focus every four years. The profile currently being used was agreed to in 2009 and hasn't been renewed yet because of the NSA scandal. A new version is expected in the coming months.

SPIEGEL has learned from sources that Turkey is one of the BND focuses included in the BND order profile, making the country an official target for the foreign intelligence agency's espionage efforts. The fact that the German intelligence service, at the behest of the government, has targeted a NATO ally could undermine recent efforts by the German government to resolve tensions between Berlin and Ankara.

'Unacceptable'

Turkey's reaction has thus far been muted, with Ankara apparently at pains to avoid a potentially damaging confrontation. Germany's ambassador to Turkey on Monday was asked by the Foreign Ministry in Ankara to come in for a meeting, but both sides insisted the atmosphere of the conversation was "friendly." Later on Monday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that, if the reports were true, such espionage would be "absolutely unacceptable."

Over the weekend, a government source in Germany defended Berlin's actions in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, published on Sunday. Chancellor Merkel has stated repeatedly since the NSA scandal that friends should not be spying on friends, but the source said: "We have never claimed in the past years that this position applies to every NATO country." The paper also quoted the source saying that Turkey could not be compared to the United States or European partners like France or Great Britain.

The source told the newspaper that what happens in Turkey has immediate importance for Germany's domestic security. Germany, after all, is home to the largest population of Turks outside of Turkey, with 3 million people of Turkish origin living in the country. Those security considerations range from the activities of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to left or right-wing extremist Turkish groups in Germany, right up to drug smuggling and human-trafficking. The source said it has also been known for some time that the Turkish government attempts to assert its political goals through Turkish associations and organizations in Germany.

Additional German politicians on Monday have also defended the espionage on Turkey.

Nevertheless, officials in Berlin are already mulling what can be done to mollify Germany's snubbed partner, which has such an important role to play in the current Iraq crisis. Sources in the government in Berlin said efforts would be made quickly to approach the government in Ankara.

But here, too, it could take some time before the coalition goes on the offensive again.

 70 
 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:03 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

UK should be prepared to use military prowess against Isis, says Cameron

PM rules out ground troops as Britain steps up military mission in Iraq which defence secretary says could last months

Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
theguardian.com, Monday 18 August 2014 09.59 BST   
   
The UK should be prepared to use its diplomatic and military prowess to help defeat the "monstrous organisation" of the Islamic State (Isis) in northern Iraq, David Cameron has said.

As Britain steps up its military involvement – by flying warplanes deeper into Iraq in a mission that could last months, according to the defence secretary, Michael Fallon – the prime minister warned of an extremism crisis in the country.

But Cameron, who confirmed that Britain would look favourably on any request for arms from Kurdish forces fighting Isis, told BBC1's Breakfast programme on Monday: "Britain is not going to get involved in another war in Iraq. We are not going to be putting boots on the ground. We are not going to be sending in the British army.

"Yes we should use all the assets we have – our diplomacy, our political relationships, our aid, the military prowess and expertise we have to help others – as part of a strategy to put pressure on Islamic State and make sure this terrorist organisation is properly addressed and it cannot cause mayhem on our own streets."

Cameron later rejected calls to recall parliament to discuss the Iraq crisis. He said he would keep the issue of a parliamentary recall under review but insisted that Britain's response to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq did not merit an emergency Commons debate.

Speaking at the Relationships Alliance, Cameron said: "I don't think it is necessary to recall parliament. I think that we are not contemplating things that would require that. But I am very happy to keep that under review, as I always do whenever there is a parliamentary recess. We have parliamentary recalls from time to time."

The prime minister also defended his decision to resume his summer holiday, and made clear that he never handed the reins of government to a deputy – remarks that were interpreted by Ukip as a snub to Nick Clegg.

He said: "In terms of making sure that the government is properly represented at all levels, I always make sure there are senior ministers on duty in Westminster. But I don't hand over the government to a deputy. Wherever I am in the world, I am always within a few feet of a Blackberry and an ability to manage things should they need to be managed.

"And indeed, as I have done on almost every holiday I have enjoyed over the last few years, to return instantly should that be necessary. For the next few days I won't be terribly far away. So if that is necessary you'll find me at my desk."

Fallon said Britain's involvement in Iraq was fast expanding beyond the initial humanitarian mission to relieve Yazidi refugees besieged on Mount Sinjar.

The defence secretary confirmed that RAF Tornado jets, which were deployed to the region last week to identify the location of Yazidi refugees, were now monitoring Isis positions deep into Iraq.

Cameron also confirmed that Britain had moved beyond providing humanitarian relief. He told the BBC: "We are trying to help with the situation we face. First of all that is a humanitarian crisis in Iraq, with people being displaced and British aid and British military have been able to help deliver aid to people including on Mount Sinjar but also now increasingly to the refugee camps.

"But alongside the humanitarian crisis there is also a political and extremism crisis in Iraq that has a direct effect on us back here in the UK. We do have a fully worked through strategy for helping with allies to deal with this monstrous organisation – the Islamic State."

The US announced its most concerted bombing campaign yet over northern Iraq to drive Isis forces back, helping Kurdish forces to reclaim Mosul dam. American warplanes and drones carried out more than 20 strikes at the weekend near the crucial dam that Isis forces took earlier this month. More than a dozen Isis vehicles were destroyed, the Pentagon said. The bombing is designed to help Kurdish forces regain the initiative in fighting for territory that Isis has seized over the past three months.

"Mosul dam was liberated completely," Ali Awni, an official from Iraq's main Kurdish party, told Agence France-Presse. That statement was confirmed by another party official and a Kurdish security forces officer.

Britain was encouraged by the progress over the weekend. But Downing Street believes that the US, the Kurds and forces of the Iraqi state face a lengthy battle to defeat the Isis jihadis.

Fallon's declaration that British involvement was expanding beyond a humanitarian mission contrasted with the cautious language of Downing Street last week when officials said that the British mission was limited to providing humanitarian relief for Yazidi refugees. Britain announced towards the end of last week that it would be prepared to arm Kurdish forces fighting the extremists.

Fallon said: "We and other countries in Europe are determined to do what we can to help the government of Iraq combat this new and very extreme form of terrorism that [the Islamic State] is promoting."

The defence secretary was speaking at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus as six Tornado fast jets and a spy plane pushed beyond the Kurdish region in the very north of Iraq – the focus of the humanitarian crisis – into parts of mainland northern Iraq that were taken over by Islamist militants in the past two months.

The aircraft are providing footage and other intelligence on displaced families to assist with the humanitarian effort and also on the movement of jihadis on the ground. It is studied by British analysts before being used to help Kurdish and Iraqi security forces.

British intelligence is shared directly with the US military, which has been conducting air strikes against Islamic State positions for the past 10 days.

"We are helping the Iraqi authorities and the Kurdish forces build up a better picture of where Isis is, where it is likely to strike next," Fallon said in an interview conducted by the defence editor of the Times and pooled on behalf of the major newspapers including the Guardian.

This means that British information could be used by the Iraqi military in planning attacks against jihadis – a development that brings Britain closer to a direct combat role, which could cause alarm among some MPs who are concerned about mission creep.

The Rivet Joint spy plane, a sophisticated, electronic surveillance aircraft, has been conducting missions since last week. Its information is combined with intelligence from daily patrols conducted by pairs of Tornado fighter jets, equipped with surveillance pods.

The RAF is also flying planeloads of ammunition, rifles and machine guns from former Soviet bloc countries in eastern Europe into Irbil in order to strengthen the fighting power of the Iraqi Kurdish security forces who are combating the jihadis.

In addition, the government is looking at what British gear, such as night-vision goggles and body armour, it could send directly to the country to boost the Kurdish peshmerga fighters.

The defence secretary praised a group of about three dozen air force personnel and soldiers from the various different units at the RAF base for their work in distributing aid. Fallon then signalled an expansion of the mission which could last months when he said: "This mission isn't over. The humanitarian needs are there … There may well now be in the next few weeks and months other ways that we may need to help save life, protect people. We are going to need all of you again and the surveillance you are able to give us."

In his interview, the defence secretary confirmed that a small number of regular British soldiers were sent briefly into the semi-autonomous Kurdish north of the country. The troops from 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment were flown into Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, last week to prepare for a possible deployment of Chinook helicopters on a mission to save Yazidi families.

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